And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. (Gen. 1:26â€“27 )
In verse twenty-six, three statements are made. First, God decides to make humanity and announces that decision. Second, humanity is to be made in the likeness of God, the plural pronoun â€œourâ€ suggesting that plurality is used by the Deity (Elohim) in reference to Itself, the totality of Intelligences. Third, humanity (also referred to as â€œthemâ€) is to have dominion over all preceding orders of creation. Clearly, as stated, the pronoun â€œourâ€ refers to Elohim, a plural name which in English translations erroneously tends to be regarded as singular and to be used with a singular verb. Note that after using the words â€œour imageâ€ in verse twenty-six, the statement is made in verse twenty-seven that Elohim created humanity (Adam in Heb.) in â€œhisâ€ own image, which suggests Elohim as a unity. While this may seem to be contradictory, it is not so in reality; for all divine attributes, powers and formative Intelligences are summed up in â€œElohim,â€ which makes a united whole of the active, manifesting God. From this point of view, at least, both plural and singular attributions are admissible.
Throughout this cosmogony the mental decision of Deity and its verbal expression are continually put forth as essential to the process of the emanation and fashioning of a universe. God first conceives mentally and then expresses vocally the name of whatever is about to be produced. This consigns to allegory the process of creation by sound or the â€œWord,â€ and personifies the various formative agencies, the Elohim, as one Being. It must always be remembered that the â€œCreatorâ€ is no single Being alone, and the importance of this fact justifies its many repetitions in this volume. Although a totality in unity, God should rather be described as the collective, natural agencies, forces and Intelligences which arise from within and emanate from the Absolute at the dawn of Manvantara. The use of the plural pronouns â€œusâ€ and â€œourâ€ in verse twenty-six is therefore highly suggestive, and indeed exact.
The decision attributed to the Deity to make humanity in â€œhis own imageâ€ introduces a profound and fundamental truth concerning humankindâ€”namely that the spiritual, intellectual, psychical and physical nature of humanity is a miniature replica of the whole Order of created beings and things. Humans, according to esoteric philosophy, are models of the totality of nature, containing within themselves the collective aggregate of all that ever has existed, that does at any time exist and that ever will exist throughout the eternity of eternities. This concept is also to be found in Kabbalism, where it is formulated somewhat as follows: Humanity may be regarded as a symbolic transparency through which the secrets of the cosmos may be discerned.
Humanity may also be looked upon as the waist of an hourglass through which passes the sand (creative power) from the upper receptacleâ€”the pastâ€”into the lower which represents the future. All must pass through the human kingdom; for potentially all exists within each individual, however great the degree of latency may be in this present epoch and however germinal as yet the possibility of the emanation and formation of future universes and cosmoi. Humanity is a microcosm, a miniature reproduction of the macrocosm, and is therefore rightly said to be made in the image of the Creator. The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu expressed this in his famous phrase: â€œThe universe is a man on a large scale.â€
In Genesis humanity, as natureâ€™s highest product up to that time, is also stated to have dominion over all earlier creations. At this point it is important to make clear the fact that humanity, said to be conceived and formed in the likeness of God, is not a new and separate production. Humanity preexisted as Monad (the divine Spirit of each human); and as an individual intelligence in human form it is the product of the slow process of the involution and evolution of the radiated ray or â€œthreadâ€ (current of spiritual life-force; a golden thread of continuous life upon which the seed atoms or nuclei of the seven bodies of humanity are â€œstrungâ€â€”A Study in Consciousness, A. Besant) of Monadic life through elemental, plant and animal kingdoms. There are three premineral kingdoms which are passed through by the radiated Monadic ray on the involutionary or descending arc. Arrival at the mineral kingdom marks the stage of deepest descent into matter. Thereafter the upward or evolutionary arc is entered upon, with the plant kingdom being the next embodiment of the ascending Monadic life. This phase is followed by entry into and passage through the animal, human and superhuman kingdoms. In the elemental, plant, and animal kingdoms, however, the deific potencies locked up and latent in the Monad experience diffuse and diverse manifestation as part of a Group Soul (the preindividualized manifestation of the human Monads when evolving through the mineral, the plant and the animal kingdoms of nature) embodied in many forms.
Natureâ€™s greatest miracle takes place when the summitâ€”mental, psychical and physicalâ€”of animal development is reached. The Monadic ray is then singly focusedâ€”rather like the sunâ€™s rays when brought to a point of light beneath a magnifying glassâ€”into one intellectual principle, to constitute a new-formed spiritual Soul, a nowborn higher human Self. It is this Monad-Ego, and not the temporary physical personality, which is made in the likeness of its Creator; for it contains within itself the potentialities of the collective agencies and forcesâ€”the Elohimâ€”as well as of all from which they emanate and could ever produce.
Such is the immortal, imperishable and eternal human, made in the image of her or his Creator; embodied in vehicles of flesh, emotion and mind; and made manifest in the three grossest densities of substance. As a totality, a unit, a consciousness with infinite potentialities, humanity is indeed greater than all preceding products of nature and in this sense only, I believe, may be said to have dominion over them.
In verse twenty-seven the most fundamental fact concerning humankind is first reiterated, demonstrating its importance in the minds of those inspired sages who discovered and gave to humanity the truths upon which the book of Genesis is founded. This Ageless Wisdom teaches that human as Monad is an infinite manifestation of the deific power, which in humans is as yet largely germinal, although becoming increasingly active. The means by which these latent potentialities in humans become active powers are then indicated. These means partly consist of successive incarnations in male and female bodies on Earth, in and through which the necessary masculine and feminine experience is gained and the dual evolution attained; for the human Monad develops from within itself the attributes of the first divine, creative Pair, the positive and negative potencies, as the result of the interaction of which the universe appears. Separate modes of manifestationâ€”in the opposite sexesâ€”are essential to the development of this threefold capacity inherent in the spiritual Soul of humans. Nature, if her purpose is to be fulfilled, must produce two separate physical organisms with the distinct experiences and functions of man and of woman; for only thus may the twofold expression and development be gained and human evolutionary progress be achieved.
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (Gen. 1:28)
While the more general significance of this verse is plainly apparent, it can also be interpreted as guidance to those who are passing through advanced phases of evolution. Admittedly no such instruction may have been intended; nevertheless the verse may possibly be thus interpreted in conformity with the method used by the writers of the sacred language of allegory and symbol.
As observed elsewhere in this work, there are two phases of unfoldment of very great importance in the evolution of the human Monad. One of these is its attainment of individual self-existence as the spiritual Soul of a human being, the immortal Self in its vesture of light. The second development occurs much later in human evolution. After a considerable number of incarnations in successive civilizations and nations, realization of spiritual identity with the Logos, and through the Logos with all that lives, begins to be attained. This profoundly affects the outlook of the physical personality. Love for the life in all beings, service to that life in sentient forms, and a reduction of the sense of separated selfhood, eventually to the vanishing point, find expression in the enlightened human. When this phase becomes sufficiently established in both the inner and the outer individualities, a spiritual Teacher guides the neophyteâ€™s further development and eventually presents her or him as a candidate for initiation into the still existing greater Mysteries, and for admission to the Great White Brotherhood of initiates and Adepts which exists from eternity to eternity.
One of the several possible interpretations of the scriptures and mythologies of ancient peoplesâ€”as previously mentionedâ€”reveals the guidance and training thus received. Since, when applied, these bestow great mental and thaumaturgical powers, they are concealed from the profane by the use of symbolic language. Since the resultant knowledge could be of great value in both the worldly and the spiritual life, digressions from the main textual theme are, as now, occasionally made in order to include it in these volumes.
Reference to Chapter 7 of Volume I of this work will show that in the cipher of the Bible, physical objects, inanimate and animate, and certain key words have a special significance. Among these the Earth itself and the members of the subhuman kingdoms of nature are used to symbolize humanityâ€™s more earthy and animal characteristics.
Thus interpreted, this verse may usefully be regarded as direction to the candidate for initiation to subdue her or his lower nature. In this sense the references to the Earth, the sea and its denizens, the air and the birds and to â€œevery living thing that moveth upon the earthâ€ are to the undesirable aspects (earthy and animal-like) of the candidateâ€™s purely human characteristics, which it is humanityâ€™s task and destiny wholly to transmute into their corresponding higher attributes. This is especially important to the aspirant to the spiritual life who is hastening beyond the normal speed the evolution of the spiritual Self to the stature of the perfect human.
And God said, Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. (Gen. 1:29)
This verse can be more easily interpreted in a purely physical sense. A statement is made of the ideal food for the human physical bodyâ€”natureâ€™s plan for the nutriment of humankind. Plants are said to be the source of that food, and from this it may be assumed that divergence from the divine plan is fraught with peril to both the Soul and the body of humans. Presumably the danger partly arises from the inevitable infliction of unnecessary pain and the act of killing sentient beings, the animals; for such actions must constitute crimes against that perfect harmony which is a fundamental law of nature. The discord generated by cruelty reacts upon humanity as suffering. When, furthermore, humans disobey the command given in the verse to use as food selected products of the plant kingdom, the severity of the reaction is even greater. One form which this may take is to produce in the human body susceptibility to and suffering from disease.
Thus divine and natural ordinances are given for the well-being of the human physical body and the purity and stainlessness of the human Soul. Departure from these spiritual and physical rules of life may be assumed in large measure to contribute to the sufferings of humanity. To have dominion over the animals does not mean to exploit and oppress them. Rather the verse states the relative positions of humanity and the members of the lower kingdoms on the ladder of evolution.
And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.
And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.
And the evening and the morning were the sixth day. (Gen. 1:30â€“31)
The first of these two verses further indicates that not only humanity, but also all creatures were originally intended to be plant feeders. Departure by humans from this ordinance may have its place among the factors which changed the face of nature so radically from the original harmony and harmlessness of the Garden of Eden, the primeval world, to the tragic discordance of the post-Eden period. Indeed, it might almost be permissible to see in the increase of meat-eating and of cruelty to animals in more modern times primal causes of the steadily mounting human suffering from disease and war.
The completion of the whole work of Creation in six days is a chronological error. According to esoteric philosophy the total number of major Manvantaras and Pralayas, or successive periods of evolutionary activity and of restâ€”the â€œdaysâ€ and â€œnightsâ€ in Genesisâ€”should be seven. This point is further discussed in the commentary on verse two of the second chapter of Genesis.