"Man is his own history." This is a profound epigram which covers the entire outline of the evolutionary progress of the human soul. All things reside in man. He is the epitome of all that is -- the microcosm or replica, the duplicate, the copy, of the macrocosm. Therefore he has everything in him that the macrocosm has, although not necessarily fully developed. On the contrary, many of the higher forces, qualities, potentialities, as yet but very feebly show through the veils which enshroud his higher nature; nevertheless he possesses all the elements that his Great Mother -- the universe -- has, either latent or sleeping, or expressing themselves through his self-conscious side.
Man also holds within himself the history of all inferior types. Man is, and has been, and will be, the foremost of the hierarchy of evolving entities on our earth, the foremost in evolutionary development; and as the leading stock, he therefore is the repertory, the storehouse, the magazine, of all future types, even as he has been of all past types. He throws off these types as he evolves through the ages; each of them becomes in its turn a new stock, and follows thereafter its own individual line of evolutionary development.
It was in this manner that were originated all the stocks below man. Every inferior or subordinate stock was originated as the vital off-throwings of man, these off-throwings being composed of cells of man's body. And each one of these cellular organisms, succeeding its derivation or independent origin from the human stock, immediately began to produce its own stock from the forces inherent and latent in the cells which composed it.
It was these buds, these cellular off-throwings of man from his body, which originated all the stocks below the mammalia in the preceding globe-round or great tidal wave of life, hundreds of millions of years ago. Those particular classes were the birds, the reptiles, the amphibians, the fishes, and the vast range of biologic life included under the general term of the invertebrates.
The mammalia, however, were the off-throwings from man in the present great globe-round or great tidal wave of life, and had their origin from prehuman man in the very early part of the Mesozoic, and very probably in the last part of the preceding or Paleozoic era, when man himself had become a physical from a semi-astral being. The reader is asked to bear in mind that we are consistently using the geologic time-scale which H. P. Blavatsky adapted from Lyell and Lefevre. [See Appendix I.]
I do not mean by what I have said above that these types were or are the bodies in which man once lived, or will live. Not at all. The whole matter of the vital off-throwings is a fascinating and mysterious one, mysterious simply because not yet fully understood. The following observations may perhaps give the key to the idea.
The human body is an exceedingly absorbing subject of study in any consideration of the manner in which evolution works. Evolution, indeed, deals with it but in a secondary or effectual manner, not in a primary or causal manner. I mean by this, that the human body merely reflects the various changes in progressive development which actually proceed on interior or causal planes. I have already pointed out that evolution, as we use the word, means the unfolding, the unwrapping, of that which previously had been infolded and inwrapped as potencies in the structure of the cells of which the body is composed; for in the infinitesimal lie the seeds of the world we see about us.
The human body on an average is estimated to contain some fifty trillion cells! -- an unfigurable number. The cell, we are told, is formed of protoplasm consisting mainly of four chemical elements, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen, occasionally with some trace of other chemical elements. We are also told that protoplasmic substance contains two general parts; a central part called the nucleus, and a surrounding cytoplasm, which latter is the larger part of the substance of the cell itself.
Yet all this description does not tell us what the cell really is. Each cell is, in fact, a living entity, a physiological organ, with inherent capacities, inherent tendencies, each possessing its own inherent urge or drive towards self-expression. According to theosophy, this inherent urge or drive originates in the invisible entity from which it proceeds; because, unless there were some cohering power, some force of coherence working in the structure of the individual, no such thing as even a simple cell could exist; it could not even come into physical being or manifestation. It is held together and controlled by the invisible entity behind it, which expresses itself through the finer or more ethereal part of these tiny cells, because that finer or more ethereal part is the nearest in ethereality to its own nature.
A cell is, in fact, an infinitesimal focus of cosmic forces, a channel through which they pour forth into manifestation on our physical plane, each possessing an incomputable capacity for change and growth, being in very fact a dynamo of forces. The incarnating entity is a bundle of such forces and, as said, it expresses itself through the finer or more ethereal part of the tiny cells, because that finer part is the nearest in ethereality to the nature of the force or forces that are seeking expression.
These forces working in the ethereal realms of matter are extremely subtle; their rates of vibration are highly individual. Yet with all their subtlety they have tremendous power. Could such a force be focused directly, let us say, upon the outer physical cell, such a cell would vanish, because it would be disintegrated; the atoms of which the cell is composed could not stand the strain of the forces pouring through them, and the structure of the cell would be wrecked, the component parts of the atoms wrenched apart. But it is very rare indeed that a force is so focused in animate entities, although it does happen constantly and continuously in the cosmic labor. The operation of these ethereal substances which we know as forces is, as a rule, more generally diffused.
Now every cell in man's body is man's own child. Every one of the fifty trillions of cells sprang from him, from his inner self. The dominating entity, the inner man, gave birth to them all. As common parent of them all and working through them, he is their "oversoul." He in a very true sense is their god, even as the divine beings who gave us spiritual birth we call our gods; and just as these divine beings in their turn sprang as spiritual atomic corpuscles from entities still more sublime, and so forth, still higher -- an endless hierarchy of ascending and descending intelligences and lives.
It can be seen from the above that in a cell, or in the atoms of which a cell is composed, there are uncounted and actually almost innumerable possibilities of development, locked up or latent potentialities, all seeking expression. Many have to bide their time for ages before that opportunity comes, if their opportunities ever do come; and if and when these potentialities find in their environment an open door for expression, out they go, a rushing tide of life.
Therefore, the cells that man once threw off, even as he is now throwing them off, resulted in the lower creatures, who are not at all degenerate men, as might be supposed, but actually lower types, beginning their evolutionary course towards higher things, springing from man, the repertory or magazine of all types beneath him.
Let us remember that the physical encasements of early men were far more loosely coherent than they are now, and of a much more subtle and ethereal matter than that of man's present physical body. This was because the psychical and physical dominance of the human kind over the cells composing those primitive human bodies was far less strong and less developed than now it is. In consequence of this relatively weak control over the physical cells, each one of such cells was more free than now it is to pursue its own particular individual drive or urge.
Hence, when any one of the cells forming part of such early human bodies freed itself from the psychical and physical control that then existed, it was enabled to follow, and instinctively did follow, the path of self-expression. But in our days when the psychical and physical dominance of the human incarnated entity over the human cells composing the human body is so strong, and because the cells have largely lost their power of individual self-expression through the biologic habit of subjecting to that overlordship of the human entity, such an individualized career of a cell in self-development is a virtual impossibility. However, in those early days of the primordial humanity, the case was very different. A cell or an aggregate of cells could separate itself from the then human frame -- if "human" is the proper word to use in such connection -- and begin an evolutionary career of its own. This in large degree explains the origin of the various stocks now inferior to the human.
Man has been the storehouse (and still is) from which these other stocks originated and towards which, moreover, they are ultimately straining -- towards which they are ultimately evolving. These cells which compose his body, had they not been held in the grip of the forces flowing from the inner dominating entity, man himself, for so long a time that their own individual lives, as it were, have been overpowered and bent in his direction and can now follow almost no other path than his; had they not been so dominated they would, by the amputation of a limb for instance, immediately begin to proliferate along their own tendency-line, to build up bodies of their own kind, each one following out that particular line of life force, or progressive development, which each such cell would contain in its cellular structure as a dominant, thus establishing a new ancestral or genealogical tree.
What is the reason that today a free human cell or an amputated human limb or a bit of the human body cut off from the trunk does not grow into another human being or, perhaps, into some inferior entity, as was often the case in the zoological past? This is the reason: in all the vertebrate animals, that is to say, the higher animate beings in the evolutionary scale, the psychic and material grip of the dominant entity over the cells of its body is so strong that these cells obey the more powerful drive communicated to them from the dominant entity working through them, and hence can follow only that dominating drive which they do through the force of the acquired biological habit. They have largely lost the power of self-expression and self-progress along what would be under different circumstances their own individual pathways. But that liberty of action and that free field for self-expression were theirs in greater or less degree in past times.
In some of the lower invertebrate creatures there exists today a faculty of self-repair by which a creature, low in the scale of animate beings, if it lose a limb or a tail, will reproduce for itself a new limb or tail. A certain kind of worm well known to zoologists will, if divided into two, become two complete worms. Here is a case where the faculty of dominance, or the dominant as Mendel called it, is still weak in its control over the entire cellular structure of the body through which it works, and each cell composing that body, if left to itself -- even more so if you could take such a cell out of the body and give it appropriate food and environment -- would have an exceedingly good chance of starting upon a line of evolution of its own, following its own inherent tendency or potency or urge, and thus bringing forth some new stock. But as this case rarely now or perhaps never arises, the cells are impelled to follow the reproductive tendency of the limb only to which they belong.
This method of the regeneration of lost parts, or of reproduction, prevailed in a past time in the human frame, as much as and as fully as in the cases of the lower creatures to which I here allude. And it was this general method of reproduction which gave rise to the various animate stocks, the highly specialized descendants of which we find on earth today (except those stocks which have become extinct) and which are the various groups of the beasts.
But this cannot happen in our period of evolution, as can be shown more fully by a study of Weismann's remarkable theory. The cellular structure, the inherent tendencies or potencies of the cells belonging to the bodies of the higher creatures, have the possibility of following only that particular line of unfoldment or of growth which the dominant entity, of which these cells form the body, allows them to have.
It is a case where the individual swabhava, i.e., the individual capacities or latent tendencies of the cell, are submerged by the overlording or dominance, so to say, of the invisible entity which works through those cells. The inherent potencies of those cells have become recessive, to use Mendel's term; the consequence being that the cell's own individual potencies can express themselves, if at all, only when the power of the dominating entity is withdrawn, perhaps not even then if the submergence of the cell or native cellular potencies has been too great. In this last case they die.
Man still remains the storehouse of an incomputable number of vital or zoologic tendencies latent in the cells of his body; and though the old method of their manifestation has ceased, new and different methods will supersede the old. The urge of life working through the tiny lives of man's physical body will nonetheless inevitably find new methods of expression, and these latent or sleeping tendencies will in far distant future ages find appropriate outlets, thus, perhaps, giving origin to new stocks in that far-distant future.
It should not be forgotten, however, that such originations of new stocks will grow fewer and fewer as time goes on towards the end of our globe-round, due to the growing dominance and ever-larger and wider exercise of the innate powers of the evolving human being, swamping and submerging all tendencies of a minor kind and of inferior biologic energy.
This fact that a cell or aggregate of cells is subjected to the dominance of an oversoul, the incarnating and incarnated entity, is simply the manifestation of what the theosophical teachings call the action of the law of acceleration and retardation, one of the subordinate lines, so to speak, of the general operation of karma or the law of consequences. This law of acceleration and retardation simply means this: when a thing occupies a place of authority in the evolutionary scale, or a position of dominant power over other and inferior or subordinate entities, through the operation of its own inherent forces, or indeed through the inertia of its physical being, no other entity under its sway can find a free field for self-expression while so placed. And every entity so constituted -- or, what comes to the same thing, every other entity of which that dominating entity is composed -- must obey the dominating urge, the dominating impulses of that overlord. The dominant entity pursues an accelerated course; while the inferior entities under its sway or composing its various parts are retarded in their individual courses of development, which they otherwise freely would follow.
I will give you a poor but perhaps graphic illustration of my meaning. When a railway train rushes along the rails, what does it carry with it? All the living entities in the various coaches, each one on its own errand and business ventures bent, it is true, yet all, for the time being, helpless in the grip of the power to which they have subjected themselves. In somewhat similar manner the cells of the human body are subjected to the law of retardation in evolutionary development, so far as they are individually concerned, until the time comes when they shall have reached, through obedience to the dominating power, which in our present instance is man, self-consciousness of their own, and thereafter, in their turn, grow into nobler learners and more individualized evolvers, as we humans ourselves now are. Evolution is not merely an automatic response to external stimuli, but it is first of all action from within, unceasing attempts in self-expression; and each response to the external stimuli, which the natural environment provides, gives opportunity for a larger and fuller measure of self-expression.
But I feel that I must add, that while the word evolution is usually used, and correctly used, of progressive advancement from the less to the more perfect, yet the term likewise includes all orders of manifestation which bring out merely that which is inwrapt; consequently, there is in one sense an order of inverse evolution which the word itself fully covers. This may seem a little irrelevant, perhaps, at the present moment, but it actually is important as being an explanation as to why certain animate stocks persist in life, from generation to generation, without showing any obvious or indeed actual advancement of type. This is another aspect of the law of acceleration and retardation. An entity in accelerated evolution proceeds steadily, serially, step by step, from the less to the more perfect; but a stock under the action of the law of retardation may remain for ages more or less stationary -- an interesting and indeed important side issue of our subject.
The law of retardation operates on a stock, or on any individual animate entity, when a more evolved stock appears on the scene. It is somewhat like the submerging of minor men in the individuality of a greater man -- an interesting psychological phenomenon which all of us must have noticed in the affairs of ordinary life. The law of acceleration, on the other hand, operates in the cases where an evolving stock finds the field free and without barriers or hindrances to the full expansion of its innate potencies, faculties, powers.
The animate entities below man have descended to our own time, or in some cases their dwarfed representatives have so descended, though evolving far less fast than the human stock has done because they are under the operation of this law of retardation. (There are, of course, certain groups of animals which now live no more but which once did live on this earth: for instance, the gigantic reptiles of the Mesozoic or Secondary era. We may say, however, that they are represented today by their dwarfed and pygmy descendants still among us, such as the lizards, probably the serpents, frogs, etc.)
The progenitors of the lowest animate beings sprang from man in the preceding globe-round, as I have already explained. The mammalians, however, came from the human stock in this present globe-round, during the latter part of the second great root-race and the early part of the third root-race. Man is of course himself a mammal, and therefore these other stocks necessarily partook of the nature of their originating strain.
All these various stocks of animate mammalian entities on earth, all following their own especial lines of development, along their own genealogical trees, were the offsprings of the primitive human stock in that immensely distant past -- a time when what we call the "mindless races" lived, before godlike entities descended from the spiritual spheres in order to enlighten the waiting human material organisms with their divine rays.
They were originally buds or offspring from that mindless and imperfect human stock; but, as the human spiritual entity was not yet then dominant in the human bodies of that time, and could not fully hold in abeyance the vital potencies of the cells which composed those buds which sprang from the bodies of early man, therefore each one of such bud-bodies or aggregates of buds immediately began to grow, following its own evolutionary tendencies or inherent urges, each producing only that which it could produce, that which was inherent in itself; evolving, unrolling, unwrapping, its own inherent character or nature. This was the origin of the mammalia.
The apes and the monkeys sprang from man likewise, but in another manner. The monkeys were born from the mindless human race which, having no self-conscious mind, having but instinct and a vague and diffused physical consciousness, in many cases allied themselves with animal beings who also originally had sprung from the human stock, though not manifesting the dominant evolutionary tendencies for growth into humanity. The results of this shameful union were the lower simian stocks, the monkeys, and this occurred during the Mesozoic or Secondary era, probably during the Jurassic period.
Please understand that this occurred by and under the action of races of early man which did not realize what they were doing. They were as irresponsible as little children and had no moral realization of what we now regard, and justly regard, as shameful to the last degree.
At a later date, towards the end of the great fourth stock-race, during the Miocene epoch, when that race had already far passed its climax of evolution and was represented by many degenerate remnants, some of these degenerate Atlantean or fourth-race men repeated "the sin of the mindless" with the lower simian stock then existing; and this second and still more shameful union originated the anthropoid apes. Hence it is small wonder that they resemble man, their half-parent, in so many particulars, even though that human half-parent was at the time degenerate.
Yet even during the late Miocene epoch, and in fact reaching into the Pleistocene, the great fourth root-race was represented still by brilliant local civilizations in various parts of the earth. But these were sporadic afterglows, so to say; for the culmination of fourth race evolution had occurred long before -- in the early Miocene.
As pointed out earlier, though there is a resemblance between man and the apes and monkeys, the two latter are more widely and divergently "evolved" along their own line than man is along his. By now, however, their progressive evolution has very largely ceased, because the door into the human kingdom, towards which all the great stocks below man have ever tended, was closed eight or nine million years ago, more or less, while man will continue to progress as long as this planet bears its groups of living entities.
When I say that the lower groups have almost ceased to follow the path of progressive evolution tending towards man as a goal, I do not mean a transformation of body of beast into man; nor do I mean that they are standing perfectly still in an evolutional sense, but only that their rising along the ladder of life has ceased for this globe-round.
Man's destiny, on the other hand, is to draw steadily and progressively, and as time passes ever more rapidly, away from the lower kingdoms. The destiny of these latter is to die out as time passes, to reappear at the proper time in the next great globe-round.