Zoroastrianism on the Septenary Constitution of Man
Many of the esoteric doctrines given out through the Theosophical Society reveal a spirit akin to that of the older religions of the East, especially the Vedic and the Zendic. Leaving aside the former, I propose to point out by a few instances the close resemblance which the doctrines of the old Zendic Scriptures, as far as they are now preserved, bear to these recent teachings.
Any ordinary Parsi, while reciting his daily Niyashes, Gehs and Yashts, provided he yields to the curiosity of looking into the meanings of what he recites, will, with a little exertion, perceive how the same ideas, only clothed in a more intelligible and comprehensive garb, are reflected in these teachings. The description of the septenary constitution of man found in the 54th chapter of the Yasna, one of the most authoritative books of the Mazdiasnian religion, shows the identity of the doctrines of Avesta and the esoteric philosophy, indeed, as a Mazdiasnian, I felt quite ashamed that, having such undeniable and unmistakable evidence before their eyes, the Zoroastrians of the present day should not avail themselves of the opportunity offered of throwing light upon their now entirely misunderstood and misinterpreted Scriptures by the assistance and under the guidance of the Theosophical Society. If Zend scholars and students of Avesta would only care to study and search for themselves, they would, perhaps, find to assist them, men who are in possession of the right and only key to the true esoteric wisdom; men, who would be willing to guide and help them to reach the true and hidden meaning, and to supply them with the missing links that have resulted in such painful gaps as to leave the meaning meaningless, and to create in the mind of the perplexed student doubts that finally culminate in a thorough unbelief in his own religion. Who knows but they may find some of their own co-religionists, who, aloof from the world, have to this day preserved the glorious truths of their once mighty religion, and who, hidden in the recesses of solitary mountains and unknown silent caves, are still in possession of; and exercising, mighty powers, the heirloom of the ancient Magi. Our Scriptures say that ancient Mobeds were Yogis, who had the power of making themselves simultaneously visible at different places, even though hundreds of miles apart, and also that they could heal the sick and work that which would now appear to us miraculous. All this was considered facts but two or three centuries back, as no reader of old books (mostly Persian) is unacquainted with, or will disbelieve a priori unless his mind is irretrievably biassed by modern secular education. The story about the Mobed and Emperor Akbar and of the latter’s conversion, is a well-known historical fact, requiring no proof.
I will first of all quote side by side the two passages referring to the septenary nature of man as I find them in our Scriptures and the THEOSOPHIST:
Sub-divisions of septenary man according to the Occultists.
Sub-divisions of septenary man according to Yasna (chap. 54, para. I).
1. The Physical body, composed wholly of matter in its grossest and most tangible form.
1. Tanwas—i.e., body (the self ) that consists of bones—grossest form of matter.
2. The Vital principle—(or Jiva)—a form of force indestructible, and when disconnected with one set of atoms, becoming attracted immediately by others.
2. Ushtanas—Vital heat (or force).
3. The Astral body (Linga-sharira) composed of highly etherealized 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.
3. Keherpas—Aërial form, the airy mould, (Per. Kaleb).
4. The Astral shape (Kama-rupa or body of desire, a principle defining the configuration of ——
4. Tevishis—Will, or where sentient consciousness is formed, also fore-knowledge.
5. The animal or Physical intelligence or Consciousness or Ego, analogous to, though proportionally higher in the senses or the animal degree than the reason, instinct, memory, imagination etc., existing in the higher animals.
5. Baodhas (in Sanskrit, Buddhi)—Body of physical consciousness, perception by the senses or animal soul.
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.
6. Urawanem (Per. Rawan)—Soul, that which gets its reward or punishment after death.
7. The Spirit—an emanation from the ABSOLUTE uncreated; eternal; a state rather than a being.
7. Frawashem or Farohar—Spirit (the guiding energy which is with every man, is absolutely independent, and, without mixing with any worldly object, leads man to good. The spark of’ divinity in every being).
The above is given in the Avesta as follows—
“We declare and positively make known this (that) we offer (our) entire property (which is) the body (the self consisting of) bones (tanwas), vital heat (ushtanas), aërial form (keherpas), knowledge (tevishis), consciousness (baodhas), soul (urwanem), and spirit (frawashem), to the prosperous, truth-coherent (and) pure Gathas (prayers).”
The ordinary Gujarathi translation differs from Spiegel’s, and this latter differs very slightly from what is here given. Yet in the present translation there has been made no addition to, or omission from, the original wording of the Zend text. The grammatical construction also has been preserved intact. The only difference, therefore, between the current translations and the one here given is that ours is in accordance with the modern corrections of philological research which make it more intelligible, and the idea perfectly clear to the reader.
The word translated “aërial form” has come down to us without undergoing any change in the meaning. It is the modern Persian word kaleb, which means a mould, a shape into which a thing is cast, to take a certain form and features. The next word is one about which there is a great difference of opinion. It is by some called strength, durability, i.e., that power which gives tenacity to and sustains the nerves. Others explain it as that quality in a man of rank and position which makes him perceive the result of certain events (causes), and thus helps him in being prepared to meet them. This meaning is suggestive, though we translate it as knowledge, or foreknowledge rather, with the greatest diffidence. The eighth word is quite clear. That inward feeling which tells a man that he knows this or that, that he has or can do certain things—is perception and consciousness. It is the inner conviction, knowledge and its possession. The ninth word is again one which has retained its meaning and has been in use up to the present day. The reader will at once recognize that it is the origin of tile modern word Rawan. It is (metaphorically) the king, the conscious motor or agent in man. It is that something which depends upon and is benefited or injured by the foregoing attributes. We say depends upon, because its progress entirely consists in the development of those attributes. If they are neglected, it becomes weak and degenerated, and disappears. If they ascend on the moral and spiritual scale, it gains strength and vigour and becomes more blended than ever to the Divine essence—the seventh principle. But how does it become attracted toward its monad? The tenth word answers the question. This is the Divine essence in man. But this is only the irresponsible minister (this completes the metaphor). The real master is the king, the spiritual soul. It must have the willingness and power to see and follow the course pointed out by the pure spirit. The vizir’s business is only to represent a point of attraction, towards which the king should turn. It is for the king to see and act accordingly for the glory of his own self. The minister or spirit can neither compel nor constrain. It inspires and electrifies into action; but to benefit by the inspiration, to take advantage of it, is left to the option of the spiritual soul.
If, then, the Avesta contains such a passage, it must fairly be admitted that its writers knew the whole doctrine concerning spiritual man. We cannot suppose that the ancient Mazdiasnians, the Magi, wrote this short passage, without inferring from it, at the same time, that they were thoroughly conversant with the whole of the occult theory about man. And it looks very strange indeed, that modern Theosophists should now preach to us the very same doctrines that must have been known and taught thousands of years ago by the Mazdiasnians,—the passage is quoted from one of their oldest writings. And since they propound the very same ideas, the meaning of which has well-nigh been lost even to our most learned Mobeds, they ought to be credited at least with some possession of a knowledge, the key to which has been revealed to them, and lost to us, and which opens the door to the meaning of those hitherto inexplicable sentences and doctrines in our old writings, about which we are still, and will go on, groping in the dark, unless we listen to what they have to tell us about them.
To show that the above is not a solitary instance, but that the Avesta contains this idea in many other places, I will give another paragraph which contains the same doctrine, though in a more condensed form than the one just given. Let the Parsi reader turn to Yàsna, chapter 26, and read the sixth paragraph, which runs as follows:
“We praise the life (ahum), knowledge (daenam), consciousness (baodhas), soul (urwanem), and spirit (frawashem) of the first in religion, the first teachers and hearers (learners), the holy men and holy women who were the protectors of purity here (in this world).”
Here the whole man is spoken of as composed of five parts, as under:
1. Ahum Existence, Life. it includes
1. The Physical Body.
2. The Vital Principle.
3. The Astral Body.
4. The Astral shape or body of desire.
5. The Animal or physical intelligence or consciousness or Ego.
6. The Higher or Spiritual intelligence or consciousness, or Spiritual Ego.
7. The Spirit.
In this description the first triple group—viz., the bones (or the gross matter), the vital force which keeps them together, and the ethereal body, arc included in one and called Existence, Life. Tile second part stands for the fourth principle of the septenary man, as denoting the configuration of his knowledge or desires.1 Then the three, consciousness (or animal soul), (spiritual) soul, and the pure Spirit are the same as in the first quoted passage. Why are these four mentioned as distinct from each other and not consolidated like the first part? The sacred writings explain this by saying that on death the first of these five parts disappears and perishes sooner or later in the earth’s atmosphere. The gross elementary matter (the shell) has to run within the earth’s attraction; so the ahum separates from the higher portions and is lost. The second (i.e., the fourth of the septenary group) remains, but not with the spiritual soul. It continues to hold its place in the vast storehouse of the universe. And it is this second daenam which stands before the (spiritual) soul in the form of a beautiful maiden or an ugly hag. That which brings this daenam within the sight of the (spiritual) soul is the third part (i.e., the fifth of the septenary group), the baodhas. Or in other words, the (spiritual) soul has with it, or in it, the true consciousness by which it can view the experiences of its physical career. So this consciousness, this power or faculty which brings the recollection, is always with, in other words, is a part and parcel of, the soul itself; hence, its not mixing with any other part, and hence its existence after the physical death of man.2
A PARSI F. T. S.
1. Modern science also teaches that certain characteristics of features indicate the possession of certain qualities in a man. The whole science of physiognomy is founded on it. One can predict the disposition of a man from his features,—i.e., the features develop in accordance with the idiosyncrasies, qualities and vices, knowledge or the ignorance of man.
2. Our Brother has but to look into the oldest sacred hooks of China—namely, the YI KING, or Book of Changes (translated by James Legge) written 1,200 B.C., to find that same Septenary division of man mentioned in that system of Divination. Zhing, which is translated correctly enough “essence,” is the more subtle and pure part of matter—the grosser form of the elementary ether; Khi, or “spirit,” is the breath, still material but purer than the zhing, and is made of’ the finer and more active form of ether. In the hwun, or soul (animus) the Khi predominates and the zhing (or zing) in the pho or animal soul. At death the hwun (or spiritual soul) wanders away, ascending, and the pho (the root of the Tibetan word Pho-hat) descends and is changed into a ghostly shade (the shell). Dr. Medhurst thinks that “the Kwei Shans” (see “Theology of the Chinese,” pp. 10-12) are “the expanding and contracting principles of human life!” The Kwei Shans are brought about by the dissolution of the human frame—and consist of the expanding and ascending Shan which rambles about in space, and of the contracted and shrivelled Kwei, which reverts to earth and nonentity. Therefore, the Kwei is the physical body; the Shan is the vital principle the Kwei Shan the linga-sariram, or the vital soul; Zhing the fourth principle or Kama Rupa, the essence of will; pho, the animal soul; Khi, the spiritual soul; and Hwun the pure spirit—the seven principles of our occult doctrine!—ED. Theos.