THEOSOPHY, Vol. 51, No. 6, April, 1963
(Pages 145-147; Size: 9K)


[Article number (6) in this Department]

In The Secret Doctrine I, 196, H. P. Blavatsky says: "The Astral Light ... is dual and bisexual. ... The female portion ... is tainted, in one sense, with matter, is indeed matter, and therefore is evil already. It is the life-principle of every living creature...." This seems to give a metaphysical basis for such a statement as Martin Luther's: "The carnal man ... though he may work good, yet he has no taste for it ... always having the contrary desire." In what ways, if any, does the Theosophic concept cited differ from the Christian dogma of "original sin"?

Such a question serves as one of many occasions for reminding ourselves that no single statement of H. P. Blavatsky's -- or of any Theosophical teacher's -- is meant to be isolated as a clearly defined tenet. Rather, it is by the often-paradoxical interplay of a great number of statements on the same subject that the student is encouraged to explore for meaning.

Bearing in mind that the Theosophical emphasis is always Socratic in respect to the problem of evil -- that evil is primarily a state of ignorance, rather than a seat of eternal corruption -- we have also to seek out an elaboration of what is meant by the "duality" of the astral light. In the broadest sense, the astral light may be regarded as a compendium of all prior karmic causation on the physical and psychic planes, and thus summarizes the "good" and "evil" of all past action. It is the higher manas that creates new currents in the astral light which transforms energies, patterns, and prototypes. But the purely psychic man is affected by, rather than affecting, this medium of universal influence. And it is what H.P.B. calls the "shadowy side" of the astral light which perpetuates the Maya, and to which "evil" adheres:

The finite world has to be satisfied with the shadow alone, which its actions draw upon humanity and which men attract and force to activity. Hence, while it is the universal Cause in its unmanifested unity and infinity, the Astral light becomes, with regard to Mankind, simply the effects of the causes produced by men in their sinful lives. It is not its bright denizens -- whether they are called Spirits of Light or Darkness -- that produce Good or Evil, but mankind itself that determines the unavoidable action and reaction in the great magic agent. (S.D. II, 512.)
The lower aspect of the astral light, then, represents the karmic residue of past æons. At the beginning of any period of manifestation, this residue is "evil already," because its influence tends to the exploitation, rather than the raising, of matter -- thus increasing "carnal" involvement. And how does this relate to "original sin" and the "carnal man" of Luther? Does the former concept, which implies that each man sins and suffers defects because of the first sinful choice made by the first man, have the same significance as the so-called "evil" aspect of matter? We are constantly reminded that beneath the Theosophical expression of duality there is a fundamental unity, that the two are in fact aspects of the One in manifestation. Luther's carnal man, on the contrary, is a constant liability for his soul -- a "cross" to be borne. We find no suggestion of the possibility, as expressed by William Q. Judge, of "raising the entire mass of manifested matter up to the stature, nature, and dignity of conscious god-hood." Hence, if matter is evil, it is irremediably so, according to the theological interpretation. In Theosophy matter is characterized as "evil" only when the illusion or Maya which it represents is accorded the status of reality. As H.P.B. says:
There never was an original sin, but only an abuse of physical intelligence -- the psychic being guided by the animal, and both putting out the light of the spiritual. (S.D. II, 413.)
It is natural for the carnal man to wish to fulfill his desires without regard for moral values, for matter is characterized by an unawareness of these values. But because "every atom of matter [is] impregnated with the divine influx of the soul of the world," it is possible so to direct or guide its use that it becomes a more appropriate and responsive vehicle for the expression of the indwelling ego.

This, as H.P.B. shows, is the true story of Prometheus. The man who essays to capture the godlike fire will inevitably find vultures tearing at his vitals; he no longer accepts his status quo, and therefore all the tamasic forces, reactionary in nature, stand between him and the culmination of his unearthly quest. H.P.B. speaks of "the restless insatiability of the lower passions and desires" -- stimulated to the most intense activity in the face of self-denial or self-sacrifice. Yet the "evil" of the lower kamic influences can be overcome:

Prometheus having endowed man, according to Plato's "Protagoras," with that "wisdom which ministers to physical well-being," but the lower aspect of manas of the animal (Kama) having remained unchanged, instead of "an untainted mind, heaven's first gift" (Æschylus), there was created the eternal vulture of the ever unsatisfied desire, of regret and despair coupled with "the dreamlike feebleness that fetters the blind race of mortals," unto the day when Prometheus is released by his heaven-appointed deliverer, Herakles. (S.D. II, 412.)
The key to Theosophic emphasis in all the great scriptures is revealed by the intimation that "evil" is such only until it is perceived to be the result of illusory perception. For Buddha, the word of extreme derogation was "foolish." It is the foolish or ignorant man, one caught in the grip of Maya, who is willing to destroy others for his own self-interest, and who thereby destroys himself. The "evil" of the astral light affects mankind as do the lunar-impelled tides -- not with an original malevolent force of its own, but simply through man's bondage to the chains of reaction.

Lao-tse says: "All things alike do their work, and then we see them subside.... This reversion is an eternal law. To know that law is to be enlightened. Not to know it, is misery and calamity." In other words, we are animated by all the influences of space which represent previous linkage to ignorance and to the habits of exploitation. From the standpoint of the lower psychic man, here is the "animating principle." But man as manas is not animated "by" the host of past influences; he also animates, if he wills. Every step in the transcending of ignorance changes the currents in the astral light so that, for the æons to come, "the lower passions and desires" become gradually less "insatiable."

COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:


Antiquity imagined that Hours were the daughters of Justice -- a myth of profound meaning. An ideally harmonious life would be one whose every day meant, by virtue of the adjusted impulses of time and of the will, a step forward, a kind of forgetting of things past, a kind of linking with other things which would, in turn, prepare the way for those to come, a slight but precise bend which would help to determine the total curve of existence. 


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