By the editors of Lucifer – the Netherlands
[This is a reprint from Lucifer – the Messenger of Light, an original publication of I.S.I.S. Foundation, i.e. International Study-centre for Independent Search for truth. The editor is grateful for the permission given to make this important paper available for all readers of Theosophy Forward.]
“Through Theosophy I have become aware that the inhabitants of all planes in nature are part of an eternal process of evolution – with all its subsequent, increasing responsibility – in this breathtaking play of billions of solar systems, which are part of one enormous living entity in the boundless and eternal Universal Space. The vast and intertwined cooperation throughout all this Universal Space made me realize that there is no room for feelings of separation. It has transformed me to a co-worker of Nature.” These words were written by an 85-year-old man to the editors of Lucifer. It is a beautiful example of the doctrine of hierarchies, the third Jewel of Wisdom.
The hierarchical structure of the Universe is the third Jewel of Wisdom. It is far less known than the preceding two: reincarnation and karma. The awareness of this natural law, however, is an important one, as appears from the quote in the introduction. When you understand the doctrine of hierarchies, you know that all forms of consciousness are ordered in a hierarchical structure. What is a hierarchy? The word itself comes from the Greek hieros ‘sacred’ and archein ‘to rule, to direct, to guide’. By using the word ‘sacred’ (hieros) the ancient Greeks showed us that in their days the word ‘hierarchy’ did not have the negative association as it has now sometimes. In our society people, often associate hierarchy with a command structure where orders ‘from the top’ have to be carried out.
A unitary being with a (relative) top
A hierarchy is an organization of beings working together under the supreme authority of one of them. It is through this supreme being Life flows in and disperses and transmits itself to the lesser-developed beings within this unity. Compare it to a bee colony. The supreme being of that colony is the queen. She lays the eggs; she transforms life to the lower planes. Nonetheless, the colony keeps functioning as a unity. This supreme being of a hierarchy – one can call it the divine aspect – has all the knowledge available in that hierarchy. It is the focal point of all the other beings. It is their destiny. But it is not the absolute top, because beyond – or ‘within’ – this hierarchy, again other, higher, more developed hierarchies exist, and this continues into infinity.
Therefore there are always beings that know more, and have a further developed consciousness than you, and likewise there are also always beings that know less, and have a less developed consciousness. In other words, whoever you are, wherever you are, no matter the stage of your development, you are always a link between something higher and something lower. That is why interconnectedness is the main characteristic of the doctrine of hierarchies — the intertwined cooperation between beings on various planes of the Cosmos referred to in the introduction. After all, within a hierarchy, beings on a higher plane can only function by means of beings on a lower plane. And the lower beings in a hierarchy cannot function without the inspiration from all the planes above. The higher needs the lower and vice versa. This applies to a Universe as well as to a human being, a state and a company, to everything. All that exists in the Boundless has a hierarchic structure.
One can find a beautiful illustration of the doctrine of Hierarchies in the Holy Tetraktys, a symbol originating from the Esoteric School of the Greek sage Pythagoras. This triangle presents a hierarchy. Out of the first point on the top, two points appear, from those two again three points appear and those three in their turn, give rise to four points. I.e. the highest of a hierarchy – the divine – creates a ‘field’ or ‘atmosphere’ in which all the lower beings can manifest themselves. Each point in itself is again a triangle in which one could draw ten new points. And this triangle can be considered as a point in a bigger triangle. What is above, is the same as below. The boundless space is composed of an infinite number of hierarchies.
An indispensable element
The writer of the letter mentioned in the introduction, points us into the direction of another very important aspect of the doctrine of hierarchies. Of course, our role on this earth is utterly modest, if we look at the billions of solar systems that surround us. But at the same time, we are an indispensable element in the hierarchic totality. It is literally like this: we are a part of the totality, there is no such thing as separation. And that is why all the things we do, have an effect on the totality. And mankind, with its state of self-consciousness in progress, does have a specific choice to live for its own personal interest or live for the benefit of all beings. In other words, a man either believes that he is separated from others or he understands that he is an indispensable link in the ladder of life. In that case, cooperation is the key.
This universal cooperation makes us realize the uselessness of domination, greed, selfishness and discrimination. In our present disharmonious world, we continuously work against Nature and we harm our planet. If we want a better world then we must work actively for the restoration of harmony. Theosophy explains why it is so hard to find world leaders who can restore the peace and harmony. What we are lacking is a universal life-philosophy, which we have developed ourselves in our mind – instead of blindly copying other people’s ideas.
Characteristics of a hierarchy
So, what are the characteristics of a hierarchy? A hierarchy is a close cooperation of a number of beings that functions as a unity. From the top, the source of inspiration, the same life (the same energy) flows through all the – in a hierarchical structure – organized lower beings of that unity. Each hierarchy has its own characteristics (swabhâva, self-becoming, see also the fourth Jewel of Wisdom). The beings in a hierarchy are all in a different phase of evolution of their consciousness. Every one of these beings is indispensable for the functioning of the total entity (just like all the organs in a body being indispensable for the functioning of the complete body). Within the boundaries of the hierarchy all those beings have their own portion of free will, so they can give their own specific ‘tone’ to the main dominant characteristic (swabhâva) of the hierarchy. Each hierarchy is part of a larger hierarchy.
There are beings that know more
The doctrine of hierarchies is a very inspiring one. It means that a higher wisdom is present in the Universe and that every human being has a channel, or rather is a channel, which is connected to this wisdom. It is a matter of opening oneself for the influence of higher beings. Just as there are beings that are less developed compared to mankind – animals, plants and minerals for example – there are also beings that are further developed than we are. In the various religious traditions, this idea has degenerated. Divine beings are in those traditions depicted in an anthropomorphic way. They seem separated from man. Sometimes they seem to help mankind by removing obstacles or defeat enemies.
Theosophy teaches something different. There is unity. We are the hierarchy. That is, we are the life that flows through all its planes. Those planes are structured hierarchically. That means that the more developed beings transmit life to the less developed beings. They serve as inspirers that shine their consciousness upon ‘their children’ in order to awaken them, that they may become ‘one with the gods’. We can connect ourselves to this divine influence. How? By awakening the corresponding characteristics in our own consciousness and to start living in them. Then the work is not done by others. In that case there is no god or world teacher that is cleaning up our mess. No, we do it ourselves. And Theosophy, the Ancient Wisdom provides to us the keys.
How to connect to the source of wisdom?
In many of the letters we received, readers mention that they have developed higher qualities in themselves, which made it easier for them to solve their problems. You connect yourself to the source of wisdom and translate the wisdom you receive to practical ideas for your everyday life. For connection to higher planes of consciousness you need to awaken compassion within yourself. When you practice impersonal Love and start to live according to the Laws of Nature, your strength to help other people will grow proportionally. You must make a conscious choice and ‘tune’ yourself in harmony with the impersonal, unselfish parts of your composite being.
Theosophy teaches us that we are all equal but also different, and that we develop Love for all that lives. Even a child will understand that. Even a child realizes that when it is treated unfair, and it will act the same in return, it will not solve the situation, but worsen it.
Once the doctrine of hierarchies would be accepted widely in society, we would definitely choose different leaders. We will not vote then for the most shrewd politician, the one with the smoothest talk or the one with the most clever views on economy. No, the one who is closest to the spiritual worlds will then be the leader, since he lives in his divine nature more than anyone else. The wisest of all men is he who understands the seven Jewels of Wisdom best and has made them part of his thoughts and actions. Once we would seek guidance more often from our own divine nature, our Supreme Hierarch, we would have a national, or perhaps even worldwide leadership, formed by the wisest men and women among us. Plato describes such a system as an aristocracy, where the leader is the wisest of all. And Lao tzu describes how a wise leader, in order to lead, stays behind the people. He stimulates, inspires and shows the way by being an example of compassion. He gives general guidelines and understands that suppression in any form does not work.
Through our thinking and actions, we create our place in the hierarchy. And as a part of the entire hierarchy, we have an influence on the planes above as well as beneath us. We determine our own destiny, no one else. We develop ourselves. Self-becoming therefore, is the fourth Jewel of Wisdom.
With this knowledge, we are able to train the leader in ourselves, and while doing so develop a more harmonious contribution toward society; moreover, we will better be able to recognize the true intentions of those leading us.
The president of a small foundation which is engaged in a training program for disadvantaged youth, told us that he felt encouraged in his work by focusing on an ideal. “Of course you have to build this ideal first and then continue to nourish it. But once it’s there, you can use it.” “The success of a project fully depends on the willingness of the young people to pass on what they have learned. That is why many of our activities are focused on raising solidarity. And developing a vision: how to use the skills you learned for the benefit of others?”
The latter of course, is a beautiful example of how to develop consciousness. Someone has a talent and he uses this talent to the benefit of the totality. In a world like this, the whole hierarchy gets the opportunity to grow, on the ‘base’ as well as on the ‘top’. This example also shows that we, no matter the stage of our spiritual or social development, are always a teacher and a student at the same time. A teacher for everyone we can give a positive example in one way or another – and that is potentially everyone – and a student for those who are a positive example for us — and that is potentially everyone.
Our leading role toward animals and plants
We humans not only have a responsibility to the higher planes in the hierarchy we are part of. Our responsibility reaches as well to the beings that are not as far developed as we are. In the same way as the gods are inspirers for us, we are the inspirers for the animals and plants. Now, everybody who has the slightest notice of how we treat the lower kingdoms of nature, knows that we are not always responding to that responsibility as we are supposed to. Once we recognize that the hierarchical structure of the Universe is truly a fact, we must be able to find a solution for this problem. Man’s position on the cosmic ladder of life, as a self-conscious being, includes a special responsibility toward the other kingdoms of life above and below us, within our own constitution as well as in the outside world. To stop eating meat, or approaching nature with more respect – these are simple consequences when accepting the doctrine of hierarchies as a truth. We are the animals’ teachers. We are the natural focal point for them. Some awareness of this is being raised in society. Currently, important debates take place about animal rights. A growing number of people want to implement these rights in our human laws.
Being a teacher
The doctrine of hierarchies teaches us two essential things. We are at all times student and teacher. If we do not function properly in both roles, it will have its effect on others. If we do not open ourselves up to the wisdom of those who know more than us, then we cannot be a good help to the ones who know less than us. And there is always someone that knows less. H.P. Blavatsky says in The Voice of the Silence: “seek out him who knows still less than thou; (...) and — let him hear the Law.”(1)
So we are a teacher as well. We become a teacher automatically if we sincerely try to live a theosophical life in accordance with the theosophical teachings. Especially in difficult situations – such as an economic crisis – someone who has made Theosophy a living power in his life, will be a beacon of tranquility. His fellow men will come and see him. Such a man gives confidence.
Whether you want it or not, due to your knowledge of the Theosophia, you have become a teacher for many others. The question is whether you are also prepared are also prepared to act accordingly. When your motives are predominantly compassionate, you will cheerfully accept this role. Not with an attitude of ‘I know best’, but out of the desire to help others.
You will become much milder in judging others. After all, by interpreting the doctrine of hierarchies in a spiritual way, you realize that everyone – no matter their stage in evolution – has to play its role. Your own attitude will be one of service. You will help people to help themselves. You can show them the way to their own inner Teacher. When we realize that we can rely on our inner spiritual essence, our own inner leader, there is no space left for thoughts of separation. When we live in the light of our spiritual essence, we join the hierarchy of the helpers of mankind.
1. H.P. Blavatsky, The Voice of the Silence. Chapter: ‘The Two Paths’. Several editions, between note 27 and 28.
To be continued