ESOTERIC BUDDHISM, by A.P. Sinnett

The impulse to believe the absurd when presented with the unknowable is called religion. Whether this is wise or unwise is the domain of doctrine. Once you understand someone's doctrine, you understand their rationale for believing the absurd. At that point, it may no longer seem absurd. You can get to both sides of this conondrum from here.

Re: ESOTERIC BUDDHISM, by A.P. Sinnett

Postby admin » Wed Oct 21, 2015 3:14 am

CHAPTER 9: Buddha

THE historical Buddha, as known to the custodians of the Esoteric Doctrine, is a personage whose birth is not invested with the quaint marvels popular story has crowded round it. Nor was his progress to adeptship traced by the literal occurrence of the supernatural struggles depicted in symbolic legend. On the other hand, the incarnation, which may outwardly be described as the birth of Buddha, is certainly not regarded by occult science as an event like any other birth, nor the spiritual development through which Buddha passed during his earth-life a mere process of intellectual evolution, like the mental history of any other philosopher. The mistake which ordinary European writers make in dealing with a problem of this sort lies in their inclination to treat exoteric legend either as a record of a miracle about which no more need be said, or as pure myth, putting merely a fantastic decoration on a remarkable life. This, it is assumed, however remarkable, must have been lived according to the theories of Nature at present accepted by the nineteenth century. The account which has now been given in the foregoing pages may prepare the way for a statement as to what the Esoteric Doctrine teaches concerning the real Buddha, who was born, as modern investigation has quite correctly ascertained, 648 years before the Christian era, at Kapila-Vastu near Benares.

Exoteric conceptions, knowing nothing of the laws which govern the operations of Nature in her higher departments, can only explain an abnormal dignity attaching to some particular birth by supposing that the physical body of the person concerned was generated in a miraculous manner. Hence the popular notion about Buddha, that his incarnation in this world was due to an immaculate conception. Occult science knows nothing of any process for the production of a physical human child other than that appointed by physical laws; but it does know a good deal concerning the limits within which the progressive “one life,” or “spiritual monad,” or continuous thread of a series of incarnations, may select definite child-bodies as their human tenements. By the operation of Karma, in the case of ordinary mankind, this election is made, unconsciously as far as the antecedent, spiritual Ego emerging from Devachan is concerned. But in those abnormal cases where the one life has already forced itself into the sixth principle — that is to say, where a man has become an adept, and has the power of guiding his own spiritual Ego, in full consciousness as to what he is about, after he has quitted the body in which he won adeptship, either temporarily or permanently — it is quite within his power to select his own next incarnation. During life, even, he gets above the Devachanic attraction. He becomes one of the conscious directing powers of the planetary system to which he belongs; and great as this mystery of selected reincarnation may be, it is not by any means restricted in its application to such extraordinary events as the birth of a Buddha. It is a phenomenon frequently reproduced by the higher adepts to this day, and while a great deal recounted in popular Oriental mythology is either purely fictitious or entirely symbolical, the reincarnation of the Dalai and Teshu Lamas in Tibet, at which travelers only laugh for want of the knowledge that might enable them to sift fact from fancy, is a sober scientific achievement. In such cases the adept states beforehand in what child, when and where to be born, he is going to reincarnate, and he very rarely fails. We say very rarely, because there are some accidents of physical nature which cannot be entirely guarded against; and it is not absolutely certain that, with all the foresight even an adept may bring to bear upon the matter, the child he may choose to become, in his reincarnated state, may attain physical maturity successfully. And, meanwhile, in the body, the adept is relatively helpless. Out of the body he is just what he has been ever since he became an adept; but as regards the new body he has chosen to inhabit, he must let it grow up in the ordinary course of Nature, and educate it by ordinary processes, and initiate it by the regular occult method into adeptship, before he has got a body fully ready again for occult work on the physical plane. All these processes are immensely simplified, it is true, by the peculiar spiritual force working within; but at first, in the child’s body, the adept soul is certainly cramped and embarrassed, and, as ordinary imagination might suggest, very uncomfortable and ill at ease. The situation would be very much misunderstood if the reader were to imagine that reincarnation of the kind described is a privilege which adepts avail themselves of with pleasure.

Buddha’s birth was a mystery of the kind described, and by the light of what has been said it will be easy to go over the popular story of his miraculous origin, and trace the symbolic references to the facts of the situation in some even of the most grotesque fables. None, for example, can look less promising as an allusion to anything like a scientific fact than the statement that Buddha entered the side of his mother as a young white elephant. But the white elephant is simply the symbol of adeptship, — something considered to be a rare and beautiful specimen of its kind. So with other antenatal legends pointing to the fact that the future child’s body had been chosen as the habitation of a great spirit already endowed with superlative wisdom and goodness. Indra and Brahma came to do homage to the child at his birth; that is to say, the powers of Nature were already in submission to the Spirit within him. The thirty-two signs of a Buddha, which legends describe by means of a ludicrous physical symbolism, are merely the various powers of adeptship.

The selection of the body known as Siddhartha, and afterwards as Gautama, son of Suddhodana, of Kapila-Vastu, as the human tenement of the enlightened human spirit, who had submitted to incarnation for the sake of teaching mankind, was not one of those rare failures spoken of above; on the contrary, it was a signally successful choice in all respects, and nothing interfered with the accomplishment of adeptship by the Buddha in his new body. The popular narrative of his ascetic struggles and temptations, and of his final attainment of Buddhahood under the Bo-tree, is nothing more, of course, than the exoteric version of his initiation.

From that period onward, his work was of a dual nature; he had to reform and revive the morals of the populace and the science of the adepts, — for adeptship itself is subject to cyclic changes, and in need of periodical impulses. The explanation of this branch of the subject, in plain terms, will not alone be important for its own sake, but will be interesting to all students of exoteric Buddhism, as elucidating some of the puzzling complications of the more abstruse “Northern doctrine.”

A Buddha visits the earth for each of the seven races of the great planetary period. The Buddha with whom we are occupied was the fourth of the series, and that is why he stands fourth in the list quoted by Mr. Rhys Davids, from Burnouf,—quoted as an illustration of the way the Northern doctrine has been, as Mr. Davids supposes, inflated by metaphysical subtleties and absurdities crowded round the simple morality which sums up Buddhism as presented to the populace. The fifth, or Maitreya Buddha, will come after the final disappearance of the fifth race, and when the sixth race will already have been established on earth for some hundreds of thousands of years. The sixth will come at the beginning of the seventh race, and the seventh towards the close of that race.

This arrangement will seem, at the first glance, out of harmony with the general design of human evolution. Here we are in the middle of the fifth race, and yet it is the fourth Buddha who has been identified with this race, and the fifth will not come till the fifth race is practically extinct. The explanation is to be found, however, in the great outlines of the esoteric cosmogony. At the beginning of each great planetary period, when obscuration comes to an end, and the human tide-wave in its progress round the chain of worlds arrives at the shore of a globe where no humanity has existed for milliards of years, a teacher is required from the first for the new crop of mankind about to spring up. Remember that the preliminary evolution of the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms has been accomplished in preparation for the new round period. With the first infusion of the life-current into the “missing link” species the first race of the new series will begin to evolve. It is then that the Being, who may be considered the Buddha of the first race, appears. The planetary spirit, or Dhyan Chohan, who is — or, to avoid the suggestion of an erroneous idea by the use of a singular verb, let us defy grammar and say, who are Buddha in all his or their developments, incarnates among the young, innocent, teachable forerunners of the new humanity, and impresses the first broad principles of right and wrong and the first truths of the esoteric doctrine on a sufficient number of receptive minds to insure the continued reverberation of the ideas so implanted through successive generations of men in the millions of years to come, before the first race shall have completed its course. It is this advent in the beginning of the round period of Divine Being in human form that starts the ineradicable conception of the anthropomorphic God in all exoteric religions.

The first Buddha of the series in which Gautama Buddha stands fourth is thus the second incarnation of Avaloketiswara, — the mystic name of the hosts of the Dhyan Chohans, or planetary spirits, belonging to our planetary chain; and though Gautama is thus the fourth incarnation of enlightenment by exoteric reckoning, he is really the fifth of the true series, and thus properly belonging to our fifth race.

Avaloketiswara, as just stated, is the mystic name of the hosts of the Dhyan Chohans; the proper meaning of the word is manifested wisdom, just as Addi-Buddha and Amitabha both mean abstract wisdom.

The doctrine, as quoted by Mr. Davids, that — “every earthly mortal Buddha has his pure and glorious counterpart in the mystic world, free from the debasing conditions of this material life, or rather that the Buddha under material conditions is only an appearance, the reflection, or emanation, or type of a Dhyani Buddha,” is perfectly correct. The number of Dhyani Buddhas, or Dhyan Chohans, or planetary spirits, perfected human spirits of former world periods, is infinite, but only five are practically identified in exoteric and seven in esoteric teaching; and this identification, be it remembered, is a manner of speaking which must not be interpreted too literally, for there is a unity in the sublime spirit-life in question that leaves no room for the isolation of individuality. All this will be seen to harmonize perfectly with the revelations concerning Nature embodied in previous chapters, and need not in any way be attributed to mystic imaginings. The Dhyani Buddhas, or Dhyan Chohans, are the perfected humanity of previous Manwantaric epochs, and their collective intelligence is described by the name “Addi-Buddha,” which Mr. Rhys Davids is mistaken in treating as a comparatively recent invention of the Northern Buddhist. Addi-Buddha means primordial wisdom, and is mentioned in the oldest Sanskrit books. For example, in the philosophical dissertation on the “Mandukya Upanishad,” by Gowdapatha, a Sanskrit author contemporary with Buddha himself, the expression is freely used and expounded in exact accordance with the present statement. A friend of mine in India, a Brahmin pundit of first-rate attainments as a Sanskrit scholar, has shown me a copy of this book, which has never yet, that he knows of, been translated into English, and has pointed out a sentence bearing on the present question, giving me the following translation: “Prakriti itself, in fact, is Addi-Buddha, and all the Dharmas have been existing from eternity.” Gowdapatha is a philosophical writer respected by all Hindu and Buddhist sects alike, and widely known. He was the guru, or spiritual teacher of the first Sankaracharya, of whom I shall have to speak more at length very shortly.

Adeptship, when Buddha incarnated, was not the condensed, compact hierarchy that it has since become under his influence. There has never been an age of the world without its adepts; but they have sometimes been scattered throughout the world; they have sometimes been isolated in separate seclusions; they have gravitated now to this country, now to that; and finally, be it remembered, their knowledge and power has not always been inspired with the elevated and severe morality which Buddha infused into its latest and highest organization. The reform of the occult world by his instrumentality was, in fact, the result of his great sacrifice; of the self-denial which induced him to reject the blessed condition of Nirvana to which, after his earth-life as Buddha, he was fully entitled, and undertake the burden of renewed incarnations in order to carry out more thoroughly the task he had taken in hand, and confer a correspondingly increased benefit on mankind. Buddha reincarnated himself, next after his existence as Gautama Buddha, in the person of the great teacher of whom but little is said in exoteric works on Buddhism, but without a consideration of whose life it would be impossible to get a correct conception of the position in the Eastern world of esoteric science, — namely, Sankaracharya. The latter part of this name, it may be explained— acharya — merely means teacher. The whole name as a title is perpetuated to this day under curious circumstances, but the modern bearers of it are not in the direct line of Buddhist spiritual incarnations.

Sankaracharya appeared in India — no attention being paid to his birth, which appears to have taken place on the Malabar coast — about sixty years after Gautama Buddha’s death. Esoteric teaching is to the effect that Sankaracharya simply was Buddha in all respects, in a new body. This view will not be acceptable to uninitiated Hindu authorities, who attribute a later date to Sankaracharya’s appearance, and regard him as a wholly independent teacher, even inimical to Buddhism, but none the less is the statement just made the real opinion of initiates in esoteric science, whether these call themselves Buddhists or Hindus. I have received the information I am now giving from a Brahmin Adwaiti, of Southern India, — not directly from my Tibetan instructor, — and all initiated Brahmins, he assures me, would say the same. Some of the later incarnations of Buddha are described differently as over-shadowings by the spirit of Buddha, but in the person of Sankaracharya he reappeared on earth. The object he had in view was to fill up some gaps and repair certain errors in his own previous teaching; for there is no contention in esotoric Buddhism that even a Buddha can be absolutely infallible at every moment of his career.

The position was as follows: Up to the time of Buddha, the Brahmins of India had jealously reserved occult knowledge as the appanage of their own caste. Exceptions were oocasionally made in favor of Tshatryas, but the rule was exclusive in a very high degree. This rule Buddha broke down, admitting all castes equally to the path of adeptship. The change may have been perfectly right in principle, but it paved the way for a great deal of trouble, and as the Brahmins conceived for the degradation of occult knowledge itself, that is to say, its transfer to unworthy hands, — not unworthy merely because of caste inferiority, but because of the moral inferiority which they conceived to be introduced into the occult fraternity, together with brothers of low birth. The Brahmin contention would not by any means be that because a man should be a Brahmin it followed that he was necessarily virtuous and trustworthy; but the argument would be: It is supremely necessary to keep out all but the virtuous and trustworthy from the secrete and powers of initiation. To that end it is necessary not only to set up all the ordeals, probations, and tests we can think of, but also to take no candidates except from the class which, on the whole, by reason of its hereditary advantages, is likely to be the best nursery of fit candidates.

Later experience is held on all hands now to have gone far towards vindicating the Brahmin apprehension
, and the next incarnation of Buddha, after that in the person of Sankaracharya, was a practical admission of this; but meanwhile, in the person of Sankaracharya, Buddha was engaged in smoothing over, beforehand, the sectarian strife in India which be saw impending. The active opposition of the Brahmins against Buddhism began in Asoka’s time, when the great efforts made by that ruler to spread Buddhism provoked an apprehension on their part in reference to their social and political ascendency. It must be remembered that initiates are not wholly free in all cases from the prejudices of their own individualities. They possess some such god-like attributes that outsiders, when they first begin to understand something of these, are apt to divest them, in imagination, even too completely of human frailties. Initiation and occult knowledge held in common is certainly a bond of union among adepts of all nationalities, which is far stronger than any other bond. But it has been found on more occasions than one to fail in obliterating all other distinctions. Thus the Buddhist and Brahmin initiates of the period referred to were by no means of one mind on all questions, and the Brahmins very decidedly disapproved of the Buddhist reformation in its exoteric aspects. Chandragupta, Asoka’s grandfather, was an upstart, and the family were Sudras. This was enough to render his Buddhist policy unattractive to the representatives of the orthodox Brahmin faith. The struggle assumed a very embittered form, though ordinary history gives us few or no particulars. The party of primitive Buddhism was entirely worsted, and the Brahmin ascendency completely reestablished in the time of Vikramaditya, about 80 B.C. But Sankaracharya had traveled all over India in advance of the great struggle, and had established various mathams, or schools of philosophy, in several important centres. He was only engaged in this task for a few years, but the influence of his teaching has been so stupendous that its very magnitude disguises the change wrought. He brought exoteric Hinduism into practical harmony with the esoteric “wisdom religion,” and left the people amusing themselves still with their ancient mythologies, but leaning on philosophical guides who were esoteric Buddhists to all intents and purposes, though in reconciliation with all that was ineradicable in Brahmanism. The great fault of previous exoteric Hinduism lay in its attachment to vain ceremonial and its adhesion to idolatrous conceptions of the divinities of the Hindu pantheon. Sankaracharya emphasized, by his commentaries on the Upanishads, and by his original writings, the necessity of pursuing gnyanam in order to obtain moksha; that is to say, the importance of the secret knowledge to spiritual progress, and the consummation thereof. He was the founder of the Vedantin system, — the proper meaning of Vedanta being the final end or crown of knowledge, — though the sanctions of that system are derived by him from the writings of Vyasa, the author of the “Mahabharata,” the “Puranas,” and the “Brahmasutras.” I make these statements, the reader will understand, not on the basis of any researches of my own, — which I am not Oriental scholar enough to attempt, — but on the authority of a Brahmin initiate who is himself a first-rate Sanskrit scholar as well as an occultist.

The Vedantin school at present is almost coextensive with Hinduism, making allowance, of course, for the existence of some special sects like the Sikhs, the Vallabacharyas, or Maharajah sect, of very unfair fame, and may be divided into three great divisions, — the Adwaitees, the Vishishta Adwaitees, and the Dwaitees. The outline of the Adwaitee doctrine is that brahmum or purush, the universal spirit, acts only through prakriti, matter; that everything takes place in this way through the inherent energy of matter. Brahmum, or Parabrahm, is thus a passive, incomprehensible, unconscious principle, but the essence, one life, or energy of the universe. In this way the doctrine is identical with the transcendental materialism of the adept esoteric Buddhist philosophy. The name Adwaitee signifies not dual, and has reference partly to the non-duality or unity of universal spirit, or Buddhist one life, as distinguished from the notion of its operation through anthropomorphic emanations; partly to the unity of the universal and the human spirit. As a natural consequence of this doctrine, the Adwaitees infer the Buddhist doctrine of Karma, regarding the future destiny of man as altogether depending on the causes he himself engenders.

The Vishishta Adwaitees modify these views by the interpolation of Vishnu as a conscious deity, the primary emanation of Parabrahm, Vishnu being regarded as a personal god, capable of intervening in the course of human destiny. They do not regard yog, or spiritual training, as the proper avenue to spiritual achievement, but conceive this to be possible chiefly by means of Bhakti, or devoutness. Roughly stated in the phraseology of European theology, the Adwaitee may thus be said to believe only in salvation by works, the Vishishta Adwaitee in salvation by grace. The Dwaitee differs but little from the Vishishta Adwaitee, merely affirming, by the designation he assumes, with increased emphasis, the duality of the human spirit and the highest principle of the universe, and including many ceremonial observances as an essential part of Bhakti.

But all these differences of view, it must be borne in mind, have to do merely with the exoteric variations on the fundamental idea, introduced by different teachers with varying impressions as to the capacity of the populace for assimilating transcendental ideas. All leaders of Vedantin thought look up to Sankaracharya and the Mathams he established with the greatest possible reverence, and their inner faith runs up in all cases into the one esoteric doctrine. In fact, the initiates of all schools in India interlace with one another. Except as regards nomenclature, the whole system of cosmogony as held by the Buddhist-Arhats, and as set forth in this volume, is equally held by initiated Brahmins, and has been equally held by them since before Buddha’s birth. Whence did they obtain it? the reader may ask. Their answer would be, From the Planetary Spirit, or Dhyan Chohan, who first visited this planet at the dawn of the human race in the present round period, —more millions of years ago than I like to mention on the basis of conjecture, while the real exact number is withheld.

Sankaracharya founded four principal Mathams: one at Sringari, in Southern India, which has always remained the most important; one at Juggernath, in Orissa; one at Dwaraka, in Kathiawar; and one at Gungotri, on the slopes of the Himalayas in the North. The chief of the Sringari temple has always borne the designation Sankaracharya, in addition to some individual name. From these four centres others have been established, and Mathams now exist all over India, exercising the utmost possible influence on Hinduism.

I have said that Buddha, by his third incarnation, recognized the fact that he had, in the excessive confidence of his loving trust in the perfectibility of humanity, opened the doors of the occult sanctuary too widely. His third appearance was in the person of Tsong-kha-pa the great Tibetan adept reformer of the fourteenth century. In this personality he was exclusively concerned with the affairs of the adept fraternity, by that time collecting chiefly in Tibet.

From time immemorial there had been a certain secret region in Tibet, which to this day is quite unknown to and unapproachable by any but initiated persons, and inaccessible to the ordinary people of the country as to any others, in which adepts have always congregated. But the country generally was not in Buddha’s time, as it has since become, the chosen habitation of the great brotherhood. Much more than they are at present were the Mahatma in former times distributed about the world. The progress of civilization, engendering the magnetism they find so trying, had, however, by the date with which we are now dealing — the fourteenth century — already given rise to a very general movement towards Tibet on the part of the previously dissociated occultists. Far more widely than was held to be consistent with the safety of mankind was occult knowledge and power then found to be disseminated. To the task of putting it under the control of a rigid system of rule and law did Tsong-kha-pa address himself.

Without reestablishing the system on the previous unreasonable basis of caste exclusiveness, he elaborated a code of rules for the guidance of the adepts, the effect of which was to weed out of the occult body all but those who sought occult knowledge in a spirit of the most sublime devotion to the highest moral principles.


An article in the “Theosophist” for March, 1882, on “Reincarnations in Tibet,” for the complete trustworthiness of which in all its mystic bearings I have the highest assurance, gives a great deal of important information about the branch of the subject with which we are now engaged, and the relations between esoteric Buddhism and Tibet, which cannot be examined too closely by anyone who desires an exhaustive comprehension of Buddhism in its real signification.

“The regular system,” we read, “of the Lamaic incarnations of ‘Sangyas’(or Buddha) began with Tsong-kha-pa. This reformer is not the incarnation of one of the five celestial Dhyans, or heavenly Buddhas, as is generally supposed, said to have been created by Sakya Muni after he had risen to Nirvana, but that of Amita, one of the Chinese names for Buddha. The records preserved in the Gon-pa (lamasery) of Tda-shi Hlum-po (spelt by the English Teshu Lumbo) show that Sangyas incarnated himself in Tsong-kha-pa, in consequence of the great degradation his doctrines had fallen into. Until then there had been no other incarnations than those of the five celestial Buddhas and of their Buddhisatvas, each of the former having created (read overshadowed with his spiritual wisdom) five of the last named. . . . It was because, among many other reforms, Tsong-kha-pa forbade necromancy (which is practiced to this day, with the most disgusting rites, by the Bhöns, — the aborigines of Tibet, with whom the Red Caps, or Shammars, had always fraternized) that the latter resisted his authority. This act was followed by a split between the two sects. Separating entirely from the Gyalukpas, the Dugpas (Red Caps), from the first in a great minority, settled in various parts of Tibet, chiefly its borderlands, and principally in Nepaul and Bhootan. But, while they retained a sort of independence at the monastery of Sakia-Djong, the Tibetan residence of their spiritual (?) chief, Gong-sso Rimbo-chay, the Bhootanese have been from their beginning the tributaries and vassals of the Dalai Lamas.

“The Tda-shi Lamas were always more powerful and more highly considered than the Dalai Lamas. The latter are the creation of the Tda-shi Lama, Nabang-lob-sang, the sixth incarnation of Tsong-kha-pa, himself an incarnation of Amitabha, or Buddha.”

Several writers on Buddhism have entertained a theory, which Mr. Clements Markham formulates very fully in his “Narrative of the Mission of George Bogle to Tibet,” that whereas the original scriptures of Buddhism were taken to Ceylon by the son of Asoka, the Buddhism which found its way into Tibet from India and China, was gradually overlaid with a mass of dogma and metaphysical speculation. And Professor Max Muller says; “The most important element in the Buddhist reform has always been its social and moral code, not its metaphysical theories. That moral code, taken by itself, is one of the most perfect which the world has ever known; and it was this blessing that the introduction of Buddhism brought into Tibet.”

“The blessing,” says the authoritative article in the “Theosophist,” from which I have just been quoting, “has remained and spread all over the country, there being no kinder, purer-minded, more simple or sin-fearing nation than the Tibetans. But for all that, the popular lamaism, when compared with the real esoteric or Arahat Buddhism of Tibet, offers a contrast as great as the snow trodden along a road in the valley, to the pure and undefiled mass which glitters on the top of a high mountain peak.”

The fact is that Ceylon is saturated with exoteric, and Tibet with esoteric, Buddhism. Ceylon concerns itself merely or mainly with the morals. Tibet, or rather the adepts of Tibet, with the science, of Buddhism.

These explanations constitute but a sketch of the whole position. I do not possess the arguments nor the literary leisure which would be required for its amplification into a finished picture of the relations which really subsist between the inner principles of Hinduism and those of Buddhism. And I am quite alive to the possibility that many learned and painstaking students of the subject will have formed, as the consequences of prolonged and erudite research, conclusions with which the explanations I am now enabled to give may seem at first sight to conflict. But none the less are these explanations directly gathered from authorities to whom the subject is no less familiar in its scholarly than in its esoteric aspect. And their inner knowledge throws a light upon the whole position which wholly exempts them from the danger of misconstruing texts and mistaking the bearings of obscure symbology. To know when Gautama Buddha was born, what is recorded of his teaching, and what popular legends have gathered round his biography is to know next to nothing of the real Buddha, so much greater than either the historical moral teacher or the fantastic demi-god of tradition. And it is only when we have comprehended the link between Buddhism and Brahmanism that the greatness of the esoteric doctrine rises into its true proportions.
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Re: ESOTERIC BUDDHISM, by A.P. Sinnett

Postby admin » Wed Oct 21, 2015 3:14 am

CHAPTER 10: Nirvana

A COMPLETE assimilation of esoteric teaching up to the point we have now reached will enable us to approach the consideration of the subject which exoteric writers on Buddhism have generally treated as the doctrinal starting-point of that religion.

Hitherto, for want of any better method of seeking out the true meaning of Nirvana, Buddhist scholars have generally picked the word to pieces, and examined its roots and fragments. One might as hopefully seek to ascertain the smell of a flower by dissecting the paper on which its picture was painted. It is difficult for minds schooled in the intellectual processes of physical research — as all our Western nineteenth-century minds are, directly or indirectly -- to comprehend the first spiritual state above this life, that of Devachan. Such conditions of existence are but partly for the understanding; a higher faculty must be employed to realize them; and all the more is it impossible to force their meaning upon another mind by words. It is by first awakening that higher faculty in his pupil, and then putting the pupil in a position to observe for himself, that the regular occult teacher proceeds in such a matter.

Now there are the usual seven states of Devachan, suited to the different degrees of spiritual enlightenment which the various candidates for that condition may obtain; there are rupa and arupa locas in Devachan, — that is to say, states which take (subjective) consciousness of form, and states which transcend these again. And yet the highest Devachanic state in arupa loca is not to be compared to that wonderful condition of pure spirituality which is spoken of as Nirvana.

In the ordinary course of Nature during a round, when the spiritual monad has accomplished the tremendous journey from the first planet to the seventh, and has finished for the time being its existence there, — finished all its multifarious existences there, with their respective periods of Devachan between each, — the Ego passes into a spiritual condition different from the Devachanic state, in which, for periods of inconceivable duration, it rests before resuming its circuit of the worlds. That condition may be regarded as the Devachan of its Devachanic states, — a sort of review thereof, a superior state to those reviewed, just as the Devachanic state belonging to any one existence on earth is a superior state to that of the half-developed spiritual aspirations or impulses of affection of the earth-life. That period — that inter-cyclic period of extraordinary exaltation, as compared to any that have gone before, as compared even with the subjective conditions of the planets in the ascending arc, so greatly superior to our own as these are — is spoken of in esoteric science as a state of partial Nirvana. Carrying on imagination through immeasurable vistas of the future, we must next conceive ourselves approaching the period which would correspond to the inter-cyclic period of the seventh round of humanity, in which men have become as gods. The very last most elevated and glorious of the objective lives having been completed, the perfected spiritual being reaches a condition in which a complete recollection of all lives lived at any time in the past returns to him. He can look back over the curious masquerade of objective existences, as it will seem to him then, over the minutest details of any of these earth-lives among the number through which he has passed, and can take cognizance of them and of all things with which they were in any way associated; for in regard to this planetary chain he has reached omniscience. This supreme development of individuality is the great reward which Nature reserves not only for those who secure it prematurely, so to speak, by the relatively brief but desperate and terrible struggles which lead to adeptship, but also for all who by the distinct preponderance of good over evil in the character of the whole series of their incarnations have passed through the valley of the shadow of death in the middle of the fifth round, and have worked their way up to it in the sixth and seventh rounds.

This sublimely blessed state is spoken of in esoteric science as the threshold of Nirvana.

Is it worth while to go any further in speculation as to what follows? One may be told that no state of individual consciousness, even though but a phase of feeling already identified in a large measure with the general consciousness on that level of existence, can be equal in spiritual elevation to absolute consciousness in which all sense of individuality is merged in the whole. We may use such phrases as intellectual counters, but for no ordinary mind — dominated by its physical brain and brain-born intellect — can they have a living signification.

All that words can convey is that Nirvana is a sublime state of conscious rest in omniscience. It would be ludicrous, after all that has gone before, to turn to the various discussions which have been carried on by students of exoteric Buddhism as to whether Nirvana does or does not mean annihilation. Worldly similes fall short of indicating the feeling with which the graduates of esoteric science regard such a question. Does the last penalty of the law mean the highest honor of the peerage? Is a wooden spoon the emblem of the most illustrious preeminence in learning? Such questions as these but faintly symbolize the extravagance of the question whether Nirvana is held by Buddhism to be equivalent to annihilation. And in some, to us inconceivable, way the state of para-Nirvana is spoken of as immeasurably higher than that of Nirvana. I do not pretend myself to attach any meaning to the statement, but it may serve to show to what a very transcendental realm of thought the subject belongs.

A great deal of confusion of mind respecting Nirvana has arisen from statements made concerning Buddha. He is said to have attained Nirvana while on earth; he is also said to have foregone Nirvana in order to submit to renewed incarnations for the good of humanity. The two statements are quite reconcilable. As a real adept, Buddha naturally attained to that which is the great achievement of adeptship on earth, — the passing of his own Ego-spirit into the ineffable condition of Nirvana. Let it not be supposed that for any adept such a passage is one that can be lightly undertaken. Only stray hints about the nature of this great mystery have reached me, but putting these together I believe I am right in saying that the achievement in question is one which only some of the high initiates are qualified to attempt, which exacts a total suspension of animation in the body for periods of time compared to which the longest cataleptic trances known to ordinary science are insignificant, the protection of the physical frame from natural decay during this period by means which the resources of occult science are strained to accomplish; and withal it is a process involving a double risk to the continued earthly life of the person who undertakes it. One of these risks is the doubt whether, when once Nirvana is attained, the Ego will be willing to return. That the return will be a terrible effort and sacrifice is certain, and will only be prompted by the most devoted attachment on the part of the spiritual traveler to the idea of duty in its purest abstraction. The second great risk is that, allowing the sense of duty to predominate over the temptation to stay, — a temptation, be it remembered, that is not weakened by the notion that any conceivable penalty can attach to it, —even then it is always doubtful whether the traveler will be able to return. In spite of all this, however, there have been many other adepts besides Buddha who have made the great passage, and for whom, those about them at such times have said, the return to their prison of ignoble flesh — though so noble ex hypothesi compared to most such tenements — has left them paralyzed with depression for weeks. To begin the weary round of physical life again, to stoop to earth after having been in Nirvana, is too dreadful a collapse.

Buddha’s renunciation was in some inexplicable manner greater, again, because he not merely returned from Nirvana for duty’s sake, to finish the earth-life in which he was engaged as Gautama Buddha, but when all the claims of duty had been fully satisfied, and his right of passage into Nirvana, for incalculable eons entirely earned under the most enlarged view of his earthly mission, he gave up that reward, or rather postponed it for an indefinite period, to undertake a supererogatory series of incarnations, for the sake of humanity at large. How is humanity being benefited by this renunciation? it may be asked. But the question can only be suggested in reality by that deep-seated habit, we have most of us acquired, of estimating benefit by a physical standard, and even in regard to this standard of taking very short views of human affairs. No one will have followed me through the foregoing chapter on the Progress of Humanity without perceiving what kind of benefit it would be that Buddha would wish to confer on men. That which is necessarily for him the great question in regard to humanity is how to help as many people as possible across the great critical period of the fifth round.

Until that time everything is a mere preparation for the supreme struggle, in the estimation of an adept, all the more of a Buddha. The material welfare of the existing generation is not even as dust in the balance in such a calculation; the only thing of importance at present is to cultivate those tendencies in mankind which may launch as many Egos as possible upon such a Karmic path that the growth of their spirituality in future births will be promoted. Certainly it is the fixed conviction of esoteric teachers — of the adept co-workers with Buddha — that the very process of cultivating such spirituality will immensely reduce the sum of even transitory human sorrow. And the happiness of mankind, even in any one generation only, is by no means a matter on which esoteric science looks with indifference. So the esoteric policy is not to be considered as something so hopelessly up in the air that it will never concern any of us who are living now. But there are seasons of good and bad harvest for wheat and barley, and so also for the desired growth of spirituality amongst men; and in Europe, at all events, going by the experience of former great races, at periods of development corresponding to that of our own now, the great present up-rush of intelligence in the direction of physical and material progress is not likely to bring on a season of good harvests for progress of the other kind. For the moment the best chance of doing good in countries where the up-rush referred to is most marked is held to lie in the possibility that the importance of spirituality may come to be perceived by intellect, even in advance of being felt, if the attention of that keen though unsympathetic tribunal can but be secured. Any success in that direction to which these explanations may conduce will justify the views of those — but a minority — among the esoteric guardians of humanity who have conceived that it is worth while to have them made.

So Nirvana is truly the keynote of esoteric Buddhism, as of the hitherto rather misdirected studies of external scholars. The great end of the whole stupendous evolution of humanity is to cultivate human souls so that they shall be ultimately fit for that as yet inconceivable condition. The great triumph of the present race of planetary spirits who have reached that condition themselves will be to draw thither as many more Egos as possible. We are far as yet from the era at which we may be in serious danger of disqualifying ourselves definitively for such progress, but it is not too soon even now to begin the great process of qualification; all the more as the Karma, which will propagate itself through successive lives in that direction, will carry its own reward with it, so that an enlightened pursuit of our highest interests in the very remote future will coincide with the pursuit of our immediate welfare in the next Devachanic period, and the next rebirth.

Will it be argued that if the cultivation of spirituality is the great purpose to be followed, it matters little whether men pursue it along one religious pathway or another? This is the mistake which, as explained in a former chapter, Buddha as Sankaracharya set himself especially to combat, — namely, the early Hindu belief that moksha can be attained by bhakti irrespective of gnyanam; that is, that salvation is obtainable by devout practices irrespective of knowledge of eternal truth. The sort of salvation we are talking about now is not escape from a penalty, to be achieved by cajoling a celestial potentate; it is a positive and not a negative achievement, — the ascent into regions of spiritual elevation so exalted that the candidate aiming at them is claiming that which we ordinarily describe as omniscience. Surely it is plain, from the way Nature habitually works, that under no circumstances will a time ever come when a person, merely by reason of having been good, will suddenly become wise. The supreme goodness and wisdom of the sixth-round man, who, once becoming that, will assimilate by degrees the attributes of divinity itself, can only be grown by degrees themselves; and goodness alone, associated as we so often find it with the most grotesque religious beliefs, cannot conduct a man to more than Devachanic periods of devout but unintelligent rapture, and in the end, if similar conditions are reproduced through many existences, to some painless extinction of individuality at the great crisis.

It is by a steady pursuit of and desire for real spiritual truth, not by an idle, however well-meaning acquiescence in the fashionable dogmas of the nearest church, that men launch their souls into the subjective state, prepared to imbibe real knowledge from the latent omniscience of their own sixth principles, and to reincarnate in due time with impulses in the same direction. [b/Nothing can produce more disastrous effects on human progress as regards the destiny of individuals than the very prevalent notion that one religion, followed out in a pious spirit, is as good as another,[/b] and that if such and such doctrines are perhaps absurd when you look into them, the great majority of good people will never think of their absurdity, but will recite them in a blamelessly devoted attitude of mind. One religion is by no means as good as another, even if all were productive of equally blameless lives. But I prefer to avoid all criticism of specific faiths, leaving this volume a simple and inoffensive statement of the real inner doctrines of the one great religion of the world which — presenting as it does in its external aspects a bloodless and innocent record — has thus been really productive of blameless lives throughout its whole existence. Moreover, it would not be by a servile acceptance even of its doctrines that the development of true spirituality is to be cultivated. It is by the disposition to seek truth, to test and examine all which presents itself as claiming belief, that the great result is to be brought about. In the East, such a resolution in the highest degree leads to chelaship, to the pursuit of truth, knowledge, by the development of inner faculties by means of which it may be cognized with certainty. In the West, the realm of intellect, as the world is mapped out at present, truth unfortunately can only be pursued and hunted out with the help of many words and much wrangling and disputation. But at all events it may be hunted, and, if it is not finally captured, the chase on the part of the hunters will have engendered instincts that will propagate themselves and lead to results hereafter.
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Re: ESOTERIC BUDDHISM, by A.P. Sinnett

Postby admin » Wed Oct 21, 2015 3:15 am

CHAPTER 11: The Universe

IN all Oriental literature bearing on the constitution of all the cosmos, frequent reference is made to the days and the nights of Brahma; the in-breathings and the out-breathings of the creative principle, the periods of manvantara1 and the periods of pralaya. This idea runs into various Eastern mythologies, but in its symbolical aspects we need not follow it here. The process in Nature to which it refers is of course the alternate succession of activity and repose that is observable at every step of the great ascent from the infinitely small to the infinitely great. Man has a manvantara and pralaya every four-and-twenty hours, his periods of waking and sleeping; vegetation follows the same rule from year to year as it subsides and revives with the seasons. The world too has its manvantaras and pralayas, when the tide-wave of humanity approaches its shore, runs through the evolution of its seven races, and ebbs away again; and such a manvantara has been treated by most exoteric religions as the whole cycle of eternity.

The major manvantara of our planetary chain is that which comes to an end when the last Dhyan Chohan of the seventh round of perfected humanity passes into Nirvana. And the expression has thus to be regarded as one of considerable elasticity. It may be said indeed to have infinite elasticity, and that is one explanation of the confusion which has reigned in all treatises on Eastern religions in their popular aspects. All the root-words transferred to popular literature from the secret doctrine have a seven-fold significance, at least for the initiate, while the uninitiated reader, naturally supposing that one word means one thing, and trying always to clear up its meaning by collating its various applications, and striking an average, gets into the most hopeless embarrassment.

The planetary chain with which we are concerned is not the only one which has our sun as its centre. As there are other planets besides the Earth in our chain, so there are other chains besides this in our solar system. There are seven such, and there comes a time when all these go into pralaya together. This is spoken of as a solar pralaya, and within the interval between two such pralayas the vast solar manvantara covers seven pralayas and manvantaras of our — and each other — planetary chain. Thought is baffled, say even the adepts, in speculating as to how many of our solar pralayas must come before the great cosmic night in which the whole universe, in its collective enormity, obeys what is manifestly the universal law of activity and repose, and with all its myriad systems passes itself into pralaya. But even that tremendous result, says esoteric science, must surely come.

After the pralaya of a single planetary chain there is no necessity for a recommencement of evolutionary activity absolutely de novo. There is only a resumption of arrested activity. The vegetable and animal kingdoms, which at the end of the last corresponding manvantara had reached only a partial development, are not destroyed. Their life or vital energy passes through a night or period of rest; they also have, so to speak, a Nirvana of their own, as why should they not, these fœtal and infant entities? They are all like ourselves, begotten of the one element. As we have our Dhyan Chohans, so have they, in their several kingdoms, elemental guardians, and are as well taken care of in the mass as humanity is in the mass. The one element not only fills space and is space, but interpenetrates every atom of cosmic matter.

When, however, the hour of the solar pralaya strikes, though the process of man’s advance on his last seventh round is precisely the same as usual, each planet, instead of merely passing out of the visible into the invisible, as he quits it in turn, is annihilated. With the beginning of the seventh round of the seventh planetary chain manvantara, every kingdom having now reached its last cycle, there remains on each planet, after the exit of man, merely the maya of once living and existing forms. With every step he takes on the descending and ascending arcs, as he moves on from globe to globe, the planet left behind becomes an empty chrysaloidal case. At his departure there is an outflow from every kingdom of its entities. Waiting to pass into higher forms in due time, they are nevertheless liberated, and to the day of the next evolution they will rest in their lethargic sleep in space, until brought into life again at the new solar manvantara. The old elementals will rest till they are called on to become in their turn the bodies of mineral, vegetable, and animal entities on another and a higher chain of globes on their way to become human entities while the germinal entities of the lowest forms—and at that time there will remain but few of such — will hang in space, like drops of water suddenly turned into icicles. They will thaw at the first hot breath of the new solar manvantara, and form the soul of the future globes. The slow development of the vegetable kingdom, up to the period we are now dealing with, will have been provided for by the longer interplanetary rest of man. When the solar pralaya comes, the whole purified humanity merges into Nirvana, and from that inter-solar Nirvana will be reborn in the higher systems. The strings of worlds are destroyed, and vanish like a shadow from the wall when the light is extinguished. “We have every indication,” say the adepts, “that at this very moment such a solar pralaya is taking place, while there are two minor ones ending somewhere.”


At the beginning of the solar manvantara the hitherto subjective elements of the material worlds, now scattered in cosmic dust, receiving their impulse from the new Dhyan Chohans of the new solar system (the highest of the old ones having gone higher) will form into primordial ripples of life, and, separating into differentiating centres of activity, combine in a graduated scale of seven stages of evolution. Like every other orb of space, our earth has, before obtaining its ultimate materiality, to pass through a gamut of seven stages of density. Nothing in this world now can give us an idea of what an ultimate stage of materiality is like. The French astronomer Flammarion, in a book called “La Resurrection et la Fin des Mondes,” has approached a conception of this ultimate materiality. The facts are, I am informed, with slight modifications, much as he surmises. In consequence of what he treats as secular refrigeration, but which more truly is old age and loss of vital power, the solidification and desiccation of the earth at last reaches a point when the whole globe becomes a relaxed conglomerate. Its period of child-bearing has gone by; its progeny are all nurtured; its term of life is finished. Hence its constituent masses cease to obey those laws of cohesion and aggregation which held them together. And becoming like a corpse, which, abandoned to the work of destruction, leaves each molecule composing it free to separate itself from the body, and obey in future the sway of new influences. “The attraction of the moon,” suggests M. Flammarion, “would itself undertake the task of demolition by producing a tidal wave of earth particles instead of an aqueous tide.” This last idea must not be regarded as countenanced by occult science except so far as it may serve to illustrate the loss of molecular cohesion in the material of the earth.

Occult physics pass fairly into the region of metaphysics, if we seek to obtain some indication of the way in which evolution recommences after a universal pralaya.

The one eternal, imperishable thing in the universe, which universal pralayas themselves pass over without destroying, is that which may be regarded indifferently as space, duration, matter, or motion; not as something having these four attributes, but as something which is these four things at once, and always. And evolution takes its rise in the atomic polarity which motion engenders. In cosmogony the positive and the negative, or the active and passive, forces correspond to the male and female principles. The spiritual efflux enters into the veil of cosmic matter; the active is attracted by the passive principle, and if we may here assist imagination by having recourse to old occult symbology, the great Nag, the serpent emblem of eternity, attracts its tail to its mouth, forming thereby the circle of eternity, or rather cycles in eternity. The one and chief attribute of the universal spiritual principle, the unconscious but ever active life-giver, is to expand and shed; that of the universal material principle is to gather in and fecundate. Unconscious and non-existing when separate, they become consciousness and life when brought together. The word Brahma, comes from the Sanskrit root brih, to expand, grow, or fructify, esoteric cosmogony being but the vivifying expansive force of Nature in its eternal revolution. No one expression can have contributed more to mislead the human mind in basic speculation concerning the origin of things than the word “creation.” Talk of creation and we are continually butting against the facts. But once realize that our planet and ourselves are no more creations than an iceberg, but states of being for a given time, — that their present appearance, geological and anthropological, are transitory and but a condition concomitant of that stage of evolution at which they have arrived, — and the way has been prepared for correct thinking. Then we are enabled to see what is meant by the one and only principle or element in the universe, and by the treatment of that element as androgynous; also by the proclamation of Hindu philosophy that all things are but maya, transitory states, except the one element which rests during the mahapralayas only, — the nights of Brahma.

Perhaps we have now plunged deeply enough into the fathomless mystery of the great First Cause: It is no paradox to say that simply by reason of ignorance do ordinary theologians think they know so much about God. And it is no exaggeration to say that the wondrously endowed representatives of occult science, whose mortal nature has been so far elevated and purified that their perceptions range over other worlds and other states of existence, and commune directly with beings as much greater than ordinary mankind as man is greater than the insects of the field, — it is the mere truth, that they never occupy themselves at all with any conception remotely resembling the God of churches and creeds. Within the limits of the solar system, the mortal adept knows, of his own knowledge, that all things are accounted for by law, working on matter in its diverse forms, plus the guiding and modifying influence of the highest intelligences associated with the solar system, the Dhyan Chohans, the perfected humanity of the last preceding manvantara. These Dhyan Chohans, or planetary spirits, on whose nature it is almost fruitless to ponder until one can at least realize the nature of disembodied existence in one’s own case, impart to the reawakening worlds at the end of a planetary chain pralaya such impulses that evolution feels them throughout its whole progress. The limits of Nature’s great law restrain their action. They cannot say, Let there be paradise throughout space, let all men be born supremely wise and good; they can only work through the principle of evolution, and they cannot deny to any man who is to be invested with the potentiality of development himself into a Dhyan Chohan the right to do evil if he prefers that to good. Nor can they prevent evil, if done, from producing suffering. Objective life is the soil in which the life-germs are planted; spiritual existence (the expression being used, remember, in contrast merely to grossly material existence) is the flower to be ultimately obtained. But the human germ is something more than a flower-seed; it has liberty of choice in regard to growing up or growing down, and it could not be developed without such liberty being exercised by the plant. This is the necessity of evil. But within the limits that logical necessity prescribes, the Dhyan Chohan impresses his conceptions upon the evolutionary tide, and comprehends the origin of all that he beholds.

Surely as we ponder in this way over the magnitude of the cyclic evolution with which esoteric science is in this way engaged, it seems reasonable to postpone considerations as to the origin of the whole cosmos. The ordinary man in this earth-life, with certainly some hundred many earth-lives to come, and then very much many important inter-incarnation periods (more important, that is, as regards duration and the prospect of happiness or sorrow) also in prospect, may surely be most wisely occupied with the inquiries whose issue will affect practical results than with speculation in which he is practically quite uninterested. Of course from the point of view of religious speculation resting on no positive knowledge of anything beyond this life, nothing can be more important or more highly practical than conjectures as to the attributes and probable intentions of the personal, terrible Jehovah, pictured as an omnipotent tribunal into whose presence the soul at its death is to be introduced for judgment. But scientific knowledge of spiritual things throws back the day of judgment into a very dim perspective, the intervening period being filled with activity of all kinds. Moreover, it shows mankind that certainly, for millions and millions of centuries to come, it will not be confronted with any judge at all, other than that all-pervading judge, that seventh principle, or universal spirit, which exists everywhere, and, operating on matter, provokes the existence of man himself, and the world in which he lives, and the future conditions towards which he is pressing. The seventh principle, undefinable, incomprehensible for us at our present stages of enlightenment, is of course the only God recognized by esoteric knowledge, and no personification of this can be otherwise than symbolical.

And yet in truth esoteric knowledge, giving life and reality to ancient symbolism in one direction as often as it conflicts with modern dogma in the other, shows us how far from absolutely fabulous are even the most anthropomorphic notions of Deity associated by exoteric tradition with the beginning of the world. The planetary spirit, actually incarnated among men in the first round, was the prototype of personal Deity in all subsequent developments of the idea. The mistake made by uninstructed men in dealing with the idea is merely one of degree. The personal God of an insignificant minor manvantara has been taken for the Creator of the whole cosmos,— a most natural mistake for people forced, by knowing no more of human destiny than was included in one objective incarnation, to suppose that all beyond was a homogeneous spiritual future. The God of this life, of course, for them, was the God of all lives and worlds and periods.

The reader will not misunderstand me, I trust, to mean that esoteric science regards the planetary spirit of the first round as a god. As I say, it is concerned with the working of Nature in an immeasurable space, from an immeasurable past, and all through immeasurable future. The enormous areas of time and space in which our solar system operates is explorable by the mortal adepts of esoteric science. Within those limits they know all that takes place and how it takes place, and they know that everything is accounted for by the constructive will of the collective host of the planetary spirits, operating under the law of evolution that pervades all Nature. They commune with these planetary spirits, and learn from them that the law of this is the law of other solar systems as well, into the regions of which the perceptive faculties of the planetary spirits can plunge, as the perceptive faculties of the adepts themselves can plunge into the life of other planets of this chain. The law of alternating activity and repose is operating universally; for the whole cosmos, even though at unthinkable intervals, pralaya must succeed manvantara, and manvantara pralaya.

Will anyone ask, To what end does this eternal succession work? It is better to confine the question to a single system, and ask, To what end does the original nebula arrange itself in planetary vortices of evolution, and develop worlds in which the universal spirit, reverberating through matter, produces form and life and those higher states of matter in which that which we call subjective or spiritual existence is provided for? Surely it is end enough to satisfy any reasonable mind that such sublimely perfected beings as the planetary spirits themselves come thus into existence, and live a conscious life of supreme knowledge and felicity through vistas of time which are equivalent to all we can imagine of eternity. Into this unutterable greatness every living thing has the opportunity of passing ultimately. The spirit which is in every animated form, and which has even worked up into these from forms we are generally in the habit of calling inanimate, will slowly but certainly progress onwards until the working of its untiring influence in matter has evolved a human soul. It does not follow that the plants and animals around us have any principle evolved in them as yet which will assume a human form in the course of the present manvantara; but though the course of an incomplete revolution may be suspended by a period of natural repose, it is not rendered abortive. Eventually every spiritual monad, itself a sinless unconscious principle, will work through conscious forms on lower levels, until these, throwing off one after another higher and higher forms, will produce that in which the God-like consciousness may be fully evoked. Certainly it is not by reason of the grandeur of any human conceptions as to what would be an adequate reason for the existence of the universe that such a consummation can appear an insufficient purpose, not even if the final destiny of the planetary spirit himself, after periods to which his development from the mineral forms of primeval worlds is but a childhood in the recollection of the man, is to merge his glorified individuality into that sum total of all consciousness, which esoteric metaphysics treat as absolute consciousness, which is non-consciousness. These paradoxical expressions are simply counters representing ideas that the human mind is not qualified to apprehend, and it is waste of time to haggle over them.

These considerations supply the key to esoteric Buddhism, a more direct outcome of the universal esoteric doctrine than any other popular religion; for the effort in its construction has been to make men love virtue for its own sake and for its good effect on their future incarnations, not to keep them in subjection to any priestly system or dogma by terrifying their fancy with the doctrine of a personal judge waiting to try them for more than their lives at their death. Mr. Lillie is mistaken, admirable as his intention has been, and sympathetic as his mind evidently is with the beautiful morality and aspiration of Buddhism, in deducing from its temple ritual the notion of a personal God. No such conception enters into the great esoteric doctrine of Nature, of which this volume has furnished an imperfect sketch. Nor even in reference to the farthest regions of the immensity beyond our own planetary system does the adept exponent of the esoteric doctrine tolerate the adoption of an agnostic attitude it will not suffice for him to say, “As far as the elevated senses of planetary spirits, whose cognition extends to the outermost limits of the starry heavens, — as far as their vision can extend Nature is self-sufficing; as to what may lie beyond we offer no hypothesis.” What the adept really says on this head is, “The universe is boundless, and it is a stultification of thought to talk of any hypothesis setting in beyond the boundless, — on the other side of the limits of the limitless.”

That which antedates every manifestation of the universe, and would lie beyond the limit of manifestation, if such limit could ever be found, is that which underlies the manifested universe within our own purview, — matter animated by motion, its parabrahm, or spirit. Matter, space, motion, and duration constitute one and the same eternal substance of the universe. There is nothing else eternal absolutely. That is the first state of matter, itself perfectly uncognizable by physical senses, which deal with manifested matter, another state altogether. But though thus, in one sense of the word, materialistic, the esoteric doctrine, as any reader of the foregoing explanations will have seen, is as far from resembling the gross narrow-minded conception of Nature, which ordinarily goes by the name of materialism, as the north pole looks away from the south. It stoops to materialism, as it were, to link its methods with the logic of that system, and ascends to the highest realms of idealism to embrace and expound the most exalted aspirations of spirit. As it cannot be too frequently or earnestly repeated, it is the union of science with Religion, — the bridge by which the most acute and cautious pursuers of experimental knowledge may cross over to the most enthusiastic devotee, by means of which the most enthusiastic devotee may return to earth and yet keep heaven still around him.

_______________

Notes:

1 As transliterated into English, this word may be written either manwantara or manvantara; and the proper pronunciation is something between the two, with the accent on the second syllable.
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Re: ESOTERIC BUDDHISM, by A.P. Sinnett

Postby admin » Wed Oct 21, 2015 3:15 am

CHAPTER 12: The Doctrine Reviewed

LONG familiarity with the esoteric doctrine will alone give rise to a full perception of the manner in which it harmonizes with facts of Nature such as we are all in a position to observe. But something may be done to indicate the correspondences that may be traced between the whole body of teaching now set forth and the phenomena of the world around us.

Beginning with the two great perplexities of ordinary philosophy, — the conflict between free-will said predestination and the origin of evil, — it will surely be recognized that the system of Nature now explained enables us to deal with those problems more boldly than they have ever yet been handled. Till now the most prudent thinkers have been least disposed to profess that either by the aid of metaphysics or religion could the mystery of free-will and predestination be unraveled. The tendency of thought has been to relegate the whole enigma to the region of the unknowable. And strange to say this has been done contentedly by people who have been none the less contented to accept as more than a provisional hypothesis the religious doctrines which thus remained incapable of reconciliation with some of their own most obvious consequences. The omniscience of a personal Creator, ranging over the future as well as the past, left man no room to exercise the independent authority over his own destinies, which nevertheless it was absolutely necessary to allow him to exercise in order that the policy of punishing or rewarding him for his acts in life could be recognized as anything but the most grotesque injustice. One great English philosopher, frankly facing the embarrassment, declared in a famous posthumous essay that by reason of these considerations it was impossible that God could be all-good and all-potent. People were free to invest him logically with one or other of these attributes, but not with both. The argument was treated with the respect due to the great reputation of its author, and put aside with the discretion due to respect for orthodox tenets.

But the esoteric doctrine comes to our rescue in this emergency. First of all it honestly takes into account the insignificant size of this world compared to the universe. This is a fact of Nature, which the early Christian church feared with a true instinct, and treated with the cruelty of terror. The truth was denied, and its authors were tortured for many centuries. Established at last beyond even the authority of papal negations, the church resorted to the “desperate expedient,” to quote Mr. Rhys Davids’ phrase, of pretending that it did not matter.

The pretense till now has been more successful than its authors could have hoped. When they dreaded astronomical discovery, they were crediting the world at large with more remorseless logic than it ultimately showed any inclination to employ. People have been found willing, as a rule, to do that which I have described esoteric Buddhism as not requiring us to do, — to keep their science and their religion in separate water-tight compartments. So long and so thoroughly has this principle been worked upon that it has finally ceased to be an argument against the credibility of a religious dogma to point out that it is impossible. But when we establish a connection between our hitherto divided reservoirs and require them to stand at the same level, we cannot fail to see how the insignificance of the earth’s magnitude diminishes in a corresponding proportion the plausibility of theories that require us to regard the details of our own lives as part of the general stock of a universal Creator’s omniscience. On the contrary, it is unreasonable to suppose that the creatures inhabiting one of the smaller planets of one of the smaller suns in the ocean of the universe, where suns are but water-drops in the sea, are exempt in any way from the general principle of government by law. But that principle cannot coexist with government by caprice, which is an essential condition of such predestination as conventional discussions of the problems before us associate with the use of the word. For, be it observed that the predestination which conflicts with free-will is not the predestination of races, but individual predestination, associated with the ideas of divine grace or wrath. The predestination of races, under laws analogous to those which control the general tendency of any multitude of independent chances, is perfectly compatible with individual free-will, and thus it is that the esoteric doctrine reconciles the long-standing contradiction of Nature. Man has control over his own destiny within constitutional limits, so to speak; he is perfectly free to make use of his natural rights as far as they go, and they go practically to infinity as far as he, the individual unit, is concerned. But the average human action, under given conditions, taking a vast multiplicity of units into account, provides for the unfailing evolution of the cycles which constitute their collective destiny.

Individual predestination, it is true, may be asserted, not as a religious dogma having to do with divine grace or wrath, but on purely metaphysical grounds; that is to say, it may be argued that each human creature is fundamentally, in infancy, subject to the same influence by similar circumstances, and that an adult life is thus merely the product or impression of all the circumstances which have influenced such a life from the beginning, so that if those circumstances were known the moral and intellectual result would be known. By this train of reasoning it can be made to appear that the circumstances of each man’s life may be theoretically knowable by a sufficiently searching intelligence; that hereditary tendencies, for example, are but products of antecedent circumstances entering into any given calculation as a perturbation, but not the less calculable on that account. This contention, however, is no more in direct conflict with the consciousness of humanity than the religious dogma of individual predestination. The sense of free-will is a factor in the process which cannot be ignored, and the free-will of which we are thus sensible is not a mere automatic impulse, like the twitching of a dead frog’s leg. The ordinary religious dogma and the ordinary metaphysical argument both require us to regard it in that light; but the esoteric doctrine restores it to its true dignity, and shows us the scope of its activity, the limits of its sovereignty. It is sovereign over the individual career, but impotent in presence of the cyclic law, which even so positive a philosopher as Draper detects in human history, — brief as the period is which he is enabled to observe. And none the less does that collateral quicksand of thought which J. S. Mill discerned alongside the contradictions of theology — the great question whether speculation must work with the all-good or all-potent hypothesis — find its explanation in the system now disclosed. Those great beings, the perfected efflorescence of former humanity, who, though far from constituting a supreme God, reign nevertheless in a divine way over the destinies of our world, are not only not omnipotent, but, great as they are, are restricted as regards their action by comparatively narrow limits. It would seem as if, when the stage is, so to speak, prepared afresh for a new drama of life, they are able to introduce some improvements into the action, derived from their own experience in the drama with which they were concerned, but are only capable, as regards the main construction of the piece, of repeating that which has been represented before. They can do on a large scale what a gardener can do with dahlias on a small one; he can evolve considerable improvements in form and color, but his flowers, however carefully tended, will be dahlias still.

Is it nothing, one may ask in passing, in support of the acceptability of the esoteric doctrine, that natural analogies support it at every turn? As it is below, so it is above, wrote the early occult philosophers; the microcosm is a mirror of the macrocosm. All Nature lying within the sphere of our physical observation verifies the rule, so far as that limited area can exhibit any principles. The structure of lower animals is reproduced with modifications in higher animals, and in man; the fine fibres of the leaf ramify like the branches of the tree, and the microscope follows such ramifications, repeated beyond the range of the naked eye. The dust-laden currents of rain-water by the roadside deposit therein “sedimentary rocks” in the puddles they develop, just as the rivers do in the lakes and the great waters of the world over the sea-bed. The geological work of a pond and that of an ocean differ merely in their scale, and it is only in scale that the esoteric doctrine shows the sublimest laws of Nature differing, in their jurisdiction over the man and their jurisdiction over the planetary family. As the children of each human generation are tended in infancy by their parents, and grow up to tend another generation in their turn, so in the whole humanity of the great manvantara periods the men of one generation grow to be the Dhyan Chohans of the next, and then yield their places in the ultimate progress of time to their descendants, and pass themselves to higher conditions of existence.

Not less decisively than it answers the question about free-will does the esoteric doctrine deal with the existence of evil. This subject has been discussed in its place in the preceding chapter on the Progress of Humanity, but the esoteric doctrine, it will be seen, grapples with the great problem more closely than by the mere enunciation of the way human free-will, which it is the purpose of Nature to grow, and cultivate into Dhyan Chohan-ship, must by the hypothesis be free to develop evil itself if it likes. So much for the broad principle in operation; but the way it works is traceable in the present teaching as clearly as the principle itself. It works through physical Karma, and could not but work that way except by a suspension of the invariable law that causes cannot but produce effects. The objective man born into the physical world is just as much the creation of the person he last animated as the subjective man who has in the interim been living the Devachanic existence. The evil that men do lives after them, in a more literal sense even than Shakespeare intended by those words. It may be asked, How can the moral guilt of a man in one life cause him to be born blind or crippled at a different period of the world’s history several thousand years later, of parents with whom he has had, through his former life, no lack of physical connection whatever? But the difficulty is met by considering the operation of affinities more easily than may be imagined at the first glance. The blind or crippled child, as regards his physical frame, may have been the potentiality rather than the product of local circumstances. But he would not have come into existence unless there had been a spiritual monad pressing forward for incarnation, and bearing with it a fifth principle (so much of a fifth principle as is persistent of course) precisely adapted by its Karma to inhabit that potential body. Given these circumstances, and the imperfectly organized child is conceived and brought into the world, to be a cause of trouble to himself and others — an effect becoming a cause in its turn — and a living enigma for philosophers endeavoring to explain the origin of evil.

The same explanation applies, with modifications, to a vast range of cases that might be cited to illustrate the problem of evil in the world. Incidentally, moreover, it covers a question connected with the operation of the Karmic law that can hardly be called a difficulty, as the answer would probably be suggested by the bearings of the doctrine itself, but is none the less entitled to notice. The selective assimilation of Karma-laden spirits with parentage which corresponds to their necessities or deserts is the obvious explanation which reconciles rebirth with atavism and heredity. The child born may seem to reproduce the moral and mental peculiarities of parents or ancestors as well as their physical likeness, and the fact suggests the notion that his soul is as much an offshoot of the family tree as his physical frame. It is unnecessary to enlarge here on the multifarious embarrassments by which that theory would be surrounded, on the extravagance of supposing that a soul thus thrown off, like a spark from an anvil, without any spiritual past behind it, can have a spiritual future before it. The soul, which was thus merely a function of the body, would certainly come to an end with the dissolution of that out of which it arose. The esoteric doctrine, however, as regards transmitted characteristics, will afford a complete explanation of that phenomenon, as well as all others connected with human life. The family into which he is born is to the reincarnating spirit what a new planet is to the whole tide of humanity on a round along the manvantaric chain. It has been built up by a process of evolution working on a line transverse to that of humanity’s approach; but it is fit for humanity to inhabit when the time comes. So with the reincarnating spirit: it presses forward into the objective world, the influences which have retained it in the Devachanic state having been exhausted, and it touches the spring of Nature, so to speak, provoking the development of a child which without such an impulse would merely have been a potentiality, not an actual development, but in whose parentage it finds — of course unconsciously by the blind operation of its affinities — the exact conditions of renewed life for which it has prepared itself during its last existence. Certainly we must never forget the presence of exceptions in all broad rules of Nature. In the present case it may sometimes happen that mere accident causes an injury to a child at birth. That a crippled frame may come to be bestowed on a spirit whose Karma has by no means earned that penalty, and so with a great variety of accidents. But of these all that need be said is that Nature is not at all embarrassed by her accidents; she has ample time to repair them. The undeserved suffering of one life is amply redressed under the operation of the Karmic law in the next or the next. There is plenty of time, for making the account even, and the adepts declare, I believe, that, as a matter of fact, in the long run undeserved suffering operates as good luck rather than otherwise, thereby deriving from a purely scientific observation of facts a doctrine which religion has benevolently invented sometimes for the consolation of the afflicted.

While the esoteric doctrine affords in this way an unexpected solution of the most perplexing phenomena of life, it does this at no sacrifice in any direction of the attributes we may fairly expect of a true religious science. Foremost among the claims we may make on such a System is that it shall contemplate no injustice, either in the direction of wrong done to the deserving, or of benefits bestowed on the undeserving; and the justice of its operation must be discernible in great things and small alike. The legal maxim, de minimis non curat lex, is means of escape for human fallibility from the consequences of its own imperfections. There is no such thing as indifference to small things in chemistry or mechanics. Nature in physical operations responds with exactitude to small causes as certainly as to great and we may feel instinctively sure that in her spiritual operations also she has no clumsy habit of treating trifles as of no consequence, of ignoring small debts in consideration of paying big ones, like a trader of doubtful integrity content to respect obligations which are serious enough to be enforced by law. Now the minor acts of life, good and bad alike, are of necessity ignored under any system which makes the final question at stake, admission to or exclusion from a uniform or approximately uniform condition of blessedness. Even as regards that merit and demerit which is solely concerned with spiritual consequences, no accurate response could be made by Nature except by means of that infinitely graduated condition of spiritual existence described by the esoteric doctrine as the Devachanic state. But the complexity to be dealt with is more serious than even the various conditions of Devachanic existence can meet. No system of consequences ensuing to mankind alter the life now under observation can be recognized as adapted scientifically to the emergency, unless it responds to the sense of justice, in regard to the multifarious acts and habits of life generally, including those which merely relate to physical existence, and are not deeply colored by right or wrong.

Now, it is only by a return to physical existence that people can possibly be conceived to reap with precise accuracy the harvest of the minor causes they may have generated, when last in objective life. Thus, on a careful examination of the matter, the Karmic law, so unattractive to Buddhist students, hitherto, in its exoteric shape, — and no wonder, — will be seen not only to reconcile itself to the sense of justice, but to constitute the only imaginable method of natural action that would do this. The continued individuality running through successive Karmic re-births once realized, and the corresponding chain of personal existences intercalated between each borne in mind, the exquisite symmetry of the whole system is in no way impaired by that feature which seems obnoxious to criticism at the first glance, — the successive baths of oblivion, through which the reincarnating spirit has to pass. On the contrary, that oblivion itself is in truth the only condition in which objective life could fairly be started afresh. Few earth-lives are entirely free from shadows, the recollection of which would darken renewed lease of life for the former personality. And if it is alleged that the forgetfulness in each life of the last involves waste of experience and effort and intellectual acquirements, painfully or laboriously obtained, that objection can only be raised in forgetfulness of the Devachanic life, in which, far from being wasted, such efforts and acquirements are the seeds from which the whole magnificent harvest of spiritual results will be raised. In the same way, the longer the esoteric doctrine occupies the mind the more clearly it is seen that every objection brought against it meets with a ready reply, and only seems an objection from the point of view of imperfect knowledge.

Passing from abstract considerations to others partly interwoven with practical matters, we may compare the esoteric doctrine with the observable facts of Nature in several ways with the view of directly checking its teachings. A spiritual science which has successfully divined the absolute truth must accurately fit the facts of earth whenever it impinges on earth. A religious dogma in flagrant opposition to that which is manifestly truth in respect of geology and astronomy may find churches and congregations content to nurse it, but is not worth serious philosophical consideration. How then does the esoteric doctrine square with geology and astronomy?

It is not too much to say that it constitutes the only religious system that blends itself easily with the physical truths discovered by modern research in those branches of science. It not only blends itself with, in the sense of tolerating, the nebula hypothesis and the stratification of rocks; it rushes into the arms of these facts, so to speak, and could not get on without them. It could not get on without the great discoveries of modern biology; as a system recommending itself to notice in a scientific age it could ill afford to dispense with the latest acquisitions of physical geography, and it may offer a word of thanks even to Professor Tyndall for some of his experiments on light, for he seems on one occasion, as he describes the phenomenon without knowing what he is describing, in “Fragments of Science,” to have provoked conditions within a glass tube which enabled him for a short time to see the elementals.

The stratification of the earth’s crust is, of course, a plain and visible record of the interracial cataclysms. Physical science is emerging from the habits of timidity, which its insolent oppression by religious bigotry for fifteen centuries engendered, but it is still a little shy in its relations with dogma, from the mere force of habit. In that way, geology has been content to say, such and such continents, as their shell-beds testify, must have been more than once submerged below and elevated above the surface of the ocean. It has not yet grown used to the free application of its own materials to speculation, which trenches upon religious territory. But surely if geology were required to interpret all its facts into a consistent history of the earth, throwing in the most plausible hypotheses it could invent to fill up gaps in its knowledge, it would already construct a history for mankind which in its broad outlines would not be unlike that sketched out in the chapter on the Great World Periods; and the further geological discovery progresses, our esoteric teachers assure us, the more closely will the correspondence of the doctrine and the bony traces of the past be recognized. Already we find experts from the Challenger vouching for the existence of Atlantis, though the subject belongs to a class of problems unattractive to the scientific world generally, so that the considerations in favor of the lost continent are not yet generally appreciated. Already thoughtful geologists are quite ready to recognize that in regard to the forces which have fashioned the earth this, the period within the range of historic traces, may be a period of comparative inertia and slow change; that cataclysmal metamorphoses may have been added formerly to those of gradual subsidence, upheaval, and denudation. It is only a step or two to the recognition as a fact of what no one could any longer find fault with as a hypothesis: that great continental upheavals and submergences take place alternately; that the whole map of the world is not only thrown occasionally into new shapes, like the pictures of a kaleidoscope as its colored fragments fall into new arrangements, but subject to systematically recurrent changes, which restore former arrangements at enormous intervals of time.

Pending further discoveries, however, it will, perhaps, be admitted that we have a sufficient block of geological knowledge already in our possession to fortify the cosmogony of the esoteric doctrine. That the doctrine should have been withheld from the world generally as long as no such knowledge had paved the way for its reception can hardly be considered indiscreet for the part of its custodians. Whether the present generation will attach sufficient importance to its correspondence with what has been ascertained of Nature in other ways remains to be seen.

These correspondences may, of course, be traced in biology as decisively as in geology. The broad Darwinian theory of the Descent of Man from the animal kingdom is not the only support afforded by this branch of science to the esoteric doctrine. The detailed observations now carried out in embryology are especially interesting for the light they throw on more than one department of this doctrine. Thus the now familiar truth that the successive stages of ante-natal human development correspond to the progress of human evolution through different forms of animal life is nothing less than a revelation, in its analogical bearings. It does not merely fortify the evolutionary hypothesis itself; it affords a remarkable illustration of the way Nature works in the evolution of new races of men at the beginning of the great round periods. When a child has to be developed from a germ which is so simple in its constitution that it is typical less of the animal — less even of the vegetable — than of the mineral kingdom, the familiar scale of evolution is run over, so to speak, with a rapid touch. The ideas of progress which may have taken countless ages to work out in a connected chain for the first time are once for all firmly lodged in Nature’s memory, and thenceforth they can be quickly recalled in order, in a few months. So with the new evolution of humanity on each planet as the human tide-wave of life advances. In the first round the process is exceedingly slow, and does not advance far. The ideas of Nature are themselves under evolution. But when the process has been accomplished once it can be quickly repeated. In the later rounds, the life impulse runs up the gamut of evolution with a facility only conceivable by help of the illustration which embryology affords. This is the explanation of the way the character of each round differs from its predecessor. The evolutionary work which has been once accomplished is soon repeated; then the round performs its own evolution at a very different rate, as the child, once perfected up to the human type, performs its own individual growth but slowly, in proportion to the earlier stages of its initial development.

No elaborate comparison of exoteric Buddhism with the views of Nature which have now been set forth — briefly, indeed, considering their scope and importance, but comprehensively enough to furnish the reader with a general idea of the system in its whole enormous range —will be required from me. With the help of the information now communicated, more experienced students of Buddhist literature will be better able to apply to the enigmas that it may contain the keys which will unlock their meaning. The gaps in the public records of Buddha’s teaching will be filled up readily enough now, and it will be plain why they were left. For example, in Mr. Rhys Davids’ book I find this: “Buddhism does not attempt to solve the problem of the primary origin of all things;” and quoting from Hardy’s “Manual of Buddhism,” he goes on, “When Malunka asked the Buddha whether the existence of the world is eternal or not eternal, he made him no reply; but the reason of this was that it was considered by the teacher as an inquiry that tended to no profit.” In reality the subject was manifestly passed over because it could not be dealt with by a plain yes or no, without putting the inquirer upon a false scent; while to put him on the true scent would have required a complete exposition of the whole doctrine about the evolution of the planetary chain, an explanation of that for which the community Buddha was dealing with was not intellectually ripe. To infer from his silence that he regarded the inquiry itself as tending to no profit is a mistake which may naturally enough have been made in the absence of any collateral knowledge, but none can be more complete in reality. No religious system that ever publicly employed itself on the problem of the origin of all things has, as will now be seen, done more than scratch the surface of that speculation, in comparison with the exhaustive researches of the esoteric science of which Buddha was no less prominent an exponent than he was a prominent teacher of morals for the populace.

The positive conclusions as to what Buddhism does teach — carefully as he has worked them out — are no less inaccurately set forth by Mr. Rhys Davids than the negative conclusion just quoted. It was inevitable that all such conclusions should hitherto be inaccurate. I quote an example, not to disparage the careful study of which it is the fruit, but to show how the light now shed over the whole subject penetrates every cranny and puts an entirely new complexion on all its features: —

“Buddhism takes as its ultimate fact the existence of the material world, and of conscious beings living within it; and it holds that everything is subject to the law of cause and effect, and that everything is constantly, though imperceptibly, changing. There is no place where this law does not operate; no heaven or hell, therefore, in the ordinary sense. There are worlds where angels live, whose existence is more or less material according as their previous lives were more or less holy; but the angels die, and the worlds they inhabit pass away. There are places of torment, where the evil actions of men or angels produce unhappy beings; but when the active power of the evil that produced them is exhausted, they will vanish, and the worlds they inhabit are not eternal. The whole Kosmos — earth and heavens and hells — is always tending to renovation or destruction, is always in a course of change, a series of revolutions or of cycles, of which the beginning and the end alike are unknowable and unknown. To this universal law of composition and dissolution men and gods form no exception; the unity of forces which constitutes a sentient being must sooner or later be dissolved, and it is only through ignorance and delusion that such a being indulges in the dream that it is a separable and self-existent entity.”


Now certainly this passage might be taken to show how the popular notions of Buddhist philosophy are manifestly thrown off from the real esoteric philosophy. Most assuredly that philosophy no more finds in the universe than in the belief of any truly enlightened thinker, Asiatic or European, the unchangeable and eternal heaven and hell of monkish legend; and “the worlds where angels live,” and so on, — the vividly real though subjective strata of the Devachanic state, — are found in Nature truly enough. So with all the rest of the popular Buddhist conceptions just passed in review. But in their popular form they are the nearest caricatures of the corresponding items of esoteric knowledge. Thus the notion about individuality being a delusion, and the ultimate dissolution as such of the sentient being, is perfectly unintelligible without fuller explanations concerning the multitudinous æons of individual life, in as yet, to us, inconceivable but ever-progressive conditions of spiritual exaltation, which come before that unutterably remote mergence into the non-individualized condition. That condition certainly must be somewhere in futurity, but its nature is something which no uninitiated philosopher, at any rate, has ever yet comprehended by so much as the faintest glimmering guess. As with the idea of Nirvana, so with this about the delusion of individuality, writers on Buddhist doctrine derived from exoteric sources have most unfortunately found themselves entangled with some of the remote elements of the great doctrine, under the impression that they were dealing with Buddhist views of conditions immediately succeeding this life. The statement, which is almost absurd, thus put out of its proper place in the whole doctrine, may be felt not only as no longer an outrage on the understanding, but as a sublime truth when restored to its proper place in relation to other truths. The ultimate mergence of the perfected man-god, or Dhyan Chohan, in the absolute consciousness of paranirvana has nothing to do, let me add, with the “heresy of individuality,” which relates to physical personalities. To this subject I recur a little later on.

Justly enough, Mr. Rhys Davids says, in reference to the epitome of Buddhist doctrine quoted above: “Such teachings are by no means peculiar to Buddhism, and similar ideas lie at the foundation of earlier Indian philosophies.” (Certainly by reason of the fact that Buddhism as concerned with doctrine was earlier Indian philosophy itself.) “They are to be found, indeed, in other systems widely separated from them in time and place; and Buddhism, in dealing with the truth which they contain, might have given a more decisive and more lasting utterance if it had not also borrowed a belief in the curious doctrine of transmigration, — a doctrine which seems to have arisen independently, if not simultaneously, in the valley of the Ganges and the valley of the Nile. The word transmigration has been used, however, in different times and at different places for theories similar, indeed, but very different; and Buddhism, in adopting the general idea from post-Vedic Brahmanism, so modified it as to originate, in fact, a new hypothesis. The new hypothesis, like the old one, related to Life in past and future births, and contributed nothing to the removal here, in this life, of the evil it was supposed to explain.”

The present volume should have dissipated the misapprehensions on which these remarks rest. Buddhism does not believe in anything resembling the passage backwards and forwards between animal and human forms, which most people conceive to be meant by the principle of transmigration. The transmigration of Buddhism is the transmigration of Darwinian evolution scientifically developed, or rather exhaustively explored, in both directions. Buddhist writings certainly contain allusions to former births, in which even the Buddha himself was now one and now another kind of animal. But these had reference to the remote course of pre human evolution, of which his fully opened vision gave him a retrospect. Never in any authentic Buddhist writings will any support be found for the notion that any human creature, once having attained manhood, falls back into the animal kingdom. Again, while nothing, indeed, could be more ineffectual as an explanation of the origin of evil than such a caricature of transmigration as would contemplate such a return, the progressive rebirths of human Egos into objective existence, coupled with the operation of physical Karma and the inevitable play of free-will within the limits of its privilege, do explain the origin of evil, finally and completely. The effort of Nature being to grow a new harvest of Dhyan Chohans whenever a planetary system is evolved, the incidental development of transitory evil is an unavoidable consequence under the operation of the forces or processes just mentioned, themselves unavoidable stages in the stupendous enterprise set on foot.

At the same time the reader who will now take up Mr. Rhys Davids’ book and examine the long passage on this subject, and on the skandhas, will realize how utterly hopeless a task it was to attempt the deduction of any rational theory of the origin of evil from the exoteric materials there made use of. Nor was it possible for these materials to suggest the true explanation of the passage immediately afterwards, quoted from the Brahmajala Sutra: —

“After showing how the unfounded belief in the eternal existence of God or gods arose, Gautama goes on to discuss the question of the soul, and points out thirty-two beliefs concerning it, which he declares to be wrong. These are shortly as follows: ‘Upon what principle, or on what ground, do these mendicants and Brahmans hold the doctrine of future existence? They teach that the soul is material, or is immaterial, or is both or neither; that it will have one or many modes of consciousness; that its perceptions will be few or boundless; that it will be in a state of joy or of misery, or of neither. These are the sixteen heresies, teaching a conscious existence after death. Then there are eight heresies teaching that the soul, material or immaterial, or both or neither, finite or infinite, or both or neither, has one unconscious existence after death. And, finally, eight others which teach that the soul, in the same eight ways, exists after death in a state of being neither conscious nor unconscious.’ ‘Mendicants,’ concludes the sermon, ‘that which binds the teacher to existence (viz., tanha, thirst), is cut off, but his body still remains. While his body shall remain, he will be seen by gods and men, but after the termination of life, upon the dissolution of the body, neither gods nor men will see him.’ Would it be possible in a more complete and categorical manner to deny that there is any soul, — anything of any kind which continues to exist in any manner after death?”


Certainly, for exoteric students, such a passage as this could not but seem in flagrant contradiction with those teachings of Buddhism which deal with the successive passages of the same individuality through several incarnations, and which thus along another line of thought may seem to assume the existence of a transmissible soul as plainly as the passage quoted denies it. Without a comprehension of the seven principles of man, no separate utterances on the various aspects of this question of immortality could possibly be reconciled. But the key now given leaves the apparent contradiction devoid of all embarrassment. In the passage last quoted Buddha is speaking of the astral personality, while the immortality recognized by the esoteric doctrine is that of the spiritual individuality. The explanation has been fully given in the chapter on Devachan, and in the passages quoted there from Colonel Olcott’s “Buddhist Catechism.” It is only since fragments of the great revelation this volume contains have been given out during the last two years in the “Theosophist” that the important distinction between personality and individuality, as applied to the question of human immortality, has settled into an intelligible shape, but there are plentiful allusions in former occult writing, which may now be appealed to in proof of the fact that former writers were fully alive to the doctrine itself. Turning to the most recent of the occult books, in which the veil of obscurity was still left to wrap the doctrine from careless observation, though is strained in many places almost to transparency, we might take any one of a dozen passages to illustrate the point before us. Here is one: —

“The philosophers who explained the fall into generation their own way viewed spirit as something wholly distinct from the soul. They allowed its presence in the astral capsule only so far as the spiritual emanations or rays of the ‘shining one’ were concerned. Man and soul had to conquer their immortality by ascending toward the unity, with which, if successful, they were finally linked, and into which they were absorbed, so to say. The individualization of man after death depended on the spirit, not on his body and soul. Although the word ‘personality,’ in the sense in which it is usually understood, is an absurdity if applied literally to our immortal essence, still the latter is a distinct entity, immortal and eternal per se; and as in the case of criminals beyond redemption, when the shining thread which links the spirit to the soul from the moment of the birth of a child is violently snapped, and the disembodied entity is left to share the fate of the lower animals, to dissolve into ether and have its individuality annihilated, — even then the spirit remains a distinct being.” 1


No one can read this — scarcely any part, indeed, of the chapter from which it is taken —without perceiving, by the light of the explanations given in the present volume, that the esoteric doctrine now fully given out was perfectly familiar to the writer, though I have been privileged to put it for the first time into plain and unmistakable language.

It takes some mental effort to realize the difference between personality and individuality, but the craving for the continuity of personal existence, for the full recollection always of those transitory circumstances of our present physical life which make up the personality, is manifestly no more than a passing weakness of the flesh. For many people it will perhaps remain irrational to say that any person now living, with his recollections bounded by the years of his childhood, is the same individual as someone of quite a different nationality and epoch who lived thousands of years ago, or the same that will reappear after a similar lapse of time under some entirely new conditions in the future. But the feeling “I am I” is the same through the three lives and through all the hundreds; for that feeling is more deeply seated than the feeling “I am John Smith, so high, so heavy, with such and such property and relations.” Is it inconceivable, as a notion in the mind, that John Smith, inheriting the gift of Tithonus, changing his name from time to time, marrying afresh every other generation or so, losing property here, coming into possession of property there, and getting interested as time went on in a great variety of different pursuits, — is it inconceivable that such a person in a few thousand years should forget all circumstances connected with the present life of John Smith, just as if the incidents of that life for him had never taken place? And yet the Ego would be the same. If this is conceivable in the imagination, what can be inconceivable in the individual continuity of an intermittent life, interrupted and renewed at regular intervals, and varied with passages through a purer condition of existence.

No less than it clears up the apparent conflict between the identity of successive individualities and the “heresy” of individuality will the esoteric doctrine be seen to put the “incomprehensible mystery of Karma, which Mr. Rhys Davids disposes of so summarily, on a perfectly intelligible and scientific basis. Of this he says that because Buddhism “does not acknowledge a soul” it has to resort to the desperate expedient of a mystery to bridge over the gulf between one life and another somewhere else, — the doctrine, namely, of Karma. And he condemns the idea as “a non-existent fiction of the brain.” Irritated as he feels with what he regards as the absurdity of the doctrine, he yet applies patience and great mental ingenuity in the effort to evolve something that shall feel like a rational metaphysical conception out of the tangled utterances concerning Karma of the Buddhist scriptures. He writes: —

“Karma, from a Buddhist point of view, avoids the superstitious extreme, on the one hand, of those who believe in the separate existence of some entity called the soul; and the irreligious extreme, on the other, of those who do not believe in moral justice and retribution. Buddhism claims to have looked through the word soul for the fact it purports to cover, and to have found no fact at all, but only one or other of twenty different delusions which blind the eyes of men. Nevertheless, Buddhism is convinced that if a man reaps sorrow, disappointment, pain, he himself, and no other, must at some time have sown folly, error, sin; and if not in this life, then in some former birth. Where, then, in the latter case, is the identity between him who sows and him who reaps? in that which alone remains when a man dies, and the constituent parts of the sentient being are dissolved, in the result, namely, of his action, speech, and thought, in his good or evil Karma (literally his doing), which does not die. We are familiar with the doctrine, ‘Whatever a man soweth that shall he also reap,’ and can therefore enter into the Buddhist feeling that whatever a man reaps that he must also have sown; we are familiar with the doctrine of the indestructibility of force, and can therefore understand the Buddhist dogma (however it may contravene our Christian notions) that no exterior power can destroy the fruit of a man’s deeds, that they must work out their full effect to the pleasant or the bitter end. But the peculiarity of Buddhism lies in this: that the result of what a man is or does is held not to be dissipated, as it were, into many separate streams, but to be concentrated together in the formation of one new sentient being,—new, that is, in its constituent parts and powers, but the same in its essence, its being, its doing, its Karma.”


Nothing could be more ingenious as an attempt to invent for Buddhism an explanation of its “mystery” on the assumption that the authors of the mystery threw it up originally as a “desperate expedient” to cover their retreat from an untenable position. But in reality the doctrine of Karma has a far simpler history and does not need so subtle an interpretation. Like many other phenomena of Nature having to do with futurity, it was declared by Buddha an incomprehensible mystery, and questions concerning it were thus put aside; but he did not mean that because it was incomprehensible for the populace it was incomprehensible, or any mystery at all, for the initiates in the esoteric doctrine. It was impossible to explain it without reference to the esoteric doctrine; but the outlines of that science once grasped, Karma, like so much else, becomes a comparatively simple matter, — a mystery only in the sense in which also the affinity of sulphuric acid for copper and its superior affinity for iron are also mysteries. Certainly esoteric science for its “lay chelas” at all events, like chemical science for its lay chelas, — all students, that is to say, of its mere physical phenomena, — leaves some mysteries unfathomed in the background. I am not prepared to explain by what precise molecular changes the higher affinities which constitute Karma are stored up in the permanent elements of the fifth principle. But no more is ordinary science qualified to say what it is in a molecule of oxygen which induces it to desert the molecule of hydrogen with which it was in alliance in the raindrop, and attach itself to a molecule of the iron of a railing on which it falls. But the speck of rust is engendered, and a scientific explanation of that occurrence is held to have been given when its affinities are ascertained and appealed to.

So with Karma, the fifth principle takes up the affinities of its good and evil deeds in its passage through life, passes with them into Devachan, where those which are suitable to the atmosphere, so to speak, of that state, fructify and blossom in prodigious abundance, and then passes on, with such as have not yet exhausted their energy, into the objective world once more. And as certainly as the molecule of oxygen brought into the presence of a hundred other molecules will fly to that with which it has the most affinity, so will the Karma-laden spiritual monad fly to that incarnation with which its mysterious attractions link it. Nor is there in that process any creation of a new sentient being, except in the sense that the new bodily structure evolved is a new instrument of sensation. That which inhabits it, that which feels joy or sorrow, is the old Ego, — walled off by forgetfulness from its last set of adventures on earth, it is true, but reaping their fruit nevertheless, — the same “I am I” as before.

“Strange it is,” Mr. Rhys Davids thinks, that “all this “— the explanation of Buddhist philosophy which esoteric materials have enabled him to give — “should have seemed not unattractive, these 2,800 years and more, to many despairing and earnest hearts; that they should have trusted themselves to the so seeming stately bridge which Buddhism has tried to build over the river of the mysteries and sorrows of life. . . . They have failed to see that the very keystone itself, the link between one life and another, is a mere word, — this wonderful hypothesis, this airy nothing, this imaginary cause beyond the reach of reason, — the individualized and individualizing grace of Karma.”

It would have been strange indeed if Buddhism had been built on such a frail foundation; but its apparent frailty has been simply due to the fact that its mighty fabric of knowledge has hitherto been veiled from view. Now that the inner doctrine has been unveiled it will be seen how little it depends for any item of its belief on shadowy subtleties of metaphysics. So far as these have clustered round Buddhism they have merely been constructed by external interpreters of stray doctrinal hints that could not be entirely left out of the simple system of morals prescribed for the populace.

In that which really constitutes Buddhism we find a sublime simplicity, like that of Nature herself, — one law running into infinite ramifications; complexities of detail, it is true, as Nature herself is infinitely complex in her manifestations, however unchangeably uniform in her purposes, but always the immutable doctrine of causes and their effects, which in turn become causes again in an endless cyclic progression.

_______________

Notes:

1 Isis Unveiled, vol. i, p. 315
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Re: ESOTERIC BUDDHISM, by A.P. Sinnett

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Appendix

NOTE TO CHAPTER 1.


THE further we advance in occult study, the more exalted in many ways become our conceptions of the Mahatmas. The complete comprehension of the manner in which these persons become differentiated from humankind at large, is not to be achieved by the help of mere intellectual effort. There are aspects of the adept nature which have to do with the extraordinary development of the higher principles in man, which cannot be realized by the application of the lower. But while crude conceptions in the beginning thus fall very short of reaching the real level of the facts, a curious complication of the problem arises in this way. Our first idea of an adept who has achieved the power of penetrating the tremendous secrets of spiritual nature, is modelled on our conception of a very highly gifted man of science on our own plane. We are apt to think of him as once an adept always an adept, — as a very exalted human being, who must necessarily bring into play in all the relations of his life the attributes that attach to him as a Mahatma. In this way, while — as above pointed out — we shall certainly fail, do all we can, to do justice in our thoughts to his attributes as a Mahatma, we may very easily run to the opposite extreme in our thinking about him in his ordinary human aspect, and thus land ourselves in many perplexities, as we acquire a partial familiarity with the characteristics of the occult world. It is just because the highest attributes of adeptship have to do with principles in human nature which quite transcend the limits of physical existence, that the adept of Mahatma can only be such in the highest acceptation of the word, when he is, as the phrase goes, “out of the body,” or at all events thrown by special efforts of his will into an abnormal condition. When he is not called upon to make such efforts or to pass entirely beyond the limitations of this fleshly prison, he is much more like an ordinary man than experience of him in some of his aspects would lead his disciples to believe.

A correct appreciation of this state of things explains the apparent contradiction involved in the position of the occult pupil towards his masters, as compared with some of the declarations that the master himself will frequently put forward. For example, the Mahatmas are persistent in asserting that they are not infallible, that they are men, like the rest of us, perhaps with a somewhat more enlarged comprehension of nature than the generality of mankind, but still liable to err both in the direction of practical business with which they may be concerned, and in their estimate of the characters of other men, or the capacity of candidates for occult development. But how are we to reconcile statements of this nature with the fundamental principle at the bottom of all occult research which enjoins the neophyte to put his trust in the teaching and guidance of his master absolutely and without reserve? The solution of the difficulty is found in the state of things above referred to. While the adept may be a man quite surprisingly liable to err sometimes in the manipulation of worldly business, just as with ourselves some of the greatest men of genius are liable to make mistakes in their daily life that matter-of-fact people could never commit, on the other hand, directly a Mahatma comes to deal with the higher mysteries of spiritual science, he does so by virtue of the exercise of his Mahatma attributes, and in dealing with these can hardly be recognized as liable to err.

This consideration enables us to feel that the treat-worthiness of the teachings derived from such a source as those which have inspired the present volume, is altogether above the reach of small incidents which in the progress of our experience may seem to claim a revision of that enthusiastic confidence in the supreme wisdom of the adepts which the first approaches to occult study will generally evoke.

Not that such enthusiasm or reverence will really be diminished on the part of any occult chela as his comprehension of the world he is entering expands. The man who in one of his aspects is a Mahatma, may rather be brought within the limits of affectionate human regard, than deprived of his claims to reverence, by the consideration that in his ordinary life he is not so utterly lifted above the commonplace run of human feeling as some of his Nirvanic experiences might lead us to believe that he would be.

If we keep constantly in mind that an adept is only truly an adept when exercising adept functions, but that when exercising these he may soar into spiritual rapport with that which is, in regard at all events to the limitations of our solar system, all that we practically mean be omniscience, we shall then be guarded from many of the mistakes that the embarrassments of the subject might create.

Intricacies concerning the nature of the adept may be noticed here, which will hardly be quite intelligible without reference to some later chapters of this book, but which have so important a bearing on all attempts to understand what adeptship is really like that it may be convenient to deal with them at once. The dual nature of the Mahatma is so complete that some of his influence or wisdom on the higher planes of nature may actually be drawn upon by those in peculiar psychic relations with him, without the Mahatma-man being at the moment even conscious that such an appeal has been made to him. In this way it becomes open to us to speculate on the possibility that the relation between the spiritual Mahatma and the Mahatma-man may sometimes be rather in the nature of what is sometimes spoken of in esoteric writing as an overshadowing than as an incarnation in the complete sense of the word.

Furthermore as another independent complication of the matter we reach this fact, that each Mahatma is not merely a human Ego in a very exalted state, but belongs, so to speak, to some specific department in the great economy of nature. Every adept must belong to one or other of seven great types of adeptship; but although we may almost certainly infer that correspondences might be traced between these various types and the seven principles of man, I should shrink myself from attempting a complete elucidation of this hypothesis. It will be enough to apply the idea to what we know vaguely of the occult organization in its higher regions. For some time past it has been affirmed in esoteric writing that there are five great Chohans or superior Mahatmas presiding over the whole body of the adept fraternity. When the foregoing chapter of this book was written, I was under the impression that one supreme chief on a different level again exercised authority over these five Chohans, but it now appears to me that this personage may rather be regarded as a sixth Chohan, himself the head of the sixth type of Mahatmas, and this conjecture leads at once to the further inference that there must be a seventh Chohan to complete the correspondences which we thus discern. But just as the seventh principle in nature or in man is a conception of the most intangible order, eluding the grasp of any intellectual thinking, and only describable in shadowy phrases of metaphysical non-significance, so we may be quite sure that the seventh Chohan is very unapproachable by untrained imaginations. But even he no doubt plays a part in what may be called the higher economy of spiritual nature, and that there is such a personage visible occasionally to some of the other Mahatmas I take to be the case. But speculation concerning him is valuable chiefly as helping to give consistency to the idea above thrown out, according to which the Mahatmas may be comprehended in their true aspect as necessary phenomena of nature without whom the evolution of humanity could hardly be imagined as advancing, not as merely exceptional men who have attained great spiritual exaltation.

NOTE TO CHAPTER 2.

Some objection has been raised to the method in which the Esoteric Doctrine is presented to the reader in this book, on the ground that it is materialistic. I doubt if in any other way the ideas to be dealt with could so well be brought within the grasp of the mind, but it is easy, when they once are grasped, to translate them into terms of idealism. The higher principles will be the better susceptible of treatment as so many different states of the Ego, when the attributes of these states have been separately considered as principles undergoing evolution. But it may be useful to dwell for a while on the view of the human constitution according to which the consciousness of the entity migrates successively through the stages of development, which the different principles represent.

In the highest evolution we need concern ourselves with at present—that of the perfected Mahatma — it is sometimes asserted in occult teaching that the consciousness of the Ego has acquired the power of residing altogether in the sixth principle. But it would be a gross view of the subject, and erroneous, to suppose that the Mahatma has on that account shaken off altogether, like a discarded sheath or sheaths, the fourth and fifth principles, in which his consciousness may have been seated during an earlier stage of his evolution. The entity which was the fourth or fifth principle before, has come now to be different in its attributes, and to be entirely divorced from certain tendencies or dispositions, and is therefore a sixth principle. The change can be spoken of in more general terms as an emancipation of the adept’s nature from the enthralments of his lower self, from desires of the ordinary earth-life — even from the limitations of the affections; for the Ego, which is entirely conscious in his sixth principle, has realized the unity of the true Egos of all mankind on the higher plane, and can no longer be drawn by bonds of sympathy to any one more than to any other. He has attained that love of humanity as a whole which transcends the love of the Maya or illusion which constitutes the separate human creature for the limited being on the lower levels of evolution. He has not lost his fourth and fifth principles, — these have themselves attained Mahatma-ship; just as the animal soul of the lower kingdom, in reaching humanity, has blossomed into the fifth state. That consideration helps us to realize more accurately the passage of ordinary human beings through the long series of incarnations of the human plane. Once fairly on that plane of existence, the consciousness of the primitive man gradually envelops the attributes of the fifth principle. But the Ego at first remains a centre of thought-activity working chiefly with impulses and desires of the fourth stage of evolution. Flashes of the higher human reason illumine it fitfully at first, but by degrees the more intellectual man grows into the fuller possession of this. The impulses of human reason assert themselves more and more strongly. The invigorated mind becomes the predominant force in the life. Consciousness is transferred to the fifth principle, oscillating, however, between the tendencies of the lower and higher nature for a long while, — that is to say, over vast periods of evolution and many hundred lives, — and thus gradually purifying and exalting the Ego. All this while the Ego is thus a unity in one aspect of the matter, and its sixth principle but a potentiality of ultimate development. As regards the seventh principle, that is the true Unknowable, the supreme controlling cause of all things, which is the same for one man as for every man, the same for humanity as for the animal kingdom, the same for the physical as for the astral or devachanic or nirvanic planes of existence: no one man has got a seventh principle, in the higher conception of the subject; we are all in the same unfathomable way overshadowed by the seventh principle of the cosmos.

How does this view of the subject harmonize with the statement in the foregoing chapter, that in a certain sense the principles are separable, and that the sixth even can be imagined as divorcing itself from its next lower neighbor, and, by reincarnation, as growing a new fifth principle by contact with a human organism? There is no incompatibility in the spirit of the two views. The seventh principle is one and indivisible in all Nature, but there is a mysterious persistence through it of certain life-impulses, which thus constitute threads on which successive existences may be strong. Such a life-impulse does not expire even in the extraordinary case supposed, in which an Ego, projected upon it and developed along it up to a certain point, falls away from it altogether and as a complete whole. I am not in a position to dogmatize with precision as to what happens in such a case, but the subsequent incarnations of the spirit along that line of impulse are clearly of the original sequence; and thus, in the materialistic treatment of the idea, it may be said, with as much approach to accuracy as language will allow in either mode, that the sixth principle of the fallen entity in such a case separates itself from the original fifth, and reincarnates on its own account.

But with these abnormal processes it is unnecessary to occupy ourselves to any great extent. The normal evolution is the problem we have first to solve; and while the consideration of the seven principles as such is, to my own mind, the most instructive method by which the problem can be dealt with, it is well to remember always that the Ego is a unity progressing through various spheres or states of being, undergoing change and growth and purification all through the course of its evolution, — that it is a consciousness seated in this, or that, or the other, of the potential attributes of a human entity.

NOTE TO CHAPTER 3.

An expression occurs in this chapter which does not recommend itself to the somewhat fuller conceptions I have been able to form of the subject since this book was written. It is stated that “the spiritual mounds — the individual atoms of that immense life-impulse of which so much has been said — do not fully complete their mineral existence on globe A, then complete it on globe B, and so on. They pass several times round the whole circle as minerals, and then again several times round as vegetables, &c.’ Now it is intelligible to me that I was permitted to use this form of expression in the first instance because the main purpose in view was to elucidate the way in which the human entity was gradually evolved from processes of Nature going on in the first instance in lower kingdoms. But in truth at a later stage of the inquiry it becomes manifest that the vast process of which the evolution of humanity and all which that leads up to is the crowning act, the descent of spirit into matter, does not bring about a differentiation of individualities until a much later stage than is contemplated in the passage just quoted. In the mineral worlds on which the higher forms of plant and animal life have not yet been established, there is no such thing, as yet, as an individual spiritual monad, unless indeed by virtue of some inconceivable unity—inconceivable, but subject to treatment as a theory none the less — in the life-impulses which are destined to give rise to the later chains of highly organized existence. Just as in a preceding note we assumed the unity of such a life-impulse in the case of a perverted human Ego falling away as a whole from the current of evolution on which it was launched, so we may assume the same unity backwards to the earliest beginnings of the planetary chain. But this can be no more than a protective hypothesis, reserving us the right to investigate some mysteries later on that we need not go into at present. For a general appreciation of the subject it is better to regard the first infusion, as it were, of spirit into matter as provoking a homogeneous manifestation. The specific forms of the mineral kingdom, the crystals and differentiated rocks, are but bubbles in the seething mass assuming partially individualized forms for a time, and rushing again into the general substance of the growing cosmos, not yet true individualities. Nor even in the vegetable kingdom does individuality set in. The vegetable establishes organic matter in physical manifestation, and prepares the way for the higher evolution of the animal kingdom. In this, for the first time, but only in the higher regions of this, is true individuality evoked. Therefore it is not till we begin in imagination to contemplate the passage of the great life-impulse round the planetary chain on the level of animal incarnation, that it would he strictly justifiable to speak of the spiritual monads as travelling round the circle as a plurality, to which the word “they” would properly apply.

It is evidently not with the intention of encouraging any close study of evolution on the very grand scale with which we are dealing here, that the adept authors of the doctrine set forth in this volume have opened the subject of the planetary chain. As far as humanity is concerned, the period during which this earth will be occupied by our race is more than long enough to absorb all our speculative energy. The magnitude of the evolutionary process to be accomplished during that period is more than enough to tax to the utmost the capacities of an ordinary imagination. But it is extremely advantageous for students of the occult doctrine to realize the plurality of worlds in our system once for all — their intimate relations with, their interdependence on each other — before concentrating attention on the evolution of this single planet. For in many respects the evolution of a single planet follows a routine, as it will be found directly, that bears an analogical resemblance to the routine affecting the entire series of planets to which it belongs. The older writings on occult science, of the obscurely worded order, sometimes refer to successive states of one world, as if successive worlds were meant, and vice versa. Confusion thus arises in the reader’s mind, and according to the bent of his own inclination he clings to various interpretations of the misty language. The obscurity disappears when we realize that in the actual facts of Nature we have to recognize both courses of change. Each planet, while inhabited by humanity, goes through metamorphoses of a highly important and impressive character, the effect of which may in each case be almost regarded as equivalent to the reconstitution of the world. But none the less, if the whole group of such changes is treated as a unity does it form one of a higher series of changes. The several worlds of the chain are objective realities, and not symbols of change in one single, variable world. Further remarks on this head will fall into their place more naturally at the close of a later chapter.

NOTE TO CHAPTERS 5, 6.

There is no part of the present volume which I now regard as in so much urgent need of amplification as chapters 5 and 6. The Kama loca stage of existence, and that higher region or state of Devachan, to which it is but the antechamber, were, designedly I take it, left by our teachers in the first instance in partial obscurity, in order that the whole scheme of evolution might be the better understood. The spiritual state which immediately follows our present physical life is a department of Nature, the study of which is almost unhealthily attractive for every one who once realizes that some contact with it — some processes of experiment with its conditions— are possible even during this life. Already we can to a certain extent discern the phenomena of that state of existence into which a human creature passes at the death of the body. The experience of spiritualism has supplied us with facts concerning it in very great abundance. These facts are but too highly suggestive of theories and inferences which seem to reach the ultimate limits of speculation, and nothing but the bracing mental discipline of esoteric study in its broadest aspect will protect any mind addressed to the consideration of these facts from conclusions which that study shows to be necessarily erroneous. For this reason, theosophical inquirers have nothing to regret as far as their own progress in spiritual science is at stake, in the circumstances which have hitherto induced them to be rather neglectful of the problems that have to do with the state of existence next following our own. It is impossible to exaggerate the intellectual advantages to be derived from studying the broad design of Nature throughout those vast realms of the future which only the perfect clairvoyance of the adepts can penetrate, before going into details regarding that spiritual foreground, which is partially accessible to less powerful vision, but liable, on a first acquaintance, to be mistaken for the whole expanse of the future.

The earlier processes, however, through which the soul passes at death, may be described at this date somewhat more fully than they are defined in the foregoing chapter. The nature of the struggle that takes place in Kama loca between the upper and lower duads may now, I believe, be apprehended more clearly than at first. That struggle appears to be a very protracted and variegated process, and to constitute, — not, as some of us may have conjectured at first, an automatic or unconscious assertion of affinities or forces quite ready to determine the future of the spiritual monad at the period of death, — but a phase of existence which may be, and in the vast majority of cases is more than likely to be, continued over a considerable series of years. And during this phase of existence it is quite possible for departed human entities to manifest themselves to still living persons through the agency of spiritual mediumship, in a way which may go far towards accounting for, if it does not altogether vindicate, the impressions that spiritualists derive from such communications.

But we must not conclude too hastily that the human soul going through the struggle or evolution of Kama loca is in all respects what the first glance at the position, as thus defined, may seem to suggest. First of all, we must beware of too grossly materializing our conception of the struggle, by thinking of it as a mechanical separation of principles. There is a mechanical separation involved in the discard of lower principles when the consciousness of the Ego is firmly seated in the higher. Thus at death the body is mechanically discarded by the soul, which in union, perhaps (with intermediate principles), may actually be seen by some clairvoyants of a high order to quit the tenement it no longer needs. And a very similar process may ultimately take place in Kama loca itself, in regard to the matter of the astral principles. But postponing this consideration for a few moments, it is important to avoid supposing that the struggle of Kama loca does itself constitute this ultimate division of principles, or second death upon the astral plane.

The struggle of Kama loca is in fact the life of the entity in that phase of existence. As quite correctly stated in the text of the foregoing chapter, the evolution taking place during that phase of existence is not concerned with the responsible choice between good and evil which goes on during physical life. Kama loca is a portion of the great world of effects, — not a sphere in which causes are generated (except under peculiar circumstances). The Kama loca entity, therefore, is not truly master of his own acts; he is rather the sport of his own already established affinities. But these are all the while asserting themselves, or exhausting themselves, by degrees, and the Kama loca entity has an existence of vivid consciousness of one sort or another the whole time. Now a moment’s reflection will show that those affinities, which are gathering strength and asserting themselves, have to do with the spiritual aspirations of the life last experienced, while those which are exhausting themselves have to do with its material tastes, emotions, and proclivities. The Kama loca entity, be it remembered, is on his way to Devachan, or, in other words, is growing into that state which is the Devachanic state, and the process of growth is accomplished by action and reaction, by ebb and flow, like almost every other in Nature, — by a species of oscillation between the conflicting attractions of matter and spirit. Thus the Ego advances towards Heaven, so to speak, or recedes towards earth, during his Kama loca existence and it is just this tendency to oscillate between the two poles of thought or condition that brings him back occasionally within the sphere of the life he has just quitted.

It is not by any means at once that his ardent sympathies with that life are dissipated. His sympathies with the higher aspects of that life, be it remembered, are not even on their way to dissipation. For instance, in what is here referred to as earthly affinity, we need not include the exercise of affection, which is a function of Devachanic existence in a preeminent degree. But perhaps even in regard to his affections there may be earthly and spiritual aspects of these, and the contemplation of them, with the circumstances and surroundings of the earth-life, may often have to do with the recession towards earth-life of the Kama loca entity referred to above.

Of course it will be apparent at once that the intercourse which the practice of spiritualism sets up between such Kama-loca entities as are here in view, and the friends they have left on earth, must go on during those periods of the soul’s existence in which earth memories engage its attention; and there are two considerations of a very important nature which arise out of this reflection.

1st. While its attention is thus directed, it is turned away from the spiritual progress on which it is engaged during its oscillations in the other direction. It may fairly well remember, and in conversation refer to, the spiritual aspirations of the life on earth, but its new spiritual experiences appear to be of an order that cannot be translated back into terms of the ordinary physical intellect, and, besides that, to be not within the command of the faculties which are in operation in the soul during its occupation with old-earth memories. The position might be roughly symbolized, but only to a very imperfect extent, by the case of a poor emigrant, whom we may imagine prospering in his new country, getting educated these, concerning himself with its public affairs and discoveries, philanthropy, and so on. He may keep up an interchange of letters with his relations at home, but he will find it difficult to keep them au courant with all that has come to be occupying his thoughts. The illustration will only fully apply to our present purpose, however, if we think of the emigrant as subject to a psychological law which draws a veil over his understanding when he sits down to write to his former friends, and restores him during that time to his former mental condition. He would then be less and less able to write about the old topics as time went on, for they would not only be below the level of those to the consideration of which his real mental activities had risen, but would to a great extent have faded from his memory. His letters would be a source of surprise to their recipients, who would say to themselves that it was certainly so-and-so who was writing, but that he had grown very dull and stupid compared to what he used to be before he went abroad.

2dly. It must be borne in mind that a very well-known law of physiology, according to which faculties are invigorated by use and atrophied by neglect, applies on the astral as well as on the physical plane. The soul in Kama loca, which acquires the habit of fixing its attention on the memories of the life it has quitted, will strengthen and harden those tendencies which are at war with its higher impulses. The more frequently it is appealed to by the affection of friends still in the body to avail itself of the opportunities furnished by mediumship for manifesting its existence on the physical plane, the more vehement will be the impulses which draw it back to physical life, and the more serious the retardation of its spiritual progress. This consideration appears to involve the most influential motive which leads the representatives of Theosophical teaching to discountenance and disapprove of all attempts to hold communication with departed souls by means of the spiritual seance. The more such communications are genuine the more detrimental they are to the inhabitants of Kama loca concerned with them. In the present state of our knowledge it is difficult to determine with confidence the extent to which the Kama loca entities are thus injured. And we may be tempted to believe that in some cases the great satisfaction derived by the living persons who communicate, may outweigh the injury so inflicted on the departed soul. This satisfaction, however, will only be seen in proportion to the failure of the still living friend to realize the circumstances under which the communication takes place. At first, it is true, very shortly after death, the still vivid and complete memories of earth-life may enable the Kama loca entity to manifest himself as a personage very fairly like his deceased self, but from the moment of death the change in the direction of his evolution sets in. He will, as manifesting on the physical plane, betray no fresh fermentation of thought in his mind. He will never, in that manifestation, be any wiser, or higher in the scale of Nature, than he was when he died; on the contrary, he must become less and less intelligent, and apparently less instructed than formerly, as time goes on. He will never do himself justice in communication with the friends left behind, and his failure in this respect will grow more and more painful by degrees.

Yet another consideration operates to throw a very doubtful light on the wisdom or propriety of gratifying a desire for intercourse with deceased friends. We may say, never mind the gradually fading interest of the friend who has gone before, in the earth left behind; while there is anything of his or her old self left to manifest itself to us, it will be a delight to communicate even with that. And we may argue that if the beloved person is delayed a little on his way to Heaven by talking with us, he or she would be willing to make that sacrifice for our sake. The point overlooked here is, that on the astral, just as on the physical plane, it is a very easy thing to set up a bad habit. The soul in Kama loca once slaking a thirst for earthly intercourse at the wells of mediumship will have a strong impulse to fall back again and again on that indulgence. We may be doing a great deal more than diverting the soul’s attention from its own proper business by holding spiritualistic relations with it. We may be doing it serious and almost permanent injury. I am not affirming that this would invariably or generally be the case, but a severe view of the ethics of the subject must recognize the dangerous possibilities involved in the course of action under review. On the other hand, however, it is plain that cases may arise in which the desire for communication chiefly asserts itself from the other side: that is to say, in which the departed soul is laden with some unsatisfied desire — pointing possibly towards the fulfilment of some neglected duty on earth — the attention to which, on the part of still living friends, may have an effect quite the reverse of that attending the mere encouragement of the Kama loca entity in the resumption of its old earthly interests. In such cases the living friends may, by falling in with its desire to communicate, be the means, indirectly, of smoothing the path of the spiritual progress. Here again, however, we must be on our guard against the delusive aspect of appearances. A wish manifested by an inhabitant of Kama loca may not always be the expression of an idea then operative in his mind. It may be the echo of an old, perhaps of a very old, desire, then for the first time finding a channel for its outward expression. In this way, although it would be reasonable to treat as important an intelligible wish conveyed to us from Kama loca by a person only lately deceased, it would be prudent to regard with great suspicion such a wish emanating from the shade of a person who had been dead a long time, and whose general demeanor as a shade did not seem to convey the notion that he retained any vivid consciousness of his old personality.

The recognition of all these facts and possibilities of Kama loca will, I think, accord theosophists a satisfactory explanation of a good many experiences connected with spiritualism which the first exposition of the Esoteric Doctrine, as bearing on this matter, left in much obscurity.

It will be readily perceived that as the soul slowly clears itself in Kama loca of the affinities which retard its Devachanic development, the aspect it turns towards the earth is more and more enfeebled, and it is inevitable that there must always be in Kama loca an enormous number of entities nearly ripe for a complete mergence in Devachan, who on that very account appear to an earthly observer in a state of advanced decrepitude. These will have sunk, as regards the activity of their lower astral principles, into the condition of the altogether vague and unintelligible entities, which, following the example of older occult writers, I have referred to as “shells” in the text of this chapter. The designation, however, is not altogether a happy one. It might have been better to have followed another precedent, and to have called them “shades,” but either way their condition would be the same. All the vivid consciousness inhering, as they left the earth, in the principles appropriately related to the activities of physical life, has been transferred to the higher principles which do not manifest at seances. Their memory of earth-life has almost become extinct. Their lower principles are in such cases only reawakened by the influences of the mediumistic current into which they may be drawn, and they become then little more than astral looking-glasses, in which the thoughts of the medium or sitters at the stance are reflected. If we can imagine the colors on a painted canvas sinking by degrees into the substance of the material, and, at last remerging in their pristine brilliancy on the other side, we shall be conceiving a process which might not have destroyed the picture, but which would leave a gallery in which it took place a dreary scene of brown and meaningless backs, and that is very much what the Kama loca entities become before they ultimately shed the very material on which their first astral consciousness operated, and pass into the wholly purified Devachanic condition.

But this is not the whole of the story which teaches us to regard manifestations coming from Kama loca with distrust. Our present comprehension of the subject enables us to realize that when the time arrives for that second death on the astral plane, which releases the purified Ego from Kama loca altogether and sends it onward to the Devachanic state — something is left behind in Kama loca which corresponds to the dead body bequeathed to the earth when the soul takes its first flight from physical existence. A dead astral body is in fact left behind in Kama loca, and there is certainly no impropriety in applying the epithet “shell” to that residuum. The true shell in that state disintegrates in Kama loca before very long, just as the true body left to the legitimate processes of Nature on earth would soon decay and blend its elements with the general reservoirs of matter of the order to which they belong. But until that disintegration is accomplished, the shell which the real Ego has altogether abandoned may even in that state be mistaken sometimes at spiritual seances for a living entity. It remains for a time an astral looking-glass, in which mediums may see their own thoughts reflected, and take these back, fully believing them to come from an external source. These phenomena in the truest sense of the term are galvanized astral corpses; none the less so, because until they are actually disintegrated a certain subtle connection will subsist between them and the true Devachanic spirit; just as such a subtle communication subsists in the first instance between the Kama loca entity and the dead body left on earth. That last-mentioned communication is kept up by the finally diffused material of the original third principle, or linga sharira, and a study of this branch of the subject will, I believe, lead us up to a better comprehension than we possess at present of the circumstances under which materializations are sometimes accomplished at spiritual seances. But without going into that digression now, it is enough to recognize that the analogy may help to show how, between the Devachanic entity and the discarded shell in Kama loca a similar connection may continue for a while, acting, while it lasts, as a drag on the higher spirit, but perhaps as an after-glow of sunset on the shell. It would surely be distressing, however, in the highest degree, to any living friend of the person concerned, to get, through clairvoyance, or in any other way, sight or cognition of such a shell, and to be led into mistaking it for the true entity.

The comparatively clear view of Kama loca which we are now enabled to take, may help us to employ terms relating to its phenomena with more precision than we have hitherto been able to attain. I think if we adopt one new expression, “astral soul,” as applying to the entities in Kama loca who have recently quitted earth-life, or who for other reasons still retain, in the aspect they turn back towards earth, a large share of the intellectual attributes that distinguished them on earth, we shall then find the other terms in use already, adequate to meet our remaining emergencies. Indeed, we may then get rid entirely of the inconvenient term “elementary,” liable to be confused with elemental, and singularly inappropriate to the beings it describes. I would suggest that the astral soul as it sinks (regarded from our point of view) into intellectual decrepitude, should be spoken of in its faded condition as a shade, and that the term shell should be reserved for the true shells or astral dead bodies which the Devachanic spirit has finally quitted.

We are naturally led in studying the law of spiritual growth in Kama loca to inquire how long a time may probably elapse before the transfer of consciousness from the lower to the higher principles of the astral soul may be regarded as complete; and as usual, when we come to figures relating to the higher processes of Nature, the answer is very elastic. But I believe the esoteric teachers of the East declare that as regards the average run of humanity — for what may be called, in a spiritual sense, the great middle classes of humanity — it is unusual that a Kama loca entity will be in a position to manifest as such for more than twenty-five to thirty years. But on each side of this average the figures may run up very considerably. That is to say, a very ignoble and besotted human creature may hang about in Kama loca for a much longer time for want of any higher principles sufficiently developed to take up his consciousness at all, and at the other end of the scale the very intellectual and mentally active soul may remain for very long periods in Kama loca (in the absence of spiritual affinities in corresponding force), by reason of the great persistence of forces and causes generated on the higher plane of effects, though mental activity could hardly be divorced in this way from spirituality except in cases where it was exclusively associated with worldly ambition. Again, while Kama loca periods may thus be prolonged beyond the average from various causes, they may sink to almost infinitesimal brevity when the spirituality of a person dying at a ripe old age, and at the close of a life which has legitimately fulfilled its purpose, is already far advanced.

There is one other important possibility connected with manifestations reaching us by the usual channels of communication with Kama loca, which it is desirable to notice here, although from its nature the realization of such a possibility cannot be frequent. No recent students of theosophy can expect to know as yet very much about the conditions of existence which await adepts who relinquish the use of physical bodies on earth. The higher possibilities open to them appear to me quite beyond the reach of intellectual appreciation. No man is clever enough, by virtue of the mere cleverness seated in a living brain, to understand Nirvana; but it would appear that adepts in some cases elect to pursue a course lying midway between re-incarnation and the passage into Nirvana, and in the higher regions of Devachan; that is to say, in the arupa state of Devachan may await the slow advance of human evolution towards the exalted condition they have thus attained. Now an adept who had thus become a Devachanic spirit of the most elevated typo would not be cut off by the conditions of his Devachanic state — as would be the case with a natural Devachanic spirit passing through that state on his way to re-incarnation — from manifesting his influence on earth. His would certainly not be an influence which would make itself felt by the instrumentality of any physical signs to mixed audiences, but it is not impossible that a medium of the highest type —who would more properly be called a seer — might be thus influenced. By such an Adept spirit, some great men in the world’s history may from time to time have been overshadowed and inspired, consciously or unconsciously as the case may have been.

The disintegration of shells in Kama loca will inevitably suggest to any one who endeavors to comprehend the process at all, that there must be in Nature some general reservoirs of the matter appropriate to that sphere of existence, corresponding to the physical earth and its surrounding elements, into which our own bodies are resigned at death. The grand mysteries on which this consideration impinges will claim a far more exhaustive investigation than we have yet been enabled to undertake; but one broad idea connected with them may usefully be put forward without further delay. The state of Kama loca is one which has its corresponding orders of matter in manifestation round it. I will not here attempt to go into the metaphysics of the problem, which might even lead us to discard the notion that astral matter need be any less real and tangible than that which appeals to our physical senses. It is enough for the present to explain that the propinquity of Kama loca to the earth, which is so readily made apparent by spiritualistic experience, is explained by Oriental teaching to arise from this fact, —that Kama loca is just as much in and of the, earth as, during our lives, our astral soul is in and of the living man. The stage of Kama loca, in fact, the great realm of matter in the appropriate state which constitutes Kama loca and is perceptible to the senses of astral entities, as also to those of many clairvoyants, is the fourth principle of the earth, just as the Kama-rupa is the fourth principle of man. For the earth has its seven principles like the human creatures who inhabit it. Thus, the Devachanic state corresponds to the fifth principle of the earth, and Nirvana to the sixth principle.

NOTE TO CHAPTER 7.

Later information and study — the comparison, that is to say, of the various branches of the doctrine, and the collocation of other statements with those in Chapter 7 — show the difficulty of applying figures to the Esoteric Doctrines in a very striking light. Figures may be quite trustworthy as representing broad averages, and yet very misleading when applied to special cases. Devachanic periods vary for different people within such very wide limits that any rule laid down in the matter must be subject to a bewildering cloud of exceptions. To begin with, the average mentioned above has no doubt been computed with reference to fully matured adults. Between the quite young child who has no Devachanic period at all and the adult who accomplishes an average period we have to take note of persons dying in youth, who have accumulated Karma, and who must therefore pass through the usual stages of spiritual development, but for whom the brief lives they have spent have not produced causes which take very long to work themselves out. Such persons would return to incarnation after a sojourn in the world of effects of corresponding brevity. Again there are such thing, artificial incarnations accomplished by the direct intervention of the Mahatmas when a chela who may not acquired anything resembling the power of controlling the matter himself, is brought back into incarnation immediately after his previous physical death, without having been suffered to float into the current of natural causes at all. Of course in such cases it maybe said that the claims the person concerned has established on the Mahatmas are themselves natural causes of a kind, the intervention of the Mahatmas, who are quite beyond the liability of acting capriciously in such a matter, being so much fruit of effort in the preceding life, so much Karma. But still either way such cases would be equally withdrawn from the operation of the general average rule.

Clearly it is impossible when the complicated facts of an entirely unfamiliar science are being presented to untrained mind for the first time, to put them forward with all their appropriate qualifications, compensations and abnormal developments visible from the beginning. We must be content to take the broad rules first and deal with the exceptions afterwards, and especially is this the case with occult study, in connection with which the traditional methods of teaching, generally followed, aim at impressing every fresh idea on the memory, by provoking the perplexity it at last relieves. In relation to another matter dealt with in the preceding pages, an important exception in Nature has thus, it seems to me now, been left out of account. The description I have given of the progress of the human tide-wave is quite coherent as it stands, but since the publication of the original edition of this book some criticism was directed, in India, to a comparison between my version of the story and certain passages in other writings, known to emanate from a Mahatma. A discrepancy between the two statements was pointed out, the other version assuming the possibility that a monad actually might have travelled round the seven planets once more often than the compeers among whom he might ultimately find himself on this earth. My account of the obscurations appears to render this contingency impossible. The clue to the mystery appears to lie outside the domain of those facts concerning which the adepts are willing to speak freely; and the reader must clearly understand that the explanation I am about to offer is the fruit of my own speculation and comparison of different parts of the doctrine — not authentic information received from the author of my general teaching.

The fact appears to be that the obscurations are so far complete as to present all the phenomena above described in regard to each planet they affect as a whole. But exceptional phenomena, for which we must be ever on the alert, come into play even in this matter. The great bulk of humanity is driven on from one planet to the next by the great cyclic impulse when its time comes for such a transition, but the planet it quits is not utterly denuded of humanity, nor is it, in every region of its surface rendered, by the physical and climatic changes that come on, unfit to be the habitation of human beings. Even during obscuration a small colony of humanity clings to each planet, and the monads associated with these small colonies following different laws of evolution, and beyond the reach of those attractions which govern the main vortex of humanity in the planet occupied by the great tide-wave, pass on from world to world along what may be called the inner round of evolution, far ahead of the race at large. What may be the circumstances which occasionally project a soul even from the midst of the great human vortex, right out of the attraction of the planet occupied by the tide-wave, and into the attraction of the Inner Round— is a question that can only be a subject for us at present of very uncertain conjecture.

It may be worth while to draw attention, in connection with the solution I have ventured to offer as applicable to the problem of the Inner Rounds, to the way in which the fact of Nature I assume to exist would harmonize with the widely diffused doctrines of the Deluge. That portion of a planet which remained habitable during an obscuration would be equivalent to the Noah’s Ark of the biblical narrative taken in its largest symbolical meaning. Of course the narrative of the Deluge has minor symbolical meanings also, but it does not appear improbable that the Kabalists should also have associated with it the larger significance now suggested. In due time when the obscured planet grew ready once more to receive a full population of humanity, the colonists of the ark would be ready to commence the process of populating it afresh.

NOTE TO CHAPTER 8.

The condition into which the monads failing to pass the middle of the fifth round must fall as the tide of evolution sweeps on, leaving them stranded, so to speak, upon the shores of time, is not described very fully in this chapter. By a few words only is it indicated that the failures of each manwantara are not absolutely annihilated when they reach “the end of their tether,” but are destined after some enormous period of waiting to pass once more into the current of evolution. Many inferences may be deduced from this condition of things. The period of waiting which the failures have thus to undergo, is, to begin with, a duration so stupendous as to baffle the imagination. The latter half of the fifth round, the whole of the sixth and seventh have to be performed by the successful graduates in spirituality, and the latter rounds are of immensely longer duration than those of the middle period. Then follows the vast interval of Nirvanic rest, which closes the manwantara, the immeasurable Night of Brahma, the Pralaya of the whole planetary chain. Only when the next manwantara begins do the failures begin to wake from their awful trance—awful to the imagination of beings in the full activity of life, though such a trance, being necessarily all but destitute of consciousness, is possibly no more tedious than a dreamless night in the memory of a profound sleeper. The fate of the failures may be grievous first of all, rather on account of what they miss, than on account of what they incur. Secondly, however, it is grievous on account of that to which it leads, for all the trouble of physical life and almost endless incarnations must be gone through afresh, when the failures wake up; whereas the perfected beings, who outstripped them in evolution during that fifth round in which they became failures, will have grown into the god-like perfection of Dhyan Chohan-hood during their trance, and will be the presiding geniuses of the next manwantara, not its helpless subjects.

Apart altogether, meanwhile, from what may be regarded as the personal interest of the entities concerned, the existence of the failures in Nature at the beginning of each manwantara is a fact which contributes in a very important degree to a comprehension of the evolutionary system. When the planetary chain is first of all evolved out of chaos — if we may use such an expression as “first of all” in a qualified sense, having regard to the reflection that “in the beginning” is a mere facon de parler applied to any period in eternity — there are no failures to deal with. Then the descent of spirit into matter, through the elemental, mineral, and other kingdoms, goes on in the way already described in earlier, chapters of this book. But from the second manwantara of a planetary chain, during the activity of the solar system, which provides for many such manwantaras, the course of events is somewhat different— easier, if I may again be allowed to use an expression that is applicable rather in a conversational than a severely scientific sense. At any rate it is quicker, for human entities are already in existence, ready to enter into incarnation as the world, also already in existence, can be got ready for them. The truth thus appears to be, that after the first manwantara of a series — enormously longer in duration than its successors — no entities, then first evolved from quite the lower kingdoms, do more than attain the threshold of humanity. The late failures pass first into incarnation, and then eventually the surviving animal entities already differentiated. But, compared with the passages in the Esoteric Doctrine which affect the current evolution of our own race, these considerations, relating to the very early periods of world evolution, have little more than an intellectual interest, and cannot as yet by any contributions of mine be very greatly amplified.
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