THEOSOPHY, Vol. 31, No. 12, October, 1943
(Pages 550-554; Size: 15K)
(Number 7 of a 10-part series)
[Compiler's Note: All 10 articles have the same name.]
CYCLES OF PSYCHISM
FOR some years now the idea that the human race is on the verge, even in the midst of, a great change, has been gaining popular currency. This theory is by no means limited to political prophets and workers for an international order. Nearly every branch of thought has its version of the world of tomorrow. While sober scientists are predicting that specialized progress will revolutionize still further our present ways of life, there are scores of exotic cults who anticipate more miraculous alterations in the future, and are now attempting to gather supporters for their particular program of social reform. It is as though the whole world were in labor, utterly confused as to the meaning of the physical and moral suffering of all humanity, and longing, with the intensity born of desperation, to believe that, somehow, the millennium is not far off.
The scientific and other serious literature of the age is full of descriptions of this unrest, but little or no explanation is offered -- at least, no explanation that is at all adequate to the great psychological upheaval before us. The fact of change is readily acknowledged, but its meaning remains obscure. It is for this reason that the ancient Theosophical view of human evolution is here presented.
No special claim to authority is made for the doctrines that will be offered in explanation of the emotional turmoil we are experiencing. Theosophy is not made public as a "revelation," nor is mere "belief" in these teachings solicited. It claims consideration on the ground of inherent reasonableness, and its clear application to the facts as they may be observed by anyone. If it be taken only as a "working hypothesis," much can be gained from an impartial study of Theosophical teaching, and consistent judgment and comparison of these doctrines with all other views of life is sure to result in a just appreciation of the great contribution of the Teachers of Theosophy to the modern world.
Naturally, little more than "intimations" of the scope of the Theosophical philosophy can be presented in the compass of these few pages. However, should the suggestions here provided arouse the inquirer to pursue his studies further, he will find in the basic texts of the philosophy a field of research that will challenge his highest faculties and reward even the most extravagant hopes.
The great scientific discovery of the nineteenth century was the Law of Evolution. It was not a really "new" idea, but one well known to the Teachers of antiquity, of both India and Greece, and rather than discovered, was "revived" in a new form, although few men of the West are aware that the original of this modern doctrine may be found in so ancient a scripture as the Laws of Manu. There is, however, a vitally important difference between ancient and modern theories of evolution.
As everyone knows, the Darwinian Theory, which may be taken to represent the scientific view of evolution, was developed to explain the many changes in form which various species of plants and animals have undergone through millions of years in the past. Darwin studied the changes and evolution in bodies, as though no other kind of progress were possible, and all the scientists who have since added facts and theories to our understanding of evolution followed his example. The result has been that we think of evolution as simply a physical process, in which the powers developed are physical, wholly the product of growth and perfection of animal bodies.
But there is another kind of evolution than that common to the lower kingdoms of nature -- an evolution peculiar to man, which is intellectual and moral. The lines of physical, intellectual and moral evolution are all three present in human beings, and it is possible to distinguish between them and to realize how essentially different they are, one from the other. A man may have an excellent body, yet be intellectually weak; and the same man may have either a good or a bad moral nature. A wise man may live in a puny, diseased body, using his understanding to overcome the limitations of his physical organism. In the same way, remarkable mental powers may be joined to moral goodness, in which case we have a sage; or intellectual ability may be the servant of calculating selfishness in another man, with quite different results for his fellow human beings. All in all, taking men as we find them in our own experience, it should be plain that they differ one from another far more in these psychic qualities than in any distinctions of body, and that the true evolution of mankind lies in the further development of their mental and moral powers.
This view of evolution takes our inquiry into a sphere of experience and study that is quite unfamiliar to western thought. The whole question of "the psychic" and abnormal powers and phenomena has for several centuries been almost entirely neglected by the scholars and scientists of European and American civilization. Not until the past twenty years or so has there been any real willingness on the part of the leaders of western thought to admit even the possibility that soul or mind powers may exist and act independently of the physical body and the laws of external nature. And even now, with the most forceful evidence of powers of a psychic character before them -- telepathy, clairvoyance, and even pre-vision are now generally accepted by impartial investigators -- our scientists are for the most part still reluctant to consider that there may be laws of mind and soul action which should be studied as principles distinct in themselves, not dependent on the laws known to physicists and biologists.
The facts are there, and are increasing with each year of research. Ultimately, in the course of this century, they will be recognized as realities, and an attempt will have to be made to explain them, even if this requires complete revision of all our western theories of life and evolution. It was in anticipation of this general trend in modern thought -- indicative of the next great step in human evolution -- that the Third Great Object of the Theosophical Society was stated as:The investigation of the unexplained laws of nature and the psychical powers latent in man.Suggestion has been given of what some of the "psychical powers latent in man" may be, but what about "unexplained" laws of nature? The admirer of modern science asks quite naturally, Are not the laws of nature themselves the explanations? As a matter of fact, they are not. Lest there be misunderstanding on this score, a passage on the law of "Gravitation" may be quoted from a recent scientific writer:Just because the effects of gravitation are so familiar and because Newton's law accounts so completely for the motions of the heavenly bodies, except for a few minute effects which Einstein's theory represents better than Newton's, we are apt to forget how mysterious gravitation is and how little our so-called explanations penetrate the mystery.... Our so-called physical explanations are almost always mere descriptions of one sort or another.(1)Newton himself made no pretense of being able to "explain" the cause of gravitation, and said so quite frankly, and it has remained a mystery from that day to this. Thus there was every reason in the world for Theosophy to propose another approach to the great questions of the laws of nature and the powers in man. The method of physical science had, it is true, given us much practical knowledge concerning the use of the forces of nature, enabling western nations to raise a great civilization upon this foundation, but the meaning of life remained a secret that Science could not discover, and it is now evident to all thoughtful persons that the real meaning and purpose of existence is by far the most important thing for human beings to investigate. The teachings of Theosophy are in the world to meet this need.
Man has now reached a point where he is beginning to inquire what more there is for him to know. He has ceased to think exclusively of the material side of life; he is sensing his own nature, feeling within the slow awakening of powers long hidden and asleep, and he asks: What am I, whence came I, whither do I go?
There is no possible way of understanding or explaining the answers to these questions except through Evolution, and for Man this is evolution of the Soul. Man is a spiritual being, and his evolution is an unfolding from within outward, the expression of spirit or consciousness through the intelligence he has acquired by experience. All evolution involves the growth of intelligence through experience, and the consequent further expression of the powers of Spirit, but in man is manifested a type of intelligence that is higher than that in the lower kingdoms.
The development of intelligence proceeds very slowly in the mineral and vegetable kingdoms, more rapidly in the animal kingdom. Evolution in these three kingdoms is represented by changes in physical form, by adaptation to external conditions and the elaboration of organs for specialized functions. Human evolution is of another sort. Man is not simply concerned with states and conditions of matter; the evolution of intelligence in him has reached that stage where the being himself knows that he is, that he is conscious, that he can understand to some extent his own nature and the natures of the beings below him, and see their relation to each other.
Two-thirds of a century ago, H. P. Blavatsky wrote on the opening page of Isis Unveiled:We believe in no Magic which transcends the scope and capacity of the human mind, nor in "miracle," whether divine or diabolical, if such imply a transgression of the laws of nature instituted from all eternity. Nevertheless, we accept the saying of the gifted author of Festus, that the human heart has not yet fully uttered itself, and that we have never attained or even understood the extent of its powers. Is it too much to believe that man should be developing new sensibilities and a closer relation with nature? The logic of evolution must teach as much, if carried to its legitimate conclusions. If, somewhere, in the line of ascent from vegetable or ascidian to the noblest man a soul was evolved, gifted with intellectual qualities, it cannot be unreasonable to infer and believe that a faculty of perception is also growing in man, enabling him to descry facts and truths even beyond our ordinary ken.The two large volumes of this work are devoted to a demonstration of the hidden powers in man and to an exposition of the philosophy of evolution which alone can explain their presence. All past history is the author's witness, brought upon the stand of impartial inquiry and made to show that there have been literally thousands of men and women in whom the powers of soul have flowered more fully than in ordinary persons, whose lives gave evidence of the course of evolution of the race as a whole in the future.
It was not Madame Blavatsky's purpose to arouse a mere curiosity in the wonderful, to raise up a generation of seekers after powers by which the world might be amazed and even enslaved. On the contrary, she desired only that men might grow into realization of their own potentialities as spiritual beings, naturally, with an appreciation of the enormous responsibilities which the possession of such powers places upon their user. She knew that in the course of the present cycle, there was destined to be a vast unfoldment of the subtler faculties of perception in the human race; that powers hitherto the endowment of only the seer and the sensitive would tend to become more common, until finally, to be without them would be a mark of atavism and retrogression.
Clearly, so complete a development of psychic powers among humanity at large will occupy many hundreds, or rather, thousands of years. In the scheme of evolution offered in the Theosophical philosophy, human and all other progress proceeds in accordance with great cycles, some of them lasting through almost incalculable periods of time, during which the hosts of human souls involved in this great period of manifestation return again and again to earth, according to the law of Reincarnation. By this process the collective experience in the school of life is carried on, each cycle of incarnation bringing the soul into contact with new relations of matter and intelligence, thus awakening to action in the beings the powers and faculties potential in that cycle. The end of all this learning is the progressive spiritualization of mankind, through a growing realization of universal brotherhood, and the achievement of conscious divinity for each human soul by the natural development of the powers common to all.
CYCLES OF PSYCHISM
(Part 8 of a 10-part series)
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ONE (1) FOOTNOTE LISTED BELOW:
(1) Lambert, Walter D., Scientific Monthly, May, 1925.
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