A Collection of Esoteric Writings of T. Subba Row/In re Adwaita Philosophy


Will the Editor satisfy us by moving the assertion that "matter is as eternal and indestructible as spirit?" The assertion was made in the Editor's note to a correspondent's letter on 'Karma' (vide page 89 of the Theosophist for January 1883). You should bear in mind that we are speaking of matter and spirit beyond the present developed form, or in the stage of perfect Laya*[1] according to Patanjali's second and third Sutras, or, from the stand-point of the Esoteric Theosophy. Could you kindly explain what is meant by Satta Samanya ((Indic characters)) and Parampadam ((Indic characters)) of the Aryan adepts, Nirvana of the Buddhas, and the Philosopher's stone of the votaries of other occult philosophies? As far as we understand the Aryan Theosophy, when the Mahapralaya takes place, matter is absorbed by, or dissolved into, Mahat-tattwam ((Indic characters)) and the same again into Prakriti, and the Prakiti finally into Pûrûsha or Parampadam.

In the same way of the components of the mysterious letter Om ((Indic characters)) A ((Indic characters)) is dissolved into U ((Indic characters)) and the raja part of U ((Indic characters)) into M ((Indic characters)) You will thus see that matter and force can both be layed (or dissolved) ultimately into the Spirit which alone remains as " True," and should be called Eternal—which term neither matter nor force deserve—being liable to evolution from, and dissolution into, Spirit—or the Absolute. As you are well acquainted with the doctrines of the Adwaita Vedanta, it is needless to write more on this subject.

We would, however, call your attention to page 99 of the same number of the Theosophist, and entreat yon to remove our doubt by establishing scientifically a certain point. Who was it that died as stated in the article "Can the Double murder?" According to our belief man exists in a three-fold way; 1st, externally; 2nd, internally; and 3rd, spiritually. (1) By externally we mean in gross body ((Indic characters)) or Annamaya ((Indic characters)). (2) The internal fold is the astral body formed of the three koshas or cases, viz.:—Pranamaya ((Indic characters)), Manamaya ((Indic characters)), and Vignyanmaya ((Indic characters)). (3) The spiritual fold is the Pragna state or Anandmaya ((Indic characters)). You say " ***that a mortal wound may be inflicted upon the inner man, &c., &c." Now what do you mean by the inner man here? The question to be settled is whether the double murdered the double or treble. In our opinion the double murdered the treble and not the double—and in no case the spiritual—one. Our object in writing this is to ask you to kindly ascertain what is the extent of a human will's influence, or in other words. Can the Mayavi Rupa be also annihilated by mesmeric force or the material body only?

Almora Pataldevi,
20th January 1883.
Editor's Note:—To our utter amazement, we are called upon to prove that matter is indestructible; at any rate, that "matter is as eternal and indestructible as spirit!" Though the question and proofs as to the eternity and indestructibility of matter alone, might be safely left to the Royal Society to answer, yet we are fnlly prepared to satisfy our learned correspondent, and, with his permission, will answer all his queries.

We are asked to bear in mind that the entities in question are "matter and spirit beyond the present developed form, or in the stage of perfect Laya.

We are unable to understand what is really meant by "spirit beyond the present developed form." The sentence presents no sense to our mind, trained as it has been by our great Masters to think of "Spirit" as of something formless and entirely beyond the ken of our sensual perceptions, and, therefore, not to be considered apart from, or independently of, corporeal existence. Universal Intelligence and the One Life, as we call it, conceived of, apart from any physical organization, becomes vital essence, an energy of force; and none of these we believe can be considered as a distinct entity, a substance, or, as having a being or even a form separate from matter. Locke's definition, that "Spirit is a substance, in which thinking; knowing, doubting and a power of moving do subsist"—would hardly be accepted by the average Vedantee, and would find itself absolutely rejected by every true Adwaitee and Eastern Occultist. The latter would answer that "matter alone is a substauce, in which thinking, knowing, doubting, and a power of moving, are inherent, whether as a latent or active potentiality—and whether that matter is in a differentiated, or an undifferentiated state.

Thus, in our humble opinion, the something, or rather the no-thing, called Spirit, has by itself, no form or forms in either progressive or stationary "states of development;" and we say again that the expression is perfectly unintelligible to every real Adwaitee. Even supposing that the qualifying clause refers only to matter, the meaning conveyed by the expression "matter and spirit beyond the present developed form" is the same as conveyed by that of—"matter and spirit in the stage of perfect Laya"? We fail to see the point made, or even any sense in such a sentence as "matter and spirit in the stage of perfect Laya," implying as it does the possibility of spirit, a pure abstraction, being dissolved and annihilated—we will not say—as matter—since the latter in its primordial, cosmic state can be no more annihilated or even dissolved than spirit—but as a thing of matter having substance and form. Can a void be annihilated? And what is pure, absolute spirit but the "void" of the ancient Greek philosophers? Well, says Lucretius, "there can be no third thing besides body and void; for if it be to the smallest extent tangible—it is body; if not,—it is void." And let it not be urged, on the strength of this quotation, that because we quote the words of a great "Atheist," a materialist, as an authority, we are therefore a materialist and an atheist (in the usual sense of both terms) ourself. We object to the very term "materialism" if it is to be made indentical with, or a synonym of "corporealism," that is to say, an antithesis of, "Spiritualism." In the light we, Occultists, regard matter, we are all materialists. But it does not at all stand to reason that because of that, we should be, at the same time, "corporealists," denying in any sense or way the reality of the so-called spiritual existence, or of any being or beings, living on another plane of life, in higher and far more perfect worlds than ours, having their being in states of which no untrained mind can have the smallest concepttion. Hence our objection to the idea and possibility of "matter and spirit, in the stage of perfect Laya unless it can be shown that we have misunderstood the latter word. According to the doctrines of the Arhat philosophy there are seven states of matter, the 7th state being the sum total, the condition or aspect of Mulaprakriti.*[2]

Consequently the state of Cosmic matter beyond its "present developed form" may mean any of the other six states in which it exists; and hence it cannot necessarily mean "matter in a stage of perfect Laya." In what sense, then, does the learned querist want us to interpret the words "matter" and "spirit"? For, though we are aware that there exist, even in the present age of science and enlightenment, persons who, under the pretext of religion, teach the ignorant masses that there was a time when matter did not exist (since it was created) implying thus that there will come a moment when it will be annihilated, we have never yet met any one, whether atheist or deist, materialist or spiritualist, who would presume to say that spirit—whether we call it "void" or "divine breath"—can ever be annihilated; and if the word Laya means annihilation, the very expression used by the respected Swami involves an assumption that "spirit" can be destroyed in course of time. In such a case, we are evidently called upon to demonstrate that matter and spirit are eternal on the supposition that both have a period of Laya." If we are to avoid this extremely awkward conclusion, what is the purport of the Swami's question? Verily, it would have been better if he had allowed us the privilege of interpreting our own statements. Moreover, our learned opponent is not satisfied with merely giving us his own—begging his pardon—incomprehensible definition of matter and spirit, to enable us to prove our "assertion," but we are asked to answer the question "according to Patanjali's second and third Sutras, or, from the stand-point of esoteric theosophy." How or why should the Swami think or know, that we made the statement in question on the authority of Patanjali's treatise? Or is Patanjali's philosophy identical with esoteric theosophy in his opinion? If not, why should our statement be sine qua non proved only "according" to that philosopher's second and third Sutras? It would be just as reasonable to call upon us to prove the proposition under consideration from the stand-point of the Salvationists. As it is almost bopeless for us to understand his definition, or satisfy his curiosity under the extraordinary restrictions imposed, we shall, with the venerable Swami's permission, interpret our "assertion" in our own way and prove it agreeably to esoteric theosophy, and we hope, in accordance with the Adwaita philosophy, that our corrrespondent knows so well.

Our "assertion" then means the following Undifferentiated cosmic matter or Mulaprakriti, as it is called in Hindu books, is uncreated and eternal. It would be impossible to prove this assertion from â priori reasons, but its truth can be tested by the ordinary inductive method. In every objective phenomenon perceived, either in the present plane of consciousness or in any other plane requiring the exercise of spiritual faculties, there is but change of cosmic matter from one form to another. There is not a single instance, or the remotest suspicion of the annihilation of an atom of matter ever brought to light either by Eastern Adepts or Western scientists. When the common experience of generations of Adepts in their own spiritual or psychic field of observation, and of the ordinary people in theirs—(i. e., in the domain of physical science) points to the conclusion that there never has been utter annihilation of a single material particle, we are justified we believe, in saying that matter is in destructible though it may change its forms and properties and appear in various degrees of differentiation. Hindu and Buddhist philosophers have ages ago recognised the fact that Purush and Prakriti are eternal, co-existent, and not only correlative and interdependent, but positively one and the same thing for him who can read between the lines. Every system of evolution commences with postulating the existence of Mulaprakriti or Tamas (primeval darkness). Leaving aside the great authority of Kapila on the subject, we may refer to the celebrated Rik of Rigveda describing this Primeval Chaos, and using such expression as:—

"Tama eva purasthath abhavath viswarupam" and "Asthwa ithamagra Asith,"*[3] etc.—

scattered throughout the Veda and the Upanishads in support of our assertion. All those Great philosophers of India who have added the ancient wisdom-religion of Agasthya, Thoorwasa and other Rishis to the pure Adwaita philosophy of Vasishta, Vyasa and Suka, have recognized this fact. Gaudapatha and Sankaracharya have given expression to their views on the subject in their works, and those views are in perfect accordance with their doctrines of the Arhat philosophy. The authority of the latter two great philosophers will, we believe, be sufficient to show to the learned Swami, since he is an Adwaitee, that our statement is correct. And primeval Cosmic matter, whether called Asath or Tamas, or Prakriti or Sakti, is ever the same, and held to be eternal by both Hindu and Arhat philosophers, while Purusha is inconceivable, hence non-existent, save when manifesting through Prakriti. In its undifferentiated condition, some Adwaitees refuse to recognize it as matter, properly so called. Nevertheless this entity is their Parabrahmam, with its dual aspect of Purush and Prakriti. In their opinion it can be called neither; hence in some passages of the Upanishads we find the expression "Prakriti-layam" mentioned; but in all such passages the word "Prakriti" means, as we can prove—matter in a state of differentiation, while undifferentiated Cosmic matter in conjunction with, or rather in its aspect of latent spirit is always referred to as "Mah-Iswara," "Purusha" and "Parampada." The description given by our learned correspondent and the very words used by him when he says, "when the Mahapralaya takes place, matter is absorbed by, or dissolved into, Mahat-tatwa, and the same again into Prakriti, and the Prakriti finally into Purusha or Parampadam"—show that he is either waging a war of words, or seeking to draw us out (whether for friendly purposes, or otherwise, he knows himself best;) for neither the words "absorbed by," or "dissolved into," can mean annihilated. Why should he then use against his own argument the term "Laya," since if he once calls himself an Adwaitee, he must know the doctrine, and therefore understand the various senses in which such specific terms are used. Thus, we shall feel grateful to our learned correspondent if he can quote to us a few authorities in support of his statement about the dissolution of Mahat-tatwa*[4] and Prakriti at the time of Mahapralaya. We shall then be able to see what the Aryan philosophers really meant by such an assertion.

In reference to the real meaning of Satta Samanya and Parampada[5] of the Aryan Adepts, Nirvana of the Buddhas and the "Philosopher's stone," their meanings are identical in both the Aryan and Arhat secret doctrines. Satta Samanya sometimes means latent spirit. It also means "Guna Samyapadhi," or the undifferentiated condition of Satwaguna, Rajaguna and Tamaguna[6]. As to Parampada and Nirvana, both mean the same thing. From an objective point of view it is the condition of Pnrusha-Prakriti as above described; from the subjective—it is a state of perfect uuconsciousness resulting as bare Chidakasam.

If the Swami is desirous to learn more about the "Philosopher's stone" of "the votaries Of other Occult Philosophies," then we may refer him to our foot-notes to the articles "Gleanings from Eliphas Levi," published in the January number of the Theosophist, and other sundry articles. If the "other Occult Philosophies" are worthy of their name, then the doctrines taught in them must not differ save in the names given to identical things. Truth is but one, and of two different versions one must be necessarily false. We are not prepared to accept the interpretation given of the world Aum, since the above interpretation is not quite consistent with the doctrines of the Adwaitee Vedanta philosophy. We shall feel grateful, nevertheless, if the learned Swami can refer us to any great Adwaitee philosopher as an authority in support of his explanation.

No less puzzling are his curious ideas about our supposed meaning and views about the potentialities and nature of the human double.

The question is not "whether the double murdered the double or the treble," for neither the "double" nor the higher "treble" (if, as we suppose the 5th, 6th and 7th principles are meant) can be murdered by living man or ghost. The fact we suppose to be that by the concentrated energy of implacable hate [of Prince Obrenovitch's foster-mother against his assassin], and through the agency of the clairvoyant's double, "the silver cord" of life was snapped and the inner-man driven out of its physical covering. The wound which destroyed life, i. e. broke up the relationship between the Sthoolsariram, with its informing Jiva, and those other component parts of the entire personality, was inflicted upon the lower "treble"—if the Swami of Almora must use the clumsy term, even in sarcasm—without first transpiercing the physical body. In a case of natural death the citadel of life is captured, so to speak, only by gradual approaches; in deaths of violence it is taken with a rush. If fright, or joy, or the lethal current of hatred be the cause, the body will show no wound yet life be extinguished all the same. Sorcerers' victims usually appear as though killed by heart disease or apoplexy; chemical analysis will afford no clue to the assassin's method, nor the surgeon be able to find a suspicious mark upon the surface of the cadaver.

  1. * Laya, or a state of absolute dissolution, annihilation of all substance.—Ed.
  2. * Undifferentiated cosmic matter.
  3. * "Primeval darkness resulted as the manifested universe" and "Asath or Prakriti existed first."—Ed.
  4. * Mahat-tatwa corresponds to the spiritual Light, or the Sephira of the Jewish Kabalists.—Ed.
  5. † Literally—the most sacred places, means Nirvana or the condition of MokshaEd.
  6. Satwaguna—the quality of passivity, or absence of any cause of disturbance; Rajaguna—the quality of activity, or that which induces to action; Tamguna—the quality of ignorance, inactivity of mental and spiritual faculties atisiug from that ignorance.—Ed.