THEOSOPHY, Vol. 54, No. 7, May, 1966
(Pages 210-215; Size: 17K)
WHAT IS "SPIRIT"?(1)
SPIRIT is no entity in the sense of having form; for, as Buddhist philosophy has it, where there is a form, there is a cause for suffering. Only the liberated Spirit is able to faintly realise the nature of the source whence it sprung and whither it must eventually return.
When "the one becomes two," it may then be referred to as Spirit and matter. To "Spirit" is referable every manifestation of consciousness, reflective or direct, and of unconscious purposiveness (to adopt a modern expression used in Western philosophy, so-called) as evidenced in the Vital Principle, and Nature's submission to the majestic sequence of immutable law. There can be no manifestation of Consciousness, semi-consciousness, or even "unconscious purposiveness," except through the vehicle of matter; that is to say, on this our plane, wherein human consciousness in its normal state cannot soar beyond what is known as transcendental metaphysics, it is only through some molecular aggregation or fabric that Spirit wells up in a stream of individual or sub-conscious objectivity.
Spirit alone has no form, and therefore cannot be said to exist. Whenever man (the ethereal, inner man) reaches that point when he becomes utterly spiritual, hence, formless, he has reached a state of perfect bliss. MAN as an objective being becomes annihilated, but the spiritual entity with its subjective life, will live forever, for spirit is incorruptible and immortal. "There is but one unknown -- the ultimate substratum of Spirit (Space). That which is not the Absolute and the One is, in virtue of that very differentiation, however far removed from the physical senses, always accessible to the spiritual human mind, which is a corruscation of the undifferentiable Integral." The Hermetists and the later Rosicrucians held that all things visible and invisible were produced by the contention of light with darkness, and that every particle of matter contains within itself a spark of the divine essence -- or light, spirit -- which, through its tendency to free itself from its entanglement and return to the central source, produced motion in the particles, and from motion forms were born.
Absolute, Divine Spirit is one with absolute Divine Substance: Parabrahm and Mulaprakriti are one in essence. Though our teachings insist upon the identity of spirit and matter, and though we say that spirit is potential matter, and matter simply crystallized spirit (e.g., as ice is solidified steam); yet since the original and eternal condition of the all is not spirit but meta-spirit, so to speak, (visible and solid matter being simply its periodical manifestations), we maintain that the term spirit can only be applied to the true individuality. Primordial matter is co-eternal with Spirit, and is not our visible, tangible, and divisible matter, but its extreme sublimation. Pure Spirit is but one remove from the no-Spirit, or the absolute all. Unless you admit that man was evolved out of this primordial Spirit-Matter, and represents a regular progressive scale of "principles" from meta-Spirit down to the grossest matter, how can we ever come to regard the inner man as immortal, and at the same time as a spiritual Entity and a mortal man?
It is a fundamental principle of the Occult philosophy, this same homogeneity of matter and the immutability of natural laws, which are so much insisted upon by materialism; but that unity rests upon the inseparability of Spirit from matter, and, if the two are once divorced, the whole Kosmos would fall back into chaos and non-being. Spirit is matter on the seventh plane; matter is Spirit -- on the lowest point of its cyclic activity; and both -- are Maya. Esoteric philosophy rejects every claim to the "miraculous," and accepts nothing outside the uniform and immutable laws of Nature. But it teaches a cyclic law, a double stream of force (or spirit) and of matter, which, starting from the neutral centre of Being, develops in its cyclic progress and incessant transformations.
Divine Thought cannot be defined, or its meaning explained, except by the numberless manifestations of Cosmic Substance in which the former is sensed spiritually by those who can do so. The occultists are often misunderstood because, for lack of better terms, they apply to the essence of Force under certain aspects the descriptive epithet of substance. Now the names for the varieties of "substance" on different planes of perception and being are legion. Eastern Occultism has a special appellation for each kind; but Science -- like England, in the recollection of a witty Frenchman, blessed with thirty-six religions and only one fish-sauce -- has but one name for all, namely, "Substance." What, then, is the "primordial Substance," that mysterious object of which Alchemy was ever talking, and which became the subject of philosophical speculation in every age? What can it be finally, even in its phenomenal pre-differentiation? Even that is ALL manifested Nature and -- nothing to our senses. It is mentioned under various names in every Cosmogony, referred to in every philosophy, and shown to be, to this day, the ever grasp-eluding PROTEUS in Nature. We touch and do not feel it; we look at it without seeing it; we breathe it and do not perceive it; we hear and smell it without the smallest cognition that it is there; for it is in every molecule of that which in our illusion and ignorance we regard as Matter in any of its states, or conceive as a feeling, a thought, an emotion. ... In short, it is the "upadhi," or vehicle, of every possible phenomenon, whether physical, mental, or psychic.
Matter is Eternal. It is the Upadhi (the physical basis) for the One infinite Universal Mind to build thereon its ideations. "The Deity is boundless and infinite expansion," says an Occult axiom. "Therefore, it was taught in the inner temples that this visible universe of spirit and matter is but the concrete image of the ideal abstraction; it was built on the model of the first DIVINE IDEA. Thus our universe existed from ETERNITY in a latent state. The soul animating this purely spiritual universe is the central sun, the highest deity itself."
There is a deep philosophy underlying the earliest worship in the world, that of the Sun and of Fire. Of all the Elements known to physical science, Fire is the one that has ever eluded analysis. What says the esoteric teaching with regard to fire? "Fire," it says, "is the most perfect and unadulterated reflection, in Heaven as on Earth, of the ONE FLAME. It is Life and Death, the origin and the end of every material thing. It is divine 'SUBSTANCE'." If the Deity, the radical One, is eternal and an infinite substance ("the Lord thy God is a consuming fire") and never consumed, then it does not seem reasonable that the Occult teaching should be held as unphilosophical when it says: "Thus were the Arupa and Rupa worlds formed: from ONE light seven lights; from each of the seven, seven times seven," etc., etc.
In the shoreless ocean of space radiates the central, spiritual, and Invisible sun. The universe is his body, spirit and soul; and after this ideal model are framed ALL THINGS. These three emanations are the three lives, the three degrees of the gnostic Pleroma, the three "Kabalistic Faces," for the ANCIENT of the ancient, the holy of the aged, the great En-Soph, "has a form and then he has no form." The invisible "assumed a form when he called the universe into existence," says the Sohar, the Book of Splendor. The first light is His soul, the Infinite, Boundless, and Immortal breath; under the efflux of which the universe heaves its mighty bosom, infusing Intelligent life throughout creation. The second emanation condenses cometary matter and produces forms within the cosmic circle; sets the countless worlds floating in the electric space, and infuses the unintelligent, blind life-principle into every form. The third, produces the whole universe of physical matter; and as it keeps gradually receding from the Central Divine Light its brightness wanes and it becomes DARKNESS and the BAD -- pure matter, the "gross purgations of the celestial fire" of the Hermetists.
Belief in "Creators," or the personified Powers of Nature, is in truth no polytheism, but a philosophical necessity. Like all the other planets of our system, the Earth has seven Logoi -- the emanating rays of the one "Father-Ray" -- the PROTAGONOS, or the manifested "Logos" -- he who sacrifices his esse (or flesh, the Universe) that the world may live and every creature therein have conscious being. It is a well-known fact -- to learned Symbologists at all events -- that in every great religion of antiquity, it is the Logos Demiurge (the second Logos), or the first emanation from the mind (Mahat), who is made to strike, so to say, the keynote of that which may be called the correlation of individuality and personality in the subsequent scheme of evolution. The Logos it is, who is shown in the mystic symbolism of cosmogony, theogony, and anthropogony, playing two parts in the drama of Creation and Being, i.e., that of the purely human personality and the divine impersonality of the so-called Avatars, or divine incarnations, and of the universal Spirit, called Christos by the Gnostics.
To become a Self-Conscious Spirit, the latter must pass through every cycle of being, culminating in its highest point on earth in Man. Spirit per se is an unconscious negative ABSTRACTION. Its purity is inherent, not acquired by merit; hence to become the highest Dhyan Chohan it is necessary for each Ego to attain to full self-consciousness as a human, i.e., conscious Being, which is synthesized for us in Man. The evolution of Spirit into matter could never have been achieved; nor would it have received its first impulse, had not the bright Spirits sacrificed their own respective super-ethereal essences to animate the man of clay, by endowing each of his inner principles with a portion, or rather, a reflection of that essence. The Dhyanis of the Seven Heavens (the seven planes of Being) are the NOUMENOI of the actual and future Elements, just as the Angels of the Seven Powers of Nature -- the grosser effects of which are perceived by us in what Science is pleased to call the "modes of motion" -- the imponderable forces and what not -- are the still higher noumenoi of still higher Hierarchies.
"The one Cosmic atom becomes seven atoms on the plane of matter, and each is transformed into a centre of energy; that same atom becomes seven rays on the plane of spirit, and the seven creative forces of nature, radiating from the root-essence ... follow, one the right, the other the left path, separate till the end of the Kalpa, and yet are in close embrace. What unites them? KARMA." "As it is above so it is below" is the fundamental axiom of occult philosophy. As the logos is seven-fold, e.g., throughout Kosmos it appears as seven logoi under seven different forms, or, as taught by learned Brahmins, "each of these is the central figure of one of the seven main branches of the ancient wisdom religion"; and, as the seven principles which correspond to the seven distinct states of Pragna, or consciousness, are allied to seven states of matter and the seven forms of force, the divisions must be the same in all that concerns the earth.
Our Earth contains potentially as much of Spirit as it does of Matter. The Globe, propelled onward by the Spirit of the Earth and his six assistants, gets all its vital forces, life, and powers through the medium of the seven planetary Dhyanis from the Spirit of the Sun. They are his messengers of Light and Life. The Earth gives Man his body, the gods (Dhyanis) his five inner principles, the psychic Shadow, of which those gods are often the animating principle. SPIRIT (Atman) is one -- and indiscrete.
Philosophy could never have formed its conception of a logical, universal, and Absolute Deity if it had no Mathematical Point within the Circle to base its speculations upon. It is only the manifested Point, lost to our senses after its pregenetic appearance in the infinitude and incognizability of the Circle, that made a reconciliation between philosophy and theology possible -- on condition that the latter should abandon its crude materialistic dogmas. And it is because it has so unwisely rejected the Pythagorean Monad and geometrical figures, that Christian theology has evolved its self-created human and personal God, the monstrous Head from whence flow in two streams the dogmas of Salvation and Damnation. This is so true that even those clergymen who would be philosophers and who were Masons, have, in their arbitrary interpretations, fathered upon the ancient sages the queer idea that "the Monad represented (with them) the throne of the Omnipotent Deity, placed in the centre of the Empyrean to indicate T.G.A.O.T.U." -- "the Great Architect of the Universe." A curious explanation this, more Masonic than strictly Pythagorean.
Without throwing any discredit upon time-honoured beliefs, in whatever direction, we are forced to draw a marked line between blind faith, evolved by theologies, and knowledge due to the independent researches of long generations of adepts; between, in short, faith and philosophy. There have been -- in all ages -- undeniably learned and good men who, having been reared in sectarian beliefs, died in their crystallized convictions. For Protestants, the garden of Eden is the primeval point of departure in the drama of Humanity, and the solemn tragedy on the summit of Calvary, the prelude to the hoped-for Millennium. For Roman Catholics, Satan is at the foundation of Kosmos, Christ in its centre, and Antichrist at its apex. For both, the Hierarchy of Being begins and ends within the narrow frames of their respective theologies; one self-created personal God and an Empyrean ringing with the Hallelujahs of created angels; the rest, false gods, Satan and fiends.
In Theosophical teachings the term "Spirit" is applied solely to that which belongs directly to Universal Consciousness, and which is its homogeneous and unadulterated emanation. The Monad is impersonal and a god per se, albeit unconscious on this plane. For, divorced from its third (often fifth) principle, Manas, which is the horizontal line of the first manifested triangle or trinity, it can have no consciousness or perception of things on this earthly plane. "The highest sees through the eyes of the lowest" in the manifested world; Purusha (Spirit) remains blind without the help of Prakriti (matter) in the material spheres; and so does Atma-Buddhi without Manas. But each individual spirit -- this individuality lasting only throughout the manvantaric life-cycle -- may be described as a centre of consciousness, a self-sentient and self-conscious centre; a state, not a conditioned individual.
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