[Notes on “Fragments of Occult Truth” Parts 1-3]
Theosophist, October 1881, March 1882, and September 1882
Notes by H.P.B. on the first three articles under the title “Fragments of Occult Truth,” written by A. O. Hume.
[Note: in the above-mentioned series of articles, the first three are from the pen of A. O. Hume, as replies to W. H. Terry, while after these three the remaining articles in the series are penned by A. P. Sinnett. The current article covers only those by Hume.]
We have received from our esteemed Australian Brother Theosophsit, W. H. Terry Esq., the following interesting and temperate note on some supposed errors of Occultists when dealing with the phenomena of Spiritualism. The subject is one of universal interest, and we shall require, therefore, no apology, either for reproducing our good brother’s communication in extenso, or for appending thereto some few fragments of the lessons taught us in the Occult schools, which may possibly both help to remove his personal difficulties and tend to convey to Spiritualists generally, a clearer conception of the causes of many of the phenomena of which they have had experience.
[Note: here followed Mr. Terry’s letter, then the replies by A. O. Hume, including the first time the sevenfold constitution of man was given in modern theosophical literature. The replies can be read in full here.]
. . . In order to understand clearly the view of the Occultists, it is necessary to glance at the constitution of the living human being. Even the spiritual theory teaches that man is a trinity, composed of (1) a higher spirit, or the “Spiritual Soul” as ancient philosophers designated it; (2) its envelope—the etherial form or shadow of the body—called by the Neoplatonists the “animal soul”; and (3) the physical body.
Although from one point of view this is broadly correct, yet, according to Occultists, to render our conceptions of this truth clearer and follow successfully the course of man after death, it is necessary to subdivide further these three entities and resolve them into their constituent principles. This analysis being almost wholly unknown to Western nations, it is difficult in some cases to find any English words by which to represent the Occult subdivisions, but we give them in the least obscure phraseology that we can command.
Divisions of the Spiritualists. Subdivisions of the Occultists. 1. The Body. 1. The Physical body, composed wholly of matter in its grossest and most tangible form.2. The Vital principle—(or Jiv-atma)—, a form of force, indestructible and when disconnected with one set of atoms, becoming attracted immediately by others. 2. The Animal Soul, or Perisprit. 3. The Astral body (Linga Sharira) composed of highly etherialized matter; in its habitual passive state, the perfect but very shadowy duplicate of the body; its activity, consolidation and form depending entirely on the kama rupa.4. The Astral shape (kama rupa) or body of desire, a principle defining the configuration of—
5. The animal or physical intelligence or consciousness or Ego, analogous to, though proportionally higher in degree than, the reason, instinct, memory, imagination, etc., existing1 in the higher animals.
3. The Spiritual Soul or Spirit. 6. The Higher or Spiritual intelligence or consciousness, or spiritual Ego, in which mainly resides the sense of consciousness in the perfect man, though the lower dimmer animal consciousness co-exists in No. 5.7. The Spirit — an emanation from the ABSOLUTE; uncreated; eternal; a state rather than a being.
1. Western Science, of course, as a rule, holds that animals have no conscious Ego, but this we know to be erroneous; they possess no spiritual, but they do possess an animal, consciousness. Could men communicate with them, they would discover not only this, but also that many of the anthropoid apes possess an intelligence, consciousness etc., little inferior to that of lunatics and madmen, and some desperately wicked and depraved men who have, in fact, become animals, through the loss, temporary or permanent, of their sixth and seventh principles, even while the combination of the other five principles is still intact, i.e., even during life.
Was it some hazy tradition of the truth handed down through the Romish Church, which has ever possessed some secret knowledge of the teachings of the ancient mysteries, or was it the great Poet Soul’s own glimpses into the Astral Light, that made Dante represent the souls of several of his enemies as already in the “Inferno” though the men themselves still lived upon earth? Of course, the fragment of truth thus embodied, was utterly distorted by the malign influence of the then prevalent material Hell superstition—but it was quite possible, as the Modern West has still to realize, that the souls of some of these evil men might have already passed away (though not to the fabled Inferno), whilst the men themselves still lived.—Ed. Theos. [H.P.B.]
[Note: the remainder of the first fragment has no further notes by H.P.B.]
(No. 2 of the Series)
Mr. W. H. Terry . . . finds our elucidation of the occult mysteries underlying the external facts of spiritualism, an unsatisfactory solution of the difficulties presented to the mind even by “the few instances of assumed spirit communication” which he originally presented for consideration. The letter in which he replies to our explanations is as follows:—
“. . . I am desirous not only of arriving at “Truth” myself, but of assisting others in the same direction, and how can we better do this than by presenting the result of our experiences in search of it?
“Theosophy (as I understand it) is a knowledge of the secrets of nature acquired by intercourse with God; it is not to be assumed, however, that the latter expression implies direct communion with the Great Spirit of the Universe, but rather rapport with the higher spheres of spirits, the Great Vortex of Spiritual Knowledge.2
2. We object to this definition. “Theosophy” means “divine” or God-Wisdom.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
[Note: Mr. Terry’s letter continues, then is followed by further reply by Mr. Hume.]
. . . We know that this world is fleeting and transitory. It is readily conceivable, and all analogies suggest the conclusion, which every sort of spiritual statement confirms, that the world of spirit is more durable. So, as that knowledge is real which lasts, and that is unreal which passes away, the spirit of man which comes into direct and conscious relations with the world of spirit acquires the real knowledge,3 the spirit of man which lives imprisoned in the body and is merely led through the senses with crumbs of knowledge, possesses the unreal only. . . .
3. As in any case, say—of an initiated adept,—who brings back upon earth with him the clear and distinct recollection—correct to a detail—of facts gathered, and the information obtained in the invisible sphere of Realities.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
. . . Who possess the real knowledge as contradistinguished from the unreal?—the student of Occultism is asked, and he is taught to reply—that which we have shown to be the only possible reply—“the adepts alone possess the real knowledge, their minds alone being en rapport with the universal mind.” Now it is the teaching of the adepts4 that Spiritualists,—in ninety-nine cases of a hundred – are mistaken when they think themselves in contact with the spirits of departed friends . . .
4. Those real, genuine adepts who neither thrust themselves upon the public notice, nor do they invite us at the top of their voices:—“Come all ye, poor ignorant fools, come to me . . . come to learn from me who has nothing more to learn since he has made himself omniscient—how to reach ‘Christ-State’ and Buddha-State . . .”—Our adepts compare themselves neither with Christ nor Buddha; nor even with Ammonius Sakka—the Theodidaktos or the “God-Taught” Seer; but they may be all that combined, and much more, since they are a Body of men—not one isolated, self-taught individual.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
. . . The difficulty of distinguishing between the creations of the seer’s brain and spectral or spiritual phenomena really external to himself5 appears to be the cause of the confusion into which untrained, uninitiated observers fall when natural mediumistic gifts enable them to cross the threshold of the world of spirit and awake to a perception of the wonders hanging like an aura around the physical planet.
5. The few exceptional cases of genuine spirit-communications will be treated of, in one of the future parts of “Fragments”—as the greatest attention and caution must be bestowed upon the subject to avoid every possible misunderstanding. Before we rebuild a house, we have to pull down the old structure. We know that we shall displease many and receive no thanks for it. But it cannot be helped. The Spiritualists having insisted upon having our opinion, we must be left to proceed systematically.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
[Note: the remainder of the second fragment and the entirety of the third fragment have no further notes by H.P.B.]