A Theosophist Reading of Spinoza and Bohm. For Whom the Bell Tolls.

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To Spinoza mind and matter were parallel attributes of God or Substance, the great essence of the universe sometimes called in theosophical literature Svabhavat, primordial nature, mind-substance. Svabhavat (from the Sanskrit sva, “self” and bhu, “to become”) means self-becoming. Nothing can exist other than as an emanation from this primordial nature’s eternal action. Nothing, said Spinoza, can exist except this Substance and the unfolding of its attributes. This being so, “creation” had no beginning and will have no end; all things come forth from the Boundless and will therefore continue forever — theosophical ideas found also in Neoplatonism and Gnosticism.

With Spinoza we find emphasis on the essential unity and continuity of all existence, while Pythagoras, Plato, and Leibniz distinguish countless monads in it, centers of activity in every conceivable grade of self-expression. Combining the monad theory with Spinoza’s philosophy, a worldview emerges remarkably in accord with ideas from the Upanishads, Vedanta, Buddhism, and many a thinker from ancient Greece. We find corresponding ideas in the writings of theoretical physicist David Bohm, who also believed that the distinction between animate and inanimate nature is arbitrary, of use in some contexts but ultimately incorrect. He came to the conclusion that, far from being empty, space is an immense ocean of energy, and matter no more than a superficial ripple on that ocean. Everything lies concealed in an “implicate order” and comes forth from it. To illustrate this idea Bohm used the following experiment: the outer of two concentric cylinders is filled with a viscous fluid, such as glycerin, into which is placed a drop of insoluble ink. When the outer cylinder is rotated very slowly, the ink drop threads out, growing thinner and thinner, and eventually becomes invisible. The dye molecules become distributed among the molecules of the liquid as a grey shade. Rotating the cylinder in the opposite direction yields a surprising result: slender threads appear, growing thicker and thicker until, suddenly, the globule of ink is seen once more. This suggests that out of the “holomovement” of the ocean of energy comes forth the known universe with all that is in it.

From the “reality of the first order,” or implicate order, issues the explicate order, the world of forms and living things. In this “reality of the second order” these things have a relatively separate existence, as the Gulf Stream and other currents have a relatively separate existence within the Atlantic Ocean. From atoms to galaxies, all the phenomena of nature emerge from the ocean of the implicate order, make their appearance as “relatively autonomous subtotals,” and at the same time are linked with everything else.

Bohm regarded the universe as an undivided whole, a continuously ongoing process whose “ultimate ground of being is entirely unutterable, entirely implicit.” Space is not a nothingness but is in essence this ultimate ground of being. He employed the image of a crystal through which at absolute zero, according to quantum theory, electrons would pass as if it were empty space. The crystal would then be perfectly homogeneous and would seem nonexistent for the electrons, as space seems nonexistent for us. But when the temperature is raised, inhomogeneities appear, scattering the electrons. If one were to focus the electrons with an electron lens to make a picture of the crystal, it “would then appear that the inhomogeneities exist independently and that the main body of the crystal was sheer nothingness”. Like the school of Parmenides and Zeno in ancient Greece, Bohm regarded space as a plenum, utter fullness, the ground or substratum of all that exists. The matter that we sense is, like flaws in the crystal, inhomogeneities in space, which is the unity that includes both matter and consciousness.

Another physicist whose work endorsed the interconnectedness of things was John S. Bell. Two particles moving away from each other at the speed of light were thought to have lost contact forever, since no signal from one could overtake and influence the other. In 1964 Bell proposed his theory that particles like these do influence each other all the same and therefore, somehow, never lose contact. The theory was experimentally confirmed for the first time in 1972. Science seems to be overstepping its own boundaries, penetrating a realm where mystics have been long before. Not surprisingly modern thinkers are taking note of ancient ideas with amazement and admiration.

When H. P. Blavatsky published The Secret Doctrine in 1888, she stated that the ideas it contained were neither her own nor new. She sketched in bold strokes once again the existence of infinite Space, ground of countless universes, populated and ensouled by numberless monads: not as unconnected, separate things, but as differentiations within the whole. She spoke of “The fundamental identity of all Souls with the Universal Over-Soul,” and gave a vertiginous panorama of the evolutionary track, not of bodies, forms, but of centers of consciousness, monads, from their differentiation within the Oversoul to their grand consummatum est, the attainment of fully self-conscious realization of cosmic consciousness at the end of the world period. A work like The Secret Doctrine could not fail to cause a commotion in those days; recent developments have paved the way for us better to appreciate these thoughts and subscribe to the fundamental unity of man and universe.

The human mind is not extraneous to the mind of the universe. In fact, nothing is conceivable apart from the fundamental space-energy-mind to which the ancient Vedic poet would not give a name. Names indicate qualities, and so imply limitations because every quality excludes its opposite. So the Vedic sage spoke simply of tat, That. In the subtle logic of Buddhist thinking, the absolute fullness of space is called sunyata, emptiness: all that exists is as ripples in this boundless ocean which cannot be said to have this or that form, and which in that sense is “empty.” With their plenum or pleroma the Gnostics and other ancient Mediterranean thinkers emphasized its “fullness,” which comprises all worlds, our visible as well as numerous invisible ones. These worlds may be symbolized as rungs on the unending “ladder of being.” Whether the inhabitants of realms higher than ours are called aeons, angelic orders, or dhyani-buddhas makes no difference. The world is the interaction of a variety of monads, but not all monads necessarily express themselves on the physical level. Although in essence all monads are aspects of the ultimate ground of being, in their forms of manifestation they are infinitely varied. In their totality they constitute nature, the Jacob’s ladder of evolving beings, conjointly weaving the fabric of visible and invisible worlds, the multiplicity of “parallel universes” modern thinkers are beginning to surmise.

Mutational Law of Karma (कर्म)?

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During the preparation for cell division, for example, before the formation of the gametes or reproductive cells, the chromosomes may “cross over” so that material which originated from the male parent interchanges with that from the female parent. To quote from a standard work on evolutionary theory and genetics, Ernst Mayr’s Evolution and the Diversity of Life:

At some time prior to the formation of the gametes, the two homologous chromosomes exchange equivalent pieces with each other by a process called “crossing over.” By and large (there are many exceptions) no laws seem to determine where the chromosomes will break or how large the pieces will be that are exchanged. Which particular combination of pieces of maternal and paternal chromosomes making up the new chromosome will enter a given egg or spermatozoon is largely a matter of chance, at least in most chromosomes and most species. Likewise, it is largely a matter of accident which chromosomes will go into which germ cell, provided only that each cell receives its full set of chromosomes.

It is easy to attribute events to chance, but this only expresses scientific ignorance as to the real cause.

Another phenomenon is mutation: sometimes genetic codes suddenly change. This, too, is usually attributed to accident or chance, but then it is difficult to explain why any progression is made at all once biological systems have evolved to a certain level of complexity and perfection. The chance of a mutation leading to fatal, or at least less fit, properties is far greater than of a mutation making the individual fitter. Besides “crossing over” and mutation at one or several places on the chromosomes, another uncertain factor that Mayr and others mention is the distribution of chromosomes during reduction division (meiosis) to form reproductive cells. This process affects which side in the gamete the originally paternal or maternal genetic material goes to. Moreover, there are other opportunities for the course of events to be influenced from within: only part of the cell’s genetic code is active at certain times and under certain circumstances. Other parts are not active and may never become so during the present life. Thus, there are many secrets not yet unveiled by science, but nevertheless attributed to “chance.”

Chance, however, has no place in the theosophical view. Whatever happens is karmic, that is, it can be attributed to a cause, and this cause comes from within. In theosophy the different combinations of hereditary qualities in individuals are governed by psychomagnetic attractions inherent in the skandhas (‎स्कन्ध) of the reincarnating entity. Skandhas are the individual’s aggregates of properties — such as higher and lower mental consciousness, feelings, attractions, and physical characteristics — carried over from former lives. Thus, the specific magnetism of the soul, formed by its store of properties, determines which combinations of hereditary qualities will manifest in a particular incarnation. “It is . . . unquestionable that in the case of human incarnations the law of Karma, racial or individual, overrides the subordinate tendencies of ‘Heredity,’ its servant” (The Secret Doctrine).

Esotericism. Note Quote.

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So, here is some theosophy. Feels nostalgic, for I was a member at the Adyar Society, and these were the lingua franca then….

To the spiritual eagle eye of the seer and the prophet of every race, Ariadne’s thread stretches beyond that “historic period” without break or flaw, surely and steadily, into the very night of time; and the hand which holds it is too mighty to drop it, or even let it break. — The Secret Doctrine 2:67

This thread of esotericism stretches further still into the dawntime of the human race, where “Truth, high-seated upon its rock of adamant, is alone eternal and supreme” (Isis Unveiled 1:v). Where is this truth, this loom of esoteric history, and what the pattern of its fabric? In the home of the Brotherhood stands this loom, whose warp is the ancient threads of initiation held in occult tension by the sacrifice of adepts, and whose woof is woven century by century as each national unit spins the luminous threads of esotericism in its Mystery centers.

Profane history reveals scarcely anything of consecutive value, except insofar as the relics of this mystic pageantry all point to an identic motif. To “have a consecutive and full history of our race from its incipient stage down to the present times,” archaic records must needs be sought. By such alone could one trace even in faint outline the ancient pattern. Access to these, however, is the privilege of the adept alone, for such “knowledge is only for the highest Initiates, who do not take their students into their confidence” (Secret Doctrine 2:437-8). Nevertheless, we have received a priceless gift: the benefit of evidence gathered by those who have penetrated the veils of the adyta and have had the compassion to return and share with us a guarded portion of their vision. Study of their findings may at first reveal only a broken pattern, but if faithfully pursued such study will point with unmistakable clarity to one universal source of truth.

From Central Asia whose lands comprised a vast territory, including the Desert of Gobi or Shamo, the mountains of Tien Shan and Kuen Lun, the regions of Baluchistan, Afghanistan, Persia, and Turkestan, went forth bands of emigrants, in large part glowing with determination to conquer, to subdue, and many were the battles waged in those early days. A primal cause, yet unrecognized by the populace, was the urge of the Brotherhood aided by karma to carry the light of the Mysteries into other lands, to spread the ancient wisdom far and wide on the surface of the earth:

Not one people alone inhabited and built up these civilizations of Central Asia. They were recurrent waves of our present Fifth Root-Race. . . . each one of such civilizations being in its turn a cradle out of which grew children-colonies sent forth to carry light and initiation to what were then barbarous and uncultivated parts of the world, such as what is now Europe, what is now China, what is now Siberia, what is now India.– Studies in Occult Philosophy

To Bharata-varsha or India went forth the Aryas or “worthy ones,” a band of emigrants who founded a civilization and a culture as yet unrivaled in esoteric history, whose ramifications of spiritual influence extended to Egypt, Asia Minor, and Europe. Another band moved westward to Egypt, the “gift of the Nile” as Herodotus called it, and mixing with the aboriginal stock peopled its valleys. From this union sprang a princely civilization, the glory of which remains after thousands of centuries, the more so as the influence of its Mysteries spread far and wide as conquering nation after conquering nation became captive to the interior grandeur of Egypt. Persia, Babylonia, Judea and Crete, Greece and Rome, all trace their spiritual inspiration to the Egyptian and early Aryan cultures. Furthermore, so immense in esoteric power were these primeval civilizations, that there are records which show Egyptian priests — Initiates — journeying in a North-Westerly direction, by land, via what became later the Straits of Gibraltar; turning North and travelling through the future Phoenician settlements of Southern Gaul; then still further North, until reaching Carnac (Morbihan) they turned to the West again and arrived, still travelling by land, on the North-Western promontory of the New Continent [the British Isles].

What was the object of their long journey? And how far back must we place the date of such visits? The archaic records show the Initiates of the Second Sub-race of the Aryan family moving from one land to the other for the purpose of supervising the building of menhirs and dolmens, of colossal Zodiacs in stone, and places of sepulchre to serve as receptacles for the ashes of generations to come.– Secret Doctrine 2:750

What was the mainspring of these civilizations but the Mystery-teachings — teachings which penetrated into the very thought-life of nations, perhaps unknown of source, unrecognized by the multitudes as esoteric? Nonetheless they constituted the inspiration of the artist in his search for divinity, the intuition of the poet in his yearning for truth, and the resounding harmony of the musician as he sought the music of the spheres. It is no idle phrase to say that all things of spiritual, intellectual, and artistic value were born root and seed from the Sanctuary.

What are the stone and papyrus of Egypt but witness to knowledge of ancient truths long forgotten? The scenes of the weighing of the heart against the feather of truth in the papyri of Pert Em Hru — “Coming forth into Day,” commonly known as the Book of the Dead — portray in symbol and allegory what actually took place in the secret chambers of the initiation-pyramids. Living testimonial is the Great Pyramid of Khufu or Cheops, which H. P. Blavatsky hints more than once may go back at least 75,000 years BC, if not more (see Secret Doctrine 2:432, 750).

What of the Druids and their ancient ceremonies under oak and myrtle, with their stone monuments so oriented that the beams of the rising sun touched the brow of the candidate as he rose from his couch of initiation “clothed with the sun,” literally aflame with solar glory? Whence the training of their candidates in three degrees, a training which demanded absolute moral purity, spiritual vigor, and profound understanding of truth?

What about Persia and its long line of Zoroasters, within whose mystic seven-chambered centers truths of great intellectual and spiritual value were taught to neophytes who underwent the traditional discipline of the Mysteries? Were the Magi born from any other source than the archaic mother of occultism? What of the Orphic Mysteries, whose austere discipline and esoteric content may have had a stronger impact on Greek culture than the Eleusinian Mysteries, so popular for centuries? Do not the teachings of Orpheus indicate an Eastern origin reminiscent of those from India’s asramas or mystery-temples? Did not Pythagoras and Plato likewise travel India-wards and bring back to their disciples the identic pattern of esotericism?

Thus one might go on, with the Norse and Germanic mysticism, the Hindu and Chinese philosophies, the Greek and Roman ceremonial — all weavers of one pattern in one universal motif, a motif applicable to all times, to all nations, because capable of infinite variations. To grasp the inner purport of one Mystery school is to perceive the sacred identity of all of them — not in detail of cultural and ethnic interpretation, but in esoteric essentials.

What therefore is the test of truth? One basic requirement is universality: has it been taught by all those who have been “clothed with the central sun” of initiation? Did Buddha Gautama instruct his disciples in the selfsame doctrine that Christ Jesus did? Did Sankaracharya teach the same esotericism that Pythagoras and Empedocles did? Were Zoroaster and Tsong-kha-pa born in their adepthood from the same womb of the initiation chamber as Apollonius of Tyana, Orpheus, or Lao-Tz\bu? Have Persia and Greece, China and ancient America, Iceland, Wales, and Babylonia all received a message which, stripped of outer vestments, is one in essentials? Assuredly, it is so, for such patterns have been woven on one loom — the ageless loom of truth.

In the words of G. de Purucker, Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, 

These Mystery schools are not a unique system but, based on the spiritual structure of the universe, they were established from the same motives of compassion that presided over the acts of the great actors of the primal drama, the opening acts of our manvantara. They copied, as it were in miniature, what took place in those primordial times, and what took place in actual life in the Hierarchy of Compassion on our earth, or that section, rather, of the Hierarchy of Compassion which we call the Great White Lodge.

One primeval humanity, many children-colonies; one Mystery teaching, many Mystery schools; one archaic pattern, many variations of color and texture as each nation contributes the woof of its national Mysteries. Three are the variants of motif as seen from the present:

(1) the original unveiling of truth to infant humanity by divine instructors working in consonance with the spiritual planetary of our earth who, through the early millennia, successfully gathered together the choice few into a center of esoteric light – the great Brotherhood;

(2) the secondary unveiling springing directly as the fruit of the first: the spiritualizing influences uninterruptedly sent forth by the Brotherhood, and more specifically energized at cyclic intervals by their disciples, the great world teachers; and

(3) the third unveiling born as the progeny of (1) and (2): the penetration of truth into human life through the Mystery schools, the centers of esoteric discipline, in whose inner chambers initiation of the “elect” alone takes place, but in whose outer courts the world-at-large may seek entrance to learn fundamental verities so that life may be ennobled and death accepted as naturally as is sleep. Thus is the pattern of esotericism woven century by century on the loom of truth.

Conjuncted: The Secret Doctrine – Swastika (स्वस्तिक).