A Key to Understanding Esoteric Philosophy
Carlos Cardoso Aveline
No one can pour tea into a cup that is filled with another substance.
If a student wants to learn theosophy, he will have to empty himself and his cup. He must renounce personal thoughts and feelings about mundane subjects, forgetting material issues. However, even this is not enough: a strong will and a sharp discernment are also necessary.
As the pilgrim expands his view of life, he realizes that the spiritual journey is surrounded by false lights and brilliant fireworks which lead nowhere. He must learn to identify and leave aside the easy path of pseudo-theosophy, of ritualism, of channeling, and dozens of other ways to self-deception.
The hard decision to abandon illusions allows the student to increase his common sense, to expand self-confidence and to enable himself to live up to the teachings of modern esoteric philosophy.
How exactly can this be done?
In 1891, H. P. Blavatsky gave valuable indications about the path while speaking to a student a few weeks before closing her physical life. She said that no matter what one may study in the Secret Doctrine one’s mind must hold fast to four ideas “as the basis of its ideation”. 
The first one is the fundamental unity of all existence. Such inner union includes and preserves the diversity and contrasts of external nature.
The second idea to remember is that there is no dead matter. Nothing is inert, everything evolves. Each atom is alive.
The third and fourth ideas are directly related to the topic of the seven principles of human consciousness.
HPB said:
“The third basic idea to be held is that Man is the microcosm. As he is so, then all the Hierarchies of the Heavens exist within him. But in truth there is neither Macrocosm nor Microcosm but ONE EXISTENCE. Great and small are such only as viewed by a limited consciousness. Fourth and last basic idea to be held is that expressed in the Great Hermetic Axiom. It really sums up and synthesizes all the others: ‘As is the inner, so is the outer; as is the great so is the small;  as it is above, so it is below; there is but One Life and Law: and he that worketh it is ONE. Nothing is inner, nothing is outer; nothing is great, nothing is small; nothing is high, nothing is low, in the Divine Economy’.” [1]   
This is the great reason to study the topic of the seven principles of consciousness. It is one of the most important in esoteric philosophy. It contains the key with which one may have real access to the occult, or essential, knowledge. Each human being is the microcosm. Therefore he must understand himself (his seven principles) in order to know the world that surrounds him. And the other way around: he also needs to study the cosmos, so as to be able to understand himself.
The Pythagoreans of ancient Greece studied the cosmic “music” of the spheres, or planets, in order to know themselves, because “the great is like the small, and vice versa”.
And why did the first eclectic theosophists, the students of Ammonius Saccas in Alexandria in the third century of our era, work with the principle of analogy in their search for universal truth?
Because there is only ONE EXISTENCE, although its external manifestations are countless.
For this same practical reason, the work “The Secret Doctrine” carefully examines the unfoldment of life in its cosmic dimension. Some readers complain and say that a large portion of “The Secret Doctrine” is “too abstract”. And, no doubt, they are right. Yet the Masters of the Wisdom have strong reasons to teach that one needs to adopt an abstract point of view, in order to understand the origin of the universe and the long journey of human soul.  
There is nothing more practical or effective than the study of cosmic processes, because this very study awakens Buddhi-Manas in the consciousness of the student. In other words, it expands the connection between his fifth principle, mind, to his sixth principle, spiritual intuition.
And this is precisely the evolutionary step that our mankind must take in its present stage.
One must not forget that the blavatskian concept of human race relates but on a secondary level to the physical plane.
Esoterically, the idea of race does not depend on the color of skin. Besides, there are no “better” races or “worse” races.  The word “race” refers to a fundamentally psychological-spiritual prototype (although also physical) of human beings. It refers to an almost unimaginably long period of time and a specific phase of the geological history of our planet. It is enough to say that the two first races were not quite physical. They inhabited the Earth when its geological characteristics were quite different from the present ones. In this wide context, the small “racial differences” between this and that nation in our present mankind have no importance. The first object of the theosophical movement is universal brotherhood. It seeks the harmonious coexistence of human beings regardless of skin color, social class, sex, religious affiliation or political ideology.  The students of esoteric philosophy must work for the long term happiness of all beings.
There is no doubt that during the 20th century the concept of race was distorted and used to justify anti-Semitism and other crimes against humanity. [2] Yet esoteric philosophy cannot abandon the millennia-old concept of root-race just because, in some moment in History, it was distorted by criminal political leaders. Distortions are short-lived; truth remains. The fact that philosophical terms are often distorted must stimulate us to be vigilant and to perceive the meaning that each individual ascribes to words. One must also examine the living context in which the words are used. [3]
Regarding the topic of races, as so many others issues, an excessive simplification of esoteric philosophy brings about serious danger. H. P. Blavatsky avoided the reduction of her teachings to a set of too easy ideas. Her purpose was to prevent, or to make it more difficult, that unexperienced students could memorize a few concepts and delude themselves by thinking they know much about esoteric science.
Modern civilization – inspired and dominated by the European culture and by the cultural elements associated to it, which are spread in the various continents – is situated in the second half of the fifth root-race, and more precisely in the fifth sub-race of the fifth root-race. It has reached the point where Manas, the mind, starts receiving with increasing intensity the intuitive light of Buddhi, thus preparing the birth of the sixth sub-race of the fifth root-race. This awakening takes place through pioneer individuals and social sectors initially consisting of small numbers of citizens.   
As an unavoidable collateral effect, this new energy seems to disturb and to reduce the work of previous or conventional mechanisms of production of ethical feelings.  While small pioneering sectors awaken, other social sectors – initially the vast majority – apparently lose all sense of ethics and any inspiration coming from the higher planes of consciousness. Thus, the transitional crisis intensifies. Yet, it is because of the new inspiring energy that the old structures tremble.
There are seven root-races. Each of them, according to H.P.B., has seven sub-races. In the fifth root-race as a whole, the evolutionary focus works in building mainly the fifth principle, Manas, while all along the sixth root-race the focus will be especially concentrated on the sixth principle, Buddhi
The same process takes place, in a smaller scale, in the sub-races. Each of them is dedicated to one principle especially. In the fourth sub-race of the fifth race, for example, the priority was the fourth principle, desire (Kama). In the present fifth sub-race of the fifth race, we have a relative dominance of the mental principle (Manas). In the sixth sub-race of our fifth root-race, there will be an awakening of the sixth principle, the buddhic principle, the center and seat of the spiritual soul. We are now living its long process of expansion.
The direct relation – numeric and numerological – between the seven principles of human consciousness as they are taught in the original teachings of theosophy and the seven successive races of mankind’s evolution is a strong reason to preserve the original description of the seven principles. The seven principles are the bridge between the microcosm (human being) and the macrocosm (the planet and the universe). 
Cosmic (and human) life is like a carousel which turns around itself within a larger carousel, and the second carousel turns around within another, even bigger carousel; and so on. In terms of spatial realities, each atom is a miniature of the solar system, and each solar system is a miniature of the Milky Way.
In the dimension of time, a second is part of the minute; the minute is part of the hour, the hour is part of the day, that day is part of the year, the year is part of the century, and the century is a small particle of large cosmic eras.  The evolution of the souls is perfectly synchronized with larger and smaller cycles.
The universal space-time, abstract and absolute – the unlimited circle that contains it all – is called Parabrahman in esoteric philosophy. The key to perceive these realities from a practical point of view is in the seven principles of human consciousness.
The larger and smaller wheels of the cycles of universal life fit into one another. False theosophy has a fragmented view of life. The enumeration of the seven principles entitles one to study the cosmology and the occult nature of human beings as taught in the Mahatma Letters and in “The Secret Doctrine”. The original didactic framework of the theosophical teachings gives us a systemic view of life, which can consistently show the unity of the part and the whole, demonstrating in which way the part contains the whole, and revealing how exactly a human being is a summary of the universe. 
The topic of Races, Rounds and Chains raises logical challenges to our understanding and expands our ability to intuitively perceive the dynamics of the cosmos.  
In “The Secret Doctrine”, Helena Blavatsky could reveal only a part of the teaching regarding this topic. However, the information transmitted by her is more than enough for the present phase of human evolution. The Mahatmas taught through their Letters and the writings of H.P.B. that the wave of life which is presently on the planet Earth undergoes seven larger cycles, across long periods of cosmic time. Each one of these cycles – called Rounds – includes the peregrination through seven globes or spheres which have several degrees of subtlety and denseness, and possesses a direct relation to the seven principles of our Earth. The seven globes form what is known as the Earth Chain. Six of the globes are made of subtle matter. Only one of them is physical or dense. The seven globes are situated in a spiral, in different levels of vibration and consciousness. They correspond, through the law of analogy, to the seven principles of human consciousness. [4]
The first and the last globe exist in a high degree of spiritual elevation. The second and the penultimate are a little closer to the material world already.  The third and the fifth are less elevated, but only the fourth globe is made of dense matter. The Earth is the physical globe of the present Chain. While our humanity inhabits the Earth, human beings unfold across time in seven basic human types, or archetypes, called seven root-races.
The passage through the seven races forms one terrestrial round. The voyage through the seven globes of the terrestrial chain forms one planetary round.  Seven planetary rounds mean one complete Chain. The wave of life which is presently human has inhabited already the mineral realm, and after that the vegetable kingdom, and the animal kingdom, until it awakened as human intelligence. The periods of manifestation of life (either individual, planetary or cosmic) are always followed by proportional periods of “rest”. For the individual,  reincarnation takes place after a long interval between two lives. For the planet and the solar system, there is a new manvantara (period of manifestation) after a long pralaya (period of rest).
The peregrination of the monad through the various kingdoms of nature takes place in different globes. It was described in an allegorical way by Brazilian poet Múcio Teixeira. These are Múcio’s verses, translated in prose:
“I died as a mineral, to be born in the plant. I was a stone and a seed. I shone in the diamond and the enlightened crystal. The singing bird built in me a nest. I transferred myself to the animal forms, vaguely seeing a light on the other side. From the animal I passed on to the human, like a spark descending into ashes and embers. Later on, I will turn on the eternal light that is God.”[5]
In each Round, the wave of life awakens and develops mainly one principle of consciousness. There are seven rounds, and seven principles. Life focusses especially on one level of consciousness each time, and does so also in the lesser cycles, called races. For this reason there are seven races.
Yet this is not all.
We are in the fifth of the seven root-races of the present Round, and this root-race, which is Mental or Manasic, has its own seven smaller cycles, or sub-cycles, called sub-races.
The focus of the evolution of our mankind is right now centered on the second half of the fifth sub-race. Therefore it is working, even more specifically, the fifth principle. There is, in this process, a combination of long-term efforts and short-term efforts. It is as if the dial of a clock were indicating that it is midday now: its hands are in the same point of the time-circle.
We could create the dial of a “cosmic rounds clock”, with seven numbered divisions, instead of the twelve divisions of common watches.  We could put three hands in it. The smallest hand, moving more slowly, would indicate the number of the Round where the wave of human life is. The second hand, moving at an intermediary speed, would indicate the root-race on which the central focus is concentrated. The third hand of this septenary clock would be its largest and quickest. It would indicate the sub-race or sub-cycle which predominates in any specific phase of the evolution. 
We are in the Fourth round, in the Fifth root-race, and the Fifth sub-race; but the third and smallest hand of the clock points almost to the beginnings of the sixth sub-race already.
The first individuals of the sixth sub-race of the fifth root-race are emerging, as H.P. Blavatsky writes in “The Secret Doctrine”. [6] The foundation of the modern esoteric movement and the simultaneous formulation of its philosophy in the last quarter of the nineteenth century are related with the acceleration of this process and with the corresponding awakening of the buddhic level of consciousness, the sixth principle.
The new evolutionary step is taken on the basis of mental purification. A clean mind depends on the ability of the fifth principle to raise itself above all blind belief and to defeat the other factors that tend to enslave it. The mind must purify Kama, the fourth principle, the seat of animal passions and main source of instinctive attachment and rejection.
This is a difficult battle to win. The spiritual pilgrim can be described as a warrior. Some of the imprisoning bonds may be very subtle and have a spiritual appearance. Hence the pseudo-theosophical and pseudo-esoteric tests one must face. Manas is a dual principle, and Kama-Manas will always be able to put an elegant and even spiritual vesture around lower feelings.
Thus, the luminous awakening of Buddhi-Manas is often slow, complex and full of deceiving episodes. This is the challenge placed before us. It corresponds to the next step of our mankind, which includes thousands of years, but it has a decisive moment in the 21st century.
It is through the expansion of the mind and the awakening of higher intuition that a student enables himself to see the larger process of evolution. What the original theosophical literature does is to give the truth-seeker effective hints. The formation of a correct understanding of great life cycles must be an independent process undergone by each student.
The correspondence and interaction between the big and the small, the microcosm and the macrocosm or each human being and the universe, is clearly described in the letter 13 of “The Mahatma Letters”.  While answering to the first in a series of questions made by Alfred P. Sinnett, a teacher says:
“Nothing in nature springs into existence suddenly, all being subjected to the same law of gradual evolution. Realize but once the process of the maha cycle [7], of one sphere and you have realized them all. One man is born like another man, one race evolves, develops, and declines like another and all other races. Nature follows the same groove from the ‘creation’ of a universe down to that of a moskito. In studying esoteric cosmogony, keep a spiritual eye upon the physiological process of human birth; proceed from cause to effect establishing as you go along, analogies between the birth of a man and that of a world. In our doctrine you will find necessary the synthetic method; you will have to embrace the whole – that is to say to blend the macrocosm and the microcosm together – before you are enabled to study the parts separately or analyze them with profit to your understanding. Cosmology is the physiology of the universe spiritualized, for there is but one law.” [8]
Here the master mentions the symmetric relation between the occult anatomy of a human being, with its seven principles, and the occult anatomy or “spiritual physiology” of the universe, and of the planet on which we live.
H.P.B. examines the topic of the seven principles in “The Key to Theosophy”[9]. She starts by saying that Plato was an initiate, and that he taught human constitution had three parts: a mortal body, a mortal soul, and an immortal soul. This is the cautious classification of principles adopted by H.P.B. in a previous work of hers, “Isis Unveiled”: immortal spirit, animal soul or mortal soul, and physical body. Only a few years later the Masters revealed through H.P.B. something which up to that moment was secret: the septenary key of correspondence between the individual and the cosmos. This is the key to the “music” of the spheres or globes, with its seven basic musical notes, which correspond to the seven colors of the solar spectrum and the seven planets of ancient tradition. These are the seven planets which have a more direct relation with our humanity.
H.P.B. divided the seven principles in two groups, symbolized by two geometric figures: the lower quaternary and the higher triad. Let us see now some information about each of them.
1) The first principle, Sthula-Sharira or Rupa in Sanskrit, is the physical body. During human life, it receives the effects of the kind of working developed by all the other principles, and faithfully plays the role of their vehicle. The general rule is that the more active the higher principles, the better the health and the longevity of the physical body. The numerous exceptions are due to the karmic challenges (both individual and collective) faced during discipleship. We have plenty of examples in the life of mystics and thinkers of every era, including the life of H.P.B. (whose work on the inner planes caused her physiological limitations) and the short existence of Subba Row, an advanced disciple of the Mahatmas. An abstract life, dedicates to the elevated levels of consciousness, can also cause a life that is biologically short, because of the self-sacrifice, or through a marked indifference to the things of the world, as in the case of the philosopher Baruch Spinoza. Generally speaking, however, the good health of the soul is a factor leading to a good health of the physical body. The ancient Greeks have this sentence as a motto: “A healthy mind in a healthy body.”
Sthula-sharira can also be seen as the page where – throughout one’s life – the actions of the other six principles, higher than it, are impressed, side by side with the impressions caused by the surrounding environment.
Sthula-Sharira is the meeting point of the physical context with the subtle environment, and it receives the influences coming from both. Through the material body the external influences reach the subtle principles of consciousness, and, on the other hand, through it the subtle actions of the individual reach the external world.
It is not Sthula-Sharira, therefore, that struggles against the beneficial influences coming from the higher triad or immortal soul. It is Kama that shares and competes with the higher triad, Atma-Buddhi-Manas, for the influence over Sthula-Sharira. The physical body in itself is a temple; yet ignorance attracts merchants to the temple, in the allegory of the New Testament, and they must be expelled. The merchants symbolize laziness, the selfish desires and the indulgence created by the fourth principle, Kama, as long as this principle is not liberated from the effects of spiritual ignorance.
2) The second principle is Prana, the vital principle. This is the life-force indispensable for the higher lower principles. Throughout the process of the learning of the soul, the increasing purity of Kama, the fourth principle, is an essential factor for the vital energies of Prana, the second, to be used in correct ways.
3) The third principle, Linga-Sharira, is the model or astral form. Linga-Sharira, according to Helena Blavatsky says in “The Key to Theosophy” and other works, is the double, the phantom, the form-aspect. When Blavatsky uses the term “astral”, she is thinking in these terms. Linga-Sharira is the reservoir of life to the body. It is the concrete instrument through which Prana gives life to the physical body. It is the subtle structure, karmically determined, which absorbs Prana and transmits it to the physical frame. One of its aspects is the modern “genetic patrimony”. But it is also the skandhas, the karmic records of previous lives and earlier phases undergone by an individual soul and monad.
4) The fourth principle, Kama, is the seat of emotions, desires and passions. It is center of the animal man. In the fourth and fifth principles we find the line of demarcation between mortal man and immortal man. In “The Key to Theosophy” H.P.B. calls the fourth principle Kama-Rupa. Rupa means body, form. But HPB generally uses this term in connection with the situation after the physical death, when Kama actually assumes a form. It would rather be a mistake to call the fourth human principle of consciousness Kama-Rupa.  It only becomes Rupa, body or form, after death. It does represents the kamic elements of a human being; the emotions at a personal level.
The fourth principle becomes pure through loyalty to the immortal soul.
5) The fifth principle, Manas, is the mind, the intelligence, a dual principle in its functions. H.P.B. says that the light of mind connects the immortal monad (Atma-Buddhi) to the mortal man. She adds:
“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.” [10]  
In this passage H.P.B. mentions the fact that, in the afterlife, a new “self” or Ego emerges after the higher consciousness defeats the lower consciousness, enabling itself to go into the blissful state of Devachan (literally, “divine place”).
The process is described in the letter 16 of the Mahatma Letters [11].  The text carefully examines the Devachan, the blessed stage between two physical lives.
However, the question whether Manas will gravitate more towards Buddhi or towards Kama is not decisive only regarding what happens after physical death.  It is also decisive for the quality of life of each citizen, and every collectivity, here and now.
What must we do, then, in order for our life to gravitate around the higher self and the Buddhic consciousness?
H.P.B. wrote that the conscious choice between a noble, firm will and the personal, oscillating desires is a central factor in the life of Manas, and also in the formation of the present and future Karma of all individuals.
6) The sixth principle, Buddhi, is the spiritual soul. It is the vehicle or instrument of Atma, the pure universal spirit. Buddhi is the feeling that we are in inner unity with the Universe. It is the source of spiritual intuition. We may add that in the Mahatma Letters a Master establishes a relation between the feeling of remorse and the buddhic principle [12]. Buddhi is connected therefore to our “voice of the conscience”, which sometimes approves and other times disapproves the decisions we make in life. The practice of actually listening to this conscience is perfectly possible and most useful to all.
The awakening of Buddhi requires (and stimulates) a growing consistency among what one feels, thinks, says, and does. This fundamental harmony is often not obvious to see. It purifies the lower quaternary and allows the light from Atma-Buddhi to shine in a vertical way and with less distortion, as it descends from the higher level to the dense realms of life.
7) The seventh principle, Atma, is the spirit, the true self. It is one with the absolute, and for this reason it is not exactly a human principle, except when projected by Buddhi, its vehicle, on more limited dimensions. We should take into consideration that in the Letters a Mahatma refers to Plato and Pythagoras to explain that, in fact, Atma and Buddhi are not within the human being:
“…Neither Atma nor Buddhi ever were within man, – a little metaphysical axiom that you can study with advantage in Plutarch and Anaxagoras.”  Plutarch “taught on the authority of Plato and Pythagoras that the demonium [13] or this nous always remained without the body; that it floated and overshadowed so to say the extreme part of the man’s head, it is only the vulgar who think it is within them.” [14]  
Between the immortal triad and the mortal quaternary, we find Antahkarana, the bridge connecting Buddhi-Manas to Kama-Manas.  The seven principles of human consciousness are the ladder of Jacob which unites Heaven (Atma) and Earth (Sthula-Sharira, physical body). The allegory of the ladder to sky is in Genesis, 28: 10-12.
In “The Key to Theosophy” [15], H.P.B. relates the seven principles of man to the septenary constitution of our planet. She adds:
“Our philosophy teaches us that, as there are seven fundamental forces in nature, and seven planes of being, so there are seven states of consciousness in which man can live, think, remember and have his being.”
According to original theosophy, everything in a human being and in the cosmos must be studied from the point of view of the septenary factor. In esoteric science, if you do not know from what point of view you are speaking, you do not know what you are talking about.  Let us try to sum up, then, and strengthen in our memory the key-words of the septenary ladder:
1 – Sthula-Sharira – the physical vehicle, body or instrument;
2 – Prana – vitality;   
3 – Linga-Sharira – the astral, the double, the model, the phantom-body; 
4 – Kama – the principle that is the seat of animal passions and the feelings of attachment and rejection;
5 – Manas – the mind, the dual principle, gravitating sometimes towards Buddhi, other times around Kama;
6 – Buddhi – spiritual soul, universal compassion, the vehicle of Atma;  
7 – Atma – the supreme principle, which exists in unity with the absolute.   
As we saw above, the seven principles are divided in two groups. The lower quaternary gravitates near dense matter. The immortal triad has an affinity with Atma. Between the Three and the Four there is a corridor called antahkarana.  Technically, antahkarana is a “bridge” between lower manas and higher Manas. For didactical purposes, we can visualize the septenary scheme in this way:
The Principles of Human Consciousness
An allegorical, limited description of the dynamic movement of these seven principles can be done.
When Atma – the supreme principle – looks downwards, it feels compassion and becomes  Buddhi, a spiritual soul.  When Buddhi looks downwards, it produces universal thoughts which reveal the external diversity from the point of view of inner unity, and becomes Manas in its higher aspect. As Manas looks down, it gets trapped, or tends to get trapped at Kama, and becomes Kama-Manas. When Kama-Manas looks downwards, it sees Linga-Sharira, the model containing the karmic records from previous lives (and for the future ones). This is the subtle project of a physical body, prepared by Karma. Linga-Sharira looks “down” and finds Jiva, life in its absolute sense. It absorbs Jiva and forms Prana, the vital principle. Thus Linga-Sharira, the physical body, is renewed and strengthened.
In the ascendant cycle, the return to one’s home is the evolutionary journey in which the focus of consciousness looks higher and higher.
This is not the only approach we can have to the various levels of human consciousness. From a practical point of view the classification of principles and even the order among them can change from an individual to another. In original theosophy, graphic descriptions cannot replace facts, but they help stimulate self-knowledge.
While trying to rationally understand the mystery of the seven principles, some students may say the teachings given by H.P.B. are complex and imperfect. And this is a fact. Regarding some subjects, theosophy cannot publicly share more than general teachings, often in fragmentary form, whose partial understanding will stimulate the intuition of students. You cannot take a photo of the wind, and Spirit is subtler than the wind.
It is true that the pseudo-theosophical literature created by Annie Besant, Charles Leadbeater and their followers tries to present theosophy as if it were simple, linear, and as if it depended on blind faith and were connected to ceremonialism. Such a distorted literature is a parody of true theosophy and must be completely abandoned. During a discussion with Subba Row over the classification of the principles of consciousness, Helena Blavatsky wrote that whatever is esoteric must be –
“..Rather inferred than openly taught.” [16]
In fact, the process of conventional reasoning can only obtain fragments of truth. Trying to understand the realities of the subtle worlds through three-dimensional mental images is like desiring to capture the free wind from the top of a snowy mountain and keep it in a closed glass jar. The importance of the study is in that it serves as a foundation from which one attains a transcendent view of things.
The 1900 Letter, the last one received from a Mahatma, reveals to students how the Adepts work:
“At favourable times we let loose elevating influences which strike various persons in various ways. It is the collective aspect of many such thoughts that can give the correct note of action.” [17]
These words make it easier for us to see that the occult energy is beyond the patterns of vibration which the left hemisphere of the brain, with its linear logic, is entitled to understand. Different individuals have various degrees and kinds of consciousness, and they grasp contrasting aspects and angles of the occult energy or essence of things. Therefore there is no way to describe an occult process in conventional words.  The student has to rise above linear classifications, which are – if correctly seen – but a compass needle indicating the facts, and not the facts themselves. 
The book “The Occult World”, by Alfred P. Sinnett, reproduces various letters from the Mahatmas. In one of them there is a paragraph of decisive importance for a sane understanding of the contact between a Master and the aspirant to discipleship:
“Only the progress one makes in the study of arcane knowledge from its rudimental elements, brings him gradually to understand our meaning. Only thus, and not otherwise, does it, strengthening and refining those mysterious links of sympathy between intelligent men – the temporarily isolated fragments of the universal soul and the cosmic soul itself – bring them into full rapport. Once this established, then only will those awakened sympathies serve, indeed, to connect Man with – what for the want of a European scientific word more competent to express the idea, I am again compelled to describe as that energetic chain which binds together the material and Immaterial Kosmos, – Past, Present, and Future, and quicken his perceptions so as to clearly grasp, not merely all things of matter, but of spirit also. I feel even irritated at having to use these three clumsy words – Past, Present, and Future. Miserable concepts of the objective phases of the subjective whole, they are about as ill adapted for the purpose as an axe for fine carving.” [18] 
The occult nature of a human being is complex. It is multidimensional. One cannot correctly describe it by solely using words. One must perceive it through an inner process which is spontaneous, not-voluntary, and which usually occurs after many small fragments of information have been gathered from the three-dimensional world.  
This intangible point of view, from which the student looks at all life inside and outside his own consciousness, must enlighten also his objective existence. Besides studying the septenary view of things taught by Blavatsky and other approaches to the principles of consciousness, the student must ask himself from a practical and experiential viewpoint what the recent performance is on daily life of his various “selves”, placed on a vertical scale. 
He must evaluate his physical “self”, including the degree of purity of his food and the quantity of adequate physical exercise during work and in leisure time, and his amount of physical rest. These are important factors for his first, second and third principles. He must examine his animal emotional “self”, Kama, with its several aspects, which adapt themselves to the different objective and psychological situations he lives. The performance of Kama is equally important to the effective work of Sthula-Sharira, Prana and Linga-Sharira.
The student must observe his mental “self” – which has his own opinions and favorite ideas – and see whether he gravitates towards the sixth principle or obeys to the fourth. The word “self”, here, is used to mean “a center of will which organizes a part of the consciousness”. In such an observation, self-condemnation and self-justification should be avoided.
The theosophical teachings get renewed meanings at every instant. The student records them in his own soul into the extent that he sees in them higher layers of meaning and transforms them in a coherent part of his daily life. Plato wrote:
“I mean an intelligent word graven in the soul of the learner …” (“Phaedrus” [276])
Although the philosophy of Helena Blavatsky is still recent – having been given to mankind less than 200 years ago – it can already be partially understood and experienced. Theosophy has a decisive importance in the good karma of the planet. It slowly paves the way for future evolutionary steps which human beings can study and understand already, as they work for the birth of a wiser and more brotherly humanity.
[1] “The ‘Secret Doctrine’ and Its Study”, Theosophy Co., Los Angeles, a six-page pamphlet, see pages 3-5. Click here to read the text.
[3] The theosophical movement is not free from such a danger, or from infiltration.  Read for instance the article “Racism in the Name of Theosophy”.
[4] There are two kinds of Round.  The “terrestrial” Round goes through the seven root-races of Globe D.  The “planetary” Round goes across the seven Globes. See “The Secret Doctrine”, H.P. Blavatsky, Theosophy Co., Los Angeles, volume I, pp. 159-161.
[5] Translated  from Múcio Teixeira, as quoted in the book “O Poder da Sabedoria”, by Carlos Cardoso Aveline, Ed. Teosófica, Brasília, Brazil, 1999, third edition, p. 30. The poem says:  Morri no mineral, / Para nascer na planta. / Fui pedra e fui semente, / Brilhei no diamante e no cristal luzente. / Fez em mim o seu ninho / O pássaro que canta. / Passei às formas do animal, / Vendo indistintamente uma luz na outra banda. / Do animal passei à forma do homem, / Faísca que desceu às cinzas e às brasas. / Mais tarde acenderei a luz eterna que é Deus.
[6] “The Secret Doctrine”, Helena P. Blavatsky, Theosophy Co., volume II, pp.  444-446.
[7] Maha cycle – large cycle.
[8] See letter 13 in “The Mahatma Letters”, edited by A. Trevor Barker, 1926 edition, published by T. Fisher Unwin Ltd., in London, UK, 493 pages, pp. 70-71. Click to see the whole book “The Mahatma Letters”, 1926 edition, at one of our websites.  The pages are the same in the TUP edition, Pasadena, CA.  This text corresponds to Letter 44 in the Chronological edition of “The Mahatma Letters”, TPH, Philippines, p. 118. In various sentences of this paragraph we follow the Chronological edition, which safely reconstitutes the text. In the non-chronological editions, the transcription is precarious and hard to understand.  
[9] “The Key to Theosophy”, H. P. Blavatsky, Section VI.  The work is available at our associated websites.
[10] “The Key to Theosophy”, H. P. Blavatsky, Section VI.  The work is available at the associated websites. See p. 92.
[11] “The Mahatma Letters”, Letter 16. Click to see the volume.
[12] “The Mahatma Letters”, Letter XXIV-B, item 8, p. 188.  Click and see the book.
[13] The ancient Greek word “demonium” originally means “spirit”. Since the Middle Ages the Christian clergy has ascribed a negative meaning to the word and used it as an excuse to promote all kinds of persecution, as part of its project for dominating the “pagan” nations. It must be said that the orthography of the word “demonium” is wrong in the 1926 edition of the Mahatma Letters. It was corrected in the third, revised edition (TPH) and in the Chronological edition (TPH, Philippines).
[14] “The Mahatma Letters”, Letter CXXVII, p. 455. Click to see the volume.  
[15] “The Key to Theosophy”, 1889 edition, Section VI, part “On The Septenary Constitution of our Planet”, p. 89.  Click here to see the volume.
[16] From the text “Classification of ‘Principles’”, in the three-volume compilation “Theosophical Articles”, Helena P. Blavatsky, Theosophy Co., Los Angeles, 1981, see volume II, lower half of p. 233. This is in the first half of the third paragraph of the article.
[17] See “Letters From the Masters of the Wisdom – First Series”, TPH, India, 1948, Letter 46, upper half of p. 112. The book is available at our associated websites. For a study in this same letter with complete transcription, click here
[18] “The Occult World”, Alfred P. Sinnett, (1884), Kessinger Publishing Company, Montana, USA, facsimile edition, 160 pp., see pp. 98-99.
The article “The Seven Principles of Consciousness” was published at our associated websites on 06 November 2018.
On 14 September 2016, a group of students decided to found the Independent Lodge of Theosophists. Two of the priorities adopted by the ILT are learning from the past and building a better future.