Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy — G. de Purucker

Chapter Four

From Primordial Point to Universe and Man. How does Manifestation Arise? Manvantara and Pralaya.

The Scintillas are the "Souls," and these Souls appear in the three-fold form of Monads (units), atoms and gods — according to our teaching. "Every atom becomes a visible complex unit (a molecule), and once attracted into the sphere of terrestrial activity, the Monadic Essence, passing through the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms, becomes man." (Esot. Catechism.) Again, "God, Monad, and Atom are the correspondences of Spirit, Mind, and Body (Atma, Manas, and Sthula Sarira) in man." In their septenary aggregation they are the "Heavenly Man" (see Kabala for the latter term); thus, terrestrial man is the provisional reflection of the Heavenly. . . . "The Monads (Jivas) are the Souls of the Atoms, both are the fabric in which the Chohans (Dhyanis, gods) cloth themselves when a form is needed." (Esot. Cat.) — The Secret Doctrine, I, 619
Parabrahm (the One Reality, the Absolute) is the field of Absolute Consciousness, i.e., that Essence which is out of all relation to conditioned existence, and of which conscious existence is a conditioned symbol. But once that we pass in thought from this (to us) Absolute Negation, duality supervenes in the contrast of Spirit (or consciousness) and Matter, Subject and Object.
Spirit (or consciousness) and Matter are, however, to be regarded, not as independent realities, but as the two facets or aspects of the Absolute (Parabrahm), which constitute the basis of conditioned Being whether subjective or objective. . . .
Hence it will be apparent that the contrast of these two aspects of the Absolute is essential to the existence of the "Manifested Universe." Apart from Cosmic Substance, Cosmic Ideation could not manifest as individual consciousness, since it is only through a vehicle of matter that consciousness wells up as "I am I," a physical basis being necessary to focus a ray of the Universal Mind at a certain stage of complexity. Again, apart from Cosmic Ideation, Cosmic Substance would remain an empty abstraction, and no emergence of consciousness could ensue.
The "Manifested Universe," therefore, is pervaded by duality, which is, as it were, the very essence of its EX-istence as "manifestation." But just as the opposite poles of subject and object, spirit and matter, are but aspects of the One Unity in which they are synthesized, so, in the manifested Universe, there is "that" which links spirit to matter, subject to object.
This something, at present unknown to Western speculation, is called by the occultists Fohat. It is the "bridge" by which the "Ideas" existing in the "Divine Thought" are impressed on Cosmic substance as the "laws of Nature." — Ibid., 15-16

BEFORE WE OPEN our study this evening, it should be said with reference to the nature of these studies, that they are a simplification of The Secret Doctrine in the sense of an explanation and unfolding of the meaning of the teachings that the book contains. In order to achieve these ends, it will be of course necessary to bring to bear upon these doctrines, for comparison and in order to show analogy or identity, lines of thought from the great religions of the world and from the great minds of ancient times; because these, in their essence, have sprung from the central source of man's thought and religion which we today call theosophy.

Yet before we can really embark upon the study of The Secret Doctrine itself, as a book, it will be necessary during the course of our studies to clear from our path certain stumbling blocks which are in the way of each of us; certain ideas and so-called principles of thought which have been instilled into our minds from childhood, and which, on account of the psychological effect they have on our minds, really prevent us from grasping the truths of being that H. P. Blavatsky has so masterly given us.

In addition, it will be necessary to investigate certain very ancient principles of thought, and to penetrate more deeply into the real meaning of the ancient religions and philosophies than has ever been done in any modern books, because those books have been written by men who know nothing about the esoteric philosophy, men who were mostly rebels against the barren ecclesiasticism of the Christian Church; who, in order to gain freedom from those chains of ecclesiasticism, actually went too far the other way, and saw nothing but priestcraft and evildoing in these old religions and in the acts and teachings of the men who taught them, priests, philosophers, or scientists.

Another point always to keep in mind is, that we are actually undertaking the study of the very doctrines which formed the core of the heart of the teachings of the Mysteries of ancient days. These Mysteries were divided into two general parts, the Lesser Mysteries and the Greater.

The Lesser Mysteries were very largely composed of dramatic rites or ceremonies, with some teaching; the Greater Mysteries were composed of, or conducted almost entirely on the ground of, study, and later were proved by personal experience in initiation. In the latter was explained, among other things, the secret meaning of the mythologies of the old religions, as for instance the Greek.

The active and nimble mind of the Greeks produced a mythology which for grace and beauty is perhaps without equal, but it nevertheless is very difficult to explain; the Mysteries of Samothrace and of Eleusis — the greater ones — explained among other things what these myths meant. These myths formed the basis of the exoteric religions; but note well that exotericism does not mean that the thing which is taught exoterically is in itself false, but merely that it is a teaching given without the key to it. Such teaching is symbolic, illusory, touching on the truth: the truth is there, but without the key to it — which is the esoteric meaning — it yields no proper sense.

We now read from The Secret Doctrine, volume I, page 43:

The Secret Doctrine teaches the progressive development of everything, worlds as well as atoms; and this stupendous development has neither conceivable beginning nor imaginable end. Our "Universe" is only one of an infinite number of Universes, all of them "Sons of Necessity," because links in the great Cosmic chain of Universes, each one standing in the relation of an effect as regards its predecessor, and being a cause as regards its successor.
The appearance and disappearance of the Universe are pictured as an outbreathing and inbreathing of "the Great Breath," which is eternal, and which, being Motion, is one of the three aspects of the Absolute — Abstract Space and Duration being the other two. When "the Great Breath" is projected, it is called the Divine Breath, and is regarded as the breathing of the Unknowable Deity — the One Existence — which breathes out a thought, as it were, which becomes the Kosmos. (See "Isis Unveiled.") So also it is when the Divine Breath is inspired again the Universe disappears into the bosom of "the Great Mother," who then sleeps, "wrapped in her invisible robes."

A fortnight ago we were studying the question of maya and the relationship of the inner being of man to the ineffable Essence; it remains for us briefly to study how man, who has a personal element in him, sprang forth from the very essence of impersonality, if one may so call it. We can say at once that the Infinite and Impersonal never becomes finite and personal. How, then, does the spirit of man (already the first film over the face of the Absolute, as it were) come into being? Let us remember that the manifestation of worlds and, deductively, of the beings who inhabit those worlds, took place in the extension of matter popularly called space. A center, first, is localized — a very poor word to use! — and is, de facto, not infinite, not eternal; if it were, it could neither manifest nor come into outward existence, for this is limitation. The Eternal, the Ineffable, the Infinite, does not ever manifest at all, either partially or in toto. Words themselves are misleading in treating of these subjects; but what can we say? We must use human expressions in order to convey our meaning.

How then arose manifestation? The ancient wisdom tells us the following: in the seeds of life remaining in space from a planet which had previously run its manvantara and had passed into latency or prakriti-pralaya, there came (when the hour struck for manifestation to begin again) into being in these seeds of life the activity called in Sanskrit trishna ("thirst," if you like, desire for manifestation), thus forming the center around which was to gather a new universe. It had by karmic necessity its particular place in space and was to produce its particular kind of progeny — gods, monads, atoms, men, and the three elementary, or elemental, kingdoms of the world as we see it around us — from the karmic seeds which were brought over and which were lying latent from the preceding manvantara.

The universe reimbodies itself (it does not "reincarnate," which means coming into flesh), following precisely the analogical lines that the soul of man does in reincarnating, making the necessary allowances for varying conditions. As man is the product of his former life, or rather of his lives, so is a universe, a solar system, a planet, an animal, an atom — the very great as well as the so-called infinitesimal — the fruitage, the flower, of what went before. Each of these bears its load of karma precisely as the soul of man does.

The teachings relating to the evolving of the inner planes of being, which precede and produce the outer planes, are very esoteric and belong to a study higher than we venture to approach at the present time, but we can form some general idea of how it is done, by analogy and by comparison with the life of man.

When manifestation begins, what is called duality supervenes. It would seem to be a procession something like this, were we to symbolize it by a diagram.

diagram on duality

Consider this uppermost straight line a hypothetical plane: it may be, humanly speaking, immeasurable miles in depth or in extension, but mere extension has nothing to do with the general concept. Above it stretches the infinitude of the Boundless, and below the diagram is the Boundless, and inwards through it is the Boundless, interpenetrating everywhere; but for purposes of our present illustration we will say that it is above.

Let us place anywhere we may please a point A, another one A', and a third A". We have now reached, after a long period of latency or pralaya has passed, a period of manifestation or manvantara. Such a point as A, or A' or A", we will call the Primordial Point, the first breaking-through into the cosmic plane below; the spirit-force above arising into activity in the seeds of being and forcing its way down into the lower life of manifestation — not pushed or moved by anything outside of itself — is driven into manifestation by the karmic life of its own essential being, by the thirst of desire or blossoming forth, like a fresh upspringing in early summer of a flower, in which the tendency in manifestation is outward. This first appearance is conceived of in philosophy as the first or Primordial Point; this is the name given to it in the Jewish theosophy called the Qabbalah.

From the moment that the point, the seed of life, the germ of being — all these are but names for the one thing, the spiritual atom, the spiritual monad, call it what you will — bursts through into the lower life as it were, differentiation or duality sets in and continues thenceforward to the end of the Great Cycle, forming the two side lines of the diagrammatic triangle. We may call one AB, the Brahma (masculine), and the other AC, the Prakriti or nature (feminine). Brahma is frequently also called Purusha, a Sanskrit word meaning "man," the Ideal Man, like the Qabbalistic Adam Qadmon, the primordial entity of space, containing in Prakriti or nature all the septenary scales of manifested being.

At all times, from the very first instant when duality sets in, there is an unceasing attraction between these two lines or poles, and they join. Remember that this symbol is merely a paradigm or representation. Absolutely, it would be absurd to say that life and beings proceed into manifestation as geometric triangles only; but we can represent it symbolically to our minds in this fashion. When these two join, the Father and the Mother, spirit (or reality) and illusion (or maya), Brahma (or Purusha) and Prakriti (or nature), their union produces the Son. In the Christian scheme they give the spiritual or primordial Son the name of Christos; in the Egyptian scheme Osiris and Isis (or her twin sister Nephthys, which is merely the more recondite side of Isis) produce their son Horus, the spiritual sun, physically the sun or the light-bringer; and so similarly in the different schemes that the ancient world has handed down to us.

From the interaction of these three, by interpolar action, by the spiritual forces working in and out, two other lines fall downwards — according to the mystical way in which this scheme of emanation is taught — and they also join and form the square, or the manifested kosmos.

Now from the central or Primordial Point is born or proceeds the sun of life. By it and through it is our union with the Ineffable. Man may be down here a physical being on earth, or anywhere else a luminous, ethereal entity, but it matters not where he is or what his body: for once the seven principles of his being are in action, man the thinking entity is produced, linked by his seventh principle, and his sixth, with that sun of life.

To every "man" of the unnameable multitudes of self-conscious beings belonging to this kosmos or universe, there extend respectively upwards or downwards two natures: one of which is a ray of spirit connecting him with the divine of the divinest, and from that extending upwards in all directions and linking him in every sense of the word with the Ineffable, the Boundless, which is, therefore, the core of his being, the center of his essence.

The appearance and evolution of man as a human being on this planet Terra follow the same line of nature's wonderful analogical working that a planet does in space, or a sun does with its brothers of a solar system, the planets. Man, thus being in very truth a child of Infinity, the offspring of the Ineffable, has latent within himself the capacity of the universe.

And on this fact depends what we have so often been told of the getting of powers. The very method by which we do not get them, the very way of missing and losing them, is to run after them, strange as it may sound, because this is the impulse of vanity and selfishness. If we, then, selfishly seek them, what do we get? We get the action of the lower powers upon us; it is a growing thirst for sensation which we do get, and this leads us towards and into the nether abyss of Matter, the opposite pole of the Boundless, if it is followed.

But in the great soul who has passed by and thrown off this thirst for personal acquisition, in whom the grasping spirit for self is no longer dominant, who feels his oneness with everything that is, who feels that every human being, yea the very pismire that laboriously crawls up a sand-knob only to tumble down again, is himself — no metaphor but an actuality: a different body, but the same life, the same essence, the same things latent in it as in him — in him indeed lies the power of ascending the ladder of being, drawn by the link with the Highest in his innermost nature. He and they are both filled full of latent powers and forces, and he and they may become in time very gods, blazing, as it were, with power like the sun; and the only way is utter selflessness, because selflessness, paradoxical as it may sound, is the only way to the self, the self universal. The personal self shuts the door before us.

Of course we cannot crush out of our being the sense of selfhood, nor is that desirable; but in the lowest aspect it takes upon itself the forms of all selfishness, until the being of the man who follows the left-hand path, or the path downwards, ends in what the early Christians — stealing from the Greeks — called Tartarus, the place of disintegration.

When man ascends beyond the reach of matter, he has cast off the bondage of maya, or illusion. Let us remember that when manifestation opens, Prakriti becomes or rather is maya; and Brahma, the Father, is the spirit of the consciousness, or the individuality. These two are really one, yet they are also the two aspects of the one life-ray acting and reacting upon itself, much as a man himself can say, "I am I." He has the faculty of self-analysis, or self-division; all of us know it, we can feel it in ourselves. One side of us, in our thoughts, can be called the Prakriti or the material element, or the mayavi element, or the element of illusion; and the other, the spirit, the individuality, the god within.

Yet as man sees life, as he runs his eye down the scale of beings, he sees it through maya; in fact, he is the child of maya on one side, as he is of the spirit on the other. Both are in him. His lesson is to learn that the two are one and that they are not separate; then he no longer is deceived. His lesson is to understand that maya, the great deluder, is the famous snake or serpent of antiquity, which leads us out from the Garden of Eden (employing a Biblical metaphor), through experience and suffering to learn what illusion is — and is not.

Also matter, which is the mayavi manifestation of Prakriti on this plane (and I mean here physical matter), itself is not substantial. The most dense and rigid things we can think of, perhaps, are the metals, and actually they are, perhaps, the most porous, the most foamlike, the most evanescent, as seen from the other or higher side of being, from the other side of the plane. So well is this now understood that our more intuitive scientists are telling us that space, which seems to us so thin and tenuous, is in reality more rigid than the hardest steel. Why is it that electricity prefers metals as a path to common wood, or cotton wool, or some other such thing?

Before we go further, it would seem necessary to study a little what we mean by the words manvantara and pralaya. Let us take manvantara first. This word is a Sanskrit compound, and as such means nothing more than between two Manus; literally, "manu-between." Manu, or dhyani-chohan, in the esoteric system, is the entities collectively which appear first at the beginning of manifestation and from which, like a cosmic tree, everything is derived or born. Manu actually is the (spiritual) tree of life of any planetary chain, of manifested being. Manu is thus, in one sense, the Third Logos; as the Second is the Father-Mother, the Brahma and Prakriti; and the First is what we call the Unmanifest Logos, or Brahman (neuter) and its cosmic veil Pradhana.

Pradhana is also a Sanskrit compound, meaning that which is "placed before"; and from this, it has become a technical term in philosophy, and means what we would call the first filmy appearance of root-matter, "placed before" or rather around Brahman as a veil. Root-matter is Mulaprakriti, root-nature, and corresponding to it as the other or active pole is Brahman (neuter). That from which the First or Unmanifest Logos proceeds is called Parabrahman, and Mulaprakriti is its kosmic veil. Parabrahman is another Sanskrit compound, meaning "beyond Brahman." Mulaprakriti, again, as said above, is a Sanskrit compound meaning mula, "root," prakriti, "nature."

First, then, the Boundless, symbolized by the [[circle]]; then Parabrahman, and Mulaprakriti its other pole; then lower, Brahman and its veil Pradhana; then Brahma-Prakriti or Purusha-Prakriti (Prakriti being also maya); the manifested universe appearing through and by this last: Brahma-Prakriti, Father-Mother. In other words, the Second Logos, Father-Mother, is the producing cause of manifestation through their Son, which in a planetary chain is Manu. A manvantara, therefore, is the period of activity between any two Manus, on any plane, since in any such period there is a root-Manu at the beginning of evolution, and a seed-Manu at its close, preceding a pralaya.

Pralaya: this is also a Sanskrit compound, formed of laya, from a Sanskrit root li, and the prefix pra. What does li mean? It means "to dissolve," "to melt away," "to liquefy," as when one pours water upon a cube of salt or of sugar. The cube of salt or of sugar vanishes in the water; it dissolves, changes its form; and this may be taken as a symbol of what pralaya is: a crumbling away, a vanishing away of matter into something else which is yet in it, and surrounds it, and interpenetrates it. That is pralaya, usually translated as the state of latency, state of rest or repose, between two manvantaras or life cycles. If we remember distinctly the meaning of the Sanskrit word, our minds take a new bent in direction, follow a new thought; we get new ideas; we penetrate into the arcanum of the thing that takes place.

Now there are many kinds of manvantaras; also many kinds of pralayas. There are, for instance, the universal manvantara and the universal pralaya, and these are called prakritika, because it is the pralaya or vanishing away, melting away, of Prakriti or nature. Then there is the solar pralaya. Sun in Sanskrit is surya, and the adjective from this is saurya; hence, the saurya-pralaya, or the pralaya of the solar system. Then, thirdly, there is the terrestrial or planetary pralaya. The Sanskrit word for earth is bhumi, and the adjective corresponding to this is bhaumika: hence, the bhaumika-pralaya. Then we can say that there is the pralaya or death of the individual man. Man is purusha; the corresponding adjective is paurusha: hence, the paurusha-pralaya, or death of man. So, then, we have given examples of various pralayas: first of the prakritika, or dissolution of nature; next the solar pralaya, the saurya; next the bhaumika, or the passing away of the earth; and then the paurusha, or the death of man. And these adjectives apply equally well to the several kinds of manvantaras or life cycles.

There is another kind of pralaya which is called nitya. In its general sense, it means "constant" or "continuous," and can be exemplified by the constant or continuous change — life and death — of the cells of our bodies. It is a state in which the indwelling and dominating entity remains, but its different principles and rupas, or "bodies," undergo continuous change. Hence it is called nitya. It applies to the body of man, to the outer sphere of earth, to the earth itself, to the solar system, and to all nature.

It is likewise represented by a symbol that H. P. Blavatsky has given us from the Oriental wisdom, the outbreathing and inbreathing of Brahman. This symbol, by the way, is not solely Indian. It is found in the ancient Egyptian texts, where one or another of the gods, Khnumu, for instance, breathes forth from his mouth the cosmic egg. It is also found alluded to in the Orphic Hymns, where the cosmic serpent breathes forth as an egg the things which are to be, or the future universe. Everywhere, especially where ancient religion or philosophy has longest retained its hold, there do we find the symbol of the cosmic egg. Religions of less age and of less influence do not so often employ it. The cosmic egg was found as a symbol in Egypt; it was found in Hindustan; it was found in Peru, where the "Mighty Man," the Sanskrit Purusha, the Ideal Man, was called Manco Capac, and his wife and sister was called Mama Ocllo, which means "Mother Egg": these brought the universe into being, becoming later the sun and the moon respectively.

Why did the ancients symbolize the beginning of manifestation under the form of an egg? Let us ask: is it not a fine symbol? As the egg producing the chick contains the germ of life (laid by its mother the hen, and fructified by the other pole of being), so the cosmic egg, which is the Primordial Point, also contains the germ of life. The egg itself also can be called the germ of life, and the germ of life within the egg can be called the inner germ — that more subtil point which receives those impulses of which we have spoken before, coming down from the highest center of communication between the outward world and the inner, the lines of inner magnetic action and reaction. And when the chick within the egg is formed, it bursts its shell and comes forth into the light of day, precisely as we saw was the case with the Primordial Point. When the karmic hour had struck, it burst forth, as it were, into other spheres of manifestation and activity. The ancients, carrying the figure still farther, even spoke of heaven as a domelike affair, as the upper part of an eggshell.

Let us think more deeply of these ancient symbols. The ancients were not fools. There is a deep meaning in these olden figures of speech. Why did Homer speak of his Olympus, the abode of Zeus and the gods, as being brazen, like brass, one of the hardest and most intractable things that the Greeks knew? Why did Hesiod speak of the same as made of iron? Because they realized that the life here in matter and of matter, was based upon an evanescent substratum, and that the lower world of matter is, as has been so often said, evanescent, foamy, full of holes, as it were, and unreal.

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