The origin of consciousness lies at the heart of the ‘darkness’, which is all that remains at the end of a period of existence. In this state – known as pralaya in Sanskrit – all that once existed has been reduced to the opposing poles of duality, now fused into their antithesis, and even then, remaining only in potential. Only non-being, non-existence, the opposite of being or existence, remains of the great, cycling poles of duality manifesting and non-manifesting throughout unlimited eternities.

As duality vibrates through the whole term of the manifestation (manvantara) so it does through the whole of pralaya; in the one it is active in the other passive, in the one phenomenon in the other nuomenon – apart and in juxtaposition in creation, fused and united in pralaya. These then, are the poles within poles, the pairs within pairs – as the cycles are expressed within cycles. It is the dance of the opposites, the eternal flickering of the flame of love’s longing for its beloved.

The darkness of the void contains all, and in its fused polarity are the Father and the Mother. The Mother waits for the spark of the Father to penetrate her, even from within, for he sleeps wrapped in her invisible robes, deep within her potency. As he stirs, wakes, and pulls apart to start again his aeonic search for that which is his eternal desire, his spark – his potential – impregnates, remaining caught within the potential of the Mother’s necessity – her eternal need to ceaselessly give birth.

The Mother is all too often seen as illusion, in that she is the matter or form side of creation. But illusion is misleading in this context. She is the only means that the Father (spirit) has to develop and experience consciousness. And equally, he is the only means that she has of her creations becoming self determining – they would remain mere husks without his quickening life-force. Without Her nature He can not manifest and develop consciousness. She is the desired object in whose pursuit He – spirit – pushes out into identification with form. She is also Sophia the Divine Wisdom. She is the manifesting aspect of the Darkness, the Mother Deep, that which is known/knowable. She is The Beloved, who wraps herself around her lover clothing his desires, his will, yet he slumbers on, even in life – sees only his beloved’s illusory form and not herself. We are ‘the sleeper’ chasing our beloved through the endless corridors of our dreams, and could we but wake we would find ourselves already in her divine embrace.

It is spirit acting through matter – form – that gives rise to consciousness. In this way, spirit can come to know itself, without this partnership it can not.

To quote the Master KH. “But what is “Spirit” pure and impersonal per se? Why, such a Spirit is a nonentity, a pure abstraction, an absolute blank to our senses — even to the most spiritual. It becomes something only in union with matter.” – letter 93B The Mahatma letters to A P Sinnet.

Consciousness comes about as a result of the friction between spirit and matter, we could say between energies flowing at right angles to each other, or with opposing directions of spin. These are just examples; you can meditate on these as a starting point and see what other insights you can come up with.
But consciousness definitely evolves; it is not one thing in one state, like some timeless, unchanging condition of pure spirit. As consciousness evolves it acquires different characteristics, capacities, or abilities. These come about through experience, and are the fruits of the involution/evolution journey. For the purposes of this paper, the capacity or ability of consciousness to focus at specific areas of its field of activity is of prime concern – this is awareness. In awareness we see an action of consciousness, a specific focus for a specific purpose. It is the ability to focus consciousness at will which is the skill each one of us is developing in our lifetimes of experience.

In the early phases of the Earth Scheme, long before physical mankind came on the scene; spirit had to pass through many preparatory stages. This is the pattern of all things coming into manifestation. First the limits or boundaries are defined by the Great Devas, the Cosmic, Solar, or Planetary Architects. Then the involving energies emerge setting up pathways or archetypal patterns. Finally, prototypal forms of the principle, attribute, or manifestation that is to unfold emerge. The unfolding or evolving will take place according to the inherent characteristics (we could even say – laws) of the preparatory work. This process is not in any way arbitrary it is established by work accomplished in previous manifestations along similar lines. We can see a perfect example of this in our physical world in the genetic codes, which govern the physical development of a given organism.

When the monadic sparks of the first spiritual life-wave reach the physical plane at the farthest reaches of involution (on the downward arc), they must first occupy and work within the mineral kingdom (now beginning the ascending arc). In this form and at this stage, they are virtually unconscious. Yet in this extreme condition and limitation they gradually establish the first principles of organic growth via the development and subsequent action and reaction of chemicals and eventually the extension of lattices into crystal growth. Here then, are the embryonic patterns of the future vegetable kingdom – along with the chemicals and minerals needed for that future stage of expression.

Later, when those monads move on seeking higher forms of expression, they can use the patterns and modifications that were gained and experienced in the mineral kingdom to begin evolving the more complex forms of the vegetable kingdom. Thus we see the origin of organic life in physical terms, the process by which living organisms developed from inanimate matter, which is ‘generally thought’ to have occurred on earth between 3500 and 4000 million years ago. The scientific view of chemical evolution suggests a quantum leap to have taken place using energy from the sun and electric storms to form ever more complex molecules, such as amino acids, proteins, and vitamins, and eventually self-replicating nucleic acids. Sadly, the theories of scientists do not include spiritual consciousness, let alone monadic involution/evolution, in their mind boggling mathematical equations.

It is significant that basic plant cells have rigid walls or membranes, mimicking the crystalline structure of minerals. Animals, on the other hand, have flexible cell membranes, which can be seen as a consequence of the development of cellular chains in plants.

Cellular growth in the vegetable kingdom results in capillary action and rudimentary circulatory systems, which will later form the basis for fluid circulation in the animal and human kingdoms. We see the development of the assimilation of solar energy through the action of photosynthesis and the chemical exchanges of gasses. In mammals these can be seen in their later stages as respiration and the exchange of gasses which take place in the lungs with the blood-stream.

The vegetable kingdom provides us with the first example of rudimentary awareness in the monads, utilising the opposing forces of solar and Earth energies via leaf and root. Following on in the animal kingdom, the monads gain true awareness through the development of sophisticated sense organs. Yet these are extensions – further developments – of plant interactions with their surroundings. Plants have extremely rudimentary senses, embryonic compared to the later versions in animal and human. Plants ‘sense’ the light of the sun, even turning to expose more of their foliage to its life giving rays. They respond to sound because of the tiny hairs and micro fibres on stems and leaves (forerunners of the antennae of insects and the tiny hairs of the cochlea, which vibrate to sound waves). Plants are sensitive to touch and also to gasses. In this stage the monads reach out in every direction seeking sensation in their dream-like awareness.

The same two opposing forces are at work in humans and animals as in the mineral and the plant – the solar and the earth energies. The solar energies enter humans in rhythm with the cycle of respiration and in the same rhythmic cycle also through the chakras. Solar energies are also available to us as light radiation. The earth force – known as kundalini – rises from the ground, through the feet and legs to the base of the spine, from where it travels etheric pathways to the chakras, meeting the incoming solar force. The two forces rotate or spin in opposite directions to each other and so set up a plane of friction just inside the bell of the chakra. The result is physical awareness.

Both solar and earth energies have seven layers, fires, or potencies. Present humanity, now individualised, self aware monads, have three to three and a half layers functioning at this time. The physical layer, the etheric or pranic layer, the astral or emotional layer, and up to half of the mental layer. These were opened in and correspond to the kingdoms – layer one – mineral, layer two – vegetable, layer three – animal, and the half of layer four is from the development so far of the human kingdom.

Spirit sleeps in the mineral, dreams in the vegetable, stirs in the animal, and awakes in man.

Each layer or portion of a layer can flow only through channels that have been opened up for it. And each increase in energy flow is marked by a similar increase in consciousness or ability to focus awareness at an appropriate level or plane. The flow of energy and corresponding awareness are interwoven. Each supported by the other. This is why the responsible teacher cautions the student that it is dangerous to meddle with the flow of energy to the chakras (especially through pranayama – breath control). Any significant increase in flow without the spiritual development necessary to accommodate it may result in harm; such as life-long pain, unwelcome psychic visions, or even some form of mental impairment.

It is interesting to note that the life-wave monads arrive at the physical plane locked in the earth itself – earth bound. They then rise out of it in the vegetable kingdom yet are still bound to it by roots. First encased, and then rooted. Next, moving into the animal kingdom, they struggle free completely, and can even evolve forms that can fly above it. In the human kingdom, the monads reach beyond the earth and the air, with the ability to travel out into space.

Awareness needs to keep pace with our expanding capacity to know. The Higher Self or Spirit/monad must attain liberation and fulfilment in unison with the personal self. Just as with the solar and earth forces, the two must become as one with the freedom of expression that can only be found in the complete unfolding of consciousness and the complete mastery of awareness working together.

The Master KH, letter 93B again
“What is the good of the whole process of life on earth — you may ask them in your turn — if we are as good as ’pure’ unconscious entities before birth, during sleep, and, at the end of our career?”

As the human kingdom evolves, with many more individuals breaking into higher awareness, the second half of layer four of the earth and solar fires will become ever more integrated into our human makeup. This will endow us with readily accessible higher minds just as the first half of layer four gives us lower mind. This stage of consciousness is referred to as enlightenment and by degrees, as each individual opens up, brings about a much needed higher consciousness generally in human affairs.

We may say that consciousness is not personal but rather impersonal. It is universal; omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient. We have consciousness because we are a fraction, a fragment, a spark of that Divine Universality. In the fullness of time, of evolution, we will come to knowingly identify with that universality.

“Know ye not that you are Gods?”  [Hermetic injunction]

From this point of view we may say that while consciousness is universal, awareness on the other hand is personal. Awareness can be thought of as how we focus the impersonal and universal power of consciousness for our own individual use. This is like our own bubble of that great sea. Awareness, however, is in itself unfocussed; more of a background than something specific. During sleep awareness shifts to the less controlled subconscious states, wherein we experience within a range of energy bands from blankness or dreaming to a full waking awareness of an inner plane or world.

In order to register and measure items, concepts, and particulars within this general field we need to refocus awareness into a narrower range. This can be seen as our perception. It is what we perceive within the general background of our personal awareness – that which we concentrate or focus on. We are surrounded by images and information from the total background of the space we occupy but we can isolate to a great extent the individual things that interest us leaving all else as peripheral.  This, then, is what we actually perceive. The ability to focus on specifics is what helps us to learn and to evolve beyond the instinctual levels of awareness of the younger kingdoms.

The mind is the main receptacle or embodiment of our individual conscious awareness. Our mental bodies have evolved to the extent that they can focus awareness like a light is focussed through a lens. This is not confined to awareness of objects and external vibrations received through the five senses – such as in the lower kingdoms – but also include concepts, self reflection, and creative imagination. Phrases such as ‘rigid thinking’ and ‘hard headed’ are indications of an inflexible mental body – a lens that is not malleable enough to refocus beyond well established boundaries. We call such boundaries conditioning or programmed thinking.

The evolution of consciousness in the human kingdom requires the gradual development and eventual mastery of our mental bodies as we reach for harmonic resonance and unity with universal consciousness. It is this task that heads the list of key notes for our Root-race – the fifth, with the fifth Sub-race leading the way. However, all peoples, of whatever Sub-race, are playing their part in this to some degree adding their unique note to the human song at this time. Future Sub-races – sixth and seventh – will take this development even higher, as they explore the Love/Wisdom and the divine Will aspects of human potential from the stepping stone of higher mind.

Thinking is good for the mind; it is as food is to the body. Imagination is good for the higher mind; it is a creative power, which must be exercised. Meditation is good for the spirit; it helps us to take full possession of our mental body freeing it from conditioning and leads to Self aware conscious living.

Having reached this far along the course of involution and evolution, we humans can now come to comprehend our own nature. We can see both ways along the roadway of creation; back to our unconscious circling through embryonic principles and patterns long before the earth was born, and forward to the divine archetypal perfection of the Masters of Wisdom and the Great Beings who’s work is to create, guide, maintain, and oversee planetary schemes such as ours.

We perceive:
We are aware:
We are consciousness.

At the birth of the universe the Absolute had an Idea; it then willed and there was an interaction, a friction, which produced Sound, followed immediately by Light.  The first step towards manifestation was audible (the Word) and the next visible. This primordial Sound reverberates throughout all existence and vibrates in every atom.

Hazrat Inayat Khan wrote that there are two aspects of vibration, fine and gross, in varying degrees.  The inward and essential part of each and every being is composed of fine vibrations, which we name spirit.  The external part is formed of gross ones; this is matter. It is now known that space is filled with sounds; the whole universe is vibrating musically, harmonising the movements and activities of all within it.

Theosophist George Arundale described sound as the “slow motion of silence”, because the vibrations are slow enough for us to hear with our physical ears.  He added that the very word ‘silence’ is a word we use in order to indicate that we have reached a vibratory condition infinitely beyond our comprehension.  Perhaps there is no silence anywhere, and Silence is pregnant with Sound.

Hazrat Inayat Khan suggests that the Soundless Sound is audible without the help of the ears, and indeed when, in 9th C. China, a Zen student asked his teacher: “how should I hear correctly?” the master replied: “Not with your ears.”  There is a yogic practice whereby the yogi closes the ears with the thumbs, the eyes with the index fingers, the nostrils with the middle fingers and the lips with the remaining four fingers.  After some time the yogi will begin to hear the mystic sounds.  The first will be like the hum of a bee, next the flute and then the vina (Indian stringed instrument); later comes the sound of bells, and afterwards thunder. (The Mysticism of Sound and Music’)

According to HP Blavatsky’s [hereafter HPB] little gem, ‘The Voice of the Silence’, we will become the Light and the Sound.  She gives us Seven Sounds by which we may attain the One Sound.  I am not the only one to be fascinated, yet puzzled, by these Seven Sounds.  I think it is important to remember that each sound is an attempt to describe the sound heard and not the actual sound.  Various Theosophists have written about the Sounds over the years from different perspectives.  I like to look at them as marking the milestones from our Source, through involution to evolution, and finally back to the Source.

HPB writes: “Before thou set’st thy foot upon the ladder’s upper rung, the ladder of the mystic sounds, thou hast to hear the voice of thy inner GOD (the Higher Self) in seven manners.”  Note that the ladder of the mystic sounds is the last rung of the ladder.  It is a ladder within a ladder.

Sound 1: “The first is like the nightingale’s sweet voice chanting a song of parting to its mate.”
I see the bird as representing the soul, the song of parting being the apparent parting of the soul from its source.  I was reminded of the song ‘Morning has broken’, in which the blackbird has spoken like ‘the first word’, so is linked with the beginning of a new manvantara.  In Fragment 3 of ‘The Voice of the Silence’ HPB writes of the nightingale of hope, which would fit in well with the birth of a new universe.

Sound 2: “The second comes as the sound of a silver cymbal of the Dhyanis, awakening the twinkling stars.”
This sound appears to tell of the birth of the Cosmos.  Brahma played Nada (potential vibration) on his cymbals; it was from this that the universe arose.  The cymbal also stresses duality as there have to be two parts brought together to make the sound, whether it be a large orchestral cymbal or a small Indian one; but at least the Indian cymbal has two parts joined permanently together!
The term Dhyanis, or Dhyani-Chohans means literally ‘Lords of Meditation’ and they correspond with the higher angels and archangels.  Geoffrey Barborka, in ‘The Divine Plan’, writes that the term signifies the state of lofty beings devoted to the contemplation of the Divine Plan and to the means of unfolding and fulfilling it.  As well as directing intelligent forces and administering Divine Laws including Karma, they endow us with our seven principles.  HPB tells us that there are seven groups of Dhyanis and they are the Seven Rays.  They make us what we are as individuals.  So perhaps the twinkling stars that the Dhyanis awaken are the divine sparks.

Sound 3: “The next is as the plaint melodious of the ocean-sprite imprisoned in its shell.”
This suggests very much the imprisonment of spirit in matter; it is a sad song because not only is it imprisoned, but no-one seems to know it is there.  The ocean could be the sea of thought that surrounds us.  The shell suggests our spiral outward growth from the centre out to the most material; now we need to take the return journey back to the centre.

Sound 4: “And this is followed by the chant of the Vina.”
In Fragment 3 of ‘The Voice of the Silence’ HPB tells us that “disciples may be likened to the strings of the soul-echoing vina; mankind to its sounding board.”  This suggests that the chant of the vina would be a joint effort between the higher and the lower self, which could be seen as representing the antahkarana, the rainbow bridge.  We are also reminded of the duality of mankind, as the sounding board is actually two separate gourd-like resonators.  The vina is linked with Brahma’s consort Saraswati, the Goddess of all Knowledge.  She plays the vina to show that intellectual learning needs to be tempered by higher feelings.  It will be of no surprise to learn that most vinas have seven strings, four of which are played, the other three kept for rhythm and drone accompaniment.  This is reminiscent of the four lower principles, where it could be said all the action is played out, and the three higher, which are, drone-like, the eternal foundation of our existence.
Elsewhere HPB describes the body as an Aeolian harp, chorded with two sets of strings, one made of pure silver, the other of catgut, linked respectively to the manasic (mental) and kamic (desire) aspects of the body.

Sound 5: “The fifth like sound of bamboo-flute shrills in thine ear.”
The shrill melody of the flute is surely a wake-up call.  Here may be a reference to our Inner, non-physical ear, whereby we receive intimations of what we should be striving towards.  In India the bamboo-flute, the bansari, is the poor man’s instrument as it is so simple; the message is simple.  The preserver of the world, Vishnu, in his incarnation as Krishna, plays the flute whose melody symbolises self-realisation.

Sound 6: “It changes next into a trumpet-blast.”
This trumpet blast is a glorious, brilliant fanfare, announcing the imminent arrival of the liberated soul.  This is like listening to ‘The trumpet shall sound’ from ‘Messiah’ after hearing James Galway playing a lilting folk-song on his flute!

Sound 7: “The last vibrates like the dull rumbling of a thunder-cloud.”
The seventh swallows all the other sounds.  They die, and then are heard no more.  The dull, rumbling vibration suggests the continuous process of creation, preservation and destruction symbolised by the Nataraja, the dance of Shiva.  All the other sounds are reliant on vibration.  If the thunder ended that would be the end of manifestation.  Buddha likened the eternal laws of the universe to the rhythm of the drum; he spoke of the ‘drum of immortality’.

C W Leadbeater was reminded of the Tibetan ritual music, which is built upon the deepest vibrations imaginable, like rolling thunder, symbolising the creative vibrations of the universe, the origin of all things.
George Arundale also sees the drum rolls as never ceasing through an age of evolution.  He wrote, in his dramatic style, “Richer and richer in tone and colour become their cadences, more thundering and compelling, almost cataclysmic, often catastrophic, stormy, peaceful, but ever moving onwards to their divinely appointed end.”  And then the King is crowned, there is self-realisation, and he becomes a god, God.  The drums cease.  And in the aftermath of their cessation, in that Silence which indeed is more than Sound, infinitely more, the King-god enters that Samadhi of No-Number, No-Sound, No-Form, No-Colour, No-Radiance, of which there can be no adequate description. (‘The Lotus Fire’)

In HPB’s story ‘An Isle of Mystery’, in her book ‘From the Caves and Jungles of Hindostan’, is a marvellous description of how the evening winds blow through the bamboos and grasses, creating a ‘wild unceasing symphony’.  Amongst the sounds heard are the song of a nightingale, the sound of hundreds of ringing silver bells, the heart-rending howl of a wolf deprived of her young, the separate notes of a flute, hundreds of Aeolian harps and the thundering strains of an organ.

I would like to close with some words from Ernest Wood’s book, ‘The Intuition of the Will,’ which I find rather beautiful and encouraging.  He writes of the mystic sounds: “All this is metaphorical and symbolical.  As time goes on, and the aspirant pursues his unchanging purpose, the voice from within, which at first was so delicate that he had to stand on the tiptoe of breathless expectancy in order to catch its divine message, becomes constant and ever-present.  His day is full of its sound, which fills every valley and echoes from every hill.  There is then not one small event in his life, not the picking up of a pin, nor the tying of a shoelace, which is not lighted with spiritual significance.  Every incident in the newspaper becomes an epic; every dusty corner in a slum is a world filled with wonders.  Every small thing, every small action has become divine, far-reaching, universe-shaking.  All things have become new, and filled with light.  It is as though all the universe were within yourself.”

“Q. Apparently, then, the whole basis of occultism lies in this, that there is latent within every man a power which can give him true knowledge, a power of perception of truth, which enables him to deal first hand with universals if he will be strictly logical and face the facts. Thus we can proceed from universals to particulars by this innate spiritual force which is in every man.

A. Quite so: this power is inherent in all, but paralyzed by our methods of education, and especially by the Aristotelian and Baconian methods. Hypothesis now reigns triumphant.”
‘Secret Doctrine Commentary’ by H. P. Blavatsky (founder of the Theosophical Society)  page 47 (part 1.)

Consider The Theosophical Society, which it is often repeated, is a ‘Society without a dogma’. No one is asked about their religious or philosophical beliefs prior to joining, and the sole condition of membership is acceptance of the Three Objects of the Society. Members may profess any creed; pursue any Spiritual Practice in their pursuit of Truth. So the obvious conclusion is that Theosophy must be ‘all things to all men’. Theosophy is a definite body of thought, the Wisdom Tradition of mankind, we are told by the Founders of the Society.  The common Spiritual Nature of Mankind –epitomised in the First Object of the Society, Universal Brotherhood – is a guarantor of this Universal Body of Truth.  The Theosophical Society has no creed not because it has no definite Truths to offer, but because one either recognises a Truth – or fails to; an acceptance of anything ‘on paper’ achieves nothing.

‘[Thomas] Vaughan offers a more philosophical definition [of Theosophy]. “A Theosophist,” he says—“is one who gives you a theory of God or the works of God, which has not revelation, but an inspiration of his own for its basis.” In this view every great thinker and philosopher, especially every founder of a new religion, school of philosophy, or sect, is necessarily a Theosophist. Hence, Theosophy and Theosophists have existed ever since the first glimmering of nascent thought made man seek instinctively for the means of expressing his own independent opinions.’ Blavatsky Collected Writings volume 3 page 88.

But there are truths and there are Truths, and, as the word ‘Theosophy’ means ‘Divine Wisdom’, it is the latter with which we are concerned. The scope of Theosophy is the sense of human wonder, psychological insight and compassion that have inspired the great philosophers and thinkers of the past, with perennial questions of universal significance. Not in itself anti-scientific (the subtitle of Madame Blavatsky’s main work on Theosophy, ‘The Secret Doctrine’ defines it as a ‘synthesis of Religion, Philosophy and Science’) it implies that an over – emphasis on detail can lead to a loss of meaning, an inability to ‘see the wood for the trees’:

‘As long as exact science confines its observations and proceeds Aristotle-like, it certainly cannot fail [nb., within these narrow limits – the classification of data]. But notwithstanding that the world of matter is boundless for us, it is still finite [this was written 30 years before Einstein]; and thus materialism will turn forever in this vitiated circle, unable to soar higher than the circumference will permit.’

Isis Unveiled volume 1 page 7

Theosophy seeks knowledge of essentials, not of the contingent, things that must be rather than those things which are but which might just as easily be something else (this is one of the things that distinguish it from various systems of fortune-telling, such as Astrology.) Madame Blavatsky, describing Plato’s approach to knowledge and truth, sums it up thus:

‘For the old Grecian Sage there was a single object of attainment: REAL KNOWLEDGE. He considered those only to be genuine philosophers…who possessed the really existing, in opposition to the mere seeming; of the always existing, in opposition to the transitory…”Beyond all finite existences and secondary causes…there is an INTELLIGENCE or MIND [nous, the Spirit], the First Principle of all Principles, the Supreme Idea on which all other ideas are grounded; the lawgiver of the universe; the ultimate Substance from which all other things derive their being and essence…” Though this eternal essence of things may not be perceptible to our physical sense, it may be apprehended by the mind of those who are not wilfully obtuse.’

Isis Unveiled volume 1 pages xi/xii

By a process of study, reflection, meditation and service we raise our perceptions out of the rut of the personality, beyond the limitations of our conditioning, be they personal, national, racial or whatever. As we begin to see things in perspective, we learn to separate the essential from the inessential.

Unlike exoteric, or profane, systems of thought, Theosophy also insists that there is a moral dimension to knowledge. In a secular era which emphasises the free availability of ‘information’ (often just idle chatter), and ‘effort free’ systems of psychic development, the moral content of an individual not only determines their behaviour but also the quality and nature of their perception:

“Plato, speaking of the Soul (psyche), observes that when she allies herself to the nous [divine substance, a god…], she does everything aright and felicitously; but the case is otherwise when she attaches herself to anoia [loosely, folly].

Isis Unveiled volume 2 page 282

Thus it was that the Path to True Wisdom was ever pictured as a series of Initiations, liberation of the Divine ‘Inner ‘Man from the trammels of the flesh and ignorance:

“The closer the approach to one’s Prototype, “in Heaven,” the better for the mortal whose personality was chosen, by his own personal deity …, as its terrestrial abode. For, with every effort of will toward purification and unity with that “Self-god,” one of the lower rays breaks and the spiritual entity of man is drawn higher and ever higher to the ray that supersedes the first, until, from ray to ray, the inner man is drawn into the one and highest beam of the Parent-SUN[the Nous.]”

The Secret Doctrine volume 1 pages 638/9

What is the nature of the Divine Knowledge revealed to Mankind in Theosophy? Can knowledge of divinity be couched in any meaningful language at all? Obviously it will bear no similarities to, for example, the Mosaic ‘revelation’ on Mount Sinai, a series of very specific ‘shalts’ and ‘shalt nots’ – a rather peculiar expression of ‘eternal’ knowledge (Incidentally, much of the follies of the world can be attributed to the mistake of taking the cultural peculiarities of one particular tribe or racial group as direct revelations from on high, and seeking to impose them on all peoples at all times. True Theosophy seeks the divine in all genuine religious movements, but is just as careful in discarding the purely human from its purview.) Once again, Blavatsky calls upon the wisdom of Plato – and a somewhat more modern source – to provide us with an answer:

“With Plato, the Primal Being is an emanation of the Demiurgic Mind (Nous), which contains from the eternity the “idea” of the “to be created world” within itself, and which idea he produces out of himself. The laws of nature are the established relations of this idea to the forms of its manifestations; “these forms,“ says Schopenhauer, “are time, space, and causality. Through time and space the idea varies in its numberless manifestations.”

Isis Unveiled volume 1 pages 55/6

And here is the paradox of the human situation: we are told by the authentic spiritual traditions of the world that manifestation is the expression or radiation of an ineffable spiritual reality, the reflection of a ‘divine mind’, and  that the True is eternal, and yet when we view the world we see imperfection and transiency. Does this mean that the ‘Divine Plan’ is awry, that we must seek refuge in our meditation cushions, or that the only Divine realm we must seek is some paradise beyond the here and now?  No: the universal ideas, the true essences around which manifestation clusters and towards which our understanding guides us, are not separate from the limitations of manifested existence – we cannot have the one without the other, and true wisdom consists in learning to live our lives under the shadow of this startling dichotomy: There is Nothing Infinite Apart from Finite Things.

If there is one obvious truth then it must be the simple fact that everything we experience is an experience within our consciousness. Without consciousness there would be no experience at all. Even doubting this statement can only be done with a doubting consciousness. One may question the reality of everything one sees, feels or thinks, but one can never question the reality of one’s own conscious being. This much we know, even though we know nothing else: ‘consciousness is’.

A true understanding of life has therefore to begin with the reality, even the primacy, of consciousness. Any convincing system of knowledge is obliged to teach some kind of idealism; in the sense that consciousness, and not matter, is the most reasonable basis for explaining the mysteries of life. As the German philosopher Schopenhauer reminds us in a most convincing way:

“[T]rue philosophy must at all costs be idealistic; indeed, it must be so merely to be honest. For nothing is more certain than that no one ever came out of himself in order to identify himself immediately with things different from him; but everything of which he has certain, sure, and therefore immediate knowledge, lies within his consciousness. Beyond this consciousness, therefore, there can be no immediate certainty […] There can never be an existence that is objective absolutely and in itself; such an existence, indeed, is positively inconceivable. For the objective, as such, always and essentially has its existence in the consciousness of a subject; it is therefore the subject’s representation, and consequently is conditioned by the subject, and moreover by the subject’s forms of representation, which belong to the subject and not to the object.” (The World as Will and Representation, Vol. II, Ch. 1)

Let’s illustrate this by investigating the nature of what we call matter. We ordinarily understand matter to mean something that extends in space, something hard and solid that is corporeal. But we immediately forget that these so-called characteristics of matter are derived from our sensations and are therefore only our representation. There are no such things as solidity, extension and hardness per se, outside of our sensations, outside of our consciousness. Spatial extension is only a combination of visual and muscular sensations, and hardness is nothing more than a tactile sensation. It is, therefore, incorrect to say that the hardness of a stone, for example, already exists outside of you waiting to be discovered by you. Physical solidity is only a phenomenon, which has no existence without beings feeling it. We literally feel the hardness of a stone into existence. H. P. Blavatsky gives us the following explanation in The Secret Doctrine:

“Matter existing apart from perception is a mere abstraction […] ‘Matter’ ought to applied to the aggregate of objects of possible perception, and ‘Substance’ to noumena; for inasmuch as the phenomena of our plane are the creation of the perceiving Ego – the modifications of its own subjectivity – all the ‘states of matter representing the aggregate of perceived objects’ can have but a relative and purely phenomenal existence for the children of our plane […] The pure object apart from consciousness is unknown to us, while living on the plane of our three dimensional World; as we know only the mental states it excites in the perceiving Ego.” (SD I, 329)
Since the world we know is nothing but our representation, other beings experience of course their representation. A dolphin or an ant experiences a completely different world. However, this does not imply that our representation is arbitrary or subjective, that nothing can possibly be unless we perceive it. The magazine you have in your hands may be nothing more than a phenomenon appearing in your consciousness, but this does not mean that it has no real being outside of you feeling it. So, to predicate that consciousness is primary to anything we may cognize does not imply that being is dependent upon being known. We humans can not create or destroy the material world at will, and to be sure, neither can dolphins or ants.

The material world with all its phenomena is imposed upon us, so to speak. Its sensible properties – i.e., how the world tastes, smells, looks, feels and sounds – are indeed defined by our senses and they depend upon us in this regard, but its reality, its very being, does not depend upon us. It is given to us. One of the greatest myths about idealism is that it would regard the manifested world as a figment of anyone’s imagination. Any sensible idealist accepts the existence of the observable world, just like everyone else does. In the words of Kant:

“In the true sense of the word, therefore, I can never perceive external things, but I can only infer their existence from my own internal perception, regarding the perception as an effect of something external that must be the proximate cause […] It must not be supposed, therefore, that an idealist is someone who denies the existence of external objects of the senses; all he does is to deny that they are known by immediate and direct perception.” (Critique of Pure Reason, A367)

What makes idealism different from materialism is its understanding of the exact nature of this observable world. Idealists do not agree with the materialistic stance that matter is the source of the world we experience, or that its real nature is something physical. But the world is certainly not something that people dream up. Claiming that the world originates from and depends upon consciousness, isn’t the same as claiming that the world isn’t really there or that it depends solely upon my consciousness. The illusory character of matter does not obliterate the objectivity of the world. Theosophy teaches therefore an objective idealism, not a subjective idealism:

“Esoteric philosophy, teaching an objective Idealism — though it regards the objective Universe and all in it as Maya, temporary illusion — draws a practical distinction between collective illusion, Mahamaya, from the purely metaphysical stand-point, and the objective relations in it between various conscious Egos so long as this illusion lasts.” (Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine I, 631)
In other words: the universe may be called, with everything in it, Maya, because all is temporary therein, from the ephemeral life of a fire-fly to that of the Sun. Yet, the universe is real enough to the conscious beings in it, which are ultimately as unreal as it is itself (SD I, 274). Or as H.P.B. mentions in one of her letters: “We are a Maya in one sense all of us; but we are realities in our own sight, in space and time and so long as it lasts on our plane.” (The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnett, p. 253)

Objective idealism differs from subjective idealism in its picture of the ‘mind’ or consciousness that underlies matter. According to subjective idealism, matter is only a construct based on the mental contents of individual observers, like you and me. According to objective idealism, there is however a single underlying Universal Mind, whose activity and content underlies objectively the existence of the entire observable world. Manifestation is nothing else than the continuous ideation of the world by the Universal Mind, and it is this ideation which is being presented to each individual mind. The observable world is not a subjective representation of my own private mind, but a superimposition by the Universal Mind upon all individual minds. That is why we share a common world, and we have a similarity of experience, and this not outside, but inside our consciousness. In the words of the Laghu-Yoga Vasishta:

“O Brahman, this earth and other things of the universe have for their substratum the mind, and do not exist at any period apart from the mind. Almost all persons in this world, walking in the path of this universe of dreams, delusion and egoism, look upon it as real and enjoy it. It is only in Chitta (the flitting mind) that the universe rests. Thus do diverse persons view the one dream (of the universe) in various ways.” (Laghu-Yoga-Vasishtha, V, 5)”
Objective idealism is a deathblow to materialism, but also to idealistic philosophies that reject the manifested world by degrading it to a mere illusion or fantasy of our ignorant minds. If we mistake the doctrine of illusion or maya for a teaching that advocates the absolute non-existence of the world, we forget that our differentiated universe was already in existence before there were any ignorant humans in the first place. The noble and intriguing idea of maya, of a metacosmic creative veil that hides the One Be-ness because IT is too sacred, but also unfolds IT by expressing an infinite number of beings, was never meant to explain the complexity of life away. No one can decode the mystery of differentiation by reducing it to our confused perceptions. Differentiation has its roots in the Deity itself. In the words of Krishna, the eternal logos:

“Even though myself unborn, of changeless essence, and the lord of all existence, yet in presiding over nature – which is mine – I am born but through my own maya, the mystic power of self-ideation, the eternal thought in the eternal mind.” (Bhagavad Gita, IV, 6)

Although the world of multiplicity, in its sensuous forms, is our representation, it must have a certain noumenal cause or essence independent of us. In other words: although what we see as a differentiated world is only a representation, it does not follow that this representation does not have differentiated causes independent of us. Well, these differentiated noumenal causes constitute the ultimate bases or monads (units) out of which all phenomena, all real beings are composed. The involuntary character of our representation of the world makes it necessary to admit the existence of such causes. And since the relative reality of the phenomena we see, which are multiple and differentiated, presupposes a more absolute reality of noumena we don’t see, these noumenal causes must also be multiple and differentiated.

If matter is our representation, the real indivisible atoms of nature, as the basis of reality, cannot be particles of matter. They must be incorporeal, metaphysical units. They must be monads. Separateness may be an illusion of the mind, but differentiation certainly is not. The uniqueness of each being is therefore not the result of us misinterpreting the world of phenomena. Maybe in our rush to see the Absolute One behind and above all that exists – a kind of metaphysical escapism – we are too quick in denying the one of each and every being. But how to reconcile the absoluteness of the One with the relativity of the Many? This reconciliation lies in the Absolute character of the Absolute itself. To say Absolute is to say Infinite and Unique – there are no two Absolutes in an infinite universe. Infinity and Uniqueness are an intrinsic aspect of the Absolute, otherwise it would not be Absolute, and it is from this dimension of Infinity that an Infinite amount of unique beings necessarily springs forth; the manifold world of relativity exists because the Absolute, being such, implies Infinitude and Uniqueness.

Reality is a Unity. But in order for Reality to be One, IT has to be all inclusive. This can only mean that IT has to be simultaneously a transcendental or absolute Unity (the One above all beings), a universal and immanent Unity (the One within all beings), and an individual and unique Unity (the One within each being). It would indeed be a misconception to misread the uniqueness of each living being as non-existent. The One of each being is a necessary expression of the transcendental One, while at the same time that being exists as part of all other beings. But its oneness, its pure being, is not found in the All, neither in the One above the All, but in the One that is fully present in both Each and All. In the words of Plotinus:

“Imagine a spring that has no source outside itself; it gives itself to all the rivers, yet is never exhausted by what they take, but remains always integrally as it was; the tides that proceed from it are at one within it before they run their several ways, yet all, in some sense, know beforehand down what channels they will pour their streams. Or: think of the Life coursing throughout some mighty tree while yet it is the stationary Principle of the whole, in no sense scattered over all that extent but, as it were, vested in the root: it is the giver of the entire and manifold life of the tree, but remains unmoved itself, not manifold but the Principle of that manifold life. And this surprises no one: though it is in fact astonishing how all that varied vitality springs from the unvarying, and how that very manifoldness could not be unless before the multiplicity there were something all singleness; for, the Principle is not broken into parts to make the total; on the contrary, such partition would destroy both; nothing would come into being if its cause, thus broken up, changed character. Thus we are always brought back to The One. Every particular thing has a One of its own to which it may be traced; the All has its One, its Prior but not yet the Absolute One; through this we reach that Absolute One, where all such reference comes to an end. Now when we reach a One – the stationary Principle – in the tree, in the animal, in Soul, in the All – we have in every case the most powerful, the precious element.” (Enneads, III.8.10)

Alchemy has come to be regarded as the ultimate transformative occult science. Throughout her voluminous writings Mme Blavatsky makes frequent references to this mysterious transmutation process – be it of man or metals. In Isis Unveiled she says: ‘Alchemy is as old as tradition itself.’ In Isis and The Secret Doctrine she asserts that alchemy was developed in Atlantis and perfected in the Far East before being exported to Egypt and then disseminated into Europe.

She describes alchemy as ‘magnetic magic’ and tells us that alongside the purification of base substances and flawed human spirits there was a third lost element: ‘the conscious immortality of the spirit’.

Alchemy is commonly associated with Egypt where it became associated with the mythical and composite figure of Hermes Trismegistus, the thrice great Hermes. It is from his name that we derive the name Hermetic, although alchemy is also often referred to as the royal or noble art. Alchemy was practised elsewhere in Greece and Mesopotamia as well as India. It reached the West through Islamic adepts like Jabir where it took hold.

Alchemy’s Golden Age in Europe from the fourteenth to the eighteenth centuries is replete with persuasive and well-documented accounts of adepts concocting the prized Philosopher’s Stone and turning mundane metals into gold. Their notion was that all metals aspired to be gold and alchemy was the science which could cure them of imperfections. Some city states boasted literally thousands of practising alchemists. Individuals such as Raymond Lully, Nicholas Flamel, Bernard of Treviso and Thomas Vaughan all achieved this in front of often sceptical witnesses.1 There were many other apparently successful practitioners but they were outnumbered by greedy charlatans and fraudsters.

The rise of rationalism and science (which ironically alchemy had helped to inspire) diverted the hermetic art from matter to spirit. Bubbling alembics gave way to notions of spiritual alchemy and personal transvaluation. Alchemy was intimately incorporated into numerous occult organisations from the Rosicrucians to the Golden Dawn. But as alchemy assumed a more metaphysical mantle, some adepts continued to experiment in manipulating matter, not with the intention of producing pure gold from lead but in manufacturing an Elixir of Life which would cure disease and prolong life indefinitely.

Paracelsus (c.1493-1541) was both an alchemist and a doctor, who railed against the traditional medical methods of his day based as they were on the four humours of Galenic medicine. Paracelsus is known as the father of modern medicine because of his radical and revolutionary approach to curing disease. His ideas can best be seen in homeopathy which uses almost imperceptible traces of substances to cure disease. For him the alchemical practitioner was central to the entire process. ‘You will transmute nothing if you have not transmuted yourself first,’ he said.

By the twentieth century alchemy had become almost exclusively a metaphysical science of personal transformation and only a small coterie of practical alchemists remained. Frenchman Jean Dubuis, a distinguished alchemist and influential scientist, defined the Hermetic Art as the science of manipulating life and consciousness in matter to help cure it of its inner disharmony.2 He asserted that successful alchemical operations could enable the consciousness of matter to be transformed so that 100 million years of evolution could be shoe-horned into a mere two months. Materialist science was also carrying out transmutations of its own. In 1919 Ernest Rutherford became the first scientists to transmute one element into another when he succeeded in converting nitrogen into oxygen. With the emergence of nuclear physics, scientists turned platinum into gold. The ultimate in nuclear transformation became apparent in August 1945 when the Allies dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In 1909 H. Spencer Lewis, the individual responsible for resurrecting the Rosicrucian movement, is reputed to have transformed zinc into gold before witnesses. At the same time leading members of the Theosophical Society were also exploring the constitution and manipulation of matter. Annie Besant and C. W. Leadbeater conducted extensive experiments into what they termed occult chemistry.3 Leadbeater, who found atoms to be dramatically different to the way scientists imagined, is said to have been able to use psycho-kinesis to turn one molecule into another. Occult chemistry remained a neglected area of research until revived in the 1970s by scientists such as S. M. Phillips and E. Lester Smith who re-examined the topic.4

However, other researchers such as the British doctor Archibald Cockren were also delving into alchemical means of curing disease. During the war Cockren published a fascinating account of how he had produced medicines from purified metals using largely Paracelsian techniques.5 Cockren claims to have extracted the ‘quintessence’ of metals which can then be used to cure disease. He stressed that conventional, allopathic medicine administered its remedies in too crude a form. And he adds, ‘In the administration of a metal, for instance, it must be understood that the body of a metal is worthless; as a medicine it cannot heal; it is the essence alone that is curative.’ Despite his far-reaching research and apparent success in treating patients, his work was largely ignored by mainstream medicine and his ideas have slipped into obscurity.

Scientific scepticism sealed the fate of other alchemical medical breakthroughs. In France after World War II, Armand Barbault began intensive research into ‘spagyric’ alchemy, using plants and dew as his starting matter.6 As with Rudolf Steiner’s biodynamic farming this dew had to be collected at the right time seasonally and astrologically. Over a three year period Barbault carried out a long series of cyclic distillations and produced potable (drinkable) gold. The most sophisticated laboratory available at the time failed to identify what it was, although it yielded spectacular results on terminally ill patients. Far from being impressed scientists hurled abuse at Barbault and the pharmaceutical companies were uninterested in substances which were commercially unviable because of their extended preparation time.

More recently scientists have discovered that gold itself has remarkable properties especially when it is in a high-spin or monatomic state.7 This is achieved by heating the gold using a method known as direct current arc emission spectroscopy. Normally metals are heated for fifteen seconds but researchers at the Russian Academy of Sciences discovered that if you extended the burn time to 300 seconds, the very atomic structure of the gold fundamentally changed. The atoms are no longer bonded together. They are now known as Orbitally Realigned Monotamic Elements and it seems as if the gold is resonating in another dimension.

According to Dr Hal Puthoff, director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Austin, Texas8 when this occurs it loses fourth-ninths or 44 per cent of its weight. But other very odd things occurred. The more the monatomic gold was cooled, the heavier it became, sometimes outweighing the original by a factor of several hundred per cent. Conversely when the substance was heated it was found to weigh less than nothing. Even more bizarrely, at this point the white powder vanished altogether.

This white powder of projection could be that enigmatic substance on which the alchemists lavished so much attention. This monatomic gold is being hailed as a miracle substance which could have far-reaching effects on medicine with the potential to cure immune system deficiencies and cellular break-down as in AIDS or cancer because it resonates with the light frequency of DNA.9 It is also seen as having huge industrial potential in the development of fuel-cells because it is a superconductor and offers no electrical resistance. There are even suggestions that M-state gold could hold the key to the teleportation of matter.

Could this substance in fact be the elusive Philosopher’s Stone of the alchemists? Laurence Gardner suggests this could be a white powder called mfkt by the Egyptians, shemanna by the Mesopotamians and manna (food of the Gods) elaborated by the Israelites. Egyptian illustrations show this mysterious white powder with its life-enhancing properties being baked into cakes and fed to the pharaohs and priest caste.

In the early twentieth century the British archaeologist Sir William Flinders Petrie found a pile of this white powder during excavations on Mount Horeb (the Biblical Mount Sinai where Moses was given the commandments). Petrie discovered crucibles and large amounts of this white powder in what appears to have been a factory for producing manna.

The Bible offers some clues. In Chapter 32 of Exodus, Moses on returning from the mountain was enraged that his countrymen had turned all their gold into the graven image of a calf. The story continues that Moses burned the gold, ground it into white powder, mixed it with water and fed it to the Israelites.
Did he know something modern science is only rediscovering?

References

1 Jacques Sadoul, Alchemists and Gold, (London: Neville Spearman, 1972).
2 Interview with Mark Stavish, 1998 and found online at http://www.hermetic.com/stavish/
3 A. Besant and C. W. Leadbeater Occult Chemistry, (Adyar,Theosophical Publishing House, 1908).
4 E. Lester Smith, Occult Chemistry Re-Evaluated, (Wheaton, Theosophical Publishing House, 1982).
5 Archibald Cockren, Alchemy Rediscovered and Restored,(Philadelphia, David McKay Company, 1941).
6 Armand Barbault, Gold of The Thousand Mornings, (London, Neville Spearman, 1975).
7 Laurence Gardner, Lost Secrets of the Sacred Ark, (London, Elements Books, 2003).
8 ‘Gravity as a Zero-point Fluctuation Force’ in Physical Review A, March 1989, vol 39, no 5.
9 Laurence Gardner, The Shadow of Solomon, (London, Elements Books, 2005).

One of the main things which worries followers of the ‘religions of the Book’ – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – in relation to the philosophies of both Hinduism and Buddhism is the apparent suggestion that, at the end of the evolutionary line, all human identity is lost. This was one of the main criticisms of Theosophy advanced by Carl Jung (1875-1961) as described by Stephan Hoeller in his book The Gnostic Jung & the Seven Sermons to the Dead, where he says:

“Unlike many (although not all) the spiritual systems of the East, especially of India, the Western tradition has never envisioned a permanent dissolution of human individuality in Divinity. The West knows and desires no dewdrop-like slipping into the shining sea. Instead, Jung states here that the principle of individuation is the essence of every created being and that the undifferentiated principle and our own lack of discrimination are great dangers to us.”

1/..

Unfortunately, Western tradition has not properly understood the Eastern philosophy purely because it has focussed on the purely exoteric aspects of it. Vedic philosophy and Esoteric Buddhism – as described and clarified by modern Theosophy – provide us with a somewhat different viewpoint. However, before going into further detail on that score, let us first look at the somewhat common angle of Judaism, Christianity and Islam to establish the basis of their belief system in a Creator-God to be worshipped by all. Unfortunately, by reference to all the ancient traditions, the ultimate ‘God’ was not the Creator, per se. The creation of the objective universe was left to a deputised second ‘God’, often described (as in Freemasonry) as ‘the Great Architect’, or ‘Great Artificer’. The problem for the Western religions is that this latter creative Deity was referred to by Gnostics as the mere ‘Demiurge’, thereby generating a common fear and hatred of all Gnostics by the theologians of these same religions, plus Zoroastrianism as well.

The Gnostics of the first century CE developed a curious system of belief – one that most theosophists should understand in principle – involving a kosmic Spiritual Ego named ABRAXAS (of Persian origin). This deity was regarded as the first and only emanation of the Pleroma, the supposedly ultimate state of absolute perfection from which everything was emanated and to which everything eventually had to return – although theosophically speaking, the Pleroma has seven sub-states and is itself only the fourth of seven major kosmic states. Abraxas, however, was symbolically described as a triple being having serpents as legs, a human body and the head of a cockerel, whilst holding in his hands a shield and a whip.2 He was regarded as the Logos, but one that contained both ‘Good’ and ‘Evil’ within his nature as a complementary duality. He was also supposedly the parental originator of all human ‘divine sparks’ which, on completing their homeward spiritual journey, would be reabsorbed into his nature. In the meantime, these same human spirits were held in bondage by the Demiurge who was thus (misguidedly) regarded as a figure of evil.

The triple nature of Abraxas is, however, representative of the three lowest kosmic states. The serpents represent the cycles of the kosmic physical plane; the human body represents the desires of the kosmic astral plane; the cockerels’ head represents the kosmic mental principle. The shield and whip then symbolise the principles of protection and driving force needed to spur onwards the team of white horses which pulled the chariot of Abraxas (himself akin to the Sun), like the chariot of the Greek god Helios.

The spiritual ambition of the Gnostic was to overcome the cyclic (hence reincarnatory) nature engendered by the Demiurge, thereby escaping from this world altogether. The spiritual ambition of the Judaic, Christian and Islamic religions, however, was (and still is) to remain within the influence of this same Creator-God, enjoying a spiritualised existence in a heaven world which was in effect merely an etherealised version of the physical world of Nature devoid of all evil yet self-indulgently full of ‘harmless’ pleasures. This the Gnostics regarded as an altogether ludicrous proposition with which they desired no association whatsoever. Not surprisingly, they found enemies all around them.

It is slightly surprising that the Hebrews took quite the same view because kabbalistic philosophy draws very clear parallels which both sides could have understood (with the benefit of some prior metaphysical training). However, to be fair, orthodox Judaism at that stage was itself still singularly undeveloped. Judaic kabbalism had then not even nearly reached the level of symbolic representation with which we are familiar today. Had the Zohar been available at the time, it should have become obvious that the Gnostic Pleroma was exactly the same as the Ain Soph (Aur), the Boundless Divine Light of kabbalism. It would further have become evident that the Gnostic Abraxas, as the first emanation from Pleroma, was equivalent to the kabbalistic Keter (the Crown of Existence); that the Gnostic Sophia was the same as the kabbalistic Hokmah (originally meaning ‘Divine Magic’) and that the gnostic Demiurge found its correspondence in the kabbalistic Binah, (the World’s Mother) the latter containing all the lesser seven sephiroth.3 In making these suggestions, one should otherwise bear in mind that the inverted kabbalistic ‘Tree of Life’ was a historically much later graphic image.

Modern Theosophy – following in the footsteps of Esoteric Buddhism – helps to clarify the overall picture even further. Here, the fourth kosmic plane or state (the Ain-Soph -Pleroma) is also that of the Amitabha Buddha hierarchies and is again referred to in connection with them as the state of ‘Boundless Light’. The other descriptions of it as ‘Maha-Buddhi’ and ‘Mahat’ help us even further because the equivalent fourth state in the lesser, sevenfold solar scheme is that of our own buddhi, also described as ‘the kosmic etheric double’of the Logos. It is the Amitabha Buddhas who are referred to in the biblical Old Testament as ‘the Watchers’, who are also responsible for emanating from themselves the Seven Rays, which are in turn the seven groups of self-born (Sanskrit ‘anupadaka’) Monads to be found on the second solar plane. These are our own Divine Sparks the (atmic) emanations of which are to be found within the state of buddhi as the seven Ray Groups which form the chakra system of the Planetary Logos.4 . It is then from these that the Spiritual Egos of humankind are emanated as ‘daemons’ into the state of solar manas immediately ‘below’.

The three lower world states beneath the consciousness of the ‘Watchers’ are those of the kosmic mental, kosmic astral and kosmic physical. These are themselves controlled by three hierarchies of Dhyani-Buddhas – the Dharmakaya, Saboghakaya and Nirmanakaya respectively.5 These are all fully liberated interplanetary spirits which have all passed through the human state. In their totality they represent the evolutionary aspect of Logoic consciousness. However, we also need to understand the function of their involutionary counterparts, within the deva hierarchy of our planetary scheme.

It becomes much easier to understand the nature of the deva kingdoms if we first understand that Logoic consciousness – like our own – comprises a duality of memory and imagination. In the greater scheme of things, the devas represent the Divine Memory and therefore have no sense of choice because their only concern is with its repetition and qualitative improvement in terms of form. As such they are the proponents and instigators of Divine Law. Man, on the other hand, represents the Divine Imagination and it is because of his efforts towards change that the whole evolutionary process takes place – as a result of an impulse originating within the Pleroma. However, this too must be put into perspective. Plato reminds us that “All is remembrance”.6 In other words, all consciousness – at all levels of being, no matter how high or how low – comprises the spectrum of Universal Mind But the latter is necessarily segregated into qualitatively separate fields of knowledge. Hence that which is an expression of terrestrial or solar being must exit that field of consciousness in order to rise to and experience a yet higher (kosmic) field of being and consciousness which already pre-exists. It follows quite logically, therefore, that any ‘memory’ which falls from the higher field into the lower field is doing so in order to transmit the apparently concealed Higher Purpose of the Logos around His lower system or scheme of being.

Now the deva kingdom comprises the involutionary upper part of the sevenfold solar-terrestrial scheme which comprises the totality of the kosmic physical organism of our Logos. Thus it is to be found ‘inhabiting’ the first three planes, as shown in the graphic at Fig. 1. From this we can see that the deva kingdom is itself made up of Archons, Archangels and Angels, the Archons comprising what the Gnostics referred to as the ‘Demiurge’ – that which (necessarily) contains the whole of the lower world scheme within its own nature, albeit under the greater controlling influence of the Dhyani-Buddhas. The highest state is known as a veritable ‘sea of divine flame’ whereas the second state is that otherwise known to us as the ‘Akas(a)’, that in which the Monads become primordially visible as ‘the myriad Sparks within the One Flame’. Hence monadic consciousness is akasic. The third state is then that of Atma – the ‘Divine Breath’ or ‘Aether’ which is emanated by the Monads down into the field of buddhi (the kosmic etheric double) there to generate the cycle of elemental (or daemonic) existence involving the principles of Fire-Air-Water-Earth which give rise to fully objective compound expression in physical form.

It is then in the fourth upper involutionary stage that the process of differentiation is initiated. Thus it is from here that the buddhi (or to put it more precisely, one of the group centres in the kosmic etheric double of the Logos) is forced to emanate down into the next lower world that ‘foetal’ organism which modern theosophy describes as the ‘Causal Soul’ or ‘Causal Body’. Into this the Jiva or lesser ‘spark’ is then duly impregnated. This then is the true body of reincarnation in which human consciousness evolves. It is from here that the eventually evolved consciousness of the Adept passes back into the fourth (buddhic) plane to join the higher evolutionary cycle. As he subsequently establishes his consciousness within the third (atmic) level, he becomes a full Master and then, progressing much later to the second (akasic) level he becomes a Chohan. Then advancing to the highest of the seven levels of solar being he becomes a ‘Manushi’ or human Buddha ‘sitting at the right hand of the Father-Creator’. It appears to be to this state that Judaism, Christianity and Islam aspire. For the Gnostic, however, it is not enough. His aim is far higher still and although Gnosticism does not use the same terminology, it follows that the initiate of the eighth and higher degrees becomes a Dhyani-Buddha, or liberated interplanetary spirit, like Gautama.

Now the Dhyani-Buddha (so we are told) can no longer take human form, his power as one of the driving psychic energies of the Logos being so vast. Yet, he can by force of will generate a separate human form and endow it with the consciousness of what is known as a a Bhodisattva. However, until he himself becomes a Dharmakaya Buddha (established in the field of kosmic mental consciousness) he may also apparently retain some degree of contact with our planetary world, via the raised consciousness of the Adept Hierarchy. However, this takes us back to the original theme of this paper – that pertaining to the question of a continuing individuality. The fact that the advanced initiate of this degree is re-becoming an increasingly powerful part of the kosmic consciousness of the Logos might suggest to some that, in order to do this, he must give up all his human spiritual attributes. But as these are themselves merely sub-aspects of the already existing and greater kosmic faculty of the Divine Man, it would seem that the question is itself misguided.

The Adepts themselves tells us that self-consciousness is the crown of the whole evolutionary process and it seems quite clear that this applies to whatever state of being and consciousness we care to choose. However, self-consciousness must itself be relative by virtue of the fact that it involves a simultaneous, perceptual awareness of more than one triune field of existence. In other words, it must involve a septenary consciousness and function. The Monad within the lesser sevenfold system is thus correspondingly but a partial expression of the Kosmic Monas (or Manas) which is itself but the partial projection of a being or intelligence far higher in the yet greater scheme. However, as HPB confirms, the individualised Monad possesses more spiritual consciousness than the Monad itself on its own plane.7 That Abraxas, although yet still higher in the evolutionary scale, is itself merely an interim projection of a far more evolved (Solar) Logos might be staggering in its conceptual immensity. Perhaps, however, that is why the old saying assures us: “It is better to travel than to arrive.”

_________________

References:

1. S.A. Hoeller. The Gnostic Jung & the Seven Sermons to the Dead (Wheaton, Illinois. Quest Books. 2006 6th Printing) p. 70
2. Ibid pp. 83-91
3. G. Scholem. Zohar, the Book of Splendour (London. Rider & Co. 1977) p. 79
4. A.A. Bailey. A Treatise on Cosmic Fire (London. Lucis Press. 1964) p. 687
5. H.J. Spierenberg. The Buddhism of H.P. Blavatsky (Point Loma Publications 1991) pp. 17-26
6. Plato. Phaedo. From The Complete Works of Plato. (Ed. By J.M. Cooper) p. 79.
7. H.P. Blavatsky. The Secret Doctrine Vol. I pp. 200-201 & Vol. II pp. 251-252.

Theosophy is not an exoteric system of literal statements about facts that we can perceive with our senses and understand with our brain-minds. Theosophy is an esoteric labyrinth of poetic metaphors about truths that lie beyond our senses and even our minds. Theosophy cannot be verified by experiments and tests and logic. Theosophy can be verified in our deep heart’s core by an intuitive recognition of its eternal truths. Theosophy carries us beyond our ordinary, limited human perceptions. Theosophy is metaphor.

 

The fact that Theosophy is basically concerned, not with little facts, but with big truths is implicit in the Theosophical Society’s motto: “There is no religion higher than truth.” In the original Sanskrit wording, of which our motto is a translation, the word that we render as “religion” is “dharma”. “Dharma” has many meanings; among them, it refers to duty, religion, law—in fact, whatever establishes a people as a community, and thus includes all the little facts that are the basis of our social life. Those little facts are important to our group life, but they are not, either individually or collectively, more important than the big truths of life. And it is the big truths that Theosophy seeks to discover and communicate to the world.

One problem that Theosophy has to deal with is how best to conceive of and to communicate those big truths. We cannot express them by literal statements, because literal statements are useful only for little facts, such as “It rained this morning” or “Two and two are four” or “Humans generally have five fingers on each hand.” Big truths, such as “All peoples are members of one common family” or “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of your philosophy” or “The human soul is immortal, and its future is the future of a thing whose growth and splendour has no limit”, cannot be expressed by literal statements, but only by nonliteral ones—by metaphor. Why is that?

Big truths are not things we experience directly through our senses, as we do little facts. Big truths have to be inferred, that is, “carried (“-ferred”) into (our awareness)” from outside our senses; and that is the job of metaphor, which is what carries (“phor”) from beyond (“meta”) our senses. Much of Theosophy is beyond our sensory experience, so it can be talked about only with metaphors. Little facts can be stated in prose; big truths have to be veiled in poetry.

If we mistake Theosophy’s big truths for little facts—if we interpret its metaphors as literal statements—we will fail to grasp the magnificent scope of the Ancient Wisdom and reduce Theosophy to just another religion. If we encounter two different, conflicting literal statements, one (or both) of them may likely be wrong. But two different, apparently conflicting, metaphors may both be true, that is, valid efforts to formulate a truth that is greater than any literal formulation can capture. Theosophy is full of such different and contrasting metaphors, as a few examples will illustrate.

One of Theosophy’s big truths is that the world is a varied, complex place. We express that truth partly by saying that the world consists of seven planes. That is a metaphor. A plane is literally a flat or level surface. If we take the metaphor literally, we will think of the world as a seven-layered gateau, an erroneous view reinforced by our diagrams showing the planes on lines one above another. We may say that the “planes” all interpenetrate each other, but that is not what “plane” implies literally. So alternative metaphors have been suggested. Some people eschew the metaphor “plane” and talk instead about “fields” (as in field of gravity or electromagnetism). Others talk about “dimensions of reality.” But both of those are metaphors too. “Field” is literally “an open land area free of woods and buildings”. And a “dimension” is literally “one of three coordinates determining a position in space or four coordinates determining a position in space and time”. There is no way to talk specifically about the complex structure of the world without using metaphors.

A second big truth is that we live more than one life in this world, for which the usual term is “reincarnation,” a word that is itself a metaphor for “again coming into flesh”. But both “coming” (which is motion from one place to another) and “flesh” are metaphors in that term. And we use other metaphors for the same process: we compare it to waking in the morning and putting on a fresh set of clothing, or to being an actor who performs different roles in a number of plays on the stage of life. There is no way to talk specifically about living more than one life in this world without using metaphors.

A third big truth is that the world results from a complex intermingling of seven forms of energy, which we commonly speak of as the seven “rays.” “Rays” are a metaphor from the chromatic continuum of the energy of light, which we traditionally divide into several segments, although in reality wave lengths of the light spectrum merge continuously without segmentation. Seven is different. Other traditions talk about seven creative gods or archangels. Seven-ness is not arbitrary because mathematically there are exactly seven possible combinations of three things, and three-ness is seen as fundamental in all the trinities of human culture and religion. But “rays” are purely metaphorical. And there is no convenient way to talk specifically about the seven forms of energy that produce this world without using metaphors.

A fourth big truth is the repetitive patterning of human and cosmic history. Patterns are reproduced everywhere. Norbert Wiener, who originated the field of cybernetics, famously said, “We are not stuff that abides, but patterns that perpetuate themselves.” The same thing can be said of the universe as a whole. Theosophically, we talk about chains of worlds, rounds of the life force on those chains, root races on each world, sub-races of each root race, and so on. But those are all metaphors because there are no “chains” for the life force to go round, races (a term no longer used by science) are not roots, and so on. But as metaphors, they present a concrete idea of how cosmic history exists as cycles. There is no convenient way to talk specifically about the cyclical patterning of human and cosmic history without using metaphors.

In each of the foregoing examples, as well as in most of our Theosophical language, two dangers exist. One danger is that we will mistake metaphors for literal statements and thus distort big truths by treating them as little facts. That trivializes the Ancient Wisdom and turns Theosophy into just another set of religious dogmas. The other danger is that we will begin to argue with one another about which metaphor is the “right” one, which metaphor represents “real Theosophy”. In addition to further trivializing and dogmatizing the Ancient Wisdom, such arguments destroy the nucleus of brotherhood, which is the Society’s first object to form.

Instead of mistaking metaphors for literal statements and arguing about which of them are correct and rejecting the others as “wrong”, we need to take quite a different approach. First, we need to recognize that every big truth of the Ancient Wisdom is like what Blavatsky says about the first fundamental proposition in the Proem to The Secret Doctrine: on it, “all speculation is impossible, since it transcends the power of human conception and could only be dwarfed by any human expression . . . beyond the range and reach of thought . . . ‘unthinkable and unspeakable’.” She is talking about the pointlessness of our trying to state the biggest of all truths with a prosaic literalness so that it appears to be just another little fact.

Second, if we want to talk about such big truths, we can do so only as Blavatsky herself did, that is, by using language that is poetically metaphorical. The metaphors of poetry can carry us beyond the limitations of our senses and serve (according to John Keats) as “Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam / of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.” Some of us may not think of Blavatsky and Theosophy as poetic. But consider that most basic of all Theosophical texts, the Stanzas of Dzyan, which begin: “The eternal parent wrapped in her ever-invisible robes had slumbered once again for seven eternities. Time was not, for it lay asleep in the infinite bosom of duration.” If that is not poetry and metaphor, what is? Poetic metaphor pervades basic Theosophical texts like The Secret Doctrine, The Voice of the Silence, and Light on the Path. Just consider what the titles of those texts would mean in a literal interpretation. The very titles, like the content, of the texts are poetically metaphorical.

Third, once we recognize that Theosophical teachings are basically set forth in poetic metaphors, we can avoid any arguments about which metaphors are “correct” and which are not. Metaphors are neither correct nor incorrect; they are only effective or ineffective. And effectiveness is not an absolute, but is relative to individuals and to the circumstances of their use. So a metaphorical orientation promotes, indeed requires, not just tolerance of diversity, but an embrace of variations. Dogmatism is incompatible with Theosophy because it is incompatible with metaphorical discourse. Instead, we can embrace the Chinese concept of “letting a hundred (or a thousand) flowers blossom”. To be sure, that is not to say that all interpretations of Theosophical texts are equally correct. Some interpretations can be wrong because inconsistent with the overall nature of Theosophy. But it is to say that more than one interpretation can be useful and therefore correct. As an old saying has it, Theosophy is everything, but not everything is Theosophy.

Theosophists unfortunately may seem to be divided into contending sects. Some are Blavatsky-ites; others are Judge-ites, Besant-ites, Leadbeater-ites, Tingley-ites, Purucker-ites, and so on. To be sure, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky was the great mother of us all. But from the start, Henry Steel Olcott branched out in his own directions by applying Theosophy to various traditional religious traditions and to the practical service of humanity. And all the leaders and teachers of the various Theosophical groups have worked, each in his or her own way, to restate and apply the Ancient Wisdom to contemporary needs and conditions. Each generation needs its own metaphorical statement of Theosophy. Without such a continuing process of restatement, Theosophy cannot survive as a vital force in the lives of individuals and of society. A recognition of the fundamentally metaphorical nature of Theosophical language can help to overcome sectarianism and promote a decent respect for different “-ites”.

To recognize that Theosophical language is fundamentally poetic metaphor for the big truths of life—rather than merely literal statements of little facts—can have some beneficial consequences. Such recognition can lead us to an appreciative attitude toward others who favour different metaphors from ours and thus promote a realization of the Society’s first object. It can open our own eyes, minds, and hearts to new ways of viewing and responding to life around us, thereby making us more adaptable and effective in all aspects of our lives. Perhaps most important, it can help us to grasp the meaning and implications of the Society’s motto, that there is no religion (or any other human formulation) higher than the Truth that cannot be put into any ordinary human language. As the Bhagavad Gita puts it, Om tat sat, which has been glossed as “Well, that’s the way it is!”

People have tried to define beauty. Wordsworth described it as “multiplicity of symmetrical parts uniting in a constituent whole.” Coleridge says something similar:

“The old definition of beauty, in the Roman School, was ‘multiplicity in unity,’ and there is no doubt that such is the principle of beauty.” But Plotinus says that this will not explain simple beauty, as that of the sunshine and the stars.

He says: “It is the general opinion that a certain commensuration of parts of each other and the whole, with the addition of colour, generates that beauty which is the object of sight, and that in the commensurate and the moderate alone the beauty of everything consists. . . . . But from such a definition it follows the beautiful colours and the light of the sun, since they are simple, and do not receive their beauty from commensuration, must be excluded from the regions of beauty. . . . In like manner the simplest musical sounds will be foreign from beauty, though in a song wholly beautiful every note must be beautiful, as necessary to the being of the whole.”

The Greeks sought the essential unity. To them beauty lay not in the form, which was but an epiphany, but in the incommensurable idea, and finally in the all-pervading life. Says Plotinus again: “Beauty, for the most part, consists in objects of sight; but it is also received through the ears, by the skilful composition of words, and the consonant proportion of sounds; for in every species of harmony beauty is to be found. And if we rise from sense into the regions of the soul, we shall there perceive studies and offices, actions and habits, sciences and virtues, invested with a much larger proportion of beauty. But whether there is above these a still higher beauty, will appear as we advance in its investigation.” There are three stages in the perception of beauty: sensuous, idealistic, and spiritual. Each is reached by the understanding and transcending of the inferior stage.

In the teachings of the priestess Diotima to Socrates, she says: “The true order of going, or being led by another, to the things of love, is to begin from the beauties of earth and mount upwards for the sake of that other beauty, using these as steps only, and from one going on to two, and from two to all fair forms, and from fair forms to fair practices, and from fair practices to fair notions, until from fair notions he arrives at the notion of absolute beauty, and at last knows what the essence of beauty is.”

The Eternal Beauty is the Eternal Life. Says the beloved Plotinus yet again: “Let us, therefore, ascend to the good itself, which every soul desires; and in which alone it can find perfect repose. . . . Those who penetrate into the holy retreat of these sacred mysteries . . . having dismissed everything foreign from the God, by themselves alone, behold the solitary principle of the universe, sincere, simple, and pure, from which all things depend, and to whose transcendent perfections the eyes of all intelligent natures are directed, as the proper cause of being, life and intelligence. In itself perfectly pure, not confined by any corporeal bond, neither existing in the heavens, nor in the earth, not to be imaged by the most lovely form imagination can conceive; since these are all adventitious and mixed, and mere secondary beauties, proceeding from the Beautiful itself.”

The priestess Diotima said: “But what if man had eyes to see the true beauty—the Divine Beauty, I mean, pure and clear and unalloyed, not clogged with the pollutions of mortality and all the colours and vanities of human life—thither looking, and holding converse with the true beauty, simple and divine? Remember how in that communion only, beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities (for he has hold not of an image but of reality), and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue, to become the friend of God, and be immortal, if mortal man may.”

Beauty is an eternal Divine Principle, and it always evokes Love. The second Person of the Hindu Trimurti or Trinity, is Vishnu, the god of Love, and his “shakti” or wife is the goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of happiness and joy. And it too is a creative power. When God as Narcissus beheld his image mirrored in the waters of space, he fell in love with it and created the universe.

Diotima says that men love the beautiful that it may be theirs. And when she asked Socrates what is given by the possession of beauty he could not answer, so she changed the word “the beautiful” for “the good.” Then he knew that the possession of the Good gives happiness, and that men desire its everlasting possession, because they desire birth in beauty either of body or soul. Strength and grace in men, says Diotima, creates bodies, desiring immortality. But souls which are pregnant create as poets,artists, inventors. “Who,” she asks, “when he thinks of Homer and Hesiod and other great poets, would not rather have their children than ordinary ones?” Desire is the cosmic urge to Unity. So Plotinus says: “Indeed, whatever is desirable is a kind of good, since to this desire tends.” Therefore there is a universal desire for happiness, for it is Beauty calling. There are some lovely words in King Solomon’s Song of Songs: “My beloved spake, and said unto me, ‘Rise up, my love, my fair one,
and come away. For, lo! the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come.’ ”

Angus was the god Eros of the Celts, and his dwelling place was the Tir-na-og, the land of the Ever-Young. What is our way to this supreme Beauty? Thomas Taylor says: “But here it is requisite to observe that our ascent to this region of Beauty must be made by gradual advances, for, from our association with matter, it is impossible to pass directly, and without a medium, to such transcendent perfection; but we must proceed in a manner similar to those who pass from darkness to the brightest light, by advancing from places moderately lighted to such as are the most luminous of all.” This reminds us of Plato’s allegory of the men gazing at shadows on the wall of a cave, who, when they turned their faces to the light were at first blinded. Plotinus says the same, that the pristine beauty of our eternal selves has become clouded and defiled by its contact with matter, and that in order to become able to perceive true beauty we must learn to divest ourselves by degrees of this impurity, since “it is necessary that the perceiver and the thing perceived should be similar to each other before true vision can exist . . . Everyone, therefore, must become divine, and of godlike beauty, before he can gaze upon a god and the beautiful itself.” Only the pure can see the Pure. He says that we see what we can respond to. “Thus, to the good man, virtue shining forth in youth is lovely because consonant to the true virtue which lies deep in the soul.”

So the Way is an ascent in response. And this is the method in the words of Plotinus: “It is now time, leaving every object of sense behind, to contemplate, by a certain ascent, a beauty of a much higher order; a beauty not visible to the corporeal eye, but alone manifest to the brighter eye of the soul, independent of all corporeal aid.” The aspirant has already realized that all beautiful things are stages of the manifestation of beauty, and has tried to love and serve them. Diotima says that a man should begin in youth to visit and admire beauty, then to love one fair form only and out of that to create fair thoughts. Then seeing that Beauty everywhere is one and the same he will become a lover of all beautiful forms. Then he will love the Bust of Plotinus beauty of the mind, and toward one who has it he will be content to love and tend him. Finally, instead of being like a servant in love with one person or institution, he will draw toward and contemplate the vast sea of beauty, creating many fair and noble thoughts in boundless love of wisdom; till at last the vision is revealed to him of a single science which is the science of beauty everywhere.

“Thine eyes shall behold the King in His Beauty and the land which is very far off.”

Plotinus says that whoever would behold this beauty must learn to withdraw his view from the fairest corporeal forms, and, convinced that these are nothing more than the images, vestiges, and shadows of beauty, (“the great; the sub-lime, the beautiful; they are the shadows of God upon earth”—Joseph Mazzini) should eagerly soar to the fair original from which they are derived, as if they would say, “Let us depart from hence, and fly to our father’s delightful land.” He recommends a system of meditation, which consists in recalling the thoughts inwardly, and trying to perceive the Beautiful within ourselves. We must divest ourselves of all that is not beautiful until we perceive the true light and that alone, everywhere immeasurable and excellent. We now require no guide, for we must now fix steadfastly our mental views, for with the mind’s eye alone can such immense Beauty be perceived. Plotinus warns us that if our mind’s eye is not thoroughly refined and is yet infested with any sordid concerns, it will be immediately darkened and incapable of intuition, for the perceiver and perceived should be similar to each other before true vision can exist. And then he will perceive that all things are beautiful because a portion of the Beautiful itself supervenes and irradiates them. We can see because God has planted His image within us. As Proclus says: “The author of the Universe has planted in all beings impressions of His own perfect excellence . . . and by this mystical impression which corresponds to His nature they become united with their original, divesting themselves of their own essence, and hastening to become His impression alone.”

Here again Love is drawn by Beauty and Union is Bliss. “With what ardent love,” cries Plotinus, “with what strong desires will he who enjoys this transporting vision be inflamed whilst vehemently affecting to become one with this supreme beauty. . ..
What must be the condition of that being, who beholds the Beautiful itself?” “A beauty if you once behold,” said Diotima, “all other beauty fades.” We should cultivate the response to beauty in ourselves. Then we would never be cruel. I once knew a man who had no ear for music. He religiously took himself to concert after concert, and tried to “listen.” He became the finest appreciator of music I ever met. Beauty in our souls makes for grace and graciousness. To quote Plotinus again: “Bodies themselves participate of beauty from the soul, which, as something divine, and a portion of the beautiful itself, renders whatever it supervenes and subdues, beautiful as far as its natural capacity will admit. . . . For such beauty, since it is supreme in dignity and excellence, cannot fail of rendering its votaries lovely and fair.”

The evidence of beauty in the soul is love, joy, faith, long-suffering. By the banks of the Illysus, Socrates, after he had told young Phaedrus of the chariots of the soul, prayed: “Beloved Pan, and all ye deities that haunt this place, give me inward beauty of soul, and may the outward and the inward man be at one.”

The love of Beauty is essentially religious. Dr. Alexis Carrell says: “The love of beauty leads to mysticism. Song easily becomes transformed into prayer.” He says also: “Ministers have rationalized religion. They have destroyed its mystical basis. But they have not succeeded in attracting modern man.” A great German divine says that the basis of true religion is a sense of the Holy, the sense of Wonder. That is the essence of the new religion which is dawning in the world; the Religion of Life Itself, holy, wonderful, lovely, inviolate. We too may see the King in His Beauty, but the eyes with which we shall see Him are not the eyes of earth, but the opened eyes of the spiritual intuition, as Plato expressed it, “Beholding the Beautiful with that eye with which alone it is possible to behold it.”

Let me quote once more the beautiful priestess Diotima: “He who has been instructed so far in the things of love, and who has learned to see the beautiful in due order and succession, when he comes toward the end will suddenly perceive a nature of wondrous beauty, a nature which in the first place is everlasting, not growing or decaying, or waxing or waning; secondly, not fair in one point of view and foul in another, or at one time, or in another relation, or in one place fair, at another time, or in another relation, foul, as if fair to some and foul to others, or in the likeness of a face or hands or any other part of the bodily frame, or in any form of speech or knowledge, or existing in any other being, as for example, in an animal, or in heaven, or in earth, or in any other place; but Beauty absolute, separate, simple and everlasting, which without diminution and without decrease, or any change, is imparted to the overgrowing and perishing beauties of all other things.”

“He who, from these ascending under the influence of true love, begins to perceive that Beauty is not far from the end.”

When I was at Adyar, in India, I used to hear the fishermen singing always the same song. One day some one told me the free English translation of their song.

“O my Beautiful, come into my heart.
What is the song without the singer?
And what is the singer without thee?
O my Beautiful, come into my heart,
And set its music free.”

There are very few of my own words in this chapter. I have let my beloved ancient
Greeks speak for me, for their words are far more beautiful.

This excerpt was taken from ‘Trust Yourself to Life’ by Clara Codd and edited by the Department of Education, Theosophical Society in America.

The Dhammapada, the famous Buddhist scripture, commences with the verse: “Our lives are shaped by our minds, we become what we think”. We would do well to ponder deeply over this statement attributed to the Buddha himself. Yet how many of us actually seek consciously to shape our lives? And even if we tried, how many of us would actually have the mental power necessary to achieve it? Instead, we tend to drift along under the influence of our sensual desires and sub-conscious tendencies. Meditation is the principal method of countering this drift by stilling the incessant chatter of the mind and, at the same time, by diving deep within our consciousness, we can experience levels of joy unobtainable by any other means.

The word ‘meditation’ can be used to describe various mental processes. Often the great Christian saints and teachers refer to their ‘meditations’, but what they are actually describing is a process of deep spiritual thought – a thinking process. Also, some spiritual schools teach a method of trying to make the mind blank, open to spiritual influences. But ‘meditation’ in our present context is neither of these: it is a state of intense concentration, undertaken in order to still the mind which, if pursued to its ultimate, leads to union with the Divine (the Self, God, Ultimate Reality, in whatever way the individual chooses to interpret that). It is ‘union’ that holds the key to our understanding of meditation for Yoga literally means ‘union’ and the path of meditation is Raja Yoga (or the Royal Yoga), a systematic path of spiritual discipline leading to God-realization.

Over a hundred years ago, Madame Blavatsky (HPB founder of the Theosophical Society 1875) thundered, “Theosophy is for those who can think” (How to Study Theosophy, Robert Bowen, 1891) emphasising that Theosophy was essentially a Jnana Yoga, the path of wisdom and intuitive development. And of course in those days, teaching to the upper class intelligentsia of 19th century Europe, the only hope she had of bringing about a new spiritual consciousness was to appeal to and through the intellectual faculties. But HPB knew that this was not the whole story: the intellect provides only the bridge between our lower and higher natures and in her mystic classic The Voice of the Silence she clearly identified the very core of the yogic process: “The mind is the great slayer of the Real. Let the disciple slay the slayer”.

Destroy my mind? Are you crazy? The secret lies, of course, in what we are referring to as ‘my mind’. I, me, mine – this is what we’re after. What I call ‘my mind’ is the limitation I have imposed upon the Universal Mind through the karma of countless cycles of birth and death. Destroy these barriers and limitations and we can then manifest our universal Divine nature.

Well, that’s the theory anyway. And it has been attested to by many saints, sages and yogis over the ages. HPB knew this and that Raja Yoga was a means to achieve it, which is why she founded her Esoteric Section as a Raja Yoga school (which in essence it still is). In the summer of 1885, an interesting correspondence on the subject of probation and chelaship took place between the Master Khoot Hoomi Lal Singh (KH) and Mr. A.P. Sinnett, as recorded in Letter 65 of the Mahatma Letters (A.T. Barker compilation, Adyar). Writing about the ancient system of testing that had prevailed in the Masonic Lodges and Mystery Schools of yore, the Master KH wrote: “But in these days the vulgarization of science has rendered such trifling tests obsolete. The aspirant is now assailed entirely on the psychological side of his nature. His course of testing – in Europe and India – is that of Raj-yog ….”. All theosophists with serious spiritual aspirations should take good note of the Master’s statement.

Raja Yoga was propounded about 2000 years ago in India by the enlightened sage Patanjali and his Yoga Sutras are accepted the world over as the most authoritative text on the Yoga of meditation. In his second sutra, he defines Yoga as “the cessation of the modifications of the mind”. Translators may vary in their wording but the sense is clear. If you could suppress the constant thought-waves in the mind and induce a state of total stillness, then you would experience Divine union, which is Yoga.
Before considering how to bring this about, we should first take a look at the nature of the mind so as better to understand the problem we are confronting.

The best analogy is that of a lake, signifying the totality of the human mind. Its surface is covered with constant waves of various sizes, perpetually at motion, the result primarily of external elements such as the wind. These are the thought-waves [Patanjali’s ‘modifications of the mind’], ever being renewed by sensory stimuli from external sources. The sun is shining brightly overhead but the reflection of the sun in the lake’s surface is distorted by the waves, reflecting many sun-images not just The One.
Underneath the lake’s surface, which looks calm from outside, there is turbulence in the form of eddies and currents. These are largely caused by the formations of mud or sandbanks on the bottom of the lake, but these sandbanks have themselves been created by movement in the water above. This signifies the sub-conscious levels of the mind, the storehouse of our past karmic impressions and inherited tendencies from this incarnation as well as previous ones.

Through meditation, we can start to still the surface waves on the lake but while turbulence exists underneath, the surface can never become truly calm. However, as the waves progressively settle down, so will the sandbanks on the bottom of the lake and their turbulent effect will gradually diminish. But unless the effort to calm the surface waves is made, there can be no hope of smoothing out the lake’s bottom. Eventually, by persistent practice, the lake’s surface will become as smooth as glass and then – and only then – will the sun be truly reflected as The One. Unity without the mind’s distortions.

So meditation, in order to calm the mind effectively, has to work dually: first, by focusing the mind’s scattered energies to induce mental stillness (on the lake’s surface) and secondly, by raising the inner energies of our being to higher levels of consciousness, thereby settling the turbulence of our lower nature.

It is important to understand this second factor, especially for beginners, as the initial effect of this purgative process is often negative with the result that some meditators decide not to continue their practice, preferring instead to leave things as they are. They forget that it is their karma and it will come out somehow – if not by spiritual practices, then in their every day life. All spiritual life is a battle between our higher Divine nature and our lower animal nature, and we cannot truly commence the spiritual path if we are unable to face the reality of our inmost self. We need total self-honesty and the determination to improve ourselves: meditation sometimes creates a confrontation, an initiation test we must pass.

Coming to the process of meditation itself, Raja Yoga involves an eight-fold process, the so-called ‘eight limbs of yoga’; but the first five of these limbs are preparatory. They are yama and niyama (establishing a spiritual ethic with certain observances and abstentions), asana (posture for meditation), pranayama (control of the body’s energies through special breathing exercises) and pratyahara (restraint of the senses from external stimuli). Patanjali also mentions certain preliminaries which he calls Kriya Yoga, and involves such things as scriptural study: obviously it is important for an aspirant to have some understanding of spiritual truths before engaging in yogic activities, as well as living a basic morality with moderation and self-discipline.

Pranayama should not be attempted without the guidance of an expert: it involves great inner power and can cause serious internal damage if incorrectly or excessively done. Nor is it necessary to practise it in basic meditation, as distinct from calm, rhythmic breathing which is crucial in settling the thought-waves. Pratyahara involves withdrawing the mind from outside influences in order to intensify inner concentration and commences the all-important process of interning the mind.

Before we try to meditate, we must be sitting comfortably and steadily in a fashion that reduces our consciousness of the body. Ideally, the spinal column should be upright and unsupported, although in the early stages this is not as important as comfort, as most beginners find such a posture difficult to maintain for any length of time. If you sit on an upright chair, place your hands palms upwards in your lap, hold your head level and poised comfortably, shut your eyes and relax – then you are ready to start Patanjali’s three final limbs: dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (absorption or illumination) – the three collectively known as samyama.

Concentration is defined by Patanjali as “holding the mind within a centre of spiritual consciousness” and what he means is that the thought-waves of the mind become restricted to a single object of attention, in this case one of the chakras or force centres in our subtle bodies. Once the mind is concentrated, then dhyana begins, for dhyana is sustained attention to the object of concentration. Samadhi is the end result of dhyana, when the mind has become completely stilled and the object of one’s meditation is known directly by experience, undistorted by the predilections of the mind. This is the unitive super-conscious state of supreme bliss.

It should be emphasised that although Patanjali separates the process into three parts, they are not different activities but a progression through states of increasing mental control. We use the word ‘meditation’ to describe the total process rather than just dhyana, although dhyana is certainly the heart of the matter.
Another image may help. The mind is often likened to a mad monkey, swinging about among the trees. This is the normal state of the everyday mind. The act of concentration begins to restrict his swinging, until he starts swinging on just one tree, when dhyana commences. By dhyana, eventually the monkey will come to a halt (temporarily at least!) which is samadhi.

The power of concentration varies greatly with individuals and many feel frustrated by their apparent inability to focus the mind. If that applies to you, all the more reason to continue trying, because by practice concentration will improve. But it is important to understand that there is nothing wrong with your mind just because it is elusive and difficult to control; it is the nature of the mind to wander and it does not like being disciplined. As Sri Krishna told Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita (Chap 6. v.35,36) when the latter was complaining that “…training my mind is like trying to tame the wind”, it is only by persistent practice and detachment that the mind will be brought under control – but it can be done!

The power to meditate comes from the will, which is our deepest spiritual faculty (atmashakti). One cannot meditate by physical or even purely mental exertion: these efforts serve only to create unnecessary tensions. Will power will increase as we persist in meditation, giving us greater power throughout our whole being and helping us to re-shape our lives, as the Buddha taught. But the initial will to meditate, to progress spiritually and to discipline oneself to undertake the necessary practical steps along the Path, comes from deep within us and is a sign that our spiritual evolution has reached the point where ‘hastened unfoldment’ can begin.

If we wish to become an Olympic gymnast, we must dedicate ourselves to training the body to follow the absolute dictates of our will and that can only be achieved by persistent, disciplined, daily practice over many years. Training the mind involves the same commitment, only the task is even more difficult. But, as with the gymnast, it is not just the end product that is important; there is enormous joy and inner satisfaction in the process itself brought about by an elevated consciousness. This is usually experienced as the evolution of personal conscience, heightened sensitivity to all-pervading Divinity and an expansion of one’s capacity to love. These are the hallmarks of true spirituality.

Finally, if our life style is chaotic, so will be our meditation. We cannot expect to blunder through our everyday life and then sit peacefully and still in meditation. It simply won’t work because our blunders will follow us. If our conscience pains us, meditation will exacerbate it for the Divine power within us will force us to acknowledge the consequences of the causes and effects we have set in motion. Therefore we must learn to live consciously, always aware of our actions, never thoughtless or careless, and thereby we shall find our whole life developing in a profound and beautiful way. Meditation should not be considered as something separate from our everyday life but as an integral part of it and if we persist in our practice, we will find that it becomes as important to us as eating and sleeping. Indeed, as J. Krishnamurti often pointed out, our whole life can become an act of meditation.

Theosophy will always be valued as a Jnana Yoga, but Raja and Jnana Yogas together create a complementary force that can generate great spiritual power, to elevate and transform us to become better co-workers in the Divine Plan. Most important of all, HPB always insisted that the truth of theosophical teaching is verifiable by experience. ‘Theosophia’ can be approached at three distinct levels; initially, as simply an occult teaching and philosophy; then secondly, its principles can be practised in our lives as a programme for higher living; and thirdly, they can be realized as Truth by the mystical consummation of yoga. The choices are ours.

Alan Perry
Director, Dhyana Centre of the TS, London[Updated by the author from an article of the same name that appeared in The Theosophist, Adyar, in February 1993]

The East is associated with spirituality and for many this brings to mind yoga, meditation, mantra, chakras and gurus; but there are a great number of teachings and practices.  East or West, countless philosophies stem from very deep schools of thought and these traditions have existed for millennia:  from the very earliest of recorded history.  For example in the Vedas and Upanishads, sacred manuscripts, rituals, and oral teachings handed down from ‘mouth to ear’.  Others are variations or corruptions of the original teachings.  The one thing which all esoteric traditions have in common, is their values on human conduct and the spiritual path.  They may vary in their guidance and the way in which it is presented, but they share many core values and principles.  Some of these will be considered.

Yoga means ‘Union’ or ‘to Yoke’ and the Eight Limbs of Yoga philosophy are aimed at producing a conscious Union with the Divine – the One Life, the whole of creation.  Yoga practices promote good conduct, meditation and mindful awareness, a balance in daily life, peace and harmony.  It is a path intended to create a union of body, mind and spirit.  The channels of the Ida, Shushumna and Pingala in the subtle energy system are balanced by yoga practices.  The Eight Limbs of Yoga are:

  1. Yama:     Morality, compassion, truthfulness, honesty, control, abstinence, moderation.
  2. Niyama: Personal observances:  purity, self-study, discipline, contentment, contemplation.
  3. Asanas:   Body postures and physical practices.
  4. Pranayama: Breathing exercises and control of prana (chi or subtle energy).
  5. Pratyahara: Control of the senses, balance, harmony and peace.
  6. Dharana: Concentration and inner perceptual awareness.
  7. Dhyana: Devotion, meditation and contemplation on the Divine.
  8. Samadhi: Union with the Divine – enlightenment.

Historically, any number of different Teachers are associated with yoga traditions and their schools concentrate on one or more of the Eight Limbs. Practices associated with each Limb focus on a particular line of development.  Whichever may initially appeal to the student, over time a true understanding of one will cultivate an understanding of the others, promoting all of them; ultimately leading to the Eighth Limb – Union.  The Buddha was familiar with these practices and after years of asceticism and meditation and his enlightenment he came to the essence of his Teachings, e.g.:

Three Qualities:               Panna – Wisdom.  Shila – Morality.  Samadhi – Meditation.

Noble Eightfold Path:    Right View.   Right Thought.
Right Speech:                    Right Action.   Right Livelihood.
Right Effort:                       Right Mindfulness.   Right Contemplation. 

The Seven Ways
to Enlightenment:           Mindfulness, Enquiry, Effort, Joy, Tranquillity, Concentration, Equanimity.

Some say such practices appeal largely to the ‘Eastern mind’.  We – in the West – tend to perceive them as being directed towards devotion and meditation and overcoming the trappings of the outer world.  But there is a great deal of depth to the expanded teachings of these Schools.  Western traditions use different models and structures for their activities and are said to be more suited to the ‘Western mind’.  However, both stem from exactly the same core Teachings. There are esoteric schools which take a particular section of the Wisdom and others are very wide ranging.  Either way, some understanding of the Esoteric Keys will unlock the doors to most of them – at least so far as the student is able to discern them and in as much as the Teachings have been made available. Sometimes there is confusion concerning different systems in the spiritual and philosophical traditions of the East and West, but true esoteric schools convey Universal Truth, though their methods may differ. Not all traditions are all-encompassing and some suit certain temperaments better than others.

Kabbalah, the Tree of Life and Tree of Knowledge, is known as a Western Tradition and is chosen to illustrate a very different approach.  It has a much longer history, but in the modern age its methods originate in Judaism and later Christian and New Age offshoots developed. Kabbalah means ‘receiving tradition’ and teaches the tenets and principles of the Ancient Wisdom; albeit using very different terminology and iconography. Some Kabbalah groups are more exoteric, but Esoteric Kabbalah uses esoteric methods and disciplines. Kabbalah has a complex system of concepts and diagrams, concerning the cause and purpose of existence and the spiritual path.  So only a simple overview can be given here.

There are three basic divisions in Kabbalah, which broadly speaking deal with:

  1. Higher dimensions of Reality and the spiritual worlds.
  2. Meditation and training to reach higher states of consciousness.
  3. Symbolic ritual and mystical exercises.

The basic Tree shows the ten symbolic ‘Sephirot’ (emanations), or centres of     activity, is arranged on three columns or pillars.

Left column:

Binah –   Understanding
Geburah – Justice.
Hod – Glory.

Right column:

Chokmah – Wisdom.
Chesed – Mercy.
Netzach – Eternity.

Centre Column:

Kether – Divine Will.
Tiphareth – Beauty.
Yesod – Foundation.
Malkuth – Kingdom.

Da’at – Knowledge, shown as a circle on the middle pillar, has a mystical meaning and is not counted as a Sephirah.

The Tree represents the cosmos from the origins of creation, to nature and human evolution.  Sephirot are active on all planes of existence, but have different applications and associations, depending upon the realm to which they are being applied and the state of consciousness they represent.  The Tree may be used to assist an understanding of the human condition, as well as different dimensions and models of Reality.  Each application of the Tree has associated names, numbers, sounds and colours, which carry specific meanings.  Different Sephirot and paths, represent aspects or changes in condition, for example consciousness on the spiritual journey.

Variations in terminology occur because teachings were conveyed in different forms at different times, as most suited for their era.  So we find differing metaphors, allegories, symbols and imagery.  The six pointed star and triangles, connect to various spiritual traditions, representing the ‘Trinity’, the ‘Three Divine Attributes’, ‘Brahma, Vishnu and Siva’, ‘the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory’, and aspects of the human path; amongst other things.

In order to get to grips with some of the language and images in different spiritual teachings and esoteric philosophies, it is a great help to get to know about the basic principles which lie behind them.   It must also be remembered that for the most part, esoteric teachings were kept secret and revealed only to proven pupils.  A very limited exoteric explanation was given out to the public.  Some of these concepts and portrayals can be very puzzling, but become an ‘open book’ once we start to understand various keys to the Inner Teachings.  This is the reason why in the late 19th century Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (HPB) was asked to start a new theosophical movement:  ‘The Theosophical Society’.  This was done to openly bring forward Theosophical Doctrines (Divine Wisdom), for the 20th century and beyond and to promote the Theosophic Life.  HPB was chosen as the person with the spiritual development and faculties most suited for this work. Two of the higher Initiates, Masters Koot Hoomi and Morya, believed such an effort could help humanity’s progress at this particular time, though what they were free to disclose only lifted a tiny corner of the veil. They took upon themselves any karmic repercussions which might occur as a result of making these Teachings available to all.

Knowledge of the Septenary Nature of a human being is essential to understanding the basis of some of these teachings and an outline from HPB’s ‘Key to Theosophy’ (the ‘Key’) is given in the table below:

The Septenary Nature of Men and Women
  Sanskrit English Explanation
G. Atma Pure Spirit One with the Absolute, as its radiation.
F. Buddhi The Spiritual Soul The vehicle of pure universal spirit (Monad).  The reincarnating Ego.
E. Manas Mind/Intelligence A dual principle, which light, or radiation links the Soul, for the lifetime, to the mortal man.
D. Kama Rupa The desire body, seat

of animal desires and passions.

This is the centre of the animal man (the personality or ordinary ego), the line of demarcation which separates the mortal man from the immortal Ego.
C. Linga Sharira Model body The Double or phantom body (the inert vehicle on which the physical body is moulded).
B. Prana Vital principle Necessary only to a, c, d, and the functions of the lower Manas, which embrace all those limited to the (physical) brain.
A. Rupa or

Sthula-Sharira

Physical body The vehicle of all the other “principles” during life.

The Lower Quaternary (A. B. C. and D. above) relates to the everyday human being we are most familiar with – our personality, the lower self.  The Upper Imperishable Triad (E. F. and G.), relates to Higher Mind, the Spiritual Soul and Pure Spirit.  In Theosophical teachings “Spirit” means that which is one with Universal Consciousness.  This septenary division, the lower quaternary and higher triad are often shown as a square and triangle – see left.

It is this higher triad which is the reincarnating entity.  The lower principles, the quaternary, disintegrate at death and the Ego is reborn into a new human body on the physical plane at the start of the next life.  This has been part of the esoteric teachings for millennia.  And whilst there are many sceptics, there are a lot of recorded cases of people who recall past lives and remember names, details and events.  Similarly, there are examples of near death and out of body experiences, which occur when consciousness leaves the physical body and full awareness is retained when it re-enters.

Lower mind (Kama-manas) is closely intertwined with desire and emotions, which fluctuate between one state and another.  Higher mind (Buddha manas) is able to give expression to the Spiritual Soul or reincarnating Ego. The mental principle acts with the lower nature when more strongly associated with desires and impulses, and with the higher faculties when the mind has developed more spiritual tendencies and the Soul is awakened into action.  Higher mind and Spiritual Soul are impersonal, not swayed by the emotions or moods of the personality.  This fundamental knowledge is found in ancient and modern esoteric.

When we knowingly set foot upon the spiritual path, we are striving to achieve a deeper understanding – a higher state of consciousness.  And as we progress, we start to build a bridge with our Spiritual Soul – the Antahkarana.  When this link is established it becomes the ‘Rainbow Bridge to Wisdom’.  This happens when the mind gravitates to the spiritual rather than the material, and in time the Spiritual Soul is increasingly able to find expression in the material world.   Atma-Buddhi, is a self-conscious state of being, not a conditioned state: a mystical experience of integration.

We have freewill and in the ‘Key’ HPB says:  “The future state and the Karmic destiny of man depend on whether Manas gravitates more downward to Kama Rupa, the seat of the animal passions, or upwards to Buddhi, the Spiritual Ego.  In the latter case, the higher consciousness of the individual Spiritual aspirations of mind (Manas), assimilating Buddhi, are absorbed by it and form the Ego.”

Various symbols are associated with the Teachings.  A Five Pointed Star signifies our five limbs and the five senses and our spiritual journey towards Wisdom.  It is the star of Initiation and of perfected man, the integration of the upper and lower, when the Soul has full expression through the lower principles.

The six pointed star with interlaced triangles of dark and light, represents spirit and matter.  The dark facing downwards – spirit falling into matter (involution) and the light facing upwards – matter seeking spiritual light (evolution).  It symbolises the six planes and principles, synthesised within the seventh (the Divine Self, God or the Absolute).  The six pointed star also has another name – the Blazing Star, signifying the Light, Life and Love of the World.  It is the Divine Flame, the Star of Glory, divine harmony and balance.  The six can also be symbolised by a cube, which has six sides, spirit manifest in the material world.

It is not by accident that we see the six pointed star in the emblem of the square and compass of Freemasonry.  The compass symbolises stability of the mind and wisdom in action:  the lower mind and animal-self sublimated by the Ego or Spiritual Soul, i.e. when higher mind (Buddhi Manas) is steering the course of life.  At the apex of the compass is the fulcrum, the point of clear perception, reached when balance and harmony are achieved.

The square is a symbol for the lower self, morality and good conduct, as well as other masonic principles. Each degree on the Masonic journey offers an opportunity to rise towards the Light.  From a spiritual perspective, this is the whole basis of the masonic journey which takes the apprentice through different allegorical stages on the Path.  Masonic teachings are designed to instil morality, reveal the meaning of Strength, Beauty and Wisdom, and raise a Mason to a condition of Knowledge of Life and Death and the Perennial Wisdom.  As Michelangelo puts it:  “I saw the angel in the stone and carved until I set it free”.

Though each Masonic Lodge and every Mason will interpret the symbolic working of the Lodge at their own level, Masonic allegories and rituals reflect the spiritual path common to all traditions.  In pursuing this journey, the spiritual aspirant seeks Wisdom, reveal the meaning of Strength, Beauty and Wisdom, and raise a Mason to a condition of Knowledge of Life and Death and the Perennial Wisdom.  As Michelangelo puts it:  “I saw the angel in the stone and carved until I set it free”.

Though each Masonic Lodge and every Mason will interpret the symbolic working of the Lodge at their own level, Masonic allegories and rituals reflect the spiritual path common to all traditions.  In pursuing this journey, the spiritual aspirant seeks Wisdom, and comes into closer relationship with the Spiritual Hierarchy.  For those with eyes to see and ears to hear, Theosophy and truly esoteric traditions provide the keys to the Teachings and knowledge of it makes all things clear.

Seven is closely associated with the mystery schools. When comprised of a triangle inside the square, it signifies higher mind has control of the lower.  The seven pointed star symbolises the sevenfold structure of the universe e.g. the Divine Intelligences:  the ‘Seven Stars’, ‘Seven Sons of Light’ or ‘Seven Spirits Before the Throne’; the ‘Seven Pillars’, ‘Seven Candlesticks’; the ‘Septenary Cycle’, the ‘Seven Planes of Manifestation’, the ‘Seven States of Consciousness’, the ‘Seven Ways to Enlightenment’, the ‘Seven Ages of Man’, and the ‘Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences’.  The lowest of the seven planes is our visible universe.  Seven can also be expressed as the unfolded Cube, four vertical squares (spirit into matter – male) and three across (mother-nature – female).  This represents deity on earth, or the cross of flesh ever ‘crucifying’ or ‘putting to death’ the Divine Logos or his Higher Self to manifest into matter. Conversely, selfless service and a search for Spiritual Wisdom. The unfolded Cube represents the ensouled living man (Ego).

Seven can also be represented by the Crux Ansata or Ankh, the key of life, which comprises a Tau cross and circle. The top arm of the Tao, represents the cross upon which human passions have been conquered.  The circle on top is the triumph of spirit over matter, life over death or resurrection.  It represents the upper triad in a state of completeness or Unity, unification with heaven. This can also be depicted as the Ankh-tie, a looped rope signifying a door or mouth.  The straight gate which leads to the Kingdom – the Soul passing through the eye of the needle.

Symbols are at the core of the Esoteric Teachings and each has a different quality depending on the state of consciousness from which it is being observed. Theosophy provides the keys to these Ancient Mysteries and reveals the profound Wisdom at the heart of all esoteric science, religions, philosophies, fables and myths.  It is a Truth we must each discover for ourselves.

Some aspects from the “Book of Golden Precepts”, which shares a common origin with H. P. Blavatsky’s (HPB), the “Secret Doctrine” (SD) and the “Voice of the Silence”, were translated and published in 1931 from a collection of lectures given by Dr. Gottfried de Purucker.  In 1935 he published a revised edition in a narrative form, which starts with a description of the ‘Path to the Heart of the Universe’, where it says:

“… that there is a hunger in every human heart – a hunger for the Real and the Sublime – a kind of homesickness brought about by the soul-memory of our spiritual abode, whence we came and towards which we are now on our return journey, it is the saving power in men. 

The pathway of wisdom and illumination begins in any incarnation right here on earth in our present life, the pathway of conscious and spiritual realization, leading ever inwards to the mystic east.  Although the path is one, it is different for every human being, because every human being is himself that path, its core, build of thought and consciousness. 

The stream of consciousness that flows through the mighty Whole flows also through man, an inseparable portion of the Universe.  It is that inner path of Self, of pure consciousness and pure love for all that is.

In her Collected Writings (CW) HPB says, that to give the merest outline of the States of Consciousness is the most difficult thing in the world; since the Universe is embodied Consciousness and a knowledge of the States of Consciousness means knowledge of the different planes of the Universe and of all correspondences in the Kosmos, the Solar System and Man.  When Kosmos is spelt with a “K”, manvantaric[i] manifestation as a whole is meant, when spelt with “C”, the phenomena of our Solar System and the Universe is described.  She further says, that an attempt to figure Consciousness in Kosmos would deceive the student by inducing him to believe that Kosmic Consciousness could be explained, whereas the whole of even the lowest plane of Kosmos transcends the highest Adept on Earth … its explanation in material words would be to try to confine infinitude in a nutshell … Kosmic Consciousness is absolutely outside all terms of Earth consciousness.   The SD states that “The Initial Existence in the first twilight of the Maha-Manvantara … is a Conscious Spiritual Quality … like a film from a divine Breath to the gaze of the entranced seer … a colourless spiritual Fluid, existing everywhere, forming the first Upadhi (foundation or vehicle) on which our Solar system is built”.

In her Article “Psychic and Noetic Action” in the CW, HPB says that Occultism regards every atom as an “independent” entity, and every cell as a “conscious” unit.  As soon as atoms group to form cells, the latter will become endowed with consciousness of its own kind, and that memory has its seat in every organ of the body.  Self-consciousness, belongs to Man alone and proceeds from the Self or Higher Manas.  Only the psychic element (psych: desire body and lower mind or Kama-Manas in Sanskrit), is common to both animal and human beings, although in a far higher degree in man, due to the greater perfection and development of the cerebral cells.  Between the psychic and the noetic – or the Personality and the Individuality – there exists an abyss which could be compared to “Jack the Ripper” and the Holy Buddha says HPB.

How suddenly a higher aspect of consciousness can be experienced was told for example by the Naval Officer and Astronaut Dr. Edgar Mitchell in his book “The Way of the Explorer”.  Coming back from a successful mission to the moon in 1971, he was monitoring the Spacecraft’s system, and since everything functioned perfectly, he could lean back in weightlessness, watching the slow progress of the heavens through the module window.  A great tranquillity started to surround him, a growing sense of wonder, feeling tuned into something much larger than himself.  Although he knew, that there was much strife and discord beneath the blue and white atmosphere of the Planet Earth they were heading to, looking beyond the Earth itself to the magnificence of the larger scene, there was a startling recognition, that the nature of the Universe was not what he had been taught.  There was a feeling of ubiquitous harmony, of inter-connectedness with the celestial bodies surrounding the spacecraft, a silent authority that shook him to the core.  He suddenly experienced the Universe as intelligent, loving and harmonious – the view of Planet Earth was a glimpse of divinity, he says.

After such an experience nothing will ever be the same again.  In 1972 Mitchell left the US Navy, turning his investigation from the outer to the “inner worlds”, to the study of human consciousness, trying to prepare a common ground between science and spirit.  In 1973 he founded the “Institute of Noetic Sciences” with the German Aerospace and rocket engineer Wernher von Braun.  It is now a very prestigious and non-profit making Organization, sponsoring research into the nature of consciousness and related subjects.

Confronted with the strange behaviour in the sub-atomic world, many scientists have turned for inspiration to the philosophy of esoteric teachings, especially when the mystery of consciousness is involved.  In the 1990s Stuart Hameroff , a Professor for Anaesthesiology at the University of Arizona, teamed up with Sir Roger Penrose, Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University, in an united effort to try, as far as possible, to solve the mystery of consciousness, how it comes about, and what its transmitters are.  We all know what it is like to be conscious or have awareness, but what is this conscious “mind”?  They asked themselves how can the subjective nature of our phenomenal experiences – or our inner life – be explained in scientific terms.  The universe is perfectly tuned.  The physical parameters or the measurable aspects of a system, determining physics, chemistry and biology (like the mass of a proton, the charge of an electron etc.); are precisely what they need to be to produce stars, light, life and consciousness.  If any of these parameters were even slightly different, we would not exist.

Traditional religious systems suggest that God produced the physical parameters as they are.  Some modern scientists take the view that there must be an infinite number of parallel universes (or a multiverse), and we just happen to be in one of them that supports consciousness – the so called ‘Anthropic Principle’ that is able to ask these questions.  But meanwhile another very interesting theory has emerged.  Roger Penrose suggested serial rather than parallel universes (aeons within one overall universe); that the Big Bang was preceded by a previous aeon, one preceding the other, or mutated in an evolutionary process.  But then the question was, what is the universe evolving towards?

Penrose teamed up with Stuart Hameroff from the University of Arizona, whose professional job as an Anaesthesiologist had been for decades, to take people’s consciousness away and to restore it again after a certain time.  They developed a theory which is called ‘Orchestrated Objective Reduction’ (Orch. O.R.), which roughly contains the following assumptions:  Consciousness is a process intrinsic to the fine scale structure of physical reality, or fundamental space/time geometry at the ‘Planck Scale’, the smallest measurement of a length of time with any meaning.  The theory is that there is still information in a subjective realm, where the physical parameters are embedded and determined.  If so, the obvious conclusion would be that with each Big Bang and rebirth of the universe, the physical parameters may slightly change or mutate in an evolutionary process, suggesting the universe is evolving to optimize consciousness.

The SD expresses it like this: … “Nature runs down [a process called entropy today] and disappears from the objective plane, only to re-emerge after a time of rest out of the subjective, and to re-ascend once more.  Our Kosmos and Nature will run down only to re-appear on a more perfect plane after every Pralaya [a period of rest].  Hameroff and Penrose’s hypothesis, is that spiritual and contemplative traditions as well as some scientists and philosophers, consider consciousness to be intrinsic, woven into the fabric of the universe.  That conscious precursors and Platonic forms and ethical values preceding biology, existed all along in the fine scale structure of physical reality; that it is consciousness which is driving the universe.  Hameroff compares it with what Hindu Philosophy calls Brahman, the essence of an omnipresent and aware universe; that Atma would then be an individualized ripple of that consciousness: “Spirit in the fabric of space and time”, coalescing in a particular region with this underlying fabric of the universe being the container of all potentialities.  This suggests there is an inner connectedness among human beings and the essence of the universe.  A field of quantum vibrations containing platonic values or ethics, which humans can access as a kind of divine guidance.  That the quantum vibrations of consciousness are more like music than computation (or mathematical calculations).

The physical medium for consciousness to occur in the brain seem to be microtubules, the largest filaments within cell structure and the brain’s neurons.  Penrose and Hameroff propose, that aspects of quantum theory, like the phenomenon of wave function “self-collapse”, are essential for consciousness to occur.  The particular characteristics of microtubules suitable for such quantum effects include their crystal-like lattice structure.  They are hollow tubes, around which their sub-units, called tubulins, or globular proteins, are symmetrically arranged.  That they co-operatively interact, having the same frequencies as ultrasound, and can be assembled and dis-assembled as required by the cell.  Not only can they connect with the brain as a kind of quantum computer, but also to the universe itself.

Monitoring the brain waves of dying persons by using an EEG (or electro- encephalogram), showed amazing results.  About 80 – 100 megahertz is our usual scale of consciousness, 40 – 60 when under anaesthetics, lower frequencies are a sign of brain damage.  When the heartbeat of a dying person stops, the brain waves drop to 0.  But then something extraordinary happens.  Suddenly an absolute burst of activity up to 90 megahertz appears in the neurons of the brain, again for about 90 seconds to 20 minutes, even with patients who are brain-dead and also with animals.  One could say, that death seems to be the most awake moment, which the scientists interpreted as the soul leaving the body.  When the person experiences all the stages of their life like in a film – as reported from near death experiences.

This led to the argument for an eternal soul.  If the soul is an individualized unit of the fabric of the universe itself, it could act as a quantum container of stored information of a person’s life experiences and could exist outside the body.  In other words “survive it” as a kind of entangled quantum soul with all the necessary ingredients of accumulated experiences and latent possibilities for further evolution.  And since after an “out-of-body” experience consciousness is able to attach itself to the existing body once more, why should it not be able to attach itself again to a new body in the form of re-incarnation.  An evolutionary process optimizing its conscious awareness for its spiritual destiny.  HPB says this: “By reflection, self-knowledge and intellectual discipline, the soul can be raised to the vision of eternal truth, goodness and beauty….” (CW).  Lead the life necessary for the acquisition of such knowledge and powers and wisdom will come to you naturally….” (SD).

[i] Manvantara is a period manifestation, many millions of years of divine activity.

References:

Purucker “Book of Golden Precepts”.

H.P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings II; XII.

H.P. Blavatsky, Secret Doctrine I.

The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, compelation, A. T. Barker.

Mitchell, “The Way of the Explorer”.

Penrose and Hameroff, ‘Articles on Orchestrated Objective Reduction’ and interviews on YouTube.

“Journey to the west” is a novel written in the 16th century by the Chinese writer Wu Cheng’en.  It is popularly known as “Monkey” due to Arthur Waley using that title in his abridged English language version.  This article contains some of my own ponderings on the tale and is in no way authoritative.

It is known in the west mainly because of the Japanese TV adaptation that ran from 1976-1980.  Since then there have been numerous TV and film versions, the latest being in 2016 when a big budget film “Monkey King 2” was released.  There is also a stage musical, “Monkey: Journey to the West” created by the Chinese actor and director Chen Shi Zeng along with British musician Damon Albarn and British artist Jamie Hewlett.  It remains an extremely popular tale in China and Japan and there are also video games based upon the story.

The story is based on a factual event concerning the monk Xuanzang who was concerned about the poor translations of Buddhist scriptures into Chinese, so he decided to travel to India to obtain some of the originals.  He set off in 629AD and arrived a year later, spending a total of thirteen years studying, visiting sacred sites and collecting scriptures and holy relics.  When he returned to China in 646 he set about translating the scriptures into Chinese.  HP Blavatsky states many times that we should go to India if we want to gain true Spiritual Wisdom.  This does not mean literally, but go to the Great Sages and Spiritual Writings of India.  We go East but the Chinese go West!

To these events Wu Cheng’en added symbolism and fantastical adventure.  The story is in fact an account of the trials of the aspirant on the path to enlightenment.  The main characters are:

  1. The monk Xuanzang, popularly known as “Tripitaka”.
  2. Monkey or Su Wutang. The Chinese name can be loosely translated as “awakening to   emptiness.”
  3. Pigsy or Zhu Bajie which means “pig of the eight prohibitions”.
  4. Sandy or Sha Wujing which literally means“ sand awakened to purity.”

There is also a minor character Yulong who was once the son of the Dragon King of the Western Sea, but after setting fire to his father’s great pearl he was sentenced to death.  He was rescued by Kwan Yin and changed into a white horse on which Tripitaka rides.  Kwan Yin plays a big part in the story and often intercedes at difficult times.  For the rest of this article I will use the English names to avoid confusion.

Monkey can be regarded as representing the “monkey mind” as he is restless and constantly flits from place to place at a whim and often acts irresponsibly, but at the same time is able to detect the presence of a danger and has great powers which show the potential of the mind.  The control and flowering of the mind is Monkey’s journey.

He is born from a stone egg formed from the merging of heaven and earth, the awakening of the mind principle.  He then learns the art of the Tao and 72 polymorphic transformations from a Taoist master.

From the outset he is extremely mischievous and manages to upset many gods, who decide to give him a position in heaven as keeper of the horses so they can keep an eye on him.  When he realises that he has been given such a lowly position he is furious and in defiance declares himself a “sage equal to heaven”, perhaps representing the false sense of ego we give to ourselves when ruled by the lower aspects of our being.  The Jade Emperor sends troops from heaven to arrest him but they fail and so he decides to give Monkey the job of tending the peach orchard.  Peaches in Chinese Mythology are said to confer immortality when eaten.  Monkey eats one, against the rules, and when he later discovers that he has not been invited to the peach banquet, he once again flies into a rage and causes havoc in heaven.  The Jade Emperor asks the Buddha to intervene and Monkey is banished to a mountain where he is trapped for 500 years.

William Blake in his poem “London” writes about our “mind-forged manacles”.  The antics of our lower mind blind us to reality and we are trapped by delusion.  Meanwhile the Buddha decides that Buddhism in China is deteriorating and someone must travel to India to bring back genuine scriptures.

Tripitaka is chosen for this task and on his way he comes across Monkey, whom he frees and accepts as his disciple.  Despite being freed Monkey still remains unruly and so the goddess of compassion, Kwan Yin, attaches a gold ring around Monkey’s head and gives Tripitaka a ring tightening mantra.  When this mantra is spoken the ring tightens and causes pain, showing that if we allow our lower minds free rein then suffering will ensue.  It is Kwan Yin who helps the defenseless Tripitaka to find his three companions.  HP Blavatsky tells us that Kwan Yin is esoterically the voice of our Higher Self, which if listened to, can help us through the most difficult of ordeals on our own pilgrimage to discover the Truth and bring it to life.

Along the way they next meet Pigsy, who was once an immortal, the Marshal of the Heavenly Canopy commanding 100,000 naval soldiers of the Milky Way.  He drank too much during a celebration of the gods and attempted to flirt with the moon goddess Chang’e, resulting in his banishment into the mortal world.  He was supposed to be reborn as a human but ends up in the womb of a sow, due to an error at the Reincarnation Wheel, which turns him into a half-man half-pig monster.  This of course is only symbolic.  Theosophy teaches that the reincarnating soul cannot be reborn as an animal once the human stage is reached.  Pigsy represents the lustful and gluttonous elements of human nature.

On earth he poses as an ordinary human married to a village girl, but when the villagers discover his true nature he hides the girl away and as a result she wailed constantly.  At this point Tripitaka and Monkey arrive, defeat Pigsy and free the girl.  Pigsy then joined them on their journey.

Further on their way they come across Sandy, who was once a “Celestial Curtain Lifting General” who stood in attendance by the imperial chariot in the Hall of Miraculous Mist.  He was exiled to the mortal world and made to look like a monster, because he accidentally smashed a crystal goblet belonging to the Queen Mother of the West during a Peach Banquet.  Sandy lived in a river and terrorised the surrounding villages until subdued by Monkey and Pigsy.  He then joined their pilgrimage.

So all three have to redeem themselves, just as we have to redeem ourselves from our fall from a “heavenly” state into the material world.

From then on the party encounter various demons and adversaries.  Monkey possesses a magical staff, which is the size of a pin but is able to grow in length.  He uses this weapon and other means to overcome evil.  Pigsy and Sandy also have magical weapons, a rake and spade respectively.  Although Monkey appears irresponsible, he is the one who protects and rescues Tripitaka during the many times he is captured.  He also has the power to detect evil and can transform himself at will.  Monkey has command of a cloud too, which he uses to fly through the air.  Tripitaka, however, berates him for using violence because this is against Buddhist teaching.  The mind, though wayward in it lowest aspects, holds the key to our ‘salvation.’

Tripitaka represents our conscience, the voice of our Higher Self.  Is there another way to overcome evil?  In our material world it is thought that the use of violence can end violence, but in the end only love can do that.  Yet at times Tripitaka, Pigsy and Sandy fail to see approaching danger and refuse to believe Monkey, who has a deeper insight into such matters.  The powers of the mind are great when it is brought under control and this Monkey is achieving.  Tripitaka appears rather naive at times, showing the value of experience.

This is the journey from unconscious perfection, through conscious imperfection to conscious perfection.

In Indian philosophy, Tripitaka may represent the quality of goodness (Sattva), whereas Monkey and Pigsy embody the quality of activity (Rajas) and the phlegmatic Sandy inertia (Tamas).  It must be noted though, that Sandy is usually the peacemaker in disputes.  These qualities or gunas, all have a positive and a negative side to them.  Tamas may also be a meditative state that brings tranquility to the meditator and everything around them, a calmness in the centre of the storm.  Rajas may give us the energy and drive to overcome many obstacles on our path.  Sattva or goodness is achieved through the trials and frictions of life and the lessons we learn from them.

The story refers to the different limitations of our nature that prevent us from reaching enlightenment and which we have to be overcome on our pilgrimage.   Even goodness can be a barrier in the end, and HP Blavatsky tells us that eventually we have to get rid of ‘good’ karma as well as the ‘bad’, if we are to progress beyond the gunas as the Bhagavad Gita tells us to.

After many trials the pilgrims reach India and receive the scripture from the Buddha himself.  They then return to China and Monkey and Tripitaka are awarded Buddhahood.  Yulong, who once set fire to his father’s great pearl and sentenced to death, is made a Naga.  In mythology Nagas are serpent deities but HP Blavatsky informs us that esoterically it refers to a certain class of adepts.

Sandy becomes an Arhat “the worthy one” or “deserving divine honours”.  This was the name first given to the Jain, and subsequently to the Buddhist holy men, initiated into the esoteric mysteries.  An Arhat is one who has entered the best and highest path, and is thus emancipated from rebirth.  Arhat is sometimes spoken or written as Arhan or Rahat.

Pigsy has not quite overcome his lusts and is promoted to an altar cleanser, one who eats excess offerings at the altar!  Many aspirants fail because they have some overriding vice that keeps them earthbound and until all attachment to the things of the world is overcome, they cannot move on.  So they must be satisfied with what crumbs of knowledge come their way.  Perhaps eating spiritual food will eventually cleanse Pigsy of his remaining faults, as drop by drop our knowledge increases!

It is easy to see that the story is rich in symbolism and I have only given a tiny peek into what some of the meanings may be.  As in all such tales, we will find what we, as individuals, need in them for our own particular pilgrimage.  Such stories were not written just for entertainment but include powerful archetypal images that can have profound effects on the consciousness of the reader, if that reader approaches with the right mental attitude.

The amazing durability and popularity of Monkey and other such legends is because inwardly we can identify with one or more of the characters and they resonate with us in our day to day lives.  HP Blavatsky writes in her article “Signs of the Times”:

Works of fiction, the various novels and romances are called ‘Fiction’ in the arrangement of their characters and the adventures of their heroes and heroines – admitted. Not so, as to the facts presented… Many and strange will be the romances yet enacted; for truth is often stranger than fiction, and what is thought fiction is still more often truth“.

Knowing this increases our enjoyment of such ‘romances’, as we come to understand that by reading them we are not just idling time away; but actually awakening to facts that can help us on our pilgrimage, as well as being introduced to certain concepts in an entertaining way.

Eventually we will transcend all attachment to conceptual views, but until then we can take great pleasure in the journey hard as it may be at times.  If our motive is unselfish and if we realise that inwardly we are immortal, then whatever comes our way is transient and will pass in time.

Not only is there light at the end of the tunnel, the tunnel itself is ultimately just an illusion and there is really just “Light more Light”!

The relationship of the TOS to the Theosophical Society and the Foundation for Theosophical Studies

For over one hundred years, the TOS has made a significant contribution to the community outreach of the Theosophical Society.  It considers its collaboration with the TS and all Theosophical groups to be an honour.  It collaborates with the Foundation for Theosophical Studies and has received funding from the Foundation for some of its theosophically-oriented educational work with children and young people.

“The Theosophical Order of Service was founded by Annie Besant in 1908 so that the sum of pain in the world may be reduced to some extent at least, and at the same time help its workers to learn, through their service and the attention they pay to the quality of their work, to purify the mind.  The Order of Service has therefore a double purpose.  From this point of view, it is not merely the doing of work which is important but the manner in which it is done and the purity of purpose behind it.  The TOS encourages self-forgetful service, and is the natural counterpart of the Theosophical Society’s work to guide people to wisdom.  It brings together those for whom Theosophy represents a dynamic force of the uplifting of human society and the protection of the planet.  It is to be hoped that more and more members will join in its work of building up in this world an atmosphere of compassionate service and caring relationships”.  Radha Burner, former International President of the Theosophical Order of Service.

Annie Besant was prompted to form the TOS because members of the Society wanted to do practical work to actively promote the first object of the Society (To Form a Nucleus of Universal Brotherhood, without distinction of race, creed, cast, sex or colour).  She ordered it to be called “The Theosophical Society Order of Service” and the motto chosen was ‘A Union of Those who Love in the Service of All that Suffers’.

TOS groups are organised by members of the Theosophical Society and they operate from within and not separately from it, though not all members of the TOS are members of the Society.  In around half a dozen countries, the TOS has become a legally registered body mostly because of the extensive nature of the community work they are engaged in.  Whether formally registered or not, all groups operate rather like autonomous community outreach arms of the Society.  Throughout the world, all TOS activities are supported and supervised by the International Secretary of the TOS who reports regularly to the International President of the TOS (ex officio International President of the TS).

The TOS has a harmonious working relationship with the Theosophical Society and it provides a place where social action as spiritual practice is valued and actively nurtured.  Though not present in all the countries where the TS is active, the TOS continues to grow and provides a focal point where members and friends may work along self-selected lines of service.  The TOS does not see its role as peripheral to the work of spreading Theosophical teachings nor does it see itself as simply duplicating the work of humanitarian groups.  The TOS exists to show the world that Theosophy has much light to shed on contemporary issues of concern and can help people find meaning in suffering.  It aims to demonstrate that service grounded in spirituality can engender far-reaching good in the world.

TOS International:   http://international.theoservice.org/index.html

TOS UK:   www.tos-uk.org.uk

Subscribe to free TOS e-newsletter:   http://international.theoservice.org/enews.html

Donations may be sent to:   TOS, 50 Gloucester Place, London W1U 8EA.

Theosophical Society:   http://theosophicalsociety.org.uk

The year 1995 marked the 50th anniversary of the United Nations.  It was a year not only to commemorate a dream, but also to rejoice that in spite of its failures and weaknesses, there is still an organisation in existence that seeks to achieve a world without war.  Appropriately, it would seem, in view of the tasks yet to be accomplished, 1995 was also designated the United Nations Year of Tolerance.  For tolerance is needed, above all virtues, if we are to live together amicably on this beautiful small planet we call our home.

As nation-states have proliferated since the founding of the UN in 1945, with an increasing number of countries having gained independent status, the ideal of tolerance has had a difficult time.  The rise of a kind of ethnic nationalism, coupled with the growth of religious fundamentalism, and often incited to violence by an ever increasing disparity between the rich and the poor, has strained the concept of tolerance almost beyond the ability of the truly tolerant to act in accordance with its meaning.  Waves of senseless violence in so many of the world’s cities have nearly drowned out the voices that call for understanding.  Age-old and bitter hatreds have been inflamed by ideological arsonists determined to set ablaze even their own lands and communities.  The desecration of church, mosque, temple and synagogue in country after country reminds us that religion continues to divide human loyalties, to tear apart the fabric of our most cherished spiritual aspirations.

In such a world, looking at the UN more than fifty years on and recognizing that among its aims, implicit if not explicit in its charter, was the awakening of that spirit of tolerance which was the focus of attention during 1995, what role may the theosophical server play in furthering understanding among peoples and nations?  Our question is at heart a simple one: as members of a society committed to the principle of brotherhood, what kind of action is called for today? What, indeed, are the actions supportive of brotherhood?  Whether we know it or not, we live out our beliefs, sometimes in subtle and sometimes in not so subtle ways.  If brotherhood has become a ‘living reality’ in our lives, how then do we act?

Without in any way infringing upon or compromising that magnificent freedom which permits and encourages all members of the Society to act upon their convictions in accordance with their own understanding, we may suggest that there is an action which inevitably follows upon knowledge.  For as just suggested in relation to our beliefs, the nature of our knowledge will always determine the manner of our action.  Whether we will or not, our behaviour reflects the quality of our knowing.  We may try to act in accordance with our beliefs; we cannot help but act in accordance with our knowing.

If we really know something (and knowing may be as much visceral as cerebral), that knowledge pervades our very being in such a way that our speech is far less effective than our every action.  Communication is always more than verbal interchange.  However boldly we may seek to express our principles, it is finally the example of a life lived from a deeper centre than the personal, a life lived in conformity with universal principles of morality; that is more persuasive than either lectures or books.  It is one thing to say, even with profound conviction, that all life is essentially unitary with its source; it is quite another to live out that truth in the midst of our daily occupations.

It is not so much a matter of determining, when we awake in the morning, that this day shall be lived in such-and-such a way.  Rather it is that, when once we know, beyond all doubt or argument, that every individual – whatever a person’s language, the skin pigmentation, the posture of another’s worship – is a brother, we can act only in a brotherly manner, with complete tolerance and understanding of the differences we encounter.  The action in which the Theosophist is called to engage is, first and foremost, the action of knowing.  We are called to know!  Tolerance, in fact, is an act of knowing, an act of being.

Such action may not seem to be very active, if we can speak in paradox.  It is an action, however, that does not set out to combat anything.  Tolerance, like knowing, does not need to combat its opposite, for where tolerance is there cannot be intolerance, just as where knowing is there cannot be ‘unknowing’.  When one enters a dark room, one does not fight the darkness; one switches on the light.  And if there is no electric switch, one can at least light a candle!  Combative action may still be necessary to eradicate racial and religious discrimination, but for such action to be truly effective, it must flow from our total being, which is to say from the totality of our knowing.  Sri Krishna, in common with every Divine Teacher, did not tell Arjuna what to do; he helped him, rather, to understand, to know, the basis of right action.  The decision to act, as well as the decision on how and when to act, must be the disciple’s own.  The Teacher reveals the multifaceted jewel of truth; from the perception of universals, the disciple is in a better position to determine her own action.  When there is right understanding, there must be right action.  The individual at peace within becomes inevitably a peacemaker:  “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.”

The Greek novelist, Nikos Kazantzakis, writing of the life of St Francis, described the “divine lunacy of freely choosing the impossible” which was the chief characteristic of the saintly monk of Assisi.  It is such ‘divine lunacy’ that is essential for anyone who, knowing fully the far-reaching implications of life’s fundamental unity, determines to act at every moment in accordance with that primary fact.  To walk gently through the world requires often a greater courage than to curse the unbrotherly, to fight the intolerant.  The commitment to tolerance, the commitment to brotherhood is a free choice, and indeed, in today’s world it may seem to be choosing the impossible, to be a ‘divine lunacy’.  Even the Adept Founders of the Theosophical Society spoke of the ‘forlorn hope’ in describing the attempt to establish a ‘universal Fraternity’.

If you have ever looked across a field on a dark night in summer, you may have seen countless small lights flickering momentarily in the grass.  Neither so bright nor so constant as the stars above, the feeble lights of a tiny multitude of glow-worms may still illuminate fragmentary patches of the darkness.  So in the days of humdrum existence, we may not be called upon to vanquish the darkness of bigotry and prejudice as the sun turns the shadows of night into the full light of day.  But in a world in which so many corners are in need of light, even a tiny glow of neighbourliness, of loving thoughtfulness, of patience, courage, tolerance and faith, may serve to diminish the dark around us.  lf we cannot sustain at every moment the ‘divine lunacy’ of enduring compassion, we can at least participate in the glow-worm lunacy of trying.

The purpose of evolution is to enable consciousness to experience terrestrial existence in the various kingdoms of life.  Through this experience it is provided with the impetus to develop from the grosser levels of existence to higher and higher levels of unfolding and potentialities.  Nature’s preordained design is for the progressive movement of consciousness from the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms to the human kingdom.

In the human experience self-consciousness arises and the distinction between the self and others as separate entities is cognised at the outer level.  In the evolutionary journey nature intends for the unit of consciousness to progress from being self-centred, and involved only in its own interests, to a being that is concerned with the welfare of others. Progressively it has to learn to work in harmony with the Universal Laws and thereby assure its own progress as a part of the Whole.

The occult doctrine describes the journey of consciousness from the un-manifest levels of Being to the manifested outer world, where through experiences in the various kingdoms of life, it reaches the state of manifested perfection.  At the pinnacle of the evolutionary journey are the incarnations of love and compassion like The Buddha and The Christ.

At the heart of the Universe is love and compassion that is manifest in all the creation.  The Divine Intelligence that is the architect of this creation caringly caters to the needs of all its creation with great intricacy and love.  A Divine desire to lead each species of life to its perfection and ultimately to the pinnacle of evolution can be discerned in this vast creation.  This is evident in the myriad species of life with special abilities granted to them by nature for their survival.  There is variety in the fauna and flora of the Earth with their intricate designs and forms. It is amazing that each species of life has been provided with its own particular form of defence mechanism to protect itself from other forms of life.

For instance a chameleon changes its colours to blend in with the foliage on which it is perched so that it does not easily attract attention from birds and other carnivorous animals.  Some varieties of insects and small creatures have been provided with glands to eject poisonous substances or odours to deter other animals from attacking them.  Nature in its infinite compassion provides all of them with the means to protect their lives and the right food and environment for survival.  Equally there are species of life that support each other and live in harmony with natural laws.

Lord Mahavira, the great teacher and reformer of the Jain faith preached non-violence and compassion as the basis for a true morality.  He declared that all life had the right to exist and evolve on its own evolutionary journey.  He further stated that it was not enough to declare non-violence as one’s creed, but to also empathise with all living beings in their struggle for existence. His message to human beings was to live and help other forms of life to live as well.  In doing so he would not only respect the rights of all life to live and progress but also ensure the delicate balance of life on this planet.  This is in accordance with Nature’s plan for consciousness to experience life through all forms of manifestation.

How can a new mind set emerge in the ‘New Age’ in the human consciousness that has the sensitivity and compassion to live in accordance with this principle of ‘Live and Help Live’? Scientific research is proving that there is interconnectedness and interdependence of life at all levels of being and disturbance of this harmony causes disasters in one form or the other.  An understanding of this truth, not merely intellectually but at the deeper level of experience and understanding, transforms the consciousness into a caring and compassionate one. However self-centredness and limitation in understanding the plan of evolution binds human beings to their individual existences. They are therefore unable to perceive the larger design of nature for the evolution of life!  The human mind is caught up in this island of self-interest and unable to perceive the larger design for its rise to a higher level of consciousness.

When we aspire for a ‘New Mind’ for a ‘New Age’, it is for a different mind-set from the one in which human beings are trapped. The mind imprisoned in the conditioned way of thinking is unable to make this change without understanding that conditioning. There can be no liberation from this conditioning until there is clarity of perspective of the purpose of life; and of the relationship and the dependence of the different species of life upon each other.

In the Eight-fold noble path of the Lord Buddha, the first step of ‘Right View’ has been considered to be of paramount importance, on the foundation of which the remaining steps are constructed.  ‘Right View’ indicates a true understanding of the nature of things or the world as it is, and not how we perceive it through the colouring of the senses and the mind.  This implies an understanding of the laws of nature under the operation of which evolution proceeds.  It also means an understanding of the Oneness of all Life and the interconnectedness of everything with everything else. When the understanding is correct the subsequent processes of thought are correctly founded and lead to right actions.

When the Buddha was asked whether this meant that belief in some form must be accepted blindly, he replied:  “No, but you must know for yourself three great things-that only upon the Path of Holiness and good living can man finally attain perfection; that in order to attain it he moves through many lives, gradually rising higher and higher; and that there is a Law of Eternal Justice under which all these things work”.[i]

In the teaching of the ‘Four Noble Truths’ the Buddha explained that there was suffering and a cause for it. This is ‘Trishna’ or desire.  As long as we are caught up in the web of desires of one kind or the other for wealth, fame or power this suffering continues and as ‘The Light of Asia’ describes:

If ye lay bound upon the wheel of change,

And no way were of breaking from the chain,

The Heart of boundless Being is a curse,

The soul of Things fell pain,

Ye are not bound! The soul of Things is sweet,

The Heart of Being is celestial rest;

Stronger than woe is will; that which was Good

Doth pass to Better-Best”.[ii]

These beautiful verses describe graphically, that there is suffering in the world and as a result of ignorance the cycle of death and birth inevitable.  Through right understanding liberation is possible from this cycle of suffering. The Buddha taught that man’s suffering is as a result of the choices that he makes.  In the words of ‘The Light of Asia’ man “Whirls upon the wheel of life and hugs and kisses its spokes of agony”, of his own free will; no one forces him to make the choices that he makes out of ignorance.  This bondage to the cycles of birth and death takes place as a result of his desires that tie him to the wheel of causality.  Ignorance of the real purpose of life is reflected in the vain search for wealth, power and position from which the hope is to acquire happiness and contentment.  The mind that is self- seeking is caught up in this struggle of life that results in suffering.  That there is much suffering in the world is evident everywhere and makes no distinction between the rich and the poor.

The human mind conditioned by many things like race, religion, caste etc. is trapped into an established way of thinking.  It is constantly conditioned by impacts not only from outside but also by impulses from within by all those factors that create division.  The thinking is therefore not holistic but divisive.  Freedom from such a state can be realised when the conditioning of the mind is explored through observation.  A detached observation of the thinking process reveals the things that influence our thoughts and actions.

The Buddha once put a problem to his disciples: How would you untie a knot?  The pupils gave very learned answers.  Then the Buddha said:  ‘If you want to untie a knot, find out how the knot was tied’.[iii]

To understand the human conditioning we must find out the causes of that conditioning. To arrive at the unconditioned state of mind, we must know how the mind gets conditioned.  In this connection Krishnaji said:  “The totality of our conditioning can be broken – not bit by bit, which takes time, but immediately, by directly perceiving the truth of the matter. It is the truth that liberates, not time or your intention to be free”.[iv]

To understand the conditioning process, the impacts of the outer consciousness operating through the senses on the inner state of the mind and conversely of the mind on outer actions and thoughts must be observed. In all the thought and action processes this conditioning can be observed. This needs awareness.  An awareness that can perceive the influence of some previous experience on the present experience is an alert awareness.

We create images of our past experiences that influence all our present actions.  So differences of race, religion and many other forms of division are created by the mind. Images of past experiences and prejudices affect our present experiences that we see through preconditioned eyes.  The action in the present is therefore never right action nor compassionate.   Therefore preconceptions of people based on religion, race, nationality, sex and a thousand other things are created that hinder true understanding.  There is pre-judgement of people, on the basis of these artificial divisions, without an attempt ever being made to understand them.  To understand this working of the mind is the way of wisdom and compassion.

To have genuine understanding means putting ourselves into the shoes of others, and to see where they are coming from in terms of their outer behaviour and beliefs.  However our own conditioning makes us intolerant of others and hinders a true perception.  To understand this conditioning requires deep insights into our own nature.  It then becomes evident that we have pre-established views that influence our present experiences and views.  Our present is therefore never free from the images of the past.  The recognition of this conditioning comes from awareness and deep contemplation.

Therefore to understand the present human condition we have to analyse those things that divide human beings and prevent them from becoming compassionate and mindful about others.  Firstly it is self-centredness.  This arises as a result of lack of comprehension about the purpose of life.  It results in a very selfish attitude that considers only that which one likes or wants, to the exclusion of the interest of others.  This self-centredness rises from the self at the individual level and from there to the family, the group to which one belongs, race, religion, nation and so on. In this way innumerable numbers of separate interest groups are created by human beings that are divisive and do not help in creating harmony.

As long as there is exclusivity and separative tendencies there will be conflict.  When he was addressing the European Union Parliament, Dr. A. P. J. Kalaam who was then the President of India, referred to the thoughts of the Tamil poet Kaniyan Pungudranar who was quoted having said far back in time:  “I am a world citizen and every citizen of the world is my kith and kin. Where there is righteousness in the heart there is beauty in the character. Where there is beauty in the character there is harmony in the home. Where there is harmony in the home there is order in the nation. Where there is order in the nation there is peace in the world.”  In a similar way Krishnaji said that the individual must change before society can change. It is only when our inner conflicts cease and we are in harmony with others that the world will change.  There are many serious social issues with broken homes or unstable families because of individual self-interests and lack of true love; a love that is not self-seeking.

Where there is love and understanding in the family there is stability and security in the children born in that family.  Where there is selfishness and a lack of understanding of the other person’s point of view there is unhappiness and instability.  A true relationship whether between a husband and wife or any other member of a family is based on selflessness and love.  In such a home as the poet Kaniyan said there is harmony.

But this is far from what many homes have under the influence of the present electronic age of computers, mobile phones and other gadgets.  A relationship between a husband and wife is usually based on expectations that are self–centred.  There is therefore an unwillingness to accommodate the views or interests of each other in the relationship.  Hence there are broken homes and children who become social problems.  The need is for right values and right forms of education that result in responsible and compassionate individuals.  It is fine to have institutions providing technological and other forms of learning.  But this development is lopsided without the balancing of right values of life.  There must be fundamental grounding in ethical and moral values which would create compassionate and caring human beings.

Is a society based purely on material progress the right one?  Should there not be a balance between the material and spiritual aspects of life and an understanding of the social responsibilities that go with this?  The drive towards greater and greater material progress is creating extremely competitive societies where there are tremendous pressures on individuals to perform more and more. The resulting pressures on family life are tremendous and often result in broken homes and unhappiness. These add up to the miseries and suffering in the world.

There is the story of an Australian couple, the husband a lawyer and the wife a mathematics graduate who got tired of their materialistic life and came to India to find out whether a simpler mode of living could bring contentment and happiness in their lives.  They have been living in a slum in Delhi for more than a decade and raised two sons there.  When interviewed they expressed great contentment with their simple life.  They also experienced the kindness and generosity of the poor people who were their neighbours. This is perhaps an exceptional and extreme example that is not possible to be emulated by most people but it does indicate that happiness and contentment are not based on the things you have or the kinds of houses you live in.

There is much that is not right in a society that is based on material values only.  Should there not be a sensitivity and compassion of the mind to share the limited resources of the world with those that are less fortunate!  But what is visible in many places is the extreme greed of people who accumulate wealth through unfair practices without any thought of the harm they are doing to others.  Often illegally obtained wealth is siphoned off to safe havens and is never used even by the perpetrators of such immoral acts. So we hear of immense amounts of money deposited by crooked politicians and others in foreign lands that could be used for the development of their countries.

Lord Mahavira taught that a disproportionate accumulation of wealth was a form of violence because it prevented others from having their share of the Earth’s resources.  So any inequitable distribution of the resources of the earth is a form of violence against others.  Right education should inculcate ethical and moral values and foster responsible use of the earth’s resources.

The challenge for the new age is rightful thinking and living.  A new way of thinking and living should evolve in the human consciousness that is based on a holistic perception of life.  What stops this happening is the limited, self-centred mind that is concerned only with its own interests and not with the welfare of others.  To understand life requires sensitivity of nature and compassion.  A compassionate mind is one that has the sensitivity to respond to the suffering of others and is not preoccupied with the self.  Such a mind is very different from the worldly mind that is only concerned with its immediate circle of interest.  The average human being lives a life in which the mind is occupied in matters of self-interest only.  There is no concern for the well-being of others outside the circle of family, friends and other specific groups.  When we observe the world around us we see this as the general human condition everywhere.  This is so at the individual, societal or national levels.

There is either a lack of understanding of the interconnectedness and interdependence of all life or the understanding is only at the intellectual level without the sensitivity and empathy that is required to feel this.  A compassionate mind on the other hand has the sensitivity to perceive the oneness of life and to respond constantly to pain and suffering in the world.  Such a mind has deep compassion and empathy for the progress and happiness of all life.  It was the compassionate mind of the Buddha that saw the suffering in the world, through old age, decease, death etc. and his subsequent effort to do something about this suffering.

However the influence of materialism on the human mind is so strong that it craves for more and more of the worldly goods at the expense of inner contentment and peace.  A mind like that caters only for the self and not for others.  At the national level the same factors of self-centredness are multiplied.  Hence at world forums nations are unable to come to agreement on issues that are vital to the survival of the planet and its resources.  Whether it is matters of the pollution of the oceans of the Earth or the depletion of its resources, the economic interests of nations and large corporations are the deciders of actions.

Human greed is the cause of much suffering in the world and no resources of the planet have been left untouched by this greed. In the continent of Africa, for instance, many countries are in a state of civil war or internal strife.  There is great human suffering and the exploitation of women and children.  At the core of these strifes are the vast natural resources of the continent.  Therefore you have trade in what are termed the ‘blood diamonds’ and other valuable stones.  These are sold in the world markets and the proceeds used for the purchase of armaments that fuel the wars on the continent and support the vast armament industries of the world.  So these cycles of wars, human exploitation and the destruction of the planet’s resources continue.

Another example of human greed is the demand for ivory and rhino horn in the Far East.  The result of this greed is the slaughter of these wonderful animals and the near extinction of the species.  Similar exploitation of the resources of the seas has resulted in the near extinction of many species of life like the whales and dolphins. In some countries animals are killed for sport.  Such animals are recorded to have displayed great fear and anguish at the time of their death.  Unless the demand for these animal products is curbed, the suffering of the animals will continue.

A petition was recently circulated by an activist organisation concerning extreme cruelty towards dogs, which are boiled alive so that their meat would become more tender and succulent for eating.  Many voices of protests from all over the world were lodged in the petition to stop such inhumane practices.  To stop such practices of animal cruelty a larger and larger number of people must raise their voices of conscience.  It is not enough to be negatively good; there must be positive efforts in the direction of stopping such cruelty.  In this connection Radha Burnier writes in her book ‘The World Around Us’:

Compassionate living in the modern world seems to be hardly an ideal as it comes in the way of making large and quick profits out of business, and also conflicts with the desire to find new pleasures and satisfactions. People are seeking to introduce into their diets novel tastes, eating the flesh of wild animals and creatures which were not counted previously as sources of meat. Eating the brains of living monkeys for example, and regarding it as a culinary delicacy is a new pleasure open to tourists travelling around the world and getting acquainted with alien customs…..  In the midst of the gruesome inhumanity being practiced, there is a glimmer here and there of a different mentality and approach to life. This keeps alive the hope that humanity is not altogether ceasing to be humane”.[v]

The other factor of division amongst people and nations is religion.  It is the cause of much suffering and division in the world. Instead of spreading the message of love and compassion that is at the core of all belief systems, we have bitter divisions and hatred.  In a very vivid commentary on the state of religions ‘The Mahatma Letters’ describe the influence of the priests of institutionalised religions on their flocks. Indoctrination of the followers turns them into fanatics who are willing to kill in the name of their God.  Immense suffering is caused by such fanatics of all faiths on the followers of other faiths in the name of their religion.  Even within the followers of different sects within the same faith there is so much mistrust and violence that it has resulted in suffering for thousands of people. The priesthood of the various religions who are entrusted with matters of faith inculcate feelings of mistrust and hatred for the followers of other faiths.

The indoctrination of people into certain belief systems continues to be carried out in the name of their faith. Places of worship become hotbeds of violence and extremism.  How can this extremism be replaced by understanding, love and compassion for others? Only through right education and the upliftment of communities that have been economically disadvantaged, can the problem of extremism be vitiated.  It is the lack of education and the economic hardships under which many people live that create the conditions for social unrest and religious extremism.

An example of a courageous stand against extremism is that of the remarkable young girl Malala Yousufzai who has been fighting for the rights of girls to education.  In her speech at the United Nations she spoke about education that would foster liberal thought and nonviolence. She quoted the examples of the Buddha, Jesus Christ and Prophet Mohamed for their compassionate lives and those of Mahatma Gandhi and Pashtun leader Badshah Khan for their principles of nonviolence. This example shows what the courage and right belief of one individual can do to awaken world opinion.

Right education creates stable and compassionate human beings with ethical and moral values.  They in turn create a caring society.  With right education that fosters freedom of thought, the causes of poverty, conflict and many other ills in the human condition can be reduced to create a more just and equitable society.  However instead of tackling the core issues to alleviate suffering, vested interests use illiteracy and poverty for indoctrination into extremist ideological thinking that encourages violence.  Politicians use these large vote banks to acquire power and wealth, without making any real attempt to help such people.

In order for any real change to take place the individual must change.  This means that we have to examine our own conditioning. What divides us from others and why do we create islands of separation from other people on the basis of race, religion, caste etc.  This may be out of fear, insecurity or the lack of understanding of other people on the basis of their belief systems or cultural traditions and many other things.  Unless an attempt is made to understand other people and their traditions or belief systems peace cannot be realised.

The question that we have to ask of ourselves is whether we can make a difference.  The majority of the people in the world are decent human beings who abhor violence and extremism.  But they remain as a silent majority who shy away from giving voice to their views.  The small minority holding extremist views seem to prevail everywhere because of the silent acquiescence of the large number of moderate human beings.  Right thinking people must ask of themselves whether it is morally right to remain passive.  Is it not morally incumbent upon them to raise their voices when issues concerning the well-being of humanity and life generally are affected?

The inaction may be as a result of underestimating one’s own strength or ability to do anything significant.  In reference to this human tendency, Nelson Mandela the great humanitarian and statesman said:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that frightens us. We ask ourselves,” Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and famous?”  Actually who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make magnificent the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in all of us. And when we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

A mind that has the sensitivity and compassionate concern for the wellbeing of life would be involved in proactive action.  If a new age is to mean an age of an equitable and a just society then the right values must be cultivated.  Glimmers of such sensitivity and compassion are visible in the altruistic actions of some people and organisations around the world that are increasingly taking up issues concerning the welfare of all life.  This creates hope that a more humane society is evolving.

[i]  The Masters and The Path. C.W. Leadbeater-1975 Edition p287.

[ii]  The Light Of Asia. Book The Eighth.

[iii]  Krishnamurti and Sant Kabir p78.

[iv]  . Krishnamurti And Sant Kabir- p78.

[v]  The World Around us- Radha Burnier, p619.

What is the definition of ‘Enlightenment’?  Could it be described as transformation by light?  Science would describe light as the energy of the electro- magnetic spectrum, which our five senses only detect in part.  Science is from “sciere” is Latin for ‘to know’.  This is an objective knowing rather than ‘gnosis’ and as such, needs to be proved by observation, experiment and testing before it can be accepted as a proven fact by Science.  The Scientific Method has traditionally used the five senses to test its theories and over the centuries has developed equipment which can extend the senses such as the telescope, microscope etc.  Physics is increasingly dealing with energies that cannot be detected by the human senses and has moved into the theoretical field where higher mathematical equations are used as working hypotheses.

We know that the electromagnetic spectrum is composed of varying waves or frequencies of Electromagnetic Radiation, commonly known as EMR.  These different frequencies have different names: radio waves, microwaves, infrared radiation, visible light, ultraviolet radiation, X-rays and gamma rays.  The visible spectrum or light, which the eyes sense, is only a very small range of the frequencies of EMR.  Higher and lower frequencies remain invisible to the eye but can be detected by instruments developed by scientists during the last century.

Can the inner worlds or planes be proved to have an objective existence? Is telepathy a fact? Is reincarnation true?  And is it possible to predict the future?  These are just some of the questions that Science would require us to prove, using the Scientific method, before it could accept their validity. This knowledge has been hidden (occluded) from man due to his inability to understand the laws behind the outer forms and is therefore of an occult nature.  How can a blind man see the wonders of the world we live in?  How can a profoundly deaf person hear a radio or know the beauty of music?

We are told in the Esoteric Sciences that “All is energy and there is naught else[i], vibrating at ever increasing frequencies beyond which the senses cannot detect.  These levels of energy therefore remain invisible to humans in our present stage of evolution.  Technology has developed instruments which are able to detect the existence of more and more of these ‘invisible’ worlds, such as x-rays, gamma rays, cosmic rays as well as atomic, and sub-atomic levels.  The human form in its present state doesn’t have that range, but as each new break-through takes place, Science then has to acknowledge their existence and thus expands the consciousness of Humanity as a whole.  Could it be that Enlightenment is the development of the form which enables the access to higher level frequencies of Light?   We know that:

  • All physical matter is composed of atoms containing various types of particles vibrating and moving in relationship to each other at determined frequencies.
  • Atoms are minuscule objects invisible to the human eye. Atoms can only be observed individually using special instruments such as the scanning tunnelling microscope. Over 99.94% of an atom’s mass is concentrated in the nucleus, with protons and neutrons having roughly equal mass.[ii]
  • Solids, liquids and gases are determined by the nature of the relationship of the particles within the atoms.
  • Temperature can change the relationship of the particles and this also changes the manifest form. When water evaporates it does not cease to exist, it is invisible as a gas (water vapour).

There was a time when science would not have accepted their reality without proof.  This is also true for sound, another form of energy on a slower frequency, which the ears are designed to detect, but again there are frequencies of sound which humans cannot hear.

The Ancient Wisdom states that we have seven bodies, or vehicles existing on seven planes.  We can only see the physical, so does this mean that each vehicle is composed of atoms of more and more refined matter vibrating at increasingly faster frequencies?  Worlds within worlds, consisting of etheric atoms, astral atoms, mental atoms, all invisible to the human eye.  ‘As above, so below’ would indicate this to be correct.

The Scientific Method needs tangible evidence for all theories before they are accepted as realities, but hypothesis is allowed and is in fact used all the time in theoretical physics.  These hypotheses stand until they can be disproved. Science uses mathematical equations to convey a higher form of knowledge than the concrete mind used by the general mass of humanity.  This gives a concrete form to abstract thinking which arises from the world of ideas at the three highest sub-planes of the mental body.  Science tells us that each element has at least one isotope with an unstable nucleus that can undergo radioactive decay.  Electrons that are bound to atoms, normally have stable energy levels, but can undergo transitions between them by absorbing or emitting photons that match the energy differences between the levels.  This can result in a transmutation that changes the number of protons or neutrons in a nucleus, this process leads to a transformation of the form.

It would appear that the practice of meditation, study and service to others starts to change the frequencies of our various bodies, it is said that the atoms start to become radioactive, and are able to transmit more light to the whole system which our consciousness is using.  The greater the light, the greater the consciousness, would seem to be the possible outcome of these practices.

Service – Could the outcome of this selfless work lead to the transforming of the lower energies of the astral/emotional desires into the finer atoms of the Buddhic energies, manifesting in the heart as aspiration and love of humanity rather than the self?

StudyCould the regular pursuit of study and a higher order of thinking, lead to transforming the mental atoms, from the denser concrete mind, to the higher frequency matter of abstract mind up to the causal level of pure ideas?

Meditation – Could the daily tuning in to the frequency of the spiritual worlds enable a transformation to take place, as we build a bridge of light, infusing the energy centres with ever increasing levels of light energy?

If we consider the Great Work, spoken of by alchemists, (who were surely the scientists of their day).  Could it be that turning lead or base matter into gold, was a form of spiritualising matter by changing the atomic structure?  The ancient wisdom states that ‘Matter is concretised Spirit’ and their difference is frequency and vibration.  This means that it must be possible to change the lower denser vibrations by irradiating the lower vehicles, atom by atom. Could this be the path to enlightenment and ultimately God consciousness?

When Esoteric knowledge is understood then it ceases to be ‘occult’ and eventually becomes general knowledge.  In the history of Science there have always been pioneers who have led the field and brought the knowledge through, often in the face of ridicule and opposition and even with the sacrifice of a life.  This will continue as long as there are men and women capable of bringing enlightenment and new discoveries into the world to benefit and expand the consciousness of Humanity.

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[i]  Rays and Initiations, Alice Bailey, p248.

[ii]  Wikipedia.