The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
March 1999 Vol. 2 Issue 1
This issue marks the first anniversary of the Theosophical Northwest View. The Northwest Branch looks forward to another year of sharing theosophical ideas and literature: hosting monthly discussion groups, adding material to our website, and producing the monthly newsletter.
This month "Have We Lived Before?" is our subject. We will discuss such questions as: Were we "created" immediately before birth, or has an enduring part of us evolved over lifetimes? Are human beings mortal or immortal? Why do some people seem to remember past-life experiences, when most of us do not? What about déjà vu and near-death experiences? What happens after death? Is there a heaven, hell, or purgatory? Come and share your ideas!
Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge.
April 8: Are There Guardians of Mankind?
May: Why DO Bad Things Happen to Good People?
The Masks of Odin: Wisdom of the Ancient Norse by Elsa-Brita Titchenell is now available at Theosophical University Press Online (www.theosociety.org/pasadena/tup.htm). Besides the author's translations of lays from the Eddas -- the ancient myths and tales of the Scandinavian peoples -- it relates these Norse myths to other world traditions and to modern theosophy and science.
With Theosophy and Christianity by H. T. Edge and After Death - What? by Leoline L. Wright, the online editions of all 15 introductory theosophical manuals written under G. de Purucker is complete.
Three publications have been updated: the revised and enlarged edition of Alan E. Donant's monograph Colonel Arthur L. Conger is online, complete with photographs; the Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary has added letters C - F; and volume 2 of Isis Unveiled by H. P. Blavatsky is online. The appendix of Isis Unveiled contains two articles not in the printed version that throw light on this book: "How Isis Unveiled Was Written" by Dr. Alexander Wilder and "Letters from H. P. Blavatsky to Alexander Wilder."
Stepping out into the night and looking at the multitude of stars above me, I have a feeling of being very small, knowing the vast distances that separate each star, and wonder at the power holding each in its given place.
Going into the garden and seeing the plants and flowers growing in such arrays of color, each coming back year after year in the same pattern, I wonder at the plan working there.
Noting the bees collecting nectar for their honey; the little ants scurrying to and from their nest carrying food; the lowly caterpillar turning into a butterfly; the other animals and birds all seemingly about their appointed task, I wonder at the knowledge of their environment they seem to have.
Reading about the tiny atoms with all their latent power; that they are the structure of all the forms we see about us - from the greatest to the smallest - yet we cannot see them; I wonder about the source of all that energy and the collecting of those atoms into forms.
My thoughts turn then to the human race with all its fears and strife when compared with Nature, and I wonder: What is the purpose of it all?
Then stealing into my thoughts comes the old teaching: "Man - thou art the offspring of Divinity, as is all else, and unto that source all returns after the allotted span of experience has been completed. Make of each day, then, a step along the path to Divinity and all will be well." I then cease my wonderings because I sense the purpose - the plan behind each thing. -- J. S. Hasbrouck
Like the new moon thy life appears;
A little strip of silver light,
And widening outward into night
The shadowy disk of future years;
And yet upon its outer rim,
A luminous circle, faint and dim,
And scarcely visible to us here,
Rounds and completes the perfect sphere;
A prophecy and intimation,
A pale and feeble adumbration,
Of the great world of light, that lies
Behind all human destinies. -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Atman is for each individualized consciousness its laya-center or entrance way into cosmic manifestation. It is our self precisely because it is a link which connects us with the cosmic hierarch. Through this atmic laya-center stream the divine forces from above, which by their unfolding on the lower planes originate and become seven principles. -- Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary
In theosophical literature, the laya-center has been defined as a neutral point of undifferentiated matter; the atmic principle; the transition point between planes; the rest state of matter; and the seedbed from which manifestation begins. How can these different aspects be reconciled? To answer this question, we will explore some concepts concerning atman and the evolution and rest state of matter to see how layer-centers tie them all together.
Every evolving being in the universe is a composite of many different elements or principles. The seven main principles are spirit (atman), soul, mind, desire, life-force, and astral and physical substance, with the most spiritual listed first. Evolution is the unfolding of these seven principles from an entity's innermost spiritual core, its atman. Evolution takes place on a cyclic and infinite scale, with the entity descending from a spiritual into a progressively more material state, then involving, pulling the principles back into atman. When the entity returns to this most spiritual state, it rests before starting the process over again. But in its progression, it moves ever forward and upward, with its ultimate goal to become at one with its higher self. All entities evolve this way, from the atom to a human, planet, and star.
As the seven principles in an entity unfolds, that entity enters a plane of consciousness that reflects the degree of unfoldment of each of its principles. There is essentially one plane of consciousness for each principle, from the spiritual to the physical.
The matter existing on each of these seven planes consists of energy vibrating at a frequency and having a density commensurate with that plane. Beings existing on any plane are composed of that matter, and can perceive only the matter from their own plane. For example, humans can see and touch physical matter, but not astral or other matter. These seven planes thus contain "differentiated matter," that is, matter separated into its seven principles. Since these principles have different levels of spirituality, the matter derived from them inherently has a dual nature, one part spiritual and the other material. The material aspect is the shadowy side or nether pole of the spiritual, an "illusory aggregate of veils surrounding the fundamental essence of the universe which is consciousness-life-substance." (Occult Glossary, G. de Purucker, p. 99) The degree of spirituality or materiality of matter on any plane depends on which aspect is predominant based on where the entity is in the unfoldment of its seven principles. On the downward arc of a cycle of evolution, when the entity descends from spirit into matter, the material aspect is predominant. But on the upward arc, as the principles are drawn up into the spiritual self or atman, the spiritual aspect becomes predominant, until at the top of the arc the spiritual and material aspects blend into homogeneity.
This undifferentiated state of matter, this atmic state, in which matter is no longer broken down into its component principles, is really the normal state of matter. When matter is unfolded and differentiated, it is in an abnormal state. The undifferentiated state is referred to as a laya state. The point in space at which this laya state occurs is a laya-center. This "point" really has no location in space separate from a monad. It is part of the monad, the atman of the monad, and as such has a location only in that the monad has a location.
When the entity dies, it returns to the laya state, also known as pralaya or nirvana, and rests before its next manifestation. Also entering the rest state are any of the myriad beings that composed the entity during its lifetime, tied to it by the bonds of karma. For a human, this includes the life-atoms which compose the human body; for a solar system, the army of planetary and lesser beings which compose a solar system; and so forth. Thus, when it is time for the entity to begin the next stage of manifestation, to unfold from its atman into the differentiated state, this laya-center, or aggregate of resting forces, is revitalized. It is thus the seed bed for the formation of the entity's return to life. As stated by G . de Purucker (Occult Glossary p. 84), the laya-center is that "point in space, which owing to karmic law, suddenly becomes the center of active life, first on a higher plane and later descending into manifestation through and by the laya-centers of the lower planes or states of matter . . ."
An additional attribute of the laya-center is that it lies at the line dividing one plane from another. This is because each plane itself has seven principles, including an atman. It is at the plane's atmic or neutral point or laya-center where the transition between one plane and the next occurs. The laya-center is thus a disappearing point for matter on one plane and the appearing point for matter on another plane. These are just a few aspects of the laya-center, through which flow the forces of creation, inspiration, and evolution.