To Light a Thousand Lamps by Grace F. Knoche

Copyright © 2001 by Theosophical University Press. All rights reserved.

Chapter 3

The Quickening of Mind

Traditions all over the globe describe an event of titanic import which occurred millions of years ago: the quickening of mind in childlike humanity. Where before we as a race had been dreamlike and without goal, now we were afire with the vigor of self-conscious thought, of choice, and the will to evolve. Legend and myth, scripture and temple preserve the record of this wondrous transition from mindlessness to self-awareness, from Eden-innocence to knowledge and responsibility — all due to the intervention of advanced beings from higher spheres who wrought within us "a living mind . . . and new mastery of thought." (Prometheus Bound, Aeschylus, trans. Gilbert Murray, lines 445-6)

In the Puranas of India, for example, and also in the Bhagavad-Gita and other sections of the Mahabharata, are a number of references to our divine ancestors being descended from seven or ten "mind-born sons of Brahma." They go under different names, but all are mind-born, manasa, "thinking" (from manas, "mind," derived from the Sanskrit verb man, "to think, to reflect"). Occasionally they are called manasaputras, "sons of mind"; more often agnishvattas, those who have tasted of agni, "fire"; also barhishads, those who sit on kusa grass for meditative or ceremonial purposes; or they are referred to simply as pitris, "fathers" — terms that preserve the tradition that solar and lunar fathers, progenitors, gave mind and the power to choose to early humanity so that we humans might pursue our further evolution with conscious intent.

The awakening of mind in an entire humanity could not have been accomplished by a single heroic deed; it must have taken hundreds of thousands, if not several million years to achieve. And the humans of that predawn period no doubt were as diverse as we are today: the most enlightened were probably few in number, the great majority of mankind being in the middle range of attainment, while some lacked the impetus to activate their potential. The coming of the light-bearers was indeed an act of compassion, yet it was destined also because of karmic links with humanity from previous world cycles.

Understandably, the unleashing of this new power among a humanity as yet undisciplined in the use of knowledge called for guides and mentors to point the way. Legends and traditions of many peoples relate that higher beings remained to teach, inspire, and foster aspiration as well as intellect. They imparted practical skills: navigation, star lore, metallurgy, and husbandry, herbal medicine, carding and spinning, and hygiene; also a love of beauty through the arts. More important than all else, they impressed deep within the soul memory of those early humans certain fundamental truths about ourselves and about the cosmos, to serve as an inner talisman for ensuing cycles.

In the West poets and philosophers for centuries have elaborated on the legends surrounding Prometheus which the Greek poet Hesiod (8th century BC) recorded from very ancient sources. Among others, Aeschylus, Plato, Vergil, Ovid, and in more recent times Milton, Shelley, and others immortalized various facets of the tale. In his Dialogues Plato hints often of a wisdom beyond the myths he relates, and in his Protagoras (sec 320 ff) he tells of the confrontation of Epimetheus (Afterthinker) with his older brother Prometheus (Forethinker). When the cycle had come for "mortal creatures" to be formed, the gods fashioned them from the elements of earth and fire "in the interior of the earth," but before bringing them into the light of day they commissioned Epimetheus and Prometheus to apportion to each its proper qualities. Epimetheus offered to do the main work, leaving the inspection and approval to Prometheus.

All went well with respect to furnishing the animals with suitable attributes; but, alas, Epimetheus discovered he had used everything up, "and when he came to man, who was still unprovided [for], he was terribly perplexed." Prometheus had but one recourse, and that was to procure by stealth from the common workshop of Athena, goddess of the arts, and of Hephaestus, god of fire and craftsmanship, that which was needed to equip "man in his turn to go forth into the light of day." Off Prometheus sped to the forge of the gods where burned the everlasting fire of mind. Stealing an ember from the sacred hearth, he descended again to earth and quickened man's latent mind with the fire of heaven. Man the thinker was born: instead of being less qualified than the animals which Epimetheus had so well equipped, he now stood a potential god, conscious of his power, yet innately aware that from then on he would have to choose between good and evil, and earn the gift Prometheus had brought.

At first the youthful humans (ourselves) lived at peace, but in time many of us turned our mind-power to selfish ends and were "in process of destruction." Zeus, noting our plight, called Hermes and empowered him to go swiftly to earth and instill "reverence and justice" in every man and woman, so that all, and not merely a favored few, would share in the virtues. In short, we humans, however unequal in talent or opportunity, are equal in divine potential.

In myth form Plato transmits the beautiful truth that not only did Zeus sow within man the seed of immortality (see likewise Timaeus sec 41), but also, at the appointed hour, an ember of the mind-fire of the gods fructified that seed into self-conscious awareness of his divinity — the work of Prometheus, whose daring and sacrifice for the sake of humanity make him the noblest of heroes.

The third chapter of Genesis, when understood, tells the same story, with God warning Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, or they would die. But the serpent assures Eve that they "shall not surely die," for God — or rather gods, 'elohim, plural — know(s) that as soon as they do eat from it, their "eyes shall be opened, and [they] shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." They did eat, and they did "die" — as a race of mind-innocent children — and became truly human, became as gods, knowing good and evil. And here we are, gods in our inmost being, though largely unaware of this since memory of this momentous truth has faded.

Turning to the same story in the Stanzas of Dzyan of The Secret Doctrine we find:

The great Chohans called the Lords of the Moon, of the airy bodies. "Bring forth men, men of your nature. Give them their forms within. She [Mother Earth] will build coverings without. Males-females will they be. Lords of the Flame also . . . "
They went each on his allotted land: seven of them each on his lot. The Lords of the Flame remain behind. They would not go, they would not create. — 2:16

Thus it came about that seven times seven creatures were fashioned, shadowy, and each after his own kind. Yet the beings with mind had still to be born. The Fathers each provided what they had, the Spirit of the Earth as well. It was not enough: "Breath needs a mind to embrace the Universe; 'We cannot give that,' said the Fathers. 'I never had it,' said the Spirit of the Earth." Early man remained an "empty senseless" being.

"How did the Manasa, the Sons of Wisdom, act?" They spurned the earlier forms as unfit; but when the third race was produced, "the powerful with bones," they said, "We can choose, we have wisdom." Some entered the shadowy (astral) forms; others "projected the Spark"; still others "deferred till the fourth" race. Those in whom the mind-spark entered fully became enlightened, sages, the leaders and guides of average humanity in whom the spark had been but partially projected. Those in whom the spark had not been projected, or burned too low, were irresponsible; they mated with animals and bred monsters. The Sons of Wisdom repented: "This is Karma," they said, because they had refused to create. "Let us dwell in the others. Let us teach them better, lest worse should happen. They did. . . . Then all men became endowed with Manas [mind]."

Thus did the third race produce the fourth, whose inhabitants "became tall with pride." As the cycle of evolution rapidly moved toward its lowest point in the arc of material descent, temptations multiplied. It is recorded that a fearsome battle took place between the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness. "The first great waters came. They swallowed the seven great islands." The Sons of Light took birth among the incoming fifth race — our own — to give it the needed spiritual impetus, and "taught and instructed it." (The Secret Doctrine 2:16-21, Stanzas iii-xii)

The igniting of our intellectual faculties was a climactic moment in human evolution. It quickened our awareness of everything: we became conscious of who and what we were — self-conscious. Knowledge gave us power: power to choose, to think, and to act — wisely and unwisely. It gave us the ability to love and to understand others. It stimulated the yearning to evolve and expand our capacities. In the process it gave us the greatest challenge of all: the awakening of our powers for both beneficence and maleficence, culminating in a contest between the light and dark forces in ourselves. When we multiply this by several billion human souls, we easily understand why there has been and still is a continual conflict of wills.

During the third great racial cycle or root-race, the manasaputras, who united their mind-essence with the latent mind of those early humans, remained with us as divine instructors. Inevitably, however, there came a time when these higher beings retired so that the young humanity could evolve and develop on its own. They withdrew from our immediate presence, but they never withdrew their love and protective concern, any more than a mother and father ideally will ever stop loving their children. The wise parent learns that the greatest gift he can give his children is his trust in them that they can make it on their own. That is what the manasaputras did for us; and what our god-essence is continuing to do for the human portion of ourselves.

In fact, we are manasaputras, although in its higher reaches mind is not as yet fully manifest in us. Nonetheless, the truths the mind-born sons implanted in our soul-memory remain an intrinsic part of ourselves. It is for the purpose of consciously reestablishing contact with this inborn wisdom-knowledge that we come again and again to earth: to rediscover who we truly are, companions of stars and galaxies and fellow humans as surely as we are of our brothers of field, ocean, and sky — one flowing consciousness, from our parent star to crystals and diamonds, and further, to the tiny lives that animate the world of the atom. Nor do we overlook the several classes of elemental or primary beings who maintain the integrity of the elements of aether, fire, air, water, and earth.

It may seem strange to think of ourselves as one flowing consciousness, yet this is just what we are. We see our human self as a separate unit when in fact it is only a cell, we might say, of the loftier being in which humanity is living and having its conscious evolutionary experience. Separateness is an illusion. There is an interconnection among all nature's families — in the sense that all beings are sacrificing a little of themselves for the benefit of the kingdoms above and below them. There is an interchange of helpfulness constantly going on that we might intuit more often could we feel our oneness with all. Along with a constant interchange of life-atoms and of energies of many kinds, there is also an intermeshing of karma among all of nature's kingdoms. Indeed, we have the mineral, plant, and animal kingdoms within us, and the elemental kingdoms as well, and we also have the god kingdoms within us, because we are gods in human form. We too often overemphasize our seeming separateness.

Today an astonishing array of evidence is confirming that consciousness is one and that while it manifests in different ways in stone, plant, animal, and human, it is one flowing river of life. Experiments with plants, for example, suggest plant sensitivity to human thoughts and to music. If there is reciprocity of vibration, both positive and negative, between humans and plants, it surely exists among our own species. The continuous interchange of thought-energies, of thought-atoms, among us is not limited to the human kingdom or to our planet. When we reflect on the living network of magnetic and soul force between ourselves and every aspect of the cosmic organism we call our universe, we sense something of the magnitude of our responsibility. If we could view all that occurs in our personal circumstances, in our social and communal relationships, from this perspective, from the eye of our immortal self, we would transform every aspect of human living.

Chapter 4


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