Theosophical University Press Online Edition
How Old is the Aryan Race?
Consciousness After Death
The Occult Doctrine Concerning the Ego
The Status of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana
The Meaning of Aum
The Term Paramita
Was Christianity Responsible for the Dark Ages?
In your article on 'The Cradleland of Our Race,' in THE THEOSOPHICAL FORUM, June, 1937 [see p. 16 this volume], the birth of the Aryan stock from Atlantean tribes is given as 7 to 8 million years ago (p. 410). On page 413, it is stated twice that it is 4 or 5 million years since the original germinal condition of the Fifth Root-Race, though as a race "sui generis" it is about 1 million years old. What puzzles me is the difference between the 7 or 8 million and the 4 or 5 million years as the age of what I supposed was the same Race. Does the larger number refer to that hint in THE SECRET DOCTRINE that the Aryans could trace their descent back to Lemuria-Atlantis?
In dealing with time-periods in a general article it naturally is difficult to find English words to give the exact picture the writer desires to paint. Hence, on reading your note I see how my words could have been misunderstood; yet I do think a careful reading of the article in The Forum compared with the diagram I gave in Fundamentals on page 251, of how a race is born from, or originates in, the middle period of the parent race, will show what I had in mind. I will now try to explain.
Every Race, Root-Race I mean, great stock-Race, takes its origin, its beginnings, its genesis, i.e. its birth as a differentiated, that is different, stock from its parent at about the middle point of that parent's age or time-period. This we can properly call the birth of the new race, likening it to the birth of a child. This in the case of the Aryan Race was between four and five million years ago. The Atlantean Root-Race has lasted altogether from its birth to its present time some eight million years, that is from its germinal period to its now dying out scattered remnants of savages. So we can truly say the Atlantean Race, including its germinal period all down the ages to its now scattered savage remnants, is about eight million years old; but our own Aryan Race, so called, is only four million plus years old from its birth, born at the half-period of the Atlantean Race, say four or five million years ago.
On the other hand, when we consider that a Race before it is born, i.e. before it becomes a distinctly differentiated Race from its parents, must have had its germinal growth, slowly through the ages differentiating from its parent, we see that we can trace the germinal period of a Race, such as our Aryan Race, back almost to the beginnings of the Atlantean Race. So that our own Aryan Race from its germ-period to the present day is about seven million years old.
Of course, the characteristics of a Race in its germ-period are so closely alike to its parent-stock, that in the case you submit, the germ-period of the Aryans really showed them as scarcely differentiated from the Atlanteans. Yet these germs grew through the ages, and after three million years or so, at about the middle period of Atlantis, became the distinctly differentiated Aryan Race.
Thus take the case of a human being: the average human being is born as a baby, not in the infancy of its parents, but when its parents have attained let us say their majority, roughly at about middle age or somewhat before. Yet the germ of a child when it exists in its parent's body can be said to be so like the parent's body, even the parent's body in its early youth, that it is scarcely differentiated from the parent. This analogy is a feeble one, but it will express what I am trying to say with regard to the Races. This is what I had in mind when writing the article.
To recapitulate: (a) our Aryan Race from its germinal beginnings in early Atlantis is about seven million years old, although this is not a proper way to count it. It is merely rounding out the picture. These germs in Atlantis slowly through the ages of Atlantean heyday became more and more differentiated into a Race apart, and this occurred at about the middle period of Atlantis, and this was the real birth or beginning in that sense of the Aryan Race.
(b) Yet so slowly does nature work in these things, that our own Aryan Race was quite Atlanteanesque, so to speak, until about 1,000,000 years ago when it very definitely in all respects shook off the Atlantean characteristics, and became a true Race sui generis. Our own Aryan Race is now in its kali-yuga, beginning it, and the new Sixth Root-Race is already around us in millions of scattered individuals, beginning feebly to differentiate into the Sixth Root-Race qualities; and in some three hundred thousand years from now, while we Aryans are ending our kali-yuga, the Sixth Root-Race will be said to be definitely born as the Sixth Root-Race, but will remain Aryanesque for millions of years yet, until our own Aryan Race is represented only by degenerate remnants; at which time the new Sixth Root-Race will be becoming typically a race sui generis itself.
I have heard that after-death consciousness in the Kama-loka is really only a dream-consciousness, however vivid. Is it, then, ever possible to be conscious, while in the Kama-loka, of what takes place on earth?
The matter of the human soul being conscious after death of what passes on earth, or among truly loved friends, is very far from being the simple thing that the spiritists imagine. They do not know the teaching of the god-wisdom, and it is quite natural for them to think that the human consciousness should go on uninterrupted after death with perhaps a slight unconsciousness at the moment of death itself. They utterly fail to take into account the frightful, perfectly ghastly, torture that in nearly every case possible, such consciousness after death would mean, could the dead look back upon earth and see what is happening to the ones left behind, and feel the utter inability to help; see disease, misery, wickedness perhaps, crime perhaps, sin, misfortune, as well as the good things.
Nature is infinitely more just and kind than that. And this is the reason why for all normal human beings, that is those neither very high nor very low, in other words, neither initiates, nor great sorcerers, unconsciousness supervenes at death, and the kama-loka is what I have often described it to be.
But, here is an interesting point. It has been said regarding the kama-loka and the devachan that the more spiritual the man or woman who dies, the less is the kama-lokic experience. The soul of such a noble spiritual character shoots through the kama-loka like a meteor, and unconscious of it, and therefore unconscious of things on earth. So you see that when we rise above the average of good men and women and begin to enter the class of somewhat nobler souls we have the characters that make for no postmortem consciousness whatsoever, no consciousness of the kama-loka horrors or dreads or fears, but immediate unconsciousness awakening into a very blissful devachan after the second death.
Now then, going still higher, when we have reached the grade of the initiates: they by this time have been taught to remain conscious not only in sleep, but after death also. But they do this self-consciously, and the after-death state in their cases has no terrors or horrors for them, except perhaps the disgust that they feel for astral cesspools.
Of course, in the case of sorcerers or extremely malignant and evil characters, they have a long kama-lokic experience, very intense, and just because their consciousness is still so earthly, they can even by magnetic sympathy in many cases come to see as it were, or to feel as it were, as in a sort of day-dream what is passing on earth, not every detail but, depending upon the individual, a more or less clear 'getting it.'
On page 402 of June, 1938, FORUM it is implied that in the Christian sense the soul is static throughout eternity in unchanging essential characteristics (?) and it is alleged that our theology makes no distinction between "Immortal" (not dying) and "immutable" (not changing). This is not so; and it is scarcely fair to imply that present-day theologians could be so stupid. Last century there may have been unthinking people who vaguely half supposed that immortal life was a condition without progress or evolution. To argue seriously against such an absurd conception as existing in our own time is surely flogging a dead horse?
The actual difference between the theosophical and the Christian view of immortality in progress is rather that the latter tends to conceive of that unending evolution as proceeding in a straight line steadily upwards while the former probably would envisage it as undulatory or evolution in successive waves?
Some additional exposition as to the writer's views on the distinction to be made between 'immortal' and 'immutable' would add to the value of that excellent and illuminating article.
This is both interesting and suggestive, and I welcome the opportunity to elucidate the subtil point in Buddhist philosophy I was expounding in the article referred to for I have found that it is precisely this point which the Christian mind is totally ignorant of or completely misunderstands.
It is to be regretted that in this matter of the Christian conception of an enduring and unchanging egoity of the soul, our correspondent, in common with most Christians, still persists — however evolved their ideas may be as compared with the Christian ideas of olden times — still persists, I say, in looking upon the ego as essentially unchanging in its individuality or egoity. Now this is precisely the subtil point mentioned above, and it is what I was alluding to when I spoke of "the imperishable, immortal soul in the Christian sense, static through eternity in unchanging essential characteristics." For this certainly is just what Christianity claims for the soul, to wit, that its individuality is imperishable; and this is just the point at issue. Individuality must evolve as everything else does, otherwise it can never pass from the less to the greater. The occult doctrine claims that this individuality, or its egoity, in other words the ego, at one time-period in eternity must enlarge into something incomparably and vastly grander, thus changing even the characteristics of its egoity, otherwise it will remain always relatively the same limited egoity or individuality.
I am well aware that modern-day Christian speculation, theological or other, is quite likely to admit that the soul in the Christian sense enlarges its views, enhances its conceptions of life and of the eternal verities. But this is beside the present argument. The occult doctrine states that it is the ego, the individuality itself, which passes from personal egoity in its lower stages to an enlarging individual egoity in its higher stages, still enlarging into an impersonal individuality in still higher stages, and so forth, virtually ad infinitum. It is obvious, then, to any philosophical mind that this constant changing of individuality not only implies but shows that the ego of the early stages is not the ego of the intermediate stages; and again, that the ego of the intermediate stages changes over into the enlarged ego of the more advanced stages, etc. In other words the occult doctrine postulates and proves, logically and of course philosophically, that the ego not merely experiences an enlarging of conceptions, but itself changes and therefore is not an eternally perduring, unchanging individual entity. Here is just the subtil point which virtually all Christian writers known to me either cannot understand or wilfully misunderstand.
To recapitulate: Admitted that modern Christians allow that the soul in their sense undergoes enlarging views, widening conceptions, deepening of consciousness, etc., etc., which is what the above writer seems to claim, and which is the typically modern Christian view, I believe; yet this is precisely the point which the occult doctrine says is utterly insufficient, for it is not merely a changing of attributes and functions of the egoity which the occult doctrine postulates, but that the egoity or individuality itself is constantly changing, evolving always into something greater, the thread of individuality continuing but becoming always something different because grander.
As an illustration: the just-born child is not a fully 'egofied' entity which merely enlarges its views and gains experiences as it grows through youth to manhood; but it is the actual change of the baby into the youth, and the youth into the adult which takes place. The Theosophist says that this is due to the ever-enlarging increments of spiritual individuality which incarnate pari passu with the growing child, the growing youth. But we add that even this individuality itself on the spiritual planes passes over during cosmic ages into larger things. If not, then we must state that the individuality or ego of the billion years in the past was exactly in the state or condition of consciousness in essentia that it will be in ten billions of years from now, the only difference being that its experiences have grown, and that its outlook is larger; and this conception the occult doctrine rejects as totally insufficient.
The Christian postulates a created soul — at least this is orthodox Christian theology — which in its essence is created an individuality, an ego, different from all other egos, and that this individualized egoity persists unchanging through eternity as that ego. This is what the occult doctrine denies. First it denies the soul's 'creation,' and second, it states that every ego in its essence is a spark or Ray from Divinity itself, but that its egoity is as changing on its own planes, i.e., as much subject to evolving growth, only through immense periods of time, as are even the different physical bodies or reincarnations in and through which the evolving ego itself manifests from life to life. Thus, just as the Caius or Marcus of old Rome may be reborn John Smith or William Brown, two different bodies and two different lower personalities, both due to past karman or actions, to past destiny in other words, so does the ego itself, the spiritual ray from the divine, have its individuality colored because of changing consciousness in evolution through long periods of time; which actually means that the young ego, i.e., when it first appears from the bosom of the Divine in a great cosmic manvantara, is one thing, but that the essence of it will reappear at the end of that cosmic time-period as the same divine spark, but with an entirely modified or sublimated egoic individuality. In fact we can logically call it a different individuality, but the product of the same divine essence. Thus we say one's egoship itself changes character as the cosmic ages roll by, each such change however being like a pearl on the divine thread-self or Sutratman.
The immense reach of this occult conception is at once seen when we reflect how it changes our outlook as regards ourselves and the universe around us. We are not unchanging individual egos, for ever separate in eternity from each other because of individually differing egoities, but are individually one divine essence, otherwise Rays from the Cosmic Source, and thus there is a consciousness in all of us which is one and identic, the highest part of us. To this divine source we are journeying back, each evolving ego carrying with itself its accumulated wisdom and experiences; thus in due course, when the time shall arrive, being able to remember all its immense and intricate past and yet evolving continuously forth this utter oneness in essence with all other egos.
It should be now clear that the subtil point of this argument is one of brothers in the spirit, and sons of Almighty God, but actually are brothers in manifestation, and identities in our highest.
The Buddhists say therefore very truly that the soul as an imperishable, unchanging individuality in its egoity is a mere dream, for even the souls change in their egoity, rising from lower to higher things. And yet, wonderful paradox because wonderful truth, the thread of point-consciousness which we call the Monad endures through all these changes carrying with it as treasured experience all the different souls or egos through which it has passed as phases in its aeons-long evolutionary journey.
In a few words: Christian theory, whether ancient or modern, postulates an imperishable, albeit perhaps learning, personal ego, which lasts unchanging in its ego-personality for ever; whereas the Esoteric Philosophy rejects this as being both unphilosophical and unscientific, and declares the for ever enduring but evolving spiritual individuality manifesting at periodical intervals in and through egoized personalities.
I have repeated myself here deliberately endeavoring to state the occult view-point in somewhat varied language.
Finally, if it is true, as the writer above seems to imply, that Christian conceptions of the human soul are so changing as to become more and more like unto the archaic idea of the Occult Philosophy, this is indeed good news, and is to be welcomed as an immense advance over mediaeval theologic dreamings.
I am taking up the study of the Indian epics, the MAHABHARATA and the RAMAYANA, With my class, and would like to be able to tell them more about the correspondences of many of the characters with the various Cosmic Planes and Principles. It seems evident, for example, that the five Pandava princes in the MAHABHARATA have a special symbology, and also, in the RAMAYANA, Rama and Sita and their friends and enemies. Could you throw more light on the subject?
Answering your question about the relative places of the five Pandava princes, supposed to have correspondences with the Cosmic Planes, Elements, etc.: If I were you I would not bother my head about any such thing. Let us look at the situation exactly as it is. The Ramayana and the Mahabharata are the two great epic poems of India, just as the Iliad and the Odyssey were and still are the two great epic poems of Greece, or the Greater and the Less Edda we may call the two great epic poems of Scandinavia; and there are similar epics, one or two or three, belonging to other countries.
Now then, let us turn to and keep in mind the Indian epics only. These are not wholly and solely mystical or occult works. Let us keep that idea perfectly clear. No more so than is the Jewish Bible, no more so than are the Iliad and the Odyssey, etc. The Mahabharata and the Ramayana are fundamentally ancient Indian history and legend, with all the mists and glamor of antiquity veiling them, and they contain in addition a great many beautiful, truly mystical and occult, teachings; and a few really splendid minor episodes, like the Bhagavad-Gita, and the Anugita, which have been interspersed in the epic-story, for this is according to Hindu tastes.
Thus, really, the Ramayana, for instance, is essentially the struggle of Rama against his enemies, mostly of the south, in Lanka, the Rakshasas, etc., which is but a modern Aryanized legendary version of the history of the struggle of the early Fifth Race in its Indian branch with the Aryanized Atlanteans of Lanka, an island-continent now sunken except its northern headland, which is Ceylon.
Similarly, the Mahabharata, as I remember it, is a legendary epic telling in poetic, and occasionally almost fairy-tale, style, the struggles of early Aryan settlements in India, Aryans themselves fighting amongst each other, and also fighting against the aboriginal, so called, inhabitants of the great peninsula.
Now, there you have in a thumb-nail sketch just what the Mahabharata and Ramayana are, and actually also just what the Iliad and the Odyssey are when applied to Greek legendary story or history. These great epics are part history, part legend, and part religious instruction. When I say religious, I mean philosophical, and mystical, and occult, also.
Now it is quite possible for a clever writer to extract from so generally glamorous and mystical a work as the Mahabharata or Ramayana, correspondences between the five Pandava princes on the one hand, or between Rama and Sita on the one hand, and something or somebody else on the other hand, correspondences perhaps with Cosmic Planes or Principles. In the early days of the T. S. this was a favorite pastime or relaxation of Theosophical writers. This finding of correspondences, however, could be applied with good reason to these episodes taken from the Mahabharata like the Bhagavad-Gita, or the Anugita, because these episodes are not so much the historical part, or the legendary part, but are deliberately written, semi-occult, religio-philosophical treatises, interspersed here and there in the legendary, historical material, because this way of doing things is beloved of the Hindu mind.
If I were you I would not bother my head about these things, and I would tell your class the plain reason why. It is something like trying to do the same thing with the Hebrew Testament, or the Christian New Testament. One who is clever in finding, or thinking he finds, occult correspondences, can find lots of correspondences, real or imaginary, between the patriarchs, for instance, of the Old Testament, and the Planes or Principles of Nature, or between Jesus and his disciples and the Planes or Principles of Nature. But such correspondences, while having some reason, are always shaky, and are pleasant rather as a pastime than actual, solid esoteric study.
Therefore I repeat, if I were you I would not bother my head about any such correspondences between the five Pandava princes and something in Nature; and you can get a picture of what I am here writing, and get this picture clear-cut in your mind, and then when you are asked questions from people who do not know what the Mahabharata and Ramayana are, you can just explain it to them, pointing out that not any one in any country of these great epics, whether of Asia or ancient Europe, or ancient America, is a thoroughly, or typically, exclusively occult treatise on esoteric correspondences, etc. But all of them are legendary history based on facts now lost in the night of time, but seen through the distorting glass of legend by much later writers who are correct in their facts, but like all legendary writers deliberately embroider their theme, and introduce perfectly sound, religious teaching, as in the Bhagavad-Gita, and the Anugita, in the Hindu epic.
Will you explain the meaning of the passage in THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE referring to Kala-Hansa:
The syllable A is considered to be its (the bird Hansa's) right wing, U, its left, M, its tail, and the Ardha-Matra (half metre) is said to be its head.
It is the Ardha-Matra (half metre) which puzzles me.
Here again you have picked out one of the less important things, which I dare say you realize yourself. Just as in all religions there is always a certain class who are seeing wonderful mystic meaning in this or that or some minor detail, which may be quite interesting and important in a small way, but it does not rank among the fundamental, or topnotch, or through-and-through important, things — such is the case with the simply reams of stuff that have been written not only by Hindus through centuries, but even by Europeans, about the so-called sacred syllable Om or Aum. It is simply amazing how this one word has exercised the ingenuity and mystical feelings of literally centuries and centuries of generations of Hindus belonging to almost all Schools.
The word is a sacred name on account of its vibrational quality, and used to be used in ceremonial magic, pronounced aloud, although in most secret privacy. And from this one fact, connected with which is the reverence that used to be paid to the Hebrew and Christian AMEN, arose all this vast literature of guessing and mystical and semi-mystical writing.
Now all this talk that H. P. B. has in The Secret Doctrine, The Voice of the Silence, and elsewhere, is merely a kind of appeal to those interested in this kind of thing, in order to attract them to her really deep teachings. That is why she made so much of them.
However, now, here comes the point: Kala-Hansa, of course, is the Bird of Time, which means the bird of cycles, and the bird stands as a symbol for the Reincarnating Ego taking its flight across time and space, mostly time. The same can be applied to the Universes and the Cosmic Logos which in the Universe is, so to speak, the Reimbodying Ego.
Now then, of course today Hindus consider this word so sacred, whether Om or Aum, that they themselves rarely or never pronounce it above a whisper, and mostly merely pronounce it in the head as it were, without voicing it. So much for that point.
Thus Aum stands for the Kala-Hansa; and from this mystical thought, the mystical saying runs that A stands for one wing, the U stands for the other wing, and the M stands for its tail, and the Ardha-Matra, or short half-syllable, stands for its head. The Ardha-Matra really here does not mean a syllable, or a half-syllable rather, but that connexion between the sounds A U, and again between U M, which gives inner direction and one-pointedness to the whole pronunciation of the word, and for that reason is called its head, the head of a bird being the first part of it, and guiding its flight. The bird takes its flight on its wings, which support it. The tail serves as a guide to the direction, and the head leads the way.
Now the mystics say in connexion with this word that it is the symbol, the Ardha-Matra, of the consciousness guiding the pronunciation; or, changing the figure of speech, the Ardha-Matra or half-syllable is the consciousness guiding the karmic forward progress of the mystic flight of the Ego or Bird, as it is the consciousness which gives the tone to the pronunciation of the syllable. Thus a singer singing a song not merely changes from note to note, but it is just in that change between any two notes that there is a kind of consciousness-sound wherein the singer's ability to make an impression, what might be called his vitality, or his individuality, expresses itself. It is called a half-syllable because it is so short. And yet as it is the point where the consciousness enters in, shifting over from note to note, and therefore guiding the sound, it is called the head of the bird. You will see that out of such a little thing has grown all this big literature about the Hindu sacred word.
Will you kindly point out the derivation of the word PARAMITA?
This is a Sanskrit word, and is compound, formed of param, which means 'the other shore,' in the technical sense of this word, in the beautiful Buddhist way of speaking, which means the other shore, or over the river of life, instead of this shore which is the material existence where sorrow and pain and all the rest of it exist. Thus 'the other shore' means attaining perfect enlightenment because one's consciousness has passed over all the illusions of the material world to the other shore of spiritual glory and peace and freedom and wisdom and love.
The other part of the compound paramita is ita, which comes from a Sanskrit verb meaning 'to go,' and is the past participle of this verb; and hence in English can be translated 'gone': go, gone; and ita is this Sanskrit past participle, meaning 'gone.' Then this past participle is turned into a noun, and this makes it ita; and hence, as a noun, the meaning is, by paraphrasing it, 'successful going,' or 'successful reaching.'
Thus the whole compound means 'the successful reaching of the other shore.'
Please note also — and this will make the matter a little clearer to you paramita means 'one who has successfully reached the other shore,' whereas, as said above, paramita is the compound noun describing this, and therefore is to be translated as 'the successful reaching of the other shore.'
Some people say, I fear after but a superficial study of the matter, that Christianity is responsible for the Dark Ages in Europe which so quickly followed the establishment of Christianity as a State religion. They also quote H. P. Blavatsky to this effect. Is this the recognised Theosophical viewpoint?
The statement that came from H. P. B. I think was that the downward cycle to which the questioner refers began some five hundred years before the Christian era, and that is true. But you must not suppose from this that it was Christianity, or the beginning of the Christian era, that was solely responsible for the Dark Ages then to come, for this is unjust, it is untrue. It is true, however — and I trust any Christian friends will forgive me for this plain speaking — that had Christianity remained utter true to the teachings of its grand Master, the work that Christianity set out to do would have been far better done, and the Dark Ages might have never come upon the West as actually took place.
The truth was this: that a descending cycle began some few hundred years before what is now called the beginning of the Christian era. It was a cycle going downward, what Plato would have called a beginning of a Cycle of Spiritual Barrenness: and the Christian movement, then a Theosophical movement of its time in the countries around the Mediterranean, was begun in an effort to stem the horrors that were bound to come, to throw a new wave of spirituality into the thought-life of men in the Occident. The Orient needed it not, but the Occident did. And for hundreds of years it did act as a brake, a brake on the charge of human life which was running downhill. And in ways it did good. But oh, how more blessed might have been the results if their great Master's life and teachings had been the example of his followers as their conduct in their own lives. It was a spiritual movement started in order to help mankind on a cycle running downwards before it began to reascend.
It is quite wrong and unjust, nevertheless, as some people have done, namely men whose hearts have been hurt by what they have seen of the wrong-doings of the Christian Church in the past — it has been unjust to that Church and Christianity as Christianity to blame it wholly for the Dark Ages. There were great and good men among the primitive Christians and they labored nobly. The pity of it is there were not more who labored to lift men during that cycle which a few of them at least knew was a cycle running downwards.
We Theosophists today have a similar work to do but on differing lines: a cycle beginning its rise commenced some time before H. P. B. came to the Western world; and a rising cycle — very slow now, but it will be constantly rising for a while — has set in. And the dangers here in their way are just as serious, perhaps more subtil, difficult to deal with, than are the dangers afflicting men or menacing men when the cycle runs downward. Perhaps the greatest danger facing us today in this era of universal change and overturnings generally due to cosmic causes, is the increasing outbreak of psychic eruptions from the astral light, something foretold by the Masters, about which H. P. B. warned us. We have just to look around the world to see, seeing to understand.
For my part, I would we had the backing of a great enlightened Christian organization, filled with the spirit of their Avatara-Master, which with our own organization could see and understand the dangers that menace men. With its power and wealth, and presumably accepted order and perhaps interior discipline, if it could only be fired unto a new vision of the spirit of their Master Jesus, then these Christians of the type of their Master would be working with us hand in hand, for our movements really would be one. But where, alas, alas, may we Theosophists find such a devoted organization of what I may call primitive Christians, infilled with the spirit of their great Master?