“The study of The Secret Doctrine proves unprofitable unless the student sees at his own stage of evolution, in his own life, in the activity of his own complex nature, the unity which is basic from which differentiation springs and on which diversity manifests.
“Thus, unless a serious attempt is made by the student to see the activity of the Three Fundamentals in the function and the process of his own individual life, they must remain mysterious and confusing and fail to inspire him to better life or nobler labours.”
Sri B. P. Wadia
Studies in The Secret Doctrine, pp.104-105
Madame H. P. Blavatsky commences her momentous work, The Secret Doctrine, with three elementary propositions. These are, essentially, a synopsis of the entire work, in that they contain the core principles which the remainder of the work could be considered a detailed commentary upon. As such, these propositions are the epitome of Esoteric Philosophy – being necessarily abstract and oftentimes only partially understood, and at others, entirely misconstrued. As students of Theosophy, it is necessary to form a clear conception of these fundamental tenets in order to set a firm foundation for further Theosophical study.
The first is that of an Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless, and Immutable Principle – Parabrahm – on which all speculation is impossible, since it transcends the power of human conception. Being necessarily beyond the reach of thought, this Principle can only be spoken of by negation, such as by the Vedic method of Neti Neti (“not this, not that”), in which is the Absolute is seen to transcend the dualities and differentiations of existence, whilst yet being the root and cause of all. It is from this that we originally emerged into being, and to this that, through the cosmic process of seemingly infinite eons, we will ultimately return.
From this Boundless Principle – Parabrahm – we derive our thoughts and consciousness, our ability to influence and create our reality. It is important for us because it is us, at the most fundamental level, being the root of everything we are.
The second proposition declares the Universe to be a playground of eternal and incessant periodicity, in which countless universes come into and fade from existence. These innumerable worlds HPB calls the “sparks of eternity”; these existing, in the cosmic scheme, for a mere moment in the duration of the Days and Nights of Brahm.
This law is universal in its application. It applies equally to the microcosmic and the macrocosm planes. It is through this principle of periodicity that the One Life functions in the world of manifested form, and from which the rhythms of day and night, life and death, sleeping and waking – the universal ebbs and flows of life – pass through their recurrent cycles. This is the most apparent of the fundamental propositions in that it is easily observable and can be recognised from a consideration of any aspect of life, from our daily routines to the wheel of the seasons. In its fundamental essence, the Universe is, then, the cyclic manifestation of the Boundless Principle – Parabrahm.
This principle of periodicity therefore extends to all levels of our existence – and beyond. It is an essential aspect of the maya or “illusion” of things in the manifested world, constituting the temporality of Manvantaric life. It is intrinsically related to the concept of Duration – this being the root of time and action. In itself, duration is changeless, but is the cause of all change, both observed and unobserved. Because this proposition operates along orderly lines in accordance with the universality of its application, it governs all occurrences of change – from the natural cycles of our individual lives to the rise and fall of empires and religions.
Reincarnation is one result of this periodical law. We know from the study of Theosophy that there is no true death in the fundamental sense of the word. Every such occurrence of “death” is merely the door to a new existence, a fresh beginning in which the garments of a former life are cast away in favour of some newer and better suited to the step along the journey of our pilgrimage. Life is itself such an unending process of new beginnings.
Thirdly, the postulation that the Universe is, in fact, an immense and total WHOLE – a single Organism in which the many varied parts are but as atoms of a greater body. This third fundamental proposition informs us of the unity of Man and Cosmos; of the non-difference between the Universe and all that resides within it.
It is this last proposition that brings us to an awareness of the grand scope of Theosophical philosophy through the cosmic hierarchies that emerged during the Ideation of the Universe from potential to actualised form. The Universe, then, while being fundamentally ONE and singular, consists of gradations or stages of evolutionary beings, of a vast variety of form, through which the One Life manifests for the purpose of aiding the development of the whole. Each of these myriad forms is therefore intrinsically interrelated, coexisting and coworking towards the same object and end.
Like the second, the third proposition provides a foundation for the process of reincarnation, through reference to the “obligatory pilgrimage of every soul through the cycle of incarnation or necessity”. This relates also to the concept of Karma, in that progress throughout this pilgrimage is dependent upon our own “self-induced and self-devised effort”, rather than on the whims of fate or chance.
We discover, in a reflection of this third principle, that we are journeying together along this toilsome path of evolution. We may, along the way, encounter experiences or lessons that are personal, individual, and unique, and yet the journey itself is one shared by all, regardless of whether they be further along or further behind our own position on the path.
By recognizing the truth of this third proposition on a personal level, we free ourselves from the mistaken notion of our lonely, separated, and temporal existence. We become, rather than the meek and helpless objects of cosmic change, instead the very architects and forces of such motion; participants in the evolutionary process who work together in unity to build a better world. We are each of us sparks of the Central Sun – eternal in our essence, and infinite in our potential.
As B. P. Wadia writes in his Studies in The Secret Doctrine: “Within our own bodies, in our own being, work the laws which The Secret Doctrine teaches in the Three Fundamental Propositions.” Thus they apply not only on the grand cosmic scale of the Universe and the hierarchies above, but equally on the level of our personal lives. This is one of the greatest beauties of Theosophy, that is it applicable to every aspect of life. It is up to us to make that Wisdom practical.
Luke Michael Ironside
Director, Virtual Centre for Theosophical Studies
Theosophical Society (Adyar)