Franklin Merrell-Wolff Enlightenment Story

The following is an excerpt from Pathways Through to Space by Franklin Merrell-Wolff.

The ineffable transition came, about ten days ago.

We had just returned to our Southern California home after a few weeks’ stay in a small town in the Mother Lode country in the northern part of the State, and I was resting from the fatigue induced by the all-night driving of the automobile. At the time, I was engaged in the reading of portions of “The System of the Vedanta” by Paul Deussen, as I had been doing more or less systematically during the preceding three weeks.This work is an interpretation in western philosophic form of the Vedanta as it is developed in the commentaries of Shankara of the Brahmasutras.

I had been led to this specific program of reading through the realization that Shankara’s words had peculiar power, at least in my own experience. For some time I had spontaneously looked to him as to a Guru (spiritual teacher) with whom I was in complete sympathetic accord. I had found him always clear and convincing, at least in all matters relative to the analysis of consciousness, while with the other Sages I either found obscurities or emphases with which I could not feel complete sympathy.

For some months I had resolved to delve more deeply into the thought of Shankara, in so far as it was available in translated form. It was a pursuance of this purpose that I was slowly reading and meditating upon “The System of the Vedanta.”

I had been following this course while completing a cross-cut in a gold-prospect near the small town of Michigan Bluff. Much of this time I was completely alone and was more than usually successful in penetrating the meaning and following the logic of what I was reading.

One day, after the evening meal and while still sitting at the table, I found that, by gradual transition, I had passed into a very delightful state of contemplation. The actual content o the thought of that period is forgotten, but as I made careful note of the state I was in and submitted it to close scrutiny, the quality of the state was well impressed upon my memory. My breath had changed, but not in the sense of stopping or becoming extremely slow or rapid. It was, perhaps, just a little slower than normal. The notable change was in a subtle quality associated with the air breathed. Over and above the physical gases of the air there seemed to be an impalpable substance of indescribable sweetness which, in turn, was associated with a general sense of well-being, embracing even the physical man. It was like happiness and joy, but these words are inadequate. It was of a very gentle quality, yet far transcended the value of any of the more familiar forms of happiness. It was quite independent of beauty or comfort or the environment. At that time the latter was, to say the least, austere and not in any sense attractive. This quality, associated with the air, I had, in a small measure, previously experienced at high altitudes in the mountains, but in the present instance the altitude was only 1800 feet and the air was far from invigorating, due to the period being exceptionally warm.

However, introspective analysis revealed the fact that the elixirlike quality was most marked during the exhalation, thus indicating that it was not derived fro the surrounding air. Further, the exhaled breath was not simply air expelled into the outer atmosphere, but seemed to penetrate down through the whole organism like a gentle caress, leaving throughout a quiet sense of delight. It seemed to me like a nectar. Since that time I have learned that it is the true Ambrosia.

There are further prior pertinent factors which, it seems, should be noted. About eighteen months ago there began a series of conversations with one whom I recognized as a Sage. I checked the validity of my recognition of this One in every way that I could and proved His genuineness to my complete satisfaction. I acted on His word when I could not see clearly and found that clarity gradually unfolded. Acting upon His suggestions, Sherifa–my wife–and I undertook a phase of public work hitherto attempted. Both of us found as we progressed in the work a gradual growth of understanding that has steadily brought Light where there had been obscurity. Among other things this Sage suggested my correlation with a previous incarnation of special importance. He advised me that He was not, and could not be, my personal Guru, as that relationship was dependent upon alignments hat are not arbitrary.

In the past, two important Recognitions have come to me. First, nearly fourteen years ago, in a setting which it is not necessary to delineate, I suddenly recognized “I am Atman.” This effected important changes of outlook that persisted. Second, less than one year ago, while engaged in the public work mentioned above, and while deeply interested in a book giving a report of a living Indian Sage, I also suddenly recognized that Nirvana is not a field, or space, or world which one entered and that contained one as space might contain an external object, but rather that “I am identical with Nirvana, and always have been and always will be so.” This Recognition likewise had its persistent effects upon the personal consciousness.

[Ten days ago when it happened] I had been sitting in a porch swing, reading as previously stated. Ahead of the sequence in the book, I turned to the section devoted to “Liberation,” as I seemed to feel an especial hunger for this. I covered the material quickly and it all seemed very clear and satisfactory.

Then, as I sat afterward dwelling in thought upon the subject just read, suddenly it dawned upon me that a common mistake made in the higher meditation–i.e., meditation for Liberation–is the seeking for a subtle object of Recognition, in other words, something that could be experienced. Of course, I had long known the falseness of this position theoretically, yet had failed to recognize it. (Here is a subtle but important distinction.)

At once, I dropped expectation of having anything Then, with eyes open and no sense stopped in functioning–hence no trance–I abstracted the subjective moment–the “I AM” or “Atman” element–from the totality of the objective consciousness manifold. Upon this I focused. Naturally, I found what, from the relative point of view, is Darkness and Emptiness. But I realized It as Absolute Light and Fullness and that I was That. Of course, I cannot tell what IT was in Its own nature. The relative forms of consciousness inevitably distort nonrelative Consciousness.

Not only can I not tell this to others, I cannot even contain it within my own relative consciousness, whether of sensation, feeling, or thought. Every metaphysical thinker will see this impossibility at once. I was even prepared not to have the personal consciousness share in this Recognition in any way. But in this I was happily disappointed.

Presently I felt the Ambrosia-quality in the breath with the purifying benediction that it casts over the whole personality, even included the physical body. I found myself above the universe, not in the sense of leaving the physical body and being taken out in space, but in the sense of being above space, time, and causality. My karma seemed to drop away from me as an individual responsibility. I felt intangibly, yet wonderfully, free. I sustained this universe and was not bound by it. Desires and ambitions grew perceptibly more and more shadowy. All worldly honors were without power to exalt me. Physical life seemed undesirable. Repeatedly, through the days that followed, I was in a state of deep brooding, thinking thoughts that were so abstract that there were no concepts to represent them. I seemed to comprehend a veritable library of Knowledge, all less concrete than the most abstract mathematics. The personality rested in a gentle glow of happiness, but while it was very gentle, yet it was so potent as to dull the keenest sensuous delight. Likewise the sense of world-pain was absorbed. I looked, as it were, over the world, asking: “What is there of interest here? What is there worth doing?” I found but one interest: the desire that other souls should also realize this and I had realized, for in it lay the one effective key for solving of their The little tragedies of men left me indifferent. I saw one great Tragedy, the cause of all the rest, the failure of man to realize his own Divinity. I saw but one solution, the Realization of this Divinity.

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