Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation homepage > Notebooks of Paul Brunton > Category 25: World-Mind in Individual Mind > Chapter 1: Their Meeting and Interchange

Their Meeting and Interchange

God is in Man

"The God in the sun is the `I' in me"--this put tersely is the essence of man's relationship to divinity. A whole book may be needed to explain it, a whole lifetime to get direct experience of its truth as insight.

We see plenty of evidence that the universe is not mindless, and therefore that there is a Universal Mind related to it--that is to say, related to us, who are parts of the whole.

It might well be said that I am connected with God on the one hand, with the world on the other hand, but both connections are highly ingenious inventions. God is literally in me. His "I" makes my "I" possible. My own sense of being is immersed in God's archetypal thought.

The individual mind not only exists within the World-Mind, it is born of the World-Mind.

Jesus' use of the metaphor, the Son and the Father, was intended to point out that man, in his inner self, was born of, and is still in relation to, the Higher power, God.

The innermost being of man and the cosmos is ever at rest, and single. The incarnate being of both is ever in movement, and dual. The inner is the Real, Changeless; the other is the Appearance, and subject to the play of two opposed but interpenetrating active forces. Because it is the quintessence of consciousness and intelligence, I call the first Mind. It is without shape, infinite and untouchable by man, but because it is, universes are able to appear, expand, disintegrate, and reincarnate. This activity is directly due to the agency of the first entity to appear, which I call World-Mind. From the latter flows ceaselessly the energy which is at the heart of every atom, the life-force which is at the heart of every man. World-Mind and Mind are for us the twin sides--a crude but simple, understandable metaphor--of God. The human being draws breath, exists, and thinks with awareness only because of this relationship. If he declares himself an atheist, sees himself only as an animal, rejects any divine basis to his mind, he testifies thereby to a failure on his own part: he has failed to seek and find, or because of prejudice--that is, of prejudgement--has sought wrongly. Jesus gave two helps in this matter: seek the kingdom of heaven first, and seek it within. It is open to anyone to test this truth that he is related to God. But if he does not bring certain qualities into the work, such as patience and humility, the going may be too hard, the result disappointing.

Something of that Mind is in us, as a parent has left some legacy in the child, but at the same time we are also in that Mind.

Gospel of John, chapter 17, verse 21: "As thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee."

An ever-active Mind within an ever-still Mind--that is the real truth, not only about God but also about man.

The World-Mind reproduces something of itself in each individual entity we call the Soul, or Overself.

The soul in man, the Overself, is linked with, or rooted in, the soul in the universe, the World-Mind.

The Infinite Mind is centered within its finited expression, the human ego.

Because we have all--yes! sinners as well as saints--come forth from the divine substance in our bodies and from the divine mind in our entities, there is something god-like in each of us.

How can a man escape from the World-Mind since he is indissolubly united with it? Through the Overself he is a very part of it, his consciousness could not work without it.

The Godlike deepest Self in us knows and feels on its own level; therefore the intellect's reasonings and the aesthetic feelings are reflections on a lower level of spiritual activities.

So many human sufferings are the consequences of human errors, and so many of these errors arise from human ignorance. The supreme ignorance of all which leads to the greatest sins and sufferings is that he does not know he is an individualized part of a greater consciousness. Although this consciousness shines through his ego it is apart from the ego, for it stands in its own right and exists as an entity by itself. It is this consciousness which enables a man to act and think in the physical body and it is his diviner part. Blinded by the error of materialism, he identifies it with the body itself.

The self of every creature is divine Being, the ultimate Consciousness, but only when evolution brings it to the human level does it have the possibility of discovering this fact.

It is true that the mind makes its own world of experience, but it is not true that it makes it by itself; for behind the individual mind is the Cosmic Mind.

If the world is but an idea there must be a mind which conceived it. Although my individual mind has so largely contributed to its making, it has not contributed to its original conception. Such a mind must be an undivided universal one in which my own is rooted. It must indeed be what men commonly call God.

Thus the World-Mind originates our experience for us but we ourselves mold it. It supplies the karmic-forces material and we as individuals supply the space-time shape which this material takes. Thus there is a union of the individual with the universal.

Whether we think of this mysterious origin as manifesting itself in waves of energy or in particles of the same force, it is and must be there for the deeply reflective atomic scientist. Whether we think of it as God, the Creative Universal Mind, or as God the inaccessible all-transcending Mind remote from human communion, it is and must be there for the intuitive. But in both cases this entire universe is but a thought in the Universal Mind. Every object and every creature is simultaneously included in this thought: therefore every human being too. Through this relationship it is possible for a man to attain some kind of communion with IT. This is what the quest is all about.

The ultimate Knower is supra-personal, divine pure consciousness, the knowing and understanding Self, Saint Thomas Aquinas' "God Himself who is the Soul's Creator and only Beatitude." All this is higher than the ego, the person, the individuality, the man himself.

The omnipresence of the Infinite Mind carries great meaning for us individually. For it signifies that this Mind is not less present and not less active in us too.

The World-Mind cannot be separated from any point of the world. It is present in every point, every creature, now, at this very moment. There is no need for anyone to think himself cut off or apart or remote from this divine source of his being. This is just as true in his sorrowful hours as in his joyful ones.

It is because the World-Mind supports man, gives him consciousness and energy, that he is a sharer in divine existence.

If there were any part of the universe, or any thing in the universe, or any creature in the universe without God in its essence, then the universe could not have been manifested by God. The essential self of man must be divine.

Wang Yang-ming's disciples often remarked, "The streets are full of enlightened men!" By this they reiterated their Master's teaching that all men have the possibility of attaining enlightenment because all have the divine self hidden under their egoism.

Each of us is linked with that Being, the Mover of all this moving universe. This link must be brought into our field of awareness. There lies the highest fulfilment of our lives.

The individual consciousness is not alone. It is fathered by a universal consciousness. Between the two there is this link. To awaken one day and discover (in several cases, rediscover) it will be a man's most satisfying experience.

The World-Mind is omnipresent. There is a point where every man touches it. When he attains awareness of this point, he is at last attending the true Holy Communion service.

The little centre of consciousness that is myself rests in and lives by the infinite ocean of consciousness that is God. The first momentary discovery of this relationship constitutes a genuine religious experience, and its expansion into a final, full disclosure constitutes a philosophic one.

If God is everywhere, as He must be, then He is in man too. This fact makes possible his discovery, under certain conditions, of a diviner element in his being which is ordinarily obscured.

In the end, no man can miss being in the presence of, or confronted by, the divine power. It is a fact which, whether he accepts or denies the idea of its existence, he must one day reckon with. This is because he has never really been separated from it, never been aware of any thing or thought except by virtue of consciousness derived from it.

What we know through the senses as forms points to the existence of the mind. What we know through the intellect as thoughts points to the mind. What does the individual mind itself point to? We can find the answer by plunging deep into its core, deeper and ever deeper in the practice of contemplation until we come to its ultimate source. There, where the world vanishes and the ego is stilled, we become one with the infinite and eternal Mind behind the universe.

Ordinarily man cannot directly penetrate that layer of the mind which is continuous with, and contiguous to, the Overself. But during the deepest state of meditation he may do so.

The human mind, finite and limited though it be, can become an inlet to the universal Mind. Such a happening is attended by blissful yet tranquil feelings. This little being that is me merges into larger consciousness that is pure infinite Being--until the body calls me back.

There is something deeper than our ordinary thoughts and feelings, something that is our inmost essential self. It is the soul. It is here, if we can reach to it, that we may meet in fellowship with the Divine. Through it the World-Mind reveals something of its own mysterious nature.

He has come far when he has come to feel not only that divinity truly is but also that it is as near as his own being.

He discovers that Consciousness, the very nature of mind under all its aspects, the very essence of be-ing under the personal selfhood, is where man and God finally meet. He knows that God indisputably exists, not because some religious dogma avers it but because his own experience proves it.

There is a vital and definite connection between every man's mind and the Universal Mind, between his individual existence and Its existence. Because of this connection he is called upon to worship It to commune with It and to love It.

Only as a result of being liberated from himself, taken out of himself, can he find the universal being.

The illuminated men of earlier generations, who usually appeared at the beginning of each historical epoch and from whose ranks the great social lawgivers and religion-founders were drawn, had no personal master for none was available at the time. Who taught them? It was none other than the World-Mind, operating directly through each man's Overself and within his human consciousness. Whoever is unable to find an outward master in our own times may still find, when he has worked on himself sufficiently to be ready for it, this same direct inward help (grace) from the World-Mind if he turns to that Mind.

Through the power of the God within the seeker can be led to a higher truth, or what the Greek thinkers called the Logos can help him to find for himself.

The human mind is fortunate in this, that it has a connection with the Divine Mind. It can become his spiritual teacher and moral guide. But he must be careful: first, not to mix his own opinion with what he receives; second, and not less but more important, to put himself through a preparatory and purificatory discipline to make the connection vitalized.

Socrates got his wisdom from within himself. He had no master.

The teachings of Jesus were not based on any of the ancient doctrines--that is, those of the Jews, Egyptians, or Indians. They were entirely Self-inspired.

If he refuses to seek and cling to the human personality of any master but resolves to keep all the strength of his devotion for the divine impersonal Self back of his own, that will not bar his further progress. It, too, is a way whereby the goal can be successfully reached. But it is a harder way.

After all, it is the Overself which was the real Teacher of all the teachers themselves.

No geographical limits ought to be set for the sources whence a man draws spiritual sustenance. Why exclude other lands and remain shut in with India alone? Nor should any temporal limits be set for it. Why exclude the modern world and remain shut in with the ancient one alone? Enlightened individuals have been born all through history, have contributed their ideas beliefs experiences and revelations, and all through the social scales. This is so, must be so, because Truth, Reality, Goodness, and Beauty, in their best sense, are in the end got from within.

God is in your very being. To know him as something apart or far-away in time and distance or as an object outside yourself, separate from you--that is not the Way--impossible. Jesus gave away the secret: he is within you.

It is surprising how widely people have ignored Jesus' message ("The kingdom of heaven is within you") when its meaning is so clear, its phrasing so strong.

If a man lives in harmony with the divine World-Idea, he may also live in trust that he will receive that which belongs to him. This will be brought about either by guiding him to it or guiding it to him.

"All things whatsoever the Father hath are mine." That which you need is yours now--if only you could raise yourself to the recognition of your true relation to your Overself.

Emerson: "The heart, which abandons itself to the Supreme Mind, finds itself related to all its works, and will travel a royal road to particular knowledges and powers . . ."

Man is not, does not become, God

We may dwell in mystical inner fellowship with God but we may not become as God. Those who proclaim such false self-deification needlessly make a grotesquely exaggerated statement of what is already by itself a sufficiently tremendous truth.

It would be a grave error to believe that when philosophy says that the divine dwells in everything, it dwells equally in everything.

Man is not God. Yet he can approach God so intimately, be suffused by His presence so completely, that the first mystics to call this state "union with God" may be excused. The telepathic closeness which sometimes exists between two separated lovers, relatives, or friends is a slight hint of the telepathic closeness which exists between the harmonized human ego and its divine soul.

In my alleged claim that every human being can develop the divinity within himself, I do not mean that we poor mortals can ever rise to the stature of the Almighty, and I completely concur with the warning of Baha'u'llah against man's attempting to "join partners with God." I mean only that we have within us something that is linked with and related to God: it is our higher self, the discovery of and union with which represents the limit of our possible attainment.

If it is wiser and humbler to leave some mystery at the bottom of all our intellectual understanding of life than to indulge in self-deceiving finality about it, then it is no less wiser and humbler to acknowledge the ultimate mystery at the heart of all our immediate mystical experience of life. The mystic's claim to know God when he knows only the deepest part of his own self, is his particular kind of vanity. Whatever terminous and transcendental consciousness he may discover there, something ever remains beyond it lost in utter inscrutability. The World-Mind is impenetrable by human power. This agnostic conclusion does not, however, touch the validity of the mystic's more legitimate claim, that the human soul is knowable and that an unshakeable union with it is attainable.

The mystic may indeed feel the very stuff of God in his rapture but this does not supply him with the whole content of God's knowledge. If therefore he claims not only to be one with God but also to be one with God's entire consciousness, it is sheer presumption.

The mystical union with God can never be a union of nature and substances, can never achieve a complete identity of the atom with the Infinite.

What is possible of achievement is, to speak in terms of spatial symbolism which is the only satisfactory way of treating such a transcendental subject, to unite with a single point within the immeasurable infinity of God.

Anon: "Ruysbroeck gives a description of the Beghards, which corresponds generally with that of the Papal Bull. He divides them into four classes, and accuses them all of the fundamental error making man's unity with God to be a unity of nature and not of Grace. The Godly man, he admitted, is united to God, not however in virtue of his essences but by a process of re-creation and regeneration. Ruysbroeck was obviously hide-bound by the dictates of theology, and to that extent his mystical knowledge was suppressed. He accused the first class of heresy against the Holy Spirit, because they claimed a perfect identity with the Absolute, which reposes in itself and is without act or operation. They said that they themselves were the divine essence, above the persons of the Godhead, and in as absolute a state of repose as if they did not at all exist; inasmuch as the Godhead itself does not act, the Holy Spirit being the sole operative power in it. The second class were considered heretics against the Father, because they placed themselves simply and directly on an equality with God; contemplated the "I" as entirely one with the divinity so that from them all things proceeded, and being themselves by nature God, they had come into existence of their own free will. `If I had not so willed,' one of them said, `neither I or any other creature would be.'"

Much grotesque misconception exists among the mystics about this claim to have united with God. Not having passed through the metaphysical discipline and consequently having only a confused notion of what God is, they do not comprehend how exaggerated their claim is. For if they were really united with God, they should have the power of God too. They would be able to set up as creators of entire universes, of suns, stars, and cosmic systems. This feat is plainly beyond them. Let us hear no more of such babble and let them confine their strivings to realizable aims.

The mystic who talks vaguely of being one with God must surely know that the experience has not put him in personal management of the universe.

If the mystic really attains a complete identity with the World-Mind, then all the latter's evolutionary and dissolutionary powers and especially its all-pervading all-knowing character would become the common property of both. But even the most fully perfected mystic has no such powers and no such character.

The frontiers between God and man cannot be obliterated although the affinity between them can be established.

If a man really appreciated his own finite littleness and the higher power's sublime infinity, he would never have the impertinence to claim the attainment of "union with God." All such talk is irresponsible babble, the careless use of words without semantic awareness of what is being said. No human mind can capture the One Life-Power in all its magnitude, and its understanding of itself and its universe. All it can do is to act as a mirror, in the deepest recesses of its own being, and in its own humble way, of the attributes which it confers on the Absolute from its own limited human point of view. The rest is silence.

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.)

It would be sheer arrogance were it not mere ignorance to believe that because we can go beyond the limited ego, therefore we can go beyond the divine soul and encompass the World-Mind itself in all its entirety.

No mortal may penetrate the mystery of the ultimate mind in its own nature--which means in its static inactive being. The Godhead is not only beyond human conception but also beyond mystic perception. But Mind in its active dynamic state, that is, the World-Mind, and rather its ray in us called the Overself, is within range of human perception, communion, and even union. It is this that the mystic really finds when be believes that he has found God.

This condition is commonly said to be nothing less than "union with God." What is really attained is the higher self, the ray of the divine sun reflected in man, the immortal soul in fact--God Himself being forever utterly beyond man's finite capacity to comprehend. However the mystical experience is an authentic one and the conflict between interpretations does not dissolve its authenticity.

We exist always in utter dependence on the Universal Mind. Man and God may meet and mingle in his periods of supreme exaltation, he may feel the sacred presence within himself to the utmost degree, but he does not thereby abolish all the distinctions between them absolutely. For he arrives at the knowledge of the timeless spaceless divine infinitude after a process of graded personal effort, whereas the World-Mind's knowledge of itself has forever been what it was is and shall be, above all processes and beyond all efforts.

God, the World-Mind, knows all things in an eternal present at once. No mystic has ever claimed, no mystic has ever dared to claim, such total knowledge. Most mystics have, however, claimed union with God. If this be true, then quite clearly they can have had only a fragmentary, not a full union.

Philosophy, being more precise in its statements, avers that they have really achieved union not with God, but with something Godlike--the soul.

It is quite inevitable for the mystic, overwhelmed by this tremendous experience, to say "I am God!" But once he has entered philosophy and passed through semantic discipline and cross-examined his use of words in thinking and speech, he will know that this term "God" is too extravagant to use in such an unqualified way. For if he means by that the World-Mind, then he lacks Its powers and knowledge.

There is a type of mysticism calling for criticism. It is uncritically pantheistic and says it is "the conception of God in Man." An instance of this type is Al Bistami's utterance, "Beneath my cloak there is naught else than God." Another is Al Hallaj's words, "I am the Divine Reality." My view of this type, which may be called self-deificatory, coincides with that of Al Ghazzali, who is no pantheist, and who teaches that there is a spark of the Divine in man's soul and that man can know and recognize it. The correct type may be designated as agnostic mysticism. This asserts man's inability to unite with the Absolute, his incapacity to attain the Godhead because it is unknowable.

A peril in all self-deificatory teachings is that they so easily induce the man, who attains a degree of success with meditation and who believes in them, to clothe himself in a disguised arrogance of the ego and a deceptive communication or union with God. In The Spiritual Crisis of Man, I briefly mentioned the Muhammedan mystic Al Hallaj who had fallen into this peril. I could have added that an Egyptian master in the same Sufi Order, Abu Al Mawahib, who lived in the fifteenth century passed the following comment upon him: "Had Al Hallaj attained the reality of self-annihilation (fana) and the fullness of its meaning he would have been saved from the error he incurred through saying, `I am He!'"

The Sufi term "companionship with God" is more accurate than the Christian-Hindu "union with God."

Omar Khayyam's agnostic position is perfectly in accord with philosophy's position. Both his school of Sufism and our teaching declare the impossibility of man knowing God. We can discover only that God exists and that the Soul exists but not go farther.

Agnostic Mysticism--This teaching refuses to regard the human spirit as divine but only as having attributes that relate it to the divine.

Vedantic claims which equate the self with God lead only to moral self-deception and intellectual confusion. For a god can do no wrong and a human loses his identity, his significance, and his spiritual obligation to the quest if he thinks himself a god already.

The danger of anarchic mysticism is not only metaphysical fallacy but also moral foolishness. For if I am God, I cannot sin, cannot even be touched by evil.

The mystic who claims to have achieved absolute identity with God is either speaking quite loosely or taking something to be God which is not.

What the mystic does attain is the feeling of being possessed by the Overself. Just as there is such a thing as demoniac obsession, so there is such a thing as divine possession. But this does not entitle him to proclaim himself God.

This claim could not arise if the word "God" had been subjected to semantic analysis, so that he knew what he was talking about.

Few individuals are properly qualified to form a correct conception of the successful mystic's experience. If in the joy of his ecstasy he chooses to call it "the union with God," he does so because preconceived belief leads him to expect such "union." But when scientifically examined from inside no less than from outside--which means that the examiner can thoroughly know what he is talking about and appraise it at its true worth only if he has been both a practising mystic and, above all, an initiated philosopher himself--it will be found that the ecstasy mingles personal and emotional reaction to the awareness of the divine presence with the presence itself.

Philosophy is more modest in its claim than mysticism. It makes no arrogant claim to lead man to identify himself with God. If the identity is a complete one, then reason alone tells us that an absurd situation will immediately arise. If it is only a partial one, then no mystic has ever been specific enough to tell us which part of God he has become nor competent enough to distinguish the parts. The fact is that no man has ever done so, no man could ever do so.

Those mystics who talk of becoming united with God have fallen into the dualistic fallacy. They talk as though God were separate and apart from themselves. The truth is that they already exist within God and do not need to become united with Him. What they need is to become conscious of Him--which is a different matter.

Man is not God, God is not man, despite all Vedantic self-drugging; but there exists an unbreakable relation between the two.

Vedanta is unsatisfying partly because it is too jerky. It jumps abruptly from the finite and physical individual to the ineffable and unutterable Absolute Itself. It swings from one extreme to another. It fails to recognize that there is and must be an intermediary--the Overself.

The pantheist who is so intoxicated by his discovery of the truth that God is everywhere present and consequently in himself too, that he goes on to the pseudo-discovery that he and God are one, is simply a man who is too vain to acquiesce in his own limitations.

This danger of misinterpreting his own experience besets the mystic at this stage. Because he feels himself to be in the presence of Deity, he believes that he is Deity. But the finite can never contain the Infinite. Deity transcends man.

The danger of men's deifying themselves afflicts the mystic path. This mind-madness must first be frankly admitted as a danger, for then only can it be guarded against.

Agnostic Mysticism--The error of pantheism is so common in the Orient only because there is a base of truth in it. It regards a part of man as divine when it is only linked with the divine.

An error of mysticism which must make the penetrative seeker turn to philosophy was the deification of man implicit in its claim that the mystic can attain to union with God. There was some truth in this claim but there was also some falsehood and certainly much confusion.

When they speak of "union with God," it would be useful if they defined their conception of what they mean by such a union.

Man is but a small token of the greater Mind which spawned him. He is but the merest hint of That which is behind him in the present, was in the past, and shall be in the future.

The true explanation of mystical ecstasy is not union with God but union with the Soul.

When consciousness is successfully turned in on its own deepest state, which is serene, impersonal, and unchanging, it receives the experience of the divine Soul, not of the Godhead. It brings us nearer to the Godhead but does not transform us into it. We discover the divine ray within, we do not become the sun itself.

The mystic attains knowledge and experience of his own soul. This is not the same as knowledge of the ultimate Reality. The two are akin, of course--much more closely than the little ego and the Real are akin. But the Godhead is the Flame of which the soul is only a spark; to claim complete union with it seems blasphemous.

When a man says that he has communed with God, be he a great prophet in trance or a humble layman in prayer, the truth is that he has really communed with something within himself which is so closely related to God that he may perhaps be pardoned for his error. But still it is not God. It is his soul, the Overself.

When he believes he is communing with God he is actually communing with his own inner reality. The enlightenment that seems to come from outside actually comes from inside himself.

In his great ecstasy he feels himself to be a supernormal, super-powerful, and super-wise being. He is to be pardoned if he rashly declares that he is God.

The human being cannot go farther in its pilgrimage than the discovery of his own origin, his Overself.

The soul constitutes both the connection between man and God and the ultimate attainment of man.

The best a man can hope for, in rising above the ego and the world, is to rise into awareness of his true soul. This is valuable enough but it is not the same as looking into God's mind or becoming united with God's being. Those theologians who describe the mind merely show us the capacity or quality of their speculations and imaginations. Those mystics who describe the being, really describe their own souls.

The realization of the Overself enables us to taste something of the flavour of World-Mind's life but it is only the flavour, not the full life itself. Flint says, "Man is made in the image of God, but man is not the measure of God."

His discovery of being born out of, and still remaining rooted in, the Infinite Mind of God, is a tremendous one but it does not make him identical with God.

It makes the mystic a channel only for the cosmic mind, not one with it. He touches the cosmic and does not become entirely transformed into it.

Human beings can only hope to realize the Overself which is a ray or intermediary, but not the World-Mind itself. For the latter is too vast and infinite and remote. Hence when mystics talk of knowing God or feeling God, this is only partly true for they can never know or feel God in his fullness.

The soul is as close as we can approach to that Mind, but surely it is enough. For it reflects something of the Mind's nature. This is why the seers who wrote the Hindu bible called it a "Spark of the One Divine Flame" and the prophets who wrote the Christian bible declared it to be "created in the image of God."

The finite minds which are the offspring of the One Mind may not hope to rise in power or understanding to its attitude. Nevertheless, because they are inseparable from it, they may find hints of both these attributes within themselves. The Divine Essence is undiscoverable by human sense and intellect but not by human intuition and insight.

We may, however, attain to partial knowledge of the transcendent Absolute by and through its emanation in us, the higher self.

The Real is wholly nothing to the five senses and wholly unthinkable to the human intellect. Therefore and to this extent only it is also called the Unknowable. But there is a faculty latent in man which is subtler than the senses, more penetrative than the intellect. If he succeeds in evoking it, the Real, the unknowable, will then come within the range of his perception, knowledge, and experience.

But although the Absolute in its passive state is unknowable, the Overself as representative of its active aspect, of the World-Mind, is knowable.

The Infinite Mind is beyond human perception but its presence and operation are not. The point in human consciousness where these become known is the Overself.

If the pure essence of Godhead is too inaccessible, for man, nevertheless he has not been left bereft of all divine communion. For there is a hidden element within himself which has emanated from the Godhead. It is really his higher, better self, his soul.

But although the Absolute is imperceptible to human powers, It has not left us utterly bereft of all means of communion. We are linked to It by something that lies hidden in the very deeps of our own being, by Its deputy to man, the divine Overself. Human power can penetrate to those deeps and discover the hidden treasure.

This higher self is what the successful mystics of all religions have really achieved union with, despite the widely different names from "God" downwards, which they have given it.

We can not ever know the Divine which is Transcendent but we can acknowledge that it IS. We may however know the Divine which is Immanent, recognize, perceive, and feel its presence.

He may know that God is here even though he is incapable of knowing what God is like.

If we cannot know the all of God because we do not have the equipment of God, we can at least know something of God and the way we are related through the Overself.

An important warning is needed here. Wherever the idea of agnostic mysticism has been supported, the idea that there is no possibility of knowing the Absolute and so no communication of such knowledge, the reference is to ordinary human intellect. No positive result can come of its investigation into that which transcends it. But what intellect unaided cannot know, intuition--a higher faculty--can. It can discover its point of contact with the Absolute--its higher individuality, the Overself, even though it can go no farther and penetrate the Absolute. When intuition becomes active in this matter, it may or may not take the shape of a mystical experience. When it is developed by philosophic training, it expands into insight.

Agnosticism, the belief that we cannot know ultimate truth, applies only to the attempts of the intellectual faculty. It does not apply to those of the intuitive faculty. But even then limitations are imposed upon us. No man can come to know God as God is in Himself, for that is impossible, but all men can come to know God as He is in relation to man. This is because the Overself is all men's contact-point with the World-Mind.

I am not God but rather an emanation from God. I am still a man but there is something Godlike in the centre of my being. The Deity is inaccessible but that centre is not.

When it is said that the Infinite Being cannot be known by the finite mind it is not meant that the Infinite Being is forever unknowable by human beings. For there is in every one of us a link between the two, and if a man is willing to let go of his worldly concerns long enough to find his way to that link--whether by reflection or by meditation--he will discover that this link--intuition--can lead him into the Infinite Presence. At that sacred moment he becomes IT because he forgets the personal self. It exists whether he exists or not, but he exists only in dependence upon it. If the very interesting question be asked, "How did the first man come to discover this Presence?" I suggest that the questioner read a little book, quite a short book called The Awakening of the Soul, written some hundreds of years ago in Arabic and translated first by an Englishman Edward Pococke. (Since then there has been a better and fuller translation made by some other hand, but I do not have the reference possibility here.) The author of the book was called Ibn Tufail. It is in the nature of a story, a sort of Robinson Crusoe story, but it is much more than that. I ought to mention that Pococke's translation, made in the seventeenth century was from the Latin into which the Arabic itself had been translated.

We may draw near to the holy of Holies yet never enter it, feel its eternal atmosphere yet never understand it.

God alone knows why this manifestation should be. Even the mystic never attains God in its fullness but only that ray of God within himself, which is the soul. Although such an attainment is imperfect in the conventional mystic, the philosophic one can hope to attain perfection. However, neither can cross the Overself's farthest boundary--but that is another matter.

That which he finds deep within himself is, he understands intuitively, a reflected ray from that which exists behind the whole universe but it is still only a ray.

Men may know the soul but not God. They may not see the face, or understand the nature, of the final essential reality--and live. He who claims such experience practises self-deception and is caught in illusion.

When they assert that they have united with God, they have, if truly attained, united with God's deputy, their higher self, their own divine soul--which is the not the same. And if they have deceived themselves then they have united only with their conception of God. That is, they have never gone outside the enclosing circle of their own thought.

The five senses cannot perceive It and the thinking faculties cannot conceive It. It cannot be brought down to the level of man nor can man raise himself to its height. Whoever believes that he experiences the Absolute at any time, experiences only an imagination of his own brain.

The Overself is so close to God, so akin to the World-Mind, that no man need look farther, or aspire higher.

Our finite minds cannot lift more than the smallest corner of the smallest corner of the infinite veil behind which the Ultimate Mind eludes us.

No one overwhelmed by the experience of Enlightenment has yet said the last word about Absolute Truth; for no words can either exhaust it or even touch it.

No teaching can be a final complete and exhaustive one. The universe may yield its secret but man's mind is not the World-Mind; it cannot put into finite words what is greater than itself.

If a man claims to know what God is in the same way that God knows it, he is talking nonsense, and falling into the sin of spiritual pride. No one can penetrate this irreducible mystery except in his own imagination, speculation, or psychic fantasy. No human effort can plumb the depth of the ultimate power. No human being has found the truth in all its angles, nor uttered the last word upon it.

Whatever knowledge a mystic may acquire through trance or intuition, it will always be limited. The World-Mind's knowledge is always absolute. The circumference of these two circles can never coincide.

The statement of high truth made by any prophet or sage will always remain an individual interpretation--this is a point that is too often unnoticed or unknown or unacceptable. All history authenticates it.

The highest authority by which any mystic can speak is really his higher self's. His revelation and communication cannot therefore be valid for, or binding upon, other men. If, however, they do accept his pronouncements as such, they do so as a venture of faith. When a mystic takes his inner voice to be nothing less than God's, his inner experience to be nothing else than the uttermost union with God, and then proceeds to use them as justification for imposing his commands on other men, he is no longer a true mystic. He has introduced an "other." He no longer touches the perfect unity of his own innermost being but has returned to the world of duality. And because no finite man can really become the infinite God, that "other" reduces itself to being a figment of his imagination at best or a lying, possessing spirit at worst.

Full enlightenment is not attainable, except in the exuberant emotional fancy of over-enthused followers, for the gulf between man and God is too deep and too wide to be crossed. But partial enlightenment is attainable, for something godlike has been reflected into the human being's heart.

But if it is impossible to become a part of God, it is possible to become a "son of God"--that is, a man inspired and guided by God.

In time his relation to the higher self becomes more intimate than any earthly friendship, closer than any human union could ever be. Yet it always remains a relation, never becomes an absorption; always a nearness, never a merger.

We never become God. We only become a channel for part of God's light, wisdom, and power.

If perfect union, in the Indian sense, is not attainable, what is attainable is the intimate presence of, and mental communion with, God in our heart, which brings peace and truth.

Is a tiny spark the same as a great fire? Can it destroy a house as a fire can? No--although the two are of the same nature, they are not of the same identity. For any man to say "I am God" is incorrect, unless he understands the statement to refer only to the nature of his innermost being and only in this way, that he is but an insignificant spark of God, with all the limitations that belong to a spark.

We have to find our own self before we can find that of God's. Hence there is real need of the higher self tenet.

We are not entitled to aspire towards union with the wholeness of God so long as we still have not attained union with the godlikeness in man.

Agnostic Mysticism--The mystical quest does not open the inner mysteries of God to our gaze. It opens the inner mysteries of man. It leads him to his own divinity, not to God's.

Philosophy rejects decisively all those Vedantic pantheistic notions and Western mystical naïveties which would deify man and identify him with God. It asserts that the phrases in which these beliefs are embodied, such as the Indian "That thou art," the Persian "I am God," and the medieval European "union with God," are exaggerations of the truth, which is that God is immanent in us, that through realization of our higher self we become more like God, but that God never ceases to be the Unattainable, the Incomprehensible.

The individual is as inseparable from the Infinite as the ray from the Sun. Nevertheless he differs from it in degree and in attribute.

Just as a little child may be closely intimate with its mother but not with its mother's mind, so the human being may be closely intimate with the World-Mind but not with Its full consciousness.

The higher kingdoms of Nature cannot be understood by denizens of lower ones. Just as a plant can grow but cannot move about, just as an animal can both grow and move but cannot reflect hence cannot enter into human consciousness, so man can grow move and reflect but cannot enter into God's infinitely mysterious consciousness.

The mystic's endeavour to unite with God--much more his claim to achieve it--is without meaning if God is the Ultimate and the Unique. No finite limited human intelligence could ever directly communicate with the infinite and illimitable Mystery or give and receive love from it. All this has meaning only when the concept of the Overself is introduced.

The teaching of a higher individuality needs to be correctly understood. It is not that a separate one exists for each physical body. The consciousness which normally identifies itself with the body--that is, the ego--when looking upward in highest devotion or inward in deepest meditation, comes to the point of contact with universal being, World-Mind. This point is its own higher self, the divine deputy within its own being. But if devotion or meditation are carried still further, to the very utmost possible stretch of consciousness, the point itself merges into its source. At this moment the man is his source. But--"Man shall not see My face and live!" He returns eventually to earth-consciousness, where he must follow out its requirements. Yet the knowledge of what he is in essence remains. The presence of the deputy is always there meanwhile, always felt. It may fittingly be called his higher individuality.

Being itself infinite, the World-Mind is able to express itself in an infinite number of individual souls.

The uniqueness of each person, his difference from every other person, may be metaphysically explained as due to the effort of Infinite Mind to express itself infinitely within the finite limitation of time and space, form and appearance.

Whenever I have written that the higher individuality is a part of the divine World-Mind, this is so only from the ordinary human standpoint looking upwards. But from the ultimate one, it is not so, for the World-Mind is not the sum total of a number of parts. It cannot be divided into them. This is why I prefer to use the phrase "rooted in the World-Mind."

It is true that the subject in consciousness cannot make an object of itself, cannot perceive itself, but there is in man another self which knows the subject, is aware of the subject although the subject is not aware of it. But there is an important difference to be noted here. First, the transcendental self does not know in the same way that the thinking self knows (by thinking self I mean the subject) for its knowledge is immediate, swifter than the swiftest computing machine. Secondly, it is part of the universal mind, the World Mind, yet mysteriously connected with a limited human mind.

Union with the Overself is not the ultimate end but a penultimate one. What we look up to as the Overself looks up in its own turn to another and higher entity.

An illumined being would better describe his inner status by the phrase "God am I" than by "I am God," as his first thought is not "I" but "THAT."

Agnostic Mysticism: Let us not match our petty and limited minds against the infinite and incomprehensible World-Mind, and let us not say with some foolish mystic that we are God. Let us say rather what we can truly say, which is that there is something of God in us.

It is not for the philosopher to inflate himself with the arrogance of such pompous self-deification. He remains always the humble adorer, the meek suppliant.

It is humbly truer to admit, with Muhammed, "I am the servant of God, I am but a man like you," than arrogantly to assert with the Advaitin, "I am the infinite Brahman!" It is better to say modestly with Jesus, "The father is greater than I," than to announce with the Sufi Mansur: "I am God."

The declaration "I am God" is true in a certain qualified sense but false in a literal one. The declaration "God within me" is true in every sense.

Although the mystic's claim to become one with God is, in the full sense of the term, an unquestionable exaggeration, a splendid illusion, he can certainly claim to have entered into a conscious relationship with God.

The mystic proudly declares, "I have attained union with God." The philosopher mostly says, "I have obtained union with my soul and to that extent drawn nearer to God."

The falsity of claims of self-deification: Jami, the Sufi, very beautifully distinguishes the doctrine of annihilation in God from that of identification with God in the following verse:
So tread this path that duality may disappear,
For if there be duality in the path, falsity will arise:
Thou wilt not become He; but, if thou strivest,
Thou wilt reach a place where thou-ness shall depart from thee.

Fallacy of ``Divine Incarnation''

Philosophy displaces the belief in Divine Incarnations by belief in divinely inspired men. Although it refuses to deify any man into being fully representative of the Infinite Consciousness, it affirms that any man may approach nearer to and be uplifted by that Consciousness.

God is never identified with any man, nor incarnated in him. For God alone is uniquely the Unindividuated whereas all men are individualized creatures. Even the highest type of man, the sage-saviour, is a particular light, whereas God is the light itself.

That the Divine has descended into a holy man's mind and heart is philosophically tenable. That the Divine has actually and specifically incarnated in him is not.

The belief among Christians and Hindus that God incarnates in human form through Christ or Krishna is not held by Muhammedans or Buddhists. That God may use a human channel at times is more rational. But this God is World-Mind, not the Unapproachable.

The popular Hindu belief that God reincarnates himself periodically as an Avatar is a Puranic one, which means that taken literally it is sheer superstition. If it is to be correctly understood, it must be taken as really being an oversimplification of psychological truth for the benefit of simple minds. Hence it is inevitably misleading if its surface interpretation is taken to exhaust its entire significance.

There is a danger to truth and a fanaticism of mind in the belief that only some one historic person, whether dead or alive, some particular man, was or is the only true Guide, the only Sufficient Helper.

To say that God was more incarnate in any one man than all others since the human race began, is to say that God was less infinitely active at that time than at any other--which contradicts the meaning of the word God. Such deification of any mortal is always exploited by the vested interests of religions because it appeals to the superstitious.

If the Divine Essence could really subject itself to the limitations of human existence, this could only be achieved at the cost of impairing its own infinitude and absoluteness. But even to comprehend the hint of a hint about it, which is all that we may hope to do, is enough to show how utterly impossible such subjection would be. The notion that the infinitude of Deity can be compressed and contained within a special human organism is unphilosophical. Whether such an avatar be Krishna in India, Horus in Egypt, or Jesus in Palestine, there has never been any ground for raising one above the others, for the simple reason that there have never been any avatars at all. And if the doctrine of divine incarnations is irrational, the sister doctrine of predicted and messianic second advent is partly a wish-fulfilment and partly a miscomprehension. If a divinely inspired being first appears visibly in the flesh of his own body, his second appearance is invisibly in the heart of his own worshippers.

The downfall of every faith began when the worship of God as Spirit was displaced by the worship of Man as God. No visible prophet, saint, or saviour has the right to demand that which should be offered to the Unseen alone. It is not true reverence but ignorant blasphemy which could believe that the unattainable Absolute has put itself into mortal human form however beneficent the purpose may be. The idea that God can enter the flesh as a man was originally given to most religions as a chief feature for the benefit of the populace. It was very helpful both in their mental and in their practical life. But it was true only on the religious level, which after all is the elementary one. It was not quite true on the philosophical level. Those few who were initiated into the advanced teaching were able to interpret this notion in a mystical or metaphysical way which, whilst remote from popular comprehension, was closer to divine actuality. They will never degrade the Godhead in their thought of it by accepting the popular belief in personification, incarnation, or avatarhood. It is a sign of primitive ignorance when the humanity of these inspired men is unrecognized or even denied, when they are put on a pedestal of special deification. The teaching that Godhead can voluntarily descend into man's body is a misunderstanding of truth. The irony is that those who try to displace the gross misunderstanding by the pure truth itself are called blasphemous. The real blasphemy is to lower the infinite Godhead to being directly an active agent in the finite world.

Nothing can contain the divine essence although everything can be and is permeated by it. No one can personify it, although every man bears its ray within him. To place a limitation upon it is to utter a blasphemy against it. The infinite Mind cannot be localized to take birth in any particular land. The absolute existence cannot be personified in a human form. The eternal Godhead cannot be identified with a special fleshly body. The inscrutable Reality has no name and address. It cannot be turned into an historical person, however exalted, with a body of bones nerves muscle and skin. To think otherwise is to think materialistically. The notion which would place the Deity as a human colossus amongst millions of human midgets and billions of lesser creatures shows little true reverence and less critical intelligence.

We must acknowledge the ever-existence of Absolute mind, even though it is incomprehensible to the senses and inconceivable to the thoughts. We must deny that it can ever manifest itself within time and space and consequently deny also that it can ever show itself under a human form. We must deny that any man is right in arrogating to himself the sole channel through whom worship must be performed, communion achieved, or belief given.

The time has come to repudiate all this foolish worship of human beings and to transfer our reverence and obedience to the pure divine Being alone. The more metaphysical comprehension we develop, the less we shall look to the person of a teacher. We shall then regard the Teaching itself as the essential thing.

It was always a profitable game for the priesthood of various religions to maintain superstitions like that of a chosen race or fallacies like that of a divine incarnation.

This wrong idea of incarnate Godhood is, however, not a smoke without some fire within it. For it is the corruption of a true idea.

The REAL is unique and indivisible, sole and unadulterable. It never becomes less than it is, never descends to become human, never mixes with what is mere phenomena.

The theological dogma that God can take on the nature of man constitutes a mystery beyond human understanding. It is unintelligible and unacceptable to philosophy, which can limit God's unbounded being to no particular place, no "here" or "there."

The moment we give to finite human beings that which we should give to infinite God alone, in that moment we place earthen idols in the sacred shrine.

We must not give to any individual man the attributes of Divinity as we must not give to Divinity the attributes of individual men.

There is metaphysically no such thing as a human appearance of God, as the Infinite Mind brought down into finite flesh. This error is taught as a sacred truth by the Bahais in their Manifestation doctrine, by the Christians in the Incarnation doctrine, and by the Hindus in their Avatar doctrine. God cannot be born in the flesh, cannot take a human incarnation. If He could so confine Himself, He would cease to be God. For how could the Perfect, the Incomprehensible, and the Inconceivable become the imperfect, the comprehensible, and the conceivable?

Yet there is some fire behind this smoke. From time to time, someone is born predestined to give a spiritual impulse to a particular people, area, or age. He is charged with a special mission of teaching and redemption and is imbued with special power from the universal intelligence to enable him to carry it out. He must plant seeds which grow slowly into trees to carry fruit that will feed millions of unborn people. In this sense he is different from and, if you like, superior to anyone else who is also inspired by the Overself. But this difference or superiority does not alter his human status, does not make him more than a man still, however divinely used and power-charged he may be. Such a man will claim no essential superiority over other men; on the contrary, he will plainly admit that they, too, may attain the same state of inspiration which he possesses. Hence Muhammed confessed, repeatedly: "I am only a human being like unto yourselves. But revelations are made to me." And the tenth Sikh guru declared, "Those who call me the Supreme Lord, will go to hell." No human temple can receive the Infinite Essence within its confining walls. No mortal man has ever been or could ever be the Incarnation of the all-transcending Godhead. No earthly flesh or human intelligence has the right to identify itself with the unknowable principle. Only minds untrained in the metaphysics of truth could accept the contrary belief. The widespread character of this belief evidences how few have ever had such a training, and the widespread character of the corruptions and troubles which have always followed in the train of such man-worship, evidences it as a fallacy.

To turn any man of uncommon spiritual insight into the Deity is neither really to honour nor rightly to revere him. On the contrary, it is to misunderstand him and blaspheme against Deity. But those who do this do so in ignorance and are not to blame. Those alone are blameworthy who have become their spiritual guides without having become qualified by divine inspirations, rather than human institutions, to lead them aright.

Such a one is not God incarnate. He is a man still, but a man with unusual awakening to his higher consciousness, unusual intimacy with the Source.

The Notebooks are copyright © 1984-1989, The Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation.