The Path – May 1888

THE TIDE OF LIFE: II — Charles Johnston

(Annotated by H. P. Blavatsky.)


"Where the daisies are rose-scented,
And the rose herself has got
Perfume which on earth is not."

Form exists on an ideal plane, as a purely abstract conception; into this region, and the similar one of Number, pure mathematics have penetrated. (1) Modern speculations,(2) as well as the ancient cabalists, have asserted that every geometrical form, as well as every number, has a definite, innate relation to some particular entity on the other planes, to some colour or tone, for instance; and there is good reason to believe that this holds true of all the planes, that the entities on each of them are bound to the entities on all the others by certain spiritual relations which run like threads of gold through the different planes, binding them all together in one Divine Unity.(3) From the standpoint of the terrestrial Globe, the first modifications of the last emanation, Primordial Earth, is the mineral kingdom, in which the primal earthy matter is modified by the element of Form. There is every reason to believe that, if any existing mineral or metal could be reduced to the condition of "primordial earth," it could be re-formed into any other mineral or metal. The specialization of the minerals, or "formation of the mineral kingdom," is perhaps marked in the Genesis-Cosmogony by the words, —

"The Elohim called the dry land Earth,"

Name and Form being cognate attributes of a specialized entity. As we have seen the gradual evolution of form in the descent from spirit to matter, so the gradual dissipation of form will be seen in the ascent from matter to spirit. The crystal, for example, retains its form always unchanged, and the form of the tree is more lasting than that of the bird or animal. The second modification of the Earth element, still from the standpoint of the world, is the vegetable kingdom, in which to form and substance is added molecular motion, or vitality, called in Brahman cosmologies Jiva.

This vitality, or capacity for molecular change, corresponds, as we have seen, to the water element; one of the elements, in ascending order of spirituality, being picked up by each of the successive kingdoms of ascending evolution. The formation of the vegetable kingdom is marked in the Genesis cosmogony by the words —

"The earth brought forth grass, herb yielding seed, and tree bearing fruit,"

words which point to a perfectly natural evolutionary process under the energizing power of spirit — the physical aspect of which is the "Tendency to Evolution" or the Scientists —, and not that violent and unnatural process termed a "creative act."

We may remark, by the way, that the three divisions of the vegetable kingdom in this cosmogony correspond to three perfectly well defined geological epochs, that of the Cryptogams, of the Phaenogams, and of the Fruit-trees, examples of which are respectively ferns, pines, and orange-trees. (4)

These two changes of matter are looked at, as we have said, from the standpoint of the Earth. The cosmogony now pauses, and, in order to make its account of Evolution complete, inserts here the first change of the same element from a different point of view, that of astronomy. This first change is the congregation of the primal nebulous matter into suns and planets, marked by the words —

"The Elohim said, Let there be Lights in the firmament,"

the sun, moon, and stars being subsequently particularised. From our previous views of the Elemental Light we shall be fully prepared to infer that, just as what we call sonant bodies seem not to be real sound-creators, but merely sound-reflectors, so these "Lights in the firmament" may not be real light-creators, but merely light-reflectors; and this view is borne out by the fact that in this cosmogony the formation of Light precedes that of the Light-givers. Leaving the astronomical standpoint, let us consider the next step in upward evolution.

To the shape, substance, and vitality of the plant — drawn respectively from the Elements of Form, Earth, and Water — the animal kingdom adds locomotion, corresponding to Air element, one attribute of which we have seen to be that locomotion, or movement as a whole, which distinguishes the animal from the plant. Thus we see another link of the ascending chain of the elements picked up. The earliest representatives of this kingdom are, as modern science has shewn, the protozoa, — water-animalcules. Their formation is correctly placed first in the Genesis cosmogony, marked by the words —

"The Elohim said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature which hath life."

Here we again find words which distinctly mark a perfectly natural process of development. Just as we had the earth "bringing forth grass" — or "sprouting forth sproutage," to translate it more literally, — we now have the waters "bringing forth the moving creature which hath life," as soon as proper cosmic and elemental conditions were presented. If the proper cosmic and elemental conditions could be artificially produced, we have every reason to believe the "tendency of Evolution," or the "Downward pressure of spirit," might again cause the waters to produce the "moving creature which hath life" — the monera, — in fact, that what is unscientifically termed "spontaneous generation" might take place. After this follows the formation offish, birds, and beasts, — the vertebrates or "back boned" creatures; the invertebrates being grouped under the two general heads of the "moving creatures in the water" and the "creeping things upon the earth." In the account of the production of the animal kingdom and of the birds, we have terms used which could only apply to a natural process of development, and not to a "creative act."

"The Elohim said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after its nature, cattle, and the beasts of the earth."

The Animal Kingdom adds to the plant the quality of locomotion under the stimulus of the instincts, — which corresponds, as we have seen, to the air-element. A slight consideration of the nature of this locomotion under stimulus will shew that we are justified in assigning this quality, with its distinctive element, to the principle of Kama in certain Eastern classifications.(5) Could this principle — or, rather, the specialised portion of the air-element embodying it — be isolated from the lower elements, we should have a sort of aeriform vehicle, or ethereal body, depending for its form on the attractions specialising it. Of such an isolated air-body we shall speak when we come to treat of the elements.

Three times has the earth brought forth, — plants, fishes, animals. But at this point we perceive a change. Evolution so far, from the mineral, through the vegetable, up to the animal, appears as an ascending arc. In this the cosmogony of Genesis agrees with the sacred theories of the East, as well as with the views of modern science. But in Man we find a turning point, at which the ancient cosmogonies agree in branching off from modern science. The sacred theories of the East teach that man is the result of two converging curves of evolution, the one curve ascending through the vegetable and animal kingdom and marking the evolution of the physical body, while the other curve descends from a superphysical, spiritual race, called by some the "Progenitors" or "Pitris," by others the "Planetary Spirits" or "Descending Dhyan Chohans." This curve marks the downward evolution of man's spiritual nature, the development of the soul.(6)

As we should expect from the Oriental character and high antiquity of the cosmogony of Genesis, — dating as it does from m a time when the "downward evolution of the soul" had not progressed so far as it now has, and when man had not yet lost his spiritual insight — we find this doctrine of man's divine progenitors clearly visible. In the case of the plants, animals, and marine creatures, we found terms applied which could only be used of a regular, unbroken process. When we reach Man, a new and striking expression is introduced —

"The Elohim created man in their image, in the image of the Elohim created they man."

The pressure of the descending evolution of the Planetary Spirits or Elohim — seeking for objective, physical existence — upon the previously formed animal kingdom, caused the evolution of a fitting physical vehicle from the highest representatives of that kingdom. Hence we get physical man as we know him, descended on the one side from the animal kingdom, and on the other from his divine progenitors, the Planetary Spirits. We have compared this dual evolution to two converging curves. A too great attraction towards the material, physical side of man's nature keeps the modern materialist from seeing more than one of these curves. The modern Scientist is colour-blind to spirit, to him man is merely —

"A quintessence of dust."

But to intuitional minds at the present day, as to our more spiritual ancestors, both curves are visible; besides the physical man they could see the spiritual man

"In action like an angel; in apprehension like a God."

To return to the standpoint from which we viewed the previous kingdoms, we perceive that the introduction of this new factor in evolution corresponds to the addition from above of a new element in the series of ascending spirituality. With man is added the Fire-Element, in its aspect of the divine light of reason. It corresponds to manas in Eastern systems. Another aspect of manas, considered idealistically this time, by virtue of which it "creates for itself an external world of delight,"(7) would correspond to the quality of colour in the fire element. Of the earliest races of men we learn that they were purely frugivorous and perhaps androgyne.

With the formation of man the cosmogony of Genesis closes. We are justified in supposing that, as the union of form with the elements of Earth, Water, Air, and Fire produced the objective Mineral, Vegetable, Animal, and Human kingdoms, so these elements, divorced from Form, should have their appropriate kingdoms of beings, or forms of life, if we can use this term for something so widely different from all ordinary forms of life. These subjective kingdoms of the four elements would correspond to the Rosicrucian conceptions of "primordial earth" and the "Fire, Air, and Water Elementals."

We may go further than this, and, carrying on our inference, postulate for the spiritual ether, and even for the divine Logos, their appropriate qualities of being. To a conception somewhat similar to what the last of these would involve, the Gnostics gave the name of Eons; for the first — the ether-beings — we have the Indian titles of gandharva, — celestial musician, — or Deva. But having gone thus far, we are driven a step further. We have already seen all the links in the chain of elements in ascending spirituality picked up one by one by the ascending tide of Evolution, up to the elemental fire; let us advance a step, and postulate that the other two emanations or planes — the Ether-Spirit and the Logos — should ultimately be picked up by the Evolutionary tide. With the resumption of the first, instead of a human being we should have a "Spiritual Man," and from a re-union with the Logos we should have a "Divine Man, Perfected and Eternal," or, giving to these conceptions the names already appropriated to them in the East, we should have in the first case a Mahatma, in the second a perfect Buddha.

It is now time to point out that the pure elements of Ether, Fire, Air, Water, and Earth are not these bodies as we know them. The five classes of objects (corresponding to these five elements) known to us, being all on the physical plane, all belong properly to a single category, and may be called for the sake of distinction the Mundane Elements. To make this clearer, let us suppose that Mundane Earth — the mineral kingdom in its various forms — is composed of five parts of the element earth, while Mundane Water (everything cognized by the sense of taste) is composed of four parts of the element of earth added to one part of the element of water. Similarly the Air-element known to us on the physical plane (corresponding, as we have seen, to the sense of touch) is composed of four parts of the earth element, with one part of the pure elemental air added; and the Fire and Ether elements as known to our physical or waking consciousness are each composed of four parts — with one part of fire and ether respectively added.

These considerations will prepare us to believe that the real elements are purer and more spiritual than their representatives on the physical plane,(8) and that they will be represented by different compounds on each plane (or as it is called in some works, planet) on the water plane (or planet): for instance, what we may for convenience term Undine Earth will be represented by four parts of the Water element and one part of the earth-element; Undine water will be five parts elemental water; while Undine air will be composed of four parts elemental water, added to one part elemental air, and so on.

The composition of the elements as present on each plane or planet may similarly be deduced by observing carefully the principle which governs these combinations. We should warn our readers that these examples are given by way of illustration, and not as representing accurately and numerically the combined elements as they actually occur; they are really formed on a much more complex principle.(9)

In our illustrations we have, for convenience sake, confined ourselves to the five objective elements, though of course it must not be forgotten that the energising spirit runs through the whole series on every plane.

The pure spiritual or elemental ether is the macrocosmic counterpart of that principle of the microcosm termed Buddhi by eastern mystics.(10)

The Logos corresponds to Atma in the same speculations.

We have seen that to the four principles — Form or Linga, Vitality or Jiva, Substance or Sthula Sarira, motion under desire or Kama — of the animal, Man has added a fifth, — corresponding to the macrocosmic elemental Fire, — human reason, or Manas.

Our speculations as to the two superhuman Kingdoms are also in harmony with these eastern theories; the element of Buddhi being added to form the Mahatma; and Atma completing the Buddha, perfected and divine.

The perfect Buddha, though not possessing a physical body, or, indeed, being united to principles on any of the objective planes, will still retain the spiritual counterparts of these principles, corresponding to groups of experiences gained on each plane. It is by these spiritual principles that the Buddha is richer than the AEon; it is in virtue of them that the Ascending excels the Descending Planetary Spirit, or Dhyan Chohan. These spiritual principles constitute the end and aim of evolution, and justify the cosmic expansion and involution.

The evolutionary tide, in generating the higher kingdoms, has flowed, as we have seen, from the earth-element towards pure Spirit. In obedience to this tendency, man in achieving his apotheosis must, gradually loosing his hold on the world of Matter, add to his treasure in the worlds divine; until humanity becomes ever freer, stronger, and more perfect, and returns at last, refreshed, to his home in the bosom of the perfect God.


1. It is through the power to see and use these "abstract" forms that the Adept is able to
evolve before our eyes any object desired — a miracle to the Christian, a fraud for the materialist. Countless myriads of forms are in that ideal sphere, and matter exists in the astral light, or even in the atmosphere, that has passed through all forms possible for us to conceive of. All that the Adept has to do is to select the "abstract form" desired, then to hold it before him with a force and intensity unknown to the men of this hurried age, while he draws into its boundaries the matter required to make it visible. How easy this to state, how difficult to believe; yet quite true, as many a theosophist very well knows. The oftener this is done with any one form, the easier it becomes. And so it is with nature: her ease of production grows like a habit. — [H. P. B.] (return to text)

2. "Geometrical Psychology," Miss Louisa Cook. (return to text)

3. Here is the key so much desired by enterprising indeed all — students. It is by means of these correlations of color, sound, form, number, and substance — that the trained will of the Initiate rules and uses the denizens of the elemental world. Many theosophists have had slight conscious relations with elementals, but always without their will acting, and, upon trying to make elementals see, hear, or act for them, a total indifference on the part of the nature spirit is all they have got in return. These failures are due to the fact that the elemental cannot understand the thought of the person: it can only be reached when the exact scale of being to which it belongs is vibrated whether it be that of color, form, sound, or whatever else. — [H. P. B.] (return to text)

4. For further information on this point readers are referred to "The Color-Sense" by Grant Allen. (return to text)

5. Vide "Esoteric Buddhism," chapter on "The constitution of man." (return to text)

6. There is an important point in the teachings of the Secret Doctrine which has been continually neglected. The above described evolution — the spiritual falling into the physical, or from mineral up to man, takes place only during the 1st of the two subsequent Rounds. At the beginning of the fourth "Round" in the middle of which begins the turning point upward — i. e. from the physical up to the spiritual, man is said to appear before anything else on earth, the vegetation which covered the earth belonging to the 3d Round, and being quite etherial, transparent. The first man (Humanity) is Etherial too, for he is but the shadow (Chhaya) "in the image" of his progenitors, because he is the "astral body" or image of his Pitar (father). This is why in India gods are said to have no shadows. After which and from this primeval race, evolution supplies man with a "coat of skin" from the terrestrial elements and kingdom — mineral, vegetable, and animal. — [H. P. B.] (return to text)

7. Vide Sankaracharya's "Viveka Chudamani." (return to text)

8. This is one reason for calling the objective phenomenal world an "illusion." It is an illusion and ever impermanent because the matter of which the objects are composed continually returns to the primordial condition of matter, where it is invisible to mortal eyes. The earth, water, air, and fire that we think we see are respectively only the effects produced on our senses by the primordial matter held in either of the combinations that bring about the vibration properly belonging to those classes: the moment the combination is entirely broken, the phenomena cease and we see the objects no more. — [H. P. B.] (return to text)

9. Vide Man; Fragments of Forgotten History, p. 13 note. (return to text)

10. Vide "Esoteric Buddhism." (return to text)

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