Or chasms and watery depths; all these have vanished;
The intelligible forms of ancient poets,
The fair humanities of old religion,
The Power, the Beauty, and the Majesty
That had their haunts in dale or piny mountain,
Or forest, by slow stream, or pebbly spring,
Or chasms and watery depths; all these have vanished;
They live no longer in the faith of reason;
But still the heart doth need a language; still
Doth the old instinct bring back the old names;
Spirits or gods that used to share this earth
With man as with their friend; and at this day
'Tis Jupiter who brings whate'er is great,
And Venus who brings every thing that's fair. — Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "The Piccolomini"
Yes, there was a time when gods shared this earth with man as friend, a time when people understood that the entire cosmos is guided, controlled, and animated by hosts of intelligent beings who work as agents of karmic law. Mythologies worldwide bring the gods close with stories of their connections to earth and mortals. Scriptures, too, provide details of various orders of divinities. Christians proclaim this truth with their Celestial Hierarchy composed of ascending orders of Angels, Archangels, Principalities, Thrones, Virtues, Dominions, Cherubs, and Seraphim, in which each plays a part in building and overseeing evolutionary life throughout the cosmos. Using Sanskrit terms that are descriptive and profound, theosophy tells of great-hearted mahatmas, "great selves," also referred to as adepts or masters. These elder brothers watch over human progress and work untiringly to aid, protect, and enlighten humanity. More advanced are the different classes of dhyani-chohans, "lords of meditation." Having completed their human evolution during past periods of planetary development, these spiritual beings dwell within the inner planes of the cosmos assisting the evolution of all living beings. One class, the manasaputras or "mind-born sons," incarnated among early mankind millions of years ago to enlighten our minds so we could think, imagine, understand, make choices, and assume responsibility for our decisions. In addition, they awakened in our souls the desire to become as gods, a desire which leads to the realization that divinity is not someone without, but is within ourselves. We need but turn inwards to find the godlike qualities of truth, courage, and love.
Buddhist scriptures describe other categories of wondrous beings. Defining them by the bodies or "vestures" they inhabit, they tell of dharmakayas, sambhogakayas, and nirmanakayas. The dharmakayas, literally "truth-formed bodies," are those sublime beings dwelling in a state of pure consciousness who are at one with truth, righteousness, and bliss. Such ethereal garments are assumed by nirvanis who have reached the ultimate of human perfection, having "burnt out" all sense of egoity and freed themselves from worldly limitations and attachments. The intermediate vesture is sambhogakaya, called "bliss-formed or participation body" because its inhabitants are able to partake in the lofty wisdom of the dharmakayas while retaining their individual self-consciousness and thus keeping in sympathetic touch with the needs of the world. The third vesture — nirmanakaya, "transformation body" — enables this class of beings to contact mankind. Consisting of buddhas, bodhisattvas, and the most evolved of mankind, they continuously labor to awaken our spiritual awareness through inspiration and inner guidance. In this way great works of beauty have been "created" and the truths that form the basis of religious, scientific, and philosophical systems have been given to the world.
Learning about these great and benevolent beings we begin to wonder how we might approach them, receive their guidance, and become as they. Undoubtedly, we can catch their attention if we pledge ourselves to help others as did the beloved bodhisattva Kwan Yin:
Never will I seek or receive private, individual salvation; never will I enter into final peace alone; but forever and everywhere will I live and strive for the redemption of every creature throughout the world.
Every resolve, every thought and deed in this noble endeavor, opens the doors to our spiritual perceptions. Before long we realize that we are not alone: we are receiving help. Angels and gods are here among us, "waiting in the wings" to be seen. Just as our minds were awakened and expanded when we realized we were capable of becoming as wise as the gods, so today our spiritual natures are awakening to the recognition that we are not only children of the gods but are gods ourselves. Being one of the hosts of divinities who share this earth as friend, we too can contribute what is great and fair — as the poet Coleridge reminds us.
(From Sunrise magazine, April/May 2005; copyright © 2005 Theosophical University Press)
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"For I am made of star stuff and stars are made of me" — what a wonderful thought! We are one with All, not only the large universe we can see in the night sky, but the micro-universe we cannot see. There is consciousness from the very lowest through the human to the angels and beyond. The amoeba does not concern itself with the winner of a baseball game — for that matter, neither do I, so we must be related. Not only are we related, but "he" is my younger brother and I am his caretaker. We two are on a rung of the ladder of creation that reaches from "him" and below, to me and my caretaker, beyond to heaven itself. My oh my! I am important, you are important. Together we are a part of the All with the rest of creation, all part of the way back to our spiritual home. — Robert Ross