Dreams - What They Are and How They Are Caused

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Dreams - What They Are and How They Are Caused

By C. W. Leadbeater

The Ego

All these different portions of the mechanism are in reality merely instruments of the ego, though his control of them is as yet often very imperfect; for it must always be remembered that the ego is himself a developing entity, and that in the case of most of us he is scarcely more than a germ of what he is to be one day.

A stanza in the Book of Dzyan tells us: 'Those who received but a spark remained destitute of knowledge: the spark burned low'; and Madame Blavatsky explains that 'those who receive but a spark constitute the average humanity which have to acquire their intellectuality during the present manvantaric evolution'. (The Secret Doctrine, ii, 167, 1979 ed.). In the case of most of them that spark is still smouldering, and it will be many an age before its slow increase brings it to the stage of steady and brilliant flame.

No doubt there are some passages in theosophical literature which seem to imply that our higher ego needs no evolution, being already perfect, and godlike on his own plane; but wherever such expressions are used, whatever may be the terminology employed, they must be taken to apply only to the atma, the true god within us, which is certainly far beyond the necessity of any kind of evolution of which we can know anything.

The reincarnating ego most undoubtedly does evolve, and the process of his evolution can be very clearly seen by those who have developed clairvoyant vision to the extent necessary for the perception of that which exists on the higher levels of the mental plane. As before remarked, it is of the matter of that plane (if we may venture still to call it matter) that the comparatively permanent causal body, which he carries with him from birth to birth until the end of the human stage of his evolution, is composed. But though every individualized being must necessarily have such a body — since it is the possession of it which constitutes individualization — its appearance is by no means similar in all cases. In fact, in the average unevolved man it is barely distinguishable at all, even by those who have the sight which unlocks for them the secrets of that plane, for it is a mere colourless film — just sufficient, apparently, to hold itself together and make a reincarnating individuality, but no more. (See "Man, Visible and Invisible", Plates V and VIII).

As soon, however, as the man begins to develop in spirituality, or even higher intellect, a change takes place. The real individual then begins to have a persisting character of his own, apart from that moulded in each of his personalities in turn by training and surrounding circumstances: and this character shows itself in the size, colour, luminosity, and definiteness of the causal body just as that of the personality shows itself in the mind-body, except that this higher vehicle is naturally subtler and more beautiful. (See ibid., Plate XXI).

In one other respect, also, it happily differs from the bodies below it, and that is that in any ordinary circumstances no evil of any kind can manifest through it. The worst of men can commonly show himself on that plane only as an entirely undeveloped entity; his vices, even though continued through life after life, cannot soil that higher sheath; they can only make it more and more difficult to develop in it the opposite virtues.

On the other hand, perseverance along right lines soon tells upon the causal body, and in the case of a pupil who has made some progress on the Path of Holiness, it is a sight wonderful and lovely beyond all earthly conception (See ibid., Plate XXVI); while that of an Adept is a magnificent sphere of living light, whose radiant glory no words can ever tell. He who has even once seen so sublime a spectacle as this, and can also see around him individuals at all stages of development between that and the colourless film of the ordinary person, can never feel any doubt as to the evolution of the reincarnating ego.

The grasp which the ego has of his various instruments, and, therefore, his influence over them, is naturally small in his earlier stages. Neither his mind nor his passions are thoroughly under his control; indeed, the average man makes almost no effort to control them, but allows himself to be swept hither and thither just as his lower thoughts or desires suggest. Consequently, in sleep the different parts of the mechanism which we have mentioned are very apt to act almost entirely on their own account without reference to him, and the stage of his spiritual advancement is one of the factors that we have to take into account in considering the question of dreams.

It is also important for us to realize the part which this ego takes in the formation of our conceptions of external objects. We must remember that what the vibrations of the nerve-threads present to the brain are merely impressions, and it is the work of the ego, acting through the mind, to classify, combine, and re-arrange them.

For example, when I look out of the window and see a house and a tree, I instantly recognize them for what they are, yet the information really conveyed to me by my eyes falls very far short of such recognition. What actually happens is that certain rays of light — that is, currents of ether vibrating at certain definite rates — are reflected from those objects and strike the retina of my eye, and the sensitive nerve-threads duly report those vibrations to the brain.

But what is the tale they have to tell? All the information they really transmit is that in a particular direction there are certain varied patches of colour bounded by more or less definite outlines. It is the mind which from its past experience is able to decide that one particular square white object is a house, and another rounded green one is a tree, and that they are both probably of such and such a size, and at such and such a distance from me.

A person who, having been born blind, obtains his sight by means of an operation, does not for some time know what are the objects he sees, nor can he judge their distance from him. The same is true of a baby, for it may often be seen grasping at attractive objects (such as the moon, for example) which are far out of its reach; but as it grows up it unconsciously learns, by repeated experience, to judge instinctively the probable distance and size of the form it sees. Yet even grown-up people may very readily be deceived as to the distance and therefore the size of any unfamiliar object, especially if seen in a dim or uncertain light.

We see, therefore, that mere vision is by no means sufficient for accurate perception, but that the discrimination of the ego acting through the mind must be brought to bear upon what is seen; and furthermore we see that this discrimination is not an inherent instinct of the mind, perfect from the first, but is the result of the unconscious comparison of a number of experiences — points which must be carefully borne in mind when we come to the next division of our subject.



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