Inadequacy of human symbolization
We may argue about everything except Truth. Even the very best argument can produce only another thought at the end. For Truth can be expressed in words, spoken or written, only by bringing it down to the level of intellect, whereas on its own level as being knowledge of the Real it transcends intellect. Any thought of the Real merely makes an object of it, one among a multitude of other objects, and hence fails to arrive at it.
It is impossible to think of the Pure Self without making it an idea, that is, an object, and therefore without missing it.
God is neither to be looked upon with human eyes nor comprehended with human intellect. For the eyes see only things and the intellect takes hold only of thoughts.
Absolute Being is neither analysable nor measurable, neither imaginable nor weighable.
If the Real is unique, if it has no duplicate, nothing inferior to it can make it an object of experience. The ego, the self which sets out to do so, cannot come closer than getting its own personal reactions, however rarefied these may be and however uncommon these mystic experiences are.
What the Godhead is we do not know. The nature and the structure of the Grand Mystery are beyond all human investigation. We cannot describe it correctly or name it accurately. We can only observe some of its workings and effects in our individual selves and in the universe.
The Infinite Reality cannot be reasoned with, but only reasoned about. It cannot even be adequately symbolized, for regarding it as a mental image, a pictured thought is only a more refined form of idol-worship. It can only be designated. The true Godhead is unconditioned, formless, not picturable. No individual worship can reach what is utterly beyond all individual existence. No name can be given that will properly stand for what is without attributes and without limitations. In the ultimate reality there are and can be no distinctions and no differences, no grades and no change.
The utter incomprehensibility of the ultimate Source makes it impossible for any religion to offer more than its own symbols to the human mind. From them man creates his own mental pictures. But he does not and cannot touch the Untouchable.
God is unpicturable by human imagination, truth is unattainable by human thinking. There is a grand mystery at the heart of things. Why then degrade the Unique by confounding its symbols or traditions (in all religions) with its reality?
If, remembering the infinitude of the Ultimate Reality, we refuse to personify it and refuse to worship such a personification, we lift ourselves from the exclusively religious to the integrally religio-mystical-philosophic standpoint.
In ancient Mexico, the Highest Godhead was "the Idea that could not be reproduced" and no personification or representation of it of any kind was allowed. But this was doctrine only for the upper classes and the intellectually cultivated. The masses were given a God who was visible and comprehensible.
The ultimate reality cannot be represented with any fidelity nor can the ultimate truth be communicated with any accuracy.
Let no one confuse this grand concept of the Absolute, the Unbounded, the Timeless, with the lesser concept of a God made in a semi-human image.
We may not personalize the Absolute except at the terrible cost of utterly deceiving ourselves.
Just as Islam allows no portrait, no graven image to represent the man Muhammed; just as Buddha forbade any figure of himself to be made or used (a prohibition disobeyed after a century or two); just as the Jews were willing to be executed rather than to allow Caesarian deificatory effigies newly brought to Jerusalem to be displayed, so philosophy holds that no words can ever describe, no concept ever express, no human leader ever incarnate the ineffable truth, and that all assertions to the contrary merely defile truth. IT cannot be confined.
It is totally incommunicable, but thoughts about it can be communicated in words or formed into pictures.
So far as truth can appear in words, this is so. But on the ultimate level, this is but an echo of an echo infinitely multiplied.
It is merely a statement about reality, but it is not reality itself. It is a sound in the air (if voiced) or a mark on paper (if printed) but not truth.
Nothing that words could say could give any proper description of That Which Is, for it belongs to a totally different dimension. So this is God, or more correctly, as near as man can get to God.
No one can describe the Absolute, or speak on its behalf, for that would impose his human consciousness upon it and merely create a private imagination about it.
The Real cannot be put under any label or classification because it is what it is of itself. Yet it pervades all things.
We must separate, in our human thought, Mind as passive reality (the void) from Mind as active being (World-Mind). All our understanding and interpretation of such words as are affixed to this state, be they Overself, Divine Being, Absolute, or Reality, is inevitably drawn from, and associated with, our experience in the world of time-space and relativity. It is what these words mean for our minds, not what they mean in themselves, that constitutes our use of them. We easily fall into self-deception about them, for the meaning given them is what we imagine, not what we know.
Being especially above all relationships and contrasts that the intellect can make or the imagination can create, it cannot rightly be called "The One" as it so often has been, for that implies that a second or a third entity of the same kind could be added to it, which is false. The intellect may attempt the task during its highest flights, but in the end what does it produce? Only more thoughts!
This is the Godhead, of which, in nearly all the ancient religious Mysteries, lawfully man may make no image and to which he may give no name.
Why is it that Lao Tzu wrote the Tao cannot be named? Simply because all names attached to it and all descriptions made of it cannot help being incomplete.
Each word which can be used for the first goal tells of some particular aspect, be it knowledge, awakening, or enlightenment. Beyond that incomplete description words cannot go, except negatively.
The last thought that intelligence can make is about this divine mystery which lies beyond everything thinkable: but it will necessarily have to be a negative thought, that is, it can only say what the Godhead is not, deny any and every affirmation about it, unknow all that it has previously known about God.
Every attempt at understanding the Great Mystery, and very much more at representing it, merely leads to self-deception.
It is not only the Uncontradictable, but also the Unapproachable.
We may ascribe no attributes to Mind nor confine it within any limitations.
The great mysterious emptiness--that is all man can know of God.
Although nothing can be written about IT that is truly descriptive, everything can be written about what leads up to the revelation of IT; that can be written with precision and luminosity. The inside must forever elude words, but the outside need not. The greatest of questions, "What is Truth?" is answered best by Silence; this answer is inherent in the question. Metaphysics and poetry may provide a medium for clues and hints, symbols and images.
To say what the Absolute is not, to describe it in negatives, is correct so far as it goes but is not so satisfactory. The terms Void or Space, being more positive, are even better.
Space is a good metaphor for Mind. In one aspect it is bounded, in another it is infinite. Mind also is static and dynamic, still and active, within universes yet transcending them all.
What Tibetan Buddhism used as a symbol of the Infinite Being, medieval Christian theology used for the same idea--the circle.
Where is the man who has ever known the unknowable and indescribable Supreme Godhead? For all men came into existence after it already was there. But whoever receives knowledge by tradition, investigation, or intuition, by meditation, revelation, or even by science leading into metaphysics, by art or poetry or literature, may acquire the tremendous certitude that it is there. More--it must always have been there.
That which transcends even the highest of the gods, even World-Mind, is unthinkable and unimaginable. Therefore is it without name or form, beyond all contact with the senses, beginningless and endless, neither growing nor diminishing, indestructible, free from any relations or comparisons--this is the Undefinable Mystery of Mysteries. Let no one seek it, for he cannot find IT. But he can know that it is there and, through its manifestations, the Gods, worship IT.
All human explanation of the nature of Mind, as all human expositions of the working of the World-Mind, are limited forms of language. This cannot be helped, for "that which can be named is not the Tao," as a Chinese sage affirmed. It is outside time in a Now beyond the successive character of human thinking and incomprehensible to it. Yet intellect, though it cannot enter this Grand Mystery, can at its most brilliant perception infer that it is.
Try as it might, the finite thinking mind cannot break through this sound-barrier of mystery which surrounds the Unique Being, That which is ever the same. All thoughts simply pile up, leaving the last one unanswered, if not unanswerable, or else ending in an involved labyrinth from which there is no outlet. IT cannot be investigated, but the fact of its necessary existence can be stated more emphatically than can any other of the innumerable or observable facts.
In the end he will have to confess, as the English hermit Richard Rolle confessed six hundred years ago, despite his deep mystical experiences, that it is not possible to know what God is but only that he is.
When the last words have been uttered, the final sentences written down; when the sermons, books, and articles have exhausted all that human intellect and human intuition can explain, suggest, or hint; when the profoundest mystical experience has yielded all that it could reveal, there will still remain an awed feeling before the Grand Mystery that is God, a tremendous humility before Its unknowableness.
Because there is nothing quite like it in human experience and because there is no opposite in the entire cosmos from which it can be differentiated, the Absolute Being remains utterly incomprehensible to the human intellect.
The mystery of That Which Is baffles not only the comprehension of the ordinary mind but also that of the philosophic mind.
There is an abyss which no human can cross, a mystery which remains utterly impenetrable to him. This is the transcendent Godhead.
We can know as much, and as little, of God as the wave dashing against the Californian coastline can know of the immense ocean stretching so many thousand miles to the Australian shore: such is human insignificance in relation to that activity of God which is directed to this universe. But in relation to that non-activity which is God-in-itself, at rest, we can know absolutely nothing. For here is Being without end, Mind without individualization of any kind, and Life without any bottom or top to it.
The Unfathomable Mystery of Mind will always remain.
Despite all the absurd claims to the contrary, no one has ever interpreted to us the great Mystery of mysteries, the Godhead behind the God active in the universe.
The absoluteness of the Godhead is complete and basic. It is not categorically identical with man any more than the ray is with the sun; they are different although not more fundamentally different than the ray from the sun. Hence there can be no direct communication and no positive relationship between them. A profound impenetrability, an existence beyond comprehension, is the first characteristic of the Godhead, when gazed at by human sight.
The Godhead as he is, and God as he appears; God in the vacuous repose of Nothingness, and God in the continuous activity of a cosmos; God forever hidden in his own being and forever unknown to mortals, and God revealed in relation to man; THAT which is not perceptible to human thinking as opposed to HE who is experienceable by intuition--these differences seem to imply an inherent contradiction. Those attractive and positive attributes which we always associate with the very name God--justice, goodness, and the like--cannot be associated with the Godhead for the reason that nobody, not the greatest of mystics, knows or ever can know the Godhead.
If man is made in the image of God, then this God is something other than the Ultimate Principle, for THAT has no likeness with anything else; it is a void, a no-thing, and so utterly beyond human perception that it is destined to remain forever unknown.
Neither the practice of yoga nor the reflection of metaphysics is alone adequate to comprehend the Real. Neither can inner peace affirm it nor can intellect negate it.
Not for the finite mind is there to be knowledge of Ein Soph, the Hebrew philosopher's idea of the Infinite, what he terms "the Most Hidden of the Hidden."
Leave God alone! Why must men forever bleat and whimper, praise and glorify That of which they know nothing and imagine everything! Why don't they write and fight, argue and quarrel about those things which they can touch or know, see or examine?
There is no discernible sign, form, or clue by which the Absolute, the Unmanifest, may be known. It is wrapped in blackness, which is why the Manifested World is symbolized by light, why its colour is white when contrasted with the other.
The great Mystery remains where it always has been--untouched by man's feelings and undefined by his thoughts.
Human mentality cannot comprehend the real nature of this mysterious substratum of all existence. Human understanding cannot assimilate that which utterly transcends it.
It is not a testable truth; it must be left the mystery that it is.
Reporting, nonetheless, has value
If, out of the Silent Mind, words come forth to affirm the consciousness of Consciousness, let it be known that the truth never dies but springs back to life again. We should be glad, enormously happy, that it is so.
Philosophy understands sympathetically but does not agree practically with the Buddha's consistent refusal to explain the ultimate realization. His counsel to disciples was: "What word is there to be sent from a region where the chariot of speech finds no track on which to go? Therefore to their questionings offer them silence only."
It is certainly hard to capture this transcendental indefinable experience in prosaic pen-and-ink notes. But is it really so impossible for the initiate to break his silence and voice his knowledge in some dim finited adumbration of the Infinite? To confess that intellectually we know nothing and can know nothing about the Absolute is understandable. But to say that therefore we should leave its existence entirely out of our intellectual world-view, is not. For although the exact definition and direct explanation of words are unable to catch the whole of this subtle experience within their receiving range because they are turned into ordinary human intellectual emotional and physical experience, they may nevertheless evoke an intuitive recognition of its beauty; they may suggest to sensitive minds a hint of its worth and they may arouse the first aspiration towards its attainment for oneself.
Why if this state transcends thinking, whether in words or pictures, have so many mystics nevertheless written so much about it? That they have protested at the same time the impossibility of describing the highest levels of their experience does not alter this curious fact. The answer to our question is that to have kept completely silent and not to have revealed that such a unique experience is possible and that such a supreme reality is existent would have been to have left their less fortunate fellow men in utter ignorance of an immensely important truth about human life and destiny. But to have left some record behind them, even if it would only hint at what it could not adequately describe, would be to have left some light in the darkness. And even though an intellectual statement of a super-intellectual fact is only like an indirect and reflected light, nevertheless it is better than having no light at all.
So long as men feel the need to converse with other men on this subject, so long as masters seek to instruct disciples in it, and so long as fortunate seers recognize the duty to leave some record--even if it be an imperfect one--of their enlightenment behind them for unfortunate humanity, so long will the silence have to be broken, despite Buddha, and the lost word uttered anew.
It is the topic most worth writing about yet least understood. Whoever has entered into a partial understanding--it would be too much to demand more--of it, bears some responsibility. He must communicate with his fellows.
There was one question which Jesus left unanswered. It was Pontius Pilate's "What is truth?" There was one question which Buddha heard several times but always refused to answer. It was "What is Reality?" Since truth is the knowledge of reality, both amount to the same.
The poverty and limitation of human language in this matter, however rich in most other references, makes it necessary to warn the users and readers of words to be careful here. There can only be clues, hints, traces.
What can a writer do when confronted with the work of describing the Transcendental except make allusions to it, provide clues which must be followed up by the reader himself, and affirm that it IS?
The mystic who tries to give utterance, which is an intellectual act, to that which is itself unutterable, because it transcends intellect, must be understood suggestively and not literally.
Because the Real is beyond the thinking intellect's grasp, it cannot be formulated into ideas. Yet because we need signposts and a goal to give guidance and direction, we must tentatively and provisionally formulate it.
When the Chinese sages were confronted with the need of telling others what their insight revealed, they said that anything communicated could be affirmed in one way or negated in another, and that therefore it would be quite incorrect. For behind Nature, or as they called it "at the Head," was Mystery beyond all knowing, all thinking, all describing, absolute Being beyond all relativity, that was also Non-Being.
All evaluative theories, opinions, judgements, interpretations are assemblages of thoughts. Insofar as religious theories depart from or lack direct insight into the Real, into what is, they are mere thoughts. Where these thoughts enter into the recording, or the communication, of the result of such insight they colour it, add to it, adulterate it. It is when the person attempts to report the Impersonal that this danger exists.
Do not attempt to describe what God is, for whatever you say would limit God, who would then become something inferior to God. This is why Hebrew and Hindu bible alike say he is the Nameless One. But you may describe what God is not, you may draw illustrations from human mind, capacity, and character to suggest what some aspect of God may be like in a quite different degree and way.
Once, when the Buddha was at Savatthi, a Brahmin came into the presence of the Exalted One, exchanged greetings, and spake thus: "What think you, Bho Gotama--Everything is?" "Everything is, that Brahmin, is the chief world superstition." "Then indeed, Bho Gotama, nothing is?" "Nothing is, that Brahmin, is the second world superstition." "What think you, Bho Gotama--Everything is a unity?" "Everything is a unity, that Brahmin, is the third world superstition." "Then, indeed, Bho Gotama--everything is a plurality?" "Everything is a plurality, that Brahmin, is the fourth world superstition."
Some of the seers even call it blasphemy to proclaim or write down a description of the Supreme Divinity. By this they mean that the mind cannot bring Truth into any limited thought, so a description would be false. The most appropriate act is silent awestruck reverence.
Words circumscribe meaning, confine it by the very act of defining it. But the Real is infinite, outside all circumscription and beyond all inclusion. If you must express it, you may do so correctly only by silence. But it is essentially inexpressible.
Concepts, thoughts, and words would bring him down from the plane of Being to that of thinking, which would not only be a descent but also a falsification at worst, or a deformation at best.
The man who really believes that he can explain nothing of the highest truth to any other man ought to follow his theory into practice. He ought to write nothing and speak nothing about it, create nothing artistically to suggest it. In short, he ought to act as if it does not exist.
It is a fundamental error to turn the pure mind into an object of experience in an attempt to reach comprehension. Mind can know everything else and is the inescapable condition of every experience, for by its light every object and every event is revealed, but it cannot itself be known in the same way that we know everything else. Ordinarily there is a knower and a known, and mind would have to transcend such a relation were it to become aware of itself, which means that it would have to transcend thinking itself. Mind itself produces the categories of time, space, and cause which make world experience possible and knowable--that is, thinkable--which is why it cannot be grasped in the same way. The nature of mind is unique, and before its sublime verity speech trembles into silence.
In affirming that the One alone exists, they imply their own existence. The affirmation points to someone who affirms, so he must be added to the One, making Two. The more they prattle about the One, the more they proclaim, by inference, the Two.
We may perceive how the highest truth turns all lesser doctrines into illusions and yet admits their validity on their own level.
There is a beauty in the infinite reality which outshines whatever beauty there is in the imaginative phantasy.
"With the lamp of Word one must go beyond Word."--Lankavatara Sutra
Reality reveals itself through Overself
The chasm between the Real and man seems entirely impassable. The intellect is conditioned by its own finitude, by its particular set of space and time perceptions. It is unable to function where absolutes alone reign. The infinite eternal and absolute existence eludes the grasp of man's logical thought. He may form mental pictures of it but at best they will be as far off from it as a photograph is far off from flesh and blood. Idea-worship is idol-worship. Everything else is an object of knowledge, experienced in a certain way by ourself as the knower of it; but the Infinite Real cannot be an object of anyone's knowledge simply because it cannot be conditioned in any way whatsoever. It is absolute. If it is to be known to all it must therefore be in a totally different way from that of ordinary experience. It is as inaccessible to psychic experience as it is impenetrable by thought and feeling. But although we may not directly know Reality, we may know that it is, and that in some mysterious way the whole cosmic existence roots from it. Thus whichever way man turns he, the finite creature, finds the door closed upon his face. The Infinite and Absolute Essence is forever beyond his vision, unreachable by his knowing capacity and inaccessible to his experience, and will forever remain so. The point is so subtle that, unless its development is expressed with great care here, it is likely to be misunderstood. Although man must pause here and say, with Socrates, "None knoweth save God only"--for with this conception he has gone as far as human thought can grasp such mysteries--nevertheless he may know that the seers have not invented an imaginary Reality. He has neither been left alone in his mortality nor abandoned utterly to his finitude. The mysterious Godhead has provided a witness to its sacred existence, a Deputy to evidence its secret rulership. And that Witness and Deputy can be found for it sits imperishable in the very heart of man himself. It is indeed his true self, his immortal soul, his Overself. Although the ultimate principle is said to be inconceivable and unknowable, this is so only in relation to man's ordinary intellect and physical senses. It is not so in relation to a faculty in him which is still potential and unevolved--insight. If it be true that even no adept has ever seen the mysterious absolute, it is also true that he has seen the way it manifests its presence through something intimately emanated from it. If the nameless formless Void from which all things spring up and into which they go back is a world so subtle that it is not really intellectually understandable and so mysterious that it is not even mystically experienceable, we may however experience the strange atmosphere emanating from it, the unearthly aura signifying its hidden presence.
Although God is inaccessible to man, man is not inaccessible to God. [Note attached to para reads, PB: Use above as the basic principle of Agnostic Mysticism in former class XIII.]
When we seek comprehension of that aspect of the Overself where there is no universe at all, no activity, no ideation, we seem to enter a great void, an utter no-thingness. The "I" cannot breathe in this rarefied atmosphere. And yet it would be the supreme illusion in a world of illusions to regard this void as the abode of unreality.
No object in the universe corresponds to the Overself; therefore we are forced to term it "The Void," but the existence of all objects is only explained by its own.
We may fittingly compare the Overself with any catalytic agent of chemistry which, unaltered itself, activates other substances by its presence. We may carry the comparison further and point out that just as the catalyst is ultimately a product of the same primal stuff as these substances, however different they appear to be, so the thoughts and things whose play constitutes the universe are ultimately of the same primal essence as the Overself.
This is passive Mind or pure Being, the First, the Unconditioned Origin of all, the Inconceivable and Unknowable. It is beyond the capacity of any individual entity to penetrate this mystery of mysteries and still remain an individual. A mediating principle is necessary. This exists in the Overself, in man's higher self, which is nothing less than a germ of that same infinite life. If this were not present in man, not only would mystical experience be impossible for him but all religious intuition would be mythical to him.
"I and the Father are One," said Jesus. The student asks why the individual should not therefore know the One as oneself? The saying of Jesus presuppposes duality and difference, which explains why the awareness such a student seeks does not exist; it can come only after all duality disappears--even that mystical monism which seems to have transcended duality but has not really. The theosophy of The Secret Doctrine does not reach the height of the doctrine of Nonduality. That is quite all right because it purported to be only a "fragment" of the truth. H.P.Blavatsky wrote that the Causeless Cause, as she termed it, the Absolute, was unknowable and that seekers could reach only to the Logos. Dr. Brunton does not teach that. If all else but the Absolute is illusory (including the Logos) then the path is not worthwhile because truth is unattainable. This philosophy says that Truth is attainable and the so-called Absolute can be realized by man. Some theosophic studies will help in the understanding of the teachings of this path, while others will bring the student's mind into direct conflict with them. He will have to decide for himself whether to give his loyalty to the one or the other, but this doctrine cannot be mixed with any other save at the risk of diluting its truth. This path is based solely on the appeal to reason, never to belief, whereas there are many items of theosophy which no one can prove.
Wang Yang-ming and Chou Tun-Yi taught a metaphysic which made "Principle" the Real, the Unique and the Absolute, the ground of all being and existence: they taught that man's nature was aligned with Principle but he had to find his way to this consciousness: they taught that he has the capacity but must realize it, to think and live in goodness, sincerity; finally that the truth, being innate in him, could be found by intuiting it.
To say that the ultimate Reality is utterly unknowable is quite correct from the standpoint of the actual human situation involving ordinary and familiar instruments of knowledge, namely, the body's senses and the mind's reasonings. But it is not quite correct from the standpoint of possible human attainment. What neither sense nor intellect can find, a third and higher faculty, now latent, may find. This is the faculty of insight.
This is the wordless and pictureless discovery that insight reveals and intelligence confirms. This is the beautiful source of all life and unfailing sustainer of all beings.
It is a wisdom-knowledge which is no mere intellectual abstraction but a truly living, deeply felt, and mystically experienced evolution discovery or event--call it as you wish.
They are all aware of relative truths concerning this realm of human affairs, but very few are aware of the relativity itself which limits them. The basis of unchanging verities can only be gnosis, the deepest kind of perception, the final awareness of mind's absolute experience which swallows up the knower himself by carrying him outside time. This is rarely taught in religion.
The inability of little man to enter into the knowledge of transcendent God does not doom him to perpetual ignorance. For God, being present in all things, is present in him too. The flame is still in the spark. Here is his hope and chance. Just as he knows his own personal identity, so God knows God in him as the Overself. This divine knowing is continually going on, whether he is awake or asleep, whether he is an atheist or a saint. He can share in it too, but only by consenting to submit his intellect to his intuition. This is not an arbitrary condition imposed by theocratic whim but one which inheres in the very nature of the knowing processes. By accepting it, he may put the whole matter to the test and learn for himself, in due time, his other nonpersonal identity.
The divine essence is Unknowable to the finite intellect, but knowable, in a certain sense, by the deepest intuition. And this sense can arise to the man previously prepared by instruction and purification, or by studied knowledge and purification, if he puts away thoughts, even those about the essence, or lets them lapse of their own accord, and awaits its self-disclosure patiently, reverently, lovingly--three conditions of high importance.
The Godhead is too far beyond man's conception, experience, and knowledge; the Absolute cannot be comprehended by his finite capacity. It is indeed the Unknowable. Now metaphysical ideas must be metaphysically understood. If they are understood sensuously or physically, or if an eternal principle is replaced by a historical person, truth is turned to idolatry. Those who are able to hold such a lofty conception of its fleshly appearance as an Incarnation cannot cramp it into the little box of human individuality. Any prophet who makes such a claim repeatedly is merely emphasizing his person at the cost of his Overself, is glorifying his little self rather than the Infinite whose messenger he claims to be. The man who understands his own limitations and the Absolute's lack of them will never claim equality with it. Such a man will never ask others to show him the reverence which they ought to show to the pure spirit nor to give him the allegiance which they ought to give to God. Whereas nearly all popular religions set up as an intermediary between It and us "The Divinely Incarnate Prophet" or else "The Son of God," philosophy depersonalizes it and sets up instead the true self, the divine soul in man. For even the prophets and avatars whom the divine Godhead sends down to mankind are sent not only to teach them that this Absolute exists but also to direct them towards the realization of their own true inner self. The true self will then reflect as much of the divine as it is able to, but it can never exhaust it. It is the Overself and, through the threefold path, is Knowable. In the Unique Godhead, ever mysterious in its unmanifested self-existence, there rises and sets, like the sun's light, the manifested World-Mind, in which--in its turn--there rises and sets all this wonderful cosmos of which it is the very soul. The first is forever beyond man but the second is always accessible to man as the Overself within him.
We cannot know it as it is but only can know that the creative God could not have been there if IT had not been there first. We cannot give it any name for no picture, no concept, no thinkable nature is within our apprehension concerning IT. At the enunciation of its mere possibility we are hushed into silence, struck dumb. Let us retreat, then, into territory where a contact is possible, where GOD and MAN may meet.
This is the Great Aloneness, where no other living creature may intrude--no matter who--where man and God mingle.
When we, human beings, through our most enlightened representatives, look for the highest principle of being, life, existence, consciousness--the Supreme Power, the Origin of all Substance, the ultimate Deity, in fact--we find It is one and the same thing looked at from different human standpoints. It is nameless but we may call it, Mind. There is no point where we can come into contact with It for It transcends everything, every human capacity. When we look for It in relation to the universe which includes us, we may call It World-Mind, or in religious terminology, God. Here there is real possibility of a contact, for in our innermost self the connection is already there.
Let us not deceive ourselves and dishonour the Supreme Being by thinking that we know anything at all about IT. We know nothing. The intellect may formulate conceptions, the intuition may give glimpses, but these are our human reactions to IT. Even the sage, who has attained a harmony with his Overself, has found only the godlike within himself. Yes, it is certainly the Light, but it is so for him, for the human being. He still stands as much outside the divine Mystery as everyone else. The difference is that whereas they stand in darkness he stands in this Light.
Philosophic meditation will show him that his own existence is rooted in that of a higher power, while philosophic study will explain some of the laws governing his experiences from birth to death. But at the bottom of existence and experience is ineffable incomprehensible Mystery.
Neither the senses nor the intellect can tell us anything about the intrinsic nature of this Infinite Mind. Nevertheless we are not left in total ignorance about it. From its manifestation, the cosmos, we may catch a hint of its Intelligence. From its emanation, the soul, we may catch more than a hint of its Beneficence. "More than," I say, because the emanation may be felt within us as our very being whereas the manifestation is outside us and is apart.(p. 383)
After the last sermon has been preached, the last book written, Mind remains the Mystery behind all mysteries. Thought cannot conceive It, imagination picture It, nor language express It. The greatest mystic's experience is only his own personal reaction to Its atmosphere, as from a distance. Even this blows him to pieces like a bomb, but the fact that he can collect them together again afterwards shows that it must have been present in some inexplicable supernormal way and was not lost, both to continue existence and to remember the event.
Meditations on Mind
The topic with which all such metaphysical thinking should end after it has pondered on mentalism is that out of which the thinking principle itself arises--Mind--and it should be considered under its aspect as the one reality. When this intellectual understanding is brought within one's own experience as fact, when it is made as much one's own as a bodily pain, then it becomes direct insight. Such thinking is the most profitable and resultful in which he can engage, for it brings the student to the very portal of Mind where it stops activity by itself and where the differentiation of ideas disappears. As the mental muscles strain after this concept of the Absolute, the Ineffable and Infinite, they lose their materialist rigidity and become more sensitive to intimations from the Overself. When thinking is able to reach such a profound depth that it attains utter impersonality and calm universality, it is able to approach the fundamental principle of its own being. When hard thinking reaches a culminating point, it then voluntarily destroys itself. Such an attainment of course can take place deep within the innermost recesses of the individual`s consciousness alone.
He will arrive at the firm unshakeable conviction that there is an inward reality behind all existence. If he wishes he may go farther still and seek to translate the intellectual idea of this reality into a conscious fact. In that case the comprehension that in the quest of pure Mind he is in quest of that which is alone the Supreme Reality in this entire universe, must possess him. The mystery of Mind is a theme upon which no aspirant can ever reflect enough: first, because of its importance, and second, because of its capacity to unfold his latent spirituality. He will doubtless feel cold on these lofty peaks of thought, but in the end he will find a heavenly reward whilst still on earth. We are not saying that something of the nature of mind as we humans know it is the supreme reality of the universe, but only that it is more like that reality than anything else we know of and certainly more like it than what we usually call by the name of "matter." The simplest way to express this is to say that Reality is of the nature of our mind rather than of our body, although it is Mind transcending the familiar phases and raised to infinity. It is the ultimate being the highest state. This is the Principle which forever remains what it was and will be. It is in the universe and yet the universe is in it too. It never evolves, for it is outside time. It has no shape, for it is outside space. It is beyond man's consciousness, for it is beyond both his thoughts and sense-experience, yet all consciousness springs mysteriously out of it. Nevertheless man may enter into its knowledge, may enter into its Void, so soon as he can drop his thoughts, let go his sense-experience, but keep his sense of being. Then he may understand what Jesus meant when saying: "He that loseth his life shall find it." Such an accomplishment may appear too spectral to be of any use to his matter-of-fact generation. What is their madness will be his sanity. He will know there is reality where they think there is nothingness.
To keep this origin always at the back of one's mind because it is also the end of all things, is a necessary practice. But this can only be done if one cultivates reactionlessness to the happenings of every day. This does not mean showing no outward reaction, but it does mean that deep down indifference has been achieved--not an empty indifference, but one based on seeing the Divine essence in all things, all creatures, and a Divine meaning in all happenings.
There is only this one Mind. All else is a seeming show on its surface. To forget the ego and think of this infinite and unending reality is the highest kind of meditation.
First, remember that It is appearing as ego; then remember to think that you are It; finally cease to think of It so you may be free of thoughts to be It!
To attach oneself to a guru, an avatar, one religion, one creed, is to see the stars only. To put one's faith in the Infinite Being and in its presence within the heart, is to see the vast empty sky itself. The stars will come and go, will disintegrate and vanish, but the sky remains.
In a world of constantly changing scenes, fortunes, health, and relationships, a precious possession is the knowledge that there is the unseen Unchanging Real. Still more precious is awareness within oneself of ITS ever-presence.
In the moment that there dawns on his understanding the fact of Mind's beginninglessness and deathlessness, he gains the second illumination, the first being that of the ego's illusoriness and transiency.
Not to find the Energy of the Spirit but the Spirit itself is the ultimate goal--not its power or effects or qualities or attributes but the actuality of pure being. The aspirant is not to stop short with any of these but to push on.
He will have gone far intellectually when he can understand the statement that mind is the seeker but Mind is the sought.
He who puts his mind on the Unlimited instead of on the little parts, who does not deal with fractions but with the all-absorbing Whole, gains some of Its power.
What we need to grasp is that although our apprehension of the Real is gradual, the Real is nonetheless with us at every moment in all its radiant totality. Modern science has filled our heads with the false notion that reality is in a state of evolution, whereas it is only our mental concept of reality which is in a state of evolution.
Thinking can, ordinarily, only produce more thoughts. Even thinking about truth, about reality, however correct it be, shares this limitation. But if properly instructed it will know its place and understand the situation, with the consequence that at the proper moment it will make no further effort, and will seek to merge into meditation. When the merger is successfully completed, a holy silence will pervade the consciousness which remains. Truth will then be revealed of its own accord.
When all thoughts are gone, when all vibration, movement, or activity of the thinking faculty has ceased, then is the self-revealing possible of Mind-in-itself, of Consciousness without its states.
Where the intellect is active it creates a double result--the thought and the thinker. Where the enlightened man goes into the Stillness this duality does not appear but Consciousness remains. It contains nothing created by him. It is the Alone.
Every creature, from the most primitive amoeba up to the most intellectual man, has some kind and degree of awareness; but only the Illuminate has that toward which awareness itself is striving to attain--Consciousness.
The "Void" means void of all mental activity and productivity. It means that the notions and images of the mind have been emptied out, that all perceptions of the body and conceptions of the brain have gone.
Master Huang Po: "This Mind is here, now. But as soon as any thought arises you miss it. It is like space . . . unthinkable."
What Lao Tzu calls "the great Emptiness" is the Ultimate Being, without form, Matterless and Motionless, ineffable, and undescribable except by statements of what it is not. Those whose study can lead them to this high level must then let go of words, abandon images, representations, symbols, numberings, divisions, and dualities; must be ready to enter the Stillness.
This is what Lao Tzu meant when he advised: "Attain to the utmost Vacuity. Cling single-heartedly to Quietude."
Mentalism is the study of Mind and its product, thoughts. To separate the two, to disentangle them, is to become aware of Awareness itself. This achievement comes not by any process of intellectual activity but by the very opposite--suspending such activity. And it comes not as another idea but as extremely vivid, powerfully compelling insight.
Nothing that the mind can think into mental existence is IT.
Mind in its most unlimited sense is reality. A man can know it only by the intuitive process of being it, in the same manner in which he knows his name, which is not an intellectual process but an immediate one.
We shall never grasp that totality of being with our intellect, but we shall grasp it with the only thing capable of holding it, with Consciousness.
The awareness of It as being It is something other, and more, than the mere emptiness of mind.
God is unfathomable and unknowable. Every idea of Him is a false idea, created to satisfy our little human mental need but also sharing our finite human limitations. That is, the idea describes something about man, nothing about God. We prefer to delude ourselves with such images and idols, rather than to take off our shoes at the very remembrance of God and enter the mosque of the Silenced Mind. Here, at least, we get no untrue concepts which have to be discarded in the end. Here the awakened faint or strong intuition may get intimations godlike in quality, of THAT which must always remain incomprehensible to the intellect.
Those who look to God as a healer, or as a mother, or as a father, or as a teacher are still looking for God within the ego. They are thinking of God only in relation to themselves because their first interest is in themselves. But those who look to God in the Void, and not in any relationship or under any image or idea, really find God. Therefore they really find "the peace which passeth understanding."
All attempts to explain the inexplicable, to describe the inscrutable, to communicate the ineffable must end in failure if they begin and end in words. For then it is merely intellect talking to intellect. But let the attempts be made in the stillness, let "heart speak to heart," and the Real may reveal itself.
All talk of things being inside or outside the mind is submission to the spell of a vicious spatial metaphor. All language is applicable to things and thoughts, but not to the august infinity of mind. Here every word can be at best symbolic and at worst irrelevant, while remaining always as remote from definable meaning as unseen and unseeable universes are from our own. We have lived in illusions long enough. Let us not yield the last grand hope of man to the deceptive sway of profane words. Here there must and shall be SILENCE--serene, profound, mysterious, yet satisfying beyond all earthly satisfactions.
It is not possible for a finite human being to grasp the infinite significance of the Infinite Being, nor to gather any true idea about such Being. He can only think what It is not: otherwise he must retreat into utter silence, not merely of speech alone but also of mental imaginative and passional activity.
(a) Awareness alone is whatever it turns its attention to, seems to exist at the time: only that. If to Void then there is nothing else. If to world, then world assumes reality. (b) What is it that is aware? The thought of a point of awareness creates, gives reality at the lowest level to ego, and at the highest to Higher Self but when the thought itself is dropped there is only the One Existence, Being, in the divine Emptiness. It is therefore the Source of all life, intelligence, form. (c) The idea held becomes direct experience for the personality, the awareness becomes direct perception.
Awareness is the very nature of one's being: it is the Self.
Every man credits himself with having consciousness during the wakeful state. He never questions or disputes the fact. He does not need anyone else to tell it to him, nor does he tell it to himself. It is the surest part of his knowledge. Yet this is not a knowing which he brings into the field of awareness. It is known differently from the way other facts are known by him. This difference is that the ego is absent from the knowledge--the fact is not actually perceived.
Reason tells us that pure Thought cannot know itself because that would set up a duality which would be false if pure thought is the only real existence. But this is only reason's inability to measure what transcends itself. Although all ordinary experience confirms it, extraordinary experience refutes it.
Consciousness is the best witness to its own existence.
When we experience Mind through the senses we call it matter. When we experience it through imagination or thinking we call it idea. When we experience it as it is in its own pure being, we call it Spirit, or better, Overself.
The ultimate ``experience''
In grammar, sentences are built up basically from three things: a subject, a verb, and an object, with the subject acting upon the object through the verb. A sentence is not considered complete unless it has these three things, this relationship between the subject and the object. In metaphysics, every experience also requires a subject and an object--a person or a thing who is affected by or produces an action on a second entity. All statements about human experiences must include this subject-object relationship. Thus, in the relationship between a man and his thoughts, the man is the subject and the thoughts are the objects. In Oriental metaphysics, a similar relationship holds good--except that the subject is there called the seer, the object is called the seen, and seeing describes the relationship between the two. All existence in the time-space order as experienced by a human being necessarily has these three elements within it. There is no subject without an object, no seer without a seen plus the relationship or the action between them. They are always linked together. If however we look beyond this existence to the timeless spaceless Reality, it is obvious that there can be no such relationship therein, for it is completely nondual, the Reality which never changes, which has no second thing. We learn from mentalism that this Reality is Mind. If we are ever to find it we know that it cannot be found as if it were a second thing, with us as subject and it as object. In that sense we can never find it, but only substitutes which themselves are in duality. We have indeed to set up a search for the kind of consciousness where there is no object to be experienced and therefore where there is no subject-ego to receive the experience. Such is the unified consciousness which is none other than Mind itself. We can use this criterion not only with reference to our experiences of the world but also with reference to our inner mystical experiences and check from this on what level they really are.
Mind has no second thing to know and experience, no world. Nor can anyone know and experience Mind and yet remain an individual, a person.
When thought of the little self vanishes, even gloating thought of its spiritual rapture, and That which is behind or beyond it in utter stillness is alone felt and known, then he is said to experience "the touch of the Untouchable," as ancient sages called it.
Asparsa Yoga: The literal meaning is "non-touching" or, possibly, "touching the Untouchable." Everything is either related to, or in contact with, something else, that is, in touch with it. But in the state of Asparsa there is no such possibility because the nondual Brahman is alone acknowledged, THAT which is uncontacted by anything.
If you believe that you have had the ultimate experience, it is more likely that you had an emotional, or mental, or mystic one. The authentic thing does not enter consciousness. You do not know that it has transpired. You discover it is already here only by looking back at what you were and contrasting it with what you now are; or when others recognize it in you and draw attention to it; or when a situation arises which throws up your real status. It is a permanent fact, not a brief mystic "glimpse."
The true union, completely authentic and completely beatific, where mind melts into Mind without the admixture of personal wish or traditional suggestion, cannot be properly described in words. For he who experiences it may know its onset or its end because of the enormous contrast with his ordinary self, but he will not know its full height simply because he will not even know that he is experiencing it. For to do so would be to re-introduce the ego again and thus fall away from the purity of the union. There would then be admixture--which is the fate of most unions.
All teachings which try to inform us what the Real is like can only honestly do so if they use negative terms: they can only say what it is not like. For where is the individual who can continue to exist in its discovery and note its nature or attributes? His limited consciousness has dissolved in the larger one. Only afterwards, when looking back at the experience, dare he say that the experience itself was ineffable but what it concerned was incomprehensible; it was luminous, but that which shone was an unseen power.
The actual experience alone can settle this argument. This is what I found: The ego vanished; the everyday "I" which the world knew and which knew the world, was no longer there. But a new and diviner individuality appeared in its place, a consciousness which could say "I AM" and which I recognized to have been my real self all along. It was not lost, merged, or dissolved: it was fully and vividly conscious that it was a point in universal Mind and so not apart from that Mind itself. Only the lower self, the false self, was gone but that was a loss for which to be immeasurably grateful.
When you speak of "an experience" you imply that first, there is an experiencer and second, there is an object of which he has an experience. That is, you refer to the realm of duality. It may be lofty, inspiring, unusual, but it is an event with a beginning and an ending; it is inside time, however variously the sense of time changes. It is not to be identified with the Real.
The ordinary person is quite incapable of penetrating the absolute. The extraordinary person--the genius--may get flashes of intuition which reflect some truths that lift him above the little self. But no one really attains the absoluteness without getting dissolved in it, without knowing and remembering nothing of it. Those who claim these "unions with God" are really describing something quite different. Too often they are overwhelmed by their experience and quite naturally take it to be outside relativity when it is in fact a higher degree of it.
The question of "I" and of self-consciousness in any form, whether universal or personal, vanishes when the truth is known because there is none then to mark out selfhood of any kind. When it is understood that the mind cannot become an object to itself, it will be understood that everything one may say about it will merely impose an illusory limitation upon it. There are not two thoughts, the ego and the universal self, to enter into relationship in the final stage.
The ocean of infinite impersonal being closes over the man's ego, and he is forever submerged in anonymity, never again to see or be seen.
The final grade of inner experience, the deepest phase of contemplation, is one where the experiencer himself disappears, the meditator vanishes, the knower no longer has an object--not even the Overself--to know for duality collapses. Because this grade is beyond the supreme "Light" experience where the Overself reveals its presence visually as a dazzling mass, shaft, ball, or ray of unearthly radiance which is seen whether the bodily eyes are open or closed, it has been called the divine darkness.
He can find the nothingness within himself only after he has evaluated the nothingness of himself. The mystery of the Great Void does not disclose itself to the smugly satisfied or the arrogantly proud or the intellectually conceited.
The truth becomes self-evident on this highest level and needs no endorsement from anything or anyone outside. It puts the searching intellect and the aspiring emotions back in their place as mere channels for its use.
Here is the most private experience anyone can have--to be alone with the Alone!
To return to the Source is to hold on until you immerse yourself in the threefold being of Time, Space, and Mind which together make the One, the Source of God.
What the Sage Plotinus called the First Principle, the One, is as high as enlightenment can bring the seeker.
In this astonishing revelation, he discovers that he himself is the seeker, the teacher, and the sought-for goal.
Without keeping steadily in view this original mentalness of things and hence their original oneness with self and Mind, the mystic must naturally get confused if not deceived by what he takes to be the opposition of Spirit and Matter. The mystic looks within, to self; the materialist looks without, to world. And each misses what the other finds. But to the philosopher neither of these is primary. He looks to that Mind of which both self and world are but manifestations and in which he finds the manifestations also. It is not enough for him to receive, as the mystic receives, fitful and occasional illuminations from periodic meditation. He relates this intellectual understanding to his further discovery got during mystical self-absorption in the Void that the reality of his own self is Mind. Back in the world once more he studies it again under this further light, confirms that the manifold world consists ultimately of mental images, conjoins with his full metaphysical understanding that it is simply Mind in manifestation, and thus comes to comprehend that it is essentially one with the same Mind which he experiences in self-absorption. Thus his insight actualizes, experiences, this Mind-in-itself as and not apart from the sensuous world whereas the mystic divides them. With insight, the sense of oneness does not destroy the sense of difference but both remain strangely present, whereas with the ordinary mystical perception each cancels the other. The myriad forms which make up the picture of this world will not disappear as an essential characteristic of reality nor will his awareness of them or his traffic with them be affected. Hence he possesses a firm and final attainment wherein he will permanently possess the insight into pure Mind even in the midst of physical sensations. He sees everything in this multitudinous world as being but the Mind itself as easily as he can see nothing, the imageless Void, as being but the Mind itself, whenever he cares to turn aside into self-absorption. He sees both the outer faces of all men and the inner depths of his own self as being but the Mind itself. Thus he experiences the unity of all existence; not intermittently but at every moment he knows the Mind as ultimate. This is the philosophic or final realization. It is as permanent as the mystic's is transient. Whatever he does or refrains from doing, whatever he experiences or fails to experience, he gives up all discriminations between reality and appearance, between truth and illusion, and lets his insight function freely as his thoughts select and cling to nothing. He experiences the miracle of undifferentiated being, the wonder of undifferenced unity. The artificial man-made frontiers melt away. He sees his fellow men as inescapably and inherently divine as they are, not merely as the mundane creatures they believe they are, so that any traces of an ascetical holier-than-thou attitude fall completely away from him.
Only after he has worked his way through different degrees of comprehension of the world whose passing his own development requires, and even after he has penetrated the mystery beyond it, does he come to the unexpected insight and attitude which frees him from both. In other words he is neither in the Void, the One, or the Many yet nor is he not in them. Truth thus becomes a triple paradox!
In the highest level there are utterly unalterable truths. They are not got by logic, worked out by intellect, or discovered by observation. They are announced. No one can know their mysterious source in the sense that we know anything else. It is unique, indescribable, and hence unnameable, unimaginable, and beyond all the forms of worship given to all other gods--nowhere to be found in place or time, history or commentary. It is more honest to let the Mystery of Mysteries remain as it is than to repeat ancient portrayals or create new ones--all the labour of the human ego's trivial or even misleading ideation. Within that silent seeming void, which is as near as most are likely to come, they may be pacified, content, perhaps even dissolved during those utterly surrendered lapses.