– The One Becomes the Many –
Religion and philosophy have come forth in response to the mystery of existence and the search for deeper meaning in life. Indeed, the yearning to understand our relationship to the larger whole is the foundation upon which religion and philosophy have been built. For many religions, particularly those in the West, the universe is considered the product of God’s creative work. However, within the Esoteric Philosophy, the existence of the universe is viewed in a slightly different manner. Instead of God’s creation, the universe is understood as the physical manifestation of God. Rather than seeing a division between God and creation, Esotericism considers the universe as the densest expression of God’s incarnated existence. It is not God and creation that forms the basis of our considerations in this article, but God as creation.
The “God and creation” dualism found within Western theology has its beginnings in the teachings of Plato. Much of Plato’s ideas were rooted in his belief that there are two worlds–one is the realm of outer experience and the other is the world of the archetype, which is the essence underlying physical reality. The early church adopted this notion, and applied it to questions about God and human existence. In so doing, the church perpetuated the view that a chasm exists between God and humankind, and that the only way to bridge this gulf is through conformity to its dogmatic precepts. Connected to this is the notion of original sin, and the need of a divine intermediary (be it Jesus or the Hebrew messiah) to act as the bridging agent between God and humanity. Because of this, it is true to say that Western religions are essentially theologies of exile. They believe in the separation of man from God and the need to earn His favor once again. The sense of exile begins early in the creation mythologies found in Christian, Hebrew and Islamic systems of thought. All these religions hold fast to the Genesis story, with its emphasis on human exile and shame. In the East (and in Esotericism) this is not so. Instead, the essence of God is found in all things. In this view, our sense of separation from divinity is merely an illusion of the mind.
In order to understand the inseparability of God and creation, the Principle of Hylozoism must be grasped. There are two definitions of this principle that are important to consider. The first is that all things live. This means that there is really nothing in the universe that does not contain the spark of life within it. Though it is true that mainstream science advocates a distinction between life and non-life (organic and inorganic), this is an arbitrary division based upon a very narrow view of what life is. Hylozoism maintains that there is only One Life in existence. This singularity of Life has been called God, Brahman, or Universal Intelligence. And, if it is true that there is only One Life, then how could anything escape its embrace? Even the stones we walk upon hold the essence of life within them. Indeed, they are simply the densest level of the One Life’s incarnation.
The second definition of hylozoism is that every unit of life is a cell within a vaster unit of life. Sometimes called the “chain of life,” this notion is central to ancient mystical thought. For example, even though a human being is an independent expression of life, s/he is nonetheless a cell of consciousness within a larger life expression. This larger singularity of life is humanity as a whole. Indeed, from the esoteric perspective, humanity is considered a single life entity. Yet, it too is merely a component part within a larger life existence—the planetary logos. The term planetary logos, is one of many names given to the entity that ensouls the Earth itself. In support of this, some progressive scientists have become aware of the livingness of the Earth. Massive systems within our planet, such as tectonic and oceanic activity, climate patterns, and the interdependence of the many aspects of nature, speak to the possibility that these things are under the guidance of a unified intelligence. Scientists holding this view call this intelligence Gaia. What is important to realize is that all kingdoms of nature (mineral, plant, animal and human) are subsets of life within this planetary entity’s consciousness. Carried still further, our planetary logos is a cell within the life that ensouls the entire solar system (the solar logos). On-and-on this chain of life expands until all that is conceived within the universe is realized as the One Life (God) itself. Given this principle, we can more clearly recognize that all things live, even that which has been falsely considered inorganic.
With an understanding of hylozoism in place, we can see that there are multiple applications when using the term “God.” Every unit of life (such as a tree, an animal, a human being or the planetary logos) is a god to the lesser lives contained within it. For example, the consciousness of a human being is a god to the consciousness of a cell found with his/her physical body. Taken to a higher level, the planetary logos is a god to a human being, for we are simply minute units of life within its consciousness. Viewed still higher, the solar logos is a god to our planetary logos, and for the same reason. In this way it can truly be said that God is a relative term.
When viewing creation as a chain of life, the axiom “as above so below” takes on a richer understanding. From the human perspective, it suggests that the constitution of a more expansive unit of life (such as the planetary or solar logos) is the same as that found within a human being. Indeed this is so. Just as a human being is composed of a physical, emotional and mental nature, so is this true of the planetary logos. Occultly considered, the earth we live upon is merely the physical body of this global entity. Yet this vaster being also has an emotional and mental nature, as well as a soulful aspect to itself. And, just as a human being is trying to spiritually evolve through the transformation of his/her lower nature, so too is this true for the planetary logos. All units of life, all the way up to the level of the One Life, are in a condition of evolution toward a higher state of existence.
Often people consider an expansion of consciousness to be a function of their spiritual development. It is true that such an expansion is indicative of spiritual progress. Meditation, and the development of the abstract and intuitive mind, are always experienced as a widening process deep within. Yet what is this expansion? When considering the principle of hylozoism, we see that this expansion indicates that an individual is becoming partially absorbed into the consciousness of the Larger Life to which s/he is a part. To inwardly touch a realm of awareness beyond the bounds of normal perception is to participate in the intelligence of a vaster entity. The more profound and long lasting the experience, the more one becomes directed by the purpose and intention of that Larger Life. Technically speaking, when we yearn to be guided by the soul’s purpose we are really expressing a willingness to conform to the purpose of the Larger Life. For the human soul is merely a servant of the Larger Life it is contained within. The soul is therefore governed by its evolutionary intention.
Over the centuries philosophers and theologians have struggled with the question of freewill versus determinism. Does a human being have freewill, or does circumstance determine one’s fate in life? Though in the mainstream this battle is still raging, the esoteric solution to this question is profoundly useful. Essentially, the issue is not viewed as an “either-or” proposition. Instead, it is understood that a human being is governed by freewill and determinism simultaneously. A person has complete freewill in those aspects of life that are within his/her control. The power of choice is the prerogative of human beings, and in this regard, we each have freewill. However, we have no freewill when it comes to some aspects of our spiritual existence. Because humanity is a part of a vaster entity, we are determined by the will and intention of that entity. This is a condition of human existence (spiritually considered) that is therefore unavoidable. In short, an individual’s relationship to the Larger Life is determined, but freewill is true when considering one’s personal mastery over the outer circumstances of life.
The purpose of this article has been to convey a different paradigm when contemplating the relationship between God and creation. The notion that God exists as separate from creation is superseded by the view that God manifests through (and as) creation. This view clearly reveals that inherent in every human being is found the spark of divinity. Contrary to what Western religions may say, this sacred essence is a part of the fabric of one’s beingness, and does not require religious adherence to affirm it. Yet to truly appreciate this, it requires that we see the universe (and its vast diversity) as merely an extension of the One Life into form. In this is found great comfort, for it acknowledges that we are a part of God. Indeed, in the ultimate sense, we are God, for nothing exists independent of the all inclusive nature of the One Life. The universe, and all that it contains, is merely the One Life incarnated into form. In this regard, it is an incarnation that is unparalleled. Creation, and all that is contained within it, is simply the ONE becoming the many.
© 2005 William Meader
William Meader is an author, teacher and counselor. Much of his work is focused on the subjects of Spiritual Creativity, the Evolution of Consciousness and the Art of Meditation. At present he is teaching in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. He resides in Oregon, and can be contacted through his website at meader.org.