Can there be anything outside of God? I think that is not possible. Knowing this, combined with the insight that God is Love, leads us to the understanding that there can be nothing outside of Love; it is an all-embracing force.
Clearly, this radical idea needs elaboration. What about the brutality and the horrors we see around us? Is that love too? If God prepares the element water for me, because I need it for my development, but I drown my neighbor in it, who is then responsible for this act?
But God’s love does not end with my crimes. Then he puts me in a place, an environment, where I can pay off my debts. Would it not be cruel if there was no possibility of redemption, if I had to live with my guilt forever? But God gives me a whole universe so that I can learn. Learn what exactly? Well, to learn how to love.
I start with a small circle, the people around me, my family. Day after day I expand my love, start loving people who are like me, who share the same interests. Love blossoms easily in a harmonious environment. But love is greater than harmony and later I include people who are very different from me, who have different goals and desires in life. I might even learn to love my enemies. Is that possible? Yes, in the sense of accepting them as they are, meaning them no harm, to have a positive attitude towards them.
But God’s universe is far greater than the realm of man. I include the animals in my loving care. Then also the plants and the trees. I embrace all elements of nature as an expression of God.
Maybe you disagree with me when I say that all of nature is an expression of God. Does the philosophy of the School of Golden Rosycross not talk about ‘dialectics’, a fallen world, not included in the plan of God. Yes, actually, we mention it a lot.
The way I see it, this is a practical approach for Western people. It is a practical outlook on the universe. We use it to tell people that their current state is not the final one. That it is possible to grow, to go through an inner process of transformation. That they have a magnificent spiritual potential inside of them and can reach a higher winding of the Spiral of Love.
What is the Spiral of Love? It is the manifestation of God in a multidimensional universe. In a symbolic way we can represent it as a point, and around it, in a downward direction, ever larger circles, wider windings.
The windings we can see as different states of consciousness, which correspond to different states of being or fields of life. We can use a practical window and say: “You have come to the end of your possibilities on this winding. That is why you feel this inner longing for freedom, the urge to live in harmony and to conquer death.” But the practical window is not the only outlook on life. And looking from a window above, it’s like a story of love.
The different windows also represent various approaches to spirituality. There is a practical, ‘feet on the ground’ approach; there is also an ecstatic one. I would like to talk to you about the ecstatic approach, because if we look through this high window, we get a marvelous impression of unification: a story of love.
Ramakrishna of Bengal
What does a practical guy like me has to do with this ecstatic window of love? Well, I got fascinated by it when I read about a very remarkable figure in the spiritual history of mankind: Sri Ramakrishna. He was born in India in Bengal in 1836.
In his book ‘Coming Home’ Lex Hixon paints a beautiful and colorful picture about him. If ever the term ‘universal unity’ could be applied to a human being, I think it should be to him. Lex Hixon says that Ramakrishna regularly made the remark that the most serious distortion in spiritual life is one-sidedness, which makes us cling to a certain point of view. He experienced life as a continuum of consciousness in which forms and points of view manifest themselves and then dissolve again like bubbles in a river.
It is the tantric way in which forms are seen as manifestations of Supreme Consciousness. It is the Spiral of Love with its different windings. The relative and the Absolute are not really divided, because they originate from the same Source: the top of the spiral.
This continuum of consciousness is a universal concept. For example, if the Christian approach expresses the same idea when it says: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love God, the Absolute, above all, and its manifestation, the relative form of our neighbor, as yourself.
Said in another way: ‘And behold, all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual (…): all things bear record of me.’ When we can see the Absolute in the manifested forms, they all show symbolic meaning for they spring from the One Source.
Liberation of formalism
Let’s turn back to Ramakrishna, because he really was an interesting person. Lex Hixon tells us some instructive and amusing anecdotes about the seekers for truth who came to Ramakrishna in the temple garden of Dakshineswar, where he lived. They were all advanced spiritual seekers who had practiced a specific approach for many years. As a result of that they were identified with the characteristics of their specific spiritual path. In short, they had their ways, their forms and hence also the limitations of their practice.
But things started to change the moment they came into contact with Ramakrishna. He didn’t lecture nor did he make any attempt to convince them of something, but he embodied the spiritual energy connected to their specific approach and level. He had the magnificent quality to embody and live the different windings of the Spiral of Love. He unified all spiritual paths by living them.
Because he embodied, lived and radiated the spiritual energy they had been focusing on by using objects or images, they came to the insight that they didn’t need these forms anymore to live their faith. Hence Ramakrishna liberated them from their limitations and led them to a higher winding of the spiral on their way to Supreme Consciousness. For example, a woman who had used a stone symbol during her rituals and meditations for many years gave this stone back to the river Ganges. The bubble dissolved itself again in the river of consciousness.
Is this then the path? Free yourself of forms and dissolve in Supreme Consciousness?
The answer to this question is of intense beauty, because now the mystery of Love intervenes. We will meet the female aspect of the Deity, which in Hinduism is called the goddess Kali, the mother of the universe. Ramakrishna regarded himself as a child of this heavenly mother.
Let’s see what happens. Totapuri was a travelling monk and a follower of the path of insight which is called Advaita Vedanta. As a result of that, his focused goal was the formless reality of the Absolute. He regarded the adoration of heavenly figures as childish.
Totapuri proposed to Ramakrishna to initiate him in the path of Advaita Vedanta. Ramakrishna agreed after a consultation with his heavenly mother Kali. That night Totapuri gave him instructions on how to practice formless meditation. With the sword of this insight Ramakrishna went even beyond the heavenly image of Kali, into a formless reality. His individual consciousness dissolved in the ocean of the Absolute, in that which is both full and empty. For three days he was motionless, merged in the absolute, lost to the world.
Totapuri was amazed because he had practiced forty years to reach this experience of dissolving in the Absolute. Is this the end of the story? Well, not really. As we already have seen, disciples of different paths changed and transformed because of their contact with Ramakrishna.
The mystery of Love
Because of his attraction to Ramakrishna, Totapuri stayed ten months in Dakshineswar. But he caught a serious dysentery and experienced a lot of pain for a long time. This distracted him from his meditations. Totapuri regarded forms as unnecessary to reach the Absolute and this led him, compelled by the situation, to the plan to drown his body in the river Ganges. Well, we can’t say that he wasn’t consequent in his philosophy of life.
At night he went into the river, but the tide was low, and he didn’t get quickly into deep water. Then he looked back over his shoulder and saw the temple of Kali glittering in the moonlight. This ‘looking back’ is very symbolic. He had gone his path to the Absolute, he was utterly strict and consequent.
If we look at the Christian formula ‘Love God above all and your neighbor like yourself’, we understand that he had impeccably practiced the first part: ‘Love God above all’. I would say this is the male aspect of the formula. But then, deep into the river, the female aspect of the Deity, the Goddess Kali, influenced him strongly. He looked back and realized that he had forgotten something. It was the second part of the formula, the female part: ‘and love your neighbor like yourself’.
The Goddess Kali, the ruler over forms and experiences, made her point. She gave Totapuri the insight that what he had called maya or illusion, the manifested universe, is also an expression of the Absolute. The transcendent and the immanent got unified. The separation between form and no form ceased to exist. Love held out her hand, touched Totapuri in his soul and pulled him out of the river. He aborted his plan.
Continuum of consciousness
For Ramakrishna everything was full of consciousness, including material objects. He saw them as an expression of consciousness, as a manifestation of his heavenly mother. That is why he could declare a window frame to be pure consciousness. This was not always easy to follow for his pupils. Vivekananda, one of his disciples, once heard Ramakrishna declare that the bowl from which he drank was Supreme Consciousness. He got a bit irritated by that statement, which, seen from his point of view, seemed meaningless and illogical. He left the room and went outside on the porch. Shortly after that Ramakrishna also came on the porch and touched the skeptical pupil. Immediately Vivekananda experienced all material objects as a form of consciousness, non-substantial and transparent.
The spiritual energy of Ramakrishna was strong enough to change our common interpretation of the world. I guess that people like him see through a large part of the Spiral of Love. It makes them ecstatic, drunk with Love. It is the unification of the male and female aspects, the Absolute and the relative, form and no form. Said in other words, it is the unification of Spirit (male), Soul (female) and Body (form).
“Looking from a window above
It’s like a story of love
Can you hear me?”
 Mathew 22:37-39
 Moses 6:63