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A Treatise on Cosmic Fire - Section Three - Division A - Certain Basic Statements
II. The wise student will likewise regard all forms of expression as in the nature of symbols. A symbol has three interpretations; it is itself an expression of an idea, and that idea has behind it, in its turn, a purpose inconceivable as yet. The three interpretations of a symbol might be considered in the following way:

1. The exoteric interpretation of a symbol is based largely upon its objective utility, and upon the nature of the form. That which is exoteric and substantial serves two purposes:

  1. To give some faint indications as to the idea or the concept. This links the symbol in its exoteric nature with the mental plane, but does not release it from the three worlds of human appreciation.
  2. To limit and confine and imprison the idea and so adapt it to the point in evolution which the solar Logos, the planetary Logos and man have reached. The true nature of the latent idea is ever more potent, complete and full than the form or symbol through which it is seeking expression. Matter is but a symbol of a central energy. Forms of all kinds in all the kingdoms of nature, and the manifested sheaths in their widest connotation and totality are only symbols of life - what that Life itself may be remains as yet a mystery.

These exoteric symbolic forms are of many kinds and serve many purposes, and this is largely responsible for the confusion in the minds of men on these matters. All symbols emanate from three groups of Creators:

  • The solar Logos, Who is constructing a "Temple in the Heavens not made with hands."
  • The Planetary Logoi, who - in Their seven groups - create through seven ways and methods, and thus produce a diversity of symbols and are responsible for concretion. [1234]
  • Man, who builds forms and creates symbols in his work of every day, but who as yet works blindly and largely unconsciously. Nevertheless, he merits the name of creator, because he utilizes the faculty of mind and employs the rational quality.

The lesser devas and all the subhuman entities and all those builders who must in some distant future pass through the human state of consciousness are not regarded as creators. They work under impulses emanating from the other three groups. Each of the three groups is free within certain specified limits.

2. The subjective interpretation is the one which reveals the idea lying behind the objective manifestation. This idea, incorporeal in itself, becomes a concretion on the plane of objectivity, and as stated above, an idea lies behind every form without exception and no matter which group of creators is responsible for its construction. These ideas become apparent to the student after he has entered the Hall of Learning, just as the exoteric form of the symbol is all that is noted by the man who is as yet in the Hall of Ignorance. As soon as a man begins to use his mental apparatus and has made even a small contact with his ego three things occur:

  1. He reaches out beyond the form and seeks to account for it.
  2. He arrives in time at the soul which every form veils, and this he does through a knowledge of his own soul.
  3. He begins then himself to formulate ideas in the occult sense of the term and to create and make manifest that soul-energy or substance which he finds he can manipulate.

To train people to work in mental matter is to train them to create; to teach people to know the nature of the [1235] soul is to put them in conscious touch with the subjective side of manifestation and to put into their hands the power to work with soul energy; to enable people to unfold the potencies of the soul aspect is to put them en rapport with the forces and energies hidden in the akasha and the anima. mundi.

A man can then (as his soul contact and his subjective perception is strengthened and developed) become a conscious creator, cooperating with the plans of the Hierarchy of Adepts who work with ideas, and who seek to bring these ideas (planetary ideas) into manifestation upon the physical plane. As he passes through the different grades in the Hall of Learning his ability so to work and his capacity to get at the thought lying behind all symbols increases. He is no longer taken in by the appearance but knows it as the illusory form which veils and imprisons some thought.

3. The spiritual meaning is that which lies behind the subjective sense and which is veiled by the idea or thought just as the idea itself is veiled by the form it assumes when in exoteric manifestation. This can be regarded as the purpose which prompted the idea and led to its emanation into the world of forms. It is the central dynamic energy which is responsible for the subjective activity.

These three aspects of a symbol can be studied in connection with all atomic forms. There is, for instance, that unit of energy which we call the atom of the physicist or chemist. It has itself a form which is the symbol of the energy which produces it. This form of the atom is its exoteric manifestation. There are likewise those atomic aspects which we call - for lack of a better term - the electrons; these electrons are largely responsible for the quality of any particular atom, just as the soul of a man is responsible for his peculiar nature. They represent the subjective aspect or life. Then, finally, there is the positive aspect, the energy responsible for the coherence [1236] of the whole and for the uniformity of the dual manifestation, exoteric and subjective. This is analogous to the spiritual meaning, and who can read that meaning?

In man likewise, the human atom, these three aspects are found. Man on the physical plane is the exoteric symbol of an inner subjective idea which is possessed of quality and attributes and a form through which it seeks expression. That soul in its turn is the result of a spiritual impulse, but who shall say what that impulse is? Who as yet shall define the purpose behind the soul or idea, whether logoic or human? All these three factors are yet in process of evolution; all are as yet "imperfect Gods," each in their degree and therefore unable to express fully that which is the spiritual factor lying behind the conscious soul.

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