My colleague Keith and I have had conversations about the meaning of the term “human being”. If I understand Keith correctly, he means the people who inhabit this particular planet, and possibly only this planet. Although Keith has conventional wisdom, and science, on his side, I take a different view. My view reflects Wordsworth in his well-known poem:

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:

The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,

Hath had elsewhere its setting,

And cometh from afar:

Not in entire forgetfulness,

And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds glory do we come

From God, who is our home:

Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

Expressing these lines more prosaically, I believe that we human beings are spiritual beings who, from time to time, incorporate in physical form. When we do, we take forms that reflect local conditions. Our physical bodies here on this planet are, very evidently, a product of this planet. They reflect exactly planet Earth’s unique combination of gravitational strength, atmosphere, levels of radiation, availability of chemicals, and so on. When we incarnate on other places, our physical forms reflect the unique conditions of those places. Thus, we look very different (so different that we would say “alien”!), but we are still human beings, because at the spiritual level, we are the same, regardless of our physical forms.

I fully accept that this is not the “science story”. But I do believe that it is an important part of the human story. We human beings who happen to be here at this particular time on this planet live in very materialistic times, with very materialistic beliefs, values and behaviours. This is why we know little, if anything, about the fuller human story. That fuller story is to be found not in science, but in “esoteric knowledge”. As the term suggests, this is “knowledge for the few.” Not many people know of its existence, and even fewer know what it means. There are some good reasons for this.

Primarily, and unlike science, there is no fully comprehensive, widely agreed, accessible body of esoteric knowledge (I really wish there were). It exists in many fragments, in many languages, and many of these are contradictory. As if this were not enough, many of these fragments are intellectually inaccessible. Even when esoteric knowledge is expressed in the modern idiom (e.g. Steiner’s Occult Science; Bailey’s Treatise on Cosmic Fire; Blavatsky’s Isis Unveiled), this too can be a difficult read. Arguably, the most accessible for the modern mind is The Cosmic Doctrine by Dion Fortune, but even this can be heavy going. It is hardly surprising that, given there are so many alien ideas and concepts, much esoteric knowledge is expressed in metaphor and symbolism. Two good examples of this are the Rg Veda and the Book of Revelation. Both are packed with information about the spiritual nature and history of the human being and the Cosmos, yet very few people are able to access this information from these works. It is a riddle, but you can only access sources of esoteric knowledge if you already know more or less what it is! That said, it clearly does not help to keep saying that esoteric knowledge is in fragments, often contradictory and mainly inaccessible. What does help, I think, is to have a very concise over view of the fuller human story, and thus a fuller understanding of what a “human being” is.

As I said, we are primarily spiritual beings who “touch down” from time to time on the physical plane. We do this for a number or reasons, but mainly to experience differently. It is as if we are sense organs of the Cosmos! And the Cosmos seems to want to know and experience in as much variety and detail as possible. In this way, it gets to know itself! It should be obvious, but perhaps it needs to be stated that the physical experience is very different from the non-physical experience. One big difference is that physical experience is more varied, and more detailed. Experiencing a sunset or the dawn chorus are good examples of this. Another difference is that on the physical plane, time and space have boundaries. This is strongly reflected in our lives and in the fact that our physical incarnations inevitably have endings. In contrast, non-physical (“spiritual”) experience knows no limits.

I could go on at length, but I simply want to point out that, although our physical manifestation and experiences are clearly an important part of the human story, they are by no means the only part.


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