Perennial Wisdom


RELIGION: HinduismBuddhismJainismSikhismTaoismCh'an BuddhismHua-Yen BuddhismZen BuddhismShintoTibetan BuddhismZoroastrianismSufismBaha'iEgyptian MysteriesHermeticismGnosticismJudaismQabbalahIslamGreek and Roman TheologyChristianityCeltic PantheismNorse LoreZuluAkanMiniankaAztec and ToltecMayaIncaTeton SiouxGuaymi
PHILOSOPHY: IndiaChinaJapanTibetGreece and RomeIslamMedieval EuropeRenaissance EuropeModern Philosophy
SCIENCE: PhysicsAstronomyEarth SciencesBiologyChemistryBiomedical SciencePsychologyMathematics
ULTIMATE PRINCIPLE: HinduismBuddhismZoroastrianismTaoismNeoplatonismJewish MysticismMystical IslamMystic Christianity


The Theosophical Library has scriptures and commentaries from sacred traditions around the world. The following quotations were drawn from this collection. They were chosen to illustrate the universality of the perennial wisdom and its most basic concepts: the oneness of all life, and the essential divinity of all that exists.



. . . there are not many but only One. . . .
Behold then as One the infinite and eternal One who is in radiance beyond space, the everlasting Soul never born.

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

Who sees all beings in his own Self, and his own Self in all beings, loses all fear.
When a sage sees this great Unity and his Self has become all beings, what delusion and what sorrow can ever be near him?

— Isha Upanishad


The real soul is the nature of all things. This soul shines forth on all minds. It has great wisdom in innumerable ways, according to the different needs of men, so as to instruct them in all kinds of ways. On this account it has been named the seed of all wisdom.
       — Ashvagosha

True metta is devoid of self-interest. It evokes within a warm-hearted feeling of fellowship, sympathy and love, which grows boundless with practice and overcomes all social, religious, racial, political and economic barriers. Metta is indeed a universal, unselfish and all-embracing love.

— Acharya Buddharakkhita


One who neglects or disregards the existence of earth, air, fire, water, and vegetation disregards his own existence which is entwined with them.

— Mahavira


He has no name, no dwelling-place, no caste;
He has no shape, or colour, or outer limits.
He is the Primal Being, Gracious and Benign,
Unborn, ever Perfect, and Eternal.
He is of no nation, and wears no distinguishing garb;
He has no outer likeness; He is free from desire.
To the east or the west,
Look where you may,
He pervades and prevails
As Love and Affection.

— Guru Gobind Singh



Infinite. Eternally present. . . .
It flows through all things,
inside and outside, and returns
to the origin of all things.
       — Lao Tse

The universe and I came into being together; and I, and everything therein, are One.

— Chuang Tzu

Ch'an Buddhism

. . . the pure embodiment of reality is your essential nature; the fulfilled embodiment of reward is your knowledge; the thousand hundred hundred million-fold embodiment of projections is your activity. . . .

When brought to light, they become the four knowledges.
Without departing from objects of sense,
You rise transcendent to the stage of buddhahood.

— Hui-neng

Hua-Yen Buddhism

In a single atom, buddhas as many as atoms
Sit in the midst of enlightening beings;
So it is of all things in the cosmos —
I realize all are filled with buddhas.

Flower Ornament Sutra


Zen Buddhism

There is a reality even prior to heaven and earth . . .
Absolutely quiet, and yet illuminating in a mysterious way . . .
It is Dharma truly beyond form and sound . . .

— Dai-o Kokushi

One nature, perfect and pervading, circulates in all natures;
One reality, all comprehensive, contains within itself all realities . . .
The Dharma-body of all the Buddhas enter into my own being,
And my own being is found in union with theirs.

— Yoka Daishi


It is the Void, that is the Spiritual Existence, the Incorporeal Unity, revealing Itself in thousands of forms.




My body is the Holy Mandala itself,
Wherein reside the Buddhas of all Times. . . . All sentient beings in Samsara
Have "Thatness," but realize it not.

— Milarepa

The essence of all religions is basically the same: to achieve a true sense of brotherhood, a good heart, respect for others.

— Tenzin Gyatso (14th Dalai Lama)



Yea, You would I approach, O Mazda! in union with Your sacred ritual Truth, and with the homage of a freely-giving helper, and with the good virtue of Your Good Mind in my soul.

Zend Avesta


In all things spiritual there is no partition, no number, no individuals.
How sweet is the oneness of the Friend with His friends!
Catch the spirit and clasp it to your bosom.
. . . unearth the treasure of Unity!

— Rumi


O Son of Spirit! . . . Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting.

— Baha'u'llah


Egyptian Mysteries

May I be with you, you gods;
May you be with me . . .

. . . your Onite (character) is in me, O God . . .

See me, O Ra, recognize me O Ra, I belong to those that know you, so know me.

Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts

. . . the doctrine of the Egyptians concerning principles, proceeding from on high as far as to the last of things, begins from one principle, and descends to a multitude which is governed by this one . . .

— Iamblichus


Nous, the Father of all, who is life and light, brought forth Man, the same as himself . . .

The truth is: light and life is God and Father, whence Man is begotten. If, therefore, you realize yourself as being from life and light and that you have been made out them, you will return to life.

The Corpus Hermeticum


I am first thought, the thought that is in light . . . I move in every creature. . . . I am in the silence that surrounds every one of them. And the hidden voice is in me, in intangible, immeasurable thought, in the immeasurable silence.

Nag Hammadi Codex


Before anything existed at all, from the very beginning, whatever exists I created from the non-existent, and from the invisible the visible. . . . I, the ONE, moved around in the invisible things . . .

And on the sixth day I commanded my wisdom to create man out of the seven components: his flesh from the earth; his blood from dew and from the sun; his eyes from the bottomless sea; his bones from stone; his reason from the mobility of angels and from clouds; his veins and hair from grass of the earth; his spirit from my spirit and from wind [nefesh and ruah].

2 Enoch


From observing these grades of the soul, one obtains an insight into the higher Wisdom . . . "Soul" (nefesh) is the lowest stirring . . . it becomes the throne on which rests the lower spirit (ruah) . . . When both have prepared themselves sufficiently, they are qualified to receive the higher spirit (neshamah) . . . which is undiscoverable, supreme over all.


. . . Adam then arose and realised that he was both of heaven and of earth, and so he united himself to the Divine and was endowed with mystic Wisdom. Each son of man is, after the same model, a composite of the heavenly and the earthly.



To God belong the East and the West;
and wherever you turn,
there is the Face of God.
For God is omnipresent, all-knowing.


All Islamic spirituality may be said to issue from the awareness of the Oneness of God and the realization in one’s life of unity . . .

It is not only to experience God as beyond all things but also to see His "signs" in all things, to see God everywhere.

— Seyyed Hossein Nasr


Greek and Roman Theology

He constructed this present Universe, one single Living Creature containing within itself all living creatures both mortal and immortal. . . . He commanded His own engendered sons to execute. And they, imitating Him, on receiving the immortal principle of soul, framed around it a mortal body . . .

— Plato

Full of Zeus are all the streets and all the market-places of men; full is the sea and havens thereof; always we all have need of Zeus. For we are also his offspring . . .

— Aratus

Wherefore when you close your doors and make darkness within, remember never to say that you are alone, for you are not alone; nay, God is within, and your genius is within.

— Epictetus

There is only one God, sole and supreme, without beginning or parentage, whose energies, diffused through the world, we invoke under various names . . . Through the mediation of the subordinate gods the common father both of themselves and of all men is honored in a thousand different ways by mortals who are thus in accord in spite of their discord.

— Maximus of Madaura

. . . every man's intelligence is a god, and is an efflux of the deity . . .

— Marcus Aurelius


The kingdom of God does not come by outward show. . . .
for behold, the kingdom of God is within you.


Do you not know that you are the temple of God,
and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

1 Corinthians

It is not you who shine, but the spirit of your Father shines in you.

— Johannes Scotus Erigena

God cannot be embraced in words or by the mind. . . . Hence some have called it the Depth, as containing and embosoming all things . . .

— Clement of Alexandria


Celtic Pantheism

I am the wave of the deep . . .
I am the fairest of plants . . .
I am a salmon in the water . . .
I am the god who fashions fire in the head . . .

— Amairgen

Norse Lore

Odin is called Allfather because he is father of all the gods. . . . he has also been named in many more ways . . . there being so many branches of tongues in the world, all peoples believed that it was needful for them to turn his name into their own tongue, by which they might the better invoke him and entreat him on their own behalf.

The Edda



. . . lesser deities have distinct personalities and functions . . . but the Most Ultimate God is much more abstract. He is everything in everything. Each tree, each blade of grass, each stone, is part of God, just as is every man and every beast. . . . The sun is part of Him, and so is the moon; and every star in the sky is but an infinitesimal part of Him who is, and yet is not; Him who was and yet was not, Him who will be and yet shall never be.

— Credo Vusa'Mazulu Mutwa


Odomankoma is manifold and omnipresent. . . . He is everywhere, not in one form, but in the Thing — one and manifold. He is God in you and in others you see. He is God, even, in the things you see — the shining firmament, the wide solid earth, the unfailing source of the waters.

— J. B. Danquah


Kle is the Supreme Being, God, the creator of all. This word is always singular, never plural. Kle was not and cannot be created but gave rise to everything else. Kle is undefined, infinite, unknowable, the master of both the visible and the invisible. To enter into contact with Kle, one goes by way of an intermediary such as a stream. . . .

Foreigners have sometimes claimed that the Minianka are polytheists who worship divinities of the forest and of the water. These outsiders have not understood the practice of going through intermediaries to the one divinity, who is omnipresent and can hear the people. Whereas Kle does not need the intermediaries to the hear the people, humans need the intermediaries to summon Kle. This shows appropriate reverence for the divine.

— Yaya Diallo


Aztec and Toltec

He is mother and father of the gods, the old god.
He is at the same time the god of fire . . .
He is the mirror of day and night.
He is the star which illumines all things . . .
He is our mother, our father.
Above all, he is Ometéotl, who dwells in the place of duality.

Códice Florentino

The good painter is wise;
God is in his heart.
He puts divinity into things;
He converses with his own heart.

Códice Matritense de la Real Academia


Everything in abundance is possible to thy power, to thy name, to thy being. Of all I may partake. . . . Who is my mother? Who is my father? Only thou, O God.

— Maya Prayer


O Creator without equal, you are at the ends of the world, you gave life and valor to mankind, saying "Let there be man" and "Let there be woman"; you made them, formed them and gave them life . . .

— Prayer to Viracocha

Teton Sioux

From Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit, there came a great unifying life force that flowed in and through all things . . . Thus all things were kindred, and were brought together by the same Great Mystery. . . .

This concept of life and its relations was humanizing, and gave to the Lakota an abiding love. It filled his being with the joy and mystery of living; it gave him reverence for all life . . .

— Chief Luther Standing Bear


Let my life be like the rainbow, whose colors teach us unity. . . .
And let me remember always the Great One, the Lord of Dawning,
Whose Voice whispers to me in the breeze, whose words come to me
Out of all the circles of life, and whose command is like the thunder:
"Be kind, be kind, be brave, be brave, be pure, be pure,
Be humble as the earth, and be as radiant as the sunlight!"

— Dawn Song


The following quotations were drawn from the writings of ancient and modern philosophers. They were chosen to illustrate certain fundamental ideas about life and its essential commonality.


Settling the Mind Into Silence

Yoga is the settling of the mind into silence.

When the mind has settled, we are established in our essential nature, which is unbounded Consciousness. . . .

The mind becomes clear and serene when the qualities of the heart are cultivated:
     friendliness towards the joyful,
     compassion towards the suffering . . .

— Patanjali

Removing the Conception of "I"

This doctrine wrongly understood
Causes the unwise to be ruined . . .
Therefore, as long as the doctrine removing
The conception of I is not known,
Take heed of the practices
Of giving, ethics, and patience. . . .

Giving is to give away one's wealth.
Ethics is to help others.
Patience is to have forsaken anger. . . .
Compassion is a mind having the one savor
Of mercy for all sentient beings. . . .

From compassion all aims are achieved.

— Nagarjuna

Reality is the Knower

There is a self-existent Reality, which is the basis of our consciousness of ego. . . .

That Reality is the knower in all states of consciousness . . .

That Reality pervades the universe, but no one penetrates it. It alone shines. . . .

Its nature is eternal consciousness.

— Shankara

All This is Brahman

. . . in the clause "All this is Brahman" we have to understand the highest Brahman . . . Since the world springs from Brahman, is merged in Brahman, and depends on Brahman for its life, therefore — as the text says — "All this has its Self in Brahman" . . .

Next, the words "this my Self within the heart is that Brahman" enjoins the reflection that the highest Brahman, as described before, is, owing to its supreme kindness, present in our hearts in order thereby to refresh and inspirit us.

— Ramanuja

An Eternal Cause

God, in the sense of an extra cosmic personal creator, has no place in the Jain philosophy. It distinctly denies such creator as illogical and irrelevant in the general scheme of the universe. But it lays down that there is a subtle essence underlying all substances, conscious as well as unconscious, which becomes an eternal cause of all modifications, and is termed God. . . .

. . . to insure the fullest development of the soul — the highest happiness, that is the goal of human conduct, which is the ultimate end of human action. Jainism teaches to look upon all living beings as upon oneself.

— Virchand Gandhi

A Universal Religion

. . . if there is to be ever a universal religion, it must be one which would hold no location in place or time, which would be infinite like the God it would preach, whose sun shines upon the followers of Krishna or Christ; saints or sinners alike; which would not be the Brahman or Buddhist, Christian or Mohammedan, but the sum total of all these, and still have infinite space for development . . .

It would be a religion which would have no place for persecution or intolerance in its polity, and would recognize a divinity in every man or woman, and whose whole scope, whose whole force would be centered in aiding humanity to realize its divine nature.

— Vivekananda


Heaven is Pure Eminence and Wisdom

The ancient sage kings, in giving all their thought to honoring the worthy . . . were patterning their actions on the ways of Heaven. . . . When they ruled the world, they loved all men universally, worked to benefit them, and taught their subjects to honor Heaven and serve the spirits. . . .

How do we know that Heaven loves the people of the world? Because it enlightens them universally. How do we know that it enlightens them universally? Because it possesses them universally.

. . . Heaven is pure eminence and wisdom.

— Mo Tzu

Who Knows His Own Nature Knows Heaven

For a man to give full realization to his heart is for him to understand his own nature, and a man who knows his own nature will know Heaven. By retaining his heart and nurturing his nature he is serving Heaven.

— Mencius (Meng Tzu)

Keep the Spirit Clear

All being originated from nonbeing. . . . This means that Tao produces and completes things with the formless and nameless. . . . Therefore if we are always without desire and empty, we may see the subtlety of these beginnings. . . .

The spirit is the eternal abode of man. The One is the true nature of man. It means that if you can always dwell in the eternal abode, embrace the One, keep the spirit clear, and are able never to depart from them, "all things would submit spontaneously". . . . If you do not block the source of things, they will come into being by themselves. . . . If you do not inhibit the nature of things, things will succeed by themselves.

— Wang Pi

One with the Buddha

. . . the minds of all of you have from the very first been identical with the Buddha, and in no way separate from each other. . . . You have always been one with the Buddha, so do not pretend you can ATTAIN to the oneness by various practices.

. . . full understanding can come to you only through an inexpressible mystery. The approach to it is called the Gateway of the Stillness beyond all Activity.

— Huang Po

Humanity Embraces Them All

. . . in the mind of man there are also four moral qualities — namely, jen [humanity], righteousness, propriety, and wisdom — and jen embraces them all. In their emanation and function, they constitute the feeling of love, respect, being right, and discrimination between right and wrong — and the feeling of commiseration pervades them all. . . .

This means that if we can overcome and eliminate selfishness and return to the Principle of Nature (the Principle of Heaven), then the substance of this mind (that is, jen) will be present everywhere and its function will always be operative.

— Chu Hsi

The Clear Character of Humanity

The great man regards Heaven and Earth and the myriad things as one body. . . . Even the mind of the small man is no different. Only he himself makes it small. Therefore when he sees a child about to fall into a well, he cannot help a feeling of alarm and commiseration. This shows that his humanity (jen) forms one body with the child. . . . Again, when he observes the pitiful cries and frightened appearance of birds and animals about to be slaughtered, he cannot help feeling an "inability to bear" their suffering. . . . when he sees plants broken and destroyed, he cannot help a feeling of pity. . . . even when he sees tiles and stones shattered and crushed, he cannot help a feeling of regret. . . . This means that even the mind of the small man necessarily has the humanity that forms one body with all. Such a mind is rooted in his Heaven-endowed nature, and is naturally intelligent, clear, and not beclouded. For this reason it is called the "clear character."

. . . Only when I love my brother, the brothers of others, and the brothers of all men can my humanity really form one body with my brother, the brothers of others, and the brothers of all men. When it truly forms one body with them, then the clear character of brotherly respect will be manifested.

— Wang Yang-Ming


Undivided Mind

Everyone possesses inherently the Buddha-mind but if they fail to practice the true Way it will remain dormant. . . . To see things properly, we must accept them the way they are — we must combine the "seer" and the "seen" in one action. Our mind should be enlivened by the action of the undivided mind. . . . Undivided mind is not concerned with big or small, far or near, being or non-being, gain or loss, recognition or non-recognition, enlightenment or non-enlightenment. Undivided mind transcends opposites. . . . When our practice has ripened we realize that the entire Dharma world is covered by hotsubodaishin — [this is the true experience of mind]. . . . Hotsubodaishin is like the pure, lucid, undivided mind of an infant. Through this mind, everything becomes clear. Each particle of the phenomenal world is interrelated; but still each particle exists of itself.

— Dogen Zenji

The All-Embracing Mind

The Mind which the Buddhas realized in their enlightenment is the Mind of all sentient beings. The substance of this Mind is pure, harmonizing with its surroundings. . . . This Mind, like space, is all-embracing. It does not come into existence with the creation of our body, nor does it perish with its disintegration. Though invisible, it suffuses our body, and every single act of seeing, hearing, smelling, speaking, or moving the hands and legs is simply the activity of this Mind.

— Bassui Zenji

All Aspects of Reality Are One

I used to think that the Way of the Buddha was nothing other than keeping the mind in absolute calm and quiet. I was always searching out dismal places and sitting there as if I were dead. . . . And then, luck came to me. I was extremely fortunate, for in the middle of my life I received guidance about the true and good way of knowledge. The secret of the method of "introspection" was told me. . . . The most important thing to remember is that the first duty is to carry on the correct discipline by oneself within one's own heart, and one must not pick and choose for one's own selfish desires, either one or other of the two conditions of life — I mean the life of activity or the life of the calm. . . . all aspects of reality are but one . . . there is in truth only one Buddha Way . . . for all one's acts, all one's words, all one's activities and all one's quiet times are so comprised within the true method and practice of meditation.

— Hakuin Zenji

Unhampered by Ulterior Interest

We talk these days very much about detachment as if attachment is so fatal and hateful a thing that we must somehow try to achieve the opposite, non-attachment. But I do not know why we have to move away from things lovable and really conducive to our social and individual welfare. . . . Kanzan and Jittoku enjoyed their freedom and welfare in their own way. . . . Sakyamuni spent his seventy-nine years by going from one place to another and teaching his gospel of enlightenment to all sorts of people varied in every way, social, intellectual, and economic. . . . Socrates was born and died in Athens and used his energy and wisdom in exercising his office as the midwife of men's thoughts, bringing down philosophy from heaven to earth . . .

What shall we say about these lives when each of them apparently enjoyed his to the utmost of his heart's content? Is it a life of attachment or of detachment? I would say that, as far as my understanding goes, each had his life of freedom unhampered by any ulterior interest and, therefore, instead of using such terms as attachment or detachment in order to evaluate the life of those mentioned above, is it not better to call it a life of absolute freedom?

— D. T. Suzuki


Your Own Awareness Right Now

The one mind that pervades all life and liberation . . .
Though it ceaselessly arises everywhere, it is not recognized. . . .

Disciples and Hermits are shut out by clinging to subject and object,
Centrists are shut out by extremism about the two realities,
Ritual and Performance Tantrists, by extremism in service and practice . . .
They err by remaining dualistic in nonduality . . .

Your own awareness right now is just this!
It being just this uncontrived natural clarity . . .

This brilliant, thingless, now-awareness,
Just this is the pinnacle of all views!
This nonperceiving, universal, total freedom,
Just this is the pinnacle of all meditation!
This uncontrived, relaxed approach to life,
Just this is the pinnacle of all conduct!
This unsought, primal, effortless achievement,
Just this is the pinnacle of accomplishments!

— Padma Sambhava

The Best Motivation

. . . when you are at the stage of advanced level motivation, you should please try to develop your mind to the secure and stable state at which you can aspire to attain Buddhahood. This you should do by turning completely away from all selfish thoughts concerned only with your own welfare. With such thoughts, you ignore trying to make others happy or alleviate their suffering. But once you have become concerned with helping others, it is certain that the best means for you to be able to accomplish this goal is nothing short of attaining Buddhahood yourself. This you should do by especially developing three good habits. This first is love, wishing all who are happy to remain so. The second is compassion, wishing all who are suffering to become liberated. And the third, Bodhicitta, is the Enlightened Motive assuming the responsibility to work to attain Buddhahood yourself in order to be able to liberate all living beings from their suffering and ensure their happiness.

— Tsong-kha-pa

Emptiness-Clarity, Wisdom and Kindness

In the dzogchen teachings Buddha Shakyamuni taught that the nature of the mind is clarity and vastness, and that it is always enlightened. . . . However, our mind is usually very active and full of confused thoughts. . . . Enlightenment is simply maintaining the mind in its own clarity and emptiness. It is similar to muddy water becoming clear when it is left alone. . . .

The nature of wisdom is emptiness-clarity; it is always fresh and complete and free from all confused thinking. . . . one could say that primordial wisdom itself is enlightenment. . . .

The best way to actualize enlightenment is to develop bodhichitta. . . . Relative bodhichitta is the actual manifestation of loving-kindness and compassion for all beings. Absolute bodhichitta is the realization of emptiness as the profound true nature of reality. . . .

When you practice virtuous actions of love and compassion on the relative level, you spontaneously realize the profound nature of emptiness, which is the absolute level. . . . In Buddhism, emptiness does not mean the absence of apparent existence. . . . Emptiness is fullness and openness and flexibility.

— Khenchen Palden Sherab & Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal

The Essence of Enlightenment

Every single negative thing we have ever thought or done has ultimately arisen from our grasping at a false self, and our cherishing of that false self, making it the dearest and most important element in our lives. . . .

When we have really grasped the law of karma in all its stark power and complex reverberations over many, many lifetimes, and seen just how our self-grasping and self-cherishing, life after life, have woven us repeatedly into a net of ignorance that seems only to be ensnaring us more and more tightly . . . a resolution is born in us to destroy that evil spirit, our greatest enemy. . . .

You can have no greater ally in the war against your greatest enemy, your own self-grasping and self-cherishing, than the practice of compassion. It is compassion, dedicating ourselves to others, taking on their suffering instead of cherishing ourselves, that hand in hand with the wisdom of egolessness destroys most effectively and most completely that ancient attachment to a false self that has been the cause of our endless wandering in samsara. That is why in our tradition we see compassion as the source and essence of enlightenment, and the heart of enlightened activity.

— Sogyal Rinpoche


The Cause of Knowledge and Truth

You know what happens when the colours of things are no longer irradiated by the daylight, but only by the fainter luminaries of the night: when you look at them, the eyes are dim and seem almost blind . . . But when you look at things on which the Sun is shining, the same eyes see distinctly. . . .

Apply this comparison, then, to the soul. When its gaze is fixed upon an object irradiated by truth and reality, the soul gains understanding and knowledge and is manifestly in possession of intelligence. But when it looks towards that twilight world of things that come into existence and pass away, its sight is dim and it has only opinions and beliefs which shift to an fro, and now it seems like a thing that has no intelligence. . . .

This, then, which gives to the objects of knowledge their truth and to him who knows them his power of knowing, is the Form or essential nature of Goodness. It is the cause of knowledge and truth . . .

. . . And so with the objects of knowledge: these derive from the Good not only their power of being known, but their very being and reality; and Goodness is not the same thing as being, but even beyond being . . .

. . . just as one might have to turn the whole body round in order that the eye should see light instead of darkness, so the entire soul must be turned away from this changing world, until its eye can bear to contemplate reality and that supreme splendour which we have called the Good.

— Plato

Know That You Are a God

. . . it is not you who are subject to death, but your body. For your outward form does not reveal what you are. But the real man is each individual's conscious mind, not the external shape that one can indicate by pointing a finger. Know, therefore, that you are a god, if indeed deity is that which energizes, which senses, which calls to mind, that which has foresight, and that which rules and regulates and moves the body that it oversees, in the same way that the Supreme Deity rules and regulates the universe.

— Cicero

Forget the Being that You Are

There exists a genuinely universal (Being). The world that we see is no more than its image. . . . Conceive of the foundation on which our world rests as existing in the (Being) which exists everywhere . . .

. . . from its innermost its powers descend on all things . . . That is why it is said that souls are the rays of this universal (Being) . . .

. . . it is because the power of the Soul (that is universal) which is in them manifests itself in all their parts, that the Soul herself seems to have parts. What proves that she is not divided as they are, and . . . that she is entirely present everywhere, is that by nature she is essentially one and indivisible. . . . The Soul is such that in her unity she contains all the souls. Such a nature is, therefore, infinite.

. . . and every nature aspires to possess this unity by turning towards itself; for the good of the nature which is One, is to belong to oneself, to be oneself; that is, to unify oneself. . . .

When, therefore, you will have embraced the universal Essence . . . you will be entirely united to it, you will not be held back by any of its parts, and you will not even be saying, "This is what I am!" By forgetting the particular being that you are, you will be becoming the universal Being.

— Plotinus

All Beings Are Sympathetic with One Another

. . . the community of thought among good men escapes those not acquainted with them. Indeed the affection that unites them has a great affinity with the Pythagorean life (for the Pythagoreans made friendship the end of their life together and directed all their efforts to this end) . . . For unity and fellowship come to all things from the One. . . .

Among natures there is one universal nature that exists prior to the many, and it is through this that the particular natures, though contrary to one another, are often converted to unity and sympathy by the effect of the whole. . . . Likewise among the intellects, the one universal unparticipated Intellect, emerging first from the beings that exist in unity together, generates after itself the entire intellectual plurality and every indivisible being. There must exist, then, prior to all beings the Monad of Being, through which all beings qua beings are ordered with respect to one another . . . so that all beings are actually derived from a single monad. . . and from this monad all beings are sympathetic with one another . . .

— Proclus


The Soul Has Two Faces

The human rational soul is also divisible into a practical and a theoretical faculty, both of which are equivocally called intelligence. The practical faculty is the principle of movement of the human body . . . its own dual character is that with the help of the theoretical intelligence it forms the ordinary and commonly accepted opinions concerning actions . . .

. . . the reason why morals are attributed to this faculty is that the human soul . . . is a single substance which is related to two planes — the one higher and the other lower than itself. . . . It is as if our soul has two faces: one turned towards the body . . . and the other turned towards the higher principles, and it must always be ready to receive from what is There in the Higher Plane and to be influenced by it.

. . . Some people who acquire knowledge come very near to immediate perception . . . But the primary capacity of such a person for this is so powerful that . . . it seems as though he knows everything from within himself. This is the highest degree of this capacity. In this state the material intelligence must be called "Divine Spirit."

— Ibn Sina (Avicenna)

Purify the Heart

The first step to self-knowledge is to know that thou art composed of an outward shape, called the body, and an inward entity called the heart, or soul. By "heart" I do not mean the piece of flesh situated in the left of our bodies, but that which uses all the other faculties as its instruments and servants. . . . It is the knowledge of this entity and its attributes which is the key to the knowledge of God.

. . . An exact philosophical knowledge of the spirit is not a necessary preliminary to walking in the path of religion, but comes rather as the result of self-discipline and perseverance in that path . . .

For the carrying on of this spiritual warfare by which the knowledge of oneself and of God is to be obtained, the body may be figured as a kingdom, the soul as its king, and the different senses and faculties as constituting an army. Reason may be called the vizier, or prime minister . . . But if passion and resentment master reason, the ruin of the soul infallibly ensues. . . . The aim of moral discipline is to purify the heart from the rust of passion and resentment, till, like a clear mirror, it reflects the light of God.

— Al-Ghazali

Universal Man

In every esoteric doctrine there are references to three degrees of faith . . . The difference between them is illustrated by taking the element fire to represent the Truth Itself: the lowest degree, that of the Lore of Certainty, belongs to one whose knowledge of fire comes merely from hearing it described; the second degree, that of the Eye of Certainty, belongs to one whose knowledge of fire comes from seeing the light of its flames; and the highest degree, that of the Truth of Certainty, belongs to one whose knowledge of fire comes from being burnt in it. This last is the degree of Universal Man . . . But strictly speaking, It cannot be considered as a degree at all, for It is no less than the Eternal and Infinite Oneness of God, the Certainty of Whose Truth burns up all except Itself.

. . . This Remainder is the Real Self . . . The Self is All that is left to Universal Man in whom the veils of the self which hid It have been utterly consumed by the Truth. . . .

The Self, Which is the Truth of Certainty, is One; but It is not one with the oneness of a single thing among many, but with Oneness Which Eternally annihilates all duality . . .

— Abu Bakr Siraj Ed-Din

The Divinity of Man

Not one of the Masters came with the thought of forming an exclusive community or to give a certain religion. They came with the same Message . . . that God, Truth, Religion are one: duality only a delusion of human nature. Think, then, what a great service lies before this Message — at this time, when nation is against nation, race against race, when the followers of one religion are constantly working against the followers of another religion, class working against class; competition, hate, prejudice prevailing everywhere. . . .

Life is one continual battle, and only one thing can ease this battle — consideration for others, reciprocity, unselfishness instead of selfishness. In the world's progress, with selfishness as the central theme, progress will never lead to the soul's desire and aim.

. . . For life is not only to live, but to ennoble oneself and reach that perfection which is the innate yearning of the soul. The solution to the problem of the day is that the consciousness of humanity may be awakened to the divinity of man. The undertone of all religions is the realisation of the One Life which culminates in the thought of Unity.

— Inayat Khan


The Being of All Things is Their Essential Divinity

The voice of the spiritual eagle . . . transcends all vision and flies beyond all things that are and are not. . . . Exalted by the ineffable flight of his spirit beyond all things, he enters into the very arcanum of the one principle of all. There he clearly distinguishes the superessential unity and the supersubstantial difference of the beginning and the Word — that is, of the Father and the Son . . .

All things, therefore, which were made by the Word, live in him unchangeably and are life. . . . And if you want to know how, or by what reason, all things which are made through the Word thus subsist vitally, causally, and in the same manner in him, consider examples chosen from created nature. . . .

Consider the infinite, multiple power of the seed — how many grasses, fruits, and animals are contained in each kind of seed; and how there surges forth from each a beautiful, innumerable multiplicity of forms. Contemplate with your inner eye how in a master the many laws of an art or science are one; how they live in the spirit that disposes them.

. . . "For in him," as the Sacred Scripture says, "we live and move and have our being." Truly, as the great Dionysius the Areopagite says, "the being of all things is their superessential divinity."

— John Scotus Eriugena

The Infinite Potency of Emanation

The philosophers admit to this fact that the Cause of all causes and the Origin of origins is infinite, unfathomable, and without limit. . . .

Know that everything visible and perceivable to human contemplation is limited, and that everything that is limited is finite, and that everything that is finite is insignificant. Conversely, that which is not limited is called Eyn-Sof and is absolutely undifferentiated in a complete and changeless unity. . . . And that which radiates forth from Eyn-Sof are the ten sefirot.

. . . we witness that creation is ordered, with the sun during the day and the moon and stars at night. They exist by an order and by order they are generated and pass away. This order by which they exist and pass away is called the sefirot, for they are the force behind every existent being in the realm of plurality. . . .

I have already informed you that Eyn-sof is perfect without any imperfection, and that the agent which initially is brought forth from Him must also be perfect. Thus, the dynamic of emanation is fittingly the beginning of all creation, for the potency of emanation is the essence of the creation of all things. . . .

. . . the One is the foundation of the many and . . . in the many no power is innovated — only in Him. . . . Though the first is the dynamic of the other, it is not so specifically but only generally. The metaphor for this is the fire, the flame, the sparks, and the aura: They are all of one essence even though they are different one from the other and divisible into separate components. . . .

The candle lights a myriad of other candles. Each lit candle shines more, yet they are all equal in comparision to the first candle and they all derive from one principle.

— Azriel of Gerona

The Universal Principle of All Multiplicity

Behold, then, if you can, purest being itself and you will realize that it cannot be thought of as received from another. . . . Therefore that being which is pure being and simple being and absolute being is Primary Being, eternal, utterly simple, most actual, most perfect and supremely one. . . .

For Being itself is first and last; it is eternal and most present . . . It is most present precisely because it is eternal. . . . it has neither past nor future, but only present being. . . . It is greatest precisely because it is utterly simple. For because it is utterly simple in essence, it is greatest in power, because the more power is unified, the more it is infinite. It is unchangeable precisely because it is most actual. . . . it is pure act; and what is pure act can acquire nothing new, can lose nothing it already has; hence it cannot be changed. . . . It is all-inclusive precisely because it is supremely one. For what is supremely one is the universal principle of all multiplicity . . . It is, therefore, all-inclusive not as the essence of all things, but as the supremely excellent and most universal and most sufficient cause of all essences . . .

Because it is eternal and most present, it therefore encompasses and enters all duration as if it were at one and the same time its center and circumference. Because it is utterly simple and the greatest, it is, therefore, totally within all things and totally outside them and thus "is an intelligible sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere."

— St. Bonaventure

Understanding the Simple Essence

Dionysius says that human souls owe to divine goodness that they are intellectual, and that they have an incorruptible substantial life. . . .

Words signify the conceptions of the intellect . . . But in words we find composition and division, as appears in affirmative and negative propositions. . . . The human intellect must of necessity understand by composition and division. For since the intellect passes from potentiality to act, it has a likeness to generable things, which do not attain to perfection all at once but acquire it by degrees. . . .

But the angelic and the divine intellects . . . have their perfection at once from the beginning. Hence the angelic and the divine intellects have the entire knowledge of a thing at once and perfectly; and hence, in knowing the quiddity [essential nature] of a thing, they know at once whatever we can know by composition, division and reasoning. Therefore the human intellect knows by composition, division and reasoning. But the divine and angelic intellects have a knowledge of composition, division, and reasoning, not by the process itself, but by understanding the simple essence.

— Thomas Aquinas

Christ Was Born — and is Born Again

Now let us see where this birth takes place. It takes place, as I have so often said before, in the soul . . . what special right has the soul to this act of God . . . ? God in things is activity, reality, and power, but in the soul he is procreative. For creatures are only God's footprints, but by nature, the soul is patterned after God himself. . . .

St. Augustine says: "There are many people who have sought light and truth, but they look for it outside themselves, where it is not." Thus, at last, they get so far off the track that they cannot find their way back to the core of their souls and they never discover the truth, for truth is at the core of their souls and not outside the man. . . .

When God touches the soul with truth, its light floods the soul's agents and that man knows more than anyone could ever teach him. . . . but if the soul is scattered among its agents and spread out in externalities, the agent of sight in the eyes, of hearing in the ears, of taste in the tongue, then its inward action is feebler because scattered forces do not fulfill their mission.

. . . It must be done by means of forgetting and losing self-consciousness. It is in the stillness, in the silence, that the word of God is to be heard.

— Meister Eckhart


Above the Meaning of Words

. . . it is necessary for him who wants to attain understanding to raise the intellect above the meaning of words, rather than to insist upon the properties of words, which cannot be properly adapted to such great intellectual mysteries. It is also necessary to use elementary examples in a transcendent way, relinquishing sensible things, so that the reader may quickly ascend to simple intellectuality. . . .

Therefore, the intellect, which is not the truth, never grasps the truth so precisely that it could not be grasped infinitely more precisely, having a relationship to the truth which is like that of a polygon to a circle. Although a polygon would become more similar to a circle to the extent that it was inscribed with more angles, nevertheless, unless it is released into identity with the circle, it is never made equivalent, even if one multiplies its angles to infinity.

— Nicholas of Cusa

To Raise Ourselves Through Love

. . . nothing befits a man more than discourse on the soul. Thus the Delphic injunction "Know thyself" is fulfilled and we examine everything else, whether above or beneath the soul, with deeper insight. For how can we understand anything else fully unless we understand the soul itself, through which everything must be understood? Does not a man abuse the soul by not devoting himself to its study, when it is by means of the soul and for its sake that he wants to understand everything else?

We all agreed there that the reasonable soul is set on a horizon, that is the line dividing the eternal and temporal, because it has a nature midway between the two. Being in the middle, this nature is not only capable of rational power and action, which lead up to the eternal, but also of energies and activities which descend to the temporal. Since these divergent tendencies spring from opposing natures, we see the soul turning at one moment to the eternal and at another to the temporal and so we understand rightly that it partakes of the nature of both. . . . But this looking carries both desire and judgment. It is better to love eternal things than to judge them, for they are very difficult to judge rightly but they can never be wrongly loved. They can never be loved too much; indeed they cannot be loved enough until they are loved passionately. . . . A judge takes within himself the form of the object being judged, whereas the lover transports himself into the form of the beloved. . . . It is better to raise ourselves to higher things through love than to reduce them to our level by judgment.

— Marsilio Ficino

Divine Infinity

We learn, then, in the first degree, that God is not body . . . nor the form of a body, as those say who affirm that God is the soul of the sky and of the universe . . .

We learn, in the second degree . . . that God is neither life nor intelligence nor intelligible, but something better and more excellent than all these. . . . For all these things are in God one, not by confusion of mixture, or mutual penetration of distinct entities, but by a simple, sovereign, ineffable, and fundamental unity in which all actuality, all form, all perfection, hidden as if in the supreme and pre-eminent jewel in the treasury of the Divine Infinity, are enclosed so excellently above and beyond all things that it is not only intimate to all things, but rather united with all things more closely than they are with themselves. . . .

In the third degree, the more we approach the darkness, the more light we have to see that not only is God not . . . some particular genus however perfect, which human wisdom can fashion, like life, or spirit, or reason, but that we ought to conceive of Him as superior to all . . .

In the fourth degree, finally, we know Him as superior not only to these four transcendentals, but also to every idea which we could form, to every essence which we could conceive Him to be. Then only, with this total ignorance, does true knowledge commence.

— Pico Della Mirandola

Wisdom, Truth, and Unity the Same

The universal intellect is the most intimate, the most real, and the most proper faculty and partial power of the world soul. This is one and the same thing which fills the whole, illumines the universe and directs nature to produce its various species . . .

You have, therefore, this fact: that all things are in the universe, and the universe is in all things — we in that, that in us; and, therefore, all things concur in a perfect unity. You see by this, then, that we ought not to torment our spirit, for there is no thing by which we ought to become vexed. Because this unity is one and stable, and always remains; this one is eternal; every fact, every figure, every other thing is vanity, and is like nothing; nay, all that which is outside this one is nothing. Those philosophers who have found this unity have found their friend, wisdom. Wisdom, truth, and unity are throughout, one and the same.

— Giordano Bruno

Philanthropia: Love for Mankind

There is in man's nature a secret inclination and motion towards love of others, which, if it be not spent upon some one or a few, doth naturally spread itself towards many, and maketh men become humane and charitable . . .

I take goodness in this sense, the affecting of the weal of men, which is what the Grecians call philanthropia . . . This, of all virtues and dignities of the mind, is the greatest, being the character of the Deity . . . The parts and signs of goodness are many. If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world, and that his heart is no island cut off from other lands, but a continent that joins to them; if he be compassionate towards the afflictions of others, it shows that his heart is like the noble tree that is wounded itself when it gives the balm; if he easily pardons and remits offenses, it shows that his mind is planted above injuries . . . but above all, it shows much of a divine nature, and a kind of conformity with Christ himself.

— Francis Bacon


The Infinite Substance of Being

By the word "God" I mean an infinite substance [of Being], eternal, immutable . . . But these attributes are such — they are so great and so eminent — that the more attentively I consider them, the less I can persuade myself that I could have derived them from my own nature. . . . For even though the idea of substance exists in me from the very fact that I am a substance, I would nevertheless have no idea of an infinite substance, I who am a finite being, unless the idea had been placed in me by some substance which was in fact infinite.

— René Descartes

Essential Knowledge Inspires Love

The essence of things is from all eternity, and unto all eternity shall remain immutable. The existence of God is essence.

. . . whence it clearly follows that all other things can by no means be, or be understood, apart from or outside Him. Wherefore we may say with all reason that God [Divine Essence] is a cause of all things.

. . . if we use our understanding well in acquiring a knowledge of things, then we must know them in their causes. Now then, since God is a first cause of all other things . . . the knowledge of all other things must follow from the knowledge of the first cause. And true love results always from the knowledge that the thing [in essence] is glorious and good.

. . . this knowledge inspires us with a real love of our neighbor, it shapes us so that we never hate him, nor are we angry with him, but love to help him, and to improve his condition.

— Baruch Spinoza

A Perpetual Living Mirror of the Universe

The monad, of which we shall speak here, is nothing but a simple substance which enters into compounds . . . And these monads are the true atoms of nature and, in a word, the [essential] elements of things. . . .

Indeed, every monad must be different from each other. . . .

I also take it as granted that every created thing, and consequently the created monad also, is subject to change, and indeed that this change is continual in each one.

It follows . . . that the natural changes of monads come from an internal principle . . .

This is why the ultimate reason of things must lie in a necessary [Supreme] substance, in which the differentiation of the changes only exists eminently as in their source; and this is what we call God. . . . We may also judge that since this Supreme Substance, who is unique, universal, and necessary, has nothing outside Himself independent of Himself . . . He must be incapable of being limited, and must contain just as much reality as is possible. . . .

Thus God alone is the primary Unity, or original simple substance, from which all monads, created and derived, are produced, and are born, so to speak, by continual fulgurations of the Divinity from moment to moment, limited by the receptivity of the created being . . .

Now this connection or adaptation of all created things with each, and of each with all the rest, means that each simple substance has relations which express all the others, and that consequently it is a perpetual living mirror of the universe. . . . which means that the whole of matter is connected . . . so that each body not only is affected by those which touch it, and is in some way sensitive to whatever happens to them, but also by means of them is sensitive to those which touch the first bodies by which it is itself directly touched; it follows that this communication stretches out indefinitely. Consequently every body is sensitive to everything which is happening in the universe.

— G. W. Leibniz

Supreme Intelligence — Universal Morality

. . . in perceiving the order, the prodigious skill, and the mechanical and geometrical laws that reign in the universe, their causes and the innumerable ends of all things, I am seized with admiration and respect. I immediately judge that if the works of man, even my own, compel me to acknowledge an intelligence within us, I should acknowledge one far more superior actuating the multitude of so many works. I admit of this supreme intelligence . . .

Morality appears to me so universal, so calculated by the universal Being that formed us, so destined to serve as a counterpoise to our fatal passions, and to solace the inevitable troubles of this short life, that from Zoroaster down to Lord Shaftesbury, I find all philosophers teaching the same morality, though they have all different ideas upon the principles of things.

We find that Hobbes, Spinoza, and Bayle himself, who either denied the first principles, or at least doubted them, have, nevertheless, strongly recommended justice, and all the virtues.

Every nation had peculiar religious rites, and very often absurd and revolting opinions in metaphysics and theology. But the point in question is to know whether we should be just. In this the whole universe agrees . . .

— Voltaire

The Moral Law Within: A World of Infinite Connections

Two things fill one's mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the oftener and more continuously one reflects on them: the starry heaven above and the moral law within. . . . The starry heavens begin at the place where I am in the external world of sense and expand my reach out to world after world, system after system, over the endless ages of their periodic motions, from the beginning until now. The moral law within begins with my own invisible self, my personality, placing me in a world of true infinity, which is fathomable only to mind, a world with which I see that my connection is not an accident but is both general and necessary, as it is with all the visible worlds.

The prospect of countless worlds abolishes my animal sense of importance. . . . The moral law, however, raises my worth infinitely, as I am intelligent and a person in whom there is a life independent of animality and the world of sense. . . . It is a definition not limited to the conditions and boundaries of this life but reaching to infinity.

— Immanuel Kant

A Reverence for All Life

The religion of reverence for what is above us we call racial. It is the religion of nations . . . The second religion, the religion of reverence for our equals, we call philosophic, for the philosopher, standing midway, draws down the higher and raises the lower to his own level; and only because of this mediation does he deserve to be called wise. If he really grasps his relation to his equals — and that means to all mankind — and his relation to all earthly conditions, essential or accidental, he lives in the pure truth of the universe. Now we must speak of the third religion, the religion of reverence for what is beneath us. . . . it is the last of the stages that humanity was bound to reach. But how great was the effort needed, not only to leave the earth below us, and claim a higher home, but to look on lowliness and poverty, shame and misery, suffering and death as divine — yes, and to see even in sin and crime not hindrances, but helps to holiness, and therefore objects of love and of respect!

— J. W. von Goethe

Eternal, Infinite Reason — the Essence of Existence

On the one hand, Reason is the substance of the Universe; viz., that by which and in which all reality has its being and subsistence. On the other hand, it is the Infinite Energy of the Universe . . . That this "Idea" or "Reason" is the True, the Eternal, the absolutely powerful essence; that it reveals itself in the World, and that in that World nothing else is revealed but this and its honor and glory — is the thesis which, as we have said, has been proved in Philosophy . . .

The History of the World begins with its general aim — the realization of the Idea of Spirit — only in an implicit form, that is, as Nature; a hidden, most profoundly hidden, unconscious instinct; and the whole process of History is directed to rendering this unconscious impulse a conscious one. . . . But that those manifestations of vitality on the part of individuals and peoples, in which they seek and satisfy their own purposes, are, at the same time, the means and instruments of a higher and broader purpose of which they know nothing — which they realize unconsciously — might be made a matter of question . . . But on this point I announce my view at the very outset . . . that Reason governs the world, and has consequently governed its history.

— G. W. F. Hegel

Without Self-Interest, It Is Then All One

All willing arises from want, therefore from deficiency, and therefore from suffering. The satisfaction of a wish ends it . . . But even the final satisfaction is itself only apparent; every satisfied wish at once makes room for a new one; both are illusions . . . Therefore, so long as our consciousness is filled by our will, so long as we are given up to the throng of desires with their constant hopes and fears, so long as we are the subject of willing, we can never have lasting happiness nor peace. . . .

But when some external cause or inward disposition lifts us suddenly out of the endless stream of willing . . . the attention is no longer directed to the motives of willing, but comprehends things free from their relation to the will, and thus observes them without personal interest, without subjectivity, purely objectively, gives itself entirely up to them so far as they are ideas, but not in so far as they are motives. Then all at once the peace which we were always seeking, but which always fled from us on the former path of the desires, comes to us of its own accord, and it is well with us.

. . . this is just the state which I described above as necessary for the knowledge of the Idea, as pure contemplation, as sinking oneself in perception, losing oneself in the object, forgetting all individuality . . . It is then all one . . .

— Arthur Schopenhauer

Fix the Mind on the Happiness of Others

I was accustomed to felicitate myself on the certainty of a happy life which I enjoyed, through placing my happiness in something durable and distant, in which some progress might be always making . . . But the time came when I awakened from this as from a dream. . . .

All those to whom I looked up were of opinion that the pleasure of sympathy with human beings, and the feelings which made the good of others, and especially of mankind on a large scale, the object of existence, were the greatest and surest sources of happiness. . . . My education, I thought, had failed to create these feelings in sufficient strength to resist the dissolving influence of analysis . . . I was thus, as I said to myself, left stranded . . . : no delight in virtue, or the general good . . .

The experiences of this period had two very marked effects on my opinions and character. In the first place, they led me to adopt a theory of life, very unlike that on which I had before acted . . . I never, indeed wavered in the conviction that happiness is the test of all rules of conduct, and the end of life. But I now thought that this end was only to be attained by not making it the direct end. Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness; on the happiness of others, on the improvement of mankind, even on some art or pursuit, followed not as a means, but as itself an ideal end.

— John Stuart Mill

The Unity of One Eternal Moment

Let us look away for a moment from our finite existence, with its doubts and its problems, to the conception of that infinite life. In that life is all truth, fully present in the unity of one eternal moment. The world is no mass of separate facts, stuck one to another in an external way, but, for the infinite, each fact is what it is only by reason of its place in the infinite unity. The world of life is then what we desired it to be, an organic total; and the individual selves are drops in this ocean of the absolute truth.

. . . the one highest activity, in which all human activities were to join, is known to us now as the progressive realization by men of the eternal life of an Infinite Spirit. So whereas we formerly had to say to men: Devote yourselves to art, to science, to the state, or to any like work that does tend to organize your lives into one life, we may now substitute one absolute expression for all those accidental expressions, and may say: Devote yourselves to losing your lives in the divine life.

— Josiah Royce

Our True End — Union with the Divine

Summing up in the broadest possible way the characteristics of the religious life, as we have found them, it includes the following beliefs: that the visible world is part of a more spiritual universe from which it draws its chief significance; that union or harmonious relation with that higher universe is our true end; that prayer or inner communion with the spirit thereof . . . is a process wherein work is really done, and spiritual energy flows in and produces effects . . . a new zest which adds itself like a gift to life, and . . . an assurance of safety and a temper of peace, and, in relation to others, a preponderance of loving affections.

— William James

The Essence of Love — A Universal Affinity

Considered in its full biological reality, love — that is to say, the affinity of being with being — is not peculiar to man. It is a general property of all life and as such embraces, in its varieties and degrees, all the forms successively adopted by organised matter. . . . Driven by the forces of love, the fragments of the world seek each other so that the world may come to being. . . .

Love in all its subtleties is nothing more, and nothing less, than the more or less direct trace marked on the heart of the element by the psychical convergence of the universe upon itself. . . .

Love alone is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as to complete and fulfill them, for it alone takes them and joins them by what is deepest in themselves. . . .

A sense of the universe, a sense of the all, the nostalgia which seizes us when confronted by nature, beauty, music — these seem to be an expectation and awareness of a Great Presence. . . . Resonance to the All — . . . what does this phenomenon, which is born with thought and grows with it, reveal if not a deep accord between two realities which seek each other . . .

A universal love is not only psychologically possible; it is the only complete and final way in which we are able to love.

— Pierre Teilhard de Chardin


The following are examples of scientists describing the diversity of physical phenomena in terms of an underlying unity.


Divinity is Present Everywhere

This most elegant system of the sun, planets, and comets could not have arisen without the design and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being. And if the fixed stars are the centers of similar systems, they will all be constructed according to a similar design and subject to the dominion of One . . .

. . . he endures from eternity to eternity, and he is present from infinity to infinity . . . He is not eternity and infinity, but eternal and infinite; he is not duration and space, but he endures and is present. He endures always and is present everywhere . . .

— Isaac Newton

In Harmony with the One

We know that religions speak in images and parables and that these can never fully correspond to the meanings they are trying to express. But I believe that, in the final analysis, all the old religions try to express the same contents, the same relations, and all of these hinge around questions about values. . . .

The problem of values is nothing but the problem of our acts, goals, and morals. It concerns the compass by which we must steer our ship if we are to set a true course through life. The compass itself has been given different names by various religions and philosophies: happiness, the will of God, the meaning of life . . . I have the clear impression that all such formulations try to express man's relatedness to a central order. . . . Admittedly, the subjective realm of an individual, no less than a nation, may sometimes be in a state of confusion. . . . But in the final analysis, the central order, or the "one" as it used to be called and with which we commune in the language of religion, must win out. And when people search for values, they are probably searching for the kind of actions that are in harmony with the central order.

— Werner Heisenberg

The Well-Being of the Whole

. . . what guide has man to enable him to determine what is the good and what the evil way? . . . It is so to shape my own conduct at all times as, in my own carefully considered judgment, to promote best the well-being of mankind as a whole . . .

This means that my personal job is to develop an attitude of willingness — better, of determination — to subordinate my own immediate personal impulses, appetites, desires and short-range interests to the larger good of my fellow man . . . From my point of view, this attitude is the essence of religion. . . .

I do not see how there can be any sense of duty, or any reason for altruistic conduct, which is entirely divorced from the conviction that moral conduct, or what we call goodness, is somehow or other worthwhile, that there is Something in the universe which gives significance and meaning . . . Similarly, wise men ever since have always looked in amazement at the wonderful orderliness of nature and then recognized their own ignorance and finiteness and have been content to stand in silence and in reverence before the Being who is immanent in Nature.

— Robert A. Millikan

The Ground of All Being

. . . we looked at matter with a big microscope. The more we looked, the more we enlarged, and the less we found. We ended up with a void, permeated by pulsating energy fields. Even the most "solid" matter . . . dissolved into a vortex of pulsating fields. Thus, we found a void to be the common denominator of all matter — its ground substance. . . .We have heard of this void before — that is how we have described the absolute.

. . . the ripples on the surface of the sea of the absolute . . . are so small and of such a high frequency as to become invisible. The absolute is both in a state of rest and at the same time of enormous potential energy. Similarly, we have seen how infinite velocity has become a state of rest, how the birth of matter occurs simultaneously and in the same place as its death. . . . In short, we find that there is a level in Nature at which all extremes become reconciled and merged. It is on this level that black and white, good and evil merge into one "Is"-ness. This is also where ultimate truth lies. The truth is not black or white; it is both. The pairs of opposites of the lower levels merge on the highest level.

— Itzhak Bentov

The Mysterious, A Cosmic Religious Feeling

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. . . . A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which our minds seem to reach only in their most elementary forms — it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man. . . . Enough for me are the mystery of the eternity of life and the inkling of the marvelous structure of reality, together with the single-hearted endeavour to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the Reason that manifests itself in nature. . . .

[It is a] stage of religious experience . . . which I will call cosmic religious feeling. . . . The individual feels the nothingness of human desires and aims and the sublimity and marvelous order which reveal themselves both in Nature and in the world of thought. He looks upon individual existence as a sort of prison and wants to experience the universe as a single significant whole. . . .

The religious geniuses of all ages have been distinguished by this kind of religious feeling, which knows no dogma and no God conceived in man's image . . .

In my view, it is the most important function of art and science to awaken this feeling and keep it alive in those who are capable of it.

— Albert Einstein

What is Truly Alive . . . Is Never Born and Never Dies

. . . the whole field of the finite is inherently limited, in that it has no independent existence. . . . We can see this dependent nature of the finite from the fact that every finite thing is transient. . . .

We are in this way led to propose that the true ground of all being is the infinite, the unlimited . . . In this view, the finite, with its transient nature, can only be understood as held suspended, as it were, beyond time and space, within the infinite.

The field of the finite is all that we can see, hear, touch, remember, and describe. . . . The essential quality of the infinite, by contrast, is its subtlety, its intangibility. This quality is conveyed in the word spirit, whose root meaning is "wind, or breath." This suggests an invisible but pervasive energy, to which the manifest world of the finite responds. This energy, or spirit, infuses all living beings, and without it any organism must fall apart into its constituent elements. That which is truly alive in the living being is this energy of spirit, and this is never born and never dies.

— David Bohm


To the Divine Mind, Everything is Always Present

Our method proceeds with reasoning by steps from one conclusion to another . . . but the Divine intellect, by a simple apprehension of the circle's essence, knows without time-consuming reasoning all the infinity of its properties. Next, all these properties are in effect virtually included in the definitions of all things; and ultimately, through being infinite, are perhaps but one in their essence and in the Divine mind. . . . Now these advances, which our intellect makes laboriously and step by step, run through the Divine mind like light in an instant; which is the same as saying that everything is always present to it.

— Galileo

The Return to Unity

Worldly life is a real exile for the soul. Imperceptibly we get accustomed to content ourselves with appearances, no longer to seek the bottom and the substance of things. . . . But there are hours of solitude when the soul, returning to itself, feels the emptiness of all these appearances, when it discovers how little they can satisfy it, when it anxiously searches and returns with love to the real greatness . . . to contemplate the beauties of nature; to admire and understand the wonders of creation; entirely giving itself up to the contemplation which captivates it . . .

When we give our minds up to these high and magnificent studies we soon feel the great harmony, the admirable unity in which all things are bound together; we feel that all creation is one, that we form a constituent part of it, and that an immense life, scarcely guessed at, envelopes us.

— Camille Flammarion

Is the Mystic Experience Self-Deception?

I think everyone admits that it is good to have a spirit sensitive to the influences of Nature, good to exercise an appreciative imagination and not always to be remorselessly dissecting our environment after the manner of the mathematical physicists. . . . Then how can it be deemed good if there is nothing in it but self-deception? . . . It seems to me that the only alternatives are either to count all such surrender to the mystical contact of Nature as mischievous and ethically wrong, or to admit that in these moods we catch something of the true relation of the world to ourselves . . .

If I were to try to put into words the essential truth revealed in the mystic experience, it would be that our minds are not apart from the world; and the feelings that we have of gladness and melancholy and our yet deeper feelings are not of ourselves alone, but are glimpses of a reality transcending the narrow limits of our particular consciousness — that the harmony and beauty of the face of Nature is at root one with the gladness that transfigures the face of man.

— Arthur Eddington

Consciousness, A Universe of Thought

. . . the minutest phenomena of nature do not admit of representation in the space-time framework at all. . . . We have, for instance, already tentatively pictured consciousness as something outside the [space-time] continuum . . . It is conceivable that happenings entirely outside the continuum determine what we describe as the "course of events" inside the continuum . . .

If the universe is a universe of thought, then its creation must have been an act of thought. . . . Time and space, which form the setting for the thought, must have come into being as part of this act. . . . And yet, so little do we understand time that perhaps we ought to compare the whole of time to the act of creation, the materialisation of thought.

— James Jeans

This Moment Is the Fulcrum of All Existence

The universe haunts me. This sense of the unfathomable beautiful ocean of existence drew me into science. I am awed by the universe, puzzled by it and sometimes angry at a natural order that brings such pain and suffering. . . .

And where am I? I am in the present, this imperfect moment, trying to remain vulnerable to its intense specificity. There is no other time for me to be or place to go, no cosmic consciousness nor facile mysticism into which I can retreat. In order to see this moment as the fulcrum of all existence, no detail, no imperfection, no impediment of guilt or resentment can remain unacknowledged. I am the witness of this reality . . . In the love of the mundane, the openness to exploration, the play of imagination, the sublimation of aggression into creative activity, the need to communicate with and love other people lie the source of all great poetry, art and science and my private hope for the liberation of the species.

— Heinz Pagels


Divine Ideas

Our conception of the reality of specific types may border on the eternity of the "divine ideas" which at certain periods, formed and predetermined, became united with matter or incarnate, according to Plato. If any resemblance exists between the modern doctrine of specific types and the metaphysical abstraction of Plato's genius it need not raise on that account any presumption against them. For under any theoretical hypothesis or way of viewing genera and species, even if there be one perpetually changing system, progressive or non-progressive, we cannot . . . doubt the preexistence of those immaterial conceptions, instinct, life, and finally the human reason and intellect . . .

— Charles Lyell

The Unity of Organic Conception

The resemblance of an adult Skate [ray fish] . . . to some of the earlier conditions in the growth of the young Mammal, not excepting the human family, is equally striking. . . .

Indeed, modern Embryology leads at once to the consideration of the most occult problem, as to the origin of animals, suggested by these comparisons. What do these resemblances mean . . .?

. . . looked at in their intellectual significance, they truly reveal the unity of the organic conception of which Man himself is a part, and mark not only the incipient steps in its manifestation, but also, with equal distinctness, every phase in its gradual realization. They mean that when the first Fish was called into existence, the Vertebrate type existed as a whole in the creative thought, and the first expression of it embraced potentially all the organic elements of that type, up to Man himself.

— Louis Agassiz

The Secret of Life

. . . I marvel now, at the wonderful correlation of parts, the perfect adaptation to purpose . . . I will ask once more in what way it is managed, that the simple dust takes on a history and begins to weave these unique and never recurring apparitions in the stream of time. I shall wonder what strange forces at the heart of matter regulate the tiny beating of a rabbit's heart or the dim dream that builds a milkweed pod. . . .

I do not think, if someone finally twists the key successfully in the tiniest and most humble house of life, that many of these questions will be answered, or that the dark forces which create lights in the deep sea and living batteries in the waters of tropical swamps . . . or the most noble workings of the human brain, will be much if at all revealed. Rather, I would say that if "dead" matter has reared up this curious landscape of fiddling crickets, song sparrows, and wondering men, it must be plain even to the most devoted materialist that the matter of which he speaks contains amazing, if not dreadful powers, and may not impossibly be, as Hardy has suggested, "but one mask of many worn by the Great Face behind."

— Loren Eiseley

The Unfolding Universe

Empirical inquiry into the universe reveals that from its beginning in the galactic system to its earthly expression in human consciousness the universe carries within itself a psychic-spiritual as well as a physical-material dimension. Otherwise human consciousness emerges out of nowhere. . . . In reality the human activates the most profound dimension of the universe itself, its capacity to reflect on and celebrate itself in conscious self-awareness. . . .

The story of the universe is the story of the emergence of a galactic system in which each new level of expression emerges through the urgency of self-transcendence. . . . Earth gives unique expression to itself in its rock and crystalline structures and in the variety and splendor of living forms, until humans appear as the moment in which the unfolding universe becomes conscious of itself. The human emerges not only as an earthling, but also as a worldling. We bear the universe in our beings as the universe bears us in its being. The two have a total presence to each other and to that deeper mystery out of which both the universe and ourselves have emerged.

— Thomas Berry


Ever-Advancing Spiritual Man

. . . those faculties which enable us to transcend time and space, and to realize the wonderful conceptions of mathematics and philosophy, or which give us an intense yearning for abstract truth . . . are evidently essential to the perfect development of man as a spiritual being, but are utterly inconceivable as having been produced through the action of a law which looks only, and can look only, to the immediate material welfare of the individual or the race.

The inference I would draw from this class of phenomena is, that a superior intelligence has guided the development of man in a definite direction, and for a special purpose . . . and we must therefore admit the possibility that, if we are not the highest intelligences in the universe, some higher intelligence may have directed the process by which the human race was developed, by means of more subtle agencies than we are acquainted with. . . . to aid in the production of what we can hardly avoid considering as the ultimate aim and outcome of all organized existence — intellectual, ever-advancing, spiritual man.

— Alfred Russel Wallace

To Become Fully Human

Throughout ancient and modern thought there appears time and time again, almost as a haunting theme, the belief that individual human beings are part of a greater unity. Twenty-five hundred years ago, Aristotle ended his Ethics on the note borrowed from Plato that the fullest development of human nature leads men beyond human nature itself, to participate in what is deathless and eternal.

The spirit of human brotherhood and the urge to move forward and upward are not to be described in terms of chemical constitution and physical forces, but they are facts . . . As facts they differ from those of the so-called natural sciences, because they are concerned with consequences rather than being determined by antecedent causes. One could almost say that they are made not of matter, but of time and spirit . . .

In fact, it corresponds to one of the most ancient and venerable human attitudes — the mysterious sense of responsibility toward the future, which has made so many men willing to work for causes that transcend their selfish interests.

— René Dubos

For the Sake of the Cosmic Good

Theocentric humanism recognizes divinity as the ultimate Good and the supreme Reality, existing spiritually as the noncreated First Cause involved in, but also exalted above, the universe it created; . . . it is acknowledged as the highest good to which life can aspire. Theocentric humanism believes man's destiny is to return to this transcendent source of his being and to become increasingly spiritualized in his ascent; to promote this end he is provided not only with body, mind, and soul, but also with some kind of "impeccable center" of inner divinity . . . which, in seeking the light, divests evolving life of its human limitations and provides it with divine purpose. . . .

It has been wisely said that one of the most difficult tasks is to persuade human beings of their own potential divinity. This applies in particular to those biologists who . . . oppose their souls' search for the light of the spiritual realm. Theocentric humanism, attempting to make this realm supremely desireable for man, is suggesting a new orientation of the students of life . . . It is trying to persuade them to participate in an evolutionary ascent by which man surpasses himself not anthropocentrically for his own sake but theocentrically for the sake of the cosmic Good.

— Catherine Roberts

The Light of Mind

I intend to take the modern Gaia hypothesis one quantum leap further and to posit that humanity and all other life forms in the past and present lie embedded in an invisible Planetary Mind Field that pervades the entire Earth. The creative activity of this Mind Field is responsible for the appearance and evolution of all forms of life on planet Earth. . . .

After the Big Bang . . . there now resides an afterglow of light so significant that for every one atom of ordinary matter in the Universe there exist 1 billion light particles. Matter is an utterly insignificant "contaminant" in the particle Universe. Although most of the energy resides in matter, almost all particles in the Universe are those of light. . . .

Within our modern scientific framework, it appears feasible to explore the possibility that the light particle — the photon that holds these atoms together and travels endlessly between them — serves a twofold purpose in the Universe. In the physicist's material Universe, it acts as a matter "glue" on the atomic level, but in another sense it may well act as a mediator between the Mind Field and the matter fields. Or perhaps it is the Mind Field.

— Arne A. Wyller

Extended Mind

Since the 1920s, many biologists who have studied the development of plants and animals have been convinced that in addition to the genes, there must be organizing fields within the developing organism, called morphogenetic fields. . . .

First, morphogenetic fields work by imposing patterns or structures on otherwise random or intermediate processes in the systems under their control. Second, they contain attractors, which draw systems under their influence toward future goals. Third, they evolve, along with living organisms themselves. . . .

Morphic fields also underlie our perceptions, thoughts, and other mental processes. . . . Through mental fields, the extended mind reaches out into the environment through attention and intention, and connects with other members of social groups.

. . . the recognition that our minds extend beyond our brains liberates us. . . . We are no longer alienated from our bodies, alienated from our environment, and alienated from other species. We are interconnected.

— Rupert Sheldrake


Question the Meaning of Existence

We are always in the presence of insoluble mysteries, to which science is unable to give an answer. It may have lifted a veil on the nature of the universe, but only to reveal a stupendous spectacle which seems to dwarf all human considerations, leaving human beings without a clue as to why and wherefore, and what their place is. . . . We get glimpses of a tremendous process of which we are a part and in which we try to find law and meaning. We have been very successful in this effort; there is no doubt that this universe is a scene of natural laws. But behind such questions are the questions of significance of the whole process, of the meaning of existence.

. . . human beings do need to make . . . some judgement of the nature of man, and such a judgement must also to some extent go beyond what is definitely known. It is not unreasonable for human beings to sense that there are faculties, in or behind the universe, which are at least not foreign to human faculties; that human perception and feeling is not a totally isolated phenomenon; that the universe as a whole is not less than its parts.

— J. A. V. Butler

Living Is a Religious Experience

While still a student I was asked seriously, by a member of the Society of Friends, if I had ever had a religious experience. Not understanding what he meant, imagining that he referred to a manifestation of a miracle, I answered no. Looking back from 45 years on, I now tend to think that I should have said yes. Living itself is a religious experience. At the time, however, the question was almost meaningless because it implied a separation of life into sacred and secular parts. I now think that there can be no such division. . . .

Thinking of the Earth as alive makes it seem, on happy days, in the right places, as if the whole planet were celebrating a sacred ceremony. . . .

To me Gaia is alive and part of the ineffable Universe and I am a part of her.

— James Lovelock

Mind and Matter Are Inseparable

The whole creature is always much more than the sum of its parts. It contains structures and exhibits behaviour which cannot be predicted from a study only of the known ingredients.

. . . however we look at the world, we should bear in mind that fragments are illusory; things are surprisingly well connected, and reality can best be understood as a whole, which changes all the time. . . .

If reality flows like a stream, then knowledge of such reality also becomes fluid, a process rather than a set of fixed truths. . . .

So, in the end, intelligence turns out to be part of the flow. It is not grounded in cells or molecules, but drawn from the same moving stream as reality. In other words, mind and matter are ultimately inseparable.

Everything is indeed connected to everything else, in the best traditions of ecology, but it goes further than that. Everything is everything else.

— Lyall Watson

Consciousness is Fundamental to the Universe

The other way of looking at it is that consciousness, or perhaps something proto-conscious, is fundamental to the universe . . .

. . . this fundamental entity . . . must exist at the fundamental level of the universe, the lowest level of reality that exists . . . the level at which space-time geometry is no longer smooth but quantized. . . . It is at this level where we think qualia are embedded as patterns in this fundamental granularity of space-time geometry that makes up the universe. . . .

I became interested in the mystical Kabbalah which describes a world of materialistic strife and chaos, and another world of wisdom and enlightenment. According to the Kabbalah, consciousness "dances on the edge" between the two worlds. I think this is exactly what is happening, consciousness "dances on the edge between the quantum world and the classical world."

— Stuart Hameroff


Spirit Interpenetrates All of Life

Spirit is the source of life and power, without which material forms are nonliving husks. It interpenetrates matter but is itself nonmaterial.

Many mystics have looked within themselves and identified breath as the evidence of spirit in the body. Breath is nonmaterial, or, at least, it straddles the border between material and nonmaterial reality. It has inherent movement and rhythm and is the source of life and vitality.

. . . in all aspects of the universe we can see the same rhythmic pattern of expansion and contraction, whether in the cycles of day and night, waking and sleeping, high and low tides, or seasonal growth and decay. Oscillation between two phases exists at every level of reality, even up to the scale of the observable universe itself, which is presently in expansion but will surely at some point contract back to the original, unimaginable point that is everything and nothing, completing one cosmic breath.

— Andrew Weil

A Universe Permeated by One Mind

A hologram is a specially constructed image which, when illuminated by a laser beam, seems eerily suspended in three-dimensional space. The most incredible feature of a hologram is that any piece of it, if illuminated with coherent light, provides an image of the entire hologram.

. . . holograms may be ubiquitous in nature. . . . Electron beams could make holograms, as could sound waves, or "any form of movement," including "movements known and unknown." The universe is permeated with wave forms; and it may be . . . that we live in a holographic universe: the holoverse.

. . . theories about the unification of consciousness are part of a tradition within modern physics that includes . . . some of the most highly acclaimed scientists of our era. Their theories provide support for the idea of a genuinely nonlocal mind — mind that is not limited by space and time, mind that is not confined to brains or bodies, mind that is ultimately One . . .

— Larry Dossey

The Holographic Universe

In the implicate, holographic domain, the distinction between points becomes blurred; information becomes distributed as in the example of the surface of a pond. What is organism (with its component organs) is no longer sharply distinguished from what lies outside the boundaries of the skin. In the holographic domain, each organism represents in some manner the universe, and each portion of the universe represents in some manner the organisms within it. . . .

Perhaps if the rules for "tuning in" on the holographic, implicate domain could be made more explicit, we could come to some agreement as to what constitutes the primary basic order of the universe. At the moment this order appears so indistinguishable from the mental operations by which we operate on that universe that we must conclude either that our science is a huge mirage, a construct of the emergence of our convoluted brains, or that, indeed, as proclaimed by all great religious convictions, a unity characterizes this emergent and the basic order of the universe.

— Karl Pribram

The Source Within Us All

Only the body dies. The self or spirit, or whatever you may wish to label it, is eternal. You may interpret this in any way that makes you comfortable.

If you wish, you may view the eternal essence of your existence in terms of the impact your every mood and action has on those you touch, and then in turn, on those they touch, and on and on . . . You will never know, for example, the rippling effects of the smile and words of encouragement you give to other human beings with whom you come in contact.

You may be more comfortable and comforted by a faith that there is a source of goodness, light, and strength greater than any of us individually, yet still within us all, and that each essential self has an existence that transcends the finiteness of the physical and contributes to that greater power.

. . . whether we understand fully why we are here or what will happen when we die, it is our purpose as human beings to grow — to look within ourselves to find and build upon that source of peace and understanding and strength which is our inner selves, and to reach out to others with love, acceptance, patient guidance, and hope for what we all may become together.

— Elisabeth Kübler-Ross


Our Link with the Infinite

The decisive question for man is: Is he related to something infinite or not? That is the telling question of his life. Only if we know that the thing which truly matters is the infinite can we avoid fixing our interest upon futilities, and upon all kinds of goals which are not of real importance. Thus we demand that the world grant us recognition for qualities which we regard as personal possessions: our talent or our beauty. The more a man lays stress on false possessions, and the less sensitivity he has for what is essential, the less satisfying is his life. He feels limited because he has limited aims, and the result is envy and jealousy. If we understand and feel that here in this life we already have a link with the infinite, desires and attitudes change. In the final analysis, we count for something only because of the essential we embody . . .

— Carl Jung

Oneness With the All

Frequently authoritarian religion postulates an ideal which is so abstract and so distant that it has hardly any connection with the real life of real people. To such ideals as "life after death" . . . the life and happiness of persons living here and now may be sacrificed; the alleged ends justify every means and become symbols in the names of which religious or secular "elites" control the lives of their fellow men.

Humanistic religion, on the contrary, is centered around man and his strength. Man must develop his power of reason in order to understand himself, his relationship to his fellow men and his position in the universe. He must recognize the truth, both with regard to his limitations and his potentialities. He must develop his powers of love for others as well as for himself and experience the solidarity of all living beings. He must have principles and norms to guide him in this aim. Religious experience in this kind of religion is the experience of oneness with the All, based on one's relatedness to the world as it is grasped with thought and with love.

— Erich Fromm

A Sense of the Sacred

Practically everything that happens in the peak-experiences, naturalistic though they are, could be listed under the headings of religious happenings . . .

For instance, it is quite characteristic in peak-experiences that the whole universe is perceived as an integrated and unified whole. . . .

The person feels himself more than at other times to be responsible, active, the creative center of his own activities and of his own perceptions, more self-determined, more a free agent, with more "free will" than at other times.

But it has also been discovered that precisely those persons who have the clearest and strongest identity are exactly the ones who are most able to transcend the ego or the self and to become selfless . . .

The peak-experiencer becomes more loving and more accepting, and so he becomes more spontaneous and honest and innocent. . . .

Such people resolve the dichotomy between pride and humility by fusing them into a single complex superordinate unity, that is by being proud (in a certain sense) and also humble (in a certain sense). . . .

What has been called the "unitive consciousness" is often given in peak-experiences, i.e., a sense of the sacred glimpsed in and through the particular instance of the momentary, the secular, the worldly.

— Abraham Maslow

Let Go of All Support

The spirit is not always discovered in a positive and blissful quest for meaning. Sometimes it is found only after we have been broken and torn apart by failure and sadness. . . .

The spiritual life is incomplete if it is imagined only as a wondrous world of miracles and healings. As religious imagery shows in its terrifying deities, it also has its terrors and challenges. It demands that we let go finally of all supports and make our own fated descent into the mysteries that underlie all our surface activities. . . .

To be spiritual is to be taken over by a mysterious, divine compulsion to manifest some aspect of life's deepest force. We become most who we are when we allow the spirit to dismember us, unsettling our plans and understandings, remaking us from the very foundations of our existence. . . .

We find our wholeness as we are peeled away, like an onion, with the process finished when there is nothing left to peel. Perhaps only then will we be moved to give up the idea of wholeness altogether, having disintegrated sufficiently to be touched by life, and are therefore empty.

— Thomas Moore

The Self is Already Present

. . . the infinite is not a point, or a space — even a very Big Space — or a dimension among other points, spaces, and dimensions; but is rather point-less, spaceless, dimensionless . . . In just this fashion, the whole of the infinite can be present at all points of space, for being itself is spaceless, it does not contend with space and so is free to utterly embrace it . . . And since the infinite is present in its entirety at every point of space, all of the infinite is fully present right HERE . . .

And so also with time. The Absolute can be present in its entirety at every point of time only if It is itself timeless. . . . Hence, being timeless, all of Eternity is wholly and completely present at every point of time — and thus, all of Eternity is already present right NOW. . . .

Thus the Absolute, the Buddha-Mind, the real Self cannot be attained. For to attain union with the Absolute implies bringing together two things, and yet in reality there is only One . . . the Self is already present, and we're already It.

— Ken Wilber


Form, Process, and Deity

The discovery of mathematics, like all discoveries, both advanced human understanding, and also produced novel modes of error. Its error was the introduction of the doctrine of form, devoid of "life and motion."

. . . There is no such entity as a mere static number. There are only numbers playing their parts in various processes conceived in abstraction from the world-process. . . .

When Plato thought of mathematics he conceived of a changeless world of form, and contrasted it with the mere imitation in the world of transition. Yet when Plato thought of the realities of action, he swayed to the opposite point of view. He called for "life and motion" to rescue forms from a meaningless void.

. . . Space refers to the static necessity of each form of interwoven existence, and Deity expresses the lure of the ideal which is the potentiality beyond immediate fact. . . .

There are experiences of ideals — of ideals entertained, of ideals aimed at, of ideals achieved, of ideals defaced. This is the experience of the Deity of the universe. The intertwining of success and failure in respect to this final experience is essential. . . . The universe is thus understood as including a source of ideals. . . . The effective aspect of this source is Deity as immanent in the present experience.

— Alfred North Whitehead

The Realization of Coordinated Wholeness

. . . since beauty, like goodness and truth, has the character of appealing to all men, independently of their individual interests or personalities, we must regard the perception of it, just as in the cases of goodness and truth, as a manifestation in us of all-embracing personality [Divine Self], so that it represents divine perception . . . In our perceptions of beauty, and particularly perhaps of beauty in Nature, we are participating directly in divine perception, however imperfectly. . . .

Right conduct embodies coordinated unity which can be, and often is, called beautiful. It also embodies truth, as standing for a true perception of the relations between different individuals. Similarly truth, as being essentially motivated, involves not only a true realization of coordinated relations, but also practical use of the knowledge of them. In a similar way beauty involves both truth or right perception and the coordinated unity which we find also in right conduct. . . .

But what we call truth, goodness, and beauty are in themselves only partial realizations of the search after truth, goodness, and beauty. . . . The partial realizations need not, and do not, agree. Where the agreement lies is in the realization, however partial, of coordinated wholeness, and this we can recognize as the common divine element in the seeking after truth, goodness, and beauty.

— J. B. S. Haldane

A Transcendent Reality

It is widely believed among scientists that beauty is a reliable guide to truth, and many advances in theoretical physics have been made by the theorist demanding mathematical elegance of a new theory. . . .

Mathematical elegance is not an easy concept to convey to those unfamiliar with mathematics, but it is keenly appreciated by professional scientists. . . . If beauty is entirely biologically programmed, selected for its survival value alone, it is all the more surprising to see it re-emerge in the esoteric world of fundamental physics, which has no direct connection with biology. On the other hand, if beauty is more than mere biology at work, if our aesthetic appreciation stems from contact with something firmer and more pervasive, then it is surely a fact of major significance that the fundamental laws of the universe seem to reflect this "something."

. . . the universe looks as if it is unfolding according to some plan or blueprint. . . . The essential feature is that something of value emerges as the result of processing according to some ingenious pre-existing set of rules. These rules look as if they are the product of intelligent design. I do not see how that can be denied. . . . My own inclination is to suppose that qualities such as ingenuity, economy, beauty, and so on have a genuine transcendent reality . . .

— Paul Davies

A Unity with the Workings of Nature

The extraordinary accuracy of mathematics within physical behaviour has often been stressed. But there is much more to the mystery than just this. There is a very remarkable depth, subtlety and mathematical fruitfulness in the concepts that lie latent within physical processes. . . .

Ideas that were developed for the sole purpose of deepening our understanding of the workings of the physical world have very frequently provided profound and unexpected insights into mathematical problems that had already been objects of considerable interest for quite separate reasons. . . . Moreover, such mathematical properties, though often not at all anticipated by human beings before the appropriate insights came to light, have lain timelessly within the Platonic world, as unchangeable truths waiting to be discovered . . .

. . . the very possibility of a human understanding of such matters tells us something about the abilities that consciousness confers upon us. Admittedly there are some, such as Newton or Einstein, or Archimedes, Galileo, Maxwell, or Dirac . . . who seem to have more of this faculty of being able to "smell" out truth or beauty than is given to the rest of us. But a unity with the workings of Nature is potentially present within all of us, and is revealed in our very faculties or conscious comprehension and sensitivity . . . so that we, in turn, are capable of some kind of direct access, through that Platonic quality of "understanding," to the very ways in which our universe behaves at many different levels.

— Roger Penrose

The Ultimate Principle


This ultimate principle is beyond the reach of form, of thought, of experience.  It is beyond all categories of manifestation, beyond divisible time, beyond divisible space, beyond number, beyond name and shape, beyond the reach of minds and words.

        There sight cannot go, speech cannot go, nor the mind.
        We cannot know, we cannot understand.  How can one explain It?
        It is other than all that is known.  It is above the Unknown.  (Kena Upanishad 1.3)

This ultimate stage cannot be called either non-Being or Being.  It is neither one nor many.  We can only define it negatively, saying that it is nothing of what man can know or conceive, neither god, nor man, nor thing.  It is thus spoken of as nondual, unknowable, formless, changeless, limitless, etc.

This Immensity, this Void, the Unknown, this nonexistent Absolute, is the innermost nature of everything.

— Alain Daniélou, The Gods of India


Buddhists’ Emptiness is not on the plane of relativity.  It is Absolute Emptiness transcending all forms of mutual relationship, of subject and object, birth and death, God and the world, something and nothing, yes and no, affirmation and negation.  In Buddhist Emptiness there is no time, no space, no becoming, no-thingness; it is what makes all these things possible; it is a zero full of infinite possibilities, it is a void of inexhaustible contents.

— D. T. Suzuki, Mysticism: Christian and Buddhist


Since the ‘Zandiks’ saw in Infinite Time the one ultimate and changeless principle from which all else proceeds . . . their doctrines were almost certainly derived from those ‘scientific’ works which [King] Shāpūr had incorporated into the Avesta from Byzantium and India. . . . Time, for the Indians, was not simply time as we understand it.  As the Infinite it is the raw material, the materia prima, of all contingent being.  As Being it is the source of all becoming: it is Infinite Time-Space and it becomes embodied in the universe . . . Ideas not unlike these reappear in the [Zoroastrian] Dēnkart . . .

Zurvān, already referred to in the Avesta as the ‘Infinite’ — must inevitably have coalesced with the more abstract concept of infinite Time-Space as primal matter, the ultimate source of all things . . .

Zurvanism brings a new dimension into Zoroastrianism — the dimension of an eternity which is not simply infinite duration, but a condition that is beyond space and time, and which, being itself a state of perfect rest, must also be the source from which all movement and all action proceed.

— R. C. Zaehner, The Dawn & Twilight of Zoroastrianism


An understanding of the Tao in the Tao Te Ching should start with a consideration of it as the “Beginning” — as a cosmological first principle, origin, or primordial ground and source of being.

        There was something chaotic yet complete,
        Which existed before the creation of heaven and earth.
        Without sound and formless,
        It stands alone and does not change.
        It pervades all and is free from danger [of self-loss].    — [ch. 25]

The focus of concern [here] is basically with what precedes the creation of duality in the world.  Most important is . . . the mysterious condition of the Tao as the primordial source, principle, or “thing” responsible for, and controlling, the bio-cosmic “birth” or “creation” of the ordinary phenomenal world.  We have, then, a description of a pre-cosmic stage in the overall creative life process of the universe, a stage where there was not yet a separate existence of the phenomenal world.  It was a stage that was a perfect, total, or complete (ch’eng) fusion of all things.

— N. J. Girardot, Myth and Meaning in Early Taoism


All things, according to Plotinus, have come forth from the the Absolute Godhead or One . . . With the rest of the Neoplatonists, he conceives of the Universe as an emanation, eternally poured forth from this One . . . Its real parallel in Christian theology is that conception of the “Super-essential Godhead, beyond and above the Trinity of Persons . . .”

The One is not a Being, but the Source of being, which is its first offspring.  The One is perfect, that is, it has nothing, seeks nothing, needs nothing; but as we may say it overflows, and this overflowing is creative.

Yet this eternal creative action “beyond spirit, sense, and life,” involves no self-loss.  It is the welling forth of an unquenchable spring, the eternal fountain of life.

—Evelyn Underhill, “The Mysticism of Plotinus”

Jewish Mysticism

’Ein-Sof, the Infinite — that is, the concealed Godhead — dwells unknowable in the depth of its own being, without form or shape.  It is beyond all cognitive statements, and can only be described through negation — indeed, as the negation of all negations.  No images can depict it, nor can it be named by any name. . . .

The divine life is expressed in ten steps or levels, which both conceal and reveal Him.  It flows out and animates Creation; but at the same time it remains deep inside.

The Infinite . . . His essence penetrates and descends via the Sephiroth and between the Sephiroth . . . down to the final point of the abyss — the whole world is full of His glory.

In other words, the formless substance of the ’Ein-Sof is immediately present, in its full reality, in all stages of the process of emanation and creation, and in every imaginable shape.

—Gershom Scholem, On the Mystical Shape of the Godhead

Mystical Islam

Here, the Numen [of Divinity] is conceived as the Being beyond all being, or even as the Not-Being, because it cannot be described by any of the categories of finite thought; it is infinite, timeless, spaceless, the Absolute Existence, and the Only Reality.  By contrast the world possesses only a “limited reality,” which derives its conditioned existence from the Absolute Existence of the Divine. It may be symbolized as the boundless ocean in which the individual self vanishes like a drop . . .

[This] feeling of the essential unity of God and man . . . has been expressed by the poets through different symbols; they like to speak of the ocean, the billows, the foam, and the drop, which in each instance look different and yet are the same water. . . . Ibn ‘Arabī had visualized the divine essence as a large green ocean out of which the fleeting forms emerge like waves, to fall again and disappear in the fathomless depths.

— Annemarie Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions of Islam

Mystic Christianity

In Eckhart’s German writings . . . mystic Christianity, or as it might more truly be called, the Christianity as conceived by St. John, finds its highest expression. . . . He quotes the pagan masters as well as the Fathers of the Church, and he sometimes appeals to the former as possessing a truer insight into certain mysteries than even Christian teachers.

Eckhart defines the Godhead as simple esse [to be] . . . He naturally appeals to the Old Testament in order to show that I am is the only possible name of Deity. . . . Being without qualities God is to us unknowable and incomprehensible, hidden and dark . . .

Like the Vedântist, he speaks of God as the universal Cause, and yet claims for Him an extra-mundane existence.  “God,” he writes, “is outside all nature, He is not Himself Nature, He is above it.”

What is generally called Creation is conceived by Eckhart as Emanation.  On this point he is at one with Thomas Aquinas . . . [who] explains creation as emanatio totius entis ab uno, emanation of all that is from One.  Nay, he goes further, and maintains that God is in all things, potentially, essentially, and present . . .

“All creatures,” he writes, “are in God uncreated . . .”  This would seem to mean that the ideas of all things were in God, before the things themselves were created or were made manifest. . . . But though the soul and all the powers of the soul . . . are created, he holds that there is something in the soul uncreated, something divine, nay the Godhead itself. . . .

In the same way then as the Godhead or the Divine Ground is without any knowable qualities and cannot be known except as being, the Divine Element in the soul also is without qualities and cannot be known except as being.  This Divine Spark, though it may be covered and hidden for a time by ignorance, passion, or sin, is imperishable. . . .

It is through this Divine element in the human soul that we are and become one with God.  Man cannot know God objectively, but in what Eckhart calls mystic contemplation, he can feel his oneness with the Divine.

— Max Müller, “Christian Theosophy”

Homepage of The Theosophical Society