The following is part of an essay that was composed in response to an article titled “The Question of G. de Purucker,” published at blavatskytheosophy.com. The full essay can be found here.
Let it be clear from the outset that we are not here to defend a particular person. Nor are we here to debate or discuss “successorship,” “leadership” or the “occult status” of any individual. It is to be understood that this reply is not the result of parroting G. de Purucker, but simply the result of long independent study, besides the fact that the conceptual understanding of theosophical teachings is always open to interpretation and thus open to misunderstanding by any student.
In the above mentioned article, following a dissertation on the person of G. de Purucker, the article moves on to select a handful of ideas drawn from his writings. In doing so, it is suggested that these ideas are “entirely at odds with the teaching in ‘The Secret Doctrine’.” We find this to be an incorrect conclusion, and believe it could mislead students of Theosophy into believing a priori, without sufficient evidence or argument, that Purucker’s ideas entirely oppose those of H.P. Blavatsky (HPB) and her teachers. We will, therefore, address each of these ideas in turn, providing references to Purucker’s writings and those of The Secret Doctrine (SD) and other writings of HPB. This, we believe, will illustrate that the ten points of criticism in the article are generally mistaken and not actually in opposition to what the authors refer to as “genuine theosophy.”
Does Evolution Extend to Infinity?
First, let us look at a very problematic statement quoted in the article.
“Students of The Secret Doctrine may be disposed to question Dr de Purucker’s view that evolution is a process extending to infinity, rather than a cyclic process returning into itself only to start over on the same level, and that Parabrahm, or the Absolute, is not really the finality, but just one of many many stages, but by no means final and that the evolutionary process goes on throughout eternity, ever higher and higher.”1
This objection flies in the face of theosophical teachings. Nowhere do HPB or her teachers indicate that cyclic processes return into themselves on the same level. In fact, the exact opposite is true, and Purucker’s instruction on this point, i.e. that evolution extends to infinity, is exactly the theosophical teaching.
The “cycles” of theosophical teachings are spiral, like the threads of a screw (a helicoid): cyclical yet progressive. The cycles of the seasons, for instance, move from winter through to summer and again to winter, but there is progress, a “marching forwards,” from one winter to the next: the cycle does not return to itself on the same level. No cycle does. To quote from the SD:
This tracing of “Spiral lines” refers to the evolution of man’s as well as Nature’s principles; an evolution which takes place gradually as does everything else in nature. (SD 1:119)
Otherwise how could one account for and explain mathematically the evolutionary and spiral progress of the Four Kingdoms? (SD 1:178)
The answer is difficult to comprehend, unless one is well acquainted with the philosophical metaphysics of a beginningless and endless series of Cosmic Re-births; and becomes well impressed and familiarised with that immutable law of Nature which is Eternal Motion, cyclic and spiral, therefore progressive even in its seeming retrogression.(SD 2:80)
Only in relatively recent geological periods, has the spiral course of cyclic law swept mankind into the lowest grade of physical evolution—the plane of gross material causation. (SD 2:157)
The Ogdoad or 8 symbolizes the eternal and spiral motion of cycles, the 8, ∞, and is symbolized in its turn by the Caduceus. (SD 2:580)
Were there no such thing as evolutionary cycles, an eternal spiral progress into matter with a proportionate obscuration of spirit—though the two are one—followed by an inverse ascent into spirit and the defeat of matter—active and passive by turn—how explain the discoveries of zoology and geology? (SD 2:732)
Indeed, this idea that evolution progresses cyclically is absolutely fundamental to the theosophical philosophy. It is one of those ideas upon which a right comprehension of the whole system hangs. HPB addresses it directly in the opening pages of the Proem:
Intra-Cosmic motion is eternal and ceaseless; cosmic motion (the visible, or that which is subject to perception) is finite and periodical. As an eternal abstraction it is the ever-present; as a manifestation, it is finite both in the coming direction and the opposite, the two being the alpha and omega of successive reconstructions. Kosmos—the noumenon—has nought to do with the causal relations of the phenomenal World. It is only with reference to the intra-cosmic soul, the ideal Kosmos in the immutable Divine Thought, that we may say: “It never had a beginning nor will it have an end.” With regard to its body or Cosmic organization, though it cannot be said that it had a first, or will ever have a last construction, yet at each new Manvantara, its organization may be regarded as the first and the last of its kind, as it evolutes every time on a higher plane . . . (SD 1:3)
The opening sentence of Stanza I., when mentioning “Seven Eternities,” is made to apply both to the Maha-Kalpa or “the (great) Age of Brahmâ,” as well as to the Solar pralaya and subsequent resurrection of our Planetary System on a higher plane. (SD 1:53)
Let us look at a diagram by HPB on the same general subject of cyclic progression.
It is clearly demonstrated in this diagram that the “ascending cycle” reaches upwards to a point higher than the point at which the “downward cycle” began. That is, with the passing of each cycle there is a progression made. The same is demonstrated in HPB’s treatment of the progress from one planetary chain to the next, when exploring the passage from the moon chain to the earth (see SD 1:179, where it is clearly stated that the moon chain is inferior to the earth chain, i.e. a progression has occurred through the full cycle of the chain). These diagrams and explanations can be applied mutatis mutandis to any and all evolutionary cycles: all progress, all are spirals, not circles.
Thus in no way is it described that the cycles return into themselves on the same level. That idea would negate any real meaning to the theosophical philosophy; it would make a joke of evolution and would render the Theosophical Path entirely pointless to tread, if all one had to look forward to was a return on the same level and a restart of the exact same cycle. No; progress is beginningless and endless and constant. It is the very law of motion itself. If there was a cap or ceiling upon evolution, at any point, the entire idea of evolution would fall apart. The only way in which the idea of evolution is upheld is if it indeed “passes to infinity.”
“It is but matter (or material man) which is compelled by its own weight to descend to the very bottom of the “circle of necessity” to there assume animal form; as to the winner of that race throughout the worlds—the Spiritual Ego, he will ascend from star to star, from one world to another, circling onward to rebecome the once pure planetary Spirit, then higher still, to finally reach its first starting point, and from thence—to merge into mystery. No adept has ever penetrated beyond the veil of primitive Kosmic matter. The highest, the most perfect vision is limited to the universe of Form and Matter.” (Mahatma Letter 9)
In regards to the idea that the Absolute is surpassed at some point, the distinction must be made between the Absolute as the APEX or hierarch of a system and the Absolute per se. The life-wave does, indeed, eventually pass the apex of a system and moves on to the next system, on a higher plane. In this sense what was “Absolute” to them during one cycle will be relative to them during a higher cycle on a higher system. This will be explored further in our reply to the questions of Parabrahma versus Brahma (neuter) and the question of Atman. But let us see a quote from the Secret Doctrine on this point:
The day when “the spark will re-become the Flame (man will merge into his Dhyan Chohan) myself and others, thyself and me,” as the Stanza has it—means this: In Paranirvana—when Pralaya will have reduced not only material and psychical bodies, but even the spiritual Ego(s) to their original principle—the Past, Present, and even Future Humanities, like all things, will be one and the same. Everything will have re-entered the Great Breath. In other words, everything will be “merged in Brahma” or the divine unity.
Is this annihilation, as some think? Or Atheism, as other critics—the worshippers of a personal deity and believers in an unphilosophical paradise—are inclined to suppose? Neither. It is worse than useless to return to the question of implied atheism in that which is spirituality of a most refined character. To see in Nirvana annihilation amounts to saying of a man plunged in a sound dreamless sleep—one that leaves no impression on the physical memory and brain, because the sleeper‘s Higher Self is in its original state of absolute consciousness during those hours—that he, too, is annihilated. The latter simile answers only to one side of the question—the most material; since re–absorption is by no means such a “dreamless sleep,” but, on the contrary, absolute existence, an unconditioned unity, or a state, to describe which human language is absolutely and hopelessly inadequate. The only approach to anything like a comprehensive conception of it can be attempted solely in the panoramic visions of the soul, through spiritual ideations of the divine monad. Nor is the individuality—nor even the essence of the personality, if any be left behind—lost, because re-absorbed. For, however limitless—from a human standpoint—the paranirvanic state, it has yet a limit in Eternity. Once reached, the same monad will re–emerge therefrom, as a still higher being, on a far higher plane, to recommence its cycle of perfected activity. The human mind cannot in its present stage of development transcend, scarcely reach this plane of thought. It totters here, on the brink of incomprehensible Absoluteness and Eternity. (SD 1:265-66)
We believe this quote speaks fully for itself.
1. In our correspondence with the author of the article, we have received the following clarification: “The passage you quote at the start of p. 3 is from H. N. Stokes and although I included it in my article I obviously disagree with the idea that everything returns back to the point where it started as I’m well aware that this is not the Theosophical teaching. Obviously I should have commented on that in the article itself, as now the readers of your response will be given the impression that those are either my words or that I personally agree with and support them.” Let the reader understand, then, that our reply here is directed solely towards the mistaken idea put forward by Stokes. See: H. N. Stokes, O.E. Library Critic, volume 23 (1934), “The Carpentry of the Universe” (review of G. de Purucker, The Esoteric Tradition).
The quote from Stokes continues, thus: “They will question whether he is not overdoing the matter of infinities, up down, north, south, east and west, and whether it is really true that every atom of the billions in a speck of dust, or an incomprehensible something associated with it, is going to develop into a god, into a Parabrahm, a super-Parabrahm, and to continue doing so world without end, a process which should certainly result in time in a horrible glut, crowding and elbowing of gods.” That this view is overly materialistic and highly problematic ought to be clear to any serious students of metaphysics.