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EXPLORING THE GREAT BEYOND -
Marvelous as it may have appeared, all that we have so far discussed (with the exception of certain isolated instances), has had to do with what we might now call the "lesser beyond." We have seen that the worlds, both outer and inner, of manifest existence are worlds of appearances, the mere apparatus of existence through which life, the dynamic element of reality, expresses itself.
Even in the realm of soul, Kama-Manas, the realm of feeling and thought as we ordinarily know it, there is conditioning and transiency. Life expresses itself in various ways, in various modes of consciousness, in numberless forms of infinite variety, visible and invisible. That from which all stems, both the activity and the vehicle, is Spirit itself.
In attempting to discuss the realm of Spirit, we are in the difficult position of trying to think about or perceive something which is itself of the nature of the perceiver and not the perceived. Not only that but we are, in the end, confronted with the difficulty of considering the inconsiderable, the Absolute, "beyond the range and reach of thought. "
In a manifest Universe the "Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless, and Immutable PRINCIPLE" of our first original fundamental proposition, shows forth as manifest Deity with its dual face of Motion and Space. These constitute the root of the dichotomies which, as we have seen before, pass down through, and are recognizable at all levels and in all departments of Nature, as Spirit and Substance, force and form, energy and matter, positive and negative, active and passive, male and female, subjective and objective, waking and sleeping, life and death. These are the poles, so to speak, of existence, and between them flow the currents of activity that we call life and, at high level, it is this interplay between Spirit and Substance that gives rise to consciousness; Operating in its various modes in all the kingdoms of nature, from absolute consciousness - which is, in any terms we know of, virtual unconsciousness
- this Spirit-Life super-consciousness passes through all its various modes down to what we know as waking consciousness.
Recapitulating something of what we have said earlier, we see if we can accept the occult idea of evolution - that there is a gradual unfoldment of faculty, including awareness, through all degrees of natural development, both up to and above our present human stage, where subjective faculties far transcend ours.
Looking at some of the implications of this continuous evolutionary process of unfoldment of faculty, we see, first, the Ego gaining experience of life through its periodical personalities. With respect to, and for these personalities the Ego is virtually an omniscient divinity. Perhaps it is not too difficult to accept this, intellectually, as a feasible idea, but it is quite another matter to realize that each of us is essentially such an entity, a dim reflection only, of whose radiant light shines into our normal consciousness. A few of us can sense something of this enormous possibility but, at our present stage of development, most of us cannot.
We are told that the hallmark of spiritual illumination in the personality is the spontaneous practice of virtue and altruism in all their varieties. If these are genuine, and because of the obvious strength and benign wisdom of the person who significantly exemplifies them in life, that person towers above his or her fellows. This distinguishing greatness will show even in the individual's unassumed authoritative attitude toward his fellows. The Christian gospel story illustrates this in the person of Jesus, in whom we sense, unquestionably, a model worthy of our imitation. There are others, still great but of lesser stature, who inspire us; such are the Schweitzers and Nightingales and many others, who act as examples to us in their particular ways.
In Occultism, and from what we can learn of them, all the high Initiates, the Masters of the Wisdom, typify our ideal of human attainment and of wisdom and compassion in action. They are men made perfect, as Jesus besought his followers to be. They represent the highest of spiritual achievement of which man is capable.
It could now be asked, but what is the difference between us ordinary mortals and these Masters when the teaching says that we ourselves in essence are also divine beings? The answer is that the Master of Wisdom has so trained and purified his personal vehicle, through many lives of effort, that it can perfectly respond to, and transmit, the life impulses from the spiritual realm of being through the mental and psychic ones to the physical. At each level
the Initiate can operate self-determinedly, although he must always work within the framework of natural law. He can, however, be an independent cause, through his sovereign will, and can demonstrate his mastery over the forces (elementals) of nature, and can work what would seem to us miracles.
Finally, there is the matter of these powers of the Adept. They stem, essentially, from the highest realms of the "Great Beyond" .
A little story about one of these Masters, to illustrate this, is both amusing and informative in a number of ways. It tells of his receipt, at a monastery in Tibet, of an important letter from an English correspondent.
This story illustrates that there are grades of Initiates; the Chohan in this case being senior to the writer of the letter. Even so the writer was able, in his turn, to refix the goat's old teeth, and his comments imply that he could, himself, have restored the damaged letters. The rule referred to is that no Initiate can use his powers for his own benefit. This is further illustrated in the crucifixion story of Jesus, wherein he was taunted to get himself down from the cross. Whether or not this is a historical fact does not matter. It illustrates the point. He did not use his powers, which no doubt such an Initiate would have possessed, to save himself.
He knows, too, that any such demonstration of power upsets the karmic balance and must be compensated for. He therefore uses his powers very sparingly. Similarly, his powers and his wisdom and knowledge of nature's ways are far outside the accepted norm becoming, perhaps, unbelievable and even unacceptable to most of us. We fear them and therefore the Initiate must keep himself beyond our notice.
It is said that in the last quarter of every century an attempt is made to illuminate and spiritualise mankind. Many so-called prophets, teachers, masters, or gurus may come and declare themselves. How are we to know the true ones? First, we are told that a genuine Master of Wisdom, if one should come, would - for those who recognize it - bear the stamp of his greatness; and further, that he would never parade nor advertise his powers, nor would he demand nor accept payment in any wise.
To revert to our theme of the Great Beyond we have seen that the Absolute, Eternal, Boundless PRINCIPLE is the causeless Cause of Cosmos. This means that everything, manifest or unmanifest, derives from that ONE. There is an essential Unity underlying all existence. The "Absolutes" of existence, Law, Space as ultimate Substance (homogeneous and undifferentiated), Motion, are in fact this One. They are eternals. Each is inherent in the other. They are not separate "things." The basic dualities of nature stemming from this One endure throughout the life of Cosmos. All differentiation, all modification, however, change with time. These are the temporary conditions of an extant Universe. Although they are at the root of all existent things and beings, they themselves are essentially of the One. Everything to which they give rise is not therefore a wholly discrete, separate thing. Everything is, in this deep sense, an aspect only of the One. It is to that ONE that everything returns at the close of every great cycle of universal activity. This is the culmination of a vast period of Cosmic activity. It enters its period of rest. It is the Nirvanic condition where all conscious entities are withdrawn into a state of bliss.
Individual men can however anticipate this periodic Universal rest and independently achieve Nirvana. But only after many lives of effort do they move up from our state of limited, conditioned, separate, personal consciousness to this terminal sublime state which has sometimes been described as annihilation or extinction of the one attaining it. What might now appear to us indeed as total loss, is in reality total gain. A Nirvanee becomes merged again into the WHOLE. This, in the final analysis, is the ultimate ground in which we have our being. It is the "sea" or "atmosphere" of Spirit in which, always, are all things, even our circumscribed personal units of being; we cannot escape it, but how little do we know it!
Lest this Nirvanic state should look and feel very remote, a matter only of abstruse, intellectual significance, cold and utterly
impersonal, let us never forget that the One, the Universal Soul, is also the source and home of all souls and all sentiency.
The whole gamut of feeling, throughout its entire range from the first stirrings of pleasure and pain to our highest aspirational yearnings and sacrificial love, is its progeny. We do not need here even to name these higher feelings. They are the very stuff of the life of a properly mature person and their mere mention tends powerfully to arouse them: serenity, devotion, joy, gentleness, strength, are examples. A significant part of the value of the special occasions, as in church or temple, or in meditation, when we give our minds to these things, is that they raise the level of our consciousness, at least for a time.
We all know of the positive feelings of joy and affection, elation, happiness, fulfillment, achievement, acquisition. We all know too of deprivation, loss, sadness, failure, lack of appreciation, fear, jealousy, envy, anger. Feelings such as these - especially the negative ones which are so conducive to suffering - can be bitter teachers. But what, we often ask, does experience, and indeed all suffering, teach? It teaches, for example, the transience of existence through the pain of severed attachment: it teaches of the ultimate aridity of ambition for its own sake, whether or not fulfilled. We learn that however it is lived, life is poignant. We learn above all that our real life, our life of significant feeling, not just physical sensation, is enriching to our total nature. It is in feeling of this kind that life has meaning for us.
Feeling and thought arise in the inner areas of our being. They are activities of our psyche, our mortal soul, operating at the kama-manasic levels of the Astral Light. It is in the Astral Light that psychic phenomena, some of which reflect into the physical world as physical phenomena, are produced by the elemental powers. People with the necessary developed psychic faculties can perceive what is going on on these planes. We are now, however, distinguishing between the psychic and the spiritual.
We saw earlier that, although in different dimensions of space and time, psychic entities and phenomena are in the earth's atmosphere, so to speak, within its second principle; spiritual beings and their activities are, on the other hand, not in space or time, at least not in any sense that we can conceive of. To add to our difficulties in understanding the nature of the truly spiritual realms, they are said to be formless. Truly spiritual entities, such as our Egos, have no form. Relative to our normal experience, they and
their activities must be entirely subjective. This does not mean there are not realms of spiritual objectivity real to spiritual beings operating at those levels, but all such operations, if we could apprehend them at all, would be purely subjective to us here. We could only sense them as thoughts or feelings which would seem to arise from within ourselves. For example, there is the realm of direct perception, universal knowledge, of Buddhi illuminating Manas, which we know only through flashes of the highest intuition. In these we feel we have apprehended some fact or principle in nature for a certainty, beyond all question, above all argument. It is in these moments of spiritual insight that we cognise the true nature of Cosmos and its inner workings. We do this by identity; by moving up in consciousness until we are it. This is an appreciation, a realization, of Unity in very fact and truth.
Our being aware at spiritual levels, involves two important points. One is the nature of the main plane of Buddhi. Much has been written about this. It is, as said, the vehicle of Spirit. It is a passive principle, giving being to Spirit in the innermost realms. Through it, Spirit pervades all Cosmos and everything in it. Buddhi is therefore modified or affected by everything that happens in the Universe. Insofar as it registers this, it knows it. Now the higher sub-principles of Manas are associated with Buddhi as Buddhi-Manas (as opposed to Kama-Manas in the realms of personality). It is in Manas that consciousness as we know it arises. It is in Manas, at the buddhic subplane level, that the knowing faculty has its seat, and to the extent that this is developed and operating, it endows its possessor with a degree of "omniscience." We have seen how complex is the whole structure of being and consciousness. We have just said that Manas-buddhi must confer only a degree of "omniscience" because there must be other degrees and modes of knowing on the manasic subplane of Buddhi, for example. It is in Buddhi itself, or in any of its subplane combinations, that knowing by identity arises. The author has himself had some slight experience of this, and he was once told a remarkable story by an ordinary housewife who also had a glimpse of this transcendent illumination. She said she had been vouchsafed a vision of the "machinery of the Universe," to use her expression, wherein she saw why everything is as it is, and much else. She said she knew this for a certainty by being it.
Buddhi and Akasa, by definition, must be closely identified, the one being a derivative of the other.
Akasa contains a record of everything that has happened in Cosmos and it becomes perceivable at two levels, one at the psychic level where, as the Astral Light, its contents are perceivable by the psychic clairvoyant. The other is Akasa proper, at the Spiritual, Egoic level, where the contents are available, as the books say, only to "the opened eye of dangma" (a Seer, one who has attained full wisdom).
This gives us a clue as to how these inner realms are cognised. We become aware of those parts of the nature of Cosmos of which the reflection is in effective operation in ourselves. To expand on the wonders of this state of being is not the function of this book. Interested readers are referred to such works as the Bhagavad Gita where something of these states of consciousness, those of the mystic, are described and something is said on how to achieve them. It seems however that we also become possessed of specific objective knowledge at these lofty levels of consciousness.
Here are some extracts from letters from H. P. Blavatsky to her relatives, describing something of her state of awareness as her spiritual faculties were beginning to function at these high levels, and describing at least one aspect of Egoic Consciousness.
In another letter to her sister HPB writes:
As she says herself she not only could, but did, get this from her Higher Self.
We have now done a review of the field of the "Great Beyond" from a number of angles and to finish we perhaps could not do better than to reiterate what was said by H. P. Blavatsky in a French magazine in 1889 concerning the advent of a new cycle and the part played by Occultism in the search for truth.
Let this be the last word in this attempt to bring something of the Great Beyond to the notice of all who are seeking some light in the desperate darkness of our time, when all values are in the melting pot. Our old authorities have been discarded. We are aimless, lacking the basic certainties to give us the confidence to go forward into the future knowing our proper goals and how we can achieve them.
We have tried here, in what we have given on this theme, to provide a background of feasibility, if not of actual knowledge, sufficient in itself to fill the tragic gap in human affairs left by the slow but now almost total abandonment of a personal Father-God, in his heaven, the undisputed omnipotent Creator and Governor of his universe, with a particular interest in his special creation, humankind.
We are now on our own but this does not mean to say that there
are not universal absolutes, in which we can justifiably have much more faith than in any Deity created by the mind of man.
The Great Beyond is the hinterland of existence, the vast, potent realms of Spirit and all its derivatives, reflecting through into our visible, tangible world of Nature, with its prolific life and multitudes of lives. It is this last wherein lies the significance of all we have written. It is in the private inner world of feeling and thought within each of us. Herein lie our hopes and despairs, our gladness and sadness, our resolution or feebleness of purpose, our follies and wisdom, our pleasures and our pains, our sympathy and our love. It is these, our inner responses to life, that give it its meaning for us. They are born from what we are, not what we have. Have we not seen that we are far more wonderful than we could ever have imagined? Could we not try to act accordingly and might not then something of the truly Great Beyond become the Here and Now for many, if not all of us, instead of for the very, very few.
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