These articles first appeared in the series H. P. Blavatsky: The Mystery in The Theosophical Path in 1930.
There is not a great religion or great philosophy of the past, or indeed of the present, which does not contain definite teachings with regard to the existence of superior worlds or spheres or planes, popularly called the 'heavens,' and usually spoken of as 'spiritual'; and of another series of spheres or worlds or planes usually supposed to be 'beneath' our own physical globe, and usually spoken of as the 'hells' or, in the Christian scheme, as 'Hell,' with various chambers or departments appropriate, each one, to some specific or particular type of postmortem penal purgation.
Dante's Divina Commedia illustrates this last idea, in the great Italian poet's hierarchical constitution of the Infernal Regions, as the Middle Ages and his own time conceived them to be, and also his hierarchical constitution of the superior regions or Heavens, as likewise they were supposed to be in medieval European times. But the different circles or concentric rings which Dante imagined, to the number of nine, or, indeed, of ten, in his heaven- and hell-worlds respectively, are of course but an echo, more or less distorted, of the teachings held by the ancient European peoples inhabiting the countries surrounding the Inland Sea.
Now, while the Theosophist does by no means accept the exoteric or popular teaching regarding the Heavens and the Hells as popularly taught and outlined in the various ancient religions or philosophies, he nevertheless realizes clearly that all such religious or philosophical doctrines are based on a fact of Universal Nature -- in other words, on the hierarchical structure or constitution of Universal Being. Obviously in any such hierarchical scheme, there must be 'high' as well as 'low' ranges or degrees or stages or steps or rungs on the Ladder of Life. It is the superior or more ethereal of these worlds which furnish the basis for the doctrinal teachings concerning the Heavens in ancient thought; and it is the inferior or more material degrees of Nature's hierarchical constitution, which form the basis for the ancient teachings regarding the various Hell-Worlds.
As H. P. Blavatsky shows so clearly in her great works, the Theosophist does not look upon these so-called Heaven-Worlds as places or states of eternal bliss; nor does he look upon the grosser and more material spheres and worlds of the hierarchical ladder of Nature as places or states of everlasting torment, or even of perpetual penal purgation. In the Theosophical philosophy, both the Heaven-Worlds and the Hell-Worlds, however long they may individually endure in time, are but transitory or passing 'events,' when we compare them with Eternal Duration: mere flashes of evolutionary vital activity, although, by contrast with man's own short span of existence on this his present physical earth, their periods of manifestation are in some cases exceedingly long; and how could it be otherwise?
Clear then away entirely from the mind two misleading ideas: first, that the Heavens are eternal in duration and are places or states of never-ending bliss; and secondly, that the Hells equivalently are places or states lasting throughout eternity, wherein the follies and failures and the so-called 'sins' and evil-doing of men on earth, bring eternal pain upon the perpetrators of them. Nothing of this kind does Theosophy teach. The so-called Heaven-Worlds and Hell-Worlds are places of purgation, it is true, but so, in fact, is our own physical earth a place of purgation. Purgation means cleansing, purifying, through and by the lessons of experience.
We have already briefly referred to what are called the Circulations of the Cosmos, and it is in this fact that lies the key to an understanding of the real nature of the invisible worlds. Each is as fully inhabited as is our own physical sphere, with all-various classes of animate entities, and with entities similar to what it is popular to call inanimate nature in our own physical sphere.
These animate beings and the Monads composing the inanimate nature of any sphere whatsoever in the Boundless All, are all units in the Rivers of Life -- drops, as it were, of the streaming flow of these Circulations of the Universe; and all entities and things, in the Theosophical philosophy, move in cyclical periods. The Evolutionary Wave -- which is but another way of saying the passage through time and space of these rivers of living beings -- begins in any one period of cosmic existence at and from the highest point of any Kosmic Hierarchy, and with the passage of time passes through all intermediate degrees, following the Circulations of the Universe down to the lowest or most material sphere of any such Hierarchy, remaining for a greater or lesser length of time in all these different stages or states or worlds or spheres or planes. Then, making the turn on such lowest point of the hierarchical Scale of Being, the River of Life, or the Evolutionary Wave, or that particular Circulation of the Cosmos, begins its ascent again towards the higher realms, steadily working 'upwards,' back to the original Source or Cause of all, carrying with it, however, all results in the shape of experience or evolved faculty or developed power, which in the Chain of Consequences have been gained on the Cosmic Pilgrimage.
There, then, for a vastly long period of time in these highest or spiritual realms the Evolutionary Wave ceases its pulsing life for a time. The entities and beings of all-various classes composing such wave, re-enter into the invisible mystery of the Divine, where they take their rest and repose, and assimilate and build into the fabric of their monadic essence, the fruitage of the evolutionary experience gained in the period of cosmic manifestation just spoken of.
When the cosmic clock again points its hand to the time for a new evolutionary period of manifestation, then this same cosmic wave composed of these incomputable hosts of beings, begins a new evolutionary course, but on planes and in spheres higher or superior to those of the preceding Life-Period through which the Evolutionary Wave had passed.
The above, in brief, gives the outlines of the flowing activities in Nature's hierarchical structure, and also shows us that this structure itself is builded on the very essence and substance of the evolving Life-Wave. They are as necessary in the Universe, these various worlds and spheres and planes, as is man's own particular constitution, inner and outer; in order that the evolving Monad -- or hosts of Monads -- may experience the phases of life belonging to the wider ranges of cosmic being. The Monad must enter those wider ranges of cosmic being, therein building for itself various temporary vehicles or temples in which it enshrines itself, and through and by which it learns. It is these various temporary vehicles or bodies which in their incomprehensible aggregate form the interblending Hierarchies of the Universe.
Probably no other phase of thought offers so easy an example of the manner in which religions and philosophies degenerate from the teachings promulgated by the original founder of each such system, than does the subject of the present chapter: the existence and nature of the Heaven-Worlds and Hell-Worlds. Later generations of men, willingly but foolishly embroidering the pure teachings of the original promulgator, have covered the body of those teachings with religious and philosophical decorations arising out of pious fancy and imagination, so that the higher spheres or planes of Nature's hierarchical structure have become in these religions and philosophies 'heavens' or Heaven-Worlds; and the more material worlds or spheres of Nature's hierarchical construction have become therein the 'hells' or the Hell-Worlds.
It is perfectly true, of course, that a man or a woman who lives a noble life on earth: one who has passed a long lifetime in high thinking and splendid striving for betterment: who has lived self-forgetfully, aspiring to ally himself or herself with the intuitions flowing into the brain-mind from the inner diviner Self, the god within each: it is true, we say, that the highest part of such an individual ascends to the superior worlds or planes of Nature after death has released the imprisoned spirit-soul. And equivalently the human being who has lived a selfish and degraded life, whose thoughts have been of matter and who has built up longings for things of matter, and who has thereby in actual fact built into the fabric of his being attractions and magnetic pulls to the material spheres, goes to those material spheres by the natural attraction of magnetic sympathy for them, when death releases his imbodied spirit-soul. But in the former case, as well as in the latter, the sojourn in these worlds or spheres, be they high or low, is temporary in every instance.
When the causes or energies released here on earth have run their respective courses in the realms to which the entity has departed, when the attractions have been satisfied or equilibrated, there then sets in, as it were, a magnetic repulsion for the spheres in which the entity thus temporarily finds itself. New factors come into play, factors inherent in the character of the evolving entity, which thus immediately begins another course in the direction to which the newly awakened impulses propel him, or magnetically draw him.
This teaching, it should be emphasized, never reduces man, or, indeed, any other entity whatsoever, to the condition of a hapless and helpless Consciousness-Center driven hither and thither, nolens volens, by the winds of circumstance or so-called 'Fate.' What governs the destiny of each and every entity, and governs it continuously from the beginning of any one period of cosmic manifestation to the end thereof, is the inherent consciousness and will of the monadic center itself. It alone creates its own destiny; it alone makes what all its future vehicles or bodies are to be. It alone carves its own pathway in time and space; it alone is responsible for what it alone has done, and will do, and does.
The Monad, with its enclosing veils or garments or bodies or vehicles -- call them what you will -- passes through the spheres not merely because it is native to all of them, and is therefore drawn to them by its own magnetic impulses, but because it itself wills to do so. Free Will, in other words, is an inherent attribute of itself, although this Free Will may be more or less imperfectly mirrored or reflected in any one of the living quasi-conscious vehicles or garments in which it enshrouds itself. Free Will is a godlike attribute, and Man, as well as every other entity or thing in the Boundless All, has it and has it in ever greater degree as he the more fully self-expresses his own higher parts; and he has it, moreover, because in the inmost of his inmost, in the core of the core of his being, he is a part, a spark as it were, a ray as it were, of the Cosmic Consciousness.
H. P. Blavatsky not infrequently points out in indirect fashion in her great works the real reason why teachings such as this do not meet with immediate acceptance on the part of averagely intelligent men. This reason is a simple one. Men simply won't believe, paradoxical as it may sound, that they themselves are what they are in their highest part, so great and so grand; they simply will not believe in their own spiritual and divine attributes, and not believing they reject. But all men are not blinded by miseducation and prejudice after this manner. The human race contains a relatively large number of men and women whose strong intuitional power enables them, at least partially, to see through the veils and clouds built up around their consciousness by prejudice and miseducation, and therefore to see or to glimpse the Glorious Vision. These latter are the ones whom we call 'born Theosophists,' for the Theosophist is by no means merely one who signs an application-blank entitling him to membership in the Theosophical Movement; nor one who has merely a more or less formal intellectual acquaintance with the Theosophical teachings; but the true Theosophist is, above everything else, one who has to some extent the inner vision, and having the inner vision, 'lives the life.'
It is to the Heaven-Worlds or to the Hell-Worlds respectively that so many passages in the ancient literatures refer regarding the 'paths' to the 'gods' or to the 'demons,' for naturally the literatures imbodying the teachings of these old religions or philosophies use the terms or phrases which were popular when such literatures were composed. Even their great authors naturally had to take account of the lack of capacity and the prejudices of the peoples among whom they came and speak a familiar tongue in order to be understood.
Thus in the Mahabharata, XII, 525, there is the following expression:
Two paths are known: one leads to the gods; and one leads to the fathers.
And also in the same work, XIII, 1082:
The sun is said to be the gate of the paths which lead to the gods; and the moon is said to be the gate of the paths which lead to the fathers.
The expressions 'gods' and 'fathers' are technical terms and belong to the religion of ancient Hindostan. 'Fathers' signifies what the Christian has much less clearly called 'departed spirits,' while the 'gods' refer to the same thing that the ancient Greeks and Romans meant when they spoke of the divinities, many of whom were 'men made perfect' -- divine beings who have long since passed through the human stage and have gained divinity, become at one with their own inner god.
The higher worlds or the 'Heaven-Worlds' are the regions of the gods; the lower worlds are the domains or regions of the 'demons' so-called -- in other words, of entities whose Karma or destiny has led them into spheres and planes more grossly material than even our earth.
The Ancient Mysteries, such as those of Greece, of course contained teachings identical with what we have been elucidating. The whole attempt in these ancient initiatory rites and ceremonies was the bringing of the human consciousness into a recognition of its inseparable oneness with Universal Nature, and of man's kinship with the gods. "The purpose and objective of all initiation," said Sallust, the Neo-Platonic philosopher, in chapter four of his book On the Gods and the World, "is to bring man into conscious realization of his inseparable unity with the order of the Universe and with the gods." Proclus, another Neo-Platonic philosopher, in his Commentary on the Timaeus of Plato, says in substance practically the same thing: "Who does not know that the Mysteries and all initiations have for their sole object the withdrawing of our souls from material and mortal life, in order to unite us with the gods and to dissipate the darkness in the soul by spreading the divine light of Truth therein."
These ancient Greek teachings and initiatory methods were identical with the systems practiced in the Far East. The phraseology of course differed in different countries, but the root-thought was always the same, and the objective was always the same. The pathway to the 'gods' or the pathway to the 'fathers,' of which the Hindu speaks, are but a manner of phrasing the activities of the evolving human soul, throwing it on the one hand into the pathway leading to the gods or the superior spheres; and on the other hand, into the pathway leading to the inferior realms. These pathways are the same as the Circulations of the Universe.
There is method in Nature's workings; there is no helter-skelter or haphazard operation in her at all. Everything is regular, orderly, consistent, and coherent with every other thing. Man himself, as a child of Nature, therefore is as much an inhabitant of these other and invisible realms, as he is of this earth, for he is here but as a pilgrim spending a day-night in this our sphere. And what has just been said of men applies equally to every other monadic center whatsoever, which is simply saying, to every other entity or thing.
These superior and inferior worlds, as we have already made clear, have their own inhabitants, their own countries, and, as we would say on earth, their own respective firmaments, in which move the celestial bodies appropriate thereto, even as all this occurs among us.
With no uncertain voice did the old Hermetic philosophy of Greece and Egypt teach that "What is above is as what is below; and what is below is as what is above"; for every part of Nature mirrors, as best it can, and after its own possibilities, all other aspects of Nature which are above such a part; and this mirroring is the stronger and the more definitely and clearly outlined, the nearer the invisible realm is to the world or sphere or plane into which it reflects or mirrors itself. The universe is one vast Organism, an Organic Entity. But Boundless Space, or rather the spaces of Boundless Space, contain many such Universes, a fact which even our modern scientists are beginning to have some intuition of when they speak of Island-Universes lying without the boundaries of our own Home-Universe, the Milky Way. Each one such universe is an organism within a greater organism; and the greater organism is contained in an organic entity still more vast; and so on indefinitely.
Paul of the Christians merely echoed the Wisdom of all the archaic ages when he said: "In IT we live and move and have our being." Each one such organic entity or organism is a Hierarchy in the sense which we have set forth.
What a wondrous field of thought this opens to the reflective mind! When man feels himself thus at-one with all that is: when he feels that the consciousness which he calls his own is but a god-spark, so to say, of some vaster consciousness in which he lives and moves and has his being, and that the very atoms which compose his body are builded of infinitesimal lives which infill those atoms and make them what they are: when he feels that he can pass along the pathways of his own spirit ever more and more inwards into a closer and straiter union with some self-conscious entity still more sublime than his own highest: then he feels not only a keen sense of his own high human dignity, but he looks out upon the universe around him, and his heart broadens and his mind expands, in sympathy, love, and benevolence towards all other entities and things. Vast ranges of consciousness open up for him as his own future; duty takes on a new and gloriously bright aspect; right becomes the law of his living, and ethics no longer are a more or less tiresome code of abstract teachings, but very living and vital maxims of conduct; for he instinctively knows that by living in harmony with Nature's Harmony, he becomes self-consciously ever more at-one with it.
Even as the infinitesimal lives which compose his body live in him and in him have their being, so he is one of the infinitesimal lives of some Entity of whose existence he can vaguely sense the reality; and he ever more aspires to become in ever larger degree more fully one with it.
The world as yet recognizes but slightly the debt that it owes to H. P. Blavatsky, but the time is most assuredly coming when these her teachings shall be developed by the greatest minds among men, who then will recognize, and recognizing will show, what her real work was, and how great she was in herself, to have been chosen for the dissemination of what we may truly call a body of teachings based on Cosmic Realities.
The advances that our Occidental world has made in mystical thought since H. P. Blavatsky passed on to her beloved 'Home' are amazing, and indeed greater than most Theosophists would have thought possible when she herself lived. Where there was one scholar in her day sincerely interested in the religious and philosophical thought of other ages, and of lands foreign to his own, there are now a score; and scarcely a day passes without some new and interesting and often scholarly work seeing the light, and introducing us to some often fascinatingly interesting work of philosophical or religious type, belonging to the thought-world of other peoples.
Probably men in all past European history have never been so deeply interested in questions of religious and philosophical import as they are today; and this is one of the best possible signs of the efflorescence of one phase of the human spirit, which we may call, in a sense, a divine hunger for more light. Not all the books so produced are such as a Theosophist could honestly recommend as being along Theosophical lines; and this is something which was only to be expected; but occasionally some work is printed which is of real value and deals more or less with the same subjects of mystical and philosophical import, to which this book is devoted.
Of course modern scholars, outside of what they may have imbibed from reading our Theosophical literature, have no real guiding light by which they may judge of what is true and what is distorted, in the thinking of olden times; and this fact accounts for the rather heterogeneous collection of speculations that translations of such ancient works are usually accompanied by.
A manner of presenting the Hierarchies of the Invisible Worlds may be found by the student in the various branches of the Brahmanical thought of Hindostan, such as the Vishnu-Purana, of which a translation in five volumes by Wilson exists in English. Here the Invisible Worlds are divided into fourteen lokas, of which seven belong to the superior class or range, and seven to the inferior. Another name for the seven inferior worlds is talas; and in this scheme of enumeration the earth is taken as the midway-point, and is reckoned as the first in the ascending scale, and also the first in the descending scale.
There are other methods of placing our own world in the hierarchical succession of steps or stages, but the enumeration that is almost always found is either seven of each range or class, or nine, or ten, the difference depending upon the manner of viewing the hierarchical succession, and therefore of enumerating them as ascending or descending.
There is one important point, however, which we should bear in mind: the Theosophist does not accept in any sense of the word the existence of the so-called 'heavens' or of the so-called 'hells' as the popular religions or popular mythology describe them in detail, although of course he most positively does accept the existence, in seven or nine or ten stages, of this hierarchical succession of worlds or planes or spheres. The Theosophical philosophy voices the Wisdom-Religion of Antiquity, which is in the guardianship of the great Sages and Seers, and this is equivalent to saying that the Theosophist looks upon the superior worlds not as 'heavens,' but as ranges of cosmic space, which to us are invisible, and which represent the ascending stages in the pathways of the Circulations of the Cosmos. This also is the same as saying the ascending evolutionary River of Life, or the ascending Evolutionary Wave.
Equivalently, the Theosophical philosophy of the archaic Wisdom-Religion knows of no 'hells' whatsoever in the popular sense of the word; but it does most certainly recognize the inferior or descending series of hierarchical worlds or planes or spheres, which are simply cosmic spaces invisible to us humans, and of a more material character than our own physical sphere.
Our meaning is plain. The 'hells' merely mean spheres or worlds or planes of a material character; and the 'heavens' merely means worlds or spheres or planes of a spiritual character. Consequently, any physically cosmical body falls under the designation of one of the worlds of a material character, and therefore is technically a 'Hell,' and our earth is one such; and herein is the secret meaning of the Tibetan word Myalba, which H. P. Blavatsky uses in her devotional work, The Voice of the Silence, as a name of our earth. A 'hell' is only a sphere of purgation, where the karmic consequences or web of destiny in which evolving souls have involved themselves, are worked out, precedent to a rest in the spiritual realms, or realms which we may call spiritual -- spheres where aspirations are fulfilled, high and lofty hopes are realized, and where the expanding native faculties of the soul find full and adequate fields of self-expression.
The visible world that we humans know somewhat of with the sense-apparatus that evolution has given us at the present time is merely one cross-section of the Boundless All. As the human host, or any other host indeed, passes on in its evolutionary course into what are now the invisible worlds, any one such invisible world which the human host then enters will be for the time being, its 'physical' cross-section of the Universe.
Our meaning should be very plain. What we call a physical world is merely that world in which we happen to be sojourning at the time and cognize through the sense-apparatus of the vehicles in which we then are. Consequently the adjective 'physical' applies mutatis mutandis with as much accuracy and right to the lowest of any such invisible worlds as it does to our present world.
When we pass out of this present physical sphere, it will become invisible to us; and the world into which we shall pass will be the visible world. This conception or rather fact of evolutionary experience lies behind the meaning of certain technical words used in the ancient world-religions and world-philosophies, such as are found in the Sanskrit, where the rupa- (or 'material') and the arupa- (or 'immaterial') worlds or planes are mentioned; and these words are to be construed strictly in accordance with what has just been said.
It may be of assistance to delineate the hierarchical structure or constitution of the Universe, by the following diagram. We employ for purposes of illustration the names given to the respective planes or spheres that are used for that purpose in Brahmanism.
[DIAGRAM HERE ON PAGE 131. IT IS DIFFICULT TO MAKE SENSE OF THIS TEXT WITHOUT THE DIAGRAM]
Other religions have their own respective names and respective methods of dividing the hierarchical structure.
Pararupa-lokas (Divine World)
Arupa-lokas (Spiritual spheres)
1. Satya -- (Brahma-) loka
Rupa-lokas (Material worlds)
Beginning from the bottom, the four lowest are called the rupa- or material worlds. These are the worlds of 'form' in ascending degrees of ethereality, that is to say, the higher they are the more ethereal they are. The Sanskrit word loka means 'place, 'locality,' or 'world'; whilst rupa means 'form.'
Now 'form' is here employed technically -- not in the strict, popular sense in which it is used in English. It signifies rather an atomic or monadic aggregation about the central and indwelling consciousness, thus forming a vehicle or body thereof. Arupa equivalently means 'formless,' but this word 'formless' is not to be taken so strictly as to mean that there is no form of any kind whatsoever; it merely means that the forms in the spiritual worlds as outlined in the above scheme are of a spiritual type or character, and of course far more ethereal than are the 'forms' of the rupa-lokas.
We might express the technical meaning better by saying that rupa-lokas are lokas or worlds where the body-form or vehicle is very definitely outlined in matter; whereas in the arupa-lokas, or the spiritual worlds or spheres or planes, the vehicle or body is to be conceived of rather as an enclosing sheath of energic substance. If we were to speak of the entities of these arupa-lokas as containing bodies of light, it would be close to the real idea, because even in modern physical science, light is substantial -- as Theosophy, and therefore the Ancient Wisdom, likewise teach it to be, although not a substance exactly of our material world.
Nevertheless, these arupa-lokas or the three worlds above the rupa-lokas, are as seemingly solid and substantial to their respective inhabitants as is our own material sphere Bhur-loka to us, and as are the other three rupa-lokas to their respective inhabitants. All this matter of solidity or substantiality is obviously merely a relative question. The three highest rupa-lokas to us inhabitants of the lowest or Bhur-loka are of course relatively immaterial to us, and so indeed they are. Even more so are the three higher or arupa or spiritual spheres much more immaterial or ethereal to us, though as substantial or seemingly solid to their inhabitants as is our physical sphere to us.
Note further that the seven lokas of this schematic diagram, which include the three of the arupa and the four of the rupa, include all the manifested universes -- that is to say, the universes subject to manifested imbodiment, counting from the spiritual down to the spheres of most material density, and therefore actually including -- though not sketched in this schematic diagram -- even what we Theosophists allude to as the 'Mystery of the Eighth Sphere.' Concerning this last or Eighth Sphere nothing further can be said in a published work except that it is a sphere even more material than is our earth, and may perhaps be best and most briefly described as the sphere of 'absolute' matter, in other words it is the lowest possible stage or step of our own Home-Hierarchy, in which matter has reached its ultimate in density and physical accretion.
Beneath this last stage begins a new Hierarchy; just as on the higher stage, above our own present Home-Hierarchy (could we consciously ascend along the various stages or degrees or rungs of the Ladder of Life), we should pierce through the laya-center or 'singular point' there existing into the lowest possible stage of the next superior Hierarchy.
As regards the 'triangle in radiation' which the schematic diagram also presents, which we have called the Pararupa-lokas, this represents in symbolic form the aggregative summit or top of the Ladder of our own Home-Hierarchy, and is to us Children of this Hierarchy our Divine World.
This Divine World is not only to be considered as the divine Seed whence flow forth in the cosmic Periods of Manifestation the seven grades or steps below it which the diagram shows, but it is also the Goal into which all shall again be ultimately resolved when such a hierarchical or cosmic Period of Manifestation shall have concluded its course of evolution in self-expression.
We now propose to set forth with more definiteness the real characteristic and nature of our physical sphere, which, in a larger sense perhaps than the Brahmanical system employs, Theosophy would place in the lowest or seventh degree or stage of the above scheme, the Bhur-loka, and would include therein not only our earth and our solar system, but our entire physical Home-Universe, all within the physical encircling bounds of the Milky Way.
The first conception we should grasp, absolutely essential to a correct understanding of our theme, is the fact that the Universal Life-Consciousness-Substance which pervades everything and which is at the back of and 'above' all of our own Home-Universe, manifests in every minutest part or detail of that Home-Universe. Such manifestation naturally takes the form, speaking in a general way, of its source. In other words, it takes the form of Life manifesting as individual Lives. Therefore, every minutest point -- for a 'point of consciousness' is even smaller than the infinitesimal figure which chemists call an atom -- every minutest point of the Kosmic Being is a monadic Center or Life.
As H. P. Blavatsky sets the matter forth in her own inimitable style, in her The Secret Doctrine (I, 49):
Esoteric philosophy teaches that everything lives and is conscious, but not that all life and consciousness are similar to those of human or even animal beings. Life we look upon as "the one form of existence," manifesting in what is called matter; or, as in man, what, incorrectly separating them, we name Spirit, Soul, and Matter. Matter is the vehicle for the manifestation of soul on this plane of existence, and soul is the vehicle on a higher plane for the manifestation of spirit, and these three are a trinity synthesized by Life, which pervades them all. The idea of universal life is one of those ancient conceptions which are returning to the human mind in this century, as a consequence of its liberation from anthropomorphic theology. Science, it is true, contents itself with tracing or postulating the signs of universal life, and has not yet been bold enough even to whisper "Anima Mundi!"
This limitation of scientific thinking was expressed with the voice of authority by the wiseacres of science in H. P. Blavatsky's day, but as the great Florentine Galileo Galilei is reported to have said, "Nevertheless it moves." Science, too, is moving ahead rapidly; and today we have the brightest luminaries in their scientific writings not merely hesitatingly pointing with uncertain finger to their acceptance of a cosmic life-energy behind all phenomena, but in some cases these luminaries are courageous enough and intuitive enough absolutely and openly to proclaim it.
We have given in another chapter the statement of Professor Eddington to the effect that life and consciousness are at the back of matter and energy, and this is equivalent to saying that everything that is, is a Life. Hence all the visible worlds existing in our visible sphere are but huge agglomerates of living entities or lives in all-various degrees of evolutionary development. Not only are they all -- suns, planets, comets, nebulae, meteors, and what not -- each one of them based in even its physical being on such aggregates of Lives, infinitesimal and other, but on some of these celestial bodies at least there are also, as there are on our earth, hosts of living entities possessing self-conscious mind and will, such as we human beings on this earth have.
It is these Lives that, driven or rather urged by their self-evolved karmic potentiality behind them, follow the various pathways of karmic destiny, and eventuate in this or in that or in some other form or self-expression of the invisible host behind.
As H. P. Blavatsky again says so very truly in The Secret Doctrine (I, 260-61):
Science teaches us that the living as well as the dead organisms of both man and animal are swarming with bacteria of a hundred various kinds; that from without we are threatened with the invasion of microbes with every breath we draw, and from within by leucomaines, aerobes, anaerobes, and what not. But Science never yet went so far as to assert with the occult doctrine that our bodies, as well as those of animals, plants, and stones, are themselves altogether built up of such beings; which, except larger species, no microscope can detect. So far, as regards the purely animal and material portion of man, Science is on its way to discoveries that will go far towards corroborating this theory. Chemistry and physiology are the two great magicians of the future, who are destined to open the eyes of mankind to the great physical truths. With every day, the identity between the animal and physical man, between the plant and man, and even between the reptile and its nest, the rock, and man -- is more and more clearly shown. The physical and chemical constituents of all being found to be identical, chemical science may well say that there is no difference between the matter which composes the ox and that which forms man. But the Occult doctrine is far more explicit. It says: Not only the chemical compounds are the same, but the same infinitesimal invisible lives compose the atoms of the bodies of the mountain and the daisy, of man and the ant, of the elephant, and of the tree which shelters him from the sun. Each particle -- whether you call it organic or inorganic -- is a life. Every atom and molecule in the Universe is both life-giving and death-giving to that form, inasmuch as it builds by aggregation universes and the ephemeral vehicles ready to receive the transmigrating soul, and as eternally destroys and changes the forms and expels those souls from their temporary abodes. It creates and kills; it is self-generating and self-destroying; it brings into being, and annihilates, that mystery of mysteries -- the living body of man, animal, or plant, every second in time and space; and it generates equally life and death, beauty and ugliness, good and bad, and even the agreeable and disagreeable, the beneficent and maleficent sensations. It is that mysterious LIFE, represented collectively by countless myriads of lives . . .
Everything, no matter how small, no matter how great, is an evolving Life, and hence, as every one of these visible bodies in the Universe around us is but an aggregate of such lives, we have here a clue to the real meaning of many of the ancient philosophers who spoke of the suns and stars as being living entities, or what the ancient Greeks called 'ensouled entities' [[Greek characters]], Zoa, from which comes the word 'Zodiac,' used even in our current astronomical books, and meaning the circle of the 'Living Ones'; and which the Latin philosophers called Animals -- a word of course which they used with the original Latin meaning of animate entities, and not in the restricted meaning of modern European speech, signifying only the beasts.
Even some of the greatest of the early Christian Fathers taught exactly the same thing -- that the suns and stars were 'living beings,' for such indeed is the explicit teaching of the great Greek theologian Origen, as well, doubtless, as of Clement, another one of the great Christian Fathers, and, like Origen, belonging to the Alexandrian School of Christian theology. Of course every student of Christian ecclesiastical history knows that many of the doctrines of Origen were officially condemned and anathematized, first at the Home-Synod convoked by the Patriarch Mennas, under authority of the Imperial Rescript issued by the Emperor Justinian I, a Synod held about the year 538; and Origen's opinions were again condemned at the Fifth General or Ecumenical Council held in 553, also by order of the Emperor Justinian. But this condemnation and anathematization was engineered very largely by the secular powers of the time in response to the urgings of a powerful body of the then existing priesthood, and was an act which, while it changed the theology of the Christian Church in succeeding centuries to a large degree, took place over the very vigorous protest and complaints of an almost equally powerful body of the then existing Christian priesthood and community.
For the sake of their intrinsic interest, a few passages from Origen are quoted here. In his work on First Principles, chapter vii, section 2, he speaks as follows:
Not only may the stars be subject to sin, but they are actually not free from the contagion of it;
and in section 3, he says:
And as we notice that the stars move with such order and regularity that these movements never at any time seem to be subject to derangement, would it not be the height of stupidity to say that so consistent and orderly an observing of method and plan could be carried out or accomplished by beings without reason . . . Yet as the stars are living and rational beings, unquestionably there will appear among them both advance and retrogression.
Again Origen observes in his tract Against Celsus, chapter xi:
As we are persuaded that the sun himself and the moon and the stars also pray to the supreme deity through his Only-begotten Son, we think it improper to pray to those beings who themselves offer up prayers.
And again in the same tract Against Celsus, chapter lxvii, Origen remarks once more, quite after the Christian manner of his time:
For we sing hymns to the Most High only and to his Only-begotten who is the logos and also God; we praise God and his only-begotten, as also do the sun, the moon, the stars, and all the multitude of the heavenly host.
Furthermore, in order to show the early Christian view about the innate vitality working in and through the celestial bodies as vehicles of that vitality, we find in the Letter to Avitus, of the Latin Father Jerome, the following passage which repeats Origen's teachings:
Respecting the heavenly bodies, we should notice that the soul of the sun, or whatever else it ought to be called, did not begin to exist when the world was created, but before that it entered into that shining and luminous body. We should hold similar views regarding the moon and the stars.
It is also interesting to note that despite the condemnation of the views of Origen and his School by the two Constantinopolitan Councils, those views prevailed more or less in secret throughout the Christian community, and lasted until a very late period of Christian history, indeed even into the Middle Ages. The ecclesiastical writers of the Dark and Medieval periods have many passages with reference to the sun and stars which, historically speaking, are understandable only on the supposition that they are more or less distorted reflections of the views of Origen and his School.
The exact meaning of this old doctrine of the celestial bodies being animate entities, each one having its past and its present and future as such an animate being, was very largely lost even at the time of the Councils of Constantinople. The idea was not that the stars and other shining celestial bodies were in their physical forms 'angels' or 'archangels,' but that each one was the 'dwelling' or vehicle or channel of expression of some 'angelic' entity behind it. Certainly this conception approaches far closer to the Wisdom-Religion of the archaic ages, today called Theosophy, than might appear on first thought, although our own views are founded on sound philosophical principles and scientific facts of invisible Nature.
But all such doctrines as those of Origen were already largely degenerated in the time when Origen and his School enunciated them to the Christian Community, and were, furthermore, more or less distorted from their original Pagan meaning by the theological mental bias of the men who taught them. It is to the Ancients themselves that we must turn, if we wish to gain a clearer and more definite outline of the original thought. And it may be said in passing that it is from Plato in especial, and from Pythagoras and his School, that are derived these doctrines which certain ones of the Christian Fathers took over and modified for their own special purposes.
The truth of the whole matter is this: each and every celestial body, whether it be nebula, comet, sun, or star, or hard rocky planet like our own earth-sphere, is a focus or psycho-electric lens, through which pour the energies and powers and substances passing into it from the invisible spheres, after the manner that we have before hinted at. It is through the laya-centers, or through Sir James Jeans' 'singular points,' that these Circulations of the Cosmos take place, and each such sphere, whether star or planet, comet or nebula, has at its heart such a laya-center or channel of communication, through which pass in both directions, upwards and downwards, the forces and powers and substances just spoken of.
Furthermore, these Circulations pass not merely to higher realms, that is to say upwards and downwards so far as any physical sphere in the superior worlds is concerned, but also pass upwards and downwards so far as the inferior but also invisible worlds or planes are concerned.
Turning for a few moments to our physical science, we have the most progressive of its luminaries setting forth a body of speculations regarding the atom and the characteristics of atomic physics which lends itself in a most admirable way in support of the Theosophical teachings regarding the same things.
When material substance existing in and of the atom, the ultimate material constituent -- and we here allude of course to the electronic theory -- is said to be naught but electric charges, respectively of positive and negative type, which by their interactions produce the physical universe surrounding us, we enter at once upon the invisible realms, for these invisible realms are causes of the energies working in and behind and through the atomic sphere or body or garment or veil -- call it by what name you like -- which forms the material world.
Nor is this all, for there are brilliant minds today which are beginning to speak of certain still more subtil and particular points of material substance, which they call photons, which apparently either exist in the core of the electron and thus compose the electronic activity itself, or are connected with the protonic or central nucleus of the atom.
The future will doubtless show more clearly what actually does lie behind and within the electron, and how and why the latter, in connection with the protonic nucleus of the atom, produces the phenomena of radiation. Other scientists also of a philosophical type are now beginning to talk of 'emergence,' at least in biology; that is to say that behind or within living entities in particular, and doubtless in the so-called inanimate sphere of matter, there are factors which 'emerge' through the rigidly governed physical activities of the material world. We may mention Professor Lloyd Morgan, a British scientist, in this connection, and other scientists who belong to his school.
All these ideas or speculations or theories or hypotheses are like the straws which show which way the wind is blowing: the new spirit which has entered into the minds of scientific men, driving old ideas like chaff before it; and all these theories of course are directly related to and depend upon the characteristics of the physical world which surrounds us.
These theories come to us from two directions: from a study of the atomic structure in the microcosmic sphere, and from a similarly advancing study, on a macrocosmic scale, of the worlds or spheres of physical space.
One of the most beautiful as well as profound and interesting teachings of the Ancient Wisdom regarding the visible worlds -- an observation which applies with equal force to the invisible -- is that each such visible world is not merely a focus of the subtil and ethereal essences and energies pouring through it, but exists as an entity within the life-sphere, or within the encompassing life, of an Entity still more vast; so that, as Paul of the Christians truly said with reference to Man, each such visible globe "lives, moves, and has its being" in some other Entity of still greater magnitude.
Who can say where and when limits should be placed to this view? In natural reality there are no limits in any direction. But there are indeed limits or frontiers in a secondary sense, in view of the hierarchical structure or constitution of the Universe. Each such Hierarchy of course has its beginning and has its end, its highest and its lowest points, and these are the frontiers of the limits for itself. But they are not real limits in the last analysis, because both the beginning and the end of any Hierarchy may be considered the point of junction or union with a superior or an inferior Hierarchy, respectively, thus continuing in both directions the endless Ladder of Life.
There is another and still more fascinating manner of looking at this endless chain or concatenation of entities and things: the continuation of the hierarchical structure through and into the invisible realms, or, in other words, continuation extending ever more inwards; and indeed this is the point of prime importance for anyone to understand who wishes to get some comprehensive view of what is meant by the words, "the hierarchical structure or constitution of the Universe."
Nature, in the sense of the Boundless All, is per se frontierless and limitless in all directions; and through the All extends the illimitable network or web of Cosmic Being. It is these Hierarchies which form the inner constitution of the Universe, and each such Hierarchy may be figurated to the mind as an organic entity or organ of the Cosmic Organism. In a very similar manner man's inner constitution is builded -- for it is indeed but a reflection or mirroring as the ancient Hermetists would have put it of the constitution of the Universe. Just as man in all the stages or degrees of his inner constitution (in other words, in all his principles) is builded up of vast hosts of Lives in which he is the monadic and inspiring entity and through which he works and in which he lives and moves and has his being, precisely so is the Universe constructed.
All these Hierarchies are builded up of incomputably numerous multitudes or hosts of Lives, and through them all and in them all lives and works and has its being what the ancient Pythagoreans called the Cosmic Monad. Remember, however, that these Cosmic Monads are as numerous in Boundless Infinitude as are the countless hosts of minor beings in which they live. Each one such minor entity, it matters not at all what its evolutionary stage may be, has its own monadic center, and therefore is a learning and evolving entity.
The general principle of cosmic cooperation, to use familiar words, which is so readily deductible from these observations, is one of the phases of the doctrine of Universal Brotherhood, for this interlocking and interblending scheme extends everywhere, in the invisible worlds as well as in the worlds which are visible. Another phase of this doctrine is that all things whatsoever, great or small, are rooted in the same Cosmic Source, whence they proceeded in the beginning of the primordial periods of World-Evolution, and towards which they are journeying back.
Every visible world is therefore the seat of a most marvelous complexity and activity of Life -- or more accurately, of Lives. It is in these worlds, invisible or visible, that these hosts of evolving entities find their fields of self-expression. Our own earth is a very good example, with its various families of offspringing children, which we call the various kingdoms: Mineral, Vegetable, Animal, and Human, as well as the three Elemental Kingdoms which precede the Mineral. All these entities are evolving together, albeit in different evolutionary grades.
Here we see the wide basis that morals have in the hierarchical construction of Nature, for morals, however men may view them, or however they may be delineated in human philosophical outline, are based on this hierarchical structure of Nature itself. No man can live unto himself alone. He must, whether he will or whether he nill, live unto others as well. The single human being is but one individual droplet in the vast and onrushing River of Evolving Entities. It is when man realizes his essential oneness with spiritual Nature, and his inseparable links with the visible and the intermediate spheres, that he begins to understand his duties to all other beings, and begins truly to live, and to extend the range of his sympathies to all that is. Thereby he comes into harmonious relationship with all that is, and instead of opposing and battling with other entities and things, he becomes helpful, and obtains a growing understanding of them, because in proportion as he understands himself, he understands other entities also.