Studies in the Secret Doctrine:
Metaphysics of the Secret Doctrine
The Stanzas of Dzyan, on which The Secret Doctrine is based, belong to the same series as the fragments published under the title,The Voice of the Silence. This information conveyed in the preface to the latter should be made a subject for meditation, for it is a practical hint with an occult significance which students of The Secret Doctrine ought not to miss.
Wisdom and Compassion are inherent in Law and manifested in Nature. They are not two distinct qualities but two phases of one quality. In man the head and the heart are regarded as two different organisms. All our struggles and sufferings arise from this fundamental misconception. Once recognized that head and heart are but two aspects of one nature, there opens for us the way of the inner life. What follows is the removal of the obstacles which have covered over and obscured the narrow bridge between head and heart; then the establishment of communication; and finally the coadunition of both.
These two aspects of Wisdom and Compassion are the soul of the Stanzas of Dzyan and The Voice of the Silence. The treatises conjointly used will help to remove the barrier, to bridge the two worlds — to make our reason compassionate and our love intelligent. The Bhagavad-Gita performs this double task within its eighteen discourses, as does the Dhammapada and the very first sermon Gautama, the Buddha, delivered on the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.
In the present cycle our minds are separated from compassion, and our ethical impulses prompted more by our psychic than by our spiritual nature. The study of H.P.B.’s writings uncovers the foundation-principles, intellectual and philosophic, for our ethical beliefs and views; shows us where and how we are mistaken and by what method correction can take place; endows with a living and vital soul our mental perceptions and speculations and indicates how our general knowledge can be practically applied for self-improvement and the service of others.
Purification of the mind, the removal from it of psychic impressions and Kamic influences, is the first task; only then can follow its illumination by Buddhi, the ray of Atma. Towards this first task the understanding of the physical universe metaphysically — in other words the perceiving of the causes of effects, the seeing of the relation between Reality and Illusion — becomes necessary. Herein lies the reason of the reiterated insistence in The Secret Doctrine not to separate man from deity, or divide matter into animate and inanimate, or make a distinction between natural and supernatural. Man is divine; matter is living; all nature is one. Having established this proposition, The Secret Doctrine proceeds to show the true compartmenting of the phases and aspects of the One Life, viz., Microcosm and Macrocosm, Spirit and Matter, normal and abnormal. The world of the within and that of the without; the reflecting of the above in the below; the shadowing of spirit-substance as material forms — these are explained, not as a speculative theory of cold philosophy, but as the doctrine of the practical science of life.
By fecundating that spiritual faculty of intuition referred to in the last study, we are shown how man and nature are governed by the same Law — they are but parts of the one whole. That clear vision or understanding, that power of knowledge, Jnana-shakti — is acquired through a comprehension of the universals of which all particulars are but expressions. Man cannot know himself save through his own shadows cast on the Nature around him; conversely, by the apperception of reflections which Nature projects in and on him. What else is ignorance but the result of dividing an indivisible whole? A metaphysical vision of the unity of all Nature from star dust to sea sand, from atom to universe, from the erratic movement of a comet to the rhythmic beat of the human heart, leads us to the practice of brotherhood without distinction of sex, caste, creed, colour or race. Without that metaphysical vision the Law of Brotherhood cannot be fully or truly grasped, and cannot be completely or correctly applied in life. All parties, all sects, all nations preach brotherhood — they are unable to live it or promulgate it for the simple reason that the metaphysical soul of brotherhood has not been taken note of; nay, has not been noticed at all.
When we have been able to see the basis of the One Life Principle, we will be ready to see the duality of Self and not-self, of the “I” and the universe other than the “I,” of God and Satan in us, of the light and the dark sides of Nature, of the manifestation of the Law of Cycles or Periodicity. Once this duality is taken note of, we are fitted to tread the ancient road of Immortality — the realization of the Self, the growing of the universe into the “I,” the inversion of Satan into God, the mergence of the dark into the never-fading glory of Light Eternal, of cycles and periods becoming Timeless Bliss. In these three processes lie all the practices of the Secret Doctrine —they are the beginning and end of all knowledge. Thus are to be cognized the three fundamental propositions of The Secret Doctrine.
The workings of the Law of Cycles are to be observed in the rest of deep sleep and in the restlessness of waking conscious existence; in the growth of spring, the fruition of summer, in the shedding of autumnal leaves and in the dreary winter months of the years of our incarnation; through birthdays and anniversaries; and in numerous other ways. Manifestation and non-manifestation, paths of forthgoing and return are to be seen within ourselves; between two beats of the human heart is the same silence of pralaya —reflection of the Sublime Silence of Mahapralaya. Between those two heartbeats, which are throbs of life, we experience the silence of separation, of death. Thus the ebb and flow of motion and rest are but our experiences; and to harmonize them in one rhythmic whole of activity without motion, of activity which is rest, is to realize the Bliss of Nirvana.
First, then, to see ourselves as a part of Nature in which Light and Darkness, Bliss and Misery, Knowledge and Nescience inhere; secondly, to see that all pairs of opposites are but manifestations of the Law of Cycles; thirdly, that there is an underlying substratum of unity in which all pairs of opposites are dissolved, and Bliss — timeless and spaceless and motionless — alone is.
The self-evident nature of the first item is our starting point. Which of the two directions shall we follow — the Path of Light, Bliss and Knowledge or that of Darkness, Misery and Nescience? Here are the origins of materialism and spirituality, of black and white magic, of mediumship and adeptship, leading to Avitchi — annihilation — and Nirvana — emancipation.
Sometimes people have asked why The Secret Doctrine establishes the three fundamental propositions in abstruse terms of metaphysics and high philosophy. Why not give, it is suggested, the basic principles in simple and easily understandable language of religious morality? If all things in this objective universe, and the latter itself, rests in and on these fundamentals, why define and describe them in brain-wrecking terminology and mind-perplexing phraseology? Give us three simple words; if not words, then phrases; if not phrases, then sentences; at least limit them to three short paragraphs — let the preliminaries be gone through and done with!
Morality and ethics separated from philosophy and metaphysics would land us into that dire heresy of separateness referred to above — to divide wisdom from compassion, head from heart, the Stanzas of Dzyan from the Voice of the Silence. The tendency to dissociate metaphysics from science, morality, art, etc., is natural to our civilization. During the last several centuries metaphysical philosophy has been a very useless kind of speculative hair-splitting all over Europe. The western world has first to be trained in the idea that the philosophy of the Ancients is far from speculative and that Eastern metaphysics is a science that is highly practical. The writings of H.P.B. go to make this amply clear. In our own Theosophical Movement we have suffered through the obtuseness of many early students who failed to see the reasons for viewing, studying and examining the teachings of the Masters through H.P.B. in their true setting and perspective, viz., metaphysical and philosophical.
In the first volume of The Secret Doctrine H.P.B. has gone to the trouble of pointing this out. Correcting errors in early books, she embraces the opportunity of putting us on our guard against a similar blunder. Facts and teachings of Cosmogenesis and Anthropogenesis, if they are to be fully understood,
…must be examined far more from their metaphysical aspect than from what one might call a statistical standpoint, involving figures and numbers which are rarely permitted to be broadly used. Unfortunately, there are few who are inclined to handle these doctrines only metaphysically. (Vol. I, p. 169.)
We must guard against the tendency of neglecting metaphysics. About such a tendency the Master once said:
“Why this preaching of our doctrines, all this uphill work and swimming in adversum flumen? Why should the West … learn … from the East … that which can never meet the requirements of the special tastes of the æsthetics?” And he draws his correspondent’s attention “to the formidable difficulties encountered by us (the Adepts) in every attempt we make to explain our metaphysics to the Western mind.” (Ibid.)
The student of The Secret Doctrine has to learn at the very start that “outside of metaphysics no occult philosophy, no esotericism is possible. It is like trying to explain the aspirations and affections, the love and hatred, the most private and sacred workings in the soul and mind of the living man, by an anatomical description of the chest and brain of his dead body.” The desire to become practical occultists, if pure and genuinely unselfish, will bring the realization that practical occultism is but the lowest form of applied metaphysics.
Psychic and spiritual teachings are not more fully understood because their metaphysical basis is not contemplated upon. Is it to be wondered at, then, that the fundamentals of the esoteric science are metaphysical in character, and that the books of H.P.B. abound in lengthy and many-sided considerations of metaphysical propositions? The Secret Doctrine is full of metaphysical universals and particulars, of philosophical principles and details for the same reason that the Vedas and the Upanishads, the six points of view of the six Indian Schools are also full of them. The Gnostics and the Neo-Platonists, the Pythagoreans and Essenes before them also taught metaphysically. Every attempt to dissociate metaphysics from science, philosophy from psychology, has resulted in the degradation of the omnipresent omniscience into a personal god, of man’s divinity into carnal bestiality, of Wisdom-Religion into a religious creed.
To guard us against falling prey to that old tendency inherent in humanity, the Masters of H.P.B. sent us a noble warning. In the first volume of The Secret Doctrine H.P.B. publishes verbatim the following letter to which we should always turn when meditation on the three fundamental propositions looks to us barren and dry and unpractical. We reproduce it here (S.D. I, 167):—
“Lead the life necessary for the acquisition of such knowledge and powers, and Wisdom will come to 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. Meanwhile, be prudent. Do not give out the great Truths that are the inheritance of the future Races, to our present generation. Do not attempt to unveil the secret of being and non-being to those unable to see the hidden meaning of Apollo’s HEPTACHORD — the lyre of the radiant god, in each of the seven strings of which dwelleth the Spirit, Soul and Astral Body of the Kosmos, whose shell only has now fallen into the hands of Modern Science…. Be prudent, we say, prudent and wise, and above all take care what those who learn from you believe in; lest by deceiving themselves they deceive others … for such is the fate of every truth with which men are, as yet, unfamiliar…. Let rather the planetary chains and other super- and sub-cosmic mysteries remain a dreamland for those who can neither see, nor yet believe that others can….”