Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy — G. de Purucker

Chapter Five

The Esoteric Teachings and the Nebular Theory. Gods behind the Kosmos: Why Nature Is Imperfect.

To make of Science an integral whole necessitates, indeed, the study of spiritual and psychic, as well as physical Nature. Otherwise it will ever be like the anatomy of man, discussed of old by the profane from the point of view of his shell-side and in ignorance of the interior work. . . .

The duty of the Occultist lies with the Soul and Spirit of Cosmic Space, not merely with its illusive appearance and behaviour. That of official physical science is to analyze and study its shell — the Ultima Thule of the Universe and man, in the opinion of Materialism.

With the latter, Occultism has nought to do. It is only with the theories of such men of learning as Kepler, Kant, Oersted, and Sir W. Herschel, who believed in a Spiritual world, that Occult Cosmogony might treat, and attempt a satisfactory compromise. But the views of those physicists differed vastly from the latest modern speculations. Kant and Herschel had in their mind's eye speculations upon the origin and the final destiny, as well as the present aspect, of the Universe, from a far more philosophical and psychic standpoint; whereas modern Cosmology and Astronomy now repudiate anything like research into the mysteries of being. The result is what might be expected: complete failure and inextricable contradictions in the thousand and one varieties of so-called scientific theories, and in this theory as in all others.

The nebular hypothesis, involving the theory of the existence of a primeval matter, diffused in a nebulous condition, is of no modern date in astronomy as everyone knows. Anaximenes, of the Ionian school, had already taught that the sidereal bodies were formed through the progressive condensation of a primordial pregenetic matter, which had almost a negative weight, and was spread out through Space in an extremely sublimated condition. — The Secret Doctrine, I, 588, 589-90

THERE ARE three points which it would seem necessary to touch upon slightly before we begin our evening's study.

The first is with regard to the question of morals, that is to say, right conduct based upon right views, right thinking. We have touched upon this matter at nearly every meeting because the line, the path, of duty — of right conduct based upon right views — is the path of all who would tread onward to the ancient wisdom and to the ancient Mysteries. The great thinkers, philosophers, and religious men, of all ages, have told us the same thing.

These meetings are not for purposes of intellectual study only, or to amuse ourselves with abstruse and mystic knowledge; but mainly, firstly, principally, for the purpose of gaining a right foundation for right views which shall govern human conduct. When we have this foundation we have the beginnings of all laws. We can affect the world by our own views and by our own acts; and, further, we shall be able in time to affect for good even the governments of the world, not directly and immediately perhaps, but at least indirectly and in the course of time. All the horrible things that perplex and confuse and distress mankind today arise wholly, almost, out of a lack of right views, and hence, a lack of right conduct. We have the testimony of the Greek and Roman initiates and thinkers that the ancient Mysteries of Greece taught men, above everything else, to live rightly and to have a noble hope for the life after death.

Next, the second point: in our last meeting we touched upon the ancient Mysteries, and we took as examples those of Greece from which the Romans derived their own Mysteries, but we touched upon one point only, the mythological aspect; and this mythological aspect comprises only a portion — a relatively small portion — of what was taught in the Mystery Schools, principally at Samothrace and at Eleusis. At Samothrace was taught the same Mystery-teaching that was current elsewhere in Greece, but here it was more developed and recondite; and the foundation of these Mystery-teachings was morals. The noblest and greatest men of ancient times in Greece were initiates in the Mysteries of these two seats of esoteric knowledge.

In other countries farther to the east they had other Mystery Schools or "colleges," and this word college by no means necessarily meant a mere temple or building; it meant "association," as in our modern word colleague, associate. The Teutonic tribes of northern Europe, the Germanic tribes — which included Scandinavia — had their Mystery-colleges also; and teacher and neophytes stood on the bosom of Mother Earth, under Father Ether, the boundless sky, or in subterranean receptacles, and taught and learned. We state here at once that the core, the heart, the center, of the ancient Mysteries was the abstruse problems dealing with death. These teachings we still have, and they will be forthcoming.

The third point is with regard to the paradigms or diagrams which we may find necessary to use from time to time in order to illustrate certain teachings. Remember that these paradigms are relative and changeable; they are not hard and fast or absolute things. This fact must be kept always clear in the mind, and around them the mind should never be allowed to crystallize. Why? Because any paradigm, any particular combination of geometrical lines, can illustrate different thoughts or things: for instance, the paradigm of the triangle from which hangs the square (as used at our last meeting) can apply equally as well to the highest combined principle in man, the spiritual-mental monad, as to the lower principles into which the monad falls at the beginning of incarnation or manifestation, and from which it will resurrect when the first chimes of the pralayic bells are heard in the akasic spaces.

We will now resume our study. We take up, as our general theme, the same two paragraphs on page 43 of volume I of The Secret Doctrine, which we read at our last meeting:

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 is it 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."

It was the intention to take up this evening the dawn of manifestation as it is found in the Hebrew Book of Beginnings called Genesis, and to study this and to show its similarity and likeness, and the fundamental identity of truth on which it is based, as compared with the other religions of the world. But in view of the fact that we were obliged at our last study to touch upon the first coming-into-being of the veil cast over the face of the Ineffable, it would seem best this evening to undertake, if we have time, a short sketch of what in science is called the nebular theory, how far the esoteric teachings run with it, and where and when they part from it.

The nebular theory, as originally taught in science by the Frenchman Laplace — but derived by him from the great German thinker and philosopher, Immanuel Kant — stated that the space which is now occupied by the planets of the solar system was originally filled with a very tenuous form of matter, in a highly incandescent or burning state. Let us say just here that this particular theory of Laplace as regards incandescence has never been proved, that it is not subject in all respects to mathematical demonstration, and cannot be, and that it itself, if taken as a whole, forms one of the greatest proofs against the truth of the nebular theory as it was then stated, and as it has since been modified in some degree by modern thinkers.

Laplace further stated that this nebula was in a condition of slow rotation, or circular moving, in the same direction in which the planets now move around in their orbits, and in the same direction in which the planets and the sun now move around their axes. In other words, the present orbital revolution and rotation of the planets are derived from this mechanical, original, circular motion of the primal nebula.

Laplace likewise stated that this hot, immense object cooled, and as it cooled it shrank, according to a certain law of heat, and this shrinking, according to a law of dynamics, increased the velocity of rotation and the momentum of any point on its surface. Now, as everyone knows, the parts of a wheel which are nearest the periphery, the circumference, move with the greatest momentum and the greatest speed, though no faster, in another sense, than do the particles at the hub. This increase of rapidity in whirling around grew so great that a time came when the centrifugal force overcame the centripetal or cohesive force, and then this whirling nebula threw off a ring, and this ring also continued going around, and condensing, and finally formed a sphere or ball which became the outermost planet, Neptune. And so progressively the other planets came into being, the core of the nebula remaining as our sun. In brief, as the nebular body contracted and condensed its matter, the same phenomenon occurred again in the same way, and thus the second outermost planet, Uranus, was thrown off, and so on until all the planets had come into being as spheres. Now some of these tenuous, still nebulous planets, by contracting and thus increasing their rotational velocity, themselves evolved rings around themselves, which in their turn were thrown off from their parent-planets, and following the same course as their parent-planets became spheres, which thus became the satellites, the moons of the respective planets; while the center of the original nebula condensed into the (supposedly) incandescent or fiery ball which is the sun.

When H. P. Blavatsky first brought the theosophical teachings to the Western world, questions of cosmogony, or the beginning and primal development of the universe, came much to the fore and she was asked, and her Teachers were also asked through her, in what respect the nebular theory ran side by side with and "corroborated" the exposition of the theory of the occultists, the esoteric theory; and the answer then given was called "an evasive answer." It aroused criticism and some angry language.

Why, it was asked, if the Teachers know these wonderful truths, had not they illuminated the world with the splendor of their teachings? Why did they keep them and other things hid? No teaching can be bad for man if it is true, it was argued — which was a very foolish argument, indeed, so far as it goes, because many teachings are true, and are yet utterly unfit for the average man to have. However, we are going to investigate that question tonight.

The nebular theory, the Teachers said, was in its main outlines, and in certain respects only, fairly representative of what the esoteric teaching was, but it yet, for all that, had vital defects; and these defects they did not entirely specify nor did they fully outline them. But they gave clear hints where the defects lay and what they were; and they also gave a clear, logical, and concise reason for their reticence, which was obligatory and unavoidable.

Now the main defect in the theory of Laplace was that it was a purely mechanical, purely mechanistic, purely materialistic hypothesis, in some respects uncorroborable even by mathematics, and based upon nothing but the fact that in the vast abysses of space, astronomers, investigating wastes of stellar light, found nebulae and nebulosities and, adopting Kant's idea, argued dogmatically upon it. But, nevertheless, there was truth in the nebular theory — there was some truth. Now what is that truth? And what was the most vital defect? The most vital defect, first, was the fact — as hinted above — that the theory omitted all action of spiritual beings in the universe as the drivers, the agents, the mechanics or mechanicians of the mechanism which undoubtedly exists. We are taught that the esoteric philosophy does not deny mechanical action in the universe, but declares that where there is mechanical action there is government or, specifically, mechanicians at work, producing the movements of the mechanism, in accordance with karma. There must be "law"-givers or "law"-makers or "law"-impulsors, if the expression may be used; and behind these there must be the universal life. In other words, the vital defect was that this nebular theory omitted the first truth of all being — that the gods were behind the kosmos, spiritual beings, spiritual entities — the name matters nothing. Not God, but gods.

"Nature" is imperfect, hence of necessity makes "mistakes," because its action derives from hosts of entities at work — what we see around us all the time is proof of it. "Nature" is not perfect. If it had sprung from the "hands of the immutable Deity," hence perfect and immutable like its parent, knowing no change, it would be a perfect work. It is much to the contrary, as we know, and its imperfections or "mistakes" arise from the fact that the beings existing in and working in and controlling and making nature extend in endless hierarchies from the Inmost of the Inmost, from the Highest of the Highest, downwards for ever, upwards for ever, in all degrees of imperfection and of perfection, which is precisely what we see in the scenes of manifestation surrounding us. Our intuition tells us the truth concerning this, and we should trust it.

This was well known to the ancients. The Stoics expressed it and taught it in their magnificent philosophy. The Stoics of Rome and of Greece originally expressed it by what they called theocrasy. Theocrasy has a compound meaning — theos, "a god," "divine being," and krasis, meaning "an intermingling" — an intermingling of everything in the universe, intermingling with everything else, nothing possibly separable from the rest, the Whole. It is the cardinal heresy of the Oriental religions today, notably in that of the Buddhists, if a man thinks that he is separate or separable from the universe. This is the most fundamental error that man can make. The early Christians called it the "sin against the Holy Ghost." If we look around us and if we look within, we realize that we are one entity, as it were, one great human host, one living tree of human life, woven inseparably into and from nature, the All.

The next defect of the nebular theory was that the nebula was declared to be in its earliest stages incandescent, burning. The esoteric teaching is that it is indeed glowing, but glowing with a cold light, the same as, or similar to, that of the firefly, if you like. There is no more heat in a nebula than there is in the light of the firefly. This light in the nebula, this luminosity, is not from combustion of any kind; but, then, what is it from? It is from the indwelling daivi-prakriti, "divine nature or light," in its manifestation on that plane, the same light which in sentient beings manifests in a higher form as consciousness in all its degrees, running from dull physical consciousness up through the soul and the ego; through the self up into the selfless self of the Paramatman, the "supreme self" — a mere expression of convenience as meaning the acme or summit of a hierarchy, because really there is no supreme self, which would mean a limit, hence finiteness. If there were, there would be a lowest self. Self is boundless, endless, the very heart of being, the foundation and dimensionless core of all that is.

Next, the third vital defect: the planets and the sun were not evolved or born in the manner stated by the nebular theory. How are the sun and the planets born? (Let me say here by way of parenthesis that this subject should come much later in our study, but there is a reason for referring to it now.) Every solar or planetary body, the sun and planets in our solar system and analogically everywhere else, is the child or rather the result or reimbodiment of a former cosmic entity which, upon entering into its pralaya, its prakritika-pralaya — the dissolution of its lower principles — at the end of its long life cycle, exists in space in the higher activity of its spiritual principles and in the dispersion of its lowest principles, which latter latently exist in space as skandhas, in what is called in Sanskrit a laya-condition, from the root li, meaning "to dissolve" or "to vanish away." Hence, a laya-center is a point of disappearance — the mystical point where a thing disappears from one plane, if you like, and passes onwards to reappear on another plane.

To repeat an illustration which we used in our last meeting: pour water on a cube of sugar or salt, and watch it dissolve — vanish as a cube or discrete entity. It has entered its laya-state as a cube or entity of sugar or salt. The form of it has gone, and itself — the sugar or salt — has entered into something else. When the higher principles of a cosmic body enter into something else, what is that something else into which they enter? They enter into the highest cosmic aether first, and in due course go still higher into the intense activity of the spiritual planes; there long aeons are passed in states and conditions to us almost unimaginable. In due course of time they begin their downward course into matter again, or reimbodiment, and finally, by attraction, re-collect their old skandhas hitherto lying latent, and thus form for themselves a new body, by passing into manifestation through and by the laya-center where those skandhas were waiting.

Those lower principles were meanwhile in nirvana, what we would call devachan after the death of man, for devachan as a state applies not to the highest or heavenly or divine monad, but only to the middle principles of man, to the personal ego, or the personal soul, in man. Applied to us this condition is the state of devachan — the "land of the gods," if you like; but applied to a cosmic body it is the state of nirvana. Nirvana is a Sanskrit compound, nir, "out," and vana the past participle passive of the root va, "to blow," i.e., literally "blown out."

So badly has the meaning of the ancient Indian thought (and even its language, the Sanskrit) been understood, that for many years very erudite European scholars were discussing whether being "blown out" meant actual entitative annihilation or not. I remember once talking with a Chinese savant (he happened to be a Buddhist) and he told me that the state of man after death was "like this" — and he took up a lighted candle which was on the table and blew upon it, and the light went out. And he said, "That way." He was right, because he was referring to the lower principles in man. They (not we, our monadic or entitative essence) are merely the vehicle in which we live; and when we die, our physical body is "blown out," breaks up, enters into its pralaya or dissolution, and its molecules, its particles, go into the laya-state, and pass a certain time there until nature calls them forth again; or, to put it more accurately in another way, until the indwelling impulse in each physical monadic particle through the thirst for active being rises forth into manifestation again, and it reenters some body of appropriate kind and of similar evolutional degree.

This is one — and only one — facet of the secret of the much misunderstood doctrine of transmigration into animals. The lower elements, the astral body and the astral dregs of the animal or physical man, become the principles — not the latent higher, but the intermediate principles — of the beast world. They are human dregs cast off by man.

The cosmic dust resulting from the dissolution of a former world rests in a laya-center; while the highest principles of that world or planetary chain are in their paranirvana, and remain there until the divine thirst for active life on the highest plane of descent, which rearises in the cosmic monad of a planet or sun, pulls, pushes, or urges, or impels, that monad to the spiritual frontiers of manifestation; and when it arrives at those frontiers, it bursts through them as it were, or breaks through, or goes through, or cycles downward through, into the plane below it, and thus again and again through many planes, till finally the cycling monad reaches and touches or lightens all those lower elements which are remaining in the laya-center: awakens them, reawakens them, revivifies them, recalls them into being, reilluminates them from within; and this produces the luminosity or nebulosity seen in so many parts of interstellar space. Therefore, it is, actually, daivi-prakriti, "divine nature," divine light, in one of its lowest forms — the seventh, counting downwards — and this same light, or force, on this our plane in one of its very lowest forms is electricity and magnetism. Our Teachers have told us that the physical universe here in which we live — the stones, metals, trees, etc. — is corporealized light. They are all formed of atoms, and these atoms, so to speak, are the mystic atoms of this light, the corpuscular part of light, because light is corpuscular: it is not a mere mode of motion or a wave or something else. Light (our light) is a body, as much a body as electricity — one of its forms — is a body, i.e., material, or subtil matter.

Now, then, when this nebula of which we have been speaking — let us give it the scientific name — has attained the point of development or evolution downwards into manifestation where the reimbodying principles of the former world or cosmos or sun or planet, as the case may be, have sufficiently entered into it, it begins to rotate by a characteristic energy, similar to electromagnetism, inherent in itself. Plato tells us that circular motion is one of the first signs of entitative, free, existence — a saying which is often laughed at by our young savants of science and quondam bigwigs of a transitory era of dogmatic thinking. Plato defines being as a "body which is capable of acting and being acted upon." It is a good definition to remember, for it implies both passive and active existence — or manifestation. He said that with reference to the highest essence of the cosmos — the primal Principle of which H. P. Blavatsky speaks as the ineffable That — it is not "a" being, hence limited, possessing bounds, because neither does it act nor is it acted upon. It is All, eternally, endlessly All.

So this cosmic nebula drifts from the place where it first was evolved, the guiding impulse of karma directing here and directing there, this luminous nebulosity moving circularly, and contracting, passing through other phases of nebular evolution, such as the spiral stage and the annular, until it becomes spherical, or rather a nebular series of concentric spheres. The nebula in space, as just said, takes often a spiral form, and from the core, the center, there stream forth branches, spiral branches, and they look like whirling wheels within wheels, and they whirl during many ages. When the time has come — when the whirling has developed pari passu with the indwelling lives and intelligences within the cosmic nebula — then the annular form appears, a form like a ring or concentric rings, with a heart in the center, and after long aeons, the central heart becomes the sun or central body of the new solar system, and the rings the planets. These rings condense into other bodies, and these other bodies are the planets circulating around their elder brother, the sun; elder, because he was the first to condense into a sphere.

The idea of modern scientists that the nebular sun threw off the planets, and that the earth after partial solidification threw off the moon, and that the other planets having moons did likewise, is not the teaching of the esoteric philosophy. It has never been proved, and it is criticized daily by men as eminent as those who propounded these theories. The nebular theory as propounded and modified from time to time, science has never proved; scientists have never been able to prove why so much heat could develop and be retained in so tenuous, so diaphanous an object. Why, if the luminosity arises from combustion of gaseous matter, does it not burn itself out? It had billions of years, countless ages, in which to burn out, and the sky is dotted with nebulae which have not burned out yet; and similarly with regard to the sun. The sun is formed of the same matter as the nebulae, later becoming cometary matter. The sun does not burn; it has no more heat in it than has a pane of glass which transmits the solar ray.

The sun is not in combustion: it is the generator and storehouse of the mighty ocean of force and forces which feed our entire solar system. Matter is corporealized or crystallized force; force, inversely, may be called subtil matter — or matter in its fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh states, for force and matter are one. The sun is a storehouse and generator of forces, and is itself force in its first and second states — i.e., matter in its sixth and seventh states, counting upward. We shall study this subject more fully in a later lecture.

This is a bare outline of the teachings that we have received on the subjects treated of. The moon comprises another subject, which will merit in due time very particular study, indeed.

First a nebula, then a comet, then a planet; but the above sketch outlines the state of a solar system in the first era of the solar manvantara. Now let us take any one planet and shortly, briefly, touch upon the nature of a planetary manvantara. The sun, of course, remains throughout the solar manvantara. It began with it, and when the solar system comes to an end, the sun's pralaya will also come. But the planets are different in certain respects. They have their manvantara also, each one of them, lasting usually many billions of years; and when a planetary chain or body has reached its term, when its hour strikes for going into rest, or into pralaya or dissolution, the manvantara ends and pralaya begins, but in this case it is not a prakritika-pralaya which, you remember, signifies or means the dissolution of nature. The planetary body remains dead, as is now the moon itself, but it sends its principles (precisely as the former solar system did) into a laya-center in space, and they remain there for "innumerable ages." Meanwhile the other planets of that solar system go through their cycles; but the planet which we have picked out for illustration, when its time comes again to descend into manvantara, follows its line of development in precisely the same way as outlined before. It descends again into manifestation through the inner divine planetary thirst for active life and is directed to the same solar system, and to the same spot, relatively speaking, that its predecessor (its former self) had, attracted thither by magnetic and other forces on the lower planes. It forms, in the beginning of its course or journey downwards, a planetary nebula; after many aeons it becomes a comet, following ultimately an elliptic orbit around the sun of our solar system, thus being "captured," as our scientists wrongly say, by the sun; and finally condenses into a planet in its earliest physical condition. The comets of short periodic time are on their way to rebecoming planets in our solar system, provided they successfully elude the many dangers that beset such ethereal bodies before condensation and hardening of their matter shield them from destruction.

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