[Note: for the first 3 Fragments by A.O. Hume, see “Fragments of Occult Truth [1-3]”]
No. 4: The Evolution of Man
An essay on so vast a topic as this can only be a very fragmentary “Fragment”; but an incomplete sketch may be found useful as a framework for speculation. It is one thing to ponder on the origin and destination of man without knowing more of the subject than can be gathered from the open page of Nature before us at any given moment: it is quite another to exercise the imaginative and reasoning faculties in filling up details, after the general design has been made intelligible. All ordinary theories concerning creation and the soul belong to speculations of the former order, and very poor, crude and inaccurate, do they seem, when referred to the broad outline of the facts as known to initiates of occult science.
Greatly more intelligent, within its; domain, than religious metaphysics, ordinary science has made out a great deal concerning the evolution of Man’s body. And even though its conclusions may be incomplete, they are not altogether wrong. It only errs seriously when it tries to deal with problems outside its proper domain, and fancies that the evolution of animal forms, and their gradual improvement may constitute the whole process which leads to the evolution of humanity; in other words that the intelligence with which humanity is now endowed is merely one of the phenomena of organic chemistry. However, in training modern though t to understand the principle of evolution, physical science has paved the way for explanations which occult science is at last conceding to the world. It has supplied a clue to the true method of investigating the results so unscientifically attributed by vulgar cosmogony to creation. It is difficult to say how far the habit of literally believing the statements of the Bible has really established in the Western mind the idea that God, in the beginning, performed some charm “with woven paces and with waving hands” a that the Earth sprang instantly into existence, furnished with trees and livestock, and ready in the course of the week for the habitation of a no less instantaneously created man. But even when orthodox theologists concede that the days of creation may be long periods of time, they certainly do not, as a rule, get rid of the notion that this Earth and all its inhabitants are the fruit of an act of creation worked out more or less deliberately, within the limits of the world now before us, either through laws especially designed to produce the results now perceived, or by a more workmanlike process with lumps of clay, spare ribs, or any other handy materials which a tangible and visible Creator might find lying about his premises.
Certainly physical science, again breaking in upon theological conceptions disturbs orthodox speculation by pointing out that the earth was at one time a viscid globe of inorganic fiery matter, that further back still it was a ring of incandescent vapour thrown off from the sun, that further back still it was part merely of a vast fiery nebula like that which to this day may be observed in the constellation of Orion, and which the fine instruments of modern physical research have shown with approximate certainty to be actually in that state which reason had previously suggested that our own system must have been in once. But physical science does not go further than to suggest that theology must somehow reconcile its conceptions with these rudimentary facts. It fails to accomplish the reconciliation itself, and offers, for its own part, a theory so unsatisfactory in one direction—that of spiritual mysteries,—that only a small number of thinking men find themselves able to put up with it to the entire exclusion of theological hypotheses, unsatisfactory though these may be in the direction of physical mysteries.
Now occult science can and does bridge the gulf between science and religion. This is not the place to descant at length upon its methods of research. On that head a great deal has been published lately, and the reader may be referred to other writings in reference to opportunities that ordinary people have had for realising the fact that extraordinary persons, by the cultivation of faculties dormant in all, (and the existence of which all may prove for themselves if they are prepared to take the necessary trouble) have obtained the means of exploring regions of the universe inaccessible to the physical sciences. By degrees such persons have acquired that enormous mass of knowledge concerning the operations of Nature over vast areas of space and time, which enable them to make positive statements concerning the character of the processes we are about to describe.
The first great fact which occult science presents to our notice in reference to the origin of man on this globe will be seen at a glance to help the imagination over some embarrassments of the familiar scientific idea of evolution. The evolution of man is not a process carried out on this planet alone. It is a result to which many worlds in different conditions of material and spiritual development have contributed. If this statement were merely put forward as a conjecture, it would surely recommend itself forcibly to rational minds. For there is a manifest irrationality in the common-place notion that man’s existence is divided into a material beginning, lasing sixty of seventy years, and a spiritual remainder lasting for ever. The irrationality amounts to absurdity when it is alleged that the acts of the sixty or seventy years,—the blundering helpless acts of ignorant human life—are permitted by the perfect justice of an All-wise Providence to define the conditions of that latter life of infinite duration. Nor is it less extravagant to imagine that apart from the question of justice, the life beyond the grave should be exempt from the law of change, progress and improvement, which every analogy of Nature points to as probably running through all the varied existences of the universe. But once abandon the idea of a uniform, unvarying, unprogressive life beyond the grave,—once admit the conception of change and progress in that life—and we admit the idea of a variety hardly compatible with any other hypothesis than that of progress through successive worlds. As we have said before, this is not hypothesis at all for occult science, but a fact, ascertained and verified beyond the reach (for occultists) of doubt or contradiction.
The life and evolutionary processes of this Planet in fact,—all which constitutes it something more than a dead lump of chaotic matter,—are linked with the life and evolutionary processes of several other planets. But let it not be supposed that there is no finality as regards the scheme of this planetary union to which we belong. The human imagination once set free is apt sometimes to bound too far. Once let this notion, that the earth is merely one link in a mighty chain of worlds, be fully accepted as probable, or true, and it may suggest the whole starry heavens are the heritage of the human family. That is so far from being the fact that it is almost infinitely far therefrom. one globe does not afford Nature scope for the processes by which mankind has been evoked from chaos, but these processes do not require more than a limited and definite number of globes. Separated as these are, in regard to the gross mechanical matter of which they consist, they are closely and intimately bound together by subtle currents and forces, whose existence reason need not be much troubled to concede since the existence of some connection,—of force as ethereal media,—uniting all visible celestial bodies, is proved by the mere fact that they are visible. It is along these subtle currents that the life-elements pass from world to world.
The fact, however, will at once be liable to distortion to suit preconceived habits of mind. Some readers may imagine our meaning to be that after death the surviving soul will be drawn into the currents of that world with which its affinities connect it. The real process is more methodical. The system of worlds is a circuit round which all individual spiritual entities have, alike, to pass; and that passage constitutes the Evolution of Man. For it must be realised, that the evolution of man is a process still going n, and by no means yet complete. Darwinian writings have taught the modern world to regard the ape as an ancestor, but the simple conceit of Western speculation has rarely permitted European evolutionists to look in the other direction and recognise the probability, that to our remote descendants we may be, as that unwelcome progenitor to us. And the two facts just declared hinge together. The higher evolution will be accomplished by our progress through the successive worlds of the system; and in higher forms we shall return to this earth again, and again, and again. But the avenues of thought through which we look forward to this prospect, are of almost inconceivable length.
It will readily be supposed that the chain of worlds to which this earth belongs are not all prepared for a material existence exactly, or even approximately resembling our own. There would be no meaning in an organized chain of worlds which were all alike, and might as well all have been amalgamated into one. In reality the worlds with which we are connected are very unlike each other, not merely in outward conditions, but in that supreme characteristic, the proportion in which,—spirit and matter,—are mingled in their constitution. Our own world presents us with conditions in which spirit and matter are, on the whole, evenly balanced in equilibrium. Let is not be supposed on that account that it is very highly elevated in the scale of perfection. On the contrary, it occupies a very low place in that scale. The worlds that are higher in the scale are those in which spirit largely predominates. There is another world attached to the chain rather than forming a part of it in which matter asserts itself even more decisively than on earth, but this may be spoken of later.
That the superior worlds which Man may come to inhabit in his onward progress should gradually become more and more spiritual in their constitution,—life there being more and more successfully divorced from gross material needs,—will seem reasonable enough at the first glance. But the first glance in imagination at those which might conversely be called the inferior, but may with less inaccuracy be spoken as the preceding worlds, would perhaps suggest that they ought to be conversely less spiritual,—more material, than this earth. The fact is quite the other way,—and must be so, it will be seen on reflection, in a chain of worlds which is an endless chain, i.e. round and round which the evolutionary process travels. If that process had merely one journey to travel along a path which never returned into itself, one would think of it, at any rate, as working from almost absolute matter, up to almost absolute spirit, but nature works always in complete curves, and travels always in paths which return into themselves. The earliest, and also the latest, developed worlds—for the chain itself has grown by degrees,—the furthest back as also the further forward are the more immaterial, the more ethereal of the whole series and that this is in all ways in accordance with the fitness of things will appear from the reflection that the furthest forward of the worlds is not a region of finality, but the stepping stone to the furthest back—as the month of December leads us back again to January. But it is not a climax of development from which the individual monad falls, as by a catastrophe, into the state from which he slowly began to ascend millions of years previously. From that which for reasons which will soon appear must be considered the highest world on the ascending arc of the circle to that which must be regarded as the first on the descending arc,—in one sense the lowest, i.e. in the order of development,—there is no descent at all, but still ascent and progress. For the spiritual monad or entity which has worked its way all round the cycle of evolution, at any one of the many stages of development into which the various existences around us may be grouped, begins its next cycle at the next higher stage, and is thus still accomplishing progress as it passes from world Z back again to world A. many times does it circle, in this way right round the system, but its passage round must not be thought of merely as a circular revolution in an orbit. In the scale of spiritual perfection it is constantly ascending. Thus if we compare the system of worlds to a system of towers standing on a plain,—towers each of many stories and symbolising the scale of perfection,—the spiritual monad performs a spiral progress round and round the series, passing through each tower, every time it comes round to it, at a higher level than before.
It is for want of realising this idea that speculation concerned with physical evolution is so constantly finding itself stopped by dead walls. It is searching for its missing links in a world where it can never find them now, for they were but required for a temporary purpose, and have passed away. Man, says the Darwinian, was once an ape. Quite true, but the ape known to the Darwinian will never become a man, i.e. the form will not change from generation to generation till the tail disappears and the hands turn into feet, and so on. Ordinary science avows that though changes of form can be detected in progress within the limits of species, the changes from species to species can only be inferred, and to account for these, it is content to assume great intervals of time and the extinction of the intermediate forms. There has been no doubt an extinction of the intermediate or earlier forms of all species, (in the larger acceptation of the word), i.e. of all kingdoms, mineral, vegetable, animal, man, etc., but ordinary science can merely guess that to have been the fact without realising the conditions which rendered the inevitable, and which forbid the renewed generation of the intermediate forms.
It is the spiral character of the progress accomplished by the life impulses which develop the various kingdoms of Nature, which accounts for the gaps now observed in the animated forms which people the earth. The thread of a screw which is a uniform inclined plane in reality looks like a succession of steps when examined only along one like parallel to its axis. The spiritual monads which are coming round the system on the animal level pass on to other worlds when they have performed their turn of animal incarnation here. By the time they come again, they are ready for human incarnation, and there is no necessity now for the upward development of animal forms into human forms,—these are already waiting for their spiritual tenants. But if we go back far enough we come to a period at which there were no human forms ready developed on the earth, but when spiritual monads travelling on the earliest or lowest human level, were beginning to come round. Their onward pressure in a world at that time containing non but animal forms provoked the improvement of the highest of these into the required form,—the much-talked-of missing link.
In one way of looking at the matter it may be contended that this explanation is identical with the inference of the Darwinian evolutionist in regard to the development and extinction of missing links. After all, it may be argued by a materialist, “we are not concerned to express an opinion as to the origin of the tendency in species to develop higher forms. We say that they do develop these higher forms by intermediate links, and that the intermediate links die out; and you say just the same thing.” But there is a distinction between the two ideas for any one who can follow subtle distinctions. The natural process of evolution from the influence of local circumstances, and sexual selection must not be credited with producing intermediate forms, and this is why it is inevitable that the intermediate forms should be or a temporary nature and should die out. Otherwise we should find the world stocked with missing links of all kinds, animal life creeping by plainly apparent degrees up to manhood, human forms mingling in indistinguishable confusion with those of animals. The impulse to the new evolution of higher forms is really given as we have shown by rushes of spiritual monads coming round the cycle in a state fit for the inhabitation of new forms. These superior life impulses burst the chrysalis of the older form on the planet they invade and throw off an efflorescence of something higher. The forms which have gone on merely repeating themselves for millenniums, start afresh, into growth; with relative rapidity they rise through the intermediate into the higher forms, and then as these in turn are multiplied with the vigour and rapidity of all new growths they supply tenements of flesh for the spiritual entities coming round on that stage or plane of existence, and for the intermediate forms there are no longer any tenants offering. Inevitably they become extinct.
Thus is evolution accomplished as regards its essential impulse by a spiral progress through the worlds. In the course of explaining this idea we have partly anticipated the declaration of another fact of first-rate importance as an aid to correct views of the world system to which we belong. That is that the tide of life,—the wave of existence,—the spiritual impulse call it by what name we please, passes on from planet to planet by rushes, or gushes; not by an even continuous flow. For the momentary purpose of illustrating the idea in hand the progress may be compared to the filling of a series of holes or tubs sunk in the ground, such as may sometimes be seen at the mouths of feeble springs, and connected with each other by little surface channels. The stream from the spring as it flows is gathered up entirely in the beginning by the first hole, or tub A, and it is only when this is quite full that the continued in-pouring of water from the spring causes that which it already contains to overflow into tub B. This in turn fills and overflows along the channel which leads to tub C, and so on. Now, though, of course, a clumsy analogy of this kind will not carry us very fat, it precisely illustrates the evolution of life on a chain of worlds like that we are attached to, and, indeed, the evolution of the worlds themselves. For the process which goes on does not involve the pre-existence of a chain of globes which nature proceeds to stock with life; but it is one in which the evolution of each globe is the result of previous evolutions, and the consequence of certain impulses thrown off from its predecessor in the superabundance of their development. Now it is necessary to deal with this characteristic of the process to be described, but directly we begin to deal with it we have to go back in imagination to a period in the development of our system at present,—the evolution of man. And manifestly, as soon as we begin talking of the beginnings of worlds, we are dealing with phenomena which can have had very little to do with life, as we understand the matter, and, therefore, it may be supposed, nothing to do with life impulses. But let us go back by degrees. Behind the human harvest of the life impulse there lay the harvest of mere animal forms,—as every one realises. Behind that the harvest or growths of mere vegetable forms—for some of these undoubtedly preceded the appearance of the earliest animal life on the planet. Then before the vegetable organisations there were mineral organisation, for even a mineral is a product of Nature, an evolution from something behind it, as every imaginable manifestation of nature must be until in the vast series of manifestations, the mind travels back to the unmanifested beginning of all things. On pure metaphysics of that sort we are not now engaged. It is enough to show that we may as reasonably,—and that we must if we would talk about these matters at all—conceive of a life impulse giving birth to mineral forms, as if the same sort of impulse concerned to raise a race of apes into a race of rudimentary men. Indeed, occult science travels back even further in its exhaustive analysis of evolution, than the period at which minerals began to assume existence. In the process of developing worlds from fiery nebulæ Nature begins with something earlier than minerals—with the elemental forces that underlie the phenomena of nature as visible now and perceptible to the senses of man. But that branch of the subject may be left alone for the present. Let us take up the process at the period when the first world of the series globe A, let us call it, is merely a congeries of mineral forms. Now it must be remembered that globe A has already been described as very much more ethereal, more predominated by spirit, as distinguished from matter, than the globe of which we at present are having personal experience, so that a large allowance must be made for that state of things when we ask the reader to think of it at starting as a mere congeries of mineral forms. Mineral forms may be mineral in the sense of not belonging to the higher forms of vegetable organism, and may yet be very immaterial as we think of matter very ethereal consisting of a very fine or subtle quality of matter, in which the other pole or characteristic of nature,—spirit,—largely predominates. The minerals we are trying to portray are, as it were, the ghosts of minerals, by no means the highly-finished and beautiful hard crystals, which the mineralogical cabinets of this world supply. In these lower spirals of evolution with which we are now dealing as with the higher ones, these is progress from world to world, and that is the great point at which we have been aiming. There is progress downwards, so to speak, in finish and materiality and consistency; and then, again, progress upward in spirituality as coupled with the finish which matter, or materiality rendered possible in the first instance. It will be found that the process of evolution in its higher stages as regards man is carried on in exactly the same way. All through these studies, indeed, it will be found that one process of Nature typifies another, that the big is the repetition of the little on a larger scale.
It is manifest from what we have already said, and in order that the progress of organisms on globe A shall be accounted for, that the mineral kingdom will no more develop the vegetable kingdom on globe A until it receive an impulse from without, than the Earth was able to develop Man from the ape till it received an impulse from without. But it will be inconvenient at present to go back to a consideration of the impulses which operate on globe A in the beginning of the system’s construction.
We have already,—in order to be able to advance more comfortably from a far later period than that to which we have no receded, gone back so far that further recession would change the whole character of this explanation. We must stop somewhere, and for the present it will be best to take the life impulses behind globe A, for granted. And having stopped there we have now treat the enormous period intervening between the mineral epoch on globe A and the man epoch, in a very cursory way, and so get back to the main problem before us. What has been already said facilitates a cursory treatment of the intervening evolution. The full development of the mineral epoch on globe A prepares the way for the vegetable development, and as soon as this begins, the mineral life impulse overflows into globe B. Then when the vegetable development on globe A is complete and the animal development begins, the vegetable life impulse overflows to globe B, and the mineral impulse passes on to globe C. Then, finally, comes the human life impulse on globe A.
Now it is necessary at this point to guard against one misconception that might arise. As just roughly described, the process might convey the idea that by the time the human impulse began on globe A, the mineral impulse was then beginning on globe D, and that beyond lay chaos. This is very far from being the case for two reasons. Firstly, as already stated, there are processes of evolution which precede the mineral evolution, and thus a wave of evolution,—indeed several waves of evolution precede the mineral wave in its progress round the spheres. But over and above this, there is a fact to be stated which has such an influence on the course of events. When it is realised, it will be seen that the life impulse has passed several times completely round the whole chain of worlds before the commencement of the human impulse on globe A. This fact is as follows:—Each kingdom of evolution, vegetable, animal, and so on, is divided into several spiral layers. The spiritual monads,—the individual atoms of that immense life impulse of which so much has been said,—do not fully complete their mineral existence on globe A, then complete it on globe B, and so on. They pass several times round the whole circle as minerals; and then again several times round as vegetables, and several times as animals. We purposely refrain for the present from going into figures, because it is more convenient to state the outline of the scheme in general terms first, but figures in reference to these processes of Nature have now been given to the world by the occult adepts (for the first time we believe in its history), and they shall be brought out in the course of these essays before we have done, but as we say the outline is enough for anyone to think of at first.
And now we have rudimentary man beginning his existence on globe A, in that world where all things are as the ghosts of the corresponding things in this world. He is beginning his long descent into matter. And the life impulse of each “round” overflows, and the races of man are established in different degrees of perfection on all the planets,—on each in turn. But the Rounds are more complicated in their design than this explanation would show if it stopped short here. The process for each spiritual monad is not merely a passage from planet to planet. Within the limits of each planet, each time it arrives there it has a complicated process of evolution to perform. It is many times incarnated in successive races of man, before it passes onward, and it even has many incarnations in each great race. It will be found when we get on further that this fact throws a flood of light upon the actual condition of mankind as we know it, accounting for those immense differences of intellect and morality, and even of welfare in its highest sense, which generally appear so painfully mysterious.
That which has a definite beginning generally has an end also. As we have shown that the evolutionary process under description began when certain impulses first commenced their operation, so it may be inferred that they are tending towards a final consummation, towards a goal and a conclusion. That is so, though the goal is still far off. Man, as we know him on this earth, is but half way through the evolutionary process to which he owes his present development. He will be as much greater,—before the destiny of our system is accomplished,—than he is now, as he is now greater than the missing link. And that improvement will even be accomplished on this Earth, while, in the other worlds, of the ascending series, there are still loftier peaks of perfection to be scaled. It is utterly beyond the range of faculties untutored in the discernment of occult mysteries to imagine the kind of life, which Man will thus ultimately lead before the zenith of the great cycle is attained. But there is enough to be done in filling up the details of the outline now presented to the reader without attempting to forecast those which have to do with existences towards which evolution is reaching across the enormous abysses of the future.
No. 5: The Evolution of Man (Continued)
When we come to examine the evolution of man on our own planet, the explanation has to be drawn out on a larger scale than that which served for a sketch of the whole cosmogony. Our career on the preceding planets of the descending series is for the present over and done with. Few of us know enough of our lives there to be curious about details. But here, the phenomena of the world about us, and the period we are passing through, are all replete with interest. Our wish would be to get explanations of the conditions out of which these have originated, and of the results to which they are tending, that should be as enlarged and precise as our knowledge of the actual present. But in truth an explanation on that scale of the phenomena immediately preceding and immediately following our present life, would require an exhaustive knowledge of all natural laws and operations lying outside the physical group we have grown familiar with. And the exposition of this knowledge would involved the complete development of sciences the very alphabet of which is hidden from the world as yet. In short, it is no less impossible to comprehend all Nature’s detail—the infinitely little—completely, as it is to fathom the infinitely great. But just as the principles of evolution carried on through the series of worlds, of which our planet is one, have been found susceptible of an explanation which, if not minute, is sufficiently definite to be intelligible, so it is possible now to sketch the process of evolution carried on in the case of this single planet. The area of nature to be dealt with is less enormous, and therefore a treatment of its phenomena, down to a corresponding level of detail, gives us a closer insight into the process under investigation.
And a striking illustration of the uniformities of Nature is brought out by the first glance at the Occult doctrine in reference to the development of Man on the Earth. The outline of the design is the same as the outline of the more comprehensive design covering the whole chain of worlds. The inner details of this world, as regards its units of construction, are the same as the inner details of the larger organism of which this world itself is a unit. That is to say, the development of humanity on this earth is accomplished by means of successive waves of development, which correspond to the successive worlds in the great planetary chain. The great tide of human life, be it remembered,—for that has been already set forth—sweeps round the whole circuit of worlds in successive waves. These primary growths of humanity may be conveniently spoken of as Rounds. We must not forget that the individual units, constituting each round in turn, are identically the same as regards their higher principles, that is, that the individualities on the earth during Round 1, come back again after completing their travels round the whole series of worlds and constitute round 2, and so on. But the point to which special attention should be drawn here is that the individual unit having arrived at any given planet of the series, in the course of any given Round, does not merely touch that planet and pass on to the next. Before passing on, he has to live through a series of races on that planet. And this fact suggests the outline of the fabric which presently develop itself in the reader’s mind and exhibit that similarity of design on the part of the one world as compared with the whole series to which attention has already been drawn. As the complete scheme of Nature that we belong to, is worked out by means of a series of Rounds sweeping through all the worlds, so the development of humanity on each world is worked out by a series of races developed within the limits of each world in turn.
It is time now to make the working of this law clearer by coming to the actual figures which have to do with the evolution of our doctrine. It would have been premature to begin with them, but as soon as the idea of a system of worlds in a chain, and of life evolution on each through a series of re-births, is satisfactorily grasped, the further examination of the laws at work will be greatly facilitated by precise reference to the actual number of worlds and the actual number of rounds and races, required to accomplish the whole purpose of the system. For the whole duration of the system is as certainly limited in time, be it remembered, as the life of a single man. Probably not limited to any definite number of years set irrevocably from the commencement, but that which has a beginning, progresses on onward towards an end. The life of a man, leaving accidents quite out of the account, is a terminable period, and the life of a world system leads up to a final consummation. The vast-periods of time, concerned in the life of a world system, dazzle the imagination as a rule but still they are measurable: they me divisible into sub-periods of various kinds, and these have a definite number.
By what prophetic instinct Shakespeare pitched upon seven as the number which suited his fantastic classification of the ages of man is a question with which we need not be much concerned, but certain it is that he could not have made a more felicitous choice. In periods of sevens the evolution of the races of man may be traced and the actual number of the objective worlds, which constitute our system and of which the earth is one, is seven also. Remember the Occult Scientists know this as a fact, just as the Physical Scientists know for a fact that the spectrum consists of seven colours, and the musical scale of seven tones. There are seven kingdoms of nature, not three as modern science has imperfectly classified them. Man belongs to a kingdom distinctly separate from that of the animals, including beings in a higher state of organization than that which manhood has familiarised us with, as yet; and below the mineral kingdom there are three others which science in the West knows nothing about; but this branch of the subject may be set aside for the present. It is mentioned merely to show the regular descent of the division, in Nature.
Man—returning to the kingdom we are most interested in—is evolved in a series of Rounds (progressions round the series of worlds) and seven of these rounds have to be accomplished before the destinies of our system are worked out. The round which is at present going on is the fourth. There are considerations of the utmost possible interest connected with precise knowledge on these points, because each Round is as it were specially allotted to the predominance of one of the seven principles in man, and in the regular order of their upward gradation. But here again is a realm of inquiry that for the present can only be glanced at.
An individual unit, arriving on a planet for the first time in the course of a round, has to work through seven races on that planet before he passes on to the next, and each of those races occupies the earth for a long time. Our old-fashioned speculations about time and eternity, suggested by the misty religious systems of the West, have brought on a curious habit of mind in connection with problems bearing on the actual duration of such periods. We can talk glibly of eternity, and going to the other end of the scale, we are not shocked by a few thousand years, but directly years are numbered with precision in groups which lie in intervening regions of thought, illogical Western theologians are apt to regard such numbering as nonsense. Now we at present living on this earth—the great bulk of humanity that is to say, for there are exceptional cases to be considered later—are now going through the fifth race of our present fourth round. And yet the evolution of that fifth race began about a million of years ago. In a very interesting volume of Western Science, Professor James Geikie, writing of “The Great Ice Age,” is good enough to push back the origin of man on earth to interglacial epochs in a way which expands the biblical five or six thousand years into something over 100,000. The book is not at hand as I write, and I forget the exact figures reached. But what is this calculation beside the facts of the case as revealed by Occult Science? Will the reader, in consideration of the fact that the present cosmogony does not profess to work with eternity, nerve himself to deal with estimates that do concern themselves with millions of years, and even count such millions by considerable numbers?
Each race of the seven which go to make up a Round, i.e. which are evolved on the Earth in succession during its occupation by one of the great waves of humanity passing round the planetary chain, is itself subject to subdivision. Were this not the case, the active existences of each human unit would be indeed few and far between. Within the limits of each race there are seven subdivisional races, and again within the limits of each subdivision there are seven branch races. Through all these races each individual human unit must pass during his stay on Earth each time he arrives there on a Round of progress through the planetary system. On reflection this necessity should not appall the mind so much as a hypothesis which would provide for fewer incarnations. For, however many lives each individual unit may pass through while on Earth during a Round, be their numbers few or many, he cannot pass on—except in rare cases to be noticed hereafter—until the time comes for the Round-wave to sweep forward, and as the interval of time occupied by the stay of a Round-wave on Earth may, be roughly conjectured from the fact that our present fifth race, by no means worked through yet, began a million of years ago, it is highly desirable that Nature should find for each of us some occupation wherewith to pass the time. Even by the calculation already foreshadowed it will be seen that the time spent by each individual unit in physical life, can only be a small fraction of the whole time he has to get through between his arrival on Earth and his departure for the next planet. The larger part of the time—as we reckon duration of time—is obviously therefore spent in those subjective conditions of existence which belong to the “World of effects” of spiritual Earth attached to the physical Earth on which our objective existence is passed.
The nature of existence on the spiritual Earth must be considered pari-passu with the nature of that passed on the physical Earth alone dealt with in the above enumeration of race incarnations. We must never forget that between each physical existence the individual unit passes through a period of existence in the corresponding spiritual world. And it is because the conditions of that existence are defined by the use that has been made of the opportunities in the next preceding physical existence that the spiritual Earth is often spoken of in Occult writing as the World of Effects. The earth itself as its corresponding World of Causes.
That which passes into the World of Effects after an incarnation in the World of Causes, has been described in the “Fragments of Occult Truth” relating to the seven principles of Man. The individual unit or spiritual monad cannot but pass into the spiritual condition, but, as already explained, the extent—to which the personality, just dissolved, passes there with it,—is dependant on the qualifications of such personality,—on the use, that is to say, which the person in question has made of his opportunities in life. Thus the period to be spent in the World of Effects,—enormously longer in each case than the life which has paved the way for existence there,—corresponds to the “Hereafter” or Heaven of vulgar Theology. And here it is interesting to digress for a moment to take note of the relative scope of Vulgar Theology and of Occult Science. The narrow purview of the former deals merely with our physical life and its consequences in the life to come. For want of knowing better, theology conceives that the entity concerned had its beginning in this physical life, and, from the same disabilities in the other direction, it conceives that the ensuing spiritual life will never stop. And this pair of existences which is shown by the mere elements of Occult Science that we are now unfolding, to constitute a part only of the entity’s experience during its connection with a branch race, which is one of seven belonging to a subdivisional race, itself one of seven belonging to a main race, itself one of seven belonging to the occupation of Earth by one of the seven Round-waves of humanity which have each to occupy it in turn before its functions in nature are concluded—this microscopic molecule of the whole structure is what common theology treats are more than the whole for it is supposed to cover eternity.
The reader must here be warned against one conclusion to which the above explanations—perfectly accurate as far as they go, but not yet covering the whole ground—might lead him. He will not get at the exact number of lives an individual entity has to lead on the Earth in the course of its occupation by one Round, if he merely raises seven to its third power. There is a mystery here which the great teachers of Occult Science have not yet thought fit to disclose to the laity. If one existence only were passes in each branch race the total number would obviously be 343. But the actual number is more than that, though nothing approaching the number that would be got at if we supposed seven separate incarnations to take place in each branch race. The explanation hinges on to some mysteries of detail in reference to which it is thought premature to convey information at present.
The methodical law which carries each and every individual human entity through the vast evolutionary process thus sketched out—is in no way incompatible with that liability to fall away into abnormal destinies or ultimate annihilation which menaces the personal entities of people who cultivate very ignoble affinities. The distribution of the seven principles at death shows that clearly enough, but, viewed in the light of these further explanations about evolution, the situation may be better realised. The permanent entity is that which lives through the whole series of lives, not only through the races belonging to the present Round-wave on Earth, but also through those of other Round-waves and other worlds. Broadly speaking, it will in due time,—though at some inconceivably distant future as measured in years,—recover a recollection of all those lives, which will seem as day in the past to us. But the astral dross, cast off at each passage into the World of Effects, has a more or less conscious existence of its own, which is quite separate from that of the spiritual entity from which it has just been disunited. The intensity of this consciousness varies very greatly: from absolute zero in the case of a person whose life has been so supremely good and spiritual that he has engendered no low affinities, to full consciousness in the case of entire absorption by the astral principles of all the expiring life’s recollections and affinities. The destiny of the astral reliquæ in either case has been the subject of abundant discussion of late, but the point to which attention may be specially called now is the mystery of dual consciousness on the comprehension of which the comprehension of the actual course of events must depend. Occult pupils are taught to realise the possibility of dual consciousness by practically developing it during life, exercising the inner clairvoyant faculties on one set of observations or ideas and the physical senses with their appropriate intellectual faculties on another set of observations of ideas at the same time, but to ordinary people the double perceptions rarely come by Nature, not, at all events, with any such intensity as to render their character apparent. On the other hand, the possibility of dual consciousness in life for one person is not beyond the range of ordinary imagination; and by dwelling on the notion it is not difficult to realise the way in which one human individual, as we know him in life, may divide up into two conscious individuals at death, neither of which is in any way a new invention, while each is distinctly conscious (so far as its consciousness is distinct at all) of identity with the late physically living entity.
A correct appreciation of all this serves a double purpose; it solves once for all those apparently conflicting passages in occult writing which seem at different times to attribute such different destinies to the human entity and enables one to comprehend the general scheme of human evolution and the whole vast phantasmagoria of existence through which the enduring principles which constitute our higher individuality are passing, while remaining equally prepared to investigate the side paths of super-material development along which the intermediate principles of our nature may travel, after quitting the most transitory principles that are built up to serve their brief purpose from the physical elements of the earth. And in the phenomena of dual consciousness lies the clue to that mystery on which the continuity of our higher existence depends. For many people it must remain irrational to say that any person now living, with his recollections bounded by the years of his childhood, is the same person as some one of quite a novel nationality and epoch who lives thousands of years ago, or the same that will reappear after a similar lapse of time under some entirely new conditions in the future. But one of his elements of dual consciousness is the same, and the other element is only a temporary efflorescence of the first. The feeling “I am I” is the same through the three lives and through all the hundreds; for that feeling is more deeply seated than the feeling “I am John Smith, so high, so heave, with such and such property and relations.” Is it inconceivable,—as a notion in the mind,—that John Smith, inheriting the gift of Tithonus, changing his name from time to time, marrying afresh every other generation or so, losing property here, coming into possession of property there, and getting interested as time goes on in very various pursuits, might utterly forget in a few thousand years all circumstances connected with the present life of John Smith, just as if the incidents of that life for him had never taken place? And yet the Ego would be the same. If this is conceivable in the imagination, what can be inconceivable in the individual continuity of an intermittent life interrupted and renewed at regular intervals, and varied with passages through a purer condition of existence.
No. 6: Devachan
It was not possible to approach a consideration of the states into which the higher human principles pass at death, without first indicating the general framework of the whole design which is worked out in the course of the evolution of man. The great majority of the blunders made by ordinary theological speculation on this subject are due to ignorance of this general design. People have been led to regard the present physical life as the only one of its kind which a human soul is called upon to pass through. They have next found themselves obliged to provide in Heaven or some sphere of repunishment for all the rest of eternity, as they are reluctant to contemplate the notion of final annihilation even for their mere personal entities,—unable to understand that unless specially qualified for perpetuation, they might tire of such entities in progress of millenniums. Thus the Heaven of vulgar theology,—not to speak of the Hell,—is a congeries of inconsistent conceptions as fatally at war with each other as with the facts of the earth life they are supposed to supplement. Heaven is treated as a place in which life is infinitely prolonged—an eternity which has a beginning but no end—and found enjoyable in the highest degree. But each person is simply himself or herself as on earth in a new spiritual body, with recollection of the past life on earth, and perception of the continued life in progress here for the living friends and relatives left behind. Now a Heaven which constituted a watch tower from which the occupants could still survey the miseries of the earth, would really be a place of acute mental suffering for its most sympathetic, unselfish and meritorious inhabitants. If we invest them in imagination with such a very limited range of sympathy that they could be imagined as not caring about the spectacle of suffering after the few persons to whom they were immediately attached, had died and joined them, still they would have a very unhappy period of waiting to go through before survivors reached the end of an often long and toilsome existence below. And even this hypothesis would be further vitiated by making Heaven most painful for occupants who were most unselfish and sympathetic, whose reflected distress would thus continue on behalf of the afflicted race of mankind generally, even after their personal kindred had been rescued by the lapse of time. The only escape from this dilemma for believers in a conventional Heaven, lies in the supposition that Heaven is not yet opened for business, so to speak, and that all people who have ever lived from Adam downwards are still lying in a death-like, annihilation-like, trance, waiting for the resurrection at the end of the world. [The resurrection by the bye has an occult meaning which the present explanations may help to elucidate, but of that more anon]. Which of these hypotheses is most favoured by ordinary theology we do not pretend to say, but Heaven must be recognised by that doctrine as either, open or not open yet for the reception of souls, and then one of the two lines of speculation above roughly indicated must be followed.
None the less, of course, would theology deny that either statement of the case was correct. No statement of any case which ordinary theology favours, ever is admitted to be correct by theologians if it is put in plain language which conveys a definite conception. Now this brings us to a point of great importance in regard to these fragmentary teachings. The statements which have to be made are susceptible of being expressed in the plainest possible terms. The language of occult philosophy may be as precise as that of physical science. It has not always been so, because a great deal of it has been employed to disguise the statements put forward, just as early astronomers would sometimes record their discoveries by means of anagrams perfectly destitute of meaning on the surface. But the obscurity of occult writing has never been due to the cloudiness or confusion of the ideas under treatment. Thoroughly understood, all occult knowledge, within the range of ordinary human understanding, can be presented to the reader in language as lucid as a diamond, and no more than the facets of the diamond, need the edges of its separate assertions be blurred to make them fit.
The facts about the spiritual condition of life which for each human individuality travelling round the great circle of evolution, intervenes between everyone of its separate incarnations, are thus susceptible like the facts of objective existence, with which these essays have chiefly hitherto been dealing, of intelligible expression in terms which need not provide by intentional obscurity for any possible necessity of later withdrawal or qualification. But of course the conditions of lives which are not objective are not so easily grasped as those which are paralleled by our own, and statements which may be perfectly definite as far as they go, may nevertheless be incomplete. The world of effects is a strange and unfamiliar territory for most of us, and untrained imagination might not follow a close description of its features. However, there are living men, be it remembered, to whom its territory is not unfamiliar to whom its minutest details are no longer strange. From these the information comes, which we are about to lay before the reader.1 Rejecting the unscientific name which has become encrusted with too many misconceptions to be convenient, let us keep to the oriental designation of that region or state into which the higher principles of human creatures pass at death. “Devachan,” to begin with, makes no offer of eternal accommodation to the finite personalities of dying men.
It has already been explained that when the four higher principles escape from the body, i.e., from the lower triad,—they divide in accordance with the affinities that have been engendered in them during their corporate life. The lower reliquiæ remain in the Kama loka or immediate vicinity or atmosphere of the earth, and the higher two invested with a certain amount of consciousness by having assimilated all which is adapted to a superior state of existence, from the 5th principle, Manas, or “animal” soul, pass into a temporary period of oblivion2 from which they are, so to speak, born into “Devachan.” Now in Devachan, that which survives is not merely the individual monad, which survives through all the changes of the whole evolutionary scheme, and flits from body to body, from planet to planet, and so forth;—that which survives in Devachan is the man’s own self-conscious personality,2 under some restrictions indeed, which we will come to directly, but still it is the same personality as regards its higher feelings, aspirations, affections, and even tastes as it was on earth. Those feelings and tastes of course which were purely sensual will drop off, but, to suggest a whole range of ideas by means of one illustration, a soul in Devachan, if the soul of a man who was passionately devoted to music would be continuously enraptured by the sensations music produces. The person whose happiness of the higher sort on earth had been entirely centred in the exercise of the affections will miss none, in Devachan of those whom he or she loved. But, at once it will be asked, if some of these are not themselves fit for Devachan, how then? The answer is that does not matter. For the person who loved them they will be there. It is not necessary to say much more to give a clue to the position. Devachan is a subjective state. It will seem as real, as the chairs and tables round us;—and remember that above all things to the profound philosophy of occultism, are the chairs and tables, and the whole objective scenery of the world,—unreal and—merely transitory delusions of sense. As real as the realities of this world to us, and even more so, will be the realities of Devachan to those who go into that state.
Now we fancy very few Western thinkers at the first glance will welcome this account of the heaven awaiting them beyond the grave, but we are not weaving merely pleasant fancies, we are describing natural facts, and to say that a condition of things is unacceptable to the imagination, is to say nothing in disproof of its actuality. As regards Devachan, however, a patient consideration of the place in nature which it occupies will show that this subjective isolation of each human unit is the only condition which renders possible any thing which can be described as a felicitous spiritual existence after death for mankind at large, and “Devachan” is as much a purely and absolutely felicitous condition for all who attain it as “Avitchi”—is the reverse of it. There is no inequality or injustice in the system; Devachan is by no means the same thing for the good and the indifferent alike, but it is not a life of responsibility, and therefore there is no logical place in it for suffering any more than in “Avitchi” there is any room for enjoyment or repentance.3 It is a life of effects, not, of causes; a life of being paid your earnings, not of labouring for them. Therefore it is impossible to be during that life cognizant of what is going on on earth. Under the operation of such cognition there would be no true happiness possible in the state after death. But there is no true happiness possible, people will say, in the state of monotonous isolation now described! The objection is merely raised from the point of view of an imagination that cannot escape from its present surroundings. To begin with, about monotony: no one will complain of having experienced monotony during the minute or moment or half hour as it may have been of the greatest happiness he may have enjoyed in life. Most people have had some happy moments at all events to look back to for the purpose of this comparison, and let us take even one such minute or moment, too short to be open to the least suspicion of monotony, and imagine its sensations immensely prolonged without any external events in progress to mark the lapse of time. There is no room in such a condition of things for the conception of weariness. The unalloyed unchangeable sensation of intense happiness goes on and on, not for ever, because the causes which have produced it are not infinite themselves, but for very long periods of time until the efficient impulse has exhausted itself. [See Appendix B.] As physical existence has its cumulative intensity from infancy to prime, and its diminishing energy thenceforward to dotage and death, so the dream-life of Devachan is lived correspondentially. There is the first flutter of psychic life, the attainment of prime, the gradual exhaustion of force passing into conscious lethargy, semi-unconsciousness, oblivion and—not death but birth! birth into another personality and the resumption of action which daily begets new congeries of causes that must be worked out in another term of Devachan.
“It is not a reality then, it is a mere dream,” objectors will urge; “the soul so bathed in a delusive sensation of enjoyment which has no reality all the while is being cheated by Nature, and must encounter a terrible shock when it wakes to its mistake.” But in the nature of things, it never does or can wake. The waking from Devachan is its next birth into objective life, and the draught of Lethe has then been taken. Nor as regards the isolation of each soul is there any consciousness of isolation whatever; nor is there ever possibly a parting from its chosen associates. Those associates are not in the nature of companions who may wish to go away, of friends who may tire of the friend that loves them even if he or she does not tire of them. Love, the creating force, has placed their living image before the, personal soul which craves for their presence, and that image will never flyaway [See Appendix C.]
There is a sense of unreality about the whole affair, to some people, which is painful to their mind at first no doubt; but this is certainly much more due to an imperfect grasp of the nature of the existence described on the part of people used merely to objective experiences, than to any inherent demerits in the scheme of existence provided for souls in their transition state in Devachan.
And we must remember that by the very nature of the system described there are infinite varieties of well-being in Devachan, suited to the infinite varieties of merit in mankind. If “the next world” really were the objective Heaven which ordinary theology preaches, there would be endless injustice and inaccuracy in its operation. People to begin with would be either admitted or excluded, and the differences of favour shown to different guests within the all-favoured region, would not sufficiently provide for differences of merit in this life. But the real Heaven of our earth adjusts itself to the needs and merits of each new arrival with unfailing certainty. Not merely as regards the duration of the blissful state which is determined by the causes engendered during objective life, but as regards the intensity and amplitude of the emotions which constitute that blissful state, the Heaven of each person who attains the really existent Heaven is precisely fitted to his capacity for enjoying it. It is the creation of his own aspirations and faculties. More than this it may be impossible for the uninitiated comprehension to realize. But this indication of its character is enough to show how perfectly it falls into its appointed place in the whole scheme of evolution [See Appendix D.]
Devachan being a condition of mere subjective enjoyment, the duration and intensity of which is determined by the merit and spirituality of the earth-life last past there is no opportunity while the soul inhabits it, for the punctual requital of evil deeds, But Nature does not content herself with either forgiving sins in a free and easy way, or damning sinners outright, like a lazy master too indolent, rather than too good-natured, to govern his household justly. The karma of evil, be it great or small, is as certainly operative at the appointed time as the karma of good. But the place of its operation is not Devachan, but either a new rebirth, or Avitchi—a state to be reached only in exceptional cases and by exceptional natures.4 The subject being of paramount importance it may be left for a separate Fragment [See Appendix E.] Generally, the re-birth into objective existence is the event for which the karma of evil patiently waits; and then, it irresistibly asserts itself, not that the karma of good exhausts itself in Devachan leaving the unhappy monad to develop a new consciousness with no material beyond the evil deeds of its last personality. The re-birth will be qualified by the merit as well as the demerit of the previous life, but the Devachan existence is a rosy sleep,—a peaceful night with dreams more vivid than day, and imperishable for many centuries and ages, as the loftiest mountains of the earth for the time abandoned.
It will be seen that the Devachan state is only one of the conditions of existence which go to make up the whole spiritual or relatively spiritual complement of our earth life. Observers of spiritualistic phenomena would never have been perplexed as they have been if there were no other but the Devachan state to be dealt with. For once in Devachan there is very little opportunity for communication between a spirit, then wholly absorbed in its own sensations and practically oblivious of the earth left behind, and its former friends still living, Whether gone before or yet remaining on earth those friends, if the bond of affection has been sufficiently strong will be with the happy spirit still, to all intents and purposes for him, and as happy blissful, innocent, as the disembodied dreamer himself. It is possible, however, for yet living persons to have visions of Devachan, though such visions are rare, and only one-sided,—the entities in Devachan, sighted by the earthly clairvoyant being quite unconscious themselves of undergoing such observation. The spirit of the clairvoyant ascends into the condition of Devachan in such rare visions, and thus becomes subject to the vivid delusions of that existence. It is under the impression that the spirits with which it is in Devachanic bonds of sympathy have come down to visit earth and itself, while the converse operation has really taken place, The clairvoyant’s spirit, has been raised towards those in Devachan. Thus many of the subjective spiritual communications—most of them when the sensitives are pure-minded,—are real, though it is most difficult for the uninitiated medium to fix in his mind the true and correct pictures of what he sees and hears. In the same way some of the phenomena called psychography (though more rarely) are also real. The spirit of the sensitive getting odylised, so to say, by the aura of the spirit in the Devachan becomes for a few minutes that departed personality, and writes in the handwriting of the latter, in his language and in his thoughts as they were during his lifetime. The two spirits become blended in one, and the preponderance of one over the other during such phenomena, determines the preponderance of personality in the characteristics exhibited. Thus, it may incidentally be observed, what is called rapport, is in plain fact, an identity of molecular vibration between the astral part of the incarnate medium and the astral part of the disincarnate personality.
Meanwhile the average communicating “spirit” of the seance room is the denizen of that intervening region between Earth-life and Devachan which has been already referred to as Kama loka. On the subject of “shells” or Elementaries, so much has been written of late that this branch of the subject may be passed over lightly now. The upper duad having won, in the struggle which takes place after death in the Kama loka between the two sets of principles, the lowest of all with a remnant of the 5th its more brutal memories and instincts alone remaining, continues to roam the earth’s atmosphere for a time—an empty shell though alive for a while to a certain extent. A word or two of explantation however is required in reference to the complete two principled being which remains in the Kama loka, when the upper duad does not win in the struggle for possession of the late personality. It, might be imagined that such a being would be far more potent for the purposes of communication with still living people, than the shell, and so it might be if it remained in “Kama loka,” but the fact is that in such cases the surviving personality is promptly drawn into the current of its future destinies and these have nothing to do with this earth’s atmosphere or with Devachan, but with that “eighth sphere” of which occasional mention will be found in older occult writings. It will have been unintelligible to ordinary readers hitherto why it was called the “eighth” sphere, but, since the explantation in these Fragments of the 7 fold constitution of our planetary system, the meaning will be clear enough, The spheres of the cyclic process of evolution are seven in number, but there is an eighth in connection with our earth,—our earth being, it will be remembered, the turning point in the cyclic chain,—and this eighth sphere is out of circuit, a cul de sac and the bourne from which it may be truly said no traveller returns.
It will readily be guessed that the only sphere connected with our manvantaric chain, which is lower than our own, in the scale that has spirit at the top and matter at the bottom, must itself be no less visible to the eye and to optical instruments, than the earth itself, and as the duties which this sphere has to perform in our planetary system are immediately associated with this earth, there is not much mystery left now in the riddle of the eighth sphere, nor as to the place in the sky where it may be sought. The conditions of existence there, however, are topics on which the adepts are very reserved in their communications to uninitiated pupils, and concerning these we have for the present no further information to give.
One statement though it is definitely made, viz., that such a total degradation of a personality as may suffice to draw it, after death, into the attraction of the eighth sphere, is of very rare occurrence. From the vast majority of lives there is something which the higher principles may draw to themselves, something to redeem the page of existence just passed from total destruction and here it must be remembered that the recollections of life in Devachan very vivid as they are, as far as they go, touch only those episodes in life which are productive of the elevated sort of happiness of which alone Devachan is qualified to take cognisance, whereas the life from which for the time being the cream is thus skimmed, will be remembered eventually, in all its details quite fully. That complete remembrance is only achieved by the individual at the threshold of a far more exalted spiritual state than that which we are now concerned with, and which is attained far later on in the progress of the vast cycles of evolution. Each one of the long series of lives that will have been passed through will then be, as it were, a page in a book to which the possessor can turn back at pleasure,—even though many such pages will then seem to him most likely, very dull reading, and will not be frequently referred to. It is this revival eventually of recollection concerning all the long forgotten personalities that is really meant by the doctrine of the Resurrection of which the modern prayer books make so sad a hash. But we have no time at present to stop and unravel the enigmas of symbolism as bearing upon the teachings at present under conveyance to the reader. It may be worthwhile to do this as a separate undertaking at a later period, but meanwhile to revert to the narrative of how the facts stand, it may be explained that in the whole book of pages,—when at last the “resurrection” has been accomplished, there will be no entirely infamous pages; for even if any given spiritual individuality has occasionally during its passage through this world been linked with personalities so deplorably and desperately degraded that they have passed completely into the attraction of the lower vortex that spiritual individuality in such cases will have retained in its own affinities, no trace or taint of them. Those pages will, as it were, have been clearly torn out from the book. And as at the end of the struggle after crossing the Kama loka the spiritual individuality will have passed, into the unconscious gestation state from which skipping the Devachan state it will be directly reborn into its next life of objective activity, all the self consciousness connected with that existence will have passed into the lower world, there eventually to “perish everlastingly”; an expression of which as of so many more modern theology has proved a faithless custodian, making pure nonsense out of psycho-scientific facts.
As already indicated, and as the common sense of the matter would show there are great varieties of states in Devachan, and each personality drops into its befitting place there. Thence consequently he emerges in his befitting place in the world of Causes, this Earth or another as the case may be, when his time for rebirth comes. Coupled with survival of the affinities comprehensively described as karma—the affinities both for good and evil engendered by the previous life, this process will be soon to accomplish nothing less than an explanation of the problem which has always been regarded as so incomprehensible,—the inequalities of life. The conditions on which we enter life are the consequences of the use we have made of our last set of conditions. They do not impede the development of fresh karma, whatever they may be, for this will be generated by the use we make of them in turn. Nor is it to be supposed that every event of a current life which bestows joy or sorrow is old karma bearing fruit. Many may be the immediate consequences of acts in the life to which they belong—ready-money transactions with Nature, so to speak of which it may hardly be necessary to make any entry in her books. But the great inequalities of life as regards the start in it, which different human beings make, is a manifest consequence of old karma, the infinite varieties of which always keep up a constant supply of recruits for all the manifold varieties of human condition.
We have spoken of the three conditions in the world of effects,—the state in which the principles liberated from the body are still in Kama loka, and physically in the atmosphere of the earth, the state of Devachan and the intervening state of gestation or preparation for the latter. But the reader’s conceptions on the subject will necessarily be vague without some indications as to the periods of time with which passage through these states is concerned. Consciousness in the Kama loka even is not immediately reawakened after death. When a man dies, his soul or fifth principle becomes unconscious and loses all remembrance of things internal us well as external. Whether his stay in Kama loka has to last but a few moments, hours, days, weeks, months or years, whether be dies a natural or a violent death, whether this occurs in youth or age, and whether the ego has been good, bad or indifferent, his consciousness leaves him as suddenly as the flame leaves the wick when it is blown out. When life has retired from the last particle of the brain matter, his perceptive faculties become extinct for ever, and his spiritual powers of cognition and volition become for the time being as extinct as the others. His mayavi rupa may be thrown into objectivity as in the case of apparitions after death, but unless it is projected by a conscious or intense desire to see or appear to some one shooting through the dying brain, the apparition will be simply automatic. The revival of consciousness in Kama loka is obviously, from what has been already said—a phenomenon that depends on the characteristic of the principles passing, unconsciously at the moment, out of the dying body. It may become tolerably complete under circumstances by no means to be desired, or it may be obliterated by a rapid passage into the gestation state leading to Devachan. This gestation state may be of very long duration in proportion to the ego’s spiritual stamina, and Devachan accounts for the remainder of the period between death and the next physical rebirth. The whole period is of course of very varying length in the case of different persons, but rebirth in less than a thousand to fifteen hundred years is spoken of as almost impossible, while the stay in Devachan which rewards a very rich Karma, is sometimes said to extend to enormous periods.
In conclusion it may be added that this is a mere sketch of the state of things under examination, as complete as the writer is in a position to make it at present, but requiring a great deal of amplification as regards details which will no doubt become possible at some future time. Meanwhile the outline, as far as it goes, may be relied upon as correctly drawn.
[For the Appendix to No. 6, see “Appendix to ‘Devachan’”]
No. 7: The Human Life Wave
Previous essays will have given the reader a general idea of the way in which the great evolutionary life-wave sweeps round and round the seven worlds which compose the planetary chain of which our earth is a part. Further assistance may now be offered with the view of expanding this general idea, into a fuller comprehension of the processes to which it relates. And no one additional chapter of the great story will do more towards rendering its character intelligible, than an explanation of certain phenomena connected with the progress of worlds, that may be conveniently called Obscurations.
Students of occult philosophy who enter on that pursuit with minds already abundantly furnished in other ways, are very liable to misinterpret its earlier statements. Every thing cannot be said at once, and the first broad explanations are apt to suggest conceptions in regard to details which are most likely to be erroneous with the most active-minded and intelligent thinkers. Such readers are not content with shadowy outlines even for a moment. Imagination fills in the picture, and if its work is undisturbed for any length of time, the author will be surprised afterwards to find that later information is incompatible with that which he had come to regard as having been distinctly taught in the beginning.. Now in these Fragments the writer’s effort is to convey the information in such a way that hasty weed growths of the mind may be prevented as far as possible, but in this very effort it is necessary sometimes to run on quickly in advance, leaving details,—even very important details to be picked up during a second journey over the old ground. So now the reader Unst be good enough to go back to the explanation given in Fragment IV. of the evolutionary progress through the whole planetary chain.
Some few words were said even in that Fragment, concerning the manner in which the life impulse passed on from planet to planet in “rushes or gushes; not by an even continuous flow.” Now the course of evolution in its earlier stages is so far continuous that the preparation of several planets for the final tidal wave of humanity may be going on simultaneously. Indeed the preparation of all the seven planets may, at one stage of the proceedings, be going on simultaneously, but the important point to remember is that the main wave of evolution,—the foremost growing wave,—cannot be in more than one place at a time. The process goes on in the way which may now be described, and which the reader may be the better able to follow, if he constructs either on paper or in his own mind a diagram consisting of seven circles (representing the worlds,) arranged in a. ring. Calling them A, B, C, etc., it will be observed from what has been already stated that circle (or globe) D, stands for our earth. Now the kingdoms of Nature as known to occultists, be it remembered, are seven in number, three, having to do with astral and elementary forces, preceding the grosser material kingdoms in the order of their development. Kingdom 1 evolves on globe A, and passes on to B, as kingdom 2 begins to evolve on A. Carry out this system and of course it will be seen that kingdom 1 is evolving on globe G, while kingdom 7, the human kingdom, is evolving on globe A. But now what happens as kingdom 7 passes on to globe B. There is no eighth kingdom to engage the activities of globe A. The great processes of evolution have culminated in the final tide wave of humanity,—which as it sweeps on, leaves a temporary lethargy of nature behind. When the life wave goes on to B, in fact, globe A passes for the time, into a state of obscuration. This state is not one of decay, dissolution or anything that can properly be called death. Decay itself, though its aspect is apt to mislead the mind, is a condition of activity in a certain direction, this consideration affording a clue to the meaning of a great deal which is otherwise meaningless, in that part of Hindu mythology which relates to the deities presiding over destruction. The obscuration of a world is a total suspension of its activity: this does not mean that the moment the last human monad passes on from any given world, that world is paralysed by any convulsion, or subsides into the enchanted trance of a Sleeping Palace. The animal and vegetable life goes on as before, for a time, but its character begins to recede instead of to advance. The great life-wave has left it and the animal and vegetable kingdoms gradually return to the condition in which they were found when the great life-wave first reached them. Enormous periods of time are available for this slow process by which the obscured world settles into sleep, for it will be seen that obscuration in each case lasts six times5 as long as the period of each world’s occupation by the human life-wave, That is to say, the process which is accomplished as above described in connection with the passage of the life-wave from globe A to globe B, is repeated all along the chain. When the wave passes to C, B is left in obscuration as well as A. Then D receives the life wave, and A, B, C are in obscuration, When the wave reaches G, all the preceding six worlds are in obscuration. Meanwhile the life-wave passes on in a certain regular progression, the symmetrical character of which is very satisfactory to scientific instincts. The reader will be prepared to pick up the idea at once, in view of the explanations already given of the way in which humanity evolves through seven great races, during each round period on a planet,—that is to say, during the occupation of such planet by the tidal wave of life. The fourth race is obviously the middle race of the series. As soon as this middle point is turned, and the evolution of the fifth race on any given planet begins, the preparation for humanity begins on the next. The evolution of the fifth race on D for example, is commensurate with the evolution, or rather with the revival of the mineral kingdom on E, and so on. That is to say, the evolution of the sixth race on D, coincides with the revival of the vegetable kingdom on E, the seventh race on D, with the revival of the animal kingdom on E, and then when the last monads of the seventh race on D, have passed into the subjective state or world of effects, the human period on E begins and the 1st race begins its development there. Meanwhile the twilight period on the world preceding D, has been deepening into the night of obscuration in the same progressive way, and obscuration there has definitely set in when the human period on D, is past its half way point. But just as the heart of a man beats and respiration continues, no matter how profound his sleep, there are processes of vital action which go on in the resting world even during the most profound depths of its repose. And these preserve, in view of the next return of the human wave, the results of the evolution that preceded its first arrival. Recovery for the reawakening planet is a larger process than its subsidence into rest, for it has to attain a higher degree of perfection against the return of the human life-wave, than that at which it was left when the wave last went onward from its shore. But with every new beginning, Nature is infused with a vigour of its own—the freshness of a morning,—and the later obscuration period, which is a time of preparation and hopefulness as it were, invests evolution itself with a new momentum. By the time the great live wave returns, all is ready for its reception.
In the first essay on this subject it was roughly indicated, that the various worlds making up our planetary chain were not all of the same materiality. Putting the conception of spirit at the north pole of the circle and that of matter at the south pole, the worlds of the descending arc vary in materiality and spirituality, like those of the ascending arc. This variation must now be considered more attentively if the reader wishes to realise the whole processes of evolution more fully than before.
Besides the earth, which is at the lowest material point, there are only two other worlds of our chain which are visible to physical eyes,—the one behind and the one in advance of it. These two worlds, as a matter of fact, are Mars and Mercury,5—Mars being behind and Mercury in advance of us,—Mars in a state of entire obscuration now as regards the human live-wave, Mercury just beginning to prepare for its next human period.6
The two planets of our chain that are behind Mars, and the two that are in advance of Mercury, are not composed of an order of matter which telescopes can take cognisance of. Four out of the seven are thus of an ethereal nature, which people who can only conceive matter in its earthly form, will be inclined to call immaterial. But they are not really immaterial at all. They are simply a finer state of materiality than the Earth, but their finer state does not in any way defeat the uniformity of Nature’s design in regard to the methods and stages of their evolution. Within the scale of their subtle “invisibility,” the successive rounds and races of mankind pass through their stages of greater and less materiality just as on this Earth; but whoever would comprehend them, must comprehend this Earth first, and work out their delicate phenomena by correspondential inferences. Let us return therefore to the consideration of the great life-wave, in its aspects on this planet.
Just as the chain of worlds treated as a unity, has its north and south, its spiritual and material pole,—working from spirituality down through materiality, up to spirituality again,—so the rounds of mankind constitute a similar series which the chain of globes itself might be taken to symbolise. In the evolution of man in fact, on anyone plane as on all, there is a descending and an ascending arc; spirit, so to speak, transforming itself into matter, and matter resolving itself into spirit. The lowest or most material point in the cycle thus becomes the inverted apex of physical intelligence, which is the masked manifestation of spiritual intelligence. Each round of mankind evolved on the downward arc (as each race of each round if we descend to the smaller mirror of the cosmos) must thus be more physically intelligent than its predecessor, and each in the upward arc must be invested with a more refined form of mentality commingled with greater spiritual intuitiveness. In the first Round therefore we find man, a relatively ethereal being compared even on earth with the state he has now attained here, not intellectual but super-spiritual. Like the animal and vegetable shapes around him, he inhabits an immense but loosely organised body. In the second Round he is still gigantic and ethereal, but growing firmer and more condensed in body—a more physical man, but still less intelligent than spiritual. In the third Round he has developed a perfectly concrete and compacted body, at first the form rather of a giant ape than of a true man, but with intelligence coming more and more into the ascendant. In the last half of the third Round his gigantic stature decreases, his body improves in texture, and he begins to be a rational man. In the fourth Round intellect, now fully developed, achieves enormous progress. The dumb races with which the Round begins, acquire human speech as we understand it. The world teems with the results of intellectual activity and spiritual decline. At the half way point of the fourth Round here, the polar point of the whole seven-world period is passed. From this point onwards the spiritual ego begins its real struggle with body and mind to manifest its transcendental powers. In the fifth Round the struggle continues, but the transcendental faculties are largely developed, though the struggle between these on the one hand, with physical intellect and propensity is fiercer than ever, for the intellect of the fifth Round as well as its spirituality is an advance on that of fourth. In the sixth Round humanity attains a degree of perfection both of body and soul,—of intellect and spirituality, which ordinary mortals of the present epoch will not readily realise in their imaginations. The most supreme combinations of wisdom, goodness and transcendental enlightenment which the world has ever seen or thought of, will represent the ordinary type of manhood. Those faculties which now, in the rare efflorescence of a generation, enable some extraordinarily gifted persons to explore the mysteries of Nature and gather the knowledge of which some crumbs are now being offered (through these writings and in other ways) to the ordinary world, will then be the common apanage of all. As to what the seventh Round will be like, the most communicative occult teachers are solemnly silent. Mankind in the seventh Round will be something altogether too god-like for mankind in the fourth Round to forecast its attributes.
During the occupation of any planet by the human life-wave, each individual monad is inevitably incarnated many times. This has been partly explained already in Fragment No. V. If one existence only be passed by the monad in each of the branch races through which it must pass at least once, the total number accomplished during a Round period on one planet, would be 343,—the third power of 7. But as a matter of fact each monad is incarnated twice in each of the branch races, and also comes in, necessarily for some few extra incarnations as well. For reasons which is not easy for the outsider to divine, the possessors of occult knowledge are especially reluctant to give out numerical facts relating to cosmogony, though it is hard for the uninitiated to understand why these should be withheld. At present, for example, we shall not be able to state what is the actual duration, in years, of the Round period. But a concession which only those who have long been students of occultism by the old method will fully appreciate, has been made about the numbers with which we are immediately concerned; and this concession is valuable at all events, as it helps to elucidate an interesting fact connected with evolution, on the threshold of which we have now arrived. This fact is that while the earth, for example, is inhabited as at present, by fourth Round humanity, by the wave of human life, that is to say, on its fourth journey round the circle of the worlds, there may be present among us some few persons, few in relation to the total number, who, properly speaking, belong to the fifth Round. Now, in the sense of the term at present employed, it must not be supposed that by any miraculous process, any individual unit has actually travelled round the whole chain of worlds once more often than his compeers. Under the explanations just given as to the way the tide-wave of humanity progresses, it will be seen that this is impossible. Humanity has not yet paid its fifth visit even to the planet next in advance of our own. But individual monads may outstrip their companions as regards their individual development, and so become exactly as mankind generally will be when the fifth Round has been fully evolved. And this may be accomplished in two ways. A man born as an ordinary fourth Round man, may, by processes of occult training, convert himself into a man having all the attributes of a fifth Round man and so become what we may call an artificial fifth-Rounder. But independently of all exertions made by man in his present incarnation, a man may also be born a fifth-Rounder, though in the midst of fourth Round humanity, by virtue of the total number of his previous incarnations.
If x stands for the normal number of incarnations which in the course of nature a monad must go through during a round period on one planet, and y for the margin of extra incarnations into which by a strong desire for physical life he may force himself during such a period, then, as a matter of fact, 24-1/2 (x x y) may exceed 28x; that is to say, in 3-1/2 Rounds a monad may have accomplished as many incarnations as an ordinary monad would have accomplished in four complete Rounds. In less than 3-1/2 Rounds the result could not have been attained, so that it is only now that we have passed the half way point of evolution on this half way planet, that the fifth-Rounders are beginning to drop in.
It is not possible in the nature of things that a monad can do more than outstrip his companions by more than one Round. This consideration notwithstanding Buddha was a sixth Round man, but this fact has to do with a great mystery outside the limits of the present calculation. Enough for the moment to say that the evolution of a Buddha relates to something more than mere incarnations within the limits of one planetary chain.
Since large numbers of lives have been recognised in the above calculations as following one another in the successive incarnations of an individual monad, it is important here, with the view of averting misconceptions to point out that the periods of time over which these incarnations range are so great that vast intervals separate them, numerous as they are. As stated above, we cannot just now give the actual duration of the Round-periods. Nor indeed could any figures be quoted as indicating the duration of all Round-periods equally, for these vary in length within very wide limits. But here is a simple fact which has been definitely stated on the highest occult authority we are concerned with. The present race of humanity, the present 5th race of the 4th Round period, began to evolve about one million of years ago. Now it is not yet finished; but supposing that a million years had constituted the complete life of the race, how would it have been divided up for each individual monad? In a race there must be rather more than 100, and there can hardly be 120 incarnations for an individual monad. But say even there have been already 120 incarnations for monads in the present race already. And say that the average life of each incarnation was a century, even then we should only have 12,000 years out of the million spent in physical existence, against 988,000 years spent in the subjective sphere, or there would be an average of more than 8,000 years between each incarnation.7 Certainly these intervening periods are of very variable length, but they cannot contract to anything less than about 1,500 years, in any case,-leaving out of account of course the case of adepts who have placed themselves quite outside the operation of the ordinary law,—and 1,500 years if not a quite impossibly short, would be an extraordinarily brief interval between two rebirths.
No. 8: The Progress of Humanity.
The course of Nature provides, as the reader will now have seen, for the indefinite progress towards higher phases of existence of all human entities. But no less will it have been seen that by endowing these entities as they advance with ever-increasing faculties, and by constantly enlarging the scope of their activity nature also furnishes each human entity with more and more decisive opportunities of choosing between good and evil. In the earlier rounds of humanity this privilege of selection is not well developed, and responsibility of action is correspondingly incomplete. The earlier rounds of humanity in fact do not invest the Ego with spiritual responsibility at all in the large sense of the term which we are now approaching. The devachanic periods which follow each objective existence in turn dispose fully of its merits, demerits, and the most deplorable personality which the Ego during the first half of its evolution can possibly develop is merely dropped out of the account as regards the larger undertaking, while the erring personality itself pays its relatively brief penalty, and troubles nature no more. But the second half of the great evolutionary period is carried on on different principles. The phases of existence which are now coming into view, cannot be entered upon by the Ego without positive merits of its own appropriate to the new development in prospect; it is not enough that the now fully responsible and highly gifted being which man becomes, at the great turning point of his career should float idly on the stream of progress; he must begin to swim, if he wishes to push his way forward.
Debarred by the complexity of the subject from dealing with all its features simultaneously, our survey of nature has so far contemplated the seven rounds of human development, which constitute the whole planetary undertaking with which we are concerned as a continuous series throughout which it is the natural destiny of humanity in general to pass. But it will be remembered that humanity in the sixth round has been spoken of as so highly developed that the sublime faculties and attributes of the highest adeptships are the common apanage of all; while in the seventh round the race has almost emerged from humanity into divinity. Now every human being in this stage of development will still be identified by an uninterrupted connection, with all the personalities which have been strung upon that thread of life from the beginning of the great evolutionary process. Is it conceivable that the character of such personalities, is of no consequence in the long run, and that two god-like beings might stand side by side in the seventh round, developed, the one from a long series of blameless and serviceable existences, the other from an equally long series of evil and grovelling lines! That surely could not come to pass, and we have to ask now how do we find the congruities of nature preserved compatibly with the appointed evolution of humanity to the higher forms of existence which crown the edifice.
Just as childhood is irresponsible for its acts, the earlier races of humanity are irresponsible for theirs; but there comes the period of full growth, when the complete development of the faculties which enable the individual man to choose between good and evil, in the single life with which he is for the moment concerned, enable the continuous Ego also to make its final selection. That period, that enormous period for nature, is in no hurry to catch its creatures in a trap in such a matter as this,—is barely yet beginning, and a complete round period around the seven worlds will have to be gone through before it is over until the middle of the fifth period is passed on this Earth, the great question—to be or not to be for the future—is not irrevocably settled. We are coming now into the possession of the faculties which render man a fully responsible being, but we have yet to employ those faculties during the maturity of our Ego-hood in the manner which shall determine the vast consequences hereafter.
It is during the first half of the fifth round that the struggle principally takes place. Till then the ordinary course of life may be a good or a bad preparation for the struggle, but cannot fairly be described as the struggle itself. And now we have to examine the nature of the struggle so far merely spoken of as the selection between good and evil. That is in no way an inaccurate, but it is an incomplete, definition.
The ever-recurring and ever-threatened conflict between intellect and spirituality is the phenomenon to be now examined, the common place conceptions which these two words denote must of course be expanded to some extent before the occult conception is realised, for European habits of thinking are rather apt to set up in the mind an ignoble image of spirituality as an attribute of the character rather than of the mind itself,—a pale goody-goodiness hour of an attachment to religious ceremonial and of devout aspirations, no matter to what whimsical notions of Heaven and Divinity in which the “spiritually-minded” person may have been brought up. Spirituality in the occult sense has little or nothing to do with feeling devout; it has to do with the capacity of the mind for assimilating knowledge at the fountain head of knowledge itself,—of absolute knowledge,—instead of by the circuitous and laborious process of ratiocination.
The development of pure intellect, the ratiocinative faculty, has been the business of European nations for so long, and in this department of human progress they have achieved such magnificent triumphs that nothing in occult philosophy will be less acceptable to European thinkers at first, and while the ideas at stake are imperfectly grasped, than the first aspect of the occult theory concerning intellect and spirituality,—but this does not arise so much from the under-tendency of occult science to depreciate intellect as from the under-tendency of modern western speculation to depreciate spirituality. Broadly speaking, so far western philosophy has had no opportunity of appreciating spirituality; it has not been made acquainted with the range of the inner faculties of man; it has merely groped blindly in the direction of a belief that such inner faculties existed, and Kant himself, the greatest modern exponent of that idea, does little more than contend that there is such a faculty as intuition,—if we only find how to work with it.
The process of working with it is occult science in its highest aspect,—the cultivation of spirituality. The cultivation of mere power over the forces of nature, the investigation of some of her subtler secrets as regards the inner principles controlling physical results, is occult science in its lowest aspects, and into that lower region of its activity mere physical science may, or even must, gradually run up. But the acquisition by mere intellect,—physical science in excelsis—of privileges which are the proper apanages of spirituality, is one of the dangers of that struggle which decides the ultimate destiny of the human Ego. For there is one thing which intellectual processes do not help mankind to realise, and, that is the nature and supreme excellence of spiritual existence. On the contrary intellect arises out of physical causes,—the perfection of the physical brain,—and tends only to physical results,—the perfection of material welfare. Although as a concession to “weak brethren” and “religion,” on which it looks with good-humoured contempt, modern intellect does not condemn spirituality, it certainly treats the physical human life as the only serious business with which grave men, or even earnest philanthropists, can concern themselves. But obviously if spiritual existence, vivid subjective consciousness, really does go on for periods greater than the periods of intellectual physical existence in the ratio as we have seen in discerning the Devachanic condition, in the ratio of 82 to 1, at least then surely man’s subjective existence is more important than his physical existence, and intellect in error when all its efforts are bent on the amelioration of the physical existence.
These considerations show how the choice between good and evil,—which has to be made by the human Ego in the course of the great struggle between intellect and spirituality—is not a mere choice between ideas as plainly contrasted as wickedness and virtue. It is not so rough a question as that, whether a man be wicked or virtuous which must really at the final critical turning point decide whether he shall continue to live and develop into higher phases of existence or cease to live altogether. The truth of the matter (if it is not imprudent at this state of our progress to brush the surface of a new mystery) that the question, to be or not to be, is not settled by reference to the question whether a man be wicked or virtuous at all. It will plainly be seen eventually that there must be evil spirituality as well as good spirituality. So that the great question of continued existence turns altogether and of necessity on the question of spirituality as compared with physicality. The point is not so much “shall a man live, is he good enough to be permitted to live any longer,” as “can the men live any longer in the higher levels of existence into which humanity must at last evolve.” Has he qualified himself to live by the cultivation of the durable portion of his nature? If not he has got to the end of his tether. The destiny which must befall him is annihilation, not necessarily suffering in a conscious existence but that dissolution that must befall the soul which has wholly assimilated itself to matter—into the eighth sphere of pure matter that Ego must descend, which is unfitted to go on any further in the upward spiral path around the planetary chain.
This is the great meaning of the occult doctrine that, “to be immortal in good, one must identify oneself with God: to be immortal in evil with Satan. These are the two poles of the world of souls; between these two poles vegetate and die without remembrance the useless portion of mankind.” The enigma, like all occult formulas has a lesser application (fitting the microcosm as well as the macrocosm), and in its lesser significance refers to Devachan and Avitchi, and the blank destiny of colourless personalities; but in its more important bearing it relates to the final sorting out of humanity at the middle of the great fifth round, the annihilation of the utterly unspiritual Egos and the passage onward of the others to be immortal in good or immortal in evil. Precisely the same meaning attaches to “Revelations” (iii. 15-16) “I would thou wert cold or hot; so then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” Spirituality then is not devout aspiration; it is the highest kind of intellection, that which takes cognisance of the working of the nature by direct assimilation of the mind with her highest principles. The objection which physical intelligence will bring against this view is that the mind can cognise nothing except by observation of phenomena and reasoning thereon. That is the mistake: it can, and the existence of occult science is the highest proof thereof. But there are hints pointing in the direction of such proof all around us if we have but the patience to examine their true bearings. It is idle to say, in fact merely for one thing, of the phenomena of clairvoyance,—crude and imperfect as those have been which have pushed themselves on the attention of the world—that there are no other avenues to consciousness but those of the five senses. Certainly in the ordinary world the clairvoyant faculty is an exceedingly rare one, but indicates the existence in man of a potential faculty the nature of which, as inferred from its slightest manifestation, must obviously be capable in its highest development of leading to a direct assimilation of knowledge independently of observation. One of the most embarrassing difficulties that besets the present attempt to translate the Esoteric Doctrine into plain language, is due really to the fact that spiritual perceptiveness, apart from all ordinary processes by which knowledge is acquired, is a great and grand possibility of human nature. It is by that method in the regular course of occult training that adepts impart instruction to their pupils. They awaken the dormant sense in the pupil, and through this they imbue his mind with a knowledge that such and such a doctrine is the real truth. The whole scheme of evolution which the foregoing chapters have portrayed, infiltrates into the regular Chela’s mind by reason of the fact that he is made to see the processes taking place by clairvoyant vision. There are no words used in his instruction at all. And adepts themselves to whom the facts and processes of nature are familiar as our five fingers to us, find it difficult to explain in a treatise which they cannot illustrate for us, by producing mental pictures in our dormant sixth sense, the complete anatomy of the planetary system.
Certainly it is not to be expected that mankind as yet should be generally conscious of possessing the sixth sense, for the day of its activity has not yet come. This consideration may serve to introduce a highly important fact connected with evolution which has been passed over in silence till now. Each round in turn is devoted to his perfection in man of the corresponding principle in its numerical order to its preparation for assimilation with the next. The earlier rounds have been described as concerned with man in a shadowy loosely organised, unintelligent form. The fourth round in which we are now engaged, is the round in which the fourth principle, Will, Desire, is fully developed, and in which it is engaged in assimilating itself with the fifth principle. Reason, Intelligence in the fifth round, the completely developed Reason, Intellect or soul, in which the Ego then resides must assimilate itself to the sixth principle, spirituality, or give up the business of existence altogether.
All readers of Buddhist literature are familiar with the constant references made there to the Arhat’s union of his soul, with “God.” This, in other words, is the premature development of his sixth principle. He forces himself right up through all the obstacles which impede such an operation in the case of a fourth-round man, into that stage of evolution which awaits the rest of humanity,—or rather as much of humanity as may reach it in the ordinary course of nature,—in the latter part of the fifth round. And in doing this it will be observed he tides himself right over the great period of danger—the middle of the fifth round. That is the stupendous achievement of the adept as regards his own personal interests. He has reached the further shore of the sea in which o many of mankind will perish. He waits there in contentment which people cannot even realise without some glimmerings of spirituality—of the sixth sense themselves for the arrival there of his future companions. He does not wait in his physical body,—let me hasten to add to avoid misconstruction—but when at last privileged to resign this, in a spiritual condition which we have not yet endeavoured to describe.
[Note: the “Fragments of Occult Truth” conclude here. Following this were two further related articles: 1. a follow-up question on “Devachan” by Franz Hartmann with its answer by H.P.B., Theosophist, May, 1883; and 2. an Appendix to the Fragments called “Karma,” attributed to H.P.B., Theosophist, July, 1883. The “Fragments” were followed by Sinnett’s book Esoteric Buddhism, first published in July, 1883, in which much of the content of the Fragments was reproduced. Following its publication there was a series of important articles in the Theosophist under the title “Some Inquiries Suggested by Mr. Sinnett’s ‘Esoteric Buddhism,’” beginning in September, 1883. Following these, Sinnett revised and annotated his book Esoteric Buddhism, which was published as the 5th edition of that work. All the above represent the first unfolding of fragments of the Occult Science to the world under the banner of Theosophy.—Ed. UT]
3. The fine parable in Luke about Lazarus, the beggar, the rich man, and “Father Abraham,” would fall through, we are afraid, in the light of esoteric teachings. The only important truth therein contained is the statement about the “great gulf fixed” between Devachan, and Avichi, and the earth. See Luke 16:20-30.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
4. While the ordinary, common place sinner will reap the fruits of his evil deeds in a following reincarnation, the exceptional criminal, the—so to speak aristocrat of sin has avitchi in prospect. Most of our everyday transgressions being due rather to circumstances over which we have little or no control, as well us to the utter vanity of the request.—“Lead us not into temptation,” the Law of Retribution is there, with its finer sense of discriminative justice than ever found on earth, to act always unerringly in producing effects strictly adequating their real causes.
5. [Note: see The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 1, pp. 152 etc., “A Few Early Theosophical Misconceptions Concerning Planets, Rounds, and Man,” esp. page 163, for clarification on this topic.—Ed. UT]
6. It may be worth while here to remark for the benefit of people who may be disposed, from physical science reading, to object that Mercury is too near the Sun, and consequently too hot to be a suitable place of habitation for Man,—that in the official report of the Astronomical Department of the United States on the recent “Mount Whitney observations,” statements will be found that may check too confident criticisms of occult science along that line. The report in question was republished in Nature, and for the most part, within the last six months, in some of the Indian newspapers. The results of the Mount Whitney observations on selective absorption of solar rays showed, according to the official reporter, that it would no longer be impossible to suggest the conditions of an atmosphere which should render Mercury habitable, at the one extreme of the scale, and Saturn, at the other. We have no concern with Saturn at present, not if we had to explain on occult principles the habitability of Mercury, should we set to work with calculations about selective absorption. The fact is that ordinary science makes at once too much and too little of the Sun, as the store-house of force for the solar system,—too much in so far as the heat of planets has a great deal to do with another influence quite distinct from the Sun, an influence which will not be thoroughly understood till more is known than at present about the correlations of heat and magnetism, and of the magnetic, meteoric dust, with which inter-planetary space is pervaded. However it is enough,—to rebut any objection that might be raised against the explanations now in progress, from the point of view of loyal devotees of last year’s science,—to point out that such objections would be already out of date. Modern science is very progressive,—this is one of its greatest merits,—but it is not a meritorious habit with modern scientists to think, at each stage of its progress, that all conceptions incompatible with the stage reached, must necessarily be absurd. If the present essay had been written twelve months ago, and remember that as regards the information it contains it might have been written twelve milleniums ago,—we could have said nothing more than the sentence last written, had someone argued in reference to Mercury, that Mr. Proctor had summed up all that could be said on the question, and had given judgment against its habitability. As it happens in this matter, Mount Whitney has risen up to refute the Proctorian judgment,—refuting it by wrong arguments indeed, but by arguments that will be acceptable in the Proctorian arena.