The Inner Life, v. II/Sixth Section/II
THE PLANETARY CHAINS
Our solar system at the present moment contains ten chains, each consisting of seven globes, and these are evolving side by side, though at different stages. Seven of them are represented upon the physical level by one or more globes, but the three others exist only on higher levels. The number of globes on the physical plane which a chain has at any given time depends upon the stage of its evolution. The globes of each chain present us with a small cycle of evolution descending into denser matter and then ascending out of it, and in an exactly analogous manner the successive incarnations of a chain also descend into denser matter and then ascend out of it. Our own chain is at the present moment at its lowest level of materiality, so that of its seven planets three are on the physical plane, two on the astral and two on the lower mental.
We usually employ the letters of the alphabet to denote these globes in their order; so we should represent the present condition of affairs by saying that globes A and G are on the lower mental plane; globes B and F on the astral, and globes C, D, and E upon the physical level, C and E being smaller than D. It will be observed that in travelling round the chain the life-wave is steadily involving itself more and more in matter as it descends from A to D, but is rising again and casting off successive veils of matter as it passes from D to G.
This is the condition of affairs during the fourth and most material incarnation of each chain. But in the third and fifth incarnations each chain has its first and seventh planets on the higher mental, its second and sixth on the lower mental, its third and fifth on the astral, and only one planet, the fourth, on the physical plane. The second and sixth incarnations of each chain are one stage higher; their fourth planet is upon the astral plane, while the third and fifth are upon the lower mental, the second and sixth upon the higher mental and the first and seventh at the buddhic level. The first and seventh incarnations of a chain are one stage higher still, in that their lowest planets are on the lower mental plane and their first and seventh planets at the stage which we call nirvanic.
It is not easy for us to attach any meaning to the idea of a planet upon planes so exalted as the nirvanic or buddhic, and we are perhaps scarcely justified in using the term. All that we mean is that there is a certain location in space where the evolution of certain groups of monads is taking place through agencies which work on those exalted levels.
Each of these seventy planets may be regarded as having a definite location in space and as revolving round, or in some way depending upon, our sun. Of these seventy planets only twelve are physical, and even of those twelve one is not yet recognised by science and two others have only lately been discovered.
The existence of Vulcan was accepted by some astronomers a century ago, but as it cannot now be found, the scientific men of the present day hold that the earlier observations were incorrect. No astronomer had dreamt of the two planets beyond the orbit of Neptune at the time when they were first mentioned in Theosophical writings, but now their existence is admitted in consequence of the deflections which they have produced in certain cometary orbits.
Madame Blavatsky says that Neptune is not in our solar system, but there can be no question that it revolves round our sun. Madame Blavatsky therefore must have been speaking in some occult or symbolical sense when she used those words. From the occult point of view also, the Neptunian chain is clearly part of our system, being one of the ten chains which compose it; so we are unable at the moment to attach any meaning to Madame Blavatsky's statement. That does not in the least imply that it is really meaningless or inaccurate.
We have frequently found that passages in her writings, which we had been for a long time compelled to put aside as incomprehensible and apparently contrary to known facts, had nevertheless a definite meaning and a certain sense in which they were true, though these were discoverable only when (by penetrating to higher planes) fresh aspects of the subject were brought into view. No doubt in due time this will prove to be the case with this enigmatical statement about Neptune.
Besides those on the seventy planets of which we have spoken, there are other evolutions taking place, every inch of place being utilised. Even in the koilon itself there may be an evolution going on of which we know nothing and can imagine nothing. We know as yet so little of this marvellous system to which we belong; all this teaching of Theosophy which has so changed our lives is but the lifting of a tiny corner of the veil. All space is filled with life, and there are even lower orders than that of the physical plane. It sometimes happens that a human being comes into touch with that lower evolution, but that is always undesirable. Yet it would be a great mistake to speak of the inhabitants of this lower world as wicked. Certainly that evolution brings harm to us if we become entangled with it, but that is because it is not meant for us.
Of the seven chains that have physical planets, taking them in order, beginning with the nearest to the sun and working outwards, we have first Vulcan, with only one physical planet, which is small and must be very hot. The Vulcan chain is in its third incarnation, but we are given to understand that its scheme of evolution is not destined to bring the entities concerned with it to as high a level as will be ultimately attained by the inhabitants of our own planet.
Mercury is the next planet, and belongs to the earth-chain.
Venus is the only physical planet of the chain of which it is a part. It is in the seventh round of its fifth incarnation, and it represents the most advanced degree of evolution yet attained by humanity in this solar system. Being so far advanced, it has been to able to afford assistance to other and less developed evolutions; from it, as we know, descended the Lords of the Flame, who gave so great a stimulus to the progress of humanity in the middle of our third root-race.
It is a remarkable fact that the astronomers of a hundred and fifty years ago recorded several observations of a satellite of Venus, whereas now it is quite certain that no such orb exists. The usual supposition is that those earlier astronomers erred. But this is scarcely likely in view of the number and character of the witnesses, and also their repeated observations. It was seen by astronomers as well known as Cassini and Short, in 1761, and that not once but many times, and with different telescopes. It was observed by Scheuten during the whole of its transit along with Venus in the same year; it was seen four times by Montaigne, and again in 1764 by Rödkier, Horrebow and Montbaron. It was estimated to have a diameter of about two thousand miles. It is surely more probable that all these astronomers were right in their observations, for we are told that in our seventh round the moon will disintegrate and we shall be left without a satellite. It may be only a coincidence that Venus is in its seventh round, but it is a curious one.
The next planets are our Earth and Mars, and these two, along with Mercury, are the three physical planets of a chain which is in its fourth incarnation. Our Earth is the lowest and most material of the series — planet D, while Mars is our planet C and Mercury our planet E. A good many of the more advanced members of our present humanity were not upon the planet Mars when the life-wave last swept over it, as will be explained later; but the great bulk of the human race has certainly passed through a series of incarnations on that planet, and we have left behind us many traces of our occupation, of which the present inhabitants are abundantly availing themselves. When our present occupancy of the earth ends for a time, we shall all pass on to the somewhat less material life of the planet Mercury, where the average level of consciousness may be somewhat more extended than it is here, since ordinary humanity will then possess what is now called etheric sight. There are no grounds whatever, so far as I know, for the statement made by a recent writer that the real names of Mercury and Venus have been interchanged. Indeed, we know a great deal about these planets which makes the idea inconceivable.
Next come the asteroids — material which will make a world some time; but we do not count them now.
The giant of the solar system, Jupiter, has a chain of its own. It is in an early stage of its evolution, being very much too hot for life, such as we know, to exist on its surface; but its satellites are inhabited. Its surface has seas of molten metals, and similar conditions exist on all the outside giant planets. It has a density about that of water, if you take the whole mass; but what we see is really the outside of a mass of cloud thousands of miles in depth — so we get a false estimate of the actual size of the planet itself. The Jupiter scheme is at present in the second round of its third incarnation. We are told that this system will eventually raise its humanity to an extremely high level.
Next we come to Saturn, with its wonderful system of rings and satellites. It is the only physical planet of its chain. It also is in an early round of its third incarnation, and we understand that the development connected with it is slower than most of the others, but that it will ultimately reach exalted levels.
As to the schemes to which the outer planets Uranus and Neptune belong, we have but little information, though we know that the latter is in its fourth incarnation, because of the fact that to it belong also the two other physical planets whose orbits lie outside its own. The conditions existing on all these gigantic outer members of the solar systems must be altogether so entirely different from those on the small inner planets that it is practically impossible to form any idea of the sort of life which must be lived by their inhabitants, even in the future when the globes have cooled down.