Manas – The Mystery of Mind

Manas, Manasic, Higher Manas, Lower Manas, Manas Principle, Theosophy



What is the mind? This question has perplexed many people for many thousands of years.

The world has descended into such a pitifully materialistic state that mind and brain are often considered to be the same thing nowadays. H. P. Blavatsky describes this as “the pernicious Western practice of subordinating consciousness, or regarding it as a “by-product” of molecular motion.” (“The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 1, p. 327)

The teachings of Theosophy go into tremendous depth regarding the nature, origin, and destiny of mind. In a brief article such as this, we can only hope to touch the surface of the matter but there is one thing which is so vitally important that it must be clearly stated right from the start . . .

The mind and the brain are not one and the same. The brain is only an organ, a material vehicle, through which the mind is able to function and operate on the physical plane. The mind does not require or use the brain when it functions on other, non-physical planes of existence. The brain only lasts for the duration of one lifetime but the mind continues on. The mind and the ability and action of thinking are something metaphysical, not physical or material.

In Theosophy, the mind is often referred to by its Sanskrit name of Manas. This is actually the origin and root of the word “Man” and thus indicates how Man – the human being – is by his very nature and essence a mind and a thinker.

In order to view the mind in its right perspective and to more accurately understand its connection and relations with the other parts of our being, let’s take a brief look at the seven principles or components which comprise our sevenfold nature. Their Sanskrit names are given here along with a brief definition and explanation in English from HPB’s book “The Key to Theosophy.”

7th Principle – Atma – “Spirit.” – “One with the Absolute, as its radiation.”

6th Principle – Buddhi – “The Spiritual Soul.” – “The vehicle of pure universal spirit.”

5th Principle – Manas – “a dual principle in its functions.” – “Mind, Intelligence: which is the higher human mind, whose light, or radiation, links the MONAD, for the lifetime, to the mortal man.” – “The future state and the Karmic destiny of man depend on whether Manas gravitates more downward to Kama rupa, the seat of the animal passions, or upwards to Buddhi, the Spiritual Ego. In the latter case, the higher consciousness of the individual Spiritual aspirations of mind (Manas), assimilating Buddhi, are absorbed by it and form the Ego, which goes into Devachanic bliss.”

4th Principle – Kama – “The seat of animal desires and passions.” – “This is the centre of the animal man, where lies the line of demarcation which separates the mortal man from the immortal entity.”

3rd Principle – Prana – “Life, or Vital principle.” – “Necessary only to [Sthula Sharira, Linga Sharira, and Kama] and the functions of the lower Manas, which embrace all those limited to the (physical) brain.”

2nd Principle – Linga Sharira – “Astral body.” – “The Double, the phantom body.”

1st Principle – Sthula Sharira – “Physical body.” – “Is the vehicle of all the other “principles” during life.”

Further information and elucidation regarding the Seven Principles can be found in the article titled The Sevenfold Nature of Man and, in more detail and depth, in Understanding Our Seven Principles. For now it will suffice just to repeat one explanatory paragraph from the former article:

“In the teachings of Theosophy, H. P. Blavatsky and the Masters describe the human being as consisting of Seven Principles, divided into a Higher Triad and a Lower Quaternary. These seven principles or seven parts of our nature are the divine part, the spiritual part, the intellectual part, the passional part, the vital part, the astral part, and the physical part. The first three of these comprise the Higher Triad and they last forever, while the lower four last just for one lifetime and are new in each lifetime that we have.”

Manas, the Mind Principle, is the connecting link between our pure, eternal, spiritual nature and our mortal, physical, material, personal nature.

Together, the 7th and 6th Principles are referred to as the Monad (literally meaning “primary unit” or “ultimate unit”) and may be described as our Universal Self. The 4th, 3rd, 2nd, and 1st Principles may be collectively described as our personal self. Manas, the 5th Principle, is our individual self, and stands in between the two, having full freedom of choice and responsibility as to whether to ascend in consciousness towards its Universal Self and thus merge itself with its Divine Source or to allow itself to sink downwards in consciousness and live as the temporary, illusory, personal self.

In other words, it is continually presented with the choice between spirituality and sensuality and has to choose one or the other, since the spiritual nature and the sensual nature can never and will never mix or meet. Manas cannot go in both directions at once. It can only either go up or down . . . up towards spirituality or down towards sensuality. Bulwer Lytton echoed this ancient and timeless truth when saying that the soul can reflect both heaven and earth but never both at the same time. Whichever one it chooses will shape and determine its destiny and its future evolutionary progress.

“The Self of Matter and the SELF of Spirit can never meet. One of the twain must disappear; there is no place for both.”

– “The Voice of the Silence” p. 13, translated by H. P. Blavatsky from The Book of the Golden Precepts

“The Mind, which we have agreed to call the Human Soul . . . is a compound in its highest form, of spiritual aspirations, volitions and divine love; and in its lower aspect, of animal desires and terrestrial passions imparted to it by its associations with its vehicle, the seat of all these. It thus stands as a link and a medium between the animal nature of man which its higher reason seeks to subdue, and his divine spiritual nature to which it gravitates, whenever it has the upper hand in its struggle with the inner animal. . . . It is thus the mind alone – the sole link and medium between the man of earth and the Higher Self – that is the only sufferer, and which is in the incessant danger of being dragged down by those passions that may be reawakened at any moment.”

– H. P. Blavatsky, “Occultism versus the Occult Arts”

This is important: the mind alone is “the sole link and medium between the man of earth and the Higher Self.” So what is this mind, this thinker, this individual “something” within us?

According to Theosophy, the mind is the soul. The mind – specifically the “higher mind” or Higher Manas – and the human soul are one and the same thing. It is also referred to as our permanent individuality, in contrast with our present personality, and as our Ego, using the term “Ego” in its original and literal sense of meaning the true “I” of our being. It is this Mind-Soul-Ego which incarnates and reincarnates, from life to life and body to body, on a long journey of progressive evolution and inner unfoldment.

“The “principles,” as already said, save the body [i.e. Sthula Sharira], the life [i.e. Prana], and the astral eidolon [i.e. Linga Sharira], all of which disperse at death, are simply aspects and states of consciousness. There is but one real man, enduring through the cycle of life and immortal in essence, if not in form, and this is Manas, the Mind-man or embodied Consciousness.”

– H. P. Blavatsky, “The Key to Theosophy” p. 100

HPB also refers to Manas as the “individual man,” the “divine man,” “the Spiritual thinking Ego,” “the thinking, conscious EGO,” and “our Manasic EGO,” adding that –

“The re-incarnating Principle, or that which we call the divine man, is indestructible throughout the life cycle: indestructible as a thinking Entity, and even as an ethereal form. . . . Manas is a “principle,” and yet it is an “Entity” and individuality or Ego. He is a “God,” and yet he is doomed to an endless cycle of incarnations, for each of which he is made responsible, and for each of which he has to suffer. . . . In its very essence it is THOUGHT . . . individualised “Thought” . . . called in its plurality Manasa putra, “the Sons of the (Universal) mind.”

– H. P. Blavatsky, “The Key to Theosophy” p. 177, 183, 184

“The brain [is] the mind’s vehicle . . . Mind is distinctly – in its Manvantaric functions at least – an Entity. Such is the opinion of all the Eastern Idealists. . . . mind is a term perfectly synonymous with Soul. Those who deny the existence of the latter will of course contend that there is no such thing as consciousness apart from brain, and at death consciousness ceases. Occultists, on the contrary, affirm that consciousness exists after death, and that then only the real consciousness and freedom of the Ego commences, when it is no longer impeded by terrestrial matter.”

– H. P. Blavatsky, “Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge” p. 28, 29

In the chapter titled “Manas” in his book “The Ocean of Theosophy,” William Quan Judge tells us that “The fifth principle is Manas . . . and is usually translated Mind. Other names have been given to it, but it is the knower, the perceiver, the thinker. . . . Manas, or the Thinker is the reincarnating being, the immortal who carries the results and values of all the different lives lived on earth or elsewhere. Its nature becomes dual as soon as it is attached to a body. . . . In Manas the thoughts of all lives are stored. . . . the total quantity of life thoughts makes up the stream or thread of a life’s meditation – “that upon which the heart was set” – and is stored in Manas, to be brought out again at any time in whatever life the brain and bodily environments are similar to those used in engendering that class of thoughts. It is Manas which sees the objects presented to it by the bodily organs and the actual organs within. When the open eye receives a picture on the retina, the whole scene is turned into vibrations in the optic nerves which disappear into the brain, where Manas is enabled to perceive them as idea. And so with every other organ or sense.”

The inner Ego, who reincarnates, taking on body after body, storing up the impressions of life after life, gaining experience and adding it to the divine Ego, suffering and enjoying through an immense period of years, is the fifth principleManas – not united to Buddhi. This is the permanent individuality which gives to every man the feeling of being himself and not some other; that which through all the changes of the days and nights from youth to the end of life makes us feel one identity through all the period; it bridges the gap made by sleep; in like manner it bridges the gap made by the sleep of death. It is this, and not our brain, that lifts us above the animal. The depth and variety of the brain convolutions in man are caused by the presence of Manas, and are not the cause of mind.”

“When the period of rest after death is ended Manas is bound by innumerable electrical magnetic threads to earth by reason of the thoughts of the last life, and therefore by desire, for it was desire that caused so many thoughts and ignorance of the true nature of things. An understanding of this doctrine of man being really a thinker and made of thought will make clear all the rest in relation to incarnation and reincarnation. The body of the inner man is made of thought, and this being so it must follow that if the thoughts have more affinity for earth-life than for life elsewhere a return to life here is inevitable.”

In the later chapter on “Arguments Supporting Reincarnation,” Mr. Judge says, “Each man feels and knows that he has an individuality of his own, a personal identity which bridges over not only the gaps made by sleep but also those sometimes supervening on temporary lesions in the brain. This identity never breaks from beginning to end of life in the normal person, and only the persistence and eternal character of the soul will account for it.”

Indeed, a lump of mere matter such as the brain can hardly be reasonably assumed to produce such an unshakable and enduring sense of identity and individuality! With this in mind, some atheists and materialists have asserted that our permanent feeling of “I am I” – or what Hinduism calls “Ahamkara,” “I-ness” – is actually just a delusion based upon our collective agglomeration of memories and recollections.

Mr. Judge challenges this theory: “Ever since we began to remember, we know that our personal identity has not failed us, no matter how bad may be our memory. This disposes of the argument that identity depends on recollection, for the reason that if it did depend alone on recollection we should each day have to begin over again, as we cannot remember the events of the past in detail, and some minds remember but little yet feel their personal identity. And as it is often seen that some who remember the least insist as strongly as the others on their personal identity, that persistence of feeling must come from the old and immortal soul.”

Manas is the thinker, the actor, and the creator and experiencer of Karma. Theosophy teaches the ongoing process of evolution throughout all the kingdoms and departments of Nature. It explains that it is a dual or double evolution, both physical and spiritual, outer and inner, external and internal, objective and subjective. The most important and enduring aspect of evolution is not the evolution of physical forms and bodies but the inner evolution of the mental-spiritual entities who dwell within those forms and bodies, learning, experiencing, thinking, and making and facing their Karma, their own self-created destiny.

“What then is the universe for, and for what final purpose is man the immortal thinker here in evolution? It is all for the experience and emancipation of the soul, for the purpose of raising the entire mass of manifested matter up to the stature, nature, and dignity of conscious god-hood. The great aim is to reach self-consciousness; not through a race or a tribe or some favored nation, but by and through the perfecting, after transformation, of the whole mass of matter as well as what we now call soul. Nothing is or is to be left out. The aim for present man is his initiation into complete knowledge, and for the other kingdoms below him that they may be raised up gradually from stage to stage to be in time initiated also. This is evolution carried to its highest power; it is a magnificent prospect; it makes of man a god, and gives to every part of nature the possibility of being one day the same; there is strength and nobility in it, for by this no man is dwarfed and belittled, for no one is so originally sinful that he cannot rise above all sin. Treated from the materialistic position of Science, evolution takes in but half of life; while the religious conception of it is a mixture of nonsense and fear. Present religions keep the element of fear, and at the same time imagine that an Almighty being can think of no other earth but this and has to govern this one very imperfectly. But the old theosophical view makes the universe a vast, complete, and perfect whole.”

– William Q. Judge, “The Ocean of Theosophy” p. 60-61

We ourselves have passed through the mineral kingdom, the vegetable kingdom, and the animal kingdom, prior to reaching the human kingdom in which we are presently evolving. Throughout that incredibly lengthy journey of inner evolution, advancement, and unfoldment, our various “principles” were unfolding and awaking out of their latent state of dormancy at various rates, albeit always extremely gradually.

We can all see that the principle or element of mind is apparent in certain advanced members of the vegetable or plant kingdom, as in the innate intelligence – sometimes even akin to cunning! – shown by different species. Those entities currently evolving in the various forms and species of the animal kingdom also show differing grades of intelligence, although in both cases it is always more of the nature of instinct than intellect. Some animals, particularly those who spend a lot of time with humans, such as domesticated pets, show a certain level of basic emotional intelligence which in many cases comes very close to that possessed by human beings, and in some instances even surpasses it! The faithfulness, sympathy, love, and devoted companionship offered by a dog, for example, is something very special and beautiful, and is lacking amongst the members of the kingdoms below it.

But even still, we cannot say that animals possess individual self-consciousness and self-conscious individuality like we do. The Manasic Principle has not been awakened in them. How did it come to be awakened in us?

“The course of evolution developed the lower principles and produced at last the form of man with a brain of better and deeper capacity than that of any other animal. But this man in form was not man in mind, and needed the fifth principle, the thinking, perceiving one, to differentiate him from the animal kingdom and to confer the power of becoming self-conscious. The monad was imprisoned in these forms, and that monad is composed of Atma and Buddhi; for, without the presence of the monad, evolution could not go forward. Going back for a moment to the time when the races were devoid of mind, the question arises, “who gave the mind, where did it come from, and what is it?” It is the link between the Spirit of God above and the personal below; it was given to the mindless monads by others who had gone all through this process ages upon ages before in other worlds and systems of worlds, and it therefore came from other evolutionary periods which were carried out and completed long before the solar system had begun. This is the theory, strange and unacceptable today, but which must be stated if we are to tell the truth about Theosophy; and this is only handing on what others have said before.”

– William Q. Judge, “The Ocean of Theosophy” p. 53

We must just clarify and explain that the reference to “the Spirit of God above” does not refer to any external, personal, or anthropomorphic God, but rather to our own divine nature, our Higher Self – Atman – which is literally one and the same in essence and identity as Brahman, the Supreme Self, the ONE Absolute Infinite Omnipresent Divine Principle.

In the second volume of “The Secret Doctrine,” p. 81, HPB raises this same question and writes:

“Between man and the animal – whose Monads (or Jivas) are fundamentally identical – there is the impassable abyss of Mentality and Self-consciousness. What is human mind in its higher aspect, whence comes it, if it is not a portion of the essence – and, in some rare cases of incarnation, the very essence – of a higher Being: one from a higher and divine plane? Can man – a god in the animal form – be the product of Material Nature by evolution alone, even as is the animal, which differs from man in external shape, but by no means in the materials of its physical fabric, and is informed by the same, though undeveloped, Monad – seeing that the intellectual potentialities of the two differ as the Sun does from the Glow-worm? And what is it that creates such difference unless man is an animal plus a living god within his physical shell? Let us pause and ask ourselves seriously the question, regardless of the vagaries and sophisms of both the materialistic and the psychological modern sciences.”

Mr. Judge continues, “The mindless men having four elementary principles of Body, Astral Body, Life and Desire, are the unlighted candles that cannot light themselves. The Sons of Wisdom, who are the Elder Brothers of every family of men on any globe, have the light, derived by them from others who reach back, and yet farther back, in endless procession with no beginning nor end. They set fire to the combined lower principles and the Monad, thus lighting up Manas in the new men and preparing another great race for final initiation.” (p. 53-54)

It is an integral part of the Theosophical teaching that each of the Seven Principles of the microcosm (Man) is derived from one of the Seven Principles of the macrocosm (the Universe). This is one of the meanings of the famous esoteric saying “As above, so below; as below, so above,” and “On Earth as it is in Heaven.”

“As man is a seven-fold being so is the universe – the septenary microcosm being to the septenary macrocosm but as the drop of rainwater is to the cloud from whence it dropped and whither in the course of time it will return.”

– Mahatma K.H.

It is said that the mind in man is an individualised ray of the Universal Mind, which may be considered as the Universal 5th Principle. Manas is individualised Mahat. But there is more to it than that and this is where the subject becomes even more complex and mysterious, almost to the point of being too transcendent to express in mere words. We attempted to briefly summarise it in Human Evolution in The Secret Doctrine:

“The “separation of the sexes” occurred first in the Animal Kingdom and afterwards in the Human Kingdom. Observing the new sexual method of reproduction amongst the animals, man now began to do the same. But the “sin of the mindless” occurred. Some of the Lemurians – still without mental consciousness and proper intelligence as yet – procreated with some of “the huge she-animals.” The progeny of this unholy union was “a race of crooked red-hair-covered monsters going on all fours” – “a dumb race to keep the shame untold.” These creatures were the ancestors of our modern day APES. Man is not evolved from the apes but the apes are evolved from man, hence the similarity between the two. All human beings on Earth did pass through the Animal Kingdom in order to reach the Human Kingdom but they did so aeons ago on the Moon Chain and not on our Earth. On this Earth, man preceded the mammals . . . and as for the apes, they never had any existence whatsoever until primitive mindless man copulated with some of the animals during Lemurian times.

“After this unintended tragedy, the Sons of Wisdom incarnated in all of mankind in the mid-point of the Lemurian Epoch, said to have been 18,000,000 years ago, saying “Let us teach them better, lest worse should happen.” But even if the sin of the mindless had never occurred, the incarnation of these Lords of the Flame – the Agnishvatta Pitris, the “Solar Angels” – still inevitably had to occur. “Then all men became endowed with Manas” (i.e. Mind). Taking up residence in the bodies of the mindless Lemurians, they made of man a THINKING, SELF-CONSCIOUS, INTELLIGENT human being. These Solar Pitris became the minds, the Egos, the individual souls, of humanity. The soul, the self-conscious individuality, of each human being, IS one of those entities. On the Higher Manasic level, we ARE the Solar Angels – the exact nature of whom is so mysterious and profound that it can only be barely hinted at. They became the connecting, cementing, intermediate link between brute animal man and the Higher Self above, the One Spirit.”

We then presented various statements from “The Secret Doctrine” such as the following . . .

* The “Conscious Entity” in the human being “Occultism says, comes from, nay, in many cases is, the very entire essence and esse of the high Intelligences condemned by the undeviating law of Karmic evolution, to reincarnate in this manvantara.”

* The classes of the Arupa (incorporeal) Pitris, endowed with intelligence, were “simply doomed by the law of Karma and evolution to be reborn (or incarnated) on Earth.”

* Some were “Adepts and Yogis of long past preceding Manvantaras; another mystery.”

* “The mystery attached to the highly spiritual ancestors of the divine man within the earthly man is very great.”

* “. . . the celestial Yogis offering themselves as voluntary victims in order to redeem Humanity – created god-like and perfect at first – and to endow him with human affections and aspirations. To do this they had to give up their natural status and, descending on our globe, take up their abode on it for the whole cycle of the Mahayuga, thus exchanging their impersonal individualities for individual personalities – the bliss of sidereal existence for the curse of terrestrial life. This voluntary sacrifice of the Fiery Angels, whose nature was Knowledge and Love . . .”

* “That class of the “Fire Dhyanis,” which we identify on undeniable grounds with the Agnishvattas, is called in our school the “Heart” of the Dhyan-Chohanic Body; and it is said to have incarnated in the third race of men and made them perfect.”

* “. . . the Egos, which by incarnating in the still witless man of the Third Race, made him consciously immortal.”

* “It becomes the task of the Fifth Hierarchy – the mysterious beings that preside over the constellation Capricornus, Makara, or “Crocodile” in India as in Egypt – to inform the empty and ethereal animal form and make of it the Rational Man. This is one of those subjects upon which very little may be said to the general public.”

. . . and then added, “It is these beings – called variously the Solar Angels, Solar Pitris, Agnishvattas, Manasaputras, Manasadevas, Fire Dhyanis, Dhyanis, Dhyan Chohans, Kumaras, Sons of Mind, Sons of Wisdom – which Christian theology, twisting and distorting their Karmic fall into matter, has described as the “Fallen Angels” cast out of Heaven and down to Earth. “The “Fallen Angels,” so-called, are Humanity itself,” says HPB in “The Secret Doctrine.” Man is not a “risen ape” but a “fallen angel.”

“Our incarnating Ego was a God in its origin, as were all the primeval emanations of the One Unknown Principle. But since its “fall into Matter,” having to incarnate throughout the cycle, in succession, from first to last, it is no longer a free and happy god, but a poor pilgrim on his way to regain that which he has lost. . . . In its very essence it is THOUGHT, and is, therefore, called in its plurality Manasa putra, “the Sons of the (Universal) mind.” This individualised “Thought” is what we Theosophists call the real human EGO, the thinking Entity imprisoned in a case of flesh and bones. This is surely a Spiritual Entity, not Matter, and such Entities are the incarnating EGOS that inform the bundle of animal matter called mankind, and whose names are Manasa or “Minds.” But once imprisoned, or incarnate, their essence becomes dual: that is to say, the rays of the eternal divine Mind, considered as individual entities, assume a two-fold attribute which is (a) their essential inherent characteristic, heaven-aspiring mind (higher Manas), and (b) the human quality of thinking, or animal cogitation, rationalised owing to the superiority of the human brain, the Kama-tending or lower Manas. One gravitates toward Buddhi, the other, tending downward, to the seat of passions and animal desires. . . . Yet it is the Ego, the Manasic Entity, which is held responsible for all the sins of the lower attributes, just as a parent is answerable for the transgressions of his child, so long as the latter remains irresponsible.”

– H. P. Blavatsky, “The Key to Theosophy” p. 181-182, 184

These dual aspects of Higher Manas and Lower Manas are also sometimes referred to in Theosophy as the Nous and the Psyche – the Noetic and the Psychic elements in man – using the old Greek philosophical terms, favoured by the likes of Plato. Less than a year before she passed away, HPB wrote a deeply esoteric article titled “Psychic and Noetic Action” which should be read by everyone interested in the topic.

In that article she quotes at some length from “Elements of Physiological Psychology,” a book by Prof. George Trumbull Ladd (1842-1921) who was an American psychologist and educator. Ladd’s own conclusions about the nature of the mind were held in high regard by HPB and closely reflect the Theosophical teaching on the subject, even though he was not a Theosophist himself and had no known interest in or association with Theosophy.

Amongst many other things, he wrote:

“The assumption that the mind is a real being, which can be acted upon by the brain, and which can act on the body through the brain, is the only one compatible with all the facts of experience. . . . The phenomena of human consciousness must be regarded as activities of some other form of Real Being, than the moving molecules of the brain. . . . This Real Being thus manifested immediately to itself in the phenomena of consciousness, and indirectly to others through the bodily changes, is the Mind. To it the mental phenomena are to be attributed as showing what it is by what it does. The so-called mental “faculties” are only the modes of the behavior in consciousness of this real being. We actually find, by the only method available, that this real being called Mind believes in certain perpetually recurring modes; therefore, we attribute to it certain faculties. . . . We conclude, them, from the previous considerations: the subject of all the states of consciousness is a real unit-being, called Mind; which is of non-material nature, and acts and develops according to laws of its own, but is specially correlated with certain material molecules and masses forming the substance of the Brain. . . . On the whole, the history of each individual’s experiences is such as requires the assumption that a real unit-being (a Mind) is undergoing a process of development, in relation to the changing condition or evolution of the brain, and yet in accordance with a nature and laws of its own.”

In “Psychic and Noetic Action,” HPB explains that “The higher manas or “Ego” (Kshetrajna) is the “Silent Spectator,” and the voluntary “sacrificial victim”: the lower manas, its representative – a tyrannical despot, truly.” She continues:

“The metaphysics of Occult physiology and psychology postulate within mortal man an immortal entity, “divine Mind,” or Nous, whose pale and too often distorted reflection is what we call “Mind” and intellect in men – virtually an entity apart from the former during the period of every incarnation – we say that the two sources of “memory” are in these two “principles.” These two we distinguish as the Higher Manas (Mind or Ego), and the Kama-Manas, i.e., the rational, but earthly or physical intellect of man, encased in, and bound by, matter, therefore subject to the influence of the latter . . . The latter “principle” is the Lower Self, or that which, manifesting through our organic system, acting on this plane of illusion, imagines itself the Ego Sum, and thus falls into what Buddhist philosophy brands as the “heresy of separateness.” The former we term INDIVIDUALITY, the latter Personality. From the first proceeds all the noetic element, from the second, the psychic, i.e., “terrestrial wisdom” at best, as it is influenced by all the chaotic stimuli of the human or rather animal passions of the living body.”

The phrase we have placed in bold – saying that the Lower Manas or personal self  is “virtually an entity apart from the former [the Higher Manas, which is the Manasaputra] during the period of every incarnation” – is important and significant. It explains and supports what we said in a previous article (We do not have Guardian Angels) when it was explained that –

“Our Higher Egos are referred to variously in the teachings of Theosophy as the Sons of Wisdom, the Lords of the Flame, the Manasaputras, the Agnishvattas, the Kumaras, the Solar Pitris, Fire Dhyanis, etc. They are highly advanced beings, “high Intelligences” from long past cycles of evolution. In the middle of the Lemurian Root Race they descended to our plane and took up residence, so to speak, in the otherwise mindless Lemurians, and made of man a thinking, self-conscious, and intelligent human being capable of realising and actualising his true divine nature and perceiving the oneness and divineness of all life.

“They became the minds, the Egos, the individual souls, of humanity. The soul, the self-conscious individuality of each human being, is one of those entities although most of the time we fail to realise or recognise it and instead just identify ourselves with our evanescent personal and bodily nature. These “Sons of Wisdom” or “Sons of Mind” became the reincarnating Manas Principle within the human being.

“The Higher Ego is the connecting, cementing, intermediate link between brute animal man below and the Higher Self – the One Spirit – above.

“Many people who have NDEs (Near Death Experiences) or who actually die and are then resuscitated, describe being met by a “being of light” with whom they seemed to feel a wonderful sense of identity and oneness and whose nature seemed to be one of perfect love, compassion, and acceptance.

“The “being of light” is not a “guardian angel,” nor is it Jesus, least of all God, who does not exist according to the teachings of Theosophy. It is your own Higher Ego, the permanent spiritual individuality of whom your personal individuality is the current, impermanent, and karmically imperfect reflection on the physical plane of existence. This is a complex, highly metaphysical, and mysterious teaching, “one of those subjects upon which very little may be said to the general public.” Nevertheless, it is this Higher Ego, the Higher Manas, which guards and protects us when it can and in the way it can but this is always determined in exact accord with the Law of Karma. It does not respond to prayers, pleas, or presumptuous commands.”

“MAHAT or the “Universal Mind” is the source of Manas. The latter is Mahat, i.e., mind, in man. Manas is also called Kshetrajna, “embodied Spirit,” because it is, according to our philosophy, the Manasa-putras, or “Sons of the Universal Mind,” who created, or rather produced, the thinking man, “manu,” by incarnating in the third Race mankind in our Round. It is Manas, therefore, which is the real incarnating and permanent Spiritual Ego, the INDIVIDUALITY, and our various and numberless personalities only its external masks. . . . All our “Egos” are thinking and rational entities (Manasa-putras) who had lived, whether under human or other forms, in the precedent life-cycle (Manvantara), and whose Karma it was to incarnate in the man of this one. . . . It is on this . . . that the cruel and illogical dogma of the Fallen Angels has been built. It is explained in Vol. II. of the Secret Doctrine. . . . That which is meant by the rebellious angels being hurled down into Hell is simply explained by these pure Spirits or Egos being imprisoned in bodies of unclean matter, flesh.”

– H. P. Blavatsky, “The Key to Theosophy” p. 135-136, 138

We only have one permanent Manas principle – “the Manasic Ray” as HPB calls it – but its vibrational frequency (to use a scientific expression) is of such a high nature that it is impossible for it to incarnate, function, or manifest directly here on the physical plane. It thus becomes the “Higher” Manas to the “Lower” Manas, which is its “current, impermanent, and karmically imperfect reflection on the physical plane of existence.”

From “Psychic and Noetic Action”: “The “Higher Ego” cannot act directly on the body, as its consciousness belongs to quite another plane and planes of ideation: the “lower” Self does: and its action and behaviour depend on its free-will and choice as to whether it will gravitate more towards its parent (“the Father in Heaven”) or the “animal” which it informs, the man of flesh. The “Higher Ego,” as part of the essence of the UNIVERSAL MIND, is unconditionally omniscient on its own plane, and only potentially so in our terrestrial sphere, as it has to act solely through its alter ego – the Personal Self. Now, although the former is the vehicle of all knowledge of the past, the present, and the future, and although it is from this fountainhead that its “double” catches occasional glimpses of that which is beyond the senses of man, and transmits them to certain brain cells (unknown to science in their functions), thus making of man a Seer, a soothsayer, and a prophet; yet the memory of bygone events – especially of the earth earthy – has its seat in the Personal Ego alone.”

Such things as intuition, warnings of conscience, premonitions, and “vague undefined reminiscences” are explained by Esoteric Science as being the result of “occasional glimpses of that which is beyond the senses of man” and due to communication and contact – whether deliberately and consciously brought about or not – between the personal self (Lower Manas) and the individual self (Higher Manas).

But what about those things which seem to be lifelong, such as so-called genius, a term which is frequently misused and misapplied these days?

HPB explains, “The presence in man of various creative powers – called genius in their collectivity – is due to no blind chance, to no innate qualities through hereditary tendencies – though that which is known as atavism may often intensify these faculties – but to an accumulation of individual antecedent experiences of the Ego in its preceding life, and lives. For, though omniscient in its essence and nature, it still requires experience through its personalities of the things of earth, earthy on the objective plane, in order to apply the fruition of that abstract omniscience to them. And, adds our philosophy – the cultivation of certain aptitudes throughout a long series of past incarnations must finally culminate in some one life, in a blooming forth as genius, in one or another direction.

She also says, in her article titled “Genius”:

“What we call “the manifestations of genius” in a person, are only the more or less successful efforts of that EGO to assert itself on the outward plane of its objective form – the man of clay – in the matter-of-fact, daily life of the latter. The EGOS of a Newton, an AEschylus, or a Shakespeare, are of the same essence and substance as the Egos of a yokel, an ignoramus, a fool, or even an idiot; and the self-assertion of their informing genii depends on the physiological and material construction of the physical man. No Ego differs from another Ego, in its primordial or original essence and nature. That which makes one mortal a great man and of another a vulgar, silly person is, as said, the quality and make-up of the physical shell or casing, and the adequacy or inadequacy of brain and body to transmit and give expression to the light of the real, Inner man; and this aptness or inaptness is, in its turn, the result of Karma. Or, to use another simile, physical man is the musical instrument, and the Ego, the performing artist. The potentiality of perfect melody of sound, is in the former – the instrument – and no skill of the latter can awaken a faultless harmony out of a broken or badly made instrument. This harmony depends on the fidelity of transmission, by word or act, to the objective plane, of the unspoken divine thought in the very depths of man’s subjective or inner nature. Physical man may – to follow our simile – be a priceless Stradivarius or a cheap and cracked fiddle, or again a mediocrity between the two, in the hands of the Paganini who ensouls him.”

Some further explanations and insights along these lines may be found towards the end of the recently published book “The Secret Doctrine Dialogues.”

It is there stated by HPB that “The parents may give by heredity their organism, their convolutions, or whatever it is, the physical material, which will have the same capacity of reflecting the light from Manas as they had, therefore the child will be as intellectual; but Manas is not at all that. It is always the same, it is omniscient. It becomes dull or stupid only in its personalities and incarnations upon earth. You can’t say of Manas that one ego is more intellectual than the other. . . . The Manas is always the same. It is the stem, the eternal stem around which cling the personalities, so to say, those that come and go, and so on. It is called the Sutratman, the silver thread on which are strung those pearls as personalities. You know the expression. In its own inherent nature, or essence, it is omniscient, for it is part of the Divine Mind. But once that it has been brought to incarnate on earth, it takes up all the materiality and all the finite attributes, so to say, and the qualities of the personalities it incarnates in. And moreover, these personalities are subject to the perfections of the material form. . . .

“These are distinct entities which incarnate, which in other Manvantaras have finished their cycle, and it is their time to incarnate in this cycle. . . . How can the parents be responsible for Manas, where Manas is a defined and independent entity? The parents may in some way be karmically responsible for the physical organism of the child, but certainly not for Manas.” (p. 561-562, 569-570)

In terms of the present personality, some personalities are undoubtedly more intelligent and intellectual than other personalities. But in terms of the permanent individuality, each is equally omniscient on the higher mental plane. The level of intelligence of a personality is a Karmic effect of how the mental faculty was either developed or neglected, used or misused, in a previous incarnation here on the physical plane.

The most profoundly stupid person today may have been the mental equivalent of an Einstein in some previous lifetime and the most profoundly intellectual person today may end up with severely limited mental faculties in their next or some other future lifetime, if they have been applying their great intelligence to selfish, exploitative, abusive, or destructive ends. We are all prone to rise and fall under the Law of Karma, until we finally decide to sort ourselves out and live according to the Great Law of Compassion and Universal Brotherhood.



– Stanzas from the Secret Book of Dzyan on Anthropogenesis (IV. 16-17), “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 2, p. 17

The men with minds, how are they made? How do they receive “a mind to embrace the Universe”? Hopefully this article has gone some way to providing an explanation, while at the same time showing the vast and wondrous journey being undertaken by each and every soul. It is in fact the journey of Cosmic Evolution, in which each soul seeks to reunite itself with Spirit, the infinite Source and Life of all.

As was said at the start, an article like this can only touch the surface, and so we can do no better than recommend a deep and serious study of all the writings of H. P. Blavatsky and William Q. Judge to those who wish to learn, discover, and understand more. We reiterate what has been said in previous articles: the Esoteric Philosophy known as Theosophy contains the answer to every question and the solution to every problem. Those who are willing and prepared to actually think and to use their minds – which we have been talking so much about – will find themselves greatly rewarded.

There is an esoteric significance behind the numbers attached to the Seven Principles. They relate and correspond to planes, planetary chains, globes, rounds, root races, and sub-races, all of which have been explained and clarified in other articles here on this site.

According to the teachings of Theosophy, this present epoch is the 5th sub-race of the 5th Root Race, or in other words the Manasic sub-race of the Manasic Root Race. If we fail, through laziness, complacency, or anything else, to make the effort needed to help bring about the self-evolution and self-development of our own minds and their vast capacities for thinking, perception, and comprehension, then we are not only working against ourselves and our own inner unfoldment but also against the great flow of the evolutionary tide.

The concentrated and meditative study of Theosophy, “The Secret Doctrine” in particular, was reportedly said by HPB to be a form of Jnana Yoga, which can bring about a real intellectual expansion and awakening of the mind and soul.

“Fix thy Soul’s gaze upon the star whose ray thou art, the flaming star that shines within the lightless depths of ever-being, the boundless fields of the Unknown. Have perseverance as one who doth for evermore endure. Thy shadows live and vanish; that which in thee shall live for ever, that which in thee knows, for it is knowledge, is not of fleeting life: it is the Man that was, that is, and will be, for whom the hour shall never strike.”

– “The Voice of the Silence” p. 34


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Elementals and the Astral Light

is an article which goes into detail regarding the actual power and Karmically responsible nature of our thoughts.

3 thoughts on “Manas – The Mystery of Mind

  1. Hello, I have a question. If the Manasic principle is found only in man, then what about animals such as the chimpanzees, elephants, dolphins and bonobos which have been proven to have past the test of self – awareness (mirror test). Aside from the emotional intelligence displayed by cats and dogs, do the above animals have any sort of Manas principle or not ? Thank you.

    1. Hello Dean, there are certain species of animal which are mentally more evolved and closer to the attainment of self-consciousness than others, although there can be no such thing as a member of the animal kingdom with true and definite individual self-consciousness.

      The existence of differing species in both animal and vegetable kingdom allows the expression, experience, and further evolution of monads (or “divine sparks”) at differing grades and stages of advancement and unfoldment along the path towards humanhood, when an individual soul – the Higher Manas – is at last acquired.

      But as you may be aware, the door into the human kingdom has now closed for the remainder of the existence of this planetary chain, meaning that it will be an extremely long time before further souls enter the human kingdom. You can read more about this here:

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