ASPECTS OF DIVINE LAW
In the Beginning
The story is a vast one. The universe manifests dynamism in all its operations and these operations apparently exhibit order. Whatever chaos there may have been in the remote beginnings of things now manifests this order as harmony and equilibrium. Were this not so the whole cosmic scene would be chaotic and self-destructive whereas it is self-preserving as is evidenced by its very existence after countless millions of years.
What applies to the whole applies to the parts and our earth is such a part; for us humans living on it is a very significant part. It is our home. It too manifests in all its natural processes the harmony of the whole. We see these in its cyclical activities: the rhythmic changes of the seasons, the processes of growth from seed to flower and seed again, in birth, adolescence, maturity and death. We are also aware of the orbital journey of our earth round the sun in relationship to the movements of the other planets of our system and the awesome immensity of the map of heaven.
It is perhaps too facile to say that these planetary movements are governed by gravity. The whole process is a happy resolution of many complex forces which somehow or other are made to support the relatively stable but ever-changing grand scheme of existence.
We notice in all the activities of the countless forms of Nature this same harmonizing stability. In general everything has the opportunity to fulfil whatever function it was designed for in the overall scheme of things.
This overall ordering of the vast variety of life forms which constitute a) our planet and b) the universe that we know of can be regarded as government by law. It is the law to which the activity of everything has to subscribe willy nilly or disaster follows. The law maintains the equilibrium or balance, at least for a time, be that time very short or very long.
Another aspect of Nature, and this becomes apparent to the student of Esoteric Science, Occultism or Theosophy, is that Nature comprises everything, not only at physical level but at inner subjective levels as well. These inner levels reflect into us human beings by way of our thoughts and feelings, our aspirations, our ecstasies, in fact the whole gamut of our emotions. These are all within the ambit of Nature's processes and, in terms of their vehicles, they are the structures which constitute the parts of her make-up.
All things in Nature and in the Cosmos, it is said, manifest life. This life is whole and homogeneous throughout the piece. The same life manifests through all things in their infinite diversity. It is the dynamism of the whole, with its infinity of cyclical, periodical movement, as, for example, a clock spring provides the energy for the eventual movement of the hands on the face. Time is told, so to speak, by movement and the whole process or nature of our earth is movement inherent in it by way of the dynamism of this One life.
According to the great science of Occultism this One Life is the seat or source of consciousness. Just as the One Life manifests in everything in existence by way of its inherent dynamism, so every thing in its degree is endowed with consciousness.
The building blocks of things in existence are the infinitely small lives of which everything is composed. They aggregate and diversify in form and function by specialization and are the basis for the characteristics of every living thing, enabling it to function in the sphere to which it is allotted. In man this aggregation results in his overall consciousness, all his faculties and his physical constitution.
This intelligence informing all creation is inherent in it. It is by reason of the aggregate of the accumulated learning of all the lives comprising Nature that it comes to 'know' the 'rules' of existence. It has learned what to do and what not to do. In other words, paths of action have been worked out, delineated and adopted as the result of countless ages of experience. These paths of action in the aggregate constitute the governing factors in the whole natural process. These governing factors, it must be noted, stem from the within to the without and, if we ascribe to the within at its high levels Divinity or Deity, that is the nature of the original governing impulse. There is a saying in Occultism that Deity is Law and Law is Deity. By reason of its very nature this law in all manifested existence at any time is inexorable and omnipotent at all levels of being. By way of it everything is as it is, and it is by reason of what went before. In other words it is the law of cause and effect.
These aggregated entities comprising greater or lesser numbers of constituent lives not only have consciousness but, according to Esoteric Science, are endowed with memory. Consciousness and memory are the basis of intelligence. By reason of memory they are conditioned by experience and can therefore learn. The learning process modifies them, hence their growth and development. Modifications to the inner elements of their being are reflected or projected into modifications in the objective, physical world of forms. It is in this sense that the forms of living things are said to be possessed of memory.
There is a tenet in Esotericism that all these aggregated lives comprise hierarchies of beings at all stages of development from the lowest to the highest. At the lowest level they are referred to as Elementals but they are still possessed of sentience and memory which, as in the case of all other forms, conditions them to fulfil a characteristic function in the scheme of things. This sentience-cum-memory is the basis of instinct. All forms in the kingdoms of Nature up to man manifest this inbuilt instinct. It can be said that they do what they are.
The learning process translates eventually into intelligence, the degree of which varies according to the development of the form manifesting it. In man this intelligence factor becomes very significant. At a stage in his development it becomes Mind. The teaching here makes the significant statement that our present humanity did not develop mind by this slow evolutionary process but developed an otherwise latent mental faculty sufficiently to enable more progressive entities who had developed mind in previous world cycles to endow nascent humanity with the mind faculty.
The hierarchies of beings move up in the scale of evolutionary development from the elemental into the mineral, vegetable, animal and ultimately the human kingdoms that we are familiar with at our physical level of existence. The teaching has it, however, that this evolutionary development proceeds on after the man stage into super-human stages where there are numerous hierarchies of beings of various grades of intelligence and power from those immediately post-human to the very exalted magnificent beings who play the parts in the grand evolutionary process of what we might regard as gods. They are the supreme intelligences controlling all the intelligences beneath them. In this scale of things the lowest are the Elementals which operate on all planes of being and are the effective agents of all action. The Great Beings, the Planetary Spirits as they are called, in some classifications Archangels, are each of them a collective being consisting of lesser beings who themselves have reached exalted states of knowledge and power.
It is the aggregate intelligence not only of these Great Beings but of all others on the total ladder of life that impress upon all the forces of Nature (the Elementals) their proper course of action. This proper course constitutes the Universal or Divine Law, and it applies in every detail from the highest to the lowest of everything in manifestation. As we shall see in the extracts which follow, because of its inherent intelligent nature, this Law has a moral aspect. This means that, in the case of man who is responsible for his actions and even thoughts, his intentions and motives determine the Karmic effects of what he does.
But it is the law of cause only by reason of action. All actions as causes produce effects. We have said that the law operates at all levels, including the inner subjective ones of emotion and mind, whereon it also works.
Most things, plants and animals in Nature behave according to their characteristic natures; they have no intent or purpose other than to do what they are naturally fitted to do. For them therefore the effects of what they do are purely mechanical and no blame attaches to them. The situation is different for human beings. Their motives for actions are very complex. They can be benevolent or malevolent, selfish or altruistic, and according to their motive will be the result of their actions.
In Eastern scriptures this divine law is known as Karma and that which things do by way of their nature is known as their Dharma. Man's Dharma therefore should be to act as a human being. Many human beings at our stage of evolutionary development are, however, still motivated by animalistic urges. They do not fulfil their Dharma as properly developed human beings; so, failing in that, they incur the workings of the law of Karma.
Eventually by suffering and the processes of the development of proper human faculties and their use man will learn how to live his life as a human being. This learning process is long and leads him into difficulties and distress along the way. His Karmic destiny is, however, to become a fully-fledged human being manifesting only the proper human characteristics. According to the teachings this is the road leading to the perfectability of man. It is the goal eventually for all of us; the law is a vast educative process. We are not, however, bound to it for ever; the 'personal' man ripens, so to speak, and becomes the spiritualized man, fitting himself to occupy the next level on the stupendous ladder of existence.
Such are the workings of the Law, often referred to as "the good law".
There is an apt passage in a letter from one of H.P.B.'s Teachers:
Teach the people to see that life on this earth, even the happiest, is but a burden and an illusion, that it is but our own Karma, the cause producing the effect, that is our own judge, our Saviour in future lives, and the great struggle for life will soon lose its intensity.
Regarding the text of this work, as it is entirely based on quotations taken out of their contexts in the original works, the result is disconnected. It is hoped, however, that what is presented will be regarded as nuggets of information which, taken together, will constitute a comprehensive and valuable view of the vast subject of Divine Law.
In some of the extracts the cosmic planes and the principles of man are given numbers, e.g. mind (or manas) is the fifth. The classification of the planes and corresponding principles, together with the numeration, is used consistently throughout the original literature (see table at end).
1. I.U. ISIS UNVEILED, Vols I and II, all editions same pagination. H. P. Blavatsky.
2. S.D. THE SECRET DOCTRINE, Vols I, II and III,
Original Edition and C.W. series
[Vol III is 1897 ed. or in C.W.XII] H. P. Blavatsky.
3. C.W. THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF H.P. BLAVATSKY,
14 Vols, edited by
Boris de Zirkoff
4. Key THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY, Original Edition. H. P. Blavatsky.
5. MLC THE MAHATMA LETTERS TO A.P. SINNETT, Chronological
[Same content but different pagination in 2nd and 3rd Editions]
To start an essay on the nature of Karma and its ramifications necessarily involves a look at the very beginnings of things, at least as far as our earth is concerned. In the Introduction we mentioned the importance of the idea of the One Life manifesting in all lives. Associated with that One Life, it is said, there is a class of entities known as the Lipikas described in The Secret Doctrine as "Scribes" :
... these Divine Beings are connected with Karma, the Law of Retribution, for they are the Recorders or Annalists who impress on the (to us) invisible tablets of the Astral Light - "the great picture gallery of eternity" - a faithful record of every act, and even thought, of man, of all that was, is, or every will be, in the phenomenal Universe.... this divine and unseen canvas is the BOOK OF LIFE. As it is the Lipikas who project into objectivity from the passive Universal Mind the ideal plan of the universe, upon which the "Builders" reconstruct the Kosmos after every Pralaya, it is they who stand parallel to the Seven Angels of the Presence, whom the Christians recognize in the Seven "Planetary Spirits" or the "Spirits of the Stars"; for thus it is they who are the direct amanuenses of the Eternal Ideation - or, as called by Plato, the "Divine Thought". [S.D.I, 104]
And so we start our story with an account of how these Divine Beings, the Lipikas, impress the content of Divine Ideation - conditioned by previous eternities of existent things - upon the nascent matter of a new Cosmos or Universe, which of course includes our earth. All that will be is conditioned by these antecedents through the agency of the Lipikas.
Later there is the following:
The ONE LIFE is closely related to the one law which governs the World of Being - KARMA. Exoterically, this is simply and literally "action", or rather an "effect-producing cause". Esoterically it is quite a different thing in its far-fetching moral effects. It is the unerring LAW OF RETRIBUTION. To say to those ignorant of the real significance, characteristics and awful importance of this eternal immutable law, that no theological definition of a personal deity can give an idea of this impersonal, yet ever present and active Principle, is to speak in vain. Nor can it be called Providence. [S.D.I, 634]
This last extract ends with a reference to 'Divine Providence' which in some quarters is regarded as "tempering His blessings to secure better effects." The quotation ends with "which Karma - a sexless principle - does not."
... at the first flutter of renascent life, Svabhabat, "the mutable radiance of the Immutable darkness unconscious in Eternity", passes, at every new rebirth of Kosmos, from an inactive state into one of intense activity; that it differentiates, and then begins its work through that differentiation. This work is KARMA. [S.D.I, 634-5]
After a brief dissertation on the processes of 'creation' a passage concludes to the effect that these processes:
... are the direct reflex of the One Light, yet men are far removed from these, since the whole of the visible Kosmos consists of "self-produced beings, the creatures of Karma". [S.D.I, 635]
This is followed by a statement to the effect that:
... only "two things are (objectively) eternal, namely Akasa and Nirvana"; and that these are ONE in reality, and but a maya when divided. [S.D.I, 635]
A close study of the information given us in the S.D. reveals that Maya - and Karma - constitute the mechanism of evolution and that that evolution as it applies to spiritual man as Egoic or Divine Self is the sole purpose of the whole process, at least as far as our immediate Cosmos, and in particular our Earth, is concerned.
Later, still regarding Karma, there is the statement:
There are "Cycles of Matter" and there are "Cycles of Spiritual Evolution". Racial, national, and individual cycles. [S.D.I, 638]
In this surely we see two important things: one is the material and spiritual aspects of the Law and the other is that in its cycles everything is included.
The working of the cause and effect aspect of the Law necessarily involves the fact that what is now is the result of the past and what is to come will be the result of what happens now. There is a passage which reads:
There is a predestination in the geological life of our globe, as in the history, past and future, of races and nations. This is closely connected with what we call Karma ... [S.D.I, 641]
There is an interesting reiteration of a statement that has been made before, to the effect that:
"The revolution of the physical world, according to the ancient doctrine, is attended by a like revolution in the world of intellect - the spiritual evolution of the world proceeding in cycles, like the physical one. Thus we see in history a regular alternation of ebb and flow in the tide of human progress. The great kingdoms and empires of the world, after reaching the culmination of their greatness, descend again, in accordance with the same law by which they ascended; till, having reached the lowest point, humanity reasserts itself and mounts up once more, the height of its attainment being, by this law of ascending progression by cycles, somewhat higher than the point from which it had descended before." (from I.U.I, 34)
But these cycles - wheels within wheels, so comprehensively and ingeniously symbolized by the various Manus and Rishis in India ... do not affect all mankind at one and the same time ... Hence, as we see, the difficulty of comprehending and discriminating between them with regard to their physical and spiritual effects, without having thoroughly mastered their relations with, and action upon, the respective positions of nations and races, in their destiny and evolution. This system cannot be comprehended if the spiritual action of these periods - preordained, so to say, by Karmic law - is separated from their physical course.... [S.D.I, 641]
Farthing (1909-2004), author and international lecturer made the study
of Theosophy, and in particular the esoteric writings of H.P. Blavatsky,
his abiding interest for over 60 years. Geoffrey held most positions in
the Theosophical Society in England including General Secretary (1969-72).
He served a term as a member of the Society's General Council at Adyar,
India, and was a member of the Executive Committee of the European Federation
for a number of years. He founded The Blavatsky Trust, an educational charity,
in England in 1974. In the same year he gave the prestigious Blavatsky Lecture
at the Annual Convention of the English Theosophical Society on Life, Death
and Dreams, and in 1996, was awarded the Subba Row Medal for his significant
contribution to theosophical literature.
Geoffrey wrote numerous theosophical books including After-Death States and Consciousness; Deity, Cosmos and Man (1993); Theosophy, Whats It All About?; When We Die; and Exploring the Great Beyond. His most recent book is The Right Angle: H. P. Blavatsky on Masonry (2003)