Signature of Divinity: One in Essence, Unique in Form

by Grace F. Knoche

A small Qabbalistic treatise titled Siphra' di-Tseni`utha' (Book of Mystery or Silence) contains this verse:

His eye is ever open and sleepeth not, for it continually keepeth watch.

Who is this? Known by many names, he is the first emanation from the Infinite and Limitless expanse, God, Divinity, Ancient of Ancients, the Long-Suffering and Merciful One, call him as we will, who in cycles beyond counting traveled the tortuous and often pain-filled road toward the peaks of attainment -- not for his own glory, but for the sake of those in every age who aspire to find the way to peace and purpose. Crown or acme of compassion, he slumbers not but keeps a protective eye over the full extent of his hierarchy, ever watchful that the guardians of every kingdom maintain the sacred lines of the evolutionary intent. He is "constantly in action," as Krishna tells Arjuna in the Bhagavad-Gita:

If I were not indefatigable in action, all men would presently follow my example, O son of Pritha. If I did not perform actions these worlds would perish; . . . -- 3:23-4

The shining of a thousand suns cannot compare with the splendor of divine compassion radiating from one wholly consecrated to the awakening and enlightenment of humanity. This is the ideal of the aspirant: to become like unto the Nameless One, whose "eye is ever open and sleepeth not," and who is indefatigable in protection of all beings. From him, as branches of a tree, come forth the sages and adepts of every age who quicken in responsive souls the seeds of altruism and love of truth. Their sacrifice is an ever vivid reminder to us to rouse ourselves from our slumbers and take up the gauntlet cast by our higher selves into the arena of worldly existence.

Many today, having broken away from the shield and comfort of religious dogma, feel themselves in a no-man's-land, adrift and without compass. They become despondent and, losing touch with their inner strength, they widow themselves of the help that is closest to them and that shines in the darkness of their despair: the light of their own inner god, source of wisdom and guidance.

There is nothing exclusive about this light; it is at the core of the atom as of the star, for it is the light of the Logos, the light that enveloped Gautama as he became Buddha, the light that shone through Jesus and made him Christos. The presence among us of one or another of these Luminous Ones is living witness to the truth that, regardless of how severe our karmic adversities may be, they are transient compared to the light of divinity that burns steadily within the soul. In proportion as we open our hearts will we become recipients of its radiant power.

This is the hope we would share with everyone: that the light of our inner divinity is as near to us as we wish. But to receive its boon we must offer ourselves in its service. Jakob Boehme understood this, that whereas God -- or the "Grand Mystery," as he put it -- must irradiate the material world, to partake of its glory more fully we must consciously aspire to the stature of the Godhead through purification and self-effort. "God must become man, man must become God," he wrote three centuries ago, sharing his vision that the divine Presence is in all beings, and that man has like power to penetrate the dark corridors of earthly confusion to the "clearest light."

How strange that this beautiful truth should have aroused the ire of the Church. Perhaps it was because Boehme placed the responsibility of becoming, not on God or pastor but on each human being to actualize his potential godliness. In spontaneous "openings" of the soul he "saw" behind and within the external how the "hidden spirit" manifests its "internal form," incising its signature in divers shapes and forms; "in the stars and elements, likewise in the living creatures, and also in the trees and herbs" (Signatura Rerum [The Signature of All Things], pp. 121, 23, 12.)

When we turn to nature and trace in imagination the moving force behind her kaleidoscopic harmony of design, we are assured that all are kin, sprung from Infinity, yet that each is unique, individual. Even on our physical countenance we carry trailmarks of our spiritual, mental, and emotional ancestry. Just as no two zebras have identical stripe patterns, so every human being, including identical twins, has his own distinctive physiological markings: fingerprints, lines on palm and sole; heart and brain graphs; voice and speech patterns, and so forth. Every part of our nature bears the impress of our "hidden spirit," not only on the invisible essence of us which retains its integrity life after life, but also on our character which in turn leaves its markings on the body.

Every human being is a signature of Divinity, the fruit of ages of evolving his uniqueness. In the enmeshment of spirit in sundry forms, and the consequent straining of matter-elements to evolve identity, we have the perennial tension of opposites: between spirit and matter, light and darkness, activity and rest. Were it not for the continual interplay of opposing energies, between down-tending forces that bond us to worldly interests and upward-moving energies that draw us toward spirit, there would be no movement, no growth, no possibility of advance.

Just here is the nub of the human dilemma: how to handle our " uniqueness" vis-a-vis other people's "uniqueness," i.e., to develop our own essential character while respecting the right of another to cultivate his. But how difficult at times to "love our brother" when his ideas and attitudes are diametrically opposed to our own. If we imagine that we are kin only in our god-essence, this is a fallacy. There's not a single atom in space but imbodies a ray of the Divine. This means that every portion of our complex nature, however unprogressed, is an expression of Divinity. When we love enough we address the highest in others from the highest in ourselves. Potential conflict, then, becomes constructive interchange.

In penetrating beyond the shell of nature to the "greatest secret mystery," Boehme saw how the "essence of all essences . . . proceeds out of Eternity into Time, and again out of Time into Eternity" (ibid., 13 and subtitle). This is reminiscent of the contraction/expansion of the Qabbalah and the outbreathing and inbreathing of Hindu philosophy, whereby the Limitless expanse condenses itself into a single point and a universe bursts through from darkness into the light of being and becoming. After long ages, when the cycles of material imbodiment have accomplished their purpose of gaining enrichment through experience, there is flowering of essence and withdrawal of form, with Time once more becoming Eternity, Duration. In the process "the light of Deity shines through all, through and through," leaving its tracings in and throughout a universe as it urges its families of god-sparks, monads, and atoms into increasingly material spheres during the "descending" half of its evolutionary cycle. When the bottommost point is reached and the temptation to be swept still further into matter is overcome, the upward-moving current carries the monadic lives into ever more spiritual cycles of experience. Eventually, all are absorbed in the divine Source -- the many rebecome the One.

Obviously aeons are required for the transmutation of matter into spirit, for self-identity to fuse with the universal self. As Sir Edwin Arnold imaged it, "the Dewdrop slips into the shining Sea" (The Light of Asia, bk. viii). Not forever, for every monadic life will reemerge from nirvana "in its integrity on the day when the Great Law calls all things back into action" (H. P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, 2: 80). According to Brahmanical timetables, as recorded in the Puranas and other scriptures of India, our present world cycle is the "first of the second period of Brahma's existence" the first half of his life having expired (Cf. Vishnu-Purana, 1, iii [pp. 53-4, Wilson trans.]; also "The Chronology of the Brahmins," The Secret Doctrine, 2:68-74). This is of great moment: since Mother Earth and all her children live and move and have their being within the larger life of the divine hierarch -- in this case of Brahma (whose life span is given as 311,040,000,000,000 of our years) -- this means that we humans have already begun the upward half of our ages-long journey toward full godhood. We no longer are being swept willy-nilly further and further into matter, as of necessity we were during the first half of Brahma's existence. Now, and henceforth, as we aspire toward spirit we have the evolutionary current with us, upward and forward.

On this evolutionary journey we are not alone, for our inner god which is our inspiration and source of light is one in essence with the Nameless One, he who is ever in compassionate and protective action. Not until the least of us chooses to identify with the sublime sacrifice of this solitary Watcher will he quit his self-chosen post, "for he would fain show the way to that region of freedom and light" to all who would liberate themselves from the prison of selfish purpose (The Secret Doctrine, 1:207-8.).

We share with every life-spark in the cosmos the possibility of eventual oneness with this sacred mystery. The drive that activates an electron to fulfill its purpose is none other than the dynamic impulse that brings a cosmos to birth and a human being to return to earth to quicken anew the dark wood of his nature into the flame of a divine awareness.

"Born of the moon, children of the sun, offspring of the stars, and inheritors of the cosmic spaces," we and the Boundless are one (G. de Purucker, The Four Sacred Seasons, p. 69). With this heritage, our contributors have explored the wonders of mineral, plant, and animal, as well as of man and cosmos -- each a self-contained unit yet maintaining symbiotic relationships with the kingdoms above and below it. Whereas we are generally considered the crown of the animal kingdom we are, in reality, a kingdom unto ourselves. Unlike those following us we have, if we would but use it compassionately and wisely, the potential of unlimited growth in comprehension, empathy, and self-illumination. Because of this, is there not inevitably a symbiosis between ourselves and the kingdom of the gods, whence we derive our godlike mind and spirit?

  • (Reprinted from Sunrise magazine, April/May 1987. Copyright © 1987 by Theosophical University Press)

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