Exploring the Higher Planes, the Wonders of Inner Space
Exploring the Higher Planes, the Wonders of Inner Space
By James Bean
Copyright, November 2007
Sant Mat Fellowship Worldwide:
During his series Cosmos, Carl Sagan once took note of a significant parallel between the ancient Hindu tradition and science. Both teach that there have been vast epochs of time: ages lasting millions or even billions of years. In Hinduism these ages or great epochs of time are called "Yugas". These days it is in the area of M Theory and Quantum Physics that some are finding some parallels between the theories or observations of science and the intuitive or revelatory wisdom of certain schools of spirituality. For instance, Michio Kaku, in his book, Parallel Worlds -- A Journey Through Creation, Higher Dimensions, And the Future of the Cosmos, says: "How could it be that we live in a ten dimensional universe? Well the skeptics hardly laugh anymore. Around the world, the nation's leading physicists are scrambling to learn this bizarre theory that may allow us to read the mind of God, called string theory, which says that music resonating through hyperspace may be the mind of God." I believe since that was written the consensus has shifted slightly and there is now the view that there are a total of eleven dimensions, not ten!
The understanding that we are part of a vast multi-dimensional cosmos or multiverse containing possibly an infinite number of bubble universes or a cosmic foam of universes is not something new. Back in the 1920's a mystic and author by the name of Julian P. Johnson wrote about multiple dimensions and cosmic Music as being the First Cause of Creation "in the beginning." Julian Johnson in, Path of the Masters: "Try now to get a picture of that luminous reality, the grand orchestra of the universe. Its heavenly strains are not only filling all interstellar space but they are ringing with far more enchanting Music through all the higher worlds beyond the utmost bounds of the physical. The higher we go, the more enchanting the Music. In those higher worlds the Music is less mixed with matter, and so it is not dulled. After passing the Third Region on the Path of the Masters, this sublime chorus becomes so overwhelmingly attractive that the soul grows impatient to go on up. It is absorbed in it. It lives in it day and night. It is its life, its joy, its spiritual food. There is not a cubic millimeter of space in existence which is not filled with this Music. Sweeter and sweeter its heavenly strains vibrate through every living being, great or small, from world to world, and from universe to universe. Its life-giving melodies may not be consciously heard by those who are not trained to catch them, but there is not one living being in all creation which does not derive its life from this Current." Johnson's spiritual Master: Huzur Baba Sawan Singh, once described an experience of seeing the universe from above as a kind of cosmic "foam" or, in other words, many bubble universes.
Over the centuries contemplative souls have taught that the human body is a kind of temple, and that within this temple are portals that lead to other dimensions, that by looking within this microcosm we may access the macrocosm of the heavens. The Sufi mystic and philosopher Ibn Arabi wrote in his Bezels of Wisdom: "He [Allah] brought the Cosmos into being as constituting an Unseen Realm and a Sensory Realm, so that we might perceive the Inner though our unseen and the Outer through our sensory aspect." We are children of both worlds. We human beings are a Tree of Life with roots in the earth and branches rising into a mystic sky. "The planes of heaven are about us everywhere. One has only to know this simple truth consciously, and then we will be free." (George Arnsby Jones, disciple of Kirpal Singh)
For many centuries Hinduism, Shamanism, Buddhism, Kabbalah, Gnosticism, Christian Mysticism, Sufism, Santmat, and other schools of spirituality have described a multi-dimensional universe. Some even have their own symbols, diagrams or charts of the heavens. No doubt the Kabbalist Tree of Life is the most well-known of these. In the West some of the oldest descriptions of the "Seven Heavens" that have been written down are to be found in the Book of First Enoch the Prophet, a Hebrew scripture composed sometime around two hundred BC. Copies of the Book of Enoch were found amongst the Dead Sea Scrolls. There are also many other manuscripts of Enoch in various languages, and the Book of Enoch is preserved as part of the canon of the Ethiopian Bible. Christian Orthodox mystics describe several "Noetic Heavens". The Gnostic Universe as well consisted of many different heavens. A chart illustrating these Gnostic Heavens was included in the recently published collection of Gnostic texts called, The Nag Hammadi Scriptures, edited by Marvin Meyer, published by Harper Collins. This is the Gnostic Universe as presented by a Syrian Gnostic teacher from the Second Century AD by the name of Mar Sans:
As you can see from this chart, the bottom-most plane represents the material universe, the visible cosmos that the Hubble Space Telescope has been revealing to us so beautifully in recent years. Above are more subtle regions, followed by middle planes or heavens, including Protophanes, which is apparently another name for the Universal Mind. Above the middle regions are more glorious and ethereal realms of Spirit. The Twelfth Heaven called "The Invisible Spirit" is a region beyond cosmic or mystical Light, and the Most High region, the Thirteenth Heaven in the Gnostic system of Mar Sans: "The Unknown Silent One", is at the very top. This name implies it is beyond cosmic or mystical Sound, and in many mystical texts is described as the Ultimate Reality, the State described as God or "The Nameless One" or "Soundless One" (Anadi Purush).
Note: there are some variations in the number of planes or heavens from system to system depending on how they are counted or divided, even amongst the various Gnostic schools of spirituality. One can divide planes as one wishes, for instance counting the astral plane as one region, or dividing into "lower" and "upper" and so on. Some do this with the top-most heaven of All-Spirit, either labeling it as one region of spirit, while others may provide more details, dividing the top region into three or four levels. There are levels where the soul maintains individuality. There is one stage of the spiritual plane called "Nearness" in Kabbalah and Agam Lok in Santmat mysticism. In this region the soul has the option to become one with God and then revert back to it's own state of individuality again. The "drop" merges into the "Divine Ocean" and then decides to become a "drop" again. Imagine! Freedom of choice even at that exalted level. Generally, the top-most region is considered to be the State far beyond all illusion of separateness. It is described as Nonduality, Oneness, and is given by some the name Kaivalya, the Ocean of Oneness or Pure Consciousness. Others have described it as Anurag Sagar, the Ocean of Love.
As you can see, this next chart is quite similar to the first, but rather than illustrating the multidimensional universe of an Aramaic-speaking Gnostic school of spirituality from Syria dating back to the time of the Second Century AD, this is a chart illustrating the Inner Regions or Heavens according to a contemporary Hindi-speaking tradition from India known as Surat Shabd Yoga.
As with the Gnostic Universe, the cosmos of the Shabd Yoga tradition has the lowest or outermost plane being the realm of matter and dark matter, followed by progressively more subtle and luminous astral and akashic or causal regions, also a Universal Mind or Demiurgical (pronounced "Demi-urge-ah-KAL") plane. Above these lower and middle regions of mind and matter are levels of pure spirit, eternal, above time and space, and these are considered to be the True Home or Paradise of the soul, where we prodical souls came from and, full-circle, where we will return to again, as we awaken from the soul-slumber of the ages. "We have come from the Light and will return there again." As Kabir once said, "For millions of years you have slept. This morning, will you not wake?"
Here is another helpful chart of the heavens, also from the Surat Shabd Yoga tradition. I especially like this one as it includes the chakra system as well as the subtle bodies: astral body-astral plane, causal body-causal plane, etc....
The Way Out Is Within
As you can see, it is the Ajna Chakra, the Third Eye Center, that is the central focus in the Shabd Yoga system of meditation. The Third Eye or Seat of the Soul, for some during meditation, is a Portal to the subtle planes and heavenly regions above the Crown Chakra. The Sufi poet Rumi once said, "Open a window to God." This is the function of the Third Eye Center according to the Path of the Masters. Those studying under the guidance of living Masters get to learn various meditation techniques that make it possible to rise above body-consciousness, still the always-agitated "monkey-mind" with all of its distracting thoughts, and make this amazing transition in awareness from the outer world of the five senses, passing through several inner stages or regions along the way, with the final destination being Kaivalya or Nirvana, the Ocean of Pure Consciousness.
Mystics teach that our birthright as human beings not only includes access to the outer material world of the five senses, but also the "Unseen" or subtle dimensions. The Catholic mystic Saint Teresa of Avila spoke about "the seven rooms of the interior castle". The human body is a castle or temple with many "rooms" inside available for us to explore. This is "the Kingdom of God within." A great poet-mystic and musician from India by the name of Kabir once sang:
Within this body are bowers and groves, and within it is the Creator:
Within this body are the seven oceans and the unnumbered stars.
The touchstone and the jewel-appraiser are within;
And within this vessel the Eternal soundeth, and the spring wells up.
Kabîr says: "Listen to me, my Friend! My Beloved Lord is within."
Param Poojya Shahi Swami ji Maharaj, a Shabd Yoga Guru, says: "God is perceivable through the soul only. But our individual soul has become surrounded or covered by several sheaths or bodies and organs. So long as it remains in the captivity of these various bodies and organs, it will be under the knowledge of these bodies and organs only, will be under illusory knowledge only (because these bodies themselves are illusory), and will not be able to realise the God. In order to know Him, the Jivatma or the individual soul shall have to liberate itself from these bondages. The one who is able to liberate himself from the body & organs, is able to lift himself beyond this world, too. Our Gurudev [Maharshi Mehi] has said, 'There is a very strong relationship between our body and the world around us. The universe is formed of the very same elements of which our body is made. Just as there are gross, subtle, causal and supra-causal spheres or realms inside our body, these very spheres or realms are to be found in the universe, also. So, we (at any given point of time) are in the same realms of the universe as well as of the body. If we lift ourselves beyond a particular sphere of our body, we lift beyond the same sphere of the universe also. Thus, one who can raise himself beyond all the realms of the body will also rise or ascend beyond all realms of the universe. The one, who has freed himself fully from his body, has freed himself of the universe, also.'" (Pravesh K. Singh translation)
The following is from a spiritual satsang discourse by Swami Sant Sevi Ji Maharaj, also quoting Maharishi Mehi Paramhans:
Maharshi Mehi Paramhans ji says,
"Guru jaap maanas dhyaan maanas, keejiye dridha saadhakar.
Inakaa pratham abhyaas kar, shrut shuddha karanaa chaahiye."
[The right way to meditate first consists of purifying our surat (meaning our individual soul here) by rigorously or firmly practicing the 'maanas jap' (mentally reciting or chanting without using or moving the lips or the tongue the sacred mantra given by the Guru repeatedly with the fullest attention) and the 'maanas dhyaan' (fixedly gazing at the imagined form of the Guru within us, keeping our eyes closed)]
At another place (Maharshi Mehi says),
"Prathamahi dhaaro Guru ko dhyaan.
Ho shruti nirmal, ho Vindu jnaan."
[Focus your attention, in the first place, on your Guru's image. This purifies the 'surat' and takes us to experience the 'Bindu' (the primeval perfect refulgent point from which all the grossly & subtly visible creation has come to be formed.]
So, firmly practice attentively chanting of the holy name or mantra of the Guru and meditating upon the Guru's form. Thus the 'surat' will be pure and you will get prepared for practicing 'Bindu Dhyaan' (Yoga of Divine Light). Maturing in or becoming adept at 'Bindu Dhyaan', you would move from Darkness into Light, from the Gross (Realm) into the Astral (Realm). There are three layers, namely the Layers of Darkness, Light and Sound, which keep shrouding our soul. Therefore, our Gurudev said further,
"Ghat tam prakash va shabd pat traya, jeev par hain chhaa rahe.
Kar drishti aru dhvani yoga saadhan, ye hataanaa chaahiye."
[The 'jiva' (the individual soul) is enveloped by three layers of Darkness, Light and Sound. To remove these shells hiding the soul, we should practice 'Drishti Yoga' (Yoga of Divine Light) and 'Dhvani Yoga or Shabda Yoga or Naad Yoga' (The Yoga of Divine Sound).]
Practice 'Drishti Yoga' (Yoga of Light) and 'Naadaanusandhaan' (Yoga of Sound). This will enable remove the layers of Darkness, Light and Sound (that conceal your Soul from the Supreme Sovereign Soul i.e. God). You will, thus, get to know "Who You Are." And, when you know yourself, you will also know God. Therefore walk within yourself, not without.
And for this, there is no need to quit your household, family or job. Living in your house with your family members and making an honest, truthful earning, you can attain to Him by meditation. This meditation can be done by all alike rich or poor, learned or illiterate, male or female, young or old. (Maharshi Mehi Paramhans ji says,)
"Jitane manush tan dhaari hain, prabhu bhakti kar sakate sabhee.
Antar va baahar bhakti kar, ghat pat hataanaa chaahiye."
[All the human beings are capable of performing devotion to the God. One should do inner or internal meditation (by practicing the 'Maanas Jap', 'Maanas Dhyaan', 'Drishti Saadhan' and 'Naadaanusandhaan' as discussed before) as well as outer or external meditation (seek the company of sants and reading and/or listening to Sacred Scriptures).]
Believe in One God. Have firm, unwavering, indefatigable faith in that He shall be found within (us)." (Pravesh K. Singh translation)
Says Rumi, To Him We Shall Return
I died as mineral and became a plant;
I died as plant and rose to animal,
I died as animal and I was a man.
Then why fear disappearance through death?
When was I less by dying?
Next time I shall die
To soar -- with angels blessed,
But even from angelhood
I must pass on;
All except God doth perish.
When I have sacrificed my angel soul,
I shall become what no mind ever conceived.
What you cannot imagine,
I shall be that.
Oh! let me not exist, for non-existence
Proclaims in organ-tones,
'To Him we shall return.'