Evolution, Reincarnation, Cycles, and all the fundamental truths on which the Universe is run can be linked together, so in writing this thesis I shall attempt to bring in all of these fundamentals and mold them around the subject of man's evolution, or simply evolution.
One of the greatest blunders of Science is its insistence on an ape-man evolution of the human race. The one main reason for this insistence is that they have systematically and intentionally ignored everything except what they call "proof," and nothing of any value can be understood from one aspect alone.
Now practically everyone is familiar with the Darwinian theory of life and evolution, which postulates that organisms tend to produce offspring which are slightly varied from the parent, and further that only the organisms which have developed a "natural selection," or an adaptiveness for natural surroundings, survive; thus the "survival of the fittest." These biological facts are correct up to the point where the Anthropoids were confronted with the problems of "natural selection." But is this theory an answer? No, because it gives us the means without the cause, or the reason; it represents man as a complex lump evolving for apparently no reason at all and headed for an unknown destiny. Theosophy can give us this cause and reason because it has been given first-hand information and the help of more highly evolved beings, "organisms," than ourselves. They are known as Mahatmas, wise men, who inhabit the mountainous terranes of Tibet in China. So with some esoteric facts combined with the archeological and biological findings a Theosophist is able to give evolution an objective background. Let us start from the beginning, what does the word evolve etymologically mean? E-out, and volvere to unroll, thus to roll out, to expand. The word is itself a key.
From the most primitive up, all organisms have tended to specialize; the reason is really unknown to Science. They claim that it is due to environment, weather, food, enemies, and the like. This is true, but what makes a change in weather? And when the simple becomes complex why does the organism become so wonderfully precise; or when species suddenly change in form what keeps them together at all? And why does a phylum always have the same general construction as every other phylum? All these queries can be answered by one Theosophical doctrine, which is known as the teaching of the Astral Light or astral plane, a plane above the physical whose matter is more subtle and ethereal than ours. This plane is totally unknown to Science, although its lower aspect is known to those seance holders who are able to disturb the passion elements of the departed. This plane is Nature's preserver; in this plane everything has a pattern. Otherwise when species die out and reappear they would be totally different, which is not the case. When organisms specialize they develop their already existent patterns. A plant, for instance, may seem to build itself up mysteriously without a visible agent to account for its pattern; the explanation is that its pattern was there beforehand in the astral plane.
While I am talking about astral things, it is interesting to know that Theosophy teaches that matter was not always dense. Many paleozoic fossils found today are astral imprints, and likewise man was ethereal until the end of third and beginning of fourth root-race which had its rise in the Cretaceous period; the fourth being number four in the series of seven races into which the age of man is divided on this earth. Matter has had a tendency from the beginning to become more and more dense and gross. This evolution of matter only corresponds to man's tendency to likewise become gross and when this lowest black evanescent phase has passed, things will reverse and become more ethereal,(1) the speed of this change being governed by man's ability to take advantage of upward cycles and likewise by his ability to learn by the follies of downward cycles which are the inevitable result of selfishness and tyranny. Incidentally, this thought introduces in a vague way the Law of Cycles, which is another necessary doctrine involved in evolution.
Man's evolution started geologically in the Devonian period of the Paleozoic era. This is known as the first root-race, about 345,000,000 years ago.(2) He reappeared as the second race at end of Pennsylvanian still in Paleozoic era, about 270,000,000 years ago. The third appeared at about Triassic times of the Mesozoic era, 180,000,000 years ago, the fourth in Cretaceous approximately 105,000,000 years ago. The fifth and present race of men had its rise in the Miocene period of the Cenozoic era. Its culmination has been from Pleistocene, age of man, until now. The sixth of these will have its rise in millions of years in good old America.
Now while thinking in series of root-races and ages, etc., I shall attempt to explain the existence of mammalian and simian stocks in connection with the common belief that we are the descendants of Mr. and Mrs. Anthropoid. This one common belief has retarded the outlook of Science to the extent that the hypothesis has become a dogma and all dogmas are the result of ignorance.
'Manlike apes," and anthropoids were the sinful result of Miocene alliance, when the fourth great race had passed its climax. Proofs of this are to be found by studying the anatomical features of man and apes. Further evidences of this could be produced by scientists on this basis, except for their studied effort to belittle man's grand background and history to a few insignificant thousands of years.
Man was endowed with this Manas 18,000,000 years ago; he was apparently unable to grapple with his new responsibilities so he took the course of least resistance, and was seduced by the influence of evil and selfishness. His evolution from that time has been that of bloodshed and fear, with minor periods of tranquillity. Once having attained to a self-conscious state and able to commit evil he did so. Leaders became ruthless despots, and the lands became rampant with sorcery and other black practices. The first forced men to evolve by overrunning each other. This brings in the Law of Karma, Sanskrit word meaning the law of cause and effect. It opposes the doctrines of fatalism and chance. We live, learn and evolve by this law. Thus the races conquered each other in payment for past actions.
To go back to early evolution, karma gives us one reason why species were wiped out and others made to suffer under the brute force of their superiors, and racially karma accounts for the tragic cataclysms which terminated each race of man. W. Q. Judge said, and this is for the sake of being pragmatic, that the white conquerors of America will have to suffer for their barbarisms in subduing the red Indians.
This would indicate that races are reborn to either suffer or repay each other; and why repay them if they hadn't lived before to deserve it? This introduces the law of Reincarnation, law of rebirth. Races of men have their hey-day as does everything. These days come in turn allowing for every race to have its hey-day. In other words when a race has had its fling it gives way to another. These fluctuations are governed by the very precise laws of nature known as Cycles upon which everything evolves.
Evolution, therefore, appears to imbody all fundamentals of nature, for it is the reason why we are here. Most men sense this, even a drug-store keeper I used to know who has above his entrance:
"Don't ask me any questions — if I knew everything I should not be here."
The human stem is the main trunk from which all springs. This is not a dogma, for evidences found today are tending to confirm it. But will animals ever evolve to become human beings? If you are talking about the visible physical form the answer is no, but the soul-mind which is what is evolving, will become or enter the human body form. Such simple truths if known would do away with dogmas which give rise to such useless theories as that of the missing link, and other "explanations" which have made famous evolutionists the cynosure of all thinkers.
In order to know the reasons for evolution it is imperative that we delve into the wisdom of the unchanged oriental scriptures, for it is materialism, not evolution, that denies the divinity of men. Another cause, unmentioned up till now, is the simultaneous involution of spirit into matter from above, for it is this spiritual "oomph" which evolves man from the mortal to the immortal.
Theosophy's greatest contribution to the world right now is through science, for science is now, more than ever, our means of expression, and even if its only contribution were to be a clear picture of man's evolution it would be enough, for evolution in part is the study of man, and the study of man is the study of the universe. It would force men to recognize and to honor a few esoteric things, and when this is accomplished men will be able to learn from their past that might does not make right, to learn also their responsibilities to humanity by loving humanity not less but humans more.
Science is objective — so is Theosophy. Ignorance is all that stands between them. The study of evolution belongs to science and religion, Theosophy. Nothing stands between them but ignorance. When will the line between the two be cut? Not until we realize that everything is divine and that we are on this earth for the same purpose — to evolve.
1. As a matter of fact, the lowest point has already been passed, at the middle of the Fourth Root Race, the Atlantean period. We are now on the "upward arc". (return to text)
2. These figures are based on Geologic reports, but periods given in The Secret Doctrine are almost exactly half in length. (return to text)
The Theosophical ForumTHEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE