A Study in
George Sidney Arundale
First published 1926
Faster and more fast
O’er night’s brim, day boils at last
Boils pure gold o’er the cloud-cup’s brim,
Where spurting and suppressed it lay,
For not a froth-flake touched the rim
Of yonder gap in the solid grey
Of the Eastern cloud, an hour away:
But forth one wavelet, then another, curled,
Till the whole sunrise, not to be suppressed,
Rose reddened, and its seething breast
Flickered in bounds, grew gold, then over-flowed the world.
Trying to describe what I must call down here the Nirvanic body, the only word that comes to me in substitution for “body” is radiance. One might describe the Buddhic body as a Star raying forth its glories. But transition to Nirvana seems to spread my Star out so that there is neither centre nor circumference, but only dazzling radiance. If I could look upon this brilliance from some para-Nirvanic region I should be able to discern its limitation, not so much a spatial restriction, as a limitation in the radiance-scheme and the radiance-intensity.
This lustre of mine, indescribably glorious though it is, is obviously only in the becoming, Wand when I compare it with the radiance of my seniors I perceive, first, that in it the Nirvanic Light is only in embryonic co-ordination, in what I may call rough outline; and second, that the very Light itself, dazzling though it be, lacks the scintillation which time and growth alone can give. I notice that Those who are Masters in these Nirvanic regions, and have fulfilled its seven great fields or planes, shine with the glories of still greater splendours, their Nirvanic radiances being suffused, interpenetrated, with higher effulgences which I can sense but shall take long ages to achieve.
In some ways, from the standpoint of the lower planes, the word transcendence is more appropriate even than radiance, for it indicates the going beyond every single limitation worn by the planes beneath. Time, space, form - these are transcended. They have ceased to manifest, though remaining in potentiality, or
I could not assume them as I descend; as I pass outwards. I am well aware that such transcendence suggests an annihilation of all that on the lower planes seems to make life real - the ego, the personality, the individuality. If these are gone, what remains? Is Nirvana, after all, the annihilation which some philosophers have thought it to be?
My answer is that all these things, however substantial they may appear down here, however much they may seem to be our ultimate foundation, are themselves but reflections of a nobler substans, themselves rest on deeper foundations still. Individualized Divinity exists in Nirvana, and doubtless in para-Nirvana too, even though its reflections as time, space, .form and as the lower individualities we know as ego, personality and individuality, are unmanifest, potential. We have to learn that individuality does not necessarily demand description in terms of time and space and form as we know these in the outer
worlds. There is individuality in other terms, in terms of Nirvanic time, Nirvanic space, Nirvanic form - the archetypes of lower time, lower space, lower form.
I find myself tempted, as I experience more, to speculate that individuality, the condition to which we cling so furiously in the lower regions, becomes far less precious and vital as we pass beyond the more Mayavic planes. There is something that matters far more than George Arundale, a something of which
George Arundale at his very best is but a feeble reflection.
Inevitably, we personify. Even Theosophists personify. Many of us probably think of the Logos Himself as some King or Person. We cannot bring ourselves to think of the disappearance of individuality, for we then come face to face, because our
experience stops short, with annihilation, and evolution will then have been in vain.
So far as I am able to judge, much disappears which in our lower bodies we would fain cling to, just as it is a wrench to lose the causal body as we enter the Buddhic plane. But the loss of this body troubles us not at all on the Buddhic plane, and the loss of the Buddhic body troubles us not at all on the Nirvanic plane. Why? Because we approach more and more closely to the Root-Seed of all bodies, which is none of them, but out of which each body proceeds as the Root-Seed sends downwards its shoots of Life. Already, at the Buddhic level the Monad for the first time since individualization from the animal kingdom occupies, at all events for a moment, one of its dwellings. At the Nirvanic
level the tenancy of the lower bodies begins to become more permanent, until at last the Monad and its lower vehicles are one.
Before this, the Ego himself has, of course, led the way in occupation, shedding at last what to many has seemed a strange indifference. But the Monad Himself replaces His temporary substitutes as these higher regions are ascended, and takes the place of all that hitherto has seemed so utterly indispensable. George Arundale at his best is but a shadow of that which sent George Arundale forth. George Arundale may come or go. He ceases to matter; and I am learning, as I make Nirvana my home, to treat George Arundale even at his best as but a means to an end, a tool which has had its day, may still have its day, but can quite well cease to be at any time.
This is an amplification of my earlier experiences in Nirvana, but I am by no means sure if I have made myself intelligible. In any case there is no loss, but always gain. The ladder remains even though I cease to use it. We do not kick away the rungs by which we have ascended. And as the lower planes are to the subtler planes above, so is the Nirvanic plane to the planes above it. It must surely be the densest region of the series of regions that stretch beyond it. Even I can perceive that the lowest sub-plane of Nirvana is dense (inappropriate as the adjective seems in reference to Light) as compared with the higher sub-planes. I can only repeat that individualized Divinity exists as definitely
in Nirvana as, indeed more definitely in Nirvana than, it does down here. When we transcend our time, our form, we do not subtract; we add.
It is as if an individual living in a small cottage were to become the king of his country. While the cottage remains his world, kingship would seem a limitation. He would be lost in it. But when he is ready for kingship, when he has ceased to be his cottage and only uses it, then he loses nothing by becoming king, even though the cottage-time, the cottage-space and the
cottage-form may have been transcended. He can even live in the cottage if he so desires, at all events from time to time, but he is no longer limited by it. Has he lost his individuality by becoming a king? The difference between the kingly individuality and the cottage individuality is as the difference between individuality in Nirvana and individuality below. Becoming king he has added to
himself,1 however much the cottage may have been subtracted. To the cottager there is a subtraction; to the king there is addition.
Let us follow for a moment this simile of the king. Consider the difference between the king and the cottage - the greater power of the king, his greater splendour, his wider vision, his deeper understanding. The king lives in a time and space and form different from those of the cottager. He can do far more in
his time. His time is fuller, more potent. His area of movement is far wider. He contacts so much of which the cottager remains necessarily ignorant. His form is so different from that of the cottager. He has many forms, he has to be many things to many people, he has many functions in his State, all depending upon
his kingship. Many things he does which the cottager does. He eats, drinks, sleeps, works. But he does all these things differently, and to greater ends.
The cottager may live to eat, but the true king eats to live. The king lives in another world, though both he and the cottager may be in the same world. One set of values and standards for the king; another set, even with regard to the same things, for the cottager. The things precious to the cottager may have 1
little value to the king, just as the things which the king cherishes may mean nothing to the cottager. The cottager looks upon the world with a cottager’s eyes. The king looks upon the world with the eyes of a king. The cottager, as the poets so often tell us, would not exchange his lot with that of kings, because he would not be happy in the wider sphere - he knows but limited
happiness. But the king - the true king - would have little hesitation in exchanging his lot with that of the cottager, because he could be as kingly in the cottage as in the palace, as kingly in the cottage-state as in the Nation-State over which he rules. The greater can limit itself far more easily than the less can expand. The king can be kingly anywhere, and that is all that matters to him. He depends upon himself. The cottager depends upon his world.
It is this transition from dependence upon outer things to dependence upon the kingliness within that marks the upward growth. From living in a world, I become a world. And some day I shall transcend even this.
I should like at this point to emphasize the fact that on entering Nirvana we absorb it far more than Nirvana absorbs us. It might be thought that, once bathed in the glories 1of Nirvana, an individual would practically become its slave, leaving it with difficulty, effecting a veritable annihilation of the lower worlds so far as regards any joy of living in them. It might be thought
that he would become Nirvana-absorbed, ever longing for its bliss, never happy until and unless immersed in it. My own experience is different. It may, of course, be that as I become more familiar with Nirvana I shall become more absorbed in it.* (*As a matter of fact I do find that I am becoming more and
more absorbed in Nirvana, but this is just the same as saying that I am becoming more and more absorbed in life, not by any means only life in this world but equally life in all worlds, life in all planets and suns and stars. I am more alive in all worlds, as much in the physical world as in any other.) Yet from the very beginning of contact with Nirvanic consciousness there has been an overwhelming eagerness to convey something of its reality to the worlds in which I have grown so long. To contact Nirvana is like a debtor suddenly finding himself with unexpected means to liquidate some of his debts to his creditors.
We owe much to the outer world. We have lived in it for ages. We have grown in it. However much we transcend it we still remain its debtors.
God Himself is paying his debts of long ago in the Divinity-infused systems and universes 1of which we are part. Is it irreverent to say that through these very payments He Himself grows, as we grow through ours? Indeed, it is only as
we are eager to pay that the wherewithal comes to us for payment. I could not contact Buddhi save as I am seen to be realizing my true relationships in the lower worlds.
I could not transcend Buddhi save as I am seen to be dedicating the power of Buddhi, as I have already been dedicating the powers below. No transcendence of the lower is possible save as it becomes consecrated again by us to the ends to which God consecrated it aforetime. We must remember His consecration of His Life to a Divine unfoldment or apotheosis. We must transubstantiate, even as He is ever transubstantiating: which, put in simple language, means that we must live in terms of Brotherhood. Brotherhood must be substituted for the smaller self.
My longing, therefore, is to share Nirvana, not to cut myself for ever off from external surroundings, but to carry Nirvana everywhere, no matter where. I could not dare to enter Nirvana otherwise, or I truly believe I should indeed experience some form of annihilation. Its Light would burn me up. Only can I
enter Nirvana as I am ready to recognize Nirvana for that which Nirvana truly is, and as Nirvana is ready to recognize in me a neophyte who has performed an act of consummation on the lower planes and who, therefore, has won the right to further power which he may be trusted to use as so far he has used all power entrusted to him.
There must be in me the dawning of the essential Nature of Nirvana, which is not annihilation, but an infinitely deeper radiance, an infinitely deeper wisdom, power, love. Hence; given such dawning, safely may I enter, for I shall be entering only to live more abundantly.Nirvana has been born in me. It is a condition of consciousness. I cannot express Nirvana in aught that is less than Nirvana; but I can suggest it in the denser matter beneath, I can re-mould forms into closer approximation to its formless majesty. I can remember Nirvana, and I can live my daily life as unto Nirvana, pointing to Nirvana. And this is what I must do, for I can only know Nirvana myself as I lead others towards it. But when I say I must lead others to it, I ought to make it once more clear that Nirvana is already in them.
As I have already said, Nirvana is not somewhere in space. It is a state of our consciousness, of the consciousness in every individual. What I have set forth in these pages is waiting to be set forth, either in similar or in other terms, by all. Time is, of course, needed. The seed does not become the bud at
once. But it is only time that is needed. A short time for the wise, a long time for the ignorant; a short time for those in whom the sense of the Unity of Life is growing strong, a long time for those who have still to learn many lessons in the outer world.
Let none, however, imagine that in any sense perfection is needed for entry into Nirvana. It is not a state of perfection. I am able to reach its lowest stages even though there are still many fetters which bind me to the human kingdom. It is a state of being, and all states of being, since they are limitations of the One, must necessarily be imperfect, partial. That it is a state nearer
perfection than all lower conditions of consciousness is, of course, obvious.
That there is greater unfoldment in it is true. Nirvana is a condition of indescribable bliss and power. But it is by no means the ultimate, and he who reaches it has not long left the preparatory school of life.
At the first of the
Great Initiations he finally completed the earlier stages, and now at the
fourth great step he is equipped, with the aid of the powers of the second and
third steps, for more serious service, for real leadership in the outer world.
He enters Nirvana with fetters still about him - still with certain limitations
and weaknesses, incompletions. Side by side, if I may use the expression, there
dwell together the Nirvanic consciousness and all the other modes of
consciousness of his being. But the lower modes tend to merge in the higher
mode, for his attention is towards the Light. He ceases to be the slave of
these lower modes, for he takes up his abode in the higher. No longer masters,
these lower ranges become servants, and so higher and higher does the gradually
liberated individual climb, sub-plane after sub-plane, in the
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