The doctrine of Svabhava is the doctrine of individuality, of the essential characteristic of every individual seed of the Spawn of Life. There are as many coordinated svabhavas as there are individuals, entities in other words, in the Universe. Svabhava means individuality, the essential characteristic of an individual, making it that individual and thereby distinguishing it from other individuals. That is svabhava. Consequently it is not individuality which changes through the aeons as they pass. The changes come in and through the unfolding of the individuality, in its self-expressions or vehicles. The unself-conscious god-spark has its svabhava or individuality, but not yet ‘unfolded,’ ‘unrolled,’ ‘unwrapped.’
Evolution means unfolding, unrolling, unwrapping, what is within, i.e., the svabhava, the individuality. A rose, a violet, a horse, a dog, any entity anywhere, a god, a sun, a planet, a man — anything in self-expressing its individuality, manifests its svabhava; and passes through the aeons, thus casting off vehicle after vehicle, casting off garment after garment, casting off expression of itself after expression of itself. For instance, the particular class or family of entities which is passing through the rose-stage — or the horse or the dog, or the man-stage — comprises entities all belonging to the same ray if you like, of the same solar logos, or to one of the subordinate rays of one of the solar logoi; and hence it continues as such an individuality, constantly manifesting its svabhava. It lives for a time in the rose-stage — taking this stage as an illustration — and then outgrows it; and the rose-stage disappears or vanishes; the manifesting individuality or svabhava meanwhile making for itself some new garment in which it lives and expresses itself for an aeon or twain or three or more, and then outlives this new stage and the new stage disappears. This process continues until finally the growing or self-expressing individuality, i.e., the monad, pressing forward on its evolutionary journey, constantly unfolding, unwrapping, developing forth what is within itself, and casting body after body behind, reaches the human stage; and then after the human stage comes the god-stage. When the god-stage is reached, then humans will be no more, they will have been outlived as vehicles. This process as you see likewise explains the problem facing geologists of the various great classes of entities which the geologic record shows as appearing, reaching a culmination in manifestation, and then disappearing to be succeeded by a new order of lives.
The svabhava itself does not change in the lower realms, although it is evolving on its own lofty planes. The changes that human intelligence notices come from the constant self-expressions of the individuality or svabhava. Svabhava, remember, is the essential characteristic of an entity, that vital pressure, that dhyan-chohanic fluid, behind and within a manifesting entity, continually pressing upwards and forwards, and thus creating or rather building for itself, bodies after bodies after bodies.
It is a wonderful doctrine, this of Svabhava. One could write a dozen bulky volumes on it, and then feel that one had merely touched the fringes of its import. Here is something more that perhaps I should add. I have spoken of the vehicles or expressions, the svabhava-expressions, of the evolving entities as they pass from aeon to aeon in their long, long evolutionary journey: e.g., the rose, the cat, the dog, the horse, the man, the god, etc. Each such vehicle or garment or veil or sheath, after it has disappeared or vanished because outgrown, leaves behind an imprint of itself in the Astral Light as an indelible impression. Other entities in our rear, coming along behind us, will finally in good time reach the stage in their evolutionary unfolding where these indelible impressions exist in the Astral Light, and then these evolving entities behind us will mold themselves into these astral patterns. It is thus that the things that were shall be reproduced in future ages, as the spiritual seers of all time have stated, exactly as we are now reproducing today things that were in aeons of past time, now existing as records of an aeonic past. Yet remember that each such new reproduction in manifestation of by-gone astral molds or types is always a reproduction a little higher, i.e., there is always a step upwards, a step beyond, the stage last passed. I hope that these explanations have clarified the general idea.
Recollect always that svabhava means the unfolding of the individual: the unwrapping, the unrolling, of the individuality: seeking, pressing forwards, to express itself, its innate or essential characteristics. Consequently, this is the reason why the rose always reproduces a rose; why the apple-seed always brings forth an apple; why the child of a man is always human, and so forth. This also explains why orders and genera and species and families are grouped together, because they are individuals resembling each other closely in their respective svabhavas, and this is because they all belong to the same particular branch or part or class of one of the seven (or ten) solar logoi. Yet every entity, considered as an individual, no matter to what order or family it may belong, is an individual in the core of the core of the heart of the heart, in the innermost central point, of its essence.
Each such entity therefore in its essence is an eternal individual; and therefore its svabhava does not grow or change in the realms inferior to the individual, although the individual itself is constantly unfolding larger measures of its individuality as it advances to higher planes.
It is one of the glorious Theosophical teachings that worlds, just like men, die and vanish into the invisible. After a period of rest they come forth again and manifest in the visible spheres: appearance and disappearance, the rhythmic pendulum beats of the heart of eternity. Worlds — manvantara; rest — pralaya. Then the same worlds reappear, run through their phases, die, and enter the unknown spaces of space, just as man who is born a little child, lives his life, pursues his karmic destiny, dies, vanishes from earth, and comes back again.
So what I am now going to point out would serve equally well for a galaxy, a solar system, a planet in a solar system, or a human being, or indeed an animal or a plant: any individual entity. Let us imagine, then, this cosmic space when all the worlds, solar systems, clusters of stars and what not, have been swept away during the pralaya or death-period of our galaxy. There remains naught but what science calls empty space. Literally it is the lowest plane of spirit, but to us, to our eyes, to scientific instruments, because we cannot see any glittering orbs, we call it empty space. Mother Nature has slept for seven eternities in utter peace. Naught is, that we sense.
Now mark: the time comes when a galaxy or a solar system is to make its manifestation after this maha-kalpa or great world-period. Somewhere, anywhere, there appears first a focus of life; let us call it the monad. It does not appear on the physical plane. It is awakening from its long para-nirvana; and it is coming into manifestation in the invisible deeps, the inner worlds of cosmic space. It surrounds itself with a nebula. Now this nebula is called in Sanskrit — and remember we are now talking of monads and not of celestial bodies — this nebula is called a Pradhana, and the monad is called Brahman. In the case of a human being, the monad would be called Atman, and the nebulous vehicle around it, which is not a nebula so much as a veil of living stuff, is called the Buddhi. But in either case, the full birth of the entity proceeds in the same way: by the unrolling of each part or element from the one next above it, until we have the complete sevenfold entity. Nature has one law. She cannot have different, contrary laws working against each other.
The following diagram represents the unfolding of the sevenfold entity from the highest, or pure spirit. In the case of either a universe or a human being the other six principles arise from the first and hang like pendant jewels from the first. In other words, out of the divine or out of spirit is born all that is, in a galaxy, in a solar system, in a planet, in a man.
Brahman Օ Atman │ Pradhana Օ Buddhi │ Mahat Օ Manas │ Kosmic Kama Օ Kama │ Kosmic Jiva Օ Prana │ Astral Light Օ Linga-sarira │ Sthula-sarira Օ Sthula-sarira
Death, speaking in general terms, and applying both in the great and in the small, is the reverse process. What was on the lowest rung or plane is drawn up into the next higher. It disappears. What was in the two lowest is drawn up into the next, and that finally disappears. What was in these three lowest is finally drawn up into the fourth, and that in its turn disappears. All the four lowest are finally drawn up into the fifth and in its turn that disappears. The same process with the sixth; until there remains but the pure monad.
The whole of a human being, then, manifesting on this earth, is ultimately from this monad. From atman, the fundamental everlasting monad, eternally a droplet of the Infinite, so to speak, is born buddhi its vehicle; and yet buddhi, although a vehicle, is itself conscious living matter, conscious living stuff. It is spirit-stuff, just as atman is the heart of spirit. Then is born from these two what we call manas, mind, the intellectual power, the root of mentation. From these three is born kama, the principle which impels us to action, the urge to do things, commonly called desire; and it can have a very holy and beautiful aspect as well as a low one. Every man knows that. He has desires in his heart which can be sublime, divine, and desires in him which are sometimes grosser even than those that the beasts show. Then (note the plural) come the pranas, the vitality; that comes from the four above. From all these comes the model body of the physical, the astral body, commonly called the pattern-body on which the gross physical body is builded; and the astral body produces the physical body.
To repeat: from atman is born its child buddhi. From atman and buddhi are born their child manas: Father, Holy Ghost, Son. From atman and buddhi and manas taken together and often called the reincarnating monad, springs forth, from their interaction in the manifested world, the principle of desire, the urge to be and to do, to become. And from these four again, from within them, comes the vitality. And from these again is born the astral, model body; and out of all these is the last child, the reflection on earth of the divinity, of the atman, i.e., the physical monad, which should be an imbodied god, and could be for he has it in him.
This is shown by the following diagram. It is useful for showing this and other aspects of man’s nature. But if you have studied it for awhile, do not form a picture in your mind of what you have seen here, and imagine that the principles of man are on top of each other like a stair, or a pile of books. The fact is that they absolutely penetrate each other; so that sthula-sarira, as said in the Christian New Testament, actually is the Temple of the Living God. The Christians have a marvelous story about the Avatara Jesus going into the temple and driving out the money changers with a whip, because they were degrading the use of the temple. The money changers are our evil thoughts and evil emotions, our evil passions; and the presence of the Christ, the Buddhi, drives them out.
All the principles interpenetrate each other. I have tried to show that also in this diagram, as well as the descent of power and faculty decreasing from the top downward. You see then the reason why even the physical man of flesh not only is helped by having within him as it were a reflection, a radiance from the atman in his heart, but this physical man likewise, because his principles interpenetrate each other, can affect them by running up the scale as it were. You know you can affect your character by your thoughts, your feelings, whether you give way to them or master them; whether you determine to live a life which is grand or one which is the reverse. You affect your whole character thereby, and thus you affect your destiny. You make records running up, as it were, in an inverse direction along these pathways, running right up to the very spiritual heart.
Now there is another thing I have tried to show in this diagram: Every one of the seven principles of man is itself septenary. Why? Because it is nature’s law that what she does in one place she will do everywhere.
Nature is unitary, she has one soul and the action of that soul is uniform. Thus the buddhi-principle in man has seven sub-buddhis. The topmost is a reflection from the atman. Thus, following along the second column on the diagram, marked Buddhi, we have first the atman-buddhi; then comes the characteristic of this plane, the buddhi-buddhi; then there is the manas-buddhi, the kama-buddhi, and the prana-buddhi and the linga-sarira-buddhi; and the very lowest of this column is the sthula-sarira-buddhi, yet to us practically pure spirit.
Here I want to point out a very important thing. Take the kama, the principle commonly called the principle of desire. Now according to my statement above, there is an Atman-kama, a buddhi-kama, a manas-kama, a kama-kama, the particular specialized color or quality or characteristic of that plane, and then the prana-kama — and so on down the scale. Now what does that mean? It means that even the principle of desire has its atman. You may remember reading in the old Hindu scriptures in the Veda: “Desire first arose in the bosom of It,” speaking of the universal, cosmic desire to be, to manifest. What kind of desire is that? It is atman-kama.
And here is another point: It is because the atman is sevenfold that it can unfold itself into the sevenfold constitution of man. The atman, having the buddhi within it, drops a reflection of its buddhi below, and that becomes the main buddhi. From the atman and buddhi, the buddhi having a manas in itself drops a reflection of its manas, overenlightened by the atman, and that becomes manas-proper. The manas in its turn, having a kama-manas, or rather a manas-kama, drops a reflection of it, overenlightened by the atman of buddhi above itself, and you get the kama-proper. And from the kama in the same way comes the prana. And prana is sevenfold. Just as in the man’s body there is the life of every cell, the cells of his brain and the cells of his bones and the cells of his blood, which all build one life which penetrates the whole body, so there is the life which penetrates man’s whole constitution. There is the life in him which stimulates love. There is the life in him which stimulates devotion, the desire, the yearning to help. There is the life in him which has the kama-principle or desire-principle for lower things, the lowest part of the kama. All these are in man, all interpenetrating.
So you see how the atman can unfold or unroll like a scroll and produce a world, a galaxy, a solar system, a planet or a man. This is the picture the Christians gave, taking a statement from the sanctuary, when they said that at the end of the manvantara the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll. What does this mean? It means that the body will be the first to die and vanish; its component atoms will disappear into their electrons and protons and what not. What is carriable upward will be carried up to the linga-sarira. (In the universe it would be the astral light.) And then this will be the next to die or disintegrate, and what was best in it, including what was best in the one below it, will be carried up to the next higher principle. The scroll is slowly rolling itself up, every principle in turn vanishing, being carried up into the next higher, until finally you have only the last three or the last two, depending upon the kind of pralaya.
When a man dies it is the four lowest principles which disappear, disintegrate, break up into their component life-atoms but all that was best in him is attracted up into the manas by the atman and the buddhi. The man, from being sevenfold has become a triad, a threefold being. This is what happens when we men die. But what happens when a planet, the one in which we now live for instance, has its turn to die? Its own manvantara or period of manifestation ends, and its pralaya or rest-time comes. Then what will be left of man is merely the two highest principles; what was in the manas and all the four lower principles will be carried up into the buddhi.
Again, what happens when the solar system disappears, its turn having come to die, to go into pralaya? What will then remain either of the solar system or of any man who is in it? Just the pure monad, pure spirit; all the rest has been rolled up as a scroll and gathered into the atman.
Now then, to come back to what I first stated: a galaxy, a solar system, a planet, a man, all follow the same pattern. Let us consider a galaxy. The brahman or the paramatman of a solar system or of a galaxy, which has disappeared, because of having rolled up like a scroll all that was below in its preceding life, contains within itself all the karmic seeds of that past manifested period: all the seeds, the thought-deposits, the spiritual energies in their nirvana, the bosom of the atman. Now comes the time for manifestation again. A point appears in imbodied space — the inside worlds of ‘empty’ space please. What rolls out of the paramatman in the unfolding scroll of the new manvantara is called in Sanskrit Mahabuddhi, which contains the secret things which have been in the past and are now resting as seeds, to produce the future worlds. They begin to unroll themselves and become the mahabhutas or the great cosmic elements. Isn’t this exactly the same that happens to a man after his devachan? After he has died and has had a period of rest in the devachan, the monad in the bosom of atman slowly begins to unfold. It is like an unrolling scroll expressing what karma has written on that scroll, expressing what the man has within himself. He begins to reproduce himself, as he leaves the devachan and descends into imbodiment. He unrolls himself into a seven-numbered constitution; and when this has reached the linga-sarira the infant’s conception has taken place. When the child is born, then you have the sthula-sarira; and you have a seven-principled human being.
Rebirth is the coming out of latency into activity of what has been laid up in the higher principles when the last death took place. Death is the passing away of these temporary lower things, the rising of all that was best and noblest in them into dormancy or sleep or peaceful dreaming, into the triune monad. Rebirth, as stated, is the reverse process, the unrolling, the three becoming the seven. At death the seven rebecomes the three.
I would like to speak very briefly on two small points of fact, and then refer to the origins of Christianity. The two points of fact first: It has been stated, and erroneously according to the writings of Origen that still remain, that he taught Reincarnation as we modern Theosophists understand this term. That is not the fact, because this term as we use it has a specific technical meaning which we understand. He undoubtedly did teach pre-existence of the human soul and of the souls of the stars and of the beasts and of all animate things; and there is a passage which I have quoted in my book, The Esoteric Tradition , also, where he teaches Reimbodiment on earth after a manner of his own, in which he even goes so far as to say that it is quite possible for an Egyptian in his next life to be born as an Israelite or a Hebrew, and after that as a Scythian or something else. There is just one feeble passage, I believe, alluding to this, however. Undoubtedly in his day he taught more than has come down to us; and it is likewise true that he taught some very interesting things, things that we Theosophists can perceive instantly and understand because we have ourselves received this wonderful teaching and have studied it. Our studies have given us keys by which, as I have often said, we can understand and penetrate beneath the surface-meanings of the great literatures of past ages; but the ordinary person who has not been trained theosophically may not understand these doctrines of yore as we may understand them through the blessed gift of Theosophy that we have received.
Now the other point of fact is this: “Dionysius of the Areopagus” is a legendary figure. It has even been doubted by many people, eminent Christian scholars themselves, that such a man ever existed. All that is known about him is a statement in the Christian New Testament to the effect that Paul of the Christians one day was addressing the citizens of Athens, and speaking on the Hill of Ares, the Hill of Mars, in Greek called the Areopagos, and a man there who was deeply intent upon the speaker’s words came to him afterwards, and his name was Dionysius. And Christian legend, story, myth, has it that this man became the first Christian Bishop of Athens. A legend! If anything has been proved, it has been proved that this man referred to in the Christian New Testament was not the author of those mystical writings which pass under the name of Dionysian.
After the Origenistic controversies had died down and even some time before, it was found that there were current in some of the Christian sects certain writings which attributed themselves to an author called Dionysius; and the Christians, pointing to the statement in the Christian New Testament, said: “Aha, the first Christian Bishop of Athens wrote this.” There was no reason for saying so, but people were very credulous in those days; and the writings were accepted as those of the first Christian Bishop of Athens, the man who stood on Mars’ Hill and listened to the Apostle Paul preaching. Undoubtedly these writings are extremely interesting and contain a good deal of what we would call esoteric fact garmented under Neo-Pythagorean and Neo-Platonic guise.
Now I want to say something about the origins of Christianity. I suppose you will agree with me that there is no controversial subject which has been so bitterly disputed, pro and con and back and forth, and so much argued about, as the origins of Christianity. The Christians of course hold the orthodox view which we all know. But scholars almost innumerable have taken exception to the orthodox Christian story. They have asked very embarrassing questions: “What proof is there in what you call profane history that this one individual that you call Jesus the Christ even lived? There is absolutely no proof in ancient literature of any kind except in your own Christian scriptures, the four Gospels: origin unknown, origin disputed, full of contradictions themselves. Show us some proof that your Jesus Christ existed.” No proof is forthcoming — there is none which is indubitable. That is an instance!
Now of course I think there is no possible doubt that the great man, semi-divine man, whom the Greeks call a man-god or a god-man, later known as Jesus called the Christos, the Christ, did live, did teach, and did do his work in the world. We Theosophists accept that; but there is not any exoteric proof of it. Not a single profane writer in Greece or Rome speaks of him until more than a hundred or two hundred years after his alleged date of birth, when his name had become familiar in the Graeco-Roman world through the labors of the Christians themselves. Then naturally the Greek and Roman historians began to talk about it. There are two passages which might seem to contradict this: one from the Jewish historian Josephus, one from the Latin historian Tacitus. But it has been proved that the reference found in Josephus is a forgery, an interpolation at some later date evidently by some Christian hand, so we can strike that out. And Tacitus falls under the same suspicion!
I have just alluded to these not to take up time in interesting historical controversy, but to point to a fact. How did Christianity arise? What was its origin? These are very difficult subjects even to speak of today. There are so many splendid people in the Christian Church that one hesitates to say a word that would seem to be unsympathetic, unfriendly to the yearnings of their hearts, the aspirations of their souls. But this is no place for sympathy alone — we are students of truth and fact; and the holiest sympathy is honor and truthful speech. You cannot heal the woes of a man’s heart by lying to him — not for long!
Christianity arose in an effort on the part of the Initiates of the day to stem the tide of degeneration and immorality which had become so strong, which was running so powerfully. Original Christianity was a Sanctuary-teaching, that is a teaching of the Adytum, of the inner part of the Temple. They took the noble figure of Jesus, Yeshua‘, as his real name should be pronounced (a Hebrew name which means ‘Savior,’ by the way, which is interesting), — they took this ideal figure as a teacher and built around it as the central figure of initiation what took place in the Adyta, and gave out these teachings, these facts, in thinly disguised allegory. Result: the Four Gospels. That is why they differ among themselves to a large extent. That is why they are so greatly alike. This is the reason of the contradictions which have been pointed out by scholars galore. They were not written as a faithful historical record of the life and work of a Jewish Rabbi, a Jewish teacher, but were written by four individual Initiates giving forth the fundamental mystery-teaching of the Sanctuary, and using the figure of the noble Avatara-Jesus as a peg on which to hang the wondrous story.
Let me remind you that no one knows who wrote these gospels; no one knows when they were written; the utmost labors of Christian scholarship have not enabled anyone to answer these two simple facts: Who wrote the gospels When were they written All that such scholarship can do is to point as approximations to a time-period and say: We can trace them back thus far. Beyond that. . . Who wrote them? Simple faith says: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Scholarship points out that these gospels themselves show they were written ‘according to’ Matthew, ‘according to’ Mark, ‘according to’ Luke, ‘according to’ John. Suppose The Secret Doctrine was a book whose authorship was unknown and that it simply bore on its title-page, not “H. P. Blavatsky,” but “The Secret Doctrine , according to H. P. Blavatsky.”
Now then, when these four Gospels were issued, by this time there were Christians more or less all over the Roman Empire which then included the Greek world; and these four Gospels were accepted. Why? Answer your own question. They were accepted because some people liked them. They told a beautiful story, a mystical story, a story which had a great appeal to the human heart. Some people liked them and accepted them. Other people did not like them and would not accept them; but those who did accept them handed them to their friends; and by and by the result was that the Christian Church with all its various sects, was thus formed with its four orthodox Gospels. And let me remind you that so slightly were some of the most fundamental teachings of Christianity understood even by the Christians themselves, that some centuries later the so-called controversy of the procession of the two persons of the Trinity from the Father rent the Christian Church in twain, one being the Church of Rome, the other, the so-called Greek Orthodox Church, likewise of Russia. This was the so-called filioque controversy: filioque meaning “and from the Son,” the idea being that the Church of Rome, representing the Western world, said that the Holy Ghost issued or proceeded “from the Father and from the Son”; whereas the Greek Church claimed that it held to the teaching of the early Christian Fathers in proclaiming that the Holy Ghost proceeded from the Father, and then the Son from the Holy Ghost. In other words, the Western Church taught the procession as: Father, Son, Holy Ghost; the Greek Church taught it as: Father, Mother (Holy Ghost) originally the divine feminine parent, feminine in character; and the spirit of love, from which proceeded the Holy Ghost’s Son — its offspring, the Logos or Son.
I could talk to you for ten days and ten nights, and I would still have to come back to the one fact, I believe, which interests us. It is this: That Christianity originated in a very early and very earnest effort of men and women, whom we today would call Theosophists, quasi-initiates, who endeavored to set a teaching current in the world which would give peace to men’s hearts, light to their minds, and strength to meet life’s problems and difficulties, and thus stem the tide of degeneration and immorality. It failed. It did its work partially and then failed, and the result was a tremendously powerful, wholly exoteric Church which today actually is going to pieces. Why? Because the spirit of its human-divine Founder Jesus the Christ, has fled; and it had fled even within 300 years from the alleged date of the life-time of Jesus — and nobody knows when he actually lived! There was absolutely no proof that he lived when he is alleged to have lived.
In other words again, earliest primitive Christianity was a movement of very earnest Theosophists and quasi-Theosophists who knew something of the teachings of the Sanctuary, such as Origen who had himself been through the rites at Eleusis in Greece. Of course, in those days the rites at Eleusis were very degenerate; they had become only a form, but there was still something; these men had learned something there. But very soon the Christian movement got out of hand. Men lost the wish to guide and teach their fellowmen along spiritual lines only; and instead they gained the wish for power, for prominence, for position, for personal property. The result is the Christian Church as we have it today, the Christian Movement as we have it today in all its various branches. I know what I speak of. My father was a clergyman. He destined me for the Church. But I did not enter it. I could not. I dare say that I spent the years between 12 and 18 of this body in one of the most heart-searching, industrious studies of Christian origins and Christian evidence that it has ever been the lot of a poor tortured lad to go through. When I say tortured, I mean torture of heart and mind. It cost me not a little to disappoint my father whom I worshiped. But I could not follow his wish!
But thus I found that those men who mock at Christianity are foolish. Let them mock at the hypocrisy, let them expose the insincerity. All that is perhaps proper. There have to be destroyers in the world, they are sometimes needed. But any man — and this I know from my own study — any man who looks upon Christianity merely as a system originally based upon priestcraft, deception, and imposture, is either a knave or a fool. That is my opinion. You will never find any Theosophist saying one word against the teachings of the Avatara-Jesus. How can we, how could we? He is one of our own! But his teachings are not the Church which has departed from them and forgotten them. Yet even today there dwell the gleams of the evening sunset in the so-called Church of Christ; there still remains something of the original aroma coming from that great god-man’s brain and heart — an entity at least — truly a suggestion of higher and nobler things than the merely material notions of the blind world around us!
So, to me, Christianity when understood and explained, is theosophical: I would not say that it is Theosophy, but it is theosophical; and even the Christian Church has enough in it to merit our respect and kindly thought. The mere fact that the ray streaming from its great Founder’s heart even at this late day can give encouragement after a manner, and help after a manner, shows that in the Christian Church yet the night is not fully fallen, the light has not absolutely gone out.