Every "Round" brings about a new development and even an entire change in the mental, psychic, spiritual and physical constitution of man, all these principles evoluting on an ever ascending scale. Thence it follows that those persons who, like Confucius and Plato, belonged psychically, mentally and spiritually to the higher planes of evolution, were in our Fourth Round as the average man will be in the Fifth Round, whose mankind is destined to find itself, on this scale of Evolution, immensely higher than is our present humanity. Similarly Gautama Buddha -- wisdom incarnate -- was still higher and greater than all the men we have mentioned, who are called Fifth Rounders, while Buddha and Sankaracharya are termed Sixth Rounders, allegorically. Thence again the concealed wisdom of the remark, pronounced at the time "evasive" -- that "a few drops of rain do not make the Monsoon, though they presage it." -- The Secret Doctrine, I, 162
Ever since the existence of the Brotherhood of adepts and masters came to the attention of the Western world, particularly after the publication of some of their letters in the 1880s, students have been puzzled by some of their references to fifth and sixth rounders.
A fifth rounder is one who has already attained the state of consciousness which the average member of the human race will attain during the fifth round on this earth. A sixth rounder is one who has reached the state of consciousness which the average human being will attain during the sixth round. The human life-wave, with its many grades of evolutional unfolding manifesting in the various types of humanity, is not alone and single, but in reality is but one of the ten families of life-waves that are making the rounds of our earth planetary chain. For instance, there are hosts upon hosts of entities preceding us in evolutionary progression, the forerunners, and there are likewise hosts upon hosts following in our wake, the trailers.
On our planetary chain there are other families of entities, not only presently on earth but on the other six globes, so that we humans, the beasts, the vegetables, the minerals, and the elementals, are not the only hosts on this chain as it now is.
When all the seven or ten hierarchies finally reach globe G during the first round, they gather on that globe all together, it being the last globe of the manifest seven; and here they all finish the first round simultaneously before the interplanetary nirvana begins.
Starting with the second round, all the lines of evolution or activity now having been laid, and nothing having to be instituted from the ground up, the progress of the life-waves is relatively faster for those which are the most evolved. The effect of this is that some smaller hosts of monads, and individuals too, run through their evolutionary course much more rapidly, and thus precede the general body of the seven evolving hierarchies. This is why we have fifth rounders now among us, although we as a human host are in our fourth round.
When our life-wave shall have moved on to globe E the sishtas of the human kingdom will be the highest or next to the highest representatives of their life-wave. They will be really fifth rounders, with a very few sixth rounders appearing among them at long intervals of time. This means that they are not called upon to make, then and there, what is for our human life-wave its fifth round because they have already made it, through their character and quality as forerunners: they have outrun the bulk of their life-wave. Exactly the same observations apply to the sixth rounders, who are the buddhas. These sixth rounders -- those whose spirituality is so high, and whose innate capacity acquired through long aeons of experience is so great that they go ahead even of the fifth rounders -- are very, very few in number. Gautama the Buddha is said to have been the only fully developed sixth rounder in recorded history.
Now how is this inner evolution achieved? Obviously, in every collection or group of entities, there are some who are behind; then the intermediate majority, and finally some who are ahead. These last are the elder souls, those who have strived the hardest and conquered most of self, for true self-knowledge comes from intelligent self-control in every thought and act. When death occurs, these forerunners follow the same course that all excarnate entities do, only they do so self-consciously. They perform an individual round of their own through the planetary chain, first by ascending along the luminous arc until they reach the highest globe; then after a relatively long nirvanic rest they descend through the globes of the descending arc until they again reach globe D or our earth; and because they have thus made a round ahead of the life-wave, they are fifth rounders when they return to our globe.
They progress through experiences gained on the different planes of the other globes and by having in each of those globes various imbodiments; and these experiences are built into the fabric of the soul as character. It is a continuous and natural inner growth, which is none other than an ever-greater manifestation of the monad, the inner god. In other words, on these other globes these peregrinating monads undergo self-conscious experiences, instead of being, as is usual with reincarnating egos, enwrapped for the entire period between earth lives in a long devachan. From this it should be clear that the evolutional development of the fifth and sixth rounders is not achieved solely by training, initiation or self-study during incarnations on this globe D. However indispensable all these methods are, it would be utterly impossible to become a genuine fifth or sixth rounder in these ways alone.
A sixth rounder is one who, in advance of the human life-wave, has evoked into operation the buddhi or sixth principle within him, because it is in the sixth round that buddhi will receive its evolution; while the fifth rounder is one who has awakened into more or less full expression the fifth principle within himself, the manas. We humans, being in the middle of the fourth round, are still in process of evolving our fourth principle, kama.
The sixth rounders are so few that we may state definitely that a true sixth rounder is always a buddha, or one equivalent to a buddha. The whole being of the man is filled with the glory of the god within him. However, there are many fifth rounders among us even today, but they are not by any means all on the same level of fifth-round unfoldment: there are the advanced ones, those less advanced, and those who have just become fifth rounders. If these peregrinating souls are so far advanced that they can find the spiritual, intellectual and psychical strength within themselves, they continue without interruption the process of self-conscious imbodiments on the other globes for one round more, and thus when they reach earth again they do so as sixth rounders.
It may be of interest to quote the following passage from one of K.H.'s letters written in answer to a question of A. P. Sinnett's as to whether a fifth-round man, if he "devoted himself to occultism and became an adept, would . . . escape further earthly incarnations?"
No; if we except Buddha -- a sixth round being, as he had run so successfully the race in his previous incarnations as to outrun even his predecessors. But then such a man is to be found in a billion of human creatures. He differed from other men as much in his physical appearance as in spirituality and knowledge. Yet even he escaped further reincarnations but on this earth; and, when the last of the sixth round men of the third ring is gone out of this earth, the Great Teacher will have to get reincarnated on the next planet. Only, and since He sacrificed Nirvanic bliss and Rest for the salvation of his fellow creatures He will be re-born in the highest -- the seventh ring of the upper planet. Till then He will overshadow every decimillennium (let us rather say and add "has overshadowed already" a chosen individual who generally overturned the destinies of nations. See Isis, Vol. I, pp. 34 and 35 last and first para. on the pages). -- The Mahatma Letters, p. 117
As far as known the human race has not as yet produced a seventh rounder, a forerunner ahead by three rounds of the general life-wave. The majority of the mahatmas are either very far advanced fifth rounders, or hovering on the line of passing into sixth roundership; their chelas are fifth rounders less advanced.
The forerunning monads -- in addition to passing in more or less self-conscious reimbodiment after death through the other globes of our planetary chain, and thus attaining fifth roundership -- were already, when leaving the moon chain, evolutionally more advanced than the majority of their fellows. During the course of their rounds on our present earth chain, and beginning even during the third round, these forerunning reimbodying egos began to feel so strongly the working within them of spiritual and intellectual qualities and faculties, that they left, as it were, the vast flock of the egos in the human life-wave, and took imbodiment on the different globes of the chain in advance of the mass of egos. This precedence in evolutionary status is then kept even when the bulk of the human life-wave in its turn reaches its fourth round, so that these forerunners may actually be by that time in their fifth round, and in a few cases even in their sixth round.
Writing on this subject in 1882, K.H. made the following explanation:
The scheme with its septenary details would be incomprehensible to man had he not the power as the higher Adepts have proved of prematurely developing his 6th and 7th senses -- those which will be the natural endowment of all in the corresponding rounds. Our Lord Buddha -- a 6th r. man -- would not have appeared in our epoch, great as were his accumulated merits in previous rebirths but for a mystery. . . .
And now as man when completing his seventh ring upon A has but begun his first on Z and as A dies when he leaves it for B, etc., and as he must also remain in the inter-cyclic sphere after Z, as he has between every two planets, until the impulse again thrills the chain, clearly no one can be more than one round ahead of his kind. And Buddha only forms an exception by virtue of the mystery. We have fifth round men among us because we are in the latter half of our septenary earth ring. In the first half this could not have happened. The countless myriads of our fourth round humanity who have outrun us and completed their seven rings on Z, have had time to pass their inter-cyclic period begin their new round and work on to globe D (ours). But how can there be men of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 7th rounds? We represent the first three and the sixth can only come at rare intervals and prematurely like Buddhas (only under prepared conditions) and that the last-named the seventh are not yet evolved! -- The Mahatma Letters, pp. 96-7
Speaking generally, the "mystery" means that these rarest few, destined to become sixth rounders even in the fourth round, are aided and individually guided by certain dhyani-chohanic beings who not only foster these forerunning egos, and protect them, but do so even when those egos undergo the various initiations through which they must pass. This mystery imbodies the further fact that these forerunners are helped to make full and self-conscious imbodiment on each one of the globes of our planetary chain, thus enabling them to gather the experiences that the bulk of the fourth rounders can attain only when the main life-wave reaches these different globes.