Theosophy Northwest View

The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
July 2002 Vol. 5 Issue 5

The Practical Value of Philosophical Thinking

The man who has been a mere money-grubber all his life, and who, when he dies, dies with an empty soul, leaving behind him all that he has gained in life -- for this "all" is merely material things -- is one who has left no permanent record of himself in the sphere in which he moved; certainly no record proving that he has influenced his fellow men for better; and I would indeed love to ask whether such a man is one who truly can be called a "practical" man? In my judgment he is far otherwise. He may have been a hard worker; he may have sacrificed comfort and peace and human happiness to increase his material possessions; but it seems to me that in all the qualities that make a man truly a man, he has accomplished really nothing at all, and dies a human failure. I think such a man is a most impractical man, for he has abandoned everything that is really worth while in life, and has exchanged it all for what the Bible calls a "mess of pottage." He cannot take his money, his land, his stocks and bonds, nor his material possessions in any form with him; he leaves them all behind, to be squandered usually by those into whose hands they come.

Contrariwise, the man who "lays up for himself," as the New Testament has it, "treasures in heaven," which means within the realm and sphere of his own inner being -- who has inbuilt into his soul the treasury of mighty and grand thoughts, thoughts of sublimity and universal benevolence which not only sway his own life and make it grand, but sway the lives of those who touch his sphere and who thereby are affected by his example -- such a man, I say, is no failure; and I look upon him as having lived a most practical life in the proper sense of the word, because he has made his life affect others powerfully, even in the material sphere, for good. He has been an example, an ideal, for others to look up to and to follow -- to copy in short; and this is because he has lived his life roundly: every part or function of his complex constitution has been brought into play, into activity. His life thus has been lived universally so to speak; and he has not confined, cabined, restricted, his whole existence into the small corner or small field of merely one phase of human intercourse. During his life he has grown on all the planes of his being, because he has been a lover of, a student of, and therefore follower of, ideals and ideas. Indeed, it is ideas that move and that rule the world; it is not at all the mere hunt for material possessions. Who are the men who have made and unmade civilizations? They are the thinkers! --G. de Purucker

Spiritual Urge in Evolution

It is materialism, not evolution, that denies the divinity of man. The human being is not his body; the latter may be a product of evolution from below, but man himself is a self-conscious being, with infinite untapped resources within. It is this infinite part which has come from above; this is the fire which has kindled in the animal body the fire of genius.

In one sense, mankind is from the animals; which means that the human body is the result of ages of evolution through lower kingdoms. But such evolution upward could never have been accomplished without a simultaneous involution of spirit into matter from above. It is the universal life- consciousness-spirit which is the cause of evolution, in seeking to build for itself new and better mansions on earth. But life, consciousness, and spirit are mere abstractions in them-selves, they are the attributes of living beings, and these living beings are the monads, of various classes and degrees.

Monads are sparks or atoms of the universal life. They are spiritual beings, and may be regarded as the ultimate seed or germ of every living thing, down to the smallest atom or particle. Each of these germs starts its own line of evolution; in it lies stored up and latent the potentiality of all that will develop from it. Thus the whole universe is the scene of a host of such living, evolving beings. They are at varying stages of their evolution. When spirit first begins to involve itself in matter, the evolution is very slow, so that long ages are passed in the lower kingdoms of nature. But it is not the organic forms that change one into another, but the indwelling monads, which inhabit one form after another, as their evolution requires. -- Henry T. Edge

Monthly Discussion Group

"Beyond Materialism" is our subject. We will be discussing such questions as: Is physical matter the fundamental reality? What about phenomena such as energy, consciousness, and life? Is materialism a necessary approach for science, or a philosophical and historical choice? What about spiritual materialism? How does materialism affect our personal outlook, and how can we transcend it in our approach to life and personal growth? Come and share your ideas!

Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge.

Future Topics for Discussion Group

The topics for the monthly discussion group for the next few months are:

August 8: Old Age, Disease, and Death
September: Mind: The Slayer of the Real
October: How Powerful Are Our Genes?
November: Exploring the Theosophic Tradition
December: Is Taking Life Ever Justified?

Theosophical Views

Beyond Materialism

By David Pratt

In the nineteenth century most scientists believed that the fundamental constituents of the material world were lifeless, indivisible atoms, analogous to little billiard balls. The random motion of these atoms was believed to have given rise to the amazing order and complexity of the universe and eventually to living, conscious beings. All this was assumed to have come about without any form of intelligent guidance. Indeed, mind and intelligence were considered to be no more than by-products of the molecular motion in our brains.

Subsequent advances in quantum physics have helped undermine this worldview. Virtually all the founders of modern physics became mystics, including Einstein, Schrödinger, Heisenberg, de Broglie, Planck, and Pauli. They discovered that to go beyond the shadows which we mistake for the real world was to go beyond physics altogether and into metaphysics. Many came to the conclusion that far from being a derivative of matter, consciousness is fundamental.

Since the beginning of the twentieth century physicists have penetrated deep into the structure of the atom. It is now known that atoms are not indivisible: they are mostly empty space, and consist of a tiny nucleus of protons and neutrons with clouds of minuscule electrons whirling around it. Subatomic particles are not hard and solid either; they are considered concentrated points of energy, which behave sometimes like particles and sometimes like waves.

The idea of matter being crystallized light echoes what H. P. Blavatsky wrote half a century earlier in The Secret Doctrine, where she speaks of "that infinite Ocean of Light, whose one pole is pure Spirit lost in the absoluteness of Non-Being, and the other, the matter in which it condenses, crystallizing into a more and more gross type as it descends into manifestation" (The Secret Doctrine, 1:481). Material particles, she said, were infinitely divisible centers of force, and matter could therefore exist in infinitely varying degrees of density. Our physical senses have been evolved to perceive only one particular plane of matter, which is interpenetrated by countless other worlds or planes invisible to us because composed of ranges of energy-substance both finer and grosser than our own.

Everything is relative. Physical matter is condensed energy, but what for us is energy would be matter for beings on a higher plane than ours, as is suggested by the fact that energy does not exist in a continuous flow but is composed of discrete units or quanta. Likewise, the energy on the next plane would be matter to an even higher plane. The loftiest form of energy in any particular hierarchy of worlds is what we call spirit or consciousness. As H. P. Blavatsky put it: "Spirit is matter on the seventh plane; matter is Spirit -- on the lowest point of its cyclic activity; and both -- are MAYA." (The Secret Doctrine, 1:633). To say that spirit and matter are "maya" or illusion does not mean that they do not exist, but that we do not understand them as they really are. Any particular plane of energy-substance can be understood only with reference to superior, causal planes. Everything -- from atom to human, from star to universe -- is the expression of something higher.

Throughout the ages, sages and seers have suggested that hidden within the phenomenal world in which we live there are inner worlds of reality -- astral, mental, and spiritual -- and that the physical world is but a pale shadow of the spiritual world. These inner worlds cannot be investigated with physical instruments, but only by delving into the depths of our own minds and consciousness, and this requires many lives of self-purification and self-conquest. Scientists using only materialistic methods are in no position to deny point-blank the possibility of such higher planes.

Most scientists, in fact, now believe that some 90% of the matter in the universe exists in a state unknown to them; it is called "dark matter" because it is physically unobservable, and its existence is known of only by its gravitational effects. Such matter is suggestive of the higher subplanes and planes postulated by theosophy, which are composed of matter of increasingly slower rates of vibration and are therefore beyond our range of perception.

In theosophical philosophy, the physical universe is regarded as no more than a cross section through infinitude. Universal nature is composed of worlds within worlds within worlds, filled full of conscious, living beings at infinitely varying stages of their evolutionary awakenment. Our finite minds cannot embrace the infinite. As G. de Purucker says in his Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy (p . 216), we can do no more than to try and form a simple conception of the Boundless All: never-ending life and consciousness in unceasing motion everywhere.

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