Isis Unveiled and the Visishtadwaita
Sir, – “R.P.” attempts in the October number of our Magazine to prove that I have taught in Isis Unveiled substantially the doctrine of Visishtadwaita, to which view I take exception. I am quite aware of the fact that Isis is far from being as complete a work as, with the same materials, it might have been made by a better scholar; and that it lacks symmetry, as a literary production, and perhaps here and there accuracy. But I have some excuse for all that. It was my first book; it was written in a language foreign to me – in which I had not been accustomed to write; the language was even more unfamiliar to certain Asiatic philosophers who rendered assistance; and, finally, Colonel Olcott, who revised the manuscript and worked with me throughout, was then – in the years 1875 and 1876 – almost entirely ignorant of Aryan Philosophy, and hence unable to detect and correct such errors as I might so readily fall into when putting my thoughts into English. Still, despite all this, I think “R.P.’s” criticism is faulty. If I erred in making too little distinction between an Impersonal God, or Parabrahm, and a Personal God, I scarcely went to the length of confounding the one with the other completely. The pages (vol. ii. 216-17; and 153; and pref. p. 2) that he relies upon, represent not my own doctrine but the ideas of others. The first two are quotations from Manu, and show what an educated Brahman and a Buddhist might answer to Prof. Max Müller’s affirmation that Moksha and Nirvana mean annihilation; while the third (vol. ii. p. 153) is a defense and explanation of the inner sense of the Bible, as from a Christian mystic’s standpoint. Of course this would resemble Visishtadwaitism, which, like Christianity, ascribes personal attributes to the Universal Principle. As for the reference to the Preface, it seems that even when read in the dead-letter sense, the paragraph could only be said to reflect my personal opinion and not the Esoteric Doctrine. A sceptic in my early life, I had sought and obtained through the Masters the full assurance of the existence of a principle (not Personal God) – “a boundless and fathomless ocean” of which my “soul” was a drop. Like the Adwaitis, I made no difference between my Seventh Principle and the Universal Spirit, or Parabrahm; nor did, or do I believe in an individual, segregated spirit in me, as a something apart from the whole. And see, for proof, my remark about the “omnipotence of man’s immortal spirit” – which would be a logical absurdity upon any theory of egoistic separation. My mistake was that throughout the whole work I indifferently employed the words Parabrahm and God to express the same idea: a venial sin surely, when one knows that the English language is so poor that even at this moment I am using the Sanskrit word to express one idea and the English one for the other! Whether it be orthodox Adwaita or not, I maintain as an occultist, on the authority of the Secret Doctrine, that though merged entirely into Parabrahm, man’s spirit while not individual per se, yet preserves its distinct individuality in Paranirvana, owing to the accumulation in it of the aggregates, or skandhas that have survived after each death, from the highest faculties of the Manas. The most spiritual – i.e., the highest and divinest aspirations of every personality follow Buddhi and the Seventh Principle into Devachan (Swarga) after the death of each personality along the line of rebirths, and become part and parcel of the Monad. The personality fades out, disappearing before the occurrence of the evolution of the new personality (rebirth) out of Devachan: but the individuality of the spirit-soul [dear, dear, what can be made out of this English!] is preserved to the end of the great cycle (Maha-Manwantara) when each Ego enters Paranirvana, or is merged in Parabrahm. To our talpatic, or mole-like, comprehension the human spirit is then lost in the One Spirit, as the drop of water thrown into the sea can no longer be traced out and recovered. But de facto it is not so in the world of immaterial thought. This latter stands in relation to the human dynamic thought, as, say, the visual power through the strongest conceivable microscope would to the sight of a half-blind man: and yet even this is a most insufficient simile – the difference is “inexpressible in terms of foot-pounds.” That such Parabrahmic and Paranirvanic “spirits,” or units, have and must preserve their divine (not human) individualities, is shown in the fact that, however long the “night of Brahma” or even the Universal Pralaya (not the local Pralaya affecting some one group of worlds) yet, when it ends, the same individual Divine Monad resumes its majestic path of evolution, though on a higher, hundredfold perfected and more pure chain of earths than before, and brings with it all the essence of compound spiritualities from its previous countless rebirths. Spiral evolution, it must be remembered, is dual, and the path of spirituality turns, corkscrew-like, within and around physical, semi-physical, and supra-physical evolution. But I am being tempted into details which had best be left for the full consideration which their importance merits to my forthcoming work, the Secret Doctrine.
Theosophist, January, 1886
H. P. Blavatsky