The One Planetary Tradition
and the Many Operative Traditions - 1
At certain times in the development of a society and its culture, a strong and often very emotional appeal is made to return to "the Tradition" and to repudiate and discard what is then given the pejorative name of "modernism." The appeal is made by religious leaders, as well as by politicians. In a deeper and more "occult" sense it is also made by individuals who what become involved in a variety of more or less recently formed "exoteric" groups and perhaps wandered far afield in search of glamorous doctrines and exotic teachers. Intellectually confused as well as emotionally disappointed and more insecure than ever, these men and women seek — as psychologists might say — to "return to the womb" of their ancestral religion or, in a deeper spiritual sense, to go back to a Tradition that offers them what seems to be a well established and secure path leading through "initiation" to supreme spiritual realizations and perhaps even to personal immortality.
The term, Tradition, when capitalized, conveys indeed a feeling of stability and strength. We can speak here of "root strength," partly in the same sense that the strength of a tree, and even its capacity to produce flowers, resides in its roots, and partly because the men who are the true custodians of the deeper, more essential and esoteric aspects of the Tradition are invisible or at least difficult to find. They often may work in secret underneath a purely cultural, or even socially commonplace facade. The rootlet is the first part of the plant to come out of the seed as it breaks open. It has to be first because it is through its functional activity that the germ can obtain the raw chemicals of the soil needed for its sunward growth.
To go back to the source of the Tradition implied a return to the "original impulse" — the creative Word — at the very beginning of one's small or large cycle of existence. Unity is to be found at the source of the cycle. The fecundated ovum is but one cell; from this original cell billions of cells of a human body will be formed by mitosis (or division). Each of these body cells carries at its core a complex pattern (or genetic code) which defines its particular and specific function by means of a subtle chemical (or rather "alchemical" or superphysical) combination of open and closed channels through which the one Life-force (prana) is allowed to operate or is restrained. But potentially the whole of the generic code is present in every cell.
In and occult sense, this implies that Man, as an archetype — a specific pattern of relationships and a particular set of biopsychic possibilities of development of consciousness — is inherent in every human being. But this archetype is there occultly, as total human potential, not as an actual existential fact in the operative world of everyday living on our physical earth.
This distinction between archetypal and existential, and therefore between the potential and the actual, is of fundamental importance; yet for various reasons — some of which have a specific temporal validity — this distinction is usually glossed over or deliberately ignored by most esoteric groups. The general collective mentality of the West tends to ignore it and to confuse potentiality with actuality.
In its emotional and idealistic eagerness to stress, at least in theory, the concepts of social individualism and equalitarianism, the American mind does not accentuate significantly enough the distinction between the spiritual identity of an individual and his functional place and purpose in the existential world of human society.
This distinction, which I have discussed at some length in my recent book We Can Begin Again — Together(1) is of extreme importance for a real understanding of what can be meant by "the Tradition." This term can indeed be defined in two different levels — and archetypal and an operative level. And the operative level branches out in a number of specific directions in order to fill diverse, even though interrelated and presumably interdependent, functions.
Archetypally and potentially, humanity is "one"; but existentially, functionally, and in terms of sociocultural and religious conditioning — and also in terms of geographic locality and historical timing — humanity is "many." It has become fashionable to state that all religions and cultures have basic elements in common. Aldous Huxley spoke of a perennial philosophy, but, in fact, the historical knowledge he and our historians had limited the validity of the concept. Theosophists speak of a "Universal Tradition" and "original Revelation," but unless these terms are understood in their archetypal meaning, I believe they can be misleading. What they actually are meant to imply is that today we are in a period of history in which it is spiritually essential for all men to realize that we are slowly approaching the closing period of a planetary cycle which affords men the possibility of experiencing — not merely dreaming of or intellectually postulating — a state of conscious unanimity. It is this fact which gives its basic meaning to what happened during the last half of the nineteenth century in the field of occultism, and particularly to H. P. Blavatsky's work and The Secret Doctrine.
There are two kinds of unanimity — and the word simply means "of one soul." The original kind is compulsive and instinctual; it operates basically in the unconscious of a collectivity of human beings. It is the type of unanimity experienced in the pure tribal state of society, a state in which the tribal whole and not the individual person is the unit, a state of relative psychic undifferentiation in which life and its organic functions are the supreme rulers. The other kind of unanimity demands of all who participate in it that they be individually conscious and able to carry the responsibility of their function of destiny — their dharma. The first kind refers to the alpha condition of society; the second to the omega state. This omega state is still in the future, but the type of mental energy required for its actualization has been operative for some time. An esotericist, Alice Bailey, personalized it as "the Avatar of Synthesis."
The spirit of synthesis may operate within relatively narrow limits, or globally in a planetary sense. It may operate strongly at one level, or only in special circumstances, and remain ineffectual in most existential situations, whether at the personal or the national collective level. The potentiality is there — or we might say the "availability" of the energy required for its actualization at one level or another is present. Yet this does not tell us much about the degree or quality of the actualization. Mankind is moving toward what I call the state of "multi-unity" — often referred to as "unity in diversity." Because of this cyclo-historical fact (which has a concrete manifestation in the technological wonders potentially enabling every human being to communicate with all others) individuals dream of, long for, unification or integration at one level or another. And this dreaming inevitably evokes in the depths of the consciousness an ancestral (perhaps genetic as well as psychospiritual) feeling of some preindividual, thus mostly undifferentiated, condition of unity. Confused by the separativeness, glamor, and alien quality of the variety of unprovable claims and special techniques now made available to them, many Euro-American men and women — no longer able to find spiritual, mental, or emotional sustenance in their churches or even in an unorthodox type of group or community — yearn for a return to a "state of innocence," the symbolic Edenic state before the Fall into duality and division.
If they are sincere and strong, they many find a line of approach leading them to individuals who still represent a truly ancient and primordial Tradition unsullied by the pride of mental achievement and the excitement of emotional cravings. But will it be, can it be, the one Tradition? Can anything that is formulated in terms of a specific culture, however ancient, and in a particular language and symbols be the one Tradition? One should face such questions in very possible manner and at almost any cost; and the way one approaches the possibility of giving them a valid answer is bound to influence the seeker's entire spiritual life and his peace of mind and soul.
Hindu philosophers, during the great Age of Philosophy, gave us a most revealing way of approaching such an issue. They postulated six possible basic approaches to the Self, that is, to the essential reality of existence. Six great Schools of Philosophy were defined and classified, each representing one of these approaches. A human Soul, in the course of successive incarnations, was said gradually to experience all that was existentially and intellectually implied in each of these six approaches, after which it would be ready to experience the seventh, Atma Vidya. But this seventh approach is not to be considered a "School." What it leads to is ineffable, unformulatable except perhaps in geometric symbols which are but a framework for direct experience. Nothing can be put in words about it except that it is, because any kind of definition would reduce it to a cultural level where multiplicity is the basic fact.
This simply means that beyond, yet at the core, of all great Traditions, we can conceive and perhaps to some extent experience, at least in its reflections, That which is in relation to these few basic Traditions as Light is to the colors of the spectrum. Esotericists may want to identify these several Traditions with the now much publicized "seven Rays"; but the Rays have confused students' minds as much as, fifty years earlier, Globes, Rounds, Races, subraces, and family-races puzzled those who read about them. The number seven is itself the greatest of all occult enigmas because, in any sevenfold classification, it has a most ambiguous character. In Hindu philosophy there were only six Darshanas, six approaches to existential knowledge. The seventh is everywhere, in everything, and as well "nowhere". For the Buddhist it is Sunya, the Nothing that, at the core of everything, simply is.
Everything that is human contains, yet is absorbed in Man. The one Tradition is in every great occult Tradition and in the Multiplicity of lesser cultural traditions. If one is a weary, confused, and disappointed searcher after mysterious and exotic truths, one may long for some stabilizing, reassuring, illuminating knowledge of the one Tradition. But looking for it in any particular place, according to any special technique, and in terms of Sanskrit, Arabic, Chinese, Tibetan, Greek, or Hebrew is, I believe, hardly the way to find it. The moment one depends upon specific "traditional" techniques and particular words or mantrams, one is outside of the one Tradition, even though there may be direct reflections of it everywhere.
What then can one do? If one wants to clearly or at least meaningfully think about what the Tradition is, it seems to me that the first thing to do is to understand what is not; then one should try to envision a cosmic or planetary frame of reference in relation to which it has a fundamental significance because it occupies a central place and function therein. This place and function no doubt have to be considered to a large extent symbolic, but symbols can be powerful levers to displace whatever blocks the path to inner experiences or intuitive realizations at the level of ideas and archetypes. If the Tradition is everywhere (yet nowhere) its presence within the human mind must have inspired great images and myths. These can indeed be found in many mythologies and religions. They are particularly in evidence, at least for Western individuals, in the Greek myth of Prometheus, and in the many references in Hindu mythology to the Kumaras. H.P. Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine,(2) presents us with vivid imagery what we may take to be definite factual information concerning an event that took place on this Earth millions of years ago and which implanted in the animal-like organism of man the potentiality of self-conscious intelligence, or what is often spoken of as a spark of the divine Fire.
In the Greek legend, Prometheus was a Titan who stole this divine Fire and, out of compassion, gave sparks of it to human beings, allowing them potentially to become godlike. This "theft" aroused the anger of the gods; Jupiter threw his thunderbolts at the unhappy Prometheus and chained him to the Caucasus mountains, where a vulture perpetually tore his breast and ate his liver, which was constantly reformed and eaten again. This torture lasted until Hercules, the solar man, delivered Prometheus from his chains.
While this essentially tragic Prometheus myth seems to refer more particularly to the fate and the spiritual character of our Western humanity, which can be said to begin with the earliest development of Greek culture, the coming of the Kumaras to our planet during prehistoric times and on what is spoken of as the Lemurian continent, has a much more planetary and all-human meaning. There are many ways of interpreting this coming of the Kumaric host and particularly of the four or seven Kumaras whose leader is named Sanat from the planet Venus, but a few points must be emphasized.
Venus may or may not be the physical planet described by our astronomers and now being investigated by our space probes. H. P. Blavatsky speaks of it as the "alter-ego" and spiritual twin of our Earth, on which it bestows one-third of the light it receives from the Sun; and we are told that the Earth is not, or not yet, a "Sacred planet."
What seems implied in such statements, and in many others scattered through esoteric and mythological literature, is that at the close of one of its cycles of development (it might have been about eleven million years ago) the type of humanlike consciousness developed on Venus was ready to "sow" itself into the soil of a less evolved planet — ours. The Kumaras would then represent spiritual seeds falling into the animal soil of earthly mankind and therefore implanting the true pattern of MAN (in a spiritual sense) in the as yet passive and unself-conscious mentality of early mankind. In a somewhat different sense we can also liken this process to the grafting of a cultivated tree bearing excellent fruit to a wild tree of the same species.
All such images, and even the more occult tales of "incarnation" of some of the Kumaras into human beings, are symbols trying to convey the meaning of a particular phase of the vast process of evolution of mankind as a functional part of the planet Earth, and in relation to what I call the Heliocosm (the solar system as an organic cosmic whole). We might get a more concrete (though not exact) grasp of what such a phase of development on a planetary scale could mean if we thought of what the crisis of puberty means to a human adolescent. Some deep-seated change takes place which is both biological and psychomental. New capacities begin to develop; and these may be used "for better or for worse." They can be a curse as well as a blessing; the interesting anagrammatic relationship between the terms Sanat and Satan is no doubt a most revealing symbolic indication. The Secret Doctrine repeatedly refers to the concept of "Fallen Angels" and the manner in which "Jupiterian" religions and their leaders have considered as enemies of the gods those Promethean beings who, cycle after cycle, have sought to arouse in the masses of men this divine Fire of self-conscious creativity and responsibility, and have been crucified for their self-sacrificial attempts.
Omen Press, Tucson, 1974. Return
cf The Secret Doctrine
(original or facsimile editions) II:244 et seq. and 519 et seq. Return