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The Consciousness of the Atom - The Evolution of Consciousness
Occidental science is coming gradually to the conclusion of the esoteric philosophy of the East, that consciousness must be predicated not only of the animal and of the human being, but that it must be recognized also as extending through the vegetable on into the mineral kingdom, and that self-consciousness must be regarded as the [102] consummation of the evolutionary growth of consciousness in the three lower kingdoms. It is not possible in the short time now at my disposal, to go into that most fascinating study of the development of consciousness in the animal kingdom, in the vegetable kingdom, and its appearance also in the mineral kingdom; we should find, should we do so, that even minerals show symptoms of awareness, of reaction to stimuli; that they manifest signs of fatigue, and that it is possible to poison a mineral and to murder it, much as you can murder a human being. The fact that flowers have consciousness is being more readily recognized, and articles of very deep interest have been published on the consciousness of plants, opening up a very wide range of thought. We have seen that in atomic matter the only thing that we can safely predicate is that it shows intelligence, the power to select, and to discriminate. This is the predominant feature of consciousness as it manifests through the mineral kingdom. In the vegetable kingdom another quality appears, that of sensation or feeling of a rudimentary nature. It is responsive in a different way to the mineral. In the animal kingdom a third reaction appears; not only is the animal showing signs of sensation in greatly increased degree to the similar response in the vegetable kingdom, but it also shows signs of intellect, or embryo mind. Instinct is a recognized faculty of all animal units, and [103] the word comes from the same root as the word "instigate." When the power to instigate begins within any animal form it is a sign that an embryo mentality is beginning to manifest. In all these kingdoms you have different grades and types of consciousness showing themselves, whilst in man you have the first symptoms of self-consciousness, or the faculty in man whereby he becomes aware that he is a separated identity, that he is the indwelling impulse within the body, and the one who is in process of becoming aware by means of these bodies. This has been long taught in the East, and "esoteric philosophy teaches that everything lives and is conscious, but that not all life and consciousness is similar to the human," and it also emphasizes the fact that "vast intervals exist between the consciousness of the atom and of the flower, between that of a flower and a man, between that of a man and a God." As Browning has said: "In man begins anew a tendency to God." He is not a God yet, but a God in the making; he is working out the image of God, and will some day produce it in perfection. He is the one who is seeking to demonstrate the subjective, divine, threefold life through the medium of the objective.

The method of the evolutionary development of consciousness in a human being is but a repetition on a higher turn of the spiral, of the two stages which we noted in the evolution of the [104] atom, that of atomic energy and of group coherence. In the world at present can be seen the human family at the atomic stage of manifestation, leading on to a goal not yet achieved, the group stage.

If there is one thing apparent to all of us who are in any way interested in the faculty of awareness, and who are in the habit of noting that which passes around us, it is that of the different grades of mentality which we meet everywhere, and the different types of consciousness among men. We meet people who are alert, alive, aware of all that is going on, keenly conscious, responsive to thought currents of various kinds in human affairs, and conscious of contacts of every kind; then we meet people who seem to be asleep; there is apparently so little that interests them; they seem utterly unaware of contact; they are yet in a stage of inertia, and are not capable of responding to much outer stimuli; they are not mentally alive. One notices it, also, in children; some respond so quickly, while others we call stupid. It is not really that one is more or less essentially stupid than another; it is simply due to the inner stage of evolution of the child, to its more frequent incarnations, and the longer period that it has been occupied in becoming aware.

Let us now take the two stages, the atomic and the form stage, and see how the consciousness of the human being develops, bearing ever in mind [105] that in the human atom is stored up all that has been gained in the earlier stages in the three lower kingdoms of nature. Man is the gainer by that vast evolutionary process which lies behind him. He starts with all that has been gained therein latent within him. He is self-conscious, and has before him a definite goal, the attainment of group consciousness. For the atom of substance the goal had been the attainment of self-consciousness. For the human being the goal is a greater Consciousness, and a wider range of awareness.

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