Copyright © 1979 by Theosophical University Press. All rights reserved.
Nothing in nature springs into existence suddenly all being subjected to the same law of gradual evolution. Realize but once the process of the maha cycle, of one sphere, and you have realized them all. One man is born like another man, one race evolves, develops, and declines like another and all other races. Nature follows the same groove from the "creation" of a universe down to that of a moskito. In studying esoteric cosmogony, keep a spiritual eye upon the physiological process of human birth; proceed from cause to effect establishing . . . analogies between the . . . man and that of a world. . . . Cosmology is the physiology of the universe spiritualized, for there is but one law. — The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, pp. 70-71
WE OPEN our study this evening by reading from page 178, and a small portion from page 179, of the first volume of The Secret Doctrine, as follows:
Now the Monadic, or rather Cosmic, Essence (if such a term be permitted) in the mineral, vegetable, and animal, though the same throughout the series of cycles from the lowest elemental up to the Deva Kingdom, yet differs in the scale of progression. It would be very misleading to imagine a Monad as a separate Entity trailing its slow way in a distinct path through the lower Kingdoms, and after an incalculable series of transformations flowering into a human being; in short, that the Monad of a Humboldt dates back to the Monad of an atom of horneblende. Instead of saying a "Mineral Monad," the more correct phraseology in physical Science, which differentiates every atom, would of course have been to call it "the Monad manifesting in that form of Prakriti called the Mineral Kingdom.". . . As the Monads are uncompounded things, as correctly defined by Leibnitz, it is the spiritual essence which vivifies them in their degrees of differentiation, which properly constitutes the Monad — not the atomic aggregation, which is only the vehicle and the substance through which thrill the lower and the higher degrees of intelligence.
It will perhaps be well to preface our remarks by reminding ourselves of the two general desires which Katherine Tingley had in mind in inaugurating our studies: first, the elucidation of the teachings contained in H. P. Blavatsky's wonderful work; and secondly, the providing of tests, doctrinal tests, as it were, not tests in a dogmatic sense, but doctrinal or mental tests which each one of us may have in mind to remember and to apply when he takes up some book treating of the ancient religions of the world, or of the modern theories concerning those religions as given out by some modern thinker.
The world at the present day is simply overwhelmed with books of various sorts treating of quasi-spiritual, and of so-called psychic and quasi-psychic matters, and to one who does not know the key doctrines of theosophy, who has not, as H. P. Blavatsky had, at his mental elbow, so to say, the teachings of the ancient wisdom-religion by which all these various matters may be tested and proved, there is place for much mental confusion, indecision, and doubt as to what the real sense or meaning thereof may be, because many of these books are written very ably. But ability in writing well is no sign or proof that an author understands properly the ancient thought; such ability is merely the capacity of presenting certain thoughts — the writer's own views — clearly and often very praiseworthily; but merely praiseworthy writing is certainly no proof that a writer possesses an adequate and sufficient criterion of the ancient truth itself.
Having therefore these doctrines of the ancient wisdom-religion (theosophy) in mind, and properly understanding them, we have tests by which we may prove to ourselves whether such and such a doctrine of any religion, ancient or modern, or such and such a teaching of any thinker, ancient or modern, is in accord with that primeval spiritual and natural revelation granted to the first members of the first human and truly thinking race by the spiritual beings from whom we likewise derived our inner essence and life, and who are, really, our own present spiritual selves. Not being tests in a dogmatic religious sense at all, they are not "necessary to salvation." Heavens and hells do not depend for their reality upon their acceptance or rejection by men, for instance; but we mean that theosophy provides us with tests which are tests in the same way as are the facts which an expert in mathematics, or in chemistry, or in any other branch of science or natural philosophy, is enabled to employ in order to ascertain when something new comes under his eye, or under his hand, whether this new thing agrees with the truths already established by himself and his collaborators in work.
At our last meeting we treated perforce only vaguely, and in a mere sketch, of the difference existing between the spirit and the soul. The spirit is the immortal element in us, the deathless flame within us which dies never, which never was born, and which retains throughout the entire maha-manvantara its own quality, essence, and life, sending down into our own being and into our various planes, certain of its rays or garments or souls which we are; and furthermore, that these rays, in descending, constituted the life-essences of a hierarchy, whether we treat of our own selves as individual human beings, or whether we think of the atom, or of the solar system, or of the universal cosmos.
We have this evening to consider more particularly the nature and differences of self and ego; and if we have time we shall have need to remark at some length upon a doctrine which is very strange to Western ears, and yet which contains in itself the core, the very heart of what emanational evolution is, and which also shows to us what our destiny is. It is that destiny which leads us both downwards and then upwards, back to our spiritual source, but possessing — rather being — something more than we possessed — or rather were — when we began our great evolutionary pilgrimage.
Now before we start upon a sketch of the nature of, and the difference between, self and ego, let us undertake very briefly an analysis of what we mean when we speak of karma, for it is necessary here. As we all know, karma is a Sanskrit word, and it is derived from the Sanskrit root kri, a verb meaning "to make" or "to do"; by adding the suffix ma to the root kri or the stem kar, which comes through one of the rules of Sanskrit grammar from the root kri, we have the abstract noun, karma. Literally it means "doing," "making," hence "action." It is a technical term, that is to say, it is a term from which hangs a whole series of philosophical doctrines.
We can consider it best from the standpoint of translating it by the word results, because this word "results," or "fruits," seems to be its most general application in the technical sense of the esoteric philosophy. Now karma is not a law; no God made it. A human law, let us remember, is a maxim of conduct or order of right laid down by a lawgiver, forbidding what is wrong and inculcating and commanding what is right. Karma is not that. Karma is the habit of universal and eternal nature, a habit inveterate, primordial, which so works that an act is necessarily, by destiny, followed by an ineluctable result, a reaction from the nature in which we live. It was called by Mr. A. P. Sinnett, one of H. P. Blavatsky's early helpers, the "law of ethical causation," an inadequate and misleading term, because first, karma is more than ethical, it is both spiritual and material and all between. It has its application on the spiritual, mental, psychical, and physical planes. To call it the "law of cause and effect" is much better, because more general, but even this does not describe it adequately at all. The very essence of the meaning of this doctrine is that when anything acts in any state of imbodied consciousness, it sets up an immediate chain of causation, acting on every plane to which that chain of causation reaches, to which the force extends.
Human karma is born within man himself. We are its creators and generators, and also do we suffer from it or are clarified through it by our own previous actions. But what is this habit in itself, das Ding an sich, as Kant would have said, this inveterate, primordial habit of nature, which makes it react to an arousing cause? That is a question which we shall, at some future time, have to go into more fully than we can do it this evening, but we may say this much: that it is the will of the spiritual beings who have preceded us in bygone kalpas or great manvantaras, and who now stand as gods, and whose will and thought direct and protect the mechanism and the type and quality of the universe in which we live. These great beings were once men in some former great manvantara. It is our destiny ultimately to become like unto them, and to be of their number, if we run the race of kalpic evolution successfully.
Man, as H. P. Blavatsky has set it forth, weaves around himself from birth to death a web of action and of thought — each one of them producing results, some immediately, some later. Each act is a seed. And that seed inevitably, by the doctrine of swabhava, will produce the results which belong to it, and none other.
Swabhava, as we remember, is the doctrine of the essential characteristic of anything, that which makes it what it is, and not something else: that which makes the lily a lily, and not a rose or a violet; that which makes one being a horse, and another a fly, and another a blade of grass, and so on — its essential nature.
In our study of hierarchies in former meetings, we noticed that each hierarchy proceeded from its own seed, its own seed-logos or the highest part of it, its crown or pinnacle; and that everything rolled down from it, rolled out from the seed into being. So the human body grows from a microscopic seed, as it were, into the man we know, partaking of the nature around it, because it is a composite being. All composite things are temporary and transitory. If they were not composite, they could not manifest in any manner whatever. It is the composites, the compound nature of them, which enables them to learn and to mingle with and to be one in the manifested sense with all the manifested universe around us.
We mentioned in former studies the wonderful doctrine of the ancient Stoics of Greece and Rome, called the krasis di' holou, the "mingling through everything," the "intermingling of all"; when this doctrine was applied to the gods, the ancient Stoics called it theocrasy — not theocracy, which means something else entirely. Theocrasy means the "intermingling of the gods," even as human thoughts mingle on earth.
Now the self remains eternally itself on its own plane, but in manifestation it intermingles, if we may use that term, with the spheres of matter by raying itself, as does the sun; by communicating itself as the divine ray. It shoots down into the spiritual world, and thence into the intellectual world, and thence into the psychic world, and thence into the astral world, and thence into the physical. It creates at each one of these stages, at each plane of the hierarchy, a vehicle, a sheath, a clothing, a garment, and these, just expressed by various names, on the higher plane are called souls, and on the lower plane, bodies, and it is the destiny of these souls — garments or vehicles or sheaths of the spirit — ultimately to be raised upwards to divinity.
There is an immense difference between purely unconscious spirit-life, and fully self-developed, self-conscious spirituality. The monad starts out on its cyclic journey as an unself-conscious god-spark, and ends it as a self-conscious god, but it does this through assimilation of manifested life and by carrying up with itself the various souls which it has created in its cyclic pilgrimage, in them developing its inner essence and through them understanding and coming into relation with other monads and other soul-selves. It is the raising of the soul (or rather the souls) through the self, to divinity, that constitutes the process of evolution, the unfolding of the potentialities and capacities of the divine seed.
We may now ask: What is the difference between the self and the ego? The individual self, we know, is a spiritual or rather monadic "atom." It is that which in all things says "I am," and hence is pure consciousness, direct consciousness, not reflected consciousness. The ego is that which says "I am I" — indirect or reflected consciousness, consciousness reflected back upon itself, as it were, recognizing its own mayavi existence as a "separate" entity. See how marvelous these teachings are, for if we understand this doctrine aright, it means spiritual salvation for us; and if we understand it wrongly, it means our going downwards! For instance, intensity of egoism is the understanding of it wrongly; and, paradox of paradoxes, impersonality is the understanding of it rightly. As Jesus said in the first three Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, voicing one of the teachings of the ancient wisdom: "He who saves his life shall lose it, but he who gives up his life for my sake, shall find it."
Here we have the real meaning imbodied in a "dark saying" of a matter that we studied somewhat at our last meeting: the doctrine of the loss of the soul. There, in words ascribed to Jesus and thrice repeated, we have the inner meaning of this mystery: the because, the why, and the how of it.
We return to the strange doctrine mentioned before, strange to Western ears, strange to Western thought. You will remember that H. P. Blavatsky frequently describes the processes of evolution and of development as the starting out of the spiritual essence down the shadowy arc into matter, and its growing more and more dense, compact, and heavy the deeper it goes into the ocean of the material world, until it passes a certain point — the turning point of the forces which arising in itself urge it forward in that maha-manvantara; and that then it begins to rise again along the upward cycle, the luminous arc, back towards the divinity from which it emanated as a ray or rays. This monadic essence, this monadic stream, passing into evolution is, like an army or host, composed of a quasi-infinitude of individual monads. We may call them spiritual atoms, unself-conscious god-sparks. They gather to themselves as they descend into matter — which is eternally there from the infinitude of evolving beings in all stages of development which had preceded them — or, rather, they derive reflected or indirect consciousness (self-consciousness) from that contact and intermingling. They begin to have more than the mere feeling or rather simple cognition of "I am," or pure consciousness; they begin to feel themselves self-consciously at one with all that is. The unself-conscious god-spark is beginning self-consciously to recognize its own essential and inherent divinity. It is developing self-consciousness, and this self-consciousness is what we call the ego, the recognition that "I am I," a part or ray of the All recognizing that wondrous truth.
Now consider the hierarchy of the human being growing from the self as its seed — ten stages: three on the arupa or immaterial plane, and seven (or perhaps better, six) on the plane of matter or manifestation. On each one of these seven planes (or six planes), the self or Paramatman develops a sheath or garment, the upper ones spun of spirit, or light if you will; and the lower ones spun of shadow or matter; and each such sheath or garment is a soul; and between the self and a soul — any soul — is the ego. First in order is the self, the divine entity or thing, or monad, behind all; and growing from within it, like a sun developing from within its own essence, along the karmic lines or paths of the memories or "results" or "fruits" brought over from the preceding great manvantara, thus developing strictly according to the skandhas in its own nature, is the ego, contacting and intermingling with matter and the other hosts of intelligences of this maha-manvantara. The ego throws out from itself — as the seed will throw out its green blade, developing into the tree with its branches and its twigs and its numberless leaves — it throws out from itself its garment or sheath or vehicle spun of light or spun of shadow, according to the plane or point upon which it is; and this ethereal or spiritual or astral garment of the ego is the soul — that is, any soul.
There are many souls in man. There are likewise many egos in man; but back of them all, both egos and souls, is the deathless flame, the self. Remember that the ancient Egyptians also taught of the various souls of man, of the manifold selves of man, of the several egos of man. We have not spoken often as yet of the ancient Egyptian teachings, because they are exceedingly difficult on account of being inwrapped in complicate symbol and allegory; they are the most hid, perhaps, the most enshrouded with tropes and figures of speech of any ancient system. But the old truths are there; they are the same age-old teachings.
Now evolution is the unfolding, the developing, the bringing out from the divine seed within of all its latent capacities, its swabhava in short; its individual characteristics or the essence of its being. The whole effort of evolution, however, is not merely to bring out that which is within each individual seed, but also that each individual monad, and each ego, and each soul, shall gather up from the matter in which it works other less progressed entities which become parts of itself, and shall carry them along with it on the arc of the evolutionary journey upwards.
Each one of us is therefore a potential Christ, a potential Christos, because while we are, each one of us, a Christos within, intrinsically, each one of us is, or should be, a "savior" of his fellow men likewise, and of all the lower beings under him, under his guidance and sway. If a man or woman ill-treats or treats nobly the atoms of his or her body, he or she is held responsible at the hands of karma, so to say, before the divine tribunal of his own self; yea, to the very last farthing he shall be held to a strict accounting. Look at the dignity with which this noble teaching endows and crowns our human species! What a sublime meaning do the doctrines of our Teachers have in this light! Man is responsible; because when he has achieved self-consciousness even in minor degree he becomes a creator thereby, and becomes therefore responsible to a coordinate extent. He becomes a collaborator and co-worker with the gods whom he is destined to join as one of themselves.
If the life-stream, if the stream of monads, if any individual monad has passed the lowest point of its manvantaric cycles safely, has safely swung past the path leading downward at the midpoint of the fourth round, and successfully starts out on the upward way, along the luminous arc, it is safe to a certain extent, but not yet wholly so, because that same test comes again at the midpoint in each round. But the midpoint of the fourth round is the most critical. We all know what a round is, and the seven through which we must pass before we complete our evolutionary pilgrimage on this planet. But if the monadic spark passes safely through each of the three rounds to come, then in the last round, on the last or seventh globe, in the last race of that globe, he shall blossom out as a dhyan-chohan, a "lord of meditation" — already almost a god. And those of us who shall have made the race successfully shall, after the long nirvana that awaits us after the seven rounds are completed, which nirvana is a period of unspeakable bliss corresponding to the devachan between two earth lives — those of us, I say, who shall have become these lords of meditation, shall become the forerunners, the makers, the developers, the gods of the future planet which shall be the child of this, as this globe, Terra, was the child of our mother, the moon; and so on forever, but always advancing higher and higher up the rungs of the wondrous ladder of cosmic life.
This is the strange and wonderful doctrine, strange and wonderful to Western ears. Endless are the ramifications of thought which spring from it. Think of the destiny before us! Yes, and it is also wise to look at the other side. Let us turn our faces from the morning sunlight occasionally, and look in the other direction. Remember that we have innate and ineluctable moral responsibilities where ethical problems are involved. We have, to a certain extent, knowledge; hence power, hence responsibility. Behind us, trailing upwards, are infinitudes of beings who are less than we. Each one of them is on the same path whereon we have trodden ourselves; each one of them having to go over that same path, stained with the blood from our own feet. And shall they fail for lack of our help? They shall have to pass the danger point, even as we have done; because the teaching is that at the middle point of every evolution there is a downward path, leading into spheres of being grosser and more material than ours.
When our planet first started, or rather first was started, on its course of emanational evolution, the propelling agents in that were the dhyan-chohans from the lunar chain, i.e., those who had run the evolutionary race successfully there; and behind them, trailing after them we came, seven classes of us, the most evolved, the less, the less, the less, the less, the animals, the vegetables, and the minerals.
Our time is drawing to a close this evening, but there is one point which it seems incumbent upon us to touch upon at least slightly. When Leibniz spoke of the inherent urge in every monad propelling it into manifestation, he spoke from the ancient books, from the Pythagorean and the Neoplatonic teachings, of which he was a student, and he meant what we do when we speak of the swabhava, the essential nature of a thing. There is, however, one point of his teaching to which we must allude, where he says in substance that our world is the best possible world in the universe. Those of you who are acquainted with the great French philosopher, Voltaire, may remember his book, Candide, or "Optimism," in which Voltaire evidently is tilting at the optimistic theories of Leibniz, and in which two of his characters are the inveterately irrational optimist, Dr. Pangloss, and the young man, Candide, Dr. Pangloss's pupil, a young philosopher, a thorough-going selfish optimist, who accepted all the rebuffs of life with great indifference and calmness, and with a smile at human misery. And Voltaire has a passage commenting upon these two characters (Candide, ch. vi), where he says, with all that pungent, aphoristic point which is so great an ornament of the French genius, Si c'est ici le meilleur des mondes possibles, que sont donc les autres? — "If this is the best of all possible worlds, how about the others?" A very comprehensive remark indeed, and a very true one. It is not the best possible of all worlds. Far from it. It were indeed a weary and hopeless outlook for our human kind, if it were! Yet the great German philosopher was right in this sense, that it is the best possible world which the world's karma has enabled it to be or to produce; and if it is not better, we ourselves are largely responsible for it.
We see in this amusing reference to the theories of Leibniz and Voltaire the true meaning of the word optimism. Our own majestic philosophy gives us a far wider vision, a more penetrating insight into things, a profounder understanding of the so-called riddle of life. Everything is relative, one of the greatest teachings of the esoteric philosophy. There are no absolutes (in the usual European sense of that word) anywhere. Everything is relative, because everything is interlinked and intermingles with every other thing. If there were an absolute, in the European sense, there could be nothing but the barren silence and immutability of complete and utter perfection, which is impossible, for there would be in such case, there could be, no growth, no future growth, no past development, spiritually, mentally, or in any other wise.
We now close. At our next meeting we shall take up the study of the so-called hells and heavens, for this branch of our investigation is a very necessary part of the psychological side of our study which we began at our last meeting. We say this evening only this, that all the doctrines and dogmas and teachings and tenets of the great world religions are based fundamentally upon some more or less obscure truth, usually very much obscured by ignorance or fanaticism, or by both. And, in conclusion, let us note well that there are no hells, and there are no heavens, as these are commonly supposed to be, but spheres of life and experience corresponding to each class of the myriad degrees of entities in being. As Jesus is said to have stated in the Christian Gospels: "In my Father's house are many mansions." There are in the endless kosmos innumerable appropriate places of retributive bliss or retributive woe for all grades of souls, and in these karmically appropriate spheres, the countless hosts of evolving entities of all classes find their properly and exactly adjusted places.
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