What are the qualities of life? Are the physical senses and intellect alone enough to understand its mystery? Scientists are looking billions of light-years in space and delving into the endlessly small subatomic regions. Both these extremes are but portals into the vast realm of energies, substances, and mind. This new metaphysics points to consciousness as a causative agency, a unifying factor, behind the cosmos. We are returning to a view of a more primal living world where nature has purpose and intelligence, revealing a brotherhood of lives. Knowing our inner connection with all things deepens our perspective and forms a more satisfying ethic. Gradually we are realizing a basic wisdom: that nothing is separate from anything else, for cosmic consciousness is everywhere — including here within us.
Symbiosis, a cooperative living together, is far more fundamental than the struggle of the "survival of the fittest." We depend on smaller lives — cells, microbes, atoms — and they need us. This symbiosis works along with pressures of the physical environment which is a factor in the selection of better adapted organisms. Struggle does occur in nature, but harmony prevails. Going into an unspoilt place — a beach, mountain, or desert — we sense a serenity, an order, that transcends even the physical beauty. What makes all this possible? Does it reveal the causal mystery of consciousness, a soul life and a superior order of spirit? And where do we fit into all of this?
Photo by John Van Mater, Jr.
The world's traditions and myths provide a picture of an infinite unfolding in which we can find our place; a world where every particle is divine at its core, where there is no such thing as lifeless matter. They describe the birth and destruction of worlds and universes, with gods initiating the patterns of evolution and growth, casting the seeds of life into new cycles. The divine essences are diffused throughout all the kingdoms of nature, which together are one living organic whole. This in large part is the basis of spiritual ecology, whereas the science of ecology confines itself to physical interrelationships among living things. Spiritual ecology reveals no separateness in essence among the many levels of being except in the illusory appearances of their more substantial expressions. The physical also to a degree reflects higher, intelligent operations which originate in the One that becomes the many — a wondrous living universe providing for its myriad offspring in every way, both in life and after death.
Where then, is our place in this universal divine ecology? There are countless beings occupying many worlds and planes, most of them invisible to us. Existing in different frequencies of vibration, their home worlds may be passing through ours now, in the same space, yet none may ever interact with the others directly. We simply are not conscious of them, nor they of us. All these planes and worlds are connected in essence with everything in nature, even though we may never perceive the bonds, especially with our physical senses. We nonetheless are affected by these interconnections, and we also affect them.
Spiritual ecology is part of an immense unfolding scheme. From the one divine homogeneity countless beings burst forth. Differentiation involves bipolarity, spirit and matter working together, blended as two aspects of one consciousness. W. Q. Judge gives a succinct idea, referring to " 'the essential Unity of all life and being.' Manifestation of life is differentiation of this unity, the purpose of differentiation is evolution, and the destiny of evolution is the return of all manifestation into its source and original unity" (Echoes of the Orient 1:165).
This process implies the cyclic activities of beings coming in and out of material existence. These cycles represent endless growth, a constant enlarging and becoming. There is the descent of a god-spark into the fields of matter where it builds its vehicles. When the universe reaches its most material point it reascends through the planes and
kingdoms of nature, unfolding its innate spiritual consciousness. Upon entering the human stage, the god-spark achieves self-consciousness and, finally, godhood. All beings continually spiral into higher states of evolution, advancing together, supporting one another in the one life; they cannot do otherwise.
What is behind this activity which is so intelligently coordinated and operated? Karma, the mysterious law of causes and effects. No being is exempt from karma. The operations of the universe are in general under the automatic guidance of the gods through inherent harmonious patterns. The gods collectively are cosmic ideation at work. They are the guardians of life, restorers of karmic balance. These divinities work through the highest primordial substance, which can be considered a collective memory, a transmitter of the divine vitality, will, and intelligence. All spiritual fields, spheres of mind and causation, have form, pattern, polarity, and resilience. There must be a series of transformers for the divine mind to work through to the physical. Three basic aspects — spirit, soul, and body — are primary; but all these form one interblended unity.
Monads are divine centers of consciousness. They issue forth from gods who project their spiritual souls as sheaths, yet remain fully conscious on their own level and act much like finely-tuned nervous systems with instant communication beyond our time and space throughout the vast cosmos. Further, every being acts from within itself and has its own degree of free will and intelligence, reflected in actions which in turn create destinies. A being experiences growth and change. This process of becoming is karmically balanced and recorded within itself as part of the inherent harmonies of the universe. Every being evolves along circular pathways, in and out of bodily forms, in order to gain experience. The journey leads to ever larger spiral patterns of growth, returning ultimately to the divine source.
Many different layers of consciousnesses and material vehicles are needed for the soul's experiences. Every entity is a spiritual ecosystem composed of smaller lives, just as our bodies are made up of countless lives — atoms, cells, organs — working in harmony and held in beautiful order and balance. They are worlds and universes real and substantial in their own right, and remain mostly undetected as such. Just as atoms and cells are part of us, we belong to the living earth, Gaia, which is incorporated in a living solar system. This cell is one tiny part of a galaxy belonging to superclusters of galaxies, and on forever.
Our home is the earth, yet we are also spiritual and divine beings, that is, solar and cosmic beings. What we see around us is the outermost product of an invisible creative process. Our physical bodies, senses, and personalities hide the inner life, our true self. The essentially divine stream of consciousness emanates all these layers as one flow until it precipitates the body and personality, which are the vehicles for its earth-life. Moreover, everything is in flux from the great breath, the divine motion, transformed into activities, wills, and harmonies of gods, monads, and atoms that build inner and outer universes on every scale. The dynamic of consciousness is the eternal cause of change and renewal. Everything is a vast interconnected web of beings for each of which there is a time, a purpose, and a season.
Individuality has its source in the divine monad. Monads are the crown of individuality, yet one in essence. They are like holographs of the cosmos with the infinite at their core; or like drops in the ocean of being, unique and yet one at the same time. They transmit energy like waves which break on the shores of manifestation — the ocean ever remaining itself.
The collective motion of all these evolving monadic beings represents the circulations of the universe — that is, the groups of entities that we call life-waves or kingdoms of nature evolving and moving forward. We've just begun to understand ourselves, not to mention the soul life of the tiny atomic beings, minerals, plants, insects, and animals as well. Perhaps humanity forms a thinking, self-conscious layer of Gaia's mind, while all the kingdoms are also aspects of her consciousness and body in an amazing expression of intelligence and spirit.
The world's wisdom traditions provide an important guide to discovering and earning our true place in the universe. They tell us of this endless divine ecology where we have experienced innumerable forms and states of consciousness. The monads go through the lower kingdoms — elemental, mineral, vegetable, animal — to reach the human. All these kingdoms are in us, plus the overshadowing of classes of gods, the awakeners of mind. Many sources say these gods were instrumental in giving us self-reflecting awareness and free will. From that point on human beings have been developing the capacity to experience higher, deeper realities of being, to express all types of thoughts, to create our own destiny and evolve by making choices.
A sense of separateness rather than of wholeness seems to dominate human thinking at this stage of our evolution; and so we wreak havoc on each other and on Gaia. However, there is growing awareness of our oneness with life. Not only are there cultures today more spiritually oriented than ours, but also more evolved human beings who have experienced directly the spiritual worlds of solar and cosmic extent.
Many Native American peoples, for example, teach the interdependence of every living thing. They have an ethic based on the sacredness of life. They see it as part of mankind's duty to help preserve a cosmic balance as an essential aspect of all existence provided by the divine power of the Great Spirit. They feel that every war, illness, or misfortune is due in some way to a loss of this balance, and try to restore it in part by their ceremonies and in their everyday life.
Ever since the awakening of self-conscious mind in humanity, Gaia has never been the same. Consider the power and force of so many minds circulating thoughts ranging from spiritual to selfish. These are bound to exert dynamic effects, not alone on the other kingdoms and ourselves, but even on the gods. Thoughts are elemental lives which circulate through the kingdoms, giving animals and plants certain qualities, either noble, or poisonous, aggressive tendencies. It stands to reason that these psychic, mental, and other discharges tend to build up, especially if humanity is out of harmony with Gaia. Change is inevitable in evolution, so periodically she cleans house and undergoes major global catastrophes to restore balance. This whole process is initiated by the divine consciousness which seeks new and finer expressions of its manifested life. Many traditions recognize that we have been through four previous world disasters, corresponding to the four previous major humanities, and that many thousands of years hence there will be another such global upheaval during our present or fifth humanity. It is inevitable that balance will be reestablished by the operations of karma. There are always forces of consciousness which interact as polar opposites, some working towards spirit, others aligned with matter, which maintain a dynamic equilibrium.
At the heart of everything is that divine Self providing the urge to grow beyond outer limitations towards the light side of spirit. For the greater good we must try to use wisely our spiritual powers, our self-conscious minds and faculties. Our true selves keep telling us to find the wisdom within and listen with the inner receptive ear. Every one of us, every being, contains a memory of all it was for eons in the past, and a foreshadowing of what it will be eons in the future. All we need is to recognize it — recall it, bringing it into our everyday consciousness. But this is no small task!
We must be collaborators with nature, sharing a great impersonal love and sympathy for all beings, for true ethics can be based only on spiritual oneness and universal brotherhood. Albert Einstein has some wonderful thoughts concerning the personal self and our liberation:
Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for each achievement is in itself part of the liberation and the foundation for inner security.
In bringing out a more fully conscious realization of our divinity we are able to be receptive to the vast inner currents and meanings of life, and know our true place in life's spiritual ecology. The outcome of this is to live unselfishly for the benefit of all beings.
(From Sunrise magazine, February/March 1998. Copyright © 1998 by Theosophical University Press)