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Annie Besant

(1847 -1933)




The Seven Principles of Man


Annie Besant



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Principle V.

Manas, The Thinker, or Mind


We have reached the most complicated part of our study, and some thought and attention are necessary from the reader to gain even an elementary idea of the relation held by the fifth principle to the other principles in man.


The word Manas comes from the Sanskrit word – man, the root of the verb to think ; it is the Thinker in us, spoken of vaguely in the West as mind. I will ask the reader to regard Manas as Thinker rather than as mind, because the word Thinker suggests some one who thinks, i.e., an individual, an entity. And this is

exactly the Theosophical idea of Manas, for Manas is the immortal individual, the real " I ," that clothes itself over and over again in transient personalities, and itself endures for ever.


It is described in the Voice of the Silence in the exhortation addressed to the candidate for initiation: "Have perseverance as one who doth for evermore endure. Thy shadows [personalities] live and vanish ; that which in thee shall live for ever, that which in thee knows, for it is knowledge, is not of fleeting life; it is the man that was, that is, and will be, for whom the hour shall never strike" (p. 31). H.P.Blavatsky has described it very clearly in the Key to Theosophy: "Try to imagine a ‘Spirit,’ a celestial being, whether we call it by one name or another, divine in its essential nature, yet not pure enough to be one with the ALL, and having, in order to achieve this, to so purify its nature as finally to gain that goal.


It can do so only be passing individually and personally, i.e., spiritually and physically, through every experience and feeling that exists in the manifold or differentiated universe. It has, therefore, after having gained such experience in the lower kingdoms, and having ascended higher and still higher with every rung on the ladder of being, to pass through every experience on the human planes.


In its very essence it is Thought, and is, therefore, called in its plurality Manasaputra, ‘the Sons of (universal) Mind.’ This individualised ‘Thought’ is what we Theosophists call the real human Ego, the thinking entity imprisoned in a case of flesh and bones. This is surely a spiritual entity, not matter (that is, not matter as we know it, on the plane of the objective universe) – and such entities are the incarnating Egos that inform the bundle of animal matter called mankind, and whose names are Manasa or minds" (Key to Theosophy, p. 183-184).


This idea may be rendered yet clearer perhaps by a hurried glance cast backward over man’s evolution in the past. When the quaternary had been slowly built up, it was a fair house without a tenant, and stood empty awaiting the coming of the one who was to dwell therein.


The name Mânasaputra (the sons of mind) covers many grades of intelligence, ranging from the mighty "Sons of the Flame" whose human evolution lies far behind them, down to those entities who gained individualisation in the cycle preceding our own, and were ready to incarnate on this earth in order to accomplish their human stage of evolution.


Some superhuman intelligences incarnated as guides and teachers of our infant humanity, and became founders and divine rulers of the ancient civilisations.


Large numbers of the entities spoken of above, who had already evolved some mental faculties, took up their abode in the human quaternary, in the mindless men. These are the reincarnating Mânasaputra, who became the tenants of the human frames as then evolved on earth, and these same Mânasaputra, reincarnating age after age, are the Reincarnating Egos, the Manas in us, the persistent individual, the fifth principle in man.


The remainder of mankind through successive ages received from the loftier Mânasaputra their first spark of mind, a ray which stimulated into growth the germ of mind latent within them, the human soul thus having its birth in time there. It is these differences of age, as we may call them, in the beginning of the individual life, of the specialisation of the eternal Divine Spirit into a human soul, which explain the enormous differences in mental capacity found in our present humanity.


The multiplicity of names given to this fifth principle has probably tended to increase the confusion surrounding it in the minds of many who are beginning to study Theosophy.


Mânasaputra is what we call the historical name, the name that suggests the entrance into humanity of a class of already individualised souls at a certain point of evolution ; Manas is the ordinary name, descriptive of the intellectual nature of the principle ; the Individual or the " I ," or Ego, recalls the fact that this principle is permanent, does not die, is the individualising principle, separating itself in thought from all that is not itself, the Subject in Western terminology as opposed to the Object ; the Higher Ego puts it into contrast with the Personal Ego, of which something is to be presently said.


The Reincarnating Ego lays stress on the fact that it is the principle that reincarnates continually, and so unites in its own experience all the lives passed through on earth. There are various other names, but they will not be met with in elementary treatises.


The above are those most often encountered, and there is no real difficulty about them, but when they are used interchangeably, without explanation, the unhappy student is apt to tear his hair in anguish, wondering how many principles he has got hold of, and what relation they bear to each other.


We must now consider Manas during a single incarnation, which will serve as the type of all, and we will start when the Ego has been drawn – by causes set a-going in previous earth-lives – the family in which is to be born the human being who is to serve as its next tabernacle. (I do not deal here with reincarnation, since that great and most essential doctrine of Theosophy must be expounded separately).


The Thinker, then, awaits the building of the "house of life" which he is to occupy ; and now arises a difficulty ; himself a spiritual entity living on the mental or third plane upwards, a plane far higher than that of the universe, he cannot influence the molecules of gross matter of which his dwelling is built by the direct play upon them of his own most subtle particles.


So, he projects part of his own substance, which clothes itself with astral matter, and then with the help of etheric matter permeates the whole nervous system of the yet unborn child, to form, as the physical apparatus matures, the thinking principle in man. This projection from Manas, spoken of as its reflection, its shadow, its ray, and by many another descriptive and allegorical name, is the lower Manas, in contradistinction to the higher Manas – Manas, during every period of incarnation, being dual.


On this, H.P.Blavatsky says: "Once imprisoned, or incarnate, their (the Manas) essence becomes dual; that is to say the rays of the eternal divine Mind, considered as individual entities, assume a twofold attribute which is


(a) their essential, inherent, characteristic, heaven-aspiring mind (higher Manas), and


(b) the human quality of thinking, or animal cogitation, rationalised owing to the superiority of the human brain, the Kâma-tending or lower Manas" (Key to Theosophy, p. 184).


We must now turn our attention to this lower Manas alone, and see the part which it plays in the human constitution.


It is engulfed in the quaternary, and we may regard it as clasping Kâma with one hand, while with the other it retains its hold on its father, the higher Manas.


Whether it will be dragged down by Kâma altogether and be torn away from the triad to which by its nature it belongs, or whether it will triumphantly carry back to its source the purified experiences of its earth-life – that is the life-problem set and solved in each successive incarnation.


During earth-life, Kâma and the lower Manas are joined together, and are often spoken of conveniently as Kâma-Manas. Kâma supplies, as we have seen, the animal and passional elements ; the lower Manas rationalises these, and adds the intellectual faculties ; and so we have the brain-mind, the brain-intelligence, i.e.., Kâma-Manas functioning in the brain and nervous system, using the physical apparatus as its organ on the material plane.


In man these two principles are interwoven during life, and rarely act separately, but the student must realise that "Kâma-Manas " is not a new principle, but the interweaving of the fourth with the lower part of the fifth.


As with a flame we may light a wick, and the colour of the flame of the burning wick will depend on the nature of the wick and of the liquid in which it is soaked, so in each human being the flame of Manas set alight the brain and Kâmic wick, and the colour of the light from that wick will depend on the Kâmic nature and the development of the brain-apparatus.


If the Kâmic nature be strong and undisciplined it will soil the pure manasic light, lending it a lurid tinge and fouling it with noisome smoke. If the brain-apparatus be imperfect or undeveloped, it will dull the light and prevent it from shining forth to the outer world.


As was clearly stated by H.P.Blavatsky in her article on "Genius" ; "What we call ‘the manifestations of genius’ in a person are only the more or less successful efforts of that Ego to assert itself on the outward plane of its objective form – the man of clay – in the matter-of-fact daily life of the latter.


The Egos of a Newton, an Ćschylus, or a Shakespeare are of the same essence and substance as the Egos of a yokel, an ignoramus, a fool, or even an idiot ; and the self-assertion of their informing genii depends on the physiological and

material construction of the physical man. No Ego differs from another Ego in its primordial or original essence and nature.


That which makes one mortal a great man and of another a vulgar silly person is, as said, the quality and make-up of the physical shell or casing, and the adequacy or inadequacy of brain and body to transmit and give expression to the light of the real inner man ; and this aptness or inaptness is, in its turn, the result of Karma.


Or, to use another simile, physical man is the musical instrument, and the Ego the performing artist. The potentiality of perfect melody of sound is in the former – the instrument – and no skill of the latter can awaken a faultless harmony out of a broken or badly made instrument.


This harmony depends on the fidelity of transmission, by word and act, to the objective plane, of the unspoken divine thought in the very depths of man’s subjective or inner nature. Physical man may – to follow our simile – be a priceless Stradivarius, or a cheap and cracked fiddle, or again a mediocrity between the two, in the hands of the Paganini who ensouls him" (Lucifer November, 1889, p.228).


Bearing in mind these limitations and idiosyncrasies ([Limitations and idiosyncrasies due to the action of the Ego in previous earth-lives, be it remembered ] imposed on the manifestations of the thinking principle by the organ through which it has to function, we shall have little difficulty in following the workings of the lower Manas in man ; mental ability, intellectual strength, acuteness, subtlety – all these are its manifestations ; these may reach as far as what is often called genius, what H.P. Blavatsky speaks of as "artificial genius, the outcome of culture and of purely intellectual acuteness." Its nature is often demonstrated by the presence of Kâmic elements in it, of passion, vanity and arrogance.


The higher Manas can but rarely manifest itself at the present stage of human evolution. Occasionally a flash from those loftier regions lightens the twilight in which we dwell, and such flashes alone are what the Theosophist calls true genius ; "Behold in every manifestation of genius, when combined with virtue, the undeniable presence of the celestial exile, the divine Ego whose jailer thou art, O man of matter."


For theosophy teaches "that the presence in man of various creative powers" – called genius in their collectivity – is due to no blind chance, to no innate qualities through hereditary tendencies – though that which is known as atavism may often intensify these faculties – but to an accumulation of individual antecedent experiences of the Ego in its preceding life and lives.


For, omniscient in its essence and nature, it still requires experience, through its personalities, of the things of earth, earthly on the objective plane, in order to apply the fruition of that abstract experience to them. And, adds our philosophy, the cultivation of certain aptitudes through out a long series of past incarnations must finally culminate, in some one life, in a blooming forth as genius, in one or another direction" – ( Lucifer November, 1889, p. 229-30). For the manifestation of true genius, purity of life is an essential condition.


Kâma-Manas is the personal self of man ; we have already seen that the quaternary, as a whole, is the personality, "the shadow," and the lower Manas gives the individualising touch that makes the personality recognise itself as " I ". It becomes intellectual, it recognises itself as separate from all other selves ; deluded by the separateness it feels, it does not realise a unity beyond all that it is able to sense.


And the lower Manas, attracted by the vividness of the material-life impressions, swayed by the rush of the Kâmic emotions, passions and desires, attracted to all material things blinded and deafened by the storm voices among which it is plunged – the lower Manas is apt to forget the pure and serene glory of its birthplace, and to throw itself into the turbulence which gives rapture in lieu of peace.


And, be it remembered, it is this very lower Manas that yields the last touch of delight to the senses and to the animal nature ; for what is passion that can neither anticipate nor remember, where is ecstasy without the subtle force of imagination, the delicate colours of fancy and of dream?


But there may be chains yet more strong and constraining, binding the lower Manas fast to the earth. They are forged of ambition, of desire for fame, be it for that of the statesman’s power, or of supreme intellectual achievement. So long as any work is wrought for sake of love, or praise, or even recognition that the work is "mine" and not another’s ; so long as in the heart’s remotest chambers one subtlest yearning remains to be recognised as separate from all ; so long, however grand the ambition, however far reaching the charity, however lofty the achievement, Manas is tainted with Kâma, and is not pure as its source.





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