The Noetic Reality

The Divine Ontocosm

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The first stage in the Chain of Manifestation is for the Supreme One Reality to become Many while still retaining the sense of Cosmic and Absolute Unity; a Multiplicity in Unity, so to speak.  Here we have the beginning of finite manistestation, of existence in a sense individualised or differentiated from (yet still identified with) the Supreme One Itself.

Thus there come about the revealed or Manifest Godhead (as opposed to the Unmanifest Godhead of the Absolute); the Pleroma of the Gnostics; the Shuddha or "Pure" tattvas (evolutes) of Kashmir Shaivism; the Universal Man or Logos, and also (from a different orientation) the Universe of Lahut or Divinity, in Sufi teachings; Atzilut in the Kabbalistic tradition; or the Overmind in the teachings of Poet-Yogi Sri Aurobindo.

H.P. Blavatsky refers to this ontocosm as the Atmic region or Atala.

 "It emanates directly from ABSOLUTENESS and is the first something in the Universe.  Its correspondence is the Hierarchy of non-substantial [i.e. pure Spirit] primordial Beings....This Hierarchy contains the primordial plane, all that was, is, and will be, from the beginning to the end of the Mahamanvantara [Cosmic Cycle, Kalpa]; all is there....Here are the Hierarchies of the Dhyani Buddhas.  There state is that of Parasamadhi, of the Dharmakaya; a state where no progress is possible.  The entities there may be said to be crystallised in purity..."
 ["Notes on Some Oral Teachings, in The Secret Doctrine, Adyar Edition, vol V, p.539]

"No progress is possible" because these are, in Sri Aurobindo's phrase, "typal beings" [Letters on Yoga, Vol I, p.***]; they represent transcendent Spiritual Archetypes.  Yet even here there can still be transformation, for nothing in the Cosmos is absolutely static.

The distinction between the Divine Many or Archetypal Hierarchies and the Supreme One or Absolute Godhead is described by many different esoteric writers.  Plotinus distinguishes between the One and the Nous, the former totally unitary, the latter containing the multi-plicity of Platonic Archetypes or Idea-forms in a state of eternity and bliss.  The Gnostics speak of Aeons or Divine Powers that emanate from the ineffable transcendent Spirit or "Fore-Father", to make up the Pleroma, the "fullness" or "completeness" of the transcendent Spiritual Universe.  The 5th/6th Century Christian Neoplatonist Dionysius the Aeropagate distinguishes between the Revealed and the Unknown Godhead: the three Persons of the triune God and the ineffable "supra-essential"  Unity from which they emerge.  A similiar idea is to be had in the various sects of Tantric and Tibetan Buddhism, with its iconography of the five Tathagata Buddhas that emerge from the original Dharmakaya or "Truth Body" of the Buddha, or the original Vairocona or Adibuddha.  The Kabbalists likewise distinguish between the quality-less En Sof and the the ten Sefirot or Divine Attributes which emerge successively from it and constitute the World of Atzilut; the Revealed Godhead as opposed to the Ineffable Godhead.  And Sri Aurobindo speaks of the difference between the infinite, unitary Truth-consciousness or Supermind (the Manifest Absolute), which is total unity, and the Overmind which "takes all Truth that comes down to it from the Supermind, but sets up each Truth as a seperate force and idea" [The Hour of God, p.84].  This Overmind includes the "Great Gods" which oversee the Cosmos; hence the many Godheads emerge from the one Supreme Godhead.  Such examples could obviously be multiplied indefinitely.

The horizontal division of Godheads

The subdivisions of the divine ontocosm

The Divine Ontocosm not only consists of a "horizontal" diversity or hierarchy of Gods or Archetypes, but can also turn be divided "vertically" into further ontocosms or planes.  In Sethian and Basilidian Gnosticism the Aeons that emanate successively from the transcendent Spirit or from the preceeding Aeon are not only Divine Powers but also heavens or spiritual planes of existence as well: the term Aeon meaning not only "eternity" but also universe (c.f. the Hebrew olam and Arabic alam).

Again, the Trika cosmology of Kashmir Shaivism has the unitary Shiva-Shakti polarity passing through successive stages of polarisation and manifestation: the Sadashiva, Ish-wara, and Sadvidya tattwas.

In the cosmologies of the great Persian Sages Avicenna and Suhrawardi, there is a transcendent order of Intellects or Lights or Archangels that emerge in sequence from the Supreme Godhead, and constitute a gradational series, the so-called "longitudinal" Lights or world of mothers (ummahat) of Suhrawardi.

And Lurianic Kabbalah expressed a complex division of the Divine universes, beginning with the five partzufim of Adam Kadmon, the Supra-Cosmic Godheadic Personality) and progressing through the five Partzufim and ten sefirot of Atzilut, each subdivided into its component Partzufim and Sefirot, and all being seen as the multifaceted aspects of a single Divinity.

Finally, we have seen, more recently, that Blavatsky and subsequent theosophists (e.g. Alice Bailey) refer to seven Kosmic Planes, with their various component Planes.  With the exception of the lowest Kosmic Plane, these all refer to superior Divine regions of existence.

Following these, and other, sources, I would broadly posit four divine planes or hypostases that make up the Divine Ontocosm: the Absolute Divine, Transcendent Divine, Higher Divine, and Creative Divine Realities.

 These four stages of Divine existence can be represented diagrammatically:

Unmanifest Godhead (Eternal/Infinite)
Unmanifest Absolute Reality
Manifest Absolute Reality
Divine Ontocosm 
or Manifest Godhead
(Unfolds through emanation)
1. Absolutic Divinity
2. Transcendent Godheads
3. More Manifest Godheads
4. Demiurgic Reality (Supreme Creators)
Creation - Archangelic and lower ontocosms (finite)
Lesser Creators and Spiritual Hierarchies

The Hypostases of Divine and Supreme existence.

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page history

page uploaded 19 June 1998
revised 20 July
revised again 18 April 1999