Rounds and Races:

Our Divine Parentage and Destiny

Gertrude W. van Pelt, MD

Theosophical Manuals Series

Published as part of a set in the 1930s and '40s by Theosophical University Press; Revised Electronic Edition copyright © 1998 by Theosophical University Press. Electronic version ISBN 1-55700-107-3. All rights reserved. This edition may be downloaded for off-line viewing without charge. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted for commercial or other use in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of Theosophical University Press. For ease in searching, no diacritical marks appear in the electronic version of the text.


Section 1

Section 2

Chapter 1

The Cosmic Path of Evolution

Human origins have heretofore been a mystery for this age, but theosophy now breaks the silence of centuries and declares that man is inherently divine and that, from the time that he is equipped with mind, he creates himself. This new-old teaching hangs upon those of the actual oneness of all life and the doctrine of hierarchies.

The mere belief in mankind's divine parentage is nothing new: on the contrary, it is almost universally accepted. Every religion presents it in some form. Human beings feel the necessity of accounting for their existence, and however much the pure religions may have been degraded or become split into innumerable sects over disputes regarding misunderstood or man-invented tenets, there remains in the minds of all, tutored or untutored, a belief in a Divine Being, a "Creator" of the universe.

The knowledge which theosophy restores to this age pertains to the manner in which this so-called creation came about. Proceeding from universals to particulars, the philosophy of the ancient wisdom-religion unfolds the broad outlines of evolution in such inevitable sequence, filling the gap in modern theories with such soul- and mind-satisfying reasoning, that doubt or blind belief gives place to assurance and knowledge.

It is, in very truth, to this archaic wisdom that we must turn to save us from ourselves; to guide us on our onward and upward march. The staggering questions as to the meaning and purpose of life, the origin and nature of sin, must be answered truly if the human race is to progress. The agony of doubt, the fear of the future, self-distrust, reckless indifference, the confusion of ignorance — all must be met, understood, and overcome by each one in himself, before we can rise to our essential dignity and move forward toward the transcendent glory of our destiny.

This great, superb, and comprehensive knowledge is not a compilation of the essences of the various schools of philosophy that have marked the pages of history. Rather are they the more or less clear echoes of its teachings. Its origin is archaic and different. This must be clearly understood. Theosophy makes the claim — one which by study in the right direction can be verified — that as soon as man on this planet was endowed with mind, great beings from other and previous cycles of evolution, far greater than this cycle of our earth, came to instruct and to strike the keynote for the coming human races. It is they who communicated the knowledge — a small part of which the humanity of today is ready to receive — to the chosen ones destined to guide the children of earth. Imperishable records of this truth do indeed exist, and are well guarded by those worthy of the trust. All through the ages there have been those, known as messengers, chosen by these guardians to come among men at certain cyclic periods and restate as much of this wisdom-religion as could be understood at the time, framed in language appropriate to the mental molds of that age. The Mystery schools of ancient Egypt and Greece gave profound teachings, but only to pledged neophytes; and all through the ages there have been advanced mystics who have had their pledged disciples. But on a printed page and openly taught, there has been nothing like H. P. Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine in our known history. This fact, coincident with the increasing unification of all parts of the world in a physical way, presents matter for grave reflection. Speaking of her book, she says:

The Secret Doctrine merely asserts that a system, known as the WISDOM-RELIGION, the work of generations of adepts and seers, the sacred heirloom of prehistoric times — actually exists, though hitherto preserved in the greatest secrecy by the present Initiates; and it points to various corroborations of its existence to this very day, to be found in ancient and modern works. . . . No new philosophy is set up in The Secret Doctrine, only the hidden meaning of some of the religious allegories of antiquity is given, light being thrown on these by the esoteric sciences, and the common source is pointed out, whence all the world-religions and philosophies have sprung. . . . It is also maintained that its doctrines and sciences, which form an integral cycle of universal cosmic facts and metaphysical axioms and truths, represent a complete and unbroken system; and that he who is brave and persevering enough, ready to crush the animal in himself, and, forgetting the human self, sacrifices it to his Higher Ego, can always find his way to become initiated into these mysteries. — "The Babel of Modern Thought," Lucifer, vol. 7, 1891, pp. 442-3

There is another fact which might be noted as introductory to a study of our divine parentage and destiny. The average Occidental mind, colored, of course, by the exoteric religions of the time, thinks of the so-called creation or beginning of the being we now describe as human, as having taken place on this planet earth. But life here, all-important as it seems, is yet but a passing incident in mankind's eternal pilgrimage through space. A study of the theosophical teachings regarding the life-atoms and universal evolution will make clear that every atom composing the universe is a living being, engaged in the fulfillment of its own part in the universal scheme of evolution. It is the ultimate destiny of each such life-atom to become a human being. Every atom, being a part of the universal omnipresent reality — i.e., of the cosmos itself — contains within itself the potentialities of the whole. It is never created, for it always was and always will be. Its nature is to unfold, little by little to bring forth these potentialities, which unfolding we call evolution. Imagine the incalculable worlds any atom must pass through before attaining the human stage. Solar systems, of infinite grades of development, must have afforded it shelter and opportunities for growth, as slowly through the eternities it steps from world to world, attaining in each one a fuller expression of itself. So up and up the ascending spiral of life, conscious beings of numberless grades, encased in forms of myriad types, mount to the human stage, then pass beyond, become gods, greater and greater — reaching ever nearer the light, but never touching the flame, the unknowable source of all.

Human beings, then, being verily fragments of the whole, having the potentialities of the whole, were never "created." Our evolution consists in a fashioning of more and more perfect and complex vehicles or bodies, which allow of an ever-increasing power of self-understanding and expression. In this endeavor each slightest increase in complexity has been and forever will be coincident with aid from beings or other fragments of the whole whose vehicles are in advance of our organism as we mount the eternally ascending spiral. And this notwithstanding the fact that as soon as mind is awakened, we creates ourselves.

The effort in this booklet is to describe in brief outline some of the changes which have taken place since the beings we now call human reached our planet earth. Naturally only such facts are given in detail in the present restatement of the ancient wisdom-religion as relate to us as inhabitants of this globe. Our consciousness is probably not tuned to comprehend much beyond that in either direction.

One difficulty always encountered in attempting to put into language any part of this philosophy is to decide what to state first. For it is an absolutely true presentation of the facts of nature, every part of whose functioning is interrelated and interlocked with every other part. Wherever one starts, something else must be understood to make it clear. In other words, all the aspects of any subject must be seen at once before a true picture can appear before the mind's eye. On the other hand, so perfect are the analogies in this living whole — the universe — that any part of the field firmly grasped, illumines every other part. Thus our present study of human origin and destiny gives certain universal keys which can be applied to any unit in nature, great or small.

Chapter 2

The Earth-Chain and Its Kingdoms

We cannot understand the true human origin unless we know something about the earth on which we dwell, for the life of the two is intermingled. We do not merely live on the earth; our life forms a part of the life of the planet, and more than that, even part of its consciousness. It is an ancient truth that the earth is a living being. It is born, lives, and dies, only to be born again, after a period of rest — rest, that is, for the informing spirit of the earth, its soul if you like.

Furthermore, this earth is more than this visible rocky sphere. It is, so the ancient teaching runs, a group of seven globes, technically called a planetary chain. We see only the globe we are living on because the other six are composed of ascending degrees of finer substance than our own, too rarefied for our present sense perceptions. These different degrees or conditions of substance correspond to, and inevitably imply the existence of, different states of consciousness, forming what are called in theosophy planes.

Thus it is that the universe divides itself naturally into a number of such states of consciousness or planes; and each entity in the universe, such as a planetary chain, does likewise. The seven globes of our earth's planetary chain group themselves naturally into four of such cosmic planes. The diagram below is a useful key in studying the relationship of these seven globes:

Earth's Seven Globes

It should be clearly borne in mind that the above is not a picture of the way the globes of the earth-chain are arranged in space, but is more like a symbol indicating certain basic facts about the planetary chain.

On the plane marked I are globes A and G (so lettered merely for our convenience). This means that there is a certain similarity between these two globes — let us call it for easy understanding, a similarity of vibrational rate. This is likewise true of the pairs B and F, and C and E; while globe D stands alone on the lowest or fourth cosmic plane.

Now it is this entire chain of globes which is the arena for the majestic pilgrimage of seven great classes of beings, usually spoken of as life-waves. This is an appropriate figure of speech because it suggests the undulatory motion of these rivers of lives pressing forward, with alternating periods of activity and rest, round the planetary circle.

These life-waves are made up of spiritual beings, sparks of the divine flame at the heart of the universe, each group at a different stage of its evolutionary development, and finding on each globe opportunity for the unfolding of certain characteristics from the treasury of its own inner being.

These seven classes may be enumerated by the descriptive terms we use today, namely:

But if we use these names we must remember that we do so merely for the purpose of easy description; for the various classes have gone through an infinite variety of changes during the long ages of their earth-journey (not yet completed by many millions of years), and have already taken many millions of years to differentiate into the distinct classes as we now know them.

Furthermore, we should think of the kingdoms themselves as houses which the various spiritual beings inhabit. Thus a very undeveloped being, just starting on its evolutionary journey, would live in an elemental house of life. Another, more advanced, would find a mineral house of life appropriate for its necessities for growth; and so on. But such houses of life are abandoned for more highly appointed ones, so to speak, when the old ones are found to be no longer adequate; just as there may be seven or more grades in a school, but the pupils themselves move on from grade to grade when they have learned all that each grade can teach them.

Let us for easier understanding confine ourselves to the circling of the human life-wave around the earth planetary chain; remembering that we mean by this human life-wave that group of essentially spiritual beings who, after many marvelous vicissitudes, unrecorded except in the secret records of initiated sages, find themselves at present inhabiting human bodies, endowed with human brains, human feelings, human spiritual and intellectual capacities — in short, members of the present great human family.

Turning again to our diagram, let us notice the circular manner in which the globes are placed. This is a symbolic representation of the way in which the life-wave passes through the seven globes. Starting with globe A at the left, it circles down the left-hand arc through globes B and C to D. This is called the shadowy arc or arc of descent, not indicating that there is a fall through space — which would be absurd — but that the life-wave is plunging farther and farther into matter. It is building for itself bodies of increasingly grosser physical substance. Matter draws it like a lodestone, and the purity of its early state on globe A becomes a dimmer and ever dimmer memory.

With the attainment of globe D the lowest point is reached, the pivotal point where matter balances spirit and where a definite effort has to be made to generate the spiritual force to continue the evolutionary journey, this time upwards through globes E, F, and G.

When G is attained, the life-wave has again reached cosmic plane No. I of our diagram, the same plane from which it started — but with a difference. The high spirituality of the beings on globe A might be compared to the purity and innocence of a child. On globe G their purity is caused by the fact that the dross of matter has been burned away by the pure flame of spirituality. It is purity plus wisdom and strength.

Our human life-wave must pass around this earth-chain seven times, each such passage being called a round. When the seven rounds are completed, we shall, with our earth, have our "Sabbath" or day of rest; and then reimbody with it again to seek grander and nobler adventures in our universe of inexhaustible opportunities.

The earth-chain, when the "day of rest" arrives, will decompose into cosmic dust, but its life-energies will be transferred to new centers in space, to reimbody in time as a new chain of globes affording opportunity also for the less developed life-waves to unfold their infinite possibilities toward a perfect humanity.

Our human family has at present completed three circlings of the planetary chain. We are now in our fourth round, and on globe D of that round; but we have passed the critical turning point on this lowest of the globes. This is of tremendous significance to humanity. The understanding of this one teaching is like a guide pointing to the direction in which we should be moving. We then begin to acquire a truer sense of values. We learn, by applying the abstract teaching to actual life, what we can safely abandon, what hold on to as imperishable and therefore practicable to take with us. We begin to see that our attachment to matter has become, indeed, a habit with us, but is no longer a necessity; and that if we linger fondly among the sensations, excitements, and fascinations of the lower earthly life, we are throwing away precious opportunities now before us, and failing to recognize that the obstacles we find in our path are actually the means — when overcome — by which we may move on toward our divine destiny.

Chapter 3

From Moon to Earth

Just as the earth-chain will eventually die when the human life-wave leaves it at the end of the seventh round, and will be reborn after a period of rest, so it itself is but the reimbodiment of a former planetary chain of a lower type of evolution. Our moon represents what is left of globe D of that chain, and so we speak of that former group of globes as the moon-chain. It is now, of course, but a wraith or ghost, but it was once as alive as earth is today and bore upon its then vital chain of globes seven life-waves even as now our earth does.

When the life-waves had passed seven times around the seven globes of the lunar chain and had assimilated all the experience possible there, that chain began to die out; a complete dissolution of the cohesive forces of all the seven globes set in, and after a long period of inactivity, these energies commenced to vivify new centers in cosmic space. These seven centers might be spoken of as seven seeds of life, destined to become the seven globes of the earth-chain when awakened aeons later by the cycling life-waves during the first round of the new chain.

H. P. Blavatsky, in her profound work, The Secret Doctrine, gives a conventionalized diagram to represent this transfer of the life-energies from one chain to the other. We reproduce it herewith, but again it should be noted that such pictorial representation must not be taken literally, though there are many suggestive ideas to be gained by its study.

Earth Chain/Lunar Chain

Note that Figure 1 represents the dying moon-chain, while Figure 2 stands for an as yet unmanifested series of globes — the earth-chain to be.

The graded shadings of the globes in each figure indicate their gradual coarsening in substance and consciousness from plane I to plane IV. The diagram also indicates that there will be a marked etherealization of each globe when it reimbodies, so that the whole of the new chain will be somewhat finer in expression than the old one. This exemplifies nature's law of repetition combined with forward motion — the principle of the spiral. This is no arbitrary law, but is caused by the inward urge of every entity to express what it is within itself.

The moon is now an astral corpse, yet it is still sending earthwards what one might call the dregs or lees of vital energies which powerfully affect the life of our planet. This fact helps to explain many of the phenomena which have puzzled scientists, the influence extending also in other ways not observed or guessed. The action of the tides is common knowledge, as well as the moon's relation to human conception and gestation. The cycles of many diseases coincide with the phases of the moon; its influence can be traced in the growth of plants; but little really is told at present regarding this interrelationship.

For long ages the moon is destined to follow her "offspring." But before the seventh round of this earth-chain, she will have been utterly dissolved, because the last remnants of her energies will have been assimilated by earth and transmuted into regenerative forces playing their part in the gradual ascent of the whole chain and the life-waves upon it toward their spiritual consummation. It is because of the age of Mercury and Venus, both far older than earth, that their moons have disappeared.

The story of how the seven life-waves proceeded through the three and one half rounds already completed is one of the most intricate and involved teachings of the ancient wisdom. But a few general ideas to be outlined here may serve as an introduction to the subject for those who may wish to study further in advanced theosophical books.

First of all, we must remember that all the entities seeking a milieu in which to grow and evolve had to do two things. They had to fashion bodies, inner and outer, in which to work, and they had to build the globes of the chain itself. They started out as it were unclothed and unhoused. All the kingdoms helped in the work of building, each class contributing the results of skill attained during the long sojourn on the moon-chain. In this way during the first round the route was marked and the tracks were laid for the sevenfold planetary circling.

But what complicates the process, and at the same time removes it from the realm of a merely mechanical arrangement to be learned by rote, is the fact that in the beginning each kingdom, as for instance the class destined to become the humanity of this earth-chain, had to recapitulate former experience by running through all the lower forms first. This is nature's rule always, and a wise one too: that when a new life period opens, the beings about to pick up the threads of life where they dropped them in the former period, must first make a quick review of those earlier states formerly attained. Thus they weave into the fabric of their present consciousness all past knowledge; and likewise provide a means of assistance to kingdoms not as advanced as they.

This means that those who were destined to belong to the human kingdom itself were not left unaided in their growth. Where, then, did superior beings come from to give them assistance?

When the life of the moon came to its close, all its inhabitants were not equally evolved — just as is the case on the earth today, and as it must necessarily be when this present planet has finished its life-term. Some must always represent in their development the full possibilities of any given manvantara or period of activity. They have been the leaders, have shouldered the heaviest responsibilities, and at the end are the perfected beings for that stage of evolution.

Such perfected ones, the evolved humanity of the moon-chain, were the first to arrive on globe A of the earth-chain and took the lead in its evolution during three and one half rounds, while the new humanity was in process of development. They were the overseers of the builders of forms, these latter being those entities who, having completed their sojourn in the beast kingdom on the moon-chain were now seeking to enter the human kingdom. It was they who passed through the elemental kingdoms, the mineral, plant, and beast kingdoms, so that knowledge of these lower forms became instinctual. But by the time they were ready in the fourth round (and especially by the time they reached globe D thereof) to complete the building of the human vehicle, they found their capacities limited. They could furnish nothing better or higher than the astral, passional self, for this was the extent of their legacy from the moon-chain.

Growth for the human race would have come to a dead stop if it had not been for the intervention and help of that spiritual host of beings, the fine flowering of the moon-chain, who lit, in the incomplete humanity, the fire of mind. These made it possible for mankind to bridge the gap that existed between the lower vehicles and the divine spark within, the means by which it might lift itself out of the toils of matter into the radiant realms of spirit again. (The awakening of mind is described more fully in Chapter 5 of this manual.)

But as yet we have not fully valued our divine gift. We have prostituted it too often to base uses. Only too often we limit ourselves in consciousness to the self who eats, personally loves and hates, who suffers and sins, who struggles to supply the needs of the body, and beyond whose short span of life all is mystery.

This lower nature is in itself marvelously complex, with illusive centers of force, leading those whose consciousness is chiefly centered in the brain-mind into a maze of confusion when they try to study it. Strange powers which come to the front in sleepwalking, hypnosis, clairvoyance of a certain order; mysterious uncoverings of different layers of consciousness, such as double personality and other abnormal phenomena, all belong to the unevolved, growing lower part of human nature — our moon-nature.

It is this nature that, with the aid of the higher beings within-above us, is in training during this present earth cycle and is destined to be refined, strengthened, and purified, and finally united to the spiritual sun within the human constitution, thus producing the perfected mankind of the seventh round of this earth-chain.

Chapter 4

Early Life on the Planet Earth

It has been said that all the life-waves from the moon pass seven times around the seven globes of the earth-chain, but these journeys cover in time what would seem to us many eternities. In studying this philosophy one is deeply impressed with the thoroughness and exactitude of nature's working. Everything is repeated until there is no possibility of mistake, yet every repetition, as said, involves some slight difference from the last, some new conditions and opportunities. The life period on any one globe is enormous and between any two globes there is also a period of rest. It is evident therefore that we have lived on all these globes in the past, that we shall do so again, and that in each the work of the creation of man is slowly proceeding.

There are seven great root-races on every globe in every round, their average life being about nine million years. Every root-race has seven subraces; every subrace, seven family races, each of which branches into nations, tribes, etc. We are now in the fourth round, on globe D, in the fourth subrace of the fifth root-race, and have therefore begun the ascending arc toward spirituality in this round. At the midway point of this planet's life, viz., in the middle of the fourth root-race of this round, the door was closed for entrance into the human stage, with one exception, to be mentioned below, in Chapter 7. Therefore the human family is nearly complete for this manvantara or cycle of evolution.

All through these changes it must be remembered that it is the god-spark of divine origin which clothes itself in garments of mineral or vegetable or whatever it may be. It learns by this close association to use more and more complicated vehicles. And this constant adaptation never ceases. Nothing remains in statu quo for two consecutive seconds anywhere in the universe. To resist the onward impulse means backward motion. And two factors are always at work in the incessant mutation, true forever from the lowest to the highest. There is always an inner urge and always an outer intelligent force guiding and directing the unfoldment.

The least entity is a life clothed in matter, and matter itself is but the other pole of spirit, encasing less evolved lives. It is indeed a spiritual universe we live in, piloted throughout its infinite realms by an infinite series of lower and higher intelligences. At the upper rung of the ladder for this globe is a Wondrous Being, sitting at the threshold of Light, which he will not enter while any of earth's children may yet lose their way. He is known as the Silent Watcher, though in truth he is nameless. Earth can teach him no more, but from his self-chosen post he guides the great ones below him, who descend in an unbroken scale, through lesser divinities, rulers, teachers, divine dynasties, down to our half-awakened humanity. Absolute harmony throughout the uncountable hierarchies of nature must inevitably exist, and our work as humans is to find and fill to perfection our place in this universe of which we are an intrinsic part.

Every round has its special overlord, below whom come those guiding every globe of that round. Every race, every nation, has its own guardian down to every person who has his own inner god. Thus every human being is the result of hosts of creators, some for his body, others for his psychic, his mental, and his spiritual nature respectively. And the work of perfecting him runs through the life of this planet, many, many millions of years. Thus we see how immature we are as yet — mere children, knowing practically nothing of our own real nature, and so little realizing our relation to others that we even war with and would destroy our fellowmen, parts of our own being.

In the first round, the globes of the earth-chain and all that they contained were very ethereal. There was no solidity in the beginning, only a cold brightness, which developed towards the close of the first round the essence of what in our round we know as fire. Gradually, as rounds two and three were in progress, consolidation took place, the element air developing in the second, and water in the third round. But it was not until our present round that our globe D actually settled and hardened, thus developing the element we know as earth.

Only a very general picture can be drawn of the early cyclings of the life-wave. Indeed it is not until we come to globe D of our present round that we can receive any sort of image of what actually took place. This does not mean that the long aeons of preparation consumed in the building of mankind were in themselves characterized by a vague passivity with nothing worthwhile happening; but merely that descriptions are useless because we have nothing to compare the processes to in our experience.

When in our study we come to globe D of this present round, our picture begins to assume clearer outlines, and details become progressively more numerous. It was at this period that the work of forming the human body as we now know it was seriously undertaken. This in itself was no mean task, as we realize when we consider the exquisite precision with which it is built, coordinating as it does in a perfect harmony the innumerable hierarchies of lesser lives of which it is composed.

This era of "preparing the vehicle" is poetically described in the Stanza of Dzyan, an archaic manuscript quoted by H. P. Blavatsky in The Secret Doctrine. Earth is represented as being impatient and undertaking herself the work of peopling her globe, and as producing thereby "water-men, terrible and bad," which had to be destroyed by higher dhyanis or planetary spirits who guide the evolution of earth.

Fantastic as this tale may appear to some, it refers to an actual event in an unformed, early transition period, when nondescript monsters grew out of the superabundant energy of Mother Earth, before things were quite ready.

But gradually when the earth was cleared, the design for the future human bodies was worked upon, improving upon the pattern of the ape-like, ethereal forms that the "humans" of the third round had evolved. This was the first root-race on globe D of this round, known as the "self-born" because they produced their kind by a process which might be described as "oozing out" their astral doubles.

Their continent was in the region of the North Pole, the Imperishable Sacred Land, which lasts from the beginning to the end of this earth cycle or manvantara, and which is to be also the home of the last perfected race. It is difficult for us to have any conception of these first root-race beings, who were boneless, almost formless. They are known as the chhaya race, which means "astral image." It did not die, but disappeared in the second by a process of budding. Simple as the form was in comparison with the present one, yet to bring it about many classes of higher beings had already been called into service.

The continent of the second root-race was further south, embracing parts of Greenland, and during the course of their evolution the method of procreation changed to what is known as the "sweat-born." Large drops oozed from the bodies and developed into the human embryo. All these changes consumed aeons of time, but time was nothing to these dreaming creatures, to whom "a thousand years were but as a day." They created the third root-race and perished, leaving no external evidence of their existence.

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