from Man and His Bodies by ANNIE BESANT
We have now to turn to the consideration of the man himself, no longer studying the vehicles of consciousness but the action of the consciousness on them, no longer looking at the bodies but at the entity who functions in them. By “the man” I mean that continuing individual who passes from life to life, who comes into bodies and again leaves them, over and over again, who develops slowly in the course of ages, who grows by the gathering and by the assimilation of experience, and who exists on that higher mânasic or mental plane referred to in the last chapter. This man is to be the subject of our study, functioning on the three planes with which we are now familiar – the physical, the astral and the mental.
Man begins his experiences by developing self-consciousness on the physical plane; it is here that appears what we call the “waking consciousness,” the consciousness with which we are all familiar, which works through the brain and nervous system, by which we reason in the ordinary way, carrying on all logical processes, by which we remember past events of the current incarnation, and exercise judgment in the affairs of life. All that we recognize as our mental faculties is the outcome of the man’s work through the preceding stages of his pilgrimage, and his self-consciousness here becomes more and more vivid, more and more active, more and more alive, we may say, as the individual develops, as the man progresses life after life.
If we study a very undeveloped man, we find his self-conscious mental activity to be poor in quality and limited in quantity. He is working in the physical body through the gross and etheric brains; action is continually going on, so far as the whole nervous system is concerned, visible and invisible, but the action is of a very clumsy kind. There is in it very little discrimination, very little delicacy of mental touch. There is some mental activity, but it is of a very infantile or childish kind. It is occupied with very small things; it is amused by very trivial occurrences; the things that attract its attention are things of a petty character; it is interested in passing objects; it likes to sit at a window and look out at a busy street, watching people and vehicles go by, making remarks on them, overwhelmed with amusement if a well-dressed person tumbles into a puddle or is badly splashed by a passing cab. It has not much in itself to occupy its attention, and therefore it is always rushing outwards in order to feel that it is alive; it is one of the chief characteristics of this low stage of mental evolution that the man working at the physical and etheric bodies, and bringing them into order as vehicles of consciousness, is always seeking violent sensations; he needs to make sure that he is feeling and to learn to distinguish things by receiving from them strong and vivid sensations; it is a quite necessary stage of progress, though an elementary one, and without this he would continually be becoming confused, confused between the processes within his vehicle and without it; he must learn the alphabet of the self and the not-self by distinguishing between the objects causing impacts and the sensations caused by impacts, between the stimulus and the feeling. The lowest types of this stage may be seen gathered at street-corners, lounging idly against a wall and indulging occasionally in a few ejaculatory remarks and in cackling outbursts of empty laughter. Anyone able to look into their brains finds that they are receiving somewhat blurred impressions from passing objects, and that the links between these impressions and others like them are very slight. The impressions are more like a heap of pebbles than a well-arranged mosaic.
In studying the way in which the physical and etheric brains become vehicles of consciousness, we have to run back to the early development of the Ahamkâra, or “I-ness”, a stage that may be seen in the lower animals around us. Vibrations caused by the impact of external objects are set up in the brain, transmitted by it to the astral body, and felt by the consciousness as sensations before there is any linking of these sensations to the objects that caused them, this linking being a definite mental action – a perception. When perception begins, the consciousness is using the physical and etheric brains as a vehicle for itself, by means of which it gathers knowledge of the external world. This stage is long past in our humanity, of course, but its fleeting repetition may be seen, when the consciousness takes up a new brain in coming to rebirth; the child begins to “take notice,” as the nurses say, that is, to relate a sensation arising in itself to an impression made upon its new sheath, or vehicle, by an external object, and thus to “notice” the object, to perceive it.
After a time the perception of an object is not necessary in order that the picture of the object may be present to the consciousness, and it finds itself able to recall the appearance of an object, when it is not contacted by any sense; such a memoried perception is a idea, a concept, a mental image, and these make up the store which the consciousness gathers from the outside world. On these it begins to work, and the first stage of this activity is the arrangement of the ideas, the preliminary to “reasoning” upon them. Reasoning begins by comparing the ideas with each other, and then by inferring relations between them from the simultaneous or sequential happening of two or more of them, time after time. In this process the consciousness has withdrawn within itself, carrying with it the ideas it has made out of perceptions, and it goes (on) to and [projects on] to them something of its own, as when it infers a sequence, relates one thing to another as cause and effect. It begins to draw conclusions, even to forecast future happenings, when it has established a sequence, so that when the perception regarded as “cause” appears, the perception regarded as “effect” is expected to follow. Again, it notices in comparing its ideas that many of them have one or more elements in common, while their remaining constituents are different, and it proceeds to draw these common characteristics away from the rest and to put them together as the characteristics of a class, and then it groups together the objects that possess these, and when it sees a new object which possesses them, it throws it into that class; in this way it gradually arranges into a cosmos the chaos of perceptions with which it began its mental career, and infers law from the orderly succession of phenomena, and the types it finds in nature. All this is the work of the consciousness in and through the physical brain, but even in this working we trace the presence of that which the brain does not supply. The brain merely receives vibrations; the consciousness working in the astral body changes the vibrations into sensations, and in the mental body changes the sensations into perceptions, and then carries on all the processes which, as just said, transform the chaos into cosmos. And the consciousness thus working is, further, illuminated from above with ides that are not fabricated from materials supplied by the physical world, but are reflected into it directly from the Universal Mind. The great “laws of thought” regulate all thinking, and the very act of thinking reveals their pre-existence, as it is done by them and under them, and is impossible without them.
It is unnecessary almost to remark that all the earlier efforts of consciousness to work in the physical vehicle are subject to much error, both from imperfect perception and from mistaken inferences. Hasty inferences, generalizations from limited experience, vitiate many of the conclusions arrived at, and the rules of logic are formulated in order to discipline the thinking faculty and to enable it to avoid the fallacies into which it constantly falls while untrained. But none the less the attempt to reason, however imperfectly, from one thing to another is a distinct mark of growth in the man himself, for it shows that he is adding something of his own to the information contributed from outside. This working on the collected materials has an effect on the physical vehicle itself. When the mind links two perceptions together, it also sets up – as it is causing corresponding vibrations in the brain – a link between the sets of vibrations from which the perceptions arose. For as the mind body is thrown into activity, it acts on the astral body, and this again on the etheric and dense bodies, and the nervous matter of the latter vibrates under the impulses sent through; this action shows itself as electrical discharges, and magnetic currents play between molecules and groups of molecules causing intricate inter-relations. These leave what we may call a nervous track, a track along which another current will run more easily than it can run, say, athwart it, and if a group of molecules that were concerned in a vibration should be again made active by the consciousness repeating the idea that was impressed upon them, the disturbance there set up readily runs along the track formed between it and another group by a previous linking, and calls that other group into activity, and it sends up to the mind a vibration which, after the regular transformations, presents itself as an associated idea. Hence the great importance of association, this action of the brain being sometimes exceedingly troublesome, as when some foolish or ludicrous idea has been linked with a serious or a sacred one. The consciousness calls up the sacred idea in order to dwell upon it, and suddenly, quite without its consent, the grinning face of the intruding idea, sent up by the mechanical action of the brain, thrusts itself through the doorway of the sanctuary and defiles it. Wise men pay attention to association, and are careful how they speak of the most sacred things, lest some foolish and ignorant person should make a connecting link between the holy and the silly or the coarse, a link which afterwards would be likely to repel itself in the consciousness. Useful is the precept of the great Jewish Teacher: “Give not that which is holy to the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine.”
Another mark of progress appears when a man begins to regulate his conduct by conclusions arrived at within instead of by impulses received from without. He is then acting from his own store of accumulated experiences, remembering past happenings, comparing results obtained by different lines of action in the past, and deciding by these as to the line of action he will adopt in the present. He is beginning to forecast, to foresee, to judge of the future by the past, to reason ahead by remembering what has already occurred, and as a man does this there is a distinct growth of him as man. He may still be confined to functioning in his physical brains, he may still be inactive outside them, but he is becoming a developing consciousness which is beginning to behave as an individual, to choose its own road instead of drifting with circumstances, or being forced along a particular line of action by some pressure from without. The growth of the man shows itself in this definite way, and he develops more and more of what is called character, more and more of will-power.
Strong-willed and weak-willed persons are distinguished by their difference in this respect. The weak-willed man is moved from outside, by outer attractions and repulsions, while the strong-willed man is moved from inside, and continually masters circumstances by bringing to bear upon them appropriate forces, guided by his store of accumulated experiences. This store, which the man has in many lives gathered and accumulated, becomes more and more available as the physical brains become more trained and refined, and therefore more receptive: the store is in the man, but he can only use so much of it as he can impress on the physical consciousness. The man himself has the memory and does the reasoning; the man himself judges, chooses, decides: but he has to do all this through his physical and etheric brains; he must work and act by way of the physical body, of the nervous mechanism, and of the etheric organism therewith connected. As the brain becomes more impressible, as he improves its material and brings it more under his control, he is able to use it for better expression of himself.
How, then, shall we, the living men, try to train our vehicles of consciousness in order that they may serve as better instruments? We are not now studying the physical development of the vehicle, but its training by the consciousness that uses it as an instrument of thought. The man decides that in order to make more useful this vehicle of his, to the improvement of which physically he has already directed his attention, he must train it to answer promptly and consecutively to the impulses he transmits to it; in order that the brain may respond consecutively, he will himself think consecutively, and so sending to the brain sequential impulses he will accustom it to work sequentially by linked groups of molecules, instead of by haphazard and unrelated vibrations. The man initiates, the brain only imitates, and unconnected, careless thinking sets up the habit in the brain of forming unconnected vibratory groups. The training has two stages; the man, determining that he will think consecutively, trains his mental body to link though to thought and not to alight anywhere in a casual way; and then, by thinking thus, he trains the brain which vibrates in answer to his thought. In this way the physical organisms – the nervous and the etheric systems – get into the habit of working in a systematic way, and when their owner wants them, they respond promptly and in an orderly fashion; when he require them they are ready to his hand. Between such a trained vehicle of consciousness and one that is untrained, there is the kind of difference that there is between the tools of a careless workman, who leave them dirty and blunt, unfit for use, and those of the man who makes his tools ready, sharpens them and cleans them, so that when they are wanted they are ready to his hand and he can at once use them for the work demanding his attention. Thus should the physical vehicle be ready always to answer to the call of the mind.
The result of such continued working on the physical body will be by no means exhausted in the improved capacity of the brain. For every impulse sent to the physical body has had to pass through the astral vehicle, and has produced an effect upon it also. For, as we have seen, astral matter is far more responsive to thought-vibrations than is physical, and the effect on the astral body of the course of action we have been considering is proportionally great. Under it the astral body assumes a definite outline, a well-organized condition, such as has already been described. When a man has learned to dominate the brain, when he has learned concentration, when he is able to think as he likes and when he likes, a corresponding development takes place in what – if he be physically conscious of it – he will regard as his dream-life. His dreams will become vivid, well-sustained, rational, even instructive. The man is beginning to function in the second of his vehicles of consciousness, the astral body, is entering the second great region or plane of consciousness, and is acting there in the astral vehicle apart from the physical. Let us for a moment consider the difference between two men both “wide-awake,” i.e., functioning in the physical vehicle, one of whom is only using his astral body unconsciously as a bridge between the mind and the brain, and the other of whom is using it consciously as a vehicle. The first sees in the ordinary and very limited way, his astral body not yet being an effective vehicle of consciousness; the second uses the astral vision, and is no longer limited by physical matter; he sees through all physical bodies, he sees behind well as in front, walls and other “opaque” substances are to him transparent as glass; he sees astral forms and colours also, auras, elementals, and so on. If he goes to a concert he sees glorious symphonies of colours as the music swells; to a lecture, he sees the speaker’s thoughts in colour and form, and so gains a much more complete representation of his thoughts than is possible to one who hears only the spoken words. For the thoughts that issue in symbols as words go out also as coloured and musical forms, and clothed in astral matter impress themselves on the astral body. Where the consciousness is fully awake in that body, it receives and registers the whole of these additional impressions, and many persons will find, if they closely examine themselves, that they do catch from a speaker a good deal more than the mere words convey, even though they may not have been aware of it at the time when they were listening. Many will find in their memory more than the speaker uttered; sometimes a kind suggestion continuing the thought, as though something rose up round the words and made them mean more than they meant to the ear. This experience shows that the astral vehicle is developing, and as the man pays attention to his thinking and unconsciously uses the astral body, it grows and becomes more and more organized.
The “unconsciousness” of people during sleep is due either to the undevelopment of the astral body, or to the absence of connecting conscious links between it and the physical brain. A man uses his astral body during his waking consciousness, sending mind-currents through the astral to the physical brain; but when the physical brain is not in active use, the brain through which the man is in the habit of receiving impressions from without, he is like David in the armor which he had not proved: he is not so receptive to impressions coming to him only through the astral body, to the independent use of which he is not yet accustomed. Further, he may learn to use it independently on the astral plane, and yet not know that he has been using it when he returns to the physical – another stage in the slow progress of the man – and he thus begins to employ it in its own world, before he can make connection between that world and the world below. Lastly, he makes those connections and then he passes in full consciousness from the use of one vehicle to-the use of the other, and is free of the astral world. He has definitely enlarged the area of his waking consciousness to include the astral plane, and while in the physical body his astral senses are entirely at his service, he may be said to be living at one and the same time in the two worlds, there being no break, no gulf between them, and he walks the physical world as a man born blind, whose eyes have been opened.
In the next stage of his evolution, the man begins to work consciously on the third, or mental plane; he has long been working on this plane, sending down from it all the thoughts that take such active form in the astral world and find expression in the physical world through the brain. As he becomes conscious in the mind body, in his mental vehicle, he finds that when he is thinking he is creating forms; he becomes conscious of the creative act, though he has long been exercising the power unconsciously. The reader may remember that in one of the letters quoted in the Occult World, a Master speaks of everyone as making thought-forms but draws the distinction between the ordinary man and the Adept, that the ordinary man produces them unconsciously, while the Adept produces them consciously. (The word Adept is here used in a very wide sense to include Initiates of various grades far below that of a “Master”.) At this stage of a man’s development his powers of usefulness very largely increase, for when he can consciously create and direct a thought-form – an artificial elemental, as it is often called – he can use it to do work in places to which, at the moment, it may not be convenient for him to travel in his mind body. Thus he can work at a distance as well as at hand, and increase his usefulness; he controls these thought-forms from a distance, watching and guiding them as they work, and making them the agents of his will. As the mind body develops, and the man lives and works in it consciously, he knows all the wider and greater life he lives on the mental plane; while he remains in the physical body and is conscious through that of his physical surroundings, he is yet wide-awake and active in the higher world, and he does not need to put the physical body to sleep in order to enjoy the use of the higher faculties. He habitually employs the mental sense, receiving by it impressions of every kind from the mental plane, so that all the mental workings of others are sensed by him as he senses their bodily movements.
When the man has reached this stage of development – a relatively high one, compared with the average, though low when compared with that to which he aspires – he functions then consciously in his third vehicle, or mind body, traces out all he does in it, and experiences its powers and its limitations. Of necessity, also, he learns to distinguish between this vehicle he uses and himself; then he feels the illusory character of the personal “I”, the “I” of the mind body and not of the man, and he consciously identifies himself with the individuality that resides in that higher body, the causal, which dwells on the loftier mental planes, those of the arûpa world. He finds that he, the man, can withdraw himself from the mind body, can leave it behind, and, rising higher, yet remain himself; then he knows the many lives are in verity but one life, and that he, the living man, remains himself through all.
And now as to the links – the links between these different bodies. They exist at first without coming into the consciousness of the man. They are there, otherwise he could not pass from the plane of the mind to that of the body, but he is not conscious of their existence, and they are not actively vivified, they are almost like what are called in the physical body rudimentary organs. Every student of biology knows that rudimentary organs are of two kinds: one kind affords the traces of the stages through which the body has passed in evolution, while the other gives hints of the lines of future growth. These organs exist but they do not function; their activity in the physical body is either of the past or of the future, dead or unborn. The links which I venture by analogy to call rudimentary organs of the second kind, connect the dense and etheric bodies with the astral, the astral with the mind body, the mind body with the causal. They exist, but they have to be brought into activity; that is, they have to be developed, and, like their physical types, they can only be developed by use. The life-current flows through them, the mind-current flows through them, and thus they are kept alive and nourished; but they are only gradually brought into functioning activity as the man fixes his attention on them and brings his will to bear on their development. The action of the will begins to vivify these rudimentary links, and, step by step, very slowly perhaps, they begin to function; the man begins to use them for the passage of his consciousness from vehicle to vehicle.
In the physical body there are nervous centres, little groups of nervous cells, and both impacts from without and impulses from the brain pass through these centres. If one of these is out of order, then at once disturbances arise and physical consciousness is disturbed. There are analogous centres in the astral body, but in the undeveloped man they are rudimentary and do not function. These are links between the physical and the astral bodies, between the astral and the mind bodies, and as evolution proceeds they are vivified by the will, setting free and guiding the “serpent-fire”, called Kundalini in Indian books. The preparatory stage for the direct action that liberates Kundalini is the training and purifying of the vehicles, for if this be not thoroughly accomplished, the fire is a destructive instead of a vivifying energy. That is why we have laid so much stress on purification and urge it as a necessary preliminary for all true Yoga.
When a man has rendered himself fit to safely receive assistance in the vivifying of these links, such assistance comes to him as a matter of course from those who are ever seeking opportunity to aid the earnest and the unselfish aspirant. Then, one day, the man finds himself slipping out of the physical body while he is wide-awake, and without any break in consciousness he discovers himself to be free. When this has occurred a few times the passage from vehicle to vehicle becomes familiar and easy. When the astral body leaves the physical in sleep, there is a brief period of unconsciousness, and even when the man is functioning actively on the astral plane he fails to bridge over that unconsciousness on his return. Unconscious as he leaves the body, he will probably be unconscious as he re-enters it; there may be full and vivid consciousness on the astral plane, and yet a complete blank may be all that represents it in the physical brain. But when the man leaves the body in waking consciousness, having developed the links between the vehicles into functional activity, he has bridged the gulf; for him it is a gulf no longer, and his consciousness passes swiftly from one plane to the other, and he knows himself as the same man on both.
The more the physical brain is trained to answer to the vibrations from the mind body, the more is the bridging of the gulf between day and night facilitated. The brain becomes more and more the obedient instrument of the man, carrying on its activities under the impulses from his will, and like a well-broken horse answering to the lightest touch of hand or knee. The astral world lies open to the man who has thus unified the two lower vehicles of consciousness, and it belongs to him with all its possibilities, with all its wider powers, its greater opportunities of doing service and of rendering help. Then comes the joy of carrying aid to sufferers who are unconscious of the agent though they feel the relief, of pouring balm into wounds that then seem to heal of themselves, of lifting burdens that become miraculously light to the aching shoulders on which they pressed so heavily.
More than this is needed to bridge over the gulf between life and life; to carry memory through day and night unbrokenly merely means that the astral body is functioning perfectly, and that the links between it and the physical are in full working order. If a man is to bridge over the gulf between life and life he must do very much more than act in full consciousness in the astral body, and more than act consciously in the mind body; for the mind body is composed of the materials of the lower planes of the mânasic world, and reincarnation does not take place from them. The mind body disintegrates in due course, like the astral and physical vehicles, and cannot carry anything across. The whole question on which memory of past lives turns is this: Can the man, or can he not, function on the higher planes of the mânasic world in his causal body? It is the causal body that passes from life to life: it is in the causal body that everything is stored; it is in the causal body that all experience remains, for into it the consciousness is drawn up, and from its plane is the descent made into rebirth. Let us follow the stages of the life out of the physical world, and see how far the sway of King Death extends. The man draws himself away from the dense part of the physical body; it drops off him, goes to pieces, and is restored to the physical world; nothing remains in which the magnetic link of memory can inhere. He is then in the etheric part of the physical body, but in the course of a few hours he shakes that off, and it is resolved into its elements. No memory, then, connected with the etheric brain will help him to bridge the gulf. He passes on into the astral world, remaining there till he similarly shakes off his astral body, and leaves it behind as he had left the physical; the “astral corpse,” in its turn, disintegrates, restores its materials to the astral world, and breaks up all that might serve as basis for the magnetic links necessary for memory. He goes onward in his mind body and dwells in the rûpa levels of Devachan, living there for hundreds of years, working up faculties, enjoying fruit. But from this mind body also he withdraws when the time is ripe, taking from it to carry on into the body that endures the essence of all that he has gathered and assimilated. He leaves the mind body behind him, to disintegrate after the fashion of his denser vehicles, for the matter of it – subtle as it is from our standpoint – is not subtle enough to pass onward to the higher planes of the mânasic world. It has to be shaken off, to be left to go back into the materials of its own region, once more a resolution of the combination into its elements. All the way up the man is shaking off body after body, and only on reaching the arûpa planes of the mânasic world can he be said to have passed beyond the regions over which the disintegrating sceptre of Death has sway. He passes finally out of his dominions, dwelling in the causal body over which Death has no power, and in which he stores up all that he has gathered. Hence its very name of causal body, since all causes that affect future incarnations reside in it. He must then begin to act in full consciousness on the arûpa levels of the mânasic world in his causal body ere he can bring memory across the gulf of death. An undeveloped soul, entering that lofty region, cannot keep consciousness there; he enters it, carrying up all the germs of his qualities; there is a touch, a flash of consciousness embracing past and future, and the dazzled Ego sinks downwards towards rebirth. He carries the germs in this causal body and throws outward on each plane those that belong to it; they gather to themselves matters severally befitting them. Thus on the rûpa levels of the lower mânasic world the mental germs draw round them the matter of those levels to form the new mind body, and the matter thus gathered shows the mental characteristics given to it by the germ within it, as the acorn develops into an oak by gathering into it suitable materials from soil and atmosphere. The acorn cannot develop into a birch or a cedar, but only into an oak, and so the mental germ must develop after its own nature and none other. Thus does Karma work in the building of the vehicles, and the man has the harvest of which he sowed the seed. The germ thrown out from the causal body can only grow after its kind, attracting to itself the grade of matter that belongs to it, arranging that matter in its characteristic form, so that it produces the replica of the quality the man made in the past. As he comes into the astral world, the germs are thrown out that belong to that world, and they draw round themselves suitable astral materials and elemental essences. Thus reappear the appetites, emotions and passions belonging to the desire body, or astral body, of the man, reformed in this fashion on his arrival on the astral plane. If, then, consciousness of past lives is to remain, carried through all these processes and all these worlds it must exist in full activity on that high plane of causes, the plane of the causal body. People do not remember their past lives because they are not yet conscious in the causal body as a vehicle; it has not developed functional activity of its own. It is there, the essence of their lives, their real “I”, that from which all proceeds, but it does not yet actively function: it is not yet self-conscious, though unconsciously active, and until it is self-conscious, fully self-conscious, the memory cannot pass from plane to plane and therefore from life to life. As the man advances, flashes of consciousness break forth that illumine fragments of the past, but these flashes need to change to a steady light ere any consecutive memory can arise.
It may be asked: Is it possible to encourage the recurrence of such flashes? Is it possible for people to hasten this gradually growing activity of consciousness on the higher planes? The lower man may labour to this end, if he has patience and courage; he may try to live more and more in the permanent self, to withdraw thought and energy more and more, so far as interest is concerned, from the trivialities and impermanences of ordinary life. I do not mean that a man should become dreamy, abstracted and wandering, a most inefficient member of the home and of society; on the contrary, every claim that the world has on him will be discharged, and discharged the more perfectly because of the greatness of the man who is doing it; he cannot do things as clumsily and imperfectly as the less developed man may do them, for to him duty is duty, and as long as anyone or anything has a claim upon him, the debt must be paid to the uttermost farthing; every duty will be fulfilled as perfectly as he can fulfill it, with his best faculties, his best attention. But his interest will not be in these things, his thoughts will not be bound to their results; the instant that the duty is performed and he is released his thought will fly back to the permanent life, will rise to the higher level with upward-striving energy, and he will begin to live there and to rate at their true worthlessness the trivialities of the worldly life. As he steadily does this, and seeks to train himself to high and abstract thinking, he will begin to vivify the higher links in consciousness and bring into this lower life the consciousness that is himself.
A man is one and the same man on whatever plane he may be functioning, and his triumph is when he functions on all the five planes in unbroken consciousness. Those whom we call the Masters, the “Men made perfect,” function in Their waking consciousness, not only on the three lower planes, but on the fourth plane – that plane of unity spoken of in the Mândûkyopanishad as the Turîya, and on that yet above it, the plane of Nirvana. In them evolution is completed, this cycle has been trodden to its close, and what they are, all in time shall be who are climbing slowly upwards. This is the unification of consciousness; the vehicles remain for use, but no longer are able to imprison, and the man uses any one of his bodies according to the work that he has to do.
In this way matter, time and space are conquered, and their barriers cease to exist for the unified man. He has found in climbing upwards that there are less and less barriers in each stage: even on the astral plane, matter is much less of a division than it is down here, separating him from his brothers far less effectually. Traveling in the astral body is so swift that space and time may be said to be practically conquered, for although the man knows he is passing through space it is passed through so rapidly that its power to divide friend from friend is lost. Even that first conquest sets at nought physical distance. When he rose to the mental world he found another power his; he thought of a place: he was there; he thought of a friend: the friend was before him. Even on the third plane consciousness transcends the barriers of matter, space and time, and is present anywhere at will. All things that are seen are seen at once, the moment attention is turned to them; all that is heard is heard at a single impression; space, matter and time, as known in the lower worlds, have disappeared, sequence no longer exists in the “eternal now.” As he rises yet higher, barriers within consciousness also fall away, and knows himself to be one with other consciousness other living things; he can think as they think, feel as they feel, know as they know. He can make their limitations his for the moment, in order that he can understand exactly how they are thinking, and yet have his own consciousness. He can use his own great knowledge for the helping of the narrower and more restricted thought, identifying himself with it in order gently to enlarge its bounds. He takes on altogether new functions in nature when he is no longer divided from others, but realizes the Self that is one in all and sends down his energies from the plane of unity. With regard even to the lower animals he is able to feel how the world exists to them, so that he can give exactly the help they need, and can supply the aid after which they are blindly groping. Hence his conquest is not for himself but for all, and he wins wider powers only to place them at the service of all lower in the scale evolution than himself; in this way he becomes self-conscious in all the world; for this he learns to be responsive to every cry of pain, to every throb of joy or sorrow. All is reached, all is gained, and the Master is the man “who has nothing more to learn.” By this we mean not that all possible knowledge is at any given moment within His consciousness, but that so far as this stage of evolution is concerned there is nothing that to Him is veiled, nothing of which He does not become fully conscious when He turns His attention to it; within this circle of evolution of everything that lives – and all things live – there is nothing He cannot understand, and therefore nothing that He cannot help.
That is the ultimate triumph of man. All that I have spoken of would be worthless, trivial, were it gained for the narrow self we recognize as self down here; all the steps, my reader, to which I have been trying to win you would not be worth the taking did they set you at last on an isolated pinnacle, apart from all the sinning, suffering selves, instead of leading you to the heart of things, where they and you are one. The consciousness of the Master stretches itself out in any direction in which He sends it, assimilates itself with any point to which He directs it, knows anything which He wills to know; and all this in order that He may help perfectly, that there may be nothing that He cannot feel, nothing that He cannot foster, nothing that He cannot strengthen, nothing that He cannot aid in its evolution; to Him the whole world is one vast evolving whole, and His place in it is that of a helper of evolution; He is able to identify Himself with any step, and at that step to give the aid that is needed. He helps the elementary kingdoms to evolve downwards, and, each in its own way, the evolutions of the minerals, plants, animals and men, and He helps them all as Himself. For the glory of His life is that all is Himself and yet He can aid all, in the very helping realizing as Himself that which He aids.
The mystery how this can be gradually unfolds itself as man develops, and consciousness widens to embrace more and more while yet becoming more vivid, more vital, and without losing knowledge of itself. When the point has become the sphere, the sphere finds itself to be the point; each point contains everything and knows itself one with every other point; the outer is found be only the reflection of the inner; the Reality is the One Life, and the difference an illusion that is overcome.