The Secret Doctrine Study Class – week 3 – Proem pages 10 – 16

By editor

Editor’s note: At the beginning of the class, we again reviewed the concept of the Absolute – being beyond human conception or thinking – the unfolding of evolving impulses with no causality – the causeless cause – the inbreathing and out breathing of the world with no beginning and no end – Manvantara and Pralaya are related to the term “The Great Breath” – dissolution or Pralaya is a very gradual process which involves millions of years – The concept of “the One” relies on the reality of the individual consciousness – reminder that the One is not an entity or a process or a thing and it can’t be understood or conceptualized – it can only be experienced as “beness”  – we noted that Blavatsky is referring to our solar system, our planetary system – (the evolution of the Universal Kosmos cannot be given) – a discussion arouse regarding absolute abstract space and motion.

Secret Doctrine – Proem, Pages 10 – 16 (cont’d)

The oldest religions of the world — exoterically, for the esoteric root or foundation is one — are the Indian, the Mazdean, and the Egyptian. Then comes the Chaldean, the outcome of these — entirely lost to the world now, except in its disfigured Sabeanism as at present rendered by the archæologists; then, passing over a number of religions that will be mentioned later, comes the Jewish, esoterically, as in the Kabala, following in the line of Babylonian Magism; exoterically, as in Genesis and the Pentateuch, a collection of allegorical legends. Read by the light of the Zohar, the initial four chapters of Genesis are the fragment of a highly philosophical page in the World’s Cosmogony. (See Book III., Gupta Vidya and the Zohar.) Left in their symbolical disguise, they are a nursery tale, an ugly thorn in the side of science and logic, an evident effect of Karma. To have let them serve as a prologue to Christianity was a cruel revenge on the part of the Rabbis, who knew better what their Pentateuch meant. It was a silent protest against their spoliation, and the Jews have certainly now the better of their traditional persecutors. The above-named exoteric creeds will be explained in the light of the Universal doctrine as we proceed with it.

    The Occult Catechism contains the following questions and answers:

    “What is it that ever is? Space, the eternal Anupadaka.”(1) What is it that ever was? The Germ in the Root. What is it that is ever coming and going? The Great Breath. Then, there are three Eternals? No, the three are one. That which ever is is one, that which ever was is one, that which is ever being and becoming is also one: and this is Space.

    “Explain, oh Lanoo (disciple).  The One is an unbroken Circle (ring) with no circumference, for it is nowhere and everywhere; the One is the boundless plane of the Circle, manifesting a diameter only during the manvantaric periods; the One is the indivisible point found nowhere, perceived everywhere during those periods; it is the Vertical and the Horizontal, the Father and the Mother, the summit and base of the Father, the two extremities of the Mother, reaching in reality nowhere, for the One is the Ring as also the rings that are within that Ring. Light in darkness and darkness in light: the Breath which is eternal. It proceeds from without inwardly, when it is everywhere, and from within outwardly, when it is nowhere  (i.e., maya,(2)one of the centres (3)). It expands and contracts (exhalation and inhalation). When it expands the mother diffuses and scatters; when it contracts, the mother draws back and ingathers. This produces the periods of Evolution and Dissolution, Manwantara and Pralaya. The Germ is invisible and fiery; the Root (the plane of the circle) is cool; but during Evolution and Manwantara her garment is cold and radiant. Hot Breath is the Father who devours the progeny of the many-faced Element (heterogeneous); and leaves the single-faced ones (homogeneous). Cool Breath is the Mother, who conceives, forms, brings forth, and receives them back into her bosom, to reform them at the Dawn (of the Day of Brahmâ, or Manvantara). . . . “

    For clearer understanding on the part of the general reader, it must be stated that Occult Science recognizes Seven Cosmical Elements — four entirely physical, and the fifth ( Ether ) semi-material, as it will become visible in the air towards the end of our Fourth Round, to reign supreme over the others during the whole of the Fifth. The remaining two are as yet absolutely beyond the range of human perception. These latter will, however, appear as presentments during the 6th and 7th Races of this Round, and will become known in the 6th and 7th Rounds respectively. (4) These seven elements with their numberless Sub-Elements
far more numerous than those known to Science) are simply conditional modifications and aspects of the ONE and only Element. This latter is not Ether,(5) not even A’kâśa  but the Source of these. The Fifth Element, now advocated quite freely by Science, is not the Ether hypothesised by Sir Isaac Newton — although he calls it by that name, having associated it in his mind probably with the Æther, “Father-Mother” of Antiquity. As Newton intuitionally says, “Nature is a perpetual circulatory worker, generating fluids out of solids, fixed things out of volatile, and volatile out of fixed, subtile out of gross, and gross out of subtile. . . . Thus, perhaps, may all things be originated from Ether,” (Hypoth, 1675).

    The reader has to bear in mind that the Stanzas given treat only of the Cosmogony of our own planetary System and what is visible around it, after a Solar Pralaya. 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 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 Brahmâ.”

    Before the reader proceeds to the consideration of the Stanzas from the Book of Dzyan which form the basis of the present work, it is absolutely necessary that he should be made acquainted with the few fundamental conceptions which underlie and pervade the entire system of thought to which his attention is invited. These basic ideas are few in number, and on their clear apprehension 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.

Editor’s note: the study class will remember that we read these fundamental propositions during the first class. It was noted that we now come to them within context of the sequential reading of the proem.

    The Secret Doctrine establishes three fundamental propositions: —

    (a) 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 Mandukya, “unthinkable and unspeakable.”

    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, 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, absolute Abstract Motion representing Unconditioned Consciousness. Even our Western thinkers have shown that Consciousness is inconceivable to us apart from change, and motion best symbolises change, 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. Thus, then, the first fundamental axiom of the Secret Doctrine is this metaphysical ONE ABSOLUTE — BE-NESS — symbolised by finite intelligence as the theological Trinity.

    It may, however, assist the student if a few further explanations are given here.

    Herbert Spencer has of late so far modified his Agnosticism, as to assert that the nature of the “First Cause,” (6) which the Occultist more logically derives from the “Causeless Cause,” the “Eternal,” and the “Unknowable,” may be essentially the same as that of the Consciousness which wells up within us: in short, that the impersonal reality pervading the Kosmos is the pure noumenon of thought. This advance on his part brings him very near to the esoteric and Vedantin tenet. (7)

    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. But once that 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 precosmic 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, precosmic 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 its differentiation.

    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 (8) 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.

    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 synthesized, so, in the manifested Universe, there is “that” which links spirit to matter, subject to object.

    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,(9) 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.

    The following summary will afford a clearer idea to the reader.

    (1.) The ABSOLUTE; the Parabrahm of the Vedantins or the one Reality, SAT, which is, as Hegel says, both Absolute Being and Non-Being.

    (2.) The first manifestation, the impersonal, and, in philosophy, unmanifested Logos, the precursor of the “manifested.” This is the “First Cause,” the “Unconscious” of European Pantheists.

    (3.) Spirit-matter, LIFE; the “Spirit of the Universe,” the Purusha and Prakriti, or the second Logos.

    (4.) Cosmic Ideation, MAHAT or Intelligence, the Universal World-Soul; the Cosmic Noumenon of Matter, the basis of the intelligent operations in and of Nature, also called MAHA-BUDDHI.

    The ONE REALITY; its dual aspects in the conditioned Universe.


(1) Meaning “parentless” — see farther on.

(2)Esoteric philosophy, regarding as Maya (or the illusion of ignorance) every finite thing, must necessarily view in the same light every intra-Cosmic planet and body, as being something organized, hence finite. The expression, therefore, “it proceeds from without inwardly, etc.” refers in the first portion of the sentence to the dawn of the Mahamanvantaric period, or the great re-evolution after one of the complete periodical dissolutions of every compound form in Nature (from planet to molecule) into its ultimate essence or element; and in its second portion, to the partial or local manvantara, which may be a solar or even a planetary one.

(3)  By “centre,” a centre of energy or a Cosmic focus is meant; when the so-called “Creation,” or formation of a planet, is accomplished by that force which is designated by the Occultists LIFE and by Science “energy,” then the process takes place from within outwardly, every atom being said to contain in itself creative energy of the divine breath. Hence, whereas after an absolute pralaya, or when the pre-existing material consists but of ONE Element, and BREATH “is everywhere,” the latter acts from without inwardly: after a minor pralaya, everything having remained in statu quo  in a refrigerated state, so to say, like the moon — at the first flutter of manvantara, the planet or planets begin their resurrection to life from within outwardly.

(4) It is curious to notice how, in the evolutionary cycles of ideas, ancient thought seems to be reflected in modern speculation. Had Mr. Herbert Spencer read and studied ancient Hindu philosophers when he wrote a certain passage in his “First Principles” (p. 482), or is it an independent flash of inner perception that made him say half correctly, half incorrectly, “motion as well as matter, being fixed in quantity (?), it would seem that the change in the distribution of Matter which Motion effects, coming to a limit in whichever direction it is carried (?), the indestructible Motion thereupon necessitates a reverse distribution. Apparently, the universally co-existent forces of attraction and repulsion which, as we have seen, necessitate rhythm in all minor changes throughout the Universe, also necessitate rhythm in the totality of its changes — produce now an immeasurable period during which the attracting forces predominating, cause universal concentration, and then an immeasurable period, during which the repulsive forces predominating, cause universal diffusion — alternate eras of Evolution and dissolution.”

(5) Whatever the views of physical Science upon the subject, Occult Science has been teaching for ages that A’kâsa — of which Ether is the grossest form — the fifth universal Cosmic Principle (to which corresponds and from which proceeds human Manas) is, cosmically, a radiant, cool, diathermanous plastic matter, creative in its physical nature, correlative in its grossest aspects and portions, immutable in its higher principles. In the former condition it is called the Sub-Root; and in conjunction with radiant heat, it recalls “dead worlds to life.” In its higher aspect it is the Soul of the World; in its lower — the DESTROYER.    

(6) The “first” presupposes necessarily something which is the “first brought forth, the first in time, space, and rank” — and therefore finite and conditioned. The “first” cannot be the absolute, for it is a manifestation. Therefore, Eastern Occultism calls the Abstract All the “Causeless One Cause,” the “Rootless Root,” and limits the “First Cause” to the Logos, in the sense that Plato gives to this term.

(7) See Mr. Subba Row’s four able lectures on the Bhagavad Gita, “Theosophist,” February, 1887.

(8) Called in Sanskrit: “Upadhi.”

(9) Called by Christian Theology: Archangels, Seraphs, etc.