DEITY COSMOS AND MAN

by Geoffrey Farthing

Part 2, XIII Spiritual Development

Original EditionDeity Cosmos and Man Centenary Edition

 

 

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.

THAT which is neither Spirit nor Matter, neither Light nor Darkness, but is verily the container and root of these, that thou art. The Root projects at every Dawn its shadow in Itself, and that shadow thou callest Light and life, O poor dead Form. [This] Life-Light streameth downward through the stairway of the seven worlds, the stairs of which each step becomes denser and darker. It is of this seven-times-seven scale that thou art the faithful climber and mirror, O little man! Thou art this, but thou knowest it not. Secret Doctrine Addendum (513, 488, 625, 407)

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?

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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.

Spiritual development then is the development of the faculties or powers in each being that are necessary to give expression to the qualities and powers of Spirit. How those faculties are to be developed is the subject of many works of spiritual counsel and instruction written by advanced individuals for the helping of those would-be disciples in whom has been awakened a sense of direction but as yet little knowledge as to how to proceed. "Lead the life necessary for the acquisition of such knowledge and powers," wrote one of the Mahatmas to a lay chela, "and Wisdom will come to you naturally." Secret Doctrine, (I 167, I 190, I 221)

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

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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?
Yes, to the very end.
Does the journey take the whole long day?
From morn till night, my friend.

Rosetti, Christina, "Uphill", 1861 cited in Secret Doctrine (I 268, I 288, I 310)

That road is one, and the conditions for its treading are everywhere the same:

One only inflexible rule has been ever binding upon the neophyte, as it is binding now - the complete subjugation of the lower nature by the higher. From the Vedas and Upanishads to the recently published Light on the Path, search as we may through the bibles of every race and cult, we find but one only way, - hard, painful, troublesome, by which man can gain the true spiritual insight. And how can it be otherwise since all religions and philosophies are but the variants of the first teachings of the One Wisdom, imparted to men at the beginning of the cycle by the Planetary Spirit? Blavatsky Collected Writings, VI 331

That is why, she adds, the methods of spiritual growth, advocated within the Theosophical Society

are those of the ancient Rishis, its tenets those of the oldest Esotericism; it is no dispenser of patent nostrums composed of violent remedies which no honest healer would dare to use. Blavatsky Collected Writings, VI 334

The pain that inevitably accompanies the process of growth through evolution is largely due to the mistake of

perpetually seeking the permanent in the impermanent, and not only seeking, but acting as if we had already found the unchange-

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able, in a world of which the one certain quality we can predicate is constant change, and always, just as we fancy we have taken a firm hold upon the permanent, it changes within our very grasp, and pain results. Blavatsky Collected Writings, VI 331

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.

Theosophy has to inculcate ethics; it has to purify the soul if it would relieve the physical body, whose ailments, save cases of accidents, are all hereditary. It is not by studying Occultism for selfish ends, for the gratification of one's personal ambition, pride, or vanity, that one can ever reach the true goal of helping suffering mankind. Key to Theosophy, 24

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:

Woe, then, to thee, Disciple, if there is one single vice thou hast not left behind. For then the ladder will give way and overthrow thee ... Beware lest thou should'st set a foot still soiled upon the ladder's lowest rung. The Voice of the Silence, Frag.1, v 69

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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,

The pivotal doctrine of the Esoteric philosophy admits no privileges or special gifts in man, save those won by his own Ego through personal effort and merit throughout a long series of metempsychoses and reincarnations. Secret Doctrine (I 17, I 45, I 82)

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:

Those who worship me with constant zeal, with the highest faith and minds placed on me, are held in high esteem by me. But those who, with minds equal toward everything, with senses and organs

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restrained, and rejoicing in the good of all creatures, meditate on the inexhaustible, immovable, highest, incorruptible, difficult to contemplate, invisible, omnipresent, unthinkable, the witness, undemonstrable, shall also come unto me. The Bhagavad Gita, translated by William Quan Judge, XII, 3 and 4], p. 89.

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.

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