Man per se is an invisible entity. What we see of him in and through the body is merely the manifestation of the inner man, because man essentially is a spiritual energy — a spiritual, intellectual, and psychomaterial energy, the adjective depending upon the plane on which we choose to discern his actions, for indeed he may be said to exist on all planes, inner and outer.
Though man is an invisible entity, he needs a physical body in which to live and with which to work upon this physical plane. He is a pilgrim of eternity. He came forth from the invisible part of cosmic being in aeons so far bygone in the past that mankind, except the great sages and seers, has lost all count thereof. He came out of the womb of cosmic being as an unself-conscious god-spark, and after wandering aeon after aeon through all the various inner worlds, passing at different stages through our own material sphere, and out again into the inner worlds, he finally became man, a self-conscious entity; and here we are. Future aeons of time will bring forth even on this our earth, into a far more perfect manifestation than at present, the locked-up faculties and powers existent in every human being; and in those days of the far distant future man will walk the earth a god, and he will walk this earth communing with his fellow gods, for he will then have brought forth the godlike powers now unevolved but nevertheless within his essence.
The heart of the heart of a human being is a god, a cosmic spirit, a spark of the central cosmic fire; and all evolution is merely bringing forth into a more perfect manifestation the infolded energies, faculties, powers, organs, of the evolving entity. And with equal step, as these faculties and energies become more able to manifest themselves, become more perfectly evolved forth, does the organism through which they work — the body — show the effects of this inner evolving fire, of this energy within; and thus also the body itself so evolves, because automatically reflecting in itself each inner step taken forwards.
Out of the invisible into the visible, like the growth of a plant, comes man, the man-plant of eternity. Beginning in one life on earth as a human seed, man grows to maturity, and produces or evolves forth what is locked up within; and then, with the natural decay of power, sinking to earth the body dies; and after a long period of rest and assimilation of experience in the invisible worlds, the inner spiritual flame comes again to earth for a new incarnation here.
Such in brief is the history of man, the man-plant of the ages. He is born and flowers a while and then dies down and rests, and with the returning life-season he springs anew into existence and again flowers and again dies down; but always the golden thread of self — the sutratman — passes through both time and space.
The spirit of man works through the human soul, and this human soul works through the vital-astral or ethereal vehicle or body or carrier: the transmitter of the energies or powers of the soul, which is psychomagnetically connected with the organs of the physical body; and this vital-astral principle thus works through the physical body and is carried into all parts of our physical frame, very much as the electric current is carried not only in but also over and around the wire. The spirit enfolds and guards and produces the human soul from within its own womb of selfhood; the human soul similarly permeates and produces the vital-astral vehicle; and this in its turn permeates and produces the physical body.
A human seed comes from the ethereal worlds and is the laya-center through which streams from and builds up from the interior worlds the body to be, cell by cell. This seed grows into the physical body and, as it grows, incarnation of the human energies takes place concordantly, coordinately, and progressively, until maturity is reached, and at that point you see the full-grown man and more or less fully incarnated human soul.
Man has holy loves, aspirations, hope, and vision. These belong to the spirit, which is immortal and deathless, and are transmitted through this intermediate nature or human soul, which human beings ordinarily call "I," much as the sunlight streams through the pane of glass in the window. The pane of glass is the vehicle or transmitter of this wondrous quality or force streaming from the sun above. The human soul is like this pane of glass, letting through as much of the golden sunlight of the spirit as its evolutionary development enables it to do.
The human soul is conditionally immortal, if man allies himself by will and vision with the deathless spirit within and above; and mortal if he allows himself to be dragged down into what is called matter and material instincts and impulses, which are wholly mortal and which all die when death comes and frees the immortal spirit within; so that when man goes to his sublime home for the inter-life period of rest and peace, only bliss and high vision and a memory of all that is great and grand in our past life remain. The soul is itself an ethereal vehicle or carrier of the deathless and immortal energies of the productive spirit or monad.
It is the monad, the monadic essence, which lasts from the beginning of the manvantara to the end of that majestic period of cosmic manifestation; which passes over the cosmic pralaya to begin its spiritual and other activities again when the new cosmic manvantara begins ["manvantara" and "pralaya" are Sanskrit terms meaning periods of cosmic activity and rest, respectively. — Ed].
And so on in cyclical periods recurring forever, the spirit or monad is constantly growing: it is evolving, on its way to become the superspiritual, finally to become the divine, then the superdivine. Is that the end of its evolutionary possibilities? No, it advances ever, endlessly evolving and growing. But words fail here to describe this sublime conception, and we can merely point to the evolutionary path vanishing in both directions into infinity and into eternity, as beginningless as it is unending.
The greatest lessons are learned in the invisible worlds; for this physical world that we see, despite its physical splendor, its illusory and magical interest, is but the shell, the garment, the body, the exterior; and just as from the interior of man flow forth all his thoughts, all his inspiration, all his genius, all his powers and energies, into the physical, and express themselves in the works that man does, so precisely all the manifestations that we see in the physical universe are but the expressions of the indwelling energies and faculties and powers and forces within that universe.
Man's inner spirit is the temple of infinitude, of its manifold life-energies and life-powers; and in the course of our cyclic progression into matter, these life-energies and life-powers manifest themselves outwardly. But we are now on the ascending arc of progressive development, and the whole trend of future evolution will be the development in mankind of the urge towards, and therefore the ultimate faculty of, looking inwards, so that individual man may know himself,. know himself as one of the collaborators with the gods in the construction and government of the universe, as one of the sparks of the infinite, cosmic fire. For man has everything locked up within him — every power and energy that exists in the infinite spaces; and all evolution is but the bringing out of these locked-up powers, the unfolding as a flower unfolds, of what is within.
The inner god is forever within you, surrounding you, overshadowing you, waiting for you; brought out into manifestation only through the aeons, as the aeons pass by into the ocean of the past, through self-directed evolution, which is the development of the inner man — of what you are in the core of the core of your being — into manifestation through the outer man. The whole purpose of evolution is the thinning of the thick veils of mind and matter, so that the light in the holy temple which is the human heart may splendorously illumine man.
What prevents the light from illumining man and what is it that inhibits the action of the inner god? It is personality — that is all, and all the evils that flow forth from personality. Not individuality, which is godhood, the indivisible part of us, deathless and immortal, which tastes never of death or of decay — but personality: the small, mean, petty, restricted, limited things which form a close and compact atmosphere around our being, and which scarcely anything except immortal love can ever penetrate.
Personality, selfishness, egoism — these are the things which inhibit the manifestation of the divine energies within us. These it is which cripple men, so that men do not give full expression even to the powers and faculties that they now have.
The way by which to grow is to shed the personal in order to become impersonal; to shed, to cast aside, the limited in order to expand. How can the chick leave the egg without breaking its shell? How can the inner man expand without breaking the shell of the lower selfhood? How can the god within manifest itself — your own divine consciousness — until the imperfect, the small, the constricted, the personal in other words, has been surpassed, cast aside? It is in impersonality that lies immortality; in personality lies death. The gods call to us constantly — not in human words, but in those soundless symbols transmitted to us along the inner ethers which man's heart and soul interpret as spiritual instinct, aspiration, love, self-forgetfulness; and the whole import of these voiceless messages is: "Come up higher!"
When a man has become cognizant of the god within, has set this god free, so to speak, by giving up the petty personality of ordinary life — the man's own personal selfhood — and thus has broken the bonds fettering and binding the transcendent powers of the god within, then the messiah, the risen Christ, the savior of each one, can manifest its sublime faculties and powers. Then man shall be a living Christ — risen from the tomb of the lower selfhood into the atmosphere of spiritual glory; and the Christ light shall be working in him. He shall have awakened the living Buddha in his being, or rather, shall have evolved forth the Buddhic splendor already in his soul.
(From Sunrise magazine, April/May 1994. Condensed from the author's Golden Precepts of Esotericism, ch 3, Theosophical University Press)