Copyright © 1979 by Theosophical University Press. All rights reserved.
Stoop not down, for a precipice lies below the earth, / Drawing under a descent of seven steps, beneath which / Is the throne of dire necessity. — Psellus, 6 (Cory, Ancient Fragments, p. 278)
Devilish (asurya) are those worlds called, / With blind darkness (tamas) covered o'er! / Unto them, on deceasing, go / Whatever folk are slayers of the Self. — Isa-Upanishad, 3 (Hume, trans.)
IN OPENING our study of the holy science which we are privileged here again tonight to investigate, let us begin by reading from H. P. Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine, volume I, the last paragraph on page 272:
(1) The Secret Doctrine is the accumulated Wisdom of the Ages . . .
Next page, second paragraph:
(2) The fundamental Law in that system, the central point from which all emerged, around and toward which all gravitates, and upon which is hung the philosophy of the rest, is the One homogeneous divine SUBSTANCE-PRINCIPLE, the one radical cause.
(3) The Universe is the periodical manifestation of this unknown Absolute Essence.
Next page, second paragraph:
(4) The Universe is called, with everything in it, MAYA, because all is temporary therein, from the ephemeral life of a fire-fly to that of the Sun.
(6) The Universe is worked and guided from within outwards. As above so it is below, as in heaven so on earth; and man — the microcosm and miniature copy of the macrocosm — is the living witness to this Universal Law and to the mode of its action. We see that every external motion, act, gesture, whether voluntary or mechanical, organic or mental, is produced and preceded by internal feeling or emotion, will or volition, and thought or mind. As no outward motion or change, when normal, in man's external body can take place unless provoked by an inward impulse, given through one of the three functions named, so with the external or manifested Universe. The whole Kosmos is guided, controlled, and animated by almost endless series of Hierarchies of sentient Beings, each having a mission to perform, and who — whether we give to them one name or another, and call them Dhyan-Chohans or Angels — are "messengers" in the sense only that they are the agents of Karmic and Cosmic Laws. They vary infinitely in their respective degrees of consciousness and intelligence; and to call them all pure Spirits without any of the earthly alloy "which time is wont to prey upon" is only to indulge in poetical fancy. For each of these Beings either was, or prepares to become, a man, if not in the present, then in a past or a coming cycle (Manvantara). They are perfected, when not incipient, men; and differ morally from the terrestrial human beings on their higher (less material) spheres, only in that they are devoid of the feeling of personality and of the human emotional nature — two purely earthly characteristics.
And on pages 21 and 22, beginning in the middle of the sentence:
. . . the differentiation of the "Germ" of the Universe into the septenary hierarchy of conscious Divine Powers, who are the active manifestations of the One Supreme Energy. They are the framers, shapers, and ultimately the creators of all the manifested Universe, in the only sense in which the name "Creator" is intelligible; they inform and guide it; they are the intelligent Beings who adjust and control evolution, embodying in themselves those manifestations of the ONE LAW, which we know as "The Laws of Nature."
Resuming our thought from our last study of two weeks ago, we shall take up this evening an outline of the psychological nature of man, because if man understands himself, he understands that from which he came, and which he is — he understands the universe proportionately with his own development of spirit and of mind and of the percipient faculties that go with the development of spirit and of mind in man. In order to enable us more easily to understand and more clearly to set forth the essential characteristics of man's psychological economy, we shall endeavor to show how closely these are related to two fundamental theorems, or principles, or doctrines, of the wisdom-religion; and these two are (1) the law or rather the fact of hierarchies; and (2) the law (we use the term again under strong protest) of the essential nature of things called swabhava, meaning, as said before, self-evolution, self-formation, self-development, self-becoming. In it inheres the foundation of the law of morals. As is obvious, man is responsible to himself and, because man is a part of other things, he is therefore responsible to other things also. Likewise, as a corollary of the foregoing, after death man does not "meet his Creator," but verily he has to meet and to reckon with his creature, that which he has built up in himself during his life — his astral self.
What makes a rose bring forth a rose always? Why does the seed of an apple invariably bring forth apples? Why does it not bring forth thistles, or daisies, or pansies? The answer is very simple; very profound, however. It is because of the swabhava, the essential nature in and of the seed. Its swabhava can bring forth only that which itself is, its essential characteristic, its own inner nature. The Stoics of Greece and Rome expressed this fact of evolution by saying that in the opening of a period of manifestation, it is the pneuma — "spirit" — which relaxes its tension, condensation or concretion thereupon ensuing of the said pneuma or spirit, and evolution begins, emanation and evolution both begin, following the causes set up and active in the preceding period of manifestation. There spring into life coordinately with the opening of the new period the spermatic logoi, the seed-logoi, an expression translated from the Greek spermatikoi logoi, "spermatic reasons," "seed-reasons," logos meaning "reason," hence "cause," among other things. It was these seed-logoi which were the fruits or results, the karmas, of former periods of activity. Having attained a certain stage of evolution or development, or quality, or characteristic, or individuality in the preceding manvantara, when the next period of evolution came, they could produce nothing else but that which they were themselves, their own inner natures, as seeds do. The seed can produce nothing but what it itself is, what is in it; and this is the heart and essence of the doctrine of swabhava. The philosophical, scientific, and religious reach of this doctrine is simply immense; it is of the first importance.
The habit or, if you like the word, the "law" of swabhava can work only in that which is itself, because only its own vehicle, its own self, is appropriate for the manifestation of itself — obviously! Hence, the manner of evolution and emanation, and the progress of the hierarchies, are as set forth before; that is, that from the highest, evolution and emanation proceed downward into the more material, and so on down the line of the shadowy arc into matter, until the turning point of the descent is attained, whereupon begins the ascent along the luminous arc.
We must note well, however, that the higher does not leave its own sphere in this process; the higher does not wholly become the lower, and the lower wholly become the still lower, leaving a vacuum or an emptiness above. The higher spheres remain always. It is like the flame of a candle laid at the wick of another candle; and from that one candle you can light all the candles of the universe, without diminution of its energy or of its force or of its characteristic essence. The highest remains always the highest; it is that part of itself, as it were, that is the developing energy acting from within; its skandhas it is which produce, as the Stoics would have said, this "relaxation of tension," this condensation or concretion of parts of itself. A perfect analogy is found in the intrauterine development of man and his descent into incarnation. His spiritual nature does not come down and become his actual body; it remains always his spiritual nature. But from it, it throws out parts of itself, its lower aspects or principles — if we may so put the idea — and each one of these, as the manvantaric cycle proceeds, in its turn secretes, protrudes, and excretes something lower. So that the physical man, the body, is in very truth the "temple of the living God," which is itself the glory thereof, hence a part of the temple; the temple, verily, is the lowest manifestation of the living God within.
Now swabhava works through the hierarchies. We have returned to these two capital matters time after time, because it is all-important from the philosophic, from the spiritual, and from the ethical aspects that these things should be as clear as possible in our minds. Take, for instance, the cosmogonical relation. We are not created by an extracosmic God; karma, on the other hand, is not an extracosmic entity which said, "I create," and the world sprang into being. The highest essence, the inmost of the essence of every hierarchy, of the practical infinitudes of hierarchies, interlocked and co-related and working together and forming the universal cosmos in which we live — the highest part of each one of these hierarchies is a superdivine monad, which we can call Parabrahman-Mulaprakriti. And its first manifestation or downward-looking energy, its first breaking-forth into the plane below, is Brahman acting in turn through its cosmic veil, Pradhana, as you will remember we have before studied; and then comes Brahma-Prakriti, otherwise called Purusha-Prakriti, which is the cosmic soul or individual, and the nature or the vehicle in which it manifests; the Logos and its universe; the monad and its sheaths, and so on.
Having these things clearly in mind, we can now take up directly and more easily, more comprehensibly, the study of what we mean by the psychology of man. The word is ordinarily used to signify in our days and in the seats of learning in the Occident a study more or less cloudy, mostly beclouded with doubts and hypotheses, actual guesswork, meaning little more than a kind of mental physiology, practically nothing more than the working of the brain-mind in the lowest astral-psychical apparatus of the human mind. But in our philosophy the word psychology is used to mean something very different, and of a nobler character: we might call it pneumatology, or the science or the study of spirit, because all the inner faculties and powers of man ultimately spring from his spirit. But as this word pneumatology is an unusual one and might cause confusion, let us retain the word psychology. We mean by it the study of the inner economy of man, the interconnection of his principles, so to speak, or centers of energy or force — what the man really is inwardly.
Man, like everything else in the universe, is founded upon the decadic skeleton or numerical framework of being — the number ten. Three of these ten elements or planes or principles belong to the arupa or formless world, and seven belong to the world of manifestation and form. These seven latter principles produce each other on a downward scale in the process of manifestation, exactly as the hierarchies do, each one emanating or evolving a lower, and this lower evolving or emanating a still lower one, and so down to the seventh or lowest.
Man can be considered as a being composed of three essential bases; the Sanskrit term is upadhi. The meaning of the word is that which "stands forth" following a model or pattern, as a canvas, so to say, upon which the light from a projecting lantern plays. It is a play of shadow and form, compared with the ultimate reality. These three bases or upadhis are, first, the monadic or spiritual; second, that which is supplied by the lords of light, the so-called manasa-dhyanis, meaning the intellectual and intuitive side of man, the element-principle that makes man man; and the third basis or upadhi we can call the vital-astral-physical, if you please.
These three bases spring from three different lines of evolution, from three different and separate hierarchies of being. Remember that each hierarchy possesses in itself in embryo everything that the entire universe is and has, the least as the greatest, if we can say "least" and "greatest" of that which is endless — at any rate the least and greatest of any period of manifestation. This is the reason why man is composite. He is not one sole and unmixed entity; he is a composite entity, he is a thing built up of various elements, and hence his principles are, to a certain extent, separable. Any one of these three bases can be temporarily separated from the two others, without bringing about the death of the man physically. But the elements, so to say, that go to form any one of these bases cannot be separated without bringing about physical dissolution or inner dissolution.
Now these three lines of evolution, these three aspects or qualities of man, as said, come from three different hierarchies, or states, often spoken of as three different planes of being. The lowest comes from the earth, ultimately from the moon, our cosmogonic mother; the middle, the manasic or intellectual-intuitional, from the sun; the monadic from the Monad of monads, the supreme flower, or acme, or rather the supreme seed of the universal hierarchy which forms our cosmical universe or universal cosmos.
It depends upon a correct understanding of the general interconnection or the interworking of these three separate parts of the economy of the inner man, whether we shall obtain a proper grasp of our future studies. We meet, as we have seen, at every step new ideas, new thoughts, new links with the universe of light and being around us, and of which we also are children. How terrible it would be if we were to reach the limit of all that it was possible to know! On the contrary, endless vistas of growing knowledge are always before us, and we cannot attain them otherwise than by mounting the steps of knowledge one by one.
We have heard it said that immortality is conditional. This is a certain truth. Immortality is not unconditional, and why? For the reasons just pointed out. Man is a composite being and, as the Buddha said in the closing words of his life, "Brothers, all that is, is composite and transitory. Therefore work out your own salvation." This contains the core of the whole philosophy of evolution, and occultly designates ultimate immortality or annihilation for any one manvantara for man as a thinking entity.
Immortality is assured if the central principles which compose the intellectual-intuitional man have succeeded in rising to the monadic plane where they become one with the monad, shining upon them as a spiritual sun. And the loss of a soul for the manvantara is assured if its swabhava, its essential, characteristic energies are directed downwards into brute matter.
However, the loss of the soul cannot ensue as long as even one sole, single, spiritual aspiration remains functionally active. Only when the unhappy entity has arrived at the point where it can say, "Evil, be thou my God!" when not one single, quivering aspiration spiritward remains, is it "lost" for the manvantara, when its essence, as it were, is inverted, and its tendency is downwards, downwards into the avichi, where circumstances may bring about an almost immediate annihilation of it or, perhaps, a manvantara of avichi-nirvana, a fearful state indeed contrasted with the wondrous nirvana of the dhyan-chohans or lords of meditation.
On the one hand we may raise ourselves to become a god, yea, even while dwelling in the flesh. On the other hand we may allow ourselves to sink to the Eighth Sphere, where we pass into the yawning portals of the Planet of Death. Has it ever occurred to any one of us to ask: Why are we here? Why, having had an infinity in which to evolve, are we not higher than we are now? Has it ever occurred to any one of us to ask whether we may not be the "fallen angels," those very spiritual "athletes" who in a former great manvantara failed to win onwards to the goal, failed to rise, failed to make the goal intended for them, and were "cast down" to work our weary way upward again?
Again, what do we mean by soul as contrasted with spirit? We speak of the human soul and the spiritual soul, and we speak of the astral soul, and we speak of the animal soul. But we do not use those terms in connection with the word spirit. Does it not teach us that the meaning of soul is that of a vehicle, an upadhi, in general; that vehicle, or any vehicle, in which the monad, in any sphere of manifestation, is working out its destiny? But these vehicles are conscious vehicles, they are living and sentient vehicles having each one its own consciousness and its own thinking faculty; even these gross physical bodies of ours are not merely insensible stocks. The physical body has its avenues of dull consciousness and life; it can feel and, after its own poor dull manner, it can think.
So, then, the loss of the soul is the loss of that which we, through interminable ages, very, very laboriously have built up as our inner temple, our home, in which we should rise to meet the gods, to become one with them; and more, it is the vehicle through which we should carry up with us entities below us at present, but through us approaching our own dignity of humanity — entities of which the soul is actually composed, even as the atoms in our physical bodies are infant-souls, physical entities, embryonic things which we are informing and inspiring, if, indeed, we are not sentencing them to a cycle of woe.
With knowledge comes responsibility. The moral law will not be thwarted. It cannot be played with. At every step, with every morn, at every turn, at every choice, we face the right- or the left-hand path, and we are forced to choose. We must see to it, every time, whether our feet are to be set upon the luminous arc, or upon the path of shadows leading us downwards.
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