This small essay is an initial attempt to bring to language
the lived, first-personal, experiential characteristics
of the seven Theosophical principles of our being based
on the idea that these are subjective, introspectivley
available features. (1)
One prerequisite for doing so is to resist the use of any
metaphorical or explanatory concepts, which is the major
line of contention between 'naive' metaphysics and descriptive
psychology in the spirit of phenomenology. The use of third-person
examples is acceptable as long as they can be empathetically
entered and made into hypothetical first-person experiences.
Below are the names of the seven principles in both English
and Sanskrit followed by descriptions and examples.
I) Physical (Rupa): our experience of our
physical body as a physical body will show in experiences
like bumping into something, or when you feel the weight
and pure physicality of the body, or when you realize
it is a physical thing among other physical things and is
subject to the laws of gravity and physical causality.
II) Vital principle (Prana): our experience
of our vitality (or lack thereof) will show itself in the
way the physical body comes along when we go about our business.
Is it nimble, fresh, rested, dynamic, or limp, fatigued
and sluggish? The same would apply to our emotional and
mental bodies too, or, more accurately, it is the integrated
complex of our physical-emotional-mental bodies that we
experience as vital or not.
III) Etheric Double (Linga sharira): our
experience of the prototypical double of our physical body
would be accessible when we would have an unambiguous experience
of a phantom limb in the case we lost a physical part of
our body, but still experience its (phantom) reality.
IV) Lower Mental Body (Kama Rupa):
our experience of our lower mental-desire body is maybe
most accessible for reflection in the moment when a physical
intention arises and is not yet fulfilled. Its then
that we can feel explicitly the pull of a lower, projected
mental-emotional body image towards its physical object
for fulfillment. For example, Janet, in the examples from
Drummond's article, feels the temptation to keep the excessive
change she received at the counter of a grocery store in
order to pay her rent.
V) Upper Mental Body (Manas): our experience
of our higher mental-desire body is maybe most accessible
for reflection in the moment when a spiritual intention
arises and is not yet fulfilled. Its then that we
can feel explicitly the pull of a higher, projected mental-emotional
body image towards its spiritual object for fulfillment.
For example, Janet, in the examples from Drummond's article,
feels the obligation to return the excessive change she
received for the sake of honesty and justice.
VI) The Spiritual Soul (Budhi): our experience
of our higher spiritual being is maybe most accessible for
reflection when conscience announces itself as a still voice
calling us to take care of situations of moral ambiguity
in a self-transcending way when we find ourselves in unprecedented
limit-situations and all our Manasic maxims and principles
fail to lead us to a right decision. This might then lead
to a new, caring, perceptive intuition of a situation and
the appropriate actions implied. For example, Janet, in
the examples from Drummond's article, being torn between
principled obligation and ego-centered temptation, has-triggered
by her call of conscience-a new intuition of the situation
as involving not just herself and the cashier, but also
the wider network of relations involved that are directly
or indirectly affected by her decision, and therefore resolves,
unambiguously, to return the excess change. Mary has had
such insights already and appropriated them into her being
and therefore returned the excessive change spontaneously,
virtuously, without second thoughts.
VII) The Divine Self (Atma): our experience
of our divine self is maybe most accessible for reflection
just at the beginning and end of an experience when, first,
our whole being is integrally (physical, vital, emotional,
mental, intuitive, etc.) and self-transcendentally involved
in a meditative action of intense spiritual significance
and then the grace of consciousness-being-bliss (Sat-cit-ananda)
overcomes us, uninvited, all-encompassing and for a timeless
moment. This might happen in different settings. To me it
happened while hiking in the mountains, a few times during
work and many times attending my first Krishnamurti gathering
in Switzerland. Because of the overwhelming, intense and
complete nature of the experience it will be probably quite
impossible for consciousness to find the attitude and space
to reflect upon itself during the height of it. But because
of its intensity it will linger or etches itself in memory
and then reflection can set in.
The above is an initial experiential grounding of the seven
Theosophical principles in reflective experience and made
ready for a future phenomenology of Theosophy, or maybe
better stated (and paraphrasing Kant) a phenomenological
prolegomena for any future Theosophy. Phenomena to be explored
would be the interconnected nature of our physical-vital-emotional-mental
experiences and bring out its essential structures and dynamics.
(1). John J. Drummond Moral
phenomenology and moral intentionality in Phenomenology
and Cognitive Science (2008): 7:35-49. The examples
of Janet and Mary were taken from this article, though slightly
adapted. Because the article is of a technical philosophical
nature I can only recommend it to those with some philosophical
training. For a more accessible text see Phenomenology
of Practice by Max van Manen in Phenomenology
& Practice (2007) 1: 11-30.