A Study in
George Sidney Arundale
First published 1926
Looking down upon myself from the viewpoint of Nirvanic consciousness, I am most interested to perceive my first impression to be that of watching a dynamo churning out power, but with only part of the machinery at work. I see enormous potentialities still to be unfolded, only certain powers being actually in operation, and even these only partially. I am amazed at the possibilities - I should rather say at the certainties - of the future, but I think I am even more amazed at the fact that I am an integral part of our Lord the Sun Himself. I notice, I think, an unbroken line of connection between the Sun and myself, as between the Sun and all things. This connection is to all intents and purposes a physical connection, for although the connection is a Light connection, yet that very Light is composed of particles, and it exercises quite appreciable physical modification upon my physical body as well as upon my other bodies. Light has weight, mass, momentum. I am therefore a nucleus of force within larger nuclei of forces, within a Heavenly Man, within the Sun Himself, even as He is a nucleus of force within a still larger system. From one point of view, therefore the whole system of which the Sun is the heart is a solid body with every part as closely connected and inter-related as the various parts of our physical bodies.
Hence, I am a solar system in miniature, with a central sun, with planets, with all the appurtenances - in embryonic miniature - of the solar system as we know them. Do I reproduce in myself the movements of a solar system? Do parts of me revolve round a central part of me? Does the central part of me revolve? At all events the whole of me revolves, for at least I revolve with the world of which I am part. But if I do not mistake, there are these various revolutions. I seem to see myself as a coordinated mass of intricately revolving worlds, reminding me of numbers of Catharine-wheels in a fireworks display. I seem to see the various great centres (chakras) revolving in co-ordinate motion round a central heart which does not seem to be the heart-chakra but a chakra invisible, perhaps the Monad, if we can at all call the Monad a centre. If it does not sound flippant, I should like to say that I see myself as a kind of glorified fireworks, part of still more glorified fireworks, with the Universe as a supreme display of fireworks on an unimaginable scale. But these fireworks are continuous, and do not splutter out.
What astonishes me more than anything else is the potentiality, marvellous beyond words, of even the minutest fragment of myself. I gaze upon the heavens with their myriad constellations, and I see all these reflected in each and every atom of my being.
There is enough potentiality in each and every atom to
build all I see around me. An atom, universe as it is with its central nucleus round which revolve its constituent planets, is an epitomized universe, containing within itself every single element needed for the development of every plane and all kingdoms of nature. This may sound an absurd exaggeration, yet it is true - obviously true - for every atom is imprisoned Sun-Life, that
Life which brought our Universe, with all its wonderful complexities, into being.
Look into the Heavens and perceive God’s glories. Gaze at yourself and it is as if you were looking at a reflection of these vastnesses. Indeed you are looking at their reflection. There is as much an astronomy of the human body as there is an astronomy of the stars, and from the Nirvanic level of consciousness
it is clearly possible to perceive the essential identity between the astronomy of the microcosm - myself - and that of the macrocosm - the heavens. I certainly perceive Nirvana-potentiality in every single atom of my being, and I perceive the fact that the centre of my system is awakening into Nirvanic potentiality, so that the atoms of my own being maybe clearly distinguished from those of one who is not developed to this extent. Further, the emanations from me, my radiations, my pulsations, my “puffs” shall I say, acquire perceptibly
added brilliance on this account, as they did at all lower stages of expansion of consciousness. Pursuing this fact to its logical conclusion, every good thought, good feeling, good word, good action - goodness being, of course, a relative term - adds its own brilliance both to the individual as a whole and to his radiations. The whole world is the brighter (perceptibly so to consciousness
at the necessary level of sensitiveness) for the tiniest goodness, that is to say for the tiniest increasingly positive harmonization, in any part of the lesser will, with the Will Universal.
I perceive that the awakening of Nirvanic consciousness at the centre means a raising of the level of consciousness in every part of my being. Every part takes a step upward, or inward, in consciousness. There is begun a new refinement in each body and in every part of each body; and not only is this true, it is also true that the whole world makes an appreciable advance in consciousness-expansion, and there is more Light, more Unity, in its smallest component atom. Obviously this must be so, in view of the intimate inter-relation between every part, of the identity of all life amidst the innumerable diversities of its appearance. Hence a service to any part of the world, however microscopic, is a service to the whole world, and vice versa. This truth applies equally, of course, to disservice.
I seem to perceive a new meaning for the phrase: “Mind your own business.” I have a whole universe to look after, in which I am the humble representative of our Lord the Sun. I have as much as I can do to look after this world of mine, especially when I remember how potently it affects all other worlds around me.
It may be that it is my duty to assist for a time one or more worlds in my vicinity, in which case I must mind their business a little, but with the very greatest respect, since I can know so little of these other worlds, so much less than I know of my own - and how little I know of my own! My main, but in no sense selfish, preoccupation, therefore, must be with my world, with its purity and brilliance, so that it may become a joy in itself, and therefore a joy to other worlds.
The new conception of life - of my own life, and of all other life - that I gain through the perception of myself not only as a world but as a universe of worlds, forms, indeed, a most fascinating avenue of investigation. I do not think I at all understood the impressive significance of the relation between the microcosm “I” and the macrocosm without until I looked upon both in terms of Nirvanic consciousness. This significance discloses itself in two outstanding directions. First, the glory. Second, the responsibility. As for the first, I hope I have been able to convey something at least of the glory of Nirvana even in the halting descriptions I have ventured to give in the preceding pages. With
regard to the responsibility, this comes to me in the realization that as the Sun is the Glory of His Universe so must I learn to be the glory of mine. Indeed, I am a Sun in microscopic miniature. I am the Sun of my being. I am the humble representative of our Lord the Sun. I look up towards Him. I see a little of that which He is to all the worlds. And I see that as He is supremely to His
Universe, so must I be supremely to mine. We are all His Suns, with universes to look after and gradually to develop, as He has so gloriously developed His. The universe without is the embodied promise of fulfilment for all smaller universes which form its being. I look up towards the Sun, and visibly before my eyes shines, as from the future, the supreme and inevitable glorification of myself.
The Sun is multiplying Himself in us. And do I not know that beyond our glorious Sun there are Suns more glorious still? What limit is there, then, to man’s unfoldment? He has ascended from the infinitely small; he shall ascend to the infinitely great. The Heavens about us stand guarantee and witness. Every law astronomy postulates with regard to the Universe as a whole runs equally in every part. There is not a. single function in the larger Universe which has not a counterpart in the smaller. And when we read of the way in which a Universe comes into being, let us remember that we have a description - utterly
inadequate, of course - of some Great Being-become-God entering upon the mighty Sacrifice, itself from another standpoint the beginning of a new expansion of His Being, of guiding to self-conscious Divinity all parts of His Nature which fall short of His complete Self-consciousness, no matter at what stage of lesser consciousness they may be. God multiplies Himself by every part of Himself and the result is God self-conscious in every part. Every seed becomes a perfect, eternal Flower; as well as a petal of a Flower yet mightier.
The simile comes to me of the oak and its acorns. God is as the oak, and every part of Him is an acorn. As each acorn grows, so does the oak grow; and some acorns are at one stage of growth, others at other stages. There is an oak-acorn universe, and as one series of acorns transcends the purely acorn stage, another
series takes its place. Thus, there is an endless series of growings at all stages, and the oak-father himself grows as his externalized life grows, for however much acorns may fall here and there, be blown hither and thither by the winds, the one life unites parents and children, and the growth of each reacts upon all the rest. And by and by certain acorns grow into oaks, and themselves give forth acorns. The oak becomes a forest. Our Lord the Sun becomes a forest of Suns.
This is the oak’s fulfilment of himself. This is Gods fulfilment of Himself. This is our fulfilment of ourselves. The oak has his seasons for acorn-bearing. Has God His seasons, too? Or with God is the process of manifestation continuous, an endless stream of life issuing from His Being?Nirvana seems to be drawing so near to me, or perhaps my centre is so definitely, however slowly, shifting to the Nirvanic plane, that I find myself more and more relating every phase and feature of the outer world to its Nirvanic archetype or counterpart. I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing in this world, or out of it for that matter, which is not in some degree a reflection of Nirvana. The outer world is after all Nirvana objectified, Nirvana densified, the shadow of Nirvana. Every plane below is the reflection of the plane - of all planes - above.
The objectification, the densification, the shadow, the reflection, may be a distortion, but only, I think, as I have suggested elsewhere, when it has fulfilled its purpose. There is no absolute distortion, only relative distortion, and by the word “distortion,” therefore, I must mean a form inadequate to the level of unfoldment attained by the particular life which may be in question.
That which is inadequate is wrong. That which is adequate, or perhaps more than adequate, is right. As I write this, I wonder if there are any things in the outer worlds which are fundamentally wrong, or if at the worst they are inevitable, given certain conditions which themselves, it may be, ought not to exist. Take, for example, a liquor shop.
On first consideration, I am inclined to decide emphatically that a liquor shop is fundamentally wrong. But then I ask myself whether a liquor shop may not be the only place, under existing circumstances, in which certain people can forget that which they ought never to have needed to know. Life is very grey for many people. From time to time they must needs forget its greyness, if they cannot alter it.
The public house temporarily solves, in a ghastly manner, the problems of life for many people. And to this extent liquor shops may have once been “right”. But need they be right any longer? Ought they to be right any longer? We are still at a very low level of evolution if they are still right. For my own part I
think they are supremely wrong. Woe unto those of us by whom this offence comes!
But until we are able to provide something better to take its place, the public house remains. Do I hurt my readers’ feelings, or shock them, when I say that the public house does represent a pitiful attempt of man to reflect that glorious self-realization after which each one of us yearns in his heart? Shame
upon us that we should suffer so hideous a distortion to dwell in our midst; far more shame upon us who tolerate it than upon those who are driven to it.
This brings me to the point I want to make. Each one of us must constantly strive to live according to his own highest standards, and not according to conventional standards which represent less than the highest, at least so far as regards those to whom Theosophical teachings appeal. The need for this is borne in upon me very strongly at a time when standards which have hitherto sufficed me must no longer suffice. The conventions of my old world are not the conventions of the new, and I must change accordingly. Is it not true to say that the conventions of the pre-war world are not the conventions of the post-war world, or ought not to be, and that the world needs to change
accordingly? So it is with me. The pre-Nirvanic world is utterly different from the Nirvanic world, and there is hardly a detail of life which does not need readjustment, because everything is revealed in a new Light - literally in a new Light.
I am immensely struck by the extraordinary difference in the values of words. The dictionary is a new book to me, for every word in it has - I was going to say a new meaning, but certainly a new power. Words are power-universes, power-atoms, and they are exploded by being uttered. The power in them is released and goes on its errand. Have certain words evil errands, and other good errands? In some is there the power that makes for righteousness, while in others there is power that makes for relative unrighteousness? I have yet to examine the question. In the meantime I am almost appalled at the power of language and at the gravity of careless usage of words. Until we know what we
do, may be we shall be forgiven; but when we begin to know what we do, there is no justification for a forgiveness which means either that because the will behind the utterance is so little potent, therefore the result is more or less negligible, or that counter-balancing forces are introduced to neutralize
the effect. In the one case there is forgiveness from within, in the other forgiveness from without.
For the time being I am occupied in watching the jars made both by my own utterances and by what I hear from the lips of those around me. Certain words jar me terribly. I must be careful to avoid them. I wonder why they have not disturbed me before. But the fact that I can be thus hurt by myself I take to be
a good sign. It means that from time to time I am able to live outside my lower self, and to compare the larger with the smaller and it also means that I can understand, as a matter of pure personal remembrance, how other people are not affected by that which only a short while ago seemed by no means discordant to
me; nor must I expect them to be shaken, or be impatient of their not being upset, simply because I happen now to be agitated by something which has hitherto not shocked rile at all. I see clearly that there is little use in reaching Nirvanic consciousness unless such attainment stimulates at-one-went. True attainment, in whatever sphere or department of life, is deeper at-one-ment, and reality of achievement may be measured by increased
strength of unification. That which definitely promotes union is accomplishment, that which does not is not true gain at all, whatever the outer world may call it.
Not only does this new Nirvanic element profoundly modify my appreciation of language, but equally my appreciation of everything else, of people, of landscape, of cities, of animals, of business, of pleasures. The new element of Nirvanic consciousness enters into all things, or I should rather say is
suddenly perceived in all things as well as in myself, and the effect is of looking upon a world one has never seen before. As I have already suggested, the languages I know are new languages, for the words now possess hitherto unperceived connotations and relationships.
So do books. I do not think the modification of consciousness is anywhere more marked at present in any case than in books. I went the other day into one of our largest bookshops, and I found myself amidst a weird babel of sounds. Every volume was vocal. In each book was its author speaking his message - in some cases powerfully, clearly, upliftingly; in other cases, at the other extreme, vaguely, purposelessly, vulgarly, perhaps, often sordidly, or sometimes with a well-chiselled form distressingly empty of purpose. Each work was a sound-scheme, often a jarring sound-scheme, but sometimes a beautiful symphony.
Each book, too, was a light-scheme, a dull light-scheme, a lurid light-scheme, a bright, clear light-scheme, now and then a gorgeous light-scheme. I was not able to follow up this discovery, but I knew that books are alive, that some are in the savage state, and thence there is graded ascent in evolution to
God-books, such as the Scriptures, and others less than these, yet great. I cannot pursue further this fascinating theme, but it will be realized that books are now no longer mere tomes, they are living beings, for which their creators have serious responsibility, which speak and shed their influence
around them. A book in a room is a factor with which we have to reckon; a library is a potent force.
One of the most awe-inspiring effects flowing from the awakening of Nirvanic consciousness has been in connection with the celebration of Holy Eucharist.
When I had the honour of celebrating this great Sacrament in the Church of St. Alban, Sydney, for the first time after beginning to make my voyages of discovery in the realms of Light, I found that an extraordinary change had taken place. In any case the ceremony is most impressive, but I have never
before been so conscious of its power, and I endeavoured to trace this newly-awakened consciousness to its source. It seemed to me that this marvellous Sacrament is taking place at all times on all planes. When we celebrate it down here we are merely for the time being bringing ourselves into conscious relationship with its eternal processes, becoming mere unobstructed channels for its expression in and through ourselves.
Clearly, I think, the act of celebration on the physical plane is a distinct gathering together of the essential forces of the. Holy Eucharist, so that they affect in special measure the surroundings in the midst of which the ceremony takes place.
But I also saw that the Holy Eucharist is the expression of a Law of evolving Life. Hence Eucharistic processes are ever at work, as are the processes of all other great Sacraments. Sacraments are sacrifices, expressions of the eternal and continuous sacrifice of God. We ourselves, and all that lives, are embodied
acts of God's sacrifice, and the Eucharist is a mode of the growth of all things. I was wonderfully conscious of this at every moment of the celebration. In the first place, I was clearly conscious of expressing, evoking, manipulating, the Eucharistic power on a plane other than the physical, so that the physical words and actions seemed to be but the echoes of the real sounds, and I performed the actual physical movements as in a dream.
At the words, “May the Lord purify me that I may worthily perform His Service,” it was as if the purification took the form of a translation of myself elsewhere, into Nirvanic consciousness in fact, and at that level making a special channel for the Eucharistic Light to descend into the matter of the
physical plane through every intermediate plane, so as to effect everywhere a special concentration of already existing Eucharistic activity. I noticed how every physical act from the beginning to the end helped in the preparation of the physical plane for the reception of the mighty forces stirring so gloriously
elsewhere. I heard at one level the gradual weaving together of beautiful notes into a marvellous symphony of sound reaching a stupendous apotheosis at the act of transubstantiation of the Bread and Wine, an apotheosis reproduced in each one of us in the act of Communion and, equally beautifully but
differently, in the two great Benedictions at the close.
At a higher level, the Nirvanic, there began an indescribable interplay of Light, with penetrating flashes of glorious radiance at each of the great stages. I do not know whether I was simultaneously conscious on several planes, or whether it was a case of rapid passing from one to another. Be this as it may, on the physical plane every word uttered, every act performed, every step taken, seemed alive with power, with great outflowing pulsations of forces surging in all directions.
As for myself, so far as regards the physical plane, I was in a dream, the centre of my waking consciousness having transferred itself elsewhere. But this dream-condition was by no means a state of diminished physical-plane effectiveness. On the contrary, I knew I was far more effective than normally by
very reason of the dream-condition, which was a sign of the minimization of the static interference of the physical body due to the density of its composition.
The physical body had been sublimated to its utmost measure in order the more easily to transmit the forces generated on higher planes, and the dream-condition was the result of a very conscious working from within rather than from without. The physical body was but the river’s mouth opening on the sea of outer life. Far away were those mighty mountain-torrents which made the river and sent it forth to the sea.
I wonder if I can at all make clear the effect of the retirement of the centre of consciousness from an outer to an inner plane. I presume that the effect of every Initiation is not merely an expansion of the circumference of consciousness, but also a very definite modification in the centre of consciousness, which appears to be in the nature of a retirement to an inner region, because, after each Step, one finds oneself from one point of view living in a new field of consciousness more than in the old. This new field is a subtler field, a more archetypal field, and the apparent withdrawal inwards of the centre of consciousness is due to the fact that the old world of consciousness has lost some of its supreme and exclusive significance. No longer is it able to exact the lion’s share of attention. It must take its place among other worlds, a place suitable to its station in life. No longer is it able to occupy the whole of the foreground of the picture. Other worlds very properly claim their place, and the old world must make room for them.
The taking of the first of the Great Initiations synchronizes with the beginning of the retirement of the centre of consciousness to the Buddhic plane - the plane of Unity. This process becomes intensified in the course of the Second and Third Initiations, and it seems as if the centre of consciousness should be firmly established in Buddhi by the time the fruits of that stage are
being gathered. Then, at the fourth of the Great Initiations, the centre of consciousness tends to move still further inwards, and begins to make a home on the Nirvanic plane, a process which should be complete at the threshold of the fifth of the Great Initiations.
In the light of my own experience, it is certainly accurate to speak of a withdrawal or retirement of the centre of consciousness, if we look at what has happened from one aspect only. I feel able to say quite definitely that Nirvana is now my true home, though I have only just taken possession of my new estate and have yet to explore it. But I am living in Nirvana, whatever excursions I may take into the regions without. I shall often be visiting my old homes, but I shall no longer be living in any of them except quite temporarily, and in any case even when I do live in them I am living “from” this newer home. I may regularly visit the scenes of my “childhood,” of my various “childhoods,” but they will have ceased to be as “real” as once they were. Hence, occupying this new home, all outer worlds are, from one point of view, dreamlands. Still following this point of view, to return to the physical plane is to go through a series of fallings asleep. I fall asleep from the Nirvanic to the Buddhic plane.
I fall asleep from the Buddhic to the mental plane, from the mental to the emotional, from the emotional to the physical plane. In one sense, therefore, I may be said to fall fast asleep on this outermost plane, however much in ordinary parlance I am supposed to wake up.
But this by itself would be a very inaccurate description of the facts. True, all outer worlds are worlds of shadows compared with the inner worlds. To me the Nirvanic world is the supremely real world, though to Those at higher levels even the Nirvanic splendours must be but as shadows of something still greater.
This physical world is in many ways far more of a dreamland than ever it has been before. I have discovered a new contrast. I had already known the contrast between the Buddhic and the physical worlds.
Now I am beginning to know that between the Nirvanic and the physical world, and the greater brightness necessarily intensifies the shadows. Yet, in fact, even the outermost world is a world of reality. The densest matter is no less Divinity than the most refined, the distinction being but in degree of self-consciousness.
The outer world may be a dreamland, a world of shadows, yet it is God’s dream, God’s shadow; and God’s dreams come true. From this point of view, therefore, dreamland becomes a very real land, in which we must be happy to work, even though we live elsewhere, because we have the glorious task of making the dream-world come true. We look out from our Nirvanic window upon the world without. We see how infinitely less beautiful it all is than the home in which we live. But we see, too, how beautiful it might become. So we leave our Nirvanic home, taking its memories with us, and in the light of these memories we strive to fashion the Real out of that dream of the Real which, for convenience sake, we call the unreal. When we say:
From the unreal lead us to the Real,
From darkness lead us to Light,
From death lead us to Immortality,
we are in truth saying:
From the unconscious lead us to the Self-Conscious,
From the dream lead us to the True,
From the beginning lead us to the End.
The unreal is the promise of the Real.
Darkness is the shadow of Light. Death is the gateway to Immortality. In the unreal help me to find the Real. In the darkness help me to find the Light. In death enable me to perceive Immortality.
It is but natural, especially at the earlier stages of Nirvanic realization, that the outer worlds should be emphasized in their dream-aspect rather than in their real aspect. For the time being the dream-world may seem more of a dream-world than ever. And there may be some excuse for yearning for Nirvana as one moves about in the midst of the physical plane. A child may well be forgiven for being all eagerness about the wonderful new discovery he has made, and for a certain temporary listlessness with regard to more habitual surroundings.
But we live under the great law of readjustment, and it should not take us long to come to the conclusion that in this very dream-world we have the joyous task of making it come true. We begin to understand that our very realization of Nirvana depends upon our work in the dream-world.
I suppose it is possible to realize Nirvana without actually working on the physical plane, but it is not possible to realize it without working somewhere; and it does not matter where we work. Why not, then, help to pay the debt we owe to the physical plane and all there is in it? As I write these words, I am reminded of the fact that in the charming conception of Father Christmas bringing gifts to little children we have one of the most beautiful of truths. Every Saviour of the world is a Father Christmas, His hands laden with good things for His world. Every good man holds the same position to his world.
Every one of us who has taken a step nearer to truth must become a benefactor laden with truth. More than ever must I, too, because of the new gifts bestowed upon me, become a more enthusiastic distributor of my world. The world is like the little child wondering what Christmas will bring, even hoping, perhaps, for this or that, dreaming of all the wonderful things which will be by its bedside when it wakes in the morning. Sometimes there may be disappointment.
Sometimes what is good, rather than what is desired, may be brought. Sometimes we receive what we desire in order that we may learn the lesson that what we wish is not always what is good. Sometimes we receive what is wanted because our wish is right. Let our wishes be always for the good and the true, that this dream-world of ours may come true, may reflect as perfectly as may be the higher worlds of which it is the physical body. We must live in dreams that they may come true, for the dream is the seed of the Real, as the Real is the future of the seed in an Eternal Now.
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