The universe and all in it, great and small, is built in and upon consciousness, which includes in its qualities those other phases of cosmic being which we call life, mind, substance. Yet that consciousness, when applied to the universe, is an abstraction, and it is equally proper, and to many minds more accurate, to speak of the kosmic universe as being infilled with consciousnesses, infinite in number. These consciousnesses are in virtually innumerable stages of evolutionary development and are structurally arranged according to hierarchical families. Thus everything in the universe, considered as an individual expression of an indwelling and self-expressing monad, is not only an individualized atom of the Boundless, but in its inmost essence is philosophically to be considered as identic with the universe itself.
All space, infinitesimal and cosmic, is filled full of forces and substances in all-various grades of substantiality, ethereality, and spirituality. Such relatively physical force-substances as electricity and light may be cited as instances. For what are electricity and light, and indeed any other force-substance? They are, without exception, emanations from entities of cosmic magnitude. In other words, the Boundless is full of cosmic entities, each of which has its own universe acting as its own individual "bearer" or "carrier"; and the vital forces or energies in any such entity are the identical forces, energies, substances, which infill that universe, and therefore, because substantially of the nature of consciousness, direct it, guide it, control it, and are in fact that inner and eternal urge behind all the outer phenomenal appearances.
In the atom as in the cosmos, the same principles, the same energies, substances, and structural operations prevail, because both atom and cosmos are forever inseparable parts of the boundless All, and therefore reflect, each according to its power and capacity, the spiritual primordials which the Boundless contains. Hence cosmos and atoms — inner and invisible, outer and visible, worlds and planes and spheres, considered as a cosmic composite — are what we call not only the veils and garments of the cosmic life, but the expressions of that cosmic life itself.
Is consciousness then different from force or energy? No, consciousness or mind is both the root and focus of force or energy, their very soul, and being such, it is substantial, although not matter as we understand it. Our grossest physical matter is but the concretion of dormant monads, a vast aggregate of psychomagnetic consciousness centers. When they awake to kinetic movement or individual activity, these "sleeping" monads forming the matter around us begin their respective individual evolutionary journeys upwards again towards that freedom of spirit, of pure consciousness-force, from which in the beginnings of things they originally "fell" into matter, which is thus their own collective concretion.
This last thought gives the key to a clear understanding of what the forces of nature really are in themselves. They are essentially cosmic entities manifesting themselves in an energic fluidic form; and this fluidic form or activity is what we sense as nature's forces. They are the emanations or outpourings of the aggregative cosmic consciousness.
We may take gravitation, electricity, magnetism, heat, chemical affinity, light, as instances, because these are the cosmic forces that most usually come under the observation of human beings. They are all forces, i.e., outpourings from an individual source, this source being one of the cosmic entities with which space is filled; and these entities in their turn are ultimately to be traced back to their origins as emanations from the universal cosmic consciousness. Being forces they are likewise substantial, because matter and force are essentially one. Likewise, spirit (or consciousness) and essential substance are intrinsically one. So whenever there is force or energy, or its manifestations —gravitation, magnetism, heat, whatever it may be — it is likewise as substantial as it is energic; therefore it is likewise essentially consciousness expressing itself as consciousnesses.
In the esoteric philosophy heat and light are substantial just because they are forces. Being forces manifesting as energies, they have in them the same essential qualities that the human entity has, although not expressing themselves as these do in us. These aggregative factors are to be grouped as consciousness. Nevertheless these various forces of nature — gravitation, as an illustration — are not in themselves each one a consciousness, but each such force is rather the manifestation or self-expression of a cosmic consciousness: the emanation or vital fluid, expressing itself as gravitation, of some living, conscious, cosmic entity behind.
The forces of nature, then, are the vital fluids, working in the cosmos, of spiritual beings from whom this nervous energy flows, in whom this vital electricity inheres, and working and operating in their circuits around the vehicular being of the spiritual entity which thus emanationally gives them birth; or to put it in another way, each such cosmic force is the outflowing from some cosmic entity of its characteristic vital fluid of the particular grade belonging to this entity's lowest cosmic body.
This vital force or cosmic electric energy is inherently and throughout guided, automatically to us humans, by the mind and will of the cosmic entities from which it flows in emanational series — each unit in such series being what we call this, that, or some other force of nature. These cosmic entities in themselves form an interlocking and interwoven hierarchy of lofty spiritual intelligences; and because their individual characters are nearly akin, they cooperate in producing the entirety of the cosmic phenomena or operations which commonly are grouped under the term nature.
Human magnetism will perhaps illustrate this point in the small, as working in even such derivative phenomena as the circulation of the blood or the digestive functions. None of these functions of the human body, considered alone, is physical man. In their aggregate, combined with the framework of the body, they form physical man, but in themselves they are functions brought about by the interplay of the emanations of man's vital essence, and thus form the operative economy of his body, and are ultimately derived from the real man of consciousness and thought. These operations, which eventuate in producing and running the physical body, emanate from the man himself by and through the medium of his permeant consciousness and through the instrumentality of his will, acting in him partly consciously and partly unconsciously, precisely as the forces of nature act on the macrocosmic scale in the universe surrounding us.
— Condensed from The Esoteric Tradition, 3rd & rev. ed., ch. 9
(From Sunrise magazine, April/May 2003; copyright © 2003 Theosophical University Press)
We have today to learn to get back into accord with the wisdom of nature and realize again our brotherhood with the animals and with the water and the sea. To say that the divinity informs all things is condemned as pantheism. But pantheism is a misleading word. It suggests that a personal god is supposed to inhabit the world, but that is not the idea at all. The idea is . . . of an undefinable, inconceivable mystery, thought of as a power, that is the source and end and supporting ground of all life and being. — Joseph Campbell