The Growth of the Soul, by Alfred Percy Sinnett

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

Re: The Growth of the Soul, by Alfred Percy Sinnett

Postby admin » Tue May 08, 2018 8:31 pm

CHAPTER 15: THE PROBATIONARY PATH.

The door open to all who knock — Self-preparation; the appeal required — The attributes and qualifications to be developed — The greater initiations.

At the first blush of the matter students of modern occult literature, assuming them to have grasped and accepted its broad and grand ideas, are sometimes impressed with the belief that the next thing to do is to get introduced somehow to an occult fraternity and be initiated in some inaugural mysteries, or be confronted with some imposing ordeals at once. The door is open to all who knock — according to the familiar aphorism. The Kingdom of Heaven must be taken by storm, as the thought is expressed in another symbolical phrase, which people in want of intelligible guidance sometimes find to be very irritating. Where is the portal to be knocked at? Where is the breach to be stormed? The true answer may legitimately be distilled from all that has gone before, but the time has now come for putting it in plain and straightforward language, though in truth no such explanation can be comprehended until students thoroughly grasp the whole preliminary view of human progress opened up to the mind by Theosophical teaching.

It is not possible for an aspirant who contemplates effective progress on the path that leads to the higher initiations to get on more than a few stages on his way during the life in which he first addresses himself to the great undertaking. This is the foremost reason why it is premature for the candidate to expect to be put, from the very beginning of his effort, in direct personal relations with the Masters from whom he wishes to obtain guidance. The task before him, in the first instance, is the development of his own character along the lines that lead in the direction of the remote perfection aimed at. Eager beginners may find the prospect discouraging, but there is no short cut to the acquisition of the interior characteristics which constitute the only recognised claim to participation in the wisdom and power of the Adepts of the White Law. A fundamental mistake is made by anyone who imagines that the all-important qualifications have to do with the cultivation of psychic faculties. The custodians of the knowledge of which the occult student is in search, are engaged in the magnificent task of stimulating and promoting the spiritual growth of humanity, not its mere capacity to handle the finer forces of Nature without regard to the ultimate purpose to which they are to be applied. The disciples they are in search of are such persons as may be qualified not merely to exercise power on the superior planes of Nature, but to join in the great unselfish work of raising humanity to a loftier level of thought and feeling than that on which the majority of mankind still move. Eagerness to penetrate the fascinating mysteries of the superphysical world, however well fortified by courage and strength, is no adequate qualification for the true occult initiation. The attributes which must belong to the accepted pupil, not to speak of the person fit to be presented by his own Master to the occult hierarchy, and thus to be received into the community of those who have definitely entered on the path, must be such as promise to render him in process of time a . co-worker with those whose duty it is in the scheme of the world's government, to foster and provide for the moral growth of all mankind. The impatience that would set a neophyte in antagonism with — as he might imagine it — this too exclusive programme would have no effect whatever in helping him to get on faster. Some of the powers and faculties, the charm of which may have inflamed his imagination, may have been acquired by some persons in whose possession he may see them, by irregular methods ill-calculated to promote real ulterior growth, but they will only be conferred by Hierophants of the great White Brotherhood in the wake of those moral attributes on the part of a candidate which can alone afford those who are already Masters in the school of supreme benevolence no less than in that of wisdom, the assurance that he will not misuse the power and enlarged senses of perception, of which he is in search.

Where would be the motive for endowing the public at large with information enabling anyone who desires to do so, with whatever motive, to enter into personal relations with the Higher Masters? The fact that there is a path which the spiritual student may tread is made abundantly obvious for everyone who has common intelligence to apply to the matter by the recent revival of occult literature. The teaching, which in the course of that revival has been explicitly communicated to the world at large by Adept Masters — for the first time in coherent, intelligible language — will show new candidates for occult progress the principles on which such progress is alone possible. If they do the preliminary work of self-preparation Karma must infallibly, in their next lives at furthest, give them an opportunity of taking the next steps under the direct help of the Master to whom, in the very act of that self-preparation, they will have made an unconscious appeal. He may not have been cognisable in the first instance by them, but they will assuredly, by the occult reactions of their endeavour, have made themselves perceptible to him.

And now let us examine more closely into the nature of that self-preparation that would operate in the way described. There is no mystery or secret about the matter. The interior moral change required as a qualification for actual initiation, whether Eastern or Western neophytes are in question, is analysed as it were by accepted custom into its component attributes, and the acquisition of these, constitute so many stages in what may be called probationary pupilage. On a hardly accurate principle they have been described by some writers as though they constituted early stages of initiation, and they are thus sometimes reckoned in with the true stages of initiation leading up to Adeptship. But though the attainment of these attributes may invest the aura of an aspirant with some definite characteristics that an Adept would recognise, there are inconveniences in treating them as though they were so many examinations passed in a regular order. In the beginning, they may be achieved in varying degrees of perfection. In fact it is hardly expected that they will all be realised completely while the aspirant is still outside definite degrees of initiation. In the aggregate, if fully realised, they would constitute an ideal character which would at once qualify their possessor for high initiation. That which is alone necessary for the beginner is that he should manifest an honest, healthy tendency in the direction of the various achievements specified, or at all events if some of the qualifications to be described are fairly well defined in his character an imperfect attainment of others will suffice for the immediate object in view. With this comforting assurance in the foreground to guard the aspirant from the discouragement he might feel if he supposed that from the outset occult authorities claimed a complete realisation in his consciousness of principles that seemed at the first glance compatible only with an almost superhuman degree of moral exaltation, we may pass on to a review of the attributes towards which his efforts must be directed.

English phrases may be conveniently employed to describe these attributes, without necessarily falling back on such as would accurately translate the Sanscrit or Pali terms used in the East. The idea is the all-important essence of the phrase, whatever language is used to convey it. And the foremost attribute towards which the occult aspirant must endeavour to train his interior growth is one which seems to me best defined by the phrase rendering Allegiance to the Higher Self.

o begin with, the aspirant must appreciate the significance, in its bearing on himself, of the occult teaching which shows us how the imperishable element in our consciousness is that "Higher Self" which grows and develops as it manifests in physical life through successive incarnations. Each descent into incarnation gives rise to the temporary aggregation round the Higher Self of emotions, desires, characteristics of various kinds which make up the personality or physical mask of the immortal soul — the earthly man as known to other earthly men. These do not constitute the permanent or true being — the "real" being, as some writers call it in contradistinction to the "unreal" personality. Correctly apprehended, the distinction is a just one, though there is a flavour of absurdity in applying the term "unreal" to the earthly personality — so very solid and definite a manifestation while it lasts — which is irritating to people who endeavour to use language with nicety. Anyhow it can be seen that the personality is impermanent as an aggregate of characteristics, though of course it is all the while infused with and animated by the permanent Higher Self. If the conception is found embarrassing it may be approached by dwelling first of all on the obvious truth that the physical body in. which the personality is expressed is impermanent as far as that is concerned. A very little effort of imagination on the part of anyone in any sensible degree qualified to deal seriously with occult teaching will enable him to feel that he might still be himself in another incarnation with a new body and a different worldly environment. The experience of those who have progressed a little way on the path and are enabled to recover recollections of former lives will give us the assurance that in looking back on these such persons feel that their earlier incarnations were undoubtedly themselves, in spite of the wide differences of bodily condition and environment they may have represented. From the stage of mental growth in which each bodily manifestation of the permanent self is appreciated as a temporary phase of being, no long step has to be made to the realisation of the subtle truth that some conditions of consciousness attached to the personality are transitory and impermanent, as well as the outward shape and appearance of the body. With that conception fairly grasped the student has got a good way on towards the acquisition of the first attribute of the probationary path. To acquire it in sufficient completeness for that step of his progress he need only apply it to the practicalities of life. That is to say, he has only (!) to appreciate the real insignificance of those objects of pursuit in life which relate to the impermanent personality as compared with those which tend towards the growth and invigoration of the Higher Self — the real being whose progress, once achieved, is never lost in the course of future evolution. No doubt the complete appreciation of this great truth would make the incarnate man so sublime a philosopher that it seems almost extravagant to claim the attribute from the aspirant just setting out on the path of spiritual progress. But throughout this exposition the reader may bear one important reservation in mind. There will come a time in the course of the disciple's progress when the qualifications under consideration must be realised in his consciousness with absolute perfection; but in the beginning this is hardly expected as a preliminary preparation for acceptance. That which is required is a sound appreciation of the ideal condition of feeling aimed at, an honest endeavour to realise it as nearly as possible, and a fair approximation to success. Total indifference to the usual objects of worldly ambition and desire seems hardly possible for a person actually living in the world, and as yet unconscious in his waking state of the higher spiritual world beyond. On the other hand, we can see that complete absorption in objects of worldly ambition and desire is on the face of things incompatible with even the first beginnings of aspiration in the direction of occult progress. No one to whom the thirst for ease and luxury, for wealth, or for the applause or consideration of competitors in the worldly race, is the mainspring of activity in this existence, is even planted with his foot on the first rung of the occult ladder, even if a certain intellectual appreciation of esoteric teaching as probably true may colour his thinking in leisure moments. From the very outset of any serious anxiety to ascend in the scale of creation, and approximate towards communion with those who represent its altitudes, there must come about a considerable loosening of the old ties to worldly objects. These may not fade away into entire insignificance, but they begin to be coloured by a sickly aspect of instability, and gradually the interior consciousness that conditions of existence relating to planes of Nature quite divorced from all physical necessities or enjoyments are the only objects worth energetic endeavour, will take hold of the mind. The change may be worked out by different aspirants with very different degrees of completeness, but it must set in, for the neophyte even, or for him the slow course of unhastened evolution will roll on through the ages, passing him through an all but interminable succession of lives, each at the best but a very little better than its predecessor, many of them involving bitter retrogression, as measured on the scale of worldly welfare, most of them gloomily vindicating the pessimist philosophy, that would indeed be justified by human experience if consciousness on the physical plane of life, with all the penalties of that condition in constant operation, were the only kind to which the human family had access. While loftier motives are the allurement to occult endeavour, this thought should be its spur. The path may be hard to travel, but in the sufferings it can hardly fail to entail in the long run, the only alternative road — that which carries us through the tedious course of secular evolution — is a good deal more deterrent to the imagination.

And what is the next attribute to be incorporated with the character of the occult student? He is aiming, be it remembered, at communion with those who have achieved a level of individual exaltation, which would enable them, if they thought fit, to enjoy an existence of beatitude which cannot be comprehended by persons on a far inferior level of spiritual development, but is supremely attractive for those by whom it can be approached. In foregoing this and remaining attached by Incarnation to the plane of physical life, they are governed by no motive referring in any way to themselves* They are solely prompted by the desire to do good to others irrespective of any possible advantage ensuing to themselves. In a minor degree, therefore, the aspirant who proposes to follow in their footsteps must cultivate the habit of mind which they exemplify in perfection. He has, that is to say, to aim at spiritual exaltation not for the sake of its beatitude, but for that of its opportunities, in order that he may put himself in a position to join in the work of elevating the condition of humanity en masse. As in the case of the characteristics concerned with rendering allegiance to the Higher Self, it would be extravagant to contend that the mere aspirant must definitely attain the moral condition in which the efforts he makes in the path of spiritual progress are wholly prompted by desire to benefit others, and completely exempt from even that lofty kind of spiritual ambition that impels him to seek the beatitudes of the spiritual planes of being; but there must be even in his case a recognition of the nobler motive, and an application of it to the immediate problem of existence. He must wean himself from the notion that the attainment of spiritual beatitude for himself is the object of endeavour. In doing right he must not allow the idea that he will ultimately be rewarded, in some way, on another plane of existence for so doing, to take hold of his imagination. Perhaps a good many right-thinking people may n bf habitually do right without paying much attention to the idea of any consequent reward. They do the right thing because that is the right thing to do, and in so far as they really act on that principle are perhaps further advanced on the road leading to fitness for definite initiation than they are actually aware of. But at the same time the ethics of Western civilisation when resting on religious sanctions of any sort, are deeply infused with the expectation of spiritual beatitude in a life to come. Occult teaching concerning the motives that should operate with the enlightened aspirant for advancement in the hierarchy of Nature, combines a loftier ideal with a comprehension of the laws regulating such advancement, as derived from the unity of all consciousness on certain exalted planes of being. The gain of one is in a certain sense the gain of all; the advancing welfare of all in a certain sense necessary to the advancement of the one. The grasp of this idea invests unselfishness itself with the character of a scientific force, while at the same time showing that it can only become a force when the genuine outcome of true human sympathy.

Some reasonably sufficient assimilation of these ideas and the feelings to which they give rise, constitutes the second attribute of the aspirant to initiation. It has sometimes been described as indifference to the fruits of good action, but that is rather a cold and colourless definition. It is rather indifference to personal reward as a fruit of good action, and might be summed up as devotion to right in the abstract. If the attainment of this attribute seems, as it probably will to many European readers, a lesser achievement than indifference to the usual objects of worldly desire, that will only be because of the extent to which so many of us are saturated with the conditional belief that if there is another state of existence beyond this, devotion to right here will give happiness there. Probably there is an application of this doctrine — taking sufficiently long views of the future — in which it is true, but a future far beyond the space of the existence first tinged by devotion to right, may claim from the occult aspirant continued effort and continued sacrifice. He has to face that possibility with cheerful courage and to feel that it imposes no check upon his enthusiasm, before he can be entitled to consider that in the occult sense of the phrase he has attained devotion to right.

We may pass on now — in our survey of the interior growth which must precede initiation — to the consideration of a group of six qualifications or mental habits which the aspirant is called on to acquire.

The first of these is sometimes described as Regulation of Thought. Sometimes the qualification has been described as purity of thought or mastery over thought. Of course absolute mastery over thought would make a man a magician at once; while, with thought so habitually purified that no impulse of an evil, ignoble, or unsaintly order should ever cross the mind even to be hunted out, the personality so exalted would be almost ready for Nirvana on the strength of that condition of things alone. But however unlikely it may be that any mere aspirant to occult progress should realise the qualification entirely, no one can persevere in the effort to make progress if his thinking should remain entirely undisciplined, the sport of any breeze of circumstance that might eddy round him. The control and regulation of thought is an enormous task on which the energies of the occult student will be bent, in many various ways, for a long time, but he must make a beginning on it from the outset of his self-preparation. In doing this he is beginning in a very subtle way that training of the will which is an all-important process as he advances further. Thought is under the control of the will to an extent that exoteric psychology does not always recognise, and there are manifold reasons why the aspirant to initiation must be able to hold his thoughts fairly well in hand before he is in a position to claim admittance to a fellowship in which thought is apt to be as manifest to those around, as the colour of the clothes a man might wear would be manifest to ordinary observation.

And independently of this, regulation of thought in the aspirant is regarded from the occult point of view as the prelude to the second qualification of the series before us — regulation of conduct. Taken thus, the first and second qualifications will perhaps seem to some readers presented in the wrong order. It may look like putting the cart before the horse to postpone the reform of one's action till after the reform of one's thinking on the subject. And as applied to the grosser vices of common life — if these were the matters the occultist had to regulate, self-restraint in action would certainly have to be accomplished before any one could talk seriously about regulating thought in such a way as to eliminate from his nature the desires that would have to be self-restrained. But the student who has already rendered allegiance to his Higher Self and attained devotion to right, even in a degree that may be far from perfection in either respect, need hardly be thought of as a person under the dominion of the grosser vices. The conduct to be regulated is that which has to do with the finer problems of life and the subtler temptations. Noblesse oblige. The conduct of an aspirant to initiations which will bring him into conscious relations with beings so exalted as those on the higher levels of the occult hierarchy, should clearly bear some fair correspondence with the character of his aspirations. Here there is no question of rank weeds to be pulled up, but of influences to be brought to bear on the aspirant's nature of such an order that conduct may not only be negatively but positively in creditable harmony with his ideals. With that idea to explain the arrangement it will seem reasonable enough that regulation of thought is treated as the first, and regulation of conduct as the second of the qualifications.

The third has to do with a change of feeling in regard to religious matters which has very different significance for different people. So many beautiful emotions are often interwoven around religious formulas and creeds, even after these have diverged a good deal from the pure teaching out of which they may have sprung, that the disentanglement of the truth from unfortunate accretions of thought gathered round it, is sometimes in such cases an almost painful process. And yet it must be recognised that the aspirant in search of real knowledge concerning the profound inner verities of spiritual science cannot expect to carry to the end of his undertaking the whole burden of the crude popular beliefs which make up the exoteric religion, whatever it may be, in which his devotional instincts have first been nurtured. For the tendernesses of thought, so to speak, to which that nurture may have given rise, occult teaching in its turn is profoundly tender. Genuine Theosophy is far more interested in tracing the underlying truth through its various disguises in all the great religions of the world than in dissecting their several errors; and back through the symbology that he has been used to, until he reaches the fundamental truth, each student directed by a teacher who correctly gives effect to the spirit in which the Higher Masters of wisdom deal with religious attachments, would be encouraged to choose his course. But it is plain enough that advanced spiritual culture must eventually enable the initiate in occult knowledge to look on all external forms of religious belief with a grand and tolerant impartiality. That Higher Self to which the neophyte in occultism renders an allegiance belongs of its nature to a realm of consciousness far exalted above ecclesiastical systems, whether of Europe or Asia. The personality even of the occult student shares that exaltation as he advances in no inconsiderable degree. The acquisition of this sublime sort of tolerance, which is something more than the mere converse of persecution, constitutes the third qualification of the series we are considering. It is that attitude of mind in which a man clings to the essence of spiritual truth, and is no longer in the mental fetters of any hard and fast dogma or creed. Of course, there are some among the candidates for occult initiation who have this qualification in pretty complete development to start with. The most intense agnosticism may be compatible with readiness to accept spiritual teaching which approaches us with adequate guarantees, and in such cases the growth of the mind, which is required at the stage of progress we are dealing with, is one which will rather invest the student with a newly developed respect for external religions, for the sake of the inner truths they embody, than oppose itself to a bigotry which, by the hypothesis, has no hold upon his thinking. But for others the old religious forms, phrases and terminology are not only dear for the sake of the spiritual truth they may endeavour to set forth; they are dear for their own sake, for that of innumerable associations bound up with them, and thus for some persons they may be a stumbling-block rather than an aid to progress. No one whose mind is cast in a religious mould can ever have been asked by a truly qualified occult teacher to break away from the religion to which he is naturally attached. But he will purify it for himself as he proceeds, and find himself less and less enslaved to its outer husk, whether of form or doctrine, and the advance he may make in the direction of this manifestly higher view of the subject is the measure of the extent to which he invests himself with the third qualification, which may thus be described as freedom from bigotry — freedom from any exaggerated attachment to any one body of doctrinal belief, whether it has its origin in the East or the West.

The fourth qualification towards which the candidate has to aspire, is that state of mind in which a man feels no resentment in respect of worldly wrong or ill-usage from which he may suffer. On the face of things, this qualification, in perfection, would be a very sublime attribute, and I need hardly stop to repeat that as regards the occult candidate attempting a preparatory self-culture, so divine a characteristic in entire perfection would hardly be expected. But, on the other hand, nothing can be more fatally incompatible with the aspirations of a person aiming at initiation than a tendency of character which would be the opposite of the qualification in question. For one thing it will be obvious that the guardians of humanity, who are themselves, above all things, the exponents of compassion and unselfishness, can hardly be expected to extend a welcome to pupils who, however well qualified in other respects, might be capable of that worst of all selfishness — revenge. Before the powers that accrue to an initiate from the knowledge to which he is admitted, can safely be placed in his hands, it must be reasonably certain that he is not the kind of person to use them as the weapons of mundane anger. From the beginning he must lean towards the frame of mind in which he will not even feel the resentment to which he must, at all events, train himself not to give way. And for that matter, an honest development in the direction of the first qualification will go far towards simplifying the acquisition of that under notice. In proportion to the extent to which we really fx our aspirations on the things which concern the Higher Self, and dissociate our longings from the common objects of worldly ambition, we shall be less liable to brood over resentful feelings against those who may have come in the way of our attainment thereof. I need not expand the hint into a moral essay, but concentrating the thought instead of enlarging it, may suggest as a conveniently concise description of the fourth qualification — Forbearance.

The fifth qualification, like the third, is a characteristic almost instinctive with some natures, extremely difficult of acquisition by others. It has been described as incapability of being turned aside from one's path by temptation. With persons of constitutionally resolved and steadfast temperament, the motives for entering on the occult path, once appreciated, could never lose their weight. Others of more enthusiastic and impulsive character might be turned aside more easily without having been less sincere at the outset. But for all who have made any decided progress in the acquisition of the tendencies already reviewed, it must, to say the least, be growing probable that faithfulness to the lofty purpose in view will be strengthened into something like a constitutional attribute. It must clearly be assumed to have thus established itself as a predominant feature of the candidate's interior nature before the preparatory stage of the great process is over. The one word "Steadfastness" will sufficiently denote the phase of character in question.

And now we come to the last of the qualifications in the probationary series— confidence in the power of the occult Master to teach the truth; in that of the candidate himself to grasp it in all its vast complexity, and to wield the powers knowledge may bring in its train, as others have been able to do this before him.

The final qualification thus treated as among the preparatory attributes to be acquired by the mere aspirant to initiation, is very significant. How does it come to pass that a "Master" appears suddenly on the scene? Up to this moment all the efforts contemplated are in the nature of self -preparation, and by the whole hypothesis the process is one that the neophyte must undertake for himself, before undertaking which it is not to be expected that he will be in conscious relations with any of the higher teachers. But, as already explained, it is quite certain that at a very early stage of the beginner's loyal effort to accomplish the interior development which must precede his conscious introduction to higher knowledge and fellowship, he will attract the attention of some one among the higher teachers. For a long while he himself may remain entirely unaware of this, but if he fairly well realises the two great inaugural attributes and trains himself with the earlier qualifications, he will make the acquaintance of the Master, to whom he naturally gravitates, before the time comes at which the sixth assumes practical importance for him.

Of course it must always be remembered that nothing in connexion with such a work as this is done in a hurry. The earlier attributes will not be acquired even in the degree sufficient for the beginner under the sudden impulse of a new emotion. Such interior changes ensue from long habits of thought by degrees, or even if some natures are so constituted that a suddenly acquired conviction or enthusiasm may also be held fast, the Master whose attention was engaged would let time elapse, if only for the sake of testing its persistence, before he took any steps that would illuminate the understanding of the pupil concerning his own identity.

Indeed, there would be another motive for delaying that illumination. By the time the habits of thought, the interior growth, manifest to the Master's observation, which were giving rise to the acquisition of the earlier attributes, were fairly developed, a state of things would have set in bringing the aspirant into new and very important relations with the mighty powers in the background of the world's affairs, by whose conscious agency the law of Karma is applied to each individual of the human family. The desire to tread the Path of Holiness which is expressed by progress in initiation, must necessarily include, if it is intelligently entertained, a desire to close once for all the account of evil doing in the past which may stand as an impediment in the way. It is practically an appeal to the Lords of Karma that they may hasten the process by which the aspirant is — slowly in the ordinary course of things — expiating the mistakes or misdoings of past lives. As such an appeal might be made in ignorance of all it might mean, we may assume as probable that it would not be fully answered if the account of the past were so heavy a one that it could hardly be disposed of in one life. But the greater likelihood lies in the opposite direction. The aspirant for spiritual progress may, perhaps, have a good deal to answer for as regards Karma engendered in past lives, but still he is not likely to be among the most deeply besmirched of his race. So it is probable that some rearrangement of the programme of his life's destiny may enable him to go through at once whatever inevitable suffering awaits him, to the end that in the next following incarnation there may be no impediment in the way of his progress. So this is generally the result of a serious attempt to get upon the path of occult development. In one way or another the aspirant finds it unexpectedly thorny. The trouble he encounters may not necessarily seem a direct consequence of his spiritual efforts. More probably it takes the shape of mundane distress or suffering of some kind or another, loss of fortune, friends, or health, as the case may be. And such misfortunes then become the automatically established ordeals which constitute the real trials of the aspirant's steadfastness. The imperfect accounts of initiation as carried out in more primitive ages of the world that have come down to our time, describe artificial ordeals and temptations put in the neophyte's way, and something of this kind may have actually been arranged for in Ancient Egypt, but even there the natural Karmic tests and trials of perseverance must have been the more important, and at all events it is to their by no means tender mercies that the modern aspirant must look forward to being confided. If the irritation and impatience to which they may give rise have the effect of turning aside his thoughts and anxieties from the path of progress on which he has sought to enter, then he will have failed for that life, at all events, in accomplishing the fifth qualification, and his responsibility will not be unduly aggravated by such disclosures or interior illumination as would bring the sixth into question.

The fourth attribute of the probationary path, — the acquisition of the six qualifications constituting the third according to the classification here and generally adopted, — is recognised as a natural sequence of these. It takes the shape of a clearly defined desire for spiritual existence and union with the highest ideals on that plane of thought which the aspirant can set before his mind. And the fifth attribute is rather a stage of progress than a distinct achievement in itself. It is described as readiness for initiation and comes on as a consequence of the previous acquirements.

Then in the fulness of time the aspirant — no longer to be described by that word alone — is conducted by the Master by whom his earlier progress has been watched over and guided, to a great result. He passes a threshold beyond which he finds himself in a certain sense a member of the great Fraternity of Holiness. It is true that from one point of view he has but then for the first time begun to tread the path of true occult development. Many lives may be spent in the efforts and acquirements which lead to Adeptship. From that level the horizons before him, when he ultimately gains perception of them, will widen in a manner which no one can expect to realise with exactitude beforehand; but at all events the aspirant who crosses the boundary of the first great initiation has gained something that can never be lost, whatever may happen to him in the future, whatever difficulties he may encounter as he proceeds. He can never 1 in the nature of things slip back to be what he was before the all-important change was wrought in his nature first by his own persistent effort, and at last fixed by his acceptance at the hands of the governing hierarchy of the world.

The initiation which thus carries the aspirant once for all across the chasm dividing ordinary humanity from the occult world, is called the "Sohan" initiation. The attainment is not a question of psychic characteristics. It is even theoretically possible (though this is an unusual possibility) that it may be taken on the higher planes of consciousness without the incarnate personality remembering or knowing anything about the matter. But at all events it is altogether a question of moral and ethical development and will not be hastened one day, in the absence of such development, by the possession of psychic senses which may be the Karmic fruit of efforts to penetrate the mysteries of Nature, undertaken (perhaps in past lives) from motives quite out of harmony with the lofty altruism of the genuine disciple of the Masters. Psychic faculties grown in this unhealthy way are far more likely to entangle their possessor with evil relationships on the occult planes of existence than to help him on the real upward path.

Not even on the attainment of the Sohan initiation does the development of psychic faculties, such as will put the waking incarnate man into possession of those keys of knowledge confided to him at his initiation, become the foremost object of his appointed training. His work as regards his own training — though he will now, when actively functioning in the Higher Self, have plenty of other work to do under proper direction, the nature of which cannot easily be comprehended from the point of view of ordinary mundane thinking — will still be primarily concerned with the perfection of his moral attributes. For one thing, now he is on the true path of initiation, he will be required to attain with absolute completeness the characteristics which are but imperfectly realised during the probationary period. The result to be attained,, indeed, is now approached in a somewhat different way. In the course of his progress through the various stages of initiation leading up to Adeptship, the disciple is not spoken of as acquiring such and such attributes, but is called on to cast off various "fetters" which attach him to the lower levels of existence. In some Eastern books these fetters are enumerated in a definite order, but I do not think the purposes of this explanation would be served by an examination of the series. From the point of view of ordinary life their exact significance in the occult world would probably be misapprehended. The claims of the probationary qualifications we can all analyse and appreciate to the full. Higher knowledge must be required to interpret those of the higher path. But it is none the less interesting to survey the stages of this higher path, which are better understood even in the outer world by those who are in any true sense occult students, than many Theosophists may be aware of.

Without suspecting what he is unconsciously dealing with, Prof. Max Muller mentions the steps of initiation in one of his translations. In a note to Chapter xii. of his "Dammapada" he writes: ". . . Arhat being the highest degree of the four orders of Ariyas, viz., Srotaapanna, Sakridagamin, Anagamin and Arhat." Those are the four actual names of the four initiations culminating in Adeptship, the first being a synonym of the "Sohan" stage and meaning, I believe, " one who has entered on the stream."

Long intervals of time may separate the passage from one of these degrees to the next. Provided the Karma of the past is entirely favourable to rapid progress, and has fully prepared the neophyte before his entrance on the Sohan stage, it is possible that he may attain the second stage in the same life as the first, but although it is manifestly impossible to speak with assurance as to the usual course of events in reference to progress at these altitudes, the exoteric Eastern books relating to initiation declare that seven lives may not unreasonably be spent after the first great initiation has been, taken, in the attainment of the second degree, I suspect this statement to be an exaggeration, but on such questions it is obviously impossible to be precise.

At all events, on attaining the second degree, it then becomes essential that the advancing disciple should begin the acquirement in his physical consciousness of the manifold powers and faculties which belong to the Adept. For this purpose it is almost certain that he would in the life in which he was ripe to take the second initiation, be either incarnated from birth among Adepts, or be guided by destiny to enter into their companionship in physical life. "Fetters," however, have still to be cast off by the "Sakurtagami," as the degree is designated according to a spelling with which I am more familiar than that employed by Max Muller; and it is not until the third stage is accomplished that the disciple has entered on the life in which he is expected to be able to take the great initiation which constitutes him an Arhat.

To guard against a misunderstanding that would be fatal to the proper appreciation of the system I am describing, it is necessary here to remind readers familiar with certain frequently repeated statements in occult literature concerning the duration of the intervals between incarnate lives, that such statements relate to the normal progress of humanity along the majestic course of ordinary evolution. Once "entered on the stream" new conditions come into play, and the physical lives required for the training of the disciple may follow in rapid and unbroken succession. Again, in order that the whole position may be properly apprehended, it is necessary to explain that the course of initiation described so far is that which leads the aspirant directly up into the great "White Lodge," as it is sometimes called — into close and immediate relations with those spiritual beings more exalted in nature than even the full Adepts, who constitute what may be thought of as the governing hierarchy of this planet. There are other paths of occult initiation by which neophytes may be enabled to progress some distance along the avenues of advancement leading to power and knowledge. Concerning some of these the less said the better, except for the consideration that to comprehend good aright it may be necessary to bear in mind the existence of evil. A resolute and sufficiently reckless determination may enable the aspirant to knowledge concerning, and power over, the occult forces of Nature, even to acquire considerable control of them, without fitting himself by moral development to use them for the good of humanity at large. Under the guidance of purely selfish motives, the neophyte who is unfortunate enough to be able to purchase help from corresponding Masters may get on to levels of knowledge and power corresponding to some of the stages of progress described above as the four steps on the true path. This paper is not concerned to trace the ultimate spiritual consequences of that sort of progress in what is technically called Black Magic; but the point to remember in this connexion is that a good deal of psychic and astral development going on in the world under the guidance of various old schools, or relatively modern societies, of occultism, is not necessarily Black Magic, though it may lie apart from the path of initiation leading directly upward to the White Lodge. There was a time when the White Lodge itself claimed progress in psychic development from its candidates as the first qualification for entrance on the path. That system prevailed during the Atlantean period. But with the great spiritual impulse imparted to the Fifth Race by its naturally appointed Teacher when his time came, a change was introduced under his direction in the rules of initiation, and the ethical or moral qualifications were taken first, in accordance with the scheme set forth in the earlier part of the present statement. But, though the main, pre-eminent lodge of occultism which is welded with the spiritual hierarchy of Nature — the great White Lodge — was then reformed in its procedure, the various minor groups of occult initiates remained in attachment to the earlier method. Thus it does happen that persons may sometimes be encountered who are distinguished by very considerable acquirements as regards psychic knowledge and power, without being equally remarkable exponents of the exalted moral attributes aimed at by the mere probationary disciple of the White Lodge.

All that need be said about such persons is that until they acquire the moral attributes in question, and cast off the "fetters" which impede the progress of the disciple through the final steps of initiation leading to Arhatship, they will not be able to take the higher degrees, nor to put themselves on a level from which they are no longer in danger of falling away into the paths of Black Magic, with all its ultimate horrors.

The precise nature of the acquirements which lead to actual Adeptship cannot, as I have already said, be dealt with on the physical plane of consciousness alone. It would be as reasonable to attempt a treatise on metaphysics in words of one syllable. Splendid as the modern achievements of the human mind in many directions may seem when they are compared with its conditions at ruder periods, they are merely concerned with one aspect of Nature, with one plane of consciousness, and the Adept has to concern himself with several. In terms of one plane it is impossible to describe the tasks of another. And this difficulty standing in our way before we even reach in imagination the Arhat level of progress, we are all the more debarred from attempting to analyse the functions and attributes ultimately exercised and acquired by some of the great Adepts who eventually enter into mysterious union with the fundamental laws of the cosmos, and become in a certain sense their expression — their radiant point, so to speak, through which the Divine idea thenceforth actually flows. Appreciating nothing more in this connexion than the broad principle that there is no limit to the upward progress of humanity towards perfection and the infinitudes of wisdom, we may leave the subject at the threshold of mysteries it would be irreverent to handle at this stage of the world's progress in a treatise designed for publication. Of one spiritual rank, higher even than that of the Arhat, it may, however, be possible to speak definitely, because it represents a condition of evolution which, stupendous as its significance may be, is nevertheless the theoretical goal of the whole human race in this Manvantara. All will certainly not attain it, and those who do so in the ordinary course of evolution will only reach it in the course of millions of ages and beyond an immeasurable vista of lives, in reference to which on their own merits the doctrines of pessimistic philosophy would but too generally apply, but for everyone who may read these pages it is theoretically attainable.

The rank in the hierarchy of Adeptship above that of the Arhat, which we may now endeavour in some measure to comprehend, is attained by the Arhat, after what periods of effort and delay we need not now attempt to account for, when he casts off the final "fetter" which impedes him at that stage. The fetter in question is simply "avidya" — ignorance — and the use of the word in such a connexion may help to show how easily the terminology of the higher "Path" may be misunderstood. "Ignorance" for most of us has a meaning derived from comparison of certain states of mind with ordinary nineteenth-century culture, taken as the standard of wisdom and knowledge. The "ignorance" of the Adept is measured against absolute knowledge of all that concerns the system of evolution and the chain of planets to which he belongs. When he has at last — probably through many protracted incarnations taken by his own will and choice — attained a complete mastery of all the wisdom and knowledge this scheme of evolution can afford, he is ready to pass on. When he is in a position to survey the whole process on which the human family is launched, from its beginning in the remote past to its conclusion in the almost immeasurably distant future; when all the natural laws and forces which play round it lie within his comprehension and grasp, whether they are operative on the physical plane with its wonderful complexity of molecules and forces, or on those other planes invisible to ordinary sight which interpenetrate it or surround it and are more bewildering in their complexity still; when all the myriad enigmas of good and evil, of sin and sorrow, and hope, are resolved into intelligible meaning, and neither the earth below, nor the heavens above, nor life, nor death, hold any riddles from his understanding, the Adept is qualified to attain the final rank in the vast concatenation of progress we have been surveying, and is then known to initiates as "Aseka." It is by virtue of some appreciation, as far as it goes, of the place in Nature which the Aseka Adepts occupy, that their pupils, whether in a humble or advanced degree, entertain the assurance they always feel in reference to occult teachings definitely received from such a source.
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Re: The Growth of the Soul, by Alfred Percy Sinnett

Postby admin » Tue May 08, 2018 8:31 pm

CHAPTER 16: IRREGULAR PSYCHIC PROGRESS.

Natural born faculties — Mediumship— Psychic faculties unaccompanied by spiritual development — Their dangers — A blessing or a curse — Legitimately earned psychic faculty — The spiritualistic development — Its real promoters.

Natural psychic faculties have been for a long time under observation one way or another, in the ordinary world, but this observation has been carried on in such an irregular, spasmodic, unscientific fashion that none of the many writers who have been concerned in the investigation have arrived at any satisfactory conclusion. Very often psychic faculties have been found in persons afflicted with various physical maladies, and lookers-on have jumped to the entirely erroneous conclusion that in their nature such faculties are associated with diseased conditions of the body. The remarkable case of the Seeress of Prevorst, described by Dr. Kerner, may serve as a typical instance. Frederica Hauffe, the Seeress in question, was born in the first year of the present century, at the little village of Prevorst in Wurtemburg. Her wonderful clairvoyance and remarkable visions connected with other planes of Nature were associated with conditions of extreme bodily suffering, culminating in early death. The strange and little understood nervous condition, vaguely described as hysteria, is again so frequently found in association with the sensitiveness which renders some people available for mesmeric experiments, that such capacity is again set down by virtue of a too hasty generalisation to some obscure disease of the nervous system, and recent medical inquirers in France, out of whose researches has arisen the commonplace view of what is called hypnotism, have been themselves concerned so generally with experiments in hospitals that they have communicated to the world at large the ever-current delusion that psychic faculty is a pathological condition. Again, looking at the subject in another way, commonplace impressions connected with the matter are largely coloured by the estimation in which the world at large holds the ordinary spiritualistic medium. The most entirely ignorant section of the world at large simply regards the medium as an impostor, who practises by conjuring tricks on the credulity of his companions. Those who go a little further into the subject know that however largely imposition is mixed up with the mediumship which is purchasable, so to speak, in the market, even behind much of this, some abnormal faculty or susceptibility is to be found. Many people have the experience of mediumship in private life under conditions which preclude any suspicions of imposture, and thus afford satisfactory evidence that somehow or other, under some ill-comprehended circumstances, communication is possible between beings on this plane of life and those on others which are intangible and invisible.

Mediumship itself is manifested, wherever it is genuine, under so many different aspects that it seems to defy scientific analysis, and where psychic faculty takes the shape of sensitiveness to mesmeric influence, that again runs into all manner of different manifestations, clearly showing for experimentalists along this line that the human creature is psychically a far more complicated organism than it is supposed to be from the physical point of view, though we are left without any clue to a comprehension of the reasons why one sensitive will be able to read in a closed book put at the back of his head, while another quite unable to do this, will have visions of other states of existence, or be enabled to cognise events on the physical plane at a distance. Then it seems quite a matter of chance, as regards individual sensitives, whether their faculties come into play in the waking state or only in the mesmeric trance. Some who develop the so-called psychometric faculty in a high degree, and appear to become acquainted with places, people or circumstances that formerly surrounded any object they may hold, will often be quite insusceptible to mesmeric influence. Then as regards mesmeric influence itself, few experimentalists have been able to do more than record facts out of their own observation, and these, however plainly they may show that a potent influence is at work, are so divergent in their character that they help us very little towards a scientific appreciation of that influence. But difficult as the whole empirical jungle of psychological inquiry may be, all these capricious and irregular workings of the astral senses are intelligible enough from the point of view of students who get above them, so to speak, and contemplate them from a still higher plane of observation. Anyone whom we might imagine seated in the middle of a huge crystal would not be able, from that point of view, to discern its contour, however transparent its substance might be. It is only when we get outside that we can look down on the mass as a whole, and so it is only when psychic faculty, trained to the degree of being enabled to function on the Devachanic plane, looks down from that altitude on to the phenomena of the astral world, that it becomes capable of unravelling all mysteries connected therewith, and of perceiving how very largely, how almost entirely, the miscellaneous faculties which are described as those of the naturally born psychic, are concerned with astral plane phenomena.

But in their nature to begin with, the astral senses which may be partially awakened in the case of the naturally born psychic are not different from the senses which may be cultivated in the case of the regularly taught occultist. Indeed, it may almost be said that every person who may be thought of as available for systematic occult teaching independent of moral development, must have been in the first instance a naturally born psychic, even though his faculties may have existed in the beginning as a potentiality rather than as an actual accomplishment. The Etheric Double must have certain characteristics before the senses of the astral vehicle can connect themselves with the consciousness of the physical brain, and the attributes of the Etheric Double are so largely dependent on the Karma of previous lives, that without something having been done in previous lives towards the growth of psychic faculties, no mere intellectual comprehension of the whole subject, nor even a genuine spiritual aspiration in the direction of higher development, will give rise to these faculties or set them in a condition in which they can function with freedom in the life during which the attempt is first made. The astral senses, like everything else about a man, are his own creation, however little he may be aware of it, or even however little he may have consciously in the beginning set out with the intention of creating them. The aspirations and desires in one life, as we have seen in dealing especially with the problem of Free Will and Necessity, determine the capacity of the next, and if aspirations and desires set strongly in the direction at any given period of a human being's progress of penetrating those mysteries of Nature which can only be observed by means of the psychic senses, then these aspirations, acting as a Karmic force, set up capacity for astral development in the astral body of the person in question on his next return, always supposing that they are not counteracted by Karma of other kinds.

Now I have shown in the whole course of this treatise that the loftiest kind of spiritual development is attained along the surest road by virtue of aspirations which, in the first instance, set out with a nobler purpose than that of merely penetrating the mysteries of Nature for the sake of knowledge, and that the growth of moral qualities engendered by the desire to take part in the service of the Divine Idea governing the evolution of the world is provocative in the long run of far higher achievements even on the psychic plane than those which can be attained directly by specific effort in that direction. The spiritual occultist, who seeks to assimilate himself with the elder brethren of mankind that he may the better perform his part in connexion with the mighty task of helping on the race at large, will at the fitting time be guided by those into whose companionship his aspirations will have drawn him, to take the necessary steps which will engender the psychic faculties he will then require to fulfil the purposes of his loftier nature. But at the same time causes produce results, whether they are set in motion with lofty or ignoble purpose, and people who are filled with an ardent curiosity concerning the mysteries of Nature as such, and are constantly making whatever efforts lie within their range to penetrate these mysteries, will Karmically engender an improved capacity to do this in the future, and will find themselves endowed in some life or other with the abnormal characteristics we may loosely describe as psychic faculty. They will begin to see visions that are invisible to those around them, and by thus bringing the astral plane to a certain extent within the range of their own cognisance, they will bring themselves within the cognisance of beings natural to the astral plane, and so will perhaps become mediums through which these beings exert forces on the Physical plane, the effects of which become obvious to all bystanders in the shape of spiritualistic phenomena. Assuming these dawning attributes to be quite unaccompanied by moral or ethical development, to be animated solely by a thirst of knowledge as a personal acquisition to be highly enjoyed, then such an unhappy psychic may become serviceable to mischievous agencies functioning on the astral plane, who may be simply persons like himself, a good deal further advanced, who may have acquired the power not merely of cognising the astral plane with the astral senses, but of getting clear of the body and functioning on that plane in the appropriate vehicle, gathering there whatever they think they require for themselves. Such persons, commonly spoken of in occult writings as Black Magicians, are ever on the look-out for those whom they may impress into their service, and the wholly ignorant, untrained psychic, unprotected by affinity with spiritual influences from above, becomes their ready prey, with results, very often as regards the Karma of the person so entangled, that reach over terrible periods of time, and may entangle the victim for a long series of lives in succession, with grievous miseries of a complicated sort.

Just as often indeed the naturally-born psychic faculty may be due to aspirations which have been largely mingled with genuine, though often uncultivated spiritual longings. Then the possessor is, by the very purity of his or her nature, shielded from the Black Magician's attack, and ready, with a little help, even though up to that time such help may not have been earned, to get on to the right path of true occult development. It is necessary to be thus as much on our guard against under-rating as against over-rating the naturally born psychic capacity. It may be a blessing or a curse entirely in accordance with the circumstances just referred to; or if it may be regarded as in equilibrium between the two influences, then above all things it becomes desirable to shield its exercise by the earnest cultivation of a lofty purpose and by a specific intellectual appreciation of the course of evolution leading to the sublime heights of spiritual development. I take it that cases are extremely rare in which the naturally born psychic faculty can be thought of as functioning on any region above the astral plane. Of course the Higher Self of every human being is akin in its nature to the Arupa level of Devachan, and in the infinite variety of human characteristics that we have to deal with, cases may arise in which by the continued feeding of the Higher Self with the essence, as it were, of many good and spiritually inspired lives, the Higher Self may have become so individually conscious on its own natural plane as to be able in some measure to reflect that consciousness back to its physical manifestation during sleep, or rather, when it has returned to the body after sleep. Such a person may thus have true touch with the Devachanic planes of consciousness, and even in this way in some cases with Devachanic opportunities for acquiring knowledge. Such an unusual condition of development might account for some of the more important prophetic dreams which sometimes constitute so curious an enigma for the psychic inquirer, but it could not often happen that such development as I am here thinking of would be unaccompanied altogether by occult knowledge, for no one who is qualified to assimilate that knowledge in a useful way is left by Karma wholly without any hints which may set him on the true path. The hints or opportunities may come in one shape or another, but they come, we are assured, for all who are qualified to avail themselves of them, and though they may sometimes be uncultivated through a failure to appreciate their meaning correctly and thus quite blamelessly, it is not likely that they would be repeated in many successive lives without giving rise to the required enlightenment of the whole thinking soul. leaving unusual possibilities out of account, however, the most interesting variety of psychic facility we have to deal with is that which is engendered as the fruit of some anterior attempts at occult development. In some past life the person in question may have had an opportunity of the particular kind I have just been referring to. He may have availed himself of that opportunity up to the limitations of his development, as it then stood, which may have been associated with such aspirations as would engender the growth of the astral senses, and then he gets launched on a life the Karma of which is probably favourable to his further progress, although in the beginning he fails to appreciate its significance. His dawning faculties are full of interest for him; there are spiritual forces in his nature which render such visions as he may have far more attractive than alarming. As soon as opportunity serves he assimilates on the intellectual side with marvellous facility all teaching pointing in the true direction of occult progress, and such a man may become, not merely a psychic, not merely an earnest devotee of Theosophical philosophy, but one of those open-eyed disciples whose consciousness has been trained to work freely on the spiritual levels above the astral, and whose beautiful privilege it is to inaugurate their long career of higher usefulness in subsequent lives by constituting themselves a link between the great Masters and the awakening enthusiasm of the many students still on the ordinary plane of life, who are thus enabled, in advance of their own development, to acquire such specific knowledge concerning the occult world that their own evolution in the next life as open-eyed disciples in their turn becomes surely guaranteed.

For the correct appreciation, meanwhile, of the whole entangled problem which has to do with natural born psychic faculty it is necessary to consider the vast stratum of intervening cases lying between those by which some inquisitive explorer of the astral plane falls into the clutches of the Black Magician, and those, on the other hand, where the loftily inspired aspirant gains, through "the expansion of his psychic powers, conscious touch with those who may lead him to the sublimest heights. Ever since the human race has come of age, so to speak, since the middle period, that is to say, of the Atlantean Race during this present world period, there have been people governed by the desire for occult knowledge and progress in all possible varieties, so to speak, of purity, as regards their motives. I suppose it may be assumed that Karmic influences, in the very loftiest examples of such aspiration, would guide the inquirer into the path leading directly to the supreme Adept organisation which merges, as regards its higher levels, as I endeavoured to show in the chapter on the Path of Initiation, in the governing hierarchy of this stupendous system, and so in the immeasurable spiritual grandeur of the cosmic hierarchy. But at the same time it has come to pass, at various periods, that other associations or lodges of occult inquirers have been founded, the character and purpose of which has been very admirable indeed, and with which great numbers of people have been associated, greatly to their own advantage and to that of others. The fact appears to be that all such subordinate lodges of occultism merge themselves sooner or later into the main stream, but following the bent of their own individual characteristics some people, gravitating upwards, may move for a long time in the almost exclusive companionship of their own original associates, and may in this way attain to positions of influence on the superphysical planes of Nature, from which they will be doing their best to help on the spiritual progress of others by the light of their own convictions. Now the movement which is known as modern spiritualism has been largely fostered and was practically set on foot in the beginning, by just an independent lodge of occult initiates of the kind I have -been describing. Eventually the whole system acquired such momentum that it entirely outran the original design in one way, though in another — in reference to the effort to show mankind at large that forces independent of the physical plane are at work around us — it *has attained a very imperfect success. There is much in the actual condition of the movement at present to discountenance the idea that good and intelligent beings of a high order are at the back of all that goes on. But persons who are familiar with some developments in spiritualism will feel sure that the powers concerned have been, in definite cases, good and intelligent, and highly advanced in spiritual knowledge. No doubt in such instances the lofty occult influences I speak of have been at work. In the Allan Kardec development, for instance, instruction was given that directly points to that conclusion. Re-incarnation is the leading idea of the Allan Kardec development. As I have already said, information concerning that all-important law of Nature has not often till recently come from beings on the astral plane. Spiritualists have thus been reluctant to accept the teaching their spirit friends have repudiated, and for those who have made no study of occult science it seems not unreasonable to assume that people actually enjoying the life of the next world ought to know more about it than those who merely study the subject from the physical plane point of view. But at all events, the tone of astral communications has latterly been undergoing a change. By familiar spiritualistic methods I have within recent years come into touch with friends on " the other side " who are fully instructed in the principles of re-incarnation, and indeed in those of human evolution generally as defined in Theosophical literature. The Theosophical movement is, in fact, in progress on the astral, as well as on the physical plane.

And although no information from the astral plane can cover the whole area of Nature with which Theosophical research is concerned, the spiritualist is an inquirer with whom, it seems to me, the true Theosophist must necessarily sympathise to a very considerable degree. Both classes share many important beliefs in common, and are differentiated together, by these beliefs, from the commonplace materialistic crowd, as also from the large number of persons who are precluded, by their own ignorance of all but the physical plane, from even comprehending the dogmas of their own religion. There ought to be a better feeling than that which at present exists between the two bodies, and this may spring up by degrees, if misunderstandings are cleared away on both sides. . The Theosophist must be very far advanced as an occult student if the experiences of spiritualism do not give him abundant food for reflection, and admirable exercises in Theosophical thinking concerning the conditions of human progress after death are to be found in attempts to explain spiritualistic phenomena, as bearing on the life after death, in all their complicated varieties.

Meanwhile the spiritualist will be enabled to realise from the explanation I have given as to the origin of modern spiritualism, that true Theosophists cannot look with hostility, or with the contempt they have sometimes been supposed to entertain, on a movement that has been supported by advanced initiates who, in setting it on foot, were undoubtedly actuated by sincere devotion to the spiritual welfare of mankind.
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Re: The Growth of the Soul, by Alfred Percy Sinnett

Postby admin » Tue May 08, 2018 8:32 pm

CHAPTER 17: INDIVIDUALITY.

The genesis and destinies of individuality — The immensity of the task involved in its evolution — The preparation of monadic essence — Animal instinct — The focalisation of consciousness — The touch with Atma-Buddhi — The spiritual purpose of the whole system — The " Sacrifice " of the Logos.

Some problems of consciousness that seem at the first glance to lie on the threshold of philosophical inquiry into the nature and destinies of man are so intricate in reality that they can only be considered in the light of extensive knowledge. This is emphatically the case with reference to the state of consciousness we call Individuality. One might suppose it would be reasonable to treat that first in endeavouring to trace the course of human evolution, but the subject cannot be handled without cross references to all phases of evolution. We must keep the manifold planes of Nature in view and lower states of consciousness that do not present the phenomenon of individuality and the system to which we belong as a whole, in the attempt to appreciate correctly the genesis and destinies of individuality. The utter nonsense made of the subject by conventional speculation shows how impossible it is to deal with it intelligently without a tolerably complete grasp of Theosophic teaching at large.

Simple ignorance of the most primitive type — disguised in scholarship and intoxicated with erudition — is accountable for the notion that the creation of a human soul is a single simple act of Divine Will, accomplishable at any moment when it pleases two already existent human beings to furnish certain conditions. That line of thought does not exalt Divine omnipotence; it merely excludes all perceptions of Divine methods and exhibits a ludicrously inadequate notion concerning the magnitude of the task under consideration. Higher knowledge shows us that the creation of human souls — the development of individuality in universal consciousness — is the purpose of the whole system to which we belong, or one of its great concurrent purposes, and typical of them all. If it was a simple task for Omnipotence, the organisation of systems and chains of planets with all their kingdoms of nature and so forth, would be the most deplorable waste of energy the mind could conceive. Supreme wisdom cannot be wasteful in that manner, — or it would not be supreme wisdom, — so that by the time we acquire knowledge of the way human individuality is tended and cultivated from its earliest stages of growth, and by the time we come to combine that knowledge with some appreciation of the destinies to which it may ultimately be conducted, we are led to appreciate this idea — that the evolution of an Individuality would be a stupendous task even for Omnipotence.

Apparently it can only be accomplished by this tremendously circuitous and elaborate process that we call the descent of spirit into matter, — a process which divides itself into three great stages, the preparation of the material planes, the growth of consciousness thereon into individualisation, and the training of the individuality towards the complete realisation of its potentialities, — without which after all it is the mere beginning of an individuality.

In some way that it is easier to talk about than to understand, the earliest manifestations of matter represent the consciousness or some part of the consciousness of the spirit by which they have been engendered. But neither in the fluctuating aspects of the elemental kingdoms nor in the condensed manifestations of the mineral world as it emerges from nebulous beginnings do we trace any consciousness of the individualised order. When we advance a step and observe in the beginning of the vegetable kingdom the first pulsations we can recognise as life, we still find spiritual energy vaguely diffused through great orders of manifestation. We may talk now of the monadic essence that animates the vegetable world as something distinct from the monadic essence that animates the mineral creation; but the development of individuality is still far from having been accomplished. Across immeasurable ages of effort the animal manifestation of spirit emerges from the vegetable; but still the achievement falls short of the object in view. The animal kingdom is an immensely higher form of consciousness than its immediate predecessor in evolution, but it is still a collective manifestation. Monadic essence is converging towards specific foci, but it has not yet converged.

By what process in the beginning of the whole system— in the earliest Manvantaras of its earliest schemes — the concentration of consciousness into single individualities was accomplished, we need not pause to inquire. For the purpose of understanding individuality it is enough to trace its genesis at such periods of evolution as we can handle in thought more conveniently than those belonging to the initial periods of Nature's activity. Slowly, slowly the monadic essence animating the superior subdivisions of the animal kingdom gathers in the experience of consciousness that such life as it inspires can afford. Then at last comes the touch of a more advanced consciousness affecting it in some one of its incarnate manifestations. In plainer language, and looking at the process as it works after the human kingdom has been evolved, an animal on the physical plane of the world becomes personally attached to a superior being — one already an individualised human creature. And to convey the idea first of all in what may be rather its poetical than its scientific presentation — but not the less a truthful presentation on that account — the result of this attachment, the result of this first movement within the consciousness of the animal of the great love principle in its upward aspiring aspect, focalises the spiritual force within its nature and engenders individuality.

From that moment there is a definite something — a film, a centre, a point, call it what we like— on the spiritual plane that is a Re-incarnating individuality. It is marvellously, almost inconceivably, faint in its outlines, so to speak, but it is a something that has separated itself from the general volume of monadic essence that inspired the animal when it entered on the critical life. It is an independent spiritual energy which is now competent in itself to find expression in a new physical form. But just because that is so, it can no longer find expression in an animal form. By the act of individualisation it has passed into a new kingdom of Nature, and belongs henceforward to the human species.

A correct appreciation of this turning point in evolution is not only necessary as a factor in the appreciation of the growth of the soul from the beginning, but is at the same time illuminating in a high degree with reference to all the problems of animal instinct so blindly blundered about as a rule. At any given moment of its life an animal of any given species has as much wisdom and no more than the other animals of its class. The same intelligence, the same soul, so to speak, is behind them all, The experience of all previous animals of that class is equally at the service of each, but there is no other experience available, and the physical brain of no one animal in the series is equal to the task of seeking out new experience differing very widely from that with which it has been used to deal. It assimilates in some measure that which comes in its way, and thus a process of growth is going on, so to speak, within the common soul of the whole family. The monadic essence is in process of development. A familiar though a painful illustration of this may be found in the well-known fact that in new previously undiscovered countries the animals and birds will, at first, be found to show no timidity in presence of man. But when man, the undeveloped savage man, comes amongst them either with a club or a breechloader, they quickly learn that he is a terrible enemy. It is not merely the unfortunate victims of his ferocity who learn this; their conscious soul becomes aware of the fact, and the new apprehension thrills through every one of its subsequent manifestations.

We must not make the mistake of thinking of the common soul of an animal family as invested with spiritual wisdom. It represents consciousness on the upward path but at an early stage of its upward growth. It is not greater and wiser than the animals it ensouls; it is accurately represented by them as regards its mental evolution. But each animal it ensouls draws equally on the common stock of knowledge and experiences; one consciousness shares the fresh experience of each. When one animal of a given family, for example, suffers, the common soul suffers. Just as in the case of a human being, if the right hand is injured, the man suffers though his left hand or his foot may not be suffering.

Langnage breaks down, because physical brain conceptions break down, when we try to interpret the relations of the various common souls of the animal kingdom with each other. The volume of spirit, if that clumsy expression may be employed, which for a time is ensouling some low order of animal life, undoubtedly achieves progression as a whole, and at a later period must come to ensoul a higher order; but it would be premature for us to attempt an exact interpretation of the changes through which that progression is accomplished. It is more important to comprehend the later progress of the differentiated animal towards true human individuality when, from some one of the high orders of animal life, a specific animal engenders a Re-incarnating individuality, and thus passes, in due time, and after a protracted interlude of non-physical blissful rest, into the human kingdom.

An important distinction has here to be drawn between a Re-incarnating entity and an imperishable Ego. The mere partial development of the Manasic principle, which is an inseparable accompaniment of individualisation in its first stage, does not involve the acquisition of that attribute of fully developed humanity that has been spoken of sometimes as the Divine spark. That is the consequence of a union between the Atma-Buddhic principle, which is in a manner latent in every form of life and therefore in the newly developed Re-incarnating entity, and the ocean of Atma-Buddhi, brooding, so to speak, over the whole of creation. This union is stimulated by the growth of Manas, (reason or intelligence), and when accomplished the entity— to be thought of thenceforward as an imperishable Ego — is definitely represented on the Arupa plane of Devachan by a vehicle of consciousness appropriate to that condition — the Causal body — as it is now generally called by European Theosophists. Thenceforth that I permanent vehicle of consciousness, the same through all successive incarnations, is the individuality of the entity concerned, clothing itself afresh each time it descends to the plane of matter in new garments of circumstance, but never losing any attributes that have once been absorbed into its own nature.

The aggregation of fresh attributes by the Ego thus developed proceeds very slowly in the beginning. It is divine in its nature, but is not divine in its developinent. Great confusion of thinking on occult matters has sometimes ensued from a neglect to make this last distinction. There is a great difference between knowledge and the capacity to learn. Without the imperishable Ego, the being, even though differentiated and no longer merely an expression of a common soul shared by other similar manifestations, is incapable of the least touch with the higher Manasic consciousness. With the touch once established, the Karana Sharira once in existence, that capacity sets in, but the new entity does not derive knowledge directly from the ocean of Atma-Buddhi with which it is now connected by what may be thought of as a fine though indestructible thread. It derives its knowledge up to a point far in advance of the state of things we are talking about — through the experiences of lower plane embodiments. Many such embodiments may contribute but little to the result. The wholesale drift of evolution is slow, as the scale on which the Manvantaras are planned out should teach us. But none the less is it equally true that at a certain stage the slow process of growth is succeeded by a progress of marvellous rapidity. We may look upon the turning point from the one rate of progress to the other as a stage in evolution hardly less definite as such than the original union with the Atma-Buddhi or the original differentiation from the common soul system of the animal kingdom. The turning point is that at which the Ego concerned in some one or other of its embodiments, at last comprehends Manasically its own nature, and dedicates its will force to the realisation of its divine potentialities, the fulfilment of the purpose with which it has been called into being. That achievement is generally described in the language of occultism as getting on the Path; and from that time on, though progress may be in some cases retarded by specific deficiencies in the attributes of the Ego, which have not prepared it equally all round for higher progress, the onward movement is accomplished by leaps and bounds, compared to the previous gradual drift.

While our thoughts are still subject to the limitations of physical incarnation, it is not possible to follow that progress in imagination to the ultimate development it may bring about, but we may hold on meanwhile confidently to the conviction that whatever enlargement of consciousness becomes possible for the imperishable individuality in its progress through the higher realms of Nature, that individuality is imperishable. It is never lost, not even in the wonderful spiritual union with other aspects of the universal consciousness which takes place even on planes of spiritual existence, which can be touched by the consciousness of advanced individualities still animating a human body. Nothing has contributed more to repel untrained minds from the sublime avenues of thought opened up by occult teaching than the glowing language that has sometimes been used about the mergence of the Soul ultimately in the Divine consciousness — its re-union with God, or its absorption in Parabrahm — whatever phrase may be used. This seems to the finite understanding to convey the idea of individual extinction, and for those to whom no blank negation of suffering, but life and more life is what they crave, the rnuch-talked-of union is looked upon as tantamount to their own annihilation. This is an altogether baseless and deplorable delusion. The real union is an infinite expansion of the individual consciousness, and not a surrender thereof, and while it begins to be a reality, even for those who have ascended the great path but relatively a little way, the individual consciousness does not cease to be a reality as deep and profound, even if we reach in imagination to heights which can only as yet be dimly apprehended.

In illustration of that thought, let us turn back to the very broadest view we can take of the Soul's growth, and contemplate once again the whole system to which we belong in its spiritual rather than in its scientific aspect. Never mind for a moment the marvellous and intricate beauty of the mechanism through which the great purpose of the system is worked out. Let us think rather of the intention with which the Logos of the system sets the whole undertaking on foot. Let us J in conclusion, approach the loftiest phase of our great theme, and endeavour, in so far as that may be possible for human minds functioning under our present limitations, to comprehend the spiritual purpose of the stupendous system to which we belong, the underlying Divine idea of which that system, with all its astounding complexity of concurrent evolutionary schemes and of infinitely diversified life, is the visible manifestation. Sometimes we may be enabled, in a certain measure, to comprehend a mighty achievement in Nature as regards the collective design, even when the resources of power by which the result is brought about baffle our closest scrutiny. Remember that from the point of view of the Theosophist, there are no blind forces in the cosmos super-inducing worlds and systems by their accidental conflux. Whatever happens on the levels concerned with the inauguration of a solar system is the direct expression of the Will of a Being sufficiently exalted in attributes to be able to render that will objective, — to become the manifestation He has created, in the first instance, by thought. By a term familiar to us all as associated with the idea of Divinity, we are enabled reverentially to refer to the Being whose Will engenders and whose Iyife is merged in our solar system as the Logos of the system. We can even go further. We can conceive of Him as emanating in some unfathomable manner from the Supreme Infinite Consciousness, and undertaking the creation of the system as a stupendous act of self-devotion. Within His nature there resides the potentiality of an all but boundless multiplication of His own individuality. Without the appropriate effort on His part, these innumerable possibilities would lie dormant in the Supreme Consciousness. He accomplishes in the creation of the system which He becomes, the first great act of what is sometimes called Sacrifice. His sacrifice — His submission for the whole duration of the system to limitations — is not made, like the sacrifice of lesser beings, one for another or for others, but for those who are as yet non-existent. He gives out His life to the unborn — to those who, but for His self-devotion, would not have individual consciousness at all; in order that the whole volume of Divine consciousness may be richer by countless additional centres of appreciative consciousness.

It is for our sake this great act has been accomplished; for our sake and for that of all others like us or unlike us who are rising through the various gradations of spiritual evolution towards the level of Nature from which the impulse was first given which launched every globe of the planetary system we see. and all that as yet we do not see, on the cosmos of objective life.

The first great out-breathing of the life of the Logos which calls our system into being is the primary manifestation of a law which runs through all the worlds of which we have knowledge — the law which prescribes at every stage of existence that life and energy shall be given out for the benefit of some consciousness other than that of the giver, though ultimately to be identified even with that, the law which is the pulse of the whole system — a law of giving out which involves no absolute and ultimate sacrifice, but is the only law by which progress and exaltation in Nature can be achieved.

The outpouring is shown to us in its sublimest aspect in the manifestation of the system itself; in some of its humblest workings it is a law of love and generosity on the physical plane of life; in intermediate degrees it is consciously guided by those who promote, from higher levels of existence than those around us, the spiritual growth and welfare of mankind. The more we know of true occultism, and of the intelligent exercise of power on superior planes of being, the more we come into appreciative relations with this great principle, which is equally, though in different measure, inspiring the ceaseless beneficence of the Adept and the unselfish benevolence of all good men and women still working more or less blindly in obedience to the hardly, as yet, articulate impulses of their awakening spiritual natures. The end we cannot, from our present point of view, discern distinctly, but we may grasp with unhesitating assurance the conception that all who lend themselves in willing sympathy for others to the fulfilment of the mighty principle, are helping on the great enterprise that our system represents, and at a later date, if they persevere, will help that enterprise with a fuller and clearer recognition of its whole design to guide them, and will thus be giving back their response to the Divine sympathy of which their own consciousness as living individual beings is one of the innumerable fruits.

Some — we do not know how many, and for exact knowledge on such a subject as that we may well be content to wait — will, by the entire identification of their own life force with the energy of the breath which permeates the whole system, rise up from stage to stage of spiritual exaltation through the various schemes of evolution of which the system consists, until at its final culmination they stand on a level with the Being by whom and through whom all consciousness in the system has been developed. His life energy has gone out from Him in the first instance, and has involved itself in myriad limitations. As the great work culminates it flows back to Him through the new channels of spiritual energy, through the new Logoi who constitute His reflection on the manifold planes of Nature towards which His influence has been projected. The universe is wide, and sublime activities analogous to His own will doubtless await them in turn. In what way the countless individualities, which will fall in some way short of achieving the maximum possibilities of evolution within the system, will be drawn back into His all but illimitable consciousness when the season of effort is past, — when the night time of pralaya affords rest alike for humble as well as for exalted forms of consciousness, — we cannot foresee as yet. Nor even can we clearly realise the latest chapters in the appointed history of the system, in respect to the gathering in of all the marvellously diversified energies of life which must still be present on the stage of manifestation as long as any planets continue to circle round the source of all life energy we call the sun. But we are told, and even from some knowledge of spiritual conditions attainable already, can partly understand, that the individuality we think of as the Logos is at all times a host of individualities in one, and will still be a host, how far multiplied it would be vain to inquire, when the harvest of achievement has been gathered, and the purpose of the great Mahamanvantara shall have been fulfilled.
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