by R.B. Holt

A lecture to the Adelphi Lodge

reprinted from "Theosophical Siftings" - Volume - 6-

[Page 11] I INVITE you to accompany me some little way back along the path of Being and to endeavour to realise what was at the very commencement of Kosmic evolution.

This is a journey of a few thousands of millions of years, but happily we are not obliged to make it physically; we have but to imagine that we have passed over this immense period and, in thought, we stand at the very start point of our present Maha-Kalpa.

Now a Maha-Kalpa, according to Oriental computation, embraces three hundred and eleven thousand and forty millions of solar years. But even a Maha-Kalpa is but as a moment when compared with infinite duration and, reasoning from analogy, the Hindu philosophers conclude that countless millions of these life-cycles must have been evolved before the commencement of our own Maha-Kalpa. It is therefore, after all, only a relatively modern period which I shall now endeavour to present to you.

Of preceding Life Cycles we can say little; it is believed that during their course, Man (the personification of divine Thought) pondered the ideas presented to him by his intuition, exercised his will and profited by his experiences. In short, during each Manvantara "mutatis mutandis" he acted in a manner that exactly corresponds to the actions of man today and with results that are essentially the same.

By this process germs of essential life were matured, which became each man's intuitions at his next incarnation, and the sum of these intuitions represented to him what is now called Karma.

At each Manvantara a form was evolved, suited to the highest life which was then possible, and this form became the vehicle of the reincarnating Ego.

By this means the most apt scholars of the Great Master attained their present pre-eminence, and became the Angels and Gods of the Monads incarnated as humanity in our own day.

Accepting this theory as a working hypothesis, let us now consider what Hindu philosophy teaches respecting the Genesis of Kosmos.

Like all great cosmogonies, that of the Hindus begins with a Void in which there is neither light nor form. We may call it Space, Chaos, [Page 12] Bythos, the Great Deep, or anything else that will best express to us the utterly unknowable mode of Being. But this void could not be without its essential Cause, so it is conceived as ensouled by the inscrutable Parabrahm, or as the Hindus reverentially call it THAT; the Causeless Cause of all things. That is (A) the great Spirit as distinguished by qualities such as Omniscience, etc., created by Maya and Maya itself. (B) The great Spirit without Maya, etc., i.e., unmixed. The first is Deity as it seems to us, the second is Deity as it is.

This Void which transcends our rarest thought and is known to us only as a subjective consciousness; this sentient nothingness contains the possibility of all things, nay, is everything in its unmanifested state.

Yearning towards this Void, in spiritual ecstasy, the highest Yogins intuit a first film evolving from the boundless expanse of Jiva; a faint dimming of the light which, owing to its intensity, is darkness even to them. This film they call Akasa, and define it as the eternal Divine [ Blavatsky Lodge Transactions - P. II.] Consciousness which cannot differentiate, have qualities, or act.

By Jiva they mean the Universal Life Principle and Akasa being the first vehicle in which Absoluteness manifests itself, this vehicle or Divine Consciousness necessarily has an intense vitality of its own; not a vegetable, animal, or even spiritual life, but an energy identical with that Be-ness which is the Rootless Root of all Being. This energy is intuited as Divine Will, and by that Will manifestation becomes possible.

The first form of Akasa then is Divine Consciousness, a state which exists, to us, only as an ultra abstraction.

But the Hindus reason in this wise: The Idea of Consciousness, even when abstract, necessitates the Idea of something to be conscious of, and if nothing existed but Parabrahm, Parabrahm could only be conscious of itself.

Thus we come to Divine introspection, or, as one may say, the Absolute taking stock of its own Absoluteness.

From this introspection evolves subjective differentiation; i.e. the possibilities of things limiting each other in Divine Consciousness.

Next follows the desire to realise these possibilities, which necessitates a fitting vehicle for their manifestation, and the first consciousness of this desire is another aspect of Akasa; and thus we cognise what Theosophists call the plane of the Manifested Logos, the first mentally objective Creation.

This is the highest state subject to human observation, and the first thing that we perceive is that here everything has a dual existence.

In accordance then with the Universal Law of duality on this plane, [ Raja Yoga, 24] Akasa must have its lining, or female correspondent. Accordingly, Ether [Page 13] is predicated and endowed with Sabda, or the power of differentiation, which is the equivalent or correspondent of Divine Ideation. Thus Akasa becomes the first personation of the male or positive principle, with primordeal [ Secret Doctrine, Vol. 1, Page 57] Ether, the female or passive Principle, as its appropriate Shakti.

The Hindus have made many attempts to define Akasa, but when dealing with it in its subjective state the terms used convey only the [ Secret Doctrine, Volume 1, Page 255] veriest shadow of a meaning. It is called the noumenon of Ether. The [ Secret Doctrine, Volume 1, Page 343 ] living fire; the Spirit of Light; Deity which pervades everything. The [ Isis Unveiled, Volume 1, Page 139] imponderable and intangible life-principle; all which terms would doubtless be very satisfactory if we could only realise their ultimate meanings. As that realisation is utterly beyond us, we must be content with a dim consciousness of an omnipresent Essentiality which is the substance of all that we know as mental and physical phenomena, and which is the anti-type of every manifestation.

[ Monism 22] The Hindus further tell us that Akasa is the substratum of Sound. "That it is an almost homogeneous and certainly a universal Principle", and they explain that Sound is not a characteristic of Akasa, though it is certainly innate in it, as the Idea I am I is innate in our thought.

Here we may get somewhat in touch with Western Philosophy.[ Secret Doctrine, Volume 2, Page 2 ]

Sound is a mode of motion and, according to Theosophical teaching, " Motion is the one eternal attribute of the One life".

If then, Akasa is the substratum of Sound, and sound is a mode of motion, in this aspect we have to regard Akasa as motion, or that by [ Secret Doctrine, Volume 1, Page 2] which Divine life is possible, for as we are told "that which is motionless cannot be divine".

First then, we get latent consciousness; the inconceivable self-hood of the Absolute: the possibility of motion in the intangible and imponderable Life Principle, in infinity.

Next is a reciprocal relation of this subjective motion to primary objective motion. This correlation is termed Sound; consequently Sound must be regarded as the primary effect of motion; an effect which becomes the cause of all divine manifestations on every subsequent plane of Being. Sound is, therefore, properly termed the Logos or Divine Ideation.

This Logos (the Word of St. John) is at first subjective, or, as it is commonly called, unmanifested. This is quite logical, for evidently a thing must be before it can become cognisable even by itself.

In order to illustrate this let us pass over the many intervening planes and come for a moment to our own, remembering that, according to the [ Secret Doctrine, Volume 2, P 29] Law "as above so below” whatever we find on our own plane must have its correspondent on every other plane, for there, is persistence and continuity throughout. [Page 14]

Now, after a man has become conscious of his Being and comprehended the powers which constitute his Individuality, he is very different from that heterogeny of attributes which previously constituted an irrational existence. He now has an intuitive perception of Unity in diversity and gradually his will acquires force by the differentiation of its organs of expression. A corresponding process is apparent in all evolutions, and if the law "as above so below" really is a universal one, there is nothing to justify our limiting the operation of it.

[ Monism, Page 20] But while we must postulate Parabrahm as a logical necessity it is
only Iswara "the Supreme Creator, demonstrated by inference" that we are really interested in, and it is only on our own plane of being that [ Secret Doctrine, Volume 1, Page 432] Akasa concerns us. "Even Iswara knows not Parabrahm, but only [ Secret Doctrine Volume 1, Page10] Mulaprakriti", and we only have to do with Akasa in its lower aspect; that is, as "the radiation of Mulaprakriti, the abstract primordial substance".

We are told that cosmically Akasa is a radiant, cool, diathermanous, [ Secret Doctrine Volume 1, Page . 13] plastic matter; creative in its physical nature, correllative in its grossest aspects and portions, immutable in its higher Principles. In the former condition it is called the Sub-Root and in conjunction with radiant heat [ Secret Doctrine, Volume 1, Page 85] "the all-creative Force plus Intelligence", it recalls dead worlds to life. "It is that out of which everything has come, in obedience to a law of [ Buddhist Cathechism, Page 51] motion inherent in it. It is the subtle fluid which pervades all space and [ Visishtadwaita Catechism, Page 37] is everywhere and in everything".

According then to Hindu teaching our Akasa is a fluid infinitely rarer than celestial Ether, though compared with Ether our atmosphere is very solid and ponderous matter.

In its nature, too, Akasa is a dual substance which underlies both spirit and matter. A law of motion is said to be inherent in it, and [ Secret Doctrine, Volume 1, Page 599] Motion is the One eternal Is. The one attribute by which the One Life is knowable by us. If, then, we are to recognise a divine presence pervading the Universe, even to its smallest atom, it is by Akasa that this presence is manifested to us. Remembering, too, that in its higher aspect Akasa is divine consciousness, the Omniscience of deity becomes an understandable proposition. It may be reasoned in this wise: Akasa is divine consciousness.

This consciousness is the intelligence manifested in every one of the atoms whose aggregate is the Universe; in every one of the cells which constitute our bodies; in every being that exists. Therefore that which is the knowledge of every part must in its synthesis be the knowledge of the whole, and this totality of knowledge is what we call omniscience.

Here, of course, I am assuming that no one will contend that Deity [Page 15] can have any limitations, and also, that all admit that the chemical affinity of matter varies in form and degree, but is identical in kind with the sympathetic will of the highest Intelligences. To demonstrate these propositions is beyond the scope of my present subject.

In Akasa, then, we find an inherent law by which it reproduces itself as the first duality on our plane; that is as Spirit and Matter. These, however, must never be regarded as two distinct things, but always as two co-eternal, co-existent aspects of the One immutable "IS", or, if you prefer it, as two modes of the One Motion or Great Breath.

It does not then seem unreasonable to conclude that all things, whether spiritual or physical, acquire their qualities from differations or varying quantities of these two primal modes of motion, and that as the one or the other predominates, so is the Being of a higher or a lower order.

How potentiality became potency, or the intangible became sentient, it is impossible to say. We only know that for us sentiency exists, and by a logical process infer that a negative must have preceded this positive state.

We are further told that "Akasa contains and includes the seven centres of Force, therefore the six Tatwas of which it is the synthesis". This may be taken to mean that all Forces are some form of motion, their characters being determined by the forms, directions, and rates of their vibrations.

Rama Prasad says, "all forms and ideas of the Universe live and move in Akasa. There is no living thing which is not preceded by Akasa or followed by it"; and, in the Visishtadwaita catechism, we read "Akasa is that subtle fluid which pervades all space and exists everywhere [Visishtadwaita Catechism, Page 37] in everything"; while H. P. B. tells us that " Akasa is the Upadhi or[ Secret Doctrine, Volume 1, Page 326] Vehicle of Divine Thought."

Thus we are again brought back to Divine Thought, and that thought only becomes subjective to us when it moulds the form of an Idea out of something more tangible than itself, but still too subtle to be cognizable by our keenest senses. This something is held to be what we term consciousness, and if it is consciousness on one plane, it must be consciousness on every plane. Consequently we get Consciousness, Idea and Thought as the Triad from which all things emanate on every plane.

But we may even go a little further than this. Consciousness itself implies limitations and qualifications. Something to be conscious of, and [ Secret Doctrine, Volume 1, Page 56] someone to be conscious of it. Here, therefore, we get a Duality, on a higher plane than our own; a principle which differentiates what we are accustomed to regard as the Divine Unity. In Hindu philosophy this Unity stands for "Absolute Consciousness, which contains the cogniser, the [Page 16] thing to be cognised and the cognition. All three in itself and all three One". "But to us this consciousness is unconsciousness, for concrete [ Secret Doctrine, Volume 1, Page 56] Consciousness cannot be predicated of Abstract Consciousness anymore than the quality wet can be predicated of water — wetness being its own [ Secret Doctrine,Volume 1, Page 58] quality and the cause of wetness in others".

We have then consciousness, i.e. immediate knowledge — as the passive substance in which all Ideas are evolved by the active energy of Will, manifested as Thought, and the objective Word as the effect of their Being.

This order is universal, and can be traced through all the Planes of Being. To us, as we have seen, it first appears as the correlation of spirit and matter; for, as the Hindus say, Purusha and Prakriti are ever [Secret Doctrine, Volume 1, Page 247] inseparable though ever distinguishable. They are the two poles of the same homogeneous substance.

For us, however, these exist only as differentiations of our own consciousness, for unless we had knowledge of them, to us they would not be, and that knowledge is only to be attained by a finite Being through limitations in his consciousness of the Infinite.

Omnipotence, Omnipresence, Omniscience, etc., are not segrations in the Divine Unity but only terms by which we express our intuition of the infinitude of the power, propinquity, knowledge, etc., which characterise our own being, and which, in the abstract, extend beyond the range of our cognition.

Now as consciousness is the genesis of Individuality it is to each of us "the first film on the boundless expanse of 'Jiva' or the Universal Life Principle”', and that, as we are told, is the primary definition of Akasa. Akasa, therefore, is not only Divine, but also human consciousness.

Then, when we read that, "Akasa is the upadhi, or vehicle, of Divine thought", we understand that Divine Will, or Desire, evolves a Divine Idea, which Divine Thought, or Intelligence, formulates in such a mode that it can be apprehended by Human Consciousness, as an Idea or Intuition, which Human thought can clothe by fashioning the sympathetic essence that unifies man and Deity, and so we are enabled to comprehend our correspondent of that which was evolved in the Divine consciousness or Akasa.

Passing through the various planes in which consciousness is manifested we come at last to the physical. There we find "countless centres of potential vitality, each having latent intelligence within it, and each evolving a succession of forms, through countless ages, in precisely the same way that our own Egos have evolved our own personalities; [Page 17] consequently, between our Egos and other centres of potency there is an inherent correlation, so there is no absurdity in believing that if we can obtain control over the various vibrations of the common medium of consciousness, or Akasa, we can use all the forces of Nature for the benefit [ Secret Doctrine, Volume 1, Page 567] of man".

Now these centres, Jivas, Monads, Egos, or whatever we choose to call them, have certain characteristics by which each can be distinguished from all others, while, at the same time, these characteristics have an essential similtude which implies a common origin. Some of them are manifestations wonderfully complex, and science has traced the evolution of organs, into which the homogeneous protoplasm has been differentiated, as fresh needs have arisen in the order of Being. In every case we find the need preceding the differentiation, and the perfection of the organ keeping pace with the growth of the necessity.

Here again we see the Divine Will, personated by necessity and evolving a first film, that is, consciousness or Akasa, on Universal Life manifested on the physical plane. But here, too, we mark a notable distinction. Absolute Being has no needs, and, therefore, is incapable of progress. Finite Being is the manifestation of multiplying needs, and by that multiplication progress is effected.

Now this progress is ever towards the extinction of needs, and in that extinction is reunion with the Absolute, which has no needs; consequently, while there is ever a temporary potent differentiation, the potential Unity of all is the eternal One "Reality, and needs are only created to be destroyed.

Thus, by regarding Akasa, or consciousness, manifested on various planes and in various Differentiations, as that in which Divine Motion, Energy, Thought, or Will formulates Divine Ideation, we get some slight conception of the Harmony which ever vibrates in the Infinite.

The first mode of this vibration is Sound, the Logos or word manifesting Divine Ideation. Sound, therefore, is not regarded as an attribute of Akasa, but still we are told Sound is innate in Akasa.

That is to say, like everything else, the Great Breath or Abstract Motion can only be manifested in and by a suitable vehicle, while no such vehicle can be without Divine Volition.

This necessitates the existence of Akasa before the first thrill of even subjective vibration. Here, therefore, it is properly called a principle rather than a substance, for even the subjective antecedent of Matter is too gross to embody That which is beyond the seventh plane of Akasa — the omnipresent Deity from which, and in which, a sand grain and Iswara. [Page 18] alike have their Being; the unknowable Absolute of the West, the inscrutable Parabrahm of the East.

And now let us give a brief consideration to the other part of our subject.

Ether, we are told, "is the lining of Akasa; it is the World Soul or [Secret Doctrine, Volume 1, Page 97] Mother of Kosmos; it is said to be the fifth element within which Cosmic Matter scatters and forms itself into the Mystic Four". It is the [ Isis Unveiled, Volume 1, Page 134] "Spiritual Mother of everything". " The passive female Principle from [ Secret Doctrine, Volume 1, Page 57] which everything has emanated".

On the highest objective plane then, we get Akasa the male Principle or Deity with its lining or female correspondent, Ether, as the parents of the Universe. Personifying these Principles, as an illustration of creation, we may compare Iswara to a child blowing bubbles. For his plastic [Visishtadwaita Catechism, Page 33] medium he has Sudda-Satwa, or intellectual Substance; worlds are the bubbles he produces, and it is his breath that forms them. In him alone is the potentiality of their being. But what are they ? Are they his breath, or the film that encloses it ? His breath is his life, for all must breathe or cease to live; so he gives his life that these may be. But it is at his will that he imparts that breath to Sudda-Satwa; and, though he must breathe, he may become weary of creating bubbles. Even when he does produce then there is but one form that he can impart to them, and even he can give them but a transient existence, so there is a law that limits his Will. In due time too the bubbles must either burst or float away from him, glitter for a moment in the sunlight and then their beauty is lost forever, unless they return to their primal source and obtain new being from the breath of their Creator. As it is with worlds so is it with us, so well may the Hindus call all objects Maya or Illusion. And is not that Law which limits the will of the Creator more divine than even he is. But let us continue.

The order in which Divine Ideation evolves, is said to be Dots, Lines, Triangles, Squares, Circles, and finally cubes and spheres. That is, superficial ideal forms, and then solid ideal forms are manifested in our consciousness. Thus we may say Divine Thought when impregnated by Divine Idea evolves subjective forms by the fundamental inherent law of Being. Consequently though this first Duality emanates all, beyond it lies the inscrutable "That" which, for convenience, in this aspect we denominate Law, and by "That" alone forms are able to manifest even subjectively.

When we descend to the objective plane, Ether consolidates and becomes Matter, while Akasa energises it as Spirit.

Here we seem to get at the very kernel of Occultism. Essential [Page 19] Being is Unity; but perfect Unity is without form and void, so it is properly termed Non-being. But Unity necessitates Diversity; the one idea is non-existent without the other; therefore Unity and Diversity [Monism and A, Page 40] must ever exist simultaneously. Dvivedi says, "Advaitism is Non-duality'' which he explains as "Inseparability of Mind and Matter, not their Unity. Thought and Being are inseparable — not One”.

Now we know that, in natural order, One precedes Two, and that One remains unchangeable however often it is multiplied by itself, while it ceases to be a Unity if you divide it into fractions. One, therefore cannot be an effective Cause though it is the antecedent possibility of all Causes.

Or, to put it otherwise, knowledge is incomprehensible till it is limited by ideas; the Universal can only be understood by Particulars. But, however much thought may differentiate them, knowledge and universality ever remain logical necessities, complete in themselves and co-existent with their opposites.

These, however, are only metaphysical subtleties. What really concerns us is not the Causeless Cause or Absolute Unit, but the Effective Causes which differentiate it, i.e., the co-existent fruitful Duality, which with the Unity makes the Trinity.

Why differentiation should be we can never learn, but we do know that it is the logical and fundamental necessity of manifested Being, and it is only with Differentiations that Occultism occupies itself.

The first manifestation of this differentiation is the Duality Akasa and Ether on the subjective plane, and their correspondents are to be traced in every plane and sub-plane of Universal Being.

To us they become objective as male and female: which is but a variant of the attraction and repulsion of the magnetic plane that dominates physical being and energises all our affinities. Now, there is something very noteworthy in magnetism. Test a magnetic rod, and one end will be found positive, the other negative. But positive and negative are qualities which are not restricted to those ends. Divide the rod anywhere, and you will produce two fresh poles. That, too, which is now positive might have been negative if your division had been varied by a hair's breadth, therefore these qualities are not inherent in special atoms, or ends of atoms, but are derived from the relative position of any atoms. This corresponds with the mutations that are found in Theosophy, and may enable us to understand why one Deity is sometimes male, sometimes female, and why Akasa and Ether are interchangeable terms; the two being noumenonally one, but phenomenally diverse. On successive planes polarities are reversed, for each Cause manifests as an Effect, and each [Page 20] Effect becomes the Cause of that which emanates from it, and so the chain of Being is eternally prolonged.

This ultimately brings us back to our intuitive consciousness of the One Universal Law, in which, and, by which, all Being is manifested; consequently, however, much our Personality may repel us from the Divine Unity, our Individuality, the God in us, will ever be attracted by its essential sympathy with Deity, and so our higher manhood can only find rest in Nirvana, "the State where the Spirit becomes a part of the [ Isis Unveiled, Volume 2, Page 116 ] integral whole, but never loses its Individuality".

Here it would seem that Akasa and Ether again become subjective and that consciousness awaits the Divine Call to fuller and higher Being in a new Manvantara.


For B.L.T. read Blavatsky Lodge Transactions
For R.Y.. read Raja Yoga.
For S.D. read Secret Doctrine.
For I.U. read Isis Unveiled.
For M. read Monism.
For B.C. read Buddhist Catechism.
For V.C. read Visishtadwaita Catechism.

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