by R.B. Holt
as published in “Theosophical Siftings” - Volume 7 [1894-1895]
[Page 3] THERE are very few who have not at some time or other asked themselves, " How is it that I know, and what are these successive stages of perception that we summarise as life ? " Madame Blavatsky recommends us to bring all things down to states of consciousness. That is, to strip mask after mask from each phenomenon, till at last we realise that our knowledge of things is all that they are, or can be, to us; nay, that the Soul itself is nothing beyond thinking, i.e., evolved "consciousness", and ["Yoga Sutra of Patanjali" Page 5] that Chidakasam, the field of consciousness, is the only one permanent condition in the Universe. Clearly then, a right understanding of [Secret Doctrine, Volume 2, Page 598] consciousness or "the power by which things realise themselves" is a [Raja Yoga. Sri Vâkya-Sudhâ, Page 1] matter of primary importance to everyone. Therefore, without pretending to any authority, I will endeavour to place before you what leading occultists say on this interesting subject, and in passing, I will make such comments on their teaching as may seem right and reasonable to me.
Well, we are told that "matter, life, form and
consciousness constitute our lower quaternary and this is dominated by the angel incarnate." If [Thoughts
on the Bhagavad Gita, Page 119] we
can succeed in strengthening this hypothesis we shall have done something towards solving the mystery of being,
before which Western philosophers admit that their "science stands baffled and appalled". But
in attempting this we must never forget the caution given us by H.P.B., that [Heredity, Page 68] " no
Theosophist ought to claim infallibility for anything he may say or [Secret Doctrine, Volume 2, Page
640] write on occult matters."
The Oriental view of this subject is well expressed in “Thoughts on the Bhagavad Gita”, where we read, " If you grant that the entire cosmos is one vast machine with a most beautiful adjustment of parts manifested on the atomic basis, you must also grant that beneath this objective aspect and serving as its support there must be a psychical manifestation which [Thoughts on the Bhagavad Gita, Page 44] may be called force-matter. Further, below this there must be the cosmos made up of the substance of consciousness. This substance is, of course, subjective to us and is described in the Puranas as a kind of Tejas or pure flame". This is the cosmic aspect, in which Parabrahm stands in the same relation to consciousness that the Ego does on our plane.
Now it is self-evident that a man must be before he can become conscious, even of his own being, and that till he distinguishes the " I " from the "Not I", individuality does not exist to him, therefore that "being" may well be regarded as the substance of consciousness. How we "are" [Page 4] the wisest of us cannot say, but all thinkers intuitively predicate a boundless Be-ness in which countless millions of correlated Individualities live, move, and have their being. Observation teaches us that each of these Individualities has its degree of consciousness, and as consciousness is unthinkable apart from intelligence, while every effect necessitates a cause, we logically endeavour to satisfy our need to know by concluding that there is a universal Intelligence which is the prototype of our mental manhood. Having done this, we regard our physical bodies as the tangible manifestations of special ideas which are first intuited in the consciousness of this universal Intelligence, and then demonstrated as particular beings. Beyond this we cannot go, for we cannot think of Kosmos as non-existent, while as Max Muller well says, [Anthropological Religion" Page 98] "To attempt to know what a thing is by itself, is to know a thing as we do not know it, i.e., noumenally. Nothing can be real to us unless it submits to be phenomenal. Nothing can be objective to us except in the forms of our subjective consciousness". While Dvivedi tells us: 'An Advaitin takes the material universe as it is and at once questions [Raja Yoga, Page 23] himself what are the objects around him. He concludes that as consciousness can never transcend itself, and as objects are only perceptible by a series of changes reflected in and through this very consciousness, the nature of a thing per se can never be known. That it is is a fact beyond dispute, what it is beyond a certain name and form it is difficult or impossible to say. It is absurd to think of existence without consciousness or thought, and all objects, even prime matter, are compounds of thought and being". Thus the occultist and scientist are practically agreed, and H.P.B. says that Occultism teaches that "an Absolute Deity, having to be unconditioned [Secret Doctrine, Volume 2, Page158] and unrelated, cannot be thought of at the same time as an active, creating, and living God, without an immediate degradation of the ideal".
Therefore the Cause of all causes is ever inscrutable
to us, and the constant alternations of cause and effect are but another form of the old philosophical crux
as to whether hens existed before eggs, or eggs were anterior to hens. Let us then not waste our time over
such unprofitable speculations, but admitting that each of us is an incarnated intelligence, possessed of
finite powers, but infinite possibilities, endeavour by means of occult teaching to get a right understanding
of what is termed consciousness.
Scientifically consciousness is defined " (1) as the knowledge of sensations and mental operations, or of what passes in one's own mind: the act of the mind which makes known an internal object; (2) immediate knowledge of any object whatever". Thus, even in the common acceptation of the term, consciousness is knowledge beyond either thought or sensation. In this, science is in accord with Occultism] which teaches that, "on every plane, perceptive life proper, i.e., consciousness, begins on the astral plane'' and that "it is not the physical or objective molecules which see, hear, etc." [Page 5] while both science and Occultism would admit that these molecules are instruments through which consciousness cognizes man's correlation with other forms of being.
But here Occultism uses a special term, and that a very perplexing one, for it can hardly be said to have either a definite or a uniform meaning. Etymologically, "astral" should have some reference to the stars, but in Occultism this is rarely the case. Mrs. Besant tells us "that it is applied to [Small Glossary, Page 5] all kinds of matter too subtle to be sensed by our present organs". This appears to mean that the term is used to designate the physical elements of things which, to most of us, exist only as possible perceptions. Then "Astral is identified with shining, pellucid in various degrees, from a quite filmy to a vascid state". [Secret Doctrine, Volume 2, Page 251] In another place it is translated "Invisible".
But Franz Hartmann explains that in Occultism a star means a state, while a fixed star is a fixed state of a power in nature, a manifestation of Universal Life or All-Consciousness, and this we may take to be the real meaning of it. [Occult Science in Medicine", Page 2]
"The Astral plane is identified with the next higher order of matter [Small Glossary, Page 5] than that which our present senses perceive, and therefore its vibrations do not affect them. The finer senses, however, which lie waiting to be developed in each of us can perceive astral matter, as in Clairvoyance". It is also called "The Nerve Plane" and "Psychic World of super-sensuous Perceptions, and of deceptive sight" [The Voice of the Silence, Page 75] , while Astral Light is defined as [Secret Doctrine, Volume 1, Page 253] "Electro-magnetic Ether, the vital and luminous caloric", " Primordial [ ibid, Page 73] Principle, the Wisdom of Chaos", " The Mother: the Cosmic Soul," and [ ibid, Page 361] is said to be " The Generator and Destroyer of all forms". [Isis Unveiled, Volume 1, Page 138]
Consciousness then belongs to a plane that is still physical, though the matter of it is extremely rarefied. The idea appears to be that we have an intangible counterpart of our tangible body; that this counterpart has finer organs of sense, which correspond with our physical organs, take up the vibrations transmitted by them, and recreate the form which first imparted a special aggregate of motion to the molecules which had been differentiated as an organ of sense. But beyond even this is "the ultimate recipient of knowledge, [ “Yoga Sutras of Patanjali”,by Manilal Nabhubhai Dvivedi, Page 31] the real Self, Purusha", "the Divine Self", "the ideal male part of [Secret Doctrine, Volume 2, Page 574] the Astral Light" . " Purusha is all knowledge; the indescribable cause and [Secret Doctrine, Volume 1, Page 196] essence of consciousness", " while as the sole attributes of Atma are Be-ness, [Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, Page 59] consciousness and bliss" it is really very difficult to discriminate between ["Meditations of Vasudeva", Volume 5, Page 57] them, in fact Hartmann asserts that "Spirit is consciousness on every plane of existence" ["Occult Science in Medicine", Page 64] , and he continues, "There is no dead matter in the universe: each thing is a representation of a state of consciousness in [Occult Science in Medicine, Page 78] nature, even if its state of consciousness differs from ours, and is therefore beyond the reach of our recognition; everything is a manifestation of Mind even if it does not exhibit any intelligent functions, or what we are capable [Page 6] of recognising as such." While in the " Meditations of Vasudeva " we read, page 66, “Atma through the vehicles of Maya and Avidya attains the states of Ishwara and Jiva just as a man becomes a father and grandfather”. They are only different states of one being.
Of course it is impossible to give tangible proof of intangible substance to those who can use only physical organs, but do we not constantly accept other evidence in parallel cases ? The Moons of Mars are invisible to an unaided vision, yet we accept the testimony of competent witnesses and give a qualified assent to the existence of those orbs. Now just as we believe astronomers when they tell us that anyone who looks in the right direction at the right time, through a suitable telescope, will see Deimos and Phobos revolving round the distant planet, so do occultists believe it is possible that certain men and women possess abnormal organs of sight which enable them to discern astral bodies as readily as we do physical bodies. To make the parallel perfect we are also told that though these organs have been atrophied in most men, still the use of them can be regained by suitable means, and that everyone who re-evolves them can [Isis Unveiled, Volume 2, Page 558] see for himself that the astral body does exist; that it is unquestionably [Notes on the Bhagavad Gita, Page 26] "the real, animal man", "The seat of his lower nature", "The senseless [Secret Doctrine, Volume 2, Page 241] mode of the physical man".
In “Notes on the Bhagavad Gita”, Page 82, Subba Row tells us that "an aura composes its Upadhi, or vehicle, and that behind this aura there is the energy which is the basis of the feeling of Self , " i.e., of Consciousness.
According to scientific observation, muscular contractility and molecular change are the transmitters of sensation up to the limits of physical sensibility, but this is utterly inconclusive. It tells us nothing about the "Being" who feels. Occultism asserts that "it is not the" physical or objective molecules which see, hear," etc., but that there is an intangible recipient of tangible motion, and then tells us that "self-consciousness begins between Kama and Manas, i.e., between form and mind.
Here "form" appears to signify the definite idea of a physical body, which has arrived at the critical condition immediately preceding objectivity, and which may transiently become the image of a tangible being, while mind may stand for the digestive force of a sort of spiritual stomach, through the action of which, the idea, embodied in the tangible being, is absorbed by the Inner Self, and so becomes actual knowledge. If we make a distinction between feeling and our knowledge of that feeling, and try to understand how the one becomes the other, we seem to get some notion of the meaning of the text. The question is argued thus, [Raja Yoga by Sri Vâkya-Sudhâ. Page 7] Mâyâ is the active form of matter rendered so by differentiation in the universal consciousness, and it has two different powers of action. Its [Page 7] overt action (veks'epa) multiplies the original differentiation ad infinitum, and its covert action (âvarana) throws, as it were, a veil over the false distinctions caused by this differentiation, and thus, in a sense, perpetuates them. So that evolution means nothing more than infinite differentiation of the universal consciousness caused by Maya. It is only a panorama of names and forms, the substance ever remaining the same. Thus, indeed, is the distinction of the seer and the sight (which are really one) produced within: and also the distinction between individuals and the individual — the All. (Brahma) without. In this manner that form of matter in which consciousness manifests itself in a tangible manner is called the subtlest form (linga-deha), but it cannot act of itself, it therefore unites itself with a suitable material shell and identifies itself with it. This complex form is called Jiva in ordinary intercourse. Everything that is is a Jiva, an individual, for nothing is which has not its linga as well as its sthula-deha, i.e., cause of Manas and Egoism and also its physical form.
It must not, however, be forgotten that though occultism denies that our sight, hearing, etc., are the attributes of molecules, it still maintains that even atoms which constitute molecules have the correspondents of these attributes, on their own plane. But, as with the denizens of every plane, that consciousness is limited by their needs, and that just as needs evolve so do organs of consciousness, till at last perception is perfected in the specialised organism, and the animal attains the totality of senses which is proper to our plane of being.
By this means the astral animal becomes conscious of those special vibrations which individualise the "Not I", by their correlated discrepancy from the vibrations which individualise the " I." In both cases these vibrations are modes of the "Great Breath", i.e., two forms of one motion, each of which embodies a divine idea. Or, to put it otherwise: Motion, can be thought of apart from that which moves, but it can be perceived by us only in its effect upon something that is objective. This effect is apprehended by one or other of our senses in its own peculiar manner, and then we know the object which embodies some modification of motion by the change which it causes in the vibrations of our own molecular aggregation.
Now, objectively, neither the " I " nor the "Not I" is self-existent. They exist only as differentiations in the universal consciousness, and their perception of each other is an intuition of their correlation to that universal consciousness, limited by ideation. That being so, clearly the " I's" knowledge of the "Not I " is, essentially, a sub-state of divine consciousness, or the Unconscious having become self-conscious in another mode of being. This becoming is logically placed between Kama and Manas, i.e., at the point where the objective and subjective are transmuted; the idea [Page 8] embodied by the one being sympathetically demonstrated in the other.
Thus if, as asserted, our life is a succession of states of consciousness, and each state is the absorption or knowledge of an embodied idea, it [Secret Doctrine, Volume 2, Page, 598] follows that we successively become that which we know, or, as the Adwaitees say, an external object is, to us, merely the product of our [Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, Page 3] mental states. This enables us to formulate some very important deductions.
Then Dvivedi tells us "Consciousness is ever one: but the thinking principle transforms itself into objective and subjective phenomena, and the immutable seer is for the time obscured by it, or, which is the same thing, is assimilated into it."
There is also another view which has much to commend it. The evolution of man has carried him through every existing form of being on the lower planes, consequently his perception of these forms may only be a resurrected consciousness, a living again as he has previously lived.
Some of us have been present when an idea, embodied in thought, has been transferred from one consciousness to another. This was done just as readily as if the idea had been expressed in a material form, and the knowledge of it had been transmitted through the ordinary physical organs. If then thought forms produce a consciousness identical with that produced by physical forms, do we not approximate to a perception of the process by which the intangible becomes tangible, and the one becomes many, while the essential unity is ever unbroken ?
And now having said so much about vibrations, it behoves
me to give you some authorities for attaching such great importance to them. Well, Rama Prasad in
his "Nature's Finer Forces" says, " that
it is not till the life-wave reaches humanity
that the vibrations of Iswara, or ' the collective consciousness of the
manifested Deity' (Secret Doctrine, Volume 1, Page 132) begin to show themselves in the mind."
Then the author of “Letters that have Helped Me”, Page 62, tells us that: "The different states are only differences of vibration, and we do not recognise the astral and other planes because we are out of time with their vibrations", that is, our vibrations must keep time with the vibrations of things before we can cognize their modes of motion as different from our own modes of motion. When the rates of our vibrations accord with those of others, we are in the same state of consciousness, and have the same scale of thought and action. But this must not be understood as meaning that ordinary people can ever know everything about other people's private affairs. We can be in accord but not in unison with them. "The state of mind can be understood, but not the thought which occupies it"[Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by M. N. Dvivedi, Page 64] , unless a special Samyama is performed.
In order to evolve this sympathy, we are told that: "The important thing is to develop the Self in the self, and then the possession of wisdom belonging to all wise men at once becomes ours". [Letters that have Helped me, Page 63] , [Page 9]
This can be best explained by a quotation from Nature’s Finer Forces, where we read, " By accelerating the motions of the Tatwas they become spiritual". That is, if we can increase the rate of our vital vibrations till they keep pace with those of higher beings, we shall be able to receive the same intuitions that are imparted to them, and have the same direct knowledge which they possess. Nay, more, we are told that " All mental action produces a change in the vibrations of the Universal Mind". This seems quite reasonable, for each mind is not a self-existent self, but a manifestation of the Universal Mind, therefore future individualizations in the Universal Mind must epitomise every previous change in the vibrations of the Universal Mind. Thus each of us is accountable not only to his own self for the use he makes of the powers conferred upon him, but is responsible also to all future "selves" for the effect that his action has produced on the essentiality of their vital vibrations.
But however much evil may arise from individual perversity, the Universal Mind is ever spiritualising, that is, quickening its vibrations; consequently, the later the Manu, the more spiritual, so a time will come when the present macrocosmic mind will be entirely absorbed in the soul". [Nature's Finer Forces, Page 152] What will then be man's life rate it is impossible for us to imagine.
Meantime, occult training enables us transiently to anticipate this evolution. Kundalini, "the Universal life principle", is "an electro-spiritual force”, [Secret Doctrine, Volume 1, Page 293] which, we are told, "moves in three and a half circles, [The Voice of the Silence, Page 79] and is believed to encircle the procreative will of the self-existent Deity". "It progresses with an inconceivable velocity, and its vibrations are swifter than thought" [Oriental Department Tracts, Page 23]. We, of course, are borne along in Kundalini, while to obtain a consciousness of personal egoity we must be, for a life-point, one of the countless states which its motions are to us.
If we picture our self as standing in a rapid current and endeavouring to get thimblefuls out of it in order to quench a raging thirst, we shall have some idea of our earth-life. If we trusted our self to one of its bubbles, and allowed ourselves to be borne along by the current, our task would be much easier, provided we could keep our heads above water, and the bubble did not burst under us.
Something analogous to this is what we term Yogi practice. The self ceases to stand in the mire of earth, or to snatch mere thimblefuls of consciousness, for when entranced, Kundalini bears it along faster and faster, till in Samadhi it can drink of the vital tide as fully and as quietly as if it were at rest, and the vibrations, which now blur one another, then become distinct perceptions, for consciousness can keep pace with them.
" The conception of all things being divine ideas manifested by divine [Theosophy or Psychological Religion, by Max Muller, Page 395] thought, is not confined to Oriental teaching. Aristotle speaks of a Prime Mover, as intelligence, thinking itself". " Parmenides says thinking is not [ ibid , Page 364] [Page 10] different [ ibid, Page 392] from being, because there is nothing but being, and thinking is [ ibid , Page 383] thinking of being". " Socrates speaks of the thought in all, and Anaxagoras of the Nous which is all things", "while the Klamaths, a tribe of Red Indians, say, 'The Old Father made the world by thinking and willing'". And the Maori of New Zealand believe that thought, the subtlest element, first generated in the primordial night and was [Peschell’s Races 353] followed by desire; or according to a different version, thought arose first, then the spirit, and lastly matter. Max Muller tells us that thought [Theosophy or Psychological Religion, Page 402] embodied in sound is the first sentient manifestation". " Philo Judaeus teaches that God forms to Himself an ideal invisible world containing the ideas of all things. These ideas are the patterns of all things, and the power by which God conceived them is frequently called the Wisdom of God". " While the only-begotten Son is the thought of God realised and rendered visible to the world". These notions, therefore, occultists hold in very good company.
If it is asked, "What are the factors of consciousness ?" we are told "Jiva and Fohat". Jiva is defined as "that state in which Prana, or [Secret Doctrine, Volume 1, Page 493] Universal Life, becomes conscious of its individuality", while Fohat, the energising and guiding intelligence is also an omnipresent form of consciousness”. [ibid, Page 85] "It is the vehicle through which the ideas of the Universal Mind [ibid, Page 526] are impressed upon matter". " By its action upon a compound or even a simple body, the phenomena we call life are produced", consequently there could not be even atomic consciousness, or chemical affinity without Fohat.
But though Fohat may be termed intelligence, it must not be individualised [ibid, Page 111] as an intelligence. "It is only personified electric vital fluid, the transcendent binding unity of all cosmic energies". "The active male [H.P.B.] potency of the female reproductive power", or as Dvivedi [N. B.G., 49] calls it, "The Light of the Logos". These, therefore, like all other modes of consciousness, are not definite physical forms whose outlines can be determined by our senses, but subjective aspects or differentiations in the One Eternal Be-ness! Ideas through which the Finite can understand the Infinite by limiting its cognition to the aspect presented to it. Looking at it in another [Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, Page 37] mode, Dvivedi says, "Buddhi (or intellect) is the result of Sattva or quiescence in divine knowledge), and is the instrument through which all things are perceived by Purusha".
Now as consciousness is the sum of our being, and our highest possible life is a true manifestation of the divine Be-ness, it is evident that whatever vitiates our consciousness of that Be-ness, must also debase our Being. If then, instead of obeying the pure intuitions which are consequent from our essential Oneness with the Âtmic prototype, and which ever reveal to us the perfect Law of Life, we reject the good of all, and care only [Page 11] for selfish gratification, habits will be formed which render it more and more difficult for us to resist temptation. This lessening of the possibility of well-doing is Karma, and the Universalisation of egoism in his consciousness is the greatest possible alienation of Man from his Higher Self, the altruistic Atma. Its consummation is the obliteration of all consciousness of the divine Eternal Be-ness, and an absolute identification with the beast that perisheth.
And now, having considered our subject somewhat generally, let us proceed to study what may be termed the chronology of consciousness.
Our Higher Ego, "the ancestral heart, the reincarnating principle", is [Secret Doctrine, Volume 1, Page 220] " the subjective individual consciousness and perception of the potential [Raja Yoga by Sri Vâkya-Sudhâ, Page 23] attributes of a human entity. A unity progressing through various spheres or states of being". " It is the consciousness in man, ' I am I' ” — "The [H.P.B.] reflected image of the Logos in Karana Sarira." H.P.B. tells us that [Notes on the Bhagavad Gita] " when the immortal Ego incarnates it becomes, as a total, a compound unit of matter and spirit, which, together, act on seven different planes of [Secret Doctrine, Volume 2, Page 63] being and consciousness". We have therefore to regard the incarnated Ego as different in itself and to itself from the homogeneous Be-ness in which it is a differentiation. This difference consists in it having apparently seven different modes of being and consequently seven different states of consciousness. Still, as it is an universal axiom that nothing can be without its antecedent cause, " we may venture to assert that the intuition which differentiates the idea of self, or Ego, in our consciousness must have had a prototypal existence previous to its manifestation”.
Now intuition is direct knowledge — that which comes to us without a reasoning process ; it is the germ which thought evolves and reason formulates into a logical deduction, an established verity which apparently becomes an instinct in our next incarnation. Thought, therefore, is impossible without an antecedent intuition, and clearly without thought there can be no thinker, consequently as thinker and man are synonymous terms man and intuition must have ever co-existed.
Then comes the question, "from whence do we derive our intuitions ? ". I should answer it in this way. There is universal knowledge deduced from universal experience and stored in universal consciousness, and it does not seem unreasonable to regard intuition as the effect of an immediate contact of our finite consciousness with this universal consciousness, the result being that a spark, or germ, of higher truth is transmitted to us, and then by cogitation we are able to digest it into an instinct which will be a predisposition of our will in all future incarnations. Let us see how this will work out. Our Ante-Ego is regarded as impersonal; that is [Raja Yoga by Sri Vâkya-Sudhâ, Page 3] to say, to us, a universal consciousness was before that limitation in it, which we intuit as "I", became. Subjectively, therefore, our Ego has a [Page 12] past, a present, and a future, to us, while the universal Self is ever present to itself, and our being is to it only a mode of consciousness, a state or aspect of Be-ness; consequently our hope of immortality consists in the possibility of perpetuating our special mode of consciousness in the universal consciousness: of making our life an instinct of the divine life: an experience which will become a predisposition to eternal special vibrations in the Causeless Cause of all causes. Occultism asserts that this is possible, nay, that no man can ever cease to be except by his own wilful perversity.
Man's lower nature is of the earth, earthly. His body is an aggregate of what science terms cells, and Occultism calls Lives. These we regard as the simplest and most universal forms in which Be-ness manifests itself as life. But there seems little doubt that the cell of science is a highly organised being, a whole universe of Lives infinitely diverse in their forms, faculties and consciousness. Each of these Lives knows that it is, and it is ever striving to become more than it has been. We may call them the "atoms of Prana": the subjective constituents of vitality or the infinitesimalities which our most abstract consciousness can present to us as possibilities. But after all what are they but beings like unto ourselves; divine ideas evolving in the Universal Consciousness, and any of them may become hereafter much more than we are now. As for men and women, are they really anything but cells whose aggregate is evolving the divine idea of humanity ? — and for aught we know humanity itself is but a single cell in an organism that embodies a still grander idea of that life which is as great as it is small.
There can be no doubt that in all stages of being there is a uniform plan; the building up of the one by the aggregation of the many, and diverse as are the functions to be performed, that plan is never varied. The many are for the one, and the one is common to all. By the advancement of the one its constituents progress; by its ideation their needs are evolved; their possibilities are realised, and, as the potential consciousness of the "One" is infinite, we can conceive of no bounds to the multiplication of its differentiations.
If we turn to the lowest plane, Occultism tells us that the consciousness of Lives is of the simplest kind represented by one unvarying oscillation through which consonant objects are so sensed that the "I" is distinguished from the " Not I " in a vague, dream-like manner, while Atma-Buddhi-Manas act only as cosmic principles. Their in-dwelling is but a latent possibility for the individual, in which all senses are comprised in the consciousness of Egoity.
The Life, however, being on the objective plane, it is subject to the law of duality. The passive necessitates the active, and their inter-action is rudimentary generation. Differentiated consciousness becomes the differentiator [Page 13] of itself, and so a higher form of being is intuited by which differences in the "Not I" can be observed, and their relations to the " I' rudimentarily discriminated. Thus what we term affinity is evolved, and through it objective being attains its primary aspiration "Collective Unity".
The second state of consciousness is that in which are all the latent potentialities of human consciousness. A. collective unity having been formed by the aggregation of many cells, being, of necessity, has become complex. Each cell possesses its own appropriate consciousness and its distinctive characteristics. But besides a multitude of individual consciousnesses, now there is also a collective consciousness in which the common good and the collective aspiration are formulated.
Now the needs of a collective unity are larger and more varied than those of an individual cell. This necessitates a differentiation of function and co-operative labour which seems to be organised in this manner.
When a primordial cell divides, each half has a dominant differentiation, a tendency which impels its evolution in a special direction; and the aim of its being is the perfection of its own characteristic. The first objective differentiation is that of male and female, and these specialisations prevail on every subsequent plane of being.
But each sex possesses the possibility of its opposite, for each half cell becomes a whole cell on the second plane, and then is conscious only of egoity, homogeneous and a-sexual. There is therefore a distinct reversion to the primordial state; a persistency of real unity in seeming duality. When a sub-division occurs the original plan is followed, with results that are essentially identical, and however deeply we may study cell-genesis, we find no change in the order of evolution.
The consequence of this unity in diversity is an innate consciousness of a common antecedence, and from this consciousness an altruism is evolved which becomes instinctive and pervades each succeeding organism, giving it a latent consciousness that the good of each is identified with the good of all.
But the egoism which characterised the cell still dominates the collective unity of cells. This egoism is the intuitive consciousness of infinite possibilities resulting from the antecedent identification with Be-ness, and this is the start point for a fuller manifestation of being. So while the cell is deified on its own plane, the higher life has attained only to personal instinct. Personal instinct, however, follows the divine order of progression, and in due time becomes collective consciousness, and collective consciousness intuits the idea of humanity. This idea is passive, but in due order it is fructified by its active correlative "thought" Then man "the thinker " is evolved in the universal Consciousness and each Monad becomes [Page 14] a cell in the spiritual Being who is to be the outcome of human collective consciousness.
[Secret Doctrine, Volume 1, Page 63] Historically, it appears that at a certain well-defined point a dominant idea was intuited, and its personification became the Manu of a new race. That is a divine idea, demonstrated by divine thought, became the potential manifestation of a higher possibility of being in the consciousness that was fitted to receive it. This consciousness seminated by the intuition, clothed the idea with a new thought-personality, which by the law of evolution in due order became a physical manifestation. Thus the one [Genesis1, 2I ] process is constantly repeated. The germ ever draws vitality from the infinite and evolves the stem, the branch, the leaf and the fruit "whose seed is in itself". These four may be taken to represent the Quaternary, while the root is the Upadhi of the Triad through which the particular draws egoity from the universal.
The next generalisation in consciousness is that of Psychological being, the subjective perception of a mental Kama as distinct from a physical body. [Secret Doctrine, Volume 1, Page 176]
Kama, we are told, is "the personification of
that feeling which leads and propels to creation".
It is therefore not a tangible form, but that limitation in consciousness by which we distinguish one idea
from all other ideas: or perhaps we might say it is the special vibration of Be-ness which manifests in us
a differentiation of being. It is also defined as "human egotistic volition" — "that
desire for personal gratification which characterises [Secret Doctrine, Volume 1, Page 593] our
animal nature both in its physical and psychical aspects". "It
is the active power producing all vital phenomena" — " the abstract aspect of life in a world
This mode of consciousness, then, may be regarded as the idea of self-aggrandisement demonstrated by life-experiences, and become a definite instinct in every order of being. It can therefore be thought of as the memory of past incarnations, the mental tendencies of physical life, the Ego's desire to be again whatever it has been in the past.
Now as "the change of Manu is always for the better" [Nature's Finer Forces, Page 152], that which we have been is necessarily of a lower order than what we are, and as we should inevitably rank higher among beings of an inferior grade than we do among those of our own status, we should naturally be able to indulge our physical appetites more freely if we could revert to the conditions of a past life and still retain our present functional evolution.
But the desire for such physical supremacy is fatal to spiritual progression: it is retarding our vital vibrations instead of striving to accelerate or spiritualize them. If the personal Ego moulds its thought-body on an animal type, it can only function on an animal plane. It will have no [Page 15] spiritual needs, therefore there will be no evolution of spiritual organs, and consequently there can be no realization of higher possibilities, so the man will hereafter be simply a survival of an effete form of humanity.
We have now arrived at the most important point in the evolution of man. He has culminated as an intellectual animal. In his consciousness there is an instinct which ever recalls the experiences of past incarnations and urges him to seek after past pleasures. But there is also an intuition which prompts him to aspire to a higher life with nobler aims and wider sympathies. On his choice depends not only his personal well-being, but the growth of humanity and the joy of All. I wonder how many of us have realised the awful responsibility which our manhood imposes upon us.
Buddhism says, "Man's consciousness will cease to feel, but his virtue will live and work out its full effect in the decrease of the misery of sentient beings", therefore, as a natural corollary, his vice will also live after him and ["Buddhism" by Rhys Davids, Page 104] will work for the woe of all, and Occultism says that, "in others' woes, the woe-maker will, hereafter, be the first to suffer".
This dual consciousness is termed Manas. Now Manas is defined as ["Monism or Advaitism" Page 22] "the atomic feeler of happiness", it is also called "feeling" — "The impress that is concerned with mere perception" [Isis Unveiled, page 274] —and is translated " Mind." [Raja Yoga, Page 36] We we are told that: " In the macrocosm it springs from Ahamkara or egoism; in the microcosm from Mahat or cosmic intelligence; in man from Buddhi or [Secret Doctrine, Volume 1, Page 334] the spiritual soul, the cosmic Monad — and the term serves both for sense [Secret Doctrine, Volume 1, Page 177] and action”. In animals and idiots the lower Manas seems to stand in the same relation to intellect that the higher Manas stands to the lower Manas in man. They can deduce physical effects from their past experiences of physical causes, but they cannot predicate psychic causes from mental effects; therefore that which has not been phenomenal is assumed to have no place in their philosophy.
The distinction here made between the microcosm and
man is very remarkable, and confirms the contention that, strictly speaking, the term man should be limited
to the Unconscious become conscious in some form or other. As H.P.B. tells us: "Each immortal God (soul,
or divine idea) in [ Isis Unveiled,
Volume 1, Page 348] its turn must be united with a human being, and from the moment of its consciousness
it commences a series of births and deaths". When
it is said that man is the microcosm of the Universe, it really means that his physical form is the epitome
of all the previous forms in which Be-ness has ever manifested, while the real man is that very Be-ness in
its highest manifestation: or, as Orientals express it, " Humanity, taken collectively, [Thoughts
on the Bhagavad Gita, Page 18] is the heart and brain of Yagna Purusha."
"The higher Manas, we are told, is the mental faculty which distinguishes [H.P.B.] man from the mere animal and makes him an intelligent being". [Page 16]
[Key to Theosophy , Page 176] It is the " spiritual self-consciousness" — "The permanent individuality" — "The reincarnating Ego" — "The vehicle of Mahat or divine ideation". [Secret Doctrine, Volume 2, Page 138] This is the state to which H.P.B. refers when she says, "When beings reach the status of man the souls receive the principle of (conscious) immorality, become spirits, then pass into the choir of gods".
In the higher Manas, then, we have the self-idea so evolved that its intelligent principle has become permanently individualized in the divine consciousness. The impersonal "I" has become conscious of its " Not I," and in personifying it, has by Kryasakti imparted to this "Not I" all the attributes of the divine "I". Foremost of these attributes is will, and will implies freedom of choice, while this freedom constitutes, moral responsibility.
We have consequently to regard Manasic consciousness as a passive principle in everything below the animal kingdom. Not that it is ever really still, but we possess no faculties by which we can observe it beyond the arbitrary limit we term "animal", therefore, as we have no consciousness of it, to us it does not exist. Thus, for the purposes of philosophical classification, it is said that Manas begins with animal life, but in reality this Manas is the synthesis of another septenate which is the microcosm of its macrocosm man".
On the same principle the Lower Manas is thought of apart from the Higher Manas, and man as distinct from all other animals. This course is convenient and harmless, so there is no reason why we should not adopt it, and leaving captious critics to contend for the brotherhood of brutes, endeavour to ascertain what are our own powers, duties and possibilities. But we should always remember that in these classifications every principle has only a relative position, and that whether any special principle is Atma, Buddhi, Manas, or Prana, is determined by the plane of consciousness on which the personality is then functioning. Even Ishwara can ultimately only be regarded as an atom of Prana combining with others to manifest an aspect of the Absolute, and we are told "that man's seventh principle, or Atma, is the ultimate state (of consciousness), attainable by the self (or true soul) after crossing the ocean of conditioned experience, or [Thoughts on the Bhagavad Gita, Page 27] Sansara". Atma, therefore, is not a separate entity, but the highest ideal which is possible to us in our present stage of evolution; while Sat, Narayana, Brahma, etc., is our possible permanent and changeless state of [Thoughts on the Bhagavad Gita] consciousness in relation to that which is temporary and changing.
His Higher Manas, we are told, makes man a moral and intelligent being. That is, he is able to distinguish right from wrong, and to submit his will to the law of reason. This law is his consciousness that the rights of others limit his right to the gratification of his instinctive desires. Man has not only the craving for self-aggrandisement which is common to [Page 17] all beings, but the altruistic sympathies established in past incarnations have made his consciousness receptive of intuitions which bring him into direct relations with intelligences on a higher plane than his own, and enable him to fashion his aspirations on the model of their ideation. The theory is that he can thus attain knowledge by intuiting the wisdom which others can gain only by prolonged mental or physical exertion, and that so his spiritual progress is expedited. This theory each must prove in his or her personal experience.
Beyond the Manasic lies the Buddhic consciousness, a state which is ruled rather by the heart than the head, where Man prefers love to reason, and instinctively asks what is for the good of all, not what is profitable to himself. There are, of course, many degrees of this state, from secret alms-giving up to perfect self-devotion: from sectarian charity which considers who are of the household of faith, up to the intelligent godliness, which is pure, wise and universal; from the saint who dreams in Devachan to the Nirmanakaya who by boundless benevolence has learned how to multiply his unit of bliss by the joys of a whole humanity.
A constant aspiration towards this Buddhic consciousness seems to be the highest mental tone that is compatible with earth life. Our bodies require food and clothing, and the duty of each of us is to provide for his own wants by his own labour; consequently to cultivate ecstasies which incapacitate us for performing the social tasks which have properly devolved upon us, certainly savours more of selfishness than altruism, and must tend to debase rather than to exalt our manhood. As Krishna says: "What is required and what follows as a natural consequence from Raja-yoga is freedom from the calculation of the results of our necessary actions", not the cessation of them.
When his physical needs have ceased to be, and man has transcended animal desires, then he may hope to be one with his Father in Heaven: till then he should work and wait. At present our highest consciousness seems to be akin to that subtle intuition by which a mathematician knows that a thing is before he is able to cognize it. Such an intuition is a foretaste of that universal harmony which is the unattainable essentiality of Reason: the ultimate blending of all differentiations in the one unconditioned unity.
"It is only when the state of Yoga is reached that the consciousness [Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, Page 3] becomes quite pure and ready to receive all knowledge and all impressions, from any source whatever. This state is acquired by suppressing the transformations of the thinking principle."
To show how subtle are the Hindu differentiations of thought, I may instance "Asmila, (the sense of being). Asmila is not to be identified with [Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, Page 10] Ahankara, or egoism; it is only the consciousness of Being, and quite [Page 18] independent of the form 'I am'. The sphere of Ahankâra is Sânanda Samâdhi, or joyous meditation; whereas Asmila refers very nearly to Purusha, through and of which all subsists". This is the cognition of the knower.
These higher states of consciousness are often spoken of as "emotional". Now "emotion" is a very noteworthy term. The e is an abbreviation of ex, and consequently its equivalent. Ex may mean either "out of", or "an intensification of". Consequently e-motion means either out of motion, that is (a) absolute rest, or (b) separation from the Great Breath, i.e., annihilation. In the other sense, emotion may mean the intensification of a motion by multiplying it into all-motion.
Taking this last to be the truest signification, may we not understand that when man attains a higher consciousness he exhibits all the motions or vibrations which constitute the countless phases of his previous knowledge. When we remember that each of these vibrations is subdivided ad infinitum, and that every single subdivision must be to him a distinct state of consciousness intuited in orderly succession, we can readily admit that, in Buddhic consciousness, a snail might as well hope to out-run lightning, as reason to keep pace with these messengers of knowledge. At each time point, there are trillions of these vibrations, and every impact of them transmits a special knowledge; consequently when Manas is identified with the Higher Ego, it must respond to each of these modes of motion, and cognize it as distinct from every other aspect of the Infinite.
Whether even this consciousness will content man is another matter. Parabrahm, we know, could not abide in even a higher consciousness. The omnipresence of omniscience is monotony, and monotony is not the harmony which seems to be a universal necessity. Consequently the concord of diversity ever progresses, while the periodic unison of all only gives the keynote of fuller harmony.
And so the song of life ever grows grander and grander, as little rills of being add new tones to swell the flow of melody which utters the consciousness of all. And who would have it otherwise ? What rest can remain for the true people of the true God ?
"Their hope is eternal progression,
With Charity fruitful in all."
And so the end is but the beginning, and death only the antecedent of life.
|Nature's Finer Forces
|Letters that have Helped Me
|William Quan JUDGE
|Dr. R. A. Douglas LITHGOW
|Key to Theosophy
|Monism or Advaitism
|Manilal Nabhubhai DVIVEDI
|Meditations of Vasudeva
|Oriental Department Tracts
|Occult Science in Medicine
|Thoughts on Bhagavad Gita
|Theosophy or Psychological Religion
|Voice of Silence
|Yoga Sutra of Patanjali
|Manilal Nabhubhai DVIVEDI
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