Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation homepage > Notebooks of Paul Brunton > Perspectives > Chapter 22: Inspiration and the Overself
Inspiration and the Overself
The concept of the Overself is foundational. It provides meaning for life.
Here is the focal point of all spiritual searching, here man meets God.
The Overself is not merely a mental concept for all men but also a driving force for some men, not merely a pious pleasant feeling for those who believe in it but also a continuing vital experience for those who have lifted the ego's heavy door-bar.
When man shall discover the hidden power within himself which enables him to be conscious and to think, he will discover the holy spirit, the ray of Infinite Mind lighting his little finite mind.
The Overself is the point where the One Mind is received into consciousness. It is the "I" freed from narrowness, thoughts, flesh, passion, and emotion--that is, from the personal ego.
No one can explain what the Overself is, for it is the origin, the mysterious source, of the explaining mind, and beyond all its capacities. But what can be explained are the effects of standing consciously in its presence, the conditions under which it manifests, the ways in which it appears in human life and experience, the paths which lead to its realization.
The fact that we know our bodies is a guarantee that we can know our souls. For the knowing principle in us is derived from the soul itself. We have only to search our own minds deeply enough and ardently enough to discover it.
When you begin to seek the Knower, who is within you, and to sever yourself from the seen, which is both without and within you, you begin to pass from illusion to reality.
The mind's chief distinguishing power is to know--whether the object known is the world around or the ideas within. When this is turned in still deeper upon itself, subject and object are one, the thought-making activity comes to rest, and the "I" mystery is solved. Man discovers his real self, or being--his soul.
That point where man meets the Infinite is the Overself, where he, the finite, responds to what is absolute, ineffable and inexhaustible Being, where he reacts to That which transcends his own existence--this is the Personal God he experiences and comes into relation with. In this sense his belief in such a God is justifiable.
Because of the paradoxically dual nature which the Overself possesses, it is very difficult to make clear the concept of the Overself. Human beings are rooted in the ultimate mind through the Overself, which therefore partakes on the one hand of a relationship with a vibratory world and on the other of an existence which is above all relations. A difficulty is probably due to the vagueness or confusion about which standpoint it is to be regarded from. If it is thought of as the human soul, then the vibratory movement is connected with it. If it is thought of as transcending the very notion of humanity, and therefore in its undifferentiated character, the vibratory movement must disappear.
Overself is the inner or true self of man, reflecting the divine being and attributes. The Overself is an emanation from the ultimate reality but is neither a division nor a detached fragment of it. It is a ray shining forth but not the sun itself.
The Overself is utterly above all personality yet is not bereft of a kind of individuality.
It is that part of man which is fundamental, real, undying, and truly knowing.
It is a state of pure intelligence but without the working of the intellectual and ideational process. Its product may be named intuition. There are no automatically conceived ideas present in it, no habitually followed ways of thinking. It is pure, clear, stillness.
It is true that the nature of God is inscrutable and that the laws of God are inexorable. But it is also true that the God-linked soul of man is accessible and its intuitions available.
What we are ordinarily conscious of are the thoughts and feelings of the ego, but there is much more in us than that. There is the true self, of which the ego is only a miserable caricature. If we could penetrate to this, the fundamental element of our selfhood, we would never again be satisfied with a wholly egoistic life--the call of the Quest would come again and again in our ears. And indeed it is through such rare glimpses, such exalted moments, when they become conscious of a presence, higher and more blessed than their ordinary state, that men are drawn to the Quest in the effort to recapture those moments and those moods. The recapturing is done, not by taking possession of something but by allowing oneself to be possessed, not by a positive and affirmative movement of the will, but by a yielding to, and acceptance of, the gentlest and most delicate thing in man's psyche--the intuition.
Knowledge of the facts concerning man and his nature, his general destiny and spiritual evolution, can be gained by the intuition; but information concerning the details of his personal history must be gleaned, if at all, by the psychical faculty.
Whereas we can reach the intellect only through thinking, we can reach the spirit only through intuition. The practice of meditation is simply the deepening, broadening, and strengthening of intuition. A mystical experience is simply a prolonged intuition.
The intuition appears indirectly in aesthetic ecstasy and intellectual creativity, in the pricking of conscience, in the longing for relief from anxieties, or peace of mind. It appears directly only in mystical realization.
Intuition tells us what to do. Reason tells us how to do it. Intuition points direction and gives destination. Reason shows a map of the way there.
There is no single pattern that an intuitively guided life must follow. Sometimes he will see in a flash of insight both course and destination, but at other times he will see only the next step ahead and will have to keep an open mind both as to the second step and as to the final destination.
Intuitive guidance comes not necessarily when we seek it, but when the occasion calls for it. It does not usually come until it is actually needed. The intellect, as part of the ego, will often seek it in advance of the occasion because it may be driven by anxiety, fear, desire, or anticipation. Such premature seeking is fruitless.
The intuition comes from, and leads to, the Overself.
It is the strength or feebleness of our intuition which determines the grade of our spiritual evolution. What begins as a gentle surrender to intuition for a few minutes, one day resolves into a complete surrender of the ego to the Overself for all time.
The intuitive faculty can be deliberately cultivated and consciously trained.
The secret is to stop, on the instant, whatever he is doing just then, or even whatever he is saying, and reorient all his attention to the incoming intuition. The incompleted act, the broken sentence, should be deserted, for this is an exercise in evaluation.
Wrong personal intention may be negated by right intuitive guidance, but it is not easy to recognize the latter as such. The difference between a mere impulse and a real intuition may often be detected in two ways: first, by waiting a few days, as the subconscious mind has then a chance to offer help in deciding the matter; second, by noting the kind of emotion which accompanies the message. If the emotion is of the lower kind, such as anger, indignation, greed, or lust, it is most likely an impulse. If of the higher kind, such as unselfishness or forgiveness, it is most likely an intuition.
When one has reviewed a problem from all its angles, and has done this not only with the keenest powers of the mind but also with the finest qualities of the heart, it should be turned over at the end to the Overself and dismissed. The technique of doing so is simple. It consists of being still. In the moment of letting the problem fall away, one triumphs over the ego. This is a form of meditation. In the earlier stage it is an acknowledgment of helplessness and weakness in handling the problem, of personal limitations, followed by a surrender of it (and of oneself) to the Overself in the last resort. One can do no more. Further thought would be futile. At this point Grace may enter and do what the ego cannot do. It may present guidance either then, or at some later date, in the form of a self-evident idea.
So subtle is the oncoming and so mysterious is the working of the true intuition, so open and blatant is the fantasy that is false intuition, that the first test of authenticity is indicated here.
You may recognize the voice of wisdom when having to make a decision by the fact that it proceeds out of deep inner calm, out of utter tranquillity, whereas impulse is frequently born in exaggerated enthusiasm or undue excitement.
A compelling inner conviction or intuition need not necessarily collide with cold reason. But as an assumed intuition which may be merely a bit of wishful thinking or emotional bias, it is always needful to check or confirm or discipline it by reasoning. The two can work together, even whilst recognizing and accepting each other's peculiar characteristics and different methods of approach. Hence all intuitively formed projects and plans should be examined under this duplex light. The contribution of fact by reason should be candidly and calmly brought up against the contribution of inward rightness made by "intuition." We must not hesitate to scrap intuitively formed plans if they prove unworkable or unreasonable.
The promptings that come from this inner being are so faintly heard at first, however strong on their own plane, that we tend to disregard them as trivial. This is the tragedy of man. The voices that so often mislead him into pain-bringing courses--his passion, his ego, and blind intellect--are loud and clamant. The whisper that guides him aright and to God is timid and soft.
The commonest error is to try to produce and manufacture intuition. That can't be done. It is something which comes to you. Hence don't expect it to appear when concentrating on a problem, but if at all after you've dismissed the problem. Even then it is a matter of grace--it may or may not come.
How can he tell if inner guidance is truly intuitive or merely pseudo-intuitive? One of the ways is to consider whether it tends to the benefit of all concerned in a situation, the others as well as oneself. The word "benefit" here must be understood in a large way, must include the spiritual result along with the material one. If the guidance does not yield this result, it may be ego-prompted and will then hold the possibility of error.
An intuitive feeling is one untainted by the ego's wishes, uncoloured by its aversions.
Let no one imagine that contact with the Overself is a kind of dreamy reverie or pleasant, fanciful state. It is a vital relationship with a current of peace, power, and goodwill flowing endlessly from the invisible centre to the visible self.
To the extent that a man is conscious of the presence of the Overself, he becomes inspired. To the extent that he is also talented in any of the arts, his work also becomes inspired.
His activity as a merely selfish person comes to an end; his activity as a divinely inspired one begins. It is a transformation from "works of the flesh" to "fruits of the spirit" in the Bible's phrase.
When the ego is displaced and the Overself is using him, there will be no need and no freedom to choose between two alternatives in regard to actions. Only a single course will present itself, directly and unwaveringly, as the right one.
To gain such an inspiration in all its untarnished purity, his egoism must be totally lost and absorbed in the experience.
Inspired action becomes possible when, to speak in spatial metaphors, every deed receives its necessary and temporary attention within the foreground of the mind whilst the Overself holds the permanent attention of the man within the background of his mind.
Those critics who assert that we have lost our mystical values because we teach that mystical contemplation is not an end in itself but rather a means to action, have not understood our teaching. The kind of action we refer to is not the ordinary one. It is something higher than that, wiser than that, nobler than that. It is everyday human life divinized and made expressive of a sublime FACT. We have indeed often used the phrase "inspired action" to distinguish it from the blind and egotistic kind. He who practises it does not thereby desert the contemplative path. This inner life is kept deep full and rich, but it is not kept refrigerated and isolated. He reflects it deliberately into the outer life to satisfy a twofold purpose. First, to be on the earth, so far as he can, what he is in heaven. Second, to work actively for the liberation of others. This cannot be achieved by inertia and indifference--which are virtues to the mystic but defects to the philosopher.
There are men who may be high in talent but low in character. Notice that I use the word talent. I can not believe that it is possible to possess true inspiration and yet deny it or fail to express it in one's conduct.
To the man who has come along the path of loving devotion to God and finally gained the reward of frequent, joyous, ardent, inward communion with God, equally as to the man who has practised the way of mystical self-recollection and attained frequent awareness of the Overself's presence, an unexpected and unpalatable change may happen little by little or suddenly. God will seem to withdraw from the devotee, the Overself from the mystic. The blisses will fade and end. Although this experience will have none of the terror or isolation and misery of the "dark night" it will be comparable to that unforgettable time. And although it will seem like a withdrawal of Grace, the hidden truth is that it is actually a farther and deeper bestowal of Grace. For the man is being led to the next stage--which is to round out, balance, and complete his development. This he will be taught to do by first, acquiring cosmological knowledge, and later, attaining ontological wisdom. That is, he will learn something about the World-Idea and then, this gained, pass upward to learning the nature of that Reality in whose light even the universe is illusion. Thus from study of the operations of the Power behind the World-Idea he passes on to pondering on the Power itself. This last involves the highest degree of concentration and is indeed the mysterious little practised Yoga of the Uncontradictable. When successfully followed it brings about the attainment of Insight, the final discovery that there is no other being than THAT, no second entity.
Although we are divided in awareness from the higher power, we are not divided in fact from it. The divine being is immanent in each one of us. This is why there is always some good in the worst of us.
If a man asks why he can find no trace of God's presence in himself, I answer that he is full of evidence, not merely traces. God is present in him as consciousness, the state of being aware; as thought, the capacity to think; as activity, the power to move; and as stillness, the condition of ego, emotion, intellect, and body which finally and clearly reveals what these other things simply point to. "Be still, and know that I am God" is a statement of being whose truth can be tested by experiment and whose value can be demonstrated by experience.
Even while working in an office or factory or field, a man is not prevented from continuing his search for the inner mind. The notion that this quest requires aloofness from the commonplace utilitarian world is one which philosophy does not accept. Distraction and action are not so mutually inclusive as we may think. The student may train himself to maintain calm and serene poise even in the midst of strenuous activity, just as he also avails himself of the latest discoveries of scientific technique and yet keeps his mind capable of browsing through the oldest books of the Asiatic sages. He can discipline himself to returning from meditation to the turmoil, go anywhere, do anything, if truth is carried in the mind and poise in the heart. He may learn to live in reality at all times. The sense of its presence will need no constant renewal, no frequent slipping into trance, no intermittent escape from the world, if he follows the philosophic threefold path.
The question whether someone is a mystic or yogi can be answered easily enough once we understand what is his state of consciousness and what the mystical condition really is. All the annals of the vanished past and all the experiences of the living present inform us that whoever enters into it feels his natural egotism subside, his fierce passions assuaged, his restless thoughts stilled, his troubled emotions pacified, his habitual world-view spiritualized, and his whole person caught up into a beatific supernal power. Did he ever have this kind of consciousness? His words and deeds, his personal presence and psychological self-betrayal should proclaim with a united voice what he is. No man who habitually enters such a blessed state could ever bring himself to hate or injure a fellow human being.
If he feels this presence, and can do his work without deserting it, then his is a sacred function, no matter whether it be an artist's or an artisan's.
Although it is true that the Overself is the real guardian angel of every human being, we should not be so foolish as to suppose its immediate intervention in every trivial affair. On the contrary, its care is general rather than particular, in the determination of long-term phases rather than day-by-day events. Its intervention, if that does occur, will be occasioned by or will precipitate a crisis.
If we are to think correctly, we cannot stop with thinking of the Overself as being only within us. After this idea has become firmly established for its metaphysical and devotional value, we must complete the concept by thinking of the Overself as being also without us. If in the first concept it occupies a point in space, in the second one it is beyond all considerations of place.
When we realize that the intellect can put forth as many arguments against this theme as for it, we realize that there is in the end only one perfect proof of the Overself's existence. The Overself must prove itself. This can come about faintly through the intuition or fully through the mystical experience.
It would be unreasonable to expect anyone to give up his worldly attachments until he sees something more worthwhile. Consequently his soul gives him a foretaste, as it were, through these ecstatic moments and brief enlightenments, of its own higher values.
The point which has yet to be made is that these glimpses are not supernatural superhuman and solely religious experiences. When scientific psychology has advanced to the point where it really understands the human being in all his height and depth, and not merely his surface, it will see this.
Although he is normally quite unconscious of this connection with the Overself, once at least in a lifetime there is a flash which visits him and breaks the unconsciousness. He has a glimpse of his highest possibility. But the clearness and intensity of this glimpse depend upon his receptivity. They may amount to little or much.
Many people without pretensions to mystical knowledge or belief have had this experience, this glimpse of timeless loveliness, through Nature, art, music, or even for no apparent reason at all.
Without learning, studying, or practising yoga, Heisenberg, famed nuclear physicist, formulator of the Law of Indeterminacy, unwittingly entered what is a high goal to yogis, Nirvikalpa Samadhi. This happened at times at the end of the deepest abstract thinking about his subject. Thoughts themselves ceased to be active. He found himself in the Stillness of the Void. He knew then, and knows today, his spiritual being.
Those who have followed the Quest in previous lives will generally receive a glimpse at least twice during the present one. They will receive it in early life during their teens or around the threshold of adult life. This will inspire them to seek anew. They will receive it again in late life during the closing years of the reincarnation. This will be bestowed as a Grace of the Overself. Those aspirants who bemoan the loss of their early glimpse should remind themselves, in hours of depression, that it will recur before they leave the body. In addition to those glimpses which attend the opening and closing years of a lifetime, a number of others may be had during the intervening period as a direct consequence and reward of the efforts, disciplines, aspirations, and self-denials practised in that time.
What are the signs whereby he shall know that this is an authentic glimpse of reality? First, it is and shall remain ever present. There is no future in it and no past. Second, the pure spiritual experience comes without excitement, is reported without exaggeration, and needs no external authority to authenticate it.
Every man who passes through this experience and holds its memory, verifies for himself that there is an Infinite Life-Power pervading the entire universe--also that it is ever present, perfectly wise, and all-knowing. Its point of contact with him is his Overself.
Yes it is a wonderful feeling, this which accompanies a glimpse of the higher self; but when it is also merged with a knowing, a positive perception beyond the need of discussion, interpretation, formulation, or judgement, it gives the philosophical seeker a certitude which is like a benediction.
In that sudden moment of spiritual awareness, or that longer period of spiritual ecstasy, he identifies himself no more with the projection from Mind but with pure Mind itself. In that severance from its projection, the shadow becomes the sun.
In this mysterious moment the two are one. He no longer abides with the mere images of reality. He is now in the authentic world of reality itself.
I remember the first time I had this astonishing experience. I was fond of disappearing from London whenever the weather allowed and wandering alongside the river Thames in its more picturesque country parts. If the day was sunny I would stretch my feet out, lie down in the grass, pull out notebook and pen from my pocket--knowing that thoughts would eventually arise that would have for me an instructive or even revelatory nature, apart from those ordinary ones which were merely expressive. One day, while I was waiting for these thoughts to arise, I lost the feeling that I was there at all. I seemed to dissolve and vanish from that place, but not from consciousness. Something was there, a presence, certainly not me, but I was fully aware of it. It seemed to be something of the highest importance, the only thing that mattered. After a few minutes I came back, discovered myself in time and space again; but a great peace had touched me and a very benevolent feeling was still with me. I looked at the trees, the shrubs, the flowers, and the grass and felt a tremendous sympathy with them and then when I thought of other persons a tremendous benevolence towards them.
Glimpses vary much in their nature. Some are soft, mild and delicate, quiet and restrained; others are ecstatic, rapturous, and excited. All give some sort of uplift, exaltation, enlightenment, or revelation and also to varying degrees.
The glimpse gives him a journey to a land flowing not with milk and honey, but with goodness and beauty, with peace and wisdom. It is the best moment of his life.
When a man's consciousness is turned upside-down by a glimpse, when what he thought most substantial is revealed as least so, when his values are reversed and the Good takes on a new definition, he writes that day down as his spiritual birthday.
A glimpse may exalt the man and give him inspiration, but above everything else it attests for him the fact that he is fundamentally Spirit. This is the commonest kind of Glimpse but there is another kind which, in addition to doing these things, opens mysterious doors and provides inlooks to the working of secret laws and occult processes in Nature, the world and the life of man. This kind of glimpse may fitly be termed "a revelation."
The glimpse does not necessarily have to come to you during meditation, even though the work in meditation helps to bring about its occurrence. It may come at any time.
The sudden but gentle drawing away from outer activity to the inner one, "the melting away in the heart," as Oriental mystics call it, felt actually inside the middle-chest region, may make itself felt occasionally, or, in an advanced or regular meditator, every day. In the last case it will tend to appear at around the same hour each time. This is a call which ought to be treated properly with all the reverence it deserves. But before it can be honoured it must be recognized. Its marks of identification must be studied in books, learned from experience, gleaned from the statements of other persons, or obtained from a personal teacher. When it comes, the man should heed the signal, drop whatever he is doing, and obey the unuttered command to turn inwards, to practise remembrance, or to enter meditation.
The significant points in this matter are three: first, it is a call to be recognized and understood; second, it is a command from the highest authority to be obeyed instantly, as disregard brings its own punishment, which is that the call may not come again; third, it is an offer of grace. If the call is heeded and its meaning known or intuited, the aspirant should first of all arrest his movements and remain utterly frozen, as if posing for a portrait painter. Let the mind be blank, held as empty of thoughts as possible. After a while, when adjusted to this sudden suspension of activity, he may with extreme slowness and with utmost gentleness assume a bodily posture where he will be more relaxed and more comfortable, or perhaps even a formal meditation posture. He may then shut his eyes or let them stay in a steady gaze as if he were transfixed, or he may alternate with both according to the urge from within. If everything else is dropped and all these conditions are fulfilled, then a successful meditation bringing on a spiritual glimpse is sure to follow.
The holy feelings generated by the Glimpse ought to be protected against the world's disintegrating power and shielded against your own tendency to dissipate them by hasty violent movements or needless irrelevant chatter.
The concentration upon the glimpse must be full, complete, and sustained. If, for only a single moment, he allows his attention to be diverted toward some outer thing or person, or to be divided with some inner idea, the glimpse may instantly disappear.
The Glimpse will be at its best when his ego is not present to interfere with it. Such interference can not only come from its misinterpretations and distortions, against which philosophy so constantly warns its disciples, but also from the self-consciousness which wants him to notice how the experience is happening, to analyse what effect it is having, and to observe the reactions of other people to it. All these may be done but not then, not at the same time as the glimpse itself. Instead, they may be studied afterwards, when his consciousness has resumed its ordinary state. During the glimpse, he must let himself be completely surrendered to it.
During such unforgettable moments the Soul will speak plainly, if silently, to him. It may tell him about his true relationship to the universe and to his fellow creatures. It will certainly tell him about Itself. It may separate him from his body and let him gaze down upon it as from a height, long enough to permit him to comprehend that the flesh is quite the poorest and least significant part of him. And perhaps best of all it will certainly fill him with the assurance that after his return to the world of lonely struggle and quick forgetfulness, It will still remain beside and behind him.
It is a state of exquisite tenderness, of love welling up from an inner centre and radiating outward in all directions. If other human beings or animal creatures come within his contact at the time, they become recipients of this love without exception. For then no enemies are recognized, none are disliked, and it is not possible to regard anyone as repulsive.
We cannot see the Truth and still be what we were before we saw it. That is why Truth comes in glimpses, for we cannot sustain staying away from ourselves too long, that is to say, from our egos.
There are three stages in each glimpse. The initial one brings a soft feeling of its gentle approach. The second carries the man to its peak of upliftment, enlightenment, and peace. The final one draws him down again into a fading glow which occupies the mind's background and later survives only in memory.
A passing sign of progress in arousing latent forces and a physical indication that he is on the eve of noteworthy mystical experience may be a sudden unexpected vibratory movement in the region of the abdomen, in the solar plexus. It usually comes when he has been relaxed for a short time from the daily cares, or after retiring to bed for the night. The diaphragmatic muscle will appear to tremble violently and something will seem to surge to and fro like a snake behind the solar plexus. This bodily agitation will soon subside and be followed by a pleasant calm and out of this calm there will presently arise a sense of unusual power, of heightened control over the animal nature and human self. With this there may also come a clear intuition about some truth needed at the time and a revelatory expansion of consciousness into supersensual reality.
The glimpse also does in part for a man what initiation did in some ancient mystical institutions. It sets him on the road of a new life, a life more earnestly and more consciously devoted to the quest of Overself. It silently bids him dedicate, or rededicate anew, the remainder of his life on earth to this undertaking. It is a baptism with inner light more far-reaching than the baptism with physical water.
The insight, once caught, and however briefly, will leave behind a calm discontent with the triviality of ordinary life, a lucid recognition of its pathetic futility and emptiness, as well as a calm dissatisfaction with the man himself.
Once he has attained this inner realization, the student should cling persistently to it, for the world's multifarious forces will come to hear of it and seek to drag him away.
If he is tempted by these sudden glimpses to enquire whether there is a method or technique whereby they may be repeated at will, he will find that there is and that it is called meditation. If he wishes to go farther and enquire whether his whole life could continuously enjoy them all the time, the answer is that it could and that to bring it about he needs to follow a way of life called The Quest.
In spite of itself the ego is drawn more and more to the spiritual grandeur revealed by these glimpses. Its ties to selfishness, animality, and materiality are loosened. Finally it comes to see that it is standing in its own way and light and then lets itself be effaced.
Another purpose of these glimpses is to show him how ignorant of truth he really is, and, having so shown, to stimulate his effort to get rid of this ignorance. For they will light up the fanciful or opinionative nature of so much that he hitherto took to be true.
It is important to remember that such experiences may be expected only rarely in most cases, perhaps once or twice in a lifetime, if the person is not consciously on the quest. It is natural to hope that it will be repeated. The first glimpse is given to show the way, to throw light on the path ahead, to give direction and goal to the person. But if the glimpse is only temporary and rare, the metaphysical understanding to be derived from it is the permanent benefit. So seek to get and clarify the understanding.
That glimpse is his initiation into the spiritual life and therefore into the sacrificial life. It is but the first step in a long process wherein he will have to part with his lower tendencies, give up his ignoble passions, surrender his baser inclinations, and renounce egoistic views.
Under the emotional thrill of a religious conversion, many people have thought themselves saved and have believed they live in Christ. Yet how many of them have later fallen away! They thought the conversion was enough to bring about a permanent result, whereas it was only the first step toward such a result in reality. The same situation holds with those who have undergone the emotional thrill of a mystical experience. The illumination they have achieved is not the end of the road for them but the beginning. It gives them a picture of the goal and a glimpse of the course to it. It gives them right direction and an inspirational impetus to move towards it. But still it is only the first step, not the last one. They should beware of the personal ego's vanity which would tell them otherwise, or of its deceitfulness, which would tell it to others.
If illumination does not become permanent, if it does not stay with its host, that is because it does not find a proper place within him for such abiding stay. His heart is still too impure, his character still too imperfect for the consciousness of the Overself to associate constantly with him.
Islamic mystics called Sufis differentiate between glimpses, which they call "states," and permanent advances on the path, which they call "stations." The former are described as being not only temporary but also fragmentary, while the latter are described as bearing results which cannot be lost. There are three main stations along the path. The first is annihilation of the ego; the second is rebirth in the Overself; and the third is fully grown union with the Overself. The Sufis assert that this final state can never be reached without the Grace of the Higher Power and that it is complete, lasting, and unchangeable.
It must be remembered that the glimpse is not the goal of life. It is a happening, something which begins and ends, but something which is of immense value in contributing to the philosophic life, its day-to-day consciousness, its ordinary stabilized nature. Philosophic life is established continuously and permanently in the divine presence; the glimpse comes and goes within that presence. The glimpse is exceptional and exciting; but sahaja, the established state, is ordinary, normal, every day. The glimpse tends to withdraw us from activity, even if only for a few moments, whereas sahaja does not have to stop its outward activity.
He must finish what he has started. He must go on until the peace, the understanding, the strength, and the benevolence of these rare uplifted moods have become a continuous presence within him.
It is possible for a man who knows of the Quest only through emotional faith or intellectual conviction to turn aside from it for the remainder of his incarnation, but it is not possible for a man who has enjoyed this Glimpse to do so. He may try--and some do--but each day of such alienation will be a haunted day. The ghost will not leave him alone until he returns.
Where the Greek Orthodox Church regards the Light experience as the highest point reachable by man, the Indian Philosophic Teaching regards it as the last stage before the highest. For anything which is "seen" implies the existence of a "seer" as separate from it. This is not less so even in the case of the Holy Light. Not seeing but be-ing is the final experience according to this Teaching. "You have to go beyond seeing and find out who is the `I' who experiences this light," said Ramana Maharshi to a disciple.
Seeing the Light in front of him is one state; being merged into it is another, and superior.
What, it has been asked, if I get no glimpses? What can I do to break this barren monotonous dreary and sterile spiritual desert of my existence? The answer is if you cannot meditate successfully go to nature, where she is quiet or beautiful; go to art where it is majestic, exalting; go to hear some great soul speak, whether in private talk or public address; go to literature, find a great inspired book written by someone who has had the glimpses.
If the glimpse slips away from the great calm, where does it go? Into the ever-active outward-turned thinking movement.
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