Franklin Merrell-Wolff: Nirvanic Consciousness

Franklin Merrell-Wolff

Franklin Merrell-Wolff (1887-1985)

A new way of approaching the subject of Nirvana has come to my mind which may be helpful in clarifying certain difficulties relative to the nature of this State. The usual idea of Nirvana seems to be that It is a sort of blissful State produced by an extinguishing of personal life through the elimination of the will-to-live and the desire for enjoyment. Since ordinary men find themselves unable to conceive of consciousness unrelated to personality and the various cravings associated with sentient life, Nirvana appears to be something like an absolute non-existence or an annihilation in the full sense of the word. If, on the other hand, it is granted that Nirvana is some sort of State of Consciousness, it is often thought of as something undesirable. There is much misconception in all this. Anyone who has ever touched even the hem of Nirvanic Consciousness would not regard It as an undesirable State and most certainly would Know that It did not imply the cessation of Consciousness, although It is a kind of consciousness quite different from anything to be found within the relative field. Now the difficulty seems to me to grow out of a misunderstanding of what is meant when we say 'I,' and I believe that I can say something that will make this matter clearer.

Approached from the usual standpoint of relative consciousness, the 'I' seems to be something like a point. This 'point' is one man is different from the 'I' in another man. One 'I' can have interests that are incompatible the interests of another 'I,' and the result is conflict. Further, the purpose of life seems to center around the attainment of enjoyment by the particular I-point which a given individual seems to be. It is true that in one sense the 'I' is a point, and the first objective of the discriminative practice is the isolation of this point from all the material filling of relative consciousness, and then restricting self-identity to this point. For my part, I finally applied this technique with success. But, almost immediately, at the moment of success, a very significant change in the meaning of the 'I' began to develop. A sort of process of 'spreading out' began that culminated in a kind of spatial self-identity. I found that the 'I' had come to mean Space instead of a point. It was a Space that extended everywhere that my consciousness might happen to move. I found nowhere anything beyond Me, save that at the hightest stage both 'I' and Divinity blended in Being. But all of this process involved both an intensifying and broadening of Consciousness, and most emphatically not a narrowing or 'pinching out' of it. For our present purposes, we may leave aside the State of Being, where both the subject and the object disappear. There remains, then, an 'I' in two senses, which we may call the point-I and the Space-I. There is enough in this to clarify the fundamental problem of Nirvana, taken in the simpler sense, leaving out of account States called Paranirvana and Mahaparanirvana.

As a matter of formal properties alone, it should be clear at once that life-values take on very different forms when viewed respectively from the perspectives of the point-I and the Space-I. The point-I involves discreteness, separateness, differences, etc., and , as a consequence, there are possible attainments and failure to attain. This gives a certain meaning to desire-led action, resulting in all the features so common in ordinary life. In contrast, the Space-I is continuous, not-separate, not-different, etc., at least not in the common meaning of those terms. Consciousness may be focused anywhere with the given Space, and at once the corresponding consciousness-value is realized. The important fact is that the Space-I does not have to strive in anything like a competitive sense to achieve any value. In a potential sense, the Space-I is all values at once; and by focusing, it makes any value whatsoever actual. Now, the Space-I includes all point-I's. Hence, in principle, any individual who has Realized his identity in the Space-I finds himself present in all point-I's. This also gives to him, in principle, the resources of all point-I experiences, and not merely those of one isolated point-I. It is easily seen that in such a Space-I there is no room for, not meaning in, the separtive affections of mere point-I consciousness. Further, the Space-I is a State of infinite completeness, as compared with the consciousness of any point-I or the compound effect of any number of point-I's. Of course, such a State is one of Bliss immeasurably transcending anything possible for any point-I. It is the Space-I Consciousness which is Nirvana.

Now, to have transcended the point-I state and achieved self-identity in Space does not imply that no further evolution is possible. We are already familiar with the idea of one space being comprehended in other spaces of higher order. The Higher Evolution may be said to be a progressive Spatial integration, each advancing step being literally an infinite transcendence of the preceding stage. Thus, if point-I evolution may be said to be represented by finite numbers, the Space-I evolution would correspond to transfinite numbers. In this higher series of Transcendence, we very soon reach the limits of the most advanced pioneer of this humanity and, in fact, do not have to proceed very far before we have reached the utmost limit of man as man. Beyond the latter are fields that form the normal Level of Beings quite different from man as he is commonly conceived to be.

Formal mathematics has reached a long way ahead of the consciousness that is actually possible to man. Man will have long since ceased to be human, in the restricting meaning of that term, by the time he has Awakened in terms of Consciousness at the most advanced Levels represented by mathematical concepts and symbolic formulae. Mathematics thus constitutes a thread to the Beyond that has never been lost, even when mankind sank to the greatest deeps of materialistic consciousness. But there are very few who have realized just what that Royal Thread is.

Franklin Merrell-Wolff (1887-1985), Pathways through to Space (October 17, 1936)
LXXXII: The Point-I and the Space-I, (2nd Edition, Julian Press, NY, 1973, pp. 216-219)

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