The Aquarian Elixir

by Raghavan Iyer @ Theosophy Trust


THE AQUARIAN ELIXIR


 SOMA is the moon astronomically; but in mystical phraseology, it is also the name of the sacred beverage drunk by the Brahmins and the Initiates during their mysteries and sacrificial rites. The "Soma" plant is the asclepias acids, which yields a juice from which that mystic beverage, the Soma drink, is made. Alone the descendants of the Rishis, the Agnihotri (the fire priests) of the great mysteries knew all its powers. But the real property of the true Soma was (and is) to make a new man of the Initiate, after he is reborn, namely once that he begins to live in his astral body...for, his spiritual nature overcoming the physical, he would soon snap it off and part even from that etherealized form.

The Secret Doctrine, ii 498-499

 In order to tap the vast potential of soul-wisdom in any single epoch of human evolution, it is vital to retain a reverential standpoint towards the known and the unknown, as well as towards That which is inherently Unknowable. At all times human beings seem to be surrounded by clusters of familiar objects and inexplicable events. Yet, with a minimal degree of introspection, individuals may discern that their mundane experience is largely conditioned by habitual states of consciousness. If they remain sensitive to the ebb and flow of the tides of earthly existence, yet aware of the strange illusion of temporal succession, they may ardently seek to reach beyond conventional norms of logic and morality so as to establish a firm foundation for cognition and conduct. Within the limits of every epoch, individuals foster an ideal image of themselves and formulate diverse strategies for the attainment of goals in different sectors of human life. Depending upon the clarity and care with which the ideal of excellence is pursued, it can exercise a civilizing influence upon individuals, cultures and societies. Whilst much of human striving and motivation may be comprehended within the scope of dominant civilizations and their goals, a more fundamental perspective is needed to understand the rise and fall of long-lived cultures and persisting trends and ideals.

 The intuitive seeker of Gupta Vidya turns to the cryptic teaching of cyclic evolution, suspended between the impenetrable mystery of Parabrahm and the pivotal laws of karma and reincarnation. Affirming the immeasurable ontological abundance of TAT in the infinitudes of space and the triple hypostases of the Atman as the universal basis of harmonious manifestation, Gupta Vidya portrays cyclic evolution as encompassing incremental degrees of self-knowledge and self-regeneration, and at the same time affording illimitable refinement in the noetic apprehension of cosmic order and justice. In practice this means that the elements of mystery and discipline – wisdom and method, symbolized by the Tibetan bell and dorje – are correlative components of human growth and experience. No single testament of wisdom can embrace the exhaustless potential of TAT. And yet, not even a glimmering of spiritual insight is without value in the pursuit of universal good. Each successive phase of manifest existence, whether of individual Monads or of the entire human race, is new and unprecedented in a Heraclitean sense. Yet, every unfolding moment epitomizes the vast sum-total of the past, is replete with the rich potential of the future, and evanescently bubbles upon the infinite ocean of eternity.

 When probing the meaning and significance of the Aquarian Age or any of the major and minor cycles of human evolution, it is helpful to retain a sense of mystery as well as an undaunted resolve to sift essential insights gleaned through an alert Manasic intelligence, whilst shedding vested illusions. The potential mystery pervading the present epoch is archetypally represented by soma, and the formative forces of the emerging cosmopolis may be glimpsed through contemplating the zodiacal transition from the Piscean to the Aquarian Age. Soma is the arcane symbol of initiation. The zodiacal ages indicate the alchemical transmutation of the meta-psychological elements underlying formative change. If initiation is to be understood as individuation through the universalization of consciousness, it must also be retained intact with increasing continuity of consciousness through the etherealization and specialization of the vestures needed for effective incarnation.

 The alchemical significance of these interrelated processes was suggested by H.P. Blavatsky in her gnostic interpretation of the cosmogonic myths of Chaldea, Egypt, Greece and, above all, India. Each points to the physico-chemical principle of primordial creation:

 The first revelation of the Supreme Cause in its triple manifestation of spirit, force, and matter; the divine correlation, at its starting-point of evolution, allegorized as the marriage of fire and water, products of electrifying spirit, union of the male active principle with the female passive element, which become the parents of their tellurian child, cosmic matter, the prima materia, whose spirit is ether, the ASTRAL LIGHT!

Isis Unveiled, i 156

 Shiva, as Dakshinamurti, the Hierophant of Hierophants, descends from the empyrean in a pillar of fire, and remains aloof and invulnerable like the world-mountain Meru, an allegorical representation of primal cosmogony.

 Within the mysterious recesses of the mountain – the matrix of the universe – the gods (powers) prepare the atomic germs of organic life, and at the same time the life-drink, which, when tasted, awakens in man-matter the man spirit. The soma, the sacrificial drink of the Hindus, is that sacred beverage. For, at the creation of the prima materia, while the grossest portions of it were used for the physical embryo-world, the more divine essence of it pervaded the universe, invisibly permeating and enclosing within its ethereal waves the newly-born infant, developing and stimulating it to activity as it slowly evolved out of the eternal chaos.

Isis Unveiled, i 157

Like the swans who separate milk from water, seekers of Gupta Vidya must learn to distil the divine Akashic essence out of the matrix of organic elements. The process of distillation takes place within the alembic of noetic consciousness and the secret sanctuary in the temple of the human form, not in any terrestrial location.

 A genuine understanding of the awakening of the "man spirit" could begin with a calm consideration of the extraordinary commencement of human activity on this globe over eighteen million years ago. At the time of the initial lighting up of Manasic self-consciousness, there was an awakening of the potent fires of self-knowledge in all human beings. This sacred heritage has enabled the immortal soul to maintain intact its sutratmic thread throughout myriads of lives upon earth. It is the continuity of this spiritual thread that enables individuals to learn and recollect in any lifetime. None of the facile theories of behavioural conditioning or social imitation can account for the elusive mystery inherent in the infant's learning of a language. Still less can they satisfactorily explain xenoglossy. Many little children spontaneously speak ancient and forgotten tongues, including those which are not even found in exhaustive glossaries of modern languages.

 Dr. Ian Stevenson, in his fascinating study of xenoglossy, has investigated a number of such cases, including that of a child in New York who spoke a language which simply could not be readily identified, but which, on detailed investigation, was found to be a long unspoken tongue from Central Asia. Similarly, in other studies concerning what often seem to be the nonsensical sounds of babies, it has been shown that what looked like nonsense had a definite meaning. Not only are there significant patterns in the sounds made by infants all over the world, but there are also recurrent features in a wide variety of children's games, which often seem simple, but are often more complex than adult sports. The significance of all such evidence for a universal grammar independent of cultures is sharpened by consideration of the work of Noam Chomsky in philosophic linguistics. Chomsky has effectively shown that there is no sound evidence to suggest that in learning the alphabet children are actually being conditioned from the outside. Rather, it seems as if there is a kind of innate response to sounds on the part of infants. The learning of language essentially provides a telling example of how children bring back memories from other lives. More broadly, all knowledge is recollection in a Socratic sense. In alchemical terms, the signature of language is found in the Soul, and the sigils are learnt in childhood.

 The relationship between sutratmic continuity and present learning is likely to remain obscure unless one is ready to probe deeply into the simplest things of life. For example, whilst it may seem easy to learn to walk, anyone who has ever made the effort to teach a cat or dog to walk on two legs would soon discover that it is exceedingly difficult. Circus trainers are able to get four-legged animals to walk like two-legged human beings for short lengths of time. With proper stimuli they can produce predictable responses. But these patterned responses are quite different from the intrinsic Manasic ability of children to hold their heads and spines erect and to be able to function as self-moving beings. The Socratic conception of the psuche as a self-moving agent, together with the Platonic idea of nous as the matter-moving mind, points to the initiatory potential inherent within every human being. Whenever an individual makes a new beginning, initiating a considered line of activity during a day, a week, a month or a year, such a commencement could signify the start of a new phase of learning. Whether one takes as the starting-point of such an endeavour one's birthday or any other cyclic reference-point in life, one is recognizing the permanent possibility for all individuals of making fresh ventures into the unknown. Ordinarily, human beings are protected by not knowing too much about their previous lives or knowing too much even about the immediate future of this one. Since individuals learn to live in ignorance of the unknown, and at the same time venture on the basis of what they do know, clearly there is an indestructible element in every immortal soul which enables a human being again and again to make a fresh start. This permanent element is not simply the Atma-Buddhi or Divine Monad, but also the distilled and assimilated wisdom of past lives gathered in the sutratman, the repository of the fragrant aroma of past learning.

 If every human being brings this precious inheritance of prior efforts towards individuation into the present life, and if all have passed through several initiations in distant lives, what relevance does this have to the onset of the Aquarian Age? Commencing on June 19, 1902, and having completed its first degree, the Aquarian Age has already brought about an unprecedented heightening of self-consciousness, and it holds a tremendous potential for the future. Something of the fundamental significance of the Aquarian Age can be glimpsed by recollecting that the year 1902 was not unconnected with the increasing concern to fly in the air. In the nineteenth century, on the other hand, the ocean was the common term of reference for many people in regard to travel, exploration and geopolitics. If people in the last century took many of their analogies and metaphors from the nautical world, this was because they had such an impressive collection of imposing sailing ships and modern steamships. In Greenwich and in Plymouth, from Cathay to Cape Horn, the romance and excitement of the pioneering exploration of the world's oceans fired the imagination of adults and children alike. Beginning in the sixteenth century, the rapid expansion of sea trade lay at the basis of the commercial and cultural growth of European civilization. By the close of the Victorian Age, the idea of a maritime civilization had become crystallized in the minds of such writers as Mahan and Fisher and consolidated the image of a globe governed by sea power. The construction of large ocean liners capable of sailing thousands of miles at considerable rates of speed provided ordinary people with basic metaphors concerning the conduct of life. The exacting skills needed in navigation received an attention reminiscent of older conceptions in literature and myth, viewing man as the captain of his soul. Yet now, in the twentieth century, with the vast elaboration upon what the Wright Brothers began, there is a fundamentally new outlook that has emerged with reference to the atmosphere surrounding the earth.

 Even early in the century, artists and visionaries were stimulated by grand, if sometimes fanciful, conceptions of what the implications of flight could mean to human beings in general. By the time of the First World War, shrewd politicians like Winston Churchill perceived with almost prophetic clarity the significant change in the balance of power brought about by the airplane and the appalling dangers that this new capacity could unleash. For most people, despite pioneering efforts by individuals and businesses, it was not until after the Second World War that they were able on a large scale to travel by air. Then suddenly they experienced what otherwise could only have been done by climbing mountains – they gained some sense of what it is like at different elevations. In the past few decades this upward ascent has passed beyond the proximate atmosphere of the earth, reaching into the empyrean of space. Tapping the theoretical insights of a few and drawing upon the cooperative labours of specialized teams of scientists and engineers, a small coterie of intrepid individuals has travelled into space and brought back beautiful images of the earth as a shining gem suspended in the void. Spacecraft with intricate instruments have ventured towards Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, linked to earth only by the finest etheric threads of electrical impulse, and returning copious information regarding long-recognized globes in our solar system.

 Broadly, the Aquarian Age is typified by the concept of vertical ascent, whereas during the nineteenth century and before, the idea of horizontal movement was far more prevalent. This is not to minimize the importance of the great circumnavigations of the globe conducted in the maritime era, nor to discount the considerable knowledge gained by daring explorers and naturalists in regard to diverse forms of life. At their best, the nineteenth century naturalists discovered valuable principles of continuity in living form and developed significant intuitions into the geometry of dynamic growth. But now, in the twentieth century, principally because of air travel, people are much more conscious of the enormous relevance of factors such as altitude and atmosphere in relation to the elevation of consciousness. Through the beneficent invention of pressurized cabins, vast numbers of people have had the opportunity to observe that the earth does not seem the same when seen from an airplane as it does when seen on the plains.

 All of this merely suggests that there has been a vital change taking place in human consciousness progressively over the last eighty years. From a merely empirical standpoint the entry of human beings into the airy regions is conclusive of nothing. From the standpoint of the Gupta Vidya, however, these outward changes are emblematic of the shift in the fundamental perspective of human experience. The nature and significance of this change cannot be comprehended through conventional and pseudo-rationalistic schemes of popular astrology. Caught up in erratic frameworks and outdated calculations, most astrologers are no more aware of the true meaning of the Aquarian Age than the average person. Few, if any, have deeply reflected upon the precession of the equinoxes, or upon the essential differences between the Taurean, Piscean and Aquarian Ages. Nonetheless, an increasingly large number of individuals have begun to sense a new awakening of human consciousness. Whether they interpret this from a purely personal standpoint, or connect it to some form of secular or sectarian millennial thinking, they can discern that a fundamental change is taking place in the global atmosphere of human life. Some who are sensitive see this in terms of a subtle beauty and alteration in the atmosphere of the earth itself, whilst those who are more perceptive detect a similar change in the atmosphere that surrounds each human being. In general, there is a growing recognition and widespread acknowledgement of a fresh opportunity for human souls at the present time of metamorphosis. Such glimmerings provide an array of opportunities which bring with them fresh avenues for awakening and growth.

 Philosophically, all awakening is self-awakening. Self-consciousness represents an extraordinary privilege as well as a burden. It is a privilege because it brings with it the ability to choose, and through choices to comprehend connections between causes and consequences. It is a burden because it also brings with it the obligation to act in harmony with one's most fundamental perceptions. It is not possible to prove oneself worthy of the privilege of self-awakening through fulfilment of obligations and commitments without strengthening a practical sense of self-transcendence through contemplation and meditation. Whilst the Aquarian Age has already seen a surfeit of schemes for meditation which appeal to the suggestibility and gullibility of people who think that they can get something for nothing, the authentic and therapeutic teaching with regard to the true nature of contemplation is now available to more human beings than ever before. In their essentials, meditation and contemplation are neither episodic nor dependent upon any technique. Rather, they require the unremitting watchfulness of the mind and heart for the sake of restoration of purity of consciousness.

 It is only through purity of thought, word and deed that the inexpressible yearning of the inner man for the infinite can find the fulfilment of its aspiration. It is only through the perfected continuity of the will, incessantly striving towards the highest ideal of divine manhood, that spiritual awakening through meditation can take place. There can be no increment of individuation or continuity of consciousness through any form of passivity. To give focus to aspiration, as The Voice of the Silence teaches, the mind needs breadth and depth and points to draw it towards the Diamond Soul. For example, one could take the Four Golden Links – Universal Unity and Causation, Human Solidarity, Karma and Reincarnation – as axiomatic starting-points for meditation. Beginning with an intellectual comprehension of these universal axioms, and deriving deductive inferences regarding particulars, a preliminary grasp of the true aim of meditation must be gained. Then, having worked out some tentative conception of the scheme of causes and effects to be comprehended, it is possible to pass inductively and intuitively from a contemplation of the known phenomena of the world of effects to the as yet unknown causes in the noumenal and unmanifest realm. Thus constructing and using a Jacob's Ladder of ideation, an individual can insert himself or herself into the evolutionary programme and explore the opportunities that it offers to the entire globe. It is the prospect and promise of this inward ascent in consciousness that so many people dimly feel, and which makes them sense the privilege of being alive at a critical moment in human evolution.

 This inward ascent towards self-awakening consciousness is inconceivable apart from the acquisition of freedom of movement in and through the vestures. To move the centre of one's consciousness from a plane of relatively gross effects to a relatively subtle plane of causes implies a gradual transfer from a more gross to a more ethereal body. To learn to live in the physical world, but not be of it, is in effect to begin to live in the purified astral body. This means that anyone who genuinely begins to participate in a life of meditation and contemplation becomes, in an anticipatory mode, a partaker of soma. As H.P. Blavatsky suggested:

 The partaker of Soma finds himself both linked to his external body, and yet away from it in his spiritual form. The latter, freed from the former, soars for the time being in the ethereal higher regions, becoming virtually "as one of the gods," and yet preserving in his physical brain the memory of what he sees and learns. Plainly speaking, Soma is the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge forbidden by the jealous Elohim to Adam and Eve or Yah-ve, "lest Man should become as one of us".

The Secret Doctrine, ii 499

 All human beings sense at times that the physical body cannot be seen merely as something restricted to the familiar plane of sense-perceptions. Though many may not be much aware of what is going on within the body, and though they may not understand too much about the blood and the cells, about the empty chambers of the brain and the heart, most do recognize that by the simple act of breathing it is possible to direct the physical body. Anyone who has engaged in extreme physical exertion and discipline over a period of seven years, perhaps as a runner or a dancer, will have experienced a distinct alteration in the range and rhythms of consciousness. Though this may be intolerably arduous for most people, almost every person is somewhat aware of the tangible ways in which the use of the physical body impinges upon his or her perception of the world. Every point in the physical form, each life-atom, is shot through and through with reflected Mahabuddhi, the latent power of self-consciousness.

 The entire universe is intensely alive and there is intelligence in every point of space. There is not a single speck of space which is not ensouled by the light of universal intelligence. In the kingdoms below man this intelligence works without the self-conscious direction associated with the human kingdom. Thus, in those kingdoms, intelligence works precisely because of the cosmic hierarchies which act collectively and not individually. The world below the mineral kingdom is therefore understood as a realm of elementals, of devas and devatas, wherein there are myriads upon myriads of entities – hosts of life-atoms – which work in perfect concert. Just as when human beings attend a concert and hear a majestic symphony, and come together to participate in the music, in a similar manner there is a complex symphonic harmonizing of nature in all its kingdoms. Whether one considers fire, air, earth or water, there is a continual expression of the intricate intelligence of nature. Some people have a child-like interest in sea shells and pine-cones, in seeds and acorns, because they can recognize in them the complex and mysterious intelligence of living nature, which fills every point in the cosmos with burgeoning life and creativity.

 Universal intelligence has attained a high degree of self-awareness in human beings. It is indeed possible for the human mind through meditation to gain eventually that degree of development, intimated in The Voice of the Silence, where one can slay one's lunar form at will. It is possible to gain continuity of consciousness through the night and through the three states of consciousness – jagrat, swapna and sushupti. One can gain an inkling of the turiya state of spiritual freedom from captivity to the three gunas sattva, rajas and tamas. It is thus possible to alter the polarity of the linga sharira, the astral form. This is done by breaking up the clusters of elementals impressed with grosser or weaker types of life-energies and given a particular colouring and a certain tonality over a lifetime of habits. In order to cease from drifting as a victim and creature of habit, and in order to be able to rearrange the life-atoms of the subtle vestures, one must engage in an intimate and practical study of the astral body. Because the astral form is sevenfold, it is helpful to do this in terms of the number 7. Over a week of seven days, over seven weeks, over seven months or seven years, one could attempt to make some discoveries about the relative proportions of sattva, rajas and tamas in the life-atoms of the vestures. And, because there are four elements, excluding the synthesizing ether, it is also pertinent to consider the four quarters of the day, the four phases of the moon, and the four seasons of the year.

 When one really begins to undertake such a study, it gradually becomes possible to comprehend the extraordinary relevance of the injunction to gain the power to slay the lunar form at will. Many enigmatic statements in The Voice of the Silence are practical instructions to the Lanoo which also could be taken as guidance for ethical experiments in the laboratory of the human temple. By treating the body as a temple and also as a laboratory for the making of judicious experiments through the powers of ideation and imagination, much can be discovered in reference to the different principles. In this way one can, from small beginnings, venture towards the sort of exacting discipline which ultimately leads to the complete awakening of conscious immortality during incarnated existence.

 Those who would master meditation and contemplation and enter into the path that leads towards initiation must ponder the profound meaning of the war in heaven, the relentless strife between the sons of God and the sons of the Shadow of the Fourth and Fifth Races. This war must not be viewed as some distant event in the earlier stages of human evolution, but rather should be seen as a karmic heirloom, a living memory, affecting the spiritual striving of every human being on earth. It is to the asuras that spiritual humanity owes its most fundamental allegiance. They were born from the breath – Asu – of Brahmâ-Prajapati. It is only through the perverse inversion perpetrated by the enemies of Divine Wisdom that they came to be called a-suras or no-gods. In the oldest portions of the Rig Veda the asuras are the spiritual and the divine ancestors of Manasic humanity.

 They are the sons of the primeval Creative Breath at the beginning of every new Maha Kalpa, or Manvantara; in the same rank as the Angels who had remained "faithful". These were the allies of Soma (the parent of the Esoteric Wisdom) as against Brihaspati (representing ritualistic or ceremonial worship). Evidently they have been degraded in Space and Time into opposing powers or demons by the ceremonialists, on account of their rebellion against hypocrisy, sham-worship, and the dead-letter form.

The Secret Doctrine, ii 500-501

 In the present age, though popular opinion may not readily credit the fact, the allies of Brihaspati persist as the enemies of the allies of soma. The proponents of superstition, ceremonialism, hypocrisy and sham await the unwary pilgrim who is too weak-willed, vain or sentimentally naive to acknowledge his or her own complacent ignorance of the occult world. Wallowing in the mire of seemingly self-devised exoteric ritual, he or she who does not know what it is to live in the world, and yet not be of the world, is incapable of guarding Self against self. No matter what pill or potion, fad or fancy, trick or technique, is taken up to mimic the realities of spiritual wisdom, the result is inevitably unconscious enslavement and voluntary degradation. That is why those who have learnt the painful truth regarding the pertinacity of the exoteric or thaumaturgic tendency in human nature, and have begun in earnest the entirely inward work of theurgy, of purifying their motive and volition, remain reticent before such sacred conceptions as soma, initiation, the Third Eye and Kriyashakti.

 Like humble apprentices in a spiritual environmental protection agency, they would rather work to purify their own emanations than risk polluting the astral atmosphere in which others must breathe. With patience, they can learn to penetrate the external skin of the earth and the palpable skin that covers all objects, discovering how to make a vital difference to states of consciousness through noetic control over ideation and imagination. This is much harder and takes more time and thought than any simple scheme of social amelioration aimed at quick results. But, if one is not afraid of spiritual mountain climbing, even though one's dharma may keep one at a great distance from legendary mountains, then one is willing to get ready one's mental and moral equipment, and also to plant patiently the nourishing seed-ideas that are generously available in the abundant storehouse of Gupta Vidya. By making preliminary experiments with altruistic breathing and abstract meditation, one could begin to see how to work consciously not only with the seasons but also with the days of the week and the different times of the day.

 This is the beginning of the path of selfless service and inward ascent towards the realm of Divine Wisdom open to all human beings in the Aquarian Age. It is also the small old path followed by every true ascetic of every age, and presided over by Shiva, the mighty Yogin, the paragon of all the Adepts and the foremost ruler of the divine dynasties – the patron of the Mysteries in the Fifth Root Race. It is the path of unconditional realization of the Paramatman and the elixir of soma, and the divine discipline taught by Krishna to a long lineage of hierophants and faithful devotees. The soma of the Vedas and the Brahmanas was aptly associated with thunder and electricity, purification and speed, brilliance and fertility. Soma fills heaven and earth with rays like the sun, dispels darkness, invigorates and impregnates thought and action, heals the sick, stimulates the voice, and exhilarates every limb. Soma is the maker of seers, the generator of hymns, the protector of prayer and the soul of sacrifice. Even in the dawn of the Aquarian Age, some forerunners may be entitled to exclaim: "We have drunk Soma, we have become immortal, we have entered into light, we have known the gods."

Hermes, September 1982
by Raghavan Iyer