The Law of Analogy
Lucifer, September, 1893
Behold how like the moon reflected in the tranquil waves, Alaya is reflected by the small and by the great, is mirrored in the tiniest atoms, yet fails to reach the heart of all.—The Voice of tile Silence.
The Law of Analogy, or as it is sometimes called the Law of Correspondence, is the fundamental idea in the Esoteric Philosophy, and its right application is the key-note to all Esoteric study. It is by means of this law that we can proceed from the known to the unknown, and thus widen the circle of our knowledge. The same changeless laws of evolution and involution are at work in an atom, a man, a world, a universe; and if we rightly understood the meaning of one moment of our lives, we should understand the whole. Thus the saying of Emerson, “There is no great and no small in the Soul that maketh all,” may be applied both to time and space. As applied to time it suggests that all cycles—Manvantaras, Kalpas, Rounds, Races, Lives—are formed essentially on the same plan. There is a period of irresponsible innocence, a fall into matter, and a conscious rise towards spiritual things. As applied to space it tells us that atoms, men, globes, are in their inward nature essentially the same; they have their seven Principles, they have their Brahm, Vishnu and Shiva, they have each a world of entities over which they preside. Here is indeed a clue to the meaning of Universal Brotherhood, but something more than brain intellect is needed to comprehend it, and that is why it remains for so many of us unrealized and beyond our reach.
Alas, alas, that all men should possess Alaya, be one with the great Soul, and that possessing it Alaya should so little avail them!
Yet the unity that underlies diversity in Nature and the common origin of all created things have been proclaimed over and over again by many of our poets and intuitional writers. Tennyson says:
Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies:—
Hold you here root and all in my hand
Little flower—but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.
Walt Whitman writes:
A child said, What is the grass? bringing it to nae in full hands,
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he.
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.
Mrs. Browning writes:
There’s not a flower of spring
That dies ere June, but vaunts itself allied
By issue and symbol, by significance,
And correspondence—to that spirit world
Outside the limits of our space and time.
Whereto we are bound.
Earth’s crammed with Heaven
And every single bush afire with God,
But only those who see take off their shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.
A thing of beaut y is a joy for ever.
Its loveliness increases, it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A flower quiet for us; and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
And so one might go on indefinitely did time and space permit, for the mission of the poet is to point out to those who see it less clearly than himself, the spiritual meaning of temporal things, the ideal which underlies what most people call the real. The poets are the interpreters of human nature and of life, so also are the best novelists from another point of view. For some minds a study of the best poets and novelists, and also of writers such as Emerson, Ruskin, Olive Schreiner. James Hinton, who perceive truth intuitionally, is very helpful to the study of Theosophy. Others have little faculty for learning in this way, and they strive to reach the truths of Theosophy by the road of Natural Science. Every student has his own method of working, and it would be invidious to make comparisons, but it must not be forgotten that whatever method is taken. the key to progress is the Law of Analogy. From what is seen, we must continually infer what is unseen; this can only be done by patient thought and meditation; the real inner meaning of any fact or of any proverb is never gathered without concentrating the mind on it for a considerable time.
It goes without saying that the same method must be used in studying theosophic literature. This method may be illustrated as follows. The Stanzas of the first volume of The Secret Doctrine give an outline of the method of evolution, and it is stated that this formula:
May be applied to the evolution of our tiny earth, to that of the chain of planets of which our earth forms one, to the solar universe which that chain belongs, and so on in an ascending scale till the brain reels and is exhausted in the effort.
It follows of course by the Law of Analogy that the same formula may be applied in a descending scale as well as in an ascending scale. Man, the Microcosm, follows in his evolution the same laws as the Universe, the Macrocosm, and again the entities which compose the nature of man are subject to the same laws. “As above, so below” as the Hermetic axiom says. Now Brahma has under his sway a number of human Egos which reincarnate over and over again throughout the Manvantara, until the time comes for them one by one to cease reincarnating and aid in rescuing their brothers from what theBhagavad Gita calls “this ocean of reincarnation and death.” The Egos who lead the way, say in the words of Christ: “And I when I am lifted up from the earth will draw all men unto me.” Now to apply the Law of Analogy to the case in hand , put the human Ego for Brahma, a man;s life for the Manvantara, the entities which compose the nature of man for the Egos, and see what you will get.
Again since the seven Principles of man correspond to the seven Globes of our Planetary Chain, and since only one of these principles is on the material plane, it follows that only one of the Globes (our Earth), is on the material plane. Thus Mars and Mercury cannot, as has sometimes been supposed, belong to our Planetary Chain, because they are on the same plane as our Earth and visible to us. And since every “body” has six other principles, the bodies Mars and Mercury have each six other principles, that is to say, each of them belongs to a Planetary Chain of seven Globes, and each of them is the only one visible to us of their respective chains.
The Proem to The Secret Doctrine is full of the Law of Analogy or of suggestions as to how it may be applied. Take the second of the three “fundamental propositions” given in the Proem—the universality of the Law of Ebb and Flow. It is there shown that reincarnation is only one instance of this law, which is universal in nature, that progress is always by Flux and Reflux, the wave rising each time to a higher point, so that what seems a going back is only a preparation for a new advance. The expressions, The Great Breath, The Germ in the Root, are applications of the Law of Analogy, as are also all the symbols used in theosophic literature. Spiritual truths are of such a nature that they cannot be expressed in our language, and they can be expressed more fully by symbols than by any written words. When persons have studied the Law of Correspondence, they are able to a greater or less extent to read the meaning of symbols, and also to understand the meaning of parables and mythical writings. The ignorance of the Western nations with regard to symbolic writings has led to the general misunderstanding which has prevailed with regard to the teachings of Jesus, which are now beginning to be interpreted in their true light.
Now how are we to acquire the faculty of applying the Law of Correspondence, or, which is the same thing, of discerning the real meaning, which lies beneath the outward form of any object, saying or symbol? In Yoga Aphorisms (p. 34), it is said: “By rendering the operation of fixed attention, contemplation and meditation, natural and easy, an accurate discerning power is developed”; and W.Q. Judge adds: “This discerning power is a distinct faculty which this practice alone develops, and is not possessed by ordinary persons who have not pursued concentration.” Jasper Niemand says in Letters that have Helped Me(p. 51): “The mystic obtains knowledge about any object of which he thinks constantly in fixed contemplation.” The same truth is expressed by the writers of the Advaita School of Philosophy, who say that spiritual knowledge, a true perception of what is real and what is unreal, is gained by Shravana (hearing) and Manana (meditation). It is certain that the fac1tlty of discernment can be developed by those who will take the trouble. Like every other faculty it develops by practice. It is a question of letting the mind remain long enough fixed on one idea to reach the real knowledge which lies behind that idea. And the principle is the same whether you are pondering over some fact in your life, a theosophic symbol, or a sentence out of a book. Whatever the subject in hand may be, it is always by patient concentration that the hidden meaning may be found. The effort to seize the truth in time takes effect.
In trying to grasp truths with our intuition, we are like infants who are learning to grasp surrounding objects with their hands. They make many efforts and fail. They do not know how to use their fingers, and they have not learned to measure the distance of objects. They cannot at first even touch an object close to them which they wish to examine. But by constantly trying, they learn first to touch a given object, then to grasp it firmly, then to examine it in detail. It never occurs to them to leave off trying because they cannot at first touch the objects they see. An infant idiot would do that, but not a normal baby. The ordinary baby is determined to develop its faculties, and persistently goes on doing so at every available opportunity. How is it that a man has less concentration of mind than an average healthy baby?
The fact is clear that if we want to gain some knowledge of the Law of Correspondence on which the Esoteric Philosophy rests, it will have to be gained by patient effort. There are many directions which this effort may take. One plan it to take a short passage from some theosophic book—which is not understood—and ponder over it until the meaning becomes clear; or ponder over it for a certain time, and even if you see no light at the time, you will have set your sub-conscious mind to work, and on reading the passage later on you will find you understand it better. Writing down one’s train of thought is often a help to thinking out a subject; concentration of mind, and the art of applying the Law of Analogy can thus be practices at the same time.
For example, an interesting paper might be written on the story in the Bible of the building of Solomon’s Temple, tracing out the analogies in detail. For the Temple represents the personality of man, in which he dwells when it is made ready for him, the God living in the earthly tabernacle, which has taken long years in building, the materials for which have been brought from many distant places, and which have been put together noiselessly until the whole is completed. Or one might take the description of post mortem states in Death—and After? and try what could be deduced from this description as to the destiny of man as a Race. For as a man when he has done with his body throws it off at death, so will the human race of this Manvantara throw off matter when it is no longer needed.
The Science of Astrology is one vast application of the Law of Analogy. And when it is said that “our destiny is written in the stars,” it is meant that there are analogies to be traced out between the position and movements of the heavenly bodies on the one hand, and the events in the life of a single man or of the race on the other.
Exactly the same is true of the Science of Alchemy. The alchemical books, when rightly understood, explain the nature and destiny of man. But they cannot be rightly understood by anyone who has not learned how to apply the Law of Correspondence. This amounts to saying that it is only by true spiritual knowledge that a man can understand Astrology or Alchemy in their right light. To try to study them without the spiritual knowledge which includes them and a great deal more, would be like trying to study the nature of man without recognizing the omnipresence of Atma. As to how this spiritual knowledge may be acquired, The Secret Doctrine, says (i. 167):
Lead the life necessary for the acquisition of such knowledge, and wisdom will come w you naturally. Whenever you are able to attune your consciousness to any of the seven chords of Universal Consciousness, those chords that run along the sounding board of Kosmos, vibrating from one eternity to another; when you have studied thoroughly the music of the spheres—then only will you become quite free to share your knowledge with those with whom it is safe to do so.
And again (i. 199):
These seven planes of nature correspond to the seven states of consciousness in man. It remains with him to attune the three higher states in himself to the three higher planes in Kosmos. But before he can attempt to attune, he must awaken the three “seats” to life and activity. And how many are capable of bringing themselves to even a superficial comprehensoin of Atma-Vidya?
It has been explained above that persons acquire by meditation the power of discerning the inner meaning which lies beneath the outer form of any object, that is to say, the power of applying the Law of Analogy. The Secret Doctrine says (i. 263):
The knowledge of these primacy causes and of the ultimate essence of every element, of its lives, their functions, properties and conditions of change—constitutes the basis of magic.
But one cannot study these things at once, the only way it so begin with some single aspect of the subject, towards which one feels attracted, and work out the analogies connected with that. Some point must be taken to start from, and then passages in theosophic literature can be sought for which throw light on that special point. Occult Science deals with causes, but one cannot study all these causes at once. Each student must select his starting point for himself, and if there is any aspect of the question with which he is, in some degree, familiar, it is of course best to begin with that. It is said by Eliphas Lévi that the Smaragdine Tablet of Hermes contains the whole of magic in a single page, and one way of beginning is to study it, and try to discover some of its seven meanings. One of these meanings is partly given in The Secret Doctrine. Another way is to look out passages in theosophic books, particularly The Secret Doctrine and Isis Unveiled, which bear on the potency and meaning of sound; this will lead to a study of the meaning of vibration.
The Secret Doctrine says (i. 93):
To pronounce a word is to evoke a thought and make it present; the magnetic potency of the human speech is the commencement of every manifestation in the Occult World.
The second and third objects of the Theosophical Society are both methods of applying the Law of Analogy. In the second method it is applied by comparing different religions, etc., one with another, and tracing out the fundamental truths which are common to them all. For in religions as well as in the material Universe we have always unity underlying diversity; it is only the outer form which differs, the inner meaning is always the same. Germs of essential truth are to be found in the ancient myths of every nation. This is naturally the case, because these myths are all products of the human mind, and the human mind of every nation has its origin in Cosmic Ideation, the Universal World Soul. The second object calls our attention particularly to the ancient myths of Eastern nations, but it is shown in Isis Unveiled and in The Secret Doctrine that there is the same hidden meaning to be found in all the ancient mythical writings—for example in those of Egypt, Greece and Scandinavia. The Grecian myth of Prometheus, who stole fire from Heaven, is an especially fruitful one for study, closely connected as it is with the problem of the origin of evil and the awakening to self-consciousness of the human race at the incarnation of the Manasaputras. This is the central mystery of human evolution. Prometheus represents the Sons of Wisdom who conferred upon mankind the power of rising to the divine state, which power necessitates the presence in the world of struggle, suffering and sin.
The application of the Law of Analogy to these myths and allegories is thus a useful preparation for taking up the third object of the Society, for in pursuing that object it is absolutely necessary to have some knowledge of the Law of Correspondence. In order to “investigate unexplained laws of nature, and the psychic powers latent in man,” one must perceive how the nature of man is related by analogy to the nature of the Planetary Chain on which he evolves, and one must gain some facility in applying the Law of Analogy in matters of detail. A man cannot use his own powers or the hidden forces of Nature until he understands them, and he cannot learn to understand them without constantly applying the Law of Correspondence.
For it is this Law which underlies the whole evolutionary process, and which is to be found in every department of Nature and of Life. In fact it may be said that Nature and Life are Analogy and nothing else, for Analogy is the central truth on which they rest; we have only to open our eyes and see.
“Behold how like the moon reflected in the tranquil waves, Alaya is reflected by the small and by the great, is mirrored in the tiniest atoms, yet fails to reach the heart of all.”