In the pursual of self-knowledge the seeker after Truth is constantly confronted with the most difficult problem of How the One becomes the Many. As the spider depends upon a single strand for support at certain times, during the construction of its web, so do philosophical systems in the ultimate analysis hold for dear life to a partial solution of this most sublime paradox.
The problem of the One and the Many can be viewed from any one of a multitude of facets. For example one could go into the direct mechanics of emanation which would involve the science of the inter-relations of the vibratory essences forming the different vehicles for consciousnesses to work through. In contrast to the mechanics of material emanation one could deal with the emanations of states of consciousness and the manner in which one is derived from another. Then again the problem could be considered from a philosophical point of view entailing the why of the different steps of manifestation rather than the how. From here it would be but a step to the consideration of the transcendental problem of Being and Non-Being which would lead one directly to the consideration of individuality and Unity. We would have to consider the question as to whether the One really became the Many, involving a thorough analysis of the Doctrine of Maya, or illusion.
Dealing with these problems from any aspect brings one quickly to the realization that logic will go but a little way in grasping even the elements of the Occult Verities handed down to us by a long line of Seers. We can apply the law of analogy to the extent of our ability and thus obtain thereby a vague awareness on the mental plane of some of the basic verities. It is only the Adept of the Sacred Sciences who possesses the necessary development of those intuitional processes which enable him to know by direct perception. The real knower is the "thread self" of consciousness which stands behind all possible conscious states. Taking the idea of the "thread self" to heart we can experiment by tracing beyond in our consciousness to the point where we stop through inadequacy of concentration. Upon performing this experiment we prove to ourselves that the centers of consciousness could not be perceived and used in a self-conscious manner unless there were always a higher conscious perception to register and record the state which we are experiencing at the time. By reflecting upon this, one is led to an appreciation of the fulness of the seeming void which appears to lie outside of our direct perception. At this point we must ask ourselves whether the Many could possibly perceive themselves as the Many if there did not exist an inexpressible fulness — a "Unity" or a hierarchy in which we move and have our being. This "Unity" is much more than a mere aggregation. However, as we found in our experiment upon consciousness, the "Unity," denoted abstractly as the One, could not be without its higher source. This process is an infinite one. This leads us to the conclusion that consciousness, in any state, throughout the vast myriads of manifesting Universes would be impossible without the existence of the "Unknowable" which is "Be-ness" in contrast to Being. No attributes can really be given to "Be-ness" although consciousness per se does regard it as the "Ever Darkness." "Be-ness" is transcendental to both homogeneity and heterogeneity as well as to the Unmanifested and the Manifested. We must not think of "Be-ness" as lying outside of our galaxy or somewhere in location for this would be contrary to its ever presence and would be the fallacy of projecting our physical conception of extension to that which is far removed. It is obvious that that which has no direct relation to the finite cannot of itself create.
Let us trace if we can the process of emanation as far as the reaches of mind allow. I submit the following for the reader's own reflexions. From "Tat" (That) springs the "One Unknowable Causality." Manifestation is still in the lap of "Non-Being" regardless of the eternal existence of "Tat." Perpetual Motion has its source in the ever "Unknowable Causality," for where there is causality there is motion, as the two are one. Perpetual Motion has an essence of Unconditioned Consciousness which in turn has the essence of "The Great Breath," which Breath assumes the character of "Precosmic Ideation" bringing forth primordial Light through whose radiance the Eternal Thought (still Precosmic Ideation) assumes the essence of the Word. I would venture to say that the Word is the one Ray which awakens the Eternal Germ resting in Mother-Deep. As The Secret Doctrine expresses it on page 28 of Vol. I:
Her heart had not yet opened for the one ray to enter, thence to fall, as three into four, into the lap of Maya.
The germ is Father-Mother (Svabhavat) being as One. It appears that the Germ is Pre-Cosmic Substance and the Word (Ray) is Pre-Cosmic Ideation as above seen from the derivation of the Word from the One Unknowable Causality. It was a necessity for the Ray to fall upon the Germ, for Perpetual Motion neither had a beginning nor will it have an end. It is the origin of the One Law which the Adepts recognise — that of Eternal Harmony. With the awakening of the Germ we have the reappearance of Cosmic Ideation and Cosmic Substance. Cosmic Ideation uses Cosmic Substance as a vehicle through which to experience.
We have now entered upon the second phase of the awakening of the Cosmos, for the Ray has already struck the Germ, and the breath of differentiation has been drawn, its effect being the issuing of the atoms from a Laya-Center. This may be called the "Fire-Mist" period. It must be pointed out that the Word did not create but only awakened the Germ existing in its Chaos (great storehouse of Creation), which upon stirring brought forth as one portion Cosmic Ideation containing as its Seed The Flame which in turn awakened the Seven Gods who fashioned the Universe out of matter. On page 72 of Vol. I of The Secret Doctrine, we have the following:
He is called the "Blazing Dragon of Wisdom" because, firstly, he is that which the Greek philosophers called the Logos, the Verbum of the Thought Divine; and secondly, because in Esoteric philosophy this first manifestation, being the synthesis of the aggregate of Universal Wisdom, Oeaohoo, " the Son of the Son," contains in himself the Seven Creative Hosts (the Sephiroth), and is thus the essence of manifested Wisdom.
This Flame is as it were the connecting link between Pre-Cosmic Ideation contained in the Word and Cosmic Ideation of which it is a self-evolved product. This connecting link is the Golden Chain of Being formed by self-evolved links of compassion imbodied in the "line of Teachers." All this has a direct relation to the "thread self in man. It is the unity of the "thread self" which instills in man's consciousness the awareness of Unity denoted abstractly as One. In contrast, man's personal consciousness creates for him the awareness of the Many. The One never becomes the Many but always remains the One. Moreover the term "One" is selected a priori by the consciousness of its opposite polarity to the Many. The One is a Unity which is Zero and can be divided ad infinitum without losing anything of its unity. In tracing the Ray from the Ever Darkness we could see the thread of unity existing which, while appearing to change, changes not, for its immutability consists in its Eternal Motion. Neither does it descend to become the Many any more than the sun leaves its orb to follow its Rays, and yet it is ever present in the circulations of its Rays, for all that Is, is inseparable. Thus we see that the Ideal One is really not a One strictly speaking but an incomprehensible and immutable Ideal Unity partaking of something analogous to the "Ever Darkness." The Many appear as the separate Manys because of the relativity of consciousness. This is not a denial of the existence of that which seems to be wrapped in Illusion, for our dreams exist and are real at the time of experiencing them.
There may be some who see in the ineffable "Unity" a Monotheistic God and Creator. But he who creates becomes that which he creates and we have seen that the ineffable "Unity" does not become the Many any more than expansion of the variety — "from within without" — means an increase in size; for infinite extension admits no enlargement.
It is the conscious wills of the infinitude of consciousnesses that form the Habits of Being. Although the Infinite and unconditioned cannot have real relationship with the finite and conditioned yet it is the Ray partaking of the nature of the "Ineffable Unity," which awakens again and again the germs that lie in the Bosom of That which knows itself not. However, this awakening is not an act of creation but is simply Eternal Motion. It is the destiny of the Many ever to move onward as Eternal Motion. It is our destiny to press ever forwards into the Unknown by enlarging the circle of our sympathies. To stop expanding is death, while to press relentlessly outward is to realize with expanding vision the inseparability of All.
The Theosophical ForumTHEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE