THEOSOPHY, Vol. 75, No. 5, March, 1987
(Pages 144-148; Size: 15K)


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.

It must not be forgotten ... that we give names to things according to the appearances they assume for ourselves. 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." Matter, after all, is nothing else than the sequence of our own states of consciousness, and Spirit an idea of psychic intuition.

Everything is "relative" in this Universe, everything is an illusion. Good and Evil are twins, the progeny of Space and Time, under the sway of MAYA. Separate them, by cutting off one from the other, and they will both die, Neither exists per se, since each has to be generated and created out of the other, in order to come into being; both must be known and appreciated before becoming objects of perception, hence, in mortal mind, they must be divided. Perfection, to be fully such, must be born out of imperfection, the incorruptible must grow out of the corruptible, having the latter as its vehicle and basis of contrast.

Absolute light is absolute darkness, and vice versa. In fact, there is neither light nor darkness in the realms of truth. Nothing is added to darkness to make it light, or to light to make it darkness, on this our plane. They are interchangeable, and scientifically light is but a mode of darkness and vice versa. Yet both are phenomena of the same noumenon -- which is absolute darkness to the scientific mind, and but a gray twilight to the perception of the average mystic, though to that of the spiritual eye of the Initiate it is absolute light. How far we discern the light that shines in darkness depends upon our powers of vision. What is light to us is darkness to certain insects, and the eye of the clairvoyant sees illumination where the normal eye perceives only blackness. The sensation of light is like the sound ... the noises produced by the rolling of wheels of a vehicle -- a purely phenomenal effect, having no existence outside the observer. The experience of any plane is an actuality for the percipient being, whose consciousness is on that plane; though the said experience, regarded from the purely metaphysical standpoint, may be conceived to have no objective reality.

It may serve to elucidate the meaning if we ... imagine two consecutive planes of matter as already formed; each of these corresponding to an appropriate set of perceptive organs. We are forced to admit that between these two planes of matter an incessant circulation takes place; and if we follow the atoms and molecules of (say) the lower in their transformation upwards, these will come to a point where they pass altogether beyond the range of the faculties we are using on the lower plane. In fact, to us the matter on the lower plane vanishes from our perception into nothing -- or rather it passes on to the higher plane.

When, therefore, the Secret Doctrine -- postulating that conditioned or limited space (location) has no real being except in this world of illusion, or, in other words, in our perceptive faculties -- teaches that every one of the higher, as of the lower worlds, is interblended with our own objective world; that millions of things and beings are, in point of localization, around and in us, as we are around, with, and in them; it is no metaphysical figure of speech, but a sober fact in Nature, however incomprehensible to our senses.

But one has to understand the phraseology of Occultism before criticizing what it asserts. For example, the Doctrine refuses (as Science does, in one sense) to use the words "above" and "below," "higher" and "lower," in reference to invisible spheres, as being without meaning. Even the terms "East" and "West" are merely conventional, necessary only to aid our human perceptions. For, though the Earth has its two fixed points in the poles, North and South, yet both East and West are variable relatively to our own position on the Earth's surface, and in consequence of its rotation from West to East. Hence, when "other worlds" are mentioned -- whether better or worse, more spiritual or still more material, though both invisible -- the Occultist does not locate these spheres either outside or inside our Earth, as the theologians and poets do; for their location is nowhere in the space known to, and conceived by, the profane. They are, as it were, blended with our world -- interpenetrating it and interpenetrated by it. There are millions and millions of worlds and firmaments visible to us; there are still greater numbers beyond those visible to the telescopes, and many of the latter kind do not belong to our objective spheres of existence. Although as invisible as if they were millions of miles beyond our solar system, they are yet with us, near us, within our own world, as objective and material to their respective inhabitants as ours is to us. But, again, the relation of these worlds to ours is not that of a series of egg-shaped boxes enclosed one within the other, like the toys called Chinese nests: each is entirely under its own special laws and conditions, having no direct relation to our sphere. The inhabitants of these, as already said, may be, for all we know, or feel, passing through and around us as if through empty space, their very habitations and countries being interblended with ours, though not disturbing our vision, because we have not yet the faculties necessary for discerning them. Yet by their spiritual sight the adepts, and even some seers and sensitives, are always able to discern, whether in greater or smaller degree, the presence and close proximity to us of Beings pertaining to other spheres of life. Those of the (spiritually) higher worlds, communicate only with those terrestrial mortals who ascend to them, through individual effort, on to the higher plane they are occupying.

Polarity is universal, but the polarizer lies in our own consciousness. The sun is one, but its beams are numberless; and the effects produced are beneficent or maleficent, according to the nature and constitution of the objects they shine upon. In proportion as our consciousness is elevated towards absolute truth, so do we men assimilate it more or less absolutely.

What is Time, for instance, but the panoramic succession of our states of consciousness? Our ideas on duration and time are all derived from our sensation according to the laws of Association. Inextricably bound up with the relativity of human knowledge, they nevertheless can have no existence except in the experience of the individual ego, and perish when its evolutionary march dispels the Maya of phenomenal existence. In the words of a Master, "I feel irritated at having to use these three clumsy words -- Past, Present, and Future -- miserable concepts of the objective phases of the subjective whole, they are about as ill-adapted for the purpose as an axe for fine carving."

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 ideal 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." No one could say that a bar of metal dropped into the sea came into existence as it left the air, and ceased to exist as it entered the water, and that the bar itself consisted only of that cross-section thereof which at any given moment coincided with the mathematical plane that separates and, at the same time, joins, the atmosphere and the ocean. Even so of persons and things, which, dropping out of the to-be into the has-been, out of the future into the past -- present momentarily to our senses a cross-section, as it were, of their total selves, as they pass through time and space (as matter) on their way from one eternity to another; and these two constitute that "duration" in which alone anything has true existence, were our senses but able to cognize it there.

Maya or illusion is an element which enters into all finite things, for everything that exists has only a relative, not an absolute reality, since the appearance which the hidden noumenon assumes for any observer depends upon his power of cognition. To the untrained eye of the savage, a painting is at first an unmeaning confusion of streaks and daubs of colour, while an educated eye sees instantly a face or a landscape. Nothing is permanent except the one hidden absolute existence which contains in itself the noumena of all realities. The existences belonging to every plane of being, up to the highest Dhyan Chohans, are, in degree, of the nature of shadows cast by a magic lantern on a colourless screen; but all things are relatively real, for the cognizer is also a reflection, and the things cognized are therefore as real to him as himself. Whatever reality things possess must be looked for in them before or after they have passed like a flash through the material world; but we cannot cognize any such existence directly, so long as we have sense-instruments which bring only material existence into the field of our consciousness. Whatever plane our consciousness may be acting in, both we and the things belonging to that plane are, for the time being, our only realities. As we rise in the scale of development we perceive that during the stages through which we have passed we mistook shadows for realities, and the upward progress of the Ego is a series of progressive awakenings, each advance bringing with it the idea that now, at last, we have reached "reality"; but only when we shall have reached the absolute Consciousness, and blended our own with it, shall we be free from the delusions produced by Maya.

COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page (in an earlier printing of it when it was entitled "Maya, or Illusion": Volume 54, No. 3, January, 1966, Pages 82-86). I felt it was useful to include it here:


Mahamaya, the Goddess, personifies the World Illusion, within the bounds and thralldom of which exist all forms whatsoever, whether gross or subtle, earthly or angelic, even those of the highest gods. She is the primary embodiment of the transcendent principle, and as such the mother of all names and forms, who deludes the world with Her illusion and conjures up the magic of creation, preservation, and destruction. She has spread this veil of ignorance before our eyes. We can go into the inner chamber only when she lets us pass through the door. 


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(1) NOTE.--A collation from the writings of H. P. Blavatsky.
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