The word is used in two important senses: (1) the totality of everything, the All, free from all limitations; (2) when used in conjunction with another word, such as “wisdom,” it refers to the highest possible level of that quality or condition.
The Absolute. The word Absolute as a metaphysical concept differs from the traditional concept of God. The latter often presupposes things that are external to it, such as evil, and hence is in a conditional relation with the universe. The metaphysical Absolute is the All, and hence defies any adjectival qualification.
Helena P. Blavatsky wrote extensively on this point. In The Key to Theosophy, she wrote: “God is called by his devotees infinite and absolute. . . . If infinite — i.e., limitless — and especially if absolute, how can he have a form, and be a creator of anything? Form implies limitation, and a beginning as well as an end; and, in order to create, a Being must think and plan. How can the ABSOLUTE be supposed to think — i.e., to have any relation whatever to that which is limited, finite, and conditioned? This is a philosophical, and a logical absurdity.”
Blavatsky posits the Absolute as the first fundamental principle of the Secret Doctrine — that of an “Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless, and Immutable PRINCIPLE on which all speculation is impossible.” This, she explains, is the “one absolute Reality which antecedes all manifested, conditioned, being. This Infinite and Eternal Cause — dimly formulated in the ‘Unconscious’ and ‘Unknowable’ of current European philosophy — is the rootless root of ‘all that was, is, or ever shall be.’ It is of course devoid of all attributes and is essentially without any relation to manifested, finite Being. It is ‘Be-ness’ rather than Being (in Sanskrit, Sat), and is beyond all thought or speculation” (SD I:14).
This Absolute therefore cannot even be a Creator — the latter being only the Third Logos in theosophical cosmogony. It cannot also pass into infinity, since infinity “presupposes the limitless extension of something” (SD I:8).
This concept is equivalent to Parabrahman (“beyond Brahman”) of the Vedāntins, the Ain of the Kabbalists, the Sat in Hindu philosophy. It is similar to the concept of Godhead in Christianity, although the term Godhead is sometimes used in relational terms with creation. Meister Eckhart, for example, has written that Godhead is above God, as the sky is above the earth.
In The Secret Doctrine, the Absolute or this Be-ness is “symbolized” in its two aspects: (a) Absolute Abstract Space, “representing bare subjectivity, the one thing which no human mind can either exclude from any conception or conceive by itself,” and (b) Absolute Abstract Motion, representing Unconditioned Consciousness. These two aspects manifest in the duality of Spirit and Matter, or Cosmic Ideation and Cosmic Substance, from whence the whole of manifested existence arise. (In another part of The Secret Doctrine, Blavatsky adds a third aspect: that of Duration, which is Abstract Time).
The difficulty of expressing these abstract concepts is seen in the fact that Blavatsky says the Absolute cannot be the “First Cause,” a term which implies a linear relationship with the second or third cause. But it is at the same time described as the “Causeless One Cause” or the “Rootless Root” (SD I:15).
Absolute Qualities. When the word “Absolute” is used in connection with some states or qualities, it refers to the highest possible level of that quality, specifically the noumenal form of that quality or state. Below are such usages in theosophical literature:
Absolute Bliss. The state when one enters into final Nirvana, when Atma merges into Brahman. The bliss of Buddhi is but a reflection of this highest bliss.
Absolute Consciousness. The latent abstract consciousness in the Absolute, which in itself is unconscious, since it transcends our common understanding of consciousness. Consciousness implies being conscious of something, a division between the cognizer and the cognized. Absolute consciousness contains both, plus the process of cognition (SD I:56).
Absolute Force. The Laya or zero-point where lies the noumenon or essence of what we call Force.
Absolute Life. The state that antecedes the duality of spirit and matter. It is the One Life.
Absolute Light. The state prior to manifestation, which means Darkness, during the period of pralaya or cosmic rest. The manifested form of light is the Logos and the manifested universe. “Light is matter, and DARKNESS pure Spirit” (SD I:70).
Absolute Nirguna. That which is devoid of attributes and qualities, which is Parabrahman, or the Absolute.
Absolute Perfection. Paranishpanna or the perfection that all beings attain at the close of a maha-manvantara, or a cosmic period of activity. It is also called Paranirvana or Yong-Grub. As a maha-manvantara is not a final period of activity, paranirvana is therefore not a final state of perfection (SD I:42-43).
Absolute Self. The One Self of which our higher selves are but sparks. Equivalent to the Paramatman.
Absolute Time. Abstract time or eternal “duration.” Time is to eternal duration, as water is to wetness.
Absolute Truth. The 'Madhyamikas of Buddhism taught the existence of Paramartha-Satya, or absolute truth, which is reached by the Arhat when he attains Paranirvana or Paranishpanna, absolute perfection.
Absolute Wisdom. The realm of the abstract absolute thought in the Universal Mind or Mahat. It is also that Wisdom which, recognizing the non-separateness of the Universe and everything in it from the Absolute All, sees in it no better than the great Illusion, Mahamaya, hence the cause of misery and suffering (SD II:384). It is equivalent to Adi-Buddha (first or primeval wisdom) in Buddhism.
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