"What is it that ever is?" "Space, the eternal Anupadaka." "What is it that ever was?" "The Germ in the Root." "What is it that is ever coming and going?" "The Great Breath." "Then, there are three Eternals?" "No, the three are one. That which ever is is one, that which ever was is one, that which is ever being and becoming is also one: and this is Space." — The Secret Doctrine, I, 2
Of all the truly wondrous teachings of the ancient wisdom, otherwise called the esoteric philosophy or theosophy, there is perhaps none so replete with suggestive thought as the doctrine concerning Space. In one of its aspects it is called Sunyata, a profoundly significant word found in the more mystical doctrines of Gautama the Buddha, meaning emptiness or the void; and in another aspect it is Pleroma, a Greek word frequently used by the Gnostics signifying fullness.
Modern astronomers often speak of empty space, and while this seems at first glance to be pretty much the same thing as Sunyata, we reject the idea if by empty space they mean absolute vacuity — something which is nonexistent. The extraordinary thing is that even the scientists, if driven into a corner by probing questions, would themselves acknowledge that this phrase merely signifies portions of space or cosmical fields which contain no 'matter,' i.e. no physical matter which they with their instruments can cognize or see.
When we examine the limitless expanse of boundless Space around us, as far as our vision and our imagination can carry us, we see fields of apparent cosmic emptiness sprinkled throughout with glittering stars, and with millions upon millions of wisps of light that are nebulae which, under the resolving power of the telescope, are seen to be universes themselves of other stars and star clusters — or again, vast bodies of cosmic gas. However, they are not gas in any single instance; but this need not concern us here except to remark that many, if not all, of these irresolvable nebulae belong to ranges of matter superior to the physical, which as yet have never been studied in the laboratory. In other words, they are composed of ethereal matter of a higher plane than our physical plane.
Wherever we look, we are cognizant that the universe is an immense fullness. When we add to this our knowledge of the structure of matter, composed as it is of molecules, atoms, and these again of electronic and protonic and other bodies, we realize that what seems to us to be empty space must actually be fields of cosmic ether which, because of its ethereality, neither our organ of vision, nor our sense of touch, nor our most delicate instruments, can subject to experimentation. Yet all these vast fields of glittering orbs are contained in the low cosmic plane which we know as the physical or material universe. We realize further that the physical sphere is but the outer garment hiding incomprehensibly immense inner or invisible worlds, ranging from the physical upwards into the ever-receding vistas of cosmic spirit which last, because it is to us formless, we call the spiritual Void or Emptiness, Sunyata. Not only does Sunyata signify the highest and most universal ranges of the boundless Infinite, but so does Pleroma. It all depends upon which angle of vision we take.
The doctrine of the Void, then, is identic in fundamental conception with the doctrine of the Fullness. There is a distinction, however, in that the doctrine of the Void is the more spiritual of the two, as it treats chiefly of the superior element-principles of the kosmos, (1) of the inwards and the yet more inwards of the spaces of Space; whereas the doctrine of the Fullness treats of the kosmoi or worlds as they are in manifestation. We can more easily comprehend the fullness of things than we can the profoundly mystical thought that out of the illimitable Void spring into life all the innumerable manifestations of kosmic Being; and that back into the same Void they disappear when their life cycle has run.
In other words, the Void has reference to the divine-spiritual side of Being; whereas the Fullness, the Pleroma, (2) refers to the prakriti or matter side, the side of manifestation, which vanishes away like a dream when the great manvantara or period of world activity is finished.
Another important point is that every manifested being or thing, precisely because of its temporal existence as a phenomenon, is noneternal. It is in consequence maya or illusion; and therefore it would be foolish to search for the cosmic Real in such phenomena. Whatever makes an appearance in the fields of the Boundless, whether a collection of galaxies or an atom, whatever it be which is thus an object or a form, and no matter how short or how long its life term, is nevertheless an appearance, a phenomenon, and therefore is de facto empty in the sense of nonreal — which is an exactly opposite use of the term empty or void employed before. However, this opposite sense is strictly legitimate in metaphysical philosophy; and we see therefore why esoteric Buddhism constantly speaks of all the manifested universe as Sunyata, because nonreal, nonenduring, therefore temporary and transitory.
In the Surangama-Sutra (iv, 65; cf. Samuel Beal's A Catena of Buddhist Scriptures from the Chinese, 1871) we find:
In this investigation, therefore, you must clearly understand that all mundane forms which enter into the composition of the phenomenal world are transitory and perishable. Ananda! of all these forms which you see, of the fictile nature alluded to, what one is there not destructible? They are all destined to be burned up; but after their destruction there is one thing that can never perish, and that is the void of space.
Nevertheless, it is these vast aggregates of worlds which form the Pleroma or Fullness of manifested space. The difficulty lies in the double usage of these two words, Sunyata and Pleroma; and yet this is easily understood when the root-thoughts are grasped. As H. P. Blavatsky expressed it:
Space is neither a "limitless void," nor a "conditioned fulness," but both: being, on the plane of absolute abstraction, the ever-incognisable Deity, which is void only to finite minds, and on that of mayavic perception, the Plenum, the absolute Container of all that is, whether manifested or unmanifested: it is, therefore, that ABSOLUTE ALL. — The Secret Doctrine, I, 8
Sunyata, as a word, can thus be taken with two different yet co-related meanings. When considered as a positive term, it stands for the boundless All, Space in its highest and most abstract sense, implying endless and limitless infinitude with no qualifications whatsoever, as well as the all-encompassing, endless, Fullness of the All. It is the universe with everything that is in it seen from the standpoint of the spiritual-divine realms, which to intelligences living in lower spheres seems to be the Great Void — Mahasunya. (3)
When Sunyata is considered negatively, it stands for the idea of kosmic illusion, the mahamaya. From the viewpoint of the divine-spiritual consciousness, the entire objective universe, visible or invisible, is unreal and illusive because it is so impermanent. It is empty in the sense of being evanescent. Not that the manifested universe does not exist; it does, or it could not provide an illusion, but it is not that which it seems to be. Thus both the positive and negative meanings of Sunyata are founded upon the same basic idea, namely, the reality of the divine-spiritual, and the relative unreality of all that is objective. The manifested kosmos, being relatively false and deceptive, is empty of essential significance when compared with the Real which it hides as if with a veil. It possesses only a relative reality derivative from the noumenal Root of which this objective universe is the phenomenal aspect.
To turn again to the Surangama-Sutra (v, 8):
The Pure Nature, as to its substantial Being, is empty; the influences, therefore, that produce birth are as a magical delusion. The absence of action, and the absence of beginning and end — these also are false ideas, like a sky-flower. The word 'false' does but originate (manifest) that which is true — false and true are together equally false; ... Are not all things around us but as a bubble?
The Boundless, the infinitude of encompassing Space, is obviously beyond reach of any human conception, because it is both formless and without confining frontiers, and yet is the cosmic womb of all the universes which appear from it like "sparks of Eternity." Therefore have mystics of various ages and of all countries called it the Void.
This in fact was the original and truly sublime idea which the earliest Christian theological speculators seized upon and called 'Nothing,' thus not merely distorting but positively nullifying the conception as it was in its primeval grandeur. From that day to this, orthodox theology has made God Almighty create the world out of nothing, which is absurd. Had they conceived of this precosmic Utterness as No-Thing, then they would have preserved the correct idea. But they reduced it to nothingness. Preserving the verbal form, they lost the spirit.
Through the ages man in his uninitiated mind has degraded the intuitions of his spirit, confounding the objective and the illusory with the Real and, what is still more serious for his moral and spiritual well-being, ungearing the aspiring intellect from its root in the Boundless.
Let us not forget that we ourselves are offsprings of the Boundless, and urged by the impelling energy of our spirit are advancing through inner struggles and trials — always advancing to that ultimate consummation of our spiritual self with that limitless Wonder which is our inmost. Yet, most marvelous of paradoxes, this Wonder is throughout eternity unattainable, for it is limitless Space and frontierless Duration.
Nowhere and by no people was speculation allowed to range beyond those manifested gods. The boundless and infinite UNITY remained with every nation a virgin forbidden soil, untrodden by man's thought, untouched by fruitless speculation. The only reference made to it was the brief conception of its diastolic and systolic property, of its periodical expansion or dilatation, and contraction. In the Universe with all its incalculable myriads of systems and worlds disappearing and re-appearing in eternity, the anthropomorphised powers, or gods, their Souls, had to disappear from view with their bodies: — "The breath returning to the eternal bosom which exhales and inhales them," says our Catechism. . . .
In every Cosmogony, behind and higher than the creative deity, there is a superior deity, a planner, an Architect, of whom the Creator is but the executive agent. And still higher, over and around, within and without, there is the UNKNOWABLE and the unknown, the Source and Cause of all these Emanations. — The Secret Doctrine, II, 42-3
Many are the names in the ancient literatures which have been given to the Womb of Being from which all issues, in which all forever is, and into the spiritual and divine reaches of which all ultimately returns, whether infinitesimal entity or macrocosmic spacial unit.
The Tibetans called this ineffable mystery Tong-pa-nid, the unfathomable Abyss of the spiritual realms. The Buddhists of the Mahayana school describe it as Sunyata or the Emptiness, simply because no human imagination can figurate to itself the incomprehensible Fullness which it is. In the Eddas of ancient Scandinavia the Boundless was called by the suggestive term Ginnungagap — a word meaning yawning or uncircumscribed void. The Hebrew Bible states that the earth was formless and void, and darkness was upon the face of Tehom, the Deep, the Abyss of Waters, and therefore the great Deep of kosmic Space. It has the identical significance of the Womb of Space as envisioned by other peoples. In the Chaldaeo-Jewish Qabbalah the same idea is conveyed by the term 'Eyn (or Ain) Soph, without bounds. In the Babylonian accounts of Genesis, it is Mummu Tiamatu which stands for the Great Sea or Deep. The archaic Chaldaean cosmology speaks of the Abyss under the name of Ab Soo, the Father or source of knowledge, and in primitive Magianism it was Zervan Akarana — in its original meaning of Boundless Spirit instead of the later connotation of Boundless Time.
In the Chinese cosmogony, Tsi-tsai, the Self-Existent, is the Unknown Darkness, the root of the Wuliang-sheu, Boundless Age. The wu wei of Lao-tse, often mistranslated as passivity and nonaction, imbodies a similar conception. In the sacred scriptures of the Quiches of Guatemala, the Popol Vuh or "Book of the Azure Veil," reference is made to the "void which was the immensity of the Heavens," and to the "Great Sea of Space." The ancient Egyptians spoke of the Endless Deep; the same idea also is imbodied in the Celi-Ced of archaic Druidism, Ced being spoken of as the "Black Virgin" — Chaos — a state of matter prior to manvantaric differentiation.
The Orphic Mysteries taught of the Thrice-Unknown Darkness or Chronos, about which nothing could be predicated except its timeless Duration. With the Gnostic schools, as for instance with Valentinus, it was Bythos, the Deep. In Greece, the school of Democritus and Epicurus postulated To Kenon, the Void; the same idea was later voiced by Leucippus and Diagoras. But the two most common terms in Greek philosophy for the Boundless were Apeiron, as used by Plato, Anaximander and Anaximenes, and Apeiria, as used by Anaxagoras and Aristotle. Both words had the significance of frontierless expansion, that which has no circumscribing bounds.
Chaos (4) was another word used for Space in ancient Greek writings, and as originally employed, for instance by Hesiod in his Theogony (116) — "Truly, indeed, was Chaos first of all" — it had the meaning of the Void. Even the somewhat orthodox poet Milton grasped this idea in his "Void and formless Infinite" (Paradise Lost, Bk. iii). As time passed, however, Chaos to most literate Greek thinkers came to mean a later stage in the evolution of any particular kosmos, and this would correspond to another phrase used by Milton, "Matter unformed and void" (Bk. vii); for here we have matter already existing through emanational unfoldment in its primordial or elemental stages. It would therefore be analogous to the Second Cosmic Logos of the theosophical philosophy.
Yet the earliest conception of Chaos was that almost unthinkable condition of kosmic space or kosmic expanse, which to human minds is infinite and vacant extension of primordial Aether, a stage before the formation of manifested worlds, and out of which everything that later existed was born, including gods and men and all the celestial hosts. We see here a faithful echo of the archaic esoteric philosophy, because among the Greeks Chaos was the kosmic mother of Erebos and Nyx, Darkness and Night — two aspects of the same primordial kosmic stage. Erebos was the spiritual or active side corresponding to Brahman in Hindu philosophy, and Nyx the passive side corresponding to pradhana or mulaprakriti, both meaning root-nature. Then from Erebos and Nyx as dual were born Aether and Hemera, Spirit and Day — Spirit being here again in this succeeding stage the active side, and Day the passive aspect, the substantial or vehicular side. The idea was that just as in the Day of Brahma of Hindu cosmogony things spring into active manifested existence, so in the kosmic Day of the Greeks things spring from elemental substance into manifested light and activity, because of the indwelling urge of the kosmic Spirit.
The early philosopher-initiates were extremely reticent, because of their oath of secrecy, in speaking of the kosmic (or cosmic) beginnings; and hence while archaic Greek literature, exactly as the literatures of all other ancient peoples, is replete with references to primordial cosmic beginnings, these are cloaked in carefully guarded language. There was the constant fear that teachings so abstract and difficult would be distorted and degraded if too openly enounced, becoming the common property of minds untrained by the discipline and teachings of the Mysteries. The common misunderstanding of Chaos as signifying merely confusion, or an unregulated vast aggregate of atoms in kosmic space, is simply a degradation of the original philosophical meaning.
We have then, first, Chaos as originally meaning the Boundless; and, as a later development, the conception of Chaos as the mighty womb of nature evolving from itself the germs and seeds in order to form and bring into being manifested worlds. These seeds were the sleeping monads of spiritual and divine characteristics coming over from the preceding kosmic period of manvantaric manifestation, and existing in their nirvana or paranirvana.
Chaos, therefore, may be looked upon as an expanse of spirit-substance, every point of which is a consciousness center or monad. This expanse is enwrapped in the paranirvanic rest and bliss, awaiting the time for awaking into a period of manifested kosmic life. The human monad resting in its devachanic bliss is an exact analogy on its own lower plane.
From the foregoing we see that Chaos was the same as Brahman-pradhana in its condition of kosmic pralaya, and hence is identic with Space in its primordial state of abstract spirit-substance.
Thus it is that many peoples looked upon the Divine not only as being in itself utter Fullness, but likewise as the infinite Abyss, the boundless Void, the endless Deep, or the ocean of the kosmic Waters of Life. Water was so favorite a symbol of Space because of its suggestiveness: it is at one and the same time translucent, and yet solid; it is crystalline and yet dense, making it an excellent symbol of kosmic Aether. This sublime concept has been universal since the beginning of conscious thinking man on our earth in this round, and whether the adept was Lemurian, Atlantean, Turanian, or Aryan, the same intuitive conception guided the thoughts of all.
SPACE, which, in their ignorance and iconoclastic tendency to destroy every philosophic idea of old, the modern wiseacres have proclaimed "an abstract idea" and a void, is, in reality, the container and the body of the Universe with its seven principles. It is a body of limitless extent, whose PRINCIPLES, in Occult phraseology — each being in its turn a septenary — manifest in our phenomenal world only the grossest fabric of their subdivisions. — The Secret Doctrine, I, 342
In the vision of the ancient wisdom, Space is vastly more than a mere container, for it is fundamental essence, all-being, and not only the field of boundless life and frontierless mind, but actually the very stuff of mind and consciousness and life.
Further, Space is seven-, ten- or twelvefold, according to the manner of viewing it; and just because Space is the great web of the infinite number of hierarchies, is it these hierarchies themselves from the super-divine to the submaterial. (5) Space thus being manifold, there are what we may call the spaces of Space: not only the boundless fields of physical space, but, of incomparably greater importance, the limitless fields of inward Space — Space within, and still more withinwards. Space, in short, is everything, when considered abstractly; and, just because it is everything that is, it contains all minor beings and entities and things within its own encompassing infinitude, and indeed in this sense it is a container.
To illustrate: our galaxy in all its reaches not only is contained within its own space, but is that space itself; and, being an aggregate entity, it has its own swabhava or essential characteristic or individuality, or what might be called kosmic soul. Our galaxy is contained within a kosmic unit of still vaster magnitude, which in its turn has its own swabhava. In the other direction every galaxy contains many solar systems, each one of which is a spacial unit within its own spacial boundaries, i.e., it actually is the space it occupies within the greater space of the galaxy. Similarly so with a planet, such as our earth. It occupies space within the larger space of its solar system, yet is itself the space which it thus makes or forms within that solar system.
From the human standpoint, Space may be considered as being the higher principle-elements of a cosmos in the Boundless. Here we see another reason why Space is much more than a mere container of things. It has, it is true, the ordinary meaning of distance between objects; but, more importantly, Space is distance or extension inwards and upwards towards spirit and beyond into the abysmal deeps of the Divine. As H. P. B. has written: ". . . it is in space that dwell the intelligent Powers which invisibly rule the Universe." (The Secret Doctrine, II 502)
Any universe, or any smaller entity within it, such as a sun or a planet or a man, is a god imbodied. Consider man: a physical body in his lowest part, in his highest part a divine monad, a god; and in between there are all the intermediate and invisible ranges of his constitution. Just so is it with any universe, or sun, or planet. Going a step farther, we see that the space of any one universe is the visible-invisible 'body' of such universe. Its essence is divine, just as man in his essence is divine, although a physical human being when in incarnation upon earth, or when in a comparable imbodiment on any other globe of our planetary chain.
It is because Space, that is any spacial unit, is both conscious and substantial, that we can view the space of any one universe as an entity — a god. Essentially it is a divine entity of which we see only the material and energic aspect, behind which is the causal life and intelligence. There are innumerable such 'spaces' in the frontierless fields of the Boundless, and every such unit is a larger or smaller Egg of Brahma or a cosmos, all existing within and forming part of the structure of an incomprehensibly vaster Space inclosing all.
Every spacial unit or celestial entity, like our solar system or our galaxy or some still greater kosmic unit, is a being, alive, infilled with mind, having its own karmic destiny and thus repeating on the grand scale what we and all other smaller units enact in our own microcosmic spheres.
Space, therefore, is at once consciousness throughout and substance throughout. It is, indeed, Consciousness-Mind-Substance. For all space is alive, (6) quivering with incessant activity; indeed, every point of infinite space can truly be looked upon as a consciousness center or monad, whether these monads be actively engaged in manvantaric operations and experience, or whether crystallized in passivity awaiting the coming of the magic touch from the spirit within. Moreover, every organic part of space, that is, every spacial unit or cosmic entity, as an aggregate, differs from all others because of its indwelling swabhava or characteristic individuality.
From the time when H.P.B. began to write more or less openly about the esoteric aspect of the theosophical teachings, there have been in use certain terms, mostly taken from the Sanskrit language, to describe Space, Aether, Ether, Pleroma, etc. Among them, akasa — from the verbal root akas, signifying to shine, to be bright, like light — has been the most frequently employed. (7) It is essentially the spiritual and ethereal 'body' of manifested cosmic space, the subtle and ethereal cosmic 'fluid' pervading every manifested universe. It is the invisible cosmic field in and from which all the celestial bodies are born, in which they exist during their respective manvantaras, and into which they are again gathered at the manvantaric end.
Now because akasa is of such extremely tenuous or immaterial character, it is often rather loosely spoken of as being the emptiness of space, i.e. free of matter; yet, in truth, akasa is really the spacial body of the universe, and hence is manifested space itself. As the aggregated fields of the spaces of any Egg of Brahma, whether a galaxy or a solar system, akasa is the field of action of cosmic fohat — the vital force of the universe — guided as it always is by cosmic mind. Like all other things in nature, akasa is divisible into different planes or degrees, increasing in ethereality until it merges into pure kosmic spirit. Its higher portions are called anima mundi, the soul of our universe, just as its lowest ranges comprise the astral light. Like the Latin word spatium, akasa conveys the idea of extension or spacial deeps, but from a somewhat different viewpoint the term also is used for both aether and ether. In the enumeration of the seven cosmic principles or tattwas, akasa is reckoned as the fifth highest which, in mediaeval European mystic thought, was called the quinta essentia — the 'fifth essence' — our word quintessence.
I have used this term spaces of Space under the happy illusion that it would help others to gain still another magnificent conception of nature: that there is in both concrete and abstract space not a needle's point which lacks life, substance, being and consciousness. To phrase it otherwise: within our physical space there is a space more ethereal, with its worlds, its suns and planets, its comets and nebulae; celestial globes with their mountains and lakes, their forests and fields and their inhabitants. Within this second space, there is a still finer, a more ethereal and a more spiritual space, the cause of the two former, each inner space being a mother or producer of the outer space; and thus we carry these spaces within space onwards and upwards and inwards indefinitely. This is what I mean by the phrase the spaces of Space.
We now see why all space — infinite space, complex space, spaces within space — is fullness, and there is not a point, inner or outer, which is empty. Empty space is but a figment of ignorance; it does not exist. We forget that these higher or inner spaces, far from being nonexisting, are the cosmic roots of things. We speak of them as empty because we cannot sense them. And yet actually we hear them, see them, taste, smell, and touch them all the time, for the space around us is infilled with these inner spaces, is given substance, life, vitality, movement, death, everything by these inner spaces. They are the causes, the noumena; the outer are the phenomena, the consequences.
Indeed, in one sense, the spaces of Space are its seven, ten or twelve principles. This is one reason why H.P.B. speaks of Space as being the utmost divinity, and yet Space is all that is. It does not mean that the divinity is a stock or stone, and yet that stock or stone is not outside of divinity. We see that there are spaces within spaces, and that the stock or the stone is infilled with repetitions of itself in inner and higher planes. Yet it is not divinity because it is not the all. It is a portion, a part, and these things are illusions. Cut such a portion or part into ever finer and finer pieces, and we shall come to the molecule, to the atom, to the electron, and in theory to still finer bodies. But some time in this process we shall reach what is for us homogeneity, and that is the spirit of that space.
We may use the words cosmic planes for these cosmic spaces. The cosmic space we live in is the cosmic plane prithivi. It is a plane; it is a space. On the next plane above us, the celestial bodies and our earth are invisible, and where they exist the entities there will see what to them is unfilled space, empty space. The inhabitants of each space or plane see what their sense-apparatus has been evolved to seize and bring to their percipient mind.
This is what we mean by the spaces of Space, the fullness of Space, or the emptiness of Space, all different ways of expressing the same wonder. Just here we recall the teaching of the Lord Buddha to the effect that the essence of Being is Sunyata, a word meaning emptiness, vacuity, but never intended to mean absolute nothingness in the physical sense. Actually it is the most complete fullness; however, because our sense-apparatus is utterly unable to understand it, it therefore denies the existence of a cosmic All. But then our mind, which is of a much more spiritual character than the gross matter of our physical senses, enters the picture several planes higher than the physical plane and it begins to understand; and then, if we can take one more step by rising from the mind to our intuition, our intuition will tell us clearly that this so-called Sunyata is only emptiness to the sense, but a fullness to the spirit — for Sunyata actually is cosmic Spirit.
It is worth time to point out the real significance of the sound but incomplete intuition that has prompted . . . the use of the modern expression, "the fourth dimension of Space." . . . The familiar phrase can only be an abbreviation of the fuller form — the "Fourth dimension of MATTER in Space. But it is an unhappy phrase even thus expanded, because while it is perfectly true that the progress of evolution may be destined to introduce us to new characteristics of matter, those with which we are already familiar are really more numerous than the three dimensions. The faculties, or what is perhaps the best available term, the characteristics of matter, must clearly bear a direct relation always to the senses of man. Matter has extension, colour, motion (molecular motion), taste, and smell, corresponding to the existing senses of man, and by the time that it fully develops the next characteristic — let us call it for the moment PERMEABILITY — this will correspond to the next sense of man — let us call it "NORMAL CLAIRVOYANCE"; thus, when some bold thinkers have been thirsting for a fourth dimension to explain the passage of matter through matter, and the production of knots upon an endless cord, what they were really in want of, was a sixth characteristic of matter. The three dimensions belong really but to one attribute or characteristic of matter — extension; and popular common sense justly rebels against the idea that under any condition of things there can be more than three of such dimensions as length, breadth, and thickness. These terms, and the term "dimension" itself, all belong to one plane of thought, to one stage of evolution, to one characteristic of matter. So long as there are foot-rules within the resources of Kosmos, to apply to matter, so long will they be able to measure it three ways and no more; . . . But these considerations do not militate in any way against the certainty that in the progress of time — as the faculties of humanity are multiplied — so will the characteristics of matter be multiplied also. — The Secret Doctrine, I, 251-2
From the viewpoint of the esoteric philosophy it is never proper to speak of abstract Space as having length, breadth and thickness, for these dimensions apply only to manifested space. For convenience Space may be described as existing in two forms: abstract Space or the Boundless, and manifested space, which is equivalent to saying limited space — in other words, manifested entities, whether such be compounded like a solar system, or smaller entities like a human body or an atom. It is only among such manifested spacial bodies, whether great or small, that we can truthfully speak of dimensions, because these signify distance and direction as well as position and volume. Thus our own solar system is a portion of manifested space existing in the abstract Space of the Boundless.
To speak of more than three dimensions of space is simply a misuse of terms, for dimension means mensuration, and it is only concrete things which can be measured. The Infinite, for instance, has no dimensions because it is not subject to measuring. Nevertheless, the idea of a fourth, fifth or sixth dimension is an intuition of inner and superior worlds, i.e. directions and distance inwards, so to speak, into the invisible spheres. If the word dimension be restricted to this meaning alone, then there would be no especial objection; but unfortunately modern science and philosophy have not as yet clearly envisaged the reality of worlds and spheres within and invisible to the outer worlds and spheres. On the other hand, scientific theory and speculation in certain respects are becoming so highly metaphysical that they not only are beginning to merge at certain points with the teachings of the esoteric philosophy, but in some instances are actually crossing these teachings and going off at a tangent.
For example, the idea that the universe is expanding, and that all the different celestial bodies are rushing away from each other with a velocity which increases directly in proportion to the distance from us, is due largely to Abbe Lemaitre, and the theory seems to have been adopted in its totality by the often intuitive Eddington, as well as by other scientific thinkers. However, there are several reasons why this notion of an expanding universe is unacceptable. (Cf. The Esoteric Tradition, 3rd & rev. ed., pp. 218-9)
Sometimes in both science and philosophy it seems to be forgotten that the mathematical mill produces only what is put into it: that whatever comes out of the chopper at one end was put into it at the other. Mathematics is an instrument of human thought, an intellectual tool of immense value, but obviously it cannot manufacture truth, nor of itself produce verities.
Occultism affirms that in all things both great and small, whether a universe, a sun, a human being, or any other entity, there is a constant secular cyclical diastole and systole, similar to that of the human heart. These cyclical expansions and contractions are manifestations of the cosmic poles or what we may perhaps call the universal heartbeat; and the Dutch astronomer and mathematical physicist Willem de Sitter seems to have grasped some intuition of this fact. But the idea of an expanding universe, which according to Lemaitre is simply the vast cosmic expansion of an original titanic atom, is all wrong.
Such cosmic diastole and systole is nothing at all like the expanding Universe. The framework or corpus of the universe, whether we mean by this term the galaxy or an aggregate of galaxies, is stable both in relative structure and form for the period of its manvantara — precisely as the human heart is, once it has attained its full growth and function.
These scientists apparently ignore the fact that space is boundless and that consequently, if a universe is expanding continuously according to their theory, the nebulae and other celestial bodies rushing away from us will finally attain a speed incomparably greater than light. Yet, according to modern scientific theory itself, and Einstein's general relativity speculations, this is impossible!
It requires but a little reflection to realize that it is an utter impossibility to think of space apart from time, or of time or rather duration as existent apart from space, because if there were no time connected with space, space could not exist for two consecutive instants; and similarly time exists only because of the continuing space which brings time into birth; and, similarly again, kosmic mind not only infills space but is space and time; and because kosmic mind is, and is continuously throughout endless duration, therefore it exists in endless duration, which duration is itself.
Following along this line of thought, we realize also that abstract mind or consciousness, or what is sometimes called spirit or divinity, must have time or duration in order for it to continue, and it must have space in which to be. As we cannot have three infinites, to wit, kosmic mind, kosmic space, and unending duration, because this would be a logical monstrosity, therefore these are not three distinct and separate things in their essence, but are merely three aspects of the one underlying and ever-perduring Reality.
We see, then, that mind or consciousness, duration or abstract time, and space, are fundamentally one; but due to the limitations brought about by the evolving forth of beings and entities which are all limited during manifestation, we have the appearances or maya — or rather mahamaya — of duration broken up into time periods; abstract space divided into spacial units; and similarly kosmic mind or consciousness expressing itself in rivers of minor minds or conscious beings, ranging from the divinest of the divine to the most material of entities in the matter-worlds. It is these illusory divisions or manifesting rivers of lives which bring about the differences and wonderful variety that surround us, and which consequently produce in us the maya or the illusion that flowing time is one thing, space is something quite different and consciousness is again essentially different.
Thus it is that duration is identical with both space and kosmic mind. Yet even this mystery of mysteries, Space-Mind-Duration, is the production or appearance to our highest intellect of that ineffable Mystery which is called the Nameless or THAT. We see likewise that past and future, when properly understood, melt together into "the eternal Now."
H.P.B. in her Secret Doctrine (I, 37) has the following remarkable statement about time:
Time is only an illusion produced by the succession of our states of consciousness as we travel through eternal duration, and it does not exist where no consciousness exists in which the illusion can be produced; but "lies asleep." The present is only a mathematical line which divides that part of eternal duration which we call the future, from that part which we call the past. Nothing on earth has real duration, for nothing remains without change — or the same — for the billionth part of a second; and the sensation we have of the actuality of the division of "time" known as the present, comes from the blurring of that momentary glimpse, or succession of glimpses, of things that our senses give us, as those things pass from the region of ideals which we call the future, to the region of memories that we name the past. In the same way we experience a sensation of duration in the case of the instantaneous electric spark, by reason of the blurred and continuing impression on the retina. The real person or thing does not consist solely of what is seen at any particular moment, but is composed of the sum of all its various and changing conditions from its appearance in the material form to its disappearance from the earth. It is these "sum-totals" that exist from eternity in the "future," and pass by degrees through matter, to exist for eternity in the "past."
She says further (I, 62) that the archaic wisdom "divides boundless duration into unconditionally eternal and universal Time and a conditioned one (Khandakala). One is the abstraction or noumenon of infinite time (Kala); the other its phenomenon appearing periodically, as the effect of Mahat the Universal Intelligence limited by Manvantaric duration)."
It may be helpful to realize that khandakala is a Sanskrit compound term which means broken time, signifying that duration in the manifested universe has the appearance of being broken up into time periods, whether long or short. Thus a year is a 'breaking' of abstract time into a limited time period of some 365 days. As the years follow one after the other, they produce the mayavi effect of an entity which we call time flowing continuously; yet, because of their cyclical nature they give us the impression that time manifests in a divided or broken fashion, but nevertheless in itself is undivided. The only wrong aspect of this conception is that time is viewed as a thing-in-itself, and different from the space and the mind in which these time periods appear.
Space-time continuum is a phrase originally due to the mathematical and philosophical genius of Einstein. While it is not always easy to ascertain just exactly what is meant by it, because opinions of the mathematicians themselves seem to vary greatly, the general idea is clear: that space and time are not two separate and distinct absolutes, but are two aspects of one and the same fundamental entity. What is lacking, however, is the far grander conception that both space and time as coordinate factors in manifestation are but the resultant of cosmic spirit-substance; yet certain scientific philosophers, such as Sir James Jeans, do have an intuition that the space-time continuum is in some mysterious way involved with cosmic mind.
Although cosmic mind, time and space are all one, they appear to be three different entities during kosmic manvantara, and this apparent division of the One into the three is what archaic philosophy calls mahamaya. As just said, what the scientific space-time continuum needs is the recognition that space-time is identic with kosmic consciousness or kosmic mind, and equally so with kosmic substance. Blend these into a single unified and fundamental Reality, and we have the idea in a thumbnail picture.
The space-time continuum is but a first hesitant step towards truth, an intuition as it were of the archaic teaching that, when all the manifested universes are resolved back into their primordial superspiritual condition, the many re-enter the One. Manifestation dissolves into primordial spiritual homogeneity, so that not only does manifested space disappear and time likewise end with space its alter ego, but also kosmic mind re-enters kosmic spirit and therefore vanishes away.
In the words of the Chhandogya-Upanishad (I, 9, 1):
"To what does this world go back?"
"To space (akasa)," said he. "Verily, all things here arise out of space. They disappear back into space, for space alone is greater than these; space is the final goal."
When Brahman breathes forth the universe, it is the outflowing of the Great Breath which thereupon instantly becomes Brahma; the kosmic (or cosmic) manvantara is the life term of Brahma. When this life term ends, then Brahma re-enters its own spiritual essence or Brahman, and all manifested space vanishes into abstract or potential Space, and this is the indrawing of the Great Breath, or the beginning of kosmic pralaya.
The Universe is called, with everything in it, MAYA, because all is temporary therein, from the ephemeral life of a fire-fly to that of the Sun. Compared to the eternal immutability of the ONE, and the changelessness of that Principle, the Universe, with its evanescent ever-changing forms, must be necessarily, in the mind of a philosopher, no better than a will-o'-the-wisp. Yet, the Universe is real enough to the conscious beings in it, which are as unreal as it is itself. — The Secret Doctrine, I, 274
A difficult thought to grasp is the relation of maya or, cosmically speaking, mahamaya, with Space and that Reality often referred to as Parabrahman. The word Parabrahman is employed in two senses: first as signifying beyond Brahman, implying whatever in boundless Space is beyond the Brahman or loftiest hierarch of our galaxy or universe; and the other sense, much less frequent because really less accurate, is a considering of Parabrahman to be the nameless and invisible beginning or summit of that which men in their strivings to understand the incomprehensible speak of as the Divinity.
Parabrahman is therefore no entity. An entity, no matter how vast, implies limitation. Boundless Parabrahman is beginningless, endless, timeless, deathless Space — interior space as well as exterior. It is, in short, the endless continuation of the cosmic life, the cosmic Tat — THAT.
For example, an entity inhabiting an electron of one atom of my body may look upon the passage of time comprised by one human second as an eternity, and all that is outside of that second would be Parabrahman to this atomic inhabitant. The point of consciousness to which that entity may have evolved would be such that to it the atom would be its universe. But think of the multitudes of atoms contained within the portion of space that could be covered by the point of a pin! The physical existence of the tiny area of matter covered by the pinpoint would be boundless space to such an inhabitant of an electron. We are just such electron-inhabitants of a vaster world, and hence we call Parabrahman — both in the spacial and in the qualitative sense — all that is beyond the reach of our highest spiritual consciousness. That to us is Parabrahman.
In a very true sense Parabrahman can be considered identical with abstract Space. This Parabrahman-space is not only the aggregate of hierarchies of intelligences and consciousnesses throughout the Boundless, but is likewise all their fields of activity in frontierless Being. By contrast the mulaprakritic side of the Boundless, which is the divine-spiritual substantiality of limitless being, provides the vehicles of the hierarchies of divine intelligences, and hence is called mahamaya or great illusion because all these vehicles are composite and transitory.
It is obvious that the maya of the vast aggregate of galactic universes scattered over the fields of the Boundless does not mean utter illusoriness in the sense of something that has no real existence. It does signify, however, anything, great or small, long-lived or short-lived, which by comparison with eternity is transient, limited in duration, changeable, and therefore presenting all the aspects and attributes of shifting and unstable existence — although of course there are mayas which last for periods of time so long that to us they are like a quasi-eternity.
Parabrahman is the only Reality, the great fundamental; but although all the rest, all beneath, is maya, still that maya is the universe in which our constitution exists — just as much so as we are linked by our inmost with Parabrahman; and as Parabrahman is the All, therefore even maya is its garment or manifestation. Mulaprakriti, root-nature, surrounds Parabrahman, so to speak, just as the human consciousness surrounds man's spiritual consciousness. In man's own constitution the monadic essence is his only real part, nevertheless his consciousness at the present time is centered in his human part, and it is his duty to raise this part of himself up to becoming one in self-conscious union with the Parabrahman or monadic essence within.
In the ancient literatures figures of speech were used which, unless we search out their inner meaning, are apt to distract the attention away from essentials. For instance, it has been said of the Boundless that it "brings forth the Universe in sport, as at play"; it moves, and the universe thereupon appears. These phrases are but metaphors, suggestive and beautiful when we understand the essential verity behind them. The expression that Brahman evolves forth the universe as if at play, is meant to convey the truth that Brahman is the essential Reality, and that all the rest of the universe evolving through the cosmic ages is like a phantasmagoria flitting before the eye of the Divine.
Maya therefore does not mean that the exterior world, as viewed by the central consciousness within, is nonexistent, because the exterior world itself is included within the all-inclusive Reality of Parabrahman. If this were not the case, we should have Parabrahman on one side, and maya on the other, forming two opposite or conflicting energies or essences, and this is impossible because Parabrahman is the All.
Maya indeed exists; but as Parabrahman is everything, is essential Being or Be-ness, therefore even maya is included within its essence. This is the very heart of the teaching of Adwaita-Vedanta, as Sankaracharya taught it. We as beings are mayavi, but the heart of the heart of us is Parabrahman; and therefore each atom of these mayavi garments that we wear contains its own fundamental element or essence, which also is the Parabrahman.
So we see that the real teaching concerning maya does not mean that the universe is illusory in the sense of being nonexistent, but merely that for us, as for other entities in other universes, the Reality is the Parabrahman within the temple of the boundless Self, our inmost essence.
The universe, both visible and invisible, is built up of hierarchies, interlinking groups of entities living and working together, following a karmic destiny more or less the same for all. This rule of hierarchical structures extends throughout cosmic infinitude. While one hierarchy of the Boundless may have evolved into divinity, almost ready to pass out into the Great Beyond — Parabrahman — in order to begin a new course of evolution on a higher plane at some future cosmic date, in some other part of the Boundless a new hierarchy is coming into being. And this applies not only to planets but to suns, solar systems, to galaxies or universes. Nature repeats herself everywhere, although ringing the changes in a perfectly bewildering way as regards details. It is these changes and details which make the maya of the universe. The essence of everything is boundless love, harmony, wisdom and limitless consciousness: this is the heart of every individual entity — no matter where, no matter when — the summit of his hierarchy which is for him his Brahman.
These Brahmans are simply infinite in number and all-varying in characteristics, and in shade of consciousness or individuality. It is these infinite variations which produce the cosmic maya; yet, all together, considered as the All, and especially in their highest portion, they are technically grouped together as THAT. You cannot describe this mystery in human words. To call it God is absurd, for the universe is filled full with gods. Every man in his inmost is a god. Every atom in its heart of hearts is a god. Every sun in space is but the physical manifestation of a god; and each one of us, in far distant aeons, will grow to be such a sun. This is achieved, not by our accreting unto ourselves bits of experience, bits of consciousness or of intelligence, after the mistaken Darwinian idea, but by evolving forth what already is the Parabrahman within. This is what Jesus meant when he spoke of himself and his Father in Heaven as being one.
1. Throughout our literature there has been a consistent vagueness with regard to the difference, if any, between kosmos and cosmos. This is a Greek word, and if we desire to be strictly etymological, it should be spelled with a 'k' in all cases. Yet there is a certain advantage in adopting both terms: using kosmos to signify the greater universe, which almost invariably would mean the galaxy or a collection of galaxies, and cosmos to signify our solar system. It is somewhat of a pity that this usage has not been systematically followed by theosophical authors, including the present writer. (return to text)
2. There is in Sanskrit a term that is the precise philosophic and scientific equivalent of the Pleroma of the Greeks: Brahmanda-purna. Brahmanda or Egg of Brahma applies not to any one particular solar system, planetary chain or galaxy, but to any or all, depending upon the scale used at the time. By adding the adjective purna, which means full, the idea of the World Egg as being filled with manifested entities is strengthened and better defined. (return to text)
3. The terms Sunya, Sunyata, Mahasunya and Mahasunyata, are not radically different from each other, the sole distinction being that the terms beginning with maha — meaning great — apply to a scale of far vaster magnitude both in space and in duration. (return to text)
4. Chaos comes from an ancient Greek root cha that has the twofold meaning of holding and releasing; hence chaos is the 'holder' and 'releaser' of all things. (return to text)
5. Cf. The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, p. 404: "The book of Khiu-te teaches us that space is infinity itself. It is formless, immutable and absolute. Like the human mind, which is the exhaustless generator of ideas, the Universal Mind or Space has its ideation which is projected into objectivity at the appointed time; but space itself is not affected thereby." (return to text)
6. Professor John Elof Boodin, in his article "The Universe a Living Whole," The Hibbert Journal, July, 1930, has written:
What we ordinarily think of as space is a mere negation. It is no thing in the sense of not matter. If we think of the cosmos as a living whole, what we call empty space may be the soul of the whole — all-pervasive spirit in which the transmitted patterns of energy are immanent and directed to their proper target. At any rate, to one who conceives the cosmos as a living whole space has lost its terror. (return to text)
7. Two other words for space, te spacial ether, etc., are bhuman and kha. Bhuman, from bhu, to become, conveys the fundamental idea of becoming, of growth and progress by serial steps. It is that portion of the universal akasa comprised within any single Brahmanda or cosmic hierarchy, and therefore on this smaller scale applies to the aggregate of all beings and things within that hierarchy. As such, it can carry the meaning of Pleroma or Fullness.
The word kha likewise has the sense of space and also ether because its original meaning is a hollow, a spacial cavity, popularly rendered by ether, sky, heaven, even air. Its usage is usually restricted to our atmosphere alone: as in kha-ga and khe-chara, both meaning going in the air, like a bird. H.P.B. in The Voice of the Silence uses khe-chara as a title for those adepts who have evolved the faculty of moving in and through the air — more truly, the invisible spaces — in their mayavi-rupa or illusory body, exercising the power which in Tibet is called Hpho-wa. (return to text)