The Ray of Creation

There is an ancient story about some blind men and an elephant. Each one felt a part of the elephant and came to the conclusion that it was just as they felt it. The one who grabbed a leg thought the elephant was like a pillar, the one who grabbed the tail thought it was like a stick, etc. The moral of the story is that different people take only part of the scriptures, believing it to be the whole. The contradictions lead to disagreements and religious conflict, but are simply the result of partial understanding.

What if we could feel the leg, the tail, the ear, the belly and the trunk to get a better picture of the elephant? We would have to accept that true as each part is, it is not the whole truth. As a self-professed “blind man”, I have made it my life’s mission to feel the whole elephant.

I have felt seven parts:

I have felt the empty Void within and beyond manifestation, called sunyata in the Buddhist scriptures. I call it Amun, “the Hidden One”.

I have felt the light and energy within manifestation, called kundalini in the Vedas. I call it Ra, “the Sun God”.

I have felt the material substance of manifestation, called prima materia by the alchemists. I call it Atum, “the All”.

I have felt the aliveness of my body, the breath of life, called prana in India and qi or ki in China and Japan. I call it Ka, “the Life Force”.

I have felt the pure consciousness of the Self, called atman in the Vedas. It is the Witness of our life. I call it Ba, “the Soul.”

I have felt my connection and identity with the planet, called the anima mundi by the Neoplatonists. I call it Gaia, “the Earth Goddess”.

I have felt the Universal Consciousness of the universe, called Jah by the Rastafarians. I call it Jah, “God”.

[Amun, Ra, Atum, Ka and Ba are Ancient Egyptian; Gaia and Jah (Jahweh) are Ancient Greek and Jewish.]

These seven “gods” together constitute “the Ray of Creation”, which traces the evolution of the universe from the Void to the Absolute. Each “god” contains all the others below it in a nested hierarchy. They are like the layers of an onion, like the koshas (sheaths) of Vedanta. Each “god” denotes the unified consciousness of the realm or level it presides over: Jah is the god of the universe, which contains Gaia, goddess of the Earth, which contains Ba, god (or soul) of the organism, which contains Ka, god of cells, which contains Atum, god of atoms, which contains Ra, god of energy, which contains Amun, god of Emptiness.

Each time I have an experience of one of these parts of the elephant, I think to myself, “THIS is it!” The experience eventually and inevitably fades and then, at some other point I have a different experience and an equally compelling conviction that “THIS is it! I must put all my faith and devotion into THIS!”

When I experience one part of these realities, I give myself to it heart and soul, and exclaim with the credo, “I believe in ONE God”. In that moment of communion, nothing else exists. This is God for me now. But once the experience has passed, I realize that it was only one dimension of something much larger, only one part of the elephant.

There is another old story about a mountain and a mountain climber. It was a very difficult mountain to climb, but the mountain climber was determined to find a way to the summit. After much effort and exertion, he managed to find a way to the top. He had imagined that once he reached the summit, he could plant his flag and be done with it. However, back home again, he felt a strong urge to climb the mountain again, but by a different route. So he climbed up the mountain again. He did this over and over again for years, always climbing via a different route, until he had covered the whole mountain. Only then did he realize that the goal was not after all the summit of the mountain, but the mountain itself.


The Eye of God

What was it that triggered my satori (Enlightenment experience) twenty years ago? We were stood at a small bridge on the river Isis in Oxford. It was a beautiful sunny day, and as my two companions chatted about this and that, I drifted off, mesmerised by the brilliant dancing point of light on the water. A pair of ducks drifted by, breaking up the ripples into thousands of intricate patterns. I willed myself to “make my mind water” so that I could follow the patterns of light exactly as they occurred without lagging behind. I started to hallucinate endless figures and shapes, which would disappear as fast as they appeared. I remember being impressed by an Egyptian scene with Cleopatra on her barge in full regal splendor.

Once I had tired of this (and it was quite tiring), I began to reflect on the illusory nature of this light show. I imagined Thales sitting on a bank contemplating a similar scene and coming to the conclusion that the world was water. I asked myself, “if all this endlessly changing spectacle is an illusion, what is real?” The answer came fairly quickly: “well, the actual body of water is real.” Then, with a sudden shock of realization, I made a further logical step: the body of water was the shifting patterns on the surface. They were not two different things.

When I looked up from my meditation, the world was transfigured. “The green trees … transported and ravished me; their sweetness and unusual beauty made my heart to leap, and almost mad with ecstasy, they were such strange and wonderful things.” (Thomas Traherne from Centuries of Meditations).

It was only months later, as I desperately tried to make sense of my experience, that I came across the following, ascribed to Shankara:

“The world is illusion; Brahman is the only reality; Brahman is the world.”

I had passed through the same logical steps as had Shankara in his search for the Ultimate. Somehow I had passed through the “gateless gate”. Once through the gate, if you look behind you, there is no gate at all. All is seamlessly One.

It is the same as when you “see God”. How can you see God? God cannot be seen. True, but He can be apprehended, intuited, imagined. He can be “seen” with the eye of contemplation, if not the eye of flesh. So to “see God” is to arrive at a convincing enough approximation of what “God” might be. Convincing enough to be transported to a higher plane. Invariably, when we feel that we “see God”, we instinctively look up at the heavens. We may remain like this for some time, rapt in awe and wonder. At some point, we tire, and our gaze turns back to Earth. What do we see? Not the same Earth we were standing on a few moments ago. We see the Earth transfigured. Why? Because we are seeing it not with our eyes, but through the eyes of God.

Meister Eckhart said, “the eye with which you see God is the same eye with which He sees you.”

It is the same eye, but looked through in the opposite direction. It is a reversible eye. It is the “gateless gate”. From the perspective of the higher Being we call God, All is One. There is no separation anywhere. There is no separation between the world and God because God is the world. Brahman is the world. And more than that, the world, this planet we call Earth, is God. When we look at the world from God’s eye view, we are looking at the world from the World’s point of view. We are lending eyes to the world to look at itself. And it sees itself as One. The world is the world, which is the same as to say, as the Cabbalists are so fond of saying, God is God.

What happens when you look at yourself through the “eye with which [God] sees you”? You see that you are also part and parcel of the One God. You are a child of God, so to speak, a son or daughter of God. You feel that your soul, your mind, the very cells in your body, are part of the One God. You may feel a rush of energy, of being filled with the Holy Spirit. This is communion. In this moment of communion, your body is the body of Christ.

Seen through the eye with which you see God, the world is the Kingdom of God, and you are the body of Christ. Or, as the Buddhists would have it, “this body is the body of Buddha; this very land is the Pure Land.”