THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF THE ATOM
LECTURE III. THE FIELD OF FORM, OR GROUP EVOLUTION.
By Alice A. Bailey (1922)
I want to enlarge tonight upon the basic idea of the unity of consciousness, or of intelligence, as developed somewhat in the lecture last week, and to extend the concept still further. It has been said that all evolution proceeds from homogeneous, through heterogeneity, back again to homogeneity, and it has been pointed out that:
“Evolution is a continually accelerating march of all the particles of the universe which leads them simultaneously, by a path sown with destruction, but uninterrupted and unpausing, from the material atom to that universal consciousness in which omnipotence and omniscience are realised; in a word, to the full realisation of the Absolute of God.”
This proceeds from those minute diversifications which we call molecules and atoms up to their aggregate as they are built into forms; and continues on through the building of those forms into greater forms, until you have a solar system in its entirety. All has proceeded under law, and the same basic laws govern the evolution of the atom as the evolution of a solar system. The macrocosm repeats itself in man, the microcosm, and the microcosm is again reflected in all lesser atoms.
These remarks and the previous lecture concern themselves primarily with the material manifestation of a solar system, but I shall seek to lay the emphasis in our future talks principally upon what we might call the psychical evolution, or the gradual demonstration and evolutionary unfoldment of that subjective intelligence or consciousness which lies behind the objective manifestation.
As usual, we will handle this lecture in four divisions: First, we will take the subject of the evolutionary process, which, in this particular case is the evolution of the form, or the group; then the method of group development; next we will consider the stages that are followed during the cycle of evolution, and finally we will conclude with an attempt to be practical, and to gather out of our conclusions some lesson to apply to the daily life.
The first thing necessary for us to do is to consider somewhat the question of what a form really is. If we turn to a dictionary we will find the word defined as follows: “the external shape or configuration of a body.” In this definition the emphasis is laid upon its externality, upon its tangibility and exoteric manifestation. This thought is also brought out if the root meaning of the word ‘manifestation’ is carefully studied. It comes from two Latin words, meaning “to touch or handle by the hand” (manus, the hand, and fendere, to touch), and the idea then brought to our minds is the triple thought that that which is manifested is that which can be felt, contacted, and realised as tangible.
Yet in both these interpretations the most vital part of the concept is lost sight of, and we must look elsewhere for a truer definition. To my mind, Plutarch conveys the idea of the manifestation of the subjective through the medium of the objective form in a much more illuminating way than does the dictionary. He says:—
“An idea is a being incorporeal, which has no subsistence by itself, but gives figure and form unto shapeless matter, and becomes the cause of manifestation.”
Here you have a most interesting sentence, and one of real occult significance. It is a sentence which will repay careful study and consideration, for it embodies a concept that concerns itself not only with that little manifestation, the atom of the chemist and the physicist, but of all forms that are constituted by their means, including the manifestation of a human being and of the Deity of a solar system, that great Life, that all-embracing, universal Mind, that vibrant centre of energy, and that great enfolding consciousness Whom we call God, or Force, or the Logos, the Existence Who is expressing Himself through the medium of the solar system.
In the Christian Bible the same thought is borne out by St. Paul in a letter to the Church at Ephesus. In the second chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians he says: “We are his workmanship.” Literally, the correct translation from the Greek is: “We are his poem, or idea,” and the thought in the mind of the apostle is that through the medium of every human life, or in the aggregate of lives which compose a solar system, God is, through the form, whatever it may be, working out an idea, a specific concept, or detailed poem. A man is an embodied thought, and this is also the concept latent in the definition of Plutarch. You have therein first the idea of a selfconscious entity, you have then to recognise the thought or purpose which that entity is seeking to express, and finally, you have the body or form which is the sequential result.
The term Logos, translated as the Word, is frequently used in the New Testament, in speaking of the Deity. The outstanding passage in which this is the case is the first chapter of St. John’s Gospel, where the words occur: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Let us consider for a minute the meaning of the expression. Its literal translation is ‘the Word’, and it has been defined as “the rendering in objective expression of a concealed thought.”
If you take any noun, or similar word, for instance, and study its objective significance, you will find that always a definite thought is conveyed to the mind, involving purpose, intent, or perhaps some abstract concept. If this same method of study can be extended to include the idea of the Deity or the Logos, much light may be gained upon this abstruse question of the manifestation of God, the central Intelligence, by the means of the material form, whether we see Him manifested through the tiny form of a chemical atom, or that gigantic physical body of His we call a solar system.
We found in our lecture last week that there was one thing that could be predicated of all atoms, and that scientists everywhere were coming to recognise one distinguishing characteristic. They have been shown to possess symptoms of mind and a rudimentary form of intelligence. The atom demonstrates the quality of discrimination, of selective power, and of ability to attract or repulse.
It may seem curious to use the word intelligence in connection with an atom of chemistry, for instance, but nevertheless the root meaning of the word embodies this idea perfectly. It comes from two Latin words: inter, between, and legere to choose. Intelligence, therefore, is the capacity to think or choose, to select, and to discriminate. It is, in reality, that abstract, inexplicable something which lies back of the great law of attraction and repulsion, one of the basic laws of manifestation. This fundamental faculty of intelligence characterises all atomic matter, and also governs the building up of forms, or the aggregation of atoms.
We have earlier dealt with the atom per se, but have in no way considered its building into form, or into that totality of forms which we call a kingdom in nature. We have considered somewhat the essential nature of the atom, and its prime characteristic of intelligence, and have laid our emphasis upon that out of which all the different forms as we know them, are built, all forms in the mineral kingdom, in the vegetable kingdom, in the animal kingdom, and in the human. In the sum total of all forms you have the totality of nature as generally understood.
Let us now extend our idea from the individual forms that go to the constitution of any of these four kingdoms of nature, and view them as providing that still greater form which we call the kingdom itself, and thus view that kingdom as a conscious unit, forming a homogeneous whole. Thus each kingdom in nature may be considered as providing a form through which a consciousness of some kind or grade can manifest. Thus also, the aggregate of animal forms composes that greater form which we designate the kingdom itself, and this animal kingdom likewise has its place within a still greater body. Through that kingdom a conscious life may be seeking expression, and through the aggregate of kingdoms a still greater subjective Life may be seeking manifestation.
In all these kingdoms which we are considering—mineral, vegetable, animal and human—we have three factors again present, provided, of course, that the basis of our reasoning is correct; first, that the original atom is itself a life; secondly, that all forms are built up of a multiplicity of lives, and thus a coherent whole is provided through which a subjective entity is working out a purpose; thirdly, that the central life within the form is its directing impulse, the source of its energy, the origin of its activity, and that which holds the form together as a unity.
This thought can be well worked out in connection with man, for instance. For the purposes of our lecture, man can be defined as that central energy, life, or intelligence, who works through a material manifestation or form, this form being built up of myriads of lesser lives. In this connection a curious phenomenon has been frequently noticed at the time of death; it was brought very specially to my notice some years ago by one of the ablest surgical nurses of India. She had for a long time been an atheist, but had begun to question the ground of her unbelief after several times witnessing this phenomenon.
She stated to me that, at the moment of death, in several cases, a flash of light had been seen by her issuing from the top of the head, and that in one particular case (that of a girl of apparently very advanced spiritual development and great purity and holiness of life) the room had appeared to be lit up momentarily by electricity. Again, not long ago, several of the leading members of the medical profession in a large middle west city were approached by an interested investigator, by letter, and asked if they would be willing to state if they had noted any peculiar phenomena at the moment of death. Several replied by saying that they had observed a bluish light issuing from the top of the head, and one or two added that they had heard a snap in the region of the head.
In this last instance we have a corroboration of the statement in Ecclesiastes, where the loosing of the silver cord is mentioned, or the breaking of that magnetic link which unites the indwelling entity or thinker to his vehicle of expression. In both the types of cases above mentioned can apparently be seen an ocular demonstration of the withdrawal of the central light or life, and the consequent disintegration of the form, and the scattering of the myriad lesser lives.
It may therefore seem to some of us a logical hypothesis that just as the atom of chemistry is a tiny sphere, or form, with a positive nucleus, which holds rotating around it the negative electrons, so all forms in all the kingdoms of nature are of a similar structure, differing only in degree of consciousness or intelligence. We can therefore regard the kingdoms themselves as the physical expression of some great subjective life, and can by logical steps come to the recognition that every unit in the human family is an atom in the body of that greater unit who has been called in some of the Scriptures the “Heavenly Man.”
Thus we arrive finally at the concept that the solar system is but the aggregate of all kingdoms and all forms, and the Body of a Being Who is expressing Himself through it, and utilising it in order to work out a definite purpose and central idea. In all these extensions of our final hypothesis, the same triplicity can be seen; an informing Life or Entity manifesting through a form, or a multiplicity of forms, and demonstrating discriminative intelligence.
It is not possible to deal with the method whereby the forms are built up, or to enlarge upon the evolutionary process by means of which atoms are combined into forms, and the forms themselves collected into that greater unit which we call a kingdom in nature. This method might be briefly summed up in three terms—involution, or the involving of the subjective life in matter, the method whereby the indwelling Entity takes to itself its vehicle of expression; evolution, or the utilisation of the form by the subjective life, its gradual perfecting, and the final liberating of the imprisoned life; and the law of attraction and repulsion, whereby matter and spirit are co-ordinated, whereby the central life gains experience, expands its consciousness, and, through the use of that particular form attains self-knowledge and self-control.
All is carried forward under this basic law. In every form you have a central life, or idea, coming into manifestation, involving itself more and more in substance, clothing itself in a form and shape adequate to its need and requirement, utilising that form as a means of expression, and then—in due course of time—liberating itself from the environing form in order to acquire one more suited to its need. Thus through every grade of form, spirit or life progresses, until the path of return has been traversed, and the point of origin achieved. This is the meaning of evolution and here lies the secret of the cosmic incarnation. Eventually spirit frees itself from form, and attains liberation plus developed psychical quality and graded expansions of consciousness.
We might look at these definite stages, and study them very cursorily. We have in the first case the process of involution. This is the period in which the limiting of the life within the form or sheath proceeds, and it is a long slow process, covering millions upon millions of years. This great cycle is participated in by every type of life. It concerns the life of the Solar Logos manifesting through a solar system. It is part of the life cycle of the planetary Spirit manifesting through such a sphere as our Earth planet; it includes that life which we call human, and sweeps into the path of its energy the tiny life which functions through an atom of chemistry.
It is the great process of becoming, and that which makes existence and being itself possible. This period of limitation, of a gradually increasing imprisonment, and of an ever deeper descent into matter, is succeeded by one of adaptation, in which the life and the form become intimately inter-related, and subsequent to this is the period wherein that inner relation becomes perfected. The form is then adequate to the needs of the life, and can be utilised. Then, as the life within grows and expands, it is paralleled by the crystallisation of the form, which no longer suffices as a means of expression. Following upon crystallisation, we have the period of disintegration. Limitation, adaptation, utilisation, crystallisation, and disintegration,—these are the stages which cover the life of any entity, or embodied idea of greater or less degree, which seeks expression through matter.
Let us carry out this thought in connection with the human being. The process of limitation can be seen in the taking of a physical form, and in those early rebellious days, when a man is full of desires, aspirations, longings and ideals, which he seems unable to express or to satisfy. Then comes the period of adaptation, wherein the man begins to utilise what he has, and to express himself as best he may through the medium of those myriads of lesser lives and intelligences which constitute his physical, his emotional, and his mental bodies. He energises his threefold form, forcing it to carry out his behests and fulfil his purposes, and thus carry out his plan, whether for good or evil.
This is succeeded by the stage in which he utilises the form as far as in him lies, and comes to what we call maturity. Finally, in the later stages of life, we have the crystallisation of the form, and the man’s realisation of its inadequacy. Then comes the happy release which we call death, that great moment in which the “spirit in prison” escapes from the confining walls of its physical form. Our ideas about death have been erroneous; we have looked upon it as the great and ultimate terror, whereas in reality it is the great escape, the entrance into a fuller measure of activity, and the release of the life from a crystallised vehicle and an inadequate form.
Thoughts similar to these can be worked out in connection with all forms, and not only with those in connection with the physical body of a human being. These ideas can be applied to forms of government, forms of religion, and forms of scientific or philosophical thought. It can be seen working out in a peculiarly interesting manner in this cycle in which we live. Everything is in a state of flux; the old order changeth, and a period of transition is in progress; the old forms, in every department of thought, are disintegrating, but only in order that the life which gave them being may escape, and build for itself that which will be more satisfactory and adequate.
Take, for instance, the old religious form of the Christian faith. Here I must warn you not to misunderstand me. I am not trying to prove that the spirit of Christianity is inadequate, and I am not seeking to demonstrate that its well-tried and well-proven truths are erroneous. I am only trying to point out that the form through which that spirit seeks to express itself has somewhat served its purpose, and is proving a limitation. Those same great truths, and those same basic ideas, require a more adequate vehicle through which to function.
Christian thinkers at this time need to distinguish very carefully between the vital truths of Christianity, and the crystallised form of theology. The living impulse was given by the Christ. He enunciated these great and eternal truths, and sent them forth to take form and meet the need of a suffering world. They were limited by the form, and there came a long period wherein that form (religious dogmas and doctrines) gradually grew and took shape.
Centuries ensued wherein the form and the life seemed adapted to each other, and the Christian ideals expressed themselves through the medium of that form. Now the period of crystallisation has set in, and the expanding Christian consciousness is finding the limitations of the theologians inadequate and restricting. The great fabric of dogmas and doctrines, as built up by the churchmen and theologians of the ages, must inevitably disintegrate, but only in order that the life within may escape, build for itself a better and more satisfactory means of expression, and thus measure up to the mission upon which it was sent.
In the different schools of thought everywhere the same thing can be seen. All of them are expressing some idea by means of a particular form, or set of forms, and it is very necessary for us to remember that the triple life back of all forms is nevertheless but One, though the vehicles of expression are diverse, and ever prove inadequate as time elapses.
What, then, is the purpose back of this endless process of form building, and this combining of the lesser forms? What is the reason of it all, and what will prove to be the goal? Surely it is the development of quality, the expansion of the consciousness, the development of the faculty of realisation, the production of the powers of the psyche, or the soul, the evolution of intelligence. Surely it is the gradual demonstration of the basic idea or purpose which that great Entity Whom we call the Logos, or God, is working out through the solar system. It is the demonstration of His psychic quality, for God is intelligent Love; and the fulfilment of His determined purpose, for God is intelligent loving Will.
For all the different grades and types of atoms there is a goal and a purpose also. There is a goal for the atom of chemistry; there is a point of achievement for the human atone, man; the planetary atom also will some day demonstrate its basic purpose, and the great Idea which lies back of the solar system will some day be revealed. Is it possible for us in a few brief moments of study to get a sound conception of what that purpose may be? Perhaps we can get some broad, general idea, if we approach the subject with sufficient reverence and sensitiveness of outlook, bearing carefully in mind always that only the ignorant dogmatise, and only the unwise deal in detail when considering these stupendous topics.
We have seen that the atom of chemistry, for instance, demonstrates the quality of intelligence; it shows symptoms of discriminative mind, and the rudiments of selective capacity. Thus the tiny life within the atomic form is demonstrating psychic quality. The atom is then built into all the different forms at varying times and stages, and each time it gains somewhat according to the force and life of the entity who en souls that form, and preserves its homogeneity. Take, for instance, the atom that goes to the building of a form in the mineral kingdom; it shows not only discriminative selective mind, but elasticity. Then in the vegetable kingdom these two qualities appear, but a third is also found, which we might call sensation of a rudimentary kind.
The initial intelligence of the atom has acquired something during the transition from form to form and from kingdom to kingdom. Its responsiveness to contact, and its general awareness have increased. When we come to the study of the evolution of consciousness we can take this up in greater detail; all I am endeavouring to do tonight is to show that in the vegetable kingdom forms built up of atoms show not only discriminative intelligence and elasticity, but also are capable of sensation, or of that which, in the vegetable kingdom, corresponds to emotion or feeling, emotion being but rudimentary love.
Next we have the animal kingdom, in which the animal forms show not only all the above qualities, but to them is added instinct, or that which will some day blossom into mentality. Finally, we come to the human being, who shows all these qualities in far greater degree, for the fourth kingdom is but the macrocosm for the three lower. Man demonstrates intelligent activity, he is capable of emotion or love, and has added yet another factor, that of intelligent will.
He is the deity of his own little system; he is not only conscious, but he is selfconscious. He builds his own body of manifestation, just as does the Logos, only on a tiny scale; he controls his little system by the great law of attraction and repulsion, as does the Logos, and he energises it and synthesises his threefold nature into a coherent unit. He is the three in one, and the one in three, just as is the Logos.
There is a future for every atom in the solar system. Before the ultimate atom there lies a tremendous goal, and as the aeons slip away the life that animates that atom will pass through all the varying kingdoms of nature until it find its goal in the human kingdom.
The idea might now be extended somewhat, and we might consider that great Entity Who is the informing life of the planet, and Who holds all the different kingdoms of nature within His consciousness. May it not be possible that His intelligence, as it informs the totality of all groups and kingdoms, is the goal for man, the human atom? Perhaps as time progresses the scope of his present realisation may also be ours, and for His, as for all those great Lives Who inform the planets of the solar system, there may be the attainment of that tremendous reach of consciousness which characterises that great Existence Who is the ensouling Life of the solar system.
May it not be true that among the different grades of consciousness, extending, for instance, from the atom of the chemist and physicist, up to the Logos of the solar system, there are no gaps, and no abrupt transitions, but there is ever a gradual expansion and a gradual evolution from one form of intelligent manifestation to another, and always the life within the form gains in quality by means of the experience.
When we have built this idea into our consciousness, when it is apparent to us that there is purpose and direction underlying everything, when we realise that not a single thing occurs that is not the outcome of the conscious will of some entity, and that all that happens has a definite aim and goal, then we have the clue to ourselves, and to all that we see happening around us in the world.
If, for instance, we realise that we have the building up and care of our physical bodies, that we have the control of our emotional nature, and the responsibility for the development of our mentality, if we realise that we are the energising factors within our bodies, and that when we withdraw from those bodies they disintegrate and fall to pieces; then perhaps we have the clue to what the informing Life of the planet may be doing, as He works through forms of every kind (continents, civilisations, religions, and organisations) upon this earth; to what has gone on in the moon, which is now a disintegrating form, to what is going on in the solar system, and to what will happen in the solar system when the Logos withdraws from that which is, for Him, but a temporary manifestation.
Let us now make practical application of these thoughts. We are living at this time in a period in which all the forms of thought seem breaking up, in which the religious life of the peoples is no longer what it was, in which dogma and doctrine of every kind come under criticism. Many of the old forms of scientific thought are likewise disintegrating, and the foundations of the old philosophies seem to be shaken. Our lot is cast in one of the most difficult periods of the world’s history, a period which is characterised by the breakup of nations, the smashing of old relationships and ties, and the apparently imminent disruption of civilisation.
We need to encourage ourselves by remembering that all this is occurring just because the life within those forms is becoming so strong that it finds them a prison and a limitation; and we must recollect that this transition period is the time of the greatest promise that the world has ever seen. There is no room for pessimism and despair, but only for the profoundest optimism. Many today are upset and distraught because the foundations seem to be shaken, the carefully reared and deeply cherished structures of religious thought and belief, and of philosophical finding seem in danger of falling, yet our anxiety exists simply because we have been too much engrossed with the form, and too much occupied with our prison, and if disruption has set in, it is only in order that the life may build for itself new forms and thereby evolve.
The work of the destroyer is as much the work of God as that of the constructor, and the great god of destruction has to smash and rend the forms in order that the work of the builder may become possible, and the spirit able more adequately to express itself.
To many of us these ideas may seem novel, fantastic, and untenable. Yet even if they are only hypotheses, they may prove interesting and give us a possible clue to the mystery. We see civilisations disrupted, we see the religious fabrics tottering, we see philosophies successfully attacked, we see the foundations of material science shaken. Yet, after all, what are civilisations? What are the religions? What are the great races? Simply the forms through which the great threefold central Life, Who informs our planet, seeks to express Himself.
Just as we express ourselves through the medium of a physical, an emotional, and a mental nature, so He expresses Himself through the totality of the kingdoms of nature, and through the nations, races, religions, sciences and philosophies, in existence at this time. As His life pulsates through every department of His being we, as cells and atoms within that greater manifestation, follow each transition, and are swept along from one stage to another. As time progresses, and our consciousness expands, we shall enter more and more into a knowledge of His plan as He is working it out, and shall eventually be in a position to collaborate with Him in His essential purpose.
To sum up the central thought of this lecture: Let us endeavour to realise that there is no such thing as inorganic matter, but that every atom is a life. Let us realise that all forms are living forms, and that each is but the vehicle of expression for some indwelling entity. Let us seek to comprehend that this is likewise true of the aggregate of all forms. Thus we have the clue to ourselves, and perhaps the clue to the mystery of the solar system.