THE ONE AND THE MANY
In the Secret Doctrine of the Rosicrucians, we find the following Fourth Aphorism:
The Fourth Aphorism
The One becomes Many. The Unity becomes Diversity. The Identical becomes Variety. Yet the Many remains One; the Diversity remains Unity; and the Variety remains Identical.
In this Fourth Aphorism of Creation, the Rosicrucian is directed to apply his attention to the concept of the World Soul the First Manifestation of the Eternal Parent as a One Manifesting as Many; a Unity manifesting as Diversity; an Identical manifesting as Variety: yet, notwithstanding such manifestations, remaining ever One, Unity, and Identical. This concept of the World Soul, so manifesting itself in Manifoldness, Diversity, and Variety, yet ever remaining One, Unity, and Identical, is represented by the Rosicrucians by the symbol of a small circle within a larger circle, the smaller circles being filled with tiny points or centres of manifestation. The outer circle is, of course, the Infinite Unmanifest; the smaller circle, of course, being the World Soul; and the small dots, or points, being the individualized centres of life, being, and activity manifested by the World Soul. That all beings are, in truth, but expressions of the One Being centres of consciousness, form, and activity within itself, is a fundamental tenet of all occult and esoteric teaching.
That all Being is One; all Life, One; all Form, One; all Consciousness, One, is known to all true disciples of the occult and esoteric teachings of the past and present, occidental and oriental, philosophical and theological. Hidden behind and under the orthodox, exoteric teachings, there is always to be found this insistence upon Essential Oneness on the part of the Inner Teachings of all schools.
That there is but One Life, and not Many Lives, is a fundamental article of all occult and esoteric faith. The One Life, moreover, is not to be thought of as dividing and splitting itself up into bits, parts, and particles, in order to accomplish the process of Creation, and the Manifestation of the World. Instead, it is to be thought of as merely reflecting itself in the many individual mirrors of expression, just as the sun reflects itself as One in the millions of falling raindrops, or in a million tiny jars filled with water.
There are millions of reflections of the One, but only the one One in reality. Or, using another figure of speech, the One may be thought of as an Infinite Ocean of Being, in which there are millions of tiny bubbles, each apparently apart and separate, but all of which are in reality, but centres of activity and expression in the One Great Ocean. Separateness is, to quote a writer, “but the working fiction of Creation.” All the apparently separated Things are contained within the circle of the World Soul and the latter is contained within the circle of the Infinite Unmanifest. Not only is this esoteric conception of the Many in One, and the One in Many, a fundamental conception of the ancient esoteric and occult teachings, but the same truth in another form is presented by advanced modern science in its conception of the Universal Substance. Science postulates the existence of a Universal Substance, known under many names, from which all Things proceed.
It matters not whether this Universal Substance be called “Primordial Substance,” or “Infinite and Eternal Energy,” or “The Universal Ether,” the fact remains that science postulates its existence as a fundamental, substantial Something, of and in which all forms and phases of phenomenal existence are but manifestations. In the same way, those schools of transcendental philosophy which postulate the existence of a Universal Mind teach that all forms and phases of phenomenal existence are but Thought Forms in the Universal Mind. And the old Brahmanical teachings likewise hold that the Many exist but as incidents of the “dream” or “meditation” of the Lord High Brahma. In all forms, phases, and schools of philosophy we find this insistence upon the presence and existence of a One Something of which all else are but manifestations.
In fact, as the wisest philosophers have informed us, the whole purpose of philosophy is to discover the One Unconditioned Ground of all that exists Conditionally. All philosophy worthy of the name is Monistic in essence. A leading authority on the history of philosophy informs us the: “Monism is, in strictness, a name applicable to any system of thought which sees in the universe the manifestation or working of a single principle. Such a unity may be at once the tacit presupposition and the goal of all philosophic effect, and in so far as a philosophy fails to harmonize the apparently independent and even conflicting facts of experience, as aspects or elements within a larger whole, it must be held to fall short of the necessary ideal of thought. Dualism, in an ultimate metaphysical reference, is a confession of the failure of philosophy to achieve its proper task; and this is a justification of those who consistently use the word as a term of reproach.” And, now, let us take a brief passing glance at the Rosicrucian teachings concerning the manner in which the One proceeded to become the Many the Unity to become Diversity the Identical to become Variety and yet remain the One, Unity, Identity of the World Soul, unaffected and unchanged by its plunge into Manifestation. Evolution we see on all sides around us, but all Evolution must be preceded by Involution, as all occultists and scientists know full well. Modern Science, in pursuing its discoveries along the lines of Evolution, has almost entirely ignored the twin-activity of Manifestation, which is known as Involution. Not so the ancient occultists, however, for they knew full well the truth so forcibly expressed in the words of a modern “plain speaking” philosopher who said: “You can never get out of a thing anything which is not already involved in it.”
And to the ancient student of the esoteric teachings any idea of Evolution which did not begin with the teachings concerning Involution was like the play of Hamlet with Hamlet left out. There is an ancient saying which runs: “That which is evolved must previously have been involved;” and in this simple statement is condensed a volume of important occult lore. The term “Involve” means “to wrap up; to cover; to hide; etc.” The term “Evolve” means “to unwrap; to unfold; to un-roll; etc.”
With these meanings in mind, the student sees at once that before a thing can be “unwrapped, un-folded, un-rolled,” it must have first been wrapped-up, folded-up, rolled-up. We must not lose sight of the meaning attached to the simple terms, no matter how many high-sounding terms are substituted for these. The same thing remains the same thing, no matter how many new names are attached to it. The esoteric teachings, as has been said, clearly and positively state that before there began the wonderful process of Evolution from simple to more complex forms of manifestation from lower to higher there must first have been an “involution” or in-folding of the World Soul into the simple, gross, elemental forms of matter. The vibrations must have been first lowered, before they can have been increased. Plunging at once, with terrific speed and force, into the abyss of Manifestation, the World Soul created for itself material garments of the densest and grossest elemental matter.
This extreme form of elemental matter is not known to us today, for it has been discarded in the course of evolution on this particular planet. It, however, still exists on other planets of our solar system. This form, or forms, of elemental matter is below the scale of the minerals, and is as much lower than the grossest mineral known to science as that mineral is lower than the highest plant. In texture, structure, and density the extreme form of elemental matter is as much grosser than the lowest form of mineral known to us, as the latter is grosser than the highest form of ethereal vapor or radiant matter known to modern science. It is useless to try to describe this form of matter, for the ordinary mind cannot grasp it in the absence of concrete illustration. When the lowest point in the scale of Involution was reached, then the Law of Rhythm asserted itself, and the upward climb began the first movement of Evolution began to manifest itself.
And, at this precise point, there was begun the manifestation of what may be termed “individualization,” or the forming of centres of activity and consciousness. The World Soul descended into the depth of Involution enmasse, and then began to emerge from those depths by an apparent “splitting up” process, in which the active new-born centres of activity began to assert themselves and to move upward toward self-expression. The simpler centres which occultists know to be the centers of activity in the electrons of matter began to form molecules.
There was of course manifested the presence of mind within this gross matter but only the faint glimmerings were manifested, for the gross enveloping sheaths of matter almost smothered the mental principles involved within them. The Process of Evolution once begun, it proceeded rapidly. Higher and higher in the scale of manifestation rose the Things in spiralic process, each spiral rising above the one beneath it, and yet each proceeding apparently in a circle, as do all proceeding things. In due time the first signs of the mineral kingdom began to show themselves, building upon the basis of the sub-mineral forms of matter. In the mineral kingdom began to manifest higher forms of life and mind for, as the occultists know well, the minerals possess both life and mind in a certain degree. And then later appeared the first signs of plant life forms but slightly above those of certain crystals. When the temperature of the earth was at a point at which life is commonly believed to be impossible, there were present certain strange forms of life, which may be described as half mineral half plant. These crystals reproduced themselves by a splitting up process, and grew from the inside as do plants.
These life forms were composed of the same materials as the crystals from which they evolved but they possessed a greater degree of life and mind, and while from one point of view they may be said to have been minerals, yet from another they may truly be said to have been plants. These strange creatures have disappeared as have all other “intermediate forms” which have played the parts of bridges in the evolutionary process. But they have left their traces in the material bodies of both plants and animals. For it must be remembered that even the bodies of the highest forms of plant or animal life are composed of certain chemical elements which were derived from the mineral kingdom, as for instance, oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, sulphur, phosphorus, etc. The first forms of real plant life are described by the old teachers as having been a now-extinct lowly form of plant-life scarcely more than a crystal in appearance, and yet manifesting the characteristics of plant life.
Then appeared the ancestors of what are now known as the “chlomacea” which are a strange group of lowly creatures, comprising the characteristics of both plant and mineral life, and being found even today in the deposits upon damp rocks, the bark of trees, etc. From this and simpler creatures evolved the ancestors of what are now known as the “angiospores,” or lowest forms of plant-life; and later, the ancestors of the “gymnospores,” which are probably the lowest forms of animal-life known to science today. The Process of Evolution is caused by the constant striving of the Life and Mind within the sheaths of matter the striving to express more and still more of themselves, and to mould and use the sheaths of matter in the work of self-expression. Protoplasm, the physical basis of plant and animal life, was evolved in this way. Then came the single-celled creature which dwelt in the slime of the ancient ocean beds. Then forms of life composed of colonies of cells appeared. Then more complex forms of cell-combination, and so on, and on, until the highest forms of life known to us today were evolved. Finally, primitive man was evolved. Then man began to improve in mind and feeling. And he is still making progress along these lines.
But man (of today) is merely a high stage of the evolutionary process, and he, in turn, will be succeeded by the Super-Men of the future, and these in turn by the god-like angelic creatures, the like of whom are in existence on other and high spheres even this day. But always remember that in all the millions of types of living forms, and the millions upon millions upon millions of individuals ensouling these forms, there is no real separateness. All life is One and all Life but the Life of the World Soul. Therefore, in the symbol of the Rosicrucians the countless points within the smaller circle, which in turn is enclosed within the larger circle we have the picture of the Eternal Parent and its First Manifestation, the World Soul, the latter manifesting in the countless life-forms of the World of Manifestation. And, the work of Evolution is still underway, and higher and higher forms of expression will proceed from within the Involved Being of the World Soul which is ever striving and struggling to manifest itself in self-expression.