[Notes on “The Philosophy of Spirit”]
Theosophist, May, 1882
Article Selections by T. Subba Row | Notes by H.P.B.
“The Philosophy of Spirit,”
Examined from the Esoteric and Brahmanical Stand-Point,
by T. Subba Row.
The book bearing the above title, and professing to expound “the philosophy of spirit” contained in the Bhagavadgita, has already been introduced to the readers of The Theosophist by the review that appeared in the December number [p. 62], and the author’s reply thereto published in the copy of March [p. 150]. Considering the importance of the issues raised by the author’s publication, and the two articles above referred to, I persuade myself that I shall be justified in sifting, with some minuteness, the conclusions arrived at by the author regarding the authorship and philosophy of the Bhagavadgita and its esoteric basis or foundation. . . .
. . . The difference between the doctrines of the ancient Aryan esoteric science and the propositions above laid down, will not be properly appreciated unless the meaning attached by the author to the word angel is first ascertained. Though the said word is nowhere defined in his book, yet from a footnote in page 93, it can be easily seen that an angel means Devata. Those, who are acquainted with Sanskrit mythology, know very well that there are several classes of Devata; that these classes perish at the end of each Manvantara,1 and that new classes or tribes (Gaṇams) come into existence at the beginning of every subsequent Manvantara.
1. The period of Regeneration, or the active life of the universe between two Pralayas or universal Destructions: the former being called the “day” and the latter the “night” of Brahmâ.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
It will also be seen, from the Hindu Puranas and the Mahabharata itself, that neither the individuals of these various tribes, nor yet the tribes collectively, undergo any change, transmigrations or translations into a higher state, or higher planes of existence. No Hindu has ever heard of a Yaksha or Gandharva2 becoming a Deva, and of a Deva becoming a higher being. . . .
2. Yaksha, the earth-spirit or Gnome; the Gandharva, akin to the Christian cherub or singing seraph. There are, says Atharva Veda (XI., 5, 2,) 6,333 Gandharvas in their Loka.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
The seven-fold classification in man was already prominently brought to the notice of the readers of The Theosophist in the article headed “Fragments of Occult Truth,” and in a subsequent article, referring to and completing it, published in the January number of the said journal. These seven entities in man represent the 7 principles that constitute him. But the Rishis also recognized 16 stages of ascent—not 12 as the author has erroneously supposed—from Prithivi Tatwam up to “the eternal and infinite monad”—the Augoeides that over-shadows every man, the blazing start at the end of Shodasantum (end of the 16th stage of ascent). . . . From the stand-point of Aryan philosophy, the author is right in saying that a man becomes perfect on reaching the 11th stage, but he is wrong in saying that, on attaining the next higher step, he becomes an “angel” or Deva. The nature of the last 5 stages, spoken of by the ancient Rishis, is not clearly understood even by the ordinary initiate (An initiate of the preliminary degrees). . . . No one, who correctly understands the meaning of the 8th Adhyaya (chapter) of the Bhagavadgita, and compares the original with the author’s translation of the said chapter, will be inclined to doubt the correctness of our assertion. In that chapter, Krishna, speaking of the future state of the human being after death, says that, generally speaking, “the life-principle” in man (the Karanasariram probably?) assumes the shape and nature of that being or entity on whom, or on which, the human being concentrates his attention deeply. Therefore, and as it is not desireable for a human being to contemplate any other spiritual entity or being than Krishna himself, he advises Arjuna to center his thoughts in him. But, who is Krishna? The Bhagavadgita does not leave us in any doubt about this question. In giving an account of his Vibhuti (as it is called in Sanskrit) Krishna commences by saying “Ahamatma”3 (I am Atma—the 7th principle in man). To use the author’s phraseology, he is the “soul”—the inmost principle in man. . . .
3. The “I am, That I am” of the Biblical Jehovah, the “I am who I am,” or “Mazdao” of Ahuramazda in the Zend Avesta, etc. All these are names for the 7th principle in man.
And, in recommending the contemplation or Dhyan of one’s own atma, Krishna points out two different modes of doing it, in the 9th, 12th, and 13th slokas of the chapter above mentioned [the 8th]. . . .
. . . in the sloka, or verse in question [8:9], there is no reference whatsoever to any angel, Deva or God. The last five stages in the ladder of ascent have exactly the same meaning that is given by the esoteric Buddhism to the four celestial “Dhyan-Buddhas” and “Adi-Buddha.” Krishna significantly alludes to the Dhyan-Buddhas in the 9th and 10th slokas, and speaks of “Adi-Buddha”—the state or condition represented by Pranava—in the succeeding verses.4
4. Hence, the great veneration of the Buddhists for Bhagavadgita.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
While he applies the word Purusha to these “Dhyan-Buddhas” he speaks of Adi-Buddha, as if it were merely a state or condition.5 . . .
5. “Adi-Buddha” creates the four celestial Buddhas or “Dhyans,” in our esoteric philosophy. It is but the gross misinterpretation of European Orientalists, entirely ignorant of the Arhat-doctrine, that gave birth to the absurd idea that the Lord Gautama Buddha is alleged to have created the five Dhyan or celestial Buddhas. Adi-Buddha, or, in one sense, Nirvana, “creating” the four Buddhas or degrees of perfection—is pregnant with meaning to him who has studied even the fundamental principles of the Brahmanical and Arhat esoteric doctrines.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
The ancient Rishis of Aryavarta have taken considerable pains to impress upon the minds of their followers that the human spirit (7th principle) has a dignity, power and sacredness which cannot be claimed by any other God, Deva or angel of the Hindu Pantheon.6
6. In view of this, Gautama Buddha, after his initiation into the mysteries by the old Brahman, His Guru, renouncing gods, Devas and personal deity, feeling that the path to salvation lay not in vainglorious dogmas, and the recognition of a deity outside of oneself, renounced every form of theism and—became Buddha, the one enlightened. “Aham eva param Brahma,” I am myself a Brahma (a god), is the motto of every Initiate.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
I. Vyasa means a “Recorder”: therefore, the word was purposely applied to Krishna Dwypayana to indicate his real position as regards the authorship of the Mahabharata.
Now, I beg to submit, in reply to this argument, that Vyasa does not exactly mean a recorder; but that it means one who expands or amplifies.7 The thing or doctrine explained or amplified by him, is a mystery to the uninitiated public.
7. In no case can the term be translated as “Recorder,” we should say. Rather a “Revealer,” who explains the mysteries to the neophyte or candidate for initiation by expanding and amplifying to him the meaning.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
This term [vyasa] was applied to the Highest Guru in India in ancient times; and the author will be able to find in the Linga Purana that the author of the Mahabharata was the 28th Vyasa in the order of succession. I shall not now attempt to explain the real meaning of the 28 incarnations therein mentioned.8 but I shall only say that the entity, amplified and expanded by these Mahatmas9 for the instruction of their highest circle of disciples was Pranava (see “Kurma Purana”). The author will be able to learn something about this mysterious amplification of Pranava only in the sacred region where Swedenborg advised his readers to search for the “Lost Word,” and in a few unexplored and unknown localities in India.
8. To one, who has even a vague notion how the mysteries of old were conducted, and of the present Arhat system in Tibet vaguely termed the “Reincarnation System” of the Dalai-Lamas, the meaning will be clear. The chief Hierophant who imparted the “word” to his successor had to die bodily. Even Moses dies after having laid his hands upon Joshua, who thus became “full of the spirit of wisdom of Moses,” and—it is the “Lord” who is said to have buried him. The reason why “no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day,” is plain to an Occultist who knows anything of the supreme initiation. There cannot be two “Highest” Gurus or Hierophants on earth, living at the same time.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
9. “Grand Souls” in literal translation; a name given to the great adepts.—Ed. [H.P.B.]