Make a difference between Aether and Ether, the former being divine, the latter physical and infernal. Ether is the lowest of the septenate division of Akasa-Padhana, primordial Fire-Substance. Aether-Akasa is the fifth and sixth principles of the body of Kosmos – thus corresponding to Buddhi-Manas, in Man; Ether is its Kosmic sediment mingling with the root-race, it will develop fully only at the beginning of the fifth round. Aether is Akasa in its higher aspect, and Ether Akasa, in its lowest.

H. P. Blavatsky

 The mirroring of absolute reality in the triadic heart of the unmanifest Logos on the abstract plane of Divine Thought is the archetypal origin of successive births of worlds and men on the noumenal and phenomenal planes of matter. It is the primordial basis of all derivative modes of cognition and causation, and thus the root of relative knowledge and existence in the region of maya under the rule of the nidanas. Every atom of Monadic life is imbued with an inherent will to self-manifestation, and each is subject to delusion through identification with the illusory forms of the diffused potency of self-ideation. The human Monad, having arrived at the stage of incipient consciousness of its identity with the Logos, is in effect a psychic embryo still trapped in the matrix of astral matter, but capable of a new birth into noetic awareness through the arousal of its Buddhic capacity of intuitive apprehension.

 The inward stirrings of higher life within human consciousness presage a golden future for the race as a whole, but under the strictures of universal law this prospect will not be realized by its units until they gain some comprehension of Buddhi Yoga, the science of spirituality. The essential factors of this arcane science are hidden within the Mysteries of Divine Wisdom, but they may be sought through fidelity to the inner voice of conscience and the guiding light of intuition. Above all, one must learn the elements of the mathematics of the soul, the art of impersonal computation of karmic causes rooted in relaxed detachment towards personal likes and dislikes on the astral-physical plane.

 Philosophical concepts like 'universal unity', 'human solidarity' and 'global interdependence' cannot be grasped through the inverted imagery of the astral light and the imitative ratiocinative responses of kama manas. Their hidden meanings must be progressively apprehended by elevating the horizon of one's awareness and the centre of cognition above the limits and inversions of the fourth plane of Spirit-Matter. This is learnt by recognizing that one must replace phenomenal fantasy and concrete images with noumenal awareness and creative imagination through the activation of Buddhi-Manas. The noetic science of the generation, transmission and application of thought-energies is exceedingly precise and meta-mathematical. Humanity as a whole is only now becoming prepared to learn this science, but almost every human being has some sense of these immense possibilities through the minor accomplishments of the micro-electronic revolution. In the Victorian age, most people understood neither the telephone nor the telegraph, much less the wireless radio. Today, however, there is no excuse for people not to understand these devices at some elementary level. A growing number of people grasp the logic of these methods because they are involved through micro-electronics in the daily use of complex equipment which enables them to see how instantaneous communication and interaction is possible.

 As a beginner, one must discern that all energies, including those of thought, are accompanied by vibrations, whose causal nature is virtually unknown to the individuals who engender them. Those unaware of the potencies and properties of thought-images can at least catch up with those who recognize intuitively that physical modes of electro-magnetic communication are but a material reflection of capabilities and laws inherent in consciousness. This is still easier in simpler societies and more natural cultures than in regions rich in the resources of the earth but poor and backward in the arts of self-discipline. For centuries now the world's peasantry has migrated from farm to town, and from traditional cultures to industrial societies. Hoping to partake of the material prosperity they thought was already there, these restless proletarians soon found themselves mired in the middle class and began to take on bourgeois pretensions. There is nothing new or particularly nefarious in these shared delusions, but many people are trapped by them and squander their spiritual potential. In order to reverse this process, they must be willing to make a fresh start, free from social and economic pretence, free from any false sense of separation from the great masses of the globe, and consecrated to the proper use of the Manasic faculties of concentrated thought, the sacred and priceless, if generally unclaimed, prerogative of every human being.

 The effortless mastery of the Adept over manifold energies of potent thought, together with his complete control of the lesser sheaths on the lower planes, is the fruition of an unbroken series of lifetimes of unrelenting discipline and unwavering devotion. The capacity to release the creative light and spiritual genius of the higher Ego as an irresistible impulse for the good of all depends upon the quality and refinement of its instruments. Whilst each Ego is identical to all others in its pristine essence, and each is capable of resonating with the Soundless Sound, no Ego can draw out the harmony of the spheres or transmit noetic energies through an opaque human vesture.

...physical man is the musical instrument, and the Ego, the performing artist. The potentiality of perfect melody of sound, is in the former – the instrument – and no skill of the latter can awaken a faultless harmony out of a broken or badly made instrument. This harmony depends on the fidelity of transmission, by word or act, to the objective plane, of the unspoken divine thought in the very depths of man's subjective or inner nature. Physical man may – to follow our simile – be a priceless Stradivarius or a cheap and cracked fiddle, or again a mediocrity between the two, in the hands of the Paganini who ensouls him.

H. P. Blavatsky

 Most people can roughly imagine the enormous discipline involved in becoming a musical genius of the magnitude of Paganini or Caruso. Very few can even remotely imagine the degree of difficulty involved in mastering the transmission of Divine Wisdom, the eternal Harmony of the Pythagoreans, the Self of Alaya in the teaching of The Voice of the Silence. Though it has always been a vital part of the vast work of the Theosophical Movement to encourage each human being to enquire earnestly into these sacred matters, it has ever been the case that though many are called, few are chosen. And of these, even fewer are chosen for self-training extending over septenates of seven years from the moment of choice to the moment of death. Amongst these, exceptionally few are able to arouse and sustain inner awakening over a lifetime of meditation. Nevertheless, there are such, and the deeper work of the Movement proceeds unostentatiously. The ratios now are better than at any time in recorded history and much better than in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. But they are still marginal, though even three out of a hundred is a good ratio in these matters. Where there are more than three, this is unusually good, and if there are thirteen, this is excellent.

 Given these ratios, individuals could become neophytes at some level if they would come into proper magnetic alignment with those true disciples hidden in their midst. This cannot happen externally; only on the causal plane of the noetic mind. Through deep meditation one must overcome the illusion of the near and the far on the physical plane, and recognize that if through daily meditation one could genuinely use more of the Sacred Teaching, help will be given infallibly. This transmission works too subtly to explain or elaborate, but the Adepts are not here to explain that which can only be comprehended within the sanctuaries of Initiation. They are here to let everyone know that each honest effort helps, that every sincere resolve to do good is invaluable, because the world is in great pain and can use every good impulse that may be generated.

 All that is good and true and beautiful can be enhanced because there is hardly enough of it. Wherever it is active in individuals, it can be linked magnetically with the potential good in others, thereby creating living bonds of brotherhood. None of this can be grasped through materialistic psychology and its corrupt handmaiden, the pseudo-science of psychiatry. Apart from the rarefied intuitions of a few constructive psychologists, the contemporary practice of the science of mind is inherently incapable of conceiving the higher noetic function of the Monad or Manas. Where psychology has degenerated into nefarious image-mongering and nebulous manipulation through psychiatry, it is worse than worthless. This is recognized in mature cultures, and it is only in adolescent circles obsessed with personal concerns that this shallow rubbish is taken seriously. One drop of the wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita is worth more than all such pedantry. Fortunately, psychiatry is pricing itself out of the market, and more and more people are discovering that they can, with little investment in money or pretension, obtain any one of a number of ancient texts in almost any bookshop. Much to the benefit of all, the swarms of ignorant hypnotists and merchants of pathological pessimism are fading away. This itself is part of a larger and more auspicious pattern of events in which exploiters of human need and misery, of human sickness and conflict, are losing their grip upon popular awareness.

 It is still true that many middle-class people remain captive to a desperate desire to improve themselves. Nonetheless, many are finding that their former modes of fantasy and compensation are simply unsupportable. They have become tired of the illusion of upward social mobility and dubious of the overblown claims of the supposed virtues of modern life. They are quite happy to become more natural, and relieved to feel free to be simple. They have begun to discover that the purer ideals of youthful innocence, far from having become irrelevant, are relevant and far more fulfilling than the decaying stereotypes of propriety disseminated by self-interested élites. For increasing numbers of individuals one-dimensionality in consciousness is obsolete. People are progressively learning to use what they need and to do what they are able, without worrying about what others are doing. They are learning to live their own lives, not based upon borrowed, bought or rented images and options, but centered upon their own fundamental convictions and intuitions of what is ultimately natural to mankind.

 The more one can remain modest and become a true learner, the more the burden of false imagery will fall away from one's consciousness. A mark of becoming a lighter human being is to be able to gaze at the stars with gratitude. When one can look up into the night sky with gladness and realize the infinitude of noumenal abundance behind the veil of shimmering lights, one is beginning to prepare oneself to become a citizen of the cosmos. Without worrying unduly about one's allegiance to any temporal city, one can greet the stars and galaxies that irradiate the canopy of the heavens, but at the same time one should not forget the creatures of the earth. Whilst smiling at the stars one should feel compassion for the ant, because it is the human's privilege to be able to feel the same compassion for the ant that the heavens reflect upon mankind. Whilst raising one's head to the starry vault, bend low and notice the cricket, the frog and the toad, humble creatures that share the earth with man. Learn to show love for all the beings that creep upon the ground whilst one watches the skies. Do not dislike any of the evolving creatures of the earth, neither the scorpion nor the tarantula, neither the mouse nor the mountain lion. To stand as a free citizen of the cosmos, one must first recognize that each and every sentient being in all the seven kingdoms has as much right to exist as oneself. Then one may study and master the obligations and duties of human existence in the cosmic perspective of universal enlightenment.

 Out of this renewed and deepened sense of kinship with all the creatures of the earth, one can prepare oneself to go forth and greet with humility all that lives and breathes. To be worthy of the grand human estate one must display a profound respect for and gratitude towards all the lower kingdoms of nature from which the vestures of incarnation must be drawn. Restoring a pure and healthy relationship with the psychic planes of existence, and becoming a co-worker with Nature in the evolutionary task, one can attempt the removal of every trace and taint of selfishness from one's motivation and conduct. To the extent that this is done, one will no more fall prey to various types of mediumship through karmic involvement with (unconsciously produced) forms in the astral light.

 Manasic self-awareness is the potential for cognition of the essential identity of the sutratman with the universal Hiranyagarbha, but this cognitive capacity has its inverted reflection in ahankaric identification with the projected ray of lower Manas. Rather than assimilating the reflection of mind upon the astral planes to a growing Buddhic awareness of noumenal realities, which is the proper use of the antaskarana bridge, the Ego under the sway of ignorance diminishes the potency of the Manasic principle in a quixotic attempt to perpetuate ephemeral forms. Philosophically, this can be understood as the confusion of cause with its instrumentality and field of multiple effects. Psychologically, it amounts to a failure to realize that the multivalent term 'self' in human self-consciousness and self-reference is ultimately the Atman. Mystically, this error involves the misappropriation of the triadic fire of the Logos, the source of the Spirit, Soul and Body of the cosmos and man, on behalf of its inverted materialized image on the physical plane.

 Without noetic discrimination and courageous self-correction, guided by the illumination of selfless meditation, involvement in the astral regions presents a constant danger of dishonesty and self-deception. The astral light has become polluted by the selfish emanations of the pseudo-spiritual, and, whether at death or before, all these matrices of separative consciousness are doomed to be burnt out by the disintegrating fires of karmic retribution. To learn to cooperate self-consciously with Nature one must first learn to cooperate with Karma. Refusing to do so, through attachment to astral forms and images, implies, at this point in evolution, abnormal selfishness and self-annihilation. The universe is sustained by spiritual fire; the world, as the Buddha taught, is a burning house in which all beings are engulfed in a continual conflagration. Impermanence of form is the eternal law of evolution. Identification with shifting shapes in the astral light and attempts to warm oneself by the astral flames can only lead to destruction.

 There is nothing inherently wrong with the astral and psychic planes of existence, nor with the various creatures and kingdoms of Nature which are the appropriate evolutionary denizens of those planes. But there is a vital difference between Akasha and the astral light, which from the standpoint of the Higher Self is the shadow of a shadow. This difference does not in itself account for the corruption of human consciousness. It is the perverse and unnatural obscuration of noetic awareness through ignorant selfishness and egotism that has made the natural faculties of brain-consciousness and personality productive of evil.

 This brain-consciousness or personality is mortal, being but a distorted reflection through a physical basis of the manasic self. It is an instrument for harvesting experience for the Buddhi-Manas or monad, and saturating it with the aroma of consciously-acquired experience. But for all that the "brain-self" is real while it lasts, and weaves its Karma as a responsible entity.

H. P. Blavatsky

 The complex karma created by the brain-minds of human beings returns to them again and again. At certain moments, it cumulatively comes back to them, whether as individuals or as an entire race, in a tremendous mass so that they will be able to confront it and see beyond. To receive such a precipitation of karma is to experience a climactic moment. It is an opportunity for calmness and renunciation, such as one might experience in the mountains when a large boulder falls down. If calm, one would be prepared to accept either the boulder's blessing upon one's head (if this is one's karma), or its passing by (if that is one's karma). One must learn to renounce the will to live, but not out of an escapist wish to die. With calmness, one can be ready to accept and learn from everything, provided one does not exaggerate the importance of one's own survival. Life may be tedious for long stretches of time, but this is no excuse for exaggeration and pretentious self-images. If one cannot accept ordinariness, then nothing will ever seem good enough for more than a brief moment. From a spiritual standpoint, the worst of all delusions is to suppose that one has some exclusive privilege or exalted status through having come into the presence of the sacred Teachings.

 What does it mean in consciousness to come closer to the Guru? It is one thing to come closer on the illusory plane of sense-perceptions. It is quite another thing to come closer in noetic consciousness. Pure consciousness has nothing to do with particular desires, wishes and thoughts because it is itself absolute thought, desire and will. Every human being, according to his consciousness of time, emits a certain mental vibration. The degree of awareness of eternity in one's consciousness of time determines the tone, the intensity, the colour and the force of this vibration. Most human beings, preoccupied with today and tomorrow, with this year and the next, are very restricted and fragmented in consciousness. They become prisoners of the external, shifting panorama of human existence, and thereby become victims of history. When they die, they discover they had hardly lived, and in many cases what they called life is what is known to Adepts as living death. But those who are able to transcend the imagery of their immediate perceptions, the narrow horizon of their conceptions of space, time and motion, can think causally in terms of the cosmos and humanity. They resonate with and reflect That which ever was, ever is and ever shall be, for whom the hour shall never strike, the immortal soul within every human being, the Atman that overbroods each and all. Typically, the Atman comes closer to the fontanelle only once in the lifetime of the average human being, at the moment of death. For it to come closer at any other time requires tremendous self-training and effortless self-mastery earned over many lives. Without this self-discipline it is idle to imagine that one has come close to the Atman seated in the hearts of all beings.

 If it is not part of one's destiny to do this – and there is no room for self-deception or self-dejection here – then it can be a part of one's destiny to serve those who have done so. More beings on earth today have done this very thing than ever before. Largely unknown, many have waited decades for the right moment to receive the call. The world today is in an unusually fortunate position; not only Nirmanakayas, but also numerous disguised Adepts have taken birth in many parts of the world. They are thoroughly prepared in consciousness for the Mysteries, for the City of Man and for the Temple of the Future. And so, the ordinary person who has done none of these things should nevertheless aspire to become part of the future and to find a fitting place in the evolutionary march of humanity. To become part of the solution and not of the problem, to join the future instead of clinging to the past, each must begin by shaving off pretensions and cutting away the obscurations hitherto entertained through ignorance. By becoming natural, straightforward and simple, individuals can enjoy developing a taste for meditation upon pure, unbounded and eternal consciousness. The key is to do in life that which one can scarcely do after death (except in an extremely limited sense) and to prepare oneself for future lives of learning.

 The secret mysteries of consciousness which underlie the meta-psychological evolution of mankind will remain unspoken to the vast majority of human beings for ages to come. But every man and woman who wishes to make himself or herself worthy of inclusion in that glorious future is invited to engage in philosophic meditation upon the metaphysical propositions of Gupta Vidya. Therein it is taught that all things in the universe are associated with either spirit or matter, one of these being taken as the permanent element of both. Pure Matter is pure Spirit, and neither can be understood by the finite discursive intellect. All pairs of opposites – light and darkness, heat and cold, fullness and the void – are at once pure Matter and pure Spirit. All are manifestations of Spirit-Matter – Aether-Akasha. Aether-Akasha is consubstantial with the plane of substance constituting Buddhi-Manas, the jewel in every heart and the diamond light in every soul. That light is one with the fiery ground of the entire cosmos. It is the origin of the three and seven invisible fires in nature and the forty-nine fires in human consciousness tapped at will by Adepts. These noumenal fires can be invoked infallibly through concentrated thought that reaches to universal good.

 Any human being who hungers for universal good and truly wishes that the earth be a better world, out of the intensity of thought and will, draws closer to the sacred fires in the inmost essence of being. It is only in those Akashic fires that there is true rejuvenation. Though they are known to Adepts by other and secret names, they may be viewed by the neophyte as the fires of purification, purgation and resolve. By the sustained ideation of Mahatmas, they are made accessible to all human beings so that each can emit a powerful vibration in consonance with the global current of Aquarian humanity. Anyone willing to take the Teachings of Gupta Vidya as a true talisman can enter the stream of the great endeavour, which is consubstantial with the electric ocean of Life.

 Anyone willing to start afresh, without illusions or expectations, but with a new and growing maturity, can forego the compensations of the shadowy past and rediscover a rightful place in the school of universal human evolution. One of the marks of spiritual maturity is a calm recognition that ethical responsibility is self-compelling. Once the resolve is made to grow up, one will recognize that Krishna is on the side of every Arjuna and against none. Then, like Arjuna, one may stand up and be counted amongst heroic souls worthy of the human heritage. Seeing beyond roles and forms, one may learn to breathe the Sacred Sound and the sacred speech: 'Om Mani Padme Hum, the Jewel in the Lotus, the God in man.' In this spirit the future will draw out and weave together the best, so that all may be on the side of the finest in the human race, allied with the future, under the all-protecting shield of the luminous host of hierophants.

by Raghavan Iyer
The Gupta Vidya I