The Theosophical Forum – January 1948

ANANDA — RIVER OF BLISS — Robert Airlie

High in the hills, a little lake lay like a silvered mirror under the setting sun. Its slanting rays probed the dark defile of a narrow valley leading east and cast a crimson glow on the surface of the stream that fed the lake. A brooding hush hovered over the forest and brought a benediction to the mind of the man who surveyed the scene. Standing in his cabin door, Nelson Graham breathed in the scent of balsam and sweet gum. Here was peace after four years of war and it seemed that he desired naught else. There was no need for him to work in the years ahead. His father and his mother had passed on while he was gone. There were no ties that held him to any task. It appeared pointless to return to the routine of teaching philosophy when his chosen field was so wholly unrelated to the harsh realities of life.

Stepping down to his canoe, he pushed it out on the placid stream just as the sun disappeared behind a distant ridge. Drifting as the darkness deepened, his ears caught a faint sa-a like the sound of an indrawn breath. It was the rustle of the evening breeze among the trees as the warm air rose eastward up the valley. Soon, he knew, it would change to ha-a as a cooler current descended along the Sierra slopes. Then, a gray and ghostly mist would rise from the lake to shroud it for the night. The mountains were breathing, as all that lives must breathe. A spell fell upon him at the thought and he remembered the beloved texts that he had learned to read in Sanskrit. They held real philosophy that delved deep into the heart of human life, into the universal life itself. How could he ever hope to bring the sublime truths expounded by those Oriental sages home to the skeptical minds of Occidental youth? Of what avail to struggle single-handed against the inertia of a system that sought only for scientific facts? Suddenly, a singular clarity of perception came over him. In his mind's eye he could see the books, the pages, the paragraphs of treatises which he had read years before. The sentences stood out word for word, with a lucid sense of what the writers meant when they wrote them. This breathing of the mountains, of the forest, of himself, was but the whispering echo of the Great Breath, the living essence of the Universe of universes. The treatise on that was not the metaphysical philosophy that his fellow professors derided. It was scientific and the Science of Breath was as truly so as aught that was ever written in the western world. The Sanskrit letters were there before his eyes in the dialogue between the god Siva and his goddess, Sakti. They were the same as Isvara, Soul of souls, and Pawarti, who was but the negative phase of his positive aspect. Let the physicists call them the positive and negative poles and deal with the dialogue as an exposition of electromagnetic phenomena. It would remain equally true.

The impression was so strong that he repeated Sakti's question to Siva aloud. "Lord Mahadeva, god of gods, be kind to me, and tell me the wisdom that comprehends everything." Ere the words left his lips he felt a great elation, a veritable elan that lifted him out of the little circle of his sensory consciousness. Literally, it seemed to levitate his very soul and, looking down, he could see his body resting in the canoe. The Earth sank away beneath him as his perspective widened. He could see the cities of his own land and, with telescopic vision, the people themselves. A murmur arose from them in a babel of tongues that was not their voices but the queer confusion of their inner thoughts. It rent him with a depth of compassion that he had never felt before. Could he not descend and tell them what he had heard and how they erred — tell them in words that they must understand?

"Nay!" said a Voice that was not a voice but was Sige, the silence, speaking into an earless ear, "Look and listen!" There was no sound, but strange shapes began to take form around him. A few were very beautiful. Others were horrible and menacing. He recognized them as phantasmal forms created by the thoughts that he had heard. The stuff that they were made of rose from mankind en masse like a miasma, like the smog that dimmed the lights of the cities, like the mist that, now, hid from him his own person drifting in a canoe far below. Yet, these phantasms were very real; quite as much so as enemy soldiers with whom he had contended in battle. He felt the need to hold fast to his courage; even though the beautiful forms gathered about as though to protect him. Were they real? He began to hope so, for they were leading him up through the stratosphere to a dreamland of iridescent splendor. "Empty, all empty," said the Voice, and he knew that he was in the psychic realm.

Instantly, there was naught around him but an utter void, a stygian negation. This was far more terrifying than the menace of the shapes. He felt congealed, crystallized and disintegrating in an atmosphere of absolute zero. His soul held her breath and the Void became a scintillant kaleidoscope of comets, nebulae, suns and galaxies and metagalaxies whirling with incredible speed. Was this cosmic consciousness? Here was the universe laid out before him. He was one with it and knew that he could watch, analyze and predict the space-time relations of all this vast continuum. "Look again," said the Voice. He looked and saw this time that these stellar orbs were also naught but the shadows cast by glorious Beings who beckoned him still higher and welcomed him as one of them with a paean of praise. Audition had returned. This was what he had been told to listen for. It was the Music of the Spheres, the Empyrean of Gods and Goddesses. Surely, this was the highest heaven.

"You may go one step farther, one plane higher," said the Voice. "Ananda resides there and his River of Bliss cannot be crossed; even by these Gods. Your spiritual eyes have been opened and you may look, once, a little way into what lies beyond. It is the abode of Isvara." With the same sensation that his body felt as it lay drifting in the canoe, his soul was carried along a river of light that circled all that he had seen. From his solar boat, he could witness every detail encompassed within the immensity of Brahma's Egg. It was bounded by this flowing stream of living luminescence on which he rode. Beyond its outer shore was a sky that was filled with the rainbow colors of the spectrum in incessant movement. They met and merged in brilliant vortical aurorae with every hue and tint. There was music which kept pace with the changing play of gorgeous colors; exquisite chords that echoed with overtones. Likewise, there was a thundering dissonance that followed each consonant chord. Then, the next notes drew from that discord harmonies that were higher and grander still; as though to silence all harsh tones in one sublime chorus of hallelujah.

From the Science of Breath, he recognized what he saw as the operation of the subtle ethers in the outer veil of the vehicle of Isvara. The ancient teaching came back to him: When the power of the five senses is controlled by will, then "the Tattwas begin to take their rise before the eyes." Through these Tattvic ethers his senses received their five separate sensations. In one indescribably enlightening instant, he realized that he was seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling them. "He who knows their color, their motion, their taste, their places, and their sign, becomes in this world equal to the god, Rudra," was what the verse stated. Here was the foundation of all the sciences, the five modifications of the Great Breath acting upon Prakriti as undifferentiated energy-substance or force and matter conjoined. It was the body of the Sakti herself. In and upon it Siva produced the thrilling vibratory motions of all manifested life. Infinitely variant, each and every aspect of Parabrahman's evolution was formed thus from the same substance. The atoms, minerals, vegetation, animals, men, and gods were of the self-same nature, as embodied in the great galactic organisms.

"This is what you were brought thither to see," said the Voice. "It is the philosophy which should bind scientific progress to the stability of true religion. Return now to your body, and "By your works ye will be known." "A heavy fog enshrouded the canoe in which his body lay upon the little stream in the valley. As by a miracle, he floated within a few feet of the landing where the lantern light from his cabin beckoned him ashore. Mechanically, he prepared and ate his supper. Then, before the logs in the fireplace, he came to his decision. He would return to the college that had been his Alma Mater and where the chair of philosophy awaited him. Before he resumed his seat therein he would major in physics and earn a doctor's degree in science. Then, in the terminology of the scientific Philistines themselves, he would seek to bridge the gap between mathematical physics and the metaphysical beatitudes that, alone, could save them from the abyss of materialism. In the hearts and souls of the young men and women who came to him as students, he would sow the seeds of truth. In some of them, surely, these would find fertile soil and grow to come to blossom in flowers of cosmic consciousness unchoked by the weeds of the wayside.


The Theosophical Forum

THEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE