Studies in the Secret Doctrine:
The Eternal Pilgrim
Let us study Man; but if we separate him for one moment from the Universal Whole, or view him, in isolation from a single aspect, apart from the “Heavenly Man” — the Universe symbolized by Adam Kadmon, Purushottama, or their equivalents in every philosophy — we shall fail most ingloriously in our attempt. Further, be it noted that unforeseen and unexpected dangers lie that way if and when the student in his earnestness and enthusiasm begins to make applications to himself and in his life arising out of such separative study. Let every single student be thoroughly impressed with an idea, which the Masters have endeavoured to impart to Theosophists at large, namely, the great axiomatic truth that the only eternal and living reality is that which the Hindus call Paramatma and Parabrahman.
What is Man? As the student begins to reflect on this question and make use of the material at his disposal to formulate an answer, he encounters a somewhat strange and an unexpected difficulty. Man is a different entity for different classes of people: to the modern scientist he is a bundle of atoms which combine in definite ways to disintegrate in course of time; to the modern psychologist and so-called philosopher man is a collection of sensation-impressions and their reflexes which combine to give birth to mind which also may be named soul; to the psycho-analyst he is a bundle of complexes; to the spiritualist and the psychical researcher he is a ghost or spirit, embodied or disembodied; to the theologian he is a soul fashioned by God to be saved by prayer, as to the surgeon he is a body made by Nature to be saved by the lancet.
How does Theosophy define Man? He is a composite being and at different stages of his evolution shows forth differing powers and capacities. He is “a compound of the essences of all those celestial Hierarchies,” (S.D. I, 276), which contribute the several principles which build him into a being as well as a form, besides endowing him with self-consciousness and intelligence. As pointed out (S.D. I, 189): “Karma and evolution have—
‘…centred in our make such strange extremes!
From different Natures marvellously mixed….’”
By “Natures” is meant “the seven hierarchies or classes of Pitris and Dhyan Chohans which compose our nature and Bodies.”
As Isis Unveiled (I, 309) points out: “Man is a correlation of chemical physical forces, as well as a correlation of spiritual powers.” It is this complex nature of man that necessitates, for the purpose of study and understanding, our dividing and sub-dividing him. In different philosophies and systems of thought man is divided into different principles or sets of factors. The Secret Doctrine shows this very clearly. This has led to a great confusion and misunderstanding; ideas and suggestions have been materialized; principles have been personified; abstractions have been made concrete; allegories have been taken as facts; and Absoluteness itself has been anthropomorphized.
It is absolutely necessary, therefore, that we devote some time to the comprehension of the basic idea that all these different factors which combine to make up Man are but aspects of ONE LIFE. As H.P.B. points out in the Transactions (39):
…we divide man into seven principles, but this does not mean that he has, as it were, seven skins, or entities, or souls. These principles are all aspects of one principle, and even this principle is but a temporary and periodical ray of the One eternal and infinite Flame or Fire.
Within man are all the gods and angels as well as devils and satans; he himself is Sura and Asura; in him are maya-illusion, avidya-ignorance, and their opposite mukti-liberation and Nirvana-emancipation. In him are the old seeds of animal, plant and mineral beings which first become atrophied and then get transformed; in him too are the seeds of Dhyanis-Angels, Nirvanis-Freed Beings which have first to be recognized and then to be fructified. Says The Secret Doctrine:
No Occultist would deny that man — no less than the elephant and the microbe, the crocodile and the lizard, the blade of grass or the crystal — is, in his physical formation, the simple product of the evolutionary forces of nature through a numberless series of transformations;… (I, 636.)
There is but one indivisible and absolute Omniscience and Intelligence in the Universe, and this thrills throughout every atom and infinitesimal point of the whole infinite Kosmos which hath no bounds, and which people call SPACE, considered independently of anything contained in it. (I, 277.)
The radical unity of the ultimate essence of each constituent part of compounds in Nature — from Star to mineral Atom, from the highest Dhyan Chohan to the smallest infusoria, in the fullest acceptation of the term, and whether applied to the spiritual, intellectual, or physical worlds — this is the one fundamental law in Occult Science. (I, 120.)
“The worlds, to the profane,” says a Commentary, “are built up of the known Elements. To the conception of an Arhat, these Elements are themselves collectively a divine Life; distributively, on the plane of manifestations, the numberless and countless crores of lives. Fire alone is ONE, on the plane of the One Reality: on that of manifested, hence illusive, being, its particles are fiery lives…. From the ONE LIFE formless and Uncreate, proceeds the Universe of lives.” (I, 249-50.)
…the ONE LIFE … manifests in seven states, which, with their septenary subdivisions, are the FORTY-NINE Fires mentioned in sacred books…. (I, 291.)
In our Solar world, the One Existence is Heaven and the Earth, the Root and the flower, the Action and the Thought. It is in the Sun, and is as present in the glow-worm. Not an atom can escape it. (I, 292.)
It is very necessary that the student memorize this stupendous fact: As souls, minds, bodies we are aspects of the One Life; our powers and faculties, reasoning, emotional, instinctual or sensuous, are also aspects of that same One Life; the One Life in differing degrees of density assumes differing characteristics and, in spite of the very evident fact that in us and in Nature conflicting and opposing forces operate through a variety of forms, they all, forces and forms alike, are but the manifestation of the One Life.
Having thus emphasized the unity subsisting between the component parts of man, as also between man, this planet, and the Cosmos of which they are but portions, let us turn to the consideration of the differentiating element.
First let us see man as a duality — the immortal and the mortal, the subjective and the objective.
A dual process is in evidence everywhere: (1) The non-manifested and the manifested; (2) centripetal and centrifugal; (3) pravritti-involution and nivritti-evolution; (4) arupa-formless and rupa-form; (5) macrocosm and microcosm; (6) good and evil; (7) Nirvana-compassion and avitchi-isolation. These and all variants are but aspects of the primal pair of opposites, of the “Dual Force emanating from the Eternal Essence.” (S.D. I, 353.)
…the Occultists … see … in these two opposite Forces only the two aspects of the universal unit, called “MANIFESTING MIND”; in which aspects, Occultism, through its great Seers, perceives an innumerable Host of operative Beings: Cosmic Dhyan-Chohans, Entities, whose essence, in its dual nature, is the Cause of all terrestrial phenomena. For that essence is co-substantial with the universal Electric Ocean, which is LIFE; and being dual, as said — positive and negative — it is the emanations of that duality that act now on earth under the name of “modes of motion”; even Force having now become objectionable as a word, for fear it should lead someone, even in thought, to separate it from matter! It is, as Occultism says, the dual effects of that dual essence, which have now been called centripetal and centrifugal forces, negative and positive poles, or polarity, heat and cold, light and darkness, etc., etc. (S.D. I, 604.)
From this original duality springs what man recognizes in himself as his dual nature — lower and higher mind, good and bad moral nature, the mortal body and the immortal Self. Further, the student of Occultism traces to this prototypal Dual Force, the dual power of the Secret Wisdom, the white and black magic. (Cf. II, 364.) When we begin to analyse the content of our own brain, mind, and consciousness, we come to recognize that there is in us that which is ourself, which is indestructible because indivisible. In reference to the body itself we know that we can exist without arms and legs, without the ratiocination and memory of the brain, without eyes, ears, nose, deprived of touch and taste; that if only the heart kept on functioning and retained its slender connection with the brain on the one hand and the solar plexus on the other, the body could live on. In the body itself there are parts which in perishing kill not the body, but there are others — in fact three connected with three primary centres — any one of which destroyed would result in the destruction of the whole. Divide the heart and the heart is destroyed and the body dies. Take another aspect: in spite of the constant changes which are continuously taking place in the body, the identity of the body, its design and structure, survives; death, the great Change, differs from the millions of bodily changes in this that it changes the mould and the design of the body. Turn for a moment to our psychological transformations: in feelings and emotions we notice changes and differences; we love and hate by turn; we love and cease loving the same person in course of time; our sympathies and antipathies act in a similar fashion. Further, in knowledge and ignorance, in our ideas and thoughts on men and things, changes occur; still more, moods of aspiration and exaltation as of depression alternate. Now, like the heart in the body, we find that through all the changes of feeling and thought, the man who feels and thinks remains intact. However great the identification between himself and these processes, it is temporary; soon or late man knows himself other and higher than his thoughts, feelings, actions, his head, heart and hands. That which in the midst of all changes, changes not, that is the Self, immortal, indestructible, indivisible.
Man is certainly no special creation, and he is the product of Nature’s gradual perfective work, like any other living unit on this Earth. But this is only with regard to the human tabernacle. That which lives and thinks in man and survives that frame, the masterpiece of evolution — is the “Eternal Pilgrim,” the Protean differentiation in space and time of the One Absolute “unknowable.” (S.D. II, 728.)
When we try to apply the various teachings of Theosophy on the human constitution we get somewhat confused. As a first stage toward clarifying our thoughts let us emphasize this supreme duality in the individual. There is in us that which is immortal — the one witness of the many changes of sense, feeling and thought in and around us. In the sublime words of the Bhagavad-Gita—
The spirit in the body is called Maheswara, the Great Lord, the spectator, the admonisher, the sustainer, the enjoyer, and also the Paramâtma, the highest soul. (13th Discourse.)
There dwelleth in the heart of every creature, O Arjuna, the Master — Ishwara —who by his magic power causeth all things and creatures to revolve mounted upon the universal wheel of time. Take sanctuary with him alone, O son of Bharata, with all thy soul; by his grace thou shalt obtain supreme happiness, the eternal place. (18th Discourse.)
This Great Spectator has been observing the drama of evolution. It witnesses at one time the mighty cohesion in the homogeneous root-matter which begets aeriform radiance; then sees it condense into curd-like nebula which moves, making star-dust and causing friction, settles down to become many suns and planets and satellites. It sees the birth of elemental forces in and on these spheres which beget crystals and minerals and then observes the growth of sprouting shrubs and creepers and plants which become giant trees; it watches the cradle of insect and then worm, and bird, and beast and at last bipeds, after many aeons of vicissitudes and patient climbing. Then comes man who from the savagery of migratory tribes settles down to the citizenship of community and nation, and through wars and sufferings is learning to become cosmopolitan and labour for the Brotherhood of Humanity.
This teaching the Kabalist and the Sufi have epitomized thus:
“A stone becomes a plant; a plant, a beast; the beast, a man; a man, a spirit; and the spirit a god.”
“I died as a stone and became a plant; I died as a plant and became an animal; I died as an animal and became a man; when did I grow less by dying? I will die as a man to give birth to an angel.”
But three distinct streams of evolution representative of the three basic aspects of the One Life come to confluence in Man. The stone, the plant, the animal give birth to the physical man — the Adam of Dust. The Mighty Witness is a ray, a breath of the Absoluteness. These two need an intelligent consciousness which is provided by the third stream of the Life-Impulse. The Secret Doctrine is the text of the Mighty Drama of Evolution in which the Spectator and the many actors are One. In affirming this fact, it reiterates that the process of differentiation is complex and takes place by a manifoldness which at the root is seven-fold but which ramifies endlessly.
The matter-moving Nous, the animating Soul, immanent in every atom, manifested in man, latent in the stone, has different degrees of power; and this pantheistic idea of a general Spirit-Soul pervading all Nature is the oldest of all the philosophical notions. (S.D. I, 51.)
The idea to get hold of and retain in our memory is that there is a Witness in us of the panorama of growth, who has watched in the beginningless past as he is watching today and as he will watch in the endless future. This is Atma, the One Life, mirrored in Buddhi, the unbreakable vehicle — the Eternal Spectator.
Next, there is that in us which is the experiencer, the sufferer, the enjoyer who learnt in the mineral and grew in the vegetable and moved in the animal and acts, feels, thinks, wills in the human. This is Atma-Buddhi-Manas, the immortal Triad, the individualization of the Supreme Spirit — the Eternal Pilgrim.
Thus from the concept of Duality we come to perceive the Trinity, which is the next step to grasp in our study.