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 8:25 pm

CHAPTER 7: THE ASTRAL PLANE.

The superphysical not necessarily spiritual — European and Sanscrit terms — Different aspects of the astral plane— The newly "dead" — Astral matter — Visibility of thoughts — Astral plane inhabitants — Their control— The sub-divisions of the astral plane — As viewed after death — The matter of the sub-planes — The corresponding condition of the fourth principle — Consciousness on the sub-planes — Illustrative experiences on the astral plane.

While tracing out the manifold considerations that support the doctrine of Re-incarnation as the true explanation of the way Nature provides for the progress and growth of the soul, I refrained from complicating the argument by more than a slight reference to the varied conditions under which consciousness is qualified to function on the various planes of existence it may reach during the protracted period intervening between two physical lives. But before it is possible to understand the opportunities of spiritual evolution that lie before us, it will be necessary to obtain a thorough comprehension of the different planes of Nature which, though all superphysical, are by no means all equally refined, elevated or spiritual in their characteristics.

Indeed, that plane or region which is immediately in contact with the plane of physical matter, and of which the phenomena first become perceptible to the psychic senses of an ordinary clairvoyant, is not regarded as spiritual at all in the estimation of the occult student. One of the earliest and most pardonable mistakes of people who in one way or another acquire the privilege, or through the faculties of others obtain the opportunity of investigating mysteries of Nature invisible to the physical eye, is the mistake of assuming that the realm they are thus able to cognise is the whole spiritual realm — the "other world" of commonplace theological speculation. In this vast ante-chamber of the spiritual world the conditions of Nature are no less bewildering for those who first wake up in it, uninstructed, after death, than for those who may become qualified to observe its phenomena while still in physical incarnation. This region it will be convenient to speak of by the name long familiar to the literature of European mysticism and occultism, and to call it the Astral Plane. The term is not particularly well chosen, as the region in question has nothing whatever to do with the stars, but it has become so time-honoured an expression that it is not worth while to set it aside now. The corresponding term in Oriental occultism is Kama-loka, the region of craving or desire, in which the conditions of existence are so imperfectly spiritualised that they have not yet been emancipated from the appetites of animal life. However, it will be better to speak here of the astral plane rather than of kamaloka because however deeply European occultism at the present day may stand indebted to the light from the East, an unnecessary stumbling-block is put in the way of European students who wish to assimilate the ideas of Oriental philosophy when they are disguised in phrases derived from a language with which they are unacquainted. There is nothing in the teachings of Eastern Theosophy that need defy intelligible expression in Western tongues. There is much indeed which may perhaps defy translation into speech at all. Probably for that matter Sanscrit, for those who can handle it as freely as we in this country handle English, is a better vehicle of metaphysical thinking than any European language as at present developed. But new words rise up to meet new necessities as thought itself develops, and at all events whoever truly understands the idea represented by any given term of Oriental philosophy as expressed in Sanscrit will be able to find the means of embodying that idea in his own Western speech. After all, as applied to the astral plane, the term kama-loka merely fastens on one of the attributes of that natural region. For human beings whose consciousness after death may be focussed on some of its lower levels, it may be a region of desire, — of unsatisfied desire if their affinities are still too much of the earlier earth to allow of their ascent to higher levels, — but it is also a region in which natural forces unknown to the physical life have free play and which for that reason we shall inadequately appreciate if we think of it merely by reference to its purgatorial aspect.

To begin with, we must always bear in mind that the astral plane — and this remark also applies to the more truly spiritual plane of which I shall have to speak later on — is a very different region for the departed souls of deceased humanity from that which it constitutes for the emancipated Higher Self of a soul, still incarnate, which by reason of occult development is capable of existing there during the temporary trances of the body to which it belongs. For the deceased personality, in most ordinary cases the will power which is an attribute of the spirit is inactive on the astral plane. That is practically reserving itself for expansion in the realm of spirit, and if we think of the soul that has passed away from earth as occupied with the interests and aspirations which during life have been directed towards the idea of an incorporeal state, we are thinking of it as it will be when the spiritual plane is reached, and not as it is in the astral condition. For those who die, the astral plane is in most cases the first stage of the world of effects, and is no longer a sphere in which spiritual causes can be generated. The higher aspects of the entity are in abeyance, awaiting the awakening later on, on the spiritual plane, and meanwhile the lower aspects that may be functioning on the astral plane are merely reverberating there with impulses already set going during the earth life. Thus it ensues that although on the astral plane, the soul working out its natural destinies is really in presence of opportunities which, if it had all its wits about it, so to speak, would be full of interest, it is as a rule quite unqualified to make use of these.

For example, the astral plane, which is co-extensive with the material plane of this earth life, is infinitely more subtle, elastic, and ethereal than the physical plane, so that the astral body, which is the vehicle of human consciousness on that plane as the physical body is its vehicle during incarnation, is capable of an easy and rapid translation from place to place under the influence of forces which its own occupant is capable of directing. The higher Ego of a living person on the astral plane may be able to control those forces, and thus pass at will almost with the rapidity of thought from one region of earth to another; but the spiritual will of the deceased personality on the astral plane, in the ordinary course of things, is dormant, as I have said, and consequently the astral consciousness does not know how to direct its own wanderings; it becomes the sport of magnetic currents, which it has nothing to do with setting in motion. Immediately after death, indeed, its movements may be the consequence of currents set in motion by the last thoughts or desires of affection of its expiring incarnate life, and this consideration has to be kept in mind to explain much that occurs in connexion with visions of people dying at a distance presented sometimes to their surviving friends. But the power of directing its own movements would very soon be lost by the astral personality in most cases, and then it would drift about in rather an aimless way unless riveted to certain persons or places by very strong ties of attachment or emotion, pleasurable or painful.

In reference to such attachments, and indeed with a view to the proper comprehension of the plane of Nature we are discussing, it must always be remembered that the astral region is not a remote, other world, far removed from our own either by characteristics or space. It is all about us, though invisible to common-place organs of sight. It is another aspect of the physical world, plus forces and inhabitants, of which the physical world knows nothing — material even in its nature, though its materiality is of a finer kind than that of the physical plane.

What is meant by refinement of matter? Nothing is of greater importance in connexion with the study of the superphysical planes of Nature than a proper appreciation of the answer to that question. The habit of thinking of the liquid, solid, and gaseous states of such matter as the senses can cognise, is apt to be misleading here. In the occult significance of the term there is nothing more refined and ethereal in the lightest of the gases — hydrogen — than in the heaviest of the minerals. The atmosphere and the rocks are equally composed of matter on the physical plane, and to the senses qualified to apprehend the matter of the astral plane, that might appear as solid as gold or granite, though its presence would be unperceived in the most delicate balance, just as the balance itself, indeed, and the laboratory in which it might have a place might be unperceived, by a being with none but senses adapted to the phenomena of the astral plane.

I have spoken already of the manner in which the matter of the astral plane is amenable to the influence of thought, sympathy, and will. It is in harmony with that condition of things that on the astral plane thought should be, as it is, much more naked and visible than with us, so that astral beings can see one another's thoughts in a way which is wholly outside the range of incarnate experience. This is the explanation of a great many wonderful observations of "spiritualism," and of the exaggerated estimation in which spiritualists hold that plane of existence — the astral — with which they come most readily into relation. A being who can read their thoughts, and even read long forgotten thoughts which occupied their minds at bygone periods, and thus show knowledge of incidents in their lives known only to themselves (as far as the physical plane is concerned), is easily exalted in their imaginations on that account to a place in nature not far removed from one of spiritual omniscience.

Meanwhile, a person who has passed on from the physical plane, and is still entangled in the astral region, or even the Higher Self of a clairvoyant or mesmeric sensitive, functioning in the astral body, may be subject to delusive impressions arising from this very transparency of thought all around him. Impressions that are merely the echo of other thoughts will seem objective realities, and beyond this, the human consciousness, transferred to the astral plane either after death or in trance, will be in presence of innumerable phenomena, which are objective realities of that plane but are of so strange and unfamiliar a kind as to be wholly unintelligible, for on the astral plane we are not only in presence of an order of matter peculiar to that phase of Nature, but of an order — or rather of many orders — of beings peculiar to that plane. Every region of Nature is teeming with life, and the experience of the ordinary world should prepare us to expect that on the astral plane, as here, the stage of Nature is peopled with others besides human beings. At least as voluminous and varied as the animal life of the earth is the psychic life of the astral plane. Swarming on that plane there are elemental beings of infinite variety which are sub-human, as measured on the scale of natural evolution, but are often endowed with powers — just as many of the animals with us are endowed with muscular powers — transcending those of ordinary mankind.

The control of these beings is one of the most momentous secrets of practical occultism, and the encouraging truth of the matter is that just because they are sub-human — if we take the spiritual potentialities of man's nature fully into account — they are all controllable for the human being who has completely evolved on the spiritual as well as on the astral plane. But it does not follow from this that every human being who passes after death on to the astral plane has either the power of dealing with them, or the knowledge that enables him to realise who and what they are. Their mere presence around him is calculated to bewilder the unprepared intruder into their wonderful domain. He has to learn the exercise on the astral plane of the strength of his spiritual soul — and very gruesome experiences may be encountered during this process — for just as some of the animals of this world are ferocious in their bearing towards humanity, so on the astral plane many of the elemental beings are hostile to the human intruder seeking to acquire mastership amongst them.

Further researches on that head need only concern persons who are coming within measurable distance of the mysteries of initiation, but meanwhile it is desirable that the reader should realise as much as possible of the structure and general design of the astral plane, regarded as a region of Nature irrespective of the different conditions under which human consciousness may function there.

Hitherto I have spoken of it as though it were a homogeneous territory, but that is merely because it is impossible to deal with all its characteristics in the same breath. Between the lower and the higher regions of the astral world there are enormous differences.

These have to be studied in two aspects, that which they present to the soul set free from the body at death, and that which they wear for the competent observer gradually acquiring some of the characteristics of adeptship, who is enabled, by his spiritual advancement, to penetrate at will to any of those various sub-divisions, to pass from one to the other freely, to make use, for purposes connected with his work in this world, of forces that he may find on any region of the astral. To make the whole situation intelligible it will be best to take a survey, first of all, of the various subdivisions from the point of view of the normal entity after death. And here, at the outset, we have to face one embarrassment which often presents itself to the student's mind, the question namely, how far the various sub-divisions may be thought of as actual regions of space, and how far they interpenetrate one another, representing in that way varying aspects of consciousness rather than differences of locality. The more we study spiritual science the less will this notion, involving the interpenetration, so to speak, of one world by another, present difficulties to the mind. The phenomenon is obviously going on all around us before we get entirely quit even of the physical plane. The ether itself, the medium of the vibrations of light and electricity, interpenetrates solid bodies as well as the atmosphere, and carries on its own functions without being in the least degree impeded by the surrounding molecules, so it is quite certain that the matter of the astral plane, together with all the vehicles of consciousness that belong to it, may co-exist as regards the space they occupy, with the physical phenomena of the earth's surface. They certainly do so co-exist, and can be observed by a qualified occultist in intimate juxtaposition with our houses and landscapes. At the same time it is also true that the astral plane, thought of as a sphere or world, has a larger volume or at any rate a greater external diameter than the solid earth, so that we are not thinking incorrectly in imagining some regions of the astral plane as distinctly exalted above the earth's surface. Indeed, if we take care not to hold on to the thought too rigorously, we may not incorrectly work with the rough hypothesis, that the sub-divisions of the astral plane consist of a series of concentric shells, certainly interpenetrating one another wherever they are in contact, as the colours of the spectrum interpenetrate each other, but nevertheless presenting conditions in which the highest need not be thought of as interpenetrating the lowest.

Going back then to the lowest and examining it from the point of view of its relations with humanity after death, we find this to be the sphere in which are entangled the souls of the lowest and most degraded of our race, those whose thoughts and desires during life have been all but wholly concentrated on the selfish gratification of the senses, in whom emotions of the highest kind have played scarcely any part, and by whom, therefore, during life, the astral matter they have attracted around them has been of the lowest order. The comprehension of what I have to say will, perhaps, be best facilitated by an explanation which belongs properly to a very recondite region of occultism, but will here help to dispel the notion that a person after death is arbitrarily assigned, by some superior power, to a specific realm of Nature, in which he will meet with either reward or punishment. Occultism would be ridiculously misunderstood if it were supposed to ignore the existence of Divine Will operating through Nature to determine just results in connection with the progress of humanity. What we are studying now, however, are the methods and laws through which that will operates, and when we only approach the comprehension of these we see cause and effect operating on the mental plane with the same regularity that is observable in the relations of the chemical elements. And just in the same way that we think it unnecessary to treat every union between molecules of hydrogen and oxgyen as a separate act of the Divine Will, so, in occultism, we learn to recognise the working of good and evil as bound up in a concatenation of laws that can be comprehended up to a certain point, and can thus be dealt with far more reverently in the language of science than in that of a court of justice.

To go on with the explanation I am aiming at, we find that the sub-divisions of the astral plane represent distinctly defined orders of matter, though all falling in with some particular category of astral matter, just as matter of this plane is all physical, even though it may sometimes assume a solid, sometimes a liquid, and at others a gaseous ethereal state. Every human being during life gathers from matter as he grows, not merely the physical particles which constitute the matter of his physical body, but other particles belonging to higher regions of Nature which permeate the grosser vehicle and are ready in turn, when that is cast off, to become the vehicles of his consciousness on astral and ultimately on spiritual planes of Nature. But these do not flow in spontaneously; they are attracted, however little the person setting up attractions is conscious of the process, by the character and colour of his daily thoughts and life. The material of the higher astral sub-divisions is drawn into the corresponding vehicle of consciousness in the case of people whose predominant mental condition is of an elevated type; the lower kinds of matter assimilating themselves with more degraded states of consciousness, and the ultimate progress after death of the soul which is then launched on an existence in the astral body it has itself been unconsciously forming during life, is determined entirely (keeping our attention on the immediate scientific working of natural law), by the quality of the matter his astral envelope contains. In truth the astral vehicle of every human being must contain astral matter belonging to each of the seven sub-divisions of the astral plane, but here a beautiful complication comes into play, the charm of which will be readily appreciated by any scientifically minded thinker. The matter of each sub-division is itself capable of existing in different States, roughly corresponding to the solid, liquid, gaseous, and so on. Now, if the matter of the lowest plane which is attracted to the astral body of any given person is of the high ethereal kind, that person is no sooner launched upon the astral plane after death, coming in contact first with the lowest sub-division as a matter of inevitable necessity, — than such ethereal particles fly asunder almost instantaneously. The dispersion of such particles or atoms is a process of which the person concerned is unconscious, and the soul thus liberated from the body would in such a case pass through the lowest sub-division of the astral plane, to use the old familiar illustration, as an arrow passes through a cloud. So again, in reference to the second. If the matter of that plane drawn into the composition of the astral envelope is altogether of the higher kind, it disintegrates no less spontaneously as soon as the soul is on that plane, so that by an automatic working of natural law each soul finds itself immediately after death on precisely that sub-division of the astral plane to which its affinities naturally belong.

Going back now to the lowest plane, we realise the way in which the soul, whose astral body is largely composed of the lower orders of matter belonging to that sub-division, would be entangled there for appreciable periods of time, sometimes for very long periods. Existence on that level is, of course, of an eminently undesirable kind. We need not stop to discuss fantastic superstitions concerning physically painful states attaching to the after-life, but we may easily see that where the whole body of consciousness represented by a soul has been absorbed in desires entirely connected with the physical plane of existence, a state of craving thus set up to which the after-life, even on the lowest sub-division of the astral plane, can make no response, must give rise to an unsatisfied wretchedness, which can only be thought of as morally painful in a very high degree. There is, of course, a gloomy fitness of things in the spectacle that region of Nature presents to our observation, but I am more concerned at present with describing the conditions of the superphysical world than in moralising in reference to their propriety. In the second, third, and fourth divisions of the astral plane, counting from the bottom upwards, we have to recognise a greater relaxation of all the disagreeable characteristics attaching to existence on the lowest, without, up to that point, coming into contact with anything of a distinctly different character. Up to the fourth sub-division consciousness would always be revolving round the experiences of the life just quitted, but in the second, third and fourth sub-divisions, it would not be exclusively bent upon the lowest aspects of earth life. Characteristics of the consciousness destined at a later period to a beautiful fruition on regions of Nature more exalted than any part of the astral plane, the emotions, that is to say, which have to do with love and affection, may begin to permeate the consciousness of the astral being, although for the moment he may be kept back from the realm of Nature in which these feelings would blossom forth most freely, by the continued operation of petty attractions. Of course, it must always be kept in mind that from the strictly scientific point of view, the question in every case has to do with getting rid, from the astral body, of the material of any plane in which it is entangled, but in discussing so subtle a subject we naturally work back to the moral causes at the back of the material condition, and speak of them as determining the result So that the lower levels of the astral region above the lowest would be the natural habitat of those whose lives are largely dominated by the pettier trivialities of existence, — for whom their things have been of very much greater moment than their thoughts, — for whom the work they may have had to do has not been merely performed as a necessary part of life's duty, but has itself become an end, as in the case of the miser whose wealth is not merely accumulated for the sake of the ease of mind it may procure for himself or others, but for its own sake.

As we ascend to the higher regions of the astral plane — keeping for the present to those of its aspects which concern the souls of people dying in the ordinary course of Nature — the conditions change very materially. Putting the same idea another way, we may say, as we come to consider the condition on the astral plane of those who are imbued with aspirations, emotions, and desires of a higher order, we find this region of existence a very different one for them as compared with what it is for humanity of a lower type. My great difficulty now is to do justice to the ethereal and graceful features of the higher astral existence without giving rise to conceptions of it which only belong properly to the spiritual plane. But let the clue to the mystery be sought for in the question, what would be the appropriate response of Nature to a state of mind, which without being degraded or sensual, had yet never risen above, — or had, at least, been mainly dominated by, — conceptions of happiness and ideals having to do entirely with earthly pursuits, enjoyments, and surroundings? We may even recognise these ideals as blended with the exercise of the affections; still, if the affections concerned are not altogether the main thing — if the craving of the soul is for the whole aggregation of circumstances constituting earth life — it cannot get entirely beyond the attraction of the astral counterparts of the earth life's scenery and decorations.

Instead of pressing onward to higher realms of thought and feeling — to that spiritual plane in which interior states of consciousness are the all-important conditions— such a personality as I am now endeavouring to depict will be content to reproduce for himself on the astral plane a routine of life not very dissimilar from that he has quitted on earth.

As I have said already, the matter of the astral plane is much more plastic and obedient to imagination and desire than that of the gross earth; and the astral body is entirely exempt from those imperious cravings and necessities, and from those liabilities to fatigue, heat and cold, injury and suffering, which put so many obstacles in the way of attaining the ideals of well being on the physical plane. It follows, therefore, that for beings on the astral plane, free of distinctly physical, without being free of material, desires, an ethereal counterpart of the earth life may gradually be constructed or thought out, which becomes a complete world in its way. A populous world, too, reproducing many of the companionships of earth life, and in which such as are still missing from the circle of old acquaintanceship may be looked forward to as destined to be welcomed eventually.

These remarks especially apply to the three higher regions of the astral condition which we come now to consider in detail. The fifth is that phase in which the external characteristics of life, in regard to its more graceful, but still non-spiritual aspects, are most completely reproduced. Here we find in their fullest development the conditions which represent the realities as the back of that somewhat too idealistic conception of the astral plane existence, which gather round the notion some Spiritualists have formed of what they call the "summer land." In this condition of being people are well aware that they have quitted the earth life and have passed through the change spoken of here as death, but conceive themselves translated to another world filled with the same interests and occupations as those they have quitted, although these are divorced completely from the strained and painful aspects they have worn down here. The inhabitants of this region create for themselves dwellings, churches, entertainments, music and instruments, and social surroundings of all sorts, in the midst of which they pass their time in a state of placid contentment. Those to whom this mere purified reflection of physical life would be an unsatisfactory version of the after-state, would be carried on by interior forces to other regions of which we will speak hereafter; but by the hypothesis, this fifth level of astral life must necessarily fulfil the aspirations of those to whom it is appropriate, and a gentle self-sufficient incredulity on their part is exhibited towards anyone whose higher evolution enables him to function on that plane of existence for a while, though still in incarnation, and who may endeavour to represent to those around him that loftier states of being are attainable. From the point of view, indeed, of those whose perceptions are more widely open, the scenery and decorations of summer land are woefully imperfect and unfinished, although so eminently satisfactory to their creators. These, by a curious misapprehension of the actual truth, regard with a certain sympathetic pity persons whose interior growth is tending to carry them higher; but who, through some characteristics in their astral vehicle, are entangled on this plane, and remain during their sojourn in a torpid and imperfectly conscious state.

The fully awakened inhabitants of the fifth plane look upon these persons as less developed than themselves rather than more so, and confidently anticipate a period when they will wake completely and appreciate the excellences of the life around. Their complete awakening is really reserved for higher planes, perhaps for those truly spiritual regions to be dealt with hereafter, perhaps for those immediately superior conditions of astral life which we find in manifestation on the sixth and seventh sub-divisions. On the sixth especially the predominant nature of the prevalent feeling has to do with religious sentiment. In its finer and purer aspects, religious sentiment would seek its fruition on Devachanic levels. But intervening conditions of thought and religious emotion lying between the worldly temperament and the truly spiritual aspiration which concerns itself pre-eminently with the externals of religious worship rather than with its essence, are those which delay the soul in the astral region we are considering. Thus the sixth level of the astral plane becomes in one, at all events, of its aspects, — the home of those who are devoted to what may be called the ecclesiastical side of religion rather than its spiritual aspect, who find their delight in rituals and services, for whom the material ceremonies of church-going and pious formality have taken the place of a more deeply-seated devotion. By a natural gravitation the representatives of each great faith gather together on this level of astral existence, and each great group constitutes a world for itself, altogether out of touch with that developed by adjacent groups. We must remember on the astral plane we are not by any means outside the range of time and space, so that we are not doing violence to the truth of things if we recognise the astral levels as involving some correspondence with the geographical distribution of the physical population on the earth's surface.

The predominant characteristic of the highest level of the astral plane is intellectual activity. This, as we see but too plainly around us, is often dissociated entirely from spiritual growth; it may be compatible with the total neglect of all problems having to do with the unity of consciousness, or the possibilities connected with the enlargement of that consciousness beyond the limits assigned to it by the activity of the physical brain. Of course the physical brain of the most intellectual person during life is, after all, merely an instrument on which he plays; those capacities which guide its exercise reside really in the constitution of the Ego; but while they are unaccompanied by any true spiritual evolution they may seek for no other manifestation than that to which they are used during earth life. They do find themselves, however, in presence of a condition of things in which intellectual activity is emancipated from some of the restraints imposed upon it during physical life, and thus they have an exhilarating consciousness of enlarged capacity. This may be associated to a considerable degree with philanthropic instincts, and the inhabitants of the highest astral plane are strongly impressed with the idea that their influence may contribute largely to the growth and development of human intelligence, and with that end in view they are often on the alert to find persons amongst those still living on the physical plane, on whom they may impress their improved and brighter conceptions. They too construct for themselves quasi-material surroundings — libraries and laboratories in which they provide themselves with a semi-material expression of the new ideas engendered within their consciousness by the free exercises of their astral senses, and they are not by any means unfamiliar with the current progress of incarnate human thinking, nor indeed unprovided with the astral counterparts of new books and new instruments of research. The intensity of their intellectual life operates to fill up their existence in a way which they find highly agreeable, but at the same time it has a tendency to retard, to an even greater degree than the pettier avocations of the lower astral sub-divisions, the progress which they might otherwise make towards loftier conditions of existence.

Thus we must avoid the impression that regular progress through these various sub-divisions of the astral world up to the highest, is necessarily the programme reserved for all who pass on from the ordinary physical, to the life in the next world. Already we have seen that all people of decent character slip unconsciously through the lower levels and only awaken to consciousness on those with which they have some natural affinity. And from any of the intermediate regions it is possible that eventually any of their denizens may pass directly to truly spiritual levels transcending all sub-divisions of the astral world, without ever coming in contact with the sub-divisions described above as the sixth and seventh.

But in truth this comparatively cold and scientific survey of the whole subject still leaves out of account a great deal that has to be appreciated in order to understand the part that the astral plane plays in human evolution, and in order to realise the enormously important aspect which it must wear for the great majority of our companions in life at this stage of evolution. Its importance has to some extent been ignored in earlier theosophical writings because their main purpose was to illuminate the world with a knowledge of the great truth that paths of evolutionary progress lie open to mankind with which the normal routine of evolution, so to speak, is not concerned. But the normal routine must, by the necessities of the case, be profoundly interesting to the normal majority and at all events theosophical research enables us to comprehend this with much more satisfactory precision than any previous scheme of theological teaching has provided for. Indeed so hopelessly obscure does the mist which enshrouds the future seem for most of those whose thought has been inspired by nothing better than conventional teaching, that immense relief would be afforded to multitudes still doubtful concerning the fate that awaits them beyond the grave if only, without knowing more of the brighter spiritual possibilities beyond, they were enabled to realise that which for many of us is a familiar territory, the next world in which they will infallibly awaken when the death they dread so needlessly shall overtake them. Many of those with whom occult students are enabled to come into contact after the great change has been accomplished, describe with enthusiasm the delighted surprise with which, when they realise that they are " dead " in the ordinary acceptation of the word, they find themselves still living and more intensely alive than ever. Apart altogether from the regrettable fact that ordinary mankind at present knows nothing concerning the loftier possibilities of its future spiritual progress, it is grotesquely ridiculous that knowledge really within its reach concerning that which to a circumscribed imagination is all-important, — the condition immediately awaiting the soul after the death of the body, — should be supposed a mystery beyond the reach of our research.

In order to give life to the picture, I will deal with two or three illustrative cases that have come within my own knowledge, showing various aspects of astral plane experience differing from each other not according to any cold scientific classification but representing thrilling experiences of very different kinds, all befalling persons belonging to what we may call ordinary humanity, and thus untouched by the peculiar influences which occult study during life, — had that been their portion, — would have gathered around their course. In one case we have to deal with the experiences of a man who passed from the earth plane in middle life with a terrible record of thoroughly misspent years behind him; saturated in fact, with the karma of selfishness in all its forms, and of reckless indifference to the suffering he had thus brought upon others. His earlier experiences of the next world for a period equivalent to many years of our time, were intensely miserable. On all but the very lowest levels of astral condition he wandered in gloom and loneliness, and he very gradually learned from the teaching of beings wiser than himself carrying on works of philanthropy in that forlorn region, the lesson he had so completely ignored during life, — the great principle that only by contributing in some degree to the divine purpose of evolution, by rendering some sort of helpful service to others, is it possible for any human soul to accomplish its own advancement. Stimulated by one pure streak of emotion in his life, genuine love for a woman left behind on earth, the hero of this instructive narrative eventually contrives to work his way onward and on the intermediate planes of astral existence achieves eventually a condition of happiness which to him, in contrast with what he has gone through, seems fairly celestial.

Another case which has perhaps more personal interest for most of those of our own race and time endeavouring to forecast the conditions of their own future, introduces us to the after death experiences of a man of high culture, of ordinarily good life, who, awakening to astral consciousness on one of the intermediate planes, soon finds his natural habitat on the 6th (without of course realising the numerical relationship of that plane to the others) and describes himself as exhilarated beyond measure when first realising that he had actually passed through that change he had in life regarded with such deep foreboding, and instead of suffering the extinction he had anticipated was in the enjoyment of a brighter and fuller life than any he had previously dreamt of. It was difficult for him to believe at first that the new consciousness was real. He told himself that he was dreaming and would awake to the old life. But it was only by the assurance of friends and relatives he had long supposed to be lost, and who now welcomed him in the region he had reached, that at last he was enabled to comprehend the glorious truth of survival. From him, as indeed from others in similar positions, we gather much interesting detail concerning the better kind of astral experience which occult investigation in its broader range may often fail to supply. The life which our friend i9 now leading is one of continued mental activity untroubled by fatigue, broken by no intermission of day and night, embarrassed by none of the ever recurring needs of physical existence, and rich in opportunities for intelligent activity as well as for study concerning infinite possibilities beyond.

Such narratives as he supplies would be productive of incalculable good in the world if the dull stupidity around us did not rule off the majority from appreciating their importance. For incidentally they show by what kind of preparatory life here, happy conditions hereafter are provided for. That such happy conditions are not always provided for even by lives that seem blameless on the surface, is illustrated by another case coming within the range of my enquiries, which illustrates yet another of the varied possibilities associated with existence in the next world. In this case, a girl of the upper class, the only and idolised child of wealthy parents, the happy wife for a few years of an adoring husband, passes while still quite young into the next life and is of course vaguely supposed by her mourning devotees on earth to have inherited all the richest blessings that heaven could bestow. Nearly a score of years after her death she finds means of communicating back with a friend endowed with the necessary psychic gifts and tells her somewhat pitiful story. The years had passed under conditions very unlike those she had been credited with enjoying. The blamelessness of her life, in fact, had been due merely to the absolute absence of temptation in any form. Her character below the surface was in reality altogether selfish and undeveloped. For a long period of time her nature was incapable of association with any of the higher conditions of astral life, and thus she was entangled in the very deplorable existence of its lower levels. Again by slow degrees, experience and the teaching of those who came to her aid enabled herby toilsome efforts to win her upward way, and thus her story introduces us to the conception that in some cases the astral plane may actually be a region of moral effort, purification, and progress, to an extent which seems at the first glance to conflict with the broad teachings of occult philosophy that used to recognise the physical life alone as the school of spiritual growth. The conditions, whether astral or devachanic, intervening between incarnations were regarded rather as intervals of rest or refreshment than as periods appointed for further activity and struggle. And in truth that view of the matter rather than the tale of our sorely tried heroine represents the normal course of events, An absolutely normal experience for her, even, would have been unconsciousness on the astral, such happiness on devachanic levels as her nature was capable of assimilating, and a return to life with her character no further developed than at the period of her death. But it may sometimes happen where powerful intervention is possible in the interest of a particular entity, that life on the astral plane may be specially directed with an end in view. The story just told really indicates the activity on behalf of the soul concerned, of beings powerful enough to guide it through a course which however painful at the time was in the truest sense of the phrase a blessing in disguise, averting calamities in future lives which would have been infinitely more terrible in the long run. Had the soul concerned returned to earth life at some future date without haying undergone the astral training described, it would infallibly have misused the opportunities of that life more terribly than ever, and would have launched itself on a long career of miserable incarnations that would incidentally have been fraught with consequences on other planes as well, beside which the temporary suffering imposed as a purifying process would have been insignificant. But exhaustive speculation along these lines would constitute a protracted essay on the mysteries of karma, with which as a general rule the life of incarnation has certainly more to do than that of the astral plane.

I have made some reference already to the vast varieties of non-human existence by which all the regions of the astral plane are more or less saturated. With these, however, the normal entity after death has not much to do, and this branch of the subject may be more conveniently considered by itself.
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Re: The Growth of the Soul, by Alfred Percy Sinnett

Postby admin » Tue May 08, 2018 8:26 pm

CHAPTER 8: THE ELEMENTALS.

Mediaeval terms — Physical forces in their elemental aspect — Elemental forces subject to will — Beginnings of elemental evolution — The three kingdoms of elemental — Cross classifications — Elemental forms — Elementals of good and evil efficiency.

Few subjects connected with occult research present greater embarrassment to the student than those which attend an inquiry into the nature of the Elementals. The term is vaguely understood to apply to beings of a superphysical order, and except for the broad statement that they are non-human, but subject to the control of human will, while varying in their nature over an enormous range of characteristics, the information available until considerable progress had been made with theosophical teaching — until the publication, indeed, of Mr. C. W. Leadbeater's wonderful treatise on "The Astral Plane" — clouded, more perhaps than it elucidated, the mysteries connected with their place and functions in evolution. In the beginning of that teaching out of which our present Theosophical knowledge has been developed, information concerning the elementals was avowedly withheld on the ground that it was all but impossible to be explicit on the subject without revealing secrets that related to the exercise of occult power. It was by the intermediation of the elementals, we were told, that the physical plane phenomena of occultism were brought about; as also those which in a sporadic and unscientific fashion took the shape of marvellous occurrences at some Spiritualistic seances. In various Theosophical books reference was made to elementals of earth, air, fire, and water, to gnomes, sylphs, salamanders, and undines, — following the nomenclature of some mediaeval writers on occult mysteries, — but every statement of this kind darkened the whole subject instead of clearing it up, and left the mind of cultivated students disturbed by a feeling that the statements in question were not merely unintelligible, but designed rather to put a veil over, than to elucidate the subject.

Step by step, however, it has been possible for some of us to make a little progress in the comprehension of the deeply intricate mystery in question. As the number of modern Theosophical students qualified to transfer their consciousness to the astral plane, and to retain in their normal consciousness a recollection of what they learn there, gradually increases, it becomes possible for others to push their inquiries nearer and nearer to the impassable barriers that separate the knowledge of the outer world from that of initiated occultists. And we thus know something more about the elementals now, than at the outset of the Theosophical movement. We can at any rate begin to disentangle scientific truth from poetical imagery, and to formulate conceptions concerning elemental agency which harmonise, as far as they go, with definite physical knowledge, and suggest a line of thought calculated to link on that knowledge with the deeper mysteries of Nature.

Without plunging into the middle of the subject by endeavouring to comprehend the elemental agency to be observed in activity on the astral plane, a better beginning may be made by the ordinary thinker if he starts with the consideration of the natural forces in observed action around us, realising that an inquiry into the nature of occult elemental agency, is actually concerned with tracing back these natural forces on to the other plane where they are presented to view in a more refined, or, in one sense, a more primitive manifestation.

Let us consider a lump of coal subject to heat to an extent that effects its combustion. If we endeavour to trace out the process fully, we shall not find theories of physical science entirely established even within their own domain. It may be argued that as heat increases the activity of the molecules of free oxygen hammering in their vibrations against the molecules of carbon (disregarding for a moment the other elements in the coal), their vibration becomes enhanced until they interlace, and thus engender molecules of carbonic oxide. If this view is held to be insufficient, as not accounting for the development of fresh heat, we may perhaps think of the initial heat as first of all breaking up the chemical union previously existing amongst the atoms of the various elements entering into the composition of the molecules of the coal. We may assume that by intensifying their vibration it causes these atoms to burst the bonds of attraction which held them in the organisation of the molecules, as the sun of the solar system on a larger scale holds together the planets in a definite scheme of organisation. Vibrating then in contact with atoms of free oxygen, the atoms of gas or carbon liberated from the coal find the same energy of movement which dissociated them from the former molecular arrangement, conducive to their adoption of a new one. The adoption of the new one is in turn productive of a shock to the surrounding ether which sets up in that medium the phenomena of heat and light. This interpretation of what takes place is rough, but is probably defective rather in what it omits than in what it asserts.

At all events force has undergone a metamorphosis. The force that held the atoms of the coal molecule together has been converted into the force holding together the molecules of the new compounds, plus the sensible heat vibrations of the ether. For the moment let us pay attention to these last only. They constitute a force plainly called into being by the combustion of the coal. In a certain sense they were latent in the coal before it was burned.

But we know from the concurrent testimony of everyone who can intelligently observe the phenomena of the astral plane that all physical objects have their astral counterparts on that plane — the lump of coal as well as everything else. Then it is intelligible that there should be, as we are assured there is, an astral counterpart of any force inherent or latent in that lump of coal. Here we get to the humblest conception that can be formed of the elementals. The astral counterpart of the force in the coal capable of being., under certain circumstances, converted into sensible heat vibrations of the ether, is what in very loose and inappropriate phraseology might be spoken of as " an elemental," — but somewhat more accurately as elemental essence.

Its individualisation as an elemental would be due to a misconception of the matter. The elemental force in the astral lump of coal is as much part of an ocean of such force as the heat vibrations on this plane are merged in the ocean of ether. But the astral counterpart of the force — as soon as we are in a position to observe that — is found at once to present one characteristic which differentiates it widely from its manifestation on the physical plane. It is amenable — in a way which is not the case with its physical plane manifestation — to the influence of the human will. That is a force of a higher order by which it can be controlled.

On this plane it might be symbolised by an animal, say a horse, entirely without senses or nerves of sensation. You cannot get him to move either by speaking to him or by prodding him. But if you shove him forward forcibly enough he will begin to walk to avoid tumbling down and will even pull a cart if it is fastened to him. To stop him you must build a wall in his way strong enough to arrest his progress. How very different a creature does the same horse become as soon as we endow him with the usual senses! His consciousness, such as it is, is then capable of receiving impulses from the consciousness of a human master. We can set him in motion or stop him by a touch or a word. His strength becomes something we can direct, his volition, guided by an imperfect intelligence, something on which we can impress our will. The change illustrates the difference between the natural force cognised by science on the physical plane and the same force in its antecedent astral manifestation. In that manifestation, indeed, the force must not be thought of as having the complete animal consciousness and volition, but it is in a measure alive and susceptible to the influence of a higher order of consciousness.

The degree to which the living elemental force can be controlled by a human will, will of course vary, within limits not alone as great but enormously greater than those within which the power of different human beings on this plane to control a horse will vary. The analogy must not be pushed too far, but the relations on this plane of men and animals are helpful in suggesting the relation on the other plane of men, or superior spiritual beings, and elementals. Just as adequate courage and self confidence will enable some men to control savage beasts, though a failure of resolution or courage may lead to a reversal of the parts, so with the elemental agencies. These will turn against human interference if the person who meddles with them is not strong enough for the task he attempts, though to a large extent on the astral plane living elemental force is plastic to the influence of even a very moderately powerful human will — even to human desire hardly expressing itself in a conscious act of volition.

It is not to be expected at present that the conditions under which the astral elemental force is made to express on the physical plane the impulses of will imparted to it on the astral, should be rendered fully intelligible, but the experience of occult phenomena as well as the abstract assurances of occult teaching show that the transition is possible. It would be only when occultly trained that a will impulse impressed on the elemental agency associated with the lump of coal in the above illustration, would be able to set its physical manifestation in activity, but, as I say, the transition would be possible. This is the explanation of well authenticated cases in which fires and lamps have been kindled in an abnormal way in the presence of some peculiar kinds of spiritual mediumship, and occult information leads to the belief that similar phenomena are familiar to the experience of advanced occultists.

Another illustration of the connexion between physical plane forces and astral elemental agency may be taken from a department of natural phenomena of which we know even less than of those associated with combustion. Let us consider a heavy block of stone, which we wish to raise. The force which bears it down towards the centre of the earth is one which we can measure with great exactitude and call by a familiar name, but we do not know much about its mode of working. We can only control it on the physical plane by so arranging matters that a preponderating volume of itself or some other force counteracts the tendency we wish to overcome. Occult teaching about all physical force, however, is that it is the physical plane manifestation of some elemental force. There must thus be an astral counterpart of gravity and in its astral manifestation it must be in some measure alive and must come within the influence of a higher-plane volition. Here we get a clue to the comprehension of the principle on which advanced occult power is known — not merely in former ages of the world but in the present day — to manipulate heavy masses of matter by will power. The thing happens also in the experience of spiritualism continually. It is another illustration of the translation of force from one plane to another, which is merely a question of controlling elemental agency to an adequate degree.

But the mystery of such translation is something apart from the aspect of elemental agency on the astral plane. In reference to the process of translation we must be content for the present to know that the achievement is possible, and to realise in that way the continuity of natural forces — the coherence of the whole scheme of force on different planes — and to foresee the direction in which man's control of matter on the physical plane may be expected one day to extend. Let us now pass in imagination on to the astral plane altogether and take note of such information as we can gather concerning elemental agency as manifesting there.

Every branch of occult teaching will always be found to gear in with others. The natural history of elemental agency in its first and broadest outlines recalls attention to the fundamental principles of planetary evolution. In the beginning of a planet's life, before the evolution of its mineral body — not to speak of its vegetation and animal life — the nucleus of cosmic activity which is going to be a planet, is the arena of certain elemental evolutions following one another in due order. Before the formation of the mineral kingdom we have been told, the scheme of things to which we belong provides for the successive evolution of three kingdoms of elementals. The statement at first carried no very definite meaning for uninitiated hearers, but even at first it conveyed, in a grand faint outline, the idea that those kingdoms of nature of which we have cognisance were the outcome of mysterious forces acting on matter of a finer order than that into which it was ultimately kneaded. It now appears that the three kingdoms of elementals which preceded the mineral evolution are in no sense extinct. We are concerned with a later stage of the process but the earlier agencies are still in activity. Cognisable in fact in varying degrees there are three kingdoms of elementals still in touch with the evolution of the planetary chain, — force, that is to say, looking at the matter from another point of view, in three orders of manifestation. They do not all belong to the astral plane, and the two higher must be thought of as belonging properly to more spiritual planes though interpenetrating the astral. Remember that the astral plane is a sphere of activity for higher faculties than those which properly belong to it; also that it is sub-divisible into planes as described in the preceding chapter that differ one from another in a marked degree. Remember also that in speaking now of the two "higher" kingdoms of elementals we are looking back along the course pursued during the descent of spirit into matter. The higher elemental kingdoms were the earlier in the order of manifestation, the first to emerge from nonmanifestation. The lowest of the three is most highly developed or organised, the nearest to the still more elaborately evolved, finished, or materially perfected physical plane.

The higher kingdoms can only be got at, so to speak, by powers on a level spiritually with that to which they belong. In order to deal with them at all a human being must have passed up the cycle of evolution again till his consciousness and will are in activity once more (plus the experiences of physical incarnation) on the higher planes. The thought will present no difficulty to any one who has grasped the first principles of occult teaching in regard to cosmic evolution, and the bearing of it on the subject in hand tends to simplify rather than to embarrass the inquiry before us. For the present we may ignore the two higher or earlier elemental kingdoms. The third or that nearest to physical manifestation is the one with which human consciousness of the ordinary type is most nearly concerned. All varieties of elemental agency visible to explorers of the astral plane who are able to cognise its phenomena without being as yet on the more exalted levels of spiritual evolution, belong to the third kingdom, which, however, is varied to an extent that renders its division into different orders and classes a task of considerable difficulty. Let us attempt to realise some of the principles on which that classification must proceed.

The elemental forces, to begin with, — I will endeavour later on to deal with the subject of elemental beings, — are divisible according to the states or conditions of matter with which they have to do in their manifestations on the physical plane. We all know of the solid, liquid, and gaseous states of matter, and occult students know something of four other states in an ascending series. The corresponding elemental forces are those described in poetical language, as gnomes, undines, sylphs, and salamanders. The gnome does not mean a sub-human dwarf inhabiting mines. This is the caricature of the idea developed by imperfect information grafted on an ill-trained imagination. The gnome or earth elemental is the astral force related to the phenomena of solid matter. So the undine, or water elemental, is not a fairy dancing in a fountain, but a natural force related to liquid matter; the sylph, or air elemental, is the similar force related to gaseous matter; and the salamander, or fire elemental, to the vibrations of the ether.

At this point, however, the classification may seem too crude to be scientific. There are common attributes in all three states of matter. Weight, for instance, is as much an attribute of hydrogen as of lead; molecular vibration is going on in the motionless rock as well as in the waves that dash against it. There is no force we can think of which belongs exclusively to either liquid, solid, or gaseous matter. In the same way, however, the various elemental agencies do not act singly and independently of each other, but in infinitely varied alliances. The important point is that whatever combination of forces may be recognised as operative in any given case on the physical plane, the counterpartal combination is operative on the astral, and assumes the relatively living aspect which renders it more directly than here amenable to the human will.

But the astral plane is divided, as we have seen, into seven sub-divisions, Appropriate to each we find special varieties of elemental agency presenting themselves for examination, and the distinction just noticed between the elementals of earth, water, air, and fire runs up through them all.

Again, there is a mysterious classification of attributes, tendencies, or characteristics running through Nature — through all the planes of Nature, the physical included — which is too subtle to be very readily interpreted, but which may be dimly indicated by saying that every plant, animal, and man, as well as every mineral and every manifestation of elemental agency, is "on" one or other of seven great "rays" proceeding in the first instance from exalted regions of spiritual influence, which imagination penetrates with difficulty. The ray classification has to be taken into account in grouping the elementals.

The habits of mind engendered by thinking of the three dimensions of space will enable us to construct in imagination not a tabular view of this triple classification, but a solid figure embracing the three categories. How shall we expand this, however, so as to make it significant of the fact that the same triple classification must be made to run all through the three kingdoms of elementals? For this we seem in need of a fourth dimension of space. But, at all events, without going beyond the experience of life around us, a living creature may at the same time be a mammal, a quadruped, a pachyderm, and a male, so the elemental varieties, though too complicated to be represented by a diagram or even by a solid figure, need not be altogether unmanageable in thought.

So far we have been considering the elemental agencies in their most general or indeterminate aspects as forces rather than entities, and that is the most important idea concerning them, to establish in the mind as the foundation of all maturer conceptions. It is disastrous to run away with the first idea apt to invade the understanding on the subject, that the elementals are to the astral plane, what its beasts, birds, and reptiles are to the forest. But, none the less, early experience on the astral plane is very likely to support this notion. Forces on the physical plane are always abstract energies associated with matter, but forces on the astral plane, are not only, as has been already said, in some sense alive, they are ready to take shape under the influence of the will, whatever it may be, that directs them, and may be in the same way imbued with a benevolent or malevolent character for the time being, which has no resemblance, as far as any internal consciousness goes, to goodness or badness of disposition, but leads them to be of good or bad efficiency, just as physical plane forces may be of good or bad efficiency. The fire which cooks food directed to a useful end may, directed differently, inflict suffering on a living organism. Gravity which pulls down a clock weight usefully may kill a man standing below if the chain breaks. Electricity may carry good tidings or explode a parcel of dynamite without being in itself good or bad electricity; and the dynamite may usefully clear a rock out of the path of navigation or blow up a building and mutilate the inhabitants. Per se, force is neither good nor evil, and the same idea has to be applied to the consideration of elemental beings, called into existence by will power and invested with attributes by conscious intention. Undoubtedly, the astral plane teems with such beings of both good and evil efficiency, and at the first blush it might well be imagined that they constitute the animal life of that plane. But they are entities only in so far as a bucketful of water drawn up out of the sea is a specific volume of water, taking the shape of the interior of the bucket for the time being. If you break the bucket the water falls back into the ocean, neither the better nor the worse for having been detached for a while therefrom. Or it may have gone through various adventures in the meantime. It may have been converted into steam in a boiler, may have driven a ship on her course, or it may have burst from its confinement injuring living beings in the neighbourhood; it may even have entered into chemical combinations with other matter and have played an elaborate part on the stage of the earth's physical manifestation, but still it is so much water all the while, and will ultimately, by some road, return to the ocean from which it came. So with the detached and temporarily individualised elemental life or force. The will which moulds it, or the thought energy, operative, perhaps, without any conscious will being at work in the transaction at all, may invest it with a very considerable tenacity of separate life and tendency, easily mistaken for inherent purpose. Its very shape may be enduring, unless it comes in contact with some will force that breaks it up, and thus we are presented with all the external characteristics of a living astral creature. The horrible or repulsive shapes encountered on the astral plane by rash intruders are of this nature. They may be the creatures of evil or malevolent thought, and though powerless to harm human beings collected enough to oppose a courageous will to their attack, may seriously torment or even injure invaders of their territory whose inherent forces are paralysed by terror. Just as real and definitely existing as entities for a time, other elemental shapes may be beautiful in appearance and beneficent in action if called into being by thoughts emanating from love and beneficence, but their tenacity of life will depend on the strength and persistence of the will that has called them into being, and when they have fulfilled their mission, or have lost coherence by the relaxation of the will that evoked them, they will resolve themselves again into the ocean of elemental agency to which they belong and be available for any new purpose, good, bad, or indifferent.

This part of the explanation may help to supply an (occultly) scientific interpretation for stories connected with the presiding "gods" of some Indian temples — treated of course as empty superstitions by Western intelligence alive to the incredibility of the local belief as crudely stated, and destitute of the occult knowledge which might discern the natural possibility in the background. Elemental agency clothed with form and inspired with purpose by some adequately powerful human will in the first instance, may persist in that shape for long periods of time and^manifest potencies along the line of the original impulse which would easily be mistaken by an ignorant populace, in contact with them, for the supernatural power of a demi-god.

At the head of each great division of elemental agencies, beings of a permanent, definite, and very exalted character control or inspire all manifestations of elemental energy within that category. It is hopeless to inquire into the nature and constitution of these beings, except that they are cosmic — the agents of the Lipika. Not belonging to our evolution, they do not belong to our scheme of human evolution and could not, we may well imagine, be described in terms of ordinary human thinking. That such beings exist, however, is a fact which falls in with the great principle to which occult teaching introduces us in many ways, and according to which all laws of nature are the volition of conscious beings standing at some more or less exalted level in the general scheme of things, and exercising will in accordance with the Supreme Will in the background. From the occult point of view there is no such thing as blind force. In its lower manifestations natural force may seem blind — may be pressing along definite channels of activity regardless of impediments in the way; but the original existence of the force is due to an intelligent will.

A problem may arise in any mind to which the thoughts here set forth are present, which has to do with the nature of the matter which seems to form the vehicle of elementals having a definite shape and appearance. Is that a vehicle in any true sense of the term as the physical or the astral body under different conditions may be the vehicle of human consciousness, or is the apparent vehicle of the elemental force itself of the very nature of the elemental force? A marble statue or a cloud in still air may have a definite shape, but the outward surface is not of any matter different in its nature from that of the marble or the vapour concerned. In the same way the elemental we see in an animal or human or grotesque shape, may be of homogeneous constitution — so much living elemental force operative in that detached condition and taking external shape from the creative thought that has evoked it. That appears to be the more accurate conception of the two, though not without difficulties for the imagination. We have to remember that the order of evolution in the world around us is through the elemental kingdoms on to the mineral and then on to the higher kingdoms of organised beings. The elementals are not inhabitants of a ready-made world: they are the foundations or substance of the world. They may undergo mysterious transmutations, but until we get into the higher regions of human consciousness in relations with spiritual essence, there is nothing in the world that is not elemental in its nature. The minute cells of which animal and human bodies are built up are evolutions of elemental agency. Matter and force on the physical plane are elementals condensed — materialised. Elementals as seen on the astral plane are matter and force etherealised. They are related to themselves in the lower manifestation as steam to ice — as carbonic acid gas to carbonic acid snow. They do not need a vehicle for their manifestation — as human consciousness needs a vehicle. They are vehicle and life (not consciousness) in one.

Clearly it cannot fall within the scope of this explanation to define the methods by which human will functioning on the astral plane is enabled to specialise and direct the elemental agency around it; but we may approach as near to the confines of that mystery as circumstances will allow by realising how the nonspecialised oceans of elemental agency perceptible on the astral plane pervade Nature from that point of view. They need not be sought for as a herbalist, for instance, might seek in a wood for the particular plant he required. They are all at hand, as the atmosphere is at hand in all parts of the world for the uses of a man who desires to blow a bellows; more so if that be possible, by reason of the fact that they are visible — to the astral sense, though not clouding or obscuring other objects of perception, — because vision with the astral senses differs so widely from vision with the eyes. Within limits one may say that nothing is seen on the astral plane except that to which attention is directed, so that if the astral voyager is not wanting to manipulate the elemental agencies he might hardly be conscious of their presence. Desiring to deal with them he would perceive them on every side.

I have referred to the manner in which elemental agency of more than one kind may play a part in physical phenomena. In the same way "an" elemental evoked or created by a human will may be compounded of more than one variety of elemental agency. One alone might not suffice for the purpose in view. Undoubtedly, however, the creation of a complex elemental is a more advanced achievement than that of one in which only a single variety is concerned.

Over and above elemental entities that may have been formed by human will from the ocean of elemental essence, there are innumerable varieties that owe their existence, as such, to natural evolutions going on side by side with, but quite independently of, that with which humanity is concerned. With these, however, it is hardly my business at present to deal. I am concerned with those teachings of occultism that directly relate to the evolution of man.
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Re: The Growth of the Soul, by Alfred Percy Sinnett

Postby admin » Tue May 08, 2018 8:27 pm

Part 1 of 2

CHAPTER 9: THE SPIRITUAL PLANE.

Conceptions of Heaven — Infinite resources of spiritual planes — Responsive to soul growth — The self-centred Heaven of undeveloped souls — Necessity for the subjective vision — The response of Devachan to thirst for knowledge — The limitations of this world's Heaven — Progress in Heaven — Its loftiest aspect — Religious expectations ; their subjective realisation — Spiritual consciousness during earth life — The resources of Devachan for the initiate — The forces of the different planes — The work to be done on the spiritual plane — Influencing disincarnate souls — The sub-planes of Devachan — What Devachan " looks like " — Light and colour — The Arupa planes.

LET us turn now to the consideration of the truly spiritual realm of Nature to which the astral plane is but the ante-chamber. From the first, however, we must keep in mind the dual aspect of this realm which corresponds to the dual aspect of the astral plane. The spiritual plane is one condition from the point of view of those normal souls that are resting in its blissful emotion between two periods of incarnate life, and another for the purified Ego of the living initiate qualified to ascend to that level of consciousness while still in touch with the conditions of moral responsibility and activity that belong to the earth life.

The fetters of immature religious thinking are apt to prevent those of us who are not trained occultists from drawing that distinction properly. People are liable to imagine that Heaven, for those who pass away from the physical plane at death, is a condition of greater exaltation and progress than the possibilities of the situation really provide for. Though its scope may be almost infinite — in regard to knowledge and exaltation of consciousness, — it responds in every case with exactitude to the characteristics of spiritual evolution brought thither by the soul which attains to it. There is no plane of Nature in fact that is above the operation of cause and effect. Transplant to Heaven a consciousness, a being, invested with no attributes transcending the best emotions of ordinary physical life, and Heaven does not for such persons contain more than the fruition of these emotions. You do not change an African savage's nature by bringing him over to a civilised country and planting him suddenly in the midst of art and science and literary culture. To use comparatively grovelling and familiar ideas in illustration of the principle before us, the savage can merely select from the resources of civilisation, supposing them offered to him in all their abundance, the food and drink and physical comforts which his experience of life enables him to crave for. So with the imperfectly developed souls of common humanity. Heaven is only Heaven for them in so far as the growth of their minds enables them to avail themselves of its resources. That which it does for all who have it in them to attain its confines at all, is to assure them complete happiness along the lines that their spiritual development has followed.

By spiritual development in this sense, let me hasten to add, I do not mean, in any exclusive way at any rate, the development of the religious instinct. Where this instinct is very energetic that is undoubtedly one phase of spiritual development, but real unselfish love is no less spiritual in its character and is equally capable of a glorified expansion on the heavenly or spiritual plane of consciousness.

The artistic faculty again is deeply tinged with true spirituality and is thus capable of evoking a generous response from the spiritual plane whether it has to do with the beauty of form, colour, or sound, and the love of knowledge may be spiritual if it penetrates the essence of things, though it is possible that it may be bent so exclusively on physical detail as to be sometimes a force which may operate to keep a soul set free by death, earth bound in the higher astral condition, instead of acting as a stimulus to the spiritual awakening.

As I have said, the resources of the spiritual plane are all but infinite, for thought is there becoming a creative power in a far higher degree than on the astral plane, and independently of this, consciousness is there in direct relations with the all but infinite memory of Nature, which is preserved— how we cannot at present expect to understand exactly — with imperishable perfection, in the all-embracing medium known to occult science as the "Akasa."

This marvellous medium is discernible in some of its manifestations on the astral plane, but its clear and unconfused records belong especially to the higher plane of spiritual consciousness. It is a natural mirror of all events, which recalls them for those who have the power of reading in it, in their minutest details. As nothing can alter the past when its events are once accomplished, so nothing can obliterate them from the memory of Nature. Our own individual memories in physical life are imperfect readings of so much in its records as we have personally had to do with — of as much as is connected by magnetic affinities, so to speak, with our own brain cells; but to the emancipated spiritual faculties on the spiritual plane all the records are accessible. We are in a position to remember everything that has ever occurred in the history of our world, and to remember it not in that dim shadowy way which physical memory alone achieves, but in such a way that the past scene or chain of events on which we bend our attention, re-enacts itself before us in vivid perfection of detail.

But it does not so unroll itself unless the attention is bent upon it with the set purpose of evoking its records, so that in this immensely important matter it will be seen that the Akasa is only panoramic in its character for those souls on the spiritual plane that are animated by the thought of applying to it. For a person dying in the ordinary way, and passing, after getting clear of the astral region, on to the spiritual plane, the records of Nature's memory will be a blank if the mind has not been stored with aspirations pointing to the use of such resources.

But, though the spiritual plane may be thus subject to limitations for people passing on to it in the ordinary way, it does not follow that its happiness-giving character is limited in a similar manner. Within its beneficent atmosphere there is simply no room for unhappiness of any sort or kind. For all who attain it there is necessarily an interior condition of complete, perfect, and unalloyed bliss and delight. The struggles and sorrows of incarnate life are for the time — and a long time is in question — entirely over and done with. Whatever — whoever — is needed to conduce to perfect happiness is there present to the consciousness of the enraptured soul, always, of course, assuming that the conditions of happiness for such a soul are susceptible of fulfilment in a spiritual state. If they have to do with delights of an absolutely earthly and physical character, it will not be possible for the person so bowed down to ascend to the spiritual plane at all. But we are not dealing now with earth-bound astrals, but with souls that have ascended, however feeble, comparatively, may be the force that has carried them upward.

At first the student of spiritual science will be apt to resent as unsatisfactory the self-centred, and, as it will seem to him, delusive character of the spiritual happiness thus attained by the normal human being reaching the Heaven I describe. Take the case of a person, say A, whose happiness is essentially dependent on the companionship of B. On the spiritual plane he has that happiness. But suppose the happiness of B has to do entirely with the companionship of C. In B's thought-sphere A may have no place. So then it may be conceived A is self-deceived all the time — wrapped in a delusion which would be a cruel negation of happiness if he understood it. But this criticism is vitiated by the confusion it makes between externals and essentials. In thinking of companionship from the point of view of the earth life we are dealing with externals. We do not concern ourselves on this physical plane with the inner thought consciousness of the person beloved, nearly so much as with the external manifestation thereof; or, at all events, that is true of the common-place mortal. If it is not true of anyone who may be reading these words, then the spiritual plane will shape itself to his higher spiritual evolution, as we shall see later on; but we must not criticise the scheme of Nature from one point of view only.

Heaven, — meaning thereby blissful rest in a consciousness of that order which the soul is capable of, — must somehow be provided for all, and not merely for persons of very highly refined intelligence; and assuming that A is a person on the humbler levels of humanity in this respect, how is he to be happy on the hypothesis we are dealing with except by means of an arrangement by which his aspirations take the shape of an apparent reality? Is A to be condemned to have no heavenly bliss because his affections have been directed towards an external manifestation on this plane of life which is not in true spiritual union with his own consciousness? He has not yet risen to a height of evolution in which spiritual existence per se constitutes the full fruition of happiness. A person is not essentially changed in his nature because he te translated to a new plane of being. Our friend A set himself up with a delusive theory of happiness on earth if he centred his dream of bliss in an affection that by the hypothesis was one-sided. Is that mistake to embitter his whole experience of Heaven? He has not made the realisation of spiritual truth the object of his life; he is denied nothing that he has sought in being left for the time without an exact appreciation of such spiritual truth; he has centred his aspirations in an earthly emotion, and he finds Heaven for him the entire and complete fruition of that emotion.

What, after all, is reality and what is unreality when we are handling the manifestations of things, and not their essential spiritual realities? Is the body of the beloved friend the reality? That will be dust and nothingness in a few years. For ages after its decay, the spiritual counterpart which A's thought has evoked or created is there before him unchanged and unchangeable. Nor is it a mere unresponsive phantom to be gazed at. The creations of thought on the spiritual plane are alive. It will never be unresponsive to A, for his desire has invested it with the externals of the emotion he would have desired his friend to possess. The world in which he will live — in Heaven — is a subjective world, no doubt; from the point of view of supreme knowledge, a realm of self-centred rapture; but it will be a condition of things for him in which no disappointment is possible. The duration is merely determined by the eventual exhaustion of the force of the desire that has evoked it. If its character change, that will merely be because in the latent consciousness of A there are other aspirations to be fulfilled, capable of displacing the aspiration we have been dealing with or requiring expansion simultaneously with that. There is room, so to speak, in the subjective world of the soul enjoying Heaven, for many affections, for many sources of delight. But though our own demands upon the infinite resources of the spiritual plane may be of an exalted order, let us not on that account require that Heaven shall be constructed, so to speak, to suit our case only, and leave plunged in forlorn unhappiness the myriads whose aspirations have not risen above the simple blessings suggested to the imagination by an unthoughtful experience of the earth life.

On first contact with this idea I know that it disconcerts many vague aspirations which imagination associates with the idea of heavenly experiences, but if the actual provisions of Nature may in this way fail to realise certain expectations, the failure is due, not to the shortcomings of Heaven, so to speak, but to the absolutely unreasonable and impracticable character of commonplace expectations concerning these. It is only on a higher level than that which is touched by the undeveloped majority, that it is possible for the soul to come into contact with those deeper realities of spiritual existence on which a true union of all spiritual individualities becomes possible. While the spiritual growth for any given individual is imperfect, it could not find happiness in a premature emancipation from those limitations in which alone, up to that period, it had found scope for the play of its affections. Devachanic existence may therefore be thought of as partaking to some extent of the nature of a vision, but the vision is one as vivid — all assurances indeed lead us to believe, more vivid — than that illusion by which we are surrounded on the physical plane of life. From the most exalted point of view, indeed, all states short of that must partake in some measure of illusion, which is thus regarded as more and more completely separating itself from realities, as we carry our observation down through the phases of Nature, until the maximum degree of such separation is reached in the manifestations of life on the physical plane.

The difficulty I have touched on here is one which must be thoroughly cleared out of the way before any student of the inner verities of Nature, as related to after-death conditions, can make any serious progress. I grant that at the first blush of the facts, thinking that has been deeply saturated with vague and impracticable conceptions of the future is apt to rebel against true explanations of the Devachanic vision. People for whom all regions of Nature beyond the physical world they see are inaccessible, except in imagination, get into the habit of using even imagination when dealing with ideas of Heaven in a terribly unintelligent way. They lose sight of the whole principle which in connexion with every department of Nature they know anything about, they apply to all questions with so much determination; they ignore the fundamental idea of evolution. They claim that Heaven for all men shall realise all that can be imagined as heavenly by the most advanced representatives of the race; that it shall be an objective locality, where the things seen by one denizen are equally seen by all; the conditions enjoyed by one, equally by all. This idea is profoundly immoral in reality; but above all things it is foolish. The ultimate possibilities of evolution undoubtedly provide for all human beings who grow up to them, spiritual destinies immensely transcending the conditions of the Devachanic plane as these present themselves to normal entities of the present period in evolution. I shall attempt to deal with some of these possibilities later on. But long before a human soul has grown to the development in which it will be capable of consciousness on Nirvanic levels, it is still in need of spiritual refreshment, and desperately in want of some experiences it can feel as happiness, in the course of its weary pilgrimage through the innumerable incarnations on which it is dependent — under the programme of the whole system — for its upward growth. " I myself am Heaven and Hell " answers the " Soul " of the Persian poet, when sent through the Invisible "that after life to spell." The line embodies a deeper truth than is suspected by many who quote it with an approval they are quick to withdraw from the same idea set forth with scientific precision. The soul makes its own Heaven by evoking from the infinitely responsive conditions of Nature by which it is confronted on the Devachanic plane, the vision which exactly provides for its happiness. And in furnishing it with the necessary facilities for doing this, Nature does not find it necessary to make a sacrifice of other souls whose happiness might not be entirely provided for if they were called upon to play exactly the parts assigned to them in the visions of all their friends. Nor would it always be possible, however they might be sacrificed, that they should, in this way, play what might easily be incompatible parts. In short, any Heaven that was constructed to meet the objections of persons who find fault with the aspect of the Devachanic plane which renders it, for our present humanity, the heaven of inter-incarnate periods, — would soon be reduced to a melancholy scene of conflicting jealousies and despair.

Illusive in one sense the Devachanic vision may be, — though the enlightened consciousness which can roam still higher levels will regard the deeper illusions of the physical plane — where the mask of flesh and blood is mistaken for the true individuality, and none but the things which are evanescent are thought of as real, — as a point of view from which it is strangely inappropriate that the relatively durable illusions of the Devachanic vision should be treated as deceptive. Let us now take one step in advance in contemplating the possibilities of the spiritual plane for those who in due time awaken there after death in the usual way. Of course Devachan for them is not a condition of active energy or work. If the persons we are now concerned with are so filled with philanthropic impulse that they might not — from the earth point of view — be able to conceive a state of happiness that did not involve doing good in some way to others, so beautiful an attribute in their natures will in due time assert itself, and may even tend to bring them back more quickly than would otherwise be the case to the incarnate life which is the only possible sphere of activity for them, until they attain heights of spiritual evolution to be considered later on. But though, if asked the question, it may be that they would have been willing to sacrifice the personal bliss of Heaven in order to go on unintermittently being useful to their fellow creatures, Nature does not hurriedly accept that sacrifice. We are assuming that, though of a very elevated and generous character, they are still in the current of normal evolution, and for all such persons death is the introduction to a period of rest and happiness. Whether they demand it or not, the reward, or an instalment of the reward, of their good and meritorious lives is served out to them; and if from the earth point of view they would fancy, as I have said, that happiness would not be happiness unless associated with continuous effort for others, that impression is merely due to their insufficient comprehension of the conditions of existence on the spiritual plane. It would be impossible but that such persons as we are now thinking of would have many capacities of emotion which Nature, working with the boundless resources, in that direction, of Heaven, would take advantage of, so to speak, to make them thoroughly happy during the period of their spiritual repose.

And now, still keeping to the aspect of the spiritual plane which presents itself to the normal soul getting into that state of consciousness after death, let us contemplate the interest of the Heavenly condition, — to fall back on that convenient and familiar phrase, — as related to the opportunities it affords to the soul thirsting for knowledge. Such a soul, to begin with, has all the resources of the astral light to draw upon. Just as the thought of the spiritual Ego directed towards a beloved friend in life evokes that friend as a living reality before the creative thinker, so does the attention turned towards any events or phenomena of the past evoke their living pictures from the all-embracing memory of Nature. And this would apply not merely to historical scenes or remote periods of geological development, but to the essential truths which scientific research gropes after. It is true indeed that our aspirations towards knowledge often in life take daring flights, and we set ourselves problems which the resources even of the Devachanic plane are inadequate to satisfy. We must always remember that the spiritual plane we are considering is the spiritual plane of this world. One of the mistakes of uninstructed imagination dealing with the conception of Heaven is a mistake of incoherent thinking. From the earth life belonging to this present stage of human evolution, the soul is imagined as slipping at once into a Heaven which is thought of as a homogeneous Heaven for the whole cosmos, in which we are all to be in the presence of and sharing the omniscience of absolute Divinity. Occult science dealing with the facts of Nature, which it is in a position to probe, interprets for us the spiritual plane of this world into which most assuredly the souls of people dying on this world do actually pass, existing there for such and such periods and then as certainly returning to incarnation on earth. It perceives therefore the absurdity of the notion that the immediate Heaven of humanity is either co-extensive with the universe or designed for eternity. Within the limits of eternity who shall say what heights may not be reached, what realms of existence and consciousness touched? The real occultist is as careful to avoid dogmatic denials as the real scientist to steer clear of those intellectual pitfalls. But just as the real scientist avows that a great deal lies beyond his ken, and contents himself with affirmations concerning what knowledge he can reach, so exactly with occult science. The observer who is adequately gifted can actually get into relation with the spiritual plane of the earth, and can there recognise the souls of men who have lived and died existing under the conditions I am in course of describing. He can understand and appreciate that plane as entering into the great scheme of human evolution, as constituting the reality which is dimly reached after by those people who aspire to the joys of Heaven, and as most certainly responding with abundant success to the cravings for happiness which are associated with those aspirations. But so also does the real occultist know that many fancies concerning Heaven which have possessed the imagination of men are, to say the least, premature, while some others of course are grotesque and nonsensical.

The realities of human growth and evolution and of human experience, whether in or out of the body, are always concerned with gradual transitions, however infinite may be the horizon of possibility stretching on in the remote distance. Let it not be supposed that because the Heaven which human beings of this present race enjoy when they rest for a while between two incarnations, is subject to limitations, spiritual progress beyond these limitations is for ever denied to mankind. The entanglements of modern thought on such subjects have largely arisen from the way modern culture has forgotten the great law of Re-incarnation, which makes a long series of lives play the part in Nature erroneously assigned by popular notions to one such life. The spiritual plane of the world on which human beings, such as we are now, may exist, and on which they will in that case enjoy the most intense felicity their minds are capable of imagining for ten or twenty centuries between each incarnation, may be looked back upon as a mere resting-place from the point of view of a higher consciousness to be attained in some remote future, or indeed from the point of view which some exalted souls, greatly hastening the normal process, have already attained. But the truth of the matter is that if, when the design of Nature is correctly described, people who are used to thinking that the Heaven to which they will pass after death is co-extensive with the universe, are inclined to be discontented on that account with the prospect actually before them, their discontentment can only be due to an imperfect understanding of the relations between their own present consciousness and infinity. The child that puts out its hand to grasp at the moon is a feeble illustration of that miscalculation of their own spiritual range, which leads some incarnate thinkers to imagine that nothing will satisfy them after death but alt the spiritual potentialities the cosmos contains.

And these reflections bring me back to the case of the soul who, even on the spiritual plane of which I have been speaking, may be aware of aspirations towards an even higher knowledge than its resources may provide for. Within the limits of the spiritual Heaven, which is still no more than the spiritual aspect of this world, there are many widely differing ranges of condition. The state I have been endeavouring to describe, in which the resources of the spiritual plane respond to the ordinary human thirst for happiness by providing the vivid consciousness of all desired companionships and the opportunities of an almost boundless expansion of knowledge, is after all but the first stage of the spiritual life. It is a stage which so entirely suffices for the normal condition of human consciousness that great myriads of people can never be capable of an aspiration beyond it. But for those whose latent aspirations have been highly spiritualised during the earth life the spiritual plane will gradually reveal possibilities beyond its own first stage. The soul may spend centuries bathed in the rapture of that first stage, but the latent craving for an even purer condition of spiritual consciousness may eventually assert itself. And the perception of the soul will then be wakened to the fact that in advance, as it were, of the bright light in which it exists, there is a brighter light shining, the mysteries of which may be explored.

In this way, although the spiritual plane is not a region of Nature with which effort or struggle is compatible, the old efforts and internal struggles of the earth life will have invested the soul with an onward impulse, which provides for a conscious progress within the spiritual realm. Language is all but paralysed in the attempt to suggest the nature of the results that such progress may then lead to, but this much can be said: the expansion of the soul's consciousness on the spiritual plane — provided the appropriate force making such progress possible has been engendered during life — will conduct it to a state of consciousness in which the appreciation of objective form is actually transcended. There is a spiritual condition possible for man in the intervals between incarnations, in which consciousness becomes so all-embracing that it obliterates the distinction of objective forms and goes far even towards obliterating the separateness of objective individualities considered as distinct from itself. The teaching of those who have penetrated this state of consciousness is to the effect that it cannot be realised in the imagination of any mind that has not actually touched it, but its sublimity, we are assured, eclipses the finite bliss of the earlier spiritual condition, just as that eclipses the purest happiness imagined by the incarnate thinker. We can only, from the earthly point of view, dwell in imagination on this lofty state of being with an expectant reverence, assured that if we reach it, the sense of exaltation it brings in its train will be something that transcends happiness. From that point of view neither happiness nor knowledge must be thought of as acquired by the individuality concerned. The individuality is identified with the essence of those ideas. The idea of companionship is lost or merged in the unity of all spiritual individualities, which, if not completely realised as yet in even the highest Devachan, is foreshadowed by the state of consciousness on its "Arupa" level. The individual spirit has almost got behind the planes of manifestation to that of intense essential realities. I only avoid saying of "absolute realities" because nothing within the scheme of a human evolution as yet far from complete can touch "the absolute," in the proper signification of that phrase, which refers it to the absolute spirit of the whole cosmos; but certainly no incarnate human understanding venturing to concern itself with these overmastering problems of infinity can reach in thought beyond such an approximation to the absolute as the higher conditions of spiritual consciousness in the formless region of actuality may furnish.

And now let us compare still further with the magnificent realities of the spiritual plane, as initiated insight is enabled to unveil them for us, the conceptions which exoteric religion attaches to the idea of Heaven. And in so doing this, let us not for a moment treat with any failure of respect the personal and anthropomorphic belief that exoteric forms of religious enthusiasm suggest to the devout though perhaps imperfectly instructed worshipper. Of course the teachings of real spiritual science sublimate and spiritualise the conceptions which represent Heaven as an extra cosmic abode of Divinity, and of those personifications of Divinity which are evolved by conventional religious thinking for the satisfaction of incarnate imaginations. But although pious emotions directed towards these personifications are not the only feelings that deserve the name of spiritual aspiration, they are undoubtedly included in that condition of mind. There are myriads of people so saturated with definite beliefs as to the personalities with which existence in Heaven must be associated, that Heaven for them would not be Heaven if it did not include such beings. But what if the notions they have formed of such beings are really unworthy of the true sublimities of the spiritual plane; what if the Truth is purer and more impersonal than their narrow and earthly imaginations have represented it? Is it to be supposed that, translated to the spiritual region, their expectations and aspirations will be at once harmonised with a more truly spiritualised stage of evolution? To imagine this would be to ignore the fundamental lesson of occult teaching — that the human creature grows upward in the scale of Nature gradually as a consequence of efforts in the direction of growth accomplished during successive earth lives. The translation of the Ego's consciousness from one plane of Nature to another may bring latent capacities into operation, but it does not engender new capacities.

Therefore the soul which has never spiritualised the personifications of exoteric religion will not be suddenly enabled to spiritualise them by coming into consciousness on the spiritual plane. It will simply deal with them as it deals with the beloved companions of earth who may not — according to the first hypothesis put forward a few pages back — be in true spiritual relations with itself. Its thought and aspiration will have the usual creative force, and the devotee to whom the idea of God has been that of a sublime monarch on a throne, will behold and worship at the foot of that throne, within the subjective though apparently boundless sphere of its own spiritual life. If the Virgin or the saints have played a part in the religious imagination of the human Ego in question on earth, the Virgin and the saints will be visible to its enraptured gaze on the threshold of the spiritual plane. Nothing but a highly refined and purified body of religious beliefs will introduce the Ego on that plane to pure realities and the truth of things.

So far we have been chiefly considering the spiritual plane from the point of view of those who pass on to it in the ordinary course of events after death — a long time after death, perhaps, if the astral plane has, in the first instance, exacted a considerable delay. But now, to expand as far as possible our comprehension of the sublime aspect of Nature on which we are engaged, let us turn to the question, how Devachanic conditions of consciousness affect a soul or Higher Ego enabled to touch them during earth life.

In discussing the very different conditions of astral existence I had continually to emphasise the principle that the region presented one aspect to the soul after death, and another to the soul set free from the body temporarily. There will be much to say about such temporary freedom later on, as that has to do with the grand achievements of abnormal spiritual development, so I need not anticipate another branch of my subject by stopping here to explain how such freedom is procured and what lofty purposes it subserves. But for the moment let us deal with the results of occult progress, — with the experience gained in temporary flights to the spiritual plane, undertaken by an Ego with a body still going on in the earth life. How would the spiritual plane, rich in the characteristics I have described, present itself to the consciousness of such an Ego?

The sense of rapture and intense felicity which the Devachanic condition imparts would be the same in both cases. That is an inherent attribute of consciousness on the spiritual plane. Then the sense of companionship of whoever might be loved by the person ascending to that plane would be the same as in the other case. But assuming that such ascents became of frequent occurrence with a highly spiritualised soul, a condition of things would set in, in which the activity of mind of the incarnate being would assert itself through the passive receptiveness that the all-sufficing character of the spiritual consciousness would otherwise tend to engender. The Higher Ego would, as it were, be continually prompted, from the incarnate phase of its own being, to seek out the solution of mysteries, to unravel problems on which its speculation had been bent, to avail itself, in short, of the almost infinite resources of the Akasic records. These would on that account be far more valuable to the Ego still in touch with earth than to the other, which would float undisturbed by any desire, for long periods of time, in a mere bath of unalloyed and complete felicity.
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Re: The Growth of the Soul, by Alfred Percy Sinnett

Postby admin » Tue May 08, 2018 8:27 pm

Part 2 of 2

Then the earth-attached Ego would be in a position to be making comparisons the whole time. Like the other, it would be bathed in felicity, but it would never lose sight of the complexities of the whole situation, nor of the earth life; so that its command of the resources of knowledge inherent in the spiritual condition would be applicable to earthly things in a way which would give it a marvellous power of insight in respect to the affairs of this world. A very important distinction must always be drawn in connexion with consciousness, between consciousness pure and simple and self-consciousness — the condition in which the fact of consciousness becomes an object of consideration. Thus an animal may be as conscious as a man, but is not self-conscious — not qualified to turn its mental gaze inward and reflect upon the phenomena of its own mind. In the same way the soul on the spiritual plane after death, at all events while in the threshold state in which the sense of felicity and of complete satisfaction in regard to its aspirations swallows up everything else, may be regarded as conscious; while the emancipated Ego, enabled to reach the spiritual plane during trances of the body, is self-conscious in the highest signification of the phrase.

Thus the opportunities afforded by Devachanic consciousness to such an entity are stupendously greater than for one who is just qualified to exist there. The situation is but faintly hinted at if we consider the different meaning, for a highly educated man and for a savage, of books and philosophical instruments. A Bushman in the British Museum would not be so far from being able to avail himself of all the resources around him, as a human being after death just qualified to touch the spiritual plane, would be unable to take advantage of its infinite possibilities.

We have seen how on the astral plane itself, matter is already infinitely more plastic to the influence of thought and will than the grosser matter we have to deal with on the physical plane. It may seem somewhat strained language to speak of the matter of the astral plane when it is wholly beyond the reach of our present senses nor capable, as far as we know, of affecting the most delicate instruments of the physical laboratory, but it is material, as truly as gold or iron are material, to the senses adapted to its perception. And on the Devachanic plane again the thought of the universe has taken manifestation in matter, though this, in its turn, will be beyond the range of the astral senses for those on intervening levels. Nor, indeed, are the various phases of material nature entirely disconnected the one from the other, they melt as it were, the one into the other like the colours of the spectrum. The principle on which this transition is accomplished has even been discerned by those occult students who have advanced a certain distance on the upward path of evolution. The molecule of physical matter is utterly beyond microscopic reach in the direction of the infinitely little and constitutes the finest manifestation of physical matter whose characteristics can be discerned by physical means. But our molecule of physical matter is a congeries of ultimate physical atoms, and the ultimate atom itself constitutes the ether of the physical plane and is still of the physical plane, although already beyond the reach of any instrument of research designed up to the present time. That ultimate physical atom, however, is found to be itself a highly complicated structure, consisting of atoms of astral matter. These atoms in turn, we may feel sure, from reasoning and the analogies of nature, are themselves constituted of similar aggregations of Devachanic matter. A great region of thought is opened out in connexion with this branch of superphysical science, before we begin to get touch with the nature of force on each plane. Force, it is sometimes said, is matter, although the expression in that bald shape is not calculated to convey any acceptable idea to the mind, but the matter which it is, is in all cases the matter of a superior plane. Astral matter may become force on the physical plane, or to express the idea with greater precision, may become the vehicle of force on the physical plane, and Devachanic matter in the same way may become the vehicle of a force on the astral plane.

Vehicles of force on the Devachanic plane are of a potency in inverse ratio to their tenuity, because they become the souls, so to speak, of forces on the lower planes, and this thought may suggest one of the ways in which a capacity to exercise consciousness on the Devachanic plane becomes a priceless privilege for a human being still in life, who ascends to that plane not for the sake of bathing in its blissful sensations but for the purpose of accomplishing results that may benefit his fellow creatures. We are in contact here with ideas so far out of touch with commonplace thinking, that it is not easy to render such results as I am now referring to intelligible in everyday language. They would have to do largely with engendering states of mind on the part of the people towards whom the good intention might be directed. Conventional thinking is apt to confine its attention to external conditions of well-being or suffering. It leaves the internal condition to take care of itself through entire ignorance concerning the invisible influences for good and evil by which it may be assailed. The Adept will often be enabled to recognise these as by far more important than the relatively evanescent circumstances that make for good or evil physically. In that way by help rendered from the Devachanic plane to people in this life, the whole current of their spiritual evolution, carrying with it innumerable Karmic developments that, amongst other effects, will materially qualify even the physical plane well-being of future lives, — may be modified in an important degree. Foremost, therefore, in endeavouring to form some notion of what the opportunities of the Devachanic plane are like for advancing pupils of the Adepts who may be enabled to reach it in consciousness during life, we may set the opportunities of taking an early part in the spiritual work of that plane — with which the entities reaching it in the normal course of existence between two earth lives have nothing to do. Nor is such spiritual work, however difficult itself to appreciate from the ordinary mundane standpoint, the subtlest in its nature of that which the enlightened occultist having access to the Devachanic plane is enabled to undertake. For those to whom the whole after life is at best a vague hypothesis enshrouded with doubt, we may seem to be venturing indeed beyond the limits of the knowable in discussing the question of beneficial influence that may be brought to bear on those who have actually passed through the gateway of death. But the modern theosophic student, vividly alive to the fact that death is but a change of state, is enabled to get a clear view of much that passes in the later state — as, for one thing, the account I have already given of the normal Devachanic vision will have shown. And one thing he is enabled to see has reference to the curious bearing in some cases on the character of the Devachanic vision of a possible condition of things I will now attempt to explain.

Suppose a deceased person has been attached during life to some one who has got on, along the path of occult development, sufficiently to assign him a part in his own subjectively created Devachanic vision. In ordinary cases the real individual consciousness of the friend concerned would not be engaged in the process. But if that friend is capable of activity on the Devachan plane, the situation is very different. He may then, at will, at any time, actually vivify and animate the living picture of himself in the vision, so that such picture becomes himself, and is thus capable not merely of reflecting the thoughts concerning him evolved by its creator, but of conveying his own independent thoughts. Thus the deceased person in the midst of the bliss of his normal Devachan derives the advantage of new spiritual teaching from his friend, and may actually get on in this way along the great highway of evolution beyond the degree to which the efforts of his previous life had directly conduced. And the progress so made becomes assimilated with his true Ego, never to be forfeited.

This condition of things, let me add for the benefit of any reader who may fancy it an infringement, in favour of the person so influenced, of the laws of Karma, is not such an infringement really. It is the Karma of his attachment to and affection for a fellow being on a higher level of spiritual advancement than himself. And in some measure the law just described holds good in reference to people who, without being so highly developed as to be able to function freely on the Devachanic plane during life, are nevertheless developed spiritually to a degree which enables them unconsciously to vitalise the ideal image of themselves which the Devachanic thinker has evolved. The scientific explanation of this possibility has to be sought for in very subtle explanations concerning the unity, on higher planes, of all truly spiritual natures, but into that obscure region of occult metaphysics it is hardly necessary to diverge just here. At all events, the occult student, who may not yet regard himself as "on the path" as a regular disciple — and thus provided for as regards the future on principles which differ from those regulating the Devachanic life of the normal majority — may derive a good deal of satisfaction from the possibility just referred to. Supposing his spiritual fervour to gravitate strongly in the direction of some great Adept, of whom he knows by repute and in the exaltation of whose nature he has an appreciative trust; even though the time may not be ripe for him to enter distinctly on the path of initiation, his Devachanic experiences will be glorified by the presence of that great Adept in his Devachanic vision, under circumstances in the reality of which there is no conceivable flaw. From his teaching he may not be in a position to derive, so far, all that may come to him in that way at a later stage of his growth, but the relationship so established will be one which nothing but his own serious degeneration in later lives will ever again interrupt.

Meanwhile, — one cannot say everything, in endeavouring to explain occult mysteries, all at once, — I have not yet touched on a question that will naturally suggest itself, — in connexion with the aspect of the Devachan plane for those who penetrate it at will, — to everyone who attempts to picture their experiences in his own mind. What does the place look like? — or as there is no "place" to be considered in the mundane sense of the term — what does Nature look like regarded from that point of view?

This brings me into relation with a very important branch of the subject, — the sub-divisional aspects of the Devachan plane. Just as in the case of the astral plane, the Devachanic is divided into regions the characteristics of which differ very widely among themselves, although it must be remembered that the "lowest" sub-plane of Devachan is already of so glorified a nature that it seems like perfection and infinity itself, for those whose perceptions are first awakened there. But in truth it is but the first stage on a new septenary ladder of perfection. There are seven distinctly marked stages in Devachanic progress, which for the convenience of description, — though all materialistic language begins to be embarrassing in dealing with such topics, — we must speak of as seven sub-planes. The first four are spoken of as the "Rupa" or form-planes of Devachan, the other three as the "Arupa" or form-less regions.

These distinctions can only be appreciated and understood by the enlightened or initiated visitor, who has acquired the complete freedom, so to speak, of the Devachanic plane. The departed entity established for his blissful rest in Devachan, finds himself in the region to which his affinities have naturally drawn him, and is not in a position to study the circumstances of Nature above or below that region. He may pass upward, indeed, from one to the other. On first awakening in Devachan, he finds himself established, — or rather, he is established, without knowing anything about the matter scientifically, — on that sub-plane which has to do with the full development of the most commanding body of emotions in his own nature, — among those, of course, which are capable of expansion on a spiritual plane of consciousness. I must go back at this point to the earlier part of the subject — but while first attempting to define the aspects of Devachan as presented to the departed entities, it was inconvenient to handle the question of the sub-planes. As I say, that division can only be understood by the enlightened visitor, so the explanation is properly taken up now.

On the first or lowest Rupa plane (some writers numbering these planes count from the top, but I prefer to follow the rule we always adopt in dealing with the Seven Principles) — the first or lowest plane has to do mainly with the development of the human affections. Of course, the rapturous and blissful atmosphere of feeling which belongs to the Devachanic condition pervades all planes. The second and third have to do with the intense developments of religious devotion — in its purest and loftiest aspect, which quite transcends the conventional ecclesiastical aspect which asserts itself on the sixth astral sub-plane. The fourth belongs pre-eminently to the loftiest kind of artistic genius, including the spiritual-intellectual development, — that which is concerned not merely with the pursuit of knowledge in its essential aspects — without excessive regard to material detail, — but which is infused with some zeal, for the benefit of mankind. There must be an altruistic touch in the intellectual fervour which conduces to the development of consciousness on the fourth Rupa plane; and so with the artistic enthusiasm concerned. This must not be infected with the ambition of being recognised as a great artist, it must be an unself-regarding love of art, ennobled by the feeling that by means of the art pursued, the world is to be elevated and improved.

Whichever enthusiasm amongst those capable of carrying a soul to Devachan is the most commanding in its force, — the soul is carried to the appropriate plane, and first awakens there. But if the first awakening is thus on one of the higher planes, that does not mean that the development of the human love emotion specially belonging to the first, is in any way denied to the individuality concerned. The higher, — for such purposes, — includes the lower, and the devout religious enthusiast will find his loved companions around him in his beatific vision on the second or third plane, just as the sublime artist will be able to enrich his vision in the same way, and to find it glorified by the religious vision also, if that is required for the perfection of his happiness.

Supposing human love is distinctly the predominant need of any given Ego's nature, he will awake on the first Devachan plane to begin with, and if his nature also includes, though in a secondary degree, the religious or artistic fervour, will pass on later, carrying his predominant vision with him. For many pages I might go on amplifying the idea of this gradual unfoldment of Devachanic consciousness, but it will be seen to have almost infinite ramifications, which it would be impossible to follow out completely, while the broad principle is easily grasped without going into details at all.

It would obviously be on the highest of the Rupa planes that the soul, entitled, so to speak, to such a privilege, would begin to avail itself freely of Nature's all but infinitely responsive power on Devachanic levels. Whatever thirst for knowledge in any exalted direction has stirred its consciousness during earth life will, as time goes on, evolve itself from memory and instantaneously evoke its appropriate response. For the soul so situated there can be no more possibility of an uusatisfied feeling in regard to the desire for knowledge than for an unsatisfied aspiration that has to do with human love. In the normal course of progress the realisation in this way of higher knowledge, sought for by the early stirring of thought in that direction during earth life, constitutes the actual growth of the Ego for which the earlier stirring has provided. No new Karma, to speak technically, is being engendered during the Devachanic period, no fresh causes are being set in motion, but those which are already established as force within the consciousness are thus blossoming out into the maturity of effect. Adequate attention to this thought will reconcile two views in connexion with occult teaching concerning the soul's growth which sometimes present embarrassment when ill-understood. All the work, so to speak, towards growth has been done during earth life, and the moment that is over the qualifications of the next earthly vehicle of consciousness which the Ego will occupy have been already determined. His fitness, as it were, to occupy that vehicle is provided for by the experiences he goes through during the Devachanic period, themselves the fruit of the seed he has originally planted. And now patiently endeavouring to pick up all our threads, though it is impossible to follow them up all at once, let us go back to the question what Devachan "looks like." Every one must instinctively crave for some description of its external aspect, for however matter exists, no matter how refined it may be, the mind cannot escape from the conception that it must have an external aspect. By the very terms employed, it is recognised as having an objective existence. And this inference is in no way misleading in regard to the Devachanic plane, but the aspect of nature in that region differs so widely from that with which we are familiar here, that the required conception can only be arrived at in the mind, and then but imperfectly, step by step, as we begin to realise the various features of this very exalted Nature. To every consciousness first touching the Devachanic plane, the predominant impression, in the first instance, seems to be that of light; light of a brilliancy to which the experience of physical eyes in relation to bright light can hardly be truly related, because we have to think of that light as inconceivably brilliant, but in no sense dazzling. The very thought of being dazzled, is associated with the imperfections of the sense by which, on the physical plane, the phenomenon of light is appreciated. The light of the spiritual planes is attractive in proportion, so to speak, to its brilliancy. It must be thought of as associated in some hardly imaginable way with life. It is described by those who can cognise it as " living light," and withal it is not a mere white brilliancy, but embodies an infinite and variegated play of colour, — colour running thus into a great variety of distinctions entirely beyond the range that can be appreciated by the physical senses. Even before getting on to Devachanic levels, some persons in the waking state, whose astral senses are in activity, are enabled to perceive, in what for most of us is the invisible margin of the spectrum, colours which are unlike any of those known to the painter. These in themselves are wholly indescribable, for no colour can be described except in terms of those already known. More colours than are discernible to astral sight become manifest in the marvellous iridescence of Devachanic nature, and they are not alone manifestations of beauty; they have a significance which on some levels of the Devachanic plane, becomes definitely perceptible to consciousness functioning there. As the vibrations of sound have acquired for ourselves, through the use of language, a definite intellectual signification, so the vibrations of colour on certain Devachanic levels carry significance from mind to mind, and from the lowest to the highest region of that plane, constitute one of its foremost characteristics.

Next we have ever to remember that the plasticity of matter on the Devachanic plane, and its obedience to impulse and will, is such that thought becomes a creative power there in an enormously higher degree than is the case on even the higher levels of the astral plane. We may recognise the distinction as having to do with some sense of intentional effort. On the astral plane objective results are sought for; on the Devachanic plane, no such effort intervenes between thought and its realisation. We are there in very much more direct touch, moreover, with that memory of Nature, the true medium of which, although it penetrates the lower planes, belongs in its nature to those which are definitely spiritual. So that the thought directed on the Devachanic plane towards any period in the past, instantaneously evokes an absolutely accurate picture of that period, event or episode, whatever it may be, and in this way, taking the Devachanic plane for the moment as a whole, and without regard to its subdivisions, we may recognise a species of omniscience concerning matters coming within range of this world's affairs as a necessary attribute of full consciousness on Devachanic levels.

However, throughout our study of this branch of the subject, we must constantly bear in mind the fact that Nature, even on the exalted planes of consciousness that transcend physical life, can only respond to the nature or development of the consciousness she is dealing with. This will apply to the occult pupil first penetrating the Devachanic planes as well as to the after death entities. It is only with difficulty and by degrees that the study of the circumstances concerning spiritual evolution and the growth of the soul emancipates us from the misconception embodied in the popular notion of the after state as a sudden exaltation, even of the most commonplace human beings, into angels of light in presence of eternal mysteries the moment they are set free from the body. That sort of abrupt change is no more possible than it would be for a newly born child, suddenly entering on the physical plane of life, to write Newton's "Principia" or Humboldt's "Cosmos" the following day. And while the soul's growth during its normal stages of progress is only accomplished very slowly, during physical existence; so also, though enormously more hastened, the capacity of the occult disciple winning access to Devachanic levels must also be thought of as developing by degrees. Above the four sub-divisions of Devachanic existence which have been dealt with so far, — the Rupa planes of Devachan, those that is to say in which the consciousness is still associated in some way with the idea of form, — there lie the three Arupa or formless planes, in reference to which it is exceedingly difficult it not impossible to give any coherent explanation in the language of physical life. Here the entity qualified to ascend to them in consciousness begins to realise that unity of all consciousness which is one of the most supremely important facts of nature to which occult study introduces us, but which transcends the state of consciousness of this waking life so immeasurably that it is hardly possible to deal with it in terms of the physical intellect. These higher planes are spoken of as formless rather, perhaps, because the soul rising to these levels is enabled to cognise Realities independently of any of their lower manifestations, than because on these levels we have yet lost touch entirely with form manifestation itself.

For each of us whose spiritual growth has been such as to render it possible for us at any time to have relations with the Arupa planes of Devachan, the vehicle in which alone we can enter into such relations is that which used to be described in occult terminology as the Karana Sharira and has latterly been more often referred to as the Causal body. That, so far as the present Manvantara is concerned, is the absolutely permanent vehicle of the true individuality of each man. It is the vehicle in which, divorced from all lower manifestations, he rises between the interval of death and re-birth to the highest phase of nature it is possible for him to touch, and in which he again descends through those intervening conditions, re-manifesting himself in vehicles appropriate thereto, until he reaches the physical body appertaining to his next manifestation on earth.

Entities functioning on the Arupa planes in the Causal body are objectively realisable by others on their own level, and the real reason why these planes have been described as formless is, as already stated, that they are not concerned with other forms except those which are assumed by the beings appertaining to them. By those who are capable of existence on these planes in consciousness, and of bringing back to their own recollection in the physical state a recollection of their feelings and perceptions there, these regions are described as oceans of living light and sound and colour, in the midst of which existence to begin with, before we attempt to figure in our imagination its other characteristics, is a condition of the most intense delight. But the foremost, perhaps, from the point of view of the explanation I am attempting now to give, among the characteristics of the Arupa planes is that which distinguishes it even from those lower planes of Devachanic consciousness, themselves so glorious and beautiful that the language in which they are described leaves no further superlatives at our command with which to invest the still loftier attributes of the Arupa condition. On the Rupa levels, it will have been seen, the world which surrounds each entity-cleaving for a moment out of account those entities who may merely be functioning there temporarily, by virtue of a development which enables them to look on at their phenomena without being entirely involved therein — is an ideal world, representing in a perfection, which is unchangeable for him, the sum total of his loftiest aspirations and emotions. But if his spiritual growth has been such as to render it possible for him to pass upward eventually on to the Arupa planes, he will there be in no need of an ideal that shall in any way differ from the absolute reality of things. On the Arupa planes he sees all other beings there, exactly as they are, and yet this perception in no way interferes with the perfect beatitude of each, because by the hypothesis anyone capable of conscious existence on the Arupa planes at all has so transcended the limitations of life as we think of it down here, that happiness is in no way dependent upon any unreal illusion. The thought is very difficult to assimilate in a mind unused to attempts at transcending the present conditions of existence, but even the loves and affections of our incarnate existence are the outgrowth in a certain sense of the limitations of our consciousness. They will not be dissipated or annulled by an ascent to regions of nature where the limitations, which in the first instance gave rise to them, are merged in a spiritual unity, but their character will be so completely modified in that almost unimaginable condition, that they will have lost touch with the circumstances of a transient character that constitute as it were the material out of which illusions and ideals of even the most beautiful nature are constructed. Words fail in connexion with thought of this kind to do more than convey hints and suggestions, but at all events whoever would frame in his mind a conception of the Arupa condition must bring together the two thoughts, that on that plane there is no room for any misconception of actual reality, nor is there any room for the faintest trace of regret or discontent.

The form spoken of as representing an entity on any of the Arupa planes is the vehicle of the Higher Self called, as I have said, in the technical language of occultism, the Karana Sharira. And just because the growth of this Higher Self as functioning in the one vehicle which is permanent throughout the Manvantara and passes from one personality to another, is the whole purpose to be accomplished during the evolution on which we are launched, it stands to reason that at any relatively early stage of the process the Karana Sharira in each case is extremely undeveloped. For the vast majority of mankind at the present level of progress, the truth is that nothing like active selfconsciousness on the Arupa levels is possible. The Karana Sharira is gradually evolving and gathering from successive lives whatever slight contributions to its permanent nature be made by each experience. For the majority of mankind, if we think of the actual numbers on the earth's surface around us, it must be recognised that the Higher Self is hardly grown sufficiently to be a nucleus of consciousness even on the Rupa planes of Devachan. It has only learnt, so to speak, to be fully conscious on the astral and physical manifestations. Even for the lowest examples of humanity it is in a certain sense established on the Arupa planes; but as consciousness is drawn back into it again after each physical existence, it fades into a feebler and feebler flame, until it may be thought of as a mere speck on the highest level to which it belongs. Thus it returns to incarnation, recovering in its passage through the lower strata of existence, as we have seen, the material vehicles required for that kind of consciousness which it has learned to exert. But for the purpose of endeavouring to comprehend the Arupa planes we must keep our attention fixed on those entities already sufficiently developed to be truly conscious there and to exercise the faculties and energies appropriate to that phase of nature.

Of course, on that level of existence all senses are merged in a single all-embracing capacity of appreciation, so that the organs of sense we think of as in association with the human being are entirely superseded. This, to begin with, is one of the most difficult ideas to realise from the point of view of ordinary thinking. People cannot emancipate their conception of existence from the conception of the human form, so that poets and painters have followed the guidance of anthropomorphic theology in all their attempts to represent beings of a celestial nature. Their highest efforts are in this way little more than grotesque for those who, either with the help of imagination or experience, are enabled to realise in some degree the nature of consciousness in realms which transcend sense, and are wholly superior to the limitations of a differentiated organism. But it will be remembered that the Aura that surrounds the human being even on this plane of life is, if we omit those elements of its constitution which have to do with the magnetic conditions of the body, itself a congeries of the actual vehicles in which it is qualified to function on the higher planes of nature. The Aura itself has no limbs or features, and yet in a far truer sense than the limbs and features is the vehicle of our thoughts and emotions, of our knowledge and our will, so that anyone who desires to realise in some measure what the conditions of the Arupa levels are like, must begin by getting rid of the false association established by the habits of physical life between consciousness and the differentiated organism.

The lowest of the three Arupa planes is that on which the Karana Sharira of every human being may be thought of as already existing in some degree or other of early development. On the intermediate Arupa plane those Karana Shariras will be found, in connexion with which a very considerable degree both of intellectual and spiritual development has been accomplished, while on the highest of all existence is only possible for those in whom such advancement has been supplemented by the actual acquisition of knowledge and power incidental to that degree of progress marked by the first, at all events, of the great steps of initiation. That process of initiation represents the accelerated accomplishment of the evolution laid out as regards humanity at large, for the second half of the Manvantara. At a later stage of that period, evolution will have brought considerable numbers to the levels, with which at present those are concerned alone who have hastened with extraordinary rapidity along the path. Thus, whatever it may be possible for us at present to learn concerning the highest of the Arupa planes has to do rather with the attempt to appreciate abnormal than with a survey of normal evolution. We may come back to this subject further on, when the course of initiation has been more distinctly traced; for the moment the highest level of the Arupa planes need not be brought into the picture which concerns itself with an appreciation of the regular course pursued by the human entity in its progress from physical death to re-birth. In conclusion of this part of our subject, however, it may be hinted that the spiritual conditions of being attainable by the human soul still in relations with this earth are not exhausted by the resources of those planes of Nature described in the foregoing pages. Occult teaching is to the effect that even above the highest region of Devachan which itself transcends the manifestations of form and objectivity, there is a spiritual state attainable by man which transcends even that. But it is useless to attempt any speculation which shall deal with the characteristics of that plane in words, and it is outside the natural cycles of human existence, so that in the ordinary course of things the soul after death would not touch it, returning instead in due time to incarnation from the spiritual realm already dealt with. So we need not take cognisance of it for the present further than to say that it constitutes the state of unimaginable spiritual sublimity referred to in Eastern theosophy by the expression. Nirvana.
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Re: The Growth of the Soul, by Alfred Percy Sinnett

Postby admin » Tue May 08, 2018 8:28 pm

Part 1 of 2

CHAPTER 10: THE SYSTEM TO WHICH WE BELONG.

Planetary chains, rounds, and Manvantaras — Venus and Mercury ; confusion of names — Prospects of the second half of the Manvantara — Other schemes in the solar system besides ours — The system as a whole — The nebular theory confirmed — The Qrigin of our nebula — Condensation of atomic ether — The interior constitution of the earth — The various schemes — Planetary
reconstructions — Influence of schemes on one another— The last Manvantara of our scheme — The various classes of Pitris — Corresponding divisions of our own humanity — Other evolutions connected with the solar system — The Deva evolution.


Everyone who has touched the outskirts of Theosophic teaching will be familiar with the idea that this planet we are actually inhabiting for the moment forms one of a connected series through which the human lifewave flows, manifesting in full activity on one only at any given period; that the course of the whole Manvantara involves a septenary journey round this chain of worlds; that each in turn is brought into full activity during this progress, and fades back into comparative obscuration as the life-wave passes on, and that the passage around the whole seven globes is spoken of for convenience as a "round" in evolution, seven of which make up a whole Manvantara. The strain and struggle of existence is not equally great on all these globes — in four of them, indeed, two of these being on the downward and two on the upward arc of the circle, humanity is not called upon to undergo the strain of physical existence at all. On the first globe of the series existence is altogether conditioned by surroundings corresponding with that which we call the Devachanic plane of the earth, while the lowest point of materiality touched by the second globe of the series is on a level with that which we here call the astral plane. Life on the third planet on the downward series has already the physical vehicle, and that third planet, therefore, becomes perceptible to our present senses, and is in fact the planet Mars. Passing onward from this earth, humanity again functions on a physical globe — the planet Mercury — and then passes to the sixth, the lowest materiality of which is astral, and to a seventh which, like the first, is altogether Devachanic.

It seems desirable here to interpolate an explanation with which earlier dissertations on the planetary chain were not concerned, in reference to a confusion of nomenclature which has apparently invaded the domain of astronomy. By ordinary usage, of course, the planet whose orbit is nearest to us as we approach the sun, is called Venus, the one next within the orbit of Venus and nearer to the sun is called Mercury. And whatever the original astrological motives may have been for bestowing these names on the planets, ordinary astronomy requires nothing more than a label by means of which each shall be known, and it does not matter at all what names are employed if these are always used in the same signification. But from the point of view of astrology, the names although apparently derived from mythology have a meaning, and in this way the name Venus has been associated with the planet which, as these explanations proceed, will be seen to be the habitation of a race more advanced than our own, and the name Mercury belongs astrologically to the planet associated with our own planetary chain and to which in the normal course of events the tide of human evolution will flow when the present world period comes to an end. But the planet to which humanity will thus drift is in reality the planet whose orbit is next to our own (as we approach the sun) and the planet within that orbit, nearer to the sun, is really the one inhabited by that advanced race spoken of in the earlier theosophical books as the Venus evolution. So when we say that Mercury belongs to our planetary chain it should be remembered that in reality we are speaking of the planet commonly called Venus; that when we speak of the Venus evolution we really mean an evolution on the planet commonly called Mercury. The confused nomenclature is of no consequence in dealing with mere physical astronomy, but at all events, some astrologers inform me that by associating what are commonly known as the Venus aspects with the planet nearest the sun and those known as Mercurial aspects with the planet whose orbit is nearest to the earth more satisfactory results are to be obtained than can be worked out with the more conventional system. At the first glance the reader who has not made a special study of the solar system as a whole will fail to see why this alleged confusion need give rise to any trouble, but for some purposes connected with the interpretation of the system as a whole it is important that the mistake should be cleared out of the way.

Here on the earth we are at the middle point of our progress in each round, and this period of the earth's activity is the middle period of the whole Manvantara as the round on which we are engaged is the fourth, just a little more than half of which is already accomplished. If we concentrate our attention on the present world period alone we find evolution being carried out during the whole of the period through seven great races, with seven different configurations of land and water to harmonise with their needs, the race in the midst of which we Europeans and some other populations now find ourselves, being the fifth, while the fourth, the middle race, was the great Atlantean race which already began to decline from its culminating grandeur nearly a million years ago. The last remnant of land which belonged to the great continent it once occupied disappeared in the natural convulsion of which some faint records have been preserved in classical literature, and in the Mexican manuscript known as the Troana MS., lately deciphered by Dr. Le Plongeon. Periods of years expressed in figures simply bewilder the mind when we begin to talk of millions, and yet we know that the duration of a great root race must be counted in millions, that a great many millions of years are thus represented by even the briefest of the world periods which are connected with the great course of planetary evolution. It will not be an exaggeration of the truth to say that if we think of the whole Manvantara as representing the individual life of a man, such a lifetime as we are familiar with now, say one of seventy years, would stand in the same relation to the whole as one second of time would stand in relation to the seventy years. Illustrations of this nature may, to some extent, help the mind in realising the length of the evolutionary journey through which we have already passed, and in realising the rate at which the soul grows while it is left, so to speak, to the single influence of what may be thought of as the evolutionary drift. In looking backward over the progress achieved in the past by any soul not yet emerged from ordinary conditions — and such retrospect is possible for those whose faculties have already begun to function on Devachanic levels — there is something almost appalling in the tardiness in the growth observable. Each physical life has such infinitesimally minute contributions to make to the permanent individuality! Look back, if you are able, for a dozen lives, and you will probably find so little difference between the spiritual individuality at this remote period and the corresponding individuality at this moment, that you might be tempted to think the time and strain and effort of all that existence but thrown away and wasted. But it has not been wasted really, any more than the corresponding interval of time has been wasted by the stalactite, that wonderful monument to Nature's patience, which is not without its significance for observers who can appreciate analogies. And though progress may have been slow along the immeasurable course of bygone ages, the final result attained, even if we look merely at the spiritual individuality of the human being of our own period, is a growth the accomplishment of which eclipses that of the stalactite in the estimation of those who can appreciate the difference between the plane of Nature on which it has been achieved and that to which the perishable, however ancient, mineral form belongs.

But what is the road to be travelled by the Ego in its development between this middle period of the Manvantara and the final culmination of its possibilities at a period in advance to be measured by the magnitude of that awful journey we have already taken, during which we have been shielded from a perception of its wearisome length by the torpor of our higher nature? The distance to be yet travelled as measured on the scale of human condition, from the place at which the ordinary humanity now stands to that it should reach at the end of the Manvantara, is not less than that which separates a favourable example of modern civilisation — say a man of distinguished literary culture or scientific attainments — from the primitive savage of Tierra del Fuego. It is the design of Nature that the majority of the whole human family shall at the end of the seventh round of planetary experience attain to a condition in which existence, in reference to this planetary chain to which we belong, will be, to begin with, more free than our present incarnate existence in as great a degree as the living man of to-day, so to speak, is freer than the stone. If we endeavour to invest the stone in our imagination with a consciousness, it must clearly be one of a very restricted character, and, amongst other conditions, it exists wherever it is put, not wherever it wills to go. Within limits the man can move about on the surface of this earth at his pleasure, but compared with the being he may become, he is as much in prison in his present vehicle, and as much chained down to one spot by the limitations of his capacity, as in comparison with him the stone itself is subject to restrictions. The final example of perfected humanity will use whatever body he then retains as a mere instrument of his convenience, to be worn or left aside at pleasure. The higher realms of Nature, of which I have been speaking in endeavouring to describe the course of human experience between death and re-birth, and others again immeasurably transcending these, will be accessible to him as readily as the various rooms in the house in which he lives may be accessible to him now. From any one globe of the chain to another he will be able to pass as freely as within the various phases of each. Forces of Nature as far transcending any with which modern science is acquainted as these transcend the resources of the African savage will lie within his reach and command, for his moral nature will have attained altitudes corresponding with the development of his power and knowledge, and by that time his Will will be so completely welded with that which controls the whole of Nature, and is represented to our ordinary thinking by the idea of Divinity, that no care on the part of Nature for his own or others' welfare will render it necessary to subject him to the disabilities of ignorance. Language entirely fails to do more than hint in the vaguest fashion at the kind of exaltation thus within the possibilities of human progress, but that progress may in some faint degree be appreciated with the help of the thought that it will amongst other things embrace all knowledge concerning this whole Manvantaric design — an absolute and complete understanding of every intricacy in Nature's stupendous mechanism, and will embrace the answer to every moral enigma which the experience of life may suggest, or to which in the weary efforts of our speculative thinking in the present day we may turn continually in despairing sorrow, holding on with what strength we may to the vague trust that in superior wisdom there resides, beyond our reach, a clue to the mysteries of evil.

That is the course along which human evolution has still to travel, but it ought to be manifest to any reasonable thinker that the scheme thus set forth, involving, as it does, the elevation of Man to levels which we are in the habit of thinking God-like, is not to be accomplished by any process of evolution pressing upon him from without. In a certain sense, though even this is, perhaps, a strained one, it may be said that up to the present period of evolution, primeval germs of human consciousness have been brought to the position in which we now stand under the influence of external forces or guidance, but before a man can be invested by nature with God-like attributes, he must engender within his own consciousness the will to be God-like, and he must, as it were, put the whole force of his own intention into the undertaking. He must be actuated by an intelligent will as well as by vague aspiration towards progress; he must make the choice between good and evil with his eyes open; he must determine whether he would rather grasp whatever good things connected with progress it may be possible for him to monopolise for himself, or whether he would rather join his forces to those who are endeavouring to serve the purposes of God, and to promote the acceleration of the whole undertaking. It will only be by individual effort at each step of man's progress as he goes on through the ordinary course of Nature that he will really ascend along the gentle upward spiral, but at this point it is impossible to describe the course of normal evolution without making some reference to that kind which is abnormally hastened. If a man follows the normal course no great magnitude of effort, so to speak, will ever be required from him at any given moment, but his growth towards ultimate possibilities of his own development will be correspondingly slow. On the other hand, the extent to which, by emphasising that effort to an enormous degree of intensity, it is possible for him from this stage of human advancement onward to accelerate his own evolution, will be found to eclipse the boldest conjectures which any one might form from the point of view of comprehending the whole evolutionary scheme without actually knowing what have been the results of abnormal effort on the part of those who have gone in advance of the rest. But whether he concentrates his effort or distributes it, for the evolution of the latter half of the Manvantara he must contribute his own effort to the evolutionary tendency or he will fall back into the rear. This will be better intelligible when we come to study the conditions of abnormal progress, but meanwhile explanations are still wanting to complete our picture of the whole evolutionary field, within the almost boundless range of which the growth of the soul proceeds.

The planetary series with which our present Manvantara is concerned, with all its marvellous intricacies as regards its physical manifestation alone, with all its unseen conditions of existence around it, with all its magnificent possibilities of consciousness having to do with the spiritual planes of Nature, is but one of a series of such with which this human family is concerned. Seven Manvantaras' succeed each other in due order, this we are now going through being the fourth, and the worlds of each succeeding Manvantara are themselves evolved afresh each time, though each in turn must be thought of as a Re-incarnation of its predecessor rather than as an entirely fresh creation. Meanwhile within the limits of the solar system of which we form a part, there are other chains of Manvantaras in progress connected with other planets, visible and invisible, and in all we are given to understand that there are thus seven schemes of planetary evolution, all having some touch with the physical plane, and deriving their vital energies from the sun. At certain very exalted stages of spiritual progress the foremost representatives of humanity in the very vanguard of our evolution are in a position to acquire definite knowledge concerning these other schemes, and some information on the subject has filtered down to occult students of our level. We are thus enabled to form a comprehensive conception of the solar system as a whole, and even to appreciate to some extent the nature of the great design it represents.

Seven, as we have long recognised, is the root number of our system — in so far, at any rate, as that system is in any way concerned with physical manifestation — and the simple invariability of the law makes the great plan in question more easily intelligible than it would be otherwise. The solar system includes (we must take care not to fall into the arrogant mistake that might be involved in saying it consists of) seven great schemes of planetary evolution, in each of which there are some worlds, one or more, on the physical plane. The schemes are not all designed to match one another, and in some more than in others the higher planes of Nature are engaged in their design. Theosophists are well used now to the conception that super-physical planes of Nature may be just as real and the manifestations thereon just as objective as those which affect the physical senses. The astral and Devachanic planes are available as areas of manifestation within the solar system as completely as the physical plane, and indeed, over and above the seven planetary schemes, to which I have already referred, there are some others which are altogether established on the higher planes and have no physical planets connected with their evolution at any time. It will not be possible to say much of these at present, but the recognition of the fact that they exist will help to bring order into our thinking at a later stage of this inquiry. Our own scheme makes a larger draught than any other but one on the resources of the physical plane, and at the period of our present Manvantara three planets of our own series are on this plane; but the constitution of the various chains is varied in this respect. Each scheme of evolution is worked out by means of a series of seven Manvantaras. Each Manvantara includes an evolutionary process, such as that set forth in Theosophic teaching in reference to the seven rounds of our planetary chain. As each round includes a world period of activity on each planet in turn, and as each of these world periods is divided into seven great racial cycles, we may get a view of the proportionate magnitude of a race period — itself extending over some millions of years — as compared with the whole system to which we belong, if we bear in mind the following progression:

Seven root race periods make up one world period.

Seven world periods (following each other on as many planets in succession), one round.

Seven rounds one Manvantara.

Seven Manvantaras, one scheme of evolution.

Seven schemes of evolution (more or less contemporaneous in their activity), the solar system.

Some of these schemes are much more advanced than others, but before going into a more minute account of the condition in which we find the whole stupendous undertaking at the present time, it will be desirable to go back in imagination to its beginning, and appreciate the beautiful intuition with which modern science — not always entitled to as much credit — has divined with a very close approach to accuracy the condition in which our system existed before any of its planets were differentiated.

The nebular hypothesis is one of the grandest achievements of which the unassisted human intellect has ever shown itself capable. That hypothesis closely harmonises with Theosophic teaching on this subject, even though that teaching expands and interprets it in a way that would not be possible from the narrow platform of thought which recognises only one order of matter.

The theory that solar systems were each, in the first instance, vast aggregations of highly heated and very attenuated matter — gaseous, or perhaps even more attenuated still — and that by degrees each such nebula was subjected to a cooling and contracting process which condensed its nucleus, and so forth, is generally attributed to the great astronomer Laplace. Some writers trace the genesis of the idea to Tycho Brahe, who suggested that stars were formed by the condensation of the ethereal substance of which he supposed the Milky Way to be composed. Kepler extended the idea by suggesting that the nebular substance may originally have pervaded all space, instead of being confined to the Milky Way, and other great thinkers in turn suggested further modifications of the original conception. It was immensely fortified when the researches of Sir William Herschell showed us over 2000 separate nebulae within range of the telescope, and then, in the last year of the eighteenth century, Laplace worked out the whole scheme far more systematically than any of his precursors, and developed it into pretty much the shape in which the astronomical world generally accepts it now.

Laplace showed how the planets of a system could be successively formed by the rupture, from the central mass of the nebula, of great external rings of condensing matter. The whole nebula was assumed to have been originally in rotation, so the rings would themselves continue to rotate in the same way. By degrees the rings would themselves be somewhere ruptured, and then the matter of which they were composed would roll up and aggregate itself either into great globular planetary bodies, or into swarms of smaller meteoric masses.

Concurrently with the development of the whole idea, speculation has concerned itself with the question how the nebula in the first instance was probably formed. According to one view, sometimes spoken of as the vortex theory, matter is supposed to be drawn in with a whirling motion around some already existing nucleus. By another — the impact theory — the original nebula is supposed to be due to the collision in space between two cold and extinct suns moving in different directions with planetary velocities. The heat engendered by such an appalling catastrophe is recognised as sufficient to volatilise all the matter of which the two globes consisted, and to set up, in this way, a new nebula of glowing incandescent gas, which would be set in rotation by the nature of the collision which caused it, as the chances would be enormous against the exact encounter of the two bodies centre to centre. At present, I think, the impact theory of nebular origins is most in favour, and it is profoundly interesting to learn from our exalted teachers that, though as a matter of fact it is not the method of development that was actually adopted in the case of our own solar system, it has been employed in the course of Nature with some other systems, and can be brought into harmony with those activities on higher planes than the physical, which our Theosophic instincts will at once assure us must always be mainly instrumental in bringing a solar system into existence.

The method actually adopted at the inauguration of our own solar system was one concerned entirely, in the first instance, with higher planes of Nature. On some level of superphysical matter a force was set in action which had the effect of creating what we may think of — without claiming, in this respect, to think with exactitude — as a vast electric field extending over a region of space greater by far than the area included in the orbit of Neptune.

The region of space affected would, to begin with, be pervaded by matter of a certain order, or indeed of certain orders. The more we comprehend the spirit of occult teaching, the more clearly we realise the idea that space is nowhere empty and vacant. It may contain nothing that affects some given set of limited senses, but for all that it is a plenum rather than a vacuum. Something pervades all space with which we can concern ourselves in thought. Recognising this, and recognising also that matter on other planes than the physical is clearly subject to limitations — so that what we habitually talk of, for example, as the astral plane is not a homogeneous infinitude but is the astral plane of this earth — Esoteric students sometimes puzzle over the question, What plane in the ascending series is common to the solar system, what common to the cosmos? The answer to the riddle is to be found in the fact that each plane is represented by matter in several — the usual seven — stages of refinement. The lower sub-planes are in all cases specialised around each planet; but in each case the highest sub-plane is co-extensive with the solar system — with the universe itself, for all we know to the contrary. Thus in a certain sense even the physical plane is co-extensive with space, as represented by the highest, the atomic state of ether. So equally with the astral and Devachanic planes: these, in their highest states, are co-extensive with the ether; and a fortiori higher planes still are co-extensive.

From this it will be apparent that matter of every variety, plus all its potentialities, lay within the region in which the sublime power, directing the manifestation of our system, set up the activities already referred to. These activities had for one effect, we are told, that of drawing in from surrounding space, as into a vortex, immense additional supplies of the all-pervading ether. Some scientific difficulties present themselves to the mind in reference to this statement, but solar systems are sufficiently wide apart in their distribution through space to harmonise with the idea that even the ether, though we have to think of it as incompressible to accommodate our prevailing conceptions of matter with some of its attributes, may be attenuated in intersolar space, and relatively condensed in and around solar systems. At all events, the esoteric interpretation of the beginning of our system seems to involve the idea of such condensation, and on the ether in this condition an influence coming down from some higher plane of Nature ultimately converted the condensed mass into a physical nebula — an immense volume of incandescent gas at some inconceivably high temperature.

From this condition of things the process imagined in connexion with the nebular theory appears to have come into play. Rings of the nebular substance became detached from the parent mass, and continuing to revolve in obedience to the vortex motion of the whole mass, became aggregated into planets, although not into the actual planets with which we are now familiar, these being of later origin, by virtue of principles operative in the evolution of the system which ordinary astronomy does not as yet take into account.

The various planets originally formed were grouped by degrees into seven great schemes of evolution, and to comprehend these in some approximate measure, we must regard them from our present point of view. The survey we have to carry out would not be materially assisted by attempts to fathom the all but unfathomable past so far as to investigate the order in which the various schemes were launched. Meanwhile, however, we may take note of the fact already referred to that there are within the solar system three schemes of evolution to which no physical planets are attached, so that in truth there are not seven but ten schemes to be thought of; and probably if we possessed a sufficiently exhaustive knowledge of Nature we should find septenary systems constantly merging themselves in a more embracing system of tens; but wherever the physical plane plays a part in any cosmic undertaking the septenary law appears to hold good. Thus our first task in attempting to understand the solar system has to do with seven schemes in each of which the physical plane is touched.

Beginning with that which is the outermost in space, we find that the planet Neptune is concerned with a scheme of a very different character from that which may be assigned to most of the others. In this world-series the evolutionary process is not destined to achieve results commensurate with those which it is the purpose of the other schemes to bring about. The life with which Neptune is concerned is not calculated to attain very high levels, but on the other hand this wonderful cosmic organism is especially interesting for an astronomical reason. Connected in evolution with Neptune there are in fact two other planets physically belonging to our system that have not yet fallen a prey to telescopic research. One of them may ultimately be discovered by ordinary means, the outermost lies far beyond the range of physical instruments, for not merely is its distance something appalling to the imagination, but the light it would throw back to us by reflection from the sun is exceedingly feeble. Viewed from Neptune itself the sun would appear a mere speck in the sky compared with the glowing disc we have to deal with, but the two outer planets are at distances from the centre of the system which continue to observe what is called in astronomy "Bode's law." Thus without having yet discovered either of them we know that the radius of the orbit in which the outermost of all is moving is something over 10,000 million miles. (The distance of Neptune from the sun, it will be remembered, is about 2,700 millions.) At that distance the light of the sun would barely make darkness visible. And for any warmth the distant planet may require it must be dependent chiefly on influences with which physical science on this earth at present is ill acquainted. However, little as we can expect just yet to understand the Neptune scheme, we may formulate our thinking on the subject so far as to recognise that scheme as including — at its present stage of advancement — three physical planets.

All the other schemes, as we shall see by degrees — excepting our own — are at present represented on the physical plane by only one planet each. But all through this survey of the system it must be remembered that schemes are not equally represented on the physical plane at each of their Manvantaric stages. Our own scheme had but one physical planet in its last Manvantara, and will have but one in its next Manvantara, though at present it has a triple manifestation on the physical plane. So other schemes which at present have only one physical planet may have more than one at later stages of their progress, may have had more than one at former stages.

The Uranus scheme — for thinking at this date we may as well call each scheme by the name of the visible planet of its present chain — is the next in order to be considered. I understand the Uranus scheme is fairly well advanced, and to be concerned with the evolution of a high order of life, but of course the physical conditions of Uranus must be widely unlike any with which we have acquaintance. The sun can hardly seem a much larger object viewed from Uranus than Jupiter appears to us, but one of the lessons most strongly emphasised by the esoteric study of the whole system is that life is compatible with conditions of the most diverse character, and that we must never seek to determine the habitability of other globes in space by inquiring how far their meteorological or climatic conditions correspond with our own.

The Saturnian scheme is very much less advanced in its Manvantaric development than our own, and the planet Saturn itself is in an early round of its present Manvantara, so that it is not yet physically habitable at all. The family of beings with whose evolution it is concerned are still at an early stage of their descent into matter, even though it must not be supposed that the Saturn scheme, any more than other schemes connected with the outer planets are young in the order of their creation as compared with some of those nearer the sun. The rates of progress of the various schemes are very different. Saturn is slow in its evolution, with Manvantaras of enormous length. We must be patient yet a while in regard to speculations which would attempt to correlate the rate of progress of the various schemes, though no doubt they are all designed to harmonise their results in some way towards the close of the mighty drama in which they play their several parts.

The Jupiter scheme is very interesting, for though it is still young — in advancement, if not in time — it is destined, we understand, to bring forward its family of evolution to a very high level eventually. So far, however, the Manvantara of the Jupiter scheme now in progress is only the third of the septenary series, corresponding to our lunar or last Manvantara, which did not bring our family forward to a very mature stage of development. Moreover, at present the Jupiter family is only in the second round of its third Manvantara, and its physical planet therefore is not yet fitted to be the abode of physical life. It is still hot from its relatively recent condensation, and this condition of things, recognised by ordinary astronomy, is not due, as ordinary astronomers suppose, to the fact that Jupiter is much larger than the inner planets, and has thus taken more time to cool since the original nebula consolidated. Jupiter is a later creation than the earth, but the view of the whole subject with which this fact is connected will more conveniently be dealt with when the general survey of the schemes is completed.

Coming inward from Jupiter, the next planetary orbit we reach is that at present occupied by the swarm of asteroids, merely so much raw planetary material to be used up in future chains. The next planet is Mars, but in reaching this interesting world we of the earth chain are comparatively at home, for the scheme to which we belong, at present in its fourth Manvantara, is at the stage of its deepest immergence in matter, and is thus represented on the physical plane by three planets, Mars being one. Mars, the Earth, and Mercury are in evolutionary partnership, Mars being the planet behind the earth in the order of progress round the entire chain, and Mercury in advance of us. A large portion of the present human family has actually lived on Mars — where, if we could but visit the planet now, as, indeed, some of our more advanced companions can and do, in the appropriate vehicle of consciousness while out of the physical body, we should still find archaeological traces of our passage. As we know a little more about the planets of our own chain than of the others, I will return to this branch of the subject later on.

Within the orbits of the three planets belonging to the earthly scheme we come to that which is at present called Mercury and ought to be called Venus. Of all the seven schemes of the system, that which Venus at present represents on the physical plane is the farthest advanced in evolution, not necessarily the oldest as judged by the period at which it began, but the quickest of the series as regards the rate of its progress or the duration of its Manvantaras.

Our own scheme is now going through its fourth Manvantara, but that to which Venus belongs is far advanced through the fifth. It is already in the seventh round of that Manvantara, the family it is evolving being at present established like ourselves on the physical planet of its chain, although at such an immensely more forward stage of its progress, that the foremost of its beings, in great numbers represent, as compared with our humanity, a fairly god-like degree of exaltation. From Venus, as all students of esoteric teaching will be aware, the guardians of our infant humanity in the later third and early fourth race of this world period descended to stimulate in our family the growth of the manasic principle, and to them we owe the fact that as we stand at present we are in truth somewhat further advanced in evolution than our actual place in our own scheme strictly entitles us to be. We have been helped onward by sctoe of those who are in the loftiest sense of the term our Elder Brethren in the whole system, and among us there have been found some, at all events, who have proved apt pupils, and are already on levels of spiritual dignity commensurate with those previously attained by their sublime instructors.

Within the orbit of Venus (conventionally known as Mercury), another planet is to be found, and probably will be found some day or other by ordinary astronomers, who already suspect its existence, and have been keenly on the look out for it when solar eclipses give them a chance of seeing it. Merged as it is in the blinding glare of the sun at other times, it is hopeless to seek for it in the unshielded sky. A name has been given in advance by some astronomers to the undiscovered planet, and it is sometimes referred to as Vulcan. It must certainly be a very hot little world, although Bode's law should give it a distance from the central orb of something like thirty millions of miles. However, it belongs to an independent scheme of evolution not destined to bring forward life to the high levels to be ultimately attained in connexion with our own and the Venus scheme. It completes the series of seven schemes. Enumerating them once more as under we have: —

1. The Neptune scheme.

2. Uranus

3. Saturn

4. Jupiter

5. Earth

6. Venus

7. Vulcan

The first and fifth of this series have each three physical planets, the others one each.

Of the three schemes which have no touch with the physical plane there is very little to be said at present. They are concerned with high orders of evolution and in some way with the ultimate perfection of the life of the system at large when all the septenary schemes shall have completed their cycles.

It must not be supposed, however, that they are awaiting development till such time as the other schemes have completed their cycles. They are already in activity, and the globes of which they consist occupy definite places in space, though composed of higher orders of matter than those which our physical senses can cognise. On the other hand we need not think of them as dealing with phases of existence entirely beyond the reach of our imagination. The highest plane of Nature to which they are directly related is the Rupa plane of Devachan.

From the general idea of the structure and design of the system that has already been given, and particularly from many passages in Theosophical literature, it will be apparent that the configuration of the solar system is no more unchangeable throughout the life of that system than the configuration of land and water on the earth's surface is unchangeable during the progress of a world period. In every scheme the chain of planets on which its evolution has been carried on, during any given Manvantara, is disintegrated at its close (subject to a qualification to be noticed directly) and a new chain of worlds is called into being. This does not mean that new matter is created out of nonmanifested substance, but that planets, when their life cycle is completed, are broken up or resolved into dust which is dispersed through the solar system at large and is available to be drawn together into new forms, just as the elements of a dead human body, dissolved in the earth or air and absorbed in process of time into vegetable tissue, become in due season the nutriment of new animal or human forms.

Thus it will be seen that our earth, for instance, with its companion planets, is not alone a new creation as compared with the state of things that existed when the nebula was first condensed, but is in the fourth generation of such new creations having regard to our own scheme alone. I have no information as to the manner in which the planetary matter of the system was first distributed, but it is a matter of obvious certainty that from Uranus inwards not one of the existing planets belongs to the first-born series of the nebula. It hardly concerns us to make close inquiry as to the actual course of events in this respect. Our appreciation of Nature's design and of our own place therein would not be materially assisted by knowing for instance what planets existed in connexion with the Uranus evolution before Uranus came into being. Nor in regard to the other chains would it profit us much to know by how many predecessors each of the now known planets have been heralded in past ages. But there are some aspects of the problem which do present features of peculiar interest as applied to our own chain, and without making any conjectures as to the extent to which the analogies of our own scheme apply to others, attention may usefully be turned at this stage of the inquiry to the plan on which our own planetary habitations are from time to time remodelled.

As the tide wave of life leaves each planet (in our scheme) during the seventh round of any Manvantara, each planet in turn is disintegrated, and the matter of which it is composed returns to the general ocean of such matter within the solar system. Corresponding planets are evolved afresh for the next Manvantara, becoming as it were Re-incarnations of the higher principles inherent in the old planets. This arrangement, however, does not apply to the fourth planet of each chain — the most physical in its constitution. That loses a good deal of the matter forming it in a way that will be appreciated directly, and in its shrunken condition becomes the moon of its successor. Each new physical planet so called into being may be created as new solar systems themselves are created in the first instance — according to different methods; but our earth appears to have been engendered on a plan closely resembling that by which our whole system was developed. Within the appropriate area of space, a planetary nebula was evolved, the matter of which it was composed being drawn in from surrounding space, itself no doubt the disintegrated material of former planets that had been broken up, or to some extent no doubt meteoric matter belonging to the system at large that may not have been previously utilised in that way. The new earth nebula was developed round a centre bearing pretty much the same relation to the dying planet that the centres of the earth and moon bear to one another at present. But in the nebulous condition this aggregation of matter occupied an enormously greater volume than the solid matter oi the earth now occupies. It stretched out in all directions so as to include the old planet in its fiery embrace. The temperature of a new nebula appears to be considerably higher than any temperatures we are acquainted with, and by this means the old planet was superficially heated afresh in such a manner that all atmosphere, water, and volatilisable matter upon it was brought into the gaseous condition, and so became amenable to the new centre of attraction, set up at the centre of the new nebula. In this way the air and seas of the old planet were drawn over into the constitution of the new one, and thus it is that the moon in its present state is an arid, glaring mass, dry and cloudless, no longer habitable, and no longer required for the habitation of any physical beings. When the present Manvantara is nearly over, during the seventh round, its disintegration will be completed, and the matter which it still holds together will resolve into meteoric dust, to be made use of, mixed with the ocean of all such matter, in the formation of new planetary nebulae hereafter.

But without attempting to forecast in detail the processes associated with that far distant event, we may expand the statement with reference to the remote past when our own planet was in process of construction, by the addition of a great deal more detail, not merely interesting on its own account but conducive, when fully understood, to a better comprehension than is obtainable in any other way of many physical phenomena in progress on the earth at the present time. The condensation of what I have described above as the vast planetary nebulae out of which the earth was composed, was not in fact a process accomplished at one coup. In harmony with the analogies which nature suggests around us in every direction, the growth of the planet itself was a gradual process and the first condensation gave rise to a globe very much smaller in magnitude than this on which we now stand, but which in the progress of ages was destined to be the nucleus around which the complete planet should be constructed. Recent occult information on this subject which I have been enabled to put forward since the publication of this work in its first edition, [1] enables us to comprehend not merely the successive stages of our planet's growth but in some measure the present condition of its interior, in a way which no scientific investigation has as yet provided for. It is just worth while before passing on to an account of the successive stages, to take note of the fact that in a work put together from the point of view of ordinary astronomy, " the Nebular Theory," by Mr. William Ford Stanley, that author recognises the possibility as suggested by purely physical considerations, that the planets were not formed by one single operation but by a series of successive condensations. And another representative of exoteric science on wholly different grounds has come to the conclusion that the interior of the earth in its present state exhibits a condition of things which would be in harmony with the idea of successive condensations. It may be more convenient, however, to record this independent testimony when the occult explanation of what seems actually to have taken place, has been more fully set forth.
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Re: The Growth of the Soul, by Alfred Percy Sinnett

Postby admin » Tue May 08, 2018 8:28 pm

Part 2 of 2

The actual fact I understand to be that the planet on which we are at present living was the result of several condensations of nebulous matter, and the constitution of the Earth at this mature period of its existence is only to be understood by reference to this method of development. The nucleus having been formed in the first instance in the way already described, a considerable time was allowed to elapse before the second deposition of matter took place. In this interval the surface of the nucleus had time to solidify and cool down to temperatures in which all but its more volatile ingredients assumed, on the surface, the solid state. Then another clash of meteoric streams surrounded the young Earth with a huge envelope of fresh nebulous matter. I say "nebulous" because the heat engendered by the collision of the meteor streams would resolve the meteoric matter back again into its primitive state. It is necessary, indeed, that such a return should be included in the process in order to provide the growing Earth with the varied materials required in its composition. Meteoric matter for the most part is simple in its composition, and very largely made up of certain metals of which iron is the most abundant. But a planet consisting almost entirely of iron would not be a suitable home for the evolutions it might be destined to bear. Occult teaching in reference to the constitution of matter comes in here to relieve us of the embarrassment this thought suggests. Thrown back into the nebulous condition by the intense heat of the meteoric collision the matter of the meteor streams, even if it had all been iron to begin with, would be once more in the etheric state — in that state in which Sir William Crookes has called it "protyle" in connection with his extremely admirable and occultly justified theory of " the Genesis of the Elements." From that state it would be capable of rearranging its atoms in the varied forms of the many chemical elements required for the service of a life-bearing planet.

The new envelope of nebulous matter is destined to condense into a complete solid shell surrounding the original nucleus, and here it is for the first time in the course of this explanation necessary to interpolate an idea for which we are not fully prepared by any ordinary habits of scientific thought. When the outer shell has been completely solidified, the condition of things we find to exist is this: The volatile ingredients in the composition of the original nucleus have not been, as expectation might have led us to expect, squeezed through the newly deposited shell of solid matter, but have been confined within that at an enormous pressure and at a corresponding temperature. At the stage of the Earth's growth we have reached in imagination, we have an interior globe of solid matter, the central portions of which are still at an enormously high temperature while the outer crust is relatively cool. But on the surface of that crust there exists a stratum of compressed gaseous matter, largely consisting of water in its gaseous form, at the temperature, or even exceeding through contraction the temperature of the nebula which condensed upon it. We cannot expect at this stage of our knowledge to understand precisely how the condensation is so effected as to keep the gaseous matter within the new shell, but no extravagant amount of intellectual modesty is required to induce us to recognise that there may be laws of nature which come into play when new planets are being constructed, the full details of which are missing as yet from our present catalogue of such laws.

The outer shell having in its turn had time to cool down so that its least volatile ingredients are solid, and its more volatile ingredients in the atmospheric state around it, a third process sets in. Again there is a clash of meteor streams, another vast nebulous sheath is condensed around the growing globe and in time this forms a second shell with a stratum of confined gaseous matter between it and the interior shell. Further operations of a similar character are carried on at later stages of the planet's growth until it arrives at maturity, and consists as at present of six concentric spheres or shells surrounding a central nucleus, with strata of hot gaseous matter intervening between each sphere and its neighbours. The outer shells are of considerably greater thickness than those immediately surrounding the nucleus, and the outermost of all, with which we are concerned, is much the thickest of all, as will be seen by reference to the annexed diagram, which shows a section of the Earth and gives what I am assured is an approximately correct idea of the proportions of the different parts. I have not on this drawing endeavoured to represent the shallow stratum of heated matter which does actually exist at a depth of about twenty-five or thirty miles below the surface. It is of a wholly different character from the interstitial spaces of hot condensed gases. It is simply a portion of the Earth's solid shell which is hot by reason of the fact that it was an extra nebulous condensation superimposed upon the otherwise completely finished planet, with an end in view no doubt which I do not ,as yet exactly understand, but which I believe to have related in some way to the ultimate development of the vegetable kingdom. The surface layer of hot matter (as it may be called by comparison with the interstitial layers far down in the depths of the globe), was a kind of " top dressing," to use an agricultural expression, which seems to have been provided for as regards the actual material used up, by the disintegration of the two outer shells of the Moon. Some forecast of this condition of things has been already embodied in theosophic writings as mentioned above, but the present explanations will advance our comprehension of the matter to some extent. Leaving over for the moment the fuller interpretation of the statement just made about the two outer shells of the Moon, let us keep to the Earth's history till that is further developed. The final "top-dressing" was not designed to form a new shell separate in any way from the great crust already formed. It did not operate to confine between itself and the established surface any atmospheric gases. It was simply a hot layer of physical matter, the more volatile portions of which remained in the atmosphere of the globe already formed, while the solid portions settled down and beginning to cool from the outside, eventually established the conditions now prevailing. Of course at first the whole new layer of physical matter twenty-five miles thick was incandescent, but the cooling and solidification of the surface prepared the way for the establishment thereon of the geological deposits with which we are familiar, and eventually for the development of the vegetable and animal kingdoms.

The direction of rotation of all the concentric spheres is the same, and the axis of rotation identically the same, but the rapidity of rotation increases from within outwards. Each new shell deposited as the growth of the planet proceeds rotates with an increased velocity compared with its predecessor. I cannot give figures in this connection with exactitude, but the third globe going inwards has a rate of rotation equal to about half the rapidity of our outer shell, making one turn in forty-eight hours, and the innermost central globe makes only one turn in about half that time, or say in ninety-six hours. The intervening spheres move at intervening rates.

Critics of this present statement will no doubt ask to what forces I assign the task of establishing these rates of rotation in the first instance, or that of keeping them up in spite of the friction which the varying rates concerned must engender. We will come to that directly, but for theosophical students I do not recommend to their acceptance the explanations I am now giving, as susceptible of justification at every point by reference to known laws, but simply because they come to me under conditions which entitle me to regard them as invested with adequate occult authority. Again I must emphasise the idea that much was done in connection with the early growth of this world and indeed much is being done to-day in connection with the maintenance of its planetary life, that involves the use of natural forces of which at present modern science knows nothing whatever. The intelligence of the human race as it advances in the path of evolution — at any rate the intelligence of the last developed races which constitute its advanced guard — is steadily overtaking occult teaching and will at a later date interpret with exactitude phenomena we can as yet merely recognise without pretending to understand them. But meanwhile there must be a margin of tolerance in the minds of occult students eager to rush on in advance of current knowledge for statements that it is impossible as yet to fit in with the limited body of natural law so far catalogued and indexed.

I have been interested in finding since I have been at work upon this interpretation of the Earth's constitution, that in other schools of oriental occultism besides that with which my own opportunities have chiefly brought me into contact, the Earth is described as resembling in its constitution "the skins of an onion." The subject has not hitherto been treated in any western expositions of theosophic teaching, but the main ideas of the present explanation are vaguely in circulation already among the pupils of some eastern occultists, even though the onion with its skins would not constitute a satisfactory analogy for the western scientific mind once directed to the problems of the Earth's constitution.

It has been vaguely known by occult students for a long time that in the neighbourhood of the North Pole there is a natural orifice in the ground penetrating to inconceivable depths. This wonderful shaft has been regarded as fulfilling some mysterious need of the Earth, analogous to breathing, and it has been supposed that a similar shaft connects the South Pole with the interior, though this is even more impenetrably guarded by the ice of the Antarctic region from the curiosity of humanity than the orifice of the North. I have no information that would enable me to attempt an interpretation of the purpose in nature which these great polar shafts fulfil, but I have indicated their position on the diagram appended to this chapter, because I know that they play an enormously important though very mysterious part in the economy of the whole planet and are associated with the activities of the Mighty Being who presides over its growth and health. This reference impinges on a branch of the great subject with which I am dealing to which I will shortly direct attention, but meanwhile it is unnecessary for us to exaggerate the difficulties of the problem presented to us by the question of friction.

To begin with it will be obvious that friction will be enormously greater at the equatorial regions of the internal spheres than in the neighbourhood of the poles. But at the equatorial region the thickness of the gaseous stratum is at the maximum. The interstitial space contracts as it approaches the polar regions and the adjacent spheres are in close contact in the region immediately around the central shaft already spoken of. The friction at such surfaces of contact would be extremely small, areas that need not be thought of as more than a few hundred yards in diameter, revolving against each other in periods considerably exceeding twenty-four hours. For if the internal shell which is the next neighbour of this outermost one on which we live revolves, say at a speed of thirty-two hours, it would take three days and not twenty-four hours for the complete revolution of the two polar surfaces in contact. The same principle would hold good with emphasised force as we go inward in imagination, for the smaller the interior globes would be the less need be the areas of surface in contact, in view of the purpose for which such contact seems mainly designed, — that is to say for the purpose of confining the highly compressed gases of the interstitial spaces within their proper limits. If there were no surfaces of contact at the polar regions, these gases would rush out into the central shaft and speedily exhaust all their energies, while the shafts in question would, as long as the tremendous process lasted, be volcanoes of unimaginable violence. That is not their function, which has to do with the circulation of forces within the interior, of which at present we can form but very imperfect conceptions. That they are related with solar influences seems clear, but it is useless to attempt just yet to elucidate this branch of the colossal subject under examination.

The thickness of the gaseous stratum between our outermost shell and the next concentric sphere is thus about two to three hundred miles around the equator, diminishing to nothing at the poles. At the equatorial region the friction is distributed throughout the stratum, the gases in actual contact with each revolving surface moving no doubt at different speeds with each surface. The friction is therefore to be sought for entirely in the gaseous mass. Such friction would obviously be exceedingly small if the gaseous mass were as rarefied as gases on the surface at our atmospheric pressures. It will be much greater when the pressure is such as to bring the gases concerned to something like the densities of rock. But still, owing to the conditions of temperature far above the critical points of any that may be present, they will still be gaseous, and this must be borne in mind in any conjectures concerning the friction problems arising from the exposition I am venturing to put forward.

I must now endeavour to interpret as far as that may be possible the expression used above, "the Mighty Being who presides" over the growth and health of the planet. In some earlier theosophic writings vague reference has been made to "the Spirit of the Earth." There is such a Spirit, belonging to an evolution quite apart from our own, who is in the first instance an emanation from the stupendous life of the Sun. And such an emanation is the first step taken in connection with the creation of any planet of the system. It is by his power that the meteor streams are guided in the paths of those tremendous collisions which give rise to the successive nebulous clouds required for the construction of the successive concentric spheres The nucleus-globe remains to the end of the planet's life his great workshop — if the phrase may be allowed — and storehouse of those incomprehensible energies which maintain the physical health of the planet. It is by virtue of forces emanating from that central globe and passing up the polar shafts that the exact harmony of the axial rotation of the concentric spheres is maintained. Probably indeed, when the parallelism of their axial rotations is once established, no very great force is required to maintain this, for within our own knowledge the plane of rotation of a revolving body is not easily disturbed, but so extremely minute a disturbance would be sufficient in this case to block the central shafts that means are employed to guard against even such a slight disturbance.

The heat of the interior of the central globe far exceeds any temperature maintained in the interstitial spaces, and a vast army of Elemental Agencies is employed there, under the direction of the Spirit of the Earth, on tasks the nature of which is utterly beyond the range of our present comprehension. But our world somehow depends for its continued life on the activities carried on in the central globe, and they are never relaxed until the planet concerned has fulfilled its destiny and the time has come for its decease or disintegration.

I understand that life exists in the Earth's interior, even in the intensely hot regions of the interstitial spaces, and startling as the idea may seem at the first glance, it is only for the cramped understandings of people brought up to regard the conditions around them as the only kind compatible with consciousness, that the conception will be seriously embarrassing. Flesh and blood designed to be the vehicle of consciousness on the surface of the external sphere and at temperatures familiar to human life would not be adapted to temperatures at which platinum would be a mobile liquid, but every occult student is well aware that his consciousness, his life, can go on just as freely when he is in an astral vehicle or body as when he is animating flesh and blood. And in the astral vehicle, physical temperature is a condition that does not affect him one way or the other. In an astral body he could live as comfortably in the heart of a furnace or in the midst of arctic ice-floes as in the meadows of an English farm in the summer. It is not even necessary to assume that the bodies of the beings who inhabit the interstitial spaces of the earth are entirely of astral matter. That intervening condition of matter which is called etheric would, perhaps, furnish the material adapted to provide vehicles of consciousness for the beings in question. However this may be arranged, this closely packed earth of ours is made use of throughout. Not merely in the heated spaces that constitute the surface of each interior globe but within the substance of each concentric sphere there are forms of life adapted to the conditions around. For in the cool and solid depths of each mighty crust there are great cavernous spaces in which beings exist who are going through evolutions of their own, and are scarcely in touch at all with the supreme evolution — supreme as far as this Earth is concerned — to which the human race belongs. Very little information relating to these interior races has reached me, and it would be useless to speculate as to the purpose in the whole economy of the system served by the involvement of any part of the Supreme consciousness, in forms and in the midst of conditions that do not appear favourable to spiritual or any other kind of growth. But the varieties of condition under which life is carried on, in and around the world we share with so many other tenants, is all but infinite. Nor is the life of the Earth's interior confined to the more or less intelligent beings or entities established there. Wild as the notion may strike one at the first glance, there is something analogous to a vegetable kingdom on the white hot surfaces of the interior globes — actual plants with leaves and a kind of granular circulation analogous to the sap of plants on the outer surface. If difficulties present themselves to the mind as we endeavour to realise the scenes of these strange worlds within our own, that is merely due to the false system on which the average mind of the nineteenth century has been educated. The tendency has been not merely to encourage the idea that " what I know not is not knowledge " but to invest the victims of our educational system with a conviction that what they do not understand cannot exist. We do know something of the relationship in space and magnitude between the habitable portions of the Earth's surface and the universe at large. And yet the nineteenth century mind has been only half inclined to admit that there may be intelligent beings in other worlds than ours — always assuming that some of these may be adequately provided with water, food, and sunshine, without which we know life is impossible! The contrast afforded by the brilliant intellectual achievements of the nineteenth century mind along some lines of activity and investigation, with the imbecile silliness of its habitual limitations, is equally irritating and amusing to the occult student who has got outside those limitations. But even for many such students, familiar though they may be with the idea of superior planes of Nature and faculties of a wider reach than those of the physical brain, the explanation here given of the real condition of the Earth's interior may be received with a kind of gasping surprise. We were not prepared for so complex an organisation in the body of our planet, any more than the physiologists of, say, the Elizabethan period were prepared to find so much in the human body as later research has disclosed. But in all likelihood the sketch here given errs in its omissions to a far greater extent than in its positive statements. It is a mere broad outline of the story that might be told by those thoroughly conversant with the facts. The interest from the mere scientific point of view of further detail if we could obtain it would be intense, but for the present we must remain, if not content, unsatisfied as regards the multitude of questions that naturally arise in the mind. To what extent does the incombustible vegetable kingdom of the interior surfaces cover the whole glowing landscape? Are there forests of white hot trees, and is there an appropriate animal kingdom associated with the others of the inner worlds? The beings in more or less astral bodies already referred to, would be the relatively human kingdom in each case, the head evolution of the series to which it belonged, but it is more than probable that it would be surrounded by satellite evolutions, as our own on the outer surface is so surrounded.

With intense heat we naturally associate the idea of light, so as regards the inhabitants of the regions I have called the interstitial spaces there is no need to consider the question how these are illuminated. But directly we confront that question we cannot but be struck with the mistaken impulse which prompts it. If the intelligent beings of the inner regions are invested with astral vehicles of consciousness they see with senses altogether unlike those of the physical plane, and are thus quite independent of physical plane light.

Very moderate acquaintance with the experiences of super-physical research amongst ourselves will render us familiar with the idea that darkness is more favourable than what we call light to the activities of some beings at all events functioning in astral vehicles of consciousness. So it may easily be that the beings inhabiting the dark interior caverns of the solid crusts may have senses to which that darkness is perfectly luminous. It is apparently held by the authorities of the Earth that the humanity of the outer surface should be effectually cut off from communication with the interior kingdoms, and this may be provided for by the heated stratum at the twenty-five mile depth through which it is quite impossible that any inquisitive borings on our part should ever penetrate. But knowledge may be gained, as occult students are well aware, in reference to regions quite beyond the reach of physical investigation. And so it is coming to pass that we are learning something of the conditions under which existence is carried on in the deeply buried cavern worlds of the Earth's interior.

All thoughts will turn in connexion with this subject to the beautiful story evolved from Lord Lytton's imagination concerning the magnificent civilisation of his "Coming Race." But though there is just so much actual justification for the tale in question as is embodied in the fact that races do actually exist in vast cavernous spaces in the interior of the outermost and some others of the concentric globes, we must deny ourselves the intellectual luxury of conceiving that the superb Gy-ei of Vrilya will ever ascend to the upper world to set our "Koom-poshes" in order. The interior evolutions are far below the intellectual level of even our present humanity, although they are advanced enough to have something like systems of government, dwelling-places of artificial construction, and to put inscriptions on the walls of their inner world.

Yet a third order of consciousness ranges the interior spaces of the Earth, but this is altogether elemental in its character. I have spoken of the armies of "fire elementals" employed under the Spirit of the Earth on the mysterious tasks carried out in the central globe of all. Elemental evolutions are very difficult to understand, but in some way there is an evolution outwards possible for these fire elementals, and an emergence for them in some cases into the superior elemental life of the external surface of the earth. I can say so little on this subject that it may seem to some readers hardly worth while to have said anything at all, but vague as our information must for the present remain in reference to the interior evolutions, the mere recognition of these as in progress is calculated to enlarge our view of the Nature of which we form a part. To my mind there is a gulf of difference in the conception of this vast planet on the surface of which we roam about, as a huge lump of inorganic matter serviceable for no other purpose than to bear the minute organisms swarming on its outside, and on the other hand the conception of it as a teeming hive of life and consciousness filled to overflowing with the vital influence of The Logos. The mere physical complexity of its structure as now explained dignifies the whole globe as compared with the crude ideas of its interior condition prevalent in the common imagination hitherto. And although orthodox science — as bigoted in reference to its methods as the Church in reference to its dogmas — will decline any enlightenment that does not come along familiar roads, occult students will be enabled by the explanations now set forth to check some of the speculations concerning the past history of the Earth in which scientific writers allow themselves to indulge. We are constantly told that the manner in which the Moon rotates once on her axis in the same time that she revolves once round the Earth, is the result of tidal action in the remote past. The satellite is assumed to have been cast off from the Earth while this was still in its early molten condition and having thus been flung into space to have settled down to its present habits as the result of tidal retardation while it was still a plastic mass. Tidal friction is very much in favour just now among speculative physicists as an explanation of some phenomena that have taken place (in an entirely different way) and of some others (erroneously) assumed to be in preparation for the future. As the Moon was really in existence for millions of years before the first initial measures were taken for the formation of the Earth, all guesses based upon the idea that it was a bit of the original Earth torn off by an early convulsion of Nature are little likely to find themselves in harmony with the truth. The Moon is indeed a dead planet now, not because it has never been anything else, as the conventional theory would imply, but because it has fulfilled its part in the economy of the scheme to which it belonged and is in process of disintegration.

For the final return to the bosom of Nature of the materials used in the construction of a planet is accomplished by degrees, just as the planet in the beginning has been built up by degrees. The concentric sphere arrangement is, as I infer from what I have learned, the method of planetary formation adopted throughout the solar system, but at any rate it was the method adopted in the formation of the Moon in the beginning (long before the Earth was thought about) just as in our own case afterwards. And when the active life of the Lunar world was over and its physical body had to be dispersed again — as in the case of each one of us when each life is spent the physical body concerned has to return to dust — the outermost shells disintegrated first. As with their original construction forces are employed that we do not habitually reckon with, so in the processes of disintegration agencies of an unfamiliar kind take the work in hand, but the broad idea is that when the Spirit of the Planet that is outworn has no longer any work to do there he leaves it and decay sets in as naturally as it sets in with a human corpse when the soul has fled away. In its full maturity the Moon must have been a planet about the same size as our own, for as we look at it now we see the surface of what was originally its third concentric sphere going inwards. The two outer ones have been shed, and the matter of which they were composed no doubt largely drawn upon for the final deposit of matter on the outer shell of the Earth. A long time will yet elapse before the four remaining shells and the internal nucleus return to the oceanic store of meteoric matter, but time in these undertakings is spent by Nature with much prodigality. In guess-work concerning the duration of astronomical periods modern science has not yet been furnished with data on which to proceed with security, and its confidence in the data which it assumes is apt to be misplaced. Thus all calculations relating to the supposed maintenance of the Sun's heat by shrinkage are quite ludicrously wrong, and the forecasts at present in favour as regards the time at which there will be no room for it to shrink any more, and at which consequently the planetary family around it will be frozen to death, will sooner or later be looked back upon by the science of the future as quite on a level with the theory of the tortoise that supports the world. I am little inclined, however, to encourage the flippancy of some occultists who speak disrespectfully of modern science because our information enables us to catch it out here and there in mistakes. The science of the western world is in the van of human intelligence, if we except only the wisdom of Adeptship. Its achievements so far have been beautiful and glorious. It merely needs now to avail itself of the wonderful instruments of research which lie but half hidden in the depths of human faculty, and then it will carry the exquisite discipline of its thought into regions where at present only a few exceptionally gifted explorers are roaming, unprepared by their training for the work they attempt to perform. In times not long gone by, the reconciliation of science and religion was hoped for by enthusiasts as promising, when it should be accomplished, some immense advance in general civilisation. That union is in process of realisation, religion having, so to speak, accorded a grudging consent. But the next great step must be the reconciliation of science and occultism. That, too, must come, though perhaps this time it will be the scientific world that will show some disposition to be sulky as the change forces its way. That will not matter in the long run, and in that long run the state of facts dealt with in this volume will assuredly be the subject of investigations with which future members of the Royal Society will be engaged, though at the moment the wonderful story I have had to tell may find even some Theosophists incredulous, unless they have intuition enough to feel sure that, all things considered, I should not be likely to put it forward without such assurance of its accuracy as suffices to justify its association with the many other Fragments of Occult Truth which it has been my privilege to set forth.

The changes which thus take place from time to time within the interior economy of the solar system must, of course, produce perturbing effects on the movements of planets already in existence at any given period when an old planet is disintegrated, or a new one solidified, and probably such perturbations play a part in the cyclic processes going forward in the active worlds of the time. It sometimes happens that isolated statements cropping up in occult teaching point to astronomical events that we cannot easily refer to cosmic causes visibly in operation. They are very likely promoted by changes which are going on in what may be called the configuration of the system, at great intervals. It can never fall to the lot of any one generation of observant beings on any one planet to witness the evolution of a new world or the destruction of an old one. Such processes are protracted compared with the span of human life. But crises must come on at some periods in the future when rational inhabitants of some planets may see new worlds in formation, or processes in activity foreshadowing the disintegration of some aged planet that has fulfilled its purpose.

The seven great schemes of planetary evolution proceed on independent lines, and there is no intermingling of their activities during their normal course. But helpfulness is the law of life throughout the entire system, and in this way it comes to pass that the various schemes are not rigidly excluded from the possibility of receiving benefits from others. On this subject we need only concern ourselves with one example of such inter-communication, but it is important to comprehend this one example correctly if we are endeavouring to understand our own evolutionary history. The Venus scheme, as already stated, is in the seventh round of its fifth Manvantara, we of the earth chain being at present in the course of our fourth round. This means that the humanity of the Venus chain was already on spiritual levels immensely higher than those of our humanity when we were still struggling on in the earlier phases of our evolution during this earth period. Thus it came to pass that some of the representatives of the Venus chain Adeptship, availing themselves of possibilities having to do with immensely exalted spiritual planes common to the whole solar system, transferred themselves to this earth for a time during part of the third and early fourth race, and took part in the teaching and guidance of our comparatively infant humanity.

Readers approaching these conceptions for the first time may be inclined to wonder how so great a gulf on the scale of evolution can have separated the earlier humanity of this world period from that inhabiting the earth to-day, and including masters of wisdom who have already scaled heights on a level, so far as we can understand, with those from which our Venus teachers descended. The explanation lies in this simple fact that until the midway point of any Manvantara is reached the whole process of evolution must be thought of as a downward growth into the complexities of materiality. No one, however individually ripe for spiritual evolution, could begin to transcend his companions in any extraordinary degree until the middle point of the Manvantara was turned. Then he had a clear course before him; it was possible for any one, assuming extraordinary aptitudes on his part, to achieve in a comparatively brief series of lives the whole development, for which, as regards the race at large, Nature liberally provides the whole second half of the Manvantara. Before the midway point of our Manvantara — that is to say, before the middle period of the great root race preceding our own — there were no Adepts belonging to our human family; thus no further back than at the beginning of the great Atlantean, or fourth root race, the earth chain was entirely dependent on external help for its loftier spiritual guidance.

The course of human progress through this world period, therefore — the history of the great root races — may be best studied in Theosophical books devoted specially to the elucidation of that magnificent progress, but the general character of such progress must be borne in mind by all who would form a mental picture of the whole system to which we belong, calculated to give an intelligent significance to individual progress. Moreover, the comprehension of the way the great race evolution has been, and is going on during this world period, will connect itself in a peculiarly interesting way with the general comprehension of the whole structure of the system.

On the planet Mars, where humanity was last incarnated before the world period of the earth began, humanity already inhabited physical bodies, and was endowed with sufficient human intelligence to carry out architectural and engineering works under the guidance of teachers belonging to a superior evolution. On completing its cycle on that planet mankind began its existence on this, under conditions which can hardly be thought of as physical. The vehicles of their consciousness were of ethereal matter, insusceptible to heat or cold, not yet subject to laws connected with waste and replenishment, which operate in connexion with the more compact organisms of our time. The first and second great root races were of this order; in the course of the third, the condensation of the physical vehicle of human consciousness was accomplished, in the fourth root race man was in the beginning considerably bulkier than at present, was already designed on the physical pattern we are acquainted with, and divided into two sexes. The course of evolution through preceding rounds was thus recapitulated in the course of the present world period in a way which bears some analogy to that curious recapitulation of physical existence which goes on at the present day in connexion with the birth of every fresh physical creature, as students of embryology are well aware.

It must not be supposed, however, that the whole human family of this scheme evolved during the first half of the present Manvantara on precisely the same plan. Our last Manvantara, the third or Lunar Manvantara, so called because the present moon was then the physical planet of the chain, did not bring forward any entities to levels which correspond to what we think of as humanity to-day, but it afforded some scope for individual progress, and thus left the family at its close, on various levels of advancement.

The varied requirements of the situation were provided for in this way: the most developed entities did not come into incarnation in the earlier rounds of the present Manvantara. These earlier rounds afforded an appropriate field of activity on lower levels of existence for the less developed entities, and while these were enjoying a fresh opportunity of accomplishing the evolution they failed to realise properly during their last Manvantara, the highly developed entities of that Manvantara were passing through periods of spiritual existence to which those on the lower levels had no access. These spiritual periods were in the nature of supplementary rounds. I do not mean that they followed the course of evolution round the various planets of the chain, but they occupied periods of time corresponding to the round periods. In all they were three in number, so that while the undeveloped entities of the last Manvantara were, so to speak, bringing the next into a condition which once more would afford them an opportunity of making progress beyx>nd even the possibility of the last Manvantara, they were at the same time rendering it suitable for the occupation of their elder brethren who had not only attained to the maximum possibilities of the previous Manvantara, but had spent time corresponding to the three first rounds of the next, in conditions of existence involving definite spiritual progress. Thus only on the conclusion of the three spiritual periods did the most advanced entities of the last Manvantara come into incarnation in this. In the techinical language of modern occult study the most advanced entities are spoken of as the first class Lunar Pitris. The phrase is perfectly intelligible and significant, when we bear in mind the fact that Pitri comes from the same root as Father, and simply signifies ancestor.

As a physical planet the moon is now but the dead body of the planet which once bore the mighty lifewave of the human family. It has shrunk to relatively small proportions, for not only have its subtle principles been Re-incarnated in the earth, but a good deal of its physical matter has actually been withdrawn from it to the body of its offspring. The process by which this result was accomplished has been already described.

So then, the most advanced representatives of the whole human family came into incarnation in this Manvantara at the middle period, that is to say, during the present period of the world's activity, in a condition which represents the maximum development possible during the Lunar Manvantara, plus the further progress accomplished during the three spiritual periods. Thus the two classes who have been in incarnation during the earlier rounds of this Manvantara, have had an opportunity by this time of rising to nearly the same development of evolution, but are still in the rear of the foremost class, which, as the whole body continues to progress, may be thought of as still leading the van, and representing in our own time all those who are the flower of our own age, who are the exponents of its most advanced intellectual capacity, and especially those who at the earliest possible moment in the life of the world show aptitudes for spiritual progress, and most readily assimilate such teaching concerning the higher destinies of man as are involved in the noblest religious conceptions — especially in the occult philosophy which unites these loftiest aspirations with definite knowledge concerning superphysical states of existence. Not only all those who at the earliest possible date emerge from the ruck of humanity, and taking full advantage of the guidance received from those of a superior evolution, pass upward into the ranks of Adeptship, but all those who are in any sense their pupils, besides all those whose intellectual and moral development is of a kind which will render them available as occult pupils in the course of a few more incarnations, may be thought of as belonging to the class spoken of as the first of the Lunar Pitris. This statement must not be taken as implying that it is impossible for entities belonging to the second class to attain spiritual exaltation, but at the present stage of evolution the great majority of those who get on to the high levels are of the first Pitri class. As the mighty force of evolution sweeps upward during the successive rounds of the Manvantara, great numbers of those belonging to the second class will gradually attain levels of spiritual growth, from which they also will be capable of taking short cuts towards the summit levels possible in this Manvantara, but the first class of the Lunar Pitris ought to attain these summit levels at periods far in advance of the Manvantara's close. At that remote period in the future it will be theoretically possible that all members of the human family, whose differentiation into specific entities had been accomplished during the Lunar Manvantara, will be able to attain the summit level. Those only for whom this progress would be hardly practical in the time are those who have only emerged as definite entities from the animal kingdom during the earlier rounds of this Manvantara. The probabilities are — and taking into account the enormous numbers with which we have to deal, probabilities in such a matter amount to something like certainty, over the whole area considered — the probabilities are, that of the whole number of entities constituting the human family at this time, including those who have emerged during the first half of the Manvantara from the animal kingdom as well as those who have distinct Pitri ancestry, three-fifths will arrive in some degree of appropriate advancement at what I have called the summit levels of the Manvantara. The other two-fifths will in the next Manvantara play a part somewhat similar to that assigned at the beginning of our own to the lower classes of the Lunar Pitris, and will begin their work at the beginning of that stupendous undertaking.

Of the three-fifths, something like half will actually have achieved the maximum progress this Manvantara is designed to effect. That progress will put each of such beings in a position so far transcending the conditions of humanity around us at the present day, that if we compare them with the ordinary humanity they will seem fairly God-like in their knowledge and power and capacity for cosmic service. They will have attained to a full and complete appreciation of all the powers and forces and Divine purposes of which this chain of worlds, has been the stage. For them the whole chain of worlds, not merely in their most material manifestations, but in all their astral and spiritual aspects as well, will constitute an absolutely familiar field of operations. They will be functioning in full consciousness on planes of Nature which embrace all these worlds. Every globe of the chain will be as accessible to them as the different rooms of a house in which he lives may be accessible to a human being of the present ordinary type. Their moral evolution corresponding with the growth of their knowledge and power will have brought them into perfect harmony with the whole Divine design of which the Manvantara has been the expression. They will be conscious and intelligent agents engaged in working out this design, and as regards their own ulterior progress they will themselves select from many various lines of ulterior evolution open to them, those along which they will best be able to conduce to the complete fulfilment of even loftier designs than that with which our Manvantara is directly related, and may either continue to guide and direct the progress of the succeeding Manvantaras associated with this chain of existences, or may pass away into other regions of cosmic activity, already representative, as it were, of the final achievement to which this chain of Manvantaras is subservient, in connexion with still vaster processes lying within the immeasurable economy of Nature. Those who, while still belonging to the great three-fifths, have not at the close of this Manvantara actually attained the maximum perfection which lies within its possibilities, but are nevertheless in sight, as it were, of that perfection, will be the vanguard of human life in the next Manvantara when that has been prepared for their reception by the earlier activities of the less advanced two-fifths during the first three and a half of its rounds. As for the nature of the progress on which they will then set out it is hardly necessary for us at this stage of our development to attempt any definite conception.

One idea, however, should be borne in mind in connexion with all attempts to realise, however imperfectly, the colossal proportion and constitution of this system to which we belong. We must not think of the worlds of the system as existing wholly and solely for the sake of the evolution of the human family, on which so far our attention has been chiefly concentrated. Just as the world around us is the theatre of a great many forms of physical life, destined perhaps in the progress of time to merge one into the other, but for the time being on widely different levels, so the whole chain of worlds is the theatre of many evolutions which, during this Manvantara, are not destined to blend one into the other. There are more of such evolutions in progress around us, indeed, than Theosophical students can at present expect to know much about, but we know at all events something about some of them. There are some processes of evolution going forward which have to do entirely with elemental consciousness, not yet, so to speak, projected from the infinite far down enough into the possibilities of manifestation to have shared the lessons derivable from the school of physical existence. At the other end of the scale, and transcending the conditions of our own life, we know something at all events of one great system of evolution which may distinctly be regarded as superior to that of humanity, although this earth is, to some extent, the fulcrum or a part of the fulcrum on which it rests. The great "Deva" evolution has to do with a vast field of consciousness that has, so to speak, got beyond the necessity of physical manifestation. On the whole scale of comparison the earlier elemental evolutions just referred to may be thought of as belonging to the downward limb of a vast cyclic scale or series of evolutions. Humanity is still largely dependent for its growth on a physical fulcrum that would be at the turning point of such a scale. The Deva evolution is on the upward lirnb beyond it. For this Deva evolution, so far as we are able to appreciate its constitution at present, the whole seven chains of the solar system are the field of its activities. To the Deva evolution our planetary chain thus plays the same part that one globe of that chain plays to the human evolution. It would be futile and unnecessary here to attempt a more exact appreciation of the mighty ulterior design with which this lofty evolution is concerned, but it has seemed desirable to refer to it for two reasons; firstly, because within the various alternatives lying before those members of the human family who attain the summit levels of evolution during this Manvantara, one of the choices open to them has to do with this great evolution of which we speak. From the summit level of our progress we shall be enabled, if we think fit, to pass into the Deva evolution, and thenceforward pursue its destinies. The second reason for mentioning it has to do with the great importance of always keeping before the mind the fact that humanity constitutes one wheel, as it were, in the stupendous mechanism of the whole cosmos, and is not by any means the raison d' etre of the undertaking. Crude conceptions concerning the place of humanity in the cosmos are apt to render people at the same time too humble and too arrogant concerning their place in Nature. Conventional teaching entirely underrates the dignity and splendour of the altitude to which it is possible for a human being to ascend, and very often as ludicrously misconceives the stupendous proportions of the cosmos, by regarding the interests of humanity as something like the sole concern of its presiding Divinity.

With this very general sketch of the system to which we belong it will now be convenient to pass on to an explanation of the methods open to us for the ascent to its summit levels at an earlier period than that contemplated by the design of the scheme as a whole, and when we have realised more exactly the phases of spiritual achievement constituting the steps on the great path that leads to the highest attainable Adeptship, we shall be in a better position to forecast with exactitude the ultimate stratification of the human family at the close of this Manvantara.

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Notes:

1. See Translation 38 of the London Lodge of the Theosophical Society, "The Constitution of the Earth."
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Re: The Growth of the Soul, by Alfred Percy Sinnett

Postby admin » Tue May 08, 2018 8:29 pm

CHAPTER 11: THE ELDER BRETHREN OF HUMANITY.

Outstripping normal evolution — The necessity that some should do this — The magnitude of the achievement — The possibilities of selfish advancement — The range of the path of service — Its earliest disciples — The impulse of fifth race improvement — The motives for an upward struggle — Ordinary human suffering and Adept sympathy — The Divine government of the world and its ministers.

We should never have been in a position to acquire the knowledge we now possess of the great evolutionary schemes of this planetary system, had it not been possible for individual units of the human family to outstrip the normal course of evolution, and attain at a relatively early period the spiritual faculties belonging to the higher levels of progress to which the race, as a whole, can only ascend at a very remote period in the future. We must endeavour now to realise more clearly than before, what is meant by outstripping normal evolution, to work out in detail considerations which show that in doing this, those of us who may find it possible, are not setting the programme of normal evolution at defiance in any way, but, on the contrary, are endeavouring at the earliest possible moment to unite our individual efforts, however humble these may be in the beginning, with the purpose of nature on the grandest scale — to fulfil, so to speak, at the earliest possible moment as regards ourselves, the design which Providence has in view, and in doing this, to assist in the realisation of the whole programme as regards the majority in a way which really, when properly understood, will be seen to enter into the normal scheme. For the teaching which enables those, who are properly qualified to appreciate it, to accelerate the course of their evolution, is really accessible to all alike, and though with each single item of humanity it is a matter of choice whether his forces are trained into the work of promoting the spiritual evolution of the whole, or exerted to put impediments in the way, it is mathematically certain that amongst the enormous multitude of individualities which constitute humanity, some will take the loftiest view of their destinies and opportunities, and will play that part in the whole undertaking which it is absolutely necessary that some should play in order that the undertaking may prosper. For a long time now, looking back on the course which human history has taken for the last few hundred thousand years, some few have appreciated their opportunities, have availed themselves of the interior enlightenment which their own aspirations attracted, and have worked their way upward until they have come to occupy a place in Nature from which the ordinary course of human evolution, as it has been traced in preceding chapters, may be looked down upon as from a height. The potentialities of human faculty are such that at certain stages of human progress, incarnate man becomes invested with a sight, with a prospective vision which ranges all through these planes of Nature on which normal evolution is being accomplished, as the process has already been described, and, indeed, considerably beyond them to higher altitudes of spiritual condition, from which all the work that has been accomplished so far, can be surveyed as the glance is extended backward, and from which the future course and ultimate goal of human progress are no less plainly visible. Nothing concerning the past history of this earth, for example, not to speak of other globes connected with the planetary chain to which we belong, is obscure to the vision of a soul, whether in or out of the body, which can function on the Manasic plane, not to speak even of those still more exalted realms to which reference has just been made. There are methods by which it is possible so to stimulate spiritual growth, that incarnate man is enabled to exercise vision even on these, and by degrees, as I have prepared the way for making the situation intelligible by other explanations, it will be possible to indicate with a considerable degree of exactitude, the manner in which such heights are reached, and to show some of the responsibilities which attach themselves to the abnormal advancement in Nature thus accomplished. The situation could only be rendered intelligible with the help of such a comprehensive survey of the whole scheme of evolution on which we are launched, as the foregoing chapters of this book have already set forth. We are thus enabled at the same time to realise the magnitude of the work already accomplished up to date, and the equal magnitude, in another direction, of that which is still before us. We cannot properly appreciate the nature of accelerated spiritual evolution, nor understand the place in Nature occupied by the most advanced representatives of our humanity, without keeping the outline of the whole Manvantaric scheme in view.

There are men now living on earth who, belonging completely to our own human family, have already attained the maximum point of development and exaltation which I have just been endeavouring to describe as that belonging to the final culmination of the progress on which the whole family is launched. If one were merely to count, supposing that were possible, the number of lives which would have to be spent in the ordinary course of evolution between this and the close of the seventh round,— each of these lives separated from the other by long periods of spiritual rest, sometimes by intervening experiences that are not restful at all but sadly the reverse, — we should have to deal with numbers which again would hardly He within the grasp of imagination, and yet already, though we have got on past the middle point of the whole Manvantara by a period which is relatively a mere handful of years, we find some of the most determined climbers already on the topmost heights of the system to which we belong. That within a brief series of lives, even though each in turn is devoted with unremitting intensity to the great purpose in view, it may be possible to reach these heights, will be as I say a matter of marvel to those who really appreciate the magnitude of the task to be accomplished. Sometimes people who hear vaguely about abnormal capacities and powers possessed by those who have gone in advance of their kind are inclined, in their ignorance of what this advancement really implies, to expect that if they make an honest effort in that direction they ought to realise their aspirations at once; to take their degrees in occult science with as little difficulty as they might accomplish a similar process in connexion with the teaching of a university. The absurdity of this view will be appreciated by anyone who realises in his thinking the true meaning of high initiation, the true place occupied in Nature by those whom we speak of as the great Adepts. The evolutionary interval which separates ordinary humanity from them has to be measured, as I have described, by the whole of the second half of the Manvantara. The processes of initiation leading up to high Adeptship are in reality epitomes of the second half of the Manvantara, in which the acquisition of knowledge, moral dignity and faculty, for which Nature has assigned the immeasurable ages to come, will be condensed within the brief series of three or four or half a dozen lives. We shall come later on to examine more minutely the nature of the efforts by which the earlier progress along that road is accomplished; but we must have a general idea of the whole effort in mind before we can examine the details intelligently, and the foremost thought to be embraced in connexion with the general idea I have been endeavouring to convey is, that the summit levels of evolution have to do with the complete identity between the whole progress of the individual and that at which, as he ascends to lofty altitudes, he is enabled to appreciate in all its completeness, the Will of which this whole world and all the other worlds around us are the manifestation.

There are possibilities of accelerated evolution, let us recognise frankly, that lie within the reach of men who set themselves to compass their progress on purely selfish principles — whose spiritual aspirations have no infinite range, whose hope in connexion with ulterior progress is that it may in some fashion redound to their own power, who sometimes vainly imagine that the great possibilities they feel germinating within them will enable them to rob Divinity itself of its treasures, whatever they may be, and accomplish triumphs which may gratify their personal pride through a range of the future, which is all they care to think of as infinity. Whoever sets out on the path of occult progress with such motives as his actuating principles will, in all probability, do no more than plunge himself in agonising failure, which will render existence in one way or other a misery for him for a long portion of the normal road on to which he will be hurled violently back. But if across a thousand indescribable perils the candidate for merely selfish spiritual advancement succeeds, so far as success is possible, in attaining his object, it will be a success qualified from the beginning with interior conditions that can only be described as the reverse of beatitude, and it is impossible in the nature of things that spiritual progress of this evil character can transcend the limits of the world period in which it is undertaken. For those who prefer the path of service, the service of the Divine Ideal, to that of selfish aggrandisement the maximum heights of evolution even within this Manvantara are attainable, and they, when attained, instead of representing a finality, are found to be but the avenues of approach to beatitudes of spiritual existence within the universe the very nature of which it would be folly at this stage of our thinking to grapple with in thought. For to the vision of those who are already on the summit of the Manvantara the horizon that extends beyond is infinite again, and something of what they see can be communicated to us, so that without being able to realise the conditions of consciousness which would transcend our own system, we may realise, even with some assurance, the possibility of ulterior progress for perfected humanity into conditions of existence in which the individuality of the human being is merged into the governing hierarchy of the cosmos. But leaving considerations of that nature aside for the present, and also considerations in the other direction which have to do with the misdirection of great spiritual energies, let us concentrate our attention on the possibilities that lie before us in reference to that legitimately accelerated evolution to be accomplished by treading the path leading to Adeptship.

That path, we should always bear in mind, is a short cut across the enormous spirals of the regular highway, leading humanity upward during the second half of the Manvantara. It thus only became a possibility of nature after the first half of the Manvantara was concluded; for the complete undertaking included a double process — the involution of spirit in matter, and the evolution of spirit from matter. The first half of the Manvantara is the descent into manifestation: the second half the re-ascent therefrom. One gets lost in an ocean of metaphysical speculation if we go into the question as to what spirit can gain from material manifestation. It is ,the potentiality of all things, including material manifestation: how can it be enriched if it is everything to begin with? It will be worth while, perhaps, to deal with this problem when we are in a position to grapple with it from the point of view, let us say, of an exhaustive comprehension of the solar system. Then mysteries which have to do with that whole of which the solar system is an infinitesimal particle, will perhaps come within the range of our mental grasp. At present the attempts to work out schemes of thought relating to such mysteries are rather the outcome of ignorance concerning mysteries that are relatively near us than of aptitude for dealing with those still far off. The theory of our planetary system is, at all events, intelligible. Spiritual energies involve themselves in matter and evolve therefrom. They cannot begin to evolve slowly or rapidly till the process of involution is complete. Thus it is only after the middle point of the Manvantara that accelerated evolution becomes possible, simply because evolution itself, as far as the human family was concerned, only began then.

But even during the last Manvantara the already differentiated entities of the human family were in a position to fulfil the purpose of their existence at that stage more or less satisfactorily. Thus we have seen that the entities who had derived most from the experiences of that Manvantara were not required to make their appearance on this planetary chain till near the middle of this world period. They came into incarnation then as already the elder brethren of the race, and many of them at once began to fulfil the purpose of their existence in this Manvantara in turn in the most satisfactory manner. They kept thus ahead of the main body, and at once began to appreciate the teaching of those more advanced beings from another evolution who were the early guardians of this human family. They were ripe to enter on the path then opening before mankind, the course of which led them rapidly to the high levels of consciousness and capacity. There is nothing in their extraordinarily rapid progress to shock the understanding, if we pay attention to the simplicity of the predominant idea which is the allembracing motive of occult progress. The unity of spiritual consciousness is the primary thought to appreciate, the insignificance of differentiated sensation, the logical deduction. The first thought brings with it the anxiety to realise that unity in consciousness, which is equivalent to the anxiety to promote the Divine idea expressed in the system to which we belong: the second thought, if fully absorbed, extinguishes selfishness absolutely. With that characteristic abolished there is no room in the nature for evil; as soon as it is inaccessible to evil its capacity for infinite good, which embraces infinite knowledge, is established. The difficulty with most of us is that we fail to realise the unity of spiritual consciousness, and only to some extent dispel the contrary idea, — the actuality of separate consciousness. Let any one get himself absolutely saturated with the loftier conception so that he feels his own individualised sensation to be just as important, and no more important to him, than any other individualised manifestation of the spirit working within him, and he will find himself on Adept levels " to-morrdw " as compared with the duration of a Manvantara — as soon, that is to say, as in a life or two he may have dissipated the evil forces he has engendered in past lives, leaving the whole account of good and evil, so to speak — none the worse for his individualisation — as a preliminary measure before he goes on to make it much the better. If he does really express our fundamental idea in his consciousness, he will not want to manifest Adeptship in his own individuality till that preliminary work is accomplished.

Even from the midst of the stormy and ignoble period of the world's history represented by the civilisation of Atlantis, some of the best individualities of the race learned these lessons from their more advanced teachers, and began to supply the race with Adept guardians of " its own blood/ ' to use our physicalplane phrase. A little occult knowledge is enough to give the phrase an almost comic flavour, in view of the relatively small part in human evolution played by the physical organism that is habitually dealt with in our language as though it constituted the race. And thus from the mid-period of the Atlantean race onward there has never been a time when" the world has been unprovided with Adept leaders, for remember there is no death out of such a condition of existence as that. There may be a transfer of activity to the higher planes of Nature, but these are a part of the world — or are partly of the world, to put the idea more correctly — just as much as its physical aspect. But on the other hand, Re-incarnation itself, if voluntarily accepted by the Adept, who no longer needs it for himself, is no extinction of his Adeptship; and whether their work was carried on in or out of the body — with or without that accessory — the elder brethren who first attained Adeptship did not, we may be sure, pass on to other functions until others, coming up from mankind at large to join them, were ready to take their places at the head of human affairs. They or their successors have, from a far remoter time than any which commonplace historical research has penetrated, even in imagination, been in control of the great occult " Lodges " of initiation, the existence of which — the accessibility of which for persons willing to undergo the necessary training, and inspired by the necessary ideas — has been better known to humanity at large at former epochs in the world's history than during the last few hundred years.

During the predominance of the Atlantean race on earth, it was hardly to be expected that the elder brethren would obtain any great number of recruits. Not only were the Atlanteans pre-eminently a selfish race — it might almost be argued that it was their business in the scheme of evolution to be so. They may not have been much more culpable in being so than a community of animals would be under similar circumstances. Individualised to perfection, but nothing more, it was their business to deliver the innumerable hordes of the human family on the threshold of the fifth race intelligent enough to learn the first new lesson of the upward carve of the great cycle, the lesson of fraternal sympathy. Intellectually, keeping that term strictly to its limitations, and altogether excluding from it everything that appertains to spiritual intuition, the Atlanteans were giants of capacity. They possessed a great mass of knowledge, which the younger generations of the fifth race— ourselves and our immediate progenitors — have lost. They had even penetrated many of the secrets of Nature belonging to that Astral plane which transcends the more densely material realm of the physical senses. They could accomplish results which, to our own science, are as yet undreamed of. But be it remembered, that when we speak of the Atlanteans from the point of view of the information concerning them, which occult science enables us to procure, we are dealing with that race in its fullest maturity. Humanity has entered on the fifth of its present cycles, armed with all the intellectual capacities required for the recovery of the lost Atlantean knowledge, and that recovery is certain to be brought about in the progress of time. The Re-incarnation of a race precisely follows the analogy of individual Re-incarnation. Just as the fresh personality by the time it arrives at maturity is once more in possession of all the capacities engendered by its permanent Ego during the preceding life, so the race inherits capacity in a similar degree. Intellectual giants as the Atlanteans were, we are already not far short of their stature, and the rest will come to us in due course.

But with those gifts, something else will come to us if we are willing to receive it — the first beginnings of a general capacity to apprehend the spiritual possibilities of our Nature. The downward curve of the great cycle — considering the Manvantaric evolution as one process for the moment — may be regarded as the curve of preparation. The upward curve — from the nadir point of the fourth race in this round — the curve of fruition.

Now the nature of every evolutionary cycle — as understood by esoteric wisdom — involves, from one point of view, a return to the condition from which the circling procession set out. But that return does not mean a mere reversion to the status quo ante, without any result accomplished, It must always be a return freighted with something gained on the journey. And in the broad view of the whole evolutionary scheme that we are taking now, the all-important distinction between the spiritual existence out of which the human race emerged in the beginning, and the spiritual existence to which it will ultimately return, is to be discerned in the individualisation of consciousness combined with spirituality.

In dealing with these transcendent mysteries, every incarnate writer must be profoundly impressed with the impossibility of thinking them out completely in terms of the physical intellect. One would gladly refrain from the audacity of writing about them at all if it were not absolutely necessary for the elucidation of the spiritual evolution on which the human race is now entering, to take cognisance of ultimate ideas which it is quite certain we shall formulate in the mind but dimly and inaccurately. But somehow, within and beyond the immeasurable profundities of the spiritual consciousness which crown the edifice of a perfected humanity, it is certain that the stupendous prize of individual consciousness which Nature has gone through such infinite pains to evoke — will not be forfeited. A few misleading analogies, — and even the most graceful, about the dewdrop slipping into the shining sea, cannot but be misleading in this connexion, — are largely responsible for the comfortless belief so many people entertain, that the esoteric teaching of the East, at all events, preaches a kind of ecstatic annihilation as the supreme felicity to be struggled for through ages of suffering existence. It should be obvious that no epigrammatic phrase can sum up the unfathomable subtleties of a thought that reaches out towards a comprehension of the incomprehensible — of phases of consciousness utterly transcending the limitations of the brain that idly strives to define them. If we inverted the usual simile, and said that on attaining the condition of Nirvana, the dewdrop received into its bosom the whole shining sea, that would, perhaps, be a better way of presenting the figure to the mind, because it would not then suggest a falsehood, even if it failed tg be explanatory in any high degree. Without attempting so absurd a task as to explain the nature of the spiritual consciousness indicated in Oriental philosophy by the term Nirvana, I will be content to suggest a mode of approaching a conception rather less extravagantly imperfect than that generally entertained, by hinting, on the basis of the suggestion just made, that it may be much more like an absorption of all consciousness into the individuality, than an absorption of individuality into all consciousness.

However this may be, in one conclusion we may safely rest; that the purpose of Nature in evolving humanity is that of evoking individualities on the levels of Nature, so to speak, from which the whole creative spiritual impulse stooped down at the commencement of the undertaking.

It is necessary to insert an apology here for that last expression in dealing with a Nature that has no beginning and no end? Of all Nature we cannot assuredly predicate an end or a beginning; but one of the most narrow-minded blunders of exoteric thinking is that which carelessly identifies the human family to which we belong with the eternities generally of time and space. Esoteric science, in its coherent reasonableness, recognises this human family, its origin and fortunes, as a definite episode within the eternities — however protracted may be its duration.

The climax of the episode is reached when the creative power, which in some unimaginable manner sufficed to launch the planetary system, returns to itself focalised in individualities. But what is the nature of such individualities? By the hypo thesis they partake of the human nature in so far as they are individual; of the divine nature, in so far as they are once again identified with the creative power of the Spirit. They are no longer men — they are gods. Not God, which, as far as language can deal with such ideas, must be a designation assigned to Universal Omnipotent Spirit, but the agents of Divinity wielding its powers, pursuing its ideas. Esoteric teaching shows us in these perfected beings at once the purpose of humanity and the governing power of the next evolutionary undertaking in Nature which shall follow on after that out of which they themselves have arisen.

"The hosts of the Dhyan Chohans" is the expression by which Oriental philosophy endeavours to describe these sublime fruitions of the human race; and it is theoretically possible that any of the myriads of ordinary men and women on whom we look around at this stage of the world's progress, may so cultivate and expand their nascent individualities as to reach the condition foreshadowed. But there are many intervening grades in the spiritual hierarchy that culminate in the godlike condition of the Dyhan Chohan.

ong before the attainment of that pre-eminence the up-growing Egos struggling clear of the enthralments of material life, will begin to exercise powers and discharge responsibilities in Nature, in connexion with which they are already, in a measure, co-operative with the Divine' purpose.

The hosts of ordinary humanity, let us bear in mind, are conscious only — in their physical intellects, — of the material plane of Nature whereon they are manifesting. But the spiritual consciousness dominant within them, is working all the while in the "Higher Self." The attraction to matter, to material life, with its gratifications and sympathies, is at war with this dormant aspiration. As long as it remains the more powerful the Ego after death, and after the Devachanic period has expired, is drawn back to material manifestation by the Karma of its last life. But whenever the spiritual aspiration has made itself heard in that life, there will be in the circumstances of the new existence some improved opportunities for the culture of the spiritual consciousness. If these are duly employed, they will rapidly be developed into contact of some kind with the grand realities of the higher planes of being. The incarnate man will begin by finding new senses and powers of perception developing within him. Operating, as we shall see later on, as snares and false beacons sometimes when they have been acquired in a wrong way, these psychic faculties are none the less the avenues to sublime knowledge when rightly directed. For the genuine neophyte they constitute the first links of communication that consciously unite him with the Adept world, with those of his elder brethren who are already advanced in the scale of Nature far beyond the normal characteristics of ordinary mankind.

Thus illuminated he may enter on the path that leads upward to these levels of existence. His initiation has commenced, and with the thirst for spiritual progress becoming a more powerful force in his nature than the animal dinging to material life, the attractions that drag him back to normal incarnation cease to assert themselves. For several lives probably those attractions will continue to operate, after he has begun his higher evolution: and failure of one kind or another may constantly throw him back. But if he is resolute and persevering, the spiritual attractions conquer in the end, and his incarnations if they are then continued at all, will be voluntarily undertaken as affording him facilities for the better accomplishment of the work to which he will have dedicated himself — the cultivation of the spirituality of the race at large. On the level he will have attained he will be already a co-worker with the Divine purpose, a conscious exponent of the Divine Will.

Keeping still, for the present, on the level of generalities, and postponing the more exact examination of the steps on the path of initiation, I may remark that for any one who can even dimly discern the attributes of such existence as is attained to by the fully spiritualised man, there is little need to look beyond that condition in search of motives for an upward struggle. But let me interpolate here a few observations concerning the most ennobling of those motives before going on to speak of those which appeal to feelings of personal desire, however lofty in their character. It is not to be doubted that by the time the spiritual consciousness of a man on the upward path is fully developed he is already so far a participator in the Divine nature that the unselfish eagerness to acquire the power of benefiting others is really the most efficient motive for exertion that can appeal to him; and perhaps realising this great truth, more or less perfectly, in advance, there are many still incarnate human beings who proclaim this as already the only motive that really commands their zealous effort. We need not cast discredit on their early belief in their own interior nobility of purpose. But without claiming that men still on the normal levels of incarnation should be already infused by so lofty a sentiment, it is no degradation of their nature so far, if they recognise as the first motive that inspires them with the courage and physical self abnegation required for the cultivation of their spiritual natures, a longing to come into closer relations with beings so glorified as those who have broken the bondage of the flesh or have already taken their place in superior realms of existence. No unworthy pandering to selfishness is involved in the representation of spiritual exaltation as in itself a goal befitting the most enthusiastic aspiration — as regarded from the lower standpoint of material existence. Emotions and motives may follow one another in due order, but it would be a great mistake to add needlessly to the ordeals of the first steps in occult progress by depriving them of the encouragement to be derived from the reflection that even earlier the achievements of such progress carry with them rewards of an extremely elevated order.

So then we work back to the position that the career of initiation — the path of occult progress — is an enterprise not only worthy of being the pursuit of the loftiest human virtue; there is no other career of philanthropy or benevolence that is comparable with it, for the more the community of those who attain Adeptship is strengthened numerically and otherwise, the greater is the influence working on mankind at large for their spiritual advancement, and their elevation above the lamentable Karmic conditions that give rise to the physical miseries and suffering to which ordinary philanthropy, unable to look beyond the one life, is limited in choosing its spheres of activity. But lest this reflection should be misunderstood, let me point out that the career of occult progress is not one which has to be selected in preference, or as an alternative to other benevolent activities. Whatever these may be, for good men impelled to engage in them from beautiful and generous sympathy with their fellow creatures, their work in such directions, instead of impeding their occult progress, must be directly subservient thereto if they do but blend with the immediate emotions of sympathy which dictate their practical philanthropy the desire for spiritual knowledge, and the efforts to attain it that may be compatible with their duties and assumed responsibilities in life. One of the most common mistakes concerning this subject made by those who pick up a few imperfect ideas from Oriental literature and tales of Eastern "yogeeism," is the notion that the occult path means withdrawal from all human companionship, and absorption in a spiritual selfishness that seeks a personal beatitude by means of solitary meditation and austere practices. That which occult training does undoubtedly demand is self-denial in the sense of entire abstinence from the fruitless indulgence of self, and some time devoted if possible compatibly with altruistic duties to the interior cultivation of the spiritual consciousness. But there is no life of philanthropic activity so full that it would not include the necessary opportunities for this. On the contrary it is, broadly speaking, most assuredly true that the active philanthropist is by virtue of being so, in far more favourable conditions for the attainment of spiritual advancement than the man who is merely bent upon his advancement, however blameless his relative inactivity.

Here we may pause to consider some of the commonest among the foolish criticisms that have been aimed at the state and methods of activity of the Adepts, since something has been promulgated in reference to them in modern Theosophic literature. It has been suggested that in living very secluded lives (as far as their existence on the physical plane is concerned) they are selfishly neglecting the poignant sufferings of unhappy humanity, which they might do much to soften if they came down from their lofty towers to mingle with the human race. To have power over material nature and disease and not at once devote that power to the relief of poverty and sickness seems to some of our shortsighted moralists to imply a want of sympathy with suffering, and a "selfish" neglect of opportunities for doing good. The criticism springs from a comprehensive ignorance of Nature and the whole design of the world — from a curiously complete disregard of the hypothesis that, in spite of appearances, the progress of the world may be going on, under the law of justice, and that very much more important ends may really be in view than those which have to do with the alleviation of the painful consequences which, in the progress of their successive lives, most human beings may have brought upon themselves. Let me not be misunderstood. To the true Masters of Wisdom the spectacle of human suffering, however completely that suffering may have been earned by the sufferer's own action in the past, is one evoking acute and tender-hearted sympathy. But this sympathy cannot but, in their case, be associated with and qualified by the lofty powers of vision which may look back to the causes in the past, by which the suffering has been brought on, and forward to the results that may be hoped for as regards the future by the exhaustion of those causes. To us, who see merely the suffering, it is perfectly clear that we have only one simple duty in regard to it — to relieve it if we can, by the exercise of such very limited powers in that direction as we may possess. If we succeed in doing this we are not upsetting the design of Nature. We are in all probability merely playing a part unconsciously in that design, and the Karma of the sufferer whom we relieve, may be regarded as having been to that extent already fulfilled when the pressure of destiny brought us into contact with him. But the Adept, who has come already into conscious relations with the design of Nature, who is no longer drifted blindly about by that pressure of destiny just referred to, is very differently situated. He is not wanted as an instrument of Karma. The great law finds its own instruments ready to its hand among the humanity still on the same level of existence to which the sufferer belongs. If he intervenes, with a power and a knowledge on a level, so to speak, with that on which the design originates, he is distinctly upsetting the contemplated scheme of things. Such a violation of the appointed progress of events would quite possibly do no more than protract the suffering it might seem to relieve, for the unfulfilled law of Karma would exact its own measure of justice later on, — in another life, perhaps, which might have been clear of the old debt if things had been allowed to take their normal course.

Then again, while philanthropists of the lowlier type may fitly enough concern themselves with palliatives in dealing with human suffering, their justification for doing this is to be sought rather in the imperfection of their insight than in the merits of palliatives as such compared with remedies for evil which should go deeper than the surface, and attempt to grapple with fundamental causes. While the worldly philanthropist of the ordinary type seeks for the causes of misery and suffering in the external neglect of economical laws, and would endeavour to circumvent these evils by teaching thrift, temperance, and industry as habits dictated by an enlightened selfishness, we can readily appreciate the idea that a fuller comprehension of the laws of Karma may enable Adept vision to realise that even the practise of economical virtues would not suffice to root out from human society the suffering which in one shape or another must overtake Re-incarnating human creatures who have lived before for merely selfish objects, and have done evil, as judged by the spiritual standard, however enlightened, in the mere worldly sense, their selfishness may have been at the time. The Karmic retribution for sins against humanity, for cruelty to others, and hardness of heart in presence of sorrow, can never be circumvented, and the cunningest devices for warding off poverty and crime will never be successful in guarding future generations from these calamities until the people, who in the present time are creating the conditions in which they will live again, are taught to live with an eye to that inevitable destiny, and to starve out the forces that make for wretchedness and disease, so that there shall be no Karmic necessity for such penalites operative in the progress of the world any more.

The end, therefore, to which the Adept must primarily devote himself will always be the cultivation of spiritual knowledge and aspiration, which by weaning people from their supreme devotion to the objects of physical existence, will guide them into those paths of endeavour which will necessarily render them less likely to sacrifice the higher dictates of humanity on the altars of their individual worldly interests.

Of course, I am not professing to explain and account for the whole policy of the Adept Brotherhood in their dealings with uninitiated mankind. I am merely showing how, with the limited knowledge of their functions in Nature which we possess, it is easy to put aside the manifestly inapplicable criticisms suggested by an entire ignorance on that subject. It is with the spiritual interests of humanity almost exclusively that the Adepts must deal. And in dealing even with these it is obvious that at some periods of the world's history their influence may be much more restricted than at others. Human affairs advance through a great series of interlinked cycles, and each of these has its periods of spiritual and material ascendancy. Sometimes the exoteric religious ideas in vogue may favour, sometimes they may oppose the spread of true spiritual knowledge. Sometimes it may be possible for those who have outrun their contemporaries, and have attained to the power and beatitude of the Divine Kingdom, to do little more than concern themselves with the few who are toiling along after them across the dangers and ordeals of the upward path. Sometimes they may find it practicable to attempt the reform of popular religions, so as to bring these more into harmony with the eternal natural laws that govern spiritual evolution. But whether at any given moment they can do much or little, there is one thing they can always do, and do always accordingly, they can — to fall into the symbolical language that the subject suggests — keep the sacred flame alight. They can take care that there shall always be an Adept community on earth, ready to instruct and bring forward increasing numbers of those who, as the cyclic law grows more favourable in the future, may be prepared to undertake the task of self-development, and thus to co-operate with Nature in working out her grandest design — to which all preliminary stages of evolution are, indeed, but subservient. To those who have long attained the exaltation of the Divine Kingdom, it may be that some mysterious condition of supreme rest and beatitude beckons them onward, and without knowing much on that subject, we may reasonably conjecture that one by one, as the aspect of the great duty that presses upon them all permits, they do pass on, but never, we may be assured, until their places are fully supplied by other victors in the great struggle.

In this way the Adept Brotherhood is much more than a mere organisation of immensely advanced and spiritualised men. It is that of course, but it is a brotherhood so far advanced that it has grown up into being a part of the great hierarchy of superior beings constituting the spiritual government of the world. Some of those who become Adepts are, in turn, drawn up into this hierarchy, and may then be said to guide and direct the Will lying behind them again in its detailed manifestations. Rightly apprehended this idea is no more in conflict with the vague religious conception that assigns the " creation " of the world to God, than the fact that human devices may direct electricity to specific purposes, is in conflict with the profound truth that electricity itself is a mighty and ever-present force of Nature. The deeply impressive truth that the Will of God works through agencies of a character intermediate between God and man, is the scientific interpretation of Nature, not the deposition of vaguer beliefs which only seem more reverential to the uninstructed mind because that mind has never even sought to work out its beliefs with precision.

That from the beginning of humanity on earth in this great World Period through which we are passing, there has been a Being consciously presiding over its evolution is, as I say, a perfectly reasonable idea, in harmony, with the loftiest religious conceptions. That it is not merely an idea, but a fact, is ascertained by those who are themselves, in turn, intermediate between that Being and humanity at large. And from them some definite information on the subject filters down to those who from our own level are struggling upwards and already in contact with Adept instruction. Evidently it would be impossible to convey to incarnate intelligence — imprisoned in flesh and working within the limitations of consciousness as it functions on the material plane — very much concerning the attributes of such a Being. But the recognition of His existence is a step in the direction of a comprehension of the whole spiritual hierarchy.

People who make a hard and fast barrier in their imaginations between God and Man— treating humanity, as of a horde of final units, each with an eternal personality as limited in its scope, as compared with Deity, as the nine-pins a boy may play with compared to himself, — are not merely degrading the human personalities in question, but are making nonsense of the whole Natural design. It would have no ulterior purpose or meaning if the conventional view were in correspondence with the fact. On the other hand, when we not alone accept the principle that there must be higher destinies open to human creatures than those which are bounded by the mystery of physical death, but realise that those higher destinies may assimilate Man to God-like knowledge, wisdom and power, and elevate him at last — if he makes himself worthy — to play a part in the spiritual government of his race, then surely we must feel that we have grasped a really lofty conception of the design to which humanity belongs.

And in the light of that idea we may go considerably further, even, than the doctrine of Re-incarnation takes us in appreciating correctly the pathetic mistake which in conscious or unconscious submission to the dictates of a narrow and incomplete theology many people make in contemplating the brevity of each individual physical life. Especially do those aspiring lovers of Nature, who most reverently study her laws, — true men of science, — fall a prey to the gloomy delusion that when the brain they have trained so carefully shall dissolve in the earth, there is an end of the futile labour they have gone through. Conventional religion gives them a hope indeed of some sort of consciousness hereafter; but the heaven of crowns and harps and unintelligent rapture before "the throne" — the heaven of ignorant and empty-headed priests, good and goodhearted though they may som^imes be — affords a prospect of drivelling ennui to the man who is already in this life highly developed in knowledge and intellectual energy. Men of such a type turn from it with distaste if not with scorn, and forgetting that the priests may be echoing a great truth in promising future consciousness, though distorting it into nonsense by furnishing it forth with detail on a level with their own intelligence, — they, the true priests of Nature, her eager students and worshippers, fall back on a forlorn kind of altruism and try to take comfort in the thought that their successors will carry on the mighty quest when they themselves are dust and their thoughts as the light of yesterday that has faded into darkness and ceased to be.

The mere first steps in esoteric teaching should hold out a thrilling prospect in exchange for this dreary expectation. The persistence of individual consciousness — the Re-incarnation of each transient personality with the knowledge and training of each life stored as so much potentiality of further advancement, as so much intellectual faculty ready to spring once more into activity. — that is the first great law of spiritual evolution which rebukes the insult to Nature involved in the idea that his science is extinct when the man of science " dies." But there is really a far loftier possibility before him in the progress of ages, if he wakes to a perception of the higher science that may link his knowledge with that of Nature's great evolutionary plan, and summon him to the task of so exalting his own individuality that he may pass on into the ranks of those I have described as playing a ministerial part in the government of the world. He will not do this, of course, by the concentration of faculties on the phenomena of this one facet of many-sided Nature that we caU the physical plane. However ardent and intelligent that concentration may be, such an exercise of faculty can develop but one of the many potentialities of development which lurk in the nature of the Man who must be more than what we habitually mean by the phrase a man of science, before he can win a place in the Divine kingdom. Knowledge itself of the kind we chiefly deal with in this life, may be a splendid stimulant to spiritual evolution, but a diet consisting of stimulant entirely is not conducive to health. We must study other laws of Nature besides those that have to do with physics before we can utilise and control the forces of the spiritual plane. Man does not live by bread alone; the soul is not exalted by knowledge alone (in the sense in which knowledge is limited to the same natural plane as the bread). The man of science who would claim the inheritance that Nature has provided for him must appreciate her design before he can be appointed to assist in working it out, and must assimilate his aspirations to the spirit in which that design is conceived. When he has done this, though not till then, the Elder Brethren of humanity will be ready to receive him into their midst.
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Re: The Growth of the Soul, by Alfred Percy Sinnett

Postby admin » Tue May 08, 2018 8:29 pm

CHAPTER 12: THE ANCIENT MYSTERIES.

Egyptian and Greek initiations — Current authorities on the subject — The evident reality of their purpose — The explanation of secrecy — Further motives for reserve in the Middle Ages.

I have already endeavoured to show what is the distinction between Theosophic and Religions teaching, and why, though widely different in some respects, they are not in any real sense antagonistic. A further step along the same line of thought, leads us to the conclusion that till a recent period of the world's history, Theosophic and Religious teaching went hand in hand — that one was the complement and crown of the other. That the teachings of what used to be called Initiation in the era of the Egyptian and Grecian Mysteries were closely identified with what we now call Theosophy, is a conclusion that reveals itself with something approaching certainty when the records that we possess, such as they are, concerning the ancient Mysteries, are examined in the light of now current expositions of Theosophic doctrine. Nor must we be misled in estimating the importance of this fact by the easily suggested idea that the Mystery teaching may have been superseded by the Christian revelation — though all very well in its way, while the world at large had to be content with heathen polytheism. The Mystery teaching was not superseded by the Christian revelation, for the author of that revelation constantly alludes to it as embodying a higher instruction than that offered to the multitude even by Him.

The supersession of esoteric teaching by that of modern Christian doctrine was effected not by the original Teacher or his disciples, but by the Church when that became a State organisation with worldly interests to serve, and arrogated to itself a spiritual despotism, by pretending to a monopoly of spiritual knowledge.

This pretence has been emphasised more and more in modern centuries in inverse proportion to the spiritual knowledge really possessed by the priesthood. And, indeed, in looking back on the claims to superior spiritual knowledge evidently advanced by the priesthood in early ages of the world, we are apt to measure those claims by reference to the painfully familiar fact that priests in modern centuries have not been at all remarkable for the possession of knowledge in advance of their lay contemporaries. On the contrary, the early European Church has been in the rear of intelligence in almost all respects, and the claims of its hierarchy on the reverence of the multitude have depended on appeals to a very crude superstition or on mundane tyranny. As our survey, however, is pushed back further and further into the past, we get well behind the records of an ignorant and worldly church to periods at which the priesthood was evidently regarded as actually invested with an insight into the mysteries of Nature far transcending that generally diffused throughout secular society. The priests of ancient Egypt were . real spiritual teachers, and the inferences of those who study Egyptian antiquities by the light of modern inquiries into occult science will surely tend in the direction of recognising them as endowed with the spiritual enlightenment that carries with it an abnormal control over natural forces.

We do not know, or at all events we are not helped by literary and archaeological research to know, very much about the "Mysteries" and initiations of Ancient Egypt, and Sir Gardner Wilkinson frankly concedes that our only clue to their character and significance is to be sought for in the somewhat fuller information we possess concerning the Greek Mysteries of Eleusis, which were evidently copied from Egyptian practices. But it is quite plain that Egyptian initiations were so serious in their character — hedged round from profane intrusion with such jealous care, and approachable only through probations and ordeals of so formidable a description that the outer world must have been entirely sure of the broad principle that the Hierophants of the temples were on a truly superior level of knowledge and power, as compared with the multitude. If they had been merely the exponents of a pompous ecclesiastical ceremonial, candidates for their teaching would not have besieged their strongholds with the eagerness actually shown, and would not have been prepared to go through the trials they certainly underwent in their efforts to secure admission to the charmed circle of enlightenment. Even the Mysteries of Eleusis, which were according to all reasonable conjecture a very degenerate reproduction of the more ancient organisation of Egypt, were open, as far as we know anything of their details, to a highly philosophical interpretation. Thomas Taylor, the indefatigable translator of so much Platonic and Neo-Platonic literature, says in his own dissertation on the Mysteries, that those of the "lesser" order "occultly signified this sublime truth, that the soul being merged in matter, resides among the dead both here and hereafter." And quoting Plotinus, he adds: "The soul therefore dies through vice as much as it is possible for the soul to die; and the death of the soul is, while merged or baptised as it were in the present body, to descend into matter and be filled with its impurity, and after departing from this body, to be absorbed in its filth till it returns to a superior condition, and elevates its eye from the overwhelming mire."

Later on, dealing with the subject of the greater Mysteries, he says: "As the shows of the lesser mysteries occultly signified the miseries of the soul while in subjection to the body, so those of the greater obscurity intimated by mystic and splendid visions the felicity of the soul, both here and hereafter, when purified from the defilements of a material nature and constantly elevated to the realities of intellectual vision."

Dr. Warburton, who was Bishop of Gloucester in the middle of the last century, is sometimes referred to as a writer of authority on the ancient Mysteries; but his views are too much entangled with conventional orthodoxy to have any real value. He labours, indeed, to show that the Mysteries were designed to teach the Unity of God, as contrasted with the polytheism of popular theology in pre-Christian ages. But Thomas Taylor loftily rebukes the narrowness of this conception. After expanding the ideas above indicated, he goes on: "From hence the reader will easily perceive the extreme ridiculousness of Dr, Warburton's system — that the grand secret of the Mysteries consisted in exposing the errors of polytheism, and in teaching the doctrine of the Unity, or the existence of one Deity alone. . . . But it is by no means wonderful that men who have not the smallest conception of the true nature of the gods, who have persuaded themselves that they were only dead men deified, and who measure the understandings of the ancients by their own, should be led to fabricate a system so improbable and absurd.' ' As showing how very far the initiations went beyond being a mere theoretical repudiation of popular error, Taylor quotes two passages as follows. The first is from Apuleius, who says, describing his own experiences in the mysteries: "I approached the confines of death, and treading on the threshold of Proserpine, and being carried through all the elements, I came back to my pristine situation. In the depths of midnight I saw the sun glittering with a splendid light, together with the infernal and supernal gods, and to these divinities approaching nearer I paid the tribute of profound adoration." The second passage is from Plato, who in the "Phaedrus" describes the felicity of the virtuous soul, prior to its descent, in a beautiful allusion to the arcane visions of the mysteries. He writes: "But it was then lawful to survey the most splendid beauty when we obtained, together with that blessed choir, this happy vision and contemplation. . . . And these Divine orgies were celebrated by us while we possessed the proper integrity of our nature, and were freed from the molestations of evil, which availed us in a succeeding period of time. Likewise in consequence of this Divine initiation we became spectators of entire simple, immovable, and blessed visions, resident in a pure light, and were ourselves pure and immaculate and liberated from this surrounding vestment which we denominate body, and to which we are now bound like an oyster to its shell."

The Mysteries of Bacchus were held by Taylor to be of somewhat limited significance compared with those of Eleusis.

"And thus much for the Mysteries of Bacchus, which as well as those of Ceres relate in one part to the descent of a partial intellect into matter, and its condition while united with the dark tenement of body; but there appears to be this difference between the two — that in the fable of Ceres and Proserpine the descent of the whole rational soul is considered, and in that of Bacchus the distribution and procession of that supreme part alone of our nature, which we properly characterise by the appellation of intellect. In the composition of each we may discern the same traces of exalted wisdom and recondite theology — of a theology the most venerable of all others for its' antiquity, and the most admirable for its excellence and reality."

What we may also perceive from the evidence afforded by such passages as those quoted from Apuleius and Plato, is that the Mysteries were associated with the exercise of what we should now call psychic powers and faculties. And with this clue, aided by the growing knowledge in modern times of the extent and range that may be assigned to such faculties, we may begin to appreciate the whole situation more intelligently than has been possible till now.

From the Egyptian period downward, and in a greater degree in the Egyptian as compared with the Greek period, the Mysteries and initiations connected with them were systems of teaching and graduation in that occult science which has been built up through the ages by the prolonged exercise of psychic faculties that are still available for those who know how to employ them as a means of verifying the knowledge thus accumulated in the world. To a very large extent during the development of modern civilisation those faculties have been stifled and forgotten in the activity imparted to others of a purely physical character; but now in all directions even Western civilised nations are fermenting with a revival of psychic activity. Much of this energy is blindly and ignorantly misdirected, but it is working in all its manifestations to break down the dogged materialistic incredulity that has been in a supreme degree the discreditable characteristic of the last half century. That incredulity has pervaded secular science, giving its avowed agnosticism an almost Atheistic bias, and has dried up the life-blood of religion, leaving the churches a structure of dry bones for all but enthusiasts, whose instincts of piety have adorned them with poetic rather than spiritual attributes. Rituals may be preserved, but the creeds on which they profess to rest are no longer in touch with methods of spiritual research which might invest their priestly guardians with authority to utter them. They are handed down now from generation to generation with a bigoted tenacity that is all the more querulous because it is conscious of its own inability to trace them back to their supposed sources in the invisible realms of Nature. A clergy rich in professions but poor in faith joins hands with scientific materialism to discountenance the theory that embodied human consciousness can have any touch with the spiritual world. A withered theology preserved like the petals of dried flowers may, it no doubt feels, do better service to a church with a complicated sociological structure to take care of, than a progressive and vitalised scheme of spiritual investigation.

Neither clerical interests nor materialism, however, can hold their own against the growing conviction that the human race is in possession of faculties capable of piercing the veil of matter. Once recognising this as a permanent fact in Nature, we are relieved from the necessity of trying to escape, by fantastic conjectures, from the plain evidence of contemporary writers that the Mysteries of Greece, and, a fortiori, those of Egypt, were associated with a psychic revelation for those who were initiated.

This point is well sustained by a Russian writer, Ouvaroff, whose treatise on the Eleusinian Mysteries has been translated into English by J. D. Price (1817).

The first edition of the original was published in 1812. In his preface the author says: —

"My object in this work is to show that not only were the ancient Mysteries the very life of polytheism, but still more that they proceeded from the sole and true source of all the light diffused over the globe."

He traces the Mysteries to an Indian origin, relying on the identity of the words = Conx, Om, Pax, used at the conclusion of the Mysteries of Eleusis, with the Sanscrit Cansha, Om, Pacsha, the first word signifying "object of desire," the second being the familiar sacred syllable of the East, and the third, Pacsha, identical with the Latin vix = change, course, or turn of duty.

After describing the division of the Mysteries into lesser and greater, he goes on: —

"We must again acknowledge the impossibility of determining with precision the notions which the Epopts (the initiates of the greater Mysteries) received; but that connexion which we have ascertained between the initiations and the true source of all our knowledge suffices to prove that they not only acquired from them just notions respecting the Divinity — the relations between man and the Divinity — the primitive dignity of human nature — its fall — the immortality of the soul — the means of its return towards God, and finally another order of things after death, but that traditions were imparted to them, oral and even written, precious remains of the great shipwreck of humanity."

He also contends with great force: —

"It is not in fact probable that the superior initiation was limited to the demonstration of the Unity of God and the immortality of the soul by philosophical arguments. Clement, of Alexandria, expressly says, when speaking of the great Mysteries, 'Here ends all instruction; we behold Nature and things.' Besides, moral notions were so widely diffused that the Mysteries could not, merely on account of them, lay claim to the magnificent eulogiums bestowed by the most enlightened personages of antiquity. For if we suppose that the revelation of those truths had been the only object of the Mysteries, would they not have ceased to exist from the moment when those truths were publicly taught? Would Pindar, Plato, Cicero, Epictetus have spoken of them with such admiration if the Hierophant had satisfied himself with loudly proclaiming his own opinions, or those of his order, on truths with which they were themselves acquainted?"

It is often urged by writers who would disparage the Mysteries that they were sometimes associated with licentious excesses. This objection has especial reference to the Orphic Mysteries, and on this subject Ouvaroff writes:

"We have already mentioned that the Mysteries of Bacchus bear a character altogether different from that of the Eleusinian. This opposition strikes us at once, and what conformity could in fact subsist between the savage licentiousness of the Bacchus worship and the severe character and high destination of the worship of Ceres? Yet after a serious examination we find that this opposition consists rather in the exterior than in the spirit of the two worships; nay, it entirely disappears when we raise ourselves to the parent idea, the true type of the two institutions. If we do not obstinately persuade ourselves that Ceres and Bacchus were historical personages — if we consider them as originally two symbols of some power of the universe, we behold them so identified that no other difference exists but in the exterior form, that is in the part depending wholly on men, on local circumstances, and the political destinies of nations. The worship of Ceres and the worship of Bacchus must belong to one principle alone, and this principle is found in the active force of Nature, viewed in the immense variety of its functions and its attributes."

A dignified treatise on the Mysteries, by W. M. Ramsay, is to be found in the ninth edition of the "Encyclopaedia Britannica." The author begins, it is true, by speaking with respect of Lobeck's great work, the "Aglaophamus" (1829), in which that author endeavours to destroy the theory that the Mysteries " enshrined a primitive revelation of divine truth," but he recognises the weakness of some of Lobeck's arguments, and especially points out that additional evidence has been accumulated since his time, "making it certain that statements which Lobeck set aside as not referring to the Eleusinian religion do really relate to it."

The article is to be regarded as representing the severely erudite view of the subject brought up to date, and it is in no way inspired with any appreciation of the psychic aspect of the Mysteries. But all the more on that account it may be useful as showing how much serious dignity and grandeur of thought is seen to be associated with them. Mr. Ramsay writes:

"The saving and healthy effect of the Eleusinian Mysteries was believed in not only by the mass of the people but by many of the most thoughtful and educated intellects — Pindar, Sophocles, Socrates, Plutarch, &c. Plato, who finds no language too strong to stigmatise the demoralising effect of the Orphic Mysteries, speaks of the Eleusinian with great respect. . . . He that has been initiated has learned what will ensure his happiness hereafter. . . . According to Sopater, initiation establishes a kinship of the soul with the divine Nature; and Theon Smyrnaeus says that the final stage of initiation is the state of bliss and Divine favour which results from it. . . There is overwhelming proof in ancient writers that the effect of the Mysteries was not dependent on any dogmatic instruction. Even the doctrine of a future life, which is always associated in the old writers with the Mysteries, was not expressly inculcated in them, but left to the spectators to gather for themselves from the spectacle presented to them."

The serious view of the Mysteries suggested by all these quotations brings them into line with what we now call Theosophic teaching, and with the help of that teaching we can fill up all gaps in the explanation. In the ancient world the priests were really qualified to impart religious teaching by reason of being themselves in true psychic relation with fountains of superior wisdom. But the state of evolution of the humanity around them made it impossible for them to proclaim their knowledge to the multitude. The spiritual civilisation of the people at large was not such as would have prepared them to accept and profit by the pure ethical severity of occult wisdom.

In saying that I brush the surface of a problem that might be dealt with more fully, but it is enough for the moment to indicate the motives for reserve which are easily intelligible as actuating the ancient custodians of spiritual science. By the operation of natural laws that are plainly referred to in many biblical passages not always apprehended correctly, knowledge concerning the possibilities of spiritual progress greatly augments responsibility. A human being who has never been enabled or compelled to realise that he has it in his own power, if he lives a sufficiently ennobled life, to rise in the scale of existence to conditions superior to that of the commonplace human life around him, does not incur great moral responsibility in leading a less noble life. If he does wrong, natural laws will entail suffering upon him, if not in the life in which he sins, then in another; if he does right, he will be rewarded sooner or later with happiness; and this will happen whether he understands the law or not. But if in any way he acquires spiritual knowledge and appreciates the scope of his opportunities as a human being and the law which renders certain lines of conduct favourable to, and certain other lines antagonistic to, his higher development, then if he follows the lower path while really seeing the higher, it is much worse for him than if he had never seen it. So the wise priests of old — in the days when priests were really wise and studied the mysteries of Nature instead of fantastic rituals — forebore from pouring out their knowledge too recklessly into vessels ill-qualified to contain it. Modern objectors often fail to understand the motive of their reticence, unfamiliar with the notion that religion can be a more powerful agency than we find it now. Our churches have forgotten all that religion once represented, except the glittering generalities that may lightly be scattered abroad because they tell so little. Those who believe may be the better, and those who do not, but may still assimilate some morsels of good precept, can hardly be the worse. The Masters of the Mysteries had a different kind of teaching to deal with. They had to put those who were qualified on the path of upward spiritual progress. It is the main purpose of this book to try and explain to what that progress may lead, but at all events if it is merely taken for granted that it may lead to something, then the otherwise unintelligible secrecy of the Mysteries will be seen to have had a comprehensible theory.

In Egypt — where most occult students will see reason to believe that the Mysteries meant more than in the Grecian reproduction — their secrets seem to have been even more closely kept. Sir Gardner, who has so patiently elaborated every scrap of evidence that could throw light on the manners and social and religious life of the early Egyptians, is very frank in avowing the great difficulty he experiences in working out any information bearing on the secrets of initiation. He bears his testimony, however, to the earnestness of the current feeling on the subject.

"The Chief cause of the ascendancy they (the priests) acquired over the minds of the people was the importance attached to the Mysteries, to a thorough understanding of which the priests alone could arrive, and so sacred did they hold those secrets that many members of the sacerdotal order were not admitted to a participation of them, and those alone were selected for initiation who had proved themselves virtuous and deserving of the honour — a fact satisfactorily proved by the evidence of Clement of Alexandria, who says: 'The Egyptians neither entrusted their secrets to everyone nor degraded the secrets of Divine matters by disclosing them to the profane, reserving them for the heir-apparent to the throne and for such of the priests as excelled in virtue and wisdom.'

"From all we can learn of the subject it appears that the Mysteries consisted of degrees denominated the Greater and the Less, and in order to become qualified for admission into the higher class it was necessary to have passed through those of the inferior degrees, and each of them was probably divided into ten different grades. It was necessary that the character of the candidate for initiation should be pure and unsullied; and the novitiates were commanded to study those lessons which tended to purify the mind and to encourage morality. The honour of ascending from the less to the greater Mysteries was as highly esteemed as it was difficult to obtain. No ordinary qualification recommended the aspirant to this important privilege; and independent of enjoying an acknowledged reputation for learning and morality, he was required to undergo the most severe ordeal and to show the greatest moral resignation; but the ceremony of passing under the knife of the Hierophant was merely emblematic of the regeneration of the neophyte.

That no one except the priests was privileged to instruction into the greater Mysteries is evident from the fact that a prince, even the heir-apparent and of the military order, not being made partaker of these important secrets nor instructed in them until his accession to the throne, when in virtue of his kingly office he became a member of the priesthood and the head of the religion. It is not, however, less certain that at a later period many besides the priests, and even some Greeks, were admitted into the lesser Mysteries; yet in these cases also their advancement through the different grades must have depended on a strict conformance to prescribed rules."

The law which prescribed reticence in respect to exalted spiritual science in ancient times was fortified in the Middle Ages by an entirely new consideration. As the exoteric Christian Church grew into a more and more powerful engine of secular tyranny, the teacher who might too rashly proclaim the higher wisdom embodied in the secrets of initiation ran the risk not only of unduly augmenting the moral responsibility of those who might listen to him, but of being burned himself at the stake. With this peril in their way, it is not surprising that the mediaeval occultists were careful in the extreme to veil any statements they ventured to make in the disguise of an almost inpenetrable symbolism. But again with the light of modern Theosophic teaching to show us the solution of their riddle, we may easily recognise the philosophy of the ancient Mysteries reappearing in that of the much-talked-of and much misunderstood fraternity of the Rosicrucians.
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Re: The Growth of the Soul, by Alfred Percy Sinnett

Postby admin » Tue May 08, 2018 8:30 pm

CHAPTER 13: THE THEOSOPHY OF THE MIDDLE AGES.

The Alchemical disguise — The spiritual purpose of Alchemy — The motives with which the real Alchemists wrote — Their sordid imitators — The real Alchemists aspirants for Adeptship — The powers they incidentally acquired — Their chemical symbology — Its Hermetic origin — Illustrations from Alchemical writers.

Students of esoteric wisdom are familiar with the assertion that the principles of spiritual evolution, which it is their chief purpose to penetrate and comprehend, have been recognised by the illuminated mystics of all countries in all ages of the world. The great science which these principles constitute has not been the invention of modern Theosophists; nor has it been the peculiar inheritance of any small body of Adepts, jealously kept back from the wider circle of philosophers at large. The manner in which a sudden outburst of information relating to the natural laws embraced by occult science seems to have been thrown forward into modern thought within the last few years, is calculated to suggest that idea at first, but the more we come to understand occult teachings, the more we are able to discern them cropping out at the surface of earlier philosophical and religious literature, disguised in one kind of symbolism or another, but evidently the same knowledge as regards the root ideas and the inner significance of the words in which they are expressed.

A good deal has already been written — though still probably a good deal more might be written with advantage — to show the identity of gnostic Christianity with all points of esoteric science on which that presentation of the truth laid stress. And the manner in which the conceptions of gnostic Christianity were obscured by the harsher and narrower dogmas which it became the interest of state churches to endorse, is in itself an interesting study, throwing much light on the processes of degradation to which popular religious beliefs are subject. But in proportion as Christian esotericism became obscured by the development of the power of the Church in the Middle Ages, and perhaps because of that process of obscuration, the essential doctrines, which no persecution could shut out from the appreciation of enlightened minds, sought other channels of expression. In these they altogether withdrew themselves from popular observation. The genuine philosophy of religion separating itself entirely from the debased caricature assumed a disguise which was really impenetrable by all but the initiated few, — which the Church itself was no less incapable of seeing through than the ignorant laity. This disguise was the much misunderstood research, science, or theory known as Alchemy, of which some of the Rosicrucian writers were leading exponents. Ignorantly derided to this day by a materialistic generation, that persists in falling again and again into the mistake of reading symbolical expositions of interior truth in their mere literal sense, alchemy was, nevertheless, the cryptographic expression of a profound spiritual wisdom.

This view of the subject is not a conjectural theory developed to suit any assumed necessity of finding esoteric teaching somewhere in the literature of the Middle Ages, but one which is as certainly the correct view as the interpretation of an ordinary cryptogram is certainly the correct one when it makes sense. For example, if we see an apparently meaningless assemblage of groups of letters in one of the mysterious advertisements, by means of which some people, who find that system amusing, correspond with one another, and if we find that by reading b for a all through, and c for b, and so on, the message translates itself into straightforward English, we know with entire certainty that the original framer of the cryptogram had that intention in his mind. So with the seemingly nonsensical symbology of alchemy, when you try the right key in the attempt to unlock its meaning, it all resolves itself into perfectly coherent sense. We have now got the right key in the shape of that plain information given to the world at large of recent years in Theosophical teachings. The mist clears away from the otherwise hopelessly obscure verbiage of the alchemical books, as we read them with minds attuned to esoteric thinking and on the watch for meanings relating not to the physical transmutation of lead or antimony into gold, but to the process of cultivating the growth of the Higher Self, by the exaltation of the lower, which is occult progress. The transmutation, in fact, of the normal physical consciousness of man into the divine consciousness was the magnum opus on which the true alchemists were engaged, and much that is grotesque imbecility in the directions and recipes they have left behind, if we read it simply as nineteenth-century chemists, becomes beautiful spiritual philosophy in strictest harmony with the laws governing human spiritual evolution, when we put a symbolical construction on the quaintly expressed formulae relating to coctions and distillations and the mercury of the wise and fiery waters and ferments.

It will be easy to take from alchemical books a sufficient number of extracts to show that the writers evidently had a spiritual meaning in their minds as they wrote; it will be equally simple to indicate lines of reading which will enable anybody who likes to take the trouble to arrive at a thorough and exhaustive certainty on the subject, that will never again be disturbed by the silly sneers at alchemy so often met with in the pseudo-scientific literature of nineteenth-century conceit. But before going on to make and elucidate a few quotations that may open up and define the proper method of the investigation it will be well to show in broad outline the indirect consequences of the discovery we are dealing with.

That which has been said so far is the main truth concerning alchemy. The real alchemists were spiritual philosophers concerned with the all-important task of developing the Divine possibilities of their latent human nature. They were students of true religion in the highest sense of the term — men whose intelligence had emancipated them from the more or less fantastic creeds of the exoteric Church, but who sought to go behind the blunders of a self-seeking, worldly-minded priesthood, and associate themselves with the will of God, in the best sense of that expression: that is to say, to identify themselves with the purpose of Nature, with the law of spiritual evolution, with the principle of good in the universe. When the priests and officers of what was blasphemously proclaimed as religion were chiefly concerned with murdering, robbing, and torturing all who stood in the way of their profitable tyranny over popular belief, the alchemists were endeavouring to learn how by self-denial and purity of life, and loftiness of unworldly purpose, it might be possible to elevate that human nature, which for the most part wallowed around them in such ignoble debasement, and were struggling in their own way, which hardly seems to have differed in any essential characteristics from our way, to get upon what we call the path of occult progress, leading on to the goal — or perhaps only the intermediate goal — or Adeptship. But why, it may be asked, did they write books at all if the unfavourable conditions among which they lived were such as to make it impossible for them to write in a way any one less wise than themselves would understand? If they had taught their doctrine of salvation plainly they, and their books with them, would instantly have been burned by the authority of the Church. Was it worth while, then, to teach these doctrines in language that could not reach the intelligence of any one requiring the lesson? " The apparent reply to this question is twofold. First, they who knew what they meant, seem to have imagined that their meaning would become intelligible to persons spiritually ripe for profiting by occult teaching. Whether this expectation was often or ever realised we cannot now be sure. But secondly, it would be easy to see why the true alchemists should write, even if they did not expect to be understood by any one in need of teaching. They may have written to introduce themselves to one another. Anybody who could write a book about alchemy, about the manipulation of lead, sulphur, and mercury, the red and white powder of projection, and so on with all the "gibberish" that would be used about crucibles and sublimations, about coagulating the fugitive tinctures, and so on, and who could at the same time weave into this the esoteric doctrine concerning the path of occult progress, which we in this day are privileged to discuss openly, would be recognised as a genuine occultist by any other occultist who might take up his treatise.

Bearing all this in mind, however, we must remember that besides the genuine occultists who wrote on spiritual progress under cover of alchemical symbology, a great host of sordid hunters for gold, altogether failing to understand the loftier purpose of real alchemy, took up the research in the hope of acquiring riches, and of actually manufacturing the precious metal. The real alchemists were constantly giving out warnings against this mistake in language as plain as it could be made compatibly with not betraying their secret in unequivocal terms, but none the less was the avaricious world always fermenting with the notion that alchemical processes might be a short and easy road to wealth. In this way a great many persons, entirely outside the range of the description already given of the real alchemists all through the Middle Ages, spent time and money on trying experiments with physical mercury, salt, and sulphur, and all the chemical drugs and preparations they could get knowledge of, with the manufacture of tangible gold as their object and disappointment their only harvest. Some of these may have written some of the innumerable alchemical treatises which exist, recording the experiments they may have carried out, and setting forth their own conjectures as to the reason why such experiments may have failed; and such deluded and disappointed searchers after the philosopher's stone may here and there have stumbled on bits of chemical discovery so far vindicating the profoundly stupid view of alchemy at large, common to modern encyclopedias and conventional belief. This idea, of course, is that from A to Z all the alchemists were self-deluded gold hunters who failed to accomplish their object, ex necessitate rei, but in their futile struggles after it, laid the foundations of modern chemistry. They really did immeasurably less in that direction than they have been credited with; but the modern commentators who are foolish enough to suppose that a long procession of learned men, whose writings abundantly prove them in many cases, — alchemy apart, — to have been broad-minded, philosophical, and intelligent, were all the victims of an empty, avaricious dream, afford in themselves the saddest spectacle of self-delusion that the history of alchemy brings to light. Before we come to closer quarters with the alchemical books themselves one more general conclusion on the subject may conveniently be set forth. Leaving out of account the host of alchemical chemists — the deluded experimentalists who sought the philosopher's stone on the physical plane in order to get precious metal by its means and grow rich — and concentrating our attention entirely on the real alchemical philosophers who were on the path of spiritual progress and concerned with far higher objects than the transitory experiences of this life can afford, we have to consider by the light of what we now know concerning occult mysteries what would naturally have been, for the real alchemist, the consequence of discovering the real philosopher's stone, the secret that is to say of real spiritual attainment. Remember that while esoteric progress rests, as on a primary foundation, on the ethical principles which are taught, though often sadly mis-taught, by exoteric religions also, it contemplates a very much larger result than the attainment of an unintelligent spiritual beatitude. Exoteric religion says in effect, be good and devout on earth, then you will be taken to Heaven and be happy evermore. Esoteric teaching says, be good and devout to begin with, to put yourself in tune with the higher planes of Nature, and then aim at the expansion of your knowledge faculties and states of consciousness in accordance with the latent possibilities of the Divine principle within you. The world contains a kingdom of beings, so to speak, above the human kingdom, into which men may rise if they set to work to climb in the right way. Now the real alchemists were aspirants for "Adeptship," as we should express the idea in modern Theosophic language, and it is quite obvious in various ways to the student of occultism, that some of them attained that condition of being. But if any of them were Adepts, then such persons would, by the assumption, have acquired powers over the obscurer laws of Nature, and knowledge concerning the forces lying beyond the physical plane, which would amongst other results have invested them with the power of influencing matter in a way that is entirely beyond the capacity of the physical-plane chemist. Occult phenomena have taken place of recent years, within the knowledge not merely of some Theosophical students, but also in great abundance in presence of spiritualistic wonder seekers. Many of these are not less bewilderingly unintelligible than the transmutation of one metal into another would be. Apart from all questions of evidence, therefore, any occult student would recognise that the transmutation of one metal into another would be most likely well within the range of the occult phenomena, that anyone who could at all be called an Adept, would be able to produce.

This reflection leads us up to the correct appreciation of one surprising discovery to which anybody who takes the trouble will be led by the study of alchemical literature. The evidence to show that certain of the alchemists really did accomplish the much-talked-of physical experiment and turn out metallic tangible gold, that could be coined into money in considerable quantities, is simply overwhelming. Modern obstinacy and prejudice in dealing with the subject of alchemy ignores this evidence, and all branches of the history of the alchemists which tell unfavourably on its own pig-headed and self-sufficient view, but with as much confidence as we can speak of any historical transaction, we may say that Nicholas Flammel and Raymond Lully among others actually accomplished the physical transmutation.

Were they, it may be asked, as a consequence of their extraordinary power, people of great wealth and magnificent living? Not at all. Flammel certainly gave away enormous sums for the building and endowment of churches, and Lully supplied Edward II. with great quantities of gold to be spent on the Crusades; but it invariably appears that the Adept who could make gold, has been himself far too spiritualised a philosopher to live a mundane life of luxury or profusion. That ought to be readily comprehended, and the objection that alleged real alchemists sometimes lived in obscurity and apparent poverty, as an objection to the theory of their power, is no less vulgar-minded and gross than it is unintelligent. Moreover the alchemists, whether real Adepts or fraudulent pretenders, were subject to very embarrassing treatment by the generations among which they lived — always liable to be imprisoned and tortured to extort confessions of their secret. One of the true philosophers of alchemy, Alexander Sethon, author of a remarkable treatise called " An Open Entrance to the Closed Palace of the King," writes: " As if driven by the furies, I am compelled to fly from place to place and from kingdom to kingdom. . . . And thus though I possess all things I have no rest or enjoyment of any except in the truth which is my whole satisfaction. ... I am constrained even from the works of mercy, for fear of suspicion and arrest. I have experienced this in foreign countries where, having ventured to administer the medicine to sufferers given over by physicians, the instant the cures became known, a report was spread about the elixir, and I have been obliged to disguise myself, shave my head and change my name, to avoid falling into the hands of wicked persons, who would try to wrest the secret from me in the hopes of making gold." The history of the persecution of the alchemists, in spite of the precautions they took to avoid confronting the hostility of the Church, would take long to tell; but for the moment I am concerned with sketching the whole position in its general bearings, and will presently refer the reader to books in which the broad statements here put forward can be followed out in their details.

The common herd of materialistic critics have supposed that if the alchemists had been really successful, their secret would have been extorted from them, considering the treatment many of them received, and the modern tendency of thought has always been to disbelieve in the existence of any secret that is not disclosed. But already our partial familiarity with the conditions of occult knowledge gives us the clue to the mystery. When the first step to be taken towards acquiring the power to transmute lead into gold, was to transmute one's human into a semi-divine nature, it was obvious that the mere avaricious gold-seeker would be unable to take it, — unable probably to understand the idea, or to look upon such an explanation as other than a device for baulking his curiosity. A comprehension, in short, of the elementary principles of occult science at once illuminates all the otherwise insoluble riddles of the alchemical problem.

But why was the dangerous system of symbology, which concerned itself with gold and silver, adopted by the alchemists at all, if they were really spiritual philosophers? Was not this directly calculated to stir up the greedy passions of ordinary people and confront them with perils as serious, in another way, as those of the Inquisition which they sought to evade? The answer is, that they did not invent, but found the system of symbology in use from a period of antiquity long preceding the era of Roman Christianity and its persecuting priests. The alchemical version of spiritual philosophy dates back to the period of Hermes Trimesgistus, by some authors considered a fabulous personage, by some an Adept king of Egypt, who lived nearly 2,000 years before the Christian era. At all events the writings assigned to him are of great antiquity, and constitute the fountain-head of that Hermetic philosophy which in the Middle Ages becomes almost entirely merged in its alchemical developments, but which in very recent years, since the Theosophical movement has been in progress, has presented especial attractions to some inquiring minds as constituting a relatively Western stream of occult wisdom. And at all events, until very recent years, the Hermetic mystery summed up occult wisdom for all European inquirers, and its methods, its systems of exposition, were the only methods and systems available for them.

Further than this we have always to keep in view the fact that the alchemical symbology must have been especially attractive to many of the mediaeval students, because they were aware of its double significance. In the literal sense it referred to the possibility of an occult phenomenon, profoundly interesting, of course, to every student of Nature's obscurer mysteries, all the while that it equally described the sublime spiritual change from the lower human to the higher human or divine nature.

I pass on now to make some quotations from alchemical writings in support of the first position here taken up, that the alchemical philosophers had a transcendental purpose in view. Many of them, indeed, express this so plainly, that it is difficult to understand how their main purpose could have been misconstrued.

In "A New Light of Alchemy," ascribed to Michael Sendivogius, the author in his preface speaks of the many "adulterated books and false receipts" put forward by impostors, and of the "idle and ill-employed fellows who pretend that the soul may be extracted out of gold." Then he goes on:

"Yet let the sons of Hermes know for certain that such a kind of extraction of soul by what vulgar way of alchemy soever is but a mere fancy. On the contrary he which in a philosophical way can without any fraud and colourable deceit make it that it shall really tinge the basest metal with the colour of gold. . . I can justly aver hath the gates of Nature open to him for the inquiring into further and higher secrets, and with the blessing of God to obtain them. . . I would have the courteous reader be here admonished that he understand my writings not so much from the outside of my words as from the possibility of Nature lest afterwards he bewail his time, pains, and costs all spent in vain. Let him consider that his art is for the wise, not for the ignorant, and that the sense or meaning of philosophers is of another nature than to be understood by vapouring letter-learned scoffers. . . . For it is the gift of God, and truly it is not to be attained to but by the alone favour of God enlightening the understanding, together with a patient and devout humility, or by an ocular demonstration from some experienced master — wherefore God justly thrusts them far from his secrets that are strangers to him."

From the text of the book I will take one easily interpreted passage in which the alchemical symbology is employed.

"Sulphur " — clearly employed here to symbolise the conscience of Man — " is not the last among the principles because it is a part of the metal " — Man himself — " yea, and the principal part of the philosopher's stone, and many wise men have left in writing divers and very true things of sulphur. Yea, Geber himself in his first book of the highest perfection saith: 'Through the most high God it illuminates every body, because it is light from light and tincture.'"

It should be explained that directly we begin to read the alchemists we discover that they have no invariable and recognised code by which we can always recognise the same idea under the same symbol. The spirit of God manifesting as conscience in Man is sometimes spoken of as sulphur, sometimes as mercury. The normal unregenerate Man — the subject of the art and the object of the transmutation — is sometimes spoken of as lead, sometimes as antimony, or even by other of the baser metals, and with an anxious desire to guard all who were capable of appreciating an esoteric meaning the alchemists constantly warn their readers that "our" mercury and "our" sulphur are not the common mercury and sulphur. Then, again, the subject of the transmutation is sometimes written of as "Saturn," and astrological terms are employed to designate some of the other ideas handled — Sol, Luna, and Venus. Each writer is a law unto himself in such matters.

Sometimes, moreover, without any formal announcement that would be intelligible to the "ignorant" reader, the alchemists drop their symbols altogether, and as though making incidental remarks concerning the nature of the "artist" or seeker after the stone, discuss some of their deepest mysteries in plain language only guarded from the comprehension of the unworthy by not seeming to refer to their subject at all. Thus, in the "New Light of Alchemy," we read:

"Let, therefore, the searcher of this sacred science know that the soul in a man, the lesser world or microcosm substituting the place of its centre, is the king and is placed in the vital spirit in the purest blood. That governs the mind, and the mind the body. . . . Now the soul, by which man differs from other animals, operates in the body, but it hath a greater operation out of the body. ... So also God, the Maker of all things, works in this world those things which are necessary for the world, and in these he is included in the world, whence we believe that God is everywhere. But he is excluded from the body of the world by his infinite wisdom, by which he works out of the world and imagines much higher things. . . . The soul imagines, but executes not but in the mind, but God doth effect all things the same moment when he imagines them. . . . God, therefore, is not included in the world, but as the soul in the body. He hath his absolute power separated from the world. So also the soul of any body hath its absolute power separated from the body."

The writer of this passage evidently knew a good deal about the higher psychic phenomena now engaging the attention of the most advanced modern occultists. And his view of creation— of the material world as a manifestation of spirit on the physical plane — is on a level with the most profound Theosophical conceptions. It is amusing to contrast such philosophical ideas with the gross caricatures thereof presented to the world as religion by the churches of that day, and to reflect upon the fact that to this day almost all representatives of modern culture, except those illuminated by occult teaching, would treat the theologian, even of the Middle Ages, with comparative respect, and the alchemist as a crazy fool, floundering in the silliest superstition. Nothing tends more forcibly than an appreciative study of the alchemists to make us also appreciate at its true worth the blind conceit that has passed current for intelligence in the latter half of this expiring century.

I will now take an example of more obscure alchemical writing from Thomas Vaughan's "Aula Lucis." Vaughan wrote generally under the name Eugenius Philalethes in the middle of the seventeenth century. Some writers, he says, at the outset have rather buried the truth than dressed it. He proposes to observe a mean way, neither too obscure nor too open, but modern readers will probably conceive that he was principally careful not to be too open. Of the philosopher's stone — the Divine spirit required to transmute the lower nature of man, he says, "It is a subtile mineral moisture, a water so extremely thin and spiritual, with such a transcendent incredible brightness there is not in" all Nature any liquor like it, but itself. . . . I say they called it a stone to the end that no man might know what it was they called so." Of the "first matter" which he says may be described by contraries without inconvenience — very weak and yet most strong, fire that burns not, water that wets not, and so on — he proceeds to discourse at length, calling it mercury, the laughter of fools and the wonder of the wise. This is here evidently intended to represent the conscience; spiritual aspiration in the incarnate man; the first influence of the Higher Self in the physical consciousness. Then varying the metaphor he calls the subject of which he is discoursing "our sealed fountain." "In the bottom of this well lies an old dragon stretched along and fast asleep. Awake her if you can and make her drink, for by this means she will recover her youth and be serviceable to you for ever. In a word separate the eagle from the green lyon, then clip her wings and you have performed a miracle. . . . The eagle is the water, for it is volatile and flies up in the clouds as an eagle doth; but I speak not of any common water whatsoever. The green lion is the body or magical earth with which you must clip the wings of the eagle, that is to say, you must fix her so that she may fly no more." Most assuredly the constantly wavering and fluctuating allegories of the alchemists do not lend themselves readily to any direct translation into plain language, but it is none the less obvious that Vaughan is speaking here of the higher psychic faculties which may be taught to acquire consciousness on some superior spiritual plane of Nature, while still keeping up their relations with the bodily consciousness.

In a very fantastic treatise of the eighteenth century, called "The Hermetical Triumph," the usual warning is given very emphatically in the course of a dialogue between "Gold" and "The Stone." Gold is persistently maintaining the materialistic view of the science, and The Stone is continually reiterating such ideas as these: —

"But when they — the true philosophers — plainly name gold and mercury as the principles of their art. they only make use of these terms thereby to hide the knowledge from the ignorant, and from those who are unworthy, for they very well know that such vulgar wits mind only the names of things, the receipts, and the processes which they find written, without examining whether there be any solid foundation in what they put into practice. But the wise men consider all things with prudence, examine how consonant and how agreeing one thing is with another, and by these means they penetrate into the foundation of the art."

The extracts given so far I have selected myself from the various books referred to; but similar quotations in greater volume might be taken at second hand from either of two books of more recent date which are directed to an exposition of the true meaning and mystery of the Hermetic or alchemical art. To these books I would now refer all who are desirous of pursuing the subject further, and of obtaining a complete grasp of the principles I have roughly laid down. The first and most important is of great rarity, and has, I believe, been as far as possible withdrawn from circulation by the author, under the impression that its explanation sinned too much against the rule, "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine." The full title of this work is "A Suggestive Inquiry into the Hermetic Mystery; with a Dissertation on the more celebrated of the Alchemical Philosophers, being an attempt towards the recovery of the ancient experiment of Nature." The treatise was published anonymously in 1850. It contains a very interesting mass of testimony concerning the cases in which some of the true alchemists — those who by their own spiritual growth had first become adepts in the manipulation of the hidden forces of Nature — have actually accomplished the physical experiment of alchemy, so vainly attacked by all those who were not adepts; and it also goes at great length into the more esoteric view of the subject, furnishing, in connexion with a very extensive review of alchemical literature, abundant quotations bearing out the spiritual significance of the whole allegory.

Amongst other extracts it supplies us with a translation of the Tractatus Aureus, or golden treatise of Hermes, concerning the physical secret of the Philosopher's Stone, which it says " has been considered to be one of the most ancient and complete pieces of alchemical writing extant," and " an exposition in epitome of the whole art."

This is not what would be considered in the present day a luminous treatise. As for example, we read: —

"Know, then, that the division that was made upon the water by the ancient philosophers separates it into four substances: one into two and three into one, the third part of which is colour, as it were, a coagulated moisture; but the second and third waters are the weights of the Wise."

Still, however, even in the Tractatus Aureus we come constantly upon the usual warnings that we know how to interpret. Thus: —

"Know that this matter I call the stone; but it is also named the feminine of magnesia, or the hen, or the volatile milk, or the incombustible oil, in order that it may be hidden from the inept and the ignorant."

Again: —

"Ye sons of Wisdom, burn then the Brazen Body with an exceeding great fire, and it will yield gratefully what you desire. And see that you make that which is volatile so that it cannot fly, and by means of that which flies not."

Here we have merely another version of Vaughan's Green Lion and Eagle — a veiled reference to the possibilities connected with the cultivation of the higher psychic faculties.

Apparently without having come across the Suggestive Inquiry, an American writer, named Hitchcock, published a little book in 1857 — an amplification of a small pamphlet on the same subject, written two years previously, called "Remarks upon Alchemy and the Alchemists." The remainder of a somewhat old-fashioned title-page foreshadows the convictions which the author proceeds to set forth. He describes his book as " Indicating a method of discovering the true nature of Hermetic Philosophy, and showing that the search after the Philosopher's Stone had not for its object the discovery of an agent for the transmutation of metals. Being also an attempt to rescue from undeserved opprobrium the reputation of a class of extraordinary thinkers in past ages." At the outset of the book itself he says the object of his original pamphlet was to throw out an idea with which he had become strongly impressed, that the Philosopher's Stone was a mere symbol, and that the alchemists were not in pursuit of gold but wisdom, carefully and conscientiously leaving the latter word" undefined. This pamphlet having been violently and stupidly attacked in the Westminster Review, in 1856 the author came forward with a renewed justification of his argument, and this expanded into the book now before us. "I affirm," he says, " that the whole subject of Alchemy is Man. But each writer for the most part designates him by a word of his own choosing, hence one writes of antimony, another of lead, another of zinc, another of arsenip." And he quotes one of the alchemical writers as saying, " The work while yet crude is called our water permanent, our lead, our Saturn, our Jupiter; when better decocted, then it is argent, then magnesia and white sulphur; when it is red it is called auri-pigment coral, gold, ferment, or stone, a lucid water of celestial colour."

Mr. Hitchcock's pursuit of these intricate metaphors through the mazy wanderings of the two hundred separate alchemical books which he tells us he has accumulated, is very interesting and instructive. And I cannot understand how any reader of any reflective intelligence can follow him to the end and fail to be convinced that he is on the right track of interpretation. Mr. Hitchcock has not been occultist enough to divine all that resides in the alchemical philosophy, but although the Theosophist of the present generation, if he has taken advantage of all the opportunities held out to him, is in a position to see much more in alchemy than even Mr. Hitchcock saw, the admirable book he has produced will at least serve to open up the subject for those who may be sufficiently interested by what has been said here to feel inclined to venture further into an area of research which, to express myself in a paradoxical phrase congenial with the spirit of the authors I have been quoting, is at once forbidding and seductive. Alchemy, Mr. Hitchcock concedes, may have passed away, as his opponent had been arguing, never to return. "This may be so; but the questions about which the alchemists employed themselves have not passed away, and never shall pass away while man wanders upon the surface of the earth. They are the most interesting questions which the heart can propose, and although they begin in man, the answer must compass both the microcosm and the macrocosm."
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Re: The Growth of the Soul, by Alfred Percy Sinnett

Postby admin » Tue May 08, 2018 8:30 pm

CHAPTER 14: INITIATION IN THE PRESENT DAY.

The avenues of initiation still open — Visible temples not necessary — Old secrecy broken down — Motives for a more open policy — Dangers of progress in knowledge unaccompanied by spiritual growth — Those who are ready — Understanding required as well as moral fitness —Mental powers and psychic gifts — The conservation of energy on the moral plane — Normal and abnormal Re-incarnation — Immediate Re-incarnation — Its sacrifices and advantages.

It will be obvious on reflection, if we correctly interpret the meaning of ancient Egyptian initiation, and graft that in a reasonable manner upon the general view of natural evolution which the esoteric teaching gives us, that the opportunities of ancient initiation must be with us still. Still with us in a certain sense, moreover, are those of our predecessors who, at an earlier stage of the world's progress, passed beyond the action of the laws governing the periodic incarnations of ordinary humanity. They will have attained a higher condition of being in which life for one thing is very much more persistent, and their power of functioning on the higher planes of Nature even more persistent than that. But they are none the less within our reach at this day, certainly not amongst the crowds of busy modern cities, but in secluded retreats where the physical instruments they now employ to keep up their relations with this phase of being are beyond the reach of that magnetic pestilence which emanates from the more densely peopled portions of the earth, and would render them incapable of exercising the higher spiritual functions to which their progress in Nature has now appointed them. Of course, such beings are under conditions of existence so widely unlike those of ordinary humanity that it would be almost better to describe them as great spirits maintaining a physical body on earth for use in occasional emergencies, than as physical men who have a peculiar power of rising into spiritual conditions of nature; and of course in the long interval that has elapsed since the ancient initiations of the Egyptian period many new recruits, besides those who entered on the path in that remote period, have joined the stream of the higher evolution. Nor have the opportunities of initiation been extinguished merely because after their last public flicker in Greece the world at large has lost sight of them. Gradually, no doubt, their character has changed in some important respects in accordance with the cyclic necessities of the time which left the race to concern itself chiefly with the advancement of physical knowledge, even at the expense, for the generations so engaged, of a temporary forgetfulness concerning higher things. But there has never been a time in the world's history during which the channels of initiation have been altogether blocked, and for those whose spiritual ardour has itself, in the first instance, developed as a Karmic consequence in successive lives, those higher faculties of vision and consciousness which are now spoken of as psychic, there has always been a possibility of access to the higher knowledge along the lines of those very faculties. It has ceased to be necessary that, in order to enter the path of occult progress, a man should present himself at some specific temple and become the acolyte of a Hierophant visible to all his fellows. There has been for him an inner temple to which his own psychic faculties, on the hypothesis we are dealing with, have given him access. And in this way the body of initiated Adepts has constantly been reinforced, although probably there has never been a time in the history of the present race at which this mere numerical strength would have been less than it is now. The cycle of great activity in the department of physical knowledge, the scientific era par excellence — assigning the word "science" to the limited meaning it has latterly enjoyed with ourselves — is necessarily a period of relative spiritual stagnation. The two phases of progress are by no means antagonistic to one another in reality; the highest scientific attainments may be, and in the end, before they reach their perfect efflorescence, must be united with great spiritual development also; but taken as a whole the forces of natural evolution press with greater intensity at one time than at another in the direction of physical knowledge, just as at other periods this impulse may be in abeyance, and spiritual aspiration be a more powerful incentive.

Now finally we reach the all-important fact that at the present moment as much as ever, although less than ever now by old world methods, the possibilities of attaining higher spiritual perfection in the sense in which we have been employing the phrase, chiefly as connoting knowledge, power, and voluntary advancement, are open to all those who have the necessary qualifications, and the all-important intensity of desire. Initiation in the higher mysteries which have to do with that region of natural law in reference to which all the little manifestations of abnormal wonder which attract attention at the present day in the departments of mesmerism, clairvoyance, thought-transference, and spiritualism, are but as the spray from a wave — those regions are still accessible to modern aspirants who strive to attain them in the right way.

In one sense I may say that they are more attainable than ever, because it has come to pass that the great authorities who direct the conditions of all such progress are fully alive to the necessity of making the whole situation more intelligible to the masses of mankind than they have been for the last dozen clouded centuries. A very great advance has been made without being so far in the least degree understood in this aspect by ordinary physical science in the direction of what may be called psychic mystery. Left to itself without any healthy guidance or encouragement, that progress may be quite likely to turn into channels in which it would be eminently injurious to the permanent welfare of the race. As I have indicated more than once, true occult progress is a dual achievement involving at the same time a development of a very exalted morality pari passu with the acquisition of a correspondingly penetrating knowledge. Nothing less than the two achievements would accomplish the evolution of the human being as we know him now into that higher kingdom of Nature, which, as compared with the human kingdom, may be spoken of as divine, and nothing short of such evolution brings with it a really complete development of the power and capacities for knowledge latent in mankind. But something very short of that may invest humanity with powers transcending those familiar to the physical senses. Just as the rain of heaven falls on the just and the unjust, so in a certain sense and in a certain degree, knowledge is obtainable by the evil-minded as well as by the good; and very disastrous results both to themselves and to others are bound to ensue from its acquisition by people who are not adequately alive to the loftiness of the responsibilities which its possession entails. In this way, to put the matter roughly, the me*e pursuit of knowledge along the paths of purely physical study may, by the time it is carried some distance beyond that as yet reached by the physical science of the nineteenth century, super-induce the condition of things in which the possessors of such knowledge would be what the mediaeval world called Black Magicians. The name we give does not matter, but at all events the fact is that knowledge concerning the deeper mysteries of Nature which have to do with spiritual and psychic forces may theoretically be attained by persons altogether without the exalted motives which govern those who attain it by what occultists call the right-hand path, and therefore a time comes in the progress of science when from all points of view the old policy of extreme reserve in regard to the mysteries with which initiation is concerned, becomes impossible of further maintenance. That is the state of things now coming on. For a long time it seemed best for the human race that during ages of very imperfect human development the tremendous forces which occult knowledge places within the reach of man should be kept back from him altogether. Now his advancing intelligence has enabled him to grasp some conception of what those forces are, even without the help of initiated teaching. It becomes the policy, therefore, of those who represent this teaching in the present age of the world to anticipate, if possible, this unhealthy development of psychic discovery, and guide it beforehand into channels prepared for its reception by the theoretical development of spiritual science, in such a way as shall enable the races at large to comprehend the lofty purposes for which Nature holds this superior wisdom in reserve. To acquire knowledge concerning the forces operative on the higher planes of Nature, and then to apply this knowledge to the pursuit of merely selfish and transitory objects of mundane desire, is to degrade and insult the highest attributes of our humanity. The legitimate and progressive method in which that humanity can be expanded involves the subordination of the physical life and its conditions to the service of higher spiritual objects. If the forces and powers having to do with higher spiritual phases of existence are, by reversing the natural current, directed to the service of ends having to do with the gratifications of temporary physical life, that reversal of Natures design constitutes a blasphemy against her highest intentions, which is not only evil and wrong, as minor sins altogether lying on the physical plane may be, but is in reality that supreme species of wickedness which early theological writers, little foreseeing the extent to which their words would be misunderstood, have called a sin against the Holy Ghost.

We may thus realise now the circumstances under which the methods and system of initiation, that have for so many centuries been concealed from popular observation, are now once more slowly and by degrees becoming known to a generation which, at the first blush, may seem to be curiously little ready for such teaching. Curiously little ready for a long time to come most certainly the majority of this and many succeeding generations will continue to be; but, at the same time, it has never been the expectation of those directing the course of initiation, whether in the ancient world or now, that people of the ordinary type will flock to them and become candidates for their guidance in any very large numbers. If those in whom the spirit of ardent enthusiasm for spiritual knowledge and experience is already strong enough to bear down their eagerness for the pleasures or pursuits of ordinary life, are alone their regular pupils, that is all that can be expected or desired; but unless the possibilities of the situation are generally known, even the few who are inspired in the way just described will waste their ardour and readiness for self-sacrifice in empty dreaming or futile endeavour, and the great purpose of Nature will not be advanced at all. That great purpose, let us always remember, as earlier chapters of this book have already, shown, has to do not merely with the perpetuation of the human race, but with its exaltation into the higher conditions of being. From one point of view the innumerable differentiated units of consciousness which we call men and women are cast by nature in enormous abundance on the surface of the earth, as so much seed from which spiritual beings of an immeasurably more important and dignified character may ultimately be grown. But while in dealing with its lower organic manifestations Nature is extraordinarily profuse in providing germs, the human germ is one of a very different order from an acorn. The unused acorn may resolve itself into its original elements without suffering by reason of not becoming an oak. Nothing is wasted in this case but, so to speak, the trouble of Nature in producing the acorn. But in the human being, however truly that human being may be regarded in his or her highest aspect as the germ of something immeasurably higher, there is, nevertheless, already the focus of divine consciousness which must continue through an immeasurable futurity a vibrating nucleus of suffering or enjoyment, and whether it unites itself consciously with the highest design of Nature so as to work that out, or not, its destinies differ very widely in character from those of the vegetable seed which disintegrates and is done with if its loftiest purpose remains unfulfilled. It has been already shown that the fulfilment by any given human being of the loftiest purposes of his existence can only be accomplished by the conscious union of his will and intention with the powers and forces of Nature operating through him, and it is thus the simple truth of the matter, that having attained that rank in existence identified with the present stage of the earth's progress, his further advancement in the whole scheme of existence, which embraces so much more than what is sometimes called the scheme of creation, depends on his acquisition of correct knowledge concerning the nature of the efforts he has to make to bring his will into the harmony spoken of; in other words, it depends on his attainment, sooner or later, of that initiation with which we are now concerned. This view of the matter, as apparently placing the destinies of man in the hands of other men, however far these other men may be advanced in knowledge and spiritual power, may seem at the first glance repugnant to the understanding of people who have been trained but too constantly in the belief that the wisest course to pursue concerning the future life is to regulate conduct in this with a reasonable regard to right and wrong, and for the rest, trust blindly in the gracious mercy of God. If the explanation just given, however, be analysed with reasonable intelligence, it will be seen to offend in no way against such trust, but on the contrary to bring the conclusions of experience in every department of life of which we have any knowledge to bear upon the great problem, as they are necessarily brought to bear on all of minor degree. No man who wants a crab apple tree to produce good fruit, sits down in apathetic contentment, with a pious platitude concerning the goodness of that power which rules the processes of vegetation as undeniably as those of human evolution. He knows that the powers of nature will work with him if he adapts his measures to their design. He learns all that he can learn of that design and of its requirements from other men who have studied the subject before him, and then applies his knowledge to the case with which he himself has to deal. Having thus united his will with the laws of vegetable growth, he acquires his improved fruit.

It seems to me there must be little difficulty in dispelling any distrust of the kind here referred to by the time the situation is appreciated with moderate precision. Clear thinkers will recognise that the existence within touch of the world of human beings immensely more advanced than their contemporaries along the paths of spiritual evolution is a metaphysical necessity of all thinking on the subject. A much graver difficulty and more serious embarrassment in the way of those who may get so far in the direction of realising the possibilities before them, has to do with the question how any given aspirant may succeed in putting himself into touch with those more advanced contemporaries, those higher teachers or masters of esoteric wisdom. And I now approach the answer to that difficulty, although it is one which, from the nature of the case, cannot be given in half a dozen words. There certainly is not now, nor has there been at any other time, any recognised official bureau at which people, however honestly desirous of efficient spiritual guidance, can obtain specific information; and though there is much talk in all mediaeval occult writing of doors, in the symbolical sense, which are always opened to those who knock, such phrases are extremely exasperating to Western thinkers who have got out of touch with those highly symbolical methods of expression, and who, though sometimes but too content with being left in ignorance, will claim that if they are to be told anything of what they may want to know they shall be told it in a straightforward, comprehensible way. The fact is that access to the masters of initiation is only to be attained in the first instance through the exercise of those higher faculties in man which it is the province of initiation to cultivate and expand. This will seem like reasoning in a circle. The candidate for spiritual knowledge will complain that it is just this he requires, in order that he may evoke from their mysterious recesses in his own nature the higher senses which constitute the channels of psychic perception, and that if he is told that he must employ those senses in order to get at the teachers, he is merely being mocked by a paradox, and left where he started. The elucidation of the paradox, however, merely claims that we should bear in mind that doctrine, already fully described in these pages, which describes the method which Nature employs in carrying on the evolution of the human soul. We must not forget that Re-incarnation is the lot of every human being, and we must apply that principle to every thought, and above all to every mystery which has to do with the study of spiritual progress. And here it is necessary to interpolate a caveat even before completing the explanation in view for the moment, which is to this effect, that here and there peculiar influences arising from the Karma of past lives may bring people within reach of the higher spiritual teachers, or rather may enable them themselves to comprehend the fact that they are within the reach of such teaching without either extraordinary efforts on their part, or without the advantage of psychic gifts already developed. But let me first deal with the operation of what may be regarded as the normal rule before handling such exceptions with regard to their details. And the normal rule certainly must be that the very first step in the direction of the higher initiation undertaken in that life, whichever it may be, of the long chain in which the person concerned first comprehends the matter intellectually, and sets himself to desire and earnestly to aim at the attainment of the higher spiritual wisdom, will have to deal with intellectual study and thought, directed to the problem in hand. The would-be candidate for psychic evolution of the kind which may anticipate that higher evolution which alone can truly be called spiritual, must set himself to understand and appreciate the nature of the task on which he will be engaged, and the attributes, so far as these can be ascertained by any testimony open to him, of those who control the resources and opportunities of initiation.

In stating the case this way I may possibly seem to be diverging from the doctrines which have often been enforced with great enthusiasm in recent Theosophic writing, and which would rather emphasise the importance of unselfishness, philanthropy, altruism, and moral purity as so much more important in their preparatory effect than any efforts of intellectual study, that it is hardly worth while to enjoin any other processes of effort on candidates for future initiation. In saying, however, that the matter must in the first instance be intellectually studied, I am including and not ignoring the preparatory effect of moral qualities. To understand that these constitute an essential factor in the conditions of interior feeling which lead up towards the realities of initiation, is an essential part of that understanding of the whole problem to which I refer. But we must not let our enthusiasm for moral beauty and goodness in the abstract obscure our perception of the great truth that in the normal operation of all the laws which govern spiritual evolution the ultimate effect of goodness, as worked out in successive lives, is happiness and not necessarily spiritual progress. The anterior causes of spiritual progress must be goodness united with a comprehension of the great design governing spiritual evolution, and of the purposes which Nature has in view in the cultivation of humanity. Again I say, therefore, that the first step for any candidate setting out absolutely from the beginning in the direction of that initiation which alone of all the methods of training his soul can encounter in this life or others can put it in the way of mounting in the scheme of existence — must be study and intellectual effort up to the limits, whatever they may be, to which his intellectual capacity may at that period have been developed. And if on the basis of a fair general comprehension of the principles guiding spiritual evolution he unites a really ardent desire to come into contact with their realities, to brave their ordeals, and penetrate their mysteries, that condition of mind during any one given life will, with infallible certainty, engender as its Karmic consequence in the next those psychic attributes which will enable him, if his desire persists and his efforts continue, to come into conscious relations with the higher teachers.

I do not know of any treatise on this subject, either in the literature of mediaeval occultism, modern psychology, or Theosophy itself, which has dealt adequately with the circumstances under which those mysterious and sometimes beautiful, sometimes rather terrible and painful developments of psychic faculty, which the experience of life exhibits, are actually developed. We all talk habitually of such faculties as psychic gifts, roughly adopting the phraseology of a very unenlightened theory concerning the attributes of man. The use of the phrase "gifts," whether applied to the faculties in question or to talents of any kind, seems to connote a reverential and grateful attitude of mind towards the unknown Omnipotence from which our existence has been derived; but to a more enlightened observation it must really be regarded as involving a slur on that Omnipotence, or at all events a reproach against that absolute justice with which the idea of omniscience should be united, if we assume that either class of faculties is given capriciously without having been earned fairly and honestly. One of the most illuminating conceptions connected with the study of spiritual evolution shows us, on the contrary, that mental powers and psychic gifts, together with all those talents which have to do with supremacy in art or in other departments of human activity, are in all cases the consequence of definite effort, definite action, or in the brief and more technical phrase, of the Karma, engendered in former lives. Students of physical science talk with rapture of the beauty involved in the great law which exhibits to us the conservation of energy as operative throughout the various realms of force within the purview of our physical senses. They are strangely oblivious to the still higher beauty of that same law in its association with the higher forces having to do with the cause and effect of spiritual action. So important is it to recognise the old familiar law in its bearing on such higher planes of existence, that one might almost adopt as a brief definition or motto associated with the study of Theosophy, — the conservation of energy on the moral plane. Whatever a man is at any given moment, intellectually, artistically, or in reference to his perceptions as to right and wrong, he is exactly what he has made himself in former lives, working, of course, at each stage with the advantages or disadvantages of surrounding opportunities which are themselves merely the physical and external consequences of still earlier action on his part, — themselves, that is to say, the Karma of his still more remote existences. The always operative condition of his own free will enables him at every .step of his progress to mould those conditions into a new shape for his own service at later stages of his long career through the ages; and .as regards the faculties with which he will find himself endowed at later stages of his existence, these are, in the simplest and most direct fashion, the consequences of his own anterior efforts and aspirations. Illustrations have been already employed, in examining the doctrine of Re-incarnation as a branch of this subject, which have to do with the growth, for example, of great musical or linguistic acquirements. The capacities of the interior Ego, stimulated by the exertions along any one particular line of evolution during one life, reappear with the return of the same individuality to Re-incarnation next time, and if continuously exerted expand and develop in almost unlimited degree. The child who is a musical genius at six is the Karmic offspring of some great musician in a former age, or rather constitutes in his own person the Re-incarnation of that great musician. The student of languages in a former age may have forgotten, when he returns to life, the specific vocabularies and grammatical rules with which he was once acquainted, but he has filled his nature with such ready affinity for knowledge of that kind that the application in his case of a scarcely perceptible effort enables him to accomplish more than another would succeed in gaining by the protracted labour of years. So with scientific aptitudes, so also with literary appreciation, so also with the evolution of psychic faculties. Let a man in one life be filled with a persistent longing to penetrate the mysteries of the psychic plane, with the sympathetic watchfulness of faculties enabling others to do this already, with the fruits of study relating to the whole subject as far as such study has been possible for him, and the result will blossom out as a Karmic consequence in the shape of psychic faculties within his own control on his next appearance on this plane of existence — always supposing that no independent Karmic causes are set up in an antagonistic direction. And this simple law, so obvious in view of what we know at present concerning the principles of Karma and spiritual evolution, will be seen on reflection to cover the whole ground of the inquiry into all those diverse and incoherent varieties of psychic faculty which meet our observation. Sometimes these take the shape of a beautiful spiritual clairvoyance, bringing their happy possessors into direct relations with superior planes of being and the inhabitants thereof. Sometimes they simply render some eyes perceptive of astral phenomena, belonging in no way to any exalted plane of Nature,' but yet shut out from the observation of the perfectly common-place physical sight. Sometimes they are united with great loftiness of character and nobility of aim; sometimes they are associated with a grovelling and sordid nature, and again, in other cases — happily rarer than these last — they are associated with positive malevolence and tendencies of an altogether evil kind. But the faculties themselves have in all cases equally been the product of a desire to possess such faculties, and of efforts in that direction. The character with which they may be united is nothing more than on its plane the logical outcome of the efforts and tendencies having to do with the cultivation of character distinguishing the person in question during former lives. So surely as a bullet fired from a gun progresses through the air, so surely is desire or effort no abortive force. The effect of the bullet when it strikes its object has to do with the direction in which the gun was pointed, which is quite another matter. These reflections, if people will only follow them out fully, will be found to account for all the complex manifestations of what is called "mediumship" in connexion with modern spiritualism. Whether the peculiarities of psychic constitution which such mediumship represents are held to be beautiful or pernicious gifts, they are effects which could not have been produced without a cause, and we have seen that whatever effects are discernible in character or mental or moral qualifications are effects the causes of which are to be sought for in the efforts made by their possessors at an earlier stage of their career.

The conditions however of what may be called irregular psychic progress are sufficiently intimate and interesting to be studied by themselves independently of the general line of inquiry with which we are now concerned, — the conditions under which an approach is to be made in the present day to the portals of initiation.

To understand these rightly it will be well at this stage to review the normal course of Re-incarnation, so as the better to appreciate the way in which at certain stages of the soul's growth the intervention of Adept help may hasten the process for those who are ready to make some sacrifices in the hope of getting on the faster.

Let us realise, first of all, the exact purpose in the economy of Nature of the usually protracted Devachanic experiences intervening between two lives. The growth of the soul is the result to be accomplished and that growth arises from the experiences and activities of responsible life. In the case of those in whom the work is chiefly being done during physical life, — in the case of the ordinary humanity with which we are surrounded, — the doings of physical life may be thought of as accumulating a large mass of ill-digested material out of which that which is qualified to contribute to the growth of the permanent Ego must be distilled and sublimated. The entity plunges into the astral world with all his accumulated aspirations, desires, habits of life and tendencies of character thickly gathered round him; he is altogether a being of the physical plane of life; the activities of his thought have not qualified him to take advantage, to anything like their full extent, of the opportunities afforded by astral existence, still less to pass into conditions of a more purely spiritual nature. He has, as it were, to grow accustomed to the higher planes of existence, and to expand his consciousness on these so far as the efforts he has been making up to that time in this direction render the achievement possible.

Perhaps this gradual indrawing into the permanent Ego of whatever experiences of life and fruit of endeavour may be susceptible of such indrawing, will be best comprehended if for a moment we look at the whole evolutionary progress from another point of view. The actual centre of consciousness, destined to grow and expand,— the Soul in the noblest and deepest sense of the term, — is of course engendered on a loftier spiritual plane, but at first it is a centre of consciousness wholly uncharacterised by specific attributes. It is an individuality, but an individuality without characteristics. It presses forward and outward, as it were, following the stream of manifestation through the various planes, but finding no resting place until it reaches the bottom of the great descent of spirit into matter, and opens its eyes to the consciousness of objective creation on the physical plane of life. Here for the first time it begins to experience the sensation of life. The whole objective universe lies around it, and its own first conception of things — an illusive plane from the point of view of the higher spiritual consciousness — leads it to commence its long and gradual development by working with an idea which is often spoken of as the fundamental heresy of metaphysics, — the sense of separateness. The awakening soul on the physical plane of life feels itself one thing and the universe another, and however this idea may be destined to qualification at a much later date, it is the first aspect of individuality which necessarily presents itself to the germinating Ego. In the language of the nursery, so applicable in many ways to the lower earth life as compared with the higher, the first thing the Ego does in beginning to feel its capacities of reflection is to " take notice." It takes notice of the physical world around it, of the other creatures therein on its own level, of the opportunities it may enjoy for acquiring sensations, — the pleasurable character of some, the painful character of others.

We may picture the soul to ourselves at this stage as consisting of an all but formless germ on the higher spiritual plane, the Arupa plane of Devachan, connected by a fine colourless thread with the lower earth life, and beginning to throw out roots and expand in contact with that lowest stratum it can touch. Of all the knowledge, experiences, emotions, constituting this expansion on the physical plane, how much is capable of being withdrawn along the thread passing through the various intervening planes of Nature into the spiritual germ above? Very little for the most part, but that little is drawn back by the contraction of the thread, so to speak, after the life is spent, drawn back through the various intervening planes of Nature, slowly enough, by reason of the fact that the accumulation, however much or little it may be, cannot be drawn upward till it has been cleansed and purified of all which only belongs to and is only capable of existence on the lowest plane. By the time the thread is entirely contracted, by the time the whole astral experience following the life has been worked out, and the minute fragments of thought and feeling capable of being drawn higher up through the spiritual planes into the true Ego — by the time all these processes have been accomplished, the permanent spiritual germ is fed with very little, but with something. It is a little more capable of consciousness on its own region, or rather, as it is always theoretically conscious and capable there, it is a little more capable of endowing that consciousness with variegated aspects than it was at first. To that extent, however little that extent may be, the thread, when it again extends itself downwards from the higher planes of Nature, seeking re-manifestation in the region where the sensations of life are most possible for it, is a little thicker, to to speak, than it was before; it is a somewhat better channel for the withdrawal inward of whatever it may come in contact with in the course of its second batch of experiences. And its previous expression, the first personality, which has itself disintegrated and disappeared long ago during the upward movement of consciousness after the last life, is in a great measure re-created as the root fibre descends through the planes of Nature, by its re-absorption on these various planes of matter appropriate to the expression of such characteristics as it developed before. There is no recovery, as some imperfectly expressed description of this process may have led earlier students to imagine, of the actual astral or lower manasic principles which belong to the previous life, but the Ego gathers similar principles around it afresh from the appropriate material of the various planes through which it passes, or through which it sends its root. All similes of this kind must necessarily be inapplicable at some point; but at all events, when the physical plane of life is again reached, the personality is, so to speak, once more built up of materials resembling the materials which its own activities in the former life engendered.

Here, to make the whole process more intelligible, we may study the esoteric teaching which relates to the methods, so to speak, by means of which the returning soul is brought into renewed relations with its old Karma. All the causes which it had set in motion in the former life (the Karma which it had engendered), were built — if we may so contemplate the idea (under the guidance of lofty spiritual agencies controlling these great developments of the world's affairs) — into an image appropriate to express that personality in another life. This was done at the conclusion of the earth life, when the Karmic causes set in motion were complete, and the astral image awaits the returning personality and the activities of the powers in Nature concerned with the guidance of its re-birth. In the process of re-birth the Etheric Double is actually created in advance of the physical body; it is the Etheric Double which is in turn the agency guiding the deposition of physical molecules as the body grows, and which thus ensures the production of a form which shall accurately express the necessities of the personality, and accurately involve the rewards or penalties which may be due to his past doings. The explanation of this point is difficult because it involves so much that it has not been necessary in this volume to deal with in detail, but a fuller knowledge concerning the place in Nature occupied by the stupendous beings known in occult writings as the Ivipika, coupled with an appreciation of the instrumental resources available for their use in the elemental kingdom, renders the aspect of the whole process clear, symmetrical, and scientific. The Lipika are sometimes described as the Lords of Karma, and in the minute delicacy with which they govern the destinies of man they realise with reference to his merit or desert as he returns to earth, life after life, the popular conception of Providence. Many popular conceptions in this way connected with religion will often be found as the occult student advances, vindicated rather than refuted by the more accurate knowledge he may be able to acquire — vindicated not as regards their materialistic outlines, but as to the inner significance of the idea. It is in this way then that the entity is launched at re-birth on the physical plane of existence in very much the same condition as regards his attributes, character, desires, tendencies, as when he left the earth plane last.

It is said truly that the personalities of each existence are impermanent and transient manifestations of the Ego, vanishing into nothingness with the physical body and the astral material of which they were composed; but in the way just described each new personality in turn is built so exactly on the lines of its predecessor, that except for the varying external circumstances of its life, determined by Karma, it is to all intents and purposes a repetition of the previous personality, not the same but inspired by the same individual centre of consciousness, and in regard to its attributes and characteristics, created afresh from the storehouses of Nature and standing on the plane of earth once more very much the same being as on its last appearance there. These recurrent processes continue, the personality blundering about rather wildly at first, impressed, very imperfectly, with the voice of conscience, which is the expression on the physical plane of its own Higher Self, hardly even feeling this voice of conscience at all at the earlier stages of its career, except in regard to such departments of activity as have given rise during former existences to some permanent attribute absorbed into the Higher Self. But as we have been looking at the process we have been looking at it at a very early stage of human advancement. I^ong before humanity has attained the limits on which our contemporaries for the most part stand, many hundred successive lives have each contributed their little gift to the permanent consciousness of the true Ego, and in this way the area over which its influence is extended in later lives has been expanded to a corresponding degree. The voice of conscience and the inner intuition, which may sometimes be a guide to action, even in matters where no definite problems of right and wrong are concerned, may have become active within the personality which represents the Ego on the physical plane of life, and in many ways its physical life is thus guided in a manner which contributes more and more abundantly to the development of the Ego, — to the growth of the soul. By this time a much more traversible channel, to use that metaphor, extends from the physical life to the spiritual plane in which the consciousness of the permanent Ego is seated, and through this more and more experience of life can be drawn when the in-drawing process recommences. As before, the personality may be born with much which it shed as it moved backward to itself through the higher planes of Nature, but there is more and more of it qualified to exist on the higher planes, and to express on the lower the characteristics of the individual Ego.

In the very beginning, as I endeavoured to describe, the Ego has little or nothing to say to the doings of the permanent personality on this plane of life. A time comes when the two influences, those of the objective world around, and the interior consciousness within, are in equilibrium. A time comes beyond that when the interior consciousness is distinctly predominant, and when the relations of its personality with the external world become in this way coloured by the interests and loftier purposes for which it exists. Then the indrawing of itself after death is a far grander undertaking. Accumulations gathered round the personality in physical life are readily shed on the astral planes, the real entity feels itself to be that which is capable of activity on the spiritual regions of Nature. It eagerly returns to these and feels its true existence to be centred there. This condition of things is the case of the growing soul which has attained that period of its evolution when abnormal possibilities of more rapid growth begin to set in.

What shape does this abnormal possibility take? That is a view of things I have now to endeavour to make intelligible. The Ego, assuming his progress along the steps of the path leading to initiation to have been sufficiently successful to bring him into direct personal relations with one of the more exalted Adepts qualified to surround his ulterior progress with new conditions, may be regarded as a candidate for that treatment which is known to the occultist as immediate Re-incarnation. Supposing his last life to have been sufficiently dignified and blameless in its character to have left him tolerably free of unhappy responsibilities in his great account with the Lords of Karma, it is possible that the Master, in his case, may be permitted to fulfil, as regards him, for the next great stage of his career, the functions, if the phrase may be permitted, of Providence. The Master has, by the hypothesis, become so entirely blended with the Divine idea ruling the world, as regards his own will, that the union has brought with it powers which are, in their nature, divine. It is possible for the Master to guide the soul of the neophyte into his next incarnation, and it is possible for him to do this without waiting for the neophyte to pass through the usual Devachanic interlude. The soul can be arrested on the astral plane, where, of course, it has but little to shed, and turned back at once into renewed manifestation in the physical world, so that it may continue the unbroken series of efforts in the direction of its own purification which have been the leading characteristics of the life just spent. When it has attained the second life, which may follow at the interval of a few years — conceivably, if circumstances happen to be favourable, of a few weeks after the close of the last — this second life is thus a complete continuation of the last, as regards all phases of interior consciousness, and the person so artificially Re-incarnated will, as soon as the new body with which he is associated has grown to be a mature instrument, be able within his waking consciousness to remember every detail of his former life, In the intervening period, before the new body has acquired maturity, he continues to function on the astral plane in complete consciousness in the appropriate vehicle bequeathed to him from his last life. The two existences are blended in a very wonderful way, but there is no solution of continuity in the process. The old astral vehicle is not discarded until the new body has been sufficiently developed to have grown, so to speak, or gathered around it a new astral vehicle, which the entity can then make use of. The occult relationships he will have established remain unbroken. His intercourse with the Masters and with those surrounding him will never have been intermitted, and he will recover touch in the course of the new life on which he may be launched with others on his own level of progress, themselves the subjects, like himself, of abnormal evolution. And thus it may ensue that in a period of time covered by a few centuries, if more than one immediate Re-incarnation takes place in connexion with his advancement, he may condense a progress which would otherwise have been protracted over twice as many millenniums. The mere economy of time, indeed, is not a matter of so much importance, from one point of view. If we leave certain considerations out of account, it might be argued that the normal course of evolution would suit the neophyte just as well, and be in many respects more agreeable. He would then enjoy the intensely blissful and refreshing conditions of existence in very full consciousness on the higher spiritual planes; each life as he came back to it would be one in which he would, by virtue of the normal process of evolution, pick up again the tendency to make further progress, with which he was animated at the close of the preceding life.

What then after all — at the first glance an inquirer might ask — does the Neophyte gain by immediate Re-incarnation?

The answer is two-fold, intelligible enough in one of its aspects, highly recondite in another. In the intelligible aspect, the main point turns upon the relationship between the Neophyte and the Master to whom he is attached. Words derived from the ordinary friendships and relations of life fail to define the ardour of affection with which the pupil, arrived at the condition in which he is able to have personal touch with a Being so exalted in nature as one of the higher Adepts, will come to regard this Being as the supreme influence in his life. One of his most intense aspirations in connexion with occult progress at these earlier stages — and before an even loftier feeling, connected with the unification of his own will with that which rules all Nature, has come into play — will be his aspiration in the direction of freer intercourse, and, so to speak, companionship, with the Master. He wishes with an intense longing for the time when his own advance may enable him to stand at something like the level of Nature on which the guiding light of his destiny resides, and if he were to await the progress of normal evolution and spend many thousands of years in Devachanic felicity, that lapse of time might have operated in regard to the Master, towards whom he aspires, in some way which would have removed him to still loftier functions in Nature, where he would then again be inaccessible to his slowly advancing pupil. Though the foremost motive, however, with which the pupil who understands the whole situation desires immediate Re-incarnation, has to do with his easily intelligible love for the Master, a very much more intricate consideration must also be taken into account. The surrender of Devachanic existence between the two lives may not be one which presents itself from the point of view of the unenlightened physical intelligence as of such very great significance. While the necessities of progress attach themselves in a large measure to ideas connected with the present life, the person who is imbued with the thought of immediate Re-incarnation, with the idea that it would be possible to forego the Devachanic period, and so get on faster, will suppose that an eminently desirable thing to do from all possible points of view. He may even speak with contempt, arising from ignorance, of the useless waste of time which would be involved in going through the usual Devachanic period. It is easy to be grandly indifferent to privileges which we do not appreciate. The conditions of existence for a fairly awakened soul on Devachanic planes are, however, so enriched, sublime, and blissful, that no one who once tastes them can resign them by an act of will without a very vivid sense of the reality involved in such a renunciation. And no disciple will be allowed to choose immediate Re-incarnation, — a gift that would never be allotted to him, without his choice constituting one of the features in the arrangement, — unless he is previously put in a position to appreciate with exactitude the nature of the sacrifice he was making. Before the expiration of his previous physical life, he would have been enabled, while out of the body, to pass on to the level of Devachanic existence. He would thus come to know all that it meant, and if he made the choice for immediate Re-incarnation, would be making it with his eyes open. So much for the countervailing consideration against the choice, but now let me turn to what I spoke of as the second aspect in favour of it, which cannot be very completely defined, but may still be partially appreciated.

The renunciation of Devachan by the neophyte — when made in the only way in which it can be made, with eyes fully open to the true character of the sacrifice — is in the nature of an offering of immediate personal beatitude on the altar of Duty. The disciple is surrendering individual happiness to which he has a claim in order to be the sooner able to take his place among those whose energies are wholly spent in the promotion of the well being of the race at large. In doing this he is doubly loyal to the Great Cause, for the sacrifice he makes has a complicated reaction in a way that can only be fully understood at the stages of progress when it becomes possible. But at that stage the altruistic desire to accomplish the sacrifice becomes a more potent motive than any which appeal even to the most purified and exalted considerations related entirely to self. At some future date, when the world is more widely peopled with persons qualified to read the path of occult progress, and appreciate its loftier mysteries, the force of such considerations as these will be more readily apprehended. Meanwhile we all feel in a general way that selfishness is ignoble and altruism beautiful, and that perception is a mere imperfect forecast of a mighty moral law which arms the disciple, by virtue of every sacrifice he is enabled, as he advances, to make, with an ever increasing power to fulfil the ever expanding tasks of unselfish usefulness as they devolve upon him in constantly augmenting volume.

For the more from any individual centre of consciousness a good influence is radiated, the more abundantly does this well up in the interior of such an individuality. Such phrases can hardly be recast into more specific and exact language. We are trying to handle in thought a condition of things analogous to the bewilder* ing mathematical enigma described as a fourth dimension. How can a perpetual well-spring, ever flowing with new material, emerge, as it were, from an interior centre in any given individuality? And yet to the astral sight of persons who are enabled to dive more deeply than the most powerful microscope will carry us, into minute nature, and to discern the constitution of the atoms of physical matter, it is directly perceptible that each of these atoms — itself a complicated organism, constructed of matter belonging to a higher plane — is continually bubbling up with forces which emerge from an interior centre unconnected, as far as such observation goes, with anything external to itself. Bach atom is within its own enclosing surface a well-spring of energy which never fails. Comparison with the atom does not explain the mystery connected with that spiritual fountain of ever-flowing force within the individuality, which must be ever giving out from itself in order that its flow may proceed unchecked, but at the same time the analogy is a little helpful towards the comprehension of the idea.

There are some qualifications, moreover, which have to be recognised as mitigating for the disciple the severity of the sacrifice he makes in foregoing Devachanic existence. Immediate Re-incarnation will link his consciousness, not merely with the life which he last spent, but with the intervening conditions of existence, spent in the partial companionship of his Master and of other advanced companions, and, further than this, puts him in a position to exercise consciously on the physical plane of life when he returns to incarnation the senses belonging to the higher regions, so that his nature will have been unified all the way up to the Devachanic region, which it is not his privilege to inhabit continuously, but which is nevertheless accessible to him whenever the circumstances of physical life enable him to quit the body for a time. All the links which connect the different planes have been fully developed. For the person so immediately Re-incarnated, as indeed for some others who attain in a different way the corresponding pitch of development, the act of quitting the body is as easy and simple as that of putting off your hat. Consciousness is in no way broken by the process, either as the true entity leaves or as he returns to his body. For that matter, most human beings leave the body, without knowing it, when they are asleep, and their emergence therefrom can be seen by observers who are sufficiently clairvoyant, but the outward passage is so confusedly accomplished that it is separated from whatever experiences are incurred out of the body by a non-conducting interval of unconsciousness, and in the same way the return to the body is again broken by the non-conducting interval, so that the activities of the brain are enabled to reflect in only a very imperfect degree the experiences which such persons may encounter out oi the body. And the probabilities are, their experiences in such conditions are of very little moment. They may not be sufficiently developed to have any real activity of consciousness even on the astral plane, not to speak of those above. But the non-conducting interval has been suppressed in the ease of the occult pupil. He has arrived at the stage at which he may be entitled to the help of a Master, which is given him in this way. The whole life to which immediate Re-incarnation is a prelude, is qualified by full consciousness concerning the other planes of Nature, and by ability to reach the Master, whoever he may be. For, remember, while the most important work of any great Adept is performed on lofty spiritual planes of Nature, it is a necessity connected with his work that he should keep in touch with humanity by virtue of occupying a part of his time, at all events, in the physical body, so that the Master must also have a physical existence, however secluded it may be, or however remote the country in which it is to be found. To this the pupil in his astral body has already access, he may be there at any time that the Master can receive him a second after he has put his body to sleep and quitted it. He is there for all purposes of consciousness, of thought, of study, of activity, of objectivity to others equally qualified with himself, as though he were there in the physical body itself, so that the life he leads as soon as the physical instrument is mature in his immediate Re-incarnation is one which is glorified in a hundred ways, which only those who are saturated with occult teaching can be in a position even dimly to appreciate.

The curious stage, indeed, has now been reached in which the activities of the physical life of the disciple, though still full of importance, and of more significance than could have attached to those of any former existences, are nevertheless dropping back to a subordinate place as compared with spiritual activities. These he is now in a position to carry on on higher planes of Nature independently of the physical body and physical existence altogether. The physical consciousness, in the case I am imagining, will reflect his progress; he will know while he is awake all that he has been doing on loftier regions; he will be realising, so far as that is possible, within the physical brain, an infinitude of new states of consciousness on the Devachanic plane and others to which he has now free access. Free access in spite of that renunciation of which I speak, because once re-established on the physical plane of life he can pass into the Devachanic state of consciousness and pass out of it again in obedience to the call of duty elsewhere.

Now let us turn to a consideration of the first steps which have to be taken practically by the occult student seeking for the first time to emerge from the normal evolution of ordinary humanity, and put himself in touch with these glorious possibilities.
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