Constitution of Man -
The Physical and Psychic Bodies - 2
I shall begin the study of the constitution of Man
with the physical body, because whatever we come to consider as Man in our existential world rests upon the foundation of biology. Even if we believe in a divine revelation concerning the nature of Man, such a revelation has to take a form determined by what human beings, as physical organisms, can perceive, understand, and assimilate. Therefore it seems appropriate in the accompanying diagram to place the physical components at the top of the list, for these are the first lines a reader will read. The reverse order, which is nearly always given elsewhere, implies that the whole series of components is seen in one act of perception, thus spatially; above and below are taken as a scale of values. This is not the approach presented in this book, which deals with being as a process unfolding, phase by phase, in the consciousness of a human being.
Though the physical body is the objective foundation of human existence and of all knowledge deriving from the measurement of forms, it possesses, as it were, two "natures." First, it is the product of biological forces active in the earth's biosphere, which reach a high level of complexity and organization in the life-species homo sapiens.
But the body is more than a generic biological organism. Having been subjected to a great variety of stresses and disformations by (1
) a particular culture and (2
) a particular personality, this product of impersonal, planetary "life" assumes a complex set of characteristics giving it a more or less individual character. Therefore, the natural biological body should be distinguished from what results from the pressures giving it relatively individual characteristics. These pressures are existential manifestations of both the karma of the particular person whose body it is and the collective karma of a particular culture and special community.
In terms of the cyclic pattern of the Movement of Wholeness, "life" represents the general type of structural organization taken by the balance of forces within the Movement during a particular phase of the development of a planet whose material and chemical conditions are conducive to this kind of organization. During the period preceding the symbolic Noon, life takes a series of forms of increasing complexity. As the Noon point is reached (greatly simplifying the process), the form of the human body stabilizes and reaches a truly human type of biological organization. Being a manifestation of planetary life, this human body is ruled not only by instincts, as is every form of life within the biosphere; it also is intimately related to, because the product of, a particular region of the biosphere. The structure of the human body is, like a musical theme, susceptible of numerous variations. In different regions of the biosphere, life produces bodies of different colors and races, and each type has a special role to perform in the total rhythm of the biosphere.
At first, however, these types of physical bodies do not have cultural, personal, or individual characteristics. These develop gradually as relatively superficial modifications of racial types, which nevertheless retain their basic nature and biodynamic rhythms. What we today see, touch, and think of as "my body" is a biological formation of a certain type that has been partially differentiated — and in some cases distorted — by the super-biological pressures of culture, personal character, and individuality. Such pressures can be defined as the results of past karma; but this karma is both
collective and individual. The super-biological modifications of a body's basic racial nature are also (and in some instances even more) the inevitable results of strenuous efforts the person may have made to neutralize past karma by performing a difficult dharma.
In the esoteric traditions and popular mythologies of many cultures, the term physical body
includes, in addition to the dense material body, a concentric series of subtler material formations. Though these are usually given the rather misleading name of, etheric body
, they rather constitute surrounding as well as pervading sheaths of a subtler kind of matter which has a variety of characteristics and functions. To speak of an etheric "body" is probably inadequate. It operates more as a "field of forces" or guiding field. It can be regarded as the "vehicle" for the life-energy which it focuses as well as distributes among the cells of the physical body. It is, in any case, constituted of matter existing at several levels of tenuity and vibratory energy.(1
As the matter of the dense physical body exists in several states (solid, liquid, and gaseous), the matter of the subtle etheric vehicles is said to exist in four states. The lowest one (the "fourth ether") is, as it were, the lens through which karma is precipitated.(2
) The higher three are essentially impersonal; they give a generically human form to the energy of life that operates in and through the planet's biosphere. The highest state (the seventh) seems to be directly — even if rather mysteriously — related to the most unified condition of subjective being. Avataric manifestations may have their focus at that level of "spiritual" materiality. Each of the main human Races (by which I mean particular stages in the evolutionary process) is a variation on the basic planetary theme, Man. These variations have been mythically personified under the name Manu
. In one aspect, a Manu is the prototype of the basic type of human beings during a particular Race-period; in another, "he" symbolizes the totality of all the beings constituting a Race, or rather the essential spiritual vibration and role the Race has to play in the building of the earth's noosphere — the planetary Mind.
A physical body is a composite entity in which the planetary life force operates within a collection of trillions of cells, molecules, and atoms organized by its integrative power. When this power ceases to operate, the etheric substances of the body are reabsorbed into the life-field of the earth, just as the elements of the decaying dense physical body return to the solid, liquid, and gaseous layers of the globe.
Being an organized whole of activity, a physical body has a consciousness of its own — what has often been called an "elemental" consciousness. Every cell of the body has consciousness — a consciousness related to and an integrated manifestation of its total activity within the field defined by its form. In most instances this form is determined by karma operating particularly through the etheric field. As human beings exist during the hemicycle characterized by the dominance of the principle of Multiplicity, the nature of human consciousness is predominantly objective. It is thus, at first, mainly determined by the condition of the physical body, which is the most objective aspect of the human type of organization. Yet the principle of Unity rises after the Noon point of the great planetary cycle, and the attractive power of material existence and bodily satisfaction slowly diminishes.
While the null results of the famous Michelson-Moreley experiments of the 1880s caused most scientists to abandon the concept of the ether entirely, recent findings in astrophysics have raised the necessity of reconsidering the early and probably premature assertions which failed to consider all the factors in the experiment. These findings suggest that space is not "empty" after all, but "filled" with "an energy-rich subquantic medium composed of extremely small neutral particles called neutrinos, pervading all space and interpenetrating all matter." See "The Rediscovery of the Ether" by H. C. Dudley in Future Science
, John White and Stanley Krippner, eds. (Doubleday & Co., New York, 1977) pp. 184-190. Return
In The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception
, Max Heindi speaks of the "fourth ether" as the "Chemical Ether" through which "the forces which cause assimilation and excretion work." In other esoteric doctrines, these forces are related to the solar plexus nerve center (or chakra) connected not only with the assimilation of foodstuff sustaining the operations of the physical body, but with a subtler type of psychic assimilation. It is said that "the gods" speak to men through the solar plexus — that is, this center is the gate through which various psychic currents, including the great Images of a people's collective psychism, enter the consciousness of as yet unindividualized persons. Karmic processes work in the physical body largely through the various functions involved in the metabolism of food — stomach, liver, pancreas, intestines. Eating is a mode of relationship with the food (vegetable and animal) one eats. The desire for food and the desire for sexual partnership or possession are two most fundamental aspects of desire. The desire for air to breathe is another even more imperative but also more "spiritual", desire. By breathing air which has entered the lungs and blood-stream of all living bodies in the biosphere — for air circulates rapidly around the globe — the unity of all living beings is prefigured and to some degree substantiated, unconscious though we are of the fact. Return
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