(An Appendix to “Fragments of Occult Truth.”)
Theosophist, July, 1883
With reference to a tenet in one of the “Fragments of Occult Truth,” a respected member of our Society—N. D. K.—writes to enquire “What Karma propels the higher Ego into the next birth,” when “a highly depraved personality is dropped out.”
At the outset it may be well to repeat again what has been already so often stated, namely, that the Fragments being but fragmentary and incomplete, must go on exhibiting difficulties and even apparent discrepancies until the whole doctrine concerning the after-state of the Ego is thoroughly mastered. But students with a tolerable amount of intuitive perception have had enough of philosophy given them, to enable the more advanced ones to work out many a detail: especially if they live the life which clears the inner vision. Few of these can be given in a publication that reaches the outsider as well as the student of occultism. There are secrets of initiation that it is impossible to communicate promiscuously to the world at large, for it would amount to throwing many a mind into a direful confusion, unless the whole doctrine is explained; and this no adept or even advanced neophyte would consent to do at this stage of the teaching. But this particular tenet having been already outlined, there is no further necessity of remaining silent with regard to this special detail.
The readers of Col. Olcott’s Buddhist Catechism may well recall here with advantage the following very suggestive passages (pages 54 and 55):
“. . . In each birth the personality differs from that of the previous or next succeeding birth. Karma, the deus ex machina, masks (or shall we say reflects?) itself now in the personality of a sage, again as an artisan, and so on throughout the string of births. But though personalities ever shift, the one line of life along which they are strung like beads, runs unbroken . . .”
Alongside with the above quotation should be put the following from the Fragments of Occult Truth, No. I. (October Theosophist, Vol. III, No. 1, page 19, col. 2):—
“. . . The time will come, no doubt, but many steps higher on the ladder, when the Ego will regain its consciousness of all its past stages of existence. . . .”
If the enquirer will realize the real meaning of these two quotations, he will have the key to a correct understanding of the question as to what Karma propels the higher Ego into the next birth, when even that of a highly depraved personality is dropped out, together with the personal soul that weaved it out. It will be clear from these passages that the individuality or the spiritual monad is a thread upon which are strung various personalities. Each personality leaves its own—the higher spiritual—impressions upon the divine Ego, the consciousness of which returns at a certain stage of its progress, even that of the highly depraved soul that had to perish in the end. The reason for it becomes self-evident, if one reflects that however criminal and lost to every glimmer of a higher feeling, no human soul is yet born utterly depraved, and that there was a time during the youth of the sinful human personality when it had worked out some kind or other of Karma; and that it is this that survives and forms the basis of the Karma to come. To make it clearer, let us suppose that A lives to that age when a person becomes an adult and begins to bloom fully into life. No man, however vicious his natural tendency, becomes so at once. He has had therefore time to evolve a Karma, however faint and insignificant. Let us further imagine that at the age of eighteen or twenty A begins to give way to vice and thus gradually loses the remotest connection with his higher principle. At thirty or say forty, he dies. Now, the personality of A between fifteen and twenty is as little the personality of A from twenty to thirty, as though it were quite another man. Even the physiologists divide the physical personality into stages of seven, and show man changing atoms to the last, every seven years. The same with the inner man. The fifth principle of the sensual, highly depraved man, may well and will perish, while the Karma of his youth, though not strong and complete enough to secure for him a bliss in Devachan and union with his higher principle—is yet sufficiently outlined to allow the monad a grasp on it for the next rebirth. On the other hand we are taught that it so happens sometimes that the Karma of a personality is not fully worked out in the birth that follows. Life is made up of accidents, and the personality that becomes may be hindered by circumstances from receiving the full due its Karma is entitled to, whether for good or for bad. But the Law of Retribution will never allow itself to be cheated by blind chance. There is then a provision to be made, and the accounts that could not be settled in one birth will be squared in the succeeding one. The portion of the sum-total which could not be summed up on one column is carried forward to the following. For verily the many lives of an individual monad were well compared in the Fragments to the pages of an account book—the Book of Life or—Lives. . . .
Out of these impressions, then, which constitute the Karma of the youth, is evolved the new personality. Our botanical friends may know that the croton plant evolves out of itself another plant, when the one already evolved dies out or withers away. Nature must always progress, and each fresh attempt is more successful than the previous one. This fresh evolution is due to the latent potentiality of life it has within itself. In the same manner, although one particular personality may be so far depraved as to be entirely dissociated from the spiritual monad and go into the eighth sphere, where annihilation is its lot, yet the impressions of the previous personalities upon the higher Ego have in them potentiality enough to evolve a new physical Ego, like the croton plant. The connection between a man’s spiritual monad and the succession of physical Egos with which it is temporarily associated, has been, somewhere in these columns, compared to the retrospective glance of a man on some past period of his earthly existence. While reviewing in his memory his work day by day—those days on which he did nothing of any importance and passed idly away, having left no impression on his mind, must be, and are to him, like a perfect blank. No consciousness that he had passed such days remains there. In the same manner, the Ego when at the end of its long pilgrimage will regain consciousness of those personalities only which have made a sufficiently strong spiritual, hence indelible, mark on the monad, while the memory of the conscious acts of the particular depraved personality which goes to the eighth sphere will be entirely obliterated.
It may then be urged what stimulus is there for a man to be good and pure, if his spiritual monad is any how to progress? This is no doubt a side issue but a very important one. It must not be discussed however at this stage of our writing.