Saturday, July 19, 2014

Can God be Known?

“If there was a sound continuous since birth, what would you call it? Silence!” These words from a talk given by my spiritual teacher, Swami Kriyananda (1926-2013) were the opening line to his teaching a meditation technique designed to enable one to hear the cosmic sound of AUM.

One of the earliest learning lessons of an infant-toddler is that its mother is separate from itself. For, having been conceived in her womb and attached to her from the moment of its first breath, and only separated from her when asleep (and therefore subconscious), the child has to learn by experience that mother is not merely an extension of himself.

It can be said, therefore, that the only way to distinguish another person or object is if that person is observably separate from oneself.

Perhaps one reason we cannot prove the existence of God is that God is not separate from us! God, it is said, IS us. It is said, further that all that exists is the result of God becoming the creation. In so doing, God masks His own nature (which has no discernable form) or, put another way, “clothes” Himself in the forms of creation like so many masks. The first and original “invisible man” puts on creation that He can be seen. But what we see isn’t HIM for He has no form.

God's nature is consciousness itself, for consciousness has no form. Nor is it limited by time and space. That consciousness is not limited by time or space has been proven in a human way by experiments in telepathy wherein distance was no barrier to instant communication. Future predictions can show the potential for prescience over the barrier of time. Fighting crime by way of the help of psychics can reveal that consciousness has access to the past as well. Such established facts might hint at the omniscience of God, the overarching Intelligence.

Consciousness can only be examined by consciousness. While the effects of thinking or states of emotion can be detected and even measured by instruments or seen by consequent actions or words, only consciousness can experience thought or emotions. Consciousness per se cannot be separated from self-awareness. In turn, self-awareness cannot be separated from the awareness of feeling. It may be very calm feeling and it may be very subtle at first.

Imagine being in a deprivation tank and having no thoughts but being vibrantly self-aware. Or, imagine staring at something until all thoughts cease and you are left only gazing ahead of you. At first, you might describe your awareness as being without feeling or emotion. Meditators can experience this and may call it "emptiness" or the void. Prolonged resting in such a state will either cause one to lapse into a trance-like state which is blankness (not advised!), or, there enters into the mind, whether imperceptibly like a rising tide or crashing upon you in a giant wave, an ocean of joy. Whether having entered no-thing-ness (short of a trance) or into bliss, either way, the meditator returns from the experience refreshed, relaxed and vibrantly energized.

We have a more limited experience of this each night in sleep. Sleep is closer to the trance state, however, and thus has no ability to change our consciousness or our life for the better. Nonetheless, without the rest of nightly sleep states we could not function in this world. 

Life is a process of growing in awareness: of the world without, and, the world within. An adult cannot mature unless his awareness of the the realities of others around him expands and allows him thereby to relate responsibly and harmoniously with the world around. Whether cause or effect, the same goes for the inner awareness of oneself. Maturity and, indeed, happiness, derives from the degree of self-acceptance and self-knowledge within and success and harmony without.

Ultimately, a saint or sage is one who increasingly unites the inner and the outer until “what you see is what you get,” meaning a person who is clear, pure, without self-interest, self-giving, wise, and gentle yet strong. At the same time, what you see is no-thing, for purity of mind can only be “seen” intuitively. In the presence of a saint, a skeptic might come away wondering what the saint's "angle" is, for we can only see extensions of our own consciousness.

I marvel at the idea that anyone of sensitivity and awareness can contemplate this vast universe, with its history that stretches over unimaginable epochs, the vastness of the human mind, and the complexity and intricacy of the human body (and, indeed, all living forms) without feeling the presence of an intelligence that is conscious if unimaginably beyond our own, human experience.

Thus it is understandable that, faced with this vastness, one might shrug one’s shoulders in the hopelessness of understanding the universe or in seemingly obvious denial of the possibility of a Being of such vast power and intelligence. Maybe it's like flipping a coin: some like it hot, some not. Nonetheless, logic and human experience favors the obvious and the obvious is that the creation "must be intentional!" Logically speaking, the concept of it all being random is close to impossible, given the yardstick, especially, of the human experience and observation of human accomplishments and greatness. What human creation, artistic or inventive, social or scientific, that is worthy of admiration happens randomly?

But for those who gaze at the stars, or at the nobleness of true love or self-sacrifice, or the mystery of life and can intuit the presence of God, this feeling of awe and admiration gives rise to joy just as this joy gives rise to praise and to knowing that "Love is the Magician!" (The title of Swami Kriyananda's favorite musical composition.) 

Could such a consciousness be without feeling? Is intention of such a scale of creation merely mechanical, as if compelled by some other force, to create? How could the becoming of God into the universe not be anything short of the equivalent of a cosmic orgasm (forgive me), meaning, an act of love and of bliss? Do we, as humans, in any act of creativity (from procreation to invention to artistic creation) feel a notable degree of joy?

Ok, I admit that by the time one gets this “far out,” the stratosphere of metaphysical contemplation can become someone airless, rarified, and beyond day to day reckoning. But this is where the daily experience of meditation comes in because meditation can, if we work at it consistently and with effectiveness, bring us to the brink (and into the "drink") of pure consciousness.

The Indian scriptures say “God is not provable.” This is obvious for the reasons noted at the beginning of this article. By provable they mean by reason and by the senses. But God can be known by experience, which is to say by calm, intuitive feeling.

We can feel the atmosphere of warmth or coldness when we enter a room of people. There are many states of consciousness we can feel and know to be real for ourselves (at least). Meditation gradually refines our feelings to where we sense the presence of God as peace, joy, love, vitality and experience that presence in meditation as astral sound (sound of Aum) and inner light and as all encompassing state of bliss.

As Albert Einstein was sensitized to the abstract realities of time and space, and, as Mozart was sensitized to the world of sounds we call music, so, too, we, who are essentially tiny reflections of the consciousness innate to all creation (and which we call God), can become attuned to the “sound of silence” which is the indwelling presence of God.

It’s not a matter of belief but of practice which leads to experience. As Paramhansa Yogananda often proclaimed (in speaking of meditation and of kriya yoga):  “The time for knowing God has come.”

Blessings to all,

Nayaswami Hriman