The question, ‘what is life’, or ‘what belongs to this living nature’, seems at first glance not difficult at all. In response to this, we can examine some of the characteristics of the life forms we observe around us. For example, we could say that they exhibit properties such as: breathing, feeding, movement, growth, perception, and reproduction. But then, on closer examination, we realize that we have only given a description of the way in which life manifests itself through material forms. The question therefore, still remains: What is Life?
Scientists have experienced that it is not easy to confine ‘life’ within the parameters of a definition. At the moment we can identify more than 200 different descriptions of this concept. It seems that life is not willingly assigned to a rigid concept, and continually evades our grasp.
What are we missing? Can we get closer to the mystery of life, if we maybe consider the concept of ‘death’? What is the difference before and after the moment of our death? We could say that there is no more heartbeat or brain activity, but then, as we did with life, we are describing only the qualities of the outer form. Where is the life force which made the heartbeat, and bound the molecules together to form cells, and cells into organs?
In school we learn about the theory of evolution as an explanation of life on earth. The theory of evolution assumes natural selection, the so-called ‘survival of the fittest’, based on random mutations in the genetic material. Thus, a specimen that is better able to maintain itself through this random mutation process, becomes a starting point for the development of the species.
Although Charles Darwin's theory is widely accepted in scientific circles, it nevertheless has its weaknesses. For example, it has difficulty explaining major or complex leaps in evolution. How can a sightless life form, evolve into a creature with eyes? An eye is a complex organ of which all parts must be present for it to function. How can something so ingenious arise from random mutations?
Another difficulty is adequately explaining the enormous diversity of life forms. Could millions of different species have arisen from coincidental mutations?
My personal opinion is that such a thing is not possible, but it doesn't mean I don't believe in evolution of life forms. Only, I think it is an evolution based on a plan, guided by an intelligence, and not based on random mutations. But if there is a plan, then there must also be a creator of that plan. Of course, this is from a scientific point of view a difficult issue, because it takes us into metaphysical and religious territory.
From mental to material
Can a life form exist without a plan behind it? A ‘form’ is a materialization of a plan or an idea. When we as humans create something, we always start with an idea or a plan. This plan expresses itself as an astral image and through the magnetic force lines of the astral substance, etheric and physical atoms are attracted. In that way our creation becomes more and more concrete, and as a final step, we manifest our idea in physical matter.
When we apply the hermetic axiom "as above, so below," and we see ourselves as below, then we understand that all of creation follows the same principle: from concept to reality, from mental to material. Hence, the formed universe has its beginning as a spiritual concept or ‘idea’. That may sound far-fetched, but if we consider the current understanding of atoms, the building blocks of the universe, we come to the same conclusion.
Quantum mechanics says that all particles behave as waves under certain conditions and that waves sometimes manifest themselves as a flow of particles. To take this a step further, physics has a theoretical model called the ‘string theory’.
String theory assumes that particles are actually very small vibrating strings (to help visualize this, we can think of them like very small elastic bands). The different modes of vibration of a string are then perceived as different particles.
It would be a huge step forward if in future, physicists would be able to prove this string theory, because it would bring a unification between concepts concerning the very small and the very large. The models used by theoretical physicists are tremendously complicated, but what is important to me is the idea, the concept: everything is vibration, everything is energy. And hence we can also consider an atom as ordered information, as a vibrational pattern, an idea, a spiritual creation.
When science meets religion
When we start to see the smallest atom, and also the vast universe with its countless life forms, as spiritual creations, then we can take the logical step towards the idea of a ‘Creator’. I hope that I don’t shock you when I now present you with a quotation of the Bible, but when science meets religion interesting things happen.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (…) All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and that life was the Light of men.1
The Bible states that ‘life’, that is vibration, emanates from the ‘Word’. But the problem is that the terms ‘God’, and also the term ‘Word’, are highly abstract, and we are limited in their use as defining elements. We first have to make an attempt to solidify these terms to some degree. In the Universal teaching, the Deity, the Creator, is referred to by three aspects: Power and Will, the Father aspect; Wisdom, the Mother aspect; and the product of these two concepts, referred to as Universal Love - the Child aspect.
This Holy Trinity emanates the Divine fullness of Power, Wisdom, Love, Light, Life, Intelligence, and anything else we can conceive of, in seven rays. These are the Seven Spirits before the throne of God. These seven rays are the architects of the universe and thus can be referred to as the all-creating Word. In the beginning was the Word!
Man as a totality - thus not just as the personality we now identify ourselves with - is a creation of this Sevenfold Spirit. Hence, the original human being was created according to a divine thought-form, a divine concept. Jan van Rijckenborgh says on this subject:
An idea is a thought-form. It possesses a structure of lines of force and is consequently a living reality. Therefore, when referring to the idea of God, we may rightly speak of ‘archetypes’. Using Divine force, the great goal becomes a concrete reality, in the image of the archetypes. Now, there is no single type of person as a species in the earth-circle of archetypes, but a specific archetype for and of every human being!2
Therefore, we understand that every human being has a spiritual basis, a living and vibrating primordial image, a specific archetype. This archetype manifests itself as a spiritual focal point in the heart; it is the foundation, the cornerstone of a human being seen from the perspective of his duality.
Up to us
Now it is up to man - that is, up to us - to choose between life and Life. This means that there are different sources of life in the universe. As nature-born people, as personalities, we depend on the life force of nature. Although nature is also composed of divine atoms, the idea that binds the atoms, molecules and cells together, is not a concept of eternal being. In nature there is life and death; cohesion and decomposition. In nature, death always has the last word.
A person who realizes this and longs for liberation from the wheel of life and death, can choose to live out of another Word. He can turn to the center of his being and in that way reconnect with his archetype. It is this archetype, this creation of the Word, in which is Light and Life. That Life is the source of eternal Being.
We can live and die, or we can Live. We are beings with a natural and a divine part; we have both possibilities within us. If we choose nature then our spiritual origin remains dormant, unconscious as if in a deep sleep. If we choose our divine part, then the Word, the Sevenfold Spirit, will transform and renew both our personality and our whole being. Our consciousness will undergo a complete transformation. We will become one with the living spiritual universe. That Unity is Life. Because: In the Word is Life and that Life is the Light of men!