Man's greatest puzzle today is man. Never before, it would seem, have there been so many and such varied books about him. The optimist declares his faith in the human race in spite of, the pessimist his forebodings because of, the distressing aspect of things in the world. Theorists aplenty are only too ready to explain why man is what he is and what he should do about it. And since we are indeed many-sided creatures, there is a little of truth in what they all say.
The reader is left to take his choice among these numerous half-statements. If he is an idealist he is cheered by the assurance that after all we are made in the image of God; and he tries to hold fast to this belief while he hurries through the front page of the morning paper. If he is what is called a realist he is glad to agree with the writer who admits our animal origin and proceeds honestly to make the best of it. But the best is not always very good. For there are even those who question the survival of the race. We can see, they argue, no particular signs of progress within historic times — for who can improve upon a Plato, a Homer, a Buddha? — and therefore we believe that the human species has reached a dead-end and will soon become as extinct as the giant reptiles of a former age, to be superseded by some other stock.
To the Theosophist there are several fundamental fallacies in all these theories. Viewing evolution, for one thing, within too small a time-pattern, we miss the real picture. Time without its setting of eternity is always more or less of a distortion. We view past, present, and future within the limitations of our own consciousness. We wear blinkers: the past, except for a few thousand years, and certainly all the future, are quite outside the range of our vision. The past lives only in the geologic record; the future is almost uncharted.
Dr. de Purucker, in his new book Man in Evolution, handles the subject of evolution in a manner entirely different from that of the scientist, the theologian, the humanist. Based as his book is on the collective researches and consequent teaching of a long line of ancient sages, there are no limitations to its time-setting. Taking into account as these Teachers do the cyclic nature of growth, they can read the broad general outline of the future with as much skill as they read the records of the past; and by their reckoning the evolutionary history of man is found to stretch virtually illmitably in both directions.
With certain basic ideas established, the whole story of evolution unfolds with a logical persuasiveness that leaves no gaps, no unsolvable puzzles of major importance; and in the light of these ideas the teleological explanation of evolution can be accepted without any qualms as to its being "unscientific."
I propose, therefore, in this article to quote a few passages from Man in Evolution, commenting briefly on each. These passages present fundamental concepts upon which the student can build the entire structure of evolution as taught by Theosophy. It is safe to say, also, that they are key-ideas which resolve into a perfect coherence the splendid array of facts gathered by modern scientific researchers.
Reiterated throughout the book, and the teaching from which all else depends, is the declaration of man's true nature:
We have to recognise man as a spiritual entity, a monadic center, whose origin is the heart of Universal Life. It is this inner spark of light, in man as in all beings, that furnishes and has furnished the evolutionary urge towards producing ever fitter vehicles of self-expression.
We see, then, that evolution is not something arranged for the human race, a sort of mechanical schedule to which it must and will conform; nor is it growth by accretion. We create our own destiny by working from within outwards; and that destiny was already visioned in our own spiritual consciousness aeons ago. One may even say that it is the memory of that vision, stamped upon the living substance of our spirit, that guides our progress. That we have forgotten to a large extent that very memory which inheres in us, is no proof of its non-existence. It continues to live unrecognised, yet manifesting as the unconquerable vitality of the race, in our intuitions, our aspirations and our hopes.
Further, we see that man is an unfinished product. The urge that has driven him thus far will not exhaust itself until the goal — perfect self-expression — is reached. The greater the inner urge, the longer the time needed. Note how it takes the individual human child some twenty-five years or more to come to a full blossoming of its powers, while the dog, for example, reaches maturity in a few short months. The latter has less to express and therefore runs through the preparatory period more quickly. The analogy between child and race is a perfect one. The human race is still in the process of incarnation. Its potentialities are greater than its achievements. Man is truly in evolution.
Man's physical or corporeal encasement expresses at any period of evolution exactly the state of self-expression on this plane which the indwelling Monad has attained. Consequently, his evolution proceeds in stages that his power or facility in self-expression creates, from the smaller to the greater, the expressing vehicle in consequence following step by step and line by line the urge or drive of the inner impelling power.
This explains as nothing else can the lack of specialization to be noted in the human body. Its primitive features have been pointed to in great detail by eminent scientists such as the anatomist Wood Jones of Manchester University; but the full implication of this simplicity is not recognised, namely, that the monad, working from within, knew what it was about too well to push its vehicle of expression into the blind alleys of specialization. Instead it kept the tracks clear, so to speak, so that progress might be unimpeded. Elaborations of ear, tail or toe are no concern of the highly developed human monad seeking to find an outlet for psychological, intellectual and even spiritual powers. It builds, and has built in the past, only that which it could use.
"Faculty always precedes organ"; and if man has a larger brain today than the other mammals, is it not reasonable to believe that the monad, requiring a means by which thought could be made incarnate, supervised the building of the necessary instrument?
This primitiveness of man's features places man not only in rank but in time at the beginning of the mammalian line. Man dominates the scene from the beginning.
As nearly as we can give dates (due to the imperfection and uncertainty of interpretation of the geologic record) by studying the story of the rocks we may put back the origins of the human kind into the so-called Palaeozoic or Primary Age of geology.
This being the fact, it definitely cuts off the plausibility of the end-on evolutionary theory. If man is on the scene from the beginning, what disposition are we to make of the ladder of progressive life up which he is supposed to have climbed? As a matter of fact, we must reverse the picture, and trace the origins of the mammalians from man.
Man holds within himself the history of all inferior types. Man is, and has been, and will be, the foremost of the hierarchy of evolving entities on our earth, the foremost in evolutionary development; and as the leading stock, he therefore is the repertory, the store-house, the magazine, of all future types, even as he has been of all past types. He throws off these types as he evolves through the ages; each of these types becomes in its turn a new stock, and follows thereafter its own individual line of evolutionary development.
This startling and unorthodox statement actually introduces us to a chapter of evolutionary history — itself a kind of specialization — which requires sound and special study to make it intelligible; but which Dr. de Purucker has lucidly and convincingly explained.
But to continue our main theme: "Man's destiny is to draw steadily and progressively, and as time passes ever more rapidly away from the lower kingdoms." There will be other cycles of opportunity for these latter. Meanwhile the human race, despite appearances, is pushing forwards, not it is true in one unbroken straight line, but by a series of spiral ascents and descents, now catching a beckoning gleam from the goal ahead, and again sunk in a downward cycle of forgetfulness; but nevertheless the way is, generally speaking, in a forward or upward direction.
We have spoken as yet only of an inner urge and a progressively building outer vehicle to express that urge. But evolution is in reality rather more complex than this. It is in fact threefold.
Evolution . . . works along three lines which are coincident, contemporaneous, and fully connected in all ways: an evolution of the spiritual nature of the developing creature taking place on spiritual planes; an evolution or unfolding of the intermediate nature of the creature — in man the psycho-mental part of his constitution; and a vital-astral-physical evolution, resulting in a body or vehicle increasingly fit for the expression of the powers appearing or unfolding in the intermediate and spiritual parts of the developing entity.
Slavishly following the universal pattern, man — the monad — must build for himself his own universe. But pure monadic spirit cannot function directly in a physical body, and so it is that the complex inner constitution of a human being is built as a living bridge between the two. The spiritual soul in which the monad first clothes itself in turn builds the human soul, the psycho-mental part of us with which we usually identify ourself. The human soul then emanates a ray from itself which vivifies the physical body; but fundamentally it is the vitality and directing power of the monad which runs through the entire structure making it a living whole. "Thus the Monad, the cosmic life-center, is in the highest reaches of itself the divine; and in its lowest reaches it is a body, ultimately builded from its own substance."
Development of body, which we might for convenience call "growth from below," would mean nothing at all divorced from the other aspect which we might call "descent from above." The two processes work simultaneously, and have so worked from the beginning; and between the two extremes, forming as it were a vortex of activity at the midpoint, is the psycho-mental self. Thus spirit, soul, and body form a threefold evolutionary activity.
In man the evolutionary cyclic course is carried on by means of repeated incarnations. When the period of death or rest has been achieved and run through, and rest no more is needed, then we return to this earth in order to take up again our interrupted work, further to develop, further to evolve. . . . It is through the lessons which each incarnated entity learns in and on this material earth that evolution actually takes place.
It is obvious that if we postulate the development in evolving growth of an inner egoic center, as well as of a body, we must also postulate its repetitive imbodiment. One life-time is not enough to achieve perfect incarnation. Trial after trial must be made while the human self becomes purified and strong, and in turn strengthens and refines the body into a responsive vehicle, building it anew for each life out of the living building bricks, the life-atoms.
In this forward march of man, there have been and there will be in the future crises which mark the consummation of a minor cycle and the ushering in of a cycle of new opportunities and new capacity for growth. Such a crisis occurred some 18,000,000 years ago when the vehicle was sufficiently developed to receive what is picturesquely called in Theosophical literature "the fire of mind." Mind had been present, of course, in a latent state, otherwise no light could have been kindled; but as the child needs its parents and teachers to call forth its latent intelligence, so the race needed the help of superior beings.
This happened very largely by the incarnation in these now ready human vehicles, of godlike beings who had run their race and had attained quasi-divinity in far past preceding planetary periods of cyclic evolution.
These godlike beings projected, by hypostasis (to use a technical term) sparks, as it were, of their own full self-consciousness, into the childlike humanity of that time, thus awakening also the latent native mental powers that had lain dormant or sleeping in the recipient humanity.
Because of this incarnation of mind, men became conscious of their kinship not only with the hierarchies surrounding them in all nature, but they recognised their spiritual unity with the gods, and from then on they began to understand that the direction of their own future karman or destiny lay in their own hands At first almost instinctively, but as time passed with evergrowing self-realization, they understood that they were thenceforth collaborators with the divinities, and the hierarchies of beings below the divinities, in the enormous Cosmic Labor.
The history of man, as we think of man, begins with this event. Mind, the gift of the Serpent in the Garden of Eden, came as both a curse and a blessing. It conferred upon man responsibility. It made the cleavage between him and the beast world complete and unrecoverable. It meant power — to be used or abused according to the bent of the will of the user. It was a necessary yet a dangerous tool. Filled with a sense of his own importance, man forgot by degrees that he was to be henceforth a "collaborator with the divinities," and imagined himself a divinity, building gods in his own image. Our present confusions can well be considered as the culmination of such folly and forgetfulness.
But the last chapter of our evolutionary history has not yet been written. Those of the human race who will to follow the way of the gods will follow it, though laggards may fall by the wayside. Forerunners have already blazed the trail for us. Why does a Jesus, a Buddha, come amongst us? To show us the glory of a divine incarnation, yes; but only because that incarnated divinity is the god within the man himself. Their achievement is a promise of our destiny also.
These greatest of men have developed to its highest point of self-expression the human soul, so that it has become a perfect transmitter or a perfect vehicle for the inner god But every man has within himself the potentialities of this inner god When Jesus said "I am the pathway and the Life," he did not refer to himself alone as that pathway He meant that every human being likewise who strives towards and endeavors to live that cosmic life thereby becomes the transmitter of that life and its many, many powers to those below him
Thus man in evolution becomes our deepest concern as we grow to maturity; for our faith in him — our faith in ourselves — rests upon the intuitive perception of the immortal spirit dwelling within which, as we allow it to work through us, will shape our ends towards a divine fulfilment.