Copyright © 2011 by Theosophical University Press
Probably there is no single doctrine of the Esoteric Tradition which makes so instant an appeal as does the idea of the present existence in the world of great sages or seers. In most minds there lies an intuition that there must be in the world human beings of far loftier spiritual capacity and of immensely more developed intellectual power than the ordinary run of men. Those who hear of this for the first time instantly turn to those luminous figures, such as Gautama the Buddha, Jesus the Syrian avatara, Apollonius of Tyana, Lao-tse, Krishna, Sankaracharya, etc. and, among many, the first reaction is: if such great figures have already existed in the world, why should they not exist again?
Who are these luminous figures, who, although born in one or another race, actually belong to no especial human racial group but are the children of humanity? They have been the guides and guardians of mankind in past ages and are at the present time the almost unknown leaders and inspirers of the human race; and, it is they who have founded all the great world religions, philosophies, and sciences. As in former ages, they form a brotherhood whose ranks are recruited from time to time by their noblest disciples or chelas, when the latter through training and inner growth become fit to join the Brotherhood.
In modern theosophy these great men are called elder brothers, masters, and perhaps most frequently by the Sanskrit word, mahatmas, signifying "great selves," which, philosophically at least, adequately describes them.
There is enormous solace as well as spiritual and intellectual stimulation in knowing that mankind is not left wandering blindly along life's pathways, without guidance and teaching. The universe being hierarchies of imbodied consciousnesses, from the divine down to the physical, these great sages are seen to be simply the inevitable representatives of the workings of the universal logoic wisdom which permeates all and everywhere. Furthermore, the fact that these mahatmas are men, who have attained their high spiritual and intellectual status because of inner growth, is a perennial source of inspiration to ordinary human beings, for we at once see that which they have attained, anyone who follows the way has precisely the same chances of reaching the sublime goal of mahatmahood. It is in following this wondrous pathway faithfully, undiscouraged by the many mistakes that are inevitable, and with indomitable courage that nothing can daunt, that men in time become great seers or mahatmas. Are they then gods? Cosmic spirits? No. They are men who have become "at one" with their own spiritual nature.
These sages are sometimes called the Guardian Wall, for they form in fact a living, spiritual and intellectual wall of protection around mankind, guarding men against whatever evils men themselves are unable, because of ignorance, to ward off or to neutralize. Yet such guarding is always in strict accordance with the dominant karma of humanity, against which, even the great sages can no more work than against any one of the other laws of nature. They are in utter fidelity the servants of the universal mother in her spiritual, causative functions. They help men, they inspire and protect whenever they can, and in such fashion as their profound knowledge of the karmic chain of cause and effect in which humanity is entangled permits them to do. Thus it is that they serve the humanity over which they stand as elder brothers and guides.
"Diamond-heart" is a technical term of the archaic Mysteries often used when speaking of these mahatmas; and it has its particular and symbolic meaning as signifying their crystal-clear consciousness reflecting all in the world: reflecting the misery of the world, receiving and reflecting the human call for help, reflecting with equal clearness the dawning buddhic splendor in the heart of every struggling human soul on earth; but yet as hard as is the diamond for all calls of the personality, and first of all of the mahatmas' own personal nature — for just because they are men they have their personal nature, although with them it is a willing and obedient instrument, and not as with most of us a domineering and cruel master.
They are brothers, great-hearted men, and thus feeling more or less as all men feel, with a deep understanding of what human failings are, and therefore having human hearts moved with compassion. They know also the need, when occasion arises, of the strong and directing hand; they know the value of a friendly warning given, it may be, in terms of seeming severity to the selfish personal heart of the one whom the mahatma is trying to help.
The masters exist in differing grades of advancement and power on the hierarchical scale, yet as a body or brotherhood they occupy the lowest stage of that lofty spiritual hierarchy of intelligences which begins with man — with the mahatmas — and ends with the solar gods. In truth, this hierarchy is coextensive with the galactic universe, and indeed, extends for ever beyond it.
It was once a Chinese custom to divide the human host into three classes: inferior men, average men, and superior men. The superior men are the world teachers, who were so great that legends of many kinds clustered about their lives, sometimes stating that celestial spirits or angels or the inferior gods (the legends varying according to the race in which these great ones appeared) announced in wonder either their conception or their birth on earth; or that swans sang a dulcet melody proclaiming the advent of the divine being; all nature was occasionally said to have trembled in joy at their coming, while the great mother of men herself, the mighty earth, moved with the intensity of her feeling in the form of earthquakes. During their life they were sometimes said to have been tempted by evil powers, and to have conquered these temptations; but in all cases they passed their existence on earth in works of benevolence, teaching to their fellow men a sublime doctrine, and in anticipation of their own passing to inner worlds, training disciples to succeed them in spreading abroad the glad tidings given anew to the world.
Legends also tell us sometimes how they "raised the dead," reformed criminals, healed the sick, comforted the afflicted and heartbroken, and stayed the hand of vengeance and cruelty; and finally how they passed out of this life in different "miraculous" ways, in some cases even the sun was shorn of its light, so that darkness fell upon the earth, or there was a mighty earthquake.
However interesting these legends may be, such ideas are more often than not detrimental, because they distract the thought from the essential teachings of these great ones. Still, it is but just and fair to observe in passing, that probably most if not all of these legendary tales have some basis of misunderstood, and therefore distorted, natural fact in them, some misapprehended or half-forgotten traditional memory of incidents which were warped by later minds out of accurate semblance to the reality. But apart from this, one real value which these legends have, taking into account the immense impress made on the minds of succeeding generations by these great ones, lies in the testimony that the legends bear to their lofty spiritual stature.
No brief is here held for the reality of miracles, nor that the various legendary myths that have clustered about the lives of these great sages are to be understood as historic events. There are no miracles, nor have there ever been any, if by this word is meant the working of marvels contrary to natural law, or by means of the temporary suspension of any of the laws of the universe. On the other hand, there are most certainly a great number of mysteries and, as yet, entirely unknown forces of nature: forces and mysteries which nevertheless were known in past ages to the Brotherhood, and are with equally relative fullness known today by the mahatmas and masters.
The spirit of man can work wonders on physical matter because it is identic and therefore at one with the spiritual universe; and because of this, man's illuminated and trained will can work upon nature both inwardly and outwardly and move it to action in chosen directions. Even an ordinary man works wonders, and does so daily. Call his attention to some of the things that take place around him. Go to the wall of your room and push a button. Presto, the apartment is flooded with light! Talk into the microphone and your voice is instantaneously heard at a distance of thousands of miles. But there is no miracle at all here. It is all the intelligent use of the forces and substances of the universe by men who have found out how to do it; on a much larger and loftier plane, this is precisely what Jesus the Christ did, what Gautama the Buddha and many others did, to whom marvels are ascribed.
Take the case of Apollonius of Tyana, who, according to the testimony of multitudes of his day, worked marvels likewise; apparently raising the dead, appearing before the court of the emperor in Rome, and the same afternoon appearing at Puteoli, Italy, a three-days' journey from Rome. This last "marvel" was simply the projection in bodily form of the human mayavi-rupa, a thought-form temporarily created by the adept. According to the life of Apollonius of Tyana, as written from the authentic records and tradition by Flavius Philostratus in the third century ce, Apollonius was born about the year 4 bce, and therefore was a contemporary of Jesus, if we accept Christian chronology. There are many things in Philostratus' Life of Apollonius which correspond singularly and very curiously indeed to similar incidents related of Jesus.
In all parts of the world there have been popular tales to the effect that a sage can extend his life to a period far longer than that of average humanity. But this is no miracle. It is simply the practical application of a larger knowledge of natural fact which, combined with wisdom applied in living, enables the sage to extend the term of his life, and to do so at will; but one may question whether the majority of these great men ever care to live in the same body for an unusual term of years. Remembering that they can, at will, enter into a new and young human vehicle when such seems appropriate and will forward the work they have in hand, there would seem little reason why they would prefer to remain in a single physical body which has become burdened with years.
There does indeed come a time in the evolution of a superior man, wherein he reaches such a point of spiritual strength and active will power that he becomes able to control to some extent the forces of nature, so that he can, within certain defined limits, stave off the time of physical dissolution, thus attaining possibly three times the normal length of life in one body.
It matters little to a mahatma or sage what the mere age of his body is, for the reason that in the full exercise of his powers he is really working in the self-conscious focus of his stream of consciousness through a mayavi-body, which is instantly and always responsive to the commands of his spirit. By the term "mayavi-body" or "illusory-body," it is certainly not meant that the body does not exist; it does exist. Reference is here made not to the mayavi-rupa, technically speaking, but to the complete subordination of the physical vehicle to the self-conscious focus of the inner constitution, so that the physical body itself, while having all the appearance and attributes of ordinary physical bodies, nevertheless is a physical body of an unusual type, because of the unusual spiritual and psychic currents permeating it and thus acting on the atoms of which it is composed. This makes even the physical body of the mahatma to be something different from the ordinary, and thus it is not what it appears to be, and hence is called in a certain sense a mayavi or illusory body. The matter is not easy to describe.
Furthermore, while the body of such a great man is a body of flesh, yet every normal physical body can live only so long as its own source of inherent prana or vitality is unexhausted. The masters, however, can keep the "same" body by occult methods for more than a hundred years, or possibly even for three hundred years. However, this ability to keep a physical body alive and in good health beyond what would have been its normal span is, relatively speaking, a very small thing and it is highly probably that very few of them care to do it. One of the reasons is that they do not like the expenditure of psychovital force flowing from the inner nature that is required to keep a very old body in good condition. They have the far greater and higher power of leaving at will one worn-out body and of entering another physical vehicle, fresh and strong from nature's hands, requiring incomparably less expenditure of psychospiritual energy to keep it well and fit; and thus by assuming body after body they carry on with scarcely a break in individual consciousness the sublime work to which their lives are wholly consecrated.
This assumption of physical body after physical body at the will of the adept refers of course only to those cases in which the mahatmas choose this method of continued individual existence on the earth-plane. There is another and far greater method of continuing their individual existence, and this is by remaining in the astral realms of the earth as nirmanakayas. A nirmanakaya is one who is a complete man possessing all the portions of his constitution in unity and active form except the physical body and its vital force with the linga-sarira. As a nirmanakaya the adept can live for age after age in the full plenitude of all his powers and in intimate connection, if he desires and need be, with all the affairs of earth-life. He and those with him in the same condition of being, live as unseen yet perpetually active spiritual and intellectual "powers" in the affairs of the world, continually stimulating individuals who are ready or prepared to receive such spiritual and intellectual stimulation. They are, therefore, in the nirmanakaya-condition members in that Guardian Wall which surrounds mankind from age to age, protecting it against cosmic dangers of which the average man knows nothing, nor of the existence of which has he any consciousness, yet which are very real indeed. They work likewise as the protectors and inspiritors of every noble cause or movement whose work in their judgment will inure to the common benefit of all.
Augustine of the Christians describes a miracle as being something "against Nature as Nature is known to us"; but Thomas Aquinas, one of the great theologians of the Latin Church, goes to the limit of orthodox Christian statement in his declaration that miracles are occurrences "beyond Nature;" and "above and against Nature." These latter ideas have prevailed almost universally in Christendom ever since the second or third centuries, and were "orthodox" beliefs of the most eminent Christian divines as well as of the laity. But the ideas of Christian theologians, who still hold more or less to the miracle-working theory, have returned in recent times more or less to the views held by earlier Christian writers who believed with Augustine.
Scientists and philosophical thinkers today reject the possibility of miracles, and hold the conviction that nature contains a vast field of as yet unexplained because unknown powers. Occasionally, the scientists and philosophical thinkers of a century or so ago held views which in certain respects approximated this position. Such were the biologist Bonnet, the physiologist and botanist Haller, the mathematician Euler, all of Swiss nationality, and the German professor and theologian Schmid. Such as these supposed “miracles to be already implanted in Nature. The miraculous germs always exist alongside other germs in a sort of sheath, like hidden springs in a machine, and emerge into the light when their time comes.” This quaint manner of speaking shows how greatly these thinkers were still under the influence of Christian theological thought, but leaving that aside, one is conscious of the fact that there is a certain modicum of truth in the idea expressed: that “miracles” are merely the expression of unknown forces or potencies in nature itself. This idea approximates closely to the views of mystics like Jérôme Cardan and Paracelsus, who taught an invisible world, or series of them, existing within the outer sphere: “Beside or behind the visible is an inner, ideal world, which breaks through in particular sacred spots” when conditions are fit for such events to happen (I. A. Dorner, A System of Christian Doctrine 2:155-6).
Another early Church Father, Chrysostom, taught that “miracles are proper only to excite sluggish and vulgar minds; that men of sense have no occasion for them; and that they frequently carry some untoward suspicion along with them.”
Finally, a very interesting condemnation of the whole miracle-business is to be found in Jewish literature in the Talmud:
On that day, Rabbi Eliezer ben Orcanaz answered all the many questions put to him; but as his arguments were found to be inferior to his pretensions, the doctors of the Law who were present refused to admit his answers and condemned his conclusions. R. Eliezer then said to them: "My teaching is true; and this carob-tree here will show you how true my conclusions are." Obeying the command of R. Eliezer, the carob-tree arose out of the ground, and planted itself a hundred cubits away. But the Rabbis shook their heads, and said: "The carob-tree proves nothing at all." "What!" said R. Eliezer, "you resist so persuasive a testimony to my power? Then let this rivulet flow backwards, and thus attest the truth of my doctrine." Immediately the rivulet, obeying R. Eliezer's command, flowed backwards toward its spring. But the Rabbis continued to shake their heads, and said: "The rivulet proves nothing at all." "What," said R. Eliezer, "you fail to understand the power that I use, and yet you disbelieve the doctrine that I teach!" The Rabbis again shook their heads, and observed: "The Rabbis must understand before they believe." "Will you believe what I say," R. Eliezer then said, "if the walls of this house of study fall down at my order?" Then the walls of the building, obeying him, began to fall, when Rabbi Joshua exclaimed: "By what right do these walls interfere in our discussion?" The walls then stopped falling, in honor of Rabbi Joshua, yet did not recover their upright position in honor of Rabbi Eliezer.
The Talmud sarcastically observes that they are still learning.
Then R. Eliezer, in a passion of anger, cried out: "Now in order to confound you, since you compel me to do this, let a voice out of heaven be heard!" At once the Bath-Qol, the voice from heaven, was heard high in the air, saying: "Although ye be so numerous, what are ye compared with R. Eliezer? What are your opinions all together worth, compared with his? When he has once spoken, his opinion ought to be accepted." Thereupon Rabbi Joshua rose and said: "It is written: 'The Law is not in heaven' (Deut. 30:12); 'it is in thy mouth and in thy heart' (Deut. 30:16). It is likewise in your reason, for it is written: 'I have left you freedom to select between life and death and good and evil' (Deut. 30:15 and 19) and this is all in your conscience; for if you love the Lord and obey his voice (30:19), that is the voice by which he speaks within you, you will find happiness and truth. Why, then, does R. Eliezer bring into the argument a carob-tree, a rivulet, a wall, and a voice, to compose such differences and settle such questions? Further, what is the inevitable conclusion to draw from their actions, except that those who have studied the laws of Nature have mistaken the full reach of Nature's actions, which only means that henceforth we must admit that in certain given circumstances a carob-tree can uproot itself and transfer itself a hundred cubits way; that under certain conditions a rivulet can flow backwards towards its source; that in certain circumstances walls obey commands as the iron does the lodestone; and that in certain circumstances voices from heaven teach doctrines? Hence, what possible connection is there between the facts of thusly observed natural history on the one hand, and the teachings of Rabbi Eliezer? What connection, I say, is there between the roots of a carob-tree, a rivulet, stones of walls, voices from the air on the one hand, and logic on the other hand? Doubtless these marvels are extraordinary and have filled us with amazement; but to wonder at things is not answering questions; and what we require is true arguments, not mere phenomena. Therefore when Rabbi Eliezer shall have proved to us that carob-trees, rivulets, walls, and unknown voices, give to us arguments, by their strange movements, equally in value that sublime reason which the Eternal puts within us in order to serve as our Guide in the exercise of our free will: then, and then alone, will we use such testimonies, and shall estimate the number of them and the value of their assertions. . . .
"No, Rabbi Eliezer, it is vain work for you to address your proof in such matters to our physical senses; our senses may deceive us; and if they affirm what our reason denies, and what our conscience repudiates, we ought to reject the evidence of our deceptive and weak senses, and listen alone to reason illumined by our conscience." — Baba Mezia 59b, free translation (in French) by Hippolyte Rodrigues, Midraschim et Fabliaux, Larousse et Cie., Paris, 1880, ch. 7.
A few words of caution as to the manner in which the great ones are to be understood. They are not gods nor cosmic spirits, nor disembodied spirits of men who have passed on, but are verily men even as all other men are, only far greater; born as all men are, and themselves the pupils of others still greater than they. They are not "miracle workers" in any sense of the term, nor do they ever work in any wise contrary to nature's laws, but absolutely hand in hand with her, and thus forwarding the immense cosmic labor in which all the hierarchies of light are themselves engaged.
No student of human history doubts the existence of at least some members of the Great Brotherhood, whatever he may think of the legends that have almost hid the real nature of these greatly superior men. Such men as Gautama the Buddha, Lao-tse, Jesus the avatara, Apollonius of Tyana, and others are known at least by name to everyone. In Greece, likewise, there come to mind the names of five individuals called legendary. We know only that so great was their influence that even in the time of Plato, when their names even then were legendary, they had changed the entire religious and philosophical thought of the Greek world, and their teachings formed the basis of the most brilliant European civilization that has ever existed in historic times. Their names were Olen, Orpheus, Musaeus, Pamphos, and Philammon — a glorious constellation indeed.
As our human race moves farther onwards, such figures must reappear more frequently. Nor are the great figures of the future always to be different from those of the past, because the same individuals reappear in incarnation on earth and at frequent intervals; in addition the ranks of the Brotherhood are swelled in number as disciples or chelas of various ranks of the mahatmas evolve into the stature of their present teachers. A great natural truth is imbodied in this fact because what happens to one can happen to any man if he fulfill the proper conditions. There are no impassable limits which confine the evolutionary growth of souls, no barriers in nature beyond which they may not pass.
The great thinkers and poets of the human race in all ages have intuitively sensed these facts, which the soaring spirit of intuitive men have imbodied in language; and one may say that all were more or less under the direct or indirect inspiration and guidance, in their work of "revelation," of one or other of the members of the Brotherhood. Pearls of wisdom may be found almost anywhere, for the masters are no respecters of persons but seek out and encourage not merely spiritual and intellectual genius as such, but more especially the budding spirituality of men wherever these rays of the buddhic splendor are discovered.
As an example one finds in the New England Transcendentalist school some great men in their own way, such as Emerson and even Thoreau, who had many inspirations and inklings of truth. Emerson, in his "Fragments on Nature and Life," sings:
From high to higher forces
The scale of power uprears,
The heroes on their horses,
The gods upon their spheres.
Casts her schemes rarely,
And an aeon allows
For each quality and part
Of the multitudinous
And many-chambered heart.
It is time, space, and interblending consciousness, which produce beings and things that are; and an aeon, the cosmic aeon, allows for many things to fall out of its generative bosom — the "heart," as Emerson truly says, here signifying the invisible center or core of things cosmic. Verily the spiritual monad is many-chambered, full of the haunting memories of its former existences.
The Great Brotherhood is not an arbitrary institution, not an artificial arrangement which the masters themselves have in different ages brought about in the world, but this Brotherhood is but one link in an immense cosmic chain of beings which the ancient Greeks called the Golden Chain of Hermes or the Hermetic Chain, and which the Esoteric Philosophy calls the Hierarchy of Light or of Compassion. In other words, the masters are links — or their Great Brotherhood forms a link — in this Golden Chain of Hermes, and therefore we see that their position and work in the world is a natural part of the cosmic structure.
Just as there are beneath man families of beings existing on different levels of the ladder of life, so there are other beings greater than men on levels of evolutionary development more advanced than that where man now stands. If we place man as the highest known entity on earth, we find that as we travel backwards along the descending scale, our attention is drawn from the more individual and particular toward unities or composites.
It has been said that no two leaves in a forest are exactly the same; for if they were, they would not be two leaves but the same leaf. With how much greater force can this reflection be made with respect to so highly individualized a being as man! It is the unquestioned tendency in the living things of nature to advance toward individuality and away from the perfect communism of the lowest forms of animal life, and from the simple unism of the rocks. Yet this is looking at the subject on its merely material side. When we study the psychical, mental, and spiritual attributes and functions of the human species, among many other things not observable in the lower forms of existence, we observe the "struggle" to reconcile duty with desire, right with might, knowledge and power with abstract and concrete justice.
In point of fact, this struggle is more or less purely imaginary so far as nature's intrinsic laws and processes are concerned; for the entire field of this struggle in the case of man is rather the unceasing human effort to grow, which effort, partly because of the complexity of the human constitution, makes the human being seem to be at war with himself. Thus the effort is in the individual himself, and only in small degree does any such struggle along these lines of breaking down barriers impeding growth arise from man's relations with the surrounding sphere of circumstances or nature — or indeed with his fellows, despite the apparent struggle of man with his fellows that seems to be all too observable throughout the course of known human history. The meaning here is that the diversity of interests which arise in human intercourse is largely imaginary and artificial, and in no real sense is born of an inherent spiritual or biological conflict between man and man.
Were men only to realize that their interests are fundamentally common and that every man is best served when he himself serves the interests of his fellows, then the so-called strife of man with man would automatically cease, and we would have a heaven on earth when compared with the horrible social conflicts that in our present era of materialistic selfishness so plague us all. For these antagonisms, struggles and conflicts between man and man are not based in nature nor even in environing circumstances, but in man's foolishness and selfishness. Reference is here made to the old damnable biological theory of our recent forefathers that man is born at enmity with his fellow man, and that evolution is attained by conflict, and that the "survival of the fittest" is brought about by predominance of might over right. Today every thinking man is beginning to realize that all this is downright false, is no "law" of nature at all, but is a superficiality of deduction arising in a misinterpretation not only of nature herself, but of man's own constitution and characteristic attributes.
The so-called struggle is simply the working of many factors in the individual's own constitution, often, alas, working against themselves in conflict. Hence the struggle or conflict is in man's own mind; and as all men have this conflict, because all men are evolutionally undeveloped, they imagine that the struggle or conflict exists in nature, outside of themselves — as if men themselves were not inseparable parts of nature!
The growth or rather progressive unfolding of individuality or individualized beings, as we ascend the ladder of life, is perceptible even here on earth. The relatively perfect unism of the rocks slowly passes into the growth of individuality which becomes faintly perceptible in the communism of the superior kingdom of the plants; and as we leave the plant world and follow the evolutionary picture as it ascends into the beast kingdom, we notice the tendency toward individualization increasing rapidly. When we reach the human kingdom, which in the Esoteric Philosophy is considered an entirely distinct kingdom, because of the typically human attributes which mark man sharply off from the beasts, we find that the rise toward individualization has resulted in the appearance of characteristically distinct individuals.
During this gradual rise on the evolutionary ladder, nothing of value is lost in the higher kingdoms that the lower kingdoms contained, but whatever is of value in the lower kingdoms is transmuted into greater values in the human kingdom plus the possession by human beings of new and valuable qualities and faculties which are certainly latent in the lower kingdoms, but not yet manifest.
The evolutionary tendency in man, which will grow stronger and more perceptible with the passing of each century, is to unite with his fellows. All the foundations of genuine morals repose on this tendency, which itself is an expression in the human constitution of the law of harmony inherent in universal nature.
The differences between the beings occupying the various steps on the evolutionary ladder show among other things the steady yet slow emergence into functional activity in individuals of ever nobler qualities and attributes. Yet comparing stage with stage, how enormous are the differences that separate the highest from the lowest, the man from the stone, or the man from the fish. We see everywhere stirring around us — in the lives, in the instincts and impulses, of the humbler beings and things — the same forces that stir in our own breasts and motivate us to action: love, affection, fear, passion, sympathy, remembrance, hatreds, and many more such. Still, so far as our Mother Earth is concerned, man stands supreme over all that are beneath. Yet if he turns his eyes in the other direction, he is subtly conscious that ahead of him there must be beings far greater than he.
Unless we assert that the human species is the highest evolutional product that nature through all past eternity could produce, we are obliged to admit that such beings superior to men exist, whether we know of them or not; and that if such beings superior to man do not exist, then the graduated scale of beings beneath man, showing a constant rise as evidencing nature's efforts upwards, would become an anomaly.
Following then the teachings of the great sages and seers of all past ages, we are enabled to divide this graduated scale into seven (or ten) stages of evolutionary unfolding:
|a. First Elemental Kingdom:||Ethereal and highly fluidic in type, with relatively unmanifest and unindividualized monadic corpuscles or units, possessing a common vital organic existence.|
|b. Second Elemental Kingdom:||Separation into droplets of quasi-particularized entities which are nevertheless still held together in union by an identic vital stream.|
|c. Third Elemental Kingdom:||Beings yet more highly particularized, although still bound together by, and functioning in, a common vital organic existence.|
|1. The Mineral Kingdom:||Quasi-individualized corpuscles or particulars, functioning in organic unity. Simple unism as a body.|
|2. The Vegetable Kingdom:||Simple communism. The pressure toward individualization increases.|
|3. The Beast Kingdom:||Dawning of distinct individualized units.|
|4. The Human Kingdom:||Efflorescence of individuality. Dawning of a common or general consciousness.|
|5. The Great Ones:||Full-grown individuality. Self-conscious realization of a unifying general underlying consciousness.|
6. Quasi-Divine Beings
or Lower Gods:
|Perfected individuality merging, without diminution, into the general underlying consciousness. Dawning of cosmical consciousness.|
|7. Gods:||Emergence into conscious realization of cosmical consciousness, without loss of a perfected impersonal individuality.|
The table is of course purely tentative, but is nevertheless accurate as far as it goes. The mind pauses in wonder in contemplation of the reaches of conscious, quasi-conscious, and self-conscious entities in this hierarchy. It would indeed be an inexplicable anomaly in nature if man were the highest possible stage of consciousness that the cosmos has as yet through all eternity been able to produce. We are driven to realize that the essential difference between man and the beings beneath him lies in man's self-conscious mind, which is the particular link binding us to the higher realms of cosmic being — the bridge over which consciousness passes to and fro between matter and spirit. As we study the lower beings, we realize also that they too have minds of their own kind, centers of consciousness, yet not of reflective consciousness such as man has.
Here then in man is the union of another and higher plane of being with this plane of being. The sensitive and psychological on the one hand, and the intellectual-spiritual on the other hand, have effected a union, and the product is — seven-principled man. Heaven and earth have kissed, as the quaint saying of the ancients had it, and their offspring is the human race.
No one can be blind enough not to see the apparently impassable gulf which separates the self-conscious mind of man from the directly sensitive mind of the lower creatures. Man may truly be called a god enshrined within a tabernacle — the psychomaterial framework of his lower nature.
The noblest lesson that we can draw from all this is that of fundamental unity, of inseparable interests, and of unbreakable natural bonds uniting us with all that is. None of us can advance or pursue our pilgrimage alone. We take along with us, bound into all the parts of our constitution, innumerable hosts of lower beings, for we are all, collectively and individually, aggregates of inferiors, just precisely as the human race is united by unbreakable bonds with our spiritual cosmic superiors. We must all go forwards together, and we have been doing so through all past time; and into all future time we shall be progressing unitedly as a vast cosmic river of lives.
Thus it is that the great sages or masters form one stage or degree on the evolutionary scale just above men of average development. There are other still greater beings on the ladder of life, who are the teachers of these great sages and who are more highly evolved men than the great sages themselves are. Higher even than these are yet others still more fully evolved, who may with propriety be called human gods; they are nature's controllers, governors, of our own planet earth. Above and over these human gods there lives or rather is what is technically called in the Esoteric Philosophy the "Silent Watcher" of our globe, who thus is its spiritual hierarch.
This Wondrous Being, this Silent Watcher, belongs to the class of spiritual superiors who are called dhyani-buddhas. Interlinked in the vital being and consciousness of this dhyani-buddha, streaming forth from him in manifold radiation, are innumerable rays. These children-rays streaming from the vital being and consciousness or essential heart of this Wondrous Being are human Egos, and this Wondrous Being himself is called the Ever-Living-Human-Banyan, because from himself he sends forth branches or tendrils of the spirit which reach down into the substantial fabric of the universe in which he lives, there to take root; and because proceeding from the life-consciousness of the Wondrous Being they themselves become children banyan-trees, growing up in their turn, and in due course of time through the cycling ages they achieve lofty spirituality, and then they also send forth new tendrils as rays, which take root in the substantial fabric of the universe, thus building up new trunks — and thus the wonderful mystic Tree of Life grows through time and space.
The Ever-Living-Human-Banyan is the hyparxis of the hierarchy of adepts of our planetary chain, which hierarchy was first formed during the fourth round on our globe earth, shortly before the middle period of the third root-race. This was the karmic time for the appearance of this hierarchy, because then infant humanity was beginning to become self-conscious, and through unfolding growth becoming ready for the receiving and the understanding of spiritual and intellectual light.
And now a mystery: every initiate reaching initiation and passing successfully through it is derivative from the heart-essence of the Wondrous Being, the dhyani-buddha of this fourth round. Initiations during the fifth round on any globe of our planetary chain will have their causal being in the activities of the fifth-round dhyani-buddha; and those undergoing the trials and tests of the then initiatory cycle will be under the supervision and connected with the dhyani-buddha of the fifth round, exactly as the dhyani-buddha of the present fourth round holds the same relative place and performs the same relative functions for initiants in this fourth round. Similarly the sixth and seventh rounds, in so far as initiations are concerned, will be connected in identic manner with the respective dhyani-buddhas of each.
There are in fact many such Wondrous Beings, many Silent Watchers, like a mystical ladder of light in rising scale of spiritual and intellectual grandeur. These Wondrous Beings themselves are children-banyans from a still greater banyan which is the invisible heart of the solar system, the divine hyparxis of Father Sun. The Ever-Living Human Spiritual Banyan which descended in the third age from a "high region," as H. P. Blavatsky says in The Secret Doctrine (I, 207), is a grand spiritual being, who is the leader on earth of the Brotherhood of adepts.
It may be said that this Wondrous Being came to our plane of earth as a "visitor," living here in what to him was once the underworld of his own high plane; dwelling for a time on earth amongst early humanity, first as the greatest, the primordial, spiritual teacher and guide of the then human race; and from him and from his work and his enlightening presence was originally formed the Brotherhood of the mahatmas over which Brotherhood he still presides, a being, himself One, and yet in function and essence many.