Point Loma edition 1993
Blavatsky Trust edition 2010
In outlining the subject of Hierarchies in Chapter II, certain fundamental ideas were set out: life is universal; it is expressed in an almost infinite variety of forms throughout Nature; there are no empty spaces and no inanimate matter anywhere. In Chapter III a beginning was made to present another basic principle, that of correspondence or reflection summarized in the Hermetic axiom, "As above, so below." This preparation will assist the understanding of the esoteric teaching of Hierarchies of Beings.
Life is universal: Esoteric Science shows " ... every atom of substance no matter of what plane to be in itself a LIFE" Bowen Notes, 9 Where there is life, there is consciousness: "Everything in the Universe, throughout all its kingdoms, is CONSCIOUS, i.e., endowed with a consciousness of its own kind and on its own plane of perception” Secret Doctrine (I 274, I 295, I 317) During this century, scientific research has corroborated statements such as these by demonstrating responsiveness not only in plants but even in metals with the consequent elimination of any firm line of demarcation between the animate and so-called inanimate realms of Nature. Tomkins and Bira, The Secret Life of Plants Yet Mme Blavatsky was writing long before the development of such tools of research as the electron microscope and other supersensitive instruments.
The human body presents a miniature model of the hierarchical structure of the cosmos. The chemical atoms and molecules that constitute the material of cells are living structures; a high degree of organization is present in the living cells, which contribute to the formation of tissues, bones, and organs-the next hierarchical level-until we come to the functioning whole, the body itself. Each unit-from the chemical atom, the cell, the organ, to the body-has its individual consciousness, while at the
same time functioning within the consciousness of a larger unit within the hierarchical structure. Each unit is in communication with the rest of the system of which it is a part, transmitting and receiving messages in a manner which, in our own human activities, we would describe as intelligent.
The physical body, however, is only one aspect of the sevenfold man, whose inner aspects repeat the hierarchical pattern which, as described earlier, reflects the structure of the Cosmos. Each plane of the sevenfold universe is peopled by lives, as varied in the degree of consciousness they display and in the functions they fulfil in the cosmic scheme as are the hierarchies of lesser lives in the body of man.
The whole Kosmos is guided, controlled, and animated by almost endless series of Hierarchies of sentient Beings, each having a mission to perform ... They vary infinitely in their respective degrees of consciousness and intelligence ... Secret Doctrine (I 274, I 295, I 317)
The definition of the word hierarchy is curiously indicative of the occult teaching. The Oxford Dictionary gives the etymology of the word: from the Greek hieros, meaning sacred, and archein, to rule. It then defines hierarchy as "the collective body of angels, grouped in three divisions and nine orders of different power and glory." The definition then names each of the three divisions in each of the three groups according to the Christian classification, and adds, "classification in graded subdivisions, a body classified in successively subordinate grades, priestly government."
All these beings that together constitute the planes of Nature are themselves individually, and their hierarchies collectively, parts of the evolutionary process. Before the human stage is reached, they are irresponsible agents of the law which operates throughout the universe. They are termed Elementals, and are associated with the mineral, plant, and animal kingdoms, as well as constituting three pre-mineral kingdoms. Beyond the human stage are hierarchies of a still higher Consciousness, a Logos, as a collective Being, the Life of the whole grand scheme.
One of the aims that Mme Blavatsky set before herself in presenting The Secret Doctrine to the public was "to assign to man his rightful place in the scheme of the Universe.” Secret Doctrine (I viii, I xxi, I 8) What that place is becomes evident as we understand the evolution of consciousness through the hierarchical structure of the universe. For the man-stage is that stage in the total process in which spirit and matter are in equilibrium-a stage symbolized by the interlaced triangles of Solomon's Seal, the one representing matter, pointing downwards, the other representing spirit, pointing upwards, the direction of future progress. Man occupies a central position in the cosmic evolutionary scheme; as we shall see, he is the archetypal model for the whole process and in him the highest Spirit and lowest Matter are joined by mind. The man-stage and its relation to the pre- and post-human stages is clearly stated in a passage in The Secret Doctrine:
In sober truth ... every "Spirit" so-called is either a disembodied or a future man. As from the highest Archangel (Dhyani-Chohan) down to the last conscious "Builder" (the inferior class of Spiritual Entities), all such are men, having lived aeons ago, in other Manvantaras, Cycles of existence (see Glossary) - GAF. on this or other Spheres, so the inferior, semi-intelligent and non-intelligent Elementals - are all future men. The fact alone - that a Spirit is endowed with intelligence - is a proof to the Occultist that that Being must have been a man, and acquired his knowledge and intelligence throughout the human cycle. Secret Doctrine (I 277, I 297, I 320)
The three kingdoms of form preceding the human in the physical world are the mineral, plant, and animal. Similarly, there are three groups of post-human entities, Dhyanl-Chohans, "Lords of Light," defined as "the divine Intelligences charged with the supervision of Kosmos.” Theosophical Glossary, Dhyani-Chohans Mme Blavatsky points out that they correspond to Archangels recognized in the Roman Catholic system. Each of the three groups has its particular place in the hierarchical structure, and its particular function. Of the first group it is taught that
They build or rather rebuild every "system" after the "Night." The Second group of the Builders is the Architect of our planetary chain exclusively; and the third, the progenitor of our humanity-the Macrocosmic prototype of the microcosm. Secret Doctrine (I 128, I 153, I 186)
In the story of the formation and evolution of man as given in The Secret Doctrine, various terms are used for the categories of non-physical beings who take part in the process, some fulfilling a directive role while others carry out the orders of their superiors. This is not the place for going into further detail, but mention must be made of one particular group who have a distinctive role in relation to man. These are the Lipikas, the Recorders or Scribes; of whom it is said that they "impress on the (to us) invisible tablets of the Astral Light-'the great picture-gallery of eternity'-a faithful record of every act, and even thought, of man, of all that was, is, or ever will be, in the phenomenal Universe." Secret Doctrine (I 104, I 130, I 165) The tradition of "an angel writing in a book of gold" is no empty myth but the fragmentary recollection, in the framework of a particular religion, of the ancient knowledge.
There is another sense in which the word hierarchy is used in Occultism, apart from the beings of successive states of seniority in the scheme of things. In the formation of a Cosmos the First Beings to be emanated from the Logoic Unity are known as the Seven Supreme Lords. Each of these can be thought of as the head of a 'Ray' shining down through all the planes of being. Each Ray imparts the quality of its Lord to every thing and being on all the levels. All things share these qualities, or have them inherent in their natures, but not equally; one or more qualities predominate. These Rays are sometimes symbolized by colours: violet, yellow, green, blue, red, orange, white (the synthesis). All the beings along one predominant ray are sometimes referred to as a hierarchy. The Ray colours have many correspondences in the natures of the planets, the principles of man, the qualities of substances, sound, the parts of the body, man's senses and even states of consciousness.
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