Consciousness of our sexual identity is so strong that gender may seem an essential part of being human. Yet the theosophical philosophy, which underlies world mythologies and religions, holds that humanity originally was not divided into sexes. The Bible, for instance, states that the first human beings were created "male-and-female" — in other words, as androgynous beings — and that later this double-sexed race separated into two sexes, symbolized by Eve emerging from the side or "rib" of Adam. Adam here is a collective noun, like the German Mensch, and indicates man in the sense of humanity. Again, Plato in his Symposium remarks that humans, originally ovoid androgynes, were separated by Zeus into male and female halves "like a hair dividing an egg," each half thereafter seeking the other in order to complete itself.
While scientists have seen life and consciousness as by-products of physical evolution, theosophy holds that physical bodies reflect the activity of underlying spiritual and psychomental forces. All in the universe are living, conscious, evolving beings rather than the end results of random and purely mechanical material processes. In this light the urge to evolve and the direction of development come from each entity's inner self. Moreover, evolution occurs in individuals who evolve through the eons-long process of reimbodiment, rather than through the forms of genera or orders somehow transforming themselves into one another through a series of physical changes.
Modern theosophical literature views human beings as innately sexless consciousness-centers which express themselves through material forms suited to their ever-growing awareness. Reproductive methods have altered very greatly as mankind has expressed itself through very different types of bodies under widely varying terrestrial conditions. Early stages of human evolution on this globe in this planetary cycle form a progression over millions of years from ethereal nonsexual beings, to more material androgynous ones, to today's sexual mankind. After all, the different forms of reproduction in nature are variations on one theme. All consist of an individual separating off a portion of itself which then evolves independently into a similar individual, whether through fission, budding, spores, seeds, or eggs hatched within or outside the body. Eggs may be self-fertilizing (containing both reproductive elements) or require fertilizing (containing only one element); in the latter case, the other element may be contributed by the same individual (hermaphroditism) or by a different individual (sexual reproduction).
The human body, as a human body, has passed through all these reproductive processes in its long history, recapitulating types in the lower kingdoms of nature which humanity's consciousness-centers helped build in the earlier great cycles or rounds of the earth's evolution. For far from being late arrivals, the inner selves composing the human kingdom existed before the foundation of the earth, and were gathered together with all other seeds of the earth's lives to bring the planet to birth eons ago.
Human evolution on this globe in this fourth terrestrial cycle recapitulated earlier great cycles. At first, humanity was ethereal rather than physical: gigantic, semi-astral "cells" which reproduced first by one form melting into its progeny and later by fission, as cells do today. These individuals knew no death in today's sense because they became their own descendants. As eons passed, the first great human cycle or root-race gave way to the second. Human bodies became more concrete, yet still astral: gelatinous and filamentoid, without bones, organs, hair, or true skin, somewhat analogous to today's jellyfish or the translucent flesh of the early embryo. These reproduced at first by budding, and later by a process similar to the casting off of spores or vital cells. These "humans" were unself-conscious and amoral, much like present-day animals. Passing through these ethereal conditions took many millions of years. Being less physical than the earth they lived on, they left no fossils.
By 20-25 million years ago, the early humans had entered their third cycle or root-race. At first still relatively ethereal, they were physiologically neither male nor female, and still reproduced by exuding vital cells. Gradually as their protoplasm thickened and condensed, it specialized into skeletal, nervous, muscular, and other systems and organs, so that the first recognizably human beings resulted, though still looking very different from humans today. As the reproductive organs became localized, humans became androgynous and reproduced by means of eggs, first matured outside the body and later within it, as is currently the case. The possession of traces in each sex of the reproductive organs of the other is a remnant of this hermaphroditism.
As humanity physicalized and its inner and outer vehicles developed in the third root-race, the human consciousness-centers began to express their truly human aspects. Every human being is composed of several distinct, karmically interlinked consciousness-centers at different evolutionary levels which correspond roughly to the kingdoms of nature. When the human intellectual center or self was able to express itself through its animal-human soul and physical body, mental forces entered self-consciously into human awareness. This point was the defining moment in human evolution, immortalized in myths around the world as the coming of mind. Many traditions describe this event as the incarnation of gods among humanity because it represents the emergence of our truly human selves under the influence both of our own inner divinity and of highly evolved beings who ignited and taught the consciousness of early mankind.
It was the bipolar activity of their mental faculties that caused the androgynous humans to gradually separate into two sexes. At first, occasional individuals were born in whom one or the other sex predominated, until finally sexual beings became the norm and androgyny disappeared. But while our psychophysical aspects manifest sexual differences, the spiritual and divine parts of us which survive from incarnation to incarnation continue to transcend sex entirely.
Human life changed radically with the coming of intellectual self-awareness. This development was closely connected with the dormancy of the so-called third eye of spiritual perception, the advent of "death," and the division of the sexes. The earth was approaching its most material state, and after the separation of the sexes the human body also reached its most material state, a phase referred to as the fourth or Atlantean root-race. At this time another important event took place: the cut-off point for membership in the human and higher kingdoms. Self-conscious mind had manifested in all the beings capable of expressing their intellectual principle during this embodiment of the earth. Similar cut-off points have taken place regarding the mineral, plant, and animal kingdoms in previous earth cycles; and others will take place in the future as some entities are able to evolve beyond the human stage and others are not.
As essentially spiritual entities, human beings express themselves through forms that change in accordance with inner needs and development. The physiological distinctions between the sexes reflect the present activity of our psychomental forces. As humanity as a whole gradually expresses the more evolved aspects of mind which transcend duality, the human body eventually will reflect the action of the bipolar life-forces which circulate through what in India are called the nadis ("tubes," "channels"). Nadi applies to tubes such as blood vessels and nerves, but particularly to three channels which form the spinal column: the sushumna, in the center of the spinal column; and the ida and pingala, astral-physical and energic channels on either side of the spinal column. These are closely connected with the chakras, both physical and astral, and carry the physical, psychovital, intellectual, and spiritual forces throughout the human constitution.
H. P. Blavatsky points up the connection of the ida and pingala with the sympathetic nervous system, stating that the
Sympathetic Cords take their rise from a sacred spot above the Medulla oblongata, called the Trideni. From this same spot start Ida and Pingala, an upper junction of the sympathetic and cerebro-spinal axes being thus formed. . . .
Sushumna is the central passage, Ida being on the left side of the Cord, and Pingala on the right. When the Sympathetic Cords grow together to form a new Spinal Cord, as said above, Ida and Pingala will be joined with Sushumna and they will also become one. Thus the Sympathetic Cords, which are concerned so largely with the glandular system, developed more in the female than in the male, and the Cerebro-spinal Axis, connected with the muscular system, developed more in the male than in the female, will reach equality or equilibrium, and with this the Androgyne becomes the typical Humanity. — H. P Blavatsky: Collected Writings 12:700-2
Thus, the purpose of the separation of the sexes was for human beings to fully bring forth the innate bipolar aspects of their lower mentality. As human beings achieve a balanced development between the psychomental forces associated with the nadis, the nadis will manifest physically as two channels or "spinal cords" in a then androgynous human body: since the bipolarity that presently causes the existence of two sexes will be equilibrated in each person, each will embody both the "masculine" and "feminine" qualities and so be androgynous physically as well as psychologically. Continuing on with the evolution of spirit and the involution of matter, human beings will finally become sexless, as they always have been in their more evolved, spiritual aspects.
Concurrently, human reproductive methods will necessarily change. As the human body becomes more ethereal, and we are better able to use our human and spiritual powers consciously, the present sexual process will give way to one in which a single individual will be the means of generating another human being through a process Blavatsky described as "will and yoga," in Sanskrit kriyasakti: the power of active will and creative imagination which produces external results. Humanity will end this present cycle of evolution on the earth as a race of mind-born Christs and Buddhas.
Today human beings are neither entirely male or female: along with a latently androgynous body, we are psychologically androgynous to one degree or another, manifesting both polarities of lower mental and emotional forces. Why should we expect otherwise when all of us have experienced many lives in bodies of each sex? In a series of lives a person may incarnate several times as a man, then live several lives as a woman, oscillating back and forth as the polarity of lower psychomental forces swings gradually one way and then the other, according to the person's thoughts and experiences, until balanced development is ultimately achieved. Therefore neither sex is superior, nor are the members of one sex as a group superior to those of the other. Each person evolves as an individual, using a particular type of physical and psychological apparatus because of psychomental tendencies built up over recent earth lives, and because of karmic demands and opportunities.
But physical factors are only one aspect in the evolution of the sexes. Humanity is bathed in the thought-atmosphere of the earth, the akasa: the storehouse of those living energies called thoughts and feelings. This nonphysical yet very real collection of psychomental energies impinges on every person, each of whom attracts those thoughts and feelings most akin to his or her own keynote and temporary state of mind. Using as an analogy the morphic fields of Rupert Sheldrake, these energies represent psychomental fields built up by mankind since its appearance on earth. As these fields are reinforced by repetition, they may become very dominant and easy to access.
Over the span of recorded history, men as a whole have behaved in certain characteristic ways and exhibited a particular set of tendencies, which have set up strong collective psychomental habits or fields. The same is true of women as a group. According to Sheldrake, we attract by resonance the fields that are most like ourselves. A person born into a male body is like a radio preset to receive certain stations, while one in a female body is preset to receive other stations. Unless the innate characteristics of the individual override this inherent susceptibility, the person will tend to manifest as a default these typical male or female responses and psychology. In this way the habitual behavior and experiences of men and women worldwide throughout time have created default tendencies for human thought and behavior, some of which are desirable, others not so. Some no doubt reflect physiological differences in brain structure and functioning related to the bipolarity of mental forces. Therefore it is important to be conscious in our choice of thoughts, feelings, and actions, and to examine whether these flow from what we value and believe or are simply unconscious collective habits influencing us from the akasa.
Our varying past and future conditions indicate that sex and sex differences are not fundamental to human existence. Because the earth has passed the most material point in its evolution, the emphasis for its kingdoms is shifting from physical manifestation to spiritual expression. Future human evolution depends on our cultivating the higher mental, intuitive, and spiritual qualities which show forth as compassion, selflessness, strength of will, knowledge, intuition, self-determination, self-expression, cooperation, service, justice, and love, among many others. Certain of these qualities have been associated primarily with one or the other of the sexes, as has been the case with less desirable traits such as aggression, violence, ignorance, competitiveness, subservience, weakness, frivolity, and passivity. Progress as human beings, however, rests on each individual achieving balanced spiritual growth. Both men and women need to bring forth all the positive human qualities emphasized in spiritual traditions worldwide, and to face and overcome the negative aspects in themselves. Pursuing this path of development, we can each become not only a more complete human being, but also a truer, fuller expression of the divine consciousness-center that we essentially are.
(From Sunrise magazine, April/May 1995. Copyright © 1995 by Theosophical University Press)