“The next idea which it is necessary to master is the materiality of the universe
which is taken in the form of the ray of creation. Everything in this universe can be
weighed and measured. The Absolute is as material, as weighable and measurable, as
the moon, or as man. If the Absolute is God it means that God can be weighed and
measured, resolved into component elements, ‘calculated,’ and expressed in the form
of a definite formula.
“But the concept ‘materiality’ is as relative as everything else. If we recall how the
concept ‘man’ and all that refers to him—good, evil, truth, falsehood, and so on—is
divided into different categories (‘man number one,’ ‘man number two,’ and so on, it
will be easy for us to understand that the concept ‘world,’ and everything that refers to
the world, is also divided into different categories. The ray of creation establishes
seven planes in the world, seven worlds one within another. Everything that refers to
the world is also divided into seven categories, one category within another. The
materiality of the Absolute is a materiality of an order different from that of ‘all
worlds.’ The materiality of ‘all worlds’ is of an order different from the materiality of
‘all suns.’ The materiality of ‘all suns’ is of an order different from the materiality of
our sun. The materiality of our sun is of an order different from the materiality of ‘all
planets.’ The materiality of ‘all planets’ is of an order different from the materiality of
the earth, and the materiality of the earth is of an order different from the materiality
of the moon. This idea is at first difficult to grasp. People are accustomed to think that
matter is everywhere the same. The whole of physics, of astrophysics, of chemistry,
such methods as spectroanalysis, and so on, are based upon this assumption. And it is
true that matter is the same, but materiality is different. And different degrees of
materiality depend directly upon the qualities and properties of the energy manifested
at a given point.
“Matter or substance necessarily presupposes the existence of force or energy. This
does not mean that a dualistic conception of the world is necessary. The concepts of
matter and force are as relative as everything else. In the Absolute, where all is one,
matter and force are also one. But in this connection matter and force are not taken as
real principles of the world in itself, but as properties or characteristics of the
phenomenal world observed by us. To begin the study of the universe it is sufficient to
have an elementary idea of matter and energy, such as we get by immediate
observation through our organs of sense. The ‘constant’ is taken as material, as matter,
and ‘changes’ in the state of the ‘constant,’ or of matter, are called manifestations of
force or energy. All these changes can be regarded as the result of vibrations or
undulatory motions which begin in the center, that is, in the Absolute, and go in all
directions, crossing one another, colliding, and merging together, until they stop altogether
at the end of the ray of creation.
“From this point of view, then, the world consists of vibrations and matter, or of
matter in a state of vibration, of vibrating matter. The rate of vibration is in inverse
ratio to the density of matter.
“In the Absolute vibrations are the most rapid and matter is the least dense. In the
next world vibrations are slower and matter denser; and further on matter is still more
dense and vibrations correspondingly slower.
” ‘Matter’ may be regarded as consisting of ‘atoms.’ Atoms in this connection are
taken also as the result of the final division of matter. In every order of matter they are
simply certain small particles of the given matter which are indivisible only on the
given plane. The atoms of the Absolute alone are really indivisible, the atom of the
next plane, that is, of world 3, consists of three atoms of the Absolute or, in other
words, it is three times bigger and three times heavier, and its movements are
correspondingly slower. The atom of world 6 consists of six atoms of the Absolute
merged together, as it were, and forming one atom. Its movements are
correspondingly slower. The atom of the next world consists of twelve primordial
particles, and of the next worlds, of twenty-four, forty-eight, and ninety-six. The atom
of world 96 is of an enormous size compared with the atom of world 1; its movements
are correspondingly slower, and the matter which is made up of such atoms is
“The seven worlds of the ray of creation represent seven orders of materiality. The
materiality of the moon is different from the materiality of the earth; the materiality of
the earth is different from the materiality of the planetary world; the materiality of the
planetary world is different from the materiality of the sun, and so on.
“Thus instead of one concept of matter we have seven kinds of matter, but our
ordinary conception of materiality only with difficulty embraces the materiality of
worlds 96 and 48. The matter of world 24 is much too rarefied to be regarded as
matter from the scientific point of view of our physics and chemistry; such matter is
practically hypothetical. The still finer matter of world 12 has, for ordinary
investigation, no characteristics of materiality at all. All these matters belonging to the
various orders of the universe are not separated into layers but are intermixed, or,
rather, they interpenetrate one another. We can get an idea of similar interpenetration
of matters of different densities from the penetration of one matter by another matter
of different densities known to us. A piece of wood may be saturated with water,
water may in its turn be filled with gas. Exactly the same relation between different
kinds of matter may be observed in the whole of the universe: the finer matters
permeate the coarser ones.
“Matter that possesses characteristics of materiality comprehensible to us is divided
for us into several states according to its density: solid, liquid, gaseous; further
gradations of matter are: radiant energy, that is, electricity, light, magnetism; and so
on. But on every plane, that is to say, in every order of materiality, similar relations
and divisions of the various states of a given matter may be found; but, as has been
already said, matter of a higher plane is not material at all for the lower planes.
“All the matter of the world that surrounds us, the food that we eat, the water that
we drink, the air that we breathe, the stones that our houses are built of, our own
bodies—everything is permeated by all the matters that exist in the universe. There is
no need to study or investigate the sun in order to discover the matter of the solar
world: this matter exists in ourselves and is the result of the division of our atoms. In
the same way we have in us the matter of all other worlds. Man is, in the full sense of
the term, a ‘miniature universe’; in him are all the matters of which the universe
consists; the same forces, the same laws that govern the life of the universe, operate in
him; therefore in studying man we can study the whole world, just as in studying the
world we can study man.
“But a complete parallel between man and the world can only be drawn if we take
‘man’ in the full sense of the word, that is, a man whose inherent powers are
developed. An undeveloped man, a man who has not completed the course of his
evolution, cannot be taken as a complete picture or plan of the universe—he is an
“As has been said already, the study of oneself must go side by side with the study
of the fundamental laws of the universe. The laws are the same everywhere and on all
planes. But the very same laws manifesting themselves in different worlds, that is,
under different conditions, produce different phenomena. The study of the relation of
laws to the planes upon which they are manifested brings us to the study of relativity.
“The idea of relativity occupies a very important place in this teaching, and, later on,
we shall return to it. But before anything else it is necessary to understand the
relativity of each thing and of each manifestation according to the place it occupies in
the cosmic order.
“We are on the earth and we depend entirely upon the laws that are operating on the
earth. The earth is a very bad place from the cosmic point of view—it is like the most
remote part of northern Siberia, very far from everywhere, it is cold, life is very hard.
Everything that in another place either comes by itself or is easily obtained, is here
acquired only by hard labor; everything must be fought for both in life and in the
work. In life it still happens sometimes that a man gets a legacy and afterwards lives
without doing anything. But such a thing does not happen in the work. All are equal
and all are equally beggars.
“Returning to the law of three, one must learn to find the manifestations of this law
in everything we do and in everything we study. The application of this law in any
sphere at once reveals much that is new, much that we did not see before. Take
chemistry, for instance. Ordinary science does not know of the law of three and it
studies matter without taking into consideration its cosmic properties. But besides
ordinary chemistry there exists another, a special chemistry, or alchemy if you like,
which studies matter taking into consideration its cosmic properties. As has been said
before, the cosmic properties of each substance are determined first by its place, and
secondly by the force which is acting through it at the given moment. Even in the same
place the nature of a given substance undergoes a great change dependent upon the
force which is being manifested through it. Each substance can be the conductor of
any one of the three forces and, in accordance with this, it can be active, passive, or
neutralizing. And it can be neither the first, nor the second, nor the third, if no force is
manifesting through it at the given moment or if it is taken without relation to the
manifestation of forces. In this way every substance appears, as it were, in four
different aspects or states. In this connection it must be noted that when we speak of
matter we do not speak of chemical elements. The special chemistry of which I speak
looks upon every substance having a separate function, even the most complex, as an
element. In this way only is it possible to study the cosmic properties of matter,
because all complex compounds have their own cosmic purpose and significance.
From this point of view an atom of a given substance is
the smallest amount of the given substance which retains all its chemical, physical,
and cosmic properties. Consequently the size of the ‘atom’ of different substances is
not the same. And in some cases an ‘atom’ may be a particle even visible to the naked
“The four aspects or states of every substance have definite names.
“When a substance is the conductor of the first or the active force, it is called
‘carbon,’ and, like the carbon of chemistry, it is designated by the letter C.
“When a substance is the conductor of the second or the passive force, it is called
‘oxygen,’ and, like the oxygen of chemistry, it is designated by the letter 0.
“When a substance is the conductor of the third or neutralizing force, it is called
‘nitrogen,’ and, like the nitrogen of chemistry, it is designated by the letter N.
“When a substance is taken without relation to the force manifesting itself through
it, it is called ‘hydrogen,’ and, like the hydrogen of chemistry, it is designated by the
“The active, the passive, and the neutralizing forces are designated by the figures 1,
2, 3, and the substances by the letters C, 0, N, and H. These designations must be
“Do these four elements correspond to the old four alchemical elements, fire, air,
water, earth?” asked one of us.
“Yes, they do correspond,” said G., “but we will use these. You will understand
excerpts from ISOM of P.D. Ouspensky