Studies in the Secret Doctrine:
Growth Through Self-Effort
Life is substantial as Spirit or as Matter, as the noumenal principle or as the phenomenal personality, as monads or as atoms. In pralayic non-manifestation or in manvantaric manifestation that LIFE is the “One homogeneous divine SUBSTANCE PRINCIPLE,…” (S.D. I, 273.) IT is Be-ness.
Involution of Spirit and evolution of Matter is one process, though it appears dual. That process can best be described as perpetual motion which never ceases, never slackens or increases its speed, not even during the interludes between the pralayas, but goes on like a mill set in motion, whether it has anything to grind or not. This is Be-coming.
The never-ending (for it never began) stream of conditioned existence is conscious; from within the dark depths of Be-ness it issues forth to show itself as the without which is the universe. That stream is composed of Beings — collectively Being — these as units oren masse are finite while the stream as a process is infinite, beginningless and endless. These finite beings, be they atoms or monads, are identical with the ever becoming Universal Over-Soul, which itself is an aspect of the Unknown Root — or the one “absolute attribute” of Be-ness (S.D. I, 2). These beings vary infinitely in their respective degrees of consciousness and intelligence. Each of them either was or prepares to become a man; therefore there are three basic types of beings: (1) Incipient men; (2) Men; and (3) Perfected men (S.D. I, 275).
The incipient monads, having never had terrestrial bodies yet, can have no sense of personality or EGO-ism…. they have no individuality in the sense in which a man says, “I am myself and no one else;” in other words, they are conscious of no such distinct separateness as men and things have on earth. Individuality is the characteristic of their respective hierarchies, not of their units;… (S.D. I, 275.)
These incipient entities evolve into self-conscious individuals, intelligent enough to exert and make use of their Will, only in the human kingdom. They can have no independent conscious existence before they pass through a long line of evolution in the kingdoms of nature below the human; therein states of consciousness are unfolded leading to self-consciousness which is the birth of man. Individuality thus acquired further evolves in the human kingdom by self-induced and self-devised efforts, in which intelligent will-power and the compensating or reacting Law of Karma play the most important parts. The self-conscious individual by self-effort, co-operating with the Law of Karma by the help of his Will-full Intelligence, and receiving opposing reactions when through ignorance that intelligence fails to co-operate with the Law, ascends through the gamut of manasic-evolution which takes him out of the condition of man into the kingdom of the super-man. Thus the third stage is reached.
Here we are concerned with the middle or second stage of the three, viz., of man.
The first and the most important idea to understand in reference to evolution in this our kingdom is the following:
The pivotal doctrine of the Esoteric philosophy admits no privileges or special gifts in man, save those won by his own Ego through personal effort and merit throughout a long series of metempsychoses and reincarnations. (S.D. I, 17.)
In the philosophy of Theosophy this fundamental plays the leading role. Every enquirer is told of it at the very start. Every tyro in Theosophy speaks about it. It is not a difficult proposition to understand, and yet, without doubt, it is the most difficult one to practise, and because of that, very often it is the least understood of the teachings. This is not paradoxical but the fact is that this teaching cannot be grasped by mind alone — however mighty the mind. No amount of theoretical knowledge of it will produce necessary effects. To know it thoroughly the teaching has to be applied, has to be practised, many a time, in many a situation, till dimly its activity stands revealed to our perception. It is not a mental process, hence mind alone cannot fathom its mystery; it is amanasic process, in which our mind is only a learner. Ordinarily our minds are the enlightening influence in our lives; but what has given it its enlightening power? Manas, the Thinker, is the teacher of mind; he lights the mind; from him our minds gain their power to illumine, their capacity to shine. Only when Manasic action of the Thinker, the Manushya, the Real Man, begins to operate does this teaching, through application, become clear.
The “mind is like a mirror; it gathers dust while it reflects,” says The Voice of the Silence. But Manas is the Light of Buddhi which is fed by the Energy of Atma; it is the flame, radiant and luminous, which all the time performs the sacrificial action of consuming dust to make it shine in splendour. The energy of Atma is the Will, free and impersonal; the Light of Buddhi is the Intelligence which utilizes it because it is energized by that Will.
Will is the creative power in man — the maker of super-man. By our will we are the fashioners of that which is divine in us but which now is asleep, dormant, latent. Conscious, intelligent Will is the faculty par excellence of man, and this is the moulder of Individuality itself. Manas gains mastery over his mind and the other lower instruments by the power of Will and the faculty of intelligent discernment.
The human kingdom is the balance between non-humanity and super-humanity. Hence the human kingdom is the plain of Kurukshetra — the plane of struggle and war. The hell of non-self-consciousness is behind, the heaven of all-self-consciousness is in front of man — in his present state the purgation of matter has to be undertaken by him. This means that leaving behind his stateor condition of self-consciousness he has to make of himself a Self-Conscious Being. The personality has to lose its animal nature, its vegetative tendencies, its inert earthiness and become pure; then only can that purified personality be handled by Manas, the Thinker, who running with it, through the seven-fold upward course assimilates to himself the eternal life-power of Atma, and blends it, himself and that Atma into one and becomes a Self-Conscious Pure-Buddhi-Being — Wisdom-Incarnate, Lord of Contemplation.
The Third Fundamental Proposition foreshadows in that one sentence quoted above the entire evolution-process of the human kingdom, a few salient factors of which we have tried to indicate above, and which in conjunction with the following extract from the Second Volume (pp. 109-110) will afford light to the student:
That which propels towards, and forces evolution, i.e., compels the growth and development of Man towards perfection, is (a) the MONAD, or that which acts in it unconsciously through a force inherent in itself; and (b) the lower astral body or the personalSELF. The former, whether imprisoned in a vegetable or an animal body, is endowed with, is indeed itself, that force. Owing to its identity with the ALL-FORCE, which, as said, is inherent in the Monad, it is all-potent on the Arupa, or formless plane. On our plane, its essence being too pure, it remains all-potential, but individually becomes inactive: e.g., the rays of the Sun, which contribute to the growth of vegetation, do not select this or that plant to shine upon. Uproot the plant and transfer it to a piece of soil where the sunbeam cannot reach it, and the latter will not follow it. So with the Atman: unless the higher Self or EGO gravitates towards its Sun — the Monad — the lower Ego, or personal Self, will have the upper hand in every case. For it is this Ego, with its fierce Selfishness and animal desire to live a Senseless life (Tanha), which is “the maker of the tabernacle,” as Buddha calls it in Dhammapada (153 and 154)…. the Atman alone warms the inner man; i.e., it enlightens it with the ray of divine life and alone is able to impart to the inner man, or the reincarnating Ego, its immortality…. it is the Higher Ego, or incarnating principle, the nous or Mind, which reigns over the animal Ego, and rules it whenever it is not carried down by the latter. In short, Spirituality is on its ascending arc, and the animal or physical impedes it from steadily progressing on the path of its evolution only when the selfishness of the personality has so strongly infected the real inner man with its lethal virus, that the upward attraction has lost all its power on the thinking reasonable man. In sober truth, vice and wickedness are an abnormal, unnatural manifestation, at this period of our human evolution — at least they ought to be so. The fact that mankind was never more selfish and vicious than it is now, civilized nations having succeeded in making of the first an ethical characteristic, of the second an art, is an additional proof of the exceptional nature of the phenomenon.
The initial steps of this momentous journey have to be taken now and here by every earnest student of the Wisdom.
The first of these is to reject, without any mental reservation, without any equivocation whatever, all religious, philosophic or scientific creeds which teach the existence of an Intelligent Ruler of men, Father of His children; which teach dependence on power, force or law outside of man himself; which inculcate the practice of ceremonial and ritual for appeasing powers sub- or super-human; or which encourage the notion of man becoming a ministering angel or deva with a view to propitiate the desires of mortals. To all who are in churches or mosques or schools where either or all of the above doctrines are taught, East or West, Theosophy says — “Come out from among them and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing.” (II Corinthians vi:17.)
That is the first step — the complete rejection of orthodox creeds which have to be blindly believed, or which encourage dependence on outer agencies, personal or institutional.
The next is to practise every day and in all circumstances self-reliance, to gain the habit of moving from the centre within, to energize by the power of self-determination, to make use of Will-Force to think and reason, to feel and imagine and finally to perform action. This is to save ourselves from mental darkness, though it is inflicting upon ourselves the tortures of responsibility. Through this, however, self-redemption is attained and to this reference is made in the following:
There is one eternal Law in nature, one that always tends to adjust contraries and to produce final harmony. It is owing to this law of spiritual development superseding the physical and purely intellectual, that mankind will become freed from its false gods, and find itself finally — SELF-REDEEMED. (S.D. II, 420.)
That is the second step — a sincere and persistent effort at Self-energization through the perception of the Great-Sacrifice of the Master-Soul, who is the Lord of Consuming Fire, who brings not peace but a sword of flame called Responsibility.
The next step is the recognition of the very important factor that the same Master-Soul has sacrificed for others. It is not often realized that to enable others “to come out from among them” and to help them shoulder the burden of self-responsibility and achieve self-redemption through self-correction is to prove to ourselves the measure of our own achievement. By our life and work we become channels of service to others; this in proportion as we practise the second of the rules, just as the strength and completeness of that second lies in the observance of the first rule.
That is the third step — the spiritual service of the human kingdom by assisting its members to live the Wisdom-Religion of Responsibility leading to Freedom immutable and Joy eternal.
The Third Fundamental Proposition of The Secret Doctrine teaches us first to be warriors and fight the powers of darkness — blind-belief, credulity, superstition; secondly, to be energized by the powers of light — Responsibility and Sacrifice; thirdly, to live the Law of Brotherhood which springs from the vision that we and our fellows live in the One Master-Soul, and that between these three complete identity subsists.
This triple lesson is as profound as it is difficult. The words of Mercury sound harsh after the melodies of Pan. But for every human soul comes the moment of realization in which the fantasies of matter-beauty, prakriti-maya, are seen as such and cause poignant grief. Very near, however veiled, is the simple glory, the simple beauty, the simple grandeur, of the Single-Eyed Self, who works strenuously to take us away from the realm of past, present, future into that of the Eternal Now. The bridge each human soul has to cross is that of Intelligent Responsibility and Sacrifice, through self-induced and self-devised efforts.