Theosophy World — October 1997

October, 1997 Issue


[Other Issues]

Some men think that the gratification of curiosity is the end of knowledge; some the love of fame; some the pleasure of dispute; some the necessity of supporting themselves by their knowledge; but the real use of all knowledge is this, that we should dedicate that reason which was given us by God to the use and advantage of man.

— Francis Bacon

Call for Papers

by Ernest Pelletier

The Edmonton Theosophal Society is issuing a call for papers for its upcoming conference. Papers on "The Works and Influence of H.P. Blavatsky" are being sought. The focus is on what H.P.B. presented and her influence on 20th century thought.

This conference will provide a forum for presentations and open dialogue. It will be held July 3 to 5, 1998, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

For further details, email one of:

Email (
Email (

or write:

    Edmonton Theosophical Society
    Box 4587
    Edmonton, Alberta
    Canada  T6E 5G4

What is It in Us that Sees the Passage of Time?

by Dallas TenBroeck

The past of our whole life to date lies in "memory." There are layers of memory. Some come easily to the surface of the mind on recall, and others come with difficulty. But their existence, and the "power of perception" as a fact, but also as a quality that is difficult to measure to its depth is show by some experiements in hypnosis which revealed the existence of some of them, when the "active mind of our day-to-day life is made quiescent, and deeper layers emerge, on order, by the practitioner.

[I am not going into the matter of the morality of using hypnosis here. That is a different question on which Theosophical doctrine has some definite statements.]

What is Time ... but the panoramic succession of our states of consciousness?

— SD I p. 44 top

Occult philosopy has taught since the existence of human speech and languagee ... on the principle of the immutable law of analogy — "as it is above, so it is below" — that other axiom ...

That there is neither Spirit nor matter, in reality, but only numberless aspects of the Once, ever-hidden is (or Sat) ...

The homogeneous primordial Element is simple and single only on the terrestrial plane of consciousness and sensation, since matter, after all, is nothing else than the sequence of our own states of concsiousness, and Spirit an idea of psychic inuition ... .

— SD I 542 top [some modifications to the quote for emphasis by me — D.T.B.]

Now what is "psychic intuition? Seems like a mixture of kama and buddhic memories, or perceptions of Buddhic intuition passing through our own layer of kamic limitations, colors and perceptions? Very curious expression.

My guess is that the basis for all our evalution of "time" lies in that resident ray (aspect?) of Sat in each of us.

Using our physical based brain-intelligence we speak of "my time" and "my memory." We then concede that for our era, we have all shared in the passage of the moments in time of the whole era in which we live. We have, in other words, shared the same time, but our perception is limited to our limited experience.

By analogy we concede to others their own share of this common time and of their particular slice of "time" because of their personal experience.

If Sat is the omnipresent Spirit of the Universe, then we all bathe in IT, conceivably, and IT forms the basis for our common "Universal Brotherhood." — and our brotherhood with all other beings. If we can extend this concept, we may see that which Theosophy lays down as an axiom : all Monads are in evolution together, and the differences that we perceive, say between an atom and a Man, or between a Man and the World, the World and the entire Universe are matters of degree of experience, and not limited to those forms that we contact and sense physically.

By this thinking, we are passing beyond the realm of the purely physical into metaphysical space and metaphysical "time." I do not mean by this multidimensioned transference (a la Science Fiction genre) of the physicall body and personality from era to era, but of the transfer of the power of thought to revisit and review, say, the tablets of the "unseen Universe," names in antiquity the tablets of Akasa. But that is only looking from the "present to the "past."

What of the "future"? Does not the doctrine of Karma take care of that on the basis that we are creating our future intermeshed with the "future" of all the beings we employ (the skandhas, "little-lives" or "life-atoms"), and all the "mind-futures" of humans around and about us?

Thus the idea of any "future" has to be bound to our "past" choices, thoughts, desires and actions. We have then, and now, today, set up the arena for our own futures in terms of psychic, physical, emotional, and mind experiences?

Are not our lives (as we remember them) so far, examples of this mixture?

And for us to say: "I lived through that." implies automatically that their is inherent in us an aspect of our being which does not alter with circumstance and mood, but is able to remain detached as a kind of an "observer." Is this a proof of the "Higher Self?"

If we think of the seven-fold nature of the Cosmos, and of man, the we have indeed, in addition to our physical brain and personality limited mind, the vista of other ways of thought [ Is this Manas-mind?].

In this search : I have raised the idea of the residual layers of memory, which our daily consciousness seems unable to easily raise. Then there is the concept of the "astral brain" in which the electro-magnetic impressions of all observations and thoughts and feeling are resident as "pictures." [ this may be the "Lower, Kama-Manas."] Then there is that aspect in us of the "Sat"-Spirit which is universal, and presumably, through that alone, the tablets of Akasa can be contacted, when necessary. Cosmically, as I understand it, the Akasic records are accessible through "Buddhi."

Such an esay opens so much thought and ends in drawing on many aspects of the Theosophical philosophy as these cohere to each-other.

Also consider an extract from Notes on the Bhagavad Gita, chapter 3, is interesting in this context:

Our consciousness is one and not many, nor different from other consciousnesses. It is not waking consciousness or sleeping consciousness, or any other but consciousness itself.

Now that which I have called consciousness is Being.

The ancient division was:

Sat, or Being;                  { These together
Chit, or Consciousness, Mind;   { are called
Ananda, or Bliss                { Satchitananda.

But Sat — or Being — the first of the three, is itself both Chit and Ananda. The appearing together in full harmony of Being and Consciousness is Bliss or Ananda. Hence the harmony is called Satchitananada.

But the one consciousness of each person is the Witness of Spectator of the actions and experiences of every state we are in or pass through. It therefore follows that the waking condition of the mind is not separate consciousness.

The one consciousness pierces up and down through all the states or planes of Being, and serves to uphold the memory — whether compelete or incomplete — of each state's experiences.

Thus in waking life, Sat experiences fully and knows. In dream state, Sat again knows and sees what goes on there, while there may not be in the brain a complete memory of the waking state just quitted. In Sushupti — beyond dream and yet on indefinitely, Sat still knows all that is done or heard or seen.

— W. Q. Judge, Gita Notes, 98-100


Historic and Spiritual Truth

by Eldon Tucker

[based upon a May 16, 1994 posting to]

We read of historic truth, and will often find a growing difference between the literal facts, as we can glean from historic records, and the myths and grand stories we have of great people of bygone ages.

Is there really a distinction between historic and spiritual truth? Is the past an objective reality, or does it only exist as effects in the present?

As time moves on, the distant past becomes less real. The literal facts and experiences of an event long ago eventually become recycled as more recent memories or the stuff of what is happening now. We could not continue to exist if we could not forget, really forget, permanently forget, and move on. There is a purpose, for instance, in our forgetting the details of previous lifetimes on the earth.

The energy invested in events of the past, in the images of things that have happened and are no more, needs to be freed. The images need to be broken and die. This energy is needed to animate new forms in our lives. Do not dwell in pride over great accomplishments of the past. This prevents you from doing your next great work. Or consider a murderer, unable to heal himself and move on until he can break free of his dreadful contemplation and reliving of the horrid crime!

The historic facts are but one aspect of an event. There are the effects of the other principles (astral through Atman) too. These effects of the past change or transform as we grow and change. They are not static.

People take on mythic proportion over time. This is not because unreality sets in. The higher truths sought expression in someone's life. These truths may have only partially come out in their lifetime. In the years following their physical deaths, the effects continue, and history has a chance to correct itself.

The higher truths still have an effect on us and continue to come out, altering us in the present and altering our appreciation of the person in the past. History literally changes itself as inner forces behind the historic people and events change us and our experience of it.

Certain seemingly ordinary people can be elevated to mythic proportion over time because of continued effects on us from causes that originated while they were alive. Others with a mixture of good and evil could be redeemed. This might happen as benefits of the good deeds continue to help while the evil deeds are no longer seen or felt.

In once sense history in written in stone, forever unchanging. In another sense, history is a living, dynamic, changing influence, an integral part of our lives.

Impermanence is the keynote of life. Failure to accept the impermanence of life is the primary cause of suffering. Most of us accept the impermanence of the future, rejecting a literal sense of predestiny. Some people embrace the impermanent nature of the present; they see the great Emptiness in outer life. How many of us, though, embrace the impermanence of the past as well?

A sense of dynamic past, both in one's private life and one's relationship with the outer world, is an important part of the spiritual path. It does not deny those scraps of paper, once written, that tells us of the thoughts of a day long gone. It instead frees us to fashion our minds and hearts according to the spiritual will. We are freed to move on in life and not be enchained by the personal baggage that we carry with us.


Theosophical Search Engine

by Scott J. Osterhage

For those who may be interested, The Theosophical Society International Headquarters ( ) has added a search engine to its site which will allow the user to search the full text of all the books online. Theosophy Northwest —

Page (

— has also added a search engine to their site which gives it the capability of searching the over 450 articles and many other items online.

The newest addition to this site is the "Collation of Theosophical Glossaries." This work contains definitions of theosophical and metaphysical terms from several theosophical books integrated into one alphabetical listing.

These include Blavatsky's Theosophical Glossary, Judge's Working Glossary, Purucker's Occult Glossary, and Barborka's Gods and Heroes of the Bhagavad-Gita in their entirety; the glossaries from Blavatsky's Key to Theosophy and The Voice of the Silence, Five Years of Theosophy, Titchenell's Masks of Odin, Moffett's in Esotericism of the Popol Vuh; terms from Isis Unveiled, Tyberg's Sanskrit Keys to the Wisdom Religion, and Hall's Sanskrit Pronunciation. (All Copyrighted material included with permission.)


Additions to Online Books

by Sarah Belle Dougherty

Theosophical University Press Online —

Page (

— has uploaded the first installment of its electronic edition of The Secret Doctrine — Volume 1, Book 1 (vol. 1 to page 300). The other 5 books which comprise the 2 volumes will be added as they are ready.

This full-text version is verbatim with the facsimile edition of 1888, except for minor changes, such as those noted below, and the correction of obvious typographical errors such as dropped letters. In html, it retains page-breaks so that researchers can find material referred to by page in other sources.

Differences from the print version include: removing all diacritical marks (for ease in searching); using multiple asterisks instead of daggers, etc., to mark footnotes; and transliterating Greek characters into Latin italics (Hebrew characters appear as pictures inserted in the text).

Please send any comments or suggestions about formatting, errors, or other technical matters to Recently added to the T.U.P. Online site is G. de Purucker's Studies in Occult Philosophy, 760 print-pages of short articles, answers to questions, and remarks at study-groups on The Secret Doctrine and The Mahatma Letters.

Published posthumously, it covers a very wide range of topics, from technical theosophical teachings to human problems. It is particularly useful in conjunction with the on-site search engine.


Studies in The Voice of the Silence, Part 2

by B. P. Wadia

[From the 1989 ULT pamphlet containing a reprint from The Theosophical Movement, X, August 1940, pages 151-54.]

[6] The asceticism which The Voice of the Silence advocates is that of the thinking principle — the withdrawal of the mind from its present position in which it is a slave. The mind is a victim of internal images composed of elemental-lives which form the desire-principle, and these awaken the senses to activity and make them the feeders of that principle. Man's objective world is but a reflection — a shadowy emanation — of this subjective plane of desire-images.

In the waking state of consciousness man does not live in the world of the mind but in that of the senses ensouled by desires within which the mind is captive. Man's so-called reasoning is not a pure activity engendered by the mind but is premised on sense- impressions which are permeated by desires. Even men of Science in using their minds proceed from sense-data to deductions, and, though in most of them personal desires in connection with the objects of observation are in abeyance, they yet suffer from their dependence on desire-shot senses. The eyes of a drunken man see things askew: the mind of one who in drawing his conclusions depends on the senses fraught with the desire-principle also sees askew. Sense-data to be true and sense-observations to be accurate must be devoid of the forces of the desire-principle. When Esoteric Philosophy calls the world of objects illusory it means that it is so not in the sense that the objects do not exist but in the sense that our valuation of them is false. The objective world may well be compared to a great bazaar in which desire-enslaved minds, not knowing the true prices of things, are taken in, have to bargain, to haggle and to wrangle for things needed and have to be tempted to want and to acquire other things. The mind thus exploited in the bazaar of the objective world gains experience and learns to evaluate each object at its proper worth, and then — and not before then — man begins to live in that world.

Our difficulty, then, as will be readily seen, does not inhere in the objects but in our ignorance of the true values of those objects, due to our desires in which the mind is imprisoned. Desires by themselves, unaided by the power of thought, would be innocuous; energized by it they make man the worst of the animal kingdom. Therefore our textbook calls this mind the Slayer of the Real and at the very outset gives the injunction to the Disciple to slay the Slayer. It also states the method — "become indifferent to objects of perception." This mind, captivated by desire, which courses in the nervous system of the body, is called the chief of the senses, and it is this mind-sense which makes man different from the animal — capable of becoming superior to it as also of developing into the most cunning and the most carnal of beasts.

[7] Having become indifferent to objects of perception, the pupil must seek out the Rajah of the senses, the Thought- Producer, he who awakes illusion. The Mind is the great Slayer of the Real. Let the Disciple slay the Slayer.

[1-2 ULT; 1 TUP]

It is the activity of this mind in the objective world which has first to be handled by the aspirant-chela. Unless we see that these objects become channels, offer food to internal images and help to satisfy our cravings we shall not be able to evaluate them correctly. We value an object in terms of the satisfaction or the delight which it gives to our desire-fraught senses. This is the cause of illusion which is ignorance — not total absence of knowledge but the false evaluation of objects, mistaking lust for love.

If thou would'st cross the first Hall safely, let not thy mind mistake the fires of lust that burn therein for the sunlight of life.

[7; 6]

The Thought-Producer makes love out of lust and when this is seen in actual life-experience a real step forward is taken by the practitioner. When this is seen the weakness of the world of objects compared to the strength of the world of images is recognized. It is this seeing, when not understood, which tempts the aspirant to run away from the world to the jungle.

When a seeker after the Light within sees the activity of the outer world of objects he naturally attempts to close the windows through which the objects attack him. In that retreat, psychological or physical, a short respite from that attack is all that he obtains. Very soon he locates the root of his trouble: the attraction or the aversion which the objects exert over him are not in the external objects but in the internal images — memory pictures of the past, not only of this life but also of previous incarnations.

Withhold thy mind from all external objects, all external sights. Withhold internal images, lest on thy Soul-light a dark shadow they should cast.

[20; 19]

This is the formidable work compared to which retreating from the objects of the senses is easy. If in the first exercise the chela learns the illusory nature of the objective world, now he encounters the delusive nature of his own subjective world. Looking for the God within he comes upon the devil; seeking soul- light, he finds darkness — so thick that he does not realize that it is a shadow. "O dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon." [Milton, Samson Agonistes line 80] It is in that dark that we meet our fancy-created idols, our thought-created images, our desire-created phantoms. But that darkness has the peculiar power of deluding our consciousness. Very soon the sphere of darkness looks to us the region of pearly light — of soothing, restful, twilight sleep. The Maya of the objective world is but an effect caused by the Moha-delusion of this sphere of self-created subjectivity, lighted up by human passions. This is the world of Probationary Learning, which the Chela has to abandon, [8] and he cannot do so till he understands it. The first real pitched battle of the greatest of all wars is in this region, called the Astral Light. When the Power of his Vow, made in the objective world, stirs in him, the fighter in the Astral Light feels that he is in a place where he ought not to be; that he must not listen to the sounds of these images, but to the word of the Soul within.

Theoretically every student knows that Lower Manas is different from Higher Manas, that Kama-Manas is demoniac and Buddhi-Manas divine. But the truth has to be experienced and we know the nature of the Soul's mind when we overthrow some of the enemy troops, i.e., when we destroy some of our thought-created images. The great temptation for the Probationary Chela issues forth from the enhanced sense-delight when the plasticity of astral light is handled and absorbed; it is like the exhilarated state of the person who has just taken strong drink. Often, instead of fighting right away the already created images, he falls prey to the temptation of creating new ones. In the objective world we have to control the wandering mind, but here we have to fight the creative mind. Thus come a period of intense fight, and victory ensues when the soldier-soul has grasped this truth:

Ere thy Soul's mind can understand, the bud of personality must be crushed out; the worm of sense destroyed past resurrection.

[13; 12]

The grasping of this truth means that the Probationer has seen that he is other than the Personality, that the worm which early and late feeds upon the senses, once crushed, would lead to the death of the separative and ever-separating self which makes the Personality the supreme enemy. The glimpse of the Soul which uncovers the inimical nature of the Personality makes the fighting Probationer take refuge in that Inner Soul. And this implies some knowledge of the nature and the powers of that Soul.

Silence thy thoughts and fix thy whole attention on thy Master, whom yet thou dost not see, but whom thou feelest.

[17; 16]

Thyself and mind, like twins upon a line, the star which is thy goal burns overhead.

[21; 19]

The Master is the Higher Self, "the equivalent of Avalokitesvara, and the same as Adi-Budha ... Christos with the ancient Gnostics." [3fn.; 73-4 note 4] Unless this Master is felt as a Presence in Hall the second, that of Probationary Learning, entrance into the third, the Hall of Wisdom, remains closed. It is through the mind of the Soul that we touch the radiance of the God within, and it is through contact with the great Gurus that we touch the radiance of the God within Nature — Compassion Absolute.

When the mind-activity is silenced, the soul, aided by the Light of the Spirit, perceives itself as distinct and separate from the mind. Freed from Kama, it sees the possibility, nay, the certainty of a perfect unison with its Star — its Father in Heaven. In the translucent lake of the pure mind the star in high heaven reflects itself, and even that reflected [9] influence stirs the mind to behold the glory that is — the greater glory to be. It is not sufficient to silence the thoughts; it is necessary to perceive the Star of Hope — the Parent Star, the Dhyani-Buddhic Source of our existence.

The obliterating of the internal images is the same as crushing the craving for sensuous existence. The process demands that we centre our attention on the inner Light. But turning away from internal images is not to be accompanied by turning away from the objective world. To be in the midst of objects but not to be their slave makes the fight a long one; for, in the long past we have created a whole army of personal thought-images; by our moods we have given birth to a brood of vices; by our mental indulgence we have committed many sins. One by one we have to slay them.

Woe, then, to thee, Disciple, if there is one single vice thou has not left behind ... . Woe unto him who dares pollute one rung with miry feet ... .His sins will raise their voices like as the jackal's laugh and sob after the sun goes down; his thoughts become an army, and bear him off a captive slave.

[16-17; 15-16]

This does not mean that the Probationer is expected to be flawless ere he starts, but he has to learn and attain purity ere he passes through the Golden Gate into the Hall of Wisdom, and has won the right to abide therein permanently. As a Probationer he has his day when he basks in the radiance of the Spiritual Sun, and then his night — the dark night of the Soul, during which his mind-sins laugh the jackal's laugh which is the cry of agony, terrifying to him, tempting him to his fall, nay, to his very doom. The jackals move in packs and therefore are able to hunt down sheep and even antelopes. When unable to obtain living prey they feed on carrion, and cunningly they follow cheetahs and even lions in order to finish the carcase after the latter have eaten their fill. The comparison of our lower thoughts to jackals is most apt, for they attack in packs our high thoughts and our noble aspirations, and when they cannot prey upon these living images they sniff out slumbering and dying ones and gorge on the latter — a phenomenon which is related to precipitation of Karma and the like. Also, like the jackal, our lower thought-images have an offensive odour, for they, too, like the jackal, secrete foulness from the base of their tails.

Now, we are told how we should deal with these our past creations:

One single thought about the past that thou hast left behind will drag thee down and thou wilt have to start the climb anew. Kill in thyself all memory of past experiences. Look not behind or thou art lost.

[18; 16-17]

If we do not choke off the memory of the past, if we dwell in it, we re-live the past subjectively and rejuvenate the thought- images. But now we have increased our power of thought and so those images express themselves more strongly. All students of Theosophy know that a [10] storehouse of past Karma exists, but all do not know that in the subjective realm ghosts and elementaries of dead objective actions often work havoc.

The last quotation of the first Fragment of our textbook that we should consider is this:

Before the path is entered, thou must destroy thy lunar body, cleanse thy mind-body, and make clean thy heart.

[12; 11]

In a footnote H.P.B. explains that the astral form produced by Kama has to be destroyed. The Kama-rupa, ordinarily, is formed after the death of the body and ere the Ego goes into Devachan, freeing itself from that form. But in the life of the Probationer, as he enters the kingdom of the quickened, leaving behind that of the dead, there is the Kama-rupa phenomenon related to that of the Dweller on the Threshold. The quickened soul becomes consciously alive when, by chasing away from the field of the mind all Kama-fed thought-images, he begins to live by the power of the clean heart, i.e., by the influence of Buddhi. For this dual process — dispersing the Kama-rupa and awakening Buddhi so that it can ensoul Manas, the objective world proves of great benefit.

The objective world of actions is not only valuable for enabling us to compare, to contrast and discriminatively to learn to concentrate, but it also proves a most helpful sphere when the strife of the subjective kind is on, of which mention is made above. The way the Probationer has to learn to make use of the objective world is through the right performance of duty. Duty is the axis round which his objective world rotates: mistakes made about Duty, neglect of or dilatoriness in that which should be done, undertaking that which is not our business, etc., all become sins of omission and of commission. If a Probationer is rightly busy with real duty he finds no time for "mischief" — unconsciously done. Furthermore when attacks come from the subjective side of his lower nature, a wise engagement of the senses and the brain in objective functioning weakens the attack. Occultism advocates that we do not strengthen the enemy by brooding about him, nor by directly fighting him. Take no particular notice of the enemy, but keep the consciousness busy with protective and profitable mental and physical work. No Probationer can meditate and study hours on end and therefore calls of mundane duty like the earning of livelihood, etc., are highly beneficial and very necessary. Not the invention of special work but the doing of what there is to do expands the field of duty till humanity becomes our family and the world our country. Duty is the Divinity that shapes our objective world to perfection: Duty is the God of the objective world — that is the Truth: Om Tat Sat.


Book of Enlightened Masters

by Paul Johnson

We just got in a new book that should interest theosophical readers. The author, Andrew Rawlinson, is a retired university professor in England who attended at least one Theosophical History conference in the 1980s. I went with him and Leslie Price to examine the Mahatma letters in the British Museum one afternoon. Now he has produced an amazing cornucopia of information, which his subtitle describes as "Western Teachers in Eastern Traditions." Almost 500 pages of the book is an alphabetical listing of Westerners who became teachers in Eastern spiritual lineages and some of their Eastern initiators. H.P.B. is listed but almost all of the many subjects of the book are more recent.

The first 150 pages, which I haven't examined as thoroughly yet, is an introduction to spiritual teachers in various traditions followed by an explanation of how Westerners entered those lineages and a discussion of the issues raised by this change.

It's a bit pricey, $29.95 for a large paperback, but if you can't afford it try to find it at a library. This is a wonderful survey of the results of the East/West opening inaugurated by H.P.B. and her teachers, and any Theosophist or admirer of H.P.B. should enjoy it.


Conditioned and Abstract Time

by Eldon Tucker

[based on an April 12, 1994 posting to]

As with space, there is a duality to time. There is an abstract, perfect, unmanifest side to time, and an conditioned, limited, manifested side. As individual Monads, we have a person- al experience of both.

This experience is one that happens in our consciousness, and does not depend upon our state of being. We do not have to be dead, disembodied, and away from manifestation in order to experience the unconditioned side to things. And we do not have to have a body to experience the limited, conditioned side of existence.

Standing side-by-side with another, we could be having an experience of abstract time in our own consciousness, while the other person is only aware of his conditioned, mortal existence.

What determines our experience is the focus of our awareness. If we are centered in the higher principles within, we have the higher, the unconditioned consciousness. If we are centered in our lower principles of consciousness, we are aware of the conditioned consciousness related to our current existence.

In the world, there is conditioned time. Above it, and beyond the reaches of the world, in the deep silence that surrounds things, there is unconditioned time, abstract time.

But it does not stop there. Yet higher is Timelessness, but still in relation to time, looking down upon it, standing as an Ideal to our existence throughout the sweep of time.

And a second step higher is Perfection, without any relation- ship to the lower, to temporal existence, being too perfect to need to relate to anything or participate in the drama of life. And this is part of us too, the deepest part, the highest we can penetrate within before coming to an unknowable Mystery, which cannot be penetrated.

When we come into manifestation in a world, we take on its sense of time, we have an experience of its cycles, of the flow of life in it. We establish relationships with its inhabitants and make karma in it, and we gather memories and build a future in it.

Stepping out of the Ego, the center of consciousness that we have build for ourselves for that globe, and moving on to the next globe to experience life on another plane, we then take on a different sense of time. On the next globe, we have another Ego which we have evolved for it, and that Ego participates in the different sense of time appropriate to its own globe. As we do so, our Globe D Ego becomes dormant, inactive, asleep, without any sensation of the passage of time because it is out of time — the conditioned time of its world — for the present.

Stepping into different parts of ourselves, into the Egos or centers of consciousness for the other globes as we go from one globe to the next, we find different qualities of time, of cycles, a different sense of duration that we experience.

The sense of "this is the way that things are," of this is the time periods of evolution and where we are with respect to them — this is all different in the different globes, the different worlds that we visit on the other planes.

We need to give a special meaning to the word eternity, to put it in the proper perspective. There is no such thing as eternity, when is spoken of as an absolute forever, without end regardless of whatever universes may come and go, of whatever scale.

But there is a relative, a conditioned, a manifested eternity. It would denote a time period of the existence of the world or universe, a manvanatara. This time period is as long as things can be, the finite version of forever.

If something can exist until the end of the manvantara, it is eternal, because it has existed as long as time itself, until the end of time. When the universe ends and ceases to exist, its time goes as well, and that is the practical and actual point when the end of time happens. But this end of time is relative, for bigger universes still exist, with their greater senses of time.

Starting with pure, abstract time, the particular way that it is cut up into cycles and made apparent in a manifested universe is uniquely personal to the universe in question. And our experience of time in that universe is based upon our relation to its grand cycles and who and what we are in that universe.

Out of manifestation in that universe, we are not in relation to time, so there is no sense of what is happening. We need at least Atman, the pure sense of manifest being, in that world, in order to participate in the sense of time and duration in that world.

The events of a world go on, even when you're out of existence and not there to experience them. You may come back into existence later and find that time has marched on, that things have changed and are different, that the various cycles have moved foreword since your last dip into existence. But did you miss out on something? No. Did life pass you by? No again.

You always have a choice to be or not, and there is nothing to miss out on. If you are ready to manifest yourself, you are in existence somewhere, and enjoying its sense of time and its own unique feeling of the nature of eternity. Or if you are out of existence, you have been enjoying a sense of peace and perfection for a moment.

When you come into existence in a world, it is there that you project your personal space for the moment. And it is there where you undergo change, experience duration, and give your personal sense of time.

You take your time and space with you, and it is experienced wherever you may go or whatever you may be. The clock may be ticking away in all the many globes that you are not existing on, and it may seem as if you are missing something. But not really. Your clock is ticking too, and it is where you are, and it is what you experience of time. Nothing is missed, nothing is lost.

When you come into existence in a world, your personal time, your personal clock synchronizes its beat to that of the world you are in. But leaving that world, and going elsewhere, you synchro- nize with that other place.

The only time that is going on, and the only time that you need be concerned with is your personal time, and it is an important part of that stream of consciousness which you are.

Looking at each world, it has its own clock, ticking at its own rate. There is no absolute clock, one by which all the rest can be measured. Just as there is no greatest space, but only the Boundless All, so there is no greatest time, but only the Eternal Now, a time that transcends all particular times and is really abstract, unconditioned time.

Although there is no absolute clock, ticking away the seconds of time for the Boundless All, for a particular world there is its own time, its own clock, its own ruling cycle that governs its lifetime. And the ticking of that clock is alike to the heartbeat of that world, the steady circulation of life energies and flow of events as time unfolds.

For our universe, that greater being is Brahmâ, with a lifetime of 311,040 billion years. One day in His life is called a Planetary Manvantara. Including the night, it is 8,640,000,000 years, and constitutes the period of evolution for us in the human kingdom. It marks off a great evolutionary period.

This entire lifetime is a mahamanvantara, and even across it, to the next lifetime of Brahma^acirc;, our unmanifest part, our Auric Egg, contains seeds of karma, the essence of the experiences of our previous existences. For the Auric Egg, as an unmanifest principle, exists in unconditioned space and abstract time, it is unaffected by the cyclic appearances and disappearances of the manifold universes on the waters of space.

We can further understand time by making some comparisons to space. There is the particular space of our earth, of our solar system, our galaxy, and known universe. There are unique spaces to every world and universe, existing at greater and greater scales of being.

Taking one such world, we can define a coordinate system, and give an object the frame of reference of that world. We thereby are able to give that object position and velocity. Without that frame of reference, there is nothing to compare to, so we could not say that the object had any particular position or motion.

By taking the space of a particular world, we are able to cut out and measure space, we have a particular, finite, manifested space to contain finite objects, objects that come into manifesta- tion.

In a bigger world, we have a bigger frame of reference, and find that what we thought was the absolute standard, the absolute coordinate system, is only one of many subspaces in a bigger scheme of things.

And when our world goes away, when it ceases to exist, all is not gone, for the bigger space is still there, and the Skandhas of the world that was, the world that has entered pralaya, return to their respective places in that bigger space.

The same is true for time. We have a time for the earth, for the solar system, the galaxy, and so forth. We can define a sense of time, the particular eternity, the reality of things, using a particular frame of reference. We thereby give beings in that world a place in time and a chance to participate in the drama of evolution.

Without a frame of reference for time, without a governing clock to the flow of life, we could not say that we were at any particular place in time, and there would be no way to grow and change. There would be no world of beings in flux, no world of beings to interact with and be changed thereby.

In yet a bigger world, we have a bigger time, a bigger clock to measure time by, and we find that what we thought was an absolute standard is only one of many secondary schemes of life, secondary cycles of existence, secondary experiences of time in a bigger scheme of things.

And when the world goes away, all is not gone, time does not stop. All does not stop because that bigger clock is still ticking, and the experiences are still possible apart from the world that has been, whose clock is now gone, keeping pace with the heartbeat of its parent universe.

Looking about us, we can see ourselves existing in a Golden Tree of Life. Beyond any manifest universe hosting us is yet a higher one, without end, without a top — it is a Golden Tree rooted in abstract eternity.

And it's time is kept by a Grand Clock — a time that is beyond all measure. For beyond the time of any universe is the time of its parent universe. And beyond that yet another more grand time still, also without end.

Anywhere along these grand trees should a universe cease to exist, we still continue to exist. We are simply left in its parent's time and space. There is never a time when we are totally orphaned and entirely cease to exist.

Life exists, and always will. And it is grand beyond measure.


Light in the Daily Routine

by Annette Rivington

[based upon a July 27, 1997 posting to]

Here's what I have been doing, on and off, since I was old enough to remember:

Every morning, in those few seconds before I become aware of my physical body and all those daily "burdens" manifest themselves, I try to maintain the state and feeling of first awakening.

In this state, I am free, my body is not a weight, there are no rules and restrictions, and I let myself go where I go and think what I think. Sometimes I can't do it, but often, I "see" answers to things and always I start off the day in a positive and happy state (even if only for 10 seconds!).

Next I look out the window and thank the "Great Spirit" for the day, whatever kind of weather it is. I greet Mother Earth and say I am glad to be still here, part of the magic.

Then I have a shower and under the running water, plan my day, solve business problems and get new ideas.

Then I drive to work along back roads that take me past farms and open spaces and I usually have a conversation with either myself or an imaginary friend and as I get closer to that Corporation that keeps me in currency, I have to work hard at staying calm and in focus and telling myself that the point of it all is greater than all the little tasks I will probably end up getting embroiled in.

Practically every day I fail to retain that focus, so I wait until every one has gone home at 5.00 p.m., and then I work until what ever time it takes for me to get the tasks done to my level of perfection with my energy infused in whatever I produce.

Sounds nutty doesn't it? But more and more, I am unable to work amongst the chaos and as I get older, I am losing the ability to shut out the back ground noise and focus.

On the positive side of things, more and more I am successful for a few seconds at a time in "completely joining" with what I am doing. For example, "joining" with my computer during doing a spreadsheet, so that I feel at one with the energy that is manifest in the "thing" that is my PC.

During these times, I don't have to "remember" what to click on etc. like some learned behaviour, I do what ever is required naturally, and often do something new that I have not "learned" before, but that then becomes part of what I do and always speeds up the process.

This latter concept is not new, either to me or to others, and the theory is that we develop this to give us more time to meditate and think — hence melding the how, what and why in our daily lives. We once thought that a kinder, gentler "man" was developing technology so that we could all be philosophers for more of the day.

No deal! The more you achieve, the better you produce, the more you are given to do, until you are overloaded, solving everyone's problems, finishing up everyone's unfinished tasks, like some scabby old workhorse.

Usually I take a break with the night shift. A cosmopolitan group of highly educated immigrants who cannot get well paid day jobs because of restrictions in acceptance of qualifications between countries. We often debate many of the issues I see on your network and sometimes, for a brief moment, in the middle of the night a group of people from diverse religions and cultures get so close that I can see the light come into the room and feel the love. Then we all go back to work or home and it is lost.

Now, if you could bottle those moments ...

The other day, I thought briefly about a world without electricity and computers, and whether this was destined, part of a test. Hard not to do with all this talk and fear about the "end of the world as we have known it". The progression of my thought was that, sooner or later, we will all face a time of no computers, jobs, material comforts, whether individually or globally. Am I ready for that? No, but I think I'm being "told" to get into training pretty fast.


Animal, Group, and Folk Souls

by Mark Kusek

[based upon a July 28, 1997 posting to]

"Some might say that we appear externally to be individual, single egos, but when seen spiritually we are as though embedded in an etheric cloud. As one of us thinks or feels, the effects are radiated into the common folk soul." This makes sense to me.

People, by and large, are not completely autonomous individuals. We all participate in group psychology at many levels; family, school, profession, church, community, nation, etc. We share and share alike. We build group thought and feeling forms, largely share common cultural values (conflicts notwithstanding), and get much of our socialization from these "clouds" of knowledge and attitude. Consciously or unconsciously, they impact us through our community and broadly through our "civilization". It happens subtly. It's one of the major factors that help to form our personality in childhood. We have connections with small and large groups of people in many different ways.

It's no wonder that there might be equivalents of these on the inner planes that could be viewed, nor that they are participatory or active.

I don't think it's so much a heretical issue of comparing us to animals, or fearing it to be such. I suppose it could very well be some sort of vestige or remnant of animal group psychology. We are sooooo much animal, in ways we often take for granted to be human, that it's not funny. It could also just be a part of what it means to be human. Formation of a healthy personality and true individuation of ego vis-a-vis self, is a process that has not completely occurred, by and large. We are still very much in it.

If you take it theosophically, we're in the middle of the fifth root race. It's in this period that we are, as a race, supposedly compeled to utilize, refine and develop lower manas. The result of which creates strong egoic personalities, and hopefully some growing sense of awareness of something higher. This only happens by individualizing out of a psychological collective. It needs context. You could say that this collective is something like a human group soul.

Blavatsky said there are "soulless" people that we meet on the street every day. It's true in a sense, if you take "soul" to mean individuality. There are relatively unindividualized people who mill about in their lives unconsciously acting as automatons of cultural collectivism, doing more or less "what they're told to", what's "expected" of them or what they "should". You could call them people of the "group or folk soul", or of the "mass consciousness". If you honestly and bravely look hard enough within yourself, you can see places where you're doing it to, and then, there it is, right under your feet, the royal road to individuality.


Paradigms of Consciousness During Sleep

by Donald J. DeGracia Ph.D.

Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics Wayne State University, Detroit, MI

[Originally published in Rever No. 3, Summer Issue, in French. Permisson to reprint granted by the editor of Rever and by the author.]


The purpose of this article is to shed light on various frameworks available for understanding the nature of conscious experiences which occur during sleep. More specifically, this article would like to compare the ideas of "lucid dreaming", "out-of-body experiences" (OBEs) and "astral projection" from a historical and scientific perspective. There is a great interest in conscious sleep phenomena, but there also tends to be a confusion of terminology which results from a bewildering array of literatures about the nature of such experiences. This article will discuss the fact that there are presently multiple paradigms in operation which people use indiscriminately and interchangeably to describe conscious sleep experiences. The purpose of this article is to lay these paradigms side by side and compare the features and history of each. This will only be a cursory overview because the history and features of the paradigms to be discussed are very complex. The hope of this article is that such a comparative analysis will help eliminate some of the confusion of terminology and thought which has resulted from mixing incompatible paradigms, and thereby help pave the way for the development of a richer scientific and empirical approach to conscious sleep experiences.

Let us begin by noting that scientific ideas always undergo an evolutionary development. In the early stages of scientific understanding of a phenomena, conceptions of the phenomena are often of a "common sense" nature (Churchland, 1986). In time, common sense approaches are superseded by more empirical and scientific understanding. There may be a stage in the development of understanding in which multiple frameworks for conceptualizing a phenomena exist side by side. Consider, for example, the idea of motion. Our understanding of motion has passed through several stages of development. In the Middle Ages, motion was conceptualized by Aristotle's idea of "natural place", which stated that bodies fall towards the Earth because that is their "natural affinity". Eventually this idea was replaced by Newton's conception of gravitation as being the attraction between objects which contain mass, as embodied in Newton's three laws of motion. Newton's conceptions held sway for several centuries until Einstein replaced the Newtonian idea of gravity as "action at a distance" with the notion of gravity as the bending of space-time. Today we do not take seriously Aristotle's notions of motion; however, the Newtonian and Einsteinian views do indeed exist side by side. These latter, however, are clearly distinguished, and confusion between their tenets is unlikely.

The evolution of scientific ideas entails the establishment of paradigms, and the transformation of these paradigms through time (Kuhn, 1971). The history of science is a living testimony to this pattern of intellectual evolution. Other examples in the history of science include the evolution of notions such as "heat", "atoms", "electricity", "gene"; all of these notions have undergone substantial paradigm changes through history. We will argue that such is the case with paradigms attempting to conceptualize conscious sleep experiences.

In the above example, there was only one phenomena, that of the motion of natural bodies. However, there were three completely different ways to conceptualize the nature of this phenomena (e.g. Aristotelian, Newtonian and Einsteinian). This is a critical point to make: there are multiple ways by which to conceptualize a phenomena, and each of these can be considered a paradigm. This then is our point of departure for considering the various paradigms used to conceptualize conscious experiences during sleep. We can presume that there is one essential phenomena, which I have chosen to term "conscious experiences during sleep". My thesis is that there are currently multiple paradigms used to conceptualize this phenomena. Let us first review what I mean by "conscious experiences during sleep" and then I will lay out the three main paradigms used to conceptualize such experiences.

Forms of Conscious Experience During Sleep

First we must begin by defining what is meant by "conscious". I am not using this term in any metaphysical sense at all but am using it in a purely pragmatic sense. By "conscious" I mean that which fills direct, subjective awareness. This is to be contrasted to unconscious. For example, the operation of neurological reflexes involved in maintaining balance are unconscious aspects of psychological operation. Visual perceptions, and in general, any sensory experience to which we pay attention, are conscious. The contents of conscious awareness can include sensory, emotional and mental components. This view of consciousness is taken directly from that of Baars (Baars, 1988). Hence, when speaking of conscious experiences during sleep, I mean sensory, emotional or mental content which exists in direct subjective awareness during sleep.

The most common conscious sleep experience is dreaming. Dreams are a form of conscious awareness during sleep. When we dream, we are consciously aware of visual, auditory, tactile, kinesthetic and emotional content, as well as thought (both cognitive and metacognitive) and to lesser extents smells, taste and pain. With respect to sensory perceptions during dreams, these are presumably hallucinations, but they are conscious experiences nonetheless. We may or may not remember our dreams upon awakening. Research has shown, in fact, that we do not remember the bulk of our nightly dreams (Hobson, 1988). We tend to remember those dreams that occur prior to awakening, at least fleetingly upon awakening. It has been shown in the sleep lab that waking sleepers directly from REM sleep allows for significant recall of dreams. When we do remember our dreams, it is clear that they are conscious experiences that, in many respects, resemble our waking conscious experiences.

A second type of conscious sleep experience is the phenomena of hypnagic hallucinations (reviewed in Mavromatis, 1987). Hypnagogic hallucinations tend to occur during stage 2 non-REM (Hobson, 1988), and involve the perception of complex visual imagery that may or may not be realistic in quality. Hypnagogia is distinguished from dreaming in that the former does not contain the rich, multimodal sense of immersion of the latter. Also, hypnagogia is less structured than dreaming, and does not form an integrated narrative as dreams do. Hypnogogia occurring upon awakening is termed "hypnopompic hallucinations".

A third type of conscious sleep experience is that which has been discovered upon waking sleep subjects from non-REM sleep. This is described as "less dream-like and more thought-like". Unlike dreams, there is generally no sensory component this form of sleep consciousness and it predominately manifest as thinking. The nature of this thinking activity has been described as "common place ... concerned with real life events ... banal and repetitive" (Hobson, 1988).

It should be explicitly pointed out that dreams do not occur exclusively during REM sleep but have also been observed during non-REM sleep. The probabilities of obtaining a dream report from REM and non-REM sleep is about 80% and 30%, respectively (Okuma, 1992). This fact has substantially loosened the association of dreaming as a REM state phenomena and many workers in the field no longer accept that there is a causal relation between REM sleep and dreaming (Mancia, 1995).

A fourth type of conscious sleep experience is sleep paralysis. This involves usually the (presumably hallucinatory) perception of the environment in which the person is sleeping accompanied by the inability to move despite intense effort to do so. Sleep paralysis may often be associated with intense feelings of dread or fear. The subject tends to be lucid and may believe that they are awake. The subject in the sleep paralysis state can be awakened simply by touching them (Hobson, 1988).

A fifth recognized state of sleep consciousness is sleep terror. Here there is a feeling of intense terror and dread without any accompanying sensory perceptions or cognitive activity. The subject may awaken drenched in sweat, heart beating rapidly and crying out.

Finally, and most importantly for the following discussion, there is a sixth state of consciousness during sleep. In this state, the subject is dreaming, but is aware of the fact that they are doing so. This state has been termed "lucid dreaming" (LaBerge, 1985) or "conscious dreaming" (Rifat, 1997). I will use the term "lucid dreaming" throughout this article. This state is currently characterized by the notion that the dreamer is aware they are dreaming. However, as I will discuss below, this is not the most suitable definition of this state, and this definition of lucid dreaming has helped contribute to some degree of confusion in characterizing this state of sleep consciousness. Below, we will address the paradigms used to conceptualize this phenomena of lucid dreaming.

I would also like to add that states of trance and certain states resulting from meditative practices are closely related to conscious sleep experiences. At present, there is no clear characterization of meditative states to allow for a precise description of how exactly these relate to sleep itself, or states of consciousness during sleep. Nonetheless, phenomenological descriptions of subjective awareness during meditative practice are highly reminiscent of sleep conscious states, particularly the hypnagogic state.

In sum, I have described above six forms of conscious sleep experience. Clearly, consciousness during sleep is very complex and can manifest in multiple forms. What all six of these states share in common is that they are indeed manifestations of conscious awareness during sleep. I thus propose the adoption of this general terminology when discussing these states: they are conscious sleep experiences. In the above descriptions, I tried, as best as possible, to describe the empirical facts of these various manifestations of sleep consciousness without interpreting these empirical facts within a specific paradigmatic framework, which, of course, is not completely possible. For example, calling a lucid dream a "lucid dream" implies a specific paradigm, as I will discuss below. I would now like to explicitly turn attention to the paradigms used to describe and interpret these empirical states of sleep consciousness. Again, the general thesis is that there is only one set of phenomena, consciousness during sleep, but that there are multiple ways to conceptualize this phenomena and its complex manifestations.

Paradigms of Consciousness During Sleep

There are three main paradigms which have evolved to conceptualize consciousness during sleep. These paradigms share predominantly a focus on the phenomena of lucid dreaming, although the other states of sleep consciousness play into these paradigms to some extent or another. These paradigms display the evolutionary development discussed above; the earliest paradigms were based on simple, common sense notions and the latter paradigms became more refined and were based on more technical and scientific considerations. The three paradigms I will discuss which have served to conceptualize primarily the lucid dream phenomena are (1) the occult paradigm, (2) the parapsychological paradigm, and (3) the scientific paradigm. Each of these paradigms has given a different name to what I will argue is essentially the same phenomena. The names each has used to describe lucid dreaming is (1) astral projecting, (2) out-of-body experiences, and (3) lucid dreaming, respectively. The relation between terminology and its respective paradigm is listed in the following table, as are some of the historical lineages of each paradigm.

Paradigm    Term for "Lucid Dream" Historical Associations
----------- ---------------------- ------------------------------
Occult      Astral Projection      Eastern and Western Occult
                                   Traditions (Yoga, Tantra,
                                   Theosophy, Hermetics, etc.)
----------- ---------------------- ------------------------------
Parapsycho- Out-of-body Experience Psychical Research,
logical                            Parapsychology
----------- ---------------------- ------------------------------
Scientific  Lucid Dream            Biology, Psychology, Sleep
----------- ---------------------- ------------------------------

Because of the development of the EEG as a tool in sleep research, which gained widespread usage in the 1960s following the work of Aserinsky and Kleitman (1953), we are now able to define each of the above 6 conscious sleep states in terms of electrophysiological correlates. This in itself is a implicit reliance on scientific paradigms of these states. However, some of these states, particularly the lucid dream and hypnagogic states have been described in Western literature for close to 150 years. Earlier descriptions of these states did not have the luxury of defining EEG correlates and thus, these states were described primarily in subjective, experiential, and phenomenological terms. Some of the earliest workers who described altered states of consciousness which resemble in almost all respects what we now call "lucid dreams" were D' Hervey de Saint-Denis (1867), Charles Leadbeater (1895), Frederik Willems Van Eeden (1913) Oliver Fox [Hu Evert] (1920), and Muldoon and Carrington (1929). We must forego a detailed review of these and other early authors and only outline the salient features of their interpretations of their experiences.

The Occult Paradigm

Authors such as Leadbeater, Fox and Muldoon form a historical lineage in the occult paradigm. The essence of the occult paradigm is that the world revealed to our senses is but one of several, usually seven, worlds, or planes of nature. The general idea that there are other worlds not visible to our senses has a very long history, dating back millennia in ancient Indian thought, vestiges of which can be found in the ancient Greek notion of the "heavenly spheres"; ancient Gnostic traditions also describe the seven aethers. A mosaic of these ancient ideas is to be found in the Theosophical teachings (circa 1900), such as those of Leadbeater, which in turn influenced later authors like Fox and Muldoon.

Within the Theosophical framework, there exists seven planes termed the physical, astral, mental, buddhic, atmic, anupadaka, and adi. Accordingly, each person has a "body" capable of traveling on its respective plane. Hence, the idea of astral projection was that one used their astral body to travel on the astral plane.

First, it can be stated that this notion of seven planes provided a prescientific paradigm for conceptualizing human psychology. The physical plane is the world of the physical sensation, the astral plane is the realm of emotion, the mental plane is the realm of thought, the buddhic plane is the realm of the soul, and the higher planes are abstractions reflecting levels of relationship between the individual soul and the universal transcendental essence, roughly translated as God. The occult paradigm projects the psychology of the human being into the very structure of the universe. In the premodern era, before our detailed scientific description of natural phenomena, this analogical reasoning dominated intellectual discourse.

It seems reasonable to infer that the idea that there are worlds which exist beyond the ken of our senses derives directly from the experience of lucid dreaming, as well as from meditatively-induced states. That is to say, the simplest and most common sensical interpretation of the lucid dream experience, and similar altered states, is that some non-material, soul-like entity has left the physical body and physical world and has entered into a nonphysical world. It can be easily imagined that, through premodern history, the few individuals who left records of their lucid dreams, or similar altered states of consciousness, and interpreted them in an occult framework, spawned a whole paradigm/mythology of the nature of these nonphysical planes. This would include notions of the planes, of reincarnation, of nonphysical bodies, and include such terminology as "auras", "chakras" and "kundalini". Most of these notions have their origin in ancient Indian traditions from which Theosophy heavily drew, and many of these notions persist today and are applied to conscious sleep states.

Today there is still confusion between lucid dreams and astral projections. In fact, the techniques for inducing either are identical (compare Rogo, 1986, with LaBerge and Rheingold, 1990), and the content of the experiences are identical, indicating that these are in fact the same state of consciousness. The confusion results because there is not a clear recognition that the terms "astral projection" and "lucid dream" represent different paradigms for conceptualizing the exact same experience. I will discuss the relative validity of these two paradigms below.

The Parapsychological Paradigm

The parapsychological paradigm has its historical roots in the occult paradigm. At the turn of the 20th century, as the notion of "astral projection" and other occult phenomena became more widespread, it attracted attention from those not involved in occult movements. Specifically, nonoccult investigators began to investigate independently the claims of occultists such as Leadbeater. Hence was born in the mid 1800s the British Society for Psychical Research, and later in America, The American Society for Psychical Research. Early psychical researchers were influenced by such movements as Theosophy or Spiritualism, as seen, for example, in the works of Muldoon and Carington (1929). However, in the 1930s, the work of J.B. Rhine in America gave rise to a nonoccult approach to the study of supposed psychical phenomena, later to be termed "psi" events. This approach has come to be known as parapsychology.

In general, parapsychologists abandoned their occult roots and developed their own ways of conceptualizing the psychic phenomena described originally by occultists. Parapsychologists accepted that such psi events were real and began to investigate them from nonoccult perspectives. This is true of the phenomena of astral projection, which eventually parapsychologists began to term "out-of-body experiences" (OBE). The parapsychologist abandoned the occult idea of the planes and instead began to conceptualize the OBE as some part of the personality literally leaving the body and capable of moving about in the physical world. Several modern authors exemplified this paradigm including Charles Tart, Robert Monroe and Susan Blackmore.

The parapsycholgical paradigm made the clear prediction that a person undergoing an OBE should be able to acquire information not accessible to that person's physical senses. Many such experiments were performed, none of which produced clear-cut results. It is my opinion that the OBE, as a product of the parapsychological paradigm, was a particular interpretation of certain conscious sleep experiences including lucid dreams, sleep paralysis, hypnagogia and certain trance and meditative states. Furthermore, my reading of the parapsychological literature is that this interpretation has failed the test of scientific verification.

Nonetheless, as there exists confusion regarding the terms "astral projection" and "lucid dream", there is also confusion over the term obe. Again, the relative validity of these terms will be discussed below.

The Scientific Paradigm

The scientific paradigms related to sleep states of consciousness have their own long and involved histories involving brain research, psychology, psychoanalysis, dream research and sleep research, all of which occurred completely independently of the development of occult and parapsychological paradigms discussed above. The history of the scientific study of sleep and dreams can be conveniently divided into the pre-Freudian and post-Freudian eras.

Hervey de Saint-Denis is exemplary of the pre-Freudian study of dreams. Hervey de Saint-Denis was a phenomonologist who very clearly described his subjective dream life. He clearly described his own lucid dreams, although he did not use this term. Interestingly, his emphasis was not on his self-awareness that he was dreaming (which is the current conception of the lucid dream), but instead on his ability to act with volition within his dreams. A similar emphasis can be found with Van Eeden (1913), who coined the term "lucid dream". With the rise of Freud's approach to dreams in the early part of the 20th century, this pre-Freudian work was lost for several decades and not rediscovered until about the 1960s.

The Freudian approach to dreams, both in terms of the explanation and the meaning of dreams, dominated the Western mind through the first half of the 20th century. Today it is fair to say that few researchers take the Freudian approach seriously and it is now only of historical interest. For readers interested in critiques of the Freudian approach to sleep and dreams, see Hobson, 1988.

The downfall of Freud's influence in dream theorizing came in the middle of the 20th century and was due to the discovery of the sleep cycle by Aserinsky and Kleitman (1953) and its correlation with dreams by Dement and Kleitman (1957). This work spawned what is now called the "psychophysiological" paradigm of dreaming, whose main tenet was that dreams are the result of the physiological changes responsible for generating the sleep cycle. During the psychophysiological era, the idea of lucid dreams was not generally accepted, and dreams were viewed as being a model for waking forms of mental illness and psychosis.

Several factors have contributed to the fall of the psychophysiological paradigm, one of which has already been mentioned. That is, the occurrence of dreams is not exclusively confined to the REM stage of sleep. Thus, the consensus today is that the factors leading to dream formation must be independent to some degree from those responsible for generating the EEG sleep cycle. As well, research based on cognitive psychology paradigms has overturned the notion that dreams are similar to waking psychosis. Cognitive psychology research has revealed that many aspects of dream psychology are essentially identical to normal waking psychology including aspects of sensory perception, and in particular, the use of language in dreams (reviewed in Cavellaro and Foulkes, 1993).

Perhaps the most significant development in 20th century dream research was the laboratory demonstration that a subject can display volition and communicate directly from the dream state with people who are awake. This discovery was made independently circa 1980 by LaBerge et al. (1981) in America and Hearne (1980) in England. Both of these researchers proved unambiguously that the lucid dream state does occur and has highly reproducible physiological and psychological correlates.

In sum, the scientific view of sleep states of consciousness sees these as events intrinsic to the brain. It is a paradigm firmly grounded in both the biology of the brain and in human psychology. Dreams are internal hallucinatory events generated by the brain, whether these are of the lucid or the nonlucid variety.

Evaluation of the Three Paradigms of Consciousness During Sleep

I have now described the three common paradigms currently in use for conceptualizing conscious experiences which occur during sleep. It is hoped that the reader can now better see how current ideas of conscious sleep states derive from one or a mixture of these three paradigms. In fact, we live in a historical era of relative confusion about the nature of these states of consciousness because these three paradigms coexist and are used and mixed to varying extents. I would like to now offer my opinion on the relative validity of these paradigms in terms of current scientific knowledge of sleep, dreams, brain function and physics.

First, I truly believe that much confusion can be eliminated by recognizing that we are dealing with one general phenomena - that of conscious sleep experiences - but that there are at least three major ways, and a host of minor variations, for conceptualizing these experiences. We must learn to be careful thinkers and try as hard as possible to not confuse empirical facts with interpretive frameworks. For example, it is common knowledge that one may experience "chills", "tingles" or "vibrations" during the onset of a lucid dream. Some people interpret these "vibrations" as the manifestation of "kundalini", or the activity of "chakras". Such interpretations are grounded in occult paradigms. Other people interpret these vibrations as a consequence of a particular type of brain activation, in which case, the person is using the scientific paradigm to interpret the phenomena. Again, there is only one empirical phenomena, but two different interpretations. It is only by untangling these paradigmatic interpretations that we can go beyond superficial differences in terminology and attempt to scientifically determine the nature of these experiences.

In this regard, the use of Ocam's razor is recommend: thou shall not multiple terms needlessly. This means that we should not invoke more complex explanations until simpler explanations have been ruled out. Thus, I recommend that the simplest explanation, both experimentally and theoretically is that states of consciousness during sleep are due to changes in the activity of the brain. This is the simplest explanation because we are not invoking anything other than human anatomy and physiology. If, and this is a big if, it can be conclusively demonstrated that this is an insufficient theoretical basis, then, and only then, should we invoke ideas about things "leaving the body" or "chakras", "planes" or "kundalini". However, I believe it is unlikely we will need to invoke such terms as explanatory principles. This is because the human brain is the most complex object known and we are far from understanding the possibilities inherent in our own brains. I believe that the study of conscious sleep states will enlarge our understanding of the functions of the human brain. In the end, I believe we will discover that ancient terms such as "chakra", "kundalini", and the like, are prescientific descriptions of specific states of brain activity.

However, current scientific ideas of lucid dreams have their problems. Specifically, as mentioned above, the idea that a lucid dream is "a dream in which the dreamer knows they are dreaming" is too simple of a definition of this experience. In fact, knowing that one is dreaming during a dream is dependent upon the paradigm a person uses. If the person believes they are astral projecting, then they will not be aware they are dreaming because they do not think they are dreaming; they think that they are astral projecting. Thus, the current scientific definition of the lucid dream does not take into account the beliefs of the person undergoing the experience.

In fact, the attempt to distinguish what is a lucid dream from what is a nonlucid dream is very difficult to do; presently there is no really good definition that distinguishes lucid and nonlucid dreams. For example, a person could be undergoing a nonlucid dream, but within this nonlucid dream, have the thought in their mind that they are dreaming. This is a very subtle phenomena that is easiest to understand only when it has happened to you first hand. Likewise, one could undergo a lucid dream without once stopping to think to themselves "I am dreaming". Again, this latter depends completely on how the person conceptualizes the experience in their own mind.

The factor that appears to distinguish lucid dreams from nonlucid dreams is that in a lucid dream, the person has some type of way to recognize that they are not in the usual waking world. Whether the person conceptualizes this as "being in a dream", "being in the astral plane" or "having left their body" is immaterial. What is common to all three viewpoints is that the person realizes they are not in their usual waking life and, most importantly, the person can act on this knowledge. This does not happen in nonlucid dreams. Thus, it would appear that in a lucid dream, the brain undergoes some kind of change that gives the dreamer metacognitive access to their waking memories. Hence, it may be that a lucid dream is a dream in which the dreamer can compare their present condition with their waking life. It is this ability to compare the dream experience to waking experience that really appears to distinguish lucid dreams from nonlucid dreams. Now, this ability to compare one's state during a dream may manifest more or less; which is to say, this ability forms a spectrum of gradations. Thus, dream lucidity is not an all or none feature but can manifest more or less.

When looked at from this perspective, any other supposed distinguishing features between lucid dreams and dreams, or between lucid dreams and either OBEs or astral projections are merely superficial. For example, some people believe that if they are having an experience in which they are in familiar surroundings (such as their bedroom, neighborhood, etc.) and they are lucid (i.e. there is a continuity of memory and thought with the waking mind) that they are then undergoing an OBE. But this is not a justifiable distinction. In fact, the person is having a lucid dream and within that dream they are in familiar surroundings. It is very common to be in familiar surroundings in a nonlucid dream so why should it be unusual to appear in familiar surroundings while lucid in a dream?

One significant factor people use to distinguish lucid dreams from what they label as either OBEs or astral projections is how the experience was induced. If a person is in the midst of a nonlucid dream and suddenly becomes lucid (what LaBerge terms a dream-induced lucid dream), they consider the experience a lucid dream. However, if the same person goes directly from being awake to being in a lucid dream by applying some type of trance technique (what LaBerge calls a waking-induced lucid dream), they may consider the experience to be an OBE or astral projection. However, there may be no difference whatsoever in the content of the two experiences. The only difference in this case is how the experience was induced. Is this enough of a distinguishing factor to consider these to be two different types of experience? I do not believe so.

In fact, the criteria people use to distinguish lucid dreams from OBEs from astral projections are all artificial. The environment one appears to be in, the method for achieving the experience, how one defines in their own mind what is happening to them have nothing fundamental to do with the experience itself. In all cases it is the same phenomena operating: the person is asleep, the person is conscious, and there is the ability to compare the present state to the waking state. What all the little distinctions point to is that dreams themselves are very complex. Because dreams can occur in familiar or unfamiliar settings, because the dreamer's mind can be more or less continuous with their waking mind, because there is such variety in the onset of dreams, all of this suggests that dream experience may be even more complex than waking experience. Thus, when people try to fit their dream experiences into this category or that category, they are in fact implicitly admitting that dream experiences are complex and can take on a large variety of forms. By trying to pigeon-hole their experiences into this or that category, they are missing the underlying fact that these are all varieties of dream experiences.

Hence, although I advocate a brain-based paradigm to explain conscious sleep states, it is important to recognize that this view is not perfect and is still in need of substantial improvement. A current project I am undertaking is the comparison of the operation of the mind at all of its levels between waking and the variety of dream states. The purpose of this task is to clarify the intrinsic variety clearly present in dream states. The various scientific views of dreams that have come and gone throughout this century have attempted to see dreams as this or that in a mutually exclusive fashion. With the knowledge available today, it should be quite clear that no one view of dreams can capture the inherent complexity of this phenomena. The waking state provides a baseline of psychological function from which we can begin to catalogue the large diversity of psychological function possible in dream states. Ultimately this approach should provide a foundation by which to classify all of the conscious experiences which occur during sleep.

Comparison of the Occult and Scientific Paradigms

Although Ocam's razor suggests that we do not need to invoke occult notions to explain conscious sleep states, some comment about occult paradigms from a wider perspective is merited. What we today call occultism was in fact the basis from which much of modern science arose. The classical example is the rise of chemistry from alchemy. The history of astronomy is intimately linked to the history of astrology. Even nineteenth century phrenology, which today is found in occult literature, was the precursor of our modern view of the modularity of brain function. Thus, it is not intellectually proper to dismiss all of occultism as irrelevant to the future of our scientific understanding. In fact, there are two domains of knowledge in which occultism is relevant: physics and psychology.

We live in an age dominated and enamored by the scientific method and the knowledge this method has created. Because we are so enamored by science, we fail to see its shortcomings. Some of these become obvious when one compares occultism to science. At a philosophical level, science is highly specialized and fragmented, whereas occultism provides a unified view of Humanity and the Cosmos. Science itself grew out of a Renaissance reaction to the rigid dogma of the Catholic Church. Hence, science, from its very roots, rejected spiritual considerations, and, in effect, it threw the baby out with the bath water. The typical Western scientist has no conception of the possibility that spirituality can be studied with the same intellectual rigor as the natural world. A study of the methods and philosophy underlying Yoga shows that indeed spirituality itself can be approached with the highest intellectual regard. The realm of psychology bleeds imperceptibly into the realm of the spiritual, and here in the West this has only been recognized by a few unique scientists such as Carl Jung or Abraham Maslow. One value to the study of occult ideas is that it provides an intellectual model of a unifying intellectual approach, something dreadfully lacking in modern Western science. When we speak of uncovering the deepest aspects of the human brain, this implies rediscovering spiritual truths well explicated in ancient philosophies, which today survive in numerous occult doctrines.

A second level where occultism may be relevant in the future is the link between physics and psychology. Today, from a scientific perspective, this link is the brain itself. The brain embodies principles of physics: diffusion, membrane electrical conduction, principles of chemical reactivity, principles of information processing only now emerging from detailed analyses of neural anatomy at the synaptic level. Likewise, the brain is the basis of psychology; it is the seat of reflex, perception, emotion, thought, consciousness, creativity and imagination. How these two seemingly vastly different levels meet is currently not understood. There is optimism that it is all a matter of detail and that soon, the wiring diagram of the human brain will reveal the mysteries of human psychology. One is best to remember that before Einstein, LaPlace declared to the world that physics had solved the problems of the universe and that the end of physics was in sight, in which all the basic problems of physics were to be solved. It was only within several decades that LaPlace's claim was seen to be the naive fiction that it was with the advent of Relativity Theory and Quantum Mechanics. The same pattern can be seen in the history of mathematics in the lineage from David Hilbert to Kurt Gödel (Kline, 1980). The moral is that optimism is not always correct and that Nature has a way of showing our simple minded notions of her to be very wrong.

Hence, when physicists are today speaking of 26-dimensional universes underlying the space-time we perceive as 4-dimensional (Davies and Brown, 1988), the occult notion of the planes does not sound all that far from possible truth. When physicists speak of "dark matter" - invisible matter that interacts only with gravity but none of the other forces - this is not very far off from notions occultists described circa 1900 [cf Powel, (1969)] . It is perhaps wise to re-evaluate occult claims and descriptions of altered states of consciousness recognizing that they also may have glimpsed some truth that will only take us a little longer to get to using the scientific methods at our disposal. This is not to say that occult claims will be correct as they are stated presently. What I am implying however is that the future of intellectual understanding may in fact be a more or less recognizable hybrid of what we today call "science" and "occultism". Scientists of today are deeply immersed in the day-to-day social role of what our culture presently defines as "science", and they tend not to see beyond this into the greater cultural and historical patterns in which they are immersed. The study of history shows that it is quite indifferent to the fashions of any particular era; an apt warning for the seeker of truth.


In conclusion, it is hoped that this abbreviated history lesson has helped inform the reader of the historical threads pertinent to understanding conscious sleep states. There have been three main lineages of thought. We need to untangle these three threads and get beyond superficial differences in terminology. We need to recognize the vast potential implicit in the study of consciousness during sleep for revealing some of the deepest secrets of the human brain, and perhaps for rediscovering ancient wisdom in a new form.


Aserinsky E. and Kleitman N. (1953). Regularly occuring periods of eye motility and concurrent phenomena during sleep. Science 118:273-274.

Baars B. J. (1988). A Cognitive Theory Of Consciousness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Cavellaro C. and Foulkes D. (editors) (1993). Dreaming As Cognition. Harverster Wheatsheaf. New York.

Churchland P. S. (1986). Neurophilosophy. MIT Press, Cambridge MA.

D' Hervey de Saint-Denis JML (1867). Les Reves Et Les Moyens De Les Diriger. Paris: Amyot.

Davies P. C. W. and Brown J (eds) (1988). Superstrings: A Theory of Everything? Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dement W. and Kleitman N. (1957). Cyclic variations in EEG during sleep and their relation to eye movements, body motility, and dreaming. Electroenceph. Clin. Neurophysiol., 9 673-690.

Fox O. (1920). Astral Projection. New Hyde Park, New York.

Hearne K. (1980) Insight into lucid dreaming. Nursing Mirror, 150(1) 20-22.

Hobson J. A. (1988). The Dreaming Brain. Basic Books.

Kline M. (1980). Mathematics The Loss Of Certainty. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kuhn T. S. (1971). The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: The University Of Chicago Press, 2nd edition.

LaBerge S. (1985). Lucid Dreaming. Ballantine Books: New York.

LaBerge S. and Rheingold H. (1990). Exploring the World of Lucid Dreams. Ballantine Books: New York.

LaBerge S., Nagel L., Dement W. C., Zarcone V. P. (1981). Lucid dreaming verified by volitional communication during REM sleep. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 52 727-732.

Leadbeater C. W. (1895). The Astral Plane. Madras.

Mancia M. (1995). One possible function of sleep: to produce dreams. Behavioral Brain Research 69; 203-206.

Mavromatis A. (1987). Hypnogogia. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Muldoon S. and Carrington H. (1929). The Projection Of The Astral Body. Rider and Co.

Okuma T. (1992). On the psychophysiology of dreaming: a sensory image-free association hypothesis of the dream process. Jpn. J. Psychiatr. Neurol., 46:1 7-22.

Powel A. E. (1969). The Etheric Double. Wheaton IL. Quest Books (T.P.H.).

Rifat C. (1997). Du reve conscient a la conscience. Rever No. 2.

Rogo D. S. (1986). Leaving the Body. New York: Prentice Hall,.

Van Eeden F. W. V. (1913). A study of dreams. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research. 26:431-461


Karma and the Victorian Mind

by Chuck Cosimano

[based upon a September 20, 1997 posting to]

The biggest problem in dealing with the idea of karma in the context of the Theosophical Society is the lack of understanding of the time In which the TS adopted it. You have to remember that these were Victorians and they had a very particular view of the world that we of the end of the 20th century simply do not share because our experiences are so much different.

First, good Victorians had a real problem with doubt. Now that make no sense to us at all, because we have a problem with people who don't doubt. We consider them to be idiots or new agers or worse. The good Victorian, on the other hand lived in a world of certainties and when one certainty bit the dust he had to run off and find a new one real quick or develop one of those complexes that odd Dr. Freud was talking about and betake himself to an alienist.

Well, the Victorians found themselves with a serious problem because one of their most cherished certainties, the concept of eternal damnation for anyone who did not behave like a good Victorian was heading for the dustbin of history. This created a serious problem, because if people did not have something to be afraid of, they might start doing all sorts of terrible things, like having sex and drinking. Again, pretty silly stuff to us, but not to them. To the Victorians this was serious business.

The Theosophists figured they had the solution. They stole the idea of karma from the Orient and put their own little gloss on it in the hope that it would inspire people to act like good Victorians and give up sex and meat and drink only temperance beverages.

Fortunately for civilization, they failed. Because not only was hell delivered to the trash bin, but no one with any sense bought into the karma thing either. (One of the features of second-stage Theosophists, 1900-1930, is that they seemed totally bereft of any common sense.) They were too busy having fun. Freed of the shackles of one superstition, they were not about to adopt another one.

The other problem with the Victorians was they had an idea of law that is peculiar to their time. They thought of law in near mystical terms, something that transcended mortals, only in spiritual, but in temporal terms. They took the idea of immutable laws of physics (like our old friend gravity) and extrapolated onto human society and the spiritual realm as well. This was, of course, a reaction to the still remembered time of absolute human monarchy and the divine Tyrant of Israel. So when our older Theosophists adopted karma, they put that notion onto it.

Now we don't view law that way at all. First, we know only too well that the laws of nature are far from immutable and there are always methods for getting around them even though that may take some work. Second, we know that human legislators are no better than monarchs, being just as corrupt, venal and stupid. Law is not something we take very seriously as a philosophical concept any more. Rather than affirm its majesty, as the Victorians did, we do anything we can to subvert it and render it impotent. So when faced with an idea such as karma and then having it presented as a law, our instinctive reaction (as a society) is not embrasure but revulsion in varying degrees depending upon our life experiences.

We just don't view law as a good thing. It is at best a necessary evil that given the right circumstances all of us will work to get around.

What all this means is that the idea of karma has found itself caught in a cultural trap and that is why all the attempts to explain and justify it. It is not enough to merely assert it, as our Victorians would. It has to be defined and explained and examples given. The only problem is that there are no examples of it that anyone can see, so the only resort is argument by analogy, but the analogies don't work very well either. The final fallback position is argument by authority, but authority has to be accepted and that is one huge weakness. You don't try to persuade a Baptist by referring to a Papal encyclical because he doesn't care what the Pope thinks.

So what we have with karma is this ancient idea cobbled together to control a society that was adopted in the vain hope of controlling another that cannot be proven and is impossible to explain in any coherent fashion and which cannot be enforced upon anyone.


Disseminating Theosophy

by Andrew Rooke

[based upon a May 24, 1994 posting to]

Some years back a conference was held in New York during which practical ideas on the dissemination of theosophy were shared by theosophists of all persuasions.

A wonderful cross-fertilization of ideas resulted with some very constructive and non-traditional activities for theosophical groups being advocated such as the use of poetry, drama, and art to communicate theosophical ideas.

Why don't we continue this good work using the wonderful medium of Internet? I would like to start the ball rolling with a few suggestions based on our experience here in Australia, and some of the ideas that have appeared on the Internet.

1. Development of theosophical libraries:

Some members of the network are librarians (e.g. Paul Johnston and myself) and therefore well placed to offer advice on the development of theosophical libraries. Why not identify and utilize this expertize wherever needed in different parts of the world?

2. Current awareness of theosophical literature:

This is an idea which has value in situations such as ours where members and friends work in isolation is to establish a current awareness service. Contents pages of theosophical magazines could be distributed to interested people who don't have access to a theosophical library and articles of interest copied for them (where this does not breach copyright!).

3. Theosophically trained therapists:

Another topic is the impact of changing family structures in the Western world and what, if anything, theosophists could do to alleviate the resultant problems that arise from this process. The idea is that if parents could see their responsibilities in the light of the great laws of life that theosophy teaches, then many of these problems could be ameliorated.

How is it possible to practically apply this sentiment? I remember reading interesting accounts by theosophically inspired psychological therapists in Sunrise Magazine and Theosophical Link (TS Pasadena publications) which gave actual examples of people applying theosophic concepts to marital and psychological therapy.

Could more be done to draw on the experiences of such people and ways found to train others (not necessarily in theosophical organizations) with these concepts?

4. Use of new technology:

The production of a thesophical game on CD-ROM on Theos-l recently is an interesting example of the application of new technology to the ancient concepts we hold dear as theosophists.

There must be so many other practical ways, including the further use of Internet, that theosophical ideas could be disseminated using new technology.


Theosophy World: Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application