Monday, January 03, 2005

The Law of Miracles

I read a book called Search for the 11:11 and that night started to see a stream of particles of light cascading down all around me, and a swirling column of bluish light. I would have been totally freaked out about it, but the next day I picked up a copy of Autobiography of a Yogi - by Pramahansa Yogananda and "just happened" to open it up to this chapter.


The Law of Miracles

The great novelist Leo Tolstoy* wrote a delightful folk tale, The Three Hermits. His friend Nicholas Roerich summarized it, as follows:

"On an island there lived three old hermits. They were so simple that the only prayer they used was: 'We are three; Thou art Three-have mercy on us!' Great miracles were manifested during this naive prayer.

"The local bishop came to hear about the three hermits and their inadmissible prayer, and decided to visit them in order to teach them the canonical invocations. He arrived on the island, told the hermits that their heavenly petition was undignified, and taught them many of the customary prayers. The bishop then left on a boat. He saw, following the ship, a radiant light. As it approached he discerned the three hermits, who were holding hands and running upon the waves in an effort to overtake the vessel.

" 'We have forgotten the prayers you taught us,' they cried as they reached the bishop, 'and have hastened to ask you to repeat them.' The awed bishop shook his head.

" 'Dear ones,' he replied humbly, 'continue to live with your old prayer!' "

How did the three saints walk on the water? How did Christ resurrect his crucified body?
* Tolstoy had many ideals in common with Mahatma Gandhi; the two men corresponded on the subject of nonviolence. Tolstoy considered Christ's central teaching to be ,"resist not evil (with evil)" (Matthew 5:39); evil should be "resisted" only with its logically effective opposite: good or love. The story apparently has a historical basis; an editorial note informs us that the bishop met the three hermits while he was sailing from Archangel to the Slovetsky Monastery, at the mouth of the Dvina River.

How did Lahiri Mahasaya and Sri Yukteswar perform their miracles? Modem science has, as yet, no answer; though with the advent of the Atomic Age the scope of the world- mind has been abruptly enlarged. The word "impossible" is becoming less prominent in man's vocabulary.

The Vedic scriptures declare that the physical world operates under one fundamental law of maya, the principle of relativity and duality. God, the Sole Life, is Absolute Unity; to appear as the separate and diverse manifestations of a creation He wears a false or unreal veil. That illusory dualistic veil is maya. Many great scientific discoveries of modem times have confirmed, this simple pronouncement of the ancient rishis, Newton's Law of Motion is a law of maya: "To every action there is always an equal and contrary reaction; the mutual actions of any two bodies are always equal and oppositely directed." Action and reaction are thus exactly equal. "To have a single force is impossible. There must be, and always is, a pair of forces equal and opposite."

Fundamental natural activities all betray their mayic origin. Electricity, for example, is a phenomenon of repulsion and attraction; its electrons and protons are electrical opposites. Another example: the atom or final particle of matter is, like the earth itself, a magnet with positive and negative poles. The entire phenomenal world is under the inexorable sway of polarity; no law of physics, chemistry, or any other science is ever found free from inherent opposite or contrasted principles.

Physical science, then, cannot formulate laws outside of maya: the very fabric and structure of creation. Nature herself is maya; natural science must perforce deal with her ineluctable quiddity. In her own domain, she is eternal and inexhaustible; future scientists can do no more than probe one aspect after another of her varied infinitude. Science thus remains in a perpetual flux, unable to reach finality; fit indeed to discover the laws of an already existing and functioning cosmos but powerless to detect the Law Framer and Sole Operator. The majestic manifestations of gravitation and electricity have become known, but what gravitation and electricity are, no mortal knoweth. *[Marconi, the great inventor, made the following admission of scien- tific inadequacy before the finalities: "The inability of science to solve life is absolute. This fact would be truly frightening were it not for faith. The mystery of life is certainly the most persistent problem ever placed before the thought of man."]

To surmount maya was the task assigned to the human race by the millennial prophets. To rise above the duality of creation and perceive the unity of the Creator was conceived of as man's highest goal. Those who cling to the cosmic illusion must accept its essential law of polarity: flow and ebb, rise and fall, day and night, pleasure and pain, good and evil, birth and death. This cyclic pattern assumes a certain anguishing monotony after man has gone through a few thousand human births; he begins then to cast a hopeful eye beyond the compulsions of InaJa.
To remove the veil of maya is to uncover the secret of creation. He who thus denudes the universe is the only true monotheist. All others are worshiping heathen images. So long as man remains subject to the dualistic illusions of Nature, the Janus-faced Maya is his goddess; he cannot know the one true God.

The world illusion, maya, manifests in men as avidya, literally, "not-knowledge," ignorance, delusion. Maya or avidya can never be destroyed through intellectual con- viction or analysis, but solely through attaining the interior state of nirbikalpa samadhi. The Old Testament prophets, and seers of all lands and ages, spoke from that state of consciousness. Ezekiel said: "Afterwards he brought me to the gate, even the gate that looketh toward the east: and, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory." Through the divine eye in the forehead (east), the yogi sails his consciousness into omnipresence, hearing the Word or Aum, divine sound of "many waters": the vibrations of light that constitute the sole reality of creation.

Among the trillion mysteries of the cosmos, the most phenomenal is light. Unlike sound waves, whose transmission requires air or other material media, light waves pass freely through the vacuum of interstellar space. Even the hypothetical ether, held as the interplanetary medium of light in the undulatory theory, may be discarded on the Einsteinian grounds that the geometrical properties of space render unnecessary a theory of ether. Under either hypothesis, light remains the most subtle, the freest from material dependence, of any natural manifestation.

In the gigantic conceptions of Einstein, the velocity of light-186,300 miles per second-dominates the whole Theory of Relativity. He proves mathematically that the velocity of light is, so far as man's finite mind is concerned, the only constant of a universe in flux. On the sole "absolute" of light velocity depend all human standards of time and space. Not abstractly eternal as hitherto, considered, time and space are relative and finite factorsThey derive their conditional measurement-validities only in reference to the yardstick of light velocity.

In joining space as a dimensional relativity, time is now stripped to its rightful nature: a simple essence of ambiguity. With a few equational strokes of his pen, Einstein banished from the universe every fixed reality except that of light.

In a later development, his Unified Field Theory, the great physicist sought to embody in one mathematical formula the laws of gravitation and of electromagnetism. Reducing the cosmical structure to variations on a single law, Einstein has reached across the ages to the rishis who proclaimed a sole fabric of creation: a protean maya. *

On the epochal Theory of Relativity have arisen the mathematical possibilities of exploring the ultimate atom. Great scientists are now boldly asserting not only that the atom is energy rather than matter, but that atomic energy is essentially mind-stuff. "The frank realization that physical science is concerned with a world of shadows is one of the most significant advances," Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington writes in The Nature of the Physical World. "In the world of physics we watch a shadowgraph performance of the drama of familiar life. The shadow of my elbow rests on the shadow table as the shadow ink flows over the shadow paper. It is all symbolic, and as a symbol the physicist leaves it. Then comes the alchemist Mind who transmutes the symbols To put the conclusion crudely, the stuff of the world is mind-stuff."

With the recent devising of an electron microscope came definite proof of the light-essence of atoms and of the inescapable duality of nature. The New York Times gave the following report of a 1937 demonstration of the electron microscope before a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science:

The crystalline structure of tungsten, hitherto known only indirectly by means of X rays, stood outlined boldly on a fluorescent screen, showing nine atoms in their correct positions in the space lattice, a cube, with one atom in each comer and one in the center. The atoms in the crystal lattice of the tungsten appeared on the fluorescent screen as points of light, arranged in geometric pattern.

* Einstein was convinced that the link between the laws of electromagnetism and gravity could be expressed in a mathematical formula (the Unified Field Theory), on which he was working at the time this book was written. Though he did not live to complete his work on it, many physicists today share Einstein's conviction that such a link will
be found.

Against this crystal cube of light the bombarding molecules of air could be observed as dancing points of light, similar to points of sunlight shimmering on moving waters...The principle of the electron microscope was first discovered in 1927 by Drs. Clinton J. Davisson and Lester H. Germer of the Bell Telephone Laboratories, New York City, who found that the electron has a dual personality, partaking of the characteristics of both a particle and a wave.* The wave quality gave the electron the characteristic of light, and a search was begun to devise means for "focusing" electrons in a manner similar to the focusing of light by means of a lens.
For his discovery of the Jekyll-Hyde quality of the electron, which... showed that the entire realm of physical nature has a dual personality, Dr. Davisson received the Nobel Prize in physics.

"The stream of knowledge," Sir James Jeans writes in The Mysterious Universe, "is heading toward a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine." Twentieth-century science is thus sounding like a page from the hoary Vedas.

From science, then, if it must be so, let man learn the philosophic truth that there is no material universe; its warp and woof is maya, illusion. Under analysis all its mirages of reality dissolve. As, one by one, the reassuring props of a physical cosmos crash beneath him, man dimly perceives his idolatrous reliance, his transgression of the Divine Command: "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me."

In his famous equation outlining the equivalence of mass and energy, Einstein proved that the energy in any particle of matter is equal to its mass or weight multi- plied by the square of the velocity of light. The release of the atomic energies is brought about through annihilation of the material particles. The "death" of matter has given birth to an Atomic Age.

Light velocity is a mathematical standard or constant not because there is an absolute value in 186,300 miles a second, but because no material body, whose mass increases with its velocity, can ever attain the velocity of light. Stated another way: only a material body whose mass is infinite could equal the velocity of light.

This conception brings us to the law of miracles. Masters who are able to materialize and dematerialize their bodies and other objects, and to move with the velocity of light, and to utilize the creative light rays in bringing into instant visibility any physical manifestation, have fulfilled the lawful condition: their mass is infinite.

The consciousness of a perfected yogi is effortlessly identified not with a narrow body but with the universal structure. Gravitation, whether the "force" of Newton or the Einsteinian "manifestation of inertia," is powerless to compel a master to exhibit the property of weight: the distinguishing gravitational condition of all material objects. He who knows himself as the omnipresent Spirit is subject no longer to the rigidities of a body in time and space. The imprisoning "rings-pass-not" have yielded to the solvent: I am He.

"Let there be light! And there was light."* In the creation of the universe, God's first command brought into being the structural essential: light. On the beams of this immaterial medium occur all divine manifestations. Devotees of every age testify to the appearance of God as flame and light. "His eyes were as a flame of fire," St. John tells us, "... and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.”

A yogi who through perfect meditation has merged his consciousness with the Creator perceives the cosmical 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."* Long concentration on 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.

"Optical images," Dr. L. T. Troland of Harvard tells us, "are built up on the same principle as the ordinary 'halftone' engravings; that is, they are made up of minute dottings or stipplings far too small to be detected by the eye. . . . The sensitiveness of the retina is so great that a visual sensation can be produced by relatively few quanta of the right kind 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 to project instantly into perceptible manifestation the ubiquitous light atoms. The actual form of the projection (whatever it be: a tree, a medicine, a human body) is determined by the yogi's wish and by his power of will and of visualization.

At night man enters the state of dream-consciousness and escapes from the false egoistic limitations that daily hem him round. In sleep he has an ever recurrent demonstration of the omnipotence of his mind. Lo! in the dream appear his long-dead friends, the remotest continents, the resurrected scenes of his childhood. That free and unconditioned consciousness, which all men briefly experience in certain of their dreams, is the permanent state of mind of a God-tuned master. Innocent of all personal motives, and employing the creative will bestowed on him by the Creator, a yogi rearranges the light atoms of the universe to satisfy any sincere prayer of a devotee.

"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth."* For this purpose were man and creation made: that he should rise up as master of maya, knowing his dominion over the cosmos.

In 1915, shortly after I had entered the Swami Order, I witnessed a strange vision. Through it I came to understand the relativity of human consciousness, and clearly perceived the unity of the Eternal Light behind the painful dualities of maya. The vision descended on me as I sat one morning in my little attic room in Father's Garpar Road home. For months the First World War had been raging in Europe; I had been reflecting sadly on the vast toll of death.

As I closed my eyes in meditation, my consciousness was suddenly transferred to the body of a captain in command of a battleship. The thunder of guns split the air as shots were exchanged between shore batteries and the ship's cannons. A huge shell hit the powder magazine and tore my ship asunder. I jumped into the water, together with the few sailors who had survived the explosion.

Heart pounding, I reached the shore safely. But alas! a stray bullet ended its swift flight in my chest. I fell groaning to the ground. My whole body was paralyzed, yet I was aware of possessing it as one is conscious of a leg gone to sleep. "At last the mysterious footstep of Death has caught up with me," I thought. With a final sigh, I was about to sink into unconsciousness when lo! I found myself seated in the lotus posture in my Garpar Road room.
Hysterical tears poured forth as I joyfully stroked and pinched my regained possession: a body free from a bullet hole in the breast. I rocked to and fro, inhaling and exhaling to assure myself that I was alive. Amidst these self-gratulations, again I found my consciousness transferred to the captain's dead body by the gory shore. Utter confusion of mind came upon me.
"Lord," I prayed, "am I dead or alive?" A dazzling play of light filled the whole horizon. A soft rumbling vibration formed itself into words:

"What has life or death to do with light? In the image of My light I have made you. The relativities of life and death belong to the cosmic dream. Behold your dreamless being! Awake, My child, awake!"

As steps in man's awakening, the Lord inspires scientists to discover, at the right time and place, the secrets of His creation. Many modern discoveries help man to apprehend the cosmos as a varied expression of one power-light, guided by divine intelligence. The wonders of the motion picture, of radio, of television, of radar, of the photoelectric cell- the amazing "electric eye," of atomic energies, are all based on the electromagnetic phenomenon of light.

The motion-picture art can portray any miracle. From the impressive visual standpoint, no marvel is barred to trick photography. A man may be seen as a transparent astral body that is rising from his gross physical form, he can walk on the water, resurrect the dead, reverse the natural sequence of developments, and play havoc with time and space. The expert may assemble the photographic images as he pleases, achieving optical wonders similar to those that a true master produces with actual light rays.

Motion pictures, with their lifelike images, illustrate many truths concerning creation. The Cosmic Director has written His own plays and has summoned the tremendous casts for the pageant of the centuries. From the dark booth of eternity He sends His beams of light through the films of successive ages, and pictures are thrown on the backdrop of space.

Just as cinematic images appear to be real but are only combinations of light and shade, so is the universal variety a delusive seeming. The planetary spheres, with their countless forms of life, are naught but figures in a cosmic motion picture. Temporarily true to man's five sense perceptions, the transitory scenes are cast on the screen of human consciousness by the infinite creative beam.

A cinema audience may look up and see that all screen images are appearing through the instrumentality of one imageless beam of light. The colorful universal drama is similarly issuing from the single white light of a Cosmic Source. With inconceivable ingenuity God is staging "super-colossal" entertainment for His children, making them actors as well as audience in His planetary theater.

One day I entered a cinema house to view a newsreel of the European battlefields. The First World War was still being waged in the West; the newsreel presented the II carnage with such realism that I left the theater with a troubled heart. "Lord," I prayed, "why dost Thou permit such suffering?"

To my intense surprise, an instant answer came in the form of a vision of the actual European battlefields. The scenes, filled with the dead and dying, far surpassed in ferocity any representation of the newsreel. "Look intently!" A gentle Voice spoke to my inner consciousness. "You will see that these scenes now being enacted in France are nothing but a play of chiaroscuro. They are the cosmic motion picture, as real and as unreal as the theater newsreel you have just seen -a play within a play." My heart was still not comforted. The Divine Voice went on: "Creation is light and shadow both, else no picture is possible. The good and evil of maya must ever alternate in supremacy. If joy were ceaseless here in this world, would man ever desire another? Without suffering, he scarcely cares to recall that he has forsaken his eternal home. Pain is a prod to remembrance. The way of escape is through wisdom. The tragedy of death is unreal; those who shudder at it are like an ignorant actor who dies of fright on the stage when nothing more has been fired at him than a blank cartridge. My sons are children of light; they will not sleep forever in delusion."

Although I had read scriptural accounts of maya, they had not given me the deep insight that came with personal visions and with the accompanying words of consolation. One's values are profoundly changed when he is finally convinced that creation is only a vast motion picture; and that not in it, but beyond it, lies his own reality.

After I had finished writing this chapter, I sat on my bed in the lotus posture. My room* was dimly lit by two shaded lamps. Lifting my gaze, I noticed that the ceiling was dotted with small mustard-colored lights, scintillating and quivering with a radiumlike luster. Myriads of penciled rays, like sheets of rain, gathered into a trans- parent shaft and poured silently upon me.

At once my physical body lost its grossness and became metamorphosed into astral texture. I felt a floating sensation as, barely touching the bed, the weightless body shifted slightly and alternately to left and right. I looked around the room; the furniture and walls were as usual, but the little mass of light had so multiplied that the ceiling was invisible. I was wonder-struck.

"This is the cosmic motion-picture mechanism." A Voice spoke as though from within the light. "Shedding its beam on the white screen of your bed sheets, it is producing the picture of your body. Behold, your form is nothing but light!" I gazed at my arms and moved them back and forth, yet could not feel their weight. Ecstatic joy overwhelmed me. The cosmic stem of light, blossoming as my body, seemed a divine reproduction of the light beams that stream out of the projection booth in a cinema house and make manifest the pictures on the screen.

For a long time I experienced this motion picture of i my body in the faintly lit theater of my own bedroom. Though I have had many visions, none was ever more singular. As the illusion of a solid body was completely dissipated, and as my realization deepened that the essence of all objects is light, I looked up to the throbbing stream of lifetrons and spoke entreatingly. "Divine Light, please withdraw this, my humble bodily picture, into Thyself; even as Elijah was drawn up to heaven in a chariot of flame."*

This prayer was evidently startling; the beam disappeared. My body resumed its normal weight and sank on the bed; the swarm of dazzling ceiling lights flickered and vanished. My time to leave this earth had apparently not arrived. "Besides," I thought philosophically, "Elijah might well be displeased at my presumption!"

*II Kings 2:11. A "miracle" is commonly considered to be an effect or event with- out law, or beyond law. But all events in our precisely adjusted universe are lawfully wrought and lawfully explicable. 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.
Nothing may truly be said to be a "miracle" except in the profound sense that everything is a miracle. That each of us is encased in an intricately organized body, and is set upon an earth whirling through space among the stars-'--is anything more commonplace? or more miraculous?

Great prophets like Christ and Lahiri Mahasaya usually perform many miracles. Such masters have a large and difficult spiritual mission to execute for mankind; miraculously helping those in distress appears to be a part of that mission. (See p. 254 n.) Divine fiats are required against incurable diseases and insoluble human problems. When Christ was asked by the nobleman to heal his dying son at Capemaum, Jesus replied with wry humor: "Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe." But he added: "Go thy way; thy son liveth" (John 4:46-54).
In this chapter I have given the Vedic explanation of maya, the mag- ical power of illusion that underlies the phenomenal worlds. Western science has already discovered that a "magic" of unreality pervades atomic "matter." However, it is not only Nature, but man also (in his mortal aspect) who is subject to maya: the principle of relativity, contrast, duality, inversion, oppositional states.

It should not be imagined that the troth about maya was understood only by the rishis. The Old Testament prophets called maya by the name of Satan (lit., in Hebrew, "the adversary"). The Greek Testament, as an equivalent for Satan, uses diabolos or devil. Satan or Maya is the Cosmic Magician who produces multiplicity of forms to hide the One Formless Verity. In God's plan and play (lita), the sole function of Satan or Maya is to attempt to divert man from Spirit to matter, from Reality to unreality.

Christ describes maya picturesquely as a devil, a murderer, and a liar. "The devil...was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the troth, because there is no troth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it" (John 8:44).
"The devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil" (I John 3:8). That is, the manifestation of Christ Consciousness, within man's own being, effortlessly destroys the illusions or "works of the devil." Maya is "from the beginning" because of its structural inherence in the phenomenal worlds. These are ever in transitional flux as antithesis to the Divine Immutability.

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