Theosophy of Max Müller. Ancient India. Philosophy of the Vedânta. Tat twam asi. Knowledge by means of the expansion of consciousness as a reality. Mysticism of different ages and peoples. Unity of experiences. Tertium Organum as a key to mysticism. Signs of the noumenal world. Treatise of Plotinus On Intelligible Beauty as a misunderstood system of higher logic. Illumination in Jacob Boehme. "A harp of many strings, of which each string is a separate instrument, while the whole is only one harp." Mysticism of The Love of the Good. St. Avva Dorotheus and others. Clement of Alexandria. Lao-Tzu and Chuang-Tzu. Light on the Path. The Voice of the Silence. Mohammedan mystics. Poetry of the Sufis. Mystical states under narcotics. The Anæsthetic Revelation. Experiments of Prof. James. Dostoyevsky on "time" (The Idiot). Influence of nature on the soul of man.
TO trace historically the process of the development of those ideas and systems founded upon higher logic or proceeding from it, would indeed be a matter of great interest and importance. But this would be difficult and almost impossible of accomplishment because we lack definite knowledge of the time and origin, the means of transmitting, and the sequence of ideas in ancient philosophical systems and religious teachings. There are innumerable guesses and speculations concerning the manner of this succession. Many of these guesses and speculations are accepted as unquestioned until new ones appear which controvert them. The opinions of different investigators in regard to these questions are very divergent, and the truth is often difficult to determine—it would be more accurate to say "impossible" if conclusions had to be based upon the material accessible to logical investigation.
I shall not dwell at all on the question of the succession of ideas, either from the historical or any other point of view.
The proposed outline of systems which refer to the world of noumena is not intended to be complete. This is not "the history of thought," but merely examples of movements of thought which have led to similar conclusions.
In the book Theosophy (or Psychological Religion) the noted scholar Max Müller gives an interesting analysis of mystical religions and mystical philosophical systems. He dwells much on India and her teachings.
That which we can study nowhere but in India is the all-absorbing influence which religion and philosophy may exercise on the human mind. So far as we can judge a large class of people in India, not only the priestly class, but the nobility also, not men only but women, never looked upon their life on earth as something real. What was real to them was the invisible, the life to come. What formed the theme of their conversations, whet formed the subject of their meditations, was the real that alone lent some kind of reality to this unreal phenomenal world. Whoever was supposed to have caught a new ray of truth was visited by young and old, was honored by princes and by kings, was looked upon indeed as holding a position far above that of kings and princes. This is the side of life of ancient India which deserves our study, because there has been nothing like it in the whole world, not even in Greece or Palestine.
I know quite well, [says Müller] that there never can be a whole nation of philosophers or metaphysical dreamers . . . and we must never forget that all through history, it is the few, not the many, who impress their character on a nation, and have a right to represent it as a whole. What do we know of Greece at the time of the Ionian and Eleatic philosophers, except the utterances of Seven Sages? What do we know of the Jews at the time of Moses, except the traditions preserved in the Laws and the Prophets? It is the prophets, the poets, the lawgivers and teachers, however small their number, who speak in the name of the people, and who alone stand out to represent the nondescript multitude behind them, to speak their thoughts and to express their sentiments.
Real Indian philosophy, even in that embryonic form in which we find it in the Upanishads, stands completely by itself. And if we ask what was the highest purpose of the teachings of the Upanishads we can state it in three words, as it has been stated by the greatest Vedânta 1 teachers themselves, namely Tat twam asi. This means Thou art That. That stands for that which is known to us under different names in different systems of ancient and modern philosophy. It is Zeus or the Eis Theos or To On in Greece; it is what Plato meant by the Eternal Idea, what Agnostics call the Unknowable, what I call the Infinite in Nature. This is what in India is called Brahman, the being behind all beings, the power that emits the universe, sustains it and draws it back again to itself. The Thou is what I called the Infinite in man, the Soul, the Self, the being behind every human Ego, free from all bodily fetters, free from passions, free from all attachments (Atman). The expression: Thou art That—means: thy soul is the Brahman; or in other words, the subject and the object of all being and of all knowing are one and the same.
This is the gist of what I call Psychological Religion or Theosophy, the highest summit of thought which the human mind has reached, which has found different expressions in different religions and philosophies, but nowhere such a clear and powerful realization as in the ancient Upanishads of India.
For as long as the individual soul does not free itself from Nescience, or a belief in duality, it takes something else for itself. True knowledge of the Self or true self-knowledge, expresses itself in the words, "Thou art That" or "I am Brahman," the nature of Brahman being unchangeable eternal cognition. Until that stage has been reached, the individual soul is fettered by the body, by the organs of sense, nay even by the mind and its various functions.
The Soul (The Self) says the Vedânta philosopher, cannot be different from the Brahman, because Brahman comprehends all reality and nothing that really is can therefore be different from Brahman. Secondly, the individual self cannot be conceived as a modification of Brahman, because Brahman by itself cannot be changed, whether by itself, because it is one and perfect in itself, or by anything outside of it (because there exists nothing outside of it). Here we see [says Müller], the Vedântist moving on exactly the same stratum of thought in which Eleatic philosophers moved in Greece. "If there is one Infinite," they said, "there cannot be another, for the other would limit the one, and thus render it finite, so, as applied to God, the Eleatics argued: "If God is to be the mightiest and the best, he must be one, for if there were two or more, he would not be the mightiest and best." The Eleatics continued their monistic argument by showing that this One Infinite Being cannot be divided, so that anything could be called a portion of it, because there is no power that could separate anything from it. Nay, it cannot even have parts, for, as it has no beginning and no end, it can have no parts, for a part has a beginning and an end.
These Eleatic ideas—namely that there is and there can be only One Absolute Being, infinite., unchangeable, without a second, without parts and passions—are the same ideas which underlie the Upanishads and have been fully worked out in the Vedânta-Sutras.
In most of the religions of the ancient world [says Müller] the relation between the soul and God has been represented as a return of the soul to God. A yearning for God, a kind of divine home-sickness, finds expression in most religions, but the road that is to lead us home, and the reception which the soul may expect in the Father's house have been represented in very different ways in different religions.
According to some religious teachers, a return of the soul to God is possible after death only. . . .
According to other religious teachers, the final beatitude of the soul can be achieved in this life. . . . That beatitude requires knowledge only, knowledge of the necessary unity of what is divine in man with what is divine in God. The Brahmins call it self-knowledge, that is to say, the knowledge that our true self, if it is anything, can only be that Self which is All in All, and beside which there is nothing else. Sometimes this conception of the intimate relation between the human and the divine natures comes suddenly, as the result of an unexplained intuition or self-recollection. Sometimes, however, it seems as if the force of logic had driven the human mind to the same result. If God had once been recognized as the Infinite in nature and the soul as the Infinite in man, it seemed to follow that there could not be two Infinites. The Eleatics had clearly passed through a similar phase of thought in their own philosophy. If there is an Infinite, they said, it is one, for if there were two they could not be In-finite, but would be finite one toward the other. But that which exists is infinite, and there cannot be more such. Therefore that which exists is one.
Nothing can be more definite than this Eleatic Monism, and with it the admission of a soul, the Infinite in man, as different from God, the Infinite in nature, would have been inconceivable.
In India it was so expressed that Brahman and Atman (the spirit) were in their nature one.
The early Christians also, at least those who had been brought up in the schools of Neo-platonist philosophy, had a clear perception that if the soul is infinite and immortal in its nature, it cannot be anything beside God, but that it must be of God and in God. St. Paul gave but his own bold expression to the same faith or knowledge, when he uttered the words which have startled so many theologians: In Him we live and move and have our being. If anyone else had uttered these words they would at once have been condemned as pantheism. No doubt they are pantheism, and yet they express the very key-note of Christianity. The divine sonship of man is only a metaphorical expression but it was meant originally to embody the same idea. . . . And when the question was asked how the consciousness of this divine sonship could ever have been lost, the answer given by Christianity was, by sin, the answer given by the Upanishads was, by avidya, nescience. This marks the similarity, and at the same time the characteristic difference between these two religions. The question how nescience laid hold on the human soul, and made it imagine that it could live or move or have its true being anywhere but in Brahman, remains as unanswerable in Hindu philosophy as in Christianity the question how sin first came into the world.
Both philosophies, that of the East and that of the West [says Müller] start from a common point, namely from the conviction that our ordinary knowledge is uncertain, if not altogether wrong. This revolt of the human mind against itself is the first step in all philosophy.
In our own philosophical language we may put the question thus: how did the real become phenomenal, and how can the phenomenal become real again? Or, in other words, how was the infinite changed into the finite, how was the eternal changed into the temporal, and how can the temporal regain its eternal nature? Or, to put it into more familiar language, how was this world created, and how can it be untreated again?
Nescience or avidya is regarded as the cause of the phenomenal semblance.
In the Upanishads the meaning of Brahman changes. Sometimes it is almost an objective God, existing separately from the world. But then we see Brahman as the essence of all things . . . and the soul, knowing that it is no longer separated from that essence, learns the highest lesson of the whole Vedânta doctrine: Tat twam asi; "Thou art That," that is to say, "Thou who for a time didst seem to be something by thyself, art that, art really nothing apart from the divine essence." To know Brahman is to be Brahman. . . .
Almost in the same words as the Eleatic philosophers and the German mystics of the fourteenth century, the Vedântists argue that it would be self-contradictory to admit that there could be anything besides the Infinite or Brahman, which is All in All, and that therefore the soul also cannot be anything different from it, can never claim a separate and independent existence.
Brahman has to be conceived as perfect, and therefore unchangeable, the soul cannot be conceived as a real modification or deterioration of Brahman.
And as Brahman has neither beginning nor end, neither can it have any parts; therefore the soul cannot be a part of Brahman, but the whole of Brahman must be present in every individual soul. This is the same as the teaching of Plotinus, who held with equal consistency, that the True Being is totally present in every part of the Universe.
The Vedânta philosophy rests on the foundation thesis that the soul or the Absolute Being or Brahman, are one in their essence. . . .
The fundamental principle of the Vedânta-philosophy is that in reality there exists and there can exist nothing but Brahman, that Brahman is everything. Idealistic philosophy has swept away this world-old prejudice more thoroughly in India than anywhere else.
The nescience (which creates the separation between the individual soul and Brahman) can be removed by science or knowledge only. And this knowledge or vidya is imparted by the Vedânta, which shows that all our ordinary knowledge is simply the result of ignorance or nescience, is uncertain, deceitful, and perishable, or as we should say, is phenomenal, relative, and conditioned. The true knowledge or complete insight cannot be gained by sensuous perception nor by inference. According to the orthodox Vedântist, Sruti alone, or what is called revelation, can impart that knowledge and remove that nescience which is innate in human nature.
Of the Higher Brahman nothing can be predicated but that it is, and that through our nescience, it appears to be this or that.
When a great Indian sage was asked to describe Brahman, he was simply silent—that was his answer.
When it is said that Brahman is, that means at the same time that Brahman is not; that is to say, that Brahman is nothing of what is supposed to exist in our sensuous perceptions.
Whatever we may think of this philosophy, we cannot deny its metaphysical boldness and its logical consistency. If Brahman is all in all, the One without a second, nothing can be said to exist that is not Brahman. there is no room for anything outside the infinite and the Universal, nor is there room for two infinites, for the infinite in nature and the infinite in man. There is and there can be one infinite, one Brahman only. This is the beginning and the end of the Vedânta.
As the shortest summary of the ideas of the Vedânta two verses of Sankara, the commentator and interpreter of Vedânta are often quoted:
Brahma is true, the world is false.
The soul is Brahma and is nothing else. This is really a very perfect summary. What truly and really exists is Brahman, the One Absolute Being; the world is false, or rather is not what it seems to be; that is, everything which is present to us by means of sense is phenomenal and relative, and can be nothing else. The soul again, or rather every man's soul, though it may seem to be this or that, is in reality nothing but Brahma.
In relation to the question of the origin of the world two famous commentators of the Vedânta, Sankara and Râmânuga differ. Râmânuga holds to the theory of evolution, Sankara—to the theory of illusion.
It is very important to observe that the Vedântist does not go so far as certain Buddhist philosophers who look upon the phenomenal world as simply nothing. No, their world is real, only it is not what it seems to be. Sankara claims for the phenomenal world a reality sufficient for all practical purposes, sufficient to determine our practical life, our moral obligations.
There is a veil. But the Vedânta-philosophy teaches us that the eternal light behind it can always be perceived more or less clearly through philosophical knowledge. It can be perceived, because in reality it is always there.
It may seem strange to find the results of the philosophy of Kant and his followers thus anticipated under varying expressions in the Upanishads and in the Vedânta-philosophy of ancient India.
In the chapters about the Logos and about Christian Theosophy Max Müller says that religion is the bridge between the Visible and the Invisible, between Finite and Infinite.
It may be truly said that the founders of the religions of the world have all been bridge-builders. As soon as the existence of a Beyond, of a Heaven above the earth, of Powers above us and beneath us has been recognized, a great gulf seemed to be fixed.
Among contemporary thinkers the noted psychologist, Prof. William James, approached nearer than all others to the ideas of Max Müller's theosophy.
In the last chapter of his book, The Varieties of Religious Experience, Prof. James says:
The warring gods and formulas of the various religions do indeed cancel each other, but there is a certain uniform deliverance in which religions all appear to meet—this is the liberation of the soul. . . . Man becomes conscious that if his higher part is conterminous and continuous with a MORE of the same quality, which is operative in the universe outside of him, and which he can keep in working touch with, and in a fashion get on board of, he can save himself when all his lower being has gone to pieces in the wreck.
What is the objective "Truth" of content of religious experiences? Is such a "more" merely our own notion, or does it really exist? If so, in what shape does it exist? And in what form should we conceive of that "union" with it of which religious geniuses are so convinced?
It is in answering these questions that the various theologies perform their theoretic work, and that their divergencies most come to light. They all agree that the "more" really exists; though some of them hold it to exist in the shape of a personal God or gods while others are satisfied to conceive it as a stream of ideal tendency. . . . It is when they treat of the experience of "union" with it that their speculative differences appear most clearly. Over this point pantheism and theism, nature and second birth, works and grace and Karma, immortality and reincarnation, rationalism and mysticism, carry on inveterate disputes.
At the end of my lecture on Philosophy I held out the notion that an impartial science of religions might sift out from the midst of their discrepancies a common body of doctrine which she might also formulate on terms to which physical science need not object. This, I said, she might adopt as her own reconciling hypothesis, and recommend it for general belief.
Let me then propose as an hypothesis that whatever it may be on its farther side, the "more" with which in religious experience we feel ourselves connected is on its hither side the subconscious continuation of our conscious life.
The conscious person is continuous with a wider self. . . .
The further limits of our being plunge, it seems to me, into an altogether other dimension of existence from the sensible and merely "understandable" world.
Name it the mystical region, or the super-natural region. . . . We be, long to it, in a more intimate sense than that in which we belong to thy, visible world, for we belong in the most intimate sense wherever our ideals belong. . . . The communion with this invisible world is a real process with real results. . . .
. . . Personal religious experience has its roots and centre in mystical states of consciousness.
But what, after all, is mysticism?
Returning to the terminology established in the foregoing chapters, we may say that "mystical states of consciousness" are closely bound up with knowledge received under conditions of expanded receptivity.
Until quite recently psychology did not recognize the reality of the mystical experience and regarded all mystical states as pathological ones—unhealthy conditions of the normal consciousness. Even now, many positivist-psychologists hold to this opinion, embracing in one common classification real mystical states, pseudo-mystical perversions of the usual state, purely psychopathic states and more or less conscious deceit.
This of course can be of no assistance to a correct understanding of the question. Before going further let us therefore establish certain criteria for the identification of real mystical states:
Prof. James enumerates the following: ineffability, noetic quality, transiency, passivity. But some of these characteristics belong also to simple emotional states, and he fails to define exactly how mystical states can be distinguished from emotional ones of analogous character.
Considering mystical states as "knowledge by expanded conscious. ness," it is possible to give quite definite criteria for their discernment and their differentiation from the generality of psychic experiences.
1. Mystical states give knowledge WHICH NOTHING ELSE CAN GIVE.
2. Mystical states give knowledge of the real world with all its signs and characteristics.
3. The mystical states of men of different ages and different peoples exhibit an astonishing similarity, sometimes amounting to complete identity.
4. The results of the mystical experience are entirely illogical from our ordinary point of view. They are super-logical, i.e., Tertium Organum, WHICH IS THE KEY TO MYSTICAL EXPERIENCE, is applicable to them in all its entirety.
The last-named criterion is especially important—the illogicality of the data of mystical experience forced science to repudiate them. Now we have established that illogicality (from our standpoint) is the necessary condition of the knowledge of truth or of the real world. This does not mean that everything that is illogical is true and real, but it means absolutely, that everything true and real is illogical from our standpoint.
We have established the fact that it is impossible to approach the truth with our logic, and we have also established the possibility of penetrating into these heretofore inaccessible regions by means of the new canon of thought.
The consciousness of the necessity for such an instrument of thought undoubtedly existed from far back. For what, in substance, does the formula Tat twam asi represent if not THE FUNDAMENTAL AXIOM OF HIGHER LOGIC?
Thou art That means: thou art both thou and not thou, and corresponds to the super-logical formula, A is both A and Not-A.
If we examine ancient writings from this standpoint, then we shall understand that their authors were searching for a new logic, and were not satisfied with the logic of the things of the phenomenal world. The seeming illogicality of ancient philosophical systems, which portrayed an ideal world, as it were, instead of an existing one, will then become comprehensible, for in these portrayals of an ideal world, systems of higher logic often lie concealed.
One of such misunderstood attempts to construe a system of higher logic, to give a precise instrument of thought, penetrating beyond the limits of the visible world, is the treatise by Plotinus On Intelligible Beauty.
Describing HEAVEN and THE GODS, Plotinus says:
All the gods are venerable and beautiful, and their beauty is immense. What else however is it but intellect through which they are such? And because intellect energizes in them in so great a degree as to render them visible (by its light)? For it is not because their bodies are beautiful. For these gods that have bodies do not through this derive their subsistence as gods; but these also are gods through intellect. For they are not at one time wise, and at another destitute of wisdom; but they are always wise, in an impassive, stable and pure intellect. They likewise know all things, not human concerns (precedaneously) but their own, which are divine, and such as intellect sees. . . . For all things there are heaven, and there the earth is heaven, as also are the sea, animals, plants, and men. The gods likewise that it contains do not think men undeserving of their regard, nor anything else that is there (because everything there is divine). And they occupy and pervade without ceasing the whole of that (blissful) region. For the life which is there is unattended with labor, and truth (as Plato says in the "Phædrus") is their generator, and nutriment, their essence and nurse. They likewise see all things, not those with which generation, but those with which essence is present. And they perceive themselves in others. For all things there are diaphanous; and nothing is dark and resisting, but everything is apparent to everyone internally and throughout. For light everywhere meets with light; since everything contains all things in itself and again sees all things in another. So that all things are everywhere, and all is all. Each thing likewise is everything. And the splendor there is infinite. For everything there is great, since even that which is small is great. The sun too which is there is all the stars; and again each star is the sun and all the stars. . . In each however, a different property predominates, but at the same time all things are visible in each. Motion likewise there is pure; for the motion is not confounded by a mover different from it. Permanency also suffers no change of its nature, because it is not mingled with the unstable. And the beautiful there is beautiful, because it does not subsist in beauty (as in a subject). Each thing too is there established, not as in a foreign land, but the seat of each thing is that which each thing is. . . . Nor is the thing itself different from the place in which it subsists. For the subject of it is intellect, and it is itself intellect . . . There each part always proceeds from the whole, and is at the same time each part and the whole. For it appears indeed as a part; but by him whose sight is acute, it will be seen as a whole. . . . There is likewise no weariness of the vision which is there, nor any plenitude of perception which can bring intuition to an end. For neither was there any vacuity, which when filled might cause the visive energy to cease; nor is this one thing, but that another, so as to occasion a part of one thing is not to be amicable with that of another.
And the knowledge which is possible there is insatiable. . . . For by seeing itself more abundantly it perceives both itself and the objects of its perception to be infinite, it follows its own nature (in unceasing contemplation). The life there is wisdom; a wisdom not obtained by a reasoning process, because the whole of it always was, and is not in any respect deficient, so as to be in want of investigation. But it is the first wisdom, and is not derived from another. 1
Closely akin to Plotinus is Jacob Boehme, who was a common shoemaker in the German town of Goerlitz (end of the XVI and the beginning of the XVII century), and has left a whole series of remarkable writings in which he describes revelations vouchsafed him in moments of illumination.
His first "illumination" occurred in 1600 A.D., when he was twenty-five years old. 2
Sitting one day in his room, his eyes fell upon a burnished pewter dish, which reflected the sunshine with such marvelous splendor that he fell into an inward ecstasy, and it seemed to him as if he could now look into the principles and deepest foundations of things. He believed that it was only a fancy, and in order to banish it from his mind he went out upon the green. But here he remarked that he gazed into the very heart of things, the very herbs and grass, and that actual nature harmonized with what he had inwardly seen. He said nothing of this to anyone, but praised and thanked God in silence.
Of the first illumination Boehme's biographer says: "He learned to know the innermost foundation of nature, and acquire the capacity to see henceforth with the eyes of the soul into the heart of all things, a faculty which remained with him even in his normal condition."
About the year 1600, in the twenty-fifth year of his age, he was again surrounded by the divine light and replenished with the heavenly knowledge; insomuch as going abroad in the fields to a green before Neys Gate, at Goerlitz, he there sat down and, viewing the herbs and grass of the field in his inward light, he saw into their essences, use and properties, which were discovered to him by their lineaments, figures and signatures. In like manner he beheld the whole creation, and from that foundation he afterwards wrote his book, "De Signature Rerum." In the unfolding of those mysteries before his understanding he had a great measure of joy, yet returned home and took care of his family and lived in great peace and silence, scarce intimating to any these wonderful things that had befallen him, and in the year 1610, being again taken into this light, lest the mysteries revealed to him should pass through him as a stream, and rather for a memorial than intending any publication, he wrote his first book, called "Aurora, or the Morning Redness."
The first illumination, in 1600, was not complete. Ten years later (1610) he had another remarkable inward experience. What he had previously seen only chaotically, fragmentarily, and in isolated glimpses, he now beheld as a coherent whole and in more definite outlines.
When his third illumination took place, that which in former visions had appeared to him chaotic and multifarious was now recognized by him as a unity, like a harp of many strings, of which each string is a separate instrument, while the whole is only one harp. 1
He now recognized the divine order of nature, and how from the trunk of the tree of life spring different branches, bearing manifold leaves and flowers and fruits, and he became impressed with the necessity of writing down what he saw and preserved the record.
He himself speaks of this final and complete illumination as follows:
The gate was opened to me that in one quarter of an hour I saw and knew more than if I had been many years at a university, at which I exceedingly admired and thereupon turned my praise to God for it. For I saw and knew the being of all beings, the byss and abyss and the eternal generation of the Holy Trinity, the descent and original of the world and of all creatures through divine wisdom. I knew and saw in myself all the three worlds, namely, (1) the divine (angelical and paradisical) (2) and the dark (the original of the nature to the fire) and (3) then the external and visible world (being a procreation or external birth from both the internal and spiritual worlds). And I saw and knew the whole working essence in the evil and the good and the original and the existence of each of them; and likewise how the fruitful—bearing—womb of eternity brought forth. So that I did not only greatly wonder at it but did also exceedingly rejoice.
Describing "illuminations" Boehme writes, in one of his books:
Suddenly . . . my spirit did break through . . . even into the inner-most birth of Geniture of the Deity, and there I was embraced with love, as a bridegroom embraces his dearly beloved bride. But the greatness of the triumphing that was in the spirit I cannot express either in speaking or writing; neither can it be compared to anything, but that wherein the life is generated in the midst of death, and it is like the resurrection from the dead. In this light my spirit suddenly saw through all, and in and by all creatures, even in herbs and grass, it knew God, who he is, and how he is, and what his work is; and suddenly in that light my will was set on, by a mighty impulse, to describe the being of God. But because I could not presently apprehend the deepest births of God in their being and comprehend them in my reason, there passed almost twelve years before the exact understanding thereof was given me. And it was with me as with a young tree which is planted on the ground, and at first is young and tender, and flourishing to the eye, especially if it comes on lustily in its growing. But it does not bear fruit presently; and, though it blossoms, they fall off; also many a cold wind, frost and snow, puff upon it, before it comes to any growth and bearing of fruit.
Boehme's books are full of wonderment before these mysteries with which he was confronted.
I was as simple concerning the hidden mysteries as the meanest of all; but my vision of the wonders of God taught me, so that I must write of his wonders; though indeed my purpose is to write this for a memorandum for myself. . . .
Not I, the I that I am, know these things: but God knows them in me.
If you will behold your own self and the outer world, and what is taking place thereon, you will find that you, with regard to your external being, are that external world.
The Dialogues between Disciple and Master are remarkable (Disciple and Master should be understood to refer to the lower and the higher consciousness of man).
The Disciple said to his Master:
How may I come to the supersensual life, that I may see God and hear him speak?
His Master said:
When thou canst throw thyself but for a moment into that where no creature dwelleth, then thou hearest what God speaketh.
Disciple—Is that near at hand or far off?
Master—It is in thee. And if thou canst for a while but cease from all thy thinking and willing, then thou shalt hear the unspeakable words of God.
Disciple—How can I hear him speak, when Ii stand still from thinking and willing?
Master—When thou standest still from the thinking of self, and the willing of self; "When both thy intellect and will are quiet, and passive to the impressions of the Eternal Word and Spirit; And when thy soul is winged up, and above that which is temporal, the outward senses, and the imagination being locked up by holy abstraction," then the Eternal hearing, seeing, and speaking, will be revealed in thee; and so God "heareth and seeth through thee," being now the organ of his spirit; and so God speaketh in thee, and whispereth to thy spirit, and thy spirit heareth his voice. Blessed art thou therefore if that thou canst stand still from self-thinking and self-willing, and canst stop the wheel of imagination and senses; forasmuch as hereby thou mayest arrive at length to see the great salvation of God, being made capable of all manner of Divine sensations and heavenly communications. Since it is naught indeed but thine own hearing and willing that do wonder thee, so that thou dost not see and hear God.
Disciple—Loving Master, I can no more endure anything should divert me, how shall I find the nearest way to him?
Master—Where the way is hardest there walk thou, and take up what the world rejecteth; and what the world doth, that do not thou. Walk contrary to the world in all things. And then thou comest the nearest way to him.
Disciple—. . . Oh how may I arrive at the unity of will, and how come into the unity of vision?
Master—. . . Mark now what I, say: The Right Eye looketh in thee into Eternity. The Left Eye looketh backward in thee into time. If now thou sufferest thyself to be always looking into nature, and the things of time, it will be impossible for thee ever to arrive at the unity, which thou wishest for. Remember this; and be upon thy watch. Give not thy mind leave to enter in, nor to fill itself with, that which is without thee; neither look thou backward upon thyself . . . Let not thy Left Eye deceive thee, by making continually one representation after another, and stirring up thereby an earnest longing in the self-propriety; but let thy Right Eye command back this Left . . . And only bringing the Eye of Time into the Eye of Eternity . . . and descending through the Light of God into the Light of Nature . . . shalt thou arrive at the Unity of Vision or Uniformity of Will.
In another dialogue the Disciple and the Master converse about heaven and hell.
The Disciple asked his Master:
Whither go the souls when they leave these mortal bodies?
His Master answered:
The soul needeth no going forth anywhere.
Disciple—Does it not enter into heaven or hell?
Master—No, there is no such kind of entering. . . . The soul hath heaven and hell in itself . . . and whether of the two states—either heaven or hell—shall be manifested in the soul, in that it standeth.
The quotations given here are sufficient to indicate the character of the writings of an unlearned shoemaker from a little provincial town in Germany of the XVI—XVII centuries. Boehme is remarkable for the bright intellectuality of his comprehensions, although there is in them a strong moral element also.
In the book above mentioned (The Varieties of Religious Experience) Prof. James dwells with great attention on Christian Mysticism, which afforded him much material for establishing the fact of the cognitive aspect of mysticism.
I borrow from him the following description of the mystical experiences of certain Christian saints.
St. Ignatius confessed one day to Father Laynez that a single hour of meditation at Manfesa had taught him more truths about heavenly things than all the teachings of all the doctors put together could have taught him. . . . One day in orison, on the steps of the choir of the Dominican Church, he saw in a distinct manner the plan of divine wisdom in the creation of the world. On another occasion, during a procession, his spirit was ravished on God, and it was given him to contemplate, in a form and images fitted to the weak understanding of a dweller on earth, the deep mystery of the holy Trinity. This last vision flooded his heart with such sweetness, that mere memory of it in after times made him shed abundant tears.
"One day, being in orison," Saint Teresa writes, "it was granted me to perceive in one instant how all things are seen and contained in God. I did not perceive them in their proper form, and nevertheless the view I had of them was of a sovereign clearness and has remained vividly impressed upon my soul. It is one of the most signal of all the graces which the Lord has granted me. . . . The view was so subtle and delicate that the understanding cannot grasp it."
She goes on to tell [Prof. James writes] how it was as if the Deity was an enormous and sovereignly limpid diamond, in which all our actions were contained in such a way that their full sinfulness appeared evident as never before.
"Our Lord made me comprehend," she writes, "in what way it is that one God can be in three Persons. He made me see it so clearly that I remained as extremely surprised as I, was comforted . . . and now, when I think of the holy Trinity, or hear it spoken of, I understand how the three adorable Persons form only one God and I experienced an unspeakable happiness."
Christian mysticism, as Prof. James shows, is very near to the Vedânta and the Upanishads. That fountain-head of Christian mysticism, Dionysius the Areopagite, tells about the absolute truth in negative formulæ only.
"The cause of all things is neither soul nor intellect; nor has it imagination, opinion, or reason, or intelligence; nor is it reason or intelligence; nor is it spoken or thought. It is neither number, nor order, nor magnitude, nor littleness, nor equality, nor inequality, nor similarity, nor dissimilarity. It neither stands, nor moves, nor rests. . . . It is neither essence, nor eternity, nor time. Even intellectual contact does not belong to it. Art is neither science nor truth. It is not even royalty or wisdom; not one; not unity; not divinity or goodness nor even spirit as we know it."
The writings of the mystics of the Greek Orthodox Church are collected in the books The Love of the Good, comprising five large and formidable volumes. I selected several examples of profound and fine mysticism from the book, Superconsciousness and the Paths to its Attainment, by M. V. Lodizhensky (In Russian), who studied these books and found therein remarkable examples of philosophical thought.
Imagine a circle, says Avva Dorotheus (VII century), and in the middle of it a centre; and from this centre forthgoing radii-rays. The farther these radii go from the centre, the more divergent and remote from one another they become; conversely, the nearer they approach to the centre, the more they come together among themselves. Now suppose that this circle is the world: the very middle of it, God; and the straight lines (radii) going from the centre to the circumference, or from the circumference to the centre, are the paths of life of men. And in this case also, to the extent that the saints approach the middle of the circle, desiring to approach God, do they, by so doing, come nearer to God and to one another. . . . Reason similarly with regard to their withdrawing from God . . . they withdraw also from one another, and by so much as they withdraw from one another do they withdraw from God. Such is the attribute of love: to the extent that we are distant from God and do not love Him, each of us is far from his neighbor also. If we love God, then to the extent that we approach to Him through love of Him, do we unite in love with our neighbors; and the closer our union with them, the closer is our union with God also. 1
(Superconsciousness, p. 266)
Hear now, says St. Isaac of Syria (VI century), how man becomes refined, acquires spirituality, and becomes like the invisible forces. . . . When the vision soars above things earthly, and above all troubles over earthly doings, and begins to experience revelations concerning that which is within, hidden from sight, and when it will turn its gaze upward, and experiences faith in the guidance of future ages, and the ardent desire for promised things, when it will search for hidden mysteries, then faith itself consumes this knowledge and so transforms and regenerates it that it becomes entirely spiritual. Then may the vision soar on pinions into regions incorporeal, may touch the depths of an inaccessible sea, participating in the mind Divine, and the miraculous acts of guidance in the hearts of thinking and feeling beings, discovering spiritual mysteries which become then comprehensible by the refined and simple mind. Then the inner senses are awakened to spirituality after the manner that they will be in the life immortal and incorruptible, for even here this redemption of the mind is a true symbol of the general redemption.
(Superconsciousness, p. 370)
When the grace of the Holy Spirit, says Maxim Kapsokalivit, descends on anyone, there is shown to him nothing of the sensuous world, but that which he never saw or never imagined. Then the understanding of such a man receives from the Holy Spirit the highest and hidden mysteries which according to the divine Paul, neither the human eye can understand nor the human reason comprehend unaided. (Ii Corinthians ii, 9). And that thou mayest understand how our reason sees them, try to apprehend that which I shall say to thee. Wax, when it is placed far from fire, is solid, and it is possible to take it and hold it, but as soon as it is thrown in fire it immediately melts, takes fire, burns, blazes and ends thus in the midst of flames. So also is human reason when it is alone by itself, ununited with God; then it comprehends in the usual way and according to its power all things surrounding it; but as it approaches the fire of Divinity and of the Holy Ghost, then is it entirely enveloped by that Divine fire, and immersed in Divine meditation, and then in that fire of Divinity it is impossible for it to think about its own affairs and about that which it desires.
(Superconsciousness, p. 370)
St. Basil the Great says about the revelation of God: Absolutely unutterable and indescribable are the lightning-like splendors of Divine beauty; neither can speech express nor hearing apprehend. Shall we name the brilliance of the morning star, the brightness of the moon, the radiance of the sun—the glory of all these is unworthy of being compared with the true light, standing farther from it than does the gloomiest night and the most terrible darkness from midday brightness. This beauty, invisible to bodily eyes, comprehensible to soul and mind only, if it illumines some of the saints leaves in them an unbearable wound through their desire that this vision of Divine beauty should extend over an eternity of life; disturbed by this earthly life, they loathe it as thought it were a prison.
(Superconsciousness, p. 372)
St. Theognis says: A strange word will I say to thee. There is some hidden mystery which proceeds between God and the soul. This is experienced by those who achieve the highest heights of perfect purity of love and faith, when man, changing completely unites with God, as His own, through ceaseless prayer and contemplation?
(Superconsciousness, p. 381)
Certain parts of the writings of Clement of Alexandria (second century) are remarkably interesting.
It appears to us that painting appears to take in the whole field of view in the scenes represented. But it gives a false description of the view, according to the rules of the art, employing the signs that result from the incidents of the lines of vision. By this means, the higher and the lower points in the view, and those between, are preserved; and some objects seem to appear in the foreground, and others in the background, and others to appear in some other way, on the smooth and level surface. So also philosophers copy the truth, after the manner of painting. 1
Clement of Alexandria here reveals one very important aspect of truth, namely, its inexpressibility in words and the entire conditionality of all philosophical systems and formulations. Dialectically truth is represented only in perspective—i.e., in an inevitably deformed shape—such is his idea.
What time and labor would be saved, and from what enormous and unnecessary suffering would humanity save itself, could it but understand this one simple thing: that truth cannot be expressed in our language. Then would men cease to think that they possessed truth, would cease to force others to accept their truth at any cost, would see that others may approach truth from another direction, exactly as they themselves approach it, by a way of their own. How many arguments, how many religious struggles, how much of violence toward the thoughts of others would be rendered unnecessary and impossible if men would only understand that nobody possesses truth, but all are seeking for it, each in his own way.
The ideas of Clement of Alexandria about God are highly interesting, and closely approximate to those of the Vedânta, and particularly to the ideas of the Chinese philosophers.
The discourse respecting God is the most difficult to handle. For since the first principle of everything is difficult to find out, the absolutely first and the oldest principle, which is the cause of all other things being and having been, is difficult to exhibit. For how can that be expressed which is neither genus, nor difference, nor species, nor individual, nor number; nay more, is neither an event, nor that to which an event happens? No one can rightly express this wholly. For on account of his greatness he is ranked as the All and is the Father of the universe. Nor are any parts to be predicated of them. For the one is indivisible, wherefore also it is infinite, not considered with reference to its being without dimensions, and not having a limit. And therefore it is without form and name. And if we name it, we do not do so properly, terming it either the one, or the good, or mind, or Absolute Being, or Father, or God, or Creator, or Lord. We speak not as supplying His name; but for want, we use good names, in order that the mind may have these as points of support, so as not to err in other respects. 1
Among Chinese mystical philosophers our attention is arrested by Lao-Tzu (VI cent. B. C.), and Chuang-Tzu^ (IV cent. B. C.) by the cleanliness of thought and the unusual simplicity with which they express the most profound doctrines of idealism.
The Sayings of Lao-Tzu^
The Tao, which can be expressed in words is not the eternal Tao; the name which can be uttered is not its eternal name. 2
Tao eludes the sense of sight, and is therefore called colorless. It eludes the sense of hearing, and is therefore called soundless. It eludes the sense of touch, and is therefore called incorporeal. These three qualities cannot be apprehended, and hence they may be blended into unity.
Ceaseless in action, it cannot be named, but returns again to nothingness. We may call it the form of the formless, the image of the image-less, the fleeting and the indeterminable.
There is something chaotic, yet complete, which existed before heaven and earth. Oh, how still it is, and formless, standing alone without changing, reaching everywhere, without suffering harm!
Its name I know not. To designate it I call it Tao. Endeavoring to describe it, I call it Great.
Being Great, it passes on; passing on, it becomes remote; having become remote it returns.
The law of Tao is its own spontaneity.
Tao in its unchanging aspect has no name.
The mightiest manifestations of active force flow from Tao.
Tao as it exists in the world is like great rivers and seas which receive the streams from the valleys.
All-pervading is the Great Tao. It can be at once on the right hand and on the left.
Tao is a great square with no angles, a great sound which cannot be heard, a great image with no form.
Tao produced Unity; Unity produced Duality; Duality produced Trinity; and Trinity produced all existing objects.
He who acts in accordance with Tao, becomes one with Tao.
All the world says that my Tao is great, but unlike other teachings. It is just because it is great that it appears unlike other teachings. If it had this likeness, long ago would its smallness have been known.
The sage attends to the inner and not to the outer; he puts away the objective and holds to the subjective.
The sage occupies himself with inaction, and conveys instructions without words.
Who is there that can make muddy water clear? But if allowed to remain still it will gradually become clear of itself. Who is there that can secure a state of absolute repose? But let time go on, and the state of repose will gradually arise.
Tao is eternally inactive, and yet it leaves nothing undone.
The pursuit of book-learning brings about daily increase (i.e., the increase of knowledge). The practice of Tao brings about daily loss (i.e., the loss of ignorance). Repeat the loss again and again, and you arrive at inaction. Practice inaction, and there is nothing which cannot be done.
Practice inaction, occupy yourself with doing nothing.
Leave all things to take their natural course, and do not interfere.
All things in Nature work silently.
Among mankind, the recognition of beauty as such implies the idea of ugliness, and the recognition of good implies the idea of evil.
Cast off your holiness, rid yourself of sagacity, and the people will benefit a hundredfold.
Those who know do not speak; those who speak do not know.
He who acts, destroys; he who grasps, loses. Therefore the sage does not act, and so he does not destroy; he does not grasp, and so he does not lose.
The soft overcomes the hard; the weak overcomes the strong. There is no one in the world but knows this truth, and no one who can put it into practice.
A Meditation of Chuang-Tzu^
You cannot speak of ocean to a well-frog—the creature of a narrower sphere. You cannot speak of ice to a summer insect—the creature of a season. You cannot speak of Tao to a pedagogue, his scope is too restricted.
But now that you have emerged from your narrow sphere and have seen the great ocean, you know your own significance, and I can speak to you of great principles. . . .
Dimensions are limitless; time is endless. Conditions are not invariable; terms are not final.
There is nothing which is not objective; there is nothing which is not subjective. But it is impossible to start from the objective. Only from subjective knowledge is it possible to proceed to objective knowledge.
When subjective and objective are both without their correlates, that is the very axis of Tao.
Tao has its laws and its evidences. It is devoid both of action and of form.
It may be obtained but cannot be seen.
Spiritual beings draw their spirituality from Tao.
To Tao no point in time is long ago.
Tao cannot be existent. If it were existent, it could not be non-existent. The very name of Tao is only adapted for convenience' sake. Predestination and chance are limited to material existences. How can they bear upon the infinite?
Tao is something beyond material existences. It cannot be conveyed either by words or by silence. In that state which is neither speech nor silence, its transcendental nature may be apprehended. 1
In contemporary Theosophical literature, two little books stand out: The Voice of the Silence by H. P. Blavatsky, and Light on the Path by Mabel Collins. In both of them there is much of real mystical sentiment.
The Voice of the Silence
He who would hear the voice of the silence, the soundless sound, and comprehend it, he has to learn the nature of the perfect inward concentration of the mind, accompanied by complete abstraction from everything pertaining to the external Universe, or the world of senses.
Having become indifferent to objects of perception, the pupil must seek out the Rajah of the senses, the Thought-Producer, him who awakes illusions. The mind is the great slayer of the real.
Let the Disciple slay the Slayer.
When to himself his form appears unreal, as do on waking all the forms he sees in dreams;
When he ceases to hear the many, he may discern the ONE—the inner sound which kills the outer.
Then only, not till then, shall he forsake the region of ASAT, the false, to come into the realm of SAT, the true.
Before the soul can see, the harmony within must be attained, and fleshly eyes be rendered blind to illusion.
Before the soul can hear, the image (man) has to become as deaf to warnings as to whispers, to cries of bellowing elephants as to the silvery buzzing of the golden firefly.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
And then to the inner ear will speak—
THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE
—If thy Soul smiles while bathing in the sunlight of thy life; if thy soul sings within her chrysalis of flesh and matter; if thy soul weeps inside her castle of illusion; if thy soul struggles to break the silver thread that binds her to the MASTER, know, O Disciple, thy soul is of the earth.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Give up thy life, if thou wouldst live.
Learn to discern the real from the false, the ever-fleeting from the ever-lasting. Learn above all to separate head-learning from soul-wisdom, the "Eye" from the "Heart" doctrine.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Light on the Path, like The Voice of the Silence is full of symbols, hints and hidden meanings. This is a little book which makes demands upon the reader. Its meaning is elusive, and it requires to be read in a fitting state of spirit. Light on the Path prepares the "disciple" to meet the "Master," i.e., the ordinary consciousness for communion with the higher consciousness. According to the author of Light on the Path, the term "THE MASTERS" is a symbolical expression for the "Divine Life." 1
Light on the Path
Before the eyes can see they must be incapable of tears. Before the ear can hear it must have lost its sensitiveness. Before the voice can speak in the presence of the Masters it must have lost the power to wound. Before the soul can stand in the presence of the Masters its feet must be washed in the blood of the heart.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Kill out all sense of separateness.
Desire only that which is within you.
Desire only that which is beyond you.
Desire only that which is unattainable.
For within you is the light of the world. . . . If you are unable to perceive it within you, it is useless to look for it elsewhere. . . . it is unattainable, because it forever recedes. You will enter the light, but you will never touch the Flame. . . .
Seek out the way.
Look for the flower to bloom in the silence that follows the storm: not till then. . . .
And on the deep silence the mysterious event will occur which will prove that the way has been found. Call it by what name you will, it speaks in a voice that speaks where there is none to speak—it is a messenger that comes, a messenger without form or substance; or it is the flower of the soul that has opened. It cannot be described by any metaphor.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
To hear the voice of the silence is to understand that from within comes the only true guidance. . . . For when the disciple is ready, the Master is ready also.
Hold fast to that which is neither substance nor existence.
Listen only to the voice which is soundless.
Look only on that which is invisible. . . .
Prof. James calls attention in his book to the unusually vivid emotionality of mystic experiences, and to the quite unusual sensations felt by mystics.
The deliciousness of some of these states seems to be beyond anything known in ordinary consciousness. It evidently involves organic sensibilities, for it is spoken of as something too extreme to be borne, and as verging on bodily pain. But it is too subtle and piercing a delight for ordinary words to denote. God's touches, the wounds of his spear, references to ebriety and to mystical union have to figure in the phraseology by which it is shadowed forth.
The joy of communion with God, described by St Simeon the New Theologian 1 (X century) may serve as an example of such an experience.
I am wounded by the arrow of His love (writes St. Simeon). He is Himself inside of me, in my heart; he embraces me, kisses me, fills me with light. . . . A new flower grows in me, new because it is joyous. . . . This flower is of an unutterable form, is seen when it grows merely, then suddenly disappears . . . it is of indescribable appearance; attracts my mind to itself, causes forgetfulness of everything to do with fear, and then flies suddenly away. Then does the tree of fear remain again lacking fruit; I moan in sorrow and pray to thee, my Christ; again I see the flower amid the branches, Ii chain my attention to it alone, and see not the tree alone, but the brilliant flower attracting me to itself irresistibly; this flower grows in the end into the fruit of love. . . . Incomprehensible is it how from fear grows love.
Mysticism penetrates into all religions.
In India, [Prof. James says] training in mystical insight has been known from time immemorial under the name of yoga. Yoga means the experimental union of the individual with the divine. It is based on per-severing exercise; and the diet, posture, breathing, intellectual concentration, and moral discipline vary slightly in the different systems which teach it. The yogi, or disciple, who has by these means overcome the obscurations of his lower nature sufficiently, enters into the condition termed samadhi, "and he comes face to face with facts which no instinct or reason can ever know."
. . . When a man comes out of samadhi Vedântists assure us that he remains "enlightened, a sage, a prophet, a saint, his whole character changed, his life changed, illumined."
The Buddhists use the word samadhi as well as the Hindus; but dhyana is their special word for the higher states of contemplation.
Higher stages still of contemplation are mentioned—a region where there exists nothing, and where the meditator says: "There exists absolutely nothing," and stops. Then he reaches another region, he says: "There are neither ideas nor absence of ideas," and stops again. Then another region where, "having reached the end of both idea and perception, he stops finally." This would seem to be, not yet Nirvana, but as close an approach to it as this life affords. 1
In Mohammedanism there is much of mysticism also. The most characteristic expression of Moslem mysticism is Persian Sufism. This is at the same time a religious sect and a philosophical school of high idealistic character, which struggled against materialism and against the narrow fanaticism and the literal understanding of the Koran. The Sufis interpreted the Koran mystically. Sufism—this is the philosophical free-thinking of Mohammedanism, united with an entirely original symbolical and brightly sensuous poetry which has always a hidden mystical character. The blossoming of Sufism occurred in the early centuries of the second millennium of the Christian era.
Sufism remained for a long time incomprehensible to European thought. From the point of view of Christian theology and Christian morality the mixing up of sensuousness and religious ecstacy is incomprehensible, but in the Orient the two coexisted with perfect harmony. In the Christian world "the flesh" has always been regarded as inimical to "the spirit." In the Moslem world the fleshly and sensuous was accepted as a symbol of spiritual things. The expression of philosophical and religious truths "in the language of love" was a widely disseminated custom throughout the Orient. These things are "Oriental flowers of eloquence." All allegories, all metaphors were taken from "love." "Mohammed fell in love with God," the Arabs say, desiring to convey the brightness of the religious ardor of Mohammed. "Select for thyself a new wife every spring of the new year, because last year's calendar is no good"—says the Persian poet and philosopher Sa’di. And in such curious form Sa’di expresses the thought that Ibsen puts in the mouth of Dr. Stockman: "Truths are not as many believe like long-living Methuselahs. Under normal conditions a truth may exist about seventeen or eighteen years, rarely longer."
The poetry of the Sufis will become clearer to us if we always keep in mind this general sensuous character of the literary language of the Orient, the heritage of profound antiquity. A classic example of this ancient literature is the Song of Songs.
Many parts of the Bible and all ancient myths and stories are distinguished by a sensuousness of form strange to us.
"The Persian mystical poetical Sufis wrote about the love of God in expressions applicable to their beautiful women," says the translator of Jami and other poets, Davis—"because, as they explained this, nobody can write in heavenly language and be understood." (Persian Mystics.)
"The idea of Sufism," Max Müller says, "is a loving union of the soul with God." "The Sufi holds that there is nothing in human language that can express the love between the soul and God so well as the love between man and woman and that if he is to speak of the union between the two at all, he can only do so in the symbolic language of earthly love." When we read some of the Sufi enraptured poetry, we must remember that the Sufi poets use a number of expressions which have a recognized meaning in their language. Their sleep means meditation; perfume—hope of divine favor; kisses and embraces—the raptures of piety; wine means spiritual knowledge, etc.
The flowers which a lover of God had gathered in his rose-garden, and which he wished to give to his friends, so overpowered his mind by their fragrance that they fell out of his lap and withered, Sa’di says. A poet desires to express by this, that the glory of ecstatic visions pales and fades away when it has to be put into human language.—(Max Müller Theosophy.)
Generally speaking, never and nowhere has poetry been so blended with mysticism as in Sufism. The Sufi poets frequently lived the strange lives of hermits, anchorites and wanderers, at the same time singing of love, the beauty of women, the aroma of roses and wine.
Jêlal eddîn describes as follows the communion of the soul with God:
A loved one said to her lover to try him early one morning: "O such a one, son of such a one, I marvel whether you hold me more dear, or yourself; tell me truly, O ardent lover!" He answered: "I am so entirely absorbed in you, that I am full of you from head to foot. Of my own existence nothing but the man remains, in my being is nothing beside you, O object of my desire. Therefore I am thus lost in you. As a stone which has been changed into a pure ruby, is filled with the bright light of the sun."—(Max Müller.)
In two well-known poems of Jami (XV century), Salaman and Abasl and Yusuf and Zulaikha, the "ascending of the soul," its purification and its union with God, is represented in the most passionate forms.
Prof. James pays great attention in his book to mystical states under narcosis.
"This is a realm that public opinion and ethical philosophy have long since branded as pathological, though private practice and certain lyric strains of poetry seem still to bear witness of its ideality.
"Nitrous oxide and ether, especially nitrous oxide, when sufficiently diluted with air, stimulates the mystical consciousness in an extraordinary degree. Depth beyond depth of truth seems revealed to the inhaler. This truth fades out, however, or escapes, at the moment of coming to; and if any words remain over in which it seemed to clothe itself, they prove to be the veriest nonsense. Nevertheless, the sense of a profound meaning having been there persists; and I know more than one person who is persuaded that in the nitrous oxide trance we have a genuine metaphysical revelation.
"Some years ago I myself made some observations on this aspect of nitrous oxide intoxication, and reported them in print. One conclusion was forced upon my mind at that time, and my impression of its truth has ever since remained unshaken. It is that our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there are potential forms of consciousness entirely different. We may go through life without suspecting their existence, but apply the requisite stimulus and at a touch they are there in all their completeness, definite types of mentality which probably somewhere have their field of application and adaptation. No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded. At any rate, they forbid a premature closing of our accounts with reality.
"The whole drift of my education goes to persuade me that the world of our present consciousness is only one out of many worlds of consciousness that exist, and that those other worlds must contain experiences which have a meaning for our life also.
"Looking back on my experiences, they all converge toward a kind of insight to which I cannot help ascribing some metaphysical significance. The keynote of it is invariably a reconciliation. It is as if the opposites of the world, whose contradictions and conflict make all our difficulties and troubles, were melted into unity. Not only do they, as contrasted species, belong to one and the same genus, but one of the species—the nobler and the better one—is itself the genus, so soaks up and absorbs its opposite into itself. This is a dark saying, I know, when thus expressed in terms of common logic, but I cannot wholly escape from its authority. I feel as if it must mean something, something like what the Hegelian philosophy means, if one could only lay hold of it more clearly. Those who have ears to hear let them hear; to me the loving sense of its reality only comes in the artificial mystic state of mind.
"What reader of Hegel can doubt that sense of a perfected being with all its otherness soaked up in itself, which dominates his whole philosophy, must have come from the prominence in his consciousness of mystical moods like this, in most persons kept subliminal? The notion is thoroughly characteristic of the mystical level, and the Aufgabe (the problem) of making it articulate was surely set to Hegel's intellect by mystical feeling.
"I have friends who believe in the anæsthetic revelation. For them too it is a monistic insight, in which the other in its various forms appears absorbed into the One. 1
"Into this pervading genus," writes one of them, "we pass, forgetting and forgotten, and thenceforth each is all, in God. There is no higher, no deeper, no other, than the life in which we are founded. The one remains, the many change and pass; and each and every one of us is the One that remains. . . . This is the ultimatum. . . . As sure as being—whence is all our care—so sure is content, beyond duplexity, antithesis, or trouble, where I have triumphed in a solitude that God is not above."—(B. P. Blood: The Anæsthetic Revelation and the Gist of Philosophy, Amsterdam, N. Y., 1874.)
Xenos Clark, a philosopher who died young (at Amherst in the '80's) was also impressed by the revelation.
"In the first place," he once wrote to me, "Mr. Blood and I agree that the revelation is, if anything, non-emotional. It is, as Mr. Blood says, the one sole and sufficient insight why or not why, but how, the present is pushed on by the past, and sucked forward by the vacuity of the future. . . . It is an initiation of the past. The real secret would be the formulæ by which the 'now' keeps exfoliating out of itself, yet never escapes. We simply fill the hole with the dirt we dug out. Ordinary philosophy is like a hound hunting its own tail. The more he hunts the farther he has to go, and his nose never catches up with his heels, because it is forever ahead of them. So the present is already a foregone conclusion, and I am ever too late to understand it. But at the moment of recovery from anæsthesis, then, before starting on life, I catch, so to speak, a glimpse of my heels, a glimpse of the eternal process just in the act of starting. The truth is that we travel on a journey that was accomplished before we set out; and the real end of philosophy is accomplished, not when we arrive at, but when we remain in, our destination (being already there)—which may occur vicariously in this life when we cease our intellectual questioning. That is why there is a smile upon the face of revelation, as we view it. It tells us that we are forever half a second too late—that's all.
"You could kiss your own lips, and have all the fun to yourself," it says, "if you only knew the trick. It would be perfectly easy if they would just stay there till you got around to them. Why don't you manage it somehow?"
In his latest phamphlet Mr. Blood describes the value of the anæsthetic revelation for life as follows:
"The Anæsthetic Revelation is the initiation of man into the mystery of the open secret of Being, revealed as the inevitable vortex of continuity. Inevitable is the word. Its motive is inherent—it is what has to be. It is not for any love or hate, nor for joy or sorrow, nor good nor ill. End, beginning, or purpose, it knows not of.
"It affords no particular of the multiplicity and variety of things; but it fills the appreciation of the historical and the sacred with a secular and intimately personal illumination of the nature and motive of existence. . . .
"Although it is at first startling in its solemnity, it becomes directly such a matter of course—so old-fashioned, and so akin to proverbs, that it inspires exultation rather than fear, and the sense of safety, as identified with the aboriginal and the universal. But no words may express the surpassing certainty of the patient that he is realizing the primordial Adamic surprise of life.
"Repetition of the experience finds it ever the same, and as if it could not possibly be otherwise. The subject resumes his normal consciousness only to partially and fitfully remember its occurrence, and to try to formulate its baffling import—with this consolatory after-thought: that he has known the oldest truth, and that he has done with human theories as to the origin, meaning, or destiny of the race. He is beyond instruction in 'spiritual things.'
"The lesson is one of central safety; the kingdom is within. All days are judgment days: but there can be no climacteric purpose of eternity, nor any scheme of the whole. The astronomer abridges the row of bewildering figures by increasing his unit of measurement: so may we reduce the distracting multiplicity of things to the unity for which each of us stands.
"This has been my moral sustenance since I have known of it. In my first printed mention of it I declared: The world is no more the alien terror that was taught me. Spurning the cloud-grimed and still sultry battlements whence so lately Jehovan thunders boomed, my gray gull lifts her wings against the nightfall, and takes the dim leagues with a fearless eye. And now, after twenty-seven years of this experience, the wing is grayer, but the eye is fearless still, while I renew and doubly emphasize that declaration. I know—as having known—the meaning of existence: the sane center of the universe—at once the wonder and the assurance of the soul—for which the speech of reason has as yet no name but the Anæsthetic Revelations."
I subjoin, Prof. James says, another interesting anæsthetic revelation. This is what the subject, a gifted woman, writes about her experience, when she was taking ether for a surgical operation.
"I wondered if I was in a prison being tortured, and why I remembered, having heard it said that people 'learn through suffering,' and in view of what I was seeing, the inadequacy of this saying struck me so much that I said, aloud, 'to suffer is to learn.' With that I became unconscious again, and my last dream immediately preceded my real coming to. It only lasted a few seconds and was most vivid and real to me, though it may not be clear in words.
"A great Being or Power was traveling through the sky, his foot was on a kind of lightning as a wheel is on a rail, it was his pathway. The lightning was made of innumerable spirits close to one another, and I was one of them. He moved in a straight line, and each part of the streak or flash came into its short conscious existence only that he might travel. I seemed to be directly under the foot of God, and I thought he was grinding his own life up out of my pain. Then I saw that what he had been trying with all his might to do was to change his course, to bend the line of lightning to which he was tied, in the direction in which he wanted to go. I felt my flexibility and helplessness, and I knew that he would succeed. He bended me, turning his corner by means of my hurt, hurting me more than I had ever been hurt in my life, and at the acutest point of this, as he passed, I, SAW.
"I understood for a moment things that I have now forgotten, things that no one could remember while retaining sanity. The angle was an obtuse angle, and I remember thinking as I woke that had he made it a right or acute angle, I should have both suffered and 'seen' still more, and should probably have died.
"He went on and I came to. In that moment the whole of my life passed before me, including each little meaningless piece of distress, and I understood them. This is what it had all meant, this was the piece of work it had all been contributing to do.
"I did not see God's purpose. I only saw his intentness and his entire relentlessness toward his means. He thought no more of me than a man thinks of hurting a cartridge when he is firing. And yet, on waking, my first feeling was, and it came with tears, 'Domine non sum digna,' for I had been lifted into a position for which I was too small. I, realized that in that half hour under ether I had served God more distinctly and purely than I had ever done in my life before, or than I, am capable of desiring to do. I was the means of his achieving and revealing something, I know not what or to whom, and that to the exact extent of my capacity for suffering.
"While regaining consciousness L wondered why, since I had gone so deep, I had seen nothing of what saints call the love of God, nothing but his relentlessness. And then I heard an answer, which I could only just catch, saying, 'Knowledge and Love are One, and the measure is suffering'—I give the words as they came to me. With that I came finally to into what seemed a dream world compared with the reality of what I, was leaving. . . ."
I. S. Symonds, whom Prof. James mentions, tells of an interesting mystical experience with chloroform:
"After the choking and stifling had passed away, I seemed at first in a state of utter blankness, then came flashes of intense light, alternating with blackness, and with a keen vision of what was going on in the room around me, but no sensation of touch. I thought that I was near death; when suddenly, my soul became aware of God, who was manifestly dealing with me, handling me, so to speak, in an intense personal present reality. I felt him streaming in like light upon me. I cannot describe the ecstacy I felt. Then as I gradually awoke from the influence of the anæsthetic, the old sense of my relation to the world began to return, and the new sense of my relation to God began to fade. I suddenly leapt to my feet on the chair where I was sitting, and shrieked out, 'It is too horrible, it is too horrible, it is too horrible,' meaning that I could not bear this disillusionment. At last I awoke . . . calling to the two surgeons (who were frightened) 'why did you not kill me? Why would you not let me die?"
Anæsthetic states are very similar to those strange moments experienced by epileptics during their fits of illness. An artistic description of epileptic states we find in Dostoyevsky's, The Idiot.
He remembered among other things that he always had one minute just before the epileptic fit (if it came on while he was awake) when suddenly in the midst of sadness, spiritual darkness and oppression, there seemed at moments a flash of light on his brain and with extraordinary impetus all his vital forces suddenly began working at their highest tension. The sense of life, the consciousness of self, were multiplied ten times at these moments which passed like a flash of lightning. His mind and his heart were flooded with extraordinary light; all his uneasiness, all his doubts, all his anxieties were relieved at once; they were all merged in a lofty calm, full of serene, harmonious joy and hope.
Thinking of that moment later, when he was all right again, he often said to himself that all these gleams and flashes of the highest sensation of life and self-consciousness, and therefore also of the highest form of existence, were nothing but disease, the interruption of the normal condition. . . . And yet he came at last to an extremely paradoxical conclusion. What if it is disease? he decided, if the result, if the minute of sensation, remembered and analyzed afterwards in health, turns out to be the acme of harmony and beauty, and gives a feeling, unknown and undivined till then, of completeness, of proportion, of reconciliation, and of ecstatic devotional merging in the highest synthesis of life?
These vague expressions seemed to him very comprehensible, though too weak. That it was "beauty and worship," that it really was the "highest synthesis of life" he could not doubt, and could not admit the possibility of doubt. . . . He was quite capable of judging of that when the attack was over. These moments were only an extraordinary quickening of self-consciousness—if the condition was to be expressed in one word—and at the same time of the direct sensation of existence in the most intense degree. Since at that second, that is at the very last conscious moment before the fit, he had time to say to himself clearly and consciously, "Yet for this moment one might give ones whole life!" then without doubt that moment was really worth the whole of life. . . . For the very thing had happened; he actually had said to himself at that second, that, for the infinite happiness he had felt in it, that second really might well be worth the whole of life.
At that moment," as he told Rogozhin one day in Moscow . . . "at that moment I seemed somehow to understand the extraordinary saying that there shall be time no longer. Probably," he added, smiling, "this is the very second which was not long enough for the water to be spilt out of Mohammed's pitcher, though the epileptic prophet had time to gaze at all the habitations of Allah. 1
Narcosis or epilepsy are not at all necessary conditions to induce mystical states in ordinary men.
"Certain aspects of nature appear to have the peculiar power of awakening such mystical moods," says James.
It would be more correct to say that in all conditions of encompassing nature this power lies concealed. The change of the seasons—the first snow, the awakening of spring, the summer days, rainy and warm, the aroma of autumn—awakes in us strange "moods" which we ourselves do not understand. Sometimes these moods intensify, and become the sensation of a complete oneness with nature. In the life of every man there are moments which act upon him more powerfully than others. Upon one a thunderstorm acts mystically, upon another, sunrise, a third the sea, the forest, rocks, fire. The voice of sex embraces much of that same mystical sense of nature.
In the sex impulse man puts himself in the most personal relation with nature. The comparison of the sensation of woman experienced by man, or vice versa, with the feeling for nature is met with very often. And it is really the same sensation as is given by forest, prairie, sea, mountains, only in this case it is even more intense, awakens more inner voices, forces the sounding of more inner strings.
Animals often give the mystical sensation of nature to men. Almost everyone has his favorite animal, with which he has some inner affinity. In these animals, or through them, men sense nature intimately and personally.
In Hindu occultism there is the belief that every man has his corresponding animal, through which it is possible to act upon him magically, through which he himself can act upon others, and into which he can transform himself or be by others transformed.
Each Hindu deity has his own particular animal.
Brahma has a goose; Vishnu an eagle; Shiva a bull; Indra an elephant; Kali (Durga) a tiger; Rama a buffalo; Ganesha a rat; Agni a ram; Kartikkeya (or Subrananyia) a peacock, and Kama (the god of love) a parrot.
The same thing is true of Greece: all the deities of Olympus had their animals.
In the religion of Egypt sacred animals played an enormous part, and in Egypt the cat, the most magical of all animals, was held as sacred.
The sense of nature sometimes unfolds something infinitely new and profound in things which seemed to have been known a long time and in themselves contained nothing mystical.
The consciousness of God's nearness came to me sometimes [quotes Prof. James] . . . a presence, I might say . . . something in myself made me feel a part of something bigger than I, that was controlling. I felt myself one with the grass, the trees, birds, insects, everything in Nature. I exulted in the mere fact of existence, of being a part of it all—the drizzling rain, the shadow of the clouds, the tree-trunks, and so on.
In my own note book of 1908 I found a description of the same experienced state of consciousness.
It was in the sea of Marmora, on a rainy day of winter, the far-off high and rocky shores were of a pronounced violet color of every shade, including the most tender, fading into gray and blending with the gray sky. The sea was the color of lead mixed with silver. I remember all these colors. The steamer was going north. I, remained at the rail, looking at the waves. The white crests of waves were running toward us. A wave would run at the ship, raised as if desiring to hurl its crest upon it, rushing up with a howl. The steamer heeled, shuddered, and slowly straightened back; then from afar a new wave came running. I watched this play of the waves with the ship, and felt them draw me to themselves. It was not at all that desire to jump down which one feels in mountains but something infinitely more subtle. The waves were drawing my soul to themselves. And suddenly I felt that it went to them. It lasted an instant, perhaps less than an instant, but I entered into the waves and with them rushed with a howl at the ship. And in that instant I became all. The waves—they were myself: the far violet mountains, the wind, the clouds hurrying from the north, the great steamship, heeling and rushing irresistibly forward—all were myself. I sensed the enormous heavy body—my body—all its motions, shudderings, waverings and vibrations, fire, pressure of steam and weight of engines were inside of me, the unmerciful and unyielding propelling screw which pushed and pushed me forward, never for a moment releasing me, the rudder which determined all my motion—all this was myself: also two sailors. . . . and the black snake of smoke coming in clouds out of the funnel . . . all.
It was an instant of unusual freedom, joy and expansion. A second—and the spell of charm disappeared. It passed like a dream when one tries to remember it. But the sensation was so powerful, so bright, and so unusual that I was afraid to move and waited for it to recur. But it did not return, and a moment later I could not say that it had been—could not say whether it was a reality or merely the thought that, looking at the waves, it might be so.
Two years afterwards the yellowish waves of the Finnish gulf and a green sky gave me a taste of the same sensation, but this time it was dissipated almost before it appeared.
The examples given in this chapter do not by any means exhaust the mystical experience of humanity.
But what do we infer from them?
First of all, unity of experience. In mystical sensations all men feel definitely something in common, having a similar meaning and connection one with another. The mystics of many ages and many peoples speak the same language and use the same words. This is the first and most important thing that speaks for the reality of the mystical experience. Next is the complete harmony of data regarding such experience with the theoretically deduced conditions of the world causes; the sensation of the unity of all, so characteristic of mysticism; a new sensation of time, the sense of infinity; joy or horror; knowledge of the whole in the part; infinite life and infinite consciousness. All these are real sensed facts in the mystical experience. And these facts are theoretically correct. They are such as they should be according to the conclusions of THE MATHEMATICS OF THE INFINITE AND OF THE HIGHER LOGIC. This is all that is possible to say about them.
271:1 Vedânta is the end of the Vedas, the abridgment and commentaries on the Vedas. P. Ouspensky.
280:1 Abridged quotation from "Select Works of Plotinus," transl. by Thomas Taylor. Bohn's Library, pp. lxxiii and lxxiiv.
280:2 All the ensuing quotations are from the books of Prof. William James, and of Dr. R. M. Bucke.
281:1 See quotation from Van Manen's book, Chap. xi. p. 125.
286:1 The author of "Superconsciousness," M. V. Lodizhensky, told me that in the summer of 1910 he was in "Yasnaya Poliana," the residence of L. Tolstoy, and he conversed with him about the mystics and "The Love of the Good." Tolstoy was at first very skeptical about them, but when Mr. Lodizhensky read to him the quotation, given here, about the circle, Tolstoy became very enthusiastic, and ran into another room and got a letter in which a triangle was drawn. It appeared that he had independently almost grasped the thought of Avva Dorotheus, and had written to some one that God was the apex of a triangle: men the points within the angles; approaching to one another they approach to God, approaching God, they do the same toward one another. Several days afterward Tolstoy rode over to Mr. Lodizhensky's, near Tula, and read different parts of "The Love p. 287 of the Good," much regretting that he had not known the books before.—P. D. Ouspensky.
288:1 "The Ante-Nicene Fathers." Buffalo, The Christian Literature Pub. Co., 1885. Vol. II, pp. 463, 464.
289:1 Ibid. p. 493.
289:2 Abridged quotation from "The saying of Lao Tzu^." Wisdom of the East Series.
291:1 Musings of a Chinese Mystic." Wisdom of the East Series.
292:1 "Light on the Path," p. 92. London, Theosophical Pub. Co.
293:1 Paul Anikieff. "Mysticism of St. Simeon the New Theologian." St. Petersburg, 1906.
294:1 Prof. W. James. "The Varieties of Religious Experience," pp. 400, 401.
298:1 Prof. William James, "The Varieties of Religious Experience." Lectures XVI and XVII. Mysticism.
302:1 "The Idiot," by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, transl. of Constance Garnett. New York, the Macmillan Co.
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