As the aggregate sound of nature is shown to be a single definite tone, a keynote vibrating from and through eternity; having an undeniable existence per se yet possessing an appreciable pitch but for "the acutely fine ear" so the definite harmony or disharmony of man's external nature is seen by the observant to depend wholly on the character of the keynote struck for the outer by inner man. It is the spiritual EGO or SELF that serves as the fundamental base, determining the tone of the whole life of man – that most capricious, uncertain and variable of all instruments, and which more than any other needs constant tuning; it is its voice alone, which like the sub-bass of an organ underlies the melody of his whole life.

The Theosophist, January 1882

 The entire cosmos is a complex matrix of sound and light vibrations. Every element in our world and every kingdom of beings derives its essential nature from the keynote resonating as the basis of its consciousness. All primary questions concerning origins and destiny turn upon the rate of vibration, the plane of matter and state of consciousness, and corresponding conceptions of space, time and motion. Beyond the planes of manifestation and prior to the primal differentiation of spirit and matter lies the one invariant and all-potential vibration of the Paramatman, which through its radiation gives periodic form and substance to the septenary universe. Ultimately, this is a purely transcendental process entirely exempt from rational analysis. It is necessary to discard the false notion that each human being is somewhat like a machine or a self-contained box. As the universal vibration of the One Life is at the core of every living form, no being in the universe is entirely dependent upon any external source of motion. Owing to the transcendental commonality of consciousness, all beings are inevitably involved in a universal system of mutual interdependence.

 Whilst mechanistic models of man and nature, popular in the seventeenth century, served to stress the order of nature, they nonetheless contributed to the false notion that each person is separate and identifiable with a body construed as a self-contained mechanical unit. Today, however, no one who is well-informed even at a simple level about electronics can think in this way. To take a contemporary analogy, it is more plausible to think of oneself as a collection of receiving and transmitting centres, capable of self-attunement to a wide variety of vibrations in the universe. Even the elusive concept of a unified field theory corresponds on the physical plane to the metaphysical idea of the eternal motion of the Atman.

 The idea of universal vibratory consciousness must be linked to the concept of ethical responsibility if it is to be of help to human beings in daily life. The idea of instantaneous interdependence of all beings must be joined to the ideal of continuity of consciousness through variegated experiences. Memory must be linked to motion. Since the eighteenth century and the development of the mechanical theory of heat, all physical conceptions and models of memory have been circumscribed by the doctrine of entropy. In this view, all motions exist on the same plane and are therefore subject to mutual interference and obscuration, gradually tending to the increase of chaos and confusion. In such a scheme, it is inconceivable that any vibratory motion could be preserved intact over any long period of time. This itself is a consequence of the assumption that all things are moved from outside, and that, being subject to conflicting external influences, no single body can remain in a constant vibratory state of motion. For theories of memory, this implies that any matrix wherein memory resides must be constantly subject to corruption and forgetfulness. As a consequence, ethical responsibility is ephemeral and all learning is inevitably undone by entropy.

 In various popularized versions, especially in the social sciences and in psychology, the mechanical theory of heat has come to resemble an a priori road-block barring all conceptions of universal responsibility and continuity of consciousness. Conceptually, it is important to recognize that the law of entropy applies only to closed systems having no access to additional sources of energy. Philosophically and psychologically, it is crucial to see that these sources of energy might just as well be internal as external.

 The ethical significance of the problem of memory and forgetfulness was stressed by both Plato and Shankara. Plato held that all learning is recollection, whilst Shankara said that the negligence of recollection is death. But unlike contemporary mechanists, they held that learning and life are capable of enormous conscious extension. These abundant possibilities are connected with the Vedic conception of fire, the pristine symbol of wisdom and the immortality of spirit, as well as with the primal heat of Kamadeva associated with the manvantaric awakening of the manifested universe. According to Gupta Vidya, the universe is not a closed system but is instead pervaded by the immanence of its purely transcendental radiation. This immanence, which is realized in the fullest enlightenment, is reflected within the universe in an ordered series of planes and sub-planes of consciousness and matter. On each of these planes, objective existence and subjective relationship correlate with characteristics of space, time and motion defining that plane. Each plane, however, stands as the effect of a more noumenal plane whilst at the same time serving as the causal basis of a yet more differentiated plane, all within the overall limits of a vast gamut of manvantaric manifestation. Life on the highest noumenal plane is consciousness of the illimitable ground of all possible differentiated existence.

 As the highest noumenal vibrations in the cosmos are themselves constantly sustained by the unmanifest eternal motion of the Atman, human beings can strengthen and maintain fidelity to those vibrations through self-transcendence and self-purification. Each vibratory state of consciousness on every plane is a reflected resonance of the highest noumenal states of consciousness and hence of Atma Vidya. This is the meaning of the occult axiom: The highest sees through the eyes of the lowest. Yet to realize this self-consciously, it is necessary to work with secondary and tertiary vibrations. The term "self-reference" actually refers to a process in consciousness whereby a vibratory matrix of long or short duration is established on a plane or sub-plane that is subjective when compared to the apparent content or basis of the reference. In this way, all self-conscious activity on an objective plane has a tendency to establish or reinforce subjective matrices on relatively subjective planes. These matrices, which do not decay through the mere passage of time on more objective planes, form the basis of memory – and hence of continuity of consciousness and ethical responsibility. As H.P. Blavatsky explains:

 Nothing that takes place, no manifestation however rapid or weak, can ever be lost from the Skandhic record of a man's life. Not the smallest sensation, the most trifling action, impulse, thought, impression, or deed, can fade or go out from, or in the Universe. We may think it unregistered by our memory, unperceived by our consciousness, yet it will still be recorded on the tablets of the astral light.

Lucifer, October 1891

 This implies that every feeling and every thought, however guilty or courageous, everything that one has known within the privacy of one's own solitude, has been recorded in a universal computer. Every visible and invisible manifestation is somewhere recorded. Manifestation itself is a process of unfoldment from within without; but insofar as human beings operate from without within, they do not grasp the nature of the inward matrices of their own manifestation. Nothing that is recorded may be lost or erased. No angel or saviour can alter or edit the karmic record. No sensation or act is too trifling to be registered. This is a staggering fact. Normally, in their egocentricity, most people see every occurrence in relation to their own likes and dislikes.

Gupta Vidya, however, affirms that the most trivial element of experience of any single being, and particularly human beings, is permanently retained in a kind of universal brain. But whereas mechanistic information resides on media that are external to the being generating and deploying that information, karmic information resides within the subtle vestures of the being itself. It consists of conscious vibrations, feeling-tones, colorations of attitudes, flavours of actions, aromas of characters, all of which are elements of one's conscious existence. Every vibration in manifestation, from the last vibration of the Seventh Eternity at the end of pralaya and the first flutter of manvantaric dawn, to the supple creative light witnessed in the final sandhya before pralaya, is alive and suffused with the consciousness of the One Life. Every field of objective sensation springs from the differentiated Dhyani-energies of that One Life in manifestation intimated by those mystics who speak of the aroma of lifetimes being preserved in the sutratman. For human beings, the cycle of incarnation involves a continual disintegration of everything below the fourth plane, and a continual recording of everything in the living akasha and astral light. Light itself, as vibration, is life.

 Once this is understood, it is clear that there can be no flight from the universe or escape from the past. No agency of vicarious atonement can rewrite the record for any being. One's response to this realization is itself a decisive step in consciousness with immense karmic consequences. To some the very idea may seem sinister. This is the result of an absurd adolescent escapism that has been reinforced by self-appointed external authorities using false dogmas to trade in human weakness. This is not only unscientific and arbitrary, but also dangerous. It is characteristic of all systems which are unphilosophical but employ religious and occasionally pseudo-scientific language, including behaviourism. Anything and everything which tends to erode the sense of ethical responsibility is false. Anything which addresses human beings in terms of their enormous responsibility for all that they have emanated and initiated is true. Yet this still provides only one, though basic, criterion – responsibility and irresponsibility. We need a more complex conception offering an account of the degrees and interactions of responsibilities. Without it, one's conception of individuality will remain truncated, while one's concern with karma will be perverted into an interest in salvation and damnation.

 To understand the operation of karma and memory across lifetimes, it will help to consider situations where there is a loss of memory within a single lifetime, and the nature of the opportunities afforded by the recovery of memory. For example,

 There are cases on record of long months and years of insanity, of long days of fever when almost everything done or said, was done and said unconsciously. Yet when the patients recovered they remembered occasionally their words and deeds and very fully. Unconscious cerebration is a phenomenon on this plane and may hold good so far as the personal mind is concerned.


 Such an abrupt break in personal memory can be prompted by fever, the influence of drugs, psychic spells, madness, infatuation, terror and fear. Similar though less serious lesions in memory occur through impulsive talk, automatic action or daydreaming, through intensity of emotion or confusion of thought. All of these processes involve the spiritual nerve-currents of the subtlest vesture, which affect in turn the intellectual nerve-currents of the mind-vesture, and, ultimately, the astral nerves and the physiological form. All of the vestures resonate and respond to each other ceaselessly, whether one notices it or not. Thus, in comparison with the self-consciousness of an Adept, human beings are behaving thoughtlessly, unself-consciously or semi-consciously most of the time. When they suddenly recall what they have been doing after a spell of oblivion, they are often terrified – terrified of death, of confronting themselves or any honest human being. To meet integrity is to be reminded that one must pay up.

 Perhaps, however, one will not be terrified and wish to run away when confronted with the nature of one's past actions. In proportion to one's commitment to the pursuit of integrity before the traumatic episode, one will be relieved to remember what one actually did. Though shamed and shocked to discover one's actions, one can refine moral sensitivity through a chastening experience. Instead of fleeing from memory, one will gladly receive the help needed to prevent recurrences in the future. Like Immanuel Kant, who said that he was grateful to be awakened from the nonage of his dogmatic slumbers, individuals seeking participation in the humanity of the future will make every effort to overcome the unconscious cerebration of the personal mind. This unconscious cerebration – so boring, so inconvenient and so pervasive – is entirely at odds with the quickening of the Race-mind that is taking place in the present cycle. Beings will either become automata or more wide awake, morally and spiritually. The only effective contribution individuals can make to the future is through bringing ethical awareness to the centre of one's consciousness, making it the basis of every act and every attitude. If one fails to do this, one's awareness will become frenetic and manic, and certainly not honourable. Self-respect is only possible through the acquisition of moral self-consciousness, for that is the only basis of the fearlessness required to face alternatives. Only when this is possible can one look at one's accounts and have the courage to change the line of action and thus to rectify them.

 Yet if all of this is only applied to the personal mind and to personal memory and consciousness, it will only yield an ego-centered sense of ethics and moral awareness. In becoming concerned with one's motives and moral life, one should not just become more preoccupied with oneself. Meta-psychologically, holding oneself up as a victim of the world is little different from holding oneself up as entirely responsible for the whole world. If one forgets that other people are moral agents, and sees them only as puppets upon the stage of one's moral life, one becomes outwardly permissive, yet inwardly self-righteous. In a position of responsibility, yesterday's libertine becomes today's tyrant. Whilst powerless, the crypto-power maniac is content to play the role of the victim, acting out martyrdom whilst wallowing in judgementalism. But it is rapidly becoming impossible to live unless one truly loves other human beings and lives for them. Unless one can learn to live for children, one cannot live for the future. Nor is this merely a matter of words or exhilarated emotions. It is a function of one's capacity to hold a transcendental vibration in one's consciousness, thereby giving life to what is real and turning away from what is dying with no fear, but with calm compassion. Only thus can the subjective matrix of personal self-reference be dissolved from above below.

 Collective humanity is presently undergoing a crisis that is both painful and fortunate. During this psychological Vietnamization of the world, there is no escape. There are corpses, shells, wounded and deformed beings everywhere in the astral light. They may seem to be other people, but they all affect elements in oneself which are distorted and deformed. This is not actually new; a noble seer like H.P. Blavatsky spoke in the nineteenth century of modern civilization being a necropolis. The Rishi sees astral forms and auras not in some psychic way but calmly and consistently, everywhere and all the time. Without the slightest disturbance to his or her state of consciousness, everything is known and nothing is hidden. Naturally, the eyes of a seer are eyes of deep wisdom and immense compassion for humanity. And when the seer speaks, it is through the Voice of the Silence.

 Behold the Hosts of Souls. Watch how they hover o"er the stormy sea of human life, and how, exhausted, bleeding, broken-winged, they drop one after other on the swelling waves. Tossed by the fierce winds, chased by the gale, they drift into the eddies and disappear within the first great vortex.

The Voice of the Silence

 This vision of the spiritual travail of humanity, caught in the darkness of loneliness and despair, of spiritual failure and desperation, is overwhelming. It cannot be either understood or assimilated by personal consciousness, but requires a universal vision of karma and human experience. Authentic impersonality in consciousness must be restored, whether through contemplation of the vastitude of starry nature, through adoration of heroic figures and scenes in distant epochs or through meditation upon universal ideas. To connect oneself to the fathomless resources of the akashic light, one will need a conception of the karmic recording process which goes beyond any analogy to the individual brain or a computer. Instead, one must conceive of every atom in every blade of grass as intimately and eternally involved with every other sentient atom throughout the whole cosmos. This is difficult to conceive of because of the immense thoughtlessness, callousness and insensitivity of much human interaction. Caught up in their self-conceptions, individuals imagine that they are isolated in consciousness from each other, or if they take interaction seriously, they tend to blame each other for the disturbances they experience. To counter this narrow view, one might re-read some of the great plays of Shakespeare: in the great duet between the frightened apprentice Macbeth and the more accomplished black magician, Lady Macbeth, who nonetheless goes mad in terror at the end, we see the agitation of nature consonant with human beings. Not only is there a resonant response to every human emotion on the sounding-board of nature, but one may even, if perceptive, discern in these responses of nature the archetypal processes that envelop the human individual in birth and in death.

Kama loka and devachan are objective resonances of human consciousness; as permanent possibilities in nature they are present everywhere and always. If, with all their implications regarding soul-memory and the cycle of reincarnation, they are not perceived continuously, it is because human beings are so isolated in their personal awareness and bodily identification that they are blind to the causal matrices they are continually elaborating Without overcoming this obscuration of consciousness it is not possible to consult the book of memory and the book of judgement at the dawn and twilight of incarnation in a constructive manner. During life, individual karma and memory must be inserted into the vast living fabric of visible and invisible nature, which is conscious and responsive at every point, having nothing to do with any mechanistic conceptions of the recording of information.

 Personal memory is a fiction of the physiologist. There are cells in our brain that receive and convey sensations and impressions, but this once done, their mission is accomplished. These cells of the supposed "organ of memory" are the receivers and conveyors of all the pictures and impressions of the past, not their retainers. Under various conditions and stimuli, they can receive instantaneously the reflection of these astral images back again, and this is called memory, recollection, remembrance; but they do not preserve them.... But the Universal Memory preserves every motion, the slightest wave and feeling that ripples the waves of differentiated nature, of man or of the Universe.


 Once one understands that in universal memory everything is not only recorded but felt, one can no longer hold to a separative concept of ethics. Instead, one will turn to the perspective of the poets, the seers, the Great Compassionaters who have always taught that every thought affects every plant and every star. Whilst caught up in a separative conception of ethics, one may hold oneself responsible for hurting another person, but not necessarily every leaf and plant on earth. Yet, when human beings generate maleficent vibrations, every element in nature is wounded. Innumerable ripples reach out throughout all differentiated nature, and they are all preserved in the universal memory, not merely as information about individual lives, but as part of the constitutive basis for living beings in general. When this observation is coupled with a consideration of the problem of unconscious cerebration, at the level of the personal mind, the entire nature of the quest for continuity of consciousness is transformed. Instead of simply insisting to oneself that one should be more responsible or more effective, that one should learn from past failures so as to acquire virtue in an egocentric sense, such personal conceptions are supplanted by a sensitivity to universal responsibility, universal causation and the operation of karmic law within the framework of universal unity.

 The Wheel of the Good Law revolves for all at all times. If individuals are not aware of everything that is emanating out of them and creating effects throughout the whole of nature, this is because they are indulging in their own vibrations in a self-protective or egotistic manner. Whether positive or negative, one's feelings nonetheless affect the overall vibratory field of life in which all living beings live, move and have their being. Unlike mechanical means of recording, which make a frozen image of the motion that produced them, the karmic preservation of vibrations preserves the actual motion itself. Because karma works regardless of whether one knows about it or not, everything produces irreversible consequences that return upon oneself quite independently of whether one remembers producing the causes or not. Since one is ceaselessly interacting with everything else and constantly sending out and receiving back karmic vibrations, human life on the objective plane is perilous. Depending upon one's past thoughts, feelings and actions, the universe can be a hazardous place. To conceive of all this in terms of a limited and egotistical notion of security, particularly on the outer physical plane, is simply to reflect an ignorant fear of karma grounded in lack of self-consciousness. Measures of self-protection, locking oneself behind doors, are only hopeless and delusive stunts. Because of the integrity of karma and the universal memory, there is no place to hide from the consequences of one's actions.

 These fearful and self-righteous responses to the lessons of karma are bound up with the standpoint of a finite differentiated self-limiting personal consciousness. If one could become capable of burning out the sense of separateness of personal identity, and become attuned to universal life and feeling, universal thought and consciousness, with universal memory which receives all action, one could become karmaless. Such is the paradox of karma and memory. The more limited one's self-reference, the more one feels karma and the more one fears it. The more universal one's sense of self the more one becomes all karma and even karmaless. To resonate to the universal naturally implies that whenever there is a quiver of pain anywhere in the world, which is constantly witnessing birth and death, that pain is going to be felt. The pain of every being is relevant to the universal memory, and in meditation the greater height and breadth of one's perspective is going to draw one into contact with all this pain. It is not possible to draw the tremendous range of manifestation self-consciously into awareness without at the same time experiencing all karma, without learning to respond compassionately to every sigh of everything that lives and breathes. At the same time, one becomes karmaless because the conception of a personal karma associated with the limited self no longer has any meaning. One is no longer subject to personal reaction in terms of likes and dislikes, but instead lets go of everything personal and lives only in the universal. Therefore, there are no residues to sustain the matrix of personal self-identity.

 To become karmaless is to become an Adept, fulfilling every single responsibility completely whilst having no debt to discharge. At any given time, becoming aware of something undone, of something not returned, one is able to amend and redress the balance. Desiring nothing for oneself, the plenitude and bounty of boundless being may be given away to others. Unconcerned about the accrual of merit, one is free from the insidious separateness of moral self-satisfaction and complacency connected with the idea of being virtuous. All of this is burnt out, and one needs no thanks from others, oneself or the universe itself. Instead, one creates spontaneous rhythms of breathing which keep one moving with full attention from one duty to the next without residues and with no inherence in the linga shariram. This is what it means to reduce the lunar form to a zero at will, to attenuate the coil in the spleen, reducing it to ashes and leaving only the seed for the makers of your vesture.

 All of this is far removed from the sort of egotistical self-absorption that many people believe is equivalent to spiritual life. Many people recognize at some level that they are going in the opposite direction, but they do not know what to do about it. Instead of moving in the direction of serene joyous self-transcendence combined with courageous acceptance of karma and human pain, they are becoming more and more preoccupied with success and failure. They re-enact everything to do with personal likes and dislikes but do so on a more subtle plane bound up with individuality. They walk backwards. No one, at this point in evolution, is doing this for the first time. If people are in this position, it is because they have been there before in other lives. Possessing knowledge, they made mistakes, but they do not now remember what they did because their consciousness is obscured by the consolidated ego. This creates a hardening of the apertures of the soul, as if a stone were blocking the free flow of energies from above the head down through the spine to the toes. As a consequence, their consciousness and their memory are bound in a sphere of small radius. The only way to cut these bonds is to determine to learn from all karma, and then to treat everyone as a teacher.

 Every experience of pain should be taken as an opportunity for learning. A preoccupation with salvation should be converted into a dedication to the endless process of learning. This cannot be done with a frenetic violence that only reinstantiates egotism. Instead, it is better to sit back sometimes and reflect upon what has happened. When it does not interfere with evident duties, it is good to take time to ask oneself, "Which way am I going? What kind of person am I becoming? Why did this happen? Why did I do these things? Why didn"t I have more control over my speech? Why do I have such egotistic reactions and such hostility towards innocent people? What do I ultimately value and what do I ultimately want to become? Who am I?" This self-questioning should not be undertaken in a self-accusatory mood, but rather with a meta-psychological calmness rooted in the contemplation of metaphysical ideas. It aims to get to root causes through dianoia and to prepare the questioner for authentic learning.

 As all consciousness on every sub-plane of the seven planes of the universe derives from the Atman, even if one's efforts to learn originate on the plane of personal existence, they invoke a sacred and universal vibration. The earnest desire to learn inevitably strengthens the antaskarana bridge. It is not possible to become altruistic overnight and very few can master karma, but all can become true learners and experience the joy of continuous learning. The more one learns, the humbler one will be in coming to judgements about other human beings or in issuing indictments of nations, races and institutions. Whilst sensing a great deal that is wrong, one will be moved to find out where one can do those little things that add up to something that is clean and right. One will become more of an observer and learner, suddenly finding the world to be a vast and generous school. Then one will become more attentive to the invisible layers of this cosmic university, noticing its invisible classrooms with invisible textbooks and invisible beings involved in teaching and learning. One will notice that people cannot say what is keeping them alive, because they do not remember when awake what they experienced in deep sleep. One will realize that it is impossible to understand, and therefore to judge any human being from the outside. Only when one learns to look upon others with love and compassion rooted in a sense of the mystery of the Ego is it possible to learn from all.

 What applies to others applies to oneself. While becoming humble towards other beings, one can become fearless in one's own quest for the truth, rejecting all evasions and excuses. As one becomes rooted in a life dedicated to learning, one's whole conception of memory and of what it is important to remember will change. When the primary concern is to do justice, there can be no fear to remember anything, but at the same time there will be no tendency to indulge in a great deal of memory which is useless. Above all, it will be important to keep green and fresh the memory of the moment of spiritual birth, the moment of spiritual awakening and initiation at the most minor level. Pride in one's soul-memory is not a matter of detail and information, but rather of a vibratory current of consciousness. Whether this is put in terms of the posture of the shravaka, the lanoo disciple, the devotee and searcher after truth, or the pilgrim-soul, self-conscious fidelity to this vibration is crucial to soul-memory. By maintaining this vibration intact, it is possible to begin to shift the emphasis in the fields of one's karma. These fields are not related to each other like the rooms of a house, but rather as the butter, the milk and the water before the churning. They are the interwoven resonances of the one primal vibration of the invisible Word, and the science of karma is the discovery of their hidden correspondences in oneself and throughout the visible and invisible cosmos.

 As soon as one constitutes oneself an apprentice to this science, even in the most probationary way, one naturally becomes a silent adorer of the mighty peaks in human evolution, beings of boundless love and compassion, who are not sitting somewhere else, and who are not merely appearing at certain times as Teachers, but who are always present and working in subtle ways. Suddenly one becomes aware that there is a great deal hidden which one did not fully understand, and that at various moments in one's life one has been spoken to by human beings overbrooded by their Dhyanis. To have received such profound help from any other human being and to realize the meaning of the event is at once to begin to revere the ceaseless relevance of karmaless beings in a world of painful learning, of extremely slow but real progress, where, by modest increments, humanity moves in ways that are authentic, unseen and unmanifest.

 Through strengthening thought, memory and choice, one will become relaxed in reference to likes and dislikes, but in extreme earnest in relation to truth. That is why one enjoys the privilege of human existence. Like Ivan in Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, one will seek to know the meaning of life and the cause of the persistence of pain and sorrow. By inserting the purpose of one's life and the sweet aroma of one's spiritual striving into the universal stream of spiritual evolution, one may earn in time the privilege of coming into the presence of the Guru. Having established within oneself a firm standpoint of authentic human responsibility, one will be ready to commence the study of universal compassionate action.

Hermes, May 1983
by Raghavan Iyer