THEOSOPHY, Vol. 27, No. 7, May, 1939 (Pages 323-324; Size: 7K)
THE ILLUSION OF SEPARATENESS
THEOSOPHY teaches that Self has no beginning and no end; that the power of consciousness exists eternally, whether manifested or not. Every form is the objective expression of a conscious intelligence; therefore, this is a universe of embodied consciousness. The more one dwells upon this idea, the more it is confirmed by experience.
Everyone can realize that the "Power to be" is behind all forms of existence, although no one can describe what this Power is. Always there is that which perceives, but the very things perceived are in themselves manifestations of the same Power.
How can we explain the fact that we feel ourselves to be separate from other selves, see things in terms of their differences, even while realizing that all we perceive must be the same in essence as ourselves? The ancient books say that this is the great illusion -- Consciousness looking upon itself in terms of separateness. In man it becomes Ahankara -- the false sense of Self, which produces what we call the personality.
Theosophy teaches that all forms of life arise from the periodical out-breathing of the one source of Consciousness. Applying this to ourselves, we find that embodied man consists of a changeless Perceiver (the Monad), looking through, first, a concentration of consciousness which causes him to say "I AM" (Manas or Mind), and second, a bodily limitation of perception which causes him to say "I am Mr. So and So" -- his personality.
Reincarnation provides a periodical focus within the One Life for the individual Consciousness. The base is permanent, the foci are temporary. A life on earth simply means the integration of a specialized instrument for undergoing experience. The disintegration of this instrument only affects Consciousness in that it destroys certain avenues of perception and action. Recognizing that we are now keenly aware of both physical and mental experience, why do we sometimes fail to realize that we can continue to experience in some other way, without a body? The trouble is that we do not distinguish the Power to perceive from the highly specialized instrument through which it is expressed. There is no reason to suppose that the Power to be -- awareness -- ceases with death. If that power does not change during the vicissitudes of physical life, we may assume that its very nature and essence is changeless. That is why this proposition is fundamental: Self is changeless. The changes take place in its modes of expression and impression.
Another question must be answered: Why should differences exist in the channels of perception? This problem has to do with Law, the law of continuous harmonious adjustment. We never gain the same impression from a second or third observation. A picture for example, does not change at all, yet the influence the picture exerts on our consciousness is different with each observation -- we see more, or less. The change has taken place in ourselves, not in the picture. Perception does not change the Perceiver, but modifies the channels through which the perceptions come, so that our modes of consciousness are continually being altered. If this alteration tends to harmony, there is an increase in what we call Intelligence. If the alteration is in terms of discord, the channels of perception become distorted and confusion results. Karma is the incessant restoration of equilibrium in the paths of perception. Self perceiving Self would present no disturbance.
In the case of the individual man, this law means that a new personality is formed at each birth, to be used by the Perceiver with his heritage of character and tendency. This creator and inhabitant of the personality is the Ego, the Eternal Pilgrim who lives successive lives on earth in personalities which are the fruits of its own past actions. Although the human personality as we know it ends at death, the Ego, on entering human life again, can construct only that kind of personality which mirrors the unlearned lessons of the evolving ego. The enemy of Self is the illusion of separateness produced by the instruments of specialized perception. These conscious instruments are colored by and endowed with qualities in accordance with the degree of Self-knowledge of the being using them. Consequently, what could they represent except his own past? They are the mechanisms of experience which inevitably bring man into contact with the illusions peculiarly his own, and thus afford an opportunity for correction.
We view the objective universe as self-conscious Perceivers. Each birth is both a loss and a gain to the Perceiver -- a temporary loss of the horizons of a higher state of consciousness, but the gain of another opportunity to conquer the illusion of separateness. For this the well-nigh infinite world of sense objects exists; for this man lives and struggles and "dies" out of his forms until at last the transformed personality no longer obscures the self-knowledge of the incarnating Ego. Then the vast panorama of external nature, which before had produced the illusion of separateness, is seen as the great mirror wherein the One Self is reflected through the shadow-world of forms.
"Let Us Assume"