Skip to main content


" HAVING become indifferent to objects of perception, the pupil must seek out the Raja of the Senses, the Thought-Producer, he who awakes illusion.

" The Mind is the great slayer of the Real."

Thus is it written in one of the fragments translated by H. P. B. from The Book of the Golden Precepts, that exquisite prose-poem which is one of her choicest gifts to the world. And there is no more significant title of the mind than this: the " creator of illusion".

The mind is not the Knower, and should ever be carefully distinguished from him. Many of the confusions and the difficulties that perplex the student arise because he does not remember the distinction between him who knows and the mind which is his instrument for obtaining knowledge. It is as though the sculptor were identified with his chisel.

The mind is fundamentally dual and material, being made up of an envelope of fine matter, called the causal body and manas, the abstract mind, and of an envelope of coarser matter, called the mental body and manas, the concrete mind'—manas itself being a reflection in atomic matter of that aspect of the Self which is Knowledge. This mind limits the Jiva, which, as self-consciousness increases, finds himself hampered by it on every side. As a man, to effect a certain purpose, might put on thick gloves, and find that his hands in them had lost much of their power of feeling, their delicacy of touch, their ability to pick up small objects, and were only capable of grasping large objects and of feeling heavy impacts, so is it with the Knower when he puts on the mind. The hand is there as well as the glove, but its capacities are greatly lessened; the Knower is there as well as the mind, but his powers are much limited in their expression.

We shall confine the term mind in the following paragraphs to the concrete mind—the mental body and manas. The mind is the result of past thinking, and is constantly being modified by present thinking; it is a thing, precise and definite, with certain powers and incapacities, strength and weakness, which are the outcome of activities in previous lives. It is as we have made it; we cannot change it save slowly, we cannot transcend it by an effort of the will, we cannot cast it aside, nor instantaneously remove its imperfections. Such as it is, it is ours, a part of the Not-Self appropriated and shaped for our own using, and only through it can we know.

All the results of our past thinkings are present with us as mind, and each mind has its own rate of vibration, its own range of vibration, and is in a state of perpetual motion, offering an ever-changing series of pictures. Every impression coming to us from outside is made on this already active sphere, and the mass of existing vibrations modifies and is modified by the new arrival. The resultant is not, therefore, an accurate reproduction of the new vibrations, but a combination of it with the vibrations already proceeding. To borrow again an illustration from light. If we hold a piece of red glass before our eyes and look at green objects, they will appear to us to be black. The vibrations that give us the sensation of red are cut off by those that give us the sensation of green, and the eye is deceived into seeing the object as black. So also if we look at a blue object through a yellow glass, shall we see it as black. In every case a coloured medium will cause an impression of colour different from that of the object looked at by the naked eye.. Even looking at things with the naked eye, persons see them somewhat differently, for the eye itself modifies the vibrations it receives more than many people imagine. The influence of the mind as a medium by which the Knower views the external world is very similar to the influence of the coloured glass on the colours of objects seen through it. The Knower is as unconscious of this influence of the mind, as a man who had never seen, except through red or blue glasses, would be unconscious of the changes made by them in the colours of a landscape.

It is in this superficial and obvious sense that the mind is called the " creator of illusion ". It presents us only with distorted images, a combination of itself and the external object. In a far deeper sense, indeed, is it the " creator

of illusion", in that even these distorted images are but images of appearances, not of realities; shadows of shadows are all that it gives us. But it will suffice us at present to consider the illusions caused by its own nature.

Very different would be our ideas of the world, if we could know it as it is, even in its phenomenal aspect, instead of by means of the vibrations modified by the mind. And this is by no means impossible, although it can only be done by those who have made great progress in controlling the mind. The vibrations of the mind can be stilled, the consciousness being withdrawn from it; an impact from without will then shape an image exactly corresponding to itself, the vibrations being identical in quality and quantity, unintermixed with vibrations belonging to the observer. Or, the consciousness may go forth and ensoul the observed object, and thus directly experience its vibrations. In both cases a true knowledge of the form is gained. The idea in the world of noumena, of which the form expresses a phenomenal aspect, may also be known, but only by the consciousness working in the causal body, untrammelled by the concrete mind or the lower vehicles.

The truth that we only know our impressions of things, not the things—except as just stated—is one which is of vital moment when it is applied in practical life. It teaches humility and caution, and readiness to listen to new ideas. We lose our instinctive certainty that we are right in our observations, and learn to analyse ourselves before we condemn others.

An illustration may serve to make this more clear.

I meet a person whose vibratory activity expresses itself in a way complementary to my own. When we meet, we extinguish each other; hence we do not like each other, we do not see anything in each other, and we each wonder why So-and-so thinks the other so clever, when we find each other so preternaturally stupid. Now, if I have gained a little self-knowledge, this wonder will be checked, so far as I am concerned. Instead of thinking that the other is stupid, I shall ask myself: " What is lacking in me that I cannot answer his vibrations? We are both vibrating, and if I cannot realise his life and thought, it is because I cannot reproduce his vibrations. Why should I judge him, since I cannot even know him until I modify myself sufficiently to be able to receive him?" We cannot greatly modify others, but we can greatly modify ourselves, and we should be continually trying to enlarge our receptive capacity. We must become as the white light in which all colours are present, which distorts none because it rejects none, and has in itself the power to answer to each. We may measure our approach to the whiteness by our power of response to the most diverse characters


We may now turn to the composition of the mind as an organ of consciousness in its aspect as Knower, and see what this composition is, how we have made the mind in the past, how we can change it in the present.

The mind on the side of life is manas, and manas is the reflection, in the atomic matter of the third —or mental— plane, of the cognitional aspect of the Self—of the Self as Knower.

On the side of form it presents two aspects, severally conditioning the activity of manas, the consciousness working on the mental plane. These aspects are due to the aggregations of the matter of the plane drawn round the atomic vibratory centre. This matter, from its nature and use, we term mind-stuff, or thought-stuff. It makes one great region of the universe, interpenetrating astral and physical matter, and exists in seven subdivisions, like the states of matter on the physical plane; it is predominantly responsive to those vibrations which come from the aspect of the Self which is Knowledge, and this aspect imposes on it its specific character.

The first—and higher—aspect of the form-side of mind is that called the causal body. It is composed of matter from the fifth and sixth subdivisions of the mental plane, corresponding to the finer ethers of the physical plane. This causal body is little developed in the majority at the present stage of evolution, as it remains unaffected by the mental activities directed to external objects, and we may, therefore, leave it aside, at any rate for the present. It is, in fact, the organ for abstract thought.

The second aspect is called the mental body, and is composed of thought-stuff belonging to the four lower subdivisions of the mental plane corresponding to the lowest ether, and the gaseous, liquid, and solid states of matter on the physical plane. It might indeed be termed the dense mental body. Mental bodies show seven great fundamental types, each of which includes forms at every stage of development, and all evolve and grow under the same laws. To understand and apply these laws is to change the slow evolution by nature to the rapid growth by the self-determining intelligence. Hence the profound importance of their study.


The method by which consciousness builds up its vehicle is one which should be clearly grasped, for every day and hour of life gives opportunity for its application to high ends. Waking or sleeping, we are ever building our mental bodies; for when consciousness vibrates it affects the mind-stuff surrounding it, and every quiver of consciousness, though it be due only to a passing thought, draws into the mental body some particles of mind-stuff, and shakes out other particles from it. So far as the vehicle—the body—is concerned, this is due to the vibration; but it should not be forgotten that the very essence of consciousness is to constantly identify itself with the Not-Self, and as constantly to re-assert itself by rejecting the Mot-Self; consciousness consists of the alternating assertion and negation, " I am this", " I am not this"; hence its motion is and causes, in matter, the attracting and repelling that we call a vibration. The surrounding matter is also thrown into waves, thus serving as a medium for affecting other consciousnesses.

Now, the fineness or coarseness of the matter thus appropriated depends on the quality of the vibrations set up by the consciousness. Pure and lofty thoughts are composed of rapid vibrations, and can only affect the rare and subtle grades of mind-stuff. The coarse grades remain unaffected, being unable to vibrate at the necessary speed. When such a thought causes the mental body to vibrate, particles of the coarser matter are shaken out of the body, and their place is taken by particles of the finer grades, and thus better materials are built into the mental body. Similarly, base and evil thoughts draw into the mental body the coarser materials suitable for their own expression, and these materials repel and drive out the finer kinds.

Thus these vibrations of consciousness are ever shaking out one kind of matter and building in another. And it follows, as a necessary consequence, that according to the kind of matter we have built into our mental bodies in the past, will be our power of responding to the thoughts which now reach us from outside. If our mental bodies are composed of fine materials, coarse and evil thoughts will meet with no response, and hence can inflict no injury; whereas if they are built up with gross materials, they will be affected by every evil passer-by, and will remain irresponsive to and unbenefited by the good.

When we come into touch with one whose thoughts are lofty, his thought-vibrations, playing on us, arouse vibrations of such matter in our mental bodies as is capable of responding, and these vibrations disturb and even shake out some of that which is too coarse to vibrate at his high rate of activity. The benefit we receive from him is thus largely dependent on our own past thinking, and our " understanding" of him, our responsiveness, is conditioned by these. We cannot think for each other; he can only think his own thoughts, thus causing corresponding vibrations in the mind-stuff around him, and these play upon us, setting up in our mental bodies sympathetic vibrations. These affect the consciousness. A thinker external to ourselves can only affect our consciousness by arousing these vibrations in our mental bodies.

But immediate understanding does not always follow on the production of such vibrations, caused . from outside. Sometimes the effect resembles that of the sun and the rain and the earth on the seed that lies buried in the ground. There is no visible answer at first to the vibrations playing on the seed; but within there is a tiny quiver of the ensouling life, and that quiver will grow stronger and stronger day by day, till the evolving life bursts the seed-shell and sends forth rootlet and growing point. So with the mind. The consciousness thrills faintly within itself, ere it is able to give any external answer to the impacts upon it; and when we are not yet capable of understanding a noble thinker, there is yet in us an unconscious quivering which is the forerunner of the conscious answer. We go away from a great presence a little nearer to the rich thought-life flowing from it than we were ere we entered it, and germs of thought have been quickened in us, and our minds helped in their evolution.

Something, then, in the building and evolution of our minds may be done from outside, but most must result from the activities of our own consciousness; and if we would have mental bodies which should be strong, well-vitalised, active, able to grasp the loftier thoughts presented to us, then we must steadily work at right thinking; for we are our own builders, and fashion our minds for ourselves.

Many people are great readers. Now, reading does not build the mind; thought alone builds it. Reading is only valuable as it furnishes materials for thought. A man may read much, but his mental growth will be in proportion to the amount of thought that he expends in his reading. The value to him of the thought which he reads depends on the use he makes of it. Unless he takes up the thought and works on it himself, its value to him will be small and passing. " Reading makes a full man ", said Lord Bacon, and it is with the mind as with the body. Eating fills the stomach, but as the meal is useless to the body unless it is digested and assimilated, so also the mind may be filled by reading, but unless there is thought, there is no assimilation of what is read, and the mind does not grow thereby—nay, it is likely to suffer from overloading, and to weaken rather than strengthen under a burden of unassimilated ideas.

We should read less, and think more, if we would have our minds grow, and our intelligence develop. If we are in earnest in the culture of our minds, we should daily spend an hour in the study of some serious and weighty book, and, reading for five minutes, we should think for ten, and so on through the hour. The usual way is to read quickly for the hour, and then to put away the book till the next hour comes for reading. Hence people grow very slowly in thought power.

One of the most marked things in the Theosophical movement is the mental growth observable year by year in its members. This is largely due to the fact that they are taught the nature of thought; they begin to understand a little of its workings, and set themselves to build their mental bodies instead of leaving them to grow by the unassisted process of nature. The student eager for growth should resolve that no day shall pass that shall not have in it at least five minutes' reading and ten minutes' strenuous thinking on what is read. At first he will find the effort tiresome and laborious, and he will discover the weakness of his thinking power. This discovery marks his first step, for it is much to discover that one is unable to think hard and consecutively. People who cannot think, but who imagine that they can, do not make much progress. It is better to know one's weakness than to imagine oneself strong when one is feeble. The realisation of the weakness —the wandering of the mind, the feeling of heat, confusion, and fatigue which comes on in the brain after a prolonged effort to follow out a difficult line of thought, is on all fours with the similar feeling in the muscles after a strong muscular exertion. With regular and persistent'—but not excessive—exercise, the thought-power will grow as the muscle-power grows. And as this thought-power grows, it also comes under control, and can be directed to definite ends. Without this thinking, the mental body will remain loosely formed and unorganised; and without gaining concentration—the power of fixing the thought on a definite point—thought-power cannot be exercised at all.


Syndicate content