The Secret Doctrine establishes three fundamental propositions:
(a) — An Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless, and Immutable PRINCIPLE on which all speculation is impossible, since it transcends the power of human conception and could only be dwarfed by any human expression or similitude. It is beyond the range and reach of thought — in the words of Mandukya [Upanishad], "unthinkable and unspeakable."
To render these ideas clearer to the general reader, let him set out with the postulate that there is one absolute Reality which antecedes all manifested, conditioned, being. This Infinite and Eternal Cause — dimly formulated in the "Unconscious" and "Unknowable" of current European philosophy — is the rootless root of "all that was, is, or ever shall be." It is of course devoid of all attributes and is essentially without any relation to manifested, finite Being. It is "Be-ness" rather than Being (in Sanskrit, Sat), and is beyond all thought or speculation.
This "Be-ness" is symbolized in the Secret Doctrine under two aspects. On the one hand, absolute abstract Space, representing bare subjectivity, the one thing which no human mind can either exclude from any conception, or conceive of by itself. On the other, absolute Abstract Motion representing Unconditioned Consciousness. Even our Western thinkers have shown that Consciousness is inconceivable to us apart from change, and motion best symbolizes change, its essential characteristic. This latter aspect of the one Reality, is also symbolized by the term "The Great Breath," a symbol sufficiently graphic to need no further elucidation. Thus, then, the first fundamental axiom of the Secret Doctrine is this metaphysical ONE ABSOLUTE — BE-NESS — symbolized by finite intelligence as the theological Trinity.
Parabrahm (the One Reality, the Absolute) is the field of Absolute Consciousness, i.e., that Essence which is out of all relation to conditioned existence, and of which conscious existence is a conditioned symbol. But once that we pass in thought from this (to us) Absolute Negation, duality supervenes in the contrast of Spirit (or consciousness) and Matter, Subject and Object.
Spirit (or Consciousness) and Matter are, however, to be regarded, not as independent realities, but as the two facets or aspects of the Absolute (Parabrahm), which constitute the basis conditioned Being whether subjective or objective.
Considering this metaphysical triad as the Root from which proceeds all manifestation, the great Breath assumes the character of precosmic Ideation. It is the fons et origo of force and of all individual consciousness, and supplies the guiding intelligence in the vast scheme of cosmic Evolution. On the other hand, precosmic root-substance (Mulaprakriti) is that aspect of the Absolute which underlies all the objective planes of Nature.
Just as pre-Cosmic Ideation is the root of all individual consciousness, so pre-Cosmic Substance is the substratum of matter in the various grades of its differentiation.
Hence it will be apparent that the contrast of these two aspects of the Absolute is essential to the existence of the "Manifested Universe." Apart from Cosmic Substance, Cosmic Ideation could not manifest as individual consciousness, since it is only through a vehicle of matter that consciousness wells up as "I am I," a physical basis being necessary to focus a ray of the Universal Mind at a certain stage of complexity. Again, apart from Cosmic Ideation, Cosmic Substance would remain an empty abstraction, and no emergence of consciousness could ensue.
The "Manifested Universe," therefore, is pervaded by duality, which is, as it were, the very essence of its EX-istence as "manifestation." But just as the opposite poles of subject and object, spirit and matter, are but aspects of the One Unity in which they are synthesized, so, in the manifested Universe, there is "that" which links spirit to matter, subject to object.
This something, at present unknown to Western speculation, is called by the occultists Fohat. It is the "bridge" by which the "Ideas" existing in the "Divine Thought" are impressed on Cosmic substance as the "laws of Nature." Fohat is thus the dynamic energy of Cosmic Ideation; or, regarded from the other side, it is the intelligent medium, the guiding power of all manifestation, the "Thought Divine" transmitted and made manifest through the Dhyan-Chohans, the Architects of the visible World. Thus from Spirit, or Cosmic Ideation, comes our consciousness; from Cosmic Substance the several vehicles in which that consciousness is individualized and attains to self — or reflective — consciousness; while Fohat, in its various manifestations, is the mysterious link between Mind and Matter, the animating principle electrifying every atom into life. . . .
Further, the Secret Doctrine affirms:
(b) — The Eternity of the Universe in toto as a boundless plane; periodically "the playground of numberless Universes incessantly manifesting and disappearing," called "the manifesting stars," and the "sparks of Eternity." "The Eternity of the Pilgrim" is like a wink of the Eye of Self-Existence (Book of Dzyan). "The appearance and disappearance of Worlds is like a regular tidal ebb, flux, and reflux."
This second assertion of the Secret Doctrine is the absolute universality of that law of periodicity, of flux and reflux, ebb and flow, which physical science has observed and recorded in all departments of nature. An alternation such as that of Day and Night, Life and Death, Sleeping and Waking, is a fact so common, so perfectly universal and without exception, that it is easy to comprehend that in it we see one of the absolutely fundamental laws of the universe.
Moreover, the Secret Doctrine teaches: —
(c) The fundamental identity of all Souls with the Universal Over-Soul, the latter being itself an aspect of the Unknown Root; and the obligatory pilgrimage for every Soul — a spark of the former — through the Cycle of Incarnation (or "Necessity") in accordance with Cyclic and Karmic law, during the whole term. In other words, no purely spiritual Buddhi (divine Soul) can have an independent (conscious) existence before the spark which issued from the pure Essence of the Universal Sixth principle — or the OVER-SOUL — has (a) passed through every elemental form of the phenomenal world of that Manvantara, and (b) acquired individuality, first by natural impulse, and then by self-induced self-devised efforts (checked by its Karma), thus ascending through all the degrees of intelligence, from the lowest to the highest Manas, from mineral and plant, up to the holiest archangel (Dhyani-Buddha). The pivotal doctrine of the Esoteric philosophy admits no privileges or special gifts in man, save those won by his own Ego through personal effort and merit throughout a long series of metempsychoses and reincarnations.
Such are the basic conceptions on which the Secret Doctrine rests.
It would not be in place here to enter upon any defense or proof of their inherent reasonableness; nor can I pause to show how they are, in fact, contained — though too often under a misleading guise in every system of thought or philosophy worthy of the name.
Once that the reader has gained a clear comprehension of them and realized the light which they throw on every problem of life, they will need no further justification in his eyes, because their truth will be to him as evident as the sun in heaven.
(From The Secret Doctrine 1:14-17)
The Secret Doctrine is accurately named. It is the teaching which in all times has been held secret and esoteric. The world religions of the past and present may be proved to have sprung from it; . . . H. P. Blavatsky opens her work by enouncing three fundamental propositions. It seems to me that a correct understanding of these postulates would eliminate the many misunderstandings that exist today among men regarding the basic truths in religious thought. They unify, they separate never.
First, is her enunciation of an inscrutable Principle; the second postulate in the proem of The Secret Doctrine is that the universe is the playground, as it were, the field, the arena, the scene, of incessant, eternal, never-ceasing periodicity: that is to say, cyclical movement, the manifesting of the eternal life in the cyclical appearance and disappearance of worlds — stars, planets, and the other celestial bodies . . . She tells us, voicing the teaching of the ancient wisdom, that these worlds come and go like sparks, mystically called the "sparks of eternity." The life cycle of each of the greater bodies is of necessity of immense duration; and when we speak of time, human understanding demands that we shall have some measure by which we can understand what we mean by time, and by common consent the period of the earth's revolution around the sun, which we call one year, has been taken as an arbitrary measure. . . .
The third postulate — by no means the least in importance, that which is easiest to understand and which for us perhaps is most pregnant with truth — is that the universe and all in it are one immense, eternal organism.
This third fundamental proposition tells us not merely that the universe is one with all that is in it, but more particularly that the being of man — his body, his bodies; his soul, his souls; and his spirit — is but the offspring, the fruitage of forces. Here we come upon one of the teachings most necessary for us to understand in the magnificent sweep of theosophical philosophy, that of hierarchies; that is to say, that the kosmos, the universe, while one organism, is nevertheless formed of steps or gradations of beings, consciousnesses or intellects, of all various kinds, in which the universal life manifests, and that these are interrelated, correlated and coordinated, and work together in one unity towards one common object and end.
We see thus that we are not merely children of earth, beings like butterflies, born of a day; but verily sparks of the heart of being, of the central fire of the universal life. . . .
These three propositions may be called a synopsis of the entire system of esoteric philosophy. They are an epitome of the religious and philosophic reasoning of the human soul from times vanishing into unknown antiquity. Necessarily, therefore, are they very difficult to understand, and in some of their reaches they cannot be understood fully by the human mind. For instance, while we cannot say with reference to this first proposition what this Principle is, nevertheless we can talk about it, talk around it, say what it is not, as H. P. Blavatsky herself does when, after saying that in the words of the Upanishad it is "unthinkable and unspeakable," she proceeds to speak of it and to give the ancient teaching about it as it was understood by the greatest minds of olden times. . . .
Obviously H. P. Blavatsky did not use principle in a material sense. What, then, did she mean to convey? That this Principle beyond the reach of human thought must be all that which passes human understanding and which for that reason we can only call the All — a word simply expressing our ignorance, it is true; but it does express the fact that this ineffable Principle is All. Ultimately from it we sprang, back to it we are journeying through the aeons of illimitable time. All thoughts ultimately came from it, but by no fiat of a thinking mind, however great. The ancient philosophy tells us that we may liken the first stirrings of being in this All to the life germ in an egg. How marvelous it is that a thing which, when chemically analyzed, consists of but a few elements of matter, yet if not disturbed or destroyed, under proper conditions, brings forth a living being! . . .
On page two of the first volume of her work, H. P. Blavatsky says: "It is the ONE LIFE, eternal, invisible, yet Omnipresent, without beginning or end, yet periodical in its regular manifestations, . . ."
Is it possible inwardly to conceive the immensity of this spacial All and our kosmos, our universe, as hanging from It by a thread of spirit — our universe, not alone our dust speck of earth, but the universe comprised within the encircling zone of the Milky Way — and the numberless other universes hanging from It? . . .
The All itself never manifests; It is the Unmanifest; but it is true nevertheless that from It manifestation proceeds. To what can we liken It then? What were the pictures, the metaphors, by which the ancients explained the manifest proceeding from the unmanifest — the material from the immaterial, life from not-life, personality from nonpersonality, being, entity, from nonbeing and nonentity? Here is one figure: the world-principle is the sun. The sun sends forth innumerable rays of light; we may assume that the sending forth is eternal and in all directions; and that the rays of light are part of that which sends them forth. Thus did the ancients liken the sun to this All. The sun itself in their philosophy was but the material manifestation on this plane of a hierarchic series which had its roots again inmeshed in something still higher than itself, and so forth. How did they describe this Principle, this Unspeakable, in the Vedas? Silence and darkness surrounded the thought and they simply called it Tat; the English translation is "that" — not even "God," not even "the Shining One"; it was limited by no adjective, simply That.
Another figure was the World Tree, even more universal than that of the sun, found in the Hindu scriptures, in the ancient American Maya, Inca, Toltec symbols, found also in ancient Europe and preserved to this day in the Scandinavian Eddas. The World Tree — how is it imagined? It was figured as growing from above downwards, its roots rooted in That, and its trunk, its manifold branches, and its twigs, and its leaves, and its flowers, stretching downwards in all directions and representing the manifesting and manifested life, . . .
There exists in man a link with the Unutterable, a cord, a communication, that extends from It to the inner consciousness; and that link — such is the teaching as it has come down to us — is the very heart of being. It arises in that supersensory Principle, that unutterable Mystery which H. P. Blavatsky defines in the first fundamental proposition as above human mind. Becoming one with that link, we can transcend the powers of ordinary human intellect, and reach (even if it be by striving out, upward, towards) that Unutterable, which is, we know — though it is beyond human power to express it in words, or beyond human thought — the concealed of the concealed, the life of life, truth of truth, the ALL.
Here is the thought, it seems to me, which illustrates so well Katherine Tingley's words in this regard. They struck me as very beautiful, profoundly suggestive. She said:
Thinking towards the unthinkable is a wonderful, spiritualizing force; one cannot think toward it without a disposition either to think more or feel more — without opening up the inner consciousness of man. And when that inner consciousness is awakened, the soul finds itself closer to the infinite laws, closer to THAT, or that Great Center that no words can express.
By striving towards this inwards, towards the Inmost, we can attain to some conception, if not understanding, of the infinite Principle of all that is. From It, in the course of endless duration, there spring into manifestation at the end of the great universal or cosmic pralaya, the beginnings of things. These beginnings eventuate in the forms of life and being described in the second and third fundamental propositions. . . .
Realizing that we are one unity with all that is; that universal brotherhood is a fact of being, rooted in the very heart of things, unescapable, not to be avoided; and that our acts and thoughts act and react with inevitable consequence in all that we think and do — not only upon ourselves, the thinkers and actors, but on all other beings everywhere — how different might the lives of men be! Here, more than in the first two fundamental propositions, do we find the true religious, scientific, and philosophical basis of morals. No man can work unto himself; inevitably, inviolably he works unto others likewise. What he does affects others. These teachings are realities, real things.
Let us have the knowledge of it, let us realize that every thought is a thing which eventuates now or at some later day in an action; that the accumulation of thoughts along any one line shall produce its proper effect or effects; that in the chain of being one thing leads to another, and that our moral and physical responsibility is precisely something that we can never escape. When man realizes that he is responsible and inevitably will be called to an accounting, and that at any instant selfishness of motive or godlike love and compassion direct his acts, then we shall have every right to look for a regenerated mankind. — Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, pp. 4-14.
(From Sunrise magazine, April/May 1984. Copyright © 1984 by Theosophical University Press)