Studies in Occult Philosophy — G. de Purucker

Longer Articles  (part 2)

Survey of the Teachings on the Planetary Chains

The last word concerning Rounds and Races and the reimbodiment of Planetary Chains and their component globes has never yet been given in our exoteric books; and this for several reasons, because it is too complex and difficult for exoteric students to understand without certain esoteric keys, and also because the exoteric student simply must have gained a familiarity, intellectual and spiritual, with the sensitive intuitional atmosphere before he can grasp correctly the keys.

Now I will point out a few facts and leave them to your intuition.

Fact 1. There are seven and even twelve cosmic planes; but in all this explanation I will limit my remarks to the septenaries, for these are easier and therefore chosen by H. P. B. Let us then say there are seven cosmic planes.

Fact 2. Each of these cosmic planes is in itself a septenary, because Nature is analogical and repeats in the small what she has builded in the great.  If this were not so we should have part of the universe ideated after a certain type, thus presenting the fundamental law, and all the rest of the universe running anarchically different from this fundamental law or ideation, which would be absurd.  This is why every cosmic plane in its roots, as in a mirror, has all that the seven cosmic planes considered as a unit themselves possess.  In other words, every cosmic plane being itself divided into sub-planes repeats all the qualities, attributes, and so forth that are found in the cosmic septenary considered as a unit.

Fact 3. It is not good to name these cosmic planes after the human principles.  This is a very common error which most Theosophists indulge in.  The latter are rather concrete principles of Boundless Space, or of our universe as a unit of Boundless Space; but the technical names given to the seven cosmic planes, and therefore by analogy to the sub-planes of any one cosmic plane, should rather be the tattwas, as the Hindus called them.

Fact 4. Now it is on these cosmic planes that the planetary chain of our solar system, or the chains of any solar system in the galaxy, appear, run through their different reimbodiments and in which imbodiments each such general planetary chain, or solar chain, has its septenary cycle of Rounds.

Fact 5. Each reimbodiment of a globe of a planetary chain takes place on one of the sub-planes of a cosmic plane.  Thus suppose we are at the present time in the fourth cosmic plane.  I mean our Globe Earth is so.  There are seven sub-planes in this fourth cosmic plane.  In each one of these sub-planes our globe has a reimbodiment, beginning with the highest sub-plane, and with each reimbodiment descending or progressing or evolving to the next sub-plane in serial order from top to bottom.  Understand then on each sub-plane on our present cosmic plane our globe has one imbodiment.

Fact 6. Consider now for a moment the matter of Rounds as I have tried to explain them in my Fundamentals and elsewhere, and I will now limit my attention to a globe of our chain, our earth-globe being the simplest for we know it best, living on it now.  Being the fourth globe of the chain, even from the very first Round its appearance is on the fourth sub-sub-plane of the cosmic sub-plane on which our globe is imbodied, remembering that Nature is analogical or of similar construction throughout for the reasons above stated.  This sub-sub-plane, in its turn a septenary, in other words our own present physical plane, ranges from its highest tattwa to its lowest, or to use simpler language, from what we may call spiritual ethereality down to its fourth state or gross materiality which is its present physical condition; and on the ascending arc, will slowly rise through the other sub-planes direct ahead in serial order until it reaches the seventh sub-sub-plane.

Fact 7. Consider for a moment how the different globes of a chain appear.  Globe A appears on its own appropriate sub-plane during the First Round.  When it has undergone a certain course of evolution its surplus of energies progresses forwards into the next plane below and builds Globe B. When Globe B has run through its seven phases, or seven root-races if you wish, then just like Globe A did, Globe B will project its surplus of energies to the cosmic plane beneath itself, and Globe C will begin to appear on that plane in its appropriate spiritual ethereality.  When Globe C has run through its appropriate seven phases or root-races, then it also, as did its predecessors, will project its surplus energy to the fourth cosmic plane on which will appear Globe Earth, Globe D itself, which is thus the component or aggregate of the surplus of energies from Globe C. And thus exactly — and all this is during the First Round — will Globe D give birth to Globe E on the next cosmic plane; Globe E then in time similarly giving birth to Globe F on the following cosmic plane, and so forth until Globe G is reached.  All this is during the First Round.  Please remember that during this process of the building of the Globes during the First Round the entire Chain as a chain does not move from the cosmic planes, and secondly from the cosmic sub-planes on which that chain then as globes karmically is imbodied; nor does it move from these just stated planes greater and smaller for the entire lifetime of a chain.  You see how terrifically complicate the thing is; but it is complicate only because we are unaccustomed to keeping set pictures in our minds, and grow confused because we lack words to distinguish a cosmic plane from one of its own sub-planes, and words lack to distinguish a sub-cosmic plane from a sub-sub-plane.  We have to repeat plane, plane, plane, and sub-plane, sub-plane, sub-plane, and sub-sub-plane, sub-sub-plane, sub-sub-plane, until the mind grows weary and we become bewildered.

Fact 8. Thus we have a picture, speaking now of a single Globe and its Rounds, of all the seven Globes of a chain builded during the First Round.

Beginning with the Second Round, the mansions or houses or globes already now having been builded or constructed in outline, the evolving life-waves making their rounds around the chain of globes continue to do so in their regular and appropriate and serial order; and the life-waves pass from globe to globe as life-waves and no longer as the surplus of energy which we call these life-waves during the First Round.  In the First Round these surplusses of energy proceed from stage to stage, at each such emanating one unit from the compact surplusage.  Beginning with Round Number 2, the emanations having now been separated out into distinct life-waves, the Rounds proceed until the seventh in regular serial order.  In other words the life-waves are now distinct groups or classes of monads.  Please remember, however, that with regard to a globe and its seven rounds, even in the very First Round our Globe Earth reaches the appropriate spot on the fourth or physical cosmic plane.

Fact 9. When all the seven Rounds of a Globe are completed then this Globe enters its pralaya or dissolution, which must not be confused with its obscuration or sleeping or resting period.  And when the last life-wave has undergone its Seventh Root-Race during the Seventh Round on the Globe, then that globe is definitely dead and will be the moon of its child-globe.

Fact 10. This child-globe will itself imbody itself on the next cosmic sub-plane of the same cosmic plane on which it is evolving.  Thus we have the new picture, but new only to the exoteric books, of the evolution of globes themselves, each new imbodiment of a globe being on the succeeding cosmic sub-plane.

Fact 11. Thus from the foregoing we see that there are seven reimbodiments of a globe on one cosmic plane, after which comes what H. P. B. called a solar manvantara, the reference here, paradoxically enough referring not directly to reimbodiment of the sun but to a new solar influx or logoic influence into the globe when it enters a new cosmic plane, and therefore called a solar manvantara.

Returning a moment to the Seventh Round.  When the seven rounds are completed, then a globe dies, and the time that it takes for seven rounds is 4,320,000,000 years.  There follows a rest in pralaya or nirvana for the globe of the same length; and thus the seven round period is called a Day of Brahma, both together mounting up to 8,640,000,000 of our years, thus comprising the life evolution of a Globe on one cosmic sub-plane; and when the Globe has been reimbodied through one cosmic plane seven times, a week of Brahma is ended, followed by its corresponding nirvanic pralaya.

Immortality and Continuity

[This article is reprinted from The Occult Review, London, July, 1933]

Is man immortal?  This question is easy to ask, but the moment when we begin to examine the implications contained in this question, we are faced with many and various kinds of difficulties: philosophic, scientific, religious, as well as sentimental; and this gives me room for pondering and for asking myself the question: “What on earth do the good people who ask this question imagine they are going to receive by way of reply?”  Shall one answer that “man is immortal,” and that he lives unchanging throughout eternal duration, or, mayhap, that he lives and changes continually throughout eternity?  Then again, as regards man himself — what indeed is man?  Obviously, the questioner does not refer to man’s physical body alone, because the mere child knows that the human physical body some day will die.  What, then, does the questioner mean?  Who, indeed, is man, and what is man, that one may ask this question of him and about him?  Furthermore, when using the word ‘immortal,’ which means ‘not mortal,’ what do we mean by this word?  Do we mean the unchanging continuity of an ego, or the continuity of an unchanging ego, or do we mean something else?  The most superficial reflection on the implications contained in this question, shows immediately that there are difficulties here, difficulties of a very real and positive character, philosophically speaking as well as religiously speaking; and until these difficulties are cleared away, so that querent and answerer readily understand each other’s meanings, anything that might be said by way of answer is not only subject to misconstruction, but almost certainly will be misconstrued.

Let us, then, first briefly examine what we mean by the word ‘man,’ and then what we mean by the adjective ‘immortal.’ First then, as to man.  Ask the scientist what ‘man’ is, and he will probably say: “Man?  You are a man, I am a man, what need of further definition is there?  Any further definition that I could give you you could find in an ordinary dictionary or in a popular encyclopedia, stating that the individual human being is a living entity of the genus homo — one of that particular family of animated beings which at present, at least, holds the sceptre of dominion over earth’s inhabitants of various kinds.”  But does this quasi-answer tell us anything real and satisfying about man — something that we did not know before, and something that answers the lurking suspicion in our mind that man is, or contains, something more than the merely obvious elements and factors which we recognize in each other?  Such or a similar answer is merely repeating in other language what already we know.  We know that we are men, we know that we belong to the most advanced family, evolutionally speaking, of all beings on earth; but does this tell us anything new?  It does not.  It simply repeats in other words a fact of the most common experience.

Then, again, what do we mean when we connect the word ‘man’ with the adjective ‘immortal’?  Show me, if you please, anything that is immortal — anything, or any entity, pray!  Everywhere we see change and variety, movement, progress, evolution, development; but immortality, if it means anything at all, means unchanging continuity of an entity as it is; because it should be obvious to the reflecting mind that if such entity vary, even by a hair’s breadth so to say it then changes, and becomes something else, or other than what it was before such change.  Consequently, it is no longer the same that it was before such change came upon it, whether this change be in what we humans call a forward direction, or in the direction of retrogression, if this last be possible, which I disbelieve.  Immortality, therefore, following the definition just given, we see immediately to be a dream, a fantasy, a futile vaporing of our brain-minds.  Whatever changes itself, or is changed, by the fact becomes something other than what it was an instant before the change; and we search in vain for any supposititious immortality here.  The difficulty even in treating such an apparently simple thing as immortality is wrongly supposed to be, leaps to the attention at once.

When the readers of a responsible magazine, such as The Occult Review is, peruse the writings of a Theosophist, they have a right to know the candid and real opinions of their author; and should not merely be told empty platitudes, or things they can easily learn in popular dictionaries, and in the accepted textbooks used at our seats of learning, wherever these last may be.  It is so easy to say, as many devout souls have preached through the ages, that ‘man is immortal’; but in what essentials does this very questionable statement differ from the ideas of the untutored savage or barbarian, who thinks that when he dies his spirit — he usually does not know what he means by this term, but he has a vague idea that some part of him will survive the dissolution of the physical body — will go to Happy Hunting Grounds, or to a very anthropomorphic and materialistic ‘Paradise’; and, according to the state of spiritual and mental evolution of the savage or barbarian, he looks forward to a time when he will hunt beasts for ever and always be victorious and bring home the spoils of the chase; or that he will sit in ethereal dwellings and confabulate with angels or spirits.  Other thinkers belonging to more advanced and more evolved races, firmly believe that at death, or sooner or later thereafter, their spirits will be absorbed into the Essence which all races of men have felt to be the substantial fundamental of the Universe — that essence which the wise men of the west have called ‘Spirit.’ These views, and others like them, however greatly they may be elaborated, tell us nothing of the essential philosophic nature of immortality so-called; although in the last instance above enumerated, the absence of elaboration is due to the veil of secrecy and perhaps, indeed, to the oath of silence that have, throughout the ages, debarred the Wise Ones from communicating the Mysteries to all and sundry without adequate preparation and training.

It tells us nothing at all of value or of worth, merely to asseverate that man is immortal when he dies; because, first, who and what is this being who lives for aye and unchanging throughout endless duration? — because, as remarked above, if there be a fraction of change in consciousness, or in individuality, from what the entity was, at any preceding instant, it is thenceforth another being, modified in direct ratio with the change that has taken place.  The entity that was has vanished, and a new entity born of the change that has taken place appears, or is, or becomes; and consequently unchanging immortality is instantly seen to be a mere figment of the imagination, the vaporing of an unskilled and perhaps idle mind.

It is just here that we see that the answer to the question: “Is man immortal?” must de facto be an emphatic negative.  No.  Because, obviously the physical body, which is the least part of us, is not immortal; nor can it be that part of us which we are accustomed to call our mind, for this mind is the very creature as well as the creator of change — and change, mark you well, is evolution, which means unfolding, which means growth; and henceforth we are bound to state that wherever there are change and growth, i.e., evolution or development, the entity which is thus growing and developing does not remain for two consecutive seconds of time the same identical individual, and therefore obviously is not and cannot be ‘immortal.’

The inquisitive and inquiring mind of modern man can no longer be satisfied with mere philosophical platitudes, with mere philosophical talk or asseverations.  We are slowly awaking from a spiritual torpor and a mental somnolence, and have become dissatisfied with the former ‘easy way’ of dealing with these questions; and at the present time are examining with rigid scrutiny, not only the foundations of our beliefs, but likewise are examining with a scrutiny equally penetrating and exacting, the very structure of our minds as well as of our consciousness.

Now, what does the Ancient Wisdom of the Ages say — that Ancient Wisdom which today in both its esoteric and exoteric branches we call Theosophy?  This Ancient Wisdom states that the very fundamental Essence of the Universe is consciousness, or what some of our modern scientific researchers have dubbed ‘mind-stuff,’ although I do not like this last phrase particularly; and consequently the fundamental thing of and in man, as a being who is an inseparable part of the Universe, is therefore consciousness also.  The fundamental of the Universe is in him because he is a part of the Universe.  Therefore, some part of us as entities, as beings, as individuals, is of the everlasting stuff, the undying, ever-enduring stuff, of the essential Universe.  But is this fundamental what we humans call ‘man’?  Is it what we can really call man — man with feeble will and almost feebler mind, or, if you like, with feeble mind and still feebler will: that growing, learning, ‘sinning,’ aspiring, loving, hating, hoping, very changeable entity which we envisage when we speak of ourselves as humans?  Hardly!  We recognize this universal fundamental, or fundamental of the universe, as the very essence of our being, and likewise recognize that all the other changing parts of our constitution are likewise drawn from the universe surrounding us; and yet to no one part of our constitution can we point and say that this, to the exclusion of other parts, is man.  We are immortal gods in our essences, and mortal beings in our garments or sheaths of consciousness — and the human soul is one of these sheaths of consciousness; and it is these enwrapping veils or sheaths of our consciousness, which are nevertheless palpitating, living parts of our being which hide the divine fundamental splendour within each one of us, for it forms the very core, the very essence, of our being.

I, as a human being, i.e., an evolving, learning, changing entity, would consider it an unspeakable hell to be immortal, to be forever unchanging as now I am, which is what immortality means.  Even if I grew or evolved throughout eternity, thus attaining infinite growth as a ‘man’ — a contradiction in terms involving an impossibility — then what a hell human immortality would be!

Theosophy does not teach that ‘man’ is immortal; its doctrines, which are based on the nature and structure and laws of the universe, are too pitiful, too wise, too profound, to misteach and mislead earnest souls after that fashion.  Theosophy, in the place of this vague illusion of the mediaeval Occidental mind, tells us as much as we can understand of the wisdom of the gods, and teaches us that eternal change over infinity, and throughout eternity, is the rule of Cosmic Life; and shows to us how this eternal change is eternal growth, an advance to betterment, going from evil to the less evil, from the less evil to good — as men use these terms — and from good to better, and from better to still better, to what we humans call the best; thereafter only to begin a new cycle of development, of change, of growth, of progress, of evolution, which means unfolding what is within us, after reaching at various stages on our evolutionary pathway the specific culminations belonging to the respective stages of the growth thus followed.

Now then, let me take you, reader, into a little secret place of wisdom.  Confuse not immortality, vain word, with development and continuity of consciousness which is a vastly different thing.  When men speak of ‘immortality,’ they mean the immortality of the ‘soul.’ They do not know anything certain about the ‘soul.’ They do not stop, furthermore, to consider, to reflect, what the word ‘immortality’ really does mean; they are pinning their faith to shadows, figments or images of their own fantasy.  But a continuity of consciousness is of the very essence of the universal scheme, because the fundamental of the universe itself is cosmic consciousness.  If there is one thing that you cannot ever move away from, it is essential consciousness, for this is the very essence of your being.  When a man sleeps, although his brain-mind — the mind of flesh — and the astral mind, and the psychical mind, and the human mind of his human soul, are, so to say, what we call ‘unconscious,’ nevertheless that very unconsciousness is a species of consciousness, so subtil, so inclusive and grand, that our brain-minds cannot take it in; and therefore when we enter it, i.e., become it temporarily, to us it is like oblivion.

Continuity of consciousness is a vastly different thing from immortality, as just said, because continuity of consciousness — which last is the very essence of us — is always.  The ‘human’ state of evolution is a phase of growth; the animal state of evolution also is a phase of growth.  When a man becomes a god he passes through the divine phase of his long, long, aeons-long, evolutionary pilgrimage; but consciousness per se endures for aye.  It is the one thing you cannot move away from, for it is we ourselves, our essential selves.  When a man is in a trance, or when a man is sunk in deep sleep, when a man has lost all cognizing self-consciousness of himself, he nevertheless is essentially conscious; for the very essence of his being is consciousness, the fundamental of the universe.  When the question is asked: “Is man immortal?”, this is equivalent to asking: “Is the human state or phase of evolution immortal?”, and the obvious answer is, as set forth above, No, an emphatic negative, and the reasons are obvious; but consciousness itself is immortal, whether we be conscious of our consciousness or not.  Here comes in the subtil characteristic of our constitution which we call self-consciousness.

There is no death: literally, actually, there is no death, if by ‘death’ we mean an absolute cessation or annihilation of the stream of conscious being.  This is the one thing you cannot escape, and on this fact were based all the teachings of the ancient religions, whether exoteric or esoteric, regarding heavens and hells, involving the obviously truthful doctrine that a man shall reap what he has sown, and that man, when he sows, shall reap it and naught else, in his consciousness, in himself.

I have tried to show you the distinction between ‘immortality’ and continuity and development of consciousness.  Immortality is a vain term; for, as commonly understood, it simply does not exist.  If there is one thing which we may say is verily immortal, it is the universe itself in all its reaches, visible and invisible; but we can say this only by an extension of meaning which lifts the word out of what men usually signify when they use the adjective ‘immortal.’ The only immortal thing in the universe is the universe itself, for it is that which has always been, now is, and always will be, although continuously and of necessity in incessant change and development or growth during its eternally recurring periods of manifestation.  Even here, after admitting the fact that the universe is immortal in the sense just used, we are bound to admit, as we reflect upon this matter, that the universe itself, precisely because it is an evolving and therefore a changing or growing organic entity, is not ‘immortal’ in the usual sense of the word — seemingly a strange paradox!  But continuity of consciousness signifies a continuity in being of the universe from eternity to eternity in endless duration.  No thing endures for aye, because no thing is immortal, i.e., unchanged; no thing, therefore, lasts for ever, because all things change, all things evolve, which means that all things unfold and manifest what is locked up within them; and therefore obviously all things or entities, because of this evolving, are expressions of the manifesting power of the indwelling and continuous consciousness which men, misunderstanding the esoteric and occult teaching regarding this truth, have miscalled ‘soul,’ or ‘spirit.’ These words are not objectionable when properly understood and properly used.  In fact they are necessary.

Consider the destiny of man — and I use the word ‘man’ here as signifying the entire composite constitution of the human entity, ranging from his divine essence down through all the enshrouding veils of his consciousness to his physical body — consider his destiny, I say, beginning his evolution at the time, e.g., of the opening of the Galactic Manvantara, the Manvantara of the Milky Way, our own Home-Universe.  He begins this evolutionary pilgrimage as an unself-conscious god-spark, to use familiar language, an entity of divine essence, but not yet having attained self-consciousness in our own Galactic Universe.  This unself-conscious god-spark passes, as the aeons flow by and sink into the ocean of the past, through all the possible changes and phases of the stream of continuous consciousness which is its core: changing, changing, growing, growing, progressing, progressing, evolving, evolving, taking body after body unto itself, and body after body casting aside, learning in each one this lesson and that; for the stream of essential consciousness continues always.  But do we find ‘immortality’ anywhere, i.e., do we find the endless continuity of a changeless being, which is what immortality seems to signify in the Occident?  Never, for the entity is growing; if it is growing it is changing; if it is changing, i.e., growing, it is progressing; if it is progressing, i.e., developing, it is evolving.  Therefore, having begun its manvantaric or cosmically cyclic course of growth as an unself-conscious god-spark, and after having passed through all the multimyriad phases and events of its cosmic pilgrimage, it ends the Cosmic or Galactic Manvantara as a full-blown or evolved god, taking its place in the council of divinities; and after a long, long rest, re-emerging into manifestation once more with its eyes fixed on goals still more sublime, the ranges of the universe where the super-divinities are, and which after aeons of evolutionary time it will join.

But shall we say that any one phase or ‘event,’ to use the modern philosophico-scientific term, in other words any one of the bodies through which this divine monad has to pass, or what is equivalent to the same thing, that any one of the souls which this monad may at any time enshroud itself in, is ‘immortal,’ i.e., unchanging in character and characteristic?  Obviously not.  Not one such phase is immortal, and we humans are one of the innumerable phases passed through by such evolving monads who are the respective divine cores of ourselves.  If we humans were immortal, then never could we become gods, because we should forever be humans; and we can become gods only when we abandon our imperfect humanity, outlive it, outgrow it, cast it aside, and thereafter enter into something larger and grander.  Immortality is a mere term, due to a misunderstanding of the fundamental elements of man’s composite constitution, and we may thank the immortal gods that the immortality of the soul is but a fantasy; but the train or concatenation or course of consciousness from unself-conscious god-spark to full-blown divinity, or full god, is without break or solution of continuity ever.

There are profound philosophical, religious, and scientific problems involved in this matter.  I am not an iconoclast by preference, and indeed only rarely so in endeavor, because I do not like to throw down people’s idols, since even a mental idol can at times hold a man’s mind by compass to the true spiritual north.  I rather admire the boy or young man or young woman who is a hero-worshipper; and there are times when I have profound sympathy for the earnest religionist who loves his god or his gods, whether they be of wood and stone, or mental images which his own yearning and aspiring imagination puts before his mind as ideals for worthship.

A noble god in the religious sense is a noble work of man.  This, however, does not imply that gods do not exist: quite and very much to the contrary.  The universe is filled full with divinities in all-various grades of spiritual-divine evolution; we humans ourselves are embryo-gods, and in the far distant aeons of the future we shall blossom forth as full-blown divinities.  But I am now talking of the false gods created by man, the gods of the exoteric religions, the gods of the peoples.  I am, I repeat, no iconoclast, and if a man should choose to worship his false idols, the idols of his mind, whether of philosophical, or scientific or religious character, I like to deal very gently with him.  But if he comes to me, who have myself learned from others far greater than I, and who have at least learned how little I myself know, and says that he is earnestly desirous of knowing a bit more than he realizes he does know, and who thinks that I have something to tell him that will help him, then when I get this challenge I speak and speak openly to him, and I say: “You yearn for ‘immortality’ because you do not understand yourself.  You think that if I tell you that you are not ‘immortal,’ this means that you will die when the body dies; but you err egregiously in so thinking.  I tell you just the contrary of that; I tell you that you are eternally conscious, consciously conscious and unconsciously conscious, as a man is when he wakes and when he sleeps.  The continuity of consciousness is unbroken whether he be active in his daily avocations or whether he arise the following morning from and after sweet and blissful rest and oblivion in his bed, and yet the same man because living the one life-time.”

But ‘immortal’?  Is that same man who questions me the child that once he was?  Is the little child running around the room and playing with its toys, the grown man that he will be, thinking thoughts it may be of grandeur, solving problems which tax the utmost limits of his intellectual powers, or one of that noble band of men who dream dreams of betterment for their fellows, and who yearn to help others, and who conceive schemes of magnitude of a nobly social and genuinely philosophical character?  Does the little child do all this?  Of course not.  The little child of the man who now is is dead, yet the man lives; the continuity of his stream of consciousness is always there; but the dead child is father to the man who now is.  Do you see what I mean?  We human beings are like the little child; the beasts below us are like little children growing up some day to attain in distant aeons, through evolution, to the human state and stature.  They too may yearn for ‘immortality’ as beasts, just as we foolish humans yearn to continue in our state of human imperfection unto eternity, children as we are!  But when we examine ourselves, we realize that we always are conscious, although not always self-conscious; and there comes a time — and this is a bit taken for your benefit out of our esoteric teachings — in the evolution of the Theosophical student when he learns to become continually conscious and self-consciously conscious — not merely when he sleeps but also when he is what men call dead; and it is easier to be conscious then than when a man is embodied, because when a man is what we call ‘dead,’ the crippling sheaths of consciousness, the veils enshrouding the inner splendor, have been largely cast aside and the Glory is relatively free, relatively untrammelled, unshackled, and living in its own nobler realms.

But when a man is embodied consciousness, i.e., lives in a body, he has to live and think and feel and work through these enshrouding veils and crippling sheaths of consciousness; and usually this is a very difficult thing to do properly.  When a man sleeps, which is an imperfect death, just as death contrariwise is a perfect sleep, temporarily is he freed from this prison of the brain-mind, and from the body; and so great is the field of consciousness that then he enters upon, that he does not know he is in it or on it, because he is not accustomed to be so free and to live so largely.  In other words, he has not evolved to become conscious nor self-conscious in the larger parts of his essential consciousness; and this is what I meant when I said that there is such a thing as conscious consciousness and unconscious consciousness.  A man is consciously conscious when he is awake; he is unconsciously conscious when he sleeps.  But there is a way to bridge the chasm of what we call unconsciousness — which is merely a larger consciousness — and this way is by training and by study.  In fact, there comes a time in the chela’s call unconsciousness, and thereafter be conscious when his body sleeps and rests; and in fact in a more advanced stage of esoteric training, he must do the same thing when he dies.

The average man has not learned to do either of these things.  The human consciousness for him enters into the state which we call devachan, the dream-world, or the heaven-world.  It is a phantasmagoria of exquisite and almost unimaginable beauty, based upon the unfulfilled spiritual yearnings and hopes of the life just lived, acting and reacting almost automatically in the man’s consciousness; but it is nevertheless an illusion because it is not the realest real.  There is something far more real than the devachan, far more sublime.  The devachan is the time when the human soul rests in blissful dreams and in unimaginable, indescribable peace, and afterwards returns again to earth.  But this other thing that I speak of — learning to live self-consciously conscious when you die — is not only, we may say, the gift of the gods, it is something more.  It is something that the man must have earned by discipline and study, and many lives of rigorous self-control in every part of his being.  It is something that he has made himself to be, one of the rewards or compensations of renouncing the low for the high, of giving up the imperfect for the relatively perfect, of subordinating the weak part of himself to the strong part, and becoming it.

‘Is man immortal?’ You see now what a foolish question it is, even from this brief exposition.  If I were pressed to give an emphatic and immediate answer to this question and were at the same time forbidden to explain, I should then be driven to say, No!  But when I am given a chance to explain and to elaborate, I point out that a man instead of looking forwards to an impossible immortality — i.e., an unchanging continuity of his imperfections, of his humanity which is a mere phase in his eternal pilgrimage — not only can look forward to but he must himself pass through, unending changes of growth, of evolution; for consciousness is eternally continuous, because the universe is embodied consciousnesses, and there is not a mathematical point throughout boundless infinity which is other than consciousness: the fundamental, the essence, of boundless space, visible and invisible.

Remember that the realms of space are filled full with hierarchies innumerable, consisting of or builded of evolving, growing things, i.e., of learning entities, ranging from what we men, in our blindness, call the ‘highest’ — for verily there is no ‘highest,’ yet we must give some kind of term to the loftiest that we can conceive of — down through innumerable stages, or planes, or realms, of beings in the visible and invisible worlds, and extending far below man forever.  The universe is filled full with gods and with beings higher because nobler than the gods; and we humans are one family only, one small hierarchy collected together in the vital organic atmosphere or being of what we call the universe; and this universe in its turn is but one cosmic cell, so to speak, in the vital organic atmosphere or being of the boundless.  Every hierarchy in space is contained within the encircling or circumscribing limits of a greater and sublimer hierarchy; and this greater and sublimer hierarchy in its turn is contained, or encompassed, by one still loftier than it, and so forth, on a rising scale forever.

Theosophical University Press Online Edition