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The Idea of Space in Theosophy

The Full, The Void, and
The All, According to H.P. Blavatsky
 
 
Steven H. Levy
 
 
 
 
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The following text was first published at
the Yahoo e-group E-Theosophy  in 2011.
 
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Several abstract concepts can be presented to convey the proper idea of Parabrahm, the absolute Deific Principle.
 
These include the Supreme cause, the Supreme reality, the absolute existence, the one Be-ness, and the One Supreme All. Yet, the best representation on our earth, on our plane of existence, and on our plane of consciousness, of the One All is space. In fact, H.P. Blavatsky writes that space “is its only mental and physical representation on this Earth - or our plane of existence.” [1]
 
The “Proem” of “The Secret Doctrine” explains why. Four reasons are given.
 
1.  Space as the All, cannot evolve or manifest something outside of itself.
 
If it could, it would cease to be the All. All objects, beings, worlds, solar systems, and universes are created, evolve and eventually disappear within space, but space does not create, preserve or destroy them. Nor is space changed by what manifests and disappears within it. There is no direct interaction between space and what manifests within it. There is no objective observable end to space, nor is there a conceivable limit to space in our consciousness. Whatever can be said of space in this regard can be said of the Deific Principle.
 
2. Space is the only physical reality that is not an object of perception and it is the only mental concept that is not subject to perception.
 
We can perceive objects in Space and we can perceive the space those objects occupied when they disappear. However, Space itself cannot be perceived. We can neither perceive Space to be an object that is the cause of any existing object or force, or the effect of any existing object or force. We just know it is.  We cannot say it exists as an object or no longer exists as an object. We can conceive of the idea of limited space, but we cannot perceive it in its infinite abstract oneness. No matter how far we stretch our minds to perceive space, we intuitively know that there must be more space beyond our mental perception. Whatever can be said of Space in this regard can be said of the Deific Principle.
 
3. Space is both an absolute void and a conditioned fullness.
 
Space as an absolute abstraction is infinite and void of any qualities or attributes that we can conceive of. It has no dimensions, since concepts such as length, breadth, and depth are relative to our physical world and relative to a frame of reference. For example, what is the length of this written sentence? Does your answer take into account the distance between the atoms of the paper on which it is printed or the distance between the first and last letters. There can be no such dimension for that which is the All. However, space abhors a vacuum. Every “point” in space as a center for the focus of our limited perception is filled with some degree of substance, force or being. Even the “points” in space that we cannot perceive directly with our powers of perception are similarly filled. Space is the All and the absolute container of All. Whatever can be said of space in this regard can be said of the Deific Principle.
 
4. The fullness of Space is sevenfold in its manifestation from its undifferentiated to its most differentiated degree of substance.
 
It is in and through this fullness of space, symbolized as the “eternal mother-father,” that all beings and worlds are born, live, move and have their being. All beings and worlds are sevenfold in regard to their constitution, states, and planes of consciousness. Like space, our consciousness even in the waking state, has its absolute voidness and its conditioned and differentiated fullness.  Consciousness, or awareness, in itself is devoid of any attributes or qualities. Yet, the states and planes of consciousness are distinguished by the different objects and subjects which we are conscious of, while in those states. While in those states, we are consciously full of impressions of different degrees and qualities. What can be said of space in this regard can be said of the fullness of the periodically manifesting Kosmos within the Absolute Deific Principle.
 
An excerpt from “The Secret Doctrine” will further illustrate the issue:
 
“…. The Occultists are, therefore, at one with the Adwaita Vedantin philosophers as to the above tenet. They show the impossibility of accepting on philosophical grounds the idea of the absolute ALL creating or even evolving the ‘Golden Egg’[2], into which it is said to enter in order to transform itself into Brahmâ -  the Creator, who expands himself later into gods and all the visible Universe. They say that Absolute Unity cannot pass to infinity; for infinity presupposes the limitless extension of something, and the duration of that ‘something’; and the One All is like Space - which is its only mental and physical representation on this Earth, or our plane of existence - neither an object of, nor a subject to, perception. If one could suppose the Eternal Infinite All, the Omnipresent Unity, instead of being in Eternity, becoming through periodical manifestation a manifold Universe or a multiple personality, that Unity would cease to be one. Locke’s idea that ‘pure Space is capable of neither resistance nor Motion’ - is incorrect. Space is neither a ‘limitless void’, nor a ‘conditioned fulness’, but both: being, on the plane of absolute abstraction, the ever-incognisable Deity, which is void only to finite minds [3], and on that of mayavic perception [4], the Plenum [5], the absolute Container of all that is, whether manifested or unmanifested: it is, therefore, that ABSOLUTE ALL. There is no difference between the Christian Apostle’s ‘In Him we live and move and have our being’, and the Hindu Rishi’s ‘The Universe lives in, proceeds from, and will return to, Brahma (Brahmâ)’: for Brahma (neuter), the unmanifested, is that Universe in abscondito, and Brahmâ, the manifested, is the Logos, made male-female in the symbolical orthodox dogmas. The God of the Apostle-Initiate and of the Rishi being both the Unseen and the Visible SPACE. Space is called in the esoteric symbolism ‘the Seven-Skinned Eternal Mother-Father’. It is composed from its undifferentiated to its differentiated surface of seven layers. ‘What is that which was, is, and will be, whether there is a Universe or not; whether there be gods or none?’ asks the esoteric Senzar Catechism. And the answer made is - SPACE.” [6]  
 
The esoteric catechism directs the student to clearly understand this basic teaching on space because of its meditational and practical value.
 
Thoughtful consideration of space as a transcendent limitless void and a manifesting fullness expands the mind to the realization of the eternal invisible One life, and the unity and interdependence of differentiated forms of life. As all are part of the whole of life, our friends and enemies are part of ourselves. Our welfare and happiness is wrapped up in theirs. No one can think, feel or act rightly or wrongly, altruistically or selfishly without advancing or impeding their own evolution and the progress of all. Universal Brotherhood is a fact in nature and the natural duty, or Dharma, of a human being.
 
NOTES:
 
[1] “The Secret Doctrine”, H. P. Blavatsky, Theosophy Co., Los Angeles, vol. I, p. 8. 
 
[2] “Golden Egg” - The Egg of Brahma, the cosmic womb of the universe as described in the Laws of Manu:  “Removing the darkness, the Self-Existent Lord became manifest, and wishing to produce beings from his Essence, created, in the beginning, water alone. In that he cast the seed. That became a golden Egg, in brilliancy equal to the sun; in that he himself was born as Brahma, the progenitor of the whole world.” – Laws of Manu, 1.6-9
 
[3] At this point H.P.B. added the following footnote:
 
“The very names of the two chief deities, Brahma and Vishnu, ought to have long ago suggested their esoteric meanings. For the root of one, Brahmam, or Brahm, is derived by some from the word Brih, ‘to grow’ or ‘to expand’ (see Calcutta Review, vol. lxvi., p. 14); and of the other, Vishnu, from the root Vis, ‘to pervade’, to enter in the nature of the essence; Brahma-Vishnu being this infinite SPACE, of which the gods, the Rishis, the Manus, and all in this universe are simply the potencies, Vibhutayah.”
 
[4] Mayavic perception - The infinite scope of reality cannot be measured against human standards. Each person interprets and measures what is perceived according to one’s own limitations and preconceptions. These illusory perceptions are called maya (from the verbal root ma, “to measure”).
 
[5] The Plenum - The “fullness” of space, as opposed to the Void or so-called empty space; the fullness of matter in space which forms space.
 
[6] “The Secret Doctrine”, H. P. Blavatsky, Theosophy Co., volume I, pp.  8-9.
 
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