There are two basic ways to view the universe—the spiritual and the materialistic. A spiritual person sees that a divine consciousness creates the world, while the materialist feels that matter is the fundamental reality. While the second viewpoint has to admit that such a thing as consciousness exists—“at least I’m conscious and maybe a couple of my friends” (laughter)—it assumes that awareness arises from material causes.

Although these two viewpoints may seem like only a philosophical quibble, they produce completely different relationships with the world. The first cherishes everything as being alive, aware, and ultimately a divine expression of the Infinite. The other treats the world as inert, dead, and separate from one’s self.

The current thinking among most scientists is that life evolves from merely the right combination of chemicals or the union of male and female cells. Materialists seek to understand life from the outside in, searching for a mechanism by which unconscious matter can become living. They even hope that with the right combination of chemicals they’ll be able to create life in the laboratory.

Effects of seeing everything as matter

Seeing everything as matter based, however, creates an increasing sense of separation between the materialist and the world around. Things—even people—tend to be seen as insensate, open to manipulation. Materialists don’t feel a deep and universal connection with the world around them. The result is violence to the earth, exploitation of “lesser” life forms, and a disregard for the needs of others.

The materialist, thinking he is being logical, emphasizes the differences between things. He sees how animals are unequal to humans, how this person is different from him, or how another culture or race is unlike his. Once something is perceived as “different,” it is easy to feel alienated from it. When the physical world is seen as only inert matter it becomes ripe for abuse.

The feelings of one who lives solely from their egoic center become deadened and he thinks, “Only I and my needs are truly important.” Conflict is the inevitable result. An extreme, although humorous example was in the movie, “Dr. Strangelove” where the right and left sides of the title character’s body were at war with one another.

Seeing the Divine behind creation

The other point of view is the direct opposite, and growing numbers see a divine creator behind everything in creation. They realize that the primal cause of this world is consciousness and that the entire universe is simply an extension of the Creator.

Yogananda wrote, “The only difference between consciousness and matter, mind and body, is rate of vibration. The Creator first stirred His still Spirit with the motion of thoughts; thus God the Father’s first projection of creation was cosmic intelligent motion, or vibration of thought. This motion became stronger and grosser until it changed outwardly and manifested as cosmic light and cosmic sound (registered in the human body as the visible spiritual eye and the audible cosmic sound of Aum or Amen). The vibration of the conscious cosmic energy became progressively more gross, until it began to manifest as divine, semi-intelligent, instinctively guided electronic energy, and finally as the still grosser forms of gaseous, liquid. and solid energy.”

Why matter looks “real”

When God’s consciousness vibrates at the right frequency it “fools” our senses into thinking that this world is solid. It’s not solid at all, but our eyes, ears, and other senses are “tuned” to perceive it that way. If our senses were tuned differently, we would perceive things very differently. We could, like an x-ray device, be able see through solid objects. If we were sensitive enough we might even see the molecules moving in the air and hear the song of spinning electrons. And if we were more sensitive yet, we would perceive the energy and consciousness that produces the atoms. That’s what a Self-realized master does.

When you trace outward appearances back to their source, you see that nothing is really separate from anything else. Everything is inter-connected because it all springs from the same consciousness. The meditator begins to see the world as a linked web extending out from his own self. This self-expansion is innately joyful and also helps him form deeper, more fulfilling relationships with everything around him. Seeing other people, plants, animals, everything as interconnected produces a life very different from one based upon the separation and conflict of the materialist.

See everything as living and conscious

The universe reflects our attitudes back to us. If we see everything as being part of our own greater reality, the universe will respond to us with harmony and kindliness. The world will become our friend. How many of you have a tree or a plant that feels special to you? Outside our bedroom window, Devi and I have a friend, who happens to be a beautiful, tall, vibrant ponderosa pine. Often I try to commune with our tree as I awake in the morning. I’ll silently send it appreciation, and I intuitively feel that the tree feeds us energy in return. It feels like a guardian spirit.

Try also to see your work as being alive and conscious. If you do, you’ll begin to relate to it differently. I remember hearing about a conversation between two famous mathematicians, one of whom was dying. The visiting friend, by way of conversation, repeated the number of a license plate he had seen on his way. The man on his deathbed, said, “Ah, what a beautiful number. That is the largest number of a family of prime numbers.” He saw numbers as living individuals, having families and relatives, all interacting together in an intricate dance. To him, numbers were alive and beautiful.

If you live this way, as if everything were living and conscious, then the world will come alive for you. Numbers will be alive. Colors will communicate. My parents were architects, and they helped me to appreciate that space is a living thing. In a beautiful building, the space is harmonious and uplifting, the proportions feel good. When you go into places that haven’t been designed sensitively, you can feel a sort of deadness that can pull your energy down.

Communing with the Divine

When you appreciate the world around you and behave toward it as if it were alive, things will silently speak to you. There are numerous stories of saints and others communing with animals and plants. It would be an enormous step forward for mankind if people could begin to live this way.

But for the yogi, a further step yet is demanded. We must see behind the plant, animal or the rock to the consciousness that has produced it and given it life. Going back into the source is specifically what the science of yoga is all about.

Swami Kriyananda says in his new book, The Promise of Immortality, “The inner perception of that consciousness is done through communing with the vibration that produces it. And that vibration is heard as sound or is seen inwardly as light.” The techniques of yoga allow us to hear the inner sound of AUM and see the inner light at the spiritual eye. In deep stillness we see that our ego is only a bubble on the bosom of the infinite sea.

We are profoundly changed when we realize that the divine consciousness has produced us. Eventually we shift our sense of identity from the ego, which perceives itself as separate, to the soul, which sees only unity. And we begin to live differently. We begin to live in a bubble of joy and harmony.

Excerpted from a lecture based upon Chapter 2, “What Is the Source of Life,” of Swami Kriyananda’s current book-in-progress, The Promise of Immortality.


  1. Spirituality teaches us to be selfless; materialism teaches us to selfish.

  2. Positive changes always come from new ideas which in turn are instrumental in the creation of positive things.

    SPIRITUALITY IS never negative and is fathomless . It has a power which not everyone can handle.

    In materialism , whatever you have any one has the potential to have.

    But what you are spiritually no one can be.

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