Unfinished Animal: The Aquarian Frontier and the Evolution of Consciousness

Unfinished Animal: The Aquarian Frontier and the Evolution of Consciousness

By Theodore Roszak
New York: Harper &Row, 1975. 271 pp.

Roszak begins by observing the increasing number of "bright, widely read, well-educated people whose style it has become to endorse and accept all thing occultly marvelous. In such circles, skepticism is a dead language, intellectual caution an outdated fashion" (2). His catalog of credulities is, if anything, modest by current standards. Cayce's psychic readings, pyramids built by ancient astronauts, or gone boxes, settlement: of the continents from Lemuria. "Such intellectual permissiveness," Roszak comments, "risks a multitude of sins, not the least of which is plain gullibility."

That observation does not, however, introduce an equally gullible Skeptical Inquirer expose. Instead, Roszak finds, "in this rising curiosity for the marvelous, the popular unfolding of an authentically spiritual quest" leading to "a transformation of human personality in progress which is of evolutionary proportions, a shift of consciousness fully as epoch-making as the appearance of speech or of the tool-making talents in our cultural repertory" (3).

Helena Blavatsky receives extended treatment: (117-25) as the founding mother of the pilgrimage to what: Roszak calls the "Aquarian Frontier," the recognition that consciousness evolves as well as body:

It is not HPB's controversial reputation or personal angularities that concern us here, but rather her ideas. For ultimately she stands or falls by the quality of her thinking, all arguments ad feminam aside. And in this regard, she is surely among the most original and perceptive minds of her time. [118]

HPB stands forth as a seminal talent of our time. Given the rudimentary condition of her sources, her basic intuition (or the teachings of the ancient occult- schools was remarkably astute. And there is no denying her precocity in recognizing how essential a contribution those schools, together with comparative mythology and the Eastern religions, had to make to the discussion of evolving consciousness. [124]

Above all, she is among the modern world's trailblazing psychologists of the visionary mind. At the same historical moment that Freud, Pavlov, and James had begun to formulate the secularized and materialist theory of mind that has so far dominated modern Western thought, HPB and her fellow Theosophists were rescuing from occult tradition and exotic religion a forgotten psychology of the superconscious and the extrasensory. [124]

In a footnote to the last statement, Roszak calls Annie Besant's 1904 lectures published as Theosophy and the New Psychology  "as fresh and ambitious a treatise on the higher sanity as anything produced by the latest consciousness research." It is refreshing to have Blavatsky and Besant given such forthright acknowledgment for their pioneering efforts in re-presenting the Wisdom Tradition of the ancients to modern people.


January/February 1999