The Mundaka Upanishad provides the archetypal image of the spiritual archer. His is the unremitting quest for divine wisdom, seeking complete unison with Brahman, the ultimate Reality. In this quest there must be no thoughtlessness. Lack of thought is a serious impediment to the cultivation of skill in the art of creative action. At the same time, The Voice of the Silence enjoins disciples to free themselves from all particular thoughts and be attuned to All-Thought.
Wherein lies the difference between thoughtlessness and that state of transcendence which is rooted in a serene identification with the Divine Mind?
There are myriad paradoxes in relation to the spiritual path, as everyone knows who makes a strenuous attempt to incarnate in daily life the immeasurable wisdom of Brahma Vach. These paradoxes are pertinent for anyone who is in earnest, who is not merely ready to plunge into the stream, but who has already entered the stream as a srotapatti and laved in its rushing waters. There are those who delay this crucial step for lifetimes, even after the privilege of contacting the presence of great Teachers from the Lodge of Mahatmas. They are afraid to take the first step into the stream. But those who have soaked in the struggle know that the recurring paradoxes are far from being instantly resolved, especially by the ratiocinative mind with its obsessive craving for certitude. Mystical paradoxes deepen as veil upon veil lifts and one finds veil upon veil behind. This must be so, for otherwise we would live in a static universe and Mahatmas would be but icons to be worshipped, like the discarded archangels of the past, periodically placated out of fear or the wish for favours. There is none of this in the vast philosophical cosmogony of the Secret Doctrine. It postulates one universal stream of consciousness which, at its source, is unconditioned and beyond all forms, qualities, colours and representations, beyond every finite locus in space-time. But equally, within this immense stream of encompassing and transcending consciousness, everything counts. Every being is significant and every single error has its consequence. It is difficult to accommodate so awesome a conception within one's mind and to insert one's own odyssey into the vaster odyssey of all. There is nothing in our upbringing, nothing in the limiting language of common conversation and trivial talk, that can sufficiently prepare one for the grandeur of the enterprise, so that one may feel the authentic joy of comradeship with the mightiest men of meditation. They are the immortal embodiments of universal Mahat who can, with a casual, relaxed and joyful sense of proportionality, hit the mark amidst the limitations of collective Karma. This means, paradoxically, that they cannot hit the mark every single time either, and this too is involved in hitting the mark.
The root of these paradoxes in relation to thoughtfulness and transcendence lies in the insuperable problem of formulating the aim. The aim cannot be anything less than Brahman. That is the eternal hope. Every single act can have that aim because each act focusses upon a specific target in time and space which is Brahman. That is, at one level, the joy and the absurdity of it. In every act of manifestation bathing, walking, mailing a message the Logos is present. There is a sense in which the aim the transcendental Brahman is present in each moment of time as well as in every act at each point of space and in every thought. What, then, obscures the aim of a manifold human being of becoming totally one and remaining constantly attuned to Brahman? Why does a person need the sacred OM as the bow and to be continually tuning all one's instruments? Can one ever receive in a world of shadowy knowledge any real teaching concerning the inward meaning of the Soundless Sound? Who will teach the true intonation of the OM and everything to which it corresponds in thought, motive, act and feeling? As the mystery deepens, one must come to recognize that even in the largest perspectives of life, one can discern something that is false and which obscures still greater realities.
The correction that needs to be made in the lesser perspective is archetypally related to the correction needed in the larger perspective. Whenever one has a sense of self-encouraging exaggeration not only verbally or in terms of external expression, but in the feeling-content and motivational coloration of particular thoughts there is falsity and distortion. Brahman could not be in everything if each single thing does not appropriately mirror Brahman and, in an ever-changing universe, recede into non-being. There is an intrinsic illusoriness in the shadowy self that emerges like a smoky haze. In Platonic language, this temporary excess necessarily implies temporal deficiency and therefore imbalance. This may become obsessional like infatuation and all cognate thoughts are thereby tainted. The condition is even worse for a person lacking in mental steadiness. One discovers this speedily when one really wants to concentrate on something and even more painfully when one sits down to meditation. The moment one tries to meditate on that which is above and beyond and includes all, one confronts limitations in one's conception of selfhood. There is no way even to ponder the profoundest of vows, the holiest motive of the Bodhisattvas, in relation to the ceaseless quest for the sake of every sentient being. One will encounter a multitude of hindrances. Most thoughts are premature, feeble and abortive. One is not truly awake, but is rather in a dizzy phantasmagoria in which distorted shadows flit. Through an illusory sense of self, one is attached to a misshapen bundle of memories and identified with a form, an image and a name. Persisting thoughtlessness means that one has fallen into a state of fragmented consciousness, and this is not only owing to the imperfections shared with all other human beings, but also through an irreverent attitude to the vestures brought over from previous lives. Such are the scars of failures from former times of opportunity to strengthen and perfect the spiritual will for the sake of universal good. Myriad are the ways in which many souls have frequently failed over an immense period of evolution.
Thoughtlessness is indeed the foremost obstacle. In a philosophical sense and in relation to the enormous manasic capacity of the highest beings, even the well-meant thoughts of most people reflect some sort of thoughtlessness, a large measure of unconscious inconsiderateness. When one considers the most elaborate schemes of reform, the astute strategies of clever planners, one comes to see that even those models and scenarios which are the product of great ingenuity and attempt to take so much into account, still leave out a lot which is evident to persons with common sense. In every case, they also leave out whatever is hard to reckon, especially the good of the unborn and of all beings on invisible planes. As long as one does not think about such considerations, they will recede from the horizon of human concern. Even if one thinks about them, it is difficult to discern how they are immediately relevant to any particular decision, however crucial. There is a deep philosophical sense in which what is tolerated at the beginning as unavoidable thoughtlessness is painfully costly in the long run. A Master wrote with characteristic casualness to one of his disciples that an Adept, when distracted, is fallible. Adepts put themselves on the same plane as vulnerable people. They want their pupils to understand the laws at work and the logic behind their acts, and not become prisoners of false assumptions or facile expectations. One can never fully fathom the spiritual archer, perfected in the capacity to control all vestures, to move freely from plane to plane, and to draw forth dialectically from the cosmic empyrean the laser beam of the Buddhic ray into the here and now. This precludes any attachment to perfection in the realm of time. Especially pertinent in Kali Yuga, it is always true as long as Mahatmas must take into account all imperfect beings in a universe of law. Hence the compassionate casualness and wise detachment of the sages, exemplified by the way in which Buddha in the Diamond Sutra dialectically negated the teachings of a lifetime. There is a symmetry and roundedness to the exalted vision of spiritual Teachers for which there is no substitute in any systematized teachings.
Unless one engages in repeated exercises in the effort to learn spiritual archery through meditation, it is impossible to comprehend the injunction: "Thou hast to feel thyself ALL-THOUGHT, and yet exile all thoughts from out thy Soul." To be one with All-Thought is not at all like a hypnotic or drug-induced euphoria. Nor is it like the fleeting sense of self-transcendence experienced through the lesser mysteries on the plane of physical eros or ordinary love. It is not even captured in that beatific union of a babe in the arms of its mother. These are incomplete and even deceptive intimations. There is something incommensurable in the joys of higher meditation, wherein one discovers an effortless emancipation from boundaries, not only of space and time but of ordinary language and conventional distinctions of aim, activity and result. There is a complete exemption from all dichotomies and also an assured knowledge of ontological plenty on the plane of profound meditation. Any person who picks up Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and reads that the sage, just by meditating on this or that, can do amazing things, may view this as metaphorical or miraculous. Noetic magic is extremely difficult for the mundane mind to comprehend. It may be partly understood, however, through one's efforts to loosen the hold of particular thoughts, what Patanjali called self-reproductive chains of thought. Thought-images recur repeatedly, and even though one may seem to be choosing one of several thoughts, one is rapidly drawn into a determinate series of thoughts enmeshed in unconscious likes and dislikes, memories and fears, other people's opinions and prejudices indeed in everything floating in the astral light and numberless borrowed notions. There is also a sense in which one ceases to choose thoughts even when attempting to select a train of thought.
Evidently there is no easy way of getting rid of inconsideration and thoughtlessness, much less of gaining an understanding of what The Voice of the Silence means by becoming one with All-Thought. To become one with All-Thought implies the capacity to see all possible worlds, to see one's own world simply as one of many, and furthermore, to sense the reality of coexisting worlds. The idea of Be-ness has nothing to do with existence on the physical plane in the realm of form. How, then, can a person truly accommodate what it means for a human being to have many possible conceptions of the good for one's family, for one's community and for the whole of humanity? Each manasic being is so rich in the potential capacity for seeing possible good that, upon descending from the plane of ideation into the realm of action and pursuing the best possible way to move oneself and others towards the larger good in a given karmic context, one must be extremely flexible. The richness of the realm of pure ideation is virtually incommunicable. Therefore, it is hard for a person even to conceive what it would be like to be a Mahatma, a radiant mirror of Mahat, and to see the galaxies and the solar system in visible space as manifested representations that hide many real though invisible existences. Although this is difficult, every attempt can be meaningful. The critical point is how honest one is prepared to be in making discoveries of one's limitations in one's daily efforts in the direction of meditation and spiritual archery. If a person is trying to learn T"ai chi or dancing and finds after a few months that he or she is not tough enough to take a teacher's honest report, someone else might see that this person is never going to learn T"ai chi or dancing.
In the spiritual life no one truly wise is going to be a censor or a judge. Nonetheless, a true guru, with knowledge of a person s strength and limitations, may show the delicate art of adjusting the chela. In doing that it would be impossible for him to break the laws governing the processes of spiritual growth by telling somebody in advance about his prospects. A person has to discern this for himself. He has to make his own critical progress report upon himself, and the more tough he is, the more he will see the need to relax, because he discovers so much that is painful. He either must escape, bluff or cheat or, if he can see that this is all part of what he is trying to be honest about, he must relax and resolve to move steadily and never give up. When a person vows never to give up and at the same time is clear-sighted in regard to difficulties, then that person is truly in earnest. Each sincere effort will be sacred. It will be witnessed by those mighty beings of compassion who, unknown to the aspirant, are on his side and see him as a friend. The Theosophical Movement exists in the world to show human beings that if they can make that critical breakthrough, take the first crucial step, then they will infallibly receive help, not as a favour, but because in trying to be on the side of the universe, the universe will be on their side. By rooting themselves in eternity, they could come to know, in a para-historical sense, that time is on their side. It is not on the side of any one person or of any one class, but of all. They could be assured that the future will triumph over the past, and that the circle will become ever larger. One may even come to understand why one's higher life has some sort of underpinning in the bedrock of the universe. Such assurances cannot be translated into the pseudo-certainties of the wandering mind with its daily thoughtlessness, but they arise in the consciousness of those who have touched the tranquil waters of All-Thought.
Hermes, June 1978