In a previous comment Chris asked about the theosophical model of the human constitution, which proposes the existence of a Higher and a lower self, and the statement by Krishnamurti that such a separation is “an idea, not a fact”.
In this kind of subjects, the focus of Krishnamurti and Theosophy differs—but only the focus, not the essential teaching, as I’m going to illustrate below.
The denial of (the idea of) a “higher self” is found not only in Krishnamurti, but also in the Buddha, for example. He denied the existence of anything beyond the five skandhas, that is, what we call the “lower self”. However, we consider Buddhism as part of (the universal) theosophy.
I think it is a mistake to go to Krishnamurti’s or Buddha’s teachings trying to find a metaphysical exposition. Neither of them intended to engage themselves in teaching a philosophy. They where supremely interested in a way of perceiving reality in a direct way, not through concepts. It is not that concepts, metaphysics, etc., are useless. But they are insufficient.
In Krishnamurti’s case, moreover, he had a very non-dualist (advaita) view. In many aspects, he was more advaita than even Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta Maharaj (two very well-known contemporary advaita jnanis). Nisargadatta, for example, said:
Questioner: Krishnamurti too speaks of living in awareness.
Maharaj: He always aims directly at the ‘ultimate’.
(I Am That, Talk 26)
Ramana Maharshi also, when asked about Krishnamurti’s teachings, answered that he always spoke from the absolute point of view (I’m sorry, I couldn’t find the quote).
That is a key point when understanding Krishnamurti’s teachings. He speaks always from a non-dualistic point of view, and those who are familiar with this “philosophy”, or rather, yoga (jnana yoga), are very used to that kind of statements (I will quote, in another comment, an example of Nisargadatta talking about the concept of the higher and the lower self, in relation to Krishnamurti teachings).
What Krishnamurti denied, however, is mainly the concept of the higher and lower self. I’ve already talked about this before. Any so-called “direct path” (mysticism) requires a supra-conceptual perception (involving the theosophical “buddhi”). Therefore any concept, no matter how accurately it may resemble truth, must be abandoned in order to actually perceive truth, since, as HPB said: “TRUTH lies beyond any ideas we can formulate or express” (How to Study Theosophy, Robert Bowen). That’s why the Christian mystical work The Cloud of Unknowing says:
For no matter how much of our spiritual understanding a man may have in the knowledge of all created spiritual things, he can never, by the work of his understanding, arrive at the knowledge of an uncreated spiritual thing, which is nothing except God. (Chapter LXX)
In this philosophical context, Krishnamurti says:
We need a fresh mind, obviously; we need a mind that can look at things anew, without awakening the whole power of memory. And it is only possible if you can look at yourself – the self being not the higher self or the lower self, but the ordinary self; this division as the High with a capital H, an idea, not a fact. If you can see the motives, all the movements – conscious as well as unconscious – of every desire, of every thought, of every feeling, if you are totally aware of all that without any choice, if you can just observe, neither condemning nor comparing, if you can see this in operation, then out of that comes a fresh mind, a mind that is spontaneous. And it is only such a mind which has emptied itself of all memory, that can function, if necessary, with freedom; it is only such a mind that can meditate. And that is real mutation and nothing else. (J. Krishnamurti, Rajghat 2nd public talk 1st December 1963.)
He never denies the existence of the Real beyond the illusion of our conditioning. What he does deny is that we can perceive that through our ideas. And being aware of that we arrive at this “fresh mind”, “emptied of all memory”, which I propose is what HPB calls manas-taijasa, that is, the mind illumined by buddhi, being a vehicle of it (in opposition to kama).
Frankly speaking, for most of us this division of a Higher Self and a lower self “is an idea, not a fact”. The idea may be correct but still, it is an idea. Most of us have not perceived the Higher Self as a distinct and separate entity. We may perceive the effects of it; we may feel inspired, we may feel drawn to do the correct, we may experience certain sense of unity. But we don’t know about the existence of a Higher Self. A person who has never opened his eyes may be told about the light, the colors, and he may even see a reflection of them through his closed eyelids. But he will know what the colors are only after he actually opens his eyes.
Now, is the idea of the Higher Self we usually have even correct? Does Theosophy states the existence of a Higher Self as a really different entity from the lower one? This is a point where many are confused, because it is not easy to grasp. HPB wrote:
The “principles,” as already said, save the body, the life, and the astral eidolon, all of which disperse at death, are simply aspects and states of consciousness. There is but one real man.
The Key to Theosophy, Section 6, “The Greek Teachings”
Only “aspects and states of consciousness”. Would you say that when dreaming, your character in the dream is yourself, as a physical personality? No, obviously it is not. But would you say it is different from you? No, either. You are the one dreaming. In a similar way, our Higher Self is not our personality, but it is not something different from it. According to HPB the distinction between those two selves is only a “philosophical symbolism”, not a reality:
Q. But they exist as separate entities for mathematical purposes, do they not?
A. That is a different thing; there is a great difference between nature and science, reality and philosophical symbolism. For the same reason we divide man into seven principles, but this does not mean that he has, as it were, seven skins, or entities, or souls. These principles are all aspects of one principle, and even this principle is but a temporary and periodical ray of the One eternal and infinite Flame or Fire.
Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge, III
To conclude this post, HPB is reported to have said that:
The moment one lets it [the concept of unity] go (and it is most easy to do so when engaged in any of the many intricate aspects of the Esoteric Philosophy) the idea of SEPARATION supervenes, and the study loses its value (How to Study Theosophy, Robert Bowen).
That happens a lot in our studies, and that is why I think the non-dualist view of Krishnamurti may help us to understand more deeply the Theosophical teachings.