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The Creator of Illusion


Annie Besant




Having become indifferent to objects of perception, the pupil must seek out

the Raja of the Senses, the Thought-Producer, he who awakes illusion.


" The Mind is the great slayer of the Real."

Thus is it written in one of the fragments translated by H. P. B. from The Book

of the Golden Precepts, that exquisite prose-poem which is one of her choicest

gifts to the world. And there is no more significant title of the mind than this: the " creator of illusion".


The mind is not the Knower, and should ever be carefully distinguished from him.


Many of the confusions and the difficulties that perplex the student arise because he does not remember the distinction between him who knows and the mind which is his instrument for obtaining knowledge. It is as though the sculptor were identified with his chisel.


The mind is fundamentally dual and material, being made up of an envelope of

fine matter, called the causal body and manas, the abstract mind, and of an

envelope of coarser matter, called the mental body and manas, the concrete

mind'—manas itself being a reflection in atomic matter of that aspect of the Self which is Knowledge. This mind limits the Jiva, which, as self-consciousness increases, finds himself hampered by it on every side.


As a man, to effect a certain purpose, might put on thick gloves, and find that his hands in them had lost much of their power of feeling, their delicacy of touch, their ability to pick up small objects, and were only capable of grasping large objects and of feeling heavy impacts, so is it with the Knower when he puts on the mind. The hand is there as well as the glove, but its capacities are greatly lessened; the Knower is there as well as the mind, but his powers are much limited in their expression.


We shall confine the term mind in the following paragraphs to the concrete

mind—the mental body and manas.


The mind is the result of past thinking, and is constantly being modified by present thinking; it is a thing, precise and definite, with certain powers and incapacities, strength and weakness, which are the outcome of activities in previous lives. It is as we have made it; we cannot change it save slowly, we cannot transcend it by an effort of the will, we cannot cast it aside, nor instantaneously remove its imperfections.


Such as it is, it is ours, a part of the Not-Self appropriated and shaped for our own using, and only through it can we know.


All the results of our past thinkings are present with us as mind, and each mind

has its own rate of vibration, its own range of vibration, and is in a state of perpetual motion, offering an ever-changing series of pictures.


Every impression coming to us from

outside is made on this already active sphere, and the mass of existing

vibrations modifies and is modified by the new arrival. The resultant is not,

therefore, an accurate reproduction of the new vibrations, but a combination of

it with the vibrations already proceeding.


To borrow again an illustration from

light. If we hold a piece of red glass before our eyes and look at green objects, they will appear to us to be black.


The vibrations that give us the sensation of red are cut off by those that give us the sensation of green, and the eye is deceived into seeing the object as black.


So also if we look at a blue object through a yellow glass, shall we see it as black. In every case a coloured medium will cause an impression of colour different from that of the object looked at by the naked eye.. Even looking at things with the naked eye,

persons see them somewhat differently, for the eye itself modifies the vibrations it receives more than many people imagine.


The influence of the mind as a medium by which the Knower views the external world is very similar to the influence of the coloured glass on the colours of objects seen through it.


The Knower is as unconscious of this influence of the mind, as a man who had never seen, except through red or blue glasses, would be unconscious of the changes made by them in the colours of a landscape.


It is in this superficial and obvious sense that the mind is called the " creator of illusion ". It presents us only with distorted images, a combination of itself and the external object.


In a far deeper sense, indeed, is it the " creator of illusion", in that even these distorted images are but images of appearances, not of realities; shadows of shadows are all that it gives us. But it will suffice us at present to consider the illusions caused by its own nature.


Very different would be our ideas of the world, if we could know it as it is, even in its phenomenal aspect, instead of by means of the vibrations modified by the mind.


And this is by no means impossible, although it can only be done by those who have made great progress in controlling the mind. The vibrations of

the mind can be stilled, the consciousness being withdrawn from it; an impact from without will then shape an image exactly corresponding to itself, the vibrations being identical in quality and quantity, unintermixed with vibrations belonging to the observer. Or, the consciousness may go forth and ensoul the observed object, and thus directly experience its vibrations. In both cases a true knowledge of the form is gained.


The idea in the world of noumena, of which the form expresses a phenomenal aspect, may also be known, but only by the

consciousness working in the causal body, untrammelled by the concrete mind or

the lower vehicles.


The truth that we only know our impressions of things, not the things—except as just stated—is one which is of vital moment when it is applied in practical life. It teaches humility and caution, and readiness to listen to new ideas.


We lose our instinctive certainty that we are right in our observations, and learn

to analyse ourselves before we condemn others.


An illustration may serve to make this more clear.


I meet a person whose vibratory activity expresses itself in a way complementary

to my own. When we meet, we extinguish each other; hence we do not like each

other, we do not see anything in each other, and we each wonder why So-and-so

thinks the other so clever, when we find each other so preternaturally stupid.


Now, if I have gained a little self-knowledge, this wonder will be checked, so

far as I am concerned. Instead of thinking that the other is stupid, I shall ask



" What is lacking in me that I cannot answer his vibrations? We are both

vibrating, and if I cannot realise his life and thought, it is because I cannot reproduce his vibrations. Why should I judge him, since I cannot even know him until I modify myself sufficiently to be able to receive him?"


We cannot greatly modify others, but we can greatly modify ourselves, and we should be continually trying to enlarge our receptive capacity.


We must become as the white light in which all colours are present, which distorts none because it rejects none, and has in itself the powerto answer to each. We may measure our approach to the whiteness by our power of response to the most diverse characters.





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