Point Loma edition 1993
Blavatsky Trust edition 2010
Occult Science lays before the student certain facts of Nature which are unknown to the science of today. Until a person develops within himself the faculties necessary to corroborate the teaching, he may take these facts as hypotheses which, as he will see, may help to explain psychic and spiritualistic phenomena, extra-sensory perception and other aspects of the paranormal.
The facts under consideration in this chapter are, first, the existence of a primordial Root Substance, Akasha, that manifests after the long Night or Pralaya of the universe, and second, the gradations of this substance throughout the planes of Nature, causing our physical globe, for example, to be enveloped in the lower of these grades, termed in this literature the Astral Light. We shall now look more closely at these two, Akasha and the Astral Light.
The first fact affirmed in Esoteric Science is, as given in the First Fundamental Proposition of The Secret Doctrine, the One Absolute Reality, the "Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless, and Immutable PRINCIPLE," unmanifest, without attributes, beyond the power of the human mind to conceive or of human language to describe. Periodically, in accordance with universal law, the processes of manifestation begin again and a new universe, with all the beings that comprise it, emerges from the Nirvanic Pralaya for another period of activity. In the procession of cosmic Days and Nights, the time-scale is unimaginably long, but within each Manvantara or Day there are cycles within cycles, beginnings and endings, greater and lesser periods of growth and decay.
A statement in The Secret Doctrine anticipates the question: How can the Absolute be said to produce a universe, since this implies action and relationship, which cannot be attributed to the Absolute?
... in Occult metaphysics there are, properly speaking, two "ONES" - the One on the unreachable plane of Absoluteness and Infinity, ... and the second "One" on the plane of Emanations. The former can neither emanate nor be divided, as it is eternal, absolute, and immutable. The Second, being, so to speak, the reflection of the first One ... can do all this. It emanates from itself ... the seven Rays or Dhyani-Chohans; in other words, the Homogeneous becomes the Heterogeneous, the "Protyle” Secret Doctrine (I 328 fn, 350, II 42). Note that Protyle was a term coined by Sir William Crookes to designate the first homogeneous, primordial substance. - GAF differentiates into the Elements ... Secret Doctrine (I 130, I 154, I 188)
The originating One is described as the Rootless Root of all existence. Once we pass in thought from the Absoluteness of that One, then, says The Secret Doctrine, "duality supervenes in the contrast of Spirit (or consciousness) and Matter, Subject and Object.” Secret Doctrine (I 15, I 43, I 80) These two are not to be regarded "as independent realities, but as the two facets or aspects of the Absolute (Parabrahman), which constitute the basis of conditioned being whether subjective or objective." Nature, therefore, is pervaded by duality: in the physical world of our experience it is recognized in the polarity of active power, energy or force on the one hand, and passive matter on the other; in the positive and negative in electricity; in male and female functions in the natural world around us, in the north and south poles of a magnet.
Akasha is the Sanskrit term that designates the primordial Root Substance. It is defined as "the subtle, supersensuous spiritual essence which pervades all space." Just as force or energy requires a substantial connection or vehicle for its expression, so spirit also, if it is not to remain an abstraction, requires a vehicle through which to manifest. In the literature of Occultism, that aspect of the One that we have called Spirit or Primordial Consciousness is regarded as the first aspect and is variously termed: it has, as a third part of its trinitarian nature, the Divine Thought, Cosmic Ideation, Universal Mind. the second aspect, Matter, is Primordial Substance, Akasha. As there can be no manifestation of this root of consciousness without an appropriate vehicle, these two-whether we call
them simply Spirit and Matter, or use the more expressive terms of Cosmic Ideation and Cosmic Substance-are the "Alpha and the Omega of Being ... the two facets of the one Absolute Existence.” Secret Doctrine (I 326, I 347, II 39)
We can now see that the seven planes which constitute the cosmos are in fact Akasha and six differentiations of it, and that this same Akasha, known to the ancient philosophers as Æther
Not the modern Ether ... with all its [Aether's] mysterious and occult properties, containing in itself the germs of universal creation. Upper Aether or Akasha, is the celestial virgin and mother of every existing form and being, from whose bosom, as soon as "incubated" by the Divine Spirit, are called into existence Matter and Life, Force, and Action ... Electricity, magnetism, heat, light, and chemical action are so little understood even now that fresh facts are constantly widening the range of our knowledge. Who knows where ends the power of this protean giant - Aether; or whence its mysterious origin? Who, we mean, that denies the spirit that works in it, and evolves out of it all visible forms? Secret Doctrine (I 332, I 354, II 45)
Each plane of Nature is Akasha in one of. its seven states. Leaving aside the lowest of these, the earth itself, the next lowest is termed the Astral Light. This is defined as "the invisible region that surrounds our Globe, as it does every other '" a subtle Essence visible only to a clairvoyant eye." It has been described as the great picture-gallery of Nature, for on it is indelibly impressed every act and thought that occurs in the physical or psychic realms. As it interpenetrates the grosser forms of matter on our plane, it is perceptible to the clairvoyant whose sight is able to pass beyond the external opaque form. The psychometer also, sensitive to the Astral Light, is able to perceive the past events in which a particular object, a fragment of stone, a papyrus, has been involved. At the time when Mme Blavatsky was writing Isis Unveiled, psychometry was newly discovered, and it offered immediate evidence of the existence of the Astral Light.
One of the most interesting discoveries of modern times, is that of the faculty which enables a certain class of sensitive persons to
receive from any object held in the hand or against the forehead impressions of the character or appearance of the individual, or any other object with which it has previously been in contact. Thus a manuscript, painting, article of clothing, or jewelry - no matter how ancient - conveys to the sensitive a vivid picture of the writer, painter or wearer; even though he lived in the days of Ptolemy or Enoch. Nay, more; a fragment of an ancient building will recall its history and even the scenes which transpired within or about it. A bit of ore will carry the soul-vision back to the time when it was in process of formation. Isis Unveiled, I 182
This faculty, she added, "proves that every occurrence in nature-no matter how minute or unimportant-leaves its indelible impress upon physical nature; and, as there has been no appreciable molecular disturbance, the only inference possible is, that these images have been produced by that invisible, universal force-Ether, or astral light. "Isis Unveiled, I 182 She illustrated the subject by referring to a remarkable example of the exercise of the psychometric faculty given in a contemporary work, and then quotes from its author, Professor Denton-a geologist-a paragraph entirely descriptive of the Astral Light.
Not a leaf waves, not an insect crawls, not a ripple moves, but each motion is recorded by a thousand faithful scribes in infallible and indelible scripture. This is just as true of all past time. From the dawn of light upon this infant globe, when round its cradle the steamy curtains hung, to this moment, nature has been busy photographing everything. What a picture gallery is hers! W. and Elizabeth M.F. Denton, The Soul of Things; or Psychometric Researches and Discoveries, 3rd rev. ed. (Boston, 1866), cited in lsis Unveiled, I 183.
In this manner does a physical scientist express the conclusions of his researches-conclusions which do but echo the affirmatlons of Esoteric Science.
It is on the indestructible tablets of the astral light that is stamped the impression of every thought we think, and every act we
perform; and that future events-effects of long forgotten causes-are already delineated as a vivid picture for the eye of the seer and prophet to follow. Memory-the despair of the materialist, the enigma of the psychologist, the sphinx of science-is to the student of old philosophies merely a name to express that power which man unconsciously exerts, and shares with many of the inferior animals-to look with inner sight into the astral light, and there behold the images of past sensations and incidents. Instead of searching the cerebral ganglia for "micrographs of the living and the dead, of scenes that we have visited, of incidents in which we have borne a part," they went to the vast repository where the records of every man's Ufeas well as every pulsation of the visible cosmos are stored up for all Eternity! IsisUnveiled, I 178
In the above paragraph Mme Blavatsky quotes a sentence from a work by a contemporary scientist for whose writings she had a high regard; this was Dr Draper, a chemist with a special interest in photography and a pioneer in that field. She saw a parallel between the invisible record made by the camera - invisible, that is, until chemical processes bring out the hidden pictures - and the record made on the "tablets of the astral light," perceptible to those in whom appropriate faculties are developed. A little later she gives another passage from the same source:
A shadow never falls upon a wall without leaving thereupon a permanent trace, a trace which might be made visible by resorting to proper processes ... The portraits of our friends, or landscape views, may be hidden on the sensitive surface from the eye, but they are ready to make their appearance as soon as proper developers are resorted to. A spectre is concealed on a silver or glassy surface until, by our necromancy, we make it come forth into the visible world. Upon the walls of our most private apartments, where we think the eye of intrusion is altogether shut out, and our retirement can never be profaned, there exist the vestiges of all our acts, silhouettes of whatever we have done. Draper, J.W., The History of the Conflict, etc., 132, cited in Isis Unveiled, I 186.
More than one hundred and fifty years earlier, Sir Isaac Newton had advanced a theory of attraction based on his recognition of "the great universal, magnetic agent" which Esoteric Science terms the Astral Light. The identity of the two is shown by Newton's description of his "divine sensorium":
Here the question is of a very subtle spirit which penetrates through all, even the hardest bodies, and which is concealed in their substance. Through the strength and activity of this spirit, bodies attract each other, and. adhere together when brought into contact. Through it, electrical bodies operate at the remotest distance, as well as near at hand, attracting and repelling; through this spirit the light also flows, and is refracted and reflected, and warms bodies. All senses are excited by this spirit, and through it the animals move their limbs. ... But these things cannot be explained in few words, and we have not yet sufficient experience to . determine fully the laws by which this universal spirit operates. Newton, I., Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, "General Scholium," ed. A. Motte, 1729, cited in Isis Unveiled, I 177.
Later in this study we shall see how the recognition of the Astral Light assists our understanding of psychic phenomena, including those of the seance room with its apports, materializations and medium-transmitted information and messages.
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