THE REAL AND THE UNREAL
“The perfect consciousness that ‘I am Brahma’
Removes the false appearances projected
By Ignorance . . . Know that indeed as Brahma—
Nothing exists but Brahma, when aught else
Appears to be ‘tis like the mirage false. . . .”
Atma-bodha (Knowledge of Soul)—by Sankaracharya.
The “misunderstanding” arises from a natural misconception of the sense in which certain terms are made use of rather than from any “inconsistent language” used. The alternative of moving for ever in a vicious circle faces the European student of Occult philosophy, who begins his study before having made himself familiar with the technical mode of thought and peculiarity of expression of its teachers. His first necessity is, to know the esoteric views of the ultimate nature of Spirit, of Matter, Force and Space; the fundamental and axiomatic theories as to the Reality and Unreality, Form and the Formless (rupa and a-rupa), dream and waking.* Especially should he master—at least approximately—the distinction between the “objective” and the “subjective” in the living man’s sensuous perceptions and the same as they appear to the psychic perceptions of a disembodied entity (Devachanee). It will not strengthen his case to put forth the objection that “the mode of the intercourse is not such as we can at present recognize from experience”; in other words, that until one becomes a “Devachanee” one cannot enter into sympathy
* The Vedanta philosophy teaches as much as Occult philosophy that our monad during its life on earth as a triad (7th, 6th, and 5th principles), has, besides the condition of pure intelligence, three conditions; namely, waking, dreaming, and sushupti—a state of dreamless deep— from the standpoint of terrestrial conceptions; of real, actual soul-life—from the occult standpoint. While man is either dreamlessly, profoundly asleep or in a trance state, the triad (Spirit, Soul and Mind) enters into perfect union with the Paramatma, the Supreme Universal Soul.—Ed.
with his feelings or perceptions. For, the disembodied individuality being identical in nature with the higher triad of the living man, when liberated as the result of self-evolution effected by the full development of conscious and trained will, the adept can through this triad learn all that concerns the Devachanee; live for the time being his mental life, feel as he feels, and sharing thoroughly in his supersensuous perceptions, bring back with him on earth the memory of the same, unwarped by mayavic deceptions, hence not to be gain-said. This, of course, assuming the existence of such lusus naturae as an “adept,” which may, perhaps, be conceded by the objectors for the sake of argument. And the further concession must be asked that no comparison shall be made to the adept’s detriment between the perceptive powers of his triad, when so freed from the body, and those of the half liberated monad of the entranced somnambule or medium which is having its dazed glimpses into the “celestial arcana.” Still less, is it allowable to gauge them by the reveries of an embodied mind, however cultured and metaphysical, which has no data to build upon, save the deductions and inductions which spring from its own normal activity.
However much European students may seem to have outgrown the crude beliefs of their earlier years, yet a special study of Asiatic mental tendencies is indispensable to qualify them to grasp the meaning of Asiatic expressions. In a word, they may have out-grown their hereditary ideas only far enough to qualify them as critics of the same; and not sufficiently to determine what is “inconsistent language” or consistent, of Eastern thinkers. Difference in the resources of language is also a most important factor to keep in mind. This is well illustrated in the alleged reply of an Oriental visiting Europe, when asked to contrast Christianity with Buddhism: “It requires an Index or glossary; for it (Christianity) has not the ideas for our words, nor the words for our ideas.” Every attempt to explain the doctrines of Occultism in the meagre terminology of European science and metaphysics to students ignorant of our terms, is likely to result in disastrous
misunderstandings despite good intentions on both sides. Unquestionably, such expressions as “life real in a dream” must appear inconsistent to a dualist who affirms the eternity of the individual soul, its independent existence, as distinct from the Supreme Soul or Paramatma, and maintains the actuality of (the personal) God’s nature. What more natural than that the Western thinker, whose inferences are drawn from quite a different line of thought, should feel bewilderment when told that the Devachanic life is “reality”—though a dream, while earthly life is but “a flitting dream”—though imagined an actuality. It is certain that Prof. Balfour Stewart—great physicist though he be—would not comprehend the meaning of our Oriental philosophers, since his hypothesis of an unseen universe, with his premises and conclusions, is built upon the emphatic assumption of the actual existence of a personal God, the personal Creator, and personal moral Governor of the Universe. Nor would the Mussulman philosopher with his two eternities—azl, that eternity which has no beginning, and abd, that other eternity having a beginning but no end; nor the Christian who makes every man’s eternity begin (!) at the moment when the personal God breathes a personal soul into the personal body—comprehend us. Neither of these three representatives of beliefs could, without the greatest difficulty, concur in the perfect reasonableness of the doctrine of Devachanic life.
When the word “subjective” is used in connection with the state of isolation of the Devachanee, it does not stand for the ultimate possible concept of subjectivity, but only for that degree of the same thinkable by the Western non-Oriental mind. To the latter everything is subjective without distinction which evades all sensuous perceptions. But the Occultist postulates an ascending scale of subjectivity which grows continually more real as it gets farther and farther from illusionary earthly objectivity: its ultimate, Reality—Parabrahm.
But Devachan being “but a dream,” we should agree upon a definition of the phenomena of dreams. Has memory anything to do with them? We are told by some
physiologists it has. That the dream-fancies being based upon dormant memory,* are determined and developed in most cases by the functional activity of some internal organ, “the irritation of which awakens into activity that part of the brain with which the organ is in specific sympathy.”
To this, bowing reverentially to modern science, the Occultist replies that there are dreams and dreams. That there is a difference between a dream produced by outward physiological causes, and the one which reacts and becomes in its turn the producer of super-sensuous perceptions and feelings. That he divides dreams into the phenomenal and the noumenal, and distinguishes between the two; and that, moreover, the physiologist is entirely unfit to comprehend the ultimate constitution of a disembodied Ego—hence the nature of its “dreams.” This, he does for several reasons, of which one may be particularly noticed: the physiologist rejects a priori WILL, the chief and indispensable factor of the inner man. He refuses to recognize it apart from particular acts of volition, and declares that he knows only the latter, viewed by him simply as a reaction or desire of determination of energy outward, after . . . “the complex interworking and combination of ideas in the hemispheral ganglia.” Hence the physiologist would have to reject at once the possibility of consciousness—minus memory; and the Devachanee having no organs, no sensory ganglia, no “educated” nor even “idiotic centres,”† nor nerve-cells, cannot naturally have that, what the physiologists would regard and define as memory. Unfettered from the personal sensations of the manas, the devachanic consciousness would certainly have to become universal or absolute consciousness, with no past as with no future, the two merging into one eternal PRESENT—but for the trammels of the personal Ego. But even the latter, once severed from its bodily organs, can have no such memory as
* One of the paradoxes of modern physiology seems to be that “the more sure and perfect memory becomes, the more unconscious it becomes.” (See Body and Mind, by H. Maudsley, M.D.)
† Professor Maudsley’s expressions.
defined by Professor Huxley, who fathers it upon the “sensigenous molecules” of the brain—those molecules, which, begotten by sensation, remain behind when it has passed away, and that constitute, we are told, the physical foundation of memory; hence also the foundation of all dreams. What can these molecules have to do with the ethereal atoms that act in the spiritual consciousness of the monad, during its bliss wholly based and depending upon the degree of its connection with only the essence of the personal Ego!
What may then be the nature of the Devachanic dream—we are asked—and how does the occultist define the dream of the still embodied man? To Western science a dream is a series of thoughts, of connected acts or rather “states,” which are only imagined to be real. The uninitiated metaphysician, on the other hand, describes it in his exoteric way, as the passage of sense from darkness into light—the awakening of spiritual consciousness. But the occultist, who knows that the spiritual sense pertaining to the immutable can never sleep or even be dormant per se, and is always in the “Light” of reality, says that during the state of sleep, Manas (the seat of the physical and personal intelligence) becomes able—its containing vehicle Kama, the WILL, being allowed the full freedom of its conscious action owing to volition being rendered passive, and unconscious by the temporary inactivity of the sensory centres—to perceive that reality in the subjective world which was hidden from it in waking hours. That reality does not become less real, because upon awakening the “sensigenous molecules,” and “uneducated centres” throw and toss in the mayavic light of actual life the recollection and even the remembrance of it into confusion. But the participation of the manas in the Devachanic bliss, does not add to, but on the contrary takes away from, the reality that would fall to the lot of the monad were it altogether free from its presence. Its bliss is an outcome of Sakkayaditthi, the delusion or “heresy of individuality,” which heresy, together with the attavadic chain of causes, is necessary for the monad’s future birth. It is all this that leads the
occultist to regard the association or “intercourse” between two disembodied entities in the Devachan—however more real than life it may be as an illusion, and from his standpoint still “a dream,” and so to speak of it; while that which his critics would fain call—however regretfully—dreams—“the interludes which fancy makes”—is in the knowledge of the former simply glimpses of the Reality.
Let us take an instance: a son loses a much beloved father. In his dreams he may see and converse with him, and for the time it lasts feel as happy and unconscious of his death as though the father had never left this earth. This upon awakening, he will regard with sorrow as a mere dream that could not last. Is he right to so regard it? The occultist says that he is wrong. He is simply ignorant of the fact that his spirit being of the same essence and nature as that of his father,—as all spirits are—and the inherent property of mutual attraction and assimilation being in their special case strengthened by the paternal and filial love of their personal Egos—that they have, in fact, never separated from each other, death itself being powerless to sever psychic association there, where pure spiritual love links the two. The “dream” was in this instance the reality; the latter a maya, a false appearance due to avidya (false notions). Thus it becomes more correct and proper to call the son’s ignorance during his waking hours a “dream” and “a delusion,” than to so characterize the real intercourse. For what has happened? A Spiritualist would say: “the spirit of the father descended upon earth to hold communion with his son’s spirit, during the quiet hours of sleep.” The Occultist replies: “Not so; neither the father’s spirit descended, nor has the son’s triad ascended (strictly and correctly speaking).” The centre of Devachanic activity cannot be localized: it is again avidya. Monads during that time even when connected with their five finite Kosas (sheaths or principles) know neither space nor time, but are diffused throughout the former, are omnipresent and ubiquitous. Manas in its higher aspect is dravya—an eternal “substance” as well as the Buddhi, the spiritual soul—when this aspect is
developed; and united with the Soul Manas becomes spiritual self-consciousness, which is a Vikara (a production) of its original “producer” Buddhi.* Unless made utterly unfit, by its having become hopelessly mixed with, and linked to, its lower Tanmatras, to become one with Buddhi, it is inseparable from it. Thus the higher human triad, drawn by its affinity to those triads it loved most, with Manas in its highest aspect of self-consciousness—(which is entirely disconnected with, and has no need as a channel of the internal organ of physical sense called antah-karana)†—helping, it is ever associated with, and enjoys the presence of all those it loves—in death, as much as it did in life. The intercourse is real and genuine.
The critic doubts whether such an intercourse can be called a “veritable one.” He wants to know whether the two disembodied entities are “really and truly affected the one by the other”; or, “is it merely that the one personality imagines the presence of the other,” such intercourse corresponding with no fact “of which the other personality [either embodied or disembodied] could take cognizance”; and while doubting, he denies that he is “‘postulating an incongruity in objecting that such an ‘intercourse’ is not real, is a ‘mere dream,’ “ for he says, he “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.’ “ If he really can, then where is the difficulty complained of? The real meaning attached by the occultist to such words as dream, reality, and unreality, having been explained, what further trouble is there to comprehend this specific tenet? The critic may
* It is only when Ego becomes Ego-ism deluded into a notion of independent existence as the producer in its turn of the five Tanmâtras that Manas is considered Maha-bhutic and finite in the sense of being connected with Ahancara, the personal “I-creating” faculty. Hence Manas is both eternal and non-eternal: eternal in its atomic nature (paramanu rupa); finite (or kârya-rupa) when linked as a duad—with kama (Volition), a lower production.—Ed.
† Antah-karana is the path of communication between soul and body, entirely disconnected with the former: existing with, belonging to, and dying with the body.—Ed.
also be asked, how he can conceive of a real conscious intercourse on both sides, unless he understands the peculiar, and—to him as yet unknown—intellectual reaction and inter-relation between the two. [This sympathetic reaction is no fanciful hypothesis but a scientific fact known and taught at initiations, though unknown to modern science and but hazily perceived by some metaphysicians—spiritualists.]† Or is it that, alternatively, he anthropomorphises Spirit—in the spiritualistic mistaken sense? Our critic has just told us that “the mode of the intercourse is not such as we [he] can at present recognize from experience.” What kind of intercourse is it then that he can conceive of?
† It is demonstrated to Occultists by the fact that two adepts separated by hundreds of miles, leaving their bodies at their respective habitations and their astral bodies (the lower manas and volition, kama) to watch over them, can still meet at some distant place and hold converse and even perceive and sense each other for hours as though they were both personally and bodily together, whereas, even their lower mayavi-rupas are absent.—Ed.