Studies in Occult Philosophy by G. de Purucker
Theosophical University Press Online Edition

Three Kinds of Death
The Dead and Our Prayers
Life Likened to a Pack of Cards
Proof of After-Death States
Reincarnation and the Earth's Population
The Nightmare of War
Thought and Fantasy
The Spiritual State of Nirvana
Mind, the Slayer of the Real
Lunar Pitris Before Fourth Round
Manasaputras Before Fourth Round
Meaning of Fohat
Racial Buddhas
A Planet and its Satellites
The Penalty of Separateness
Significance of Dreams

Questions and Answers

Three Kinds of Death

Generally speaking, there are three kinds of death: First, the natural death resulting from illness or old age. Second, that by accident. Third, that by self. I have heard that Theosophists say that these three kinds of people have different experiences after death, but I never had any satisfactory explanation why it should be so, or any authority for such teaching.

I would suggest that this questioner study our Theosophical doctrines. There are indeed three kinds of death, generally speaking: death by disease or natural causes when the body is worn out like a machine — because it is a machine in one sense which wears out; death by violence or accident; and death by suicide. These are three different ways of dying. The first is when Nature herself quietly withdraws the soul from the worn out body, and then the usual processes take place. This is the general rule. Then comes death by violence or accident, and this is different from death by suicide; because although suicide is by violence also, it contains a tremendous factor in the suicide himself, an ethical factor which death by accident does not contain. Therefore logically, obviously, death by suicide, which introduces the ethical factor, is different from death by violence or accident. The soldier who is killed on the battle-field, or a man who is killed by some lunatic or brigand, has not the same death as the man who kills himself through cowardice — for all suicides are cowards, say what you will.

Let us try to illustrate by the case of sleep, the brother of death, the other side of death. When a man is very tired he falls asleep by Nature's own working, simply drops off and sleeps. Again, a man may be given a drug which makes him sleep, although the body is not tired. This is like death by violence. A drug is a violent way of bringing about sleep. It may even produce death if the drug is given too largely. Then there is the case of the man who himself takes drugs continuously, not once, but continuously. You see these three are quite different ways of bringing about sleep: Nature's way let us say, the doctor's way in order to give a sick man a little sleep which he needs, and the drug-addict. Nature obviously here acts in three different ways, but they all produce sleep.

So it is with death. The man who dies by Nature's way, passes through all the changes of the kama-loka until he reaches the devachan, quietly, simply, without pain, without consciousness, just like a tired man falling asleep. The man who is killed, like the soldier on the battle-field, dies of course because he is killed; but he is not yet ready to die. His time to die has not yet come by Nature's own laws. So he remains unconscious it may be for years in the astral world until the time in years comes which would have brought his death in the usual way. And then he too dies in the inner worlds and enters the devachan; the reason being that every man has a certain quantity of vitality so to say, and until this quantity of vitality is exhausted, burnt out, until the machine is tired out, the man cannot die, I mean die completely. The man who is killed on the battle-field remains in perfect peace but unconscious in the inner worlds until the time when he would have died if he had not been killed on the battle-field. Then he too enters the devachan.

But the man who commits suicide does so because he is afraid. He is terrified at something. It may be that he is afraid of disgrace; it may be that he is afraid to meet life and its problems like a man, and he kills himself. His consciousness is full of these thoughts, full of these day-dreams, fear, fear, fear, until he can stand it no longer. And as man is fundamentally consciousness, when he kills himself there is a short period of unconsciousness; and then the unfortunate suicide awakens in the astral world and lives, as it were, in an evil dream, going over in his consciousness again and again and again, all the time for years it may be, the horrible thoughts, the cowardly thoughts, the terrors, the fears that made him kill himself, and the act of self-killing, just like the drug-addict; for the drug-addict has most horrible dreams, the drug-addict goes crazy over his dreams.

Remember that man is fundamentally consciousness; and therefore the processes that follow the death of the physical body are changed by the one or the other of these three kinds of dying.

The Dead and Our Prayers

Is it right to pray for the dead ones?

I hope I will not offend anyone's feelings if I tell you I do not think it is wrong, but I do not think it will do any good! Nature in her wonderful compassion, in her harmony, in the great music which is at the heart of things, knows far better than we humans do what is good for our dear ones who die. They are well cared for.

It is not wicked to pray for the dead, but to whom will you pray? Do you wish to tell the great Spirit of the Universe what you, poor man or woman, think is good for your dear dead? Nature knows infinitely better than we do. If you pray for the dead and you get happiness in it and consolation in it then you may pray. But there is no solid good in it per se.

Remember this: That the dead are infinitely well cared for. What is important is to live the life beautiful while we live; then we need not fear death. Death is beautiful, very beautiful.

Love, pure holy love, can reach even beyond the frontiers of death, and reach our loved ones; but it must not be a selfish love, because this hinders Nature's work in the invisible worlds. Let our love for our dear dead be impersonal; and our best prayer for the dead is this love. It is helpful, and ourselves are benefited and made better by it.

Life Likened to a Pack of Cards

The other day I was told by a Theosophist that just before birth we have a choice as to the life about to start on earth; but I have always understood that, since we are the sum-total of all that we have done in past lives, we have no choice, but that our lives are already determined before birth, like a pack of cards in a dealer's hand?

Both these statements are correct: first, that our destiny in life can be likened to a pack of cards, if one cares to use this figure of speech; second, that we have free will. Is it a contradiction to say that a man must undo the wrongs that he did? He does so because he has free will.

We have, then, not one life only preceding this present one in which there would be but a single path of action to follow, following the figure of speech of a pack of "stacked cards"; but we have lived lives innumerable before the present one; and in no one single past life has any human being been able to exhaust all the causes set in motion therein — bring to fruition all the seeds that were then sown; and it is just because of this stored-up karmic treasure that we have to live life after life after life after life in order to work these causes out.

In each life we play a new game, but in playing that game we use the pack of cards that we select from former use of it, and take that pack as we formerly shuffled it. The pack of cards is the life; and before the soul reimbodies itself, guided by the divinity within it, that wonderful faculty of free will, the power of choice, it has in consequence the power of selecting those particular and confluent, congruent causes which in that life then opening it can best work out; in other words it plays the pack of cards which it takes up again in a new game in accordance with its intelligence. This is simply the employment at the beginning of a new birth on earth of what every normal man does his whole life long. He selects from moment to moment the pathway which seems to him best; and there are possibly a thousand million by-roads or pathways that he might have selected at each such moment of choice; just exactly as he plays from the cards in his hand according to his best judgment. Do you catch the idea? The cards are stacked, but they are played, when dealt to the player by life, according to the player's intelligent choice.

We have an infinitude of experiences behind us; and when each new life opens, when we appear on the stage to play our new role, a new game, we do so according to the role that we have chosen from the book — in this case the book of memory and vision.

Those causes not selected by us we shall have to imbody in a subsequent selection, when in some future new life we shall begin again. But in any one life there are certain conditions, a certain path of action, before us, certain civilizations, certain families — and the waiting Higher Self sees this field of choice, this path, and this path, and that path, just exactly as a man does in driving his motor-car. When he comes to bifurcating roads he knows not the pathway, but he says: "I will take this path in preference to the other two or three or four branching out from this point." He might have taken another; but in either case he makes his choice.

Proof of After-Death States

There are many philosophical teachings concerning the condition of men after death, but they all seem to me quite arbitrary as they cannot be supported by intellectual evidence. Do you really believe that we can know anything about the conditions after the passing?

This question is not a very well considered one, and is built on a false basis. The theory in this question is that what our senses do not tell us about is non-existent; and where would our modern scientists be if all they knew about the Universe was only what we could see, touch, taste, hear, or smell! No scientist has ever seen an atom, nor an electron, nor a proton. No scientist has ever seen the center of the sun. No scientist can explain human feeling. As Kant, the great German philosopher said in substance, no man has ever successfully reduced to naught the ethical sense which dwells in the human heart. There is a way to go behind the veil of the outward seeming; and if a man trains himself and lives the life, he will know the doctrine, not merely think about it but know it.

The question is like this: A blind man says: There are no museums in which great and wonderful works of art or archaeology are exhibited, because he does not see. But other men who are less blind know that such museums exist. And there are other men, clear-eyed, who build the museums and paint the pictures, and create the works of art. Live the life and you will know the doctrine!

This question is not a very thoughtful one, nor a very sensible one, for it can be reduced to this: What I cannot experience by physical senses has no existence; and we all know this is a lie, for the most beautiful things in human life are unseen, unheard, untouched. Man's intuitions, man's sense of beauty, his sense of right and wrong and justice and harmony and purity: these are the great mainsprings of human civilizations, and these are the things which move men's minds and hearts. It is ideas which make men great, and it is ideas which make civilizations, which build them up.

And it is ideas which tear them down. Plato was right: Ideas rule the world. And the greatest of our modern scientists have given up the idea of our recent forefathers, that physical substance was the sole reality in the Universe. Now, with Theosophy, they say that physical substance is an illusion, and that the essence of the Universe is mind-stuff, consciousness. The whole Theosophical position is admitted by this. We are builded of mind-stuff, of consciousness. The atoms which build the mountain are essentially atoms of mind-stuff, of consciousness. It seems to me that the asker of this question has not kept up to date with modern scientific discovery. His mind, or her mind, lies in the past of fifty or a hundred years ago.

The mysteries after death! We live in the midst of death all the time. It is the most familiar thing to us. It is as familiar as life because it is a phase of life. There could be no death if there were no life. Death is an event, as the ultra-modern scientist puts it, an event in life, in consciousness. When a man sleeps he dies partially. Sleep is an imperfect death, death as we men call it is a perfect sleep. Death and sleep are brothers, said the ancient Greeks; but I tell you that they are more: sleep and death are one. And if men only knew it, every time men sleep, every time we lie down in our beds at night for rest and recuperation of mind and of body, we die partially; and that is why we rest. And when we have dreams, beautiful dreams or evil dreams, holy dreams or nightmares, it is because during our lives we have lived beautifully, grandly, or we have lived basely. So it is with death!

Reincarnation and the Earth's Population

How do you explain the increase of population on the Earth in connexion with the doctrine of Reincarnation? For instance, in Holland at the present time there is a great increase in population.

Examine the world. You will find one people increasing in numbers, but another people is decreasing in numbers. Look at the Roman Empire, the empires of Babylon and Persia, Egypt and the Far East. There, millions upon millions at one time filled their countries. Now Egypt is but a historic recollection; Babylon is mounds, hillocks of the dead; but our Occident contains nations swelling with every hundred years in population. The explanation is obvious. As one people or nation dies or decreases in number, the reincarnating egos go elsewhere to ever newer and fresher stocks which grow and increase and populate the portions of the Earth where they have their habitat.

Look at the Mexican Empire, and the Empire of the Incas in the times of Cortez and Pizarro — memories! Look at the population of Europe during the Middle Ages. As pointed out, the population of Holland among other countries is increasing rapidly; but this shows that a few hundred years ago its population was less — just what I have said. Consider Europe during the Middle Ages. A man could travel for days and scarcely come upon a village. Where were the human egos now so numerous there? In other parts of the world. There is a constant turning of the Wheel of Life. In one period one group of peoples hold the scepter of power and civilization, and their numbers swell with the incoming armies of reincarnating egos. Then their time comes to descend the Wheel of Life; the populations decrease and become smaller and smaller; but nations on the up-rise increase in population.

The truth of the matter is that it is our teaching that the population of the globe is limited. The present incarnated population is about two thousand million human beings, including everybody, savages and barbarians and civilized beings. Two thousand millions! But there are many more than these two thousand millions who are in the interior worlds waiting their time to take human bodies. I do not venture to say how many reincarnating egos there are to come to Earth. I would not even try to estimate. Possibly ten thousand millions, I do not know, but what I do know is that the populations of the Earth shift geographically. Sometimes it is Asia, sometimes it is America. At present it is the European peninsula and the Americas which show the upward rise. Asia is temporarily static but from appearances it would seem as if the coming great populous centers of the Occident will be the New World. But not yet; a thousand years from now perhaps.

The Nightmare of War

Is a great war necessary to make all people better and to make them see the errors which they have experienced?

My answer is No, and that this is a damnable doctrine. This is a doctrine from hell. Certainly not. When men are wise enough and use their hearts as well as their brains, war will be looked upon as a nightmare of the past. Ask the doctors if a man needs to have a high fever in order to get health. A high fever weakens him, depletes his store of vitality, and the body is weaker for ever afterwards as long as it lives.

On the other hand, out of evil will come good. Suffering and sorrow are our best friends. This is the other side. But when I am asked if suffering and sorrow in the form of war, which is insanity, are required in order that men may evolve, my answer is No, and this is an infernal doctrine.

Thought and Fantasy

What is the difference between thought and fantasy?

Thought is the activity of that part of our inner constitution which we men call the intellectual, the manasic, to use the Sanskrit term. Fantasy is the product or result of the activity of that part of our constitution which we call the lower human soul. We are dealing in fantasies when we dream — dream at night or day-dream when we wake. This is fantastic, this is fantasy. We are using thought when we employ our intellect in reasoning, in intuitive visioning, and in the functions of the higher human consciousness.

The Spiritual State of Nirvana

We are taught that to reach spiritual development we must free ourselves from 'personality.' If we become truly impersonal and conquer 'the sense of separateness,' shall we lose every quality that distinguishes one person from another and become as alike as two peas in a pod? Is the Theosophical teaching of Nirvana the obliteration of individuality? I hope not.

No, indeed! No one can be more irritated than I am concerning the misunderstandings about nirvana current in the Occident, which is full of such misunderstandings about recondite teachings of a philosophic or esoteric character. The misunderstanding about nirvana is simply the idea that after all beings have evolved through a maha-manvantara and have individually attained nirvana, ex hypothesis thereafter all Nature, as beings, sinks back into a dead uniform identity of consciousness. This is absolutely and wholly wrong.

One might as well ask oneself: What is the use of all the evolutionary effort of the Universe, and of its enormous multitudes of individuals, if they merely issue from homogeneity finally to fall back into it again? Nirvana is not one uniform thing or state for every monad. Nirvana means a state in which all the lower is washed out, or rather risen above, by the evolving armies of monads. But each monad, because it has gained individuality, reaches the nirvanic condition of cosmic freedom as a god-entity; and every monad, from the standpoint of individuality, is therefore more strongly individualized spiritually speaking than it was at the beginning of its cosmic evolution as an unself-conscious god-spark, although of course nirvana as a generalizing term means the attainment of such spiritual condition by all.

Take Devachan as an illustration on a much lower plane. Devachan does not mean that every excarnate monad has the identical, the absolutely identic, visions and dreams. Not at all! And just so it is with nirvana. Nirvana means the rising above all the differentiated and therefore crippling elements of the lower spheres. The process is the same for all, but the nirvana is unique for each Jivan-mukta or freed monad.

Think it out for yourself, and do not misjudge Theosophy — nor the real teachings in this respect of the Buddha — because certain people you may happen to meet do not understand these deeper teachings, so suggestive and illuminating in their profundity and subtilty.

Mind, the Slayer of the Real

I am continually asked the question why H. P. B. in THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE states that "the mind is the slayer of the real." I would ask you to give me a little light on this so that I may deal with those who make a god of the materially intellectual in this age of admiration of the mind.

Isn't it true! What is it that brings about diversity of feeling or of opinion among men? The mind, the brain-mind. What is it that prevents our receiving a greater truth than that which we now have? Preconceptions, prejudices, feelings against this or against that, the mind, the brain-mind. What is it that prevents intuition from flowing to our human consciousness in a steady stream? The mind through which it must pass. The mind is but an intermediate organ or faculty, and does things either from below or from above; and alas, most of us humans live in the lower mind.

Cannot you see why the mind is the slayer of the real? Of course the word 'slayer' is but a figure of speech. You might phrase it otherwise and say the mind filled with its tramping, useless, fugitive, silly thoughts keeps out all higher intuitions, all higher thoughts, all higher things. In other words, there is no room for them. You know what Bernard of Clairvaux, a Frenchman, once wrote in substance: Empty the mind of all that it has and is, and the spirit of Truth will enter in. This is the gist of his meaning. Just cleanse the mind of all the little lower passional small things, and the spirit of Truth will enter in.

In this fashion I think one can easily explain the statement in The Voice of the Silence, that the mind, meaning the brain-mind, is the slayer of all that is real; and yet the brain-mind should be the instrument of the Real, it should be the organ through which the Real works within us, the receiving organ passing down even into our ordinary lives all the noblest that is in us.

Lunar Pitris before Fourth Round

The first race of this (Fourth) Round was created by beings known as the Lunar Pitris or Fathersthe most progressed entities from the Moon Chain. What did and where were the Lunar Pitris before the Fourth Round?

The Lunar Pitris before the Fourth Round began were in their inter-global Nirvana between Globe G or last of the preceding Third Round, and Globe A or first of the Fourth Round to follow. This explains 'where they were' and 'what they did.' If the question, however, rather asks: "What did and where were the Lunar Pitris before their entrance into this Fourth Globe D during this Fourth Round?" — then the answer is as follows: They were on and evolving in Globe C of this Planetary Chain; in other words, in Globe C of the Fourth Round. When they finished with Globe C on this Fourth Round, they passed to this Globe D or Fourth Globe of this Fourth Round.

Manasaputras before Fourth Round

During the latter part of the third race that wonderful mystic event took place — the incarnation of the Manasaputras — the Sons of Mind — into the hitherto mindless entities. What did and where were the Manasaputras before the Fourth Round, also during the First, Second and Third?

The answer is precisely identic with the answer to the former question, only here we are dealing with the manasaputras instead of the lunar pitris. In other words, the manasaputras also were in their inter-global nirvana after leaving Globe G at the end of the Third Round and before beginning their evolution on Globe A of the Fourth Round. If, however, the question rather means: "What did and where were the manasaputras before the Fourth Round began on this Globe D, then the answer is the same as regarding the lunar pitris of the preceding question: they were evolving on Globes B and C or the globes which preceded Globe D or our Earth.

This question also deals with 'First, Second, and Third,' presumably meaning Rounds; and this latter part of the question is different in answer. During the First, Second, and Third Rounds, the manasaputras were evolving on higher spiritual planes on and in realms of consciousness above the seven globes of our planetary chain. They were waiting until the seven globes of the planetary chain and the lunar pitris evolving on these seven globes during the First, Second, and Third Rounds, had prepared fit, appropriate bodies in which the manasaputras could incarnate, and in which bodies they could work. These bodies finally became ready during the Fourth Round, as is shown in H. P. Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine.

Remember that both the manasaputras and the lunar pitris evolve on all the globes of the planetary chain, remembering also that the lunar pitris begin this evolution from the very beginning, and build up the globes and build up the bodies on those globes in preparation for the incarnation of the manasaputras, who, during the same long period of time are also evolving, but on planes superior to those on which the lunar pitris are evolving.

Even during the First Round on Globe A at the very end of its Globe-Manvantara, there were certain ones of the manasaputras who then appeared and formed the then humanity of Globe A. These were manasaputric forerunners. The entire question of the Rounds and Races is exceedingly involved, although the general principles are simple and clear.

Meaning of Fohat

Can you tell us something of the deeper meaning of Fohat?

I wonder if, in your Theosophical study, you have ever thought of the deep and illuminating information that so often can be garnered from a study of the origins and etymology of words or names. Fohat may be considered to be an instance in point, for really it is a term of Mongolian origin. The main verbal root is fo, or more properly foh. It is the Mongolian term used for the word Buddha or even Buddhi, or again often enough for Buddha-Wisdom. It is so called for the following reason: Fohat, which is essentially cosmic vitality, works and operates and performs its manifold wonders, in weaving the web of universal being, because riding, or working through it, or directing it, is the cosmic Buddhi — called Maha-Buddhi. Fohat is the steed, the Thought is the rider. To this cosmic vitality, which is the prana, so to speak, of the universe, and representing in the universe what the pranas are in our own bodies, did the Mongolians and the Tibetans give the term or word, Fohat, which as said above, we may perhaps paraphrase by rendering it as Buddha-life, Buddha-vitality.

Please note that here I am endeavoring to give to you the reason why the Mongolians speak of the cosmic vitality in connexion with thoughts properly ascribable to the terms Buddhi, Buddha, Bodha, Bodhi. Their vision refused to see in the wonderful, symmetrical, mathematical, and harmonic structure of the universe, that purely imaginary play of blind and soulless forces on dead matter which has been the bane of Occidental scientific thinking for the past hundred years or more. To these early Orientals the universe was an expression of cosmic Wisdom, of the cosmic Buddhi, of Maha-Buddhi; which guided, i.e., which rode, the elements or matters of the universe much as a rider rides, guides, and directs his living steed. Hence they called this cosmic vitality, connected invariably in their minds with the indwelling intelligence, by the term Fohat, to be paraphrased as I have above stated. To them, Fohat was not as cosmic energies are to most Occidentals, merely forces of Nature empty of all occult, mystical, and therefore real significance; but they gave to it the name we are discussing, because their consciousness conceived of the cosmic vitality ever active in universal being under its proper meaning — Buddha-life, the intelligent foundation of the manifested universe; the cosmic life, ridden by universal consciousness, universal wisdom, and therefore correctly understood to be universal life, imbodying and directed by universal intelligence. Fohat is the steed; Cosmic Thought is the rider.

Racial Buddhas

Will Gautama the Buddha be the only Buddha to appear among men during this Root-Race?

There are two Buddhas appearing in every Root-Race, one towards the beginning, one towards the middle or the end depending upon circumstances; but one of these two is especially devoted to the Root-Race as a Race. The same Buddhic influence, however, working through the especial Race-Buddha, manifests itself in quite a large number of Bodhisattvas, all belonging to the same Race, who may be called minor Buddhas; and these appear at periodic intervals during the Race. Gautama the Buddha was such a Bodhisattva in and through whom the Race-Buddha manifested its transcendent power.

There is a real esoteric mystery in all this which requires much more explanation than these few lines; but what has been said is quite correct as far as it goes and at least briefly answers the question.

To repeat: one Buddha or Buddhic Spirit for and devoted to every Root-Race. Yet every Root-Race sees the appearance of two Buddhas, one towards its beginning and one at about its middle or towards its end, depending upon circumstances. In every Root-Race, in addition to the above, there are quite a number of Bodhisattvas, very spiritual and highly evolved intellectual men, who are on their way to become in time Buddhas themselves, and who incarnate or manifest the influence of the Race-Buddha in the Race in which they themselves appear. These Bodhisattvas usually also are the individuals who appear at the beginning of every so-called 'Messianic cycle,' which is ordinarily of 2160 years.

The Buddha who appears about the middle or towards the end of a Race, mentioned above, is the particular Buddha of the following or succeeding Root-Race, who thus appears a little ahead of his own time, so to speak, in order to guide, in collaboration with the racial Buddha himself, the end of the Race towards coalescing with and connecting with the succeeding or following Root-Race.

A Planet and Its Satellites

In THE OCEAN OF THEOSOPHY, Judge says that the life-waves on this earth came from the moon-chain. This, then, explains the relation somewhat of the moon to our earth. How are we to understand, then, the relation of Jupiter and its so many satellites?

If this questioner will study the various places in which I have referred to this matter, I admit in more or less veiled terms, he will, I think, understand. Each planet of the solar system has but one lunar parent, which lunar parent, considered as a fully entitized being is a planetary chain. The parent of the earth-chain was the lunar chain; and the parent of Globe D, our earth, was Globe D of the moon, of which we see the dead remnant or kama-rupic shell in the skies.

When a planet has more than one satellite, these satellites exist by reason of different causes; but I could name two. One only I will speak of, and it is the most usual case. Excepting the moon which is the actual parent of such a planet, Jupiter, for instance, the others may be called 'captures.'

The Penalty of Separateness

If we are all inseparable parts of the Universe, what is the penalty for running counter to the Universe's fundamental law, and for trying to break ourselves away from an inseparable union?

The penalty for trying to cut yourself off from the Universe, which is utterly impossible of accomplishment, is that thereby you shrink to smaller compass than that which you had before. Your consciousness becomes shrunken, smaller, less wide, less expanded; and consequently you lose in both faculty and power. The whole aim of development, whether of atom or of man or god, is an unfolding of latent powers and faculties within each one; and progress in evolution is marked by an expansion or increase of sympathy in ever enlarging spheres. If you turn your face backwards, instead of following Nature's fundamental law of progress which means an ever-expanding consciousness and ever more fully evolving power, you swim in adversum flumen, against the current, and you lose proportionately. You go backwards instead of forwards. Your consciousness shrinks; and instead of advancing forwards to become familiar with the gods our forefathers, which is the ultimate destiny of man, you go backwards, towards the beasts, towards the plants, towards the as yet unevolved infinitesimal entities that dwell in the rocks and make them.

There is the penalty for running counter to the Universe's fundamental law. You lose everything, and progressively.

Significance of Dreams

Has every dream a spiritual significance, or are dreams simply the result of interchanging thought during the condition of sleep?

It would be impossible, I think, to say that all dreams have a spiritual significance, because then we would have to say that some of the frightful nightmares that men undergo have a spiritual significance. There are many kinds of dreams: good dreams, bad dreams, and indifferent dreams, holy dreams and unholy dreams, dreams of a spiritual character and dreams of a very material type. Some dreams can be called spiritual because in these cases of spiritual dreams they are the actual resultant of the spiritual part of man's constitution, the root of his being, the finest energy in him, working upon the physical brain, reaching out and touching it, feebly because the distance, so to say, is enormous between the Spirit and the physical body. But when the divine flame of the Spirit even touches by a ray the physical brain, then the dream is beautiful, very peaceful, full of majesty and prophetic.

On the other hand, there are dreams which are merely the reflex action of the workaday brain-mind, partly awake and partly asleep, and as it were making crazy runs, because the inner man, the real ego, is no longer dominating that physical brain with its steady current of will-power, and fixed habit. These last dreams that I now speak of are simply automatic repetitions, usually however distorted, of what the day brought forth. I will try to explain. A man passes his life long every day working in a manufactory and putting heads on pins, week after week he puts heads on pins. Suppose that man has a dream some night that he is standing at his bench putting heads on pins. Obviously it is but a reflex action of what the brain had in it during his working day. There is no spiritual thing in that at all. Take some other kind of dream. A man dreams of doing some evil thing, it does not matter what, something that is shameful. This too is the result of some hid part of that man's constitution trying to force its way into the brain, the result of some past thought or action. Because the thought or act on was stamped upon the brain, the man on this night dreams it, repeats it, perfectly or imperfectly.

So you see there are many kinds of dreams. Dreams are simply the working of consciousness on the physical brain; and when the man is not fully asleep, when the brain is still a little awake, then he dreams: good dreams, or bad dreams, or indifferent dreams; and if these dreams are beautiful and holy, then they are spiritual, because it is the higher part of the man's being reaching this brain half-asleep, and touching it as it were. But when the dreams are evil, ignoble, impure, what you will, it is the result of the human being's daily life — perhaps not of the previous day, it may be the result of a thought or an action that the man had or did a month before or a year before. But whatever a man thinks or does is indelibly stamped on the brain.