What, then, of the “theological fall” from a true Heaven? What of an actual

“Original Sin”? Did that e v e r occur? What is its meaning?

In my opinion, the only possible way to make sense of original sin, or

the theological fall, is to perfectly bypass exoteric religion and follow exclusively

the insights of esoteric religion; that is, Christian mysticism

(gnosticism), Vedanta Hinduism, Mahayana Buddhism, etc., as well as the

philosophers, East and West, who have clearly understood mystical or

transcendent truths. For if we follow their initial leads, not only original

sin and alienation but the entire nature of evolution itself will become


To begin with, we need only recall that a l l esotericism subscribes to the

view that reality is hierarchical, or composed of successively higher levels of

reality (or, more accurately, levels of decreasing illusion*), reaching from

the lowest material plane to the ultimate spiritual realization.375 This is the

universal Great Chain of Being, a rather condensed version of which we

have presented in Fig. 1. For quick reference, and because this is what we

will be discussing in this chapter, I remind the reader that some of the

major links in the Great Chain are: (1) physical, material nature, (2) the

biological body, (3) the lower mind (verbal-membership), (4) the advanced

mind (egoic-conceptual), (5) the lower soul (or psychic level, the

Nirmanakaya), (6) the higher soul (or subtle level, the Sambhogakaya),

(7) the Spirit (as Limit, Dharmakaya), and (8) the Spirit (as Ground, or


According to this cosmology/psychology, the ultimate Brahman-Atman

periodically “gets lost”—for the fun and sport (lila) of it—by throwing itself

outward as far as possible: to see how “far out” it can get.419 Beginning

at level 7/8, or beginning as Spirit-in-itself, Spirit throws itself outward

(and “downward”) to c r e a t e (via “kenosis”†) level 6, or the subtle

realms, and then throws itself out again to create level 5, then 4, and so on

until all the various levels are created as manifestations, expressions, or

(kenotic) objectifications of ultimate Spirit itself.438

But in doing so, in initiating this great sport and play, Spirit temporarily

“forgets” itself and thus “loses” itself in successively lower levels.411 That

is, since Spirit successively “forgets” itself in each descending level, each

level actually consists of successively d e c r e a s i n g consciousness.441 The

Great Chain thus descends from superconsciousness to simple consciousness

to subconsciousness.11 And further, since each successive level

has l e s s consciousness than its predecessor, each level cannot consciously

* We say “levels of decreasing illusion” instead of “levels of increasing reality” because

all levels, in themselves, are ultimately nothing but illusions, there being only

Spirit at all times. Nonetheless, to say that all levels are ultimately illusory is not to

say they are equally illusory—and just that fact gives us the hierarchy, levels 1-7,

which we non-technically call “levels of reality” or “levels of increasing reality.” But

the hierarchy of the levels is a fact totally overlooked by a plethora of “new age”

philosophers, physicists, and psychologists, who, understanding that all phenomena are

mere shadows, fail entirely to grasp the relative differences between the types of shadows


† “Kenosis” is a Christian concept meaning, approximately, “self-emptying.” Spirit

creates the world by giving or emptying itself into and as the world, but without in

any way whatsoever ceasing to be entirely and wholly itself. Creation is no privation

to Spirit, nor is creation apart from Spirit, nor does Spirit need creation. Creation neither

adds to or subtracts from Spirit, and Spirit remains prior to, but not other to,

creation. This view thus differs from pantheism, monism, and monotheism—it is a doctrine

of “non-duality” (advaita). Pantheism maintains creation is necessary (it

confuses the sum of all shadows for the Light beyond all shadows); monism denies

relative reality to creation; and monotheism claims a God radically apart from

creation—all are subtly dualistic. Finally, kenosis is precisely the doctrine of maya.

grasp or fully r e m e m b e r its predecessor.120 That is, each level f o r g e t s its

senior level(s). Thus, each level’s creation amounts to an a m n e s i s or forgetting

of its higher predecessor—we can even say it is created b y amnesia

of its senior, which was created by amnesia of i t s senior, and so on—and

the whole chain, of course, rests ultimately on the forgetting o f Spirit b y


Each level, then, is created by a forgetting of its senior level, so that ultimately

all levels are created by a forgetting of Spirit. And thus, a l l levels

are a l r e a d y forgetful of their Source, their Suchness, their Origin, and their

Destiny—all are already living in (apparent and illusory) separation from

Godhead, living in alienation, in sin, in suffering. Even the highest soul itself,

level 6, is alienated, fallen, sinful—b e c a u s e its very existence tended

initially and exclusively to occur by and through a forgetting of Spirit

(7/8). And, of course, how much more so for the lesser levels (5-1).64

This whole “downward” movement, whereby Spirit playfully loses and

forgets itself in successively lower levels, is called i n v o l u t i o n . 4 1 9 , 436 We

will see why it is called “involution” in a moment; for now, we need only

note that in involution, each level is (1) a successive “moving away” from

Godhead, (2) a successive lessening of consciousness, (3) a successive

forgetting or amnesia, (4) a successive stepping down of Spirit, (5) a successive

increasing of alienation, separation, dismemberment, and fragmentation,

(6) a successive objectification, projection, and dualism.

But, we hasten to add, this is ultimately only an i l l u s o r y moving away,

or an illusory fall, because each level is still nothing but Spirit at play.63

Each level is an illusory separation from Spirit because each level is really

a separation of Spirit by Spirit through Spirit. The r e a l i t y of each level is

only Spirit; the a g o n y of each level is that it a p p e a r s or s e e m s to be separate

from Spirit. Spirit is not l o s t at each level, just f o r g o t t e n ; obscured,

not destroyed; hidden, not abandoned. This is a great game of hide-and seek,

with Spirit being It.210

Nonetheless, each level, because it has forgotten Spirit, appears isolated,

alienated, finite, separated, bounded, fragmented. And the crucial point,

worth repeating in a sentence or two, is that each level does not just forget

Spirit, it necessarily forgets a l l its higher predecessors, which connect it,

mediately, to Spirit. That is, as each successively lower level is created, it

forgets its senior and superior level. This is so, we saw, because the lower

cannot fully and consciously embrace the higher without itself becoming,

higher. ThJat is: if a lower level couId fully embrace a higher, it would

not, by definition, be lower.

The point is that, as involution proceeds, not only Spirit but each senior

level is f o r g o t t e n . In a sense, then, they are rendered u n c o n s c i o u s . And

thus, at the end point of involution, a l l the higher levels are unconscious.

The only level left in awareness, or the only level to actually exist in a

manifest fashion, is that of matter, or physical nature, level 1.

All the higher levels, up to and including Spirit, are thus rendered unconscious.

And the sum of these higher but unconscious structures is simply

the ground unconscious . In the ground unconscious, the Ursprung,

there exist all the higher structures in potential form, ready to unfold

into actuality, or emerge in consciousness. Involution, then, is the e n f o l d i

n g or in-turning of the higher structures into successively lower ones, and

evolution is the subsequent u n f o l d i n g into actuality of this enfolded potential.

In short, once involution is complete, evolution can begin. As involution

was the enfolding of the higher in the lower, evolution is the unfolding of

the higher from the lower. But “from” is the wrong word: it is not that the

higher actually comes from the lower as a cause from an effect. The lower

can never produce the higher. It is rather that the higher comes f r o m the

Ursprung, where it already exists as potential. But, as I often hinted in

previous chapters, when the higher emerges it does indeed pass t h r o u g h

the lower. It must do so, because the lower already exists, and the higher

reaches existence only by passing through it.

Thus, for example, when body-life (level 2) emerges, it emerges f r o m

the Ursprung but v i a matter (level 1); the mind emerges f r o m the

Ursprung t h r o u g h the body, and so on. Each senior level emerges from the

ground unconscious via its junior level. This is why, as we saw, the exchanges

of the higher levels, although they are not produced by the lower,

can be partially deformed or distorted by the lower. That is, in the compound

human individual, the distortion of the lower levels can partially

deform the exchanges of the higher—and this deformation is what so concerned

Marx, Freud, etc. This occurs n o t because the higher is produced

by the lower or comes from it, but simply because it comes through it and

then rests upon it. It’s like a chick and its egg: the chick emerges by breaking

t h r o u g h the eggshell, and the chick can be deformed in the process (if

the shell is brittle, hard, etc.). But to say the higher comes f r o m the lower,

or ego comes from id, or consciousness is produced by matter, is like saying

The chick is made of eggshells.

At any rate, at the end of involution, all the higher structures exist, as

enfolded potential, in the ground unconscious (p u t t h e r e by successive forgetting

and amnesis during involution), and are now ready to unfold in evolution.

This overall cycle is represented in Fig. 33. On the right is involution,

with the structures placed in brackets to indicate their being rendered

unconscious through amnesis. On the left is evolution, the successive unfolding

of these structures in the reverse order that they were enfolded.

If we look closely at the scientific record of evolution to date, we cannot

help but be impressed by the accuracy of the Great Chain of Being: the

match is perfect to date. As far as science can tell, the order of the evolutionary

tree began with simple matter, the physical universe (level 1),

which itself emerged approximately 15 billion years ago with the Big

Bang.‡ Prior to that time, according to astronomers, the material universe

simply was not there. In fact, many astronomers, even the atheistic

and agnostic, are saying that their data would more or less be compatible

with the various religious creation myths (e.g., Genesis, Shintoism, etc.).

In our view, the Big Bang is simply the explosive limit of involution, at

which point matter was flung into existence out of its senior dimensions,

or, ultimately, out of Spirit.

At any rate, the physical universe, after billions of years, arranged itself

such that simple life forms could emerge t h r o u g h it. This was the beginning

of the pranic or body-life level, level 2, which, in more detailed esoteric

maps, is said to consist of three sub-levels: vegetable, or simple sensation

(“protoplasmic irritability”); lower animal, or perception; and

higher animal, or emotion. And, indeed, these three sub-levels unfolded

in just that order, each representing successive advances in consciousness.

The laborings of the life-prana level(s) eventually allowed the emergence

of the lower mind, or level 3. This level, in its simplest form as images,

emerged tentatively in some primates but blossomed in H o m o s a p

i e n s , during the typhonic period of magic imagery (totally body-bound,

which is why, in general fashion, we included the typhon in level 2), and

culminated as v e r b a l mentality in the membership era (which we therefore

treated in general as level 3). Level 4, or advanced mind, emerged with

the rise of the heroic ego, the first mind truly free of body. And there, so

to speak, rests evolution today, poised midway between matter and God.

As we look at the evolutionary process, even just to date, it’s hard not

to notice its most outstanding feature: its h o l i s t i c growth. In fact, over fifty

years ago a remarkable but little-known philosopher by the name of Jan

Smuts published a book entitled Holism and Evolution , in which he

pointed out, very clearly, just that fact. Everywhere we look in evolution,

said Smuts, we find a succession of higher-order wholes: each whole becomes

part of a higher-level whole, and so on throughout the evolutionary

process. I am not going to argue the point, but take it as plainly obvious

that “natural selection” per se cannot account for that process. Natural selection

can account, at best, for the survival of present wholes, not their

transcendence into higher-level wholes. To the average biologist, this

sounds shocking, but the conclusion, of those whose specific field is the

‡ Recent evidence suggests 7-9 billion years ago for the Big Bang, which makes it

even more difficult to account for emergent evolution with statistical probabilities. Scientists

used to say that because evolution had a virtually unlimited amount of time,

the emergence of higher life forms and man could easily be explained by statistical

likelihoods. That unlimited time was drastically reduced by the strong evidence of a

15-billion-year limit, a limit that severely (and in the opinion of some, fatally)

strained probability figures. Cutting that limit in half will, I predict, completely destroy

the statistical argument, which will leave science unable to account for the how

or why of evolution. I.e., there is a “force” driving evolution that far outdistances statistical

probabilities—and that force is Atman telos.

theory of scientific knowledge, is straightforward: “Darwin’s theory … is

on the verge of collapse. . . . He is in the process of being discarded, but

perhaps in deference to the venerable old gentleman, resting comfortably

in Westminster Abbey next to Sir Isaac Newton, it is being done as discreetly

and gently as possible, with a minimum of publicity.”375 The point,

in a phrase, is that the orthodox scientific theory of evolution seems correct

on the w h a t of evolution, but it is profoundly reductionistic and/or

contradictory on the h o w (and why) of evolution.

But if we look upon evolution as the reversal of involution, the whole

process becomes intelligible. Where involution proceeded by successive

separations and dismemberments, evolution, as the reverse, proceeds by

successive unifications and higher-order wholes. Where involution proceeded

by successive forgetting or amnesis, evolution proceeds by successive

remembering or anamnesis (Plato’s “recollection” or “remembrance,”

Sufi z i k r , Hindu s m a r a , Buddha’s “recollection,” etc.). Further, anamnesis

and holism are actually the same thing: to remember is really to remember,

or join again in higher unity.431 Evolution i s holistic, because “to

evolve” is simply to re-member that which was dis-membered, to unify

that which was separated, to re-collect that which was dispersed. Evolution

is the re-membering, or putting back together, of that which was separated

and alienated during involution. And evolution, as a successive remembering

or joining together in higher unity, simply continues until there is o n l y

Unity and e v e r y t h i n g has been remembered as Spirit by Spirit.

Finally, the “force” of evolution that has so insistently produced h i g h e r –

level wholes—a force which cannot be explained by natural selection—is

simply Atman telos itself, as everybody from Aristotle112 to Hegel193 to

Aurobindo12 has carefully pointed out. Evolution is not a statistical accident—

it is a laboring toward Spirit, driven, not by happy-go-lucky

chance, however comforting that notion is to those who deny reality to any

level higher than insentient matter, but by Spirit itself. That is why evolution

is a progressive advancement, and why it proceeds in leaps and

bounds that far outdistance statistical probabilities. This perennial view of

evolution, in short, does that which Darwinism cannot: account not

only for the what of evolution but the why.

Yet, if we look now at human evolution specifically, how does it occur?

What is the form of this evolutionary remembrance? How does one stage

give way to its higher successor? The essential point is that evolution on

the whole appears in humans as psychological d e v e l o p m e n t and g r o w t h —

the same “force” that produced humans from amoebas produces adults

from infants and civilization from barbarism. Let us very briefly, in a few

short paragraphs, review w h a t we saw occurring in human evolution, and

then apply our new insights as to why and how this development and

growth occurred.

The earliest period of human evolution was apparently uroboric—

wherein the self and the natural environment were not clearly and sharply

differentiated. That was the primal Eden of instinctual harmony with nature,

physical and biological nature. It was not that man at this stage was

literally nothing but matter or simple animal life; man was already a

primate, with proto-symbols and rudimentary images. Rather, man was

still immersed in the physical and biological realms, the realms that had already

preceded him in evolution, so that, as we earlier put it, although

man was not defined by these lower levels, he was immersed in them, one

with them, largely governed by them. He was, to that extent, pleromatic

and uroboric, recapitulating and still lost in all the lower levels—material,

vegetable, animal.

At the next major stage, the typhonic, the self had started to d i f f e r e n t

i a t e itself from this natural environment. In other words, the typhonic self

had t r a n s c e n d e d its embeddedness in the physical and natural world, although

it was still magically involved with it (or still somewhat “enfolded”

in it, as per “involution”). But the point is that the self had, as it were,

peeled the physical-natural world off of itself, and thus “moved up” the

Great Chain. Because it could d i f f e r e n t i a t e itself from the naturic realm, it

could t r a n s c e n d those lowest of all levels.

At that typhonic point, however, the self was basically just a b o d y . To

be sure, it was the most highly evolved body yet to appear, and it did possess

a developed mental imagery, the magical primary process. But its entire

consciousness was first and foremost body-bound. Thus, although it

was no longer “stuck” to the physical and natural world, it w a s stuck to

the body, with little or no verbal mind. It was impulsive, body-magical,

emotional, pranic.

However, when the verbal mind eventually emerged and evolved (during

the membership periods), the self b e g a n to differentiate from, and thus

transcend, the simple body itself. The self—the membership or verbal self—

thereby gained a relative freedom from the body’s instincts, emotions, and

drives (it could “farm” them). The self, now as verbal-mind, began to

peel the body off of itself (i.e., differentiate from it). To just that extent,

the verbal-mind transcended the typhon-body: it could postpone mere instinctual

discharges, operate linguistically upon the world, transcend the

simple present of the body’s senses by remembering and anticipating, and

so on.

At the next stage, the self—now as mental-ego—could finally differentiate

itself clearly from the body. Unfortunately, the body was also repressed,

which adds a sad kink to the story but doesn’t alter the outline in the least.

The point is that, at the egoic level, the self had finally emerged through

and differentiated from the typhonic body.

Finally, with the full-fledged emergence of the mental-ego, the self became

introspective: it was aware of, and thus s o m e w h a t transcended, its

own thought processes. We in the West are at the point where the mind it

self is starting, like the environment and the body before it, to crystallize

out in consciousness and peel off of the self sense. We are collectively

starting, but only starting, to break free of our own thought processes, to

cease identifying with them exclusively, to transcend them, and thus to

open ourselves to the next step in evolution. We will see, shortly, where

that gets us.

For the moment, we return to our original question—why, and how, did

one stage of evolution give way to the next? What specifically occurred?

Recall that we earlier made a distinction between t r a n s l a t i o n , which operates

within given stage or level of consciousness, and t r a n s f o r m a t i o n ,

which is a change of levels altogether. The question then is, why and how

Did translation give way to transformation at each evolutionary stage?

We already have one clue: we saw that the translations of a given level

generally continue as long as the Eros of that level outweighs Thanatos.

That was a shorthand notation for saying that as long as the d e a t h of that

level’s self sense was not accepted, then consciousness remained s t u c k at

that level. And because the self is stuck to that level, identified e x c l u s i v e l y

with that level, it then d e f e n d s that level against death, against transcendence,

against transformation. It fortifies its particular level by attempting

to arrange all sorts of immortality projects for it—attempting to

make it appear cosmocentric, all-significant, everlasting, immortal (according

to the standards of that level).

It does this, we saw, not just because it is exclusively attached to its present

level and seeks to defend it against all comers, but also because it

truly intuits, beyond itself, the Source and Origin of all levels, its own included.

It intuits, that is, Atman, Spirit, Godhead, and thus it naturally and

unavoidably is drawn to that ultimate estate of True Eternity and Absolute

Immortality. But in order to reach that ultimate estate, it must first d i e to

its present, limited, and mortal self sense, at whatever level. And until it

can accept the death of its present level, it merely applies to that finite

level the Intuition of True Infinity. It thus displaces true Atman intuition

onto its own mortal self, and wishes to see that mortal and finite self extended

to infinite proportions and immortal glory, which, of course, is pure

impossibility. That self, like all created and finite entities, will be ground

up in the Process of Eternal Sacrifice, and attachment to it yields only

suffering in the dissolution and agony in the release.

Why, then, does the self sense not relinquish its present level, accept its

death, and thus rise to the next-higher level of consciousness, ultimately to

find true Spiritual Eternity? The answer is that the lower is created (in

involution, and re-created moment to moment) as a s u b s t i t u t e g r a t i f i c a t i o n

for the higher, and ultimately, for Atman itself.436 The self does not relinquish

the lower, so as to find the higher, because it thinks the lower i s already

the higher. Until that substitute gratification is broken, the self actually

c h o o s e s the lower over the higher. As A Course in Miracles puts it,

“Who would choose suffering [the lower] unless he thought it brought

him something, and something of value to him? He must think it is a small

price to pay for something of greater worth. For [suffering, the embrace of

the lower] is an election; a decision. It is the choice of weakness [the

lower], in the mistaken conviction that it is strength [the higher].”3 In

no other way could the soul abandon the higher for the lower; in no other

way could the soul even want to leave its original oneness with Spirit.

The point is that, during involution, each and every level is created, not

just in a forgetting of Spirit, but as a substitute for Spirit. And therefore, in

evolution, as each level emerges, consciousness exclusively identifies with

that substitute gratification until it has been thoroughly tasted and found

wanting; until that level’s Eros goes flat in its appeal; until its desires cease

to exclusively allure and motivate. At that point, the death of that level is

accepted; Thanatos outweighs Eros; translation winds down and transformation

to the next-higher structure begins.*

Once on the new and higher level, the self locks into it as the new substitute

gratification. The battle of life vs. death switches to this new level,

which is then made to appear immortal, god-like, cosmocentric, and so on

(according to the standards of that level—as we said, immortality for a

typhonic hunter was to live until tomorrow, immortality for a membership

farmer was to live until next season, etc.). The whole Atman project shifts

to the new level. Since the self cannot (yet) accept the death of this level,

it goes about seeking Transcendence in ways that prevent it and allow only

substitute gratifications. It applies Atman intuition to this level, and so

proceeds the drama all over again.

But on a higher level. By accepting the death (Thanatos) of the lower

level, the self could differentiate from it, thus transcend it, and thus evolve

or transform to a higher-order self, more unified, more conscious, closer to

Atman, closer to Return. By accepting the death of a lower fragment, the

self re-membered a higher-order whole; it ceased merely translating and

instead transformed. And so proceeds evolution: remembering more and

more, unifying more and more, transcending more and more, dying to

more and more. And when all separations have been re-collected, the result

is final Wholeness; when all deaths have been died, the result is only

God. In this way the Atman project gives way more and more to Atman,

* The typical and perfect example of this is the person who overwhelmingly wants

money, success, fame, knowledge, etc.—until he finally gets it, whereupon he realizes

that’s not really what he wanted, a realization that is often quite devastating

(“wrecked by success”). But if he understands this, and can accept the death of that

old desire, then he is open to pursuing the next-higher level of substitute gratifications,

until he tastes them, finds them also ultimately lacking, accepts their death, and so on.

The levels of substitute gratifications are, of course, the Great Chain. In order: material/

food/money, sex, power, belongingness, conceptual knowledge, self-esteem,

self-actualization, subtle transcendence, ultimate enlightenment.

until there is only Atman, and the soul stands grounded in that Source and

Suchness which was the alpha and omega of its journey through time.