by A. L. CLEATHER., F .T .S.

as published in "Theosophical Siftings" Volume 4

(A paper read before the Blavatsky Lodge of the Theosophical Society)

THE task which devolves upon me this evening is a threefold one, and the area to be travelled over is so extensive — the subject itself of so vast and complex a nature — that I trust I may be pardoned if I seem to touch but briefly and inadequately upon the various points to be raised for discussion.

I have to take (I) Sevenfold Cosmic Consciousness, (2) its reflexion in material nature, as shown by science; (3) its reflexion in the Sevenfold Consciousness of man.

I may say at the outset that I shall refrain from giving any crude ideas or speculations of my own, and shall confine myself to endeavouring to bring before you — to the best of my ability — the teachings which I have been able to collate from well-known Theosophic writers, notably, of course, from the works of Madame Blavatsky herself.

First, then, as to Universal Consciousness. The very word Consciousness at once conjures up in our minds the names of a whole host of thinkers in the West — deep, subtle, and acute intellects — who in this and past generations have laboured to solve this well-nigh insoluble problem, that of the presence of Consciousness in man and, inferentially, in the Universe. Without the aid of the light thrown by the teachings of Occultism upon this all-absorbing question, however, they must continue to remain, as they have remained, in the dark as to the true nature and origin of Consciousness. Still, some one or two of them — Von Hartmann and Mr. Herbert Spencer among the number — have approached closely the teachings given to the world in the "Secret Doctrine". For instance (and as quoted by Madame Blavatsky), Von Hartmann says " that ‘the Unconscious' arrived at the vast creative, or rather evolutionary plan, by a 'clairvoyant wisdom superior to all consciousness' " ;[Secret Doctrine,” Vol. I., Proem, p. I ] — similarly, Mr. Herbert Spencer has of late asserted that "the nature of the 'First Cause’, which the Occultist more logically derives from the 'Causeless Cause' the 'Eternal’ and the ‘Unknowable’, may be essentially the same as that Consciousness which wells up within us: in short, that the impersonal reality pervading the Cosmos is the pure noumenon of thought". [ “Secret Doctrine", Vol. I., Proem, pp. 14, 15] [Page 4]

In endeavouring to trace the origin of Consciousness in the Universe, we must perforce dwell for a few moments in the realm of abstract thought, of the highest metaphysics; for we must in this instance follow the Platonic method — which is also that of Occultism — and proceed from universals to particulars. Let us begin, then, with the ONE LIFE, invisible yet omnipresent; of which it is said, that it is, at one and the same time, unconscious, yet Absolute Consciousness: for the limited faculties of consciousness and perception are necessary factors in the knowing of oneself, or self-consciousness; hence the expression, "The Eternal Breath which knows itself not" — Infinity cannot comprehend Finiteness. The very word Consciousness, as we understand it, "implies limitations and qualifications; something to be conscious of, and someone to be conscious of it: but Absolute Consciousness contains the cognizer, the thing cognized, and the cognition, all three in itself and all three one". [ “Secret Doctrine", Vol. 1, page 56] It is, in short, entirely outside the sphere of our present limited comprehension; and therefore — to us — this Absolute Consciousness naturally can only appear as unconsciousness; for the Boundless can have no possible relation to the bounded and the conditioned. This one absolute Reality, "the Unknown and the Unknowable Mover, or the self-existing" — Absolute Consciousness and Absolute Motion — which antecedes all manifested conditioned being, this it is which is called the Rootless Root, from which springs all that was, is, or ever will be. That which, in the Occult teachings, represents Absolute Abstract Motion is this Unconditioned Consciousness; "even Western Thinkers have shown that Consciousness is inconceivable to us apart from change, and motion best symbolises change, its essential characteristic". [ “Secret Doctrine" Vol. 1,, Proem, page 14 ]

So then, this One Reality — Parabrahm, or the Absolute — is the true "field of Absolute Consciousness, i.e., that essence which is out of all relation to conditioned existence, and of which conscious existence is a conditioned symbol. But once that we pass in thought from this (to us) Absolute Negation, duality supervenes in the contrast of Spirit ( or Consciousness) and Matter, Subject and Object". [“Secret Doctrine", Vol. 1, Proem, page 15] Let us here note well, and bear in mind once for all, that in the Occult teachings the terms Spirit and Consciousness are interchangeable, the one implying the other; yet on the other hand we must never regard Spirit and Matter as independent realities, but as the two facets or aspects of that which is called "the Absolute", and which constitute the basis of conditioned Being, whether subjective or objective. If we now consider these three, viz., " the Absolute", Spirit, and Matter, as a metaphysical Triad, and as the Root from which all the manifested Universe springs, we next find the "Great Breath" assuming the character of pre-cosmic Ideation, that which "supplies [Page 5] the guiding intelligence in the vast scheme of cosmic Evolution", which is the origin of force, and the root of all individual consciousness; pre cosmic root-substance being "that aspect of the Absolute which underlies all the objective planes of Nature", and "the substratum of matter in the various grades of its differentiation". It will at once be seen that the contrast of these two aspects of the Absolute is essential to the existence of the ‘Manifested Universe'. Apart from Cosmic Substance, Cosmic Ideation could not manifest as individual consciousness, since it is only through a vehicle of matter that Consciousness wells up as 'I am I' ; a physical basis being necessary to focus a ray of the Universal Mind at a certain Stage of complexity. Again, apart from Cosmic Ideation, Cosmic Substance would remain an empty abstraction, and no emergence of Consciousness could ensue”. [ “Secret Doctrine". Vol. 1, Proem, page 15.]

Now it is this Cosmic Ideation — Cosmic Mind — which is called in the Occult teachings Mahat, Intelligence, the Universal World-soul; the Cosmic Noumenon of matter, and the basis of the intelligent operations in and of Nature, hence also of Consciousness per se. Mahat is, in reality, the Third Logos, or the synthesis of the seven creative rays, the seven Logoi. Out of the seven so-called Creations, Mahat is the third; for, as already said, it is the Universal and Intelligent Soul — Divine Ideation — combining the ideal plans and prototypes of all things in the manifested objective as well as subjective world. [ See “Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge,” Part I., page 14]

Occult Science, as we know, recognises seven Cosmical Elements; it therefore logically follows that the Mind, or Consciousness, which ensouls and guides these Elements — in all their innumerable differentiations through the seven planes, from the highest spiritual down to the lowest physical (our) plane — must necessarily be, also, of a sevenfold character: in other words, there must be a sevenfold Consciousness in the Universal World-Soul, or Mahat; were it otherwise, whence the septenary in Nature? For we have already seen that Cosmic Ideation could not manifest apart from Cosmic Substance; and finding, as we do, a septenary in nature, we must necessarily infer a sevenfold Consciousness as its guiding and informing intelligence; else would the very raison d'être for the septenary in everything, on all the planes of Being, be lacking.

I may here appropriately mention the "Ah-hi" of the Stanzas; for they are, it is taught, the primordial seven rays — or Logoi — which, passing downwards from the Formless World to the World of Form, begin to manifest only on the third plane, that of Mahat or Cosmic Mind. [Becoming differentiated, they appear later as the Manasa-putra — or the Sons of Mahat, who create, or rather produce, the thinking man by incarnating in [Page 6] the third-race mankind, in this our Fourth Round.] [ See “Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge", pp. 17-21]. Again, the Ah-hi are further stated to be identical with the Dhyan Chohanic Host, that collectivity of spiritual beings who are "the vehicle for the manifestation of the divine or universal thought and will. They are the Intelligent Forces that give to and enact in Nature her 'laws'". It is through this sevenfold hierarchy of Spiritual Beings — Cosmic Consciousness in its collectivity — that the Universal Mind comes into action: this is that "Breath, Voice, Self or 'Wind' " spoken of as "the synthesis of the Seven Senses, nonmenally all minor deities and esoterically the Septenary", and the mystic "Army of the VOICE".

In the well-known "Lectures on the Bhagavad Gita" the "Light of the Logos" is identified with Fohat — whom we have, earlier in this course, seen to be the "bridge" by which the Ideas existing in the Divine Thought are impressed on Cosmic Substance as "the laws of Nature". The "five strides" which — as the Stanzas tell us — Fohat takes, refer "to the five upper planes of Consciousness and Being; the sixth and the seventh (counting downwards) being the astral and the terrestrial, or the two lower planes".[ ”Secret Doctrine ", Vol. 1, page 122]

Briefly, and to sum up, we learn from the foregoing that:— from Spirit, or Cosmic Ideation, comes our Consciousness; while from Cosmic Substance proceed the several vehicles in which that Consciousness is individualised, and attains to self — or reflective — Consciousness.

To show the reflexion of this sevenfold Cosmic Consciousness in material nature — agreeably to the teachings of Science — seems a comparatively easy task; for the number 7 appears to underlie the very constitution of matter, and of scientific phenomena.

The external world is known to us in groups of sevens, and it would even seem that our very emotions must somehow correspond to this septenary division; for it is not crude, indiscriminate sounds that affect us emotionally, so much as the falling of these sounds into gradations of seven; they then, in their numberless combinations, constitute what we call Music, which arouses, or plays upon, our emotions. Emotion in this respect is thus seen to be irresponsive, till crude sound-mass differentiates into the seven regular tones of the musical scale. It is unnecessary to go into the actual number of vibrations which constitute the notes of the musical scale; further than to say that they are strictly analogous to the scale of colour as unfolded by the spectroscope.

"Thus, to quote Hellenbach: —

It has been established that, from the standpoint of phenomenal law upon which all our knowledge rests, the vibrations of sound and light increase regularly, that they divide themselves into seven columns, and that the successive numbers in each column are closely allied: i.e. that they exhibit a close relationship which not only is expressed in the figures [Page 7] themselves, but also is practically confirmed in chemistry, as in music, in the latter of which the ear confirms the verdict of the figures...... The fact that this periodicity and variety is governed by the number seven is undeniable, and it far surpasses the limits of mere chance, and must be assumed to have an adequate cause, which cause must be discovered". [" Secret Doctrine", Vol. 2, page 628]
So also, Galton has shown that there are, undoubtedly, a certain number of people in whom the seven notes of the musical scale arouse subjective visions of the seven colours.

Many phenomena connected with the body exhibit the septenary periodicity — seven, twenty-eight, and two hundred and eighty ( or, 4 x 7 X 10). Fevers, too, tend to follow the number seven in their changes; e.g., Typhoid has fourteen days for incubation, so has small-pox; and in typhoid termination of the fever is common on the twenty-first day. Dr. Laycock, writing in the Lancet so early as 1842, on "the Periodicity of Vital Phenomena," after giving a number of remarkable illustrations from natural history in confirmation of this septenary law, says: —

The facts I have briefly glanced at are general facts, and cannot happen day after day in so many millions of animals of every kind, FROM THE LARVA OR OVUM OF A MINUTE INSECT UP TO MAN, at definite periods, from a mere chance or coincidence. I think it impossible to come to any less general conclusion than this, that in animals, changes occur every three and a half, seven, fourteen, twenty-one, or twenty-eight days, or at some definite number of weeks or septenary cycles". ["Secret Doctrine", Vol. 2, page 622]
Similarly, another writer quoted by Madame Blavatsky, speaks of the harmony of numbers visible in all departments of nature, and in the perception of the mind; and adds, that, from the recent researches of modern natural and physical science, it would seem that “the number seven is distinguished in the laws regulating the harmonious perception of forms, colours, and sounds".

But the most convincing proof of the septenary in Nature is obtained from a study of matter. Matter, as we know it, is a result of the compounding — in various proportions — of some seventy elements; and chemical Science has long been occupied in weighing the “atoms" (or ultimate particles of these elements), and in comparing them with the weight of the same bulk of Hydrogen, which is taken as weighing 1. The atomic weights of nearly all these elements are, I believe, now regarded as having been approximately determined; when fully examined they yield a very complete proof that they are arranged in septenary groups; in short, that the number 7 is at the basis of material nature. Madame Blavatsky gives, in the "Secret Doctrine”, Hellenbach's table of the atomic weights of the chemical elements; and I give here another table (kindly made out for me by the President of the Brixton Lodge) exemplifying what is known as [Page 8]









(Thus far absent)
128 (Atomic Doubtful)
(Thus far absent)

Mendelejeff's Law of Periodic Function", that is, that the properties of elements bear a definite relation to their atomic weights.

These elements are, as you see, written down — in the order of their [Page 9] atomic weights — in rows of seven to a row; they stand in the order of 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 16, 19, etc. Now if, in this diagram, we start from any element and count forwards, it is a singular fact that the properties of the eighth in order duplicates those of the one from which we start: this shows that the chemical elements fall naturally, by their atomic weights, into sets of seven; each number in each seven corresponding, in its properties, to the same number in the next seven; thus: — Lithium, Sodium, and Potassium, standing under each other in the first column, present an exact likeness to each other in their properties; so do Sulphur and Oxygen in the sixth column; so Zinc and Magnesium in the second; and so on, throughout the series: indeed, by a study of his own plan, Mendelejeff has been able — in one case — to predict the characteristics of an element before its discovery had taken place.

It has already been suggested, by Prof. Crookes, that all matter is radically one; but that there is but the ONE ELEMENT in reality, all the others being only derived from — or rather differentiations of — the same. This ONE ELEMENT, this universal basis of matter, he terms Protyle; now let us suppose this Protyle aggregated in such density and in such arrangement that it exhibits the properties we call Lithium, the first member of the first line of our diagram. A larger quantity and a different arrangement of Protyle aggregates itself, and is now called by us Glucinum, with different properties from Lithium, and weighing 9 instead of 7. Again, a still larger aggregate, and a new arrangement, with different properties and an increased weight of 11; and so on, for seven times. But when the eighth aggregate of Protyle is formed, we do not get a different set of properties, but what we may almost call a replica of the properties of the first, Sodium having properties closely allied to those of Lithium. Nothing, therefore, would seem to be clearer than that physical, material nature is a vast family, grouping itself naturally into sets of sevens.

It may not be out of place to mention here that, as Madame Blavatsky states in the pages of Lucifer (Vol. 6, Page 91), the late eminent Dr. Pirogoff, of St. Petersburg, has in his posthumous memoirs shown very plainly that not only did he believe in Universal Deity — divine Ideation (or Consciousness) — but that he taught this, and tried to demonstrate it scientifically: — “We have no cause”, he says, “to reject the possibility of organisms endowed with such properties that would make of them the direct embodiment of the Universal Mind, a perfection inaccessible to our (human) mind ......... because we have no right to maintain that man is the last expression of the divine creative thought”. Thus he argues that Universal Mind needs no physico-chemical or mechanical brain as an organ of transmission; he even goes far as to admit it, in these suggestive words: — “Our reason must accept in all necessity an infinite and eternal mind which [Page 10] rules and governs the ocean of life..... Thought and creative ideation, in full agreement with the laws of unity and causation, manifest themselves plainly enough in universal lifeWITHOUT THE PARTICIPATION OF BRAIN-SLUSH ......... Directing the forces and elements toward the formation of organisms, this organizing life-principle becomes self-conscious, racial or individual. Substance, ruled and directed by the life-principle, is organized according to a general defined plan, into certain types”. This belief Dr. Pirogoff explains by confessing that he could never acquire the conviction that our brain could be the only organ of thought in the whole universe; or that everything in this world, save that organ, should be unconditioned and senseless; that human thought alone should impart to the universe a meaning, and a reasonable harmony in its integrity.

Not less suggestive are some of the remarks made in a paper read by the present Professor of physiology at the University of Basle, some time ago, and quoted by Madame Blavatsky in Lucifer (Vol. VI., page 93 et seq.). He speaks of man being endowed, in addition to his physical sense, with an inner sense; a perception which gives him the possibility of observing the states of phenomena of his own consciousness, and that he has to use that in dealing with animate nature: He denies, moreover, the assumption that the states and phenomena of Consciousness represent in substance the same manifestations of motion as in the external world. Following this line of thought, however, we trench upon the third division into which our subject for this evening falls, viz., the reflection of the Sevenfold Universal (or Cosmic) Consciousness in man himself.

Let us turn then to the consideration of the Sevenfold Consciousness of the real man, the “Thinker”; for “Occultism teaches that the physical man is one, but the thinking man septenary: thinking, acting, feeling, and living on seven different states of being — or planes of consciousness — and that for all these states and planes the permanent Ego (not the false personality) has a distinct set of senses”. [ See “Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge”, Part I, pages 61-62 ]

This universal and ever-present septenary is the basis of the very constitution of the man’s whole nature, and it is further reflected in his seven principles (which will be dealt with later in this series of discussions), corresponding to the seven states of Consciousness; man, the microcosm, herein faithfully representing — and reflecting, as in a mirror — the macrocosm, of which he is an integral and inseparable portion, a temporarily isolated fragment of the One great Whole. If we turn in search of information to the teachings of modern science upon Consciousness, we are inevitably led to the conclusion that — save in one or two instances — Consciousness is, literally, the terra incognita of modern physical science. As Dr. Buck, in the admirable chapter on Consciousness in his [Page11] Study of Man", observes: — "This fact is often realized, but instead of going seriously to work to study the relations and different states and conditions of Consciousness, the foolish attempt is repeated again and again of trying to fit Consciousness to phenomena as an attribute of matter". The ordinary tests of Consciousness are, indeed, admitted by one scientific writer to be — by themselves — fallacious, as the most vivid consciousness may exist, he declares, and one or more of the tests fail entirely: e.g., in epilepsy, where the memory is apparently entirely lost; or somnambulism, and artificial hypnotism. Again, Dr. Buck tells us that "whenever the changes arising in the conditions and manifestations of Consciousness have been carefully noted and critically compared, such observation and comparison have lead to the conclusion that Consciousness is the prime factor in all individual experience, and by no means confined to the sense-motor mechanism of the human brain;" although it is of course the case that Consciousness, in one of its modes, bears an evident and definite relation to the brain and "all mental processes that directly relate to the external world of phenomena".

Yet nothing is more common in ordinary life than the shifting of the planes of Consciousness, and though it is not yet possible to prove that these planes of Consciousness are seven in number, and that each plane has an intimate and inseparable relation to the Cosmic plane which gave it birth; yet we must — if we accept the teachings of Occultism — take this as a fact to be proven hereafter, and as a working hypothesis in our studies and investigations. That the planes of Consciousness do shift is easily enough proved by the action of anaesthetics, and by the recent experiments of the French and German medical schools in hypnotism. To take only the action of chloroform, for example, we find that it "changes the consciousness of the real Ego. The individual cannot be called strictly unconscious: he suffers no pain, and retains no recollection of what occurs while under the influence of the anaesthetic, but the organic consciousness remains undisturbed. Muscular motion may occur, but without co-ordination. The cerebrum, cerebellum and sensory ganglia are unconscious in dreamless sleep; the medulla, spinal cord, solar-plexus and the sexual-area are wide awake and sometimes these are super-sensitive. The light of self-consciousness is withdrawn; it is drawn within, but not quenched. [ “The Study of Man”, by Dr. Buck, Ch. xi ]

Consciousness per se, even in man, we know to be one, therefore the vehicle of the Ego; and although the bodily avenues between itself and the external world are many, yet it is nevertheless, in its existence, independent of all bodily sense or mental condition, though functioning through these in so far as its external manifestations, and the receiving of sense [Page 12] impressions, are concerned. “Through these avenues and relations the conscious Ego comes into definite relations to a phenomenal existence, to the things of sense and time; and by analogy something may be inferred of the nature of Consciousness from its outward manifestation. When once it is understood, however, that through its relations to the brain and sensory ganglia Consciousness manifests in but one of numerous forms, analogies drawn from this one form alone will no longer be regarded as final, even where they are logically so drawn.”[“The Study of Man", by Dr. Buck, Chap. xi]

Consciousness is not only the central fact in man, but it is the medium of communication between the objective and subjective worlds; for everyone will readily admit that "in sleep where dreams occur, Consciousness is on a different plane, or under different conditions from the waking state". In Eastern Occultism the names of three such states, or conditions, are given: viz., Swapua, the dreaming; Sushupti, the deep sleeping; and Turya, the state of high spiritual consciousness, beyond the dreamless state; if, in addition to these three, we include Jagrat, given as the waking — or ordinary normal — state of consciousness, we find ourselves to have arrived at what are, probably, at least four out of the seven states, or planes of Consciousness, in man, in each of which a different portion of the mind comes into action.

Now, as we have seen, Occultism teaches that Consciousness is (in its highest aspect) primarily one; Mahat, Divine Ideation — the parent of the Manasic or Mind Element in man — our conscious Egos. This Manas, this "Thinker", is of a dual nature, one aspect functioning on the material, the other on the spiritual planes of our being. This dual mind it is which is divisible into our seven human states of Consciousness, falling naturally into the lower four, or Quaternary, and the higher, divine Triad; of the latter we can, at our present stage of evolution, know comparatively little or nothing ( any more than we can of the three higher of the seven cosmical planes, and Elements); it is, briefly, our spiritual consciousness, the Manasic Mind illumined by the light of Buddhi, "that which subjectively perceives abstractions”. But the sentient consciousness, called " the lower Manasic light", is that portion of Manas which is divisible into the four lower aspects, the Quaternary; being dependent for its functioning upon the physical brain, and senses. That, as yet, little enough is known to science of the true nature and psychic functions of these latter, Madame Blavatsky's two articles (lately published in Lucifer) on "Psychic and Noetic Action", abundantly prove. The whole clue to the permanence of the Re-incarnating Principle lies in this double consciousness of our minds, in the dual nature of Manas; and it is only the higher Spiritual Consciousness, "whose root — so to speak — lies in Eternity, which survives and lives for ever, and which may therefore be truly called immortal, indestructible throughout the [Page 13] life cycle as a thinking Entity and even as an ethereal form; and whose Universal Consciousness transcends a millionfold the self-consciousness of the lower personal self, or Ego".

Thought ( or Consciousness) is the very essence of Manas, called in its plurality Manasa-putra, or the Sons of the Universal Mind.

Let us always remember, too, that "whatever plane our consciousness may be acting in, both we and the things belonging to that plane are, for the time being, our only realities. The upward progress of the Ego is, in fact, a series of progressive awakenings, each advance bringing with it the idea that now, at last, we have reached 'reality' ; but only when we shall have reached the Absolute Consciousness, and blended our own with it, shall we be free from the delusions produced by Maya". [ “Secret Doctrine”, Vol.1, page 40] And what, after all, is Time itself but an illusion (Maya) produced by the succession of our states of consciousness "as we travel through eternal duration", and which cannot exist "where no consciousness exists in which the illusion can be produced".

If, as Dr. Buck says, "we ask the true scientist what we know of anything, of matter, space, time, or motion, of the whole phenomenal world, he will tell us, and tell us truly, that we have our own ideas of these and nothing more". And turning to the philosopher, should we enquire likewise of him, what answer do we receive ? From the teachings of one of the greatest of modern thinkers, Schopenhauer, "we learn that not only the world but ourselves included are reducible to two terms, imagination and will: the one the essence and the creator of all forms in nature, the other the motive and the creative power; and that these powers are as potent on the subjective as on the objective plane; as active in drunken delirium and in insanity, as in that other condition of consciousness that we call sanity". [ “The Study of Man", by Dr. Buck, Chap. xi. ]

Finally, I think the results of this brief, and necessarily most imperfect attempt to deal with the ONE GREAT FACT of Consciousness (both in Man and the Universe), cannot be better summed up than in these words of Paracelsus: — " There is nothing in the macrocosm of nature that is not contained in man, because man and nature are essentially one; and a man who is conscious of being one with nature will know everything, if he knows only — HIMSELF."

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