The above title, "God, the Spirit of the Universe and in Man," gives, in a way, the answers to the questions: Where is God? Who is God? What is God? But to our general knowledge about Spirit and Universe and Man is so shallow and so limited that even the straight answer that Deity is the Spirit of the Universe and in Man means little to most people.
The subject of God can be studied in numerous ways: we can discuss it with the aid of learned books; we can study it from the point of view of modern science and find God to be the Imponderable Nothing; we might go to the other end and approach God from the viewpoint of orthodox religions, as a mighty man, who is cruel if he is wise, who is weak if he is loving, who is very muddle-headed and impotent; we might approach God as the artist does, and look upon the symbol representing God, which pleases for a while but which does not bring comfort to the confused or solace to the sorrowful. Theosophy demolishes the negation of science about the existence of God, exposes the folly of the personal God of religions, shows the beauty of the many symbols of God created by the artist. But Theosophy goes further.
It is a profound subject and can be truly grasped only if mind and heart combine. Let us put away for a while our notions and beliefs about God, and learn with a fresh mind and an intent heart what God is and what practical use we can make of that knowledge in our daily lives.
God, the Spirit of the Universe: What is Spirit? There exists much confusion of thought and lack of agreement about the meaning of the word. The word is used in many contexts. People speak of the spirit of wime, and go as far as the spirit of wisdom! Theosophy gives a synonym for Spirit—Life. God is the Spirit of the Universe or the Life of the Universe. But what is Life? Here is another word very commonly used; we speak of the life of gluttony, and the life of avarice, and the life of love; we speak of the life of body and of mind; we speak of animal life, vegetable life, mineral life; we also speak of the universal life; we speak of the life-process. But these words, Spirit and Life, certainly convey the idea of omnipresence. Spirit and Life are present everywhere. Theosophy teaches that the whole universe is composed of living things; Theosophy does not make the distinction that science makes, between dead and living matter or inorganic and organic matter. Theosophy teaches that all forms of matter are living. There is no dead matter. The rock and the crystal are alive, however inert they may look to the human eye. As science advances, it is finding out the truth which the ancient Sages taught, that everything is alive and that the whole universe is instinct with the presence of God.
When we say that God or Spirit or Life is omnipresent, what do we mean? There is a Presence at the core of everything, and that Presence is Spirit or Life. We see with the eyes or perceive by the mind the effects produced by the presence of God or Spirit or Life. We do not see the causal aspect of that presence, either by our eyes or by our minds. The presence of Life or Spirit is seen in its effects; these effects veil the presence. Our eyes and our mind contact the veil—the great purdah. Behind and beyond that veil of matter our ordinary vision cannot penetrate. In Sufi mysticism, God is compared to the Beloved who wears a veil, and the devotee or the Sufi has to learn to unveil the face and see the Beloved. This veil, or this purdah, is what we call matter, prakriti, or nature.
The Presence of Spirit or Life is beyond the range and reach of thought; therefore the Upanishads say that God or Spirit is unthinkable, unspeakable, unknowable. But it is unknowable by the ordinary human mind, and human lips cannot describe it; but there is that in man which is superior to the mind. The Spirit in man can sense and know that one ever-existing Root-Essence. All of us here and now can feel the Presence of Life and understand by our mind that that Presence exists. So, when we say God is the Spirit of the Universe, we mean that there is a Presence in the Universe behind that which our eyes see, and beyond that which our minds understand. Spirit or Life is omnipresent, and that Presence produces effects which we see and talk about.
To explain the mystery of that Presence, to aid the human mind to understand the nature of that Presence, great Sages and Philosophers have given symbols and names, Meditating on which the mind begins to learn about Deity or God. In the scriptures of all religions, the names of God have been given. Muslims have 99 names of God. When Zoroaster asks Ahura Mazda what teaching or aspect of the Holy Law was most beneficent and protective, Ahura Mazda answers: "Oh Zarathushtra, my Names, the Names of us Ameshaspentas." Ahura Mazda proceeds to give the Names in the beautiful hymn, the Ahura Mazda Yasht; and one of these names is that he is omnipresent—in every body, in every form. Likewise, in the Tenth Discourse of the Gita, Krishna mentions his Vibhutis—Excellent Glories or Glorious Excellences.
In the modern presentation of the Ancient Philosophy, to be found in H.P.B.'s Secret Doctrine, we are given a few symbols, meditating on which we come to have a mental understanding of how Deity or God is omnipresent. The difficulty about the names of God given in different religious scriptures is this: these names were meant for the minds of the people of the past; their repetition is not quite suited to the minds of present-day humanity. Further, the corruption of all religions is now worse, and that is the reason why religions have lost their influence on most and possess inspiration for few. Priests have degraded religious teachings, and the greatest and grandest name of Deity, the Omnipresent or the Great Presence, is not understood. Therefore, when H.P.B. rewrote the ancient truths, she gave a set of symbols for the student to comprehend the nature of Deity or Life, Spirit or the Great Presence. These symbols are more direct and less allegorical. It is true that the symbols are abstract, while the Names are concrete; but this very concreteness of the names has been instrumental in the hands of the priests in erecting an anthropomorphic personal God, sitting somewhere far away. Moreover, these abstract symbols are more suitable for the modern mind, which is being educated and trained along scientific lines in our schools and colleges.
Let us name some of these symbols used in The Secret Doctrine to expound the nature of Deity, or Life, or Spirit, or the Great Presence. First, there is the graphic symbol of Space; then Eternal Motion, or the Great Breath; then Duration or Eternal Time, beginningless and endless; then Creative Speech, and so on. These are not new inventions of modern Theosophy; Creative Speech or Logos of the Greeks, or Vach of the Hindus, is as old as Endless Time of the Avesta—"Zervane Akarnae." What does obtain, however, in Theosophical Philosophy is an explanation and an exposition of these abstract symbols which suits the modern mind.
Let us consider one which H.P.B. stresses in the First Fundamental Proposition of The Secret Doctrine—Space. From one point of view, the symbol of Space is easy to understand. There is hardly any other symbol that so graphically and so quickly impresses the human mind with the concept of the omnipresence of Deity. Space is everywhere. All around us as far as the eyes can reach, and beyond our horizon, space extends and expands wherever the mind can go, and more—the mind is able to perceive that there is a beyond to any and every boundary of conceivable space. We cannot think of anything without the basis of space. Continents and countries, towns and villages, streets and houses, things and beings, in them all is space, and they all are in space. Look around and note mentally the fact that space is the one thing which exists everywhere, and nothing can possibly exist without space. That is the first concept—space is the container of all.
Next, every thing and every individual is a part of space; each one of us is a portion of space, in contact with the vast, boundless whole. Living the ordinary sense-life, we do not recognize our indissoluble connection with that boundless whole. We see the sun, the moon, the stars which are millions of miles away; but how do we see them? The magic of perception is not in the stars, it is in our eyes. A blind person is not able to see, though the stars exist. By naked vision we are not able to see some stars that we do see by the aid of a telescope. The heavenly bodies reflect themselves on our retina—we might say that the sun and the stars come to our eyes; a conjunction is achieved between the stars and our eyes. That union depends on two things: First, the proper functioning of the eyes; without the eyes we cannot see. Secondly, our eyes see only those objects which are of the same density and grade of matter; we see the distant stars because our eyes are consubstantial with them; but we do not see the air we breathe, because our eyes and the air are not consubstantial, are not of the same substance.
The human soul, or self-conscious thinker, perceives the boundless world of Spirit as our eyes see the stars—because the human soul is consubstantial with Spirit or Space. Just as by a single pair of eyes we catch the reflection of the vast starry firmament on our retina, so the self-conscious thinker catches hold of and retains the reflection of the Boundless spirit. This is Yoga. A real Yogi, by the power developed in his own spiritual consciousness, is able to catch and to retain the reflection of the whole of the Spiritual Universe, and then he cries: "Aham Brahmasmi"—"I am verily the Supreme Brahman."
Now we come to the ethical and practical aspect. Every one of us, as a self-conscious thinker, as a human soul, reflects within himself or herself the boundless Spiritual Whole; but, because our senses and our desires have entangled the soul, here in our bodily existence, we do not recognize and remember that indissoluble link, that permanent tie. As we purify ourselves, as the dust of illusions raised by the senses is wiped away, and our brain becomes porous to the direct action of the soul, we perceive that tie and that bond, and then we have become that which we are, we have become a Yogi. We see what some call God, the Great Presence. The Gita describes real seeing thus: "He who seeth the Supreme Being (Ishwara) existing alike imperishable in all perishable things, sees indeed." (XIII, 27)
Overlaid with sense-images, overpowered by kama, energized by tanha, thirst for things and objects, we do not recognize that each one of us is now and here an immortal entity. Theosophy says we have to realize our own immortality by carving out of the stone of our lower personal existence the image of the God we are. A sculptor takes a piece of marble and then he knocks off bits and pieces of that marble with his chisel; he goes on removing a bit here, a piece there till the image he wants is produced. Where has that image been? In the sculptor's mind. So also in our innermost mind there is the image of Parameshvara, because we are linked up with the Boundless Whole; but our desires and passions have obscured it; and we have to use the chisel of our resolve, the hammer of our effort, and labour till the face of the Supreme shines forth in our face.
Resolve and effort are necessary. The fight is in the mind, and Arjuna recognizes that when he complains about his wandering mind. Krishna asks Arjuna to fix his mind on the Supreme Self, the Universal Whole, the Impartite Unity. But Arjuna says that his mind is chanchala (VI, 33), which does not mean only "wandering." Arjuna was no ordinary man; he was the chela of the Great Master, Yogeshvara, the Lord of Yoga. The chanchala mind is the mind that sees the images of the material and psychical universe very quickly; it is not an evil mind, but a mind that cannot free itself from the world of many objects and many beings. Krishna says that by practice and detachment he will see the Self in all things and all things in the Self. Then it is that Arjuna asks what happens to one who is not able to finish the task of cleansing the mind when death overtakes him; and the Lord answers that such a striver will continue his work in another life. But we must begin now; for, unless we begin there is the danger of destruction for us. Our evil will overpower us, and Krishna speaks of the "evil place" the one who does evil goes to (VI, 40). He who strives to go in the right direction never descends to that evil state, says the Gita. With resolve and effort, once we have entered the stream we are bound to reach the other shore if we keep on striving.
Each one of us, within ourselves, is divine; and there is no one, no thing, which has not that same divinity. The Great Presence is working everywhere, though its manifestations are different in different things. At every point of Boundless Space, at every moment of Boundless Time, the Supreme is active. When Krishna begins to describe his Vibhutis, his Glories, he commences by saying: "I am the Ego which is seated in the hearts of all beings; I am the beginning, the middle and the end of all existing things." (X, 20)
So by resolve and effort one can know oneself as the Supreme. We are all One, though we think that we are many. When our minds unite in study, when our hearts blend in aspiration, we feel the happiness and the joy of the Self—Atma. Such study and such aspiration also unite us to those Great Ones who are, says the Gita, "very difficult to find." By studying the great Philosophy of Theosophy, by serving the One Self which has many hands and feet, many eyes and ears, many heads and hearts, we come close to Them, and what we vaguely and dimly sense by the mind now, will be clear to us when we hear such a Great One give instruction and say, "Thou art That"—Tat Tvam asi.