[For the article to which this is an appendix, see “Fragments of Occult Truth,” No. 6]
It may be worth the reader’s while to learn what Colonel H. S. Olcott has to say in his “Buddhist Catechism” (14th Thousand) of the intrinsic difference between “individuality and “personality.” Since he wrote not only under the approval of the High Priest, but also under the direct instruction of his Guru (Spiritual Master), his words will have weight for the student of Occultism. This is what he says in his Appendix:—
“Upon reflection, I have substituted ‘personality’ for ‘individuality’ as written in the first edition. The successive appearances upon one or many earths, or ‘descents into generation’ of the tanhaically-coherent parts (Skandhas) of a certain being, are a succession of personalities. In each birth the personality differs from that of the previous or next succeeding birth. Karma, the deus ex machina, masks (or shall we say, reflects?) itself now in the personality of a sage, again as an artisan and so on throughout the string of births. But though personalities ever shift, the one line of life along which they are strung like beads runs unbroken.
“It is ever that particular line, never any other. It is therefore individual, an individual vital undulation which began in Nirvana or the subjective side of Nature, as the light or heat undulation through æther began at its dynamic source; is careering through the objective side of Nature, under the impulse of Karma and the creative direction of Tanha; and tends through many cyclic changes back to Nirvana. Mr. Rhys Davids calls that which passes from personality to personality along the individual chain, ‘character’ or ‘doing.’ Since ‘character’ is not a mere metaphysical abstraction, but the sum of one’s mental qualities and moral propensities, would it not help to dispel what Mr. Rhys Davids calls ‘the desperate expedient of a mystery’ [Buddhism, p. 101] if we regarded the life undulation as individuality and each of its series of natal manifestations as a separate personality? The perfected individual, Buddhistically speaking, is a Buddha, I should say; for a Buddha is but the rare flower of humanity, without the least supernatural admixture. And as countless generations (‘Four Asankheyyas and a hundred thousand cycles.’ Fausböll and Rhys David’s Buddhist Birth Stories, p. 13) are required to develop a man into a Buddha, and the iron will to become one runs throughout all the successive births, what shall we call that which thus wills and perseveres? Character? or Individuality; an individuality but partly manifested in any one birth, but built up of fragments from all the births?
“The denial of ‘soul’ by Buddha (see Sanyutto Nikaya, the Sutta Pitaka) points to the prevalent delusive belief in an independent transmissible personality; an entity that could move from birth to birth unchanged, or go to a place or state where, as such perfect entity, it could eternally enjoy or suffer. And what he shows is that the ‘I am I’ consciousness is, as regards permanency logically impossible, since its elementary constituents constantly change, and the ‘I’ of one birth differs from the ‘I’ of every other birth. But everything that I have found in Buddhism accords with the theory of a gradual evolution of the perfect man, viz., a Buddha through numberless natal experiences. And in the consciousness of that person who at the end of a given chain of beings attains Buddha-hood, or who succeeds in attaining the fourth stage of Dhyana, or mystic self-development, in any one of his births anterior to the final one, the scenes of all these serial births are perceptible. In the Jatakattahavannana, so well translated by Mr. Rhys Davids, an expression continually recurs which I think rather supports such an idea, viz., ‘Then the blessed one made manifest an occurrence hidden by change of birth,’ or ‘that which had been hidden by, etc.’ Early Buddhism, then, clearly held to a permanency of records in the Akasa, and the potential capacity of man to read the same when he has evoluted to the stage of true, individual Enlightenment.” (pp. 54-57.)
Having been asked:—“How then? Is there no change of occupation for souls in Devachan? Is one moment of earthly sensation only, selected for perpetuation?”—our masters reply in the negative. No; Devachan is no monotonous condition, in which some one or even two or more moments of earthly sensations are indefinitely perpetuated—stretched so to say, throughout æons. For, this would be contrary to all analogies and antagonistic to the law of cause and effect under which results are proportioned to antecedent energies. There are two fields of causal manifestations—the objective and subjective. The grosser energies—those which operate in the denser condition of matter—manifest objectively in the next physical life, their outcome being the new personality of each birth marshalling within the grand cycle of the evoluting individuality. It is but the moral and spiritual activities that find their sphere of effects in Devachan. And thought and fancy being limitless, how can it be argued for one moment that there is any thing like monotony in the state of Devachan? Few are the men whose lives were so utterly destitute of feeling, love, or of a more or less intense predilection for some one line of thought as to be made unfit for a proportionate period of Devachanic experience,—beyond their earthly life. So, for instance, while the vices, physical and sensual attractions, say, of a great philosopher, but a bad friend, and a selfish man—may result in the birth of a new and still greater intellect, but at the same time a most miserable man, reaping the Karmic effects of all the causes produced by the “old” being and whose make-up was inevitable from the preponderating proclivities of that being in the preceding birth, the intermedial period between the two physical births cannot be—in nature’s exquisitely well adjusted laws—but a hiatus of unconsciousness. There can be no such dreary blank as kindly promised, or rather implied by Christian Protestant theology to the “departed souls,” which, between death and “resurrection” have to hang on in space, in mental catalepsy awaiting the “Day of Judgment.” Causes produced by mental and spiritual energy being far greater and more important than those that are created by physical impulses—their effects have to be—for weal or woe—proportionately as great. Lives on this earth or other earths, affording no proper field for such effects, and every labourer being entitled to his own harvest—they have to expand in—either Devachan or Avitchi.1 Bacon, for instance, whom a poet called—
“The brightest, Wisest, meanest of mankind”
—might re-appear in his next incarnation as a greedy money-getter, with extraordinary intellectual capacities. But, however great the latter, they would find no proper field in which that particular line of thought pursued during his previous life-time by the founder of modern philosophy could reap all its dues. It would be but the astute lawyer, the corrupt attorney-general, the ungrateful friend, and the dishonest Lord-chancellor who might find, led on by his Karma, a congenial new soil in the body of the money-lender, and re-appear as a new Shylock. But where would Bacon, the incomparable thinker, with whom philosophical inquiry upon the most profound problems of nature was his “first and last, and only love,” where would this “intellectual giant of his race”—once disrobed of his lower nature—go to? Have all the effects of that magnificent intellect to vanish and disappear? Certainly not. Thus his moral and spiritual qualities would also have to find a field in which their energies could expand themselves. Devachan is such field. Hence—all the great plans of moral reform, of intellectual research into abstract principles of nature, all the divine, spiritual aspirations that had so filled the brightest part of his life, would, in Devachan, come to fruition; and the abstract entity, known in the preceding birth as Francis Bacon, and that may be known in its subsequent re-incarnation as a despised usurer—that Bacon’s own creation, his Frankenstein, the son of his Karma—shall in the meanwhile occupy itself in this inner world, also of its own preparation, in enjoying the effects of the grand beneficial, spiritual causes sown in life. It would live a purely and spiritually conscious existence—a dream of realistic vividness—until Karma being satisfied in that direction and the ripple of force reaching the edge of its sub-cyclic basin, the being should move into its next area of causes—either in this same world or another according to his stage of progression. Therefore, there is “a change of occupation,” It continual change—in Devachan. For that dream-life is but the fruition, the harvest time of those psychic seedgerms dropped from the tree of physical existence in our moments of dream and hope; fancy-glimpses of bliss and happiness stifled in an ungrateful social soil, blooming in the rosy dawn of Devachan, and ripening under its ever fructifying sky. If man had but one single moment of ideal experience, not even then could it be, as erroneously supposed, the indefinite prolongation of that “single moment.” That one note struck from the lyre of life would form the key-note of the beings’ subjective state and work out into numberless harmonic tones and semi-tones of psychic phantasmagoria. There, all unrealized hopes, aspirations, dreams—become fully realized, and the dreams of the objective become the realities of the subjective existence. And there, behind the curtain of Maya, its vaporous and deceptive appearances are perceived by the Initiate, who has learned the great secret how to penetrate thus deep into the Arcana of Being. . . . . . .
Objectors of that kind will be simply postulating an incongruity: an intercourse of entities in Devachan which applies only to the mutual relationship of physical existence! Two sympathetic souls, both disembodied, will each work out its own Devachanic sensations, making the other a sharer in its subjective bliss. This will be as real to them, naturally, as though both were yet on this earth. Nevertheless, each is dissociated from the other as regards personal or corporeal association. While the latter is the only of its kind that is recognized by our earth experience as an actual intercourse, for the Devachanee it would be not only some thing unreal but could have no existence for it in any sense, not even as a delusion: a physical body or even a Mayavi-rupa remaining to its spiritual senses as invisible as it is itself to the physical senses of those who loved it best on earth. Thus even though one of the “sharers” were alive and utterly unconscious of that intercourse in his waking state, still every dealing with him would be to the Devachanee an absolute reality. And what actual companionship could there ever be other than the purely idealistic one as above described, between two subjective entities which are not even as material as that etherial body-shadow—the Mayavi-rupa? To object to this on the ground that one is thus “cheated by nature” and to call it “a delusive sensation of enjoyment which has no reality” is to show oneself utterly unfit to comprehend the conditions of life and being outside of our material existence. For how can the same distinction be made in Devachan—i.e. outside of the conditions of earth-life between what we call a reality, and a factitious or an artificial counterfeit of the same, in this, our world? The same principle cannot apply to the two sets of conditions. Is it conceivable that what we call a reality in our embodied, physical state will exist under the same conditions as an actuality for a disembodied entity? On earth, man is dual—in the sense of being a thing of matter and a thing of spirit; hence the natural distinction made by his mind—the analyst of his physical sensations and spiritual perceptions—between an actuality and a fiction: though, even in this life the two groups of faculties are constantly equilibrating each other, each group when dominant seeing as fiction or delusion what the other believe to be most real. But in Devachan our Ego has ceased to be dualistic, in the above sense, and become a spiritual, mental entity. That which was a fiction, a dream in life, and which had its being but in the region of “fancy” becomes under the new conditions of existence—the only possible reality. Thus, for us, to postulate the possibility of any other reality for a Devachanee is to maintain an absurdity, a monstrous fallacy, an idea unphilosophical to the last degree. The actual is that which is acted or performed de facto: “the reality of a thing is proved by its actuality.” And the suppositious and artificial having no possible existence in that devachanic state, the logical sequence is that every thing in it is actual and real. For, again whether overshadowing the five principles during the life of the personality, or entirely separated from the grosser principles by the dissolution of the body—the sixth principle, or our “Spiritual Soul,” has no substance,—it is ever Arupa; nor is it confined to one place with a limited horizon of perceptions around it. Therefore whether in or out of its mortal body, it is ever distinct, and free from its limitations; and if we call its devachanic experiences “a cheating of nature,” then we should never be allowed to call “reality” any of those purely abstract feelings that belong entirely to, and are reflected and assimilated by, our higher soul, such, for instance, as as ideal perception of the beautiful, profound philanthropy, love, etc., as well as every other purely spiritual sensation that during life fills our inner being with either immense joy or pain.
“Devachan” is of course a state not a locality, as much as “Avitchi”—its antithesis [which please not to confound with Hell.] Esoteric Buddhist philosophy has three principal lokas so-called—namely (1) Kama loka; (2) Rupa-loka; and (3) Arupa loka; or in their literal translation and meaning— world of desires or passions, of unsatisfied earthly cravings—the abode of “Shells” and Victims, of Elementaries and Suicides; [2J the world of Forms, i.e., of shadows more spiritual, having form and objectivity but no substance; and [3J the formless world, or rather the world of no-Form, the incorporeal, since its denizens can have neither body, shape, nor colour for us mortals, and in the sense that we give to these terms. These are the three spheres of ascending spirituality in which the several groups of subjective and semi-subjective entities find their attractions. The time having not yet come to speak of the latter two, we will merely notice the first one, namely the Kama-loka. Thence it is, that all, but the remaining shells, the suicides and the victims of premature violent deaths, go according to their attractions and powers either into the Devachanic or the Avitchi state, which two states form the numberless sub-divisions of “Rupa” and “Arupa” lokas; that is to say, that such states not only vary in degree, or in their presentation to the subject entity as regards form, colour, etc.,—but that there is an infinite scale of such states, in their progressive spirituality and intensity of feeling; from the lowest in the Rupa, up to the highest and the most exalted in the Arupu-loka. The student must bear in mind that personality is the synonym for limitation; and that the more selfish, the more contracted the person’s ideas, the closer will he cling to the lower spheres or being, the longer loiter on the plane of selfish social intercourse.
To use an antiphrasis—“Avitchi” is a state of the most ideal spiritual wickedness, something akin to the state of Lucifer, so superbly described by Milton. Not many though, are there who can reach it, as the thoughtful reader will perceive. And if it is urged that since there is Devachan for nearly all; for the good, the bad, and the indifferent, the ends of harmony and equilibrium are frustrated, and the law of Retribution and of impartial, implacable Justice hardly met and satisfied by such a comparative scarcity if not absence of its antithesis, then the answer will show that it is not so. “Evil is the dark son or Earth (matter) and Good—the fair daughter of Heaven” (or Spirit) says the Chinese philosopher; hence the place of punishment for most of our sins is the Earth—its birth place and play-ground. There is more apparent and relative, than actual evil even on earth, and it is not given to the hoi polloi to reach the fatal grandeur and eminence of a “Satan” every day. See foot-notes in the article “Death,” by Eliphas Levi (October Theosophist, Vol. III,) the editorial answer to the article “Death and Immortality” (November Theosophist, p. 28); and the words used by the author, when speaking of those who are immortal in good by identification with God (or Good), and immortal in evil by identification with Satan (Evil). Although the general rule applies but to “Sorcerers,” i.e. adepts in Black Magic, real Initiates and sons of Evil, generally known as “the Brothers of the Shadow,” yet there are exceptions to that rule as to every other. Occasionally men reaching the apex of evil become “unconscious” sorcerers; they identify themselves with “Satan,” and then Avitchi becomes their Fate. Happy they are when thereby they avoid a worse punishment—a loka from which indeed, no traveller—either returns or, once within its dark precincts—pursues his journey!
1. The lowest states of Devachan interchain with those of Avitchi.