This group discusses the practical applications of the theosophical philosophy and the therapeutics of the wisdom of the ages.
The art of living study group intends to discuss the relevance and connection of theosophical ideas to the challenges and hurdles of daily life. This group will focus on the ethical issues, psychological challenges and artistic applications of theosophy to the daily round and the common task. While the other three groups freely move back and forth between the universal and the particular, the theoretical and the practical, this group will make an attempt to stay focused on the practical side of the art of living equation.
Weekly Theme for Contemplation: The Eye of Shiva
February 18, 2017 at 6:47 pm #4919
Theme for Contemplation: The Eye of Shiva
“The priceless gift of spiritual vision veiled in the arcane symbolism of the Eye of Shiva is the sacred heritage of future humanity.” — Aquarian Almanac
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Weekly Theme for Contemplation: The Eye of Shiva
LauraParticipantLaura February 20, 2017 at 7:04 am #4930
The best way to build this conviction , to stop the focus on the senses, is through an understanding of Unity and through service to all that lives. In our daily work, this is what conquers the lower nature and keeps our higher focus till we can again get back to our studies of the great ideas.
ModeratorTN February 18, 2017 at 7:06 pm #4925
February 19, 2017 Theme for Contemplation: The Eye of Shiva
Shiva, the Destroyer, is the Creator and the Saviour of Spiritual
Man, as he is the good gardener of Nature. — H. P. BLAVATSKY
Once that the eyes are closed and the mind, drawn away from all external
objects of sense, is concentrated, what may appropriately be called the sixth sense
or ‘Shiva’s eye’ is opened. — D. K. MAVALANKAR
barbara February 20, 2017 at 5:32 am #4929
Big ideals and big ideas draw us forward by lifting our vision out of the limited confines and expanding them into the Greater Whole. Our thoughts often revolve around our marrow self and the material world. Right thoughts are imperative since they build our character; It is said that “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” The more we dwell on uplifting thoughts, the more they can become our reality. Using your garden analogy, we can say big ideas and ideals are the nutrients that help the growth of a plant. We know it takes much work and a long time for a healthy plant to blossom, and the conviction of the gardener is strengthened upon seeing the growth of every new bud and stem.
Ryan HauckParticipantRyan Hauck February 20, 2017 at 2:08 pm #4932
I think we can agree that each of us has a center of gravity when it comes to the quality and content of our thinking; the mental sphere of our experience. I think we can also agree that this nousferous climate is causative to our “outward” experience and expression. Therefore what we accept as true in our minds, we perceive and experience as being true “out there”.
The picture of a garden as representing our mental plane is a beautiful one. We tend to a garden to ensure the healthy growth of certain plants, and remove the weeds which may be stunting the growth of the more productive plants.
I have had an experience, while gardening, where I removed all preconceived idea’s about any of the plants, and the weeds became equal to the tomato plant. Is this perhaps the “singularity” of thought in which we are to become?
Pavel Axentiev February 20, 2017 at 7:39 pm #4934
Ha-ha. That’s bad gardening unless it’s a permaculture garden 🙂
One of the most useful tricks is the ability to, relatively speaking, stop the thought flow through our heads. A meditative practice helps with that. Essentially, you are focusing vaguely on the area of the 3rd eye (the Eye of Shiva), while trying to be more aware of the environment.
Pavel Axentiev February 20, 2017 at 7:59 pm #4935
Also, regarding the preconceived ideas (it’s a very interesting observation, by the way), the idea that we have three “brains” (intellectual, emotional, and instinctive), each of them working separately and sometimes interfering with the work of the others, has been very helpful to me in achieving better control of the mental activity. We have all of us several processes going on inside ourselves simultaneously. Each of them uses different energy and is suited for a particular purpose. When a “brain” uses a wrong kind of energy, or performs a type of activity it is not suited for, it affects the performance of the whole being. On the other hand, correct work of all the functions creates a sort of harmony that enables one to access higher levels of our consciousness. That is according to the Fourth Way theory, and the practice of constant self-observation is, in my opinion, necessary for anybody who wants to progress in their spiritual development.
barbara February 21, 2017 at 1:20 am #4937
It is hard to appreciate any garden if our mind wanders off, thinking about the arguments we had yesterday with our families or anticipating the work that needs to be done, etc. We may even step on a plant or weed if we are not paying attention; hence, singularity of thought or being present in the moment is very useful.
Experience is the best teacher and there is usually a hidden message. All plants, including weeds, are from the same family. On the exterior level, we have to learn the names, the forms, the functions, the attributes and more to understand these living organisms. On the inner level, they are all life and consciousness expressed in the forms of a growing plant. A deeper perception would allow us to overlook the distinctions on the surface and become aware of the common source. It is viewing reality from the inside out.
Gerry Kiffe February 22, 2017 at 6:49 pm #4960
Ryan, to be inspired by great gardens go here: http://www.gardenoftheweek.net
I think gardening is a great metaphor for living the life of a spiritual seeker. We have to be diligent. We must remove what does not support beauty. We have to feed and nurture the garden. We have to prune back excesses. We need to water the garden which is like meditation it seems to me. We have the idea of the Good Gardener of Nature, for a phrase to point to the human being on the Path to Enlightenment. Weeds would be removed in this scenario because they represent selfish thoughts.
Odin TownleyParticipantOdin Townley February 21, 2017 at 3:04 am #4938
Considered the highest god in the Hindu pantheon, Shiva is a metaphor for spiritual action. He is minimized by some Western scholars as only the ‘god of war, death and destruction’ — forgetting this god is a symbol. He is the warrior in us, not the passive slave, the true pursuer of spiritual growth. Shiva represents ‘change’ — not just in the form of physical death and destruction — but in the positive sense of the shedding of old habits, removing unhealthy behaviors. He is the god of the yogis, and represents the most essential goodness.
Pavel Axentiev February 21, 2017 at 5:57 am #4940
Thank you for understanding me correctly. I have been a student of the Fourth Way for 20 years, and now I seem to know it better. You can also sense the body in many different ways, but that does not seem to lead far. It may be useful in the beginning, though, to feel your legs or the air you breathe, etc. That engages a part of the energy that is wasted on thought. You may get a different state when you senses are hightened. The real trick, though, seems to be to be aware of your thoughts, I experience a lot of intuitions. Sort of like developing psychick power.
Gerry Kiffe February 22, 2017 at 6:57 pm #4961
The development of psychic powers has been warned against in myriad ways by the teachers of theosophy. Suffice to say we all have enough work to do in getting our ethical house in order, which is a prerequisite for any occult powers. The evidence of the past tells a tale of people crashing and burning because they got this order wrong. The Eye of Shiva could also be thought of as the laser that cuts out the selfish component that so torments mankind.
Pavel Axentiev February 23, 2017 at 7:14 pm #4963
Gerry, in regard to your comment re: development of psychic powers, I agree. However, it is also stated that this development comes naturally in the course of spiritual evolution, and may be used, perhaps, as a sort of a series of guiding posts, to see that you are actually accomplishing anything. The trick is to not fall for the development of psychic powers per se but to continue pursuing the higher path of developing the connection with the Spirit.
Gerry Kiffe February 24, 2017 at 6:05 pm #4973
The problem with the psychic power issue is not the powers themselves, which as you say come naturally in human evolution. The problem is the motivation behind their acquirement. If the individual sets out to gain such powers so that they might shine above their peers, perform tricks to the amusement of one’s fellow man, and I would add, measure their own “spiritual progress”, in all three cases they would be walking backwards. Why because the core problem, the separative sense of self, is expanding and running the show. And until the separative sense of self is put in its proper place, all these developments are typically at the service of personal pride. And all of this ignores perhaps the bigger problem of playing with fire when we are not ready. I think the very notion of measuring ones progress has problems. Better still, it seems to me, to ask the question “Can I do more to help my fellow man? What service or duty might I fulfill more completely? How can I govern my life better such that I can reduce whatever energies I create that are a drag on humanity’s march to universal enlightenment? These kinds of questions help us sand down the false ego problem.
barbara February 25, 2017 at 4:50 am #4984
The Theosophy teaching on the constitution of a human being and the various planes in which we function is invaluable information to our understanding of the differences between the psychic and spiritual. Our knowledge of the septenary division that combines the upper triad and the lower quarterary helps us to identify and discern the nature of our perceptions and experiences, which may lead to deeper understanding. Development of our lower vehicles does not necessarily mean the unfoldment of our higher principles. A person may be very psychic but the spiritual elements may still be dormant.
Similar to psychic power, there is abundance of supernatural beauty and splendor that we tend to overlook. How often do we stop and be amazed by the power of the sun that continually gives life to all the creatures on our planet? How often do we marvel at the phenomena that just by uttering a range of sounds others would know our internal thoughts? How often do we notice that the cells in our body continually die and born, that the miracle of life persists. There are innumerable examples of magic manifesting all around us.
Ramprakash ML February 25, 2017 at 7:13 am #4988
Well said. It is true service of humanity without distinctions of caste, creed or colour. Altruism is the integral part of Self-development.
“Theosophy is essentially unsectarian, and work for it forms entrance to the inner life. But, none can enter there save the man himself in the highest and truest spirit of Brotherhood, and any other attempt at entrance will either be futile or he will lie blasted at the threshold.” (HPB”s Second Message)
ModeratorTN February 22, 2017 at 7:07 am #4941
February 21, 2017 Theme for Contemplation: The Eye of Shiva
When, Oh Lord of the Word, the wise established
Name giving, the first principle of language,
Their inmost excellence, pristine and pure,
Hidden deep within, was brought to light through love.
— HYMN TO VACH
This dead of midnight is the noon of thought. — ANNA BARBAULD
The law is light. — PROVERBS
ModeratorTN February 22, 2017 at 7:08 am #4942
February 22 , 2017 Theme for Contemplation: The Eye of Shiva
Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate
peace and harmony with all. — GEORGE WASHINGTON
The great secret of morals is love; or a going out of our own natures and an
identification of ourselves with the beautiful which exists in thought, action, or
person, not our own. — PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY
Kristan Stratos February 23, 2017 at 12:48 am #4962
“Is the Eye of Shiva the capacity sift out the inessential from the essential? To see Reality through the illusions?”
Though I do understand what you mean, or at least I hope I do. I’d like to introduce a question regarding this “Reality vs. Illusion,” as it has been causing much trouble for me when I’ve decided to put it to the test in my personal life. I have determined that the concept of illusion/maya has caused a fatal distraction.
By definition, the “illusion” is something that cannot be defined- as it is absolutely fiction in its nature, appearance, quality etc. So, how can one know illusion alone without a contrasting subject? Further, this subject of contrast must be Essential in its existence, otherwise itself would be equal to the illusion. If we were to know illusion contrasted with Reality, which we are told is akin to Truth (being One in essence)- Omnipresent and Omniscient- by definition, this must be Eternal and absolutely present under all circumstances. All esoteric schools seem to have a fundamental principle that there cannot be two Existences, thus the existence of illusion (even if it be apparent), has no place when Absolute Truth is said to be Eternal and “Necessarily Existent.”
Nothing in this transactional reality could possibly originate from this plane alone, movement/action, thought, feeling, emotion, etc. This is a basic proposition. It has been said that this plane, our physical existence, is the result i.e., the effect. There must be a hierarchical sequence, undoubtedly beyond our conception, to make the slightest of action or movement occur, or manifestation of color, temperature, physical/emotional/intellectual senses etc. etc… A bud cannot just magically appear because of the mystical change in seasons, there must be Laws governing this process, and these Laws are Fundamental- totally irrefutable.
If we study the doctrine of manifestation, we see that all exists in potentiality (seeds of potency) awaiting for the proper conditions, vehicles, circumstances to occur to fully manifest.
Holding to a fundamental truth, Law, which we can more or less see operating all around us, how can there be such talk of illusion vs. reality? Is illusion a concept born from the separative mind regarding the inability to detect specific occurrences and fundamental laws? But yet- if the Laws are working in operation then it must necessarily be a Reality, no? How else can something Eternal and Omnipresent be in visible operation if the field of operation itself is an illusion, as this would negate its Absolute and Eternal Presence ?
Pavel Axentiev February 23, 2017 at 7:19 pm #4964
Kristan, in my opinion you have misunderstood the concept of Maya, or Illusion. Just consulting the Bhagavad Gita gives one a better idea of it. In short, Maya is the energy of the Parabrahman (Krishna). Its manifestations do not affect the Spirit, the Higher Reality (the Atman). However, there is, perhaps, nothing accidental about it. The manifestations are guided by the Law of Karma, and they also are described as completely dependent on the nature of the three Gunas and the Prakriti. T. Subba Row’s wonderful “Discourses on the Bhagavad Gita” (1888) give a lot of explanations in that regard.
Samantha Province February 23, 2017 at 9:10 pm #4966
It’s a frequent refrain in Madhyamaka texts there is not a “hair’s breadth of difference” between samsara and nirvana. From my understanding, the world of form simply is the formless world and conventional existence simply is the Absolute. Emptiness is cause and effect. The only “difference” is that we have a mistaken apprehension of it, that is all.
ModeratorTN February 24, 2017 at 12:01 am #4968
No doubt the concept of maya, illusion and manifestation are all extremely complex. The quest for Wisdom, the Eye of Shiva, if you will, is none other than a quest to understand these things so that we might live a better life. Maya, is both manifestation, and illusion. Manifestation is by definition illusory (it is not entirely what it seems) and has a core of reality perhaps (life giving source from which it sprang). It is best not to think of illusion, when we consider it in metaphysical terms, as pejorative. There is nothing wrong or bad about manifestation. It is necessary. It is part of the Great Cycle.
Great Teachers warn about attachment to things that are impermanent. What we see and touch appears permanent. But with a moments reflection we know they are not.
I really don’t know what transactional reality might be. It is an idea new to me. But…. The idea of what is essential and what inessential is more familiar. Example: If we let a small slight from a friend ruin our relationship then we are allowing priority to inessentials and ignoring the essential. What is essential, the friendship. What is less important? A small slight (forgetting to call you on your birthday.) Life is full of this kind of sifting. To be wise, to have the Shiva eye, is to always be looking for the essential. The Shiva eye would be regenerative.
Kristan Stratos February 24, 2017 at 1:37 am #4969
Transactional Reality is exactly what it sounds like- a reality based entirely on transactions. A transaction is an exchange or interaction of information, data etc. from A to B. We gather information of the world around us by physical senses, thus a transaction of a physical reality. If we follow this line of thought (reality based on sensory transactions) then all levels of manifestation will be included- physical, psychic, and spiritual.
“Maya, is both manifestation, and illusion. Manifestation is by definition illusory (it is not entirely what it seems) and has a core of reality perhaps (life giving source from which it sprang). It is best not to think of illusion, when we consider it in metaphysical terms, as pejorative… It is necessary. It is part of the Great Cycle.”
There was no question regarding the purity or sinfulness of illusion… this wasn’t at all the point. The question is very simple; Show proof… How is one able to show that manifestation is illusory. By what means is one able to contrast the illusion to arrive at a sound logical conclusion?
Manifestation is necessary- as mentioned- thus, a thing which is necessary must then become a Law, no? Again, following logical order, it must be admitted that what is a necessary is Law; what is Law is Eternal Truth. Can there be room for something which is ‘illusory’ by nature to be Fundamentally Existent Law? … Perhaps it is just the word ‘illusion’ and how it is used which is started to irritate me…
Samantha mentions a very logical answer, which is mistaken perception. We know the the sun does not ever rise and set, yet we speak of sunrise and sunset- yet it doesn’t change the nature of the Sun in the slightest. Again, just because we detect something which is not entirely what is seems to be, doesn’t negate its essential Truth of Existence. Following this, if an individual is mistaken about the nature of Reality (singular: multiple aspects, levels, grades etc.) and formulates distinctive divisions from A to B to C- these imposed divisions affect Nature in no essential or fundamental way. So in assuming this, the ‘illusion’ is a product of a very particular condition of mind, and has no actual proof of existence independent of this.
We accept the One Life is omnipresent, we accept Its Laws are equally omnipresent (Deity is Law), we accept the Fundamental Laws of Nature acting upon Eternal (cyclic) Impulse, but are willing to accept Its expressive and expansive form is illusory? Again, can That- which is Omnipresent- and Its (Omnipresent) Laws execute an Eternal Cyclic Impulse (Karmic Necessity) in a field of operation (prakrti) which is admitted to be illusory?
Am I sounding alright? The point I am trying to make is; because A is Necessarily Existent, B (Transactional Reality) must be inherently A based on the Omnipresence of A’s essence. What occurs from B-Z is the potency of A. Why call the existence of B-Z an illusion when all following letters are crucial representatives of the alphabet? Apply this to Cosmic manifestation. This is my point.
Jon Fergus February 25, 2017 at 5:31 pm #5001
Just want to share a few thoughts relating to some ideas shared thus far. Kristan, the way the word “illusion” is used drives me a little nuts too, so you’re definitely not alone there. I find it to be a wholly inadequate translation for the term “maya” (which HPB refers to as a “cosmic power“, not as illusion; see Theosophical Glossary and SD 1:292 where HPB equates Mahamaya directly with Sakti).
There is, I think, nothing “illusory” about, well, anything. All IS. And we need to begin there, with that premise. Even the most crazed dreams of a madman are still present realities of some kind on some plane, i.e. there is some kind of “transaction” occurring between something(s) that are.
“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.” (SD 1:40) [note that the delusions are produced by maya, but are not maya itself; i.e. maya is the power behind them]
A “delusion” is not an “illusion”, and I think that’s an important distinction to be made. There is also evidently a relativity involved in what we deem “real”, depending on our plane of consciousness. But all is REAL per se, even if we mistake what something is when we perceive it, due to our own faulty perception. If I look at a landscape through a thick fog, I’m likely to mistake much of what I am seeing, but I would not be seeing anything if there was not something real there to see. The madman may not properly or fully perceive the real “things” at play in a transaction, and so may misinterpret what they are in themselves, but they are still present realities of some kind on some plane, and even his resulting mistaken ideas about what was perceived are themselves realities of some kind on some plane.
This is why I highly appreciate Sankaracharya’s examples of Maya and Avidya. There’s the famous “rope/snake” analogy, where a man walking at night sees a snake, becomes scared and approaches carefully, only to discover that there was no snake but instead just a rope. The snake was “illusion” (actually delusion) only in a certain sense, but the rope was and is a present reality composed of the substance of this plane, so the only problem was a misinterpretation of a perception (or a faulty idea of what was occurring in a transaction). Or there’s the “robber/post” analogy, which follows the same line of thought: a man sees a robber on a path at night, but when he gets closer he realizes that it’s just a fence post. The realization that the post is a post and not a robber doesn’t mean that there was a robber and now that robber no longer exists; there was always just a post.
BUT (and I think it’s a big BUT), there is a kind of “idea” or “belief” of the “robber”, which must be a thought-entity of its own, on the mental plane of the perceiver, which was formed because of a mistaken perception. In this sense, the “robber” did, in fact, “exist”, at least for a time, as an “elemental” thought-entity on the appropriate plane, even if there is not an actual physical robber. So even the mistaken perception itself is still a “thing”, still IS, or it could not have existed in the imagination of the man. Close your eyes and picture something and that something has its own kind of “existence” on the appropriate plane of mental action, which means it must have its own kind of “substance” on some plane (how could it be otherwise?). (if it were otherwise, the science of “precipitation” could not exist either…).
If we follow this line of thought, I believe we may come to better understand the nature of “illusion” in relation to the astral light etc. and the problems with how such a level of manifestation comes to be what it is. If one mistakenly perceives something (imagines he sees a robber instead of a post), a thought-entity of a “robber” must be formed in the mind of the perceiver. If that perceiver doesn’t investigate further, thus doesn’t realize that there was no robber, he may continue to give energy and “life” to that thought-entity. He then goes home and tells his wife about the robber in the road, and his wife upon hearing the story develops her own bundle of thought-entities, of her husband and the path and the robber, and these no doubt may coalesce together with his through shared affinity. As the story spreads soon the whole village will be participating in this collective (and increasing) bundle of thought-entities. The path where the post is becomes a place where people fear to tread because they fear the robber that they all imagine is waiting for them. And so on and so on. Use this type of example and one may also see the power of religious superstition and how it is so easily spread, or how media manipulation may work (to give a modern example).
The point of these examples is that while all IS and there cannot be anything in any level of reality that is in itself purely “illusion”, and manifestation per se cannot rightly be said to be “illusion” plain and simple, there must be a kind of secondary “creation” within “creation” so to speak: the product of man’s thinking and imagination based on mistaken perceptions and beliefs, and that perhaps is more akin to what we would call “illusion” (also in the sense that it is unnecessary for manifestation to be). But even then… this is more a collective delusion than an illusion, as the delusions themselves exist on the plane of the astral light, with their own substance etc. Thus again…. there is nothing that is truly “illusion”.
I may be mistaken in some of these ideas, but it seems sound to my mind.
Kirk MarzuloParticipantKirk Marzulo February 25, 2017 at 5:13 pm #5000
Perhaps this may be a helpful (though much simplified) way to speak of the problem:
The physical senses (the first “Hall” in the Voice) give illusory information because if we rely on them only, we are liable to grossly error. For example, we may think we are the body only (as materilistic science tells us) and that we perish at the death of the physical body. The physical senses also do not properly convey even the next more subtle level of reality hidden behind them. We do not yet see the activity or understand the nature of force and of being in the astral and therefore what may seem patently true from a purely physical perception, might have a quite different “reality” if we could perceive the underlying astral forces at work.
Likewise, the astral realm (Hall the Second) is perhaps even more illusory and dangerous. Many warnings can be found in Theosophical literature. What may seem as a luminous, beatific flower (or a loved one, a famous person in history or an adept even) in this realm, may have a nefarious serpent coiled at its base. Psychic whirlwinds, fascination and intoxication are dangers that souls succumb to. Here complete purity of motive, along with highly developed powers of perceptive discrimination and self-mastery are needed. Yet, this is also a necessary realm of experience that every human being will need to pass through, understand and transcend.
The third “Hall” in the Voice is Wisdom wherein “all shadows are unknown and where the light of truth shines with unfading glory” corresponding with Alaya-Akasa and the Higher Triad in the human principles. In order to reach it, we must divest ourselves of our “dark garments of illusion.” Once there, presumably, the first and second Hall will appear quite different. They will be seen as shadows or deceptive veils, rather than as the substantial realities to the beings who are bound to and identify with them.
This simple three-fold division could be further elaborated (presumably) into 7 or 49…or into “the infinite gradation” that exists (per H. P. B.) between the lowest levels of matter and the highest spiritual conditon. “Beyond which stretch the shoreless waters of AKSHARA, the Indestructible Fount of Omniscience.”
ModeratorTN February 23, 2017 at 11:37 pm #4967
February 23, 2017 Theme for Contemplation: The Eye of Shiva
To make our will strong we must have fewer desires. Let those be high,
pure, and altruistic; they will give us strong will. — W. Q. JUDGE
His jiva has become Shiva, the Self. He is satisfied with what comes to him
without effort, and is free from the pairs of opposites; he is the same amidst all
changes in his environments. — BHAVANI SHANKAR
Gerry Kiffe February 24, 2017 at 2:17 am #4970
I am beginning to see what you are getting at better now. I think it is true that when we speak of manifestation we tend to freeze it in time whereas we know the natural world is in a constant state of flux. I would start by saying, that until we can claim some form of realization, ideas like the One Life, Law, and Omni-Presence are all working hypothesis for us. That means that our knowledge of these things are insufficient and in need of development. What is illusion and what is reality from a psychological standpoint would no doubt demand that we take into account the standpoint of the perceiver. Human society does not exist to the ant. Geological time is outside the range of the typical human beings points of reference. So what is real and unreal changes from this standpoint:
(4.) The Universe is called, with everything in it, MAYA, because all is temporary therein, from the ephemeral life of a fire-fly to that of the Sun. Compared to the eternal immutability of the ONE, and the changelessness of that Principle, the Universe, with its evanescent ever-changing forms, must be necessarily, in the mind of a philosopher, no better than a will-o’-the-wisp. Yet, the Universe is real enough to the conscious beings in it, which are as unreal as it is itself. page 274 book 1 SD
You might say that each perceiver works within a certain universe. By definition that universe has limits and boundaries and those limits and boundaries define what is real and what is unreal. If we want to leap to the ULITMATES, which I think most students are too quick to do, then we move on to ideas like immutability, omnipresence and the Void.
What theosophy teaches us is that there are levels to reality wherein the most abstract levels are CAUSAL to the more concrete levels. Taking that into account you might say that the path of the pilgrim soul is to plumb the depths, level by level, both intellectually and experiencially of these planes. Hence the Gita says, “What is night to the unenlightened is as day to his gaze, what is day is known to him as night.” The Sage is aware of the reality of the causal planes.
- This reply was modified 3 months ago by Gerry Kiffe.
PeterModeratorPeter February 24, 2017 at 4:28 pm #4971
– By definition, the “illusion” is something that cannot be defined- as it is absolutely fiction in its nature, appearance, quality etc
– Is illusion a concept born from the separative mind regarding the inability to detect specific occurrences and fundamental laws?
Hi Kristan, these are very interesting thoughts and questions. So often we just repeat passages from the literature about the nature of reality and illusion without any attempt to reflect upon it deeply. It’s really valuable to ‘think it through’.
I think we can say a few things about illusion, which might contribute towards a definition of it.
An illusion is an error in the cognitions of sentient beings. (By cognition we normally mean the process of gaining knowledge and understanding of the world through our thoughts, senses and experience.)
In other words, ‘illusion’ is not something that exists in the world. Illusion exists only in the mind of the beholder (i.e. In the cognitions of sentient beings). Is this the kind of understanding your own thoughts were pointing to?
An important issue is how we might distinguish between valid and invalid cognitions.
- This reply was modified 3 months ago by Peter.
Pavel Axentiev February 24, 2017 at 6:11 pm #4974
Re: Kristan’s topic
I think Samantha has brought up a very valid parallel with the idea of Emptiness (Sunyata): proper understanding of this idea implies the concept of dependent origination, i.e. things are “empty” because they do not exist independently.
It may be good to remember that our intellect (the Manas) is also a part of the Maya, as are the senses. Proper logic may not help, if you don’t have the experiential facts straight, as Gerry duly noted.
And the most obvious solution I see to the problem stated by Kristan is that our perception of reality is limited by the senses (or the senses including the Manas). Things are not what they seem to us to be: they are not solid or liquid, green or black. It’s all just interplay of energy. Matter does not exist, it’s nature is Light (electromagnetic and other forces).
Quantum experiments tell us that the existence of elementary particles is affected by the observer, that the particles can “foresee” what is going to happen to them, that events in two distinct locations are inexplicably connected by “quantum entanglement.” If all this does not at least add to the understanding that reality as we perceive it is illusion, I don’t know what will.
Kristan Stratos February 24, 2017 at 6:34 pm #4976
Pavel- we must appreciate and hold to fundamental axioms when studying occult philosophy:
Spirit and Matter are one, co-eternal existence.
If we deny the existence of Matter, the philosophy is built on shifting sands. Pure and simple. Light cannot manifest without a vehicle, cyclic necessity cannot operate, life cannot flow.
I’d also not consider the senses as ultimately “limited,” technically they operate perfectly within the associated within a specific vehicles progressive evolutionary progress. There are numerous associated hierarchies of elementals, devas etc contained within one organ. Include the human form in its totality and we have another axiom regarding the microcosm and macrocosm:
As it is above so it is below.
Look- take a simple element such as water. It can be changed into various forms; a solid, gas, etc. We would have no right to deny the vapors and call it illusory anymore than to say the liquid state is its reality.
Illusion, as Peter points out:
“… is not something that exists in the world. Illusion exists only in the mind of the beholder…”
Perfect. Illusion, then, has nothing to do with manifestation of necessity, but individual perception contrasted with the vistas of sensory evolution and spiritual maturity.
Sound a little better?
Pavel Axentiev February 24, 2017 at 8:11 pm #4978
Re: Kristan’s post #4976
Well, I don’t deny the existence of matter, although I have to admit I have quite a limited understanding of the concept of the Prakriti.
Spirit and Matter are one in the Parabrahman, as we are told in Theosophy. The Oneness is neither spirit nor matter but something indescribable.
Moreover, Maya (the Illusion) is an emanation of the Supreme, according to the Bhagavad Gita. In the Discourses, T. Subba Row goes into detail as to how the Light of the Logos interacts with the Prakriti to create reality as we know it. Prakriti itself does not have any properties we typically assign to matter, all these properties appear due to the emanation of the Logos.
I see the above as two distinct views, one dualistic (Logos and Prakrit) and the other monistic, which I can’t quite reconcile yet.
However, I simply can’t agree with the view that the senses are somehow perfect. That seems to be coming from some kind of interpretation of the Samkhya philosophy, for better or for worse. It’s pretty common knowledge that our senses are imperfect, and also that we as human beings have the propensity to be illusioned and to err. That seems to be in agreement with the Vedic tradition (vide: four human defects). I also generally dislike taking generalist statements like “As above, so below” for granted. Such dogmatic application leads to all kinds of human errors. I believe that the boundaries of application of any analogy have to be tested.
Samantha Province February 24, 2017 at 9:22 pm #4980
Also the Theosophical view from what I understand is akin to the philosophical position of “dual-aspect monism.” There is only one sort of thing that has the properties of both matter and mind (or spirit) which we can then distinguish abstractly into two aspects in a way that can come to resemble dualism.
Samantha Province February 24, 2017 at 10:11 pm #4981
As for senses (or pramanas, epistemic instruments): In the Madhyamaka philosophy, these are understood to exist in mutual dependence with their epistemic objects. Our instruments can be either deceptive or non-deceptive according to mundane conventions (i.e. ophthalmia is mundanely deceptive). The objects delivered to our mundanely non-deceptive epistemic instruments are ontologically real but do not exist in the way they appear to (i.e. they are empty but appear to be non-empty), so they are still deceptive with regard to ultimate reality although not mundane conventions. I think this makes sense of the teaching of maya being an emanation of the Supreme. The scholar Sonam Thakchoe has written a good piece on this (“Prasangika Epistemology in Context”) that may be found online.
Jon Fergus February 25, 2017 at 10:34 am #4995
This is a good point about “dual-aspect monism”, Samantha.
HPB notes that the esoteric philosophy is essentially an “Objective Idealism” (SD 1:631)
Earlier in the same section of the SD, she had also said the following:
“It may be correctly stated that were Leibnitz’ and Spinoza’s systems reconciled, the essence and Spirit of esoteric philosophy would be made to appear.” (SD 1:628-29)
That section of the SD (Gods, Monads, Atoms) holds, I think, the solution to many of the difficulties we students have with the subtleties in these concepts of spirit and matter, maya, etc., though it can be a very challenging section to “dig our minds into”. I’ve also found it helpful to spend some time looking into the philosophies of Leibniz and Spinoza, along with others like Schopenhauer and Kant and von Hartmann etc. to flush out some of the foundations of “objective idealism.” HPB quoted from these modern philosophers quite liberally and, I think, for good reason. They provide us with another angle of approach to the fundamental problems of spirit, matter, thought, etc. that compliments the approach taken by eastern students, like T. Subba Row.
Kristan Stratos February 25, 2017 at 3:29 am #4983
There is so much I’d like to say in response, but to be honest, I am afraid I simply don’t have patience, nothing personal. It appears that there is a misunderstanding in what I am trying to explain, perhaps it is on my end, or maybe a difference of vocabulary… though some were able to see where I am coming from. The point is so subtle, so delicate, and I cannot continue to try and cover it over with more words and concepts which, for some reason, feel very unbearable. This has nothing to do with a specific interpretation of a philosophy- just my personal reflections and careful observations.
I have studied works from Gaudapadacarya (in sanskrit and english) as well as comparing this particular philosophy, to what T. Subbarao seems to have understood esoterically- purge his writings, check up on obscure references, and think deeply on the more ‘dim’ points he passes over- I trust you will find them. Note carefully Nagesabhatta and Bhartrhari, they hold some very impressive keys in building upon TSR’s “unique interpretation” of Advaitavedanta.
Ramprakash ML February 25, 2017 at 6:26 am #4986
Kristen, I follow your line of thought. Maya-Illusion-Moha vis a vis Reality is something the truth of which we sense intuitively, but do not realize it experientially, nor are we able to clothe with the words what we sense interiorly to our entire satisfaction.
But don’t you think that the illusion of the senses can be demonstrated to our mundane everyday waking consciousness by a number of our own daily experiences, without going into dizzy metaphysics ?
Kristan Stratos February 25, 2017 at 1:33 pm #4998
Reply to MRL #4986
But don’t you think that the illusion of the senses can be demonstrated to our mundane everyday waking consciousness by a number of our own daily experiences, without going into dizzy metaphysics ?
I would hope we could resist the need to go into metaphysical discussions. I agree with you, but in all honesty, I am struggling to see how one can prove illusion of the senses, hell, illusion generally speaking.
Off the books, meaning- based on my personal existence as an experiencing being- I have seen that my eyes do not lie, nor do any of my senses. They detect and convey what is naturally appropriate for the specific grade of matter I am currently bound to by (Karmic) Law. We develop “abnormal sensory abilities” (psychic development), when we have exceeded this level of development by thought, devotion, and altruism. Universal thinking and deed, brings on the development of universal knowledge, is it so?
Hence the shift in sensory perception to a finer grade of matter. We see, hear, feel (etc) what was not immediately detected prior, which to my knowledge, is the beginning of Gnosis. The senses convey information to which they are associated to the best of its ability- they are incapable of deception, for they are inferior to that which guides them– however, it is our “personal atmosphere”, our lack of ability to apply the Fundamental Laws spoken of by the Great Succession of Adepts which is the notional veil blocking the Eternal (omnipresent) Light of Gnosis. Very subtle topic, I feel.
Understand the nature and limitation of the barrier (not the given senses), and the Light exposes the Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscient Eternal Truth; Adepts have written much regarding the simultaneous dawning of Truth. Once Truth is known, All Truth is Known.
Kristan Stratos February 25, 2017 at 3:20 pm #4999
I would also like to site a text to which this appears to be found-
“That no one of Existing Things doth Perish, but men in error speak of their changes as destructions and as Deaths.”
Of Hermes to Tat.
“For the Eternal, in that It is eternal, is the all. The Father Himself eternal of Himself, but the Cosmos hath become eternal and immortal by the Father.
And of the matter stored beneath it (world-order or universe), the Father made of it a Universal Body, and packing it together made it spherical- wrapping it round to life (the Cosmos of as the one life, from which all other lives are derived)- which is immortal in itself, and that doth make materiality eternal.
Tat. Doth then this life not perish?
Hermes: Hush, son! and understand what God, what Cosmos [is], what is a life that cannot die, and what a life subject to dissolution. Yea, understand the Cosmos is by God and in God; but Man by Cosmos and in Cosmos. The source and limit and the constitution of all things is God. ”
Note the Law of Apokatastasis;
The Eternal Order and life of Cosmos is preserved by the law of resotration (apokatastasis); the law of ever-becoming, and cyclic renewal, the making-new0again.
There is no question of loss of body- this is an illusion; there is a privation (deprivation) of sense, a going into latency of some particular phase of consciousness.
Ramprakash ML February 25, 2017 at 7:00 am #4987
Kristen, there is another study on this subject which Nagarjuna teaches which, I suppose, illustrates the extreme subtlety of the subject of reality and illusion.
His line of reasoning is somewhat like this :
Having discovered that the water of a mirage is not water, will it not be silly on our part to think that previously existent water now does not exist ?
Water was never existent before we discovered what we thought we saw was water. We just superimposed the idea of water on something that was not at all water.
The absence of the appearance of phenomena to such a mind does not mean that what formerly was actually existent now has been destroyed.
The reality is later ascertained
Of what was formerly imputed by ignorance.
When a thing is not found,
How can there be a non-thing ?
Dakshinamurthy hymns and Mansollasa, attributed to Shankara speak of the very same subject along the same line of reasoning.
Though we do not realize the truth experientially we still feel that indescribable intuitive feeling that wells up in us to silently whisper in our consciousness IT IS TRUE.
Experiential verification of the nature of Illusion and Reality has to be preceded, as a necessary pre-requisite, that we first gain the knowledge of it through study, reflection, reason, intuition, ending in deep conviction. Our changed world view and values and attitudes arising out of this conviction sharpen spiritual discrimination (Buddhi) and develops strong dispassion (Vairagya) It leads after many lives of search and sacrifice to MUMUKSHVATTAM — intense desire for liberation.
From acquisition of this preliminary qualification to actual realization, many lives (rebirths) must pass, many tests and trials have to be gone through.
Ramprakash ML February 25, 2017 at 8:15 am #4989
Going through the discussions on Illusion and Reality, I find all are saying more or less the same thing – Garry, Kristan, Pavel, Peter, Samantha ….It is indeed commendable that students have such a good grasp of the philosophy. HPB abd WQJ would rejoice !
Jon Fergus February 25, 2017 at 10:47 am #4996
I suppose we may add that the pineal gland must have it’s corresponding “organ” on each plane of our being; the pineal gland being the physical representative of some astral organ, which must be built upon the framework of something on the mental plane, and so on.
There would also appear to be an important symbolism in that it is called the Eye of Siva.
Siva is… “the destroying deity, evolution and PROGRESS personified, who is the regenerator at the same time; who destroys things under one form but to recall them to life under another more perfect type” (SD 2:182)
“In the Rig Veda the name Siva is unknown, but the god is called Rudra, which is a word used for Agni, the fire god . . .”; “In the Vedas he is the divine Ego aspiring to return to its pure, deific state, and at the same time that divine ego imprisoned in earthly form, whose fierce passions make of him the ‘roarer,’ the ‘terrible’” (SD 2:613, 548).
Siva is often spoken of as the patron deity of esotericists, occultists, and ascetics; he is called the Mahayogin (the great ascetic), from whom the highest spiritual knowledge is acquired, and union with the great spirit of the universe is eventually gained. Here he is “the howling and terrific destroyer of human passions and physical senses, which are ever in the way of the development of the higher spiritual perceptions and the growth of the inner eternal man — mystically” (See Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary)
“Ere thy Soul’s mind can understand, the bud of personality must be crushed out, the worm of sense destroyed past resurrection.” (Voice of the Silence)
“Merge into one sense thy senses, if thou would’st be secure against the foe. ’Tis by that sense alone which lies concealed within the hollow of thy brain, that the steep path which leadeth to thy Master may be disclosed before thy Soul’s dim eyes.” (ibid.)
Kristan Stratos February 25, 2017 at 12:43 pm #4997
Thanks Ram- a few thoughts and understandings I’d like to add to your contributions;
It is seen that all philosophers, Adepts, Prophets etc. all designate some guideline for words, meaning, and purpose. A word must be a symbol of sorts for an existent occurrence; hence illusion must be something or some concept which is detected under some ability, sensory, intellectual or otherwise. But seeing that the conventional usage of illusion is termed as fiction, misconception, fake etc., how can it exist even as a concept? Based on what grounds? This is the idea I am trying to get others to think logically about. Just to say “the world is mâyâ” because a text says so doesn’t do it for me.
Gaudapadacarya states in his karika that what exists, exists. What is non-existent can never exist, as it would go against its essential nature. Look into the 33rd slokam from the 3rd chapter of the Bhagavadgita, “… nothing can be other than what its Nature is.”
सदृशं चेष्टते स्वस्याः प्रकृतेर्ज्ञानवानपि । प्रकृतिं यान्ति भूतानि निग्रहः किं करिष्यति ।।
My line of thought is- if we hold that ‘illusion’ exists from the moment of manvantric dawn (manifestation), then we must accept that ‘illusion’ exist pre-manvantric dawn as a potentiality, like all things must, otherwise there would be no potency of such execution of energy/matter- which as the Occultists state as a fundamental Law- (both) can never be created or destroyed they are Eternal. This would make it, by logical definition, Necessarily Existent. I am approaching this from a ‘top down’ perspective, not otherwise.
Existence must include the fundamental essence of all manifestations belonging to the 3 general grades of cosmic manifestation (spiritual, astral/psychic, and physical) as one “compounded” unity. Though, compounded is an odd word, as it would suggest independence of things to be “compounded”- we will just say it is Absolutely Homogenous- Undifferentiated and Unmanifest Substance (mûlaprakrti).
So the mere fact that we can detect a substance which we call ‘water’ is proof that it must be existent based on its manifestation- regardless of form, level, or graded aspect (physical, astral, spiritual)- the proof is in the pudding as they say. If we continue to use the logic that the form of manifested potencies are the illusion, then we are denying the flow of Cyclic Necessity, which is 100% responsible for the form. All things need vehicles, all vehicles are the result of myriads of intelligences, all intelligences are the working agents of the Great Cyclic Law.
I dont know… perhaps intuition is speaking to me differently. To call everything “outside” of Reality an illusion is a contradiction on so many levels. The first being the Fundamental Truth of Omnipresence- which strictly denies any possible existence ‘outside’ of Existence (spiritual, astral, physical each subdivided by 7). If we limit illusion to form, we are wasting time becoming so fixated on trying to prove its non-existence, which appears to be fundamentally useless. So this ‘illusion’ as Samantha and Peter pointed out, must then only have locus in a very specific aspect of the individual mind. Notional illusion- never otherwise.
Turn to the Purusasuktam, or the Vibhûtiyogam of the Gîtâ to further understand the Universal Form, Its “associates” or working agents of Cosmic Necessity. A few very suggestive passage in the Book of the Great Abad;
“Intelligence is not dependent on a Body, but the Soul receives its perfection from the Body.”
In the name of Lâreng! The Superior Beings and the Inferior Beings are teh gift of the Giver: they cannot be separated from Him (IT): they have been, are, and shall be (i.e., Existent and Eternal).
The world, like a Radiation, is not and cannot be separated from the sun of the substance of the Mighty God (Light of Lights).
The lower world is subject to the sway of the upper world.
In the beginning of it’s own revolution the sovereignty over this lower world is committed to one of the slow-moving stars.
Which governeth it alone for the space of a thousand years;
And for other thousands of years each of the heavy-moving stars, and swift-moving stars becometh it’s partner, each for one thousand years.
Las of all the moon becometh its associate.
After that, the first associate will get the sovereignty.
The second king goeth through the same round as the firs Kind; and the other are in like manner of his associates.
After which the Sovereignty again returneth to the first King, and in this way there is Eternal Succession.
And in the beginning of the Grand Period, a new order of things commenceth in the lower world
And, not indeed the very forms, and knowledge, and events of the Grand Period that hath elapsed, but the other precisely similar to them will again be produced.
And every Grand Period that cometh resembleth from the beginning to end the Grant Period that is past.
… in the beginning of the Grand Period, combination of the elements commence, and figures are produced from that, in appearance, and in the acts, deeds, and speech are similar to the figures, knowledge, and deeds of the Past Grand Revolution.”
Closing this, in my opinion, when we consider the Great Cyclic Law of Necessity, the Omnipresence of Existence, and Eternal Succession as Fundamental grounds for logic, how on earth can illusion be introduced when every atom (spiritual, psychic, physical) is 100% embedded with Eternal Law, and Exists “within” Omnipresence.
Am I clear in my explanations?
Ramprakash ML February 25, 2017 at 5:53 pm #5002
I see a certain error in your metaphysical reasoning. You said :
“Closing this, in my opinion, when we consider the Great Cyclic Law of Necessity, the Omnipresence of Existence, and Eternal Succession as Fundamental grounds for logic, how on earth can illusion be introduced when every atom (spiritual, psychic, physical) is 100% embedded with Eternal Law, and Exists “within” Omnipresence.”
cyclic law of endless successions of manifestations and non-manifestations
every Atom (by this in theosophy is meant Monad) in its spiritual, psychic and physical manifestations
These you say as “embedded” with Eternal Law and Exist within Ominipresence.
Now the point is “Existence” implies limitation, however great it may be in our conception.
Eternity itself is not sempiternity but a period of time so long in duration that even though it may look to us as endless, it has still a beginning and an ending.
Therefore “Eternal Existence” is relatively so, but must cease at some point and go into non-existence. And existence is possible only when there is duality of Subject-object, or Spirit – Matter, the two in one and one appearing as two opposites.
Now this duality of spirit and matter, by which Existence is possible, itself is resolvable into Unity or One which is Absolute.
This Absolute is neither spirit nor matter, but No-spirit, Non-Matter, NO-Thing, and THAT alone unthinkable and Unknowable is Reality. The idea of SPACE is an aid to understanding
Whether there are universes or not SPACE IS, and THAT is unrelated to the universes which come and go according to cyclic Law or law of cause and effect, but IT is unrelated to all that, because IT is beyond all causation, and beyond all duality, the Great UNCONSCIOUS or ABSOLUTE CONSCIOUSNESS.
THAT alone is Reality, and all else are ever moving, ever shifting shadows having no existence apart from, or outside of, Egoic perceptive faculty, which itself arises from dependent origination. That does not mean universe is not real to the perceiving Ego. It is real to it. But it will discover that what it thought was real was actually not so, when it wakes to a state of higher consciousness.
This demonstrable even to our everyday mundane waking life in its own limited way.
I think reflection on the First fundamental perception should make it clear.
Let us not forget that there are two ONES : Manifested ONE, and Unmanifested Absolute ONE, the former being the symbol of the latter.