Last revised: 25 March 2009
Is there such a thing as full and complete enlightenment?
We have reached vijnana or sahaja nirvikalpa samadhi, which I believe are the same, in our contemplation of enlightenment. We know ourselves as God and we know that everything transcendental and phenomenal is God. At this level, we have escaped the relentless wheel of birth and death.
We have traveled up the spiritual parabola, the sacred arc represented by Jacob’s Ladder, as far as we know it to go. Are there more steps to climb?
The masters seem to suggest there are. They continually hint at greater states of realization than the ones they are discussing. For instance, Sri Ramana no sooner delineates sahaja nirvikalpa samadhi than he hints at a further level he calls “nirvana.” (1)
Sri Ramakrishna often repeated the story of the woodcutter, whose moral was the constant injuction to “Go forward!” (2) “Beyond the forest of sandal-wood ... are many more valuable things: silver-mines, gold-mines, diamonds, and other gems.” (3)
His disciple, Swami Brahmananda, also exhorted us: “When through japam [recitation of the names of God] and meditation a little awakening comes, do not imagine you have achieved the end. Light! More Light! Onward! Onward! Attain God! Gain his vision! Talk to him!” (4) “There are so many divine experiences. How can I tell you of them all? ... There is no limit to them.” (5)
They don’t sound as if they are referring to one more stage of enlightenment beyond vijnana. They sound as if they are urging us to adopt an attitude that never regards its own state of realization as the end of the possibilities of enlightenment.
There is virtually no end to spiritual evolution
To help us break free from the attitude that Brahmajnana, or even vijnana, is the end of enlightenment, let us listen to Dr. Franklin Merrell-Wolff describe three stages of enlightenment past Brahmajnana.
The High Satisfaction
I first became aware of being enveloped in an extraordinary State of Consciousness when I found myself seemingly surrounded by, and interpenetrated through and through with, a quality for which there is no adequate word but which is most nearly represented by calling it “Satisfaction.” … I do not mean merely an abstraction, such as a state of being satisfied, but, rather, a substantial Actuality. … He who is enveloped in this [High] Satisfaction is in need of nothing whatsoever to satisfy him. The Satisfaction I realized is a real and substantial Existence prior to all experiencing. … It was the essence of aesthetic, emotional, moral, and intellectual satisfaction at the same time. There was nothing more required, so far as desire for myself was concerned, for at that time I had the full value of everything that could possibly be desired. It might be called the culminating point, the highest to which desire, individually centred, could reach. (6)
The High Indifference
As time went on there was a gradual dimming, or fusing, or being enveloped, on the part of the [High] Satisfaction, by another and considerably more profound State. The only expression that reasonably well represents this higher State is the term ‘High Indifference.’ Along with this was a sense of simply tremendous Authority … of such stupendous Majesty as to reduce the power of all Caesars relatively to the level of insects. … The Caesars … do not know the Powers lying beyond the utmost sweep of individual desire. But there is such a region of Authority, supreme over all below, and this is the High Indifference.
In this State I was not enveloped with satisfaction, but there was no feeling, in connection with that fact, of something having been lost. Literally, I now had no need of Satisfaction. This state or quality rested, as it were, below Me, and I could have invoked it if I had so chosen. But the important point is that on the level of the High Indifference there is no need of comfort or of Bliss, in the sense of an active Joy or Happiness. If one were to predicate Bliss in connection with the High Indifference, it would be correct only in the sense that there was an absence of misery or pain. But relative to this State even pleasurable enjoyment is misery. I am well aware that in this we have a State of Consciousness which falls quite outside the range of ordinary human imagination. … now, deep within me, I feel that I am centered in a Level from which I look down upon all objects of all possible human desire, even the most lofty. It is a strange, almost a weird, Consciousness when viewed from the perspective of relative levels. Yet, on its own Level, It is the one State that is really complete or adequate. What there may be still Beyond, I do not Know, but this State I do know consumes all others of which I have had any glimpse whatsoever. …
The High Indifference is to be taken in the sense of an utter Fullness that is even more than a bare Infinity. (7)
And what I'll say now goes beyond the literature. Whether this is the door open to all who take this step, whether this of which I am about to speak is the door open to all, I know that it came to me and there walked into my consciousness THAT which transcended the nirvanic as the nirvanic transcended the sangsaric [sic]. Its quality was totally different. Not one of this delight, but a Principle of Equilibrium that united all pairs of opposites including Samsara and Nirvana. In some ways a kind of neutral Consciousness that knew that it could enter the nirvanic state and leave it at will, enter the sangsaric state and leave it at will. Nowhere in literature did I find any reference to anything of this sort. And then, at its peak, the sense of I vanished and the object of consciousness, which now had appeared as the Robe of the Divine, also vanished, and only Consciousness remained. Not the consciousness of some entity, but Consciousness Self-existent, and the Source of all selves and all worlds. This is Enlightenment. This is the KEY to the Buddhist scriptures, the Doctrine of the Voidness, and so forth. (8)
Discussions like Dr. Wolf's make it quickly clear that there are many stages of spiritual evolution past vijnana.
In fact it becomes apparent that the future of the human soul “is the future of a thing whose growth and splendour has no limit.” (10) “The Divine Life is endless; the being of God is infinite," Mother Meera's companion, Adilakshmi, tells us. (11) "Whatever experience you have had, however extraordinary, remember that there are further and greater experiences." (12) Says the Koran: “I swear by the glow of sunset; by the night, and all that it brings together; by the moon, in her full perfection: that you shall march onwards from state to state.” (13)
It is a tremendous privilege for us to have access to the sages' words on subjects such as these. This lore that we can freely draw on today would once have been considered the mystery of mysteries, the holy of holies centuries ago. Human society must surely have evolved in this time for these secret doctrines to be available to us in our bookstores and libraries. I certainly share it with you with the greatest reverence.
Here is the teacher who speaks through Mabel Collins. That teacher is an ascended master, a member of the Great White Brotherhood, of exalted vision: “Inquire of the inmost, the One, of its final secret, which it holds for you through the ages. ... When the time of learning ... is reached, man is on the threshold of becoming more than man.” (14)
More than man? Are there more levels of phenomenal reality above the human? Does Jacob’s Ladder continue above the human? Mabel Collins’ teacher says it does.
When after ages of struggle and many victories the final battle is won, the final secret demanded, then you are prepared for a further path. When the final secret of this great lesson is told, in it is opened the mystery of the new way -- a path which leads out of all human experience, and which is utterly beyond human perception or imagination. (15)
Again, even on these subjects, which are to me majestic revelations, the masters share freely. Christian Master Beinsa Douno tells us that evolution is endless:
We think that man is on the highest rung of the evolutionary ladder, but evolution is without end. Just as there are beings that exist below man, there are Beings that exist above man as well. These Beings evolved from the universes of the past. (16)
Pseudo-Dionysius had much to say about superior beings, which he called “the intelligent hierarchies of heaven” and “the most blessed hierarchies among the angels.” (17) Angels move freely throughout the Bible and dictate the Koran to Mohammed. Dr. Wolff may have been referring to their realm when he wrote:
A certain Sage..., speaking of unfolded Consciousness above the level of the highest human Adepts, said: "We attain glimpses of Consciousness so Transcendent, rising level upon level, that the senses fairly reel before the awe-inspiring Grandeur."
Here, certainly, is space for evolution far beyond the highest possibility of man as man. (18)
Here is our future. Here is the ultimate direction of humanity’s common journey. Our future lies not with exploitation, crime, and oppression. It lies not in corruption and decline. It lies in traveling through “level upon level, [such] that the senses fairly reel before the awe-inspiring Grandeur."
If we must travel so far that our senses stagger before the sight, then we may as well say that enlightenment is endless. It is virtually so.
Says Dr. Wolff:
Truly, within the Infinite there are Mysteries within Mysteries, Deeps beyond Deeps, Grandeurs beyond Grandeurs. … Mystery of Mysteries, reaching inward and outward, but ever Beyond! And from that Beyond ever there come new whisperings of other imponderable Glories. Ah! How little is this world at the beginning of the Trail, barely a point in a Space of unlimited dimensions! (19)
Beyond [the sage's] attainment, whatever it may be, there lie further mysteries awaiting his resolution. In other words, We find no conceivable end to evolution. (20)
Creation, which God made for our seemingly-endless enlightenment, is majestic beyond our unimaginably-small powers to conceive. How many of us take up the challenge of the masters and achieve a significant stage of enlightenment?
For full details on these sources, see “Bibliography.”
(1) MG, 30.
(2) GSR, 434.
(3) Loc. cit.
(4) EC, 61.
(5) Ibid., 204.
(6) PTS, 116-7.
(7) Ibid., 118-20.
(8) Franklin Merrell-Wolff, “The Induction,” 24 January 1970. http://www.selfdiscoveryportal.com/arInduction.htm . Downloaded 2 January 2006.)
(9) PTS, 120.
(10) IWL, 114. Of Jacob’s ladder of consciousness, Silver Birch says:
The ladder of Jacob was not a figment of the imagination, but the symbol of an eternal reality, for up that ladder every soul can climb, rung by rung. From earth to heaven it ranges, supported always by the power of the Great Spirit. (SBT, n.p.)
It is wonderful to reflect that there will always be more to achieve. There is no nirvana, no stage of bliss when you have come to the end of your spiritual journey. (Silver Birch, LSB, 48.)
(11) Adilakshmi, companion to Mother Meera and her biographer, MOTH, 89.
(12) Loc. cit.
(13) Koran, 48.
(14) LOP, 29-30.
(15) Ibid., 11-2.
(16) “Culture of the Angels,” WOG, n.p.
(17) “The Celestial Hierarchy” in CWPD, 145-6.
(18) PTS, 17.
(19) Ibid., 115.
(20) Ibid., 43.