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EXPLORING THE GREAT BEYOND -
Perhaps because of the unfamiliarity with many of the ideas and terms used in this chapter, some readers may find it somewhat daunting and tend to abandon the book at this point as not being for them. Such readers are advised to make the attempt to read through this chapter-and other difficult passages which they may encounter-with as much attention as they can muster, and then go on to the next. If the book is read a second time through it is more than likely that the chapter will bear much more meaning and the importance of the information will be appreciated.
To understand even partially the teachings of the Esoteric Science, some basic information must be assimilated and well understood. As we have said, it concerns the nature of Man and Cosmos. One of the tenets of Esoteric Science is "As above so below." Man, in his essential inner nature and constitution and in the processes of his being, is seen as a microcosm, a miniature reflection of Universal Being, the Cosmos, or the macrocosm.
The natural functions of Man and those of Cosmos, all operate according to the same common universal law which has many aspects. For example, it comprises aIl the laws of nature, of which many are now known to science.
This ancient but ageless Esoteric Science, as given by H. P . Blavatsky in The Secret Doctrine, establishes six fundamental propositions, three primary and three secondary. Briefly, the three primary ones, in essence, are:
(NOTE: Metempsychosis is defined as "The progress of the soul from one stage of existence to another" ... Theosophical Glossary. The term applies to the evolutionary process whereby the Life Essence moves up in stages through the kingdoms of nature until individualization, i.e., self-consciousness, is reached in Man."
The relevance of these three propositions to the aspects of our subject-the great beyond-including spiritualistic phenomena may not be immediately apparent but may become so later .
The three secondary propositions are not only interesting and indicate the all-embracing nature of the Secret Doctrine, but they contain a reference to the astral or invisible formative principle of Man which is very germane to our theme. They are:
The first primary proposition establishes a common origin for all manifest existence, worlds as well as men. It also establishes other important facts. One is that life is of the essence of all things. The Universe-the worlds and all that comprises them and their inhabitants-is living. It is a universe of living organisms and entities, beings of living stuff.
Consciousness is inherent in life: it arises in the forms which life inhabits. Soul, as a generality, is the instrument in which life or spirit operates, in which it has being in the realms of existence normally invisible to us.
Life or spirit without an instrument or vehicle to operate in, or through, would be ineffective. Individual organisms have individual souls. We shall see later that soul is complex, manifesting something of each of the inherent qualities, or potentialities, of spirit peculiar to, or characteristic of, a particular level of operation and grade and type of development. For example, mind and emotion are two modes of soul activity in man and, to a much lesser extent, in animals.
Religionists would ascribe the name of God to the One universal Life or Spirit. We should, however, be careful in doing this, as the word God has now so many connotations which would certainly be at variance with the Secret Doctrine teachings and which, if adhered to, could totally negate them. Many current ideas about God impose limitation, by way of qualities and characteristics, on the actually limitless. The greatest damage done in this way is to ascribe ordinary human attributes-even though infinitely magnified and idealized-to God.
The Secret Doctrine tells us something of the way in which abstract Spirit becomes manifest. We are asked to envisage the One as having inherently a dual aspect. This duality is, in abstract terms, the root of Motion and the root of Space. These are potentially the positive and negative poles of existence, showing forth eventually as active spirit or dynamism, and passive substance. This duality, together with the Unity of which it is an aspect, constitutes a trinity. This is the basis of the trinitarian nature of Deity found in nearly all religions. The duality at the physical level becomes the energy-mass nature of physical sub- stance. It is also the basis of life when regarded as activity, the activity of living beings. Spirit, as we have seen, has necessarily to operate in and through a vehicle of an appropriate kind, at an appropriate level. Spirit in matter gives rise to consciousness, which varies from the lowest form of rudimentary response to external stimuli, to increasing sensitiveness as the scale of being rises through substances, plants, and animals, and finally to full self- consciousness in man.
The importance of this is twofold. First, consciousness can only arise at any level in nature in which there is an appropriate organ- ism to contain or give expression to it. Spirit by itself is an abstraction. Second, there must be substance of some kind appropriate to each level of being. However tenuous, rarified, imponderable, or whatever adjective we use to describe it, substance must be there, and equally it cannot be "nothing." In the normally invisible realms this protean substance is the stuff of soul. In this sense, soul is that which stands as a vehicle for consciousness between pure spirit and dense or gross physical sub- stance such as that composing our bodies. And, as we have said, it is complex, consisting as it does of various elements or principles.
As a corollary to this first proposition, we see that Nature at all levels, visible and invisible, is a Unity, by reason of its common
origin, the ONE SOURCE. Everything, every creature great and small, from a Universe to a world and each thing in it, reflects this principle and is a Unit. It may be a complex of many parts, but it is still a unit, a single, whole, living thing, an individual but itself a component of a larger being. Each of us is composed of such units, and we are units in the larger life of our globe.
The second proposition referred us to the Eternity of the Universe. It is difficult to apprehend the meaning of eternity, especially when we begin to realize that nothing lasts forever. Even universes periodically "manifest and disappear." The first and second propositions postulate, however, a reality without being or existence in itself, but underlying all being, of any kind, always. It always I~ and never IS NOT. It is indescribable and is sometimes known simply as THAT. Next we are introduced to the idea of periodicity-ebb and flow, coming and going. This is universal law, the great all-embracing, ever flowing, process of being. As we shall see, this law has other aspects, but all interrelate and interact.
The third proposition is to a large extent self-explanatory but it bears much thinking about. The idea of the identity of all souls with the Universal Oversoul is not easy and should not be glossed over. All Soul is essentially one. It becomes differentiated as we move down the scale of manifestation from Unity. Unity, how- ever, becomes the many; it manifests in diversity. The one spirit/ substance differentiates into the endless varieties of matter at our physical level. Individual souls are that in which individual consciousness, the consciousness of beings, arises. We touch on the basis for this differentiation in the next chapter.
In the third proposition we are introduced to another important idea, that of development. This is the unfolding of the potentialities of spirit through the progressive development of soul, sub- stance, and form. Life, as the animating dynamism in things, is learning, becoming educated, by myriad modifications during its periods of experience in the vast range of substances and creatures found in Nature. Levels of development in the grand scale are typified in the kingdoms of Nature. The common life moves up, so to say; through these kingdoms in great successive waves, until the man-stage is reached. Man, endowed with self-consciousness and freedom to choose or decide his actions within natural limits becomes responsible, individually and collectively, for his own development. Any progress made is by individual personal effort.
Man's bodies are subject to the law of coming and going but there is that in every man which persists through all changes until he accomplishes what nature intends for him as man: human perfection.
The teaching in these three propositions is virtually inexhaustible because their numberless aspects ramify into all departments of being at all levels. Prolonged meditation on them is tremendously illuminating.
The three secondary propositions deal more particularly with the human races, with man's constitution and his relationship to the animal kingdom.
Just as Nature operates in a graded way through the various kingdoms, so she operates in a diversity of ways within the kingdoms themselves. Similarly, as is quite apparent, there are different kinds of men with different physical characteristics, size, colour, and even form, in their various groups. These groups also have different psychic qualities. In the Esoteric Science the major categories of types are referred to as root-races. It is said that, in the time taken for the life wave to pass round our globe once (a Round), seven such root-races will reach generally a certain level of development. All seven of these main race-types exist on the earth, but emphasis is given to one at a time. Each root-race subdivides into seven subraces. The life wave passes round our globe seven times so that in its full life cycle our globe will have nurtured seven main root-races, each with its sub-races, i.e., forty nine subrace types (7 x 7). In each successive round the seven main race-types reflect the developed types of the previous round and model those of the next round, so that there is continuity of type through the rounds on a globe, but an ever improving one, on the sevenfold pattern.
This is a technicality not strictly relevant at this stage to our theme, but it does illustrate that the invisible realms are very great; it also illustrates the larger field and longer term process whereby man becomes what he is.
The next proposition tells us that man's astral body precedes his physical one. Astral body here means that principle next to his physical body in the inner realms. It will be discussed in the next chapter. But man, like everything else, comes into being "from within outwards", from what we call the subjective realms to the objective. This is the creative process in all nature.
The last of the three secondary propositions will undoubtedly
make the orthodox evolutionist raise his eyebrows. The justification rests on two tenets of the Esoteric Science, one of which is that the unfoldment of the attributes of spirit in the long term is both gradual and by stages. We saw that the life ascends in waves through the kingdoms of nature. This is a reflection of the longer term process involving other globes, which we cannot go into here. But the pattern of the process and order of development are the same through all the kingdoms, viz., substance, vegetable, animal, to man. Much of this development process, as far as our earth is concerned, was accomplished during the life cycles of previous globes. As they, one after the other, became defunct their life principles were transferred to the next, until our earth received them from her predecessor. These principles-following the law of "from within outward"-gave rise seriatim to the equivalent stages of being-manifest existence-first in the inner worlds, then in the outer, bringing forth every thing and creature that was to people our earth as it cooled.
The incipient man stage had been reached by advanced groups on a previous globe, and "souls" that were to become men came in a wave to our earth. The astral moulds of the forms they were to inhabit also came. In the Rounds previous to the one we are now in, man had not materialized. There had been forms of animal life but not the mammalian. The mammalian was the man-type and, in our Round, this, from the inner worlds to the outer, came first. The implications of this are, of course, great, and one of them is that the anthropoid apes have man forms rather than the other way round. The full story is long and complicated (students are referred to The Secret Doctrine. Vol. II).
Again the relevance of this proposition here is that of putting the great beyond into a time perspective, one enormously longer than we could normally have ever dreamed. This is true of the evolutionary process also.
We must notice that there is a progressively unfolding development in the inner as well as in the outer worlds. Sensation, feeling, and thinking can manifest only when corresponding vehicles in the inner worlds are developed and perfected by use. The whole cosmic process is vast beyond our imagining in extent, complexity, and time.
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