We now reach the mental principle which distinguishes man from the brute. The first four principles man shares in common with the lower forms of life, but when the fifth principle begins to unfold he has reached an important stage of the journey along the path of attainment. He feels his manhood manifesting within him.
Now, remember, that there is no violent change or marked transition from the consciousness of the fourth principle into that of the fifth. As we have before explained, these principles shade into each other, and blend as do the colors of the spectrum. As intellect unfolds, it illuminates faintly the fourth principle, and endows instinctive life with reason. Simple consciousness shades into self-consciousness. Before the fifth principle dawns fairly, the creature having the four principles well developed has passions but no reason; emotions but not intellect; desires but no rationalized will. It is the subject awaiting the monarch, the sleeper awaiting the magic touch of the one who has been sent to awaken him from the enchanter’s deep sleep. It is the brute awaiting the coming of that which will transform it into a man.
In some of the lower animals, the fourth principle has attracted to itself the lowest shading of the fifth principle, and the animal manifests signs of a faint reasoning. On the other hand, in some of the lower forms of man – the Bushman, for example-, the fourth principle has scarcely been perceptibly colored by the incoming fifth principle, and the “man” is scarcely more than a brute, in fact is more of a brute, mentally, than some of the higher domesticated animals, who, having been for many generations in close companionship with man, have been colored by his mental emanations.
The first sign of the real unfoldment of the fifth principle, intellect, is the dawning of self-consciousness. In order more fully to understand this, let us consider what consciousness really is.
Among the lower animals there is very little of that which we call consciousness. The consciousness of the lower animal forms is but little more than mere sensation. Life in the early stages is almost automatic.
The mentation is almost entirely along subconscious lines, and the mentation itself is only that which is concerned with the physical life of the animal – the satisfaction of its primitive wants. After a bit, this primitive consciousness developed into what psychologists term simple consciousness. Simple consciousness is an “awareness” of outside things – a perception and recognition of things other than the inner self. The conscious attention is turned outward. The animal, or low order of man, cannot think of his hopes and fears, his aspirations, his plans, his thoughts, and then compare them with the like thoughts of others of his kind. He cannot turn his gaze inward and speculate upon abstract things. He simply takes things for granted and asks no questions. He does not attempt to find solutions for questions within himself, for he is not aware that such questions exist.
With the advent of self-consciousness man begins to form a conception of the “I” He begins to compare himself with others and to reason about it. He takes mental stock, and draws conclusions from what he finds in his mind. He begins to think for himself, to analyze, classify, separate, deduce, etc. As he progresses he begins to think out things for himself, and passes along new and fresh suggestions to his instinctive mind. He begins to rely upon his own mind, rather than blindly accepting that which emanates from the mind of others. He begins to create for himself, and is no longer a mere mental automaton.
And from a mere glimmering of conscious intelligence there has grown the highest intelligence of today. A modern writer forcibly expresses the growth in the following words: “For some hundreds of years, upon the general plane of self-consciousness, an ascent, to the human eye gradually, but from the point of view of cosmic evolution rapid, has been made. In a race, large-brained, walking erect, gregarious, brutal, but king of all other brutes, man in appearance but not in fact, was from the highest simple-consciousness born the basic human faculty self-consciousness, and its twin, language.
From these and what went with these, through suffering, toil, and war; through bestiality, savagery, barbarism; through slavery, greed, effort; through conquests infinite, through defeats overwhelming, through struggle unending; through ages of aimless semi-brutal existence; through subsistence on berries and roots; through the use of the casually found stone or stick; through life in deep forests, with nuts and seeds, and on the shores of waters with mollusks, crustaceans, and fish for food; through that greatest, perhaps, of human victories, the domestication and subjugation of fire; through the invention and art of bow and arrow; through the taming of animals and the breaking of them to labor; through the long learning which led to the cultivation of the soil; through the adobe brick and the building of houses therefrom; through the smelting of metals and the slow birth of the arts which rest upon these; through the slow making of alphabets and the evolution of the written word; in short, through thousands of centuries of human life, of human aspiration, of human growth, sprang the world of men and women as it stands before us and within us today with all its achievements and possessions.”
Self-consciousness is a thing easy to comprehend, but difficult to define. One writer has expressed it well when he says that without self-consciousness a creature may know; but only by the aid of self-consciousness is it possible for him to know that he knows.
And with this unfoldment of the intellect came the beginnings of all the wonderful achievements of the human mind of today. But great as are these achievements, these are as nothing to what is yet before the race. From victory on to victory will the intellect progress. In its unfoldment, as it begins to receive more and more light from the next highest principle, the spiritual mind, it will achieve things as yet undreamed of. And yet, poor mortal, remember, intellect is third from the highest in the scale on the principles of man. There are two principles as much higher than intellect, as intellect is higher than the principle below – instinctive mind. Do not make a God of intellect; do not allow the pride of intellect to blind you.
The importance of the awakening of self-consciousness may be more clearly recognized when we tell you that the occult doctrine is that once the self-consciousness is awakened into being, once the “I” has been felt and recognized, the real awakened life of the soul begins. We do not refer to the life that comes after the spiritual awakening – that is a still higher stage – but to the mental awakening of the soul to the “I” consciousness. This is the stage where the baby ego first begins its waking existence. Previous to that time it has slumbered on, alive but not conscious of itself, and now the time of labor pains and birth is at hand. The soul has to meet new conditions, and has many an obstacle to overcome before it reaches spiritual manhood.
Many experiences will it undergo, many trials will it be forced to meet; but still the progress is on and on and on.
At times there may be setbacks, and it may even seem to retrograde, but such obstacles are soon surmounted and the soul takes up its journey again. There is no real going backward on the path, and slow as the progress may seem, each of us is moving steadily forward. We had hoped to be able to reach the subject of the sixth principle, spiritual mind, in this lesson, but we see that we have not sufficient space at our disposal, so we must defer that most interesting subject, as well as that of the seventh principle, spirit, until the next lesson. We are aware that our students are eager to press forward, and we are wasting as little time as possible on the way; but there are certain fundamental truths which must be clearly understood before we dare take another step.
There are a number of lessons to be drawn from the subjects of the instinctive mind and the intellect, and this is as good a place as any in which to consider them.
One of these lessons is that the awakening of intellect does not necessarily make the creature a better being, in the sense of being “good.” While it is true that an unfolding principle or faculty will give an upward tendency to man, it is equally true that some men are so closely wrapped in the folds of the animal sheath – so steeped in the material side of things – that the awakened intellect only tends to give them increased powers to gratify their low desires and inclinations. Man, if he chooses, may excel the beasts in bestiality – he may descend to depths of which the beast would never have thought. The beast is governed solely by instinct, and his actions, so prompted, are perfectly natural and proper, and the animal is not blamed for following the impulses of its nature. But man, in whom intellect has unfolded, knows that it is contrary to his highest nature to descend to the level of the beasts yea, lower by far. He adds to the brute desires the cunning and intelligence which have come to him, and deliberately prostitutes his higher principle to the task of carrying out the magnified animal propensities. Very few animals abuse their desires – it is left for some men to do so.
The higher the degree of intellect unfolded in a man, the greater the depths of low passions, appetites, and desires possible to him. He actually creates new brute desires, or rather, builds edifices of his own upon the brute foundations. It is unnecessary for us to state that all occultists know that such a course will bring certain consequences in its train, which will result in the soul having to spend many weary years in retracing its steps over the backward road it has trodden. Its progress has been retarded, and it will be compelled to re-travel the road to freedom, in common with the beast like natures of undeveloped creatures whose proper state of the journey it is, having an additional burden in the shape of the horror of consciousness of its surroundings, whereas its companions have no such consciousness and consequently suffer not. If you can imagine a civilized, refined man having to live among Australian Bushmen for many years, with a full recollection of what he has lost, you may form a faint idea of the fate in store for one who deliberately sinks his high powers to the accomplishment of low ends and desires. But even for such a soul there is escape – in time.
Let your higher nature be on guard and refuse to be drawn back into the brute life which has been passed through. Keep your gaze upward, and let your motto be: “Forward.” The brute nature may exert a pull downward, but the spiritual mind will give you a helping hand, and will sustain you if you but trust to it. The intellect is between the two, and may be influenced by either or both. Take your choice, oh, struggling soul. Your help is within you; look to it, and refuse to be dragged back into the mire of the animal mind. Manifest the “I” within you and be strong. You are an immortal soul, and are moving on and on and on to still greater things.
Peace be yours.