THE GROWTH OF THE SOUL
CHAPTER 17: INDIVIDUALITY.
The genesis and destinies of individuality The immensity of the task involved in its evolution The preparation of monadic essence Animal instinct The focalisation of consciousness The touch with Atma-Buddhi The spiritual purpose of the whole system The " Sacrifice " of the Logos.
Some problems of consciousness that seem at the first glance to lie on the threshold of philosophical inquiry into the nature and destinies of man are so intricate in reality that they can only be considered in the light of extensive knowledge. This is emphatically the case with reference to the state of consciousness we call Individuality. One might suppose it would be reasonable to treat that first in endeavouring to trace the course of human evolution, but the subject cannot be handled without cross references to all phases of evolution. We must keep the manifold planes of Nature in view and lower states of consciousness that do not present the phenomenon of individuality and the system to which we belong as a whole, in the attempt to appreciate correctly the genesis and destinies of individuality. The utter nonsense made of the subject by conventional speculation shows how impossible it is to deal with it intelligently without a tolerably complete grasp of Theosophic teaching at large.
Simple ignorance of the most primitive type disguised in scholarship and intoxicated with erudition is accountable for the notion that the creation of a human soul is a single simple act of Divine Will, accomplishable at any moment when it pleases two already existent human beings to furnish certain conditions. That line of thought does not exalt Divine omnipotence; it merely excludes all perceptions of Divine methods and exhibits a ludicrously inadequate notion concerning the magnitude of the task under consideration. Higher knowledge shows us that the creation of human souls the development of individuality in universal consciousness is the purpose of the whole system to which we belong, or one of its great concurrent purposes, and typical of them all. If it was a simple task for Omnipotence, the organisation of systems and chains of planets with all their kingdoms of nature and so forth, would be the most deplorable waste of energy the mind could conceive. Supreme wisdom cannot be wasteful in that manner, or it would not be supreme wisdom, so that by the time we acquire knowledge of the way human individuality is tended and cultivated from its earliest stages of growth, and by the time we come to combine that knowledge with some appreciation of the destinies to which it may ultimately be conducted, we are led to appreciate this idea that the evolution of an Individuality would be a stupendous task even for Omnipotence.
Apparently it can only be accomplished by this tremendously circuitous and elaborate process that we call the descent of spirit into matter, a process which divides itself into three great stages, the preparation of the material planes, the growth of consciousness thereon into individualisation, and the training of the individuality towards the complete realisation of its potentialities, without which after all it is the mere beginning of an individuality.
In some way that it is easier to talk about than to understand, the earliest manifestations of matter represent the consciousness or some part of the consciousness of the spirit by which they have been engendered. But neither in the fluctuating aspects of the elemental kingdoms nor in the condensed manifestations of the mineral world as it emerges from nebulous beginnings do we trace any consciousness of the individualised order. When we advance a step and observe in the beginning of the vegetable kingdom the first pulsations we can recognise as life, we still find spiritual energy vaguely diffused through great orders of manifestation. We may talk now of the monadic essence that animates the vegetable world as something distinct from the monadic essence that animates the mineral creation; but the development of individuality is still far from having been accomplished. Across immeasurable ages of effort the animal manifestation of spirit emerges from the vegetable; but still the achievement falls short of the object in view. The animal kingdom is an immensely higher form of consciousness than its immediate predecessor in evolution, but it is still a collective manifestation. Monadic essence is converging towards specific foci, but it has not yet converged.
By what process in the beginning of the whole system in the earliest Manvantaras of its earliest schemes the concentration of consciousness into single individualities was accomplished, we need not pause to inquire. For the purpose of understanding individuality it is enough to trace its genesis at such periods of evolution as we can handle in thought more conveniently than those belonging to the initial periods of Nature's activity. Slowly, slowly the monadic essence animating the superior subdivisions of the animal kingdom gathers in the experience of consciousness that such life as it inspires can afford. Then at last comes the touch of a more advanced consciousness affecting it in some one of its incarnate manifestations. In plainer language, and looking at the process as it works after the human kingdom has been evolved, an animal on the physical plane of the world becomes personally attached to a superior being one already an individualised human creature. And to convey the idea first of all in what may be rather its poetical than its scientific presentation but not the less a truthful presentation on that account the result of this attachment, the result of this first movement within the consciousness of the animal of the great love principle in its upward aspiring aspect, focalises the spiritual force within its nature and engenders individuality.
From that moment there is a definite something a film, a centre, a point, call it what we like on the spiritual plane that is a Re-incarnating individuality. It is marvellously, almost inconceivably, faint in its outlines, so to speak, but it is a something that has separated itself from the general volume of monadic essence that inspired the animal when it entered on the critical life. It is an independent spiritual energy which is now competent in itself to find expression in a new physical form. But just because that is so, it can no longer find expression in an animal form. By the act of individualisation it has passed into a new kingdom of Nature, and belongs henceforward to the human species.
A correct appreciation of this turning point in evolution is not only necessary as a factor in the appreciation of the growth of the soul from the beginning, but is at the same time illuminating in a high degree with reference to all the problems of animal instinct so blindly blundered about as a rule. At any given moment of its life an animal of any given species has as much wisdom and no more than the other animals of its class. The same intelligence, the same soul, so to speak, is behind them all, The experience of all previous animals of that class is equally at the service of each, but there is no other experience available, and the physical brain of no one animal in the series is equal to the task of seeking out new experience differing very widely from that with which it has been used to deal. It assimilates in some measure that which comes in its way, and thus a process of growth is going on, so to speak, within the common soul of the whole family. The monadic essence is in process of development. A familiar though a painful illustration of this may be found in the well-known fact that in new previously undiscovered countries the animals and birds will, at first, be found to show no timidity in presence of man. But when man, the undeveloped savage man, comes amongst them either with a club or a breechloader, they quickly learn that he is a terrible enemy. It is not merely the unfortunate victims of his ferocity who learn this; their conscious soul becomes aware of the fact, and the new apprehension thrills through every one of its subsequent manifestations.
We must not make the mistake of thinking of the common soul of an animal family as invested with spiritual wisdom. It represents consciousness on the upward path but at an early stage of its upward growth. It is not greater and wiser than the animals it ensouls; it is accurately represented by them as regards its mental evolution. But each animal it ensouls draws equally on the common stock of knowledge and experiences; one consciousness shares the fresh experience of each. When one animal of a given family, for example, suffers, the common soul suffers. Just as in the case of a human being, if the right hand is injured, the man suffers though his left hand or his foot may not be suffering.
Langnage breaks down, because physical brain conceptions break down, when we try to interpret the relations of the various common souls of the animal kingdom with each other. The volume of spirit, if that clumsy expression may be employed, which for a time is ensouling some low order of animal life, undoubtedly achieves progression as a whole, and at a later period must come to ensoul a higher order; but it would be premature for us to attempt an exact interpretation of the changes through which that progression is accomplished. It is more important to comprehend the later progress of the differentiated animal towards true human individuality when, from some one of the high orders of animal life, a specific animal engenders a Re-incarnating individuality, and thus passes, in due time, and after a protracted interlude of non-physical blissful rest, into the human kingdom.
An important distinction has here to be drawn between a Re-incarnating entity and an imperishable Ego. The mere partial development of the Manasic principle, which is an inseparable accompaniment of individualisation in its first stage, does not involve the acquisition of that attribute of fully developed humanity that has been spoken of sometimes as the Divine spark. That is the consequence of a union between the Atma-Buddhic principle, which is in a manner latent in every form of life and therefore in the newly developed Re-incarnating entity, and the ocean of Atma-Buddhi, brooding, so to speak, over the whole of creation. This union is stimulated by the growth of Manas, (reason or intelligence), and when accomplished the entity to be thought of thenceforward as an imperishable Ego is definitely represented on the Arupa plane of Devachan by a vehicle of consciousness appropriate to that condition the Causal body as it is now generally called by European Theosophists. Thenceforth that I permanent vehicle of consciousness, the same through all successive incarnations, is the individuality of the entity concerned, clothing itself afresh each time it descends to the plane of matter in new garments of circumstance, but never losing any attributes that have once been absorbed into its own nature.
The aggregation of fresh attributes by the Ego thus developed proceeds very slowly in the beginning. It is divine in its nature, but is not divine in its developinent. Great confusion of thinking on occult matters has sometimes ensued from a neglect to make this last distinction. There is a great difference between knowledge and the capacity to learn. Without the imperishable Ego, the being, even though differentiated and no longer merely an expression of a common soul shared by other similar manifestations, is incapable of the least touch with the higher Manasic consciousness. With the touch once established, the Karana Sharira once in existence, that capacity sets in, but the new entity does not derive knowledge directly from the ocean of Atma-Buddhi with which it is now connected by what may be thought of as a fine though indestructible thread. It derives its knowledge up to a point far in advance of the state of things we are talking about through the experiences of lower plane embodiments. Many such embodiments may contribute but little to the result. The wholesale drift of evolution is slow, as the scale on which the Manvantaras are planned out should teach us. But none the less is it equally true that at a certain stage the slow process of growth is succeeded by a progress of marvellous rapidity. We may look upon the turning point from the one rate of progress to the other as a stage in evolution hardly less definite as such than the original union with the Atma-Buddhi or the original differentiation from the common soul system of the animal kingdom. The turning point is that at which the Ego concerned in some one or other of its embodiments, at last comprehends Manasically its own nature, and dedicates its will force to the realisation of its divine potentialities, the fulfilment of the purpose with which it has been called into being. That achievement is generally described in the language of occultism as getting on the Path; and from that time on, though progress may be in some cases retarded by specific deficiencies in the attributes of the Ego, which have not prepared it equally all round for higher progress, the onward movement is accomplished by leaps and bounds, compared to the previous gradual drift.
While our thoughts are still subject to the limitations of physical incarnation, it is not possible to follow that progress in imagination to the ultimate development it may bring about, but we may hold on meanwhile confidently to the conviction that whatever enlargement of consciousness becomes possible for the imperishable individuality in its progress through the higher realms of Nature, that individuality is imperishable. It is never lost, not even in the wonderful spiritual union with other aspects of the universal consciousness which takes place even on planes of spiritual existence, which can be touched by the consciousness of advanced individualities still animating a human body. Nothing has contributed more to repel untrained minds from the sublime avenues of thought opened up by occult teaching than the glowing language that has sometimes been used about the mergence of the Soul ultimately in the Divine consciousness its re-union with God, or its absorption in Parabrahm whatever phrase may be used. This seems to the finite understanding to convey the idea of individual extinction, and for those to whom no blank negation of suffering, but life and more life is what they crave, the rnuch-talked-of union is looked upon as tantamount to their own annihilation. This is an altogether baseless and deplorable delusion. The real union is an infinite expansion of the individual consciousness, and not a surrender thereof, and while it begins to be a reality, even for those who have ascended the great path but relatively a little way, the individual consciousness does not cease to be a reality as deep and profound, even if we reach in imagination to heights which can only as yet be dimly apprehended.
In illustration of that thought, let us turn back to the very broadest view we can take of the Soul's growth, and contemplate once again the whole system to which we belong in its spiritual rather than in its scientific aspect. Never mind for a moment the marvellous and intricate beauty of the mechanism through which the great purpose of the system is worked out. Let us think rather of the intention with which the Logos of the system sets the whole undertaking on foot. Let us J in conclusion, approach the loftiest phase of our great theme, and endeavour, in so far as that may be possible for human minds functioning under our present limitations, to comprehend the spiritual purpose of the stupendous system to which we belong, the underlying Divine idea of which that system, with all its astounding complexity of concurrent evolutionary schemes and of infinitely diversified life, is the visible manifestation. Sometimes we may be enabled, in a certain measure, to comprehend a mighty achievement in Nature as regards the collective design, even when the resources of power by which the result is brought about baffle our closest scrutiny. Remember that from the point of view of the Theosophist, there are no blind forces in the cosmos super-inducing worlds and systems by their accidental conflux. Whatever happens on the levels concerned with the inauguration of a solar system is the direct expression of the Will of a Being sufficiently exalted in attributes to be able to render that will objective, to become the manifestation He has created, in the first instance, by thought. By a term familiar to us all as associated with the idea of Divinity, we are enabled reverentially to refer to the Being whose Will engenders and whose Iyife is merged in our solar system as the Logos of the system. We can even go further. We can conceive of Him as emanating in some unfathomable manner from the Supreme Infinite Consciousness, and undertaking the creation of the system as a stupendous act of self-devotion. Within His nature there resides the potentiality of an all but boundless multiplication of His own individuality. Without the appropriate effort on His part, these innumerable possibilities would lie dormant in the Supreme Consciousness. He accomplishes in the creation of the system which He becomes, the first great act of what is sometimes called Sacrifice. His sacrifice His submission for the whole duration of the system to limitations is not made, like the sacrifice of lesser beings, one for another or for others, but for those who are as yet non-existent. He gives out His life to the unborn to those who, but for His self-devotion, would not have individual consciousness at all; in order that the whole volume of Divine consciousness may be richer by countless additional centres of appreciative consciousness.
It is for our sake this great act has been accomplished; for our sake and for that of all others like us or unlike us who are rising through the various gradations of spiritual evolution towards the level of Nature from which the impulse was first given which launched every globe of the planetary system we see. and all that as yet we do not see, on the cosmos of objective life.
The first great out-breathing of the life of the Logos which calls our system into being is the primary manifestation of a law which runs through all the worlds of which we have knowledge the law which prescribes at every stage of existence that life and energy shall be given out for the benefit of some consciousness other than that of the giver, though ultimately to be identified even with that, the law which is the pulse of the whole system a law of giving out which involves no absolute and ultimate sacrifice, but is the only law by which progress and exaltation in Nature can be achieved.
The outpouring is shown to us in its sublimest aspect in the manifestation of the system itself; in some of its humblest workings it is a law of love and generosity on the physical plane of life; in intermediate degrees it is consciously guided by those who promote, from higher levels of existence than those around us, the spiritual growth and welfare of mankind. The more we know of true occultism, and of the intelligent exercise of power on superior planes of being, the more we come into appreciative relations with this great principle, which is equally, though in different measure, inspiring the ceaseless beneficence of the Adept and the unselfish benevolence of all good men and women still working more or less blindly in obedience to the hardly, as yet, articulate impulses of their awakening spiritual natures. The end we cannot, from our present point of view, discern distinctly, but we may grasp with unhesitating assurance the conception that all who lend themselves in willing sympathy for others to the fulfilment of the mighty principle, are helping on the great enterprise that our system represents, and at a later date, if they persevere, will help that enterprise with a fuller and clearer recognition of its whole design to guide them, and will thus be giving back their response to the Divine sympathy of which their own consciousness as living individual beings is one of the innumerable fruits.
Some we do not know how many, and for exact knowledge on such a subject as that we may well be content to wait will, by the entire identification of their own life force with the energy of the breath which permeates the whole system, rise up from stage to stage of spiritual exaltation through the various schemes of evolution of which the system consists, until at its final culmination they stand on a level with the Being by whom and through whom all consciousness in the system has been developed. His life energy has gone out from Him in the first instance, and has involved itself in myriad limitations. As the great work culminates it flows back to Him through the new channels of spiritual energy, through the new Logoi who constitute His reflection on the manifold planes of Nature towards which His influence has been projected. The universe is wide, and sublime activities analogous to His own will doubtless await them in turn. In what way the countless individualities, which will fall in some way short of achieving the maximum possibilities of evolution within the system, will be drawn back into His all but illimitable consciousness when the season of effort is past, when the night time of pralaya affords rest alike for humble as well as for exalted forms of consciousness, we cannot foresee as yet. Nor even can we clearly realise the latest chapters in the appointed history of the system, in respect to the gathering in of all the marvellously diversified energies of life which must still be present on the stage of manifestation as long as any planets continue to circle round the source of all life energy we call the sun. But we are told, and even from some knowledge of spiritual conditions attainable already, can partly understand, that the individuality we think of as the Logos is at all times a host of individualities in one, and will still be a host, how far multiplied it would be vain to inquire, when the harvest of achievement has been gathered, and the purpose of the great Mahamanvantara shall have been fulfilled.