This week we continue a monthly discussion of The Cosmic Doctrine by Dion Fortune, which I consider the most important work of 20th century occult philosophy. Climb in and fasten your seat belts; it’s turning out to be as wild a ride as I expected. If you’re just joining us now, please go back and read the previous commentaries, which are listed here; the material covered in these earlier posts is essential to making sense of what follows.
As noted in earlier posts, there are two widely available editions of The Cosmic Doctrine, the revised edition first published in 1956 and the Millennium Edition first published in 1995, which reprints the original privately printed edition of 1949. You can use either one for the discussions that follow. The text varies somewhat between the two editions, but the concepts and images are the same, and I’ll be referring to both.
Revised Edition: Chapter 13, “The Evolution of the Divine Sparks,” pp. 59-64.
Millennium Edition: Chapter 14, “The Seed Atom Building a Seventh Plane Body,” pp. 82-89.
In the last several chapters, Fortune has discussed the emergence of the raw materials of a solar system and their organization into a swarm of individual beings, each of them composed of three parts: a seed-atom that began as one of the traveling atoms of the solar system, a shell of seventh-plane atoms that gather around the seed-atom and form the first and simplest kind of body, and a set of tracks in space marked out by the rhythms of the Solar Logos, which form the first and simplest kind of mind.
There are also vast numbers of atoms not yet organized into individual beings, circling the Solar Logos like clouds of dust around a newborn sun. That’s the image Fortune wants you to think of. because her grand metaphor draws extensively on the astrophysics of her time. If you keep in mind accounts of the solar system’s origin from popular scientific literature, you’ll have an easier time following along with the material in this chapter.
The individual beings, though, are the ones who matter just now. The seed-atom and its shell of seventh-plane atoms go through their various changes and gradually settle down into a stable rhythm. The tracks in space are another matter. From here on, Fortune calls these the Divine Sparks, as they are reflections of the Solar Logos’ own consciousness—in terms of the metaphor, patterns of movement that echo the movements of the Logos. The Divine Sparks don’t settle down to a stable rhythm, because they’re constantly being influenced by three sets of movements from outside themselves. First, each Divine Spark is pulled this way and that by the movements of the seed-atom to which it is connected; second, each Divine Spark is jostled by all the other Divine Sparks in its swarm; third, each Divine Spark is constantly influenced by the Solar Logos itself.
So the Divine Sparks remain nimble and capable of learning, and what starts out as a random jostling of one Divine Spark by another gradually settles into something far more complex: a reflection of the Solar Logos made up of all the individual beings that have come into existence, held in balance by their Divine Sparks. Think of it as a spherical mass of atoms—a planet—orbiting the Solar Logos in the seventh plane. As the Divine Sparks and their atoms interact, they establish a rhythm and form a set of tracks in space, which—since movement is consciousness—becomes the collective consciousness of the newborn planet.
Dion Fortune engages in another bit of trickery here, and those readers who know their way around geometry, sacred or otherwise, will doubtless have caught it already. The symbol of the Solar Logos is a sphere, she notes, and the number of primary manifestation is three; therefore the symbol of the first satellite is a three-sided pyramid in a sphere. She might as well have said a three-sided pentagram or a three-sided sphere, since there are of course no three-sided pyramids; the pyramidal figure with the smallest number of sides is a tetrahedron, which has four sides. (Did you forget to count the bottom?)
Again, as long as you remember that all this is metaphor, you’re fine. For practical purposes, the symbol of the first satellite is a circle surrounding a triangle; just keep in mind that the circle represents a sphere, and the triangle represents a threefold pattern in space. There’s a hint here for those who are ready to take it, since the triangle, the number three, and all other ternary symbols are traditionally linked to the planet Saturn, the Lord of Form, and in the Rosicrucian philosophy that forms the usually unstated basis for the Cosmic Doctrine, the first great cycle of the creative process, and the first of the seven globes in each cycle, corresponds in a symbolic sense to Saturn.
So we have the first satellite orbiting the Solar Logos. The Solar Logos is aware of it, and each of the Divine Sparks is aware, in a much more limited degree, of the Solar Logos. The collective consciousness of the planet—the Planetary Spirit, as Fortune will call it in the next chapter*—is not aware of the Solar Logos, but it is aware that the Divine Sparks are aware of something that it cannot perceive itself. It knows itself and the conditions of its existence, and it knows the atoms whose motions in space have brought it into being; as the Divine Sparks are influenced by the Solar Logos and change accordingly, it learns indirectly of the Solar Logos that conditions them.
(*Fortune had trouble making up her mind about what to call this entity. In the first published version, and thus in the Millennium Edition, it was the Planetary Spirit; in the revised version, it was the Planetary Being. I prefer Planetary Spirit, as this is the term used in other occult literature, and so that’s the label we’ll be using here.)
As the consciousness of the Divine Sparks becomes more and more coordinated, the Planetary Spirit gets a clearer and clearer understanding of the Logos as reflected through the minds of the Sparks, and so it achieves an awareness of the Solar Logos. Meanwhile, the Solar Logos has something new to think about; the experiences of the atoms and Divine Sparks on the first satellite are new to the Logos, and it turns inward, contemplating these, until it has absorbed those experiences and integrated them into its understanding of things. While that happens, the Divine Sparks keep doing what they were doing, and the Planetary Spirit keeps doing what it was doing, and the resulting repeated movements build up tracks in space that form an enduring template for the first satellite.
Then the Solar Logos finishes its contemplations and turns its attention back to the solar system. Its dance has changed, the dances of the Divine Sparks change accordingly, the pattern of balanced stresses that holds the first satellite together breaks up, and so does the first satellite. All the individuals that composed it go spinning away into the great dust cloud of atomic matter that surrounds the Solar Logos, and a cycle of involution comes to its end.
Two things happen thereafter, though. The first is that the individual beings, having absorbed the possibility of integrating themselves as a planet, do the same thing again. Since they’ve worked through all the possibilities of their seventh plane bodies, they have enough (metaphoric) mass to attract atoms of the sixth plane, and so they add a shell of sixth plane atoms to the seventh plane body they already have. They proceed to form a new satellite on the sixth plane, and work through all the changes there that they worked through on the seventh, gradually evolving a collective consciousness that becomes a new Planetary Spirit.
At the same time, the Planetary Spirit of the first satellite didn’t go anywhere; it remains, an intricate pattern of tracks in space just waiting for atoms to fill it. There are plenty of seventh plane atoms drifting around aimlessly, and over time enough of them get drawn into the tracks in space of the Planetary Spirit that a new planet is born.
These atoms, though, have a conditioning influence the first swarm of traveling atoms didn’t have. The Planetary Spirit absorbed all the influences of the traveling atoms, was conscious of their consciousness, and gradually reached the point at which it could contemplate the Solar Logos as it was reflected in the Divine Sparks. Its rhythmic dance thus includes all the capacities of the first swarm of seed-atoms, including their ability to gather a seventh-plane body and the pattern of tracks in space that linked them to the Solar Logos. The atoms gathered by the Planetary Spirit accordingly pick up all these capacities, and become individual beings with Divine Sparks and seventh-plane bodies. Thus the traveling atoms of the first swarm are the makers of the Planetary Spirit, but the Planetary Spirit is the mother of each of the subsequent swarms.
The whole process then repeats. The Divine Sparks of the first swarm, on the new planet of the sixth plane, integrate themselves to the point that the new Planetary Spirit can experience the Solar Logos through them; the Divine Sparks of the second swarm go through their own changes on the first planet under the guidance of its Planetary Spirit; the Solar Logos retreats into contemplation, absorbing all the new experiences of the atoms of the first two swarms; then it turns its attention outward again, and the two planets dissolve.
The first swarm then moves out to the fifth plane, and begins building a new planet there. The second swarm moves to the sixth plane, becomes part of a planet there, and gets to work building its own sixth plane bodies under the guidance of the second Planetary Spirit. Meanwhile, another batch of seventh plane atoms gets swept up into the embrace of the first Planetary Spirit, which teaches them to build seventh plane bodies and endows them with Divine Sparks.
The process continues, until there are seven planets revolving around the Solar Logos, each one with its own Planetary Spirit, each one inhabited by individual beings who have a number of bodies appropriate to the plane they have reached. The process doesn’t end there, but what happens when all seven planets are in existence will be the subject of a later chapter.
(It’s probably worth putting in a caution here, because many readers who reach this chapter jump to the conclusion that since the Earth is the third planet from the Sun in our solar system, it must be the third planet to be created in the process we’re discussing, and thus exists on the fifth plane. Not so; as will be explained later on, the Earth, being a planet of physical matter, exists on the first or material plane, like all the other planets we see with telescopes. How does that work? Ahem. “These images are not descriptive but symbolic, and are designed to train the mind, not to inform it.” The easiest way to misunderstand the Cos.Doc. is to take it too literally.)
Something else has been going on all this time, though, while the swarms have been taking shape and proceeding down the planets. Remember that the Solar Logos is aware of the Divine Sparks, just as they are (in a much more limited way) aware of the Logos. Every time a swarm of individual beings finishes its evolution on a planet, and the Solar Logos turns inward to contemplate the new experiences of that evolution, it integrates all those experiences into its consciousness—in the metaphor, it expresses them in the motions of its dance. As each swarm of atoms in the first planet acquires a Divine Spark, that Divine Spark moves in harmony with the dance of the Solar Logos at the time when it is formed.
As a result, each swarm of individual beings comes into existence on the seventh plane with all the lessons of its predecessors embodied in abstract form in its Divine Spark. The first swarm, composed of the traveling atoms of the solar system, does the heaviest of the heavy lifting in creating the planets; each of the next two swarms, as we’ll see, also has a particular task to take care of in the genesis of the solar system. The beings of these three swarms have names in each of the religious traditions Dion Fortune drew on in shaping her great metaphor. In the language of Jewish Cabala and Christian theology; they are identified with the hierarchies of the angels; in the language of traditional Pagan religion, they are called gods and goddesses. In the Rosicrucian philosophy that underlies the Cosmic Doctrine, they are called the Lords of Flame, the Lords of Form, and the Lords of Mind. We’ll be discussing them in much more detail in chapters to come.
Notes for Study:
As already noted, The Cosmic Doctrine is heavy going, especially for those who don’t have any previous exposure to occult philosophy. It’s useful to read through the assigned chapter once or twice, trying to get an overview, but after that take it a bit at a time. The best option for most people seems to be to set aside five or ten minutes a day during the month you spend on this chapter. During that daily session, take one short paragraph or half of a long one, read it closely, and think about what you’ve read, while picturing in your mind’s eye the image you’ve been given for that passage of text.
As you proceed through the chapter and its images, you’re likely to find yourself facing questions that the text doesn’t answer. Some of those are questions Fortune wants you to ask yourself, either because they’ll be answered later in the book or because they will encourage you to think in ways that will help you learn what the text has to say. It can be helpful to keep a notebook in which to write down such questions, as well as whatever thoughts and insights might come to you as you study the text.
Questions and comments can also be posted here for discussion. (I’d like to ask that only questions and comments relevant to The Cosmic Doctrine be posted here, to help keep things on topic.) We’ll go on to the next piece of the text on August 14. Until then, have at it!