THEOSOPHY, Vol. 50, No. 5, March, 1962
(Pages 213-216; Size: 13K)


[Article number (18) in this Department]

IN Isis Unveiled I, 184, we find the following: "According to the Kabalistic doctrine, the future exists in the astral light in embryo, as the present existed in embryo in the past. While man is free to act as he pleases, the manner in which he will act was foreknown from all time; not on the ground of fatalism or destiny, but simply on the principle of universal, unchangeable harmony, and, as it may be foreknown that, when a musical note is struck, its vibrations will not, and cannot, change into those of another note."

Now, either this is literally true or it is not. If true, I cannot see in what way it differs from fatalism. For example, what is the use of any one of us struggling for perfection and spiritual wisdom if we are, from the start, doomed to failure? -- if, no matter what we do, we cannot change our predestined "note" into any other higher note?

It may be that most students have never been troubled by the foregoing quotation, but for me it has always been the greatest deterrent to effort and enthusiasm of any statement in the philosophy. Not only as regards myself, but as applied to any and all whom one makes an effort to help.

If this quotation is true, then it must also have been foreordained that I should have allowed it to trouble me and become a stumbling block for me.

Any remarks or suggestions on the subject will be appreciated.

From the standpoint of the "personal man," every truth must have its troubling aspect -- and it is also inevitable that whatever is meant to be conveyed by a transmitted teaching will be to some degree misapprehended. For both antipathy and the desire for reward will forever distort doctrine and render it, in transmission, something less than the truth.

In regard to this particular question there seems a special reason for this general observation. In one of her particularly disarming replies to a student's question (Transactions, p. 97), H. P. Blavatsky endeavors to explain why positing the existence of prototypes in the Akasa for all living forms -- reflected on this plane in the Astral Light -- does not imply that the life in those forms is static. H.P.B's questioner wanted to know how, if every form of life has existed prior to the beginning of this Manvantara, evolution can be said to take place at all. H.P.B. writes:

We may compare the Akasa and the Astral Light, with regard to these prototypes, to the germ in the acorn. The latter, besides containing in itself the astral form of the future oak, conceals the germ from which grows a tree containing millions of forms. These forms are contained in the acorn potentially, yet the development of each particular acorn depends upon extraneous circumstances, physical forces, etc. ... We see every plant has an intelligence, or its own purpose of life, so to speak, and its own freewill, to a degree. This is how I, at any rate, understand it. A plant can be receptive or non-receptive, though every plant without an exception feels and has a consciousness of its own.
Even the forms are fixed, however, for this Manvantara only, so that the statement in Isis in respect to "all time" clearly refers to the conditions of this particular period of manifestation. And it would seem that the word "conditions" should be emphasized as having much to do with "the manner in which he [man] will act." For the manner in which we will act simply refers to the peculiar conditions of embodiment which have been built out of our own accomplishments and transgressions in a prior period of evolution. Man as divine prototype is not conditionable, but man as the psychic being who is wedded to the lower plane stimuli of the Astral Light is conditionable to a frightening degree. This, we take it, accounts for the paradox of the passage quoted from the Transactions.

We are denizens of the Astral Light, psychically, emotionally, and intellectually. Our "manner" in life may be said to follow predictable patterns; we move along what Buddha called the "tracks" of existence, whereas the truly enlightened ones are "trackless" and therefore have escaped the endless chain of involuntary incarnation in events and circumstances demanded by lower manasic living.

In another portion of the Transactions (p. 66-7), H.P.B. refers to the question of free will in discussing the difference between the dreaming consciousness of the average man (the "Astral Light man") and the consciousness of the adept -- whose medium of perception is pure Akasa. She writes:

One must be far advanced on the "path" to have a will which can act consciously during his physical sleep. ... When an adept succeeds in doing this he is a Jivanmukta: he is no more of this earth virtually, and becomes a Nirvanee, who can go into Samadhi at will. Adepts are generally classed by the number of "principles" they have under their perfect control, for that which we call will has its seat in the higher EGO, and the latter, when it is rid of its sin-laden personality, is divine and pure.
Now, turning to The Secret Doctrine II, 512-13, we find this explanation of the relationship between the pervasive memories of the Astral Light and the destiny of individual man:
As the finite in the Infinite, as regards manifestation, this light must have its shadowy side -- as already remarked. And as the infinite can never be manifested, hence the finite world has to be satisfied with the shadow alone, which its actions draw upon humanity and which men attract and force to activity. Hence, while it is the universal Cause in its unmanifested unity and infinity, the Astral light becomes, with regard to Mankind, simply the effects of the causes produced by men in their sinful lives. It is not its bright denizens -- whether they are called Spirits of Light or Darkness -- that produce Good or Evil, but mankind itself that determines the unavoidable action and reaction in the great magic agent. It is mankind which has become the "Serpent of Genesis," and thus causes daily and hourly the Fall and sin of the "Celestial Virgin" -- which thus becomes the Mother of gods and devils at one and the same time; for she is the ever-loving, beneficent deity to all those who stir her Soul and heart, instead of attracting to themselves her shadowy manifested essence, called by Eliphas Lévi "the fatal light" which kills and destroys. Humanity, in its units, can overpower and master its effects; but only by the holiness of their lives and by producing good causes. It has power only on the manifested lower principles -- the shadow of the Unknown and Incognizable Deity in Space.
In the Secret Doctrine section titled "Cyclic Evolution and Karma" are passages which seem appropriate to an inquiry into the relationship between the Astral Light and Karma. The celestial prototype of which H.P.B. here speaks has to do with Akasa rather than the Astral Light:
The closer the union between the mortal reflection MAN and his celestial PROTOTYPE, the less dangerous the external conditions and subsequent reincarnations -- which neither Buddhas nor Christs can escape. This is not superstition, least of all is it Fatalism. The latter implies a blind course of some still blinder power, and man is a free agent during his stay on earth. He cannot escape his ruling Destiny, but he has the choice of two paths that lead him in that direction, and he can reach the goal of misery -- if such is decreed to him, either in the snowy white robes of the Martyr, or in the soiled garments of a volunteer in the iniquitous course; for, there are external and internal conditions which affect the determination of our will upon our actions, and it is in our power to follow either of the two. (Secret Doctrine I, 639.)
It is difficult to make a summary of this extraordinarily abstruse subject, but every student who has followed the discussion thus far may attempt it for himself. Apart from the fact that H.P.B.'s choice of words and terms in Isis, as she pointed out, was often faulty so far as carrying her full intended meaning, it is plain that certain conditions of the human situation for each man have been "fixed" on the basis of a prior period of evolution. The qualification is this: So long as a man moves along the "track" of psychically oriented existence, the manner in which he will act can be foreknown -- and the general amount of knowledge which can be gained in any lifetime will be minimal. But if one acts "from within, without," if he perceives in terms of that permanence which Akasic sight symbolizes, and passes beyond the striving for illusory goals whose symbols are reflected in the Astral Light alone, he is no longer subject to the conditioning of lower Manas or the conditions of being which have been established at a lower manasic plane.

All this is precisely the paradox which one whom H.P.B. calls an "Initiate" was endeavoring to convey in the Myth of Er in the last book of The Republic; for Plato saw each soul as free to choose conditions of a new birth, though at the same time responding to the psychic allurements to which it was habitually attracted. So such "choices," on the lower plane, are predictable.

COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:


The soul stands above time and knows nothing of time nor of body. The happenings of a thousand years ago, days spent millenniums hence, are in eternity no further off than is this moment I am passing now. A philosopher says: "He who has once been touched by truth, by right, by good, though it entailed the pangs of hell, that man could never turn therefrom, not for an instant." The man, who'er he be, moved by these three -- truth, righteousness and goodness -- can no more quit these three than God can quit his Godhood. Philosophers say that the soul is double-faced, her upper face gazes at God all the time and her lower face looks somewhat down, informing the senses. The upper face, which is the summit of the soul, is in eternity and has nothing to do with time. 


[Note: Four more paragraphs on this subject, based on what is contained in the above article, are found after the end of the different subject that is dealt with in the 20th article of this department. Here is the first sentence of what the editors said in leading into the additional information: "The following suggestions from a subscriber are in the form of a helpful 'comment upon a comment' in regard to discussion of a question which appeared in THEOSOPHY for March." I thought you should know this now, just in case you would want to go and read it before moving on to the 19th article in this department.--Compiler.]

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[Article number (19) in this Department]

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