THE DESCENT OF MANAS
The complex teachings concerning states and planes of consciousness, invisible globes and chains of worlds, and the evolutionary pilgrimage of monads, may be grasped through meditation upon the fundamental axiom that Law and Deity are one. It is also necessary to notice the septenary principle in terms of which the Logos emanates everything in manifested Nature. It must be seen at the outset that there is an essential difference between the three highest planes – belonging to the Archetypal Universe – and the four lower planes of the world of formation. The latter, along with everything that exists as a manifesting entity, comprises the various sevenfold chains of globes. Further, since virtually all human beings primarily function by using five senses appropriate only to the most material of those globes, their terrestrial eyes betray them into a needlessly narrow and restricted view of Nature and what is "natural". Seeing illusory forms, sharp contrasts and seeming divergences at the grossest level, the unwary experience an intense feeling of separateness and a false sense of confinement in their vestures and relationships. Given this sad predicament, a mental bridge must be consciously extended from the lower planes to the metaphysical verities which are shrouded in invisible Nature, the heavens above, and even beyond. Outside metaphysics, neither occult philosophy nor spiritual progress are possible. Only when the seed ideas of the Gupta Vidya are vivified through meditation and nourished by praxis can they serve as the hidden roots of an expansive consciousness delicately attuned to the deeper purposes of soul-evolution, the music of the spheres and the heartbeat of the human race.
The marriage of meditation and duty gives birth to the Bodhisattva ideal of renunciation through service. This is the sacred and archetypal meaning of dhyana, dharma and karuna, which are all magically fused in bodhichitta, the jewel in the lotus, God in Man as in the cosmos. Originally anchored in the notion of "that which holds", dharma is the self-sustaining factor in Nature through which self-conscious beings in a world of change are able to support themselves in the realm of action by a sublime idea common to a variety of simple tasks, and relevant to humane relationships of every sort. When the power and potency of dharma are invoked through voluntary sacrifices and sacred pledges, through self-chosen obligations and consequent trials, duty becomes a self-validating principle shining by its own light, independent of anything outside it. Those alone who are unequivocally committed to dharma, and who have passed through preliminary initiations, can profit from the secret teachings proffered to them. Each and every sincere aspirant on the path of duty can truly hope to discover the guiding light and sovereign talisman of selfless service. But, as a Master has intimated, if the disciple would perceive even the dim silhouette of one of the "planets" on the higher planes, he has to first throw off the thin clouds of astral matter that stand between him and the next plane. Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita stressed the critical shift from a sense of duty supported by social structures to a self-consecrated conception of dharma, whereby human beings are continually defining themselves and shedding the light of self-conscious thought within the radius of their obligations to others and to themselves.
Virtually all the practical difficulties encountered in the daily performance of duty – such as trivialization, routinization and staleness – may be traced to the force of habit and the hypnosis of automatism on the astral plane. Whenever one is passive, one is far from spiritually awake, and hardly functioning from a universal standpoint in the local habitations of particulars. But, if through joyous meditation one secures an elevated basis for one's emanations into the world, then one's words and actions directed toward other beings reflect a reverence for them as immortal souls. One can also help to enhance the latent self-consciousness in all the life-atoms of the seven kingdoms of Nature. Such capacities are not superogatory gifts in rare human beings at this stage in evolution, but rather basic obligations for all. Since the commencement of the Fourth Round all the lower kingdoms of Nature have vitally depended upon man for their continued development and collective evolution. The summoning of elementals into potent and creative combinations is the theurgic task of human benevolence, noetic deliberation and calm continuity of spiritual purpose. Individuals who come to understand this process will discover an ease and lightness in the pilgrimage of life that seem paradoxical to others who are burdened by a dour sense of duty. Sadly, those who are already weighted down by their own muddled misconceptions often aggravate this burden through compulsive speech, complaining about kindred souls and against life itself. Occultism begins when one ceases from all complaints, tortuous games and cowardly delay, and instead silently resolves to come to terms with the manifold karma of an incarnation. Rather than infecting and polluting the elementals of one's astral photosphere by excessive statements of intention, idle speculation and resentment of supposedly external duties, one must embrace the initially painful recognition that duty is inherent to one's status as a human being. Even a week of wise and cool reflection upon the dharma of being human and potentially divine can lighten a lifetime, but those who do not even make this effort will never understand the point. On the contrary, they strangely seem to enjoy wallowing in guilt and self-pity, and thus, as they chew the cud of their ill-digested ideas and stew in the acid juices of their bitterness, they further weaken the fragile connection between the overbrooding Triad and the manifesting quaternary. Whereas, as soon as one takes a firm stand upon what is truly human, and through deep thought and meditation cuts to the core of essential self-respect and inescapable responsibility to the whole of life, one can create a passage in that aspect of Manas which is conjoined to the lower principles, through which the light of Buddhi can illumine the field of duty. Thus Kurukshetra becomes Dharmakshetra.
The criterion of whatever is genuinely Buddhic is that it is effortlessly self-sustaining. Buddhi, as a human principle, correlates with exalted planes of consciousness and ethereal globes of the earth chain, which are impermeable to the discontinuities of thought and feeling that inhibit terrestrial cerebration and emotion. The sense of separation and fragmentation engendered on the lowest plane weakens the will and dulls the mind by rendering the electrical connection with the immortal Triad fitful and inconstant. Spiritual will is generated by and works through seminal ideas. The more one allows the mind to soak in the sublimely abstract, until this is more real than anything else, the more one is able in a Promethean way to direct the flow of consciousness through concentrated thought. Such meditative purification strengthens the spiritual will and provides continuous inspiration in the daily performance of duty. When one becomes familiar with its cleansing effects, one will look forward to every encounter with the spiritual, and even in brief spells of leisure one's mind will naturally turn to sacred themes. Those who freely benefit from this mental discipline are truly fortunate in their simplicity of stance. Without taking anything for granted, they cherish the profound privilege of contemplating and reaffirming the fundamental principles of spiritual life. They are thereby protected against the errors of futile speculation, and against complex attempts to reconcile the irreconcilable by adapting the spiritual sciences to material conceptions. By honouring the basic rules and sharpening discernment through practice, they stay within the forward current and gain true self-respect. They recognize that the mere thought of falling away from it, through foisting blame upon the external world, rapidly destroys the sacred foundation of discipleship. Men and women, in general, may not be able all at once to live purely by the power of thought and ideation. But if even a small number of people make an honest effort to do so, lending beauty and significance to their days in the knowledge that others are doing the same, a strong magnetic field may be generated whereby weaker brethren would be held up, whilst those who build strength would not be brought down by the weakest links in the chain. Everyone could be pulled up together; there would be a proper balancing because different people experience the different cycles of moods at different times. If their minds and hearts are focussed upon the collective effort, if they feel part of and have inserted themselves into a larger whole reflecting the will and the wisdom of Shambala, the mighty Brotherhood of Bodhisattvas, then they will move in dulcet harmony with the Demiurgic Mind of the cosmos. They will taste the rapture of self-conscious participation in the Divine Motion of noumenal reality, the awesome Dance of Shiva as well as the playful sport of Krishna and the gopis.
To a sadhaka or seeker who thinks in this archetypal mode, the sole reason for skilfully performing any act in life is to render gentle and gracious service to others, to human beings as well as to life-atoms. There is, for example, no other metaphysically sound reason to clean and care for one's physical body than the duty one owes oneself as a trustee of Nature and a servant of mankind. If one grasps the idea of monadic evolution metaphysically, and not merely statistically or speculatively, it will be evident that there are myriad opportunities daily for engaging in sacrificial acts of service to others. It is the exalted privilege of a self-conscious monad to be able to serve all life-atoms through the concentrated power of compassionate thought. The humanity of the future will readily associate its healing exposure to the mellow light of the early morning sun, or its cool enjoyment of pellucid water, with a vivid awareness of invisible beings that are magically fused in a divine dance. Bringing Buddhic perception to creative acts, they will balance the antipodes of human nature, suffusing the most ordinary and simple tasks with the exhilarating fragrance of veiled serenity. Once a person becomes adept in this art of service, the whole of life becomes a song of ceaseless and silent sacrifice, the true "music of the spheres" intimating the mystery of Apollo's lyre. A point is soon reached at which one can scarcely believe that one could waste a single hour brooding over the shadowy self, though one will recognize that this is precisely what one did in life after life of ignorance, even in the presence of the Divine Wisdom and its loving exemplars. Then one will appreciate what the wise have always taught, that anyone who misuses, let alone flouts and betrays, a great opportunity, will not in any future life be able to come into a close relationship with any Spiritual Teacher. Where such laws are involved, nothing happens merely for the first time; whenever the karma of groups of people sharing abnormal tendencies brings them together in order to work them off, these tendencies will be made to look normal. The souls concerned may, when they are brought together, actually convert their condition into a general theory of the world, thus reinforcing and absolutizing their abject ignorance. Then, for those who toil for the restoration of the rhythms that are natural to the human heart, there is what a Master called "uphill work and swimming in adversum flumen". He asked, "Why should the West... learn...from the East...that which can never meet the requirements of the special tastes of the aesthetics?" He then spoke of "the formidable difficulties encountered by us in every attempt we make to explain our metaphysics to the Western mind". Stressing the intimate connection between occult philosophy and true metaphysics, H.P.Blavatsky conceded:
The arcane teachings of the sevenfold nature of the earth and Man are not offered for the sake of those who would "nail every shadow to the wall". Nor are they intended to be reconciled with the conceptions of a modern science which cannot acknowledge any matter except that which falls under the purview of the corporeal senses. The esoteric teaching regarding septenary chains is intended for those who are dedicated to the sacrificial awakening of spiritual intuition in the service of all, and those who are prepared to make Buddhic application of Divine Wisdom in daily life.
For example, it is the enigmatic teaching of The Secret Doctrine that the moon which is seen by the physical eye is a corpse, and that this moon, together with all the physical planets, is visible in this way only because it belongs to a particular plane of perception. But if each visible world is part of a chain and there are six invisible globes which are involved in the causal forces associated with each planet, it is important especially to understand the relation between the moon and the earth. This is analogous to the relationship between the astral when it is saturated by kama and that aspect of the astral which is ensouled by prana, or life-energy. We often notice that a mentally healthy individual is full of life and therefore very cheerful and generous, reaching out to others, due to this natural energy within the astral-physical body, the energy of prana. But there is also that aspect of the astral which is affected by lunar forces, by obsessional thoughts, and yet is constantly fluctuating like the visible moon. What is going on within the human being is causally connected with the relations between the different invisible aspects of the visible planets. The moon, as the ancients knew, is much older than the earth, being but the visible remnant of an entire chain of globes that was the parent of the earth chain. And therefore even though what we see as the visible moon does not look, certainly unlike the sun, to be a parent of the earth, nonetheless what we see is the representative of the corpse, the kama rupa of an entire lunar chain of globes, the higher principles of which have long since passed into the earth chain. Beings on earth have astral forms because these vestures are themselves the progeny of the lesser pitris, the lunar ancestors. As the lunar chain was dying out in its last Round, it sent all its energy and "principles" into a neutral centre of latent force, a laya centre, thereby informing a new nucleus of undifferentiated substance and calling it to active life. The lunar ancestors are also connected with the ancestral germ that was transmitted over an immense period of time and makes even physical conception possible. Metaphysically, everything physical is actually astral, so the process of conception has its roots in aspects of astral form, matter and substance which go back to the lunar pitris. Therefore there is a direct sense in which terrestrial humans are able to function as sevenfold beings only because of this inheritance, which is a mixed blessing.
Because many human beings have identified with their physical bodies despite the fact that they are self-conscious beings, they have forgotten both their divine inheritance and their myriad debts, even on the physical plane, to those who went before. While some older cultures may have been preoccupied with ancestor worship, modern societies are almost blind to what they owe to the lunar pitris. If they were true to this inheritance, they would have a greater grasp of the right use of all the senses, because these would all be recognized as vital powers, the reflections of divine potencies upon the astral plane. This would bring a sense of the sacred to the use of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Instead, there is constant abuse of all the sense-perceptions and therefore there is a sense in which people are vampirizing the lunar pitris, living upon them without acknowledgement, misusing the energies derived from them. This neglect of duty entails a costly vulnerability to the kama rupa of the moon which goes through its own cyclical changes, appearing on the physical plane as the waxing and waning of the physical moon in its mutual relations with the sun and earth. Behind this visible process lies a whole set of disintegrating tendencies which were discarded as unusable from an earlier period of evolution, but which exercise a powerful negative effect upon those vulnerable to them through the misuse of their own energies.
Such people are recognizable by their appalling lack of natural gratitude. The idea that all life is an expression of gratitude through service and duty, which is entirely natural to solar beings, seems strange to them because it brings back bad memories of base ingratitude in other lives. Familiar with gratitude merely as a passing emotion, they can hardly resonate to Pliny's teaching that the whole earth is a kind nurse and mother to mankind, and its elements are not at all inimical to mortals. Their moral and spiritual deficiency goes back to the lost continent of Atlantis, wherein they were engrossed in utilizing spiritual knowledge for the sake of self-aggrandisement. As a result, there was enormous damage to the Third Eye, which then closed. Therefore they now experience a technical difficulty in being intuitive, as well as in conserving, consolidating or controlling astral tendencies. Owing to their alienation from their spiritual heritage through the astral damage they have done to themselves, they tend to concoct theories which purport to disprove the possibility or use of any metaphysical intuition at all in the human race. Meanwhile, they remain subject to the affinities they have formed with classes of elementals, shells and elementaries, and hence to the sullen state of depressed consciousness that is their inescapable karma. What they must learn, and what their karma affords them the opportunity to learn, is that they exist solely for the sake of reaching out to something larger than themselves. If through the initially painful recognition of their own awesome responsibility and austere duty they learn this lesson, it will work to the long-term good of the soul. But if they indulge and engage in this perverse and cyclical state of mind, they are only prolonging the karma that goes back to other lives.
Individuals must one day come to see that in a universe of Law all human qualities are connected with cosmic sources and forces. Nothing is accidental. A person cannot be a silent worshipper of the Spiritual Sun and cannot constantly think of it without always being full of optimism and benevolence. On the other hand, one cannot be caught in the meshes of cynicism and pessimism without having connected oneself to the dark side of the moon through adharma and the persistent misuse of powers. In Kali Yuga there are many such souls, and though they desperately need help, and do not know how to help themselves, they try to lay down the conditions of life for all. Harming and even destroying each other in their ignorance, they use up human bodies, and in extreme cases through annihilation there is a compassionate release of the immortal Triad altogether from the astral form so that another cycle of incarnations may be initiated by the Triad. The soulless shell that is left behind is dominated by the perverse energies of the tortuous mind, and only dissipates after it goes through a terrible torment. Long before this extreme condition, there are warnings and whispers by the divine Triad, and if these last chances are taken promptly, there can be a gradual restoration. If they are not taken they may be given again, though each time the signals will be fainter. But if they are repeatedly flouted, doom is inevitable. Seen in this light, much that goes on in human life in the name of rationalizations and ideologies, much that is repeated again and again as a form of inefficient self-hypnosis, amounts to nothing but a pathetic and soul-destroying denial of the meaning and justice of life. If people persist in this despite abundant evidence to the contrary, they are only rendering irreversible their own passage down the lunar path of self-destruction. In the presence of the solar light everything is rapidly intensified. If one receives and becomes a sacrificial user of the life-giving current of the wisdom, at whatever level, this is sane. Every authentic effort counts. It is not so important to take a constant inventory of where one comes out; what is vital is the refusal to give up on the effort and the steadfast will to maintain a strong line of courageous conviction, inserting oneself into a larger and larger perspective. If one does not do this, one will accentuate the opposite tendencies. Such is the nature of light. In the presence of light-energy the dark will necessarily be activated, and all the ghouls and vampires, all the nefarious elements connected with doomed sorcerers, will deposit themselves in the astral corpus, the linga sharira. Truly, it is for the sake of all souls that such occult teachings as the correspondences of human principles and planetary globes are given out, not for the amusement of dilettantes or the derision of scoffers.
The mind that is able to absorb Divine Wisdom is itself an inherently pure substance which can reflect the light of Spirit. But when it is continually used in association with the voracious sense-organs of an astral form chained to a physical body, in order to feed the appetites, the desires, the fancies and the tyrannical will of the boisterous elements that make up the persona, the mind gravitates downwards. This may be called the lunar activity of the mind, whereas when the mind draws upwards to the Spirit, it is solar. When the mind ascends towards the Spiritual Sun, becoming itself a great luminous globe close to the causal realm, this is the mysterious sacrifice of Manas. Also, because Manas has come down one plane there is acute awareness and imperious intelligence in the fickle world of materiality. Hence there is a solemn responsibility for all thoughts and sensory consciousness in a world of contrast, differentiation and moral choice. Because of the descent of Manas down one plane, all life is ethical, therapeutic and probationary, from the impartial standpoint of the immortal soul. The test of being truly human is to see everything as involving ethical issues. The moment one starts to see all life as fraught with extremely complex choices which invoke the highest and profoundest morality that is concerned with soul-evolution, linking consciousness with motive and the welfare of every single soul in its pilgrimage, one discovers an exalted concept of ethical sensitivity, far superior to the ersatz notions of right and wrong in conventional morals. At best, these dicta embody worldly wisdom based on the past, and are only able to support social expediency and, occasionally, certain good habits. True morality involves the direction, either upward or downward, that is given to every single life-atom. Its enormous scope encompasses the vast sweep of the Root Races of humanity, which "commence with the Ethereal and end with the spiritual on the double line of physical and moral evolution – from the beginning of the terrestrial round to its close." The moral task of the immortal soul summons it in a great sacrifice, for it takes the daunting risk of descent into a restricting vesture of clay. Its awareness is lent in the direction of differentiation and disunity, the direction of potential death through discord, doubt and despair. This materialization of the spiritual energies belonging to mind takes place macrocosmically and microcosmically, involving both the principles of sevenfold man and the globes of the planetary chain."...it is a case of descent into matter, the adjustment – in both the mystic and physical senses – of the two, and their interblending for the great coming "struggle of life" that awaits both entities."
Dynamically, only the Atman and Buddhi are of the spiritual plane because they have an eternally self-sustaining light-energy. The Atman is in perpetual motion and Buddhi is the diffused but indestructible light of the Atman. Atman and Buddhi do not typically incarnate in human beings. If they did, human beings would be gods. But before human beings can become gods, they must become heroes. For them to become heroes they must enter the thought-sphere of Manas and elevate it towards higher altitudes. This is what the Buddha meant by dictating terms to the mind, made captive through craving to the world-illusion. In this paradigmatically human arena most testing takes place on a plane that is invisible to the persona. As a result, people without a sense of morality rooted in Manas suppose that they are not being tested, or that they can get away with mental dishonesty and sanctimonious hypocrisy. But if, as in Edward Bellamy's strange story, all human beings were endowed with telepathy, there would be a quick ending to furtiveness and religiosity since all particularized thoughts would be instantly known to all. No doubt there would be deeper secrets locked up in Atma-Buddhi – but there would be a much purer mode of communication because a great deal of the humbug masquerading behind the mask of self-righteousness would be transparent. There would be no room for deceptive facades and moral evasion. This is only a pale anticipation of the state of consciousness of civilizations yet far in the future, in the Fifth and the Sixth Rounds, when the state of consciousness would be so exalted, that beings enigmatically referred to as Sixth Rounders like the Buddha or Shankara, or Fifth Rounders like Plato and Confucius, would represent the average of those future humanities. The entry of such beings into the Fourth Round, like raindrops that presage the monsoon, must remain mysterious. Such beings speak in terms of experience concerning invisible realities, using language to intimate and evoke latent perceptions in human beings who, even in the Fourth Round, have not taken full advantage of the Fifth Race, which is archetypally characterized by pure thought. Rationality and reason in the best sense constantly look for universality and effortlessly practise the Golden Rule, never expecting of another what one dare not expect of oneself, always putting oneself to the test and eschewing all negative judgement of others. By these criteria, many human beings have fallen below the potential of the fifth sub-race of the Fifth Root Race of the Fourth Round, and behind even the powers of thought of its first sub-race. This abnormally retarded condition is quite independent of Kali Yuga, and goes back to the fourth sub-race as well as to the Fourth Root Race. It is a strong persistent shadow which again and again obscures a variety of individuals. An individual may make progress in three lives upon the Path and may have the good fortune to be in the presence of Teachers and co-disciples whose consciousness is naturally magnanimous, and who naturally represent the graces of the Golden Age. But the fourth time around this individual could be pursued by the dweller on the threshold, by the conglomeration of all the terrible tendencies which had not been worked out and which go back to an earlier incarnation. When it comes, it has to be faced, and the light of Spirit must be heroically reaffirmed in the midst of the worldly maelstrom.
Manasic or ethical evolution rests on a fundamental distinction between what is self-sustaining, enduring and indestructible in the spiritual realm, and what is changing, evanescent and discontinuous in the material realm. Because of the downward movement of thought from the spiritual plane into the material plane and upward back to the spiritual plane, there is a constant possibility of the crass materializing of the spiritual, the effete etherealizing of the material. When a human being wakes up to the practical and profound alchemical implications of the metaphysical teaching that every moment one has the opportunity either to choose ethereal and refined conceptions or the opposite, then the doctrine of the seven globes comes alive. One can take even the most worldly material events and lend them beauty, significance and meaning from the standpoint of the immortal soul through the power of Manasic consecration. For the noetic mind it is natural even to take the most trivial subject and to give it a deeper meaning, whereas the mind caught in the blind toils of kama can take even sacred themes and constantly concretize them. Those who understand what is really at stake and who begin to reflect upon etherealization versus concretization could then look at their feelings, their thoughts, and particularly their words, to find out how much they are raising consciousness and how often they are lowering it. The tone of voice becomes important; the light in the eyes becomes relevant; one's first thought on waking and one's last thought before speaking become valuable tests. When the spiritual life becomes real in these ways, life itself is transformed, enriched, elevated, even beatified.
H.P. Blavatsky urges, as do the Mahatmas, that people become aware of these tendencies. Again and again the Masters of the East have written with great pain about the difficulty of teaching spiritual wisdom to a materialistic age because of the constant danger of over-categorization, over-definition and concretization, which are real dangers that affect what happens to the Teachings. While some of this is due to materialization of terms, obscuring the meanings behind the veil of words, the real problem is in consciousness, not language. The difference in the end is between Wisdom and knowledge, between the Sun and the planets, between the Atman and the other principles. Without the Soul Science, Gupta Vidya, the Secret Wisdom, the Atma-Vidya, true Spiritual and Divine Wisdom, all the other facets of occult knowledge will be useless. They will merely become mechanical activities, mixed up with psychic fantasy. Although they may increase the operation of instinctual behaviour, and be often mistaken for the spiritual, they will have little to do with the spiritual, least of all with fully self-conscious spiritual impulses.
The great danger is that if one is caught up in the exoteric form of the esoteric teaching, through lack of meditation, inattention to duty, and insufficient assimilation of the ideal of sacrifice rooted in metaphysical understanding, one will merely activate a lunar astral form and generate the kama rupa of a disciple. In other words, everything will become merely the mimetics of mechanical motions. On the other hand, if one is truly in search of the immortal soul, viewing spiritual realities and seminal ideas as one's true invisible companions, then one will be constantly probing into the hidden depths of one's own nature in silence with calmness, serenity, contentment and cheerfulness. One will deepen and strengthen whatever elements of these qualities one can already find within, always putting the onus upon oneself, and never on the side of others or on the side of discontent, psychic noise and petulant complaint. The sovereign responsibility and golden opportunity in the use of this teaching are great because if it is applied in earnest each day, it will infallibly deepen all one's perceptions. Seeing beyond the outer surface of terrestrial life to the inmost depths of every other human soul, one will truly become a friend and a helper of the entire human race.
Hermes, October 1980