From The Theosophist, September, 2013:
The Secret Doctrine
— Discovering the Mysteries of the Universe
BHUPENDRA VORA 1)
IN the proem to The Secret Doctrine Madame Blavatsky quotes from a prehistoric record about the mystery of creation. The symbolism in this record is pregnant with deep meaning about the process of evolution and the manifestation of life in the cosmos. The proem states:
An Archaic Manuscript — a collection of palm leaves made impermeable to water, fire, and air, by some specific and unknown process — is before the writer's eye. On the first page is an immaculate white disk within a dull background. On the following page, the same disk, but with a central point. The first, the student knows to represent Kosmos in Eternity, before the reawakening of still slumbering Energy, the emanation of the Word in later systems. The point in the hitherto immaculate disc, space and Eternity in Pralaya, denotes the dawn of differentiation. . . . The one circle is divine Unity, from which all proceeds, whither all returns: its circumference — a forcibly limited symbol, in view of the limitation of the human mind — indicates the abstract, ever — incognizable PRESENCE, and its plane, the Universal Soul, although the two are one.'
The Siva-Sutras 2 describe the point of differentiation as the Sakti-cakra or Great point or Centre through which potential Divine power descends from the unmanifest into the world of manifestation and that portends the coming into being of the universe. Conversely when the night of Brahma comes and the dissolution of the universe takes place the Divine power returns to the Unmanifest Brahman from the same point of differentiation. It is interesting to note that the 'Big Bang Theory' of modern science also posits that the Universe came into being from a point of energy no bigger than the head of a pin.
The mystical statement from the ancient manuscript quoted in the Proem of The Secret Doctrine leads us on a voyage of discovery about the coming into being of the Cosmos and the evolution of life. The Seven Stanzas on Cosmogenesis and the twelve Stanzas on Anthropogenesis deal with the evolution of life on Earth. Therefore only a small part of the scheme of evolution is examined out of the vast scheme of evolution. But an understanding of the microcosm gives an insight into the working of the macrocosm in accordance with the 'Great Hermetic Axiom':
As is the Inner, so is the Outer; as is the Great, so is the Small; as it is above so it is below; there is but One Life and Law; and he that worketh it is ONE. Nothing is Inner, nothing is Outer; nothing is GREAT, nothing is Small; nothing is High, nothing is Low, in the Divine Economy. 3
A comprehensive picture of the processes of nature, and the Laws governing the universe, are presented to the reader for his consideration in the volumes of this great work. In a conversation with Com. P. G. Bowen, 4 Madame Blavatsky said that The Secret Doctrine is only quite a small fragment of the Esoteric Doctrine known to the higher Members of the Occult Brotherhoods. She stated that it contains, just as much as can be received by the World during this coming century (Twentieth Century). Her writings state that the knowledge revealed is from only one of the volumes of the books known as the 'Books of Kiu-ti'. 5What has been revealed however is very profound and provides a much more comprehensive picture of the evolution of the Cosmos and Man than ever presented before. A considerable amount of the teaching in The Secret Doctrine has come directly from those elder brethren who are members of the Occult Hierarchy. In a letter to Dr Hubbe Schleiden, the Master known as M wrote:
If this can be of any use or help to Dr Hubbe Schleiden — though I doubt it — I the humble undersigned Fakir certify that The Secret Doctrine is dictated to Upasika (HPB) partly by myself and partly by my brother K.H. 6
Madame Blavatsky advised Com. Bowen not to read The Secret Doctrine page by page as one would do with any conventional book. Many a people have found to their disappointment that this method of study has not been helpful and has left them discouraged about their ability to read The Secret Doctrine. HPB advised that the reader must firstly grasp the fundamental principles of occult philosophy in order that the whole teaching becomes comprehensible. 7
The occult philosophy enunciates the basic tenet of the existence of One Fundamental Law that she describes as:
The radical unity of the ultimate essence of each constituent part of compounds in Nature — from star to mineral atom, from the highest Dhyan Chohan to the smallest infusorium, in the fullest acceptation of the term, and whether applied to the spiritual, intellectual or physical worlds — this unity is the one fundamental law in Occult Science.' 8
The meaning of this statement is that every single unit of existence whether it be an atom or man or any other being are, separately or collectively, Absolute Being in their last analysis. This concept is very well conveyed in the Santi mantra of the Isha Upanishad that states:
That (Supreme Brahman) is infinite, and this (Conditioned Brahman) is infinite. The infinite (Conditioned Brahman) proceeds from the infinite (Supreme Brahman). (Then through knowledge), realizing the infinitude of the infinite (Conditioned Brahman), it remains as the Infinite (unconditioned Brahman) alone. 9
All other teachings have to be understood in the context of this principle of the fundamental unity and oneness of all existence. It also indicates that each unit of consciousness or atman is a plenum or wholeness. Madame Blavatsky stated that man is the Microcosm and therefore the hierarchies of heaven are contained within him. But as the Hermetic teaching states, there is One Life and One Law.
An aphorism in the Light on The Path 10 advises the aspirant to 'Kill out all sense of separateness'. This does not mean that the reality of the manifestation of life in differing species and forms is not recognized. It means that an underlying indivisible consciousness is the ground well of all manifestation. The innumerable forms of life manifest in this world with an infinite variety of expressions are all the handiwork of this One Divine Consciousness, but ultimately merge into the source from which they arose, on the completion of the evolutionary journey.
The symbolism in the ancient manuscript quoted in the Proem relates to this process of the Unmanifest Brahman manifesting into the conditioned state and through experiences gained in the physical world, through a variety of expressions, returning to its infinite unconditioned state. In the write-up of the Proem HPB makes a comparison of the teaching in Christianity and in Hindu thought when she states that: 'There is no difference between the Christian Apostle's "in Him we live and move and have our being," and the Hindu Rshi's "the Universe lives in, proceeds from, and will return to Brahma"'. 11 In her Diagram of meditation HPB refers to the same principle of the fundamental unity of all existence.
All subsequent understanding of the philosophy has to be in relation to this teaching and hence the first object of the Theosophical Society that mentions 'Universal Brotherhood' without any distinction. The other significant statement is that there is no 'Dead Matter'. The occult doctrine proposes one living, pulsating universe that expresses itself in the myriad forms of life. Vedantic thought gives a similar view of the nature of the universe. It states that the universe is produced from the one undivided Atman by the on-going process of manifestation and is therefore a unified system. It is described as a mighty organism in which the inmost nucleus and pervading Spirit and Self is the one abiding Being, the one Supreme Person (Purusha) in his aspect as Brahman. 12
Following the proposition of the One Fundamental Law, Madame Blavatsky puts forward the 'Three fundamental Propositions´. 13 In themselves these propositions put forward the whole scheme of evolution and are stupendous. The first proposition states:
An Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless and Immutable PRINCIPLE, on which all speculation is impossible, since it transcends the power of human conception and could only be dwarfed by any human expression or similitude. It is beyond the range and reach of thought — in the words of the Mandukya Upanishad, 'unthinkable and unspeakable'.
Beyond the manifested world of Saguna Brahman with its multiplicity of life in its innumerable species lies an unmanifest consciousness or Nirguna Brahman. Madame Blavatsky refers to this Reality as having a 'Centre everywhere and circumference nowhere'. The Rshi of the Upanishads states that due to the incomprehensibility of Brahman, the only way to describe this Reality is through the negation of all description of Brahman as 'Not this, not this' as it is beyond the reach of words and thought. Paradoxically however it would also be true to say that it is all that is seen or experienced by the senses, as its existence is in the One Self and nothing can be outside that Reality.
In the Bhagavadgita, Lord Krishna signifying the Universal Consciousness granted his disciple Arjuna the privilege of the higher vision of His Universal Self or Cosmic form. The symbolism of this vision is evident. The birth and death of stars and galaxies as also of all life under the operation of the laws of nature are reflected in this vision of the totality of life of the Cosmos. 14
The Light Of Asia 15 describes this Reality beautifully. It states:
OM, AMITAYA! measure not with words
Th' Immeasurable; nor sink the string of thought
Into the Fathomless. Who asks doth err,
Who answers errs, Say nought!
The Books teach Darkness was, at first of all,
And Brahm, sole meditating in that Night; Look
not for Brahm and the Beginning there!
Nor him, nor any light
Shall any gazer see with mortal eyes,
Or any searcher know by mortal mind;
Veil after veil will lift — but there must be Veil upon veil behind.
The second fundamental proposition states:
The Eternity of the Universe in toto as a boundless plane; periodically 'the playground of numberless Universes incessantly manifesting and disappearing', called "the manifesting stars" and the "sparks of Eternity". "The Eternity of the Pilgrim" is like a wink of the Eye of Self-Existence (Book of Dzyan). "The appearance and disappearance of Worlds is like a regular tidal ebb of flux and reflux."
The Universe is a vast field of activity or a playground where Purusha and Prakriti perform their cosmic drama. This drama involves the coming into being of every existent thing from the smallest life form to the largest star systems, galaxies etc. under the operation of the laws of nature. The Intelligence that has manifested this wondrous creation is meticulous in every aspect. Under the working of the laws of nature all life is subjected to the cycles of day and night, waking and sleeping, birth and death, tide and ebb and so on.
There is mathematical precision in the movement of stars. Planets move around the Sun in their orbits and the Sun with its planetary family moves precisely in its orbit with the Milky Way Galaxy. If this were not so there would be chaos in the universe. As The Light of Asia states, it is 'The ordered music of the marching orbs'. The Sun rises and sets at its precise times, othervise life would not be possible on Earth.
Under the same cyclic laws are the days and nights of Brahma, the periods of activity and rest. The occult teachings in The Secret Doctrine state that the process of evolution under the operation of natural laws takes place at microcosmic and macrocosmic levels over vast periods of time referred to as Yuga-s and days and nights of Brahma.
In The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnetti 16 the Mahatma M discusses the Law of Periodicity in terms of the coming into being and dissolutions of worlds during the days and nights of Brahma. Following the end of a Mahayuga or great cycle of time, the awakening of consciousness is described in one of the letters:
But the dead worlds left behind (by) the on-sweeping impulse do not continue dead. Motion is the eternal order of things and affinity or attraction its handmaid of all works. The thrill of life will again re-unite the atoms, and it will stir again in the inert planet when the time comes. Though all its forces have remained in status quo and are now asleep, yet little by little it will — when the hour re-strikes — gather for a new cycle of man — bearing maternity, and give birth to something still higher as moral and physical types than during the preceding manvantara.
The teachings in The Mahatma Letters complement those in The Secret Doctrine and are deeply esoteric. Discussing this subject further the Mahatma mentions the coming of Pralaya in the same letter:
For, as planetary development is as progressive as human race evolution, the hour of the Pralaya's coming catches the series of worlds at successive stages of evolution; (i.e.), each has attained to some one of the periods of evolutionary progress each stops there, until the outward impulse of the next manvantara sets it going from that very point — like a stopped timepiece rewound.
The third Fundamental Proposition deals with the evolution of life and states:
The fundamental identity of all Souls with the Universal Over-Soul, the latter being itself an aspect of the Unknown Root; and the obligatory pilgrimage for every Soul — a spark of the former through — the Cycle of Incarnation (or 'Necessity') in accordance with Cyclic and Karmic law, during the whole term. In other words, no purely spiritual Buddhi (divine Soul) can have an independent (conscious) existence before the spark which issued from the pure Essence of the Universal sixth Principle — or the Over-Soul — has (a) passed through every elemental form of the phenomenal world of that Manvantara, and (b) acquired individuality, first by natural impulse, and then by selfinduced and self-devised efforts (checked by its Karma), thus ascending through all the degrees of intelligence, from the lowest to the highest Manas, from mineral and plant, up to the holiest Archangel (Dhyani Buddha).
The three Fundamental propositions put forward the foundation structure of esoteric philosophy. The evolution of life from the tiny atom to the largest star systems and galaxies is governed by natural laws. The descent into matter of consciousness through the various planes in the process of involution and the subsequent ascent in the evolutionary process provide very profound teachings on the flowering to perfection, of the monad in the manifest world.
The human evolutionary journey is part of the process of evolution of the entire scheme of things involving life at all levels of manifestation from the tiniest form of life, like that of an ant at the microcosmic level to the mighty star systems and galaxies at the macrocosmic level. To get a proper perspective we have to see the Universe as a Whole evolving through immense cycles of time during which creation and dissolution take place followed by a period of rest or the night of Brahma. Each succeeding cycle working on a fresh impulse that takes the consciousness to a new level upon the experiences of the old.
The study of human evolution, discussed in The Secret Doctrine should be done in the context of the overall plan of evolution and the truth of the fundamental oneness of life. The various stages of human history and that of nations and religions as well as those of worlds, solar systems or universes are but the expressions of the evolutionary intent of Brahman.
The monad being the spark ofthe divine is the pilgrim in the vast evolutionary journey, whose course of development takes it through the various kingdoms of life to the level of a human to superhuman and Dhyani Buddha. The innumerable realms of existence are only manifestations of the needs of the monads to experience them, for as Madame Blavatsky writes in The Secret Doctrine, visible reality grows from within outward. With the understanding of the fundamentals of the occult philosophy the journey of discovery of the cosmo?]genetic processes of Earth and the development ofthe human beings through various root races becomes productive. The Secret Doctrine is a book of reference that has inspired many people and its wisdom is perennial.
1)Mr Bhupendra R. Vora is a former General Secretary of the Theosophical Society in East and Central Africa, now living in Englånd. This article commemorates 125 years of The Secret Doctrine.
2The Ultimate Reality and Realization — I. K. Taimni, page 20
3Foundations of Esoteric Philosophy
4Foundations of Esoteric Philosophy
5Two Books of The Stanzas of Dyan
6Letters from The Masters of Wisdom
7Foundations of Esoteric Philosophy
8Foundations of Esoteric Philosophy
9Eight Upanishad?]s — Volume 1, page 2.
10Talks on The Path of Occultism — Vol.3, Light on The Path
11The Secret Doctrine — Vol. 1 (Adyar Edition), Proem, page 75
12The Wisdom of The Veda-s — J. C. Chatterji, page 67
13Foundations of Esoteric Philosophy — Page 19
14The Bhagavadgita — Chapter 11, Verses 15 to 34.
15The Light Of Asia — Book The Eighth.
16The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett — 3rd Edition, letter No. 12