Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy by G. de Purucker

Copyright © 1979 by Theosophical University Press. All rights reserved.


Chapter Twenty-Four

The Ten Stages of Being according to the Syrian System. Esoteric Method of Teaching: Paradoxes, Intuition.

Their writings also [i.e., of the Pythagoreans], and all the books which they published, most of which have been preserved even to our time [i.e., to the time of Iamblichus], were not composed by them in a popular and vulgar diction, and in a manner usual with all other writers, so as to be immediately understood, but in such a way as not to be easily apprehended by those that read them. For they adopted that taciturnity which was instituted by Pythagoras as a law, in concealing after an arcane mode, divine mysteries from the uninitiated, and obscuring their writings and conferences with each other. — Iamblichus, Life of Pythagoras, p. 56

Philosophy, according to his [Plato's] acceptation, being not merely a set of doctrines but the perfecting of the whole spiritual life; . . . — Eduard Zeller, Plato and the Older Academy, p. 160

It moves. It moves not.

It is far, and It is near.

It is within all this,

And It is outside of all this. — Isa-Upanishad, 5 (Hume, trans.)

LET US OPEN our study this evening by reading from The Secret Doctrine, volume I, pages 435-6, as follows:

Mor Isaac . . . shows the ancient Syrians defining their world of the "Rulers" and "active gods" in the same way as the Chaldeans. The lowest world was the SUBLUNARY — our own — watched by the "Angels" of the first or lower order; the one that came next in rank, was Mercury, ruled by the "ARCHANGELS"; then came Venus, whose gods were the PRINCIPALITIES; the fourth was that of the SUN, the domain and region of the highest and mightiest gods of our system, the solar gods of all nations; the fifth was Mars, ruled by the "VIRTUES"; the sixth — that of Bel or Jupiter — was governed by the DOMINIONS; the seventh — the world of Saturn — by the THRONES. These are the worlds of form. Above come the four higher ones, making seven again, since the three highest are "unmentionable and unpronounceable." The eighth, composed of 1,122 stars, is the domain of the Cherubs; the ninth, belonging to the walking and numberless stars on account of their distance, has the seraphs; as to the tenth — Kircher, quoting Mor Isaac, says that it is composed "of invisible stars that could be taken, they said, for clouds — so massed are they in the zone that we call Via Straminis, the Milky Way;". . . That which comes after and beyond the tenth world (our Quaternary, or the Arupa world), the Syrians could not tell. "All they knew was that it is there that begins the vast and incomprehensible ocean of the infinite, the abode of the true divinity without boundary or end."

Champollion shows the same belief among the Egyptians.

The main thought this evening that seems to call first for further illustration is the subject of the bipolar nature of being, that is to say, that there are two interacting energy-substance lines in the kosmos, which together comprise the totality of all evolutionary processes: first, the lower, the kosmokratores, or world builders; and second, the higher, the intelligences impelling the former into action and overseeing their evolutionary ways. The second class is of course the higher, and comprises what we, following H. P. Blavatsky, have called the Hierarchy of Compassion.

Now these two lines of action, or classes, may also be called (a) the left-hand or matter-side, and (b) the right-hand or spirit-side, i.e., (a) the builders, the kosmokratores, who are in fact (in one sense) the lower principles of (b) the dhyani-buddhas, who are the right-hand, or spirit-side, of being, which latter are of the inner kosmos, as the kosmokratores or builders, also called planetary spirits or dhyani-chohans of a lower grade, are of the outer or material kosmos, that is, as said above, the left-hand side, the matter-side, the night-side, the dark side.

From the interaction of these two quasi-opposing forces (or elements) in nature come into self-consciousness the innumerable monads of inner and outer space, because this night-side or matter-side is made up of the lower principles of the light-side, as it were; and these lower principles are composite, formed of simply innumerable numbers of monads in almost infinitely varying degrees of development. The higher monads form the vehicles of the dhyani-buddhas, the Hierarchy of Compassion; but there are monads, hosts of them, of intermediate and lower degrees, and of still lower and of the lowest degree; and the lowest form the material world, which we see around us. As said above, from the interaction of the indwelling force and of the vehicle in which it works or, in other words, from the informing spiritual powers impelling and urging these monads in various states of evolution towards further progress, spring the various degrees of consciousnesses in nature. We are some of these monads, both our higher egos and our personal egos. We ourselves are monads in the particular state of evolution in which we find ourselves; and we are on our way to becoming conscious co-workers with nature or, in other words, slowly evolving out (or into) the dhyani-chohans or lords of contemplation, the manasaputras, of future manvantaras. We were, in former kalpas, or manvantaras, monads in a still lower state of evolution than that in which we are now, forming then the vehicles of those who are still ahead of us, and who now still work through us, through our higher and our personal egos, and who thus inspire us to progress upwards, and who are, in fact, our inner gods: our very selves, yet different!

The work of evolution is, in fact, the raising of the personal into the impersonal; the raising of the mortal to put on the garments of immortality; the raising of the beast to become a man; the raising of a man to become a god; and the raising of a god to become still more largely divine. When we say "raising a beast to become a man," we do not, however, thereby mean the scientific hypothesis miscalled evolution and properly called transformism. The theosophic doctrine of evolution is immensely greater, infinitely (if we can use that expression) more profound, than those scientific theories. A beast never becomes a self-conscious, thinking man according to the scientific merely mechanical doctrine of materialistic transformism, any more so than a pile of mortar and bricks self-develops into a mansion, or a rough block of marble into a noble statue. It is the inner monad, the indwelling fire, which continually urges or brings forth into action the latent lives and forces in the atoms. Each atom in itself is a sleeping soul, and this, awakened, is what evolves or develops, not the merely physical body. Remember the threefold category that H. P. Blavatsky gives us: gods, first; monads, second; atoms, third — gods, the divine or highest triad; monads, the upper triad of the septenary; and the atoms, the lower quaternary of the septenary. Each one of those atoms, which are simply incalculably great in numbers, forming the lower quaternary, as already said, is a sleeping god, an embryo god rather. Its inner nature must be brought out, and that bringing out is evolution, the bringing out of inner capacities, each atom-entity making, as it does so, its own vehicles. This is the doctrine of self-directed evolution, following the urge, the primordial impress, of the dhyani-chohans. All this has been set forth by us before.

In past studies we have spoken of the initiations (and of the doctrine of evolution taught anciently therein) as being a forcing-school. This word forcing is ambiguous. The word is subject to misinterpretation. Let us then put in its place the word quickening, or awakening, the word quickening meaning "life" in contrast with what is inert or dead; therefore, it is the quickening, the enlivening, the bringing out of that which is within. This idea is the key thought of the theosophical doctrine of evolution.

A beast no more develops mechanically into a man than do pieces of ivory, and cupfuls of polish, and pieces of wood and rolls of wire, naturally fall together and take proper form and "transform" themselves into a piano. Impossible! What makes a piano is the architect of it, the man, the thinker; so evolution is the working upon and in matter of the spiritual entity which takes and forms and urges onwards the material vehicles in which it is.

When we speak of the incarnation of the manasaputras, the thinking entities, the sons of mind, it is of course understood that they are parts of, or entities from, the Hierarchy of Compassion, from the light-side of nature; and while evolution, the natural evolving (with the primordial spiritual or dhyani-chohanic impress behind it) of nature into higher beings, would take place and actually takes place continuously, that process would be almost interminable in length of time were it not for the higher beings who give us of their light and their life, and thereby much more quickly lead us on. That is what is meant by the manasaputras' "descent into incarnation." They are our higher natures and, paradoxical as it is, are more largely evolved beings than we are; they were the spiritual entities who quickened our personal egos, which were thus evolved into self-consciousness, relatively small though that yet be. One, and yet many! As you can light an infinite number of candles from one lighted candle, so can you, from a spark of consciousness, quicken and enliven innumerable other consciousnesses lying, so to speak, in sleep, or latent, in the atoms.

This brings us directly to another matter. We all possibly have heard of "contradictions" in The Secret Doctrine, or in our esoteric teachings. There are no contradictions there; there are apparent contradictions, if you like, but an apparent contradiction is really the figure of speech called a paradox. It is the famous old way of the ancient schools of occultism, to teach by paradoxes or by parables, as Jesus is said to have done. There is manifest a profound knowledge of human psychology in basing teachings on this principle. The aim is deliberately to arouse the mind, to astonish, to make the hearer think for himself. You cannot teach a child to eat or to walk by walking for it or by feeding yourself for it. It must learn to feed itself. It must itself learn to walk.

Similarly, students, neophytes, must learn to think for themselves, to stand upon their own feet. It is, I repeat, a very profound knowledge of psychology, of human thinking, which made the ancient Teachers, and makes the Masters of wisdom today, follow the same old principles, a method which we have followed since these studies were begun. You will have noticed that in no case has any subject been at first openly and fully stated or followed to its ultimate: first, because it is impossible; second, because it was obviously necessary to say certain things first, trying to arouse attention, trying to arouse honest objections — not merely criticisms — but honest objections in your own mind which you yourselves must solve; and then later other aspects of the subject were brought out and other sides of the teachings were given. Some of you know this fact, of course; but I am speaking more particularly of our younger and newer members. This method is a system of teaching diametrically opposite to that pursued in the Western world since the downfall of the Mediterranean civilizations. The popular method today is that of the pure brain-mind, of that mind which is mortal and goes to pieces with the death of the body. Its forte is the mere memorizing of times, places, names, dates, etc., in short, everything that can be memorized from books or daily occurrences, and stuffed into the brain; and this mind dies. That is one reason why we do not remember our past incarnations, because our minds were puny and dealt with little and evanescent things. But the memory of our past incarnations nevertheless inheres and remains in our higher natures, for this nature deals only with principles and generals; and someday, when we shall have passed out of and beyond our planet, we shall remember those past lives, unless indeed they be those cases of incarnations of a lost soul, in which cases there remain only blank pages, as it were, in the spiritual volume of life.

Let us illustrate some of these so-called contradictions by a few examples: the moon is older than the sun; the sun is older than the moon. No contradiction is here, but there is a paradox, Again, the sun is older than any of its planets; the planets are older than their sun. No contradiction again, but a paradox. Let us explain these paradoxes at once. Tracing the evolution of the solar system according to the esoteric philosophy, we point out first that the Milky Way is the storehouse of celestial bodies to be; as it were, the nursery from which seeds of future suns go forth to begin their manvantaric courses. When the time comes for such an event to happen, a comet, in its primordial ethereal robes, starts forth to enter upon its peregrinations, and after circling around and passing through what is to us illimitable space for long aeons of time, it, driven or drawn by karma, or under the guidance of karma, if you will, reaches that particular region in space which was actually the spot or region occupied by itself in a former imbodiment as a sun, and it settles there, and awakens and enlivens and quickens the solar dust around it (for space is full of it), and we then have a nebula. Further, it also gathers around itself larger ethereal remnants of its former self when it was a sun; and these then accrete to themselves other particles wandering in space, as we can say, and in due course these other bodies, with their accretions, become the planets of the new solar system.

What is a planet? What its origin? A sun runs through its kalpic course, its manvantaric period, which is a solar manvantara; and when its time comes to go into pralaya, into its rest, its internal force is weakened and — it dies. This is not an event of a day, but an event requiring much time; and what was its lowest principle (corresponding to our physical body) disintegrates into literally innumerable particles. Call them atoms, if you like. Remember, please, that the sun is neither solid — nor will it be then, when it dies — nor is it liquid, nor is it gaseous. After its death, it dissolves into innumerable atoms or particles, and these particles begin their long peregrinations through the fields of space, wandering in the immense solitudes for long, long aeons, until that indwelling entity of the former sun, which has its own inspiring inner presence, comes again under the form of a comet and reawakens what is now the solar dust of its former vehicle-self in the space where it formerly was — that dust being the remnants of its own former body. And these particles of the sun that was, are attracted to it again and form its suite of planets. Thus, in a sense, the planets of a sun are its "moons."

So, you see, as an entity, the sun is older than any one of its planetary system, remnants of its former body; but the planets are older than the sun that now is, because they actually are particles of the former sun that was of this plane. Where is the contradiction? A paradox, truly, which we had to solve; for the solving quickens our intuition, and that is one of the main aims and purposes of this system of teaching, the quickening of the intuition. Our brain-mind is a most admirable servant when under direction, but it should never be our master. It is not even a good servant; it has no self-respect. It has no discrimination, judgment, intuition, or understanding.

And similar to the above is the paradox concerning the moon. Perhaps at some future study we may have time to explain it. Also similar is the case of the planetoids, or the so-called asteroids, of which there are so many between the planets Jupiter and Mars. They are remnants of a former solar manvantara.

Further, all the planets not in obscuration or sleeping (as Mars is) are surrounded with thick and often greatly condensed clouds of the kosmic dust which they have accreted unto themselves; it actually is the former solar dust of now disintegrated moons and planets. For over our own heads and over and around every one of the nonsleeping planets of our solar system, there is a continent, literally a continent, of this kosmic dust, so thick is that solar dust and so numerous are the bodies or particles of various sizes which compose it. It acts as a veil protecting us from the terrific energy of the sun, acting not merely as a veil of protection against his rays alone, but also against other accidents that might happen to us were there no such protecting veil surrounding our globe in thick folds.

Mars has at present none or very little of such a protecting veil, simply because its life-energies have gone to another globe of the Martian planetary system — the Martian planetary chain — and the attractive magnetic force which holds together such a veil therefore is largely absent. But Venus and Mercury, for instance, have, as we have, such a protecting veil, although much thinner in Mercury's case than in that of Venus, because Mercury is just emerging from obscuration, and it is what the astronomers see when they look at those planets through their telescopes, when they see the "clouds," and note that they cannot see the face of the planet itself. They really see the veil. We are not conscious of the veil protecting us. Somewhat like a man in a room with one of those white net curtains over his window — he can see outwards, and discern what passes in the street beyond; but the man in the street cannot easily see him.

As a final example this evening of the use of the paradox in our study, I take the following. At a former study we said that nature never repeats herself. We repeat it this evening: nature never repeats herself. In a later study we stated that nature does nothing but repeat herself. We repeat it this evening: nature does nothing but repeat herself. Contradiction? No. Paradox? Yes. Let us see if we can make this apparent contradiction a little clearer. What are cycles? Repetitions. What are hierarchies? Repetitions. What are the main repetitions of a general type? Principles, forces, planets, suns, orbs, atoms, monads, gods — all are manifold repetitions of primal spiritual impresses. Nature works in no other way than by repeating herself — repetitions on inferior planes of primordial principles or root-types.

Now, what mean we in saying that nature never repeats herself? Let us here use our common sense. We are not here to amuse each other with folly. Nature likewise never repeats herself, because you will never find two principles identical, no two cycles are identical, no two men are identical, no two monads, no two suns, no two planets, no two souls, no two egos are identical. Our paradox then is solved by remembering that nature's method is unity in endless diversity.

diagram: Syrian stages of being

We return now to our main theme. The Syrians had the following method or system of describing the stages of being which we represent in the accompanying diagram: (1) the Milky Way, or the first principle; (2) Nebulae and Comets, or Seraphim, sphere two, counting downwards; (3) the Fixed Stars, or Cherubim. These three were the Formless World. Then the planets: (4) Saturn, Thrones; (5) Jupiter, Dominations; (6) Mars, Virtues; (7) Sun, Powers; (8) Venus, Principalities; (9) Mercury, Archangels; (10) Moon, Angels. These eight, including Earth, Men, were the World of Form.

Then we will draw, if you please, a circle which will represent a sphere, and let it be our Earth; and we will divide this Earth into five zones, the topmost one being that of ether; the one underneath it being fire; the one underneath that being air; the one underneath that being water; and the lowest one being earth.

Please understand also that the Syrians conceived of this world-system as a sphere, as a kosmos; hence, our design must have a circle surrounding it — a conventional figure, it is true, and not implying any particular limitations, but signifying the bounding circle of that particular kosmos or hierarchy. The Syrians further said that outside of this hierarchy, of this kosmos, there were the Celestial Waters, meaning thereby what the Greeks called Chaos, or kosmic matter undeveloped for us, the waters of space, in other words. As regards this metaphor, Celestial Waters, you will remember what the Hebrew Bible also says about the "spirit of the Elohim" or gods moving on the face of the "waters."

The three highest planes are what we call arupa, or formless; and the other seven (or eight) planes are rupa, or formed. They taught that in the beginning of things, i.e., when kosmic evolution began, the primordial essence evolved forth the most subtil and the most spiritual element, and this naturally was the highest, the Milky Way, where all things begin in this system; and that the next step in evolution downwards was the comets and the nebulae; and then the "1,122 fixed stars"; and then the various solar systems — our own solar system, as an example, bringing us thus to the first of the seven planetary regions. Any other solar system would have answered, but ours naturally was chosen, being ours. Each of these steps downwards represents the stage that the evolving wave of life had to pass through before it finally culminated in material existence as on our earth, for instance; finally passing through the last seven stages, the surrounding planes of the globe. First of these last seven was what we may call the Nameless Element; then the superether; then the ether; and then the fire; and then the air; and then the water; and then the earth — these elements not being the material things familiar to us, but the spirits of the elements, the primordial matter of which our elements are merely the material representation.

You will notice that the Christian Apostle, Paul, speaks of several of these powers or elements pertaining or belonging to the various planets as above described in the Syrian system, such as the Dominions, and the Virtues, the Thrones, the Principalities, the Archangels, and the Angels. You will also remember that in a former study we pointed out that really all Christian mysticism was founded by Dionysius, the so-called Areopagite, who also used these same names; so that in addition to the thoughts which Christianity drew from Neoplatonism and Neopythagoreanism, it also drew from (through Paul himself who was a Syrian) these ancient Mystery-teachings as exoterically expressed in the hierarchy as shown in the diagram. But behind this outward expression there was the same exposition, there was the same esoteric system and truth, that we have been studying for some months past.

Chapter 25

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