The concept of a "Cosmic Mind" or an intelligent Universal PRINCIPLE that unites into a homogeneous whole the purposes and activities of all Nature is as difficult of understanding for the average person of today, or even for the modern philosopher, psychologist and scientist, as it was a century ago. The present-day orthodox savants engaged in the various departments of research are still very much influenced by the concepts evolved by 19th-century materialism, which we have all learned under the present system of education, and these concepts influence the interpretations of the now more refined observations of natural phenomena. The average person is sure of his personality and is usually inbued with the idea of his separateness from others—be they men or things. This attitude is inculcated and encouraged by modern education, based as it is on those social ideas which became confirmed under the influence of 19th-century materialism. We all suffer from them. Part of H.P.B.'s mission it was to break open this mould and to revive the concept that consciousness is universal, that in every organism there exists a Vital Principle independent of any physical or chemical processes. It is known under many appellations in various ancient systems, and is sometimes called the Cosmic Mind.
The archaic Esoteric Philosophy posits as an axiomatic fact the existence of a Universal Mind—cosmic in scope and range, omniscient, timeless, purposeful. It also posits, for our clearer understanding of this, that every atom is an independent entity; that every cell is a consciousness unit. All exhibit free will and the power to choose within the limits of natural Law.
On what are these axiomatic principles based?
The Secret Doctrine offers three fundamental propositions: (1) The existence of an impersonal, absolute, deific PRINCIPLE—not a personal God—which is unqualified and from which, through a series of emanations, all manifestation springs and into which it returns upon the completion of an evolutionary period. (2) Law is eternal, immutable, impersonal, ever active, not only on the plane of physical matter, but also on the invisible inner planes. Motion or emanation from a Spiritual, Deific Essence implies a plan, and a plan implies a Planner on a cosmic scale—the UNIVERSAL MIND; this underlies, interpenetrates and sustains all forms as the Universal Life-Essence. The Cosmic Plan, under Law, provides for (3) the unity and evolution of all sentient, conscious life. In this evolutionary scheme the human stage marks an important grade in which the innate sensitivity and awareness has become self-reflective, self-aware, self-conscious; that is, the mind of man is capable of apprehending and reflecting the Universal Mind, of which it is a "ray." The incarnating Ego, Manas (Higher Mind), in every individual is one with and a ray from this Universal Mind. Man, therefore, being endowed with free will, has a special responsibility towards the whole of nature.
The Higher Mind, the Individuality, from its habitat, the Akasic plane of Eternal Wisdom, surveys the past, the present and the future with the power of its supersensuous thought. The incarnated personal consciousness (the lower, Kama-tending mind) retains but the limited memories of one incarnation. This lower, psychic mind is the "ambassador," so to say, in the field of incarnation in gross matter, of the higher, noetic mind, the Divine Individual overshadowing each one.
The one common source of all beings, the one common root of life and consciousness, the one common goal of evolution, when apprehended, leads self-conscious man to the path of co-operation and study—study of all laws—first in his own nature and then in his surroundings, and in all of Nature's departments. Co-operation with all beings that his Karma has put him into relation with—his family, neighbours, city, province, country, continent, and finally the world—arises as the result of this understanding.
The concept of Karma, or the effect that our free-willed thoughts, feelings and deeds have on ourselves and on others, is a natural derivation of the concept of the Universal Mind, or Cosmic Consciousness, which imparts awareness to all Nature and is in all sentient things. Sensitivity to impression is universal. Any disturbance of harmony affects the surrounding conscious beings, and the process of restoring harmony brings reaction on the disturber, which is Karma.
The average thoughtful person who has been educated into the concepts of constant competition and the goal of massive acquisitions might ask: "If your propositions are true, then why should one do anything any more? Why not just lean back and permit the general flow of events to carry us 'naturally' forward to the predetermined goal of evolution as you see it?" Another might say: "You have taken away from me my purposiveness! Now that you have told me what the goal of evolution is, you make me seem like a 'plaything of Karma.' You have destroyed my freedom of will because you have destroyed the exciting element of chance. I reject your philosophy!" Both these are extreme attitudes which seem to spring from emotionalism and not from logic or understanding.
The first concept that needs to be borne in mind is that evolution can only proceed if there is free-willed action (within the natural evolutionary limits derived from past manifestations). This is evident everywhere in Nature—from the "choice" of the uni-celled amoeba in its selection of food to the choice of self-conscious man—to study or reject without further consideration these propositions, for instance. Choice is everywhere evident. Progress in anything is through effort, action, selection, study, experience, and discrimination which leads to true knowledge or wisdom. Nothing in the universe is immobile or static. Motion is a universal manifestation of energy or force, acting under Law on all material forms over a period of time, thus creating cycles of habit and correspondence. Purposeful motion is the Cosmic Mind in action. Each being is involutarily urged to act by its inherent tendencies. "No one ever resteth a moment inactive," says Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita, where he also states that among the senses and organs he is "Manas"; he is "the Ego which is seated in the hearts of all beings...the beginning, the middle, and the end of all existing things."
The second important concept we should remember is that the goal of all evolution is perfection of knowledge and the doing of wise actions. The way to it leads through the exercise of discrimination (or choice), using one's own free will in action in harmony with all other free-willed beings. No one is isolated; each affects others, both when performing actions and when receiving the results thereof. Since the Universe is limitless and eternal, there is no limit to the range of perception and to the acquisition of knowledge; nor is there any limit in time to the seeking individual. This may appear vague, or staggering, as a concept; but, as the personal consciousness widens to the Universal, Cosmic-Mind viewpoint, it becomes omniscient, one with the UNIVERSAL CONSCIOUSNESS yet separate as an entity—one with other intelligent consciousnesses in an endless hierarchy. This vision of its own true place in the WHOLE, as a ray undetached from the parent Cosmic Mind, indicates the important position of the individual and the necessity for one's existence. Once one is satisfied of the necessity for one's continued existence, true contentment and happiness result from such understanding, and one is better able to attune oneself to one's environment and to the events of everyday life, which, resulting from past choices, offer opportunities now for the conscious and deliberate shaping of one's own future.
Is this concept not satisfactory enough, still? Then, let us look upon those great examples of perfected men whom we know of through history and tradition—Teachers, Prophets, Saints and Sages of the past who have left their impress on the minds of the people of their own and succeeding generations. What have they all in common? Lofty idealism, exemplary lives, sublime ethical and moral precepts which have influenced and inspired millions of men through the ages, not through organized and orthodox priestcraft, but through their innate worthiness, logic and practicality. These elevated concepts raise men's petty, personal and selfish minds to levels of selflessness and individual perfection, in company with and for the benefit of others. The Knowers and Teachers of these ideas form a Great, Silent, Invisible but ever active and potent Body—a Lodge of Great Men. We revere them as true servants of Nature and protectors of mankind, as Elder Brothers and Masters, to whom we can turn for help and guidance so that we, too, following the Path they show, may some time, some day, reach their plane of sacrifice, of compassion and of duty well done. To these self-made men we offer our reverential salutations.
Everybody knows that the word "Adept" comes from the Latin Adeptus. This term is derived from the two words, ad "of" and Apisci "to pursue" (Sanskrit ap). An Adept would then be a person versed in a certain art or science acquired in one manner or another. It follows that this qualification can be applied as well to an adept in astronomy as to an adept in the art of making patés de foies gras (chopped liver); a shoemaker as a perfumer, the one versed in the art of making boots, the other in the art of chemistry—are "adepts."