Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation homepage > Notebooks of Paul Brunton > Perspectives > Chapter 19: The Reign of Relativity

The Reign of Relativity

1
Here is the essence of both the Theory of Relativity and philosophy's development of it. Two men standing on two different planets moving at different speeds and at disproportionately different distances from the same object at the same instant of time, will differently perceive this object and differently estimate both its character and the measure of the forces working upon it. How can it be said that one of these results is wrong and the other right? Both are correct, for both must be what they are from their respective standpoints. But the same object and the same forces cannot at one and the same time possess contradictory measurements and properties. Therefore these men are not really dealing with it but with their own observations of it. On the other hand, two entirely different objects may produce two entirely similar sets of sense-impressions, as in the case of the meteor called shooting-star and a genuine star. Hence the things and forces in the world are not really the world-in-itself but what we individually see and experience as the world. All that we really know of them in the end is the picture which forms itself out of our sense-impressions, and this picture alone has genuine existence. Anything beyond it has only a supposed existence. But these impressions when thoroughly analysed are found to be only forms which the mind has unconsciously made for itself, just as a dreamer unconsciously makes his dream world for himself. The world of man's experience is always entirely relative to the individual man himself. All that he sees and smells lies wholly within his consciousness and not outside it.

2
As we try to think away all the objects which space contains, we must not forget to think away the light with which we unconsciously fill all space. We shall find if we succeed in this admittedly difficult exercise, that space itself will then disappear. Thus the common belief in space as a kind of vast vessel containing everything, as depending on and being determined by the distances between two or more objects and the relative positions occupied by these objects, is hardly a correct one. Both "inside" and "outside" are merely relative terms. All this again is because, as mentalism declares, space is really the idea which we subconsciously impose on. Hence, when for a few brief moments the mind transcends its creations and returns to itself in mystical abstraction, we lose the feeling of the "outsideness" of things and the world fades into being our own unreal dream. This happens because, as mentalism has already taught us, space is needed by the mind to contain its images, to measure its forms, and therefore mind accordingly makes it. Now the same considerations apply to time, for if we think away all the objects which have their life in the past present or future, there will be no time left to flow onwards. There will be no independent thing called time. Nevertheless, the mind is not left in a wholly negative state after this is done. Whatever we may possibly experience or know in the external world must necessarily be experienced or known under the forms of space and time; to be at all, they have to be as they are. But these forms are variable and changeable, relative and dependent. Therefore these events or things are not themselves eternal and enduring realities. Space and time are ways in which we experience existence; they are not things in themselves.

3
The relativity theory brings space and time together as having no existence independent of each other. Mentalism explains why this is so. They are both inherent in one and the same thing--imagination; they are two ways in which the creative aspect of mind functions simultaneously.

4
The most valuable metaphysical fruit of the quantum theory is its finding that the processes of the universe which occur in space and time, emanate from what is fundamentally not in space and time.

5
The time-space-causality reference is an essential part of human nature, a governing law of human thinking. These three hold good solely within such thinking and can have no possible or proper application outside it. Man does not consciously or arbitrarily impose them upon his thought; it is beyond his individual power to reject them.

6
Such is this relativity of all things to their knower that because the world we experience is our mental world, we never see the world as it really is in itself or as a being who was observing it from outside would observe it. The consequence is that we never see the world without unconsciously seeing the world mixed up with the self. The "I" plus something other than the "I" constitute our field of consciousness. We never know the world-in-itself but only the world-in-a-state-of-interaction-with-the-self. We never know the self-in-itself but only the self-in-a-condition-of-interaction-with-the-world. Such are the actual and compulsory conditions of the so-called experience of the world and our so-called experience of the self.

7
Can the observer who sees, the knower who knows be himself made an object to be perceived? No! says the intellectual; Yes! says the mystic philosopher.

8
There are different strata of the finite mind. He learns to see how the self is caught and works in them in order to go beyond them and become aware of That which is infinite Mind.

9
Notes on Causality/Non-causality:

All our thinking is shaped into the mold of causality and this not by our own choice but by Nature's.

Nothing can enter experience which is not thrown by the mind into a causal form. The mind being capable only of experiencing in this way is incapable of grasping the essentially real in experience.

All that we know of Nature is our own mental experience of it; and all that we know of causality in Nature is likewise only the way in which that mental experience arranges itself.

The causal habit, like that of time and space, is one of the cardinal habits of thinking and one of the fixed forms of awareness. It is our lack of comprehension of the way in which the mind works, the relation between consciousness, ego, and mind, which makes it inevitable for us to fall victim to these three great illusions of the race.

The bias towards belief in causality is so universally ingrained in mankind that religious teachers had to explain the world in causal terms first. But the Vedantists used such causal explanations as steps to mount up towards non-causality. They taught that the world is a creation and its creator the pure spirit Brahman, and then led the pupil to enquire into the nature of Brahman, gradually showing him that Brahman is one, indivisible and partless. Such a partless being cannot change or produce change, therefore there can be no creation, that is, the truth of non-causality. In this way the pupil was led from religion to philosophy.

Creation as an act is different from creation as a fact. Advaita challenges the reality of the first but admits the second in the sense that it does not deny the existence of the world. But the question "How did God create the world?" does not admit of a simple accurate answer. In the first place it is oversimple and therefore inadequate; secondly it is mis-stated and omits at least two other questions the answers to which are prerequisite to an answer to the question in its present form. The infinite principle of Mind does not will or create the Universe, but within its seeming darkness there arises a point of light which becomes the centre of a potential universe. A first beginning of the Universe has never happened, because the Universe is a manifestation of Mind, the reality which, existing in timeless duration as it does, has never had a beginning itself.

Causality functions in the ordinary world. To doubt that would be to doubt all human experience. But when we enquire into its ultimate abstraction we find causality contradicts itself, it is relative and an appearance. At the same time we see that the causal thought-form must be added to the percepts of space and time to bring experience into ordered relationship during the manifestation of the universe, and lapse when the mind sinks again into consciousness.

Even so supreme a teacher as the Buddha had to confess, "Unknowable is the beginning of beings."

What it is in Mind that impels it to make these myriad appearances as ideas we do not and cannot know. The question itself is based on belief in causation, which is another idea, and is therefore invalid because it is without meaning to Mind.

One valid application of the tenet of non-causality is this--when water is converted into steam we cannot say steam is a new creation, for it is still nothing but water albeit its expression has changed.

The world being but an expression of the Overself is not a new creation, for fundamentally no new thing has come into being. The world is but a changed expression of Overself, and as cause implies effect, that is, duality, and as there is no duality, so there is no causal relation behind the universe. From the empiric standpoint--that is, disregarding fundamentals and looking at secondary elements only--within the universe causality clearly reigns. V.S.L.'s application of non-causality to the interrelations within the world is illegitimate.

If causality were not a practical working truth we should plant grass seed in the hope of getting grapefruit.

We must get our minds quite clear about this position. It is all a matter of standpoint. From a practical standpoint the world is composed of many entities affecting and inter-reacting with each other in a causal manner. From the ultimate standpoint the world is Mind-essence, and this being the only existence cannot change its nature and come into a second birth; it cannot fall into the duality of cause and effect. But the Mind's finite productions, ideas, can do so.

Therefore it is admitted that causality fully reigns in the realm of ordinary experience. But when we seek to understand Mind in itself we seek to transcend ordinary experience. Mind in itself is not subject to causality.

The question of causality depends, like the question of the universe, on the particular point of view which we take up. It is real when considered as pertaining to two things, just as a dream table and chairs are real when considered by the dreamer himself. It is fictitious when we look not at the multiplicity of things but at the essence wherefrom they are derived, just as the dream table and chairs are fictitious when looked at from the broader point of view of the man who has awakened with the dawn.

Whereas experience presupposes the relation of causality, reality itself stands out of all relations. Causality is a condition of knowing and thus confines us to the familiar world. The category of causality is inapplicable to Brahman.

If there is one rigid law in nature it would seem to be none other than the law of causality, for how can the chain of causation ever be broken?

The reticence of the Buddha in discussing problems concerning the First Cause is made explicable by his knowledge of non-causality.

Sub-atomic science--indeterminacy, Heisenberg's Quantum Theory; Super-atomic science--Einstein's relativity; milliards of galaxies which made the universe.

Sub-atomic physics reveals that the ultramicroscopic electrons and protons are disobedient to the law which science took as the best established of all laws--that of cause and effect. This revealment may even bring the theoretical search for reality into a cul-de-sac. What was once a philosophical tenet may become a scientific one too. What was once the consequence of man's keenest reflection may become the consequence of his ascertainment of facts.

Scholars often use the words cause and effect with less warrant than truth demands. The phrase is profusely sprinkled over lecture and book until we accept their statement as unquestioningly as we accept today's sunrise. But it behooves the few who would root up the reason for all things to look a little closer into this usage. When we do this, those smooth and finished doctrines which have held us captive so long may be compelled to open their doors and set us free. We may discover, as did David Hume, that whether in the behaviour of matter or of mind, much that we accept as causal is nothing of the kind, it is merely consecutive.

Hume said that a thing or self was only a bundle of relations, being nothing in itself.

It is very easy to fall into what may be called the fallacy of the single cause, as when Hitler--conveniently overlooking himself and those like him--asserted that the Jews were the cause of Germany's worst troubles. The truth is that most problems are many sided, and behind the simplest effects there lie usually a combination of causes.

Causality is a misapprehension from the philosophical standpoint, but quite correct from the physical and practical.

In the last reckoning life is really a process whereby the individual becomes conscious of his own true identity. The spiritual nature of man does not exist potentially, but actually. The discovery of his own identity is simply man's destruction of the hypnotic illusions of Ego, Time, Space, Matter, and Cause--his moment of release from untruth.

The Overself is not subject to causality, but the ideas which appear to arise in it are. This is where students become confused.

We must not ascribe activity to the Overself. This does not mean that it is wrapped in everlasting slumber. The possibility of all activity is derived from it. It is the life behind the Cosmic Mind's own life.

10
Living in time and space as we do, we perforce live always in the fragmentary and imperfect, never in the whole, the perfect. Only if, at rare moments, we are granted a mystical experience and transcend the time-space world, do we know the beauty and sublimity of being liberated from a mere segment of experience into the wholeness of Life itself.

11
The first and root error which has vitiated the philosophy of the West is its assumption that the world of waking life is the only real world.

12
In unwittingly setting up waking consciousness as the sole arbiter of all his knowledge, Western man limits that knowledge unnecessarily. And in regarding other forms of consciousness as mere copies or aberrations of waking consciousness, or else denying their existence altogether, he bars himself from the supreme insight and the highest felicity open to him. Unless he brings the dream and the deep sleep states also into his reckoning, he will continue to be deceived by the Unreal and to mistake the shadow for the substance.

13
As human life extends as an indivisible whole through all three states and is never limited to any one of them alone, it is unscientific and unphilosophic arbitrarily to select the waking condition and ignore the facts of the other two. All the data obtainable ought to be secured, and then integrated into a synthetic system by apprehending them simultaneously in their entirety. The synthesis of all life's states can alone produce sufficient data upon which to grasp the true nature of the world. Only a superior mind, free from vulgar prejudice against sleep and dream, will realize the immense importance of such co-ordination.

14
A comparison of the waking with the dream state yields two striking similarities. Firstly, neither in one state nor the other do we make our planetary environment, or the other persons who figure in it, or cause all its happenings. We are born into our waking world--it is there ready-made. We find ourselves abruptly in our dream world. The other persons just happen to be in both worlds with us. We do not deliberately prefabricate most of the everyday happenings in the waking world and we do not do this with the dream happenings either. Secondly, in neither world can we predict exactly how we shall behave, react, or feel in all their situations. This is all intended to say that our waking life is really a kind of sleep, from which we need to wake up; that just as the dreamer only awakens when his fatigue exhausts itself or when someone else arouses him, so we, too, only awaken from life's illusions when we are exhausted with all the many different kinds of experience we get from many different incarnations or when a teacher appears to reveal the truth to us. Further, what we have done or desired in former incarnations predetermines a large part of the picture of our present one. Yet, the connection between this cause and this effect is unseen by us until someone else, a master of insight, shows it to us. Until then we are like sleeping dreamers.

15
Just as the spiritual ignorance of man reveals itself during his slumbers by his total lack of knowledge that the dream-experience is only a series of ideas, so the evil character of man reveals itself during his slumbers by the rule it imposes--unrepressed by legal sanctions or social codes--upon his dreams. This is one of the elements of truth in Freud's otherwise grossly materialistic teaching. The dream is partially a self-revelation. Hence it is the teaching of the mystical order of Turkish Sufis that the progress of a disciple is partially to be measured by his teacher by the progressive purification attained in the character of his dream life.

16
Unreflective life is often impatient with such enquiries into the relative value of the waking state, for to them its superior reality in contrast with dream is completely beyond all question. They denounce the sleep enquiry as being altogether too flimsy a premise on which to build great conclusions. Yet when we remember that all living creatures from ant to man are plunged into intermittent sleep for substantial portions of their whole lives, how can we hope to grasp the meaning of their existence and the meaning of the universe of which they are parts, without examining the full meaning and proper value of sleep-states? Whatever we learn from a single state alone may always be liable to contradiction by the facts of another state. Therefore unless we coordinate and evaluate the truth of the waking state with the truth of the sleep state we cannot hope to arrive at ultimate truth in its fullness. But when we venture to make such a coordination we shall discover that in sleep there lies the master-key of life and death!

17
Dreams occur for several different reasons. And two parts of one and the same dream occur for two different reasons. It is unscientific to say--as the materialistic medicos, many psychoanalysts, and the fortune-tellers stubbornly say--that dreams are determined by a single particular cause. And it is just as unscientific to say that dreams have only one function to perform. Therefore the student must move warily when trying to understand dream processes or to interpret individual dream happenings. It is quite true to assert, for example, that some dreams or some parts of a dream represent unconscious desires or repressed emotions, but it is equally true to assert that most dreams don't represent them at all. It is fallacious to make the dream a metaphor pointing to future events. More often, it is a stew cooked up out of past ones. For most dreams merely reveal what happens when the image-making faculty breaks loose from the general mental equipment and works out a series of self-deceptive illusions based on real material picked up during the previous day's experiences.

18
Consider the fact that our individual lives are totally suspended during sleep, that the waves of personal consciousness then merge utterly in the ocean. How clearly this shows the Divine to be also the Infinite and Universal, our lack of true spirituality, and our possession at best of its pale reflection! For where else could we go to sleep except in this Infinite and Universal Mind? Yet we know it not! To get rid of such ignorance, to attain transcendental insight into the fourth state of being, is the most wonderful of all the tasks which this philosophy sets before us.

19
In sleep the non-existence of things is not known to you; therefore sleep is a state of ignorance, not of Gnanam, for the Gnani knows everything to be Brahman. The nonduality of sleep is not the nonduality of Gnanam. Brahman is not known in deep sleep but is known in Gnanam.

20
In our view, even deep sleep unconsciousness is a form of this "consciousness" which transcends all the states we ordinarily know--waking, dream, and deep sleep--yet includes them when they merge back into it. Such a "consciousness" is unthinkable, unimaginable, but it is the true objective awareness. It is also the I you are seeking so much. But to reach it, then you have to let go of the I which you know so well.

21
Once he has attained the philosophic realization of the Overself, he goes nightly to sleep in it, if the sleep is dreamless and deep, or inserts it into his dreams if it is not. Either way he does not withdraw from it.

22
The transcendental being is not an unconscious one. The absolute consciousness could not be other than self-conscious in its own impersonal way. Hence the fourth state is not the same as deep sleep.

23
A subtle, careful analysis of the three states of consciousness will show the logical need of a fourth, which is their hidden basis.

24
The space in which the process of thinking takes place, is time. It could not exist without the dimension of time. If thought is ever transcended, time is transcended along with it. Such an achievement throws the mind into the pure present, the eternal now, "the presence of God" of all mystics.

25
Do not confuse infinite time, which is duration, with timelessness, which is eternity. The first is just the lengthening of the ego's past, present, and future; the second is their dissolution in ecstatic smiling ego-free being.

26
Eternity contains, undivided, the past present and future. How it can do so is a mystery which human perception and human understanding may not ordinarily grasp. The unaided intellect is powerless to solve it. But there is, potentially, a fourth-dimensional intuitive faculty which can succeed where the others fail.

27
The real heaven is a state of delightful rest which the finite human mind cannot correctly imagine and usually misconceives as a state of perpetual idleness for the ego.

28
Is it not a strange thing that after a night's dreaming sleep when we may become some other person, some other character during our dreams, we yet wake up with the old identity that we had before the dream? And is it not equally strange that after a night's sweet, deep, dreamless slumber when we actually forget utterly that same previous identity, we are able to pick it up once more on awakening? What is the explanation of these strange facts? It is that we have never left our true selfhood, whether in dreams or deep slumber, never been other than we really were in essence, and that the only change that has taken place has been a change of the state of our consciousness, not of the consciousness itself.

29
That there is an insight where all times lie side by side--the past, the present, the future--the twentieth century b.c. and the twentieth century a.d., may seem impossible to the ordinary mind.

It is in the fullness of the eternal present, the eternal now, that a man can really live happily. For by seeking That which makes him conscious of the present moment, by remembering it as being the essence of his fleeting experience, he completes that experience and fulfils its lofty purpose.

The fourth dimension is in everything existing in the three-dimensional space and at the same time exists in its own dimension. Now in the fourth is the same as here in the third dimensional world.

Materialism is compelled to hold that there is only one uniform time. Mentalism holds that there are different kinds of time, not only for different kinds of beings but even for one and the same being.

In contemplating deeply Nature's beauty around one, as some of us have done, it is possible to slip into a stillness where we realize that there never was a past but always the NOW--the ever-present timeless Consciousness--all peace, all harmony; that there is no past--just the eternal. Where are the shadows of negativity then? They are non-existent! This can happen if we forget the self, with its narrowed viewpoint, and surrender to the impersonal. In that brief experience there is no conflict to trouble the mind.

It is our innate inertia which keeps us set in habitual outlooks and thus keeps us victims of our own past experience. We copy again every day what we did before, what we thought and felt before. We live in both the conscious and the subconscious memories, desires, fears which time has accumulated for us, and that the ego has created to bind us to itself. We are ruled by compulsions, fixations, and neuroses--some of them not even known--that freeze us, preventing further real advancement. We rarely enter the day to gain really fresh experience, think really new thoughts, or assume really different attitudes. We are prisoners of time. This is because we are so ego-bound. The compulsion which makes us conform ourselves to dead yesterday's ideas and practices, concepts and habits, is an unreal one, an illusory one. In letting ourselves become victims of the past by letting it swallow up the present, we lose the tremendous meaning and tremendous opportunity which the present contains. Whereas the Overself speaks to us from tomorrow's intuitive understanding, the ego speaks to us through memory. Its past enslaves us, preventing a new and higher way of viewing life from being born.

But it is possible to arouse ourselves and to begin viewing life as it unfolds in the Eternal Present, the Now, with wholly fresh eyes. Every morning is like a new reincarnation into this world. It is a fresh chance to be ourselves, not merely echoes of our own past ideological fixations. Let us take it then for what it is and live each moment anew.

When a master mystic like Jesus tells men to refrain from being anxious about the morrow and to let today's evil be sufficient for today, he speaks out of his own consciousness of living in this Eternal Now. Consequently, he spoke not of periods involving twelve or twenty-four hours, but of pinpoints of a moment. He told them to live timelessly, to let the dead past bury itself. He is indeed a Christian, a Christ-self man, who lives cleanly and completely in the present--free, uncontrolled, and unconditioned by what he was, believed, or desired yesterday.

The mystery of the atom has resolved itself into the mystery of light, which is now the greatest mystery of physics. Einstein demonstrated the dependence of time upon the position and speed of motion of an observer. He showed, too, the amazing consequence of placing the latter in a stream of light wherein if he moved with the same velocity as light, the observer would then possess no sense of the passage of time. If this happened, what sort of a sense would he possess? Einstein could not tell us, but the mystic who has conquered mind can. He will possess the sense of eternity. He will live in the eternal, in the Kingdom of Heaven.

During the night when Gautama entered Buddhahood and the great revelation of the Good Law was made to him, he discovered that existence was from moment to moment, discontinuous. The Hindu sages deny this and assert it is continuous in the Self. The pity of it is that both are right. For what happens in every interval between two moments? We then live solely and exclusively in the Self, the Absolute, delivered from Relativity and Finitude.

Many "still" photographs make up a cinema film. The break between every pair of pictures is not reported to the conscious mind because fast movement outruns attention. The symbolism is interesting: see The Wisdom of the Overself, Chapter 14, seventh meditation, for a more detailed explanation. Whoever attempts this exercise should practise it with the eyes only slightly open.

Then why did not the Buddha finish his announcement and give the entire truth? For the same reason he carefully kept quiet on several other points which could disturb men dependent on religion--on its representatives and rites, its customs and dogmas, and especially its past--to the point of enslavement. He likened the human predicament to being in a burning house and directed attention to the urgent need, which was to get out now and thus get saved. Here is a key word: the Present, manipulated rightly, can open the practitioner's mind. Then the Timeless itself may take him out of time (he, the personal self, cannot do it), out of the now into the Eternal NOW. If it is no easily successful way there is always the long detour of other ways found by men.

The feeling until now was one of living in time. Imperceptibly or suddenly this goes and he finds himself in a timeless condition, with the tick-tock of thoughts following one another absolutely stilled. It is temporary but it is also glorious.

The immediate present is not the eternal NOW.

Psychologically the void trance is deeper than the world-knowing insight, but metaphysically it is not. For in both cases one and the same Reality is seen.

What is the practical value of the teaching about time? The full answer to this question would embrace many fields, but here is one of the most important. Philosophy teaches its student to apply the double point of view to the outward happenings of his life as it does to the inward contents of his sense-experience. From the ordinary point of view, the nature of an event determines whether it is a good or an evil one; from the philosophic point of view, the way he thinks about the event will determine whether it is good or evil for him. He should always put the two points of view together and never separate them, always balance the short-range one by the long-range one.

The higher point of view enables him to escape some of the suffering which the lower one would impose upon him. An event which to the worldly man seems staggeringly important and evil from the point of view of the moment, becomes smaller and smaller as the years recede and, consequently, less and less hurtful. Twenty years later it will have lost some of its power to shake him; fifty years later it will have lost still more--indeed, it may have lost so much as to cause him no further pain; one incarnation later it will not trouble him at all. When the student adopts the long-range point of view he achieves the same result in advance and by anticipation of time. It is said that time heals all sorrows; if we seek the reason why, we shall find it is because it insensibly gives a more philosophic point of view to the sorrowful. The taste of water in a jar will be strongly sweetened by a cupful of sugar; the taste of water in a bucket will be moderately sweetened by it; the taste of water in a bathtub will be only slightly sweetened by it; and water in a lake will be apparently quite unmodified by it at all. In exactly the same way, the stream of happenings which makes up time for human consciousness gradually dilutes the suffering which each individual event may bring us.

The student is not content, however, to wait for such a slow process in order to reduce his suffering. By bringing the philosophic attitude to bear upon each event, as and when it occurs, he immediately reduces his suffering and fortifies his peace. Every calamity which is seen from this standpoint becomes a means whereby he may ascend, if he will, to a higher level of understanding, a purer form of being. What he thinks about it and what he learns from it will be its real legacy to him. In his first fresh anguish the unawakened man may deny this; in the mental captivity which gives reality to the Present and drops it from the Past, he may see no meaning and no use in the calamity; but either by time or by philosophy he will one day be placed at the point of view where the significance of suffering will be revealed to him and where the necessity of suffering will be understood by him. This, indeed, is one of the great paradoxes of the human development: that suffering leads him step by step from the false self to the acceptance of the true self, and that the true self leads him step by step back to the acceptance of suffering.

If the worldly man agitatedly sees the event against the background of a moment, if the philosophic student calmly sees it against the background of an entire lifetime, the sage, while fully aware of both these points of view, offsets them altogether by adding a third one which does not depend on any dimension of time at all. From this third point of view, he sees both the event itself and the ego to whom it happens as illusory. He feels the sense of time and the sense of personality as unreal. Deep within his mind he holds unshakeably to the timeless character of true being, to the eternal life of the kingdom of heaven. In this mysterious state time cannot heal, for there are no wounds present whereof to be healed. So soon as we can take the reality out of time, so soon can we take the sting out of suffering. For the false self lives like a slave, bound to every passing sensation, whereas the true self lives in the timeless peace of the kingdom of heaven. As soon as we put ourselves into harmony with the true self, we put ourselves into harmony with the whole universe; we put ourselves beyond the reach of calamity. It may still happen, but it does not happen to nor is it felt by our real self. There is a sense of absolute security, a feeling that no harm can come to us. The philosophic student discovers the mission of time; it heals sorrows and, under karma or through evolution, cures evils. The sage solves the mystery of timelessness, which redeems man.

Philosophy would not be worthwhile if it did not take the view that for the practical purposes of life, it must turn around and adopt a non-metaphysical approach. Thus a twofold attitude is the only complete and therefore correct one which it may approve. We have the right and bear the duty to ask ourselves in what way is a teaching related to everyday living; in what way is it connected with the world we know? If both relation and connection are absent, it is fair to say that the teaching is inadequate and lacks the necessary balance of interests.

Whatever the universe be in human experience, it is, in important ways, like a dream. That is, we must grant existence to a dream world as an indubitable fact because it is a perceived and experienced world; but at the same time we must refuse its form ultimate existence, and hence enduring reality, because it is neither perceived nor experienced after we awake from sleep. This twofold character of the dream world also belongs to the familiar and so-called real universe. It is plain, yet paradoxical at the same time. For this reason, ancient Tibetan philosophers declared the world to be both existent and non-existent. To the unenquiring mind it vividly is what it seems to be, but to the awakened insight of the sage its form presents itself like a more enduring version of the transient form of a dream world. Both forms are thought-constructions. Both have Mind as their underlying "substance." Therefore Mind is their reality. Apart from Mind the world could not even exist, just as apart from the dreamer his dream could not exist.

Life is changing dream-stuff to the thinker but it nevertheless is spun out of immutable reality.

Metaphysically, every thing and every thought contains in itself the form of its opposite. We must try not to be attached to one opposite and not to be repelled by the other in a personal way. This does not mean that we may ignore them--indeed we cannot do so, for practical life requires that we attempt at least to negotiate them--but that we deal with them in an equable and impersonal way. Thus we keep free of the bonds of possessiveness. If we try to cling to one of the opposites alone whilst rejecting the other, we are doomed to frustration. To accept what is inherent in the nature of things is therefore a wise act. If, through being personally hurt by it, we are unwilling to do so, if we rebel against it, then we shall succeed only in hurting ourselves all the more. To run away from one of the opposites and to run after the other is an unwise act. We must find a balance between them; we must walk between the two extremes; we must ascend the terrace above the standpoint which affirms and above that which negates: for the entire truth is never caught by either and is often missed by both. For the way in which our consciousness works shuts us up, as it were, in a prison house of relativistic experiences which are the seeming real but never the actually real. To accept both and yet to transcend both, is to become a philosopher. To transcend the opposites we have to cease thinking about what effect they will have upon us personally. We have to drop the endless "I" reference which blinds us to the truth about them. We must refuse to set up our personal preferences as absolute standards, our relative standpoints as eternal ones. To do this is to cease worrying over events on the one hand, to cease grabbing at things on the other. It is indeed to rise to an impersonal point of view and enter into harmony with what Nature is seeking to do in us and in our environment. We have to find a new and higher set of values. For so long as we cling to a personal standpoint we are enslaved by time and emotion, whereas as soon as we drop it for the philosophic one, we are liberated into a serene timeless life.

Once the double viewpoint is understood and set up as the necessary starting point, the timed measure and the timeless order fall into his scheme of things. Practical experience carries him through the ordinary existence, and divine experience--the eternal Now--is not displaced by it. Success in living the philosophic life and maturing the mentality it requires makes this possible.

There is only one real presence, the divine Presence. This is the final truth we all have to learn, and to experience. When this happens we see the world as it is in appearance, just as other persons do, but we also intuit it at the same time as it is in essence and feel it held in that Presence.

The apparent void out of which the universe seems to have been made, created, born, or evolved, is really the essence, the being, the life-power of God.

The momentary pause in every heartbeat is a link with the still centre of the Overself. Where the rhythm of activity comes to an end--be it a man's heart or an entire planet--its infinite and eternal cause is there. All this vast universal activity is but a function of the silent, still Void.

The One behind the Many is not to be mistaken for the figure one which is followed by two, three, and so on. It is on the contrary the mysterious Nought out of which all the units which make up multiple figures themselves arise. If we do not call it the Nought it is only because this might be mistaken as utter Nihilism. Were this so then existence would be meaningless and metaphysics absurd. The true ineffable Nought, like the superphysical One, is rather the reality of all realities. From it there stream forth all things and all creatures; to it they shall all return eventually. This void is the impenetrable background of all that is, was, or shall be; unique, mysterious, and imperishable. He who can gaze into its mysterious Nothingness and see that the pure Divine Being is forever there, sees indeed.

The Void is the state of Mind in repose, and the appearance-world is its (in)activity. At a certain stage of their studies, the seeker and the student have to discriminate between both in order to progress; but further progress will bring them to understand that there is no essential difference between the two states and that Mind is the same in both.



The Notebooks are copyright © 1984-1989, The Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation.