[Notes on Devachan]
Theosophist, August, 1883
Notes by H.P.B. on a “Memorandum” and its Replies, centered on the topic of Devachan.
[Note: though the complete article, incuding all three replies, is given in the Collected Writings of H. P. Blavatsky, there is no evidence we are aware of that indicates any portion of the replies was actually penned by H.P.B. Internal evidence within the replies themselves would seem to indicate otherwise (i.e. the third reply is clearly by a native Hindu; while a note by H.P.B. on the second reply has her guessing as to the source of a reference given by the author of it). This leaves only the first reply as possibly from the pen of H.P.B., but to our observation the “tone” and style of that reply does not strike us as particularly “Blavatskian”. The student can find the complete article here. We have chosen, within the context of our collection of the writings of H. P. Blavatsky, to include here only the introduction to the article and the footnotes explicitly signed by her as editor of The Theosophist.]
The memorandum that follows emanates from a British Theosophist. It was sent to “Lay Chela,” author of Esoteric Buddhism, in response to whose desire that the objections should be explained away, the three Replies subjoined have been sent. They come from three different sources.—Editor, The Theosophist. [H.P.B.]
[From the “Memorandum”:]
It seems to me that our misunderstanding arises from the use of inconsistent language in these teachings. We constantly hear of the “dreamers in Devachan,” of the “subjective isolation” of this state. And then we are forthwith reproached for regarding it as “less real” than our present condition! Take the case of the association of friends there. What we want to know is whether there is any real intercourse of personalities—of 5th principle—there. . . . “Two sympathetic souls,” we are told, “both disembodied, will each work out its own Devachanic sensations, making the other a sharer in its subjective bliss. This will be as real to them, naturally, as though both were yet on this earth.” So far so good; the truth and reality of the intercourse seem to be quite unmistakably affirmed, though of course the mode of the intercourse is not such as we can at present recognize from experience. But in the next passage our doubt revives. “Nevertheless, each is dissociated from the other as regards personal or corporeal association.”1 As regards corporeal, granted, but what as regards personal, since it is just the personal, 5th principle, consciousness that survives in Devachan?
1. If we understand the spirit of the objection at all, it rests simply upon a mistake. The conjunction placed between the words “personal” and “corporeal” is sufficient to show that the term personal stands here for “external” or “bodily.” Why should it then be taken in the sense of the mental representation of a personality? The “or” makes the two adjectives identical.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
[From Reply No. 1: “The Real and the Unreal”:]
The “misunderstanding” arises from a natural misconception of the sense in which certain terms are made use of rather than from any “inconsistent language” used. The alternative of moving for ever in a vicious circle faces the European student of Occult philosophy, who begins his study before having made himself familiar with the technical mode of thought and peculiarity of expression of its teachers. His first necessity is, to know the esoteric views of the ultimate nature of Spirit, of Matter, Force and Space; the fundamental and axiomatic theories as to the Reality and Unreality, Form and the Formless (rupa and a-rupa), dream and waking.2 Especially should he master—at least approximately—the distinction between the “objective” and the “subjective” in the living man’s sensuous perceptions and the same as they appear to the psychic perceptions of a disembodied entity (Devachanee).
2. The Vedanta philosophy teaches as much as Occult philosophy that our monad during its life on earth as a triad (7th, 6th, and 5th principles), has, besides the condition of pure intelligence, three conditions; namely, waking, dreaming, and sushupti—a state of dreamless deep— from the standpoint of terrestrial conceptions; of real, actual soul-life—from the occult standpoint. While man is either dreamlessly, profoundly asleep or in a trance state, the triad (Spirit, Soul and Mind) enters into perfect union with the Paramatma, the Supreme Universal Soul.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
. . . The centre of Devachanic activity cannot be localized: it is again avidya. Monads during that time even when connected with their five finite Kosas (sheaths or principles) know neither space nor time, but are diffused throughout the former, are omnipresent and ubiquitous. Manas in its higher aspect is dravya—an eternal “substance” as well as the Buddhi, the spiritual soul—when this aspect is developed; and united with the Soul Manas becomes spiritual self-consciousness, which is a Vikara (a production) of its original “producer” Buddhi.3 Unless made utterly unfit, by its having become hopelessly mixed with, and linked to, its lower Tanmatras, to become one with Buddhi, it is inseparable from it. Thus the higher human triad, drawn by its affinity to those triads it loved most, with Manas in its highest aspect of self-consciousness—(which is entirely disconnected with, and has no need as a channel of the internal organ of physical sense called antah-karana)4—helping, it is ever associated with, and enjoys the presence of all those it loves—in death, as much as it did in life. The intercourse is real and genuine.
3. It is only when Ego becomes Ego-ism deluded into a notion of independent existence as the producer in its turn of the five Tanmâtras that Manas is considered Maha-bhutic and finite in the sense of being connected with Ahankara, the personal “I-creating” faculty. Hence Manas is both eternal and non-eternal: eternal in its atomic nature (paramanu rupa); finite (or kârya-rupa) when linked as a duad—with kama (Volition), a lower production.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
4. Antah-karana is the path of communication between soul and body, entirely disconnected with the former: existing with, belonging to, and dying with the body.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
The critic doubts whether such an intercourse can be called a “veritable one.” He wants to know whether the two disembodied entities are “really and truly affected the one by the other”; or, “is it merely that the one personality imagines the presence of the other,” such intercourse corresponding with no fact “of which the other personality [either embodied or disembodied] could take cognizance”; and while doubting, he denies that he is “‘postulating an incongruity in objecting that such an ‘intercourse’ is not real, is a ‘mere dream,’” for he says, he “can conceive a real intercourse—conscious on both sides and truly acting and reacting which does not apply only to the mutual relationship of physical existence.” If he really can, then where is the difficulty complained of? The real meaning attached by the occultist to such words as dream, reality, and unreality, having been explained, what further trouble is there to comprehend this specific tenet? The critic may also be asked, how he can conceive of a real conscious intercourse on both sides, unless he understands the peculiar, and—to him as yet unknown—intellectual reaction and inter-relation between the two. [This sympathetic reaction is no fanciful hypothesis but a scientific fact known and taught at initiations, though unknown to modern science and but hazily perceived by some metaphysicians—spiritualists.]5 Or is it that, alternatively, he anthropomorphises Spirit—in the spiritualistic mistaken sense? Our critic has just told us that “the mode of the intercourse is not such as we [he] can at present recognize from experience.” What kind of intercourse is it then that he can conceive of?
5. It is demonstrated to Occultists by the fact that two adepts separated by hundreds of miles, leaving their bodies at their respective habitations and their astral bodies (the lower manas and volition, kama) to watch over them, can still meet at some distant place and hold converse and even perceive and sense each other for hours as though they were both personally and bodily together, whereas, even their lower mayavi-rupas are absent.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
[From Reply No. 2: “Dream Life”:]
. . . We are asked, “if some of these (the Devachanee loved) are not themselves fit for Devachan, how then?” We answer: “Even in the case of a man still living on earth, or even of one suffering in Avitchi, the ideation of a monad in Devachan may still affect his monad if there is strong sympathy between the two as indicated above.6 Yet the Devachanee will remain ignorant of the mental suffering of the other.”
6. The reader is reminded in this connection that neither Devachan nor Avitchi is a locality, but a state which affects directly the being in it and all others only by reaction.—Ed. [H.P.B]
. . . We do not mean it [the reply] in any unkind spirit, yet with such an opposition to the very exposition (since no one is pressed for its acceptance) of our doctrine by some Western minds, we feel bound to remind our opponents that they have the freedom of choice. Among the later great world philosophies there are two,—the more modern the outgrowth of the older,—whose “after states” are clearly and plainly defined, and the acceptance of either of which, moreover, would be welcomed: one—by millions of spiritualists, the other—by the most respectable portion of humanity, viz., civilized Western society. Nothing equivocal, or like cheating of nature in the latter: her Devachanees, the faithful and the true, are plainly and charitably promised the ineffable rapture of seeing during an eternity the tortures of the damned in the depths of Gehenna. We are, and do feel willing to give out some of our facts. Only occult philosophy and Buddhism having both failed as yet to produce a Tertullian to strike for us the key-note of an orthodox hell,7 we cannot undertake to furnish fictions to suit every taste and fancy.
7. Reference is probably made here to the soul-inspiring monologue that is found in Tertullian’s De Spectaculis, Chapter XXX. Falling into a wild ecstasy of joy over the bare prospect of seeing some day all the philosophers “who have persecuted the name of Christ burn in a most cruel fire in hell. . . .” this saintly Patristic character, a Father of the Christian Church, exclaims: “Oh, what shall be the magnitude of that scene. How I shall laugh! How I shall rejoice! How I shall triumph!” etc.—Ed. [H.P.B.]