Henry T. Laurency

and the Revival of Hylozoics

by Lars Adelskogh


The Swedish writer Henry T. Laurency is practically unknown outside Scandinavia. It is a pity, because he wrote with admirable clarity on a subject that more and more people think is the most essential: the meaning of life. He treated the subject both in the universal perspective, what we call a world view, and from the stand-point of human practicality, and formulated a life view.

There is little to say of the man Laurency. He died a very old man in 1971. The name he used on his books was a pseudonym. It is obvious that he chose to remain anonymous for some private reason, so let us respect his right to obscurity.

He wrote his books, The Philosopher’s Stone and The Knowledge of Reality in his native Swedish and published them in 1950 and 1961, respectively. As his masterpiece, The Philosopher's Stone, now has been published in English, there is a good prospect for that revival of hylozoics which he considered most valuable for mankind's spiritual growth.

What then is hylozoics about? In his two books, Laurency presents a detailed and concrete world-picture and psychology. He says that he does not speculate on his own but systematizes ancient esoteric (hidden) knowledge. His basis is the Pythagorean secret school of knowledge (hylozoics), which was founded in Sicily 700 B.C. We know that this school exercised an enormous influence on the Greek culture at the time. The Ionian natural philosophers and, later, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle took strong impulses from its teachings. Platoism, which has been so important for Western culture, is actually an offshoot of the hylozoic school.

The Pythagoreans kept their teachings secret to outsiders. However, since the end of the 19th century there has been a continuous process of publicizing formerly esoteric knowledge. Helena P. Blavatsky (1831–1891) and Alice A. Bailey (1880–1949) were particularly important in this work. It is interesting to see that both H.P.B. and A.A.B. expressly stated that they took a basically hylozoic view of reality. However, only Laurency publicized the very system. He did it, moreover, in a simple manner and with a clear terminology free from vague symbolism. He presents a straight message in modern terms and shows its applicability on human and social problems.

A simple presentation of hylozoics for the general reader could be made in many ways. I have chosen to state just a few basic ideas and discuss their relevance for an outlook acceptable to both idealism and science: the three aspects of reality is alive, evolution, the monads, the unity of consciousness, laws in everything.


The Three Aspects of Reality

The word hylozoics could be translated as 'spiritual materialism'. This implies that there is a spiritual and a material reality. Any world view that wants to exclude either aspect of reality, is untenable in the long run. We are used to doctrines that make a sharp distinction between a spiritual, or higher, world and a material, or lower, world. Hylozoics has another view-point, however, than ordinary philosophy or religion.

Pythagoras abolished the opposition of spirit and matter, explaining that it resulted from ignorance of both. He taught that everything is matter and that universal matter possesses spirit, or consciousness. Thus matter and consciousness are two aspects of the same reality. A third aspect is motion.

The whole cosmos and everything in the cosmos has these three aspects. There is no matter devoid of consciousness (even though it still be potential). No consciousness can exist without a material basis; and motion manifests in matter as energy and in consciousness as will.

The three aspects of life are equivalent. None can be identified with or explained from any of the other two. Nor can anyone of them be explained from anything else. You cannot define them, just observe that they are self-evident. Therefore, they are absolute, and in their totality they ultimately explain everything.

Philosophical and scientific materialism has taken just the outer reality, the objective matter aspect into account. The inner reality, however, the subjective consciousness aspect of emotion, thought, etc., is as absolute and peculiar, and cannot be equated with objective phenomena such as chemical and electrical changes in nerve-cells.

On the other hand, so-called philosophical idealism has left the matter aspect out of account and asserted that objective reality was subjective experience only. The consequence of this view is absurd: everything material is mere illusion.

In contemporary physics, they say that “everything is energy”. According to hylozoics, energy is matter in motion. It remains for science to discover consciousness is that dynamic matter, discover the universal existence of consciousness.

Perhaps it is clear from the above examples of one-sided views that all three aspects must be taken into account for our world view to be complete so as not to mislead us.

Everything Is Alive

When hylozoics says that all matter has consciousness, this of course does not imply that consciousness manifests in the same way in all kinds of matter. As there are various life-forms, so there are various kinds of consciousness in them. A man can think, imagine and make plans, which animals cannot do in most cases. His consciousness is much more extensive than that of higher animals, not to speak of lower organisms.

Although animals cannot think as we can, yet they display intelligent behaviour. They act purposively, flexibly, show they have a will of their own, they remember and they learn. One-sided materialism holds the brain, or at least the nervous system, to be a necessary condition of consciousness. However, this view must yield in the face of recent discoveries.

The coli bacterium, the most primitive organism, consists of just one cell. It has neither a brain, nor even a head or a heart. It has just one DNA molecule as a chromosome and a life time of but a few minutes. Yet it can learn to recognise various chemical substances, remember them, evince a purposive behaviour in swimming towards ‘pleasant’ substances and away from ‘unpleasant’ ones. According to biochemist Koshland, who made these observations, the bacteria display individual behaviour despite their genes and environment being identical. They develop personalities which remain to the end of their lives.

However, bacteria are organisms. It is clear all the same that the border line between organic and inorganic matter does not set a bound for life itself. Also mineral life forms give proof of intelligent adaption to their environment. It is well-known, for instance, that many substances must learn to crystallize. Having had the experience of it once, they find it much easier later. No two crystals of the same chemical composition are entirely identical, but have their peculiarities and individual patterns of reaction – habits. These must be due to unique experiences and memories.

Science has begun discovering the consciousness aspect of existence, “the soul of things”, hitherto much ignored. Tomkins and Bird have given many examples of “green intelligence” in their book, The Secret Life of Plants. Also Sheldrake has gone even farther in his book, A New Science of Life. In it he suggests that all forms of nature, organic and inorganic (so-called lifeless) are preceded by and constructed from invisible morphogenetic (Greek for “form-furnishing”) fields that act intelligently and in a manner aiming to wholeness. The idea is in harmony with hylozoics.

There is some sort of consciousness in everything. In actual fact, all forms of nature are forms of life, since there exists nothing lifeless. But how do we account for the differences there are in quality, extension and intensity of consciousness? Hylozoics says they are due to different degrees of consciousness evolved in various forms of life. Alongside chemical and biological evolution there is also a psychological evolution.


The Evolution of Consciousness

What does “evolution of consciousness” actually mean? The acquisition of new and more favourable inner qualities, the loss of older and less favourable ones, the winning of new abilities which increase the prospects of the individual to choose and thus give him greater freedom.

Where man is concerned, evolution means that worse qualities are superseded by better ones in the direction of the ideal. This should imply: a deeper sympathy, a stronger empathy, a better understanding, a sharper intellect and a firmer will. It should also lead to greater ability in more spheres of action. Evolution also implies that the various conflicting elements of the personality are balanced into a greater harmony (the 'lower self' is put under the control of the 'higher self').

We who are humans now have qualities and abilities thanks to having developed to this stage from total unconsciousness and impotence. Perhaps you think of the development only from the pre-natal stage to a mature man or woman. According to hylozoics, however, that development is just a quick repetition. Entirely new qualities and abilities cannot be so quickly acquired. We are human and can reach human maturity because we have been human beings many times before. Reincarnation is a principle running through all life.

When we are born into a new life, we have human qualities latently from thousands of previous lives. The faster we reach human maturity and the deeper that maturity is, the more lives we have lived before and the richer was their content. Memories from these former lives are not directly accessible in our waking consciousness (but how much do we remember from our earliest years of the life we are living now?). The general experience we have had in previous incarnations can quickly be roused from the slumber of latency, however, when we are faced with similar situations anew. This explains not just different depths in the understanding of life in different people but also their innate predispositions, talents, genius, “All knowledge is but remembrance”, said Plato who was a Pythagorean.

Differences in degree of consciousness among men thus is due to the fact that some people are older and others are younger 'souls'; and if men, animals, vegetables and inorganic matter are included in one great context of life – evolution – then the various kingdoms of nature can be explained as the chief successive stages of that evolution.

Hylozoics does explain this. We have been able to become man for the first time – thousands of incarnations ago – because we had reached as far as was possible in the preceding natural kingdom. The animal kingdom could not teach us anything more. Correspondingly, we have existed as plants during still earlier epochs, and before even those we were minerals.

The biological evolution of the forms of life concerns the refinement of material envelopes for the benefit of the indwelling life. Evolution has furnished the instruments that were necessary for the development of consciousness. Throughout the animal kingdom and up to man, we can trace the refinement of the nervous system and the brain as the essential of the evolution of matter; and yet, the brain is just a tool for consciousness.

The evolution of consciousness is the meaning of life.


The Monads

A life-form is worn out, it dies and dissolves, but the consciousness that was in it passes on in a new form. How is this possible? For if consciousness always has a material basis, then that basis must be something different from, and more enduring than, the brain and nervous system.

Hylozoics explains it thus: the individual consciousness in every life-form is bound up with an indestructible material core, which remains after the dissolution of the form. Pythagoras called that core the monad. He said that the monad was divine in essence. By that he meant that it is possible for the monad to expand its consciousness and will as to eventually embrace the entire cosmos, and reach cosmic omniscience and omnipotence.

The hylozoic term, monad, can be translated as “self-atom”. Monads consist of matter like everything else in the universe. But in contrast to all other matter, monads are not composed of atoms. They are indivisible atoms themselves; the building blocks of everything in the cosmos.

We are used to regarding man as a body that (possibly) has a soul. Perhaps we understand that it is the other way round: man is a soul that has a body; or expressed more exactly: a monad that has a physical life-form.

If by death we mean the definite end of life, then there is no 'death' in the entire cosmos. There is just dissolution of temporary envelopes for the monads, their life forms. Since life-forms are composed of cells, molecules, atoms, physical atoms, etc., those forms must dissolve into their component parts sooner or later. Since the monad is uncompounded, however, being just one primordial atom, it cannot dissolve. It is immortal.

Also, like all matter, monads have consciousness. To begin with and before the monads have entered into life-forms, their consciousness is just potential – not yet awakened. Life-forms are the necessary instruments which the monads need in order to awaken into consciousness and, subsequently, to develop it more and more. When consciousness awakens, the monad becomes a self in life-form.

The consciousness of the monad develops consecutively in the mineral, vegetable, animal and human kingdoms. The monad is in every kingdom a unitary and indestructible self. But only in the human kingdom does it become conscious of itself.

Monads are the building blocks of everything. They are those primordial atoms of which physical cells, molecules, atoms and sub-atomic particles ultimately consist. Why do we say then that one monad is the inmost core of consciousness in every life-form? The life-form consists of nothing but monads, does it not?

The explanation is in the very different degree of consciousness developed in the monads. The monads that collectively build physical atoms and thus indirectly the forms of physical matter, have an undeveloped consciousness, relatively speaking. They function mainly as material primordial atoms. The little consciousness they have is just sufficient to fulfil functions in the life of atoms and cells. A relatively small number of the immense multitude of monads have reached such a degree of developed consciousness that they can each take possession of a life-form as their own and be its dominant consciousness – its ‘self’. However, all monads will reach that stage eventually and be selves in minerals, plants, animals and human beings.


The Unity of Consciousness

Nothing exists in isolation, but everything affects everything else. Nay, even more: everything mirrors and perceives everything else. With that degree of clarity this is done is another matter and shows the degree of consciousness developed; and ‘everything’ is a being at some stage of development.

We are all one another in some way. We  all make up a common consciousness. Like all water-droplets are united in the ocean, so the individual consciousness of all monads is united in one common total consciousness. This is the cosmic total consciousness of which every monad has an inalienable part.

The most important thing to know of the nature of consciousness is its unity. There is just one consciousness in the entire cosmos. But we humans are still too primitive to apprehend unity. It is only when the sense of responsibility – not just for ourselves or our family or even a nation, but for all life – awakens in us that we begin to perceive the consciousness of unity. In actual fact, we are all – minerals, plants, animals and human beings – included in ever greater hierarchies of life.

If consciousness undergoes evolution, if the monads form hierarchies of life from minerals to human beings, then why should all this end with humans? If the self is immortal and develops continually in new forms, then this evolution must eventually lead the self to a superhuman stage. This is true of all who are now human. From the logical point of view, however, there must even now exist beings that have already attained to superhuman levels of insight and ability. They are the continuation of the hierarchies of life beyond the human.

These hierarchies of superhuman beings are, according to hylozoics, the intelligent forces that direct the entire process of evolution, the cosmic total will that sets its direction and goal. This idea is not overly fantastic; a modern scientist like Rupert Sheldrake considers it as a possible hypothesis. The following ideas, taken from his book, A New Science of Life, accord wholly with hylozoics:

“If such a hierarchy of conscious selves exist, then those at higher levels might well express their creativity through those at lower levels. And if such a higher-level creative agency acted through human consciousness, the thoughts and actions to which it gave rise might actually be experienced as coming from an external source. This experience of inspiration is in fact well known.

Moreover, if such ‘higher selves’ are immanent within nature, then it is conceivable that under certain conditions human beings might become directly aware that they were embraced or included within them. And in fact the experience of an inner unity with life, or the earth, or the universe, has often been described, to the extent that it is expressible.”


Laws In Everything

The basic axiom of hylozoics says that “there are laws in everything and everything is expressive of law”. In a cosmos where nothing remains the same from one split second to another, the only constancy to be sought, and found, concerns the relations that determine change. These constant relations are called laws. The more our knowledge is extended, the more laws we discover. Finally we realize that nothing is without law. Essential knowledge is knowledge of immutable laws, not of individual or transient phenomena.

Laws of nature concern the evolution of material forms and are discovered by science. Laws of life determine the evolution of consciousness in the forms and are described in hylozoics. Both kinds of law are particularly expressive of the motion aspect: they show the mode of action of cosmic total energy and cosmic total will, respectively.

These are some of the most important laws of life where humans are concerned:

The law of freedom says that every man is his own freedom and his own law, that freedom is gained through law. Freedom is the right to individual character and activity within the equal right of all.

The law of unity says that all beings form a unity. Every man must realize his unity with all life, show his realization in action by serving life, in order to expand his consciousness beyond his individual self.

The law of development is the law of purpose, or finality. It says that all life – from the lowest to the highest – develops; that forces actions in certain ways towards certain goals, that in the last analysis lead to the cosmic final goal. Every monad is a potential god and will some time, through the process of evolution, become an actual god (to realise the highest kind of consciousness possible).

The law of self-realization says that every man must himself – by his own work – acquire all the qualities and abilities necessary for his further development and final omniscience and omnipotence.

The law of destiny is a law of opportunity. It says that the individual in each new life-form is affected by forces and put into situations that afford him the experiences for him, on his particular level of evolution.

The law of reaping is a law of cause and effect. It says that whatever we have sown, that we must reap some time. Everything we have done in thought, feeling speech and action – or omitted to do – is returned to us with the same effect.

The law of activation says that all life and development is activity, that man develops only through activity from within his consciousness, activity initiated by himself.

The law of good says that every man obeys the highest good he really understands, not by compulsion but because it is a need and a joy for him to be able to do so.


© Lars Adelskogh.


First published as “What is Hylozoics?” in the Beacon – A magazine of esoteric philosopy, presenting the principles of the Ageless Wisdom as a contemporary way of life, January-February 1982. pp.215-216.


LA November 24, 2007.