The Spectrum of Consciousness

by Raghavan Iyer @ Theosophy Trust


THE SPECTRUM OF CONSCIOUSNESS


  Differentiated matter existing in the Solar System (let us not touch the whole Kosmos) in seven different conditions, and Pragna, or the capacity of perception, existing likewise in seven different aspects corresponding to the seven conditions of matter, there must necessarily be seven states of consciousness in man; and according to the greater or smaller development of these states, the systems of religions and philosophies were schemed out.

The Secret Doctrine, ii 597

  Of all the arcane axioms of Gupta Vidya, none is more fundamental than that which declares both spirit and matter to be merely different aspects of a single reality. Upon this vital assumption depend the complex systems of correspondences which link together the cosmic and the human spheres of existence. In different religious and mystical traditions, it is archetypally represented as the triple unity of the integrative power of perception, the homogeneous field of primordial matter and the boundless potential of universal consciousness. These three form an abstract Three-in-One, a talismanic key to both the macrocosm and the microcosm. One cannot, however, avail oneself of the rich stream of intuitions accessible through this triadic conception merely by holding a static image of it before the mind's eye. Rather, one must learn to direct one's attention to some invisible, intangible point suspended within and beyond that Triad. If possible, one may conceive of that point in relation to metaphysical space, metaphorically depicted by the Hermetic circle without circumference. Just as a pendulum depends upon a mathematical point in space that cannot be known ostensively but which is a logical necessity for comprehending its motion, so too the highest conceivable Three-in-One must be approached with close attention to such a metaphysical point lying beyond it. Only thus can a complete system of axioms, presuppositions and postulates expressed within the abstruse conception of the Three-in-One be glimpsed in their dynamic unity. Otherwise, the discursive mind will dissect the symbol and substitute its fragmented parts for an authentic understanding of the original whole.

  Witnessed in intense meditation by the inward eye of the soul, the Three-in-One reveals reality as a dual stream of subjects and objects arising from, and ever united in, a single source. Manifest reality may be seen either from the standpoint of ideation and consciousness or from the standpoint of the material substratum of form. These twin perspectives have a more than merely intellectual significance. They represent a fundamental ontological dualism that pervades and is coextensive with manifestation. At the same time, they are both together a superimposition upon the unmanifest, impartite, unnameable Reality. This central presupposition is crucial to all theophilosophy and to Advaita Vedanta. It means that both in the universe and in man there is a single stream of consciousness, having seven different aspects, comparable to a single material substance having seven different modes or forms. All manifestation may be depicted from the standpoint of pure subjectivity, in terms of seven different states of consciousness, or from the standpoint of substance, in terms of seven planes of differentiation. That primordial substance is inherently undifferentiated, just as that unitary consciousness is essentially unlimited by any single state.

  What is true of the entire cosmos is also true of the individual human being. A human being may be characterized in terms of consciousness, operating through various centres, and displaying a vast range from latent universal self-consciousness – realized in perfected human beings – to automatic, almost unconscious, cerebration in the physical human vesture. Within this hebdomadic spectrum of states of consciousness is a critical core of self-consciousness capable of varying degrees of relativity and universalization. Below this sphere of self-consciousness there is also a complex set of degrees and relativities, corresponding to all the states of consciousness realized in the other six kingdoms of Nature. Thus, all human beings may be characterized in terms of consciousness, with its seven dimensions and seven archetypal centres of activity. Equally, human beings may also be characterized in terms of a fundamental substance or matter which is differentiated in seven different ways on seven different planes.

  There is an immense complexity in human nature seen under the aspect of form and matter corresponding perfectly to the enormous complexity experienced by human beings under the aspect of consciousness. No doubt most of human nature, both in relation to consciousness and to form, is latent in activity owing to human ignorance of its own abundant inheritance. This means that the degree of the human being's self-consciousness is also the degree to which one is able to gain access to the full range of form and consciousness potential within the different vestures.

  The moment one realizes that both the universe and the human being may be characterized in this sevenfold manner, one must also recognize that there is an inescapable interconnection between these two alternative perspectives. Thus, if one speaks in terms of consciousness not vaguely but precisely, one must make reference to a field or sphere or plane of consciousness. In this way, all descriptions of consciousness point to substance and form. Likewise, if one speaks in terms of matter, one must refer to planes of matter and their differentiation, and each of these will correspond to different possibilities and powers of perception. Every plane of differentiated matter corresponds to a spectrum of possibilities of perception, whether or not there are beings to perceive. It is also perfectly meaningful to assume that some beings can freely experience those myriad possibilities in consciousness. In effect, the interdependent nature of the open-textured concepts of consciousness and substance points immediately to the necessity of a range of beings with different degrees of perceptivity. Nor should one set any arbitrary limit in advance upon the range of possible perceivers existing on all planes of the universe. There is a common danger, owing to anthropocentric or egocentric conceptions, that human beings will falsely delimit the possibilities of perception and perceivers in the cosmos. This error of self-limitation does not, of course, have any legislative effect upon the cosmos. Instead, it only serves to cut human beings off from possibilities of perception that lie latent within themselves, and from the possibility of any relationship with beings who have mastered or glimpsed the sublime capacities of perception.

  In order to assimilate the inward meaning of these far-reaching presuppositions about the close relationship of spirit and matter, substance and consciousness, perception and the cosmos, one may begin by meditating upon potent mantrams provided in the Teachings of Gupta Vidya – for example, the proposition that Light is Life and both are electricity. Whatever formulation or corollary one chooses for meditation, one must apply it to oneself. If one does not do this, one is engaging merely in some form of verbal sophistry, which will avail one naught at the time of death. As soon as one truly grasps an idea, however, and begins to apply it to oneself, one will experience some degree of exhilarating release from the cloying conception of the compulsive personality. To see oneself in terms of a universal idea, even to a modest degree, is to realize that one is not a body, a name or a bundle of social successes and conventionally described weaknesses. Such pseudo-ideas cannot help an individual to awaken self-consciousness from the assured standpoint of immortality. The true immortal Perceiver, the God in man, is in itself without a form and beyond all states of consciousness. It is like the invisible apex or mysterious source of the dual stream of consciousness and form. To move up these streams towards it, one must work upon one's instruments, increasing their receptivity to the subtle vibrations of spiritual will and ideation. True spiritual aspiration encompasses the entire living stream of consciousness and form. It requires that one begin to take one's life into one's own hands. One must learn, in an inward sense, to stand up and be counted and noticed by those who are concerned with the spiritual evolution of humanity and by the Teacher of humanity on earth. This is the auspicious beginning of spiritual growth.

  To understand this better – from a more metaphysical and a more magical point of view – it is useful to look at this triad of perception, consciousness and form from the standpoint of Advaita Vedanta. Speaking of the triple aspect of the divine principle in the cosmos – the unmanifested Logos, universal (latent) ideation and universal (or cosmic) active intelligence – H.P. Blavatsky explained:

  The Adwaitee Vedantic philosophy classifies this as the highest trinity, or rather the Trinitarian aspect of Chinmatra (Parabrahmam), explained by them as the "bare potentiality of Pragna"– the power or the capacity that gives rise to perception; Chidakasam, the infinite field or plane of Universal Consciousness; and Asath (Mulapraknti), or undifferentiated matter.

Ibid.

  In one sense, this highest Triad exists as a focal point within the field of universal, latent ideation. In another sense, it is a pure metaphysical abstraction encompassing the possibilities of perception, consciousness and form in their entirety. Thus Chinmatra is a synonym of Parabrahmam, the Absolute. Chinmatra has to do with Chit, the capacity to conceive, the capacity to maintain conscious perception and the capacity to form any conception at all. Chit is the limitless ground of the power to think and ideate. It is also much more than that. The term Chinmatra refers to a perfectly universal set of all possibilities of perception, reaching beyond the compass of any system of ideation and form. It is an extraordinarily profound metaphysical conception in the original philosophy of Advaita Vedanta. These Vedantins in the ancient world were not fascinated with the visual universe, despite its magnitude and grandeur, but rather directed their attention to the inconceivable sum-total of all possible states of consciousness of all possible perceiving beings on all possible planes of consciousness in all possible worlds. There has been nothing vaster or more sublime than this primary conception of the pre-genetic, pre-cosmic unity of the divine All in any of the subsequent systems of philosophy and religion in recorded history.

  The richness of the idea of Chinmatra can only be understood if it is unfolded in its triple aspects. First of all, there is the bare potentiality of Prajna, which corresponds in the cosmos to the unmanifested Logos and in man corresponds to the universal spirit or Atman. Every human being and everything that exists is overbrooded by the Atman, the sole and single universal Spirit. Every existing thing, every mind that functions, originates from one source, which itself is single but unmanifest, and that is the unmanifested Logos. Not only is that Logos far more fundamental than any concretized notion of God, but it also transcends any view of the manifested Logos in relation to a particular system of worlds. Owing to its transcendental and unmanifest nature, that Logos contains the bare potentiality of Prajna. Prajna refers to wisdom, but it is also much more than that. It refers to cognition itself. More than that, it refers to all possible cognition by all possible minds and actual monads in all kingdoms in all possible worlds. Such a staggering conception of the pure power and possibility of perception dispenses with any dependency of perception upon what is now called the mind-brain. Prajna in its abstract aspect refers to the capacity which itself gives rise to the power of perception. Even the power to perceive is itself dependent, both logically and ontologically, upon that which is prior to it. This causal ground of all possible perception is the bare potentiality of Prajna, the unmanifested Logos and the Atman.

  The second aspect or standpoint connected with the trinitarian conception of Chinmatra is Chidakasha, the infinite field or plane of universal consciousness. If it is possible to speak of the power to perceive as having a reality that is prior to all specific possible varieties of perception, it is also possible to speak of an equally boundless and universal plane of consciousness prior to any particular states or differentiations of active conscious awareness. This field or matrix must not only accommodate the intelligence in a cell or a plant, but also that in a Dhyani Buddha or a Mahatma. From the incipient infusoria to the highest perfected beings, all their modes and states of consciousness must be accommodated within a single unified field of latent ideation. This is the basic presupposition of the overarching law of continuity between the highest and the lowest throughout visible and invisible Nature. The universal unity of abstract Prajna is mirrored in the unbroken continuity of the subjective plane of Chidakasha. This continuity is the basis of the possibility of interaction, contact and communication – both voluntary and involuntary – between all perceiving beings in a universe of form. If one can gain a conceptual glimpse of this unmodified ground of consciousness preceding all differentiated states of consciousness, one will gain a crucial clue regarding the possibility of instantaneous transmission of energies, currents and vibrations throughout the cosmic field.

Chidakasha is a pure abstraction in relation to all differentiated states of consciousness and therefore seems to be pure unconsciousness from any and every limited perspective. Nevertheless, it is the basis of the ever-present possibility of functioning fields of consciousness within both Nature and Man. So great and incomprehensible are the latent energies of divine ideation inherent in Chidakasha that it is impossible to begin even to imagine them by any form of exoteric deduction or induction, conventional mathematics or logic. Even the most grandiose unified force fields imagined by the modern sciences do not remotely approach the coherence, continuity and potentiality of Chidakasha. The Voice of the Silence intimates the awesome grandeur of this theurgic conception when it speaks of a Master holding "life and death in his strong hand", declaring that "the living power made free in him, that power which is HIMSELF, can raise the tabernacle of illusion high above the Gods, above great Brahm and Indra". It is all too evident that most human beings have only barely begun to grasp the ABCs of human potential.

  Finally, one may look at Chinmatra from the standpoint of undifferentiated substance – Mulaprakriti or Asat. This pure root matter is absolutely eternal and indestructible. It is ever existent, prior to all manifested worlds. It goes beyond the dissolution of worlds, enduring throughout the dark night of Maha Pralaya, representing the bare potentiality of differentiated form in a world. Just as Prajna and Chidakasha far transcend both the known and knowable limits of perception and consciousness, Mulaprakriti is an abstract conception of substance transcending all existing worlds within and without the solar system and the entire visible plane. More than this, Mulaprakriti represents the pristine possibility of coherence underlying any modes of objectivity apprehended on any plane of consciousness by any perceiver. It is prior to the substance of the astral plane and prior to those substantial grounds that support the various invisible globes of the terrestrial chain and other planetary chains throughout the cosmos. Mulaprakriti is unlimited by any set of possible worlds of form perceived by actual beings through various states of consciousness.

  All three of these conceptions – Prajna, Chidakasha and Mulaprakriti – taken singly or together as the trinitarian Chinmatra-Parabrahmam, – are gifts transmitted to future humanity trough the mysterious power of sound by the ideation of ancient adepts responsible for the formulation of the Advaita Vedanta system. Initially, it is more important to grasp the conceptual meaning of these terms than to be able to use them in ordinary discourse. Whilst some guidance is given with regard to their pronunciation so that they will not be massacred, it is still more important to meditate upon their meaning. Eventually, as the Sanskritization of human thought and language proceeds, a point will come when it will be both necessary and productive to learn the true pronunciation of such terms. It is impossible to separate the original ideational vibration with which high beings endowed such terms from a full understanding of their meaning. Mind and matter are joined. For the most Fohatic, creative activity known to human beings is to use the power of sound to bring together intention and visible action on a plane of consciousness and form. Words have the power to fuse form and image, mind and matter, theory and practice. In the civilization of the future children will learn the privilege of sounding words with a view towards communicating true meanings in the heart. That future will become realized as everyone learns to bridge mind and matter through sound.

  There is no higher way of bridging mind and matter than the AUM, the Soundless Sound. Even if one cannot pronounce it aloud, one may reflect upon AUM. In this there is no West or East. There is not a single human being on earth who cannot engage in deep reflection upon the opening of the mouth, the holding of the breath and the closing of the mouth. To engage in this meditation is to begin to reflect upon the origin, the maintenance and the dissolution of the cosmos, upon the beginning of human life on earth in any incarnation, the continuance of that life, and the graceful ending of life at the solemn moment when death comes as a deliverer and friend. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, creation, preservation and destruction-regeneration, apply to the cosmos as they apply to man. They are perfectly expressed in the AUM, the Soundless Sound; therein lies not just the act of bridging mind and matter, but the possibility of bridging mind and matter on the most universal plane. Hence, it is the basis of the most fundamental, lasting and irreversible effect, and of the highest magic.

  The mystical power of sound to bridge the dual streams of ideation and form is the basis for the progressive awakening of the pure potency of the Perceiver. Mystically, the inward and sacrificial invocation of the Soundless Sound awakens the noetic intelligence that in turn lights up the higher centres in the human being. Within the array of human vestures there are many centres of latent life-energy; at the most fundamental and archetypal level, however, there are seven such centres. Each of these is connected with many others, and there are myriad centres throughout the human brain, heart and spinal column. Throughout the entire body, at the tips of the fingers and the toes, at the top of the head, there are numerous centres beyond reckoning. All of these centres may be affected either from without within and from below above or from within without and from above below. Many of these centres can be involuntarily affected by forces external to oneself. What is internal and what is external is a matter of refinement of perspective. Many forces that human beings ordinarily regard as internal – thoughts, images and emotions – are nevertheless external to the immortal soul. This is because the personality's conception of internality and externality is based upon merely visual perceptions. On the other hand, these same centres can be affected voluntarily by that which is within and from above. They can be consciously affected by the life-impulse, the monadic essence and stream of energy that knits together all the centres in the entire human temple. The centres can be strongly affected as a result of deliberation, spiritual resolve and a fundamental willingness to initiate and take the initiative, the highest prerogative of the human being. The inward release of noetic intelligence through the sacrificial use of sacred sound is the pre-eminent means of bringing about such a radical self-transformation.

  To understand this, one must understand noetic intelligence in relation to the principles of human nature and in relation to the triad of perception, ideation and form. The capacity of noetic intelligence to light up the various centres in the human constitution throws light upon the mystery of the power to perceive, Prajna. Normally, one cannot distinguish the power to perceive from one's perceptions. If one wants to know how good one's eyesight is, for example, one makes a test by trying to determine how well one sees objects at a distance; if one is at an optician's office, one tests how well one can see the letters lower down on the chart. The way one knows how well one can see is dependent upon one's capacity to recognize differentiated objects of perception. Yet such a test is limited in its significance because one knows that one sees differently at different times of day, and even differently depending upon the state of one's metabolism. Hence, any precise measure of the power to see based upon a circumscribed performance in relation to a few selected objects is expedient but inadequate. Even the physical organ of vision, the eye, is mysterious. Doctors know that it is the quickest organ to heal. There is a mystical relationship between the clear substance of the eye and the principle of Akasha. There are cognate mysteries surrounding all the other senses and their organs on the physical plane. In short, it is impossible to limit the potential of the power to perceive purely in terms of any finite, tangible list or set of objects of perception. The power to perceive must go far beyond mere objects of perception on any particular plane, especially the physical. Thus, the power to see belongs not to the physical eye but to the immortal soul. Just as there is physical sight, there is also astral sight, mental sight and spiritual sight.

  On each of these planes of consciousness, the power of perception must transcend all its possible objects – astral, mental and spiritual. For example, the power to perceive must include the elasticity, resilience and flexibility to alter perspective or to move from one object of perception to another. A simple illustration of this can be found in the field of vision. At one moment one may perceive through the eyes a particular person, and then through moving the eyes one may shift to perceiving another person at another moment in time. Certainly, the power of visual perception is there while one is looking at the first person, and it is also there while one is looking at the second person. But while one is rapidly moving one's head from one person to the other, does one have the power to perceive? It would make no sense to say that the power to perceive existed only when the eyes were focussed upon a particular person and not when the eyes were moving. Thus the power of visual perception exists even when there is no particular visual perception taking place. The power of visual perception is independent of any focus upon any specific object. Understood even in this rudimentary way in relation to the physical plane, one can clearly comprehend that the power to perceive involves more than focus and fixation on an object. It involves more than any particular collection or set of subjective impressions. It involves the capacity of apprehension in relation to a field or space. This applies not only to physical perception, but also to astral and mental perception.

  On the physical and astral planes, the power to perceive is focussed on objects. On the mental plane it is focussed on subjects. On the spiritual plane it is focussed on an entire field. This synthesis of subject and object on the plane of spirit totally transcends all ordinary modes of sensation and discursive cognition. That is why people find it so difficult to understand the fact that for the highest beings, for Mahatmas and Buddhas, immersed in the deepest meditation, there are no individual human beings. From the standpoint of Buddha, the Prajnaparamita Sutras affirm, there are no beings to be saved. This does not mean that there is no stream of benevolent ideation flowing forth from a Buddha towards all beings. But there is no particularization and no specific relationship formed between such a high being and any one X or Y or Z. Tragically, many were mistaken over the last century in thinking that they could form, as separate beings, some exclusive relationship with Mahatmas and Buddhas. In their misconceptions they presumed to drag Mahatmas down to their own level. This, of course, is impossible, and the only fruit of their misconceptions was their own disappointment at the moment of death. Lacking any real conception of the arcane Teachings, they could not draw closer to the wisdom and compassion, the horizon and presence, of the Teachers. True spiritual intuition is an unbroken stream of universal perception, rooted in an unmodified awareness of the boundless and unmanifest ground of all existence. Just as the radiance of the sun is to be understood, if at all, from its mysterious central point outward, and not through any interactions with matter by its rays, so too the exalted state of the Buddhas and Mahatmas can only be apprehended inwardly in relation to the mystery of Parabrahmam.

  One may draw closer to the mystery of the Perceiver only by grasping fundamental propositions which are both universal and metaphysical, and then by applying them to oneself. Using them to deepen one's own meditation, one may use them to adore and venerate the great beings that preside over the fortunes of humanity, without remotely seeking to drag them down to one's present condition. One must realize that within oneself and within them the power to perceive is an intrinsic, indwelling faculty inherent in the cosmos. It ultimately comes from the Logos, but not from the unmanifested Logos per se: it comes from the Three-in-One. It comes from the unmanifested Logos, universal ideation and active intelligence, the universal medium for the expression and manifestation of ideation. Put in terms of the human principles, it comes from Atma, Buddhi and Manas. It does not come from Atma alone except in the sense that everything comes under and from the Light of Atma, which itself reflects the Light of the Logos. Once one understands this, one can come to see the vital importance of Buddhi and noetic ideation within the cosmic and human triads.

  Noetic intelligence is the Light of the Logos, the luminosity of universal ideation, which has the potentiality of becoming the light of active intelligence. This light is potentially present in the unmanifested Logos. Applying this to the human principles, noetic intelligence is the light of Buddhi which is capable of being actively focussed by Manas and which potentially exists in the Atma. This follows as soon as one grasps the meaning of the word "noetic", derived from the term Nous, which is the universal mind – the field within which Fohat plants the elementary germs, the monads and atoms, that consciously ensoul all forms in the manifested cosmos. In the cosmos as in Man, the Perceiver, the Witness and Spectator, governs and guides intelligent and sentient life through the Fohatic power of Buddhic-noetic ideation. Like Krishna-Shiva seated immobile in the hearts of all beings, the mysterious power of the Perceiver causes all beings to revolve. They are all contained in him, but he is not contained in them. Such is the sublime mystery of the Three-in-One.

Hermes, April 1986
by Raghavan Iyer