The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
July 2004 Vol. 7 Issue 5
There is a sublime pathway of wisdom and illumination which begins, for each human being, in any one incarnation on this earth in the present life, and thereafter leads inward, for it is the pathway of consciousness and spiritual realization leading ever inward, more inward, still more inward, toward the mystic East, which is the heart of the universe, and it is the core of us -- the rising sun of spiritually divine consciousness within us.
The first step on the pathway to the heart of the universe is to recognize the truth that all comes from within. All the inspirations of genius, all the great thoughts which have made and unmade civilizations, all the wonderful messages that have been delivered by the Great Ones of the earth to their fellow human beings -- all these come forth from within. The battle of union, towards union, for union, with our own inner god, is more than half won when we recognize this truth.
The inmost of the inmost of each of us is a god, a living divinity; and from this divine source there flow downwards into our human mentality all the things that make us great, all the things that give rise to love and mighty hope, inspiration and aspiration and, noblest of all, self-sacrifice.
In ourself lies all the mysteries of the universe. Through our inner self, our spiritual nature, we have a road reaching to the very heart of the universe. If we travel that road leading ever within, if we can go into ourself, go behind we go deeper and deeper into the wondrous mysteries of universal nature.
Man is an inseparable part of the universe in which he lives and moves and has his being. There is no separation whatsoever between his roots and the roots of the universe, there is no distance between them. The same universal life flows through all things that are. The same stream of consciousness which flows in and through the mighty Whole of the universe, flows therefore through man, an inseparable portion of that universe. This means that there is a pathway by which we may come into intimate relation with the heart of the universe itself; and that pathway is our own inner being, our own inner nature, our spiritual self. Not the self of ordinary physical man, which is just a poor reflection of the spiritual brilliance within, but that inner self of pure consciousness, pure love for all that is, unstained by any earthly taint -- our spiritual being. -- G. de Purucker
The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind. --- Wiliam Blake.
There are two reasons, then, why you should willingly accept what happens to you: first, because it happens to yourself, has been prescribed for yourself, being a strand in the tapestry of primordial causation; and secondly, because every individual dispensation is one of the causes of the prosperity, success, and even survival of That which administers the universe. To break off any particle, no matter how small, from the continuous concatenation -- whether of causes or of any other elements -- is to injure the whole. And each time you give way to discontent, you are causing, within your own limited ability, just such a breakage and disruption. --Marcus Aurelius
We will continue reading and discussing the Tao Teh Ching by Lao-tzu, beginning with verse 11. Those attending are encouraged to bring any translation of this Chinese classic that appeals to them, and we will compare the various versions when they differ. Extra copies will be available for use at the meeting.
Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge
Our topic this month is "What Is Consciousness?" We will be discussing such questions as: What do we mean by our self? By ego, soul, and spirit? What are the roles of awareness, imagination, memory, dreams, intuition, and reason? What is the nature of our consciousness; for example, is it a continuous flow, or a succession of discrete perceptions? Is time an illusion of our consciousness? Should we seek to transcend the mental, emotional, and perceptual habits which form our ordinary sense of self? What does an essential unity between consciousness and substance, or between mind and body, imply? Come and share your ideas!
Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge.
The topics for the monthly discussions are chosen by members of the Northwest Branch. If there is a subject that particularly interests you, or if you have ideas or suggestions about the meetings, please do not hesitate to email or mail them to the Branch or to mention them after the meetings.
Consciousness is the only thing that we experience directly -- everything else is filtered through the medium of our consciousness. Very often, I suspect, we confuse consciousness as a general category with human consciousness and the workings of the human mind. But consciousness takes in a much wider field of awareness, perception, and inwardness. Looking at the other kingdoms of nature, we know from observation that animals are aware, perceive, and feel. Experiments publicized in the 1960s and '70s in books like The Secret Life of Plants suggest that plants demonstrate awareness, memory, and sensitivity to the thought and feeling of other beings. Today research provides growing experimental evidence for a degree of consciousness even in individual cells, and earlier in the 20th century Chandra Bose conducted experiments which implied a sensitivity in metals.
The point is, how can we presume to limit the scope and expression of consciousness? Because we do not observe or recognize consciousness in a particular being or thing is no reason to deny its presence there. Our perceptions as humans are very restricted, which makes particularly apt the scientific maxim that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. That most of the electromagnetic spectrum is imperceptible to us makes it no less real. That thousands of radio and television waves fill the air around us, carrying sounds and pictures, would seem unbelievable if we did not have proof from our everyday life. Moreover, our scale limits perceptions in both space and time: what is too small, too vast, too slow, or too rapid is invisible to the most sophisticated devices.
In a parallel case, until the 20th century science wrestled with matter-energy dualism. If they are two absolutely disassociated principles, how could they interact? To solve this quandary energy was sometimes considered a byproduct of matter and at other times energy was considered fundamental and matter the byproduct. But Einstein, with his famous E = mc2, ended this dualism, proposing that energy and matter were not essentially distinct, but rather two aspects of a more fundamental principle, which implied that matter could be transformed into energy, and energy into matter.
Today we continue to wrestle with a similar matter-consciousness dualism, and perhaps in time a comparable basic unity will be recognized. This dualistic problem appears in Christian thought because soul and spirit are considered completely immaterial yet able to influence the material body. Mainstream science avoids the problem of how the psyche or consciousness influences the body by holding that there is no mind-body dualism: consciousness is a byproduct of complex organizations of matter, of chemical reactions in the nervous system. However, materialism and idealism are not the only non-dualistic solutions.
If matter and consciousness are two phenomena of one underlying principle, the terms may represent poles of a continuum which runs from beyond the densest substance we can imagine, through physical matter, energy, vitality, emotion, thought, and spiritual consciousness, up through the most divine consciousness or state. We are aware of our body, vitality, feelings, intellect, intuitions, and perhaps also of our spiritual and divine consciousness, though these last two are largely shut out from everyday awareness by our busy feelings and thoughts. As points or ranges on the continuum of substance-consciousness, each level is simultaneously substantial, energic, and conscious. Thus thoughts and feelings, for example, are not abstractions. They are as actual as x-rays or gamma rays -- and as imperceptible to our physical senses, though easily perceived by our psyches.
But back of all being lies the inner root or source of awareness. No matter how far we delve into ourselves, that inmost self always remains beyond. It is each being's fundamental junction-point with underlying cosmic reality, the same in all people, all life forms, everything, be it a subatomic particle, person, planet, or galaxy. In the same way, every manifested existence has a substantial form occupying a particular bandwidth of the matter-consciousness spectrum. This innermost shared consciousness and source of existence is the basis of brotherhood or the oneness of all, the unifying agent and most fundamental substratum of the cosmos. According to mystic traditions the world over, by transcending our unexamined patterns of thought, perception, and awareness, we can in time not only understand but actually experience for ourselves this unity at the root of our being.