One of the first tasks of a student trying to understand one’s self in the light of the teachings of Theosophy is learning to distinguish between the psychic and the spiritual. This is particularly important to those who aspire for Theosophical independence because a basis for true self-reliance has to be established in the recognition of the permanent spiritual individuality and not the psychic personality. This is not an easy task. When looking within for the first time, all may appear to be dark, like looking into a glove as W. Q. Judge would say. Or, it may appear to be a jumbled kaleidoscope of impressions. The teachings of Theosophy are helpful in distinguishing the permanent from the transient and perishable.

Modern scientific research may discover evidence that corroborates the teachings. This may generate enthusiasm and excitement among Theosophists. However, even though scientific testimony is welcomed and thought provoking, it doesn’t replace persistent study of the philosophy, self-study, and meditation when it comes to acquiring soul wisdom. It is certainly helpful to try to restrain the tendency to becoming overly infatuated with scientific discoveries to the point where those discoveries are used as a basis upon which to speculate upon occult processes going on in the human being and nature, of which we have no direct knowledge or reference to in the teachings.

One such instructive example is the modern scientific research that has been done on the Near Death Experience (NDE), which has deservedly generated enthusiasm among students of Theosophy. The evidence acquired through this area of scientific research gives a good argument for the mind and senses being able to function at a distance and independently of the brain, and for the reality of soul powers and soul survival after the death of the body. But one must be discriminating in what one concludes from these studies about the nature of soul and what survives after death. Even though the immediacy and reality of the experience may convince the person having a NDE that there is more to one’s self and life than physical existence and a physical life, the experience does not prove anything to us. It appears to be a psychic experience, though a very powerful and potentially life changing one, for the person involved. But, is it a spiritual experience?

One of the more common features of NDEs is the experience of a “being of light.” But, does this make it a spiritual experience? Even though for some it may appear to be a personal relationship with an entity of light, this experience and its interpretation varies across different cultures and religious backgrounds. In other words, psychic experiences are often variable, distorted, and colored by our personal thoughts and feelings, which are themselves psychic experiences. This does not invalidate the importance and reality of psychic experiences. It only reinforces the idea that we should be cautious about the conclusions drawn from such experiences whether they are ours or someone else’s. In the light of the teachings of Theosophy, nothing that is personal and has a personal relationship with another being, physical or otherwise, can be part of the immortal reincarnating ego and spiritual individuality. It is the spiritual affinity of Egos who have incarnated together many times, which accounts for the deep spiritual love and understanding that exists between human beings.

Even in daily life, it is possible for the personality to feel the presence and light of the Higher Ego. This is not a personal relationship with a separate entity. The Higher Ego is our higher inner self and is not separate from the personality. The personality is its vehicle for expression and contact with others on this physical plane. At any conscious moment of our lives we can experience with direct knowledge the spiritual permanent reality of the Self as the unchanging witness and observer of all the changing aspects of mental, psychic and physical life.


H. P. Blavatsky defines the difference between the psychic and the spiritual sense: "...there are two kinds of Siddhis, one group embraces the lower, coarse, psychic and mental energies; the other is one which exacts the highest training of Spiritual powers...” - The Voice of the Silence


"The Self of matter and the SELF of spirit can never meet. One of the twain must disappear; there is no place for both..." - The Voice of the Silence


“...the Astral Light gives out nothing but what it has received; that it is the great terrestrial crucible, in which the vile emanations of the earth (moral and physical) upon which the Astral Light is fed, are all converted into their subtlest essence, and radiated back intensified, thus becoming epidemics - moral, psychic and physical..." -Theosophical Glossary


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