Students of occultism have known for untold ages that there is much more to the earth than is generally supposed.
In the Puranas of India there are lengthy accounts of the seven dwipas, or sacred continents, which were separated one from the other by seas of salt water, sugar cane juice, wine, butter, curds, milk and fresh water. The whole tradition is so involved and confused as to sound like sheer nonsense to one not having the esoteric keys, for the word dwipa may refer to a continent, to a globe of the earth chain, or to something else.
In the folklore and myth of peoples throughout the world, savage, barbarian, civilized, are found references to a storied or layered earth with one or more underworlds and a series of heaven-worlds, often seven in number. Here again we need the light of the esoteric philosophy in order to understand the imagery.
One of the most beautiful descriptions of the earth's seven-fold constitution is to be found in the Phaedo of Plato, as translated by Thomas Taylor. Here is an example of the means employed to veil the doctrine of-the globes in an earlier age, that of Greece about 300 bc:
The earth is prodigiously great, and we do dwell in places extending from Phasis to the Pillars of Hercules, inhabit only a small portion, about the Mediterranean Sea, like ants or frogs about a marsh.
The places which we inhabit are nothing more than the dregs of this pure earth or cavities into which its dregs continually flow. We are ignorant therefore, that we dwell in the cavities of this earth, and imagine that we inhabit its upper parts. Just as if some one dwelling in the bottom of the sea should think that he resided on its surface, and beholding the sun and the other stars through the water, should imagine that the sea is the heavens.
For if it is proper to tell you a beautiful fable . . . this earth if one surveys it on high appears like globes covered with twelve skins, and distinguished with colors . . . .
This upper earth, too, contains many other animals and men, some of which inhabit its middle parts, others dwell about the air as we do about the sea and others reside in islands which the air flows about and which are situated not far from the continent. And in one word, what water and sea are to us, air is to them; and what air is to us aether is to them. . . . And besides these they have temples and groves in which the Gods dwell in reality . . . the sun, moon and stars are seen by such as they really are.
A similar account is to be found in the Rig Veda, in which, as ordinarily translated, three earths or three strata or layers are mentioned. In The Secret Doctrine, Volume II, page 758, H. P. B. states that in this instance the translators are mistaken, for the three strata or layers do not refer to our globe alone, but to the three layers or planes in which the upper manifested globes are situated, two by two on each plane, one on the descending arc, one on the ascending arc.
Thus, if we are referring to the globes, there are seven earths; if to the planes on which these globes exist there are three; or, if we include Globe D and its cosmic sub-plane, four.
Here, then, is the key which explains legends of a multiple or layered earth, whether three- or four- or seven-fold.
Furthermore, the earth does not exist apart from the lives composing it. It is composed of lives of many grades, all of them evolving and progressing, endlessly. In the human kingdom this evolutionary journey is accomplished through embodiment in a series of Root-Races, Family Races, National Races, Tribal Races, and Tribal Generations. The evolution of the elemental, mineral, plant, and animal kingdoms is accomplished by embodiment in a series of races closely analogous to that of the human. We may think of this evolutionary journey as a vast musical symphony in which each life, from atom to globe, plays its part, each working in harmony with the rest.
The invisible worlds or planes are composed of lokas and talas, or grades of spiritual and material substances respectively, which combine to form any world or plane, our own for instance.
The lokas are predominantly spiritual in nature, the talas physical, the latter word meaning bottom or lowermost, that is, loaded with matter.
Each one of the globes, including our own earth, contains or is composed of seven lokas and seven talas, there being seven worlds or spheres of existence. They are within each other, not exactly like the skins of an onion, but interpenetrating, and each inner one is finer, more spiritual, more ethereal, than its next outer, and most spiritual of all is the inmost.
We are on one of these loka-tala worlds at the present time and there are six other humanities evolving, similarly to our own, through the loka-talas of Globe D and of the other Globes. The following quotation in this connection is taken from Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, page 405:
These lokas and talas interpenetrate each other. As H. P. Blavatsky says in a very noble passage in The Secret Doctrine, they have each one their own "geographical" spheres; the respective inhabitants of the different Lokas and Talas live in their own world, pursue their own vocations, work out their own karmic destiny, even as we do in our world. It is but human egoism that claims so foolishly that ours is the only race of intelligent beings in the boundless Kosmos, and which goes so far as to deny intelligence and consciousness to beings even on other physical planets.
With the seven-fold pattern playing so important a part in the structure of both inner and outer nature, it is to be supposed that the physical structure of our earth follows the same scheme, as indeed it does. Geology states that the earth consists of a central dense, solid core surrounded by a plastic envelope enclosed within a series of rocky shells upon which, like a layer of dust, lies the crust of land, water and mountains which we know as earth.
Furthermore, aeronautical specialists and radio engineers have shown that the upper atmosphere of the earth is built in a series of layers which have been investigated by radio waves, sound reflection, and sounding balloons.
The first of these atmospheric layers, that zone of clouds and storms which surrounds us to a height of seven to ten miles, is known to science as the troposphere. In the figurative terminology of the ancients, this is the sphere of water.
The second layer, in which ozone, a triatomic form of oxygen occurs, is known as the ozonosphere. This we may call the sphere of air.
The third layer of the upper atmosphere of the earth is known as the ionosphere. It is the sphere of fire, an intensely heated layer of ionization without which we on earth would receive such an amount of ultra-violet light that life for us would be almost impossible.
Above the ionosphere lies the vast reach of space in which the auroral displays occur. This is the realm of Fohat, the sphere of aether.
To summarize: The seven-fold structure of the seven planets, the seven globes, the lokas and talas, as well as that of the races and sub-races, is composed of lives in various stages of evolution. Each unit, from atom to planet, is a living being. Each follows the same evolutionary pathway as far as it can. All are interwoven, interlocking, working together.
The wealth of information in Theosophical books is to be looked upon as consisting of keys to Universal Nature. And these keys are laya points of wisdom from which we may unfold a universe of thought in much the same way that a physical universe unfolds from its center.