printed originally in The Theosophist, June, 1909, p355-358
Several students have asked whether the discoveries announced in the article on "The Aether of Space" (Theosophist, vol 29, No. 9, June 1908) modify in any way what was previously written in A Study in Consciousness, Occult Chemistry, etc., as to the formation of the planes of the solar system. Speaking generally, a modification of the way of expressing facts and an amplification of details rather than a correction of facts are needed, as will be presently explained, but the enquiries suggest the need of a few words on 'revelations' as a whole.
As a matter of fact, revelations can only come from the Masters Themselves, or from Those above Them in the Occult Hierarchy, and are concerned with matters of deep import and weighty significance, such as those embodied in the early days of the Theosophical Society in Mr Sinnett's Esoteric Buddhism and, later, in Madame Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine. Even in these, mistakes have inevitably occurred, as Madame Blavatsky pointed out in her great work, from the fact that the knowledge imparted by the Masters had to be assimilated and reproduced by the pupils to whom They gave it, and in the process inevitably contracted some errors, due to the imperfection of the pupil, not to the lack of knowledge of the Master. The treasure was in earthen vessels.
But in the writings of the pupils themselves, when they are not merely transmitters, there are no revelations, but only observations and deductions or inductions, and these are subject to all the ordinary rules which govern such matters. The powers of the student, at any stage, are limited, and he can only observe within the limits of these powers. As he advances, his powers increase, and when, after such increase, he again observes a particular phenomenon observed in his earlier days, he sees much more of it than he did before. Hence he describes it more fully, and in many ways differently. Later on, he sees relations which before were invisible to him, and these modify his description of the related phenomena. The solar system, to the vision of one order, is a series of separate globes revolving round a central globe; to the vision of a higher order it is as a lotus flower spread out in space, and every apparent globe but the tip of a leaf. Is the first vision true? Yes and no. It is true on its own plane, but the expression of it will be modified when the results of the subtler vision of a higher plane are in the memory of the observer. If with my physical eyes I see a boy whirling a flaming stick, I say that I see a fiery circle. Is it true? Yes and no. I see a fiery circle, but there is no circle, only a point moving so rapidly that the impressions overlap each other and appear to me to be continuous.
If observations are to be published at all - and by such publication of observations every science grows - they must be taken as mere commonplace observations, and not as revelations. They must be subject to amplification, modification, correction, by further observations. As was said in the original article on "Occult Chemistry" (Lucifer, November 1895): "These observations need repetition and checking ... Further observations are necessary to substantiate details. The observations ... are believed to be correct so far as they go."
Let us now compare the statements in "The Aether of Space" as to the atom with those of the earlier literature, taking the Lucifer article and p17-24 of A Study in Consciousness as fairly covering the ground.
The bubbles may be regarded as "the matter drawn in from the infinite space on every side for the building of our solar system" (p17), and the "seven types of matter" are to be formed from these. A single bubble may provisionally be taken as probably the atom of the Adi plane, so that we may conceive that when the Logos commenced His work of manifestation He found nothing but a mass of separate equidistant bubbles. We know nothing of His work on that plane, but reasoning by analogy we may venture to suppose that there also sub-planes may exist, made by His action in ensouling forms composed of aggregations of the bubbles.
When He willed to constitute the second plane He poured forth a wave of His life, and this wave, with its definite wavelength, is the tanmâtra of the future atom of the plane; it carries with it nearly all the bubbles of the system, but leaves an infinitesimal fraction of the whole as the matter of the Adi plane. As the wave of life wells out, it shows itself as requiring a different mode of expression from that on the Adi plane; no longer does it work with simple bubbles, but its atom is a complex form consisting of forty-nine bubbles. On this second plane, this atom of forty-nine bubbles is the unit, the brick used for the building, though what it there builds is still beyond our conception.
When the third plane is to be constructed, the out-welling is not from the lowest sub-plane already evolved, nor is the atom of this, the nirvânic plane, built directly out of the forty-nine-bubble-atoms already existing. It may be remembered that it has been pointed out that the atomic sub-planes are all in touch (p26-28), and constitute what has been termed "the short cut"; in the building, the Logos send out a fresh wave, which seizes upon nearly all the Anupâdaka atoms - leaving only what is needed for the work of that plane - and sweeps them away; as they are swept away they are broken up, and reduced into their constituent bubbles, and those same bubbles are instantly reformed into atoms of quite another shape, each containing two thousand four hundred and one bubbles. This process is repeated until the physical plane is reached, only sufficient material being left behind on each plane for the needs of the evolution which is to take place upon it.
This is exactly the reverse of the breaking-up process described in the article on "The Aether of Space". It was there stated that a physical atom is not built directly of astral atoms, and therefore cannot be broken up into them; but that if the force ensouling a physical atom is pushed back beyond the limits of physicality, the physical atom dissolves into its fourteen thousand million constituent bubbles, which immediately rearrange themselves into forty-nine astral atoms. If the force be pushed back once more, beyond the limits of the astral plane, these forty-nine astral atoms dissolve again into separate bubbles, and the same force instantly ensouls two thousand four hundred and one mental atoms, which are however simply a new arrangement of the same group of bubbles that originally constituted the physical atom.
Therefore, just as it is incorrect to speak of breaking up a physical atom into astral atoms, so it is inaccurate to speak of building a physical atom out of astral atoms, because before the change can take place the astral atoms must dissolve into their constituent bubbles and these must be rearranged in quite a different way. But it must be noted that a physical atom is never built up out of any bubbles but those that have previously been part of astral atoms, just as astral atoms are never built except out of bubbles which have previously formed part of mental atoms. In the descent, each plane is formed only of bubbles which have previously had the experience of all the planes above; but at each change from plane to plane, they leap back for an instant into the original condition of separate bubbles, and the arrangement in the new and lower atom is caused by a new wave of life from the Logos, expressing itself in further self-limitations. In the earlier investigations we missed this swift dissolution and rebuilding, and saw only that where the physical atom had been, the astral atoms were. We concluded too hastily that the one was disintegrated directly into the other.
As has been said, each new wave of life from the Logos is a tanmâtra; the axes along which the force moves to make the new arrangement are the tattva. These determine the size and form of the atom (p20), but what "we may call the surface or wall of the atom," determined by them, the "whirling wall" spoken of in Lucifer, is not a true surface or wall, but an illusory one, like the circle of the whirling fire-stick - an appearance merely. This fact, also, we did not notice in the earlier investigations. The 'shell' spoken of on p22-24 is equally an appearance, the pressed-back matter of the earlier plane as the vortex of the new atom declares itself (see Lucifer article). But though the detail as given on p22-24 needs amending, the involution which was there imperfectly described is a fact, as the experience of each plane is carried on by the bubbles which leave it to form the atoms of its successor.
We have gone into detail in this matter, partly in answer to questions put at one of our Adyar meetings, and partly in order to remind students that all our observations are likely to be modified and corrected and amplified as to details, as they are repeated with powers which have grown, and with increasing familiarity with the phenomena of the different planes. In all these matters, we are in the region of science, not of revelation.
AB & CWL
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