The Secret Doctrine
A Paper read before the Blavatsky Lodge of the T.S.
by William Kingsland, President
Lucifer, 1889, pp. 416-20
In the course of our systematic study of The Secret Doctrine, which we have now pursued for nearly six months, we have arrived at the conclusion of the stanzas of the first volume. It would be well to pause and ask ourselves what is the net gain which we have derived? In what respects are our ideas altered or modified, what have we learnt which is new, and how much do we recognize the value of the book?
It has been no easy matter to form a clear and concise idea of the modus operandi of cosmogenesis as set forth in the stanzas and the accompanying commentary. They do not profess to do more than lift the corner of the veil. Large numbers of intermediate slokas we are told are omitted, and certain occult keys, which it is not yet permitted to make public, are withheld. Those who are members of the Esoteric Section of the T.S. have a better chance of understanding the matter than the ordinary reader, but since numbers who have attended our Thursday evening meetings are not Esotericists, it has been impossible to treat the matter from any but an exoteric standpoint.
In order to present an abstract principle in anything like a comprehensible manner, it is necessary that it should be represented in some form having reference to our ordinary methods of intellectual apprehension, and our ordinary states of consciousness. Some kind of form is indispensable for the conceptions which arise out of our present state of consciousness, and the one great fallacy which we should constantly guard against, is the mistaking of the form for the reality, the effect for the cause. It is this self same illusion of form, Maya, which is the great deceiver, the great tempter. It deceives our physical senses and our intellectual faculties. It is the cause of all the illusive forms of superstition and religion which have prevailed in all ages. Let not the student of The Secret Doctrine fall under the same illusion, and mistake the form which is there presented for the principles which underlie the form, or materialize into a dogma the priceless treasure of wisdom and knowledge therein contained.
I know that some have come to grief over the various celestial Hierarchies of Dhyāni-Chohans, being totally unable to connect these with the physical forces with which they are familiar, or to see any connection whatever between them and the physical universe. Perhaps if they will dematerialize their ideas of celestial beings, disconnect them from all preconceived ideas of Angels and Archangels derived from Biblical fairy tales, instilled into their youthful minds—not an easy matter, by the way—and give free play to their intuition, they will be able to surmount what at present appears to them such a formidable obstacle.
The mysteries of Parabrahman have been touched upon more than once, and it has been pointed out that this term is not used to designate either a God or a machine, but as a purely metaphysical abstraction—albeit the one reality, the absolute. Nevertheless Parabrahman appears to have been a very hard nut for some to crack, as also the first and second Logos, Brahma and Brahmā, Fohat, and a host of other personified forces. We can hardly be surprised if the casual and superficial reader should be lost in the vast pantheon of The Secret Doctrine, and should fly for comparative intellectual safety to the orthodox doctrine of the trinity.
But let us not, as students of The Secret Doctrine, be hasty in forming either our conceptions or our conclusions. We must bear in mind that we are dealing with the imaginative powers of the Eastern mind, and with the deepest and most subtle of metaphysical and philosophical systems. Let us try and understand The Secret Doctrine in its materialized form, and then, when we have mastered the form, we may be the better able to understand what that form represents.
Setting aside now all concrete ideas having reference to the form in which the teachings are moulded, I imagine that those who have followed closely the course of instructions, cannot have failed to have grasped some general principles of the utmost importance. They cannot have failed to have obtained such a broad and comprehensive view of the law of evolution, of the essential unity and oneness of nature—including in that term both the visible and the invisible universe—and of the law of correspondences and analogy, such as could not have been obtained by them by the study of half the scientific books in the world.
Science prides itself upon its generalizations, such as the law of the conservation of energy and the doctrine of evolution, and these two doctrines have certainly been responsible, more than everything else that science has done, for the breaking down of the narrow and superstitious conceptions of the government of the universe by the personal fiat of a Biblical Jehovah.
But The Secret Doctrine carries these generalizations immeasurably further than even science itself has yet ventured to do. The Secret Doctrine, in fact, proceeds by an opposite method to that of science. The methods of science are inductive, proceeding from particulars to universals; the method of The Secret Doctrine is deductive, proceeding from universals to particulars. Now each of these methods has its own particular application and value. Implicit faith should not be placed in either the one or the other, but each should be used in a legitimate way. Science ignores altogether the deductive method. Her generalizations and theories are built upon a vast mass of accumulated facts, which scientific men are ever adding to, while at the same time they endeavor to piece them together so as to form a connected whole. The generalizations of science are the result of numbers of isolated observations and experiments. It may fall to the lot of some one man to enunciate some particular law of nature, which he is therefore said to have discovered, and which is labeled with his name; but it is seldom the case that the discovery is due to his own unaided and original observations. He is indebted to numberless other experimenters, it may be to a line of research which has been carried on for centuries, but it has fallen to the lot of this particular individual to crown the efforts of others by the enunciation of a law which binds together and shows the essential relation of phenomena, which have hitherto appeared to be isolated and arbitrary.
But we may well doubt whether science by means of the inductive method can ever teach us anything respecting the deeper problems of our consciousness, can ever reach such generalizations and principles as are to be found in The Secret Doctrine. Science refuses to deal with metaphysics, or even with such physics as psychical phenomena, and we certainly cannot, as individuals, afford to wait until science shall have seen fit to offer a solution of certain problems with which we are more immediately acquainted. Let us recognize the value of inductive science in its own proper sphere, but meanwhile let us also use the deductive method, and see whether we cannot arrive at general principles without having to spend our lives in accumulating innumerable facts, or in labeling with learned names the minutest subdivisions of every insect or plant which we can meet with in the remotest corners of the globe.
If we push back our enquiries respecting the phenomenal universe, and the causes which are operating to produce the effects which we see around us, we very soon reach a point where physics cannot help us, and where we must resort to metaphysics and abstract ideas. We cannot employ the inductive method here, for we have exhausted our knowledge of facts. We stand before the great ocean of the unknown, that strange illusion which we call time and space. What is to be our guide here; how does The Secret Doctrine help us?
By analogy. By showing us the past, the present and the future, contained in the highest possible metaphysical abstraction, in the Absolute or Parabrahman, and then proceeding downwards through the various manifestations in time and space of this one absolute reality—always by analogy, and in lines that never vary in principle—until we reach those finite manifestations which constitute our present physical universe, and our human consciousness.
Analogy is the great law of The Secret Doctrine. As above, so below. The microcosm is a reflection of the macrocosm. These occult axioms are to be found elsewhere, but in no other book are they so exemplified, or worked out in such detail, or made to cover such a vast area as in The Secret Doctrine. Truly this is a key which is worth having, a universal key with which we can unlock one by one every mystery of our being. We must first of all learn to grasp firmly this principle of analogy, and if we do this I imagine that we shall soon discover its value in every department of those regions which we are endeavoring to penetrate.
And now we stand face to face with the greatest question of all. Thus far we have been dealing with cosmogenesis, and have only incidentally touched on the deeper problems of life and consciousness. Stanza VII opens with these words: “Behold the beginning of sentient formless life.” “Formless life!” What can we apprehend of life without form? And yet as we read and reread the stanza it impresses us with a sublimity of philosophic thought which surely is nowhere else to be found.
It presents itself to our mind like a ray of the one Divine Life itself flashed into the darkness of our materiality; or like the lightning in the blackness of the night it suddenly illumines the earth, enabling us to discern the outlines of our surroundings—then leaves us in deeper darkness.
What is this deep mystery of Life, these countless myriads of lives “the beams and the sparks of one moon reflected in the running waves of all the rivers of earth?”
Tell us, oh, Sphinx, of the three letters and the nine! Tell us—lest the insatiable desire to know which you have instilled into our minds pursue you as Nemesis through countless reincarnations.
What is life, mind, consciousness, man? Are not all these conglomerated, collected, distributed, permutated, annihilated, in the stanza before us, till our brain becomes a fiery whirlwind, and our reason sinks into the deep waters of space. We stand before the mystery of Life; we catch a glimpse of the awful depths of our own being, and those heights to scale which we must become—Gods! We stand for a moment on the verge of that infinite consciousness where there is neither great nor small, being or non-being, time or space, light or darkness, sound or silence.
The stanza reads like the great diapason tone of nature; it swells into a harmony that seems the very source of our being. Who but a great musician or magician can analyse these tones, or fit them to the scale of our earth-bound consciousness. Let us pause and listen, if perchance we may attune our minds to the divine harmony, and carry some portion of it with us into our daily life. Truly our task has been no light one thus far, but with the strength we have gained we will still push forward, and master these deeper secrets of life by which alone we can hope to free ourselves from the great illusion.