Maitreya: The sphere of the whole earth has been described to me, by you, excellent Brahman; and I am now desirous to hear an account of the other spheres (above the world), — the Bhuvar-loka and the rest, — and the situation and the dimensions of the celestial luminaries. — Vishnu Purana, 2, 7 (Wilson, trans.)
She said: "That, O Yajnavalkya, which is above the sky, that which is beneath the earth, that which is between these two, sky and earth, that which people call the past and the present and the future — across what is that woven, warp and woof?"
He said: "That, O Gargi, which is above the sky, that which is beneath the earth, that which is between these two, sky and earth, that which people call the past and the present and the future — across space alone is that woven, warp and woof."
"Across what then, pray, is space woven, warp and woof?"
He said: "That, O Gargi, Brahmans call the Imperishable. . . .
"It consumes nothing soever.
No one soever consumes it....
"Verily, O Gargi, that Imperishable is the unseen Seer, the unheard Hearer, the unthought Thinker, the ununderstood Understander. Other than It there is naught that sees. Other than It there is naught that hears. Other than It there is naught that thinks. Other than It there is naught that understands. Across this Imperishable, O Gargi, is space woven, warp and woof [It is SPACE Itself]." — Brihad-Aranyaka Upanishad, 3, 8, 6-8, 11 (Hume, trans.)
IF BROTHERHOOD is the "lost chord," ethically speaking, in Occidental thought, may we not say that the loss of the idea that the universe we sense or know of is but the rind of things is the cause of the spiritual and intellectual feebleness of that same Occidental thought? We have lost, as Occidentals, perhaps the noblest concept of all the ancient world, the concept which, however, still exists over the larger part of the globe today, and that concept, or knowledge to many, is the fact that the outside world, which our physical senses tell us of, is but the shell of things, of reality and that the greater part is within, behind the veil of physical existence. Think what that means. We see but the rind, the husk, the shell, the skin of things; but all the great moving forces are from within, all the great circulations of the kosmos are behind the outward seeming, and this verity was the core of the religious and philosophic conceptions of the ancient world, and to a large extent forms even today in the Orient and among the so-called savage peoples — degenerated heirs of a greater wisdom of past time — the philosophic and religious thought which leads them to live and to die in calm peace and hope. And in larger spheres of our thinking we must realize that if we are to understand the great problems of life, the great problems of the various departments of human thought — religion, philosophy, and science — we must go behind this outward veil, we must penetrate more deeply into the heart of things.
The thought is sublime because it contains the fundamentals of the true exposition of life, and because it is a veritable key to the understanding of the ideas which motivated the civilizations of past ages; and our civilization will never reach that which it should be, and indeed which it is destined to be, until this old-world thought is brought back into the consciousness of men. Then indeed it will guide their conduct because it will give a rational explanation of the problems of being; and men and women will live aright, because they will then understand that what human intellect calls justice, that is to say, order, rules the entire universe.
We read again from The Secret Doctrine, from volume II, page 492, the same extract that we have read at our previous studies, four or five of them, because it still forms the main theme of what we are here considering and trying to understand:
The Secret Doctrine points out, as a self-evident fact, that Mankind, collectively and individually, is, with all manifested nature, the vehicle (a) of the breath of One Universal Principle, in its primal differentiation; and (b) of the countless "breaths" proceeding from that One BREATH in its secondary and further differentiations, as Nature with its many mankinds proceeds downwards toward the planes that are ever increasing in materiality. The primary Breath informs the higher Hierarchies; the secondary — the lower, on the constantly descending planes.
We continue our study this evening of the framework of the kosmos; and this framework itself is constructed in the manner pointed out in our last study, i.e., by the lokas and talas. And great, unquestionably, was the patience of all here at our last meeting, who listened to our study, to our thought, and realized the immense complexity of a first presentation of these things — who doubtless saw that we were following as closely as possible the methods of study used in the ancient Mystery Schools; and one of these methods was never at the first approach of a new subject, openly and fully, to voice the teaching concerning it, but to begin it first by hint and also by talking around it, about it, never at it or of it. There were several reasons for this, founded on a profound knowledge of human psychology. The whole effort is to enable the hearer or reader to break his own molds of mind; nothing perhaps, knowing human nature as we do, so antagonizes the human mind or renders it more combative than to throw an idea at it, so to say. But let the hearer or reader first feel that he is taken into the thought by indirection, and by an appeal to his own inner spirit — for, indeed, he wants to break his molds of mind himself in the first instance, and to understand of his own initiative; and he is right. Our first duty is to open the way to the hearer to think for himself.
This evening, however, having followed the above method at our last meeting, we are going to approach the matter directly, and clear up the apparent confusion.
One of the other methods which we have followed — and you have doubtless noticed it — is the use of the figure of speech called the paradox, for precisely the same reasons outlined above. We must, above all things, prevent the crystallization of the mentality around one thought; and experience has shown that the best way to do this is first to talk around and about a thing; then to present one aspect, and then, if possible, a contrasting aspect, the antithesis or polar opposite of the former aspect; and very soon the mind which undergoes this process, realizes it and says to itself: "I am not going to allow my mind to crystallize about this thought alone; something more is coming, another view. I will await, before judging." This process tends, above everything else, to prevent dogmatism, whether in religion, or philosophy, or science. And mark you, it is the exact opposite of the methods of instruction so dear to the Occidental heart, which likewise is fascinated by the entifying of abstractions. This entification of abstracts, as you know, is the leaning or the attempt mentally to think of abstractions as real entities. It is the exact opposite of the method followed in all ancient civilizations, and even in the Orient today, in dealing with profound psychological or spiritual matters. Their wise old teachers showed them that the entification of abstractions distracts the mind and leads it away from the primal truths of being, for the mind feels temporarily satisfied with phantasms instead of realities, and precious time is lost; while the mind itself is lost in mazes of unrealities. This is another example of the profound knowledge of human psychology that the ancient teachers had.
Even in the Christian scheme of thought, we find Paul following the same line of real entitative instruction by parable and trope, in the old manner, in his Letters, in his Epistles, to the various so-called churches. If the Christian exegetes, the theologians, were students of the ancient wisdom, they would know at least enough not to take the words of Paul literally, because Paul was an initiate, as is shown very clearly by his own writings — not necessarily a high initiate, because this word initiate merely means one who has "entered into" a system, and who therefore has some knowledge, has received one aspect at least, has passed through one rite or more of the ancient wisdom.
You know that Paul in his second Epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 12, verses 2, 3, 4, writes as follows: "I know a man in Christ" — note the wording, he does not say "I know a friend of Christ," but "I know a man in Christ" — "fourteen years agone (whether in body I know not, whether out of body I know not, God knoweth). Such a one being caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man (whether in body, whether out of body I know not, God knoweth), that he was caught up into the Paradise, and heard things not to be divulged, which are not lawful for a man to utter."
Now we have made our own translation of these lines from the Greek original, and while there is no need to repeat the Greek words, I wish to point out that the very words that Paul uses here, "heard things not to be divulged," etc., etc., are the sacramental words, so to speak, the sacred words, used in the mystic ceremonials of the ancient teachings. Further, this shows very clearly that this man was Paul himself, otherwise he would have known nothing of it.
Thirdly, when he shows that this man, he himself, was "caught up to the third heaven," I must point out that if our theologians knew something of the language of the Mysteries, they would at least understand that this expression "third heaven" is an old form or symbol of speech of the initiations.
Remember, we have spoken at other ones of our studies of the fact that beginning with the fourth degree of initiation, in the ancient times, the candidate was made to be or to become — for the time being — that which he had heretofore been taught of; he was made to go into the different lokas and talas and temporarily be the things there in order to know them. One of the methods of describing this fact was speaking of being in or of the first heaven, the second heaven, the third heaven, the fourth, and so on. It was another way of saying, by Paul, "In my third initiation I heard things not to be divulged, which it is not lawful for a man to utter."
Now an example of this entification of abstractions, this giving to phantasmal notions both substance and form, is shown clearly in the scientific and philosophic writings of our European thinkers, when they use the word space in the sense of a mere concept. Space to them is an abstraction; to us, the ultimate being, reality, all-life. Just think what that means. Space, ex hypothesi, is boundless, is what we call infinite; and yet they write of it and talk of it and speak of it as a mere container, a finite thing, and speak of the "dimensions of space." Space, as boundless-all-life, can have no dimensions. You cannot bound or mete or measure the infinite. What they mean is the dimensions of matter, mensuration. They predicate a conceptual abstraction, then proceed to endow it with finite attributes — entifying it, as said above; for to them, space is a mere mental representation.
Some of our Occidental thinkers are even speaking of the "fourth dimension of space," implying that there are others beyond, a fifth, a sixth perhaps. Now we do not admit this idea. Space can have no dimensions. Matter can have three dimensions only, because, as you will readily see, when you express the metes and bounds of manifested substance by length, and breadth, and depth, you have covered the entire field that it presents. But what is it in these minds which induces them to hunt and search for what they so inaccurately call the dimensions of space? It is the intuition, the recognition, of worlds within the outer rind or shell, spoken of before. There is no such thing in nature as "Flatland" or a two-dimensional world, or a one-dimensional world, because each world comprises all "dimensions."
Consider what we mean when we speak of the principles and elements of the kosmos, as pointed out in our last study. The elements are worlds, and the principles are the spiritual forces, entities, spiritual intelligences at the root of them, which work through those worlds or elements. And what do we mean by world? We mean exactly what the English usage of the word "world" is. We go out upon our housetops, or into the roads, or into a field, and see what we call the universe around us, the stars, and the sun, and again the beings on earth; and all this is a world. No, it is not a globe. A globe is merely one of the entities or bodies in a world. So, at our last meeting, when we said that these lokas and talas are not globes but worlds, we meant just that. We may perhaps call them spheres, if you like, but not by using the word "sphere," please, in the physical, geometrical sense. We use it rather in a more abstract sense, as when we speak of the sphere of one's activity, the musical sphere or the musical world, the intellectual or material spheres or worlds. But the word "world" for our present purposes, in order to describe these lokas and talas, is far better. Etymologically it would never do, because this Anglo-Saxon word was originally weorold, meaning "man-age," i.e., meaning the age of a man, definitely, in those times, taken as of one hundred years and commonly spoken of in literary usage as an age. It is interesting that this word "world" closely corresponds with the meaning, with the two meanings rather, of the Greek word aion, or aeon, which originally meant with the Greek Gnostics both an epoch of time, a period of time, and a spiritual being or world.
Now these lokas and talas, if we refer them to the kosmos, are respectively the principles and elements of the kosmos. The lokas are the principles, and the talas are the elements. Loka means "world." The principles, however, are as much worlds as the elements are. The principles of the kosmos are higher kosmic worlds as the elements are lower kosmic worlds. Pause a moment, and see how simple this conception really is. We see the physical world around us, the physical universe. We are taught in our sacred science (in occultism, that is) that the world has seven so-called planes. As remarked before, this word "plane" is an unfortunate term in some ways, because people associate it with its geometrical meaning of a flat surface. It is a loose term, but it is familiar and therefore it is convenient. The elements, the talas, are worlds; so are the lokas; they represent together, in other words, what is popularly called the seven principles of the kosmos. The seven principles of the kosmos correspond in their element-side to the talas; and the seven principles, per se, of the kosmos, that is to say, the spiritual side, correspond to the seven lokas.
The difficulty for us arises, perhaps, because we have been so accustomed to speak of the seven principles of man and, Occidentals as we are, we think of them only as abstractions; accustomed to our habit of entifying abstractions, we do not conceive of them as real, essential things, so that perhaps in our minds we have reduced these principles of man almost to mere words. But, as pointed out in a former study, man has seven principles and also seven elements or vehicles in which those principles work, each principle in its appropriate vehicle, each principle in its corresponding element. Yet we should consider the kosmos in precisely the same manner, because man is but a reflection of the kosmos, he is the microcosm of the macrocosm — "As above, so below; as below, so above."
So then, knowing that our universe has seven planes, that is, seven elements from one viewpoint, and seven principles or the energy-consciousness side from another viewpoint, we may now definitely say that the element-side, the vehicle-side, the matter-side, the dark side, is the tala-side. The seven talas are the seven elements or matter-worlds of kosmos; and the seven lokas — which are worlds also — are the seven principles of the kosmos.
Now if we were able to ascend into any one of the higher elements and principles of the kosmos, we should find our present world reduplicated — with modifications, naturally; but each one of these elements and principles is a kosmic world, a tala or a loka respectively.
One of the most interesting symbols in use by men of the ancient world, by which they described these inseparable lokas and talas, was what is called in Hindustan Vishnu's Sign, and which for some unknown reason among European mystics is called Solomon's Seal. This symbol is one of the most widespread, familiar, and favorite symbols of the Asiatic-European world.
We have here two interlaced triangles, one pointing upwards and one pointing downwards, inseparably united in order to form this symbol. Separate them, and this symbol no longer exists. The triangle with its point upwards represents the lokas, and the one with its point downwards, the talas. This is likewise a symbol of human and kosmic evolution, of the duality in nature, and of the interplay of the spiritual and material forces in life. If we were to put a point in the center of these interlaced triangles, we should immediately transfer its symbolic meaning to incipient kosmic evolution, it then becoming somewhat like the figure of the circle with the central point. Also, in human matters, it would then be the symbol of what we call a Master. Sometimes, in the last sense, it is written in more simple shape, as three dots in triangular form. Sometimes again the three dots have a fourth in the center, which is but an abbreviated form of this same figure; but in this case the triangle always points upwards, for it shows that the aspiration of the man symbolized is upwards, signifying the ascent through the lokas.
This brings us to our next point, and that is that while it is true that these lokas and talas are "states" in a general sense, it is only so in the sense in which heavens and hells may be so considered. They are states, of course, but they are also localities, because any entity in or possessing a state must be somewhere. Devachan and nirvana are not localities, they are states, states of the beings in those respective spiritual conditions. Devachan is the intermediate state; nirvana is the superspiritual state; and avichi, popularly called the lowest of the hells, is the nether pole of the spiritual condition. These three are states of beings having habitat in the lokas or talas, i.e., in the worlds of the kosmic egg. And secondly, while the heavens and hells are considered as states, we must remember that hell or heaven is not a condition which exists per se, as does a world. Each is the state of some thing or some entity which is in that state, and which, therefore, being an entity, must have position or place and, according to the invariable rules which govern the kosmos, such states must be likewise correspondential to similar surroundings — in other words, a being in heaven or hell is in a corresponding loka or tala.
So then, before closing tonight, we hope that we have made one thing perfectly clear, that is, to put it briefly, that these lokas and talas are respectively the principles and elements of the kosmos, and also of every globe in that kosmos, each one of which possesses seven lokas and seven talas. These lokas and talas are inseparable, and each one corresponds to a similar one of the other line. That is clear, is it not? The two highest together, the two lowest together, and the intermediate in the same way. Please remember the main thought, that these lokas and talas are worlds. They are not mere states only, which means nothing. An entity possesses or is in a state, but a state does not exist per se or "by itself." That idea arises out of the fondness of our minds for entifying abstractions. A state is an abstraction. It must be held or possessed or developed by some entity in order to be anything.
And finally, please remember this, that each one of these lokas and each one of these talas produces the following lower one of the scale from itself, as pointed out before when we studied briefly the elements. The highest of either line projects or sends forth the next lower. It, in addition to its own particular characteristic or swabhava, contains also within itself the nature of the one above it, its parent, and also sends forth the one lower than it, the third in the line downwards. And so on down the scale. So that each one of the principles or elements is likewise sevenfold, containing in itself the subelements of that or those of which it is the reflection from above.