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The Anātma Doctrine: A Theosophical Commentary

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There Is No Eternally Unchanging Principle in Man

[You may not have] fully understood the statement made not only by our Teachers, and eminently by the Lord Buddha, but likewise in different places by H. P. B. and by myself in my Fundamentals1, to the effect that there is no ‘eternally unchanging’ principle in ‘man.’ Yet perhaps on turning the page, you will come upon a statement that the different monads in man’s constitution are children of previous manvantaras, therefore implying that in man there are principles or elements which perdure for enormous time-periods. How in the name of goodness can this latter statement be true if the former statement be likewise true? I call your attention to this apparent contradiction, and real paradox, because I feel the need that many experience of having these contrasting statements explained. The teaching of Gautama the Buddha was, when it is correctly understood, the teaching of the Lord Jesus of the Christians, and of all the Mahātmans of our own Esoteric School of doctrine; to wit, that there is no ‘eternally unchanging’ principle in man which is different from the rest of the universe, which is in constant change of revolution and evolution. According to the old idea of all the orthodox – crystallized – schools of religion or philosophy, there is in man an individuality which perdures unchanging, and this is exemplified in the Christian teaching of the personal ‘soul’ supposedly created by almighty God, which soul lasts for eternity as that soul, and never can be other than what it is, i. e., never can enter into the Cosmic Life except as an unchanging guest, or if you wish, as an unchanging observer; the usually unspoken implication being that as such unchanging entity, it is not an integral part of the Cosmic Life: not life of its life, bone of its bone, essence of its essence; because such orthodox and exoteric religions and philosophies postulate that the universe is but a temporary and evanescent creation of a supposititious God, and that the unchanging soul finds itself in the universe as a guest, an observer, a learner, only – not, as above said, as an integral and unto eternity inseparable portion of the Cosmic Essence. From the standpoint of the Esoteric Philosophy which envisages man as an integral and inseparable spark of the Cosmic Essence and therefore for ever a part of it, there is no principle or element in man’s constitution which eternally abides as such soul, its only modifications or modes of change being those of accretions of experience, or of growth. There is no such abiding and eternally unchanging ego or soul or even spirit in man, an ego or soul or spirit which is different in essence in each man from what it is in any other man, nor is there any such abiding and unchanging individuality which is different in some god from what it is in some other god. All change; everything grows; the universe itself, as well as all within it and of it, our human souls and spiritual principles included. Out of the same vast kosmic womb of consciousness-life-substance, unitary and one, we all flow forth; and as individuals, and still more as persons, we are illusions by comparison with the Eternal, for that is everlastingly Itself. Whatever modes of change it may have, whatever phases of growth its innumerable parts may experience, whatever contrarieties, diversities, differentiations, may take place, the Eternal is nevertheless the Eternal, perduring from frontierless duration unto frontierless duration; and the essence of each one of us and of all beings and things, is THAT. On these simple facts of teaching, reposes the doctrine of what the Buddhists call the heresy of separateness: that there is in me a ‘soul’ or spirit which in its essence is different from the ‘soul’ or the spirit in you, my brother, or in any other being or thing. This is the heresy of separateness; and it was against this intellectual bane, this deceitful phantasm of a fundamental difference in essence, that the Lord Buddha taught so powerfully in saying that there is no eternally abiding, unchanging, distinct, eternally differentiated principle or element in a man when compared with other cosmic units, such as other men, or other beings and entities. He thus voiced the doctrine so familiar to all Hindu philosophies, and so well known as existing in the Advaita-Vedānta, of the fundamental unity or oneness of all the interblending and interwoven hierarchies and their component elements in Boundless Space. Such a conception of an eternally abiding and unchanging ego as an individuality separate in essence from the Cosmic Individuality, the Buddha-Gautama called the Great Illusion, Mahāmāyā. Yet there are in man numberless lives which compose him, as a composite constituted being, as a compound or integrated entity. Man verily is such a composite being, and this is a simple declaration containing a world of occult truth! Now what are these portions, these elements, of his constitution – i. e., the different monads and life-atoms which make him, which build him? Each one of these monads in its essence is a spark of that central Cosmic Intelligence or Fire, the central consciousness-life-substance. We have not as yet, unfortunately, evolved forth in our vocabulary one single term that will include all these elements of the teaching, so that we have to use such an awkward term as this in order to give some adumbration of the idea: consciousness-life-substance. This is not consciousness apart from life, nor apart from substance; but a viewing of all three as in essence one: one side or aspect of it being what we men call ‘consciousness’; another side or aspect of it being what we men call ‘life’; and another side or aspect being what we men speak of as ‘substance’ – three in one and one in three; not three different gods or divine essences, but ‘one godhead,’ one unitary Cosmic Essence, one eternal Reality manifesting through the three masks: Consciousness, Life, Substance. This really is the proper meaning of the Christian trinity: not “three Persons in one God” as they say, but three masks or aspects or vehicles, as the human mind understands the thought, as the human mind translates the thought, of one eternal, boundless, frontierless REALITY. This is the divine root of man: of me, of you, of everything, of every god, of every sun, of every planet, of every beast, of every plant, of every atom. The root of all is THAT. So, fundamentally and in essence we are all one, and the innumerable, utterly incomputable numbers of beings and things, i. e., of egos and selves in Boundless Space, are not eternally individualities, each different from all others and thus lasting unto eternity as unchanging, ever-enduring, separate egoities. There is a complete and utter and absolute solidarity of Essence, of which we all partake, from which we all came, into which we all shall return – albeit retaining each one of us our vastly increased individuality – when our evolutionary cosmic journey shall have been completed during any one manvantara. But while in manifestation, while in the worlds of manifestation, we are divided up as mayavī beings and entities, the divine spark in each one of us expressing itself in us as individuals: as thoughts, to use a figure of human speech, of the Divine Thinker, of the Parabrahman. ‘Divine Thinker’ is of course a figure of human speech; but we have to use figures of speech when our human intellect is too feeble to understand the incomprehensible vastness of REALITY; we have to translate our intuition into figures of speech so as to get some intimation or intuition of the REAL. The ‘Divine Thinker’ thinks divine thoughts. Each such thought is a monadic entity. But the thought is of the essence and of the basis of the Divine Thinker who thinks – which ‘thinks.’ Now then, one thought more, taken directly out of our esoteric cycle of studies. These various monads which go to form the constitution of any being – let us say of man in order to define, in order to exemplify, our conception: these various monads, or each such component monad, of man’s constitution is not only one of the integral parts of the constitution which ranges from the divine to the physical, but each such monadic center is itself a spiritual being, a living, growing, learning being, as the human monad which we call ‘man’ himself is. . . . My Ātman – to illustrate because we are now speaking of the worlds of differentiation – my Ātman will some day grow to be the divinity of a solar system; and all the various monads now forming my constitution manifesting here as a human being will then be the archangels and the angels, to use the Christian terms, of that future solar system: the Dhyāni-Chohans in their various grades, to use our own Theosophical phrasing. These various unevolved monads which help to compose even my physical constitution live in their various cells, and these various cells are built up of life-atoms on different planes; and in that far distant future of which I have just spoken, if I make the race successfully and become the divinity of a solar system in the spaces of Space, all these cells and life-atoms which now compose my physical ‘me’ will be the component elements of that solar system, each one having evolved to take its own particular and definite place and work therein; and I, the divinity in me, will be the then presiding godhead of that solar system, just as we here are component elements of former life-atoms of Father Sun in a vastly distant epoch of the Cosmic Past. Thus, as I have hereinbefore explained, there is no eternally abiding and unchanging principle of individuality or ‘soul’ in ‘man.’ Yes, an absolute truth: no abiding separate and unchanging principle in man, separate from the similar principle in you, my brother, or in any other being. This is the heresy that the Lord Buddha fought against and that our own Masters so powerfully teach against. There is no such immortal, unchanging, and therefore perduring and abiding ‘soul’; yet the very essence of man is immortality itself. Every last atom in his constitution, in its heart of hearts is an immortal divinity because of its essence, the Essence of the Kosmic Divinity. I know no doctrine in all our School of Teaching which so cleanses our human hearts of pride, which so quickly purges the human mind of illusion, as just these beautiful thoughts that I have been attempting to speak of. You will never fully realize the glory that is within you until you become infilled with the most beautiful thought of them all. What is it? I am one with Divinity, and there is no abiding, unchanging, and hence separating personal soul in me; for I am THAT. This doctrine is the teaching of the utter solidarity, the utter oneness, of everything that is, from god to atom, with the Heart of Things. Were men on earth today imbued with this thought, filled with this doctrine, all the troubles of earth would soon vanish. Men then, sensing their essential unity or oneness, and that what affects one affects all, would instinctively and by love act like brothers, because they would think like brothers; they would see far more of sheer human interest in the mysteries envisioned in the depths of the human eye than they would in counting the money-bags, or estimating the values in the swollen vaults of our banks. All human problems would adjust themselves easily, because men would realize that what causes you to suffer reacts on me, interiorly and exteriorly. Carry the thought onwards. It is fundamentally the same in business as it is in philosophy. The man who tries to drive his competitor to the wall injures his own business, for that very man should be made a customer, and by Nature’s laws actually is a customer unless you ruin him, drive him out of business, which means killing his purchasing power. The same rule which is thus exemplified in the pragmatic affairs in human life holds in the worlds of the spirit and of the soul. I advance far more quickly when I help my fellows, when I feel that they are component parts, so to speak, of my own being; that there is something in my fellow which is closer to me than my own hands and feet, than my own mind, than my own heart, than my own soul; for this is the Essence of Divinity in him which is identic with that Essence in me.

– Gottfried de Purucker

From: Studies in Occult Philosophy

  1. Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy by G. de Purucker []