Theosophist, May, 1883
Question by R. Hartmann | Reply by H.P.B.
Will you kindly permit me a question?
In Vol. IV, No. 2, on page 29, I find, that in the state described as Devachan the spiritual monad leads for very long periods an existence of unalloyed satisfaction and conscious enjoyment, however without activity, without exciting contrasts between pain and pleasure, without pursuit and achievement.
Now, how can a conscious existence without activity or pursuit be one of satisfaction or enjoyment? Would not annihilation be preferable to such a state of indolence? In the Christian heaven there is at least the waving of palm leaves and harping. A poor amusement indeed; but better than nothing?—Please explain.
Hoping that my inquisitiveness will give no offence.
I am very respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
R. HARTMANN, F.T.S.
Georgetown, Colorado, January 31.
Our correspondent’s question has been already anticipated by the important appendices added to the recent “Fragment” on Devachan. To realize the conditions of spiritual existence of any sort it is necessary to get above the plane of merely physical perceptions. One cannot see the things of the spirit with the eyes of the flesh, and one cannot successfully appreciate subjective phenomena by help only of those intellectual reflections which appertain to the physical senses.
“How can a conscious existence without activity or pursuit be one of satisfaction or enjoyment?”
It would only emphasize the mistaken idea which this question embodies if one were to ask instead, “how can a conscious existence without athletic sports and hunting be one of enjoyment?” The cravings of man’s animal or even bodily human nature are not permanent in their character. The demands of the mind are different from those of the body. In physical life an ever-recurring desire for change impresses our imagination with the idea that there can be no continuity of contentment, without variety of occupation and amusement. To realize completely the way in which a single vein of spiritual consciousness may continue for considerable periods of time to engage the attention—not only the contented, but the delighted attention—of a spiritual entity, is probably possible only for persons who already in life have developed certain inner faculties, dormant in mankind at large. But meanwhile our present correspondent may perhaps derive some satisfaction from the fact—as explained in recent essays on the subject—that one sort of variety is developed in Devachan in a very high degree; viz., the variety which naturally grows out of the simple themes set in vibration during life. Immense growths, for example, of knowledge itself are possible in Devachan, for the spiritual entity which has begun the “pursuit” of such knowledge during life. Nothing can happen to a spirit in Devachan, the keynote of which has not been struck during life; the conditions of a subjective existence are such that the importation of quite external impulses and alien thoughts is impossible. But the seed of thought once sown,—the current of thoughts once set going (the metaphor may freely be varied to suit any taste),—and then its developments in Devachan may be infinite for the sixth sense there and the sixth principle are our instructors; and in such society there can be no isolation, as physical humanity understands the term. The spiritual ego in fact, under the tuition of his own sixth principle, need be in no fear of being dull, and would be as likely to sigh for a doll’s house or a box of ninepins as for the harps and palm leaves of the mediæval Heaven.