Man's Body in Evolution

By G. de Purucker

The theosophist, a thoroughgoing evolutionist or, perhaps more accurately speaking, emanationist, looks upon the evolution or the perfection of the physical body of man with profound interest. But with a far more profound and wide-reaching searching of his heart does he study the evolution of the inner evolving monad which expresses itself through its physical vehicle, the body, and which on that account furnishes the drive, the urge, the impulse, ever upwards and forwards, causing that body to change its form slowly as the ages roll by, becoming with every new era, with every new aeon, a more fit vehicle to express the indwelling intellectual and spiritual forces and potencies of that monad.

These spiritual forces or potencies seeking an outlet, seeking to express themselves, work through the infinitesimal particles of man's inner constitution, the life-atoms, which exist on many planes, on at least four below the intellectual part of that monad.

In the physical body these life-atoms are enshrined within the cells of that body, working through the atoms of which those cells are composed. Thus is it that the evolutionary drive finds its outlet; it comes from within, expresses itself through the intermediate nature of man, then finds an expression through the physical vehicle, in order that the thinking entity may see this world of matter even as we do see it, and draw such lessons from companionship with it -- as a master, if you please, not as a slave -- which it may and can draw.

It is to the thoughtful mind a palpable absurdity to suppose that all thinking entities must have a physical encasement in all respects, or indeed necessarily in any respect, identic with the human physical body today. This would be equivalent to saying that no entity could have consciousness or intelligence or the power of consecutive thinking, or the moral sense, unless his physical frame were in all respects identic with our own.

Intelligence and consciousness and the moral sense could live and express themselves quite as easily in physical bodies of an entirely different type from ours. Indeed, it is the theosophical teaching that self-conscious, intellectual, and even spiritually self-conscious beings live and follow the courses of their respective lives and destinies on certain other globes of our solar system.

On this earth, self-conscious beings, or what we call humans, currently have the bodies they have as the fruitage of a long evolutionary ancestry, as the necessary resultant, evolutionally speaking, of bygone workings of the inner urge or drive inherent in man's inner constitution and working thence through the physical matter existent at our present epoch. The same thing applies, historically speaking, to all preceding geologic periods and to all zoologic periods which are destined to follow our present one.

For instance, man might have a tail. Would he be less human, if he had a tail? Not at all. A tail neither makes nor unmakes a beast, nor would it make or unmake a man. What is man? Man is the inner consciousness, a thinking entity, the source of the moral sense, the source of the intellectual power, the center of the spiritual aspirations which we all have. Man's body, on the other hand, is but the physical encasement in and around which he lives, self-expressing himself through it; and the manner of that self-expression through this physical body forms a part of the subject of our study.

As a matter of fact, hundreds of millions of years ago, during the third globe-round, i.e., during the preceding great planetary period, the earth bore its appropriate and characteristic fruitage of lives, and many and various were the classes and groups of evolving beings in different degrees of development.

At that remote time man did indeed possess a physical body or encasement of which a tail was then a more or less useful appendage. All record of that zoologic fact is at the present time completely passed from human memory; nevertheless our teaching is that the physical men of that period hundreds of millions of years ago, did have a tail, albeit a short one.

The old Hindu legends and mythoi relate how the gods and the men of a past age associated with intelligent beings who are described as monkey tribes, who spoke and constructed dwelling-houses and built cities, and whatnot. These myths, based upon half-forgotten memories of a geological past and handed down from generation to generation through the ages, acquired in far later times the legendary form in which we now possess them, as for instance in the very ancient and extremely interesting epic tale, the Ramayana, detailing the adventures and loves of Rama and his delightfully feminine companion and wife Sita.

Indeed, if the mere lack of a tail as an appendage to man's physical body were the sole test of evolutionary progress, then the tailless gorilla -- one of the anthropoid apes, and considered by some zoologists and anatomists to be man's most immediate beast ancestor -- stands higher than man along the pathway of evolution, because the gorilla has but three coccygeal bones or caudal vertebrae, i.e., the bones at the end of his spine; but man has four and sometimes five.

In addition to this interesting fact, we may point out in passing that it is well known that babies are sometimes born with a rudimentary tail. Nature makes no mistakes in her productions of physical beings, and such things could not happen merely by chance, or otherwise than as the result of what we might call an automatic reversion to a former condition.

What is man, I ask again? Man is the inner entity, the thinking energy, the consciousness -- all that bundle or aggregate of forces which is consciousness, which thinks, which has a moral sense, and which aspires. The beasts have all these spiritual and psychological potentialities in them also, but they have them latent; they have not developed a proper vehicle for the self-expression of these noble powers and faculties. But in man those fine inner faculties have indeed possibilities of self-unfoldment through a vehicle which has been evolved and trained to manifest them. Hence man is what he now is both physically and psychologically.

The truth of this matter is that man's physical or corporeal encasement exhibits at any period of evolution exactly the state of self-expression on this plane which the indwelling monad has attained. Consequently, his evolution proceeds in stages that his power or facility in self-expression creates, from the smaller to the greater, the expressing vehicle in consequence following step by step and line by line the urge or drive of the inner impelling power.

Thus faculty always precedes organ; the organ is its representative, built up by the inner faculty for purposes of self-manifestation; otherwise, how could it exist? Whence could it come into being? What use would it have were there no preceding faculty which had built it for self-evolutionary purposes? Things do not just arise in the universe in haphazard fashion nor without a well-defined and expressing cause behind them. Hence, anything that appears or is manifest is an obvious proof of a forcible urge behind it that is thus showing itself. In other words, a phenomenon is a proof of a causal noumenon in the background which manifests itself through a phenomenon, which is thus its organ of self-expression.

It is a natural consequence of this that the physical body or encasement or vehicle must take on at different periods of evolution widely different and varying forms or shapes. Our bodies have not always been as they are now. What would you say to the statement that the original "human" corporeal sheath or body in the early ages of this planetary round on our globe was of a quasi-spherical shape, of an egglike or ovoid form, in the center of which the entity resided?

Further, it was not exactly luminous but luminescent and translucent, starlike, we might say highly phosphorescent. It is for this reason that we speak of that particular grade of matter as "astral," because such matter resembled the luminous nebulae that we discern in the blue dome of night; for astral means "starlike."

Since that far remote epoch of geological time, the bodily shape of the physical encasement has varied and changed step by step according to the calls of evolutionary necessities and progress, before attaining the form that it now has; and this change will continue progressively throughout future time, following faithfully -- as the wheel follows the feet of the ox which drags the cart -- every increase in power for self-expression that the inner entity acquires.

In the future, man's body will be far different in shape, in texture, and power of expressing the inner faculties, from what it is now. In the distant aeons of the future, our body will change equivalently with the passage of time, responding accurately to new needs, to new calls for self-development, and to new stimuli from the outer environment to which the inner man automatically answers; and, further, that outer environment itself will slowly change to a much more ethereal and refined condition.

Aeons upon aeons hence, during the last part of the seventh globe-round, the outermost covering of the entity which man shall have become will have returned to an ovoid or egglike form and will be, for the far more refined and spiritual matter of those future times, the physical or corporeal -- if such words can be used -- encasement of the self-expressing divinity at the heart of each such ovoid body. Of course in those days, instead of being composed of gross, coarse, physical substance such as our bodies now are, this ovoid outer form will be a garment of dazzling light, sunlike, glorious, resplendent, and the entity at its heart will be that godlike inner man which man will then have become through self-evolving the spiritual powers which he is in his inmost self.

Thus it cannot be too emphatically reiterated that the physical body springs from, is a result of, the spiritual and invisible forces inherent within. It is these forces which make that body and control it and govern it, and give it shape and hold it together. This force of coherence, and all the other physical energic phenomena which the body manifests, have sprung from the inner fountain; for it is within the individual that lie the springs of energy or force, and therefore of all action.

Each man ensouls his own body. He is the oversoul, so to speak, of each one of the molecules or cells or atoms composing that body. In like manner do we originate from our spiritual root, because our inmost self reaches back into the heart of the universe. It is, in fact, this self of us which is at the heart of the atoms themselves. It actually forms these atoms, and then casts them forth, excretes them as it were, and thereupon lives in them. Thus does man build up his body from his own interior life forces, and works through it and manifests his various life fires in it.

Medical investigators into the mysteries of the human body used to search in it for an immortal soul, some tangible proof of human immortality. In the name of all conscience, what did they expect to find? An immortal body? A dead body, so called, neither speaks, nor breathes, laughs, thinks, or sighs. What then is death? What has happened when the body dies? Something did so act and manifest itself when the body was alive; that something once manifested all those powers which the living man shows, faculties transcendent with spiritual aspirations. What has become of them? The truth is they could not see the working of the inner entity on account of the manifold phenomena which it expresses in the living body. Consequently they passed over with unseeing eyes and uninterpreting minds the very proofs before them.

How did such ideas arise among Western European thinkers when science began to gather to itself some knowledge of the physical world, and the mind of man found itself more free to embark upon nobler thinking? Did these extremely limited ideas arise out of the fact that pictures and teachings which in the early days of Christianity were symbolic, finally came to be taken as literal facts -- such for instance as the pictures that you may so often see in European Mediterranean countries of angels with human bodies, but possessing wings like gigantic birds; or beings with no bodies, and nothing but a head and a pair of bird's wings; or beings depicted as arising out of the corpse in the grave in the shape of a human form more or less outlined; or, as sometimes shown, of a mannikin issuing from the mouth of the expiring one with the last breath?

These very materialistic reproductions of the so-called human soul were originally purely symbolic, and never were intended, when first used, to be taken in their literal form. They were copied from the so-called pagan, Greek and Roman symbolic reproductions of the passing of the inner entity at the beginning of the long sleep which they called and we also call death.

It is true enough that the inner entity, as compared with its gross physical vehicle, is an energy, a force, to our eyes invisible, intangible to our touch, and manifests in the living body as such an energy or force or power, the faculties which it shows during such manifestation being its intrinsic character. Is not this exactly what takes place as shown by the phenomena of the living, conscious, thinking, aspiring, emotional, psychical, passional, intuitive entity as it works through the body? Strange composite of heaven and earth, a compound energy, a bundle of forces, which death separates out and lets go, each of these along its own especial pathway.

Yet when we call the inner entity an energy, a bundle of forces, we likewise mean that it is substantially material in a nobler sense. And in this, the latest discoveries of physical science unknowingly corroborate the archaic teachings, for the scientists today teach that force and matter, or energy and matter, are fundamentally one, matter being, so to say, crystallized energy, or force; and energy or force being, so to say, subtle and moving matter. There are, as has been shown, many degrees or grades or stages of substance. There is, first, the physical; then what we call the astral, or ethereal; then the more ethereal; then the still more ethereal; then the intellectual, if you like so to call it; and then the spiritual; and at the acme, forming the summit of the hierarchical progression, is the divine substance. Even so is man built throughout his hierarchical inner and outer constitution.

This body of ours, though truly wonderful if we look at it from one viewpoint, from another viewpoint is a most imperfect vehicle for the self-expression of the reincarnating and reincarnated entity. It cannot manifest a thousandth part, not even a millionth, a billionth, part of what there is seeking self-expression in the inner man, the invisible human entity.

It is through the senses mostly that we seek to self-express ourselves; and everyone knows how imperfectly they receive impressions from the outside, to say nothing of their feeble power in unfolding the locked-up powers and faculties and feelings which are within.

There are five senses as we now have them. Each one is the fruit of long evolutionary labor; imperfect as they are, yet how well they serve us. But how much better will they not serve us as time passes, in the aeons of the far future when they shall have become much more perfected, much fitter instruments for the self-expression of the inner entity.

This entity, when it seeks incarnation, is essentially an aggregate of forces: spiritual, intellectual, psychical, emotional and astral-vital. When it finds its time for assuming (or reassuming) a new physical body, it is magnetically or perhaps electrically drawn into that family, more particularly into that mother cell, which closest presents in its own cell sphere the lowest rate of vibration of the reincarnating being. In this respect the attraction is magnetic and the incarnating entity is thereby drawn to the cell having a corresponding vibrational rate. Thereafter the rates of vibration coincide and become one in period. In this way developing life in the fertilized cell begins.

The atoms themselves are naught but equilibrated forces, and therefore the cells which they compose are essentially equilibrated forces. Thus it is easy to see how the communication between the visible and the invisible is naught but a question of similar or differing vibrational rates. It is all a matter of vibrational synchrony. You can make a piano wire sing if you strike its keynote on another instrument. You can break a glass, shiver it, by sounding its keynote on a violin or horn, as is well known, if you can catch and sound the vibrational rate that the glass is built on. I believe that in time to come physicians will discover and utilize the marvelous curative powers lying in sound, let us say in music which, after all, is in its physical sense harmonious sounds.

As the body grows, that is to say, as the growing aggregate of daughter cells forming the body of the individual-to-be receives in ever-larger quantity, and in ever-more specialized forms, the different forces of the entity coming into physical life once again from its long rest after its preceding life on earth; or, to put it in other words, as the growing body answers in continuously increasing perfection to the combined rate of vibration of the principles composing the entity then reincarnating, the individual characteristics of that reincarnating entity grow progressively more manifest.

While these rates of vibration are more or less diffused through the physical body when it attains adulthood, nevertheless there are foci in and through and by which the incarnating entity expresses itself, the channels, as it were, the open doors, through which it pours its lower aspects, thus self-expressing itself in that aggregated body of cells which is now in process of building and forming its physical encasement or body.

What are these foci? Generally speaking they are the various organs of the physical body. More specifically pointing out their location, we may say there are seven main foci or centers in the human body, each one fit and built for the purpose of expressing one of the six general principles -- the physical body apart -- of which man is composite, ranging from the spiritual to the vital-astral, the lowest.

Where are these foci? First, please understand that an ethereal force, a subtle and delicate force, however tremendous its power may be, does not of necessity need a large physical organ for self-expression. If there be in the human frame, in the physical body of man, a point as large as the point of a pin, it may be enough. What we may see with our physical eyes as so small a part of physical matter, from the atomic standpoint may contain heaven knows how many atoms.

These foci, then, these centers of etheric transmission in the human body, in the Sanskrit philosophical and other writings are called chakras, a word meaning "wheels" or "circles," and therefore what we might translate in this connection as ganglia or glands, perhaps. Of the seven, I will mention here only the two highest which are within the skull: the pineal gland, and the pituitary gland. These two little glands or bodies enable two different and yet co-working and interlocking forces of the man, that is the real man, to self-express themselves through the body. They were built for that purpose through aeons upon aeons of evolutionary labor, and in time to come they will be still more perfected than they are now, and therefore better able to express those spiritual and intellectual and mental and emotional and psychic and ethereal powers which in their aggregate are man.

It is through the seven chakras, foci, channels, openings, doors -- call them what you like -- that the incarnating and incarnated entity expresses itself; and through them that the forces of which man is composed are diffused through the entire body, which is his physical being.

Evolution is the breaking down of barriers, and coincidently the building of the vehicle ever more fit for expressing the interior faculties and powers of the inner entity. It is in part this breaking down of barriers, and in part the refining and building of the vehicle, which enable that inner entity to manifest its faculties proportionately. Evolution is not the adding of stone to stone, of experience to experience -- not that alone; it is much more the building up of the vehicle, becoming constantly more fit and ready to express or manifest some part of the transcendent faculties of the human spirit. A highly evolved man has a vehicle more fit and more ready than has a man less highly evolved; and this applies not only physically, but even more strongly on the mental and psychical planes. The inferior man in evolutionary development has not so fit a vehicle, and consequently can express those powers but poorly.

Let us cleanse our minds of crystallized ideas that because things are as they now are, they always have been so, always will be, and always must be; for such would be the reasoning of a child. It is obvious that if things grow, they change; and change is always for betterment in the evolutionary journey -- leaving aside all sidelines of growth, such as degeneration. We are now speaking solely of the general course of evolution.

We are all children of the earth in one very true sense, and at the same time we are the offsprings of heaven. Our earth has not produced that wonder-thing within us which directs and governs our lives, which gives us thinking and feeling and aspirations and longings for better things. No, that part which the earth produces is the physical vehicle; but the wonder-thing is we ourselves, and is native in the realms of spirit and ineffable light.

Therefore, while we definitely place man's body in the animal world, we do so because man's primeval physical form was the originant, the primitive source of that entire animal world -- an earth product. But is this body of ours man? Man's physical body is but the poor shell enclosing and crippling the powers of a spiritual luminary.

Yet it is a wonderful instrument, if we look at it from another standpoint; but in comparison with the glory of the god which man inwardly is, the beast which is his body and through which this inner splendor seeks to shine, is as nothing. It is but an enshrouding veil, a limiting encasement. Still, it must be a fit vehicle, one appropriate to express those indwelling powers of a spiritual, intellectual, mental, psychic, and astral-vital nature, which in the aggregate are man. It is thoughts such as these which teach us to see the value of ethical rules in life -- those fine and noble instincts of the inner being, whose collective mandate is one which we dare not disobey.

Slowly and very gradually do the various vehicles or garments or sheaths, in which the inner nature of man, as of all entities, lives and works, become more refined, more capable of expressing the inner powers and faculties. Behind all there is the general cosmic urge which commingles in action with the individual drive of the entity, always forwards and outwards in self-expression -- for the general as well as the individual impetus is always forwards.

And what is this engine whence flow this general urge and the particular drive? It is a spiritual engine. It is, in fact, the monad -- the divine root within us, taking its general life force from the universal life of which it is an intrinsic and inseparable part, and which at the same time is the fountain of the individual drive. Back of man, back of the animate entities on earth today, back of the many various stems of animate organisms, there is in each case the vital drive of a living monad. These monads are not soiled by the matter with which they work, and in and through which they work -- not more so than the rays from the glorious sun are soiled or spoiled or lose their innate brilliancy by the water and scum and ooze and mud in the fetid swamp through which they may penetrate to some degree, cleansing and purifying all they touch.

It is this inner ray or spark of light in beings which furnishes the urge, the driving force, the innate impulse, to higher things. This light comes from the ocean of universal life; and from that universal life in the beginning of our evolutionary course we issued as unself-conscious god-sparks, so to say; passing through innumerably varied stages along the pathway of evolutionary progress. We learn in each stage lessons appropriate thereto, thus garnering understanding of any such stage of our cosmic journey. Passing thence forwards or, what comes to the same thing in the present instance, farther downwards into matter, we enter the human stage and there attain self-consciousness -- a self-consciousness which grows and broadens ever more and more as time goes on; because with every step forwards, with every new lesson learned, our capacities have a larger field for self-expression; and evolution is nothing but progressive self-expression.

When self-consciousness has been won, each new step thereafter we can take with a more confident and stronger stride ahead; and thus at every step forwards we learn more than we knew during the last stage. It is thus that self-consciousness broadens into universal consciousness again, when we pass the turning point of grossest physical matter, and turn our faces ahead for the long, long upward ascent. So it is at the end of our planetary period that human consciousness rebecomes universal consciousness, returning after having reached the culmination of our evolutionary course back to the Source whence we originally came, no longer as unself-conscious god-sparks but as fully self-conscious gods.

  • (From Man in Evolution by G. de Purucker. Copyright © 1977 by Theosophical University Press)

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