BY Laurence J. Bendit
The Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, Madras. India
WHENEVER and however man considers the problem of the universe, there is only one standpoint from which he can do so: his own. This means that he sees things from a place where he is the centre of the picture. He is like a sailor in the middle of a circle of sea, his view bounded on all sides by the horizon; and no matter where in the sea he drifts or takes himself, he still remains at the centre of the circle. What lies beyond the horizon doubtless influences him profoundly, but he has no direct knowledge of it. He can only find out about it deductively, working outwards from what he knows of himself and his immediate environment; or intuitively, using faculties which enable him to “see around corners” and perceive things which are normally outside his range.
Any picture of the universe and its creation has, hence, to be anthropomorphic, expressed in human terms, in a language which is that of the human mind. This mind is conditioned by its perception of the physical world, hence anything perceived of other worlds than the physical can only be expressed in the language of the physical world. This in itself is misleading. For the psychic and still more the spiritual realms are very different in quality from the physical. Yet they cannot be described adequately because no spoken or written language exists for them. Moreover, it has to take into account not only the subject under consideration, but also the moment of time at which it is being looked at. For at any other moment, apart from any change which may have taken place in the universe itself, the consciousness of the individual, and hence his outlook, will have changed too. It is for this reason that any Theosophical study (using the word here in its original sense, and not to denote special approach or set of doctrines) requires to be set in a contemporary mode, which alters constantly as the contemporary mind moves towards new ways of thought.
In the field of Theosophy there are today many old students as well as newcomers, who feel the need to restate the ancient truths in a different way. It is a curious fact that the oldest books of Modern Theosophy are those which have worn best. The reason is that the terminology is loose, that there is often a certain indefiniteness in what is said, that they consist of generalizations rather than of exact details, whether about man or the universe.
Later books have tended, in some instances, to crystallize a system of cosmology, anthropology, etc., in terms of the science of their day—fifty years ago. But times have changed very much since then, and with them the whole mental outlook. We work today in terms of function, of process, rather than in the old and more static way, because we realize that a static view represents only a cross-section of a matter, at one moment in time; to understand more, we have to consider things in relation to the passage of time and the changes which take place in consequence. In the world of physics, the atom as a particle has been displaced by wave mechanics, the sharp difference between energy and matter has become a pragmatic fiction; and, in Theosophy, the terms “life” and “form” have consequently lost some of their meaning.
This must not be taken as in any way criticizing the writers of these books; they did a stupendous task, and their books are often rich mines of wisdom. But, in the world of today, one has to read between the lines to bring some of the ideas into tune with modern science. The writers used the idiom of their times; they had no other; and it is the idiom, not the principles, which have changed.
One of the most basic problems which needs restatement in modern terms is that of the material of which the universe is made. For, with the advent of present-day knowledge of the structure of the physical atom, the old idea of the seven planes of matter, each one denser than the one before, and consisting of more and more ultimate atoms aggregated into particles (see, for instance, First Principles of Theosophy by C. Jinarâjadâsa) becomes somewhat misleading. For it is known now by science, as it was known of old in the perennial Theosophy, that atoms consist simply of vortices of energy, not of pieces of solid matter. This applies to all levels or planes. Hence we need to go back to the beginning and to try and build our picture from there, rather than think of the subtler “planes” as modifications of what we see at the physical level. True, there is a direct relationship between them in that they are all part of a continuous and consistent system. But, just as the concept of “matter” as specialized energy has now replaced that of the indivisible atom, so we can rethink the principle of the levels of the material universe in similar terms. Moreover, as we do so, we shall find the whole scheme much simpler than the one which calls for the complexities of planes and sub-planes of quite different qualities, not to mention cosmic planes as against those of the solar system. For, in line with the principle adumbrated in the “unified field theory” of physics, we can then think of our material universe as consisting of a single field of energy-matter, in which the divisions are principally due, not to intrinsic differences between “mental material” and “astral material” and the rest, but to the functions of human consciousness which become associated with various regions in this field.
Theosophy gives us a picture, in human terms, of how the universe came into existence. It matters little which kind of Theosophy one uses—that of the Hindu, the Christian, the Buddhist, the Egyptian, or the Kabbalistic—all tell the same story if one learns to read between the lines of their mythologies. All equally imply that the Act of Creation, assuming it ever had a temporal beginning, is one which endures throughout time. That is, it is taking place now, just as much as it did millions of years ago, and will go on doing so so long as time exists. For time is an aspect of Mâyâ—i.e., manifestation, or limited reality rather than “illusion”—and represents in some sense a limitation of the eternity into which it resolves itself during the periods known as pralaya, the “sleep of God”. It is only through this continuous Creation that the Cosmos is maintained in its mâyâvic or extended form. * [This raises an interesting question: if time is an aspect of Mâyâ, is there in reality any beginning or end of manifestation, as we understand these words in the ordinary language of time? In that of duration or eternity, beginning and end and the period between must all coexist, not “all the time” but “eternally”.]
We are dealing with the scarce conceivable when we speak of this Act of Creation as due to a process of self-limitation on the part of the Absolute and the Unlimited. We do not and cannot know just what this means with our finite minds, conditioned as they are by relativity.
We come a little nearer to what we can understand when we realize that the Act of Creation takes the form of movement in absolute space. Purusha acts on Mûlaprakriti and the Cosmos comes into being. Another way of stating this in the terminology of The Secret Doctrine, where Fohat is said to “dig holes in space”. “Fohat” is a name for primal energy, out of which everything comes. As it acts on primal matter, whether we call this the Aether of Space or use the Sanskrit words, Mûlaprakriti or Âkâsha, the manifest universe comes into being. In one terminology, the analogy of sound is used: God manifest is the Word or Logos; and, in line with modern science, this suggests that Fohat is in fact periodic motion, or vibration. The energy known to science today is believed to be all vibration or wave-motion.
What then of the medium in which this vibration works? That is a thing which still puzzles scientists. Some think that an ether is essential to explain the phenomena of the physical world, others are doubtful. The ancient lore helps a little, in that at one moment we are told that Fohat “digs holes” in what must then be a dense, homogeneous medium, while at others the word Koilon, Greek for “hollow,” or “void,” is used. This contradiction is not without purpose. It is, in fact, not a contradiction but a paradox, and quite consistent when understood.
We are then given the picture of Fohat sweeping into the solid void of space and creating what Theosophical literature has called the planes of matter, and the primary forms of the universe, corresponding at each level with chemical matter at the physical. We are in the habit of thinking of seven planes, giving them various names, in the order of their density, i.e., of their remoteness from the original source of being. For each one of them is said to represent a more complex involvement of primary energy, Fohat, or Life, in the world of matter. The idea of “planes” is somewhat misleading, in that our minds tend to fall into the idea of their being superimposed one on the other in layers. True, Annie Besant tells us that this is not so, but that they are rather like water mixed into sand, the sand itself being among pebbles or marbles, and this analogy is a valuable one. But alongside this is also the idea that the matter of the planes consists of aggregates of particles similar to the chemical atom, grouped together.
If this is so, then, at the physical level, we should be able to confirm this scheme. Taking the sub-planes only, if we think of the three densest, those of solids, liquids, and gases, adding, just “above” the gaseous level, the sub-plane of atomic chemical matter, * [It is an interesting point that single chemical atoms are not found in Nature except, (a) in the case of inert gases, such as Helium, Neon, Krypton, etc., and (b) in an evanescent, “nascent”state, before they aggregate at once into molecules of two or more. It seems therefore as if the “etheric” sub-plane of the physical plane (see First Principles) were actually that of the chemical atom before it aggregates into molecules.] we find that this does not work out. For if it did, gases should consist of groups of seven (or a multiple thereof) atoms; * [See First Principles of Theosophy by C. Jinarâjadâsa, Chapter on “The Work of the Triple Logos”.] liquids should be seven times more complex than gases; and solids seven times more complex than liquids. But we know that it is possible for a solid to consist of very few atoms, a gas of very many. Moreover, it is possible to turn a solid into a liquid or a gas, or vice versa, without change of chemical structure, by a change of temperature.
It follows from this that the principles of the planes of matter as consisting of particles, or atoms, of various sizes, does not hold good. On the other hand, the problem can be envisaged differently, in terms of modern science and in a way which did not exist when the description of the planes were given; that is, in terms of energy. Chemists know that, while the atomic theory of matter has still certain pragmatic value, within a limited field it is not intrinsically true: matter does not actually consist of particles like marbles, but of energy-waves localized in space. that is, instead of representing free-flowing vibrations in space, these waves are, as it were, turned in on themselves, forming vortices and whirlpools; and these vortices are the atoms, electrons and other “particles” of which the physical universe consists.
There is thus no difference between “energy” and “matter”. It is just a question whether the waves travel in open curves or in closed circuits. Moreover, it has become apparent that energy travelling through space does so as waves, but that it can also behave as if it were itself a stream of particles. We know also that the difference between gases, liquids and solids is not only a matter of the number of energy-vortices—i.e., of chemical atoms—grouped together into molecules, but of the amount of energy tied up between the atoms of that molecule: heat a liquid and it becomes a gas, draw heat from it and it freezes solid without altering the chemical nature of the molecules. That is, put in or take out free energy and the size of the group of atoms varies. At the same time, when we think of the energy locked up inside the atoms themselves, the more solid the substance—i.e., the bigger the molecule, because it contains more atoms—the more localized energy there is in it, because of what is locked in the nuclei of those atoms. If a chemical action like burning takes place, some of the energy between the atoms is set free (though that in the nuclei remains), as the large molecules break up: that is, not generated, but set free for our use. It should be said, in parenthesis, that the antithesis between locked energy and free energy, though irrelevant at this point, is important in view of later discussion. What concerns us now, however, is that the more solid, the denser, the matter, the less free energy there is in it, but the greater the quantity of locked or latent energy it contains.
The conclusion is that we can think of the various planes of matter more in terms of manifestations of Fohatic energy than of particles. That is, from the first level, known to us as Âdi, to the physical, we have in reality only one substance: Fohat, the mother of all radiant energy acting in Koilon, the void, or Mûlaprakriti, the precursor of all “matter,” including that of the physicist, sometimes flowing freely in space, at others tying itself into knots. In so doing it creates the material universe at all levels, and vitalizes it with itself. We have not, fundamentally, different forms of matter, but only one—as suggested in the Stanzas of Dzyan. Also, in line with the Stanzas, we may think of the “two substances in one” as being on the one hand free energy, equated with Spirit; and energy looked up, as the “shadowy” aspect of Spirit which is matter. Moreover, we shall also find ourselves in line with modern science, and the principle of the unified field—the great work of Einstein and others. For science is gradually coming to the view that all forces and forms of energy such as gravity, electricity, magnetism, light, mass, etc., are no more than different expressions of one fundamental principle, to which the same mathematical equations apply: that is, they obey the same basic law. So far this is only seen in the fields of chemistry and physics. But before long, no doubt, it will be realized that vital phenomena come under the same category and belong to the single field. Taking this to extremes, we can apply the term Fohat to the root of all the varieties of radiant energy.
The principle of the unified field, however, is far from suggesting that the universe is a homogeneous whole, like a jelly, with no internal structure. In fact, the principle of wave-motion denies this, since a wave consists of troughs and crests, and, when intermingled, produces a complex patter of cusps and nodes. Fohat, flowing from its primal source, seems to obey the fundamental laws we know in physical matter, and especially in the structure of the atom. For the unit of physical matter, properly speaking, is still the atom despite the destruction of it which is now known to occur under certain circumstances. The energy in the nucleus is, normally, entirely locked and latent, while chemical and physical processes take place by means of changes of energy of a free-flowing kind which circulates between the atomic nuclei.
It is from a study of the atom that certain valuable principles are derived. For it has been found that it consists of a nucleus of particular strength and density in which, as we know, a vast quantity of energy is locked; while around it there is a “cloud” of electrons, which can roughly be thought of as circulating in orbits. These orbits are relatively stable places in the field round the nucleus, and if an electron moves from one orbit to another, the energy-content of the atom is increased or diminished by a definite amount of energy, a quantum, of which the smallest unit is known as a photon. The photon is a measure of energy similar to the measure of weight we call a pound, or of volume we call a gallon, and seems to be the smallest amount into which energy can be divided at the physical level. There is thus an energy-jump of one photon or more at a time with any change in the state of the atom.
The same principle, of a jump in the amount of energy in a certain place—a change of energy-levels—rather than a slow and gradual one, may be significant in the difference between one plane and another. For this difference seems to be more like the clear break between the notes of a scale played on the piano than like the glissando, without intervals, of a siren. The idea is, anyway, already suggested in the Hindu term tattva which, in effect, is another name for the essential quality of the matter of each plane. Each plane, in this language, would represent a condition in which a certain quantum of Fohat has been absorbed by and become latent in the primal Âkâsha. The denser and more material planes would have a greater number of quanta in a given place than the subtler.
This principle offers a further interesting sidelight on the suggestion to be found in some writings, that alternate “planes” in the system are “form” while the intervening ones are “life”—thus the Âtmic, Mental and Etheric-Physical levels are said to be “form” planes, while those of Buddhi and the Astral, or emotional are “life” planes. The first two planes, Âdi and Anupâdaka, are quite outside the field known to man. Hence they are not included in the list: we do not know whether they should be. Translate this into the terms of locked and free energy, and this becomes consistent. For, just as in the physical universe there are regions where material bodies in different states predominate, and others where energy or radiation is most in evidence, so can this be made to apply to the “planes”. In the physical universe we have the location of celestial bodies—galaxies, stars, planets, etc—between which there is “space,” full of cosmic radiations, and relatively little aggregated matter. One can suggest further that it is probable that the nature of the energy-fields in interstellar space would be somewhat different from that within a solar system, and between planets and their sun. So could the energy-fields we call Anupâdaka, Buddhi and the Astral be equated by analogy with intergalactic space, interstellar space within a galaxy, and the space within a solar system.
This conception gives us a flexible and dynamic way of thinking of the universe. Moreover, it is an example of how ancient science and modern confirm each other. The universe consists of a single substance which, though it manifests in different and even antithetical forms, is basically the same throughout: that is, radiant energy, or Fohat, or what has been called Dark Light, Sound (presumably, “Silent” Sound), or, simply, God.
Obviously, the above is a bare outline. It goes into none of the finer shades, even omitting the traditional doctrine of the sevenfold creative Rays which run right through the whole system, “parallel,” so to speak, with the vertical Fohatic stream. Such a subdivision seems to be the law, and we have a manifestation of it in the modern system of envisaging the periodic table of chemical elements. For if this is folded amid on itself so that both columns of inert gases coincide, there are then left seven groups of elements with corresponding properties.
4. Universal Intelligence
The term “Fohat” has so far been used to mean simply mechanical energy. But, though it seems that it can be so used, it is often said to include intelligence—at base, the Intelligence of the Being whom we look upon as the Creator of the Universe. It matters little whether we associate Him with the Sun, with the centre of the galaxy of which the solar system is a part, or some hypothetical centre of the whole system of galaxies which make up the known universe.
It seems logical to suppose that, just as primal Fohat proceeds on its task, dividing itself into quanta on various scales, so would that Intelligence subdivide. We should thus have a hierarchy of “quanta” of intelligence, existing pari passu with the quanta of energy making matter. In other words, we have the Devic hierarchy; the supreme Intelligence, it is worth adding is sometimes given the name of Lucifer: the Angel who, because of the sublime brilliance of his mind, “fell” from Heaven and, in so doing, created the whole hierarchy of the angels. The fall is, obviously, the descent into the forms of matter and, moreover, continuing beyond what we know, into matter “lower” and “denser” than that of the human world. This we call Hell, as the opposite of Heaven.
One can thus say that the universe is created by Fohat, or energy, at the bidding and under the guidance of Lucifer, or non-human, angelic intelligence.
5. Absolutes and Infinity
These words are essential if we are going to study man in his context, the universe. So it will be well to attempt to clarify and define them as we shall use them in this paper. The word “absolute” means “free from” or “outside the control of”. Hence, if we use it in connection with man, it will refer to that part of the universe which is outside his own sphere. Traditionally, man works within certain limits, outside which are other realms with which he is in contact, with which he has an “interface,” but into which he, as man, cannot and should not enter. He can see a little way into them, but there must be no direct interchange between himself and them, for fear of complete disaster due to the shattering of his whole organism. Up to a point, he can influence and be influenced by the absolute world around him, but this must only take place by a process similar in every way to that of electrical induction. This means that, just as electricity is brought into a district at a very high voltage, and there “stepped down” to a potential which it is safe to use in our houses, so do the forces and even the perception of the absolute worlds need to be transformed and stepped down before they enter the human frame at any level.
It is evident, however, that what is absolute for man is not necessarily absolute for a greater Being, whose field extends further, embracing and enclosing that of man as part of his own. Outside this Being’s own field there may well be others, still greater, and yet others, in an infinite series. Hence it is probably safe to use the antimonial phrase that every absolute is relative; an absolute is absolute only within a certain frame of reference.
But what then if we move from the idea of one absolute after another, in ever-widening circles? Is there an ultimate point where the series stops? This is a matter we simply do not know, and moreover can never know. We can only say that, as far as we can conceive, the series goes on indefinitely—to Infinity. And Infinity, by its very definition, means that however far one goes, there is still further to go; in other words, Infinity can never be reached. Yet it is only there that anything we can call the Absolute can exist; That beyond which there is no further absolute, and which is Itself Infinite and beyond definition or understanding. To It is given in Hinduism the name Parabrahm, of which it is said that It has no attributes or qualities. In the Stanzas, It is called the Eternal Parent, as distinct from Father-Mother. That alone is eternal in any absolute sense, immortal, unchanging—and, in fact, non-existent; for the furthest we can conceive of as existing is “Father-Mother,” the prime principles of the created universe.
All this may seem simply playing with words. But in reality it is an attempt to show how our only way of apprehending anything more than our little selves needs to start from ourselves, and not attempt to work “inward” from the outer confines of the universe, towards ourselves. For not only would it be incomprehensible, but there are no outer limits from which to start. All that we can do is to try and see our relationship to this universe, our immediate context, the little realm into which our minds and knowledge can extend, the fragment which we can perceive of what is. But we can usefully remember how small this is. The physical universe, of which our knowledge extends some few thousands of millions of years in time, and a few millions in terms of light-years in space, is but a mere crumb of the totality, if such totality exists at all.
6. The Field
The Stanzas of Dzyan tell us in a few cryptic phrases about the Creation. But H.P. Blavatsky is at pains to remind us of the impossibility of making us understand the reality. She says, therefore, that they give us “an abstract formula which can be applied, mutatis mutandis, to all evolution: to that of our tiny Earth, to that of the Chain of Planets of which the Earth forms one, to the Solar Universe, to which that Chain belongs, and so on, in an ascending scale, till the mind reels and is exhausted in the effort”. She tells us further that the Monads which emerge after pralaya, the time before and after manifest creation, include every unit of creation, from the vastest astronomical system to the tiniest atom—and she would probably add, now, the electron. The human being is one of these Monads, existing on one rung of the ladder, which consists of a vast hierarchy of living beings, each one a Monad, and each one part of a greater Monad, and at the same time, containing within itself a series of lesser Monads. We see this principle in the physical world when we think of an animal body which is part of a species, which in turn is part of a zoological kingdom, etc., while the body itself is made up of cells, the cells of molecules, the molecules of atoms, etc.
It is, moreover, specifically stated that the ground-plan of all Monads is the same. It seems to consist primarily of a centre of creative energy contained within a circle or sphere (to which, in the Stanzas, the name “Ring-Pass-Not” is given) which delimits the field of manifestation of that Monad—be it a cell or a galaxy.
Here, moreover, we come up against a thing which is difficult to recognize if we think only in terms of matter. For the teaching is that the place of the Monads is in the realm known jointly as Âdi and Anupâdaka, which are the primordial planes of material manifestation of the Logos, of Parabrahm becoming Brahman or Îshvara—God-in-Action. There is no indication that either greater or lesser Monads have their prime focus anywhere else than on these levels. Yet from a material standpoint, the Âdi-Anupâdaka planes are so infinitely subtle that they transcend the highest spiritual levels which man can ever reach—as man.
The traditional teaching, however, comes to our rescue. For Âdi and Anupâdaka belong to the sevenfold world, while man as man exists and evolves in only five realms of the seven—those between Âtmâ and the physical. In other words, Âdi and Anupâdaka are, in the terminology of this paper, absolute.
Hints of their nature are to be found here and there, and notably in the introduction to A Study in Consciousness, by Dr. Besant. For she there suggests that the creative process is comprehended within the Âdi-Anupâdaka realm, which can be symbolized, without going into more detail, as the point at the centre of a circle. This may be a slight variant on what she says, but it seems reasonable to suggest that such a symbol represents, not the “material” nature of Âdi and Anupâdaka, but their function in manifestation: one is the germ, the other the womb in which that germ is going to evolve. One is the Yin, the other the Yang principle, the masculine and feminine, respectively the principle which gives life or energy to the manifest, and that which gives that life coherence and shape. Which is which it is difficult to think out: as with so many occult truths, it appears possible to reverse the order, or to turn the ideas inside out without impairing their validity! Moreover, it is impossible to say which is the “first”: the life-giving point or the containing circle. And the physical world does not help since in the lower forms of life the germ exists before the egg is built around it, while in the mammalian, the womb exists before the germ is fertilized and placed inside it.
In any case, it seems a further reasonable deduction, that the field of manifestation lies between centre and circumference. That is, a galaxy, a solar system, a human being with his various “principles,” a cell or an atom have their root-origin in the centre, and the ring round their field at the circumference: they exist, not “below” Âdi and Anupâdaka, but “between” them, whichever one considers as the centre and whichever one puts at the circumference.
This may seem a complete contradiction of what is said about the order of things in terms of material. But when we come to a consideration of the place of our human field in the cosmic scheme, it is actually not so. For it is a tradition of occultism that a sevenfold scheme implies a further, and hidden, three, making ten in all. This may seem a juggle with words. But there are strong hints that the seven planes of which we know, from Âdi to the physical are completed by a further three which are “below” the physical—in short, “absolutes” from the human point of view, which are more material than the most material we know, just as Âdi and Anupâdaka are more “spiritual” than anything we can ever reach. Yet if we balance the latter on the one hand against two unknown planes we can call X and Y on the other, this makes only nine. Maybe this tenth is the Infinite—and the same from whichever way it is approached.
This needs explanation, but first let us consider the field in which man as a Monad in manifestation exists.
7. The Field of the Relative
Man lives in a field of relativity or polarity. It is bounded at each end by “absolutes” which, seen from the middle, have opposite and complementary qualities. This is probably due to the peculiar nature of the mâyâvic language which is the currency of the human mind. This mind, of necessity, learns to see everything in terms of contrasts and opposites. Its whole view of the universe is governed by this need, until eventually the opposites can be synthesized into one, at a higher functional level.
This ability of the mind to differentiate seems to work in two directions. The first is in terms of opposites such as light and darkness, good and evil, spirit and matter. The other is to separate the components of what is eventually recognized as a single thing into two, at right angles, as it were, to one another. Electricity and magnetism are a good example of what are now scientifically known to be inseparable aspects of the unified field of energy. It is perhaps more difficult to think of space and time in these terms, though it has been said that time is the fourth dimension of space, and hence “at right angles” to the three other dimensions with which we are familiar. Similarly, the human notion of subjectivity and objectivity can be considered in this way. For introspection will show us that what we consider to be “myself” runs on a vertical axis inside us, from what “I” feel in my body through the senses, to mental activity and perhaps to higher levels of awareness beyond that of the intellect. On the other hand, my relationship out from inside myself towards the external world on the same level as myself. This is sensory at the physical level, extrasensory or psychic at the mental level, or, more abstractly, exchange of intellectual ideas, directly from one mind to another, and so on. But if one moves far enough in consciousness in the subjective, “vertical” direction, one then reaches a point where the difference between subjective and objective becomes lost in a sense of union.
In other words, a subjective shift of conscious focus takes us eventually out of the realm of the relative into one of integration of the pairs of opposites and of the complementaries which are at right angles and so, eventually, towards levels where a sense of absoluteness replaces that of separation and relativity.
In spite of this, our practical life has to be run in the world of relativity: i.e., of mâya. It is of little practical moment that space and time are abstractly known to be part of one continuum, that all energy is fundamentally one, and so on. We shall still go on living as if a straight line were the shortest route from point to point, electricity one thing, heat another, where time passes, and I am separate from not-I. For, within a limited range, all these things are true enough for them to work; and, what is more important, to enable us to exist. Moreover, they give us a point from which abstract considerations can exist.
It may be well to remind ourselves that straightness is an illusion: our straight line is in fact part of a gigantic curve. That is, arcs, circles, ellipses, epicycloids and spirals are figures nearer reality than are straight lines, squares or triangles. Time, too, though we put it on a straight line running from a beginning, through the past and the present, into the future, and towards an end, is also curved and hence cyclic. And while our lives in the material world depend on the Newtonian principle of action and reaction, this needs to be understood everywhere and in every sphere, including the psychological, as a reciprocating and balancing process in which action in one direction is always balanced by another action in a reverse sense, the whole system being centred around a pivotal point.
With this in mind, we can now return to our consideration of the cosmic field. This originates outside our own realm of relativity, in an absolute world, flows through our domain and out of it into another absolute of which we contact the interface with ourselves at the dense physical level. That, at any rate, is how it appears to us.
Our own realm appears to possess peculiarities of its own, a duality which, if we examine it closely, seems to derive from the opposite absolutes at each “end” of it. The primal duality seems to be that of energy and matter, as we have suggested already, and described more accurately as free and localized energy.
Using this conventional view, it appears as if the superior absolute world is that of free energy not involved in matter: that described as pure Light or, in the Stanzas, in a way convenient to this study, as Fire, or the Fiery Breath. The other, which we know as the physical world, is, on the other hand, one which is relatively cold.
This is an interesting matter because, while science has seen no limit to the possible highest temperatures there may be in the physical universe, it has computed that there is such an absolute limit to the lowest. In terms of the freezing of water, the absolute zero is a mere 273 degrees Centigrade below freezing. At this temperature, matter is inert, frozen stiff in a literal sense, entirely solid, apparently lifeless. That is, there is no free energy anywhere, but there is a maximum of localized energy, packed tight, as the tightly packed atoms of matter. Any experience of this realm would probably be what is meant by avichi; the “vibrationless hell of Hinduism, in contrast to nirvâna, or the heaven of complete freedom at the opposite end of the range.
It should be added that the absolute zero has never been reached, though it has been approached very closely. The fraction of a degree which separates it from the lowest temperature actually achieved by scientists appears to represent an obstacle more difficult to cross than hundreds or thousands of degrees around our own normal range of heat and cold. Perhaps it never will be reached by man as he is, because to reach it it would be to go to the very extreme edge of the human field of activity: that is, of relativity. To go beyond would mean entering a realm of absoluteness into which man could only trespass at his peril.
This may seem a rather startling statement, but it is in line with hints given here and there in Theosophical writings. It connects, moreover, with another principle sometimes stated: that the dense physical world itself is outside the framework of the human constitution—yet it is within the reach of man’s senses and actions.
Traditionally, too, at the other end of the scale—that which we cannot usually reach in consciousness as yet—it is said that the world of Will, or Âtmâ, is similarly dual, man properly reaching the central division of it. But “Higher Âtmâ” being, like the dense physical, outside his own field seems also to be an intermediate place between himself and the absolute worlds called Anupâdaka and Âdi.
It is true that we know consciously nothing about this upper world, but that is because we have not, as human beings, gone far enough. Our conscious level is normally, still towards the more material end of our field, and what we see there still serves as our guide to anything we may suppose about the spiritual end.
Nevertheless, the ability to influence without penetration these end realms, which lie between the truly absolutes, is of considerable importance to man. For it not only gives him a purchase on something outside himself which is fixed and firm, it also connects him with sources of energy which enable him to be a dynamic factor in the universe, as he learns to use them constantly and intelligently. In the language of the Stanzas, we may apply to man as Monad the verse applied to the larger Monad, the universe: “Father-Mother spin a Web, whose upper end is fastened to Spirit, the Light of the One Darkness, and the lower one to its shadowy end. Matter: and this Web is [Man], spun out of the Two Substances made in One, which is Svabhâvat.” (The Secret Doctrine, I, 94, fourth edition.) The physical and the Higher Âtmic would be the attachments of the web of human life to the absolute realms of Father-Mother, or Energy-Matter, which, as was evidently known many thousands of years ago, are one Substance.
8. Between Two Fires
Man is thus living between two worlds, both of them created by, and consisting of, energy. But these energies are in different modes. At the spiritual, or Âtmic end of the field, it is free, it is “hot” with the heat of cosmic fire, it can be called “cold heat”: it is Light, invisible because casting no shadow, and hence called “Dark Light,” Sound, for the same reason, inaudible, hence called “the Voice of the Silence”. At the other end we have the same energy coiled up on itself, localized, immobile in the sense that it goes round in circles and makes no progress in space; cold; dark because of the absence of free “Light”. No doubt were we a different order of beings, we should see things differently, and energy in the atomic vortices might be to such a being what free, or half-free energy is to us at our own level. But that is a matter on which we cannot speak save in terms of mental reservations and the realization of how everything is to us relative, and seen only in comparison to what we know of our own world.
The only way in which the energies of the two extreme worlds can safely work in the human field is when they have been stepped down by a process akin to electrical induction. The mechanism by which this takes place in the human being is the force centres known from their clairvoyant appearance as Chakras, or wheels. These Chakras require a study of their own and are a most complicated subject. But those which concern us are those at the two ends of the body, the Mûlâdhâra, or sacral, and the Brahmârandra, or crown chakras. These act as the transformers by which the forces of the absolute worlds reach us.
The Mûlâdhâra, at the base of the spine, is traditionally that through which the Serpent Fire or Kundalini enters. This derives its name from being “coiled up”. That is, it coincides with the idea of localized energy which we find in the atoms as seen in the modern scientific picture. There is, moreover, a traditional occult view that associates kundalini with the centre of the earth, while C.W. Leadbeater, in his own investigations, linked it also with the nucleus of the atom. It is also said that only in the “laboratory” at the centre of the earth, on the one hand, and elsewhere through the action of the human mind, under the power of the Will, can this force be released from its imprisonment. In the older, pre-scientific days, the latter was taken to mean the release which takes place within the human being as he develops his spiritual consciousness. This is doubtless one aspect of this truth, but we see it taking place today in a different form, where man, through the knowledge he has acquired, has learned to release it outside himself, directly from the atom, by a procedure not associated with spiritual practices, but rather by playing a kind of snooker game, which alters the pattern of one nucleus by bombarding it with particles from other nuclei—much to the peril, but also to the possible benefit of the world at large.
Thus kundalini is the energy derived from the shadowy end of the field. From the other end we derive our spiritual illumination. There is here no question of coils and vortices, but, on the contrary, a directness of impact which can prove shattering to the mind which receives it unprepared and in an unstable state.
These two fires, with their different natures, are in effect the basis of our middle, relative, world: the one in which we, as men, exist and work. A little consideration will show us how, apart from the obvious dichotomy of spirit and matter, or energy and atoms, our whole world consists of energies which are either dispersive or cohesive. In the world of physics we have electricity, dispersive; magnetism, cohesive; gravity, cohesive; centrifugal force, dispersive. In the psychic sphere, we have the division between disruptive or analytical and synthetic thought. It is as if everywhere there were a duality similar to the katabolic and anabolic processes in the body of living organisms, the one building up, the other taking apart, the one making for activity, the other for passivity. It seems reasonable to link these with the types of energy derived from the two absolute fields at the “ends” of our own, since they share something of the same nature.
In this, moreover, the field of the human being and the human mind in particular, man has a part to play which is peculiar to himself and makes him different from the other denizens of the middle field of relativity.
9. Full Circle
Before closing, we need to draw to a conclusion our observation of the nature of the triple field. This conclusion can only be reached by returning once more to the standpoint from which we think of it: the centre of the human mind.
Looking at the world from here, we can see, in one direction, that we call the spiritual (in terms of cosmic mechanics), extending apparently indefinitely towards an Absolute—Parabrahm, infinitely remote. But equally, looking in the opposite direction, the material, we can see an end only to what we know of the physical world itself. There is no theoretical reason for believing that there is a solid, finite floor to the universe at this level (the absolute zero of science represents the extremes of the physical world only, not of anything beyond). And indeed there are, as we have said, the hints and suggestions in occult teachings that the material aspect of the universe extends beyond our ken, into depths where matter would be denser, colder, “darker” than anything we can possibly imagine. And so it would go on, indefinitely, to some ever remote absoluteness, infinitely removed both from where we ourselves stand and from the spiritual Absolute at the other end.
But can there be such a thing as two Infinites? Mathematics tells one that a series of numbers prolonged to infinity in a plus direction and another in a minus direction can only reach the same point, Infinity—which is perhaps one reason for the choice of a figure eight
on its side as the symbol of infinity, thus:∞.
Further, we have to consider the fact that, while for pragmatic purposes we live in terms of straight lines and successive time, abstract reality tells us that things actually run in circles and hence that extremes must ultimately meet. This is exemplified in our observations of the cyclic law which pervades every domain of existence, and there is every reason to believe that the circle is the glyph of the whole cosmos in manifestation. We have this shown in the picture of the cosmic serpent, whose head and tail merge, the circle thus made enclosing all that is created; and there are many other such symbols.
One can thus conclude that the Mâyâwhich to us separates the spiritual or energetic from the material is a matter of point of view, not of actual reality. The Absolute—i.e., the Infinite—is to be found just as much at one end of the scale of manifestation as at the other, and what we call Spirit is simply matter seen from the viewpoint of the “timeless” enduring, while matter is Spirit seen as extended in space-time.
In short, Âdi-Anupâdaka are to be found at both ends of the human field, not at the spiritual only: they are densest matter just as much as they are Spirit, and represent the totality of the absolute realms outside the human field, lying between this and the Infinite, or Tenth.
Indeed, this is already suggested in a diagram by Mr. E. L. Gardner showing the overlap of the planes of the fivefold human world (the inner loop of the accompanying diagram) and, moreover, their doubling back on themselves so that they cross at the midpoints of the Âtmic and the Physical. It only needs to add Âdi and Anupâdaka in the form shown, embracing and containing the fivefold world of man. In this way the nine planes of manifestation (including X and Y) are shown, and the whole completed by the Infinite which includes these nine.
Admittedly this is a daring suggestion, and perhaps indeed a rationalization. Yet it has often been suggested that, in terms of Rounds and Chains, our present humanity is at the middle point of the whole System. If so, it would seem natural to think that it is also at the midpoint of the structural aspect of the universe, besides being at the dynamic centre of the functional.
In one way or another, every school of spiritual lore emphasizes that man is a microcosm. And, while it is entirely true that “Man creates God and the universe after his own image”—that is, in terms of his own Mâyâ—it would follow from the original statement that “God created man after His own image,” that the plane on which the universe, as God in manifestation, is based, must also apply to man.
In this paper pains have been taken to try and show the cosmos as single, united, a whole, rather than a series of separate parts. The same principle can be applied to the human being. He too, as Monad, manifests within the universe; and it can be said that he does it in the same way as the greater Monad we call God or the Logos.
The human Monad can be seen as coming into manifestation by the movement of energies originating within itself. Like the Logos, it would use the quantum principle in creating its own little universe within itself, that is, what we have been used to calling his bodies.
The phraseology, in which the Spirit of man is said to clothe itself in a series of vestures or sheaths suggests something akin to a person dressing to go out, in layer after layer of clothes, finally putting on a physical body which makes him presentable in public. In a certain sense this is true. But it is more profitable to think of the Monad as entering into and developing a series of functional levels, each one having a relation with the planes or tattvas of the universe.
We have already words and analogies for this process, in the ideas of antahkarana and the sûtrâtmâ, described as a thread on which the material experience of man incarnate is hung. We can change the picture by taking the Monad as a centre of potential energy which, when it comes into material life, brings layer after layer of potentiality into activity. The “thread” is then purely an analogy, not a special fact. In tune with the greater cosmos, it would appear to send out from itself radiant energy of various wavelengths, following in this the process by which the tattvas or planes are made. These radiations, extending into space, eventually reach a point where they can be said to turn in on themselves and go no further. In this way the Monad would, from the centre, define its own field, giving it a skin and making of itself an entity in the material worlds, just as it is already an entity in the transcendental worlds of Âdi-Anupâdaka. Without going into detailed subdivisions of this field, we see here what to clairvoyants is the human aura. The outer skin of this—i.e., the deepest penetration of the material world—would be the etheric field, in which the whole man at all levels from the spiritual to the most personal and material is not only reflected, but also contained.
This emphasized statement is made to point to the fact that for the human being the Âtmic, or Will level, and the physical-etheric are the limits of manifestation and hence, just as the extremes of the cosmos meet, so do those of the human being: the physical world is Âtma or spirit considered as the space-time extension of itself, and hence of the Monad which is the absolute principle embracing it.
Within this field the Monad works, focussing itself at different energy-levels, from which it learns gradually, in the course of evolution, to function consciously. In this way the bodies appear less as layers or vestures than as levels of experience in the single field.
The astral body would thus be no more than the experience of the Monad focussed at a certain level; and so on. It is as if one were to imagine oneself experiencing the material of a crystal ball, first as the molecules of which the crystal is made, then at the level of atoms of silica, oxygen, within the molecular level, than as the particles inside those atoms, and so on. One might equally experience the play of light through the crystal ball and label it an experience of Spirit, Essence, Truth, or God.
In these terms, the foci of Monadic life at certain energy-levels where it develops its powers, are the equivalent of the permanent atoms of A. Besant and C.W. Leadbeater or the imperishable germs of H.P. BLAVATSKY. Their role is triple. They act as centres of outgoing action at their particular level; they receive impulses coming towards them, i.e., percepts; and they stabilize and maintain the field of energy of that level, in a “horizontal” direction, at “right angles” to the current of life coming “down” into incarnation, and, hence, into the world of relativity. This makes for relationship between the “I” and the “Not-I” at each level in turn.
During incarnation, moreover, the field would be held stable with the help of the devic hierarchy. At death it would be released, as the Monad withdraws itself from the various energy-levels at which it has been functioning during physical and psychic existence. There is no question of shedding one body after another—the physical being an exception, for reasons to be put forward—but simply of a withdrawal of radiation at a particular energy-level.
It should be added that the fields of energy at the various levels are, in the early stages of evolution, virgin ground and unorganized. The devic life plays in them according to its own natural laws. It is only as the human being progresses that the organization takes on his individual shape and comes under his control. This is perhaps why Gurdjieff says that men have no astral body but need to grow and acquire one. This can be taken less negatively by saying that the incarnate Monad delineates a psychic field but has no control over it until he learns through experience to actualize its potentialities in it. It can be put that man has no astral body, but that it has him—until he brings himself consciously to bear on it.
11. The Physical Body
This body, the only one of which we are usually cognizant, has peculiar qualities of its own, which make it seem an exception to what we have said about the other vehicles. It has always been held in occult tradition that it is not strictly speaking a human principle. It is a vehicle borrowed from the animal kingdom and adapted by man to his special purposes.
This is borne out by the fact that, whereas the Monad creates its own material field without outside help other than that of the devic hierarchy, who are automatic followers of natural law rather than independent creators, the physical body needs, in addition, the agency of the animal bodies of two other human beings. Into it the Monad descends but, as indicated, he does not become part of it nor it of himself. He acts on it indirectly, by induction, and he received percepts from it also indirectly, through the senses. (This indirectness is evident when we think that all that these senses receive are the impact of energy-waves, which then undergo drastic processes in the mind before they become intelligible as shapes, sound, colours, and hence show us objects in the physical world.)
Of the advantages of this body we are very well aware. But we do not perhaps recognize that, by thus anchoring ourselves to something which can be equated with the shadowy end of the Web (in this instance, of the microcosm which is man), we receive immense benefits. It regulates our life-processes as the pendulum regulates a clock. It gives us objective standards of comparison which we call measurement, the basis of all science, and hence of mental development. And, besides, it links us with and gives us firm purchase on the universe outside our Monadic field. In short, the temptation by which Lucifer is said to have lured man into such a body is one which causes far more good, as man develops, than difficulty, great as the difficulties are in our present state.
12. Man in the Universe
We really know little of our exact role in the cosmos except what we can learn by intuition. But a consideration of our place in the physical world, where we have a certain stable relation to the not-self, enlarges these intuitions For here we can see ourselves as part of a world economy, in which we have a peculiar role to play. That role is to do things which Nature alone would not do, that is, to create new things, to do what would otherwise never be done, and by the intelligent use of our powers to accelerate the natural processes themselves.
This power is due to the mind, the focus of our sense of selfhood-in-separation from the world in which we live. Moreover, the duality of this mind, as we have already said, gives us a certain leverage on ourselves and on the world about us. This is power. For if one is not separate from one’s environment, if one cannot exert powers of one’s own on it, one is helpless as a man bound and tied in a stream of water. He is forced to drift and can do nothing until he unties himself and starts to swim. And as he swims, he affects the medium in which he is swimming.
In the physical world, moreover, man is part of a larger entity which, in turn, is contained within a still greater. It is not without significance that H.P. BLAVATSKY speaks of the term Monad as applicable to a whole hierarchy of beings on infinitely different scales. Each Monad, great or small, has a certain function to fulfill in the economy of the Monad next greater than himself. Man’s appears to be that of being original. He himself is a minute creature on the face of a minute planet in a system which, physically, is itself minute in a vast universe of galaxies, colonies of galaxies, and doubtless greater systems still. But his role on the earth seems clear, and it is his task to learn to fulfill it there in such a way that the economy of the world gains by his acts.
At the back of all true religion and spiritual philosophy lies the sense of this need. For man is held to have vast potentialities which he can develop only by his own efforts, and, what is more, only by fulfilling his task while he is incarnate in his spiritual-physical body. It is often said that man needs God; but even an orthodox Anglican priest was heard to say in public that we have to realize that God needs man just as much. To fill that need is to become Man in the fullest sense of the term.
But can it not be said also that our small human selves derive their peculiar quality from the fact that we are one rung on the vast ladder of Men who exist throughout the universe? For it seems logical to suggest that, whatever smaller Monads there may be than ourselves in terms of physical space, we are in the ranks of Man the Creator, who is to be found at all levels of the universe. Thus, starting from man on Earth, we may think of ourselves as parts of the creative function of the Divine Mind, in our Planetary Chain, in the Solar System, in the Galaxy, and so onwards to the furthest horizons of the universe, and label this Man.
This is a grand vista, and one which gives one a sense of the potential greatness of ourselves as human beings. But is also inspires us with a deep humility when we realize how small is the field in which we have to work, when compared with the vastness of the celestial spheres.
IF we study classical Theosophical literature, we get the impression that what we know as the human Monad is some primordial part of ourselves, which, being in its own transcendental sphere, had little or no part to play in our ordinary life. Indeed, we are told that the Ego, which is only one remove from the material, personal life, itself leads an existence independent of the personality, and, for a very long period of evolution, is uninterested in what is happening to this personality. And the Monad is a long way beyond even this spiritual Ego!
With our modern knowledge of the structure of the mind, it is perhaps not difficult to see what is meant. For it is inconceivable that the very heart of our being having created a personality for itself, should then practically abandon that personality to its fate. On the other hand, we know nowadays that there are vast reaches of the mind which are not sub-conscious in the sense of having passed through consciousness and then dropped below it, where functions like digestion take place, but rather superconscious, using this word to imply what has not yet become conscious, but which is due, in the course of evolution, to become so. Jung’s essentially spiritual psychology centres round the theme of the teleology of man: the implicit, future goal of individual evolution; and it tells us that there are indeed levels of activity in the deeper unconscious of which the personal mind has, at most indirect cognisance. In other words, it is evident that there are parts of ourselves which function well beyond the limits of the small field where we pass our daily lives. But it does not mean that they are thereby entirely divorced from everyday life in the material world.
Before passing on to study the human Monad, it will be well if the Monadic principle is established on a wider basis. For H.P. BLAVATSKY, echoing many other writers, at least as early as Greek times, tells us that “the terms Monad [is] one which may apply equally to the vastest solar system or the tiniest atom”. This suggests that a Monad (the word being derived from the Greek monos, or one) is a unit on its own, and that there is a vast hierarchy of Monads, from the smallest discrete entity to the vastest astronomical systems. Moreover, it follows that the human Monad is, somewhere in the scale, larger than the atom, but smaller than the planet on which it lives. The Italian Renaissance mystical philosopher, Pico della Mirandola, says, in connection with the individual souls and the World Soul:
Firstly, there is unity in things, whereby each thing is at one with itself, consists of itself, and coheres with itself. Secondly, there is the unity whereby one creature is united with others and all parts of the world constitute one world. The third and most important (unity) is that whereby the whole universe is one with its Creator, as an army with its commander. * [This quotation is from The Interpretation of Nature and the Psyche by C. G. Jung and W. Pauli, and is given as from the Heptaplus, VI.]
This is a perfect definition of what we call a Monad, showing us that though a Monad is a discrete being—whether it be an electron, a cell, a planetary chain or a galaxy—it is complete only when considered in relation to its environment in the Monadic hierarchy.
In other words, a Monad, in its fullness, is not only a centre, it is also a circumference. It is a focus of the Divine Life, but it is also the womb in which that focus can develop, taking from and giving to its environment and to the other denizens of the Monadic hierarchy in which it is. This is clear enough when we consider the basic principles of ordinary material life, where we learn that a bodily organism is made up of lesser entities such as cells, and these in turn of molecules and atoms, all of which both give to and take from the body as a whole; while human beings only exist as such when they are part of the community of mankind, mankind as part of the biosphere of the earth, the earth in relation to the planetary and then the solar system, and so on.
It is evident that if we accept philosophically the principle of the Monadic hierarchy, we must also envisage that Monads at different levels on the ladder have different ranges and capacities. An atom or a cell cannot do what a man can, and man has a much smaller range than the Logos of a planet, a solar system or any larger entity in the universe. Yet it is also evident that, active or latent, there is a similarity between all Monads. Not only do they belong to the same hierarchy, but every occult system has taught that man is a microcosm, and that if he learns to understand himself, he must perforce thereby also understand the cosmos. If this is true, and if H.P. BLAVATSKY’s definition is also true, one must add to the micro-cosmic idea of man also that of his being a macro-atom; otherwise the whole conception of the Monads falls to pieces. Reference to the sources of occult philosophy do suggest strongly the principle that there are wheels within wheels, cycles within cycles, and Monads within Monads, from the greatest to the smallest. Moreover, these sources tell us that the principle of their creation is the same throughout: they are all “undetached sparks of the divine Flame”.
Clearly, discussion of these things becomes difficult if one tries to particularize: Is the whole of the iron in the world one Monad, carbon another, and so on? Or does the Monadic principle apply to physical objects which may include both iron, carbon and other elements, as, for instance, in a living organism? Or do the Monadic fields overlap, so that the iron Monad and the carbon Monad overlap the field of a Monad which is the living body of man or animal, and in the case of an animal, is there a still further Monadic field which is that of the group-soul of that animal? Such speculation is not as idle as may appear. For though one cannot be specific, in trying to understand the unity of Life, one must bear very much in mind this principle of overlapping and interlocking of one part with all the rest.
We, as human beings, however, are primarily concerned with ourselves: the Monad which makes us individual is perhaps the first on the ladder to be sufficiently developed to give it the ability to study and know itself. Are we to look on this human Monad as the remote thing which is suggested? If so, we think of it in terms of an atom of Âdi matter, dwelling on the plane called Anupâdaka, and of ourselves as separated from it by reaches of spiritual consciousness which are called Egoic and which are for the most part still out of reach of our personalities and the centre of selfhood in them.
Doubtless all this is correct, in quasi-geographical terms. But in terms of function and of consciousness, we can being the whole matter much closer to our daily lives. For the Monad can then be defined as the totality of the individual’s capacities, both actual and potential, both in eternity and from moment to moment in space and time. That is, at any and every moment of time, whether I be busy with preparing a meal, earning money, or in profound meditation, it is the Monad which is at work.
This may seem to be a revolutionary statement, and one which makes much too high a claim for the ordinary man. But if, as we know from our spiritual psychology, we remember that a great deal of man’s life is lived unconsciously, that the field of his immediate awareness is minute compared to the totality of himself, it is evident that it is not saying too much. For we know that the part which we call “I,” and round which we centre our personalities, represents the focus of the potentialities of man which we have so far developed and objectivised. But we also learn, if we study ourselves, our actions, our feelings and thoughts, that there is a force behind this actual personality which sometimes takes it up, much as a man may pick up a dog or a cat, and sweeps it out of its routines into something new which it would, apparently, never have chosen for itself.
True, this force may arise from the subhuman, instinctive elements in ourselves, which we have not yet integrated into the human economy of our beings. But it frequently happens that it comes from a source of greater vision and understanding than any we know in ordinary ways. And as we learn to know ourselves, we begin to perceive that this force is indeed ourselves, working differently from the way the daily, pragmatic, personal ego works. We are, in other words, feeling the power of the spiritual Ego, the Self of Jungian terminology, which seems completely different from, and at odds with, the personal and separative self. It is self-in-union, as against self-in-separation, and we feel that the consummation of ourselves is to learn to be and live as that spiritual self, demolishing the separate self of the personality, “dying” in order that we may “live unto life eternal”.
For the fact seems to be that the Monad, in the course of its evolution, makes use of the work already done in the manifested worlds in order to develop its own inherent capacities. That is, clearly, a less arduous matter than beginning on new ground altogether, much as a gardener will find it more convenient to use ground which has already been cultivated before he starts on that which has not. So, it seems, the Monad finds it convenient to work first where the field in which it manifests has already been to some extent tilled. That is, in practical terms, it begins by developing its material organism; using and adapting the body borrowed from the animals, with its sensory mechanism, its instinctive patterns, and all the rest of the tools or apparatus, which he will hold in common with subhuman kingdoms. (We need not here concern ourselves with the fact that it is apparently always man, in earlier cycles, who creates the original bodies and other functions which, in our own times, are used by the subhuman kingdoms.) Hence, it is the material, personal aspects of Monadic incarnation which are first brought to perfection, while the spiritual aspects—those we call, Theosophically, the Ego, or psychologically, the Self—remain latent, or at least subjective, until the time comes when we begin to bring them into activity.
Hence, when we come to look at ourselves, as human beings, now, we find that we have a heavy weight of personality already at our disposal, and only a tenuous spiritual fabric. We are therefore faced with an increasingly strong urge to balance matters up by developing the spiritual and subordinating the personal. In older times, this became exaggerated into a cult or mortification, asceticism, destruction of all that is personal and bodily, so that the spiritual could take its place.
But what is this spiritual consciousness? Is it, indeed, a consummation to be sought, as a substitute for the pragmatic, personal aspect of ourselves? Is it correct advice that we should “kill out desire,” and all that goes with it? We are learning today to look differently at personal attributes, and to see them, not as the opposite of spiritual ones, but as their complement. That is, the spiritual qualities need to be added to those of the personality, not substituted for them.
This may seem to contradict the teachings of Occultism. But, in fact, it is obvious that, if we were to give up all the traits which the personality has developed in the long course of evolution, we should find out that we could not live in the personal, material world at all. The instinct which makes us fear danger would not be there to protect us from death or injury, that which makes for sexual reproduction would vanish, and there would then be no bodies into which we could incarnate, we should lose the ability even to think practically over matters necessary for daily living and would land in chaos: in short, total loss of personality would be complete disaster from the evolutionary viewpoint. On the other hand, if we add spiritual qualities to those of the personality, the total pattern of ourselves as human beings is changed. The personal aspect, instead of filling the whole stage, becomes one factor in the drama of total living, the other factor being what we call the spiritual Ego. The two together make man, and when they are both fully developed and fully co-operative, they make man perfect and ready to move on into superhuman spheres of being.
What are the roles of each? Briefly stated, the personality is that part of us which is designed to lead us to live actively in the space-time worlds. It is, in that sense, outward-turned, it learns by experience: it is the vehicle of doing. The spiritual Ego, on the other hand is inward-turned it does not need to learn because it knows intuitively about life, and has many other attributes belonging to the real of unity and eternity; it is the vehicle of being.
There are some who feel that the latter is by far the most important thing, and in their attempts to become spiritual, they give up the effort to do; and hence, far from being efficiently practical, they are increasingly vague, unpunctual and generally inefficient—and that despite what has been said about yoga, or occultism, or spirituality, being “skill in action”! This is obviously a mistake. For the truly spiritual person is one who is able to be very practical and efficient. But, instead of acting predominantly for his own personal benefit, he will do so while holding a balance between what is due to him as personality and what is due to the community. That is, he will try and fulfil another axiom about Occultism, which describes it as “the apotheosis of common sense”. He will not, in short, attempt things of which he is incapable, nor put himself in a position where, because of material poverty caused by lack of reasonable foresight, or ill-health brought on from neglect of ordinary personal needs in food, recreation and rest, he is a burden to society and not a contributor to it. “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” is the injunction to Christians; which implies that one should love oneself—provided this is done in the right way, and not in the older and more primitive way which the student of spiritual science should be outgrowing.
From what has been said, we can draw a picture of man, as he develops, becoming a being balanced between the needs of the personal, material world, in which he is incarnate, and of the spiritual. For in the latter he is also in a state of “existence,” not of pure being: he is already, as spiritual Ego, removed from his essential Monadic nature in the world of absolutes. It is an interesting fact, usually overlooked, that the term mâyâ, frequently translated as meaning illusion, is, in Hindu philosophy, held to apply just as much to the spiritual world of the Ego or Self as to that of the personality: both these complementary parts of man are equally denizens of the world of mâyâ, the relative, the absolute, the “unreal”—though we must not take this word as meaning the false so much as the sub-totally or partially real.
If, then, the human being is considered as made up of two aspects, the one spiritual and the other personal, both of which are mâyâvic, does this help us to further understanding of the place and the nature of the Monad? For, clearly, both these aspects of man are part of the field of activity of this Monad. Moreover, they are polarized to one another as to their qualities. It is only because of the development already achieved in the personal world that the spiritual or Egoic aspect is considered as “superior” or “higher”. It is as if the arm of a balance were tilted to one side because more weight of experience has accumulated there than on the other; the lighter and less developed side would then be pointing up, and in that sense “above” the other. But eventually, when both sides are equally filled and weighted, the arm should come level; that is, a “middle” point is reached. It should be remembered that the basis of Buddhist philosophy rests on the principle of the Middle Path, balanced between extremes, while Krishnamurti also often speaks of the need to be poised, neither at rest nor in action, but in a position where one is both and neither at once. Similarly, in the Bible, we are told that the Voice of God is not in storm or whirlwind, but can be heard only in the stillness of the lull when action has ended.
This suggests that the active focus of the human Monad is indeed not “beyond” the Ego, but in the very centre of ourselves as human beings: the fulcrum on which the arm of the balance rests, the central pivot of the whole man. In other words, its place is between the poles of personality and spiritual Ego; in the middle of the thing which makes man what he is, the mind. From there, its influence makes itself felt in both aspects of the mind (for there is only one mind, though it acts in two different modes which we are wont to call “higher” and “lower,” so different are they). And through this mind it runs, in both directions at once, as the axis of the human constitution known as antahkarana, to the extremes of the human field, i.e., in technical terms, the “lower” Âtmic and the etheric levels. Here it, as it were, encounters itself in its enveloping or containing aspect, as it sets limits beyond which man, as man, must not go: the “ring-pass-not” of the human being.
Thus we can envisage the Monad, in so far as it is a human Monad in action, not as something out of reach and entirely beyond our comprehension, but, on the contrary, as that which is the very core of ourselves all the time, from beginning to end of our career as human beings: something even “closer than breathing, nearer than hands and feet”. Yet we must add that, just as the Divine Principle, speaking as Krishna in the Gîtâ says that “having pervaded this whole Universe with one fragment of Myself, I remain,” so perhaps does the Monad “remain” after it has pervaded the human field, waiting until its task there is finished, before it begins on a new phase of greater activity, taking with it its human experience. But is it then still a human Monad or has it then passed on to a higher rung on the Monadic ladder, no longer man, but a God? That is one of the mysteries which can only be solved when we reach the point of direct knowledge. But nevertheless, it can only stimulate us to fresh life if we realize that every humble human being has in him the possibility of himself, one day, through his own efforts, becoming a being of truly divine stature.
to Top of this page
Back to our On Line Documents
Back to our Main Page
This document is a publication
Canadian Theosophical Association (a regional association of the Theosophical Society in Adyar)
89 Promenade Riverside,
St-Lambert, QC J4R 1A3
our website is at : http://www.theosophical.ca
to get to our Contacts-Information list click on: