In the preface to the Voice of the Silence, HPB makes a remarkable statement about the relationship between that work and the Stanzas of Dzyan:
The work from which I here translate forms part of the same series as that from which the "Stanzas" of the Book of Dzyan were taken, on which the Secret Doctrine is based.1
To say that the Voice of the Silence and the Secret Doctrine have the same source is equivalent to suggesting that neither of them can be understood if they are being studied by a mind still unaware that it is under the influence of its own conditioning.
The Voice of the Silence is ruthlessly clear on the subject of the need for an unconditioned mind (a mind clarified by yoga), for it begins with the warning that
He who would hear the voice of Nada, "the Soundless Sound," and comprehend it, he has to learn the nature of Dharana. Having become indifferent to objects of perception, the pupil must seek out the rajah of the senses, the Thought-Producer, he who awakes illusion. The Mind is the great Slayer of the Real. Let the Disciple slay the Slayer.2
So, according to this preliminary admonition, anyone who cannot "become indifferent to objects of perception," is not in a position to begin properly the study of the Voice of the Silence--or of the Secret Doctrine, since they are of one and the same source and presumably impose the same requirements on their students.
In the eight-fold or astanga yoga of Patanjali, its eight "limbs" are enumerated as yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. They are "limbs" and not "steps" because none of them can be practiced adequately without all the others being present. Nevertheless, the order in which they are given by Patanjali has been the one in which they have been taught for millennia, which is the order hinted at in these early lines of the Voice of the Silence. It is said there that now that the pupil has "become indifferent to objects of perception" (pratyahara), he "has to learn the nature of Dharana" (usually translated as "concentration").
In other words, the Voice of the Silence is not meant for mere conceptual speculation. This is clearly a book of advice for anyone seriously involved already on the path of yoga, on the path of transformation. And since according to HPB the Secret Doctrine comes from the same source, one would expect that exactly the same strictures should be true of it.
For instance, it seems fairly clear that the first stanza is meant to describe, as well as words will permit such a thing, the state of awareness called in Zen and other schools (and in the Secret Doctrine) sunyatta. According to all those teachings, it is in that state that presumably can take place a greater communion with the universe. That first stanza can also be said to be a description of the states of awareness present in an adept, as the text itself expresses it when it refers to "the 'opened eye' of Dangma." As HPB explains in a footnote,
In India it is called the "Eye of Shiva," but beyond the Great Range it is known in esoteric phraseology as "Dangma's Opened Eye." Dangma means a purified soul, one who has become a Jivanmukta, the highest Adept, or rather a Mahatma so-called. His "Opened Eye" is the inner spiritual eye of the seer; and the faculty which manifests through it, is not clairvoyance as ordinarily understood, i.e., the power of seeing at a distance, but rather the faculty of spiritual intuition, through which direct and certain knowledge is obtainable.3
That first stanza refers explicitly to the fact that when there is sunyatta, "Space," none of the explanations given in the scriptures are of any significance, since there is no one to read or consider what they say. It gives a graphic picture of what it is like to be in that state of complete emptiness. Part of what it points out (as in the teachings of Nagarjuna, on which Zen is based) is that the path to liberation is meaningless in that state, because there is no one to react to anything, there is no place to go, there is no yearning to change anything. Therefore, when the psychological emptiness of sunyatta is, "The Seven Ways to Bliss were not." Nor is there any concern in that state for the misery of mediocrity of daily life as it is usually lived, that is, in a constant attachment to various objects of sensation (represented in Buddhist terminology by the so-called twelve nidanas). Therefore, "The Great Causes of Misery were not."
What follows is the entire text of the stanza, which is quoted so the reader may look at it from this psychological perspective. While only a full commentary with careful consideration of each term and with specific references to Buddhist and other sources would be likely to provide a clearer exposition, the more transparently psychological statements have been italicized:
The Eternal Parent, wrapped in her Ever-Invisible Robes, had slumbered once again for Seven Eternities. Time was not, for it lay asleep in the Infinite Bosom of Duration. Universal mind was not, for there were no Ah-hi to contain it. The Seven Ways to Bliss were not. The Great Causes of Misery were not, for there was no one to produce and get ensnared by them. Darkness alone filled the Boundless All, for Father, Mother and Son were once more one, and the Son had not yet awakened for the new Wheel and his Pilgrimage thereon. The Seven Sublime Lords and the Seven Truths had ceased to be, and the Universe, the Son of Necessity, was inmersed in Paranishpanna, to be outbreathed by that which is, and yet is not. Naught was. The Causes of Existence had been done away with; the Visible that was, and the Invisible that is, rested in Eternal Non-Being--the One Being. Alone, the One Form of Existence stretched boundless, infinite, causeless, in Dreamless Sleep, and Life pulsated unconscious in Universal "Space", throughout that All-Presence which is sensed by the Opened Eye of Dangma. But where was Dangma when the Alaya of the Universa was in Paramartha, and the Great Wheel was Anupadaka?4
Paramartha is the name of another esoteric treatise said to belong to the same series as the Stanzas and the Voice of the Silence:
Together with the great mystic work called Paramartha, which, the legend of Nagarjuna tells us, was delivered to the great Arhat by the Nagas or "Serpents" (in truth a name given to the ancient Initiates), the "Book of the Golden Precepts" claims the same origin.5
The term is one of crucial importance in the Madhyamika school of Buddhism, and is defined in the Secret Doctrine as "Absolute Being and Consciousness, which are Absolute Non-Being and Unconsciousness."6
Krishnamurti, speaking in a more contemporary style, clarified (italics added) this matter of Absolute Being, which is Absolute Non-Being, when he pointed out that
The essence of thought is that state when thought is not. However deeply and widely thought is pursued, thought will always remain shallow, superficial. The ending of thought is negation and what is negative has no positive way; there is no method, no system to end thought. The method, the system is a positive approach to negation and thus thought can never find the essence of itself. It must cease for the essence to be. The essence of being is non-being, and to "see" the depth of non-being, there must be freedom from becoming.7
HPB explains further in her commentary, using a language denuded of the Hegelian terms invariably employed in the Secret Doctrine (perhaps to enhance acceptance by her Victorian audience). She says that
"Paramarthasatya" is self-consciousness, Svasamvedana, or self-analyzing reflection--from parama, above everything, and artha, comprehension--satya meaning absolute true being, or esse.8
If HPB's commentary to verse nine of the first stanza is read carefully, it will be seen that the subject matter of the whole stanza, clearly, is not altogether the creation of the universe in the conventional sense, as every single commentary on the Secret Doctrine takes for granted. Rather, and reading it with the psychological key in mind--instead of with the metaphysical, as has been done in the past--this text is dealing primarily with states of awareness that are possible only for a very accomplished adept. It is said there (italics added) that
Alaya is the Soul of the World of Anima Mundi--the Over-Soul of Emerson--which according to esoteric teaching changes its nature periodically. Alaya, though eternal and changeless in its inner essence on the planes which are unreachable by either men or cosmic gods (DhyaniBuddhas), changes during the active life-period with respect to the lower planes, ours included. During that time not only the Dhyani-Buddhas are one with Alaya in Soul and Essense, but even the man strong in Yoga (Mystic Meditation) "is able to merge his soul with it," as Aryasanga, of the Yogacharya school, says. This is not Nirvana, but a condition next to it.9
The real nature of space, and the seriousness of the difficulties implied in speaking about this subject without the proper perspective in one's daily life (as is routinely done by metaphysicians), is again clearly spelled out by Krishnamurti:
Thought cannot conceive or formulate to itself the nature of space. Whatever it formulates has within it the limitation of its own boundaries. This is not the space which meditation comes upon. Thought has always a horizon. The meditative mind has no horizon. The mind cannot go from the limited to the immense, nor can it transform the limited into the limitless. The one has to cease for the other to be. Meditation is opening the door into spaciousness which cannot be imagined or speculated upon. Thought is the center round which there is the space of idea, and this space can be expanded by further ideas. But such expansion through stimulation in any form is not the spaciousness in which there is no center. Meditation is the understanding of this center and so going beyond it. Silence and spaciousness go together. The immensity of silence is the immensity of the mind in which a center does not exist. The perception of this space and silence is not of thought. Thought can perceive only its own projection, and the recognition of it is its own frontier.10