by Sri Raghavan Iyer
We see a flower slowly developing from a bud, and the bud from its seed. But whence the latter, with all its predetermined programme of physical transformation, and its invisible, therefore spiritual forces which gradually develop its form, colour, and odour? The word evolution speaks for itself. The germ of the present human race must have preexisted in the parent of this race, as the seed, in which lies hidden the flower of next summer, was developed in the capsule of its parent flower. –The Secret Doctrine, ii xvi
THE TWELVE STANZAS of Dzyan on anthropogenesis, like the seven Stanzas on cosmogenesis, are accompanied by interwoven Commentary and supplemented by elaborate elucidations of myth and symbol, of science and philosophy. To gain a clear comprehension of the overall framework is difficult partially because it was meant to be difficult. There are numerous blinds, overlapping statements and various interlocking classifications which use terms differently in distinct contexts. There is a code language in The Secret Doctrine, which is meant to arouse Buddhic intuition and to nullify the tendency of lower Manas to consolidate categories, classifications and even concepts. As an initial aid in gaining a broad picture of human evolution, H.P. Blavatsky gives at the beginning a brief account of the five continents which more or less roughly correspond with the five Root Races through which humanity has passed on this globe in reaching its present stage. If one sees the entirety of involution and evolution in the form of a circle, humanity as a whole has come down over half the circle and has begun to ascend back to its pristine source. This critical stage is represented by the Fifth Sub-Race of the Fifth Root Race in the Fourth Round. The purpose of understanding this entire scheme is to see more clearly the varied ways in which every human being today is bound up with all other human beings who ever lived or will live in the future.
It is not enough to do this vaguely in terms of some fuzzy proposition about what Feuerbach called the species nature of humanity. Rather, it must be done in terms that are significant from the standpoint of sentient beings, human souls that have lived and struggled, learnt and forgotten, erred, picked up the thread again, expanded consciousness, assumed contraction of consciousness involuntarily and voluntarily, by mutual impact in a multitude of conditions and contexts. In order to convey a vast gamut of possible relations between externality and internal states of consciousness, H.P. Blavatsky sets out the broad scheme of Continents and Races, beginning with the Imperishable Sacred Isle of the Blessed:
This ‘Sacred Land’…is stated never to have shared the fate of the other continents; because it is the only one whose destiny it is to last from the beginning to the end of the Manvantara throughout each Round. It is the cradle of the first man and the dwelling of the last divine mortal, chosen as a Sishta for the future seed of humanity. Of this mysterious and sacred land very little can be said, except, perhaps, according to a poetical expression in one of the Commentaries, that the ‘pole-star has its watchful eye upon it, from the dawn to the close of the twilight of “a day” of the GREAT BREATH.’ –The Secret Doctrine, ii 6
The proper study of mankind is Man, declared the poet Pope. This is a mighty venture into the range and reach of human consciousness. The intuitive individual who turns inward, giving reality to the secret wisdom within the sanctuary of immortal consciousness, will necessarily turn back far beyond the confines of recorded and unrecorded history, beyond manifested events and finite memory. One must thus return to the primal fount of one’s deepest kinship with enlightened beings on the Imperishable Sacred Land who were the divine guardians that nursed and protected the First Root Race. No poetical description, philosophical account or scientific scheme could do justice to that primordial state of collective consciousness.
It is not to be located in the mists of antiquity, but lies in a realm transcending ordinary conceptions of past, present and future, perpetually present during the vast epoch of a manvantara. This is the noumenal basis for all theological or poetical conceptions of paradisaic consciousness.
In the para-temporal sequence of human evolution we are then told of the legendary home of the Second Race:
The ‘HYPERBOREAN’ will be the name chosen for the Second Continent, the land which stretched out its promontories southward and westward from the North Pole to receive the Second Race, and comprised the whole of what is now known as Northern Asia. Such was the name given by the oldest Greeks to the far-off and mysterious region, whither their tradition made Apollo the ‘Hyperborean’ travel every year. Astronomically, Apollo is of course the Sun…
But historically, or better, perhaps, ethnologically and geologically, the meaning is different. The land of the Hyperboreans, the country that extended beyond Boreas, the frozen-hearted god of snows and hurricanes, who loved to slumber heavily on the chain of Mount Riphaeus, was neither an ideal country, as surmised by the mythologists, nor yet a land in the neighbourhood of Scythia and the Danube. It was a real Continent, a bona-fide land which knew no winter in those early days, nor have its sorry remains more than one night and day during the year, even now. The nocturnal shadows never fall upon it, said the Greeks; for it is the land of the Gods, the favourite abode of Apollo, the god of light, and its inhabitants are his beloved priests and servants. –The Secret Doctrine, ii 7
Then we have the Third Continent in which the Third Root Race came to experience the first stirrings of self-conscious awakening. It is designated as ‘Lemuria’, a name invented in the 1850’s by P.L. Sclater, who held on zoological grounds that there was once a continent which extended from Madagascar to Ceylon and Sumatra, including some portions of what is now Africa. This gigantic continent stretching from the Indian Ocean to Australia and beyond has almost entirely disappeared, leaving only some of its highest points as scattered islands.
Next we have the Fourth Continent, now called Atlantis, the first ‘historical’ land, which together with the Fourth Race, passed through markedly different phases. Following the era of the Fourth Root Race, a period as long as five million years, the Fifth Root Race, to which present humanity belongs, began a million years ago with its First Sub-Race in ancient India. Atlantis was originally much vaster than the last large fragment which disappeared about 850,000 years ago. Geologically, the Fifth Continent should be America, but H.P. Blavatsky says, “as it is situated at the Antipodes, it is Europe and Asia Minor, almost coeval with it, which are generally referred to by the Indo-Aryan Occultists as the fifth”. The classification of the Continents follows the order of evolution of the Races, not the geological appearance of the Continents. Nor do the present configurations of land masses indicate the past relations of Races.
There was a time when the delta of Egypt and Northern Africa belonged to Europe, before the formation of the Straits of Gibraltar, and a further upheaval of the continent, changed entirely the face of the map of Europe. The last serious change occurred some 12,000 years ago, and was followed by the submersion of Plato’s little Atlantic island, which he calls Atlantis after its parent continent. –The Secret Doctrine, ii 8-9
Any accurate appreciation of philosophical anthropogenesis and its spiritual implications must be consonant with cosmogenesis. One must work back from the fourth globe, our own earth, to its earliest inheritances which connect with the entire solar system. This is not only true on the physical plane, but also simultaneously on the invisible planes. This is difficult to understand but it is crucial if one is to make sense of the cosmic scale on which interact internal and external evolution. The nineteenth century conception of material evolution represented a considerable improvement upon the fragmented and arbitrary conceptions of creation which persisted among the credulous and the bigoted. This advance was accompanied by resuscitated cultural theories harking back to classical notions that were pre-Socratic, Platonic and Aristotelian. Nonetheless, it externalized, on the basis of a restrictive view of evidence, the fundamental concepts of mutation, change and chance, and organic growth. In order to accommodate a richer view of evolution even in the external world, and a much more formidable programme of internal evolution in consciousness, thoughtful individuals have to see beyond the orthodoxies of science and of religion. They need to draw freely upon their own subjective experiences in seeking and gaining self-knowledge. The process must be conceived as open-textured, admitting of fructification from the realm of ideation to the region of event. This demands the deliberate extension of the horizon of growth and the potentials in all human beings. The study of human nature must be undertaken in a disciplined manner that is both logical and also intuitively corresponds to that which is integral to cosmic evolution. The metaphysical power to abstract and to visualize has to be aroused if one seriously intends to make sense of human evolution in a universe of infinite unmanifest potentiality.
The methodology of the Gupta Vidya is linked to the process of self-regeneration. It focusses upon the purification and perfection of the vestures of the aspirant pari passu with the unfolding of perceptual mysteries. It is, therefore, inseparable from the actual course of human evolution itself. It is, in fact, evolution made self-conscious. In its conceptual framework, it mirrors the living matrix of both cosmos and man, and in practice it teaches the macrocosmic and microcosmic application of the different keys of interpretation to myths and symbols. These often offer hints about the vibrations connecting different parts of the universe and different parts of the human constitution. Anyone who begins to appreciate the richer classifications of the ancient world, especially in Sanskrit but also in Greek, will refuse to be bound by any simplistic cardboard categories such as ‘mind’ and ‘body’, ‘irrational’ and ‘rational’. These are of little help in understanding the complex interaction between the cosmic and the atomic. Every human being has the same evolutionary task as every other human being who ever lived, lives now or will live in the future. In this pilgrimage there are ancient guidelines in cutting through the clutter of detail and getting to the core of noetic consciousness.
Owing to centuries of mutilation of the higher faculties by dogmatic religion and materialistic science, many people do not have metaphysical imagination. In mass society many find it difficult to generate abstract ideas or to sustain constructive thought. All too often persons get threatened if confronted by any idea that has no immediate concrete reference to their personal self-image. This sad condition demonstrates the inherited damage to consciousness which is transmitted, and even aggravated, by contemporary media. To correct this will require tremendous courage and compassion, and also great wisdom in altering the plasticity of the human mind. Eventually this subtle transformation will require that every human being make some effort to think metaphysically. After a point, what is initially difficult becomes easier, and suddenly a whole group of people who were once completely bewildered by metaphysical abstractions awaken a dormant aptitude for creative imagination. The metaphysical must connect with the mystical.
Those who truly seek to prepare themselves for discipleship must choose a mode of life which can help to maintain an increasing continuity of consciousness. Using the method of analogy and correspondence, one will find that The Secret Doctrine is really giving instruction concerning meditation and self-study, about how to understand other human beings, and how to make a constructive difference to the collective karma of the human race. Each human being, every day and night, has microcosmic choices and opportunities which, if calmly understood from the perspective of the macrocosmic, enables an honest seeker to be truly helpful to the Brotherhood of Bodhisattvas. In the early stages this would be mostly unconscious to the lower mind but entirely clear to the immortal soul. Even small differences wrought in the moral choices one makes by night and day can unlock doors for vast numbers of human beings and open pathways which will be relevant to the Races to come and the Aquarian civilization of the future. Aspiring disciples will find that sometimes just by taking a phrase or a sentence and writing it out, reflecting upon it and sincerely attempting to apply it to themselves, trying to use it at dawn, midday, the twilight hour or late at night, but always so that one may become the better able to help and serve the whole of the human race, they will tap the inexhaustible resources of Akasha.
It is certainly possible to establish a strong nucleus of spiritual seekers who can imbibe the elixir of Divine Wisdom. One is automatically unable to glimpse the secrets of Nature if one is not of the right frame of mind, does not have the proper motivation or does not have the proper mental posture of a disciple. But if one does have even a modicum of these, one will receive intimations from unseen helpers as to how to make Hermetic wisdom come alive and become an alchemical, ambrosial source for self-transmutation. Speaking of winged Mercury as the perpetual companion of the Sun of Wisdom, H.P. Blavatsky pointed to the profound mysteries in human consciousness which are vitally relevant to sushupti, dhyana and turiya:
He was the leader of and the evocator of Souls, the ‘great Magician’ and the Hierophant. Virgil depicts him as taking ‘his wand to evoke from Orcus the souls plunged therein’… He is the golden-coloured Mercury, the [click for Greek] whom the Hierophants forbade to name. He is symbolised in Grecian mythology by one of the dogs (vigilance), which watch over the celestial flock (occult wisdom), or Hermes Anubis, or again Agathodaemon. He is the Argus watching over the Earth, and which the latter mistakes for the Sun itself. It is through the intercession of Mercury that the Emperor Julian prayed to the Occult Sun every night; for, as says Vossius: ‘All the theologians agree to say that Mercury and the Sun are one…. He was the most eloquent and the most wise of all the gods, which is not to be wondered at, since Mercury is in such close proximity to the Wisdom and the Word of God (the Sun)…’ –The Secret Doctrine, ii 28
Through daily meditation upon the Spiritual Sun, Buddhi is aroused and sheds its light upon the noumenal meaning of experience, the internal relations in human consciousness which are connected with the external conditions of material evolution. Hermetic wisdom bridges the gap between ideation, image and form, between universal Spirit and differentiated matter, between the cosmic and the human, between the abstract and the concrete. Meaningful correlations between noumenal causes and disconnected events are sensed in sushupti, dreamless sleep. Dhyana or meditation dissolves the boundaries of the separative self and prepares the awakened individual to attain unbroken continuity of consciousness. The process of evolution is reversed, the illusory succession of events is shattered by insight, and spiritual wakefulness (turiya) is eventually experienced. When this becomes an unbroken state of ceaseless contemplation, enlightenment is possible and all life may be experienced with therapeutic skill, the firmness of the caduceus, the fire of compassion.