The Significance of Consciousness



Ladies and Gentlemen,


I am glad to welcome you to Broadcasting 2 of our Series “Introduction to Agni Yoga”!


Our subject today is the significance of consciousness. This brings us to one of the main topics of Agni Yoga: Next to “psychic energy”, expansion of consciousness” is probably the most frequently used term of the Teaching.


Let us now inquire why our consciousness is so important.



1. Material Conditions of no Significance


When I ask you, who are sitting here in front of me: “What is important for you and your life?”, you will probably list up a large number of so-called “objective” circumstances, such as:


The place where you are living, the house in which you are dwelling, the nation and the state to which you belong, your profession, your family, relatives, friends and acquaintances, the events of life with which you are confronted, the people you meet, luck or misfortune in the everyday affairs, poverty or wealth, success or failure, war or peace, the weather, the growth of the gross national product, the development of your career, the amount of your last salary increase, a change of the government and numerous other outer events more, such as birth and death, sickness and health, etc.




You may be surprised to hear: For an Agni Yogi, all these external circumstances are of no importance. We have realized: They are in reality without any significance of their own: They gain importance for our life only after we have viewed them through the spectacles of a system of values. According to these values, we classify the material facts as good or bad, useful or harmful, luck or misfortune.


All misery as well as all happiness is within us. (Helena Roerich Letters Vol I, letter of 12.12.1934)


Therefore, these values are crucial, not the external events.


Take for example death: For people who are caught up in a materialistic world view, it is the greatest misfortune. You are understandably afraid of your death, because you see it as the end of your existence, the complete destruction of your entire personality. The death of a beloved person throws some of you in despair for years and even drives them to the fringe of suicide.


Man falls into the darkness of a prison built by himself. (Supermundane 774)


As opposed to that, for us immortals, death means the transition to a higher, more comfortable level of existence, the return to our homeland and the reunion with our true spiritual relatives. Therefore, we actually rejoice at our death!




Or think of the needs, worries, sufferings, obstacles and difficulties that are allotted to everyone abundantly during his earthly life: Materialistically minded people threaten to be broken by these blows. We disciples of Agni Yoga, however, understand them as tests of our progress and opportunities to continue our spiritual ascent.


Therefore, we welcome them joyfully like our spiritual brother Seneca, who actually advised:


Long for a difficult life instead of an easy one in order to practice your spiritual powers and to put the strength of your spirit to the test.


You see: The external conditions are really insignificant.


One can gather facts from various fields to prove that among the decisive factors the physical are the least important. (Fiery World I, 297)


Think through the film of events, and comprehend how unimportant is the exterior; only the inner significance is vital. (Community 75)


The thoughts, the ideas that we harbour about death, God, sin, the consequences of sin, the meaning of life, the meaning of suffering, and other existential questions more, determine our life to an incomparably higher degree than death or the apparent suffering itself.


Not the things themselves are troubling us, but the opinion that we form about them. For it is not death or misfortune, which is terrible, but the fear of death and of misfortune. (Epiktet)


The same apparently “objective” circumstances gain a completely different meaning for your life, depending upon what kind of consciousness you have! Happiness turns into unhappiness, unhappiness into happiness – solely according to the point of view which you take with respect to the events.


The life of the spirit shapes the everyday circumstances. (Agni Yoga 446)



2. Consciousness creates the World


The reality, the world in which you live, is created and influenced only slightly by the outward circumstances, but mainly by your own consciousness.


The material conditions are ultimately Maja – illusion. They are transient and thus a subordinate factor of existence for a wanderer on an eternal path.


Our consciousness, the way we see things and the position we take with regard to them, is the true reality. For you, real is what you think that is real – that tiny part of the immeasurable reality which you are able to perceive.


Until a student of life can accept the fact, at least tentatively, that consciousness is the one eternal reality, and that all else is illusion – reflection –, he can never rest in the certainty of attainment in any field of true philosophy. It is by no means easy to retain in mind the fact that it is consciousness – identity –, which creates and moves through all fields of life. (Teachings of the Temple Vol. I, Lesson 182 “Some Mysteries of Light”.)


That what we cannot grasp does not exist for us, even if it is as real as anything. A dim consciousness recognizes only very little of the world in which it lives, despite of its perfect reality.


All the worlds are real in so far as our consciousness is able to grasp them. (Helena Roerich Letters Vol. I, letter of 08.08.1934)


What really matters is not the external, material, but the inner, spiritual world in which you live. According to the latter you determine yourself whether you live in a beautiful or in an ugly sphere.


One of the most important teachings of Agni Yoga is:


Each spirit creates his own world, and the beauty or ugliness of the created world depends upon the quality of consciousness. (Infinity II, 719 [319])


Similarly, Schopenhauer says aptly:


In the same environment everyone lives in a different world.


Or a popular wisdom runs:


If you do not create heaven within your own heart, you will not be able to find it anywhere else.


Let us hear an example:


Two sailors were shipwrecked and cast away on a desert island. Both nearly perished from hunger and terror, for they considered themselves forever cut off from the world. A ship picked them up.

And later there was erected on the island a strong light-house. These same two sailors remained at the light-house, to save other perishing ones. Now their frame of mind was altered. They were happy, directing the light of rescue and no longer feeling themselves cut off from the world. (Gem 267)


That is to say: In the same external situation – in exile on a lonely island – one man lives in a beautiful world and the other in an ugly one, depending upon how they look at the circumstances and on the consciousness which they form in their situation.




Whether the world that you create yourself and in which you live is sublime and great or low and mean, depends solely on the height and width of your own consciousness: A man with a high level of consciousness always lives in a beautiful world:


When you are able to accept misery and death with equanimity, you have already risen to a higher level. When you have learned to smile at them, you inhabit the highest possible sphere – namely a world in which reigns everlasting joy!


We will discuss in detail in later Broadcastings how you can create and constantly live in your own personal heaven, regardless of the outward circumstances.


The old world and the New World are distinguished through consciousness, not by outer evidence. Age and circumstance bear no importance. The New World is born everywhere, but beyond boundaries and conditions. (Agni Yoga 55)



3. Consciousness creates Man

Albrecht Dürer "Charles the Great"


Not only the world in which you live, but also that what you yourself are is determined solely by your own consciousness:


Consciousness is the real man. (Helena Roerich Letters Vol. I, letter of 08.08.1934)


Whether the conditions finish you off or whether you master them with a smile is a question of your thinking, your mental attitude:


It is our own consciousness which determines the wellbeing that we deserve. (Heart 572)


The one is a slave who is pushed to and fro by the circumstances like a leaf in the wind, breaks down upon resistance, and finally sinks into the swamp of chaos.


The other is a king of the spirit who sits sovereign on the throne of his higher self, above every situation, unswervingly walks his path, how ever the external conditions may be set out, and even grows through the difficulties of everyday life.


The difference between the two lies solely in the quality of their consciousness: A king is not a king because he never encounters difficulties, but on the contrary, because he preserves a royal attitude even in the most miserable situation.




We are now hearing for the first time, and will see and inquire into more deeply again and again: That what you are – an immortal or a mortal, a spiritual disciple, a teacher, a spiritual warrior or healer, a great or a small soul – is determined solely by your consciousness, by the attitude which you take towards the circumstances.


He who is a great teacher by his inner nature, is always a teacher, in whatever situation he finds himself; even if he, like Jakob Boehme, is only a shoemaker, or like Plato is sold into slavery, or like Jesus has to earn his bread as a carpenter and is finally nailed to the cross.




We can actually say, following Buddha:


Man is what he thinks!


By uplifting and refining your thinking, you uplift and refine yourself.


We are exactly what we think, not what we appear. (Teachings of the Temple Vol. III, Lesson “A Brotherhood of Souls”)


A man’s nature is created by his thought. (Br II, 392)


You do not have to sit on a throne in order to be a king according to your inner nature. Royal thinking and a royal attitude lend you royal emanations, a high, luminous aura – and these must prove themselves precisely in adverse circumstances.


You have already seen quite simple people in the lowest social position (a fisherman in Greece, a Chinese craftsman, a peasant in the mountains of Tyrol), who behaved in such a dignified manner that you involuntarily thought: In another world, on a different planet, this man would be – and that means: he actually is, according to his inner nature – a king.



4. Example Plato


Let us never stay in the abstract. Let us look at two examples:


One of the most important quotations from the books of Agni Yoga is:


A wise philosopher, having been sold into slavery, exclaimed: "Thanks! Evidently I can pay back some old debts." (Br I, 273)


This relates to Plato, who was indeed once for sale on a slave market. You cannot imagine vividly enough the humiliating position of one of the greatest thinkers in world history: There he was touched by unclean hands, his body examined for fitness, perhaps by checking his teeth, there was bargaining for his price, there he was threatened with the lowest work and the worst possible living conditions, perhaps as an oarsman on a galley.




Who among you would not despair in such a situation? Many would complain to God and lament: “Why me?” Plato, however, even thanked the higher powers.


Why? Because he knew the law of Karma (of which we shall speak in one of the upcoming Broadcastings). Because he knew: It had a deep meaning that precisely he was put into this situation. Maybe he was offered an opportunity to settle some old debts: This is an ascent, a relief – and thus indeed a reason for gratitude and joy!


Plato proved to be a dignified, spiritually powerful and joyful man – even as a slave!



5. Example ???


Or another example of the present time:


Do you know this man?


How would you assess him? Apparently a fairly coarse fellow. Someone whom you would not want to meet in the moonlight. Maybe a gangster boss from Chicago?


Here you see the same man – and recognize him immediately:



Nelson Mandela!


Do you know what lies between these pictures? Over 25 years of imprisonment on Robben Island, one of the most horrible places in the world! Most others would have perished in this ordeal. Mandela, however, knew very well that one was trying to break him. He designed a counter strategy for himself and his fellow prisoners that proved to be stronger than the terrible circumstances.




Nelson Mandela recognized and seized an opportunity. He consciously used the most dreadful conditions in order to grow spiritually.


He entered the prison as a relatively crude fellow. He developed there to a great, wise man with always a superior smile on his lips.


Thus, from the point of view of a high consciousness, even a quarter of a century in prison may be a blessing, a reason for gratitude and joy.


To rejoice is good, but in this let us not be like the animals. In what lies the difference? Only in consciousness. Animals do not know why they rejoice; but we know why. (Agni Yoga 548)


We find confirmed: Our thinking creates the world in which we live: A man with a high level of consciousness, who thinks sublime, turns all suffering to joy and therefore lives in a beautiful world – even in prison!


We find confirmed: Man is what he thinks. A man with a high level of consciousness, who thinks sublime, transforms into a Great Soul (a Mahatma).


If Nelson Mandela thinks like a king and manifests a corresponding attitude, he is a king – even in prison!


If, on the other hand, he thinks, feels, speaks and acts in an unkingly manner, he is, according to his true inner nature, not a king – even if he should happen to sit on a throne.



6. Consciousness as true Wealth


The body dies. All intellectual knowledge is lost with death.


Your consciousness, however, is part of your Eternal Individuality and thus preserved beyond death for your further everlasting way.


If you have acquired a royal aura, this is a property that does not adhere to your mortal body, but to your immortal soul. This achievement belongs to your true spiritual self.


As opposed to outer titles, you do not lose this (inner) dignity when you die. You take it with you to your next incarnation on earth, even if you should then appear, like Jesus, not as a king, but “only” as a carpenter.


What treasures a pure, free, and dauntless consciousness can give to humanity! (Agni Yoga 524)


We see: The consciousness is the real wealth of man. A true treasure that we can expand further and further from one incarnation to the other and let grow more and more from life to life. Unlimited growth is possible on the spiritual level only.


This is what Jesus was talking about when he said:


Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6, 19-21)


That means: We should accumulate treasures of the spiritual plane, which cannot be taken away from us, rather than riches of the material world, which we will have to abandon sooner or later, at the latest at death.



7. Saving the World through a new Consciousness


Today, when people want to improve the world, they have almost exclusively money in mind: Schools, health care, the various conditions of life: We tend to believe that we only have to pump more and more money into the system, and then everything will be better soon.


This is a grave error. Agni Yoga teaches: First comes the expansion of consciousness. Only a new way of thinking will renew the world.


Success lies in expanded consciousness. (Leaves of Morya’s Garden II, 349 [353])


An example: A really good teacher requires hardly any material means. Crucial for a good education of his pupils is the spirit, which prevails at a school, not its financial resources.




Another example: The fight against the destruction of our planet will only be successful if people put off their selfishness and make use of the treasures of nature responsibly. This requires a change in mental attitude, which cannot be bought with any money in the world.


The problems of life can be solved only by an expansion of consciousness. (Fiery World I, 349)


Finally, we shall show in the Broadcasting on the New World: Poverty and unemployment can only be overcome if man changes his thinking, his consciousness, discards his egotism and develops a new attitude that reads:


I am anxious to put more into the pot of the community than to take out of it for myself. I am prepared to share with my fellow men the necessary work as well as the income arising from it.


One can say that the World will be saved by regenerating the consciousness. (Fiery World III, 335)


We are living exactly in that world which corresponds to our relatively low, above all selfish consciousness.


The external conditions of life are a reflection of the consciousness. (Agni Yoga 604)


If our thinking does not change, nothing will change on the material level either. Let us listen to Albert Einstein:


If you think the way you always thought,

you will act the way you always acted.

If you act the way you always acted,

you will produce, what you always produced.


The crucial change in the condition of mankind is not caused by external, technical measures. The true progress consists in the expansion of consciousness, which leads to a new way of thinking, which in turn brings about better deeds, and thus a better world.


Thought is the mover of evolution. (Infinity II, 795 [395])


Every condition is created by the consciousness. Therefore, the growth of consciousness is the essential foundation for progress. (AY 406)


Therefore, evolution means above all expansion of consciousness.


The shifting of consciousness carries one onto the path of evolution. The improvement of life upon the planet depends so greatly upon the shifting of consciousness that progress will be expressed chiefly in the way of thinking. Hence, humanity’s greatest care lies in the progress of thought. (Infinity II, 517 [117])


Every expansion of consciousness is cooperation with evolution. Every manifestation that obstructs the expansion of consciousness is antagonistic to evolution. (Infinity II, 828 [428])


Regrettably, the consciousness of humanity leaves much to be desired. Its present state remains far behind of what would be necessary to meet the requirements of the time.


The trouble is that while certain precise cosmic dates draw near, human consciousness lags far behind. (Fiery World I, 362)


Measurement of the degrees of consciousness over the extent of the last centuries places man now near the zero point. (Fiery World III, 371)


The material evolution has provided us with means for which we are not yet ripe according to our spiritual development. Only think of atomic energy, which is being used for atomic bombs.


The spiritual consciousness is lagging behind the physical. (Fiery World II, 262)


Therefore, the most important service you can render to humanity is: Elevate, expand your own consciousness and that of your fellow human beings. Awaken the sense that a better world is the one in which truth, justice, beauty and love reign. Only in this way can you really improve the life on earth.


Only by a renewal of thinking can humanity attain the new planetary step. (Hierarchy 412)


He who does not help the regeneration of thought is no friend of the New World. (Fiery World I, 60)


We have reached the end of this Broadcasting. If you would like to go more deeply into the subject matter, we recommend to read Booklet 2 "Significance and Expansion of Consciousness" of our Series "Introduction to Agni Yoga", which you find in the internet at