In my last post, I focused on a plagiarized passage that I found in a book published by Radha Soami Satsang Beas. What’s more interesting and significant than the plagiarism, though, is what this misquoted quotation from W.T. Stace points toward:
Nothing. Which he, along with many other mystics and mystically inclined writers, equates with God.
Even the plagiarist, J.R. Puri, seems to agree. For after he steals Stace’s words to speak of a state of pure consciousness that has no empirical content other than itself, consciousness aware of consciousness, Puri says:
And this self-realization is often eventually spoken of as God-realization.
In “Mysticism and Philosophy” Stace himself says this after the passage that I quoted previously:
Since the experience has no content, it is often spoken of by the mystics as the Void or as nothingness; but also as the One, and as the Infinite. That there are in it no particular existences is the same as saying that there are no distinctions in it, or that it is an undifferentiated unity. Since there is no multiplicity in it, it is the One. And that there are no distinctions in it or outside it means that there are no boundary lines in it between anything and anything. It is therefore the boundless or the infinite.
The paradox is that there should be a positive experience which has no positive content — an experience which is both something and nothing.
In Robert K.C. Forman’s book about Meister Eckhart that contains the plagiarized passage, Forman says that for Eckhart the birth of God’s “son” within the soul is a Birth of emptiness within. Eckhart says:
The soul should give Birth to nothing inside herself, if she wishes to be the child of God in whom God’s Son shall be born—in her nothing should be born.
More Eckhart on the same theme:
It appeared to a man as in a dream—it was a waking dream—that he became pregnant with Nothing like a woman with child, and in that Nothing God was born, He was the fruit of nothing. God was born in the Nothing. Therefore he says: “He arose from the ground with open eyes, seeing nothing.”
Below Forman summarizes Eckhart’s core mystic thesis that nothing needs to be done to realize God; what is needful is to undo one’s preoccupation with things and thoughts.
As we have seen, for Eckhart God shares a ground with the soul’s ground, and He has so shared it since man’s preexistence. But in “ordinary” experience, in which man is attached to various cognitive objects, the soul attends to the powers and through them to the external world.
As a result, his thoughts bubble incessantly, and what he perceives as “his” needs enthrall his attention. Activities cover over this place “like a mist over the sun.” By looking in the wrong direction, outward instead of within, the religious “overlooks” this “place” within himself, and hence attends not to God but to the creaturely.
…God is the nothing, is in the nothing, and it is God who is “born” when one is “pregnant” with nothing.
Pretty darn simple. And scientific, the way I look at it. The great mysteries that science has not yet been able to fathom are existence, life, and consciousness. The roots and nature of each are hidden in the depths of…who knows? For we human would-be mystery-unravelers are conscious, existent, and alive.
We’re trying to unravel what we are, a snake swallowing its own tail proposition.
So, as I mentioned before, for many years I’ve enjoyed the plagiarized passage in Puri’s book because it points to the ultimate mystery: me. And you. Each of us is a bit of the grand cosmic Mystery that we’re trying to understand.
It makes sense that we start with what we’re already in direct contact with, existent living consciousness, rather than some distant God. And if unity is at the root of it all, then “us” is going to be the same as “cosmos” anyway.
What bothers me about J.R. Puri, apart from his plagiarizing, is that he shies away from the implications of Stace’s statement that consciousness empty of empirical content is identical with the One—God.
His devotion to the RSSB teachings, which emphasize the necessity of a guru for god-realization, causes him to say a few pages later:
The real object of human love must be the Perfect, the Absolute. And it is through such love that salvation can be attained… But—and it is a crucial but—the all-pervasive, formless entity of God cannot be the object on which our feelings can be fixed or attached.
And what cannot be within the range of “feeling” cannot be within the scope of love. Indeed, for such an entity we cannot be sure even of His existence, let alone His love or worship.
…The master [guru] is the manifest form of the Lord, and it is the manifest form that can be the object of love. And if God can only be realized through love, the master is an indispensable link for God-realization.
Huh? On page 59 Puri said that the self-realization of pure consciousness is equivalent to God-realization. That is, the ultimate reality often called “God” is realized by achieving a state of inner emptiness in which nothing is present but the ground of being—the One.
Yet on page 90 he says that emotional attachment to a particular form of God, the guru, is essential. Actually, Eckhart and many other introvertive mystics (such as Plotinus) taught that attachment to material or mental forms is not only inessential for higher understanding, but an insurmountable hurdle.
A main reason I’ve soured on the RSSB approach to meditation is that it takes such a roundabout route. The meditator’s goal is to unite his or her consciousness with the formless One. But getting there supposedly is facilitated by filling one’s mind with thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and imaginings of the guru’s physical form.
That never made much sense to me. Now it makes no sense at all. I’m too old to take roundabout detours. I very much want to know ultimate reality (assuming it is knowable). The shortest and quickest likely way—that’s for me.
I often think about the very first sentence in my book about Plotinus, “Return to the One.” This line flowed easily from my typing fingertips. Maybe I should have stopped right there and not written another word.
If something has been lost and you’re not sure where to look for it, there’s good reason to start searching right where you are rather than far afield.
Puri would have us look for our self in the guru’s mind and body. I’m with Stace, Eckhart, Forman, and Plotinus: the One will be realized by becoming the one we truly are, not someone else.