Self-consciousness is the Gordian knot of both philosophical psychology and arcane metaphysics. Its paradoxes can be unravelled only through a discipline that combines sacrificial action and meditation. As the aspirant proceeds along these parallel lines, recondite evolutionary mysteries will reveal themselves to the awakening spiritual sight. Beyond and beneath all of these, present both at the beginning and at the end of the quest, lies the riddle of Being and Non-Being, the crux of the process of infinite perfectibility within eternal divine harmony. Each stage along the way reveals fresh beginnings and tentative illuminations, all revolving around the talismanic question, "Who am I?" and its ever-enigmatic response from the depths of divine consciousness, "THAT thou art." This timeless dialogue between the divine soul and its projected ray is repeated over myriad lives in countless diverse forms. It is the quintessential enquiry of enquiries, comprehending the divine and the mundane while serving as the archetype of every science and every symbolic system. Although this enquiry is perennially and universally relevant, it truly demands an ever-deepening sense of detachment and an ever-expanding feeling of compassion for all humanity. The restoration of the dual sense of individual dignity and human solidarity is a primary object of the Aquarian Age and a necessary prelude to participation in the succeeding age of Makara, of magical creativity.
The development of self-conscious humanity on earth began well over eighteen million years ago, following a much longer period of development during the first three-and-a-half Rounds of the earth chain. Throughout this vast period, successive ethereal hierarchies fashioned the sentient but non-intelligent vestures of future mankind. With each succeeding Round and globe, a different class of Builders evolved out of itself more and more dense shadowy projections. During the early portion of the present Fourth Round, the sixth group or hierarchy, counting downward from spirit, evolved out of itself the filmy astral vestures of the future physical man. The seventh, or lowest, hierarchy then gradually formed and condensed the physical body of animal man upon the ethereal frame. Neither the sixth hierarchy, which is connected with ethereal gods, nor the seventh hierarchy, which is connected with vast numbers of terrestrial spirits or elementals, was capable of completing self-conscious intelligent man. Thus, it became the task of the fifth hierarchy, the mysterious beings that preside over the constellation Makara, to inform the empty and ethereal animal form, creating out of it the rational man. This in itself is an awesome mystery which may be understood only through meditation and, ultimately, initiation.
At a preliminary level the quintessential aspect of self-consciousness is conveyed in a statement from The Voice of the Silence which compares disciples to the strings of the soul-echoing vina, and mankind as a whole to its sounding board. The hand that plucks the string of the vina is likened to the great World-Soul. The simultaneous attunement of the disciples to the World-Soul and to all humanity intimates the essential characteristic of Manasic self-consciousness. One may view human beings as links in a chain or members of an orchestra, each having a separate function. All are complementary and interdependent in their functions, yet none are equivalent in their degrees of consciousness or concentration. The third violinist in the orchestra might, for example, be an inspiration in his selflessness and concentration although musically he performs only a modest role within the whole. Indeed, the being who is high in self-consciousness is distinguished by a regular and refined ability to think of the whole. Through the powers of concentration and choice any self-conscious being can heighten the essential function of being human, which is the crystalline capacity to mirror the cosmos. Thus, whilst all human beings participate to some extent in a vague sense of solidarity, some become such effortless exemplars of cosmic solidarity that they release a potent force for human brotherhood. This capacity derives from meditation and altruism over many previous lives. The more lives devoted through meditation to heightening the power of Manas, the more lives devoted through renunciation to suffusing Manas with Buddhic compassion, the greater the degree of noetic discernment. The deeper this discernment, the stronger the sense of duty in the world, and the willingness in finite time to summon one"s best and highest energies.
Employing the powers of individuality for the sake of universal unity depends on the Manasaputras, the fifth hierarchy, which preside over the constellation Makara. It is the unique capacity of the exalted beings of this hierarchy to be able to function at the highest metaphysical level while at the same time incarnating on and commanding the terrestrial plane, thus self-consciously bridging the celestial and the terrestrial. H.P. Blavatsky pointed out:
The Fifth group is a very mysterious one, as it is connected with the Microcosmic Pentagon, the five-pointed star representing man. In India and Egypt these Dhyanis were connected with the Crocodile, and their abode is in Capricornus. These are convertible terms in Indian astrology, as this (tenth) sign of the Zodiac is called Makara, loosely translated "crocodile." The word itself is occultly interpreted in various ways, as will be shown further on. In Egypt the defunct man – whose symbol is the pentagram or the five-pointed star, the points of which represent the limbs of a man – was shown emblematically transformed into a crocodile: Sebakh or Sevekh "or seventh,"...showing it as having been the type of intelligence, is a dragon in reality, not a crocodile. He is the "Dragon of Wisdom" or Manas, the "Human Soul," Mind, the Intelligent principle, called in our esoteric philosophy the "Fifth" principle.
The Secret Doctrine, i 219
Egyptian symbolism, which echoes the arcane Gupta Vidya and anticipates the Christian notion of resurrection, depicts in the Book of the Dead the osirification of the soul. In this account, which has more to do with spiritual birth than physical death, the Manasic soul is represented under the glyph of a crocodile-headed god. This crocodile, or Manas, is represented as choosing a life ahead and descending through a ray which is a sacrifice, a self-imprisonment voluntarily chosen. After the death of the physical body, the crocodile is shown sifting out the quintessence of its life, through an impartial, impersonal and mathematically accurate judgement, balancing the soul"s inherent claim to self-conscious immortality in the scales of justice against a feather, representing truth. In their higher periods the Egyptians emphasized the extreme precision of the mathematics of karma, which resembles the cosmic computer programme permeating all vestures. In this judgement, which is welcomed by the immortal soul, there is no room for vicarious atonement, gratuitous absolution or any escape into cowardliness, whether occasioned by individual ignorance or pseudo-religious priestcraft.
Whatever the system of symbolic representation, every ancient account of the origin of human self-consciousness points to the mystery of incarnation, the mystery of the descent of the highest beings into terrestrial life, and the retention of spiritual knowledge as spiritual memory in the midst of a world of change, illusion and flux. This is the quintessential characteristic of the fifth hierarchy which could not be fulfilled by either the fourth, the sixth or the seventh group. The relationship between the highest arupa hierarchies and the human principles is conveyed in the Japanese system of symbolism in which a kind of celestial anthropogenesis precedes cosmogenesis. In the esoteric wisdom one usually begins with cosmogenesis and comes down through anthropogenesis, in order to grasp the successive connections between the cosmic hierarchies; in the Japanese system, devised as a convenient mode for disseminating the Teachings while preserving the significant connections, purely cosmic principles are represented by personages that are archetypal embodiments of human principles. Thus, terms are used that apply to the human constitution, but not specifically to humanity.
When all was as yet Chaos (Kon-ton) three spiritual Beings appeared on the stage of future creation: (1) Ame no ani naka nushi no Kami, "Divine Monarch of the Central Heaven"; (2) Taka mi onosubi no Kami, "Exalted, imperial Divine offspring of Heaven and the Earth"; and (3) Kamu mi musubi no Kami, "Offspring of the Gods," simply.
These were without form or substance (our arupa triad), as neither the celestial nor the terrestrial substance had yet differentiated, "nor had the essence of things been formed."
The Secret Doctrine, i 214
This account may be correlated with a passage from the Commentary on the Stanzas of Dzyan:
"The first after the "One" is divine Fire; the second, Fire and Aether; the third is composed of Fire, Aether and Water; the fourth of Fire, Aether, Water, and Air." The One is not concerned with Man-bearing globes, but with the inner invisible Spheres. "The "First-Born" are the LIFE, the heart and pulse of the Universe; the Second are its MIND or Consciousness."
The Secret Doctrine, i 216
Combining the two accounts, there is first the divine Flame, the "One" which is prior to the sequence, from which are lit the three descending groups or hierarchies. Seen cosmically, the first is Atmic or divine fire. The second group is fire and ether, Atma-Buddhi, the light of the Paramatman diffused throughout the cosmos as its spiritual soul, Daiviprakriti, the Light of the unmanifested Logos become in differentiation Fohat or the Seven Sons. From these twofold monadic units emanate the threefold composed of fire, ether and water, correlative with the Atma-Buddhi-Manas, fusing the three-in-one into a triad that is capable of connecting itself with a quaternary through incarnation. Succeeding these three is the fourth group comprised of fire, ether, water and air, which provides the invisible grounding of the higher three spiritual principles of the cosmos into a diffused kind of aura that permeates and surrounds the whole globe. All these hierarchies have their analogues within the human being, because they represent a separation between the celestial and the terrestrial, but, as the Japanese understood, they do not give the capacity to link the celestial with the terrestrial. This belongs to the fifth hierarchy. Hence the sacredness of Makara-Capricorn.
There is a mysterious anagrammatic connection between Makara and Kumara, the host of virgin ascetics and yogins presided over by Shiva-Saturn. The term "Makara" itself is a composite of ma, meaning "five", and kara, meaning "hand" or "side". Thus, Makaram is the same as Panchakaram, or the pentagon, the five-pointed star linking heaven and earth through the divine proportion. There is a symmetry and logic to the human body, to man standing straight with his arms and legs stretched out, as in Leonardo da Vinci s drawing of the terrestrial man within the universal man. In the present zodiacal system Makara is the tenth sign, connected with the idea of the cosmos as bounded by pentagons, though in the older zodiac Makara was the eighth sign, connected with the eight faces bounding space, a reference to the lokapalas. The significance of man as a five-pointed star, a microcosmic reflection of the macrocosm, lies in his capacity to realize his solidarity with the fifth host of Dhyan Chohans, the Kumaras. If, when man stands erect, he is governed by that which enters through the crown of the head from above below, he is a Manusha, capable of firm resolve. By raising his spiritual vision, he can at once look heavenward towards the empyrean and enclose the entire cosmos within his creative imagination. At the same time, if he is also full of love for the earth upon which all beings live and move, he can consciously bridge the most celestial with the most terrestrial elements in Nature. It is this profoundly sacrificial privilege that is given to man by the fifth hierarchy, the Kumaras or Agnishwatha Pitris. The esoteric name of this solar host, the endowers of man with self-consciousness, is Pranidananath, Lords of Persevering Ceaseless Devotion, a designation which points to the true meaning of the later Greek term phiosophia or love of wisdom.
Kamadeva, the Vedic Logos, is Atma-Bhu – unborn and self-existent – one with Agni, and also Makara-Ketu – he who bears the emblem of Makara on his banner. The Kumaras, sprung from Kamadeva, preside through Makara over the birth of the spiritual microcosm as well as the dissolution of the physical universe and its passage into the realm of the spiritual. Mysteriously, Mara, the mocking demon of illusion and the god of darkness and death, is yet another name for Kamadeva, the Vedic Logos, and the unconscious quickener of the birth of the spiritual. Rising like a crocodile out of the waters of the sacred river of life to greet the fiery rays of the rising sun, Makara and the host of the Kumaras are the archetype of nascent intelligent humanity and its infinite capacity for perfectibility. The cosmic glyph of Makara is that of the waves, which resembles the letter M and is doubled in the sign of Aquarius. Its geometric emblem is the pentagram, the sign of spiritual and physical health in the Pythagorean School, and a symbol of the divine descent and universal solidarity of humanity.
The full significance of the five-pointed star only emerges when it is inscribed within the six-pointed star, but this cannot be understood unless one has first mastered the five. This is the point at which human beings must begin, for humanity is now in the Fifth Sub-Race of the Fifth Root Race of the Fourth Round. Through incarnation and the lessons of karma, one must come to comprehend all that is implicit in five, as well as in five doubled, which yields ten, the perfect number.
The fifth group of the celestial Beings is supposed to contain in itself the dual attributes of both the spiritual and physical aspects of the Universe; the two poles, so to say, of Mahat the Universal Intelligence, and the dual nature of man, the spiritual and the physical. Hence its number Five, multiplied and made into ten, connecting it with Makara, the 10th sign of the Zodiac.
The Secret Doctrine, i 221
If man is seen from this standpoint, as a monadic and Manasic being, a bridge between the cosmic and the sub-human, the enormous importance of self-consciously bridging the two poles naturally follows. Aspiration, idealism and resolve may be fused into fidelity to the best and highest that one knows within oneself. Through this fidelity, the most sacred of all virtues, it is possible to use the antaskarana bridge. Only thus can one invite the descent of the Dhyanis, the overbrooding triad within the temple of the human form. It is, therefore, vital to understand both the nature of human individuality and its difference, conceived in relation to the fifth hierarchy, from any sense of individuality connected with the lower hierarchies. On these lower levels, individuality is the characteristic of the entire hierarchy, and not of its individual units, and hence it has nothing to do with identification with particular units, but only with broader planes. At the higher stages of spiritual initiation, the human being necessarily must dispel the sense of a distinct individuality, but first he must entirely transcend the passions of the personality, as well as the illusory identification with name and form. This itself will occupy several lifetimes and is essential before the full awakening of true individuality.
The deep sense of separateness and the seeming cohesiveness in the personality are due to the diffused Fohatic action of differentiated kama operating within the kama rupa. The cosmic potency acting on the differentiated planes has a dual manifestation as Lakshmi-Kali, its black and white sides. Long before the pristine electro-spiritual Buddhic force of compassion can be released self-consciously, and the higher powers of the soul unlocked, all attachments to form through inverted desire must be transcended. The more progress one makes in this direction, the more one can at first generate a Manasic identity, a sense of "I-am-I", a sense of being a ray independent of the rupa. Then it is possible through meditation to draw oneself towards the Spiritual Sun and to recognize the unity of all the rays that come out of that One Sun, all the living ones, all the streams projected on the cosmic screen of illusion from the absolute life. Thus one strengthens the spiritual fibres of the karana sharira, the causal body. This is the task of discipleship, and it demands effort over successive lives.
The highest beings, who transcend individuality, are quite different from the Dhyanis who have no individuality because they function only in terms of the collective. These latter belong, one might say, to a grouping that has a single function. They participate in a kind of higher specialization of cosmic intelligence and they have no separate will. This is not the same as the conscious capacity of the perfected human will to attune itself to that which is the transcendent source of all the Dhyanis. If one truly masters the egotistic desires and delusions of the personality, one can become effortlessly capable of non-separateness in consciousness. By pledging oneself to be a true apprentice on the path of daily meditation, one may develop increased continuity of consciousness, and so establish a noble line of life"s meditation. Eventually, one may be able to envisage Dhyana, true ceaseless contemplation.
The arduous task of transcending and subduing the personality is a preparation for exercising the supreme prerogative of being human. The immense Logoic potential of human perfection and its virtually unlimited power of benevolence are thus conveyed by H.P. Blavatsky:
Man being a compound of the essences of all those celestial Hierarchies may succeed in making himself, as such, superior, in one sense, to any hierarchy or class, or even combination of them. "Man can neither propitiate nor command the Devas," it is said. But, by paralyzing his lower personality, and arriving thereby at the full knowledge of the non-separateness of his higher SELF from the One absolute SELF, man can, even during his terrestrial life, become as "One of Us." Thus it is, by eating of the fruit of knowledge which dispels ignorance, that man becomes like one of the Elohim or the Dhyanis; and once on their plane the Spirit of Solidarity and perfect Harmony, which reigns in every Hierarchy, must extend over him and protect him in every particular.
The Secret Doctrine, i 276
Here the terms "superior" and "inferior" are relative to one"s perspective.
If by superior one means "closest to the One", then the highest beings will be the arupa forces, the Ah-Hi, the first three descending groups. But if by superior one refers to the capacity of perfected human beings operating in the middle realm to bring down the highest vibration and to infuse it into all beings, then, of course, an entirely different perspective emerges. It is in this sense that the Avatar is far superior to the Mahatma, although he is seemingly incarnated. At the level of non-incarnation, such comparisons can hardly apply. The essential capacity to become an active embodiment of universal divine compassion is the mighty prospect of perfectibility for all immortal souls alike. By the power of meditation and devotion, they can all become co-worshippers of the highest in Nature, the highest within their own hearts, and the highest in all beings. Thus they can become able to handle at will all the subcolours of the spectrum through the one light of the Central Spiritual Sun.
Owing to the gift of self-consciousness through the Kumaras, every human being has the potent capacity of sacred speech. Each and every human being may meditate upon the Gayatri, and through the creative potency of sound evoke the spiritual light of the Invisible Sun on behalf of all beings. This means that every human soul can, to some degree, attune itself to what Pythagoras called the music of the spheres. Though totally inaudible to the outer human ear, it is a sound so intense, so profound, that it reverberates constantly through the cosmos. Akashic sound and the primordial light of the Central Spiritual Sun are a primordial vibration reflected in the AUM, and also mirrored in bhur, bhuvah and svah, the three worlds invoked at the beginning of the Gayatri. Ultimately, that light is Daiviprakriti, awakened within Hiranyagarbha by the first ray of the Divine Darkness in the precosmic dawn. It is this light, quickening the fiery ethereal waters of space, which is greeted by the Kumaras as the light of their true selves.
"When the ONE becomes two, the three-fold appears": to wit, when the One Eternal drops its reflection into the region of Manifestation, that reflection, "the Ray," differentiates the "Water of Space";... "Chaos ceases, through the effulgence of the Ray of Primordial light dissipating total darkness by the help of the great magic power of the WORD of the (Central) Sun."... issuing from the DEEP,...the divine Universal Soul in its manifested aspect...Narayana, the Purusha, "concealed in Akasa and present in Ether."
The Secret Doctrine, i 231
There is, then, a mysterious sound, neither the AUM nor the sounds in the Gayatri, which is the Verbum, the Word of the Central Spiritual Sun dissipating the primordial darkness. Perfected human beings can thus live, move and breathe in and through Akasha. These are the true Men of Meditation, self-governed Sages constantly attuned to the vibration of the One Flame. By ceaselessly negating all mayavic manifestation, they affirm its true meaning going back to the precosmic and primordial darkness that is prior to the dawn of manifestation, and even precedes the distinction of Being and Non-Being. Having gone back to that state of undifferentiated oneness, they can penetrate the world of manifestation without illusion. They can bear witness to the hidden essences and meanings, the hidden possibilities and promises, concealed within Akasha and partially present in ether.
Exemplifying the sacred existential connection between "Who am I?" and "THAT thou art", they serve as the antaskaranic bridge which, when crossed, makes of man a god, "creating him a Bodhisattva, son of the Dhyanis". Masters of all the living elements from the Atman to the physical form, they are the bearers of the immutable, indestructible and deathless vibration of Eternal Life that is even present within the great Night of non-manifestation. The heart of universal self-conscious intelligence, the Brotherhood of Bodhisattvas ever remain the invisible allies of every human being aspiring through sacrifice and renunciation to the effective service of the whole of humanity.
Where is thy individuality, Lanoo, where the Lanoo himself? It is the spark lost in the fire, the drop within the ocean, the ever-present ray become the All and the eternal radiance.
And now, Lanoo, thou art the doer and the witness, the radiator and the radiation, Light in the Sound, and the Sound in the Light.
The Voice of the Silence
Hermes, September 1983
by Raghavan Iyer