MR. Sinnett’s book Esoteric Buddhism has done a great deal towards bringing before the West the Eastern philosophy regarding man and his constitution, but it has also served to perpetuate the use of a word that is misleading and incorrect. In that work on p. 61 he states, “Seven distinct principles are recognized by Esoteric Science as entering into the constitution of man,” and then gives his scheme of division thus, The body, Vitality, Astral Body, Animal Soul, Human Soul, Spiritual Soul, and seventh, Spirit or Atma. Now if Spirit be, as the whole philosophy declares, in all and through all, it is erroneous to call it one of the series. This very early led to the accusation that we believed in seven distinct spirits in man. It always leads to misconception, and directly tends to preventing our understanding fully that the Atma includes, and is the substratum of, all the others. In India it caused a protracted and, at times, heated discussion between the adherents of the rigid seven-fold classification of Esoteric Buddhism and several learned and unlearned Hindus who supported a four-fold or five-fold division. During that debate the chief Hindu controverter, while holding to a different system, admitted the existence of “a real esoteric seven-fold classification,” which of course cannot be given to the public. Mr. Sinnett also evidently made a mistake when he said that the first mentioned division is the esoteric one.
Now it would seem that many of these misconceptions and differences could be prevented if a word were adopted and invariably used that would clearly express the idea intended to be conveyed. As the prime declaration of theosophy is that all these so-called bodies and appearances are for the purpose of enabling the ONE—the Atma—to fully comprehend nature and “bring about the aim of the soul,” why not denominate all that it uses for that purpose as vehicles? This name is strictly in accord with all parts of the philosophy. It is in effect the same as Upadhi, or basis, foundation, carrier. By its use we make no error when we say that theosophy declares there is Atma, which works with and through six vehicles. Strictly, the body is a vehicle for the astral body, it for the next, and so on up to Atma, which is therefore seen to be all and in all, as is clearly declared in Bhagavad-Gita.
This change, or to some other than “principles,” should be adopted by all theosophists, for every day there is more inquiry by new minds, and theosophists themselves, indeed, need to use their words with care when dealing with such subjects. Or if greater clearness is desired, let us say that there is one principle which acts through six vehicles. The scheme will then stand thus:
Atma (spirit), one principle, indivisible.
Its vehicles are:
|Kama Rupa||Animal Soul|
|Linga Sharira||Astral Body|
|Prana or Jiva||Vitality|
Names have power, and if we go on talking of 7 principles when in truth there is but one, we are continually clouding our conception of theosophic truth.