Copyright © 1979 by Theosophical University Press. All rights reserved.
Let us now turn to the spring equinoctial initiatory cycle. Concerning this there is a doctrine which is both wonderful and strange, and which is based on the operations of Mother Nature herself. It should be remembered that this phrase Mother Nature, when used with its esoteric significancy, includes not only the physical shell of the universe surrounding us, of which we know the existence through our imperfect senses of report, but also more particularly includes the vast and indeed frontierless realms of the spaces of space.
This strange and wonderful doctrine sets forth that the great initiatory adventure upon which the lofty initiant enters at the time of the Spring Equinox is a copy, a duplication, a repetitive event, in our own small human sphere of what actually occurs at cosmical time intervals among the gods. The initiations which take place even today with more or less uninterrupted regularity at the time of the Spring Equinox include, not only the passing through trials and an ultimate resurrection from the personal man of the god within and an ascension into the spiritual realms, at least for a time, of the initiant's percipient consciousness, but includes also what it has been customary to call in Occidental literature dealing with this theme the descent of the neophyte-initiant, however grand his spiritual stature may be, into the Underworld, into those very real but to us utterly invisible realms of space which have their being in cosmic reaches still more material than our gross sphere of physical mayavi-substance.
It would be wrong to consider this Underworld as belonging exclusively to what has been called in theosophical literature the Eighth Sphere, otherwise the Planet of Death, although indeed the Eighth Sphere must be visited by the percipient consciousness peregrinating at the time.
We have thus, then, a picture of the initiation of the Spring Equinox as a phase of the general initiatory cycle, this phase consisting of severe and searching trials of spiritual and intellectual and psychical as well as astral tests on the one hand, and on the other hand as likewise comprising a descent into spheres never traversed in the ordinary course of their development by the peregrinating monads of average human beings, once these monads have begun to manifest in the human stage.
This strange and mysterious doctrine as thus briefly outlined sets forth that on this our Earth, on this holy and solemn occasion, there occurs a repetition or a duplication of what at certain intervals takes place among the divinities. Just as at certain times in the progress of cosmic destiny a certain divinity leaves its own luminous realms in order to "descend," or more accurately to transfer a portion of its own divine essence, into the world of men for the purpose of aiding and helping erring mankind, so exactly does the neophyte-initiant descend or transfer his percipient consciousness into the Underworld in order to learn and also to help the denizens of those gloomy spheres. What the gods from their lofty height do in this connection to help us, this do likewise these great men in spheres below our own.
One may well ask oneself, as one ponders deeply over this profound teaching and begins to sense its extraordinary and puzzling paradoxes, why it is that a divinity at any time should "descend," or project a portion of its essence, into our sphere which it had long aeons ago left behind in its evolutionary progress. The explanation lies in other teachings concerning the nature of our cosmical solar system, as viewed from the spiritual standpoint. We learn that even the gods themselves are under the sway of almighty destiny, that even they in their own lofty spheres make and unmake karma, and begin, and end after bringing to their completion, works of far-reaching influence on the cosmical spaces, and that a certain portion of these divine activities must of necessity reach to and influence most deeply the spheres of men.
When the student of esotericism understands the profound philosophical import of the teachings concerning the real meaning of the triad of Hindu deities called Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, he will come to understand why these amazing events just spoken of take place. As Brahma is the evolver and the producer, and as Vishnu is the sustainer and upholder, so is Siva, who is the particular patron of esotericists, the regenerator because of being the resolver.
To look upon this triad of divinities in the solar system in the manner in which the Hindu exoteric literary works set them forth is entirely to lose the real meaning and the reach of the esoteric teaching concerning them. The three are three individuals indeed, and yet they are one, very much as evolution and involution are twain and yet are essentially one, because nothing can evolve what is within itself before that within has been involved into it. Thus there can be no Brahma or evolver or producer unless the regenerator or resolver in a past cosmic period had already involved the seeds of the universe later to be evolved or produced. Nor could there be any manvantara or sustained course of cosmic life and evolution unless due to the incessant and continuous influence of the sustainer, upholder, and preserver.
Now, then, these three spiritual-divine energies in the solar system, which are distinctly three and yet one in essence, verily are the higher triad of the septenary belonging to the ten principles of our solar cosmos, and therefore exist and work in their sublimity in what is to us utter silence and darkness, because of being the higher three of the solar system's septenary of worlds of life-energy-consciousness.
From time to time, governed strictly by the karma of the solar system, there arises an impulse in the bosom of Maha-Vishnu to manifest a portion of itself, this portion being a divinity; and this impulse or super-spiritual urge cannot ever be denied or set aside. This impulse furthermore has a technical name in esoteric teaching. It is called bija, meaning "seed" or, more accurately perhaps, avatara-bija — the cosmic seed of the Avataras.
The Avataras appear on Earth at intervals when the spiritual energies are running low amongst us, and the forces of matter are surging in turbulent waves ever higher. It is as if there were a spiritual psychomagnetic strain in the structure of the solar system, resulting in a spiritual-electric discharge of a spiritual energy, something like lightning on earth, this discharge being popularly called the "descent" of the Avatara, thus preserving the stability and the equilibrium of things. Just so, then, in our world, is it in the cases of these great men, these sublime neophyte-initiants, who during the course of their initiation "descend" into the Underworld for the sake of bringing a spiritual light to the beings inchained in the darkness of those gloomy spheres — spheres which to us seem realms of gloom only because we are higher than they.
So closely is all nature knitted together, so intimately and intricately are the strands of the web of life woven, that all nature must be considered as one vast organism; and when there is a lack of some element-energy in any part of the cosmic body, there is an impulse or urge from other parts, possessing this lacking element-energy in abundance, towards the place where such lack exists, and a consequent passage or peregrination or transference of the lacking element-energy to its destination in order that stability and equilibrium of the cosmical structure may be reestablished or maintained.
The initiation periods do not take place by hap or by hazard, nor are they governed by the mere wish or will of human beings, however grand, however sublime, but take place strictly according to the working of the spiritual cosmic magnetisms of the universe. In consequence, the grand neophyte-initiants enter upon their trials and make their journeys into the Underworld because for the time being they are become utterly obedient servants of the law of the universe, and therefore can hardly do otherwise.
From what has been said, therefore, it becomes immediately obvious how grandly does nature's heart beat throughout with compassionate pulse; for what men in their feebleness of speech describe by such phrases as the reestablishing of disturbed equilibrium, or the maintenance of cosmic stability, is but a poor way of expressing the fact of the automatic operation of the cosmic life in restoring the cosmic harmonies, in the readjustment of the cosmic energies, all under the governance and control of the ineffably grand heart of life-consciousness which beats unceasingly and without pause or surcease to the very end of the solar manvantara.
Hence it is that the Spring Equinox in particular and the Avataras are associated in both human thought and in cosmic actuality. Bear in mind that three are the general cases or general instances in which there occur descents or avataric manifestations of spiritual energies into human existence as extraordinarily powerful motors. One is that of the Avataras produced by influence of the bija in Maha-Vishnu; the second is the case of the Buddhas; and the third is that occurring at rare intervals among human beings who are neither Avataras nor Buddhas. Mark well that the Avatara is the descent of the influence, or of a portion, of a divinity through a loaned intermediate bodhisattvic psychological apparatus in order to manifest in human life in a pure human body. The Buddhas incarnate their own spiritual-divine influences, in each case emanating from the Buddha's own inner god, and do this through the entire term of their work in the world of men; and they manifest these spiritual powers in purposes and works of indescribably lofty benevolence and far-reaching beneficence.
The cases of the rare humans who, being neither Avataras nor Buddhas, from time to time imbody or become the dwelling places of spiritual-divine rays, are those unusual men or women who, because of a line of karma which is singularly free from crippling and embarrassing shackles of personality, are able to transmit a ray from the higher triads of themselves. This ray penetrates into and sets on fire with its holy flame the brain-mind and emotional apparatus of such men and women.
The cases of these unusual human beings can be instanced or demonstrated by men and women whose entire existence seems to show a spiritual and intellectual power exceeding by far that of the average run of men, and yet they are human beings only. They may, for instance, be great and noble-minded poets with the seer's vision; they may again be great and noble-minded artists, philosophers, humanitarians, or statesmen; but they are men and men only. They are neither Avataras on the one hand, nor Buddhas on the other hand, and their existence is so well known in the various world religions that they have been called by various names, such as saints or holy men, or by other similar titles.
Although these three classes manifesting spiritual-divine rays — so different as among themselves — are the three instances in which the divine-spiritual manifests in the human sphere, it must be particularly noticed that the originating impulse or urge in all these three classes takes its rise in the mysterious bija existing and working from dawn to twilight of a cosmic manvantara in the bosom of Maha-Vishnu.
As a last thought in this connection, mark well that there are Avataras also of Maha-Siva, just as well as there are Avataras of Vishnu, the sustainer of the solar universe; and it is these Avataras of Maha-Siva, the solar regenerator, which produce perhaps the most widespread and world-shaking effects in the sphere of men.
The duty of some of the Avataras, their characteristic or svabhava, is to preserve and sustain all that is spiritual, noble, good, lofty, and holy; whereas the work of other Avataras is to regenerate, to make over anew, to bring forth from the womb of destiny what is waiting to come to birth. Hence it is that the work of the Siva-influence has often and always stupidly been called destruction. The profound philosophy of the process has not been grasped by either Occidental or Oriental scholars; but it is obvious that there are times, brought about by the whirling wheel of life, when evil in the course of destiny must be overthrown, when structures and works which have outlasted their times must be destroyed from the foundations up, in order that a newer building and a grander and loftier structure, both spiritually and materially speaking, shall be raised.
Difficult indeed is the theme of thought upon which I have embarked, and I feel urged to utter a word of warning that one not leap to points of conclusion on the supposition that one has grasped the full import of the meaning of the wonderful doctrine that I have so briefly outlined. Remember that the entire solar universe is one vast organism, quivering and palpitating with life throughout all its reaches, and that what men call spirit or what men call matter are but two phases or two aspects or two events of the onrushing, or the onsweeping, of the cosmic life-consciousness-substance working out its incomprehensibly sublime destiny.
Thus it is that our entire solar system can be viewed from two aspects: one as a cosmic body of spheres builded of the fabric of the cosmic consciousness; and from the other aspect it can be looked upon as an amazingly and most intricately intertwined web of spheres existing on many planes, but all under the dominance, and existing within the limits, of our cosmic divinity. Hence every atom is quivering with life, and is an imbodied consciousness center, which we call a monad, and the only difference between atom and god, between the hosts of darkness and the hosts of light, is one of evolutionary unfoldment.
Finally, let us try to understand somewhat of the meaning of the experiences, so full of mystery and danger, that certain ones, more evolved than we, are now undergoing.
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