Manas (devanāgarī: मनस्) is the Sanskrit word for "mind", from the root man, "to think". In Hinduism it is the recording faculty that receives impressions gathered by the sense from the outside world, coordinating sensory impressions before they are presented to the higher faculty of buddhi (the "intellect" in Hinduism). Manas is one of the four parts of the antahkarana (the "internal organ"), the other three parts being buddhi (the intellect), citta (the memory) and ahamkāra (the ego).
In Theosophy manas is the fifth principle in human beings. It is the intellectual faculty that allows humans to think, remember, plan, etc. It is also the origin of self-consciousness. During life, this principle is regarded to have a dual nature. On one hand, it is the Higher Ego, that is, the human soul that reincarnates in a body life after life. But once it is incarnated, it gives origin to the lower or personal ego, that is, the feeling of "I am Mr. Smith" without reference to its true origin as a lasting soul.
Manas (Sk.). Lit., “the mind”, the mental faculty which makes of man an intelligent and moral being, and distinguishes him from the mere animal; a synonym of Mahat. Esoterically, however, it means, when unqualified, the Higher EGO, or the sentient reincarnating Principle in man. When qualified it is called by Theosophists Buddhi-Manas or the Spiritual Soul in contradistinction to its human reflection—Kâma-Manas.
In its original nature, i. e., on its own plane, manas is a spiritual entity with omniscience (higher mind) and a spiritual sense of I-ness (higher ego). However, when the moment for incarnation comes, manas sends a "ray" from itself to operate through the body, which gives origin to the conditioned faculty of thinking (lower manas) and the selfish sense of "I" (lower ego).
Some synonyms for higher manas are Higher Ego (or simply the Ego), Reincarnating Ego, Inner Man, Causal body, Karana Sharira, Nous, or Inner Self. The higher manas is frequently said to be working in conjunction with buddhi as buddhi-manas.
The Principle of mind
In its purely metaphysical aspect, Manas, being again one remove (on the downward plane) from Buddhi, is still so immeasurably higher than the physical man, that it cannot enter into direct relation with the personality, except through its reflection, the lower mind.
Because this principle is the origin of the sense of "I-ness", it is called the "Ego":
Ego (Lat.) "I"; the consciousness in man of the "I am I," or the feeling of I-am-ship. Esoteric philosophy teaches the existence of two Egos in man, the mortal or personal, and the higher, the divine or impersonal, calling the former "personality", and the latter "individuality".
The meaning of the word "ego" in Theosophy is not restricted to the one modern psychology gives. It is used to refer to the sense of "I-ness", which can be expressed in a personal and selfish way (through the lower manas), as well as in a spiritual and impersonal form (through the higher manas).
In connection to the later, Mme. Blavatsky wrote:
The human Ego is neither Ātma nor Buddhi, but the higher Manas: the intellectual fruition and the efflorescence of the intellectual self-conscious Egotism—in the higher spiritual sense.
This is the real Individuality, or the divine man. It is this Ego which—having originally incarnated in the senseless human form animated by, but unconscious (since it had no consciousness) of, the presence in itself of the dual monad—made of that human-like form a real man. It is that Ego, that "Causal Body," which overshadows every personality Karma forces it to incarnate into.
When the higher ego has to incarnate, it sends a "ray" to animate the body, giving origin to the lower ego:
Manas is, as it were, a globe of pure, Divine Light, a Ray from the World Soul, a unit from a higher sphere, in which is no differentiation. Descending to a plane of differentiation it emanates a Ray which is itself, which it can only manifest through the personality already differentiated. This Ray is the Lower Manas, while the globe of Divine Light, a Kumāra on its own plane, is the Higher Ego, or Higher Manas, Manas proper.
The "fifth principle" in The Mahatma Letters
In The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, especially those before the publication of the Esoteric Buddhism, the phrase "fifth principle" often refers to the lower portion of manas rather than to the whole principle. This is because the Mahatmas were following Allan Octavian Hume's classification published in the the October 1881 issue of The Theosophist, where the author defines the fifth principle as "the animal or physical intelligence".
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Theosophical Glossary (Krotona, CA: Theosophical Publishing House, 1973), 202.
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Theosophical Glossary (Krotona, CA: Theosophical Publishing House, 1973), 156.
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Key to Theosophy, (London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1987), 174.
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Key to Theosophy, Section 10, (London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1987), ???.
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1980), 630.
- Michael Gomes (transcriber), The Secret Doctrine Commentaries (The Hague: I.S.I.S. foundation, 2010), 609-10.
- Michael Gomes (transcriber), The Secret Doctrine Commentaries (The Hague: I.S.I.S. foundation, 2010), 610.
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. X (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1988), 249.
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Theosophical Glossary (Krotona, CA: Theosophical Publishing House, 1973), 111.
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. II, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 79.
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Key to Theosophy, (London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1987), 136.
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1980), 709.
- Manas at Theosopedia
- Genius by H. P. Blavatsky
- Psychic and Noetic Action by H. P. Blavatsky
- The Extended Mind by Rupert Sheldrake
- A Mind to Embrace the Universe by Adam Warcup
- The Extraordinary Nature of the Ordinary Mind by Joy Mills