Chapter 9 (Cyclical Phenomena) –The evolution of the soul , the after-life and Spiritualism
This chapter embarks on the explanations of reincarnation and the after-life, which were later developed more fully, notably in Esoteric Buddhism. Some more basic concepts of theosophical notions of spiritual evolution are presented, continuing the notion of the “fall of man” introduced in Chapter one. Moreover, this chapter is particularly concerned with the theosophical critique of spiritualist theories. The following works receive important discussion:
Alfred R. Wallace, The Action of Natural Selection on Man,
Joseph Le Conte, “Correlation of Vital with Chemical and Physical Forces,”
Samuel Fales Dunlap, Sod, the Son of the Man
1- Cycles and Human Evolution (p. 293)
Coats of skin in Genesis (294) / The mind and evolution 294 / Esoteric evolution 296
The “coats of skin,” mentioned in the third chapter of Genesis as given to Adam and Eve, are explained by certain ancient philosophers to mean the fleshy bodies with which, in the progress of the cycles, the progenitors of the race became clothed. They maintained that the god-like physical form became grosser and grosser, until the bottom of what may be termed the last spiritual cycle was reached, and mankind entered upon the ascending arc of the first human cycle. Then began an uninterrupted series of cycles or yugas; the precise number of years of which each of them consisted remaining an inviolable mystery within the precincts of the sanctuaries and disclosed only to the initiates. As soon as humanity entered upon a new one, the stone age, with which the preceding cycle had closed, began to gradually merge into the following and next higher age.
With each successive age, or epoch, men grew more refined, until the acme of perfection possible in that particular cycle had been reached. Then the receding wave of time carried back with it the vestiges of human, social, and intellectual progress. Cycle succeeded cycle, by imperceptible transitions; highly-civilized flourishing nations, waxed in power, attained the climax of development, waned, and became extinct; and mankind, when the end of the lower cyclic arc was reached, was replunged into barbarism as at the start. Kingdoms have crumbled and nation succeeded nation from the beginning until our day, the races alternately mounting to the highest and descending to the lowest points of development. Draper observes that there is no reason to suppose that any one cycle applied to the whole human race. On the contrary, while man in one portion of the planet was in a condition of retrogression, in another he might be progressing in enlightenment and civilization. 294
2- Esoteric interpretation of the Fall of Man and evolution (297)
Esoteric cycles and Egypt 297 / Genesis and evolution 297 / Anthropos primal man 298 /The fall of man 299
Whether or not the men of science are willing to concede the correctness of the Hermetic theory of the physical evolution of man from higher and more spiritual natures, they themselves show us how the race has progressed from the lowest observed point to its present development. And, as all nature seems to be made up of analogies, is it unreasonable to affirm that the same progressive development of individual forms has prevailed among the inhabitants of the unseen universe? If such marvellous effects have been caused by evolution upon our little insignificant planet, producing reasoning and intuitive men from some higher type of the ape family, why suppose that the boundless realms of space are inhabited only by disembodied angelic forms?
Why not give place in that vast domain to the spiritual duplicates of these hairy, long-armed and half-reasoning ancestors, their predecessors, and all their successors, down to our time? Of course, the spiritual parts of such primeval members of the human family would be as uncouth and undeveloped as were their physical bodies. While they made no attempt to calculate the duration of the “grand cycle,” the Hermetic philosophers yet maintained that, according to the cyclic law, the living human race must inevitably and collectively return one day to that point of departure, where man was first clothed with “coats of skin”; or, to express it more clearly, the human race must, in accordance with the law of evolution, be finally physically spiritualized. Unless Messrs. Darwin and Huxley are prepared to prove that the man of our century has attained, as a physical and moral animal, the acme of perfection, and evolution, having reached its apex, must stop all further progress with the modern genus Homo, we do not see how they can possibly confute such a logical deduction. 297
3- The Ginza, the Book of Genesis and Human Evolution (303)
Esoteric explanation of the Ginza 300 / Genesis and Giants 303 / Giant bones in Missouri 304 / Giants in Enoch 305 / Prophecy 306 / Swedenborg, Alchemy and Genesis 306 Esoteric and esoteric religion 308 / Man – object of Alchemy 309
The whole Darwinian theory of natural selection is included in the first six chapters of the Book of Genesis. The “Man” of chapter i. is radically different from the “Adam” of chapter ii., for the former was created “male and female” — that is, bi-sexed — and in the image of God; while the latter, according to verse seven, was formed of the dust of the ground, and became “a living soul,” after the Lord God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” Moreover, this Adam was a male being, and in verse twenty we are told that “there was not found a helpmeet for him.” The Adonai, being pure spiritual entities, had no sex, or rather had both sexes united in themselves, like their Creator; and the ancients understood this so well that they represented many of their deities as of dual sex. The Biblical student must either accept this interpretation, or make the passages in the two chapters alluded to absurdly contradict each other. It was such literal acceptance of passages that warranted the atheists in covering the Mosaic account with ridicule, and it is the dead letter of the old text that begets the materialism of our age. Not only are these two races of beings thus clearly indicated in Genesis, but even a third and a fourth one are ushered before the reader in chapter iv., where the “sons of God” and the race of “giants” are spoken of. 303
4- Elementals and Evolution (307)
Lowest in the scale of being are those invisible creatures called by the kabalists the “elementary.” There are three distinct classes of these. The highest, in intelligence and cunning, are the so-called terrestrial spirits, of which we will speak more categorically in other parts of this work. Suffice to say, for the present, that they are the larvae, or shadows of those who have lived on earth, have refused all spiritual light, remained and died deeply immersed in the mire of matter, and from whose sinful souls the immortal spirit has gradually separated. The second class is composed of the invisible antitypes of the men to be born. No form can come into objective existence — from the highest to the lowest — before the abstract ideal of this form — or, as Aristotle would call it, the privation of this form — is called forth. Before an artist paints a picture every feature of it exists already in his imagination; to have enabled us to discern a watch, this particular watch must have existed in its abstract form in the watchmaker’s mind. So with future men. 310
5- The Evolution of the Human Soul (315)
The soul and evolution 315 / Nature, immortality and pre-existence of the soul 316 / loss of soul 318
Pythagoras, Plato, Timaeus of Locris, and the whole Alexandrian school derived the soul from the universal World-Soul; and the latter was, according to their own teachings — ether; something of such a fine nature as to be perceived only by our inner sight. Therefore, it cannot be the essence of the Monas, or cause, because the anima mundi is but the effect, the objective emanation of the former. Both the human spirit and soul are preexistent. But, while the former exists as a distinct entity, an individualization, the soul exists as preexisting matter, an unscient portion of an intelligent whole. Both were originally formed from the Eternal Ocean of Light; but as the theosophists expressed it, there is a visible as well as invisible spirit in fire. They made a difference between the anima bruta and the anima divina. Empedocles firmly believed all men and animals to possess two souls; and in Aristotle we find that he calls one the reasoning soul — [[nous]], and the other, the animal soul — [[psuche]]. According to these philosophers, the reasoning soul comes from without the universal soul, and the other from within. This divine and superior region, in which they located the invisible and supreme deity, was considered by them (by Aristotle himself) as a fifth element, purely spiritual and divine, whereas the anima mundi proper was considered as composed of a fine, igneous, and ethereal nature spread throughout the universe, in short — ether. 316
6- Elementals, Nature of disembodied spirits, and spiritualism (320)
Though spiritualists discredit them ever so much, these nature-spirits are realities. If the gnomes, sylphs, salamanders, and undines of the Rosicrucians existed in their days, they must exist now. Bulwer-Lytton’s Dweller of the Threshold, is a modern conception, modelled on the ancient type of the Sulanuth* of the Hebrews and Egyptians, which is mentioned in the Book of Jasher.**
The Christians call them “devils,” “imps of Satan,” and like characteristic names. They are nothing of the kind, but simply creatures of ethereal matter, irresponsible, and neither good nor bad, unless influenced by a superior intelligence. It is very extraordinary to hear devout Catholics abuse and misrepresent the nature-spirits, when one of their greatest authorities, Clement the Alexandrian, disposed of them, by describing these creatures as they really are. Clement, who perhaps had been a theurgist as well as a Neo-platonist, thus arguing upon good authority, remarks, that it is absurd to call them devils,* for they are only inferior angels, “the powers which inhabit elements, move the winds and distribute showers, and as such are agents and subject to God.”** Origen, who before he became a Christian also belonged to the Platonic school, is of the same opinion. Porphyry describes these daemons more carefully than any one else.
When the possible nature of the manifesting intelligences, which science believes to be a “psychic force,” and spiritualists the identical spirits of the dead, is better known, then will academicians and believers turn to the old philosophers for information. 326
7- The Soul and the After-Life (327)
They, as well as he, have been evolved out of condensed cosmic matter, and our physicists cannot see the slightest difference between the molecules of the four kingdoms of nature, which are thus specified by Professor Le Conte:
4. Animal Kingdom. 3. Vegetable Kingdom. 2. Mineral Kingdom. 1. Elements.
The progress of matter from each of these planes to the plane above is continuous; and, according to Le Conte, there is no force in nature capable of raising matter at once from No. 1 to No. 3, or from No. 2 to No. 4, without stopping and receiving an accession of force of a different kind on the intermediate plane.
Now, will any one presume to say that out of a given number of molecules, originally and constantly homogeneous, and all energized by the same principle of evolution, a certain number can be carried through those four kingdoms to the final result of evolving immortal man, and the others not be allowed to progress beyond planes 1, 2, and 3? Why should not all these molecules have an equal future before them; the mineral becoming plant, the plant, animal, and the animal, man — if not upon this earth, at least somewhere in the boundless realms of space? The harmony which geometry and mathematics — the only exact sciences — demonstrate to be the law of the universe, would be destroyed if evolution were perfectly exemplified in man alone and limited in the subordinate kingdoms.331
The secret doctrine teaches that man, if he wins immortality, will remain forever the trinity that he is in life, and will continue so throughout all the spheres. The astral body, which in this life is covered by a gross physical envelope, becomes — when relieved of that covering by the process of corporeal death — in its turn the shell of another and more ethereal body. This begins developing from the moment of death, and becomes perfected when the astral body of the earthly form finally separates from it. This process, they say, is repeated at every new transition from sphere to sphere. But the immortal soul, “the silvery spark,” observed by Dr. Fenwick in Margrave’s brain,* and not found by him in the animals, never changes, but remains indestructible “by aught that shatters its tabernacle.” 329
8- Psychometry, Theurgy, and Spiritualism 331
For the spiritualists, the records of the past either do not exist, or if they are familiar with its gathered treasures, they regard them as having no bearing upon their own experiences. And yet, the problems which so vex them, were solved thousands of years ago by the theurgists, who have left the keys to those who will search for them in the proper spirit and with knowledge. Is it possible that nature has changed her work, and that we are encountering different spirits and different laws from those of old? Or can any spiritualist imagine that he knows more, or even as much about mediumistic phenomena or the nature of various spirits, as a priest-caste who spent their lives in theurgical practice, which had been known and studied for countless centuries? If the narratives of Owen and Hare, of Edmonds, and Crookes, and Wallace are credible, why not those of Herodotus, the “Father of History,” of Iamblichus, and Porphyry, and hundreds of other ancient authors? If the spiritualists have their phenomena under test-conditions, so had the old theurgists, whose records, moreover, show that they could produce and vary them at will. The day when this fact shall be recognized, and profitless speculations of modern investigators shall give place to patient study of the works of the theurgists, will mark the dawn of new and important discoveries in the field of psychology. 335