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The Human Tide-Wave
Alfred Percy Sinnett
An extract from Esoteric Buddhism
A GENERAL account has already been given of the way in which the great evolutionary life-wave sweeps round and round the seven worlds which compose the planetary chain of which our earth is a part. Further assistance may now be offered, with the view of expanding this general idea into a fuller comprehension of the processes to which it relates. And no one additional chapter of the great story will do more towards rendering its character intelligible, than an explanation of certain phenomena connected with the progress of worlds, that may be conveniently called obscurations.
Students of occult philosophy who enter on that pursuit with minds already abundantly furnished in other ways, are very liable to misinterpret its earlier statements. Everything cannot be said at once, and the first broad explanations are apt to suggest conceptions in regard to details which are most likely to be erroneous with the most active-minded and intelligent thinkers. Such readers are not content with shadowy outlines even for a moment. Imagination fills in the picture, and if its work is undisturbed for any length of time, its author will be surprised afterwards to find that later information is incompatible with that which he had come to regard as having been distinctly taught in the beginning.
Now in this treatise the writer’s effort is to convey the information in such a way that hasty weed growths of the mind may be prevented as far as possible, but in this very effort it is necessary sometimes to run on quickly in advance, leaving some details, even very important details, to be picked up during a second journey over the old ground. So now the reader must be good enough to go back to the explanation given in The Planetary Chain of the evolutionary progress through the whole planetary chain.
Some few words were said then concerning manner in which the life impulse passed on from planet to planet in “rushes or gushes; not by an even continuous flow.” Now the course of evolution in its earlier stages is so far continuous that the preparation of several planets for the final tidal-wave of humanity may be going on simultaneously. Indeed, the preparation of all the seven planets may, at one stage of the proceedings, be going on simultaneously but the important point to remember is, that the main wave of evolution - the foremost growing wave - cannot be in more than one place at any time. The process goes on in the way which may now be described, and which the reader may be the better able to follow, if he constructs either on paper or in his own mind a diagram consisting of seven circles (representing the worlds) arranged on a ring. Calling them A,B,C &c., it will be observed from what has been already stated that circle (or globe) D stands for our earth. Now the kingdoms of Nature as known to occultists, be it remembered, are seven in number, three having to do with astral and elementary forces, preceding the grosser material kingdoms in the order of their development. Kingdom 1 evolves on globe A, and passes on to B, as kingdom 2 begins to involve on A. Carry out this system and of course it will be seen that kingdom 1 is evolving on globe G, while kingdom 7, the human kingdom, is evolving on globe A. But now what happens as kingdom 7 passes on to globe B. There is no eighth kingdom to engage the activities of globe A. The great processes of evolution have culminated in the final tidal-wave of humanity, which, as it sweeps on, leaves a temporary lethargy of Nature behind. When the life-wave goes on to B, in fact, globe A passes for the time into a state of obscuration. This state is not one of decay, dissolution, or anything that can be properly called death. Decay itself, though its aspect is apt to mislead the mind, is a condition of activity in a certain direction, this consideration affording a clue to the meaning of a great deal which is otherwise meaningless, in that part of Hindu mythology which relates to the deities presiding over destruction. The obscuration of a world is a total suspension of its activity; this does not mean that the moment the last human monad passes on from any given world, that world is paralyzed by any convulsion, or subsides into the enchanted trance of a sleeping palace. The animal and vegetable life goes on as before, for a time, but its character begins to recede instead of advancing.
The great life-wave has left it, and the animal and vegetable kingdoms gradually return to the condition in which they were found when the great life-wave first reached them. Enormous periods of time are available for this slow process by which the obscured world settled into sleep, for it will be seen that obscuration in each case lasts six times *[Or we may say five times, allowing for the half period of morning which precedes and the half period of evening which follows the day of full activity.] as long as the period of each world’s occupation by the human life-wave. That is to say, the process which is accomplished as above described in connection with the passage of the life-wave from globe A to globe B, is repeated all along the chain. When the wave passes to C, B is left in obscuration as well as A. Then D receives the life-wave, and A. B. C, are in obscuration. When the wave reaches G, all the preceding six worlds are in obscuration. Meanwhile the life-wave passes on in a certain regular progression, the symmetrical character of which is very satisfactory to scientific instincts. The reader will be prepared to pick up the idea at once, in view of the explanations already given of the way in which humanity evolves through seven great races during each round period on a planet - that is to say, during the occupation of such planet by the tidal wave of life. The fourth race is obviously the middle race of the series. As soon as this middle point is turned, and the evolution of the fifth race on any given planet begins, the preparation for humanity begins on the next. The evolution of the fifth race on E for example, is commensurate with the evolution, or rather with the revival, of the mineral kingdom on D, and so on. That is to say, the evolution of the sixth race on D, coincides with the revival of the vegetable kingdom on E, the seventh race on D, with the revival of the animal kingdom on E, and then when the last monads of the seventh race on D have passed into the subjective state or world of effects, the human period on E begins, and the first race begins its development there. Meanwhile the twilight period on the world preceding D has been deepening into the night of obscuration in the same progressive way, and obscuration there definitely sets in when the human period on D passes its half-way point. But just as the heart of a man beats and respiration continues, no matter how profound his sleep, there are processes of vital action which go on in the resting world even during the most profound depths of its repose. And these preserve, in view of the next return of the human wave, the results of the evolution that preceded its first arrival. Recovery for the re-awaking planet is a larger process than its subsidence into rest, for it has to attain a higher degree of perfection against the return of the human life-wave, than that at which it was left when the wave last went onward from its shore. But with every new beginning, Nature is infused with a vigour of its own - the freshness of a morning - and the later obscuration period, which is a time of preparation and hopefulness as it were, invests evolution itself with a new momentum. By the time the great life-wave returns, all is ready for its reception.
In the first essay on this subject it was roughly indicated that the various worlds making up our planetary chain were not all of the same materiality. Putting the conception of spirit at the north pole of the circle and that of matter at the south pole, the worlds of the descending arc vary in materiality and spirituality, like those of the ascending arc. This variation must now be considered more attentively if the reader wishes to realize the whole processes of evolution more fully than heretofore.
Besides the earth, which is at the lowest material point, there are only two other worlds of our chain which are visible to physical eyes - the one behind and the one in advance of it. These two worlds, as a matter of fact, are Mars and Mercury - Mars being behind and Mercury in advance of us - Mars in a state of entire obscuration now as regards the human life-wave, Mercury just beginning to prepare for its next human period. [It may be worth while here to remark for the benefit of people who may be disposed, from physical science reading, to object that Mercury is too near the Sun, and consequently too hot to be a suitable place of habitation for Man, - that in the official report of the Astronomical Department of the United States on the recent “Mount Whitney observations,” statements will be found that may check too confident criticisms of occult science along that line. The results of the Mount Whitney observations on selective absorption of solar rays showed, according to the official reporter, that it would no longer be impossible to suggest the conditions of an atmosphere which would render Mercury habitable, at the one extreme of the scale, and Saturn at the other. We have no concern with Saturn at present, nor if it were necessary to explain on occult principles the habitability of Mercury, should the task be attempted with calculations about selective absorption. The fact is that ordinary science makes at once too much and two little of the Sun, as the storehouse of force for the solar system, - too much in so far as the heat of planets has a great deal to do with another influence quite distinct from the Sun, and influence which will not be thoroughly understood till more is known than at present about the correlations of heat and magnetism, and of the magnetic, meteoric dust, with which inter-planetary space is pervaded. However it is enough - to rebut any objection that might be raised against the explanation now in progress, from the point of view of loyal devotees of last year’s science - to point out that such objections would be already out of date. Modern science is very progressive, - this is one of its greatest merits, - but it is not a meritorious habit with modern scientists to think, at each stage of its progress, that all conceptions incompatible with that stage must necessarily be absurd.]
The two planets of our chain that are behind Mars, and the two that are in advance of Mercury, are not composed of an order of matter which telescopes can take cognizance of. Four out of the seven are thus of an ethereal nature, which people who can only conceive matter in its earthly form will be inclined to call immaterial. But they are not really immaterial at all. They are simply in a finer state of materiality than the earth, but their finer state does not in any way defeat the uniformity of Nature’s design in regard to the methods and stages of their evolution. Within the scale of their subtle “invisibility,” the successive rounds and races of mankind pass through their stages of greater and less materiality just as on this earth; but whoever would comprehend them must comprehend this earth first, and work out their delicate phenomena by correspondential inferences. Let us return therefore to the consideration of the great life-wave in its aspects on this planet.
Just as the chain of worlds treated as a unity has its north and south, its spiritual and material pole, working from spirituality down through materiality up to spirituality again, so the rounds of mankind constitute a similar series which the chain of globes itself might be taken to symbolize. In the evolution of man in fact, on any one plane as on all, there is a descending and an ascending arc; spirit, so to speak, involving itself into matter, and matter evolving itself into spirit. The lowest or most material point, in the cycle thus becomes the inverted apex of physical intelligence, which is the masked manifestation of spiritual intelligence. Each round of mankind evolved on the downward arc (as each race of each round if we descend to the smaller mirror of the cosmos) must thus be more physically intelligent than its predecessor, and each in the upward arc must be invested with a more refined form of mentality commingled with greater spiritual intuitiveness. In the first round therefore we find man, a relatively ethereal being compared even on earth with the state he has now attained here, not intellectual, but super-spiritual. Like the animal and vegetable shapes around him, he inhabits an immense but loosely organized body. In the second round he is still gigantic and ethereal, but growing firmer and more condensed in body - a more physical man, but still, less intelligent than spiritual. In the third round he has developed a perfectly concrete and compacted body, at first the form rather of a giant ape than of a true man, but with intelligence coming more and more into the ascendant. In the last half of the third round his gigantic stature decreases, his body improves in texture, and he begins to be a rational man. In the fourth round intellect, now fully developed, achieves enormous progress. The earliest races with which the round begins, acquire human speech as we understand it. The world teems with the results of intellectual activity and spiritual decline. At the halfway point of the fourth round here, the polar point of the whole seven-world period is passed. From this point outwards the spiritual Ego begins its real struggle with body and mind to manifest its transcendental powers. In the fifth round the struggle continues, but the transcendental faculties are largely developed, though the struggle between these on the one hand with physical intellect and propensity is fiercer than ever, for the intellect of the fifth round, as well as its spirituality, is an advance on that of the fourth. In the sixth round humanity attains a degree of perfection both of body and soul, of intellect and spirituality, which ordinary mortals of the present epoch will not readily realize in their imaginations. The most supreme combinations of wisdom, goodness, and transcendental enlightenment which the world has ever seen or thought of, will represent the ordinary type of manhood. Those faculties which now, in the rare efflorescence of a generation, enable some extraordinary gifted persons to explore the mysteries of Nature and gather the knowledge of which some crumbs are now being offered (through these writings and in other ways) to the ordinary world, will then be the common appanage of all. As to what the seventh round will be like, the most communicative occult teachers are solemnly silent. Mankind in the seventh round will be something altogether too God-like for mankind in the fourth round to forecast its attributes.
During the occupation of any planet by the human life-wave, each individual monad is inevitably incarnated many times. This has been partly explained. If one existence only be passed by the monad in each of the branch races through which it must pass at least once, the total number accomplished during a round period on one planet, would be 343 - the third power of seven. But as a matter of fact each monad is incarnated twice in each of the branch races, and also comes in, necessarily, for some few extra incarnations as well. For reasons which are not easy for the outsider to divine, the possessors of occult knowledge are especially reluctant to give out numerical facts relating to cosmogony, though it is hard for the uninitiated to understand why these should be withheld. At present, for example, we shall not be able to state what is the actual duration in years of the round period. But a concession, which only those who have long been students of occultism by the old method will fully appreciate, has been made about the numbers with which we are immediately concerned; and this concession is valuable at all events, as it helps to elucidate an interesting fact connected with evolution, on the threshold of which we have now arrived. This fact is, that while the earth, for example, is inhabited as at present, by fourth round humanity, by the wave of human life, that is to say, on its fourth journey round the circle of the worlds, there may be present among us some few persons, few in relation to the total number, who, properly speaking, belong to the fifth round. Now, in the sense of the term at present employed, it must not be supposed that by any miraculous process, any individual unit has actually traveled round the whole chain of worlds once more often than his compeers. Under the explanations just given as to the way the tide-wave of humanity progresses, it will be seen that this is impossible. Humanity has not yet paid its fourth visit even, to the planet next in advance of our own. But individual monads may outstrip their companions as regards their individual development, and so become exactly as mankind generally will be when the fifth round has been fully evolved. And this may be accomplished in two ways. A man born as an ordinary fourth round man, may, by processes of occult training, convert himself into a man having all the attributes of a fifth round man, and so become what we may call an artificial fifth rounder. But independently of all exertions made by man in his present incarnation, a man may also be born a fifth rounder, though in the midst of fourth round humanity, by virtue of the total number of his previous incarnations.
It x stands for the normal number of incarnations which in the course of Nature a monad must go through during a round period on one planet, and y for the margin of extra incarnations into which by a strong desire for physical life he may force himself during such a period, then, as a matter of fact, 24½ (x + y) may exceed 28x; that is to say, in 3½ rounds a monad may have accomplished as many incarnations as an ordinary monad would have accomplished in four complete rounds. In less than 3½ rounds the result could not have been attained, so that it is only now that we have passed the halfway point of evolution on this halfway planet, that the fifth rounders are beginning to drop in.
It is not possible in the nature of things that a monad can do more than outstrip his companions by more than one round. This consideration notwithstanding, Buddha was a sixth round man, but this fact has to do with a great mystery outside the limits of the present calculation. Enough for the moment to say that the evolution of a Buddha has to do with something more than mere incarnations within the limits of one planetary chain.
Since large numbers of lives have been recognized in the above calculations as following one another in the successive incarnations of an individual monad, it is important here, with the view of averting misconceptions, to point out that the periods of time over which these incarnations range are so great, that vast intervals separate them, numerous as they are. As stated above, we cannot just now give the actual duration of the round periods. Nor, indeed could any figures be quoted as indicating the duration of all round periods equally, for these vary in length within very wide limits. But here is a simple fact which has been definitely stated on the highest occult authority we are concerned with. The present race of humanity, the present fifth race of the fourth round period, began to evolve about one million of years ago. Now it is not yet finished; but supposing that a million years had constituted the complete life of the race, [The complete life of a race is certainly much longer than this; but when we get to figures of this kind we are on very delicate ground, for precise periods are very profound secrets, for reasons uninitiated students (“lay chelas,” as the adepts now say, coining a new designation to meet a new condition of things) can only imperfectly divine. Calculations like those given above may be trusted literally as far as they go, but must not rashly be made the basis of others.] how would it have been divided up for each individual monad? In a race there must be rather more than 100, and there can hardly be 120 incarnations for an individual monad. But say even there have been already 120 incarnations for monads in the present race already. And say that the average life of each incarnation was a century, even then we should only have 12,000 years out of the million spent in physical existence against 988.000 years spent in the subjective sphere, or there would be an average of more than 8000 years between each incarnation. Certainly these intervening periods are of very variable length, but they can hardly ever contract to anything less than 1500 years - leaving out of account of course the case of adepts who have placed themselves quite outside the operation of the ordinary law - and 1500 years if not an impossibly short, would be a very brief interval between two rebirths.
These calculations must be qualified by one of two considerations, however. The cases of children dying in infancy are quite unlike those of persons who attain full maturity, and for obvious reasons, that the explanations now already given will suggest, A child, dying before it has lived long enough to begin to be responsible for its actions, has generated no fresh Karma. The spiritual monad leaves that child's body in just the same state in which it entered it after its last death in Devachan. It has had no opportunity of playing on its new instrument, which has been broken before even it was tuned. A re-incarnation of the monad, therefore, may take place immediately on the line of its old attraction. But the monad so reincarnated is not to be spiritually identified in any way with the dead child. So, in the same way, with a monad getting into the body of a born idiot. The instrument cannot be tuned, so it cannot play on that any more than on the child's body in the first few years of childhood. But both these cases are manifest exceptions that do not alter the broad rule above laid down for all persons attaining maturity, and living their earth lives for good or evil.
Later information and study - the comparison, that is to say, of the various branches of the doctrine, and the collocation of other statements with those in the foregoing chapter - show the difficulty of applying figures to the Esoteric Doctrines in a very striking light. Figures may be quite trustworthy as representing broad averages, and yet very misleading when applied to special cases. Devachanic periods vary for different people within such very wide limits that any rule laid down in the matter must be subject to a bewildering cloud of exceptions. To begin with, the average mentioned above has no doubt been computed with reference to fully matured adults. Between the quite young child who has no Devachanic period at all and the adult who accomplishes an average period we have to take note of persons dying in youth, who have accumulated Karma, and who must therefore pass through the usual stages of spiritual development, but for whom the brief lives they have spent have not produced causes which take very long to work themselves out. Such persons would return to incarnation after a sojourn in the world of effects of corresponding brevity. Again there are such things as artificial incarnations accomplished by the direct intervention of the Mahatmas when a chela who may not yet have acquired anything resembling the power of controlling the matter himself, is brought back into incarnation almost immediately after his previous physical death, without having been suffered to float into the current of natural causes at all. Of course in such cases it may be said that the claims the person concerned has established on the Mahatmas are themselves natural causes of a kind, the intervention of the Mahatmas, who are quite beyond the liability of acting capriciously in such a matter, being so much fruit of effort in the preceding life, so much Karma. But still either way such cases would be equally withdrawn from the operation of the general average rule
Clearly it is impossible when the complicated facts of an entirely unfamiliar science are being presented to untrained minds for the first time, to put them forward with all their appropriate qualifications, compensations and abnormal developments visible from the beginning. We must be content to take the broad rules first and deal with the exceptions afterwards, and especially is this the case with occult study, in connection with which the traditional methods of teaching, generally followed, aim at impressing every fresh idea on the memory, by provoking the perplexity it at last relieves. In relation to another matter dealt with in the preceding pages, an important exception in Nature has thus, it seems to me now, been left out of account. The description I have given of the progress of the human tide-wave is quite coherent as it stands, but since the publication of the original edition of this book some criticism was directed, in India, to a comparison between my version of the story and certain passages in other writings, known to emanate from a Mahatma. A discrepancy between the two statements was pointed out, the other version assuming the possibility that a monad actually might have traveled round the seven planets once more often than the compeers among whom he might ultimately find himself on this earth. My account of the obscurations appears to render this contingency impossible. The clue to the mystery appears to lie outside the domain of those facts concerning which the adepts are willing to speak freely; and the reader must clearly understand that the explanation I am about to offer is the fruit of my own speculation and comparison of different parts of the doctrine - not authentic information received from the author of my general teaching.
The fact appears to be that the obscurations are so far complete as to present all the phenomena above described in regard to each planet they affect as a whole. But exceptional phenomena for which we must be ever on the alert, come into play even in this matter. The great bulk of humanity is driven on from one planet to the next by the great cyclic impulse when its time comes for such a transition, but the planet it quits is not utterly denuded of humanity, nor is it, in every region of its surface rendered, by the physical and climatic changes that come on, unfit to be the habitation of human beings. Even during obscuration a small colony of humanity clings to each planet, and the monads associated with these small colonies following different laws of evolution, and beyond the reach of those attractions which govern the main vortex of humanity in the planet occupied by the great tide-wave, pass on from world to world along what may be called the inner round of evolution, far ahead of the race at large. What may be the circumstances which occasionally project a soul even from the midst of the great human vortex, right out of the attraction of the planet occupied by the tide wave, and into the attraction of the Inner Round - is a question that can only be a subject for us at present of very uncertain conjecture.
It may be worth while to draw
attention, in connection with the solution I have ventured to offer as
applicable to the problem of the Inner Rounds to the way in which the fact of Nature
I assume to exist, would harmonize with the widely diffused doctrines of the
Deluge. That portion of a planet which remained habitable during an obscuration
would be equivalent to the Noah’s
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