Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy by G. de Purucker

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

Chapter Thirty-Four

The Spaces of Space. The Secret Doctrine, a Unifier: Universal Keys. Doctrines of the Void and of the Fullness Contrasted.

Mme. Blavatsky, speaking on this subject in her Secret Doctrine, quotes from the old Book of Dzyan thus:

"An army of the Sons of Light stands at each angle, the Lipika in the middle wheel."

The four angles are the four quarters, and the "middle wheel" is the center of space; and that center is everywhere, because as space is illimitable, the center of it must be wherever the cognizing consciousness is. And the same author, using the Disciple's Catechism, writes:

"What is it that ever is? Space, the Anupadaka. What is it that ever was? The germ in the Root. What is it that is ever coming and going? The great Breath. Then there are three eternals? No, the three are one. That which ever is is one; that which ever was is one; that which is ever being and becoming is also one; and this is space."

In this parentless and eternal space is the wheel in the center where the Lipika are, of whom I cannot speak; at the four angles are the Dhyan Chohans, and doing their will among men on this earth are the Adepts — the Mahatmas. The harmony of the spheres is the voice of the Law, and that voice is obeyed alike by the Dhyan Chohan and the Mahatma — on their part with willingness, because they are the law; on the part of men and creatures because they are bound by the adamantine chains of the law which they do not understand. — W. Q. Judge, Echoes from the Orient, p. 15

Thou hast to study the voidness of the seeming full, the fulness of the seeming void. — The Voice of the Silence, pp. 55-6

IN OPENING our study tonight, let us again read the passage on page 492 of the second volume of The Secret Doctrine, read at our last meeting:

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.

We have here in brief compass not only the outline of the hierarchical teaching, but also of the entire building of the kosmos which, repeated in the small, means likewise the building of the microcosm or man.

You will remember that at our last meeting we discussed, more or less briefly on account of the shortness of the time, the question of the nature of space, and what space was, and what space was not. We endeavored to point out that space, in the ordinary conception of things, means a receptacle or a container; in other words, it usually means place. Space is used almost synonymously with place; but this is not the use which is authorized or taught in the esoteric teachings, wherein it is shown that space is the illimitable series of hierarchies, which do not merely fill, but which are the boundless All, beginningless and endless; and that space, as the old Greeks put it, was an endless Fullness, endless and beginningless, and they called it the pleroma, or the Fullness; one universal life, one heart, so to say, pulsating or beating throughout.

We also spoke of — and please mark this carefully — the spaces of space, the inwards of space, the inward parts, bearing to space the same relation that man's own inner principles bear to his outer vehicle.

Now then, tonight we are going to execute an apparently complete right-about-face; after thus having pointed out in former studies what space was considered to be in certain branches of the ancient wisdom, as among the Stoics, and among the Brahmans, and in other schools of thought alluded to merely, we shall now take up very briefly likewise the manner in which space is looked upon more particularly by our Esoteric School, and especially by the holders of the esoteric doctrines of Gautama the Buddha.

We are now going to say, and prove, that the secret doctrine of the ages is above everything else a unifier; that we are learning, we are beginning to understand, a series of doctrines which give us the keys to the great religions of the past ages; and that these keys are universal in their proper application, each depending solely upon the inner capacities of the individual as to how much he may gain by turning a key once around, or twice, or three times, mayhap even seven times.

There is a doctrine of the Northern Buddhism — and we choose it in order to illustrate the esoteric teachings regarding space — called the doctrine of the Void, the doctrine of the Empty, likewise found in other schools in past times, such as were illustrated by the Greek Atomists, Democritus, Leucippus, and Epicurus, and by the great Roman poet Lucretius; and even spoken of by some of the Stoical philosophers, who otherwise taught the doctrine of the Fullness. We have an illustration here that may be a lesson to us, as will appear later on this evening, that things which may seem to be or form a contradiction in The Secret Doctrine, or elsewhere in our teachings, are not really contradictions, though they may be paradoxes. A paradox, please understand, is a statement which appears to be or contain a contradiction, but which actually is not one.

The word used in the Buddhist Sanskrit writings to describe this Emptiness is sunyata. sunya means "empty" or "void." The ta is the same grammatical suffix in Sanskrit as tas is in the Latin, unites, trinitas, vacuitas, and is found in English as the ty in eternity, or unity, or vacuity, and so forth: therefore sunyata is to be translated "vacuity."

These Buddhist philosophers teach that the only reality, the only fundamental thing, so to say, of being, is the illimitable Void. From it in the beginning, or in time, springs forth a kosmos, or spring forth the universes; and to it they return when their cycle of manifestation is ended. This doctrine of the Void is of a far more spiritual nature than the doctrine of the Fullness. It is much more difficult to understand than the latter, because our European minds are not trained to the thinking required easily to understand thoughts such as these. We can much more easily, much more quickly, comprehend and understand the Fullness of things, than we can the thought that out from the illimitable and perfect Void spring into life all the infinite manifestations of kosmic being; and that back into the Void they sink again when their life cycle is run. In other words, our minds find it easier to understand the mystical and the religious rather than the truly philosophic and the truly scientific. Yet this doctrine of the Void was taught by the grandest intellect, the most titanic spiritual power, known to mankind in the annals of recorded and unrecorded history; I mean by him whom we call the Lord Buddha, Gautama Sakyamuni.

This does not mean that we are Buddhists, as has been pointed out in former studies; but the doctrines which the Buddha taught are also ours, when we apply to them the key which we have. You will remember that two kinds of doctrine were taught by the Buddha, i.e., the doctrine of the eye, very faithfully preserved by the Southern school of Ceylon, Burma, Siam, and so forth; and what is called the doctrine of the heart, that is, the hid doctrine, the Mystery-doctrine; respectively so called because the eye can see outward or visible things; but the heart is not seen, and in it, according to the old thought, flow the fountains of life. This doctrine of the heart is the esoteric wisdom, the unseen part of the teaching, its core or heart, that which is not given out to all.

Practically all the religions and philosophies of the Occident, even in Greek and Roman times, have preferred to demonstrate their tenets on the background, or on the foundation, of the doctrine of the Fullness; i.e., that the universe is infinitely full, and that this fullness is composed of infinite multitudes of beings. Now that doctrine is true — we repeat it emphatically; but likewise is truer still the doctrine of the Void. No contradiction exists here, as will be shown.

What do we mean when we speak of the Void, then? The doctrine of the Void means, or rather can be illustrated by, two things. When we look into what people popularly call the infinitudes of space, what do we see? We see what to us is emptiness. But this so-called ether (these ethery spaces), even according to the theories recently taught by our modern scientists, is more rigid than steel, denser than our densest matter; and the hard and dense material stuff that we know on this earth, the hard rocks, the harder metals, etc., are like floating foam, foamy bubbles, holes, as it were, floating in and on the infinite vast expanses of the kosmic Void.

The other way by which to approach our subject is the following: What is that which is not matter? Spirit. Can you put spirit into a container? Can it be encompassed or measured? No. Why not? Because it cannot be contained, in our sense of the word. It, to us, is emptiness, void. It is that which infills the vast ethery spaces, and it is merely the feebleness of our senses and the weakness of our understanding causing us to live in the external, which make us foolishly to believe that this which we see is the real, and that the so-called ethery spaces are unreal or empty in the popular sense.

The Void, then, is the higher planes of the boundless All; that which to us is void, and which therefore was so expressed by the ancient philosophers — teaching as they did the usual sort of men, they used simple language so that men could more easily understand, just exactly as in the case of the much misunderstood geocentric system so much mocked at by our wise modern natural philosophers. And yet, is it not true that every point in space is its center? Why, the idea is a common thought among thinking men. Even the rather orthodox French philosopher Pascal, copying an ancient Greek figure of expression, says that space or infinity is that which has its center everywhere, and its circumference nowhere.

Naturally, then, the ancients looked upon our earth as the center of space, and so would the inhabitants of Venus, or of Mars, or of Jupiter, or of the Moon, or of the Sun, or of any other body or point in space. They spoke and taught anthropocentrically, as pointed out in one of our earlier studies, i.e., from the human standpoint of comprehension.

And likewise — and this is a passing thought — when our own ancient esoteric philosophers spoke of the planets, spoke of Venus, or of Mars, for instance, as a "constellation," they knew perfectly well what they were saying, and they did not speak in ignorance. Why did they speak of a planet as a constellation, which in ordinary astronomical terminology or parlance means a collection or a gathering of stars? Because every one of the visible planets we see is but one of seven, six of them invisible to our physical eyes, the seven forming a planetary chain. And, furthermore, these planetary chains are composed of seven distinct and separate globular bodies, forming, to the eye of the seer, a true constellation; and furthermore still, each one of these seven globes has fourteen different lokas (or rather seven lokas and seven talas) or "worlds" attached to it, making thus, counting all the seven globes, 49 worlds or planes or lokas and 49 talas. As hinted at in our former two or three studies, where we spoke of the life-wave coming down and passing through the seven elements of nature, we implied that the life-wave formed and built in each one of the seven elements its appropriate habitat or habitation. Each one of these seven globes or spheres is built for the development of one of the seven principles of man; and each one of these seven globes has its own seven subprinciples or subelements to boot; precisely as the interior nature of man has built corresponding upadhis or vehicles as his own seven subprinciples in each one of his seven greater principles, therefore 49; and as each principle is bipolar, there are 49 X 2 = 98 conditions or states all told. Each principle of kosmos or of man must have its chance for manifestation in its own "home" or element, in its own vibratory surroundings, in its own particular magnetic sphere; and a proper understanding of all this can be obtained in no other way than by following the hierarchical evolutionary course of the great titanic intellects and spirits which govern our kosmos.

The doctrine of the Void, then, is actually identic with the doctrine of the Fullness. There is a distinction, however, and this distinction is, as pointed out, that the doctrine of the Void is the more spiritual of the two, and treats of the upper or superior nature of the kosmos, of the inwards and the yet more inwards and of the still more inwards, infinitely, of the spaces of space; whereas the doctrine of the Fullness treats of the kosmoi, the kosmoses, as they are in manifestation. But the same thought, precisely the same idea, lies back of both doctrines.

This opens the avenue for a further brief explanation of what was pointed out in our last study or two. Some perhaps may have thought that there was a radical difference between the principles of man and the elements of man, or the principles of space and the elements of space. The difference is not radical; it does not go to the root of the case. But there is a distinction. Fundamentally the elements and the principles are one. As explained before, force and matter are essentially one. Spirit and substance are essentially one. Spirit may be called etherealized matter, or matter crystallized spirit, but the latter is the better form of expression. It is permissible to make a distinction between a force and its material vehicle, its material self, so to say.

The seven great elements of the kosmos are the vehicles of the seven great forces of the kosmos, and those seven great forces are the principles of the kosmos; hence, the seven great elements in which they work are the vehicles of the kosmic principles. The principles are the energy-consciousness side, and the elements are the matter-prakriti side of being. There is the sole distinction. But, as said, there is no radical difference between them. It is rather a distinction of states or conditions. A force, however spiritual it may be, is matter to a still higher force. Matter concreted, as we may think it to be, is force to a matter inferior to it. The explanation of the paradox lies in pointing out the relationship of the planes of being each to each, as these work, or are worked upon, in the great kosmic Void-Fullness.

We would like to point out further that in speaking of principles and elements as is here done — the seven principles and elements of man may be instanced — the teaching as above given is accurate in every particular. The point to remember is that these so-called seven principles of man or of the kosmos, considered as descriptive words, are generalizing terms. You could not, for instance, separate man into seven naturally distinct pieces and lock each piece into a separate receptacle. And why? Because these seven principles are to be thought of much as if we were to speak of consciousness and force and matter and energy and element, etc. They are generalizing terms. They are the consciousness-substance, the matter-force, of the boundless All in which man moves, and lives, and has his being. Great intellects of the past have analyzed this matter-force or spirit-substance and have shown that it consists in manifestation of seven apparently discrete, seven separate, parts, which yet essentially are one — the One Life, universal and boundless. They are, first, the self; then the vehicle of the self, the vehicle or fountain of pure impersonal individuality. Then, third, the capacity for personal or limited thought, egoity; then the principle of "hate and love" or "attraction and repulsion" in the kosmos or in man, called kama. Then, fifth, the vitality or life principle, derived directly from the first; and then, sixth and seventh, the astral and physical bodies, vehicles.

Now you see that these are general principles of being. But when we undertake to analyze man more particularly, for purposes of accurate esoteric study, we shall find, when we come to that part of our investigations, that we shall have to be far more particular in the terms we use if we are to get a proper understanding of what man is, how he is built, his relationship to other beings in the kosmos, why he evolves as he does, and his final destiny. The greatest questions of the spirit-side of nature, the greatest questions of psychology, the great problem of psychophysical evolution, are bound up in just this thought that we have here enunciated.

Our time is so short at any one of our meetings that we can do little more in that time than briefly hint at certain things, taking them up at later meetings for further consideration. But mark you, it is better so. Such was always the method of the ancient schools. Never did they teach according to our modern boasted system of turning and twisting and hammering at a subject until the life went out of it, and the brains of their pupils wearied and became set in mental molds. This brain-mind method has no element of inspiration in it whatsoever. That method cripples the thinking entity. On the contrary, the ancient teaching was by proper suggestion, making the disciple to do his thinking for himself, on a hint or at an allusion, making his mind to catch the holy fires of inspiration, so that he should lighten up his own inner temple with the thoughts that his own divine monad infused or inspired into him. Parables, hints, suggestions, were the teacher's method; and then always, at a later date, catching up the thought again, opening the door a little wider, raising the veil of Isis a trifle more, rendering help in this manner.

Thus, then, we have seen that the elements and the principles are essentially one, dual only in manifestation. We have seen that the principles of nature and of man are the energy-consciousness side of nature and of man; and that the elements in the kosmos or in man are the matter-prakriti side of nature and of man. But remember always that force and matter, spirit and substance, consciousness and its vehicle or upadhi, are essentially one. As said before, a force or a spiritual energy is concreted matter to another one diviner than it; and the concreted matter of our plane is a whirling cyclone of force to the matter inferior to it. A fact, this, which our scientists are beginning to realize, as shown in their teaching of the whirling electrons, tiny bodies, whirling in the molecular aggregate called the physical atom — a miniature solar system, they say. A true thought that, and inspired.

Remember that sunyata, called the doctrine of the Void, refers to the spiritual side of being, and that the doctrine of the pleroma, the doctrine of the Fullness, refers to the matter-prakriti side of being, the side of manifestation, which passes away when the great manvantara is finished.

But remember also, as said several times already this evening, that when we speak of substance or of spirit, of force or of matter, of purusha or of prakriti — to use the Brahmanical Sankhya terms — it is only by way of voicing the things which we have learned through our various inner faculties and outer senses about the kosmos, and that fundamentally these respective pairs are one. Spirit and substance or matter are one, and both will sink back again into the vast illimitable Void of the unbounded divinity when the time of universal pralaya comes. Remember the ancient mystic saying that the disciple should learn to know the meaning of the statement: the fullness of the seeming void, and the voidness of the seeming full.

Now this "seeming full" of matter is truly sunya, emptiness, mostly holes, so to say. Sunya is the ancient Brahmanical doctrine of maya, a doctrine of the Vedanta, called the "end of the Veda," because it is claimed to be the perfection or end of the teaching concerning the esoteric side of the Vedic poems. Maya means "illusion." Not that the manifested kosmos does not exist; it does exist, or it could not be or provide an illusion. The illusion consists in not properly understanding it. If matter or substance (or nature, prakriti) did not exist, you might as well say that spirit does not exist, because they are fundamentally one. The truth is that matter is not the substantial, infinite element, the essence of reality, which our Western minds — untaught and undisciplined in these ideas — think it is, merely because it seems solid to us and therefore "real." It is illusion because it is deceptive; and actually, as the Buddhists taught, thereby teaching the same thought as the Brahmanical Adwaita-Vedanta, sunyata is the doctrine of emptiness, of the elemental vacuity of the manifested universe, and hence is the doctrine of maya, illusion: illusory because unreal.

Even the modern natural philosophers, the physicists, the chemists, now are beginning to understand that this so-called apparent universe is mostly vacuity. They have never yet been able to find out what matter really is; it is a figment of the scientific imagination, as commonly explained, and all they know about it is simply what their own intuitions and scientific deductions have told them: that back of the seeming, back of the appearances, there is something concerning which they say — "We are learning more about it. What it really is, we do not know!"

As a final thought tonight, let me point out that although we have been speaking during recent meetings of the gods, monads, souls, atoms, bodies, which still form our present subject of study, we have not yet finished it by any means; we have barely entered upon it. Using the term gods, we use a term which is familiar. It is a good term, a truthful term; there is no reason to reject it; but yet it is not the term used in our esoteric system. Our esoteric Tibetan teachings use for it the expression dhyani-buddhas, and the lower side of the god-plane where they belong is occupied by the dhyani-chohans. Dhyani, a Sanskrit word adopted into the Tibetan terminology, means "meditation" or "contemplation"; therefore the former expression means "buddhas of meditation" or of contemplation; and the latter means "lords of contemplation" or of meditation. The latter term, however, is not infrequently used to include both classes. In the Mystic Greek system, these gods, these dhyani-buddhas, were called logoi, logoses. The word logos is a Greek vocable meaning "word." It also has a derivative meaning given as "reason." Why? Because the Greek philosophers saw that when a man thinks and desires to express his thought, to convey the thought to another, he must use words. The word is the carrier of the thought over to another mind: and from this simple illustration the word logos, meaning "word," was adopted into the philosophic language and into the religious language (and later into Christianity), to mean that power or energy or entity which carries the divine thought over to lower planes — carried over from the plane above or behind it, from the intellect or mind behind it, from the consciousness behind it, to lower planes. In our case, the monads occupy this second or lower plane.

In conclusion, I desire to translate from the original Greek the first five verses of the Christian Gospel ascribed to the disciple whom Jesus is said to have especially loved, John, called John the Divine, divine meaning here theologian. He was thus called theologian, we must suppose, because he was the only one of the four writers of the four accepted Gospels who wrote anything resembling in style or in matter the fine, lofty, theological teachings belonging to the Neoplatonic or Neopythagorean school — an unintended compliment to the latter. These quasi-pagan teachings are found in the first part only of the Gospel according to John. They are as follows — and I would that I had time more fully to explain them than the necessarily brief commentary on them that I can make this evening:

1. In the beginning was the logos, and the logos was towards god, and the logos was god.

2. This [the logos] was in the beginning towards god.

I am making my own translation; the so-called Authorized Version is a literary farce, translated to suit the monotheistic prejudices of the Christian exegetes; and the Revised Version is no better.]

3. All things were generated through it, . . .

The Greek word egeneto, here translated "generated," could likewise be translated "came into being." The English word generated itself comes from the same Aryan root. I read again:

3. All things were generated through it, and without it not a single thing was generated [came into being].

4. That which was generated in it was life, and the life was the light of men.

5. And the light shines in the shadow, and the shadow took it not up.

Don't you see our teachings alluded to there; the very words used in the ancient doctrine, ay, even from the Book of Dzyan, the "spirit and its wing," the "wing and its shadow"? Shadow is an ancient Mystery-term meaning "vehicle" or "body" as was pointed out in a recent study, in a quotation read from a chapter of The Desatir called "The Book of Shet, the Prophet Zirtusht," or Zoroaster. There the word shadow was used in exactly the same sense.

Note the thought here: in the beginning of our manifested universe existed the logos, being the first entity or thing brought into manifestation in the beginning; and this logos was towards god. The Greek word here translated "towards" is pros, meaning motion towards a thing. Of course, the logos sprang from the spirit divine, god, but the attempt here in this Gospel is to emphasize the thought that its natural aspirations were towards its parent-fountain. A great secret of occultism lies in this thought. "As a man thinketh, so is he," says in substance a Hebrew writing, Proverbs, thereby uttering a profound truth. Man follows infallibly the bent of his nature, his desire. He is magnetically drawn towards that which his heart longs for, and that which he wants he gets; if he wants heaven he will get it; and if he wants hell, he will be magnetically drawn to spheres infernal. This, in brief expression, is an outline of the whole mystery of so-called karmic fruits, of heaven and of hell — and much more which we must here leave unsaid.

"And the logos was towards god" — aspiring towards its own divine source; and this god was swabhavat, Father-Mother; not swabhava, which is an entirely different thing. As pointed out before, swabhavat is what certain Asiatic and other schools call Father-Mother, the great Vacuity, sunya, the great Emptiness, akasa in Hindu writings, which is the great Void to us, but the great Fullness in another sense. What we call the great Fullness is the manifested universe flowing forth in wondrous procession from the Void, or swabhavat, or Father-Mother, or mahasunya, or akasa, various names for the same thing.

Verse 2. "This was in the beginning towards god." So anxious was the writer of this Gospel to point out that the logos originated in the beginning, and that the aspiration of the logos was towards its parent-source, that he must needs repeat it once again.

Verse 3. "All things were generated through it," that is, came into being through it. This shows that it is the demiurgus or world fashioner which was in the writer's mind, and this logos is on the third lower plane only of manifestation, on the third kosmic plane; as we say, the third logos from above, which is the manifest logos or the world maker, the world artificer. The writer continues: "And without it not a single thing was generated." So anxious, so desirous, was he to show that there was no creating of souls or worlds or anything else by an extra-kosmic god, that he has to point out again here that it was the logos, the kosmic word, carrying its force down from its parent, that from itself generated things, cast them forth, projected them, evolved them, exactly as we have been pointing out in our recent meetings as being the course or method of manifestation. And these things were the monads, the atoms, the souls, and all the rest.

The writer continues, changing the thought-type somewhat, for fear that it will be thought that this generation of the beings on so high a plane is the mere matter and gross physical things which we see around us: "That which was generated in it [in the logos] was life" — not stones, trees, stars, planets, etc., men, and other things, but life. And the life — mark this — "was the light of men," the spiritual light illuminating mankind; in other words, man's higher nature, or verily our own inner logos, our own "inner god," our own inner Christos.

And this logos, the third or manifest logos, is but the vehicle of a logos still higher than itself. During the processes of generating or bringing forth all these things which are less than itself, every single step brings forth light, for light is one of the first manifestations of the creative activity — remember, creation in its original sense means formation. This light of the third kosmic plane is daiviprakriti. We borrow the word from the Vedanta of Hindustan; it means "shining or divine prakriti," of which akasa or swabhavat is the "crown." Swabhavat or akasa is the first manifest kosmic element or manifestation of prakriti, or essential nature itself. Remember that there are seven natures, one within the other; seven elements; seven kosmic forces. "And the life was the light of mankind" — our own higher nature.

And the last verse: "And the light shines in the shadow" — which, as regards man, is its vehicles or our higher minds. "And the shadow took it not up," i.e., primordial man had as yet evolved no vehicle or mind fit to "take it up" or in.

This thought here enables the writer of this Gnostic Gospel — Gnostic at least in the first part thereof — to introduce his sectarian teachings: "There was a man who was sent from God, whose name was John," to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, the human logos, the savior of mankind. He, Jesus Christ, was this light, who "became flesh" (!) and came into the world as the "light of men." Tragic! A beautiful teaching of the ancient Mystery-religion from the beginning of time is here taken and adapted, and applied — as pointed out in a previous study — to a mere Mystery-figure, a mere type-figure of the ancient Mysteries. Not that Jesus did not ever live; a man, a Hebrew rabbi if you like, called Jesus, did live; but the Christos of whom the Christian Gospels write is a type-figure of the Mysteries, but much and sadly distorted.

Chapter 35

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