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Voluntary Incarnation - - H. P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, Volume 3

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Voluntary Incarnation -

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It is neither a result nor a cause, but an ever-present, eternal Is, as Nâgasena defined it. Hence it can have no relation to, or concern with, action, merit, or demerit, since these are subject to Karma. All this is very true, but still to our mind there is an important difference between the two. An Avatâtara is ; a Jîvanmukta becomes one. If the state of the two is identical, not so are the causes which lead to it. An Avatâra is a descent of a God into an illusive form; a Jîvanmukta, who may have passed through numberless incarnations and may have accumulated merit in them, certainly does not become a Nirvâni because of that merit, but only because of the Karma generated by it, which leads and guides him in the direction of the Guru who will initiate him into the mystery of Nirvâna and who alone can help him to reach this abode.
The Shâstras say that from our works alone we obtain Moksha, and if we take no pains there will be no gain and we shall be neither assisted nor benefited by Deity


the Mahâ-Guru


Therefore it is maintained that Gautama, though an Avatâra in one sense, is a true human Jîvanmukta, owing his position to personal merit, and thus more than an Avatâra. It was personal merit that enabled him to achieve Nirvâna.
On the voluntary and conscious incarnations of Adepts there are two types—those of Nirmânakâyas, and those undertaken by the probationary chelâs who are on their trial.
The greatest, as the most puzzling mystery of the first type lies in the fact, that such re-birth in a human body of the personal Ego of some particular Adept—when it has been dwelling in the Mâyâvi or the Kâma Rûpa, and remaining in the Kâma Loka—may happen even when his “Higher Principles” are in the state of Nirvâna.


From the so-called Brahmâ Loka—the seventh and higher world, beyond which all is arûpa, formless, purely spiritual—to the lowest world and insect, or even to an object such as a leaf, there is perpetual revolution of the condition of existence, evolution and re-birth. Some human beings attain states or spheres from which there is only a return in a new Kalpa (a day of Brahmâ): there are other states or spheres from which there is only return after 100 years of Brahmâ (Mahâ Kalpa, a period covering 311, years). Nirvâna, it is said, is a state from which there is no return. Yet it is maintained that there may be, as exceptional cases, re-incarnation from that state: only such incarnations are illusion, like everything else on this plane, as will be shown.


Let it be understood that the above expressions are used for popular purposes, and therefore that what is written does not deal with this deep and mysterious question from the highest plane, that of absolute spirituality, nor again from the highest philosophical point of view, comprehensible but to the very few. It must not be supposed that anything can go

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into Nirvâna which is not eternally there; but human intellect in conceiving the Absolute must put It as the highest term in an indefinite series. If this be borne in mind a great deal of misconception will be avoided. The content of this spiritual evolution is the material on various planes with which the Nirvânî was in contact prior to his attainment of Nirvâna. The plane on which this is true, being in the series of illusive planes, is undoubtedly the highest. Those who search for that must go to the right source of study, the teachings of the Upanishads, and must go in the right spirit. Here we attempt only to indicate the direction in which the search is to be made, and in showing a few of the mysterious Occult possibilities we do not bring our readers actually to the goal. The ultimate truth can be communicated only from Guru to initiated pupil.
Having said so much, the statement still will and must appear incomprehensible, if not absurd, to many. Firstly, to all those who are unfamiliar with the doctrine of the manifold nature and various aspects of the human Monad; and secondly to those who view the septenary division of the human entity from a too materialistic standpoint. Yet the intuitional Occultist, who has studied thoroughly the mysteries of Nirvâna—who knows it to be identical with Parabrahman, and hence unchangeable eternal and no Thing but the Absolute All—will seize the possibility of the fact. They know that while a Dharmakâya—a Nirvâni “without remains,” as our Orientalists have translated it, being absorbed into that Nothingness, which is the one real, because Absolute, Consciousness—cannot be said to return to incarnation on Earth, the Nirvânî being no longer a he, a she, or even an it, the Nirmânakâya—or he who has obtained Nirvâna “with remains,” i.e., who is clothed in a subtle body, which makes him impervious to all outward impressions and to every mental feeling, and in whom the notion of his Ego has not entirely ceased—can do so. Again, every Eastern Occultist is aware of the fact that there are two kinds of Nirmânakâyas—the natural, and the assumed; that the former is the name or epithet given to the condition of a high ascetic, or Initiate, who has reached a stage of bliss second only to Nirvâna; while the latter means the self-sacrifice of one who voluntary gives up the absolute Nirvâna, in order to help humanity and be still doing it good, or, in other words, to save his fellow-creatures by guiding them. It may be objected that the Dharmakâya, being a Nirvânî or Jîvanmukta, can have no “remains” left behind him after death, for having attained that state from which no further incarnations are possible, there is no need for him of a subtle body, or of the individual Ego that reincarnates from one birth to another, and that therefore the latter disappears of logical necessity; to this it is answered: it is so for all exoteric purposes and a general law.

Cardinal De Cusa -

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But the case with which we are dealing is an exceptional one, and its realization lies within the Occult powers of the high Initiate, who, before entering into the state of Nirvâna can cause his “remains” (sometimes, though not very well, called his Mâyâvi Rûpa), to remain behind,


This fact of the disappearance of the vehicle of Egotism in the fully developed Yogi, who is supposed to have reached Nirvâna on earth, years before his corporeal death, has led to the law in Manu, sanctioned by millenniums of Brâhmanical authority, that such a Paramâtmâ should be held as absolutely blameless and free from sin or responsibility, do whatever he may (see last chapter of the Laws of Manu). Indeed, caste itself—that most despotic, uncompromising and autocratic tyrant in India—can be broken with impunity by the Yogi, who is above caste. This will give the key to our statements.


whether he is to become a Nirvânî, or to find himself in a lower state of bliss.
Next, there are cases—rare, yet more frequent than one would be disposed to expect—which are the voluntary and conscious reincarnations of Adepts


The word “Adept” is very loosely used by H.P.B, who often seems to have implied by it no more than the possession of special knowledge of some kind. Here it seems to mean first as uninitiated disciple and then an initiated one.—Eds


on their trial. Every man has an Inner, a “Higher Self,” and also an Astral Body. But few are those who, outside the higher degrees of Adeptship, can guide the latter, or any of the principles that animate it, when once death has closed their short terrestrial life. Yet such guidance, or their transference from the dead to a living body, is not only possible, but is of frequent occurrence, according to Occult and Kabalistic teachings. The degrees of such power of course vary greatly. To mention but three: the lowest of these degrees would allow an Adept, who has been greatly trammelled during life in his study and in the use of his powers, to choose after death another body in which he could go on with his interrupted studies, though ordinarily he would lose in it every remembrance of his previous incarnation. The next degree permits him, in addition to this, to transfer the memory of his past life to his new body; while the highest has hardly any limits in the exercise of that wonderful faculty.
As an instance of an Adept who enjoyed the first mentioned power some mediæval Kabalists cite a well-known personage of the fifteenth century—Cardinal de Cusa; Karma, due to his wonderful devotion to

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Esoteric study and the Kabalah, led the suffering Adept to seek intellectual recuperation and rest from ecclesiastical tyranny in the body of Copernicus. Si non e vero e ben trovato; and the perusal of the lives of the two men might easily lead a believer in such powers to a ready acceptance of the alleged fact. The reader having at his command the means to do so is asked to turn to the formidable folio in Latin of the fifteenth century, called De Docta Ignorantia, written by the Cardinal de Cusa, in which all the theories and hypotheses—all the ideas—of Copernicus are found as the key-notes to the discoveries of the great astronomer.


About fifty years before the birth of Copernicus, De Cusa wrote as follows: “Though the world may not be absolutely finite, no one can represent it to himself as finite, since human reason is incapable of assigning to it any term . . . For in the same way that our earth cannot be in the centre of the Universe, as thought, no more could the sphere of the fixed stars be in it. . . . Thus this world is like a vast machine, having its centre




everywhere, and its circumference nowhere


machina mundi, quasi habens ubique centrum, et nullibi circumferentium


. . . Hence the earth not being in the centre, cannot therefore be motionless . . . and though it is far smaller than the sun, one must not conclude for all that, that she is worse


vilior—more vile


. . . . One cannot see whether its inhabitants are superior to those who dwell nearer to the sun, or in other stars, as sidereal space cannot be deprived of inhabitants. . . . The earth, very likely




one of the smallest globes, is nevertheless the cradle of intelligent beings, most noble and perfect.” One cannot fail to agree with the biographer of Cardinal de Cusa, who, having no suspicion of the Occult truth, and the reason of such erudition in a writer of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, simply marvels at such a miraculous foreknowledge, and attributes it to God, saying of him that he was a man incomparable in every kind of philosophy, by whom many a theological mystery inaccessible to the human mind (!), veiled and neglected for centuries (velata et neglecta) were once more brought to light. “Pascal might have read De Cusa’s works: but whence could the Cardinal have borrowed his ideas? asks Moreri. Evidently from Hermes and the works of Pythagoras, even if the mystery of his incarnation and re-incarnation be dismissed.


Who was this extraordinary learned Cardinal? The son of a poor boatman, owing all his career, his Cardinal’s hat, and the reverential awe rather than friendship of the Popes Eugenius IV., Nicholas V., and Pius II., to the extraordinary learning which seemed innate in him, since he had studied nowhere till comparatively late in life. De Cusa died in 1473; moreover, his best works were written before he was forced to enter orders—to escape persecution. Nor did the Adept escape it.
In the voluminous work of the Cardinal above-quoted is found a very suggestive sentence, the authorship of which has been variously attributed to Pascal, to Cusa himself, and to the Zohar, and which belongs by right to the Books of Hermes:

The world is an infinite sphere, whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.

This is changed by some into: “The centre being nowhere, and the circumference everywhere,” a rather heretical idea for a Cardinal, though perfectly orthodox from a Kabalistic standpoint.

The Seven Rays


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The theory of rebirth must be set forth by Occultists, and then applied to special cases. The right comprehension of this psychic fact is based upon a correct view of that group of celestial Beings who are universally called the seven Primeval Gods or Angels—our Dhyân Chohans—the “Seven Primeval Rays” or Powers, adopted later on by the Christian Religion as the “Seven Angels of the Presence.” Arûpa, formless, at the upper rung of the ladder of Being, materializing more and more as they descend in the scale of objectivity and form, ending in the grossest and most imperfect of the Hierachy, man— it is the former purely spiritual group that is pointed out to us, in our Occult teaching, as the nursery and fountain-head of human beings. Therein germinates that consciousness which is the earliest manifestation from causal Consciousness—the Alpha and Omega of divine being and life for ever. And as it proceeds downward through every phase of existence descending through man, through animal and plant, it ends its descent only in the mineral. It is represented by the double triangle—the most mysterious and the most suggestive of all mystic signs, for it is a double glyph, embracing spiritual and physical consciousness and life, the former triangle running upwards, and the lower downwards, both interlaced, and showing the various planes of the twice-seven modes of consciousness, the fourteen spheres of existence, the Lokas of the Brâhmans.
The reader may now be able to obtain a clearer comprehension of the whole thing. He will also see what is meant by the “Watchers,” there being one placed as the Guardian or Regent over each of the seven divisions or regions of the earth, according to old traditions, as there is one to watch over and guide every one of the fourteen worlds or Lokas.


This is the secret meaning of the statements about the Hierarchy of Prajâpatis or Rishis. First seven are mentioned, then ten, then twenty-one, and so on. They are “Gods” and creators of men—many of them the “Lords of Beings”: they are the “Mind-born Sons” of Brahmâ, and then they become mortal heroes, and are often shown as of a very sinful character. The Occult meaning of the Biblical Patriarchs, their genealogy, and their descendants dividing among themselves the earth, is the same. Again, Jacob’s dream has the same significance.


But it is not with any of these that we are at present concerned, but with the “Seven Breaths,” so-called, that furnish man with his immortal Monad in his cyclic pilgrimage.
The Commentary on the Book of Dzyan says: Descending on his region first as Lord of Glory, the Flame (or Breath), having called into conscious being the highest of the Emanations of that special region, ascends from it again to Its primeval seat, whence It watches

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over and guides Its countless Beams (Monads). It chooses as Its Avatâras only those who had the Seven Virtues in them


He “of the Seven Virtues” is one who, without the benefit of Initiation, becomes as pure as any Adept by the simple exertion of his own merit. Being so holy, his body at his next incarnation becomes the Avatâra of his “Watcher” or Guardian Angel, as the Christian would put it.


in their previous incarnation. As for the rest, It overshadows each with one of Its countless beams. . . . Yet even the “beam” is a part of the Lord of Lords.


The title of the highest Dhyân Chohans.


The septenary principle in man—who can be regarded as dual only as concerns psychic manifestation on this gross earthly plane—was known to all antiquity, and may be found in every ancient Scripture. The Egyptians knew and taught it, and their division of principles is in every point a counterpart of the Âryan Secret Teaching. It is thus given in Isis Unveiled :

In the Egyptian notions, as in those of all other faiths founded on philosophy, man was not merely . . . a union of soul and body: he was a trinity when Spirit was added to it. Besides, that doctrine made him consist of Kha (body), Khaba (astral form or shadow), Ka (animal soul or life-principle,) Ba (the higher soul), and Akh (terrestrial intelligence). They had also a sixth principle, named Sah (or mummy), but the functions of this one commenced after the death of the body.


Op. cit., ii. 367


The seventh principle being of course the highest, uncreated Spirit was generically called Osiris, therefore every deceased person became Osirified—or an Osiris—after death.

But in addition to reiterating the old ever-present fact of reincarnation and Karma—not as taught by the Spiritists, but as by the most Ancient Science in the world—Occultists must teach cyclic and evolutionary reincarnation: that kind of re-birth, mysterious and still incomprehensible to many who are ignorant of the world’s history, which was cautiously mentioned in Isis Unveiled. A general re-birth for every individual with interlude of Kâma Loka and Devachan, and a cyclic concious reincarnation with a grand and divine object for the few. Those great characters who tower like giants in the history of mankind like Siddârtha BUDDHA and Jesus in the realm of the spiritual, and Alexander the Macedonian and Napolean the Great in the realm of physical conquests are but the reflected images of human types which had existed—not ten thousand years before, as cautiously put forward in Isis Unveiled, but for millions of consecutive years from the beginning of the Manvantara.

Special Cases -

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For—with the exception of real Avatâras, as above explained—they are the same unbroken Rays (Monads), each respectively of its own special Parent-Flame—called Devas, Dhyân Chohans, or Dhyâni-Buddhas, or again, Planetary Angels, etc.—shining in æonic eternity as their prototypes. It is in their image that some men are born, and when some specific humanitarian object is in view, the latter are hypostatically animated by their divine prototypes reproduced again and again by the mysterious Powers that control and guide the destinies of our world.
No more could be said at the time when Isis Unveiled was written; hence the statement was limited to the single remark that

There is no prominent character in all the annals of sacred or profane history whose prototype we cannot find in the half fictitious and half real traditions of bygone religions and mythologies. As the star, glimmering at an immeasurable distance above our heads, in the boundless immensity of the sky, reflects itself in the smooth waters of a lake, so does the imagery of men of the antediluvian ages reflect itself in the periods we can embrace in a historical retrospect.

But now that so many publications have been brought out, stating much of the doctrine, and several of them giving many an erroneous view, this vague allusion may be amplified and explained. Not only does this statement apply to prominent characters in history in general, but also to men of genius, to every remarkable man of the age, who soars beyond the common herd with some abnormally developed special capacity in him, leading to the progress and good of mankind. Each is a reincarnation of an individuality that has gone before him with capacities in the same line, bringing thus as a dowry to his new form that strong and easily re-awakened capacity or quality which had been fully developed in him in his preceding birth. Very often they are ordinary mortals, the Egos of natural men in the course of their cyclic development.


But it is with “special cases” that we are now concerned. Let us suppose that a person during his cycle of incarnations is thus selected for special purposes—the vessel being sufficiently clean—by his personal God, the Fountain-head (on the plane of the manifested) of his Monad, who thus becomes his in-dweller. That God, his own prototype or “Father in Heaven,” is, in one sense, not only the image in which he, the spiritual man, is made, but in the case we are considering, it is that spiritual, individual Ego himself. This is a case of permanent, life-long Theophania. Let us bear in mind that this is neither Avatârism, as it is understood in Brâhmanical Philosophy, nor is the

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man thus selected a Jîvanmukta or Nirvânî, but that it is a wholly exceptional case in the realm of Mysticism. The man may or may not have been an Adept in his previous lives; he is so far, and simply, an extremely pure and spiritual individual—or one who was all that in his preceding birth, if the vessel thus selected is that of a newly-born infant. In this case, after the physical translation of such a saint or Bodhisattva, his astral principles cannot be subjected to a natural dissolution like those of any common mortal. They remain in our sphere and within human attraction and reach; and thus it is that not only a Buddha, a Shankarâchârya, or a Jesus can be said to animate several persons at one and the same time, but even the principles of a high Adept may be animating the outward tabernacles of common mortals.


A certain Ray (principle) from Sanat Kumâra spiritualized (animated) Pradvumna, the son of Krishna during the great Mahâbhârata period, while at the same time, he, Sanat Kumâra, gave spiritual instruction to King Dhritarâshtra. Moreover, it is to be remembered that Sanat Kumâra is “an eternal youth of sixteen,” dwelling in Jana Loka, his own sphere or spiritual state.


Even in ordinary mediumistic life, so-called, it is pretty well ascertained that while the body is acting—even though only mechanically—or resting in one place, its astral double may be appearing and acting independently in another, and very often distant place. This is quite a common occurrence in mystic life and history, and if this be so with ecstatics, Seers and Mystics of every description, why cannot the same thing happen on a higher and more spiritually developed plane of existence? Admit the possibility on the lower psychic plane, then why not on a higher plane? In the cases of Higher Adeptship, when the body is entirely at the command of the Inner Man, when the Spiritual Ego is completely reünited with its seventh principle even during the life-time of the personality, and the Astral Man or personal Ego has become so purified that he has gradually assimilated all the qualities and attributes of the middle nature (Buddhi and Manas in their terrestrial aspect) that personal Ego substitutes itself, so to say, for the spiritual Higher Self, and is thenceforth capable of living an independent life on earth; when corporeal death takes place the following mysterious event often happens. As a Dharmakâya, a Nirvâni “without remains” entirely free from terrestrial admixture, the Spiritual Ego cannot return to reincarnate on earth. But in such cases, it is affirmed, the personal Ego of even a Dharmakâya can remain in our sphere as a whole, and return to incarnation on earth if need be.


The Higher Astral -

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For now it can no longer be subject, like the astral remains of any ordinary man, to gradual dissolution in the Kâma Loka (the limbus or purgatory of the Roman Catholic, and the “Summer-land” of the Spiritualist); it cannot die a second death, as such disintegration is called by Proclus.


“After death, the soul continueth in the aerial (astral) body, till it is entirely purified from all angry, sensual passion: then doth it put off by a second death [when arising to Devachan


the aerial body as it did the earthly one. Wherefore the ancients say that there is a celestial body always joined with the soul, which is immortal, luminous and star-like.” It becomes natural then, that the “aerial body” of an Adept should have no such second dying, since it has been cleansed of all its natural impurity before its separation from the physical body. The high Initiate is a “Son of the Resurrection,” “being equal unto the angels,” and cannot die any more (see Luke , xx. 36). It has become too holy and pure, no longer by reflected but its own natural light and spirituality, either to sleep in the unconscious slumber of a lower Nirvânic state, or to be dissolved like any ordinary astral shell and disappear in its entirety.


But in that condition known as the Nirmânakâya


the Nirvânî “with remains,”


he can still help humanity.


“Let me suffer and bear the sins of all


be reincarnated unto new misery


but let the world be saved!” was said by Gautama BUDDHA: an exclamation the real meaning of which is little understood now by his followers. “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?”


St. John, xxi. 21.


asks the astral Jesus of Peter. “Till I come” means “till I am reincarnated again” in a physical body. Yet the Christ of the old crucified body could truly say: “I am with my Father and one with Him,” which did not prevent the astral from taking a form again nor John from tarrying indeed till his Master had come; nor hinder John from failing to recognize him when he did come, or from then opposing him. But in the Church that remark generated the absurd idea of the millennium or chiliasm, in its physical sense.


Since then the “Man of Sorrows” has returned perchance more than once, unknown to, and undiscovered by, his blind followers. Since then also, this grand “Son of God” has been incessantly and most cruelly crucified daily and hourly by the Churches founded in his name. But the Apostles, only half-initiated, failed to tarry for their Master, and not recognizing him, spurned him every time he returned.


See the extract made in the Theosophist from a glorious novel by Dostoievsky—a fragment entitled “The Great Inquisitor.” It is a fiction, naturally, still a sublime fiction of Christ returning in Spain during the palmy days of the Inquisition, and being imprisoned and put to death by the Inquisitor, who fears lest Christ should ruin the work of Jesuit hands.




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