Thoughts in a Divine Mind

By Sarah B Dougherty 

Every day we each give birth to a multitude of thoughts, a truly creative act, if not always a deliberate or controlled one. Through this fecundity of mind we fashion the world as we perceive and know it; yet how few of us pause to consider what our thoughts are and where they come from. Following the general trend of our time, we are apt to explain away what our senses cannot perceive in terms of material phenomena and mechanics. But perhaps thoughts are more than the result of activities within the brain or abstractions lacking any objective reality.

It is surprising, too, how seldom we ponder on that most dynamic and familiar part of us, the mind. Whether it is a by-product of the brain's functioning or an intrinsic part of man's being which expresses itself through the brain, may seem an abstruse and theoretical question. The answer we give, however, has profound implications. For if matter is the source of all that exists, then mind, consciousness, and indeed life, are the exceptional outgrowths of physical processes which can fully account for their properties and development. On the other hand, if consciousness is fundamental in nature, then mind and life pervade the whole universe — no smallest point is without them. The cosmos in this case is formed of organisms rather than of mechanisms, living beings sharing the same divine origin. As reflections or sparks of the whole, all contain within themselves, evoked or unexpressed, the full potentials of their parent, which they seek to unfold in ever greater measure.

Mind and life from this standpoint are the very foundation of man's being as well, the human mind mirroring imperfectly its universal counterpart. We are familiar with only the human dimension of this quality, as yet not fully developed; how much more must there be to the larger intelligence which is its source. Moreover, in a universe where nothing is lifeless, the thoughts which make up our mental life cannot be considered "just" energies, but centers of consciousness having an independent existence. As beings, they have evolved in a way similar to man, and therefore are not created out of nothing by us when they enter our awareness. Rather, they are attracted to the matrix of our minds, springing forth as a child does from its parents: each possessing its own individual past and also a strong karmic relationship with those who provide it with a means of manifesting in the physical world. By our attitudes and motives we affect these thought-entities, transforming or ignoring them, giving them a creative or destructive impulse before sending them forth again on their journey through mankind.

That consciousness lies behind physical reality and that thoughts are the children of our mind are ideas that have been felt by many people. Their contemplations have frequently led them to draw parallels between the processes of human thought and the formation of the universe, one of the most common being that the universe is a thought in the divine mind or in the mind of God. Some have elaborated this theme by describing how the world structure arose through the impression made upon the original substance by cosmic thought. Perhaps the best-known version of this concept in the West centers on the Logos — the "reason" or "word" produced by divine thought. The Gospel according to John begins with a reference to this:

In the beginning was the Logos [Word or Verbum], and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him [the Logos], and without him was not any thing made that was made. — 1:1-3

This passage emphasizes the basic identity of the Logos with its parent, the ultimate that the human mind can conceive of, whether we call it God, Parabrahman, the Absolute, or Divinity. Many sources, however, mention three Logoi, the first being a point of consciousness emerging from Divinity — the first self or ego. The second Logos is often identified with primordial substance, and together these two interact to produce a third Logos, their son, referred to as the cosmic mind, demiurgos, or world builder, which acts as the direct source of all manifestation.

While the word Logos is used most often in a cosmic sense, it can apply equally well to any unit within the universe, whether a solar system, a planet, a man, or an atom. For everything is grounded in divinity and manifests in much the same way. The Logos of each entity is the root of its selfhood, the very essence of its existence, from which flows forth the totality of its being, expressed through the surrounding matter. Hence the process of mind stamping its impression on substance is repeated in the origin of all parts of nature, and each unit is a creative center in its own right.

Another facet of the basic analogy between human thought and the cosmos is that of the Cosmic Architect or Mathematician, which also suggests the influence of consciousness on primordial substance. It implies the presence of a directing power or mind behind the regularities of nature, rather than attributing these to the activities of random chance or mechanical laws. Several scientists of this century have turned to this metaphor, often employed by mystical and Platonic thinkers, to express their intuition of that "something" which underlies the visible universe. In other times and cultures the predominant image has been that of the Cosmic Artist or Craftsman, fashioning worlds to the form of his thought.

These personifications are not meant to be taken literally, but point instead to a fundamental relationship between mind and substance in the development of the universe. They indicate that the road of evolution concerns the progressive expression of consciousness, which uses appropriate forms, rather than the emergence of consciousness from these forms. Undeniably the need for ever greater self-expression is at the root of this universal urge for advancement. Such progress does not revolve around the struggle for individual improvement at the expense of others — particularly the weaker and less developed — but around a growing harmony within the whole. In a universe of mind and life the mainspring behind growth is creative transformation, which leads each unit to act more perfectly in accordance with the universal mind that gave it birth, as more of its own inner potentials are brought forth.

C. S. Peirce, the founder of Pragmatism, thought deeply about the urge behind growth. On occasion he too related the cosmos to thoughts produced by the mind of God; and he used this comparison in an effort to make clear his view of how evolution takes place, saying that:

growth comes only from love, from — I will not say self-sacrifice, but from the ardent impulse to fulfill another's highest impulse. Suppose, for example, that I have an idea that interests me. It is my creation. It is my creature . . . it is a little person. I love it; and I will sink myself in perfecting it. It is not by dealing out cold justice to the circle of my ideas that I can make them grow, but by cherishing and tending them as I would the flowers in my garden. . . . this is the way mind develops; and as for the cosmos, only so far as it yet is mind, and so has life, is it capable of further evolution. — Buchler, Justus, ed., The Philosophy of Peirce: Selected Writings, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1940; pp. 362-3.

All of us are thoughts of the divine, fragments in our inmost of its very essence, striving to fulfill our spiritual heritage. Just as atoms and thoughts circulate through the different reaches of man, so are we destined in our evolution to circulate through the many grander beings whose bodies form the galaxy. And in these wanderings, certainly it is the love and compassion which flows from the superior toward us, their children-thoughts, which finally raises us to divinity.

(From Sunrise magazine, November 1979; copyright © 1979 Theosophical University Press)


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