Mathomathis would like to present an article on Purusha Sukta by author Zachary F. Lansdowne Ph.D (who served as President of the Theosophical Society in Boston, has been a frequent contributor to The Esoteric Quarterly. His book The Revelation of Saint John, which provides a verse-by-verse analysis of the entire Revelation, was reviewed in the Fall 2006 issue). The following article is a continuation from the previous article The Purusha Sukta | Human Evolution | 103. Verses 15 and 16 would be presented in the following post.
15. Seven were his altar sticks, three times seven were the kindling bundles, when the gods, performing the sacrifice, bound the beast Purusha. Human beings, like their prototype, face seven inward initiations that are milestones for three interrelated schemes of evolution, are subject to various hierophants who administer these initiations, and remain prisoners of the planet until they complete them. This verse is applicable to either human beings or the Planetary Logos. First, let us consider its application to human beings. Initiations, which are mentioned in the commentary for the fifth verse, occur during inward ceremonies. Bailey writes, “This ceremony of initiation marks a point of attainment. It does not bring about attainment, as is so often the misconception. It simply marks the recognition by the watching Teachers of the race of a definite point in evolution reached by the pupil.” Thus, initiations could be thought of as milestones for the evolutionary journey of human beings. An altar stick burning with fire symbolizes an initiation ceremony that is taking place because, as Bailey says, “An initiation is a blaze of illumination.” In the verse, the seven altar sticks indicate that human beings face, or have as a prospect, seven initiations on their evolutionary journey. These altar sticks are not yet burning, indicating that the seven initiations do not take place at the beginning of the evolutionary journey but instead lie ahead.
Bailey has the same time orientation when she writes, “There are five initiations ahead of the disciple, with two more ahead of the Master, making in all seven initiations.” After human beings undergo five initiations, they become a “Master,” which means that they have become a member of the spiritual kingdom and therefore a candidate for the two remaining initiations. The verse says, “three times seven were the kindling bundles.” Here, the phrase “three times seven” is the literal translation of the original Sanskrit words. Some translators carry out this multiplication and assume that the Sanskrit words denote the number “twentyone.” What else could the phrase “three times seven” mean?
The number seven has a symbolic meaning in the Rig Veda, as Aurobindo explains: “The number seven plays an exceedingly important part in the Vedic system, as in most very ancient schools of thought. We find it recurring constantly—the seven delights … ; the seven flames, tongues or rays of Agni … ; the seven forms of the Thought-principle … ; the seven rivers … All these sets of seven depend, it seems to me, upon the Vedic classification of the fundamental principles, the tattvas, of existence … In the Veda, then, we find the number of the principles variously stated … But the full number ordinarily recognized is seven.” As in the sixth verse, “kindling” symbolizes the limitations that support the continuation of the evolutionary process. If we regard the number seven as a symbol of completion, then seven “kindling bundles” symbolize a complete scheme of evolution; so three sets of seven kindling bundles symbolize three complete schemes of evolution. These multiple schemes of evolution must refer to different vehicles of consciousness because more than one scheme cannot be associated with the same vehicle. These schemes must be interrelated because they have common milestones. What might these schemes be? Blavatsky writes, “It now becomes plain that there exists in Nature a triple evolutionary scheme … or rather three separate schemes of evolution, which in our system are inextricably interwoven and interblended at every point. These are the Monadic (or spiritual), the intellectual, and the physical evolution.”
The word hierophant comes from the Greek word (hierophantes) that means “one who shows sacred things.” It was the title of the chief priest at the Eleusinian Mysteries, which were outward initiation ceremonies held in ancient Greece. Bailey uses this title to denote the chief officer at an inward initiation ceremony and says that the identity of this officer depends upon the initiation being taken. For example, she writes, “At the seventh initiation … the Logos of our scheme on His own plane, becomes the Hierophant,” which means that the Planetary Logos Himself administers the seventh initiation. A human being is a prisoner of the planet, but, as Bailey explains, such a prison house enables evolution to occur: “Into the prison house of form enter all that live; some enter consciously and some unconsciously, and this we call birth, appearance, incarnation, manifestation … This produces therefore in the world field of awareness a gradual and slow growth towards self expression, self-appreciation, and self realization…
Finally the time arrives when the Principle of Liberation becomes active and a transition is effected out of a prison house that cramps and distorts into one that provides adequate conditions for the next development of consciousness.” The symbols in the above verse also apply to the Planetary Logos because Bailey states: “Our Planetary Logos has for objective seven initiations.”36 Bailey goes on to say that “the cycles in the evolutionary process of all these Entities [a Solar Logos, a Planetary Logos, and a human being] may be divided mainly into three groups” and that “the ‘prisoners of the planet’ … [include] the Planetary Logos.” Further, she states that the hierophant is “a Cosmic Logos in the initiations of a Solar Logos, and of the three major Planetary Logo,” and is “a Solar Logos in the initiations of a Planetary Logos.” Here, “Cosmic Logos” denotes a composite Life who is even greater than the Solar Logos.
16. The gods sacrificed with the sacrifice to the sacrifice. These were the first rites. These powers reached the firmament, where the ancient demi-gods and the gods are. The Planetary Logos for our planet participates in a group sacrifice with the other Planetary Logo to carry out the will of the Solar Logos, who in turn sacrifices Himself to carry out the will of a still greater composite Life. These sacrifices are prototypes for human activity. In this way, the Logo and human beings can reach higher levels of achievement, which have already been attained by their ancient forerunners. Each human being is a composite life that incorporates the lives of the many minuscule cells in his or her physical body. According to the first, third, fourth, and twelfth verses, the Planetary Logos is a composite life that incorporates the lives of the many human beings living on our planet. The seventh verse indicates that the Solar Logos is a composite life that incorporates the lives of all the Planetary Logoi in our solar system. The above verse indicates that the Solar Logos is a corporate part of a still greater composite Life. These successive relations show that the Purusha Sukta is based on the philosophical principle of hylozoism, as Bailey explains: The hylozoistic theory … posits a living substance, composed of a multiplicity of sentient lives that are continuously swept into expression by the ‘breath of the divine Life.’ This theory recognizes no so-called inorganic matter anywhere in the universe and emphasizes the fact that all forms are built up of infinitesimal lives, which in their totality—great or small—constitute a Life, and that these composite lives, in their turn, are a corporate part of a still greater Life.
Thus eventually we have that great scale of lives, manifesting in greater expression and reaching all the way from the tiny life called the atom (with which science deals) up to that vast atomic life which we call a solar system. The first sentence in the above verse, “The gods sacrificed with the sacrifice to the sacrifice,” may seem paradoxical. According to a hylozoistic perspective, the first-mentioned “sacrifice” is the Planetary Logos for our planet, the “gods” are the other Planetary Logo in our solar system, and the second mentioned “sacrifice” is the Solar Logos. Blavatsky generalizes the first sentence with this statement: “Life is built up by the sacrifice of the individual to the whole. Each cell in the living body must sacrifice itself to the perfection of the whole; when it is otherwise, disease and death enforce the lesson.” The Planetary Logo are part of the greater body of the Solar Logos, so the Planetary Logo must sacrifice Themselves to the perfection of the Solar Logos, who in turn must sacrifice Himself to the perfection of a still greater composite Life. Bailey makes similar points: “The Solar Logos expands His consciousness to include the desire of the Cosmic Logos. The Planetary Logos expands His consciousness to measure up to the will and purpose of the Solar Logos.”
The second sentence, “These were the first rites,” indicates that these sacrifices by the various Logo are prototypes for human activity. Accordingly, human beings must sacrifice themselves to the perfection of what they conceive of as their surrounding composite whole. In other words, they must eliminate their limited ideals and forms of pride that would prevent them from working in the best interests of their conceived whole. Moreover, their conceived whole becomes more inclusive over time, just as the conceived whole of the Solar Logos is more inclusive than that of the Planetary Logos. For example, human beings might sacrifice themselves initially for their immediate family, then for their community and nation, and finally for the Planetary Logos. Bailey speaks about that final step in which human beings are “turned toward the conscious sacrifice of all to the furthering of the plans of the Planetary Logos, and to the carrying out of His purposes in group work.” The final sentence of the verse indicates that each of these sacrifices leads to advancement. Bailey makes a similar point: “Each step up is ever through the sacrifice of all that the heart holds dear on one plane or another, and always must this sacrifice be voluntary
Author’s Conclusion: The Purusha Sukta gives an early account of the history of our planet and how the universe operates. It also depicts the relationships between the Planetary Logos and human beings, the effects of divine sacrifice on the various forms on our planet, and models of human evolution. Can we have confidence in what this Hindu hymn is telling us? Blavatsky states, “Theosophy is, then, the archaic Wisdom-Religion, the esoteric doctrine once known in every ancient country having claims to civilization,” and also, “the Rig Veda, the oldest of all the known ancient records, may be shown to corroborate the occult teachings in almost every respect.” The two parts of this article have supported these claims of Blavatsky by showing that the ancient Purusha Sukta, which is in the Rig Veda, is consistent— even in minute detail—with modern theosophical writings. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 13:1, states: “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.” The ancient Purusha Sukta and modern theosophical writings are two independent witnesses that corroborate each other. Thus, we can have much greater confidence in their common propositions than if we had a single witness.