Life can be usefully conceived of as a great circle of being, one half of which leads to greater and greater density and the other half of which leads to greater and greater subtlety.
The first half of the circle is us divine sparks or star children emerging from God, the great central sun (and beyond that the great Void), into the world. The second half is us leaving the world and returning to God.
I think Jesus was referring to this great circle when he said: “I came forth from the Father, and am come out into the world: again, I leave the world and go to the Father.” (1) That’s a succinct description of the great circle of being.
Life in the Third Dimension consists of lifetime after lifetime. In the Fifth Dimension we leave behind the need to die to change our physical form. We continue to evolve spiritually but without the inconvenience of needing to be reborn.
Restricting ourselves to the second half of the circle, the return to God, our progress is not simply that of a circle. The individual proceeding through lifetime after lifetime travels in a spiral, the meaning of which is that the individual returns to the same situation again and again to learn the lessons it contains. But they return to it at higher and higher levels of understanding.
All of life from the time we leave Third Dimensionality will see a progression into further and further lightness of being, refinement, and formlessness.
We’re like a Babushka doll, with the physical body on the outside and the spark of divinity on the inside, nested within further and further bodies – the etheric, the astral, the mental, the causal, etc.
However, and I won’t be developing this analogy because it’d be too complex to be enjoyable, we’re actually like a reverse Babushka doll. The physical body is on the inside and the larger and grander bodies are progressively “outside” of the physical.
Hmmmm…. Difficult matter to put in words…. Not “outside” physically – and all bodies are on different dimensions.
We tend to think of the material or Third-Dimensional body as substantial, the real thing, the heart of the matter and higher-dimensional bodies as copies with fewer and fewer organs and more and more subtlety of form.
It’s as if the higher-dimensional bodies are a refinement on the basic design, which is the Third-Dimensional body.
But Archangel Michael has been chipping away at that view by reminding us that we came from those higher-dimensional bodies into the Third Dimension. Our earlier bodies are the more refined, the bodies we “left” as we descended into matter.
That’s also why the Divine Mother told us at Joshua Tree that we’re not coming into a “new you”; we’re returning to an “old you.” Yes, our original Us, our original face.
It isn’t that we’re aspiring to be angels. We were originally angels, who agreed to live an experiment in form. Now we’re returning to our former dimensions, not coming into them for the first time.
So this material body is not the heart of the matter, but rather the farthest reaches perhaps (perhaps not), of our journey out from God.
God is the heart of the matter and God is who we are. We’re at a masked ball and God is wearing all the masks and playing all the parts. And our assignment is to remove the mask and know ourselves as the One God.
The fact that the return portion of our spiritual evolution is a progress from density to subtlety is reflected in how we experience God, as Sri Ramakrishna tells us. We move from seeing complicated forms of God to eventually seeing only formless light. While he talks about power and glory here, the same could be said of a movement from form to formlessness.
“The more you advance toward God, the less you will see of His glories and grandeur. The aspirant at first has a vision of the Goddess with ten arms; there is a great display of power in that image.
“The next vision is that of the Deity with two arms; there are no longer ten arms holding various weapons and missiles. Then the aspirant has a vision of Gopala [the baby Krishna], in which there is no trace of power. It is the form of a tender child. Beyond that there are other visions also. The aspirant then sees only Light.” (2)
It is only God who assumes all these forms for our education in who we are.
“Brahman [God] may be compared to an infinite ocean, without beginning or end. Just as, through intense cold, some portions of the ocean freeze into ice and the formless water appears to have form, so, through the intense love of the devotee, Brahman appears to take on form and personality.
“But the form melts away again as the sun of knowledge rises. Then the universe also disappears, and there is seen to be nothing but Brahman, the infinite.” (3)
“Know for certain that all forms are the forms of the one God alone.” (4)
Sri Ramakrishna has seen the Formless take on form and then melt back again into formlessness. He often described it.
“Once, while I was meditating in the temple, screen after screen of Maya was removed from my consciousness. Mother showed me a Light more brilliant than a million suns. From that Light came forth a spiritual Form.
“Then this Form melted away into the Light itself. The Formless had taken Form and then melted again into the Formless.” (5)
These moments are so sublime that when he tries to describe them he loses consciousness.
“I saw everything passing from form to formlessness. I want to tell you the things I saw, but I cannot.” (6)
“Sometimes I think I shall tell you everything about what I see and feel when that mysterious power rises up through the spinal column. When it has come up to this, or even this (pointing to the heart and throat), somebody stops my mouth, as it were, and I am adrift. I make up my mind to relate to you what I feel when the Kundalini goes beyond the throat, but as I think over it, up goes the mind at a bound, and there is an end to the matter.” (7)
In another article, I’ll look further at how the awakening of the knowledge of our true identity is the goal of all this. One would think that love or expansion or grandeur would be the end, and they are accompaniments of it. But in fact knowledge is the end, the knowledge that we are God.
(1) John 16:28. Everything a great master says can be interpreted on several levels. Yes, Jesus was an avatar, as Sri Ramakrishna attested to: “Why, I look upon him as an Avatara.” (Paramahansa Ramakrishna in Swami Prabhavananda. First Meetings with Sri Ramakrishna. Madras: Sri Ramakrishna Math, 1987 , 106-7.) But, yes as well, he described the great circle of being that all of us follow.
(2) Paramahansa Ramakrishna in Swami Nikhilananda, trans., The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1978; c1942, 177. [Hereafter GSR]
(3) Paramahansa Ramakrishna in GSR, 191.
(4) Paramahansa Ramakrishna in GSR, 184.
(5) Paramahansa Ramakrishna in Swami Yogeshananda, The Visions of Sri Ramakrishna. Madras: Sri Ramakrishna Math, 1980., 86.
(6) Paramahansa Ramakrishna in GSR, 933.
(7) Paramahansa Ramakrishna, in Anon.,Life of Sri Ramakrishna. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1977; c1924, 107-8.