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BN-basic Course Syllabus

The Ancient Wisdom Tradition

II-Universal Evolution: The Field of Unlimited Potentiality

1.) Beyond Creationism and Darwinism – Involution and Evolution

Related References

(HPB, Secret Doctrine Vol. I p. 416-17)
The whole of antiquity was imbued with the philosophy which teaches the involution of spirit into matter, the progressive, downward cyclic descent, or active, self-conscious evolution. One and all, they allegorized and explained the Fall as the desire to learn and acquire knowledge – to KNOW. This is the natural sequence of mental evolution, the spiritual becoming transmuted into the material or physical.

(HPB,"The Origin Of Evil" )
Ancient wisdom attributes the birth of Kosmos and the evolution of life to the breaking asunder of primordial, manifested UNITY, into plurality, or the great illusion of form. From the universals down to the particulars the organic world is discovered to be subject to the same laws of ever increasing elaboration, of the transition from unity to plurality as "the fundamental formula of the evolution of life."

 (HPB, Theosophical Glossary p. 116)
Evolution:The development of higher orders of animals·from lower. As said in Isis Unveiled: "Modern Science holds but to a one-sided physical evolution, prudently avoiding and ignoring the higher or spiritual evolution, which would force our contemporaries to confess the superiority of the ancient philosophers and psychologists over themselves. The ancient sages, ascending to the UNKNOWABLE, made their starting point from the first manifestation of the unseen, the unavoidable, and, from a strictly logical reasoning, the absolutely necessary creative Being, the Demiurgos of the universe. Evolution began with them from pure spirit, which descending lower and lower down, assumed at last a visible and comprehensible form, and became matter. Arrived at this point, they speculated in the Darwinian method, but on a far more large and comprehensive basis. ( See "Emanation".)

(Wm. Q. "Which Is Vague, Theosophy or Science?")
"Darwin puts in the place of a conscious creative force, building and arranging the organic bodies of animals and plants on a designed plan, a series of natural forces working blindly, or we say, without aim, without design. In place of an arbitrary act we have a necessary law of evolution....A mechanical origin of the earliest living form was held as the necessary sequence of Darwin's teaching." Here we have blind, undesigning forces, beginning work without design, haphazard, all being jumbled together, but finally working out into a beautiful design visible in the smallest form we can see. There is not a single proof in present life whether mineral, vegetable, or animal, that such a result from such a beginning could by any possibility eventuate.

(HPB, Theosophical Glossary p. 113)
Emanation:the Doctrine·of· In its metaphysical meaning, it is opposed to Evolution, yet one with it. Science teaches that evolution is physiologically a mode of generation in which the germ that develops the foetus pre-exists already in the parent, the development and final form and characteristics of that germ being accomplished in nature; and that in cosmology the process takes place blindly through the correlation of the elements, and their various compounds. Occultism answers that this is only the apparent mode, the real process being Emanation, guided by intelligent Forces under an immutable LAW. Therefore, while the Occultists and Theosophists believe thoroughly in the doctrine of Evolution as given out by Kapila and Manu, they are Emanationists rather than Evolutionists. The doctrine of Emanation was at one time universal. It was taught by the Alexandrian as well as by the Indian philosophers, by the Egyptian, the Chaldean and Hellenic Hierophants, and also by the Hebrews (in their Kabbala, and even in Genesis). For it is only owing to deliberate mistranslation that the Hebrew word asdt has been translated "angels" from the Septuagint, when it means Emanations, Aeons, precisely as with the Gnostics. Indeed, in Deuteronomy (xxxiii., 2) the word asdt or ashdt is translated as "fiery law", whilst the correct rendering of the passage should be "from his right hand went [not a fiery law, but] a fire according to law"; viz., that the fire of one flame is imparted to, and caught up by another like as in a trail of inflammable substance. This is precisely emanation. As shown in Isis Unveiled: "In Evolution, as it is now beginning to be understood, there is supposed to be in all matter an impulse to take on a higher form -- a supposition clearly expressed by Manu and other Hindu philosophers of the highest antiquity. The philosopher's tree illustrates it in the case of the zinc solution. The controversy between the followers of this school and the Emanationists may be briefly stated thus: The Evolutionist stops all inquiry at the borders of "the Unknowable"; the Emanationist believes that nothing can be evolved -- or, as the word means, unwombed or born -- except it has first been involved, thus indicating that life is from a spiritual potency above the whole."

(HPB, Secret Doctrine, Vol. I p. 332)
It will be an easy task to show that the cosmogonical legends all over the world are based on a knowledge by the ancients of those sciences, which have allied themselves in our days in support of the doctrine of evolution; and that further research may demonstrate that those ancients were far better acquainted with the fact of evolution itself, embracing both its physical and spiritual aspects, than we are now. "With the old philosophers, evolution was a universal theorem, a doctrine embracing the whole, and an established principle; while our modern evolutionists are enabled to present us merely with speculative theoretics; with particular, if not wholly negative theorems.

(HPB, Key To Theosophy, p. 84)
ENQ. But who is it that creates each time the Universe?

THEO. No one creates it. Science would call the process evolution; the pre-Christian philosophers and the Orientalists called it emanation: we, Occultists and Theosophists , see in it the only universal and eternal reality casting a periodical reflection of itself on the infinite Spatial depths. This reflection, which you regard as the objective material universe, we consider as a temporary illusion and nothing else. That alone which is eternal is real.

(Wm. Q. Judge, Articles Vol. I "Hidden Hints In The Secret Doctrine")
Why any Fall whatever? It was the Fall of Spirit into generation, not the fall of mortal man. If this be true, man has not fallen, but is, for this period of evolution, on the way upward.. . Spirit per se is an unconscious negative ABSTRACTION. So the question, why any fall if it was pure originally, is based on the assumption that to remain in a state of unconscious abstraction is better. This cannot, however, be so. When a period of evolution begins, with spirit at one end of the pole and matter at the other, it is absolutely necessary for spirit to proceed through experience in matter in order that self-consciousness may be acquired. It is a "fall" into matter so far as the fact is concerned, but so far as the result and the object in view it is neither fall nor rise, that the carrying out of the immutable law of the nature of spirit and matter. We ignorantly call it a fall or a curse, because our lower consciousness does not see the great sweep of the cycles nor apprehend the mighty purpose entertained.


(Wm. Q. Judge, "Evolution")
The word "evolution" is the best word from a theosophical standpoint to use in treating of the genesis of men and things, as the process which it designates is that which has always been stated in the ancient books from whose perusal the tenets of the wisdom religion can be gathered. In the Bhagavad Gita we find Krishna saying that "at the beginning of the day of Brahma all things come forth from the non-developed principle, and at the coming on of Brahma's night they are resolved into it again," and that this process goes on from age to age. This exactly states evolution as it is defined in our dictionaries, where it is said to be a process of coming forth or a development. The "days and nights of Brahma" are immense periods of time during which evolution proceeds, the manifestation of things being the "day" and their periodical resolution into the Absolute the "night."

If then, everything is evolved, the word creation can only be properly applied to any combination of things already in existence, since the primordial matter or basis cannot be created. The basis of the theosophical is evolution, for in theosophy it is held that all things are already in esse, being brought forth or evolved from time to time in conformity to the inherent law of the Absolute.

In order to justify a discussion of the Theosophical system of evolution, it is necessary to see if there be any radical difference between it and that which is accepted in the world, either in scientific circles or among Theologians. That there is such a distinction can be seen at once, and we will take first that between it and Theology. Here, of course, this is in respect to the genesis of the inner man more especially, although Theology makes some claim to know about race descent. The Church either says that the soul of each man is a special creation in each case or remains silent on the subject, leaving us, as it was once so much the fashion to say, "In the hands of a merciful Providence," who after all says nothing on the matter. But when the question of the race is raised, then the priest points to the Bible, saying that we all come from one pair, Adam and Eve. On this point Theology is more sure than science, as the latter has no data yet and does not really know whether we owe our origin to one pair, male and female, or to many. Theosophy, on the other hand, differs from the Church, asserting that Paramatma alone is self-existing, single, eternal, immutable, and common to all creatures, high and low alike; hence it never was and never will be created; that the soul of man evolves, is consciousness itself, and is not specially created for each man born on the earth, but assumes through countless incarnations different bodies at different times.

In taking up the difference existing between our theory and that of science we find the task easy. Upon the question of progress, and how progress or civilization may be attained by man, and whether any progress could be possible if the theories of science be true, our position is that there could be no progress if the law of evolution as taught in the schools is true, even in a material sense. In this particular we are diametrically opposed to science. Its assumption is that the present race on earth may be supposed to belong to a common stock which in its infancy was rude and barbarous, knowing little more than the animal, living like the animal, and learning all it now knows simply by experience gained in its contest with nature through its development. Hence they give us the paleolithic age, the neolithic age, and so on. In this scheme we find no explanation of how man comes to have innate ideas. Some, however, seeing the necessity for an explanation of this phenomenon, attempt it in various ways, and it is a phenomenon of the greatest importance. It is explained by theosophy in a way peculiar to itself, and of which more will be said as we go on.

Further Reading References:

Theosophical Articles by H.P.B.  "The Origin of Evil"

Theosophical Articles by Wm. Q. Judge  "Evolution"

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