Copyright © 1974 by Theosophical University Press. All rights reserved.
The Arhats of the "fire-mist" of the 7th rung are but one remove from the Root-Base of their Hierarchy — the highest on Earth, and our Terrestrial chain. This "Root-Base" has a name which can only be translated by several compound words into English — "the ever-living-human-Banyan." This "Wondrous Being" descended from a "high region," they say, in the early part of the Third Age, before the separation of the sexes of the Third Race. . . .
He is the "Initiator," called the "GREAT SACRIFICE." For, sitting at the threshold of LIGHT, he looks into it from within the circle of Darkness, which he will not cross; nor will he quit his post till the last day of this life-cycle. Why does the solitary Watcher remain at his self-chosen post? Why does he sit by the fountain of primeval Wisdom, of which he drinks no longer, as he has naught to learn which he does not know — aye, neither on this Earth, nor in its heaven? Because the lonely, sore-footed pilgrims on their way back to their home are never sure to the last moment of not losing their way in this limitless desert of illusion and matter called Earth-Life. Because he would fain show the way to that region of freedom and light, from which he is a voluntary exile himself, to every prisoner who has succeeded in liberating himself from the bonds of flesh and illusion. Because, in short, he has sacrificed himself for the sake of mankind, though but a few Elect may profit by the GREAT SACRIFICE.
It is under the direct, silent guidance of this MAHA — (great) — GURU that all the other less divine Teachers and instructors of mankind became, from the first awakening of human consciousness, the guides of early Humanity. It is through these "Sons of God" that infant humanity got its first notions of all the arts and sciences, as well as of spiritual knowledge; and it is they who have laid the first foundation-stone of those ancient civilizations that puzzle so sorely our modern generation of students and scholars. — The Secret Doctrine, I, 207-8
The hierarchy of compassion is divisible into almost innumerable minor hierarchies, running down the scale of cosmic being from the supreme hierarch of our solar system through all intermediate stages and infilling every one of its planets, until finally its representatives on this physical plane are found on the different globes of the planetary chains. It is built of divinities, demigods, buddhas, bodhisattvas, and great and noble men, who serve as a living channel for the spiritual currents coming to this and every other planet of our system from the heart of the solar divinity, and who themselves shed glory and light and peace upon that pathway from the compassionate deeps of their own being. Little do men know of the immense love, the divine impulses of compassion, which sway the souls of those who form this Hierarchy of Light. They have made the great renunciation, giving up all hope of personal evolutionary progress, it may be for aeons to come, in order to remain at their appointed tasks in the service of the world. Unrecognized, unthanked, they work steadily on, watching others go past them as the slowly moving river of lives sweeps along in unending flow.
On our earth there is a minor hierarchy of light. Working in this sphere there are lofty intelligences, human souls, having their respective places in the hierarchical degrees. These masters or mahatmas are living forces in the spiritual life of the world; and awakened minds and intuitive hearts sense their presence, at least at times.
Consider the wonderful work in which labor those who have preceded us. They are revealers in the sense of unveilers, for they are the initiators, the handers on of light from age to age. Those of the order of the buddhic splendor, of wisdom and compassion, copy among us what takes place in spheres supernal, for there are revealers among the gods themselves. And with these immortals, as we conceive them to be, there is likewise a training school, and a passing on of light from manvantara to manvantara. The old Hermetists were right: what is above is the same as that which is here below, and what is here below is but a shadow, a reflection, of what is above.
At the summit of the Hierarchy of Compassion is the Silent Watcher. He has renounced all; in utter self-sacrifice he waits and watches with infinite pity, reaching downwards into our own sphere, helping and inspiring, in the silences of spiritual compassion. The Silent Watcher remains at his post from the beginning to the ending of the manvantaric life cycle, nor will he move from that post of cosmic compassion until the last thread of destiny of that hierarchy has been spun. He is called the Silent Watcher because he watches and guards through the age-long manvantara in what to us seems to be a divine silence.
This Wondrous Being is the spiritual bond and link of the various bodhisattvas and buddhas of the Hierarchy of Light, both with superior worlds and with us and the lower beings of our round. He is the chief of the spiritual-psychological hierarchy of which the masters form a part. He is the ever-living human banyan from which they — and we too — hang as leaves and fruit. From this Wondrous Being originally come our noblest impulses through our own higher selves: the life and aspiration we feel stirring in our minds and hearts, the urge to betterment, the sense of loyalty and troth — all the things which make life bright and beautiful and well worth living.
We are taught that, as far as great spiritual seers know, the same hierarchical pattern exists on every globe, on every man-bearing planet of every sun in the infinitudes of Space. There is over each one a master teacher, and in each case he merits the term which H.P.B. uses, namely, the "Great Sacrifice," because from boundless compassion for those lower in the scale of evolution he has renounced all hope and opportunity of going higher in this manvantara. He can learn nothing more of this hierarchy, for all knowledge pertaining to it is his already; but he remains behind for aeons as the great inspirer and teacher. He has sacrificed himself for all below him.
Just as the hierarchies in the universe are virtually infinite in number, so are the Wondrous Beings or Silent Watchers, because every one is such only for the series of lives in its hierarchy. There is the Wondrous Being who is the supreme spiritual chief, the Silent Watcher, for the Brotherhood of Compassion. There is one for our globe, who is identic in this case with the hierarch of the Brotherhood of Compassion. There is also one for our planetary chain, and one for each of its globes; there is likewise one for our solar system, whose habitat is the sun, and one for our own home-universe, and so forth forever.
Each such Silent Watcher is the fountain, the parent, of a hierarchy of the Buddhas of Compassion. They are really the ones from which flow forth into the universe those majestic operations of consecutive and never-failingly accurate action which we call natural laws. It is the movement of their will and consciousness which expresses itself thusly, and therefore are they said to be engaged in a perpetual battle — a human metaphor — with the forces of pure matter, with the Ma-mo. This is a general term covering the dark and sinister spirits and operations of nature, which are merely the workings of hosts of monads of the cosmic life climbing slowly upward, but still plunged in the deep spiritual sleep of material existence. The battle of these Silent Watchers is the holding of the laws of life in orderly consequence, so that all go well, and the Light die not out from the universe.
Following the same rule of repetitive action in nature, there is a Silent Watcher for every man, his own inner god — the buddha within him — which is the core of his being, the origin of the fundamental law or consciousness of his hierarchical structure. And there is a Silent Watcher for every atom. As the entire framework of kosmos is built throughout on correspondences and repetitives, there are no absolutes anywhere, and everything is strictly relative to everything else. The divine of one hierarchy is actually grossest matter to another far superior hierarchy; but within one and the other the repetitive rules apply very strictly, because nature has one general and throughout-repeated course of action.
It is obvious that these Silent Watchers are of many grades. The one for our globe D of the earth chain, for instance, is still human, for, although the farthest advanced of humanity, he is not yet evolved out of the human into the god stage. There are planetary spirits, Silent Watchers, who occupy a grade intermediate between divinities and men. There are Silent Watchers among the gods, and some of these manifest themselves as suns — not only as the heart of a sun, the god behind the glorious star which is its garment, but likewise in a sense as that garment, in the same way that a man is not only the spirit and the soul of himself, but also his vehicle; he being thus a physical, psychical, spiritual, and a divine man.
It is likewise true that a greater Silent Watcher is the head of the minor Silent Watchers which he leads, just as the Silent Watcher of our globe, who is a human demigod indeed, but yet a man, is the guardian of our humanity. It is in this Being that our roots of individual consciousness originate, much as the various offshoots of the banyan tree derive their primal origin from the parent trunk which now lives with its children as an equal, yet first among equals. The ever-living human banyan alluded to by H.P.B. is not an incarnated man. It is in fact the Mahachohan (1) of this earth, an entity who was a man in far past ages, in former manvantaras in fact. He is the loftiest of the Buddhas of Compassion, the supreme guide and teacher of the hierarchy of the Great Ones at the present time, the channel through whom pass the sublime inspiration and life flowing from the Silent Watcher of humanity.
The higher self of each one of us is an ever-living human banyan, the source of a multitude of human souls which have been sent forth as branches, which themselves take root in the material world; and these human souls in their turn grow through ages-long evolution to become spiritual banyans, each of them sending out new roots, new branches, but all derivative from the parent tree. Therefore this ever-living human banyan may be called the parent heart of the mahatmas.
When we call this hierarchical Wondrous Being our highest self, our Paramatman, we mean that it is the primeval or originating seed from which we grow and develop into composite entities. From it we spiritually spring. Or we can consider it, in one aspect, as a sheaf of divine light separating into innumerable monads and monadic rays in a manvantara; and, when the pralaya comes, again withdrawing and drawn back into itself, now enriched and ennobled, through its countless hosts of manifested monads and monadic rays, by the individualizing experience that these have gained. The innumerably various consciousnesses increase in power and glory and self-cognition by means of the lives through which they have passed within the life of the greater being.
Some speak of our inner god as if that were the divine ending of us. Yet its realms of consciousness are but the beginning of other realms still more divine, reaching ever deeper and deeper into the womb of Infinitude, because the ladder of life extends endlessly.
Let me try to illustrate: in future ages when the spiritual selfhood of a man will have become, say, a solar divinity, he will be a Silent Watcher of that solar system — its apex, its head, heart and brain, ruling all the hosts of entities which infill that solar system. They will all be his children; now they are life-atoms in his physical body, also of course in his linga-sarira, kama-rupa, manas and in his spiritual part. As an individual he will have no more to learn in that Egg of Brahma, which will then be himself greatly expanded. In other words, all the beings that now compose him, that help him to express himself on all his planes, will themselves have grown into many kinds of entities: atoms, vegetables, animals, men, demigods, etc. — call them angels, archangels, powers, principalities, for the name does not matter much. He himself will be the Silent Watcher, one who will stand in all his solar splendor throughout innumerable aeons, learning no more in the world which then will be his body, his self-expression — living for the sake of the lives who had sprung forth from him, as sparks from a central fire. Of course, in his still higher parts he will be learning on planes correspondingly higher; but half of his attention, of his life, intelligence, and possibilities for individual growth as a god, will be devoted to the hosts composing the lower elements of his being. He cannot, will not, advance one step and leave a single life-atom behind him abandoned, on the long, long, evolutionary trail, because this would be impossible. This is partly karma, and partly pure compassion. Such is the sublime destiny of us all.
Let us take another example, the Silent Watcher of our planetary chain. When our solar system began, our planetary chain was there among the "sons of God" — the god was Father Sun, and the sons were the divinities in and around it — and the highest being of our chain, the most progressed planetary spirit of that same planetary chain as it was in the preceding solar manvantara, now reimbodies itself as the leader, the coryphaeus, of our present chain. Furthermore, throughout all the many reimbodiments of our planetary chain during the solar manvantara, that one planetary spirit will be our Silent Watcher. It has, so to speak, to drag the heavy weight of the whole planetary chain hanging like a multiple pendant from it, but never for an instant wishing to free itself from the multitudinous hosts composing that chain, ourselves among them.
A third example, on the human plane, is the upper triad of man's constitution, atma-buddhi-manas — call it the Christ-monad or inner Buddha, if you will — his own individual Silent Watcher. It is himself, and yet not himself. In this thought lies the true significance of a Silent Watcher: the solitary spiritual entity who will not go higher alone, and who reproduces as from a source every new reimbodiment of the man as a human soul. This is brought about by means of the ray from this Silent Watcher within man.
As the Pythagoreans phrased it, the highest triad remains in "silence and darkness," and verily is the root of our being. It is silence and darkness to us; but actually our human life is the darkness. In its own being this upper triad is supernal light, unspeakable glory, and its silence is such to us only because our ears are not trained to hear what there takes place.
Another instance of a human Silent Watcher is the spiritual head of all the adepts who have ever lived on this globe, who now live, or who will live in the future: the one whom they all recognize as their spiritual father, a man and yet a demigod, because a god imbodied in a highly advanced man's soul. He is an actual imbodied being, although not necessarily possessing a body of flesh. It may well be that he is imbodied as a nirmanakaya, more likely than not; a nirmanakaya is a complete man minus the lower gross triad. This entity, the Silent Watcher of our globe and its humanity, is on earth.
This Wondrous Being is the hierarchical Brotherhood of adepts of our planetary chain, begun in the fourth round on our globe at about the middle period of the third root-race — which was the period when humanity was beginning to be self-conscious and ready for the receiving of light. The descent of this Being from a high plane, from globe A by way of globes B and C, was rather a projection of energy than a descent of an imbodied entity downwards. It was a visitation in our underworld, (2) undertaken for the sake of helping those beings living in its 'shadows.'
Now this Wondrous Being is a dhyani-buddha. Interlocked in his vital essence, streaming forth from him as from a sun, are innumerable rays, and these various children rays are human egos. Like the banyan tree, this Wondrous Being sends forth tendrils of the spirit which reach down into the substantial fabric of the universe in which he lives, and there take root; and because of receiving from him the life essence, they themselves become banyan trees, growing up in their turn. In other words, they achieve full evolutionary growth, spiritual and intellectual and psychical maturity, and then send forth other new tendrils 'downwards,' which take root, thus building up new trunks, etc.
One of the most beautiful teachings of theosophy is that this Wondrous Being came from a "high region" as a visitor to us, living in what was to him the underworld, and dwelling for a time amongst us as the primal master-spirit of the human race — a Being at once one and many — a mystery.
In the sevenfold constitution of every manifested being, not only of man but of the gods, are 'three vestures,' known in esoteric Buddhism as the trikaya, to wit, the dharmakaya, the sambhogakaya, and the nirmanakaya. It is, however, only in the more advanced humans (or in beings equivalent to them) that these vestures become self-consciously active and functioning.
In every being this threefold essence has a common identic origin, and this fountainhead is the Wondrous Being who is at the same time 'the One and the Many,' manifesting throughout the hierarchy in a succession of beings emanating from itself, and therefore existing and functioning both as an individual and as an aggregate in the dharmakaya, the sambhogakaya and the nirmanakaya states from the beginning of the great cosmic manvantara until its end.
The highest aspect or sub-entity of the Wondrous Being is the First Logos or primal spirit, called Adi-buddha, adi meaning primeval. It is this Adi-buddha that is in the dharmakaya state: that of pure consciousness, pure bliss, pure intelligence, freed from all personalizing thought; it is that spiritual body or condition of a being in which the sense of soulship and egoity has vanished into the universal or hierarchical. The second aspect of the Wondrous Being is called the dhyani-buddha, and is carried by the sambhogakaya, meaning participation-body, because the buddha in the sambhogakaya state still retains its consciousness as an individual, its egoship. The third aspect or sub-entity is the manushya-buddha, meaning human buddha, so named because born in a human body for compassionate work among men; at will or need, he lives and works in the nirmanakaya, about which a very wonderful doctrine exists. In one sense it is the highest of the three aspects on account of the immense, willing, self-sacrifice involved in the incarnation into human existence. It is along the line of the dhyani- and the manushya-buddhas that the wisdom-teaching of the ages is mystically handed down to mankind through their representatives on earth, the Brotherhood of adepts. They constitute the spiritual-psychological aspect of the Wondrous Being, and are the Hierarchy of Compassion, called by the Greeks the Golden Chain of Hermes.
In such noble humans as the mahatmas — although less so than in the various grades of bodhisattvas and buddhas — not only are these three vestures self-consciously active and functional, but these exalted men can at will shift their center of consciousness almost completely from the one to the other.
Now when the self-conscious ego chooses to center its consciousness in the dharmakaya, and if this choice has been definitely made, its nirvana is irrevocable, for from that moment the lower parts of the constitution are cast off and the buddha-adept rises into the nirvana state where he remains for ages — until the end of the cosmic manvantara. Thus do the Buddhas of Compassion attain the dharmakaya condition, which gives them the right to enter nirvana; but they renounce it, and a few of them remain in the sambhogakaya, though many choose the nirmanakaya. The Pratyeka Buddhas, on the other hand, deliberately strive to "attain the sublimity of the dharmakaya" and therein remain sunken in selfish spiritual bliss and isolation until the next cosmic manvantara opens.
The sambhogakaya is the intermediate vesture, and is the state of those grand beings who for various karmic reasons partake to a certain extent of the wisdom and unutterable bliss of the dharmakaya, yet are held by karmic bonds of sympathy with the multitudes of suffering beings trailing behind, and thus to a degree are functional in the nirmanakaya as well.
Those beings who have become self-consciously functional in the nirmanakaya, choose this vesture in order to remain in contact with mankind; for the nirmanakaya condition enables them to exercise a steady and continuous influence of a highly spiritual and intellectual kind in human affairs, and also to give direct aid when karma permits.
The bodhisattvas invariably choose the nirmanakaya vesture when their initiatory rank enables them to do so, although a few of them for karmic reasons which even with their great wisdom and will they cannot control, find it needful to assume the sambhogakaya. When the karmic causes have worked themselves out, they either reincarnate and later assume the nirmanakaya vesture, or assume it immediately.
I might mention that the three vestures can be correlated to the three dhatus of Buddhism, these dhatus being respectively the spiritual realms, the intermediate or higher manifested worlds, and the lower cosmic subplanes on which we humans are presently living. Thus the dharmakaya belongs to the arupa-dhatu; the sambhogakaya to the rupa-dhatu; and the nirmanakaya to the kama-dhatu.
Likewise these three vestures correspond to the three divisions of the human constitution — broadly spoken of in the West as spirit, soul and body — which the adept or initiate on rare occasions when the need arises can separate one from the other without killing himself. The dharmakaya, then, corresponds to the higher triad, atma-buddhi-manas (or rather higher manas here); the sambhogakaya to the higher manas conjoined with kama and the higher ranges of prana; and the nirmanakaya to manas-kama-prana and the astral garment that these three exude from themselves. Since the nirmanakaya is living in the astral worlds, he obviously needs an 'astral body' corresponding to the plane on which he is active. Furthermore, his higher manas and buddhi are of course functional within him, although his self-conscious field of work is in the manas-kama-prana, just as the self-consciousness of man today is largely centered in the kama-manas and the lower principles, yet the higher principles are more or less functional in him.
All such statements, it is to be remembered, are merely crutches of thought and therefore we should not permanently anchor our thinking to any particular manner of viewing these correspondences. As a matter of fact, the nirmanakaya comprises everything except the lowest triad, that is, the body, the physical-astral pranas, and the linga-sarira. It includes the sambhogakaya and the dharmakaya to boot; but the center of consciousness is for the time being placed in the particular nirmanakaya quality of consciousness itself.
It is not possible for even the adept to be self-consciously functioning in fullness in all three vestures at one and the same time; but he can choose at will in which one he wishes temporarily to function. Whatever may be the one he chooses to work in at any given time, the atmic stream of consciousness is always pouring through him. Hence, such separation or temporary concentration of self-consciousness in one of the vestures does not mean that the vesture thus selected is broken off from the remainder of the constitution, for such a rupture would bring about dissolution of the whole constitution and spell complete death to the adept.
The teaching concerning the trikaya is one of the sublimest in the entire range of occultism. It is in order to bring forth into self-conscious functioning this living threefold buddhic essence in the constitution of every human being, that the masters of wisdom and compassion, when on the threshold of nirvana, renounce that lofty state and return to guide and teach men.
The truths revealed to man by the "Planetary Spirits" (the highest Kumaras, those who incarnate no longer in the universe during this Maha-manvantara), who appear on earth as Avatars only at the beginning of every new human race, and at the junctions or close of the two ends of the small and great cycle — in time, as man became more animalized, were made to fade away from his memory. Yet, though these Teachers remain with man no longer than the time required to impress upon the plastic minds of child-humanity the eternal verities they teach, their spirit remains vivid though latent in mankind. And the full knowledge of the primitive revelation has remained always with a few Elect, and has been transmitted from that time up to the present, from one generation of Adepts to another. As the Teachers say in the Occult Primer: "This is done so as to ensure them (the eternal truths) from being utterly lost or forgotten in ages hereafter by the forthcoming generations. . . . The mission of the Planetary Spirit is but to strike the key-note of Truth. Once he has directed the vibration of the latter to run its course uninterruptedly along the concatenation of the race to the end of the cycle, he disappears from our earth until the following Planetary Manvantara. The mission of any teacher of esoteric truths, whether he stands at the top or the foot of the ladder of knowledge, is precisely the same: as above, so below. — H.P.B.'s E.S. Instructions, III
The classes of spiritual beings which infill our solar system are twelve in number, often however referred to as ten, of which three are spoken of as residing in the silence, and seven as being manifested. As H.P.B. wrote in The Secret Doctrine (II, 77):
Occultism divides the "Creators" into twelve classes; of which four have reached liberation to the end of the "Great Age," the fifth is ready to reach it, but still remains active on the intellectual planes, while seven are still under direct Karmic law. These last act on the man-bearing globes of our chain.
The four highest of the twelve classes of monadic or spiritual entities are the highest classes of the gods. The fifth class are entities who stand on the threshold of divinity, and may be regarded as quasi-divine; these are the various grades of the higher buddhas, whether Buddhas of Compassion or even the highest Pratyeka Buddhas. They are lofty spirits, liberated dhyani-chohans, above the lower seven grades of manifested beings. This fifth class composes, collectively, the link by which all the lower septenary manifested universe is held as a pendant from the divine realms. As the apex of any one hierarchy blends into the lowest plane of the one superior to it, there must be links between them, connecting agencies, hierarchies of beings serving as intermediaries. It is this fifth class of lofty beings which directly links us with the gods. Their place in nature is in fact the realm of the Silent Watcher.
The remaining seven classes of monads or cosmic spirits — dhyani-chohans of many grades and degrees — are commonly divided into two groups: the upper three, and the lower four. Those of the upper three of this septenary host of spiritual beings are spoken of as the dhyani-buddhas and it is they who comprise the Hierarchy of Compassion. They are the intelligences impelling the builders, i.e. the dhyani-chohans of the lower four, into action. It is the interacting of the energy-substances between these two lines which together comprise the totality of all evolutionary processes within our kosmos. These two lines should not be confused. The dhyani-buddhas are the architects, the overseers who provide the model, lay down the plans, and their work is carried out by the inferior grades of dhyani-chohans called the builders, who receive the creative impress from the beings of the luminous arc, and carry it out. The builders not only work in, but actually form, the outer or material kosmos, and are (in one sense) the lower principles of the dhyani-buddhas who compose the inner kosmos. Now each of these two lines is septenary: there are seven classes of dhyani-buddhas, and seven classes of the inferior grades of dhyani-chohans.
The acme of any hierarchy is its seed, its root, the originating life center from which the hierarchy hangs as a fruit from a bough of the Tree of Life. This rule prevails throughout the universe and consequently the origin and fountain of the life of all the dhyani-buddhas is the summit of that particular hierarchy to which they belong. It is this summit of a hierarchy we sometimes call, 'He who watches in silence': a phrase similar to the expression, 'lords of meditation,' i.e. dhyani-chohans (cf. Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, chs. XXIX and XL). This does not mean that these lofty spiritual beings pass their time in doing nothing but meditating, in the human sense of the word. They are spoken of as 'lords of meditation' because that is the manner in which the human mind mystically conceives them to be. Actually, on their own plane they enjoy a state of high spiritual activity and are collaborators in the great cosmic work with the higher gods. Another reason why they are so named, is that the dhyani-chohan at the heart of each one of us, our own inner god, is conceived by us as an entity meditating in the silence through the ages, awaiting the time when this inner Buddha, this immanent Christos, shall be enabled to bring up to its own spiritual state of power and wisdom our struggling human soul.
If some of the beings living on the electrons of the atoms of our body were to think of the human consciousness, which is their fountain of existence and vitality, I doubt not that these infinitesimal thinking entities would regard us as lords of meditation. Our human life is lived on a scale much slower, much more majestic, than is their frenzied existence; and consequently the duration of a single human thought, fleeting as it seems to us, would be to them a state of consciousness of immense duration. Similarly we human beings living our own frenzied little lives in comparison with the majestic time periods of godlike entities, can conceive of them only as plunged in a state of deep spiritual consciousness, each phase or thought of which to us seems to be ages long. And higher even than these lofty beings are other ranges of entities still more sublime.
A full-blown dhyani-chohan was aeons upon aeons ago, in other solar manvantaras, a life-atom; and every one of the hosts of life-atoms that compose our entire constitution on all its planes and in all its principles is in its outer self a dhyani-chohan-to-be and at its heart of hearts a fully developed dhyani-chohan — although as yet unexpressed. So man is not only one essence, which is already a dhyani-chohan, but is also a host, a vast and almost infinite multitude of unevolved dhyani-chohans. Even his human soul is on its way to evolving forth dhyani-chohanship.
The human life-wave at the end of the seventh round of our planetary chain will have become a dhyani-chohanic host, a race of gods, ready to take their flight into the interior spaces of Space. Man will have blossomed forth into a self-conscious god, not yet 'God,' or the summit of the hierarchy to which he belongs by karmic descent, but a god. He will have become a planetary spirit, a dhyani-chohan, one of that wondrous host of spiritual beings who are the perfected men of former manvantaras. When we first started on this pilgrimage in this manvantara, it was these dhyani-chohans, our own spiritual lords, who opened the path for us, who guided our uncertain steps as we became men, incarnations of our higher selves. When we became self-conscious, we began to guide ourselves, and to work consciously with them according to our evolution.
The agnishwattas (3) or solar Lhas are another aspect of this chohanic host. The agnishwatta pitris belong to the higher triad of the manifested seven which work directly in and through man. And it is precisely because we are straitly allied with this solar hierarchy, in fact belong to it, that we have these links of psychological and intellectual and spiritual connection with the solar divinity, Father Sun.
Indeed, we are Sons of the Sun or solar pitris in our higher parts. Or, more accurately still, we shall become such when the agnishwatta-energy, a fully developed Son of the Sun, now overshadowing each of us, will have worked the spiritual marvel within us — raised us to its own stature. Every human being is the temple of a ray of the solar splendor, here not referring to the physical sun alone, but to the auric egg of the inner sun which is an indwelling divinity giving to the manifested sun the light and life which it sheds throughout its kingdom.
Most of the Egyptian kings, as shown on the cartouche of many of them, bore as one of their titles the dignity of Son of the Sun. In the earliest days of Egypt, where this was a truly royal salutation, it signified an actual passing, by initiation in the fourth degree, of the inner constitution of man out of the sphere of earth and across the planetary spaces, until one had entered the portals of the sun and, spiritually speaking, had come into communication with the lord and giver of life of the solar system.
There were other countries also which followed and retained the ancient rites and therefore the titles; and frequently in their older literatures, and sometimes in their more modern writings, we find the identic initiatory expression used, Son of the Sun. The ancient Egyptian kings, and the mystics of all peoples who passed through this wonderful rite, trod that pathway and returned true saviors of their fellow men.
The manasaputras (4) are likewise dhyani-chohans. There are seven classes of these manasaputras, just as there are seven classes of agnishwattas. In fact, the agnishwatta-energy and the manasaputra-energy are two aspects of the same cosmic beings. The incarnation or entrance of these manasaputras into the as yet mentally unawakened humanity, of the middle and later third root-race of this fourth globe during this present fourth round, took place in seven stages, according to the seven classes of the manasaputras. It took ages before all the humanity of that period became self-conscious. The highest class of the manasaputras incarnated first, so that the human vehicles in which they imbodied were not only the first to become self-conscious, but likewise were the greatest humans of that far distant period; and the least advanced manasaputras were they who entered the lowest human vehicles, which were also the last in time to become self-conscious.
The entrance of the manasaputras into the then still unself-conscious vehicles was a karmic act, and corresponded in racial history to the entrance of mind into the human child today. The one is racial, the other is individual; but the rule is the same. This event occurred when mind, the ability to understand, was unfolded. Or, as it is expressed in The Secret Doctrine, the manasaputras descended and taught; they came from the higher and invisible realms and incarnated in the as yet senseless brain, and men thenceforward were self-conscious, thinking, intelligent beings. As a babe in its earliest years is not strictly human in the sense that mind, the reincarnating ego, is not yet manifesting its powers, so likewise was the condition of the human life stream preceding the middle point of the third root-race: the human vehicles were there, but mind was asleep.
These manasaputric entities were not entirely extraneous from the beings into which they poured their divine flame of intelligence. The fact is that the time had come in the ages-long cycling of the pilgrims' journey when their lower psychical and physical apparatus had through evolution been raised to the point where their higher part could manifest itself even on this physical plane, and thus make out of the then dreamy and quasi-conscious entities self-conscious human beings.
Nevertheless these manasaputras, our own higher egos, did come from other spheres. The two statements are perfectly consistent, because the essence of a man is by no means bound by the limitations of his physical body. His higher ego, the manasaputra working in him even at the present day, lives in another sphere than that of his brain, and is itself but a veil of the still higher spiritual parts of the monadic essence.
Each one of us, as a human being, as a reincarnating manasaputra, draws the origin of that part of his constitution from the solar divinity. And when, through initiation combined with strong spiritual striving upwards, we attain self-conscious communion with this solar flame dwelling in our heart, then we of right can bear the title Son of the Sun.
As all manasaputras and all agnishwatta pitris are dhyani-chohans, they are therefore practically identical. The difference is that the agnishwatta element emphasizes that portion of their nature which relates to their having become at one with, and channels for, the manifestation of the cosmic fire, the fire of spiritual being; whereas the manasaputra stresses the fact that they have become identified or at one with that part of their own inner core whose element is the fire of spiritual consciousness.
Kumara (5) is still another name for these gods or cosmic spirits, and constitutes a third aspect of the same host of beings. Each hierarchy, whether it be sun, planet, or man himself, is an aggregate of monads, all connected together by unbreakable bonds — not of matter or of thought, but of the essence of the universe. They are intrinsically one, just as every ray that springs from Father Sun is of the same fundamental stuff, and yet they are different as individuals. The monads are kumaras higher even than the agnishwattas and manasaputras. The agnishwattas or manasaputras are called kumaras because, as compared with us, they are beings of spiritual purity. Of these three terms, kumaras is the most general, and could likewise be applied to other hierarchies of beings which cannot technically be called manasaputras or agnishwattas.
While these three names appertain to the same class of beings, each has its own significance. An unconscious god-spark begins its evolution in any one mahamanvantara as a kumara, a being of original spiritual purity, as yet untouched by matter. When the evolving entity has become a fully self-conscious divinity, it then is an agnishwatta, for it has been purified by the working through it of the spiritual fires inherent in itself. When such an agnishwatta assumes the role of a bringer of mind to a lunar pitri in which a ray from it incarnates, it then, although in its own realm an agnishwatta, functions as a manasaputra.
No man can be a complete human being unless he possess within himself spiritual, intellectual, psychical, vital, astral, and physical elements; and, furthermore, unless he be connected by the three higher — thus forming the ten — with his inner god. We are now the evolved lunar pitris; in other words, we as human souls are the lunar pitris become what we at present are, considerably evolved from the time when we came from the moon.
Of the seven classes of lunar pitris the four lower are the builders, the laborers so to speak; the three higher are the architects, the planners, the evolvers of the idea which the builders follow. These three higher classes of dhyani-chohans or lunar pitris we may speak of, first, as the highest buddhas. The second class is the sons of mind, the manasaputras or agnishwatta pitris — lunar pitris also because, although they come from the sun, they do so through the moon. The third class we may refer to merely as dhyani-chohans. These three are the spiritual and intellectual classes, whereas the four lower classes, grouped under the general name of barhishad pitris, are they who work in the more material realms, following automatically and instinctively the life plans which the spiritual classes have cast upon them in vital waves.
The doctrine of the avatara (6) is a deeply mystical one. It will lead us, perhaps more than any other teaching, to a realization that wonderful indeed are the mysteries hidden behind the veil of the outer seeming. An avatara is a spiritual transitory event. It comes as a blinding light from heaven into the world of men, passes athwart the sky of human affairs, and vanishes. There will be many avataras in the future, as there have been many in the past.
The avatara is a magical composition, a putting together of spiritual, psychical, astral, and physical elements. Just as is an ordinary human being, it is composed of three bases: spirit, soul, body; but instead of being a man — a reincarnating ego with a long karmic past stretching back into the infinitudes of duration, and with a long karmic future ahead of it — the avatara is a temporary union of these three elements, in order to produce a more or less permanent spiritual and intellectual effect among men. It is a sublime feat of the highest white magic deliberately brought about by the masters of wisdom and compassion, in order to introduce into our human atmosphere the direct influence and energy of a god.
The avatara has no past and no future because it possesses no reincarnating ego in the sense that a complete human being does. The intermediate nature of an avatara is loaned by a very highly evolved human being of buddha-type. Lord Gautama the Buddha was the one who furnished his own psycho-spiritual apparatus to the avatara Sankaracharya in India, and also to Jesus the Christos. Neither of these two had any past or future karma, in the usual meaning of the word. The avatara, as such, is an illusion, a pure maya, and obviously it is impossible for an illusion to reimbody itself. Yet, strangely enough, it is this maya which does a wonderful work in the world. The divinity is no maya, the buddhic element is no maya, the body is no maya, but it is the combining of these three into a temporary union which is the maya.
The following extract describes graphically, yet succinctly, the main characteristic of the nature and function of all avataric beings, but especially of the upapadaka avataras. (7) It is taken from papers left by H.P.B., which were published after her death as a so-called third volume of The Secret Doctrine:
There is a great mystery in such incarnations and they are outside and beyond the cycle of general re-births. Rebirths may be divided into three classes: the divine incarnations called Avataras; those of Adepts who give up Nirvana for the sake of helping on humanity — the Nirmanakayas; and the natural succession of rebirths for all — the common law. The Avatara is an appearance, one which may be termed a special illusion within the natural illusion that reigns on the planes under the sway of that power, Maya; the Adept is re-born consciously, at his will and pleasure; the units of the common herd unconsciously follow the great law of dual evolution.
What is an Avatara? for the term before being used ought to be well understood. It is a descent of the manifested Deity — whether under the specific name of Shiva, Vishnu, or Adi-Buddha — into an illusive form of individuality, an appearance which to men on this illusive plane is objective, but it is not so in sober fact. That illusive form having neither past nor future, because it had neither previous incarnation nor will have subsequent rebirths, has naught to do with Karma, which has therefore no hold on it.
A Buddha of Compassion can incarnate in a human body whenever he so wills, but this they very rarely or perhaps never do, because nature's spiritual mechanisms are so delicately adjusted that they come at certain cyclic times in racial history. Nevertheless their great influence is flowing out from them constantly, permeating the human heart and stimulating the human intellect — at least whenever the divine visitor is welcomed. It is they who are the sublime hope of the human race, the inspirers and teachers of mankind. They are the nirmanakayas in their different stages; and to this day the nirmanakaya of him who is known as Gautama remains on earth, and is known by great initiates and mahatmas; and he teaches and inspires and initiates in earth's most holy spot, an unknown district of Central Asia, known in mystic records as Sambhala. There the great initiations take place. There are the Buddhas born, and reborn.
A buddha is one who has ascended the rungs of the ladder of life one after the other, and who thus has attained buddhahood, which means human plenitude of spiritual and intellectual glory, and who has done all this by his own self-directed exertions along the far past evolutionary pathway. An avatara, on the contrary, is a flaming spiritual splendor which passes across the horizon of human history, stays for a while, and then disappears. An avatara comes at certain cyclical periods, when evil is running strong in the world and virtue is fading from men's hearts; then there occurs a descent or imbodiment of a divine being, which in the spiritual realms is ready and waiting. But in order to make contact with the sphere of human life, an unusually evolved and holy intermediate vehicle or principle is necessary to step down the divine current. This intermediary is furnished by a Buddha of Compassion in order that the imbodying divinity may shine through and thus illumine still more strongly this loaned intermediate nature of the Buddha which thereupon incarnates in a human seed.
When the avatara vanishes the body is dissipated, and the loaned part returns to the Buddha — yet to say that it 'returns' would give a wrong idea, because it suggests that it had been separated from the Buddha, which is inexact. It is the Buddha; but after the death of the avatara, the Buddha then is in full possession and use of all his faculties, instead of being in the position of having loaned the noblest portion of his psychical apparatus. The divinity receives back to itself its divine ray, the projection of its essence which it had sent forth into the avatara composition. As a tongue of flame from a fire will leap forth and then recede, so does the divine ray flash back to its divine source — and this is instantaneous, for the action of the spirit is quicker than thought.
There are really two kinds of avataras: the upapadaka and the anupapadaka, and the distinction between these avataric 'descents' is seen in the Sanskrit words themselves. Upapadaka means 'caused to follow along or according to,' 'caused to occur.' Anupapadaka is the opposite of this, 'not caused to follow along,' etc., and consequently may be translated as one who does not go or come according to a line of succession; hence, not signifying a messenger in a line of messengers, each passing the torch of Light to the hand of his successor.
The upapadaka class of avataric beings is almost unknown popularly, and scarcely even suspected in the philosophical schools of India and elsewhere, whereas the anupapadaka is fairly well understood as being a 'descent' of a portion of a divine being into a human individual for the purpose of carrying out some great and lofty objective in the world. The upapadakas, quite rare in human history, are called such because they are caused to follow along or to occur by the swabhava of the psychological instrument through which the avataric ray functions, much as a ray of brilliant sunlight streaming through a stained-glass window is caused to be the color of the glass. In other words, the divine ray, although having its own swabhava, nevertheless is de facto modified in its expression by the strong characteristics and individuality of the Buddha's psychological apparatus through which it works; and thus is said to be upapadaka.
Now the anupapadaka avataras are much more numerous since this class includes all the various modes by which a divine ray manifests itself in human life. The term anupapadaka was somewhat paraphrased by H.P.B. as "self-born of divine essence," and this exactly describes the nature and type of this class of avatara in any world where such manifestations take place.
As instances of the anupapadaka class, there are, first, the dhyani-buddhas, self-born from the womb of the cosmic intelligence, and nevertheless appearing through their own inherent spiritual swabhava and urge. Again, the various kinds of true logoi are likewise anupapadaka avataras in a sense, and indeed the dhyani-buddhas are rays from such logoi, although these dhyani-buddhas themselves are of anupapadaka character. As other examples of somewhat different types of anupapadakas, we may point to those fairly rare cases of surpassing human spiritual and intellectual genius, where the dhyani-buddha of the man himself inspires or infills by its direct radiance the man's own psychological apparatus; and perhaps the most noteworthy of this type of anupapadaka avataric descents are the manushya-buddhas, such as Gautama the Buddha.
All this teaching regarding the avataras is typically esoteric and therefore was only pointed to by H.P.B., and then usually in rather ambiguous terms and even sometimes in language which, while correct, is a 'blind.' In her Theosophical Glossary (p. 44) — a posthumous work which never underwent her correcting hand — she states that "there are two kinds of avatars: those born from woman, and the parentless, the anupapadaka." Now the anupapadakas are indeed "parentless," for they are divine rays arising in the bosom of the divine monad and streaming downwards in their various descents in order to do their work in the world through their reflections or representatives on earth — i.e. their own human vehicles. It is the much rarer cases of the upapadakas who are "born from woman"; and just here is the blind, for naturally, as far as physical bodies go, any human being who is an anupapadaka avatara likewise must work through a body born from a woman.
The point here is that the upapadaka avataras are really 'creations' of a sublime and lofty white magic. Sankaracharya was one, as was Jesus; and these two alone, with their greatly differing characteristics, show that the upapadakas vary among themselves.
The wide range of the anupapadaka class includes all the different individuals who send a radiance from themselves through their own lower constitution. Hence they extend all the way from the dhyani-buddhas and logoi down to those great men and women who are inspired each one by his or her inner god. Examples of avataras which are anupapadaka are very numerous in history, and are often mentioned in religion and philosophy. We may cite the long line of the true manushya-buddhas, of which Gautama was one. Tsong-kha-pa of Tibet, who lived in the fourteenth century of the Christian era, was a sort of minor anupapadaka manushya-buddha likewise. Krishna was another example of an anupapadaka avatara.
The 'second coming' of Christ — not of Jesus but of the Christ-spirit — alludes to the universally held belief that Adi-buddha or the Christos, the Logos, manifests itself from time to time in the world. In other words, the 'second coming' is simply a new manifestation of the Logos, the Christos. As Krishna says in the Bhagavad-Gita:
Whenever, O descendant of Bharata, a decline of duty comes into being — a springing up of unrighteousness — then, indeed, I emanate myself.
For the preservation of the righteous, for the destruction of the evil-doers, for the sake of establishing Duty, I take birth from age to age. — Chapter iv, slokas 7-8
Here we have Krishna, the type-avatara of Hindustan, implying that he comes at different times into the manifested world as an avataric energy at the beginnings of descending or materializing cycles in human experience. He spoke in his divine capacity as being one of the gods who inspirit and invigorate our universe. It is obvious from the reach of this teaching that many gods can and do have avataric manifestations. The one who was in Krishna as the divine essence may have manifested as an avatara many times before, and inevitably will manifest again; and the same divinity which worked through Jesus must have sent a divine ray into other human beings in the past, i.e. into other avataric entities, and will do so again.
In a way every human being's own inner god, who is a spark of the cosmic spirit, could say the same words as those ascribed to Krishna. For the average man today, buffeted as he is by the winds of destiny because he has no spiritual holding-power, it would be a manifestation resembling that of an avatara if his inner divinity — the heart of his reincarnating ego — were to express itself more or less continuously through his consciousness, and therefore through his physical brain. When such an event happens, we have a buddha — one no longer an ordinary human being, but one glorified.
A buddha is one who, during past ages, through self-directed evolution, has evolved forth the god within himself. Working for all that is, he advances steadily towards godhood; and it is this utter self-sacrifice of the human being, of the most lofty type conceivable, which makes of a buddha so holy and exalted a being. That is why any Buddha of Compassion is considered in the esoteric philosophy to be even above an avatara. Nevertheless, so far as rank goes, the avatara stands higher. We should not confuse mere rank with evolutionary development. Nothing on earth stands higher in evolution than the Buddhas of Compassion, for they are the very imbodiment of wisdom and love. It is they who form the Guardian Wall around mankind.
The avatara is a most sublime event in the spiritual history of mankind — like the coming of a great light for purposes esoteric and wonderful; but the light comes and passes; while a buddha continues his noble work forever, time without ending. But they really cannot be compared. The buddha assists the coming of the avatara. Both come at cyclic periods: the avataras usually at the beginning of a downward cycle, the buddhas at the beginning of ascending as well as descending cycles.
As said earlier, the dhyani-buddhas are all anupapadaka; yet they themselves (whether we count them as seven or as ten or twelve) were divine avataric rays from the Adi-buddha, the Logos, which Buddhist mystical writings call Avalokitesvara. Avalokitesvara itself is thus the synthesis or origin of the dhyani-buddhas radiating from it; and, furthermore, is a grand logoic avatara of the anupapadaka class.
Now, in a certain sense, every buddha, as being a manifestation of the spiritual efflux of a dhyani-buddha, is an anupapadaka avatara. Every time a human being unites himself with his inner god, even if it be momentarily, he becomes for that brief period an anupapadaka avatara — self-made or self-born. He is not necessarily made so by initiation, nor by an act of white magic as the other class of avataras is. For the same reason every buddha may be said to be an anupapadaka, a self-born avatara, because he is allied with the dhyani-buddha, the celestial buddha. For the time being he becomes the vehicle or channel through which this celestial buddha, his own inner divinity, manifests with relative fullness. In such case it is more than the buddha's own spiritual ego at work.
I have elsewhere stated that all of the manushya-buddhas, the racial buddhas, are, each one, the representative or reflection on earth of his respective dhyani-buddha. For example, Amitabha, the dhyani-buddha, radiated the inner god of Sakyamuni called Gautama the Buddha; and the same Amitabha radiated the inner individual buddha or inner god of Tsong-kha-pa. Now this fact alone establishes a very intimate or personal connection between Gautama the Buddha and Tsong-kha-pa. I quote here the significant passage from The Secret Doctrine (I, 108) which bears directly upon this matter:
Esoterically, however, the Dhyani-Buddhas are seven, of whom five only have hitherto manifested, and two are to come in the sixth and seventh Root-races. They are, so to speak, the eternal prototypes of the Buddhas who appear on this earth, each of whom has his particular divine prototype. So, for instance, Amitabha is the Dhyani-Buddha of Gautama Sakyamuni, manifesting through him whenever this great Soul incarnates on earth as He did in Tzon-kha-pa. As the synthesis of the seven Dhyani-Buddhas, Avalokiteswara was the first Buddha (the Logos), so Amitabha is the inner "God" of Gautama, who, in China, is called Amita (-Buddha). They are, as Mr. Rhys Davids correctly states, "the glorious counterparts in the mystic world, free from the debasing conditions of this material life" of every earthly mortal Buddha — the liberated Manushi-Buddhas appointed to govern the Earth in this Round. They are the "Buddhas of Contemplation," and are all Anupadaka (parentless), i.e., self-born of divine essence.
Each one of these seven dhyani-buddhas is the spiritual guide or Manu for one of the seven globes of our planetary chain, and during each round on any such globe, the manushya-buddhas respectively appearing in the seven root-races are all the anupapadaka 'reflections' of the dhyani-buddha of that globe.
There has been a good deal of rather gushy and vapid writing in certain circles about the coming of the next Buddha, whom Buddhists everywhere expect to come in the due course of the cycling ages, and whom they have called Maitreya — a Sanskrit word which can be translated as the Friendly. Now just when the Buddha-Maitreya is to appear is known only by the mahatmas themselves, and by those higher than they; but it certainly will not be for many thousands of years. The reason for this is twofold: (a) the Buddha-Maitreya in his manifested fullness of power will be the racial buddha of the seventh root-race on this globe in this fourth round; and (b), a minor racial buddha appears in every one of the seven great subraces of a root-race; and hence the Buddha-Maitreya who is expected to be the next buddhic avataric manifestation among men will be that particular minor manushya-buddha, called 'Maitreya,' who will appear at the end, or the seventh and last part, of our present great subrace and therefore at the beginning of the succeeding great subrace — and this is many, many thousands of years distant.
The Buddhists have always stoutly denied that their BUDDHA was, as alleged by the Brahmans, an Avatara of Vishnu in the same sense as a man is an incarnation of his Karmic ancestor. They deny it partly, perhaps, because the esoteric meaning of the term "Maha Vishnu" is not known to them in its full, impersonal, and general meaning. There is a mysterious Principle in Nature called "Maha Vishnu," which is not the God of that name, but a principle which contains Bija, the seed of Avatarism or, in other words, is the potency and cause of such divine incarnations. All the World-Saviours, the Bodhisattvas and the Avataras, are the trees of salvation grown out from the one seed, the Bija or "Maha Vishnu." Whether it be called Adi-Buddha (Primeval Wisdom) or Maha Vishnu, it is all the same. Understood esoterically, Vishnu is both Saguna and Nirguna (with and without attributes). In the first aspect, Vishnu is the object of exoteric worship and devotion; in the second, as Nirguna, he is the culmination of the totality of spiritual wisdom in the Universe — Nirvana, in short — and has as worshippers all philosophical minds. In this esoteric sense the Lord BUDDHA was an incarnation of Maha Vishnu.
This is from the philosophical and purely spiritual standpoint. From the plane of illusion, however, as one would say, or from the terrestrial standpoint, those initiated know that He was a direct incarnation of one of the primeval "Seven Sons of Light" who are to be found in every Theogony — the Dhyan Chohans whose mission it is, from one eternity (aeon) to the other, to watch over the spiritual welfare of the regions under their care. — From papers left by H.P.B., and published after her death as 'S.D., III.'
The ultimate source of an avatara is in a Raja sun; but actually the spiritual part of an avatara is a ray from a god, an inhabitant of our own solar system; and more particularly this divinity is a portion of the solar spiritual essence. In India these gods thus belonging to our sun and its system are collectively called by the generic name of Vishnu, although equally they could be called Siva.
One of the oldest mythologic Hindu legends tells how Vishnu plunges into the 'waters' in the form of a boar and holds up the earth on his tusks. The story is found in some of the literary works of the Vedic cycle as well as in the Mahabharata and the Puranas. In its earliest forms, the avataras of a deity are ascribed to Prajapati, the father of mankind and of the beasts, the vegetation and all the mineral world; in other words, to Brahma. Later forms of the story as given in the Puranas attribute ten avataras to Vishnu, the Sustainer. These range from the fish-avatara, through the tortoise, the boar, the man-lion, the dwarf, and so forth to Krishna, the eighth incarnation, and on up to and including the tenth, called the Kalki-avatara. Each succeeding avatara in the world order is in a higher grade of beings than the preceding one. The Kalki-avatara has not yet appeared, and this incarnation represents what the Occident popularly speaks of as 'the coming of the Messiah' — when all wrongs shall be righted, and when righteousness and justice shall be firmly established on earth.
All these legends are based upon facts of nature, but they are told in mythological form, so that unless one has the key to them they are difficult to understand. Some of these zoologico-mythologic figures are very interesting. For instance, in Babylonia and in Persia, also in Greece, the horse symbolized the sun; the bull and the cow were symbols of the moon. Similarly, in Hindustan, the boar which plunges into the 'waters' of space and lifts up the earth upon his tusks, and so bears it for the remainder of the manvantara, signifies not only the fourth-plane physical vitality, but likewise the cosmical vitality which infills and sustains the earth, rooted as this vitality is in the spiritual life of the god of our solar system.
In the two classes of avataras we may qualify perhaps some as avataras from Maha-Vishnu, and others as from Maha-Siva. The following thought may be helpful: men differ among themselves in character, some being aggressive, others being thoughtful and retiring; and still others, although essentially good and constructive in action, nevertheless produce results by the overthrow of evil. These last we might call human rays or very minor avataras of Maha-Siva, for these men are destroyers in the sense of regenerators. Other kinds of men, on the contrary, are preservers of the good already existing, its guardians and protectors: equally high, equally strong, as the former class, and serving an equally beneficent and lofty purpose in the world. These we may call very minor avataras of Maha-Vishnu.
Thus the avataras of Maha-Siva are the regenerators by action; and the avataras of Maha-Vishnu are the preservers not so much by the action of overthrowing evil but by saving and stimulating the good already existing. Krishna was an avatara of Vishnu, while Jesus, from the very little we know of him, was, in my judgment, an avatara of Siva; and I might add that there does not appear to be any alternation in the successive appearances of the avataras of Siva and of Vishnu.
In one very true sense the ancient Brahmans were right in regarding Gautama the Buddha as one of the avataras of Vishnu. In a sense still more recondite, perhaps, the Lord Buddha might be called an avatara of Siva. Nevertheless, he may be looked upon as a partial incarnation of that aspect of the life of our solar system which the Hindus called Vishnu — one of the triadic elements of the heart of the sun. Viewed esoterically, Vishnu is not a personal god but an individualized divinity, one of the three loftiest of our solar system which form the apex or crown of the ethereal sun, the other two being Brahma and Siva.
The union of a great and noble man with a cosmic divinity is the kind of avatara that the Buddha Gautama was: he had raised himself so high spiritually and intellectually that, by a tremendous effort of will and aspiration, he could reach with his consciousness into the very heart of the Vishnu-energy of our solar system, and thereafter 'step down' that divine energy to his fellow men. This thought is a wonderful key. Here is a man with ages and ages of past karma; destined to have ages and ages of future spiritual karma; and always rising on the evolutionary path to ever loftier peaks of achievement; and even at the present time able to reach up by a supreme effort of his buddhic being and connect with the Vishnu-energy.
The avataras appear at different cyclical periods, and sometimes these periods overlap. For instance, Sankaracharya of India and Jesus of Nazareth came quite close together, being separated by an interval of about five hundred years. As to the historical date of Jesus, H.P.B. has pointed out that he lived a good hundred or more years before the accepted beginning of the Christian Era, and there is some faint evidence that the great Syrian avatara was born during the time of the Jewish king, Jannaeus, who reigned 104-77 'B.C.'
Now, as has just been explained, no avatara can reincarnate or return, because such reincarnation would mean that the unusual magical conjoining of these particular three elements would have to occur again and be the identic individual who lived before — and this does not happen. There is, however, one reincarnating element in the avatara, and that is the human part, the intermediate soul-apparatus, loaned by one of the Buddhas of Compassion in order to form the link between the divinity and the body, so that the ray from the divinity may stream through the buddhic soul and thus reach the brain of the human body.
It is possible for the Great Ones to send forth from themselves a portion of their psychomental vitality — a portion of their human consciousness — and to fix it in the psychological apparatus of some other human being. In Tibet this is called Hpho-wa, a transference of consciousness and of will, of which the simplest manifestation is thought transference. (8)
Since the buddha reaches his stature by means of reincarnation, i.e. by means of learning the lessons of life, he becomes a master of the powers and energies of the human constitution, and among these is the ability to project himself out of his body. The buddha knows when an avatara is due to appear, and he invigorates the human seed which will produce the child-body of a karmically and hereditarily pure type. At the appropriate time, the buddha projects his soul and inspirits the growing embryo with the spiritual fire of his own soul. Later in the life of the child the connection is made between the buddha-soul in the body and the waiting divinity, when the buddha raises himself by will and aspiration until, as it were, the divine ray is caught and held. And thus is formed the union of the divinity above, the buddhic soul-splendor, and the pure body — and this union is an avatara. The state of the buddha remains normal, yet deprived of a portion of his human consciousness which is abstracted away by his own will and serves as the vehicle for the avatara.
Jesus, for example, in his human aspect was Gautama the Buddha: a man who, through incarnation after incarnation in ages past, had risen to his lofty pinnacle of spiritual grandeur through self-devised efforts. This is the reason that certain theosophical writers have spoken of Jesus as having attained the buddhic stage in his evolution in previous lives. But this has reference only to the intermediate element of the avataric being, the psychological or soul-apparatus of the Lord Buddha, and not to the avatara which, as such, has no past or future karma.
One may ask, how about the life germ, the human seed, which in ordinary circumstances would have grown up to be the body of a Jewish boy, had that no previous karma? Yes, of course, everything is karmic; even a seed has its own kind of karma. What happened was this: the Buddha's psychological apparatus took possession of this growing life germ before the reincarnating ego, which under normal circumstances would have incarnated in that body, had time to involve itself with that germ.
As regards the overshadowing of the divinity, this is rather an illuminating, a glorifying: it was to this that Jesus on the Cross really alluded, when there came, as alleged in the New Testament, the wonderful cry, Eli, Eli, lama sabachtani — a Greek rendering of the Hebrew phrase — which has been badly mistranslated: "Oh, my God, my God, Why hast thou forsaken me!" This is not the translation of these Hebrew words. If the verb 'forsaken' had been used in this cry, it would have been `azavtani; but it was, as recorded shabahhtani, which means 'thou dost glorify me.'
Now when we remember that Christians for fifteen hundred years or more have taught that their Gospels were inspired by the direct action or presence of the Holy Ghost, and therefore written under 'plenary inspiration,' and hence infallible; and when we find perfectly good Hebrew words which have been mistranslated, we can only suppose that there was something that faced the theologians in these passages which to them was inexplicable; so they attempted to obfuscate. The Christian apologists simply make the matter worse by stating that these words are Chaldaean or Aramaic, Shemitic tongues closely akin to the Hebrew. It has never yet been shown that the Hebrew verbal root `azab becomes shabahh in Chaldaean or Aramaic, with the meaning to forsake. For shabahh signifies to glorify — the very word found in the New Testament and mistranslated as 'to forsake.'
The original writers of the passages in which this mistranslated phrase occurs in the Greek of the New Testament (Matthew xxvii, 46; Mark xv, 34) unquestionably knew something of the ceremonies of initiation as these took place in Asia Minor. We know, for instance, that the Church Father Origen, whom I personally believe to have had a great deal to do in helping to frame the present Canonical Gospels, was at least a partial initiate in the esoteric mysteries of Greece.
A neophyte passed through two phases in the initiatory trial: one was the experiencing of the agony of the temporary withdrawal of the god within, at which time he was left deprived of his spiritual guidance, to meet and conquer the difficulties and probing tests of initiation and of the underworld. He had to prove that as a man alone he could stand and face the tests and conquer them. As you can see, it was a moment of the most intense suffering in which all the human part of the tortured man uttered the cry: "Why hast thou abandoned me?"
The second phase came after the man had proved that his sole human ego had wakened its own inner monadic divinity which then came into operation as a guide and protector; and when this happened he could then cry in the ecstasy of successful realization, "Oh, god within me, how thou dost fill me with glory."
Now the writers of the two passages — they are almost identic — evidently omitted a previous passage referring to the agony of abandonment, but retained the Hebrew words of the cry of glory, the exclamation of successful achievement. Yet the Greek translation of it renders it as the cry of abandonment.
Or, perhaps, was this tangle of words and meanings arranged by these original quasi-initiate Christian writers in order to show to posterity that there was a mystery involved which could not be openly explained, but which should be investigated? I think that these two verses give in metaphor the sketch of what took place in the initiation chambers; and the writers chose as a type-figure the glorious individuality of the man-avatara Jesus, and wove around him what they wanted to say under mask of the drama of initiation. As a matter of fact, the incident never happened on a cross of punishment, as the Gospels recite the story, turning a symbolical incident of the Mysteries into a pragmatical punishment. Jesus, later called the Christos, was never crucified in that manner.
The whole event simply describes one of the most wonderful of the initiation ceremonies — the raising of a great man to divinity, the entrance of a god into the superior man, so that the humanity of the man became lost in the divinity which illuminated him, being an example of the theopneusty becoming the complete theopathy. (9) From that moment he became the channel of the divine working through him, a true Christ. This occurred when physical maturity had been gained, and when certain initiations had been passed through. Then when the body was laid on a cruciform couch after months of preparation, the psychological apparatus of the Buddha by a supreme act of will raised itself into union with the waiting divinity — the divine poured in splendor into the man, and the avatara became!
This does not mean, however, that Jesus had not begun his work long before. He was a high initiate, a master, in training for the avatara event, but it was after that event that his real teaching was given to his inner school.
An avatara and his existence and his work, when these are properly understood, are all combined in the word itself, for in its use it refers particularly to the 'descent' or 'passing down' of the divine influence. In this lies the mystery of the Christ. There are, in fact, avataras among the gods also. And there are such things as avataras in the beast world — not the anupapadaka or self-born avataras as exemplified among men, but the white magical avataras like Jesus, Sankaracharya, and others.
The whole existence and being and work of the avataras come about because they are involved as part of the efforts of the hierarchy of the Buddhas of Compassion. Thus, it is an act of compassion which impels — karmically also of course — the buddha to loan a portion of his own constitution and thereby to have it karmically colored, for which condition the buddha thereafter is responsible, because such loan was an act of his own will. The divinity on its own plane, naturally, is likewise proportionately responsible.
An avatara usually happens in our world when a divinity is passing through initiation, and a human being provides the vehicle to enable it to descend into what is an underworld to the divine spheres. When a human being on our plane undergoes a corresponding initiation, the man descends into the underworld where a denizen thereof cooperates to lend its thinking conscious vehicle in order to allow the human monad to manifest and work there.
In some of the Apocryphal Christian Gospels there are legends about the descent of Jesus into the underworld and preaching to the "spirits in chains" (see also The First Epistle of Peter iii, 19) — the chains merely meaning the karmic bonds of a realm of matter lower than ours, the chains of the underworld, the chains of evil-doing. We humans are spirits in chains to a divinity in its own sphere who enters our sphere and tries to teach us.
The entire story of Jesus is an esoteric mythos — not a myth in the ordinary meaning of the word, but a story having a wonderful background of truth, and expressed in mystical or metaphorical style. In other words, the narratives of the New Testament are but a record of an initiatory cycle. Some of the parables ascribed to the great human avatara are direct teachings taken from the Mystery schools of Asia Minor, and when rightly understood, they are seen as garments veiling a sublime truth.
One such parable is that of Jesus and the fig tree: "And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away" (Matthew, xxi, 19).
In the ancient schools of the Hither East, and also in some other parts of the Orient, trees were always metaphorically representative of a system of esoteric doctrine — sometimes also of the teacher thereof. The fruit which the tree brought forth were the good works done and the success attained in following the spiritual life which this esoteric school had, or was supposed to have had.
Therefore a fig tree — the favorite symbol of the day in that part of the world — which brought forth no fruit signified a mystical school which had failed. The spirit, the light, had abandoned it, and there remained naught but the flourishing exoteric organization: the tree indeed with its outer life, but without fruit. According to the misworded manner of speaking, Christ is said to have 'cursed' the fig tree because he found no fruit on it when he hungered. The Mystery school had failed: the Christ-spirit of humanity could find no lodgment therein, hungering as that Christ-spirit constantly does to benefit others; and so what remnant of the life of the tree was there, finally was withdrawn, and then the school withered and died.
The Christians, in the very beginning of their era, were an esoteric school in that part of the world, but in no long time they degenerated from that standing. The spiritual life which their great founder had instilled into his immediate disciples soon left, leaving nothing but the dead ashes of the past, fugitive memories which quickly faded from the consciousness of the men of that time.
Another example of teaching by metaphor is found in the story of the Star of Bethlehem. Actually, there was no such star, although there is always an unusual collocation of the sun and moon and planets, astrologically speaking, near the time of birth either of a buddha or of an avatara. The occult character of the Christian mythos cannot be better proved than by this legend of the star which guided the Three Magi to the stable in Bethlehem, where the infant Jesus lay. "We have seen his star in the East, and have followed it hither," is the substance of what the three Wise Men are stated to have said; yet it is ludicrous to suppose that one of the stellar orbs of heaven wandered through the earth's atmosphere in order to guide three individuals into the little town of Bethlehem, and then 'stood still' over the stable.
The two words star and East are sufficient to show the true meaning here. The 'star' is just that one to which H.P.B. alludes in The Secret Doctrine (I, 572-3), where she mentions two kinds of stars: one, the astrological star presiding at a man's birth; and the other 'star' which is the man's inner spiritual or rather divine prototype or source in the galaxy. The word East is likewise a philosophical term, often employed in the phrase 'the mystic East,' and commonly signifies esoteric wisdom or occult knowledge. So that the alleged statement of the three Wise Men simply means that "by occult wisdom we have found out that an avatara is soon to appear among men, and we know what is the guiding divinity or star of this new spiritual luminary which we have followed."
Section 10, Part 2
Main Table of Contents
1. A chohan, a mahachohan, a dhyani-chohan, of necessity is a man, or has been a man, either of this earth or in some past manvantara. It is not accurate, however, to speak of the Mahachohan as having been, in some far past manvantara, a divine being who came to earth in order to help mankind, for he has gone through the human stage as an evolving entity, and is still human. We now are passing through lower degrees of the human stage. In far distant aeons of the future, even before this planetary chain shall have reached its manvantaric end, we too, as a human host, shall become dhyani-chohans; and before that, we shall attain the lofty stage which the Mahachohan now occupies. The word Mahachohan is a title, just as is Buddha or Christ. There are great mahachohans, also those of inferior degree, but the one of whom we are here speaking is the supreme chief, the lord and teacher of the Brotherhood of adepts, and through them of us. (return to text)
2. Underworld is a technical term meaning any world inferior to that on which the higher being lives. There is no one absolute underworld — even globe A is an underworld to a higher globe. (return to text)
3. Agnishvatta is a Sanskrit compound: agni, fire and svad, to taste or to sweeten; hence it means those who have tasted of or been tasted by fire — the fire of suffering and pain in material existence producing great fiber and strength of character, i.e. spirituality. This word 'taste' likewise has the meaning of becoming one with. Thus to taste of fire is to become at one with it: the fire-part of one's nature is the part in which the monadic essence is at the time manifesting itself around an egoic center. From the standpoint of occultism, the term agnishwatta signifies an entity who has become through evolution one in essence with the aethery fire of spirit. The agnishwatta pitris are our solar ancestors as contrasted with the barhishads, our lunar ancestors. (return to text)
4. Manasaputra is a compound: manasa, mental, from the word manas, mind, and putra, child — offspring of the cosmic mahat or intelligence, which latter has always been described as the fire of spiritual consciousness. (return to text)
5. A Sanskrit word: ku, with difficulty, and mara, mortal; the idea being that these spiritual beings are so lofty they pass through the worlds of matter, i.e. become mortal, only with difficulty. Cf. Occult Glossary, pp. 2-4. (return to text)
6. Avatara is a Sanskrit word meaning 'descent,' from ava, down, and tri, to 'cross over.' (return to text)
7. It is a matter of some historic interest that one early Christian sect was called by its opponents, Docetists — from a Greek word meaning appearance or semblance, because it taught that Jesus was a mere 'appearance' among men, clearly a distorted reflection of the original meaning of the avatara doctrine when applied to upapadaka avataras. These Docetists went entirely too far, however, for they claimed that even the body of Jesus was an illusion, and that therefore he himself was not crucified, but an 'appearance' of him only was so punished — a curious tangle of fact and fiction and twisting of esoteric allegory. It is of course true that the orthodox party were even more at fault in this matter than were the Docetists, for they claimed that Jesus was born of a Virgin, was one of the Persons of the cosmic triad, and, equally foolishly, that it required one of the Persons of their Trinity to save humanity from the consequences of sin which the unfortunate human race had been created by infinite wisdom and prescience to commit.
This is not written as an apologia for the Docetists, nor as approving their views; but solely to point out that in an important early Christian sect the essential teaching concerning upapadaka avataras had not been wholly lost sight of. (return to text)
8. Please do not confuse Hpho-wa, the transference of consciousness, which also means will power and consciousness, and a sense of surrounding circumstances and locality, with a transference of the mere personality. The transference of a master's thought, however, is so nearly identical with the transference or passing of himself to another part of the world in the mayavi-rupa, that it is often difficult to distinguish between the two, because the mayavi-rupa actually is the projection of the individuality. All the man is there, except the physical and astral and vital elements, which are left behind; and therefore obviously it is also a projection of consciousness and of thought. It is the Hpho-wa in the highest stage; the Hpho-wa in the lower stage is merely the projection of one's thought, an extreme degree of thought transference. (return to text)
9. These are Greek technical terms taken from the ancient Mystery teachings. The theopneusty or 'inbreathing of a god' occurred at the sixth initiation when the candidate felt the inbreathing or inspiration of his inner god coursing through his entire being for a shorter or longer period. The theopathy or 'suffering of a god' was the seventh or highest initiation of all, when the candidate had become an absolutely selfless instrument of the divine, both within and without, so that literally he 'suffered' absorption or at-oneness with his own flaming divinity. (Cf. Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, ch. XXXV) (return to text)