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Subdivisions of being - the 4-fold Classification

Theon's teaching regarding human nature is as follows.  Man consists of four principles, which he called the Physical, the Nervo, the Soul or Psychic and the Mind or Mental This four-fold division is actually the lowest four divisions of the Materialisms world. This is shown in the following diagram.

the four lower divisions of the fourth world
the four lower divisions of the fourth world

The associated text explains:

As shown above, each state divides into four degrees, each degree into four subdegrees, etc. But these divisions are relative and made only for the purpose of approaching the matter more easily. In the cosmos of being there are no divisions and all is in all.

Significantly, Blavatsky follows an identical approach of dividing planes into subplanes, and those into sub-sub-planes, excepty that she uses seven rather than four, and also fails to emphasisie that from the Absolute perspective there are no degrees (hence the intellectual rigidity that Theosophical cosmology and its off-shoots so often falls into). The theme of a "fractal cosmology" is of course central to a great many traditions, including Lurianic cosmology (which seems to be one of the original sources of Theon's inspiration)

Central to Theon's cosmology is another very important Lurianic element - that of redemption or tikkun as it is called in the Jewish tradition. The above text continues:

The perfection of man is proportion to the number of states and degrees he can take upon himself and bridge between them. But his first state is to redeem the Nervo state from the hostile forces and thus to bring harmony into the Physical state, and so to restore to the Earth the lost True Physical Degree (the Glorious Body)

This also recalls something Mirra (the Mother) said. Theon taught her that one's being is divided and subdivided into four, and that to have experiences or insight one must create a link between the degrees/sub-divisions (it is in the Agenda, one of the early volumes). She explains how she worked on a single link for a whole year, then one day she was sitting under a tree and all the experiences that had been blocked suddenly flooded through. The key to awakening psychic states, or other abilities, might seem to lie in establishing connections between different subdegrees of one's being.

A nore elaborate description of each of the four degrees - the Physical, Nervo, Soul, and Mind or Intellectual, follows. This material has been adapted in part from Sri Aurobindo and Mirra's teachings; it is amazing how much of the Theon Tradition they have retained (and indeed built upon). In the various forms of Theosophy in contrast the Tradition has been progressively diluted with other material and is generally unrecognisable.

The Physical includes the gross physical body, and also to some extent the subtle physical or "etheric body" (although this can also be included under the Nervo).

The Nervo or Nervous, or, as it is termed in the Aurobindoan tradition the Vital refers not only to the etheric or life-force body, but also the various emotions, desires, lusts, likes, dislikes, and so on.  It is pretty close to the Kabbalistic nefesh behemis or "vitalising animal soul", as referred to in Chabad Kabbalah).  Theon, as an East European Jewish occultist was obviously very familiar with that complex system of Jewish occultism and cosmology, and it is from Kabbalah - especially the later Lurianic-Hassidic schools - that he seems to have derived much of his metaphysics.  In Freudian psychology the Vital corresponds in part to the "Id"; the lower or instinctual self, full of petty desires and childish wants. The Nervo also corresponds to the "Astral Plane" and hence the emotional being.

The Soul or Psychic is a difficult one. Generally the level between the Vital and the Mental is the Emotional or Desire level (in Theosophy the Kama or Emotional plane). But this has already been considered under the heading of Nervo. According to Mirra, the immortal element in man/woman Theon called the Psychic being.  This is the Higher Self, the  Divine essence, the immortal personality which evolves and develops through successive lifetimes.  In Jewish Kabbalah it is called the Neshamah. This is the principle of the most sublime mysticism. It would also diffuse through the rest of being, so there would be a psychicised physical, psychicised mental, and so on.

The Mind or Intellectual is the intellect, the thought, reason, intelligence, intuition, conscious mind, etc.  Here again we have a Freudian counterpart, the Ego or "I". In Sri Aurobindo's teachings the Mental encompasses a very wide range of states of consciousness

Sri Aurobindo, following Mirra (who was perhaps following Theon?) called this Divine Soul the "Psychic Being", the Soul (Psychic) Being.  It is separate from the personality and the ego.  Whereas the latter are mortal, the Soul is immortal.  It is perfect, pure, ever dedicated to the Godhead which is its Source; free of negativity and stupidity; the light of Goodness and beauty within this world.

The Psycho-Intellectual

Theon termed those who have awakened (to whatever degree) the Psychic Being "psycho-intellectuals". The Cosmic Philosophy is thus orientated to such individuals. As Theon explained in the Cosmic Review:

"A psycho- intellectual is one who awakens to the consciousness of the intellectual soul in himself. and who is in such intimate rapport with this soul that the soul can see through the nervo and the nervo-physical veil and become aware of the activity of the one who clothes it. Henceforth, he is no longer the animal-man who suffers, but rather the Divine and human man, within whom Divinity dwells. He thus reflects on one side the spiritual world in accordance with his conception and comprehension of things, and, on the other side, the physical reality which again, according to his conception and comprehension, is seen in the spiritual world. Hence the great importance for him to be cosmic; that is to say, without personal preconceptions, being able to see things as they are. At this stage, the psycho-intellectual is capable of becoming a conscious incarnation: he can at will attract to himself sparks and souls with which he is in affinity, and thereby he becomes an initiate. In order to fulfill his highest task within the cosmos of being, namely the manifestation of Divinity by humanity, the soul, once individualized, has to work to endure in order to balance its vestments. The possibilities of the incarnate soul are infinite."

The Spiritual and the Pathotic represent two higher divisions. The Pathotic ("empathy") may be equivalent to the Buddhist concept of Karuna, and to the mystical approach of the heart and the higher feeling center.

Significantly, Mirra excludes reference to the Pathotic and the Spiritual (the latter however was incorporated into Sri Aurobindo's philosophy as something perhaps equivalent to the individual consciousness of the Atman or the Shunyata. Blavatsky also translated Atman with spirit, so that may have been another influence). Perhaps the Spiritual and the Pathotic were too sublime or subtle to be a part of everyday consciousness. Everyday consciousness is thus composed of components of the other four.

In Mirra's account, as in the original teaching, each of the four principles can in turn be divided into four.  So there  is, for example, a physical Physical (this would be the gross physical body), a vital Physical (the etheric or life-body), a mental Physical (physical and mechanical intellect), and a psychic Physical (the body surrendered to the Divine in devotion perhaps).  And each of these divisions could in turn be divided into four, presumably ad infinitum.

Likewise, Gurdjieff taught that each of his centres (Intellectual, Emotional, Moving, etc) contained sub-centres, so that there is for example a moving Intellect, an emotional Intellect, and an intellectual Intellect; with the same three-fold subdivision applies to all the centres. There are also two higher centers, which can possibly be compared to the Pathotic and the Spiritual, although they can perhaps more easily be considered higher octaves of the Emotional and the Intellectual. The "Magnetic Center" would seem to be the Gurdjieffian/Ouspenskian equivalent to the indwelling divine principle or "Psychic Being"; but in this case it is something that is attained or developed (c.f. the Taoist "immortal fetus") rather than something innate.

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uploaded 4 October 2000, last modified 9 September 2005