Question on Free Will


Issued by N.O.M. 8 October 1893,
being Essays by V. H. F Quaestor Lucis (Oswald Murray) on:

(1) Free Will and the Theory of Separateness
(2) River of Life

(No official G.D Authority)


While Oriental Theosophy postulates the unity of all Life in its basic source, it makes the attainment of conscious union between the lower of intellectual aspect of mind with the Soul or Higher Manas dependent on the effort of the former, or in other words of the striving of the personality.

Again in the Hermetic School, of which Dr Hartmann is an independent interpreter, the freedom of each person to decide whether to climb the Mount of Initiation or to remain on the lower plane of intellectual rational life is strongly insisted on.

The position of these schools would apparently be that Primordial Being differentiates itself into Units or atoms, each of which contains the potentialities of its original. Free Will being attributed to original Being, it follows that each unit or atom possesses Free Will in potentia. Finding himself in incarnate condition, living in the sense-mediated planes of selfconsciousness, it may strive or decide not to strive to attain union with its Higher Principles, or to bring the illumination of these higher aspects of its being, into functioning conjointly with the rational intellectual plane of normal life.

This can only be effected, according to these schools, by the outer or personal degree of life reaching up and striving to come into contact with the inner principles.

This is apparently one of those veils which oriental and ancient systems considered to be necessary until the student dared himself to tear them asunder, but its retention in the sense of the teaching of transcendental philosophy ceases to be reasonable. It is in contradiction also with those portions of Theosophic teaching which condemn “the illusion of personal existance” and the “Heresy of Separateness.” It is also untenable in the face of Mr Maitland’s theosophic teachings with the reference to the centrifugal current in man, which returns from the circumference of Being as centripetal, thus inferring that re-ascent is the sequential effect in continuity of descent, that evolution is self inherent in involution, that unfolding is implicit in involving.

To teach that conjunction with the higher principles of consciousness may be effected by the will of the lower personality, is to attribute a vitality to the personality which Theosophy itself contravenes in its teachings as to the illusion of personal existence, and to lose sight of the fact that man is not the former but the formed, that personality is but the external manifestation of the one self determinating power.

To teach that each atom or unit, differentiated from original Being, possesses Free Will, is to imply that they are separated from Original Being and possess existence in themselves; or to fall into the ëheresy of separatenessí and to forget the identity of the unit and the Universal of the self-reference which is implicit in experience and demonstrates the permanent relation, ever present, which links the unit with the fountain source. To imply that the lower aspects of mind have separated off from those which are left and dwell in the higher planes, until conjunction or reintegration has been effected by the lower, is to lose sight of the fact that, while aspects of consciousness may distinguished, they cannot be separated without destroying the unity of Being.

To imply that instinctual rational man may develop his own Will power, that he may make his own condition of life, is to arrogate to the external personality the prerogative of disposing of that one self determinating power which manifests through him, of which he is the instrument or media, the expression the unfoldment.

The original plan of the Great Architect cannot be altered by the external manifestation thereof. The successive unfolding of the inner aspects of mans consciousness must be subject to the Law of the One Determiner, which alone knows itself from centre to circumference, a ground and a fulfilment.

The action of the one determinating Power on the plane of nature illustrates its mode or process. It shows results achieved by a continual, gradual, consecutive unfolding from within. The Sun builds up vegetable forms of life from the seed, beginning with the root, stem, bud, blossom, fruit. The uniformity of law manifesting in the correlated modes in different planes is a generally accepted axiom in occultism, so, by analogy, must our internal state be successively unfolded from within by the rays of our Spiritual Sun or Centre of Life. So also must the recognition of the permanent relation with our Ground of Being or Fountain Source return Mans will to its Central Source.

If for effort of the Personality we substitute the desire to have ever present recognition within us of the reception of all power from the central Source of Being, the desire to be able permanently to associate our lives, in thought, as an external manifestation of the One Determinating Power, and thus relate our actions to the original Source of Being, that will probably be more likely to contribute towards unfoldment from within.

The River of Life

Transcendental Philosophy shows that the unit is permanently related with its Source or Fountain of Being. Experience, when analysed, is found to bear relation or self reference between the permanent element of Being, which is ever present, which wells up in thought and forms the ground of cogitation on the one hand with the actual ‘I’ on the other. Thought is a relation and the subject identity recedes ever behind the regarding mind. Hence events may be said to be in time and knowledge out of time. The phenomenal world is then related in experience by the Thinker to the subjective reality.

It is this “relating” present in thought, the self reference implied in experience, which ever unites the Unit with its ground or source – its permanent element, and this would appear in the Path, on the Tree of Life by the or reflection which unites the Microprosopus with the Macroprosopus, its source: it would also appear to be symbolized by the River of Life ‘Naha’r which unflows from the Supernal Eden or Spiritual Being or Microprosopus or Being manifested in Time.

But the permanent relation between the unit or ‘I’ and its subjective ground must probably have an occult natural aspect as well as the metaphysical one I have illustrated. In other words there must be a force behind thought of which what we cognise as thought is the manifestation and it must be that force which constitutes the real relation between the Unit and the Universal. That permanent relation, that Force manifested as thought I believe is the River of Life bearing within it and unfolding the four elements of Being; Spirit, Soul, Mind, Instinct.

That emanation of Life or Spirit, the Sephira, the Sepher Yetzirah says extends through all things. Through God is power and existence every element has its power and source from a higher Force and all things have their common origin from the Holy Spirit. So God is at once both the matter and the form of the Universe, yet He is not only the form, for nothing can or does exist out of Himself.

The suggestion arises whether we can form any concrete conception of that Emanating Force the River of Life which permanently relates the ‘I’ with its source, as well as the metaphysical relation described and which we cognise as thought. Will not the conception of the centrifugal force in which the centripetal is inherent and inseparable, assist us, carrying as it does that unfolding is implicit in involving, that evolution and development is the sequential effect in continuity of involution?

The circuit of electricity will help us further, issuing as positive until its reaches the negative pole, when it returns on itself to its source. In this indeed we have an illustration of a positive Universal Ground or Brain, as it is well known that electricity is not created de novo by the dynamo. It is generated or emanates from an underlying source of which the Earth is but one reservoir or condenser. Edison’s experiments, the similar research of Greenwich Observatory, show the magnetic storms of Earth which coincide with and are correlated with the Sun spots, thus showing the lives of our coal miners to depend on the state of the Sun. It is well known that magnetism is an effect of electricity. The passing of a current of electricity through a bar of iron converts it into a magnet. The presence of a current in one wire induces a current in any wire near it.

The action of the Sun on the Earth above referred to is under the same law. The presence of electricity in our Earth, itself entails its polarity, its positive and negative poles consequently its attracting and repelling force or its centrifugal and centripetal currents. The Aurora Borealis of our Earth and the Solar Corona or photosphere are probably similar effects with regard to these orbs. So what the magnetic field or radiation is to a magnet, which though not seen visually is illustrated by iron filings spread on a piece of paper and held over a magnet—What these spheres are to a magnet, the Earth and Sun, most probably our aura is to us. This aura Madame Blavatsky described as a magnetic aura, a psychic effluvium partaking both of the mind and of the body. It is Electro-vital and Electro-mental.

Have we not in these examples illustrations of the force pervading the Universe, coexisting in the unit and in the whole, inter relating all into one Unity, manifesting in each in accord with one universal and all-pervading law?

We have here, I think, the illustration of the one determinating force, the River of Life, manifesting Unity and its media, and cognised by these units as thought.

In this connection a further reflection suggests itself for consideration with regard to the Sepher Yetzirah. While the four planes of Being may be viewed a distinguishable, they must be inseparable, as the unity of Being cannot be divided, and, as the Sepher Yetzirah itself says, the Elements of Being each have their source in a higher form and all from the Spirit which is both Form and Substance and in which are all things. In accord with the Law of Uniformity, these Elements must coexist in Unity, as well as in the Universal, in the microcosm as well as in the macrocosm. It is probable therefore that we may consider the Four Worlds as the planes through which the unit descends from its Fountain Source to its present circumferential state and by which descent it obtains a vehicle in each element or relation in each place.

Is not the Wheel of Life in the door of the Vault a key to this question? Showing, as it does, all four elements coexisting in the Unit. But this cannot be considered as an integration of four living creatures, each separate and having to be integrated into Unity, in as much as the Unity of Being could never be divided up and separated without entailing annihilation and chaos. If these four Elements are viewed as Spirit, Soul, Mind, Instinct, it is evident that these do not co-exist in each unit. The problem suggested is or may possibly be to attain conscious functioning of each of the elements of Being in relation with its place or World.

These descending states in the ultimation of the Unit find their parallel in the process of thought. Every thought has an objective aspect, as well as its subjective aspect, and one may say, like the unit of being, thought emanates from original Being, is produced from the unmanifested in Atziluth, takes shape in Briah, form in Yetzirah and ultimates in Assiah, in which consideration we return to the two aspects of the River of Life, we referred to at the beginning of this paper, viz. the metaphysical and the occult.

What constitutes the difference between that part of the River of Life which takes shape in Briah, and incarnates as volition, and that which emanates through us as thought, remaining disincarnate, and what becomes of that River of Thought which takes disincarnate form and is ultimated through us?

We ourselves must have been produced from the unmanifest in Atziluth, taken soul and shape in Briah, mind and form in Yetzirah, a concrete shell and instinct in Assiah. Yet we remain permanently attached to our own source, by a River of Life or electricity, which conveys to us in reflection and intuition what we cognise as thought from our original source. Is this the continuation of the River of Life which produces us? Does that River still flow through us its selfdeluminated vehicles, and manifest as thought? Then is not our personality an objective representation of the attributes present in that River of Life? Or a reflection in form of the type on the sense mediated plane of that which involved itself by determination and is now unfolding to our consciousness, as the centrifugal current returns on itself as centripetal?

The conception of the Duality of Will, good and evil, must have arisen presumably from the appearance of there being a conflict between the River of Life flowing through man and the impediments or obstructions raised on the circumference by the atom cells or lives used in the construction of the outer shell or organism and which were drawn from the animal vegetable and mineral states. But these are only manifestations of the One Universal Life, equally with the Primum Mobile of Man, and the relation or reaction between these lives or states of consciousness and the consciousness of the Entity using them must in reality be a relation of harmony though in appearance there may be conflict, and it must not be forgotten that the Primum Mobile or Entity using these lives on its circumference is in reality the one River of Life, and let me now again suggest the question of what becomes of the Thought thus ultimated? and which we find to be manifested as the River of Life.

The relation between the cells or lives used by the Unit in the integration of its form or its body and the Primum Mobile which has integrated that body, has its parallel in the Greater Universe in the relation of the Unit or outer Manifestation to the Universal, then determination whose body they form. The ultimation of each unit is undoubtedly in accord with the archetypal plan, of which we are parts, manifested objectively, yet there is all appearance of revolt, of conflict between the unity, occupying the schools of Atheism, Materialism, Evolution and their Determination.

The conflict between these units of manifestation and their Determination is probably as real as that between the Wills and Lives, making up the shell or organism and its constructor or controller or Primum Mobile. It is the same River of Life acting in the next or more external plane, that of the shells or matter. Let it be remembered that it is the interaction between the Unit of Life or Primum Mobile in Man and the other units and particularization of the Universe that begets the manifold of experience, which is the function of the unit to relate and unify.