[Note: page numbers cited for The Esoteric Tradition are to the 2-vol. Second Edition and do not correspond to the 1-vol. 3rd & Revised Edition.]
How Worlds Are Born and Reborn (1)
Analogy is the great mystic and scientific key to the understanding of the structure of the Universe in which we live, and of which we are an integral and inseparable part. What is below, in the small and the infinitesimal, is also above, in the great and the cosmic. There is but One Law, One Pattern, One Universal Plan, underlying everything that is, guiding everything that unfolds and grows, and the same universal urge, impelling all growth and unfoldment, stimulates from within every evolving entity in the boundless infinitudes of Nature.
From Atom to Cosmos everything in Nature is for ever indissolubly bound together, holds together, evolves together, marches together along the silent paths of cosmic evolution. From Atom to Cosmos everything in Nature is endowed with a consciousness of its own, with a life of its own, and unfolds with a spiritual purpose, under the universal and ever-present sequence of Cause and Effect. This is a fundamental teaching of the Esoteric Philosophy. In this the student of Ancient Wisdom is in perfect accord with the most progressive scientists of the day. Sir James Jeans has said:
I incline to the idealistic theory that consciousness is fundamental, and that the material universe is derived from consciousness, not consciousness from the material universe. . . . The universe seems to me to be nearer to a great thought than to a great machine. It may well be, it seems to me, that each individual consciousness ought to be compared to a brain-cell in a universal mind. . . . — The Observer, January 4, 1931
Max Planck has said:
I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness. — The Observer, January 25, 1931
Thomas A. Edison has said:
I do not believe that Matter is inert, acted upon by an outside force. To me it seems that every atom is possessed by a certain amount of primitive intelligence.
This is the ground upon which Modern Science and the Ancient Wisdom meet and shake hands in a warm hand-clasp.
SEVENFOLD STRUCTURE OF THE UNIVERSE
The evolutionary development of Worlds or Systems of Worlds, such as our Solar System or the Galaxy to which it belongs, can be understood only against the background of the ancient teaching about the nature and structure of the inner or invisible Universe, of which the physical universe is but the outward shell, as it were. According to this ancient teaching, Nature is Tenfold. There are in it Ten distinct yet correlated planes, or spheres, or realms of substance and consciousness. Of these the uppermost Three are at present entirely beyond our comprehension; they pertain to the very roots of things that are; they are what is known in technical language as the unmanifested Planes of Being. The lower Seven planes, however, can be understood as to their nature and function; they are termed the manifested planes of the Universe.
Of these Planes only the Physical Plane, and this one only in its lowest levels, can be perceived with the aid of so-called physical senses of perception. What we see and know of the physical development of the Universe — let us say, of our Solar System, or of our Galaxy — pertains, therefore, to this one Plane only, while the Causes and the Spiritual Impulses behind all evolutionary urge lie hidden away in the superior Planes, and flow out, one might say, into material or physical form, in due course of time.
Everything comes out of the Spiritual Realms of Being, everything journeys through the evolutionary pilgrimage, cycling from one plane to the other, on its downward spiral of involution; everything re-ascends again, on its upward path of evolutionary unfoldment, and, at the end or consummation of the pilgrimage through the material spheres, is re-absorbed once more into the Spiritual Spheres of Being, where the Consciousness of the Universe dwells until the dawn of a new cycle of universal manifestation — the Re-imbodiment of Itself. It is so with Planets; it is equally so with Solar Systems; it is so with Galaxies; it is the same with a human being who is born, lives, dies, rests for awhile, and is born anew; and it is equally so with the world of the infinitesimally small, as already hinted at by Science.
REIMBODIMENT OF A UNIVERSE
Every Planet, every Sun — which means every star we see in the deeps of the night sky — every solar system, every group of systems, every galaxy, and beyond — is the reimbodiment of a former Cosmic Entity, the reimbodiment of its own former Self, just as man is but the reincarnation of his own self, the same soul or ego come back for another series of experiences, building for itself a new form in which to manifest on the plane of physical life. So it is with a Cosmic Entity, the Spiritual Intelligence and Consciousness which inhabits a World and manifests through its complex structure as a system in evolution. Analogy, as said before, is the key to every mystery of Nature.
This view is corroborated by the famous Swedish astronomer Dr. Knut Lundmark, who recently wrote:
. . . We only understand a very, very tiny bit of what really happens when a star explodes. . . . Perhaps the stars are ensouled Super-Beings, whose soul-life we cannot even imagine. With our gross senses and our imperfect instruments we can only try to follow the external physical processes in that tremendous laboratory which the universe must be. In the hand of what Being or Beings does it lie? — Goteborgs Handels och Sjofarts Tidning, October, 1936
After the dissolution of a World, or of a Solar System, the highest spiritual principles of that World retire into a supreme spiritual Nirvana, for a period of rest, just as a human being enters after physical death into a condition of spiritual sleep, and the assimilation of the experience gained in the life just past; only that in the case of a Cosmic Entity these states are immensely superior to those of the human soul. Meanwhile, the cosmic dust, we might call it, resulting from the dissolution of that world, remains as it were in a state of quiescence, of slumber, scattered far and wide through the various planes formerly occupied by the World that was. The same takes place with the hosts of life-atoms of any one human being, after the final dissolution we call physical death. The dark nebulae of modern astronomical research are a stage towards this condition of atomic dissociation. (2)
Very little is known at this time about the nature of these dark areas, as far as astronomy is concerned; but let me venture the thought that one of these days, through researches already on their way, Science will find out that the matter composing these dark nebulae is not matter as we know it here on earth. It obstructs the light coming from behind it, it is true, and yet it is not matter in our physical sense of the word. There are substances in Nature which pertain to other planes of being, to other rates of vibration, as it were, and Science is well on its way to the discovery of such superior grades of matter.
The "Cosmic Soul" of a Universe or World, of any one of the myriads of Worlds scattered through Space, remains in its high state of Nirvanic rest until the Divine Thirst for active life re-arises in the Consciousness of that Cosmic Being; this urge for dynamic evolutionary experience is a cyclic process in itself and brings Cosmic Entities into manifestation again, just as it does the human soul, life after life, on our small scale of earthly experiences. Analogy once more! On this ground again Theosophy and Science meet as friends and collaborators. Professor E. A. Milne, the well-known scientist of Oxford, has said:
Our Universe is no passing thing. Creation was once, is always. Once started, the system goes on forever. Each constituent has a temporal existence, but the world as a whole knows no time history. . . . The World sows ever at its own frontier the seeds of its own future. Each individual nebula reaps the harvest of its own experiences, and passes to the winter of its decay. But . . . at the confines of the visible universe, at the world's inaccessible edge, the music of the spheres is the song of a new dawn, the dawn of the world's perpetual birthday.
The "Soul" of a World or of a System is often spoken of in Theosophy as a Cosmic Monad; we might call it a god, one of the numberless gods or godlike Beings who are the indwelling Spiritual Intelligences of any one World or Solar System — the Cosmic Mind suspected these days by outstanding scientists, such as Stromberg, Moulton, Swann, Eddington, Jeans, Lundmark and others. When its cyclic time has come, this Cosmic Intelligence or Being, through a gradual process of reimbodiment, similar, as to pattern, to the reincarnation of a human ego, cycles downward, as it were, through the various planes below it, till it reaches the physical plane of the sevenfold structure of Nature. As it passes through these planes, slowly, through ages upon ages, it reassembles and reintegrates the widely scattered life-atoms which went to build its former structure. This process we might term an electro-magnetic one. Similarly does the human soul gather in reincarnation its former life-atoms. The Cosmic Monad or Soul awakens once more into action this sleeping, slumbering, quiescent matter in its state of atomic dissociation; it revivifies these life-atoms, recalls them into being out of a deep sleep, re-illuminates them from within, infuses into them its own spiritual life and light — and finally assumes the appearance of a Cosmic Nebula, a Galaxy. (3)
In this connection Sir James Jeans upholds one of the basic teachings of the Ancient Wisdom, when he writes:
The type of conjecture which presents itself, somewhat insistently, is that the centres of the nebulae are of the nature of "singular points" at which matter is poured into our universe from some other, and entirely extraneous, spatial dimension, so that, to a denizen of our universe, they appear as points at which matter is being continuously created.
This is a scientific presentation of the Theosophical doctrine regarding Laya-centers, which are focal points through which spiritual energies are flowing into the physical plane, and through which they are again reabsorbed into the planes of spiritual life, at the end of cosmic manifestation.
When this Nebula attains the point of unfoldment or involution downwards into manifestation where the reimbodying Soul of the former World that was has sufficiently entered into it, it begins to rotate by an energy inherent in itself, similar to electro-magnetism and flowing forth from the invisible spheres of being, it becomes endowed with motion, both circular motion and motion through space. (4)
The Nebula drifts from the place where at first it became endowed with motion, the guiding impulse of its own Karman directing it here and there towards its appropriate place in the cosmic spaces, until it finds its cosmic "home," as it were. Through the cycling ages it gradually gives rise within its very substance to the individual suns and systems of suns, each one of which goes through a similar process — as to the general pattern of it — except that it is on a smaller scale; suns being cosmic intelligences, or Spiritual Entities of a smaller degree as compared with the Cosmic Being inhabiting a Galaxy as such. Thus it would be necessary to discriminate between a Nebula giving rise to a whole Home-Universe or Galaxy, and a Nebula giving rise but to one Solar System, out of the billions which form a Galaxy. The general pattern is the same; the scales of magnitude differ. Many Galaxies assemble in groups, forming Super-Galaxies. Can this process extend still further? Why not?
In this again the Esoteric Philosophy meets Modern Science. In the words of Dr. Forest Ray Moulton, the permanent secretary of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in his remarkable work Consider the Heavens (pp. 300, 330):
The essential units of which we are composed are molecules and chains of molecules. Our life processes are expressed in terms of their properties, our thoughts are conditioned by their interactions. But perhaps in the infinite series of cosmic units there are others which play the role of molecules, in living organisms. Sub-electrons of the hundredth order may be the molecules, so to speak, of conscious beings which live through a million generations in what to us is a second of time. And super galaxies of the hundredth order may similarly be the molecules of conscious beings whose life-cycles consume unimaginable intervals of time. . . . Let us, therefore, once more assume the existence of intelligent beings whose constituent elements — whose atoms, so to speak — are galaxies or super-galaxies of stars. Their life-cycles are measured in millions of billions of years, for such periods of time are required for important transformations of super-galaxies of the higher order, which are for these beings only the cells in their bodies or the corpuscles of the blood which circulates in their veins. . . . For these beings the galaxies which we know are only electrons or protons whose gravitational expansions and contractions and whose oscillations in form are expressed vaguely in wave packets. . . . For them the galaxies are the primary elementary units in a chaos out of which by statistical averages a considerable degree of order emerges in the super-galaxies.
Is this scientific imagination? No. It is a statement of actual esoteric reality, and merely voices in scientific terminology an age-old teaching of the Ancient Wisdom.
What about comets? (5) Comets play a very important part in the Universe, a part hardly suspected by Science. They are worlds in the making, planets in the making; one of the first stages in their evolution or reimbodiment. More accurately, some comets are planets in the making, and some others are solar systems in the making. Comets, after passing through many and various stages and grades of evolutionary growth in constantly increasing materiality, ultimately become the globes that fill the stellar spaces, suns and planets.
First a nebula appears — we are speaking now of the formation of a solar system or of a planet of a solar system, not of the nebula out of which a whole galaxy with billions of solar systems is formed — then this nebula begins to whirl, similarly to the nebulae which give rise to whole galaxies; ultimately this primary condensation of extremely ethereal substance rushes into the cosmic deeps, seeking its former home. It is attracted by one or another part of a galaxy, such as our galaxy, magnetically drawn to this or another sun, its former chief in a preceding embodiment.
Once caught in the gravitational field of the sun to which it karmically belongs, it gradually settles into a more or less regular orbital motion around it. Its developing vital fires act upon the cosmic dust — the darker matter — in that locality of cosmic space, aggregating it together, vitalizing it anew. The comet then passes through another state of nebular evolution. (6)
As the ages roll by, out of this nebular phase arises either the central Sun of a solar system with its planetary bodies, or a group of solar systems, according to the scale we may be considering. It will be seen, therefore, that while the Esoteric Philosophy agrees with much that modern astronomical research has established through painstaking labor, it nevertheless does not look upon the planets as having been thrown off by the condensing Sun, or as having been produced by accidental collisions or close approach of two stars; nor does it recognise the theory that the suns, stars, and certain nebulae are centers of tremendous heat, in our sense of this word. It looks upon all the processes of "creation" as taking place with grades of matter extremely more ethereal than anything we know of on Earth, involving electro-magnetic phenomena on a cosmic scale, which produce certain visual appearances to the observing eye.
It is thus, according to the ancient teachings of the Esoteric Philosophy, that great aggregations of solar systems are born, evolved through untold ages out of an original nebula which is but the initial stage in the process of re-imbodiment of a Cosmic Entity. Myriads of solar systems, hosts of suns are evolved from the Cosmic Matrix of Being. (7)
And let us remember that each Sun, each Star, is but a cell — perhaps only an atom — in the complex structure of the Cosmic Organism to which it belongs. This thought alone establishes the infinite unity and correlation of everything that is, from the infini-tesimally small to the infinitely great, from the electron to the galaxy and beyond.
FINAL DISSOLUTION OF A WORLD
And now there remain a few words to say regarding the final dissolution of a Sun or of a Solar System. The end of its evolutionary cycle of life is a moment when, its purpose and mission having been accomplished, its psycho-magnetic and spiritual energies are released, and its essence is withdrawn into the Cosmic Monad or Soul. Such is the end of man's incarnation at the moment of physical death. Such is also the end of a cosmic system at the moment of its physical dissolution.
It is the teaching of the Esoteric Philosophy that what is known to modern astronomy as a "Nova" — a star that suddenly flames up, reaches an apex of intense brilliancy, and gradually fades away, either entirely or partially — is the final explosion, we might say, of a cosmic system, at the end of its career on this physical plane of manifestation. Sometimes this process is sudden, sometimes more or less gradual. This teaching is well illustrated by successive pictures of the expanding nebulous ring around the "Nova" of 1918 in the constellation of Aquila. It shows the gradual resolving of a cosmic system, undoubtedly with planets of its own, into a nebulous mass which resembles the stages through which a system passes in the period of its gradual birth. It is also very remarkably illustrated by the famous "Crab" nebula in Taurus; this nebula has been identified with a "Nova" noticed by Chinese astronomers as far back as 1054 a. d.; since that time it has been expanding at a considerable rate forming a widely spread nebulosity still in a process of expansion and diffusion.
We have also a large variety of so-called Planetary Nebulae which show a central star with a vast spherical luminous atmosphere surrounding it. The latter is supposed to have expanded to its present size, according to present-day views. Among these are the Planetary Nebula in Andromeda and the Ring Nebula in Lyra, which has certain peculiarities of its own. However, it is more than probable from the standpoint of the Esoteric Philosophy that the famous Planetary Nebulae, at least a few of them, might be stages in the gradual formation of a solar system, instead of stages of dissolution. Both possibilities should be kept in mind until more definite knowledge is at hand.
According to the ancient teachings, exploding stars are thus but a stage in the gradual re-absorption of a system into the inner spheres of being, the superior planes of that universe — in other words, the dis-embodiment of a Cosmic Entity, leaving behind it a mere physical structure in gradual disintegration, minus the spiritual invigorating Fires of its "Soul," that structure then returning into the state of undifferentiated matter, from which we started the outline of these teachings.
From Atom to Cosmos, from the world of the sub-atomic to the super-galaxies and beyond, the Universe is an endless Ladder of evolving Life. Everything unfolds, everything grows, everything changes constantly, cycling through the portals of renewed birth, and into the portals of seeming death, which is but a sleep and a rejuvenation. There is no Death, for Life is Universal and ever-enduring, and what men call Birth and Death, from an atom to a cosmos, are but two phases of Cosmic Being, tides which come and go on the shores of Cosmic Life.
As written by Dr. G. de Purucker, Leader of the Theosophical Society, in his important work The Esoteric Tradition (pp. 156-7):
. . . our physical World, including stars, suns, planets, etc., is but the outer shell or garment or veil of an inner, vital, intelligent aggregate of causes, which in their collectivity form or rather are the Kosmic Life. . . . The Kosmic Life is in very truth the Ineffable Reality behind all that is, within all beings and things that are. . . . The World Universal, Space Universal, is full of gods, "sparks of eternity," links in an endless causative chain of cosmic intelligences that live and move and have their being in the vast spaces of Infinitude, precisely as we do in our own Home-Universe on our own smaller scale.
Everything that is, lives in something greater than itself; and in its turn is the enfolding structure of smaller lives which make it up. The electron lives in the atom; the atom lives in the molecule; the molecule lives in the cell; the cell is but an integral part of the organ it helps to build; the organ lives in the body corporate of the evolving organism; the organism is but a part of the kingdom to which it belongs; the kingdom, such as the human kingdom, for instance, is an integral part of the planet upon which it lives; the planet is a member of a large family of planets and lives in the Solar System to which it belongs; and the Solar System is but one of a group of such systems; and the group is but a fraction of the Galaxy wherein it lives. Millions of galaxies form some still greater system, beyond the comprehension of even the greatest minds among men. And each unit, from the atom to the cosmos, is a conscious unit, evolving within the consciousness and the vital streams of the greater unit of which it is a part. And through this beginningless and endless hierarchical gradation of evolving Life there flows but One Cosmic Consciousness, there beats but One Cosmic Heart of Being. Man has within himself a droplet of that Cosmic Consciousness, and his heart beats in unison with the Heart of the Universe. The Fire of Cosmic Life courses through his being, and the music of the spheres resounds in the depths of his spiritual soul. Ally yourself in the silence with your spiritual self, the Starry Spirit dwelling in your heart of hearts; seek it — bring it out, and in due course of time, when awakened into fulness of manifestation, your consciousness and your understanding will outreach the most distant galaxies in the deeps of Space.
1. Lecture delivered at Channing Hall, Los Angeles, Calif., on March 15, 1940; illustrated with astronomical lantern-slides loaned by Mount Wilson Observatory. (return to text)
2. The following astronomical objects illustrate this point: (a) the dark S-shaped nebula, Barnard 72, in Ophiuchus; (b) the dark nebula, Barnard 86, in Sagittarius; (c) the dark nebula, Barnard 92, in Sagittarius; (d) the dark nebula, Barnard 133, in Aquila; (e) the famous "Horse-head" dark nebula in Orion. (return to text)
3. This is well illustrated by the following astronomical objects: (a) spiral nebula on edge, NGC 4594, in Virgo; (b) spiral nebula on edge in Coma Berenices; (c) spiral nebula on edge in Andromeda; (d) spiral nebula on edge, NGC 5746, in Virgo. The first of these objects shows very plainly a ring of dark matter around it. This dark line is in the understanding of the student of the Ancient Wisdom some of the undifferentiated matter which has not yet awakened into renewed manifestation and vital activity. (return to text)
4. In this connection we have for our study a large number of extra-galactic nebulae in various stages of evolutionary unfoldment; their increasing rotation is evidenced by the progressively more and more flattened appearance of such nebulae, which gradually, from a spherical shape, assume the final shape of a lens with a thick middle portion tapering off at the edges.
The following sequence of astronomical objects illustrates some of the successive stages in the formation of a galaxy out of the primordial nebula, (a) Great Spiral Nebula, M 31, in Andromeda; (b) Spiral Nebula, M 94, in Canes Venatici; (c) Spiral Nebula in Hercules; (d) Spiral Nebula, M 63, in Canes Venatici; (e) Spiral Nebula, M 81, in Ursa Major; (f) Spiral Nebula, NGC 4536, in Virgo; (g) Spiral Nebula, M 99, in Virgo; (h) Spiral Nebula, NGC 5247; (i) the famous "Whirlpool" Nebula, M 51, in Canes Venatici; (j) Spiral Nebula, M 33, in Triangulum; (k) Spiral Nebula, M 101, in Ursa Major. (return to text)
5. Illustrated by any of the well-known photographs of comets, heads of comets, etc., made at the famous observatories throughout the world, particularly the fine pictures of Halley's comet of 1910. (return to text)
6. This stage in the formation of solar systems out of a nebula which itself is the resolving of a cosmic comet into nebular matter, is well illustrated by the nebulosities in the constellation of the Pleiades, and the Great Nebula in Orion. (return to text)
7. This stage is illustrated by galaxies such as our own and by the magnificent pictures of the so-called globular clusters on the outskirts of our Home Universe or galaxy, which gives an idea of the immense number of individual systems which are born and developed from the original nebula. (return to text)