We near the end of our discussion of bindus by discussing how they are like a prism that breaks white light into a rainbow. The bindu disperses the unity of consciousness into seemingly infinite rainbows of consciousness, into minds within minds within minds, where each mind is a self-similar replica of the whole of Manifestation.
Contents for The Yogic View of Consciousness:
|Intro||Ch 1||Ch 2||Ch 3||Ch 4||Ch 5||Ch 6||Ch7||Ch 8|
|Ch 9||Ch 10||Ch 11||Ch 12||Ch 13||Ch 14||Ch 15||Ch 16||Ch 17|
|Ch 18||Ch 19||Ch 20||Ch 21||Ch 22||Ch 23||Ch 24||Ch 25||Ch 26|
|Ch 27||Ch 28||Ch 29||Ch 30||Ch 31||Ch 32||Ch 33|
Last time we got to the heart of Taimni’s abstractions. He interpreted the ancient Hindu teachings using the modern vocabulary of mathematics by asserting that all the bindus were concentric with the Mahabindu. To repeat a snippet of the quote from last time:
“…it is possible for an infinite number of spiritual entities to function in the realm of the mind from a single centre. Each entity, whether He is a Solar Logos or a Monad, projects His own independent mental world and functions in that world although He is rooted in a common centre.”
The mind is a projection of the bindu. The mind is akin to a virtual reflection in a mirror. The source of the projection comes from the Unmanifest, and the Unmanifest comes from the Absolute. Manifestation is the diffraction of the Absolute through the bindu, where the One seemingly becomes the Many.
We can think of the Hindu triple ontology of Absolute, Unmanifest, and Manifest as the three possible conditions of consciousness:
- Absolute = consciousness in perfect equilibrium.
- Unmanifest = consciousness partitioned by distinctions that perfectly cancel out.
- Manifest = consciousness in states of movement, or disequilibrium.
In Part 12 we drew on the metaphor of the ocean depths:
“An individual who is an ordinary swimmer who enters the waters of sea disturbed by a storm will see nothing but disturbance everywhere. But an expert diver can dive into the deeper levels of the sea and be in a perfectly tranquil environment in spite of the fact that a storm is raging at the surface.”
The wavy and turbulent surface is Manifestation. It is also the surface mind. The depths correspond to the progressively deeper levels of Manifestation that bleed eventually into the Unmanifest, all of which corresponds to the Unconscious aspects of individual minds. Finally, the bedrock of the Cosmos is the Absolute, which is also the bedrock of the Individual Mind.
The individual mind is a self-similar replica of the Universal Mind. Analogous processes occur universally and in the individual. Let’s consider how Taimni described this (Man, God, and the Universe [MGU] page 192):
“One very interesting phenomenon which we find in manifestation is the reflection, at lower levels, of the realities which exist on the higher. The same realities which are found on the higher planes are seen in expression on the lower planes. The same processes which underlie the phenomena of Nature on the spiritual planes are seen at work on the temporal planes. The same laws which govern the unfoldment of consciousness and evolution of bodies in the spiritual realms are seen to be applicable to the unfoldment of mind and bodies on the lowest planes. This important fact … has found expression in the well-known occult maxim “As above, so below”.
This idea is ancient in Western thought. It is the 2nd of the seven Hermitic Axioms: As Above, So Below. In the context of Western magic and occultism, “As Above, So Below” is often interpreted as the correspondence between the macrocosm (God) and the microcosm (us). Again, the framework is the two-level view of things characteristic of Western thought.
In yoga, as Taimni’s quote indicates, it refers to the correspondence of events occurring on all the Planes of Nature. As I said a long time ago in Beyond the Physical, nowadays this has a simple interpretation: the whole of Manifestation forms a fractal.
When we talk about Manifestation projecting through the bindu, the same general principle applies to the Mahabindu and all of Manifestation, to the bindu of our Universe, the bindu of the Galaxy, the Solar System, the Earth, us, and all creatures both great and small.
It is minds within minds within minds; bindus within bindus within bindus:
Van der Leeuw’s One and the Many
How does the One create the appearance of the Many? Last time we discussed Nicholas of Cusa’s formula:
Maximum = Minimum = One
In the context of this rather queer equivalence, I made the off-the-cuff remark:
“One implies division. One can be subdivided. And here is the genesis of all Relativity.”
This is not my idea. I got it from van der Leeuw (The Conquest of Illusion, Chapter 4):
“When we consider the number one in arithmetic that number is a unity, it is entirely and homogeneously one. Yet we can also think of that number one as being composed of a vast number of fractions; we can divide it again and again into millions of fractions of different values until we are bewildered by the seemingly endless multitude of the parts. Yet, at the same time, the number one has not been touched at all in its serene unity; it is ever one, and yet at the same time it is ever these countless fractions; they are contained in it, hidden in it, present in it and one with it.”
The number 1 contains infinity in potential, in a way different from zero. Zero contains infinity in such a way that all parts cancel: this is the hallmark of the Unmanifest. The number 1 contains all fractions such that they always add to 1:
½ + ½ = 1,
1/3 + 1/3 + 1/3 = 1,
1/3 + 2/3 = 1,
and so on
The division may be “commensurate” as is ½ + ½ = 1. Or it may be “incommensurate” as for example: π + (1-π) = 1, where we get numbers that cannot be fully spelled out in decimal form and appear to be infinite to us.
Leibniz had insight on this aspect of the Manifest:
“Couldn’t God find a number capable of expressing exactly √2 or the length of the diagonal of a square?…If the order of things or divine wisdom demanded that God produce perfect squares, and he decided to meet the demand, he couldn’t avoid producing incommensurable lines, even though they have the imperfection of not being able to be expressed exactly—isn’t that right? For a square has to have a diagonal, which is the distance between its opposite angles…It is evident that the irregularity of incommensurable lines arises from the very essence of the squares, and mustn’t be blamed on God; it is evident that this incommensurability is not ‘a bad thing that God couldn’t avoid producing’. God could have avoided producing it by not creating figures and continuous quantities, but only numbers or discrete quantities. But that wouldn’t have been the avoidance of ‘something bad’, because the imperfection of incommensurables has been made up for by even greater advantages: it was better to allow incommensurables to occur so as not to deprive the universe of all figures.”
(Real-Life Dialogue on Human Freedom and the Origin of Evil translated by Jonathan Bennett.)
Thus, the diversity implied in 1 contains the rational numbers we can fathom, and the irrational numbers we cannot fully fathom. These are the infinite ways to divide the One into the Many.
One is a complete and utter unity. But in 1 is implied complete and utter diversity. But how does the One actually become the Many? Imagine it as a process analogous to how white light is dispersed to form a rainbow. Again we consider Taimni (MGU, page 5):
“The first of the natural phenomena which we shall briefly consider is the dispersion of white light by a prism… Those who have knowledge of even elementary science are familiar with the experiment in which a beam of white light is passed through a prism and the emergent beam allowed to fall on a white screen. The image which is produced is not that of the original beam but we get a band of colours which is called a spectrum. If the original beam of white light was derived from the sun then there is also an invisible spectrum on either side of the visible spectrum which is called infra-red and ultra-violet. What has happened is that the beam of white light has been dispersed or differentiated by the prism and all the vibrations, visible and invisible, have been separated from each other, according to their wave lengths, forming a continuous spectrum. By putting another inverted prism in the path of the emergent ray it is possible to recombine or integrate them again into the original beam of white light. So the whole process is reversible.”
If you’ve never seen a picture of this before:
A prism works by refracting, that is bending, the light rays of different wavelengths as per the following animation (from the Wikipedia entry on Prisms):
While Taimni’s intuition seems to be on to something here, we can up the ante and find a better metaphor that embeds more of the yogic view of consciousness.
There is another way to make rainbows from white light using diffraction gratings. A diffraction grating is a surface with hundreds or thousands of small grooves in it. Here is a microscope picture of a diffraction grating (pic from here). Notice how closely spaced the grooves are. There is less than one millionth of a meter between adjacent grooves.
Like its name indicates, a diffraction grating works by diffracting the light waves. Diffraction occurs when the light hits a physical obstacle. Some of the waves cancel and others add together (e.g. wave superposition discussed in Part 13), and the net result is a series of rainbows, as shown by this diagram (from here):
One of the big differences between a prism and a diffraction grating is that you get many rainbows coming off the diffraction grating. These separate rainbows, as you can see, are called “orders”. The orders come about due to how the waves constructively and destructively interfere with each other.
Here is another picture of the diffraction orders (taken from here) that shows the orders more vividly:
Taimni had the intuition that the prism could be used as a metaphor for the transition of the One to the Many by the refraction of white light into its component spectrum that we perceive as a rainbow.
If we use a diffraction grating as our metaphor, we get a harmonic series of rainbows coming out of the white light. This is very reminiscent of the definition of the Maya Tattva cited before:
“…it creates the finite: the illusion of multiplicity, differentiation in multiple objects and limitation of objects. This process of manifestation is based on a series of multi-levelled reflections (pratibimba), creating a series of octaves or intervals.”
This is to say that the different orders of rainbows, of spectra, obtained from a diffraction grating is analogous to the different states of the gunas, the different orders of beings that make up the Manifested reality.
The Bindu Disperses Consciousness
Somehow the bindu must act like a diffraction grating. The intellectual skeleton of the argument goes like this: The Absolute, pure, unmoving consciousness is analogous to white light. Instead of containing different colored frequencies of light rays, consciousness is more like how the number 1 contains all possible fractions. The dispersive media is consciousness itself. When consciousness encounters itself, it breaks itself into the infinite fractions implied by its unity.
How could this even begin to work? Consciousness, when it moves, must fold back on itself and create structures analogous to diffraction gratings. Remember the term “vritti”? It means a whirlpool in consciousness.
Let me be perfectly clear. I do not know exactly how this could work. But I have speculative ideas that I now offer.
The following image is taken from Besant and Leadbeater’s Occult Chemistry:
As the label on the figure indicates, they called this the “anu”, also the ultimate physical atom, or UPA. Besant and Leadbeater claimed, by using siddhis they developed from practicing yoga, that this was the smallest physical structure that exists. For those interested in an extensive analysis of the UPA, Stephen Phillips has interpreted it in terms of modern string theory (specifically see here. For his full discussion, see here).
It seems to me that all the bindus, from the Mahabindu down, must be consciousness folded back on itself to make structures reminiscent of the UPA. This is not to say that Besant and Leadbeater’s UPA is the bindu, although it does not rule out the possibility either. What I am saying is that the UPA provides a model of a possible shape or structure that might act as something analogous to a diffraction grating for consciousness.
Pure consciousness, the analog of white light, wells up from the center of such a structure and then projects out of it as a spectrum, a rainbow, whereby the diversity inherent in the One manifests as a projection of the Many.
But it is not rainbows that project out on this side of the bindu, but conscious experience. The qualia that make up our experience of color, texture, the scales and harmonics of sound, the rainbow of emotions, the infinite diversity of thought, the myriad perspectives of buddhi, the infinite actions of atma, and the patterns of infinite Logoi making infinite universes.
I cannot but fall back on Leibniz immortal words from his Monadology when discussing this topic:
“If we could understand the order of the universe well enough we would find that it surpasses all the hopes of the wisest people, and that it is impossible to make it better than it is.”
Tangent on Quantum Mechanics
Because quantum mechanics is relatively new on the landscape of Western thought, I want to briefly comment on how it fits in to all the weird yogic ideas I’ve been discussing.
As we have seen and I have repeatedly stressed, yoga is a set of practices for exploring consciousness, finding the bindu, penetrating it, and becoming the Absolute. Yoga has had better things to do than become preoccupied with the game of mathematics and how it can be used to trace out the shadows appearing in consciousness in the paranga cetana state.
The West developed science, the game of trying to trace out the shadows on the cave wall of our consciousness. The objects of perception appear to be quite solid and real, and it was perhaps natural to assume the outline of the shadows would be cut and dry.
However, quantum mechanics teaches that the lines tracing out the shadows are fuzzy. We cannot quite grasp the form of what seem to be individual objects. Furthermore, the seemingly individual objects bleed into each other, not randomly, but via complicated patterns of superposition, or what is nowadays called “entanglement”.
What is quite amazing is that over the thousands of year history of yogic experience, a picture of reality formed that is qualitatively perfectly consistent with quantum mechanics. Everything is waves and wave interactions. Waves cancel and amplify. They are here today and gone tomorrow: transient, elusive, Maya. Not just the objects of perception, but the mind itself is waves, vrittis, either in an active (kinetic) state or latent (potential) state. One cannot put their finger on these things; they are ultimately elusive.
Quantum mechanics is only weird because of the historical trajectory of Western science that assumed the objects of perception were solid and real. It is an uphill battle in the West right now for people to abandon the classical concepts of realism and accept the implications of quantum mechanics. Again, I stress that classical realism is only a contingency of Western history. There was and is no inherent necessity for the classical Western concept of “realism”.
Yoga never had a view comparable to classical Western realism. It is closest to Western concepts of idealism. But as we have seen, even Western idealism is primitive in comparison to the yogic cosmology.
From the yogic view of consciousness, something like quantum mechanics is inevitable. It is in the very nature of the way the One transforms into the Many, which has been explained here by analogy to the formation of rainbows. What is being described is the general idea that when the Absolute reveals itself, it does so always and eternally as spectra, as “a series of multi-levelled reflections (pratibimba), creating a series of octaves or intervals.”.
In the context of the yogic view of consciousness, the following is all that can be said about the classical Western concept of realism: get over it.
Classical Western realism is what Patanjali called “viparyayah“, which means (to use SwamiJ’s translation of aphorism 1.6 of the Yoga Sutras; see also aphorism 1.8): “unreal cognition, wrong knowledge, misconception, incorrect knowing, not seeing clearly.”
The disequilibrium that is Manifestation implies infinite spectra within spectra within spectra. Like waves on the surface of the ocean, forming, lasting for a moment, and then dissolving back into their source. They only appear to be but in fact are always becoming.
There is another aspect that classical realism missed too: The whole thing folds back in on itself, as we now discuss.
Circle of Resolutions
Had people listened to Leibniz at the dawn of modern science, the theory of the relativity of space and time might have come sooner than it did. To again repeat the idea Leibniz conveyed to Newton via Newton’s crony Clarke:
“For my part, I have said several times that I hold space to be something merely relative, as time is, taking space to be an order of coexistences, as time is an order of successions.”
Similarly, Leibniz had insight about the illusion of Big and Small. He expressed this poetically in his Monadology:
“67. Every portion of matter can be thought of as a garden full of plants or a pond full of fish. But every branch of the plant, every part of the animal (every drop of its vital fluids, even) is another such garden or pond.”
Beings within beings within beings.
We can also get to this insight as another consequence of invoking Nicholas of Cusa’s formula:
Maximum = Minimum = One
We touched on this last time when speaking of delta as the absolute scale of this structure that is produced by diffracting the Absolute through the bindu. Using Cusa’s formula, delta is the Maximum, and the Minimum, and it is One.
When standing at any point in Manifestation, it seems to go off to infinity in both the large and small scales. However, if one was to increase their size to some ultra-large scale (or shrink to an ultra-small scale), Manifestation would again appear to go off to infinity at both the large and small scales.
This is to say, the orders of spectra emitting from the bindu, although they appear to form a linear scale of increasing and decreasing resolutions, would in fact form a circle:
The left picture shows a series of boxes, where each box is a scale of some significant natural phenomenon (electrons, atoms, molecules, cells, organisms, planets, stars, galaxies, etc.) suggesting how things seem to be bigger than us and smaller than us, forming a spectrum of scales of resolution that make up not only the physical plane, but all the planes of Manifestation.
The picture on the right is what is suggested by Cusa’s formula. Here, all the boxes are equivalent. Manifestation only appears to get bigger and smaller to us because of our relative vantage point. In fact, it is a circle. It folds back on itself so that exactly the Maximum is the Minimum.
It is closed in on itself. There is nothing outside of it. It has no outside.
I’ve now said almost all of the main ideas I can about bindus. The connecting point between the Absolute and the Relative that is the center of our consciousness is abstract. There are infinite bindus; one for each mind. They are all concentric with each other. The minds are nested one within another within another, making the circular system of scales of resolution I’ve attempted to depict above.
The bindus link all of Manifestation into one unified structure. While all of this has sounded abstract and theoretical, it is ultimately practical knowledge. The picture of minds within minds within minds connected by bindus is necessary to explain how yoga works. If reality was not structured as I have described, abstract though it seems, yoga would not be possible.
I don’t remember any promise from God that Reality would not be abstract.
Go to Part 16.