DEVACHAN : WESTERN STRICTURE AND EASTERN VERSION
[The Theosophist, Vol. IV, No. 11(47), August, 1883, pp. 266-272.]
(The memorandum that follows emanates from a British Theosophist. It was sent to “Lay Chela,” author of Esoteric Buddhism, in response to whose desire that the objections should be explained away, the three Replies subjoined have been sent They come from three different sources.—Editor, The Theosophist.)*
It seems to me that our misunderstanding arises from the use of inconsistent language in these teachings. We constantly hear of the “dreamers in Devachan,” of the “subjective isolation” of this state. And then we are forthwith reproached for regarding it as “less real” than our present condition! Take the case of the association of friends there. What we want to know is whether there is any REAL intercourse of personalities—of 5th principle—there. No. VI of Fragments in March Theosophist and App. C, p. 136, professes to explain this, but leaves it still doubtful. Of course for the disembodied consciousness in Devachan the bodily presence which to us here is the outward and visible sign of intercourse can have no reality. It was surely unnecessary to insist much upon the fact. “Two sympathetic souls,” we are told, “both disembodied, will each work out
* [There is evidence to show that these replies were received, as in so many other cases, through the instrumentality of H. P. B. Portions of the text may have been actually written by her. In this connection, Master K. H., in a letter to A. P. Sinnett, received in London about July, 1883, says: “Again and once more, an attempt has been mate to dispel some of that great mist that I find in Mr. Massey’s Devachan. It will appear as a contribution in the August number of The Theosophist, and to that I shall refer Mr. Massey and yourself . . .” (The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, p. 333)—Compiler.]
its own Devachanic sensations, making the other a sharer in its subjective bliss. This will be as real to them, naturally, as though both were yet on this earth.” So far so good; the truth and reality of the intercourse seem to be quite unmistakably affirmed, though of course the mode of the intercourse is not such as we can at present recognize from experience. But in the next passage our doubt revives. “Nevertheless, each is dissociated from the other as regards personal or corporeal association.”* As regards corporeal, granted, but what as regards personal, since it is just the personal, 5th principle, consciousness that survives in Devachan? Here are two disembodied personal consciousness in Devachan. Are they really and truly affected the one by the other so as to constitute a veritable intercourse, or is it merely that the one personality imagines the presence of the other, as taking that image to be reality, whereas it does not correspond with any fact of which the other personality could take cognizance? I deny that I am “postulating an incongruity” in objecting that such an “intercourse” is not real, is “a mere dream,” for I can conceive a real intercourse—conscious on both sides and truly acting and reacting—which does not apply “only to the mutual relationship of physical existence.”
It is asked “. . . what actual companionship could there ever be other than the purely idealistic one as above described, between two subjective entities which are not even as material as that ethereal body-shadow—the Mayavirupa.?” Now actual companionship implies the mutual action and reaction of consciousness—which need not be by any bodily mediation whatever. You must really and truly affect me, and I must know that you are in this sense (the most real of all) present with me, and vice versa.
* If we understand the spirit of the objection at all, it rests simply upon a mistake. The conjunction placed between the words “personal” and “corporeal” is sufficient to show that the term personal stands here for “external” or “bodily.” Why should it then be taken in the sense of the mental representation of a personality? The “or” makes the two adjectives identical.—Ed.
Anything short of that, any subjective consciousness of mine, whereby some representation of you arises in me if not correspondent to, and caused by, some act or thought of yours, is a mere dream, and I am ‘cheated by nature’ if I am made to believe what is not the fact. What we want to know, and cannot quite make out from these teachings, is whether Devachan is a state corresponding to our waking life here, or to our sleep with dreams? The former we call real and true, the latter fictitious.
The whole doubt arises out of the following statement: “The person whose happiness of the higher sort on earth had been entirely centered in the exercise of the affections” [that is the case with few of us—enough that the affections are an essential element of our higher happiness] “will miss none in Devachan of those whom he or she loved. But at once it will be asked, if some of these are not themselves fit for Devachan, how then? The answer is, that does not matter. For the person who loved them they will be there.” And then it is truly pointed out that there is nothing absolutely real in what is objective to us hereall is relative. “As real as the realities of this world to us, and even more so, will be the realities of Devachan to those who go into that state.” But it will not be denied that there is a real intercourse between personalities here, albeit, by very imperfect and not essentially real means. Your body, and the voice I hear, as well as my body and those organs of sense by which I hear, are mere phenomena, at least as unreal to a spiritual consciousness, as spirits are unperceived and therefore unreal to us. But you and I are not unreal. There is real intercourse between us. Through our present defective means, it is true that you are very imperfectly, very partially, with me—I only get a symbol of your presence. Still it is a perfectly honest symbol as far as it goes, and you are really speaking to me when I hear you. I do not merely seem to myself to hear you, who may be absent or non-existent all the while. But if in Devachan I can realistically imagine the presence the living, communicating presence—of some one who is not there; what security have I that I am truly in
communication with any one who is there? Am I truly in such communication in any case? Or is each personality perfectly secluded and isolated, merely feigning and dreaming the companions around it, you of me, and I of you, even though we are both really in the same state, and might just as well be really in each other’s company? But again, how, for any one who had attained the conception of Devachan in earth life—you and I for instance—would such dreams be possible? Why, we should know perfectly well all the time that we were merely dreaming, and then the dream would lose all its apparent reality—and we should in fact be awake. I should know that the friend I have left on earth is there still, and that what of him seems to be with me is a mere subjective image of my own. I should know that because I have learned the doctrine of Devachan, and because “the continuity of our speculative ideas is one of the characteristics of Devachan,” as you explained to me the other night. (See Reply II.—Ed.)
There seems to be one way out of this, and I should like to know if that is the true idea. It may be that for the Devachanee, that which is only future and potential for us here, is actual and present. Say that you are in Devachan, I upon earth. I of course as a person upon earth should have only that objective consciousness. But my higher personality, though not yet translated into terms of my objective consciousness, may all this while have a subjective consciousness of its own, that into which I shall come, and with which I shall identify myself in Devachan. And you in Devachan might be en rapport with this higher subjective consciousness of mine. You would thus know all that is best in me, all that in me which is in most affinity with your own Devachanic consciousness. Yet it would still be only so much of my 5th principle as is capable of elevation into the Devachanic state.
I have of course a great deal more to ask, but will not try your patience with more now.
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30th April, 1883.