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Consciousness and Existence


The One Being is the noumenon of all the noumena which we know must underlie phenomena, and give them whatever shadow of reality they possess, but which we have not the senses or the intellect to cognize at present. The impalpable atoms of gold scattered through the substance of a ton of auriferous quartz may be imperceptible to the naked eye of the miner, yet he knows that they are not only present there but that they alone give his quartz any appreciable value; and this relation of the gold to the quartz may faintly shadow forth that of the noumenon to the phenomenon. But the miner knows what the gold will look like when extracted from the quartz, whereas the common mortal can form no conception of the reality of things separated from the Maya which veils them, and in which they are hidden. Alone the Initiate, rich with the lore acquired by numberless generations of his predecessors, directs the "Eye of Dangma" toward the essence of things in which no Maya can have any influence. It is here that the teachings of esoteric philosophy in relation to the Nidanas and the Four Truths become of the greatest importance; but they are secret.

The Secret Doctrine, i 45

In order to comprehend consciousness from the standpoint of the cosmos as a whole, consciousness must refer to that which exists even before a cosmos comes into being. It is that which subsists and persists during the epochal manifestation of a cosmos, as well as that which endures after the dissolution of the cosmos. By analogy of the macrocosm to the microcosm, the full consciousness of an individual must be regarded as an unbroken stream that existed before any particular form. That stream persists during all the vicissitudes experienced in and through vestures occupied in relation to others ensouled by other sparks of the Central Spiritual Sun. If that stream of consciousness is unborn and undying, unbroken and ever existing, it must also be unmodified by all that is experienced through involvement in a form, and must therefore subsist after the dissolution. Consideration of the nature of primordial consciousness is essentially the recognition of changelessness in a world of change. That which is entirely changeless is beginningless and endless, unconditionally eternal.

The eternity of pure consciousness transcends the vast, though specific, sense of eternity referred to in the Stanzas of Dzyan, which speak of "the Seven Eternities" comprising a Maha-Kalpa. This vast cycle, encompassing the entire evolution of the terrestrial chain of globes, is but a wink in the Eye of Self-Existence. The absolute eternity of consciousness persists throughout all the manifold involvements of variety and interaction, of flux and reflux, in the variegated forms and vestures of cosmic manifestation. Even to begin to contemplate this unbroken consciousness and to consider the meaning of manifestation in the light of such an eternal reality is something the human mind is scarcely prepared to do. When confronted with such a prospect, the mind, which tends to be conditioned by sense-experience, by memories and by anticipations, immediately begins to reflect the succession and variety of changes. As the mind is itself part of Nature and part of matter in the deepest sense, it encounters profound obstacles to the ceaseless contemplation of the changeless SAT.

By itself the mind cannot generate a principle of continuity. It can only do this by negation or abstraction. Even employing the via negativa or neti, neti, negating all that is embodied and involved in events in space and time, the mind must use language that participates in the relationality of whatever exists in space-time. By abstraction, by attempting to leap beyond that language, it is also fundamentally involved in speaking in terms of an experience, but which cannot be easily rendered into the language of relationality in space-time. That language, therefore, tends to be paradoxical. It is difficult to talk about absolute metaphysical darkness when human beings are almost constantly conditioned by the contrast of light and shade, or day and night, which by extrapolation they may apply on the cosmic plane. To transcend all this and to talk of absolute darkness is in effect to talk of No Thing. Metaphysical darkness is the eternal matrix in which sources of light appear and disappear. It is that to which nothing is added to make light, and that which need not be subtracted from light to make darkness. It is the noumenon of both phenomenal light and darkness, remaining in the perception of even an intuitive human being nothing more than a gray impalpable twilight. This persistent obscurity and lack of clarity will arise again and again, so long as one attempts to contemplate consciousness from the standpoint of that which is immanent and involved in vestures, that which uses language and is constantly employed to identify and reidentify, to compare and contrast objects.

Yet it is possible through meditation to penetrate within ourselves beyond the veil of concepts to a deeper sense of being which is beginningless and endless, unmodified by the mind. It is possible to experience oneself in relation to that which has no frame of reference in terms of space and time, no images that refer to existing or possible objects. To rise to this level of imageless consciousness requires unremitting perseverance because one must put aside innumerable layers and levels of language and thought. To understand this is to recognize in relation to the mind that which intuitive contemporary physicists have begun to understand about the many-layered and many-levelled structure of space. Mathematically, one can generate a multidimensional space; employing what is now known as quantum physics, one can generate models which allow, at any given time, myriads of possible worlds in reference to any single atom, electron or photon. There is thus a host of parallel pathways that can be, but are not, taken owing to the probabilistic curves that apply to the quanta of light and atoms. So too with consciousness. It is possible to use the mind to abstract away altogether from what actually exists. Yet at the same time, one may preserve a sense of being; the absence of a framework need not cause one to dissolve away and altogether lose one's sense of self-existence. To think in these ways is to begin to draw upon the metaphysically profound and purifying potential of space.

At the simplest level, one may, like Ralph Waldo Emerson, see the heavens as the great cleanser and purifier of consciousness. An uninformed eye sees the sky as bare space. But many people are by now aware from contemporary astrophysics that space is not totally empty, that there is matter and radiation in all the spaces between the galaxies. It is empty only by reference to the familiar space of the world of objects. Turning the idea over in the mind again, one might ask why the night sky, seemingly so empty, in fact suggests an indefinite extension in every direction, provides an intimation of a million galaxies. It seems as if there is at once some kind of structure and some kind of transcendence of all possible structures. To reflect upon these lines is to begin to approach the esoteric conception of space, which is neither a limitless void nor a conditioned fullness, but both. To persist in this thought is to raise fundamental questions about real being as opposed to embodied existence – about that which is within and without, omnipresent and invisible. By removing consciousness from its habitual confinement to narrow categories, such meditation will cleanse the mind.

Meditation must go even deeper, however, in order to generate a notion of Absolute Abstract Space without reference to subjects or objects. The point must be reached where there is a dissolution of the sense of "I" in reference to a pristine sense of self-existence. The notion of an "I" cannot arise unless there is already a separation in consciousness between the self within and the self as embodied, between the self in contemplation and the self that is extended without. Anyone even remotely familiar with the persistently intrusive nature of "I"-consciousness during attempts at meditation, much less daily life, should understand the tremendous effort of abstraction, of imagination and of depth in meditation needed to reverse the false order of priority which immersion in the immanent world of space-time imposes upon the pure stream of unmodified consciousness. Ego-consciousness insists upon pronouncing this or that as real. It imposes its own polarized constructions on appearances, maintaining that that which is more real is dark or empty, and has to be discovered by removing perceptible layers. In fact, however, the opposite is true. Spiritually, what is real is what is unmodified, what can never be penetrated by analysis of the differentiated realm of space-time, of subjects and objects. From the standpoint of Spirit, everything that emerges is unreal because it is only a veil upon that which is hidden behind it, not in the manner of subtle phenomena veiled by grosser phenomena, but in the manner of noumena which transcend phenomena entirely. All phenomena, whether they seem subtle or mundane, are equally unreal. Their reality is at best a relative mode of existence, relative to the observer and to most sense-perceptions, relative to the concepts and the cogitations of individual subjects, relative to phases and states of evolving consciousness.

Even more fundamental than the veil of concept is the veil of maya itself. Even to speak of maya is as mysterious and metaphysical as talking about blankness, Absolute Abstract Space, nothingness. The doctrine of maya is really a doctrine about time and causality, about consciousness and veiling, about the many-layered nature of space. When the contemporary physicist says that the universe is space and matter, this is but a dim reflection of the ancient idea that the universe is nirvana and maya. There is something mayavic about matter, but there is also something at the root of matter which is pure, homogeneous and eternal. There is noumenal substance beyond maya. There is also that about space which is beyond all possible dimensions. Even thinking of space as multidimensional does not reach to the soul of the concept. Even the mathematician who conceives of space as a collection of dimensionless points, each one the reduction of the circumference of a circle when its radius is zero, gets no closer. By imagining an infinite number of such points, one can generate a sort of metaphysical mapping of dimensionless points, which could be called space. It would be quite different from the metric space of the physicist, and much more abstract than the sense of visual space obtained by the casual watcher of the skies. But even this mathematical conception of space involves one in a mapping, in the snares of a rational mind, in conventional grooves, dependent upon the relativities of space-time and the shared experience in the world of contrasting objects and cogitating subjects.

To ascend in consciousness into the realm of pure noumenal substance and Absolute Abstract Space, one must come to terms with the problem of the ego. The ego, or the sense of "I", is that which consolidates, separates and appropriates both subject and object, nurturing a sense of possession and self-protectiveness. It is that in consciousness which seems to be engaged in a dubious process of preserving something, a sense of identity, but a something that turns out to be nothing in the eye of eternity. In contrast to this misplaced and misproportioned sense of ego-identity, the ancients considered even the gods, the Rishis, the Dhyani Buddhas and Manus, along with everything in this universe, as simply the periodic potencies of Brahmâ-Vishnu – infinite space. Space in the ultimate sense is both infinite expansion and all-pervasiveness, infinite growth and infinite preservation. The ancients did not conceive of this universe as something which could expand perpetually or be totally annihilated; for them expansion, preservation and annihilation were relative to a location or loka. Anything which disappears or appears on one plane emerges from or is absorbed into another plane. Beginnings and endings are not final. They simply exist, relative to an observer. But according to Gupta Vidya, they are also relative to planes of consciousness inhabited by various types of observers. Many, indeed most, of these planes are beyond the powers of observation of most souls. But it is certainly possible to hypothesize them and to explore the theoretical and practical implications of depth vision in consciousness. Each plane of consciousness can only be experienced by appropriate instruments that cast onto the screen of consciousness perceptions of objects and subjects in reference to a circumscribed set of variables. Given the postulate of Absolute Abstract Space, however, no set of instruments could exhaust the possibilities of growth or of absorption and annihilation.

As soon as one begins to view this entire universe as a limitation of potential existence, one of myriad possibilities potential within Brahmâ-Vishnu as infinite space, it becomes clear that there must be an illusion about egoity. It is an illusion of indefinite preservation. In the worst and saddest cases this amounts to an identification with a body. This is the karma of those who abused power in declining Egypt and elsewhere, and now fall under the influence of Madison Avenue and Hollywood. Involved in body worship, craving indefinite prolongation of the body, they present an extremely ugly and unnatural spectacle to the eye of the detached observer. Behind the mask of seeming glamour, few things are more hideous than clinging to a form in desperate defiance of the laws of Nature. Even these extreme cases, however, are only an exaggerated and tragic form of tanha, the force of desire to exist in an embodied form. Buddha taught that existence is suffering, that the cause of suffering is craving and that the extinction of tanha is nirvana or moksha.

According to the Stanzas of Dzyan, both the causes of the misery of existence and the seven paths to the bliss of moksha have a reality which is relative to a period of manifestation. In pralaya they are not. Speaking of the twelve nidanas, or causes of being – the concatenated chain of antecedent causes and successive effects through which karma and reincarnation operate – and referring also to maya – the element of illusion which enters into all finite things as a function of the limited powers of cognition with which any observer apprehends the appearances of the one hidden noumenon – H.P. Blavatsky explains tanha as follows:

 "The Causes of Existence" mean not only the physical causes known to science, but the metaphysical causes, the chief of which is the desire to exist, an outcome of Nidana and Maya. This desire for a sentient life shows itself in everything, from an atom to a sun, and is a reflection of the Divine Thought propelled into objective existence, into a law that the Universe should exist. According to esoteric teaching, the real cause of that supposed desire, and of all existence, remains for ever hidden, and its first emanations are the most complete abstractions mind can conceive. These abstractions must of necessity be postulated as the cause of the material Universe which presents itself to the senses and intellect; and they underlie the secondary and subordinate powers of Nature, which, anthropomorphized, have been worshipped as God and gods by the common herd of every age.

Ibid., i 44    

Given the cosmic nature of tanha, it is a long and difficult evolutionary process to elevate consciousness beyond the realm of maya. Even human beings who have successfully generated a sense of selfhood independent of the body have attachments still to the mind, through concepts, expectations and images. Even if they have gone beyond the samskaras and have begun to inhabit a realm of higher Manasic ideation, they have still, out of their love of meditation or their desire to help the human race, an inherence in form. It is so difficult to transcend ahankara altogether, collapsing it to a zero, that there is clearly something about this illusion which is due to the Vishnu function in the universe itself. To cooperate with this, and to plumb its pure depths, one must learn to coordinate it self-consciously with the Brahmâ function of expansion. From the standpoint of Buddhist metaphysics, an obsessive concern to extinguish the sense of "I" entirely only amounts to a form of craving for non-existence, a form of holding on to life. The same desire can exist both in a negative and a positive form. The desire to commit suicide, for example, exists in proportion to the desire to continue living.

Polarity of desire does not make the slightest difference to the intensity of craving and the intensity of conceptualization through form. This may be understood cosmically in terms of the duality of the Logos in manifestation as it incessantly acts through negative and positive, active and passive, forces. The positive force continually expands and sheds while the negative force continually gathers and fecundates. The active force falls into the veil of cosmic matter towards which it is continually attracted. This process, essential to cosmic manifestation, is the basis of limitation of consciousness in relation to manifested and differentiated matter. It is the basis, in some of the Puranic systems, for the depiction of ahankara as universal self-consciousness, coordinate with Mahat or universal mind. In these systems, however, there is a fundamental distinction between the lower forms of ahankara, related to an identification with a name and a form, or even individuated mind extending throughout a manvantara, and the highest form of ahankara associated with the cosmos.

Thus, owing to the universal tendency towards a mayavic inherence of consciousness in form, every human being attempting to contact the stream of pure unmodified consciousness is bound to discover certain barriers that are extremely difficult to cross, and which cannot ultimately be wholly dissolved while the capacity for incarnation still exists. Hence the rejection in Mahayana Buddhism of the desire for liberation and the necessity of cooperating with the universal sacrificial processess of the cosmos – Adhiyajna – in the pursuit of the Bodhisattvic ideal. With meditation one can participate through indefinite expansion in the consciousness of all beings. One can potentially be present in the consciousness of every atom, every ant, every grain of dust and every star. For most, these will merely be words, remote indeed from immediate experience. But one can nevertheless try to recognize theoretically, and beyond ordinary language, that there is an infinite possibility of expansion of the sphere of being and consciousness. In this expansion, however, it would be an error to suppose that one is doing the work oneself. In fact, one is merely becoming a vesture, a focussing instrument, of that which is intrinsic to the universe itself. Brahmâ is everywhere. The creative Logos is ceaselessly breathing in and breathing out. Through this expansive force forms come into being, disappear and are replaced by new forms. Considered in its ultimate and absolute origin, this is the basis of the expansion into manifestation of what the Stanzas of Dzyan call "the One Form of Existence". The deliberate invocation of this expansive force may be employed by the individual as a corrective to the contracting tendency of consciousness which consolidates ahankara at lower levels.

Owing to ahankara at the level of physical name and form, human beings are, typically, terrified of death. They should instead learn to expand their consciousness and consider the myriad human beings that they once knew, or did not know, who must have been their ancestors. Where are they? Can one imagine a consciousness after the moment of death? Can one imagine a consciousness that is capable of including innumerable human beings who have disappeared as bodies and forms? One might imagine entering a gallery of ancestral photographs and understanding that none of the human beings represented there still resemble the images that portray them because their forms have all been buried or burnt. That particular form has disintegrated. Yet if one concentrates on the pinpoints of light in their eyes, one can come to see these as a kind of collective veil upon the eternal sentient rays of light that are their true natures. "Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return" was not spoken of that light. It was spoken of the body, not the soul.

The vivifying expansive spiritual efflux in the immortal manvantaric ray inheres in and pervades the radiant plane of Akasha. H.P. Blavatsky suggests that Gupta Vidya

regards the Adi-Sakti the direct emanation of Mulaprakriti, the eternal Root of THAT, and the female aspect of the Creative Cause Brahmâ, in her A'kasic form of the Universal Soul – as philosophically a Maya, and cause of human Maya. But this view does not prevent him from believing in its existence so long as it lasts, to wit, for one Maha-manvantara; nor from applying A'kasa, the radiation of Mulaprakriti, to practical purposes, connected as the World-Soul is with all natural phenomena, known or unknown to science.

Ibid., i 10    

Gupta Vidya holds that the immortality of the ray from the One Source applies only to this vast cosmic epoch. Even the highest gods – the Dhyani Buddhas, the Manus, the Dhyan Chohans, the Rishi-Prajapati and the planetary spirits live for only one great period of manifestation. One may think of them as forms and intelligences superior in every way to human beings, but when the Maha-Manvantara ends, they are reabsorbed. After an existence of myriads upon myriads of years, they pass into a laya state, become sleeping points within the night of non-manifestation. In the Maha-Pralaya all the elements and hierarchies involved in manifestation become reabsorbed into the One. If this reabsorption applies to the gods, man can surely cooperate with it. There is, after all, nothing to be afraid of, because whatever the object of one's fears, it will eventually be dissolved. Secondly, there is nothing to depend on, because whatever the crutch of one's weaknesses, it will some time be reabsorbed.

Instead of placing one's reliance upon ultimately ephemeral forms, no matter how abstract, one should awaken and strengthen a sense of spiritual solidarity with the Great Breath. To begin to become one with the Great Breath in consciousness means re-educating all aspects of one's being. This demands much time and hard work because of the vast numbers of miseducated life-atoms in one's vestures. Through tanha and ahankara, masses of these miseducated elementals conjoined with brain electricity have left astral grooves, memories of mortality and insufficiency, of limitation and finitude. Because of this fragmentation and discontinuity of consciousness, one constantly tends to look outside oneself for that upon which one may rely. Owing to this exteriorization of all the sense-organs and faculties, one has virtually no acquaintance with the vast internal range of these organs. The deva-sight and deva-hearing, the sense of inner touch, are scarcely accessible to the self-crippled victims of ahankara. Thus, as human beings withdraw identification from the lower forms of ahankara, they can learn to inhabit self-consciously the stream of divine consciousness of the gods.

If even the gods exist only sempiternally, but to be reabsorbed at the end of the Maha-Manvantara, this is certainly true of all human beings – unless they become self-consciously immortal in spirit. Man is greater than the gods. If one grasps the immensity of Gupta Vidya and its Teaching in relation to triune SPACE, one will realize that it is not only possible to revolutionize one's thinking, feeling and breathing in relation to the vestures, raising them to a divine level. It is also possible to abide self-consciously in the Self-Existence of Sat-Chit-Ananda. This is the ultimate meaning of Krishna's affirmation that those who worship the gods go to the gods and "those who worship me come unto me". Beyond the realms of the gods, beyond nidana and maya, is the transcendent and absolute ground of all causality.

 The Secret Doctrine...postulates a "One Form of Existence" as the basis and source of all things. But perhaps the phrase, the "One Form of Existence", is not altogether correct. The Sanskrit word is Prabhavapyaya, "the place, or rather plane, whence emerges the origination, and into which is the resolution of all things"... . The Puranic Commentators explain it by Karana – "Cause" – but the Esoteric philosophy, by the ideal spirit of that cause. It is, in its secondary stage, the Svabhavat of the Buddhist philosopher, the eternal cause and effect, omnipresent yet abstract, the self-existent plastic Essence and the root of all things, viewed in the same dual light as the Vedantin views his Parabrahm and Mulaprakriti, the one under two aspects.

Ibid., i 46    

During the long night of manifestation, when the previous objective universe has dissolved into that Karana and is held in solution in space, which is filled with the unconscious pulsation of the Great Breath, the One Form of Existence is in causeless, dreamless sleep.

 The Father-Mother are the male and female principles in root-nature, the opposite poles that manifest in all things on every plane of Kosmos, or Spirit and Substance, in a less allegorical aspect, the resultant of which is the Universe, or the Son. They are "once more One" when in "The Night of Brahmâ", during Pralaya, all in the objective Universe has returned to its one primal and eternal cause, to reappear at the following Dawn – as it does periodically. "Karana" – eternal cause – was alone. To put it more plainly: Karana is alone during the "Nights of Brahmâ".

Ibid., i 41    

The All-Presence of that Karana is sensed by the opened eye of the Dangma or Mahatma, which is one in consciousness with the ideal spirit of that cause, unrestricted and unlocatable through any relationality to the dormant planes of the sleeping cosmos. In principle, self-conscious immortality in Spirit extends beyond even cosmic epochs, beyond the sempiternity of the gods and beyond the largest cycles of involvement and reabsorption.

Pure unalloyed consciousness is unmodified by all macrocosmic and microcosmic existence, is untouched by relationality at every level of manifestation and time. This affirmation of the pure eternity of Spirit is the central Teaching of the Avatar given to all human beings who seek to enter the silence of the Divine Dark and experience the reality of the unmanifest. If one senses the possibility of rising to and remaining in that consciousness, then one will begin to awaken the mystical sense of inner touch in relation to the impalpable Akasha, the ethereal substratum which interpenetrates all life in every atom and form. It is through this highest and finest veil upon pure SPACE, upon Deity itself or Parabrahm, that the Mahatmic magic of transmutation works. The more one uses this Teaching to awaken a deeper sense of reality and self-existence, the more one may comfortably dispense with all the subtle ways in which maya controls human beings through the nidanas and the concatenation of causes.

 Whatever plane our consciousness may be acting in, both we and the things belonging to that plane are, for the time being, our only realities. 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.

Ibid., i 40    

The realization of consciousness beyond all maya cannot conceivably be understood as a once-and-for-all process for any human being in any given incarnation. Yet if human beings have lived on earth for millions upon millions of years, distilling the pure spiritual essence of consciousness through myriad lives, they should not underestimate their noetic possibilities as men and women of meditation. By receiving the sovereign, sacrificial Teaching for the sake of serving all humanity and aiding in the divine evolution of Ideas, one may become an authentic co-worker with Nature and a true servant of "the Boundless Age". By awakening the spirit of compassion, one may recover the initiation experiences of past lives that are locked in the karana sharira. Then one may nurture fresh flowers of devotion, AUM in action, to be consecrated to the eternal incognizable Karana, OEAOHOO, the ever-acting Causeless Cause.

Hermes, February 1984
by Raghavan Iyer

Normal View