Universal Brotherhood – April 1898




Many persons find the history of evolution, as presented in the Secret Doctrine, very difficult to follow, on account of the many digressions and illustrations which enrich, but encumber, the direct line of narration. Beginners in the study of Theosophy, often find the Rounds and Races very confusing, because they plunge, so to speak, into the middle of things, instead of getting a clear idea of the first steps in the labyrinth, and having firm hold of a clue that is to guide them to the end.

That clue will be found in the remembrance of a few general laws, and the careful study of two important diagrams in the Secret Doctrine, one representing the Rounds, or cycles of evolution, (2) and the other a diagram of the Fifth Root Race. (3)As the whole book is an exposition of the Stanzas given in the beginning, it is unnecessary to dwell upon the question of their importance to the more advanced student.

Some of the general points to be remembered are:

I. That all evolution, in this solar system, at least, is septenary, and that, therefore,

II. The rates of vibration, the conditions of matter, and the states of consciousness, are also septenary.

III. That man, who is a septenary being, is spoken of roughly as composed of body, soul, and spirit, and must carry out his evolution on these triple lines.

IV. That the purpose of what is called the "Cycle of Necessity" (i. e., the reason why we live) is the acquirement of self-consciousness, or Mind, by the journey of the Monad or Unit of Life, from the spiritual state (or the Divine Unity), through all the conditions of matter and consciousness, back to its starting-point, having gained by the way, individuality and experience. Because there can be no individualized existence for Spirit, apart from a union with Matter, through which it manifests. The process of development then, consists in the involution, or infolding, of Spirit into Matter, and the evolution or unfolding of Matter into Spirit again.

V. A Manvantara, or complete cycle of evolution consists of seven Rounds, or minor cycles, in which the Monad (or Unit of Life) functions in the seven states of consciousness and seven conditions of matter before mentioned, and in each Round there are seven Races, called Root-Races, as from them spring all the rest. Each Root-Race is divided into seven Sub-Races, and each of these again into seven Family-Races, and out of these spring numberless Nations.

 The Secret Doctrine concerns itself principally with our present cycle of development, called the Fourth Round, which is the most material of all, being at the bottom of the arc of evolution. The present predominant Aryo-European "Family" race, belongs, we are told, to the 5th Sub-race of the 5th Root-race, and man is therefore past the lowest point of matter, and on the ascent towards Spirit.

The Secret Doctrine, while treating principally of the Fourth Round, nevertheless gives many glimpses of the remoter past, and some hints as to the future. This is not the place (nor would it be possible for other reasons) to go into the question of authority or historical evidence, that is fully treated in the book itself. We are given to understand that "the whole history of the world is recorded in the Zodiac," (4) and that the Puranas give accurate, but allegorical, accounts of "the seven creations," (5) as they call the processes of evolution during the seven Sub-races of the first Root-Race of mankind. Now we are told again and again that there is the closest analogy between all these various cycles, and that not only "every Round repeats on a higher scale the evolutionary work of the preceding Round," (6) but that "there is a perfect analogy between the 'great Round' (the Manvantara), each of the seven Rounds, and each of the seven great Races," (7) and that "the Sub-races also, guided by Karmic law or destiny, repeat unconsciously the first steps of their respective mother-races." (8) For this reason, the hints that are given here and there of the processes of evolution in other Rounds and Races, will help us to understand our own, and vice versa.

To begin with some general statements: Every new cycle of cosmic activity, brings with it a renewal of forms, types, and species, which are all becoming perfected and materialized with the environment. As the globe changes from a soft mist of radiant matter to the solid earth, so everything in and on it grows denser, harder, and consequently smaller, as the present reptiles and ferns are very much smaller than even those of the Secondary Period of geology. This period of course belongs to our own cycle, wherein the mineral Kingdom has reached its densest point, but the previous cycle or Round, which was on the astral plane, furnished the forms of the primeval Root-types of the highest mammalia. (9) These types of the Third Round repeat themselves in the Third (or Lemurian) Race of this Round.

"The midway point of evolution" is that stage where the astral prototypes definitely begin to pass into the physical, and thus become subject to the differentiating agencies now operating around us. (10)

For esoteric science has long ago formulated an answer to the biological problem now agitating the world, and while agreeing in the main with Weissmann's theory of "the eternal cell," differs from him in acknowledging the effect of external influences upon the germ. (11)

The present contention of biologists is over the question whether to agree with Weissmann, who maintains that every possibility of future variation is contained in the potentialities of the ever-dividing original cell, or with Hertwig and others, who agree with the occult theory in considering such variations as largely the result of external agencies, (12)

Physical causation, that is, the action of these agencies of natural selection, etc., began as soon as "the midway point" just mentioned was passed, at the middle of the third Root Race. The forms of men and mammalia previous to the separation of the sexes, were woven out of astral matter, and possessed a structure utterly unlike that of our present organisms, which eat, drink, digest, etc. The organs of the physical body were almost entirely woven out of the astral after the seven Root-types began to pass into the physical during the midway halt before mentioned, and then the laws of evolution as known to modern science began their work, on the individual and the race as well as on the cell. (13) Before this, the astral shadows of the lunar ancestors were the formative powers in the races. Then the higher Ego, the nous or mind, takes hold. (14) That is, the perfected men of the last great cycle of evolution, which took place on the Moon, having become Spiritual Intelligences, and the incipient humanity of the present cycle, gradually build the physical body of man out of astral matter which passes into the grosser physical condition, and as soon as it has become a perfect instrument, with a fully developed brain and organs of sex, then the "Solar Ancestors," the "Mind-born Sons," enter the human tabernacle, and endow it with mind. From that time on, the now responsible Entity is given the direction of its own destiny, and can make or mar it as it will.

"The most developed Monads (the lunar) reach the human germ-stage in the first Round; become terrestrial, though very ethereal human beings towards the end of the third Round, remaining on the globe during its 'obscuration period' (15) (as the seed for the future mankind), and thus become the pioneers of Humanity at the beginning of this, the fourth Round." (16)

The "Seven Creations" of the Puranas, we are told, allegorize the seven evolutionary changes, or what we may call the sub-races of the First Root-Race of Mankind, man having been on earth in some form, from the beginning of this Round.

In any case, the scaffolding, so to speak, of the future human being, is but faintly outlined at first; the forces are gathered and set in motion, the most ethereal luminous shadows represent the coming form, and only by slow degrees and by processes enduring through unknown ages, does that radiant cloud which is to be the body of man, gradually increase in density and shapeliness, and decrease therefore in size. "As the solid Earth began by being a ball of liquid fire, of fiery dust, and its protoplasmic phantom, so did man." (17)

"Man, or rather his Monad," we read again, (18) "passes through all the forms and kingdoms during the first Round, and through all the human shapes during the two following Rounds." That is, the Monadic Essence that is to become man, which possessed all the divine possibilities folded within it, as the future oak sleeps in the germ of the acorn, embodied itself in the mineral, the vegetable, and the animal kingdoms, devoid of self-consciousness and therefore of individual existence, till it reached the human-germ stage at the end of the first Round, to pass through "all the human shapes" (there must therefore have been many), "during the second and third Rounds. Arrived on our earth at the beginning of the fourth Round, Man is the first form that appears thereon," preceding the animals (as in the second account of Genesis, which refers to this cycle of evolution). But even the mineral and vegetable kingdoms which preceded man in this Round, "have to develop and continue their further evolution through his agency." Because, "since the Monad has passed through the mineral, vegetable, and animal worlds, in every degree of the three states of matter (except the last degree of the third, or solid state, which it reached only at the 'mid-point of evolution'), it is but logical and natural that at the beginning of the fourth Round Man should be the first to appear; and also that his frame should be of the most tenuous matter that is compatible with objectivity." (19) Or, to put the idea more briefly, during the first Round, animal atoms were gradually "drawn into a cohesive human physical form, while in the fourth Round the reverse occurs," (20) "Man grows more physical, by re-absorbing into his system that which he had given out, . . . and the stronger physical man became, the more powerful were his emanations, ... so that from the drops of vital energy which he scattered far and wide, were produced the first mammal-forms." (21)

During the first two Rounds, or cycles of Evolution then, the materials, so to speak, for the future edifice are gathered together, and the scaffolding set up; in the third the formative process is completed, and the Mind is installed in its new dwelling-place, of which it takes possession and straightway begins to transform and transmute into something less material and more spiritual. The fourth, our present round, "is the sphere of final evolutionary adjustments, where the balance is struck which determines the future course of the Monad during the remainder of its incarnations in this cycle." (22) "During the three Rounds to come, (the 5th, 6th, and 7th), Humanity, like the globe on which it lives, will be ever tending to assume its primeval form, that of a Dhyan Chohanic host. Man tends to become a God, and then God, like every other atom in the Universe." (23) For "every Round brings about a new development and even an entire change in the mental, psychic, spiritual, and physical constitution of man, all these principles evolving on an ever-ascending scale." (24)

And just as the soft bones of the child harden and consolidate as it grows to manhood, so the physical body changes with the Races, from a luminous shadow to a solid material form, the Earth changing with it, from a cloud of radiant mist to a solid globe, bearing all the children of men upon its surface. But as mind has been given dominion over matter, man's influence is to change not only his own body, but his earthly environment, as he grows more spiritual. In the alembic of his frame the physical atoms are transmuted to something finer and finer, as he grows less material, and "the degree of materiality of the Earth changes pari passu with that of its inhabitants." (25)

Man and his environment reached their densest and most material point in the middle of the Lemuro-Atlantean Race, or in the fourth Sub-Race of the fourth Root-Race. Our present humanity forms the fifth Sub-Race of the fifth Root-Race, and we have therefore taken many steps towards our dematerialization. (26) But we must be careful not to confound this "densest point of matter" with the "midway point of evolution."

(To be continued.)


1. The Secret Doctrine, the Synthesis of Science, Religion and Philosophy. By H. P. Blavatsky. References are to the old edition. (return to text)

2. Idem I, 200. (return to text)

3. Idem II, 434. (return to text)

4. Idem II, 431. (return to text)

5. Idem II, 254. (return to text)

6. Idem I, 187. (return to text)

7. Idem II, 615. (return to text)

8. Idem II, 768. (return to text)

9. Idem II. 730. (return to text)

10. Idem II. 736. (return to text)

11. Idem II. 738. (return to text)

12. "But there is a " spiritual potency in the physical cell that guides the development of the embryo." Idem I, 219. (return to text)

13. Idem I. 736. (return to text)

14. Idem II, 110. (return to text)

15. The period of rest between two cycles. (return to text)

16. Idem I, 182. (return to text)

17. Idem I, 191. (return to text)

18. Idem II, 159. (return to text)

19. II. 180. (return to text)

20. I. 455. (return to text)

21. II. 169. (return to text)

22. I. 182. (return to text)

23. I. 159. (return to text)

24. I. 162. (return to text)

25. II. 68. (return to text)

26. II. 250. (return to text)

Universal Brotherhood