Lecture 51 — The Secret Doctrine

by Mme H P Blavatsky


Contents List:

Note by the Editor
Introduction
Three Fundamental Conceptions
1. The Absolute

2. The Eternity of the Universe
3. The Identity of All Souls
On To The Stanzas...
Guide to the Stanzas

Return to:

"Campus"
Index to Hermetic System Lectures
Ardue Site Plan

See also:

Information System Design
Consciousness, Laws, and Influences
Towards a Unified Cosmology
Man's Place in the World
A Rational Approach to Genesis, Part 1
The Holy Spirit
Cycles in Time
Sleeping Christianity
A Myth for the Soul
School for Secrets


Note by the Editor

The Secret Doctrine is the title of what is almost certainly the most famous work in Western esoteric literature, and it may be read in full on the Internet. All the would-be reader needs to do is search for "the secret doctrine", and he or she will be deluged with directions to its various locations.

An "Abridgement" of the work has been published by Quest Books, Theosophical Publishing House, Wheaton, Illinois and Madras, India.

Yet despite this freely available worldwide publication, the doctrine is as "secret" as ever. As is invariably the case with esoteric or "occult" knowledge, it is not easy to express the content of such a book in plain news-speak because its principal subject matter is the abstract "reality" underlying the concrete objects of sense. Hence this very large and profound work is impenetrable to readers who lack the patience and meditative determination to distil the import from the expression. I have myself been helped in this by looking up Sanskrit and other unfamiliar terms in The Dictionary of the Esoteric (TDOE) by Nevill Drury (Watkins Publishing, London).

I present this introductory "lecture", for the most part using HPB's own words, in the hope that it will encourage regular Ardue readers to maintain their efforts to acquire a better understanding of themselves and the humanity we all share.

Introduction

The reader has to bear in mind that the 'Stanzas' on which the work is based treat only of the Cosmogony of our own planetary System and what is visible around it after a Solar Pralaya. [Pralaya is a Sanskrit term for the dissolution of the Universe at the end of a kalpa or "Day of Brahma". During this phase, the Universe is quiescent. — TDOE.] The secret teachings with regard to the Evolution of the Universal Kosmos cannot be given since they could not be understood by the highest minds in this age and there seem to be very few Initiates, even among the greatest, who are allowed to speculate upon this subject. Moreover the Teachers say openly that not even the highest Dhyani-Chohans [Tibetan planetary spirits who are believed to guide the spiritual evolution of the planet. The term derives from a Sanskrit Tibetan root meaning "Lords of Meditation". — TDOE.] have ever penetrated the mysteries beyond those boundaries that separate the milliards of Solar systems from the "Central Sun", as it is called. Therefore, that which is given relates only to our visible Kosmos after a "Night of Brahma".

Three Fundamental Conceptions

Before the reader proceeds to the consideration of the Stanzas from the Book of Dzyan [A volume of commentaries on the seven secret volumes known as the Books of Kie-te — TDOE] which form the basis of the Secret Doctrine, it is absolutely necessary that he should be made acquainted with the three fundamental conceptions which underlie and pervade the entire system of thought to which attention is invited:

  1. An Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless, and Immutable Principle on which all speculation is impossible since it transcends the power of human conception and could only be dwarfed by any human expression or similitude. It is beyond the range and reach of thought — in the words of the Mandukya Upanishad, "unthinkable and unspeakable".
  2. The Eternity of the Universe.
  3. The fundamental identity of all souls with the Universal Oversoul, the latter being itself an aspect of the Unknown Root.

On the clear apprehension of these conceptions depends the understanding of all that follows. Therefore no apology is required for asking the reader to make himself familiar with them first, before entering on the perusal of the work itself,

1. The Absolute

To render these ideas clearer to the general reader, let him set out with the postulate that there is one absolute Reality which antecedes all manifested, conditioned, being. This Infinite and Eternal Cause — dimly formulated in the "Unconscious" and "Unknowable" of current European philosophy — is the rootless root of "all that was, is, or ever shall be". It is of course devoid of all attributes and is essentially without any relation to manifested finite Being. It is "Be-ness" rather than Being (in Sanskrit, Sat), and is beyond all thought or speculation.

This "Be-ness" is symbolised in the Secret Doctrine under two aspects. On the one hand there is absolute Abstract Space, representing bare subjectivity, the one thing which no human mind can either exclude from any conception or conceive of by itself. On the other hand there is absolute Abstract Motion representing Unconditioned Consciousness. Even our Western thinkers have shown that Consciousness is inconceivable to us apart from change, and change is best symbolised by motion, its essential characteristic.

This latter aspect of the One Reality is also symbolised by the term "The Great Breath", a symbol sufficiently graphic to need no further elucidation. Therefore, the first fundamental axiom of the Secret Doctrine is this metaphysical ONE ABSOLUTE — BE-NESS — symbolised by finite intelligence as the theological Trinity.

Parabrahm (the One Reality, the Absolute) is the field of Absolute Consciousness, i.e., that Essence which is out of all relation to conditioned existence, and of which conscious existence is a conditioned symbol.

Duality

Once we pass in thought from this (to us) Absolute Negation, duality supervenes in the contrast of Spirit (or Consciousness) and Matter, Subject and Object.

Spirit (or Consciousness) and Matter are, however, to be regarded NOT as independent realities, but as the two facets or aspects of the Absolute (Parabrahm), which constitute the basis of conditioned Being, whether subjective or objective.

Considering this metaphysical triad as the Root from which proceeds all manifestation, the Great Breath assumes the character of pre-Cosmic Ideation. It is the fons et origo of force and of all individual consciousness, and supplies the guiding intelligence in the vast scheme of cosmic Evolution. On the other hand, pre-Cosmic Root-substance (Mulaprakriti) is that aspect of the Absolute which underlies all the objective planes of Nature.

Just as pre-Cosmic Ideation is the root of all individual consciousness, so pre-Cosmic Substance is the substratum of matter in the various grades of differentiation. [For analogy, see A Complex Module in which a sustained logical thought-process would have little point if it did not result in a substantial perambulator. — Ed.]

Hence it will be apparent that the contrast of these two aspects of the Absolute is essential to the existence of the "Manifested Universe". Apart from Cosmic Substance, Cosmic Ideation could not manifest as individual consciousness, since it is only through a vehicle of matter that consciousness wells up as "I am I", a physical basis being necessary to focus a ray of the Universal Mind at a certain stage of complexity. Again, apart from Cosmic Ideation, Cosmic Substance would remain an empty abstraction, and no emergence of consciousness could ensue. [For further analogy, consider why material radios or television sets are required to make us "conscious" of the intelligent content of selected frequency bands among the multitude of "rays" which pervade space. — Ed.]

The Manifested Universe, therefore, is pervaded by duality which is, as it were, the very essence of its EX-istence as "manifestation". But just as the opposite poles of Subject and Object, Spirit and Matter, are but aspects of the One Unity in which they are synthesised, so, in the manifested Universe, there is 'that' which links Spirit to Matter, Subject to Object. [See The Law of Three — Ed].

Fohat

This something, at present unknown to Western speculation, is called by the occultists Fohat. It is the 'bridge' by which the 'Ideas' existing in the 'Divine Thought' are impressed on Cosmic Substance as the 'Laws of Nature'.

Fohat is thus the dynamic energy of Cosmic Ideation; or, regarded from the other side, it is the intelligent medium, the guiding power of all manifestation, the "Thought Divine" transmitted and made manifest through the Dhyan Chohans [Called by Christian theology: Archangels, Seraphs, etc. — HPB], the Architects of the visible World.

Thus from Spirit, or Cosmic Ideation, comes our Consciousness; from Cosmic Substance the several vehicles in which that consciousness is individualised and attains to self — or reflective-consciousness; while Fohat, in its various manifestations, is the mysterious link between Mind and Matter, the animating principle electrifying every atom into life.

[In reflection it is easy to see how, once a creative process is successfully started, all subsequent development consists in the repeated application of one creative principle. This makes it easier to imagine "matter" not as being "dead" but rather as being imbued with itelligent life capable of being transformed as required by intelligent specialist "elementals" or "spirits" — just as happens at a higher level in the human organisations on which we rely for the production and distribution of physical goods. We may further imagine spirits operating at all levels from the elementary "particles" through the planets, stars, solar systems, and galaxies, to the uttermost Universe (if there is such a thing). In light of this, perhaps we should take the subject of Astrology more seriously than has recently been common in academic and materialist circles. — Ed.]

2. The Eternity of the Universe

The Secret Doctrine affirms that the Universe should in toto be viewed as a boundless space, "the playground of numberless Universes incessantly manifesting and disappearing", called the "manifesting stars" and the "sparks of Eternity". [Compare: Hypotheses About The Origin of Matter — Ed.]

"The Eternity of the Pilgrim" is like a wink of the eye of Self-Existence (Book of Dzyan.) "The appearance and disappearance of Worlds is like a regular tidal ebb and flow of flux and reflux." ["Pilgrim" is the appellation given to our Monad (the two in one) during its cycle of incarnations. It is the only immortal and eternal principle in us, being an indivisible part of the integral whole — the Universal Spirit, from which it emanates and into which it is absorbed at the end of the cycle. When it is said to emanate from the One Spirit, an awkward and incorrect expression has to be used for lack of appropriate words in English. The Vedantists call it Sutratma (Thread-Soul), but their explanation, too, differs somewhat from that of the occultists. — HPB]

The second assertion of the Secret Doctrine is the absolute universality of that law of periodicity, of flux and reflux, ebb and flow, which physical science has observed and recorded in all departments of Nature. An alternation such as Day and Night, Life and Death, Sleeping and Waking, is a fact so common, so perfectly universal and without exception, that it is easy to comprehend that in it we see one of the absolutely fundamental Laws of the Universe.

3. The Identity of All Souls

Moreover, the Secret Doctrine teaches the fundamental identity of all Souls with the Universal Oversoul, the latter being an aspect of the Unknown Root; and the obligatory pilgrimage for every Soul — each a spark of the former — through the Cycle of Incarnation (or "Necessity") in accordance with Cyclic and Karmic Law, during the whole term.

In other words, no purely spiritual Budhi (Divine Soul) can have an independent (conscious) existence before the spark which issued from the pure Essence of the Universal Sixth Principle — or the OVER-SOUL — has (a) passed through every elemental form of the phenomenal world of the Manvantara [A period of manifestation in contrast to a Pralaya. — Ed.] , and (b) acquired individuality, first by natural impulse, and then by self-induced and self-devised efforts (checked by its Karma), thus ascending through all the degrees of intelligence from the lowest to the highest Manas [Sanskrit term meaning "mind". — TDOE], from mineral and plant up to the holiest archangel (Dhyana-Buddha).

The pivotal doctrine of the Esoteric philosophy admits no privileges or special gifts in man save those won by his own Ego through personal effort and merit throughout a long series of metempsychoses and reincarnations.

This is why the Hindus say that the Universe is Brahman and Brahmă, for Brahman is in every atom of the Universe, the six principles in Nature all being the outcome — the variously differentiated aspects — of the SEVENTH and ONE, the only reality in the Universe, whether Cosmic or micro-cosmic; and also why the permutations (psychic, spiritual, and physical) on the plane of manifestation and form of the SIXTH (Brahmă, the vehicle of Brahman) are viewed by metaphysical antiphrasis as illusive and Mayavic. For although the root of every atom individually and of every form collectively is that Seventh Principle or the One Reality, still, in its manifested phenomenal and temporary appearance, it is no better than an evanescent illusion of our senses.

In its absoluteness, the One Principle under its two aspects (of Parabrahman and Mulaprakriti) is sexless, unconditioned, and eternal. Its periodical (manvantaric) emanation — or primal radiation — is also One, androgynous and phenomenally finite. When the radiation radiates in its turn, all its radiations are also androgynous, to become male and female principles in their lower aspects.

After Pralaya, whether the great or the minor Pralaya (the latter leaving the worlds in statu quo) the first that re-awakens to active life is the plastic Akasa, Father-Mother, the Spirit and Soul of Ether, or the plane on the surface of the Circle. Space is called the "Mother" before its Cosmic activity, and Father-Mother is the first stage of re-awakening....

[With regard to the minor Pralaya, it is not the physical organisms that remain in statu quo, least of all their psychic principles, during the great Cosmic or even Solar Pralayas, but only their Akasic or astral "photographs". But during the minor pralayas, once ovettaken by the "night", the planets remain intact, though dead, as a huge animal, caught and embedded in the polar ice, remains the same for ages. — HPB]

On To The Stanzas...

Such are the basic conceptions on which the Secret Doctrine rests.

It would not be in place here to enter upon any defence or proof of their inherent reasonableness; nor can I pause to show how they are, in fact, contained — though too often under a misleading guise — in every system of thought worthy of the name.

Once the reader has gained a clear comprehension of them and realised the light which they throw on every problem of life, they will need no further justification in his eyes because their truth will be to him as evident as the Sun in heaven.

I pass on, therefore, to the subject matter of the Stanzas as given, adding a skeleton outline of them in the hope of thereby rendering the task of the student more easy by placing before him in a few words the general conception therein explained.

The history of cosmic evolution as traced in the Stanzas is, so to say, the abstract algebraical formula of that Evolution. Hence the student must not expect to find there an account of all the stages and transformations which intervene between the first beginnings of a "Universal" Evolution and our present state. To give such an account would be as impossible as it would be incomprehensible to men who cannot even grasp the nature of the plane of existence next to that to which, for the moment, their consciousness is limited.

The Stanzas, therefore, give an abstract formula which can be applied, mutatis mutandis, to all evolution: to that of our tiny Earth; to that of the chain of planets of which the Earth forms one; to the Solar Galaxy to which that chain belongs; and so on, in an ascending scale, till the mind reels and is exhausted in the effort. [See, e.g. Man's Place in the World — Ed.]

The seven Stanzas given in this volume represent the seven terms of this abstract formula. They refer to, and describe the seven great stages of the evolutionary process which are spoken of in the Puranas [Hindu "creation stories". — Ed] as the "Seven Creations" and in the Bible as the "Days" of Creation [See, e.g. A Rational Approach to Genesis — Ed.].

Guide to the Stanzas

  1. The first Stanza describes the state of the ONE ALL during Pralaya, before the first flutter of re-awakening manifestation.

    A moment's thought shows that such a state can only be symbolised; to describe it is impossible. Nor can it be symbolised except in negatives; for, since it is the state of Absoluteness per se, it can possess none of those specific attributes which serve us to describe objects in positive terms. Hence that state can only be suggested by the negatives of all those most abstract attributes which men feel rather than conceive as the remotest limits attainable by their power of conception.

  2. The stage described in Stanza 2 is, to a Western mind, so nearly identical with that mentioned in the first that to express the difference would require a treatise in itself. Hence it must be left to the intuition and the higher faculties of the reader to grasp, as far as he can, the meaning of the allegorical phrases used. Indeed, it must be remembered that all these Stanzas appeal to the inner faculties rather than to the ordinary comprehension of the physical brain.
  3. Stanza 3 describes the re-awakening of the Universe to life after Pralaya. It depicts the emergence of the "Monads" from their state of absorption within the ONE; the earliest and highest stage in the formation of "Worlds", the term Monad being one which may apply equally to the vastest Solar System or the tiniest atom.
  4. Stanza 4 shows the differentiation of the "Germ" of the Universe into the septenary hierarchy of conscious Divine Powers Who are the active manifestationsw of the One Supreme Energy. They are the framers, shapers, and ultimately the creators of all the manifested Universe in the only sense in which the name "Creator" is intelligible: they are the intelligent Beings who adjust and control evolution, embodying in themselves those manifestations of the ONE LAW which we know as "The Laws of Nature".

    Generically, they are known as the Dhyan Chohans, though each of the various groups has its own designation in the Secret Doctrine.

    This stage of evolution is spoken of in Hindu mythology as the "Creation" of the Gods.

  5. In Stanza 5 the process of world-formation is described. First, diffused Cosmic Matter, then the "fiery whirlwind", the first stage in the formation of a nebula. That nebula condenses and, after passing through various transformations, forms a Solar Universe, a planetary Chain, or a single Planet as the case may be. [Compare Towards a Unified Cosmology. — Ed.]
  6. The subsequent stages in the formation of a "World" are indicated in Stanza 6, which bring the evolution of such a world down to its fourth great period, corresponding to the period in which we are now living.
  7. Stanza 7 continues the history, tracing the descent of life down to the appearance of Man. Thus closes the First Book of The Secret Doctrine.
The development of "Man" from his first appearance on this Earth in this Round to the state in which we now find him forms the subject of Volume II