Paranirvana is that supreme state of unconditioned consciousness which connotes freedom from the entire process of becoming, the vast range of cosmic evolution, and the mathematical limits of the manvantara. The soul's pilgrimage over eighteen million years of self-conscious existence, and for a much longer period in the future, is truly an alchemical journey through the great Circle of Necessity. Each immortal soul has been repeatedly embodied in the seven kingdoms of nature, and participated in every possible form through a collective monadic host. Each individual monad has at some remote time experienced the myriad modes of mineral, vegetable and animal life, as well as the variegated centres of consciousness of the three elemental kingdoms. In more recent manvantaric time every human being has traversed the tremendous gamut of contrasting states of mind that are induced by the polarities of self-conscious existence. All this is possible and necessary, according to arcane metaphysics, because "every atom in the Universe has the potentiality of self-consciousness in it, and is, like the Monads of Leibnitz, a Universe in itself, and for itself. It is an atom and an angel." The Paranirvanic consummation of the soul's pilgrimage presupposes the existential realization that the self-consciousness of human beings is the reflection of the universal self-consciousness of the Dhyanis. These are the Buddhas of Contemplation, such as Amitabha overbrooding Gautama Sakyamuni, "manifesting through him whenever this great Soul incarnates on earth as He did in Tzon-kha-pa".

 Since the enormous potentiality for divine regeneration is present in every atom, the conventional distinction between animate and inanimate matter is extremely misleading. Everything is alive through awareness; all is consciousness. A few people know intuitively, and many sense psychically, what the ancient Schools of Wisdom openly taught – that spiritual growth involves the interaction of incipiently self-conscious invisible centres of energy with already perfected human monads. The Hindu teachings about the thirty-three crores of devas and devatas, echoed in alchemical allusions to sylphs, salamanders, undines and gnomes, are all references to elementals. In every single elemental life and in every point of invisible space there is potential self-consciousness and some degree of active intelligence. Owing to this ubiquitous presence throughout the panorama of evolution, the deeper the self-consciousness of human beings, the more effectively they can quicken the intellectual unfoldment of what is potential in the whole of life. In occultism there are strict rules about magnetic specialization, an essential prerequisite to the creation through meditation of beneficent channels for consciousness. Nourished by meditation and protected by magnetic purity, consciousness becomes so charged with universal light that it can exercise complete control over the entire sphere of perception and activity.

 There is a sum-total of potentials in consciousness, perception and energy that pertains to each self-conscious human monad over eighteen million years. This sum-total has a necessary connection with the spectrum of possibilities in any given lifetime for any human being. Because of the immersion of consciousness in illusory time, the real person does not consist solely of what is seen at any particular moment, but is constituted by the sum of all the varied and changing conditions from the initial appearance in material form to eventual disappearance from the earth. From birth till death each human incarnation is a series of transformations that is seemingly endless, but which may be approximated in understanding by considering the permutations and combinations of the seven sacred planets and twelve zodiacal signs acting through a variety of aspects and angles. Yet the myriads of transformations a human being undergoes on earth from birth to death are all encompassed by the small circle of time within which a single life is lived. Therefore there is a sum-total, which in turn is included within a much vaster sum-total, unknown to human beings in general, but which exists from eternity in the future and passes by degrees through matter to exist for eternity in the past. To intuit this existence is to awaken to the immense potential of self-consciousness as the guiding force of evolution; to sense its presence in each event is to embark on the path of Paranirvana. To witness its universal dimensions, so that the past and future lie before one like an open book, is to become a Mahatma for whom the grand sum-total is archetypally reflected in the earthly existence of every human soul.

 It is possible in principle for the immortal soul to draw into the realm of self-conscious awareness any portion of the experience and knowledge that is already summed up in its immemorial pilgrimage. This would have been very difficult to conceive in the nineteenth century, but is more comprehensible in the age of DNA and the microprocessor. One needs little familiarity with electronics to recognize that millions of items of information can be registered in minute devices, and little awareness of contemporary biology to apprehend that every possible transformation of a human body over a lifetime is potentially present in the embryonic germ cell. Ancient wisdom teaches that by the end of the seventh month of development much more than can be grasped by modern biology is already inscribed in the foetal vesture as a set of possibilities. Crucial among these is the noetic capacity to make a decisive difference in the extent to which one draws upon and experiences the sum-total of possible configurations. By deep thought and study, by the daily use of true knowledge, by meditation and calm contemplation, by creative interaction with nature and with other minds, human beings can affect the degree to which they self-consciously experience what is actually going on in all the vestures from the moment of birth to the moment of death.

 Maya or illusion is inextricably involved in the idea of separate existence as a monad. From the philosophical perspective of universal self-consciousness, the immense pilgrimage of the human soul is somewhat unreal. Even from the standpoint of the monad enduring over eighteen million years, a hundred lives in succession is mayavic, rather like glancing through a few slides. A single life on earth is barely an instant, if entire solar systems which emerge and disappear over millions upon millions of years are mere winks in the Eye of Self-existence. What then is the meaning and value of a single human life? While there is an extraordinary range in potential human awareness, most beings are "living and partly living", in the phrase of T.S.Eliot. They are hardly aware of the dynamic processes behind incarnate existence, and from the perspective of the immortal soul they are not awake and scarcely alive. One has to come out of the psychic sleep of a lifetime for there to be a moment of true spiritual awakening to universal causation, human solidarity and the reality of a law-governed universe working ceaselessly through thought, will and feeling, on a cosmic plane but also in and through every single human being on earth. Spiritual awakening is not merely a shift in one's plane of consciousness, but a fundamental alteration of perspective regarding consciousness itself beyond all its planes of embodiment and manifestation.

 Maya or illusion is an element which enters into all finite things, for everything that exists has only a relative, not an absolute, reality, since the appearance which the hidden noumenon assumes for any observer depends upon his power of cognition. To the untrained eye of the savage, a painting is at first an unmeaning confusion of streaks and daubs of colour, while an educated eye sees instantly a face or a landscape. Nothing is permanent except the one hidden absolute existence which contains in itself the noumena of all realities. The existences belonging to every plane of being, up to the highest Dhyan-Chohans, are, in degree, of the nature of shadows cast by a magic lantern on a colourless screen; but all things are relatively real, for the cogniser is also a reflection, and the things cognised are therefore as real to him as himself.

The Secret Doctrine, i 39

 The Dhyan Chohans, including even the supernally numinous Ah-hi, exist only during the manvantara, and at the end of it are reabsorbed into the Divine Darkness. How then can there be enlightened human beings much greater than Dhyan Chohans, capable of remaining awake in Paranirvana during the long night of non-manifestation? Only the highest Initiate can know the full meaning of the "Ring Pass-Not" and hence the ultimate terminus of manvantaric growth, as well as the Infinity beyond. But by considering the principle that every human being is an admixture of all the elements of existence gradually perfected over myriads of lives, it is evident that every moment affects what will happen to a human being a million years from now, just as at every moment each individual is affected by what happened a million years ago. In a law-governed universe there can be no other way to make sense of the vastitude of human experience, the commonality of human potential, and the immeasurable range of states of mind and degrees of human freedom. As a compound of the essences of all the celestial hierarchies, and as That which is beyond every essence, state and condition, the self-conscious being may succeed in rising beyond any hierarchy, class or combination of them. Man can neither propitiate nor command the devas. There are no special favours in cosmic evolution. The Religion of Responsibility requires that each self-conscious human soul must strip away the suffocating mask of the personal ego to arrive at the full knowledge of the non-separateness of the Higher Self, the divine Triad overbrooding the incarnated human being. Typically, the Triad is far above the head and cannot come closer without something like a bursting of the skull, but the Triad itself is in total unison with the one absolute Self, the cosmic Triad. Through experiential knowledge of this transcendental unity, any soul can, even during terrestrial life, become "as One of Us". By eating of the fruit of Divine Wisdom which dispels soul-ignorance, human beings can become like the Elohim or Dhyanis, but they can also do much more than that. Yet even on that exalted plane, the spirit of solidarity and perfect harmony which reigns in each hierarchy in nature must extend over and protect them in every particular.

 This is why in the Book of Job it is suggested that no man s burden is greater than he can bear. There is that divine spark in all human beings which is capable of enduring every kind of trial, and at the moment of death it affords them a fleeting glimpse of the real world to which they belonged even while partly asleep during a lifetime of living and partly living. This psychic drowsiness is due to the desire to exist as a separate being in a form, and this thirst (trishna) is what all mystical training seeks to overcome. Unless one begins by subduing and transcending the intense will to exist as a separate being, one is not ready to enter the Path of spiritual enlightenment. One must relinquish existence as a physical or astral form, as a wandering mind and wavering heart, letting go of false, fickle and fleeting concerns induced by the shifting scenery and elusive imagery of sense-objects. One must renounce the belief that one belongs to a restricted circle of friends and foes, while fulfilling one's obligations to each and every human being one encounters the best one knows how. To enter into the community of mankind, to rebecome the ray that is truly oneself, is to begin what Krishna calls "the divine discipline". As one acquires a more universal perspective in relation to the masks of time – memory and desire, regret and anticipation, and the irrational fears that consolidate the shadow – they fall away and one's eyes are opened to the noumenal light of the invisible world. Then, ascending through a series of progressive awakenings, one can dissipate every kind of crippling self-concern until one's only reason for living is a profound sense of sacred obligation in the sphere of self-chosen duties. Through daily practice one experiences a deeper kinship with all that lives and breathes, a greater love of other human beings, a truer realization of the cosmic Self, a profounder conviction of universal brotherhood. One may thus come out of the world of the "living dead" and approach the sanctuaries of sages who are awake even during pralaya, the night of non-manifestation.

 The long and difficult journey, too vast to be fitted into any temporal scheme, may be seen in terms of realizing Universal Mind as absolute abstract Thought and hence as the permanent possibility of mental action, of which manifested mind is the concrete expression. Manifest cosmic mind includes the Ah-hi, the Dhyan Chohans and the collective hosts of spiritual beings which are the transmitters of Divine Thought and universal will. These are the intelligent Forces that affect every blade of grass, every pebble and everything that moves in this cosmos in which nothing is at rest. They inscribe and enact in Nature its laws, while they themselves act according to laws impressed upon them by still higher powers. Universal Mind comes into manifestation through cosmic hierarchies that are somewhat comparable to an army made up of divisions, brigades and regiments, each of which has its distinct individuality. The analogy is imperfect because cosmically there is freedom of action and mathematically defined responsibility for each and every grouping. Each is contained in a larger individuality from which it derives inspiration, and each contains lesser individualities to which it owes sacrificial service.

 The Army of the Voice is an archetypal expression of what the Bhagavad Gita calls Adhiyajna, the primordial power of ceaseless sacrifice that makes life in any form possible. The Adhiyajna is present whenever a human being is breathed into or breathed out of a cosmic body or vesture. Each is a blessed beneficiary of the ceaseless cosmic sacrifice, from dawn to dusk, from birth to death, and at the sandhyas initiating manvantara and pralaya. It is through gratitude and devotion to the Logos as Adhiyajna, maintained over many lifetimes and ascending through ordered levels of manifestation, that human beings are most truly human. This gradual ascent is the work of the whole of evolution, and in the end it takes the host of immortal souls to the great day of "Be-With-Us", which is not a fixed locus or final epoch but a sublime state of spiritual consciousness.

 "It must not be supposed that the Logos is but a single centre of energy manifested from Parabrahmam; there are innumerable other centres...and their number is almost infinite in the bosom of Parabrahmam." Hence the expressions, "The Day of Come to us" and "The Day of Be with us," etc. Just as the square is the Symbol of the Four sacred Forces or Powers – Tetraktis – so the Circle shows the boundary within the Infinity that no man can cross, even in spirit, nor Deva nor Dhyan Chohan. The Spirits of those who "descend and ascend" during the course of cyclic evolution shall cross the "iron-bound world" only on the day of their approach to the threshold of Paranirvana.

The Secret Doctrine, i 134

 If one wholly merges with the very highest radiations of the most unconditioned consciousness, one cannot possibly manifest or have any relationship to anything in time and space. Therefore the desire for liberation of human beings is merely a delusive anticipation of that highest consummation which comes under the law of cycles only at the end of a manvantara. Yet every pilgrim soul is eternally impelled from within by an immortal longing for reunion with its essential nature, its transcendent source.

 If they reach it – they will rest in the bosom of Parabrahmam, or the "Unknown Darkness," which shall then become for all of them Light – during the whole period of Mahapralaya, the "Great NIGHT," namely, 311,040,000,000,000 years of absorption in Brahm. The day of "Be-With-Us" is this period of rest or Paranirvana.
 The "Monad," born of the nature and the very Essence of the "Seven" (its highest principle becoming immediately enshrined in the Seventh Cosmic Element), has to perform its septenary gyration throughout the Cycle of Being and forms, from the highest to the lowest; and then again from man to God. At the threshold of Paranirvana it reassumes its primeval Essence and becomes the Absolute once more.

The Secret Doctrine, i 134-135

 If this is the sublime promise and prospect for the whole of humanity at the end of an immense period of evolution, the meaning of individual enlightenment is the uninterrupted ascent towards universal self-consciousness. It presupposes the capacity to reach by intense meditation to the very threshold of that state and to choose an appropriate focus of noumenal, though relative, existence from which to overbrood one's manifesting self. One would ascend as high as one could, wholly centered upon the Spiritual Sun, with a supreme resolve to be of ceaseless benefit to the whole of life. At the summit one would stay at a critical distance from the threshold of enlightenment so as to be of effective help to beings lost in ignorance and confusion and wandering at their peril. For the yogin who has mastered many modes of training, this involves the ability to achieve at will within all his vestures full mastery of the true kundalini, the pristine power of Buddhi. A humble aspirant intently using the sacred teaching about the Spiritual Sun – the Gayatri – may have little knowledge of the psycho-spiritual centres and the higher states of consciousness, but may nevertheless experience and renew each day a deep sense of the oneness and transcendence of all life, which in reality is beyond form and colour, as the limitless light of electric intelligence. By preserving this sense intact within the heart as an unspoken but ever-present awareness, the chela is opening the door to a series of timely initiations by the guru.

 Those who have fulfilled such training encounter again at the final stage the fundamental choice between liberation and renunciation. Before this point is reached some may find at the moment of death, because of the sum-total of their desire for absorption, that the energy is moving upwards and they may be enabled to enter into a kind of lesser nirvana which to them may look like Paranirvana. But those yogins who have renounced the slightest desire for individual bliss or absorption, and have long since vowed to serve the whole of the human race, do not seek anything less than universal enlightenment. Fully cognizant of higher states of consciousness, they are able to remain fixed in the turiya state of formless spiritual wakefulness even amidst the delusive conditions of the world. Bearing witness to the Spirit in Silence while moving in and through the planes of maya, they are able to act as unseen helpers to that latent spark of aspiration present in all souls and atoms. In the light of authentic understanding of the true meaning of Moksha, H.P.Blavatsky cites the Visishtadwaita Catechism, suggesting that even its teachings are at one with Gnostic tenets regarding the deliverance of Sophia Achamoth, lost and labouring in the waters of ignorance on her way towards Supreme Light, by Atma-Christos:

 After reaching Moksha (a state of bliss meaning "release from Bandha" or bondage), bliss is enjoyed by it in a place called PARAMAPADHA, which place is not material, but made of Suddasatwa (the essence, of which the body of Iswara – "the Lord" – is formed). There, Muktas or Jivatmas (Monads) who have attained Moksha, are never again subject to the qualities of either matter or Karma. "But if they choose, for the sake of doing good to the world, they may incarnate on Earth." The way to Paramapadha, or the immaterial worlds, from this world, is called Devayana. When a person has attained Moksha and the body dies: –
 "The Jiva (Soul) goes with Sukshma Sarira from the heart of the body, to the Brahmarandra in the crown of the head, traversing Sushumna, a nerve connecting the heart with the Brahmarandra. The Jiva breaks through the Brahmarandra and goes to the region of the Sun (Suryamandala) through the solar Rays. Then it goes, through a dark spot in the Sun, to Paramapadha. The Jiva is directed on its way by the Supreme Wisdom acquired by Yoga. The Jiva thus proceeds to Paramapadha by the aid of Athivakhikas (bearers in transit), known by the names of Archi-Ahas... Aditya, Prajapati, etc. The Archis here mentioned are certain pure Souls, etc., etc."

The Secret Doctrine, i 132

 Anyone who daily thinks of the Spiritual Sun as the transcendent source of all light, life-energy and intelligence in the whole of nature and humanity, and invokes it on behalf of universal good, cannot but be utterly suffused with the profoundest reverence, gratitude and obeisance to the enlightened beings that have attained Paramapadha. One cannot regularly contemplate the highest invisible forces within the Spiritual Sun without deriving from that source the beneficence of the creative, sustaining and regenerative energy that nourishes the divine hierarchies. When one senses the noumenal radiation of the metacosmic source of the hierarchies, one sees them all as sharing in a single light-essence which is hidden in every atom and also abides within the Cave of the Heart. Individuals who experience this, either in an ecstatic vision or in a series of profound meditations, come into a sacred orbit where great silence, deep calm and immense humility are needed to protect the integrity, the stability and the continuity of the experience. If one does not train in advance and at all times in this way, becoming increasingly tranquil, steadfast and humble, one will never really be able to breathe at the rarefied altitudes of spiritual awareness. One will simply not be able to partake of those supernal states of being that bring one closer to the Atma-Buddhi-Manas of the sun, and therefore to the Mahatmas, the Buddhas and the Dhyanis. Those who come into this orbit but cannot sustain it will be rapidly propelled downwards and the whole process will reverse itself. Because divine force can destroy as readily as it creates, this most sacred teaching was always preserved in silence in the oldest cultures of the human race. It is only hinted at in The Secret Doctrine in the hope that intuitive individuals who have a deep love of the human family, reverential gratitude to the Mahatmas, and a heroic and invulnerable determination to serve the Army of the Voice and to walk the Path, will resolve to use the teaching for the benefit of all souls.

 Self-conscious human monads traversing the Circle of Necessity are eternal witnesses to the boundless compassion and unconditional benevolence of the Adhiyajna. Whenever individuals forget themselves and work for a larger group – whether for their family, community or society, or for the whole of humanity, or the entirety of nature – they become aware of a larger life and a vaster realm of being wherein there is an effortless surrender of the mayavic self. Millions upon millions of human beings seek forms of meritorious self-transcendence, but this does not mean that they will necessarily attain to pure self-consciousness, which requires intense meditation and preparation for initiation. Daily meditation is the essential starting-point, and if one enjoys calm contemplation and the silence of meditation one will in a short time, perhaps seven to fourteen years, become able to do whatever has to be done in the world while rooted in the immovable mind. This divine discipline, which each person has to accomplish in order to exist self-consciously as Spirit, gives meaning, beauty and purpose to all human life and evolution. Alas, while every human being is a vital part of the universal pilgrimage, in nearly every case virtually nothing of this journey is known to the incarnated soul. This means that its real life is hidden on another plane and it cannot ever connect with life on this plane without self-discipline. The earlier one makes a conscious effort to connect in any lifetime, the better it is for the soul. But when one moves in meditation beyond the earthly scene, one senses the strength and majesty of the Guruparampara chain and the Brotherhood of Bodhisattvas, the golden fellowship of Initiates from whom descend all the Avatars and Divine Incarnations in recorded and unrecorded time. Beyond the manifested hierarchies is the Self-existent Concealed Lord, parentless and one with the universal Spirit. This sacred mystery must be pondered within one's inmost sanctuary through deep meditation, so that one may come closer in one's secret, spiritual heart to the Source of all life, light and energy throughout this resplendent cosmos in which resonates the still, sad music of humanity.

Hermes, August 1980
by Raghavan Iyer