Theosophy ~ The Pilgrimage of Humanity (part 1), by Sri Raghavan Iyer



    Paranirvana is that supreme state of unconditioned consciousness which connotes freedom from the entire process of becoming, the vast range of cosmic evolution, and the mathematical limits of the manvantara. The soul’s pilgrimage over eighteen million years of self-conscious existence, and for a much longer period in the future, is truly an alchemical journey through the great Circle of Necessity. Each immortal soul has been repeatedly embodied in the seven kingdoms of nature, and participated in every possible form through a collective monadic host. Each individual monad has at some remote time experienced the myriad modes of mineral, vegetable and animal life, as well as the variegated centres of consciousness of the three elemental kingdoms. In more recent manvantaric time every human being has traversed the tremendous gamut of contrasting states of mind that are induced by the polarities of self-conscious existence. All this is possible and necessary, according to arcane metaphysics, because “every atom in the Universe has the potentiality of self-consciousness in it, and is, like the Monads of Leibnitz, a Universe in itself, and for itself. It is an atom and an angel.” The Paranirvanic consummation of the soul’s pilgrimage presupposes the existential realization that the self-consciousness of human beings is the reflection of the universal self-consciousness of the Dhyanis. These are the Buddhas of Contemplation, such as Amitabha overbrooding Gautama Sakyamuni, “manifesting through him whenever this great Soul incarnates on earth, as He did in Tzon-kha-pa”.

Since the enormous potentiality for divine regeneration is present in every atom, the conventional distinction between animate and inanimate matter is extremely misleading. Everything is alive through awareness; all is consciousness. A few people know intuitively, and many sense psychically, what the ancient Schools of Wisdom openly taught – that spiritual growth involves the interaction of incipiently self-conscious invisible centres of energy with already perfected human monads. The Hindu teachings about the thirty-three crores of devas and devatas, echoed in alchemical allusions to sylphs, salamanders, undines and gnomes, are all references to elementals. In every single elemental life and in every point of invisible space there is potential self-consciousness and some degree of active intelligence. Owing to this ubiquitous presence throughout the panorama of evolution, the deeper the self-consciousness of human beings, the more effectively they can quicken the intellectual unfoldment of what is potential in the whole of life. In occultism there are strict rules about magnetic specialization, an essential prerequisite to the creation through meditation of beneficent channels for consciousness. Nourished by meditation and protected by magnetic purity, consciousness becomes so charged with universal light that it can exercise complete control over the entire sphere of perception and activity.

There is a sum-total of potentials in consciousness, perception and energy that pertains to each self-conscious human monad over eighteen million years. This sum-total has a necessary connection with the spectrum of possibilities in any given lifetime for any human being. Because of the immersion of consciousness in illusory time, the real person does not consist solely of what is seen at any particular moment, but is constituted by the sum of all the varied and changing conditions from the initial appearance in material form to eventual disappearance from the earth. From birth till death each human incarnation is a series of transformations that is seemingly endless, but which may be approximated in understanding by considering the permutations and combinations of the seven sacred planets and twelve zodiacal signs acting through a variety of aspects and angles. Yet the myriads of transformations a human being undergoes on earth from birth to death are all encompassed by the small circle of time within which a single life is lived. Therefore there is a sum-total, which in turn is included within a much vaster sum-total, unknown to human beings in general, but which exists from eternity in the future and passes by degrees through matter to exist for eternity in the past. To intuit this existence is to awaken to the immense potential of self-consciousness as the guiding force of evolution; to sense its presence in each event is to embark on the path of Paranirvana. To witness its universal dimensions, so that the past and future lie before one like an open book, is to become a Mahatma for whom the grand sum-total is archetypally reflected in the earthly existence of every human soul.

It is possible in principle for the immortal soul to draw into the realm of self-conscious awareness any portion of the experience and knowledge that is already summed up in its immemorial pilgrimage. This would have been very difficult to conceive in the nineteenth century, but is more comprehensible in the age of DNA and the microprocessor. One needs little familiarity with electronics to recognize that millions of items of information can be registered in minute devices, and little awareness of contemporary biology to apprehend that every possible transformation of a human body over a lifetime is potentially present in the embryonic germ cell. Ancient wisdom teaches that by the end of the seventh month of development much more than can be grasped by modern biology is already inscribed in the foetal vesture as a set of possibilities. Crucial among these is the noetic capacity to make a decisive difference in the extent to which one draws upon and experiences the sum-total of possible configurations. By deep thought and study, by the daily use of true knowledge, by meditation and calm contemplation, by creative interaction with nature and with other minds, human beings can affect the degree to which they self-consciously experience what is actually going on in all the vestures from the moment of birth to the moment of death.

Maya or illusion is inextricably involved in the idea of separate existence as a monad. From the philosophical perspective of universal self-consciousness, the immense pilgrimage of the human soul is somewhat unreal. Even from the standpoint of the monad enduring over eighteen million years, a hundred lives in succession is mayavic, rather like glancing through a few slides. A single life on earth is barely an instant, if entire solar systems which emerge and disappear over millions upon millions of years are mere winks in the Eye of Self-existence. What then is the meaning and value of a single human life? While there is an extraordinary range in potential human awareness, most beings are “living and partly living”, in the phrase of T.S. Eliot. They are hardly aware of the dynamic processes behind incarnate existence, and from the perspective of the immortal soul they are not awake and scarcely alive. One has to come out of the psychic sleep of a lifetime for there to be a moment of true spiritual awakening to universal causation, human solidarity and the reality of a law-governed universe working ceaselessly through thought, will and feeling, on a cosmic plane but also in and through every single human being on earth. Spiritual awakening is not merely a shift in one’s plane of consciousness, but a fundamental alteration of perspective regarding consciousness itself beyond all its planes of embodiment and manifestation.

Maya or illusion is an element which enters into all finite things, for everything that exists has only a relative, not an absolute, reality, since the appearance which the hidden noumenon assumes for any observer depends upon his power of cognition. To the untrained eye of the savage, a painting is at first an unmeaning confusion of streaks and daubs of colour, while an educated eye sees instantly a face or a landscape. Nothing is permanent except the one hidden absolute existence which contains in itself the noumena of all realities. The existences belonging to every plane of being, up to the highest Dhyan-Chohans, are, in degree, of the nature of shadows cast by a magic lantern on a colourless screen; but all things are relatively real, for the cogniser is also a reflection, and the things cognised are therefore as real to him as himself.

The Secret Doctrine, i 39

Hermes, July 1980
Raghavan Iyer