The Path – November 1895

THE BODILY SEATS OF CONSCIOUSNESS: II — Herbert Coryn

(Concluded from October number)

(b) But the mind has its own proper mental or intellectual consciousness, wherein it applies itself more particularly to the brain than to the body elsewhere; and connected with the brain are the proper mental and intellectual memories. This is the second of the three possibilities of consciousness, and its activities are registered by its own organ of memory. Try and remember an event or a train of thought you have nearly forgotten and you will shortly perceive by a sense of fulness or even a headache that it is with the brain you are working. It is with the brain that are registered the memories of all things that we did with thought, inasmuch as it was by the brain that we did them. For the intellectual consciousness is the organ of the judgment and comparisons of cognitions of any plane, and without it all cognitions of all planes must remain comparatively unrelated and so not knowledge proper. We walk to a place and remember afterwards whatever we thought about on the journey, not the steps we took. Walking is done by the spinal cord and it alone has the mechanical memory of the method, not the brain, though there is a continual intercommunication between the organic and cerebral memories. The association of thoughts, ideas, pictures and sensations arises from that interchange and relation. The stomach preserves the memory of the method of digestion. That is not in the brain, and like walking, it can go on when thought is otherwise occupied. States of consciousness, whether sensuous or spiritual, to be remembered, must be reawakened where they arose. Though they may involuntarily awake by association, the mind holds the key to their voluntary awakening and comparison. Connected with the brain are the memories of all things whatsoever to which the mind has ever applied itself, and no others. The mind, entering the sensuous state, gathers up as food some of the leading cognitions of the senses, which thereupon become mental pictures, and carries those it has seized to the brain for registration in memory. I go into a strange room and bend my mind to a study of it. The whole picture of the room, entering my senses, the eyes, the ears, the nose, enters the sensuous consciousness of the mind which for that purpose has voluntarily entered the sensuous state. Thereupon there exists in my mind a complete picture for brain registration. I say I am conscious, of the room. Let us particularize a little. Say there is a red mark on one of the walls. A bit of the retina of the eye vibrates in accordance with that mark. This vibration flows back from the eye along the ether in the centre of a nerve thread, and, passing through the brain, reaches a cell on its surface, a cell which thereupon vibrates in response to the red mark. The eye saw the mark first, and afterwards I see it. The brain-cell ceases after awhile to throb to that red vibration. Part of the energy of vibration leaves the cell and passes out into the ether, the astral aura about each of us, and there is thereafter in my astral picture-gallery a picture of the red spot, an astral picture or point of defined energy in space capable of pouring its energy back into that cell and reawakening its vibrations and therefore my memory of the spot. Wherefore the cell, while it remains healthy is the key to that memory. For when it revibrates in connection with the astral picture, and the vibration flows downward as far as the retina, the whole of the primary conditions under which I noted the spot reexist, only somewhat more faintly. So I faintly re-see the spot, and that is the process of memory. If all this occurs too vividly, say when all the brain-cells are throbbing too fast in fever, it may be as vivid as the primary cognition and so become an hallucination. Similarly, in the case of the room, other cells take up and vibrate to other leading features of the walls. Suppose there was a blue mark alongside of the red. This is taken up by a cell adjacent to that which took up the red. When I turn my attention to other matters, both red and blue cells discharge their vibrations into the ether, wherein exists henceforth a little picture of two spots side by side, one red and one blue. Now suppose I am in another room, and on a wall facing me again exists a red spot which I note. It follows the easy path traced by the first, reaching the same cell, and perhaps finally the first astral picture. This consists of two spots, but when one of them, in this case the red, is thus reinforced, the reinforcing energy will overflow into the other. So there will be recalled to my memory the two spots of the first wall and I shall say that this second wall reminds me, by its partial resemblance, of the first.

So while a brain-cell is vibrating, and at the same time giving off vibratory energy to the ether, such overflowing etheric vibrations from point to point may wake up all kinds of old pictures of the past of which also they form a part; and these, affecting their related cells, will cause the dead and spectral past to spring suddenly into life and color. But the cells of this present brain cannot wake up ether-pictures to which they never give rise, but which, connected with the last birth, were given origin by and keyed to a brain long since dead. Hence, though the complete astral gallery of the last life remains about us, it is now closed to us. The cells of this brain have only electric wires to the pictures of this life, which they themselves awoke in the astral light. So we may lose certain memories, if the brain-cells that are keyed to them become destroyed by disease. The memories remain as astral pictures, but we have lost the key to that gallery. Of course, if we know how to raise our consciousness above the brain limits, we can reach these pictures and a million others, and to these we may key some brain-cells for the purpose of future ready reference, but this requires training. Similarly we cannot remember much of the astral picturing of dreams, because in the transit down to the ordinary consciousness we do not key the brain-cells to those astral pictures, or but to few of them. So the brain-cells lie between our ordinary consciousness and the astral world, and whatever of the astral, whether memories of this or another life, or astral visions, reaches us here, must, I think, do so by exciting some brain-cells. In deep sleep we go through and far beyond the astral planes, but as we cannot key the brain-cells to any of these high experiences, we can recover little or nothing of that which survives only as dim feelings or as the tattered shreds of blended dreams. So knowledge and consciousness remain unified.

It seems therefore that the brain must do its work in terms of pictures, and that pure brain thinking is a comparison of these. To recall an emotion, you must reawake to that effect the organ that gave rise to it. You can only remember a toothache by re-arousing the pain in the offending nerve in a shadowy manner, though it would become less and less shadowy by continuance. You can only remember hunger by making the nerves behind the stomach partly reproduce it. Hunger in the stomach sets up such associated pictures as a meal-table in the brain, and in the brain are only those pictures, not the hunger. Hunger in sleep will cause the brain to make a very real picture of a meal. You can recall hunger by reversing the process, creating the alluring picture of a chop, and this awakes the "brain of the stomach." You can start at any point of this circuit of consciousness and go forward or backward. When you see a man hunting for food, you could do as the scientists do, elaborately tabulate and measure his actions, and arrive at no result except your tables. But you know that when you yourself go through those acts it is in response to the inner emotion of hunger, and so, going at once beyond the outer observation of science, you grasp the real fact of the situation, namely, that the man's actions are caused by hunger. You have got from effect back to cause. Apply that very process to all nature, and in different parts of your being you will be able to find or feel the cause at the root of every effect or movement in nature, at once reaching to a wisdom behind and above that outer observation and measuring we call science. But there are parts of nature that cannot find their counterpart in us in any such kamic organ as the stomach; if we would understand these we must use other seats of feeling. We are all in the habit of living too exclusively in the brain, and for that reason are materialistic. The materialist requires that all the divine play of nature should manifest to his brain, which can really only concern itself with the outer pictures; and this on penalty of relegation to the domain of the "Unknowable." The brain cannot reflect the soul of nature, which is not a picture. The heart must do that, and that organ of knowledge we do not cultivate and so deny soul in nature. The brain cannot reflect the hunger in our meal-hunting man, and to be logical the materialist should therefore deny his hunger and relegate to the "Unknowable" the cause of his actions. We answer part for part to nature, and each part of us must interpret its own part of nature. The mainspring of nature is in its heart, and to understand that, our own heart must be used.

(c) And this brings us to the third of the three planes of human consciousness and its bodily seat, for the body is the temple of many things high as well as low.

Krishna says of himself in the Bhagavd Gita: "I am the ego which is seated in the hearts of all beings." The Secret Doctrine says "That class of the Fire-Dhyanis which we identify with the Agnishwattas is called in our school the Heart of the Dhyan Chohanic body, and it is said to have incarnated in the third race of men and made them perfect. A mysterious relation exists between the essence of this angelic Heart and that of man. And the Egyptian defunct invokes his heart or the deity of it as necessary to and presiding over his incarnations. It was taught by H.P.B. that "Every cell in the human organism corresponds with a like cell in the divine organism of the manifested universe, which is an intelligent unit in this or that hierarchy of beings." This refers of course to the informing life of each cell, a life that is withdrawn at bodily death, and makes it clear that there is a specific identity of life-essence in each cell of the body and some conscious being in the cosmos, man epitomizing the universe; and further that the informing spiritually conscious life-essence of the human heart is derived from and forever linked with the Agnishwattas who awaken in man self-consciousness, egoism. The pulse of the divine life of the Universe, source of all wisdom, is in the beat of the human heart. H.P.B., speaking of the brain of man, teaches that it is "the direct recipient of the impressions of the heart" which are spiritual, and then shows the macrocosmic parallel thus. "The universe possesses a brain as the organ of its mind. This brain though not objective to our senses is none the less existing. As in man so in the universe. Every organ therein is a sentient entity, and every particle of substance" (material or spiritual) "is a cell, a nerve centre, which communicates with the brain-stuff."

But what are the ideations of the heart-consciousness? What is spiritual consciousness, and who is the spiritual man? Is emotion spirituality? There may be base emotion as well as noble. Is intellection spiritual? Intellection may be used for the vilest objects. We must separate off spirituality from its concomitants. Let us get something to the point from the Bhagavat Gita, that sacred home for all souls who would find rest and wisdom.

The primeval spirit is that "from which floweth the never ending stream of conditioned existence." It is then the eternal root. "It is even a portion of myself which draweth together the five senses and the mind in order that it may obtain a body and may leave it again." So it is also the root selves of men, and "devotees who strive to do so see it dwelling in their own hearts." In living nature it is clothed with the qualities and those who would find it must go beneath them, by feeling, and find the life. "It is the light of all lights, and it is wisdom itself, the object of wisdom, and that which is to be obtained by wisdom; in the hearts of all it ever presideth." It is with the heart that its presence is to be felt and understood, not the brain. The heart consciousness is one that reflects in feeling the motive essence lying within the outer ways of nature, thus sympathetically knowing them and generating real wisdom.

If now with this as a starting-point we turn to the "First Principles" of Herbert Spencer's philosophy, we shall find something which seems to me not far from some of this. For he shows that behind all forms in the two worlds of matter and of consciousness, deeper than all changes, must be held to lie an absolute reality which on the one side is the substratum of consciousness and on the other that of matter, whilst in it inhere all the laws that rule the changes of both. There is little in Herbert Spencer's First Principles that might not be of value to the student of the Bhagavad Gita, and throughout its pages is a solemnity behind the words that places it in harmony with the profound and solemn devotion of the poem. The spiritual man is he who feels in himself that absolute reality of Spencer, the spirit of the Gita. Only, when the outer consciousness has suspended its changes, we are taught in the latter that that root-soul can be consciously attained by the man who thus mounts to it by long devotion and meditation. Do we know our own consciousness as one with that supreme source of consciousness? It is one, in the heart, but do we think from there? Yet to think from there, or rather to feel, and to think from the brain, mark apart the spiritual and the intellectual men.

Why does the boulder crash from hanging cliffs into the foaming sea? Because of the life-bond stretching and drawing through space from earth to crag, a force of the world-life in the heart alike of man and nature. Or with the brain we can say gravitation, acting inverse to the square of the distance. Why does the tree throw up in the spring a million opened leaves to the Sun? By the very same leap and outgoing glow of conscious life that makes the child, shout, the lover woo, the heart of the poet make thought glow into passion and words fall into the cadencies of music, the outgoing of spirit into matter. Every movement of nature has its reflection, its counterpart, its explanation therefore, in the consciousness of the heart of man, and he is spiritual who can read out his own heart into nature and her ways. In the heart glows that one eternal life that is the life of nature; it comes and goes in its degrees, it takes every form and flows through each to all others, lending to each a consciousness. Blessed is the consciousness of man in that it can, as can that of no other form in nature, find and recognize and learn from its source. In a moment can be learned in the heart the purpose of that leaved and flowered splendor of the tree, though words can bear little relation to such a piece of knowledge. If we give many moments through the years, surely consciousness will grow, deepen, understand, and we shall find in our hearts every secret, every purpose, the causality of every stir of the tree's half-blind life; and this would be the recovery of memory of what, ages and ages gone, was our own whole life. Going on through years and lives, we shall learn more and more of the path of the Spirit in all worlds and all consciousnesses. Following this path, there are many even amongst ourselves who have gone far; and yet, since they speak but the words of the poor brain, they do not in writing or speech betray their place in this school of nature. These, when we meet them, we run the risk of slighting, and may entertain angels unawares. Such men must be known by the heart.

What shall we do to get on this path of complete wisdom? It is an easy path, no violence is needed. How shall we know we are upon it? To any one who with earnestness should ask: Am I on it? the answer would be yes; for the very wish for such a journey is a movement of the heart that is that path.

If the self of the tree elected to dwell in the leaves, it would die with oncoming autumn; if it have home in the root, it will watch all springs and all autumns unmoved; so in man the self in the heart throws up the foliage of life, and we elect to dwell in that finite. We hold to the brain and to body, to feeling, to passion, to sensation, to all that is young and strong for a spring but whose autumn is certain. "Those who are wise in spiritual things grieve neither for the death nor the living. I myself never was not, nor thou, nor all the princes of the earth, nor shall we ever hereafter cease to be. As a man throweth away old garments and putted on new, even so the dweller in the body, having quitted its old mortal frame, entered into others which are new". That is the Gita again, pointing out the easy path, a path that only seems hard when we think of it with the brain. The thoughts of the Gita are spoken to the personal self from the heart of each of us, translated into words that the brain may comprehend; but to the hearing of him who is willing to give prolonged and deep attention, trying to attain the while his highest consciousness, there arises within and about the words the keynote and harmonies of another world, sounded from the heart. It is the same with the stanzas of the Secret Doctrine; they must be heard and felt from the heart, since in the heart is that very power which brought forth the worlds and will again withdraw them. The processions of the Universe, like those of the tree, must be felt, if we would understand them. They are states of feeling, reflected in the rhythm of the stanzas. We can note the graded increase of the pulse. First there is stillness and the flow of word-tone is very smooth. "The eternal parent, wrapped in her ever invisible robes had slumbered once again for seven eternities. Time was not, for it lay asleep in the infinite bosom of duration. Alone the one form of existence stretched boundless, infinite, ceaseless, in dreamless sleep, and life pulsated unconscious in universal space throughout that all presence." Through the stages reflected in the second stanzas the pulse of the heart of the world stirs a little, and in the third it moves into real life. "The last vibration of the seventh eternity thrills through infinitude. The vibrations sweeps along, touching with its swift wing the whole universe, and the germ that dwelleth in darkness." And in the fourth arises the great movement and the marshalling of the forces of the "Army of the Voice." It is with the heart, not firstly or finally the brain, that we approach some understanding of that vast drama, just as we understand the falling cliff, the unfolding tree, and the purposes of human life. For thus sympathetically comes our understanding of men. In this work we cease neither to act nor to think. At once we think and act with greater range and scope. We make too little allowance for the possibilities of time. Finding that we can for a moment retire to the heart and let the force there drive the body to its work and duties, we are disappointed because in another instant the currents flash again to the brain and leave us as before, the petty man of this body and habit and name. Think what the years will do if we try only for a little, daily, to seek sanctuary in the heart. The little cares of life will begin to take their proper insignificance, and the small resentments of daily injuries cease to be. Nature will lose to our eyes her dead externality and become the changeful home of that golden flame we have begun to find in our own hearts. Charity for all men will soften our thoughts and words, for we shall see that what they do that we call evil means only that they have not yet become aware of that light we have begun to seek. If the stone and the tree have it, how much more humanity, its chiefest work and embodiment. To those who will, then, the "Path" in one aspect may be counted easy. Not easy the uttermost surrender to the guidance of the Voice, but the beginning that leads to the great end is easy. The voice is conscience, but it is very much more than we are accustomed to intend by that word. At the dawn, when first the darkness began to break, it alone was; thought, life, will, and about it the veils of mother-substance. Down the long ladder of being it gave form to the formless, life to form, consciousness and law to life. Turning upon itself, the life and consciousness became those of man, and in man is still in its purity that unfading flame, the old light, the master-thought of the world. Is the finding of it too difficult? "The man whose devotion has been broken off by death goes to the region of the righteous, and is then born on earth in a pure family, or even among those who are spiritually illuminated. Being thus born again he comes in contact with the knowledge that belonged to him in a former body, and from that time he struggles more diligently towards perfection. . . . Even if only a mere enquirer he reaches beyond the outer words of the scriptures."

The stillness of the lake, the movement of the ocean, the stir of the spring-life in the tree, the passions and hopes and loves that play in mankind, the mediation of the wise, the light of the
consciousness of a Master, the thought on which rests the universe, all these things are to be understood by each in the heart, and wisdom gathers from life to life.


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