Noetic world, Ideational Mind and Mental Being
Beyond the astral, emotional and desire worlds is the universe of Pure Intellect or pure Ideas. Because this region is more remote than the everyday consciousness, it is less often acessed or understood. In spiritualist and New Age teachings this seems to be considered a higher visionary region of light.
With the Noetic ontocosm, the Universes of Yetzirah and Beriah in Kabbalah, the Malakut of Suhrawardi and Sufism, the Devachan of Theosophy, and the Spiriual Mental Plane of Aurobindo - we have a reality that is not so easy to grasp as the proceeding two Universes. This is because the higher up you go, the closer to the Source you are, the more subtle things become.
The Noetic is not a "power" universe like the Orectic, or a "form" universe like the Physical. Rather, it represents a right-knowing and a right-doing; a spiritual contemplative state. One could call it a "spirituality" universe, or a "Truth/Love" universe.
Because of its elevated status, the Noetic universe is not only referred to in spiritual terms, but even confused or identified with the Higher Self (although according to Sri Aurobindo this constitutes a different dimension, the inmost being ("Psychic Being"). Hence the Mental as highest spiritual state (equivalent perhaps to Enlightenment) in the Theon's Tradition, and the Higher Manas, Buddhi-Manas, Immortal Ego (in part) or Abstract Mind of Theosophy.
Manifestation is a constant process of Self-limitation and Self-focus. The seemingly limitless Gods of the Divine Worlds in turn generate a further and more separative, reality. Thus the Kabbalists, Suhrawardi, Dionysius, and Rudolf Steiner, all speak of hierarchies of Archangelic or Divine beings. Kashmir Shaivism refers to the "Pure-Impure tattwas" intermediate between the unitary Pure and the lower Impure Tattwas.
The Spiritual or Angelic Worlds thus constitute a scaling down of existence from the Divine plenitude. If the Divine Reality can be defined as the Many existing within yet still subordinate to the One, the Angelic Reality involves the Many existing in a Multiplicity in Unity: Supreme One and finite Many being equally balanced.
Here we have the beginning of finite manifestation, of existence in a sense individualised or differentiated from (yet still identified with) the Supreme One Itself. It is at this level that individuality and seperateness appear. Yet only a few yogis ever manage to reach this high. Even genuine ("Enlightened") teachers generally do not ascend higher than the Mental and Lower Angelic worlds, before moving "sideways" into the Paramatmic or Nirvanic realisation of the unmanifest Absolute.
Similarily, with the exceptions of Madame Blavatsky and Rudolph Steiner, most theosophical and occult clairvoyants and writers do not have anything much to say regarding the higher Spiritual ("vertical") realities, but are instead limited to lower and higher ("horizontal") octaves on the subtle Physical (Etheric) and the Orectic (Astral) levels of understanding.
Following the esotericist habit of dividing planes into subplanes, I would suggest here five distinct planes of ascending higher gnosis. (Sri Aurobindo refers to four higher spiritual levels, including overmind, while the Theosophists three or four, depending on how you interpret their system). If we inclusde the ordinary mental plane, that gives five altogether. Of course, as always, there are any number of possible classification schemas
The Noetic Universe
gradations of ascending and descending Light, Wisdom, and Gnosis
|Highest Noetic Plane (Divine-Angelic)
|Higher Noetic Plane (Arch-Archangelic (Archai)
|Middle Noetic Plane (Archangelic)
|Lower Noetic Plane (Angelic)
|Mental Plane (Abstract Mind)
The higher regions are beyond the reach of ordinary consciousness, they have been described by Mystics, visionaries, and adepts of many different spiritual traditions.
o The lowest Noetic Plane or universe is the region of abstract thought; that is, of mind or intelligence as a pure spiritual or metaphysical principle, not dependent on physical reality. Following the convention of Theosophy and the New Age movemnt, this can be called the Mental Plane. When this principle incarnates in and as the functioning of a sufficently complex structure, such as a nervous system or brain or an AI or computer intelligence, we call it "mind". But mind is in no way limited to teh physical, no matter what secular materialists and sceptics may believe to the contrary.
o The next Noetic Plane, and the first higher Universe beyond the abstract mental plane, can be called the Angelic Universe. This is equivalent in part to the Kabbalistic Yetzirah, the Theosophical Abstract Mind or Buddhi (depending on your interpretation - perhaps Buddhi-Manas wuld be best) , and to Sri Aurobindo's Higher or Spiritual Mind level.
o The next Universe up towards the Positive (Divine) Pole of existence can be called the Arch-Archangelic, or just the Archaic (following Rudolf Steiner's sequence of Angel-Archangel-Archai). Archaic in the sense of highest, rather than archaic earliest. This is the locus of the Higher Angelic hierarchies from which originate the gnostic idea-forms that filter down into the angelic planes. The hierarchies of this Universe have a greater demiurgic or Creative power than the Angelic hierarchies, and embody an even higher and more revelatory degree of gnosis. This corresponds to the Sufi world of Jabarut and the Aurobindoan Intuition Spiritual Mind.
o The highest Noetic Plane, which is directly adjacent the lowest Divine Universe can be termed the "Divine-Archangelic." It is the intermediate region between the Absolute Cosmic Consciousness of the Divine Worlds, and the more limited consciousness of the lower planes. It could equally be considered the lowest Divine plane, but in order to prevent the representation of the Divine Ontocosm becoming too "top-heavy" . It would seem to correspond in part to the Theosophical monadic plane (although the monadic plane also refers to the Absolute Individual self beyond the manifestation), to Rudolf Steiner's Second Spiritual Hierarchy (three orders of demiurgic beings) and the Aurobindoan Intuition-Overmind.
As with the Divine Universes, we can speak of subplanes or levels here. Their traversing constitutes the higher mystical and visionary ascent, quite different from the psychic-astral ascent. It is concerning this mystical ascent that the Sufis are referring to when they meditate on the ascent of the Prophet Mohammed to Heaven, called the Mi`raj. The Apostle Paul also refers to being "caught up to the Third Heaven". Esoteric Judaic Kabbalah incorporates the earlier concept of Hekhalth or Merkavah ("chariot") mysticism, which is here used to refer to the ascent of the Kabbalsist to the Throne of God. This is identified with the "archangelic" world of Beriah.
A more recent and quite detailed perspective occurs in the spiritual psychology of Sri Aurobindo. In his book The Life Divine, and elsewhere, Sri Aurobindo refers to psycho-spiritual stages of ascent beyond even the ordinary Enlightened or Liberated Mind, and transitional between ordinary (dualistic) mentality and the infinite Truth-Consciousness of the Manifest Absolute (what he calls the "Supermind"). These transitional stages are termed by him Higher Mind, the Illumined Mind, the Intuitive Mind, and the Overmind. The latter is equivalent to what I have termed the Divine Ontocosm, whereas the Higher Mind would seem to pertain to the Lower part of the Noetic ontocosm.
Strangely, the existence of all these higher gnostic and heavenly regions is either not a part of the teachings of conventional Eastern mysticism, or else is considered by them to be irrelevent.
A good illustration of such a "conventional" mystical position is represented by the contemporary American-born Adept and teacher Da Free John. According to Da Free John, the individual ideally develops through seven stages of growth, the so-called "seven stages of life": physical/bodily, sexual-emotional, intellectual, Mystical devotion and realisation, Yogic superconsciousness, subjective Realisation of the Absolute (or "radiant transcendent being"), and finally the "seventh stage of life", the objective Realisation of the Absolute in whatever phenomena arise. Like most monistic teachers, Da Free John and his followers uncompromisingly reject the possibility of higher evolution beyond this transcendent state.
In Adi Da's cosmology there are two structural dimensions of existence: the horizontal and the vertical. The horizontal dimension is the centre of awareness, located in the heart. The vertical dimension corresponds to the chakras along the spine, a vertical structure is evolutionary and dualistic. As Master Da sees it, the evolutionary path, which involves the ascent of consciousness to the Radiant Source, the root of the vertical dimension, to the crown or infinitely above the head, is made redundant by the Realisation of the Divine Radiance in the "Transcendental Self-Realisation at the heart." [footnote in The Dawn Horse Testament, p.704 (1985, The Dawn Horse Press, San Rafael, California)].
Hence the Monistic Enlightenment of Zen, Advaita, Tibetan Buddhism, etc, which is absolutely valid in itself, is nevertheless not the same as the actualisation of higher Divine-Gnostic states of existence. All such teachings actually pertain to the Unmanifest Absolute, not the degrees of higher and Divine manifestation. Even when the monistic yogas have hierarchical degrees, these do not refer to supra-mental entities. Advaita Vedanta for example refers to five koshas or "sheaths" that veil the light of the Supreme Self (Paramatman). The higher three of these - the mental, consciousness, and bliss koshas - correspond to "horizontal" octaves of the Etheric-Physical level (the Gross and Subtle, the Causal, and the Higher Causal, respectively). Beyond them is not the succession of Spiritual and Divine worlds of Light, but the immanent/transcendent Unmanifest Absolute which transcends all the worlds.
Ultimately though, one should be able to realise both dimensions, not reject one for the other.
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