THEOSOPHY, Vol. 50, No. 11, September, 1962
(Pages 501-503; Size: 9K)


[Article number (24) in this Department]

ONE recent meeting discussion was on the subject, "The Scheme of Evolution." What is it about the word "scheme" or "plan" which alternately appeals and repels? This seems to be a fairly common psychological reaction among students. It certainly has been so in the case of the person inquiring.

If, in each human being, there is a "will to meaning," one can readily understand the appeal of any description of life's interrelations which suggests a harmonious fulfillment based on understanding and accord. Every lesser intelligence becomes a greater, and in the process realizes a conception of order which may be described as a sort of "plan" or "scheme." To be able to believe that one is fulfilling a significant role in the vast drama of life, that the story, so to speak, has a point, is to have an encouraging and perhaps necessary faith. Yet, as with all abstruse metaphysical questions, the tendency of the many religions of the world has been to answer such questions too soon and in oversimplified manner. The life of a Buddha or a Christ indicates that the attainment of attitudes such as they embodied is the natural focus of evolutionary struggle towards enlightenment. But when the scheme is institutionalized, when salvation is substituted for self-realization, when priests and theologians unite in providing specifics of the course that must be followed to attain Buddhahood or Christhood, the conception of "scheme" or "plan" becomes static.

A passage from Macneile Dixon in The Human Situation makes some excellent points in this regard. Discussing the hope of "security" in a particular "plan" -- for which God becomes an appropriate, if stultifying, symbol -- Dixon writes:

The world has been called theatrum Dei, God's theatre. And if we were merely players on the stage, repeating words put into our mouths, performing actions assigned to us, and like them really unconcerned, appearing to suffer and yet not suffering, the situation were beyond rebuke. That the world is not to their mind has never ceased to surprise, if not to exasperate the [Christian] philosophers. Its pattern displeases them, and they would remould it nearer to their hearts' desire. By some natural talent they perceive its deficiencies, but the plan of operations is kept a secret. Alfonso the Wise of Spain, indeed, remarked that "he could have suggested improvements in the universe had the Creator consulted him." Unfortunately at that moment a terrible thunderstorm burst over the Alcazar, and there is no record of his proposals, if he had any.
In terms of Eastern thought, "the scheme of evolution" means simply a provision -- arising from opportunity provided by cyclic law -- for gradually exhausting the karma of many lives on earth. If the "Divine plan" culminates in the exhaustion of karma, complete fulfilment is reached when incarnation is no longer necessary. With this viewpoint theological Christianity has much in common, save that the terms are less abstract and it is made possible for the simplest soul to believe that God knows the plan, even if it is beyond mortal understanding.

Another paragraph from Dixon is useful here:

The truth is that Christianity did not, as is commonly supposed, convert Europe. On the contrary, Europe transformed Christianity. It was an Eastern and ascetic creed, a creed of withdrawal from life rather than of participation in its fierce conflicts and competitions, and was so understood in the early centuries. But the Western races were not prepared to abandon the world. Their energies were too great, the natural man in them unsubduable. So it came about that Christianity came to terms with the West, and the accommodation resulted in an ill-defined compromise. The world, indeed, is not our home, which is God, they said, but we are here by His will and inscrutable purpose.
Dixon suggests some historical and cultural reasons for the ambivalence present students feel when they encounter such a phrase as "scheme of evolution." The personal ego certainly desires assurance that some marvellous arrangement in the heavens will ultimately bring him to his heart's desire. This is the escalator theory of progress. But there is another part of the mind of man which hungers, not for a specific plan, but for the self-induced struggle and strife which evolution involves. The Theosophical student is sometimes inclined to hope that Masters of Wisdom have knowledge of a scheme or plan which will make everything come out all right in the end. On this view, if one believes his teacher, he is safe and will reach the fulfilment he seeks. But at the same time, there is the autonomous desire to know for one's self. If divinity is within, there is no final attainment and therefore no fixed scheme. Further, the "divine urge" towards autonomous thinking can never be assuaged by faith and belief. Instead, the "scheme" is always unfolding, and that doctrine which represents the idea of purpose on one day may be rewritten on the next.

A passage from The Key to Theosophy, headed "Fundamental Teachings," suggests the distinction between a "plan" which is thought of as existing in the mind of a Creator and the "Deity" of the Theosophists of every age. Madame Blavatsky writes:

Our Deity is the eternal, incessantly evolving, not creating, builder of the universe; that universe itself unfolding out of its own essence, not being made. It is a sphere, without circumference, in its symbolism, which has but one ever-acting attribute embracing all other existing or thinkable attributes -- ITSELF. It is the one law, giving the impulse to manifested, eternal, and immutable laws, within that never-manifesting, because absolute LAW, which in its manifesting periods is The ever-Becoming.
The architects of the "scheme of evolution," then, are all degrees of life and intelligence. Each, identified with the monadic potential, is to some degree creative and regenerative -- so the "plan" itself evolves. That which is unchanging is not a plan nor in relation to a plan, but manifests its presence through the eternal necessity of interdependence. The "Laws of Nature" and the "karma" of man are a description of interdependence provided by the interwoven patterns of an expanding growth. So any "plan" or "scheme" is merely a description of the patterns assumed by the movements of life. But these blueprints belong to those who originate them or to God: they are not representative of that in man which is changeless because it is formless and schemeless, nor are they representative of that in man which is always the potential creator of new orientations. A passage from Lafcadio Hearn's Gleanings in Buddha Fields illustrates the great paradox -- the permanence of all impermanence during endless periods of manifestation:
The Karma-Ego we call Self is mind and is body; both perpetually decay; both are perpetually renewed. From the unknown beginning, this double-phenomenon, objective and subjective, has been alternately dissolved and integrated: each integration is a birth; each dissolution a death. There is no other birth or death but the birth and death of Karma in some form or condition. But at each rebirth the reintegration is never the reintegration of the identical phenomenon, but of another to which it gives rise, as growth begets growth, as motion produces motion.

Next article:
(October 1962)
[Article number (25) in this Department]

Back to the
complete list of articles.

Back to the full listing containing all of the
"Additional Categories of Articles".

Main Page | Introductory Brochure | Volume 1--> Setting the Stage
Karma and Reincarnation | Science | Education | Economics | Race Relations
The WISDOM WORLD | World Problems & Solutions | The People*s Voice | Misc.