l contents l
DEITY COSMOS AND MAN
by Geoffrey Farthing
Part 2, XIII Spiritual Development
In instructing the students who gathered round her in London in the late 1880's, Mme Blavatsky emphasized the absolute necessity of understanding that "EXISTENCE IS ONE THING". That One Thing, the source and essence of all, is called by the Hindus Parabrahman or Paramatman. Equally important for the student is the recognition of the inevitable corollary of this truth: if there is but One Reality, we must have come from It - for there is no other source of being, and we must one day return to It - for there is nowhere where It is not. She then uses a passage from Aryasanga, an immediate disciple of the Buddha, to add the third aspect of the corollary - that we must in fact be It, for there is nothing else: THAT ART THOU.
The passage from Aryasanga is an exquisite summary of the Secret Doctrine, setting out in a few lines the whole story of existence from the periodical emergence of the Cosmos through the incalculable aeons of the evolutionary process to the consummation of human life in the individual's realization of identity with the One.
In those last words - "but thou knowest it not" - is there not an implied imperative, an injunction to the individual pilgrim to know, to abandon his ignorance by obeying the precepts laid down by generations of Teachers, and so to enter the way of enlightenment?
It may be argued that there is some contradiction in the term "spiritual development", for Spirit is the One Life, present in all things, perfect from the beginning. It cannot therefore be said to develop if by development we mean the emergence of new qualities. Only the vestures, the vehicles through which it manifests, can properly be said to develop in this sense, that is, to become increasingly responsive to the potentialities of Spirit. With the expansion of consciousness comes an ever-widening field of perception which will result ultimately - insofar as one can speak of an end in Nature - in Self-realization, that is, the realization of the Self, the direct knowledge of the identity of one's own life with the One Life. Until now, until this great awakening, the pilgrim soul (the Individual) has been struggling on in darkness, painfully aware of separateness and of the gradualness of the process in which he, and all humanity with him, is engaged.
Below the human kingdom, Self-realization is unattainable, for in the animal the mental principle is dormant. In man, by virtue of the dual mind principle - the outward-turned consciousness functioning through the senses, and the as yet unconscious higher mind - the nature of future progress is seen to be through the increasing responsiveness of the merely human element to the pressure from within, as the higher or spiritual consciousness seeks to manifest through the vehicles with which Karma has endowed him.
In an article in The Theosophist for May 1885, introduced by lines from Christina Rossetti which she repeated later in The Secret Doctrine - an indication of her endorsement of the verse "as an epitome of the life those
who are truly treading the path which leads to higher things" - Mme Blavatsky points out that, whatever difference there may be in the various presentations of the Esoteric Doctrine, they all agree in regard to "the road to spiritual development".
Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
That road is one, and the conditions for its treading are everywhere the same:
That is why, she adds, the methods of spiritual growth, advocated within the Theosophical Society
The pain that inevitably accompanies the process of growth through evolution is largely due to the mistake of
Warnings there are in abundance in the literature of the spiritual life: warnings against mere intellectual development, the accumulation of knowledge, to the neglect of the intuitive faculty; warnings against reliance on either external practices such as religious observance or the cultivation of psychic powers; warnings against seeking by any means the advantage or enhancement of the personality, or placing the goal of attainment in some future time. It is because of the dangers that await the pilgrim in the later stages of the journey that in the earlier stages there is great emphasis on the necessity for purity in life and the observance of the higher ethics.
The effort in these earlier stages is described as a purification, a process by which the personal nature must be disciplined to loosen its hold on the real man. The disciple must get rid - at first gradually but later more drastically - of all the attitudes and desires that are the result of identification with the personal man, uprooting the giant and prolific weed of selfishness. The warning of The Voice of the Silence is severe:
Popular religion - that is, exoteric religion with its anthropomorphic theology, its rituals and disciplinary practices - is said to be the nursery of future occultists. Hence the necessity for an ethical code that will initiate the process of purification. The eight-fold system of yoga likewise begins with yama and niyama (see Glossary). But the teaching of Esoteric Science introduces a feature that distinguishes it entirely from exoteric religion, that of "self-induced and self-devised efforts" by which the pilgrim may ascend to the heights of spirituality. As we saw in Part One,
In this philosophy there is no room for reliance on an external saviour, for as it teaches the fundamental identity of all souls with the source of being, the saving Divinity is within, "awaiting its inevitable hour". Spiritual development is the slow unveiling of that Divinity, present in every man, until the individual consciousness is merged into It and becomes that of the ONE ALL.
One of the world's greatest treatises on spiritual development is The Bhagavad Gita. It is the story of the Divine Teacher, the Lord Sri Krishna, instructing his pupil Arjuna. There are eighteen Chapters of inspiring discourse. These engender devotion in the listener towards the Lord ... "who is thine own Self". Another work of inestimable value to the serious aspirant is The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
A major element in spiritual instruction is that designed to free consciousness from the imprisoning effects of personal selfish life. Real teaching aids the aspirant to transcend these limitations by the elevation of consciousness to Egoic or divine levels. As far as we are concerned our Ego is the Divinity within ourselves. In The Bhagavad Gita it speaks to us in the first person:
There is much else about concentration and meditation. In spiritual development meditation figures largely. It is not the purpose of this book to give detailed instruction, merely to whet curiosity and interest. In this connection, for those wishing a more practical guidance, Mme Blavatsky's "Diagram of Meditation" is recommended.
Deity Cosmos and Man > Next Page Part 2 Chapter XIV