Key Concepts of Theosophy
Nature is infinite in space and time – boundless and eternal, unfathomable and ineffable. The all-pervading essence of infinite nature can be called space, consciousness, life, substance, force, energy, divinity – all of which are fundamentally one.
2) The finite and the infinite
Nature is a unity in diversity, one in essence, manifold in form. The infinite whole is composed of an infinite number of finite wholes – the relatively stable and autonomous things (natural systems or artefacts) that we observe around us. Every natural system is not only a conscious, living, substantial entity, but is consciousness-life-substance, of a particular range of density and form. Infinite nature is an abstraction, not an entity; it therefore does not act or change and has no attributes. The finite, concrete systems of which it is composed, on the other hand, move and change, act and interact, and possess attributes. They are composite, inhomogeneous, and ultimately transient.
3) Vibration/worlds within worlds
The one essence manifests not only in infinitely varied forms, and on infinitely varied scales, but also in infinitely varying degrees of spirituality and substantiality, comprising an infinite spectrum of vibration or density. There is therefore an endless series of interpenetrating, interacting worlds within worlds, systems within systems. The energy-substances of higher planes or subplanes (a plane being a particular range of vibration) are relatively more homogeneous and less differentiated than those of lower planes or subplanes.
4) Space and time
Just as boundless space is comprised of endless finite units of space, so eternal duration is comprised of endless finite units of time. Space is the infinite totality of worlds within worlds, but appears predominantly empty because only a tiny fraction of the energy-substances composing it are perceptible and tangible to an entity at any particular moment. Time is a concept we use to quantify the rate at which events occur; it is a function of change and motion, and presupposes a succession of cause and effect. Every entity is extended in space and changes ‘in time’.
All change (of position, substance, or form) is the result of causes; there is no such thing as absolute chance. Nothing can happen for no reason at all for nothing exists in isolation; everything is part of an intricate web of causal interconnections and interactions. The keynote of nature is harmony: every action is automatically followed by an equal and opposite reaction, which sooner or later rebounds upon the originator of the initial act. Thus, all our thoughts and deeds will eventually bring us ‘fortune’ or ‘misfortune’ according to the degree to which they were harmonious or disharmonious. In the long term, perfect justice prevails in nature.
Because nature is fundamentally one, and the same basic habits and structural, geometric, and evolutionary principles apply throughout, there are correspondences between microcosm and macrocosm. The principle of analogy – as above, so below – is a vital tool in our efforts to understand reality.
All finite systems and their attributes are relative. For any entity, energy-substances vibrating within the same range of frequencies as its outer body are ‘physical’ matter, and finer grades of substance are what we call energy, force, thought, desire, mind, spirit, consciousness, but these are just as material to entities on the corresponding planes as our physical world is to us. Distance and time units are also relative: an atom is a solar system on its own scale, reembodying perhaps millions of times in what for us is one second, and our whole galaxy may be a molecule in some supercosmic entity, for which a million of our years is just a second. The range of scale is infinite: matter-consciousness is both infinitely divisible and infinitely aggregative.
All natural systems consist of smaller systems and form part of larger systems. Hierarchies extend both ‘horizontally’ (on the same plane) and ‘vertically’ or inwardly (to higher and lower planes). On the horizontal level, subatomic particles form atoms, which combine into molecules, which arrange themselves into cells, which form tissues and organs, which form part of organisms, which form part of ecosystems, which form part of planets, solar systems, galaxies, etc. The constitution of worlds and of the organisms that inhabit them form ‘vertical’ hierarchies, and can be divided into several interpenetrating layers or elements, from physical-astral to psychomental to spiritual-divine, each of which can be further divided. The human constitution can be divided up in several different ways: e.g. into a trinity of body, soul, and spirit; or into 7 ‘principles’ – a lower quaternary consisting of physical body, astral model-body, life-energy, and lower thoughts and desires, and an upper triad consisting of higher mind (reincarnating ego), spiritual intuition, and inner god. A planet or star can be regarded as a ‘chain’ of 12 globes, existing on 7 planes, each globe comprising several subplanes. The highest part of every multilevelled organism or hierarchy is its spiritual summit or ‘absolute’, meaning a collective entity or ‘deity’ which is relatively perfected in relation to the hierarchy in question. But the most ‘spiritual’ pole of one hierarchy is the most ‘material’ pole of the next, superior hierarchy, just as the lowest pole of one hierarchy is the highest pole of the one below.
9) From within outwards
Each level of a hierarchical system exercises a formative and organizing influence on the lower levels (through the patterns and prototypes stored up from past cycles of activity), while the lower levels in turn react upon the higher. A system is therefore formed and organized mainly from within outwards, from the inner levels of its constitution, which are relatively more enduring and developed than the outer levels. This inner guidance is sometimes active and selfconscious, as in our acts of free will (constrained, however, by karmic tendencies from the past), and sometimes it is automatic and passive, giving rise to our own automatic bodily functions and habitual and instinctual behavior, and to the orderly, lawlike operations of nature in general. The ‘laws’ of nature are therefore the habits of the various grades of conscious entities that compose reality, ranging from higher intelligences (collectively forming the universal mind) to elemental nature-forces.
10) Consciousness and its vehicles
The core of every entity – whether atom, human, planet, or star – is a monad, a unit of consciousness-life-substance, which acts through a series of more material vehicles or bodies. The monad or self in which the consciousness of a particular organism is focused is animated by higher monads and expresses itself through a series of lesser monads, each of which is the nucleus of one of the lower vehicles of the entity in question. The following monads can be distinguished: the divine or galactic monad, the spiritual or solar monad, the higher human or planetary-chain monad, the lower human or globe monad, and the animal, vital-astral, and physical monads. At our present stage of evolution, we are essentially the lower human monad, and our task is to raise our consciousness from the animal-human to the spiritual-human level of it.
11) Evolutionary unfoldment
Evolution means the unfolding, the bringing into active manifestation, of latent powers and faculties ‘involved’ in a previous cycle of evolution. It is the building of ever fitter vehicles for the expression of the mental and spiritual powers of the monad. The more sophisticated the lower vehicles of an entity, the greater their ability to express the powers locked up in the higher levels of its constitution. Thus all things are alive and conscious, but the degree of manifest life and consciousness is extremely varied. Evolution results from the interplay of inner impulses and environmental stimuli. Ever building on and modifying the patterns of the past, nature is infinitely creative.
12) Cyclic evolution/reembodiment
Cyclic evolution is a fundamental habit of nature. A period of evolutionary activity is followed by a period of rest. All natural systems evolve through reembodiment. Entities are born from a seed or nucleus remaining from the previous evolutionary cycle of the monad, develop to maturity, grow old, and pass away, only to reembody in a new form after a period of rest. Each new embodiment is the product of past karma and present choices.
13) Birth and death
Nothing comes from nothing: matter and energy can be neither created nor destroyed, but only transformed. Everything evolves from preexisting material. The growth of the body of an organism is initiated on inner planes, and involves the transformation of higher energy-substances into lower, more material ones, together with the attraction of matter from the environment. When an organism has exhausted the store of vital energy with which it is born, the coordinating force of the indwelling monad is withdrawn, and the organism ‘dies’, i.e. falls apart as a unit, and its constituent components go their separate ways. The lower vehicles decompose on their respective subplanes, while, in the case of humans, the reincarnating ego enters a dreamlike state of rest and assimilates the experiences of the previous incarnation. When the time comes for the next embodiment, the reincarnating ego clothes itself in many of the same atoms of different grades that it had used previously, bearing the appropriate karmic impress. The same basic processes of birth, death, and rebirth apply to all entities, from atoms to humans to stars.
14) Evolution and involution of worlds
Worlds or spheres, such as planets and stars, are composed of, and provide the field for the evolution of, 10 kingdoms – 3 elemental kingdoms, mineral, plant, animal, and human kingdoms, and 3 spiritual kingdoms. The impulse for a new manifestation of a world issues from its spiritual summit or hierarch, from which emanate a series of steadily denser globes or planes; the One expands into the many. During the first half of the evolutionary cycle (the arc of descent) the energy-substances of each plane materialize or condense, while during the second half (the arc of ascent) the trend is towards dematerialization or etherealization, as globes and entities are reabsorbed into the spiritual hierarch for a period of nirvanic rest. The descending arc is characterized by the evolution of matter and involution of spirit, while the ascending arc is characterized by the evolution of spirit and involution of matter.
15) Evolution of the monad
In each grand cycle of evolution, comprising many planetary embodiments, a monad begins as an unselfconsciousness god-spark, embodies in every kingdom of nature for the purpose of gaining experience and unfolding its inherent faculties, and ends the cycle as a selfconscious god. Elementals (‘baby monads’) have no free choice, but automatically act in harmony with one another and the rest of nature. In each successive kingdom differentiation and individuality increase, and reach their peak in the human kingdom with the attainment of selfconsciousness and a large measure of free will. In the human kingdom in particular, self-directed evolution comes into its own. There is no superior power granting privileges or handing out favours; we evolve according to our karmic merits and demerits. As we progress through the spiritual kingdoms we become increasingly at one again with nature, and willingly ‘sacrifice’ our circumscribed selfconscious freedoms (especially the freedom to ‘do our own thing’) in order to work in peace and harmony with the greater whole of which we form an integral part. The highest gods of one hierarchy or world-system begin as elementals in the next. The matter of any plane is composed of aggregated, crystallized monads in their nirvanic sleep, and the spiritual and divine entities embodied as planets and stars are the electrons and atomic nuclei – the material building blocks – of worlds on even larger scales. Evolution is without beginning and without end, an endless adventure through the fields of infinitude, in which there are always new worlds of experience in which to become selfconscious masters of life.
16) Universal brotherhood
There is no absolute separateness in nature. All things are made of the same essence, have the same spiritual-divine potential, and are interlinked by magnetic ties of sympathy. It is impossible to realize our full potential, unless we recognize the spiritual unity of all living beings and make universal brotherhood the keynote of our lives.
by David Pratt. November 1997.
The nature of reality