By Grace F. Knoche
Out of the One the many; from cosmic Mind-Fire a universe of mind-sparks, each a life, a consciousness, destined by the mysterious power of flux and ebb to follow memory-traces of old, gathering unto itself its previous essences to build anew a habitation to aid its growth -- a universe-to-be freighted with life-energies that will vivify its families and kingdoms of evolving beings. Underneath the variety of detail found in world cultures is a singular unanimity of theme, that man in the full range of his being is irrevocably linked with the destiny of the gods whose offspring he is. The interplay of Cosmic Mind upon the human mind is a concern as ancient and as modern as man, for our relation to Thought and to the myriad thoughts that course through our minds -- at one time touched with the light of spirit, at another clouded with the fumes of matter -- has a shaping influence on our lives. Perhaps if we turn back the pages of history as far as imagination will allow, to our mythological origins, we may gain perspective on the role and function of mind.
According to tradition, millions of years ago an event of titanic grandeur occurred, the quickening of a living mind in child-humanity. Where before we as a race had been dreamlike, and without goal, now we were afire with mind, with the vigor of thought, of self-choice, and the will to evolve. Legend and myth, scripture and temple, preserve the record of this wondrous transition from mindlessness to self-awareness, from Eden-innocence to knowledge of individual responsibility for thought and deed. And all due to the intervention of advanced beings from higher spheres who wrought within us "a living mind . . . and new mastery of thought."
In the Puranas of India, for example, and also in the Bhagavad-Gita and other sections of the Mahabharata, are numerous references to our primeval ancestors being descended from the seven or ten "mind-born sons of Brahma." They go under scores of different names, but they are all Manasa, "mind-born," "thinking" (from manas, mind, derived from man, to think). Occasionally they are spoken of as Manasaputras, "sons of mind"; more often as Agnishvattas, "those who tasted of Agni or fire," or Barhishads, "those who sit on kusa grass" (for meditative or ceremonial purposes); or again, they are simply referred to as Pitris, "fathers" -- terms among many that illumine the theme of the solar and lunar Fathers who gave mind and vitality to early man that he might enter upon his further evolution with conscious intent.
The awakening of mind in an entire race was obviously not accomplished in a single heroic deed; it must have taken hundreds of thousands, possibly several million years to achieve, for the humanity of that predawn period were probably as diverse as we are today, with the most enlightened representing the few, the great majority of mankind being in the middle range of attainment, and the "laggards," those slow in development, not having the requisite impetus to activate their potential. Nor was the coming of the light-bearers solely an act of compassion; it was also karmic because of links with humanity from previous world cycles, as the Puranas hint. Moreover, because of the unleashing of this new power among a humanity as yet undisciplined in the use of knowledge, it was essential that there be guides and mentors, pointers of the way. So these higher beings remained, teaching, inspiring, fostering aspiration as well as intellectual inquiry, impressing deep within the racial memory truths about man and about the cosmos, to serve as an inner talisman for ensuing cycles. At the same time, they imparted practical skills in navigation, star lore, metallurgy, and husbandry, in herbal medicine, carding and spinning, hygiene; and also a love of beauty through the arts. Prometheus Bound by the greatest of Greek tragedians, Aeschylus, tells a portion of the story in matchless verse (see pp. 38-43 for a selection in English translation).
In the West for centuries poets and philosophers have elaborated on the legends surrounding Prometheus which Hesiod, the 8th century Greek poet, recorded from very ancient sources. Among others, Plato, Vergil, Ovid, and in recent times Shelley, have immortalized varying facets of the tale. Plato in his Dialogues often suggests a wisdom beyond the myths he relates. More than once he makes a conscious connection between light and mind, as though to remind us that if we would have "knowledge of true being" we must search into the truth of ourselves, and what better way to do this than by raising "the eye of the soul to the universal light which lightens all things"? (Cf. Phaedo, § 66; Republic, vii, § 540.) But it is his Protagoras that holds our immediate interest, for in this version of the Promethean story we find the confrontation of Epimetheus ("After-thinker") with his older brother Prometheus ("Forethinker") reminding us of the birth and evolution of man and the animals as delineated in the Stanzas of Dzyan used by H. P. Blavatsky as the inspiration and basis of her Secret Doctrine.
Epimetheus and Prometheus had been commissioned to take the forms that the gods had fashioned from fire and earth and the other elements, and to apportion to each his "proper qualities." Epimetheus offered to do the main work, leaving the inspection and approval to Prometheus. All went well in furnishing the animals with suitable attributes, but alas, Epimetheus discovered that he had used up everything, "and when he came to man, who was still unprovided, he was terribly perplexed." Prometheus had but one recourse, and that was to procure by stealth from the "common workshop" of Athena, goddess of all the arts, and of Hephaistos, god of fire and craftsmanship, that which was needed to equip man to "go forth into the light of day." This he accomplished, but paid heavily for his compassion.
At first, the youthful humans lived at peace, but in time many turned their mind-power to selfish ends and were "in process of destruction." Zeus, noting their plight, called Hermes and empowered him to go swiftly to earth and instill "reverence and justice" in every man and woman, so that all, and not merely a favored few, would share in the virtues (§ 321-2).
Turning now to the Stanzas of Dzyan, it is written: "The great Chohans [Lords] called the Lords of the Moon, of the airy bodies. 'Bring forth men, men of your nature. Give them their forms within. She [Mother-earth] will build coverings without. Males-females will they be. Lords of the Flame also." And thus it came about that seven times seven creatures were fashioned, shadowy, and each of his own kind. But the Lords of the Flame stayed back: "they would not create." Yet the beings with minds had still to be born. So the Fathers each provided what they had, the Spirit of the Earth as well. It was not enough: the "Breath needs a mind to embrace the Universe." "We cannot give that," said the Fathers. "I never had it," said the Spirit of the Earth. And early man remained an "empty senseless" being.
"How did the Manasa, the Sons of Wisdom, act?" They spurned the earlier forms as unfit, but when the third race was produced, they came down and said, "We can choose, . . . we have wisdom." Some entered the shadowy (astral) forms; others "projected the spark"; still others put off entering until the fourth race. Those who entered fully "became Arhats," enlightened sages, the leaders and guides of later humanity. But the mindless, those in whom the spark had not been projected, or burned too low, were irresponsible; they mated with animals and bred monsters. The Sons of Wisdom repented: "This is Karma," they said, because they had refused to create. "Let us dwell in the others. Let us teach them better, lest worse should happen. They did . . . Then all men became endowed with Manas [mind]."
Thus did the third race produce the fourth, whose inhabitants "became tall with pride." As the cycle of evolution was rapidly moving toward its lowest point in the arc of material descent, the temptations were multiplied. It is recorded that a fearsome battle took place between the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness. "The first great waters came. They swallowed the seven great islands." The Sons of Light took birth among the incoming fifth race -- our own -- to give it the needed spiritual impetus, and "taught and instructed it." (Cf. The Secret Doctrine, II, Stanzas III-XII.)
From all of this, what can we take away that will have meaning for us? Where is the relevance of these mythical/mystical "facts" about our ancient selves? We come again to mind, and its role and function in our lives today. Too often we regard the mind merely as a brilliant tool of precision and logic, forgetting that whereas the brain is a remarkably sophisticated computer surpassing anything that we can create, mind itself is divine in origin, a particle of the Cosmic Mind-Fire, or as the Upanishads and Puranas say, a child of Universal Mind, of Mahat, the "Great One."
Verily, mind, as a ray of Mahat, is the opener of the ways for the soul to grow, to bring into active function its inborn wisdom. The word mind connotes just this: its origin is Anglo-Saxon, gemynd, meaning memory, and linked with Old High German minna, memory and love, and with Sanskrit manas, mind -- clearly there is a connection here with Plato's doctrine of "reminiscence," that the soul has power, if the love for truth be strong enough, to recall in an instant its innate knowledge. But by memory we do not imply the dull and uninspired learning by rote of facts and figures -- though the repetition with understanding and devotion of heart of certain forms of truth has value, as the ancients well knew -- but rather a calling to the forefront of one's attention or, better still, a leading out from the deeps of one's inmost self the native wisdom resident therein.
This thought is of immense potency for us, for our difficulties arise not because we are naturally destructive or evil, but precisely because of the light within us which is the dynamic element behind mind. Constantly it is reminding us of our divine ancestry and our equally divine destiny, that we are a "living mind" quickened by a godlike being -- different from ourselves and yet our very self -- call it Manasaputra or Lucifer, Prometheus, Coyote or Loki, the names are legion in mythology. We have scarcely begun to grasp the role of mind and its function in concert with the heart -- the finer part of our being lies as yet concealed, awaiting the magnetic pull of aspiration and will to open wide the gateways to truth, for the mind-heart in man is potentially a living cosmos in magnitude and wonder.
(Reprinted from Sunrise magazine, November 1979. Copyright © 1979 By Theosophical University Press)
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