I am not separate from anything. "I am that which is." That is, I am Brahma, and Brahma is everything. But being in an illusionary world, I am surrounded by certain appearances that seem to make me separate. So I will proceed to mentally state and accept that I am all these illusions. I am my friends, — and then I went to them in general and in particular. I am my enemies; then I felt them all. I am the poor and the wicked; I am the ignorant. Those moments of intellectual gloom are the moments when I am influenced by those ignorant ones who are myself. All this in my nation. But there are many nations, and to those I go in mind; I feel and I am them all, with what they hold of superstition or of wisdom or evil. All, all is myself. Unwisely, I was then about to stop, but the whole is Brahma, so I went to the Devas and Asuras [gods and demons]: the elemental world, that too is myself. After pursuing this course awhile I found it easier to return to a contemplation of all men as myself. It is a good method and ought to be pursued, for it is a step toward getting into contemplation of the All. I tried last night to reach up to Brahma, but darkness is about his pavilion. — Letters That Have Helped Me 1:8-9
This letter of William Q. Judge touches on several important themes — brotherhood, benevolence, oneness, illusion, duality, hierarchies, and the power of thought. All of these tie directly to our consciousness. It is through our consciousness that we experience the universe in its multiplicity of forms. At all times we are using our consciousness, whether to weave nets of illusion that further obstruct our perception of reality, or to help us to transcend our present limited outlook and understanding.
We may wonder why Judge centers his letter on universal brotherhood. On the surface this idea means the agreement or cooperation of the various factions of the human race, whether individual, neighborhood, or national, without regard to color, creed, status, or gender. But universal brotherhood goes beyond an alliance of people: it implies that they are inherently one, that all beings at their core are sparks of the Divine Essence — enshrouded in layers of vitality corresponding to their stage of evolutionary growth. At the center of each is the identic absolute consciousness. We humans have built invisible but very real karmic bodies around our inner selves, and we spend most of our time and energy in these psychological, mental, ethereal, vital, and spiritual bodies. It is those aspects which we can see and feel which make us seem separate from others, so that we have trouble realizing that our higher self, inner god, or Father within is immortal. Nonetheless, at the core of our being we are divine, and that divinity is One. In this way we are all one as a fact in nature, not merely through association. We are one with all other people at the core of our, and their, very lives. But let's not stop there. We are one with all beings: humans, animals, gods, plants, planets, minerals, comets, stars, and continuing up and down, in and out, beyond and within. I sometimes think that if we go far enough out, it will somehow meet within; and vice versa, if we go far enough inside, it will somehow meet the grand vistas of the kosmos — again, ONE!
Interpenetrating the concept of universal brotherhood are benevolence, forgiveness, and sacrifice, which are very closely linked. Benevolence is the act of bestowing good upon another, either by action or non-action. Forgiveness is letting go of harsh or destructive thoughts, putting them out of our minds where they would otherwise take root and flourish, requiring revenge. The French saying tout comprendre, c'est tout pardonner ("To understand all is to forgive all") is relevant here. One who understands the forces behind the separateness of the tangible world, knows how to quiet the effects of the lives we lead. The word sacrifice, taken to its root, means "sacred offering." When we give up the pursuit of something we ardently desire with our lower self, we are making a sacred offering to our higher self. In other words, we are sublimating our material personality to our spiritual individuality, the transient personality to the reimbodying individuality. We thereby center ourselves more fully in the divine spark at our core — the center of our Self, the seat of consciousness. In this sense we are all centers, and since Divinity encompasses ALL, those centers have their circumferences nowhere — each is limitless!
The illusion that causes us to seem separate from all other beings and things is based on what we perceive with our physical eyes viewing things on the physical plane. What of the causes and essences beyond or behind the physical? Scientists now believe that the unseen may account for up to 99% of everything there is in the material universe, which is filled with things composed of wavelengths or vibrations outside our limited visual and audible ranges. Such invisible worlds may house virtual congeries of lives. In these inner worlds the physical world has its beginning.
Nor are these invisible worlds remote; we experience them daily. Two people who are in tune with each other can often feel or think what the other person is feeling or thinking. This demonstrates that there are other planes or spheres of being in which we transmit vibratory waves that one who is in sympathy with us can "feel" or "read." A world invisible to our physical eyes and ears, an inner world in which we can discover the inner essence of another living being — and all things in the universe are alive!
This evolving world of ours can be quite perplexing at times. Things appear to be happenstance, seeming to come out of nowhere and leave us with a series of choices between contrasting elements. We all know the dualities of day and night, light and dark, cold and hot, hard and soft. We often sway from one extreme to the other, from evil to good, from pain to pleasure, or simply hover between the two in a sort of limbo state, trying not to get too much of either. But how can we know pleasure if we have never felt pain? Buddhists speak of a middle way, Taoists of neither action nor non-action, Christians of moderation in all things, Somerset Maugham of the razor's edge, and occultists of the voice of the silence — all blendings and yet negations of extremes, being neither yet both, and so a transcending of duality.
On our spiraling journey through our cosmic earthly home, we "descend" into matter and "ascend" again to the realms of spirit, evolving through the endless hierarchies of life. Theosophical literature holds that as humans we are now just past the most material midpoint of this cosmic cycle of manifestation. But all I know for sure is that I am here — NOW! Be it midpoint or any point, this point of Now is our continual starting point. Temporally it is a circle with its center everywhere (because we are able to live only in the present moment, not in the past or future) and its circumference nowhere (an unlimited number of possibilities to draw upon).
Holding all of this together, the universe as well as our lives, our selves, is thought. It may sound strange for something to be held together by thought, but its powers, properly used, are limitless. We have created our very lives from it. From our own mind to the Divine Mind is the journey set before us as humans. And if, as G. de Purucker so often said, "Love is the cement of the universe," then thought is certainly the very substance of our lives. With it we create our selves and our destinies. It shapes our bodies, and visions our course through lives to come. Its agent is karma, that wonderful equilibrating force. With motive and force we direct it back upon ourselves. Douglas Hofstadter in Metamagical Themas speaks of self-referential systems: systems or things which reference back on themselves. Karma is the best example of such a system I can think of: we each send out causes and eventually reap the effects as they ripple back to meet us in this life or another. In a self-referencing system, "I think, therefore I am" takes on a whole new meaning!
By focusing our consciousness on each succeeding present moment in our lives, and by being aware that there are great things to be achieved by living in our inmost self, we can shatter many illusions and begin to live with benevolence in the powerful oneness which is the ultimate reality of the universe. We simply need to start at this very moment!
(From Sunrise magazine, April/May 2002; copyright © 2002 Theosophical University Press))
The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled. — Plutarch