THEOSOPHY, Vol. 52, No. 7, May, 1964
(Pages 201-202; Size: 6K)


[Article number (19) in this Department]

What is the difference, really, between a Christian theological prophecy of "eternal hell" for condemned souls and the Eastern religious teaching of soul annihilation? In the Judge-Crosbie Notes on The Bhagavad-Gita (p. 191) he speaks of the possibility of annihilation and then says that the true disciple, of course, "does not by Ahankara destroy his own soul." What is meant by this?

The reference to the passage in Notes to the "destruction of the soul" is intended to distinguish between Ahankara (egotism as the outlook of the lower self) and the center of Buddhi-Manasic perception which is the root of man's self-conscious being. This latter is that which is eternal, "for whom the hour will never strike," which "builds for endlessness." The destruction spoken of refers to the draining of the energies of creative mind by fixating them in the objects with which egotism is involved.

The "destruction of the soul" is often a figurative allusion. As H. P. Blavatsky has elsewhere indicated, when we have destroyed the soul-accumulations of a lifetime -- or rather, the potential accumulations -- this is truly an unfortunate kind of death. When we have failed to undertake those disciplines which unite our experiences and lead us forward to a greater depth and breadth of knowledge, we inevitably retrogress. Another way of putting this would be to say that the soul can lose its harvest, and in so doing loses a chapter, or several chapters, of its unfolding destiny.

The subject of "death of the soul" is often approached with a sense of horror which probably relates to the doctrines of hell-fire and damnation in Christian culture. But if we regard the soul philosophically, as the connective between experiences -- Buddhi and Manas united -- annihilation of the soul, like the awakening of the soul, will be seen as gradual and progressive rather than a single event. What is destroyed is the "substance" which supports sutratma, the link, so that the results of past experiences, as focussed in the presently existing personality, are destroyed.

In other words, to understand the idea of soul annihilation we need to understand the process of soul-awakening. Annihilation is simply the reverse of the assimilative process; if we reverse assimilation, we have as its opposite the accumulation of waste-products which destroy health -- in the psyche, as emotional nature, and in mind as Kama-manas.

There are many forms of ignorance and each one is a form of annihilation -- that is, a separation of the individual's center of perception from the opportunities of broadening his awareness. In terms of intra-personal relationships, this means the severing of those bonds of sympathy which enable us to participate in the lives and thoughts, successes and failures, of others. And in the theosophic sense it is true that no man is an island. If his egocentric motive causes him to lose sight of the sound and sense of others -- who represent at the moment a different phase of his own development -- he has also failed in his own harvest.

How many kinds of death are there? We must imagine them to be numerous indeed, if every "separation" is the death of a complex or a compound. There is a death for which all limited consciousness is destined and which, therefore, becomes a transition to a new life; but this is a death which is also a birth. Or, to put it differently, a true birth requires a letting go of that which holds in fixation the dynamic energies of the soul; a death which serves as more than severance. This positive death, which enables a man to unite the experiences of prior conditions of consciousness, means a transformation of the self -- a metempsychosis, a further acquirement of individuality. A "negative" death is the death caused by the failure of the soul to incarnate in responsibilities, a refusal to assume the obligation of constant action -- a failure to "raise the thief up to paradise," a failure of the personality to blend meaningfully with past and future lives.

Individuality, in the phrasing of the third Proposition of H. P. Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine, is "acquired." The acquisition, of course, is not a possession but a persistence through progressive initiations. The death of the soul, in these terms, is simply the denial of the process of initiation.

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