The whole universe is composed of intelligent beings. This does not necessarily imply self-conscious beings, such as we humans are. There are grades of intelligences, just as there are grades of matter. As matter is dense or subtle, solid, liquid or gaseous, so with intelligences. There is human intelligence, and we all use it, though all do not know what it exactly is. Human intelligence is called self-conscious intelligence; human beings are aware of their own existence and are capable of comparing and contrasting their intelligence with other intelligences. But elsewhere in nature intelligence is not self-conscious. There is consciousness everywhere, but only in human beings is there self-consciousness.
Animals have intelligence, but they are not self-conscious; the semblance of thinking or reasoning they display is rooted in instinct. To understand animal consciousness we must look at those processes of our body over which we have no direct control. Take the beating of the heart; the heart, as an organism, has intelligence of its own, which goes on functioning automatically; so much so that we become conscious of our heart only when that organ malfunctions. Or take the digestive process; we eat self-consciously, but we digest and assimilate non-self consciously. Only a few know all the details of what happens after we have eaten. The stomach, the liver, the intestines, all function instinctively. Strange as it may seem, all animals act in the same instinctive way; we might say that the intelligence and consciousness of the dog, the cow, the bird, is instinctive.
In the vetetable kingdom too there is consciousness, but it is again different from animal consciousness. For instance, a dog or a cat instinctively goes in search of food, but a rose-bush, if not given water, air or manure, does not go seeking these—it dies. All the same, plant-life shows intelligence of its own kind. So do all minerals. Difficult as it may seem to us to understand, a little study reveals that the formation of crystals is a manifestation of intelligence. Again, chemistry teaches how intelligent are the elements; how, for example, carbon and oxygen combine to form a deadly gas—deadly to us humans; or how hydrogen and oxygen combine to form health-giving water, without which human beings would perish.
So Theosophy recognizes, as does science, that there are various types of intelligences. But Theosophy goes further in two directions: (1) It says that, in the infinitudes of space, there is the invisible counterpart of the visible universe; and so there are "kingdoms" in that invisible universe as well. Thus Theosophy recognizes the ancient teaching that below the mineral kingdom there are kingdoms of invisible forms of life called elementals. These elementals are of many kinds. In Hindu psycho-philosophy, there are hierarchies of devas and devatas; and in Christian Gnosticism we come across the celestial hierarchies of angels and archangels. (2) Secondly, Theosophy not only recognizes intelligence in all the kingdoms of Nature, but says that there are mineral, vegetable and animal beings as there are human beings. The classification of the kingdoms of visible Nature is an extension or a reflection of the invisible kingdoms, and therefore in Theosophy the division of species and sub-types of animals, vegetables and minerals is different.
To sum up, the universe is made of many kinds of beings, each kind having its own consciousness and intelligence, but only in the human kingdom is there self-consciousness or reflective intelligence. According to Theosophy, the whole universe is composed of intelligences, sub-human and human, and in the sub-human are included all the intelligent beings who have yet to enter the kingdom of man, i.e, have yet to acquire self-consciousness, which alone is capable of making the being say, "I am I and no other."
Another way in which the classification and description of the universe, which is the field of evolution of all these beings and intelligences, differs from that of science, is this: Theosophy, like Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Gnosticism and Kabalism, starts from the world of the Spirit and descends to the worlds of matter. The world of Spirit is made up of Divine Monads, called the Eternal Pilgrims. Spirit-beings or Spirit-intelligences are entities, units of consciousness; hence the term Monad, i.e., One. This entity called Monad has a spiritual intelligence and a material envelope; a Monad is a unit of Spirit-Matter, and each is the Eternal Pilgrim. But this Monad is not self-conscious; it is a unit of consciousness or intelligence that does not know itself. Each Monad is Atma clothed in a vehicle called Buddhi. It is Atma-Buddhi; Manas-mind is not there. The whole purpose of evolution, the one great reason for these Eternal Pilgrims to undertake their pilgrimage, is to acquire Manas, self-conscious intelligence, human mind.
The Third Fundamental, or basic idea of Theosophy, deals with the evolution of beings, Monads, Eternal Pilgrims. Each of these Monads undertakes a pilgrimage that will last for a whole Eternity—an age which, though very long, is still a definite cycle. The purpose of the pilgrimage is to acquire self-conscious intelligence, to become Man. This is called the descent of the Monads into matter. Monads come down, world by world, till they touch the world of physical gross matter, and passing through mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms, become men. Having become men, having acquired self-consciousness, the Monad ascends in full knowledge, step by step and world after world, until the human Atma becomes Maha-Atma, the Supreme Atma.
Descent and ascent of the Monad is a large cycle and is called the Circle of Necessity, because it is necessary for the Monad to unfold powers, to know itself as divine, to become "that which it is," as the mystic phrase goes. The Circle of Necessity is the Cycle of Evolution of the Monad, and the age of that Cycle is the age of the Universe, which Universe is composed of the totality of all the Monads evolving in that cycle. From this we can see that there are two great curves—the descent of the Monad till manhood is attained; and then the ascent of man till human perfection is reached.
The evolution of the Monad before the human stage is reached is by natural impulse. It means that the evolving Monad, or eternal pilgrim, does not know why it is descending, how it is descending. Each Monad has will, but it is not free will; it has consciousness. but it is not self-consciousness. Hydrogen combines with oxygen without knowledge; the rosebud blossoms into beauty without knowledge; the dog feels the pangs of hunger without knowing why and how; and so forth. The urge of life which moves onward and forward is called natural impulse.
When the flow of evolution carries the Monad to the human stage, it acquires the power to choose for itself. It acquires individuality; i.e., Manas, human self-consciousness, begins to unfold. Then only the Monad knows itself as itself. That Monad or Unit is not just Atma-Buddhi any more; it is Atma-Buddhi-Manas, or the three-in-one. That Monad which has become a human Monad has now free will; will is not free before the human stage is reached. The power to choose and determine comes to the Monad with the acquisition of individuality and henceforth its process of evolution changes. In the pre-human stage, evolution is by natural impulse; in the human kingdom that process is not altogether abandoned, but a new process is added—that of self-induction, the power of the human mind-soul to induce ways of progress, the faculty to devise means of quick and quicker growth. So human evolution proceeds in a double manner—by natural impulse and by self-induction. Natural impulse works only in certain departments of our make-up; i.e., in the beating of the heart, in the automatic functions of the body. Our free will is not yet able to determine everything; we are part and parcel of nature, and its impulse is not fully under our control. In the perfected human soul or Mahatma, all processes of and in nature are under his control.
We human beings possess free will and the power of self-induction in the most vital part of our being. Our mind is not subject to natural impulse. We can think as we please; we can induce in our mind whatever resolves, whatever ideas we choose to have; we are able to devise ways and means of our own progress. Theosophy teaches an important truth in reference to human evolution:
The pivotal doctrine of the Esoteric philosophy admits no privileges or special gifts in man, save those won by his own Ego through personal effort and merit throughout a long series of metempsychoses and reincarnations. (The Secret Doctrine, I, 17)
No gifts from anywhere come to us save and except those we ourselves have acquired by self-effort, by self-induced and self-devised ways and means. Our whole progress as souls depends upon our own choice, our own resolve, our own determination. The soul wins any and every merit by self-effort, and it has to learn the method of self-induction; it has to learn how to devise ways and means of progress. We have to take our evolution in our own hands and induct into our mind ideas which can serve as patterns. Just as in a foreign land a traveller is aided by a map of the city, its roads, landmarks, etc., so also one needs a chart or a map to guide one's steps in the daily affairs of life. This chart is composed of ideas, and these ideas have to be introduced into our mind, induced into our daily consciousness.
That is the beginning. In our life, our ordinary consciousness does not carry the stamp of the soul. Our mind has all sorts of stamps put upon it by our senses, by our desires, good and evil. These stamps come to us by natural impulse, and instead of examining them, evaluating them, accepting some, rejecting others by virtue of our manhood, we allow our mind to receive them all. It is our privilege to stamp on our own mind and consciousness the Divine Pattern of Divine Ideas, which not only quicken progress but also make it harmonious and rhythmic. We suffer in a variety of ways, in body and in mind; we make a variety of mistakes of motive and judgement; we demoralize and weaken our character in numberless ways because we do not recognize and assert the right method of evolution in the human kingdom—by self-induced and self-devised ways and means of living day by day.
Let us seek for Universal Ideas, for such ideas alone are true. A true idea is always and ever universal; a truth remains true for everyone and for all time. That which is true for one cannot be false for another. What is really true and great is common to all religions.
There are three great ideas which are universal truths and which every one of us should introduce in our mind-consciousness:
The three Divine Truths are profound, though the words in which they are expressed appear to be simple. We have to memorize those words in the real sense.
The soul of man is immortal: If each one of us were to remember that when we speak and act and do the little routine duties of life we do them as immortal souls, the control of our weaknesses would be easier. When we study or meditate, we are brought back to that remembrance, but we have to learn that our soul is immortal, and all that the mind thinks and the senses perceive affects that soul for long eras and ages. We also have to remember that all other human beings are likewise immortal souls—the crying infant, the naughty child, the negligent servant, the employer and the employed, the man in his office, the woman in her home, are all immortal souls, each learning some lesson, performing some task, overcoming some weakness, unfolding some virtue. Our attitude to our fellowmen and to our world will change and peace and contentment will enter our hearts. At present there is iron in the hearts of some, gall in the hearts of others, and passivity, lethargy and inertia in still other hearts. Peace comes when the truth is recognized that the soul of man is immortal.
The principle which gives life dwells in us and without us: That Universal Principle is God or Deity, the Great Presence. The soul in man and the soul in the universe are indissolubly linked.
Each man is his own absolute lawgiver: Many people accept the truth that the human soul is immortal, and all who are not rank atheists recognize that some divine force or energy is at the base of the universe. But without this third truth, life is bound to be a failure. This truth gives a meaning to life, reveals the purpose of the whole of evolution, shows the destiny of the Race. Each soul progressing and realizing its own immortality by self-effort, by self-induction, fulfils the high destiny of the Race.
We have seen a view of the stream of evolution which is carrying forward the whole human race to its sublime goal, and the method by which each one of us can participate in that grand task. What we are attempting, the Perfect Men of the Race have accomplished. Those Great Ones have, cycle by cycle, devised ways and means and induced into the Manas and the Buddhi of the Race great ideas which energize us to gain enlightenment, which inspire us to selfless service of humanity. They embody in themselves the Divine Ideas. They are living examples of what the Race will be when it has reached its destined goal. Let us try to follow those living examples by inducing into our minds the Divine Ideas they teach.
We should not lose sight of the fact that other souls are reincarnating every day, bringing back with them the experience and Karma of distant past ages. That must show itself in them as they mature in this life, and they will furnish new impulses, new ideas, new inventions, new pieces of knowledge to the general sum, thus affecting the progress of the race, but all under cyclic law. And if we, by supinely sitting down, do not create for them, as they may have in the other days done for us, the right material, the right vehicle of civilization, the end of the cycle may be reached with their task unfinished—through our fault. The Karma of that will then be ours, and inexorable justice will bring us upon the scene in other cycles which eternally proceed out of the womb of time, to finish with heavy hearts the task we shirked. No theosophist, therefore, should ever begin to think that he need not offer any help because all will come right anyhow.