Copyright © 1979 by Theosophical University Press. All rights reserved.
(a) The hierarchy of Creative Powers is divided into seven (or 4 and 3) esoteric, within the twelve great Orders, recorded in the twelve signs of the Zodiac; the seven of the manifesting scale being connected, moreover, with the Seven Planets. All this is subdivided into numberless groups of divine Spiritual, semi-Spiritual, and ethereal Beings.
The Chief Hierarchies among these are hinted at in the great Quaternary, or the "four bodies and the three faculties" of Brahma exoterically, and the Panchasyam, the five Brahmas, or the five Dhyani-Buddhas in the Buddhist system. — The Secret Doctrine, I, 213
The refusal to admit in the whole Solar system of any other reasonable and intellectual beings on the human plane, than ourselves, is the greatest conceit of our age. All that science has a right to affirm, is that there are no invisible Intelligences living under the same conditions as we do. It cannot deny point-blank the possibility of there being worlds within worlds, under totally different conditions to those that constitute the nature of our world; nor can it deny that there may be a certain limited communication between some of those worlds and our own. To the highest, we are taught, belong the seven orders of the purely divine Spirits; to the six lower ones belong hierarchies that can occasionally be seen and heard by men, and who do communicate with their progeny of the Earth; which progeny is indissolubly linked with them, each principle in man having its direct source in the nature of those great Beings, who furnish us with the respective invisible elements in us. — Ibid., I, 133
WE OPEN our study this evening by reading from The Secret Doctrine, volume I, page 258:
"Whatsoever quits the Laya State, becomes active life; it is drawn into the vortex of MOTION (the alchemical solvent of Life); Spirit and Matter are the two States of the ONE, which is neither Spirit nor Matter, both being the absolute life, latent." (Book of Dzyan, Comm. iii, par. 18). . . . "Spirit is the first differentiation of (and in) SPACE; and Matter the first differentiation of Spirit. That, which is neither Spirit nor matter — that is IT — the Causeless CAUSE of Spirit and Matter, which are the Cause of Kosmos. And THAT we call the ONE LIFE or the Intra-Cosmic Breath."
In our study of a week ago we embarked upon a brief discussion, or rather a short excursus, with regard to certain astronomical factors which enter very largely into the occult or esoteric teaching which leads to a proper comprehension of cosmogony or world building, and also of theogony or the genesis of the gods or divine intelligences who initiate and direct cosmogony, as these are outlined in The Secret Doctrine. Within the time at our disposal we shortly reviewed the esoteric formulae in which the ancient wisdom is imbodied, and the effectual agencies which act at the dawn of manifestation; and this evening we shall undertake briefly to review the causal agencies or aspects of the same subject.
The dawn of manifestation, as The Secret Doctrine tells us, begins in and with the awakening of a laya-center. The Sanskrit word laya, as we saw before, signifies in esotericism that point or spot — any point or any spot — in space which, owing to karmic law, suddenly becomes the center of active life, first on a higher plane and later descending into manifestation through and by the lower planes. In one sense such a laya-center may be conceived of as a canal, a channel, through which the vitality of the superior spheres is pouring down into, and inspiring, inbreathing into, the lower planes or states of matter, or rather of substance. But behind all this vitality there is a driving force. There are mechanics in the universe, mechanics of many degrees of consciousness and power. But behind the pure mechanic stands the spiritual mechanician.
It would seem absolutely necessary first to soak our minds through and through with the thought that everything in our cosmical universe, i.e., the stellar universe, is alive, is directed by will and governed by intelligence. Behind every cosmic body that we see, there is a directing intelligence and a guiding will.
If theosophy has one natural enemy against which it has fought and will always fight it is the materialistic view of life, the view that nothing exists except dead unconscious matter, and that the phenomena of life and thought and consciousness spring from it. This is not merely unnatural and therefore impossible; it is absurd as a hypothesis.
On the contrary, as we may read in The Secret Doctrine, the main, fundamental, and basic postulate of being is that the universe is driven by will and consciousness, guided by will and consciousness, and is spiritually purposive. When a laya-center is fired into action by the touch of these two on their downward way, becoming the imbodying life of a solar system, or of a planet of a solar system, the center manifests first on its highest plane. The skandhas (which we described in a former study) are awakened into life one after another: first the highest ones, next the intermediate ones, and lastly the inferior ones, cosmically and qualitatively speaking.
In such laya-centers the imbodying life shows itself first to our physical human eyes as a luminous nebula — matter which we may describe as being of course on the fourth plane of nature or prakriti, but nevertheless in the second (counting downwards) of the seven principles or states of the material universe. It is a manifestation in that universe of daivi-prakriti, i.e., "shining" prakriti or "divine" prakriti. As the aeons pass this laya-center, now manifesting as a nebula, remains in space steadily though slowly developing and condensing (following the impulses of the forces that have awakened it into action on this plane). As the aeons pass, I say, it is drawn towards that part or locality in space, if we are speaking of a solar system, or towards that sun, if we are describing the coming into being of a planet, with which it has karmic — skandhic — affinities or magnetic attraction, and eventually manifests in the latter case as a comet. The matter of a comet, by the way, is entirely different from the matter we have any knowledge of on earth, and which it is impossible to reproduce under any physical conditions in our laboratories, because this matter, while on the fourth plane of manifestation (otherwise we should not sense it with our fourth-plane eyes), is matter in another state than any known to us — probably in the sixth state, counting from below, or the second state counting from above.
Of such matter is the sun, or rather the solar body, in its outward form composed. It is physical matter in the sixth state, counting upwards, or in the second state counting downwards or outward; and its nucleus which, as H. P. Blavatsky tells us in The Secret Doctrine, is a particle or a solar atom of primal matter-stuff, or spirit-stuff, is matter in the seventh state counting upwards, or the first or highest counting downwards.
This comet in time, if it succeed in pursuing its way towards becoming what it is destined to be, becomes finally a planet; it so becomes unless it meet with some disaster, as when it is swallowed up by one or another of the suns which it may pass in its far-flung orbit. Some comets have already in our solar system so nearly reached the planetary state in its first stages, on the way to becoming a full-grown planet of the solar system, that their orbits lie within the confines or limits of this system. Such, for instance, is Encke's comet, having an elliptical orbit, and moving around the sun in a closed curve in the space of a little over three years. Another one is Biela's which, I believe, has not been seen again, after it appeared to break into two, I think in the 'fifties of last century. Another one was Faye's, having the largest orbit of all these three. Two others are de Vico's and Brorsen's.
It would seem as if all those comets which are drawn into elliptical orbits around our sun, were so drawn because they were karmically destined ultimately to become planets of our system; but others, again, suffer another fate. They perish, absorbed or torn to pieces by the inexpressibly active influences which surround not merely our own but all other suns, because each sun, while being the center of its own system of planets, and their life-giver, from another aspect is a cosmical vampire. There is much more on this subject that must be said, but it is very doubtful whether, at the present stage of our study, it would be wise to embark upon a wider exposition now.
We desire this evening to take up again the same thread of thought, continuing with a study of the beginning of things as outlined in Genesis, and as illustrated more particularly by the Jewish theosophy called the Qabbalah. If the time allotted to us be insufficient to do so this evening, we hope to begin that study at our next meeting.
Nothing in the universe is separate from any other thing. All things hang together not merely sympathetically and magnetically but because all beings are fundamentally one. We have one self, one self of selves, manifesting in the Inmost of the Inmost being of all. But we have many egos, and the study of the ego in that branch of our thought which is embraced under the head of psychology is one of the most inherently necessary and one of the most interesting and important that can be undertaken.
Around the ego, so far as we humans are concerned, center some of the most important teachings of the esoteric wisdom. Without going into this study at some length, it is impossible for us to understand certain of the teachings in The Secret Doctrine. The ancient Stoics (the very wonderful philosophy originating with some of the Greek philosophers, and which became so deservedly popular among the deeper thinkers of Rome) taught that everything in the universe is intermingled or interwoven, not by fundamentally distinct essences or entities interpenetrating each other, nor in what theosophists today call "planes of being," merely, but by various aspects or differentiations of one common substance, the root of all, and they expressed the principle through the three Greek words, krasis di' holou, "a mingling through everything," an intermingling of all the essences in the cosmos, arising out of, and differentiated from, the root-substance common to all. This is also the teaching of the esoteric wisdom. It is the manifestation, in other words, of all beings: of all thinking, unthinking, and senseless beings, and of all the gods giving direction and purpose to the complex universe which we see around us today; and in this varied life was placed the primal cause of all the beauty, the concord, as well as the strife and discord that do exist in nature, and which is the cause of the so-called mistakes that nature makes. The origin of what many people call the "insolvable riddle" of the "origin of evil." What is the "origin of evil"? The ancient wisdom says that it is merely the conflict of wills of evolving beings — an inevitable and necessary phase of evolution.
Properly to understand this intermingling involves another important subject of study which we shall take up at a later date, and this is the doctrine of hierarchies. Hierarchy, of course, merely means that a scheme or system or state of delegated directive power and authority exists in a self-contained body, directed, guided, and taught by one having supreme authority, called the hierarch. The name is used in theosophy, by extension of meaning, as signifying the innumerable degrees, grades, and steps of evolving entities in the kosmos, and as applying to all parts of the universe; and rightly so, because every different part of the universe — and their number is simply countless — is under the vital governance of a divine being, of a god, of a spiritual essence, and all material manifestations are simply the appearances on our plane of the workings and actions of these spiritual beings behind it. The series of hierarchies extends infinitely in both directions. Man may, if he so choose for purposes of thought, consider himself at the middle point, from which extends above him an unending series of steps upon steps of higher beings of all grades — growing constantly less material and more spiritual, and greater in all senses — towards an ineffable point, and there the imagination stops; not because the series itself stops, but because our thought can reach no farther out or in. And similar to this series, an infinitely great series of beings and states of beings descends downwards (to use human terms) — downwards and downwards, until there again the imagination stops merely because our thought can go no farther.
The eternal action and interaction, or what the Stoics also called the intermingling, of these beings produce eternally the various so-called planes of being, and the action of the will of these beings on matter or substances is the manifestation of what we call the laws of nature. This is a very inaccurate and misleading phrase; but it seems justifiable in a metaphorical sense, because as a human legislator or a human lawgiver will set forth or set down certain rules of conduct, certain schemes of action, which are to be obeyed, so the intelligences behind the actions of nature do the same thing, not in a legislative way, but by the action of their own spiritual economy. So man himself, in similar fashion, lays down the "laws" for the less lives which compose his essences — the principles under the center which he governs — and which comprise even the physical body, and the lives building it. Each one of these lives is a microcosmic universe or cosmos, that is to say, an ordered entity, an entity ruled by inescapable or ineluctable habit, which our scientists, applying the rule to universal cosmical action, call the laws of nature.
And they in turn, these less lives, have similar universes under them. It is unthinkable that the series can stop or have an end because, if it did, we should have an infinity that ends, an unthinkable proposition. It is merely the paucity of our ideas and the feebleness of our imagination which make us to suppose that there may be a stop at certain points; and it is this feebleness of thought which has given birth to and promoted the rise of the different religious systems; in one case the monotheism of the Christian Church, and in another case the monotheism of the Mohammedan peoples, and in another case still the monotheism of the Jewish people. Of these three, the Jews have had the longest history and the wisest history, for the Jews originally were never a monotheistic people. In their early history they were convinced polytheists — using the term in the philosophical sense, lest people imagine when they hear of polytheism that it means our absurd modern Western misconception of what we think the cultured Romans and Greeks thought about their gods and goddesses, or what we think they ought to have believed, which is conceited nonsense.
The popular mythology of the Greeks and Romans, as also that of ancient Egypt or of Babylonia, and that of the Germanic or Celtic tribes of Europe, was understood in a different way from our gross misconception of it; and conceived of in a different way by the wise men in those days, who understood perfectly well all the usual symbols and allegories by which the esoteric teachings were outlined and taught in the popular mythologies. And we must remember that "exoteric" does not necessarily mean false. It means only that in exoteric teachings the keys to the esoteric teachings have not been given out.
We often hear the claim made by monotheistic believers that the great "prophets" of Israel, the so-called wise men of that people, knew better than their ancient predecessors what their people ought to know and believe. These prophets taught monotheism, we are assured, and redirected the thoughts of the people away from the ancient beliefs — indeed, the multiplicity of beliefs — towards one tribal God whom they called Jehovah, a word, by the way, which the later orthodox Jewish religionists held, and still hold, so sacred that they would not even pronounce it aloud, but in reading aloud substituted for it another word when this word Jehovah occurred in a sentence in the Jewish Bible. Now this substitute word is Adonai, and means "my lords" — in itself a true confession of polytheistic thought. Judaism is replete in its Law or Bible, at least, with polytheism; and so prone is the human heart to follow the instincts of its spirit that when the Christian Church in its blindness overthrew philosophical polytheism as an error in religion, the reaction, fully to be expected as a consequence, very soon set in, and that Church answered the cry of the human heart by substituting "saints" for the injured and banished gods and goddesses, thus inaugurating a cultural adoration of dead men and women for powers, intelligences, in nature! They had to give them saints in order to supply the places of the forgotten deities; and even gave to these saints more or less the same powers that the ancient gods and goddesses were reputed to have exercised and to have had. They had a saint as a patron or protector of city, state, or country: St. George for England, St. James for Spain, St. Denis for France, and so on. The same thought, the same function, the same desire satisfied — the instincts of the human heart cannot be ignored or violated with impunity. But how greatly different was the initiate view of the wise men in pagan times!
When the ancients spoke of the multiplicity of gods they did so with wisdom, understanding, and reverence. Is it conceivable that the great men of the ancient days who then discovered and established the canons of belief followed by us — usually ignorant of our great debt to them — even today in all our lines of thought, and which we value like little children and have valued since the rebirth of literature in our Western world — is it conceivable, I say, that they had no conception of cosmical or of divine unity, something which even the average man of intelligence today will come to? How absurd! No! They could think, and they knew as well as we do, but they also knew, yea, even the degenerated thinkers in the early ages of the Christian era, that if "God" made the world, being a perfect and infinite Being, his work (or its work) could be only a perfect and infinite work, worthy of its perfect and infinite Maker, free from vanity, free from limitations, free from sin, free from decrepitude and ceaseless, gnawing change. Yet, as we see and consider the things around us, as we know that the world, being an exemplar of change and hence of limitations and decay, therefore cannot be and is not infinite, we know — the instincts of our being tell us — that it is the work of less beings, of minor and limited powers, however exalted spiritually. And as we penetrate into our own thoughts and study the life of the beings and of the nature around us, we see also that there is life within life, wheel within wheel, purpose within purpose, and that behind the outward manifestations or action (the "laws of nature") of the so-called gods, there are still more subtil powers, still more exalted intelligences at work — verily, wheels within wheels, lives within lives, and so on forever — an unending and boundless unity in multiplicity, and multiplicity limitless and unbounded in unity. So, as said before, when we speak of the unity of life, or of the "divine unity," we merely mean that here our penetrating spirit has reached the limit of its present powers, a point at which human thought can go no farther. It has run to its utmost limits, and from the feebleness of it we are bound in truth to say: here is as far as our thought can go. It is our present "Ring called 'Pass Not!'" But this honest confession of human limitation does not mean that there is "nothing" beyond. On the contrary, it is a proof that life and space are endless.
Now the Neoplatonists who came into prominence in the early centuries of the Christian era — and who, with the Stoics, provided Christianity with most of what it had that was philosophically good and spiritual and true — taught that the summit, the acme, the flower, the highest point (that they called the hyparxis) of any series of animate and "inanimate" beings, whether we enumerate the stages or degrees of the series as seven or ten or twelve, was the "divine unity" for that series or hierarchy, and that this hyparxis or flower or summit or beginning or highest being was again in its turn the lowest being of the hierarchy above it, and so extending onwards for ever.
Change within change, wheel within wheel, each hierarchy manifesting one facet of the divine cosmic life, each hierarchy showing forth one thought, as it were, of the divine thinkers. Good and evil are relative, and rigidly offset and equilibrate each other. There is no absolute good, there is no absolute evil; these are mere human terms only. "Evil" in any sphere of life is imperfection, for it. "Good" in any sphere of life is perfection, for it. But the good of one is the evil of another, because the latter is the shadow of something higher above it.
Just as light and darkness are not absolute but relative things. What is darkness? Darkness is absence of light, and the light that we know is itself the manifestation of life in matter — hence a material phenomenon. Each is (physically) a form of vibration, each is, therefore, a form of life.
Various names were given to these hierarchies considered as series of beings. For instance, let us take the standard and generalized Greek hierarchy as shown by writers in periods preceding the rise of Christianity, though the Neoplatonists, as we have seen, had their own hierarchies, and gave the stages or degrees thereof special names. It is often asserted by those people who know everything — I mean the bigwigs of the modern day, who even believe that they know better what the ancients believed than the ancients did themselves — that Neoplatonism was evolved merely to oppose and overthrow, and to take the place of the wonderful, soul-saving, spiritual doctrines of Christianity, forgetting that from Neoplatonism and Neopythagoreanism, and Stoicism, early Christianity drew nearly everything of religious and philosophic good that it had in it. But the Neoplatonic doctrine was, in sober fact, actually the setting forth to a certain degree only of the esoteric doctrine of the Platonic school and was, in its esoteric reach, the teaching which Plato and the early Pythagoreans taught secretly to their disciples.
We now resume our thread. The hyparxis, as we showed, means the summit or beginning of a hierarchy. The scheme started with the divine, the highest point of the series or its divinity:
(1) Divine; (2) Gods, or the spiritual; (3) Demigods, sometimes called divine heroes, involving a very mystical doctrine; (4) Heroes proper; (5) Men; (6) Beasts or animals; (7) Vegetable world; (8) Mineral world; (9) Elemental world, or what was called the realm of Hades. As said, the divinity (or aggregate divine lives) itself was the hyparxis of this series of hierarchies, because each of these nine stages was itself a subordinate hierarchy. The names mean little, you may give them other names; the important thing is to get the thought. Now, as said before, remember that this esoteric wisdom taught that this (or any other) hierarchy of nine, hangs like a pendant jewel from the lowest hierarchy above it, which made the tenth counting upwards, which we can call, if you like, the superdivine, the hyperheavenly, and that this tenth was the lowest stage (or the ninth, counting downwards) of still another hierarchy extending upwards; and so on, indefinitely.
Now when the Christians finally overthrew the ancient religion, when the karmic cycle had brought about an era of what Plato called spiritual barrenness — and we remember to divide the work of evolution into two parts, epochs of barrenness and epochs of fertility — when the Christian religion came in as part of an epoch of barrenness, the Christians took over very much of this ancient thought, as was only to be expected: history merely repeated itself. And they derived it, as was said before, mainly from the Stoics and the Neopythagoreans and the Neoplatonists, but mostly from the Neoplatonists. This was done in very large part at Alexandria, the great center of Greek or Hellenistic culture at that time; the chiefest thinkers of the Neoplatonists also lived in Alexandria. This Neoplatonic stream of beautiful thought in the Christian religion entered into it with special force around the fifth century, through the writings of a man who was called Dionysius the Areopagite, from the "Hill of Ares" or Mars at Athens. The Christian legend runs that when Paul preached at Athens, he did so on Mars Hill or the Areopagus, and that one of his first converts was a Greek called Dionysius; and Christian tradition goes on to say that he was, later, the first Christian Bishop of Athens. Now this may all be fable. However, the Christians claimed it as a fact.
In the fifth or sixth century, five hundred years more or less after Paul is supposed to have preached in Athens, there appeared in the Greek world a work calling itself the writings of Dionysius the Areopagite — claiming authorship from this same man. It is evidently the work of a Neoplatonist-Christian. That is to say, of a Christian who, for reasons of his own, perhaps policy (social or financial), remained within the Christian Church, but was more or less a Greek pagan, a Neoplatonist at heart. This work, by coming out under the name of the first (alleged) Bishop of Athens, Dionysius, almost immediately began to have immense vogue in the Christian Church; and it remains to this day, not indeed one of the canonical works, but one of the works which the Christians consider among the greatest they have on mystical lines, and perhaps their most spiritual work. It very deeply affected Christian theological thought from the time of its appearance.
One of the works comprised in this book, attributed by the Christians themselves to Dionysius, Paul's first convert in Athens, is a treatise on the Divine Hierarchies, in which the teaching is that God is infinite and therefore did the work of creation through less abstract and spiritual beings; and a scheme of hierarchies is here set forth, one lower than another, one derived from the other — which is exactly the teaching in the Qabbalah; which also is exactly the teaching of the Neoplatonists and essentially that of the Stoics, and of the old Greek mythology. It is a pagan teaching throughout, and merely became Christianized because adapted to the new religion, and because Christian names are used: instead of saying and enumerating gods, divine heroes, demigods or heroes, men, and animals, etc., the names are God, Archangels, Thrones, Powers, etc. But the schematic or essential thought is the same. Furthermore, there are actually passages in the works of this Dionysius which are taken word for word, wholesale, from the writings of the Neoplatonist Plotinus, who lived and flourished and wrote voluminously on Neoplatonic subjects in the third century.
Now this work, particularly in the field of dogmatic ecclesiastical thought, formed the basis of much of the theology of the Greek and Roman Churches; we may even say that on it their medieval theology was actually based. It formed the main source of the studies and writings of the Italian Thomas Aquinas (13th century), one of the greatest medieval doctors of the Christian religion, and of Johannes Scotus, called Erigena, an Irishman (9th century), and probably of Duns Scotus (13th century), a remarkable Scot; and of many more. Spenser, Shakespeare, and Milton, to speak only of English literature, are full of the spirit of these writings. They provided much of the mystical thought of the Dark Ages, and ultimately in a degenerate form helped to give rise to the hairsplitting and quibbling and squabbles of the quasi-religious writers known as the Schoolmen. But these men had lost the inner sense or heart of the thing through the ecclesiastical growth and political power of the Christian Church, and they began to argue about things of no spiritual consequence whatever, such as: which came first, the hen or the egg? or, how many angels can dance on the point of a needle? or, if an irresistible force meets an immovable obstacle, what then happens? These most pragmatical and useful diversions and intellectual vagaries lasted for a certain time, and then, with the renaissance of thought in Europe, due largely to the labors of the devotees of science and natural philosophy, the European world gradually began to pull out of this mental slough, and brought in an era which is now in full and strong current, and which has inaugurated and continued for good or for ill (perhaps both) the streams of human thinking as we see it today.
In conclusion, we may call attention to the fact that just about the time when the first 5,000 years of the Hindu cycle called the kali yuga (lasting 432,000) came to an end, there also came to an end a certain "Messianic" cycle of twenty-one hundred years — (actually, if we come to exact figures, 2,160), which is, note well, just one half of the Hindu-Babylonian root-cycle of 4,320 years.
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