If you visit the Natural History Museum in London, you will find a Time Rail, which runs from the birth of the earth to the present - each step you take represents 25 million years. There are geological samples from each epoch, and then, as life begins, there are fossil remains of the plants and animals which have emerged and evolved through the millennia.
In other parts of the museum there are displays about evolution, showing the relationships between current and previous species. Obviously, the Museum follows the standard scientific interpretation of the past - life began with a chemical soup, then eventually an amoeba developed, and everything has evolved from that. Scientists generally think that man evolved from the great apes. Theosophy denies that this is possible, and propounds its own ideas, in particular of how the animals and then man came into being, and how the great apes are in fact derived from man.
This whole area is one where theosophy is very much at variance with the standard scientific narrative, and theosophy is at a disadvantage as its main text, the Secret Doctrine, was written 135 years ago, when DNA was undreamed of. However, undeterred, I’ll try and summarise some of the main points of the theosophical perspective.
What Theosophy States regarding the origins of man :-
Owing to the very type of his development man cannot descend from either an ape or an ancestor common to both, but shows his origin from a type far superior to himself. And this type is the “Heavenly man” . . . . . . .On the other hand, the pithecoids, the orang-outang, the gorilla, and the chimpanzee . . . . . descend from the animalized Fourth human Root-Race, being the product of man and an extinct species of mammal—whose remote ancestors were themselves the product of Lemurian bestiality—which lived in the Miocene age. The ancestry of this semi-human monster is explained in the Stanzas as originating in the sin of the “Mind-less” races of the middle Third Race period.
When it is borne in mind that all forms which now people the earth, are so many variations on basic types originally thrown off by the MAN of the Third and Fourth Round, such an evolutionist argument as that insisting on the “unity of structural plan” characterising all vertebrates, loses its edge. The basic types referred to were very few in number in comparison with the multitude of organisms to which they ultimately gave rise; but a general unity of type has, nevertheless, been preserved throughout the ages. The economy of Nature does not sanction the co-existence of several utterly opposed “ground plans” of organic evolution on one planet.
The fact is that . . . . the human type is the repertory of all potential organic forms, and the central point from which these latter radiate. In this postulate we find a true “Evolution” or “unfolding”—a sense which cannot be said to belong to the mechanical theory of natural selection ….. (Secret Doctrine by HPB, p 683)
This needs quite a lot of explanation for anyone who is unfamiliar with the material:
- There may be many other theosophical books, but the Secret Doctrine should be treated as the primary source for all theosophical studies
- in the third round (a previous earth) man ‘threw off’ the forms which now constitute all the reptile species
- in the earlier parts of this, the fourth round (this earth now) man threw off the patterns that now constitute the animal kingdoms, and the monkeys and apes
- the fourth human Root-Race was the Atlantean – we are the fifth (Arian) root race. There is also a complex picture of seven sub races or each root race
- The third Root-Race was the Lemurian, and there were two previous races, of which little is known
- The Miocene was 23 to 5 million years ago
- Elsewhere it states that man was able to “come forth” when suitable vehicles were available, about 20 million years ago. This also contains the idea of man “waiting in the wings” for his chance to play his part in a great cosmic play
A useful theory of evolution must cover ALL OF :-
- evolution of skeleton and organs
- evolution of methods of sexual reproduction
- evolution of language
- evolution of brain and mind
- the development of the human foetus
- the problem of gigantism
Modern science struggles to solve all of these problems individually, and the prospect of it answering them all at once seems slight, and both Theosophy and Science must be recorded as NON-PROVEN for now.
The Heavenly Man
A useful ‘spiritual archetype’ system is to see man as composed of (say) 100 words. The other beings on earth are derived from these 100 words – the great apes might 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 – the Secret Doctrine gives further complex and difficult information on this, but since I still find the above passage and ideas difficult to accept, I will go no further as it would be speculation.