Man on Earth - Theosophy and the Fossil Record, by George McNamara,

Appendix 4 - The Theosophical System

Theosophy has a coherent system, which, once one accepts the theosophical structure of the world (physical, etheric, astral, mental, buddhic, etc.) can be derived from reason (to some extent). However, the system has largely been laid out before the discovery of DNA, and it is difficult to incorporate this discovery into the system.

However, the theosophical system also requires (or involves) many ranks of other beings and systems which have led up to and maintain our present reality. This is off-putting for many, but the simple theist position is clearly untenable (that God created the world more-or-less-exactly as we see it now)

A useful 'spiritual archetype' system is to see man as composed of (say) 100 words. The remainder of the earth beings are derived from these 100 words - the great apes have 95 of the words, the elephant 80, the mouse 70, a bee 40, the rose 25, a mineral 10, each according to their nature. These 100 words describe the physical and essential nature of man, but his task is now to acquire another 100 words through the evolution of consciousness. This system does not require complex structures of creation or external hierarchies for a person to proceed …..

However, the question remains of how man got these initial 100 words - here are some more passages with details of the theosophical system of evolution

  • Limiting the teaching strictly to this, our earth, it may be shown that, as the ethereal forms of the first Men are first projected on seven zones by seven Dhyan-Chohanic centres of Force, so there are centres of creative power for every ROOT or parent species of the host of forms of vegetable and animal life. This is, again, no "special creation," nor is there any "Design," except in the general "ground-plan" worked out by the universal law. But there are certainly "designers," though these are neither omnipotent nor omniscient in the absolute sense of the term. They are simply Builders, or Masons, working under the impulse given them by the ever-to-be-unknown (on our plane) Master Mason-the ONE LIFE and Law. Belonging to this sphere, they have no hand in, or possibility of working on any other, during the present Manvantara, at any rate. That they work in cycles and on a strictly geometrical and mathematical scale of progression, is what the extinct animal species amply demonstrate; that they act by design in the details of minor lives (of side animal issues, etc.) is what natural history has sufficient evidence for. In the creation of new species, departing sometimes very widely from the Parent stock, as in the great variety of the genus Felis-like the lynx, the tiger, the cat, etc.-it is the "designers" who direct the new evolution by adding to, or depriving the species of certain appendages, either needed or becoming useless in the new environments. Thus, when we say that Nature provides for every animal and plant, whether large or small, we speak correctly. For, it is those terrestrial spirits of Nature, who form the aggregated Nature; which, if it fails occasionally in its design, is neither to be considered blind, nor to be taxed with the failure; since, belonging to a differentiated sum of qualities and attributes, it is in virtue of that alone conditioned and imperfect. (SD p.732)
  • But even in this domain the sub-conscious workings of the Dhyan-Chohanic wisdom are at the root of all the "ceaseless striving towards perfection," though its influence is vastly modified by those purely material causes which de Quatrefages terms the "milieux" and Spencer the "Environment." The "midway point of evolution" is that stage where the astral prototypes definitely begin to pass into the physical, and thus become subject to the differentiating agencies now operative around us Physical causation supervenes immediately on the assumption of "coats of skin"-i.e., the physiological equipment in general. The forms of Men and mammalia previous to the separation of sexes* are woven out of astral matter, and possess a structure utterly unlike that of the physical organisms, which eat, drink, digest, etc., etc., etc. The known physiological contrivances in organisms were almost entirely evolved subsequently to the incipient physicalization of the 7 Root-Types out of the astral-during the "midway halt" between the two planes of existence. (SD p.736)
  • The line of demarcation between ethero-spiritual, astral and physical evolution must be drawn. …… At present the admitted chasm between the systems of reproduction of the oviparous vertebrates and mammalia, constitutes a hopeless crux to those thinkers who, with the Evolutionists, seek to link all existing organic forms in a continuous line of descent. (SD p.735)
  • …….. represents the domain of the purely astral prototypes previous to their descent into (gross) matter. Astral matter, it must be noted, is fourth state matter, having, like our gross matter, its own "protyle." There are several "protyles" in Nature, corresponding to the various planes of matter. The two sub-physical elemental kingdoms, the plane of mind (manas, the fifth state matter), as also that of Buddhi (sixth state matter), are each and all evolved from one of the six "protyles" which constitute the basis of the Object-Universe. (SD p.737)
  • But it claims that in this cycle (the fourth), the frame having already existed among the types and models of nature from the preceding Rounds-that it was quite ready for man from the beginning of this Round.* The Monad had but to step into the astral body of the progenitors, in order that the work of physical consolidation should begin around the shadowy prototype.† (SD p.660)
  • The latter (Occultism) teaches that-(a) the life-atoms of our (Prâna) life-principle are never entirely lost when a man dies. That the atoms best impregnated with the life-principle (an independent, eternal, conscious factor) are partially transmitted from father to son by heredity, and partially are drawn once more together and become the animating principle of the new body in every new incarnation of the Monads. (SD p.671-2)
  • As to the former reality of the descent into the physical, which culminated in physiological man and animal, we have a palpable testimony in the fact of the so-called spiritualistic "materializations." In all these instances a complete temporary mergence of the astral into the physical takes place. (SD p.737)
  • * Theosophists will remember that, according to Occult teaching, Cyclic pralayas so-called are but obscurations, during which periods Nature, i.e., everything visible and invisible on a resting planet-remains in statu quo. Nature rests and slumbers, no work of destruction going on on the globe even if no active work is done. All forms, as well as their astral types, remain as they were at the last moment of its activity. The "night" of a planet has hardly any twilight preceding it. It is caught like a huge mammoth by an avalanche, and remains slumbering and frozen till the next dawn of its new day--a very short one indeed in comparison to the "Day of Brahmâ." (SD footnote p.660)


It is fair to say that many pages of the Secret Doctrine have not stood the test of time. The discovery of DNA is not anticipated, and the controversies of the 1880's are irrelevant to the modern reader. The style of writing is not helpful - one has to 'dig out' the relevant bits. The excavation process hardly seems worth it sometimes.

Throughout these passages, the SD insists on the existence of 30ft tall human beings in the Atlantean (Miocene) times. No conclusive evidence of this has yet been found. Your author confesses that he feels little sense of kinship with these beings, perhaps because it is very hard to imagine anything except our present humans - Theosophy might describe this as a "ring-pass-not" imposed on our thoughts.

Both Theosophy and Science must remain NON-PROVEN for now.

Most authors on Theosophy try to explain - I have taken an alternative approach: to extract what appear to be the most important passages from the SD, and then to try and piece them together like a jigsaw, with a minimum of my own interpretation. The resulting picture has its positive elements, and there are also gaps and faults. I apologise if the fault is with me - my selection and arrangement of the passages may be faulty, and my interpretations may be misleading - I would be grateful for any references to passages I have missed, and any other corrections.

return to - Other Aspects of Evolution

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