The idea of Eternal Non-Being, which is the One Being, will appear a paradox to anyone who does not remember that we limit our ideas of being to our present consciousness of existence; making it a specific instead of a generic term. An unborn infant, could it think in our acceptation of the term, would necessarily limit its conception of being, in a similar manner, to the intrauterine life which alone it knows; and were it to endeavour to express to its consciousness the idea of life after birth (death to it), it would, in the absence of data to go upon, and of faculties to comprehend such data, probably express that life as “Non-Being which is Real Being.” In our case the One Being is the noumenon of all noumena which we know must underlie phenomena, and give them whatever shadow of reality they possess, but which we have not the senses or the intellect to cognize at present. . . . Alone the Initiate, rich with the lore acquired by numberless generations of his predecessors, directs the “Eye of Dangma” toward the essence of things in which no Maya can have any influence.
The Secret Doctrine, i 45
Beyond the range of all maya, and beyond all but the most exalted conceptions of the divine dialectic, lies the highest possible state of supreme noetic vision, the state of the opened Eye of Dangma, spoken of so beautifully in magnificent metaphors in the Stanzas of Dzyan. Beneath this level of pristine consciousness, all ideas of being reflect an inevitable limitation, owing to one’s sense of present existence and awareness of specific circumstances. For us, to be a being is to be a being at a particular time and a particular place, or for a certain period of time in a certain place in this world. The all-enveloping nature of this mayavic limitation of consciousness is brought home by the metaphor of the unborn infant in the womb. Each of us is like this to a greater or lesser degree, and, like the infant in the womb, were it to express its conception of being, we are not directly able to formulate the true nature or causal ground of our being, especially with reference to the larger life of beings outside the self-limiting context of our narrow consciousness. Further, if we contemplate the possibility of being born into a larger and richer world, we can only see the process of that birth itself as equivalent to death — the end of life as we seemingly know it. For typical human beings, then, who think that they have been born once into this world of illusion, the prospect of becoming dwijas, or twice-born, can only be described as a passage into non-being. Nevertheless, the veil of maya is not so impenetrable to the human will and spirit that we cannot cultivate a deepening intuition that this birth — which seems death to the lower nature — is the solemn path of initiation into real Being.
In our case, and depending upon our degrees of philosophic detachment, we may be vaguely or acutely aware that all the beings we seem to know, including ourselves, are merely shadowy phenomenal representations of noumenal realities, and even of a single supreme Noumenon. Through devotion and tapas, we may learn to sift through the dross of phenomenal experience, thereby quickening the dormant powers of Buddhi-Manas which alone can bring us to the threshold of birth into true life in spirit. Having inverted what we did and knew, what we felt and were as babies, we can learn as fallen adults, like the miner looking for gold.
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. The miner knows what the gold will look like when extracted from 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.
Ibid., i 45
In other words, there is not only gold in the hills, but there is gold in every grain of dust, in every atom, in every moment of time if only we would know it. The fact that more human beings do not know this at this point of human evolution is not primarily because of universal ignorance, but more because of avoidable perversity. Where human beings grow up turning their eyes away from what is golden in other human beings — in their acts, in their words and in their lives — it is scarcely surprising that they should develop a peculiar and fatal fascination with dross.
Hence the vital importance of directing one’s thought, aspiration and devotion towards the ideal of the perfected Sage, who carries with him the inheritance of countless generations of distilled wisdom and directs the faultless Eye of Dangma towards the essence of things where maya casts no shadows. If human beings mired in illusion and a false sense of their own being are to gain what The Voice of the Silence calls ‘the right perception of existing things’ and ‘the knowledge of the non-existent’, then they must seek for Him who will give them birth in the Hall of Wisdom. It is there that the teachings of Gupta Vidya in relation to the twelvefold chain of the nidanas, the chain of dependent origination governing birth and death, and also the four Noble Truths of Buddha have their greatest but most secret meaning. There are secret truths contained within all uttered truths, within the doctrine of the nidanas, and within the four truths. There are secrets within secrets, worlds within worlds. If seekers of wisdom are like miners of gold, they must have some idea what they are looking for, but at the same time they must freely and openly admit their ignorance, recognizing that the true teachings and their accredited custodians are their sole saving grace.
All true wisdom comes from using the teachings given in the best way one can, and it is virtually fruitless instead to attempt to distill wisdom from the world of empirical unrealities. Certainly if every time divine wisdom is available, it avails little or nothing to so many human beings, even those who come into direct contact with it, it is because they have somehow convinced themselves otherwise without evidence or reason. They falsely suppose that a mere accumulation of worldly experience for its own sake, randomly gathered in the passage of events and from the opinions of others, will somehow add up to wisdom. In the totality of things that happen to a human being gripped by avidya — who is mostly an automaton, acting like a robot most of the time, a creature of habit at best, and moved by drives which produce guilt and repression — there is nothing remotely comparable to what may be found in consciously chosen experience as a means of testing and applying, apprehending, discovering and rediscovering one single sacred spiritual truth intimated by the authentic teachings of the Brotherhood of Sages.
The wise are those who, when they receive such teaching, become almost from the beginning deaf and blind to everything else, and see all else only in relation to that which is sacred. They make the very best experiments they can as early as possible, therefore garnering the lessons of life and become unacknowledged but self-dependent sources of inner wisdom. Tested by experience and enriched by human pain and suffering, they become endowed with the light and the lustre, the beneficence and the benediction, of true compassion in their conscious ideation in meditation, let alone in their outward utterances and external deeds. As dauntless and detached learners, they make the fields of their experience the basis of Gandhian experiments in truth. Whilst understanding that the Absolute is the ultimate basis of all life and experience, but is wholly untouched by it, they shun the false and cowardly notion all human difficulties arise merely through maya. Illusion is not really the problem, because the whole world is caught up in a transcendental divine process of which is maya is a necessary part. Maya is inseparable from Ishvara in the sum total of everything that exists in the realm of conditioned existence, and to miss this is to fall prey to a sense of pseudo-detachment that has nothing to do with true spirituality.
The Gupta Vidya II