SelfDefinition.Org

Conquest of Illusion J. J. van der Leeuw

Theosophical Publishing House 1928

J. J. Van der Leeuw

Chapter 5 The Mystery of Creation

This universe, the same far all, no one, either god or man, has made; but it always was, and is, and ever shall be an ever living fire, fixed measures kindling and fixed measures dying out. -- HERACLITUS.

top of page

 

The Problem of Origins

It is inevitable that man, contemplating his world-image and assuming it to be an objective universe, should ask what the origin of that world is, who made it and out of what it was formed. In his daily experience all the objects he sees are made somehow, they have a maker and are made out of some material, there was a time when they were not, there was a time when they became what they are now and there will be a time when they shall no longer be what they are at present. It is the same with regard to forms in nature; he sees them grow from small beginnings to maturity and finally decay or disintegrate. Transferring these experiences to the universe surrounding him, man wonders how this universe began; whether there was anything before it and whether some day it will come to an end; whether it grew by itself to be what it is now or whether it had a Maker who created it; whether this Creator made his universe out of some pre-existing material or whether he, somehow, evolved it out of himself; what the present relation of this universe is to its first Cause, what the end of it will be and whether there is a purpose in its existence and growth.

Many and various are the answers which man gives to these questions of world-origins, from the crude versions of primitive mythology to the mature theological views in which an extra-cosmic Deity makes the world out of nothing, or the scientific conception of a mechanical evolution in which this world in all its complexity emerges by itself from a stellar nebula. And in most great philosophies we find some contribution to these problems of world-creation, some attempt to explain the mystery. Thus from the earliest periods of Hindu philosophy down to the most modern philosophical theories the problems connected with the origin of this universe have thrust themselves into man's contemplation with a persistence that will not be denied.

The more primitive the race or civilization the more naïve its solution of the questions of creation; reading some of these ancient explanations we may well wonder that they were ever taken seriously. We feel that our age has entirely outgrown such childish fabulations, and yet, when we come to analyze the attitude of the average man with regard to these problems, it is surprising to see how exceedingly primitive his very approach to the question is. Thus we still find many millions of Christians, a number of whom have had the advantage of a scientific training, accepting unquestioningly as God's word the primitive tradition which the Jewish nation held to account for the origin of man and the universe.

It was the primitive anthropomorphism and the inherent contradictions of the story of Genesis which made Shelley write in Queen Mab:

From an eternity of idleness I, God, awoke; in seven days toil
Made earth from nothing; rested, and created man.
I placed him in a paradise and there Planted the tree of evil,
So that he Might eat and perish and my soul procure
Wherewith to sate its malice and to turn
Even like a heartless conqueror of the earth
All misery to my fame.

And yet Shelley's was an essentially religious nature: it was the very depth of his religious realization which made him put aside a primitive tradition which, with all its discrepancies, can hardly be taken to be God's word without a serious reflection on His omniscience.

There is no doubt but that the Old Testament is one of the most precious parts of the world's literature. As a history of the struggles and aspirations of a most interesting and gifted nation, as a tradition of their religious thoughts and feelings, as a document of human weakness and strength, of beauty and brutality, it has perhaps no equal in the literature of any country. As such it will always yield plentiful fruits to those who study it and it will always widen our human understanding and outlook. But to accept every word of that Scripture as not only divinely inspired, but as God's own word, is an absurdity which should be incompatible with modern thought.

We must not underestimate the influence which even to-day the Old Testament has on Christian mentality; many of its conceptions concerning God and the world, man and woman, evil and sin, have, through many centuries of Christian tradition, been woven into the very texture of our thoughts, unconscious though we may be of the fact.

top of page

 

The Scientific Answer

It is but natural that those who turn away from a version of world creation which offends the thinking mind at every point, should look towards science to give a reasonable explanation of world-origins. In fact, it was largely because of the discoveries of science in the domains of astronomy, geology, paleontology and archaeology that the first shadow of doubt was cast on biblical accuracy, and soon the choice became that of accepting either the version of Genesis concerning the creation of our world, or else the data of science with the theories based on them.

Since the geologist knows approximately the rate of geological deposit he can, when studying the strata of the earth's surface judge with comparative exactness the age of any particular layer. If, therefore, he finds that certain layers are a hundred thousand or many hundreds of thousands of years old, and if in such layers are found remains either of human beings, or of extinct animals or plants, such remains bear a mute witness to the existence of the creatures in question at that period. There is no doubt that the testimony of these geological deposits is contradictory not only to the Mosaic chronology, but also to the succession of natural species as presented in Genesis. Instead of a number of spontaneous creations by an extra-cosmic Deity we find a gradual process of change in which a new species by very slow and gradual changes grows from previous ones. Thus man, instead of being created completely and perfectly by God, is considered to be the natural descendant of ape-like ancestors; Genesis and science appear incompatible.

In this earlier conception of the evolution of species the method, by which a new species was thought to have emerged from previous ones, was that of adaptation to environment and natural selection by a survival of the fittest. For a creative intelligence there was no place in this classical theory of evolution; the task of the God of Moses had been taken over by a new God whose name was 'adaptation to environment.' We can but wonder that many a free thinker, who rejected contemptuously the miraculous creation of the world as taught in Genesis, willingly accepted the no less miraculous evolution of the world, with all its variety of creatures, from a stellar nebula by the miraculous agencies called adaptation to environment and survival of the fittest. Truly, when we are asked to believe that our modern world with its millions of different creatures, with the marvelous complexity of structure in the animal and vegetable kingdoms, with man himself in the strength of his aspirations and his power to adapt environment to himself, that all this should have grown from the stellar nebula by adaptation and survival, we must acknowledge that we are face to face with a miracle compared to which that of Genesis is but child's play.

But apart from the miracle demanded by the older evolutionists there are serious insufficiencies in their conception. None can doubt the influence of environment and the truth of the survival of the fittest, but on the other hand it is equally true that it was not always the fittest who survived. When the flying creature gradually evolved from the reptile there must have been a period stretching perhaps -through thousands of years when the rudimentary wings were not sufficiently perfect to allow for their use in flying and during which, consequently, the creature with evolving wings would be inferior instead of superior to its fellow reptiles. Neither adaptation to environment nor survival of the fittest by natural selection can ever explain how the bird-like creature evolved from the reptile, since only the fully evolved wing would give its possessor superiority over creatures without wings. Thus we cannot escape the conclusion that there must be a force within the species which. causes it to evolve into the higher one and to survive in an intervening period when, by reason of its changing structure, it is temporarily inferior instead of superior to its mates. This indwelling, formative principle, the creative life-urge or élan vital, becomes then the cause of evolution, in which environment and the struggle for life are utilized to accomplish a purpose which, by themselves, they could never achieve.

It becomes, then, the function which determines the organ, there is an evolution of life which, from within, determines the evolution of form and creates the new species by the force of an indwelling, dynamic principle which, if we are to judge by results, must be intelligent. We might as well believe that a heap of bricks could form themselves into a beautiful building without the influence of a creative intelligence as believe that the beauty of form in Nature has evolved out of the matter of the stellar nebula by the chance of natural selection.

The science of evolution, then, recalls, under another form and name, the Creator whom it expelled in its earlier stages and, where previously religion and science were opponents, we can now see the possibility of a synthesis of the two in a higher truth. This does not mean, of course, that the incompatibilities of Genesis with modern science will ever be overcome, but it does mean that the data of science are not in any way incompatible with the belief in a creative Intelligence, directing and guiding evolution from within.

top of page

 

The Insufficiency of the Scientific Answer

Illuminating and indispensable as evolution is in explaining the method by which change takes place in our universe, it is yet, like all scientific truth, an explanation of the how, not of the why; the method is explained, the mystery is not touched at all. Even if we do trace this universe back to stellar nebula the question remains, whence the nebula and if that nebula in turn is supposed to have emerged from some primordial matter the question yet remains, whence this primordial matter, and why did it change into the nebula? We are still confronted by an ultimate matter, a raw material out of which the universe has been evolved, but which in itself remains unexplained. Equally unexplained remains the differentiation of a varied universe out of the supposed uniformity of a primordial substance. And above all there remains the question of the indwelling creative power which causes primitive forms to evolve into ever higher ones. Evolution too is incapable of finding a true beginning, it too fails to coordinate our universe of time and change with an eternal, abiding Reality. Thus Taylor, in his contribution to Evolution in the light of modern knowledge, says:

Hence there can be no final 'evolutionary 'explanation of being as a whole, any more than there can be a manufacture of manifold and different objects out of a 'raw material ' which has no character of its own and is thus pure nothing. Every evolution presupposes both a material and agencies acting on the material which are anterior to the evolution itself, and the process of accounting for these praesupposita as the results of a still earlier evolution cannot 'go to infinity.' Somewhere behind all evolutions and supplying all with 'material' and 'driving force' there must be the strictly eternal.

However illuminating the discoveries of science are and have been with regard to natural evolution, the mystery of creation is not even touched by them. Science can never find an ultimate creative Agency, nor a true origin of things; it can but trace its origins back to previous evolutions, universes or structures, the praesupposita of which Taylor speaks, and these are left unexplained.

The same insufficiencies which we meet in the scientific view of world-origins present themselves when we enter the realm of occultism, which, as explained before, should be considered as an extension of science into worlds of subtler matter. On the basis of clairvoyant investigation certain facts are put forward which trace the creative process to a point beyond that which ordinary science can reach. Thus, in modern theosophy, we find a doctrine of creation, in which the Logos of a solar system is presented as creating His solar system by pouring forth His power into a pre-existing Root of matter termed Mulaprakriti, thus causing the formation of primordial atoms. The arising of differentiation out of the apparent nothingness of unmanifest Being is explained by the connection of one cycle of manifestation or manvantara with a previous one, the two being separated in time by a period called pralaya or non-manifestation, during which the fruits of the previous manvantara are kept in abeyance until the beginning of the next manvantara when they reemerge and cause the differentiation of the One into the Many.

These doctrines, based on occult investigation, offer an interesting extension of science beyond the physical, but they do not even touch the mystery of creation itself. To trace the origin of matter to a pre-existent root of matter does not explain the fundamental problem of origins any more than the theological doctrine of the creation of the universe out of nothing; we have merely shifted the problem. In the same way the question of the beginning of creation is not touched by shifting back that beginning one or even one thousand manvantaras, even if each of these should last three hundred times a million years. Such enormous numbers may dazzle the imagination; to the problem of time and the eternal they contribute no solution.

This does not in the least impair the value of the occult doctrines concerning creation and the origin of matter, but the remarks of Taylor with regard to the philosophical insufficiency of the scientific theories still hold good; we start from praesupposita as the results of an earlier evolution and we are still confronted by the impossibility of finding a beginning. Occultism necessarily shares the fate of science in the face of ultimate questions; it too can explain method, the how, but never the why.

top of page

 

Wrong Questions and Wrong Answers

The fundamental reason why neither the theological nor the scientific or even the occult view of world-origins can ever give a satisfactory answer is that they all begin by implicitly accepting the questions, without pausing to consider whether perhaps something is not wrong with the question itself, and whether we do not stand self-condemned when we attempt to answer it.

As long as the intellect does not even suspect that its objective universe is but the world-image produced in our consciousness it will unquestioningly accept an absolute time as part of that objective universe. Such an objective time demands beginning and end, and the intellect finds itself confronted by this difficulty that creation must have begun at some time, that is to say, that there must have been a beginning of time. This is in itself absurd, especially when thought of in conjunction with an unchanging eternity of divine existence. It is impossible to co-ordinate our cycles of time, or definite duration, with an unchanging eternity which has neither beginning nor end, being an ever present reality, and all our attempts to make our illusion of an absolute time fit in with the conception of eternity are doomed to failure.

In a similar way the intellect finds itself in an impasse when it tries to understand how, on the one hand, there must have been something out of which the universe was made and on the other hand that something itself must have been made somehow and can hardly have an objective existence outside the One who made it. Yet creation out of nothing is but a phrase, and not even the more immaterial conceptions of emanation from God's being or existence in God's thought can shed light on the final mystery. All such terms may be applied to the work of the Deity of a universe with regard to His especial system, where we are in the realm of relativity and can use terms derived therefrom. But when we are trying to approach the ultimate mystery of creation we must go by a different path altogether and first overcome the illusion out of which our erroneous questions are born.

Naturally, as long as we believe our world-image to be an objective universe, independent of our consciousness, we are confronted by the problem of the objective materiality of that universe, and all our questions concerning creation presuppose such an entirely real and objective matter. Our questions and answers are thus born of illusion and until we, in ourselves, conquer that illusion it is impossible to approach the mystery of creation at all. As long as we are subject to preconceived ideas, rooted in illusion, colouring all our questions, it is better for us not to ask anything at all; we are but as the man wounded by the poisoned arrow in the story of Malunkyaputta, what we first need is the physician. Until we gain experience of reality the best we can do is to make ingenious explanations of impossible situations, for such are our questions and answers as long as we are in the throes of illusion. They may satisfy us for a while by their very ingenuity, but they are empty of meaning.

Thus in all the questions concerning the first Cause, the beginning of creation, the matter out of which the universe is made, its origin and the relation of our universe to its Creator, illusions enter, especially the illusions of an absolute time and of the objective reality of matter, and the questions can never be solved, being wrong in themselves. Yet the very intensity of our desire to know, our very passion for truth in these matters and the sincerity and wholeheartedness with which we have asked the questions, however wrong these may be, provide the motive power which finally must bring us to reality. Even in wrong questions there is virtue according to the measure of their sincerity and wholeheartedness.

It is useless, as we have seen, to ask of science an answer to ultimate questions concerning creation; science may explain to us how things work in our world-image and how, in the circulus vitiosus of time, one thing is connected with others in a seemingly endless chain of causation; ultimate questions fall outside its domain. It is the same with occultism; on the basis of clairvoyant investigation certain facts may be put forward which trace the creative process to a point beyond that which ordinary science can reach. But all this, profoundly interesting and valuable as it may be in explaining the methods of growth and of change as seen in our world image, does not contribute anything essential to the philosophical problems with regard to world origins. Science and occultism, belonging as they do to the domain of the relative, contribute but facts, and to present their findings as philosophical answers is but to misapply them. The mystery of creation must be approached in a different way altogether; having stated our problem as clearly as we can we must surrender our world-image and all that belongs to it and, in the world of the Real, try to experience the Mystery itself.

top of page

 

Time and the Eternal

Let us then withdraw from our world-image with its compelling illusions and enter that world of Reality, where alone living truth can be experienced.

Here we have left behind us the world of relativity, we are the Absolute which is all relativity simultaneously and eternally. No longer do we now gaze upon a universe, the history of which enrolls itself in time; we experience as an ever-present reality That which, speaking our language of illusion, is all that is, was or shall be, all universe past and present, all beginnings and endings, all cycles of time and evolution. Yet the Absolute is not on one side and all the manifoldness of relativity on the other. Relativity is but the spelling of the Name of the Absolute, it is its very being, its constitution, its description, we might almost say its one characteristic. That is why in the experience of Reality it seems absurd to ask how the relative originated in the Absolute, whence it came and why it is; it is the Absolute and is only seen as the relative when viewed from the relative standpoint of some creature in its illusion of separateness.

It is therefore impossible to say that there is some reason for the presence of the relative in the Absolute, it is not present in ' the Absolute, it is but the Absolute, experienced in a different way. Thus there is no raison d'etre for the relative, no origin or cause of it, it has no purpose and serves no end and in no way does it increase the glory of the Absolute, since it is the Absolute. Words like origin and cause, purpose and end can only flower in the soil of illusion, they lose their meaning in the, world of the Real.

Of the relative as well as of the Absolute we can but say that its being is its justification, it is and it is all there is, it always was and never shall cease to be, though 'never' and 'always' are again terms derived from our language of illusion. Ever-present reality is the mystery we experience in the world of the Real and in that experience questions cease.

It is here that the intellect must always labour under misconceptions, to it the ever-present Reality of all that is can but appear as a frozen immobility; the silence and changelessness of the Eternal is to the intellect but as the stillness of death. To it life is movement and movement means change, one thing after another. And yet the experience of the Real is far from that which the intellect would picture it to be; though the Eternal is changeless, all change and time, growth and evolution are contained it as an abiding reality, whereas in our world-image we see them unrolled on the endless scroll we call time. What we experience in our time consciousness is but the ever-shifting section of reality which we term the present.

The present in itself has neither duration nor reality; not even the fraction of a second can be called the present. Only past and future are real and are the names we give to the ever-present reality of things as they are. It is therefore as impossible to speak of the beginning or end of anything in the world of the Real as it is to speak of the beginning or end of a circle. Beginning an end, growth and change, successive stages only appear when, in our world-image, we interpret ever-present Reality.

An image may help us to realize something of that which is of necessity beyond the intellect. If we imagine a being living in a two-dimensional world, for instance the surface of a liquid, we can readily see how any object passed through the surface of that liquid would present to the two-dimensional being an ever-changing cross-section of its true being. That ever-shifting cross-section would be the only experience the two-dimensional being had of the three-dimensional reality. If we passed a cone through its two-dimension surface it might first see the point of contact of the extreme end of the cone and then an ever-widening circle or eclipse according to the angle at which the cone was passed through its two-dimensional world. We can imagine how this two-dimensional creature might give the name 'cone' to that cross-section of the cone, which is all it knows, and might view the constant change of that cross-section as the 'evolution' of the cone from a point into a large circle. Yet, that which would appear as change or evolution to the two-dimensional being would be a simultaneously present reality to a three-dimensional being looking on; to it the cone would be one complete thing. Again the surface creature would call 'past' that which had passed through its surface and 'future' that which had not yet passed through, whereas its 'present' would be the ever-changing cross-section. To the three-dimensional onlooker that present would have no substance; the past and future would make up the real being.

Thus each relative being in the world of the Real is simultaneously all that which, in the time-illusion of our world-image, we call its history or evolution. While in that illusion of time we do but see ever-shifting cross-sections of eternal Reality, in the world of the Real every being is complete, containing in itself its entire evolution as a simultaneously present reality. Our particular cycle of evolution with apparent beginning and end is but our realization in time of that which we are in eternity. That which we realize in our cycle of life, in the world of time, is real enough, it is our eternal being, but the way we realize it as a process of growth, with beginning and end, that is our idiosyncrasy, our illusion.

Every creature has its realization of eternal reality and that realization is the life-cycle of that creature. Our life-cycle as a whole is our being in the world of the Real, seen as our evolution in the illusion of the world-image. Thus what we call our evolution as an individual is like the spelling, letter for letter, of our eternal Name, our true being; as such it seems to accomplish a purpose, to lead to some end, to produce some result and to have a cause, whereas all these words seem meaningless when thought of in connection with the reality that produces the appearance of evolution in our world-image.

In a similar way our activity, or rather that which we hold to be our activity, is our realization of the eternal Activity, the only Activity which ever exists--the Rhythm of creation. In our daily consciousness we may be intensely aware that we do things, think thoughts and feel emotions, they form our activity, or work or creation, emerging from us, done by us. When we make a table or speak a word we feel that we are creating something which, in that form, did not exist before, we feel that we are, all the time, adding something to the real totality of things. In a similar way, but on an infinitely larger scale, we think of the Deity of a universe as creating that universe, making or thinking it, or even emanating it out of Himself, but always adding by His activity to the sum total of things at that moment. Yet, once again, this is but illusion.

There is nothing, there never was anything, there never can be anything but the eternal Rhythm of creation, unchanging, containing all things. It is the Absolute, It is at the same time all relativity all that we think of as past, present, or future. It is all universes with their uncounted millions of creatures and objects, it is in eternal and abiding reality all that we think of as their actions or creations. What we call the activity of a relative being, however lofty, is its realization in the realm of relativity of the eternal Rhythm of creation. That realization by the separate creature appears to have beginning and end, it appears to be the individual and unique creation of that being, but in reality it is only its realization of eternal Creation. That realization is unique in so far as it is the realization of that particular being or creature, yet the thought that the separate creature produces its creation, adds it as it were to the general store, is illusion.

Whenever, in our world-image, we search for origins, by means of science or occultism, we are always searching for origins of a particular universe, however great, in the realm of relativity. The reasons why it will always be impossible to find these origins or to find an end is that such a universe is the objective creation we think it to be, but the realization by some great Being of eternal Creation. The apparent beginning and end of that creation are only relative to the Being whose realization that universe is; we cannot find an objective beginning or end because there is none. What we call time is but a linear interpretations of the circle of eternal Being, its beginning and end, however loudly clamored for, can never be found. Thus our individual cycle of time, our evolution, is our experience of eternal Reality within the greater cycle of time which is the experience of reality by the indwelling Life of our universe, but none of these cycles of time are objectively real, they are experiences of Reality.

top of page

 

The Rhythm of Creation

On the one hand, our normal consciousness, we can experience the fact of the limitation of the Absolute in the relative; on the other hand, in our experience of reality, we find the fact of the liberation of the relative into the Absolute. These two facts--the eternal limitation of the Absolute to the relative and the eternal liberation of the relative into the Absolute are not merely the fruits of intellectual reasoning or of logical proof, they are realities which we can experience in ourselves. Together these two basic facts interpret for us the mystery of Creation; deceptive as the terms limitation and liberation are in their insufficiency they serve to describe for us the eternal Creation which is the being of the Absolute. Together they express the Rhythm of Creation.

When we enter the world of the Real we not only experience the liberation from relative to Absolute, we become the eternal creative Rhythm which is the very Being of the Absolute, which is the Absolute itself. In that ultimate experience there is no longer question of two basic facts of consciousness which together yield the creative Rhythm; we experience the Rhythm of creation as the supreme and final Reality, beyond which nothing is and which is all things. In the experience of that Rhythm we can recognize the phases of limitation and liberation, but they are our distinctions, not in any way separations in the creative Rhythm. That Rhythm is one and whole; in it the limitation of the Absolute as relativity and the liberation of the relative in the Absolute are a simultaneous, all pervading, ultimate Reality.

It is true, even the term 'rhythm' is insufficient, but when we have experienced reality we find ourselves placed before this choice--either to say nothing at all, recognizing that no words can express the Real, or else to attempt to convey something of reality in a language based on our world-image illusions, well knowing that everyone of our expressions must be insufficient and thereby misleading, and that whatever we say must appear to be self-contradictory. This is why the use of symbols in such a great help; in a symbol we can express simultaneously that which in language we can only describe as a sequence. Yet we must not forget that, since in the language of symbolism we use measures of space, the illusions inherent to an objective space are as great a danger in our symbols as the illusions inherent in an objective time are in our language of words.

In the symbol of the circle we can realize as a simultaneous reality the Rhythm of creation which, when described in language, must ever appear to be a sequence of one thing after another. Especially when we can see the circle as radiation, and not as a combination of centre and circumference, it is a great help towards the understanding of that which is beyond understanding. In this symbol the liberation of Absolute to relative is seen in the movement from the centre, the liberation of the relative into the Absolute in the movement back toward the centre.

top of page

 
Diagram 3
Diagram 3, The Circle as symbol of the
                                creative Rhythm.

In the experience of reality there is, of course, no question of a going forth or a coming back, but the nearest description we can give of the eternal Rhythm of creation is that of a twofold process--an eternal going forth from the unity of all-comprehensive reality to the uttermost differentiation in relativity and an eternal return from that realm of relativity towards the centre in which the whole is simultaneously realized. It is the eternal Tide of creation, the ebb and flow of all things, not successive but simultaneous or rather eternal; it is the eternal Heart-beat with its diastole and systole, the eternal Breath of creation which yet is an unchanging reality.

The experience of the Rhythm of creation is the ultimate experience in the quest of Truth. To say that it is great or glorious, wonderful or all-surpassing, is but to belittle it, it cannot be compared to anything since it is all things and there is naught beyond it; it is without cause or purpose. It is the Song of the Eternal of which all things, great or small, form part, all being notes and chords in an eternal Harmony which is ultimate Being. When once we have entered the world of Reality and been rhythm of creation we know it in all things; every object, every creature, every event now has for us its true significance as a note in a Symphony of creation. All things join in that eternal Song; nothing now exists for us except as part of the Song of creation. By itself a thing seems absurd and without meaning as a single note would be; we now realize that indeed there is no such thing as a separate note in the Song or creation but only the one comprehensive Reality in which is infinite variety, but no separateness.

In mystical philosophy this remains the supreme experience which yet is more than an experience, since we are that which we know, and in that being are no longer ourselves, but That which is all things. In the realization of the Rhythm of creation all else becomes clear to us, henceforth we see things in the light of the Eternal, we behold them sub specie aeternitatis; in the nameless Reality we know the names of all things.

top of page

 

The Absolute as Creation

The Absolute does not create, it is eternal creation; creation is its Being, its Name, its Nature, not even co-eternal with It, since it is not distinct from It. That is the ultimate mystery which has neither cause nor purpose.

The very word creation, however, is misleading, it at once brings in its train mental associations of a Creator who creates something--the creature. All such terms are the product of the externalization of our world-image as objective reality; in the illusion of our daily contemplation of that world-image we produce the construction maker, making, thing made--and this construction we transfer to the ultimate question of creation. Thus the very world 'creation,' which means but 'making,' is the product of our illusion and we must be careful in using the term I connection with ultimate Reality.

In that Reality there is no dual structure; all duality is rooted in the illusion which results when we externalize our separate from our consciousness. Then we posit a self from without, and we look upon our life as an interplay between the two. We then transfer this dual structure, born of illusion, into our metaphysical speculations and look upon the mystery of creation as an act, thought or event, whereby something, the objective universe, emerges out of something else. Thus even the more subtle theories of the universe as a divine Emanation, or even as the thought or imagination of God, harbour conceptions, which belong to the world of relativity and are justified there, but which have no place or meaning in the world of the Absolute.

It is curious to see how, in the philosophy of Hinduism, as well as in several Western Philosophies we find the construction Of Self--Not-Self, which is a product of our daily illusion, transferred to ultimate realities.

Nothing is in itself either self or not-self, these are but relative terms arising from our daily experience, and the same thing or being which, in that experience, is realized as not-self may well be self with regard to something else. Thus it is empty of meaning to speak of a universal Self and a universal Not-Self, there are no such ultimates, they are abstractions from our daily experience.

But even if we drop these misleading terms 'self' and not-self' and speak of the One and the Many, or even the Absolute and the relative, we can never explain creation as an interplay between these two opposites. Absolute and relative are not a duality of opposites between which the Web of Life is spun, creation is not a divine ferry-service which goes from the One to the Many and the back again to the One. It is true, in the eternal 'process' of creation we can certainly distinguish a stage where the Absolute is oblivious of itself in the limitation of the relative and the separate creature knows itself but as one among many. We can experience this stage in ourselves in our ordinary daily consciousness where we feel ourselves to be the separate creature and see around us a world of manifoldness. On the other hand, in our realization of the Absolute, we know ourselves to be that which is all things in unchanging unity. Yet we cannot say that creation is the going from the one stage to the other and back again. If we, in our contemplation of reality, distinguish in it certain periods of stages these may be a mental convenience to us, but we cannot assign objective reality to them.

In the swing of a pendulum we can distinguish the moment of its highest elevation sideways and the moment where it reaches the neutral position in the centre, through which again it will swing to the highest elevation on the other side. We can, however, not characterize the swing of the pendulum as a connection between those different moments of its movement, rather should we say that these moments are but phases which we distinguish in the swinging movement as such. The swinging movement is the fundamental reality, any stages we desire to distinguish in it are mental conveniences to us, not realities. In the same way creation is the fundamental reality and any stages we wish to distinguish it may be convenient to us in our attempts to comprehend intellectually something of a reality which is beyond our intellect, but they must not be taken as objective realities; they denote a relation and nothing more.

top of page

 
Diagram 4
The Circle as radiation from a point.

If once again we contemplate the symbol of the circle we may find it easier to approach the reality. In the circle again we can distinguish centre and circumference which it us may symbolize respectively the One and the Many. We may think of rays in that circle as connection between centre and circumference, and we can draw them as such by moving our pencil from the centre to the circumference or back again to the centre. Yet we should make a great mistake if we therefore characterized radiation as a connection between the centre of a circle and its circumference. Radiation remains the fundamental reality of a circle and in that radiation the point from which it takes place gains the significance of centre and the limit to which it goes gains the meaning of circumference. Centre and circumference are thus but periods or stages, moments which we distinguish in the process of radiation; no radiation no circle and consequently no centre or circumference.

There is but one Reality which we may term the Absolute or the Relative, the very being of which is eternal Creation or eternal Becoming. If in that eternal creative Rhythm we distinguish one phase in which the relative is oblivious of the Absolute, seeing but separateness and an external universe of relativity, and another phase in which the relative once again realizes itself as the Absolute and in that realization is the Absolute, even so these phases are but distinctions we make in that which is entire and whole-the one, ultimate eternal Reality.

When, in the world of the Real, we realize the ultimate reality of the Absolute as creation or eternal becoming, when we know the Rhythm of creation as the very being of the Absolute, we can see the absurdity of those questions which ask out of what material the universe is made, who made it and how it was made. All these questions originate in illusion, and, unless we conquer this illusion in ourselves from the beginning, we shall find it coming up in subtle forms at every step of our philosophical contemplations.

To the intellect in its limitation the realization which we gain of the Absolute as creation is very unsatisfactory, since it does not in any way solve or explain the problems which the intellect constructed and for the answer of which it clamours. But when we gain the experience of this ultimate Reality we find the questions disappearing in the light of Reality; in that light we can see the absurdity and distortion inherent in the questions and problems which the intellect considers so seriously and so strenuously. We do not in any way solve the problem of creation, we experience the reality in which the problem is seen as the product of illusion.

In that ultimate experience we know that the Absolute is eternal creation, that creation is not an act, thought or emanation of the Absolute but that it is the Absolute, its very being, ultimate reality, causeless, without beginning, end or purpose. It is the one Reality beyond which nothing is, there is no cause to which the one eternal truth can be traced, no final result which it can ever produce or accomplish. We may call this ultimate reality the Absolute or the relative, the two terms refer to the same Reality, which is the relative when experienced by the separate creature as a world of separateness and multiplicity, which is the Absolute when realized as That which is all relativity, past and future, in ever-present Reality. That Reality is Creation, it is the final and awful Truth which we realize in the world of eternal reality the 'one dark truth' of which Dionysius speaks. Truly this final mystery is awful and dark, yet its darkness is better than the light of our world-image and the awe with which it fills us is better than the self-complacent conceit of the intellect. It leaves us silent, for its simplicity is too great to be expressed. It is a mystery, the Mystery of Creation, the ultimate Mystery, but it is no longer a problem since we ourselves are It.

top of page