Copyright © 1974 by Theosophical University Press. All rights reserved.
There are millions and millions of worlds and firmaments visible to us; there [are] still greater numbers beyond those visible to the telescopes, and many of the latter kind do not belong to our objective sphere of existence. Although as invisible as if they were millions of miles beyond our solar system, they are yet with us, near us, within our own world, as objective and material to their respective inhabitants as ours is to us. But, again, the relation of these worlds to ours is not that of a series of egg-shaped boxes enclosed one within the other, like the toys called Chinese nests; each is entirely under its own special laws and conditions, having no direct relation to our sphere. The inhabitants of these, as already said, may be, for all we know, or feel, passing through and around us as if through empty space, their very habitations and countries being interblended with ours, though not disturbing our vision, because we have not yet the faculties necessary for discerning them. Yet by their spiritual sight the Adepts, and even some seers and sensitives, are always able to discern, whether in a greater or smaller degree, the presence and close proximity to us of Beings pertaining to other spheres of life. Those of the (spiritually) higher worlds, communicate only with those terrestrial mortals who ascend to them, through individual efforts, on to the higher plane they are occupying. . . .
. . . such invisible worlds do exist. Inhabited as thickly as our own is, they are scattered throughout apparent Space in immense number; some far more material than our own world, others gradually etherealizing until they become formless and are as "Breaths". — The Secret Doctrine, I, 605-6
The entire physical universe, in all its ranges of extension and multimyriad forces and substances, is but the outer garment of the illimitable ranges of the invisible spheres and planes, rising in hierarchical stages into the Boundless.
This thought is not only a key to a correct understanding of the structure, visible and invisible, of any cosmic unit, but it has likewise a supreme ethical importance. It shows that man and the universe are not twain and different, but essentially one. Herein lies the basic explanation of karma: all that man is and does is bound up with the destiny of the universe, spiritual, ethereal, physical. In essence, what it is, he is; and therefore all his thoughts, emotions, and consequent actions are duly noted, even to the last details, by the karmic recorders, the Lipikas.
Many students find it difficult to understand the precise nature of cosmic element-principles and the lokas and talas, and their relation to the twelve major classes of monads. The first thing to bear in mind is that the invisible worlds are simply all those parts of the solar universe, and in a smaller degree of a planetary chain, which are invisible because composed of substances and forces either more ethereal or denser than are those which make up the physical plane. Our physical plane is but one out of twelve cosmic planes, each of which basically has its characteristic element-principle or swabhavic aether. In other words, every one of these cosmic element-principles gradually evolves a world structure from within its own substances and forces, and this world structure considered as a unitary whole is a cosmic plane. Now a cosmic plane, being its own cosmic element-principle unrolled into manifestation, has its spiritual, intermediate and physical-astral portions; and each such portion, when viewed as an individual minor world structure within the greater world structure of the cosmic plane itself, is a loka and a tala conjoined as a twin.
Briefly: the universe at the beginning of its manifestation unrolls itself from highest to lowest through all the intermediate grades as twelve elements or principles; then each element-principle unrolls itself into the different subplanes of a cosmic plane; and it is just these different subplanes which are the cosmic lokas and talas. These lokas and talas, therefore, can be called with equal truth the subgrades or minor worlds existing on any cosmic plane.
Let us return for a moment to the cosmic element-principles before these as individual units of the cosmic structure unfold themselves into planes and into the different lokas and talas. The cause of such manifesting into the varieties of differentiation lies in the fact that every cosmic element or principle is itself composed of unitary points of consciousness, and these are monads in their matrix — in and born of the cosmic element from which they came and therefore to which they belong.
These monads (which we may rather loosely refer to as cosmic life-atoms) are called cosmic elementals, because they are the first offsprings born directly from the respective cosmic elements. Since there are twelve cosmic elements, there are twelve fundamental classes of monads, ranging from the divine to the physical. Of course, each monad or consciousness center is a living, growing, learning entity; so that no matter what may be the cosmic element from which it originally springs, it is destined through evolution and the garnering of experience ultimately to blossom forth into a god. Beginning its career as an unself-conscious god-spark, a jiva — a cosmic elemental born from the cosmic element — its destiny is to pass through all intermediate stages of evolution until finally it becomes a full-blown god, a jivanmukta.
The general idea is that the cosmic element-principles themselves are vast armies of cosmic elementals or original monads existing on all the twelve planes of the universe, visible and invisible, and forming in their immense interlocking and interacting substances and energies the marvelous scheme of the world structure which is the solar Brahmanda, or Egg of Brahma. The cosmic planes or, what comes to the same thing, the lokas and talas forming these planes, are actually built of the countless hosts of the twelve classes of the evolving monads. Every greater contains within itself an army of the smaller; or, inversely, every smaller unit lives within a greater unit which in its turn is but a component part of a unit still more vast; and so forth till the limits of the solar system are reached. And the solar system itself is but repetitively again a minor component in an entity still more sublime, which is our galaxy.
These twelve great classes of evolving monads not only exist on the twelve cosmic planes and in and through all the lokas and talas thereof, but also, because of past evolutionary karmic unfolding, infill the world structure, thus producing the different hierarchies of living beings from the highest to the lowest. Some of these monads are gods in our own world structure or solar system, and some are demigods; and others again are monads in a less evolved state of development, of which our human hierarchy is an example. We can carry the different minor hierarchies down below the human until we reach the three major classes of the elementals — down, not meaning underneath in the sense of position, but signifying younger monads.
A good analogy to the world structure may be found in the constitution of a human being. Here we have a septenary entity composed of substances and forces — which in the world structure we call planes — ranging from the divine to the physical, and on all intermediate grades; and each grade is a vast army of life-atoms presided over by its chief monad. Yet all parts of a man's constitution work together and interlock, in substance and in action, in order to produce a sevenfold human being. On precisely the same analogical lines is a solar system composed; or a planetary chain or any one globe thereof, or indeed any atom of the numberless hosts of atoms making a globe. The solar system, just like man, is an entity having its own individuality, which is its hierarch; and this hierarch lives in and through all the forces and substances, all the planes and lokas and talas, of the solar system which is its expression, its constitution.
Now, speaking of Elements, it is made the standing reproach of the Ancients, that they "supposed their Elements simple and undecomposable." Once more this is an unwarrantable statement; as, at any rate, their initiated philosophers can hardly come under such an imputation, since it is they who have invented allegories and religious myths from the beginning. Had they been ignorant of the Heterogeneity of their Elements they would have had no personifications of Fire, Air, Water, Earth, and Aether; their Cosmic gods and goddesses would never have been blessed with such posterity, with so many sons and daughters, elements born from and within each respective Element. — The Secret Doctrine, I, 140-1
At the commencement of any universal manvantara when differentiation and manifestation begin, the great cosmic drama opens by the arising in the dormant hierarchical originants of a yearning for self-expression. This is the same sort of yearning that causes the awakening of the human ego in the devachan so that it may start its 'descent' into a new incarnation on earth. In this manner the universe unrolls or develops from within itself its various essences — often referred to as principles or elements — and always beginning with the highest and thereafter proceeding in regular serial or hierarchical manner. Each essence, once it is evolved forth from its predecessor, unrolls from within itself the essence which succeeds it in the building of the structure or fabric of the universe. Thus the divine essences produce from within themselves their offspring, the spiritual essences, and these in their turn produce the essences which succeed them in the world order; so that when this process is completed for that manvantara, we have the universe in all its planes ranging from the divine-spiritual down to the astral-physical.
The manner of this unfolding is such that each essence or element-principle not only contains within itself its own swabhava, but likewise is the vehicle of the different swabhavas of all the essences which have preceded it, and indeed of those which follow it; so that when the seventh (or twelfth) essence is reached we have the universe unfolded as an aggregate of webs of lives. This process is called differentiation or manifestation.
In different systems of religion or philosophy various names have been given to these essences or element-principles. However, any attempt to set in parallel columns the names of one system with those of others, while helpful as showing similar views, can be very misleading if these equated names are misconstrued as having exactly the same significances in all respects.
These principles or cosmic elements were called by Plato, and after him by Aristotle and other Greek writers, stoicheia, a word meaning 'things belonging together in serial order,' and used in the sense of the unfolding or unrolling of the cosmic essences, the lower from the higher and each from its own predecessor in time and space. As H.P.B. says in The Secret Doctrine (I, 461):
The stoicheia, (Elements) of Plato and Aristotle, were thus the incorporeal principles attached to the four great divisions of our Cosmic World, . . . So close, indeed, that the hierarchies of those potencies or Forces have been classified on a graduated scale of seven from the ponderable to the imponderable. They are Septenary, — not as an artificial aid to facilitate their comprehension — but in their real Cosmic gradation, from their chemical (or physical) to their purely spiritual composition.
Proclus, a Neoplatonic writer and mystic, describes this process of emanational unfolding in the following suggestive manner:
That all the progression of the elements however, may become manifest to us, and the gradations of them, it is requisite that we should begin the theory of them from on high. These four elements therefore, fire and air, water and earth, subsist primarily, and uniformly according to cause, in the Demiurgus of wholes. . . . From these demiurgic causes, a progression takes place of these four elements into the universe, though not immediately into the sublunary world. For how can the most immaterial natures give subsistence without a medium, to the most material; and immoveable natures, to those that are in every respect moved? For the progression of things is nowhere without a medium, but exists according to a well-ordered gradation. — On the Timaeus of Plato, Book III, pp. 422-3
Another Greek philosopher, Empedocles, used the word rhizomata, meaning roots, for these same cosmic essences, a term which H.P.B. also adopted.
The several schools of Hindu philosophy, such as the Sankhya and the Vedanta, had their own special terms for these cosmic essences; and so again did Buddhism, especially the Mahayana. Yet all of them, while envisaging the same cosmic picture of unrolling essences, had each one its own manner of viewing them.
The Sankhya term for these cosmic essences is tattwas, (1) looked upon as dual in character, and having an inner or more ethereal and an outer or more unfolded aspect. Their more ethereal aspect is called tanmatra, while their manifested aspect is called mahabhuta, so that tattwa corresponds to what in theosophical terminology is called an element-principle, tanmatra being equated with the principle and mahabhuta with the element. The Buddhists, on the other hand, instead of tattwas usually speak of dhatus.
Or, again, take two other terms used in the Sankhya philosophy, prakritis and vikritis. In one sense, the prakritis mean almost the same as do the tattwas. Yet when analyzed more closely we see that the word tattwas should probably be reserved for the abstract cosmic essences themselves; while the word prakritis should be used for the various cosmic substances and their functions which we can best express as the 'producing power' within the tattwas. Thus prakriti, as signifying the unfolding substance or ethereal matter inherent in every tattwa, brings forth from within itself the rivers of lives or cosmic elementals. The vikritis are a still further stage in cosmic evolution, and stand for the produced manifestations or differentiations of the prakritis — the multimyriad types of manifestation which each prakriti becomes.
Hence we have a tattwa as an abstract cosmic essence, and arising within itself is its productive substantial power, bringing forth its own swabhavic ethereal substances and forces, and this is its prakriti. This prakriti in its turn unfolds itself into countless differentiations which, combined with all the other tattwas and prakritis and vikritis, produce the intricate web of the twelvefold universe.
Now the Sanskrit term mahabhutas corresponds to what the ancient Greeks called the five cosmic elements, usually enumerated as aether, fire, air, water, and earth — these not being the ordinary elements familiar to us. These names were adopted because of certain attributes (vikritis) inherent in the physical or quasi-physical elements, in an attempt to describe the corresponding characteristics of the cosmic elements: earth implying solidity and expansion, water implying fluidity, fire suggesting vital heat, quick nervous energy as well as the stimulation of mental thought, etc.
There is an interesting point in connection with the term mahabhutas, which literally translated means 'great have-beens' (bhutas, coming from the verbal root bhu, to become), in that these mahabhutas, when they are unfolded during the beginning of a cosmic manvantara, are exact reproductions of what these same cosmic elements were, each one, when the preceding manvantara had ended. The new universe, so far as the cosmic essences are concerned, can be likened to a watch which, having run down and again being wound, will begin to run anew from the exact instant which the hands indicated when the mechanism stopped.
When a universe is unrolled, through the unfolding of its component cosmic essences, it is called an Egg of Brahma, and the hierarch of any such universe is the Brahma thereof, living in his cosmic Egg, very much as the atman of the human constitution is the Brahman thereof, living in the human auric egg, existent as it is on all the planes of man's constitution. (2)
It is of course true that even the cosmic essences, being formed as they are of incomputably vast hosts of monads, are themselves advancing in growth, because all their component monads are evolving. As one vast body of similar monads passes to higher things, their places are taken by other similar monads following in their train; and thus the cosmic essences of the universe are always there in their twelvefold stages, to unfold into new dramas of cosmic life — those monads which have graduated from one cosmic hierarchy passing onwards and upwards into the next hierarchy, and thus ad infinitum.
Fire, Air, Water, Earth, were but the visible garb, the symbols of the informing, invisible Souls or Spirits — the Cosmic gods to whom worship was offered by the ignorant, and simple, respectful recognition by the wiser. In their turn the phenomenal subdivisions of the noumenal Elements were informed by the Elementals, so called, the "Nature Spirits" of lower grades. — The Secret Doctrine I, 461
Each cosmic essence or element, when it is evolved, is an immense aggregate of elemental lives, which in theosophical terminology are called elementals — inhabitants of the respective cosmic elements. In other words, the elementals of any one cosmic essence are its children and therefore belong to and themselves imbody the swabhava of their parent. This is true for all the cosmic essences of the manifested universe, so that we have elementals springing forth from every one of the cosmic planes, from prithivi or earth, right on up to the highest or adi-tattwa.
Another and more familiar use of the word elementals signifies beings or entities in the very beginning of their evolutionary growth in the scale of lives of a universe. If we apply this to the element-principles of man's constitution, we shall be able to make the appropriate applications to the cosmic scale. There are, for instance, elementals born of our buddhi, of our manas, others from our kama, etc.
The word elementals may likewise be used for all entities beneath the human kingdom. More specifically, however, the term refers to the first entities that arise in and of the seven elements of nature before other more advanced entities come into manifestation. Thus on the hierarchical ladder we have: first, the three elemental kingdoms, then the elementals manifesting in the mineral kingdom, next those in the vegetable kingdom, then those manifesting as animals, followed by the 'perfected' elementals which we call human beings. The three elemental kingdoms are so designated because they are the first families or races of beings arising in the cosmic elements before any more evolved entity can manifest itself, and they provide the groundwork upon which the more evolved structure of a world is built by entities of higher kingdoms.
There are seven planes or kingdoms of nature, and these manifest in various forms. Looked at from one angle we call them lokas and talas; from another we say that nature is composite of seven tattwas and bhutas, or seven principles and elements. The point is that every element contains all the other elements locked up within its heart, until the appropriate field and time in space come for the appearance of such latent elements.
The cosmic tattwas unfold in serial order and thus produce the hierarchies formed by the corresponding lokas and talas: beginning with the first or adi-tattwa, the second or anupapadaka-tattwa emanates from it, the while retaining a certain portion of the first tattwa. From the second tattwa unfolds the third, akasa-tattwa, which contains not only its own dominant swabhavic forces and substances, but likewise its portions of the second and also of the first cosmic tattwa. This continues down to the seventh and last. When the time of the cosmic pralaya approaches, the whole process of emanational unfolding reverses itself — the universe now begins the procedure of 'radiating' away or infolding itself.
Each one of these elements or kingdoms or realms or lokas — call them what you will — of inner and outer nature is filled full with its own populations, i.e. is composite of monads, monadic centers, varying in degree of evolution, ranging from self-consciousness to mere consciousness, down to passive unself-consciousness. Furthermore, the higher the scale of life, the greater and more spiritual do the inhabitants of these realms become. The highest are very powerful; some elemental beings are so high — not in evolutionary rank but in origin — that, being offsprings of one of the cosmic elements, they partake of the cosmic wisdom of which they as entities are life-atoms. There are other elemental beings whose origin is so low in the material spheres that they are instinctively antagonistic to human beings, some even fearfully malignant, not by choice, not by will, but by their character; on the other hand, others are friendly to the human race, even beneficent. A few have quasi-human form, but most are non-human in shape, some being gigantic in size, titans, with corresponding powers. The great majority of these elementals are only quasi-conscious.
There are many races and families of elementals, and also many subraces and subfamilies. They are, in fact, the building stones of nature. Nature itself is composed of them; for no entity anywhere can separate itself from the boundless All. They are the unevolved life-atoms of the several cosmic elements; and these beings have been alluded to under different names by mystical and initiated writers of various countries. The Fire Philosophers of Europe said that there were four main elements of the universe, and that from these were born respectively: the salamanders of fire, the sylphs of air, the undines of water, and the gnomes of earth. (3) These are but names, yet the idea thus set forth is perfectly true: from the essential elements of the universe are born the native entities belonging by essential characteristic to these elements.
Actually, these elements of the cosmos are seven, not four, but the three higher ones are never referred to in any detail in exoteric writings. The four usually spoken of are manifested or rupa, possessing form; and the three higher classes are arupa, formless. Consequently, some of these elements composing the very fabric of the universe are high; some are gross and material; there are also those of an intermediate type. Since there is a spiritual element and an intellectual, a psychological, an astral and a physical one, all going to form the general substance of the visible and invisible universe, the elementals originally springing from these seven mother-substances or elements partake in each instance of the swabhava of the fountain of being out of which they are born. (4)
This is the reason that some of these elemental beings are of surpassing wisdom, because originating in the spiritual and intellectual planes of the universe; some are of exceeding malignity to man; there are those which are highly intellectual, while others are totally unintellectual; some are purely instinctual. All these adjectives are but words, applied to these elementals with the necessary reservations of quality and kind. In all cases they originate as the life-atoms of the mother-substances from which they come. As they are elemental beings, unconscious god-sparks, so to say, life-atoms of the original substances, they are devoid of a spiritual ego, or, to use H.P.B.'s words, "Elemental Beings void of Divine Spirit." Hence in popular language they have been called soulless, i.e. without an evolved soul; and this is generally true, because it is evolution alone which brings forth the hitherto unexpressed spiritual ego in men, or in beings equivalent to men. Divinity is as much at the heart of every elemental being as it is at the heart of a god. But until that core of divinity is evolved forth into manifestation, so that the entity is thereafter governed by the spiritual flame within as an ego, it is said to be without a spiritual soul.
Many interesting legends, stories, romances, have been written about the elementals, a few even describing the union of human beings with the beautiful and in some cases mechanically wise, yet soulless, elemental beings of the cosmos (as an instance, cf. the mystical legend Undine by Baron de La Motte-Fouque). In Persian mythology even the Peris at the gates of Paradise cannot enter therein until they have evolved a self-conscious spiritual soul. They cannot enter heaven because they have no self-consciously aspiring center to attract them to the atmosphere of conscious spirit. They cannot pass because they cannot give the passwords. They do not know them, for already they have met their Ring-pass-not. It is only the stained and weary, but nevertheless successful, human pilgrim soul who can pass the final test at the portals of heaven, and enter in; and that test demands an evolved spiritual self-consciousness.
Now every elemental life-atom of one of these cosmic elements is an entity beginning its upward evolutionary journey toward self-conscious divinity. All these entities and all their manifold classes or races or families aspire to become men and will be in the next manvantara. (5) Not in this one, however, because the door opening into the human kingdom has closed for the present manvantara — the lowest point of matter having been reached by the evolving life-waves — and also because we have already begun the ascent along the luminous arc, retracing our steps toward divinity. Each one of these elementals in future great manvantaras of the universe will become first a semiconscious entity, then a quasi-conscious entity or human being, and still later will evolve into becoming a god, a supergod, and so on forever.
We human beings were elementals in some far bygone cosmic manvantara, and we have evolved at present the first faint light of spirituality. However imperfectly it may be, we are already beginning to sense the working of the divine flame within, which is the influence of the inner god.
These elemental beings are constantly and throughout boundless Space springing forth from the seven mother-substances, and thus beginning their journey; while at the other end of the evolutionary pilgrimage vast armies of full-blown gods are passing over the horizon, following the cosmic pathway leading into an ever-enlarging splendor, and thus ever growing into something still more sublime. There is a constant life stream from elemental life-atoms to gods.
What, then, originates these life-atoms from the cosmic elements? Thoughts — thoughts of the supergods and gods; of daimones and heroes; of men and beasts — for thoughts are ensouled energies. And as nature is divided into seven elemental or cosmic substances, all classes of beings can trace their origin back to one or to another of these seven mother-substances or rivers of life.
In any solar system, as in our own with its seven (or twelve) sacred planets, these rivers of life express themselves by building up planets, each planet corresponding to one of the cosmic elements. We find this teaching imbodied in the Neoplatonic doctrines as expressed by Proclus:
The Pythagoreans however say, that the elements may be surveyed in the heavens in a twofold respect, in one way indeed prior to the sun, and in another after it: for the moon is ethereal earth. . . . But they say that the planet Mercury is ethereal water, Venus air, and the sun fire. And again, that Mars is celestial fire, Jupiter celestial air, Saturn celestial water, and the inerratic sphere celestial earth. And thus speaking in a divided manner they make the extremes to be every where fire and earth, but conjoin the ethereal natures through media, viz. through Venus and Mercury: for both these have a collective and unifying power. But they conjoin the celestial natures, through Saturn and Jupiter: for through these that which is connective of wholes, and the commensurate, accede to all things. What we now say, however, is conformable to the history delivered by many [of the Pythagoric doctrines]. For that this mode of distribution is not Platonic, we may learn from this that Plato arranges the sun immediately above the moon, afterwards Venus, and then Mercury.
It is necessary therefore to understand, that all the elements are in each of the celestial spheres, since in the sublunary elements also, each participates of the rest. For fire participates of earth; since being moved with facility, it would most rapidly perish, if it was entirely without stability. And earth participates of fire; for being moved with difficulty, it requires heat to resuscitate and restore it. As this therefore is the case in these sublunary elements, much more must all the elements be in each of the celestial spheres, though some of the heavenly bodies participate more of fire, others of air, others of water, and others of earth. — On the Timaeus of Plato, Bk. III, Vol. I, p. 426, Thomas Taylor, London 1820
There is the teaching in brief: mystic, wonderful, sublime. Just remember that each elemental, whether on the cosmic or microcosmic scale, is a learning, growing, evolving being. Its heart or core is a monad which, working through its spiritual elemental as its 'body,' produces from within itself its other veils. Man in a far past cosmic manvantara was such an elemental, and by gradual evolutionary growth he now has become a man; and as the human monad continues through the ages of future time to unfold from within its own essence its higher latent powers and faculties into self-expressive activity, man will evolve into becoming a god. Exactly the same is it with all entities in the scale of cosmic life: they are all learning and growing, each one having begun in some cosmic manvantara as an unself-conscious god-spark, and destined in the rolling of the wheel of life to become a self-conscious god, and from godhood to move forwards into ever-enlarging spheres of experience now beyond the utmost comprehension or intuition of man.
The Tatwas stand in the same order as the seven macro- and micro-cosmic Forces; and as taught in Esotericism, are as follows:
(1) Adi TATWA, the primordial universal Force, issuing at the beginning of manifestation, or of the "creative" period, from the eternal immutable SAT, the substratum of ALL. It corresponds with the Auric Envelope or Brahma's Egg, which surrounds every globe, as well as every man, animal and thing. It is the vehicle containing potentially everything — Spirit and Substance, Force and Matter. Adi Tatwa, in Esoteric Cosmogony, is the Force which we refer to as proceeding from the First or Unmanifested Logos.
(2) ANUPADAKA TATWA, the first differentiation on the plane of being — the first being an ideal one — or that which is born by transformation from something higher than itself. With the Occultists, this Force proceeds from the Second Logos.
(3) AKASA TATWA, this is the point from which all exoteric philosophies and religions start. Akasa Tatwa is explained in them as Etheric Force, Ether. Hence Jupiter, the "highest" god, was named Pater Aether; Indra, once the highest god in India, is the etheric or heavenly expanse, and so with Uranus, etc., etc. The Christian biblical God, also, is spoken of as the Holy Ghost, Pneuma, rarefied wind or air. This the Occultists call the Force of the Third Logos, the Creative Force in the already Manifested Universe.
(4) Vayu TATWA, the aorial plane where substance is gaseous.
(5) TAIJAS TATWA, the plane of our atmosphere, from tejas, luminous.
(6) APAS TATWA, watery or liquid substance or force.
(7) PRITHIVI TATWA, solid earthly substance, the terrestrial spirit or force, the lowest of all.
All these correspond to our principles, and to the seven senses and forces in man. According to the Tatwa or Force generated or induced in us, so will our bodies act. — H.P.B.'s E.S. Instructions, III
This order of the cosmic tattwas is the one most generally given, yet occasionally vayu and taijasa are interchanged as regards position. The reason for this is that each tattwa, being a cosmic plane or element, is septenary, and hence contains within itself all the other tattwas as subtattwas, otherwise subplanes; yet of course each cosmic tattwa is characterized by its own swabhava. (6)
For instance, certain mystic philosophers spoke of the very first sheath of adi-tattwa as being surrounded with its veil, just as Brahman is surrounded with its cosmic veil pradhana, Brahma with its veil prakriti, and so forth. Furthermore, these Hindu philosophers called this veil, on account of its concretion relative to the monad which it surrounds, by the name earth, divine earth, divine prithivi. So we can look at anupapadaka-tattwa, second in the regular serial order, as a kind of divine prithivi or 'earth' for the consciousness which it surrounds, this earth being its body.
This is why the order of the tattwas is not always the same — one writer giving their serial order as the universe unrolls itself from divinity to the physical world; another considering a tattwa in its twofold aspect as both principle and veil; and still another exchanging one or two of the relative positions in the series in accordance with the viewpoint he holds when writing.
Thus, in one or two cosmogonies, such as those of the ancient Hebrews and of Thales, the Greek philosopher, the first appearance of things was the cosmic Waters, the Waters of Space, this prakriti or surrounding veil being regarded as aqueous in character; because when we look up into the vasty deeps of Space, we can figurate them as 'crystalline waters' as easily as we can 'air' or 'invisible fire.'
In connection with the seven senses of man, each of which is derived from one of the seven elements or tattwas of which the universe is composed, H.P.B. has the following in her E.S. Instructions:
These seven senses of ours correspond with every other septenate in nature and in ourselves. Physically, though invisibly, the human Auric Envelope (the amnion of the physical man in every age of life) has seven layers, just as Cosmic Space and our physical epidermis have. It is this aura which, according to our mental and physical state of purity or impurity either opens for us vistas into other worlds, or shuts us out altogether from anything but this three-dimensional world of matter.
Each of our seven physical senses (two of which are still unknown to profane science), and also of our seven states of consciousness — viz: (1) waking; (2) waking-dreaming; (3) natural sleeping; (4) induced or trance-sleep; (5) psychic; (6) super-psychic; and (7) purely spiritual, — corresponds with one of the seven cosmic planes, developes and uses one of the seven super-senses, and is connected directly, in its use on the terrestro-spiritual plane, with the cosmic and divine center of force that gave it birth, and which is its direct creator. Each is also connected with, and under the direct influence of, one of the seven Sacred Planets. These belonged to the Lesser Mysteries, whose followers were called Mystai (the veiled), seeing that they were allowed to perceive things only through a mist, as it were "with the eyes closed"; while the Initiates or "Seers" of the Greater Mysteries were called Epoptai (those who see things unveiled). — I
Even the ordinary five senses that we have today are still imperfectly evolved. Each one is progressively growing more subtle, more capable of interpreting, through itself as a channel to the indwelling consciousness, the nature and functions of the universe outside. Remember that man is a stream of consciousness working in vehicles and building in those vehicles appropriate chambers and dwellings, doors and windows, so to speak, for manifesting its own powers and for receiving withinwards from the outside world the stimuli and the reactions which nature obliges it to receive.
Five senses hitherto have manifested themselves more or less perfectly; and they have been derived in the following order: first, hearing from akasa or aether; next, touch from vayu or air; then, sight from fire or rather light, called tejas or taijasa; fourth, taste from apas or water; fifth and last, smell from earth or prithivi. Of all these, taste is the grossest and most material; but the faculty of smell and its reactions upon the stream of consciousness are even worse than those of taste. Two more senses will develop in us and express themselves with an appropriate physical apparatus before the manvantara of this present round on this globe has run its course. All these senses are functions of the indwelling consciousness.
From the Middle Ages on, in a minor cycle, we have been moving up out of the prithivi-tattwa, successively into the water or apas-tattwa, into the air or vayu-tattwa, then into the fire or taijasa-tattwa, and now we are entering gently, slowly, into the aether or akasa-tattwa — very imperfectly it is true, mere forecasting of what will happen in the seventh race; still we have been and are passing through small cycles of all these, and inventions correspond. Human productions keep pace; and it will all depend upon man's genius whether these new discoveries be used for the purposes of heaven or hell. If for the latter, we shall go down, stifled and choked in our own evil effluvia. If they are used for purposes of beneficence, the whole of mankind will advance. The signs are all around us of a changing era, with the incoming of a new tide in human affairs.
After the downfall of the Roman Empire, men lived for the most part on land, in the prithivi-tattwa, scarcely going to sea at all. Then they began to travel more extensively and with greater cleverness over the waters — the apas-tattwa coming to the fore. Next they started to use steam (vapor, 'air,' gas) — the vayu-element; in later centuries taking to the air itself. Now with a rushing towards a culmination of airy experience, out of the air they are entering the more subtle tattwas. They are using, ever more extensively, fire (the taijasa-element), electricity, explosives, including all the various kinds of igneous horrors — connected with the air because rising out of it. Finally ether (akasa) is manifesting in the works of man as evidenced by wireless and the radio, etc. All of this shows that there are small cycles within greater cycles, repeating in general outline the processes of the greater ones.
The two future senses are almost impossible to describe, because the one following the present fifth, smell, has not yet even manifested its presence, except by an occasional instinct of its functioning. It will partake somewhat of the nature of the faculty or sense belonging to touch; but instead of being physical touch, it will be an interior sense, and the intuition of it, or the instinct of it, is occasionally found even among men today — shadows of coming events. Just as touch contacts the outer world, so will these two other senses on the ascending arc be on the same respective planes as hearing and touch; but, because they will exist in a more evolved entity, they will manifest themselves at first through an interior physical organ. An intimation of the sixth sense is what we call hunches that such and such a thing is right or wrong, or the thing to do or not to do. This is not intuition, however, for it is lower than intuition: it is a hunch or a feeling of things that are coming. It might in one sense be spoken of as a form of clairvoyance.
And the seventh sense, corresponding to hearing on the physical plane, will also be an akasic development. It will be the last sense to be brought forth by evolution in the physical body of man, and therefore will express an interior faculty, which will be awakened by contact with the lowest grades of the akasa. The nearest approach that we can arrive at as to what this faculty will be, leaving aside the nature and locality of the organ through which it will work, is intuition, fully developed as far as it can be on this planet in this manvantara: instant, always ready, functioning regularly, to be stopped or used at will.
Every faculty of sense, and therefore every sense organ as its expression in the body, is a faculty of our stream of consciousness; and no sense faculty can appear in evolution, and consequently no sense organ can show itself in the body, until that portion of the stream of consciousness has equivalently expressed itself. The Atlanteans, for instance, had in their beginning but an instinct of what smell is. They used this faculty almost unconsciously, even as men today are using the sixth sense and the sixth faculty almost unconsciously, and only occasionally are vaguely aware of it and say, "I had a hunch." The faculty passes from the invisible into the visible and creates for itself its appropriate organ, which develops exactly as the inner faculty evolves on its own plane.
It might be as well to add a few words here about the gunas, because they are sometimes confused with the cosmic essences or tattwas. The gunas or 'qualities,' commonly enumerated as sattva, rajas and tamas, are the three fundamental and universally potent modes of consciousness of the armies of beings which make the universe. From sattva flow forth the other two modes of consciousness, rajas or activity, and tamas or inactivity, generally speaking. Now the union of these two qualities, which do not neutralize each other but combine to form something superior to either, is what is meant by sattva — that which is 'real.' It is the condition in which the high gods live.
When the universe is in manvantaric manifestation, it is the rajas quality which predominates, although of course the tamas and likewise the sattva are both present. When the universe is in pralaya with the unending peace and quiet that then prevail, the predominating quality is highest tamas, yet rajas is present, albeit relatively latent. Thus in the Vedas as well as in the Laws of Manu it is stated that before manifestation begins the universe is in the tamas condition, in utter repose. Of course the highest principles of the universe are then in the sattva quality, while the rajas quality during pralaya is dormant.
Hindu philosophy in connection with its Trimurti or triad of Brahma-Vishnu-Siva, usually ascribes the sattva guna or characteristic to Brahma; the quality of rajas to Vishnu; and the quality of tamas to Siva. Yet in both manvantara and pralaya the sattva quality runs throughout all. Thus the gods while eternally active are nevertheless peaceful because filled with wisdom, and their motions are effortless activity, and their actions are wondrously quiet and undisturbed.
Furthermore, every one of the gunas — because the universe is fundamentally one, and all things in it are interblended and interacting — is itself threefold, otherwise we should have each of these three universal qualities existing absolutely separate and distinct from the other two, and this would make three absolutes. They are not absolutes, but all three are relative; and both rajas and tamas, when united and balancing each other without loss of individuality in either, manifest the presence of their common originant, sattva.
It has been customary among some Orientalists, who do not understand the esoteric meaning of these gunas, to speak of the tamas as being only sloth, darkness, evil, but this is quite wrong; for there is a sattva-tamas as well as a tamas-tamas; and the same type of observation may be made with regard to both the rajas and the sattva character or guna.
Thus it is that every one of the cosmic essences or tattwas is marked by the presence and inherent activity of the three gunas, each one acting in conjunction with the other twain. It should be the endeavor of all men to bring forth the sattva quality especially, for this means that instead of the frequent unbalance or bias of either rajas or tamas, both these qualities are in balance in the character and cooperating.
"Our globe, as taught from the first, is at the bottom of the arc of descent, where the matter of our perceptions exhibits itself in its grossest form. . . . Hence it only stands to reason that the globes which overshadow our Earth must be on different and superior planes. In short, as Globes, they are in CO-ADUNITION but not IN CONSUBSTANTIALITY WITH OUR EARTH and thus pertain to quite another state Of consciousness. Our planet (like all those we see) is adapted to the peculiar state of its human stock, that state which enables us to see with our naked eye the sidereal bodies which are co-essential with our terrene plane and substance, just as their respective inhabitants, the Jovians, Martians and others can perceive our little world: because our planes of consciousness, differing as they do in degree but being the same in kind, are on the same layer of differentiated matter. . . . If he (meaning the objector) would perceive even the dim silhouette of one of such 'planets' on the higher planes, he has to first throw off even the thin clouds of the astral matter that stands between him and the next plane." — From a letter quoted in The Secret Doctrine, I, 166
As each cosmic plane is divisible into seven or ten or twelve subplanes, there exists a close correspondence between the planes and the element-principles of the cosmos, the various cosmic planes being, in fact, worlds built of and in the corresponding element-principles. Every element-principle, being septenary or duodenary, contains within itself all the other element-principles; hence from each one of them can be ascertained in minor degree the nature and characteristics of all the others. The evolutionary plan consists in the gradual and successive emanations of the various element-principles from each other as the aggregated life impulse cycles downwards from one cosmic plane to the next. This is perforce repeated on a minor scale on every one of the seven cosmic planes, in the gradual and successive appearance in each of what might be called the correspondential sub-element-principle, as the combined life impulse passes from one subplane to the next lower one.
It follows from this, that each one of the seven rounds of a planetary chain, each of the seven (or twelve) globes of that chain, and every one of the seven root-races of any globe thereof, has its predominating correspondence with one of the seven element-principles of the cosmos.
Let us take globe D of our planetary chain as an illustration of the coming into being of any hierarchical unit through and in the seven cosmic planes. This globe is on the lowest or seventh of the manifested cosmic planes of our solar system, the prithivi plane; but this plane itself has seven or even twelve degrees of ethereality — its subplanes, which again are divisible into sub-subplanes after the same manner. As an instance of how great are the differences between one subplane and the next, the matter or prakriti of our physical plane ranges from the utter invisibility of what we call ether to substances which our scientists assure us are more dense than lead.
Now then, our globe D on this lowest cosmic plane, being itself sevenfold in the degrees of its substance, exists (appears after various manners) on all that plane. I do not mean to say that our physical globe infills it, but that every part of globe D is on its corresponding sub-subplane of the cosmic plane, each globe-phase corresponding to its own phase of that plane. What applies to globe D applies of course to all the other globes of the planetary chain, each on its own cosmic plane.
The question might arise as to how this series of correspondences comes to pass. The answer lies in the correct understanding of the manner in which the foundations of a planetary chain are built, globe after globe, in and during the first round. This again can be illustrated by the case of globe D, because the process involved is identical for all the globes of the chain.
Our globe D in the first round, in its highly ethereal aspect, is on the first, the uppermost, of the seven subplanes or phases of the prithivi cosmic plane. It evolves thereon in the highest, or the quasi-spiritual, phase of the prithivi cosmic element-principle. In the second round, globe D will have evolved to the point of finding itself on and in the next lower phase of the prithivi cosmic element-principle; otherwise stated, it will have materialized to the extent of finding itself on subplane the second, counting downwards. This should not be misunderstood as meaning that globe D then is entirely on the second subplane of prithivi, having completely left the first subplane. It would be far closer to truth to speak of globe D as being (in the second round) in and on the second subplane of the prithivi plane, but containing within itself the qualities and attributes of the first subplane thereof. It has now evolved from within itself the substances and energies which make it fit to appear on the second subplane of the prithivi plane.
In the third round, globe D will have descended to the third subplane of the prithivi cosmic plane. It will have evolved to the point of finding itself on and expressing the next lower phase of the prithivi cosmic element-principle, and will be then manifesting on the lowest of these three subplanes, meanwhile imbodying within itself the attributes and characteristics of the two superior subplanes. In the fourth round in which we are at present, globe D has reached the fourth subplane of prithivi, our globe's grossest state of matter in its present imbodiment. The downward cycling then ceases for our globe, and its reascent begins.
I am compelled to add here a word of warning in this very intricate subject of the subplanes, and sub-subplanes, of any cosmic plane. In the foregoing, I have sketched a mere outline of the descent of our globe D during its first four rounds, without attempting to be exact in description. However, were I aiming at strict accuracy, I should say sub-subplane instead of subplane. As a matter of fact, every imbodiment of a globe, which means the course of a period of seven rounds, takes place on one subplane of any cosmic plane such as the prithivi cosmic plane. Moreover, because each such subplane is itself septenary, therefore a round really is the touching and being in and on one of the subplanes of a subplane of the cosmic plane. In other words, in and on every cosmic plane, such as the prithivi cosmic plane, there are seven imbodiments of a globe, and consequently there will be seven respective moons.
What about subplanes 5, 6, 7? The diagrams given in The Secret Doctrine (I, 153, 172) of the globes of a chain on the different cosmic planes are excellent as suggestions, showing the descent into matter and reascent into spiritual realms; but these are graphs only, conveying ideas and evoking thoughts. If we were to take these diagrams as actual pictures, then we would have to say that subplanes 5, 6, and 7 are identical with subplanes 3, 2, and 1, each to each, and this is entirely wrong. It has already been stated that every cosmic plane is septenary, or denary, or duodenary, according to the manner of viewing it; and hence each subplane thereof, in addition to being itself seven- or ten- or twelvefold, is quite different from all the planes which precede or follow it.
Now when a globe has reached the fourth subplane — and the fourth in any series of planes or principles is always the grossest of the series — then the globe begins to ascend and thus to dematerialize itself, albeit very slowly. This ascent takes place through subplanes 5, 6, and 7, but in their more ethereal or higher sub-subplanes, so that when a globe finally reaches subplane 7, it does so in the most ethereal part of that subplane, which already is quasi-spiritual. [Cf. Studies in Occult Philosophy, pp. 56-62 and 94-101. — ED.]
I am only too keenly aware of the difficult nature of this thought, and feel almost in despair at finding adequate words with which to describe the serial evolution of a globe 'downwards' and 'upwards.' Nevertheless, there is one fundamental fact we can always bear in mind, namely, that every cosmic plane and, by analogy, every subplane thereof, has its quasi-spiritual, its intermediate, and its most material or concreted subplanes and sub-subplanes.
The following correlation of element-principles, globes, rounds, etc., given in tabular form, may help to clarify some of these technical points;
When we shall be on globes E, F, and G of the ascending arc, we shall then 'see' the corresponding globes of the descending arc, to wit, globes C, B, and A; but, as a matter of plain fact, we shall do so only when the globe or globes on which we happen to be on the ascending arc traverse the exact sub-subplane on which the globes of the descending are then are.
There is one more point in connection with any fourth subplane in a series: those monads which have been descending with the bulk of any monadic class on the downward arc, and are unable for karmic reasons to make the ascent along the ascending arc, take the 'downward path' at the grossest point — which is the middle point of the fourth subplane — and these unfortunate monads are those spoken of as 'failures.' They drop, and are left behind; and must wait for future manvantaras before they will be able to try again and, hopefully, pass the critical point of their evolution which is always the midpoint of a fourth round. (Cf. The Secret Doctrine, I, 187-9, and The Mahatma Letters, pp. 86-8.)
What applies to globe D concerning rounds and globes, applies to every one of the globes of the planetary chain, each on its own cosmic plane. Now the combined life-waves, in making their first round, pass through the highest subplane (or sub-subplane) of each one of the four lower cosmic planes of the solar system to which the planetary chain belongs. In each one of these four lower cosmic planes, the life-waves, aggregatively, lay the foundations of a globe, any one of the then-in-the-making twelve globes of the entire chain.
To put it in a different manner: in the first round, the united life-waves form globe A on the highest or first subplane of the fourth cosmic plane — here following H.P.B.'s diagram. In the first round also, the combined life-waves form the foundations of globe B on the highest or first subplane of the fifth cosmic plane. In the same round, the combined life-waves form the foundations of globe C on the highest or first subplane of the sixth cosmic plane; and finally, they form the foundations of globe D, our own planet Terra, on the highest subplane of this seventh or prithivi cosmic plane.
On the ascending arc likewise, globes E, F, and G have their foundations formed by the combined life-waves. Then when the life-waves have reached the highest globe of our chain, the first round is ended. After the nirvana at the end of the first round, the second round begins. From this point the life-waves are now individualized to a much greater extent, and therefore peregrinate as individual waves, each such wave being really a family of monads. A life-wave on globe A, at the beginning of the second round, finds itself on the second sub-subplane of the fourth cosmic plane; it passes in karmic time then to globe B and finds itself on the second sub-subplane of the fifth cosmic plane; in due course it passes to globe C and to the second sub-subplane of the sixth cosmic plane; then again in kosmic time to globe D and to the second sub-subplane of the seventh or prithivi cosmic plane. Similarly, with respect to the ascending arc, each life-wave finds itself on the appropriate sub-subplane of the respective cosmic planes upon which are located globes E, F, and G of the chain.
The same general scheme of emanational unfolding is followed in all subsequent rounds. Globe D is at present manifesting on the fourth sub-subplane of the fourth subplane of this prithivi cosmic plane, seeing that we are now in the fourth round. It follows likewise that during the seven rounds the life-waves pass through 49 sub-subplanes, all told, and the beings composing these life-waves thereby have the chance of evolutional unfolding on these different subplanes and of working out the destiny for which they came into active manifestation.
The three upper are the three higher planes of consciousness, revealed and explained in both schools only to the Initiates, the lower ones represent the four lower planes — the lowest being our plane, or the visible Universe.
These seven planes correspond to the seven states of consciousness in man. It remains with him to attune the three higher states in himself to the three higher planes in Kosmos. But before he can attempt to attune, he must awaken the three "seats" to life and activity. — The Secret Doctrine, I, 199
Most people are inclined to look upon the seven planes or worlds in any universe as lying one on top of another like a pile of books on a table, or like the steps of a stair. This is, of course, an erroneous concept and has arisen because of the attempt to portray these cosmic planes in the form of a diagram, and thus as one on top of the other. However, this is but a means of helping us to realize that the higher the plane the more ethereal it is, and finally the more spiritual; and that the lower the plane the grosser it is, and finally the more material.
Actually, the cosmic planes interpenetrate each other, inwards especially, as well as outwards; and the truth of this should be clear when we remember the teaching concerning the auric egg, for instance, of a man. Let us take the 'layers' of such an auric egg as being the exact correspondences of the planes in the cosmos. We immediately realize that these layers are not one on top of another and rising above man's head until they reach infinity, but are groups of life-atoms, all together composing the auric egg, and differing only in degree of spirituality or materiality. Indeed, the analogy is extremely exact; for what the auric egg is in man, with its many layers of atoms vibrating at different rates of intensity, just that in the cosmos is the aggregate of the cosmic planes interpenetrating each other — one plane being different from another because of immense variations in vibrational rates, making one plane material, another ethereal, and so forth to the highest plane.
Now from the very fact that the life-atoms are as units individuals, each with its own highest or atmic, and its own lowest or material (or it may be ethereal) vehicle, we see that a layer or plane is made by these life-atoms themselves; so that collectively, even the lowest of any such aggregate of life-atoms has likewise its atmic or inmost fundamental being. Thus it is that the topmost layers of any cosmic plane are spiritual or divine; even the topmost subplane of the lowest cosmic plane, and this does not mean that it is spiritual-divine only when compared with all its own lower subplanes. In other words, the uppermost layers of any cosmic plane are spiritual per se; and as the succeeding layers unfold downwards, they thicken or grossen proportionally faster, the lower the cosmic plane is.
Despite all that has been stated, some may still picture the seven cosmic planes, or the seven principles of man, or again the different layers of the auric egg, as piled one on top of the other. Of course, in one sense, there is some truth in this, for one plane is emanationally unfolded in time and space from its superior plane. It is really the time-illusion which causes us to look upon each cosmic plane as being below the one which gave it birth.
The highest subplane of any cosmic plane is as high, in its essence, as the highest subplane of any other cosmic plane. Yet the lower the cosmic plane, the more rapidly concretion takes place as the hierarchy of that plane unfolds itself 'downwards.' Thus, with the lowest or seventh cosmic plane, its spiritual essence is as high as that of the first, second, or any other cosmic plane.
Here is the reason why we speak of the heart of the sun, of globe D of the solar chain, for instance, as being a particle of mother-substance in the sixth or even seventh state of this mother-substance, a subject we shall take up in more detail later. This means that all the different planes, instead of being actually one on top of another, are interblended and interacting, and hence there is a progression of life-atoms or monads not only from top to bottom and up again, but horizontally, as it were, on each plane.
The first or highest cosmic plane is the first or highest layer of the auric egg of the cosmos, or what we may call the cosmic atman, the Paramatman. The second or next lower cosmic plane is in its highest in essence equal to the second atmic subplane of the first cosmic plane or great atmic plane. The third cosmic plane is in its highest in essence equal to the third atmic subplane of the first cosmic plane; and so forth down the scale. Thus the atmic subplane of the seventh or lowest cosmic plane is in its essence the same as the seventh or lowest subplane of the highest or atmic hierarchy of the cosmos. It is, as it were, a reflection of the lowest sub-atmic plane of the first cosmic plane. This is why every little life-atom, even on this physical plane, is a sevenfold entity, because possessing at its heart the essence of the first cosmic plane or highest atman of the cosmos, plus the essences of all the intermediate five cosmic planes.
The highest atmic plane of the cosmos therefore contains infolded within itself all the other lower atmic degrees of the unfolded cosmos. For the highest unrolls itself into seven (or twelve), and out of these roll all the other atmic essences of the lower cosmic planes. The atmic subplane of the second cosmic plane we can call a derivative from the buddhi-atman of the first cosmic plane; the atman of the third cosmic plane would be a manas-atman derivative of the first cosmic plane; and so on down the line of the unfolded cosmic hierarchy.
It may be of interest here to mention that the ancient Buddhist initiates divided the cosmic worlds and planes of any structural unit into three generalized groups or dhatus: the arupa-dhatu, the rupa-dhatu, and the kama-dhatu.
Suppose we take our planetary chain and try to divide the seven cosmic planes on which its twelve globes are distributed into the threefold division of the dhatus. Then the lowest of the dhatus, the kama-dhatu, can be looked upon as being the seven manifest globes, and the rupa-dhatu as corresponding with the five higher globes of the twelve of our chain. The arupa-dhatu or formless worlds would correspond to the three highest planes above the seven on which these twelve globes are, thus making the full number of the ten planes of the solar system. As a matter of fact, however, this allocation of the dhatus is somewhat arbitrary, because different distributions could be given with equal logic. All such divisions of the universe should be considered somewhat like diagrams: they are suggestive and are strictly accordant with nature's structure, but they are not hard and fast. H.P.B. herself gives another manner of allocating the globes by comparison with the seven globes of the Qabbalah. (Cf. The Secret Doctrine, I, 200.)
The kama-dhatu or desire-world refers to the planes and globes which are the worlds of more or less concreted materialization; the rupa-dhatu or form-world refers to those planes of the solar system or of the chain and the globes on them, which are more ethereal; again the arupa-dhatu or formless world comprises the planes which to us are not concreted matter, whether coarse or ethereal, but are purely spiritual and therefore to us formless. All these dhatus refer as much to the states of consciousness of the beings therein as they do to the planes and globes themselves.
Viewed from another angle, these three groups of cosmic planes may be described briefly as follows: the highest is the 'imageless' system or group; the intermediate is the 'image' system; and the third and lowest is the 'desire' system — the last meaning those planes or worlds where entities live in relatively material or grossly material vehicles with appropriate sense organs, brought about by as yet nonextinct desire or hunger for existence in spheres of matter.
Thus the kama-dhatu system comprises our own physical cosmic plane with three others invisible to us, rising along an ethereal scale, and all together forming an aggregate of four planes of the cosmos on which we may place the seven globes of the planetary chain. Then follows upwards the next system of worlds or planes which comprises the rupa-dhatu, a group system likewise seven in number, and graduating in ethereality and spirituality until the highest of this intermediate scale blends with the lowest of the arupa-dhatu, which again is a group system of seven worlds or planes.
These three dhatus, ascending in steadily more ethereal ranges, form all the cosmic planes in any universal solar system; yet above them, there are other planes still more spiritual reaching into the divine, and in these last ranges of being are found those entities who have attained the nirvana. On the cosmic scale, the higher principles of a universal solar system reach these spiritual-divine ranges of being at the end of the Maha-Saurya manvantara, and thus enter their paranirvana.
Now the outbreathings of Brahma are from these paranirvanic spiritual-divine ranges of the galaxy, these outbreathings slowly descending through all intermediate planes until our physical world appears in the beginning of its manvantara as, first, a cosmic comet evolving to become a nebula, and ending as a universal solar system. When the Maha-Saurya pralaya approaches, the reverse process of infolding or inbreathing begins to take place. The beings and energies and substances, commencing with the lowest cosmic plane, all gradually disappear within, like an infolding scroll as the general life force of the universal solar system retreats ever higher and more inwards through all the planes of the trailokya (7), ingathering each such plane and all beings on and in it, and thus finally attaining the imageless or paranirvanic realms of the divine principles of the galaxy.
What is nirvana or paranirvana for one class of entities may not necessarily be such for another class superior to it. In other words, the Ring-pass-not is not one particular plane or sphere, but varies with different classes of entities. As H.P.B. says with reference to the seven globes of our planetary chain as existing on the four lowest cosmic planes:
These are the four lower planes of Cosmic Consciousness, the three higher planes being inaccessible to human intellect as developed at present. The seven states of human consciousness pertain to quite another question. — The Secret Doctrine, I, 200
When H.P.B. states that the human intellect cannot ascend higher than the fourth macrocosmic plane — on which are the first and seventh globes of the planetary chain — this does not mean that we derive our origin from that plane, but merely that the higher part of our present constitution as a conscious entity cannot now ascend beyond it. Each one of us is Infinitude in the core of the core of the god within. Yet as a human entity, even with the loftiest and most sublimely developed human understanding, we cannot rise in thought and comprehension above the fourth macrocosmic plane. When we shall have passed out of ordinary humanhood into quasi-godhood, then we shall be able to reach in self-conscious thought and spiritual penetration even beyond this fourth plane.
The gods can ascend to the first or highest of the seven macrocosmic planes. But even they in their present state of godhood cannot go beyond the Ring-pass-not, which means the utmost limit of their consciousness and understanding. The wings of their spirit can carry them no higher, no farther, no deeper, into the essence of Being. These expressions, high, deep, far, apply only to our physical universe, and are used because we have no proper words to express the spiritual fact of an ever-increasing penetration into the arcana of nature's heart.
When reading of the Ring-pass-not, we should remember that this Ring refers to the state or evolution of any individual entity. The Ring-pass-not of a god would mean that utmost extension of consciousness and vital activity which it in its divine power can attain; similarly, the Ring-pass-not of a buddha would be the buddha's utmost capacity to be conscious on and to act in his own farthest spiritual-vital sphere. In exactly identical fashion the Ring-pass-not of a man is that limit or frontier beyond which he, in his present evolutionary unfoldment, cannot go in consciousness or self-conscious action. Thus the Ring-pass-not does not mean so much any particular cosmic plane, but rather the entity's ability, beyond which it cannot as yet pass. For example, the beasts on earth today have merely direct consciousness and the merest unfoldings of self-consciousness as their Ring-pass-not; but humans have passed this Ring, because they have attained self-consciousness.
As H.P.B. writes in The Secret Doctrine (I, 131):
The chemist goes to the laya or zero point of the plane of matter with which he deals, and then stops short. The physicist or the astronomer counts by billions of miles beyond the nebulae, and then they also stop short; the semi-initiated Occultist will represent this laya-point to himself as existing on some plane which, if not physical, is still conceivable to the human intellect. But the full Initiate knows that the ring "Pass-Not" is neither a locality nor can it be measured by distance, but that it exists in the absoluteness of infinity. In this "Infinity" of the full Initiate there is neither height, breadth nor thickness, but all is fathomless profundity, reaching down from the physical to the "para-para-metaphysical." In using the word "down," essential depth — "nowhere and everywhere" — is meant, not depth of physical matter.
Section 6, Part 2
Main Table of Contents
1. Cf. Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, where I have given the following table of cosmic essences equated with the Brahmanic tattwas and the mystic Greek parallels, etc. Any such table, however, is more or less arbitrary, as others could be drawn up with equal accuracy from different standpoints:
(return to text) (return to footnote 6)
2. The following extract from the Vishnu Purana (I, ii, 27-40) is here appended:
In the same manner as fragrance affects the mind from its proximity merely, and not from any immediate operation upon mind itself, so the Supreme influenced the elements of creation. Purushottama is both the agitator and the thing to be agitated; being present in the essence of matter, both when it is contracted and expanded. . . .
Then from that equilibrium of the qualities (Pradhana), presided over by soul, proceeds the unequal development of those qualities (constituting the principle Mahat or Intellect) at the time of creation. The Chief principle then invests that Great principle, Intellect; and it becomes threefold, as affected by the quality of goodness, foulness, or darkness, and invested by the Chief principle (matter), as seed is by its skin. From the great principle (Mahat) Intellect, threefold Egotism, (Ahamkara), denominated Vaikarika, 'pure'; Taijasa, 'passionate'; and Bhutadi, 'rudimental,' is produced; the origin of the (subtile) elements, and of the organs of sense; invested, in consequence of its three qualities, by Intellect, as Intellect is by the Chief principle. Elementary Egotism, then becoming productive, as the rudiment of sound, produced from it Ether, of which sound is the characteristic, investing it with its rudiment of sound. Ether, becoming productive, engendered the rudiment of touch; whence originated strong wind, the property of which is touch; and Ether, with the rudiment of sound, enveloped the rudiment of touch. Then wind, becoming productive, produced the rudiment of form (colour); whence light (or fire) proceeded, of which, form (colour) is the attribute; and the rudiment of touch enveloped the wind with the rudiment of colour. Light, becoming productive, produced the rudiment of taste; whence proceed all juices in which flavour resides; and the rudiment of colour invested the juices with the rudiment of taste. The waters, becoming productive, engendered the rudiment of smell; whence an aggregate (earth) originates, of which smell is the property. In each several element resides its peculiar rudiment; thence the property of tanmatrata (type or rudiment) is ascribed to these elements. . . .
Then, ether, air, light, water, and earth, severally united with the properties of sound and the rest, existed as distinguishable according to their qualities, as soothing, terrific, or stupefying; but, possessing various energies and being unconnected, they could not, without combination, create living beings, not having blended with each other. Having combined, therefore, with one another, they assumed, through their mutual association, the character of one mass of entire unity; and, from the direction of spirit, with the acquiescence of the indiscrete Principle, Intellect and the rest, to the gross elements inclusive, formed an egg, which gradually expanded like a bubble of water. . . . In that egg, O Brahman, were the continents and seas and mountains, the planets and divisions of the universe, the gods, the demons, and mankind. And this egg was externally invested by seven natural envelopes; or by water, air, fire, ether, and Ahamkara, the origin of the elements, each tenfold the extent of that which it invested; next came the principle of Intelligence; and, finally, the whole was surrounded by the indiscrete Principle: resembling, thus, the cocoa-nut, filled interiorly with pulp, and exteriorly covered by husk and rind. (return to text)
3. The sylphs or the nature spirits of the atmosphere, the vayu-elementals, are popularly said to be the most dangerous to man, because they are on a plane which has close and intimate correspondences with the kama range of the astral world. The gnomes, or prithivi-elementals, are less dangerous, because too heavy. The undines, or elemental beings of apas-tattwa, are also less dangerous, because they are not as evolved as the sylphs. The fire elementals or salamanders, the beings born from the taijasa-tattwa, are likewise not as harmful because, though more evolved than the sylphs or vayu-elementals, they are more intimately connected with the manasic ranges of the astral world. (return to text)
4. Cf. The Secret Doctrine, I, 294, footnote:
". . . as man is composed of all the Great Elements: Fire, Air, Water, Earth and Ether — the ELEMENTALS which belong respectively to these Elements feel attracted to man by reason of their co-essence. That element which predominates in a certain constitution will be the ruling element throughout life. For instance, if man has a preponderance of the Earthly, gnomic element, the gnomes will lead him towards assimilating metals — money and wealth, and so on." (return to text)
5. The kind of manvantara referred to is the solar manvantara which, however, is an ambiguous term. As pointed out elsewhere, the term solar manvantara has two applications: first, to the entire life cycle of our sun and therefore of the entire solar system — usually called a mahamanvantara; and second, to the life cycle of a single planetary chain, which is likewise called a solar manvantara, for the reason that each such life cycle, when beginning its course, enters upon a new cosmic subplane, and consequently a new sun, as it were, dawns for each such planetary chain-manvantara. (return to text)
6. In the table in footnote 1, I was referring to the taijasa-subtattwa, that part of the cosmic vayu which we may call the vayu-taijasa; and, in similar fashion, to the vayu-subtattwa, that part of the cosmic taijasa which we may call the taijasa-vayu. For example, a man may belong by karmic characteristic to the taijasa-tattwa, yet be passing through its vayu phase, the taijasa-vayu, and we could speak of him as being for the time a vayu individual. In this table we were considering the tattwas in the serial order of their cosmic unfolding from the less to the more material, and therefore taijasa preceded vayu, because fire, even on earth, is more ethereal than air. But there are other ways of looking at the unrolling of the universe out of its inner substance. (return to text)
7. A Sanskrit word meaning three worlds, often used for the three dhatus. The correspondences between the trailokya and the similar parts of man's constitution are shown by the trikaya, or three vehicles, to wit, counting downwards, the dharmakaya, the sambhogakaya, and the nirmanakaya. The arupa- or dharma-dhatu corresponds generally with the dharmakaya in man; the rupa-dhatu with the sambhogakaya; and the kama-dhatu with the nirmanakaya (and the physical body) of the human being. All three of these kayas or vehicles are integral parts of the constitution of a man, and through initiation one may learn how to live self-consciously in any one of the three, both during life and after death. It should be noted, however, that the highest aspect of the dharmakaya is nirvanic, and thus it is often said that the nirvani lives in the dharmakaya. (return to text)