Containing all things in the one summit of his own hyparxis, he himself subsists wholly beyond. — Proclus, The Theology of Plato, p. 212
You will not understand it, as when understanding some particular thing. — Damascius (Cory, Ancient Fragments, p. 281)
Things divine are not attainable by mortals who understand body,
But only as many as are lightly armed arrive at the summit. — Proclus, Commentary on the "Cratylus" of Plato
IN OPENING our study this evening we read first from The Secret Doctrine, volume I, page 570, the first paragraph:
While the Christian is taught that the human soul is a breath of God — being created by him for sempiternal existence, i.e., having a beginning, but no end (and therefore never to be called eternal) — the Occult teaching says, "Nothing is created, but is only transformed. Nothing can manifest itself in this universe — from a globe down to a vague, rapid thought — that was not in the universe already; everything on the subjective plane is an eternal is; as everything on the objective plane is an ever becoming — because transitory."
You will remember that at our last meeting we were obliged to confine ourselves to a short review of the subject of the heavens and hells as doctrinally held by various exoteric religions; and in considering several theological or philosophical or mythological teachings about them, we had reached the viewpoint of the medieval Christian theology, as represented in the Divina Commedia of the great Italian poet, Dante; and we found in that really noble poem once again, as we found in the other systems that we have mentioned, the wonderful number nine as the root-number of division.
We also touched briefly upon the ancient Scandinavian beliefs in regard to this subject as found in the Younger or Prose Edda, and merely vaguely alluded to the teachings therein contained. We also spoke of the beliefs of the Greek and Latin Stoics; and we might also have pointed out that in an important so-called Hermetic work, supposed to have had its origin in Egypt, but which has been greatly altered by later Christian hands — the work I refer to being called The Divine Poemandres — there are seven spheres or stages of being spoken of, as also vague allusions to an eighth, while a ninth is merely hinted at also.
Now turning to ancient Greece again, we find that the great poet Homer, in the eighth book of the Iliad, makes his Zeus speak, in addressing the gods and goddesses, of the Golden Chain. Zeus tells the other divinities in very masterful language of his supreme power, and that if they all, the gods and goddesses of high Olympus, were to drag downward at one end of that Chain, and he were to hold the other, he Zeus himself, alone, could drag it upwards with all the gods and goddesses, all the seas and the earths, and hang that Golden Chain, with them all at the nether end, to one of the pinnacles of heaven. What is the meaning of this curious tale? The following:
This Golden Chain represents the concatenation of the living hierarchies which we have studied before — the Golden Chain of all being, inward and outward. In the same address to the assembly of the divinities of Olympus, Zeus speaks as follows: "Any one of you who despises my words and will, I shall cast down into gloomy Tartarus . . . which is as far below Hades as Earth is below Olympus." This shows us somewhat of Homer's representation of the framework of kosmos, which was somewhat as follows: Earth, or rather the universe, was represented as a sphere; Olympus was placed at the upper or northern side or pole; what was called Earth was the next part below; below Earth was Hades; and at the nether pole from Olympus was placed Tartarus. Homer, through his Zeus, tells us that as far below Olympus as Earth is, so far below Hades is Tartarus.
The Greek poet Hesiod, in his Theogony, beginning with verse 721, also tells us that if a brazen anvil were allowed to fall from Olympus to Earth it would take nine days to fall, and would reach the Earth on the tenth; and if that same brazen anvil, in continuing its course, were to fall from Earth to Tartarus, it would again take nine days to fall, and would reach Tartarus on the tenth. So the Latin poet Vergil (Aeneid, 6, 577-9) has the same general idea.
We see therefore in Greek and Latin mystical thought the same principle of hierarchies and scales of nines and tens that we have met with before. The theory calls for a continuous succession of planes or spheres of being, ranging from higher to lower; repeated uninterruptedly throughout the range of any general hierarchical system of worlds. For instance, beginning at Tartarus, there follows a new subhierarchy, a new sphere, a new egg, of being; just as the Olympus of any one such system is the nether pole of a still higher hierarchy than itself. And so on throughout the universe.
Now this "nine days' falling" of Hesiod's "brazen anvil," and any other similar figure, is simply the well-known mythologic way of speaking, rendering in an easily understood form for the general public, with their sleeping minds, the esoteric doctrines, the doctrines of occultism, that is to say, the facts of inner being, as those are found in all the mystical teachings of all the ancient nations.
This subject of the hells and heavens rests upon several fundamental esoteric factors which we have been studying continuously since these meetings were inaugurated last January. As said at our last meeting, there are in very truth no hells and no heavens, in the ordinary Christian sense at all. But there are spheres of retribution, spheres of probation, which are particular spheres of being; and some of these hells, as described for instance in the Brahmanical and in the Buddhist religions, are actually spheres of near-pleasure, rather agreeable than otherwise; they are described as really very pleasant and interesting places! But they are still lower than the heavens, so called.
We might consider the description of some of the so-called heavens, on the other hand, as not so exceedingly pleasant; the idea being that just as are the conditions among men on earth, so it is among appropriate spheres of retribution or probation or purgatorial cleansing: when the compass of man's life on earth has been brought to its end, everything then moves according to strict analogy and according to strict gravitational attraction. Nothing can go to any sphere or go into any state for which it is unfit. Everything finds its exactly appropriate and similar goal, or home, or sphere.
These heavens and hells are states, of course; so is earth life a state. But if a thing is a state, it is also the state of a thing; and if it is a thing, it must have place, or position, or locality. That is obvious. So, therefore, while these heavens and hells are states, they are likewise localities, places. The ancient wisdom speaks of them in general by the Sanskrit word meaning "the three worlds" — tri-bhuvana, i.e., three briefly generalized abodes or mansions or dwelling places; as Jesus says in the Christian scriptures: "In my Father's house are many mansions." They are states of mind for the entities who dwell therein, and it is through these states of mind that the purgatorial cleansing of the soul-nature is accomplished.
Why does a man go to hell? Because he wants to go to hell. Why does a man go to heaven? Because he desires to go to heaven. A man goes wherever he wills to go. If during his life he has lived an evil existence, it is because the impulses and attractions of his being were such; and can such a soul, inwrapped with earthly attractions, ascend into spiritual spheres? Can the operations of spiritual beings, of the so-called higher laws of nature, attract a man whose soul is absorbed in heavenly aspirations into one of the lower and pain-racked spheres of purgation? Never. Think of the meaning involved in this thought. We must therefore take warning therefrom, and live in accordance therewith. Let us hearken to these doctrines, sublime in their grandeur. Every word of them is pregnant with profound meanings.
Let us go a little farther. You may remember that some months ago we pointed out that in the ancient wisdom, in the ancient occultism, there was a teaching which actually had originated a modern scientific doctrine, born nevertheless in a distorted form of materialism, regarding the operations of nature, the so-called conservation of energy, which is one of the great pillars of modern materialistic science; and also its twin dogma, the so-called correlation of forces. Those two scientific doctrines were born of the supposition that there is nothing in existence but inert, lifeless, soulless matter, impelled by strange and unknown and perhaps undiscoverable impulses, which were called forces, springing forth in some unknown and perhaps undiscoverable way. Science is changing its viewpoints in many directions, it is quite true, but yet some materialistic ideas still remain. Now, in our time, everything is supposed to be fundamentally force; matter itself is supposed to be force. The ideas, as you readily see, still are the same; the words alone are changing. It is, however, a step ahead, but we should not let ourselves be carried away by mere words, providing the thought behind the words is the same and as fully materialistic as ever.
But there are signs that other changes also are rapidly taking place in scientific realms. Within three weeks , the present speaker read the report of an address by an eminent English physicist, an honor and credit to his country, intuitional in some ways, who tells us what the latest discoveries are demonstrating to the scientists of the time. What is this new light? Just what we pointed out some months ago as a fundamental teaching of the ancient occultism, that force is simply matter in an ethereal state; or, to put it in another and a truer way, matter is simply crystallized force, so to say, force and matter being in essence one. This scientist further tells us that modern thinkers are now beginning to believe that matter is not eternal. Of course, we also believe that, provided that by "matter" we mean merely physical matter, the basic maya — or illusion — of physical being. But if we mean by "matter" the substratum, the essential substance of being, we differ instantly, for indeed that is eternal. IT is Mulaprakriti, root-substance, the garment of Parabrahman.
Again, what do we mean when we speak of Parabrahman and Mulaprakriti, essential consciousness and essential nature — or essential substance or "matter"? We mean this: that Parabrahman-Mulaprakriti can be for any human intellect merely the absolute state of the hierarchy, the highest portion, its flower, its principle, its root, its seed — that from which the rest evolves, or goes out and becomes the manifested universe we live in and know and are a part of. As Paul says in the Christian Gospels, "In him [that is, in It — the Greek allows this translation] we live and move and have our being," i.e., we are It, in the sense of being essentially a part of the flower of our hierarchy, the highest to us, for It is the root of consciousness of and in our kosmical universe or universal kosmos, which latter is all that is comprehended within the zone of the Milky Way, that is, the universal kosmos that we know of. The summit of it is this root from which all these numberless inferior worlds or universes inside it have come forth, have evolved forth; its children the solar systems, the suns, the stars, the planets — all the living beings, all the atoms, all the worlds or universes, in short, the kosmos — all come forth from It. It is the summit, the flower, the acme, as also the seed; it is the absolute Paramatman, supreme self.
What do we mean by the word Absolute? Do we mean God — if you like that word, if you really wish to call it God? But do you know anything about God? Don't we see that the instant in which we stultify our intellects, cripple our intuition, limit the soaring of our interior faculties by speaking of bounds, whether inferred in thought or word, then we reach ends and halt? Remember always in this connection, that beyond and beyond and beyond the kosmical universe, beyond our ken, beyond our imagination, there is always endless life, endless being, for there is no end anywhere; and this thought is what was meant in the ancient occultism when its teachers spoke of that "circle whose circumference is nowhere and whose center is everywhere," the "boundless," the "without bounds." This word Absolute, misused as it is in modern philosophy and even among our own selves, is the exact translation of the Sanskrit mukti, or moksha, which I will allude to in a moment. Absolute is the modern English form of the past participle passive of the Latin word absolvere, meaning "to loosen," "to set free," "to release," and hence "perfected." Not utter, limitless perfection like the immortal gods in some religions were supposed to have, which is always impossible. But the relative perfection, the summit, the acme, the flower, the root, the seed, of any hierarchy; and particularly for us of that hierarchy which is for us the highest — our kosmical universe.
Now the Sanskrit words mukti or moksha: the former comes from the Sanskrit root much, meaning "to release," "to set free," as said; moksha from the Sanskrit moksh, with an almost identical meaning, and probably a desiderative of the same root much. The meaning is that when a spirit, a monad, or a spiritual radical, has so grown in manifestation that it has first become a man, and is set free interiorly, inwardly, and from a man has become a planetary spirit or dhyan-chohan or lord of meditation, and has gone still higher to become interiorly a brahman, and from a brahman the Parabrahman for its hierarchy, then it is absolutely perfected, free, released: perfected for that great period of time which to us seems almost an eternity, so long is it, virtually incomputable by the human intellect. This is the Absolute: limited in comparison with things still more immense, still more sublime; but, so far as we can think of it, "released" or "freed" from the chains or bonds of material existence.
When the great period of the universal kosmic pralaya occurs, and the universe is indrawn (following the Oriental metaphor) into the bosom of Parabrahman, what then happens? The spiritual entities then enter into their paranirvana, which means exactly for them what is meant for us when we speak of the death of the human being. They are drawn by their spiritual gravitational attractions into still higher hierarchies of being, into still higher spiritual realms, therein still higher rising and growing and learning and living; while the lower elements of the kosmos, the body of the universe (even as does our physical body when the change called death comes — death, the twin sister of life), follow their own particular gravitational attractions: the physical body to dust; the vital breath to the vital breath of the kosmos; dust to dust, breath to breath. So with the other kosmic principles, as with man's principles at his decease: the kama of our nature to the universal reservoir of the kamic organism; our manas into its dhyan-chohanic rest; our monads into their own higher life. Then when the clock of eternity points once again for the kosmos to the hour of "coming forth into light" — which is "death" for the spiritual being, as death for us is life for the inner man — when the manvantara of material life comes around again (the period of spiritual death for the kosmos is the material life of manifestation), then in the distant abysms of space and time the kosmic life-centers are aroused into activity once more: first the stage of the nebular fiery cloud; then the whirling nebula; then the spiral nebula; then the ringed nebula; then the sun and the planets, and finally the human and other beings that grow on the last; each one of these planets having its seven rounds to fulfill in the forthcoming planetary periods, time after time, during endless life. Endless hope and experience lie in this marvelous scheme, but always at every step on the path there is a dividing of the ways for those entities which have attained moral responsibility, an up and a down, for the "moment of choice" is really continuous.
At the present period we have lived somewhat more than half of the maha-manvantaric cycle; we are, for the maha-manvantara of our kosmical solar system, at the point where matter has already reached its ultimate degree of development in our hierarchy. We have lived, according to the ancient numerical teaching, 155 trillion, 520 odd billion solar years. One half of our maha-manvantara is gone; and there still remain nearly 155 trillion, 520 billion solar years. More accurately, we have slowly passed the actual lowest point of the great universal kosmical cycle. That lowest point, where matter reached its greatest degree of physical manifestation for us, for our great wave of life, was when the moon had reached the middle point of its fourth round, which was ages and aeons before it became our physical satellite. The ancient teachings are that as the great Parabrahman of our hierarchical system has 100 divine Years of life to live, each Year having 360 Days, and each Year being divided into 12 Months, and as 50 divine Years have passed, therefore on this planet Terra, on this earth, we have attained to or reached the first divine Day of the first divine Month of the ascending cycle of the second period of 50 divine Years. We have, then, come down the cycles for the last 155 trillion, 520 odd billion years, cycling down, in and through our hierarchy, to the lowest point of it on the moon; and have, since that point was reached ages agone, slowly and painfully begun our climb upwards again towards the Ineffable, the summit of our hierarchical system, our "Absolute." Please remember very carefully that we use this word Absolute only in the sense and meaning hereinbefore explained.
How did the Absolute become the Absolute? By chance? There is no chance. There is nothing but endless life and endless consciousness and endless duration, working according to the principles and elements of inherent nature, which is called swabhava in our Sanskrit works. The root-meaning of this word swabhava is "self-generation, self-becoming." We generate ourselves throughout all times: give ourselves our own bodies; climb our own ladders, step by step; seek our own hells and find our own heavens. And, the whole purpose, the whole effort, of universal evolution, according to the teaching of this ancient wisdom, is this: raising personality into individuality, substance into divinity, matter into spirit, grossness into purity.
Whence then came the Absolute, the supreme self or spirit, or Paramatman, of which we are sparks? By growth from within outwards; and from without inwards. It was once, in incalculable aeons gone by, a man. Think of the sublimity involved in this teaching; consider the almost endless aeons of the past; and that what in its far, faraway origin was a spark of divinity, a spark of another and former Absolute, is now our "God," our Paramatman, our supreme self, of which we are verily the children, and in which we move and live and have our being. What is the main lesson that we may draw from this? What was the psychological mystery hinted at by us in our last meeting? It is this, and we touch but lightly upon it: our human souls are gods in embryo; our human souls were formerly animal souls; our present animal souls will in a future manvantara become human souls. Our human souls in a future manvantara will become monads. Man, if he make the manvantaric race successfully, is destined to be the composite logos of a forthcoming hierarchy; as he now in fact is, in the inferior hierarchy of himself, the logos of the quasi-infinitude of less beings composing his personal nature. Reflect long over this mystery, wonderful, sublime!
Are these teachings not thought-compelling? No wonder they have been held secret and sacred in the ancient wisdom. Why? For many reasons. First, because they could not be understood without the necessary spiritual and intellectual training; and yet it is remarkable, it is truly astonishing, how often and how, in so many ways, we see allusions to them in the ancient exoteric teachings of the various religions. Remember that "exoteric," in the ancient religions, does not mean "false." The word merely means those teachings for which the key has not been openly given.
I have noticed and read in some of the translations from the Welsh made for us by our Welsh scholar, Professor Kenneth Morris, teachings that I believe to be taken from the ancient Welsh books, which have caused me to gasp in amazement, that these teachings of the ancient wisdom, so sacred and occult, should have been so boldly put forth by the ancient bards in open language. But I looked again, and I saw how a Master-hand had worked, disguising and hiding while openly teaching. The arrangement, the very beauty, of the imagery used, misled the too inquiring and the too clever mind. But for him who has the key, it is easy to follow. Likewise have I found the same method not only in the wonderful Celtic teachings, but also in the teachings of ancient Egypt, and of other countries.
At a former meeting I touched, perhaps, too slightly upon the much vexed question, as some people call it, of good and evil. That is a subject which properly comes at the close of the studies concerning purgatory, hells and heavens. Christian thinkers have found it impossible to solve this problem satisfactorily to any thinking and reflective mind. But though it is to them and others a much vexed question, to a student of the ancient wisdom it is really very simple. How can a Christian who believes that his God, that his Creator of all that is, One who therefore must be likewise the creator of evil — how can he reconcile this necessary conclusion with his other teachings concerning his Deity, for instance that God is all good, and from Him proceeds necessarily therefore nothing but good? Is evil then the work of the Devil? What child would not then ask, whence then the Devil and the evil proceeding from him? From God? But is God not all good? Hence the inevitable deduction that God is either not all-good or not all-powerful. Evil would not be, could not be, by their theory, unless a fruit of God's wisdom, because if the case were otherwise, it would exist without the divine permission, i.e., contrary to God's will, which ex hypothesi is impossible, since God is all-powerful. The logical difficulty under their theory is complete and unanswerable by it.
What, then, really is the origin of what is called good and evil? Good and evil arise out of the conflicting action of the multimyriad wills in manifestation. Good is relative; there is no absolute good. Evil is relative; there is no absolute evil. If good were absolute, its opposite, its shadow, or nether pole, evil, must also be absolute. Both, however, are relative things. They offset and balance in nature the one the other, like all other pairs of opposites, such as heat and cold, high and low, day and night, north and south, etc. They arise, as just said, out of the conflict of wills, conscious and unconscious. All the innumerable, multitudinous beings in manifestation are, each one of them, more or less "selfish," more or less seeking its own, hungering and thirsting for sensation of various kinds. Even spiritual evil exists; and there are high agents of "spiritual wickedness," of which the Christian Apostle Paul has spoken, forming the opposite agencies to the high agents of good. The agents of spiritual wickedness are called by us the Brothers of the Shadow, and the others are called by us the Brothers of the Light. The Brothers of the Shadow work in and with matter, for material and selfish purposes. The Brothers of the Light work in and with nature for spirit, for impersonal purposes. They contrast one with another.
These two bodies represent two fundamental paths in nature, the one the right-hand path, the other the left, and are so called in the ancient occultism. The Sanskrit name for one, the left-hand path, is pratyeka-yana. Yana means "Path" or "road," and also "vehicle"; and we can translate pratyeka in this connection by the paraphrase "every one for himself." H. P. Blavatsky, as you will well remember, has spoken of the Pratyeka Buddhas, high and in one sense holy beings indeed, but craving spiritual wisdom, spiritual enlightenment, for themselves alone, selfishly, in indifference to the sorrow and pain of the world, yet so pure withal that they are actually buddhas of a kind. The other body follow the path which in Sanskrit is called amrita-yana, the "immortal vehicle" or "path of immortality."
The one, the former, is the path of the personality; the other, the latter, is the path of the individuality. The one is the path of matter; the other is the path of spirit; the one leads downward, the other path loses itself in the ineffable glories of conscious immortality in "eternity."
Now these are the two bodies of entities representing the two sides of nature, and the conflicts or oppositions of these two sides of nature, together with the battles of will with will, of the hosts of beings in manifested existence, produce the so-called evil in the world, arising out of the selfish activities of the inferior or less developed or evolved entities. Selfishness, therefore, is the root of all evil. The old teaching is true, and that is all there is to it. On the highest planes of being, there is neither good nor evil; there is neither life in our sense, nor death; there is neither beginning nor end of personal action of any kind. But there is what is called in the wonderful ancient Brahmanical teachings, sat, chit, ananda; sat meaning "pure being"; chit, "Pure thought"; ananda, "bliss"; and this is the state of what one may call the Absolute.
In closing our study this evening, let us remember that the kosmic work of the monad, the spiritual radical, is so important that we refer to it again here. It itself can evolve only by raising inferior souls and psychological vehicles into self-conscious entities, which thus in turn themselves become monads. THIS IS THE GENERALIZED AND ENTIRE PLAN OF EVOLUTION ON ALL PLANES. This is our great work. This is our high destiny. Our supreme self, our Paramatman, our supreme monad, our highest self, the summit of our hierarchy, is doing that work consciously; we as self-conscious humans are doing it in our smaller way; and this is the whole plan of manifested being, the generalized outline of kosmic evolution, as said just now. No man can live unto himself alone; no man can rise to spirit alone. It is of the very essence of nature that he must, willy-nilly, carry with him, up or down, innumerable other entities and inferior selves, along the upward or the downward path.
A few words more on a very important subject. The ancient wisdom tells us that there are seven doctrinal keys to wisdom and future initiations. During our study of those seven keys we have briefly alluded to five. What are they? These seven keys we may call sapta-ratnani, the "seven jewels" or "gems," or "treasures," and they are as follows. First, that operation of nature — using nature in the sense of the absolute, total aggregation of all that is, inside and outside, backwards and forwards, up and down, right and left, everything, everywhere — which in man manifests as reimbodiment, or reincarnation, can be briefly expressed as the change of his vehicle or body when his inner state or condition changes; for by the operations of nature he is finally called to gravitate towards, or must go to, another state or condition and place. This is called death, but it is another form of life. There is the first key. Apply it to our teachings in its many and various reaches.
The second key is the doctrine of action and reaction, called karma. These first two keys we have but briefly touched upon in these preparatory studies. In future studies we shall find it necessary to go into them more in detail.
The third key is the doctrine of interpenetrating beings or existences, otherwise called the doctrine of hierarchies, which are also inseparable and universally interpenetrating planes or spheres. Everything exists in everything else. There are, in strict truth, no absolute divisions anywhere, neither high nor low, neither within nor without, neither right nor wrong, nor up nor down. Fundamentally, there is naught but an eternal Is and an eternal Now. As the ancient Stoics said so finely, "Everything interpenetrates everything else." The very atmosphere we breathe, for instance, is vibrant and living with the multitudinous lives; the monadic essences or lives are in the air we breathe, in our bones, in our blood, in our flesh, in everything. Think of it, then; let your thought go free, release yourself inwardly. Let your imagination carry you into the wonders that these keys open up to our minds. Conscientious study of the ancient wisdom and a pure and unselfish life will be your unfailing guides.
The fourth key is the doctrine of swabhava, the doctrine of the essential characteristic of any entity, of any spiritual radical; the doctrine also of self-generation or self-becoming in manifestation, thus affirming one's responsibility in and for oneself. This is the most abstruse, the most mystic, of the four keys, hitherto mentioned, for actually it is the key to the other three keys.
The fifth is the key to self-conscious being and existence, a subject to which we have alluded this evening and also in our last study; for the entire aim, method, and operation of universal being is the raising of the inferior to the superior; and this great work cannot ever be achieved by following the "path for oneself," the pratyeka-yana, but by following the amrita-yana, the "immortal vehicle," or the path of self-consciousness in immortality. Make your thought free, I repeat; let it go out released!
As regards the other two keys, I ought to say, perhaps, that they belong to high degrees of initiation. I know but very little of the seventh; my studies have taught me very little about it, so closely is it hid. I know this, however, that understanding and use of this seventh key can be reached by very few men on this earth. As regards the sixth key, we are taught that it can be reached by great effort in the higher degrees of initiation.
This evening closes the last of our preparatory studies. We shall go to higher themes in the future.