How vast are the fields of consciousness in which man may roam! They range from sensations resulting merely from the activity of the physical senses to those glorious realizations of universal truths resulting from profound penetrations into "the heart-home of one's being. The first of these — mere elemental expressions of consciousness — come from a turning of the powers of the senses outwards into the physical world, the sphere of limitation, truly, but also the outermost garment worn by a living god. The second comes from a turning of all those sense-powers inwards to their primal and powerful source because of a divine delving into the mysteries of Brahmapura, the abode of Brahman, that Universal Self which every man is somewhere in those as yet undiscovered realms of his nature.
During one 24-hour period of a day and night we actually wander between these extremes of awareness; that is, some part of our composite make-up does. We can in time identify ourselves with those parts of our being undergoing experiences of a lofty type, if we will but tune in aright, live the golden precepts of all true religions, as they were lived by the Christ and the Buddha. Then we become fully awake, fully human, at home in any of the delightful nooks in the wondrous stream of human consciousness.
Consciousness does not refer only to the faculty of perception in this physical world. There is a distinct set of faculties and senses for each plane or world of beings entered into during waking life, sleep, or death. When we say that we lose consciousness on falling asleep or at the time of death we mean that the human thinking Ego has ceased to function on this physical plane and has entered a world to which it is not yet trained or universal enough to sense; in other words, a world too vast for our Ego with its at present limited development to understand. How much more keenly aware of color and light and shadow and form is an artist as he wanders through a forest than is the ordinary man! So it is with a spiritual adept. The adventures undergone in sleep and death are rich experiences for him, because he has awakened powers of his higher nature that are still dormant in the common man.
There are those higher parts of any man's being, just as alive as you and I, that continue a conscious life when we are asleep or what the world calls dead. Sleep and death are simply a passing from one sphere to another, a passing from lower spheres to higher or inner realms of this universe. What did the Druid ask of his truth-seeker: "Knowest thou what thou art in the hour of sleep? — a secret retreat of light!"
Occultly speaking, sleep, and on a greater scale, death, are the result of the higher parts of us coming into a full vigor and life and thus overwhelming us for a time by their great power. Dr. de Purucker tells us:
. . . . even physical death is in large part brought about by the fact that the unfolding field of consciousness, even in the course of one whole Earth-life, spreads beyond the capacity of the physical body to contain it, which, feeling the strains thus put upon it, gradually deteriorates, glides into senescence, and finally is cast off, or "dies," when it has become a tool no longer easily or profitably usable by the Master Workman — the egoic consciousness. — The Theosophical Path, April, 1935, p. 428
The conqueror of sleep and death is one who has become equal in spiritual splendor to those high beings whose home is surrounded by the glorious and divine things of this universe. Such a goal is one of gradual attainment but can be hastened by those who are willing to undergo the severe discipline necessary to still the activities of the lower, less evolved parts of man's nature that becloud the finer mysteries of spirit. Such training is and has always been given in Mystery-Schools, and in India is known as chela-training. We shall be fully alive and conscious throughout this whole universe when we have opened all the portals of our inner being, when we have fully bloomed. Then we shall be recognised as the fine flowers of the human race, and sleep and death will hold no mysteries for us, for there will be no lapses of consciousness.
The following table, and its sub-tables with fuller explanations, will open the way to a better grasp of this subject of consciousness:
|Atman||Atman (Sakshin)||Turiya-Samadhi||Divine Worlds|
Lower Manas /
Prana / Linga-sarira /
THE SEVEN PRINCIPLES
Atman — the Divine Self
Buddhi — the Spiritual Self
Manas — the Higher and Lower Thinking Principle
Kama — the Desire Principle
Prana — the Vital Principle
Linga-sarira — the Astral Body
Sthula-sarira — the Physical Body
ATMAN AND THE THREE UPADHIS
Atman — The Self, the Witness or Sakshin, whose life and divineness pulsate through every element of the human constitution.
Karanopadhi — The Causal Base, a combination of Buddhi and Higher Manas, wherein lies the mystic Bija or seed or life-germ which gives the impulse to the Reincarnating Ego to be reborn on earth, in order to lead it on to a fuller expression of its own innate powers.
Sukshmopadhi __ the Subtil Base, a combination of Lower Manas and Kama, the abode of the rulers of the senses and the lower mind, of the organs of action and the five vital life currents that flow through man's body.
Sthulopadhi — the Gross or Heavy Base, a combination of the three lower principles of Prana, Linga- and Sthula-sarira.
Though there are seven principles in man, there are but three distinct Upadhis (bases), in each of which his Atma may work independently of the rest. These three Upadhis can be separated by an Adept without killing himself. He cannot separate the seven principles from each other without destroying his constitution. — The Secret Doctrine, I, 158
THE FOUR STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS
In the beautiful Theosophical philosophy of the Upanishads we find human consciousness divided into four main states:
Jagrat — the waking state or condition of external perception during a man's waking hours.
Svapna — the dreaming sleep state or condition of clairvoyance on the astral plane.
Sushupti — the deep dreamless state for the ordinary man, an absence of any perception on the physical or astral planes, but a conscious life and ecstasy for the Guardian Angel in man, the Higher Manas.
Turiya-Samadhi — the high spiritual self-conscious state which vibrates in unison with the Cosmic Divinity, Brahman. This "state of faultless vision" is experienced by those Mahatmans wise in spiritual things.
Thus we can sum up man in the 24-hour period: He is in the Jagrat state while awake in his physical body (Sthulopadhi). When he falls asleep he passes into the Svapna state in the astral realms, and stays there for a while in his subtil body (Sukshmopadhi). His human Ego then passes into unconsciousness, into the Sushupti clothed in its causal body (Karanopadhi) and there enjoys a wondrous rest while his higher mind is fully conscious in the Akasa or spiritual realms; and his radiant divinity or Atman returns to its starry home enjoying the Turiya-Samadhi.
On our way back to waking life once more we retrace our steps, following the pathways of the cosmos, from the divine to the spiritual, then to the astral, and then to this physical earth, and we awaken refreshed. Why cannot we remember these experiences? Why are only some of our journeyings recorded in dreams of all kinds?
To answer the first question: Most of the nightly adventures of the Higher Ego are too intense for us to understand because of our unawakened finer senses. They are too exalted, are tuned to a harmony too grand for the material brain-mind and psychological nature to record, unless indeed, one has so raised the quality of his thought and acts that they have refined not only the fabric of his mind but of his whole intermediate nature. We may feel the results of these higher activities through our guiding conscience if we accustom ourselves to heed its ever purifying messages and warnings. Aspiration and altruism are like keys to the higher pathways of life. Our daily affairs however are usually too materialistic, too focused on affairs of no lasting worth or spiritual import, so that we have made no grooves, no channels in any part of our nature for receiving the nightly inspirations from on high. Those who receive help or direct messages through dreams or intuitions on awakening are those who have laid the lines of communication by a higher life during their waking hours.
To answer the second question: Most dreams are impressions made upon the brain-mind of experiences undergone in the astral realms, low and high, that is, in the Kama-loka or "desire world," and the Devachan or state of blissful dreams wherein higher longings are fulfilled. The pathways of sleep and death are the same. When a man dies he wanders in the "desire realms" of the astral light, drawn whither his inner attractions or characteristics lead him. If there is nothing of a low type of desire or tendency in his nature he is drawn upwards to the Devachan where he enjoys a peaceful rest colored by happy dreams. So it is in sleep; when we first fall asleep or just before awakening we are passing through those same astral realms on our way from and to this physical world. We go in sleep to the same haunts we have visited with our senses, our desires, our minds, and hearts during the day. In other words, our dreams evil or good, are of our own making. We can learn to understand our own states of consciousness, begin to realize just what we truly are, by studying our dreams and our reactions to our nightly adventures. If our dreams are bad, maybe some bodily disturbance is making it difficult for the inner man to free itself for higher places; or, it may be that the attractions to different parts of the unwholesome region of Kama-loka are due to impurities in one's own psychological nature. We may fool others as to our standards of life, but every night is an honest testing period where no favoritism is shown. Like attracts like. The highest types of dreams bespeak a life of higher living. This highest aspect of Svapna blends imperceptibly into the Sushupti state.
The three higher states of consciousness, the dreaming sleep state, the deep sleep or higher manasic state, and the spiritually divine state, can be experienced by men while in the physical body and yet not asleep. Some old people when the time is drawing near for the greater life beyond often live in the Svapna. They are conscious in the astral worlds. A spiritual adept, however, never dreams either in the physical body or in sleep or death. He must conquer this state. He must so live that all the lower elements of his being are trained and purified and subordinated to the power of his will. Having nothing left in his nature to hold him in these astral realms he is free to enter the Sushupti state. The degree of an adept is determined by the number of principles over which he has control.
The state of higher manasic activity, the Sushupti, is often attained by poets and visionaries and inspired philosophers in their moments of inspiration. A highly evolved human often enters this state when he has absolutely silenced the personality. He then receives visions of truth. As he advances on the upward path he can lengthen the period spent in this condition which attunes him with his Higher Self. Then, as this wise Seer becomes more universal in heart and understanding and in his very living, he reaches the divine state of Samadhi, wherein his whole being is in harmony with the Universe. All his faculties are awakened; the microcosm is in tune with the macrocosm; he is omniscient. To be able to pass consciously into this glorious state is to master the portals of death. It is the perfect Self-realization attained through spiritual Initiation, or what is mystically described in the beautiful writings of Buddhism as the Divine Enlightenment under the Bodhi-tree.
The Theosophical ForumTHEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE