[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next]

Is maya the same thing as phenomenal?

Nov 22, 2001 10:36 AM
by Steve Stubbs

Someone recently offered the opimion that Blavatsky
was not a Kantian, and that her concept of maya could
therefore not be understood in Kantian terms. Fair
enough, although Kant's influence is so pervasive that
it is doubtful whether any learned person can be said
to be altogether uninfluenced by him. Nonetheless, I
had lingering doubts, and purely by accident (are
there amy accidents?) came across the following
statements in ISIS UNVEILED. I offer it merely for
what it is worth. First she says with regard to
Ultimate Reality:

"Though this eternal essence of things may not be
perceptible by our physical senses, it may be
apprehended by the mind of those who are not wilfully
obtuse." (Isis vol 1, p. xii)

The statement that something is not "perceptible by
our physical senses," and yet that "it may be
apprehended by the mind of those who are not wilfully
obtuse" is the definition of a noumenon. Noumena are
not perceived directly, but are inferred from
phenomenal experience.

Now read this, which comes a little later:

"In the allegory of the chariot and winged steeds,
given in the Phaedrus, [Plato] represents the
psychical nature as composite and twofold; the
thumos, or epithumetic part, formed from the
substances of the world of phenomena; and the
thumoeides, the essence of which is linked to the
eternal world. The present earthlife is a fall
and punishment. The soul dwells in 'the grave which we
call the body,' and ... the noetic or spiritual
element is 'asleep.' Life is thus a dream, rather than
a reality. Like the captives in the subterranean cave,
described in The Republic, the back is turned to the
light, we perceive only the shadows of objects, and
think them the actual realities."

This is clearly a reference to our natural tendency to
accept phenomena as realities, when in truth they are
representations of reality and not the things in
themselves. Colors, sounds, etc., exist only in
consciousness and not in nature. She then immediately

"Is not this the idea of Maya, or the illusion of the
senses in physical life, which is so marked a feature
in Buddhistical philosophy?" (Isis vol. 1, pp. xiii,

Kant rules!


Do You Yahoo!?
Yahoo! GeoCities - quick and easy web site hosting, just $8.95/month.

[Back to Top]

Theosophy World: Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application