Worlds within Worlds

By Dara Eklund

The predicaments and paradoxes of human life reveal the impact of intertwining destinies, hidden currents within an onflowing stream. We find this in nature's kingdoms where mutual dependency abounds. Birds remove insects from water buffalo; falling leaves nurture the forest floor for new ferns and seedlings; and fire releases pine seeds from their cones. Fungi surrounding roots of baby pines forage for soil nutrients in exchange for sugars from the growing conifers. Mushrooms can also detoxify polluted streams and watersheds. Scientists are experimenting with fungi to break down nerve gas and other chemical-warfare agents.

Proofs of the interrelatedness of life are everywhere. Worlds interpenetrate; so do people, for good or ill. Travel in a tightly knit global community has brought both good and not-so-good results. Migrant plants and animals have infested the southern and eastern seaboard of the United States, and travelers continue to bring an entourage of other creatures. Take for instance the invasion of jellyfish from Pacific tropical waters "blooming" on the Atlantic Gulf shorelines. ("Jellies on a Roll," Audubon, May/June 2002, p. 18) These intruders probably hitched rides on ships coming through the Panama Canal. Much damage is being done to world fish populations by jellyfish, which deplete the food chain, including the zooplankton vital to young game fish. In the late 1980s the entire fish population of the enclosed Black Sea was devastated by a jellyfish swarm -- but then mankind had overfished the earth's oceans before the invasion of the jellyfish!

In The Hidden Connections, Fritjof Capra cites a newly developed ecoscience of biomimicry, where instead of trying to manipulate or genetically alter nature, we learn to study nature's operations. Examining photosynthesis can aid in developing new kinds of solar cells. Chemical analysis of the adhesive liquid which blue mussels secrete underwater is helping surgeons create bonds between ligaments and tissues in a fluid environment. German researchers have produced durable paint by mimicking the self-cleaning micro-surface of the lotus leaf. Capra states that interdisciplinary teams of scientists and engineers "are discovering that many of our major technological problems have already been solved in nature in elegant, efficient, and ecologically sustainable ways, and they are trying to adapt these solutions for human use" (p. 204). His words recall a passage from a Mahatma letter of a century ago: "we but follow and servilely copy nature in her works" (The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, Letter 6).

In human beings we see a hierarchy of worlds within worlds, from the life-atoms comprising our bodies to our highest radiant center and universal divine principle -- atman -- which is often described as a "breath." All our seven principles are dependent upon each other to function upon earth. H. P. Blavatsky writes:

the two higher principles [atma-buddhi] can have no individuality on Earth, cannot be man, unless there is (a) the Mind, the Manas-Ego, to cognize itself, and (b) the terrestrial false personality, or the body of egotistical desires and personal Will, to cement the whole . . . to the physical form of man. -- The Secret Doctrine 2:241

Prana, the life principle, is the radiating force or energy of atman and "permeates the whole being of the objective Universe." (The Key to Theosophy, p. 176) The Bhagavad- Gita states it thus: "As a single sun illuminateth the whole world, even so doth the One Spirit illumine every body," and later we find Krishna extolling that "wisdom which perceives in all nature one single principle, . . . not separate in the separate objects seen . . ." (13:33, 18:20).

All the human principles are in turn linked to cosmic principles. This idea is beautifully expressed in Grace F. Knoche's To Light a Thousand Lamps, where she speaks of each human being as a "divine kernel," an expression of a cosmic purpose, throughout a grand "cycle of necessity." The reason for it is twofold:

whereas we start as unself-conscious god-sparks, by the time we have experienced all there is to learn in every life form, not only shall we have awakened into fuller awareness the multitudes of atomic lives which serve as our bodies on the various planes, but we ourselves shall have become gods in our own right. -- p. 9

In this way we are "Mansions of Life built upon an imperishable Center of Being." HPB writes:

"Thus there is but one Absolute Upadhi (basis) in the spiritual sense, from, on, and in which, are built for Manvantaric purposes the countless basic centres on which proceed the Universal, cyclic, and individual Evolutions during the active period."
"It is that LIGHT which condenses into the forms of the 'Lords of Being' . . ." -- The Secret Doctrine 2:34, 33

All beings are waves of consolidated light. In one of The Mahatma Letters we note: "Spirit is called the ultimate sublimation of matter, and matter the crystallization of spirit" (Letter 22).

In a letter to her aunt, Nadyezhda de Fadeyev, Blavatsky describes how motion is imparted from one atom to another throughout the strata of infinite and immeasurable space: "An impulse has been given to matter, and such an impulse, as even physicists know, is eternal in its effects." Applying this principle to a murdered man, she says his death is "but a small thing as compared with the aftereffects . . . A man is killed, and the work that had been allotted to him is forcibly interrupted. Every man, however insignificant he may be, in his own sphere is a link holding on to another link in its appointed orbit; if it breaks, all goes haywire, other links are caught, and so forth." (The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky 1:324)

In a talk on "The Secret of Human Conflicts," G. de Purucker recognized that the secret would be divulged to one who not only sees that the "unit is as important as the whole, and that the whole is as important as the unit," but also that "the unit within the whole is infinitely more important than the unit, single, alone" (Wind of the Spirit, p. 38). He reminds us that "this physical universe of ours is but the outer garment, the veil hiding others within it or behind it." The idea of these invisible inner worlds was taught in all ancient literatures and throughout the ages by the greatest seers and sages. "It is obvious," he wrote, "that these inner worlds are the causal worlds, that they are the causes of even what we see in this gross material physical world" (Questions We All Ask, series 2, no. 30, p. 278). Werner Heisenberg stated that modern physics had definitely decided in favor of Plato: "In fact the smallest units of matter are not physical objects in the ordinary sense; they are forms, ideas which can be expressed unambiguously only in mathematical language." (Quoted in The New York Times, Book Review, March 8, 1992, p. 4)

Some call the causal worlds "forces" or "energies," but what is energy? It is substance of a more ethereal type than we have attuned our sense apparatus to perceive, due to our body's imperfect stage of evolutionary development. By coming into synchronous vibration with our own inner make-up we begin to penetrate these finer worlds. By letting go of the personal self, we become part of the impersonal cosmic self in our hearts.

Francesca Fremantle provides an understanding of the "Tibetan Book of the Dead" in Luminous Emptiness. In a chapter on "The Rainbow of Elements," analogies abound helpful to those struggling with the concept of the tattvas. Tattvas are defined as "elementary principles or elements of original substance," often rendered as "thatness." Purucker's Occult Glossary identifies seven or ten element-substances in universal nature, while some Hindu systems enumerate twenty-five. Fremantle identifies five in the Buddhist tradition. She writes that "each single element contains all five elements within itself, so there are worlds within worlds, all interconnecting and interdependent" (p. 72). In the Tibetan scheme, space (akasa) is considered one of those elements, as the shining boundless and clear dimension in which everything else exists and from which all proceeds. It is the element in which vibration takes place as the primordial pulsation of life. Its correspondence on subtle planes is mind or consciousness: "Space is mind's fundamental, intrinsic quality of openness."

In treating of the interpenetration of spheres, H. P. Blavatsky emphasizes the interblending of the life-forces and the astral light or aura of each of the globes, rather than their substance. She tries to free our concept of these invisible spheres as being "above" or "below," "higher" or "lower," by declaring:

when "other worlds" are mentioned . . . the Occultist does not locate these spheres either outside or inside our Earth, as the theologians and the poets do; for their location is nowhere in the space known to, and conceived by, the profane. They are, as it were, blended with our world -- interpenetrating it and interpenetrated by it. There are millions and millions of worlds and firmaments visible to us; there are still greater numbers beyond those visible to the telescopes, and many of the latter kind do not belong to our objective sphere of existence. Although as invisible as if they were millions of miles beyond our solar system, they are yet with us, near us, within our own world, as objective and material to their respective inhabitants as ours is to us. . . . The inhabitants of these [worlds], as already said, may be, for all we know, or feel, passing through and around us as if through empty space, their very habitations and countries being interblended with ours, though not disturbing our vision, because we have not yet the faculties necessary for discerning them. -- The Secret Doctrine 1:605

It is important to grasp an idea of our own boundless nature. We are content to learn the guardianship of our own environment, from the cells of our bodies to the thoughts and inspirations of our higher mind, because that is our area of surveillance, our garden plot to till, to cultivate. One day our responsibility for surveillance may be a solar system or even a galaxy, as ambitious as that may seem, but this will be achieved only by motives consonant with the divine plan, not by those who boldly declare their powers to conquer space.

The Buddhist Avatamsaka Sutra opens a window to what is beginning to be called by science the "multiverse." Within this "King" of sutras is a prayer to the buddhas pervading space:

With bodies as numerous as atoms of the world . . .
On every atom is found a buddha
Sitting amongst countless buddha sons,
I look with eyes of faith to the victorious ones
Thus filling the entire dharmadhatu [Dharma Realm].

In a verse that stimulates our imagination:

In every atom are buddha-fields numberless as atoms,
Each field is filled with buddhas beyond conception,
And each buddha is surrounded by myriad bodhisattvas:
To all these dwellers in sublime ways I turn my attention.
Thus, in all atoms within the directions
Abide within the space of a single hair
An ocean of buddhas within an ocean of buddha-fields
Performing enlightened activities for an ocean of eons.

These activities are very exalted:

I manifest buddha-fields past, present, and future
Upon one single atom of existence,
And then I transform every single atom
Of existence into a buddha-field.

Thus is described the liberation of all beings:

May I purify an ocean of realms,
May I liberate an ocean of sentient beings,
May I see an ocean of truths,
And may I realize an ocean of wisdom.

 (From Sunrise magazine, April/May 2004; copyright © 2004 Theosophical University Press)

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What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset. -- Crowfoot