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Basic Ideas of the Perennial Philosophy

Organized in a manner like, and with acknowledgments to, the book
"The Basic Ideas of Occult Wisdom"  by Anna Kennedy Winner

1. The One Life

The foundation of all that exists is an eternal, immutable “Principle”, which precedes all manifestation.   Any speculation about or discussion of its nature is fruitless.   From that foundation arises all manifest Existence.  

This manifestation has three innate attributes:

Existence   (IT IS)

Consciousness   (IT is CONSCIOUS)

Bliss   (IT is JOY)

This One Existence is also called the One Life.  Within IT, by IT, and from IT is created the Universe.

2. The material of the Cosmos (the seven planes)

The One Life in Existence is an indivisible unity called Spirit-Matter.   It is one substance, expressing in two "phases", spirit and matter, each permeated with LIFE.   There is no "dead" matter.

The Matter of the physical Cosmos appears in seven major gradations of density or “particle size”.   These gradations are referred to as the seven “Planes” of existence.   They are not separated in space, but interpenetrate.   The physical plane of our waking consciousness is the most dense of the seven, and has the largest, heaviest particles.

Each plane of matter has associated with it a characteristic level of consciousness.   In the “highest” planes, having the lightest, fastest particles, the underlying unity of all existence is perceived.   As the particles size increases, the matter's ability to oscillate and resonate slows, and our consciousness becomes more limited and experiences things as separate..

3. Progressive Development (Involution/Evolution)

While the One Life is ever perfect and unlimited, IT expresses ITSELF in bounded units of consciousness.   These units are called variously: "souls", "divine sparks", or in Theosophical literature, “Monads”.   They are ever perfect, and share the consciousness of the One Life on their “native” plane.   However, they are not able to manifest the One Life's perfection in the denser planes of matter.   Once created, they are eternal, and their “life”consists of becoming a perfected manifestation of the One Life in all the planes of matter.

This endless becoming has two phases.   The first, called Involution, is the “getting connected” to the matter of all the planes.   In this “encasement” in matter, the sparks' innate perfection and omnipotence is not apparent.   The second phase, called Evolution, is the progressive increase in their ability to control the matter of the lower planes.

4. Cycles of Manifestation

While a soul's manifestation is one of continual progress, the great plan of Manifestation proceeds in cycles.   The Universe itself had a beginning, and will have an end.   Then another Universe will come forth.   Within the lifetime of a Universe, there are cycles of greater and lesser activity, greater and lesser manifestation of Spirit-Matter.   These cycles are of many different durations, from the immense lifetime of the universe, to the daily cycle of night and day.

5. Reincarnation

The experience of the soul is also divided into cycles of activity.   Periods of activity in the Physical plane are separated by periods of withdrawal from this plane.   The soul gains experience and “practice” over many lifetimes “in flesh”, incarnate.   One physical life in one age is insufficient to the task, therefore the soul reincarnates repeatedly, over ages and ages, first involving, then evolving.   The lower kingdoms of life are traversed first, mineral, vegetable, animal, then as an individualized human being.

6. Justice (Karma)

Manifesting in all seven planes, the soul “learns from experience”.   Once human individuality is attained, the mechanism of that experience is controlled by the principle of Justice in Action.   The soul learns the effect of choices and actions by first choosing and acting, and by then receiving those same choices and actions from others.   The conditions encountered in the future are determined by what conditions one creates for others.   The Sanskrit word “karma” (action) is the term most commonly used to denote this mechanism, expressed concisely in the scripture: “as one sows, so shall one reap”.

7. Between Physical Lives

Only a portion of the soul's experience“occurs” in the Physical plane.   Between incarnations the soul's evolving consciousness has experiences that contribute to its evolving manifestation.   Physical incarnation actually occupies the minority of all experience.

The matter of each plane contributes and is the “vehicle” of some aspect of our human nature.   Our emotions, thoughts, individuality, and intuition are each “implemented” by the vibrations and structures of a body existing on one of the other planes.   As an incarnation ends, the physical body is “disconnected” from the soul first, then the emotional (astral) body, then the lower mental body.   The higher bodies are retained between incarnations.   As a new incarnation begins, the process is reversed, the lower mental body is created first, then the emotional body, then physical body.

8. The Purpose of Life

As humans, the purpose of our life is part of the great plan of the One Life.   We are not chemical accidents whose consciousness is an emergent phenomenon of mindless neurology.   Humans are evolving back toward the full expression of the One Life.   Therefore, the purpose of our lives is to overcome the sense of separation which is the necessary predecessor to our “return” to the unity of the One Life.   Each person is unique, with different strengths and abilities, but every person's highest good is furthered when they consciously practice the virtues taught  in all the major religions: kindness, honesty, generosity, etc.   Such a life is not merely an exercise in civility, but is an active step toward the full realization of our truest nature.   Our experience as humans had a beginning, and once all the lessons of behavior are learned by the soul, it will end.

9. Those Who Have Preceded Us

The cycle of manifestation is eternal, and souls of every level of experience are part of our Universe.   Beyond and greater than Humanity lie the superhuman realms of manifestation.   Those rungs on the ladder of evolution are occupied by our elders, perfected beings of increasing responsibility, scope and power.   Each of them is working to further the Great Plan.   Just as in the cycle of childhood and parenthood, some of them watch over and guide our world.   From their ranks come the great spiritual teachers, each bringing a unique expression of the eternal truths, suited for a time and its people.

10. The Hidden Path

As an individual progresses toward the goal of becoming a perfected human, the elders whose task is to guide and teach stand ready and eager to assist.   When one's evolution has reached a certain degree, the opportunity is given to consciously accelerate one's progress, and enter into a direct relationship with a perfected human as a disciple.   Thenceforth one completes one's human evolution under their tutelage.   It is not necessary to devote one's life to seeking one such, for “when the student is ready, the teacher appears”.   The surest way to them is the consistent practice of virtue while fulfilling one's responsibilities.

This “Path” is hidden in our time, our humanity is not evolved enough for our elders to live openly among us.   But we are taught that they are ever watchful for any who are ready, and that what is hidden from humanity at large becomes apparent and available to those of requisite character.


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