Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy by G. de Purucker

Copyright © 1979 by Theosophical University Press. All rights reserved.


Chapter Thirty-Three

The Life-wave and the Seven Elements. The Esoteric Philosophy as Taught by the Stoics.

If, out of the material portion of the ether, by virtue of the inherent restlessness of its particles, the forms of worlds and their species of plants and animals can be evolved, why, out of the spiritual part of the ether, should not successive races of beings, from the state of monad to that of man, be developed; each lower form unfolding a higher one until the work of evolution is completed on our earth, in the production of immortal man? — H. P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled, I, 340

The most positive of materialistic philosophers agree that all that exists was evolved from ether; hence, air, water, earth, and fire, the four primordial elements must also proceed from ether and chaos the first Duad; all the imponderables, whether now known or unknown, proceed from the same source. Now, if there is a spiritual essence in matter, and that essence forces it to shape itself into millions of individual forms, why is it illogical to assert that each of these spiritual kingdoms in nature is peopled with beings evolved out of its own material? Chemistry teaches us that in man's body there are air, water, earth, and heat, or fire — air is present in its components; water in the secretions; earth in the inorganic constituents; and fire in the animal heat. The Kabalist knows by experience that an elemental spirit contains only one, and that each one of the four kingdoms has its own peculiar elemental spirits; man being higher than they, the law of evolution finds its illustration in the combination or all four in him. — Ibid., I, 343

FOR THOUSANDS of years there has been no such attempt as there is at present, on the part of the Masters, our Elder Brothers, to bring forth to the attention of mankind the doctrines which we have been studying at these meetings for the past few years, as any student of antiquity may assure himself. The reason is that at about the time of the discovery of America there came the end of one of the racial cycles, and the inauguration of another, which has culminated at the present time in the various spiritual, psychical, and physical disturbances both of man and of the earth, such as we have been experiencing in the last ten or twelve years.

You remember what Cicero the Roman orator, tells us of those who never had had the immense advantages conferred by initiation. He tells us, in the metaphorical language of his day, that those who were initiated lived and died with a brighter hope and a deeper knowledge of man and things; and that those who did not have the supreme advantages of the secret teachings of the ancient wisdom given through initiation, lived, more particularly after death, in what he described as the shades and mud and degradation and sorrow and filth — words which well merit our attention, because Cicero, like most men of his time, had indeed passed through the Eleusinian rites, a fact which we know because he himself so tells us.

Now the main subject which we have to study more fully this evening is the procedure followed by nature in the building of worlds and of the kosmos and of man; and directly connected with this our subject are the different views of the gods, the monads, the souls, the atoms, and the bodies, which we have been studying this winter.

You remember that the ancient Greeks and Romans had a school which they called the Stoic, from the Stoa Poikile or Painted Porch, in Athens, where the Stoic teachers taught. This school was founded by Zeno of Citium, in the island of Cyprus, at about the end of the fourth century before our present era; and it formed at about the time of the downfall of the Roman Empire the religious science or scientific religion of the most advanced thinkers of that era. There is no question that Zeno had been initiated, probably in the Samothracian as well as in the Eleusinian Mysteries; because we know that the doctrines that he taught are not only practically identical as far as they go — please note the qualification — with our own, but there are allusions and hints here and there scattered throughout these teachings which show us very plainly that these doctrines of Stoicism did not originate with him, according to the views of the modern scholars, but must have taken their origin in a far past, in an antiquity originating far beyond anything of which history has preserved annals.

Among the doctrines of Stoicism was that of the genesis or birth of the elements of the kosmos. Five were spoken of, and two more were vaguely hinted at. The five were aether, beginning with the highest; then what was called fire; then air; then water; and then earth. Now these kosmical elements are not the familiar things which we know by those names, for they were taken merely to symbolize, through certain appropriate qualities which they possess, the actual elements of kosmical being.

These elements of nature, which the Brahmanical philosophy called the tattwas, may likewise be called the principles of kosmos, precisely as man's seven principles may be called the elements of his being. We can say the elements of kosmos, or the principles of kosmos, and it means for present purposes the same thing; and we may say the elements of man or the principles of man, and it means for present purposes precisely the same thing. Seven different qualities or states or conditions of prakriti or nature — call it also substance or matter for the present, if you like. The present is not an appropriate time to go into a too detailed distinction of the difference — which does exist — between matter and prakriti. At any rate, the elements are seven different states or conditions or qualities of prakriti, the manifested side of kosmical being.

These seven elements or principles — five, as openly taught — according to the Stoic philosophy were derived one from the other, in order as follows: first, the Nameless One; second, its progeny or offspring or child, which is the second element lower in the scale; the third was aether, the progeny or offspring of the second, combining in itself, at the same time, the qualities or powers of the second, its parent, and of the first, its grandparent, so to say. Then came fire, containing in itself the elements of the three preceding, and also its own particular swabhava or essential characteristic. You will remember what swabhava means: the particularity, the essential nature, the real characteristic, of a thing, which makes it different from some other thing. The swabhava of a rose makes the rose plant bring forth a rose always, and not a lily or a violet; and the swabhava of a man brings forth as offspring a man always and not a gooseberry or an acorn. This is swabhava, or self-nature. Call it the essential individuality, if you like; it is the special or germinal individuality.

Then from fire, as a parent, sprang air. We are using these familiar terms, with a warning, as said before, that they do not really mean the familiar material things which we know by those names. However, this element called air contains in itself the qualities of its own nature, likewise those of fire, its parent, and of aether, its grandparent, and the qualities of the second and the first elements as well. Then comes water, containing in itself its own qualities and also the qualities of the five which precede it. Finally comes the seventh or last, gross matter, or concreted substance, containing in itself the qualities of all the six which precede it; each element giving birth to each following one as the life-wave ran its course down the shadowy arc of manifestation, or the building of the framework of the kosmos.

Thus, said the Stoics, is the kosmos built — enunciating an exactly similar doctrine to our own, indeed, identical, as so far outlined. Simply change the names: use gods, monads, souls, atoms, bodies, or bearers, and add life force, and the kosmical self as the first, and our seven kosmical principles are there. Then, said the Stoics (expressing here their doctrine in our own terms), when the impulse of the evolutionary life-wave had reached its ultimate cycle of descent, i.e., had reached its lowest point on the fourth round, then began the period of ascent; and water drew into itself, as the life-wave advanced upward, earth, and mingled it with itself; and air, following in turn, drew within itself the water containing the earth, and mingled it with itself. Then fire drew into itself the air containing the two lower elements in itself; and the aether then in its turn drew into itself the fire, with its elemental containments; and the second element, counting downwards, drew into itself the aether; and finally the first, or Nameless One, then drew into itself the second, containing the elemental qualities of all the others: and then, using the Stoic language, the "tension" of the divine Essence was restored to its own quality and kind, as far as that Essence had emanated a life-wave of innumerable living particles or monads, and there was repose and bliss and utter peace and ineffable rest until the cyclic time came for the next evolutionary outpouring of the innumerable lives.

This is, as seen, a doctrine precisely similar to our own, as shown in the teaching setting forth the evolution of lives during the rounds of a planetary chain. Descending along the shadowy arc into manifestation through matter, the life-wave advances downwards until it reaches its lowest cyclical point, then rises along the luminous arc until all is withdrawn again into the Essence which sent it forth, or rather from which it went forth; individual experience gained, many stages in evolution passed through, by every unit or monad of the life-wave which had come down into matter for the purpose of gaining soul-experience there, and incidentally giving to the circumambient matter itself an upward impulse. For matter is nothing but crystallized spirit; or, if you like, spirit is etherealized matter; though the former statement is the better way by far in which to express the fact.

All this of course happens in what is called space. Space is not a mere container or receptacle of things, as our modern dictionaries define it, for in that case it would be a thing finite in itself; and, as said before, in such case we should have to find or conceive of a container to contain the container, and so ad infinitum. But space is the endless and beginningless pleroma, "Fullness," as the Greek philosophers said: the boundless All, the field of action of the universal life, the endless and beginningless Fullness. Space is the vast, truly incalculable, aggregation of the innumerable hierarchies forming manifested being. We live and move and have our being in space, as the beings, living in and upon the atoms which compose our bodies, live in our bodies, which to them are practically endless space, the illimitable pleroma.

Break the molds of your minds; allow your thought to lead you into the vast expanse of the universal consciousness which these sublime ideas must open to you. Imagine, if you will, that life is endless; that throughout all runs the beating of the universal heart; and, furthermore, that there is nothing great, nothing small, except by comparison, except relatively so. We bring forward again here the thought which we have often before expressed, an axiom which is one of the fundamental truths of the esoteric wisdom, the ancient wisdom of the olden times, and this fundamental truth or principle is that of relativity. Everything is relative; there are no absolutes anywhere, except relatively so; there are no jumping-off places; there are no ultimates; there are no bounds beyond which the evolving spirit may not go. Everything is related to everything else. How can a thinking man talk of infinites, and at the same time speak of absolutes? Why, the very word absolute, as pointed out in a former study, means what the Hindu word mukta means, "released," "free." Absolute means released, unchained, unbound — freedom.

You remember that when Paul, the apostle of the Christians, during one of his missionary journeys, spoke to the men of Athens from Mars' Hill, i.e., from the Areopagus, he used words which are unquestionably, I think, the finest in the Christian New Testament, for they are purely pagan philosophy. In addressing the men of Athens, he told them that when he disembarked, on coming up to Athens he found an altar dedicated "to the Unknown God" — agnosto theo. Now he must have disembarked at the old port, of Phalerum, the port of Athens which was used before (and after) the building of the Piraeus. We know also, from the Greek historian and traveler, Pausanias, in chapter 1, book 1, of his work, that there were altars in that port dedicated to the "Unknown Gods." This word, translated into English as "unknown" (agnostos), means in Greek not so much "unknown" as "unknowable" — unknown in the sense of unknowable; unknown because it was unknowable.

Now Paul, in speaking to the Athenians in his sermon to them, used the following words, as given in the Christian writing, Acts, chapter 17, verse 28: "For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring." I may point out in passing that the Greek of this passage allows us to translate the Greek word auto just as well "it" as "him": "For in It we move, and live, and have our being." The Christians of modern days, having in mind their personal, active, monotheistic deity, in translating this passage naturally took the word as of the masculine gender; but the neuter gender is grammatically correct also and philosophically better by far.

Ay, Paul, the "Christian" — shall we so call him? at any rate he was an initiate — Paul, the "wise masterbuilder," as he calls himself, thus hinting at his esoteric affiliations, not only tells us that in It we live and move and have our being, but makes reference constantly to matters of initiation. The many mystical allusions to various matters which occur throughout the writings ascribed to him, show very plainly how far the Christianity of today has wandered from its first founders.

These poets of whom Paul here speaks are unquestionably the two famous Stoic philosophers, Aratus (a countryman of Paul, both he and Aratus being probably natives of Tarsus in Cilicia) and Cleanthes of the Troad, who wrote, by the way, one of the finest examples of Greek religious poems extant, greatly admired even by Christian writers because they believe they see in it what they would probably call a nascent monotheism, in the Christian sense. But it was simply a hymn of reverence to the Stoic divine Essence, the hierarch of the grand hierarchy of our universe, its supreme head, which in the poem Cleanthes called Zeus. Please always remember that though Zeus may be called the supreme hierarch of a universe, or kosmos, or hierarchy, he is but the head of one of innumerable other similar hierarchies, hierarchies of the vast aggregate, endless and beginningless, which compose manifested being.

In him — in it — we live, and move, and have our being. And this it is what we very rightly call space, which is the vast, endless and beginningless congeries of living beings. There is no vacuum, no vacuity, no emptiness, no "nothing," anywhere. Everything is full, not merely of life, but of living and conscious things, and of beings of infinitely varying degrees of consciousness, such as you and I are, for example. Think of it! Open your minds, and let the thoughts which this divine idea gives to you stream in. Let them find a habitation in your souls! They bring endless comfort and peace, and lead to further illumination.

Verily, such is space, sevenfold space, more particularly the vast spaces of space inwards, inwards, inwards, endlessly.

In opening our more particular study for this evening, let us read from The Secret Doctrine, volume II, page 492, the second paragraph:

The Secret Doctrine points out, as a self-evident fact, that Mankind, collectively and individually, is, with all manifested nature, the vehicle (a) of the breath of One Universal Principle, in its primal differentiation; and (b) of the countless "breaths" proceeding from that One BREATH in its secondary and further differentiations, as Nature with its many mankinds proceeds downwards toward the planes that are ever increasing in materiality. The primary Breath informs the higher Hierarchies; the secondary — the lower, on the constantly descending planes.

A wonderful passage! Note particularly the reference to the "many mankinds," concerning which matter we shall speak at greater length in a future study.

During our last study we traced very briefly the evolution from a god (one of infinite multitudes of divinities or gods), of other multitudes of inferior beings; of monads springing from that god and forming its luminous garment, its vehicle, its carrier, its bearer, its body. Each one of those innumerable multitudes of monads, in its turn, sends forth from itself, projects from itself, other innumerable multitudes of souls, which form its garment, its bearer, its carrier, its vehicle, its body. Again, every one of such souls in its turn sends forth from itself other innumerable multitudes of atoms, pranic-astral entities — not the physical atom of science, please — and these atoms form the garment, the carrier, the vehicle, the bearer, the body of such a soul.

Each one of these atoms, in its turn, concretes around itself, gathers to itself, the life-atoms waiting over for it from previous cycles of activity, which are the skandhas belonging to that plane of manifestation, and thus forms its physical vehicle in which all the other principles (mostly latent) reside.

Now this vast collection of entities — gods, monads, souls, atoms — passed down through the kosmical elements which we have described, using the Stoic formulae rather than the Brahmanic which are not so well known to European readers, but which equally well could have been used; and as these courses of life, as this life-wave, travels downwards into matter, through each element, through each one of the seven elements, it gives birth to one class of these entities which we have been describing. The god lives on the plane of the Nameless One; the monads live on the plane of the second element, likewise unnamed in the literature of the ancients; the souls live on the plane of aether, akasa; and the atoms live on the plane of air, the fourth plane, the pranic-astral world.

Thus, the elements of the Stoics, seven in number, but only five openly named, form the principles of nature; and the life-wave in passing through these elements builds its appropriate habitations in each one of them. At certain appropriate planes, these habitations take the form of globes, and these globes are the seven forming our planetary chain; they are globes built of these innumerable, multitudinous hosts of atoms, of souls, of monads; some "awakened," some partly "awake," some still sleeping in the lower spheres.

Then when the hosts of beings composing the life-wave — the life-wave being composed of the entities derived from a former but now dead planet, in our case the moon — find that the time has arrived for them to enter upon their own particular evolutionary course, they cycle downwards along the planetary chain that has been prepared for them by the three hosts of elementary beings, of the three primordial elementary worlds, the forerunners of the life-wave yet integral parts of it. Remember, a hierarchy consists of ten degrees or states; three, as the Pythagoreans would have said, remaining in the silence and darkness — to us — of divinity, and seven entering into manifestation. This life-wave passes seven times in all around the seven spheres of our planetary chain, at first cycling down the shadowy arc through all the seven elements of the kosmos, gathering experience in each one of them; each particular entity of the life-wave, no matter what its grade or kind, spiritual, psychic, astral, mental, divine, in it, advancing, advancing, advancing downwards, advancing until at the bottom of the arc, when the middle of the fourth round is attained, they feel the end of the downward impulse. Then begins the upward impulse. According to the Stoic doctrine, everything passes by degrees back towards the divine, through the elements again, the lower being withdrawn into the higher, until at last the great cyclic round is finished, and the cycling beings reenter divinity, man being in the front ranks. As so often said before, "man" begins his evolutionary journey an unself-conscious god-spark, and ends it as a self-conscious god.

And when we say "man" of the later stages of that journey, we mean the thinking entity. The personal, by that time, will have become the impersonal; the mortal will have been raised into immortality. These two ideas comprise two of the most sublime teachings of the ancient wisdom. The main thing to realize at the present time is that space is a vast, beginningless and endless Fullness; it is the boundless All; and, further, that it is composed of the numberless hierarchies, which actually are space itself, the spaces of space; and, still further, that these hierarchies in their turn are composed of incalculable numbers of evolving beings in all the seven stages of development; and that each such being has its own grand cycle to perform: first down the shadowy arc and then, when the end of that particular evolutionary wave or course has been reached, the reascent along the luminous arc upwards, towards the source from which it originally came. Then, finally, the long pralayic sleep. At its end comes the kosmic reawakening, obeying the karmic impulses from the preceding manvantara and manvantaras, the opening of a new evolutionary course through the spheres of life, but on higher and far sublimer levels than before.


Chapter 34

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