A Collection of Esoteric Writings of T. Subba Row/The Bhagavad Gita and the Microcosmic Principles

A Collection of Esoteric Writings of T. Subba Row  (1910) 
by T. Subba Row
The Bhagavad Gita and the Microcosmic Principles by Navroji Dorabji Khandalavala




Mr. T. Subba Row has thrown a new light on the study of the Bhagavad Gita by the very learned lectures delivered by him at the last anniversary of the Society. The publication of these in the Theosophist has afforded the opportunity to numerous students of philosophy to have something like a clear introduction to some of the teachings of the Vedanta. There are several points, however, which need some further elucidation before they become quite explicable to the reader, and as these difficulties have been felt by a large number of Theosophists and non-Theosophists, I shall try to state some of them as shortly as possible in the hope that Mr. Subba Row will be good enough to add some more information and thus make his notes as useful and instructive as possible.

Mr. Subba Row says:—"Now creation or evolution commenced by the intellectual energy of the Logos." Is the intellectual energy the same as the Light of the Logos? Again, "What springs up in the Logos at first is simply an image, a conception of what it is to be in the cosmos." Whence springs this image?

The four principles of the whole of the infinite cosmos are said to be—

1.The manifested solar system in all its principles and totality constituting the Sthula sarira.

2.The Light of the Logos, the Sukshma sarira.

3.The Logos which is the one germ from which the whole cosmos springs, and which contains the image of the universe, stands in the position of the Karana sarira.


The four principles of the manifested cosmos are enumerated as follows:—

1.Vishwanara or the basis of the objective world.

2.Hiranyagarbha or the basis of the astral world.

3.Eshwara or rather Sutratma.


It is said that regarding this 4th principle "differences of opinion have sprung up, and as for this principle we ought to have, as we have for the cosmos, some particular entity out of which the other three principles start into existence, and which exist in it, and by reason of it, we ought no doubt to accept the Avyaktam or Mulaprakriti of the Sankhyas as this 4th principle." "You most conceive without my going through the whole process of evolution that out of these three principles, having as their foundation Mulprakriti, the whole manifested solar system with all the various objects in it has started into being." Now Mulprakriti is said to be, "veil of Parabrahmam considered from the objective stand point of the Logos." And yet, in the above passages, it is said to be the foundation out of which the three first principles of the manifested solar system, including the Logos, start into existence. Parabrahm would be the proper 4th principle and not Mulaprakriti, out of which the Logos does not and cannot arise. These passages therefore require to be explained.

"By the time we reach man this one light (the light of the Logos) becomes differentiated into certain monads and hence individuality is fixed."

The term "human monad" has not yet been properly explained, and a great deal of confusion therefore arises in speaking about it, and in reference to the four principles that have been enumerated in the notes, a clear conception of the human monad is necessary.

The four principles in man are said to be—

1.The physical body.

2.Sukshma sarira.

3.Karana sarira, which can only be conceived as a centre of pragna,—a centre of force or energy into which the 3rd principle (or sutratma) of the cosmos was differentiated by reason of the same impulse which has brought about the differentiation of all these cosmic principles, and "now the question is, what is it that completes this trinity and makes it a quaternary?"

4."Of course this light of the Logos."*[1]

Again it is said: "In the opinion of the Vedantists and in the opinion of Krishna also man is a quaternary. He has first the physical body or Sthula sarira; secondly, the astral body or Sukshma sarira; thirdly, the seat of his higher individuality, the Karana sarira; and fourthly and lastly, his atma[2]."

Is the human atma then the light of the Logos? The word atma is used several times in the lectures, and it seems that the term atma is applied to the Logos. What does the word "atma" mean in reference to the four-fold classification?

The word human soul is also used in several places, and it is not clear what is meant by the word "soul" as applied to the four-fold classification of man.

"The Sukshma sarira or the astral body is simply said to be the seat of the lower nature of man. His animal passions and emotions, and those ordinary thoughts which are generally connected with the physical wants of man, may no doubt communicate themselves to the astral man, but higher than this they do not go."

"The Karana sarira is what passes as the real ego which subsists through incarnation after incarnation, adding in each incarnation something to its fund of experiences and evolving a higher individuality as the resultant of the whole process of assimilation. It is for this that the Karana sarira is called the Ego of man, and in certain systems of philosophy it is called the Jiva."

"It must be clearly borne in mind that this Karana sarira is primarily the result of the action of the light of the Logos, which is its life and energy, and which is farther its source of consciousness on that plan of Mulaprakriti, which we have called Sutratma and which is its physical basis."

The word Sutratma has been applied to Eshwara or the Logos. What then is meant by the plan of Mulaprakriti called Sutratma? The Logos is certainly not a plane of Mulaprakriti.

In rejecting the septenary classification and adopting the four-fold classification, it has been said that this latter classification divides man into so many entities as are capable of having separate existences, and these four principles are further associated with four Upadhis.

Now what are the four Upadhis of the four principles mentioned above?

The two principles, Karana sarira and Sukhshma sarira, are in no way more intelligible than the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th principles of the septenary classification. The description given of these two will have to be considerably amplified and brought home to the mind of the ordinary reader before the existence of these principles as separate entities is recognized. Under what principles are the human mind, the will, the emotions, passions, desires, intuitions, &c., to be classified, and by what means or in what way are these two principles to be known as separately existing entities in man; Again, as to the 4th principle called the light of the Logos, does it simply show itself as the Karana sarira, or besides acting as the Karana sarira does it separately act as a 4th principle, and what function does it then fulfil and how is it to be recognized? According to this classification the Logos does not form one of the human principle but is something higher towards which the human monad must ultimately go. In the cosmic principles as well as in those of the solar system the Logos forms the 3rd principle, while in man the Logos forms no principle at all. The doctrine of correspondence shifts here a great deal. The Logos, which is the 3rd in the cosmos, become something beyond the 4th in man. Some explanation as to this difference is necessary.

Regarding the Logos it is said that "it is a centre of energy, but that such centres of energy are innumerable in the bosom of Parabrahm, and there may even be difference even in this one centre of energy." "Maha Vishnu is a representative of the Logos, but it must not be inferred that there is one Logos in the cosmos or even that but one form of Logos is possible in the cosmos." . . . "Maha Vishnu seems to be a Dhyan Chohan that first appeared on this planet when human evolution commenced during this Kalpa." Owing to there being innumerable Logoi in the cosmos, the Logos is said to be considered in the abstract.

As the doctrine of the Logos is the very basis of the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, and as almost every reader of the "Notes" has been startled by hearing af innumerable Logoi, a good deal of explanation is necessary to make this portion of the teaching as clear as possible. What are the innumerable Logoi and what relation do they bear to each other? Are they the same as the Dhyan Chohans as the hint regarding Maha Vishnu would lead one to suppose?

In the introductory lecture*[3] to the Bhagavad Gita, Mr. Subba Row says, "Krishna may be the Logos, but only a particular form of it. The number 18 is to represent this particular form." Krishna is the 7th principle in man, and his gift of his sister in marriage to Arjuna typifies the union between the 6th and the 5th. What is meant by the form of the Logos? Again, in this, Mr. Subba Row speaks of the Logos as the 7th or highest principle in man; while in his four-fold classification the Logos has no place. Again, what would be meant in terms of the four-fold classification by the words "the union between the 6th and the 5th?"

In this review*[4] of the "Virgin of the World," it is said that Osiris is not the Logos, but something higher than the Logos. The Logos itself has a soul and a spirit as everything else which is manifested, and there is nothing unreasonable in supposing that Osiris or Buddha may represent the soul of the Logos."

What is meant by saying that the Logos has a soul and a spirit, and if the Logos is the very first emanation from Parabrahm, how is Osiris higher than the Logos?

In another place†[5] Mr. Subba Row says: Where Videha Kaivalyam (the union of the disembodied monad with the absolute Parabrahm) is reached by any monad, the sum total of its Karma goes to enrich the universal mind, wherein lie the archetypes of all that is, was, or will be. In the "Notes" the union of the monad with the Logos is spoken of. Is the Videha Kaivalyam the same as the union with the Logos, or is it different? What again is the universal mind? From the words used above the universal mind seems to correspond with the Logos.

It is said that "the four-fold classification is amply sufficient for all practical purposes, and that there is another and a real seven-fold classification (different from the one that has hitherto been put forward) which is of great theoretical and scientific importance, fitter to be the basis of a perfect system of psychology. It has a closer connection with the Brahmanical Logos than with the Buddhistic Logos. There are seven kinds of Logoi in the cosmos. Each of these has become the central figure of one of the seven main branches of the ancient Wisdom-Religion.

Mr. Subba Row complains that "it was to pave the way for the adoption of the real classification that he ventured to outrage the old classification, and he hardly expected that his remarks would give rise to such a controversy." He says again, "It will be mere waste of time at present to explain the real seven-fold classification. There is not the slightest chance of my being heard."

Mr. Subba Row takes here a very gloomy view of the short controversy that was quite inevitable when for years he kept quite silent and tacitly allowed the readers of the Theosophist to suppose that he agreed in the truth of the septenary classification that has hitherto been given out. The year before last Mr. Subba Row gave an introductory lecture on the Bhagavad Gita, and in that lecture, as quoted above, he distinctly spoke of the 7th principle, and the union between the 5th and 6th. When he commenced his notes at the last anniversary there was a short and sudden attack on the septenary classification, and no reasons were given for taking up what seemed a hostile attitude.

Had he in the introductory lecture to the Bhagavad Gita said somewhat as follows:—"In explaining the philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita, I shall not adopt the septenary classification of man, which has hitherto been put forward, as that classification has not yet been properly explained as having a scintific basis, neither have the seven principles been accurately defined. I shall adopt and explain to you hereafter the Vedantic four-fold classification, which is far more scientific and practical. I might tell you here that there is another and a real seven-fold classification which is fitted to be the basis of a perfect system of psychology. I shall try and explain that septenary classification also, and then you will be able to judge for yourself which classification appears to be the true one."

Some such calm remarks, coupled with a promise to explain clearly what he meant, would have saved a great deal of useless controversy.

From Mr. Subba Row's notes, it appeared to many as if he meant to urge that there was no septenary classification of any kind, the intuitions of numeroas students of philosophy led them to suppose that there was a septenary classification somewhere, and Mr. Subba Row has at last confirmed that belief. We are almost all of us quite aware that the septenary principles as explained at present do create a good deal of confusion in the mind, and we are unable to form a clear conception of several of these principles. We do not at all go, however, upon the supposition that the theory of these principles ought to be an accepted truth.

In the same manner we must with all due deference say that we do not as yet clearly understand what Mr. Subba Row means by his four microcosmic principles. There seems to be a Brahminical Logos and Buddhistic Logos, and there are innumerable Logoi and so forth. All the statements puzzle the mind; not because we cannot comprehend what is said, but because short statements are made here and there and no explanation is given of them.

Mr. Subba Row is very much mistaken when he says that "It would be a mere waste of time at present to explain the real seven-fold classification, and that there is not the slightest chance of his being heard." Every thing that Mr. Subba Row has hitherto written has been read and studied with care by almost all the educated Theosophists, and however much he may differ upon certain points of esoteric philosophy from Madame Blavatsky and other writers on the same subject, whatever more he has to say will very readily and thankfully be received by all learned Theosophists. Hypothesis, theories and truths are not studied and accepted because they emanate from A or B, but on their own intrinsic merits, and this is just the time when Mr. Subba Row will find many readers and hearers. The letter of Mr. W. Q. Judge in the August number of the Theosophist will show that even in the far West he is not likely to be misunderstood neither will he be here.

Since Mr. Subba Row has boldly pointed out the defect of the septenary classification as given out at present, and he also asserts that a four-fold and also a septenary classification on a different basis are the true classification recognized in Brahminical occultism, and that he knows them, it will be a great pity to refuse further explanation. The grounds on which Mr. Subba Row tries to keep silence have, as I have said before, no existence. He will have numerous hearers fair and impartial, and now that the difference has been proclaimed in somewhat large language, all unnecessary disagreements could only be ended by Mr. Subba Row's clearly explaining his four principles as well as the real seven-fold principles of which he is aware. There is clearly no other way out of the difficulty.

Navroji Dorabji Khandalavala.

  1. * Theosophist, page 309, vol. VIII.
  2. Ibid, page 310.
  3. * Theosophist, Vol. VII, page 285.
  4. * Theosophist, Vol. VII, page 156.
  5. † Observations on a letter addressed to the Fellows of the London Lodge.