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Annie Besant

(1847 -1933)




The Seven Principles of Man


Annie Besant



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Manas in Activity


We have already seen that the fifth principle is dual in its aspect during each period of earth-life, and that the lower Manas united to Kāma, spoken of conveniently as Kāma-Manas, functions in the brain and nervous system of man.


We need to carry our investigation a little further in order to distinguish clearly between the activity of the higher and of the lower Manas, so that the working in the mind of man may become less obscure to us that it is at present to many.


Now the cells of the brain and nervous system (like all other cells) are composed of minute particles of matter, called molecules (literally, little heaps). These molecules do not touch each other, but are held grouped together by that manifestation of the Eternal Life which we call attraction. Not being in contact with each other they are able to vibrate to and fro if set in motion, and, as a matter of fact, they are in a state of continual vibration.


H.P.Blavatsky points out (Lucifer, October, 1890, p. 92-93) that molecular motion is the lowest and most material form of the One Eternal Life. Itself motion as the "Great Breath," and the source of all motion on every plane of the universe. In the Sanskrit, the roots of the terms for spirit, breath, being and motion are essentially the same, the Rāma Prāsad says that "all these roots have for their origin the sound produced by the breath of animals" –the sound of expiration and inspiration.


Now, the lower mind, or Kāma-Manas, acts on the molecules of the nervous cells by motion, and set them vibrating, so starting mind-consciousness on the physical plane. Manas itself could not affect these molecules ; but its ray, the lower Manas, having clothed itself in astral matter and united itself to the kāmic elements, is able to set the physical molecules in motion, and so give rise to "brain consciousness," including the brain memory and all other functions of the human mind, as we know it in its ordinary activity.


These manifestations, "like all other phenomena on the material plane.. must be related in their final analysis to the world of vibration," says H.P.Blavatsky. But, she goes on to point out , "in their origin they belong to a different and higher world of harmony." Their origin is in the manasic essence, in the ray; but on the material plane, acting on the molecules of the brain, they are translated into vibrations.


This action of the Kāma-Manas is spoken of by Theosophists as psychic. All mental and passional activities are due to this psychic energy, and its manifestations are necessarily conditioned by the physical apparatus through which it acts. We have already seen this broadly stated ( ante, p. 29-30), and the rationale of the statement will now be apparent.


If the molecular constitution of the brain be fine, and if the working of the specifically kāmic organs (liver, spleen, etc.) be healthy and pure – so as not to injure the molecular constitution of the nerves which put them into communication with the brain – then the psychic breath, as it sweeps through the instrument, awakens in this true Ęolian harp harmonious and exquisite melodies ; whereas if the molecular constitution be gross or poor, if it be disordered by the emanations of alcohol, if the blood be poisoned by gross living or sexual excesses, the strings of the Ęolian harp become too loose or too tense, clogged with dirt or frayed with harsh usage, and when the psychic breath passes over them they remain dumb or give out harsh discordant notes, not because the breath is absent, but because the strings are in evil case.


It will now, I think, be clearly understood that what we call mind, or intellect, is in H.P.Blavatsky’s words, "a pale and too often distorted reflection" of Manas itself, or our fifth principle ; Kāma-Manas is "the rational, but earthly or physical intellect of man, incased in, and bound by, matter, therefore subject to the influence of the latter" ; it is the "lower self, or that which manifesting through our organic system, acting on this plane of illusion, imagines itself the Ego sum, and thus falls into what Buddhist philosophy brands as the ‘heresy of separateness.’ It is the human personality, from which proceeds "the psychic, i.e., ‘terrestrial wisdom’ at best, as it is influenced by all the chaotic stimuli of the human or rather animal passions of the living body" (Lucifer, October, 1890, p.179).


A clear understanding of the fact that Kāma-Manas belongs to the human personality, that it functions in and through the physical brain, that it acts on the molecules of the brain, setting them into vibration, will very much facilitate the comprehension by the student of the doctrine of reincarnation.


That great subject will be dealt with in another volume of this series, and I do not propose to dwell upon it here, more than to remind the student to take careful note of the fact that the lower Manas is a ray from the immortal Thinker, illuminating a personality, and that all the functions which are brought into activity in the brain-consciousness are functions correlated to the particular brain, to the particular personality, in which they occur.


The brain-molecules that are set vibrating are material organs in the man of flesh ; they did not exist as brain molecules before his conception, nor do they persist as brain molecules after his disintegration. Their functional activity is limited by the limits of his personal life, the life of the body, the life of the transient personality.


Now the faulty of which we speak as memory on the physical plane depends on the response of these very brain-molecules to the impulse of the lower Manas, and there is no link between the brains of successive personalities except through the higher Manas, that sends out its ray to inform and enlighten them



It follows, then, inevitably, that unless the consciousness of man can rise from the physical and Kāma-manasic planes to the plane of the higher Manas, no memory of one personality can reach over to another. The memory of the personality belongs to the transitory part of man’s complex nature, and those only can recover the memory of their past lives who can raise their consciousness to the plane of the immortal Thinker, and can, so to speak, travel in consciousness up and down the ray which is the bridge between the personal man that perishes and the immortal man that endures.


If, while we are cased in the human flesh, we can raise our consciousness along the ray that connects our lower with our true Self, and so reach the higher Manas, we find there stored in the memory of that eternal Ego the whole of our past lives on earth, and we can bring back those records to our brain-memory by way of that same ray, through which we can climb upwards to our "Father."


But this is an achievement that belongs to a late stage of human evolution, and

until this is reached the successive personalities informed by the manasic rays are separated from each other, and no memory bridges over the gulf between.


The fact is obvious enough to any one who thinks the matter out, but as the difference between the personality and the immortal individuality is somewhat unfamiliar in the West, it may be well to remove a possible stumbling-block from the student’s path.


Now the lower Manas may do one of three things ; It may rise towards its source, and by unremitting and strenuous efforts become one with its "Father in heaven," or the higher Manas – Manas uncontaminated with earthly elements, unsoiled and pure. Or it may partially aspire and partially tend downwards, as indeed is mostly the case with the average man. Or saddest fate of all, it may become so clogged with the kāmic elements as to become one with them, and be finally wrenched away from its parent and perish.


Before considering these three fates, there are a few more words to be said touching the activity of the lower Manas.


As the lower Manas frees itself from Kāma, it becomes the sovereign of the lower part of man, and manifests more and more of its true and essential nature. In Kāma is desire, moved by bodily needs, and Will, which is the outgoing energy of the Self in Manas, is often led captive by the turbulent physical impulses. But the lower Manas, "whenever it disconnects itself, for the time being, from Kāma, becomes the guide of the highest mental faculties, and is the organ of the free will in physical man" (Lucifer, October 1890, page 94).


But the condition of this freedom is that Kāma shall be subdued, shall lie prostrate beneath the feet of the conqueror ; if the maiden Will is to be set free, the manasic St. George must slay the kāmic dragon that holds her captive ; for while Kāma is unconquered, Desire will be master of the Will.


Again, as the lower Manas frees itself from Kāma, it becomes more and more capable of transmitting to the human personality with which it is connected the impulses that reach it from its source. It is then, as we have seen, that genius flashes forth, the light from the higher Ego streaming through the lower Manas to the brain, and manifesting itself to the world. So also, as H.P.Blavatsky points out, such action may raise a man above the normal level of human power. "The higher Ego," she says, "cannot act directly on the body, as its consciousness belongs to quite another plane and planes of ideation ; the lower self does ; and its action and behaviour depend on its freewill and choice as to whether it will gravitate more towards its parent (‘the Father in heaven’) or the ‘animal’ which it informs, the man of flesh. The higher Ego, as part of the essence of the Universal Mind, is unconditionally omniscient on its own plane, and only potentially so in our terrestrial sphere, as it has to act solely through its alter ego the personal self.


Now …the former is the vehicle of all knowledge of the past, the present and the future, and …it is from this fountain head that its ‘double’ catches occasional glimpses of that which is beyond the senses of man, and transmits them to certain brain-cells (unknown to science in their functions), thus making of man a seer, a soothsayer and a prophet" (Lucifer, November, 1890, p. 179).


This is the real seership, and on it a few words must be said presently. It is, naturally, extremely rare, and precious as it is rare. A "faint and distorted reflection" of it is found in what is called mediumship, and of this H.P.Blavatsky says: "Now what is a medium? The term medium, when not applied to things and objects, is supposed to be a person through whom the action of another person or being is either manifested or transmitted.


Spiritualists believing in communications with disembodied spirits, and that these can manifest through, or impress sensitives to transmit messages from them, regard mediumship as a blessing and a great privilege. We Theosophists, on the other hand, who do not believe in the ‘communion of spirits’, as Spiritualists do, regard the gift as one of the most dangerous of abnormal nervous diseases.


A medium is simply one in whose personal Ego, or terrestrial mind, the percentage of the astral light so preponderates as to impregnate with it his whole physical constitution. Every organ and cell thereby is attuned, so to speak, and subject to an enormous and abnormal tension" (Lucifer, November 1890, page 183).


To return to the three fates spoken of above, any one of which may befall the lower Manas. It may rise towards its source and become one with the Father in heaven. This triumph can only be gained by many successive incarnations, all consciously directed towards this end. As life succeeds life, the physical frame becomes more and more delicately attuned to vibrations responsive to the manasic impulses, so that gradually the manasic ray needs less and less of the coarser astral matter as its vehicle.


"It is part of the mission of the manasic ray to get gradually rid of the blind deceptive element which, though it makes of it an actual spiritual entity on this plane, still brings it into so close contact with matter as to entirely becloud its divine nature and stultify its intuitions" (Lucifer, November, 1890, p. 182).


Life after life it rids itself of this "blind deceptive element," until at least, master of Kāma, and with body responsive to mind, the ray becomes one with its radiant source, the lower nature is wholly attuned to the higher, and the Adept stands forth complete, the "Father and the Son," having become one on

all planes, as they have been always "one in heaven."


For him the wheel of incarnation is over, the cycle of necessity is trodden. Henceforth he can incarnate at will, to do any special service to mankind; or he can dwell in the planes round the earth without the physical body, helping in the further evolution of the globe and of the race.


It may partially aspire and partially tend downwards. This is the normal experience of the average man. All life is a battlefield, and the battle rages in the lower manasic region, where Manas wrestles with Kāma for empire over man.


Anon aspiration conquers, the chains of sense are broken, and the lower Manas, with the radiance of its birthplace on it, soars upwards on strong wings, spurning the soil of earth.


But alas! too soon the pinions tire, they flag, they flutter, they cease to beat the air ; and downwards falls the royal bird whose true realm is that of the higher air, and he flutters heavily to the bog of earth once more, and Kāma chains him down.


When the period of incarnation is over, and the gateway of death closes the road of earthly life, what becomes of the lower Manas in the case we are considering?


Soon after the death of the physical body, Kāma-Manas is set free, and dwells for a while on the astral plane clothed with a body of astral matter. From this all of the manasic ray that is pure and unsoiled gradually disentangles itself, and, after a lengthy period spent on the lower levels of Devachan, it returns to its source, carrying with it such of its life-experiences as are of a nature fit for assimilation with the Higher Ego.


Manas thus again becomes one during the latter part of the period which intervenes between two incarnations. The manasic Ego, brooded over by Ātma-Buddhi – the two highest principles in the human constitution, not yet considered by us – passes into the devachanic state of consciousness, resting from the weariness of the life-struggle through which it has passed.


The experiences of the earth-life just closed are carried into the manasic consciousness by the lower ray withdrawn into its source. They make the devachanic state a continuation of earth-life, shorn of its sorrows, a completion of the wishes and desires of earth-life, so far as those were pure and noble.


The poetic phrase that "the mind creates its own heaven" is truer than many may have imagined, for everywhere man is what he thinks, and in the devachanic state the mind is unfettered by the gross physical matter through which it works on the objective plane.


The devachanic period is the time for the assimilation of life experiences, the regaining of equilibrium, ere a new journey is commenced. It is the day that succeeds the night of earth-life, the alternative of the objective manifestation. Periodicity is here, as everywhere else in nature, ebb and flow, throb and rest, the rhythm of the Universal Life.


This devachanic state of consciousness lasts for a period of varying length, proportioned to the stage reached in evolution, the Devachan of the average man being said to extend over some fifteen-hundred years.


Meanwhile, that portion of the impure garment of the lower Manas which remains entangled with Kāma gives to the desire-body a somewhat confused consciousness, a broken memory of the events of the life just closed. If the emotions and passions were strong and the manasic element weak during the period of incarnation, the desire-body will be strongly energised, and will persist in its activity for a considerable length of time after the death of the physical body.


It will also show a considerable amount of consciousness, as much of the manasic ray will have been overpowered by the vigorous kāmic elements, and will have remained entangled in them. If, on the other hand, the earth-life just closed was characterised my mentality and purity rather than by passion, the desire-body, being but poorly energised, will be a pale simulacrum of the person to whom it belonged, and will fade away, disintegrate and perish before any long period has elapsed.


The "spook" already mentioned (ante, p. 20-21) will now be understood. It may show very considerable intelligence, if the manasic element be still largely present, and this will be the case with the desire-body of persons of strong animal nature and forcible though coarse intellect.


For intelligence working in a very powerful kāmic personality will be exceedingly strong and energetic, though not subtle or delicate, and the spook of such a person, still further vitalised by the magnetic currents of persons yet living in the body, may show much intellectual ability of a low type.


But such a spook is conscienceless, devoid of good impulses, tending towards disintegration, and communications with it can work for evil only, whether we regard them as prolonging its vitality by the currents which it sucks up from the bodies and kāmic elements of the living, or as exhausting the vitality of these living persons and polluting them with astral connections of an altogether undesirable kind.


Nor should it be forgotten that, without attending séance-rooms at all, living persons may come into objectionable contact with these kāmic spooks. As already mentioned, they are attracted to places in which the animal part of man is chiefly catered for ; drinking houses, gambling saloons, brothels – all these places are full of the vilest magnetism, are very whirlpools of magnetic currents of the foulest type.


These attract the spooks magnetically, and they drift to such psychic maėlstroms of all that is earthly and sensual. Vivified by currents so congenial to their own, the desire-bodies become more active and potent; impregnated with the emanations of passions and desires which they can no longer physically satisfy, their magnetic current reinforce the similar currents in the live persons, action and reaction continually going on, and the animal natures of the living become more potent and less controlled by the will as they are played on by these forces of the kāmic world.


Kāma-loka (from loka, a place, and so the place for Kāma) is a name often used to designate that plane of the astral world to which these spooks belong, and from this ray forth magnetic currents of poisonous character, as from a pest-house float out germs of disease which may take root and grow in the congenial soil of some poorly vitalised physical body. It is very possible that many will say, on reading these statements, that


Theosophy is a revival of mediaeval superstitions and will lead to imaginary terrors. Theosophy explains mediaeval superstitions, and shows the natural facts on which they were founded and from which they drew their vitality.


If there are planes in nature other than the physical, no amount of reasoning will get rid of them and belief in their existence will constantly reappear ; but knowledge will give them their intelligible place in the universal order, and will prevent superstition by an accurate understanding of their nature, and of the laws under which they function.


And let it be remembered that persons whose consciousness is normally on the physical plane can protect themselves from undesirable influences by keeping their minds clean and their wills strong. We protect ourselves best against disease by maintaining our bodies in vigorous health; we cannot guard ourselves against invisible germs, but we can prevent our bodies from becoming suitable soil for the growth and development of the germs.


Nor need we deliberately throw ourselves in the way infection. So also as regards these malign germs from the astral plane. We can prevent the formation of Kāma- manasic soil in which they can germinate and develop, and we need not go into evil places, nor deliberately encourage receptivity and mediumistic tendencies. A strong active will and a pure heart are our best protection.


There remains the third possibility for Kāma-Manas, to which we must now turn our attention, the fate spoken of earlier as "terrible in its consequences, which may befall the kāmic principle." It may break away from its source made one with Kāma instead of with the higher Manas. This is fortunately, a rare event, as rare at one pole of human life as the complete re-union with the higher Manas is rare at the other. But still the possibility remains and must be stated.


The personality may be so strongly controlled by Kāma that, in the struggle between the kāmic and manasic elements, the victory may remain wholly with the former. The lower Manas may become so enslaved that its essence may be frayed and thinner and thinner by the constant rub and strain, until at last persistent yielding to the promptings of desire bears its inevitable fruit, and the slender link which unites the higher to the lower Manas, the "silver thread that binds it to the Master," snaps in two.


Then, during earth-life, the lower quaternary is wrenched away from the Triad to which it was linked, and the higher nature is severed wholly from the lower. The human being is rent in twain, the brute has broken itself free, and it goes forth unbridled, carrying with it the reflections of that manasic light which should have been its guide through the desert of life.


A more dangerous brute it is than its fellows of the unevolved animal world, just because of these fragments in it of the higher mentality of man. Such a being, human in form but brute in nature, human in appearance but without human truth, or love or justice – such a one may now and then be met with in the haunts of men, putrescent while still living, a thing to shudder at with deepest, if hopeless compassion. What is its fate after the funeral knell has tolled?


Ultimately, there is the perishing of the personality that has thus broken away from the principles that can alone give it immortality. But a period of persistence lies before it. The desire-body of such a one is an entity of terrible potency, and it has this unique peculiarity, that it is able under certain rare circumstances to reincarnate in the world of men.


It is not a mere "spook" on the way to disintegration; it has retained, entangled in its coils , too much of the manasic element to permit of such natural dissipation in space. It is sufficiently an independent entity, lurid instead of radiant, with manasic flame rendered foul instead of purifying, as to be able to take to itself a garment of flesh once more and dwell as man with men.


Such a man – if the word may indeed be applied to the mere human shell with brute interior – passes through a period of earth-life the natural foe of all who are still normal in their humanity. With no instincts save those of the animal, driven only by passion, never even by emotion, with a cunning that no brute can rival, a deliberate wickedness that plans evil in fashion unknown to the mere frankly natural impulses of the animal world, the reincarnated entity touches ideal vileness.


Such soil the page of human history has; the monsters of iniquity that startle us now and again into a wondering cry, "Is this a human being?" Sinking lower with each successive incarnation, the evil force gradually wears itself out, and such a personality perishes separated from the source of life.


It finally disintegrates, to be worked up into other forms of living things, but as a separate existence, it is lost. It is a bead broken off the thread of life, and the immortal Ego that incarnated in that personality has lost the experience of that incarnation, has reaped no harvest from that life-sowing.


Its ray has brought nothing back, its lifework for that birth has been a total and complete failure, whereof nothing remains to weave into the fabric of its own eternal Self.





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The Menai Bridge

The Menai Bridge links the Island of Anglesey

with the North Wales coast







Pages about Wales

General pages about Wales, Welsh History

and The History of Theosophy in Wales


Wales is a Principality within the United Kingdom and has an eastern

border with England. The land area is just over 8,000 square miles.

Snowdon in North Wales is the highest mountain at 3,650 feet.

The coastline is almost 750 miles long. The population of Wales

as at the 2001 census is 2,946,200.





Hey Look!

Theosophy in Cardiff


Theosophy Wales


Theosophy UK



Bangor Conwy & Swansea Lodges are members

of the Welsh Regional Association (Formed 1993).

Theosophy Cardiff separated from the Welsh Regional

Association in March 2008 and became an independent

body within the Theosophical Movement in March 2010



High Drama & Worldwide Confusion

as Theosophy Cardiff Separates from the

Welsh Regional Association (formed 1993)


Theosophy Cardiff Cancels its Affiliation

to the Adyar Based Theosophical Society