Angels and Others
Last revised: 6 August 2008
- 1 The Angels
- 1.1 Angels Are a Higher Evolutionary Rung
- 1.2 Suggestions that Humans Eventually Join the Ranks of Angels
- 1.3 There are Nine Orders of Angels
- 1.4 Suggestions that Angels are Still Subject to Material Forces
- 1.5 Suggestions that the Lowest Orders of Angels Live on the Astral and Mental Planes
- 1.6 The True Form of Angels Cannot be Described
- 1.7 Angels Not Limited to Earth
- 1.8 Angels Minister to Humans
- 1.9 Their Line of Evolution
- 1.10 Their Language is Colours
- 1.11 Intimations that Humans Become Angels
- 2 Rungs of Evolution Beyond the Angels
- 3 Unknown, Exalted Realms Below the Angels
Angels Are a Higher Evolutionary Rung
4. The Devas. The highest system of evolution connected with this earth, so far as we know, is that of the beings whom Hindus call the Devas, who are elsewhere described as Angels, sons of God, etc. They may, in fact, be regarded as a kingdom, lying next above humanity, in the same way as humanity in turn lies next above the animal kingdom, but with this important difference, that while for an animal there is no possibility of evolution (so far as we know) through any kingdom but the human man, when he attains a certain high level, finds various paths of advancement opening before him of which this great Deva evolution is only one.
In comparison with the sublime renunciation of the Nirmanakaya, the acceptance of this line of evolution is sometimes mentioned in the books as "yielding to the temptation to become a god", but it must not be inferred from this expression that any shadow of blame attaches to the man who makes this choice. The path which he selects is not the shortest, but it is nevertheless very noble, and if his developed intuition impels him towards it, it is certainly that which is best suited for his capacities. We must never forget that in spiritual as in physical climbing it is not every one who can bear the strain of the steeper path; there may be many for whom what seems the slower way is the only possiblity, and we should indeed be unworthy followers of the great Teachers if we allowed our ignorance to betray us into the slightest thought of disposal towards those whose choice differs from our own. (Charles Leadbeater, AP, 116-7.)
Suggestions that Humans Eventually Join the Ranks of Angels
For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, (1)
Saying, Fear not, Paul: thou must be brought before Caesar. (Acts 27:23-4.)
- (1) Suggestion that Jesus has joined the ranks of angels.
I do not need to remind you ... of the fact that because of [Jesus'] generous work for salvation he himself entered the order of revealers and is called the "angel of great counsel." Indeed, when he announced what he knew of the Father, was it not as an angel? (1) (Pseudo-Dionysius in CWPD, 159.)
Cf. St. Paul: "For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, Saying, Fear not, Paul: thou must be brought before Caesar. (Acts 27:23-4.) The passage suggests that Jesus has passed from the human realm to the realm of the angels.
When I have sacrificed my angel soul, I shall become what no mind e'er conceived. Oh, let me not exist! For Non-existence Proclaims in organ tones, 'To Him we shall return.' (Rumi, ILWL, 58.)
When in the crucible of abstinence [man] is purged from carnal passions he attains to the highest, and in place of being a slave to lust and anger becomes endued [sic] with angelic qualities. Attaining that state, he finds his heaven in the contemplation of Eternal Beauty, and no longer in fleshly delights. (Al-Ghazzali, AH, 17.)
By means of the "alchemy of happiness," (1) [man] rises from the rank of beasts to that of angels. (Al-Ghazzali, AH, 32.)
- (1) The transformation wrought in the being through illumination or liberation, together with the spiritual practices which wrought that transformation.
We think that man is on the highest rung of the evolutionary ladder, but evolution is without end. Just as there are beings that exist below man, there are Beings that exist above man as well. These Beings evolved from the universes of the past. (Beinsa Douno, "Culture of the Angels," WOG, n.p.)
There are Nine Orders of Angels
For even I, though I am bound (for Christ) (1) and am able to understand heavenly things, the angelic orders, and the different sorts of angels and hosts, the distinction between powers and dominions, and the diversities between thrones and authorities, the mightiness of the aeons, and the pre-eminence of the cherubim and seraphim, (2) the sublimity of the Spirit, the kingdom of the Lord, and above all the incomparable majesty of Almighty God -- though I am acquainted with all these things, yet am I not therefore by any means perfect, nor am I such a disciple as Paul or Peter. (Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, in ESO, 49.)
- (1) I.e., though upon my death I will join Christ and be united with God. (2) If the term "hosts" equates with "archangels," then Ignatius has named the entire nine orders of angels.
For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, (1) nor things present, nor things to come ... shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus. (St. Paul in Romans 8:38-9.)
- (1) Paul names three of the nine orders of angels.
For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in the earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: (1) all things were created by him, and for him. (St. Paul in Colossians 1:13 and 16.)
- (1) St. Paul names four orders of angels.
We know from our study, and many of us from our experience also, that many intermediate stages exist between the human and the Divine. The old belief in angels and archangels (1) is justified by the facts, for just as there are various kingdoms below humanity, so there are also kingdoms above it in evolution. We find next above us, holding much the same position with regard to us that we in turn hold to the animal kingdom, the great kingdom of devas or angels, and above them again an evolution which has been called that of the Dhyan Chohans, or archangels (though the names given to these orders matter little), and so onward and upward to the very feet of Divinity. All is one graduated life, from God Himself to the very dust beneath our feet - one long ladder, of which humanity occupies only one of the steps. (Charles Leadbeater, LAD, 49-50.)
Leadbeater names two of the nine orders of angels.
On this ... morning he [that is, Suso] had sat down after praying for a short period of rest. His external senses receded and he was in the presence of many divine mysteries. Among them he was somehow enlightened as to how God separated the angels according to their form and how he gave to each its own particular characteristic according to its special difference in the orders, (1) but he cannot put it into words. (Blessed Henry Suso, HSU, 136.)
- (1) Suso acknowledges that there are orders of angels but does not name them.
Christianity recognizes the existence of the higher classes of Intelligences under the general name of Angels, and teaches that they are "ministering spirits, sent forth to minister"; but what is their ministry, what the nature of their work, what their relationship to human beings, all that was part of the instruction given in the Lesser Mysteries, as the actual communication with them was enjoyed in the Greater; but in modern days these truths have sunk into the background, except the little that is taught in the Greek and Roman communions. For the Protestant, "the ministry of angels" is little more than a phrase. (Annie Besant, ESO, 191-2.)
Suggestions that Angels are Still Subject to Material Forces
Even the gods and angels are under the influence of the gunas. The gods or superhuman beings show a preponderance of sattva; men, of rajas; and sub-human beings of tamas. Brahman, alone untouched by maya, is beyond the gunas. (1) (Nikhilananda, "Introduction" to Shankara, SK, 67-8.)
- (1) The "gunas" are the three cosmic forces of balance, activity, and torpor.
Suggestions that the Lowest Orders of Angels Live on the Astral and Mental Planes
But it is a far more populous world, (1) for now we are able to see the millions of the sylphs or air-spirits, and also the hosts of the dead who have not yet risen above the astral level. Higher beings also are now within our purview, for we can see that lowest order of the Angel evolution which we have frequently called the desire-angels. (Charles Leadbeater, MON, 38.)
- (1) The astral plane.
On the mental plane, (1) in both its great divisions, exist numberless Intelligences, whose lowest bodies are formed of the luminous matter and elemental essence of the plane -- Shining Ones who guide the processes of the natural order, overlooking the hosts of lower entities before spoken of, and yielding submission in their several hierarchies to their great Overlords of the seven Elements. (2) They are, as may readily be imagined, Beings of vast knowledge, of great power, and most splendid in appearance, radiant, flashing creatures, myriad-hued, like rainbows of changing supernal colours, of stateliest imperial mien, calm energy incarnate, embodiments of resistless strength. The description of the great Christian Seer leaps to the mind, when he wrote of a mighty angel: "A rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire." (3) "As the sound of many waters" are their voices, as echoes from the music of the spheres. They guide natural order, and rule the vast companies of the elements of the astral world, so that their cohorts carry on ceaselessly the processes of Nature with undeviating regularity and accuracy. (Annie Besant, AW, 126-7.)
- (1) Besant and Leadbeater suggest that some angels live as low on the evolutionary ladder as the astral plane. I have not seen the same allegation made elsewhere. (2) Besant's footnote: "These are the Arupa and Rupa Devas of the Hindus and Buddhists, the "Lords of the heavenly and the earthly," of the Zoroastrians, the Archangels and Angels of the Christians and Mohammedans." The "great Overloards of the seven Elements" are the Dharmarajas. (Besant, AW, 126fn.) (3) Revelation 10:1.
It is only the lower fringe of this august body that need be mentioned in connection with our subject of the astral plane. Their three lower great divisions (beginning from the bottom) are generally called Kamadevas, Rupadevas, and Arupadevas respectively. Just as our ordinary body here - the lowest body possible for us - is the physical, so the ordinary body of a Kamadeva is the astral; so that he stands in somewhat the same position as humanity will do when it reaches planet F, and he, living ordinarily in an astral body, goes out of it to higher spheres in a mental vehicle just as we do in an astral body, while to enter the causal body is to him (when sufficiently developed) no greater effort than to use a mind body is to us.
In the same way the Rupadeva's ordinary body is the mental, since his habitat is on the four lower or rupa levels of that plane; while the Arupadeva belongs to the three higher levels, and owns no nearer approach to a body than the causal. But for Rupa and Arupa devas to manifest on the astral plane is an occurrence at least as rare as it is for astral entities to materialize on this physical plane, so we need do no more than mention them now.
As regards the lowest division - the Kamadevas - it would be a mistake to think of all of them as immeasurably superior to ourselves, since some have entered their ranks from humanity in some respects less advanced than our own. The general average among them is much higher than among us, for all that is actively or willfully evil has long been weeded out from their ranks; but they differ widely in disposition, and a really noble, unselfish, spiritually-minded man may well stand higher in the scale of evolution than some of them. (Charles Leadbeater, AP, 119-21.)
Above the Arupadevas there are four other great divisions. (Charles Leadbeater, AP, 121.)
The True Form of Angels Cannot be Described
Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man.
And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings.
And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf's foot: and they sparkled like the colour of burnished brass.
And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings.
Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward.
As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle. (Ezekiel 1:5-10.)
I heard also the noise of the wings of the living creatures that touched one another, and the noise of the wheels over against them, and a noise of a great rushing. (Ezekiel 3:13.)
The source of spiritual perfection provided us with perceptible images of these heavenly minds. He did so out of concern for us and because he wanted us to be made godlike. (Pseudo-Dionysius in CWPD, 147.)
We cannot, as mad people do, profanely visualize these heavenly and godlike intelligences as actually having numerous feet and faces. They are not shaped to resemble the brutishness of oxen or to display the wildness of lions. They do not have the curved beak of the eagle or the wings and feathers of birds. We must not have pictures of flaming wheels whirling in the skies, of material thrones made ready to provide a reception for the Deity, of multicolored horses, or of spear-carrying lieutenants, or any of those shapes handed on to us amid all the variety of the revealing symbols of scripture. The Word of God makes use of poetic imagery when discussing these formless intelligences, but as I have already said, it does so not for the sake of art, but as a concession to the nature of our own mind. It uses scriptural passages in an uplifting fashion as a way, provided for us from the first, to uplift our mind in a manner suitable to our nature. (Pseudo-Dionysius in CWPD, 147-8.)
These pictures have to do with beings so simple that we can neither know nor contemplate them. ... Indeed, it could be argued that if the theologians wanted to give corporeal form to what is purely incorporeal, they could have ... begun with what we would hold to be noblest, immaterial and transcendent beings, instead of drawing upon a multiplicity of the earthiest forms and applying these to godlike realities which are utterly simple and heavenly. Now perhaps this intends to lift us upward and not lead the celestial appearances down into incongruous dissimilarities. But in fact it illicitly defies the divine powers and also misleads our mind, entangling it in profane compositions. One would likely then imagine that the heavens beyond really are filled with bands of lions and horses, that the divine praises are, in effect, great moos, that flocks of birds take wing there or that there are other kinds of creatures about or even more dishonorable material things. (Pseudo-Dionysius in CWPD, 148.)
There are two reasons for creating types for the typeless, for giving shape to what is actually without shape. First, we lack the ability to be directly raised up to conceptual contemplations. We need our own upliftings that come naturally to us and which can raise before us the permitted forms of the marvellous unformed sights. Second, it is most fitting to the mysterious passages of scripture that the sacred and hidden truth about the celestial intelligences be concealed through the inexpressible and the sacred and be inaccessible to the hoi polloi. Not everyone is sacred, and, as scripture says, knowledge is not for everyone. (Pseudo-Dionysius in CWPD, 149.)
We sent to [Mary] Our spirit in the semblance of a full-grown man. (Koran, 33.)
Angels Not Limited to Earth
Though connected with this earth, the Angels are by no means confined to it, for the whole of our present chain of seven worlds is as one world to them, their evolution being through a grand system of seven chains. Their hosts have hitherto been recruited chiefly from other humanities in the solar system, some lower and some higher than ours, since but a very small portion of our own has as yet reached the level at which for us it is possible to join them; but it seems certain that some of their very numerous classes have not passed in their upward progress through any humanity at all comparable to ours. (Charles Leadbeater, AP, 118-9.)
Angels Minister to Humans
There are living forces about him, mighty angelic inhabitants of the [mental] plane, and many of their orders are very sensitive to certain aspirations of man, and readily respond to them. (Charles Leadbeater, LAD, 34.)
Their attention can be attracted by certain magical evocations, but the only human will which can dominate theirs is that of a certain high class of Adepts. As a rule they seem scarcely conscious of us on our physical plane, but it does now and then happen that one of them becomes aware of some human difficulty which excites his pity, and he perhaps renders some assistance, just as any of us would try to help an animal that we saw in trouble. But it is well understood among them that any interference in human affairs at the present stage is likely to do far more harm than good. (Charles Leadbeater, AP, 121.)
There is among the inhabitants of the [mental] plane one class of entities - one great order of angels, as our Christian friends would call them, who are specially devoted to music, and habitually express themselves by its means to a far fuller extent than the rest. They are spoken of in old Hindu books under the name of Gandharvas. The man whose soul is in tune with music will certainly attract their attention, and will draw himself into connection with some of them, and so will learn with ever-increasing enjoyment all the marvellous new combinations which they employ. (Charles Leadbeater, AP, 36.)
To my mind it is one of the most beautiful points about our Theosophical teaching that it gives back to man all of the most useful and helpful beliefs of the religions which he has outgrown. There are many who, though they feel that they cannot bring themselves to accept much that they used to take as a matter of course, nevertheless look back with a certain amount of regret to some of the prettier ideas of their mental childhood. They have come up out of twilight into fuller light, and they are thankful for the fact, and they could not return into their former attitude if they would; yet some of the dreams of the twilight were lovely, and the fuller light seems sometimes a little hard in comparison with its softer tints.
Theosophy comes to their rescue here, and shows them that all the glory and the beauty and the poetry, glimpses of which they used dimly to catch in their twilight, exist as a living reality, and that instead of disappearing before the noonday glow, its splendour will be only the more vividly displayed thereby. But our teaching gives them back their poetry on quite a new basis - a basis of scientific fact instead of uncertain tradition. A very good example of such belief is to be found under our title of'Guardian Angels'. There are many graceful traditions of spiritual guardianship and angelic intervention which we should all very much like to believe if we could only see our way to accept them rationally, and I hope to explain that to a very large extent we may do this.
The belief in such intervention is a very old one. Among the earliest Indian legends we find accounts of the occasional appearances of minor deities at critical points in human affairs; the Greek epics are full of similar stories, and in the history of Rome itself we read how the heavenly twins, Castor and Pollux, led the armies of the infant republic at the battle of Lake Regillus. In medieval days St James is recorded to have led the Spanish troops to victory, and there are many tales of angels who watched over the pious wayfarer, or interfered at the right moment to protect him from harm. 'Merely a popular superstition', the superior person will say; perhaps, but wherever we encounter a popular superstition which is widely spread and persistent, we almost invariably find some kernel of truth behind it - distorted and exaggerated often, yet a truth still.
And this is a case in point. Most religions speak to men of guardian angels, who stand by them in times of sorrow and trouble; and Christianity was no exception to this rule. But for its sins there came upon Christendom the blight which by an extraordinary inversion of truth was called the Reformation, and in that upheaval very much was lost that for the majority of us has not even yet been regained. That terrible abuses existed, and that a reform was needed in the church I should be the last to deny: yet surely the Reformation was a very heavy judgement for the sins which had preceded it.
What is called Protestantism has tempted and darkened the world for its votaries, for among many strange and gloomy falsehoods it has endeavoured to propagate the theory that nothing exists to occupy the infinity of stages between the Divine and the human. It offers us the amazing conception of a constant capricious interference by the Ruler of the universe with the working of his own laws and the result of his own decrees, and this usually at the request of his creatures, who are apparently supposed to know better than he what is good for them. It would be impossible, if one could ever come to believe this, to divest one's mind of the idea that such interference might be, and indeed must be, partial and unjust. In Theosophy we have no such thought, for we hold the belief in perfect Divine justice, and therefore we recognize that there can be no intervention unless the person involved has deserved such help. Even then, it would come to him through agents, and never by direct Divine interposition.
We know from our study, and many of us from our experience also, that many intermediate stages exist between the human and the Divine. The old belief in angels and archangels is justified by the facts, for just as there are various kingdoms below humanity, so there are also kingdoms above it in evolution. We find next above us, holding much the same position with regard to us that we in turn hold to the animal kingdom, the great kingdom of devas or angels, and above them again an evolution which has been called that of the Dhyan Chohans, or archangels (though the names given to these orders matter little), and so onward and upward to the very feet of Divinity. All is one graduated life, from God Himself to the very dust beneath our feet - one long ladder, of which humanity occupies only one of the steps.
There are many steps below and above us and every one of them is occupied. It would indeed be absurd for us to suppose that we constitute the highest possible form of development - the ultimate achievement of evolution. The occasional appearance among humanity of men much further advanced shows us our next stage, and furnishes us with an example to follow. Men such as Buddha and the Christ, and many other lesser teachers, exhibit before our eyes a grand ideal towards which we may work, however far from its attainment we may find ourselves at the present moment.
If special interventions in human affairs occasionally take place, is it then to the angelic hosts that we may look as the probable agents employed in them? Perhaps sometimes, but very rarely, for these higher beings have their own work to do, connected with their place in the mighty scheme of things, and they are little likely either to notice or to interfere with us.
Man is unconsciously so extraordinarily conceited that he is prone to think that all the greater powers in the universe ought to be watching over him, and ready to help him whenever he suffers through his own folly or ignorance. He forgets that he is not engaged in acting as a beneficent providence to the kingdoms below him, or going out of his to look after and help the wild animals. Sometimes he plays to them the part of the orthodox devil, and breaks into their innocent and harmless lives with torture and wanton destruction, merely to gratify his own degraded lust of cruelty, which he chooses to denominate 'sport'; sometimes he holds animals in bondage, and takes a certain amount of care of them, but it is only that they may work for him - not that he may forward their evolution in the abstract. How can he expect from those above him a type of supervision which he is so very far from giving to those below him?
It may well be that the angelic kingdom goes about its own business, taking little more notice of us than we take of the sparrows in the trees. It may now and then happen that an angel becomes aware of some human sorrow or difficulty which moves his pity, and he may try to help us, just as we may try to assist an animal in distress; but certainly his wider vision would recognize the fact that at the present stage of evolution such interpositions would in the vast majority of cases be productive of infinitely more harm than good. In the far distant past man was frequently assisted by these non-human agencies because then there were none as yet among our infant humanity capable of taking the lead as teachers; but now that we are attaining our adolescence, we are supposed to have arrived at a stage when we can provide leaders and helpers from among our own ranks. (Charles Leadbeater, LAD, 47-51.)
If through his window [a man] pours forth an aspiration which brings him into contact with one of the great orders of spirits, he will certainly acquire much from his intercourse with them. In music they will use all kinds of overtones and variants which were previously unknown to him; in art they are familiar with a thousand types of which he has had no conception. But all of these will gradually impress themselves upon him, and unimaginable splendour which surrounds you here and now in this dull daily life. (Charles Leadbeater, LAD, 44.)
Their Line of Evolution
It is not possible for us at present to understand much about them, but it is clear that what may be described as the aim of their evolution is considerably higher than ours; that is to say, while the object of our human evolution is to raise the successful portion of humanity to a certain degree of occult development by the end of the seventh round, the object of the angelic evolution is to bring their foremost rank to a much higher level in the corresponding period. For them, as for us, a steeper but shorter path to still more sublime heights lies open to earnest endeavour; but what those heights may be in their case we can only conjecture. (Charles Leadbeater, AP, 119.)
Their Language is Colours
All Theosophical students are familiar with the fact that there is a colour language of the Devas - an order of spirits whose very communication one with another is by flashings of splendid colour. (Charles Leadbeater, LAD, 37.)
Intimations that Humans Become Angels
Mankind. When Manomaya Kosha becomes withdrawn, Janamaya Kosha (the body bof Intelligence composed of electricities) becomes perceptible. The Atom, acquiring the power of determining right and wrong, becomes man, the rational being in the creation.
Devata or Angel. When man, cultivating the Divine Spirit or Omniscient Love within his heart, is able to withdraw this Jnanamaya Kosha, then the innermost sheath, Chita, the Heart (composed of four ideas), becomes manifest. Man is then called Devata or Angel in the creation. (Sri Yukteswar Giri, HS, 37.)
Rungs of Evolution Beyond the Angels
"The Planetary Spirits"
Above and beyond the angelic kingdom altogether stand the great hosts of the Planetary Spirits, but the consideration of such glorified beings would be out of place in an essay on the astral plane. (Charles Leadbeater, AP, 121.)
Though we cannot claim them as belonging exactly to any of our classes, this is perhaps the / best place in which to mention those wonderful and important beings, the four Devarajas. In this name the word Deva must not, however, be taken in the sense in which we have been using it, for it is not over the Deva kingdom, but over the four, "elements" of earth, water, air, and fire, with their indwelling nature—spirits and essences, that these four Kings rule. What the evolution has been through which they rose to their present height of power and wisdom we cannot tell, save only that it does not seem to have passed through anything corresponding to our own humanity.
They are often described as the Regents of the Earth, or Angels of the four cardinal points, and the Hindu books call them the Chatur Maharajas, giving their names as Dhritarashtra, Virudhaka, Virupaksha, and Vaishravana. In the same books their elemental hosts are called Gandharvas, Kumbhandas, Nagas, and Yakshas respectively, the points of the compass appropriated to each being in corresponding order east, south, west, and north, and their symbolical colours, white, blue, red, and gold. They are mentioned in The Secret Doctrine as "winged globes and fiery wheels"; and in the Christian bible Ezekiel makes a remarkable attempt / at a description of them in which similar words are used. References to them are to be found in the symbology of every religion, and they have always been held in the highest reverence as the protectors of mankind.
It is they who are the agents of man's karma during his life on earth, and they thus play an extremely important part in human destiny. The great karmic deities of the Kosmos (called in The Secret Doctrine the Lipika) weigh the deeds of each personality when the final separation of its principles takes place at the end of its astral life, and give as it were the mould of an etheric double exactly suitable to its karma for the man s next birth; but it is the Devarajas who, having command of the "elements" of which that etheric double must be composed, arrange their proportion so as to fulfil accurately the intention of the Lipika.
It is they also who constantly watch all through life to counterbalance the changes perpetually being introduced into man's condition by his own free will and that of those around him, so that no injustice may be done, and karma may be accurately worked out, if not in one way then in another. A learned dissertation upon these marvellous beings will be / found in The Secret Doctrine, vol. i., pp. 180-186. They are able to take human material forms at will, and several cases are recorded when they have done so.
All the higher nature-spirits and hosts of artificial elementals act as their agents in the stupendous work they carry out, yet all the threads are in their hands, and the whole responsibility rests upon them alone. It is not often that they manifest upon the astral plane, but when they do they are certainly the most remarkable of its non-human inhabitants. A student of occultism will not need to be told that as there are seven great classes both of nature-spirits and elemental essence there must really be seven and not four Devarajas, but outside the circle of Initiation little is known and less may be said of the higher three. (Charles Leadbeater, AP, 121-4.)
Unknown, Exalted Realms Below the Angels
The Nirmanakaya: Stones in the "Guardian Wall"
Nirmanakaya Lit. a transformed "body"; a state; a man who, while leaving behind his physical body, retains every other principle save the kamic. Instead of entering Nirvana he remains to help mankind in an invisible yet effective manner. ("Theosophical Terminology".)
The Nirmanakaya. (1) This class is just mentioned in order to make the catalogue complete, but it is rarely indeed that so exalted a being manifests himself upon so low a plane as this. When for any reason connected with his sublime work he found it desirable to do so, he would probably create a temporary astral body for the purpose from the atomic matter of the plane, just as the Adept in the mind-body would do, simply because his more refined vesture would be invisible to astral sight. In order to be able to function without a moment's hesitation on any plane, he retains always within himself some atoms belonging to each, round which as a nucleus he can instantly aggregate other matter, and so provide himself with whatever vehicle he desires. Further information about the position and work of the Nirmanakaya may be found in Madame Blavatsky's Voice of the Silence, and in my own little book, Invisible Helpers. (Charles Leadbeater, AP, 44-5.)
- (1) One who, having earned the right to the perpetual enjoyment of Nirvana, renounces it in order to devote himself to work for the good of mankind).
The Nirmanakaya is a perfected man, who has cast aside his physical body but retains his other lower principles, and remains in the earth-sphere for the sake of helping forward the evolution of mankind. Nirmanakayas have, out of pity for mankind and those they left on earth, renounced the Nirvanic state. Such an Adept, or Saint, or whatever you may call him, believing it a selfish act to rest in bliss while mankind groans under the burden of misery produced by ignorance, renounces Nirvana and determines to remain invisible in spirit on this earth. They have no material body, as they have left it behind: but otherwise they remain with all their principles even in astral life in our sphere. And such can and do communicate with a few elect ones, only surely not with ordinary mediums. (1) (Annie Besant, DA, 91.
- (1) Key to Theosophy, p. 151.
Others join the deva evolution, whose progress lies along a grand chain consisting of seven chains like ours, each of which to them is as one world. This line of evolution is spoken of as the most gradual and therefore the least arduous of the seven courses; but though it is sometimes referred to in the books as "yielding to the temptation to become a god." it is only in comparison with the sublime height of renunciation of the Nirmânakâya that it can be spoken of in this half-disparaging manner, for the adept who chooses this course has indeed a glorious career before him, and though the path which he selects is not the shortest, it is nevertheless a very noble one.
Yet another group are the Nirmânakâyas - those who, declining all these easier methods, choose the shortest but steepest path to the heights which still lie before them. They form what is poetically termed the "guardian wall," and, as The Voice of the Silence tells us, "protect the world from further and far greater misery and sorrow," not indeed by warding off from it external evil influences, but by devoting all their strength to the work of pouring down upon it a flood of spiritual force and assistance without which it would assuredly be in far more hopeless case than now. (Charles Leadbeater, IH.)
But if thou would'st Nirvana reach, or cast the prize away (33), let not the fruit of action and inaction be thy motive, thou of dauntless heart.
Know that the Bodhisattva who liberation changes for Renunciation to don the miseries of "Secret Life," (34) is called, "thrice Honoured," O thou candidate for woe throughout the cycles.
The PATH is one, Disciple, yet in the end, twofold. Marked are its stages by four and seven Portals. At one end -- bliss immediate, and at the other -- bliss deferred. Both are of merit the reward: the choice is thine.
The One becomes the two, the Open and the Secret (35). The first one leadeth to the goal, the second, to Self-Immolation.
When to the Permanent is sacrificed the Mutable, the prize is thine: the drop returneth whence it came. The Open PATH leads to the changeless change -- Nirvana, the glorious state of Absoluteness, the Bliss past human thought. Thus, the first Path is LIBERATION.
But Path the Second is -- RENUNCIATION, and therefore called the "Path of Woe."
That Secret Path leads the Arhan to mental woe unspeakable; woe for the living Dead (36), and helpless pity for the men of Karmic sorrow, the fruit of Karma Sages dare not still.
For it is written: "teach to eschew all causes; the ripple of effect, as the great tidal wave, thou shalt let run its course."
The "Open Way," no sooner hast thou reached its goal, will lead thee to reject the Bodhisattvic body and make thee enter the thrice glorious state of Dharmakaya (37) which is oblivion of the World and men for ever.
The "Secret Way" leads also to Paranirvanic bliss -- but at the close of Kalpas without number; Nirvanas gained and lost from boundless pity and compassion for the world of deluded mortals.
But it is said "The last shall be the greatest," Samyak Sambuddha, the Teacher of Perfection, gave up his SELF for the salvation of the World, by stopping at the threshold of Nirvana -- the pure state. (Helena Blavatsky, VS, Fragment 2.)
(33). Vide infra Part III. par. 34.
(34). The "Secret Life" is life as a Nirmanakaya.
(35). The "Open" and the "Secret Path" -- or the one taught to the layman, the exoteric and the generally accepted, and the other the Secret Path -- the nature of which is explained at initiation.
(36). Men ignorant of the Esoteric truths and Wisdom are called "the living Dead."
(37). Vide infra, Part III. 34.
To live to benefit mankind is the first step. To practise the six glorious virtues is the second.
To don Nirmanakaya's humble robe is to forego eternal bliss for Self, to help on man's salvation. To reach Nirvana's bliss, but to renounce it, is the supreme, the final step -- the highest on Renunciation's Path.
Know, O Disciple, this is the Secret PATH, selected by the Buddhas of Perfection, who sacrificed The SELF to weaker Selves. (Helena Blavatsky, VS, Fragment 2.)
Remember, thou that fightest for man's liberation (20), each failure is success, and each sincere attempt wins its reward in time.
(Footnote 20) This is an allusion to a well-known belief in the East (as in the West, too, for the matter of that) that every additional Buddha or Saint is a new soldier in the army of those who work for the liberation or salvation of mankind. In Northern Buddhist countries, where the doctrine of Nirmanakayas -- those Bodhisattvas who renounce well-earned Nirvana or the Dharmakaya vesture (both of which shut them out for ever from the world of men) in order to invisibly assist mankind and lead it finally to Paranirvana -- is taught, every new Bodhisattva or initiated great Adept is called the "liberator of mankind." (Helena Blavatsky, VS, Fragment 3.)
Self-doomed to live through future Kalpas,* unthanked and unperceived by man; wedged as a stone with countless other stones which form the "Guardian Wall" (28), such is thy future if the seventh gate thou passest. Built by the hands of many Masters of Compassion, raised by their tortures, by their blood cemented, it shields mankind, since man is man, protecting it from further and far greater misery and sorrow. (Helena Blavatsky, VS, Fragment 3.)
(28) The "Guardian Wall" or the "Wall of Protection." It is taught that the accumulated efforts of long generations of Yogis, Saints and Adepts, especially of the Nirmanakayas -- have created, so to say, a wall of protection around mankind, which wall shields mankind invisibly from still worse evils.
Withal, what mean the sacred scrolls which make thee say?
"Om! I believe it is not all the Arhats that get of the Nirvanic Path the sweet fruition."
"Om! I believe that the Nirvana-Dharma is entered not by all the Buddhas"* (32).
[*Thegpa Chenpoido, "Mahayana Sutra," Invocations to the Buddhas of Confession," Part I., iv.]
"Yea; on the Arya Path thou art no more Srotapatti, thou art a Bodhisattva (33). The stream is cross'd. 'Tis true thou hast a right to Dharmakaya vesture; but Sambogakaya is greater than a Nirvanee, and greater still is a Nirmanakaya -- the Buddha of Compassion (34).
Now bend thy head and listen well, O Bodhisattva -- Compassion speaks and saith: "Can there be bliss when all that lives must suffer? Shalt thou be saved and hear the whole world cry?"
Now thou hast heard that which was said.
Thou shalt attain the seventh step and cross the gate of final knowledge but only to wed woe -- if thou would'st be Tathagata, follow upon thy predecessor's steps, remain unselfish till the endless end.
Thou art enlightened -- Choose thy way. (Helena Blavatsky, VS, Fragment 3.)
(32). In the Northern Buddhist phraseology all the great Arhats, Adepts and Saints are called Buddhas.
(33). A Bodhisattva is, in the hierarchy, less than a "perfect Buddha." In the exoteric parlance these two are very much confused. Yet the innate and right popular perception, owing to that self-sacrifice, has placed a Bodhisattva higher in its reverence than a Buddha.
(34). This same popular reverence calls "Buddhas of Compassion" those Bodhisattvas who, having reached the rank of an Arhat (i.e., having completed the fourth or seventh Path), refuse to pass into the Nirvanic state or "don the Dharmakaya robe and cross to the other shore," as it would then become beyond their power to assist men even so little as Karma permits. They prefer to remain invisibly (in Spirit, so to speak) in the world, and contribute toward man's salvation by influencing them to follow the Good Law, i.e., lead them on the Path of Righteousness. It is part of the exoteric Northern Buddhism to honour all such great characters as Saints, and to offer even prayers to them, as the Greeks and Catholics do to their Saints and Patrons; on the other hand, the esoteric teachings countenance no such thing. There is a great difference between the two teachings. The exoteric layman hardly knows the real meaning of the word Nirmanakaya -- hence the confusion and inadequate explanations of the Orientalists. For example Schlagintweit believes that Nirmanakaya-body, means the physical form assumed by the Buddhas when they incarnate on earth -- "the least sublime of their earthly encumbrances" (vide "Buddhism in Tibet") -- and he proceeds to give an entirely false view on the subject. The real teaching is, however, this: --
The three Buddhic bodies or forms are styled: --
The first is that ethereal form which one would assume when leaving his physical he would appear in his astral body -- having in addition all the knowledge of an Adept. The Bodhisattva develops it in himself as he proceeds on the Path. Having reached the goal and refused its fruition, he remains on Earth, as an Adept; and when he dies, instead of going into Nirvana, he remains in that glorious body he has woven for himself, invisible to uninitiated mankind, to watch over and protect it.
Sambhogakaya is the same, but with the additional lustre of "three perfections," one of which is entire obliteration of all earthly concerns. The Dharmakaya body is that of a complete Buddha, i.e., no body at all, but an ideal breath: Consciousness merged in the Universal Consciousness, or Soul devoid of every attribute. Once a Dharmakaya, an Adept or Buddha leaves behind every possible relation with, or thought for this earth. Thus, to be enabled to help humanity, an Adept who has won the right to Nirvana, "renounces the Dharmakaya body" in mystic parlance; keeps, of the Sambhogakaya, only the great and complete knowledge, and remains in his Nirmanakaya body. The esoteric school teaches that Gautama Buddha with several of his Arhats is such a Nirmanakaya, higher than whom, on account of the great renunciation and sacrifice to mankind there is none known. (Helena Blavatsky, VS, Fragment 3.)
Naturally as an occult student progresses on the Path he attains a wider sphere of usefulness. Instead of assisting individuals only, he learns how classes, nations and races are dealt with, and he is entrusted with a gradually increasing share of the higher and more important work done by the adepts themselves. As he acquires the requisite power and knowledge he begins to wield the greater forces of the mental and the astral planes and is shown how to make the utmost possible use of each favourable cyclic influence. He is brought into relation with those great Nirmânakâyas who are sometimes symbolized as the Stones of the Guardian Wall, and he becomes - at first of course in the very humblest capacity - one of the [sic] and of their almoners, and learns how those forces are dispersed which are the fruit of their sublime self-sacrifice. Thus he rises gradually higher and higher until, blossoming at length into adeptship, he is able to take his full share of the responsibility which lies upon the Masters of Wisdom, and to help others along the road which he has trodden. (Charles Leadbeater, IH, n.p.)