RE: The THINKER -- REALITY and MAYA-ILLUSION
Nov 21, 2002 04:44 PM
Nov 21 2002
Re: REALITY and MAYA-ILLUSION
Perhaps a few words from H P B's The SECRET DOCTRINE might help. It
will at least give the view that Theosophy uses.
The commentaries on the stanzas from the BOOK OF DZYAN (WISDOM) begin
on p. 35
The first deals with beginnings.
The "Parent Space" is the eternal, ever present cause of all -- the
incomprehensible DEITY, whose "invisible robes" are the mystic root of
all matter, and of the Universe.
Space is the one eternal thing that we can most easily imagine,
immovable in its abstraction and uninfluenced by either the presence
or absence in it of an objective Universe. It is without dimension, in
every sense, and self-existent.
Spirit is the first differentiation from THAT, the causeless cause of
both Spirit and Matter. It is, as taught in the esoteric catechism,
neither limitless void, nor conditioned fulness, but both. It was and
ever will be. (See Proem pp. 2 et seq.) [ SECRET DOCTRINE I 35]
In the Theos. Glossary we find the following:
Spirit. The lack of any mutual agreement between writers in the use of
this word has resulted in dire confusion. It is commonly made
synonymous with soul; and the lexicographers countenance the usage. In
Theosophical teachings. the term "Spirit" is applied solely to that
which belongs directly to Universal Consciousness, and which is its
homogeneous and unadulterated emanation. Thus, the higher Mind in Man
or his Ego (Manas) is, when linked indissolubly with Buddhi, a spirit;
while the term "Soul", human or even animal (the lower Manas acting in
animals as instinct), is applied only to KÔma-Manas, and qualified as
the living soul. This is nephesh, in Hebrew, the "breath of life".
Spirit is formless and immaterial, being, when individualised, of the
highest spiritual substance-Suddasatwa, the divine essence, of which
the body of the manifesting highest Dhyanis are formed. Therefore, the
Theosophists reject the appellation " Spirits" for those phantoms
which appear in the phenomenal manifestations of the Spiritualists,
and call them "shells", and various other names. (See "Sukshma
Sarira".) Spirit, in short, is no entity in the sense of having form ;
for, as Buddhist philosophy has it, where there is a form, there is a
cause for pain and suffering. But each individual spirit-this
individuality lasting only throughout the manvantaric life-cycle-may
be described as a centre of consciousness, a self-sentient and
self-conscious centre; a state, not a conditioned individual. This is
why there is such a wealth of words in Sanskrit to express the
different States of Being, Beings and Entities, each appellation
showing the philosophical difference, the plane to which such unit
belongs, and the degree of its spirituality or materiality.
Unfortunately these terms are almost untranslatable into our Western
tongues." [ THEOSOPHICAL GLOSSARY 216-7 ]
Thus, the "Robes" stand for the noumenon of undifferentiated Cosmic
Matter. It is not matter as we know it, but the spiritual essence of
matter, and is co-eternal and even one with Space in its abstract
Root-nature is also the source of the subtile invisible properties in
visible matter. It is the Soul, so to say, of the ONE infinite Spirit.
The Hindus call it Mulaprakriti [root-matter], and say that it is the
primordial substance, which is the basis of the Upadhi or vehicle of
every phenomenon, whether physical, mental or psychic.
In the Theos. Glossary p. 218 we find:
Műlaprakriti (Sk.). The Parabrahmic root, the abstract deific feminine
principle-undifferentiated substance. AkÔsa. Literally, "the root of
Nature" (Prakriti) or Matter.
It is the source from which Akasa [the "subtle, supersensuous
spiritual essence which pervades all space...in which lies inherent
the eternal Ideation of the Universe in the ever-changing aspects on
the planes of matter and objectivity, and from which radiates the
First Logos, or expressed thought " radiates.
Akasa is defined in the T. Glossary, p. 13 as: --
[AkÔsa (Sk.). The subtle, supersensuous spiritual essence which
pervades all space; the primordial substance erroneously identified
with Ether. But it is to Ether what Spirit is to Matter, or Atma to
KÔma-rupa. It is, in fact, the Universal Space in which lies inherent
the eternal Ideation of the Universe in its ever-changing aspects on
the planes of matter and objectivity, and from which radiates the
First Logos, or expressed thought. This is why it is stated in the
Puranas that AkÔsa has but one attribute, namely sound, for sound is
but the translated symbol of Logos-" Speech" in its mystic sense. In
the same sacrifice (the Jyotishtoma Agnishtoma) it is called the "God
AkÔsa". In these sacrificial mysteries AkÔsa is the all-directing 'and
omnipotent Deva who plays the part of Sadasya, the superintendent over
the magical effects of the religious performance, and it had its own
appointed Hotri (priest) in days of old, who took its name. The AkÔsa
is the indispensable agent of every KrityÔ (magical performance)
religious or profane. The expression "to stir up the BrahmÔ", means to
stir up the power which lies latent at the bottom of every magical
operation, Vedic sacrifices being in fact nothing if not ceremonial
magic. This power is the AkÔsa-in another aspect, Kundalini-occult
electricity, the alkahest of the alchemists in one sense, or the
universal solvent, the same anima mundi on the higher plane as the
astral light is on the lower. "At the moment of the sacrifice the
priest becomes imbued with the spirit of BrahmÔ, is, for the time
being, BrahmÔ himself". (Isis Unveiled).
The Seven Eternities meant are the seven periods, or a period
answering in its duration to the seven periods, of a Manvantara, and
extending throughout a Maha-Kalpa or the "Great Age" -- 100 years of
Brahma -- making a total of 311,040,000,000,000 of years; each year of
Brahma being composed of 360 "days," and of the same number of
"nights" of Brahma (reckoning by the Chandrayana or lunar year); and a
"Day of Brahma" consisting of 4,320,000,000 of mortal years. [ see S D
II pp. 68 - 70]
These "Eternities" belong to the most secret calculations, in which,
in order to arrive at the true total, every figure must be 7x (7 to
the power of x); x varying according to the nature of the cycle in the
subjective or real world; and every figure or number relating to, or
representing all the different cycles from the greatest to the
smallest -- in the objective or unreal world -- must necessarily be
multiples of seven.....
We can now pass on to the consideration of TIME:
H P B writes in the S D [ p. 37 ]
(a) Time is only an illusion produced by the succession of our states
of consciousness as we travel through eternal duration, and it does
not exist where no consciousness exists in which the illusion can be
produced; but "lies asleep."
The present is only a mathematical line which divides that part of
eternal duration which we call the future, from that part which we
call the past.
Nothing on earth has real duration, for nothing remains without
change -- or the same -- for the billionth part of a second; and the
sensation we have of the actuality of the division of "time" known as
the present, comes from the blurring of that momentary glimpse, or
succession of glimpses, of things that our senses give us, as those
things pass from the region of ideals which we call the future, to the
region of memories that we name the past. In the same way we
experience a sensation of duration in the case of the instantaneous
electric spark, by reason of the blurred and continuing impression on
The real person or thing does not consist solely of what is seen at
any particular moment, but is composed of the sum of all its various
and changing conditions from its appearance in the material form to
its disappearance from the earth.
It is these "sum-totals" that exist from eternity in the "future," and
pass by degrees through matter, to exist for eternity in the "past."
No one could say that a bar of metal dropped into the sea came into
existence as it left the air, and ceased to exist as it entered the
water, and that the bar itself consisted only of that cross-section
thereof which at any given moment coincided with the mathematical
plane that separates, and, at the same time, joins, the atmosphere and
Even so of persons and things, which, dropping out of the to-be into
the has-been, out of the future into the past -- present momentarily
to our senses a cross-section, as it were, of their total selves, as
they pass through time and space (as matter) on their way from one
eternity to another: and these two constitute that "duration" in which
alone anything has true existence, were our senses but able to cognize
H P B then defines "Mind"
(a) Mind is a name given to the sum of the states of Consciousness
grouped under Thought, Will, and Feeling.
During deep sleep, ideation ceases on the physical plane, and memory
is in abeyance; thus for the time-being "Mind is not," because the
organ, through which the Ego manifests ideation and memory on the
material plane, has temporarily ceased to function.
A noumenon can become a phenomenon on any plane of existence only by
manifesting on that plane through an appropriate basis or vehicle; and
during the long night of rest called Pralaya, when all the existences
are dissolved, the "UNIVERSAL MIND" remains as a permanent possibility
of mental action, or as that abstract absolute thought, of which mind
is the concrete relative manifestation.
The AH-HI (Dhyan-Chohans) are the collective hosts of spiritual
beings -- the Angelic Hosts of Christianity, the Elohim and
"Messengers" of the Jews -- who are the vehicle for the manifestation
of the divine or universal thought and will.
They are the Intelligent Forces that give to and enact in Nature her
"laws," while themselves acting according to laws imposed upon them in
a similar manner by still higher Powers; but they are not "the
personifications" of the powers of Nature, as erroneously thought.
This hierarchy of spiritual Beings, through which the Universal Mind
comes into action, is like an army -- a "Host," truly -- by means of
which the fighting power of a nation manifests itself, and which is
composed of army corps, divisions, brigades, regiments, and so forth,
each with its separate individuality or life, and its limited freedom
of action and limited responsibilities; each contained in a larger
individuality, to which its own interests are subservient, and each
containing lesser individualities in itself.
H P B then considers MAYA or Illusion
Maya or illusion is an element which enters into all finite things,
for everything that exists has only a relative, not an absolute,
reality, since the appearance which the hidden noumenon assumes for
any observer depends upon his power of cognition. To the untrained eye
of the savage, a painting is at first an unmeaning confusion of
streaks and daubs of color, while an educated eye sees instantly a
face or a landscape. ]
Nothing is permanent except the one hidden absolute existence which
contains in itself the noumena of all realities.
The existences belonging to every plane of being, up to the highest
Dhyan-Chohans, are, in degree, of the nature of shadows cast by a
magic lantern on a colourless screen; but all things are relatively
real, for the cogniser is also a reflection, and the things cognised
are therefore as real to him as himself.
Whatever reality things possess must be looked for in them before or
after they have passed like a flash through the material world; but we
cannot cognise any such existence directly, so long as we have
sense-instruments which bring only material existence into the field
of our consciousness.
Whatever plane our consciousness may be acting in, both we and the
things belonging to that plane are, for the time being, our only
As we rise in the scale of development we perceive that during the
stages through which we have passed we mistook shadows for realities,
and the upward progress of the Ego is a series of progressive
awakenings, each advance bringing with it the idea that now, at last,
we have reached "reality;" but only when we shall have reached the
absolute Consciousness, and blended our own with it, shall we be free
from the delusions produced by Maya.
We could then consider the next teaching in the S D :
"Darkness is Father-Mother: light their son," says an old Eastern
proverb. Light is inconceivable except as coming from some source
which is the cause of it; and as, in the instance of primordial light,
that source is unknown, though as strongly demanded by reason and
logic, therefore it is called "Darkness" by us, from an intellectual
point of view. As to borrowed or secondary light, whatever its source,
it can be but of a temporary mayavic character.
Darkness, then, is the eternal matrix in which the sources of light
appear and disappear.
Nothing is added to darkness to make of it light, or to light to make
it darkness, on this our plane. They are interchangeable, and
scientifically light is but a mode of darkness and vice versa. Yet
both are phenomena of the same noumenon -- which is absolute darkness
to the scientific mind, and but a gray twilight to the perception of
the average mystic, though to that of the spiritual eye of the
Initiate it is absolute light. How far we discern the light that
shines in darkness depends upon our powers of vision. What is light to
us is darkness to certain insects, and the eye of the clairvoyant sees
illumination where the normal eye perceives only blackness. When the
whole universe was plunged in sleep -- had returned to its one
primordial element -- there was neither centre of luminosity, nor eye
to perceive light, and darkness necessarily filled the boundless all.
It would seem these are primary ideas that ought to be kept in mind as
we study The SECRET DOCTRINE. These lie at the root of the SCIENCE of
It shows us how intricate and "different" are the concepts of "maya"
or "illusion" from our average daily thoughts and concepts about it.
In the Theos. Glossary (p. 210) H P B says
MÔyÔ (Sk.). Illusion ; the cosmic power which renders phenomenal
existence and the perceptions thereof possible. In Hindu philosophy
that alone which is changeless and eternal is called reality ; all
that which is subject to change through decay and differentiation and
which has therefore a beginning and an end is regarded as
Interestingly enough, I was just reading through H P B's article OLD
PHILOSOPHERS AND MODERN CRITICS. [ H P B Articles , Vol. I, p. 14 ]
She there traces these great ancient ideas as they entered ancient
Greek though, starting with Pythagoras and Plato. It is very
interesting reading if one desires to see how the sequence of
transmission of Theosophical ideas has worked down the ages from them
to the neo-Platonists and down to the Florentine renaissance under
Pico della Mirandola, and others.
From: Jon Kn
Sent: Wednesday, November 20, 2002 3:15 PM
To: Subject: Re: The THINKER
I am poking my head out from under my rock to add a comment to your
My name is Jon Kn, and I've been lurking on this list for a couple
of years now, and I read your posts when I can. Forgive me; I mean no
disrespect by lurking.
Jerry, I agree with what you are saying about ignorance, and about our
ability to KNOW the difference between reality and maya. Knowing that
there is a difference is as far as we can go mentally.
The more we read and study, and reflect, the more we find our
flawed. So we replace it with an updated world-view, which we later
discover to be flawed as well. So we replace it again. This continues
until we finally realize that we cannot fully conceptualize the
all-that-is and that what we can conceptualize is maya.
Most of us (on lists like this) will then continue to read and
because that's just what we do. And it can lead to mystical
We should continue to study and revise our world-view, because the
mayavic world is real to us. We live here. We do need to deal with
in our day to day lives, but we now know that it is maya.
We also now know that the truth is not found in any book. The truth
cannot be put into words. The books serve as guides. We now know that
the truth cannot be known, but that it can be felt in our hearts. And
there can be a different kind of knowing.
This is jnana yoga. This is the path of gnosis. This is the second
object of the Theosophical Society. There is much that can be known,
it is ever-flawed. There is a knowledge horizon which we can push out,
but never cross. We can always understand more, but never all. ClichÚ:
The more that I know, the more I realize how much I do not know.
The knowing itself is not really important. What is important is how
use the knowledge in our day to day mayavic lives. Understanding how
knowledge can be used for the benefit of the world is wisdom. When we
act with wisdom, Karma is relieved.
Just had to throw my .02 in, and now I'll probably crawl back under my
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