Principles of the Ancient Wisdom and the Spiritual Path

Gary Kidgell – Scotland

The classical teachings of Ancient Wisdom describe humanity as the Fourth kingdom of nature, being preceded by the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms. When we tread the spiritual path we are seeking entry to what is referred to as the Fifth Kingdom of Souls where spiritual masters reside. We are endeavouring here to attain a considerably higher form of consciousness and level of being. This process relates not only to us developing a far greater degree of sensitivity, perception and understanding of the world around us, but also that life and our relationship to other beings and the universe is seen from an entirely different perspective. This may only occur through a metamorphosis of our consciousness.

The famous Hermetic axiom of ‘As Above So Below’ relates to the fact that the divine life, which pervades our entire universe, tends to display similar qualities in the various forms which it activates and expresses itself through. We therefore witness analogies in the lower kingdoms of nature which represent the archetypal process of spiritual transformation.

The production of diamonds in the mantle of the Earth under particular conditions of pressure and temperature provide an analogy of the alchemical process, as do the various stages of the flowering of a plant.

The analogy depicted by the life cycle of the butterfly is a particularly apt one in this respect. The initiates of Ancient Egypt considered the masses of Egypt to be in a larva stage of development whereas the intelligentsia and the initiates themselves where able to proceed with their separate development into the pupal and imago stages. This gave rise to the concept of the winged pharaoh emerging from his sarcophagus or pupal case.

The caterpillar represents humanity in its present state of waking sleep, which the Hindus refer to as maya. This is the restricted level of ordinary subject-object consciousness, humanity’s common state of awareness, whereby the One Divine Life appears as many separate and distinct lives and the transient, phenomenal world as real and enduring. The life of the caterpillar represents a form of two-dimensional consciousness where its life is confined to crawling on surfaces whilst its primary concern is that of eating. The caterpillar, like the majority of humanity at this present time, views life from a strictly utilitarian perspective.

It is important here to note that the following chrysalis stage relates to a withdrawal from the world where the caterpillar abandons its previous life and finds a sheltered spot in which to pupate within its chrysalis. Those unaware of this process may perceive the caterpillar as simply being idle or dormant. However it is undergoing immense change, a transformation which shall enable it to penetrate new and higher dimensions.

Similarly when one treads the spiritual path they begin to withdraw from the world as the transient affairs and the glamour of the outer world loses its appeal as they undertake the journey leading to the source of their being. There endeavours here are viewed with incredulity by the masses of humanity who have yet to awaken to such matters.

The butterfly symbolises what is often referred to as cosmic consciousness, whilst the chrysalis represents the stage of transition between these two states. This is of course what we refer to as the spiritual path, which is often symbolised as the mountain of initiation where the ascent of the cliff-face, whilst arduous and particularly challenging, offers one spectacular views of their surrounding world.

Unlike the caterpillar, the butterfly has freedom of movement and represents a three-dimensional form of consciousness living in space with the ability to return to surfaces. It can therefore understand relationships occurring on the surface within the realm of the caterpillar but is also aware of an entirely different higher world which the caterpillar is oblivious to.

Just as the world of the butterfly is incomprehensible to the caterpillar, so is the state of being of one who has experienced the level of cosmic consciousness  meaningless to the individual who has yet to glimpse reality beyond the state of waking sleep or ordinary subject-object consciousness.

The teachings of Ancient Wisdom can assist us greatly towards the process of spiritual transformation. They inform us of the evolutionary journey that we are engaged upon as a means of developing and expressing our spirituality amidst the constraints and challenges imposed by physical form. Through a consideration of the fundamental esoteric principles which underlie these great teachings, we are offered insight and assistance towards treading the ‘spiritual path’ which leads to the very source of our being.

Earlier in this article, I demonstrated certain aspects of the esoteric principle of ‘As Above, So Below’. The second principle of the wisdom teachings I shall now outline is that ‘all forms are filled with life, from the tiniest atom, to the greatest galaxy’. Madame Blavatsky used the term ‘hylozoism’ to describe this. This is a compound word derived from the Greek language, ‘Hylo’ meaning matter and ‘Zoe’ meaning life.

This proposition of the wisdom teachings states that that all forms operate as vehicles for LIFE, at varying stages of a long evolutionary journey, to develop and express its latent qualities.

The Ancient Wisdom states that LIFE exists within all forms. The entire universe is a sentient living being. The Indian teachings of Jainism, Sankyha and Yoga describe how Purusha or spirit infuses Prakriti or matter. This concept was developed further by the teachings of Advaita Vedanta which state that the divine life, known as Brahman is both transcendent of, yet also immanent within all forms. This is beautifully encapsulated in the quote from the Bhagavad Gita ‘having pervaded this universe with one fragment of myself I remain (Bhagavad Gita, Chap 10, Verse 42).

The Ancient Wisdom informs us that a divine being, whom we refer to as the ‘Solar Logos’, has projected its component parts downwards into matter as part of a vast evolutionary process. We, as monads or divine sparks of that immense being, are these components sometimes referred to as ‘Sons of Sacrifice’.

The teachings of Alice Bailey employ the terms Life, Quality and Appearance to describe the interplay between spirit and matter. The word ‘Life’ here meaning the monad or divine essence, the word ‘Appearance’ being the form which it temporarily inhabits, and ‘Quality’ relating to the extent to which the indwelling ‘Life’, through its instrument the Soul can express its intents and purposes through the form.

The individual on the spiritual path must seek to develop and express their spirituality thereby enabling the Life within to demonstrate such Quality despite the restrictions imposed by the form which it inhabits. It is a very useful exercise for anyone who wishes to grasp the essence of this postulate to take the time in their life to observe various forms of nature, within the various kingdoms, and to consider the ability of the indwelling divine life towards expressing its quality through the form.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

The theory of hylozoism also applies at subjective levels of the human psyche. Thoughts are living things which the English Romantic poet Shelley referred to as ‘nurslings of immortality’. We can create very powerful and important images linked to our consciousness at subjective levels through which the Soul or Higher Self may communicate with us by adopting and energising these. This, of course, is the basis for creative visualisation as a means of enabling a dialogue to occur between the Soul and its instrument of expression- the human personality. This enables the Soul to offer guidance and direction to the personality so that its purpose and intentions may be fulfilled.

The wisdom teachings also inform us that ‘there is no death, only change of state’. Life is eternal as consciousness forever spirals upwards so that we may express our innate divine qualities which Plato described as Truth, Beauty and Goodness.

The human personality is simultaneously the instrument of the Higher Self, yet also part of the maya or illusion which obscures the One Divine Life which is being expressed through all forms. The word personality is of a compound nature. The Latin words ‘per’ and ‘sona’ meaning that through which the sound comes, or from an esoteric perspective, the instrument through which the Soul seeks to sounds its own particular note within the great cosmic symphony, whist it is engaged in the lower realms of creation.

The Soul is unaffected when the mask of its personality is changed from that of childhood to that of youth, to adulthood then on to that of old age. The personality or ego, which one has nurtured and cherished, may feel disturbed, and may have difficulty adjusting itself to these changes and the resulting losses of opportunity for the expression of the personality and its associated desires here, but the Soul is not affected. The Higher Self is equally unconcerned when the mask of the personality is put aside altogether at the time of death, and a new one assumed at the next birth. There is no death in terms of the Soul. The changes to the body and its relinquishment concern the Higher Self no more than do the solstices of the seasons or the phases of the Moon.

There is a very famous quote from the Bhagavad Gita relating to our spiritual essence the monad, of which the Soul is the instrument, stating that ‘Weapons do not cut Him, fire does not burn Him, water wet Him, or the wind dry Him away. He cannot be cut, he cannot be burnt, he cannot be wet, He cannot be dried away. He is changeless, all-pervading, stable, unshakable, and permanent’ (Bhagavad Gita, Chap 2, verse 23-24)

The wisdom teachings also inform us that ‘All things live within the body of a greater being’. We are all aware that sub-atomic particles reside within atoms which are found within molecules which together constitute cells and that these may exist of their own accord or are aggregated to form complex structures within nature up to and including the human form.

The Ancient Wisdom states that collective groups of humanity are part of what are referred to as ‘sub-races’ which in turn are part of ‘Root-Races which are a part of humanity itself. The terms ‘sub’ and ‘Root’ Race refer to a particular group of humans who together emit a certain spiritual quality.

We are analogous to cells residing within humanity which itself is a great entity- a leviathan whereby the various Root Races described by Theosophy represent chakras, the Aryan being the throat chakra, the Atlantean the solar plexus and the Lemurian the sacral centre.

Humanity itself exists as a chakra within a great being which is seeking to develop and express its spiritual qualities through our planet and who is referred to as the ‘Planetary Logos’. Our planet itself is a chakra (base of the spine) within the great solar being which itself is the heart chakra within an immense cosmic being (referred to by the Bailey teachings as the ‘One About Whom Naught May Be Said’) hence the dominant note within our solar system, and therefore the key to spiritual growth, is related to the Second Ray of Love-Wisdom whose energies are expressed as Love Wisely Applied and Wisdom Lovingly Applied.

In each of these instances the structures that exist within the greater being contributes towards the functioning of their host whilst also being subject to their host’s superior rhythms and impulse. A key towards understanding the workings of the stupendous beings that operate through the planets and constellations is that of astrology. The science of astronomy considers the anatomy of our universe which considers its various parts without describing their relationship to each other or their actual purpose. That is the province of astrology, and especially esoteric astrology which embraces the physiology of our universe.

With regard to this principle of the wisdom teachings, let us now consider a most important esoteric proposition:-

Human cells are alive and sentient and their aggregation makes up their human host. The Soul of each cell is the consciousness of the one in whom they live and move and have their being. The cell reflects something of that greater being.
Similarly the Soul of one particular human being and that of another are one and the same- the consciousness of the greater being in whom both individuals reside- which the wisdom teachings refer to as the ‘Planetary Logos’. This is what is meant when one states that ‘my Soul and your Soul are the same’. Each Soul seeks to direct its adopted instrument of spiritual expression in the lower worlds- the personality- towards the expression of the overall divine purpose.

When one undertakes various forms of spiritual development, they are essentially seeking to fashion their personality into an effective spiritual instrument whereby they are able to fulfil the purpose or intent of the Soul or Higher Self. In doing so, they become eligible to share in the energies and powers of the Planetary Logos, via their own Soul.

If one is able to surrender their individuality momentarily in a deep state of meditation one can share in the consciousness of the greater being of which they are a part of. This, of course, is the practice of yoga- of ‘yoking’ oneself to the consciousness of the greater being of which they are a part of. This Yoga or Union leads to one experiencing the consciousness of the greater being within which they reside. The Hindus refer to such a stupendous event as Samadhi, Zen Buddhism employs the term Satori to describes this, whilst in the west this experience is often labelled as the attainment of Cosmic Consciousness.

There are of course many different ways in which we may tread the spiritual path. Indian traditions state that the river of ignorance and passion is broad and dangerous to cross, yet the divine ferryman can bring his devotees safely to the other shore. This symbol is common to all of the Indian traditions. The Jain saviours are called Tirthankaras- meaning Crossing-Makers. The Buddha crosses a river by walking on its waves, his wisdom is known as the ‘knowledge that has gone to the other shore’, The Mahayana saviour Avalokiteshvara is represented as a winged steed, named ‘Cloud’ who can carry to the far away bank of enlightened freedom, in extinction of one’s personality attributes, all who wish to go there.

In the west, we talk of various ‘keys to the mysteries’. These include the Qabalah, Esoteric Anatomy, Numerology, Alchemy and Esoteric Psychology- the teachings of the Seven Rays. These represent ways in which one may tread the spiritual path which leads to the source of their being. We must bear in mind here that whatever approach one takes here, that it is merely a vehicle towards achieving enlightenment, a ferryboat which takes them into the realm of the transcendent.

When we tread the path we seek to affect the process of psychosynthesis, whereby we endeavour to integrate the various components of our personality- the mental, astral and physical bodies- for the purpose of becoming Soul-infused. The word Psychosynthesis is the term employed by the Italian psychiatrist and visionary Roberto Assagioli.

The esoteric axiom of ‘As Above, So Below’ which we have considered earlier, refers to the correspondence between microcosm and macrocosm. Just as we seek to bring about psychosynthesis so the Planetary Logos, and indeed the Solar Logos are undergoing the same process. When we tread the path we do so not for our own benefit but for the benefit of humanity and indeed these great beings which we are a part of.

When one treads the spiritual path they seek to fashion the personality into an effective spiritual instrument as a means of carrying out the purpose and the intentions of the Soul. What we refer to as personality integration is a necessary requisite towards serious spiritual growth. This enables our mind, our emotions and our body to function as one. In this way we are no longer distracted from our spiritual purpose by the transitory affairs of the external world, neither are we bound to it by our emotional attachments and our desires, but rather we operate in conscious co-operation with the Higher Self.

Psychosynthesis involves a deconstruction of the personality at its present level of consciousness for the purpose of reassembling it at a higher point thereby allowing the Soul to infuse it with its spiritualising energies. This may be achieved through the undertaking of various spiritual disciplines such as study of the wisdom teachings, the regular practice of meditation and the performing of acts of service to humanity and/or the planet in general.

The process of pyshcosynthesis is symbolised in Classical myth by the birth of the Sun god Apollo. Apollo was fathered by Zeus, king of the Olympian Pantheon of gods, whilst his mother was Leto. Hera, the jealous wife of Zeus, would not allow Leto to give birth on stable land. Eventually Leto was able to bear her child on the floating island of Delos which Zeus then secured to the bottom of the ocean.

In this myth, Zeus symbolises the divine principle which seeks expression in matter whilst his jealous wife Hera represents the challenges that incarnation in matter presents to the development and expression of one’s spirituality. However these are a necessary part of the evolutionary process as they promote spiritual growth and ultimately enable one to perceive the secrets of the goddess, a symbol of the womb of time and space and the inner planes of consciousness which give rise to this. These are the secrets of life itself- which are only revealed to those who prove themselves worthy.

We may view Leto as a symbol for the personality which is seeking to give expression to its innate divine qualities. The floating island of Delos symbolises that fact that the personality must be fluid and adaptable thereby enabling the Soul to infuse it with its divine energies. A rigid ego structure is unable to access the energies of the higher being. The birth of Apollo represents the coming forth of the solar or spiritual principle from within which can only occur when certain conditions to bring this about are met. The floating island of Delos being secured to the bottom of the ocean by Zeus symbolises the completion of the process of psychosynthesis whereby the integrated personality is stable amidst the forces of the unconscious, which are represented by the ocean, and Soul-infused.

In Psychosynthesis the integrated personality that results from the undertaking spiritual disciplines allied to the successful assimilation of our various experiences, is symbolised by the image of the phoenix bird. The phoenix represents the ability of the personality to extricate itself from mundane, materialistic circumstance and to be elevated to a spiritual level of being whereby it is Soul-infused. The phoenix which rises from the ashes of its demise as a self-centred personality then soars towards the Sun- a symbol of its immortal nature.

It is important to bear in mind that when we tread the path that THE JOURNEY IS THE GOAL. It is the experiences that we undergo here which lead to expansions of consciousness and in our level of being. Socrates described the spiritual path as ‘The Jewelled Way’ a pathway strewn with flashes of illumination. However the treading of the path is far from easy. The path to initiation is not symbolised as an ascent of the mountain’s cliff-face by accident. The Soul will test us in many ways to ascertain our worthiness as its instrument of expression.

The late English Theosophist Dr Douglas Baker, (in is work entitled The Jewel in the Lotus, Baker Publications, 1995) stated that Courage, Persistence and Detachment are essential prerequisites in terms scaling the cliff-face of the mountain of initiation. These relate to the Soul’s qualities of buddhi, atma and manas respectively. He described how cowardice is opposed to courage. When treading the path we must accept and face any situation in life which may confront us as the Soul seeks to test our reliability as its spiritual instrument whilst also seeking to offload karma which can then free us towards greater acts of spiritual service.

Glamour or the allure of transient things is opposed to detachment and our ability to discriminate between the Real (the spiritual and enduring) and the Unreal (the ephemeral and transient). Selfishness opposes persistence with extremes of self-consideration undermining one’s ability to persist in their spiritual endeavours.

When we tread the spiritual path we quickly become aware that we have to function in two worlds simultaneously- the inner and the outer. There is an esoteric maxim- ‘Not that we should learn to live in this world less but in both worlds more’. This represents a great challenge but an essential one if we are to integrate our mind, emotions and body, together with the associated elements of our character, into a single sovereign entity.

As sparks of the divine we are engaged upon a long evolutionary journey to develop and express our spirituality amidst the constraints of physical form. We have incarnated as part of a divine plan which entails us functioning as a holistic entity expressing the intent of the one in whom we live and move and have our being. This includes the expression of our spiritual qualities in the material world rather than us trying to negate physical existence.

The process of Psychosynthesis requires that we experience what life is offering in order to embrace and to integrate the Soul with the personality. The Soul incarnates for the purpose of unfolding its latent qualities and therefore chooses appropriate circumstances within which we, as personalities, may develop and grow as an effective instrument towards these ends. We must therefore accept what life throws at us responding to any of its challenges with courage, resilience and fortitude.

Although it is formless, the Soul is commonly depicted as a lotus-like structure, containing petals of knowledge, love and sacrifice. It is our purpose to unfold these. The classical approach here, as I stated earlier, is to study the occult classics, meditate and perform acts of spiritual service. There stir the knowledge, love and sacrifice petals respectively.

The Lotus flowers above the water. Symbolically this suggests that one must develop the capacity to operate at a level above that of their emotions thus avoiding what the Hindus refer to as ‘kama-manas; meaning mind contaminated by desire. It is desire which binds us to the Wheel of Rebirth and to the maya-propelled merry-go-round of mundane material existence which Madame Blavatsky described as a ‘magic-lantern show’. The individual treading the spiritual path is challenged not to function as a puppet to their various desires but rather to transmute desire into spiritual aspiration.

When we tread the path there are many adjustments which require to be made in the personality vehicles before major initiations can be undertaken safely and the Soul’s purpose then permitted full expression. This implies integration of personality as a prelude to ‘psychosynthesis’ whereby the personality becomes infused with the energies of the Soul.

When we tread the path, essentially, we are seeking to realise the true nature of our being and to express its qualities as part of a divine plan. We have wonderful literature which has been offered to us by those who have already undertaken the journey to the source of their being. The preparatory disciplines are described beautifully in The Voice of the Silence by H.P.B. and At the Feet of the Master by J. Krishnamurti. However we must still do the hard work here which is why the qualities of courage, persistence and detachment are so important.




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