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.]
Progressive evolution, the fifth Jewel
What is the meaning of life? How many people walk around wondering about this essential question, while they grasp in the dark, not knowing where to find the answer? The fifth Jewel of Wisdom, progressive evolution, shows us the meaning of life. It describes the grand process of developing our dormant powers; we do this from within and step by step. We carry boundless wisdom and knowledge within us, since we are children of the Boundless. In the core of the core of the heart of our heart we are indeed boundless.
What did the previous four articles in this issue teach us? We are reembodying beings and therefore immortal in our essence, as the first Jewel of Wisdom indicated. By experiencing the consequences of our actions, we gain valuable knowledge and experience (second Jewel) and while applying this we will always have the inspiring examples of beings that are ahead of us (third Jewel). This is not a matter of ‘letting ourselves drift with the processes of nature’, because we are the creators of our own fate: we choose ourselves whether we will leave things the way they are or if we will take a step forward (fourth Jewel). Subsequently the fifth Jewel then outlines the purpose of life: the evolution of our consciousness, the increase of our knowledge and wisdom, and of course the expression of our developed wisdom in our daily thoughts and actions. If we take this inner Path, we will progressively learn to distinguish all illusions of the manifested world and improve our ability to help all beings that are still struggling with these illusions. This then brings us to the sixth Jewel of Wisdom, which the following article is about.
Development of the Self
Most people only know the word ‘evolution’ from the Darwinian theory of evolution. However, the theosophical approach to evolution is completely different than the vision of Darwin and his successors. What is ‘evolution’ according to the Ancient Wisdom or Theosophia? We find a direct clue when we study the origin of the word. ‘E-volution’ is derived from Latin, and means rolling out, unwrapping or developing; developing the potential that is already within. Evolution is bringing out everything that isalready within us. After all, we already carry all the possibilities of the Cosmos within us.
Evolution takes place from an inner urge: think for example of the inner urge that we see in every child, to bring back all the capabilities that have been developed in previous incarnations.
Without focusing too much on the Darwinian theory in its original and recent forms, we can indicate here, why from a theosophical point of view, this theory mistakes cause and effect, and is therefore still quite imperfect. While Darwinists search for the explanation of the miraculous development of organisms on Earth in physical causes, Theosophy sees this development as a result of growing, unfolding consciousness. This inner development or e-volution does lead to physical changes but these physical changes are the results, not the causes. In addition, we must note that the Theosophical approach can be tested by anyone who is willing to study the Theosophical propositions.
A promising teaching
Every being is a pilgrim on the path of evolution. That path is, in the third proposition of Theosophy (see the first article), displayed as the inner growth through all stages of our Cosmic Hierarchy, from a very primitive unself-conscious being, through the realms of minerals, plants and animals to a self-conscious human, and then from a self-conscious human to ever grander and nobler planes of self-consciousness, through all kingdoms of gods, to the top of our Hierarchy. As already mentioned, this development has no boundaries because when we reach the top of our Cosmos, we will discover that we are still novices within a grander, more spiritual Cosmos ‘inside’ or ‘above’. Words such as ‘above’ do not comply of course, because we are talking about states of consciousness and matter. This grand image has a direct impact on our daily life; we will no longer say ‘impossible’ to any ideal whatsoever, nor will we consider it as a final destination. It’s all a matter of time and motivation.
This is stimulating for everyone. It is also the foundation to actually help people. After all, every being is infinite in its possibilities. This is a stimulant to provide an insight to the future for those who have ‘gotten stuck’ and to encourage them to examine whether this also works for them.
After the important transition from animal to human consciousness, evolution is self-guided evolution. As humans, we have developed self-consciousness; we make our own choices in life. For most of us this happens with trial and error. At this point, the fifth Jewel of Wisdom has a very inspirational value.
The fifth Jewel encourages us to self-motivation. We choose for ourselves how much light we will shine on the nobler aspects of our being. Theosophical help to our fellow human beings is in this light not only material help. We also touch something else, something much more real and imperishable.
If you see your fellow men as evolving beings that have the same core and possibilities as everyone else, then you naturally approach them from this perspective. You appeal to them according to the highest level in themselves and in doing so you invoke that level as well. The contact with their own higher nature is their only tool to help themselves sustainably. They feel that they are being approached in the essence of their being; they feel the confidence you have in them as well as in their development. However, this substantial contact from Human to Human is, in the beginning, only alive occasionally and often not more durable than at the times when you meet.
Sometimes we also support our fellow men by reminding them that they should really make their own choices in life. Every being has a free will. This is often an eye-opener for those people who feel like a victim of circumstances. This offers space for everyone. You do not have to lie where you have fallen. Every being is continuously trying to develop itself. This is a true encouragement to try to get the best out of oneself.
The fifth Jewel of Wisdom also teaches us that every day, even every hour, provides us with unique opportunities. Inner growth always takes place cyclically. This is an important thought from Theosophy. And then we can think of small and large cycles: the daily cycle, the cycle of our incarnations, and the much larger cycles that all of humanity has to go through. Each cycle has a specific characteristic, and gives us the opportunity to express certain aspects in ourselves. We can take the phases of our youth as an example. Until about our seventh year, we mainly develop our instinctive capabilities such as our senses and our locomotion. Then, from our seventh to our fourteenth year, we will focus on our intellect. And from our fourteenth year we develop – as far as we are able in this incarnation – our idealism and the urge to choose our own path in life. As Gottfried de Purucker said:
“There is one thing I learned when I was a boy, and I learned it well, and it has been one of my best friends ever since. It is that I can learn from everything, and that if I allow a single day to pass without increasing my store of wisdom, without enlarging and enriching my inner life, by however small an increment, that day is a lost day in my life.” (1)
All the great Sages taught us: do not just dream about beautiful ideals, but use the possibilities of practical brotherhood in every hour of your life, the possibilities that are now available to you. And those opportunities always present themselves.
Every person creates an atmosphere by thinking. If you take the fifth Jewel as a starting point, you will create an atmosphere which not only you but also others experience as a stimulus to spiritual growth.
Compassion for all living things
Thanks to the fifth Jewel, we recognize a fellow pilgrim in each being, no matter what his place on the Ladder of Life. Also in a blade of grass or in a worm hides an immortal spiritual core, which is trying to express itself. Every life form is, for the beings that belong to it, a temporary but necessary school. The consequences of this are tremendous for our own lives.
A theosophical student wrote to us: “Since I have been studying Theosophy a few years ago, I started to live more consciously. For example, before I always put my foot on every insect that I saw because I thought they were disgusting or because I was actually scared of them. Now that I realize everything is one and follows his own evolution, I let most insects go their own way. Only mosquitoes I still smash, but I am also trying now to catch them with a cup and release them outside.” At this point we would like to have a small flashback to the past. When H.P. Blavatsky drew attention to Theosophia again in 1875, many people believed that animals would not have a soul. This idea lived both in religious as well as in scientific dogmatism. In those early days a number of Theosophists gave a huge boost to the protection of animals. And although countless animals are still kept in inhumane, but in fact in-animal, conditions, we can now, 138 years after the impulse of H.P. Blavatsky, conclude that almost every thinking human being realizes that animals are very sensitive, conscious beings. This gives us humans a great responsibility.
We are all on our way. Plants, animals, et cetera as well. We need to let animals take their own path as much as possible. So if they are only bred to be eaten and have not led their life as an animal, then we interfere deeply in their evolution.
Growth gives responsibility
More knowledge gives more responsibility. Those who get in touch with Theosophy and personally taste the far-reaching consequences that come with it when applying it, might sometimes feel overwhelmed and think ‘what have I started?’ Some people experience Theosophy as if it imposes a certain pressure; a larger accountability. Everything you have now learned cannot be dismissed anymore; you can no longer say that you did not know. The things you supposedly do ‘wrong’ now, are being blamed on you more thoroughly.
We are not ‘blamed’ for these things by our fellow men, but by ourselves, by our own grown understanding. In some way this is a positive sign. Basically we are talking here about trials. These are not imposed on us by others, but by ourselves. We have raised the bar ourselves. At these moments of trial, it is good to see all sides of the situation. We then see for example, that our life and the purpose of our life has become much richer by Theosophy with more space for other people. We have woken up from a selfish kind of dream state.
By aiming our aspirations high, and acting unselfishly, we gradually awaken the abilities within us to put Theosophy to practice. Then we will come to the remarkable conclusion one day that we are capable of things that we hardly thought possible a few years back.
The fifth Jewel, progressive evolution, is based on this inspiring principle: equality. All beings are rays or expressions of the One Boundless Life. There are infinite steps in development in the Cosmos, and each being can always achieve higher stages of evolution in the course of time. That is a matter of development time. In light of Theosophy we see how foolish it is to see ourselves as the measure of all things and to act accordingly. Less far developed does not mean ‘worth less’. As a Buddhist sûtra states: “The Bodhisattva must have equal respect for all beings as he has for the Tathâgata [the Buddha].” (2) Or, in more common words, in the school of life, you do not have to look down on or look up to anybody. Because in daily life you cannot expect the same wisdom from a child in first grade as from a child in sixth grade, as this child began in first grade as well.
All Jewels of Wisdom are closely intertwined as aspects of the one boundless Truth. The recognition of all beings as fellow pilgrims on the – often difficult – Inner Path, leads us directly to the sixth Jewel of Wisdom, the two paths, presented in the following article.
G. de Purucker, Wind of the Spirit. Point Loma Publications, San Diego 1976, p. 1. Online:
2. G. de Purucker, Esoteric Instructions 1, The Esoteric Path: its Nature and its Tests. Point Loma publications, San Diego 1987, p. 81 (a fragment from the Mahâprajnâpâramitâ).