The 450-year-old spreading giant Banyan Tree, located at the Theosophical Society estate at Adyar, Chennai, India.
One of the biggest Banyan trees in the world.
In the search for Truth I have always felt inclined to regard to impossible as something of a challenge, as a provocation to further effort.
Since we are being asked, in this time of disunity and discord, to give our consideration to the subject of Unity, and because a complete knowledge or understanding of Unity as Ideal is impossible, I am hoping you feel the same as I do.
To know the Universe and all it contains as a Unity, as one complete cosmic whole, is difficult enough in all conscience. To realize, beyond that, Unity as Ideal is well nigh impossible. That Ideal belongs to a level of consciousness and experience far different form the one at which we normally function. The impossible at our level of being is, however, the only possible at the higher level of being and experience.
Our situation is this. We are conditioned to a way of Life and a level of observation which puts the conception of Unity as Ideal completely beyond the scope of our normal faculties.
First let it be made quite clear that Unity and Union are two entirely different conceptions. Simple Unity presents no difficulty. We are familiar with it in the relationship between things, in dealing with things in general and in our personal relationships, either as individuals or in groups. The highest expression of Union in human terms is brotherhood.
Union in physical terms is arithmetic, it is addition of parts into a whole. It is clear that two or more things can come together and appear to become one. This is beyond dispute and is easy to accept. But to get a conception of the colossal metaphysical fact that those same things were already one, that they always had been and that in Reality separateness cannot and does not exist, calls for higher faculties and considerable, extraordinary effort on our part. Such an exercise is quite outside our normal experience and the very idea quite contrary to facts as we know them.
The faculties that serve us so well in the physical world cannot help us here. As, however, we have to attempt the impossible, let us make our effort to get some conception, and maybe perception, of Unity, of what It is and It means and how so profoundly it differs from Union with which we are familiar.
First then, whereas we have seen that Union is simply and solely with the relations of things in this physical world, we have now to get a conception of Unity as Absolute, as an essential eternal principle, a fundamental, completely balanced, homogeneous stable state of pure and perfect Being.
Unity is "All". It is the ethos of Life. It is Life per se. Unity is unknown to and unknowable by our senses and our normally limited faculties. In words, it can be referred to only in negatives. In positive terms we can get no further than "It is".
Unity is the principle of Be-ness, inherent in all Being, and as such is more than just a fact in Nature.
Unity cannot be divided or multiplied. It can be neither increased nor decreased. That which is "All" can neither be added to (where would the piece to add come from?) nor subtracted from.
Unity cannot be other than itself, utterly complete, utterly perfect. It is Reality. To know that that Reality is Unity is the basis of all true knowing and of all Wisdom; Wisdom being the understanding of what is Real and what is True. It includes the all important faculty of discrimination. The Real is Ideal. The Ideal Real is Unity. If our perception were clear and keen enough, the positive affirmation "Unity Is" would suffice, but as things are and as we are, we are well advised to seek and accept all the indications and help that are available to us in our quest for understanding.
At this stage we may derive some assistance from symbolism - numbers are a set of symbols handed down to us from time immemorial. As words are symbols of ideas, so numbers are symbols of eternal truths for which words are totally inadequate. The first of these, ±, represents the Boundless, the Absolute All. Pascal said, "God is a ± with the centre everywhere and circumference nowhere". When the Absolute All manifests we get the first number, which is Unity, as the One, Unity manifest. This is the One from which all other numbers are derived, right through from the primal duality, TWO, or Spirit and Matter, to the TEN, IO, the number of Perfection. What was potential perfection in the beginning has become, through various stages of the vas evolutionary scheme, to perfection realized - experienced and expressed.
The ± further represents unconditioned, undifferentiated Reality. This we call Spirit, the source, potentially, of all that exists. It is equivalent to Life (with a capital L) as original complete Be-ness. It is replete with every possibility. It is all potentiality, all Wisdom and all Power. It is the fount of all Being and the root source of all beings and things.
When we say Unity is Boundless Space we quite naturally think of it in terms of extension, of size and bigness. This is fatal to a true conception of Unity. Any possible "extension" in this connection could be only in an "inward" direction towards a "positive centre". This is the One Centre where all is contained and maintained in toto. This Centre is everywhere and nowhere in what we regard as space.
The Infinite cannot be extended - Bigness cannot be applied to it in any sense or degree. Size is relative and can only have meaning when one thing is compared dimensionally with another. In Unity this cannot arise since where all is one whole there is nothing to compare it with. The Infinite therefore should not be conceived of in terms of size or quantity but rather in terms of inner quality and content, inner potentiality. All this quality, content and potentiality exists within the One, the One Self and the manifested Universe.
Unity being all potentiality, contains within itself unlimited possibilities of Self expression. it is as we have seen the One Self, the Monad, which during the countless aeons of evolutionary time attains, by degrees and through units (monads) of, (but unseparated from,) Itself, attains to Self-Realization (and Self-Revelation). This it does without in any way or degree impairing its essential unity, its completeness, coherence, cohesion, integrity or wholeness.
That is where a real difficulty arises. It would seem that when Reality manifests itself, it can no longer retain its unity, since revealing itself implies a conscious something or someone outside to reveal itself to. An unperceived revelation would be no revelation. The question is, "Can Unity perceive itself and still be Unity?" It seems it can, we have it in the Bhagavad Gita:
"Out of a fragment of Myself I created the Universe, yet I remain."
The key is in the words "I remain", suggesting strongly the perceived fragment is not separate but remains virtually and essentially within the whole which is still intact after all.
The key to this mystery is that Creation is a subjective process taking place within.
(contains some minor editing by Robert Kitto, Trustee, The Blavatsky Trust.)
From the The American Theosophist May-June 1991