WHEN acting through the physical filter of our human brains and bodies, our minds clearly manifest a complex double nature.
This idea is a critical and pivotal tenet of Theosophical psychology.
Mind’s higher aspect gravitates toward its home spirit-self, while the tendency of its astral and physical projection on this plane is an almost irresistible attraction to desires and the material world.
Broadly considered, what is called ‘higher mind’ in Theosophy is really a soul faculty, our intuitional power source — it is the ‘god’ in us.
“The inner man is the only God we can have cognizance of. And how can this be otherwise? Grant us our postulate that God is a universally diffused, infinite principle, and how can man alone escape from being soaked through by, and in, the Deity?
“We call our ‘Father in heaven’ that deific essence of which we are cognizant within us, in our heart and spiritual consciousness, and which has nothing to do with the anthropomorphic conception we may form of it in our physical brain or its fancy.”
“Yet, let no man anthropomorphise that essence in us … if he would hold to divine, not human truth, say that this ‘God in secret’ listens to, or is distinct from, either finite man or the infinite essence — for all are one.”
- H. P. Blavatsky, The Key to Theosophy, Section 5
This is also Plato’s teaching about the ‘Nous.’ In her remarkable article Psychic and Noetic Action, H. P. Blavatsky wrote:
Occult physiology and psychology postulate within mortal man an immortal entity, ‘divine Mind,’ or Nous, whose pale and too often distorted reflection is that which we call ‘Mind’ and intellect in men.
- H. P. Blavatsky, Psychic and Noetic Action
“No physiologist, not even the cleverest, will ever be able to solve the mystery of the human mind, in its highest spiritual manifestation. Nor will they be able to understand the duality of the psychic and the noetic — or even to comprehend the intricacies of the former on the purely material plane.”
“Concerning the nous that is the source of understanding of individuals, Plato argued that relying on sense perception can never lead to true knowledge, only opinion. Plato’s more philosophical characters argue that nous must somehow perceive truth directly.” [Wikipedia]
The soul is the Perceiver is assuredly vision itself pure and simple, unmodified, and looks directly upon ideas.
(William Q. Judge, The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali, Book 2.)
These two we distinguish as the Higher Manas (Mind or Ego), and the Kama-Manas, i.e., the rational, but earthly or physical intellect of man, encased in, and bound by matter.
- H. P. Blavatsky, Psychic and Noetic Action
Harvard trained neuroanatomist, Jill Bolte Taylor, following her life-altering stroke, had a direct knowing of this powerful duality; what is known in Theosophy as our ‘personal’ and ‘impersonal’ selves.
The enigma is dramatized by Dr. Taylor in her New York Times bestselling book My Stroke of Insight. As a brain researcher Dr. Taylor’s focus is neuroanatomical, i.e. the brain’s left and right hemispheres. Below is an excerpt from the TED Talk about the details of her life-changing experience in which she experienced both sides.
Psychic vs Noëtic
“The all-conscious SELF, that which reincarnates periodically, [is] verily the WORD made flesh, and is always the same! Its reflected ‘Double,’ changing with every new incarnation and personality, is conscious but for a life-period. The Lower Self manifesting through our organic system, acting on this plane of illusion,
imagines itself the Ego Sum, and thus falls into the ‘heresy of separateness’.
“The former, we term INDIVIDUALITY, the latter PERSONALITY. From the first proceeds all the noetic element, from the second, the psychic, i.e., ‘terrestrial wisdom’ at best, as it is influenced by all the chaotic stimuli of the human or rather animal passions of the living body.
“The seat of memory is everywhere throughout the human body. To locate it in the brain is to limit and dwarf the Universal Mind and its countless Rays (the Manasaputra) — which inform every rational mortal. Materialists sniff contemptuously at the mention of ‘Universal Mind’ and the Higher noetic souls of men.”
The assumption that the mind is a real being, which can be acted upon by the brain, and which can act on the body through the brain, is the only one compatible with all the facts of experience.
— George T. Ladd,in the Elements of Physiological Psychology.
H. P. Blavatsky said in her article Kosmic Mind, also wrote: “Occultism tells us that every atom . . . is a little universe in itself; and
every organ and cell in the human body is endowed with a brain of its own, with memory, therefore, experience and discriminative powers. The idea of Universal Life composed of individual atomic lives is one of the oldest teachings of esoteric philosophy.
“If plants can be shown to have nerves and sensations and instinct (but another word for consciousness), why not allow the same in the cells of the human body? Science divides matter into organic and inorganic bodies, only because it rejects the idea of absolute life and a life-principle as an entity.”
Blavatsky later wrote that, thanks to physiology, modern science stands on the threshold of discovering that consciousness is universal.