Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy by G. de Purucker

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


Chapter Eleven

The Cosmic Pilgrimage. From Unself-Conscious God-Spark to Fully Self-Conscious God.

Unveil, O Thou that givest sustenance to the Universe, from whom all proceeds, to whom all must return, the face of the True Sun, now hidden by a vase of Golden Light, that we may see the Truth and do our whole duty on our journey towards thy Sacred Seat. — Paraphrase of The Gayatri

ON PAGE 605 of the first volume of The Secret Doctrine we find the following:

But one has to understand the phraseology of Occultism before criticising what it asserts. For example, the Doctrine refuses (as Science does, in one sense) to use the words "above" and "below," "higher" and "lower," in reference to invisible spheres, as being without meaning. Even the terms "East" and "West" are merely conventional, necessary only to aid our human perceptions. For, though the Earth has its two fixed points in the poles, North and South, yet both East and West are variable relatively to our own position on the Earth's surface, and in consequence of its rotation from West to East. Hence, when "other worlds" are mentioned — whether better or worse, more spiritual or still more material, though both invisible — the Occultist does not locate these spheres either outside or inside our Earth, as the theologians and the poets do; for their location is nowhere in the space known to, and conceived by, the profane. They are, as it were, blended with our world — interpenetrating it and interpenetrated by it. There are millions and millions of worlds and firmaments visible to us; there still greater numbers beyond those visible to the telescopes, and many of the latter kind do not belong to our objective sphere of existence. Although as invisible as if they were millions of miles beyond our solar system, they are yet with us, near us, within our own world, as objective and material to their respective inhabitants as ours is to us. But, again, the relation of these worlds to ours is not that of a series of egg-shaped boxes enclosed one within the other, like the toys called Chinese nests; each is entirely under its own special laws and conditions, having no direct relation to our sphere. The inhabitants of these, as already said, may be, for all we know, or feel, passing through and around us as if through empty space, their very habitations and countries being interblended with ours, though not disturbing our vision, because we have not yet the faculties necessary for discerning them.

THIS SEEMS to be a very appropriate general text for us to choose in closing our sketch of the hierarchies, and more particularly our development of the doctrine of swabhava, upon which we touched in our last meeting: the doctrine of the characteristic nature, of the individuality, or type-essentiality, of each individual monad, growing and manifesting and becoming itself in the manifested world in which it is itself the seed of its own individuality. The bearing of this concept on the doctrine of evolution — "rolling out or unfolding of what is within" — and especially on the mooted and knotty problem of the so-called origin of species, is simply immense, for it is the key thereof.

We can use the word individuality for the meaning of swabhava, provided that we do not use it in contradistinction to personality. It is individuality in the sense of signifying the being and the unfolding of that particular quality or essential characteristic which distinguishes one monad, one human entity, one cosmos, one atom, from another of the same kind. Fundamental as is the doctrine of hierarchies, and illuminating as is the light that it throws upon other problems, it itself cannot be properly understood without its complementary doctrine of swabhava; and, vice versa, we cannot properly understand the doctrine of swabhava without understanding the doctrine of hierarchies.

We hope this evening to develop the true meaning of swabhava, and thus to finish this part of our study, having now reached the frontiers, as it were, of cosmical manifestation; and in beginning our study of it in detail, we are obliged to touch upon a very essential aspect of the doctrine, another aspect of it which is fundamental for the proper understanding of this portion of the teaching of the ancient wisdom; it is a portion which pertains to psychology. Indeed, this doctrine of hierarchies and this its complementary doctrine of swabhava, are both in a very large measure fundamentally psychological.

Swabhava is a Sanskrit term, a noun derived from the root bhu, meaning "to become," and hence "to be," a psychological concord which is found also in several other languages, as in both Greek and English for instance. In Greek the word is gignomai; and in English it is be. In old Anglo-Saxon we have this word with the essential future sense completely retained and psychologically distinctly felt, to wit: ic beo, thu bist or byst, he bith or biath, etc., meaning "I, thou, he will be," in the future sense of "become." It is obvious that the psychological force of this means that being is essentially a becoming — a growth or evolution or unfolding of inner faculty.

English, as a matter of fact, had originally and still has only the two natural grammatical tenses — the imperfect tense, or the tense of imperfect or incomplete action, commonly called the present; and the perfect tense of perfected or completed action, or the past.

Now what constitutes one hierarchy as different in essence — or swabhava — from another hierarchy? It is its swabhava, or the seed of individuality which is it and is in it. It is that seed which, developing, makes a hierarchy, and that seed in developing follows the laws (or rather nature) of its own essential being, and this is its swabhava. In The Secret Doctrine, H. P. Blavatsky often speaks of one particular quality or plane of universal being, which she calls swabhavat, the neuter present participle of the same root bhu, and used as a noun. Like swabhava, it is derived from the same root, with the same prefix, and means that particular thing which exists and becomes of and in its own essential essence; call it the "Self-Existent," if you like. It is, though a Sanskrit word, a Buddhistic term, and its Brahmanical equivalent in the Vedanta would probably be the cosmical side of Paramatman, supreme self, the individualized aspect of Parabrahman-Mulaprakriti: superspirit-root-matter.

Swabhavat is the spiritual essence, the fundamental root or spirit-substance, the Father-Mother of the beginning of manifestation, and from it grow or become all things. It can be conceived of as did Spinoza, the Netherlandish Jewish philosopher, as God, as the one underlying being or substance; though in our studies we have eschewed the use of the term "God," for a reason hereinafter to be set forth. Or it can be conceived of as Leibniz did, as a collective unity of an infinitude of emanated monads or "entelechies," to use Aristotle's term. Spinoza was an absolute idealist, while Leibniz was an objective idealist, which we also are, by the way. Swabhava is the characteristic nature, the type-essence, the individuality, of swabhavat — of any swabhavat, each such swabhavat having its own swabhava.

The main and essential meaning of the doctrine of swabhava is the following — and it is so fundamental, so important in order properly to understand what follows, that we are going emphatically to urge it upon the attention of everyone. When cosmical manifestation begins or opens, it does not open helter-skelter, in disordered confusion, or by chance; it begins in conformity with the characteristic seeds of life, called, commonly, laws, which have been in latent existence through the period of the maha-pralaya preceding the beginning of the new manvantara, and these laws — we use the term under strong protest — are really the intrinsic and ineluctable karmic habits of nature to be this or that, its swabhavas, in short, its hosts of innumerable entities or essential natures; and these laws are actually impressed, stamped, upon ethereal and physical matter by the monadic essences or the monads. The swabhavas of the monads give their swabhavic natures to nature! The monads are individuals, and conceiving them as collected together in a unity and forming a body of a still greater monad, Leibniz gave to this greatest monad the Latin term Monas monadum — the "Monad of monads." This monad is, in short, our hierarchical summit, of which we have several times spoken before. But where is there any need to call this "Monad of monads," this hierarchical apex or summit, God? We can conceive of something still higher, and so forth almost at will. To stop at any point and call it God would simply be creating a deity — a God man-made, truly!

However, a man must pause somewhere in thought. So we begin with swabhava which, being an abstract term, is not a limit or boundary in itself. It is pure individuality working in spirit-matter of which it is the highest part or summit. Now this essential nature (or swabhava) of a monad develops and becomes in matter a hierarchy, whether that hierarchy be an atom, a man, a planet, a sun, a solar system, or a cosmical universe (or a universal cosmos) such as we find within the encircling zone of the Milky Way. The monad does so following the driving essential urge of its own inner essence, its individuality, its swabhava. Hence it is that as the monads are individuals, so are the resultant hierarchies individualized. And generalizing, as the monad grows into or becomes the hierarchy, descending the shadowy arc — that is, descending into matter — as it becomes matter in its lower parts (the upper portion of the monad remaining always in its own pure unadulterated state) it reaches a certain point which is the end of its cyclical development for that period of evolution or manvantara, and then it begins cycling upward and back again, and this part of its journey is called the luminous arc, because its tendency is towards light, or spirit, following the phraseology of the ancient sages.

We studied some time ago in the Hebrew Bible, chapter 1, verses 25 and 26, how the Elohim said: "Let us make 'man' in our own shadowy image (in our own shadow), and in our archetypal pattern." These Elohim who so "spoke" were monads, together forming a hierarchy, each one of them, again, a hierarchy by itself. As each individual man is a subordinate hierarchy of the greater hierarchy of humanity, so humanity is a subordinate hierarchy of the still greater hierarchy of the planet, and the planet Terra a subordinate hierarchy of the still greater hierarchy of the solar system; and so forth, as long as you care to follow the thought. Man is himself composed of less beings; he himself is a microcosm or little universe; he to these less beings is as a god — he to them is the Monas monadum, the Monad of monads. We shall later see reasons of great force why we have sedulously eschewed using this word God. It is a colored word, spoiled with the thoughts which have been tacked on to it; colored by them all, and it is for these reasons a dangerous word to use, because both misleading and inadequate.

As this monad in the beginning of manifestation in cosmos breaks through the laya-center, that is to say, through the neutral point, the vanishing-point where spirit becomes matter, or vice versa (you can call it the atman of the six lower degrees or principles which are to follow in sequential evolution) — as the descending monad breaks through the encircling matter of the cosmos around it, it follows in its course its own inner urge or, rather, is driven thereby; it is self-expressive, but still self-unconscious. But when any particular "atomic" part of this cosmic monad reaches self-consciousness and becomes a man, the path that its evolution follows thenceforward is consciously self-directed. Up to the time of the entrance of the self-conscious mind into man, the evolving entity is under the impulse, the propulsion, of dire and implacable necessity which, however, is most emphatically not fate; and this is because, up to this critical point in evolution, the evolving entity is an imperfect being still: it is not a self-conscious thing, but an unself-conscious god-spark. It cannot as yet direct its own destiny on the planes of manifestation, but automatically follows the course of the hierarchy to which it belongs. This spiritual-mental impotency ceases when the self-conscious state has been reached, which is in man. From this moment, in growing degree, man becomes himself a creator — a creator, self-consciously, of himself; he reaches upward or inward or outward (the adverb matters not) and becomes that which he essentially is within, continually aspiring toward the Inmost of the Inmost; and he finally reaches the point, at the end of this Day of Brahma — after seven planetary rounds — where he blossoms forth into a self-conscious god, not yet "God," or the summit of the hierarchy to which he belongs by karmic descent, but a god. No longer is he a nonself-conscious monad, but a self-conscious monad, a planetary spirit, a dhyan-chohan, to use a beautiful Buddhistic term, a "lord of meditation," one of that wondrous host of spiritual beings who are the full-blown flowers of former world periods or manvantaras. This wondrous host are the perfect men of those former world periods; and they guide the evolution of this planet in its present manvantara. They are our own spiritual lords, leaders, and saviors. They supervise us now in our evolution here, and we follow the path of the general evolution outlined by them in our present cyclic pilgrimage.

When we first started on this pilgrimage as unself-conscious god-sparks, destined to become self-conscious men in this our manvantara, it was these dhyan-chohans — flowers of the former manvantara — who opened the path for us, who guided our uncertain steps as we became men, incarnations of our higher selves. But when we became self-conscious entities or men, we began to guide ourselves; and to work consciously with them according to our evolution, to "work with nature," as H. P. Blavatsky nobly expressed it, is our highest duty and our brightest hope. It is our future destiny to become such godlike beings ourselves, thereafter in our turn to inform, inspire, and guide less evolved entities in future manvantaras, as we have been informed, inspired, and guided by them; and finally, after many kalpas, after many Days of Brahma — each one of such Days a period of seven planetary rounds — we shall become a conscious part of the cosmical Logos, the Brahmic Logos, using the phrase Brahmic Logos as meaning the highest conscious entitative intelligence of the solar system; thence upward and upward forever.

We return to our main theme. When the monad has reached the first point of cosmic manifestation, it has already descended through the first three of the ten planes or degrees or steps, i.e., through the three planes or degrees or steps forming the upper triangle or triad of the ten planes in and on which the universe is built. It now begins definitely to cycle downward, and its entrance into cosmic manifestation, as already said, is the laya-center which is the atman or universal spirit, no more belonging to any particular entity or man than does the atman of any entity or man in any other planet of any other solar system. Atman is ourselves merely because it is the link which connects us with the higher. As a matter of fact, the human being or man consists of five principles, because the atman is not his except as a "plank of salvation"; and his gross physical body is not really a principle at all. This matter of component principles in man we shall have to go into more fully when we take up our study of human psychological composition.

Now the upper triangle of the ten above alluded to actually is extended or developed out from the monad itself, as the petals and leaves of a flower are extended or evolved out of its seed: it draws its life and being from within itself. It is the elemental world, spiritually speaking; as the three worlds below our mineral kingdom are the elemental worlds of ourselves, materially speaking, forming an elemental world, "spiritually" speaking, of the hierarchy below our own.

This inner urge driving the monad to express itself in manifestation and form is the will of higher beings, working through itself, of which higher beings it forms an integral part — just as our brain, or our body, follows the implacable law of necessity which we impose upon brain or body by our thoughts and our will, yet both brain and body are parts of ourself in matter. The monad must reach self-consciousness in order to "free" itself and thus become a self-conscious, self-directed god.

These things are so important for properly understanding our future study that we feel necessitated again and again to return to them. They are basically fundamental, lying at the very root of all our teaching. Understand clearly and well that this is not fatalism. That doctrine runs directly contrary to the doctrine of swabhava, the doctrine of self-expression.

As an egg unfolds within itself the germ which is to become the future chick; or the human egg, the ovum, unfolds the germ within it which is to become the future child of man, similarly does the universe develop, similarly does an atom develop, thus also does a monad develop. It is unfolded within the auric egg. The human ovum, the seed of the plant, each is nothing but an egg. The shape may differ, the life form may differ, but this has nothing to do with the principle of unfoldment of which we are speaking. The encasement within the auric egg envelops the germ of individuality — or swabhava — which is destined to follow its course along its own characteristic line of unfoldment: what is in the egg or seed comes out, each species according to its own kind, and this is its swabhava. The Greek Stoic school taught the existence, both cosmically and infinitesimally, of spermatic logoi, "seed-logoi," each such spermatic logos producing creatures after its kind and according to its own essence — like the Hebrew Biblical Elohim — and this is again swabhava.

We saw in our study of the Qabbalah how the highest world unfolded itself and from itself emanated or evolved the second world, thus actually becoming the second world: being thus both parent and child. The second world was thus the child of the first; the third was the child of the first and the second; and the fourth, the "world of shells" — or of beings living in gross bodies, or "shells" — was the child of the first, the second, and the third, all working together in order to produce this fourth. Note well, however, that each superior sphere or world remains intact on its own plane, though evolving from itself the next succeeding inferior world.

The Stoics had a doctrine of development which in its essence is the pure teaching of our own philosophy, though expressed in different form and under different names. They expressed it in this wise, following the mechanical mode so agreeable and dear to the Greek mind. It is curious, by the way, that the Oriental mind has always preferred to follow the psychological and spiritual lines of thought, rather than the mechanical or, as we would now say, the scientific. But the Stoics taught in Greece, and later in Rome, that the mechanism of the essential nature of the Deity — and this essential nature is our swabhava, what we would call Father-Mother — was tension, and slackening of this tension, this slackening of tension being the first act of world-building. They took as an analogy in illustration of the idea the well-known fact that when a metal grows hot it then expands, and finally is vaporized; and using this simple matter-of-fact analogy they said that the "natural" state of pneuma ("spirit" = the Deity) is fire — not physical fire, but the seed of that cosmic element from which physical fire springs. The slackening of this tension produced the first differentiation of the primal substance (or pneuma = "God"), and this differentiation then awoke to active life the life-seeds, slumbering or latent, which came over from the previous period of manifested life; the life-seeds, or seed-lives — their spermatic logoi — thus awaking, proceeded to build and guide the forthcoming world period and all the entities in it, each such seed-life bringing forth from itself its essential species, or characteristic essence, i.e., swabhava. This is the teaching in miniature, but as the Stoics gave it, of the esoteric philosophy.

Now when the universe was to come forth from its own being, taught the Stoics, the tension of the primal substance or divine fire slackened, or contracted as it were, and this contraction, by condensation, gave birth to the aether; next, as the tension slackened in the aether, this gave birth to air; and it, next, to water; and it, finally, to earth. We are not speaking of the material fire, air, water, earth, that we see around us, but we refer to the elements or seeds of these, the earth and the water and the air and the fire that we see around us being merely material samples or the last progeny, as it were, of the elemental seeds from which these respectively sprang. "Fire" gave birth to the "aether," the latter being its shadow, the shadow of itself. The "aether" gave birth to its shadow, or "air," its encasement or body; and the "air" to "water"; and the "water" to "earth." The Stoics taught further that all these things can be respectively transformed one into the other — the dream of the alchemist, and also the dream, psychologically, of initiates who aim and strive to transform the base into the pure, the material into the spiritual.

Returning once more to our main theme, it is to be noted that naturally, as the monad — the root or the individuality of a hierarchy of any kind — cycles down into matter, it produces from itself, it expands outwardly from itself, its own shadows (or lower vehicles) which grow constantly more dense in direct proportion to the greater descent of the monad. In this connection the question arises, that as there are certainly worlds of happiness, worlds of peace, in the higher spheres, how about those nether worlds; how about those lowest states of being of which H. P. Blavatsky speaks as the avichi? There is no hell in the Christian sense. Such a hell is a vague bogey of the imagination; but there are, in very truth, lower spheres: just as there are higher, so there must be lower. There cannot be good without evil, for the one is the shadow of the other and balances it in nature. These lowest spheres have a well-defined part to play in the great cosmic drama. They are the cleansing houses, so to say, of the souls of those who persist in evildoing. Like attracts like. These lower spheres are necessarily entered into by those who willfully, through a prolonged series of incarnations, refuse to follow the spiritual light within themselves. Like attracts like, we repeat it. As a matter of fact, such souls, so stained and weighted with evil, are actually pursuing their own cyclical pilgrimage, drawn by attraction to like spheres and dwellings. During the cyclic pilgrimage of the atom-souls down into matter, many millions and millions have failed to pass the danger point and, instead of thereupon beginning their journey homeward up the luminous arc, are swept into the terrible maelstrom of the current that goes downward farther into matter! Therefore, into relatively greater suffering. These must wait until their time comes again in the next manvantara, and another chance in the future kalpa of the earth. For this Day of Brahma, for this manvantara of seven rounds, all is ended for them as regards their conscious journey back to their divine source.

These are doctrines (such as that of the avichi-nirvana, just hinted at in the preceding few sentences) which were taught in the ancient esoteric schools. From them, by misunderstanding and corruption of them, have been derived the bogey doctrines of a fiery, material hell in which are, for eternity, to burn the ethereal souls of willful sinners! These souls are said to be of an asbestos-like nature, forever burning fiercely yet never consumed, like pitch burning for utter eternity in utterly endless fire! What frightful nightmares of a gross and materialistic "religious" teaching! It is amazing how the mind of man will invent things to torture itself with. But it also shows that back of all these fearful, nightmare doctrines and dogmas there is some fundamental fact which the untaught mind sees through thick clouds darkly and falsely, and distorts; some element of truth which needs only proper explanation for understanding.

And how the human heart must melt in pity! Do we realize how real these doctrines were to our ancestors of only a few score years ago? And that in some backward-looking churches today these same horrible doctrines are still taught as actualities, though more or less secretly as if in utter shame, and that there are misguided and unhappy men who believe them, and on their deathbeds suffer in anticipation the tortures of the damned, tortures worse, certainly, than any which nature has prepared for them as guerdon for their mistakes and sins? Think of the horror of it! Think of the duty that we owe to our fellow men to teach them the proper explanation and meaning of these distorted and tortured doctrines in all their sanity, in all their beautiful hope! There is a moral element involved in it for us. People sometimes ask what is the use of studying The Secret Doctrine? What is the use of spending so much time in studying the rounds and races? Here is one of the uses. Essentially you cannot change men until you have changed their minds. Teach men properly and nobly to think, and you teach them properly and nobly to live, and properly and nobly to die. There is nothing like a noble thought to lift a man. It is sheer folly and egoism that says, "What is the use of these so-called noble thoughts? My thoughts are good enough for me."

After all that has previously been said, nevertheless, we have just begun our exposition of swabhava. We shall not have this evening the time and opportunity to touch upon the very important psychological aspects of it which we had hoped to do. We have still a few moments of time, however. Let us then try to illustrate more clearly this doctrine of swabhava on the line of it chosen before. Imagine an individual monad sending its ray, or descending, through that sphere which becomes the spiritual-atomic* plane of the six planes below it. This ray forms it itself into respective principles and planes as time passes, and it gathers and gleans the experiences of each separate plane. Leaving that spiritual-atomic* or atmanic plane, it evolves out of itself its shadow, which is like an encasement, an aura, thus forming its auric egg there, and this second plane or principle we call our buddhi, and as the monadic life or ray passes still farther down into that shadowy life, this buddhic plane and principle become to it the real and the true. As cycles of time pass on, the descending monadic ray (or seed) evolves another shadow, another encasement, another subtil body, another aura, another auric egg, out of itself, and this is our manas. Each of these three principles — as indeed have all the seven — has seven degrees, seven stages, from the "atomic"* of any one of the three down to its lowest, which is its corpus or body. And so on with the remaining four lower planes and principles of man. Each one of these principles is "fully" developed on our globe in the respective and similar one of the rounds of the seven of the Day of Brahma. Further, on each one of the seven globes of the planetary chain, one of the seven principles especially is developed. Again, as just shown, at the end of each round, one plane and one principle of the seven is developed, preparatory to evolving the succeeding one in another round. It takes fully two rounds, for instance, to bring out two planes and two principles in full; but during the first and the second rounds, for example, the other planes and principles have been coming up by degrees, evolving little by little, developing step by step. The chick does not grow in a day; the child does not become a man in a week; his soul does not develop within him in a fortnight. If a man lived the life he should, he would be at his best and noblest at the time when he thinks it is time for him to draw up his legs in bed and die. The physical body may be then ready to die, but the man within, that which is the real being, should be growing greater and nobler and grander. It is for this that we really live.

[*atmic? — Ed.]

And so runs the course of evolution to the end of the seven rounds, each round bringing out one principle and one plane, as said; in each round, each one of the remaining principles is brought out or evolved in less degree, there being thus, to use Ezekiel's figure, "wheels within wheels." At the midpoint of the fourth round, which is the middle round, there comes a time when the monadic ray reaches the very acme of materiality — when the life-wave reaches a point where it branches both downward and upward, and then, in the words of Ezekiel, chapter 18, "the soul that sinneth, it shall die," meaning that the monadic ray courses downward and loses all chance for ascent back homeward along the luminous arc, for that manvantara. It follows the downward path. But those others that can and do follow on, they indeed pass the danger point.

A Day of Brahma is composed of seven rounds, a period of 4,320 million solar or rather terrestrial years. Seven of these Days, again, are required to make a solar manvantara, which is a term used in the esoteric philosophy in a peculiar sense, because seven times seven rounds are needed in order to bring out to their fullest each of the seven principles and seven planes of which the manifesting hierarchy is composed. Of the Life of Brahma, we are told one half is already passed, one half of 311,040,000,000,000, plus some few more billions of our years! I refer to the Surya-Siddhanta, an ancient Sanskrit cosmogonical and astronomical work which, from the statements and facts given within it, claims an age of somewhat more than two million years, according to popular interpretation. I think our modern orientalists give its origin as occurring more or less around the beginning of the Christian era or later, simply on the one ground that the Greeks brought to northwestern India certain forms of computation which are found in the Surya-Siddhanta, a theory which is purely arbitrary, and based upon no certainly ascertained fact except the self-evolved or "swabhavic" theories of the orientalists themselves!


Chapter 12

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