The Real, the Reality, Sat, or more accurately Asat, Tat, is that which is during cosmic maha-pralaya; and all the manifested universes are dreamed forth when Brahman falls asleep during what we call manvantara.
It is to be noted that just here there is a divergence not of knowledge, but of expression, even among the occultists themselves. The more common way in ancient times was to speak — and I will now use the Hindu terms — of Brahman awaking, becoming Brahmâ and the manifested universe with all in it. In other words Brahman awakes when manvantara begins, and falls asleep when pralaya comes. This is quite correct if you want to look at it from this standpoint, and I might add, was a familiar notion to Greek and Latin philosophic thought, as in the statement attributed to the Stoic philosopher Cleanthes which has been rendered into Latin, although he was a Greek, in the following words: "Quodcumque audiveris, quodcumque videris, est Juppiter." That is: "Whatsoever thou mayest hear, whatsoever thou mayest see, is Jupiter;" a thought very familiar in ancient Hindusthan where Brahmâ is said to evolve forth the universe from itself, in other words, that Brahmâ is the universe and yet transcendent to it: the universe and all of it, and yet transcendent! Which reminds one of the statement attributed to Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gîtâ: "I establish all this universe from a portion of myself, and yet remain transcendent."
But the other manner of viewing this matter and equally correct — and I will frankly say that sometimes as I ponder the matter, perhaps more spiritual, perhaps more correct than the former, but more difficult of understanding by us men — is to think that Brahman awakes when mahâ-pralaya begins; for then Reality, so to speak, recommences its flow of lives. The phenomenal universes have been swept out of their existences until the next manvantara and disappear like autumn leaves when the autumn ends and winter begins. Driven along, as it were, by the winds of pralaya, all manifested life is swept out of existence as manifested life. Everything that is real is withdrawn inwards and upwards to its parent Reality, and then divinity is in its own. This is Para-nirvâna. It is then awake and dreams no more until the next manvantara.
Those in ancient times who grasped this other manner of viewing, of making Reality come into its own when manifested or phenomenal things pass away into pralaya, have stated the matter after various tropes or figures of speech, the favorite one however, being this: all the manifested worlds are but the dreams of Brahman. Brahman sleeps and dreams karmic dreams, dreams brought about by karman. These dreams are the worlds of manifestation and all that is in them. When the dream ends and the universe vanishes, when the dreams end and the universes vanish, then Brahman awakes. It is coming into itself once more.
I think both views are correct. Yet I have often wondered in my own mind whether the second way of viewing it be not somewhat loftier, closer to the ineffable truth than is the more popular way because more easily understood. We have analogies in our own lives. When we awaken in the morning, we go about our daily duties and we do them and they are karmic. But it is when we fall asleep at night and the things of physical matter and the lower mental plane vanish away, that we come closer to the divinity within us. We rise upwards, closer to the god within us, towards the abstract and away from the concrete.
I think the second view, though perhaps no more true than the first way of viewing — I think perhaps the second way of viewing the matter, makes what they call Mahâ -mâyâ, cosmic Mâyâ, somewhat more understandable by us men.
At the end of Brahmâ's life, when even the Days and Nights of Brahmâ pass away into the utterly Real, the Reality at the heart of the Real, when all is swept out and away or indrawn and withdrawn upwards: I wonder if in this last thought we do not have as it were, a striking confirmation of the statement that perhaps the second way of viewing Brahmâ awake and Brahmâ asleep is not the more real. For at the end of Brahmâ's life, when Brahmâ re-becomes Brahman, not only do all manifested things pass out of existence as so much dissolving mist, but even Cosmic Mahat is indrawn or vanishes. Mahâ-Buddhi disappears and naught remains but Brahman. For an infinity, as it would seem to us men, hundreds of trillions of years, Brahmâ is awake, itself, no longer dreaming dreams of karmic universes, but as we are forced to express it, sunken in Reality in the inexpressible deeps of Brahman's own essence. All has vanished except Brahman; the dreams are ended. Then when the new life, when Brahmâ rather, imbodies itself again, then the galaxy re-awakens, but Brahman begins again to dream, dreaming the worlds, dreaming the universes into existence, dreaming the karmic dreams of destiny. Then the One becomes the Many. The armies, the hosts, the multitudes, begin to issue forth from the consciousness of the ineffable. Abstract space is once more filled with suns and solar systems and whirling worlds.
We see therefore that Brahman and Brahmâ, the offspring of Brahman, may have reference not merely to a planetary chain, but to a solar system or to a galaxy, and on a still more magnificent scale to a super-galaxy including many galaxies in the womb of endless space. In other words, Brahman and its offspring Brahmâ, may apply to any one or to all of these different ranges on an increasing scale of grandeur. Brahman dreams karmic dreams of destiny and the universes flash into being; they appear like seeds of life or the spawn of Mother Space, and this we call manvantara or maha-manvantara. And conversely, when Brahman's dreaming ends, the worlds are swept out of existence and Brahman awakens as Brahman's Self.
Let us also remember as a final thought, that when we speak of frontierless infinitude, or of the beginningless and endless or boundless, we call this Tat, from the Sanskrit word meaning That; and that innumerable Brahmans greater or smaller, in countless numbers, are comprised within the boundless Tat.