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Degrees of Enlightenment

Degrees Of Enlightenment


 The names of the deities of a certain mystic class change with every Manvantara. Thus the twelve great gods, Jayas, created by Brahma to assist him in the work of creation in the very beginning of the Kalpa, and who, lost in Samadhi, neglected to create -- whereupon they were cursed to be repeatedly born in each Manvantara, till the seventh -- are respectively called Ajitas, Tushitas, Satyas, Haris, Vaikunthas, Sadhyas and Adityas: they are Tushitas (in the second Kalpa) and Adityas in this Vaivasvata period, besides other names for each age. But they are identical with the Manasa or Rajasas, and these with our incarnating Dhyan Chohans. They are all classes of the Gnana-devas.... There are real Devagnanams, and to these classes of Devas belong the Adityas, the Vairajas, the Kumaras, the Asuras, and all those high celestial beings whom Occult teaching calls Manaswin, the Wise, foremost of all.

The Secret Doctrine, ii 90

 According to the ancient Puranas the first gods were the Virajas, the Agnishvatta Pitris, the gods and fathers of the gods. Beheld by Brahma with the all-seeing eye of yoga, the Agnishvattas inhabit the eternal sphere called Virajaloka. From these incorporeal Pitris, unshadowed by any astral phantom, come all the Hosts of the Manasas, the spiritual ancestors who endowed nascent humanity with the potency of self-conscious thought over eighteen million years ago. The recognition and realization of this divine heredity is essential to the seminal work of the Theosophical Movement, which was, is and ever shall be the progressive elevation of the buddhi and manas of the human race. All human beings are pristine rays of Mahat, universal mind, and therefore all human beings are inherently capable of universal self-consciousness, transcending every object and every subject. The buddhi-manasic potential of humanity is not, in principle, limited by any field that requires the focussing of consciousness upon any specific class of particulars. Divine self-consciousness has not only the effortless capacity for intense interior concentration upon any class of objects, but also the assured capacity for freeing itself from confinement through any class of particulars. Human consciousness is intrinsically capable of conceiving all possible as well as all actual beings, all possible and actual subjects and objects. Through the joyous awareness of their essentially divine nature, human beings are capable not only of seeing humanity and the entirety of manifested Nature in terms of all that may be known about the present and the past, but also of visualizing the vast range of possibilities constituting the future of Nature and Man.

 It was the divine intent of the solar ancestors of the human race that humanity should awaken and master this latent capacity for kriyashakti. This would naturally encompass the ability to visualize the future development of flora and fauna and of the elemental kingdoms, as well as the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms. In particular, far-sighted individuals may fearlessly extend the horizon of human powers and possibilities, and imagine what fully self-conscious human beings might be like in the far distant future. This sovereign capacity of human beings to go far beyond any particular set of facts is not a matter of mere idle speculation or sporadic invention. If this sacred activity of calmly visualizing the future is sustained with deep concentration that transcends the realm of memory and sensation, it will penetrate with depth and intensity into a much subtler plane of existence, wherein all matter is undifferentiated, primordial and fiery. This is the plane of the supersensuous ether, the Akasha, which is exceedingly subtle, plastic and pliable to persistent ideation.

 Through such intense concentration, human beings may actually help fashion the noumenal prototypes of the future. This is a sacred theurgic activity, and to be able to sustain it one would not only have to become practised and proficient in deep meditation, but also to become dispassionate and detached towards the existing world of objects and subjects. Certainly, one would have to free oneself from the crude memory of cursory events that impinge, mostly through sensation, pleasure and pain. upon the agitated personality. In fact, one would have to disengage oneself from all the chaotic affinities that one has formed in the astral body with ephemeral events, meretricious attractions and concretizing tendencies. To engage in this profound self-purification, one must learn to stay in a meditative state of voidness, experiencing what St. John of the Cross called the dark night of the soul. After purging all the lower affinities and supplanting them with finer tendencies originating in the higher Self, one may gradually become directly conscious of the higher affinities of the immortal soul. It is at this point that the awakened soul may become immediately aware of the different classes of hierarchies and creators involved in the spiritual lineage of humanity. Among the myriad classes of creators, human beings have a special affinity with highly evolved divine intelligences allied with the sukshma sharira, what might be called the subliminal aspect of the astral form. Every human being has recognizable affinities with the myriad gods, and with all the divine intelligences that endlessly circulate within the supersensuous ether of Space. Potentially, human consciousness may inhabit not merely spaces on and around the earth, but also interplanetary spaces, intrasolar spaces and spaces extending even to those that circle round the nucleus of the central Spiritual Sun.

 The profound nature and enormous range of human potential is hardly comprehensible to most ordinary human beings. Even a partial incarnation of true buddhi-manasic genius will produce a highly sensitive individual capable of remarkable flashes of genius, extraordinary vision and divine intuition. Mozart was one such genius, a shining example of a free spirit who inhabited a world that has no relationship to the world as we know it. These rare souls may be expansively buoyant in their relationships to human beings and also be daringly outspoken and maddeningly unorganized in a worldly sense. For such a kaleidoscopic mind, replete with musical vibrations -- the endless permutations, patterns and resonances of Akashic sound -- it is very difficult to make a practical accommodation to ordinary human consciousness. Instead, such boisterous beings are in continual communication with the devas, with divine beings and divine intelligences, and are effortlessly capable of experiencing the music of the spheres as well as the divine dance (lila) of the noumenal plane.

 Even such souls, however, can scarcely give a sufficient indication of the immense range of creative ideation. It flourishes freely in a realm impossible to map, impossible to delimit or even to define. Whether one talks in the language of comparison and contrast, or in terms of individuation and universalization, no category can convey enough about the inexhaustible range of possible conceptions that belong to the vast realm of seminal ideation. Yet if one begins to discern something of the nature of these wondrous possibilities, it becomes clear that there can be conscious alterations, by controlled ideation, in human beings, which not only transcend kama manas -- the brain-mind caught up in the volatile and ever-changing realm of sensory particulars -- but may even gain a skilful mastery at some level over hosts of elementals, and then delegate many of the functions that belong to the lower quaternary to a trained set of elementals.

 Everyone has some experience, at a preliminary level, of such training. An extremely experienced cook, even an experienced driver, may have some sense of being involved with intelligences or elementals that seem to function without constant guidance. These entities have been programmed, one might say, to respond flexibly and to become extremely sensitive to all the actual and possible features of a situation. Whilst one may gain some elementary sense of this from such ordinary examples, it is inadequate to convey a full sense of the complete mastery over elementals that one finds, for example, in Shakespeare's The Tempest. Prospero the Magus has in Ariel a highly skilled controller over the elemental field who is at the same time a perfect instrument of Prospero. This entirely realistic example reveals the ever-present possibility in human ideation of delegating whole classes of functions through trained elementals. In practice, this requires a transformed relationship between the Lunar Pitris -- who have given humanity all the elements of its lower quaternary -- and the Solar Pitris -- who have lit up in humanity the flame of self-consciousness. Only by forming self-conscious affinities with the Agnishvatta Pitris, who are responsible for all the Manasas, may one gain such mastery.

 To establish that relationship one must move to a realm of meta-ethics and of noetic magic, far removed from all ordinary conceptions. What in other people are involuntary and compulsive tendencies can, in fact, be brought together in ways in which there is a precision in the orchestration of elemental intelligences in the performance of a wide variety of activities. All these activities would be commanded by the astral shadow of the Lunar Pitris, which itself has become highly responsible and wholly responsive to the Solar Dhyani who has become more fully incarnated. Here it is helpful to draw an analogy with the macro-processes of evolution, which may be put in terms of the following stages:

 Three stages in the elemental side; the mineral kingdom; three stages in the objective physical side -- these are the seven links of the evolutionary chain. A descent of spirit into matter, equivalent to an ascent in physical evolution; a re-ascent from the deepest depths of materiality (the mineral) towards its status quo ante, with a corresponding dissipation of concrete organisms up to Nirvana -- the vanishing point of differentiated matter.

Five Years of Theosophy

 The progressive descent of spirit into matter involves an increasing obscuration of spirit. To be able to elaborate, extend and experience the matrix of matter, there must be a temporary loss of conscious access to innate, timeless and unbounded spirituality. On the other side of the evolutionary arc, to be able to free the spiritual will is to reduce and refine, to concentrate and reshape matter, so that one becomes less involved with gross life-atoms and more capable of dealing with the most sensitive, refined and supersensuous life-atoms. These in turn are capable of responding as naturally and as reliably to the spiritual will as a fine musical instrument to the hands of a master. Such a maestro is not focussed upon either instrument or script, but having mastered them both, creates and re-creates sound through his own metaphysical imagination.

 Long before this can happen to human beings in general, long before the beginning of the Sixth Race, there must be a conscious development, within the Fifth Sub-Race of the Fifth Race, of an impartial, impersonal and universal sense of justice in the moral realm. This can only come from a freedom from all possible roles and a capacity to enact them freely, while at the same time being able to see beyond them. The vanguard of the Fifth Root Race in the Fifth Sub-Race arose essentially in Europe and Scandinavia, going back to ancient Nordic conceptions of law, self-respect, honour and freedom. Later, the whole range of Germanic peoples, coming down to the Mediterranean world, and above all the rich heritage of England and France, contributed to this remarkable development. The greatest creative geniuses over thousands of years in that part of the world have created complex languages and also a scintillating spectrum of conceptual possibilities that is still to be fully assimilated by many human beings. Unfortunately, most human beings, especially in the last hundred years, have become mentally slavish and morally parasitic, subsisting only because of mass education and mass culture. Strutting and posturing, they cling to copies upon copies of the shadows of shadows of the original insights of the greatest minds. Even the better products of contemporary culture scarcely have even an indirect awareness of secondary and third-order reflections of the seminal ideation of the vanguard of the Fifth Sub-Race. To break this destructive cycle of degradation, it is necessary to go beyond the outward ephemera of contemporary culture by developing the power of meditation with a degree of continuity and skill that is paralleled by the development of a responsible detachment, rooted in the fact that one had discharged all one's duties. Only when one fulfils all one's familiar obligations in many spheres can one become truly detached -- free to contemplate and free to go beyond the claims of the world -- and also free to give full support to an arduous programme of systematic and continuous spiritual meditation.

 This theurgic activity, which is now so crucial to the Fifth Sub-Race, was laid down in its essentials in the First Sub-Race of the Fifth Root Race in India. Here in the New Cycle one may be helped through a variety of sacred texts, especially through the Yoga Vasishtha. Even though it might have been written down relatively recently (namely, in the last two thousand years), it actually records the Teachings given a million years ago in the time of Rama by the Sage Vasishtha. The Yoga Vasishtha sets forth the holy discourses given by the Sage in the court of Rama, the great King-Initiate and incarnated Avatar who was no other than the being who later became Krishna. Rama invited the Rishi, who was beyond time, outside history and representative of the realm of the transcendent, to transmit the quintessence of the highest wisdom in regard to the Self, in regard to mind, error, happiness, virtue, and also in regard to the highest exemplification of living liberation, the Jivanmuktas. The Sage offered disquisition upon disquisition, repeatedly and in diverse modes, using rich and telling metaphors, but always reverting to certain central questions based upon the relation between the real and the unreal. Here the terms "real" and "unreal" are not applied merely to the world of fugitive sense-perceptions, but to immense periods of time, to entire worlds and manvantaras. From that elevated standpoint, one is asked to generate an active sense of reality which is more fundamental, more durable and much more meaningful, and which therefore can be carried over millions upon millions of years. That is the exalted philosophical level at which Vasishtha speaks. At the core of his Teachings are profound questions about the relation of the unmanifest to the manifest.

 In the Yoga Vasishtha the supreme basis of a consecrated life of conscious immortality and ceaseless contemplation was provided at the beginning, as also in the later climactic development, of the Fifth Root Race. To rise in consciousness to this level, much less go beyond it, is to develop a radically new attitude towards the whole concept of conquest and control, a heightened sense of the invisible world of elementals and an entirely new conception of noetic magic involving the exercise of kriyashakti, creative visualization. This requires the sovereign capacity to alchemize and transform all one's lower vestures. And it is the testimony of the Sage that this is possible only if one can activate potentials in the subtlest vestures. It is essential to awaken certain higher subdivisions of manas in relation to specific subdivisions of buddhi and to bring them together.

 This daring programme, which goes directly to the heart of the Theosophical Movement, is really a concerted effort to stimulate the metaphysical imagination of thinking beings who have the courage and freedom to see beyond the limits of their environment, beyond the parameters of their parochial, familial and cultural affinities. Those who can go beyond these customary limitations, and who can truly adopt a universal perspective of the human heritage, will be able to see behind all the great myths of all humanity certain inspiring central conceptions which throw light not only upon the forgotten language of dreams and visions, but also upon the world as it is. A true awakening of spiritual imagination inevitably and wholly changes one's view of what it is to be alive and who one is. It also generates a rich inner life, joyous and serene, but rooted in a relaxed mastery over all the obligations of one's outer life. Whilst accomplishing all of these with ease, completing them with only a portion of oneself, one will keep free the rest of oneself to continue to gestate the highest conceptions.

 The effortless performance of every obligation, whilst established in transcendence of the outer world, involves a rethinking of the fundamental nature of attention to good and evil, to right and wrong. This would also be connected with a reconceptualization of what are seen as limitation and imperfection, suffering and misfortune, in the so-called real world. Through a meditative metaphysical awareness of the Agathon outside space and time, one must develop a compassionate and therapeutic understanding of the moral opposites in manifestation.

 Good and Evil are twins, the progeny of Space and Time, under the sway of Maya. Separate them, by cutting off one from the other, and they will both die. Neither exists per se, since each has to be generated and created out of the other, in order to come into being; both must be known and appreciated before becoming objects of perception, hence, in mortal mind, they must be divided.

The Secret Doctrine, ii 96

 Good and evil as an inseparable pair of opposites may be thought of in terms of the relationship of manifested and differentiated light and shadow. Here one is speaking not of noumenal light, not of that which originates from the centre of the hexagon, the light of Daiviprakriti, nor even of Fohat, which is the synthesis of all phenomenal light-energies. Rather, one is addressing a level that is much below the level of primordial manifestation and is concerned with the world of chaos and contrast, the realm of highly concretized perceptions. Generally, human beings have a narrowly limited view of light and, therefore, also of shadow. As the human instruments are imperfect, they give a dull and distorted conception of light and shadow. This is the inevitable outcome of the limited spatio-temporal horizon which engages consciousness in the sensorium. It operates especially strongly in memory and sensation, through the notion of the past and through expectations focussed upon a concretized and foreshortened future. All these perceptions and conceptions are under the sway of maya. There is, therefore, an element of unreality and exaggeration, an element of deception, in all moral concepts derived from such consciousness.

 This may be seen at work in many ways. One might belong to a particular family, a certain class or to some specific community. Within such a context, it might appear that there is an extraordinary difference between human beings, such that they are clearly divided between "the good guys" and "the bad guys". Some insight into the deceptive nature of contrast may be found in the work of the novelist Claude Houghton, who specialized most of his life in studying criminals and defending them. Moving in the underworld of London, he won the respect of a large number of criminals. He discovered in that underworld many senior police officers whose whole task was to befriend the most important of the crooks. He thus discovered a very complicated kind of understanding between both sets of individuals. Behind the facade of social life and its facile generalizations, he saw there were innumerable unexpected and complicated shades and blendings of goodness and evil, of strength and weakness, of courage and timidity, that mocked any exaggerated contrast of good and evil. Some of the authentic complexity of human beings can also be seen in Shakespearian plays, where every character has an element of absurdity and a possibility of transcendence; everyone is changing all the time, and by the end may, in unexpected ways, be elevated.

 Seen from the objective standpoint of a great dramatist, the entire gamut of human character is so great that one must begin to accept that any sort of harsh contrast between good and evil is subjective and deceptive. Such contrasts are based upon external signs and are limited owing to the habitually limited contexts in consciousness in which people ordinarily move. Yet it is precisely these limitations which impose upon individuals tremendous burdens of fear and expectation, as well as induce them to indulge in judgementalism. From the exalted standpoint of an enlightened being, as Buddha once said, all differences between all human beings are as nothing compared to the tremendous difference between the enlightened and the unenlightened. Once one registers the huge abyss separating the great benefactors and divine ancestors of the human race from ordinary human beings, one can clearly see the relativity of one's perceptions regarding good and evil, right and wrong. Even more is required if one is going to be not merely an objective observer or a sympathetic judge, but a mature being responsible for others. Again, one may be helped by examples -- a wise mother with a large family made up of difficult and easy children, or a wise schoolteacher, who truly wants to release the potential and do the best for a large class of different people. One might also think of a wise healer, a shaman, who must not only diagnose but also cure a great variety of suffering individuals. But whilst such examples can help clarify the nature of compassion, they serve only as dim approximations of the boundless compassion and beatific grace of the enlightened.

 The only way to move towards that distant goal is through practical altruism now. If one truly desires to awaken buddhi, one must begin to learn how to act nonjudgementally and responsibly on behalf of others. Human beings who are not merely concerned with judging, let alone absolutizing, the differences between human beings, but who want to help human beings to change their condition, have to engage, either semi-consciously or with full self-consciousness, in a kind of spiritual alchemy. They must first help to change the vocabulary of people. They must minimize the use of the words "cannot" and "impossible". They must discourage the phrase "I won"t". They must stress what can be done here and now. Instead of saying that nothing can be done, people must be encouraged to discover the first step that can be taken right now. This requires an alchemical alteration in one's view of what is bad. That which is bad is that which is still alterable. Inflexibility resides purely on the plane of effects. Considered on the plane of causes, it is based upon a false idea which, though persistent and therefore strong, can nevertheless be modified and qualified. In time, indeed, it can be replaced by the true idea of which it is a distorted reflection or even a polar opposite.

 To be able to assist others in altering their perception of what is limited or limiting, to be able to help others to see opportunities where they would otherwise feel blanked out, is an alchemical art. It involves being able to see the dynamic relationship between limited goods and limited evils. Potentials of the greater good often lie within limited evils, just as the dangers of shadows often lie in prospects that seem to offer the greater good. This alchemical art is difficult to describe because it can only be learnt through daily practice. Put simply, no one can really know anything about human nature if he or she becomes an expert in human weakness. At best, one can only become a candidate for maleficent magic, or sorcery. To have any authentic knowledge of human nature and to help human beings grow, one has to become an ingenious expert on the inherent good in human beings. One must be able to put the case for any and every human being on earth.

 If one truly wishes to help humanity, one must, like a good physician, be willing to recognize illnesses for what they are and call things by their proper names. One cannot soft-pedal or deny the existence of extreme and unnatural selfishness.

 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.

Ibid, ii 110

 There is nothing more horrifying than the kamarupic portrait of an extremely selfish personality. There is nothing more ugly than tanha, the desperate clinging to the physical body. These common evils are, in fact, much more difficult to dispel than the so-called dramatic examples of evil that so fascinate popular culture.

 The wise individual who truly wants to gain a greater knowledge of human nature must grow deaf to the chaotic sounds that emerge from the hollow sounding-box of the insecure personality. He must see every person from the profound standpoint of the indwelling ray of the immortal soul, the trapped ray of universal mind. Those who are in right earnest in wanting to work actively for the humanity of the future must experience a good deal of what one of the Mahatmas characterized as "swimming in adversus flumen". To be able to gain a dynamic and therapeutic view of human nature, they must go far beyond any absolutizing or relativistic conceptions of good and evil. They must, on behalf of the future, restore a consciousness of the ineffable presence within themselves, and all humanity, of that which was in the beginning, the divine light of Mahat, the sacred lineage of the Agnishvatta Pitris.

Hermes, November 1986
by Raghavan Iyer

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