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Jewels of Wisdom

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It has been our experience that whatever philosophy one ponders, whatever science one studies, whatever religion one tries to understand, as well as many questions of daily life, theosophical knowledge seems to throw a light. It seems that with the knowledge of Theosophy in mind, once one has studied it and made it part of one’s thinking and feeling, is always enriching, deepening, throwing a new light. Theosophy knows no dogma’s, no prescriptions, rules of conduct or preconditions about what to believe or not. It seeks to promote brotherhood and understanding – on a personal level of course – but especially brotherhood of the global community with all its various views, cultural habits, interests and opinions. It seeks to work towards a brotherhood among men without distinctions, but also towards kindness and respect for all other living beings – that is, it seeks to ennoble the human attitude towards others and towards nature. It also seeks to further scientific, social, artistic culture in the best way the editors and contributors can imagine

The sapta ratnāṇi or ‘seven jewels’ of wisdom form the core of the theosophical body of teachings. All theosophical teachings can be regarded as notes to these seven core teachings. These are made up by the modern Theosophical Society or any of its authors, but are the universal bases of the esoteric doctrine They are the heart from which all religions of past and future have been and will be derived. They form the entrance to universal wisdom. Whatever outer religion or genuine spiritual philosophical system one adheres to, at the heart are these seven doctrines, sometimes more obvious, sometimes more hidden. By studying these, deeply, one will find great enrichment in the understanding of one’s own religion or philosophy. They are like a map leading to Universal Truth about the manifested Universe – which itself is a emanation from the Universal Truth beyond the manifested Universe, and which can not be grasped by the human mind alone.

If we wish to understand real Science – which includes all phenomena in the Universe including the unseen or occult universe, including all powers, energies and intelligent beings, the mental study of Theosophy is the first step. It helps the student to become a universal thinker and real searcher for inner truth. These core teachings form the first steps of teaching for the mind, which is an absolute precondition before the student can enter the realms of the inner experience of the occult. There is no short-cut to real yoga (however many ideas are sold under that billboard) – only a deep and stable understanding by the mind, so that one can impossibly be deluded by the illusions of the seen as well as unseen worlds.

It is perhaps superfluous to remark that the word Man itself means ‘to think’ in Sanskrit. According to the ancient wisdom-knowledge, since when the first of humankind became susceptible to the presence of the divine, it has been the task or dharma of humankind to learn to think, to purify its thinking, to refine and develop its thinking, to direct it towards the divine in order that the mind may unfold into a completely self-conscious instrument of Consciousness. With mind we mean the higher mind. The lower mind, directing itself towards the personality, its desires and mental theories, has to be overcome, has to be slain, to allow the light of universal truth to shine.

When watching our own mind, even the higher part of it as far as we can, most of us will see that it is not yet very subtle, is easily distracted and often jumps to conclusions. Looking more closely we may notice that our mind is unable to grasp any real truth – and usually strands on preconceptions, uncertainties (even if strictly scientific!) which stand in the way of real understanding, and we see that much of what we believe is based on incomplete action of the mind.

To satisfy our still feeble mind we tend to substitute ideas of people who are regarded wise or saintly, without oneself having the subtlety and the ability (or courage) at present to really understand what they mean. These wise men and women once had to go through the same processes as we are now going through. They can give hints, they can surround us with an atmosphere purity and absence of distraction, but they cannot and may not increase your mind by magic means, other than every human being can do by himself by self-training, by thinking. Therefore the wise preceptors gave out their teachings, not to blindly believe, not to dogmatize. Rather their messages seem at first abstruse and incoherent, chaotic even for those who do not yet have acquired the needed subtlety. Reaching clarity and insight is a slow process and has many as yet unexplored layers. It is no doubt for this reason that humankind as a whole has been given a period of very many millions of years to come to reach full enlightenment. In this period humankind and each of us individually will live in many different atmospheres outside our Earth’s physical plane, and different levels or stages of consciousness. Nobody can confer ‘final enlightenment’ on us (though many claim they can do just that), but we can make a beginning as soon as our hunger for Reality begins to manifest itself in us. From that moment we are serious aspirants. For those aspirants in particular the great teachers descended to our plane of being and thinking, and we can take the opportunity of leave it for now. Thus those who have the genuine inner wish can become helpers, and speed up their own evolution, and enter the gates of wisdom earlier than average, just to turn round to help the world of the masses of ignorant people, to sooth their self-created sufferings and to try to reach out a hand to those few who just start to awaken and to yearn for liberation from their ignorance. Every human being can and has the right to start that long journey now, or to continue from the labor already performed in former lifetimes.

Occult teaching and training is not sequential in the sense of exams – the one exam done, forget it, and start preparing the next. In esotericism the very beginning contains the whole essence that will unfold itself further and further. Therefore the very beginning remains always there, it remains actual for ever.

It is the right of all wo/men to know and understand the whole universe in which one exists, of which one is a part, which is man himself – as far as the human horizon can reach – and for which task we have long ages of development before us. Little we but understand of the Universe at present. Very little indeed. But it the divine promise residing deep – but still so obviously – within us, which will lead us to that goal – sooner or later.

It is worthwhile for every person interested in Theosophical study to begin with studying the short summary of these seven fundamental concepts.

Seven Fundamental Concepts

1       Cycles

Cyclic processes are fundamental in manifested nature. They are recognized in such phenomena as the cycles of day and night, of the seasons, of ebb and flow, of the movements of celestial bodies and intra-atomic movement, etc. Cyclic processes have been acknowledged as fundamental by most great cultures of past and present. For this reason the circle is a most sacred symbol among many Native Americans. In Hinduism cycles are governed by the creating, sustaining and ‘destroying’/ renewing trinity of Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Śiva. The Hindus have a very elaborate system of cycles within cycles linking every event in the universe, from the smallest to the largest.

Most important, partly because of its ethical and psychological implications, is the cycle of life and death. With many cultures life and death have been recognized as a cyclic alternation comparable to “life and death” of the sun each day, which means that something continues when life has withdrawn from the realm of visibility and later returns to manifested physical existence.

2       Karma

Events are the results of previous causes. In our culture results are expected to follow causes mathematically, and, being related to physical matter, in strict correspondence with the physical laws of nature. This would not hold for our psychological cause and effect chain, though many have tried to prove just this. Moreover we can not be sure from a physical point of view whether these so-called laws of nature also apply to more substances which are beyond the field of present-day main science. But the interpretation of causality varies greatly with different cultures.

In occidental thinking the concept of chance has been introduced and absolutized, which makes it possible to calculate with the results of untraceable causes. Forces that transmit the information contained in a cause are supposed to act blindly, and uncontrolled by mind and intelligence. Other cultures seem to have explained results of unknown causes as fate, depending on the will and imponderable mind of God or gods.

In the Indian systems, as in the modern Theosophical teachings, the concept of karma is very important, which is neither blind, nor controlled by higher beings outside the actor, but is the eternal ‘habit’ or ‘habit-stream’ of manifested nature to restore the balance, working on all levels of existence and for all beings, including the gods. Beneath the surface of myth, the knowledge of karma exists with Native American stories as well. Causality is thus directly linked with individual responsibility in action and thought, and consequently with ethics. Karma is cyclic: results of actions sooner or later return to the actor. See the section on Karma

3       Hierarchies

Ecology is the science concerned with the interconnectedness of things “especially as manifested by natural cycles and rhythms” (Webster’s Third International Dictionary).

This definition also holds for the esoteric teachings concerning the interconnectedness of all beings. But instead of competition, from the viewpoint of occultism, everything cooperates in a spiritual sense. The structure of the total universe is hierarchical. Hierarchy means ‘government by the hièros,’ the holy, the spiritually evolved. In the occult sense everything that exists, exists within and under guidance of that which is spiritually of a higher development. The function of the higher is to inspire, to teach, to exemplify, to further the right direction of evolution. The function of the lower is to ‘serve’, i.e. to fulfill on its own plane the tasks of necessity to evolve that particular plane of being or consciousness or evolution. In that sense the human kingdom is the hierarch of the animal kingdom: we humans represent what they will develop in the future, i.e. a mind. It is our compassion and care and sympathy which the world of animals and the rest of nature needs most. The highest animals are almost consciously ‘looking up’ to us, just the highest (and thus by wisdom the humblest) among men ‘look up’ to divinities. At the same time, we humans are the ‘servents’ of the gods – those who are one or more steps ahead and more spiritual than we are, and we do that by ‘sacrifice,’ i.e. literally by making holy our own mind and powers by our efforts to attune to the wisdom of the gods – that is, to develop our buddhi, our higher, non-dualistic spiritual intuition within the field of the mind. Thus we help and ‘serve’ the gods and will ultimately become gods ourselves; and the gods will become higher gods – and so on ‘ad infinitum’ – as we must call it with our limited mind. Thus all beings are there to help each other, every being helps those below and above him, continuously, consciously or unconsciously. Human souls are incarnate in ‘animal’ bodies and psychologies, and thus train and ‘chastise’ the animal within ourselves, thus creating a bridge to the human kingdom. Within the human being, a higher being is already incarnated, a divine being, known to us as ‘the higher mind.’ Animals govern the movements and energy streams which were prepared in the plant kingdom, and plants and animals and people, by building their bodies of emotions, energies and minerals, upraise these spiritually.

Of special importance is the Divine Hierarchy or Hierarchy of Compassion, of which we humans ourselves are the lowest link. The force of Universal Compassion is inherent in all divine nature, and is meant to guide evolution and elevate all individual beings. It is like a golden chain hanging from above to below. The holiest being or god or Dhyāni Buddha (to use one term) is the hierarch or ruler of those exalted and noble beings who are just one step below ‘Him’ and who are seven and who serve ‘Him’ At the same time, if we regard many universes or atoms, that Hierarch is one of many, again guided and inspired by conscious forces or beings of which we can have no knowledge. It is thanks to this Hierarchy of Compassion – to which we ourselves can already belong – that joy and wisdom in the universe is far greater than suffering and ignorance. What we call tough sufferings are just compassionate urgings to learn, to unfold in the direction we have already chosen because it is our very essence and purpose. The conscious energies radiating and emanating forth from these exalted beings we recognize as karma, but this karma is our own work, necessary to develop as a pure human being, and our work is either in harmony or disharmony with the stream of compassion.

No grain of sand is spiritually alone in the universe – and so much less a human being.

4    Svabhāva – the essential characteristic

Every species of living being and even every individual has something that causes it to be essentially different from others. According to the doctrines of Darwinism and neo-Darwinism, new characteristics may come into existence through sudden changes in the genetic information, probably due to outside influences. They may also disappear through the same mechanism. This is the basis for speciation (formation of new species) and the answer to the question of the origin of species. This is the prevailing scientific view in our times.

From biblical and other sources the origin of species has been understood by some in the sense that God created all species as they are and that these never change. One may of course question whether this is the real meaning of the teaching in the Bible, and whether the theory is philosophically sound.

In Theosophy, and reflected in some oriental schools of thought, we find the concept of svabhāva, which may be understood as ‘essential characteristic’ and which literally means ‘self-being’ or ‘self-becoming. It means that every species, and indeed every individual, has a spiritual monadic essence which is its own source, and from which all further characteristics come forth. The teaching seems to lead to the conclusion that the essence of a species has always existed, but sequential manifestations of this essence may vary. From this point of view species may be either fundamentally different (within a particular level) or sequential manifestations of the same essence. Species in the modern scientific sense are then only temporary manifestations of essences which exist during long cycles of evolution. The concept of svabhāva is most important in relation to evolution theory.

5    Evolution

Evolution is one of the most prominent subjects of study in modern biology. The concept of evolution is relatively young in western culture, and even today evolution is denied by creationists within the dogmatic Christian traditions. In India, and also in the Americas, teachings on evolution are thousands of years old.

Modern evolution theories describe and explain the transformation of one form into another. This is however not the real meaning of the word evolution, which literally means to roll forth, to unfold (from within). The Sanskrit concept of pravṛtti comes closer to this. Pravṛtti is linked with nivṛtti (flowing back), or involution. Because, how could things evolve, if they have not first been involved, and vice versa? So it is a cyclic process. In the ancient West, the Mayas had their Popol Vuh, which contains a very interesting narrative on evolution, including human cyclic evolution.

Most cultures teach, if they have a concept of evolution, that soul or mind existed before the processes of evolution began, and that the divine awoke first to guide evolution. The outward evolution of forms – the subject of scientific evolutionary studies – is but an outer expression of inner evolution. Every evolutionary expression has a cause in consciousness. Inner evolution means the unfoldment of all inherent qualities of the soul, step by step, to which outer forms are adjusted, also step by step. Moreover evolution is circular, or rather spiral, like breathing out and withdrawing again and again.

The prevailing occidental idea is, contrary to the Theosophical teaching, that evolution is linear. It could be either smooth or jumping, but is seen as the result of chance material processes on the one hand, and the desire to survive as metaphysical or blind motivating force on the other. There is no purpose other than individual survival – or rather that of each individual genome – and  teleology might be called the greatest heresy in evolution science. Just as in ecology, mind, intelligence and their possible purpose are not taken into account, except when the human mind comes into play and gives humans partly the power to direct their own mental and intellectual evolution.

Not every culture has an explicit doctrine of evolution, but they definitely see a purpose of all life which we recognize through our innate higher longings. Evolution may run in cycles of ever higher unfoldment, thus making it cyclic rather than linear. Every next event in evolution finds its root in an earlier cause: the inner desire to move in a certain direction, which leads to its necessary result according to the universal natural law of cause and effect.

6    The two paths

It has been universally recognized that nature has a spiritual and a material side. But are spirit and matter, energy and matter, mind and matter, good and evil, God and Devil separate, or dual aspects of the same thing? In the latter case, spirit is but ethereal matter, or matter gross spirit. If spirit is infinite, there is no room for a second infinite. The finite can be but an illusionary aspect of the infinite. Reality is one, eternal, non-dual and omnipresent.

If spirit and matter are inseparable and indeed two aspects of the same, this inseparability applies ultimately to all dualities in nature. It means that all principles of nature are inseparable aspects of the one universal life-consciousness. Consequently, instead of being forever doomed to speculation on what we will never really understand, we will be able to unveil for ourselves the ultimate truth of the universe, because our mind is one with it. Compassion as an aspect of life is universal. So is mind. So is desire, and life itself, and wisdom. Everything in the cosmos exists in an absolute oneness. This conclusion shakes the basis of the prevailing occidental world view.

But this should not be understood to mean that in the manifested universe there is no good and evil, light and dark, or that it doesn’t matter. Obviously there is suffering and joy, and there is relative refinedness and coarseness. And that is where we as humans, as developers of self-conscious minds, are to make our choices. We can go the path of matter and increasing darkness and entanglement, or we can go the path of the spirit and increasing light and freedom. This fundamental appearance of duality within the manifested universe exists on every level. Even the most spiritual existence has a relatively dark or material side, and even the most material existence has a relatively light or spiritual side.

If the esoteric doctrine talk about the ‘two paths’1 they refer to the ultimate choice we make when we have already become great enlightened beings, and stand on the edge of nirvāṇa or mokṣa, i.e. ‘eternal’ bliss. We can either enter nirvāṇa or reject it – and then be reborn again and again to teach and help the world and all those we are desperate and yearning to reach upwards. This choice is the greatest sacrifice a human can make.

7    Knowledge of the essence of being – Ātmavidyā

Man being part of nature, his faculty of knowing nature is an inherent part of that same nature. Thus nature has its own built-in possibility to be known by conscious beings. We can know it in its deepest essence. Evolution has an inner purpose: the knowledge of our essential Self, which, because there is no separateness in non-dual nature, is the same as knowing all. Rather than our instinct for survival, it is our inborn drive toward perfection in all respects which is the motivating force of evolution.

With this study a work is begun and hinted at which may stimulate centuries of research along new lines and lead humankind in entirely new directions, though all is based on existing insights, the heritage of the world’s culture throughout the ages.


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  1. See Fragment II of The Voice of the Silence []