THE ETERNAL PARENT
In the Secret Doctrine of the Rosicrucians we find the following Aphorism of Creation:
The First Aphorism
The Eternal Parent was wrapped in the Sleep of the Cosmic Night. Light there was not: for the Flame of Spirit was not yet rekindled. Time there was not: for Change had not re-begun. Things there were not: for Form had not re-presented itself. Action there was not: for there were no Things to act. The Pairs of Opposites there were not: for there were no Things to manifest Polarity. The Eternal Parent, causeless, indivisible, changeless, infinite, rested in unconscious, dreamless sleep. Other than the Eternal Parent there was Naught, either Real or Apparent.
In this First Aphorism of Creation the Rosicrucian student is directed to apply his attention to the concept of the Infinite Source of All Things the Eternal Parent “from which all things proceed.” This Eternal Parent the Infinite Unmanifest, is represented by the Rosicrucians by the symbol of a circle, having nothing outside of itself and nothing within itself. The circle, however, must not be interpreted as conveying the idea of limitation; rather is it intended to convey the idea of limitlessness. The symbol, although the best possible for the purpose, is inadequate this by reason of the impossibility of representing the Infinite by a finite symbol. The only adequate symbol of the Eternal Parent would be that of Infinite Space, and this, of course, cannot be represented by a sign, for no matter how wide the circle might be drawn there would always be Space beyond it. But, recognizing the impossibility of an adequate symbol, the ancient Rosicrucians have adopted the empty circle as the best possible finite symbol of the Infinite Unmanifest.
The concept of Infinite Space has always been regarded by the Rosicrucians as the best possible concept with which to “think of” the Infinite Unmanifest, since the latter cannot be actually “thought” in consciousness as a Thing, and consciousness is capable of thinking only of Things. Strictly speaking, the Infinite Unmanifest is a “Nothing” rather than a “Thing”; and yet not such a “Nothing” as implies “not-ness” or “naught,” but rather such a “Nothing” as implies “The Possibility of Everything, yet without the limitations of Thingness.”
Infinite Space cannot be considered a “Thing,” for it has none of the characteristics of a “Thing.” And yet it cannot be denied actual existence and presence. Roughly speaking, it may be defined as “A No-Thing, containing within itself the possibility of infinite Thingness, or the infinite possibility of Things.” Infinite Space must be thought of as the Absolute Container of Everything, whether Manifest or Unmanifest for outside of Infinite Space there is only Nothingness, or, more strictly speaking, there is no outside of Infinite Space. Infinite Space, therefore, has always been the accepted occult and esoteric symbol by means of which men are able to “think of” the Infinite Unmanifest the Eternal Parent, wrapped in the Sleep of the Cosmic Night.
In one of the ancient occult catechisms, the question was asked: “What is that which ever has been, is now, and ever shall be, whether there be a Universe or not, and whether there be gods or not?” And the answer is: “Space!”
The strength of this symbol of Infinite Space, as indicating the Infinite Unmanifest, is perceived when the mind tries to think, or even imagine, the absence of Infinite Space either as absent before its creation, or else as absent after its destruction. It will, of course, be discovered that the human mind, and the human imagination, finds it impossible to think of Space being absent in either event. The mind is compelled to think of Space as being Infinite, and as being Eternal, without regard to whatever else is held to be either present or absent at any time, past, present, or future. And at the same time, the mind finds that it is unable to define Space as a Thing yet it dare not regard it as a Nothing or Naught. It is found that Infinite Space must be always thought of as necessarily eternally present, and yet ever free from the limitations of Things. Moreover, as Infinite Space is invisible and beyond the other senses, it cannot be “known” or cognized as a Thing.
Thought regarding it must always report “not this; not that” regarding it; and it answers to the ancient sage’s statement of Reality that: “The Essence of Being is without attributes, formless, devoid of distinctions, and unconditioned. It is different from that which we know, and from that which we do not know. Words and thought turn from it without finding it. The wise answer only by silence all questions concerning its nature. To all suggestions concerning its qualities, properties, and attributes, the wise simply answer: ‘neti, neti’ ‘not this, not that!’ Of THAT the wise assert simply ‘It IS.'” And as other ancient sages have said: “The imagination, the understanding, and abstract thinking will always strive in vain to represent the Infinite; for no form of finiteness (to which thought and speech also belong) can express the Infinite; nor can that which was timed express the Timeless and Eternal; nor can thought resultant from the chain of causation grasp the Causeless or Self-Existent.” So, in every way, and from every angle of view, we discover that the concept of Infinite Space is a noble and worthy symbol of THAT which we mean when we try to think of the Infinite Unmanifest of the Essence of Being before Manifestation into Activity and Form.
The First Aphorism states that “The Eternal Parent was wrapped in the Sleep of the Cosmic Night.”
In this sentence there is a reference to that teaching concerning the Cosmic Days and Nights, which under some of many names is found lying at the base of all esoteric teachings and occult philosophies. The highest human and superhuman intelligences have testified to the fact that Rhythm is abiding in, and manifest through, the Cosmos from the tiniest point of Manifested Being to the Totality of Being, there is found to ever exist the presence and manifestation of Rhythm. There is reported to us from the highest occult sources of information the fact that the ALL presents Itself alternately in great periods of Manifestation (called the Cosmic Days), followed by a like great period of Unmanifestation (called the Cosmic Nights).
During the Cosmic Night the Eternal Parent exists as if wrapped in an unconscious and dreamless sleep, from which with the Dawn of the new Cosmic Day it awakens gradually into Manifestation. The Cosmic Day, in turn, gradually finds itself changing into a Twilight, which slowly but surely darkens into the Cosmic Night when all again is stilled and quiet. And so on, and on, and on, in infinite sequence and repetition in infinite rhythm the Cosmos presents this succession of Days and Nights: of Manifestation and Unmanifestation. And, so it has been forever and ever, and will continue forever and ever, without end, ceasing, or interruption. Such is the report of the wise and the illumined teachers of the race.
A great occult teacher has written of this teaching, as follows: “The Esoteric Doctrine teaches, like Buddhism and Brahmanism, and even the Kabala, that the one infinite and unknown Essence exists from all eternity, and in regular and harmonious successions is either passive or active. In the poetical phraseology of Manu these conditions are called the ‘Days’ and the ‘Nights’ of Brahma. The latter is either ‘awake’ or ‘asleep’. Upon inaugurating an active period, says the Secret Doctrine, an expansion of this Divine Essence from without inwardly, and from within outwardly, occurs in obedience to eternal and immutable law, and the phenomenal or visible universe is the ultimate result of the long chain of cosmical forces thus progressively set in motion. In like manner, when the passive condition is resumed, a contraction of the Divine Essence takes place, and the previous work of creation is gradually and progressively undone.
The visible universe becomes disintegrated, its material dispersed, and ‘darkness’ solitary and alone, broods once more over the face of the ‘deep.’ To use a metaphor from the Secret Books, which will convey the idea more clearly, an out-breathing of the ‘unknown essence’ produces the world; and an inhalation causes it to disappear. This process has been going on from all eternity, and our present universe is but one of an infinite series, which had no beginning and will have no end.” In this connection, the student of Herbert Spencer will find in the ancient occult doctrines and teachings an unsuspected firm basis for the teaching of his modern master. Spencer in his teaching of the universal presence and activity of Rhythm but echoes the old occult teachings on the subject.
Note the following from the pen of the modern prophet of Evolution: “Apparently, the universally coexistent forces of attraction and repulsion which, as we have seen, necessitate rhythm in all minor changes throughout the universe, also necessitate rhythm in the totality of its changes produce now an immeasurable period during which the attracting forces predominating, cause universal concentration, and then an immeasurable period, during which the repulsive forces predominating, cause universal diffusion alternate eras of Evolution and Dissolution.”
The First Aphorism further states: “Light there was not: for the Flame of Spirit was not yet rekindled.”
This is apt to prove a “hard saying” to those who, having the half-truth only, and not realizing the existence of the other half, have thought of Infinite Reality as being Spirit, of which the Flame is of course the occult and esoteric symbol. But the best ancient wisdom, as voiced by the most careful teachers, have ever taught those qualified to know the whole truth that not only back of Matter, but also back of Spirit, there abides an Eternal and Infinite Essence, which is neither Spirit nor Matter, but which is the unconditioned root and source of both Spirit and Matter. Light and Flame the two universally recognized esoteric and occult symbols of Spirit have back of them the “lightless and heatless” Essence of Light and Heat. The Infinite Reality is the Essence of the Spirit Light and Flame not the Light and Flame itself. The student will be aided in. grasping this truth, if he will contemplate the flame of a lamp, a candle, a gas-flame, or any other kind of physical flame; he will perceive to be present, under and at the centre of the flame, a dark, transparent, “something” which is the “essence” from which the Flame itself proceeds, and upon which it draws for support and sustenance. In occult terminology the counterpart of this on the higher planes of Being is called “the Dark Flame” it is the Essence of the Flame and Light, and not Flame or Light itself.
As an ancient writer has said: “The Essence is the ‘spirit of the fire,’ and not Fire itself; therefore, the attributes of Fire, i.e., heat, flame, and light, are not the attributes of the Essence, but rather of the Fire of which the Essence is the Cause.” Therefore, the Infinite Unmanifest the sleeping Eternal Parent must not be thought of by the student as being Spirit, in the sense of the latter term as commonly employed in our thought. Rather is it akin to Pure Space from which the Flame emerges, and in which it is contained. There is close reasoning and distinction here, which will become clear to the student as he proceeds, but which must be noted even now in passing.
The First Aphorism further states: “Time there was not: for Change had not begun.”
Here, again, is expressed another “hard saying” for the student who has not grasped the true meaning of “Time.” Time, in the strict philosophical meaning of the term, does not mean pure duration of existence instead, it means “the measure of changing existence.” An enduring existence in which there is no change of form, activity, or degree, mental or physical, is Timeless. Time, in fact, is but the “measure of Change.” Without Change there can be no Time, in the true sense of the latter term. Pure Being manifests not Time. Time is the result of Becoming, or Change, and is always measured by change or becoming in something. The following statement from a modern text book may serve to point to the difference between the conception of Pure Duration, and Time: “Pure Duration is conceived without regard to the motions of changes in things. Time on the contrary is the sensible measure of any portion of duration, often marked by particular phenomena, as the apparent revolution of the celestial bodies, the rotation of the earth on its axis, etc.
Our conception of Time originates in that of motions; and particularly in those regular and equable motions carried on in the heavens, the parts of which, from their perfect similarity to each other, are correct measures of the continuous and successive quantity called Time, with which they are conceived to co-exist. Time, therefore, may be defined as, The perceived number of successive movements. Time, based upon the movements of the celestial bodies, or the earth, is frequently measured by instruments based upon such movements, such as watches, clocks, sun-dials, etc.” We are also conscious of the passage of Time by changes in our mental states, our thoughts, our mental images, etc., both in the waking state or the state of dreams. Without changes in the outside world, represented to our consciousness by perceptions of such changes, or without changes in our mental states, Time would not exist for us. It thus follows that given an Eternal Changeless Reality, for whom and by whom no “outside world” has been or is manifested; and which is wrapped in an unconscious and dreamless sleep, such as is pictured in the First Aphorism; for such a Reality there could exist no Time no Time would present itself Timelessness would abide, until Change began once more. Therefore, the student will perceive the necessary truth of the statement of the First Aphorism that for the Eternal Parent, wrapped in the Sleep of the Cosmic Night, “Time there was not: for Change had not begun.”
It is impossible to hold otherwise, considering the nature of Time, and the absence of Change during the Cosmic Night of the Eternal Parent. The student will perceive that given Infinite Existence, and the absence of Change, then we must necessarily postulate Pure Duration, and the absence of Time. There is no logical escape from this conclusion.
The First Aphorism further states: “Things there were not: for Form had not re-presented itself.”
Here, again, we are presented with an unescapable conviction. A “Thing” is “Whatever exists, or is conceived to exist, as a separate entity, and as a separable or distinguishable object of thought.” Every “Thing” must manifest “form.” “Form” is (1) the shape or structure of anything, as distinguished from the material of which it is composed, hence, the configuration or figure of anything; (2) the mode of acting or manifestation of anything to the senses, or to the intellect; (3) the assemblage of qualities constituting a conception, or the internal constitution making an existing thing what it is.” Strictly speaking a “Thing” must be capable of being thought of or pictured as composed of qualities, attributes, or properties distinguishing it from other things; hence every “Thing” must manifest form in order to be so distinguished and perceived by the senses or by the intellect as a Thing. The Eternal Parent the Infinite Unmanifest cannot be held to manifest Form, or to display or present any particular quality, property, or attribute of Manifestation, when in its state of Unmanifestation. When the Eternal Parent takes upon itself the robes of Manifestation it proceeds to manifest the appearance of Things these Things each displaying Form, and certain qualities, properties, or attributes which distinguish them from other manifested Things.
It it axiomatic in metaphysics and philosophy that the Unmanifest cannot be thought of as possessing or manifesting (in its essential nature) any one set of qualities, properties, or attributes which appear later in its Manifestation of Things, as distinguished from the opposite set of qualities, properties, or attributes. And it cannot be thought of as possessing (in its essential nature) of both of the opposing sets of qualities, attributes, or properties, for “opposites cancel each other,” and “antinomies condition not.” Instead of possessing qualities, properties, or attributes or Form, in any of the meaning of that term the Unmanifest must be regarded as possessing the “possibility of infinite manifestation of Form, qualities, properties, and attributes in its manifestations,” or “the infinite possibility of the manifestation of Form, qualities, properties, or attributes in its manifested Things.” The Infinite Un-manifest cannot be thought of as a Thing, either in itself, or by means of its symbol of Infinite Space. Rather, as an illumined occult master has expressed it, it must be regarded as “An Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless, and Immutable Principle, regarding which all speculation is impossible, since it transcends the power of human conception and could only be dwarfed by any human expression or similitude. It is beyond the range and reach of thought it is unthinkable and unspeakable.” In the period of the Cosmic Night, there being nothing present except the Infinite Unmanifest, therefore it is seen that, necessarily, “Things there were not: for Form had not re-presented itself.” There is no logical escape from this conclusion.
The First Aphorism further states: “Action there was not: for there were no Things to act.”
This statement requires little or no explanation. There being no Things present, there were no Things to act. And all action of the Infinite must be through, by, or in Things. All action requires Change, and where there is no Change there can be no action. And yet, it must not be thought that the Infinite Unmanifest is powerless, for it possesses all Power; it must not be thought that it is motionless, for in itself it is Abstract Motion. Speaking in finite terms, it may be said that in its state of the Infinite Unmanifest the Eternal Parent dwells in a state of such infinite Motion that as compared with relative Motion it is in a state of Absolute Rest.
The First Aphorism further states: “The Pairs of Opposites there were not: for there were no Things to manifest Polarity.”
As every student of philosophy knows, or should know, every Thing manifests a combination of qualities, properties, or attributes. Each quality, property, or attribute, is one of a Pair of Opposites one Pole of the Two Poles of Qualities which are ever found present. Given one quality, property, or attribute of Thingness, it necessarily follows that there is in existence in other Things an Opposite, or “Other Pole” its antithesis. There is no exception to this rule, and though the Opposite may at first appear to be absent, diligent search will surely reveal it, and its necessary existence must be logically predicated. Thus we have the following familiar Opposites: Hard and Soft, Hot and Cold, Large and Small, Far and Near, Up and Down, Day and Night, Light and Darkness, Long and Short, etc. Even where our language fails to supply a definite term for the Opposite of a discovered quality, property, or attribute, the Opposite may be expressed by prefixing the term “Not” to the observed quality, property, or attribute. Some thinkers have sought to imply that the term “Infinite” implies a quality, property, or attribute which was the opposite of Finite, but this is merely a play upon words.
The word “Infinite” implies simply an absence of limitations, bounds, or form, and does not indicate any limit, bound, or form no matter how extended. It is impossible to form a mental image of The Infinite Unmanifest, or to attach Thingness or Form, or quality, property, or attribute of any kind to it hence the term “Infinity” is not a true Opposite. It is only when Manifestation begins that the Pairs of Opposites or Polarity put in an appearance. The Infinite Unmanifest possesses the possibility of an infinity of manifestations, all objects of which manifestation must exhibit one or the other of any given set of qualities, properties, or attributes. But to the Infinite Unmanifest itself the Eternal Parent, in its essence there can be no Polarity or presence of any one set of Pairs of Opposites. Here, as elsewhere, the student is directed to think of the Infinite Unmanifest by means of its symbol of Infinite Space, whenever he wishes to test any of the statements of the First Aphorism.
The First Aphorism finally states: “The Eternal Parent, causeless, indivisible, changeless, infinite, rested in unconscious, dreamless, sleep. Other than the Eternal Parent there was Naught, either Real or Apparent.”
That the Eternal Parent is Causeless is a self-evident fact, for there is nothing which could have caused the Eternal and Original Being, from which all Manifestation proceeds. That which is Eternal must, of necessity, be Causeless. That which is Infinite, can have no Other which could have caused it. And it could not have been caused from or by Nothing, for “from Nothing, nothing comes.” That the Eternal Parent is Indivisible is likewise self-evident, for anything that can be divided or separated into parts or particles, must in the first place be originally composed of parts or particles. And anything that is composed of parts or particles must be merely a Composition, an Aggregate, a Collection, or Crowd of such parts and particles, and, therefore, not a Real Entity or Unity at all. Moreover, that which is Infinite cannot become divided or separated into parts or particles without losing its essential Infinity a divided Infinite is no Infinite at all, but merely a Collection or Crowd of Finite Things.
Absolute Indivisibility must be predicated of True Unity and Infinite Being. There is no logical escape from this conclusion. That the Eternal Parent is incapable of Essential Change is likewise self-evident, for though It may manifest an infinity of change, nevertheless it must always remain essentially Itself, and never anything else but Itself. Moreover, not being composed essentially of qualities, properties, or attributes, it cannot undergo the change which comes from the shifting of the poles of the Opposites. And not having Form, it cannot experience the change which arises from Change of Form. Absolute Immutability must be predicated of the Eternal Parent. There is no logical escape from this conclusion. That the Eternal Parent is Infinite is likewise self-evident. It must be Infinite, for there is nothing else by which it may be limited, defined, bounded, caused, influenced, or affected.
That which is Absolute and Original, Ultimate and Elementary, can have no binding or limiting conditions or Things. Absolute Infiniteness must be predicated of the Eternal Parent. There is no logical escape from this conclusion. That the Eternal Parent rested in “Unconscious, dreamless sleep” is held by all advanced metaphysicians and philosophers to be a logical necessity, if we are to postulate the existence of a period or state of Unmanifestation. For, as all psychologists and philosophers know, consciousness (even in the form of dreams) is impossible without Change. A changeless state of consciousness can only be expressed as Unconsciousness. And yet, the student must not fall into the error of believing that this Infinite Unconsciousness implies “inferiority to consciousness”; for rather does it imply a state of “rising above” ordinary consciousness a state of Infinite Super-Consciousness a state of transcending consciousness, in which there is ever present the “possibility of consciousness” without the exercise thereof. Ordinary consciousness is a descent from this state of Unconsciousness, not an ascent. This distinction is important, and must not be lost sight of by the student. As we shall presently discover, when Manifestation begins to dawn into appearance, then, and then only, the Eternal Parent may be said to begin to “dream” to dream of an infinity of universes, succeeding each other in rhythmic sequence. And only when the Eternal Parent shall awaken fully from the dream, into the bright noon-tide of infinite self-consciousness, may It be thought of as being fully “awake” and conscious. These facts will unfold themselves as we proceed with the consideration of the Aphorisms.
“Other than the Eternal Parent there was Naught, either Real or Apparent.”
Here, again, we have a self-evident truth. There can have been no other Real being no “other” to the Infinite and Absolute Reality for the predicate of Infinity and Absoluteness carries with it the implicit predicate of Aloneness, Oneness, and Uniqueness. There can be no “other” Real being to Infinite Reality. And, in the absence of Manifestation, there can have been no Apparent (i.e., manifested or “created” Thing or Things) Thing in existence in the period of the Infinite Unmanifestation. There is no logical escape from this conclusion. Finally, the student is once more bidden to fall back upon the symbol of Infinite Space, in this consideration of the Infinite Unmanifest, whenever he finds it difficult, or almost impossible, to conceive of the truth of the statements contained in the First Aphorism as concerned with the Eternal Parent in the state of the Infinite Unmanifest, in the Cosmic Night.
The symbol will be found perfectly adequate in order to permit one to “think of the Infinite Un-manifest,” although, of course, it is impossible to paint a mental picture of either symbol or the reality which it represents.
Edgar Allen Poe has well said of the thought and concept of “The Infinite,” and similar efforts of the human mind to think of the unthinkable: “This merest of words, and some other expressions of which the equivalents exist in nearly all languages, is by no means the expression of an idea, but of an effort of one. It stands for the possible attempt at an impossible conception. Man needed a term by which to point out the direction of this effort the cloud behind which lay, forever invisible, the object of this attempt. A word, in fine, was demanded by means of which one human being might put himself in relation at once with another human being and with a certain tendency of the human intellect.
Out of this arose this term, which is thus the representative but of the thought of a thought. The fact is that, upon the enunciation of any one of that class of terms to which this belongs, the class representing thoughts of thought, he who has a right to say that he thinks at all feels himself called upon not to entertain a conception, but simply to direct his mental vision toward some given point in the intellectual firmament where lies a nebula never to be solved. To solve it, indeed, he makes no effort, for with a rapid instinct he comprehends, not only the impossibility, but as regards all human purposes, the inessentiality of its solution.
He sees at once how it lies out of the brain of man, and even how, if not exactly why, it lies out of it.” In the Secret Doctrine of the Rosicrucians, therefore, there is no attempt made to define the Essence of the Eternal Parent in fact, it is held, in the spirit of Spinoza’s celebrated aphorism, that “To define The Infinite is to deny The Infinite.” In refusing to ascribe the finite qualities, properties, and attributes of Personality to the Eternal Parent, the Rosicrucians do not mean to imply that The Infinite Reality is below the plane of Personality, but rather that it is so immeasurably above that plane, and so infinitely transcends all Personality, that it is childish to think or speak of it in the terms of Personality. It has been held by eminent thinkers that even the finite intelligence of man is capable of conceiving of a state of intelligence as much higher than that of the most intelligent man as the latter is higher than that of the black beetle.
This being so, it can readily be seen that such a Power, to which the manifestation of such a superlative degree of intelligence being is but a bagatelle effort of power, is, and must be, in its essential nature so infinitely above the plane of human personality that it is practically an insult to think of it in the terms of Personality. As has been frequently stated in this consideration of the First Aphorism, the state of Being of the Infinite and Absolute Reality the Eternal Parent during this state of the Infinite Unmanifest cannot be expressed in words, for it is beyond words. It can be thought of only symbolically by means of Its only possible symbol, i.e., that of Infinite Space. Even symbolized, it can be thought of only in terms of negation; for being in the state of Absolute Being (which as Hegel says is practically identical with Non-Being, when the term “Being” is used in the sense of finite, conditioned, and qualified Being), it cannot be thought of as possessing any of the qualities, attributes, or properties of Thingness.
Therefore, its state of Being can be suggested only by using the terms implying the negation of all those qualities, properties, and attributes which men ascribe to Things even to those Things which they feel rather than conceive, and which represent even the remotest limits of their mentative efforts. Edwin Arnold, in his beautiful poem “The Light of Asia,” has well expressed the Buddhistic conception of this “beyond-thoughtness” of the Essence of the Infinite Reality, in the following words:
“Om Amataya! Measure not with words the Immeasurable;
Nor sink the string of thought into the Fathomless.
Who asks does err; who answers, errs; say naught!
Shall any gazer see with mortal eyes?
Or any searcher know with mortal mind?
Veil after veil will lift but there must be
Veil upon veil behind!”
And, so, the Rosicrucians regard the fact of the Infinite Ummanifest the Absolute Essence only under the symbol of the Infinite Sea of Pure Space, resting in a state of Absolute Calm and Absolute Transparency through which the mortal eye gazes and seems to see but NOTHING: but which the Illumined Intuition knowness to be Allness instead of Nothingness Absolute and Infinite Being instead of Nothingness Infinite Life, instead of Death! Though it cannot be perceived by mortal sense, and though it transcends the highest effort of both intellect and imagination to conceive or picture, yet the highest reports of Pure Reason inform us that it must be present, and the highest reports of Intuitive Faith render it impossible to doubt its all-presence and reality. To the ignorant and the half-wise, this symbol may seem to indicate Nothing: but to the illumined and truly wise, it is seen to represent Absolute ALLNESS of Reality. Gaze ye, then, upon this symbol of Infinite Space with awe, for it represents our highest (though feeble) efforts at expressing the nature of the Infinite Essence of Being!