The Esoteric Tradition — G. de Purucker

Chapter 17

Circulations of the Cosmos

In preceding chapters, no small amount of thought has been given to an elucidation of some of the fundamental teachings of the Esoteric Philosophy so far as concerns the constitution of man and his peregrinations, but little as yet concerning the solar system, in which as evolving beings we find our habitat and cycles of manvantaric activity.

Astronomy as understood today is but a study of the skin of nature, of its outer rind, which we call the physical universe. Astronomy or astrology — to give it the old name by which the magnificent doctrines imbodied in the term were called in ancient days — then comprised incomparably deeper and far more sublime ranges of knowledge than are known today or possibly even suspected to exist by even our most intuitive astronomical adepts. Astrology originally was a vast and sublime science of the celestial bodies on the one hand, and of the inner and causative sides of nature on the other hand. While modern astronomical knowledge limits itself to studies concerning the celestial bodies as physical entities, their distances, spacial and cosmogonic relations, chemical constitution, movements, and similar things, ancient astrology looked upon every celestial body as a living being, and "animal" in the Latin sense of this word, and realized furthermore that each and every one of them in the stellar spaces — excepting the mere drift-particles of space, such as meteors, stellar dust, etc. — was the habitat of a spiritual or divine being, invisible, but each one expressing its transcendent powers and faculties through its physical form.

Giordano Bruno, a Neoplatonist born centuries out of time, reechoed the same archaic teaching:

"It is not reasonable to believe that any part of the world is without a soul, life, sensation, and organic structure, . . . From this infinite All, full of beauty and splendour, from the vast worlds which circle above us to the sparkling dust of stars beyond, the conclusion is drawn that there are an infinity of creatures" a vast multitude which, each in its degree, mirrors forth the splendour, wisdom, and excellence of the Divine beauty."
"All things live; the celestial bodies are animated beings; all things on the face of the earth and things under the earth have, in a certain measure and according to their state, the gift of feeling; the stone itself feels in a fashion which escapes the definition of man." — I. Frith, Life of Giordano Bruno, pp. 44, 228

The archaic astrologer-initiates, having this view of the universe, which to them was but one in a cosmic hierarchy of many similar universes scattered over the fields of the Boundless, therefore looked upon all parts of nature as mutually affecting and working upon each other, so that every celestial body was seen to be affected by all other celestial bodies. It is this fact of the intercommunication of intelligence and consciousness as well as of ethereal and physical influences, which was the basic thought in ancient astrological science.

Modern astrology is but the feeblest echo of its once mighty parent. Archaic astrology was one of the main departments of study of the archaic wisdom; whereas modern astrology, albeit cultivated by no small number of intelligent men and women, is more or less contemned today as at best a pseudoscience, and at worst, and in the eyes of many thoughtless people as a hardly reputable means for gaining a livelihood. It is itself largely to blame for this state of affairs, as was the astrology so widely studied and publicly practiced in the degenerate days of the Roman Empire, for the reason that all thought of true astrology has been forgotten, and both in Rome itself and in our own time it degenerated into a mere system of divination, of "reading the future" — often to the peril and danger of those who consulted its practitioners. Yet this is not saying that in the Roman Empire there were no truthful and even successful practitioners of astrological divination, for we know there were, even as there are today.

All this is beside the mark, but it does show that there is a good deal, even in astrological divination; otherwise it would never have received the quasi-respect which men and women throughout the ages have more or less grudgingly given to it.

Archaic astrology taught not only what is now called astronomy, but dealt with the inner and outer nature of the cosmos as an organic entity. It traced the origin, habitats and postmortem destiny of all peregrinating monads as these pass through the spheres along those mystic yet very real pathways which are called the circulations of the cosmos. It taught the characteristics and the functionings of the forces and influence which planet exercises upon planet, and the sun upon planets, and the stars upon stars; it taught the nature as well as the coming into being of the solar systems; it described how the moons of the various planets became moons, and what their function is in the economy of the respective planetary chains; it taught the nature of the invisible and ethereal worlds, spheres and planes of the solar system; it told what the sun is as a living being and as the dwelling of a solar divinity; it taught of the nature of the many planetary chains forming the sun's planetary family, and of the nature and characteristics of the globes composing these different planetary chains; it taught of the revolvings and journeying of monads in and through the globes of the planetary chains, and of how these peregrinations along the circulations of the cosmos are of different kinds, some of them belonging to the planetary chain alone of which the monad happens at the time to be a denizen, calling these inner rounds; and it also taught of those other vaster planetary chains, to which peregrinations the name outer rounds is given — all the above, and vastly more.

One of the greatest losses that astrology underwent in its passage from the sublime science to the art which it is in our day, was that of the secrets of esoteric computation. It is true that astrological art today employs a modicum of more or less simple mathematical science in its casting of horoscopes and computations of astronomical times, but this at its best is but the exoteric garment of ancient esoteric knowledge of time-periods and of what they signify when applied to the cyclical destinies of beings, whether the solar system, the sun, the moon, the planets, or beings of other classes such as man.

Just because the processes of nature are governed by cosmic intelligence, arising out of primordial cosmic ideation, and because intelligent ideation by its very nature operates in harmonies, or what comes to the same thing, mathematical processes, therefore everything that takes place in the solar universe proceeds according to quantity or quantities whether of matter or of time. Hence it is that quantitative relations prevail throughout the solar system, whether as touching bodies or as touching the cycles of time. The secret figures, as discovered aeons ago, which lie at the root of the psychical or substantial operations of universal nature, are they which Pythagoras imbodied in his Tetraktys, the emblem of which is here given thus:

TetraktysThese dots symbolize the birth from the monad or single point, of first the duad, then the triad, then the quaternary, the series thus being, 1, 2, 3, 4: and their sum is 10. The 10 represents the entire body of universal manifestation, derivative from the primordial monad, and hanging therefrom somewhat in the manner that this emblem symbolizes.

Now the basic numbers used in esoteric computation from time immemorial are the 2, 3, 4, or conversely, the 4, 3, 2, imbodied in this emblem as being derivative in regular serial order from the originating monad, this monad, in beginning its cosmic processes of manifestation, existing in or passing through for the time being a laya-center.

These numbers, 4, 3, 2 are important because they pervade and guide the quantitative relations, as numerical factors, of all the solar system, and in all probability, of the surrounding galaxy also. Not only do they form the quantitative process of all nature's productions, but they are the keys by which most of nature's secrets may be laid bare — and all this is precisely because nature is constructed rigidly according to mathematical principles originating in cosmic ideation.

As H. P. Blavatsky wrote in The Secret Doctrine:

The sacredness of the cycle of 4320, with additional cyphers, lies in the fact that the figures which compose it, taken separately or joined in various combinations, are each and all symbolical of the greatest mysteries in Nature. Indeed, whether one takes the 4 separately, or the 3 by itself, or the two together making 7, or again the three added together and yielding 9, all these numbers have their application in the most sacred and occult things, and record the workings of Nature in her eternally periodical phenomena. They are never erring, perpetually recurring numbers, unveiling, to him who studies the secrets of Nature, a truly divine System, an intelligent plan in Cosmogony, which results in natural cosmic divisions of times, seasons, invisible influences, astronomical phenomena, with their action and reaction on terrestrial and even moral nature; on birth, death, and growth, on health and disease. All these natural events are based and depend upon cyclical processes in the Kosmos itself, producing periodic agencies which, acting from without, affect the Earth and all that lives and breathes on it, from one end to the other of any Manvantara. Causes and effects are esoteric, exoteric, and endexoteric, so to say. — 2:73-4

These same numerals 4, 3, 2 are just the ones which the ancient records of Chaldea and Hindustan contained as the basis of the computation of all time-periods. In India they have been for innumerable ages past, with the necessary zeros added, the respective lengths of the different yugas or ages.


Now the universe is not only an organic entity in which every part responds spiritually and intellectually, magnetically and even physically to every other part, but that the outward skin of nature is but the garment of inner and invisible worlds and spheres; and therefore, that the entire solar system is not what it seems to be — emptiness, but is in every sense of the word a plenum, a pleroma, as the ancient Gnostics taught. In other words, the solar system is not mere "emptiness" with the sun and a few planets whirling around it through "empty space," but is solid in the sense of being filled full with substances and forces in many grades and phases of activity, all interacting and interblending and thus composing a living entity. We see in this conception of the solar system as an organism containing both visible and invisible parts the reason why forces or emanations actually are transmitted to and fro among the bodies of the solar system, including the scores of other planets which we do not perceive because they are on other planes of the solar system.

Now it is just through this plenum, whether in our own planetary chain or in the entire solar system, that the human monad wings its way when, during its peregrinations after death it follows the circulations of the cosmos, which we may call the network of nerves linking the entire solar kingdom into a unitary whole; or we can say that these circulations are the channels transmitting the vital streams throughout all parts of the sun's kingdom, much as the arteries and veins in the human body are the vehicles or pathways of the blood or vital fluid of the body.

The following extract from Vergil illustrates how universal the idea was. Due to the oath of secrecy, the doctrine had to be stated in more or less figurative language, but the reader should hunt for the inner sense. Vergil wrote:

They have said that bees have a portion of the Divine Mind and aetherial streams therefrom; that Divinity permeates the whole earth, the ocean's tracts, and the deeps of Heaven, that thence the flocks, the herds, men, and all the classes of beasts, individually draw the tender streams of life; that, furthermore, all beings return to the Divine Source after their dissolution here; that death has no place anywhere; but that they ascend conscious and alive to high Heaven, each to its Star — or Constellation. — Georgics IV: 220-7

Now there is a world of esoteric teaching contained in the above lines. In the first place, then, it is evident that Vergil and practically all the greater minds of antiquity considered all nature to be alive, and forming in its myriad families and ranges a vast organism. This thought destroys immediately the utterly preposterous assertion so often made by late Christian writers that the ancients — usually of Greece and Rome — had no philosophical conception of the spiritual continuation of consciousness after death. No statement could be more divergent from the fact.

Next it is clear that Vergil illustrates that the consciousness continuing after death was not the ordinary self-consciousness of man, but was the spiritual or monadic consciousness. Vergil speaks as a type of the initiates of his time in saying that after dissolution "all beings return to the Divine," doing so "conscious and alive"; for obviously the imperfect human mind or self-consciousness sinks into the temporary oblivion of the devachanic sleep because utterly unfit, as being insufficiently unfolded in evolution, to rejoin divinity.

Finally, Vergil refers to bees, and it would seem trifling to say that singling bees out for particular mention was merely a poetic whimsy, in view of other statements made by ancient writers who likewise mention bees — and this both in Rome and in Greece — as being a name used for disciples. In Greece, Melissai or Bees, was a title given to priestesses having certain recondite functions to perform; while frequently "honey" or "honey-dew" is spoken of by some ancient writers as symbolizing wisdom. Just as the bees collect and digest the nectar of flowers, turning it into honey, so do human beings collect knowledge from life and spiritually and mentally digest it into wisdom. We are reminded of the "ambrosia" and "nectar" on which the gods feed. Evidently Vergil had an eye to this Mystery-teaching, and singled out bees therefore in especial as having "a portion of the Divine Mind and aethereal streams therefrom."

Some lines farther on, Vergil recites a tale of how "bees" may be produced from the carcass of a young bull. This has caused no small amount of derision among wiseacres of our more modern days; yet some knowledge of ancient zoomythology shows clearly to what Vergil had reference. Just as the horse was an emblem of the sun or solar powers, so were the bull and cow universally considered as symbols of the moon and of the very mysterious functions that the moon plays in nature and on earth generally, as well as her functional place and activities in the experiences of the neophyte undergoing the dread trials of initiation. One is likewise reminded of the well-known picture supposed to represent Mithras slaying the bull — a collection of esoteric hints of deepest significance. We see here what Vergil meant as to "bees" being born from the conquered bull — the neophyte prevailing over the dread lunar influences after "slaying the Moon" and rising therefrom as a "Bee." Verbum sapienti.

After the event called death, what becomes of and where is the monad — this essential self of us? The monad after death can be anywhere within a certain limited range of space, in each case depending on pathways which it follows along the circulations; the apex or hyparxis actually is in the stellar spheres, or rather in a single stellar sphere, for its native home is in a localized part of the spiritual range of the universe. The monad is a breath of pure spirit; it is essentially a consciousness-center, eternal by nature, itself tasting never of death nor of dissolution during our manvantara or as long as our Universe endures, because it is per se essential consciousness-substance. The monad is not a composite thing, as our bodies are; it is a focus of pure spirit, of homogeneous substance. Death is but dissolution of component things, as Gautama-Buddha told his disciples in his last message to them.

The monad is not the man; it is not the soul; for neither the man nor the soul can in any wise be considered to be pure spirit or pure consciousness. The monad is the ultimate source, nevertheless, of all that we as individuals are. Each one of us is his own essential or spiritual monad. The monad is like a spiritual sun at the root of our being, continuously, from beginning to ending of our great manvantaric period, pouring forth streams of intelligence and life-substance, which produce by their interacting energies the various foci of consciousness, and which are the offspring, so to say, of the parent monad.


In order to understand the journeying of the monad along the pathways of the universe, or its following of the circulations of the cosmos, it is necessary to know something of the ranges of consciousness of the various egos or souls composing man. The divine monadic spark of man's constitution ranges in its self-consciousness and activity over the galactic universe, our home-universe — all within the encircling zone of the Milky Way, not through the physical part alone. The monad is and exists functionally on the spiritual-divine planes of the galaxy, and hence its more especial ranges are in the inner and invisible worlds, but active most particularly in its own native sphere or plane, which is divine, from which the spiritual and the intellectual, the astral and the physical, in regular serial order all hang as jewels on a chain. This divine flame is unconditionally immortal for as long as our galactic home-universe endures, at the termination of which the monad goes on to still higher super-divine realms of cosmic consciousness. Here it remains until the galactic universe reappears in manifestation, from its preceding manvantaric galactic appearances — the present one being the karmic fruitage of its former manifestations.

The spiritual monad, a radiation from the divine monad, ranges over our solar system, and endures as long as the solar system; and at the end of the solar system's period of manifestation, the spiritual monad in its turn goes into higher realms of abstract spiritual space, and into a state of consciousness which we may call paranirvana — or super-nirvana — where it remains until the solar system, after the long solar pralaya, reappears for a new solar manvantara or period of activity in manifestation.

The higher ego or spiritual soul, which is the real reincarnating or reimbodying ego, and which is a ray from the spiritual monad, ranges in consciousness and functional activity throughout the seven globes or sub-planets of our planetary chain: that is to say, the chain of our planet, of which our earth is the physical vehicle and the fourth or lowest of the seven globes composing this chain. This higher ego lasts as long as the planetary chain itself, and at the termination of this chain's life-period, the higher ego goes into its nirvana, and remains in this condition of abstract consciousness until the chain reappears after the chain-pralaya. In this reimbodiment of our planetary chain, in the ethereal and material planes of the solar system, the higher ego, now greatly evolved over what its former "self" was, enters into self-conscious functional activity, doing so as an individual of one of the highest classes of the dhyani-chohanic host whose destiny is inseparably linked with the chain through which it lives and acts.

The human monad or ego, which is a ray from the higher ego, endures for one incarnation of man, ranging over the fields of ordinary human consciousness. At the end of this earth life its more spiritual essence goes into the devachan and remains there until the time approaches for its succeeding reincarnation on earth, that is to say, until the next reappearance of the inner man in a physical body on the globe.

We have here the four basic portions of the human compound constitution: (a) the divine monad, whose range of consciousness and functional activity is over and in the galaxy; (b) its ray, the spiritual monad, whose range of self-consciousness and functional activity is over and in the solar system; (c) the higher or spiritual soul, the ray from the spiritual monad, whose self-consciousness and functional activity is over and in the globes of the planetary chain; and finally (d) the human ego, the ray from the spiritual soul, whose self-consciousness and functional activity belong to our earth and lasts for the duration of a single incarnation.

The usage of the verb "endures" or "lasts" does not mean that the entity is annihilated when its term of activity is ended, but only that it passes at the end of such term into inner and spiritual realms for recuperation, and from which in due course of the cycling ages it reissues forth to begin a new life-term on higher planes.

So each one of these four fundamental monads of the human constitution is a ray of the monad just above it, and is itself an evolving entity. We have four "contemporaneous" lines of evolution followed by the human constitution considered as a unit-composite: the divine, the spiritual, the manasic or egoic, and the human. Added to these is the physical body which in a very real sense is the "soul" or carrier of all the other elements of the constitution when man is in incarnation, and thus it is that the human body itself is slowly evolving, due to the unceasing spiritual, intellectual-psychical, and astral urge within it impelling it forwards on the evolutionary pathway.

The same universal plan of periods of manifestation, followed by periods of withdrawal into rest which the monad undergoes is operative throughout the entire universe; for universal nature follows one general rule of action throughout every component part of itself. The reason for this is the primordial functioning of cosmic ideation which thus lays down the cosmic plan, as much in the particular as in the general. Thus it is that not only any monad itself is, as Leibniz taught, a mirror of the whole, but every monad must follow the cosmic processes and operations originating in the cosmic Ideation.

Every celestial body, whether globe, planet, or sun, precisely because it is the vehicle of a monad, follows the same repetitive courses in alternating periods of manifestation and withdrawal into inner realms. The solar system as a whole manifests itself in the visible spheres, and when its life-term in cosmic manifestation is ended it "dies," and its inner principles are withdrawn into more spiritual realms, therein to rest in paranirvanic conditions until the time comes in the whirling of the cosmic wheel of life for it to reissue forth for reimbodiment as a solar system anew — a cosmic phoenix, reborn from the ashes of its karmic past. This process of repetitive imbodiment and withdrawal of groups of entities linked by karmic destiny into units, or of any individual thereof, continues from eternity unto eternity, albeit after each such cosmic pralaya the system or the individual issues forth to follow a new life-term, but on planes of the boundless somewhat superior to those which it had previously occupied.

Our planetary chain, like man its child, has a sevenfold composition consisting of seven globes, of which our physical earth is the one visible and tangible to us, and the other six globes invisible and intangible for the reason that, being more ethereal than our material earth is, and existing on "superior" cosmic planes, our sense organs can take no cognizance of them. Our physical senses and their respective organs of action have been evolved solely for cognizing forces and substances on the cosmic planes on which our bodies live.

However, the other six globes of our planetary chain are not the other six principles of our physical globe earth, for each one of the seven globes of our planetary chain is a complete septenary individual, each of the seven globes having its own seven principles just as a man has. It is these seven globe-individuals which form together what is termed a planetary chain.

Nevertheless, there is a certain analogy, and indeed a very strong one from one aspect, between the seven globes of a planetary chain and the seven principles of any one globe, for the reason that every one of the seven globes of the planetary chain helps to form the composition of any one globe, each contributing to all, and all contributing to each. The analogy with man's septenary constitution is likewise strong, because just as in man there are the seven principles in which work seven monads or monadic centers, each to each and of differing grades of evolutional unfolding, so the seven globes of a planetary chain are, each one, representable as a globe-monad, all the seven globes thus combining to produce the sevenfold constitution of the planetary chain.

Yet despite these analogies, each one of the globes of any planetary chain is a unitary individual in and for itself, and therefore has each one its own seven principles.

Finally, the situation is rendered still more difficult because of the fact that the "seven principles," whether referring to globes or to any unitary individual such as man, are the manifested portions of the constitution, there being in strict truth twelve globes in a planetary chain, and either ten (or twelve) principles in the constitution of a human being, but as the uppermost five globes of a planetary chain exist on cosmic planes almost impossible of comprehension, the highest parts, whether of globes or human principles, belonging to the "unmanifest" portions of a complete entity, are usually omitted.


From the moment of a man's death, through the postmortem periods and through the next life until physical death again supervenes, the monad is always fully self-conscious in its own lofty sphere. Furthermore, after the postmortem existence for the man is commenced, it passes from sphere to sphere, going the rounds anew on its ceaseless peregrinations during the manvantara. It passes through the spheres not merely because it is native to all of them and is therefore drawn to them by its own magnetic attractions and impulses, but likewise because it itself wills to do so; for free will is a godlike thing and is an inherent and inseparable attribute of itself.

Plotinus, in his Enneads, writes on one phase of the postmortem destiny of the human monad, having an eye at the same time fixed upon the characteristic functions of the spiritual monad. The following is a paraphrase of this difficult passage:

Our souls have their respective destinies according to their different capacities and powers, and when freed from this life each soul will dwell in a celestial body (or planet) agreeing with and consonant to the disposition and faculties which in their aggregate constitute the characteristic principle of individuality of each soul.
Truly freed souls are they which have risen above the bonds of personality and therefore all the fatalities of earth-life and all that appertains to the material world. — "Our Guardian Daimon," III, iv, 6

In the second paragraph reference is made to what the Esoteric Tradition calls "freed monads," jivanmuktas.

Let us turn to the path of the monad through the seven sacred planets of the ancients — called sacred because they are so closely connected with our earth, its origin, its destiny, and its humanity, that even the outer connections that they have with earth and man were taught in their fullness only in the Mysteries. These seven sacred spheres of the ancients are the seven celestial bodies mentioned in their astronomical and mystical works. The ancients unquestionably knew of other planets of our solar system than the seven sacred ones, but these seven only were called sacred, their bonds of destiny with our earth originating in the very solar system of which our present one is the karmic fruitage. Their names are Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury, Sun, and Moon. As regards Sun and Moon, these were substitutes for two other planets unknown to modern astronomy. From one point of view this is correct, but from another point of view they were not substitutes, and therefore were called "planets," because they formed part of a septiform chain, a chain of seven "links," each link a planet, through which the monad passes upwards on its cosmic journey, and through which it returns when the new reincarnation of the higher ego is to take place again on earth.

The mysteries concerning the moon are very many and recondite. Our satellite, whom poets have praised as a pale goddess of night and as the inspirer of human affection, utterly failing to grasp the part she plays, is intimately connected with everything that happens on earth, not only as intermediary but often as the direct causal agent; and this applies not merely to meteorological phenomena, but also to the various root-races as well as to many other things, such as the physical and even moral well-being of human beings. Her influence is dual; at one time positive and at another time negative according to circumstances and contingent causes. So great indeed is her influence on earth and so maleficent as a rule, despite the fact that the lunar emanations are instrumental in such matters as growth, that the secrets of the moon have always been most carefully guarded in the esoteric schools and at the same time are the secrets which are the first to be most carefully explained as precautionary warnings to disciples undergoing spiritual training.

The moon was once far closer to the earth than at present, and also a good deal larger. Since then she has been gradually receding from the earth, although exceedingly slowly, and gradually dissolving into her component life-atoms. Before the earth shall have reached her seventh round our moon will have entirely vanished, as the processes of molecular and atomic decay are proceeding steadily.

The sacred planets are the "seven spheres" of the ancients which gave their names to the days of the week; and it is a matter of great archaeological and antiquarian interest that they are the names of the days of the week wherever the seven-day week prevailed in ancient European lands, as well as in Babylonia, Persia, Assyria, Hindustan, and elsewhere.

Now, during the peregrination of the monad through the seven sacred planets, the monad must of necessity follow those pathways or channels of least resistance called the circulations of the cosmos. These circulations are actual lines of communication between point and point or celestial body and celestial body. These circulations are as real in the inner economy of the visible and invisible worlds of the universe as are the nerves and the blood vessels in the physical body; and just as these latter provide the channels or pathways of the transmission of intellectual, psychical, and nervous impulses, as well as of the vital fluid or blood, so in identical analogous fashion, the circulations of the cosmos provide the channels or pathways followed by the ascending and descending rivers of lives which are composite of the never-ending stream of peregrinating entities of all classes throughout the universal structure.

It goes without saying that just as bodily tissue is permeated throughout with suffused nervous and blood vitality, just so is the structural framework of the universe likewise suffused throughout with analogically identic permeations of the vital essence. In fact, the universe is a vast organism, alive in all its parts and suffused with vitality from the highest to the lowest thereof, everything in the universal body corporate being thus bathed in the vital essence as well as permeated with the cosmic intelligence. All the various phenomena of universal nature are thus to be traced directly back to their spiritual, intellectual, psychical, and astral-vital causes in the cosmic organism, and these phenomena include the so-called forces of nature as well as all the substances and matters — the seven interworking and interblending prakritis — which as imbodied intelligences we observe to be functional and operative all around us.

Take the case of gravitation, the cause of which is as yet unknown by modern science, and concerning which a vast deal has been written since the days of Newton. But what is gravitation? We may admit that Newton and the scientists who followed him are correct in stating that it is a force operative throughout the universe affecting all matter, and that its functional activity may be expressed as the product of the masses of two or more bodies and varying in intensity inversely according to the square of the distance which separates body from body. But this statement of the so-called law of gravitation is merely descriptive of its operation and is in no wise explanatory of what it is in itself.

With respect to Einstein's theories, there is no possible question that the fundamental idea in his relativity hypothesis, to wit, the relative nature of all things and that none of the phenomena of nature is absolute in character, is unquestionably true, and it is one of the basic principles of the teachings of the Esoteric Philosophy. Yet his mathematical demonstrations are quite another thing. In particular his ideas with regard to the nature of gravitation as being a warping or distortion of space in the proximity of material bodies seem to be a mathematical pipe-dream. Furthermore, it is a logical incongruity to suppose that Space — an abstraction — can be "warped" or "distorted," for we must constantly bear in mind that it is only material entities or things themselves which are subject to warping or distortion.

Now the foregoing observations do not mean that spacial extension — which is doubtless what Dr. Einstein has in mind rather than abstract Space — cannot be affected when it forms the "field" or "neighborhood" of some aggregation of cosmic matter, such as a sun or planet, for such "spacial" extension is matter itself. It has been stated elsewhere in the present work that so-called empty space is anything but empty; it is absolutely full; it is "solid" after the fashion that has already been set forth. Of course a sun or a planet or any other celestial body affects most powerfully all things in its immediate or more distant neighborhood according to gravitational and electromagnetic laws; but to say that this effect produced by vital magnetism or gravitation is gravitation itself is a logical hysteron proteron, a mistaking the effect for the cause.

Even were scientists to accept the Einsteinian hypothesis that gravitation per se does not exist, but that it is only caused in appearance by the "warping" or "distortion" of space in the vicinity of aggregated material bodies, we should then immediately be faced with the same old problem under a new mask, to wit: why should aggregated material produce "warping" or "distortion," bringing about merely apparent gravitation? Thus then, far from solving the nature of gravitation or explaining it, the Einsteinian theory merely displaces something which is real, by a new notion descriptive merely in other words of the same thing we already knew, and would itself need some Einstein of the future to "explain" it.

The Esoteric Philosophy explains that what we call gravitation or the operation of attraction between bodies, apparently throughout boundless space, is, in its causal essence or self, vital cosmic magnetism: the outflow of cosmic vitality from the heart of the celestial bodies. Yet even the atom is as much under the sway of this cosmic vitality as are the macrocosmic bodies wending their way over the fields of unending Space. It is this vital electricity or vital magnetism in the cosmic structure which attracts in all directions, thus uniting all things into the vast body corporate of the cosmos. Furthermore, some day it will be discovered that this cosmic magnetic vitality contains as powerful an element of repulsion as it does of attraction; and that behind all its phenomenal workings lie the comparably more potent principles of the inner universe which thus infallibly guide its activities everywhere.


In his treatise, Against Celsus, Origen alludes to the Ladder of Jacob as reaching from earth to heaven, up and down which "angels" were constantly passing:

Celsus states, like Plato, that the path of souls from earth to heaven and from heaven to earth passes through the seven planets. . . .
This doctrine Celsus says is sacred among the Mithraists of Persia, and is represented in symbolic form in the Mysteries of the god Mithras. In those Mysteries, says Celsus, the Mithraists had varied symbols representing the seven planets as well as the spheres of the so-called fixed stars, and also the path that the souls took through these eight spheres. The symbolic imagery was as follows: They used a ladder supposed to reach from earth to the heavens, which ladder was divided into seven steps or stations, on each of which was a portal of ingress and egress; and at the summit of the ladder was an eighth portal which was without doubt the representation of the passage into and from the stellar spheres. — Bk. VI, ch. xxi-ii (paraphrase)

Mithraism was an important faith in the days of early Christianity, and was one of the most faithful, even in its widest diffusion, to certain of the early Mystery-teachings which from time immemorial have prevailed in the Hither and Far Orient. The Mithraic religion in the third century had reached such a stage of development that it all but became the dominant state-religion of the then wide-flung Roman Empire. In fact, it had so much that was similar, both in doctrine and in certain forms, to early Christianity that this fact was commented upon by writers of the time, both Christian and pagan. As it happened, Christianity finally prevailed over Mithraism as the dominant religious system of Europe, and it would seem that the main reason of its success was that, although Mithraism was at first preferred at the imperial court, its formal presentation to the public contained one serious psychological defect — at least so in the view of men of our modern times. It was essentially a mystical religion for men, and much less so for women, and, furthermore, any religion of a ceremonial and formal type such as Christianity, makes a larger emotional appeal to the general populace.

This Mithraic system had seven degrees of initiation, corresponding to the seven grades of dignity in the Mithraic brotherhood. The lowest was called Corax or Raven, signifying the degree of Servant; the second degree of initiation was the Cryphius or the Occult, signifying Neophyte; the third was the Miles or Soldier, signifying Worker; the fourth was called Leo or the Lion, and with this degree began the deeper and more mystical teaching; the fifth degree was called Perses, the Persian, signifying the Human; the sixth was called Heliodromus, the Runner or Messenger of the sun; the seventh and last degree was called Pater or Father, signifying the state of a full initiate or masterhood.

The various doctrines, open and secret, which comprised Mithraism, may be found in many places in the ancient literatures, although it is true that each Greek or Roman School had its own method of teaching the same general truths of nature. As an instance in point, Macrobius, the Graeco-Roman writer, treats of the "ascent" and "descent" of the monad through the spheres both in his Saturnalia and in his Commentary on the Vision of Scipio. Although Macrobius told the truth in what he wrote, he was unable, on account of his oath of secrecy taken at initiation, to say all that he could have said.

It is interesting to note here how well the secrets of the Mysteries were kept even in so late and degenerate an age as that in which Macrobius lived, for while the date when he flourished is not known, it is plain enough from the evidence of his writing that he lived after the beginning of the Christian era and possibly even in the third and fourth century. So universally was this secrecy respected, not only by individuals but by the various Greek and Roman states themselves, that even today with all the remarkably fine critical apparatus which modern scholars have, one may state that almost nothing of real informative value is today known of the ancient Mysteries, beyond the fact that they existed, had an enormous and wide-flung influence in ancient political and social life, and that the oath of secrecy was exacted from every neophyte before initiation. Speculation has been keen for centuries past as to just what the doctrines were which were taught in the Mysteries; but no one today can say just what those doctrines were.

Whatever the ancient Mysteries were, and whatever the doctrines taught in them, we know that they were deeply and universally revered and that the greatest men whom antiquity ever produced were among the number of those who had passed through, in greater or less extent, the different degrees of the initiatory rites. Because of the reticence concerning doctrines taught in the Mysteries, modern scholars have consistently misunderstood those remnants of the mystical writings of the ancients.


Returning now to the circulations of the cosmos: The monad — released by the death of the man, and into whose bosom the human soul has surrendered all of whatever was noblest and finest of itself — enters upon its wonderful postmortem adventure. This journey of the monad involves the temporary sojourn or revolving in every one of the seven sacred planets, in regular serial order, according to the predetermined pathways which closely follow the lines of cosmic forces or energies — the circulations of the cosmos.

No monad is "on its own" in its postmortem peregrinations, because every monad can follow only those certain channels of vital intercommunication as among the celestial bodies of the solar system. For every celestial globe, whether sun, planet, or atom, has at its heart a laya-center or point of individual intercommunion, which is the individual's pathway of communication with the next succeeding inner plane or world, upwards or downwards.

Through these laya-centers the lowest or densest matter of any particular superior plane or world can pass downwards into the next lower one, and thus manifest itself on this inferior plane as its most ethereal force or forces — which is or are equivalent to highly ethereal substance or matter. Coordinately, our most ethereal force or substance can pass through these laya-centers into the next superior plane. What is our most ethereal, because highest, when passing through such a laya-center, enters into and becomes at one with the very densest substance of the next superior plane. Thus is the passage from plane to plane or world accomplished, not after death alone, but even during life.

The monad on reaching the next planet in order after it has left this sevenfold earth-chain, thereupon produces or forms a ray or radiance from itself during its passage through such planetary chain — a psychomental apparatus or "soul" which takes temporary imbodiment in a correspondingly fit body there, whether of a spiritual, an ethereal, an astral, or a physical type. This ray, sent forth by the monad, and "native" to the planet on which it manifests, passes through its various cyclical periods of life and experience there until it reaches the end of its cyclical life-term, when it in its turn is withdrawn into the bosom of the monad, where it rests in its devachan. Meanwhile the higher principles pendant from the fundamental monad are released anew to proceed to still another planet, to which they are carried by the psychomagnetic karmic attractions of their own substance, and following the pathways laid down for them in the circulations of the cosmos.

As Oliver Wendell Holmes sang in The Chambered Nautilus:

Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!

Having thus completed its cyclical life-term on this planet, the monad then passes to the planet next in order, thereon repeating the general course of its evolutionary activity; and thus does the monad act through and on each of the seven sacred planets, until finally it reaches the last of the seven, whereupon the monad, thus having completed its outer cycle, in due course is drawn into the psychomagnetic line of attraction impelling it along the circulations of the cosmos back to the planetary chain of earth.

The teaching here has reference to what are called the outer rounds which must not be confused with the inner rounds, the latter dealing solely with the journeys of the monads in the seven (or twelve) globes of any one planetary chain — our own chain of earth, for instance. The difficulty in giving an outline of the teaching regarding the two kinds of rounds lies in the fact, first, that both the inner and outer rounds are analogically alike unto each other. Another difficulty is the fact that the postmortem journey of the monad of a man follows the same lines or peregrinations that the monad follows during the course of the outer rounds, but does so in incomparable smaller periods of time, and merely stops temporarily in the various planetary "stations" so to speak.

The phrase "outer rounds" can refer therefore to two things: first, to the grand outer round, comprising the whole period of a solar manvantara, during which the spiritual monad makes a stay in each planetary chain; and second, to the fact that its postmortem journey takes it likewise to each of the seven planetary chains, but in this last case its sojourn in any such individual chain lasts but a relatively short time, and its various emissions of rays belonging to each one of the respective planets is likewise temporary only. We may call this the minor or small outer round. In other words, the outer rounds deal with the passage of the spiritual monad from planetary chain to planetary chain and this seven times, and over the solar system, these seven planetary chains being the seven sacred planets of the ancients; the inner rounds during which planetary chain manvantara the monad undergoes its aeons-long journeys through the seven (or twelve) globes of that planetary chain.

The purpose of the passing of the monad after death through the various planetary chains is to allow it to free itself of the integument or vehicle which belongs to the vital essence of each such planetary chain. It is only thus that the monad strips off from itself one after the other the different "coatings" with which it has enwrapped itself during its long evolutionary journey; and thus it is then ready to enter into its own native spiritual home. When the return journey toward earth's planetary chain begins, the monad then passes in reverse order through these same seven planets, and in each such planet it picks up and reclothes itself in the life-atoms forming the "coatings" that it had previously cast off in each one of these seven planets respectively. Thus on its journey of ascent toward spiritual freedom it unclothes itself; and on its journey back into the lower spheres of manifestation, it clothes itself in its old life-atoms anew, and this is ready and able to work out the karmic consequences that were held over in abeyance when death came upon the man in his last earth-life.

Thus then, the monad evolves forth a series of temporary imbodiments of the appropriate spiritual ego on each such planetary chain. This procedure takes place on each of the seven sacred planets until the encircling minor outer round by the monad brings it back to our earth's planetary chain where it proceeds to do on our planetary chain what it had done of the other planetary chains. But because the monad of man at the present time is "fixed" to the planetary chain of the earth, its stay in this chain is immensely longer than its temporary stoppage on the seven sacred planets during its postmortem pilgrimage. The reimbodying ego evolved forth in this earth's planetary chain is the ego or soul "native" to this chain, because it is the fit and appropriate vehicle through which the spiritual monad can express itself on the globes of our planetary chain.

Thus the spiritual monad, the focus of the divine monad, gathers at each one of the seven sacred planets a new harvest of soul-experiences, each such harvest being the aggregated experiences in imbodiment acquired by the spiritual monad which belong in essential characteristics of substance and energy to each such respective planet. How otherwise could the spiritual monad reap any harvest unless there were the intermediate links between it and the various planetary chains? The reimbodying ego evolved forth by the monad on each such planetary chain is one of these intermediate links. Thus the monad is evolving on its own pathway of evolution through the spheres, carrying its load of individual consciousness — each ray or individual holding the various fruitage of each incarnation of earth or of imbodiments on other planets.

The journeyings of the spiritual monad through the spheres are due to several causes, one of the most important of which is the fact that "like attracts like." Thus the monad rises through the spheres because, with each step upwards, there occurs ever stronger the attraction to still higher and more spiritual spheres. When it reaches the highest sphere to which its own inner impulses and aspirations impel it — these very aspirations being the resultants of the accumulated spiritual and intellectual thoughts and feelings of the human entity during incarnation — the monad there pauses for a while before beginning its re-descent through the same spheres which it had previously traveled. In other words, no outside power puts this evolutionary course upon the evolving monad either impelling or compelling it thereto, but its innate attractions to this or to some other superior world or plane, which come into activity after death, are evoked from the fabric of the monad's own essence during the man's sojourn on earth.

Furthermore, the monad retraces its steps because the attractions and compelling inner aspirations have now exhausted their energies; and the latent seeds of spiritual thought and feeling that had been stored in the monad in previous earth-lives, because of their origination in material spheres, now begin to pull the monad downwards until the reimbodying ego, the ray of the monad, finds its opportunity in its impulse earth-wards to project its own incarnating ray into the karmically appropriate human seed-germ which will grow to be the body of the newborn babe.

As every cosmic plane or sphere or planet provides its own appropriate bodies for the self-expression of the hosts of entitative monads peregrinating along the circulations of the cosmos, consequently no such body can leave the plane or sphere to which it belongs. Hence, as death means the casting off of bodies, so birth means the re-assuming of such vehicles. All such vehicles are built of life-atoms, most of which for any individual are its own psychospiritual offspring, the monad thus enwrapping itself in its own living effluvia which form its sheaths or transmitters for self-expression. In consequence, all these hosts of life-atoms on the different planes of the human constitution are karmically and forever most intimately related to the spiritual monad, their original parent; and the monad when returning to earth at the end of its long postmortem pilgrimage attracts to itself the identic life-atoms which it had previously cast off, and this with their help forms for itself new vehicles or bodies. Thus one might almost say that the reimbodying ego actually "resurrects" or lives again in the old bodies, intellectual, psychical, astral, and physical, which it had in its last earth-life as a fully-imbodied human being.

Thus on its round through the spheres during its interplanetary pilgrimage the monad finally reaches the spiritual-magnetic "atmosphere" of the planetary chain of earth. At this point of time and space, the former reimbodying ego — hitherto sleeping in its long devachan in the bosom of the spiritual monad — begins to feel a resurgent inrolling of old memories, former attractions and instincts; and, unconsciously impelled by them, it seeks to renew the psychomagnetic contacts of its former spheres, the globes of our earth's planetary chain. Vague memories of the former earth-scenes begin to pass panorama-like across its field of consciousness; and as time passes these impulses grow ever stronger as the monad sinks, until finally, drawn toward our globe earth, the reimbodying ego is prepared for its rebirth.

It is evident that the cause of reincarnation on earth is "thirst" for material existence, an acquired habit — in India called trishna, a Sanskrit word which means "avid longing for." This "thirst" is a composite instinctual habit, compounded of loves and hates, and of magnetic attractions of the hosts of life-atoms composing man's constitution, visible and invisible, and of yearnings of many types, all of which collect during the various life-terms on earth into the human soul and mind, and which may be briefly called "thought-deposits" — emotional, mental, and psychic tendencies — all of which will energize the reincarnating entity's destiny until evolution finally transfers man's consciousness as an individual being to higher planes or spheres.

Now the "descent" of the reimbodying ego toward incarnation takes place through the various planes of the planetary chain of earth, each plane of increasing materiality; and thus there is here a natural "descent" of the reimbodying ego through the globes of the descending arc of this planetary chain, in each of which globes there is a temporary sojourn for the purpose of re-collecting the appropriate life-atoms which had been previously cast off by the monad during its ascent and which life-atoms in their turn had been peregrinating for ages. No step along the journey can be omitted — every intermediate plane or world must be traversed in order to span the gap between the inner worlds and our physical earth. One is reminded of the old Latin proverb: Natura non facit saltum, "Nature makes no jumps."

The life-atoms which the reimbodying ego reincorporates into its constitution at this stage of its descent earthwards are actually waiting on globes A, B, and C because they belong to the three planes traversed by the previously ascending ego, and being the planes whereon the ego had dropped them. It is after this manner that the reimbodying ego builds for himself a constitution of seven principles anew, which principles however are identical with the constitution of the man in the preceding earth-life because of the re-aggregated life-atoms thus taken up again. It is this building again into its own fabric of the life-atoms used in the last earth-life that makes the reincarnating ego become in all respects virtually the same man it was before, but improved because of the lessons learned in the invisible and more spiritual globes of our earth's planetary chain; and, last but not least, because of its absorption of the experiences of the preceding earth-life, which spiritual assimilation or digestion had taken place while the ego was dreaming in devachan in the bosom of the monad.

As Plotinus wrote, in substance:

Each and every "soul," each in agreement with its own character, follows an inescapable and overruling law of drifting to that to which its tendencies (or character) urge it, which is the type (or image) of its constitution and preference. No outside force or god convicts it to the appropriate imbodiment. Each "soul" has its own destined hour, and when this hour arrives it falls and enters the body thus fit for it, obeying the instinctive urge. Thus like always enters like. One descends now, but another later. — Enneads, "On the Soul," IV, iii, 13


What deductions are we to draw from the teachings so far outlined? First that there need be no heartache coming to those who remain behind as to what shall happen to their loved ones at death. All is most beautifully cared for by the great mother, Nature. When death comes, it means release, a far larger life, an inexpressibly wonderful adventure. It means passing along the circulations of the cosmos to other mansions of the universe — along those pathways which from the beginning of the manvantara have been followed by the monads of all past manvantaric time, during the course of their marvelous pilgrimages.

The second deduction is that there is not a new soul "created" for every human being born on earth, but that every human soul is simply a reincarnation of a human ego which had been incarnating from ages and ages past. Verily we are the ancients. The old theological idea that "Almighty God" created a human soul for each new baby carries with it implications of divine responsibility, which error Christian theologians today are beginning to realize. Furthermore the human family as a monadic group is a minor hierarchy or host of souls, only about one hundredth part of which is represented by the human beings alive on earth at any one time. Millions upon millions are going the rounds of the interior worlds.

A third deduction is that the whole work of evolution is to bring the self-conscious part of us to become ever more fully self-conscious of the higher parts of our constitution. Man in his inmost essence is a divine monad, unconditionally immortal, and of cosmic range in function and active self-consciousness. As a sevenfold entity, his constitution comprises both willpower and intelligence with which he may carve for himself a sublime destiny — becoming if he will a self-conscious god. He is destined in the far distant aeons to ally his self-consciousness with his "over-shadowing" spiritual monad; and the destiny of the monad, in enormously more distant future time is to become at one with its parent, the divine monad, which means to ally its self-consciousness with this divine monadic flame; thenceforward to take a self-conscious part as a higher god in the grand cosmic work of the galactic universe.

Theosophical University Press Online Edition