As above, so below Part II
Dear Member of Blavatsky Net,
A topic discussed in the previous month's newsletter is the hermetic maxim "As above so below". Of interest is how deeply and how widely that maxim is embedded into the Theosophical Teachings. In addition, I would say Theosophy expands upon the principle.
Theosophy asserts "analogy and correspondence" as a primary principle for the design and operation of the universe. It appears to me that "analogy and correspondence" is somewhat broader than "as above so below."
The broad application of the hermetic maxim is well illustrated in an article "Universal Applications of Doctrine" by William Q. Judge that is included for the remainder of this newsletter.
DURING the last few years in which so much writing has been done in the
theosophical field of effort, a failure to make broad or universal applications
of the doctrines brought forward can be noticed. With the exception of H.
P. Blavatsky, our writers have confined themselves to narrow views, chiefly
as to the state of man after death or how Karma affects him in life. As
to the latter law, the greatest consideration has been devoted to deciding
how it modifies our pleasure or our pain, and then as to whether in Devachan
there will be compensation for failures of Karma; while others write upon
reincarnation as if only mankind were subject to that law. And the same
limited treatment is adopted in treating of or practicing many other theories
and doctrines of the Wisdom Religion. After fourteen years of activity it
is now time that the members of our society should make universal the application
of each and every admitted doctrine or precept, and not confine them to
their own selfish selves.
In order to make my meaning clear I purpose in this paper to attempt
an outline of how such universal applications of some of our doctrines should
Before taking up any of these I would draw the attention of those who
believe in the Upanishads to the constant insistence throughout
those sacred books upon the identity of man with Brahma, or God, or nature,
and to the universal application of all doctrines or laws.
In Brihadaranyaka Upanishad(1) it is said:
Tell me the Brahman which is visible, not invisible, the atman
who is within all?
This, thy Self who is within all. . . . He who breathes in the up-breathing,
he is thy Self and within all. He who breathes in the down-breathing, he
is thy Self and within all. He who breathes in the on-breathing, he is
thy Self and within all. This is thy Self who is within all.
The 6th Brahmana is devoted to showing that all the worlds are woven
in and within each other; and in the 7th the teacher declares that "the
puller" or mover in all things whatsoever is the same Self which is
in each man.
The questioners then proceed and draw forth the statement that "what
is above the heavens, beneath the earth, embracing heaven and earth, past,
present, and future, that is woven, like warp and woof, in the ether,"
and that the ether is "woven like warp and woof in the Imperishable."
If this be so, then any law that affects man must govern every portion of
the universe in which he lives.
And we find these sturdy men of old applying their doctrines in every
direction. They use the laws of analogy and correspondences to solve deep
questions. Why need we be behind them? If the entire great Self dwells in
man, the body in all its parts must symbolize the greater world about. So
we discover that space having sound as its distinguishing characteristic
is figured in the human frame by the ear, as fire is by the eye, and, again,
the eye showing forth the soul, for the soul alone conquers death, and that
which in the Upanishads conquers death is fire.
It is possible in this manner to proceed steadily toward the acquirement
of a knowledge of the laws of nature, not only those that are recondite,
but also the more easily perceived. If we grant that the human body and
organs are a figure, in little, of the universe, then let us ask the question,
"By what is the astral light symbolized?" By the eye, and specially
by the retina and its mode of action. On the astral light are received the
pictures of all events and things, and on the retina are received the images
of objects passing before the man. We find that these images on the retina
remain for a specific period, capable of measurement, going through certain
changes before fading completely away. Let us extend the result of this
observation to the astral light, and we assume that it also goes through
similar changes in respect to the pictures. From this it follows that the
mass or totality of pictures made during any cycle must, in this great retina,
have a period at the end of which they will have faded away. Such we find
is the law as stated by those who know the Secret Doctrine. In order to
arrive at the figures with which to represent this period, we have to calculate
the proportion thus: as the time of fading from the human retina is to the
healthy mans actual due of life, so is the time of fading from the astral
light. The missing term may be discovered by working upon the doctrine of
the four yugas or ages and the length of one life of Brahma.
Now these theosophical doctrines which we have been at such pains to
elaborate during all the years of our history are either capable of universal
application or they are not. If they are not, then they are hardly worth
the trouble we have bestowed upon them; and it would then have been much
better for us had we devoted ourselves to some special departments of science.
But the great allurement that theosophy holds for those who follow it
is that its doctrines are universal, solving all questions and applying
to every department of nature so far as we know it. And advanced students
declare that the same universal application prevails in regions far beyond
the grasp of present science or of the average mans mind. So that, if a
supposed law or application is formulated to us, either by ourselves or
by some other person, we are at once able to prove it; for unless it can
be applied in every direction--by correspondence, or is found to be one
of the phases of some previously-admitted doctrine, we know that it is false
doctrine or inaccurately stated. Thus all our doctrines can be proved and
checked at every step. It is not necessary for us to have constant communications
with the Adepts in order to make sure of our ground; all that we have to
do is to see if any position we assume agrees with well-known principles
already formulated and understood.
Bearing this in mind, we can confidently proceed to examine the great
ideas in which so many of us believe, with a view of seeing how they may
be applied in every direction. For if, instead of selfishly considering
these laws in their effect upon our miserable selves, we ask how they apply
everywhere, a means is furnished for the broadening of our horizon and the
elimination of selfishness. And when also we apply the doctrines to all
our acts and to all parts of the human being, we may begin to wake ourselves
up to the real task set before us.
Let us look at Karma. It must be applied not only to the man but also
to the Cosmos, to the globe upon which he lives. You know that, for the
want of an English word, the period of one great day of evolution is called
a Manwantara, or the reign of one Manu. These eternally succeed each other.
In other words, each one of us is a unit, or a cell, if you please. in the
great body or being of Manu, and just as we see ourselves making Karma and
reincarnating for the purpose of carrying off Karma, so the great being
Manu dies at the end of a Manwantara, and after the period of rest reincarnates
once more. the sum total of all that we have made him or it. And when I
say "we," I mean all the beings on whatever plane or planet who
are included in that Manwantara. Therefore this Manwantara is just exactly
what the last Manwantara made it, and so the next Manwantara after this
millions of years off-- will be the sum or result of this one, plus all
that have preceded it.
How much have you thought upon the effect of Karma upon the animals,
the plants, the minerals, the elemental beings? Have you been so selfish
as to suppose that they are not affected by you? Is it true that man himself
has no responsibility upon him for the vast numbers of ferocious and noxious
animals, for the deadly serpents and scorpions, the devastating lions and
tigers, that make a howling wilderness of some corners of the earth and
terrorize the people of India and elsewhere? It cannot be true. But as the
Apostle of the Christians said, it is true that the whole of creation waits
upon man and groans that he keeps back the enlightenment of all. What happens
when, with intention, you crush out the life of a common croton bug? Well,
it is destroyed and you forget it. But you brought it to an untimely end,
short though its life would have been. Imagine this being done at hundreds
of thousands of places in the State. Each of these little creatures had
life and energy; each some degree of intelligence. The sum total of the
effects of all these deaths of small things must be appreciable. If not,
then our doctrines are wrong and there is no wrong in putting out the life
of a human being.
Let us go a little higher, to the bird kingdom and that of four-footed
beasts. Every day in the shooting season in England vast quantities of birds
are killed for sport, and in other places such intelligent and inoffensive
animals as deer. These have a higher intelligence than insects, a wider
scope of feeling. Is there no effect under Karma for all these deaths? And
what is the difference between wantonly killing a deer and murdering an
idiot? Very little to my mind. Why is it, then, that even delicate ladies
will enjoy the recital of a bird or deer hunt? It is their Karma that they
are the descendants of long generations of Europeans who some centuries
ago, with the aid of the church, decided that animals had no souls and therefore
could be wantonly slaughtered. The same Karma permits the grandson of the
Queen of England who calls herself the defender of the faith--of Jesus--to
have great preparations made for his forth-coming visit to India to the
end that he shall enjoy several weeks of tiger-hunting, pig-sticking, and
the destruction of any and every bird that may fly in his way.
We therefore find ourselves ground down by the Karma of our national
stem, so that we are really almost unable to tell what thoughts are the
counterfeit presentments of the thoughts of our forefathers, and what self-born
in our own minds.
Let us now look at Reincarnation, Devachan, and Karma.
It has been the custom of theosophists to think upon these subjects in
respect only to the whole man--that is to say, respecting the ego.
But what of its hourly and daily application? If we believe in the doctrine
of the One Life, then every cell in these material bodies must be governed
by the same laws. Each cell must be a life and have its karma,
devachan, and reincarnation. Everyone of these cells upon incarnating among
the others in our frame must be affected by the character of those it meets;
and we make that character. Every thought upon reaching its period dies.
It is soon reborn, and coming back from its devachan it finds either bad
or good companions provided for it. Therefore every hour of life is fraught
with danger or with help. How can it be possible that a few hours a week
devoted to theosophic thought and action can counteract-- even in the gross
material cells the effect of nearly a whole week spent in indifference,
frivolity, or selfishness? This mass of poor or bad thought will form a
resistless tide that shall sweep away all your good resolves at the first
This will explain why devoted students often fail. They have waited for
a particular hour or day to try their strength, and when the hour came they
had none. If it was anger they had resolved to conquer, instead of trying
to conquer it at an offered opportunity they ran away from the chance so
as to escape the trial; or they did not meet the hourly small trials that
would, if successfully passed, have given them a great reserve of strength,
so that no time of greater trial would have been able to overcome them.
Now as to the theory of the evolution of the macrocosm in its application
to the microcosm, man.
The hermetic philosophy held that man is a copy of the greater universe;
that he is a little universe in himself, governed by the same laws as the
great one, and in the small proportions of a human being showing all those
greater laws in operation, only reduced in time or sweep. This is the rule
to which H. P. Blavatsky adheres, and which is found running through all
the ancient mysteries and initiations. It is said that our universe is a
collection of atoms or molecules--called also "lives"; living
together and through each the spirit struggles to reach consciousness, and
that this struggle is governed by a law compelling it to go on in or between
periods. In any period of such struggle some of these atoms or collections
of molecules are left over, as it were, to renew the battle in the next
period, and hence the state of the universe at any time of manifestation
or the state of each newly-manifested universe--must be the result of what
was done in the preceding period.
Coming down to the man, we find that he is a collection of molecules
or lives or cells, each striving with the other, and all affected
for either good or bad results by the spiritual aspirations or want of them
in the man who is the guide or god, so to say, of his little universe. When
he is born, the molecules or cells or lives that are to compose his physical
and astral forms are from that moment under his reign, and during the period
of his smaller life they pass through a small manvantara just as the lives
in the universe do, and when he dies he leaves them all impressed with the
force and color of his thoughts and aspirations, ready to be used in composing
the houses of other egos.
Now here is a great responsibility revealed to us of a double character.
The first is for effects produced on and left in what we call matter
in the molecules, when they come to be used by other egos, for they must
act upon the latter for benefit or the reverse.
The second is for the effect on the molecules themselves in this, that
there are lives or entities in all--or rather they are all lives--who are
either aided or retarded in their evolution by reason of the proper or improper
use man made of this matter that was placed in his charge.
Without stopping to argue about what matter is, it will be sufficient
to state that it is held to be co-eternal with what is called "spirit."
That is, as it is put in the Bhagavad-Gita: "He who is spirit
is also matter." Or, in other words, spirit is the opposite pole to
matter of the Absolute. But of course this matter we speak of is not what
we see about us, for the latter is only in fact phenomena of matter: even
science holds that we do not really see matter.
Now during a manvantara or period of manifestation, the egos incarnating
must use over and over again in any world upon which they are incarnating
the matter that belongs to it.
So, therefore, we are now using in our incarnations matter that has been
used by ourselves and other egos over and over again, and are affected by
the various tendencies impressed in it. And, similarly, we are leaving behind
us for future races that which will help or embarrass them in their future
This is a highly important matter, whether reincarnation be a true doctrine
or not. For if each new nation is only a mass of new egos or souls, it must
be much affected by the matter-environment left behind by nations and races
that have disappeared forever.
But for us who believe in reincarnation it has additional force, showing
us one strong reason why universal brotherhood should be believed in and
The other branch of the responsibility is just as serious. The doctrine
that removes death from the universe and declares that all is composed of
innumerable lives, constantly changing places with each other, contains
in it of necessity the theory that man himself is full of these lives and
that all are traveling up the long road of evolution.
The secret doctrine holds that we are full of kingdoms of entities who
depend upon us, so to say, for salvation.
How enormous, then, is this responsibility, that we not only are to be
judged for what we do with ourselves as a whole, but also for what we do
for those unseen beings who are dependent upon us for light.
Path, October, 1889
This article is available in the two volume set of articles by William Q Judge
"No Religion Higher Than Truth"
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