THEOSOPHY, Vol. 52, No. 2, December, 1963
(Pages 51-53; Size: 9K)
[Article number (14) in this Q&A Department]
It is taught that after a long period of evolution each individual soul is at last reunited with the Absolute, and a great period of Pralaya begins. Yet certainly the individual (so long as he remains an individual) is finite, and the finite can never comprehend the infinite, any more than the infinite can comprehend the finite (see Secret Doctrine I, 56). Might it not then be considered a contradiction to speak of the individual as being reunited with the Absolute? Might not in fact the word "annihilation" be more applicable here than "reunion"?
Perhaps the relationship between the individual consciousness and Absolute Consciousness is not one in which "comprehending" has any place, so long as we consider that word synonymous with "understanding"; for surely the human mind cannot hope to understand this process of re-absorption by which the single merges completely with the All -- and yet is somehow not lost. It does indeed seem a contradiction (the word "paradox" seems hardly strong enough here); and in fact when H.P.B. treats of this question directly (S.D. I, 265-6), she amplifies rather than answers the question, makes comparisons and then declares the comparisons to be imperfect, and finally leaves the reader dangling without any secure logical sequence. Speaking of that day when "the spark will re-become the Flame ..." she declares that "in Paranirvana -- when Pralaya will have reduced not only material and psychical bodies, but even the spiritual Ego(s) to their original principle -- the Past, Present, and even Future Humanities, like all things, will be one and the same." She continues:Is this annihilation, as some think? ... To see in Nirvana annihilation amounts to saying of a man plunged in a sound dreamless sleep -- one that leaves no impression on the physical memory and brain, because the sleeper's Higher Self is in its original state of absolute consciousness during those hours -- that he, too, is annihilated. The latter simile answers only to one side of the question -- the most material; since re-absorption is by no means such a "dreamless sleep," but, on the contrary, absolute existence, an unconditioned unity, or a state, to describe which human language is absolutely and hopelessly inadequate. The only approach to anything like a comprehensive conception of it can be attempted solely in the panoramic visions of the soul, through spiritual ideations of the divine monad. Nor is the individuality -- nor even the essence of the personality, if any be left behind -- lost, because re-absorbed. For, however limitless -- from a human standpoint -- the paranirvanic state, it has yet a limit in Eternity. Once reached, the same monad will re-emerge therefrom, as a still higher being, on a far higher plane, to recommence its cycle of perfected activity. The human mind cannot in its present stage of development transcend, scarcely reach this plane of thought. It totters here, on the brink of incomprehensible Absoluteness and Eternity.Yet if one's feelings of mystification, even of contradiction, are only intensified by this passage, why should he be afraid of that contradiction? Might it not be possible for contradictory elements to exist within the realm of Universal Truth? One logical argument may refute another, but are not all logical arguments confounded when faced with eternity and infinity? For logic seems to proceed in a horizontal line from premises to conclusions, but universals find their symbol in the circle, a circle which may intersect our lines of logic at more than one point; a circle on whose circumference all points exist at the same time, even though they may be diametrically opposite to one another. And surely, if life's mysterious workings were forced into the hands of human logic, nothing would grow or even move, not even on the physical plane; for before an object could be moved a fraction of an inch, it would have to be moved an even smaller fraction, and before reaching that smaller fraction, it would have to reach a still smaller fraction, and so on, fraction dividing fraction infinitely; but this process of division would never reach that mystical point at which a standing object becomes transformed into an object which is in motion. That point (though governed by law) is completely non-logical; it is a miracle and a contradiction; it is surrounded by the Holy Spirit.
In our country we mistrust holy things; they embarrass us; we would like to reduce everything to understandable formulas, human beings included. This tendency (which strikes this student as being in essence entirely opposed to the Masters' work of reducing all operations of the universe to a few glyphs and symbols) has had serious detrimental effects on our social and individual lives; for, besides encouraging superficial analyses and judgments, it has reduced our capacity to feel a primeval kind of awe in the face of existence, and has in fact taken many people away from the inextricably complex and often contradictory mesh of intertwining threads of which manifested reality is composed.
We can see the effect of this tendency in a thousand ways; for example, the American movie industry, faced with the simple fact that no actual living person is entirely predictable in his thoughts or actions, continues to cast types -- two-dimensional characters that can easily be arranged to fit any plot. Most anthropologists will grant man only three dimensions, some psychologists will grant him four, but who in our logic-bound world is willing to grant him all that are rightfully his? Who will admit that his comings and goings (like the simplest motions of every object) are shrouded in mystery; and that, although his days may fall away from him like leaves, a powerful trunk remains alive to last the winter out, survive many winters, before falling finally back down to the earth?
The presence of contradictions, then, real or apparent, would not necessarily constitute the refutation of a proposition or indicate the misunderstanding of a phenomenon. It is in fact tempting (though rash) to declare that the validity of any statement of universal scope is doubtful unless that statement contains within it at least some possibility of logical contradiction; for more important than intellectual satisfaction is spiritual stimulation; and more important than tidy explanations is an awakening to the mysteries of life.
COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:
SAYINGS FROM ZEN
Living in the world, yet not clinging to or forming attachments for the dust of the world, is the way of a true Zen student.
Every day is a fortunate day for a true student. Time passes but he never lags behind. Neither glory nor shame can move his heart.
Why do you not leave everything to the great law of the universe and pass each day with a peaceful smile?
[Article number (15) in this Q&A Department]
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