Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.

"Personal Immortality"

by H.P. Blavatsky

[Reprinted from The Agnostic Journal (London),
October 4, 1890, pp. 214-215.]

[H.P.B.'s article is in reply to an article titled "Personal Immortality"
by Lord Queensberry.  This article is not included in HPB's Collected Writings
and apparently has never been reprinted in the last 110 years..---BA Editor.]

I find with pleasure Lord Queensberry recalling in the Agnostic Journal (September 27th) a conversation, or rather a discussion he had with me over a year ago at the Theosophical Headquarters.  He calls upon some Theosophist to enlighten him.  With his permission, I will do so myself. (1)

What I said on that evening to Lord Queensberry I maintain now.  Only my statement is not quite correctly rendered because, as I believe, of a slight misunderstanding.  I insisted upon the immortality of the individual---i.e., the higher consciousness and not upon that of the personal ego, or the “personality,” there being an enormous difference and a distinction to be made between the two.  This doctrine of a dual soul, being very abstruse and requiring close preliminary study of that greatest problem in Nature --- consciousness --- before it can be fully comprehended, has led, leads, and will, for a very long time to come, lead our opponents to misunderstanding our beliefs.  But my esteemed correspondent shows a remarkable Theosophical intuition --- or shall I say foresight? --- in his confessed presentment that he “shall be told of some third principle which is neither body, nor personal consciousness, nor spirit.”

To be sure he shall; and, if the author of “The Spirit of the Matterhorn” wants to know the reason why, then he will learn that, no more than he, do we, or can we, believe in the immortality of the “personal identity or consciousness,” which are --- however much elevated in degree --- only those of the animal man, not of the divine entity.  To urge such a survival would amount to the absurdity of claiming immortality in the eternal for not only our egos, but also for our wearing apparel.  We maintain that only the inner man dwelling in Lord Queensberry, that which wrote the remarkable poem noticed in Lucifer, is immortal; but we should never dream of saying the same of his riding and shooting jackets, top boots, evening dress, and white cravats, nor yet of the night-shirts donned night after night by that form of clay now bearing the title of Lord Queensberry, which is the prison in the present incarnation of the immortal entity --- the inner tenant.  My opponent has evidently never read “The Key to Theosophy,” as he does not seem to have an idea of the lower or personal Manas (mind or consciousness), and the higher Manas, the Individuality and the eternal Ego.  His Lordship has, as evidently, given no serious consideration to our beliefs and teachings, if he does not know that he can get in our literature all the answers he wants to his query, “If that future existence is to be a conscious one, and a continuation of the present, where does the obliteration of all the wrongs that may have happened here in this life come in?”  He claims that there is “no authority” for such a belief.  What is his “authority” for denying it?  One of our authorities is logic, if he, in opposition to us, disregards the unbroken and unvarying testimony of the experience of the trained seers throughout long ages.  If we are charged with mere assertion in our own favour, Agnostics may be charged with just the same assertion in theirs; it is six of one and half-a-dozen of the other, at the worst.  If he, a hardened Agnostic, can say that he regards “immortality in some form or other as possible, if not probable,” we, Theosophists, have as much right to assert that we regard the immortality of our higher mind --- or that in it, at any rate, which deserves through its intrinsic value to become immortal --- as not only probable, but absolutely certain, the logic alone of the conservation of energy (as we Theosophists understand it) being a good warrant for such belief.

This is no place to prove it, the more so as our literature teems with such proofs.  But why should Lord Queensberry call the comparison I made to him, and which “staggered” him for the time being, a “fallacy”?  This is how he puts it --- and perfectly correctly, so far as my remembrance goes: ---

“It is no proof, because the past is a blank and you have no recollection of a previous conscious existence, that you had not one.  You did have one......You do not remember......when you were born, nor when you were an infant; in fact, no one can say exactly when he first began to remember.  But you were conscious, and had a personal identity, though no recollection of it, when an infant; as you neither had recollection before you were born into this life, though you had conscious existence.”

What is there so fallacious in this?  At any rate, I am happy to show that my fallacy has been unconsciously and independently repeated by one of the greatest minds the Agnostics can claim --- namely, by Colonel R. G. Ingersoll.  Speaking at the anniversary of the New York Lotus Club, he said: ---

“......There is one splendid thing about the play called life. :Suppose that when you die that is the end.  The last thing you know you are alive, and the last thing that will happen to you is the curtain, not falling, but the curtain rising on another thought, or that, as far as your consciousness is concerned, you will and must live forever.  No man can remember when he commenced, and no man can remember when he ends.  As far as we are concerned, we live both eternities, the one past and the other to come.  It is delightful to me to feel satisfied, and to feel in my own heart that I can never be certain that I have seen the faces I love for the last time.”

The italicised sentences contain just what I said.  No truer words have been pronounced by a greater Agnostic.  We do live individually in “both eternities” --- in the beginningless past and the endless future; and this whether we like it or not, for the universal consciousness cannot die, neither as an absolute and an immutable principle, nor as a periodically manifesting power --- i.e., it is eternal in its compound parts (which are our higher egos), and eternal in its whole (which is the one and absolute Intelligence) --- an “unknown quantity” indeed, but assuredly neither “body,” “soul,” nor even “spirit.”

All these may prove very hard nuts to crack, even for a self-assumed Materialist or Agnostic; but the kernel will be found sound whenever it is cracked.  However, this cannot be accomplished in a short article, nor, perhaps, in ten such, if the questioner would have something besides the mere form and colour of the fruit demonstrated to him.  Those seriously anxious to obtain the true essence of the teaching are cordially invited to our public lectures, and even to the private classes held weekly at the Theosophical Headquarters, 19, Avenue Road, Regent’s Park.


(1)  As my silence has frequently been interpreted as inability to answer, I take the opportunity of stating, with the Editor’s permission, that I am ever ready to discuss any Theosophical point, or even answer a personal charge, when my opponent writes as, and is, a gentleman.  I maintain silence only with those Agnostics whose language recalls too vividly the gnosis and Billingsgate language of the bargee.