THEOSOPHY, Vol. 42, No. 8, June, 1954
(Pages 357-360; Size: 15K)
(Number 2 of a 6-part series)

THE MYSTERY OF INDIVIDUALITY

II: THE MONAD AS A UNIT

THE problems centering around man's individuality are numerous. To state a few: Does individuality or self-consciousness have a beginning? If it should begin in time, will it not inevitably some day cease? If individual units are absorbed into the One Life during a period of Pralaya, what logic supports the assurance that they will re-emerge as the same entities? Are there self-conscious individualized entities actively present at the commencement of a new universe? Inasmuch as the term "monad" means, by derivation, a unit, are all monads permanent, individualized units, and will the monad of an atom consequently some day become the monad of a man? The last question will receive treatment in this article. The remaining questions will be discussed in future articles of this series.

The term "monad" means a unit; the Monad is life regarded as a unit -- though, according to H. P. Blavatsky, the term is one "which may apply equally to the vastest Solar System or the tiniest atom."(1) Elsewhere she indicated: "The Monads (Jivas) are the Souls of the Atoms,"(2) and in the following statement she makes reference to their individuality:

The Monads of the present dissertation are treated from the standpoint of their individuality, as atomic Souls, before these atoms descend into pure terrestrial form. For this descent into concrete matter marks the medial point of their own individual pilgrimage. Here, losing in the mineral kingdom their individuality, they begin to ascend through the seven states of terrestrial evolution ..."(3)
In the following quotation from the Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge, we have graphically depicted the source of monadic life in the lower kingdoms, and again the stress appears to be on differentiation of nature into individual centers:
The different variations of plants, etc., are the broken rays of one Ray. As the ray passes through the seven planes, it is broken on every plane into thousands and millions of rays down to the world of forms, every ray breaking into an intelligence on its own plane. So that we see every plant has an intelligence, or its own purpose of life, so to speak, and its own freewill to a degree.... every plant without an exception feels and has a consciousness of its own. But besides the latter, every plant -- from the gigantic tree down to the minutest fern or blade of grass -- has, Occultism teaches us, an Elemental entity, of which it is the outward clothing on this plane. (p. 97.)

...Occultism ... maintains that every atom of matter, when once differentiated, becomes endowed with its own kind of Consciousness. Every cell in the human body (as in every animal) is endowed with its own peculiar discrimination, instinct, and, speaking relatively, with intelligence. (p. 25.)

In one of her articles, Mme. Blavatsky quoted with apparent approval the hypothesis that "every being and naturally-formed object is in its beginning, a spiritual or monadial entity ... each, according to species, evolves from its monadial centre an essential aura, which has positive and negative magnetoïd relations with the essential aura of every other ..."(4)

On the other side of the picture, however, we have her insistence that "The Monads are not discrete principles, limited or conditioned, but rays from that one universal absolute Principle. The entrance into a dark room through the same aperture of one ray of sunlight following another will not constitute two rays, but one ray intensified."(5) She makes clear that the use of the plural form of the word "monad" in connection with the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms is due to the exigencies of explanation and that the student must not allow the idea of unity to escape him. The following reference from The Secret Doctrine shatters all concepts that the monads in the lower kingdoms are fully individualized entities:

Now the Monadic, or rather Cosmic, Essence (if such a term be permitted) in the mineral, vegetable, and animal, though the same throughout the series of cycles from the lowest elemental up to the Deva Kingdom, yet differs in the scale of progression. It would be very misleading to imagine a Monad as a separate Entity trailing its slow way in a distinct path through the lower Kingdoms, and after an incalculable series of transformations flowering into a human being; in short, that the Monad of a Humboldt dates back to the Monad of an atom of horneblende. Instead of saying a "Mineral Monad," the more correct phraseology in physical Science, which differentiates every atom, would of course have been to call it "the Monad manifesting in that form of Prakriti called the Mineral Kingdom." The atom, as represented in the ordinary scientific hypothesis, is not a particle of something, animated by a psychic something, destined after æons to blossom as a man. But it is a concrete manifestation of the Universal Energy which itself has not yet become individualized; a sequential manifestation of the one Universal Monas. The ocean (of matter) does not divide into its potential and constituent drops until the sweep of the life-impulse reaches the evolutionary stage of man-birth. The tendency towards segregation into individual Monads is gradual, and in the higher animals comes almost to the point.(6)
Why is it misleading to imagine a Monad as a separate entity trailing its slow way in a distinct path through the lower kingdoms? Why at one moment does it appear that the monads are to be viewed as units, and in the next their individuality is denied? Anticipating these objections, the author of The Secret Doctrine wrote:
In calling the animal "Soulless," it is not depriving the beast, from the humblest to the highest species, of a "soul," but only of a conscious surviving Ego-soul, i.e., that principle which survives after a man, and reincarnates in a like man. The animal has an astral body, that survives the physical form for a short period; but its (animal) Monad does not re-incarnate in the same, but in a higher species ...(7) [William Q. Judge: "...it is not meant that no dog or other animal ever reincarnates as dog, but that the monad has tendency to rise to a higher species, whatever that be, whenever it has passed beyond the necessity for further experience as 'dog.'"(8)]
An interesting explanation of this is to be found in the same volume: "...the two higher principles [Atma-Buddhi or the Monad] can have no individuality on Earth, cannot be man, unless there is (a) the Mind, the Manas-Ego, to cognize itself, and (b) the terrestrial false personality, or the body of egotistical desires and personal Will, to cement the whole, as if round a pivot (which it is, truly), to the physical form of man.... Incarnate the Spiritual Monad of a Newton grafted on that of the greatest saint on earth -- in a physical body the most perfect you can think of ... and, if it lacks its middle and fifth principles, you will have created an idiot -- at best a beautiful, soul-less, empty and unconscious appearance. 'Cogito -- ergo sum' -- can find no room in the brain of such a creature, not on this plane, at any rate."(9) Atma and Buddhi are not, then, incarnated even in man, except through Manas, to say nothing of the lower kingdoms. To the Monad, our matter does not exist. Manas exists to it and is the only "existence." The Monad, Atma-Buddhi, represents the spiritual line of evolution. It joined with the physical only upon the descent of the reincarnating Ego.

In view of all the preceding, it would appear that the term "individuality" is employed in at least two ways in the Theosophical philosophy. In the lower kingdoms the term may be applied to the monadic centers, or "sparks of eternity"; these centers, however, are temporary units, immortal in essence, but as units can be totally absorbed when entering the radius of activity of more advanced entities. They are units, they are immortal, but they know it not. They have memory, but even though loaded with impressions cannot arouse their own memories, and once those memories are aroused, cannot cease remembering. They have direct perceptions, instinctual and highly intelligent, but do not know that they do, and though they act, cannot voluntarily initiate action. They have no form of their own, but use any available one.

When one contemplates the countless numbers of atoms, on all planes, going to make up a world such as ours, is it conceivable that the life in each is destined to become a man? As these are, in one aspect of their dynamism, emanations of higher, impersonal intelligences, perhaps it is only the few that become evolving and ever-expanding individual vortices, capable of attracting and absorbing lesser lives, and entering on the path of individual growth. Analogy would suggest this to be so when we think of the trillions of seeds that never germinate, never become individual trees and plants. They are not lost, to be sure, but have their invaluable place as fertilizers and nutriment for the "few." In fact, it would appear that through such service the lower becomes absorbed by and a permanent part of the higher, sharing thereby in growth and experience. It is inevitable that all lives be raised to higher and higher states of consciousness and intelligence, and how this is accomplished is of little importance. Once the nectar from separate flowers is blended into honey in the hive, who cares from which flower each component element was derived? It is now all one. From this viewpoint it becomes understandable why the "population" of the mineral kingdom is less than that of the vegetable world.

In each incarnation, man expands through the process of "accretion," transforming lower life permanently to the plane of the self-conscious thinker. The Secret Doctrine states that the physical body "serves as the vehicle for the 'growth' (to use a misleading word) and the transformations through Manas and -- owing to the accumulation of experiences -- of the finite into the INFINITE, of the transient into the Eternal and Absolute."


[Note: Here are the two links and the two paragraphs numbers from which the quotes in the above article, that are referenced to THEOSOPHY magazine in the 4th and 8th footnotes found below, were taken. --Compiler.]

"The Electric and Magnetic Affinities between Man and Nature", by HPB. The quote is found in the 1st paragraph.

"Reincarnation of Animals", by WQJ. The quote is found in the 5th paragraph.


Next article:
THE MYSTERY OF INDIVIDUALITY
III: IS "I-AM-NESS" IMMORTAL?
(Part 3 of a 6-part series)

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NINE (9) FOOTNOTES LISTED BELOW:

(1) The Secret Doctrine I, 21.
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(2) S.D. I, 619.
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(3) S.D. I, 619.
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(4) THEOSOPHY 6: 517. [Note: This reference is to the article by HPB entitled "Electric and Magnetic Affinities between Man and Nature". A link to it, as well as the number of the paragraph that the quote is found in, has been placed at the end of this article. --Compiler.]
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(5) S.D. II, 167.
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(6) S.D. I, 178.
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(7) S.D. II, 196 fn.
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(8) THEOSOPHY 2: 444. [Note: This reference is to the article by William Q. Judge entitled "Reincarnation of Animals". A link to it, as well as the number of the paragraph that the quote is found in, has been placed at the end of this article. --Compiler.]
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(9) S.D. II, 241-2.
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