The farthest that knowledge can reach is to That which is within the realm of the material. Not the One, but the Second that the One created.
That Second has been variously termed by ancient sages the Divine Mother, the Holy Spirit, Shakti, Prakriti/Procreatrix, Aum/Amen, the Word of God, the Logos, the primal energy, the universal creative vibration – the list of names goes on. (2)
The Divine Mother is not a female. “She” is beyond gender. There being a Divine Mother, posited by the sages, they also created the One being the “Holy Father.”
The Father is also not a male. The distinction between the two is between movement (Mother) and rest (Father), (3) stillness and silence (Father) and activity and sound (Mother). Here is Sri Ramakrishna making this distinction:
“That which is Brahman [what I call the Father] is also Kali, the Mother, the primal Energy. When inactive It is called Brahman. Again, when creating, preserving, and destroying, It is called Sakti [the Mother]. Still water is an illustration of Brahman. The same water, moving in waves, may be compared to Sakti, Kali. … She is formless and, again, She has forms.” (4)
When God moves, it is called the Mother; when God is still, is is called the Father. But moving or still, God is only one.
Everything that one can see, touch, feel, smell, and in any other way experience is the Mother. We cannot see, touch, or feel the Father. The Mother then is all that can be known; the Father can’t be known.
The Father lies outside the world of form. The world of form is a dream the Father is having, a make-believe world, a world of illusion, something the One has thought up and can change by thought.
However the actual activity that sees change materialize into forms is that of the Mother. She’s the glove and he’s the hand that operates the glove, unseen.
All the while we’re talking to the Mother, it’s the Father who actually responds. She’s the “voice of one crying in the wilderness” of the Father. She’s the “voice in the silence.” But all along he’s the actual speaker.
To say that the Mother is knowable is actually a somewhat glib way of speaking. To know the Mother absolutely is to penetrate through to the Father and That is unknowable. So I’m being a little loose in my speaking simply to make the matter as simple as possible.
In fact the only way we know the Mother is by her effects – by what she produces, which is itself the known world, the world of matter, mater, Mother. And when I say “the world of matter,” I don’t mean only this Third Dimension or Physical Plane. I mean all the worlds, everything short of the Transcendental Absolute, because all of these worlds are “material” or Mother-made. The material they are made of is simply more and more refined the higher in dimensionality we go.
As our enlightenment deepens and we move from knowledge of the Self or Child to knowledge of the Mother and then knowledge of the Father, our sense of individuality, our sense of “knowing” lessens and then leaves when the time comes to know the Father.
Here’s the first enlightenment – the sight of the Child, Self, Christ or Atman, as described by Jan Ruusbroec:
“In the abyss of this darkness in which the loving spirit has died to itself, God’s revelation and eternal life have their origin, for in this darkness an incomprehensible light is born and shines forth; this is the Son of God, in whom a person becomes able to see and to contemplate eternal life.” (5)
“It is Christ [the Self, Child or Atman], the light of truth, who says, ‘See,’ and it is through him [eventually] that we are able to see, for he is the light of the Father, without which there is no light in heaven or on earth.” (6)
In the next level of enlightenment, we see the Mother. She appears to devotees in whatever form we worship her. We may see her as the Light that informs all of creation. Here’s that experience described by the poet William Wordsworth. This enlightenment probably led to the birth of his best poetry:
“Such was the Boy — but for the growing Youth
What soul was his, when, from the naked top
Of some bold headland, he beheld the sun
Rise up, and bathe the world in light! He looked —
Ocean and earth, the solid frame of earth
And ocean’s liquid mass, in gladness lay
Beneath him:– Far and wide the clouds were touched,
And in their silent faces could he read
Unutterable love. Sound needed none,
Nor any voice of joy; his spirit drank
The spectacle: sensation, soul, and form,
All melted into him; they swallowed up
His animal being; in them did he live,
And by them did he live; they were his life.” (7)
Or we may know the Mother in the form of our chosen ideal (Ishta) – say, Krishna, Jesus, or the guru – whom we see and then who enters into us and becomes one with us. Here is Da Free John seeing the Mother as the Virgin Mary – a form that Linda Dillon also prefers.
“Standing in the garden, with an obviously discernible form, made of subtle energy but without any kind of visibility, was the Virgin, Mary, Mother of Christ! … Just as her Presence was not physical, but subtle, her communication to me was internal….
“I told [Swami Nityananda] … how the Shakti appeared to have taken over independently of … any … source. He blessed me, told me that I belonged to Her now, and that I should leave [the ahsram] and let the Mother guide me. …
“I took … flowers to the temple of the Mother Shakti near the Ashram. There is a sculpture of her benign, multi-armed, and omnipresent image there. I looked into her face and saw that she was the same one who appeared to me in the form of the Virgin…. As I left I felt her assure me that I was her child and she would guide me.” (8)
Or we may know the Mother as an experience of consciousness, like waves of consciousness as Ramakrishna saw her:
“‘I felt as if my heart were being squeezed like a wet towel. I was overpowered with a great restlessness and a fear that it might not be my lot to realize Her in this life. I could not bear the separation from Her any longer. Life seemed to be not worth living. Suddenly my glance fell on the sword that was kept in the Mother’s temple. I determined to put an end to my life.
“When I jumped up like a madman and seized it, suddenly the blessed Mother revealed Herself. The buildings with their different parts, the temple, and everything else vanished from my sight, leaving no trace whatsoever, and in their stead I saw a limitless, infinite, effulgent Ocean of Consciousness.
“’As far as the eye could see, the shining billows were madly rushing at me from all sides with a terrific noise, to swallow me up! I was panting for breath. I was caught in the rush and collapsed, unconscious. What was happening in the outside world I did not know; but within me there was a steady flow of undiluted bliss, altogether new, and I felt the presence of the Divine Mother.’ On his lips when he regained consciousness of the world was the word ‘Mother'”. (9)
Or as everything that is in the material world, as Ramakrishna’s Vedantic guru, Totapuri, saw her:
“Suddenly, in one dazzling moment, [Totapuri] sees on all sides the presence of the Divine Mother. She is in everything; She is everything. She is in the water; She is on land. She is the body; She is the mind. She is pain; She is comfort. She is knowledge; She is ignorance. She is life; She is death. She is everything that one sees, hears, or imagines. She turns ‘yea’ into ‘nay’; and ‘nay’ into ‘yay’. Without Her grace no embodied being can go beyond Her realm. Man has no free will. He is not even free to die. Yet, again, beyond the body and mind She resides in her Transcendental, Absolute aspect. She is the Brahman that Totapuri has been worshipping all his life.” (10)
Once we pass the experience of the Mother, we pass beyond the knowable. When we reach the experience of the Father, we move into the cloud of unknowing, as one sage called it. Perhaps none has described the unknowable and unknowing better than Pseudo-Dionysius:
“I pray we could come to this darkness, so far above light! If only we lacked sight and knowledge so as to see, so as to know, unseeing and unknowing, that which lies beyond all vision and knowledge. For this would be really to see and to know: to praise the Transcendent One in a transcending way, namely through the denial of all beings. …
“Now as we climb from the last things up to the most primary we deny all things so that we may unhiddenly know that unknowing which itself is hidden from all those possessed of knowing amid all beings, so that we may see above being that darkness concealed from all the light among beings. … As we plunge into that darkness which is beyond intellect, we shall find ourselves not simply running short of words but actually speechless and unknowing.” (11)
“The fact is that the more we take flight upward, the more our words are confined to the ideas we are capable of forming; so that now as we plunge into that darkness which is beyond intellect, we shall find ourselves not simply running short of words but actually speechless and unknowing. … The more [the mind] climbs, the more language falters, and when it has passed up and beyond the ascent, it will turn silent completely, since it will finally be at one with him who is indescribable.” (12)
So only the Mother can be known. The Father can only be known through unknowing. But she’s the One who leads us by the hand to the Father. (13)
The knowledge of her is more precious than rubies because it’s the most that can be achieved and it fits us for all further knowledge. The knowledge of the Father cannot be achieved. We cannot obtain it, earn it, secure it, etc. The distance we can go to “obtain” it is infinitesimal. Beyond the few steps we take, God closes the yawning chasm that remains, as Bernadette Roberts explains: “At a certain point, when we have done all we can [to bring about an abiding union with the divine], the divine steps in and takes over.” (14)
All enlightenment past this point is the gift of grace and beyond all effort. Only the Mother as the Father can bestow that unknown and unknowable knowledge.
Therefore the Divine Mother, who created all we see, hear and know, is all that can itself be known. The Father is unknowable and can only be known by an act of unknowing, after all knowledge has been abandoned and left behind.
(1) “An Introduction to the Perennial Philosophy,” at https://goldenageofgaia.com/spiritual-essays/back-to-the-basics-2/an-introduction-to-the-perennial-philosophy/
(2) “On the Nature of the Divine Mother or Holy Spirit,” at https://goldenageofgaia.com/spiritual-essays/the-nature-of-the-divine-mother/on-the-nature-of-the-divine-mother-or-holy-spirit-2/
(3) The distinction that Jesus made in A. Guillaumont et al. The Gospel According to Thomas. New York and Evanston: Harper and Row, 1959, 29.
(4) Paramahansa Ramakrishna in Nikhilananda, Swami, trans., The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1978; c1942, 634. [Hereafter GSR.]
(5) John Ruusbroec in Wiseman, James A., John Ruusbroec. The Spiritual Espousals and Other Works. New York, etc.: Paulist Press, 1985, 147.
(6) Ibid., 74.
(7) William Wordsworth in Marghanita Laski, Ecstacy in Secular and Religious Experiences. Los Angeles: Tarcher, 1961, 399.
(8) Da Free John, The Knee of Listening. Original Edition. Clearlake, CA; Dawn Horse Press, 1984; c1973, Original Edition, 126-30.
(9) Paramahansa Ramakrishna. GSR, 14.
(10) Nikhilananda in ibid., 31.
(11) Pseudo-Dionysius, Cohn Luibheid, trans., Pseudo-Dionysus, His Complete Works. New York and Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1989, 138-9.
(13) “On the Nature of the Divine Mother,” ibid.
(14) Bernadette Roberts, “The Path to No-Self” in Stephan Bodian, ed. Timeless Visions, Healing Voices. Freedom, CA: Crossing Press, 1991, 131.