An Esoteric Cosmology
IV. Involution and Evolution
28 May 1906, Paris
There is a phenomenon of physical life which has never been explained by exoteric thought — the chaotic life bound up with sleep and called the life of dream.
What is the dream? It is an activity which has survived from prehistoric times. To understand it by analogy, let us consider certain phenomena which do not any longer belong, properly speaking, to physical life — organs which have now become useless, rudimentary organisms of which the naturalist can make nothing. Such are the motor organs of the ear and eye which function no longer, the appendix and, — notably, the pineal gland in the brain which has the form of a tiny pine cone. Naturalists explain it as a product of degeneration, as a parasitic growth in the brain. This is not correct. In the lasting creations of Nature, nothing is without its use. The pineal gland is the surviving remnant of an organ of great significance in primitive man, an organ of perception which served simultaneously as antenna, eye and ear. This organ existed in man during his rudimentary period of development, in days when the semi-fluid, semi-vaporous Earth was still united with the Moon. Man moved through the semi-fluid, semi-gaseous element like a fish, guiding his way by means of this organ. His perceptions were of a visionary, allegoric nature. Currents of warmth evoked in him the impression of dazzling red and of powerful sound. Currents of cold evoked the impression of shades of green and blue, silvery, rippling sounds.
The rôle played by the pineal gland was thus of great significance. But with the mineralisation of the Earth, other organs of sense made their appearance, and with us the pineal gland has no apparent purpose.
Let us now turn to the phenomenon of the dream.
The dream is a rudimentary function of our life — seemingly without use or purpose. In reality it represents an atrophied function — a function which in days of yore gave rise to a very different mode of perception.
Before the Earth became metallic, it was only perceptible in the astral sense. All perceptions are relative; they are merely symbolic. The central core of truth is ineffable and divine. This is wonderfully expressed in the words of Goethe: “All things transitory are but symbols.”
Astral vision (which is still present in the dream) is allegoric and symbolic.
Examples of dreams provoked by physical and bodily causes:
A student dreams that a companion gives him a blow, whereupon a duel is fought and he himself is wounded. He wakes up to find that the cause of the dream is a chair that has fallen over. Again someone may dream of a trotting horse but the sound is really caused by the ticking of a watch.
The bodily nature of man lies at the root of certain dreams but others are directly related to the astral and spiritual worlds. This latter class of dreams are the origin of myths.
In the opinion of modern scholars, the myths are poetic interpretations of the phenomena of Nature. If, however, we study certain folk-legends, we shall find that they are more than this. Myths and legends are based upon astral visions which have been travestied, changed and added to by tradition.
Think of the Slavonic legend of the ‘Woman of Noonday.’ If peasants who are labouring at the harvest in the oppressive heat of summer lie down to rest on the ground at midday instead of going to their homes, the figure of a woman appears and places a number of enigmas before them. If the sleeper can solve these enigmas, he is saved; if not, the woman slays and cuts him in two with a scythe. The legend goes on to say that this phantom can be exorcised by reciting the verses of the Lord's Prayer in backward order. Occultism teaches us that the Woman of Noonday is an astral figure, an incubus who appears and oppresses man during his sleep. The reversed Lord's Prayer indicates that in the astral world everything is reflected as in a mirror (inversion). In The Riddle of the Sphinx, Ludwig Laistner says that the origin of the legend of the sphinx is to be found among all races. He also proves that all legends have been conceived in a condition of higher sleep where realities are perceived, and that the sphinx is in truth a daemonic figure.
A state of dream-consciousness, or perception of a real world in astral symbols-this, then, is the origin of all the myths. Myths describe the astral world seen in symbolic visions.
In the course of history we find that the creation of myths ceases when the life of logic and intellectuality begins to develop.
A law known to occultism is that with every new stage of evolution, an element from the past makes its appearance. Ancient faculties, survivals from past epochs which have atrophied in the being of man, act as ferments for subsequent development; they are like the yeast which makes the dough rise. Man's present faculty of dreaming will beget a new kind of vision, a perception of the astral and spiritual world.
The man of today lives only in his senses and intellect which elaborates what the senses tell him. The intellect of man of the future will awaken to the full light of consciousness and he will live consciously in the astral world.
The trance of the hypnotised subject and of the medium is an atavistic phenomenon, bound up with lowered consciousness. The initiated clairvoyant is not an unbalanced visionary; he possesses, in advance, the consciousness which will be possessed by all men in future ages; he has his feet on solid ground just as firmly as the most matter-of-fact human being; his reason is just as clear and certain but he sees in two worlds.
It is a law of evolution that certain organs atrophy, subsequently to take on new functions.
The pineal gland has a certain physiological relation with the lymphatic system. In olden times this gland was the organ of perception of the outer world and it is still to be seen near the top of the head of newly-born babes where the soft matter recalls the nature of man's body in olden times.
In our life of intellect, the dream plays a rôle similar to that of the pineal gland in the physiology of the human body.
Why is there a descending and an ascending process in evolution? What is the purpose of evil? These are weighty questions which have never been solved by science or religion. Yet the whole problem of education depends upon their solution.
We cannot speak of evil in the absolute sense. Evil, indeed, plays a part in the development of beings and the unfolding of freedom.
The materialist will not admit that the thoughts stimulated in us by Nature are, in fact, already contained in her being. He imagines that we infuse our thoughts into Nature.
The Rosicrucians in the Middle Ages were wont to place a glass of water before the neophyte and say to him: ‘This water would not be in the glass if some being had not put it there.’ Thus it is in regard to the ideas we find expressed in Nature. They must have been implanted there by divine Intelligences, by servants of the Logos.
The thoughts we derive from the universe are actually there. All that we create is contained somewhere in the universe.
It is a false idea on the part of certain mystics to disparage the value of the physical body. It has just as much value as the astral body; its mission is to become the temple of the soul.
Think of the marvelous structure of the femur, of the bone which bears the whole body. Its construction is such that the maximum amount of strength is produced with the minimum amount of substance. No engineer could create such a wonder-structure. In comparison with the physical body, the astral body — the seat of passions and desires — is rudimentary and crude.
The physical world is the expression of wisdom incarnate, divine wisdom.
The Rosicrucians taught that the Earth, in primeval times, was an Earth of wisdom. Today we may call it an Earth of love. The mission of man is to accomplish for the imperfect part of his being what divine wisdom once accomplished for his physical body. He must ennoble his astral body and therewith the world around him.
All that has entered into us without our conscious will under the influence of divine wisdom — that is Involution. All that we must bring out of ourselves by dint of conscious will — that is Evolution.
The pyramids will perish in the course of the centuries but the ideas which gave them birth will develop onwards. The cathedral of today will take another form. Raphael's pictures will fall into dust but the soul of Raphael and the ideas which his creations represent will be living powers forever. The Art of today will be the Nature of tomorrow and will blossom again in her. Thus does Involution become Evolution.
Here we have the point of intersection between the divine and the human, the twofold power which brings God to man and raises man to God.