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Yogananda’s Experience of Cosmic Consciousness
I cognized the center of my empyrean as a point of intuitive perception in my heart. Irradiating splendour issued from my nucleus to every part of the universal structure. ... “It is the Spirit of God that actively sustains every form and force in the universe; yet He is transcendental and aloof in the blissful uncreated void beyond the worlds of vibratory phenomenon,” Master explained. (Yogananda, 1998, pp. 167-8)
| A first mystical dimension ascribed to
involves the description of the spiritual or divine spark as the
of points, more subtle than any physical particle or quantum,
zero point condition. This point source of emergence emanates out
of a realm of Transcendental Being, or the Absolute. The
realm is paradoxically both a void and plenum–that is a seeming
which mystically contains all potencies within an ineffable boundless
Another mystical dimension ascribed to the Self is that of the universe. An ancient Vedic saying declares: “Thou art that,” meaning you are the world. As a microcosm of the macrocosm, the individual Self, in blending with the larger SELF, reflects or contains all things within self. Thus, the Self is intimately related to the whole of the larger universe. The individual spirit soul is a seed or atom of the Supreme Supersoul, and can experience the deeper realities and the larger structures of the universe. In this way, one might know thy Self, the universe, and the Gods. Various Upanishads suggest this possibility:
As large as the universe outside, even so large is the universe within the lotus of the heart. Within it are heaven and earth, the sun, the moon, the lightening, and all the stars. What is in the macrocosm is in this microcosm ... All things that exist ... are in the city of Brahman. Chandogya Upanishad
| There are varied reports within the
of individual experiences which illustrate these paradoxical ideas,
the dimensions of the spirit soul as a microcosm of the
Paramahansa Yogananda, a twentieth century Indian saint and master of
yoga, was one of the first eastern sages to become prominent in the
through his work as founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship in
America. In his classic book, Autobiography of a Yogi, Yogananda
provides an extraordinary account of his realization of the fantastic
inherent in the true nature of Self. The following is
description of his experience in “cosmic consciousness,” which his
initiates by striking him gently over the heart:
The whole vicinity lay bare before me. My ordinary frontal vision was now changed to a vast spherical sight, simultaneously all-perceptive. Through the back of my head I saw men strolling far down Rai Ghat Lane, and noticed also a white cow that was leisurely approaching. ... After she had passed behind the brick wall of the courtyard, I saw her clearly still.
All objects within my panoramic gaze trembled and vibrated like quick motion pictures. My body, Master’s, the pillared courtyard, the furniture and floor, the trees and sunshine, occasionally became violently agitated, until all melted into a luminescent sea; even as sugar crystals, thrown into a glass of water, dissolve after being shaken. The unifying light alternated with materializations of form, the metamorphoses revealing the law of cause and effect in creation.
An oceanic joy broke upon calm endless shores of my soul. The Spirit of God, I realized, is exhaustless Bliss; His body is countless tissues of light. A swelling glory within me began to envelop towns, continents, the earth, solar and stellar systems, tenuous nebulae, and floating universes. The entire cosmos, gently luminous, like a city seen afar at night, glimmered within the infinitude of my being. ... The divine dispersion of rays poured from an Eternal Source, blazing into galaxies, transfigured with ineffable auras. Again and again I saw the creative beams condense into constellations, then resolve into sheets of transparent flame. By rhythmic reversion, sextillion worlds passed into diaphanous lustre, then fire became firmament.
I cognized the center of the empyrean as a point of intuitive perception in my heart. Irradiating splendour issued from my nucleus to every part of the universal structure. ... Suddenly the breath returned to my lungs. With a disappointment almost unbearable, I realized that my infinite immensity was lost. Once more I was limited to the humiliating cage of a body, not easily accommodative to the Spirit. Like a prodigal child, I had run away from my macrocosm home and had imprisoned myself in a narrow microcosm. ...
“It is the Spirit of God that actively sustains every form and force in the universe; yet He is transcendental and aloof in the blissful uncreated void beyond the worlds of vibratory phenomenon,” Master explained. (1998, pp 166-8)
| It is instructive to review Yogananda’s
in order to have a clearer idea of what his account entails.
process is initiated when his master, Sri Yukteswar, states “your
desire shall be fulfilled,” and then reaches over and strikes him on
chest above the heart. At this point, Yogananda feels his soul
mind stream out of his body like light, so that his awareness is
the entire volume of space around his body and the ashram. He
the inner activity of the plants, the soil and the ashram, while
a “vast spherical sight, simultaneously all-perceptive.” This
is of a level of samadhi, wherein consciousness interpenetrates
nature and larger spheres of space/time.
Yogananda then experiences the objects and scene surrounding him melting into a luminescent sea, with materializations of forms alternating with experiences of the unifying light. He experiences the inner dimensions of things as they crystallize out of the underlying realm of light into material forms, and then the dissolution of forms back into the underlying light realm. Yogananda has united the light within himself with the unifying light of Brahman, which he describes as “the structural essence of creation.” In doing so, he witnesses the cosmic dance of the involution and evolution of elements, all within an infinite Sea of Light!
Yogananda’s awareness then begins to envelop larger and larger realms of creation, passing from towns, to continents, the earth, the solar system, the galaxy and floating universes! Creation is revealed to involve the “dispersion of rays poured from an Eternal source,” which condense or crystallize into galaxies and constellations, which again resolve back into sheets of transparent flame. As before, Yogananda experiences the process of inward creation and dissolution, although this time at the level of the universe.
Finally, Yogananda cognises the “center of the empyrean.” The term empyrean from ancient and medieval cosmology refers to the highest heaven or heavenly sphere consisting of fire and light. The center of the empyrean and of the universe was “a point of intuitive perception in his heart”! From this point or nucleus, Yogananda experienced an “irradiating splendour” issuing to every part of the universal structure.
| Yogananda’s adventures in cosmic
and spiritual realization, illustrate these most unusual dimensions
to the spiritual soul, or divine spark–that it is a point source of
Spirit” emerging from the unifying Light, and which is interconnected
the Whole. The mystics and saints are most serious in claiming
the Self, the microcosm, is interconnected to the whole–of life, the
and to God (Brahman). An atomic point or quantum of pure
unfolds to embrace the universe! Yogananda’s experience
the statements of the Chandogya Upanishad:
“As large as the universe outside
In the following passage, Yogananda attempts to explain the principles behind this cosmic experience, and what he calls the law of miracles:
A yogi who through perfect meditation has merged his consciousness with the Creator perceives the cosmic essence as light (vibrations of life energy); to him there is no difference between the light rays composing water and the light rays composing land. Free from matter-consciousness, free from the three dimensions of space and the fourth dimension of time, a master transfers his body of light with equal ease over or through the light rays of earth, water, fire, and air.
“If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.” (Matthew 6:22) ... the liberating spiritual eye has enabled the yogi to destroy all delusions concerning matter and its gravitational weight; he sees the universe as the Lord created it: an essentially undifferentiated mass of light. ...
The law of miracles is operable by any man who has realized that the essence of creation is light. A master is able to employ his divine knowledge of light phenomena ... a yogi rearranges the light atoms of the universe ... I came to understand the relativity of human consciousness, and clearly perceive the unity of the Eternal Light behind the painful dualities of maya. ...
The colourful universal drama is ... issuing from the single white light of a Cosmic Source. ... “My sons are children of light; they will not sleep forever in delusion.” ... The so-called miraculous powers of a great master are a natural accompaniment to his exact understanding of subtle laws that operate in the inner cosmos of consciousness. (1998, pp.315 - 321)
The mystical heart doctrine provides an
holographic model of the Self (and Super Self). The Self is a
source of coherent light consciousness emanating from a realm of
Light and the uncreated Void. Light is the structural essence of
creation. A point of intuitive perception within the heart can
be related to the larger dimensions of the macrocosmic universe!
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