On July 1, 1931, I stepped out into our very ordinary backyard, and the universe came suddenly and exquisitely alive. The sun looked over the rooftops and said, inaudibly but very distinctly, "Greetings, my friend." I seemed to feel arms extended towards me in friendship.
Glancing at a creeper trailing on the wall and at some stubby grass, I saw that they were made up of tiny individual lives. These little lives bowed and said, silently, so that the words dropped clearly into my thoughts: "We honor you, great being." "But," I replied in great surprise, "you plants surely cannot like us humans, we trample on you and cook you and bury you alive." They answered, "Well, yes, you do all that to our physical shadows, but we don't seem to notice very much what happens to those. It is a great honor and joy to us to come close to the consciousness of human beings and to serve it. The instinct which prompts people to have flowers and plants about them on big occasions such as weddings and funerals, especially funerals, is a deep and true one, for we can help in our own special way to link the inner spiritual world with the outer human world, even though people may not be aware of the fact."
Then I saw that it was not my human self or that of anybody else which they regarded as a great being, but a golden center of consciousness which radiated through me, and that everyone has this individual golden center, and the little lives recognized it as beneficial and holy to them.
At this point the words of an ancient invocation presented themselves — "O my divinity, thou livest in the heart life of all things, and dost radiate a golden light, that shineth forever and doth illumine even the darkest corners of the earth." With the new eye that had opened inside me I could see the golden light spreading to far countries, touching and sustaining souls who were completely unaware of its presence. Then came more of the invocation — "O my divinity, thou dost blend with the earth and fashion for thyself temples of mighty power," and with it the vision of my own golden center helping to sustain the earth, and at the same time going about its own vital business in the inner worlds! It was quite evident that our real selves live and work in this inner universe, and that we human personalities have got our attention so concentrated in the shadow or underside of reality that we have quite lost sight of the true state of affairs. My physical body seemed to be entirely separate from me, clumsily stuck on outside, so to speak. Quite limited and incapable of expressing very much of the wonders that glow behind it.
I knew that if even one human being were completely destroyed the whole universe would come unstuck, because the setup of every star and planet would have to be unraveled in order to separate all the parts of him that would be knitted up with them. This unity of life does not mean sameness or monotony. On the contrary it ensures the strongest individuality and variety, for every spark of life is part of the source of life, joined up with eternal newness. This shows even in the physical world; scientists tell us that no two leaves are exactly alike among the countless numbers in the plant kingdom.
Another piece of knowledge which stepped into my brain was the clear truth of the words: "I stand amid eternal ways, and what is mine shall know my face." Each living soul has always been a part of the universe, and we have condensed our mixed destinies around us by wise and unwise action in times far past. The best way to clear things up for the future is to seek right thought and action now. The conditions and events of our daily lives are exactly suited to our individual needs of growth.
There also came a vivid intimation that death is bliss and fulfillment beyond all our imagining, but that it must be earned by bearing all life's responsibilities and trials and not grabbed by cutting life short. Although reincarnation is a fact, death is by far the greater part of existence, full development and achievement on all planes being one of nature's many purposes.
All that I have written was a real experience, much more convincing and satisfying than the events of daily life. I am sure it would be very comforting for anyone to be able to believe and to know that our common lot has this wonderful background.
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Now, just a word of warning to others who may have a similar adventure, and may be tempted to think that all their difficulties have suddenly and forever blown away. Don't be disappointed when your old dark self takes firm possession of you again, as it did with me. That spell of insight showed me that the lower self is truly only a shadow, but it is a very aggressive shadow. Still, the memory of these firsthand intimations that our mortal selves are rooted in spiritual being helps us to start trying again, even after long and painful setbacks. Something has been stirred to activity in us, and we discover, as time goes on, that we are making some little progress.
The surprising quality of beauty which was strongly sensed reminded me of the words of Traherne: "The world is a Mirror of Infinite Beauty." The visible universe, like our visible selves, is an effect caused by the temporary focusing into physical matter of the outer edges of parts of the universe, which have their true substance in the spiritual background where the real business of life is. I saw the living souls of flowers surrounding them like an aura, I saw that all things in nature are souls, and that all existence is a deeply sacred thing, and that, although nature appears cruel on the surface, it is somehow all right underneath.
I saw that I am not a person at all, that there are no such things as persons, no human beings as separate objects. I (in common with all humans) am a temporary focusing of parts of the universe, each part spreading far and deep into eternity, sharing in cosmic work, yet all these parts are me, and in some delightful, mysterious manner individual consciousness will always be preserved.
When we die we go into the essence of things: we live in the beauty of earth, sea, and sky far more intensely than while "living." There is beauty of a type that we have never imagined. There is indeed no separation, and the focusing into physical life recurs at varying intervals so that universes are always coming and going, and so are we.
All through eternity we shall keep on finding out new and most wonderful facts about existence and our own lives.
The event which I have tried to describe happened in a manner that was soft and delicate, like the opening of a flower. But a few days afterwards one sentence shot into my mind with great force. I will close with it now. It was: "In Thy presence is fullness of joy."
(From Sunrise magazine, June/July 1986; copyright © 1986 Theosophical University Press)