Part I

There are six great systems of philosophical thought, all native to the soil of India, which are accounted “orthodox” in that land where religion has been for ages the essence of man’s daily and hourly life instead of being, as with the West, the accidental accompaniment of his day of rest. But by “orthodox” the Hindu merely implies an acceptance, however formal and purely verbal, of the Vedas as revealed Truth, and of the Hindu polity of caste and social obligations as ruling the outer life of men; “orthodoxy” in our sense of a definite system of thought and dogma, to be rejected at one’s eternal peril, being a conception totally unknown and completely foreign to the Hindu mind.

These six systems form three pairs, each pair being very intimately connected together, so much so as in many features to be identical. Arranging them thus we have the Purva- and Uttara-Mimansas, the latter being more generally known as the Vedanta; the second pair there stand the Nyaya and Vaisheshika systems, both having in common the fundamental conception (so familiar to us in modern western science) of the universe as an aggregate of unchanging atoms; while the third couplet consists of Sankhya and Yoga philosophies, so often alluded to in the Bhagavad Gita. It should be remembered, however, that these three pairs are all rather contemporaneous than successive in time; the last pair indeed having certainly taken definite and systematic form before the advent of Gautama Buddha, in the sixth or seventh century B.C.; and having probably originated very many hundreds, if not thousands, of years earlier.

Outside of, and apart from all these, counted as “unorthodox,” because rejecting the authority of the Vedas, stand several other well-defined schools of thought, such as the Jaina philosophy as a religious system, and the materialism of the Charvakas, which for out-spoken, thorough-going and downright rejection of all that does not appeal to our physical senses, may well challenge comparison with the most ambitious product of our latest scientific schools. So marked is this that I cannot abstain from quoting a well-known passage in which their views are tersely and clearly set forth.

In this school the four elements, earth, etc., are the original principles; from these alone, when transformed into the body, intelligence is produced, just as the inebriating power is developed from the mixing of certain ingredients; and when these are destroyed, intelligence at once perishes also. . . . If you object that, if there be no such thing as happiness in a future world, then how should men of experienced wisdom engage in the agnihotra and other sacrifices, which can only be performed with great expenditure of money and bodily fatigue, your objection cannot be accepted as any proof to the contrary, since the agnihotra, etc., arc only useful as means of livelihood, for the Veda is tainted with the three faults of untruth, self-contradiction, and tautology: then again the imposters who call themselves Vaidic pundits are mutually destructive, as the authority of the gñana-kanda is overthrown by those who maintain that of the karma-kanda, while those who maintain the authority of the gñana-kanda reject that of the karma-kanda; and lastly the three Vedas themselves are only the incoherent rhapsodies of knaves, and to this effect runs the popular saying—

“The agnihotra, the three Vedas, the ascetic’s three staves, and smearing oneself with ashes—

Brihaspati says, these are but means of livelihood for those who have no manliness nor sense”1

We shall see later on by what arguments one of the most famous of the Indian Schools rebutted these doctrines; but at least this extract shows that scepticism and materialism were not without vigorous and uncompromising upholders even in those very “pre-historic” days. Every phase of modem philosophic thought, indeed, finds a representalive, in so far as its essential ideas are concerned, in some one or other of the many schools which have risen and fallen on Indian soil. But I do not propose in these pages to attempt any comparison of the general history of philosophic thought in Easl and West; my aim is far more restricted. I desire, if possible, to put before the readers of Lucifer in an interesting form the main outlines of a single system, the Sankhya. For this is a system which seems to me specially deserving of their attention, no less on account of its great originality and intrinsic value, than because of the vast influence which it has exercised on the whole development of Hindu thought, directly and through Buddhism, as well as almost certainly upon the development of philosophic thought in Greece, and through Greece on the West, in the persons of Anaxagoras, Pythagoras, Plotinus, Porphyry, and others.

By Western writers the Sankhya has generally been called the rationalistic system par excellence of Indian thought. And this with some reason; for though the aphorisms of Kapila, to whom the origin of this system is ascribed, as well as the earlier work of Ishvara Krishna both admit2 “fit testimony” (which is subsequently identified with Shruti or Vaidik revelation3) as one of the three accepted kinds of proof, yet in strong contrast to the Vedanta, the most ancient Sankhya almost never has recourse to scriptural testimony to prove a point, and throughout bases its doctrines upon perception and inference. In reality Shruti or revelation seems only to be admitted pro formâ, in order to justify the “orthodoxy” of the system; for its authority is very seldom appealed to, and some of the doctrines which seem most prominent taught in the Scriptures are directly controverted.

On the other hand, the Sankhya takes for granted several things for which the West of today demands proof; just as most Western thinkers today accept uncriticised many assumptions which “everybody knows,” without dreaming of demanding proof for them. This has ever been so in all ages and all lands, only unquestioned assumptions differ in each, and every nation

holds as an inviolable truth that its own peculiar assumptions are obviously those which correspond to the realities of nature and life. Thus through all the schools of Indian thought runs the tacit assumption that, if materialism be rejected, the only conceivable alternative is the rebirth of the soul again and again upon this earth ours. David Hume, the all-questioning English sceptic, was of the same opinion; but most Western thinkers of our own day would surely demand proof. The Sankhya, however, having once for all discussed and refuted the materialism of the Charvakas, never even considers the question of rebirth, but tacitly takes it for granted as the only possible alternative.

The arguments, by the way, with which materialism is rebutted by this system are worth noting, as they are for the most part just as valid today as centuries ago, for all our progress in science has not touched or diminished their cogency. Thus the existence of the soul is held to be self-evident, since it is implied in every form of consciousness; but this argument is also thrown into the more specific form that the soul is implied in the very nature of the “I,” especially in such most general concepts as “I perceive,” since “this I-consciousness is as impossible without a soul, as a shadow without an object to cast it, or a painting without something on which the paint is laid.” One argument, very characteristic of the Sankhya, illustrates the extent to which all these problems must have been thrashed out before our very oldest formulation of that system took shape. The discussion and intellectual criticism of experience must have gone on for generations before such a general principle can have obtained general acceptance, as that “every compounded thing exists for the sake of something else,” which is used by the Sankhya as major premise in the syllogism: “Since everything compounded exists for the sake of something else, and the body is admittedly a compound, therefore there must be something else, not compounded, for whose sake the body exists, and this is the soul.” Several other arguments are also advanced, such as that matter being unintelligent there must be an intelligent ruler of the body to account for the intelligence displayed by the ex-hypothesi unintelligent material form; and from the admitted fact that one and the same thing cannot be at the same time the felt object and the consciousness which feels it. At any rate, the question of materialism is fully and frankly faced, and all the centuries that have elapsed since have not succeeded in escaping from the cogency of the logic displayed by these old Hindu thinkers.

Another point which these Hindu thinkers, once a soul was admitted, took as self-evident, but which men today are far from really grasping, is that the law of causation must apply just as rigorously in the inner world of moral and intellectual activities, i.e., to what we should call the life of the soul—as to the ongoings of the world of dense physical matter. And hence that the future of every soul, its character and nature no less than its outer surroundings, must be exactly and rigorously the direct result, according to the law of causation, of its own former activities and the results produced by them. In other words they regarded what we should call the Law of Karma as an inherently self-evident fact and based all their thinking unquestioningly upon it.

And now having placed before our minds these main points regarding the habitual mental atmosphere of our Hindu philosophers, we can an approach with more confidence the study of the Sankhya system as it has come down to us in its most authoritative exposition, viz., the Sankhya Sutras, generally ascribed to the sage Kapila, the same who is said in the Vishnu Purana to have reduced to ashes the sixty thousand sons of King Sagara by a single glance of his third eye; and especially the Sankhya Karika of Ishvara Krishna, probably the oldest as well as one of the best and most trustworthy expounders of the system.

The reader approaching these treatises for the first time—they are both among the translations issued in the Trübner’s Oriental Series—will, I think, at once be struck by the intense feeling of realism and practically with which they open. The purpose and object of the system, the goal of its endeavour, is at once put plainly and unmistakable before the reader, and that aim is an intensely practical one. We are all more or less familiar with pain and suffering. Not one of us, even the most fortunate, but has known pain either physically by accident and disease, or inwardly in the loss or estrangement of loved ones, the failure of cherished hopes, the disappointment of reside, and longing unfulfilled. Thus we all feel that these world-old thinkers are striking a chord which finds an anwer in ourselves when they set forth as the object of the Sankhya the bringing about of the “complete cessation of pain.” It is then pointed out that on the one hand the visible (physical) means of removing pain, such as medicine, enjoyments of the senses, etc., are neither absolute nor complete, nor is the freedom from pain which they procure eternal or indestructable. The same objections apply also to the so-called “revealed” means, i.e., the sacrifices, penances, religious rites, etc., prescribed in the Vedas for the attainment of the heavenly regions or of whatever else a man may desire, and even to the supernormal powers obtained by the Yogin through the practices of the Yoga school, for the possession of these powers, like every other possession, is also transitory. To quote: “All living beings without exception suffer the pain caused by old age and death; all, even to the worm, share the fear of death, which expresses itself in the wish: May I not cease to exist, may I live! And that which calls forth fear, is pain; therefore Death is pain.” Hence by none of these means is lasting escape from pain to be attained. In truth, the Sankhya goes on to tell us, complete cessation of pain is possible only when the Samsara, the ever-revolving alternation of birth and death is put an end to; in other words, final escape from pain is one and the same as the attainment of Liberation.

This brings us to what, in all the great Indian systems, forms their dominant purpose, the inmost reason for their existence. For not one of them aims at giving merely an intellectually satisfactory, coherent and rational explanation of the Universe—which is exclusively the end and aim of all our modern western systems. They have at once a higher and a more practical purpose: to teach man what is his highest goal and how to attain it. So that in all of them it is this problem of liberation, of the putting an end to “bondage” which sooner or later becomes the dominant question. Each system of course has its own solution, though in certain respects there is a curious coherence in their inner spirit. The solution propounded by the Sankhya is that liberation results from knowledge, but knowledge of a peculiar kind: the knowledge, namely, of Self and not-Self, or as we might put it, of spirit and matter. To state this in the form found in the originals, it runs as “discriminative knowledge of the manifested (forms of matter), the unmanifested (Prakriti or root-matter), and the knowing (soul).” Even in this short statement we have a whole system in implication, and the rest is simply the working out in more or less detail of what is here contained.

For if “liberation” is to be attained by this “discriminative knowledge” it is clear that the cause of bondage, i.e., of the being compulsorily carried round and round by the ever-revolving wheel of birth and death, must lie in the failure to discriminate between spirit and matter, or to use the Sankhya terms, between Purusha and Prakriti. And as this constitutes the very essence of the philosophy our first task must obviously be to make clear to ourselves what these old thinkers meant by these two words.

In every respect except one, these two, Purusha and Prakriti, are the exact antitheses of each other. Their one common characteristic is that both alike are equally real, equally uncreated, equally without beginning or end; in all other respects they are to be thought of as diametrically opposed. Thus Prakriti is eternally subject to ceaseless change, change indeed being its very essence; while Purusha is ever unchanging, simple, uncombined, absolutely without action: all modification, every transformation, alteration or motion belonging exclusively to Prakriti and its modifications. Prakriti is always object, or—as it is usually put in the texts—it exists for another’s (Purusha’s) purpose; it is non-spiritual, unconscious and productive; while it is for the purpose of Purusha that Prakriti exists, Purusha itself is spirit or consciousness, and it produces nothing. Finally, Prakriti consists of, or is constituted by, the three Gunas: Sattva, Rajas and Tamas—to be explained presently—while Purusha, being absolutely simple and uncompounded, can have no constituents. Prakriti is the actor, the doer; Purusha, the mere witness, the spectator, eternally without action of any kind. Pleasure, pain and all other affections belong exclusively to Prakriti, Purusha is untouched by them; and lastly Purusha being ever pure can never, strictly speaking, be either bound or liberated, and thus both bondage and liberation apply in strictness only to Prakriti. Purusha, though a “substance,” i.e., really existent, is immaterial, while Prakriti is matter in all its forms, or more specifically the root-matter or ultimate protyle itself.

It will perhaps help to make this relation in difference of Purusha to Prakriti a little clearer, if I cite some of the examples or illustrations by which the old writers sought very frequently to make these conceptions more intelligible. The image most commonly employed to illustrate the connection of the unconscious but creative Prakriti with the conscious but unproductive inactive Purusha, is that of the alliance of two men, the one lame and the other blind. Each is helpless by himself: the lame man, though he can see, cannot walk and cannot reach his goal; the blind man can walk but cannot see where he is going. But when the blind man takes the lame one on his shoulders,4 each supplies the need of the other and together they reach their goal. Here the lame man is the actionless Purusha, which can see, i.e., is conscious, but cannot move or act; while the blind man who can walk is the unconscious but active Prakriti, the doer in all action. By the alliance of the blind and the lame the goal is reached, i.e., by the connection of Purusha and Prakriti the universe exists, and man reaches his goal—Liberation.

This unconscious activity of Prakriti for the benefit of Purusha is often compared to the milk which flows unconsciously from the cow’s udder for the benefit of the calf. And since the whole activity of Prakriti takes place solely in the interest of Purusha, in order to enjoyment5 and liberation, according to the Sankhya—i.e., in order to present the objects of sensation and knowledge to the soul (Purusha) and so lead it to self-knowledge—we often find Prakriti spoken of as an excellent, unselfish servant who receives from his master (Purusha) neither thanks nor wages for his services; or to a cook who prepares food for his master; or to a born slave who by his very nature cannot do otherwise than serve his master. Sometimes, again, Prakriti is likened to the patient ass bearing a load of sandal-wood for its master, but oblivious of the sweet odour of its burden and reaping no profit from its labour.

With these analogies to help us it is not a very difficult matter to form a fairly clear idea of how the Sankhyas pictured to themselves the relation or connection between Purusha and Prakriti, Spirit and Matter, Subjectivity and Objectivity. But in associating with the Sankhya Purusha and Prakriti our western words Spirit and Matter, Subject and Object, and so on, it will perhaps be wise to say a word of caution to the reader against importing into the Sankhya terms all the associations and connotations which these western words convey to us, though they are the nearest words in English to the real meaning of the two terms. Thus subjectivity or subject is in some respects a better rendering of Purusha than spirit or consciousness. In reality Purusha denotes a conception which is not identifiable with any of the forms of subjectivity or consciousness of which we have any experience in normal waking life, although apart from Purusha no consciousness at all is possible. In Sankhya thought all that we know as “consciousness,” “sensation,” “feeling,” “perception,” “thought,” etc., arises from the conjunction of Purusha with Prakriti. Not that Purusha is thereby modified or that these various words “consciousness,” “sensation,” and so forth, denote states or conditions of Purusha produced by its conjunction with Prakriti. To understand it thus would be to turn t11e Sankhya thought upside down. For, as we shall see in detail later on, that system regards all these “forms of consciousness,” as we should call them, as purely and simply modifications, transmutations and activities of Prakriti, or matter, which being in themselves absolutely material and devoid of consciousness, are, as it were, made conscious, brought into consciousness, enlightened and informed with subjectivity, by being in conjunction with Purusha. Thus it is exclusively owing to the presence of Purusha that these things, which are really conditions and activities of Prakriti or matter, become, so to say, suffused with consciousness, so that it is entirely to Purusha that the whole of what we know as consciousness is due. On the other hand, Purusha per se, i.e., in the liberated condition, is according to the Sankhya something so wholly and totally different from anything of which we have experience, that it can only be described in negatives, as “not this, not that, not thus, not thus.”

The comparison most generally used to illustrate this point is that of a crystal in which is reflected a red hibiscus blossom. Owing to the nearness of the red flower, the crystal appears red also, but in reality neither the crystal nor the flower have undergone any change. Thus the proximity of the Purusha to Prakriti and its modifications, causes the latter to appear conscious, while really devoid of consciousness, just as the colourless crystal appears red from its nearness to the flower, or to use the comparison, as is most often done, the other way round, Purusha appears to undergo the modifications of sensation, perception, etc., owing to the reflection in it of these various modifications of Prakriti, while in reality it no more undergoes any change than does the clear, colourless crystal which appears red owing to the reflection in it of the red hibiscus flower.

To conclude these remarks concerning Purusha, it should be remembered that the Sankhya teaches the existence of numberless “Purushas,” or individual souls, which it regards as having existed from all eternity, and as being destined in all eternity to continue to be absolutely individual. Hence the word Purusha always stands for an individual soul, whether in the bondage of birth and death, or liberated; and must never in connection with the Sankhya be thought of otherwise. It is really an infinite host of individual Purushas which stand over against Prakriti; but for simplicity’s sake I have spoken only of a single individual Purusha in the foregoing remarks, since what is true of one is true of all; the only distinction being as to whether a particular Purusha is liberated or not.

Having now grasped the two most fundamental conceptions of the Sankhya system, it needs only to say a word about a peculiarity in its conception of causality, and about what it recognizes as the legitimate and reliable means by which knowledge or proof is attainable, and we shall find ourselves, I hope, in a position to follow with clear understanding the outlines of the system as a whole.

Throughout Hindu philosophical thought we find a clear and strict separation between two kinds of cause: the material cause and the operative or efficient cause. The material cause of a thing is the stuff or matter out of which it proceeds and in which it consists; as its efficient or operative cause the Hindu thinkers consider not only the occasion or motive for its production, but also the means by which it is produced. Thus the material cause of a pot is clay, its efficient cause is the potter with his wheel and other tools.

The occurrence of any event is usually conditioned by a whole chain of efficient or operative causes, which need by no means be identical in similar cases; the material cause of a thing, on the other hand, is always the same; a definite product must always proceed from one definite material cause; e.g., a pot from clay, a cloth from threads. Naturally, therefore, the material cause comes to be regarded as the principal cause in the production of anything, while the efficient causes are regarded as accompanying or incidental causes. And since, also, the efficient or operative causes cannot produce any new thing, but can only bring about changes in what already exists, the Sankhya doctrine of causation concerns itself mainly with the concept and nature of the material cause.

This system sets out from the dictum: ex nihilo nihil fit, or in other words: a thing cannot be its own cause, and a substance can only proceed from a substance; which amounts to asserting the eternal existence of matter or Prakriti, since a creative act, action being a quality, could only be the operative cause of the world and not its material cause. And now we come to the most important peculiarity in the Sankhya conception of causality. In their view the relation of cause and effect or material cause and product, is not simply the connection of antecedent and consequent in time. On the ground that every product must contain in itself its material cause and that the former—the product—could only exist without the continued existence of the latter—the material cause—the Sankhya holds that both are identical, by which is meant that the product is distinguishable from its material cause only in respect of its qualities, not of its substance. Thus the crown is nothing but gold, the clay vessel nothing but clay, the cloth nothing but the threads which compose it. And from this oneness—or as we should say, co-existence—of cause and result, it follows that we cannot speak of the origination of a product, but that this so-called origination is really only a manifestation, a coming-forth-into-perceptibility. The form or condition of a thing may change, but the matter which composes it is eternal, and remains equally real whether in or out of manifestation.

The importance of this doctrine of causality in the Sankhya will become apparent when we see how constantly it is applied in working out of the details of the system.

Finally, with regard to the means of knowledge or proof, the Sankhya recognises three: perception by the senses, inference and fit testimony, i.e., Vaidik revelation. Practically, however, as already remarked, the older Sankhya makes use only of the two first of these, appeals to the authority of the Scriptures increasing in frequency in some of the later productions of the school.

Part II

Having cleared the ground by familiarizing our minds with the general considerations dealt with in Part I, we can now enter upon a study of the Sankhya system as a coherent scheme of logical thought. But it will be better, I think, in first introducing the reader to it to reverse the mode of exposition which is followed in the original treatises, and instead of proceeding from the general to the particular as they do, to follow a line of thoughtwhich probably may be not very far removed from that along which the original founder worked out his philosophy in its systematic form. In this way the reader will be gradually led on step by step up the ladder of conceptions—twenty-five in number—which form the skeleton of the Sankhya system, and thus become somewhat familiarized with its main outline. Then, reversing the process and following the lines of the text-books, we can clothe this skeleton with the flesh and blood of detail, add further elucidations, and seek to understand its application to the concrete world of actual experience.

We are familiar enough with the fact that, primarily, all our knowledge of the outer world comes to us through the senses, and proverbially of these there are five, viz., sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. Modern scientific psychology, it is true, has added to these several others, such as the muscular sense, the sense of temperature, etc. But there is not a little disagreement as to these among scientists themselves, and so we may for the moment rest content with the old time-honoured classification of the senses as five. Now as our knowledge of an external world comes to us in terms of these five senses, the Sankhya thinkers argued that this outer world itself must be built up out of five corresponding factors or elements, one corresponding to each of the senses. But as all the forms of matter with which we are ordinarily familiar appeal to more than one sense—earth for instance can be seen and touched as well as smelled—it is clear that these cannot be the simple elements themselves which correspond exclusively one to each of the senses. Therefore these objects which our senses reveal to us must not only be composite bodies but their very elements must be compounded, made up out of the five ultimate elements. Hence the Sankhya holds that our familiar external world consists of five “gross elements,” the mahabhutas, as they are termed; and that these gross elements in turn are composed of the five true ultimate elements, the so-called subtle elements, or tanmatras, which are named after the senses to which each corresponds. We have thus on the one side two sets of five elements each, corresponding to the five senses on the other side, viz., the five tanmatras of hearing, touch, sight, taste and smell, plus the five mahabhutas or gross elements, ether, air, fire, water and earth; and corresponding to them the five senses of hearing, touch, sight, taste and smell. We shall hereafter need to consider what these “elements” really mean, in the meantime we have obviously got here a very adequate general analysis of the world around us in its relation to ourselves, since that world reaches our consciousness directly through these five senses of ours, and obviously there must be in the world something which thus affects our senses and indeed as many different “somethings” as we have senses, so that this analysis of the objective world in terms of the senses is a very practical one, and if we put out of our minds the modern chemical sense of the word “elements,” we shall, I think, easily understand the natural rationalness of the five Sankhya tanmatras or subtle elements. We ordinary men become aware of these subtle elements through their effects, the gross elements, but to the subtler perceptions of yogins and gods the tanmatras themselves are said to be directly cognizable.

But action plays a part in human life as well as knowledge; not only are we acted upon by the external world, receiving impressions from it through our five senses, but we ourselves react upon the world about us and thereby produce changes in it. According to the Sankhya this takes place by means of certain powers, faculties or “organs of action,” similar in nature and to the “organs of sensation” or senses, and probably conceived and defined in analogy to these. These are speech, grasping, walking, excretion and generation, and we must be careful not to confuse the powers or capacities denoted by these names with the external, gross, physical organs, hands, feet, etc., in which they are seated, just as the five parallel organs of sensation are distinct from the physical eye, ear, skin, etc., through which they function.

Going now one step farther, the Sankhya thinkers noticed that the deliverances of the several separate senses are combined and synthesized with each other, as well as brought into intimate relation with the organs of action and their activities, while further a special organ or seat is needed for the activities of feeling, wishing and reflecting, which play so large a part in our conscious lives, and permeate the activities of both sets of organs, while yet not belonging properly to any of them, for unlike them they deal with the past and the future as well as the actually present in time. Hence the Sankhya thinkers were led to the conception of a common “inner sense,” which they named manas, and classed with the ten indriyas—as the five organs of sense perception and the five of action are collectively called.

This manas of the Sankhya must not be confused by the Theosophical reader with the manas so often spoken of in that literature. It is not co extensive either, with what we all “mind” in the West, this term mind having usually a more extended meaning than the Sankhya manas. But it would take us too far to enter here into all these points, and I must content myself with warning the reader, and begging him to associate with the word manas in these articles only and solely the conception the Sankhya attaches to it, viz., manas is the inner sense, the sensorium commune, answering to the central nervous system in physiological psychology, and it has the functions of perceiving, feeling, desiring and reflecting. In its relation to the indriyas, it moulds itself upon the modifications arising in them through contact with external objects, and reflects doubtingly upon the precise nature of the object in question. Manas has functions in the strictest sense, for it is an organ, and indeed a material one; for it may be as well to remind the reader once more that, from the Sankhya standpoint, all these conceptions—the five senses and five organs of action, as well as the manas—are no whit less material than the five subtle elements, or tanmatras, and their products, the five gross elements or mahabhutas.

Very often indeed Sankhya writers speak of the eleven indriyas instead of ten, classing the manas, or inner sense, with the ten outer indriyas, because of its close resemblance in origin and function to them. On the other hand, it is quite as often classed and taken together with the conceptions we shall now proceed to examine, for reasons that will become apparent in due course.

Further observation and study of their own conscious life showed these old thinkers that not only were the deliverances of the senses synthesized by an inner sense, and their nature reflected upon, but further, that they were also brought into relation with the feeling of “self,” of “self” as the actor, enjoyer, experiencer of things. Now this conception of “self,” this notion of “self” as the actor, etc., is clearly not contained in the definition of manas just given, hence we must add another principle to our list, another factor which contributes to experience, this feeling of being the actor or enjoyer. To this the Sankhya thinkers gave the name ahankara; and it may be defined as that principle in virtue of which we regard ourselves as acting, enjoying, suffering and so on, while in truth we, that is, our Purushas, are ever entirely free therefrom.

So far then we have reached this position: our senses come in contact with the appropriate external objects, and receive impressions therefrom, the manas synthesizes these impressions and reflects upon them, moulding itself on the impressions received by the senses, and the ahankara adds thereto the notion of “I” as actor, so that we say “I feel,” “I see,” etc. One step more remains: the definite determination of the object, or the action to be performed. This again demands another appropriate principle; for this is really the thinking principle proper, i.e., the principle which brings forth thought from within itself and does not, like manas, depend purely upon impressions received from without. So the Sankhya adds another to the list of its principles, calling it the buddhi, a name again which must be carefully kept apart from the associations which it has acquired as used in our Theosophical literature.6 It must be remembered that buddhi, like manas and ahankara, is a truly material organ according to the Sankhya, having for its functions judging, distinguishing, and resolving, while it is also regarded as the true seat of memory in which are stored up all impressions received in the past. But as different people conclude and resolve differently, it is clear that their respective buddhis must differ, and hence on the accepted Sankhya principle that what is limited and diverse and therefore changing and non-eternal, must have for its cause something unlimited and eternal, it follows that buddhi must have a cause, must be the Prakriti so much spoken of in the former article, since buddhi being material itself, it must have a material cause, and Prakriti is the only material cause which is unlimited and eternal.

Hence we now have according to the Sankhya analysis of man and nature the following factors or principles, usually called tattvas or “that-nesses”; viz., the five gross elements, the five subtle elements, the ten indriyas (five organs of perception and five of action), manas, ahankara, buddhi (these being all individual, differing, that is, in every creature), plus Prakriti, which is universal, making twenty-four material principles or tattvas in all. In addition to these there is the Purusha, also an individual principle, completing the twenty-five tattvas or principles which constitute the skeleton, the highly original and peculiar property of our system.

Thus far in our analysis we have not paid any very close attention to the genesis of these principles or tattvas, nor to their relations to each other. These questions are throughout determined, in the Sankhya, by appeals to the peculiar view of causality to which I called attention in Part I.

It is obvious that the five gross elements must proceed from the five tanmatras or subtle elements, since the latter were arrived at as the necessary causes of the former. On the other hand, there is nothing of the kind to suggest that the ten indriyas or manas should proceed from each other, since each has its own special function and nature, and was not deduced as the necessary cause of any of the others. So we have here, on a level as it were, the five tanmatras—from which the gross elements proceed—the five senses which correspond one to each of the tanmatras, the five organs of action, and lastly the manas; all these being, remember, material. Now, it easily suggests itself that whatever may be the material cause of the tanmatras will also be the material cause of the senses correlated to them and of the organs of action and the manas, which stand also parallel to these. Now we have seen that there must be a material principle to give rise to the idea “I am this or that; that belongs to me; I must do this,” and so on, and as this cannot function without the senses, it follows that it must be the cause, the root of these same senses. Hence from the ahankara proceed all these sixteen distinct principles, viz., manas, the ten indriyas, the five tanmatras, while from the latter proceed the gross elements.

But now ahankara is concerned with objects and cannot function without them, and hence there must be a still higher principle, the buddhi, which presents these objects to the ahankara. For we all of us first determine a thing according to its nature and then only relate it to our own personality. Hence these two activities standing in the relation of cause and effect we must conclude that their material substrata do the same. Hence ahankara proceeds from buddhi; while buddhi, as we saw above, must proceed from Prakriti. We have now, therefore, completed the genealogical tree of the twenty-five tattvas or principles, into which the Sankhya analyzes man and the universe about him. And as a help to the memory and an aid to clearness of thought, it will probably be well to conclude this part of the present article with a diagram or genealogical tree, exhibiting these twenty-five tattvas in their natural order.



[Not-produced, productive, eternal, material, active, ever-changing]



[Not produced, non-productive, eternal, spiritual, inactive, changeless]



[The thinking power proper, the judging,
discriminating, determining capacity]


[That which produces the notion “I act,” “I suffer,” “I enjoy.”]

It exists in three forms

Vaikrita Ahankara

[Sattva predominating]

Taijasa Ahankara

[Rajas predominating]

Bhutadi Ahankara

[Tamas predominating]


[The inner sense, the reflecting, doubting power, the synthesis of sense impressions, etc.]

The Ten Indriyas

[The five senses and five organs of action]

The Five Tanmatras

[The five subtle elements corresponding to the senses]

The Five Gross Elements

[Compounded out of the subtle elements and constituting our outer world]

Part III

In the preceding paper we studied in outline the twenty-five tattvas, or factors into which the Sankhya analyzes the entire universe, subjective and objective. We saw how, from the standpoint of this system, the “soul” or Purusha is absolutely individual, standing alone and unique in its nature, a pure witness or spectator, neither acting nor suffering, simply knowing, over against Prakriti and its products, in which however the nearness of Purusha, or as it is sometimes put, the radiation of its light, calls forth a seeming but illusory subjectivity—the complex series of what we call “states of consciousness,” such as pain and pleasure, knowledge and ignorance, love and hate, joy and sorrow, the feeling of “I am,” and the illusion of being the doer, enjoyer, sufferer of actions and their fruits. We saw how from Prakriti, root-substance, proceeds first, mahat or buddhi, the organ of discriminative knowledge, the determiner and decider; how from mahat proceeds ahankara, the creator of the illusion “I am the actor, enjoyer,” etc.; and from ahankara the dual series of the five tanmatras and their products, the gross elements on the one hand, as also manas, the recipient and analyzer of the impressions from these which are received through the five organs of sense, and also the impeller to the activities of the five organs of action.

There now remains for us to consider one more fundamental thought of the Sankhya to which allusion was made at the close of Part II. This is really a further elaboration of the conception of Prakriti, though it is so fundamental, so characteristic of our system, so interwoven with every part and detail of its working-out that it seemed better to reserve this conception for separate consideration. According to the Sankhya, although Prakriti is the root-substance, is the ultimate source and origin of all activity, all production, all change, the material cause of all that is—the Purusha alone excepted—yet Prakriti is not itself really simple, though repeatedly asserted to be one. On the contrary, Prakriti consists of, is constituted by, three factors or constituents, called gunas, and named respectively sattva, rajas and tamas. No possible translation can convey the real significance of these words, and the best thing for a student to do is to take the Sanskrit terms as they stand and to build up in his own mind their meaning and connotation from what follows. Let us take them in order:

1. Sattva: The characteristic effects or manifestations of sattva in the world of objects (in the ordinary sense) are luminosity and lightness, while in what we should call the subjective world, but which the Sankhya calls the subtler world of the finer products of Prakriti, they are virtue, self-control, mental calm, benevolence, friendliness, purity, content, pleasure, happiness, the perfect activity of the sense organs and the manas, and the attainment of super-natural powers. Sattva is therefore said to predominate over the other two gu1as in the world of the Gods.

2. Rajas: Those of rajas are motion and force in the world of objects; while in the subtler inner world they show themselves as every description of pain and suffering, trouble, anxiety, care, annoyance, discontent, dependence, jealousy, envy, instability, disturbance, passion, desire, love and hate, malice, love of strife and fault-finding, lack of balance and calm, wildness and unfriendliness of demeanour, but also ambition, effort and activity. Thus rajas is said to prcdominate in the world of men.

3. Tamas: In the world of objects, tamas exhibits itself in weight, heaviness, rigidity and darkness; in the inner nature of man as depression, fear, alarm, despair, want of sympathy, indecision, lack of perception, ignorance, drunkenness, madness, disgust, laziness, carelessness, unconsciousness, sleep and fainting, as hard-heartedness, shamelessness, lustfulness, impurity and evil in general. Tamas thus predominates over sattva and rajas in the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms.

These three gunas then are the constituents of Prakriti and they are all three “universally extended.” In other words there is no single point in all infinity where at least a minimum of each of these three is not present; they are, as we have seen widely different from each other in nature and functions and yet the three together are one, are Prakriti, just as three distinct rivers form after their junction a single stream. But, strictly speaking, the three gunas in their union are only called Prakriti when they are in equilibrium with each other. For any disturbance of that equilibrium brings about manifestation, and all manifestation is comprised under one or other of the productions which proceed from Prakriti; while so long as none of the three preponderates in any way over the others, and each remains in the most absolute equilibrium with, and indeed quite unrelated to, each of the others, so long is Prakriti or the root-substance a subtle indistinguishable mass wherein all the powers and properties, which make their appearance in the unfolded or manifested universe, repose in germinal inactivity.

And it should also be noted that neither sattva nor tamas can spontaneously or self-moved enter into activity; it is only rajas, the action, motive guna, which can set them in motion and so lead to the unfoldment of the peculiar properties of each.

Now these three gunas are regarded by the Sankhya as being endlessly in struggle and conflict with one another—except during the periods of non-manifestation when they repose in their perfect equilibrium as Prakriti, the root-substance. Each is constantly striving during manifestation, to assert itself, to come to the front, to predominate and display its own special nature . To quote the statement as found in the texts, the gunas “serve for manifestation, activity and restraint: they mutually subdue and support each other, produce each other, consort together and take each other’s condition.”7

To the modern western mind this conception of all nature as constituted by the interaction of three factors, these three gunas, will naturally appear strange and altogether imaginary. Even put forward as an hypothesis it would seem, especially to the scientist, so far-fetched and in the air, that nothing but the strictest and most rigid demonstrative proof would reconcile him to even entertaining it for a moment. And yet, in some way or other, it must accord with certain very fundamental facts in nature, in the human mind at any rate, for not only has it obtained unquestioned acceptance for many many centuries from the successive generations of Hindu thinkers—men, keen, acute, questioning, and logical more perhaps than any other of earth’s peoples—but this acceptance has so long been an unchallenged reality in all minds, that not even in the very oldest texts of the Sankhya that have reached us, do we find a single word of reasoning or proof on the subject. The question is not even raised either by the Sankhya writers themselves or by any of the many other schools with whom they were so long engaged in the most acute and incessant controversy. Nay more, the doctrine itself, the teaching that all nature consists of these three factors, the gunas, has been accepted and adopted into every one of the various schools, and throughout the whole of the epic and post- epic literature of India.

To such an extent is this the case that neither from the old books, nor from the living pandits have I been able to discover any clue to the line of demonstration followed. And yet that so wide and startling a theory must in its time have been most thoroughly and exhaustively threshed out, and only obtained acceptance because its actual correspondence with some reality in nature or man enabled it to survive as the “best-fitted,” is obvious to anyone who has even a slight acquaintance with the thoroughness and minuteness, the traces of which are everywhere apparent in the accepted doctrines of logic and philosophy, which have won for themselves an accepted place in the philosophical thought of India. It must therefore be left to the future—perhaps to the researches of some trained student of occultism—to rediscover the lines upon which this doctrine of the gunas was originally established to the satisfaction of such penetrating minds. For the moment, all that I can even attempt is to suggest a line of thought which may at least make this conception seem less strange and wild to western minds, and show that, even from our modern standpoint, some basis for it may be found in our actual concrete experience. This line of thought has been suggested by the fact that the three gunas are correlated by all the Sankhya authorities with pleasure, pain and indifference. These words have not infrequently been used by English translators to render the Sanskrit terms: sattva, rajas and tamas; and this has been done on the strength of the explanations given by the old commentators as to the meaning and significance of these terms, as well as under the guidance of the sense currently attached to them at the present day. Taking therefore these ideas—pleasure, pain and indifference—as being correctly correlated with the three gunas respectively, the following line of thought not unnaturally suggests itself; though I am bound to add that it seems to me very far from satisfactory, and leaves my own mind in a state of restless enquiry on the subject. On modern hedonistic lines we might reason thus; though I again repeat that I do not believe that these ancient thinkers followed that line.

Taken in relation to our human consciousness, the most important characteristic of the objects around us is whether they give rise to pain or pleasure when we come into contact with them, or leave us indifferent in that respect. From the purely human point of view these questions are the ones of supremest, nay even of the only practical importance. And then, when once we have begun to classify all objects in nature into one or other of the three classes, painful, pleasurable, indifferent, the step does not seem a long or unnatural one to assume that these properties in objects are the result of the varying admixture and proportion in them of three actual substances or factors, possessing these properties. Once such a theory has been adopted, the rest follows from the logic of observation; while association of ideas and experiences would naturally bring together other properties of objects and of human organisms and associate them with these fundamental factors which build up our own bodies and all around us. After all, though more logically consistent and thoroughly worked out in its philosophical aspects, the theory of the three gunas is not so very fundamentally different from that of the four “elements” of earth, air, water and fire, which for so many centuries reigned supreme and unchallenged in the minds of all the learned men of Europe.

At any rate I am unable to suggest any other line of thought along which this theory may have been arrived at; unless indeed I resort to an appeal to spiritual clairvoyance and assume that the founder of the Sankhya system based his teachings upon actual knowledge and experience of super-physical nature. But even then the difficulty arises that so far as I know no modern student of occultism among ourselves, has, so far, been able to perceive and recognize the three gunas as actual basic substances in nature, with the exception perhaps of Jacob Böhme, whose “three qualities of nature,” sweetness, bitterness and astringency, are wonderfully like, even in minute details of their working out, the three gunas we are considering here.

Be that, however, as it may, the fact remains that this conception of the gunas is fundamental to the Sankhyan system, that it passed thence into the other schools, and now colours and forms part of the whole system of Indian thought as found in all the literature later than the Upanishads.

The origin of colour is also referred to the gunas, if not in the actual Sankhya texts themselves, yet by weighty commentators, and as it may assist the reader in building up in his mind the idea of the gunas, I will quote a passage from Nilakanthas Commentary on the Mahabharata, XII., line 10,058, which indicates pretty clearly how this idea has worked out:

“When tamas predominates, sattva is small and rajas holds the middle, the colour black results; if the proportions of sattva and rajas are reversed, the colour grey; when rajas predominates, sattva is a minimum and tamas holds the middle, then the colour blue appears; if the proportions of sattva and tamas are reversed, the colour red; when sattva predominates, rajas is small and tamas holds the middle, the colour yellow is the result; if the proportions of rajas and tamas are reversed, we get white.”

Having examined the gunas separately, let us now consider them in union. As already stated , during pralaya, or the periods when the universe having been re-absorbed is unmanifested, the gunas exist in perfect equilibrium, indistinguishably merged into the one root-condition of all matter—Prakriti. But even in this condition it must not be imagined that they are completely at rest, for that would be contrary to their very essential nature which is ceaseless change and motion. But the activity of each guna is, at such times, confined to itself alone and does not affect the other two. Thus to quote the Sankhya-tattva-kaumudi (Karika 16), it is said:

“During pralaya, sattva, rajas and tamas only undergo change within themselves; for the gunas, whose very nature is change, remain not even an instant without undergoing alteration. Therefore, when the world is in the condition of dissolution, the sattva unfolds itself only in the form of sattva, the rajas in the form of rajas, and the tamas in that of tamas.”

And it must be noted that this isolated motion of each guna within itself is something quite different from, and independent of, that motion which communicates itself to the root-substance as a whole (Prakriti) at the beginning of a new world period.

This original impulse, which ends the pralaya and brings about the dawn of a new period of universal manifestation, is termed “kshobha,” a word which conveys the sense of “thrill,” “vibration,” “shock,” and its primary effect is to cause the three gunas to interact with each other, instead of each continuing its ceaseless eternal motion within its own substance and nature. Nowhere in the philosophical Sankhya texts is any definite or consistent explanation of the whence or how of this kshobha or primary impulse to be found; but in the Puranas, as also in the Yoga school of Patañjali) it is ascribed to the “Will of the Lord,” or as we should express it in Theosophical phrase, it is the outcome of the primary act of self-sacrifice, or self-limitation, by which the Logos calls the universe into manifestation.

As the topic of pralaya, or the period of universal dissolution and re-absorption, has come in our way, a word may as well be added here as to the condition during that state of things of those Purushas or souls who have not obtained liberation during the previous period of manifestation. According to Sankhya, such Purushas are as free from suffering as those who have attained liberation, because the internal organs pertaining to each, along with the subtle body, which are the material substrata of every feeling, no longer exist as such. But these inner organs and subtle bodies have, in spite of that, not perished utterly, but have only returned to the condition of root-substance, and continue to exist “in a subtle condition.” The same thing is true also as to their most fateful attributes, their moral characteristics, tendencies and past karma, resulting from the unworked out thoughts, words and deeds in the previous world-period. And lastly, their ignorance or non-discrimination persists also through the pralaya as a tendency (vasana), i.e., their inability to distinguish truly between what is Purusha and what Prakriti. For these two attributes of the soul—its karma and this non-discrimination of self and not-self—exist according to the Sankhya, as a beginningless continuity which remains uninterrupted even by the universal dissolutions, and is terminable only through the arising in the individual of the True Discriminative Knowledge.

In the following part of this series we shall proceed to trace the sequence in which the manifestation of the twenty-five tattvas or principles of the Sankhya takes place; and we shall then be able to fill in many of the details which will render more intelligible a good deal which had to be left obscure in the skeleton outline of these conceptions which was given in the previous part. I propose to select for this purpose rather such details as will be of common interest, or useful as illustrating general characteristics of Hindu thinking than those of more directly and immediately philosophic significance except where such philosophical questions cannot be left aside without seriously distorting or mutilating the presentment of the system as a whole.

Part IV

In the present paper I propose in a measure to retrace the steps we followed up in the last part but one. That is, I intend to follow downwards the sequence, or order of emanation of the twenty-four tattvas or principles of the Sankhya on the Prakriti side of manifestation, to add some additional details with regard to them, and to endeavour to suggest some points where it seems to me that there is a parellelism between this system and our own Theosophical classifications.

We begin then with Prakriti, the root-substance of the cosmos, composed of the three gunas, sattva, rajas and tamas in a state of perfect equilibrium, for it is still pralaya, and the dawn of manvantaric activity, or manifestation, has not yet begin. Still it is not absolute “rest,” as we concveive of “rest”; it is rather absolute “motion,” for each of the three gunas is in ceaseless, constant change and motion within itself. Only within itself, for the peculiarity of this state of motion or change is that each guna changes within itself only and in no way acts upon or affects the other two. Then come the kshobha, the thrill of returning life, the shudder, as it were, which passes through the field of Prakriti, the first breath of the returning dawn.

The Sankhya system as such attempts no explanation of the whence of this thrill of life; its why, is explained as the effect of time and the unexhausted karma of the preceding universe. The system of Patañjali, however, the so-called theistic Sankhya, off the same explanation as we Theosophists should give, of the commencement of the building of a universe, viz., that this “thrill” is the effect of the outpoured life of the Logos, the Lord, ishvara, sent forth by His will, the result of the primal sacrifice, of His voluntary self-limitation, in order that a universe may be called into being.

To return, however, to the pure Sankhya. The effect of this kshobha, or shuddering thrill coursing through Prakriti is that the gunas now begin to act and re-act upon one another. At the same time the souls, the purushas, who have not yet attained liberation come into relation with Prakriti, the activity of which, it must be remembered, occurs according to the Sankhya entirely for the sake of the purushas. Indeed the awakening of the manifesting activity in Prakriti is usually ascribed to a mechanical stimulus like that of a magnet on iron, which the purusas exert upon Prakriti, or to the reflection of their light upon it. And this is said to cause the kshobha already spoken of; but as the purusas are always there and are themselves always inactive by their very nature, it is not easy to escape from the inference—even from the purely Sankhya standpoint—that there must be some cause other than the mere presence of the purushas, which sets in motion the manifesting activity of Prakriti after pralaya.

The Buddhi.

However that may be, the first outcome of this interaction of the gunas is the production of buddhi. Now buddhi, as we saw in the former part, is what we should call a distinctly individual principle, i.e., it is the primary sheathing of one individual purusa. But the process we are now following is a cosmic one, and unfortunately in the older texts of the pure Sankhya, the two views, the cosmic and the individual, are nowhere worked out as distinct or correlated with one another.

But a hint is given in Sankhya Sutras III. 10, which will I think enable us to safely describe what is meant. It is there said that originally the linga (i.e., the subtle body of the soul, consisting of buddhi, ahankara, manas, the ten indriyas and the five tanmatras) was one and the same only, and that subsequently owing to the differences of karma, differentiation or division into individual lingas took place. Following this hint, and also some later commentators and Pauranic elaborators, we may conceive that the first step in manifestation is the formation of the cosmic buddhi, i.e., what the theistic Sankhya would call the buddhi of ishvara, and which we should term the “buddhi” of the Logos; not, however, the Theosophical buddhi—we shall see later on what the Sankhya buddhi stands for in our classification. In this cosmic buddhi are implicitly contained all the individual buddhis of the purushas to be concerned with that universe. As manifestation proceeds and the various stages are reached at which the unexhausted karma of the various purushas becomes operative, the respective buddhis become separated off from the cosmic buddhi, and the life of that soul in that universe begins.

Passing now to consider the individual buddhi, we find that besides its pre-eminent function of presenting to the purusha all impressions received from without as well as of guiding, directing and determining all thought and all action, the buddhi is also the seat of memory, all former impressions, resolves, thoughts, in short the whole content of conscious life, being stored up within it. The buddhi thus is the embodiment of all that the man (the embodied purusha) has gathered throughout all his previous existences. It is his essential nature and character; the source whence proceed all the tendencies, capacities, faculties, powers and inner characteristics which he manifests in his various births. And lastly, as it is the buddhi which, through its activity, brings to the purusha the experience of pain and of pleasure, and thus becomes the immediate cause of the soul’s bondage in the ever-whirling wheel of birth and death, so also is it the buddhi which ultimately brings to the soul, the purusha, the cognition, or realization of the difference between spirit and matter, as we should say, between the purusha itself and Prakriti as the Sankhya phrases it, and thus accomplishes the soul’s liberation.

Seeing, therefore that buddhi is thus the storehouse of true, permanent memory, of character, the actual essential nature of the man, it seems to me that it may well he identified, at any rate roughly, with the body of the true ego—sometimes termed in our literature the causal body—upon the arupa levels of the manasic plane. But I hope to deal more fully with these parellelisms hereafter.

In respect of its constitution, the buddhi is composed in the main of sattva, though both rajas and tamas also enter into its structure. But of all the productions of Prakriti, there is none in which sattva so largely predominates over the others, as in the buddhi. There is, of course, an infinite variety of buddhis, each built according to the karma of the individual, and differing in the relative proportions in which each of the three gunas enters into its composition. But in the Sankhya texts we find a very broad two-fold classification frequently alluded to, according to the relative proportion of tamas which is present. Thus when in a man’s buddhi, sattva has been as far as possible purified from the admixture of tamas, then this condition exhibits itself in the man’s life in virtue, knowledge (real knowledge), indifference to the sense-world, (vairagya) and the possession of “supernatural” powers, the siddhis of yoga. For these siddhis are the inherent characteristics of the pure or sattvic buddhi and are only “veiled” and hidden through the admixture of too large a proportion of the other two gunas. On the other hand, when tamas exercises a too great influence in a man’s buddhi, its results are vice and the lack of knowledge, the lack of indifference to the sense-world, and the absence of the siddhis.

The Ahankara.

From buddhi proceeds ahankara, but its production is not due to the spontaneous activity of the buddhi, for if it were, then the latter would at all times be producing ahankara since buddhi is productive by its very nature. But this obviously is not the case, as the production of each ahankara from its respective buddhi is a single act of emanation. Hence the inherent productiveness of the buddhi requires to be stimulated into actualization of its capacity by having the necessary energy poured into it from Prakriti.

And indeed we may as well not here, once and for all, that this applies not only in the case of buddhi, but equally in that of all those subsequent products which as in their turn again productive, viz., ahankara itself, and the five tanmatras. In each case a fresh outpouring of energy from Prakriti, the primal root-substance, is required in order to provoke the production from the ahankara of manas, the ten indriyas, and the five tanmatras, and again to cause the five tanmatras to produce the five gross elements or mahabhutas.

To return, the special and characteristic functions of the ahankara is, as already pointed out, the production of “illusive conceptions,” and more specifically of such illusive conceptions as transport the idea of “I” into purely material things and processes, such thoughts for instance as: “I am the actor, enjoyer, sufferer”; “I hear, see, smell, taste”; “I possess, I am rich, powerful, virtuous”; “I am slain, I slay my enemies.” These conceptions are illusive because they involve a confusion between the real “I” the purusha and the body, its organs, etc. These two—purusha and body—being according to the Sankhya eternally, radically, fundamentally distinct and opposed, it is obvious that to predicate of the one, the purusha, what can only be true of the other, the body, implies an “illusion” or “deceptive appearance”; and this illusion it is the special function of the ahankara to evoke.

We have already seen that the ahankara assumes three distinct aspects, according as one or other of the gunas predominates in it. Thus when sattva predominates over the other two, we have the vaikrita ahankara, when rajas, the taijasa, and when tamas, the bhutadi form. But these three forms or conditions of the ahankara manifest their respective special peculiarities not only in that from each there goes forth a different product, but also in the mode of action and life of the individual being. Thus the sattvic or vaikrita ahankara is the doer of good deeds; the rajasic or taijasa ahankara is the doer of evil deeds, while tamasic or bhutadi ahankara is the doer of “secret” deeds which may be either good or evil, but shun the light of day.

All this makes it abundantly clear that we must see in the Sankhya ahankara not only the mere cause of the passive, separated egoistic consciousness, but also the actual actor and doer in all action. Thus if we consider the buddhi as essentially the organ of thinking—using the word in its widest sense—then we must see in ahankara the organ of acting and doing. And just as—apart from all differences in detail and in individuals—the buddhi owes its special character to the general predominance in it of the illuminative sattva, so the ahankara in its turn owes its special character to the predominating influence in it of rajas, the active, impelling, impulsive guna.

Such, then, are the characteristics of the ahankara in itself; but before passing on to consider the products which go forth from it, it will be interesting to quote some suggestive remarks from the pen of Dr. Richard Garbe, to whose work I have been much indebted in the working out of this article. He observes:

“When we consider that, according to the teaching of the Sankhya philosophy, the moral quality of the action of all beings depends upon the admixture, for the time being, of the three gunas in the ahankara, and that willing and resolving are in themselves not spiritual, but physical (material) functions, we should naturally be led to think that we had here (in the Sankhya) a purely mechanical determinism. For action which is impelled in this direction or in that by the predominance of a definite substance in the internal organ, is surely purely instinctual. This view, however, is contradicted by the fact that the Sankhya, like every other Hindu system, holds the individual to be responsible for his actions; and further makes upon him, for the attainment of liberation, a series of demands, the fulfilment of which is only possible on the assumption that the will is free! We have here,” Dr. Garbe goes one, “an obvious contradiction between a characteristically Sankhya doctrine and those general Hindu doctrines which have been absorbed into the system—a contradiction which is nowhere solved in out texts and perhaps even never came clearly home to the consciousness of the representatives of the system.”

In view of the exceeding thoroughness with which every philosophical point has been threshed out in the course of the intellectual history of India; in view of the exceeding acuteness and thoroughness with which each system in turn has been attacked and defended; and lastly, in view of the fact—of which abundant traces are to be found in Sanskrit literature—that the Sankhya in particular has been the center of perhaps the most ardent and prolonged controversies of all—in view of all this, might not the thought have occurred to Dr. Garbe, in presence of so apparently flagrant and obvious a contradiction, that “our texts” do not give us the entire and complete teaching of even the Sankhya system, and that we must recognize the existence of an oral and “esoteric” teaching accompanying the written works, which gave the real clue to the solution of this and similar difficulties? Surely had this not been so, and had not the upholders of other systems been cognizant of the fact and recognized that such a point was no fit subject for the arena of mere intellectual discussion, how is it at all conceivable that one or other among the many brilliant controversialists, some even of actual genius, whose works are still extant, should not have seen and pressed home so obvi0us and telling a point, which, if unanswerable, must have secured to him the victory?

The Manas.

From the sattvic or vaikritic ahankara, impelled to production by the energy outpoured from Prakriti, there proceeds the manas. The name manas is very often paraphrased by the commentators into “antaram indriyam” or “inner sense,” which very well expresses one of its most characteristic functions, viz., that of receiving, centralizing and combining the impressions reaching it through the five indriyas or outer senses of perception. In doing this it assimilates itself to, and takes the form of, each and all of these the moment they enter into activity. And indeed, apart from their connection with the manas, neither the five senses nor the five organs of action could function effectively at all, as we see illustrated in the fact that when the manas is turn inwards, i.e., when it is wholly occupied with internal images, the stimuli from the outer world, coming through the physical organs of sense, fail to reach the consciousness at all. This power of manas to adapt itself to the senses is often compared to the behaviour of a man who shows himself full of love in his intercourse with his beloved, indifferent as regards an indifferent person and quite different again with someone else.

If this were all, manas would be simply a sort of central telephone-exchange in which the wires leading to the senses and organs of action were centralized and combined. But it has two further characteristics which, especially in relation to the doctrine of liberation, are of even greater importance than this. To manas also belong desiring and wishing in all their forms, as well as dubitative reflection. Indeed, though desire is often said to have its seat in the senses, yet its real root lies in the manas; while doubt and uncertainty belong wholly to it. And these two, desire and doubt, constitute two of the greatest obstacles which, according to the Sankhya, the seeker after liberation has to overcome.

The Inner Organ as a Whole.

Although buddhi, ahankara and manas are each specifically different from the rest, and in reckoning up the tattvas or principles of the Sankhya, are without exception counted as separate, because successively emanated entities, yet as was remarked in a previous part, the three together are very often treated as forming a whole, a single “inner organ” termed the antaḥkarana. This is most often the case when the difference of each and all the three from the purusha is to be emphasized. But there are one or two special functions which are ascribed to the action of the antaḥkarana as a whole—such as breathing, for instance—which suggest that there may be more behind this taking of the three, buddhi, ahankara, manas, together as one whole, than appears on the surface of our texts. At any rate it seemed worth while to allude to this view here, both because this term and antaḥkarana has been sometimes used by Theosophical writers, and because it occurs very frequently in the Vedantic system with a somewhat different signification to that which it bears in the Sankhya philosophy.

The Indriyas.

From the ahankara proceed also, under the impulse of the energy poured out from Prakriti, the ten indriyas or organs or perception and action, as well as the five tanmatras or subtle elements. The former, the ten indriyas, are produced when the guna rajas predominates in the ahankara, which then is termed taijasa or luminous. The word indriya, etymologically speaking, means simply power or capacity, and is very properly applied in this connection, for these ten indriyas are not the “organs” of perception and action in the ordinary sense; that is, they are not the eyes, nose, etc., nor the hands or feet. The indriyas are really the powers or capacities of which the physical organs are simply the manifestations, or materializations, and seem to denote something more subtle even than the centres in the astral body which are usually considered as the real seats of sense perception. And it is also noteworthy that they do not arise from the manas or inner sense, although the manas, is always spoken of as their ruler, and though the indriyas are dependent upon the manas for their activity and functional life. On the contrary they arise directly from the ahankara, i.e., from the same source as manas itself, and thus in order of emanation are parallel rather than subordinate to the manas.

The ten indriyas fall into two classes—five powers of perception, five of action; the powers of perception being those of sight, hearing, smell, taste and feeling or touch; and those of action, sppech, grasping, walking, disassimilation and generation. All of them are in themselves supersensuous, and their existence can only be inferred from their respective functions. And just as the existence of the senses is inferred from their functions, so are these functions themselves proved to exist through the knowledge of their respective objects being attained, for only those objects with which the senses come into relation through their functions, are brought to our knowledge, while otherwise all things, whether shut off by intervening objects or lying at an infinite distance, ought to be equally perceptable. As a general rule the senses function in succession, but according to the Sankhya a single affection of the internal organ may be brought about by the simultaneous action of several of the senses.

Since manas, or the “inner sense,” does not differ in essence from the indriyas or external senses, and also occupies a co-ordinated position with them, in the Sankhya scheme of development it is frequently taken together with them, and thus “eleven” senses are very often spoken of in the texts; indeed eleven and not ten is the characteristic m1mber of the senses in the Sankhya texts, except when manas is taken together with ahankara and buddhi as the “internal organ,” where we find the “ten” indriyas alluded to.

The difference between the powers of perception and, those of action is explained thus. Although both alike proceed from the taijasa ahankara, or ahankara dominated by rajas, yet in the emanation of the perceptive powers more sattva is held to be present than in the putting forth of those of action, wherein rajas rules almost pure and untempered by the influence of the other gunas.

The Thirteen Organs as a Whole.

Between the outer senses and the internal organ there is this characteristic difference: the activity of the outer senses is limited to the present, while that of the internal organ (manas, ahankara, buddhi) extends over past and future as well as the present. Thus—to illustrate this in reference to a single power of perception and one of action only—while the sense of hearing perceived only present sounds, and the voice articulates words only in the present, not only does the internal organ infer from the presence of smoke that at that same moment the brushwood on the hill is burning, but also from the swelling of the river that it has rained, and from the running about of the ants with their eggs that it will rain.

A further difference between the outer senses and the internal organs is often expressed in their comparison with doors and door-keepers. The outer senses are like doors, which as such let in everything that seeks admission; the inner organs are like the door-keepers, who not only open and shut the doors, but also control and order the perceptions and feelings which find admission.

To work out this comparison as a Hindu follower of the Sankhya would do, we must think of the body as a palace and of the soul as the lord dwelling within it, and like an Eastern ruler remaining personally inactive, and taking no direct part in the administration of affairs. And this comparison will then lead us to the point of view from which the three internal organs and the ten outer senses are taken together in a single concept, viz., as the tool (karana) of the soul, represented in the above comparison by the well ordered staff of servants and officials within the king’s palace. Or, as it is worked out in one of the texts:

“As the headmen of a village collect the revenue from the heads of the households and make it over to the governor of the district, who in turn makes it over to the minister of the finances, who hands it to the king, so the outer senses, when they have made their observations, hand them on to the inner sense; the inner sense having determined them, passes them on to the ahankara, and the ahankara having related them to its own personality, hands them on to the buddhi, which plays the part of the highest minister.”

All the thirteen organs resemble each other in the fact that they enter into activity owing to one and the same cause and for one and the same purpose. The cause of their activity is the unfolding of the unseen power of past actions, which indeed lies not in the soul but in the buddhi, though it is regarded as something pertaining to the soul; the purpose of their activity is simply and solely to help the soul to the attainment of its goal, viz., the enjoyment (or suffering) of the fruit of action, and ultimately to liberation. To this end all the organs work spontaneously; there is no ruler (according to the nirishvarathe nirishvara Sankhya) who knows the nature, powers and purpose, of the organs, and regulates their activity. But in spite of this the thirteen organs do not come into collision in the performance of their respective functions, but on the contrary mutually assist and supplement each other, just as if they acted by agreement and with understanding of their mutual intentions.

“True, the organs and modifications of the three gunas whose nature is to oppose each other, but they are rendered harmonious by the demands of the soul (which are to be fulfilled by them in common), just like wick, oil and fire which, combined in order to illuminate the colours by banishing darkness, together form a lamp.”8

Not only are the thirteen organs bound together into a unity by their common purpose; but there exists a further and important agreement between them in respect of their nature. All the orga11s alike are maintained and strengthened by physical nourishment; when weakened by fasting or other causes, they can be strengthened again by food and drink, because food and drink contain parts which are homogeneous with the substances composing these thirteen organs.

The Subtle or Inner Body.

These thirteen organs are not transitory and do not perish like the gross body, but accompany the soul on its pilgrimage through all its changing existences. For this they need, according to the Sankhya teaching, a basis, since without such a basis they would merely be an incoherent complex of powers, “like a picture without a foundation or a shadow without the shadow-casting object.” This basis which gives to the organs coherence and reality, the Sankhya finds in the five subtle elements or tanmatras; and in combination with these subtle elements the organs form the inner body or linga. This inner body or linga thus consists of eighteen components, viz., the five subtle elements, plus the thirteen organs. The word linga denotes, etymologically, the characteristic mark distinguishing feature of anything; i.e., in the Sa11khya, that which constitutes the special nature and character of the individual. For since the Sankhya does not recognize the smallest qualitative difference between the individual souls, it follows that it is the inner body or linga which forms the principle of the perso11ality in this life and the principle of individual identity throughout the innumerable existences of the soul’s pilgrimage.

We have here one of the most difficult points of the Sankhya as represented in the existing texts. For if there he no qualitative difference whatsoever between the various individual souls or purushas—and it must be admitted that this seems a logically inevitable application of all the statements made in regard to the purusha—then what possible meaning can we attach to the conception of individuality as applied to such non-different purushas? This is another of the numerous instances which we find in the study of Hindu thought which inevitably suggests the existence of an oral and esoteric teaching supplementing the texts which is now lost to us. But to return to the exposition of the system as it has come down to us.

We find several synonyms used in the various texts to denote this subtle body, and one among them was adopted into our own early Theosophical nomenclature, though unfortunately in quite another application. Thus we find instead of liga-deha the term linga-sharira often used in the texts, both meaning “the characterizing body”; then again sukshma-deha or sukshma-sharira, meaning simply “subtle” body, used in the same sense, and also not infrequently the term ativahika-sharira or “body that accompa11ies (the soul in its passage) over.” The fullest description of the liga-deha is found in Sankhya-Karika 40, where after defining it as composed of the material principles or tattvas from buddhi down to the five tanmatras inclusive, it is further described as “having arisen in the beginning unbounded (in respect of the gross bodies, into which it enters) and constant”; that is, the subtle body is formed at the beginning of the world period and lasts until either the liberating knowledge arises or the dissolution of the system takes place. But it is only in the former alternative that it is absorbed for ever into Prakriti; for all such souls as have not yet obtained liberation on the occurrence of pralaya, the liga-deha is formed anew at the beginning of the following world period. The cause of this re-formation of the subtle body lies in non-discrimination (between Purusha and Prakriti), in the power of merit and demerit (karma), and in the tendencies (or vasanas) stored up in the buddhi, these factors continuing to exist in a latent condition in Prakriti during the pralaya. The karika closes with the words: “The inner body wanders (from one gross body into another), because (otherwise) it cannot feel affected by the states.” This implies that transmigration as well as feeling are effected by means of the inner body. But since feeling depends upon the union of the inner body with a gross body, it follows that during the moment of passage, i.e., in the short time during which, after death has occurred, the inner body is on its way to another gross body, no feeling whatever can arise. To prevent misconception among students of Theosophy, it may be as well to remark here that in the Sankhya the term “gross body” or “body composed of the gross elements” is by no means confined to our physical body only, but includes a far wider range than we usually include under our conception or “gross” matter. For example, the gods themselves, Indra, Agni, Vayu, the various orders of Devas, Rishis, etc., etc. , have “gross bodies” in the Sankhya sense, i.e., bodies composed of the “gross” elements, in the Sankhya sense of the term. Later on we shall attempt to co-ordinate this classification with our own; but the difficulties are many and great and the attempt may not succeed. At present we are only concern with the teachings of the Sankhya as presented in the texts which have come down to us.

The last words of the karika quoted above, “affected by the states,” are explained as follows:

“The states are merit and demerit, discrimination and non-discrimination, indifference and absence of indifference (towards the sense-world), supernatural powers and lack thereof. With these the buddhi is affected and as the subtle body embraces the latter within it, therefore the subtle body is permeated by them, just as a dress, provided with sweet-smelling champaka-blossoms, is permeated with their odour.”

These “states” or “conditions” then and the inner body mutually determine each other; without the inner body the “states” are not possible, and without these “states” the inner body would not endure beyond the present life. The two thus stand to each other in the relation of a beginningless continuity comparable to that of seed and plant.

Thus according to the Sankhya it is not the purusha, or soul proper, but the inner body which is good or evil, wise or foolish, self-denying or passionate, strong or weak; and moral rcsponsibility upon which rebirth depends, pertains therefore not to the purusha but to the inner body. This inner body is often compared to an actor changing the parts he plays, because in virtue of a special natural capacity he assumes the most different forms, “impelled by the goal of the purusha,” in other words in order that the latter may receive the reward of the deeds ascribed to it.

“Just an an actor playing various parts becomes either Parashurama or Ajatashatru or the King of the Vatsa, so the subtle body, when it assumes this or the other gross body, becomes a god or a man, or an animal or a tree.”9

And it is really this inner body which is meant when in Karika 62 it is said of Prakriti:

“Verily none transmigrates, is bound or liberated; the Prakriti (alone) dependent on the various (Purushas) transmigrates, is bound and is liberated.”

So long as the inner body pursues its pilgrimage, so long does pain endure, since it is the very nature of the inner body to produce pain. Only when the inner body finally dissolves in Prakriti and conditioned life ceases for all time, is liberation from pain achieved.

The Five Gross Elements.

The five gross elements are æther (akasha), air, fire water and earth. There are several different views current in different texts as to the way in which these gross elements are produced from the subtle elements or tanmatras. The theory which seems to be supported by the older texts is as follows: without in any way entering into combination, but simply impelled by the energy flowing forth from Prakriti, the tanmatra of sound develops from itself the gross element æther or akasha; from the combination of the tanmatras of sound and touch the element air is produced; from the three tanmatras of sound, touch and sight (colour) fire proceeds; from the above three plus the tanmatra of taste, we have water; and from the combination of all five tanmatras earth is produced.

These five gross elements combine with one another to produce the material world (which it must be remembered includes far more than our own physical plane) and work in each of its planes, each supporting the other four by manifesting its own special quality or property. Thus the element earth is the common basis in the bringing forth of all productions, while water moistens and fertilizes, fire (i.e., light and heat) ripens, air dries, and æther provides space for al things, i.e., gives them extension.

Another theory of the way in which the gross elements are produced from the tanmatras is as follows: each of the gross elements is supposed to consist of sixteen parts, and of these sixteen parts,in the case of æther say, eight consist of the tanmatra of sound, while the remaining eight consist of two parts contributed by each of the four remaining tanmatras. Thus using t.s. to denote the tanmatr of sound; t.t. for that of touch; t.c. for that of sight or colour ; t.o. for that of odour or smell; and t.f. for that of taste or flavour; the composition of the five gross elements would be given as follows:

Æther = 8 t.s. + 2 t.t. + 2 t.o. + 2 t.c. + 2 t.f.
Air = 8 t.t. + 2 t.s. + 2 t.o. + 2 t.c. + 2 t.f.
Fire = 8 t.c. + 2 t.t. + 2 t.s. + 2 t.o. + 2 t.f.
Water = 8 t.f. + 2 t.t. + 2 t.s. + 2 t.o. + 2 t.c.
Earth = 8 t.o. + 2 t.t. + 2 t.s. + 2 t.c. + 2 t.f.

This latter theory is the one which is most generally current in India at the present moment, and is naturally, therefore the one generally alluded to in works written in recent times, when the composition of the grosser elements is mentioned.

We have now completed our more detailed survey of the twenty-four tattvas which constitute the material or Prakriti side of the manifested universe according to the Sankhya philosophy; but before leaving this part of the subject, it may be as well to add a few words with regard to a point which has already been alluded to more than once, but has not as yet be specially dealt with. I mean the vasanas or “tendencies” which are brought over from birth to birth and which collectively constitute the roots of character.

The Vasanas.

According to the Sankhya theory, every experience or impression leaves behind an indelible imprint in the buddhi, which remains inactive or latent in a germ-like condition until again thrown into activity by the arising of the circumstances and surroundings necessary or favourable for its germination. It is these impressions in the buddhi which constitute memory, instinct, tendency, impulse, capacity, talent, in short, the individual nature and character of the ego, as we have already observed. The following outline of the theory of the vasanas is taken from Paul Markus’ essay on the Yoga philosophy of Patanjali; but as the Yoga drew this theory with so much else from the Sankhya system, it forms a fairly accurate presentation of the doctrine as found in the latter.

“Everything that happens leaves a corresponding trace or impress beheind in the substance of the buddhi, and this trace remains therein like a seed in a cornfield, or as a latent tendency, that is as an appropriate preparation or predisposition for the future reproduction of the event or action in question. These predispositions (or as Patanjali often calls them, intellectual deposits) constitute a very important part of the buddhi, which is literally full of them, so many and varied are the tendencies, which in the course of many past births have be stored up therein.

“The life-history of such a vasana is as follows: first it is latent, virtual, a mere potentiality, but yet possess of the tendency, even the inevitable necessity, of producing its own appropriate effect some time or other, though it has not as yet the ripened energy necessary for doing so. When their time is ripe the appropriate vasanas become active, living, and then finally—do not perish but—return to the stillness of the has-been, the eternal rest of the past. Thus the vasanas remain a constant possession of the individual, only in differing condition, according as they have, or have not, already produced their appointed effect. First as forces tied and bound, awaiting their freedom, their transformation into living, active forces, which will become decisive factors in the practical conduct of the individual; lying latent thus as unsuspected sleeping impulses which need only to be awakened to be brought into action, to gain potent influence over us. All the capacities indispensable for physical life, the habits and capacities which we bring into the world with us, are the inheritance of former lives; they are impressions, traces, deposits, which in the interim have persisted and retained their latent energy to manifest their power forcefully and fresh when their hour strikes—like seeds, which for years have been stored away, but at last, when placed under conditions suitable for their germination, unfold themselves and grow as if but just harvested.”

Of all the vasanas the most fateful is the “ignorance “ (avidya-saskara) inborn in every individual, the tendency, that is, to the non-discrimination between spirit and matter, Purusha and Prakriti. For, in the view of the Sankhya, this is the root of all evil; since it is the cause of desire for earthly enjoyment, and thus the root of merit and demerit (karma), which ever draws man again and again to life in matter and binds him to the whee of birth and death.


In beginning this article it was my intention to devote the last section to working out thoroughly the relations between our own Theosophical teachings an the Sankhya view of the universe. But now that the outline of the latter has been pretty fully sketched, it has become only too evident that a great deal more work need to be done before this intention can be adequately carried out. On the literary side much remains obscure; for nearly all our present knowledge of the Sankhya comes to us through writers whose thought is saturated with Vedantic conceptions, while in modern Indian thought we find much that seems of characteristically Sankhyan origin embodied in the current form of Vedanta. Indeed, we may almost say that the whole of the Cosmology and Theory of Evolution as well as much of the Psychology and Eschatology of the Vedanta as now held, and even as contained in the works ascribed to Sankaracharya seems to be of distinctly Sankhyan origin, and to have been taken over almost bodily into the Vedantic systems. Hence before such a task as the thorough working out of the relations between the Sankhya, as a distinct system, and the teachings of Theosophy can be undertaken it is indispensable to determine the real outlines of the original, pure Sankhya. To do this, an immense amount of critical literary work must first be done, not alone upon the texts of the Vedantic and Sankhyan schools, but also upon the Maya and Vaisheshika, in order to determine the real source an inter-relation of certain fundamental conceptions. But the time is not yet ripe even to begin upon this work; first because the preparatory task of text publication and editing has really only just begun, and then because our present knowledge of the historical sequence of texts and authors—a most important factor in such a research—is virtually nil. When, for instance, we do not know whether the date of Sankaracharya is the fifth century before, or the ninth century after Christ, and when we are in complete ignorance even of the stratification of the numerous works at present current under his name, it is obvious that several generations of steady scholarly work are indispensable for the mere task of clearing the ground.

But though these considerations preclude all possibility of a systematic attack upon the problem alluded to, it may yet not be without interest for students of Theosophy, who are interested in Hindu philosophic thought, to direct attention to sundry points which emerge from the outline of the Sankhya as sketched in the foregoing pages. And to do so may have the further value of directing Theosophical, or more accurately occult research to some aspects of our own teachings, upon which the comparisons in question seem to throw a suggestive light.

Our first endeavour must necessarily be to find a definite and reliable point of contact between our own Theosophical conceptions of man and nature, and those of the Sankhya, so that we may have a sort of reference datum-line from which we can work backwards and forwards. And it seems to me that we may hope to find this by working out the doctrine of the differentiation of the senses. First, then, from the Theosophical side, we know that our special senses—sight, hearing, etc.— do not properly belong to this physical plane at all but are seated in the astral body, although there they are not nearly so sharply differenced off from one another, and are not so definitely localized as they become when functioning through the physical organism. But it seems to me, on analyzing the facts, that the differentiation of the senses by no means has its origin in the astral body. For in the description of the various conditions of devachanic existence, given in Mr. Leadbeater’s recent Manual, it is obvious that sense-differentiation persists at any rate throughout all the rupa levels of that condition. For we read that the greater musicians enjoy a Devachan in which music is the predominant feature, while painters and sculptors bathe in the glories of form and colour, and so on. Now this seems to imply that on those levels there is already a persisting differentiation of the special senses, at least sufficient to give a characteristic mark to the devachanic experiences of the various types of artistic genius. Hence I conclude that, although on the rupa-devachan levels the senses blend to a very great extent, yet, since they are still distinguishable, we must seek for their common origin, the undifferentiated source whence they proceed, on the arupa levels, or in other words, in the causal body.

This conclusion appears to be supported by the fact that when consciousness is functioning in the causal body, it does not perceive or learn things through “senses,” but takes in the object on which it is focussed within and without, on all sides at once, grasping its complete nature, history, character and essence in a single all-embracing intuition. So that it seems, from what we are told, that when the consciousness is thus functioning in the causal body, it has clearly and definitely transcended anything which could reasonably be spoken of as “special” or differentiated “senses.”

Again, we often hear in our literature about the “devachanic sense,” though perhaps, “devachanic perception” would be a better term to denote it, since it is described as piercing through illusion and conveying to its possessor an accurate and reliable understanding of whatever it is directed to. Hence it seems that besides the special senses, though, as our daily experience shows us, acting in constant conjunction with them, there is another “sense,” which not only correlates and combines the impressions received from the senses, but interprets and understands them. And this additional “sense” becomes stronger and more marked in its manifestations as we follow up the senses from their physical manifestations to their source. And this “devachanic sense,” though closely resembling, is yet clearly distinguishable from that full intuitive perception which characterizes the functioning of consciousness in the causal body proper.

Turn now to the Sankhya, and it is pretty evident that we have here the exact parallel of the “indriyas” and the “manas” of that philosophy. This is the more striking from the curious fact that the Sankhya so frequently speaks of manas as “one of the indriyas” and that eleven—ten plus one—is the characteristic number of the senses, while at the same time manas is also very closely allied to and associated with the ahankara, and is so often classed together with the latter and buddhi as the “internal instrument” repeatedly spoken of before.

Now in the Sankhya both manas and the indriyas proceed, though independent of each other, from the ahankara. And in our Theosophical teachings we have traced the senses to the causal body as their root; while the close resemblance in many points between the special “devachanic sense” and the characteristics of consciousness functioning in the causal body, makes it abundantly clear that the latter is also the source and origin whence proceeds this devachanic sense.

Here are two points upon which further occult investigation is desirable: what is the exact genesis and history of the special senses, and—since on the rupa levels we undoubtedly have both the special senses and the one “devachanic sense” in simultaneous activity—is this devachanic sense simply the characteristic of consciousness when functioning in the mind body as its lowest vehicle, just as full “intuition” is its characteristic in the causal body, or if not, what and whence is this devachanic sense?

To return, however, to our immediate subject. Since the causal body is the source of both the devachanic sense and the special senses in our teaching, and the ahankara of the Sankhya is similarly the source of manas and the indriyas, which are clearly identifiable with the devachanic and special senses, it seems certain that the ahankara of the Sankhya must be identified with one aspect or facet of our causal body.

Let us check this. The ahankara of the Sankhya is defined specifically as the producer of the consciousness “I act,” “I feel,” “I think,” generally, of the consciousness of “I” as a separate entity. In other words, it is the cause of the consciousness of separateness. But this again is just what the causal body in man does according to our Theosophical teaching; for it is the true Ego, the real “I am I” in us. But in our teaching the “causal body” seems to be a good deal more than this, and here is another point upon which these comparisons with the Sankhya seem to suggest a useful line of further investigation; and one or two additional points may be noted as suggestions in this light, as well as tending to strengthen the identification already made.

But the consideration of these must be deferred till next month.

Before entering upon the comparison which follows, I ought to state that the particular Sankhyan doctrine which is to be discussed here rests primarily upon the Bhagavad Gita, while the form in which I use it is drawn from Sri Sankaracharya’s Commentary upon that scripture. At the present day in India it would undoubtedly be accepted as orthodox Sankhyan teaching, but as I am unable to adduce any older authorities for it than the Gita and Sankaracharya’s commentary, it is at least open to question as to how far it belongs to the original Sankhya. The statement in the Gita most probably embodies an ancient oral tradition, so that in this respect we are likely to be upon fairly safe ground; but with Sankaracharya’s explanation of it the matter stands otherwise. In the first place, the commentary ascribed to that great teacher seems to me to lack those internal evidences which one expects to find in a genuine work of his, and seems rather to belong to a comparatively late stage in the development of Vedantic thought; secondly, the explanation of the passage in question, though undoubtedly ambodying a very ancient tradition, is given as a Vedantic rather than as an explicitly Sankhyan teaching. Still it may well be of true Sankyan origin, because the Vedanta has so obviously taken over the whole of the Sankhyan teaching on cosmology that this particular point, if Sankhyan originally, would naturally be adopted along with the rest. But the question cannot be decided in the present state of our knowledge, and so I shall treat the teaching in question as orthodox Sankhya for the purposes of comparison.

The passage in the Gita which is of interest to us occurs in the seventh chapter, shlokas 4 and 5, which run as follows:

“Earth, water, fire, air, space, mind, understanding and egoism, thus is my nature divided eight-fold. But this is a lower (form of my) nature. Know (that there is) another (form of my) nature, and higher than this, which is animate, oh, you of mighty arms! and by which this universe is upheld.”

These verses are explained in the commentary ascribed to Sankaracharya, as meaning that the life informing these various modifications of Prakriti is to be distinguished from the mere matter which encases it, though in concrete manifestation the two are so intimately associated that they are commonly taken together under the name of Prakriti and its various modifications.

Turning now to our theosophical teaching, we have learnt, comparatively recently, that there are three distinct outpourings of the Divine Life. Of these, the first, proceeding from the Third Logos, calls into existence the matter of the various planes, and constitutes the life of atoms and molecules of matter. Into the great ocean of matter thus formed, the Second Logos pours forth the second great life-wave, which becomes the evolving monadic essence on plane after plane, building matter into form, and constituting the informing life and consciousness of all forms and creatures; always working in and through the matter called into existence by the first outpouring, ever functioning in conjunction with it in such intimate association, that for practical purposes even close students take them both together and only emphasize the distinction when there is special need for so doing. Finally, it is into the vehicle ultimately evolved by the monadic essence working upwards through matter that there descends the third outpouring, which is the pledge and guarantee of man’s true immortality.

It seems that we have here a teaching very closely resembling the Sankhyan doctrine which I have sketched above. There we had the matter and the informing life, both terms Prakriti, and both presided over and subservient to the interests of Purusha, the individual soul, which would thus answer tot he ray from the third outpouring of the divine life, which becomes individualized in the causal body of man, which is formed from the upward evolving monadic essence of the second life-wave veiled in the matter of the arupa levels of the manasic plane.

If this idea be true, it explains also why, in the Sankhya, all action and its resultant karma is ascribed to Prakriti, while Purusha is always asserted to be actionless and ever in itself exempt from suffering, stain or evil.

For we know that the binding effect of karma arises entierly from the self-centered desire which prompts to, or accompanies action. But this self-seeking desire obviously belongs exclusively to the causal body and the lower vehicles of man, and disappears more and more completely when consciousness becomes focussed and seated in the buddhic plane. This is clear from the fact that the dominant characteristic of consciousness when functioning on the buddhic plane is the complete absence of that “sense of separateness,” which we all must recognize as the very root and mainspring of all self-seeking and desire to possess or enjoy. Therefore it seems not improbable that we shall be right in associating desire for self with the upward evolving monadic essence which has formed the causal body, and which—in present ordinary humanity—is the highest active element in man’s constitution. For it is well-known that although the atmic ray, or third outpouring does exist within the causal body, yet it plays no active part, exerts no direct control of action upon its vehicles until these have attained a comparatively advanced condition of unfoldment and evolution. Thus for all practical purposes it would seem to be true—in regard to ordinary humanity in its present stage of progress—that all action proceeds from this monadic essence which has formed the causal body, or from the impulsions arising in the still lower vehicles. In other words, it all proceeds from Prakriti, and the saying of the Gita becomes intelligible that “all action is Prakriti-born.” For in ordinary mankind the atmic ray is as yet quite undeveloped, even its buddhic vehicle is the merest thread, so that even in a man of well-developed intellect all his actions and activities have no higher source than the activity of the monadic essence of the second great outpouring, which forms his causal body.

The reader must here be reminded that these views are put forward as suggestions, as tentative gropings claiming neither authority, weight nor finality other than such as their inherent reasonableness may seem to deserve. For in the present state of our knowledge both of Theosophy and of Hindu philosophical thought, it is a most difficult task to determine with any accuracy the points of contact and the true parallelisms between the two.

For those who are able to perceive and know the truth of things on this and on higher planes by direct, immediate perception, such purely intellectual studies as these will, I am fully conscious, appear uninteresting and of small, if any, value. But I would humbly venture to remind them that even such exalted faculties as they enjoy must, of necessity, be liable to error and imperfection so long as any, even the smallest, trace of the personality remains. For in the language of the Sankhya, until the ahankara, the individual “I,” with its special idiosyncrasies and peculiarities, has become perfectly assimilated to and unified with the Divine Ray which informs it, all that can be seen even on the plane of the ego itself must, it would seem, be tinged and coloured by those special peculiarities and characteristics. This at least is the unanimous burden of Hindu teaching, and it certainly seems both inherently reasonable and entirely consonant with all our experience on this plane, where we members of the Theosophical Society have only too often had to lament in ourselves and in others the purblindness of intellect and of heart which results from prejudice, preconceptions, national or racial inheritance, and individual idiosyncrasy of mind or feeling.

Recognizing this, and bearing in mind that all free progress in knowledge has been the work of many minds, it may not be unprofitable for us to seek in the works of those who have gone before us for clues and indications by which to check out own observations and theorizings no less than to guide our attention to what might otherwise escape us. Herein, it seems to me, lies the great value for us all of such work as Mr. Mead is doing upon the Gnostic systems, and I should welcome with enthusiasm the appearance among us of workers who would qualify themselves to undertake, in the immensely vaster field of Hindu thought, such work as he is doing in that of the Gnostic schools.

1. Sarva Darshana Sangraha: sub voce, Charvaka

2. Sankhya Sutras Bk. I, Aph. 88.

3. Sankhya Karika, Aph. 5.

4. In The Secret Doctrine, v. 1, p. 247, H. P. Blavatsky explores this subject from the standpoint of the Wisdom-Religion, thus:

“In the Sankhya philosophy, Purusha (spirit) is spoken of as something impotent unless he mounts on the shoulders of Prakriti (matter), which, left alone, is—senseless. But in the secret philosophy they are viewed as graduated. Though one and the same thing in their origin, Spirit and Matter, when once they are on the plane of differentiation, begin each of them their evolutionary progress in contrary directions—Spirit falling gradually into matter, and the latter ascending to its original condition, that of a pure spiritual substance. Both are inseparable, yet ever separated. In polarity, on the physical plane, two like poles will always repel each other, while the negative and the positive are mutually attracted, so do Spirit and Matter stand to each other—the two poles of the same homogeneous substance, the root-principle of the universe.” [Ed.]

5. Literally: bhoga—fruition, in the sense of the experience of pain and pleasure as the fruits of action.

6. The literature referenced here is that of the early theosophical movement, primarily that of H. P. Blavatsky and the early members of the Theosophical Society. [Ed.]

7. Sankhya Karika, Aph. 12.

8. Sankhya Tattva Kaumudi. Karika 36.

9. Karika, Aph. 42.