Copyright © 1979 by Theosophical University Press. All rights reserved.
Definitions of Deity: Atheism; Pantheism. Is There a Supreme Personal God? Kosmic Architects and Builders. Really to Know, One Must Become.
"Thus there is but one Absolute Upadhi (basis) in the spiritual sense, from, on, and in which, are built for Manvantaric purposes the countless basic centres on which proceed the Universal, cyclic, and individual Evolutions during the active period."
"The informing Intelligences, which animate these various centres of Being, are referred to indiscriminately by men beyond the Great Range as the Manus, the Rishis, the Pitris, the Prajapati, and so on; and as Dhyani Buddhas, the Chohans, Melhas (fire-gods), Bodhisattvas, and others, on this side. The truly ignorant call them gods; the learned profane, the one God; and the wise, the Initiates, honour in them only the Manvantaric manifestations of THAT which neither our Creators (the Dhyan Chohans) nor their creatures can ever discuss or know anything about. The ABSOLUTE is not to be defined, and no mortal or immortal has ever seen or comprehended it during the periods of Existence. The mutable cannot know the Immutable, nor can that which lives perceive Absolute Life."
"Therefore, man cannot know higher beings than his own "progenitors." "Nor shall he worship them," but he ought to learn how he came into the world. . . .
There is frequent confusion in the attributes and genealogies of the gods in their theogonies, as given to the world by the half-initiated writers, Brahmanical and Biblical, the Alpha and the Omega of the records of that symbolical science. Yet there could be no such confusion made by the earliest nations, the descendants and pupils of the divine instructors: for both the attributes and the genealogies were inseparably linked with cosmogonical symbols, the "gods" being the life and animating "soul-principle" of the various regions of the Universe. Nowhere and by no people was speculation allowed to range beyond those manifested gods. The boundless and infinite UNITY remained with every nation a virgin forbidden soil, untrodden by man's thought, untouched by fruitless speculation. The only reference made to it was the brief conception of its diastolic and systolic property, of its periodical expansion or dilatation, and contraction. In the Universe with all its incalculable myriads of systems and worlds disappearing and reappearing in eternity, the anthropomorphised powers, or gods, their Souls, had to disappear from view with their bodies: — "The breath returning to the eternal bosom which exhales and inhales them," says our Catechism. . . . In every Cosmogony, behind and higher than the creative deity, there is a superior deity, a planner, an Architect, of whom the Creator is but the executive agent. And still higher, over and around, within and without, there is the UNKNOWABLE and the unknown, the Source and Cause of all these Emanations. . . . — The Secret Doctrine, II, 34, 42-3
WE APPROACH this evening one aspect of occultism which has always been held as very sacred and very carefully guarded, and that is the study of other worlds than ours, not as those worlds have been set forth in the exoteric religions, but in accordance with the secret wisdom which has been handed down to us from immemorial time. We mean the teaching concerning the superior globes of our own planetary chain; and on a misunderstanding of the doctrines concerning the teaching regarding the planetary chain have been based the exoteric views of the heavens and the hells of the various exoteric faiths.
One might ask oneself what the proper answer is to give to those who might ask any one of us: "Is a theosophist an atheist? Does he believe in God? If not, why not?" Now these questions are directly connected with the proper understanding of the doctrines about the planetary chain. Let us then first devote a few moments to answering these questions for ourselves. Are we atheists? How can we answer that question before we know what we mean by the term? If we take a modern dictionary, for instance the Century Dictionary, and look up the definition of the term "atheism," we find three general ones. The first is: "The doctrine that there is no God." And then follows a quotation from Sir J. R. Seeley, from his book, Natural Religion, page 26: "Atheism is a disbelief in the existence of God — that is, disbelief in any regularity in the universe to which man must conform himself under penalties." Notice the peculiar limitation of thought involved in this. If there is no regularity in the universe, therefore there is no personal supreme God, and therefore if you don't believe in such a God, the universe is irregular and anarchical, and you are an atheist!
The second definition is as follows: "The denial of theism, that is, of the doctrine that the great first cause is a supreme intelligent, righteous person." The third definition is "godlessness," with the implied meaning that if you don't accept the God of the one who gives the definition, you are an atheist, and you live a "godless," that is, an evil life. Such, then, are the definitions given in a standard work.
Now any tyro-student of history knows that this question or idea of belief in a god or in no god has varied, or rather has received different treatment in different ages. You will remember doubtless that when the Christian religion first began to run a more or less successful course in Greece and in the Roman Empire, educated Greeks and Romans called the new Christian sect an atheistic sect. They were called "atheists," atheoi, merely meaning one, or rather those, who did not accept the established gods of the State, that is, the gods of the State religion; and the term bore with it no particular or necessary implication of evildoing whatsoever. It was very much as if a European or American were to say today: Such and such a man is a freethinker, or a Confucianist, or a Buddhist, or a scientist, etc.
When the Christians grew more powerful and had in later ages the upper hand of the so-called pagans, they in their turn retaliated by calling the pagans atheists, because the latter did not accept the Jewish-Greek, newfangled Christian God. In other words, the term actually means: "If you accept my God you are not an atheist; and if you do not accept my God you are an atheist."
That is just about what atheism has always meant, if we consult the pages of history. But if we think of atheism as containing in itself a necessary implication of evildoing, we lower ourselves to the mental viewpoint of certain very narrow-minded Christians to whom all who do not accept their particular variety of religion, their particular understanding or misunderstanding of Deity, are atheists. We are reminded of course of that Scottish lady of the legend, of whom we have all heard, who with her husband composed a kirk; she and her Jamie alone composed the kirk. But she was "nae sae certain aboot Jamie." Therefore she alone composed the kirk, and her husband Jamie, poor man, came very near to being (in her eyes) an atheist.
Now that is the spirit that has governed Christian thought practically ever since the death of its founder. So, therefore, when we ask if a man is an atheist, we must be careful first to ascertain what we mean by the term. I have been called an atheist because I do not accept the old orthodox definition of the personal Christian God. I reject the term, if it mean living an immoral life. I reject it with all the indignation of which I am sensible, if the word be so used, for it is an imputation which is grossly unjust. And doubtless any one of you feels exactly as I do. Was it not the author of The Plough and the Cross, a very clever Irish writer, who said somewhere that our "forefathers were afraid of ghosts; but we are afraid of names," i.e., of labels and tickets?
Notice the second definition given above, that a man is an atheist if he does not believe in the existence of a supreme, personal, first cause, who is an "intelligent, righteous person." I reject such a deity; therefore, according to the dictionary, I am an atheist. But if anyone were to ask me, Are you an atheist? I would say no. And if he were to say, Why? I would say, because to me the boundless All is totally instinct with consciousness and life, an infinitely immense and swarming multitude, endless and beginningless, of beings who form not merely the heart of the pulsating life of all that is, but provide the very consciousnesses which govern and control the innumerable universes of and in the boundless All.
If you turn even to the canonical scripture of the Christian religion and ask what Paul meant when he spoke of Deity, we find there, from him, two definitions worthy of the initiant that the man was, when he said, first: "In It we live, and move, and have our being." This is pure pantheism — not as misunderstood in the grotesque sense which the Christians have misgiven to it, i.e., that every stock and every stone is God, thus showing their profound ignorance of the high and noble philosophical meaning behind the term pantheism; but in the sense that all is life, and that it is impossible to conceive of, nay, even to touch the smallest point of space or being, which lacks that limitless life. For back of A lies B, which is still greater than A; back of B lies C, still greater than B; back of C lies D, yet more grandiose; and so on infinitely, with never an end. What blasphemous ideas have come down through the ages regarding this question of Deity! Here in our Occidental Christianism we have a God, a bundle of contradictions, a misunderstood rendering of Neopythagorean and Neoplatonic, and of some Judaic, thoughts, the curious and contradictory compound called the Christian Deity — I mean the theological definition thereof.
Then another saying of Paul from his Epistle to the Romans, in chapter 11, verse 36: "For out of It, and through It, and back to It are all things." Pantheism this, pure and simple, even as we understand it.
Or, if we turn to the English rendering of John's Gospel, chapter 4, verse 24, we find an affirmation of the opposite thought, which particular translation sprang from the orthodox rendering of the text by the later Christians, where this Greek verse is mistranslated as saying "God is a Spirit." The Greek original could equally well and even better be translated: "God is Spirit." So be it. They may worship "a spirit" if they like, a spirit who is a "righteous person"; but those whose hearts have expanded under the beneficent influence of the wisdom-religion, and whose minds have opened to somewhat of the understanding which every faithful student of that wisdom should possess, can only reject such a definition of the Deity that he cannot accept, with the indignation which the definition deserves.
No theosophist, H. P. Blavatsky has somewhere said, has ever denied Deity, i.e., limitless life in the boundless All; but this Deity is nothing like, nor in any sense can it be compared with, a finite creator, which such a "person" is supposed to be, however "supreme" and however "righteous" and however great that supposed "person" or that "spirit" may be imagined to be.
Now, if someone were to ask you, Is there a supreme personal God ruling the planetary chain and is it your God? the answer is no. There is a host, a multitude, a hierarchy, of intelligent and of thinking and of highly spiritualized beings, from which the planetary chain sprang forth, but it is not our god, nor do we worship any such. Those beings are our progenitors, our elder brothers in a very exalted sense, for they were men in former manvantaras long since past; but our "god," never, not even when considered as a unity and called the Logos. Our "deity," if it is anything, is that indescribable, boundless life, in its highest aspects, back of everything, forming a background of all manifested being on whatever plane, and in which all is, and from which all is, and to which all is; indescribable, unthinkable, and therefore ineffable.
You remember that when Gautama the Buddha was asked, What is God? and Is there God? that greatest and noblest of Masters was silent. And when asked a second and a third time, What is God? he again was silent. Three times was he asked the question, and three times he preserved his silence.
In our recent studies we have attempted to show that the entire system of beings, the structure or framework of the universe on the background of the Boundless, sprang forth from the action and the intermingling of the gods, the monads, the souls, and the atoms; and that these produced the various planetary chains of our solar system, that is to say, of the kosmic atom or, as the Brahmanical thinkers named it, the Egg of Brahma. From these gods, monads, souls, and atoms, the manifested being of the solar system came forth.
Let us then turn next to our own planetary chain. You will remember that it is stated to be composed of seven globes, of which our present earth is the fourth and on the lowest plane of the seven; and that this planetary chain is working in four of the planes or worlds of the solar system, in the four lowest worlds thereof, as a matter of fact, our earth occupying the lowest element or world of the seven which compose the solar system. These seven elements are otherwise the kosmical lokas and talas, or kosmical worlds, principles, and elements working together. They are the worlds within the outer seeming, more ethereal than our world, of which ours is a copy, not necessarily a copy in every detail, but a copy on general lines, even as the physical body of man is a copy on general lines of the soul of him; and as his soul is a copy on general lines of the spirit of him; and as the spirit of him is a copy on general lines of his divine root, a god-being or godhead from which he sprang.
You will also remember that there are two general lines or hierarchies of spiritual beings who brought forth our kosmos, of which our planetary chain is one part; and these two are respectively the architects and the builders. The architects form the higher or more spiritual side, and actually form the line of the luminous arc; and the builders or constructors form, on the other hand, the shadowy arc.
In the Buddhist system of Tibet, the general name of dhyani-chohans, or lords of meditation, is given to both these lines of beings; but more particularly the architects are called the dhyani-buddhas, the buddhas of contemplation. The Greeks called the world builders, the masons of the world, by the general term of kosmokratores, a compound Greek word meaning "world builders." They are those who receive the creative or constructive impress from the beings of the luminous arc, or the dhyani-buddhas, and carry it out.
In each of these two lines there are seven grades or rather classes: there are seven classes of the dhyani-buddhas, and seven classes of the dhyani-chohans; and so far as our own planetary chain is concerned, these seven classes are reflected, repeated, therein.
Furthermore, each one of the seven globes composing our planetary chain is under the particular oversight (I think it would be wrong to use the word direction or guidance, but rather the over-seeing), under the particular over-seeing or care — care is perhaps the best word to describe this extremely metaphysical concept — under the care of one class of these dhyani-buddhas and one class of the builders. That is to say, globe A, for instance, the first, on the descending arc of our planetary chain, is under the care or watchful inspiration or oversight, of one class of these seven of both lines. Globe B is under the care of the second class of each line. Globe C under the same care or inspiration of the third class of each; and our own globe D or fourth has likewise its own dhyani-buddhas and builders of the fourth class; and the three globes of the ascending arc, similarly.
Do not confuse these two lines, because the distinction is very important if we are to obtain any adequate understanding at all of this branch of the ancient wisdom. The architects then, of the luminous arc, provide the model, lay down the plans. They are the architects, the overseers, and their work is carried out by these inferior grades or classes of spiritual beings called the builders.
Now with regard to this very question of God, considered briefly above, you will remember that the Gnostics, during the time of the beginning of the Christian era, claimed, and we claim with them, that the Christian God, Jehovah, whom the Christians call the Creator, could not for that very reason be a very high god. The very attributes and functions of creation or formation that were given to him show, said these Gnostics, that he was but an inferior deity, a builder, receiving his "orders," so to say, from the divine architects and supernal planners and thinkers of the kosmos, he himself thus being but a builder. As they so well put it, the manifold imperfections and incompletenesses so plainly apparent even to us humans, in the kosmical system, proclaim that it could not be the work of an all-perfect and kosmically omnipotent Deity; from utter perfection could spring forth only a perfect and complete work. The early Christians were unable to understand the deep philosophy behind this unanswerable axiom, and waxed very wroth and indignant indeed against what they called the "blasphemous opinions" of those Gnostics. In common with all thoughtful minds, you will see the deep philosophical and religious implications that lie behind this argument or axiom, but upon them we cannot longer pause at this time. Remember this, though, that in all the ancient faiths you will find two general classes of spiritual beings at work in the kosmos, and they are always divided, as we have already said this evening, into the thinkers or planners or architects, the inspirers; and into the builders. There is, finally, vastly more in this thought than we have time to go into tonight.
Now the Silent Watcher of whom we have spoken at other meetings is the highest of the dhyani-chohans of our globe; but there is likewise a Silent Watcher for each of the other six globes, and for the planetary chain as a whole. There is likewise a Silent Watcher for the entire kosmical — for the entire solar — system. So when we say Silent Watcher, without further defining, it is like saying spiritual being or hierarchical head. It is a generic term. As remarked at those former meetings, one such Silent Watcher is on our earth today, the supreme head of the Hierarchy of Compassion, the highest link with the spiritual beings of the hierarchy higher than ours upward along the luminous arc. He is, so to say, our supreme Master, our supreme Chief.
You have all studied, of course, in the doctrine concerning our own planetary chain, what are commonly called the seven rounds, meaning that the life cycle or life-wave begins its evolutionary course on globe A, the first of the globes, then, completing its cycles there, runs down to globe B, and then to globe C, and then to globe D, our earth; and then to globe E, on the ascending arc, then to globe F, and then to globe G. This is one planetary round. Then ensues a planetary nirvana, until the second round begins in the same way, but in a more "advanced" degree of evolution than was the first round. Please note that one such round is a planetary round. A globe-round is one of the passages, one of the seven passages, of that life-wave during its planetary round, on any one and therefore on and through each of the globes: when the life-wave has passed through globe D, for instance, and ends its cycles on globe D, that is the globe-round of globe D for that particular planetary round; and so with all the globes respectively. There are seven globe-rounds therefore (one globe-round for each of the seven globes) in each planetary round. Furthermore, when seven planetary rounds have been accomplished, which is as much as saying 49 globe-rounds (or globe-manvantaras), then ensues a still higher nirvana than that between globes G and A after each planetary round, which is called a pralaya of that planetary chain, which pralaya lasts until the cycle again returns for the new planetary chain to form, containing the same series of living beings as on the preceding chain and which are now destined to enter upon that new planetary chain, but on a higher series of planes than in the preceding one.
Next, when seven such planetary chains with their various kalpas or manvantaras have passed away, this sevenfold grand cycle is one solar manvantara, and then the entire solar system sinks into the solar or kosmic pralaya. Our own sun is then extinguished, suddenly, like a flash of light, or like a shadow passing over a wall. After just a "flickering," finally the light goes out, and the great mass of entities passes into spiritual realms far higher than any of those attained during the highest point of attainment in the period while the solar manvantara lasted, because they are then entering upon their solar nirvana.
Let us draw again the same diagram that we copied from H. P. Blavatsky at a former meeting, from page 200 of volume I of The Secret Doctrine. The seven parallel lines represent, if you please, the seven planes or worlds of the solar system. Above or on the lowest line of these seven let us place a circle to represent globe D, our earth. On the next plane above we also place two more circles to represent the two globes immediately above our own, called respectively C on the left and E on the right. On the plane above that we place two more globes, and call these respectively B on the left and F on the right. And on the plane above that, the fourth kosmic plane counting upwards, we draw two more circles to represent the two highest globes of our chain, respectively A on the left and G on the right.
Please remember that these kosmic "planes" are merely so called for purposes of convenience. They are actually the seven kosmical lokas and talas of the kosmic system, that is to say, of the solar system. But each one of these is a true world; they are worlds as truly as our own is, which we perceive when we look up and see the stars above us, and look to the earth and see the earth beneath our feet, the trees growing therefrom, the human and other animate beings walking with us, etc. Each one of these kosmic "planes" is a world, but each is again subdivided into septenary divisions, into seven divisions, all of them together making 49 subdivisions of the seven main divisions (or worlds) of the solar system.
Let us illustrate this by another diagram. We draw again seven parallel lines. And let these represent, if you please, the lowest solar world, or plane, of the seven, the lowest kosmic world, our world, the world we are in now. It, like all the others, is septempartite or divided into seven parts or divisions, representing matter or spirit from the grossest to the highest degree of each in our world, from the ethereal (highest) to the most material (lowest); and on one of these planes our globe Terra is at present.
Now what is the manner in which the life-wave in any round works? For the moment, if you will, we shall omit considering the previous three globes, A, B, and C, on the descending turn, and consider only our own globe D, or earth. These seven lines in the diagram are intended to represent respectively the seven grades or materializations of matter in the lowest of the seven kosmic planes, growing more material from the top downwards. Now then, our globe D in round the first is in the highest or topmost of these seven subplanes of our own lower kosmic plane, and our own kosmic plane, please remember, is the lowest of the seven of all the kosmic planes. It is the seventh and lowest. The life-wave during round 1 passes through our earth, after evolving it forth, a process which we are to study in detail later; it is a process of evolutionary development which occupies many millions of years; and after finishing its globe-round 1, leaves our globe D and passes to the next higher globe E. All right. As this life-wave is descending into matter for the first three rounds, our globe during round first will be on the highest subplane of the lowest kosmic plane or world. The second or next round will find our globe materialized and on subplane the second, counting downwards; in round the third, still more materialized and on the third subplane downwards; in round 4, that is, where we are now, our globe has reached its grossest state of matter; the downward cycling ceases, and the ascent begins.
What about subplanes 5, 6, and 7? Those planes are related to the destiny of beings who have followed the left-hand path, and who ultimately reach the utmost point of physical materialization in subplane the seventh, or the grossest possible in our solar system, and the last.
We see, thus, that the life-wave in making its first round, round 1, as is illustrated in Diagram 1, passes through (on its descending arc through the lowest four kosmic worlds or planes) the highest subplane or subworld of each one of these lowest four kosmic worlds, forming in each such kosmic world, a globe, one of the then-in-the-making seven globes of the chain. Is this clear? In round 1 the life-wave forms globe A on subplane the highest of the fourth kosmic world or plane. See the diagram. In round 1 the life-wave forms globe B on subplane the highest of the fifth kosmic world or plane. In round 1 the life-wave forms globe C on subplane the highest of the sixth kosmic world or plane; and so with the lowest globe D, our earth; and on the ascending scale likewise we see globes E, F, and G, similarly formed, each on the highest subplane of the respective kosmic worlds or planes. Round 2 begins (after the long, long planetary nirvana) on globe A on the second subplane of the fourth kosmic world or plane; then the life-wave passes to globe B on the second subplane of the fifth kosmic world or plane; then to globe C on the second subplane of the sixth kosmic world or plane; then to globe D (our earth) on the second subplane of the seventh or lowest kosmic world or plane. Similarly, during this second planetary round, the life-wave passes to all the globes on all the second subplanes of the ascending arc. Each such passage of the life-wave in and through each globe of the seven globes forms a globe-round, as said above.
So with round 3, and again with round 4, where we are now on globe D, on the fourth subplane of the seventh or lowest kosmic plane or world; that is to say, that the life-wave during each planetary round passes through the seven globes of the chain, and from kosmic plane to kosmic plane, but during each one round passes through only one subplane of each kosmic world or plane. The result of this being that during the seven rounds, it passes through 49 subplanes, and the beings composing the life-wave thereby have the chance of working out the destiny for which they came into active manifestation and evolution; for the whole purpose of the evolutionary processes of the kosmos is for the gaining of self-consciousness through individualizing experiences — i.e., experiences which individualize (evolve, bring out) the monads. And in order to attain that end, each monad must not merely undergo and mentally experience the various phases and natures of the universal life, but be them. As pointed out before in our studies, the initiations of old times, the real initiations, the initiations which brought to man's consciousness the knowledge of the spiritual truths of being, were based on this fact: that no man could really know anything merely by being taught about it, but he must be it, he must become it. In the old Mystery Schools, the system of teaching only during the first three initiations was changed into both teaching and personal experience beginning with the fourth initiation, these personal experiences growing grander and greater with each higher step that the candidate or initiant took; until finally, if he was successful in all the seven degrees, he attained the divine status from which he started forth in the beginning of the kosmic or solar manvantara, plus divine self-consciousness, self-awakening, and became thereby a Buddha, an Awakened One; or a Christos, to adopt the old Greek Mystery-term.
During our next few studies we shall continue to investigate the subject of the planetary chain.
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