A Study in
George Sidney Arundale
First published 1926
Dr Arundale was International President of
the Theosophical Society (Adyar) from 1933 to 1945
The Inner Light
Upon Outer Things
The atom is a sun in miniature in its own
universe of the inconceivably minute.
ANNIE BESANT AND C. W. LEADBEATER (Occult Chemistry).
AS the glow comes before the fire, the dawn before the sunrise, so must the glow of dawning perfection slowly but surely steal over us, body after body, as a sign that the Sun within is learning to shine as shines so gloriously the Sun without. We need to be set on fire so that we may gradually become one with the Fire Eternal. We cannot know God as He is until we become all fire, even as He is all fire. Open your hearts, then, to His Sunlight, that your whole being may some day burst into flame, and thence into many flames - flames of Power, of Wisdom, and of Love. In each one of us the spark is ready, the spark of Divinity waiting to become a Fire. Nothing can extinguish this spark, however dimly it may glow. At last the time must come for its emergence into flame, and thence into that Fire which till then has slept in the world of the potential.
We are set ready for the lighting. Let us concentrate upon ourselves the Rays of our Lord the Sun through the burning-glass of aspiration and of service, and Time, the sure and certain moulder of this burning glass, is God’s witness that the spark shall thus become the Fire. May our service and our aspiration glow with the warmth of understanding, the warmth which stimulates, with the light of wisdom, the wisdom which clarifies, with the burning of power, the burning which purifies. I seem to contact here a note of a great Ritual of Light, and Light the medicine of the future. Light the Healer, Light the Redeemer, the Creator, the Preserver, the Regenerator. The inoculations and drugs of the future will be Light-variants, and the very food we eat will be concentrated Light, the form being used to collect, in varying ways, the sustenance which is the Sunlight.
But even more than this is there not a great Ceremonial of Light, a mystery of Light? Not on this globe, perhaps, but on some other more advanced than this earth there is, I think, a mighty Magic of the Light which some day we shall know and use. I think that is the life of the colony of which Dr. Besant and Bishop Leadbeater write in Man: Whence, How and Whither.
Light already begins to play a definite part, but Light is in fact the philosopher’s “stone,” the potent force of the alchemist, and some day the Science of Light will be recognized as the Science of Sciences, with its Laws, its Ritual, its Worship, its Philosophy, its Ethic and AEsthetic. I wish I had the wisdom to understand even a little of the Science, for it is the key to all other sciences. Some day it will be a Science intensely applicable even to the little things of everyday life. We shall become in a wonderful way children of Light because we are children of the Sun, and there will be a Eucharistic Service of the Light even more glorious, if possible, than the Eucharistic Service of our Lord the Christ.
I see our Lord the Sun distributing Himself through His universe, extending Himself through its immeasurable distances. I see His world learning gradually to use him in His myriad aspects to meet its many needs.
I see these things to be, and I see that our Lord the Sun grows because He shines. He grows by shining. So must we. As we shine so we grow. And as I realize this I turn outwards from the blinding glory of Nirvana to this world of ours living and growing in relative darkness. Light-sparks everywhere, glittering and scintillating as do the lights of a seaside town when viewed in the night from passing ships. Light-sparks in every kingdom of nature, some dim indeed, feeble, looking as if the slightest breath of adverse wind would blow them out and leave a darkness blacker than ever. But no spark that God has lighted from His Divinity can ever fade. Long may it remain feeble, slight may be the change through ages of time.
But it grows irresistibly. In each kingdom, sparks there are of
more vivid brightness - the jewels, the fruition, of the kingdom these. In the
human kingdom I perceive that the sparks have become flames, some small, some
large. I see that some of these flames are veritable lighthouses, shedding
light upon the true pathway of Life, warning from the ways of ignorance and
pointing towards the pathways of wisdom. They warn from the rocky places and
beckon along the channels of rapid growth. These are the world’s true
benefactors, seers and teachers, themselves on the threshold of those kingdoms
beyond the human in which are the mighty Fires growing into the semblance of
the Fire of God. These are the Elder Brethren of the worlds, veritable Pillars
of Fire upholding the
And here once again I compare the Buddhic plane with the Nirvanic, and I strive to distinguish. It is very difficult to express the facts at all accurately. I seem to see in the former an act of coalescence and in the latter an act of identity. I perceive the former to be the assertion, the realization, of Unity amidst, above, resolving diversity; while I perceive the latter to be a condition of receding from all diversity, with a consequent readjustment, reconfiguration, rearrangement of the Unity, so that it becomes a Oneness.
Buddhi the One with the Second; Nirvana the One without a Second. Yes. I confirm my previous judgment. And beyond Nirvana? Even the One changes, casts aside another of the veils of the Real. Can I grope beyond this lowest sub-plane of Nirvana and look upwards upon the higher rungs of the Nirvanic ladder? No hard and fast divisions, no Light-tight compartments. Is there not perhaps an intensification of the Oneness, for even at the bottom I find that any qualification of the Oneness, however true, is a limitation, a negation, of Nirvanic reality? Light? Yes, you can use the word to convey an infinitesimal fraction of the truth. Music, Sound? Yes, you can use these words too. But while you are using them you know that they veil the glory, even the little shaft of glory which is all you yet perceive. But let me drop these veils. What remains all the way up? Oneness, and of this Oneness no words may be used, no expression in terms of Light or Sound or Form conveys the slightest real meaning, only a suggestion which points in the direction of the Real. I will meditate on this Oneness, live in it. So shall I begin to know it, though not to convey the sense of it. And then shall come that which I can only now describe as Transcendence.
But I have said enough. I am foolish to strive to measure with words the immeasurable.I see that we evolve under the laws of counterpart and reflection.
The world of Nirvana itself is a sublimated counterpart of the world below as much as it is an archetype. The planes above Nirvana are sublimated counterparts, each in its own degree, of the Nirvana below them, the quality and nature of the counterpart being determined by the Light-vibration quality of the plane.
The development of the Nirvanic consciousness seems to affect the spirillae in the brain, the kundalini, and the various centres generally; as also, of course, the various bodies. I am conscious of a much more intense sensitiveness, of being much more highly strung. I am, as it were, an extremely sensitive plate, rather over-sensitive for conditions in the outer world. Probably I shall tone down in due course, but in the earlier stages outer living becomes almost painful.* (*As a matter of fact, in the light of further growth, I do not seem to tone down.
On the contrary, the sensitiveness increases steadily. But I have it under increasing self-control, at all events up to a certain point. Life is more difficult from the standpoint of daily contacts, and does not grow less difficult. But to counteract the growing difficulty there is also growing an inner Peace which acts, may I descend for a moment into a very material simile, as a wonderful shock-absorber. But I realize that the time must come when it will no longer be possible to live in the outer world and maintain a maximum of effectiveness. It is for this reason, for the sake of more generous service, that our Elder Brethren live away from the haunts of Their younger comrades.
They prefer to give of Their all rather than to have continually to protect Themselves against the discords of immaturity, thus using power which otherwise might be free for service.) One seems to know people and things far more accurately; they become impressed upon me as they are, rather than as they seem to be.
It would seem that as the causal body disintegrates when the individual enters the Buddhic plane, so is it with the Buddhic vehicle as one enters the Nirvanic plane. This seems inevitable on what I call the plane of apotheoses, the essential plane, the plane of fundamental archetype. I notice that I do not write “archetypes,” and the reason seems to be that from one point of view there is no plurality on the Nirvanic plane. Plurality begins on the plane below, and even there it is plurality overshadowed, dominated, by Unity. Of course, as one descends, the various bodies of lower planes are re-formed out of the matter of the planes according to the vibration rate of the permanent atom. Return from Nirvana, and the Buddhic vehicle is instantaneously formed. Return from the Buddhic plane, and a causal body is immediately ready for use, though not, of course, the age-long friend which reintegrates no more.
Why cannot anyone enter Nirvana? It is a question of time, of course, and a question as to how the time is occupied. Entry into Nirvana involves an expansion of consciousness, and the lesser expansions must precede the greater. It seems to be a matter of Sense of Reality. It is not enough to know what is called Truth. One must know something of what is Truth, which is generally quite another matter; and the Truth of things cannot be learned from books, or speeches, except in part. These help, as does also experience. But in some way one must not only discover Truth through experience, but also through a reaching out into that which is beyond experience - gradually making experience of that beyond. Similes come into my mind. Think of one of those curious puzzle-pictures which they give to children. Each puzzle has a title, and one works to that. This piece fits in here, that piece fits in there. Gradually the picture forms and becomes complete. So is it with life, and with the various planes of consciousness.
For example, an individual entering into Buddhic consciousness obtains a general idea of Buddhic principles, and gradually the experience fulfils the principles, so that they become built into his very being. The Buddhic picture becomes well recognizable. Buddhi has ceased to be that which it was at first, an empty circle, an unexplored vastness. He has travelled throughout the Buddhic world, has populated the circle, the vastness, with experience after experience at ascending levels, until he reaches the summit and looks up to new plains, or planes of being leading to mightier summits still. The individual is ready, therefore, for another picture - that of Nirvana. But one cannot begin on another picture until the former is on the road to completion.
It is no doubt possible to imagine the stages ahead, and the effort is very useful and helpful. But one must be strenuously working at the pictures one has already in hand, deliberately and with the realisation that in each case the principles must be fulfilled in practice.
The physical-body picture, the emotions picture, the mind picture - all must be on the road to completion, and each of us who reaches this stage must be hard at work on them all. Then only is it possible for us to be allowed to begin something still further. We speak of Theosophizing our lives. The word
“theosophizing” covers our duty, be the centre of consciousness where it may.
But at each stage we must build into our lives the essence of our highest achievement. If the causal body is the highest active principle, we must see to it that we are in all things true to the experiences of which the causal body is the custodian. We must live from that body. If Buddhi has been contacted, we must see to it that the spirit of that Unity ensouls each thought, each
feeling, each word, each deed. So with Nirvana, and so beyond and beyond.
And we must remember that nothing short of Truth suffices. Our conception of Truth is not enough, however good it may be, however useful to us it may be. Facts, not theories, are required. Not, perhaps, absolute fact - that is still beyond us; but relatively pure facts, at all events. I seem to see the water of the
emotions fructifying the seed of the mind so that it bursts into being.
Similarly I see the water of the mind fructifying Buddhi, and the water of Buddhi fructifying the Nirvanic seed. But the water must be pure, otherwise the seed remains potential. When the potential within the seed becomes active, it sends out Light-rays of its own quality which contact, summon to its aid, the
corresponding rays of Light without, and another Light-body is in course of formation. Up till that time the Light-rays from without passed through the vehicle, hardly, if at all, affecting it. But now they find response to their stimuli, and in interaction the Light-body comes into being.
I have for some time been striving to bring down into the physical brain the means whereby translation takes place into this new field of consciousness - Nirvana. So far as I can contact, the process, it depends upon the capacity to respond on the part of the embryonic atom of Nirvanic consciousness within
myself. I seem to notice that these embryonic counterparts of the corresponding conditions without pass through stages of what I must call prenatal development, the birth into consciousness synchronizing with an expansion of consciousness which is the veritable Initiation itself.
There is the period of sleep, unconsciousness. There is the period of stirring, restlessness, the dawn of consciousness. Then there is the period of awareness - something less than awakening, yet a capacity intermittently to vibrate to corresponding conditions without. And finally there is the awakening itself, when the embryonic atom is not merely a nucleus, an embryo, but a vehicle, a body. The Sun shines, and takes unto Himself a world, a universe. This is Initiation.
I presume that at the fourth of the Great Initiations the stirring of the life within the Nirvanic atom, due to Buddhic and other impacts, is marvellously vitalized from without by a treat Act of Unification on the part of the One Initiator or His Deputy. A great expansion takes place; the vehicle is formed whereby entry is gained into the kingdom now to be conquered. I take my abode for the first time in a Nirvanic vehicle - if the word “vehicle” be
permitted - and now the task is mine to develop the senses of this new potency; just as a little child has to learn to use his senses in the physical world. Light, of course, is the first discovery, for it is the primary, overwhelming experience. I have spoken of “lightning-standing-still”.
Entry into the Nirvanic world is as into lightning, blinding, penetrating, drenching. One plunges into a sea of vibrant, vocal lightning. One cannot sink, but one has to learn to swim.
One does not sink, because the light within makes one buoyant. It is impossible to conceive entry into this kingdom without the warrant of the awakened light within, but were such a conception possible I realize that the only result would
be annihilation. And this shows me the relatively irresistible power of this lightning-Light. I have striven to describe its glorious beauty; I might now try to describe its awful power. Scientists speak of the mighty power within the atom, and of the tremendous consequences could it be released. God tempers the Light, or we should be destroyed. Only as self-control grows stronger, and the Path of Purification is trodden with ever more rapid and firmer footsteps, are potentialities released within ourselves, the negative within uniting with the positive without.
At this point I have since noticed that this Resurrection into the
Lightning-standing-still has been preceded by the vigil of a
Crucifixion. The Crucifixion and the Resurrection, therefore, are the
interdependent constituents of the Epoch of the fourth of the Great
Initiations, the Resurrection unsafe without the Crucifixion. And to this end
are there not indeed at every stage of life these twins of Crucifixion and
Resurrection? Do you not know innumerable crucifixions, innumerable
resurrections, some great, some small, some tremendous, some insignificant? Are
not Crucifixions and Resurrections distributed throughout life, in every
typified by this fourth Stage on the Path of Holiness, at which takes place the Crucifixion of Selfishness, the utter subordination of the lower, the offering of all one is in the service of all that lives, and the consequent Resurrection
into Power – Power that may now be grasped because it can only be used to the Glory of God and in the service of His worlds?
I look upon those who have achieved the Resurrection and I perceive the justificatory Crucifixions, Crucifixions none the less real and effective though some who have gone through them have been conscious of no suffering. I would venture to deny that suffering is an inevitable concomitant of Crucifixion, or at least of the final Crucifixion in the human kingdom. It is often present, but it need not be.
It is not suffering that is indispensable, but offering, holding nothing back. I find, then, that the capacity, aroused in the course of the ceremony of the fourth of the Great Initiations, to respond to Nirvanic consciousness, opens to me this new kingdom. If I am correctly describing the actual process of entry, I can only suggest that it is a matter of setting up, or rather intensifying, certain potentialities of vibration, so that all that vibrates differently falls away, or at least goes out of perspective.
Do these other rates of vibration, which we may call the lower bodies, either retire into a kind of body-formula or, if they remain actually corporeal, do they lose for the time practically all save the elemental life? I start vibrating at the Nirvanic rate, and find myself in the Nirvanic consciousness. I sound the Nirvanic note, which I heard definitely for the first time during the course of the Initiation (though an echo of it may have come to me now and then before), and the portals open to my summoning.
I shall soon find - indeed, I am beginning now to find - that it is not in the least necessary to be physically asleep in order to contact this consciousness. It may be contacted in full waking consciousness, and I am now striving to learn to do that. But if I try to examine this further step I seem to be using the physical brain in a new way, or through new brain channels. Part of the process consists in getting temporarily out of focus, out of perspective, so far as lower planes are concerned; but this is done as in a flash.* (*As experience grows, even this stage of getting out of focus is hardly noticeable. The only simile at all appropriate is that of the jelly-fish which breathes in and out,
so that its body opens out and withdraws, expands and contracts. This is what seems to take place as one uses Nirvanic consciousness.
One expands to outer things, contacts them in all their parts, interpenetrates them. This is how the Oneness is experienced. Can you follow me when I describe my consciousness unfolding and contacting outer things? On every plane of consciousness this can and must be done, so that one contacts Buddhically, Nirvanically, and so on.)Being very infantile in this new world I find it difficult to hold the ordinary waking consciousness simultaneously with the Nirvanic. I notice a tendency to drop off to sleep - to get out of the physical body.
One curious effect is that I seem to “see” (the word does not at all suit) with the whole of myself, and not with any one organ. It is more contact than perception, more attitude than sight.* (*This is the method of all planes except the physical. It is so even in astral consciousness, but it becomes more noticeable as one rises higher. And at these superior levels one learns to see every object or entity from within as well as from outside - to see it as part of one self, or rather of the Great Self in which one is now merged. This is what our author expresses in his next paragraph. - C. W. L.)
I observe that Nirvanic consciousness is not a consciousness apart; it is in a supreme degree one with the world in which we live. It is all-penetrating, and in its light there is a marvellous readjustment to Reality for everything. A similar readjustment happened in a lesser degree in the case of the lower stages; and I perceive the great expansions of consciousness which mark the
dividing lines between the kingdoms of nature to be similar readjustments to Reality. There is nothing in the world not amenable to the Light of Nirvana, for in it things are perceived infinitely more as they are than as they seem to be.
The Light of Nirvana is as a great tuning-fork. External objects, human and nonhuman, vibrate more or less in accord. Hence it becomes far more possible for one who has heard the Nirvanic Sound to gauge the relation between the things of the outer worlds and the Nirvanic Real. Either they ring true, or
not true; less real, or more real. In any case, there is unbroken relationship between all planes of consciousness. Below is a reflection, a shadow, of the above. That there is distortion is obvious, but this is because the lower has not yet learned to reflect, within the measure of its capacity, perfectly. With
increasing density is increasing limitation; yet on every plane the limitation must gradually conform to the minimum rather than to that, maximum density with which it began.
This brings me to a point which strikes me as of considerable importance. I perceive that the doctrine of Transubstantiation is not merely a truth in relation to the ceremony of the Holy Eucharist, but one of the great laws of Nature, one of the great processes of evolution. I perceive that all growth is in large measure a process of transubstantiation; not, necessarily the abandonment of the lower, but rather the substitution, in increasing measure, of the more real for the less real as the motive power behind or within, or shall I say the disclosure, in increasing measure, of the substans, of the essence, as the Life of all the shadowing forms?
Taking Nirvanic consciousness as an example, I seem to perceive that in my own being a process of transubstantiation has taken place. I still live in the outer world, and go through the routine of daily life. I think, I feel, I act, I speak. I use the senses of my various bodies. To outward appearances I am not at all changed. I am as much recognizable as George Arundale as ever; and the mere superficial observer will detect no changes. Yet a transubstantiation has taken place, the old background has given way to, has become merged in, a new background. A
greater reality has been substituted for a lesser reality as the ensouling power of my being.
In the case of the Bread and the Wine of the Eucharist, there, appears no change of outer form. Yet the consecration causes in each the substitution of the Christ-principle for the lower principles normal to these two substances. A supreme Reality has been substituted for a relatively insignificant reality.
The Unity of all Life makes this possible, and indeed not merely possible but inevitable. The whole of life is a process of gradual transubstantiation, and in the Holy Eucharist we are given a striking reminder of this essential fact.
Unfortunately, we do not generally realize that the ceremony of the Eucharist is an epitome of the whole ceremony of Life. Life is a constant process of substitution and transubstantiation, these being specially marked and sharply defined at every one of the great stages on the Path of Holiness. The expansion of consciousness that takes place at each of the great Initiations is nothing less than a transubstantiation; and the same is true of all lesser expansions of consciousness. But in each case the earlier transubstantiation must be fulfilled ere a deeper transubstantiation can take its place, leaving it potential but
merged, as the lesser merges in the greater.
I notice in myself many interesting effects of the transubstantiation connected with the awakening of Nirvanic consciousness. I notice, for instance, a great clarification of issues. Many problems in life cease to be problems; the solution of them is obvious. Many things which I go on doing I do differently, or with other intent. The whole of daily life becomes, or is to become, an offering to the newly-realized higher. Daily life must forsake the lesser Gods for the newly-perceived greater Gods. At various stages in my existence I have been living as unto this, that or the other standard. I may have been living as unto myself, my lower self; I may have been living as unto men, or as unto a code or creed. Now I must live as unto something beyond.
Perhaps, to some small extent, I have all the while been living as unto the Lord - very haltingly and feebly of course. But now I must live as unto Him less haltingly and feebly because He has condescended to enter more closely into relationship with me through a veritable process of transubstantiation, which is the same as saying a process of self-realisation.
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