THEOSOPHY, Vol. 21, No. 9, July, 1933
(Pages 385-388; Size: 12K)
(Number 9 of a 12-part series)

[Compiler's Note: All 12 articles have the same name.]

THE PURSUIT OF SELF-KNOWLEDGE

"MAYA" -- dream, illusion, misconception -- is an element, is the element, in all finite things. It has to be recognized for what it is, dealt with, dissipated completely, by the aspirant to Self-knowledge. Thus the word "pursuit" as applied to Self-knowledge is itself a maya, a misnomer.

"Without moving is the traveling on this Path," as says the Dnyaneshvari, which H. P. Blavatsky called the "king of all mystic works." From the standpoint of Self as the changeless reality within and without all worlds, all states, all forms and conditions, the whole manifested Universe is but a maya, a dream, because unreal, ever-changing. Our terms of utmost abstraction, as space, motion, duration, time, causality, all infer and imply, in one sense or another, merely the field of manifestation of something which perceives, which acts, which experiences the results of perception and action -- the intellectually familiar Trinity in Unity. Anything and everything is real when seen for what it is by the perceiving power. In this sense a shadow is real; an image is real; the light and the mirror which reflect the one and the other are real; the perception of them is real. But they are all "real" only in a relative sense. Relative to what? To each other, and to the Perceiver, the Soul or Self.

Does Self have a real being distinct and dissociated from objects of perception, from connection with them, as those are experienced, construed and conceived within the limitations of human consciousness? Does manifestation of any kind have in it independent existence apart from the perceiving consciousness, however defined and limited that consciousness may be? What, finally, is the "connecting bond" between the Perceiver and any and all subjects or objects of perception? These are the three questions whose solution comprises the pursuit of Self-knowledge. If Self is the reality, then all else is but a manifestation or definition of Self. If what is perceived is the reality, then Self is but an illusion, the image or the shadow of the Unknown and Unknowable, however that may be named; in which case all that we experience is equally an image and an illusion, all our definitions of experience but a dream within a dream. Every man knows better; knows that within the limits of experience and memory he alone possesses permanency; knows that any and all experience and memory are subsequent to the existence of Self, hence that Self precedes and survives both, singly and seriatim; knows that neither exists apart from him; knows that he can and does alter the relation between them, between Self and them. All this each man knows independently for himself, and knows that he does. This is Self-knowledge, pure and simple, unmodified and unreachable by any relativities soever. It is the Germ of Divinity, the divine seed of the Tree of Life everlasting. When the individual man recognizes in himself and as himself the Creative, Preservative, Destructive, and Regenerative POWER which he has hitherto imagined as something external to Self, he has found the Path of which all the Saviors and Sages have spoken. He has been born viable into the world of real Being -- the world of Souls. Really to have had this experience, and to have returned with some memory of it to the plane of human consciousness, or to re-experience it again and yet again, is not and cannot be the finality which so many attribute to it, which so many long to achieve either during human life or after human death. They forget that it is but an experience; a transcendental experience indeed, as human birth and sleep and death are, when rightly regarded, transcendental experiences of the Soul. So long as we attribute finality to any experience soever, so long are we the victim of maya, and do but dream, even though our dream be the one called heaven or Mokshsa or Nirvana.

There is no finality, no reality, but Soul itself, whether in the waking, the dreaming, or the deep sleep state of complete unconsciousness of object, subject, or self. One and all they are but states, transitional and transitory, into which the Soul is born, in which it lives, and to which it dies, as it travels through endless duration. They all are based on Soul-memory where not upon Soul-knowledge; they all begin in Soul-imagination; they are all maintained and changed by Soul-sacrifice -- the worst as well as the best of states, and are all transformable, the one into the other, in endless repetition until the Soul is its own Master. On this, H.P.B. has written in her "Secret Doctrine": "The whole secret of Life is in the unbroken series of its manifestations: whether in, or apart from, the physical body."

Degraded as it is, in our use and regard, there is no word in the English language to compare with Imagination as a term to name and express the fundamental creative power of the Soul. Whatever the nature of our experiences or acquisitions of any kind, whatever changes are to be brought about, whatever the means to be employed either to preserve, to destroy, to re-create, imagination is the king power, the king-faculty. Desire, knowledge, memory, thought, will, and feeling alike, every form into which experience enters or is cast subjectively -- all are but material more or less refined for the image-making power of the Soul. Is it too much, too formless, too transcendental for the human Soul to realize that by inherent consequence every external object is but the shadow of an internal image with which Soul has clothed itself?

It is too much only so long as Soul is enthralled, imprisoned, by the already existent images and shadows created by past use of this power to the point where it regards as reality its own creations; and by inherent reaction regards Self as the creature and not as the creator of that world in which it "lives, and moves, and has its being." The believers in Karma and Reincarnation alone dimly perceive the great secret underlying all evolution, and they, too, are victim and unwilling subject of Maya if they misuse their imagination by dreaming of escape or emancipation for self alone. Since the world of Souls is the eternal reality, how can there be freedom for any Soul so long as one single being remains in exile from "the world of the Eternal?"

Soul as perceiver, Soul as creator, Soul as creature -- these are the "three hypostases" of Soul which are imaged or shadowed in every religion; which are incorrectly separated by all of them into the "three Persons" of the God-head. They are more nearly pictured in the abstractions we name Spirit, Mind, and Matter, but there, also, is the same maya of three distinct "realities." The independent and substantial nature of Life itself, of which all Trinities are but the changing vehicles -- this is not seen, because, as stated by Krishna in Bhagavad-Gita, "the Path of the Unmanifested is with difficulty attained by embodied beings." In other words, as explained by the same great Teacher, until Soul recognizes itself as "the Knower in every mortal body" it can only perceive itself at best as partly creator and partly creature of "circumstances" and "environment". This "fourth hypostasis" of Soul as the Knower is what is meant by Self-Knowledge and is the state of the full Mahatma or "Great Soul."

The initial mistake of many who have had a glimpse of this Divine state is that they are so overcome by the memory of it as to be all too apt to desire to be re-absorbed in it, and turn all their aspirations in that direction. Others, as indicated, are absorbed by the delusion of becoming the "Savior" of their fellows, and so turn all their powers to that end, becoming the founders of religions and of religious orders. Pursuing these aims with undivided devotion their own destiny is that hinted at under the terms Dharmakaya and Sambhogakaya. Religious history and tradition are filled in the West with the names of Saints, as Eastern lore is with those of Yogis, who have taken one or the other of these two paths of "emancipation of the Soul from the bonds of conditioned existence." They do, indeed, lead to freedom in the sense of escape from human vicissitudes for the remainder of their share of racial evolution and during the long "night" or Pralaya which follows -- exactly as the human being who dies enjoys a temporary respite before again assuming the "burdens of the flesh." But, as all know, the penalty, even of this vacation from responsibility, is entire personal forgetfulness of the past and the necessity of starting again "newborn" in every sense. What must be the corresponding compensation the Soul shall have to render to violated Nature for its "absence without leave" through millions of years? How many ardent disciples on the path of Self-knowledge find themselves again and again forced to make to themselves St. Paul's confession: "The things that I would not, those I do; the things I would do, those I do not."

But if the new-born to the Divine heritage conjoins the eye of reason to the Divine vision, he sees self as but the Antaskarana, the bridge or link between the Divine and the human estate of all Souls. He no longer regards himself as a "free agent," but takes upon himself the collective Karma of the race to which he belongs. Seeing the identity in potentiality of all Souls, their unity of origin and destiny, their confraternity of being, he sees all mankind as the image of SELF, self as the shadow of that Divine image, and identifies himself with collective Humanity.


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