Can We Shorten Our Devachan?
Would it be possible for any of us to shorten our devachanic period?
G. de P. — Quite possible, if you have the will to do so. Any human being who is willing to renounce his rest, the utter peace and calm which is the thing most longed for by the tired human soul, and who trains himself to this renunciation, can shorten his devachan automatically. But it is only high chelas who can actually do without the devachan, because they have risen above the plane where the human ego requires and longs for rest.
I will just add this as a passing thought: in the far distant future, not only will all human egos on earth have passed beyond the need of the devachan after death, but they will have passed beyond the need for the present type of sleep for the body. What are now our gross physical bodies, in those days will have become practically bodies of condensed light, wonderful bodies, radiant, luminous. They won't need rest as our gross physical bodies now do.
But I would advise any devoted student to think carefully before trying to shorten the devachanic rest, because you may bring upon yourself complicate and possibly disastrous karmic consequences. It is something like a man who, because he has some very important work to do in view, deliberately goes without his sleep, or cuts it short, night after night after night. He can do it, but he can ruin his health that way too; and so in the end he really doesn't get what he is after.
The best way is to think to yourself: I hope that my devachan will be only so long as absolutely needed for rest. I hope it won't be like sleeping in bed longer that one has to, merely because one likes to sleep and rest in bed. That attitude of mind is quite right and safe.
While you are on this subject, I think I recall reading in The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett that K. H. speaks somewhere of the periodic devachan that the adept can enter into, even during imbodied existence.
G. de P. — Yes, but that is not the case of the high adepts, but of the high chelas who have not fully passed beyond the need of the devachan. Now there is an occult law well known to the adept, by which a man can shorten his devachan, by taking certain resting-periods, devachanic resting-periods if you wish, in a single imbodiment, set aside a certain number of weeks or months or even years in any one imbodiment for the purpose of going into a temporary but intensive devachan then and there.
That may be a very good way to do for a high chela. For instance, if he is given a work to do, he does his work it may be for several years, and he needs his devachanic rest before he will be called upon again. He profits by that time, let us say by going into the devachan more or less so, right then and there, and rests himself for a while. Then when he comes out of it, he is in the same body, and strong and inwardly recuperated and ready to go on again. But that of course is the case of chelas or adepts who still need the rest, or some devachanic rest.
This matter of the devachan is a very peculiar thing. I have met people, men and women, going about their ordinary vocations, who were actually living in a devachanic state. They were dreaming, they were lackadaisical. Perhaps you have all heard of that kind of folk, people who do not seem to care. They just go about in a sort of half-asleep state. They are not really living. They are still in the devachan to a certain extent. They want to lie abed so long, so to speak, as children do sometimes. They have hardly come out of the devachanic state. They have come out of it enough to take a body, but their minds are still partly in the devachanic dream.
And I have met Theosophists too, whom I deeply revere, who have left the devachan to come into our Work before their devachan was really ended. They are like people who have waked from sleep before the body has had enough of it to rest it. They are high-strung, nervous, active, quick, that kind of people. These are two extremes which one meets in human life: those who are still in the devachan more or less, although still imbodied — I do not mean completely in the devachan, but in a devachanic dreamy state and hence not fully at work, or awake to life's calls; and those who have not been in the devachan long enough; and I will say that some of this last class comprise a few of our best workers, and they are having a hard time of it, because they have to fight an inner psychological state of inner weariness which is almost impossible to describe unless you have been through it. They are usually not strong in body, high-strung, nervous individuals, but they are doing a grand work. They have given up a portion of their rest, semi-consciously as it were, in order quickly to take their part again in humanity's destiny.
Do We Ever Incarnate as Beasts?
In view of the teaching of Theosophy: "Once a man always a man," what would be the explanation of some of the Oriental teachings that speak of a man's coming back to earth as a tiger or an elephant, etc. — and also of the many traditions in western countries of a beast being possessed by a human spirit?
G. de P. — No human being ever incarnates as a beast. Let that fact stand as unequivocal and without exception. And this is for the reason that there is absolutely a mental-psychical barrier preventing a human mind from entering a beast psycho-vital apparatus. Of course, this could be done by an act of magic, by some Black Magician, and hence have arisen the stories of werewolves, lycan-thropy, and so forth. But this act of black magic simply proves the general and invariable law: that no human being ever can, in the course of nature, incarnate as a beast.
On the other hand, when a sorcerer, or a man of continuously evil life, through many, many incarnations on a steady downward grade, grows less and less human until the rupture with the spiritual and human monad takes place, in which case there is no longer a man, but merely the lower quaternary with somewhat faint impressions or psychical shadowings of humanity in it — when this takes place, I say, the entity is no longer a human ego, but as it were an abandoned lower quaternary or human machine, virtually a human shell, which already is so degenerated that it is practically on the level of beasthood. But the humanity, the ego, the human being, of it has long since fled.
Such an abandoned vehicle is attracted to beast-bodies and even to plant-bodies, by the natural attraction of likes, at a still lower degree of descent and dissolution of the lower quaternary. Yet this is not, please note, the incarnation of a human being, because such a degenerated, disintegrated semi-annihilated human quaternary is no longer really human. An analogy is a human body enlivened by a human soul forming a man. When the body is laid aside at death, the man is gone, but there is the form of the man, the life-atoms of the man which disintegrate and pursue their way. The body is given to the dust, and many of the life-atoms even of such a true man which belonged to the body, incarnate in beasts because again of natural attraction of like to like, of animal to animal, as has already been explained. I hope this is clear.
Be it noted, however, that such cases of degenerate human quaternaries, while fairly numerous in actual fact, are nevertheless actually quite rare or infrequent when compared with the immense number of beings forming humanity.
[See also The Theosophist, "Transmigration of the Life-Atoms," Vol. IV, Aug., 1883. This article will appear in The Complete Works of H. P. Blavatsky, Vol. V, shortly to be published. — Eds.]
What is Reality?
What is the present-day accepted definition of reality, in science, in philosophy, in the occult?
What is thought, and is thought as we know it real? Are ideation and mentation real?
What is the most practical method for freeing the individual of ideas that are not real?
To what extent can we make an illusion real by brooding over it? — S. K.
H. T. Edge: As this is one of the persistent problems of philosophy, it is not likely that there is any accepted definition; all one can do is to study books on philosophy and compare the numerous views; which the answerer cannot do any better than the questioner. But according to what I have gathered from the Theosophical teachings, the ultimate reality is the Boundless, the Ineffable, the Absolute, that, Parabrahman, the Causeless Cause, the Rootless Root, etc., as to which nothing can be predicated, which can be defined only in negative terms — by saying what it is not. But our concern with this is speculative rather than practical: in actual life we are not concerned with absolutes but with relatives. If anything be postulated as real, then everything else becomes maya, appearance; and this contrast between the real and the apparent is everywhere found. Our path of enlightenment consists in a progressive awakening from illusions and achievement of states which are relatively real. Our normal waking consciousness is real by contrast with dream, hallucination, intoxication, or insanity. But our normal waking consciousness is unreal, a maya, an appearance, by contrast with a state of illumination or ecstasy. Thus the term "reality" has to be given a relative sense, and we progress by continually chasing reality. Reality cannot be even conceived by the ratiocinative mind; it must be experienced; and then it cannot be argued about or communicated to anyone else. "The Mind is the great Slayer of the Real. Let the Disciple slay the Slayer," as we are told in The Voice of the Silence.
Thought is a name given to a motley collection of mental processes, the analysis of which is a fruitful theme of disputation among philosophers. In it the real and the unreal (relatively speaking) are mixed up. Ideation and mentation are similar vague words, and the same remark applies to them. The work of freeing the mind from illusion is the task of the aspirant to knowledge, and there is no short cut, no sharply defined method. Each one finds his own way. The general rules, applicable to all aspirants, are found in books on the devotional side of Theosophy, not to mention the writings of mystics, Stoics, etc., in all ages. The chief rule is the practice of dispassion, detachment. It is our wayward desires and habits that bind us to illusions. The great "Heresy" to be overcome is the heresy of separateness, which makes us think that the satisfaction of our personal self is the goal of life; so the aspirant has to cultivate motives that are not acquisitive — such as pity, compassion, the desire to promote truth and harmony.
It is true that a person, by dwelling on illusory ideas, can give them a fictitious reality. He may dwell on imaginary grievances until he believes things that really are not so. This leads in extreme cases to insanity — believing your body is made of glass, or that you are Napoleon.
Fundamental Philosophy of the Vedas
I would like to have a few explanations concerning the fundamental philosophy of the Vedas (recapitulated in a few lines), which are to me among the different systems of religions the closest in scientific harmony with Theosophy and also with our modern science. — B. B.
J. T. — The philosophy of the Vedas covers a vast and extensive amount of the teachings of the Wisdom-Religion of old. Its most fundamental and mystical philosophical tenets are epitomized in the Upanishads. The philosophy and religious metaphysics of the Upanishads in their developed form is known as the Vedanta system of thought which was promulgated by Sankaracharya. "Tat twam asi," or "That, the Boundless, thou art," is the basic note. We might even say it is the tonic note with which all the other teachings harmonize. This renowned passage is truly the last word of wisdom in old India. The Upanishads are truly records of the teachings of the Masters of Wisdom, and they depict the inner spiritual initiations of a disciple on the Path. This Vedic lore also deals with the origin and evolution of worlds and beings, the constitution and character of manifested life, the work of the various divinities which keep the universe in running order, the relations between the spiritual and the material, the mysteries of the afterlife, and of the Divinity within every being.
Lost Souls and the Left-hand Path
Some time ago a visitor to one of our meetings remarked that after all it matters very little if a human being took the left-hand path, for if one understood the working of Nature well, it would be seen that all would be well in the end. This seems to us a distinctly wrong teaching and, as it is phrased here, not in accordance with H. P. B.'s teachings. What is your opinion? — Theosophical Study-class, The Hague
Grace F. Knoche — A peculiar and immoral doctrine with no foundation of fact, and in direct opposition to the teachings of H. P. Blavatsky and the Masters. The Theosophical position in regard to the destiny of the soul of one who with set purpose follows the path of evil is definitely set forth in the body of doctrine connected with Soul-Loss. When a human being follows the course of soul-death life after life, all the finer energies born of his spirit atrophy, and the soul feeding alone on the exudations of low animalistic tendencies — — the instinct to have, to hold, to possess, at all costs — dies. The thread of divinity wears thin; and when the last aspiration has ceased, the rupture occurs, and the Monad throws off the impediments of the now dehumanized soul. The man has become a Lost Soul, with no further opportunity to attain immortality through union with the Monad, and but waits for Nature finally to dissipate the aggregate of evil propensities which still cohere in entitative form.
This process of disintegration is spoken of as one of indescribable torture. Imagine the suffering that is endured by this soul-shell as slowly but surely it descends into baser and more degenerate human forms, until it is fit only to enter the womb of a beast, finally taking imbodiment in the plant-kingdom. All the while, however, the memory of diviner fields of consciousness still remains impressed on the atoms of the disintegrating brain, so that continuously visions of better things irretrievably lost haunt, tantalize, in their faint but insistent beat upon the dying consciousness, integrated enough to realize that it alone through wanton indulgence is the cause of its soul-death.
Furthermore, while it is true that the Monad, having already attained self-won immortality in manvantaras previous, is largely unaffected by the loss of a soul, and remains free from the stain and suffering, nevertheless, it receives a major set-back in its evolution. A whole manvantara of time more or less is lost while it must labor slowly and patiently to build again vehicles for self-unfoldment out of unawakened monadic centers. This takes ages upon ages, and aside from this appalling waste of time, the Monad suffers the humiliation of association with a host of entities far inferior to it in manvantaric experience, for the Monadic host to which it formerly belonged and which it no doubt loved, has swept far ahead into fields from which it is now debarred.
Mercifully, such a thing as a lost soul is an exceedingly rare occurrence, for complete soul-death cannot take place while there survives within the human heart one pure aspiration towards spirit. That alone if fanned by comradeship of other aspirations will in time be enough to bring the soul back to its own, a receiver and partaker of spiritual light.