It is the teaching of theosophy that evolution -- or the unfolding, unwrapping, self-expressing, progressive growth of an entity -- proceeds in cycles both large and small. Each great cycle or tidal wave of life which sweeps over our earth lasts on this planet Terra for scores of millions of years; and each such globe-round, as we call such a tidal wave of manifestation, during the course of its activity gives new birth to numerous great stocks of beings, ranging from elemental beings to those quasi-divine entities beyond mankind.
Some of these stocks or kingdoms of nature below man are well known to everyone: the beast or animal kingdom, the vegetable kingdom, the mineral kingdom. Below these are the three kingdoms of the elementals. These last kingdoms, those of the three classes of elemental beings, modern knowledge knows nothing of except in this respect, that it recognizes certain forces in nature. These three elemental kingdoms are the channels through which these natural forces pour into our earth and work in it and on and through it and hold its component parts together, being, as it were, the vital cement or energies of coherence which bind together the hosts and multitudes of hosts of the conscious and semi-conscious beings composing our earth. These are the elementals.
There are likewise three other kingdoms of entities far more progressed than man is, which are above him in the scale of evolutionary advancement. These three superior kingdoms are the dhyan-chohanic. They consist of spiritual beings who were all once, in far past ages, men also as we now are. They had passed through humanity to attain their present stage or status of dhyan-chohanhood. And it is the destiny of humans similarly to follow this same path of upward progress, the destiny of every individual of the human stock -- if it prevail over the down-pulling forces of matter along its evolutionary pathway upwards -- in the future to become itself a member of these three nobler stocks above mankind.
The ancients called these three stocks superior to man, gods. In modern times, I suppose, they would be called spirits; not, if you please, excarnate human entities to whom the noble term "spirit" is often grossly misapplied. But they are truly developed spiritual entities which we call monads.
These three kingdoms higher than man, which he is destined to join in future time, form the three stages of progress preceding other still more advanced hierarchies of beings, all evolving, all on the upward march, all ascending higher and still higher, illimitably in eternal duration -- both in the past as it will be in the future -- and finding their ineffably beautiful destiny in the boundless fields of spiritual space.
Each of these great stocks of beings produces entities of its own kind, of its own capacities, each one having its own inherent drive or urge or tendencies. Each stock, in other words, has its own individuality, just as man has, or a beast, or a tree, or a flower, or any other stock.
Here we shall discuss that great stock which we call the human kingdom. First it should be understood that the origin of man, according to theosophy, was not what most scientists are accustomed to call monogenetic, that is, the origination of man from a single point of departure. The archaic wisdom-tradition does not teach of a primitive Garden of Eden, or of a single couple, an Adam and Eve who gave birth to the human race. This old Biblical mythos was symbolic, as the Qabbalistic Jews well knew, and should not be taken in its surface meaning or in its literal construction. Man's origin was not monogenetic but polygenetic or, to be more accurate, a modified polygenesis; that is to say, the various stocks which form the human race as an entity did not derive from one couple, but arose from several contemporaneous zoologic centers or points of departure, from groups living on different zones of the earth's surface, aeons and aeons and aeons ago in the far bygone geologic past.
As nearly as we can give dates (due to the imperfection and uncertainty of interpretation of the geologic record) by studying the story of the rocks we may put back the origins of the human kind into the so-called Paleozoic or Primary era of geology (we are here using H. P. Blavatsky's time scale of geologic eras [see Appendix I]). And this first race, this primordial race, composed of a number of subordinate individual strains, produced the various stocks which have descended even to our own day, albeit more or less mixed. These we may very roughly classify today as the pinkish-brown or white race, the black, the yellow, and the copper-colored races -- the only four which remain of those seven primitive origins, those seven primitive biologic points of departure. With regard to the various theories as to the origins of mankind, whether such be monogenetic or polygenetic, we quote again the eminent English anatomist, Professor Wood Jones, who writes in The Problem of Man's Ancestry as follows:
"That all the races of mankind did not arise from one common point of departure [i.e., ancestor] is a view which has already been advocated (notably in more recent times by Klaatsch). It is one that carries high probability, and one which merits the expenditure of a great deal more patient research." -- p. 41
During all those long periods of development, which run back for scores of millions of years into the past, in the present globe-round the human stock necessarily passed through many varying forms, retaining, however, even from the beginning of true humans, the general type-plan of the human frame, yet varying greatly as it progressed and evolved towards a wider perfection with the passage of time down to our own day.
The evolutionary history of man is characterized by the development of what are called in theosophy root-races. The root-races preceding our own were four in number. We are the fifth; and each of these root- or stock-races had its own physical characteristics or specific features.
The first of these great races which appeared on our earth during the present globe-round was in its beginning a race of astral entities, ethereal, invisible they would be to us in our present state of gross materiality.
This first great race was sexless, and propagated itself by fission; that is to say, it divided into two, each such fission producing a new individual. Consequently the daughter of such a fission was likewise the sister of its mother. That first great stock-race lasted for millions of years.
As time passed, and as the cycling race circled downwards farther into matter, seeking self-expression in the material world, this first root-race grew more solid, but it remained ethereal even to its end. It had no human shape such as we now understand it. Each of the individuals composing it was an ovoid body of light, luminous, pellucid, translucent. These individuals had neither organs nor bones.
Have you ever considered the gelatinous structure of the jellyfish, a medusa for instance? It may be to you perhaps a hint of something still more ethereal, still more luminous and translucent, than it. Life builds houses for itself of many forms and kinds, nor are bones and organs necessary for the tempting of the vital entity.
When millions of years had passed, the second root-race came into being. This second race was less ethereal than its predecessor, for the races following each other in time grew constantly more material, more solid, more opaque, down to the fourth root-race.
The second root-race was asexual and reproduced itself by a method which is still represented on earth among some of the lower creatures, that is by "budding" or gemmation. From a particular part of the individual a small portion of the parent entity broke off and left its parent body -- the mother, if you can use the term "mother" of an individual which had no sex at all. The offspring or bud left it somewhat as a spore will leave a plant, or as an acorn leaves the oak, this bud or small portion of the parent entity growing into an individual in all respects like to the parent from which it had separated itself.
Even as the individuals of the first race had separated off from themselves a large portion of their body -- which was that race's method of reproduction, as said -- this large portion growing to the size of its parent and duplicating it in all ways, so the second race reproduced itself by what zoology and botany call budding. A swelling appeared on the superficial or outer surface of the body of one of these entities; this swelling grew in size, and as it grew became constricted near the point of junction with the parent body, until at length the bond of union became a mere filament which finally broke, thus freeing the bud, which then grew into another entity in all ways like its parent.
The second race was more material in physical structure, and more humanoid in appearance, than was the first, but it still was more or less translucent, although growing more opaque because more dense with the passage of every one hundred thousand years of its long life cycle, which comprised many millions of years.
Towards the end of this second great stock-race, which by that time had become still more viscidly gelatinous and filamentoid in structure (although it was as yet more or less ovoid in form), this race even then began to show some vague approximation in shape to the present human form. Its filamentoid structure likewise covered and guarded deeply seated nuclei within it, which were condensations of the general cell substance, and destined to develop in the next race into the various organs of the body.
When this race had run its course, lasting for many millions of years, then the third stock-race came into existence, still more physical than were the first and the second, and constantly thickening, the gelatinous substance of the second race having become flesh, but flesh more delicate, thin, and fine even than our own of the present fifth race.
Let me add here also that, like the first race, the second had neither bones nor flesh (therefore no skeleton), nor organs (therefore no physiological functions of any kind). Its circulations, such as they were, and they did exist, were carried on by what may be called osmosis combined with magnetic attractions and repulsions -- for lack of better words to express the process -- working in this fashion in the body-substance.
With the incoming of the third stock-race, the filamentoid structure thickened or condensed itself, and became the different parts of what is now the human body: the muscular system, the reticulum or network of the nervous system, and also the system of the blood vessels. The inner filamentoid parts, becoming cartilaginous as the third race traveled along its cyclic period, finally became bones; while the nuclei, which existed in the body-structure of the second race as merely adumbrated or foreshadowed organs, became now the true organs of the body of the third race, such as the heart, the lungs, the brain, the liver, the spleen, and so forth.
The method of reproduction of this third root-race was in its beginning androgynous or double-sexed; but about the middle period of this great third stock-race, hermaphroditism died out, and our present method of reproduction ensued.
As regards the question of hermaphroditism or androgynism, it is already an established fact in physical science that the same condition exists in some of the lower classes of animate entities now on earth. Practically all antiquity taught it as a fact that early man must have been bisexual, if for no other reason than because of the rudiments of organs which even present-day human beings possess -- I mean rudiments of organs in the one sex which are more or less fully developed in the opposite sex, and vice versa. In his Descent of Man, Charles Darwin had the following to say:
"There is one other point deserving a fuller notice. It has long been known that in the vertebrate kingdom one sex bears rudiments of various accessory parts, appertaining to the reproductive system, which properly belong to the opposite sex; and it has now been ascertained that at a very early embryonic period both sexes possessed true male and female glands. Hence some remote progenitor of the whole vertebrate kingdom appears to have been hermaphrodite or androgynous."
And Mr. Darwin added as a footnote:
"This is the conclusion of Prof. Gegenbaur, one of the highest authorities in comparative anatomy; . . . Similar views have long been held by some authors, though until recently without a firm basis." -- Part I, ch. vi, p. 161
Quaint and curious as the story may now seem to us, accustomed as we are to think that our present method of reproduction is the only possible one, those very ancient human individuals reproduced themselves by laying eggs. The human germ cell even today is an egg, albeit microscopic. But in those days these eggs, in which the infants incubated and from which they finally issued, were of much larger size than is the case today.
To recapitulate: mankind first reproduced itself by fission in the first race; then by budding in the second race; then, in the beginning of the third race reproduction was insured by an exudation of vital cells, issuing from the superficial parts of the body, and which, collecting together, formed huge ovoid aggregates or eggs.
This method of reproduction is alluded to in the archaic teachings by the term "sweat-born," meaning not that this race reproduced itself by sweat literally, but by an exudation of vital substance or cells which issued from the body in somewhat the same fashion that sweat issues from the sudoriferous glands, or as the oily substance of the skin and hair issues from the sebaceous glands.
As time passed and the condensation of the bodies of the individuals of the third root-race became greater and more pronounced, this exudation of vital cells slowly passed from the outward or superficial parts of the body into the inner parts, becoming localized in certain organs which the process of evolution had been slowly forming for that purpose.
This method of reproduction in its general line is nature's way even today in our own fifth race, only it now takes place within the protecting wall of solid flesh and hard bone, which wall nature has built about the reproductive functions of our race for its greater safety. But essentially the procedure is exactly the same as it was in the early middle of the third root-race.
As time went by, during the life cycle of this third race, reproduction by egg laying by the parent died out or passed away, as a method of propagation. Whereas formerly the drops of vital fluid were exuded from nearly all parts of the body, as was the case at the end of the second root-race, more and more as time passed they localized themselves in a functional part of the organism which was the root of the later reproductive organs. These vital drops collected together and became the egg in which the human infant incubated for a few years, and finally issued from it, and began life safely, walking and moving even from the opening of the shell, much as a chick does today among us -- a still living example of the old method.
Such was the method of reproduction in the third root-race at about the midpoint of its evolutionary course.
Another point of interest that I might mention in passing is that each of these root-races had its own continental system and islands on the face of the earth, had its own long-enduring cycle of life, and likewise its own physical appearance, albeit all of them, beginning with the third, possessed the general type of the human frame even as we now know it, and of which each later race became a more perfect expression.
Then at the end of the third race, there followed the great stock-race which we call the fourth, which was the most material of all in its physical development -- that race in which matter reached its climax of evolution, its highest point of unfolding. All the powers of matter were then functioning in every direction, but spirit was correspondingly in obscuration.
This fourth race lived its millions of years and produced some of the most brilliant civilizations of a purely material character that this globe has seen. Finally it passed away in its turn, giving birth to the fifth root-race: to us, who are still men of flesh and bones and organs, still retaining the old method of reproduction, which nevertheless is destined to pass away in its turn, giving place to a newer and a higher method. For sex is but a passing phase, and the next great race will see its end.
Towards the middle of the third race there occurred the most marvelous and epoch-making event in the history of humanity; and this was the infilling of the unself-conscious humanity with mind and its godlike powers. From the geologic standpoint, that awakening of mind occurred at about the middle point of the Mesozoic era, which we may perhaps put at the beginning of the Jurassic epoch, when the kings of the earth were the gigantic reptilian monsters whose fossilized skeletons are so frequently found in the rocks of that era.
It was then that began the opening acts of the human drama which we call civilization; and in those remote days, even as early as the end of the third race, civilizations of real brilliancy succeeded each other in time, and have so lasted down to our own period.
The first race, though physically conscious, was yet mindless in a sense, that is to say not self-conscious as we understand self-consciousness. Its consciousness was somewhat of the nature of a man in a deep daze or a profound daydream. The individuals of that race had, as yet, no mental or intellectual or spiritual self-consciousness. Similarly was it with the second race.
The beasts today have no mental self-consciousness. All spiritual, intellectual, or psychological faculties that human beings possess are latent in the animals, but in them they are still nonfunctioning. In man only, at the present time, has the godlike function of self-conscious thought been awakened. That awakening will come to the animals below man; but because the door into the human kingdom has been closed for many ages, this awakening by them to human consciousness can come no longer in this period of planetary evolution. The animals will attain to it only in the next planetary manvantara or evolutionary great cycle, hundreds and hundreds of millions of years hence.
Nevertheless in a few of the higher animals, that is to say in the anthropoid apes, the divine powers of self-conscious thought are beginning to function in very minor degree. The reason is that the anthropoid apes are an exception in the evolutionary development of the stocks below man, in that they have a strain of human blood in them, which like everything else is inevitably destined to work out its own inherent capacities. Their minds are dormant, but it is hoped that the monads now indwelling in the bodies of these apes will have developed a true human albeit imperfect psychological apparatus of self-expression, i.e., of self-consciousness, before the present planetary manvantara or great planetary evolutionary cycle is completed.
Please bear in mind, however, that when we call man of the first and second great races a mindless being, we do not mean that he was a beast. We mean only that the latent mind had not yet been aroused to function, through the partial incarnation in the waiting human individuals of godlike beings perfected in a preceding evolutionary period, billions of years before the present. The man of that early period, though mindless, possessed consciousness of a kind; he was, as said, in a sense like a man in a daze or in a daydream, deep, complete.
Towards the end of the third race there occurred the awakening of mind; and this happened very largely by the incarnation in these now ready human vehicles of godlike beings, who had run their race and had attained quasi-divinity in far past preceding planetary periods of cyclic evolution. These godlike beings projected, by hypostasis, sparks, as it were, of their own full self-consciousness into the childlike humanity of that time, thus awakening also the latent native mental powers that had lain dormant or sleeping in the recipient humanity.
Whence came mind? Have you ever thought of it, of its wondrous mystery, of its power, of its illimitable possibilities, of its inherent connection with self-consciousness? Does any sane man really believe that self-conscious mind comes from what the old school of materialists called dead, unvitalized, unimpulsed, unurged matter alone?
Very few of the thinking men of today have no conception of some kind or other of the nature of self-conscious mind. The conception may be perhaps vague and inchoate; but it does represent some striving towards a rational and satisfying explanation of this most wonderous part of the constitution of man. Their longing to reach some explanation of what is to them the problem -- whence came mind and consciousness? -- must in the very nature of things find an answer, because that longing is an intuition of reality.
With this coming of mind through the incarnation of these godlike beings into the intellectually senseless human vehicles of the middle third root-race, came likewise the main characteristic of self-conscious intelligence which is, briefly, the steadily growing sense of moral and intellectual responsibility. It was at this point of the incarnation of the "Sons of Mind" or manasaputras, to use the Sanskrit term, that man first became on this earth the truly self-conscious, morally responsible being he now is, although indeed, it is of course true that mankind has evolved since that now far-distant epoch of the past.
Because of this incarnation of mind, men became conscious of their kinship not only with the hierarchies surrounding them in all nature, but they recognized their spiritual unity with the gods; and from then on they began to understand that the direction of their own future karma or destiny lay in their own hands. At first almost instinctively, but as time passed with ever-growing self-realization, they understood that they were thenceforth collaborators with the divinities, and the hierarchies of beings below the divinities, in the enormous cosmic labor.
What a picture such realization brought! What immense sense, thenceforth, of human dignity must have entered into their souls! For this greater sense of self-identity with the paramatman of the universe, with the cosmic spirit, provided vistas of future evolutionary grandeur which as of now man dreams of but has not yet even intellectually fully realized.
It was to this awakened humanity of the later third root-race that were given certain teachings which have been ever since in the guardianship of great men, true seers, who have penetrated behind the veil of physical matter and who, in addition, have received a body of teaching about man and the universe that today we call the ancient wisdom. This body of teaching stems back to those archaic days when spiritual beings from other and higher planes than ours consorted with the human race of that time; and it has descended in unbroken line from teacher to teacher even to our own day.
As we reflect over the evolutionary picture which we have thus far drawn in this and in preceding chapters, we realize that man is essentially composite of heaven and earth, as the ancient saying runs; and because he is a child of the universe, part spirit, part animal, therefore is he likewise a child of destiny -- of that destiny which he himself is building with every breath that he draws.
Man is a child of nature. Nature has not so much "given" him his faculties by and in which he works, as he has them de facto as being a child of nature. They are not a gift; they are not a development of something outside himself which has come to him; nor are they merely produced by man's reaction upon something else in nature. They are innate in him. They are he himself. They form his destiny by evolving out.
And what is this destiny that man is slowly through the ages evolving? It is contained in these two noble sayings of the Christian scriptures: Know ye not that ye are gods and that the spirit of the Divine dwelleth within you? For verily each one of you is a temple of the divinity (John 10:34; I Cor. 3:16).
These sayings to many have become a mere phraseology -- pious ejaculations and little more -- because the spiritual sense lying in the words has been forgotten. Yet they have become favorites on account of the intrinsic beauty of the imagery. When they are fully understood these sayings show the pathway to the student, so that he may truly become what they assure him he may become, and in fact is at the core of his being. They contain a promise of immense ethical value, as well as teaching the very essence of what evolution is; because it is man's destiny some day to become what he here is promised.
In future ages, aeons upon aeons hence, when the human race shall have run its course for this great planetary life cycle, it will have developed into full-grown divinities, gods, spiritual forces on earth. Then we shall become like those now ahead of us, the leaders and teachers of the race, and the inspirers and the invigorators of those who will then be below us as they are even now; we shall become to them the transmitter of the universal fire, the spiritual fire, the fire of pure self-consciousness, the noblest activity of the universal life.
That is what the gods are at the present time. These spiritual beings, these high messengers of the universal life and transmitters thereof to those below them, were once men in far bygone cosmic periods. Through past earnest endeavor, work and inner research, honesty and sincerity, universal love and compassion, these higher entities have allied themselves with the inner spheres along the pathway which each one of us is, and which they have trodden farther than we have as yet gone.
It is the higher, working with and in the inferior, who stimulate the inferior, help them always, give them light, awaken them, lead them on. Thus we have even among mankind those superior ones who are our guides and helpers. They are the fine flowers of the human race, the noblest fruitage that the human race has produced; and for them we often use the Sanskrit word mahatman meaning "great soul," more accurately perhaps, "great self."
Such great souls are well known in the world. Nothing is so common to us as some knowledge of them. The Buddha was one; Jesus, called the Christ, was one; Sankaracharya of India was one; Pythagoras was one; Empedocles of Sicily was one. They were and are relatively numerous -- although not all are of the same degree or grade, for they vary among themselves, even as average men do. There are the greatest; the less great; the great; then in descending scale come the good and noble men; then average men; then inferior men -- a hierarchy of intellect and mind and heart.
These greatest of men have developed to its highest point of self-expression the human soul, so that it has become a perfect transmitter or vehicle for the inner god. But every man has within himself the potentialities of this inner god. When Jesus said "I am the pathway and the Life," he did not refer to himself alone as that pathway. He meant that every human being likewise who strives towards and endeavors to live that cosmic life, thereby becomes the transmitter of that life and its many, many powers to those below him.
Every one of us is a potential savior of his fellows; and it is our destiny some day to become an actual savior and teacher, one who has trodden that inner pathway successfully. For each one of us is potentially a god, a divine being.