THEOSOPHY, Vol. 53, No. 9, July, 1965
(Pages 274-278; Size: 14K)

THE SOUL'S PILGRIMAGE(1)

IT was not mere caprice that urged the ancient Hermeticists to employ petrographs above the entrances to their temples, establishing the command: MAN KNOW THYSELF. It is only now beginning to be evident that a newly reincarnated current of ancient truth is leavening the mind of the race and man rediscovering again that he is a soul! Not that he is merely possessed of a vague, often uncomfortable something, whose dulcet voice whispers Fie! Fie! just prior to a move toward some beguiling desire. A something that he may lose (so our ministers say), if he chooses the step of pleasure too often.

It is held in the East that the life of man is a pilgrimage, not only from birth to death, but also through vast periods of time embracing numberless millions of years, and stretching from the beginning to the end of a Manvantara, or period of evolution. Since he is known as a spiritual being, his existence is continuous. Yet, the "Eternity of the Pilgrim" is like a wink of the Eye of Self-Existence, according to the Book of Dzyan.

Worlds appear and disappear like a regular tidal wave of coming and going, and coming again. Correspondentially, this becomes clearer when we realize that our monad is named "pilgrim" during its repeated reincarnations; the only immortal principle in us, because it is an indivisible part of the whole -- the Universal Spirit, from which it springs, and into which it is absorbed at the cycle's close.

The Secret Doctrine reiterates that there is a fundamental identity of all souls with the Universal Oversoul, which is an aspect of the Unknown Root; or the enforced pilgrimage for every Soul, a spark of the Oversoul throughout the Cycle of Incarnation, conforming to cyclic and karmic law, all through the term, and this Soul is pictured in the ancient teachings as the real Self of man.

It is obvious that today there are many opposing notions as to what man is, what the Self is, and what the Soul; but again, the ancients taught that since man is a Soul, this it is that perceives, is vision itself, unmodified -- changeless -- looking directly on ideas, for the world in which blossom the transitory and evanescent flowers of personal lives, is never the real permanent world; but that one in which we find the root of consciousness, the root beyond illusion and dwelling in the eternal.

Our reincarnating Ego was a God originally, as were all the primeval emanations of the One Unknown Principle. But since its "fall into Matter," it has had to be reborn throughout the cycle, successively, from beginning to end, being no longer a free and happy god; it is no other than a poor pilgrim faring forth to recover that which it has lost. From the earliest times all of mankind has ever been convinced of a personal spiritual entity within the personal spiritual man. This inner entity was considered as more or less divine, according to its nearness to the crown. They believed that there are external and internal conditions which affect the determination of our will upon our actions. They believed in destiny, or Karma, which from cradle to grave every man weaves around himself, as a spider does his cobweb; and that this destiny is directed by that presence, sometimes called the guardian angel, or by our more intimate inner astral man, who can well be the evil genius of the man of flesh. Both lead on the outward man, but one must win; and from the very beginning of the invisible battle the stern law of compensation and retribution steps in, following faithfully the fluctuations of the strife caused by the dual nature of the mind, which becomes so at birth -- one aspect of mind ever moving toward the passions and desires below, the other straining toward the god above.

The real Man, whether awake or asleep, whether in a physical body during life or another kind of body after death or before birth -- this real man was the same Perceiver then as now, ever the same Soul. He is the creator of all the conditions about him; the intelligent creator of this universe, in company with all the beings below and all those above him. Man thus constitutes part of a vast Brotherhood of Being -- a bond extending all the way from the very least to the very greatest.

Having started upon the long trail, and all along edging himself more and more into matter, and having mingled with every atom in manifested Space -- this Pilgrim, having labored in and out of all forms, is still only on the first rung of the precarious ladder leading from the canyon of matter to the plateaus of spiritual enlightenment. In fact, he is but halfway through his cycle when he has identified himself with the whole of Humanity, which he has created in his own image. To march upwards and homewards, the "God" has now to laboriously ascend the tedious uphill Golgotha of Life. This is the martyrdom of self-conscious existence, this sacrificing of himself to himself in order to free, as from captivity, all creatures.

Eastern philosophy has never accepted the Western theological dogma of a newly-created soul for every birth, seeing this as philosophically impossible. There must be a limited number of Monads, that immortal part of man which reincarnates again and again, changing forms, finally gaining perfection through evolution and the assimilation of the many successive personalities in each new period of manifestation. This is absolutely necessary in view of the doctrines of Reincarnation and Karma, and the gradual return of the human Monad to its source -- absolute Deity. For, "Monad" simply means the One Life as it dwells in various forms -- itself changeless, but ever changing form. Coming forth from its state of spiritual and intellectual unconsciousness (for it is ever unconscious on this plane), and skipping the first two planes -- too near the ABSOLUTE to permit of correlation with anything on a lower plane -- it goes directly into the plane of Mentality, the fifth principle Manas, usually translated Mind. As evolution proceeded it produced at last the form of man with a brain of deeper potential than that of any animal.

This man in form was not yet man in mind, and had to have the fifth principle, the thinking, perceiving one, "awakened" in order to differentiate him from the animal kingdom and give the power of becoming self-conscious. The monad was imprisoned in these forms -- that monad which is made up of Atma and Buddhi, without which evolution could not go forward. Yet the human Ego is neither Atman nor Buddhi, but the Higher Mind, the fruit of intellect and the flower of intellectual self-conscious Egoism -- in the higher spiritual sense -- the golden thread on which, like beads, are strung the various personalities of the higher Ego.

Thus, returning to birth time after time is certain for the average man, because the lower mind is still gripped by Desire, which in this present period holds sway. Manas is, therefore, ever misled while in the body, and there is no plane in the entire universe that presents a wider field of action, being nearly endless in its gradations of perception, having always an appropriate lesser plane for every "form," from the mineral monad up to the time when that monad burgeons forth, through evolution, into the Divine Monad. It is always the same monad, moving onward, differing only in its incarnations, throughout the ever succeeding cycles of complete or partial obscuration of spirit, or the partial or complete darkness of matter, as it rises into the shining region of mental spirituality or goes down into the slough of materiality.

There is but one indivisible and absolute Omniscience and Intelligence in the Universe, vibrating throughout every atom and infinitesimal point of the entire Kosmos -- boundless; it is called Space, thought of apart from anything that it contains. All is Life, and every atom, even of mineral dust is a Life, though outside of our understanding and perception. The scientific expression "inorganic substance," means that the latent energy, asleep in the molecule of so-called "inert matter" is unknown. Dead matter does not exist, nor does "blind" matter, in the same way that there is no "blind" or "unconscious" Law. The whole order of Nature advances towards a higher life.

Man's real, inner evolution is entirely spiritual. It is no longer a passing of the impersonal Monad through the many different forms -- furnished with instinct and consciousness on quite a different plane -- as is true of outer evolution -- but a passing of the "pilgrim-soul" through various states of consciousness and self-perception.

Every form in each kingdom of nature is an expression of a degree of consciousness, that form changing according to the expanding demands of the consciousness, under the law of cause and effect. The higher degrees of consciousness work through and upon the lower, thus urging them onward in the direction of the higher; the chain is complete from lowest to highest being; the whole purpose of the Universe, and that of the Pilgrimage of the Soul, being the evolution and emancipation of that Soul.

The inner man, now concealed, was in the beginning the outer, or external man. The offspring of the Dhyanis, he was, "the son like unto his father." Like the lotus, whose external form gradually shapes itself upon the model within itself, so did the form of man in the beginning evolve from within outwards. After the cycle in which man began to produce his species in the manner of the present animal kingdom, the process was reversed. The human foetus now follows in its transformations all the forms that the physical frame of man had used through the three previous Rounds.

Man as a Soul moves amongst material things, and the Soul is not climbing upward for itself alone, but is forced at the same time to draw upward, refine, purify and perfect the gross matter in which it must live; for "matter" is composed of lives which have the capacity for becoming Souls in the vastly distant future. Thus the Soul, made up of smaller lives, lives under the fraternal necessity of remaining encompassed in matter long enough to give it the right momentum along the path of perfection. For the Spirit of Nature is a unity, creating and forming all, and acting through the medium of man it may bring forth wonderful things, which happen according to law -- the great and all-encompassing law of Karma. If Man learns to know himself, he learns the law by means of which all things are accomplished -- learns it by the power of the spirit that is within himself. He is then able to use it by blending his Spirit with the essence that comes from himself.

As long ages slipped by since evolution began in this particular solar system, the Soul has built for itself various sheaths -- from the finest, near its own essential nature, to the more remote, such as the outer physical one, the most illusionary of all, although seeming from outside to be the real. These sheaths are needed if the Soul is to know or to act, since alone it cannot understand Nature at all, but immediately transforms sensations and ideas through the various sheaths, until it has directed the body below, or gathered experience from above. So, whatsoever the Soul initiates, it passes through the sheaths, each reporting to the one next below it. They in turn report from below upward in the case of sensations from Nature and outer impressions.

Obviously everyone has engaged in different kinds of action in previous lives, developing one Soul-sheath or another. At death many are dissolved as whole collections, though the effect of the development pursued previously is still never lost to the reincarnating being. It is retained through and by the mysterious laws that direct the atoms when they assemble for the birth of the new body that will be the home for the returning soul. These physical and astral atoms have gone through every kind of training; and at reincarnation, the Soul gathers once again those atoms as nearly like its past experiences as possible.


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(1) NOTE.--A student's collation from the writings of H. P. Blavatsky.
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