enumeration of the seven principles
Dec 06, 1993 01:04 PM
Your question about Atman is a good one, and it may take a few
discussions to present my point of view. Here at work, I'll try one
or two further notes on the subject, and then may go to some quotes
from home later in the week. In this note, I'll talk about the seven
principles and something of the place of the other, the higher ones.
When we read of the principles of consciousness, the first description
that we encounter is that of the seven *manifest* principles, the
aspects or elements of our consciousness that make up us as *beings*.
What we know of ourselves, in existence, is by way of these principles,
which clothe themselves with materials from the various parts of
nature, the shandhas.
The enumeration of the principles depends upon the particular point
that is being emphasized. There are two ways to picture our nature:
as a fixed self or as a stream of consciousness.
Taking the point of view of a fixed self, we have the eternal Self
(existing for the duration of this eternity, this manvantara). That
Self, Atman, clothes itself in various elements of consciousness, down
to and including a physical form, the Sthula Sharara. So an enumeration
with this point of view in mind would count the seven priniples from
Atman to the physical.
Taking the point of view of a stream of consciousness, we have the
source, the fountainhead of the stream, the Auric Egg, through which
all pours forth, reaching down to the Linga Sharira, the perceptions.
But Atman is not included, because there is no such thing as a fixed,
eternal Self, and the physical too is excluded, as not really being
an aspect of cousciousness.
Either enumeration breaks down our nature according to a different
way of looking at it. They are both true from their respective points of
view. But from yet a third point of view, though, everything should be
included. The breakdown should include The Auric Egg, Atman, and
everything else down and through the physical.
When we consider Atman, it might be argued that it is part of our
nature, or not part of our nature, because it is universal, shared by
all, an all-embracing form of cousciousness. It may be universal, but
it still is part of ourselves, we still have it as a portion of the
totality of our natures, it too is necessary to make us up, as we are,
and so I'd call it one of our principles. The principles are the
ingredients of a full, complete consciousness, and it is lacking
without some of them. This includes the principles that pertain to
consciousness that is oblivious to any sense of personal selfhood.
The universal sense of Self that we acquire from Atman, comes from
the essential nature of that being whose embodied existence provides or
allows for the existence of our world. Our world, or on a greater scale,
our universe, is the embodiment of a greater being, and we all partake
of the nature of his consciousness, of his experience of life.
Now when we talk about Atman as a sense of universal self, I'd be
careful about the word *universal*, because in manifestation there *is*
no absolute universal. No matter how big, how embracive, how
far-reaching a manifestation, a state, a scope of consciousness, there
is always something bigger. When we say that Atman is *universal*,
we mean it in the same sense as we mean the term *absolute*, which is
relative to the world or universe in which we exist.
But we are talking about our experience of *existence*, of manifest
being, and not of what we are constituted of apart from any embodiment.
We read of ten or twelve principles of consciousness, with the ones
higher that the manifest seven relating to an unmanifest state of
being, or rather to a state of non-being. These principles, above
Atman, have their own essential natures too, and are derived from our
supreme sense of self, Paramatman, the fount of all that is and all
that is not, the ultimate source of all individual Monads.
Coming into birth in a world, we first clothe ourselves in Atman, in
the *universal* consciousness as it pertains to the unique nature of
that world, and then further clothe ourselves in the remaining lower
principles. Atman itself is *apparently* colorless, in the same sense
as, for a fish in a tank, something matching the color of the water in
the fishtank would appear to be colorless. And we don't have a sense
of any individual nature to our consciousness until we also clothe it
in Buddhi as well. Coming into birth in a world, we clothe ourselves,
we build up our principles, in the materials of that world, including
the Atmic and Buddhic materials.
Now we come to some important questions. What is it to us when we
don't exist, when we are not clothed in the seven principles, apart
from participation in manifestation in a world? Whare are the stages
or degrees of non-being, above and beyond any manifest existence?
Where in our natures is the treasure of karmic experience, from the
previous mahamanvantaras, experience that makes us up but has not had
a chance to be evolved forth in the Monad as we now know ourselves to
be? And how are we rooted in the Unknowable, in Tat?
We are now facing the distinction between the seven principles of
manifestation and those of the unmanifest. And I would say that the
unmanifest is not merely a matter of *relativity,* where something has
the appearance of being unmanifest from a lower plane's point of view,
but is manifest in its own right, manifest on its own, a higher plane.
I would disagree with that. I would consider that to be a mental trick
that we might play to avoid dealing directly with having to understand
what it truly means to be unmanifest.
We know that the principles of consciousness are all required to make
up our full consciousness. And I would say that the higher principles,
those that relate to the unmanifest aspects of nature, are also
essential ingredients, and are also always present, always an element
of our every experience, even though we may be unaware of them.
There are parts of our consciousness that reach far deeper than the
sense of personal self, parts that link us to the greatest, the deepest,
the most sublime aspects of the mystery of being. And these are also
principles, ingredients, even though they are themselves unmanifest.
How do we explain and talk about the unmanifest? How do we show
attributes and distinctions between things that do not exist? It
certainly is not as easy to do as to study the seven manifest
principles. But we have been given the keys to unlock mysteries that
go beyond the most plainly-stated truths in our theosophical books, and
I'd suggest that we apply them and see what we find.
The first step is analysis and logic, where we apply the core concepts
of Theosophy and see how they fit together. Then we apply them, the
keys, to the ideas that we would explore. Do the new ideas ring true?
Do they seem obvious, simple, plain, yet resound in our minds in their
brilliance? Do we find the ideas inside ourselves as well, where there
is also a form of personal experience to their contemplation? We can
consider all of this as we approach the subject.
We go the first step--a very important step--with scholarship and
the trained use of the intellect. We need clarity, accuracy, and the
never-ending checking of our views against the Teachings. But we also
use both intuition, direct mental insight, and what might be called
*contextual memory*, where we bring up a whole mass of thought and
associated ideas when we study one of the Teachings. Everything in
the Teachings is inter-related, and we bring much more into our
awareness, when we contemplate a simple Truth, than the simple meaning
of that Truth, by itself.
Eldon Tucker (firstname.lastname@example.org)
[Back to Top]
Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application