Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy — G. de Purucker

Chapter Sixteen

Atma-Vidya: How the One Becomes the Many. "Lost Souls" and "Soulless Beings." Man, a Composite Being: No Abiding Principle in Man.

Thus, therefore, the doctrine of the Egyptians concerning principles, proceeding from on high as far as to the last of things, begins from one principle, and descends to a multitude which is governed by this one; and every where an indefinite nature is under the dominion of a certain definite measure, and of the supreme unical cause of all things. — Iamblichus, On The Mysteries, section 8, 3 (Thomas Taylor, trans.)

But at the close of the minor cycle, after the completion of all the seven Rounds, there awaits us no other mercy but the cup of good deeds, of merit, outweighing that of evil deeds and demerit in the scales of Retributive Justice. Bad, irretrievably bad must be that Ego that yields no mite from its fifth Principle, and has to be annihilated, to disappear in the Eighth Sphere. A mite, as I say, collected from the Personal Ego suffices to save him from the dreary Fate. Not so after the completion of the great cycle: either a long Nirvana of Bliss (unconscious though it be in the, and according to, your crude conceptions); after which — life as a Dhyan Chohan for a whole Manvantara, or else "Avitchi Nirvana" and a Manvantara of misery and Horror as a —— you must not hear the word nor I — pronounce or write it. But "those" have nought to do with the mortals who pass through the seven spheres. The collective Karma of a future Planetary is as lovely as the collective Karma of a —— is terrible. Enough. I have said too much already. — The Mahatma Letters, p. 171

WE OPEN our studies, taking them up tonight at the point where we left them last summer, by reading extracts from The Secret Doctrine, volume I, pages 206-8:

There are four grades of initiation mentioned in exoteric works, . . . Three further higher grades have to be conquered by the Arhan who would reach the apex of the ladder of Arhatship. . . . The Arhats of the "fire-mist" of the 7th rung are but one remove from the Root-Base of their Hierarchy — the highest on Earth, and our Terrestrial chain. This "Root-Base" has a name which can only be translated by several compound words into English — "the ever-living-human-Banyan." This "Wondrous Being" descended from a "high region," they say, in the early part of the Third Age, before the separation of the sexes of the Third Race.

. . . It was not a Race, this progeny. It was at first a wondrous Being, called the "Initiator," and after him a group of semi-divine and semi-human beings. "Set apart" in Archaic genesis for certain purposes, they are those in whom are said to have incarnated the highest Dhyanis, . . . to form the nursery for future human adepts, on this earth and during the present cycle. These "Sons of Will and Yoga" born, so to speak, in an immaculate way, remained, it is explained, entirely apart from the rest of mankind.

The "BEING" just referred to, which has to remain nameless, is the Tree from which, in subsequent ages, all the great historically known Sages and Hierophants . . . have branched off. As objective man, he is the mysterious (to the profane — the ever invisible) yet ever-present Personage about whom legends are rife in the East, especially among the Occultists and the students of the Sacred Science. It is he who changes form, yet remains ever the same. And it is he again who holds spiritual sway over the initiated Adepts throughout the whole world. He is, as said, the "Nameless One" who has so many names, and yet whose names and whose very nature are unknown. He is the "Initiator," called the "GREAT SACRIFICE." For, sitting at the threshold of LIGHT, he looks into it from within the circle of Darkness, which he will not cross; nor will be quit his post till the last day of this life-cycle. Why does the solitary Watcher remain at his self-chosen post? Why does he sit by the fountain of primeval Wisdom, of which he drinks no longer, as he has naught to learn which he does not know — aye, neither on this Earth, nor in its heaven? Because the lonely, sore-footed pilgrims on their way back to their home are never sure to the last moment of not losing their way in this limitless desert of illusion and matter called Earth-Life. Because he would fain show the way to that region of freedom and light, from which he is a voluntary exile himself, to every prisoner who has succeeded in liberating himself from the bonds of flesh and illusion. Because, in short, he has sacrificed himself for the sake of mankind, though but a few Elect may profit by the GREAT SACRIFICE.

We have here read one of the most sublime passages in this wonderful book; and it is hoped to comment upon and illustrate, if possible, the matters spoken of in what we have just read. We cannot do this altogether directly; the subject is too profound and no sufficient preparatory study has been made; but we can do so indirectly to some extent. It is necessary to do so to some degree because this sublime subject is the seventh of the seven jewels (counting upwards). You will remember that these seven jewels or gems or treasures were given as follows: the first or lowest is rebirth, or rather reimbodiment, better still, perhaps, regeneration. In Sanskrit it is called punarjanman, and in Greek palingenesis, both words representing practically the same thought: the first element in each word meaning "again" or "anew," and the second element in each meaning "generation" or "birth," "coming into being."

The second jewel, counting upwards, is the doctrine or fact in nature called karma, the doctrine of results. The third jewel is the doctrine of hierarchies, of which the Sanskrit term is lokas. The fourth is the doctrine of swabhava, which we have studied somewhat in former meetings, this Sanskrit word having two general philosophical meanings: first, self-begetting, self-generation, self-becoming, the general idea being that there is no merely mechanical or soulless activity of nature in bringing us into being for we brought ourselves forth, in and through and by nature, of which we are a part of the conscious forces, and are our own children. The second meaning is that each and every entity that exists is the result of what he actually is in his own higher nature; he brings forth that which he is in himself interiorly, nothing else. A particular race, for instance, remains and is that race as long as the particular race-swabhava remains in the racial seed and manifests thus, and so forth. Likewise is the case the same with a man, a tree, a star, a god — whatnot!

The fifth jewel, counting still upwards, is the doctrine of evolution, which we have already very briefly studied in the theosophical sense. This esoteric teaching is not the doctrine of transformism, which is, properly speaking, the correct name for the materialistic doctrine of Darwin and of the Frenchman Lamarck from whom, doubtless, he drew the idea. Rather it is the theosophical idea of unfolding, or unwrapping, a doctrine — with its corollary, involution — that is expressed by two Sanskrit words, these being first, pravritti, meaning the "unfolding forth" of the spirit-entity into matter, or of matter-lives into spirit-entities, as the case may be; and second, nivritti, meaning the "infolding" of spirit-entities into matter, or of matter-lives into spirit-entities, as the case may be.

The sixth and the seventh treasures, or jewels, were touched upon very slightly at one of our recent meetings. We venture now to add a few more ideas to what was said before. The sixth jewel is the doctrine expressed here also by two compound words of contrasted sense: first amrita-yana, a Sanskrit word meaning "immortality-vehicle," "carriage or bearer, or rather path, of immortality," and referring to the individual man; and the other word is pratyeka-yana, a Sanskrit word meaning (in paraphrase) the "path of each one for himself." It is impossible to translate this latter compound word into English by a single word. Both the idea and the vocable do not exist in English. It may perhaps be approached by the theosophic idea latent in the word personality; and the mysterious relation of individuality to personality is included in these two compound catchwords or technical terms; and therefrom hangs an entire doctrine or department of thought of the wonderful philosophy of occultism, the esoteric doctrine. With it — as also with the seventh jewel — are connected closely the doctrines of the ancient wisdom relating to the monads of the various classes: whence they came, how they came, yes, and why they came.

We are touching upon all these profound subjects very lightly at present, because they will all recur again and again in future studies, and will in due course be more fully illustrated and explained more clearly.

Now, the last or the seventh jewel, counting upwards, is called atma-vidya, literally meaning the "knowledge of the self"; this compound is only a catchword as are the others, but it imbodies and hides a doctrine which is truly sublime. You will remember that the present speaker, in connection with this seventh jewel, stated that he knew little or almost nothing of it. This phrase was badly chosen, and perhaps produced a misleading impression. It is well understood that any earnest and devoted student of the Esoteric School can understand at least appropriate parts of this mysterious doctrine — something at least — the degree of his apprehension thereof depending upon his inner state of enlightenment, his fidelity to the Teachers, his loyalty to the principles of the School, and his ability in understanding and penetrating somewhat into the depth of its teachings.

But while this is the case with the students, each one according to his capacity, others higher than we are can understand more of it; naturally, the Teachers understand more of it than we do. Probably, however, there are not ten men today on earth who can understand this doctrine in its fullness. It is a wonder-teaching that even the Masters have probably not solved utterly. The Masters of the Masters know more of it than the latter do, i.e., the Chohans, as they are called — chohan, a Tibetan word meaning "lord," used in the sense of preceptor, or teacher. But the main and essential meaning of this wondrous doctrine, running all through it, is this, which is its keynote: HOW THE ONE BECOMES THE MANY; and this is the most difficult problem that the human spirit has ever attempted to solve.

Take as an analogy, for instance, the monad. To speak of the monad as "descending" into matter is to speak wrongly, though constantly this phrase is used, because it is a convenient method of expression; and if this fact is understood, it is probably permissible as a phrase. But actually, when we come to study the facts, very soon we see and we know that the monad does not "descend" into matter. Similarly, the One, though it is appropriate and convenient to speak of it as "becoming the many," never becomes many, remains eternally itself, the summit of the hierarchy, its root-base, which is this Wondrous Being, the supreme Initiator, on whatever plane it may be placed. Yet the many flow forth from It; and It is their supreme self, their Paramatman.

This, then, is the general theme of our discourse this evening; but because we have no time now to make a complete resume of our studies during the course of last spring and winter, this evening we shall go over very shortly a few doctrines which were touched upon in former studies, for the sake of brushing up our recollection of them. The first one that we turn back to, then, is the doctrine of swabhava, as contrasted in meaning with the ideas involved in the kin-expression, swabhavat. This difference in meaning, which is very great, is not generally understood, and the two words often have been sadly confused by students. They are very different in meaning, though both come from the same Sanskrit root bhu: swabhava; swabhavat. (Let me tell you here that the Sanskrit sound represented in English as a is pronounced like the u in but or tub; but when the a is written as a or a, it is pronounced ah, as in father.)

As just said, these two words are both nouns derived from the same Sanskrit word bhu, meaning "to become" — not "to be" in the passive sense so much, but "to become," to "grow into" something. The quasi-pronominal prefix swa means "self"; hence the noun means "self-becoming," "self-generation," "self-growing" into something. Yet the essential or fundamental or integral self, as said before, does not do so. Like the monads, like the One, the self fundamental sends down a ray from itself, as the sun sends a ray from itself into the darkness of matter; and it is this spiritual ray which "descends" into matter, self-generating or self-becoming a self-conscious entity in its turn — the solar light, the sun itself, remaining ever in its own integrity or ens, never descending, never commingling integrally as an entity with the multitudinous hosts of matter-lives, its own children.

Now swabhavat is called by H. P. Blavatsky, Father-Mother. It is a state or condition of kosmic consciousness-substance, where spirit and matter, which you know are fundamentally one, no longer are dual as in manifestation, but one: that which is neither manifested matter, nor manifested spirit, alone, but both are the primeval unity; spiritual akasa; where matter merges into spirit, and both now being really one, are called Father-Mother, the spiritualization, so to say, of spirit-substance. See how we have to hunt for adequately expressive words in our wretchedly imperfect European languages! The Sanskrit word expresses the idea, if you understand it, instantly.

These two nouns, then, as you see, are from the same root, and the two words are closely connected in origin, but they are not the same in meaning at all. Swabhava is the self-generation of anything, of any entity, of any monad. Swabhavat is the Father-Mother, the kalpic akasic spirit-substance, never descending from its own state or condition, or from its own plane, but the quasi-infinite reservoir of being, of consciousness, of light, of life, and the source of what science, in our day, so ridiculously calls the "forces" of nature universal.

These deeply mystical and very profound themes we shall have to go into more fully in the future; but for the present it will suffice to remember that swabhavat is kosmical spirit-substance, the reservoir of being and of beings. The Northern Buddhists call it swabhavat, more mystically adi-buddhi — "primeval buddhi"; the Brahmanical scriptures call it akasa; and the Hebrew Old Testament refers to it as the kosmic "waters."

Now the next subject which needed a little illustration was the very solemn question of "lost souls," as contrasted with "soulless beings." It may be well to say that these three or four subjects are briefly again touched upon this evening because it has come to attention that these matters have been mistaken by some of our hearers. There is an immense difference between "lost souls" and "soulless beings." A lost soul is one in whom the "golden thread" uniting the lower thinking entity with its higher self is completely ruptured, broken off from its higher essence or root, its true self. The case here is hopeless, virtually; there can be no more union for that lower self which, at the moment of final rupture, commences sinking immediately into the Eighth Sphere, the so-called Planet of Death. A soulless being, a soulless man, is one in whom the thread has been worn, so to speak, very thin; or, rather, where the spiritual and impersonal aspirations in this life and in other lives have been so few, the attempts to unite with the higher part of the self have been so weak, that slowly the spiritual ray has been withdrawing itself from the lower part; but it is not yet ruptured completely. It still remains; and even one single holy and impersonal aspiration may cause reunion. It is not a lost soul; but so far as the human entity is practically concerned, it is properly called a soulless being, for the entity lives almost wholly in his lower principles. Soulless beings furnish those cases which are popularly spoken of as "men and women without conscience." They seem to have no moral sense, although their mental and psychical faculties may still be strong and keen.

These are the worst cases of soulless human beings. Other cases are those of men and women who merely do not seem to care for anything that is good and beautiful and true, noble and high and lofty; their desires are of the earth, earthly; their passions are strong and their intuitions are weak. These cases are very common indeed; so much so that H. P. Blavatsky says in her Isis Unveiled that we "shoulder soulless men" every day of our lives. Look into the faces of the men and the women whom you see on the streets. Go to town; go anywhere; the situation actually is a terrible one. There is a full possibility that a weak-souled human being, perhaps beginning merely in giving way to the lusts of the will, and to the passions of the mind, and to the instincts of the lower nature, may, little by little, but inevitably and surely, starve out, or wear away by attrition, all the attachments of the higher ray which bind it into the lower nature, and which, if they were fully strong and active, would make the man (or woman) a walking god among us; verily, a god in the flesh. Instead of this, in the worst cases of the soulless being, you would have before you little more than a human shell (alive, but spiritually almost dead) in the man or the woman, as the case may be. A soulless being was once an insouled man or woman who, before the former state, had the same chance successfully to run the race that we all have. This is indeed a solemn verity, and one which H. P. Blavatsky has told us should be taught and reiterated in our teaching, because it is truly helpful as a warning. Not one of us is absolutely safe at this midway stage of our evolutionary journey; for not one of us knows what he is capable of, either for good or ill.

There is the truth; and it is no trifling matter. Is there any reason for wonder that all our teachers have told us repeatedly that every teaching that is given in the School is founded upon what men commonly call ethical principles of conduct, and must be studied in that light? It is the only thing that, put into sincere practice, will save us surely; for these principles come first and in the middle and at the end of our studies.

In future studies we shall have to trace to the end the destiny of these two classes of beings; but it may be well to say a few words now of the fate of the lost soul. There are two general classes of these: the lower, but not the worse; and the higher, the worse. In order to make the meaning of this very difficult subject more clear, I shall have to go into a new but collateral thought, which is the key: man is a composite being. On this fact of human nature reposes a most wonderful truth which is at the foundation of the marvelous psychological doctrines of the Lord Gautama Buddha. It is as follows: there is no abiding principle whatsoever in "man." Fix this like steel into the core of your minds. It will save you from myriad dangers if rightly understood. "Man" is not his higher nature; "man" is that which is called the "human nature." Do you realize how greatly men and women live in what the Hebrews call the nephesh, i.e., live in their astral souls? To a certain extent such unison with our lower principles is necessary; but to follow the beautiful old simile of the ancient philosophers, the astral soul should be our vehicle, our bearer; so to say, it should be made a horse to carry us on our journey; or, to change the figure, a chariot in which we should ride; a horse which we must drive. We, the inner self, should govern and drive our astral steed, but should never allow it to control us.

In order to make this more clear, examine following diagram:

diagram: human principles

You will notice that man's seven principles and elements are divided into three separate parts: a lowest triad, purely mortal and perishable; an intermediate duad, psychical, composite, and mostly mortal, kama-manas, the "man" proper, or "human nature"; and a higher duad, atma-buddhi, immortal, imperishable, the monad. At the death of the human being, this higher duad carries away with it all the spiritual essence, the aroma, of the lower or intermediate duad; and then the higher duad is the higher self, the reincarnating individuality, or egoic monad. Man's ordinary consciousness in life at this stage of evolution is almost wholly in the lower or intermediate duad; when he raises his consciousness to become one with the higher duad, he becomes a Mahatma, a Master.

Now this lower part of the nature is composite. There is nothing permanent per se in it whatever; as an entity, nothing abides. It is ordinary man as he is today, and in him there is no abiding self-principle whatsoever. If you fasten your thoughts and your affections to the things of the lower nature, you will de facto, of necessity, follow it, and become it, as outlined and shown in and by the doctrine of swabhava. As a man thinks, so is he! The Hebrew words in this old saying, which is taken from Proverbs, chapter 23, verse 7, are Englished: "As he thinketh in his heart (nephesh), so is he," but the Hebrew word nephesh used here really means "As he thinks in his lower nature, that he is (becomes)." A Sanskrit commentator, Yaska (Nirukta, 10, 17), in his gloss on a certain Vedic text, has the following remark, exactly to the point on the same subject: Yad yad rupam kamayate devata, tat tad devata bhavati — "Whatever body (or form, or shape) a divine being (divinity) longs for (wants, desires, i.e., gives himself up to), that very thing the divine being becomes." Here is the secret of the whole thing. We are what we make ourselves, our own children. Nothing but that. And, if our thoughts are upwards, we come finally into the companionship of the divinities; and, before reaching them, come into the companionship of the holy Teachers, because we make ourselves such, we become like them; and they, in turn, answer the call.

But if, on the contrary, our thoughts are running downwards, and we wear away the silver thread or the golden thread which binds us to our higher nature, we then naturally gravitate or go downwards: down, down, down, until at last the final rupture of the golden chain or thread comes, and the soul becomes a lost soul, a lost astral soul; and its destiny is as follows. There are two classes of this kind of soul, as remarked before. The first class is the lower but not the worse; it consists of those human beings on this planet (or on any other planet which possesses a humanity similar to ours) who, through native weaknesses of soul and from lack of spiritual attraction upwards, go to pieces after a certain interval of time, long or short as the case may be: the lower part of the nature, being composite and impermanent and nonenduring, following natural laws finally simply breaks up and vanishes much as the human body dies and decays. That is the end of it; it is finally annihilated.

The monad of such a soul, meanwhile, there being nothing, no aroma of aspiration or yearning upwards, to take away from that life or from those lives — because, mind you, it is perfectly true that lost souls as well as soul-beings can reincarnate; they can indeed; there are children born lost souls; as a fact it is very rare, perhaps, but the fact can and does take place — the monad, I say, of such a lost soul, in due course of time "reincarnates" again; and the lost soul episode is like a blank page in its "book of lives."

The second class, and the worse by far, are those in which the soul is vitally strong. They are those who are spiritually evil, paradoxical as it may sound; those which the Christian teachers have spoken of in the New Testament as beings of spiritual wickedness and iniquity. One may wonder how it can come to pass that a being which has ruptured the golden thread can still have spiritual qualities or parts. That is one of the dark and solemn mysteries which we may have to go into in more detail later. We have no time this evening to do so, beyond pointing out that the explanation lies in an understanding of esoteric psychology, and of the nature of high astral matter. But let me point out this: if a soul can receive an impress, can receive an impulse, and it most certainly does, that impress or impulse will carry it on until its initial strength is exhausted, until the impulse no longer exists, until the impulse has worked itself out. Through many, many, lives of spiritual evildoing, these beings who have eventuated as lost souls have built up through the intensity of their will a bank account, so to speak, of certain forces of nature, impulses of evil, of pure matter, running hot and strong. And when I say hot I do not mean in the ordinary emotional sense, as when one speaks of the "heat of passion." All such passion is dead. Nay, but running hot like the fires of hell: revenge, hatred, and antagonism to anything that is highly good or nobly beautiful, and all such things. These impulses here exist, and they have a spiritual source, for they are degraded spiritual energies, spirit fallen and crystallized into matter, so to speak. Very difficult to explain, indeed, is this abstruse subject; but this is the gist of it. Lastly, I might add that these beings can (and do), under certain conditions, go far lower: they enter the lower path, and go still farther down; and if the evil be strong enough in certain rare cases, their terrible destiny is what the Teachers have called an avichi-nirvana (avichi being a generalized term for what is popularly called hell), aeons of unspeakable misery, self-imposed, until final dissolution ensues — and nature knows them no more.

Of course you remember that we have studied the subject of hells and heavens, but as yet we have had no time to go into this matter at length. Avichi is a generalized term for places of evil realizations (but not of punishment in the Christian sense), where the will for evil, and the unsatisfied evil longings for pure selfishness, find their chance for expansion — and final extinction of the entity itself. Avichi has many degrees, or grades. Nature has all things in her; if she has heavens where good men and true men find rest and peace and bliss, so has she other spheres and states, where go or gravitate those who must find an outlet for the evil passions burning within. They, at the end of their avichi-nirvana, go to pieces and are ground over and over, and vanish away finally like a shadow before the sunlight in the air — ground over in nature's laboratory.

Now you remember it was pointed out in other studies that in our esoteric teachings there are no "laws" of nature, and this for two reasons: first, because there is no such thing as "nature." Nature is not an entity; it is an abstraction. Nature is not a goddess or a god; it is not a being or a planet; it is not a sphere or a universe. Nature is the abstract aggregate, so to speak, the immense aggregate, of all beings and things, interblending and acting and interacting upon each other: spiritual, intermediate, and lower; and their interblending and interconnection produce what we call nature. The beings here referred to, of course, are of all grades, from the most material, the most degraded, up to the highest, of any hierarchy. And the second reason is that these aggregated beings that we call very conveniently by the term of nature are not "ruled" by "law." Who or what makes any laws that nature shall or must follow or does follow? No one, neither devil nor god. But the query may and ought to arise: does not nature follow certain courses, and when the circumstances and conditions are identical, are not those courses always the same, which are what we call laws? Of course, yes; nobody denies a fact. We deny the explanation. Explanations are important. If a man comes to you and says something to you and you find that he is merely talking, giving you words when you want the bread of life, are you going to take what he says for truth? Are you going to take the words only, and be satisfied with husks? Or are you going to think, and say: "My dear sir, I have looked into what you tell me; what you say is merely words; nobody denies the facts that are, but I want an explanation of those words and of those facts. I want something that will feed my soul." Do you get any food for your soul when you hear mere talk about mechanical, incomprehensible laws of nature? Do you realize that no great thinker in antiquity at any time ever used such empty language as laws of nature with the concomitant ideas — or lack of ideas? Never. The expression containing the notion "laws of nature" is a modern product derived from two sources: first from the Christian religion; and second from modern scientific materialism. Men, during all the ages, have been fully aware that nature pursued certain very regular courses, modernly called laws, and always followed the same courses; but our forebears had other and wiser explanations of these regular courses in natural phenomena, for they knew more of the inner mysteries of being, because they had true religion behind and within themselves; they had a universal philosophy; and last but not least they had what were called initiates who personally could go behind and into nature, enter into her and know her at first hand.

Now what causes nature to act as she does? The modern scientist will tell you that he means by the laws of nature those sequences of events which always happen in the same way when the circumstances and conditions are the same; the regular order of phenomena and forces. The Christian theologian tells you what he means by the laws of nature probably somewhat as follows: "Well, brother, it is probably the Will of God Almighty who, it is true, has not vouchsafed to us a full explanation of these difficult problems; but it is fundamentally the Divine Will which has once and for all time created the machine of nature and has set it to running." About two or five or six hundred years ago these gentlemen had another explanation, somewhat different from the above, because modern science had not yet begun to be aggressively vocal with views or a view of its own; and this other theological explanation was that it was God Almighty Himself who personally and actively guided and ordered these things which nature produces. "He sent his rain upon the just and the unjust; He caused the sun to shine, and the rain to fall," and much more to the same tune. But then came along certain skeptical thinkers and they said, "Ha, ha, God the Creator! Then He created diseases; He creates the evils in men's hearts. It must be so, not otherwise, because He created man and all things else and, being all-wise, He must have known what He was doing. Therefore, why punish a man for doing what he cannot avoid doing, because God created man and his mind and his heart and his will?"

So the theologians' later idea, apparently, was that God manufactured the world with His own Almighty Hand, and set it to spinning, and set the various elements thereof each to running in its own way, and let it go forth with a primal impress of the Divine Intelligence upon it.

I think that I am quoting correctly the early modern theological idea.

Now the initiates, knowing nature's arcana, had words fitted to express exactly what they desired to say; words which are impressive and which are not mere abstractions, although when convenient they too used abstractions; they used such words as principles and elements of nature. It is quite true that such words are catchwords, technical words; but they knew precisely what they meant by them. They also spoke mystically and theologically of the "gods." It is one of the most lamentable things for scholars today, that owing to the deliberate and willful suppression by the Christian Church of so many of the truths of antiquity, the average scholar or student has no more idea of what the ancients meant by the gods and their actions than he has of what is taking place at this moment on the star Sirius. Yet, when understood and properly explained, polytheism is seen to be a wonderful and a sublime teaching. It does not mean, for instance, that each god is as great and as single as, or omnipotent and omniscient like, the Christian theological notion of their God. Not at all. The gods, i.e., spiritual entities, are the higher inhabitants of nature. They are an intrinsic part of nature itself, for they are its informing principles; they are as much subject to the wills of still higher beings — call these wills the laws of higher beings, if you will — as we are, and as are the animals below us. We are gods to the beings composing our bodies. The atoms in our body are, in their way, conscious, and we are like gods to them. And what they might call the laws of nature are what we think and what we will. Nature is conscious from beginning to end, in varying degrees; although in reality there is no beginning and no end, which are vain dreams.

Furthermore, nature has two aspects, a positive aspect and a negative aspect. Please understand that I am using the word nature, with the meaning pointed out before, because the ordinary expression is convenient, the term is understood. If a speaker has to spend some three minutes or more in order to explain each time anew an already explained use of a word, he will never arrive at the end of what he wishes to say; so, once having made an explanation of what we mean by nature and laws, we may use these or other common words because they are convenient. H. P. Blavatsky also constantly speaks of the laws of nature, and the fundamental law of karma; so again does Katherine Tingley constantly speak of the higher law. Who has not heard highly educated people say that the sun "rises in the east"? Of course they and we know that the sun does not rise in the east. Men very frequently find it useful and convenient to use ordinary language in order intelligently to voice a thought. But this does not mean that they should be held to rigid literal account for what every sane man should know perfectly well is merely a convenient mode of expression.

The so-called laws of nature, therefore, are the action and interaction and interplay of consciousnesses and wills — in the kosmos — not so much considered as personalized consciousnesses and wills, but by us those words are used more as abstractions, meaning the combined and aggregate action-results of all consciousnesses and wills in the kosmos. Yet actually, when traced to causes, to their sources, these laws are the consciousnesses and wills in action of the multimyriad hosts of beings that compose and are "nature" itself, working through, in, and by, "matter," their vehicles — abstractly called nature. Nature has these two poles or sides: the positive pole or side and the negative pole or side. Examine yourself closely, and you will find that even your mind is dual, like everything else, for it mirrors nature. It has its passive side, its unconscious reflexes, just as the body has, just as nature has. It has also its positive or active side. There is a great difference between the conscious will and the unconscious will. Take the body as an instance of what I am trying to say; e.g., the beating of the heart, the automatic winking of the eyes, the processes of digestion. These are unconsciously performed acts, under the control of unconscious or semiconscious elemental entities; when normally functioning, man's will has nothing self-consciously to do with them. They represent the passive side of his will as expressed through those elemental minds. But he also has an active or positive side in which he wills and thinks, and acts accordingly, and for these latter things he is held responsible, he incurs karmic responsibility.

So is it exactly the same in nature, as is illustrated by this example of the passive and active wills in man's own mind and body. The laws of physical nature are the action-results of the passive side of the beings and consciousnesses who and which compose what is called nature; and the higher those beings are, the less is their active or positive side manifest on the lower planes.

Work therefore with nature, and not against her; violate none of her laws, if you desire health and happiness. Remember what H. P. Blavatsky says in The Voice of the Silence — let us paraphrase it: work with nature and follow her; become one with her, and she will make obeisance unto you as an active, self-conscious co-worker — a master. Happiness can be found only in obedience to this fundamental truth of inseparable unity. There is no happiness in unbrotherhood, in acting solely for yourself, in trying to impose your personal will on others. It is by giving that life is found in all its beauty, by giving the self to the All. There is no happiness like it; there is no way for inner development to come so quickly and so surely and so safely to the student as that which lies in giving up the personal self to nobly impersonal aims. It is the way to peace and power.

Let us occupy the few more minutes of time that we have in referring to an interesting phenomenon of nature that took place during this last summer. I refer to the near approach of the planet Mars to Earth; and I speak of this with intent, because it is going to illustrate a point in the substance of our theme.

You will doubtless have heard how our scientists have concluded — they say that their theory is true, but it is absolutely false according to theosophy — that the planet Mars is older than the Earth; and the sole reason for their saying this is because when they examine what they can see of the surface of Mars through their telescopes, they see no sign, certain and convincing to all, of even vegetable life. Apparently, they see no particular organic activity of any kind on that ruddy sphere; and they at once jump to the conclusion that Mars is dead, in a state something like that of the moon, and that therefore it is very much older than our planet Earth. In the first place, to the student of the ancient wisdom, the "age" of a planet may be of two kinds. Does it mean older in spiritual experience — because, remember, a planet is an "animal" in the Greco-Latin sense, and "animal" means "living being," for it is a hierarchy of lives — or does it merely mean that the physical sphere is older than ours?

Now the teaching of the ancient wisdom is that Mars is younger than the Earth. Its body, its physical sphere, is younger; but, at the present time, it is in a state of "obscuration." It is what we may call asleep; it is more than merely asleep, actually, for the vastly larger part of its hosts of lives, of its living entities, have left it in order to go to higher spheres or globes of the Martian planetary chain. But this again does not mean — one has to be very careful in the use of expressions in our studies — that there is no life on Mars. When our own physical body is asleep, does it mean that it is in decay, that it is dead? Are there no vital processes going on in the sleeping human body? Of course there are, many: recuperation, reinforcing of the bonds of the inner nature; not of the inner nature itself, but there is the strengthening of the bonds connecting the vital astral entity with it.

There are — and this will illustrate another point — on the planet Mars in its present state of obscuration certain beings left there by the receding life-wave of Mars when that planet went into obscuration; and these beings are called in the Sanskrit language sishtas, meaning "remainders" or "remains," i.e., those whose duty it is to keep the seeds of life on that planet until the incoming flow of the returning life-wave in the new manvantara to come shall find these bodies ready for them and in all ways appropriate. Now these sishtas are of seven kinds: three elemental; the mineral; the "plant"; the "beast"-type there, which represented the human on Mars; and one other. There are certain ones of these sishtas which are not at all of the lower types; they must have been higher than the average of its humanity when that planet went into obscuration, in order to provide for the more evolved humanity coming down on its succeeding round fit and appropriate vehicles for the new life cycle, or manvantara, there. Generally, then, the sishtas are those superior classes — each of its own kind and kingdom — left behind on a planet when it goes into obscuration, in order to serve as the seeds of life for the inflow of the next incoming life-wave when the dawn of the new manvantara takes place on that planet.

Venus, on the contrary, is now actively engaged in its last round. The planet Mercury, on the other hand, is just beginning its last round. Both these planets are far older than the Earth. Mars is younger — I am not here talking of the spiritual age; I am talking only of the age of the physical body, the sphere. You will find it generally the law (and I am using this term law, remember, because it is convenient), you will find it, generally speaking, a physical fact of nature in our solar system that the farther a sphere (or planet) is from the sun, the physically younger it is. Mars, as a matter of fact, has ended its third round. We of the Earth are in our fourth; Venus is in its seventh and last; and Mercury is just beginning its seventh.

I have brought up this matter, because there are some who have misunderstood H. P. Blavatsky's teaching in The Secret Doctrine regarding the six companion-globes of the planetary earth-chain, saying that we came to Earth from the planet Mars which is thus made one of the globes of the planetary earth-chain; that we are now on Earth; and that we shall in the future (next) manvantara go to Mercury, which is also made one of the planetary earth-chain.

This is utterly wrong. As we have just said, Mercury is in its seventh round; we are in our fourth, and our next round will be our fifth. It is true that Mars has ended its third round; but while the planets farther from the sun generally are the younger, physically, than those nearer it, this does not mean that they are necessarily the younger spiritually. For instance, you may take the planet Saturn. The planet Saturn, spiritually, is farther advanced than is the planet Mars, or than is our planet Terra.

If you take up a book of astronomy and compare the varying density of the planets as there given in the tables, you will have a rough-and-ready, and very generally accurate, rule by which to go in order to find out which of the physical planets are physically older than others. But then this does not refer to spiritual age or evolution; and this fact shows the complexity that confronts the student in his study of these doctrines, which really are very simple, but seem complex to us because our minds are matter-minds and not spirit-minds. It is difficult to think about such things with the minds we have, because they are matter-built. They go to pieces at our death; and these subjects are based on spiritual facts. Hence the confusion under which Mr. Sinnett and others who followed his lead have labored — even to the extent of denying their own teachers!

The planet Saturn is surrounded with belts and — I am in very deep water here and I wish to speak slowly so as not to give a mistaken impression — the planet Saturn is the last, counting outwards from the sun, of the seven sacred planets of the ancients. As regards our solar system, Uranus and Neptune, certainly not the latter, really do not belong to it. Actually, physically, they do, because they are under that system's influence, somewhat like visitors entertained in a home; but they do not belong to or form a part of the septenary of the seven sacred planets of antiquity of which you all doubtless have read. Those seven sacred planets provisionally may be named as follows: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, and Moon. I say provisionally, because there is much more behind this matter of the seven sacred planets than appears openly. For instance, the sun and the moon are reckoned in the above list as two substitutes for the two real planets; and Mars — to a certain extent — is in the same category. We can say no more of this here.

Shall we say that the sun and moon represent two other planets? Let us take provisionally the list as usually given, including the sun and the moon: each one of these seven globes is a body like our own earth in that each is a septenary chain, sevenfold in composition — six other superior globes of finer matter above the physical sphere or globe, just as we humans have our six principles above this bearer or carrier miscalled a principle, which we call our body. This does not apply in toto to the moon, because the moon is dead; yet even the moon has its six companion-globes. The mysteries concerning the moon, I may remark in passing, are more than interesting, and we shall sometime go into them as far as we can properly do so; but excepting the moons, all the other globes and planets of the solar system have, each one, six companion-globes of finer matter, all fully alive, unless in obscuration; and in the planetary life these form a peculiar analogy with man's seven principles, for if we could see our own principles, could see what the plan of each principle is, we should find that it is an actual rupa or form. Yet let me here enter a caveat: the six companion-globes of any planet or other sidereal body are not, really, the six principles of such a body, for each one of these seven globes forming part of a chain has its own individual seven principles and elements. So each planet or sidereal body has its six companion-globes, forming together a planetary chain, and only those globes which are on the same kosmic plane of nature or being are physically visible to each other. For instance, we can see only the fourth (planetary) plane globes of each of the other planetary or sidereal chains, because we are on the fourth planetary plane, as they are. If we were on the kosmic plane above us, we should see two Jupiters, two Saturns, and so forth.

The sun also is septenary, as said just now. A wonderful teaching lies here in that connection. The moon, dead as it is, has also six companion-globes; and when we leave this earth in obscuration at the close of this earth-round, and go to the globe above this, we shall see then the two lunar bodies belonging to that plane, and also two suns.

We now close our evening's study, and express the hope that at the next meeting we shall have more opportunity and a clearer field to go at some length into the truly sublime subject which H. P. Blavatsky has set down for us in The Secret Doctrine in the extracts first read this evening.

Theosophical University Press Online Edition