Esotericism, pure and simple, speaks of no personal God; therefore are we considered as Atheists. But, in reality, Occult Philosophy, as a whole, is based absolutely on the ubiquitous presence of God, the Absolute Deity; and if It itself is not speculated upon, as being too sacred and yet incomprehensible as a Unit to the finite intellect, yet the entire philosophy is based upon Its divine Powers as being the source of all that breathes and lives and has its existence. In every ancient religion the One was demonstrated by the many. In Egypt and India, in Chaldea and Phoenicia, and finally in Greece, the ideas about Deity were expressed by multiples of three, five, and seven; and also of eight, nine and twelve great Gods which symbolized the powers and properties of the One and Only Deity. This was related to that infinite subdivision by irregular and odd numbers to which the metaphysics of these nations subjected their ONE DIVINITY. Thus constituted, the cycle of the Gods had all the qualities and attributes of the ONE SUPREME AND UNKNOWABLE; for in this collection of divine personalities, or rather of symbols personified, dwells the ONE GOD, the GOD ONE, that God which, in India, is said to have no Second: "Oh God Ani (the Spiritual Sun), thou residest in the agglomeration of thy divine personages."
These words show the belief of the ancients that all manifestation proceeds from one and the same source, all emanating from the one identical principle which can never be completely developed except in and through the collective and entire aggregate of its emanations. — H.P.B.'s E.S. Instructions, II
It is probable that no theme is so enwrapped in hazy obscurities as that of the gods of the various nations. In fact, even scholars — while acquainted with the religious, philosophical and mystical literatures of antiquity, as well as with the scriptures of those Oriental peoples who are still polytheistic in their belief — would be hard driven to give a clear-cut statement as to just what these gods were and are. The reason is that Occidentals for some two thousand years have abandoned all polytheistic thought for a somewhat illogical monotheistic conception of nature, and so are wholly out of sympathetic understanding with what these ancient and modern peoples consider their gods or goddesses to be.
Now it would be quite misleading to suppose that either the devas of Hindu mythology, or the gods and goddesses of the ancient Mediterranean peoples and their neighbors, are all fully self-conscious divinities inspiring and more or less controlling nature. They would be far better understood if we called them the powers of nature, including under this definition the divine, the semidivine, and all the ethereal, astral, and astral-physical entities which not only infill, but actually compose, our universe.
The esoteric philosophy, however, when speaking of gods, conceives of beings who, from their origin and by their characteristics and functions, are typically inhabitants of the highest cosmic planes. These gods are divisible into two classes or groups which are, so to speak, the extremes of the divine powers of nature, these extremes being the septenary classes of the divinities considered (a) at their origin, and (b) as full-blown self-conscious beings active on the light side of nature and on the divine-spiritual planes.
When a universe is beginning to unfold itself, there arise into activity, automatically as it were, beings on the highest cosmic plane (the only one then in existence) which are born from the very stuff or essence of that divine cosmic plane itself. These, class (a), are what we could call cosmic divine elementals; born of the substance or essence of the mulaprakriti of the cosmic unit, they are divine and divine-spiritual in type or character, gods after a fashion, although elemental divinities just beginning their evolution in this universe, and not yet full-blown gods or highly evolved jivanmuktas.
Class (b), on the other hand, more truly corresponds to what the Western mind conceives divinities to be. They are those relatively fully evolved gods who had reached divinity on the divine and divine-spiritual planes at the end of the preceding mahamanvantara; and because they have so far advanced on the evolutionary ladder of life that they are native to those realms, they come forth contemporaneously with the group of cosmic elementals described under (a). Now those of group (b), while being full-blown divinities, are, nevertheless, 'failures' in the sense that they had not evolved sufficiently far at the end of the preceding mahamanvantara to leave the present universe and enter into a higher one, and consequently they have karmic links obliging them to take part in the new mahamanvantara of the universe now in process of opening its cosmic drama of life.
Thus the cosmic elementals are borne forwards into activity and begin the work of building the new universe under the spiritual and intellectual guidance of the true divinities or divine powers, the latter coalescing with the former and guiding their activities. As all these entities of both groups are, or at least become, sevenfold, such coalescence takes place in the points of mutual joining or similarity of swabhavic substance. In The Mahatma Letters (p. 87), K.H. speaks of this event and the coalescence of the self-conscious divinities with the newly aroused elementals as bringing about the first formation of a cosmic unit.
The gods are no mere abstractions; they are entities, incomparably more 'entified' than we are. They are examples of pure, individualized consciousnesses, while we are examples of entities whose consciousness is scarcely realized by ourselves. The gods live in their own spiritual realms, in bodies of spiritual texture, or in what to us would be bodies of light; just as to entities lower than we our bodies would seem to be built of light — and so in fact they are. To us it is flesh, because our senses are of the same substance.
What form have the gods? They have such forms as karma and evolution have given to them. What form have human beings? Such forms as karma and evolution have given to us. The great difference between a man and a god is that the gods are quasi-universal in their vital and consciousness-spheres, while men are extremely restricted in the spheres of their vitality and consciousness. On the other hand, the main similarity between them is that both god and man hold within their vital sphere other entities of a lower degree. The gods are countless. New gods are continuously being added to the host, while others are advancing into a still higher class of divinities. But every god contains within the realm of his auric egg — which includes his vitality and his consciousness, his intellect and his buddhic energy and his atman — a whole vast range of less evolved beings.
Consider the body of man with its multitudes of life-atoms and physical atoms, and remember at the same time that a large number of such physical atoms within their own atomic system have inhabitants, many of which are sentient, conscious, self-conscious, thinking entities. Yet man comprehends them all within the sphere of his vital influence. His is the dominant vitality which permeates and holds them all together as an entity. Similarly, we are human life-atoms living in the auric egg, in the vital sphere, of a divinity.
Stars, comets, planets, and nebulae — all are entities, vital phenomena, gathered together in and encompassed by the vitality of some super-divinity. And thus it is throughout Space endlessly.
Mere size has naught to do with consciousness. Some of the electrons of certain atoms are inhabited, and some of these inhabitants are fully as intelligent and self-conscious as we are. They think, they feel, they aspire. They are the 'humans' of those infinitesimal worlds. In the other direction, think of the wondrous spaces that we call our universe; the billions of suns which compose the Milky Way, most of them probably having planets around them, many of which are inhabited.
We on this little electron of our own solar system atom are in the same position in relation to the cosmic divinity in which we have our being, as the infinitesimal entities are to us. It is our vitality, our intelligence, our individuality, it is the energies and powers and forces welling forth from the heart of us, which give life and evolutionary direction to these infinitesimal beings living within us. They are our children. There is nothing separate in boundless Infinitude. Everything is interwoven with everything else. And this fact is the basis of the greatest teaching of occultism — the fundamental essential oneness of all that is.
Now as every universe, of whatever grade or magnitude in Space, is overseen and inspired by an originating atmic divinity — or cosmic hierarch (1) — we may look upon all these divinities as rays or logoi from this cosmic hierarch, very much as the life-atoms on any plane of a man's auric egg can be looked upon as rays or individuals flowing forth from one or another of the different monads of his constitution.
Monad is a general term for a variety of consciousness centers, whether in the constitution of a man or of a universe. In man, a microcosm, there are a number of monads: the divine monad or inner god, the spiritual, the human, and the vital-astral monad, each being the offspring of the monad immediately superior to it. No matter what its grade, every monad is a learning, evolving entity.
Man is composite, wholly mortal in his lower aspects, and unconditionally immortal only in the monadic essence, his inner god. From this monadic essence all his sevenfold nature evolves and manifests various phases of the stream of consciousness which man essentially is. The spiritual monad forms around itself a veil, a body, in which it can express certain parts of its energies on a lower plane, and this again exudes from itself a less ethereal vehicle, a soul, which enables the spiritual monad to manifest on a still lower plane. And so the process is repeated serially, these garments of light becoming progressively grosser until we reach the linga-sarira or model-body which, in its turn and as the last effort, exudes forth and builds the physical body. In this way are man's sheaths of selfhood unfolded.
We humans are but evolved life-atoms, and in comparison with beings higher than ourselves, our spiritual natures are but life-atoms living in and of the essence of the higher gods. Thus there exists an intimate communion between the gods and men, because in these greater and vaster cosmic spheres we are evolving life-atoms of that sublimer stage.
Not only is every being an expression of an individualized divinity, its inner god, but all these inner gods are under the sway of, and living in and forming a part of, some greater divinity, itself but a part of a superior host collectively aggregated within the life-sphere of some divinity still more sublime; and so on ad infinitum. At every step we may say with Paul of the Christians: "In It we live and move and have our being." The supreme hierarch of the cosmic hierarchy includes within its body corporate this vast aggregate of inner gods, much as our body contains all the life-atoms which compose it. In boundless Space, there are an infinite number of such cosmic hierarchies.
Every one of us, in aeons upon aeons in the far distant past, was a life-atom continuously forming a part of the body, or of the intellectual portion, or of the psychical range, of the constitution of some entity who now is a divinity — our own supreme hierarch — and we are trailing along behind as part of that divinity's 'family.' These supreme hierarchs, infinite in number, form the inhabitants of the divine-spiritual universe; just as we in our relatively little sphere of consciousness and energy are the inhabitants here. We are gods to the life-atoms which enter our bodies; and to the higher gods, into whose vehicles and spheres of life we enter, we are life-atoms.
Gods or monadic essences, monads, egos, souls, life-atoms, atoms — these form a descending series. First, a monadic essence or god clothes itself with its monad, which in turn clothes itself with its ego; this again enwraps itself with its soul, which clothes itself with one particular life-atom around which are grouped by karmic attraction other minor life-atoms, likewise emanated by the originating monadic essence. Thus every monad is derivative from its parent god, yet its future destiny is to unfold itself into a god. This apparent inversion of teaching will not seem so difficult to understand if we remember that as soon as a monad becomes a god, through an unfolding of its latent faculties, it then and there begins to emanate its own child monad and the hosts of minor children monads which in their aggregate furnish it with its various vehicles — all of this reproducing the above-mentioned series from gods to atoms.
A monad entering our hierarchy starts its existence as an unself-conscious god-spark, and then flowering out through humanity it attains divinity and ends its career in that particular manvantara as a full-blown god. It would be absurd, as pointed out by H.P.B. (cf. The Secret Doctrine, I, 178), to say that the monad of an atom of hornblende, through the long ages, by wriggling in and out of other minerals, and in and out of vegetables and heaven knows how many kinds of beasts, finally wriggled into a man. That is not the idea. The statement which, by the way, was written by one of her teachers, was made in an endeavor to set forth that the old quasi-Darwinian theory of evolution, as meaning a constant accretion of things becoming at length a self-conscious center, was wrong.
Evolution does not mean a continual accretion of experience upon experience upon experience. Evolution means a flowing out from within: the unrolling, the unfolding, of what is already within. Character, individuality, self-conscious energy, self-conscious power, all come from within. The core of every entity, whether god, monad, man, or atom, is in essence a divinity. In the gods it is a still higher divinity; in human beings it is a god. This is the monadic essence.
The statement of the Lord Buddha that nothing composite endures, and consequently that as man is a composite entity there is in him no immortal and unchanging 'soul,' is the key. The 'soul' of man is changing from instant to instant — learning, growing, expanding, evolving — so that at no two consecutive seconds of time or of experience is it the same. Therefore it is not immortal. For immortality means enduring continually as you are. If you evolve you change, and therefore you cannot be immortal in the part which evolves, because you are growing into something greater.
Hence the monad of an atom of carbon or any other mineral is not the same thing as the monad of a Shakespeare, a Newton or a Plato. The essence in each case is identic, but not the monad. It is this essence which projects a ray or extends a portion of its energy in and upon the astral realm, which energy thus at its tip becomes the astral monad — itself a mere phase of the energies and capacities inherent in the monadic essence. The next phase, and speaking now in aeonic periods, is the human monad. When the human phase of the monadic essence passes, we shall have become spiritual monads. When this spiritual phase passes, we shall then have become the monadic essence itself, and thus shall have returned home as a full-blown god.
The teaching in The Secret Doctrine was an endeavor to uproot the mistaken idea that the little, everlasting, and unchanging hard atoms, as the atoms of the chemistry of that day were supposed to be, were our monads. The monads are vital entities, centers of consciousness quivering with life, changing incessantly and continually growing. And so it is quite wrong to picture any monad as an identic unchanged monad through the past ages: through the minerals, through the vegetables and through the animals. What we must figurate is a monadic essence divine in character, belonging to the spiritual-divine world, which continually manifests certain portions of itself in lower realms — from the lowest to the highest — of that universe. As Krishna says: "I established this whole Universe with a single portion of myself, and remain separate" (Bhagavad-Gita, ch. x) — separate, yet the 'single portion' is not detached in the sense that it is an amputated ray, as if the sun could send out a ray and lose it. The sun remains separate from its ray, yet the ray remains a portion of the sun.
The monadic essence, because it is the root of everything that flows forth from it, is like the sun shining upon the evolving entity derived from it — the many monads which are its rays. But if we think of such an entity as radically separate, progressing along an absolutely distinct path from other entities, we shall wander far afield.
Every monad or soul is in a certain sense an entity destined to evolve to the spiritual stage of its parent monadic essence. As the human child grows up to be like his father, sprung from the father and yet different, another individual, so is it with any monad. The human soul, for example, is destined to develop into a spiritual soul, because already latent in and overshadowing the human entity, is a Buddha or Christ, itself destined in time to flower out as a dhyani-chohan, a god; for a dhyani-chohan is the very heart of a Buddha or Christ.
Dhyani-chohan is a term taken from the Mahayana Buddhism of Central and Northern Asia, and is a generalizing expression very much like the word gods. Indeed, the very highest classes of dhyani-chohans are identical with the gods, while all the lower or intermediate classes run down the scale of the cosmic structure, thus including demigods and other self-conscious entities of still inferior grades, until we reach beings like us, who are what one might call embodied dhyani-chohans of a lower grade, for such we truly are in our buddhi-manasic parts. It would be wrong to speak of the elementals as dhyani-chohans, for the significant meaning of dhyani is a self-conscious individual of a more or less spiritual character who to us seems to be involved in lofty 'contemplation,' i.e. in what Hindu philosophy calls dhyana. Hence, all the different grades of dhyani-chohans more properly belong to the higher parts of the cosmic hierarchical structure. The lower portions of this structure are the three general classes of the elementals, the various kinds of nature-sprites (elementals slightly evolved), and the grades of beings higher than the nature-sprites up to and including the human kingdom. Above the human kingdom, which is marked by self-consciousness and the beginnings of spiritual dhyana, begin the lowest groups of the dhyani-chohans, the highest classes of which are gods.
. . . Occultism does not accept anything inorganic in the Kosmos. The expression employed by Science, "inorganic substance," means simply that the latent life slumbering in the molecules of so-called "inert matter" is incognizable. ALL IS LIFE, and every atom of even mineral dust is a LIFE, though beyond our comprehension and perception, because it is outside the range of the laws known to those who reject Occultism. "The very Atoms," says Tyndall, "seem instinct with a desire for life." Whence, then, we would ask, comes the tendency "to run into organic form"? Is it in any way explicable except according to the teachings of Occult Science?
"The worlds, to the profane," says a Commentary, "are built up of the known Elements. To the conception of an Arhat, these Elements are themselves collectively a divine Life; distributively, on the plane of manifestations, the numberless and countless crores of lives. Fire alone is ONE, on the plane of the One Reality: on that of manifested, hence illusive, being, its particles are fiery lives which live and have their being at the expense of every other life that they consume. Therefore they are named the "DEVOURERERS." . . . "Every visible thing in this Universe was built by such LIVES, from conscious and divine primordial man down to the unconscious agents that construct matter." . . . "From the ONE LIFE formless and Uncreate, proceeds the Universe of lives. — The Secret Doctrine, I, 248-50
Every monad is literally a creative center, continually pouring forth from its heart a stream of life-atoms born within and from its own essence. And each such life-atom has as its own core an as yet unexpressed god. There is not a mathematical point in infinite Space which is not such a life-atom.
More specifically, a life-atom is an astral monad, which merely means a phase of the spiritual monad itself operating by remote control in and on the astral plane. A ray or projection of the native energy of the spiritual monad thus passes through all intermediate planes of matter and consciousness until it reaches the astral, and there it forms an infinitesimal whirl, a vortex, in the astral substance. This is the astral monad, called monad because, with the essential monadic consciousness, it participates directly along this ray or extension of the monadic energy on the astral plane. The physical atom in its turn is similarly formed by the operation in physical matter of a ray from the astral monad; and the fundamental of the physical atom, according to science, is electricity.
Thus we can trace the root of the life-atom back along this ray of energy to the monadic essence. Every life-atom therefore is such a potential divinity, for the inner god is at the core of it. Every atom of chemistry is such an extension of an astral monad; and the various chemical elements, now reckoned to be some one hundred, are simply the different classes of the ten general families or orders into which matter divides itself, each of these orders being subdivided into ten subfamilies.
Life-atoms, or what the ancient Hindus called paramanus or primal anus, are the 'souls' of the chemical atoms which disintegrate as our physical bodies do. A life-atom is a manifestation of a jiva; a jiva is a monad; and the heart of a monad is indestructible, because it is divinity itself. The very atoms of our body are the identic ones that formed our last earthly vehicle. These same atoms in the next incarnation will make the body that then we shall have; and this applies not only to our physical body, but to all the sheaths of consciousness of our sevenfold constitution. Each one of these sheaths is formed of life-atoms, these jivas making up the hosts of entities composing the complete man through which the inner god works. Some of the Upanishads speak about Brahman seated at the heart of the atom — that Brahman which is smaller than the smallest, and greater than the greatest, encompassing the universe.
Such then are the life-atoms. All matter, all substance, is composed of them and of nothing else. They are the building stones of the universe. They are composite of consciousness in the core of each, manifesting in its two forms of energy and will — for energy and will are themselves forms of consciousness, the ultimate Reality.
Every life-atom originating in the supreme hierarch of any hierarchy has a tremendous evolutionary journey to perform. Beginning in the highest stages, it slowly, as the ages roll by, descends the arc of shadows into the matter formed of other similar life-atoms which have preceded it on their 'downward' way; and this journey continues until the pilgrim life-atom reaches the lowest possible point of its own hierarchy — but only of that hierarchy, because that is where it is undergoing its typical evolutionary experience. Then, having reached this point, it begins the reascent along the luminous arc, until at length it reattains union with its divine essence, the god within.
During this evolutionary process it passes from unself-consciousness through manifold and all-various stages of experience to relative self-consciousness, then to full self-consciousness, evolving into impersonal consciousness, and finally merging into divinity — now no longer a mere god-spark but a god, one of the co-laborers in the great work of the building of worlds.
Everything is composed of life-atoms, from the superspiritual to the inframaterial. To those who accept without question the appearance of things, relying solely on their outer sense perceptions, inanimate matter may seem lifeless, or at best asleep. But the physical life-atoms are very lively little entities, constantly at work, even when we are sleeping. Were they to stop for the fraction of a second, our bodies would vanish. As a matter of fact, the physical life-atoms are more intensely at work than are the life-atoms of spiritual things. They are aggressively active, as all matter is.
Intensive movement is a sign of matter; consequently the less there is of it, the higher the entity is. Peace, tranquillity and quiet are the insignia of greatness; and it is so in the spirit as it is in material things. The great things are accomplished in the quiet, in the silences.
All the various monads which make up the composite nature of man evolve forth from themselves children monads which form their successive vehicles, the outermost being the physical body built of physical life-atoms which are the atoms of previous incarnations simply because they have been our children in other lives. During each lifetime we are not only pouring them forth, but absorbing them, for there is a constant interchange of atoms. In addition, a great many of the life-atoms, hosts of them, that form our physical vehicle have flowed forth from us as new 'creations.'
Man's sevenfold constitution, including every organ of his body, is composed of life-atoms of varying degrees of evolution. A life-atom may be the vehicle of a god in a lower sphere which for karmic reasons it must at least reach toward and touch. For instance, the human brain may contain at times life-atoms which are the fingers of a divinity reaching down into our material sphere and seeking the most evolved physical matter that it can find, which is the human cerebral substance, wrapped as it is during earth life in a veil of akasa.
This is karma for the human being who can contain such life-atoms in his brain-substance; but it is, as it were, unmerited. Absolutely everything that happens to a man is his karma; but here is an instance where we can say that the individual by his free will did not really cause this god to choose a life-atom in his brain; and yet it happens because his karma made him a fit vehicle for this. The man receives the benefit.
It is also true that the brain can harbor life-atoms of a diabolical character which bring suffering. This too is karma because the man's past acts have made him a vehicle for such life-atoms. Nevertheless, it is unmerited suffering for him because he did not with his will choose to bring these diabolic life-atoms into his body. Hence, there may be life-atoms in the brain or in other vital organs which actually could be characterized as being in nature diabolic — or again, spiritual or divine.
Linked with the foregoing is the teaching regarding the peregrinations of the monads on the other planetary chains which they visit during the course of the outer rounds. Many have wondered whether the monads are imbodied on the globes of the various planetary chains, and whether their bodies correspond in size to that of the globe they visit. Let me repeat just here that bulk has no occult importance whatsoever where consciousness per se is concerned. A being but slightly evolved may have a body as huge as the earth, while its thoughts may have a compass but slightly larger than itself. A god can live in a life-atom, yet its thoughts may roam infinitude.
Now the monads peregrinating from chain to chain or from globe to globe are composed of families coming not only from our earth chain, but likewise from the other planetary chains and their respective globes. There are monads peregrinating from and to the planet Venus or the planet Jupiter, from and to Mars, etc. Many of these reach our own chain during the course of their rounds. They must do so because our earth chain is a station on the road that the monads follow along the circulations of the cosmos, some taking one form or imbodiment, others taking other forms or imbodiments. Some of these monads are highly evolved in character, some are spiritual beings, some are demigods. Others, from our human standpoint, are diabolic.
Every life-atom of every entity, born in and from the heart of the monadic essence, forever after is the child of that monadic essence, just as the human soul is the more or less developed child of the spiritual monad. In the beginning of their evolutionary journey in man, these children monads manifest first as the life-atoms of the lower parts of the human constitution; and then, throughout the many minor manvantaras that succeed each other, they grow from small to great, from great to greater, and find their ultimate destiny for the solar manvantara as liberated jivamuktas, dhyani-chohans, gods.
As we cannot become a man until we have learned everything that is beneath manhood, so the life-atom of a dhyani-chohan, destined to become a man, that is to say a reincarnating ego, must in time bring forth from its own heart the locked-up potencies of divinity. Even such a life-atom, such an elemental, such a dhyani-chohanic thought, must descend into matter in order to learn from the experiences of material existence and to struggle out of that existence as a man. What kind of a god would it be that knew nothing of the material half of the universe?
All nature proceeds after one rule. Every entity, then, may be said to originate in the life-substance of some dhyani-chohan as a life-atom; and thence it begins to evolve by descending slowly into matter. When it reaches the deepest depths of the arc of that particular hierarchy, it begins to turn upwards and becomes a complete man, which will develop into a monad or a god — not by accretions of growth from outside, but by bringing forth what is locked up within itself; and thereafter, when it attains the state of the monad of a dhyani-chohan, it becomes a cosmic spirit.
Do we flatter ourselves that the thoughts we think are our own creations? The mind of man is merely the channel through which thoughts pass in transit. While it is true that a monadic essence, the god within, gives birth to the reincarnating egos, these latter begin their evolution as dhyani-chohanic atoms, elementals, thoughts, if you like; and 'thoughts' is not so bad a term, for a thought is an entity. It is ensouled, it persists in time, it has individuality; and each such thought or elemental center of consciousness appears in the psychospiritual atmosphere surrounding a monadic center. It originated in the vital substance of a dhyani-chohan, simply because every point in boundless Infinitude is a monad, either active or dormant.
Hence a thought-elemental existing as a life-atom in some dhyani-chohan belongs and is attached to it through all the aeons of the future; and as that dhyani-chohan itself evolves, similarly will its hosts of life-atoms sent forth from it at different times grow through infinitude, and forever follow along after it and compose its train of lives.
Every monad in our home-universe, which means everything within the Milky Way, is an atom, so to speak, a particle of the spiritual essence belonging to the life — the individual vital essence — of a cosmic entity still more sublime. We ourselves are life-atoms, children monads, of a cosmic divinity, just as our bodies are composed of young life-atoms beginning their journey to the gods. There are multitudes of such glorious beings in boundless Space, so we must not call any one of them 'God.' This very concept gave rise to the idea that we are all 'children of God' — the early Christians had the original thought, but soon lost the key.
These children monads are by no means all of contemporaneous birth date. Furthermore, they are in all degrees of evolution, some beginning for this manvantara, some already old in it, and others not yet evolved forth from the monadic essence. Out of this host of children monads a very much smaller aggregate has attained an evolutionary stage approximating the human, and of this a still smaller number are human beings. These last, of course, are not all living on earth at the same time, as some may be in the devachanic state, and others in the intermediate phase.
It should be clear that we are responsible for the evolution of the atoms of our bodies throughout all future ages. In other words, the evolution of the life-atoms, not only of our physical vehicle, but of the other sheaths through which we express ourselves, is dependent upon our thoughts, our feelings, our aspirations, our very life. So in future cycles, as we and they evolve to greater and greater heights, shall we continue as their guides and instructors, even as we in turn have ours.
The spiritual part of the human being is the hierarch, the Silent Watcher, of all the smaller lives which compose the vehicles through and in which this higher nature of man expresses itself. These smaller lives are offsprings from the fountain of vitality welling up in the heart of the spiritual being of man. And as the human being advances, so do these come trailing along behind, evolving, and entering a constantly greater life and expanding consciousness. Ultimately the spiritual entity, the superspiritual part of man, shall have become the expression of some cosmic being — a sun or star; and what are now the life-atoms of a man, as these exist on all the planes of his sevenfold constitution, shall have become the intermediate constitution of that cosmic divinity, as well as the visible star and the other minor bodies surrounding it, like the planets. When this event of cosmic magnitude to the superspiritual nature of man shall have taken place, the less evolved life-atoms, clustering around the more highly evolved, shall furnish the bodies, inner and outer, of the minor entities circling around the solar god.
We are but spiritual and intellectual atoms — atoms of the consciousness of the hierarch of our universe. From that hierarch we take our origin, and to it we shall return, only to begin, in the next cosmic manifestation, a larger pathway of evolution. Even as the atoms forming man's body are of his very essence and being, psychomagnetically drawn to him because they originally came from him, just so are we atoms of this cosmic entity, our supreme hierarch — itself but one of countless heads of hierarchies, for the universe is filled full with gods, and everything is interlinked and interblended with everything else. The consciousness of this celestial hierarch is our fountain of inspiration, and is that everlasting guiding light which permeates every atom of our being. It is the cosmic life-intelligence.
Everything in the solar system ultimately springs from the sun which, as said, is not so much the parent as the elder brother of the other bodies of its kingdom. This becomes more easily understood when we bear in mind that every life-atom, even those composing our physical body, is a part of us, lives in us, and yet each one of them is the expression of its own individual monad — a monad which in its core is just as glorious and high as our own, but whose vehicle is not as highly developed as ours.
The human body is more fit to express the monadic essence than is the life-atom fit to express the essence of its monad or inner god. Once we humans, individually speaking, were manifesting in simple life-atoms — all sons of the sun as well as brothers of the sun. Each one of us, although forming a part of the solar essence, is nevertheless in his inmost part a divine being; and in the future, if we follow the path faithfully to the end, we shall become a glorious sun in the cosmic spaces. We shall then be a manifesting god in our inmost part and a sun will be our body.
Now the Occultists, who trace every atom in the universe, whether an aggregate or single, to One Unity, or Universal Life; who do not recognize that anything in Nature can be inorganic; who know of no such thing as dead matter — the Occultists are consistent with their doctrine of Spirit and Soul when speaking of memory in every atom, of will and sensation. . . . We know and speak of "life-atoms" — and of "sleeping-atoms" — because we regard these two forms of energy — the kinetic and the potential — as produced by one and the same force or the ONE LIFE, and regard the latter as the source and mover of all. But what is it that furnished with energy, and especially with memory, the "plastidular souls" of Haeckel? The "wave motion of living particles" becomes comprehensible on the theory of a Spiritual ONE LIFE, of a universal Vital principle independent of our matter, and manifesting as atomic energy only on our plane of consciousness. It is that which, individualized in the human cycle, is transmitted from father to son. — The Secret Doctrine, II, 672
The self-conscious part of each human being is the hierarch of the multitudes of atoms composing his body. Their evolution is concurrent with ours; but naturally each such life-atom or elemental soul, while involved in the general karma and destiny of the human entity to which it belongs, nevertheless follows its own individual pathway within the ocean of influences and forces which compose the field of action of the man. In other words, every elemental soul has its own especial line of evolution involved in the greater encompassing field of activity of the human hierarch, of which each and all such elemental souls form the vehicle. We ourselves were such elemental atomic souls at one time, passing through the various vehicles which we call 'atoms.' Every physical atom imbodies an elemental on its way to becoming human, not merely by the stimulation of environment and by the cyclical abrasions of karmic time, but by developing the latent capacities locked up within the core of such an elemental soul.
As said, in each succeeding earth life we pick up the same physical life-atoms which were ours in former incarnations because they are our children and are impressed with our karma; in a sense they are the bearers of our physical karma. These physical life-atoms, however, do not differ from any other life-atoms except in evolutionary grade. We pick them up not only when we are born, but also during our life, and indeed before birth; in fact, we are gathering in and ejecting them hourly, daily — all the time. The reunion of the physical life-atoms to the reincarnated entity is inevitable. We have to take up the life-atoms whose faces we have dirtied in the past, and wash them clean. It is a part of our karma, and we may be thankful that it is so; for if we had to work with those belonging to someone else, we would be in a very disagreeable situation indeed.
It is true that life-atoms from each of us are passing through the bodies of others constantly, but they are only in transit. They learn from us, and we learn in a sense from them; but it is on our own physical life-atoms that we mostly feed and it is through these that our bodies grow. We take in from food, water and air, and by absorption through the pores of our skin and otherwise, very few alien life-atoms as compared with the hosts of our own children life-atoms, left behind on this plane during our last incarnation.
Our life-atoms are not so much attached to us as they are integral parts of our stream of karmic existence, pranic children of the Brahman within us. This means that we have practically the same body that we had in our last life: somewhat evolved, somewhat improved to be sure. And the bodies of our friends and relatives — how is it that they are familiar to us? The causes lie in the instincts, in the latent memory, and in the familiar attraction, of the life-atoms, for all these causes are at work and in a sense keep our hearts and minds attached to matters of earth. We see, therefore, how greatly we are enchained, held down, how our soaring and aspiring spirit is crippled thereby.
This whole subject involves the so-called problem of heredity. Every human being has more than a mere physical heredity; he has an astral, a psychical, an intellectual, a spiritual and, indeed, a divine heredity. Being the child of himself, and being at present the parent of what he will be in the future, his heredity is simply the resultant of the chain of causation flowing forth from what he was before on any plane. Therefore, also, whatever he thought or had feelings about, will of necessity have its consequences and shape his character accordingly. In The Secret Doctrine (II, 671-2), H.P.B. writes:
The latter (Occultism) teaches that — (a) the life-atoms of our (Prana) life-principle are never entirely lost when a man dies. That the atoms best impregnated with the life-principle (an independent, eternal, conscious factor) are partially transmitted from father to son by heredity, and partially are drawn once more together and become the animating principle of the new body in every new incarnation of the Monads. Because (b), as the individual Soul is ever the same, so are the atoms of the lower principles (body, its astral, or life double, etc.), drawn as they are by affinity and Karmic law always to the same individuality in a series of various bodies, etc., etc.
Heredity is not merely the return of the pranic atoms from previous lives, carrying with them the impress given to them by the ego during those lives, but it is also the characteristic of a life stream carried from parent to child through the life-atoms. Life-atoms are of seven different grades or classes of evolutionary advancement, each manifesting in its own appropriate sphere of activity: the three elemental classes working and manifesting in the elemental kingdoms; the mineral life-atoms in the mineral kingdom; the vegetable life-atoms in their kingdom; the beast life-atoms manifesting in the animal kingdom; and the human life-atoms — each one the embryonic or germinal dwelling of a reincarnating ego.
Furthermore, each one of these seven main classes of life-atoms is subdivided into subordinate families. Thus the one general class of human life-atoms contains all the varieties which eventuate in the different families or types of mankind. By this I do not refer to body only, color, complexion, length of nose, etc., but rather more to the possibilities of variety in psycho-astral personality. Moreover, these seven general classes of life-atoms are representative on the physical plane of the seven main classes of monads.
A large part of heredity, of the stream of consequences, is carried on from generation to generation by the life-atoms. The other part of heredity is that which the parents bring into the equation. But no life-atom ever goes into an inappropriate environment. It goes only to that environment towards which it is psychomagnetically attracted: like unto like, life after life.
Similarly, there is a succession of incidents or karmic effects in any strain, whether animal, vegetal, human, or other. It is this succession of event after event, forming the links in the chain of causation, which we call heredity. It is because of this chain of causation, and of the almost unlimited tendencies and capacities lying latent in the life-atoms out of which all things are built, that the breeders, whether of animals or of plants, can produce the interesting varieties that they do. For example, our fruits and cereals were all developed in Atlantean and early Aryan days from wild plants. Some of these variations actually become new species: they last; they produce their own kind. This can be done because in every life-atom there is virtually an infinitude of possibilities of change in direction, and the breeders simply provide a new environment allowing hitherto latent tendencies to express themselves. It is this fountain of vitality or life within each life-atom which brings about the vast diversity of entities around us.
Human beings, however, provide much more than merely a home or environment for their children. Life is not a matter of chance or fortuity — these are but words covering human ignorance. Whatever is, is the result of a chain of causation. Why do certain children come to certain parents? Every child is drawn to the environment and to the life streams of parents which are the most akin to the incoming soul's own vibrational rate; call it a kind of psychomagnetic attraction to a milieu which has the greatest affinity to the reimbodying ego's own karmic requirements, to his own characteristics, in other words. The consequence of this is that the parents are much more than mere channels through which a reincarnating ego enters this sphere, and much more than mere human automata which provide a 'good or bad' environment.
The question is asked if there is any basis for the popular but erroneous doctrine in the East that souls transmigrate into animal and inanimate forms. The origin of the belief is probably due to teachers informing disciples that the atoms used by the soul while in any body are impressed with the character and acts of each soul, and that the soul has a duty imposed on it to so live, think, and act that all the atoms used in the material body shall progress equally with the Ego and not be given a downward tendency, for if such downward tendency be given, then when death comes the atoms fly to lower forms and are there degraded, and also, in that sense, the man has gone into lower forms. Of course the human ego cannot go into a lower form. It must be remembered as a grave, a weighty, thing, that each atom in the body is conjoined with a life of its own, and has a consciousness peculiar to itself. These lives are a class of elementals and hence are the carriers of much of our character to any forms they may go to. It is similar to lighting many candles at one flame. They live in us and derive from us a character, and as they enter and leave us every instant our duty is plain. For by means of these atoms and lives we are actually carrying on the work of evolution, and are as members pledged to the Higher Self, bound to aid in evolution with good intent, or liable to heavy karma if we aid in degrading atoms which are to be used by our fellowmen and succeeding races. — W. Q. Judge's E.S. Suggestions and Aids
When death comes and the human ego passes into its devachan, all of the vehicles in which it was imbodied in its earth life break up, and the life-atoms of which these sheaths were built go to those environments and conditions to which they are psychomagnetically attracted. This is the gist of the doctrine of the transmigration of life-atoms which has been generally misunderstood to mean that the human soul descends at death into the bodies of animals. That idea is not true; it is not a natural fact.
The basic rule is that during the intervals between earth lives the physical life-atoms of a human being transmigrate through and within the kingdoms of nature. The individual elements or souls of these atoms, considered from the evolutionary standpoint, are not as far progressed as are the animal souls of the beasts. As a matter of fact, when the human body breaks up at death and the life-atoms composing it begin their transmigrations, they are attracted to those bodies or entities, be they human, beast, vegetable or mineral, to which their own rates of vibration at the time draw them. It is all a case of psychomagnetic attraction.
If a man during his life has lived an exceedingly material existence, hordes of his life-atoms will be attracted to the bodies of swine, sloths, tigers, dogs, fish, heaven knows what! Or they may go to help build the bodies of the plants. There is no real degradation in this. Each such elemental is an infinitesimal entity, and passes through even a chemical atom much in the same way as a comet might pass through our own universe, drawn thither by attraction. There is no chance in nature at all. Everything is karmic, great and small. And these life-atoms reimbody themselves innumerable times before they are attracted back by the dominant magnetic pull of the reincarnating human ego to whom they belonged in the preceding earth life. Then they join together and build up the new body in which that returning ego finds its habitat in the next life on earth. (See the important article: "Transmigration of the Life Atoms" by H.P.B. in The Theosophist, August 1883, pp. 286-8.)
There are some human beings who are not only so animal in tendencies and in emotional and psychical biases, but who also are so strongly attracted to what we might call the beast-existence, that after they die — and after the 'second death' or separation of the reincarnating ego from the kama-rupa has taken place — the energies still informing this kama-rupa are so powerful in the passionately psychical and grossly material sense of the word, and hunger so for renewed existence, that it is not uncommon for these bundles of passions and tendencies to inform the bodies of some of the beasts.
This is not a transmigration of the human soul, because that soul had fled long since and gone to its devachan. But the remaining part is so low in the human scale that all its instincts are beastwards and the life-atoms composing this bundle of appetites are attracted to those animal entities whither their own impulses impel them to go. From this it should be clear that there is no such thing as a human soul's reincarnating naturally in the body of a beast.
Now then, the process of the reimbodiment of a human monad begins with the vitalizing of a life-atom, which grows into the human embryo, and is finally born — unless, for compelling karmic reasons, it is unable to advance farther in its growth than the stage of a life-atom, thus being obliged to try again for human rebirth. It is not the higher triad which reincarnates, for it does not enter the body, although its influences are in the body, touch the heart and brain, and especially fire the brain with the divine flame of thought. While the upper triad is above the body, hovers over it, it is the lower part or the psycho-astral monad which actually reincarnates, that is, enters into the physical body. As the reincarnating ego descends through the spheres on its way to another incarnation on earth, it picks up in each different realm or world, through which it had previously ascended, the hosts of life-atoms that it left behind there. It re-forms these into the same outer veils of itself that it had had before, and thus builds up the human constitution before actual physical rebirth takes place — the same life-atoms on every plane and of every principle of the human constitution. Thus it is the personality which reincarnates, while the individuality merely 'over-lightens' (overshadows is the popular word) and fills that personality with its own divine fire — at least with as much as the personality can receive of it.
Just as our bodies are built of the very life-atoms that formed our physical body in our last incarnation, so is this the case not only with the linga-sarira and the psycho-kamic principles, but likewise with the manasic and buddhic principles. Every life-atom is stamped with its own predominant impulse, for which, however, we as humans are strictly responsible. Hence the justice of karmic operations.
In brief, the reincarnating ego as it issues forth from the monad builds around itself veils or bodies, each one appropriate to the principle which such a veil covers, and thus the entire septenary constitution of man is finally completed when the descending entity through its lowest veils touches, and by the touch quickens, the human seed — and the baby is born a few months later.
Writing of the mystery of human consciousness and the inherent potencies of physical cells, H.P.B. says in The Secret Doctrine (I, 219):
This inner soul of the physical cell — this "spiritual plasm" that dominates the germinal plasm — is the key that must open one day the gates of the terra incognita of the Biologist, now called the dark mystery of Embryology.
This has given rise to the question as to whether the 'spiritual plasm' is the life-atom. No, the spiritual plasm is the monadic essence, the spiritual characteristic which works through the reincarnating ego. The life-atom belongs to the astral plasm. There is heredity on all planes: spiritual, intellectual, psychical, astral and elemental or physical, and there are hosts of life-atoms corresponding to each one of these planes.
Further, a life-atom is not the germ cell. The human germ cell contains an untold multitude of life-atoms. A life-atom is an infinitesimal entity, smaller even than the electron; and there are astral infinitesimals which are each one the focus, the channel, through which works the entirety of the ethereal and spiritual forces. In other words, the life-atom is the undeveloped house or temple of all the higher parts of the constitution of the human being-to-be; and this life-atom will be drawn psychomagnetically to the proper environment, and there will form a part of the germ cell of the father. (2) This germ cell — with its latent seed of growth in it and being formed of other life-atoms of less progressed type destined to build the future body of this particular life-atom — will be passed to the mother; the union of the two cells occurs, and embryonic growth begins.
How does the returning ego find that seed of life from and around which its future physical body is to be built? How does it attract to itself just that one seed of life from among the incomputable number of life-atoms which belong to other egos awaiting rebirth? It would be an inexplicable riddle if an incarnating entity had had no natural or self-attraction to one out of many trillions or quadrillions of such human life seeds. No reincarnating entity could be so attracted unless that particular seed belonged to it as an off-throwing of its own vitality in some former life.
The seed of life does not belong either to the father or to the mother. It belongs to the reincarnating entity itself and, as it enters our sphere, is the first seed to awaken under the attraction of the psychomagnetic flow of the vitality of the reincarnating entity, surrounded as that entity is with its psychomagnetic atmosphere or auric egg. This seed of life, having passed through the body of the father into that of the mother, is one of the transmigrating life-atoms originally springing from the reincarnating ego itself. At this moment of destiny, this life-atom is ready and waiting, and the auric psychomagnetic atmosphere of the reimbodying ego catches it, surrounds it and begins to flow through it, causing it to grow and to develop by the accumulation of similar life-atoms belonging to the last life of the now returning entity — to become finally the body of the little child.
It is quite impossible for these seeds of life to make a mistake in their attraction to the parents from whom the body of the returning ego is to be born. They move with infallible regularity, precision, and accuracy, for the simple reason that their movements are karmically automatic, and are not the result of the choosing of a fallible human mind. In the last analysis, the life-atoms are moved by the great forces of the universe, and hence they follow their instincts, their psychomagnetic attractions, exactly as the magnetic needle points to the north. It makes no mistakes; it does not point at one time to the west and at another time to the southeast. So also do the life-atoms act automatically under rigid karmic causal motivations.
In the case of twins or triplets, the life-atoms of each child are closely alike, but nevertheless quite distinct, for each one is a human individual and is built, physically speaking, of life-atoms of its own type, quality, and psychomagnetic character.
Every entity takes its origin in a vital germ, a life-germ, the heart of which is a life-atom; in fact, every human body is built up of such life-atoms, through and in which the more evolved human soul is working. Most of these particular life-atoms belong, as its children, to that evolving soul, which itself is the offspring from the vital essence of the human monad. But there pass through every human being other life-atoms, almost countless in number, which do not spring either from his body or from his soul, but transmigrate through human bodies according to certain natural laws of attraction and repulsion; and each such life-atom is awaiting its turn and time and place to be a possible vehicle for the beginning of a new human body.
1. The cosmic hierarch is likewise called the supreme Silent Watcher of our universe, and this should throw light on just what a Silent Watcher is on any other plane. (return to text)
2. The rule applies with equal accuracy to all other entities such as the beasts and the plants. (return to text)