'Theosophy - What's it all about?' - Chapter 3, The Purpose of Life?

by Geoffrey Farthing

'A brief summary of a wonderfully exciting and vitally important subject.'

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To try to answer this question might appear presumptuous, but if this book is to have any meaning it is a question that must be looked into.

We are all aware of the common activities of living things and the stock answer as to the purpose of these activities is the apparently fundamental one of the preservation of the life of individuals and of the species they comprise. If the question is pressed further, another apparently fundamental answer would be that the individuals of one species must be preserved to provide food for the individuals of another species, usually a higher one on the evolutionary scale. It is obvious that everything in nature is composed of or is sustained by something else.

It will be remembered, however, from the three basic Propositions of Theosophy that Unity underlies the whole Universe, and that It appears in the chain of causation as a duality with the aspects of abstract Space and abstract Motion. These reflect in manifestation as the duality of substance and spirit, and ultimately into our plane of existence as form and life, and as matter and mind, or consciousness. These dualities are linked by what is called Fohat, the energizing principle that manifests variously on all planes of being and appears as the electric quality in all physical matter. It is that which, as a derivative of Power, an aspect of Spirit, becomes the dynamic principle in the Universe and, acting in conjunction with substance, and ultimately matter, gives rise to what we recognize as life in the biological sense, that is where there is animation or consciousness.

Inherent in all matter there is motion. In the elements of physical matter there is motion. Within the atoms, there is the motion of the electrons and other parcels of energy

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known by various names. In organisms consisting of molecules, the motion can manifest as growth, from a centre outwards. In higher organisms it can be the movement of the whole organism. The extent and complexity of motion or movement increases as we go up the scale of being, from that of mere locomotion to actions for the purpose of getting and absorbing food, for procreation, in both animals and man, until we get the exercise of skills of increasing refinement of many kinds.

In the basic Propositions of Theosophy are found the answers to many questions that hitherto may have perplexed us. For instance, there is no such thing as dead matter. Life is inherent in everything; there is therefore no need to seek for the origins of living things. This relieves us of the search for the mysterious something which makes an agglomeration of molecules into cells and the cells into a specialized individual form, a living thing. The problem now becomes another one, that of the reconciliation of the fact of the numerous lives of the individual cells in an organism with that of the individual life of the organism as a whole.

As we have seen, the interaction made possible by Fohat between spirit and matter is life, that is also consciousness, varying from what we know as consciousness in us, downwards through the ever-decreasing awareness and responsiveness of the lower kingdoms of Nature, the animal, vegetable and mineral; then upwards again through the human kingdom and, if the evolutionary processes are continuous, beyond our human state to superhuman states of ever-expanding consciousness, until we reach the all embracing 'Consciousness' which has the whole Universe for its 'body'.

We have also seen that consciousness stems from the fundamental duality of spirit and matter. These two aspects of the same existence are never found separately - matter as well as spirit is necessary for consciousness. That is to say, spirit needs the vehicle of matter for consciousness to arise. Descending the levels of being, matter becomes increasingly consolidated until it becomes what we know it to be in our physical world. In this progressive consolidation

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it correspondingly limits and confines the spiritual consciousness or, simply, the spirit contained in it. Just, however, as there are levels of consciousness from the bare rudimentary responsiveness of the mineral to the unimaginable fully unfolded unrestricted consciousness of the Universal One Life, so there are as many corresponding states of substance on the various planes or levels of being. They vary from what appear to us to be the densest solids of our world to the ultimate tenuousity of the primeval homogenous root Substance, synonymous with Space, from which everything emanates.

Another concept which enriches our understanding is that of the One Life manifesting in the diversity of the multitudinous lives of the physical plane. We have also been postulating levels of being on this descent from the One, the all-embracing Unity, in which everything ultimately has its being, down to the world we know. The evolutionary process in the physical world with its development of forms from the simple to the complex reflects the descent of 'being' from the 'high' to the 'low'. In this descent comes ever greater complexity with the increasing diversity in function, and this reflects into form with its infinite variety, shape, size, composition, ability and so on.

This descent can be represented figuratively as a cone with the One Life at its apex and below that a series of levels, each level demonstrating a fuller unfoldment of life's potentialities and representing a hierarchy of intelligent entities, each hierarchy increasing in number of its constituent units as the cone broadens towards its base. But there is only one Life, shared by all according to their capacity. There is only one Mind shared by all according to their power to respond. This One Mind can be represented as Divine Ideation in which are the archetypes of all that has been, is or will be in the whole universe. The units of consciousness, the individuals composing the hierarchies, require as previously explained, vehicles or organisms of matter more or less developed and refined according to their grade, in which to function on their respective plane or level of being. One of these hierarchies is Humanity as a whole. InMan, in physical existence, his vehicle of

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consciousness is his body. In beings higher on the evolutionary scale than Man the need for a vehicle of consciousness on the physical plane has been transcended. The need for it has been outgrown. These beings are the superhuman spiritual entities referred to earlier, which compose the hierarchies of beings higher up the cone of being than Man. Below Man, on the descending scale, the spiritual life is not individualized, in the sense that there is no functioning unit of self-consciousness as found in Man, for every form. These, aspects of Life, sometimes referred to as Monads, are so to say, gaining experience in lion bodies, in mouse bodies, and all other kinds of animal bodies and in the various species of plants and so on. The life dwelling in anyone form at any time is focused in that form during its period of life. When the life withdraws, the form loses its power of cohesive functioning and disintegrates. It is important to note that each thing living or otherwise has it's own distinct components of being on the inner realms. (See Chapter IV.)

So we get Life functioning from or in two directions. One at the bottom of the ladder of being, in every single atom and particle of matter, where it might be described as elemental; the other, where it uses more or less complex organisms, themselves composed of simpler units of life, cells and organs, in which it gains experience during the lifetime of the organism, the body. This experience modifies both the form and the indwelling life. Incipient faculty is developed. Response grows. Consciousness grows. As consciousness unfolds, life requires organisms, vehicles or bodies of increasing sensitivity and aptitude. This process of development continues until we get the highest bodies so far evolved by Nature, human bodies, inhabited by Man with his unique faculty of mind and in whom self-awareness and self-determinism has been attained.

We have now enough postulated information to enable us to have a look at the purpose of life in a new way. It appears that that purpose can be summed up in the one word Evolution. But it is necessary now to add to the meaning of that word two important concepts not normally ascribed to it. One is the progressive unfoldment of consciousness

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as Life journeys through vast periods of time, through the basic elements of matter, through the mineral kingdom and thence through the developing forms of the organic kingdoms of plant and animal, culminating, So far as this physical world is concerned, in Man. The other Concept following from this, is that of the 'education' of the matter comprising the vehicle or body being used for the time being as a result of its use by the indwelling life. The higher the organism the more intense is the life activity and therefore the experience. The result of this education takes the form of increasing refinement and susceptibility to stimulus. To start with, response is mere reaction, but with time a memory element enters, desire is born and then response is conditioned by desire. The ability to effect these transformations in the qualities of matter grows as life unfolds its powers. Man by his creative powers can consciously undertake and quicken this transformation for himself, if he so wills. The whole mighty process derives its impulse from the dynamism of the 'intelligent' energy {Fohat), inherent in everything, which is itself directly related to and is a function of the One Life in its consciousness aspect as Universal Mind.

The purpose of life then is to live. Living involves change and this change, as we shall see later, is cyclical but always on an expanding progressive scale, growth. Spirit or life on the one hand is descending into manifestation in the physical world, and on the other it is ascending by gradually improving forms through ever-unfolding consciousness, until the stage when Man endowed with mind achieves true self-consciousness. The activities of Spirit in physical forms give rise to the production and multiplication of individualized self-conscious units of Itself, human and ultimately super-human beings, each eventually returning to its source with its harvest of unique experience, attributes and power. Life, in short, is a journey to perfection.

This progressive unfoldment of consciousness by evolutionary development, the attainment of self-consciousness, and self-determinism through will, the multiplication of such self-conscious entities and their gradual perfecting, is what we can call the Plan, for our Earth.

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Included in a greater plan is the larger and grander cycle of development of the entities comprising the superhuman kingdoms. With the development of human beings, as units below them in the evolutionary chain, these super human beings too grow in consciousness and power. We humans are, so to speak, the 'cells' of their bigger being. As we progress so we grow into and share their fuller life. This process is endless and unspeakably wonderful in its majesty and might. This return to the ONE, this synthesizing process that leads life from rudimentary consciousness in the particles of the very elements of matter to an ultimate return, fully self-conscious, with all the experience of its journey of countless ages through all the kingdoms of Nature, back to its source in the ONE Life whence it issued at the dawn of time, is, so far as we can see it in human terms, the purpose of life.

We have obviously not dealt with all the questions that can arise as to the ultimate purpose of life, but some answers have been given which can satisfy most of us for many lives to come. To go beyond this, at this stage, even if we could, would, to use the words of the Buddha, be "profitless speculation".

Man's particular role in this great process of unfoldment of the powers of Nature as they concern him individually and how it is achieved is dealt with in Chapter VIII. But Mankind as a Kingdom, and each of the hierarchies above him, have a creative function. The high orders direct the form building aspects of nature, according to the plan and Universal Law, of which they are the direct agents. They are the 'Creators' of our world scheme. The hierarchies of lives below man carry out, so to say, their directions. This is a matter of one level of life responding according to its capacity to do so, to the more developed entities at the higher levels. Every thing and creature is fulfilling in both the inner and outer realms of being, some function in the grand scheme of things.

Theosophy - what's it all about? > Next Page Chapter 4 The Total Make-Up of Man.

   
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