Copyright © 2011 by Theosophical University Press
Evolution means the "rolling out," the unwrapping of that which previously has been inrolled or infolded. Its significance, therefore, is self-expression, expression of the essential self. The question has been asked as to why use the phrase "evolving souls" rather than "revolving souls." The question is not so unimportant as might appear. "Revolution" is, like "evolution," a word of Latin origin and with the same etymological meaning, but because of the particle re the meaning is intensified, pointing to repetitive action. Indeed, the difference between the evolution and revolution of spirit into matter and of matter again into spirit is but slight, so far as words go. One may truly say that souls revolve along the pathways of life from the eternity of their past into the eternity of the future, yet such revolving obviously involves the idea of evolving; and therefore the doctors of the Jewish Qabbalah were right when they used the term gilgulim to signify this "revolution" in destiny of an unself-conscious god-spark — a life-atom of the spirit — through all the ranges and planes of illimitable duration.
It is evident that the vast multitudes of progressing entities which compose the hierarchies infilling the spaces of Space are not in a state of quiescence, but are all without exception in continuous motion both in time and space, as well as in evolutionary growth. Nothing in the universe stands still, for this is contrary to the fundamental impulses of cosmic life, the most marked of whose attributes is unceasing activity — at least during the course of a manvantara or world-period. Now this unceasing motion is growth: generally forwards in evolutionary unfoldment, much less frequently in a retrogressive direction; in either case, it is activity or movement. All these beings, which we may speak of as evolving souls or monads, are working out their destiny through the process of evolution. At the same time they are following courses of repetitive action in time and space. Hence they are not merely "evolving" but are likewise engaged in "revolvings" or whirlings in and through the different worlds and planes, both of our planetary chain and of the solar system. This process may be visualized as the rolling forwards or revolving of the great wheel of life.
Biological researchers particularly from the time of Lamarck and Darwin have speculated far and wide as to the cause of the differences in the families of animate beings, these differences presenting a picture of a ladder or scale of creatures which in some manner are linked together by close bonds of similarity, and yet showing marked and confusing differences; and there slowly grew the conviction that all nature was under the sway of a primal impulse, urging on creatures toward progress through growth. This is the so-called law of evolution. The theosophist conceives evolution as a process of unfolding beginning within the entity and expressing itself outwards; and it is just here where he parts company with the Darwinian or the still more modern conception of evolution as being mere accretion following accretion in the bodies of growing beings.
The source of evolution lies with each evolving entity, within its character or soul, what may be described as its svabhava, that is, its essential character. To illustrate: why is it that a seed, animal or vegetable, produces always its like? An apple seed produces an apple tree always, and will not produce a fig tree nor a banana plant, nothing but an apple tree. The fact is so common that it is apt to be passed over without comment. Similarly through all manifested existence. Why? At the heart of that seed, behind it and within it, is its own essential self, its individual characteristic or svabhava, which is what the ancient Stoics called a "spermatic logos" or "seed-logos." In other words, a psychospiritual essence or monad which can produce nothing but itself and from itself. What is there within this seed which governs its direct path in growth? We cannot see this invisible factor; we cannot analyze it in the laboratory. It is the inner latent powers and capacities, the soul of the being, expressing itself in the new generation or rebirth. Itself expresses itself. The evolving soul reproduces itself in the new life, because it is revolving through the spheres.
The innate powers or faculties in the long pilgrimage of the evolution of every entity in the boundless All are not added unto the individual, after the fashion of Darwinistic transformism, but are the outward expression of interior causes. True evolution, therefore, is not the accretion of parts from without, nor the improvement of organ or faculty by the impact of exterior forces arising in the environment only, but is the throwing outwards of forces and faculties and powers latent in the entity itself.
The word "emanation" has a meaning closely akin, at least mystically, to that of evolution. It is a Latin compound meaning "the flowing out" of what is within, and one can see immediately that the difference between the flowing out of what is within, and the unrolling of what is already inrolled as the substance itself of a being, is very small indeed. Yet there is not only a distinction between them, but a difference.
Emanation signifies an "outflowing" of a monadic essence or a monad from a parent source; evolution signifies the "unfolding" of what lies latent or unmanifest in the constitution of a being. Emanation, therefore, may be illustrated by the case of the sun which during the entire solar manvantara is emanating or throwing forth from itself innumerable octaves of radiation. These different forms of radiation are at once force and substance combined, each such form or class of radiation being compounded of radiation-units, force-units, which at one and the same time may be considered to be discrete particles or compounds of energy and equivalently compounds or wavelets of substance. Modern science speaks of these units of energy as quanta of energy or photons — an exceedingly good description for the quasi-astral and quasi-material plane where these energy-quanta or photons are placed by scientific thought.
Consider, then, these vast numbers of photons which have been emanated or radiated from the sun as individuals, undertaking individual pilgrimages throughout the solar system, each one beginning a cycle of experience, precisely as the monads do when first emanated from their divine parent. But once emanated, each such monad or spiritual force-unit has begun its cycle of evolution, the "rolling forth" from itself by karmic necessity its own latent powers or faculties which in time develop appropriate organs through which it expresses itself.
We have, then, first the emanation or flowing forth from the originant or source of these hosts of individual monads, which immediately begin their ages-long peregrinations through the different realms visible and invisible of the solar system. From the instant they are once radiated or emanated from their divine source, they begin to evolve, first by automatic unfolding of innate forces or energies, and at a later stage continuing the process through self-devised efforts in bringing out the inner and as yet unevolved parts of their essence.
These are three important points in this marvelous process of birth or emanation, and of unfolding growth or evolution. First, each new evolutionary impulse that a monad experiences is itself a minor emanation from the heart of the evolving being. Second, each such expenditure of evolving energy, which in its first form is an emanation, is itself but giving birth to a minor entity which we may call a life-atom, which in its turn begins its pilgrimage through the same process of evolution. And third, emanation and evolution are really but two forms of the same activity: one the emanative or original, and the other the unfolding or evolutive. So that each emanation can likewise be considered to be a form of evolution, and each new evolutionary impulse can equally well be looked upon as an emanational outflow.
Now these growing or evolving souls are the causal factors in evolution, and are likewise compounded beings — not pure monadic essences. They evolve because they pass through stages from the imperfect to the relatively perfect; and then when the grand round of peregrinations or revolvings in the solar system is accomplished and the solar manvantara comes to its end, these evolving souls are withdrawn into the cosmic oversoul, and therein remain for the entire term of the solar pralaya or period of cosmic rest. When the solar pralaya in its turn has reached its end, and a new solar manvantara is about to open in a new period of cosmic manifestation, these perfected monads then reissue forth to begin a new course of life and activity therein, but on higher series of worlds or planes.
In frontierless space there is an incomputable number of evolving monads expressing themselves in all-various forms. They exist everywhere and are the causal factors in the complexity and diversity in universal nature — gods, dhyani-chohans or spiritual beings, men, beasts, plants, minerals, and the beings of the three elemental worlds — all of them hosts, multitudes, armies. Those which are the nearest akin collect together because of psychomagnetic attraction as naturally as drops of water or particles of quicksilver will flow together and to a certain degree coalesce.
When we speak of conscious force-centers in the universe, or again of souls, we do not limit this to human beings, because the whole universe is nothing but a vast aggregation of them. One may say: Where are they? The answer is: Where are they not? Everywhere. Their number is simply unthinkable in any terms of human numerical mensuration. The number of souls, however, in any particular host or family is limited, because finite; but the hosts or families themselves are infinite in number, ex hypothesi, because they fill all space, and who can place a limit to universal nature or abstract Space?
Space is far more than mere extension of material dimensions, which is but one of the attributes of matter, so to speak, the body of Space. In the conception of the Esoteric Tradition, Space is the all — whatever is, was or will be, throughout limitless duration. Space, an endless expanse inwards and well as outwards, conceived of as the frontierless plenum or pleroma of all Being or rather Be-ness, includes the limitless hierarchies of worlds and planes from the superdivine downwards through all intermediate grades to the physical, and what is beyond physical matter. Indeed space, because it is whatever is in both infinitude and eternity, can be called the shoreless life-consciousness-substance, at once abstract being and all causation, over and in the fields of which pulsates throughout endless time the abstract Ideation engendered in and born of itself. It is that from which all comes, that in which all is and exists, and that to which all finally returns.
The value, philosophically, of the Pythagorean term monad is its implication of "individuality"; for these monads are distinctly "individuals" throughout the entire term of their manifested existence in a cosmic or solar manvantara. They may be looked upon, metaphysically, as individualized spiritual droplets or "atoms" of space: component drops of the shoreless ocean of spacial being. In their incessant motion, whether as a host or as monadic individuals, they not merely compose but actually are both the instrumental as well as the substantial causes of the hierarchies of the worlds. They exist in multimyriad grades of evolutionary development: certain aggregates of these monads being spiritual beings, others intellectual or manasaputric, others again life-atoms, and still others manifesting as particles of material substance.
Imagine the immense numbers of these monadic entities existing even in our own small realm of space-extension! The American scientist Langmuir has calculated that the number of gaseous molecules in one cubic inch of air is so immense that if each molecule was enlarged and changed into a grain of fine sand, these grains of sand would completely fill a trench one mile wide and three feet deep and would reach from New York to San Francisco! Again, it has been estimated that the human body contains some twenty-six thousand billion cells, each one being composed of entities still more minute which give to that cell all its physical being, its characteristic shape and size. These smaller entities are the atoms, each enshrining a consciousness-center.
We are told that the physical atom is mostly holes, "empty space," and that if we could collect the neutronic and protonic centers composing the atoms of a man's body into one point, that point would be invisible to the physical eye! Why then do we see each other? Because — strange paradox — we are mostly "empty spaces," vacancies, which produce upon us similarly composed, the illusion of dimension and bulk. Just exactly as the celestial bodies are seen in the deeps of solar space, so are there, relatively speaking, equivalent distances between electron and electron of which the atoms are composed, and between atom and atom which again build the molecules, which again make the cells, which again form the physical body of man. Just as these celestial orbs are ensouled, so likewise are the atoms of man's body; for there is one fundamental Law running through all.
We can therefore call an atom a soul, because the atom is a transitory event in the life-history of a consciousness-center or monad which is a growing, learning, evolving as well as revolving being. The electrons, neutrons, and protons of the atom are but the bodies of still more infinitesimal force-points or consciousness-points which express themselves through these electrical infinitesimals in the subatomic worlds. The number of these protons, neutrons, and electrons in a bit of matter is so great that we must count them in octillions.
Dr. Robert A. Millikan has estimated that the number of electrons which pass every second through the filament of a common 16-candle-power electric lamp is so enormous that it would take the two and a half million people living in Chicago, each person counting at the rate of two per second and working twenty-four hours a day, twenty thousand years to count them — 3 quintillions, 153 quadrillions, 600 trillions. Yet each one of these electrical infinitesimals is the physical expression of an evolving soul. Here is a case where the infinitesimal merges into the "infinite," much as an inverted cone, after passing the point of its origin, again spreads forth into the new "infinite." Our scientists tell us that these electronic infinitesimals are the substantial basis of all physical life, the building-bricks of the universe, being at once either force or matter. Each one of these infinitesimals is an imbodied force-entity, a "soul," more accurately, a monad. To such infinitesimals our physical body, in which they live and move and have their being, is no doubt a mathematically infinite universe.
According to the beautiful Hindu metaphor, man is a living tree of consciousness growing with its roots in the spirit above and its branches bending downwards into the material world. Many souls, one spirit. The undying monadic consciousness-center of man gives to the soul, itself a host of minor souls, individuality, thus enabling it as an entity to issue forth as a ray. This inmost point is deathless because it is one of the host of monads born from within the bosom of the mother spirit. It is a spirit-center which has not yet become manifested on this plane. On its evolutionary journey it is breaking through new spheres and planes, and therefore on these lower planes it manifests at first but feebly its latent transcendent powers. We must not misunderstand this to mean that the monad is something which is destined in the future to become spirit, and now at this present stage of its evolutionary journey is not yet a spirit. The monad is a spirit-point which, during the course of its evolutionary journey in the realms of matter, clothes itself in its own rays of light which are the "souls."
The fact that certain monads are linked together by similar attributes due to evolutionary unfoldment is the source of the idea of families of souls, sometimes called group-souls. These group-souls, however, do not compose groups or bodies essentially different from each other, but are aggregates of evolving beings which because of similar karmic unfoldment are brought together in the same relative times and places.
Moreover, when souls aggregate together in nations and thus form a body of human beings, or in animal groups forming a family of beasts, we must not suppose that either such nation or such animal group is distinctly oversouled by a unit mother-soul which lasts through eternity. It is the karmic similarities of such individuals of group-souls which bring them together into these groups; although no one would deny the obvious fact that the collective impulses or qualities which such groups have together form a sort of psychical atmosphere in which these group-individuals breathe and live. Such an oversoul of a group, however, is not a true entity or individual.
Let it be clearly understood that these groups, whether national or racial, are not manifestations of an actual entitative evolving being called the Over-monad, or more popularly the racial soul. They are the representatives on earth of what the ancient Latins called a Genius, which is not an individualized entity but is a diffuse energy or force in the ideation of the planetary spirit, which is evoked into manifestation because of the combined intellectual, psychoastral as well as spiritual forces engendered by racial or national units incarnating more or less contemporaneously. Such a Genius, racial or national, in far distant ages of the future will find itself again in manifestation when the intricate and combined karma of the same individuals once more brings them together, thus creating more or less the same "atmosphere" which brings about the manifestation of the same Genius, between these two epochs latent in the ideation of the planetary spirit.
So far as the individuals of a race or nation are concerned, it must never be forgotten that their contemporaneous incarnation is a matter only of similar karmic characteristics drawing them together into temporary unity. These human souls themselves very quickly wander from such national or racial atmosphere to find the next succeeding imbodiment in some other nation or race to which their karmic proclivities attract them. This is an exceedingly important point because it shows the inherent folly, if not stupidity, of blind and unreasoning prejudices based upon mere nationalism or racialism.
Such informal aggregates as national or racial groups must not be confused with the strict working of the individualized monads through groups as they use such groups as vehicles. For instance, a tree is an entity, and among the old Greeks its ensouling monadic essence was called a dryad or hamadryad. A tree thus is composed of groups of entities closely resembling each other, yet in and through these aggregates lives and works the tree-soul. So man's body is composed of groups of evolving monads or life-atoms, the members of which closely resemble each other, and yet all together form the physical vehicle through which the human soul works. The human soul, being an individual, could not be said to be a group-soul obviously; nor could the individualized evolving monadic consciousnesses or life-atoms or paramanus of any one such subordinate group be said to be portions of a group-soul. Each individual is an individual, but each works with others more or less of the same evolutionary status.
Here then is the picture: aggregates of life-atoms closely resembling each other combine with other aggregates of life-atoms closely resembling each other in order to form a vehicle — such as the human body — for an evolving soul of a far higher grade. These aggregated individual entities are groups, but they do not form a group-soul, but are themselves ensouled by a soul higher than the aggregates and higher than any individual members of such aggregates.
Each hierarchy, each universe, each god or "angel," man, animal or atom, is but a passing phase, fugitive, non-enduring, however long its individual existence. A spark of the cosmic essence, each such monadic essence works through that particular veil which we call in its passing form a man, or a beast, a world, a sphere or a universe. All are "events" existing in space-time or time-space — a continuum of consciousness-substance.
What then does all this mean? It means that abstract force, or still more abstractly, conscious motion, is at the heart of every being and every thing; and consciousness is the purest form of cosmic force — spirit, in other words. Matter itself is but a vast aggregation of monadic particles: monads, latent, sleeping, passing through that matter-phase; but each of them sooner or later will self-express itself in individualized action, and thus grow; and each phase of this evolutionary growth is an "event" of consciousness.
Immortality in imperfection finds no place in eternal nature. We grow and learn and advance steadily ever toward a goal which in nature's illimitable expanses we can never reach; for the reaching of such a final goal would mean the sinking into a crystallized immobility of consciousness. It is our foolish because undeveloped minds, and hungry because unsatisfied hearts, which dream of "immortality" as if it were the greatest boon that could be conferred upon human beings in our present evolutionary state. What ignorance we show when we arrogate to ourselves an immortality lasting throughout endless duration! Why should we be exceptions in an infinite universe which teaches, in every possible manner, that human beings are collectively but one group among countless hosts of other entities, all of which are growing, and some of which are incomparably superior to us in evolution?
On the other hand, this yearning for self-conscious continuity is founded on a clear intuition; but continuity in everlasting life is not the quasi-static "immortality" as this word is invariably misunderstood in the West. For there is a vast difference between an unending but ever-changing continuity in existence, and the utterly unnatural idea of a changeless or eternally static human ego or soul supposed to be immortal in its imperfections. If such ego were to change one iota, it would no longer be the same ego but would have been altered; whereas it is precisely the ego or self-conscious center which is undergoing continuous changes.
It should be clear enough that continuance in consciousness or true immortality consists solely in the self-conscious union of the human ego (of which the human soul is a ray) with its own divine-spiritual parent, the monad. The monad, per se, is unconditionally immortal; the human lower triad, comprising the physical body, the astral body and the vitality, is unconditionally mortal. That which is intermediate, the human ego and its soul, are conditionally immortal, depending upon whether the soul ally itself with its spiritual immortal source, or so enwrap itself into the mortal triad that its composition is affected thereby and disappears when the mortal triad dies. In this case a new human soul has to be evolved so that the human ego may express itself therein.
One of the main objections against the Western misconception of continuity is the fierce egoisms that it arouses. Instead of a man being taught that his humanity is but one stage on an endless pathway, this misconception implants in his consciousness the idea that he must "save" his soul at all costs, that his imperfect self or soul is his first concern. It makes a man egocentric and selfish, and induces the feeling that it is not necessary to look far within himself simply because there is no "distance" within himself to look into. It makes of him a spiritual pauper, and deprives him of that noblest form of self-respect which is born by discovering one's inner spiritual grandeur, in recognizing soul-kinship with all others around him, seeing in those others limitless wells of beauty and genius.
When the conviction comes upon a man that he has little more to learn either about himself or others, it is time that he bestir himself. Not only is it egoism in its most dangerous form, it is the beginning of the crystallization of his inner nature, which is the wanton parent of all human trouble, and is more productive of even physical disease than any other thing that can affect a man. "As a man thinks, so is he."
There is an old Sanskrit saying often quoted in the Hindu writings:
Yadyad rupam kamayate devata, tattad devata bhavati
— Yaska, Nirukta, 10:17
"Whatsoever thing a divine entity yearns to become, that very thing it will become." This principle of natural law applies to all conscious beings. A man, by refusing to believe his own intuitions, can deprive himself of spiritual illumination by shutting the door against the entrance into his mind of the light from his own inner god. On the other hand, if he can ally himself with that inmost center of his being, knowledge without bounds can then be his.
Katherine Tingley wrote:
It is that nobler part of our nature that rises to every situation and meets it with patience and courage, — the power that often sweeps into a man's life unawares and carries him out beyond all brain-mind thought into the great broad road of service. . . .
The knowledge of it comes not in any world-startling or magical way, and is not to be purchased save by the surrender of a man's passionate and lustful nature to the God within. — The Wine of Life, p. 12
A human being is a "soul" then, a composite being built around a "monadic ray" — an efflux from the monad, its source. The divine-spiritual ray, around which the soul-structure is built, is indeed "immortal" because it lasts from the beginning to the end of a solar manvantara, and lives as a spiritual being in the bosom of its parent monad with unbroken continuity of consciousness. But souls, being composite things, must have rest. They must have periods of peace and repose for recuperation wherein they gain strength for their next incarnation on earth. A familiar example is the rest and recuperation which our body needs at the end of each day.
The truth is that there is but one self, of which all the hosts of minor selves are but greater or smaller ray-selves. The "dew-drop" finally slips into the Shining Sea — not to become "lost" but to expand the dewdrop into the Sea itself. This was the teaching of Gautama the Buddha; it is the teaching likewise of the noblest spiritual effort in Hindustan, the Advaita-Vedanta of Sankaracharya; it is the intuition of every great mystic that the world has ever known. It is difficult to grasp this sublime thought that by losing ourselves in the greater, we become that greater because the two are in essence one.
The Westerner imagines that when this grand consummation of the cosmic manvantara is finally reached, then and there forever afterwards will ensue an immortality in static crystallization of perfection — which is just what will not take place. For, marvel of marvels, when the new cosmic manvantara opens, after the cosmic pralaya, all these individuals composing the uncounted myriads of the monadic hosts will reissue forth for a new evolutionary pilgrimage in the new series of worlds that will then flow forth from the heart of being — worlds which are the reimbodiments of the worlds that were, a new world-system indeed.
As the human has a soul and a divine or essential self, so likewise has a beast a soul — but a beast's soul, not a human soul. In other words, that beast-soul — a highly evolved elemental and in its primal origin a life-atom — is nevertheless a soul, the structure of which will reassemble itself around its own inmost monadic ray at each reinfleshment, even as occurs in the case of man. This monadic ray inspires the higher and quite latent parts of the beast exactly after the manner that the monadic ray inspires man. Yet in the beast this monadic ray is practically unmanifest in the sense of self-consciousness, whereas in man it has so refined its soul-structure that it has been evolved into retaining self-consciousness in incarnation.
The beast thus in a sense is automatically or directly conscious; the man is self-conscious or conscious through reflection from above. The beasts are composed of all the elements of universal nature that compose man; yet between the human and the beast-kingdom there is an impassable psychical and intellectual gulf, brought about by the inclusion in the human inner economy of the higher intermediate nature — a self-conscious, thinking and choosing entity, while self-consciousness in the beasts is as yet relatively unexpressed. This is a gulf so great that nothing in nature can bridge it, except the gaining by the beast of self-consciousness through the conscious imbodiment of the monadic ray in the soul-structure; but this will happen also for all beasts in the far distant future of another reimbodiment of our entire planetary chain.
In Ecclesiastes, one of the canonical books of the Bible, occurs the following which the author translates here from the Hebrew original:
I debated in my heart concerning the condition of the sons of man, as 'Elohim [the god or the gods] made them, and seeing how themselves are beasts, they themselves. For the destiny of the sons of man and the destiny of the beast are one destiny to them both; even as dieth the former so dieth the latter; for there is one spirit in them all; so that the pre-eminence of the man over the beast is nothing; for all is illusion. All goeth to the one place; all is from the dust; and all returneth to the dust. Who knoweth the spirit of the sons of man which riseth upwards, and the spirit of the beast which descendeth under the earth? — iii, 18-21
This book of Ecclesiastes is a mystical work, and is entitled Qoheleth in the Hebrew, which means "the Teacher." In this passage we are told that "Even as the beast dies, so dies the man: they both go to one place; both came from the dust and both return to the dust." If these words are taken in their surface meaning, they teach a crass materialism; but this is not the intent of this Hebrew work. Is it not obvious that Solomon, or whoever the writer of this treatise was, taught under cover of superficial words a hid and secret sense? The point is that beasts in modern times are usually, falsely, considered to be soulless; and all antiquity, while denying that idea, nevertheless made a very great distinction between the intellectual and spiritual powers of man, and the interior psychological apparatus of the beast.
At the end we are told: "Who knoweth" the difference between "the spirit of the sons of man which riseth upwards, and the spirit of the beast which descendeth under the earth" — showing by this comparison that there is between man and beast a real gulf in moral and intellectual development, which evolution alone can bridge. The difference is briefly this: that man is a self-conscious being, which signifies consciousness reflected upon itself, this producing self-consciousness — a distinctly spiritual quality, for thus does consciousness know itself.
In man the process of unfolding has proceeded so far, that the psychical life-atoms which make the structure of the human soul are of a much higher grade than they which compose the soul-structure of the beast, and therefore in man they express much more fully the faculties and powers of the monadic ray. If the soul-structure of man were capable of expressing all the faculties and powers of his spiritual monad, then man would be a true human god on earth.
If an individual examine himself, he will sometimes find his nature so contrasted with itself, so at war with its own elements, that if these conditions exist in large degree he has what psychology calls a "double" or "multiple personality" — actually seeming to be one person at one time and another person or persons at other times. Man indeed is "legion," to us the figure of the New Testament, only he is not alone the legion of imps or of elemental forces, but likewise a legionary host of elements of light and inspiration; for in his inmost he is essentially a "creator" in the sense of a producer, continuously sending forth from within himself all-various powers and streams of ethereal substances which eventuate in ordinary human consciousness expressing itself in these legions of manifestations. These are all from him and of him, for he is their parent; but none of them is he, for he is superior to them in his essence.
What is lacking in cases of "double" or "multiple personality" is that the individual's own egoic stream of consciousness seems at times to be submerged or overwhelmed with these other and phantasmal apparitions of "personality." Yet it would be wrong to say anything is lacking in such cases of dissipated or dislocated consciousness, for the central egoic self is always there; but the man is not allying himself with his own spiritual Self, and hence follows psychomental will-o'-the-wisps of impulse and thought and emotion instead of the central light.
Now there exist in the beasts passions, memories, instincts, which almost seem to approach intuition at times, also limited knowledge of things, likewise hates, loves, and contrarieties of various kinds, just as man feels them. But one does not find in the beast judgment, as man knows it, no discrimination, creative intellectual power, recognition of abstract truth, or impersonal love. The difference then between man and beast is one of degree in evolutionary growth, not of kind, nor again of spiritual origin. The beast has everything in it that man has, but mostly latent, unmanifest.
Consciousnesses everywhere, of multimyriad grades, from gods to life-atoms: all following one general path of evolutionary progress, yet as individuals pursuing roads which most intricately cross and recross each other, thus bringing about the interblending karmic destiny of all things. As Einstein has said:It is enough for me to contemplate the mystery of conscious life perpetuating itself through all eternity — to reflect upon the marvelous structure of the universe which we can dimly perceive, and to try humbly to comprehend even an infinitesimal part of the intelligence manifest in nature. — Mein Weltbild (The World As I See It)
The Esoteric Tradition divides the universe, and consequently man, into four basic planes or worlds of manifestation. These planes or worlds should not be conceived as a rising (or descending) stair, but as being interior to one another, each one more ethereal than the grosser and more material one which incloses and thus imbodies it. They are the spheres or domains of operation of the four lower basic principles of the sevenfold universe; and the same rule holds true for the human being.
The first and highest is the Divine, the domain or sphere of activity of the gods — the highest spiritual entities belonging to our own home-universe, which includes all within the encircling zone of the galaxy or milky way.
The next lower is the spiritual, the habitat of the monads — the term meaning "unit" or "individual," it is descriptive of the nature of those entities who have attained self-consciousness in relative fullness so far as the beings below them in the same hierarchy are concerned — hence self-conscious individual life-centers or Jivas.
The third world or plane is the realm or field of operations of souls of various kinds, which themselves are rays from the monads and thus can be re-called, withdrawn into the parent-source. They are entities growing toward rebecoming their own inner and as yet unevolved monadic essence, just as the monads or embryo-gods are growing toward divinity, toward becoming gods.
Fourth and last of these worlds or planes is the habitat of other countless hosts of entities which, for lack of a better term, we may call Life-atoms — or simply atoms, adopting the term from the ancient Greeks of the Atomistic schools, such as Leucippus and Democritus. These atomic entities are not the physical atoms of chemistry, necessarily, which last are but the material reflections of the real life-atoms. They are the energic centers within and behind the physical atoms which thus ensoul them, and hold them in coherency as the individual units of physical matter, the physical atoms being the concretions of substance around the energic outflow from these life-atoms. Furthermore, these life-atoms are called in Sanskrit also by the term we have given to the monads — jivas. This word meaning "life," thus used in two senses because of its appositeness, refers in strict accuracy only to the fundamental monadic life-center itself — which term is therefore applicable to entities on the superior worlds as well as on this plane. Thus the intrinsic significance of jiva is life-center, provided that we include in this conception the containing of mind and consciousness.
One could say perhaps that a life-atom is the same as the ensouling vital force of the electron, with this proviso: that this life-atom is in itself ensouled by an elemental soul. An elemental thus is an evolving soul in its earliest or elemental stages — a life-center in its appearance in this material sphere. The form or shape is a matter of no importance whatsoever, because the elementals or elemental lives, as being the nature-sprites of the elements, change their form or shape with great rapidity. In other words, the elemental is just that: an elemental force or energy ensouled by a jiva.
Every ray of sunlight, every little "whirling devil," as the Arabs call them, on a dusty road, every waterspout and even every raindrop, imbodies an elemental or group of elementals. Every electric spark is an elemental or a collection of them; every twitch of a nerve is the effect of the action of one or more; but this does not mean that the elementals are miniature entities of human form pulling a nerve or whirling water or throwing raindrops down; or with a tool making the miniature cyclones of dust that are seen on the road.
Every atom in a man's body is the physical encasement of a psychic elemental or nature-spirit, itself more highly ensouled with a jiva. We talk by the aid of elementals; we digest and breathe and live by their aid. In fact we are surrounded with them; they form every part of us, and participate in every thought or emotion we have and in every action — and this is because they are nature-forces, nature-sprites, and therefore individuals, in a certain sense. Some of them are titans, others atomic in size; and between these two extremes there are all-various sizes and varieties.
Think of the varieties or kinds of radiation ranging from the infinitesimal, vibratory forces called cosmic rays, then x-rays, toward others passing through the radiative ranges that we call heat and light, and increasing in amplitude until we have the long waves used in radio; and there are other ranges which scientists suspect. Each such ray is brought about by the activity of an elemental, expressing its own characteristics in the type of radiative wave which it produces.
Elementals are simply nature-spirits in all-various degrees of evolutionary unfolding. A stroke of lightning is a cosmic elemental in action. The maruts of the Indian Vedas, quaintly translated "wind-gods" or "storm-gods," are cosmic elementals but of exceedingly high class; indeed these maruts are really elementals evolved to so high a degree that they may verily be called self-conscious spirits of nature. Man was himself an elemental which through evolution of inner capacities has grown from un-individuality to monadic individualization. Man is at the same time a mass of elementals who are subordinate to him, just as he himself is subordinate to the gods who in far past cosmic periods were elementals.
The elementals, therefore, are the semi-automatic and quasi-conscious agents in nature, imbodying not only their relative proportions of mind and consciousness, but likewise the hierarchical ranges of the higher minds and consciousnesses who use them in this manner, and thus bring about the multimyriad forms of work in the universe. Consequently, these ever active nature-sprites are everywhere, and are the instrumental means or causes of whatever is done anywhere — equally with works of high intelligence or of low. A man writing a book does so with the aid of elementals that he temporarily enslaves to the mandates of his mind and will; the same man swimming or riding or driving an automobile, or sitting in church — all these actions are performed by and through the aid of elementals.
In the seance-rooms when certain mediumistic humans are present, it happens that at times the elementals go out of control, and then they show their presence by twitching or jerking things, or making strange and unusual noises. A house where such things happen contains a poltergeist, or spook, or what the Oriental calls a bhuta or a jinni; and people then say the house is haunted. In the presence of certain mediums whose human principles are so poorly coordinated and controlled that they do not automatically obey the higher mind and will of these individuals — the elementals sometimes go so much "out of hand," that astonishing things may happened, such as rising or tipping of tables, throwing down of crockery in a closet; and if the medium be near, tripping him up and making him fall, or making his bed shake or rise on a leg — indeed it is possible for them to work all kinds of pranks. It is all a matter of nature-forces flowing from the medium in unregulated and quasi-anarchic fashion. Once that the rationale and nature and cause of these phenomena are understood, it is at once seen that there is nothing at all weird or uncanny about them, no more so than is an attack of hysterics, or an attack of rheumatism, or a bad stumble when walking.
Every time when a man is overcome with passion, for that series of moments he is more or less in the grip of the dominating power of an elemental or group of elementals which normally belong and function in the lower parts of his constitution, and which he uses when in full control of himself as forces automatically following the mandates of his mind and will for higher purposes.
All elementals, whether cosmic or infinitesimal in magnitude, are undeveloped entities because arising in the cosmic elements. The gods are self-conscious beings who in past cosmic periods were elementals. A human in far past time was also a nature-sprite or cosmic elemental. What else could he have been? Man is a part of nature; he is a spiritually and intellectually individualized nature-force.
As H. P. Blavatsky wrote:
In sober truth, as just shown, every "Spirit" so-called is either a disembodied or a future man. As from the highest Archangel (Dhyan Chohan) down to the last conscious "Builder" (the inferior class of Spiritual Entities), all such are men, having lived aeons ago, in other Manvantaras, on this or other Spheres; so the inferior, semi-intelligent and non-intelligent Elementals — are all future men. That fact alone — that a Spirit is endowed with intelligence — is a proof to the Occultist that that Being must have been a man, and acquired his knowledge and intelligence throughout the human cycle. — The Secret Doctrine 1:277
These four main classes of beings are not only evolving but likewise are revolving, and not only as aggregated classes but equally so as individuals. The atoms, or life-atoms, the invisible partly conscious lives which infill the universe and which in very fact compose its "matter"-side, grow slowly by evolving through the aeons. As this revolving evolution proceeds, self-consciousness begins to appear, unfolding and growing steadily in ever greater degree. When self-consciousness is finally reached, these life-atoms have then become souls. Each entity anywhere can manifest only what is intrinsically itself; but of course as this self is rooted in its turn in the boundless All, it is obvious that evolution of self-expression is at once endless and beginningless.
That particular monadic ray which manifests through the human soul is our essential self. These souls as they evolve become in course of time what we call monads — not because a soul changes into a monad by growing through accretion, but because of bringing out what is already within itself in the monadic essence. These monads, again, evolving and revolving through the spheres, finally become divinities or super-spiritual beings by a precisely identical unfolding of the inner essence.
As H. P. Blavatsky wrote:
The Secret Doctrine is the accumulated Wisdom of the Ages, and its cosmogony alone is the most stupendous and elaborate system: . . . Everything in the Universe, throughout all its kingdoms, is conscious: i.e., endowed with a consciousness of its own kind and on its own plane of perception. . . . The Universe is worked and guided from within outwards. As above so it is below, as in heaven so on earth; and man — the microcosm and miniature copy of the macrocosm — is the living witness to this Universal Law and to the mode of its action. . . . The whole Kosmos is guided, controlled, and animated by almost endless series of Hierarchies of sentient Beings, each having a mission to perform, and who — whether we give to them one name or another, and call them Dhyan-Chohans or Angels — are "messengers" in the sense only that they are the agents of Karmic and Cosmic Laws. They vary infinitely in their respective degrees of consciousness and intelligence; and to call them all pure Spirits without any of the earthly alloy "which time is wont to prey upon" is only to indulge in poetical fancy. For each of these Beings either was, or prepares to become, a man, if not in the present, then in a past or a coming cycle (Manvantara). They are perfected, when not incipient, men; and differ morally from the terrestrial human beings on their higher (less material) spheres, only in that they are devoid of the feeling of personality and of the human emotional nature — two purely earthly characteristics. — The Secret Doctrine 1:272-5
We are moving toward that divine destiny now as self-conscious human beings, but it will be ages yet before men even know with relative fullness what and who they essentially are. Coming out of the visionless past, we are passing now through a temporary state of our long, aeonic cosmic pilgrimage, and traveling toward the eternally ineffable cosmic Self-hood which is the root of All, and of all beings and entities their goal.
There is neither caprice nor favoritism in nature and its controlling and governing spiritual powers. Man is the architect of his soul, the builder of his bodies, the shaper of his mind, and the maker of his destiny. The realization of this confers true dignity and self-respect, for it implies that man has the power of free will and choice, however limited because of past karma. This faculty of discriminative will is godlike, because only those divine beings who have passed through the human stage have the power of acting in full and untrammeled will and consciousness in carving their destiny. Obviously, the exercise of free will implies responsibility in the human agent, and this all along the line between causal thought and effectual act.
The life-atoms of our physical body as well as of the intermediate and more ethereal vehicles which step down the tremendous energies of our spiritual nature — all are beings on their upward way. By our thoughts and acts we bind ourselves to these life-centers by bonds of destiny which are unbreakable, and which become part of the fiber of our being, affecting us powerfully until we have straightened out the tangles and smoothed out the knots.
These life-atoms came to us because we are their parents and in consequence are responsible for them. Put an acorn in the soil. In time it will produce an oak, and this oak will give birth to many other acorns proceeding from itself. Similarly, these life-atoms are our own children, the offspring in their essence of our spirit. For not only are they elemental souls, but they are blood of our spiritual blood. We are to them as gods: they come into manifestation from the highest parts of our nature originally — as our spiritual thoughts; and as a thought is a force or energy, it is a substance and therefore a thing, and being ensouled by a spiritual energy it too is a soul. As these life-atoms spring from us, so we sprang from the gods. This is why man has a divine nature, because each one of us is rooted in and sprang forth from an evolving god in the beginning of our present cosmic evolution: coming forth as an unself-conscious god-spark in the highest part of that divine being when formerly it was evolving in a past universe as a man, or as some being more or less equivalent to a man.
The life-atoms which compose the human body, being themselves elemental souls, are centers of consciousness, and therefore conscious forces; for force and matter, spirit and substance, are fundamentally one. Were they not, then the boundless All would contain two infinities — one, the light-side or day-side of nature, consisting of the incomputable hosts of being which have grown to godhood through all the intermediate stages; and two, another infinite of material beings and things. This is a logical and also a natural impossibility. The two sides of nature, the light-side and the matter-side, are essentially and forever one. Hence a life-atom is, on its lower or vehicular side, substantial; and on its superior or energic side, a center through which pour into manifestation all the powers and substances inherent in it and belonging to an inner stream which is the monadic ray, the characteristic individuality of the spiritual being.
The universe actually is imbodied consciousnesses: this is a real key to knowledge and wisdom. There is naught but consciousnesses in the universe, for the macrocosmic aggregate of these consciousnesses is the universe itself. There is no matter per se; there is no spirit per se; they are two phases of the underlying Reality.
The four great planes or worlds, respectively called the Divine, the Spiritual, the world of Souls, and the Physical-Material spheres, are the four lower cosmic planes or rupa-worlds of the sevenfold solar system; the three higher planes being called the arupa-worlds of the cosmic septenary. H. P. Blavatsky in The Secret Doctrine (1:200) gives a suggestive diagram of the manner in which the ancient wisdom has divided these seven basic planes, the four lower being named as follows:
Intellectual Ideative or "Creative" World
Substantial or Formative World
Physical-Material World, i.e. the world of concreted bodies or "shells."
These four rupa-worlds of form are thus the four cosmic planes on which the seven manifest globes of the planetary chain exist; and consequently it is in these four lower cosmic planes that is found the larger part of the visible and invisible worlds which in man's present evolutionary stage are most closely involved in his destiny because of the peregrinations he makes through them as an evolving monad.
These four cosmic planes or worlds are mentioned in many of the ancient religious and philosophical literatures. They are particularly spoken of in the Hebrew Qabbalah — the theosophy of the Jews, which, however much it may have been modified by later Christian hands and minds, is a derivative from the archaic Qabbalah of Chaldea, the form that the Esoteric Tradition took in Mesopotamia. The Qabbalah calls these four cosmic planes:
1. 'Olam ha-'Atstsiloth — World of Emanations
2. 'Olam hab-Beri'ah — World of "Creation"
3. 'Olam hay-Yetsirah — World of Formations
4. 'Olam ha-'Asiyyah — World of Labor or Works
The Qabbalah likewise gives to each one of these four basic worlds a hierarchy of ten sefiroth — spiritual or angelic beings, and likewise the spiritual or angelic attributes which such beings imbody. The sefiroth correspond to the dhyani-chohans and to the hierarchies of spiritual-divine beings in other world religions.
Thus there are ten sefiroth in the first world, or World of Emanations, although these highest ten are rarely alluded to. The next succeeding world in the descent likewise contains ten sefiroth thus forming a hierarchy belonging to the World of "Creation." The ten sefiroth of the World of Emanations work in and through their offspring, the ten sefiroth of the second world. The third or World of Formations likewise contains its hierarchy of ten sefiroth, with their own individual characteristics, yet imbodying and "stepping down" the characteristics of the ten plus ten sefiroth of the second world superior to it. Finally, the lowest of these Qabbalistic worlds contains its own hierarchy of ten sefiroth, which not only has the characteristics belonging specifically thereto, but likewise imbodies and steps down the ten plus ten plus ten sefiroth of the three superior worlds above itself.
This lowest or fourth world is also called 'Olam haq-Qelippoth — the World of Shells. In this hierarchical system, each superior world reproduces itself in the world inferior, which is its emanation, so that there is a chain of forces and substances and hosts of evolving "souls" working by circulations throughout this Qabbalistic world system — thus reproducing with fidelity one of the most sublime teachings of the Esoteric Philosophy.
Says the Zohar:
The Divine animated all parts of the Universe with characteristic and appropriate spiritual beings, and thus all the hosts exist. — 3:68a
This ancient Qabbalah thus makes the essence of the universe as the source from which all proceeds, with which all is permeated with mind and consciousness and forces, and into which all will return. Goethe had the same conception of the origin of the universe in, and its ultimate return to, the divine:
the whole creation is nothing and was nothing but a falling from and a returning to the original. — Dichtung und Wahrheit, 8
Fundamental unity underlies all things and all beings and all worlds throughout eternity. Every being is a part of a being still greater than it. Where can one say: "Here a being begins, and there it must end?" Has anyone ever seen an absolute beginning of any being or thing with nothing preceding it, or an absolute ending with nothing following it?" There are, however, beginnings and endings of conditions and states of beings. Thus the human soul has a beginning as a condition of the vital soul-structure, inclosing its portion of the divine monadic ray; and it has an ending as a human soul, because it had a beginning as a soul. This is true because it is an evolving entity, implying a passing from change to change, until from being a merely human soul it has evolved a larger portion of the divine essence within itself. It is this composite soul-structure that the monadic ray uses to work through, just as the human soul in its turn uses and works through the life-atoms which compose man's body.
Man is the parent of all the minor lives or life-atoms which compose his various vehicles of consciousness — with the exception of those migrating minor life-atoms which are at any instant passing through him. His very body is born of and composed of the entities, the "invisible lives," which have flowed forth from his own heart of hearts, the core of his own being, from the inmost of the inmost of his own nature in past lives on earth as well as in the present life.
One may suppose that there is not a particle of physical matter on our earth which has not been through our bodies in this and in other incarnations, and many times so. Through air, through water, through food, the body is nourished only by those portions which are native to it, its own atomic children, which are the atomic souls which originally came forth from the vital center which man is, and which are now drawn back temporarily into his being. It is they which build him up, and in doing so they reenter their parent and abide for a while within the sphere of his ethereal or electromagnetic nature, to issue forth anew on peregrinations particular to themselves and again return to him — only to repeat the same cycle endlessly, although as individuals they are steadily evolving. The same rule applies with equal accuracy to the invisible bodies of man's constitution. Again, the same rule of peregrination applies throughout the universe, so that every entity is in a continuous and unending series of revolving through the various worlds which form our solar system, visible or invisible. As the scientific writer Geoffrey Martin wrote:
Every scrap of nitrogen in our bodies once floated in the primeval atmosphere ages before man or beast or plant arose. Every particle of nitrogen in every living thing that creeps upon the earth, in every flower that nestles on the ground, in every tree that grows aloft to heaven, once streamed in the primeval winds of our planet. There is no atom of nitrogen in the air that has not at some time or other in the course of its existence throbbed through the tissues of a living plant or animal, not once but many times. — Triumphs & Wonders of Modern Chemistry, 1911, p. 204
We take things into our bodies as nourishment, but they cannot throb with the pulses of the heart and in the tissues of our body unless they are essentially a part of and belong to it; otherwise they are rejected after a temporary sojourn therein. Nothing can enter the soul and abide there unless it is native to that soul. And what is more, each such entrant of life-atom or peregrinating monad enters and leaves the body or the soul at its own stated times. This is one of the minor aspects of the teaching called the Circulations of the Universe.
If the nature of an evolving human soul is a composite entity, mortal in character and therefore going to pieces when its life-term is ended, what part of it persists and enables it as a continuing entity to evolve? It is not the composite soul-structure itself which was ever said to persist beyond the portals of death, but the individual life-energy or spiritual ray which works through each compound entity and holds it together in coherency. It is this individual monadic ray which endures; for it is this life-energy, individualized as a force, which having gathered together the life-atoms of that compound structure of the human soul at each new incarnation on earth, self-expresses itself anew through such new-old compound; and does so as the ego of the new incarnation.
Here let it suffice to say that this new gathering together is a new vehicle, yet composed of the same identical life-atoms that composed both the soul-structure and the physical body of the last preceding incarnation on earth. If it were possible to dissolve our physical body at will, to disintegrate its life-atoms, and to collect by an effort of the will the same identical life-atoms anew, we would have before us the entire picture of the process of incarnation, for that is precisely what happens when a new incarnation on earth takes place — although such "effort of the will" is virtually automatic rather than self-conscious in this case. Yet both these vehicles, soul-structure and body, are in the new incarnation improved somewhat over their condition of development of the last preceding incarnation.
The soul is not formed of the physical atoms of chemistry, as is the physical body; yet the body mirrors the soul of man — an old saying of the poets and philosophers, as evidenced by Spenser in An Hymne in Honour of Beautie:
For of the soule the bodie forme doth take:
For soule is forme, and doth the bodie make.
Thus the human soul, although a composite entity or structure formed of the life-atoms belonging to the psychomental plane through which the monadic influence works, provides the field of operation for the reincarnating ego. Furthermore, the soul-structure itself rises in the evolutionary scale by means of the refining influences of the reincarnating ego, so that the time will come in far distant aeons when the human soul itself will have evolved forth into an individualized and durable center of consciousness. It will have become a monad — surrounded with a host of subordinate entities which were its former life-atoms, and which are now at this stage human souls in their turn.
This thought also gives the key to a most important matter, which is the generation of new-born elementals by the evolving and revolving soul-entity, these new-born elementals becoming at their generation portions or native individuals of the material planes or spheres; and thus building up from the spiritual- or light-side of nature that flowing river of energic substances which manifests as the material or night-side of nature. But this statement of the generation of those especial elementals, whose native realm is karmically placed in the material planes or spheres, in no wise takes the place of the other equally important fact that the evolving soul-entity generates other classes of elementals on the other planes and spheres through which it passes in its evolutionary revolving or pilgrimage. In other words, the monad through its various vehicles, including the soul-structure, is a continuously-emanating or "creative" center or focus, generating on each plane through which it passes elementals karmically fit for each such plane or sphere.
Many have asked themselves where and how the material side of nature is recruited, if throughout eternity every individualized being has been evolving toward divinity or the light-side of nature. The question is a pertinent one, because the endless eternity of the past seems to give time enough to have refined all the substantial side of nature into divinity. The root-thought of this query is the illusory belief that at the beginning of the cosmic manifestation all possible emanation for that cosmic period once and for all took place, and that thereafter the entities thus beginning their aeons-long pilgrimage through the visible and invisible worlds have but to continue evolving until the vast aggregate thus originally emanated, both individually and as a collectivity, reaches the divine perfection from which it all originally sprang. This idea is entirely wrong. The truth of the matter is that emanation or origination is a continuous process even during the cosmic time-period, and it is precisely this unending stream of newly-born monadic units which provides the endless variety in universal nature; although it must be remembered that nature's processes of growth or evolutionary unfolding take place by means of periodic or cyclic impulses, like the waves of the incoming tides, following each other in regular and unending succession.