THEOSOPHY, Vol. 50, No. 9, July, 1962
(Pages 414-418; Size: 15K)

THE DIVINE ILLUSIVE POWER(1)

Maya is the perceptive faculty of every Ego which considers itself a Unit, separate from and independent of the One Infinite Eternal Sat or "be-ness."
--H. P. BLAVATSKY
MAYA, or Illusion, is the cosmic power which renders phenomenal existence, and perception thereof, possible. In Hindu philosophy that alone which is changeless and eternal is called reality; all that is subject to change through decay and differentiation and which has therefore a beginning and an end, is regarded as maya -- illusion.

Everything that is finite is illusion, all that is eternal and infinite is reality. Form, color, that which we hear and feel, or see with our mortal eyes, exists only so far as it can be conveyed to us through our senses. The universe for a man born blind does not exist in either form or color, but it exists in its privation (in the Aristotelian sense), and is a reality for the spiritual senses of the blind man. We all live under the powerful dominion of phantasy. Alone the highest and invisible originals emanated from the thought of the Unknown are real and permanent beings, forms, and ideas. On earth, we see but their reflections, more or less correct, and ever dependent on the physical and mental organization of the person who beholds them.

Whatever plane our consciousness may be acting in, both we and 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. The reader must bear in mind that, according to our teaching which regards this phenomenal Universe as a great illusion, the nearer a body is to the UNKNOWN SUBSTANCE, the more it approaches reality, as being removed the farther from this world of Maya. Esoteric philosophy, regarding as Maya (or the illusion of ignorance) every finite thing, must necessarily view in the same light every intra-Cosmic planet and body, as being something organized, hence finite.

Says Hermes: "Reality is not upon the earth, my son, and it cannot be thereon. ... Nothing on earth is real, there are only appearances. He (man) is not real, my son, as man. The real consists solely in itself and remains what it is. Man is transient, therefore he is not real, he is but appearance, and appearance is the supreme illusion." Tatios questions: "Then the celestial bodies themselves are not real, my father, since they also vary?" Trismegistos: "That which is subject to birth and to change is not real. ... There is in them a certain falsity, seeing that they too are variable." For, whether one calls the genii of Hermes and his "Gods" -- "Powers of Darkness" and "Angels," as in the Greek and Latin Churches; or "Spirits of the Dead," as in Spiritualism; or, again, Bhoots and Devas, Shaitan or Djin, as they are still called in India and Mussulman countries -- they are all one and the same thing --ILLUSION.

According to the tenets of Eastern Occultism, DARKNESS is the one true actuality, the basis and the root of light, without which the latter could never manifest itself, nor even exist. Light is matter, and Darkness pure Spirit. Darkness, in its radical, metaphysical basis, is subjective and absolute light; while the latter in all its seeming glory and effulgence, is merely a mass of shadows, as it can never be eternal, and is simply an illusion, or Maya.

A people brought up and nurtured for countless ages among all the psychological phenomena of which the civilized (!) nations read, but reject as incredible and worthless, cannot well expect to have its religious system even understood, let alone appreciated. The profoundest and most transcendental speculations of the ancient metaphysicians of India and other countries, are all based on the great Buddhistic and Brahmanical principle underlying the whole of their religious metaphysics -- illusion of the senses. From the standpoint of the highest metaphysics, the whole Universe, gods included, is an illusion; but the illusion of him who is in himself an illusion differs on every plane of consciousness, and we have no more right to dogmatize on, say, the sixth plane, than we have to identify our perceptions with, or make them a standard for, those of an ant, in its modes of consciousness. The pure object apart from consciousness is unknown to us, while living on the plane of our three-dimensional world; as we know only the mental states it excites in the perceiving Ego.

It is not in the dead letter of Buddhistical sacred literature that scholars may hope to find the true solution of its metaphysical subtleties. The latter weary the power of thought by the inconceivable profundity of its ratiocination; and the student is never farther from the truth than when he believes himself nearer its discovery. The mastery of every doctrine of the perplexing Buddhist system can be attained only by proceeding strictly according to the Pythagorean and Platonic method -- from universals down to particulars. The key to it lies in the refined and mystical tenets of the spiritual influx of divine life. "Whoever is unacquainted with my law," says Buddha, "and dies in that state, must return to earth till he becomes a perfect Samanean. To achieve this object, he must destroy within himself the trinity of Maya. He must extinguish his passions, unite and identify himself with the law (the teaching of the secret doctrine), and comprehend the religion of annihilation." Here, annihilation refers but to matter, however sublimated.

Spirit is matter on the seventh plane; matter is Spirit on the lowest point of its cyclic activity; and both are Maya.

The fundamental Law in the Occult system, the central point from which all emerged, around and toward which all gravitates, and upon which is hung the philosophy of all the rest, is the One homogeneous divine SUBSTANCE PRINCIPLE, the one radical cause. It is called "Substance-Principle," for it becomes substance on the plane of the manifested Universe, an illusion, while it remains a principle in the beginningless and endless abstract, visible and invisible SPACE. Its impersonality is the fundamental conception of the System. It is latent in every atom in the Universe, and is the Universe itself. During the great mystery and drama known as the Manvantara, real Kosmos is like the object placed behind the white screen upon which are thrown the Chinese shadows, called forth by the magic lantern. The actual figures and things remain invisible, while the wires of evolution are pulled by the unseen hands; and men and things are thus but the reflections, on the white field, of the realities behind the snares of Mahamaya, or the great Illusion. This was taught in every philosophy, in every religion ante as well as post diluvian, in India and Chaldea, by the Chinese as by the Grecian Sages.

This world is the symbol (objective) of the ONE divided into the many, on the planes of Illusion, of Adi (the "First") or of Eka (the "One"); and this One is the collective aggregate, or totality, of the principal Creators or Architects of this visible universe. In Occultist metaphysics there are, properly speaking, two "Ones" -- the One on the unreachable plane of Absoluteness and Infinity, on which no speculation is possible, and the Second "One" on the plane of Emanations. The former can neither emanate nor be divided, as it is eternal, absolute, and immutable. The Second, being, so to speak, the reflection of the first One (for it is the Logos, or Eswara, in the Universe of Illusion), can do all this. It emanates from itself -- as the upper Sephirothal Triad emanates the lower seven Sephiroth -- the seven Rays or Dhyan Chohans; in other words, the Homogeneous becomes the Heterogeneous, the Protyle differentiates into the Elements. But these, unless they return into their primal Element, can never cross beyond the Laya, or zero point.

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 colorless 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.

Ages untold before our era, the Hindu mystic Kapila, who is considered by many scientists as a skeptic, because they judge him with their habitual superficiality, magnificently expressed this idea in the following terms. "Man (physical man) counts for so little, that hardly anything can demonstrate to him his proper existence and that of nature. Perhaps, that which we regard as the universe, and the divers beings which seem to compose it, have nothing real, and are but the product of continued illusion -- maya -- of our senses."

The true Buddhist, recognizing no personal god, nor any "Father" and "Creator of Heaven and Earth," still believes in an absolute consciousness, "Adi-Buddha"; and the Buddhist philosopher knows that there are Planetary Spirits, the "Dhyan Chohans." But though he admits of "spiritual lives," yet, as they are temporary in eternity, even they, according to his philosophy, are "the maya of the day," the illusion of a "day of Brahma," a short manvantara of 4 billion, 320 million years.

If the Dhyan Chohans and all the invisible Beings -- the Seven Centers and their direct Emanations, the minor centers of Energy -- are the direct reflex of the ONE Light, yet men are far removed from these, since the whole of the visible Kosmos consists of "self-produced beings, the creatures of Karma." Thus regarding a personal God "as only a gigantic shadow thrown upon the void of space by the imagination of ignorant men," they teach that only "two things are (objectively) eternal, namely Akasha and Nirvana," and that these are ONE in reality, and but a maya when divided. Prakriti (Nature) is ever called Maya, illusion, and is doomed to disappear with the rest, the gods included, at the hour of the Pralaya.

The Causes of existence are not only the physical causes known to science, but the metaphysical causes, the chief of which is the desire to exist, an outcome of Nidana and Maya. This desire for a sentient life shows itself in everything, from an atom to a sun, and is a reflection of the Divine Thought propelled into objective existence, into a law that the Universe should exist. But one has to remember that in the Hindu philosophy every differentiated unit is such only through the cycles of Maya, being one in its essence with the Supreme or One Spirit. The objects of sense being ever delusive and fluctuating, cannot be a reality. SPIRIT alone is unchangeable, hence -- alone is no illusion. This is pure Buddhist doctrine.

The impalpable atoms of gold scattered through the substance of a ton of auriferous quartz may be imperceptible to the naked eye of the miner, yet he knows that they are not only present there but that they alone give his quartz any appreciable value; and this relation of the gold to the quartz may faintly shadow forth that of the noumenon to the phenomenon. But the miner knows what the gold will look like when extracted from the quartz, whereas the common mortal can form no conception of the reality of things separated from the Maya which veils them, and in which they are hidden.


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