THEOSOPHY, Vol. 45, No. 7, May, 1957
(Pages 311-312; Size: 7K)
(Number 4 of a 7-part series)


[The short articles comprising this series are derivations from characteristic platform talks given during the years 1915-35. As often as was practicable, the words of the speaker have been used -- hoping thus to convey some of the force originally imparted to the ideas.]
ONE of the greatest difficulties in the early study of Theosophy is to see clearly that unfamiliar words often connote familiar concepts, and that ordinary words may denote unusual meanings. This makes for mental confusion, so that part of the preliminary study of Theosophy consists in a careful defining of terms.

Take, for example, form. In nontechnical usage, form and shape are interchangeable; and so accustomed are we to this connotation that it is difficult to dissociate the two. How can we make the idea of "thought-forms" or "spiritual forms" mean anything to us in terms of shape? What, for instance, is the "shape" of a thought? the shape of a feeling? the shape of a choice?

So we see that form as used in Theosophy does not connote shape, the external appearance, but rather denotes the essence of form, or limitation. It makes no difference whether the limitations are self-imposed or imposed from without; it makes no difference how large or small the form, how simple or complex. Form of any kind means limitation; and the forms may be physical or mental or spiritual. On the other hand, form also implies substance; and we shall discover that whereas we can think of form without shape, we cannot think of form without substance of some sort. A metaphysical form, then, must be of metaphysical substance.

Another familiar word encountered in Theosophy is "principle," but it is here a "term" that does not necessarily mean any of the ideas we ordinarily associate with it. Theosophically speaking, a principle is the basis by virtue of which alone any particular form is possible. A principle is a universal form, more often called a "state" or "condition." It follows, then, that every form of every kind -- spiritual, intellectual, or physical -- originated in a principle of formation. In Theosophical teaching, this principle of formation is what is meant by the word "matter," or, as the Hindus say, Prakriti.

Now a mind is a metaphysical form made up of metaphysical matter. In other words, the principle of formation called "matter" applies metaphysically just as well as physically. Behind every mind is the principle from which all minds are derived. In Theosophy, this principle is called Intelligence, Mahat, Universal Ideation, or simply Mind in the abstract. So Mind means the principle of perception.

We have now two great classes of forms derived from a principle of formation and from a principle of perception. We have to go on, however, to another definition: of Beings. Behind any and every "being" there is a principle of Being called Spirit or the Monad. Therefore we can reduce all physical forms to their source in matter -- the principle of formation; all intelligences to their source -- the principle of Being, named Spirit.

That which limits Intelligence in the lowest forms (what we call the "elements") is the narrowness of their range of perception. The power of formation and the power of choice are there, but both are rigidly restricted by the narrowness of perception. As the range of perception increases, beings mount the evolutionary ladder. That is, they are embodied in increasingly complex forms and exhibit a wider range of choice, until the body of man is the most complex form in this universe. There is not a form (remember our definition of form) in the elemental, mineral, vegetable, or animal kingdoms that is not found also in the body of man. In the body of a single man is every form of existence in this whole universe. Yet how varied is the range of perception and choice in men! A Mahatma's power of perception and choice covers the entire manifested universe. That is, his power of action or expression comprehends his control of any form -- spiritual, intellectual, or physical. A Mahatma is the highest embodiment.

We have now reduced the universe to a universal trinity: the principle of formation, the principle of perception, and the principle of choice. These principles are nothing in the world but the three periodical forms or manifestations of one and the same eternal life. The interactions and interrelations of these three universal principles when regarded as the operation of the One Life are called "Karma." It now becomes possible to see the trinity behind all evolution, yet to see that this trinity is not three separate realities, but three phases or aspects of the One Life. To see Karma thus, as the process of interaction and interrelation of the universal trinity, helps us also to realize its complete impersonality.

Next article:
Seeds and Seedlings
Occultism -- True and False
(Article 5 of 7)

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