The Theosophical Forum – August 1947

COMMENTARY — G. de Purucker

[On the opening page of Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy by Dr. de Purucker appear these words: "In our last two meetings we studied the Three Fundamental Propositions or Principles in H. P Blavatsky's wonderful work, The Secret Doctrine." Reports of these two meetings were not included in the published work, the book starting with the third lecture. Pertinent extracts from these preliminary lectures, given respectively January 4 and January 11, 1924, are here reproduced, with closing remarks by Katherine Tingley, then Leader and Teacher. — Eds.]

We should all feel deeply and gratefully sensible of the occasion which is here given us to approach along the paths of thought the doctrines which from immemorial time have enlightened the intellect of our fellow-students, have given courage to strong hearts under persecution, and have directed the forces of the world along the lines which men hold dearest — the lines of religion and the ethical principles which govern human conduct.

Personally I am deeply sensible of the responsibility which the Teacher's remarks, preceding this talk, have put upon me, as called forth by her to say words which shall be simple, condensed, clear, helpful. Her instructions are to take the literary masterpiece of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky's life, her Secret Doctrine, and from beginning to end of it touch, if possbile, upon every main doctrine therein contained, and produce a record and interpretation of its teachings which all minds can understand and which will be helpful to all members of the School both here and throughout the world.

The subject is a great one: great in scope, great in possibilities. I approach the duty with a true awe, with my heart filled with reverence for these venerable doctrines which from times so far back that "the mind of man runneth not to the contrary" of them, have provided the world with its religions, its philosophies, its sciences, its arts, its ethics, and therefore its governments.

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky opens her work by enouncing three fundamental propositions. First, is her enunciation of an inscrutable Principle; the second postulate, the second fundamental proposition, is her declaration that the universe is the playground, the field, the arena, the scene, of incessant, eternal, never ceasing periodicity: that is to say, cyclical movement, the manifesting of the eternal Life in the cyclical appearance and disappearance of worlds — stars, planets, and the other celestial bodies in the cosmic container which men so vaguely and inaccurately call Space. She tells us, voicing the teaching of the Ancient Wisdom, that these worlds come and go like sparks, mystically called the "sparks of eternity." The life-cycle of each of the greater bodies is of necessity of immense duration.

The third postulate — by no means the least in importance, that which is easiest to understand, that which for men perhaps is most pregnant with truth — is that the universe and all in it are one immense, eternal Organism. This third fundamental proposition tells us not merely that the universe is one with all that is in it, but more particularly that the being of man, his body, his bodies; his soul, his souls; and his spirit, are but the offspring, the fruitage of forces. — Here we come upon one of the doctrines most necessary for us to understand in the magnificent sweep of Theosophical philosophy, and it is the doctrine which H. P. B. has called the doctrine of Hierarchies; that is to say, that the Cosmos, the universe, while one organism, is nevertheless formed, so to say, of steps, or gradations of beings, consciousnesses, or intellects, of all various kinds, which the universal life manifests in, and that these are interrelated, and correlated and co-ordinated, and work together in one unity towards one common object and end.

We see thus that we are not merely the fleshly children of earth, beings like butterflies, born of a day; but verily sparks of the Heart of Being, of the central fire of the universal life. If we could feel this wonderful truth in our hearts, and if we could carry our feeling into our daily lives, no force would be greater to govern our conduct than it; nothing could better mold our destinies, nothing could put us upon a nobler path of achievement and service than it.

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Before resuming our talk of last week it would seem good to quote from H. P. Blavatsky the paragraph occurring at the bottom of page 13, preceding her treatment of these fundamental Propositions:

Before the reader proceeds to the consideration of the Stanzas from the Book of Dzyan, which form the basis of the present work, it is absolutely necessary that he should be made acquainted with the few fundamental conceptions which underlie and pervade the entire system of thought to which his attention is invited. These basic ideas are few in number, and on their clear apprehension depends the understanding of all that follows; therefore no apology is required for asking the reader to make himself familiar with them first, before entering on the perusal of the work itself.

These three Propositions may be called a synopsis of the entire system of Esoteric Philosophy. They are an epitome of the religious and philosophic reasoning of the human soul from times vanishing into unknown antiquity. Necessarily, therefore, are they very difficult to understand, and in some of their reaches they cannot be understood fully by the human mind. For instance, while we cannot say with reference to this first Proposition what this Principle is of which H. P. Blavatsky speaks, nevertheless we can talk about it, talk around it, say what it is not, as H. P. Blavatsky herself does when, after saying that in the words of the Hindu Upanishad, it is "unthinkable and unspeakable," she proceeds to speak of it and to give the ancient teaching about it as it was understood by the greatest minds of olden times.

This principle beyond the reach of human thought must be all that which passes human understanding and which for that reason we can only call the ALL — a word simply expressing our ignorance, it is true; but it does express the fact that this ineffable Principle is ALL. Ultimately from it we sprang, back to it we are journeying through the aeons of illimitable time. All thoughts ultimately came from it, but by no fiat of a thinking mind however great. The ancient philosophy tells us that we may liken the first stirrings of being in this ALL to the life-germ of an egg. How marvelous it is that a thing which, when chemically analyzed, consists of but a few elements of matter, yet if not disturbed or destroyed, under proper conditions, brings forth a living being!

Many are the religions which have treated of this Principle in varying ways. The Hebrew Bible opens its cosmogony with the words: "In the beginning," that is to say, "In the principle"; and so translated in the Greek Septuagint. "God made the world and the world was without form and void, and the Spirit of God moved upon the waters." Now here is a wonderful thing. The thought in those lines is by no means well expressed philosophically, but it does contain the esoteric teaching as we have it here in the Secret Doctrine. "In the beginning — in the Principle — in the ALL." The next statement is that "God" (the original Hebrew of this word is the plural noun "elohim, a curious compound of a feminine noun with a masculine plural termination), Elohim, made the earth and the earth was formless and "void." What does "void" mean? It means emptiness, vacuity.

The next statement is "And the Spirit of Elohim moved upon the waters." What waters? We have been told that the earth was formless and empty, and that it was void, — and let me remind you that the word void here means more than "empty'; it means, properly, in this application, intangible, immaterial, as we would say an astral world, a spiritual world, even, if you please. Upon it where were the waters upon which Elohim or the Gods moved? Why should they move upon the "waters'? Are most students of religion and philosophy aware that "water" is a term used in the ancient religions as signifying Space, the waters of space? So then we have an immaterial world, brought forth from the ALL by powers, by gods if you like, and the spirit, the force of these beings, moved over or within this intangible and immaterial globe or world. . . .

Turning to the further Orient and taking up the Sanskrit teachings as expressed in the Veda — the most ancient and highly revered religious and philosophical works of Hindusthan — we find in the translation of Colebrooke the following:

Nor Aught nor Naught existed; . . .

Think of the thought in this. Neither some thing nor no thing existed.

. . . Yon bright sky
Was not, nor heaven's broad woof outstretched above.
What covered all? what sheltered? what concealed?
Was it the water's fathomless abyss?

Again the reference to the waters of space.

There was not death — yet there was nought immortal,
There was no confine betwixt day and night;
The only One breathed breathless by itself,
Other than It there nothing since has been.
Darkness there was, and all at first was veiled
In gloom profound — an ocean without light —
The germ that still lay covered in the husk
Burst forth, one nature, from the fervent heat.

See the marvelous attempt to render into ordinary human language, into commonplace figures of speech, however beautiful they may be, thoughts whose subtility and profundity the human mind can reach towards, grasp for, attempt to reach — and yet must largely fail. And nevertheless we sense, we feel, as it were by an inner consciousness, the existence, the reality, the actuality, of that which we know is, and fail to tell.

Here we have a statement that no thing was and not-no-thing was. To This, we can give no human name; yet, as the mind works analogically, they tell us that the germ of life arose in It as It then was. So is It now, nothing less, nothing gone, nothing added; always the same so far as we can see, and yet changing ever. Utter immobility is death. In It death exists not. Motion as we understand it, is life, and yet in It such life in reality exists not. It is in reality neither in motion nor motionless. All we can liken It to is utter Space, containing unending motion as we understand it, in infinity, in eternity — and all these are but words — an open confession of the inability of the human mind to reach it. Yet how noble, how proud, a statement it is of the mighty forces of the human spirit which can reach up, and even as it were get some intimation of the unutterable. There in itself is a basis for a religion of truth. How mighty a thing is the mind of man!

On page two of the first volume of her work, H. P. Blavatsky says: "It is the ONE LIFE: eternal, invisible, yet Omnipresent, without beginning or end, yet periodical in its regular manifestations."

Is it possible inwardly to conceive the immensity of this spatial ALL and our cosmos, our universe, as hanging from It by a thread of spirit? Our universe, not alone our dust-speck of earth, but the universe comprised within the encircling zone of the Milky Way; and the numberless other universes hanging from It.

The ALL itself never manifests; It is the Unmanijest; nevertheless from It manifestation proceeds. To what can we liken It then? What were the figures of speech that the ancients used, the pictures the metaphors, by which they explained the manifest proceeding from the Unmanifest? — the material from the Immaterial, life from not-life, personality from non-personality, being, entity, from non-being and non-entity? Here is one figure: the World-Principle is the Sun. The sun sends forth innumerable rays of light eternal, in all directions, all part of that which sends them forth. The sun itself was to the ancients but the material manifestation on this plane of a hierarchic series which had its roots again inmeshed in something still higher than itself, and so forth. How did they describe this Principle, this Unspeakable, in the Vedas? Silence and darkness surrounded the thought and they simply called it TadThat; not even "God," not even "The Shining One'; it was limited by no adjective, simply THAT.

Another figure was the World-Tree, even more universal than that of the sun, found in the Hindu scriptures, found in the ancient American Maya, Inca, Toltec, symbols, found in ancient Europe and preserved to this day in the Scandinavian Eddas. The World-Tree — how is it imagined? It was figured as growing from above downwards, its roots rooted in THAT, and its trunk, its manifold branches, and its twigs, and its leaves, and its flowers, stretching downwards in all directions and representing the manifesting and manifested life, the incalculable things into which this cosmic river, this spiritual flood of being, runs.

Suppose a tip at the end of the lowest, utmost branch, the tip of a leaf: it draws its life from the leaf, the leaf from the twig, the twig from the branch, the branch from a larger branch, the larger branch from a larger one still, it from the trunk, the trunk from the roots, the roots — why proceed further? We can continue indefinitely. But the ancients, with their deep religious faith, simply said THAT, when referring to that which transcends human power of conception. So, when H. P. B. says here "And yet periodical in its regular manifestations," so must we understand it. It is her own teaching that It manifests never, but from It springs all life. "Between which periods reigns the dark mystery of non-Being." Between the periods of manifestation called manvantaras there are the so-called cosmic or universal pralayas. . . . Therefore, in the words of H. P. B.:

Between which periods reigns the dark mystery of non-Being; unconscious, yet absolute Consciousness; unrealisable, yet the one self-existing reality; truly, "a chaos to the sense, a Kosmos to the reason." Its one absolute attribute, which is ITSELF, eternal, ceaseless Motion, is called in esoteric parlance the "Great Breath," which is the perpetual motion of the universe, in the sense of limitless, ever-present, SPACE. [I, 2]

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KATHERINE TINGLEY: Thinking towards the unthinkable is a wonderful, spiritualizing force; one cannot think toward it without a disposition to either think more or feel more, without opening up the inner consciousness of man. And when that inner consciousness is awakened, the soul finds itself closer to the infinite laws, closer to THAT, or that Great Center that no words can express.

I have a very, very strong feeling that even if we turn away from the truth presented to us, it leaves its impress. If we look towards it, there is a greater impress; if we think towards it, it is still greater; and it is that very condition that opens up the soul of man and brings him nearer to the consciousness of the profound and sacred and wonderful principle, impossible otherwise to conceive.

Now I declare that I cannot think towards my higher self and accept and feel it as fully as I am capable of, without opening the doors to a higher state of consciousness. If I remain in that state of consciousness, I am closer to greater light, and as I familiarize myself with the thought that I am a part of this great universe in a very true sense; and a necessary entity, only so far as I serve humanity (and in serving humanity, you have got to love it), so by entering into that state day by day the thinker will take its place, and the doors will be opened to that higher state of consciousness. That is where intuition commences to work. As Professor de Purucker said, it is not that we need to get anything new, but we need to make active that which we possess, and bring our souls and winds and aspirations to a higher state of consciousness.

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