Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Song of transcendental unity

If the red slayer think he slays,
Or if the slain think he is slain,
They know not well the subtle ways
I keep, and pass, and turn again.

Far or forgot to me is near;
Shadow and sunlight are the same;
The vanished gods to me appear;
And one to me are shame and fame.

They reckon ill who leave me out;
When me they fly, I am the wings;
I am the doubter and the doubt,
And I the hymn the Brahmin sings.

The strong gods pine for my abode,
And pine in vain the sacred Seven;
But thou, meek lover of the good!
Find me, and turn thy back on heaven.

This is one my most loved mystical poems of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the title of which is ‘Brahma’.
In his later life from being a pastor, he turned to a spiritual path greatly influenced by the Vedas and Bhagavad-Gita. His essay “Over-soul” demonstrates his philosophical thinking and articulates his view of this dichotomy between phenomenal plurality and transcendental unity:

“We live in succession, in division, in parts, in particles. Meantime within man is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related, the eternal ONE. And this deep power in which we exist and whose beatitude is all accessible to us, is not only self-sufficing and perfect in every hour, but the act of seeing and the thing seen, the seer and the spectacle, the subject and the object, are one. We see the world piece by piece, as the sun, the moon, the animal, the tree; but the whole, of which these are shining parts, is the soul.”

All mystics longed for this transcendental union. A good example is the vision of St. Theresa of Avila as portrayed in the picture. Saint Teresa's love of God and her desire for spiritual union with him found expression in a mystical vision in which an angel pierced her heart with a golden spear and sent her into a trance. The erotic intensity of her vision is vividly suggested in the image by Teresa's swooning expression and languid pose, and by the deep folds of drapery, which convey her agitation.

The only way words can convey this state of union is through poetry, which has the unique character of presenting itself in an esoteric form to a discerning mind.

Love to you all


  1. The form & content of the poetry sounds like simple wordplay initially. But even to get the feel of its depth,one needs a deep insight. I think it is not for every one to realize the mystic nature of our existence and that's why we try to attain perfection and satisfaction in materiaistic ambitions.In the process we tend to forget our true worth and continue to live life in parts.

  2. "one to me shame and fame" depicts the higest level of human existence towards which many of us striving in our own way. There is one poem in Thiruvasagam which I would like to share in this context:
    "Iam not afraid of birth
    Nor of death
    I don't want the heavens
    Neither care for the mighty rulers.
    As long as I am sure of your eternal feet I don't care for such minor things"

  3. Christy, the needed depth of insight is great for a mystical experience but it has no link to the human ambition of greed or materialistic existence. The vast majority of people see existence only at a sensory level and operate from a consciousness derived from eons of human experience in this mode. But the spirit is restless when one does not rise above this mundane existence. To respond to this urge and take life to a higher plane is within the capacity of all creation.
    According to me it may take many births for one to attain this realized state but evolution definitely drives creation towards this point which Pierre Chardin called the "Omega Point".

  4. SS! Thanks for the cross reference from Thiruvasagam, the great Tamil Bakthi (worship) literature. All great seers & saints experienced the elevated state of unity which is the core of our being.

  5. Thank you for the wonderful and insightful post. Our souls do yearn for this Union, but most people are unaware of this need because of the diversions and clamor of the everyday world. Most would probably not even know that it is possible to have such a life-changing experience. If one is lucky, they might hear the topic of St. Theresa and her experience in church, but it would probably be presented more as a history lesson about an experience that happened in the distant past that is unobtainable in this day, or only reserved for saints. I think news of such an experience in our society today (esp. in the US), would be viewed as caused by a physical ailment and reason to go to the doctor

  6. Thanks Rebecca for your feedback. The content of your comment can come only from a true seeker. Continuing our search beyond the sensory world is the yearning of the soul.