One in Essence, Manifold in Form

By Grace F. Knoche

How many tales have been spun around the mystery of the coming into being of the world, of ourselves, animals, plants, and our beautiful Earth, and how the One periodically produces from itself its myriad life forms, each an outflowing of the Absolute Essence that is "latent in every atom in the Universe, and is the Universe itself." (H. P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, 1:273)

A stirring thought — affirming that we are linked in essence with every particle of consciousness that helps animate and compose our solar cosmos, and that every atom is as important and needed as every other to the well-being of the whole: while a huge disparity in evolutionary stature obviously exists between a snail and a sun, there is no difference in essence. Since nature follows one basic pattern (or law) for all her children, every atom throughout her domain is a living, evolving entity. Not only is its monadic core one with all other consciousness-centers, but it also is unique, stamped with its individual character and karmic pattern wrought in previous cycles of planetary and solar experience. Along with all others, every atom-monad "either was, or prepares to become, a man, if not in the present, then in a past or a coming cycle." In other words, the monadic lives embodying through the mineral, plant, and animal kingdoms are progressing toward "human" status, while those ahead of us, passing through the god-kingdoms, have already outgrown the "human" stage of self-awareness. (Ibid., 1:275)

One in Essence, manifold in form: the One and the many; or better, the One in the many. Our interconnectedness is inviolate, yet for evolution to move forward on any plane, spiritual, ethereal, or material, differentiation must occur. Just as high voltage electricity is stepped down through transformers for commercial and home use, in like manner to avoid disintegrating matter the powerful spiritual radiation of Absolute Essence, or Divinity, is stepped down through a series of transmitters so that the evolutionary purpose may be accomplished. All nature exemplifies this protective procedure. We reckon our human constitution to contain anywhere from three to twelve potencies, each transmitting a ray of Divinity through the appropriate sheath or veil ranging from the divine/spiritual to the physical, corresponding to the seven- or tenfold nature of the cosmos.

What moves the progenitor of all that is, again and again to bring forth a universe? The statement that Absolute Essence "is the Universe itself" suggests that a universe comes into manifestation in order to know itself, for the urge to expand and have another flowering is inherent in the cosmos, where every atom is infused with the Primal Essence. It is all one beautiful process of Divinity being propelled by an irresistible urge to awaken its families of monads from their long rest period to emerge once again from the darkness and void of Chaos into the light and order of another world cycle.

In periodically producing from its own substance the manifold and varying aspects of itself, the universal being — God or Brahma, however we name it — not only expands (the word brahma means expansion) in wisdom and experience through involvement in material realms but, in the process, expresses a part of itself through its "creations" and thereby stimulates each atomic particle to increase its individual treasury of experience. Life, love, consciousness are many-splendored, for however Essence mirrors itself in complex form — be it as a world or an atom — it becomes manifold in shape, rich in variety, color, and frequency, multidimensional in expression. Thus are snowflakes, meadows, animals, humans, and devas unique yet one with All.

But just as a universe, enhanced by numerous previous encounters in celestial and terrestrial spheres, is drawn to material embodiment, so the pivotal "moment" arrives when it must reverse its course. With the midpoint of the evolutionary arc now passed, the pull of matter gives way to the magnetic power of spirit. The momentum upward and inward toward spirit gradually increases until, ultimately, the full complement of monadic lives is reabsorbed into the One. The universe itself is witness to the unrolling of the scroll of destiny and its rolling up again into silence and nonexistence of form. The whole mystery of it is there, and we are part of the mystery — a universe seeking to know itself; for we are the universe experiencing its growing pains in its human stage.

Once we let this wondrous evolutionary drama become a part of our daily consciousness, we soon realize that our destiny is irretrievably linked with that of the universe. When our individual and public problems seem overwhelming, we may be tempted to feel we are aliens in a hostile world. Yet to feel this way on occasion may well be an indicator that some forgotten memory is surfacing, for we are in a very real sense displaced persons, exiles from a wonderful land of truth and beauty. Voluntarily so — we chose to become exiles; no god or serpent ejected us because we ate forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We had to do so as part of our growing up. We were impelled by that same urgency to know that brings a universe to birth.

All this has practicality for us today, when humanity is facing problems of enormous magnitude. First, it is a great strength to know that the worst is behind us, that we have passed the halfway point in our evolutionary journey and, though there are bound to be cyclic ups and downs, that nature's evolutionary current is flowing toward spirit. Secondly, since Absolute Essence or Divinity is "latent in every atom in the Universe," we too are sprung from the same imperishable Essence.

If the tremendous import of these truths were more widely grasped, we individually and collectively would feel profoundly sustained. We are not alone for, just as the universe is seeking to discover and awaken its many-principled self, so too are we in search of our own mystery: who we are, where and what we have been, and who and what we may become.

For our 1990 Special Issue we chose for our theme the Buddha's final message to the brethren that "all things are composite," cryptic words enshrining a philosophy to live by. Each contributor has drawn from his or her theosophic studies the wealth of individual reflection on the many-faceted structure of cosmos, of Earth and all her children. Recognizing the endless ramifications of the theme, we invite our readers to add their own variations to our "unfinished" score.

Unfinished symphonies — that's what we and our universe, and every one of nature's kingdoms, are: in midstream, with infinite challenges before us, yet with infinite possibilities of grandeur yet to unfold.

(From Sunrise magazine, April/May 1990. Copyright © 1990 by Theosophical University Press.)


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