Man is all symmetry,
Full of proportions, one limb to another,
And all to all the world besides:
Each part may call the farthest, brother:
For head with foot hath private amity,
And both with moons and tides.
— George Herbert in Man
When we look around at the immensity of the universe, and consider how small we ourselves are in comparison; when we consider how puny man is against the mighty forces of nature, how ignorant he is of the cosmic scheme, we may perhaps be forgiven for looking upon ourselves as of no great importance.
Yet our plea is for recognition of a fundamental importance in the individual, not from egotistic assumption that man is "lord of all creation," summit and acme of evolution (which he is not), but from sober realization that we and our fellow human beings whom we jostle in the streets, have individual divine origins and individual glorious destinies. For this true conception of the worth of each one of us is of vital concern for the welfare of men — and of nations.
The process of changing the minds and hearts of men is a slow process of evolution — evolution of each and every individual. True, it is said that there are masses of individuals who will have to await the next cosmic term in this school of life; but in general, not until the least amongst us has achieved perfection can the highest move on.
What, then, do men "move on" to? What is it that makes attainment of relative perfection a logical and inevitable aim? In the words of G. de Purucker: "the Absolute was once a man." There you have the sweep of the plan — evolution from below the animalcule up to the Godhood, and even beyond. The Absolute was once a man. What evidence have we to accept this assertion so pregnant with affirmation of each man's potential greatness? If it is true, we ought to be able to find the same doctrine hidden in the teachings of the ancients, and it should show itself again in flashes of inspiration amongst the moderns, for one of the tests of truth is universality.
"That which is above is the same as that which is below," declared Hermes Trismegistus.
Man was made "in the image of God," says the Bible.
"The higher organism" (for instance, man) "is a universe in miniature; in the profoundest, truest sense of the word is it a small world, microcosm." These last few words are from a book published in England in 1847, a translation of a work by Lorenz Oken, Professor of Natural History at Jena University during the early part of the last century.
Again, from the same author, in his preface to Elements of Physio-philosophy:
In my essay entitled "Concerning the Universe as a continuation of the sensory systems," I showed that the Organism is none other than a combination of all the Universe's activities within a single individual body. This doctrine has led me to the conclusion that World and Organism are one in kind, and do not stand merely in harmony with each other.
In other words, Universe and Man are "one in kind." Man is a universe, an "island universe," and within him are all the phenomena of a universe. He contains, in his physical makeup, in his structure, organs, circulations, motivations, aspirations, potentialities of future worlds, suns, planets, moons, cosmic systems, galaxies — potentialities which some day in cosmic time will unfold into cosmic realities. And all these things are there in our feeble human constitution, behind our feeble human fallibility. It is time we forgot the theological doctrine of "original sin," and turned our faces inward to our innate divinity, the central sun of our own universe, remembering the while that love, love for our fellow men, love for all created things, is the integrating factor in the universe and therefore in ourselves.
This world we live in is indeed a vast and complex entity. Think of the infinite number of objects which meet our gaze in whatever direction we turn — all the birds, all the trees (or bricks and mortar!), all the grasses, plants, shrubs, animals, insects, multitudes of all things, bewildering in their infinite diversity; and think that this we see is but a minute corner of the whole universe, stretching, so our astronomers say, on and on beyond the reach of the greatest telescopes, depth upon depth of stars and galaxies, "beyond the range and reach of thought," vaster than comprehension — but in all this infinitude of finite things, there is no chaos.
Astronomers, scientists, biologists, have labored to find system in the midst of complexity, and lo, we are told of island universes, cosmic solar systems, a home universe, and we learn about species, genera, classes, tables, laws, and so on. We are even brought to the conclusion as Emerson says, that the world is built up out of a few notes, which are so interwoven and interblended that the whole divine melody issues forth from them. In Indian mythology, Krishna is fabled as creating worlds out of the seven notes of his flute.
Take these seven notes, and one of the variations on them, and you have a rose. Nature in other keys, in other variations, produces a man, a universe. Man and the earthworm are kin to the stars, and contain the same fundamental notes in their make up. This is indeed fact, not metaphor.
We can go a little deeper into correspondences between man and universe. Obviously we must not expect to find our bodies already consisting of free planetary organs revolving round a central sun, any more than we could recognize the outline of a chicken in our breakfast egg, that is if the egg is a fresh one! Plants dig their roots down towards the center of the earth; their center of gravity lies in the earth itself. The animal kingdom, however, consists of organisms which have freed themselves from being static parts of earth. The animal has separated itself from earth, centered its gravity in itself, and become, as it were, a planet circulating round the face of the earth. So it is, or will be, with ourselves; these organs and parts within us are worlds in embryo, worlds in the making. They are being born within us, and in the course of cosmic time, will separate themselves from us, while still remaining parts of the greater beings who will be ourselves at that long-distant date. It is said that already the whole of man's anatomy is present in a human eye.
"Such is the mystery of the human eye that, in their vain endeavours to explain and account for all the difficulties surrounding its action, some scientists have been forced to resort to occult explanations" — wrote H. P. Blavatsky in The Secret Doctrine, II, 295.
"The eye is an entire body, a whole animal," writes Oken in his Elements of Physiophilosophy, p. 420.
If the Absolute was once a man, then the earth itself was once an atom in the body of that divine human being. There is an old legend about a goddess whose beauty and soul became embodied in this planet "earth." Professor Oken, lecturing to his matter-of-fact undergraduates at Jena University, taught how the circulating seas are like unto man's digestive juices, how man's body is like unto crystals of earth, how our respiratory system provides bodily atmosphere, how our bones provide planetary stability, our muscles planetary motion, our nervous system planetary light, and the inherent sensibility in those nerves, he said, is as a central sun in the midst of the planets.
You see, then, the implications of this doctrine; not only do we owe it to ourselves to remember our humble greatness as individuals, but for the future welfare of universes we owe care and right treatment to our own physical bodies and to the spiritual faculties within them.
It is asserted, and I think, theosophically, that disease and infection are not due primarily to causes outside the human body. If we "catch" a cold from someone, for instance, the infection from the other person is only a secondary reason for getting the cold ourselves. The primary reason is presence of germs of the cold inside ourselves, or rather, a state of our own bodily tissues not one hundred per cent healthy, in which their vitality and will to resist the invading virus cannot prevail over it. We cannot absorb the virus and transmute it, with the result that our own bodily tissues begin to break down and to give birth in their turn to germs of the cold, just as cheese gives birth to maggots.
The same thing applies to spiritual health. We are, all of us, capable of the 7, 77, or 777 deadly sins just as we are all capable of the greatest of good works, and of the highest spiritual attainments. The gulf between the prisoner in the condemned cell, and the most respected, honored, and right living individual amongst us, is no broader than a razor's edge. Should we ourselves lose hold of our ideals, should we open the doors of our hearts to doubt and despair, then these seeds within us will fructify, and may bring about our downfall.
Should the prisoner in the condemned cell catch a glimpse of that hope and purpose, and of his divine potentialities, those seeds of altruism and self-sacrifice may fructify, and in some future incarnation he may become a savior among men.
We are indeed compounded of everything that is. It has been well remarked that completely to destroy one human being you would have to unravel the whole universe, for contained in man are all the characteristics of the cosmos, and all the potentialities of universal life. "Man is thus a microcosm in very truth," says Dr. de Purucker in the Dialogues:
If we were able by some wonderful cosmic magic to isolate a man and allow him to pursue his destiny in isolation through life after life after life after life until the Manvantara ended, and there were none to begin the next manvantara except this isolated one individual, do you know that coming down into manifestation as the inaugurator, initiator, and evolver of the world, that one single man from the seeds of lives locked up in him even now, would produce ten classes of monads? Out of him would flow all the families of beings, all the races of beings. From him would come the three Elemental Kingdoms, the Mineral Kingdom, the Vegetable Kingdom, the Animal Kingdom, the Human Kingdom and the three Dhyani-Chohamc Kingdoms. — The Dialogues of G. de P., III, 422
So you see, we humble individuals are not such small fry as we would like, perhaps, to think. We are responsible to untold millions of lives for what we think now, for what we do now. We are so inescapably linked with all creation around us, that we cannot ignore our fellow men, or even our fellow gnats for that matter. If they both irritate us, then all we can possibly do is to help speed up their evolution out of the stage of conflict. For, just as the entities which make up the kingdoms below man are slowly evolving to become men, so are we individual entities growing in mental and spiritual stature, so that in aeons upon aeons to come we shall have grown into god-like creatures, and all creation will have moved up one step with us.
Thus do men become gods, and gods become worlds, and worlds become suns, and suns become universes, and universes in their infinitude make up the Absolute, who was once — a man.