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The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga

Continuing our inquiry into the study of philosophy we next consider materialism. Having accepted that externally experienced things are thoughts, we question whether or not they exist.

We do not deny the existence of a single thing that forms part of our world-experience but we must get our minds clear about this problem for it brings up an important difference between the meaning of real and the meaning of exist. An illusion is recognized as experienced but realized as not real. PB points out “Therefore to appear is one thing, whereas to be is another.

We must learn to take care to distinguish between the two concepts….nobody can deny that objective things exist for they are perceived by the minds of men, who also regard them as unquestionably real, but in both these cases the philosopher is entitled to question not their existence but their reality.” (pp. 349-50)

The chapter continues: We must first find a definition (of reality) that will hold always. Few people care to define so scrupulously; they want to judge by feeling or by temperament alone. The consequence is that they imagine reality, they study their own idea of it only, and thus lamentably fail to avoid deceiving themselves into accepting what merely pleases them, not what is true… The fact finally known for what it is, is the reality; whereas the final knowledge of the thing is the truth. This is correct only from the standpoint of practical affairs and until we reach the Ultimate. Then there are no two things, but unity, and hence no distinction between truth and reality….For as the ancient Indian philosophers -not mystics-have rightly said: that is real which can not only give us certainty about its existence in its own right beyond all possibility of doubt and independently of man’s individual ideation but which can remain changeless amid the flux of an ever-changing world. Such a reality is, after the pursuit of ultimate truth, the foremost pursuit of philosophy whether it be labeled “God,” “Spirit,” “Absolute,” or otherwise.

(pp. 352-3.)

He encourages the reader to ask the question, not what has become of the millions of human beings who have died or the prehistoric palaces of unrecorded kings… “But what has become of THAT which appeared in the forms of those men and buildings …Our own enquiry into it must take us not only through the appearances of matter but also beyond the workings of mind. This is the enquiry into ultimate permanent reality; this is philosophy.”

“When it shall be our good fortune to come into the fuller understanding of such reality we shall find as the old sages found, that this puzzling world does not stand in startling contradiction to it as we fear. For in a subtler sense which we do not grasp at present the one is not less real than the other. The world is not essentially an illusion. Ultimately it is as real as the world of this unnameable uniqueness that is the true God. Things, therefore, are not themselves illusory but it is our apprehension of them, as furnished by the senses, which is illusory. Nobody need worry over the loss of matter. It is something which we have never possessed and consequently the loss is not a real one. The world which has been revealed by our thoughts is the only world we have known, although it is not the ultimate world that we shall know. Therefore, the truth robs us of nothing. He who flees the world in ascetic disdain flees from reality; he should correct himself first and thus learn to understand aright what is that something which appears as the world. What it is, what that ultimate reality means to the life of man, is the second quest of philosophy after the quest of truth, because we soon find that both quests are involved in one another. And this is, therefore, the second reward which philosophy holds out to man, that he shall learn how to live consciously in reality rather than blindly in illusion. (pp. 353-4.)