by Swami Krishnananda
You may say this world is made of physical substance, hard material. What is the material out of which the dream object is made? It is made of mind-stuff—psychic essence. If the mind is not to be identified with matter, then the world of dream also cannot be considered as a material perception. It is psyche perceiving psyche by externalising itself in a mode of alienation of its own psychic individuality. This is what we call dream.
We are told that in this waking world also, a similar cosmic operation has taken place. As an individual psyche segregates itself into an objective substance in dream, the Universal Consciousness segregates itself, as it were, in the process of creation as this vast cosmos. So, creation has taken place and this world has cosmically come into being before us in the same way as individual operations take place in dream.
The process of the evolution of the universe is described in a series of categories, in a descending order, so that we may be able to recognise our placement, our relationship to this world of perception. Where are we located? In what place in this world of vast dimensions are we, actually? In the dream world, where we observe a dream world in front of us, where are we located? Are we in some place? It looks as if we are in some place because the perceiving psyche—the dreamer—is naturally in the dream world, and is located in the same fashion as a waking individual is while perceiving the world outside. Yet, the truth is different. The perceiving individual, the dreamer, is involved in the psychic operation of its split into the seer and the seen, so that the idea of location of a dreamer in one particular place is another miscalculation of the psyche.
In a similar manner, a miscalculation has taken place when we observe a world that is totally outside, as it were, while it cannot be outside under the circumstances we have discussed just now. Scriptures, which are the authority before us for understanding the process of evolution, tell us that the manifestation of the universe is a centralisation of Universal Consciousness as a potential for manifestation, just as the dream world is a manifestation of a potential of the psyche to so manifest itself. We may even say it is a desire. The potential for the manifestation of this vast universe is a pressure point of a universal character, manifesting itself everywhere like a vibration. It is a tremendous occurrence which we cannot conceive in our minds at present. It is something like what scientists call the Big Bang. Let it be a big bang or a small bang; something took place. How did it take place?
Actually, that state of the universe which was prior to what scientists refer to as the occurrence of the Big Bang was not a solid substance; it was nothing but a vibration. We cannot understand what a vibration is. It is subtler than even electricity. Electricity is a gross form of vibration, a potentiality for some occurrence. That is all we can say about it. The potentiality suddenly manifests itself as a condition prior to creation, which is called space, in the same way as it happens in dream. To be able to perceive a dream object, there must also be a dream space. The objects in dream cannot look outside unless there is dream space. If the space is not there, no object can be there, and there will be no dream. If there is no dream space, which goes together with dream time, we will see nothing.
So we are told that a vacuous atmosphere, as it were, was cosmically created, as in dream the waking subject ceases to be for the time being and divides itself into the condition of the dreaming subject and the dreaming object. The Universal Consciousness alienates itself, as it were, by ceasing to be itself for the time being, in an apparently created vacuum called space, for the purpose of the manifestation of a futurity which is the physical universe—just like dream. The difference is, one is individual and the other is cosmic.
The solidity of the objects that we perceive through the sense organs is the consequence of their being located in an atmosphere outside. Anything that is external to consciousness looks material and solid. The Universal Consciousness alienates itself. “God creates the world,” says the scriptures. What was the material out of which He created the world? Was it iron and steel, brick and mortar? What is the substance out of which this world was made?
This question has led to one hundred answers in various religious parlances; and the more we think of it, the more we wonder at the structure of this creation. If the Universal Consciousness is the only existence finally, how could it create the world out of a material outside itself? The Vedas and the Upanishads tell us that God Consciousness, Universal Consciousness, materialised itself spatially and temporally in a cosmic fashion, as it were, and appeared as this cosmos—as our own mind manifests itself as this body.
There are stages of this condensation of Consciousness into the apparent diversity of creation. It is not a sudden creation of diversity. It is a graduated step-by-step delimitation of Universality into lesser and lesser forms of itself until it becomes a little individual, down to the atom.
We maintain an identity of ourselves. We are a self-identical individuals: “I am what I am.” The vehemence with which we assert our self-identity is characteristic of every so-called individuality in this world. Even an atom is an individual by itself. It maintains its self-identity. It has a nucleus, it has space-time inside it, it is a solar system by itself with planets around. It is a world. One atom cannot become another atom; it is just what it is. It can collide, it can blend itself with another, but it cannot be other than what it is.
Would we like to be another person, or would we like to be just the person we are? The loss of self is the greatest loss, so every individual in creation maintains its identity of wholeness. Hence, the manifestation of things is actually a manifestation of lesser and lesser wholes, from the Ultimate Whole—which is really a whole, and not a conditioned whole. We are all conditioned wholes. Our personality is a whole by itself; we are not fractions. “I am not half an individual, or one-fourth of a person. I am full.” But there are other ‘fulls’—namely, other persons, other things in this world. So this wholeness that one feels in oneself as an individual is a conditioned wholeness; it is not unconditioned. It is conditioned by the existence of other wholes. This is the freedom that we seem to be exercising in terms of the wholeness of our personality.
People say, “I am a free person.” Naturally, we have some freedom. But we are not wholly free, because if we were wholly free, absolutely free, there would be no freedom for other people in the world; we would be depriving them of their freedom. Each individual has a tendency to manifest its own freedom to the extent of its own wholeness of personality. We have only conditioned, limited, sanctioned, licensed freedom, but not total freedom. Total freedom is only in that condition of wholeness where there is no conditioning of the wholeness.
The theory of creation brings us to the daylight of the fact that the Universal, or God—the Ultimate Absolute which is the final Whole—delimits itself into smaller and smaller wholes. Another example of how this could be is the way in which our physical body is made. This body is one compact whole, as it were, as it appears to be. We do not feel that we are little pieces clubbed together into a mass that we call the body. Nevertheless, we are not one indivisible mass. This body is made up of tiny cells. The cells are joined together with such force of cohesiveness that it looks as if we are one compact whole. There is a cementing element which brings these cells into a tremendous cohesiveness, an apparent indivisibility, which is the reason why we feel that we are one whole; otherwise, we are houses made up of little bricks. Do we not think that this building is one single, solid mass? It looks like that, but it is made up of small bricks kept one over the other and held in position by certain other structural patterns like iron rods, etc. It is not one mass.
In the same way, as little wholes such as cells can join together to give the impression of a larger whole which is this physical personality, everything is so in this world. The reason why this wholeness is felt, even in a conditioned existence, is the pervasion of the Universal Consciousness. So, the transcendent is also immanent. We are not little cells, of course. I am not any one of the cells, though I am all the cells. How do I come to the conclusion that I am all the cells, though each one is different from the other? Is it not a contradiction in thought itself? How can many things create a sensation of oneness?
Do we not feel that we are one? Or do we feel like a bundle of little things moving on the surface of the earth? This indivisible Consciousness, which is Universality in our essential being, is the reason why we feel this totalness, the holism in our own individuality, while actually there are little, little wholes of which we are made. So the entire creation, the whole universe, is apparently diverse, but basically it is a unity. It is a manyness in a singleness.
The Veda Mantras tell us: ekam sad vipraha, bahudha vadanti. Great sages tell us that One Reality is parading, as it were, masquerading in this form of a variety of things. This manifoldness of the universe, this perception of variety of any kind, inwardly or outside, is a drama played by Consciousness. The whole universe is an enactment of this Universal Consciousness. It is a play. If we can witness this drama as a director thereof, we will enjoy it. But if we are involved in it, we will see it piecemeal. The total will not be seen.
The universe of creation is, to repeat once again, a descending order of finite wholes, starting from space and then coming down to the elements of air, fire, water, earth, down to the little physical elements, to the atom. This whole cosmos is, for the purpose of visible perception, a physicality and a solidity—as we see, of course. But inside, this solid world is made up of subtle potentials. The entire physical universe is called bhautika prapancha. Inside this physical universe are subtle potentials, like electric energies, called tanmatras. These tanmatras are Sanskrit terms indicating a cosmic vibration taking place inside the physical universe—vibration solidifying itself into this visible form.
Subtler still, inconceivable, is the space-time relation. The most difficult thing to understand is the relation of things to space and time. We mostly feel that we are inside space and inside time. Newtonian physics said that the world is contained in space and time as glass globules are contained in a soda bottle. As things are inside a basket, or materials can be inside a cup or a vase, Newtonian physics thought that the physical universe is inside space and time.
But later developments of science tell us that the world is not inside space and time. It is itself space and time, solidified, externalised by a kind of causal relationship. The great dictum of the Vedas and the Upanishads coincides with this modern theory of physical relativity, quantum, and so on. The most exteriorised materialism of physics has, fortunately for us, landed itself on the lap of the Upanishadic dictum of there being only one Absolute.