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The Planetary Chains
A Textbook of Theosophy
The scheme of evolution of which our Earth forms a part is not the only one in our solar system, for ten separate chains of globes exist in that system which are all of them theatres of somewhat similar progress. Each of these schemes of evolution is taking place upon a chain of globes, and in the course of each scheme its chain of globes goes through seven incarnations. The plan, alike of each scheme as a whole and of the successive incarnations of its chain of globes, is to dip step by step more deeply into matter, and then to rise step by step out of it again.
Each chain consists of seven globes, and both globes and chains observe the rule of descending into matter and then rising out of it again. In order to make this comprehensible let us take as an example the chain to which our Earth belongs.
At the present time it is in its fourth or most material incarnation, and therefore three of its globes belong to the physical world, two to the astral world and two to the lower part of the mental world. The wave of Divine Life passes in succession from globe to globe of this chain, beginning with one of the highest, descending gradually to the lowest and then climbing again to the same level as that at which it began.
Let us for convenience of reference label the seven globes by the earlier letters of the alphabet, and number the incarnations in order. Thus, as this is the fourth incarnation of our chain, the first globe in this incarnation will be 4A, the second 4B, the third 4C, the fourth (which is our Earth) 4D, and so on.
These globes are not all composed of physical matter. 4A contains no matter lower than that of the mental world; it has its counterpart in all the worlds higher than that, but nothing below it. 4B exists in the astral world; but 4C is a physical globe, visible to our telescope, and is in fact the planet which we know as Mars. Globe 4D is our own Earth, on which the life-wave of the chain is at present in action. Globe 4E is the planet which we call Mercury – also in the physical
world. Globe 4F is in the astral world, corresponding on the ascending arc to globe 4B in the descent; while globe 4G corresponds to globe 4A in having its lowest manifestation in the lower part of the mental world. Thus it will be seen that we have a scheme of globes starting in the lower mental world, dipping through the astral into the physical and then rising into the lower mental through the astral again.
Just as the succession of the globes in a chain constitutes a descent into matter and an ascent from it again, so do the successive incarnations of a chain. We have described the condition of affairs in the fourth incarnation; looking back at the third, we find that that commences not on the lower level of the mental world but on the higher. Globes 3A and 3G, then, are both of higher mental matter, while globes (Page123) 3B and 3F are at the lower mental level. Globes 3C and 3E belong to the astral world, and only globe 3D is visible in the physical world. Although this third incarnation of our chain is long past, the corpse of this physical globe 3D is still visible to us in the shape of that dead planet the Moon, whence that third incarnation is usually called the lunar chain.
The fifth incarnation of our chain, which still lies very far in the future, will correspond to the third. In that, globes 5A and 5G will be built of higher mental matter, globes 5B and 5F of lower mental matter, globes 5C and 5E of astral matter, and only globe 5D will be in the physical world. This planet 5D is of course not yet in existence.
The other incarnations of the chain follow the same general rule of gradually decreasing materiality; 2A, 2G, 6A and 6G are all in the intuitional world; 2B, 2F, 6B and 6F are all in the higher part of the mental world; 2C, 2E, 6C and 6E are in the lower part of the mental world; 2D and 6D are in the astral world. In the same way 1A, 1G, 7A and 7G belong to the spiritual world; 1B, 1F, 7B and 7F are in the intuitional world; 1C, 1E, 7C and 7E are in the higher part of the mental world; 1D and 7D are in the lower part of the mental world.
Thus it will be seen that not only does the life-wave in passing through one chain of globes dip down into matter and rise out of it again, but the chain itself in its successive incarnations does exactly the same thing.
There are ten schemes of evolution at present existing in our solar system, but only seven of them are at the stage where they have planets in the physical world.
(1) that of an unrecognized planet Vulcan, very near the sun, about which we have very little definite information. It was seen by the astronomer Hersche, but is now said to have disappeared. We at firstunderstood that it was in its third incarnation; but it is now regarded as possible that it has recently passed from its fifth to its sixth chain, which would account for its alleged disappearance;
(2) that of Venus, which is in its fifth incarnation, and also therefore has only one visible globe;
(3) that of the Earth, Mars and Mercury, which has three visible planets because it is in its fourth incarnation;
(4) that of Jupiter,
(5) that of Saturn,
(6) that of Uranus, all in their third incarnations; and
(7) that of Neptune and the two unnamed planets beyond his orbit, which is in its fourth incarnation, and therefore has three physical planets as we have.
In each incarnation of a chain (commonly called a chain-period) the wave of Divine Life moves seven times round the chain of seven planets, and each such movement is spoken of as a round. The time that the life-wave stays upon each planet, is known as a world-period, and in the course of a world-period there are seven great root-races. As has been previously explained, these are subdivided into sub-races, and those again into branch races. For convenience of reference we may state this in tabular form:
7 Branch-Races 1- Sub-Race
7 Sub-Races 1-Root-Race
7 World-Periods 1-Round
7 Chain-Periods 1-Scheme of Evolution
10 Schemes of EvolutionOur System Evolution
It is clear that the fourth root-race of the fourth globe of the fourth round of a fourth chain-period would be the central point of a whole scheme of evolution, and we find ourselves at the present moment only a little past the point. The Aryan race, to which we belong, is the fifth root-race of the fourth globe, so that the actual middle point fell in the time of the last great root-race, the Atlantean. Consequently the human race as a whole is very little more than
halfway through its evolution, and those few souls who are already nearing Adeptship, which is the end and crown of this evolution, are very far in advance of their fellows.
How do they come to be so far in advance? Partly and in some cases because they have worked harder, but usually because they are older egos – because they were individualized out of the animal kingdom at an earlier date, and so have had
more time for the human part of their evolution.
Any given wave of life sent forth from the Deity usually spends a chain-period in each of the great kingdoms of nature. That which in our first chain was ensouling the first elemental kingdom must have ensouled in the second of those kingdoms in the second chain, the third of them in the Moon-chain, and is now in the mineral kingdom in the fourth chain. In the future fifth chain it will ensoul the vegetable kingdom, in the sixth the animal, and in the seventh it will attain humanity.
From this it follows that we ourselves represented the mineral kingdom on the first chain, the vegetable on the second, and the animal on the lunar chain. There some of us attained our individualization, and so we were enabled to enter this Earth-chain as men. Others who were a little more backward did not succeed in attaining it, and so had to be born into this chain as animals for a while before they could reach humanity.
Not all of mankind, however, entered this chain together. When the lunar chain came to its end the humanity upon it stood at various levels. Not Adeptship, but what is now for us the fourth step on the Path, was the goal appointed for that chain. Those who had attained it (commonly called in theosophical literature the Lords of the Moon) had, as is usual, seven choices before them as to the way in which they would serve. Only one of those choices brought them, or rather a few of them, over into this Earth-chain, to act as guides and teachers to the earlier races. A considerable proportion – a vast proportion, indeed – of the Moon-men had not attained that level, and consequently had to appear in this Earth-chain as humanity. Besides this, a great mass of the animal kingdom of the Moon-chain was surging up to the level of individualization, and some of its members had already reached it, while many others had not. These latter needed further animal incarnations upon the Earth-chain, and for the moment may be put aside.
There were many classes even among humanity, and the manner in which these distributed themselves over the Earth-chain needs some explanation. It is the general rule that those who have attained the highest possible in any chain, on any globe, in any root-race, are not born into the beginning of the next chain, globe or race, respectively. The earlier stages are always for the backwardentities, and only when they have already passed through a good deal of evolution and are beginning to approach the level of those others who had done better, do the latter descend into incarnation and join them once more. That is to say, almost the earlier half of any period of evolution, whether it be a race, a globe or a chain, seems to be devoted to bringing the backward people up to nearly the level of those who have got on better; then these latter also (who, in the meantime, have been resting in great enjoyment in the mental world) descend into incarnation along with the others, and they press on together until the end of the period.
Thus the first of the egos from the Moon who entered the Earth-chain were by no means the most advanced. Indeed they may be described as the least advanced of those who had succeeded in attaining humanity – the animal-men. Coming as they did into a chain of new globes, freshly aggregated, they had to establish the forms in all the different kingdoms of Nature. This needs to be done at the beginning of the first round in a new chain, but never after that; for though the life-wave is centered only upon one of the seven globes of a chain at any given time, yet life has not entirely departed from the other globes. At the
present moment, for example, the life-wave of our chain is centered in this Earth, but on the other two physical globes of our chain, Mars and Mercury, life still exists. There is still a population, human, animal and vegetable, andconsequently when the life-wave goes round again to either of those planets there will be no necessity for the creation of new forms. The old types are already there, and all that will happen will be a sudden marvellous fecundity, so that the various kingdoms will quickly increase and multiply, and make a rapidly increasing population instead of a stationary one.
It was, then, the animal-men, the lowest class of human beings of the Moon-chain, who established the forms in the first round of the Earth-chain. Pressing closely after them were the highest of the lunar animal kingdom, who were soon ready to occupy the forms which had just been made. In the second journey round the seven globes of the Earth-chain, the animal-men who had been the most backward of the lunar humanity were leaders of this terrene humanity, the highest of the moon-animals making its less developed grades. The same thing went on in the third round of the Earth-chain, more and more of the lunar animals attaining individualization and joining the human ranks, until in the middle of that round on this very globe D which we call the Earth, a higher class of human beings – the Second Order of moon-men – descended into incarnation and at once took the lead.
When we come to the fourth, our present round, we find the First Order of the moon-men pouring in upon us – all the highest and the best of the lunar humanity who had only just fallen short of success. Some of those who had already, even on the Moon, entered upon the Path soon attained its end, became Adepts and passed away from the Earth. Some few others who had not been quite so far advanced have attained Adeptship only comparatively recently – that is, within the last few thousand years, and these are the Adepts of the present day.
We, who find ourselves in the higher races of humanity now, were several stages behind Them, but the opportunity lies before us of following in Their steps if we will.
The evolution of which we have been speaking is that of the ego himself, of what might be called the soul of man; but at the same time there has been also an evolution of the body. The forms built in the first round were very different from any of which we know anything now. Properly speaking, those which were made on our physical earth can scarcely be called forms at all, for they were constructed of etheric matter only, and resembled vague, drifting and almost shapeless clouds. In the second round they were definitely physical, but still shapeless and light enough to float about in currents of wind.
Only in the third round did they begin to bear any kind of resemblance to man as we know him today. The very methods of reproduction of those primitive forms differed from those of humanity today, and far more resembled those which we now find only in very much lower types of life. Man in those early days was androgynous, and a definite separation into the sexes took place only about the middle of the third round. From that time onward until now the shape of man has been steadily evolving along definitely human lines, becoming smaller and more compact than it was, learning to stand upright instead of stooping and crawling, and generally differentiating itself from the animal forms out of which it had been evolved.
One curious break in the regularity of this evolution deserves mention. On this globe, in this fourth round, there was a departure from the straightforward scheme of evolution. This being the middle globe of a middle round, the midmost point of evolution upon it marked the last movement at which it was possible for members of what had been the lunar animal kingdom to attain individualization.
Consequently a sort of strong effort was made – a special scheme was arranged to give a final chance to as many as possible. The conditions of the first and second rounds were specially reproduced in place of the first and second races – conditions of which in the earlier rounds these backward egos had not been able fully to take advantage. Now, with the additional evolution which they had undergone during the third round, some of them were able to take suchadvantage, and so they rushed in at the very last moment before the door was shut, and became just human. Naturally they will not reach any high level of human development, but at least when they try again in some future chain it will be some advantage to them to have had even this slight experience of human life.
Our terrestrial evolution received a most valuable stimulus from the assistance given to us by our sister globe, Venus. Venus is at present in the fifth incarnation of its chain, and in the seventh round of that incarnation, so that its inhabitants are a whole chain and a half in front of us in evolution.
Since, therefore, its people are so much more developed than ours, it was thought desirable that certain Adepts from the Venus evolution should be transferred to our Earth in order to assist in the specially busy time just before the closing of the door, in the middle of the fourth root-race.
These august Beings have been called the Lords of the Flame and the Children of the Fire-mist, and They have produced a wonderful effect upon ourevolution. The intellect of which we are so proud is almost entirely due to Their presence, for in the natural course of events the next round, the fifth, should be that of intellectual advancement, and in this our present fourth round we should be devoting ourselves chiefly to the cultivation of the emotions. We are therefore in reality a long way in advance of the program marked out for us; and such advance is entirely due to the assistance given by these great Lords of the Flame. Most of Them stayed with us only through that critical period of our history; a few still remain to hold the highest offices of the Great White Brotherhood until the time when men of our own evolution shall have risen to such a height as to be capable of relieving their august Visitors.
The evolution lying before us in both of the life and of the form; for in future rounds, while the egos will be steadily growing in power, wisdom and love, the physical forms also will be more beautiful and more perfect than they have ever yet been. We have in this world at the present time men at widely differing stages of evolution, and it is clear that there are vast hosts of savages who are far behind the great civilized races of the world – so far behind that it is quite impossible that they can overtake them. Later on in the course of our evolution a point will be reached at which it is no longer possible for those undeveloped souls to advance side by side with the others, so that it will be necessary that a division should be made.
The proceeding is exactly analogous to the sorting out by a schoolmaster of the boys in his class. During the school year he has to prepare his boys for a certain examination, and by perhaps the middle of that school year he knows quite well which of them will pass it. If he should have in his class some who are hopelessly behind the rest, he might reasonably say to them when the middle period was reached:
“It is quite useless for you to continue with your fellows, for the more difficult lessons which I shall now have to give will be entirely unintelligible to you. It is impossible that you can learn enough in the time to pass the examination, so that the effort would only be a useless strain for you, and meantime you would be a hindrance to the rest of the class. It is therefore far better for you to give upstriving after the impossible, and to take up again the work of the lower class which you did not do perfectly, and then to offer yourselves for this examination along with next year’s class, for what is now impossible for you will then be
This is in effect exactly what is said at a certain stage in our future evolution, to the most backward egos. They drop out of this year’s class and come along with the next one. This is the “aeonian condemnation” to which reference was made a little while ago. It is computed that about two fifths of humanity will drop out of the class in this way, leaving the remaining three fifths to go on with far greater rapidity to the glorious destinies which lie before them.
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