Hierarchical Constitution of Nature

By Gottfried de Purucker in collaboration with Katherine Tingley

These articles first appeared in the series H. P. Blavatsky: The Mystery in The Theosophical Path in 1930.


Part I. The Hierarchical Constitution of Nature

"The Universe is worked and guided from within outwards" (quotation from The Secret Doctrine). Examination of the teachings H. P. Blavatsky brought giving proof of her mission. Scientists today on illusory nature of the physical universe. Teaching of Chain of Causation. Matter and Energy two forms of an underlying Reality. Practically no real knowledge of Nature during last fifteen hundred years. Theories of Einstein, Millikan, Eddington. The hierarchies of Nature are the cosmos itself.

Part II. The Hierarchical Constitution of Nature (Continued)

In the Theosophical teachings can be found the explanation of who and what H. P. Blavatsky was. This world the general reflection of what the invisible worlds or planes contain. Quotations from Professor A. Wolf of London University on the nature of 'things'; defines a quantum. The Pythagorean cosmic Monad. H.P.B. quoted in The Secret Doctrine on invisible worlds within our own world as objective and material to their respective inhabitants as ours is to us. Circulations of the Kosmos take place through 'critical points' or laya-centers. Evolution a Habit of Nature. Theosophy an objective-idealism. Constitution of the Universe a self-expression of the worlds of evolving Monads.

Part III. Worlds Invisible and Visible: The Heaven-Worlds and the Hell-Worlds

The so-called Heavens and so-called Hells not eternal but temporary. Free Will inherent in degree in all beings. Ancient literatures quoted. St. Paul echoes Wisdom of the archaic Ages. Lokas and Talas in Brahmanical literature. 'Heavens' represent ascending stages in pathways of the Circulation of the Cosmos.

Part VI. The Visible Worlds

Hierarchical structure of universe. Brahmanical table of Lokas. Universal life-consciousness-substance pervades everything. H. P. Blavatsky quoted showing identity of physical and chemical constituents in the forms of all kingdoms. Origen's opinions condemned by Ecumenical Council in 553 A.D. Nebula, sun, star, a focus or psycho-electric lens. Laya centers, Sir James Jeans' 'singular points'. All worlds are living beings. Morals based on fact of hierarchical structure of universe.

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Part I -- The Hierarchical Constitution of Nature

It is the teachings of H. P. Blavatsky which clearly are the keys of the Mystery which she was to the world, and of the still greater Mystery behind her -- the real character and nature of the Great Ones who sent her forth. In elucidating these very wonderful teachings, therefore, we bring the real nature of the Great Theosophist more clearly to the understanding of modern men.

Now, one of the noblest of these teachings, and one of the most far-reaching in its import, is that of the hierarchical constitution of Universal Nature. This hierarchical structure of Nature is so fundamental, so basic, that it may be truly called the structural framework of being. Either we must look upon Nature as an incomprehensible agglomerate of totally unrelated and incoherent parts most strangely and mysteriously and inexplicably interworking among themselves and producing the marvelous natural phenomena which we all see, or we must look upon Nature as a vast Organism of which every part is interrelated and interlocked and interblended and interworking with every other part, thus forming the framework or structure of the Kosmos, guided by a Universal Reason, and inspired by a Consciousness superior to its component portions. (In order to confine our reasoning within understandable limit, we here refer only to our own Home Universe, which is all that is within the encircling zone of the Milky Way.)

The least thoughtful mind must have realized that the part cannot contain more than the Whole contains. Now, Man, as such an inferior part of the vast Organism of the Universe, has consciousness, and will and reason, and feeling, and emotions, and all the other various energies and faculties which in their aggregate compose him; and it stands to simple reason, therefore, that as man is an inseparable part of the cosmic Whole, he merely reflects in him what that cosmic Whole contains. This statement alone is enough to show the reality of the invisible workings of the cosmic consciousnesses energizing the Universe and working behind the veils of the outward seeming: in other words, the real existence of the living noumena behind the illusory phantasmagoria which the physical universe is.

Our most advanced scientists today openly proclaim the illusory nature of the physical universe, and place the causes of its being in cosmic energies; which is precisely what the Theosophist does. But in doing this, the scientist grants the whole argument for the Theosophist, because consciousness is but the finest and purest form of energy; and, furthermore, the energies that we see working in the cosmic structure are but the most material expressions of the hosts of cosmic beings which infill the invisible universe.

Of course it should be said in passing that the Theosophist very much prefers putting the consciousness-side of Universal Nature as the first or originating cause, and from it he derives all the lower Hierarchies of consciousnesses which stream forth from this consciousness-energy side, and manifest in the universe of physical existence which these Hierarchies themselves compose -- in other words, they live in themselves.

How plain, therefore, becomes the statement, as H. P. Blavatsky so masterly portrayed it in her great books, especially in her The Secret Doctrine, that the Universe is but a vast Organism, or, in other words, an aggregate, cosmically speaking, of innumerable Hierarchies of more or less conscious and developed entities all working together, all springing of course from a common source, and thus producing the universe of which our poor and imperfect physical senses, our only physical channels of report, tell us something. We quote her own words. "The Universe," she writes in The Secret Doctrine (1, 274-5):

is worked and guided from within outwards. As above so it is below, as in heaven so on earth; and man -- the microcosm and miniature copy of the macrocosm -- is the living witness to this Universal Law and to the mode of its action. We see that every external motion, act, gesture, whether voluntary or mechanical, organic or mental, is produced and preceded by internal feeling or emotion, will or volition, and thought or mind. As no outward motion or change, when normal, in man's external body can take place unless provoked by an inward impulse, given through one of the three functions named, so with the external or manifested Universe. The whole Kosmos is guided, controlled and animated by almost endless series of Hierarchies of sentient Beings, each having a mission to perform, and who -- whether we give to them one name or another, and call them Dhyan-Chohans or Angels -- are 'messengers' in the sense only that they are the agents of Karmic and Cosmic Laws. They vary infinitely in their respective degrees of consciousness and intelligence; and to call them all pure spirits without any of the earthly alloy "which time is wont to prey upon" is only to indulge in poetical fancy. For each of these Beings either was, or prepares to become, a man, if not in the present, then in a past or a coming cycle (Manvantara). They are perfected, when not incipient, men; and differ morally from the terrestrial human beings on their higher (less material) spheres, only in that they are devoid of the feeling of personality and of the human emotional nature -- two purely earthly characteristics.

Use has frequently been made, in the course of writing this book, of the expression 'Chain of Causation.' But under no circumstances, if the reader please, should this phrase be taken in the sense of the old physical determinism belonging to a science now outlived and outworn. That physical determinism was practically naught but a wholly unfounded idea that the Universe lacked entirely any background having a reality in consciousness, and therefore that, reduced to the last analysis, the Universe was but a helter-skelter arrangement of fortuitously driven and lifeless atoms without internal guidance, and utterly devoid of any roots striking deep into the fabric of conscious being.

The 'Chain of Causation,' as this phrase is used by the Theosophist, imbodies an entirely different conception; it is not merely founded in the interlocking and interblending consciousnesses of Universal Nature, but actually represents the manifold and indescribable operations of these Hierarchies of consciousnesses in the universe. This Theosophical teaching of the Chain of Causation, or, as it might otherwise be phrased, the Chain of Consequences, therefore, is the polar antithesis of the physical determinism belonging to the old-fashioned and now moribund materialism.

It is impossible for any Theosophical writer to place too much emphasis upon this distinction, for it goes to the root of things, and it is impossible to understand the Theosophical viewpoint without having this first principle of natural being clearly outlined in our minds. We say that the Universe is imbodied in consciousness, flows forth from consciousness, and is wholly built around, upon, and in consciousnesses -- coming now to the particular view. This is a theme, however, which will be dealt with at greater length in the chapter on Karma.

Nature therefore works after the hierarchical manner, because it is hierarchical in structure. Nature is but a complexity of interblending hierarchical structures which in their aggregate form the Universe as it is; and therefore an understanding of this structure enables us to understand the nature of things as they are. Diversity exists everywhere -- one of the commonest known facts of human experience; and we must say either that this universal diversity arises in and out of nothingness, and has no meaning at all: or we must realize that it is simply representative of Nature's hierarchical constitution. There is something wonderfully fascinating about this conception of the innumerable hosts of entities existing in countless Hierarchies, which in their totality are Nature itself.

This picture shows us clearly the pathway of the evolutionary progress of the Eternal Pilgrim, that entitative being to whom we give the name, the Monad. There are no limits in any direction where evolution can be said to begin or where we can conceive of it as ending, for evolution in the Theosophical conception is but the process followed by these centers of consciousness as they pass from eternity to eternity in a beginningless and endless course of unceasing growth.

Growth -- here is the key to the real meaning of the Theosophical teaching of evolution, for growth is but the expression in detail of the general process of the unfolding of faculty and organ, which the usual word 'evolution' includes. The only difference between 'evolution' and 'growth' is that the former is a general term in the Theosophical conception, and the latter is a specific and particular phase of this procedure of Nature: in other words, as the mathematicians would say, growth is the particular instance of the general rule called Evolution; but they are essentially the same.

The human seed of microscopic size grows into a six-foot man, and in doing so throws outward into physical manifestation the energies and powers and faculties pertaining to the individual consciousness therein working, and does so wholly along the lines of a causative chain of consequences. And what is this but the evolution of the inlocked and infolded powers resident in that human seed from the beginning, and merely awaiting fit opportunity of time and circumstance to blossom forth into manifestation? Obviously this is growth, and also obviously it is evolution.

Growth, therefore, is not a phase only of evolution, or the mere consequence of evolutionary activity alone, but is, in fact, a demonstration of how evolution itself works. Our meaning is, or should be, very clear, for it is simply that evolution and growth are actually the same thing, whatever modern evolutionists or Darwinists may have to say about the matter. Their opinions they are as much entitled to as other people are to theirs. But there is no need for anyone to accept theoretical speculations concerning the nature and manner of the working of evolution if he has sufficient insight of his own to see that those opinions are personal to those who enunciate them.

Growth is not merely the increase from the small to the large as popularly supposed, as we see it in the case of the growth of the physical body in mere size; but it is, more truly speaking, the throwing out or self-expression in all the varied multiplicity of type and form, of shape and characteristic, of faculty and hitherto latent energy now coming forth into kinetic manifestation, of an entity behind the scenes, or dwelling within -- and above the visibly evolving or growing being.

The identity of evolution and growth would seem to be so perfectly self-evident that one may pause a moment and wonder and question oneself why this obvious identity has not been noted before, and due recognition as a fact of Nature given to it. Probably the reason is simply that growth is such a familiar thing, as we humans see it to be, and evolution as a theory is so surrounded with misty and unnecessary attributes of speculation, that people unconsciously think that the two must be different.

It is again to H. P. Blavatsky that is due the original work in our age of calling attention to the above obvious fact. It would probably be quite impossible to understand the real nature and the real operation and the perfect interblending and intercohering nature of the Hierarchies which infill the universe, and, indeed, make that universe as well as infill it, if another proposition of philosophy and of natural law which H. P. Blavatsky called the attention of thinking people to, is not taken into due consideration. It is this: Fundamentally, as even modern science is now openly preaching, matter in all its various ranges, and energy in all its various activities, are but two forms or aspects of an underlying Reality, both being aspects or forms possessing an entirely illusory character. People have been so accustomed for many hundreds of years to think of energy and matter as radically different things, that it is somewhat difficult to realize that neither has an essential reality of its own, but that both matter and energy are the two phases or 'events' which the Reality behind both imbodies itself in as a consequence of the Chain of Consequences before spoken of, and to which this Reality is itself subject, because this Reality is itself the originating cause.

This may sound rather philosophically abstract, but the meaning is simply that the causative energy, which is this Reality, works after certain manners, and in so working, must necessarily follow the laws of its own being, in other words, its own karmic Chain of Causation or of Consequences; and therefore it is involved or inwrapped into the web of its own self-expressions. The case is precisely similar with man, who, acting through his consciousness, and motivated by impulses of his own being, inwraps or involves himself in a web or a network of destiny, which, as just said, originated in his own essence, in his own will and intelligence; and of necessity therefore he must undergo to the bitter end the fruitage of the causes he himself has set in motion.

This Reality behind, or more accurately speaking, within, all things, is Consciousness. And to be even more particularly definite, we should unquestioningly say consciousnesses.

We Occidentals are entirely too apt to deal in glittering generalities and satisfy our minds with more or less vague, generalizing expressions as signifying concrete facts. Of course the aggregate of consciousnesses is totalized in the expression 'consciousness,' just as other abstracts, such as 'length' and 'breadth' and 'width' and 'depth' are merely generalizing expressions, all referring, however, when they have any definite meaning, to particular things, which are long, and broad, and wide, and deep. There is no such thing as length and breadth and width and depth existing apart from things which are long and broad and wide and deep; and so therefore do we insist that while consciousness or any other similar generalizing term is convenient enough as an expression, it means nothing at all unless we mean it only as an abstract way of referring to aggregates of particular things which are individual consciousnesses.

In exactly the same way, when we speak of matter, and energy or force, or when we speak of spirit and substance, of which matter and energy are the physicalized expressions, we must remember that all these terms are abstractions, generalized expressions for certain entities manifesting aggregatively. Spirit, for instance, is not different from matter; it is only relatively so, or evolutionally so. The difference lies not in the roots of these two, where they become one in the underlying Consciousness-Reality, but in their character as two evolutional forms of manifestation of that underlying Reality. In other words, to use the terminology of modern scientific philosophy, spirit and matter are each of them respectively an 'event' as the underlying Reality passes through eternal duration.

Particularizing, therefore, what men call Spirit is the summit or acme or root or seed or beginning or noumenon -- call it by any name you may wish -- of any particular Hierarchy existing in the innumerable hosts of the Cosmic Hierarchies, all of which are inextricably interblended and interworking.

Now, what men call Matter or Substance, is in one sense the most developed, or in another sense the most evolved form of expression of this same Spirit in any one such particular Hierarchy. And this is but another way of saying that matter is but inherent energies or inherent powers or inherent faculties of that same Spirit unfolded, rolled out, and self-expressed. It is the nether pole of what the original and originating spirit is; for spirit is the primal or original pole of the evolutionary activity which brought forth through its own inherent energies the appearance or manifestation in the cosmic spaces of such a Hierarchy. Between the originant or spirit and the resultant or matter, there is all the infinite range of hierarchical stages or steps, thus forming the Ladder of Life or the Ladder of Being of any one such Hierarchy.

In common with most, and probably all, the great religions and philosophies of the archaic ages, these intermediary spaces or degrees of the hierarchical ladder -- and we are speaking at the present moment of any one particular Hierarchy as illustrating the general rule -- are seven in number; or, looking at the matter from another viewpoint, these intermediary stages or grades or degrees or rungs of the cosmic Ladder of Life or Being may be enumerated as ten in number. Both methods of enumeration are correct. The difference in figure lies only in the following fact: the septenary or sevenfold Hierarchy is all of the Hierarchy that pertains to the world of manifestation ranging from the spiritual to the ultra-material of any Hierarchy; while the tenfold system of counting includes not only the sevenfold manifested worlds, but also three others of an ultra-spiritual nature and character. These three others we can call the Divine.

Now, conceive to yourself not any one such particular Hierarchy, no matter how great or how small it may be in cosmic space, but numberless hosts of such Hierarchies existent in and infilling and actually composing the fields of boundless infinitude, in other words, the spaces of Space; and all these interlocked and interworking and interrelated and interblended: and you have before you what may be called a thumbnail sketch of the hierarchical structure of the Universe.

Many philosophers and indeed theologians in Occidental countries have wondered whence arose in the minds of the ancients their conception of the hierarchical classes of the gods. How was it that all over the world and in all the ages and in many parts of the world even today, the theogonical construction of the universe, as a philosophical and religious scheme, came into the minds of these ancients?

The question is, in truth, a very pertinent one, because, according to Theosophy, the Theogony of the ancients and their more abstract and refined philosophizing are based on the hierarchical structure of the Universe as we have outlined it. How did they acquire this knowledge? Whence did they derive it unless from the exercise of the same inner faculties of vision and from the keen powers of observation that we know they possessed? We go further, however, and say that their knowledge of these things came to them from the same source whence H. P. Blavatsky derived it: from the Association of great Sages and Seers who are the Guardians of the mystic, archaic Wisdom-Religion.

Mighty men indeed were some of those ancients, men whose names today even are revered; yet it had been customary in Occidental countries during the small period of time of fifteen hundred years or more last past, to speak of them as being men whose untutored faculties and aspiring but more or less ignorant understanding, brought forth these marvels of religious and philosophical 'ingenuity.' How sensible men have ever been able to reconcile an imbecile theory such as this last with the known intuitional power and strength of intellect that the greatest men among the ancients had, is something which must cause thoughtful men to pause in amaze. But the explanation is simple enough. During the last fifteen hundred years or so there was practically no knowledge of Nature whatsoever, except the small portion that came over to the Dark Ages from those ancient nations surrounding the Mediterranean Sea; and consequently men in our early European history were so self-sufficient in their satisfaction with their own particular form of religion that they failed to see into what an extravagant logical impasse they had brought themselves.

Growing knowledge of Nature, in other words, the advancing science of European civilization, in time broke down this egoism of our forefathers of the Dark and Medieval periods; and there then succeeded the equivalently self-sufficient egoism of the new-born science. Scientific thinkers and speculators were so desperately afraid of dropping back into the old ruts of scholastic thinking that they blinded themselves to the deductions which they ought of necessity to have drawn from the facts of Nature even then discovered.

But truth is mighty and will prevail, says the old proverb, and this aforetime self-sufficiency has utterly gone to pieces with the new insights into Nature that more recent natural research has given to us, and with the marvelous philosophical deductions that our brightest and best minds have drawn from these latest advances in scientific discovery. So true is this, that the Theosophical student and thinker finds himself obliged to be ever on the alert in order merely to keep abreast with the amazing rapidity with which new discoveries are made and new deductions are drawn from them, as concerns the universe surrounding us; in practically all instances, every new discovery, we find, corroborates and strengthens the Theosophical position, and proves as true the marvelous doctrines of our Theosophical philosophy, which H. P. Blavatsky, brought again to the Western World.

Our greatest scientific luminaries today are becoming mystics indeed, and they have but to follow to the logical end the lines of thought that today are already laid in scientific theory and speculation in order to come into full concord and scientific and philosophical union with the Theosophical standpoints or viewpoints respecting not merely matters touched on in this chapter, but other natural facts as well.

We have great men in science today, for instance, openly teaching ideas regarding the fundamental identity of matter and energy. The amazing theories of men like Dr. Albert Einstein and Dr. Robert A. Millikan, just to mention two names, stand forth on all fours, so far as principles go, with the Theosophical teachings regarding the same fields of thought. Our greatest scientists today are beginning to tell us, as Professor A. S. Eddington of Cambridge University (England) has done early this year [1929] that all Nature is but imbodied consciousness, or, as we Theosophists would say, imbodied consciousnesses. Declarations such as this last are now listened to not merely with patience by the rank and file of the other scientists, but are eagerly read, thought about, and speculated upon by the man in the street.

It is the immense diversity existing throughout manifested Nature which offers a problem inexplicable both from the standpoint of mere logic and from that of even current philosophical and scientific theory -- and, let us add, inexplicable by current religious ideas -- unless the roots of this bewildering diversity of things and natural beings are laid squarely in the foundations of the hierarchical structure of the Universe -- in other words, in the vast complexity of interlocking and interworking and interblending Hierarchies of the cosmos.

These Hierarchies do not exist merely in the cosmos, nor in any sense do they exist apart from the cosmos; nor are they different from the cosmos; nor are they merely expressions of the cosmos; nor are they in any other sense or in any other manner, or after any other wise, separate or distinct from the cosmos: but are in very fact the cosmos itself, because not only do they infill it and inform it, but what the cosmos or universe is, it is, because it is they. They are the bone of the bone and the blood of the blood, as well as the form of the form, of the cosmos. It is they that make the bewildering diversity which surrounds us, even in this cross-section of the Universe which we call our physical sphere; for this physical sphere is what we Theosophists call a 'world' or 'plane' of the Boundless All; and these worlds or planes are practically infinite in number and exist in all-various degrees or stages of ethereality or materiality.

There are other cross-sections or worlds, or planes, which are purely spiritual, so far as our own particular Home-Hierarchy is concerned; and on the other hand this same Home-Hierarchy of ours contains other worlds or planes or spheres much more material than is our own especial or particular cross-section of the All which we call our physical sphere. All these: the spiritual and the material, and all intermediate planes or spheres, are infilled, filled full, replete with, living entities, entities in all-various grades or degrees of evolutionary advancement as regards consciousness, and therefore of faculty, and therefore of energy, and therefore of substance, because all these are fundamentally one. And all this vast and bewilderingly incomputable aggregate of hosts of entities in all-various degrees of consciousness, are in themselves not only the informing spirits thereof, but are the very fabric and framework in which they themselves live and work, much as man's spirit-soul is the origin even of his own physical body, as well as of all the other elements of his inner constitution, and at the same time is his inspiring and inspiriting Genius -- 'genius' in the old Latin sense of the word.

Part II -- The Hierarchical Constitution of Nature (Continued)

As H. P. Blavatsky says so truly in The Secret Doctrine (I, 274), quoted in our last chapter, "the Universe is worked and guided from within outwards." This of course must be obviously true to anyone who understands the first principles of the doctrine of Evolution, or Unfolding, as it is taught in Theosophy, and as this operation of Nature is becoming more clearly understood by our modern thinkers. It is the Hierarchies of Nature which lie in what we may popularly call the invisible worlds, which furnish the urging impulses which are manifest in this our physical world, and which we human beings sense more or less clearly. Because the roots of our physical being are in those invisible worlds, therefore do they express here on our plane in our sphere the operations of the causative chain of events which originate in those invisible spheres.

It should not be thought for a moment that these invisible worlds or spheres or planes are essentially different from our own, for the exact contrary is the case. The old Hermetic axiom is a very true one, and it voices not only the consensus of opinion of the greatest minds all over the world in ancient days, but also the instinctive sense of harmony and proportion which any unbiased mind actually has. This Hermetic axiom is usually quoted as follows: "What is below is as what is above; and what is above is as what is below."

The idea is not that the physical world is a photographic copy, so to say, in every minutest detail, or in every particular of shape, nor in all the minutiae of operation, which characterize the invisible worlds, but that this world is the general reflection, the mirroring on broad lines, of what the invisible worlds or spheres or planes contain. It does not mean, for instance, that there is a United States of America, as existent in this world, somewhere in the invisible worlds, with every exact detail of coastal outline, or of mountain range, or of every particular atom in any particular portion of the rocky sphere of this part of the New World; but it does mean that the United States of America as existent in this world, is a reflection or copy in the general of some equivalent continental body existent in the world next superior to ours.

All these invisible worlds have each one its own congeries of what we may call the physical characteristics of that world: mountains, lakes, oceans, winds; therefore an atmosphere, stars, and what-not. All these are, relatively speaking, as solid and substantial to the inhabitants of any such sphere as our own are to us. It would be incomprehensible if throughout the boundless ranges of the Universe, invisible and visible, things were utterly different, from what they are here, or that the working energies and conscious entities should be utterly contrary to and different here from what they are in other, and to us, invisible worlds and spheres and planes. Nature does not work in that way. She always follows lines of least resistance in her growth and in her building of things; and the line of least resistance is always that of the Chain of Causation as hereinbefore described, which in its workings we call Evolution.

We now turn to a somewhat different aspect of our subject, but one which is, nevertheless, extremely important, and which will make a direct appeal to most thinking men. It can be encompassed in the following question: What relation do these invisible worlds have to man before birth and after death? This includes a subject which will be developed more fully later. For the purpose of rounding out our present theme, however, we introduce it in passing in order to give a general view of the subject to which this and the previous chapters have been devoted.

The truth is that man, like every other entity or thing, is a child of the Universe in which he lives: he springs from it, he lives in it, and he returns into the deep and mystic recesses of the arcana of its bosom when he passes away to his adventures after death, or, what comes to the same thing, the adventures that he undergoes before reincarnation into a new physical body. These thoughts form a subject as fascinating as it is both suggestive and instructive.

Man, then, like everything else -- entity or what is called 'thing' -- is, to use the modern terminology of philosophical scientists, an 'event', that is to say, the expression of a central consciousness-center or Monad passing through one or another particular phase of its long, long pilgrimage over and through infinity, and through eternity. This, therefore, is the reason why the Theosophist often speaks of the Monadic consciousness center as the Pilgrim of Eternity. Any one phase that this monadic center may itself bring to pass, or, in other words, manifest in, we may call an 'event'. The human being on this earth in any one incarnation, therefore, is an 'event' in this sense, a passing or temporary expression of the energies and substances flowing forth from the monadic consciousness-center at the core of his being.

Today's scientific thinkers have grasped this essential idea of the ancients. We quote from an article in The Observer, of London, England, issue of January 27, 1929, and written by Professor A. Wolf, Professor of Scientific Theory in London University:

One of the commonest words in everyday use is the word 'thing,' or its equivalent. Whatever part of the real world one refers to, one is prone to describe it as a 'thing,' having certain qualities, standing in various relations, doing certain functions, and so on. The 'thing,' whatever it may be, is commonly regarded as a permanent pivot supporting changing qualities, relations, functions, etc. And throughout the history of science, thinkers have grappled with the problem as to the nature of 'things.' In the domain of physical science, this problem is generally referred to as the problem of the constitution of matter. Many theories have been put forward; and the electric theory of matter is the latest of such theories. What I want to explain now is how the electric theory of matter, coupled with the theory of relativity, is tending to change our deep-rooted mental habit of regarding reality as made up of 'things.'
The oldest and most familiar theory of the constitution of matter is that known as the atomic theory. According to it all 'things' are composed of certain indivisible particles called atoms (or 'indivisibles'). In recent times, some ninety different kinds of atoms were assumed to exist, and all material things were supposed to consist of such atoms in all sorts of combinations and permutations. The changes visible in all things were regarded as due to changes in the arrangements of the atoms, not to changes in the atoms themselves, which were believed to be immutable. But this view was found to be erroneous, and has now been replaced by the theory that atoms are not such ultimate immutable 'things,' but charges of positive and negative electricity (protons and electrons) of varying degrees of complexity.
Now a charge of electricity is a form of influence, and is not comparable to the diminutive billiard-balls or pebbles, after the likeness of which the atoms used to be conceived. The theory of relativity, moreover, attributes supreme importance to the relations rather than to the 'stuff' of reality. This means that the old habit of referring to 'things' needs reconsideration, for the 'things' have turned out to be 'events,' and if we continue to speak of 'things,' we can only do so for the sake of convenience, just as we continue to speak of the 'rising' and the 'setting' of the sun, though we know better.
The outlook may be difficult for many people. We are so used to thinking of 'things' that we commonly refer to even a ray of light as a 'thing,' as though it were comparable in some way with 'the everlasting hills.' Now we have to reverse our comparison, and think of the everlasting hills as events comparable with the vibration of light-waves though enormously slower. To think of events without permanent material pivots may cause the same feeling of amazement that Alice in Wonderland felt when the Cheshire Cat vanished, leaving nothing but a grin. A cat without a grin, yes; but a grin without a cat! We seem to pass from solid earth to unstable water or tenuous air. Yet old mental habits may be wrong. And the thought that some twenty-four centuries ago already the Greek Heraclitus thought of the world as an incessant flux of events . . . may serve as a stimulus to a new orientation. . . .
Even the electric theory of matter, of course, is not entirely free from mystery, for nobody professes to know what an electric charge is in itself, apart from those metrical values with which alone the physicist is concerned. Hence the ease with which some people think of the electric charges composing the atom as a kind of dummy pivot supporting the metrical values in question. Hence also Professor Eddington's revival of the 'mind-stuff' theory, which makes matter intrinsically of the same nature as consciousness.

This shows at once the illusory nature of the Universe in any one -- and indeed in all -- of its manifestations, whether they be spiritual or physical or intermediate, and particularly so as regards the physical universe.

Not only man, therefore, but the Universe in which he lives, may be, and properly is, to be looked upon as an 'event.' This is the core of the meaning of the teachings of the ancient Hindu mystics, such as Patanjali in his Yoga Aphorisms, where he sets forth the true teaching that the Universe may be said to exist for the purposes of the Self, meaning not merely the self of man -- nor the self of any other particular entity -- but the Self of the Universe first of all, including therefore the numberless Selves which that Universe comprises.

Professor Wolf, furthermore, in a subsequent issue of The Observer of February 3, 1929, has the following to say about the changing views of Science, and therefore the changing outlook of man upon the Universe in which he lives, and consequently man himself:

In view of what I said last time about the electric constitution of matter, and the present tendency to think of reality in terms of 'events' rather than 'things,' it should not altogether surprise the reader to be told that there is a marked tendency to think of reality, not as consisting of matter, which fills space, and endures in time, but rather as composed of quanta of actions.*
[*Professor Wolf defines a quantum in the following manner:
"The expression 'quantum' means, with reference to physical 'action' very much the same that atom means, or used to mean, with reference to 'matter.' An atom was believed to be an invisible particle of matter; a quantum means an indivisible quantity of 'action.' ('Action' here means energy multiplied by time. The importance of taking time into account when estimating any exercise of energy will be clear on grounds of commonsense.) Now, according to quantum-theory, action is not something that flows continuously, so to say, and is capable of being taken in any quantity you like. No. There is an indivisible unit of action. You can have a whole unit (called h), or a number of such whole units; but you cannot have a fraction of one. An atom, for instance, when it radiates light, does not do so continuously, but intermittently -- in pulses, so to say. A beam of light, it is true, seems continuous, not intermittent; but that is only because there are innumerable atoms taking part in its production."]
The substitution of one kind of quantum of action for some ninety different kinds of atoms of matter, is clearly a vast gain in simplification and unification. Moreover, the old conception of matter as essentially inert and dead, is got rid of once for all, and thereby the way is prepared to bridge the traditional chasm between the living and the lifeless. . . . But most important of all, perhaps, is the fact that the quantum theory, by helping to discredit the old classical mechanics, has also helped to discredit the fatalistic determinism that was wont to go hand in hand with it. This is something of first-rate importance. . . . It should go a long way to set the world free for the pursuit of ideals, when economists, academic and realistic, see their ideal shattered, and grasp the incongruity of making human science deterministic in imitation of a discredited mechanics.

From these quotes can the reader have any grounds for doubt as to the marvelous advance made by scientific research and deduction towards a union with the logical Theosophical Philosophy brought anew to the Western World by H. P. Blavatsky? There are, however, certain passages in Professor Wolf's remarks, before which the Theosophist must pause long, and in one or two cases these remarks contain ideas or conceptions or conclusions or deductions, which he cannot accept.

One of these last is Professor Wolf's reference to the so-called traditional chasm 'between the living and the lifeless.' The Theosophist admits no such distinction as 'living' and 'lifeless,' and he feels that such a distinction is entirely arbitrary as well as illogical, because he cannot see how life, which is the very root of the universe, and incessantly flowing forth as indeed an integral part of consciousness, can exist separate and apart from other portions or divisions or 'events' of the Universe, which are arbitrarily called 'lifeless.'

Another point, however, upon which the Theosophist is in profound agreement with modern thinking as expressed by Professor Wolf, is in the latter's reference to "events without permanent material pivots." Now the Theosophist has always pointed to the obvious philosophical fact that to talk of a permanent material center or entity is like talking of changeless change or some other particularly confusing contradiction in terms. The entire hierarchical construction of the Universe is impermanent when considered either in the vast aggregate, or in any one of its details, because that hierarchical construction itself is but a cosmic 'event' in the sense hereinbefore outlined; and therefore, being entirely impermanent, wholly changeable, however lasting and durable particular phases of it may be, this shows that it is illusory in the Theosophical and archaic sense of the word; in other words, that it is not everlasting, eternal, or permanently enduring, as consciousness itself is, consciousness per se.

If we, then, look upon the hierarchical structure or constitution of the Universe as reducible to two main ranges of operation -- spiritual and material -- governed, at least in our own physical realms by two main systems so called, that is to say, the electromagnetic system and the gravitational system; and if we further are able to reduce these two main systems to one, as Dr. Albert Einstein has apparently recently succeeded in doing mathematically in his paper presented to the Prussian Academy of Science on January 30, 1929 -- and which, so reports say, contains barely six pages of text! -- we come to another fundamental teaching of the Ancient Wisdom. It is this: all cosmical manifestation in the last analysis is the expression of a unitary cosmic consciousness-energy, in other words, the Pythagorean cosmic Monad -- a very fundamental Theosophical Teaching. The entire Universe therefore is the product or self-expression or the flowing forth of energies and faculties inherent in what we may call the one and sole fundamental and essential Cosmic Energy-Substance -- which is the operation in its phenomenal aspect of the Cosmic Consciousness. We refer here only to our own Home-Universe, which, includes all within the encircling zone of our Milky Way, so far as our physical universe is concerned. That Home-Universe of physical conformation and with all its inhering energies, is, we should remember, only a cross-section, so to speak, of the spaces of Space in which we live, in other words, of the Kosmic Hierarchy of which our physical universe is but one of the planes or worlds or spheres of expression.

We repeat: things and entities are in this, our own physical Home-Universe, what they are and as they are because all of them whatsoever are but reflections or mirrorings of what exists in the invisible spaces of Space, of which our inner consciousness knows much, but of which our brain-mind knows but little. The entities and beings and things inhabiting or existing in those other worlds or planes or spheres are as real as those which exist in our own physical universe -- in fact, more so. They have their own sequences of time and of space, and their own sequences of consciousness, all adapted to the respective spheres in which they inhere and which they verily themselves compose.

H. P. Blavatsky sets the matter forth very beautifully in The Secret Doctrine (I, 605):

For example, the Doctrine refuses (as Science does, in one sense) to use the words 'above' and 'below,' 'higher' and 'lower,' in reference to invisible spheres, as being without meaning. Even the terms 'East' and 'West' are merely conventional, necessary only to aid our human perceptions. For, though the Earth has its two fixed points in the poles, North and South, yet both East and West are variable relatively to our own position on the Earth's surface, and in consequence of its rotation from West to East. Hence, when 'other worlds' are mentioned -- whether better or worse, more spiritual or still more material, though both invisible -- the Occultist does not locate these spheres either outside or inside our Earth, as the theologians and the poets do; for their location is nowhere in the space known to, and conceived by, the profane. They are, as it were, blended with our world -- interpenetrating it and interpenetrated by it. There are millions and millions of worlds and firmaments visible to us; there are still greater numbers beyond those visible to the telescopes, and many of the latter kind do not belong to our objective sphere of existence. Although as invisible as if they were millions of miles beyond our solar system, they are yet with us, near us, within our own world, as objective and material to their respective inhabitants as ours is to us. But, again, the relation of these worlds to ours is not that of a series of egg-shaped boxes enclosed one within the other, like the toys called Chinese nests; each is entirely under its own special laws and conditions, having no direct relation to our sphere. The inhabitants of these, as already said, may be, for all we know, or feel, passing through and around us as if through empty space, their very habitations and countries being interblended with ours, though not disturbing our vision, because we have not yet the faculties necessary for discerning them. Yet by their spiritual sight the Adepts, and even some seers and sensitives, are always able to discern, whether in a greater or smaller degree, the presence and close proximity to us of Beings pertaining to other spheres of life.

There is among all these various worlds or spheres or planes an unceasing and uninterrupted intercommunication of energies and forces and of substances passing from the ethereal into what we would call the physical and returning again into the ethereal realms. And this intercommunication we call the Circulations of the Universe. These Circulations of the Universe may be figurated perhaps by the circulation of the blood in the human physical body, making its rounds every few moments or so, or perhaps more accurately, by the nervous aura or nervous energy, which operates in a similar way. Transfer this idea, then, or perhaps re-form it, and make these Circulations pass from spirit through many intermediate degrees down into physical matter, and after operating in this lowest stage of the Hierarchy, returning again unto its primordial spiritual source; and the idea is all before you in a thumb-nail sketch.

Now, what is it that composes these circulations of the Kosmos? First, as regards the pathways along which the streams of entities and things pass, they are what we may call the lines of least resistance followed by the rivers of evolving entities. They take place through and by means of certain 'critical points,' which H. P. Blavatsky, using a Sanskrit word, calls Laya-Centers. The Laya-Centers we may translate otherwise as 'dissolving points,' or points where spirit enters a lower sphere, becoming the primordial matter thereof; or, inversely, where the highest matter of any one of these spheres rises and disappears through these Laya-Centers into the superior sphere or world.

Sir James H. Jeans, in Astronomy and Cosmogony, approaches extremely close to this doctrine of the Archaic Wisdom in what he calls his 'singular points.' He writes:

The type of picture which presents itself, somewhat insistently, is that the centers of the nebulae are of the nature of 'singular points,' at which matter is poured into our universe from some other, and entirely extraneous, spacial dimension, so that, to the denizen of our universe they appear as points at which matter is being continually created.

This hypothesis of Sir James Jeans is a most notable scientific corroboration of the accuracy of H. P. Blavatsky's foresight and vision of coming scientific discovery, although the Theosophist would reject the use of the term 'dimensions,' and would substitute therefor the expressions 'other spheres' or 'other worlds' or 'other planes,' or some other phrase of equivalent import.

The Universe, like everything else, is a creature of habit. There is no reason why men should have habits, or the beasts, or the trees, if the Universe has not. What we call 'habits' are but the expression in human conduct of what has become customary through reiterated operations; and so it is as regards the Universe also. Evolution itself is but a Habit of Nature, and therefore of individual entities and beings and things working along what have become customary lines of action, so far as evolution is to be looked upon as a method; although of course Evolution as a thing in itself is more truly the unrolling or unfolding, or bringing out, or self-manifestation, of energies, forces, powers, faculties, forming part of the essential nature of each and of every evolving thing or entity.

It should be perfectly apparent from what we have already stated that the hierarchical structure of the Universe is but the self-expression of the unfolding or of the rolling out or evolving of the aggregate hosts of monadic consciousness-centers which are the fundamentals of all that is.

The German philosopher, Baron Gottfried von Leibniz, had a curiously clear and suggestive intuition of this fact, and of these Monads, as he has outlined it in his Monadologie. To him the Universe was composed, so far as ultimates are concerned, of literally numberless hosts of Monads, each one a mirror of the Universe and therefore reflecting the nature and activities of every other Monad, and yet existing unto itself as an eternally enduring consciousness-substance-center.

The Theosophical Religion-Philosophy-Science may be called in modern philosophical terminology an Objective Idealism, for while the principles of the Theosophical philosophy are idealistic in ultimates, nevertheless we do not deny the transitory objective reality of entities and things, whether we call them 'events,' after the manner of modern science, or whether we call them the transitory and passing self-expressions of the monadic essence existing in such or other phases of the Monad's eternal pilgrimage. Thus when the Theosophist says that the physical matter of the Mineral Kingdom is composite of Monads, he does not mean that these spiritual consciousness-centers are radically mineral things, or in essence mineral, because the mineral is only a passing or transitory phase through which the Monad is passing; but he says that the Mineral Kingdom -- or, indeed, any other Kingdom visible or invisible -- is the self-expression of a particular host of monadic essences traversing or passing through that phase of its cosmic pilgrimage.

It would be entirely wrong to imagine the Monad of a Newton or of an Einstein, for instance, having at some remote period in its past been but a speck of mineral substance with no previous spiritual history behind it, and which slowly through the evolving aeons grew to humanhood, according to the ideas of the old fatalistic determinism. On the contrary, the Monad is a consciousness-center and by reason of its karma rolls out from itself the all-various energies and faculties which are essentially its own, and which, during such evolutionary journey, spring forth naturally from its own core. Thus a seed put into the ground brings forth the plant which is potentially inwrapped or involved in the seed's essence; but such seed was neither newly created as a mere physical seed without anything of a spiritual nature within it, nor only a complex of physical elements themselves composed of dead and inert physical atoms.

Here, then, we see just what produced the hierarchical structure or constitution of the Universe. It is all a self-expression of the hosts of evolving Monads which not merely inform it, but which actually are it.

Part III