Also read... Involution - Divine Involvement

Involution and Evolution

Theosophy describes a cosmic cycle of the Universe, which is involution and evolution. Now first of all, its meaning of evolution is not exactly consistent with the concept used in natural science, so let us not get these confused. Let us just think about these theosophical ideas in their own intended meaning, so for now let us not make any connections to natural science.

The theosophical model is as follows, which is of course interpretive.
The diagram model is of a downward curve that originates in the Infinite Highest of Divine Being and proceeds downward into the infinitely microscopic material world. This is phase of involution -- a downward descent of the Divine into manifestation… into material/physical existence. So, involution is the process of the Divine coming into manifestation and being involved in manifestation. This is a divine and beautiful process, even a necessary process for there to be any real manifestation. Yet, it might also be considered a lowering of the Divine and as a focus of Mind into materialism. This double-edged truth of involution needs to be kept in our understanding, so that we can see the necessary and positive purposes of involution, but also see the inevitable negative possibilities in all of this. 

The other half of this cosmic cycle is the evolutionary curve, which is an upward movement of energy and consciousness. Involution reaches its maximum descent, its maximum materialism, then the energy goes back upward, which is the evolutionary phase. The Divine comes into manifestation and thus into physical materialism. Then next there is a re-turn back towards the One, the Divine, God. Of course though, the whole existence is Divine, since all of manifestation is essentially an extension or emanation of the Divine.

This re-turn back to God, this evolution, is a process of consciousness returning back to its Essence, back to the Oneness of God, from its long journey into more and more material manifestation. In other words, the Spirit (or Consciousness) that originated in God has descended through many levels into a final maximum degree of material manifestation; then it changes direction and heads back upward towards a realized Oneness with God. 

Another aspect of this is the One becoming many; then the many returning back to One. Yet even another way of understanding this is that the Divine Unity is budding into creative pluralism. From the One Great Flower comes multiple seeds and thus multiple possibilities; this is the creative involution. Also, there is more and more diversified individuation. Then, once this has fulfilled enough, the process reverses and heads back towards the Unity. This is the process of consciousness returning to its original Oneness. So the original Consciousness descends, or we might say individuates and diversifies. Then in the other phase, these various individuated and diverse consciousness’ start to return back to their original Unity, and in this evolutionary process individuated minds become more unified with others, as everyone gradually approaches Unity once again.

Both directions are spiritual

Now it is important to see how this is all about oneself. It’s not merely a metaphysical or theosophical model; it’s also about oneself. Are we more interested in and concerned with the physical-material reality or the Spiritual? Are we more focused on the material world, material desires and material success? Or are we more focused on and directed towards the Spiritual and towards God? Are we materially minded and directed, or else more contemplative and more yearning towards mystical God union?

There should not be any moral judgment in this honest insight. For we might realize, in this model of involution and evolution, that both directions are cosmically significant. Neither makes any real sense without the other. And although most spiritual teachings give us an impression that the upward ascent is more spiritually important while the descent of spirit into matter is somehow an unfortunate mistake, this is not really true. The descent of Spirit into matter, into material manifestation, into creative diversification and individuation is just as spiritually important as the Return back to God and to Oneness. For it is essential to the whole Divine Purpose and creative Will of God to manifest, to materialize! And so, the materialization of Spirit is equally important, as a Process, as much as the journey back to God. Both are equally spiritual.

Therefore, those who are more focused towards the material world and manifesting can be regarded as spiritual people, just as much as mystics, monks, religious followers, etc. Yet we do need to distinguish between two basic types of material-minded people. For there are those with a will towards manifesting-materializing higher spiritual goodness, love, truth, justice, beauty, harmony, and excellence. Then there are those with a self-centered and selfish will, who are often attached to and even obsessive about manifesting their own particular desires, without any alignment to a higher spiritual Purpose. The former can be leaders of spiritual manifestation; while the latter might be called materialistic directed egos.

Thus, one can be on a spiritual path of manifestation that is spiritually good, as long as one’s will and purpose is towards the higher goals just mentioned. Now, of course, many of these material-manifesting people would not label themselves as spiritual, but if their will and motives are good, then they really are just as spiritual as any monk in a monastery. However, to be realistic here, it seems evident that many people are not aiming at those spiritual ideals. Rather, they are just little self-centered egos trying to get what they can for themselves, and some have a lot of material or economic power to do so. These people often lack a higher Vision, higher Ideals, and also lack sensitivity to others and to nature.

Now let us return to the Model.
There is a downward phase, then an upward phase. It is similar to the water cycle on our planet, whereby water descends down from the sky as precipitation, then later it evaporates back up into the sky. In this case, the water is Spirit, which can be understood as Light or Consciousness. Spirit descends into matter, bringing Light into darkness, Consciousness into life, and Creative Will into manifestation. Then, at some point, it is time for the Spirit to return. It is time to leave this focus and direction towards the material world, and to change the focus and direction towards going back towards the One, back to Absolute Spirit. This all sounds plainly clear: a phase of descent, followed by a phase of ascent back to the One.

But something is profoundly missing in this, which is the missing esoteric truth. Of missing significance is that both the descent and the ascent can be simultaneous. In other words, we can be on the descending direction towards spiritual manifestation at the very same time as we can be on the ascending direction towards spiritual Realization. These two opposite directions do not need to be opposed, nor negate one another. Instead, they can both happen simultaneously, concurrently, and in balance.

In fact, another esoteric symbol of involution and evolution is the six-pointed star, whereby one triangle points downward and the other upward. These triangles exist in the same space, as it were, and are perfectly balanced. So we do not have to limitedly understand involution and evolution as just cycles in time, one proceeding the other. There are distinct phases in any natural cycle, and there are distinct kinds of epochs in natural and human history, and so there may well be a huge cosmic phase of involution followed in time by an opposite phase of evolution. But involution and evolution can also be simultaneous; meaning that we can participate in both at the same time and even find a balance in it all.

One direction is towards a creative diversified expression of Being and of all the spiritual qualities, while the other direction is towards spiritual realization of Being. Thus, it is possible to flow in both directions at once… to continually increase one’s realization of the Universal Self, while simultaneously increasing one’s spiritual creativity and expression in the world. And when the descent and the ascent combine together, flow and balance together, then one's manifestation is increasingly refined and evermore spiritual.

Natural materialism

We need to distinguish natural materialism from artificial materialism. Natural materialism is the divine drive into material manifestation, which is inspired by the Divine Creative Will. God seeks to manifest, and so there is a direction of spiritual energy into matter (into material manifestation). From a Divine View, this material world is meant to be the expression and manifestation of God. Yet this ‘descent’ of Light into matter, as the ancients called it, takes time and takes energy. It is not an instant occurrence; rather, it is a gradual process over time. And in this Divine Process is much experimentation, trial and error; for the Process itself is a learning experience for the Divine. Mistakes are inevitably made, but also many successes (from the Divine Viewpoint). Then, further successes unfold from the previous ones, while the failures or distortions gradually wane out of existence.

Nature itself comes into manifestation, expressing Divine qualities and beauty. And the human kingdom is also part of this natural divine manifestation. So from the Divine Itself, or from God, there is this descending-manifesting drive and wave, which results in the ecological intelligence and beauty of the natural world. This is natural materialism; it includes obviously the natural world, but also can include the human world.

What is not included in this is artificial materialism, which includes all of our human creations that are not in harmony with divine physical nature. It includes all human activities and endeavors that have gone astray from our natural needs. This is materialism gone frivolously obsessive. So when spiritual wisdoms speak of the need to renounce and leave behind materialism, they are referring to this artificial, obsessive materialism. It is this obsessiveness with the artificial world that we must finally renounce and leave behind. Artificial materialism that is not harmonious with nature must reach its peak at some point, then gradually fade away. This is what we need to renounce and transcend out of.

It’s not the natural materialism that is a problem. Natural materialism is nature being material, or even mankind being material, which just means to be physical and manifest. Nature is meant to be materially manifest, and so is the human soul. Material manifestation is a good thing. So to live in harmony and in cooperation with nature, and to enjoy the beauty of the nature, and of being alive in this beauty of nature, and also to be physical ourselves; this is not what we need to leave. We need not leave nor transcend natural material existence. No, we are meant to keep on manifesting diversified beauty and harmony. But at the same time as we are being creative and manifesting in this material world, we can also be continually ascending in our consciousness, realization, spiritual alignment.

So the Great Goal is both at once. For as we ascend in consciousness and have higher realizations of the Divine Self and come into a more perfect alignment with the Divine, our creativity and manifestation will become evermore divine and beautiful, and so the whole material existence will increasingly become more Divine. Therefore, let us not mistakenly separate these phases of involution and evolution, and falsely believe that one phase has to occur (without the other) and then the other phase will next occur (without the other). No. They both can be occurring simultaneously.

The Divine Purpose of Spirit to manifest as diversity (diversity-in-harmony) is an Eternal Purpose. Simultaneously, the Divine Purpose of spiritual realization, of an ever expanding inclusive realization of the One Being by the individuated beings of Being, is also an Eternal Purpose and not merely a ‘phase’ in temporal time. These two directions are really the mutually complementing directions of Spirit -- the descension into material manifestation and the ascension towards more inclusive realization of the One Self. When both directions function well, then this material world of manifestation will increasingly become more spiritually beautiful, and it will become the Divine Body.

Leaders in both directions

We might also consider how both directions (the ascent and the descent) have its leaders. Spiritual teachings so often focus on the ascending phase of Being that we tend to suggest that all great spiritual leaders are inspiring us back to God, or back to the Oneness; which usually means an abandonment or renunciation of the world. But there are also spiritual leaders who have a focused direction on the material world and creative expression in this world. These are people who care very much about the natural and social world, and who work very hard to help make this a better world - with greater love, goodness, justice, harmony and beauty in it. There are also leaders in manifesting the most excellence that is possible; for example, an excellence in sports and in physical abilities. There are those who lead in the manifestation of more efficient manufacturing or in construction. There are those who lead in design and in engineering. There are those who lead in the creative arts, of which there are many diversified branches. The point here is that there are great leaders in creative expression. There are also leaders in scientific discoveries. There are also leaders in the political arena. Any of these can just as well be regarded as spiritual leaders, as long as their work in the material world is positive and helpful to the real advancement of the world.

In effect, these are leaders in the phase of spiritual descent …those who are helping to manifest the goodness and excellence that is possible for our world. They are spiritual leaders, even though they are focused on material manifestation rather than spiritual ascent and realization. They are the leaders of Spirit’s manifesting Wave. So they deserve as much spiritual respect as the ascetic mystics, gurus and yogis. So there are leaders of the wave from Spirit into material manifestation, just as there are leaders of the wave from materialism back to Spirit.

Consciousness descending, individuating, fragmenting

Here is one more way to explain the Cosmic Model. God, the Universal Divine Being, the Original Light, naturally emanates and creatively manifests. This is a manifestation into a diversity of individual forms, from the One into the many, resulting in all of this wonderful diversity and unexpected beauty. But as part of this creative process, the individuated diversified parts often lose their original knowingness of God, their Essence, and thus they get disconnected in consciousness from the Essential Oneness.

Consciousness begins on High, at Source, as Pure and Infinitely Intense. Then it descends, becoming more and more manifested (becoming more material) and also more diverse and individualized. The Spirit, the Light, the Consciousness is spreading itself out and into manifestation. This is the involutionary process towards materialism - which just means that Spirit is becoming material, physical, or manifest.

Now what is interesting about this materializing process is that Spirit-consciousness is more and more becoming smaller pieces (which is each individual material life) Each little piece has a piece of the Complete Consciousness. So, as the Great Light individuates and materializes, it lives in these pieces - but as fragmented consciousness pieces (not the Whole Consciousness). As well, Consciousness gets trapped in these material pieces (these individual lives). So at some point in the involutionary process, the smaller pieces of consciousness begin to realize their larger Truth and thus begin a journey back to the Wholeness of Light.

Yet this Return Journey can happen while still being a small individual piece in the material existence. So it's not as though this material life has to be transcended in the Return; rather, it’s our consciousness (that was trapped in the material) that has to make the journey back Home.

The Light of Consciousness is ‘descending down,’ which is a metaphor meaning that Spirit-Consciousness is coming into manifestation, becoming evermore material with each plane of descent, and also becoming increasingly fragmented into individual lives… as the Original Undivided Whole manifests into diversified pieces - each piece having the Whole within it essentially, yet nonetheless limited in its actual realization of this Essence.

Now then, at each degree of descent, the Spirit-Consciousness is becoming evermore fragmented and trapped in its materializations. This does not have to be this way, for it is possible that a particular manifestation of Spirit can become More Holistically Conscious while still in the material form, but the tendency is for Consciousness to contract and even get lost in the material form. This is the negative side of Spirit’s journey (descent) into material manifestation. Spirit-Consciousness gets absorbed in, lost and then trapped in the limited existence of each individual life. So this is why the spiritual Path speaks about a possible return Home, which is the process of spiritual ascent -- which does not necessarily require a renunciation of the material world nor of individual existence, but it does require a freeing of consciousness from material and individual limitations. It requires that consciousness gain freedom from the material world, from materialism, from getting trapped into physical desires and even individual-personal problems. This is the Ascent back to Wholeness, back to Home.

Lucifer, the bringer of Light

Esoterically, the first ‘spiritual leader’ into the material world was the angel Lucifer. Now of course this is a touchy subject, since Lucifer has a bad reputation in Christian theology. Yet Lucifer is the Light-bearing angel. This is what the name means. So it was the angel Lucifer, who first brought down Light into the planes of existence below the angelic plane. This Light really refers to consciousness, rather than physical light, or perhaps this is referring also to the beginning of physical light in the universe. But at least it must be referring to consciousness, the beginning of real consciousness on Earth, because at some point there must have been an awakening of consciousness in man, and until this time all of nature would have been un-conscious and unable to reflect upon itself. Now of course, all lives of nature have sense-awareness, like being aware of things around and where to find food, etc; but the meaning of consciousness (as used here) is a self-knowing consciousness, or self-reflective consciousness, which is also the beginning of human ego (being self-conscious and having a conscious power of decision-making).

Lucifer is the angel who descends down from the angelic plane, bringing consciousness into the world of nature, and thus sparking into existence the human kingdom, and giving these animal-turned human beings the capacity to be conscious plus also all the other divine capacities. So this can be seen as quite a compassionate and good thing; or else, ironically, it can be seen as a rebel who sends down a treasure to undeserving brutes. The latter interpretation was probably written as a kind of comic joke, or cosmic joke, as it were, but certain leaders of the Christian Church decided to make this interpretation into its dogma, rather than the more positive view of it all.

Also remember that with this power of consciousness, there also came a capacity for free thinking and free choice, rather than merely following the instincts of nature. Instincts, remember, are like controlled programs and thus more simply manipulated by higher powers; whereas free thinking and free choice open up unpredictable possibilities - possibilities that could be very good and creatively beautiful, or else could be very destructive and ugly. Thus, the beginning of free choice in man and the unpredictability of his possible errant actions – which from the angelic view, would mean a possible deviation from the angel’s original plans for Beauty of Earth. So now, the angels cannot directly control it all, and the whole creative plan to manifest Beauty is now in question. The future is now unpredictable and much dependent on these new guys, these free thinking guys, called human beings. Also, as part of the possible negative side of this dramatic gift of self-consciousness to man, is a new ability to mentally debate against God and thus possibly choose a different path than God wished. So there would be much for the other angels to worry about. Can you now understand something about the story? It does not have to be understood in an exactly literal way, because its just a story, an allegory, but there is meaning and truth in it.

So Lucifer leaves the angelic world with the gift of light (meaning consciousness); and heads down the planes of existence, bringing this light of consciousness to especially man. But no one really knows how this is all going to work, because it’s a vast untried experiment. For with this light of consciousness, man and woman now have a latent capacity to gain knowledge about the whole cosmos and even to realize God - since this Light really is the Consciousness of God. They also have a new power of free thinking and free choice. But all of this could turn bad, rather than good, since the possible knowledge about the world might be distorted or wrong, and the power of free choice might actually turn against God and angels. Positive consequences are possible, but so are negative ones. In addition, man can now transcend animal instincts, which could be very positive, but could also lead man out of harmony with the rest of the natural world. So even though Lucifer brings us Light, this also brings us the possibility for unenlightened decisions and actions. This, this whole new enterprise is very chancy, almost a creative gamble. But perhaps the alternative of it all never occurring would be divine boredom, or maybe God did get bored about it all, as it was, so decided to try out this experiment.

Fundamentally at least, we should give Lucifer credit for being the angel to focus light downward and bring conscious power into the world; even though much of humanity has so far misused this power. But this given spark of consciousness and power is really part of the whole [hidden] Divine Plan. Humanity just needs to evolve more into spiritual realization, to bring more divinity into the world and into all of our creative manifestations.

So we have credited Lucifer with a positive role in the great Divine Plan, being the Leading angel of Light descending down and bringing Divine Light into manifestation. Now, let us consider the negative side of the Lucifer scenario, which is as follows.

The descent of Light into ego, and its transcendence

The basic problem, which creates the negative possibility of expression (ranging from trivial selfishness to evils of insensitive harm), is because the Positive Divine Light of consciousness entering into material life (or into personhood) can get stuck and distorted by the physical and social conditions of its material existence. This is possible when the physical and social powers are stronger than the developing spiritual consciousness. In other words, the existential conditions of a person can be more influential in their personality development than the spiritual light - which at first is somewhat weak. Furthermore, the Light of consciousness (which does come from Spirit not matter) will first develop in a person as an ego consciousness - which is a centre of self-conscious will and self-autonomy (to some degree). So it is from here that problems can arise, since this human ego with its capacity for intentional self-action could be quite self-centered, selfish, and lacking in spiritual values. So, it is possible for self-egos to make actions that are not aligned with spiritual values, and thus make problems in the world if it has enough physical power to do so.

To further explain the metaphysics of this, the Light of Consciousness 'descends’, whereby it individuates and be-comes into a whole variety of diverse forms. The Light becomes focused in these particular forms, and it also becomes limited in them. In addition, the Light often becomes lost or forgotten in these forms, which is often because the Light-Consciousness has become so limited (and weakened) in these little forms. So the original Divine Holistic Consciousness gets forgotten in the little-limited forms. But at the same time as this process of fractured and contracted consciousness is going on, the little forms and little lives are increasingly developing a power of their own. So in the process of spiritual descent, there is gradual diminishing and fragmentation of the Holistic Consciousness (the light of God), while also there is a gradual increase in the power-to-manifest of each individual. Thus, as the One individuates more and more into manifestation, there is less Holistic consciousness but more individual power to manifest and to effect the rest of life. This is why the solution to most problems of evil is all about an expansion and widening of human consciousness, because the consciousness behind the will of some people is too narrow and lacks Holistic wisdom.

So what happens is this. The Great Spirit, the Great Light, the One Consciousness, becomes individuated and also limited. Thus, in each form or individual life there is a consciousness, but this consciousness is somewhat limited and also focused mostly on its own needs and desires. In other words, the consciousness in each life has to first deal with the practical necessities and situation of its own little world. Think of an ant. It is focused on just its little environment, its little world, and it just deals with the particular issues of its little world and little life. Well, we humans are kind of like the ant, in that we have our little concerns to do with our little lives and our local ‘world’ around us. But unlike the ant, the human being’s instinct to serve the greater group is not so compelling. So the human being tends to use its individual power for mostly its own self-interests. This developing self-power working for self-interest, and of course also dealing in a practical way with its localized necessities, is generally called the ego.

Now the human ego can range anywhere from being extremely self-centered (and me-focused) to being very inclusive and oriented towards serving all of life. The ego is not necessarily a self-centered person or a bad guy; for our ego-power can develop a more inclusive and wider concern for all of live, and it can be directed towards spiritual goals. But usually at first, the ego is self-centered, selfish, and focused predominately on its own self-interests. Sometimes even, this self-centered ego will (unfortunately) create harm to others or use its power to dominate over others, just for its own self interests and benefit. This is the cause of many world problems; just due to these kind of egos dominating over the rest of us.

So to put this into a cosmic narrative, the Light descends and individuates into self-egos - each having some degree of power-to-do and also some degree of world-concern. But if an ego has more power yet very little world-concern, then problems ensue for everyone else. Their world-concern is very limited, very small in scope; in fact, it is limited in scope to just its own particular interests. Yet at the same time, this ego might have a lot of power in the world around them; a power either developed by themselves or perhaps a power given to them by an inheritance of wealth (which is power) or political royalty.

Therefore, there is a possibility in the spiritual process of involution, which involves individuation, for self-conscious and self-autonomous individuals to be predominately egocentric -- self-centered, selfish, and self-interest-only ‘egos in action’ (or ‘egos with power’). In fact, this might just be an inevitable stage in involution. However, there can be a journey out of this, which is both an ego-transcendence and an expansion of holistic consciousness (or expansion of world-concern). This is the spiritual evolution; which can be understood as a journey back to God, Spirit, Oneness, or perhaps a journey back to Holism or complete Holistic Consciousness. It can also be understood as a turn-around for the self-centered self-interest-only ego, in which the self-centered ego opens up to being a greater light in the world, expanding its concern and interests to include all lives, all people, all of nature and the whole world. This new journey, this spiritual evolutionary journey, will lead towards greater Wholeness, Unity, and Integration. It will be a coming back to the One, yet the individuation and creative manifestation can co-exist and be included in this path of Return.

The self-centered self-interest-only ego is an extreme form of self-ego. We would probably not find in anyone who is purely and in every moment this way. The average person is somewhere between this extreme self-centered self-interest-only ego and being a caring and compassionate self-ego. Most of us are probably somewhere in between. And even in the span of a day, one individual person might fluctuate -- being in some instances self-centered self-interest-only, but in other instances being quite compassionate, caring, and cooperative with the greater overall needs of the world. Certain people have become continually selfless and without any self-centered self-interest-only ego, but these people are very rare.

Also in regards to this self-centered self-interest-only ego is that this can be also found in groups. Then the description would be a group-centered group-interest-only ego, a group-ego that is predominately concerned only about its own particular interests and which has a group-centered attitude of being superior to everyone else. Now at first glance, this may come as a surprise to group-minded people, who might pride themselves in Not being a self-centered self-interest-only ego, because they are group-centered and care about group interests. But the fact is that groups can be just as myopically centered and interest-only as can individuals. And these groups could make just as much harm in the world as their self-centered self-interest-only counterparts; just take for instance the nazis or other group-minded fanatics, or even some religious groups.

So it could be that a sacrifice of self-interests to group-interests is a step forward in spiritual progress, from being a self-centered self-interest-only ego to having group-interests instead. But this might not be so, because a single self might simply be self-sacrificing to a group that is potentially more harmful than any single person could be. So the spiritual value of 'self-sacrifice', 'selflessness' or 'obedience' to a group depends on the quality of the group.

final note: an esoteric meaning of the devil

In many Christian dogmas there is a direct relation between Lucifer and the devil, and although these are written about in usually different texts, the common belief is that these are the same. If we study some of the historical background for each of these characters, they do seem to be creations from completely different sources. Lucifer seems to be a re-creation the Greek Prometheus myth, well known at that time, and this Greek myth might be derived from more ancient esoteric teachings about how all manifestation is created from an original source of Light. On the other hand, the devil seems to be a corrupted re-creation of the Horned god from European paganism; the Horned god being a power of life energy and sexual energy, which can also fertilize crops. So the devil, in certain Christian thinking, referred to a devilish power of sexual energy or perhaps an obsession with sex.

There is also a relation between Lucifer and the devil, in that both are of the downward triangle in the esoteric symbolism of the six-pointed star - whereby one triangle is pointing down (Involution) and the other triangle is pointing upward (Evolution). Lucifer represents the Light from God descending into matter; yet within this involutionary descent a materialistic-minded human ego also comes into being, who is predominately focused on manifesting material gains and pleasures, without necessarily looking upward towards the Divine for guidance and for purpose.

The devil can also be understood as an image-symbol of the self-centered, selfish ego. So in this symbolic sense, each self-centered selfish ego is the devil incarnated.
An ego/person who is self-centered and selfish will be engrossed in and predominately concerned about their own self-interests, while anyone else’s interests are quite secondary. This self-centered egoism is all about I and me and mine. So as a selfish centered ego, I hope that others will cooperate with my interests, rather than me making any sacrifice to cooperate with the interests of others. Even when one doesn’t see this kind of egoism going on, it is probably more prevalent than one would like to admit.

This ego-centrism is simply what (or how) we find ourselves to be, at least at first, and then we can work to transcend it, break free from this, and create ourselves anew.
This kind of ego is a certain stage in the involutionary process of Spirit coming into individuality and into manifestation. But then there is a next possible stage of consciously transcending out of this. For the sake of this world continuing on, it is hoped that more and more people can free themselves from this. But it will require self-introspection and self-work, for this devil cannot be simply eliminated by magical charms or chants.