Theosophical University Press Online Edition
Three Stages of Visioning Truth
Aham Asmi Parabrahma
The psychological opening of the human being to truth, to the ingress of the god-wisdom — in other words the training that every true theosophist undergoes — begins once he is touched and his heart is opened, begins even though he knows it not. This opening of the heart may be divided into three stages. We are familiar with these in that form of Buddhism which originated in China coming from India. In Sanskrit it is called the Dhyani form, and in Japan it is known as the Zen form of Buddhist thought. It is expressed somewhat as follows, and it applies equally well to theosophy because the Zen or the Dhyani form of Buddhism is but a branch of theosophic thought.
The student in entering the pronaos of the temple of wisdom, and later in entering the temple itself, goes through three phases of inner opening — that is the word they use. Thus, in the first phase, the mountains and the waters of the earth are mountains and waters, and they are recognized as worthy of study and of research, and their wonder is seen and sensed; but they are only mountains and only waters.
But by study and aspiration after truth, finally comes the second psychological opening of his character, of his understanding, of his being. He realizes that the mountains and the waters, however beautiful they may be and wondrous for study, are after all but aspects, appearances, phenomena of noumena behind, the effects of invisible and secret causes; and he realizes in this second phase of the opening of his being that if he wants truth he must go deeper and study the science of the mountains and of the waters of the earth. He must investigate the causes which bring them into being, the inner causes and energies which produced the mountains and the waters. He realizes that the mountains and the waters, because they are effects, phenomena, appearances, however relatively real they may be, are but illusion, maya, because the real truth is within and behind them. His whole being is enwrapped in the thought of this wonder.
Then gradually he begins to sense the profound wisdom of the old saying that the entire universe is a phenomenon and therefore illusory, but illusory only because we do not understand it aright. It does not mean that the universe does not exist. That is absurd and a wrong construction. He realizes that we do not understand it aright, that we must see behind and within. The visible should portray the invisible, the effect should teach us the underlying causes. In this phase he begins to sense his oneness — and this is the finest part of the second phase of the psychological unveiling of this system of training which the theosophist undergoes and loves so well — he begins to sense his true oneness with all that is, for he realizes that, as physical man, he is but a phenomenon, an effect; that he is in fact the product of secret and invisible causes; that behind the phenomenon of the physical man is the human spiritual noumenon. He grows very reverent and a great sense of sympathetic beauty enters into his heart because he realizes that he is but one of all beings and entities and creatures which infill the universe. He begins to sense from this moment that ethics are no mere human convention; morals are rooted in the very fabric and stuff of universal nature herself. He feels immensely his oneness with all that is: "I and my Father are One."
This leads to the third step of psychological opening, and in this third step he realizes the wonderful paradox of all that he knew before in the two earlier states. In this third step he learns that inwards and upwards, expansively upwards, yet ever inwards, the mountains after all are the real, and the waters are after all real in a certain wondrous sense, for illusory though they may be to our relatively imperfectly evolved human understanding, nevertheless it is fundamental reality which has produced them, just as we as phenomena are brought forth.
So then we see at one and the same time that the only reality is the divine, and yet that this divine, because it is the utterly real, makes real in a certain sense even the illusory appearance of cosmic phenomena. Applying this to ourselves, we sense that the only real part of man is the divine within him; and yet precisely because this divine is reality, that very physical phenomenon which we call the physical man is in a certain marvelous sense real also. We have come back, the circle has reentered itself. We come back to the point of starting. First, there were just mountains and waters which were the only real things; and then the mountains and waters were seen to be but the garments, the clothing of secret, invisible, realities; and then the next step brought us to the realization that precisely because these are real things they could not produce essential unrealities; so that the very mountains and waters, strange paradox, are both real and unreal. Happy the man who can understand this third step.
The key to this understanding is another thought which I will again take from Dhyani-Buddhism, because it is fairly well known in the West mainly through the Zen Buddhist writings of Professor Suzuki of Japan (from whom, by the way, I did not take this extract). This is the Zen thought. Hearken carefully, please, because the significance is so slippery. "In the wind of the mountains and the sun of the lowlands, in the fall of night and the mists of dawn, it is cried aloud: That alone was, is, abides."
The whole universe is That, and all its phenomena are the productions of divine noumena, or divine thought; so that all are essentially unified in a divine oneness. In a rather pragmatical way we can bring down this thought and say that all men are brothers, that every one is his brother's keeper. You see the path of conduct? Any violation of this path means setting yourself in opposition to all universal nature herself.
There is a way to peace and happiness and wisdom and power. For once a man realizes that he is one with nature, and nature is one with him, his consciousness becomes, vibratorily speaking, corhythmic with the pulsings of the cosmic heart. That is why the great sages and seers can work marvels in the world: heal and raise; retain consciousness after death; transport the thinking ego to distant fields and be there in self-conscious thought and see all that passes around them; and many things more. For the universe and we are one. There is but one life and this life is also cosmic thought.
Brilliance like the almighty wings of love knows no barriers, and can and does penetrate everywhere; and this thought was born in my mind this afternoon as I hearkened to our speaker giving us excerpts of great beauty, of great depth, from the archaic wisdom-teachings of mankind, teachings which belong to no race, to no age, and which, since they are essential truth, must be taught in spheres not earthly but divine, as they are taught here on earth to us men. For it struck me that the burden of his brilliant address was this: that we human beings, as indeed all other things and entities everywhere, are but parts of one vast cosmic whole, intimately united together, despite our failings and our stumblings, in the working out of our common destiny. And therefore in proportion to our own individual understandings, we respond to that cosmic source which the Christian calls God, and which I prefer to call the divine, from which we came, inseparable from which we are and always shall be, and into which again we are returning on our ages-long pilgrimage. Oh, just that one thought, if we could keep it alive in our hearts and allow it to stimulate our minds from day to day, how it would soften the asperities of human life, how it would teach us to treat our brothers like brothers instead of bitter foes!
Don't you see that this teaching is brilliant because it is a teaching of genius? It contains everything within it, all the Law and all the Prophets. And what is this teaching? Succinctly phrased it is simply this: that the cosmic life is a cosmic drama in which each entity, be it supergod, god or demigod, or man or beast, or monad or atom, plays his or its proportionate part; and that all these dramatic presentations are welded together, leading up to one vast cosmic climax — to which, by the way, there is no anticlimax. So that with every human day we are coming closer to that time in the immensely distant future when we all shall, once more reunited, enter into the deep womb of utter cosmic Being — call it God, divinity, spirit, call it what you wish. The drama then will have ended. The curtain will fall and pralaya will begin, the rest period. But just as in human affairs, when night is over there comes the day, so when the night of pralaya ends, the manvantara, the cosmic day, dawns again. The curtain on the cosmic stage once more rises. Each entity, each being, then begins its cosmic play, its role, exactly at the metaphysical and mathematical point where it stopped when the bells of pralaya rang down that cosmic curtain on the manvantara or world period just ended. Everything begins anew precisely like a clock or watch which, when it has stopped and is rewound, begins to run again at the exact point at which the hands themselves stopped.
Why, this single conception of human identity with the cosmos, together with all the religious and philosophical and scientific and moral implications which it imbodies, is older than thinking man. We are one and yet we know it not, we recognize it not; so that in the drama of life we commit all the follies on the stage, and tragedy becomes comedy and comedy, alas, through our own fault becomes tragedy.
I want to quote to you something that I love and have loved from boyhood. I learned it when I was a child and found it again once more in The Secret Doctrine of H. P. B., when in after life as a young man I joined the T. S. It is this: the picture is that of the Hindu guru or teacher. A pupil stands or sits before him, and he is testing the knowledge of this pupil regarding the teaching that this pupil has received, and he says: "Chela, Child, dost thou discern in the lives of those around thee anything different from the life that runs in thy veins?" "There is no difference, O Gurudeva. Their life is the same as my life." "O Child,raise thy head and look at the violet dome of night. Consider those wonderful stars, those beings radiating, irradiating, from the cosmic splendor above our heads. Seest thou that cosmic fire which burns in all things, and shines supremely bright in this and that and that and that yonder brilliant orb? Child, dost thou discern any difference in that cosmic light, in that cosmic life, from that which shines forth from our own daystar, or from that which burns in thine own heart both day and night?" And the child says, "O Gurudeva, I see no difference between life and life, and light and light, and power and power, and mind and mind, except in degrees. The light that burns in my heart is the same as the light that burns in the hearts of all others." "Thou seest well, Child. Now listen to the heart of all this teaching: AHAM ASMI PARABRAHMA." And the child, who has been taught Sanskrit, the Vedic Sanskrit, understands and bows his head, "pranjali." The meaning is: "I am the Boundless, I myself am Parabrahma, for the life that pulses in me and gives me existence is the life of the divinest of the divine." No wonder the child has understood. Am I a child of God? Essentially it is the only thing I am and, if I fail to realize it, it is not the Divine's fault but mine.
You will find this teaching of divinity in every one of the great systems to which the genius of mankind has given birth. Religion is it; philosophy was born from it; science is now aspiring towards it, and is beginning to get adumbrations of what it means. Think even in our own small human affairs — small when compared with the vast cosmic majesty which holds us in its sheltering care — think, if every man and woman on earth were thoroughly convinced of the utter reality of this cosmic truth! Never again would the hand of man be raised against man. Always it would be the extended hands of succor and brotherhood. For I am my brother — in our inmost we are one. And if we are separate it is because of the smallnesses that make us each one an atom as it were, instead of the spiritual monad which for each one of us is our source. That monad is of the very stuff of divinity. As Jesus the avatara phrased it in his wonderful saying, "I and my Father are one" — the Father and the divine spark, the spark of divinity which is identic with the cosmic life, with the universal ocean of life, to use another metaphor. This idea of the cosmic ocean of life, of which we are all droplets in our inmost and in our highest, was in the mind of Gautama the Lord Buddha when he spoke of that ultimate end of all beings and things; for, as he said, all beings and things are in their essence Buddha, and some day shall become Buddha themselves, when, as phrased so beautifully by Edwin Arnold, the dewdrop slips into the shining sea. CONSUMMATUM EST.
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Adept Relatively perfected human being.
Adi-buddha (Skt) Cosmic buddha; highest of four classes of buddhas.
Adwaita-Vedanta (Skt) Nondualistic school of Vedanta. See also Vedanta.
Akasa (Skt) "Brilliant, shining"; ethereal-spiritual substance; fifth cosmic element; aether of the Stoics. See also Astral Light.
Akousmatikoi (Gk) "Hearers, listeners"; probationers in the school of Pythagoras.
Ariadne's Thread In Greek mythology the thread Ariadne gave Theseus to guide him out of the maze; symbol of the power of truth to lead to wisdom.
Arupa worlds (Skt) "Formless"; spiritual-ethereal worlds beyond human perception.
Asat (Skt) "Not being, not essence"; the unreal, illusory, in contrast to Sat, the Real. Also "beyond Sat" — Parabrahman.
Astral Light Invisible substance surrounding the earth.
Atma-buddhi (Skt) Atma "self" + buddhi "spiritual understanding"; the highest aspects of man's constitution.
Avatara (Skt) A class of saviors such as Jesus and Krishna: a temporary combination of divinity, a highly evolved soul, and a pure physical body.
Avernus (L) "Without birds"; the infernal regions; the Underworld.
Avichi (Skt) "Wavelessness"; the most material spheres and states of consciousness where the utterly evil soul gravitates; the opposite of nirvana.
Bardo (Tib) "Between"; the period between death and rebirth.
Bhons (Tib) Tibetan monks of pre-Buddhist religion.
Bodhisattva (Skt) "One whose essence (sattva) is wisdom (bodhi)"; one stage before buddhahood; also one who renounces nirvana to live to benefit humanity.
Brahma (Skt) Creator, evolver; individualized manifestation of Brahman, the Unmanifest.
Brahma(n) (Skt) Universal spirit; first or unmanifest Logos. Brahma-vidya (Skt) "Divine knowledge."
Brother of the Shadow (Black Magician). Follower of the lefthand path. One who uses knowledge for evil purposes; a sorcerer. See also White Magician.
Buddha (Skt) "Enlightened"; one who is spiritually awakened.
Buddhi (Skt) "Enlightened"; the spiritual self; source of intuition and discernment.
Buddhi-manas (Skt) Buddhi "wisdom" + manas "mind"; higher understanding and reason working together; the reincarnating ego. See also Nous.
Chela (cheta) (Skt) "Servant"; one who serves a guru; a disciple.
Chitkara (Skt) "Thought-worker"; spiritual self; guardian angel.
Christ "Anointed"; early Gnostic term for an initiate.
Christos spirit The inner god; the Father within.
Devachan (Tib) Blissful dream state of the soul between earth lives.
Dhyani-chohans (Skt-Tib) "Lords of meditation"; cosmic intelligences of varying grades.
Druids Pre-Christian initiate priests of Celtic Europe.
Dvija (Skt) "Twice-born"; an initiate.
Gayatri (Savitri) (Skt) Rig-Vedic hymn to the divine sun.
Gilgulim (Heb) "Circlings"; Qabbalistic term for the peregrinations of souls.
Gnostics (Gk) Seekers of the ancient gnosis, "knowledge"; philosophers, including some early Christians.
Golden Chain (Living Chain) of Hermes. Succession of spiritual teachers.
Hierarchy of Compassion Brotherhood of mahatmas and adepts, custodians of truth, guardians and protectors of mankind.
Jagrat (Skt) The "waking" state; first of the four states of human consciousness.
Kama-loka (Skt) "Desire-world" surrounding our earth; astral dwelling of kama-rupas; the Greek Hades.
Kama-manas (Skt) "Desire-mind"; the personal self.
Kama-rupa (Skt) "Desire-body"; astral vehicle of man's mental/psychic energies; after death the "shade" or "ghost."
Karma (Skt) "Action"; law of action and reaction, cause and effect.
Kismet (Ar) "Portion, lot"; Islamic fate or destiny.
Lipikas (Skt) "Scribes"; celestial recorders; agents of karma.
Maha-buddhi (Skt) "Great wisdom"; cosmic buddhi, mahat.
Maha-manvantara (Skt) "Great + between manus" or period of manifestation. See also Manvantara.
Maha-maya (Skt) "Great + illusion"; the universal illusion of manifested existence.
Maha-pralaya (Skt) "Great + dissolution"; period of cosmic rest. See also paranirvana.
Mahat (Skt) "Great"; universal mind, corresponds to manas in man. See also Maha-buddhi.
Mahatma(s) (Skt) "Great soul or self " See also Master(s).
Mahayana Buddhism (Skt) "Great vehicle or path"; Northern school of Buddhism.
Manasaputra(s) (Skt) "Sons of mind"; solar divinities who awakened mind in the human race.
Manvantara (Skt) "Between manus"; a period of manifestation and activity of a universe.
Master(s) Relatively perfected human beings; teachers and guardians of the human race.
Messianic cycle A period of 2,160 years during which a particular spiritual and zodiacal influence is manifest.
Moirai (Gk) "Lots, portions"; the three Fates, Spinners of Destiny in Greek mythology.
Moksha or Mukti (Skt) "Set free"; nirvana.
Monad "One, unit"; indivisible unit of consciousness; spiritual individuality.
Monas Monadurn (L) "Monad of monads"; the cosmic monad.
Mystery Schools Centers of spiritual instruction, discipline, and initiation instituted in remotest times.
Naga (Skt) "Serpent" of wisdom, initiate; also a serpent-demon.
Nirvana (Skt) "Blown out"; the bliss of absorption in pure cosmic Being, all personal limitations having been "blown out."
Nous (Gk) "Mind"; the higher intelligence.
Parabrahma(n) (Skt) "Beyond Brahman"; the Infinite; the Boundless.
Paranirvana (Skt) "Beyond + nirvana"; period of dormancy of a cosmos. See also Maha-pralaya.
Pisachas (Skt) "Flesh-eating demon-elementals"; the lowest aspect of the kama-rupa.
Pistis (Gk) "Faith"; trust.
Pralaya (Skt) "Dissolution"; state of rest between two life-cycles.
Psuche (Gk) "Breath"; daughter of Nous; the personal human soul.
Qabbalah (Kabbala) (Heb) "Tradition"; the secret doctrine or theosophy of the Jews.
Root-race One of seven stock-races through which the human life-wave evolves on earth during any one "round"; our present root-race is the fifth. See also Round.
Round A technical term for the passage of monads through seven root-races; applicable also to greater cycles.
Samadhi (Skt) "Uniting together"; self-conscious union with the Divine.
Sambuddhi-samadhi (Skt) "Perfect enlightenment + samadhi"; omniscience; union with the All.
Sat (Skt) "Being, essence"; truth, reality. See also Asat.
Sushupti (Skt) "Deep sleep"; the third state of human consciousness.
Svabhava (Skt) "Self-becoming"; true individuality.
Svapna (Skt) "Sleeping-dreaming"; the second state of human consciousness.
Tat (Skt) "That"; the Boundless. See also Parabrahman.
Turiya (Skt) "Fourth"; the highest state of human consciousness. See also Samadhi.
Vedanta (Skt) One of the six Indian schools of philosophy.
Vedas (Skt) "Knowledge"; ancient Hindu religious texts compiled by Veda-Vyasa, the oldest being the Rig-Veda.
White Magician Advanced human being, follower of the righthand path, who works impersonally for the benefit of all.
Yoga (Skt) "Union"; a method of training; discipline.
Yuga (Skt) "Age"; a period of time. In every root-race there are four yugas; our present age, the fourth, is Kali yuga, the "black" or Iron age which began 3102 B.C. with the death of Krishna.
Contents listed by year as far as possible
The Exoteric and Esoteric H. P. B.
What Is Truth?
Shifting Our Center of Consciousness
Strength and Balance in Occultism
Civilization Built upon Thought
The Only Way Out
The Guerdon of Self-Forgetfulness
The Theosophy of China
Young People and Theosophy
The Relation of the Finite to the Infinite
Let the Christ-Child Live
The Divine Proportion
The Direct Road to Wisdom
Why Not Laugh at Yourself?
The World's Trouble and Its Cure
The Ensouling of Man
Capturing a World with Ideas
Responsibility of Scientists
Time, Duration, and the Eternal Now
Where the Masters Work
The Touchstone of Truth
Rules of Conduct
Common Sense in the Home
Encouragement on the Path
Oracles of the Ancients
Nature's Way after Death
Wine as a Mystic Symbol
The Ancient Doctrine of Vicarious Atonement
Prayer and Aspiration
Fear, the Great Destroyer
We Have No Dogmas
Wind of the Spirit
The Heritage of Man Is Man Himself
After Death: You Are Yourself
Beauty and Science
Carving Your Destiny
The Essence of H. P. Blavatsky's Message
The Yoga of Theosophy
The Understanding Heart
Karma: Pleasant and Unpleasant
"Vengeance Is Mine"
Theosophists and Prayer
Soul Loss and Insincerity
Misuse of the Free Will
Help from the Teachers
Nature in Silent Prayer
Two Ways of Viewing Reality
Angel and Demon
Where Can Truth Be Found?
Knowledge Brings Responsibility
The Living Buddhas in Tibet
The Golden Chain of Platonic Succession
Three Stages of Visioning Truth
The Virgin Birth
The Christmas Tree
Where Are the Sages and Seers?
Work Out Your Own Salvation
To Those Who Mourn
The Vision of the Lord Buddha
Strength through Exercise
An Attitude of Balance and Vision
Karmic Results and the Bardo
Help from the Gods
"Lead Us Not into Temptation"
Win with Gentleness and Kindness
Duty and the Moral Balance
Three Aspects of Karma
The Four Yugas
How Can You Prove Reincarnation?
Thoughts on Karma
Lost Continents and Our Atlantean Heritage
How Easter Became a Christian Festival
Universality and the Esoteric Tradition
The Injunction of Pythagoras
Where Two or Three Are Gathered . . .
The Giving of the Self
Initiation and Suffering
The Guardian Angel
Guard Your Thought Processes
Forgiveness and Karmic Action
One Life — One Law
Man in a Just and Ordered Universe
The Hill of Discernment
The Invincible Fire of Spirit
The Secret of Human Conflict
The Weighing of the Heart
What Is Old Age?
The Lost Cause of Materialism (September 13th)
Aham Asmi Parabrahnia (September 20th)