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Akasa - Ether: The First Duality

Theosophical Siftings
Akasa - Ether: The First Duality Vol 6, No 2
Akasa - Ether: The First Duality
by R. B. Holt
A Lecture to the Adelphi Lodge Reprinted from "Theosophical Siftings" Volume 6
The Theosophical Publishing Society, England


I INVITE you to accompany me some little way back along the path of Being and to endeavour to realise what was at the very commencement of Kosmic evolution.

This is a journey of a few thousands of millions of years, but happily we are not obliged to make it physically; we have but to imagine that we have passed over this immense period and, in thought, we stand at the very start point of our present Maha-Kalpa.

Now a Maha-Kalpa, according to Oriental computation, embraces three hundred and eleven thousand and forty millions of solar years. But even a Maha-Kalpa is but as a moment when compared with infinite duration and, reasoning from analogy, the Hindu philosophers conclude that countless millions of these life-cycles must have been evolved before the commencement of our own Maha-Kalpa. It is therefore, after all, only a relatively modern period which I shall now endeavour to present to you.

Of preceding Life Cycles we can say little; it is believed that during their course, Man (the personification of divine Thought) pondered the ideas presented to him by his intuition, exercised his will and profited by his experiences. In short, during each Manvantara "mutatis mutandis" he acted in a manner that exactly corresponds to the actions of man today and with results that are essentially the same.

By this process germs of essential life were matured, which became each man's intuitions at his next incarnation, and the sum of these intuitions represented to him what is now called Karma.

At each Manvantara a form was evolved, suited to the highest life which was then possible, and this form became the vehicle of the reincarnating Ego.

By this means the most apt scholars of the Great Master attained their present pre-eminence, and became the Angels and Gods of the Monads incarnated as humanity in our own day.

Accepting this theory as a working hypothesis, let us now consider what Hindu philosophy teaches respecting the Genesis of Kosmos.

Like all great cosmogonies, that of the Hindus begins with a Void in which there is neither light nor form. We may call it Space, Chaos, Bythos, the Great Deep, or anything else that will best express to us the utterly unknowable mode of Being. But this void could not be without its essential Cause, so it is conceived as ensouled by the inscrutable Parabrahm, or as the Hindus reverentially call it THAT; the Causeless Cause of all things. That is (A) the great Spirit as distinguished by qualities such as Omniscience, etc., created by Maya and Maya itself. (B) The great Spirit without Maya, etc., i.e., unmixed. The first is Deity as it seems to us, the second is Deity as it is.

This Void which transcends our rarest thought and is known to us only as a subjective consciousness; this sentient nothingness contains the possibility of all things, nay, is everything in its unmanifested state. Yearning towards this Void, in spiritual ecstasy, the highest Yogins intuit a first film evolving from the boundless expanse of Jiva; a faint dimming of the light which, owing to its intensity, is darkness even to them. This film they call Akasa, and define it as the eternal Divine [Blavatsky Lodge Transactions - P. II.] Consciousness which cannot differentiate, have qualities, or act.

By Jiva they mean the Universal Life Principle and Akasa being the first vehicle in which Absoluteness manifests itself, this vehicle or Divine Consciousness necessarily has an intense vitality of its own; not a vegetable, animal, or even spiritual life, but an energy identical with that Be-ness which is the Rootless Root of all Being. This energy is intuited as Divine Will, and by that Will manifestation becomes possible. The first form of Akasa then is Divine Consciousness, a state which exists, to us, only as an ultra abstraction.

But the Hindus reason in this wise: The Idea of Consciousness, even when abstract, necessitates the Idea of something to be conscious of, and if nothing existed but Parabrahm, Parabrahm could only be conscious of itself.

Thus we come to Divine introspection, or, as one may say, the Absolute taking stock of its own Absoluteness.

From this introspection evolves subjective differentiation; i.e. the possibilities of things limiting each other in Divine Consciousness.

Next follows the desire to realise these possibilities, which necessitates a fitting vehicle for their manifestation, and the first consciousness of this desire is another aspect of Akasa; and thus we cognise what Theosophists call the plane of the Manifested Logos, the first mentally objective Creation.

This is the highest state subject to human observation, and the first thing that we perceive is that here everything has a dual existence.

In accordance then with the Universal Law of duality on this plane, [Raja Yoga, 24] Akasa must have its lining, or female correspondent. Accordingly, Ether is predicated and endowed with Sabda, or the power of differentiation, which is the equivalent or correspondent of Divine Ideation. Thus Akasa becomes the first personation of the male or positive principle, with primordeal [Secret Doctrine, Vol. 1, Page 57] Ether, the female or passive Principle, as its appropriate Shakti.

The Hindus have made many attempts to define Akasa, but when dealing with it in its subjective state the terms used convey only the [Secret Doctrine, Volume 1, Page 255] veriest shadow of a meaning. It is called the noumenon of Ether. The [Secret Doctrine, Volume 1, Page 343] living fire; the Spirit of Light; Deity which pervades everything. The [Isis Unveiled, Volume 1, Page 139] imponderable and intangible life-principle; all which terms would doubtless be very satisfactory if we could only realise their ultimate meanings. As that realisation is utterly beyond us, we must be content with a dim consciousness of an omnipresent Essentiality which is the substance of all that we know as mental and physical phenomena, and which is the anti-type of every manifestation. [Monism 22]

The Hindus further tell us that Akasa is the substratum of Sound. "That it is an almost homogeneous and certainly a universal Principle", and they explain that Sound is not a characteristic of Akasa, though it is certainly innate in it, as the Idea I am I is innate in our thought.

Here we may get somewhat in touch with Western Philosophy. [Secret Doctrine, Volume 2, Page 2] Sound is a mode of motion and, according to Theosophical teaching, "Motion is the one eternal attribute of the One life".

If then, Akasa is the substratum of Sound, and sound is a mode of motion, in this aspect we have to regard Akasa as motion, or that by [Secret Doctrine, Volume 1, Page 2] which Divine life is possible, for as we are told "that which is motionless cannot be divine".

First then, we get latent consciousness; the inconceivable self-hood of the Absolute: the possibility of motion in the intangible and imponderable Life Principle, in infinity.

Next is a reciprocal relation of this subjective motion to primary objective motion. This correlation is termed Sound; consequently Sound must be regarded as the primary effect of motion; an effect which becomes the cause of all divine manifestations on every subsequent plane of Being. Sound is, therefore, properly termed the Logos or Divine Ideation.

This Logos (the Word of St. John) is at first subjective, or, as it is commonly called, unmanifested. This is quite logical, for evidently a thing must be before it can become cognisable even by itself.

In order to illustrate this let us pass over the many intervening planes and come for a moment to our own, remembering that, according to the [Secret Doctrine, Volume 2, P 29] Law "as above so below” whatever we find on our own plane must have its correspondent on every other plane, for there, is persistence and continuity throughout.

Now, after a man has become conscious of his Being and comprehended the powers which constitute his Individuality, he is very different from that heterogeny of attributes which previously constituted an irrational existence. He now has an intuitive perception of Unity in diversity and gradually his will acquires force by the differentiation of its organs of expression. A corresponding process is apparent in all evolutions, and if the law "as above so below" really is a universal one, there is nothing to justify our limiting the operation of it. [Monism, Page 20]

But while we must postulate Parabrahm as a logical necessity it is only Iswara "the Supreme Creator, demonstrated by inference" that we are really interested in, and it is only on our own plane of being that [Secret Doctrine, Volume 1, Page 432] Akasa concerns us. "Even Iswara knows not Parabrahm, but only [Secret Doctrine Volume 1, Page10] Mulaprakriti", and we only have to do with Akasa in its lower aspect; that is, as "the radiation of Mulaprakriti, the abstract primordial substance".

We are told that cosmically Akasa is a radiant, cool, diathermanous, [Secret Doctrine Volume 1, Page. 13] plastic matter; creative in its physical nature, correllative in its grossest aspects and portions, immutable in its higher Principles. In the former condition it is called the Sub-Root and in conjunction with radiant heat [Secret Doctrine, Volume 1, Page 85] "the all-creative Force plus Intelligence", it recalls dead worlds to life. "It is that out of which everything has come, in obedience to a law of [Buddhist Cathechism, Page 51] motion inherent in it. It is the subtle fluid which pervades all space and [Visishtadwaita Catechism, Page 37] is everywhere and in everything".

According then to Hindu teaching our Akasa is a fluid infinitely rarer than celestial Ether, though compared with Ether our atmosphere is very solid and ponderous matter.

In its nature, too, Akasa is a dual substance which underlies both spirit and matter. A law of motion is said to be inherent in it, and [Secret Doctrine, Volume 1, Page 599] Motion is the One eternal Is. The one attribute by which the One Life is knowable by us. If, then, we are to recognise a divine presence pervading the Universe, even to its smallest atom, it is by Akasa that this presence is manifested to us.

Remembering, too, that in its higher aspect Akasa is divine consciousness, the Omniscience of deity becomes an understandable proposition. It may be reasoned in this wise: Akasa is divine consciousness.

This consciousness is the intelligence manifested in every one of the atoms whose aggregate is the Universe; in every one of the cells which constitute our bodies; in every being that exists. Therefore that which is the knowledge of every part must in its synthesis be the knowledge of the whole, and this totality of knowledge is what we call omniscience.

Here, of course, I am assuming that no one will contend that Deity can have any limitations, and also, that all admit that the chemical affinity of matter varies in form and degree, but is identical in kind with the sympathetic will of the highest Intelligences. To demonstrate these propositions is beyond the scope of my present subject.

In Akasa, then, we find an inherent law by which it reproduces itself as the first duality on our plane; that is as Spirit and Matter. These, however, must never be regarded as two distinct things, but always as two co-eternal, co-existent aspects of the One immutable "IS", or, if you prefer it, as two modes of the One Motion or Great Breath.

It does not then seem unreasonable to conclude that all things, whether spiritual or physical, acquire their qualities from differations or varying quantities of these two primal modes of motion, and that as the one or the other predominates, so is the Being of a higher or a lower order.

How potentiality became potency, or the intangible became sentient, it is impossible to say. We only know that for us sentiency exists, and by a logical process infer that a negative must have preceded this positive state.

End Part I - Go to Part II

See Also

Akasa
Ether
Keelys Secrets - Introduction

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