Evolution and Karma

by Raghavan Iyer @ Theosophy Trust


EVOLUTION AND KARMA


 It now becomes plain that there exists in Nature a triple evolutionary scheme, for the formation of the three periodical Upadhis; or rather three separate schemes of evolution, which in our system are inextricably interwoven and interblended at every point. These are the Monadic (or spiritual), the intellectual, and the physical evolutions. These three are the finite aspects or the reflections on the field of Cosmic Illusion of ATMA, the seventh, the ONE REALITY.... Each of these three systems has its own laws, and is ruled and guided by the different sets of the highest Dhyanis or "Logoi." Each is represented in the constitution of man, the Microcosm of the great Macrocosm; and it is the union of these three streams in him which makes him the complex being he now is.

The Secret Doctrine, i 181

 Man and nature, Atman and Brahman, are One in their transcendental origin, but threefold in their manvantric manifestations through interlocking planes of consciousness and form. The mystery of the Three-in-One is mirrored in the archetypal mode of instruction exemplified by Gautama Buddha, who shed the nirvanic light of Bodhisattvic Wisdom upon the span of all three worlds, teaching devas, men and gods. The complex riddle of human nature inscribed in the sevenfold vestures of man and nature can only be deciphered through a progressive comprehension of all its interconnected links ranging from the homogeneous planes of arupa ideation to the most material planes of differentiated form. The complete union of karuna and prajna, of compassion and self-knowledge, depends upon the all-inclusive integration of every element and atom participating in the cyclic sweep of cosmic evolution.

 Under the supreme decree of eternal harmony, all that lives form a single community and brotherhood, bound together and governed by the law of Karma. Within that vast programme, each evolving unit is joined to every other by laws of collective and distributive action, and it is upon the correct understanding of these coordinate links, inherent in the interrelationships of the embodied vestures, that the further spiritual growth of humanity depends. In practice, and in time, this requires the seeker self- consciously to differentiate and comprehend the origin, functions and virtues of each of the principles in man. To acquire skill in action, the logic of the programme of evolution must first be seen in terms of its triadic nature, and then applied, with moral discrimination, according to the laws of analogy and correspondence, within each of the seven kingdoms of nature. Through tapas and ascetic striving, guided by devotion to the Mahatmas and rooted in a vision of the Bodhisattvic ideal, each pilgrim-soul can discover and unlock the mysteries hidden within the microcosmic world of the visible and largely invisible vestures.

 Examined from the standpoint of individual effort, this task may be seen as a progressive and painful, though extremely rewarding, process of inserting personal existence into universal human history and ultimately into cosmic evolution. For the student of Theosophia privileged to use The Secret Doctrine, this may be put in terms of the fusion of cosmogenesis with anthropogenesis through entry into the path of The Voice of the Silence. Acquisition of a dialectical understanding of the operation of Karma, in its triple operation in the spiritual, intellectual and physical fields, arises from an awareness of eternity in time which yields that timeliness in conduct spoken of by Krishna as renunciation in action and by the Buddha as skilful means.

 As a starting-point, one must come to see that the diverse rules and laws applying to the different kingdoms of nature and their coordinate schemes of evolution are inseparable expressions of one universal law of growth. Whether put in terms of the relationship between the Unmanifest Logos and the diverse Logoi operating on different planes, or in terms of the differentiations of Spirit and Matter out of one homogeneous Substance-Principle, the complex structures and varied modes of growth participated in by human beings represent a single triadic process. In the language of the Commentaries upon the Book of Dzyan, this central principle is put in terms of the magnetic attraction exercised by the model of the Heavenly Man over every spark of sentient life evolving throughout the infinitudes of space.

1.Every form on earth, and every speck (atom) in Space strives in its efforts towards self-formation to follow the model placed for it in the "HEAVENLY MAN." . . . Its (the atom's involution and evolution, its external and internal growth and development, have all one and the same object -- man, as the highest physical and ultimate form on this earth; the MONAD, in its absolute totality and awakened condition -- as the culmination of the divine incarnations on Earth.

The Secret Doctrine, i 183

 This is a general law applicable to the whole of life, from the tiniest atom to the most massive form, all of which evolve from Akashic prototypes that are like seeds within the Cosmic Egg of Brahma, the container of the Heavenly Man. As in the awesome metaphor of the Ashwatha tree, with its roots in heaven and its branches and leaves below on the planes of manifestation, life proceeds from formlessness into form and ever seeks to return through the circulation of its essences and elixirs to its transcendental source.

 For all human beings in the present period of evolution, spiritual growth consists in awakening noetic awareness of formless spiritual essences, a process of Manasic maturation which requires precise apprehension of the different sets of Dhyanis and ancestors involved in the complex karmic heredity of humanity. The ascent to Monadic awakening culminating in self- conscious divinity proceeds pari passu with an increasing participation in the sacrificial descent of the Light of the Logos into the human temple. Humanity is the beneficiary of vast processes of evolution that were completed on preceding globes both in the present earth chain and in the previous chain of globes known to us as the moon chain. Like dwarfs seated upon the shoulders of giants, men and women of the present enjoy the privilege of self-conscious existence and survey the grand prospects of future evolution only because of the sacrifice of Avatars, Mahatmas and Dhyanis throughout ages without number. Metaphysically, there is neither a beginning nor an end to the series of vast epochs of manifestation, and the significance of reaching the man-stage of evolution lies in the prerogative and potential of becoming a co-worker with Nature, with Amitabha, the Boundless Age.

 Terrestrial evolution may be conceptually divided into three streams, corresponding to the Monadic, the intellectual and the physical components set forth in the Gupta Vidya. The phrase "Monadic evolution" points to the emergence of successively higher phases of spiritual activity of the metaphysically indivisible unit called the Monad, or the Atma-Buddhi. In reality, that Monad is not subject to change or alteration, but is the constantly presiding divine presence at the heart of the sphere of mayavic and samsaric existence. In its highest sense, the MONAD is single and impartite, and the conception of a plurality of Monads is merely a terminological convenience within the veil of illusion. Pythagoras taught that the MONAD, having radiated Divine Light, retires into the Divine Dark.

 Although Monadic evolution is spoken of as equivalent to spiritual evolution, both Spirit and Matter, with all their differentiations, are ultimately One, inseparable from meta- Spirit or Atman. Nonetheless, within the planes of differentiated existence and consciousness, it is helpful to distinguish the realized degrees of universality and individuation of consciousness attributable to the evolving sparks of the One Life. Hence, in the metaphysics of The Secret Doctrine there is a fundamental distinction between the hosts of solar and lunar Monads, the Agnishwatha and Barhishad Pitris. Within the stream of intellectual evolution, and associated with the Solar or Manasa Dhyanis, are to be found the exalted bestowers of self- conscious intelligence upon incipient humanity. Within the stream of physical evolution and associated with the building of the mortal vestures of man are to be found the hosts of the lunar Pitris. Whilst it is possible to distinguish the ancestry and attributes of the various principles of sevenfold man, ultimately there is only One Principle -- the Atman.

 The development of humanity in the present series of globes began at a point like the intersection of cosmogenesis and anthropogenesis. As the sevenfold theatre of evolution known as the earth emerged from pralaya, and the Fohatic life-wave began to quicken the sleeping centres, those Monads from the moon chain which had attained the highest degree of physical evolution on the old chain commenced their activity in the first of the new worlds. Restricted in their degree of Monadic activity to the fourth plane, these builders of form were capable of recapitulating evolutionary development only up to the incipient human-germ stage. Progressively, over the first three and one- half Rounds of the development of the earth chain, these lunar Dhyanis unfolded, through the power of instinctual intelligence, the rupas that constitute the lower kingdoms of nature.

 Viewed from the Monadic standpoint, this process is equivalent to a descent or involution of Spirit into Matter, of consciousness into form. Viewed from the standpoint of Prakriti, it is a process of elevation of the undifferentiated life-essence characterizing the elemental kingdoms through stages and degrees of refinement, corresponding to a progressive permeability to the Atmic light. By the mid-point of the present or Fourth Round, this process of the working up of substance into incipient human form reached its culmination. It was at this juncture that the preferred forms became the vehicles of already self-conscious Monads associated with the intellectual stream of evolution. This point is depicted thus in the Commentaries upon the Stanzas of Dzyan:

2.The Dhyanis (Pitris) are those who have evolved their BHUTA (doubles) from themselves, which RUPA (form) has become the vehicle of monads (seventh and sixth principles) that had completed their cycle of transmigration in the three preceding Kalpas (Rounds). Then, they (the astral doubles) became the men of the first Human Race of the Round. But they were not complete, and were senseless.

The Secret Doctrine, i 183

 After this long period of gestation, the prepared rupas became the vehicles of Solar Monads through the lighting up of Manas, which occurred over eighteen million years ago. To understand this awakening of consciousness, one must clearly distinguish between the evolution of intelligence and the development of form. Although, for the sake of our comprehension, it is helpful to speak of lunar Monads reaching the human germ stage in earlier Rounds, and to speak of incipient human Monads throughout the early phases of the Fourth Round, it must be understood that these references are to beings which are human in form though not in consciousness. Further, the emanation of the fires of Manasic awareness into these incipient forms should not be understood as the entry of Monads into forms which are already occupied by other Monads. It is like the successive passage of two rays of light through the same aperture -- the ray has become intensified, rather than multiplied. Referring to this mystery, Jesus said: "I and my Father in heaven are One." True human existence presupposes the inherent possession of the higher arupa fires of Manasic awareness. Amongst the Agnishwatha custodians of the sacred fire, distinctions may be drawn between those who had attained full enlightenment in prior periods of manifestation and those who had not yet completed the task of intellectual human self-evolution during the Rounds of the moon chain. There is a further distinction between those differentiations of the Monadic essence which only reached the incipient human stage in the middle of the Fourth Round of the present globe and which only entered upon the stage of human existence on that globe, and the former two classes of human beings. It is upon the correct understanding of the karmic status of each of these three classes of human beings that a proper understanding of justice and injustice in human life depends.

 Much contemporary confusion between the spiritual and the intellectual, between the intellectual and the physical, is due to the unwarranted degree to which human consciousness is presently limited by attachment to the outward plane of sensory existence. As a result, wandering into the astral regions is often mistaken for awakening to spiritual consciousness, whilst intellectual life is reduced to an inductive enumeration of empirical particulars. The Secret Doctrine devotes considerable attention to the development by the lunar Dhyanis of the ethereal vestures underlying physical evolution. The student of Theosophia must understand that the region of outward sensation is a reflection of the lowest, or seventh, component of the astral; the realm of the lunar Pitris comprises the entirety of the lower four planes of existence. Hence, the ethereal lunar Dhyanis evolved out of themselves astral doubles. This process of subtle development proceeded from within without throughout the entirety of the first three Rounds, beginning with the most developed lunar Monads and eventually including all those less developed Monads which would enter the human kingdom on the present globe.

 By the beginning of the Fourth Round, incipient humanity was essentially complete as an astral type, though as yet lacking in self-consciousness. During the Fourth Round, with each successive Race and Sub-Race, up until the beginning of the Fifth Race, there has been a progressive consolidation of the external form surrounding the astral double, the linga sarira. Corresponding to this process, and running parallel with it simultaneously, was a progressive adaptation of the physical form and structure of the fauna of the earth as the latter passed through its stages of geologic formation. Altogether, there was a tremendous consolidation of matter which produced a connection between the astral and the physical that has an important bearing on the porosity of the evolving brain to the Light of the Atman.

 Given this broad understanding of the development of human form through the activity of the lunar Pitris, most of the inheritance of humanity from the early Rounds, and indeed the early Races of the present Round, lies hidden within the casement of the physical form. Existing on subtler planes of matter and consciousness, the evolving humanity of the early Rounds was largely ethereal. Subsequent to the incarnation of the Manasa Dhyanis into the waiting forms in the Third Root Race, at what is called the balance point in a series of Races and Rounds, the development of the inner astral man has proceeded along different lines. Yet, owing to the tremendous debasement of human consciousness during the Fourth Root Race, both the nature of the transformations affecting the ethereal vestures, and even the very existence of those vestures, have become obscured to human awareness. Hence, the deeper meaning of these interior processes and their vital relevance to the intellectual evolution of humanity are virtually terra incognita to present humanity. Recognizing the blindness of contemporary awareness, the Commentaries go on to explain:

3.The inner, now concealed, man, was then (in the beginnings) the external man. The progeny of the Dhyanis (Pitris), he was "the son like unto his father." Like the lotus, whose external shape assumes gradually the form of the model within itself, so did the form of man in the beginning evolve from within without. After the cycle in which man began to procreate his species after the fashion of the present animal kingdom, it became the reverse. The human foetus follows now in its transformations all the forms that the physical frame of man had assumed throughout the three Kalpas (Rounds) during the tentative efforts at plastic formation around the monad by senseless, because imperfect, matter, in her blind wanderings. In the present age, the physical embryo is a plant, a reptile, an animal, before it finally becomes man, evolving within himself his own ethereal counterpart, in his turn. In the beginning it was that counterpart (astral man) which, being senseless, got entangled in the meshes of matter.

The Secret Doctrine, i 184

 This passage points to the underlying karmic continuity within the entire scheme of evolution and also to the crucial significance of the difference between its physical and intellectual components. Whilst the development of the inner astral man was the result of the sacrifice of the lunar Dhyanis through the early Rounds, the development of self-conscious individuality was the result of the Great Sacrifice of the Manasa Dhyanis, who lit up in every incipient human Monad the power of choice, the potency of intelligent conscious reflection in the human mind of the Universal Mind. Humanity, in the great height of its Golden Age over eighteen million years ago, was in a state of mystic meditation attuned to the universal host of Creative Fires which had come down as a single, beneficent initiatory Presence. This glorious truth and lost light has come down in every myth and tradition of all the tribes of humanity, including those who, alas, concretized and misused the sacred Teachings at terrible karmic cost to themselves. The principle that humanity is the progeny of the Dhyanis, "the son like unto his father", grown lotus-like from a seed within, has a dual and a triple meaning. In relation to the early Rounds, it refers to the process of formation and consolidation of the astral around the sishta or seeds of future human form borne by the lunar Dhyanis. Commencing with the descent of the Manasa Dhyanis in the Third Root Race, it refers to the flowering of the self-conscious powers of intellection around the bright ray of the descending Manasa.

 Fundamentally, unfoldment from within without is the archetypal mode of growth on the spiritual plane. Both the ascent of the astral form and the descent of the higher principles are interrelated aspects of a single process of equilibration between the poles of Spirit and Matter. The lotus plant, each seed of which contains a complete blueprint of the full flower, provides through its phanerogamic growth a perfect model of the spiritual mode. In every spiritual system, therefore, the lotus is venerated, and various spiritual centres in man, as well as the cosmic centres of life-giving and death-dealing forces, have been compared to lotuses.

 During the eighteen million years since the awakening of Manas, the modes of creativity and birth have shifted from the androgyne state of the earlier human races to the present separation of the sexes. The earlier Races of humanity, likened symbolically to dragons and to eggs, reproduced themselves by those agencies and means which are now somewhat familiar to students of biology through the study of various non-human species. With this shift, there was a reversal in the mode of development of form. Under the current scheme, embryogenesis recapitulates the entire series of forms assumed by the evolving astral form of man during the early Rounds. Here, however, it is important to recall the mantram -- Nature unaided fails. Despite the marvellous complexity and variety of forms evolved by the lunar Pitris in the stream of physical evolution, it is simply impossible for these material agencies to produce a human being. It is for this reason, incidentally, that no amount of genetic manipulation can produce anything other than a Frankenstein's monster. To produce a human being, something more is needed than is contained in the karmic and genetic programme of material evolution.

 The attainment of human consciousness can only come about through the descent of self-conscious beings perfected in prior periods of evolution. Hence, there is universal awe and reverence for the entire host of these beings, all of whom gathered around their Chief, Dakshinamurti, the Initiator of Initiates, and came down into the forming worlds of the earth chain. Fully perfected in previous manvantaras, their presence in these worlds is solely for the sake of presiding over the programme of intelligent human evolution. Reverence for the Manasas is the hallmark of the degree of human evolution of the soul; the more highly evolved an individual human being, the more readily does it display a spontaneous devotion towards Mahatmas and Gurus. Such is the natural tropism of human consciousness.

 During this early Golden Age of humanity, when all alike felt the luminous presence of the Agnishwathas within, human beings at the same time enjoyed the use of the ethereal vestures, with their marvellous powers, evolved from the lower kingdoms. That these powers and faculties are now atrophied, and virtually unknown to present humanity, is the karmic consequence of the misuse of knowledge in the Lemuro-Atlantean and especially in the later Atlantean Fourth Root Race. Whilst the involvement of Spirit into Matter in the first three Rounds and in the early Races of the Fourth Round was a necessary aspect of the karmic programme of evolution, the self-conscious degradation of Manasic intelligence, through identification with the lunar forms, was not. The enormous liability of human beings to recurrent types of psychic and physical disease, as compared to the inhabitants of the animal kingdoms, is a direct consequence of this needless fall into matter. Grave though these susceptibilities may seem, however, they are of little import when compared to the spiritual consequences of the Fall -- the closing of the Third Eye and the loss of awareness of the Agnishwatha Pitris.

 Given the self-imposed burden of spiritual as well as psychic blindness, it is not surprising, though still tragic, that humanity is scarcely aware of, much less able to respond to, the challenge of the transformations being wrought by cyclic law within its mental and material vestures. In order to regain initiative as a Manasic being, one must grasp the deeper significance of the fact that, prior to the descent of the Manasas and prior to the separation of the sexes, the entire programme of human development was from within without, and that after this point, human development began with the recapitulation of the entire physical scheme of evolution within the mother's womb. Thus, on the physical plane, ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, but only up to the point attained by mindless lunar evolution eighteen million years ago. Therefore, for the past eighteen million years, through the power of self-evolution, human beings have had to gestate out of their astral bodies, by a process of separation and self-training, the embryo of that which will become, over many lives in the future, an Adept.

 H.P. Blavatsky took trouble to explain in a veiled way the secret and complex Teachings of threefold evolution to modern man for the sake of those who did not have access to Sanskrit, Chaldean or other ancient languages and texts, and those who could not use the arcane symbol systems to benefit from the wisdom of the enlightened. This Teaching is essentially different from any seventeenth century idea of human rationality or eighteenth century doctrine of human progress or Victorian doctrine of complacent optimism. This ancient Teaching is directed towards millions of years in the future and millions of years in the past, and its principal lesson, which should be more comprehensible in an age of computers, is that in this cosmic programme the minutest difference that is made every moment has tremendous bearing upon what happens through exponential curves over millions of years.

 Once one truly understands human evolution, as distinct from the instinctual and involuntary evolution of the lower kingdoms, one can also grasp the warning implicit in the esoteric Teaching that the cycle of metempsychosis for human Monads is closed at this point of the Fourth Round and the Fifth Root Race. It is technically impossible for human beings who totally fail to be human to take bodies in the animal kingdom. Hence, the tragic prospect awaiting those who cannot make full and proper use of the Manasic principle is eventual annihilation. Thus, one can also come to appreciate the enormous compassion of the Teachers in the nineteenth century when, since 1848, the muddy torrents of kamaloka broke loose. Owing to nefarious practices of mediumship in seances and elsewhere, and through an obsessive and excessive concern with lunar ancestors, there was at that time a vast outpouring of bhuts and elementaries from the dregs of the astral plane. This same year, termed by some historians as "that wonderful year", witnessed a great variety of outbreaks and upheavals throughout all the countries of Europe. Because of the appalling karma of 1848, great compassion was shown in the partial transmission of Teachings which had always been locked in the secret sanctuaries, and this in itself heightened the karma of human beings.

 If one now looks back to the Victorian Age, it is evident that events did not work out as many people had hoped. Indeed, even in the last ten years of the last century, a death-blow was given to the Victorian Age. By the First World War the Victorian order, which had been so much taken for granted, had collapsed. In the Second World War the entire old European order collapsed. Now we are witnessing the ending of the ancient Karma of Israel. All of this is part of the programme of Karma which is no respecter of personal emotions, likes or dislikes, or the sectarian predilections of human beings through excessive attachment to external forms.

 There is a tremendous logic to the precipitation of karma in the programme of cyclic evolution. That logic is on the side of every immortal soul. It is not on the side of the ratiocinative mind. It is not on the side of kamamanas. It is unequivocally on the side of Buddhi-Manas. Therefore, every human being's urge to transcend the boundaries of the personal self, and every human being's deep desire (which is expressed every night in sushupti, and which may be strengthened through daily meditation) to come closer to the One Flame, to the Light of the Logos in the heart, is truly blessed. But if one wanders in the opposite direction, one risks much and it would be the height of unwisdom. The Avatar quickens life amongst those who are responsive, but the Avatar also quickens the doom of those who are unwilling to avail themselves of the Light. This is evident to the intuition of growing numbers of souls throughout the world who wish to remain in the forward current of human evolution which gives birth, and not be caught up in that reverse current which propels into the vortex whatever is inconsistent with the humanity of the future.

 This implies a decisive moment of choice for humanity; the power of choice is the hallmark of Manasic existence, and its intelligent exercise gives true self-respect. To meet the trials of the future, it is helpful to have some conception of the excellences inherent in humanity. The lakshanas displayed by the early Races can and will become the norms of the future Races. Each human being has participated in the spiritual civilization of the Third Root Race when

in the beginning, mankind were morally and physically the types and prototypes of our present Race, and of our human dignity, by their beauty of form, regularity of feature, cranial development, nobility of sentiments, heroic impulses, and grandeur of ideal conception.

The Secret Doctrine, i 185

 These are the marks of human potential and perfectibility of which every human being has been capable for the past eighteen million years. Over that span, alas, a small minority of mankind has become involved in psycho-physical inversion and

the gradual debasement and degradation of man, morally and physically, can be readily traced throughout the ethnological transformation down to our time.

Ibid.

 Even where this process of degradation leads to the permanent withdrawal of the soul from the human tenement, the withdrawal of the ray back into its parent source and the consequent need for the One Flame to emanate a new ray totally disconnected from the prior series of incarnations, there is no wastage. Even so unspiritual and materialistic a lunar form would be made use of in the programme of Karma, serving as a vesture for those Monads delayed in their entry into the human kingdom until the Fifth Round through the ancient sin of the mindless. Such is the karmic economy in nature that the astral vestures vacated by failed human beings will form the karmic compensation of those Monads held back from human life and imprisoned in anthropoid forms, owing to the omissions and delays of selfish egos in the Third Root Race. As the anthropoids die out during the latter part of the Fifth Root Race, their Monads will pass into the astral forms of the Sixth and Seventh Races of this Round. Then, in the Fifth Round, these Monads will enter directly the stream of Manasic intellectual evolution and be welcomed into the human family.

 Distant though this age millions of years away may seem to ordinary mortals, in the eye of the Initiate it is like tomorrow. Strange and arcane as these Teachings may seem to an intelligence caught in the dark folds of matter, they are inevitable consequences of the universal decree of harmony and justice governing the sweep of cyclic evolution. Yet, for those courageous pilgrim-souls who want to take seriously the Pledge of Kwan Yin -- the Bodhisattvic vow to aid every sentient being caught in the bonds of samsaric existence -- the intricate and elegant complexities of Monadic, intellectual and physical evolution must be understood and mastered in their applications throughout the three worlds. For the aspirant to godlike Wisdom and Divine Compassion, everything turns upon the conception of space, time and consciousness. If one would rise above the ocean of samsara, above the fourth plane, and choose the path of renunciation, one must enter the boundless void and eternal motion of the Atman, and become the willing servant of the One Law of Compassion and Sacrifice, mahakaruna and mahayagna. OM MANI PADME HUM.

Hermes, May 1982
by Raghavan Iyer