Daniil Andreev. «The Rose of the World»
Book II. On the Metahistorical and Transphysical Methods of Knowledge

II. Chapter 2. A Brief Description of the Transphysical Method

There would appear an endless variety of attitudes among people toward nature – individual attitudes that sometimes harbor internal contradictions. But if we trace the evolution of those attitudes throughout the history of global culture, from the invention of script to the present day, we may detect a number of patterns, or rather, phases. I will permit myself here to outline, in a very simplified manner, the general features of three or four of the most important phases as I see them. It will not be a painstaking reproduction of how attitudes have changed over cultures and time but only a few quick brush strokes, the purpose of which is more to introduce the reader to the issues involved than to provide him or her with the necessary historical background.

The earliest phase was characterized by a conception of the universe as extremely small and of the Earth as the only inhabited planet. The world, however, possessed, besides our physical plane, a number of other planes, also material but with a materiality of a different nature and possessing different properties than ours. This was the first approximation of the transphysical reality of Shadanakar. None of the planes, including ours, were thought to evolve. They had been created once and for all and were inhabited by good and evil beings. Humans lay at the center of those beings' interests and were, so to speak, their apple of discord. Humans were not conscious of Nature as something distinct from themselves and didn’t contrast themselves with it. Individual natural phenomena evoked, of course, one or another feeling – fear, pleasure, awe – but it seems that Nature was almost never perceived as a whole, or was perceived so in a purely aesthetic sense, and even then only by individuals who were highly gifted artistically. For that reason, one rarely finds among artistic works of those eras lyrical poetry about Nature, and even more rarely does one find landscape painting. In the main, the cultures of antiquity, as well as certain later cultures in the East, belong to that phase. As for religion, polytheism was typical of this first phase.

Typical of the second phase were the monotheistic systems which either ignored Nature or else were hostile to it. The growth of individuality led to the conception that humans could grow spiritually. Nature, on the other hand, showed no signs of spiritual growth. It was stagnant and static; it was amoral and irrational; it was under the power of the demonic; and if the spirit itself was not to be vanquished, that part of a person's being that was coessential to Nature had to be vanquished by the spirit. This was the anti-nature phase. The Christian, Buddhist, and Hindu peoples all passed through it; Jewry (meaning believers in Judaism) still remains in it. The latter, however, like the Muslim peoples, didn’t so much declare war on Nature as simply disregard it.

The Semitic attitude to nature has, generally speaking, been marked by a poverty of feeling. It has long been remarked how lacking the authors of the Bible and the Quran were in their feeling toward nature compared to those who wrote the great epics of ancient Greece and of India in particular. The Semites gave Nature what they considered its due, sanctioning procreation with the blessing of their religion, but in their religious philosophy and art they strove to ignore it, and with grave consequences. They virtually banned sculpture and portraiture because they feared anthropolatry and abhorred the deification of nature. Alongside with other Semitic elements, this anti-nature mindset spread to Europe with Christianity, stamped out the nature cults of Germanic and Slavic paganism, and reigned there until the end of the Middle Ages.

But the East was also to pass through that phase, though those societies colored it in their own way. The asceticism of radical varieties of Hinduism, the struggle of Buddhism to liberate the human self from the power of Nature – all this is too well known to dwell on here. Thus, we can say that in the first phase people were almost never conscious of Nature as a whole, and only poeticized and deified individual natural phenomena while in the second phase they viewed it as hostile and under the sway of the demonic.

The third phase is associated with the era of scientific supremacy and with the impoverishment of the world of religious feelings. Having inherited a hostile attitude toward nature from Christianity, people of the third phase freed it of its religious overtones. They didn’t undertake to overcome the elements of Nature in their own being. They established a strictly utilitarian view of Nature. Nature was, first of all, an object of rational (scientific) research; second, it was a mass of lifeless powers to be harnessed for human use. Our physical horizons expanded immeasurably, knowledge of the structure and laws of our plane reached dizzying heights; that is the value of the third phase.

But there is no point in speaking of natural scientists' love of Nature. One can experience intellectual love only for products of the intellect: one can love with one's mind an idea, a thought, a theory, or a scientific field. In such a manner one can love physiology, microbiology, even parasitology but not a lymph node, or bacteria, or a flea. Love of Nature can be of a physiological nature, of an aesthetic nature, and lastly, of a moral and religious nature. But one thing it cannot be is intellectual. If individual specialists in the natural sciences do love Nature, then that feeling has no relation whatsoever to their specialty or, more generally, to the scientific method of knowledge of Nature. Rather, it is a feeling of a physiological or aesthetic nature.

Civilized (or at least, Western) humanity attained the greatest degree of alienation from Nature not, as it might seem, in the twentieth century but in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries. Never were fashions so artificial as in the age of the powdered wig. Never were sections of Nature neighboring humanity disfigured so rationally and unnaturally as in the age of the Park at Versailles. It is just as impossible to picture an aristocrat from the age of Louis XIV sunbathing or walking barefoot as it is to imagine a Spartan woman from the period of the Greco-Persian wars wearing a corset and high-heeled shoes. The ascetic attitude toward Nature that had become ingrained in Christianity was wholly responsible, but it was an attitude that in the course of development had replaced spiritual snobbery with the snobbery of civilized society and replaced religious pride with the pride of reason, experiencing nothing but amused contempt for anything that didn’t bear the stamp of rationality.

The philosophy of Rousseau marks the turning point. But another century and a half had to pass and the world had to enter the age of the metropolis in order for most of humanity to experience a longing for Nature. The Lake poets of England, Goethe and the Romantics in Germany, Pushkin and, especially, Lermontov in Russia loved Nature with a higher aesthetic, and for some, pantheistic love. The Barbizon school of painting emerged, and by the end of the nineteenth century aesthetic love had become firmly established in culture.

In the twentieth century bodily love came into its own as well. Passive contemplation of Nature became insufficient; the need arose to experience it in a tactile, active manner, with one's whole body and through the exercise of one's muscles. The need was, in part, met by hiking and sports. Finally, in the first half of our century, the beach, with its physiological evaporation of people into a mixture of sunlight, warmth, water, and play, became an entrenched and lasting part of our everyday life. It is the same enjoyment of the beach that in the days of Ronsard and Watteau would have appeared to be the indecent eccentricities of lunatics and in the Middle Ages would have been equated with the witches' sabbat on Bald Mountain or with a Black Mass. If one imagines Torquemada suddenly transported as a spectator to the beach in Osten or Yalta, then there can hardly be a doubt that into the mind of that guardian of human souls would pop the thought of promptly organizing an auto-da-fe for those thousands of brazen heretics.

Perhaps, nothing so graphically illustrates the narrowing of the rift between humans and Nature during the last hundred years as the evolution of fashion. Overcoats and headwear, at one time the inseparable accompaniments of «cultured» people, even on summer middays, began to be used only when climate dictated. Fifty years ago it seemed improper to leave the house without gloves; now people use them only in cold weather. In place of suits and starched fronts, which our grandfathers roasted in for the sake of decorum even in ninety-degree heat, people began going to work in short-sleeve shirts with open collars. Feet that had been cramped in fashionable boots were treated to the delight of slippers and sandals. Women were liberated from the nightmare of corsets. Dresses shortened at the legs and open at the neck became the fashion in summer while long dresses survived only as evening wear. Boys whose great-grandfathers had at the same age paraded about wearing school blazers and a cap even in July now run about barefoot, with no top, kissed dark by the sun. People in large cities, separated from Nature as never before by such great distances and missing its warm embrace, have begun returning to it, as yet almost unconsciously, propelled by an instinctive bodily love, but carrying the seeds of a new, more mature relationship with Nature within the historical experience amassed in their hearts. That is the fourth phase.

Thus, there have been roughly four phases: the pagan, the ascetic, the scientific-utilitarian, and the instinctive-physiological.
We can summarize thus: by the second half of our century in the educated and semi-educated classes of those nations belonging to the Roman Catholic, German Protestant, and Russian spheres of cultural influence, two attitudes toward Nature that thus far have almost never conflicted with one another have become entrenched. One of them, the scientific-utilitarian attitude which is utterly devoid of love is older. It has focused its attention on exploiting the energy resources contained in Nature and measures everything against the criterion of material benefit for humanity or, what is still worse, for certain antagonistic groupings within it. From that point of view, it also approves of sport, the beach, and hiking. Partisans of that attitude calmly dissect live cats and dogs out of a desire to answer the question, “How does that work?” and shoot rabbits and partridge to satisfy an atavistic hunting instinct. Perhaps, in the former case love for humanity is also involved. An Everest of canine corpses may yield, in the end, a grain of knowledge concerning, for example, conditional reflexes. That is the cost to be paid, as is said, to enlighten the inquisitive mind and spur medical progress. But there is not even a hint of love for Nature to be found there. I will go further: such an attitude toward Nature is immoral because, besides humans, the interests of no living being are taken into account, and because it leads to a view of all Nature as a cow to be milked. Fortunately, that attitude has begun to be tempered by a newer one: an unconscious egoistic-bodily love of nature, at times mixed with aesthetic elements.

But that evolution has not yet brought people to a recognition that it is possible and necessary, while maintaining the older shades of love of Nature (with the exception, of course, of the amoral utilitarian attitude), to infinitely enrich our attitude with moral and religious meaning. Not with pantheistic meaning, in which people have but a vague intuition of the presence of some impersonal, evenly distributed divine force in Nature. No. That stage is past, and prehistoric preanimism is proof that the pantheistic feeling possessed by some people nowadays is nothing other than a modification of the ancient experience of arungvilta-prana. No! We are dealing with something different here. We are dealing with an attitude that is incomparably more moral and conscious, more coherent, developed, and refined, more joyful, more responsible. It can be founded only on the experience people have when they come into direct contact, through Nature, with the rich and multifarious worlds of the elementals. By “come into contact” I mean to enter into a relationship with the elementals, understanding better and better the opportunities for rewarding and creative friendship with them, our wonderful responsibility toward them, and our grievous, age-old guilt.

True, a vague feeling of guilt toward Nature, and animals in particular, has begun to have some effect. Societies for the humane treatment of animals have sprung up, love for them has even begun to be encouraged within the school curriculum, and that “renowned wellspring of love” known as the State has assumed guardianship of the environment. Unfortunately, it is doing so only out of economic considerations. As for the humane treatment of animals, these charitable organizations were taught a brutal lesson by the natural scientists: after heated debate, vivisection without prior authorization has occupied a leading place among the methods of science. Citing the benefits to humanity as justification, scientists have firmly established this disgrace to all humanity in universities, laboratories, and even in those same high schools where children are taught to love cats and dogs.

What is the attitude toward Nature of the worldview that could serve as the foundation for the teachings of the Rose of the World?

This is a very broad question, but it is not difficult, I think, to deduce what the chief component of that attitude will be. The perspectives of the Rose of the World are, after all, distinguished, first and foremost, by a sense of the transparency of the physical plane, by the experience of the transphysical planes showing through it, by a passionate love of that experience and its painstaking cultivation. That sense of transparency, in encompassing the fields of culture and history, will be molded into a metahistorical teaching. In being directed toward the Sun, the Moon, and the starry sky, it will become the basis for an ecumenical – that is, metaevolutionary – teaching. In encompassing terrestrial Nature, it will find expression in the teaching about elementals. The teaching about elementals is but one branch of a broader teaching about the structure of Shadanakar – a transphysical teaching.

No matter how much the ancient beliefs about elementals (nature spirits in the broadest sense) were muddied by impurities introduced by the limitations of the human mind and imagination, no matter how many aberrations distorted the images of nature divinities in the pantheons of polytheistic religions – at the very heart of these beliefs lies the truth.

But it is our task, of course, to apprehend and show reverence for the worlds of elementals in a manner completely different from that of the peoples of antiquity. Subsequent experience has enriched us, broadened our knowledge, and sharpened our mystical awareness.

The chief distinctions between our belief in elementals and the belief of ancient peoples are as follows.

The ancients anthropomorphized their images of elemental divinities. We will no longer feel the need to attribute human forms to them.

The ancients viewed these worlds as forever constant and unchanging. We will recognize that they evolve, though in a manner unlike the evolution of our organic world, and we will strive to apprehend the path of their evolution.

The ancients were able to experience their link with individual planes of elementals but drew ill-defined boundaries between them, and they had no idea about the spiritual growth of these monads. Strictly speaking, they had no clear conception of the plurality of these planes. For us, the plurality of and interconnection between these planes and the spiritual growth of monads abiding on them will become objects of transphysical knowledge.

The ancients were incapable of drawing a rough map of our planetary cosmos. We will distinguish each plane in a much more precise manner and include it together with all its unique features in the overall panorama of Shadanakar.

The ancients were unable to reconcile belief in these worlds with belief in the One God. For us, there will be no conflict between these two beliefs.

It should also be added that the ancients regarded propitiation and praise, and nothing else, as their spiritual duty toward elementals. For our part, we will strive to actualize our link with them through a readiness to participate in their play and creative work, through encouragement of their beneficent participation in our lives (possible paths to achieving that will be set forth in the relevant chapters) and last, through aid to elementals of Light and through work in enlightening dark elementals.

Such an attitude toward Nature combines a paganistic joy for life, monotheistic spirituality, and the breadth of knowledge of the scientific age. All these elements will come together in a higher synthesis through the spiritual experience of the emerging Religion of Epitome.
There is a widespread misconception that all religious outlooks are hostile to this life and that they substitute the values of the afterlife for the values of this world. There is no more justification for that generalization than for the claim, for example, that the art of painting distances one from this world, a claim based on the fact that it is partly true of the painting of the Middle Ages. Only religious credos of a particular phase have been hostile to life, and even then only in their more extreme manifestations. This outlook I am speaking of will not distance people from this world but will teach them to love it with a passionate and selfless love. It doesn’t contrast “other worlds” with this one but sees them all as a magnificent whole, as a necklace on the breast of God. Do we like a crystal icon lamp less because it is transparent? Will we really love our world less because other worlds show through it? For people who feel that way, this life is good, and death is not an enemy but a dear guide, for a worthy life on earth predetermines an ascent to other worlds fuller, richer, and more wonderful.

But in what manner, on what paths, can humans achieve transparent perception of the world? Does it come independently of our will and efforts, like a lucky gift of fate, or can we knowingly cultivate it within ourselves and whole generations?

Until the combined efforts of a great many people are channeled into that cultivation, the joy of transparent perception will indeed remain a matter of the grace of God, and we will expend hardly any effort in acquiring it. Only through the protracted labor of the invisible friends of our heart, the actuators of the Providential will, do organs capable of such perception come unblocked in some of us, though often, much more often, the organs occasionally open a narrow crack and then close back up. But even these small cracks are enough for transparent perception of the physical world to begin and for those fortunate enough to experience it to resemble the blind who can see.

To initiate the process entirely at will – in oneself or others – is hardly possible, at least for the present. But we can work in such a way that in each one of us and in our children our labors will complement the labors of the Providential powers. Thus, a tunnel through the psychophysical strata will be dug, as it were, simultaneously from two ends: by us and by the friends of our heart.

The colossal task of creating such a pedagogy can at present only be designated as one of the tasks of a future civilization. An immense amount of preliminary work related to the study and systematization of experience in that area is still needed. I will treat that in greater detail in one of the last sections of the book. At this time, I will only provide some necessary information concerning two or three possible varieties of that methodology These varieties and many others not mentioned here can, of course, be combined to complement each other.

There is one prior condition without which efforts in this direction will lead nowhere. It is the desire personally to apprehend the transparency of that crystal vessel we call Nature. The process is therefore open either to those who themselves admit the possibility that worlds of elementals exist (otherwise, one would not seek the transparency of the physical plane, but, to the contrary, would hope for nothing to happen, so that one's scientific skepticism could triumph) or to children, provided their trust of the elements and love of Nature is reinforced from an early age by the example of their elders. Naturally, they who deny beforehand the existence of those worlds will not waste time and energy on such experiments. And even if, for the sake of experiment, it entered their heads to make some efforts toward that end, they would achieve nothing, because their personal disbelief would constantly inform the results obtained. They would ascribe the results to self-suggestion or something of that sort. It would be no more than a step forward followed by a step backward, or running in place.

Thus, if that necessary inner condition is met, we must then concern ourselves with creating the necessary external conditions. It is easy to guess that what we are referring to here are those periods (six to eight weeks a year) when modern-day men and women are freed from earning a living and can permit themselves time alone in Nature. I would think that summer conditions are more conducive, because it is in summer, with its longer days, lush plant growth, and full awakening of earth and water, that the elementals' activity increases many times over as more and more planes become reanimated. Also, is usually summertime when people go on vacation – that is, they have the chance, if only for a month, to spend time with Nature. But it should be stated from the start that one will not make much headway in a month, and there is no point whatsoever in embarking on such efforts during a two-week holiday. Of course, those who feel more affinity for the winter months' should make allowances for that preference.

Someone might be expecting precise instructions from me: get up at such a time, go to bed at such a time, keep to such and such a daily schedule. I would prefer to avoid going into such niggling recommendations. What is our task? It is to immerse ourselves as deeply as possible in Nature, in the life of the elements, not as a sower of death or inquiring researcher but as a son or daughter who has returned home after years of wandering in foreign climes. To accomplish that task one individual will find it more natural and effective to do one thing, someone else, another. I would only like to relate what circumstances aided me personally.

Having secured for my summer holidays a «homebase,» as they say, in a beautiful and, obviously, remote place, I, first of all, endeavored to avoid cluttering my heart and mind with sundry worldly cares. I minimized my links to the outside world, listened to the radio less often, and tried to get by as long as possible without newspapers, provided, of course, the world wasn’t in the midst of a dangerous crisis. It was imperative to simplify my lifestyle, wear as little clothing as possible, and forget completely about the existence of shoes. I bathed two or three times a day in a river, lake, or the sea, finding a spot where it was possible to be alone with Nature.

I read books that induced a peaceful, benevolent mood and helped my thoughts attune themselves to Nature. Literature dealing with the natural sciences would be of no help during such times, as it puts one in a completely different frame of mind. The study of the exact sciences and technology would lead one even further astray. Best of all is good poetry and certain classics of prose: Turgenev, Dickens, Erckmann-Chatrian, Tagore (but not Stendhal, Zola, Swift, or Shedrin, and the like). It is a good time to reread children's classics, such as “Tom Sawyer” or “Treasure Island”, and books about children. All in all, spending lots of time with children and playing and talking with them can only help matters. I may scare off some with one injunction, but unfortunately it is firm: minimal consumption of meat and fish products and moderation in the use of alcohol. And one categorical requirement: no hunting or fishing whatsoever.

That was the atmosphere in which my travels began. It doesn't feel right to use the words “hike” or “excursion” to describe them. I would be gone for the entire day, from sunrise to sunset, or on a three- or four-day trip in the forest, roving down country roads and field paths, over meadows, through woods, villages, farms, across rivers on slow ferries. These travels included chance meetings and casual conversations, and overnight camping, perhaps, beside a campfire on the banks of a river, or in the fields, or in haystacks, or on some village hayloft. I tried to avoid any sort of contact with machines, conversations on technical topics, and reading of that sort, with the exception of occasionally resorting to mechanized transport. Then back to my remote homebase for a few days of rest and relaxation, listening to the crow of roosters, the rustle of treetops, the voices of children and villagers, reading tranquil, deep, and innocent books – then off for more of the same roving.

That style of living can sometimes arouse in others puzzlement and snickering. One would not expect to be understood. People busy with farm work will even be inclined to view such eccentrics as no-good loafers: the majority of countryfolk are as yet capable of viewing only their own duties as real work. One should not take it too much to heart. One must know enough to ignore the opinions of others when sure of the rightness of one's actions.

But those are all external considerations. You can spend the whole summer tramping over hill and dale till you drop and still end up with nothing to show for it. Outside circumstances must be supplemented by efforts of the heart and mind. What sort of efforts are needed?

What people need to do is gradually train themselves to perceive the sounds of an ocean of trees, the swaying of the grass, the glide of clouds, and the flow of rivers, every voice and movement of the visible world, as alive, fully aware, and kindly-disposed toward them. A feeling that invariably oversees the emergence of new thoughts and feelings will grow stronger, gradually enveloping all one's days and nights: a feeling that, in lying down on your back, you are letting your head sink lower and lower into soothing depths that glimmer with soft light-loving, intimate, depths that have existed since time immemorial. A feeling of simple joy, of profound calm will absorb the smallest spill of everyday cares. These are good times to lie on the bank of a river, oblivious to time, and gaze lazily at the cool water glittering in the sunlight. Or, lying somewhere under ancient pines to listen to the organ-like music of the treetops and the knocking of woodpeckers. One must have faith that the elementals of Liurna are overjoyed at your coming and will speak to your body as soon as it enters their flowing bodies, that the elementals of Faltora and Arashamf are even now singing you songs through the rustle of leaves, the buzzing of bees, and warm breaths of wind. When you are returning home from a long hike at dusk over fields smelling of freshly cut hay, climbing sun-warmed knolls and descending into the coolness of ravines, and a soft mist begins to flood over everything but the tops of haystacks – it feels good to take off your shirt and let your hot body be caressed through the mist by those who are fashioning the mist above the nodding meadows.

I could describe hundreds of other such times – from sunbathing on the sand to berry-picking, my mind divided between action and contemplation – but whoever embarks on that carefree and bright path will recognize them without any prior description. After all, such a path is possible not only in Central Russia but in the countryside of any country, from Norway to Ethiopia, from Portugal to the Philippines and Argentina. Only the specifics of the path will vary, but they can vary as well within the confines of a single region, depending on one's personal preferences. What is important is to generate that radiance and easygoing frame of mind within oneself and, if possible, to repeat those periods each year.

“What utter nonsense!” some will say. “As if we were not in possession of definite facts concerning why and how mists, the wind, or dew come about. As if we didn't know by what processes rain, rivers, and vegetation occur. To serve up such fairy tales with a straight face in the middle of the twentieth century! No wonder the author hints that he feels more at ease in the company of children: an adult would never put up with listening to such drivel!”

They are mistaken, those absolutists of the scientific method of knowledge: not a slightest contradiction of science is to be found here. To repeat: I mean here objective and critical science, as distinct from the philosophical doctrine of materialism. After all, if some rational microscopic being existed that was studying my body and was itself a part of it, it would be right in saying the moment I moved my arm that the arm is a lump of matter composed of such and such molecules that moved because certain of its parts – the muscles – contracted. They contracted because such and such a reaction occurred in the nerve centers and the reaction arose from such and such reasons of a chemical nature. And there you are! Clear as day. And, naturally, the researcher would be scandalized if it occurred to anyone to point out that the “lump” moved because such was the wish, free and conscious, of its owner while the muscles, nerves, chemical processes, and the rest merely served to transmit the owner's will.

Physiology is concerned with the study of the mechanics of the process. That doesn’t preclude the existence of psychology – the science dealing with the consciousness that puts the mechanics to use. Meteorology, aerodynamics, hydrology, and a number of other sciences concern themselves with the study of the mechanics of natural elements. That should not and will not interfere in time with the emergence of a teaching about elementals, about that consciousness that puts the mechanics to use.

It all began for me personally near the town of Tripolye in the Ukraine on a sultry summer day in 1929. Weary but content after a hike of many miles through open fields and over slopes with windmills, from where a panoramic view opened onto the bright-blue branches of the Dnieper and the sandbars between them, I climbed the ridge of yet another hill and was all of a sudden literally blinded. Before me, motionless under the streaming rays of the sun, stretched a vast sea of sunflowers. At the same moment, I sensed an invisible ocean of vibrant joy quivering above that magnificent scene. I stepped up to the very edge of the field and, my heart pounding, pressed two bristly sunflowers to my cheeks. I stared at the thousands of earthbound suns, almost breathless with love for them and for the beings whose joy I felt above the field. I felt something strange: I felt that those invisible beings were leading me with joy and pride, like a guest of honor, to a fantastic celebration that resembled both a ceremony and a feast. I gingerly took a couple of steps into the midst of the flowers and, closing my eyes, listened to their touch, to their barely audible rustle, and to the celestial heat that was blazing all around.

It all began with that. True, I can recall experiences of that kind from my younger days when I was a teenager, but they were not nearly as powerful. But both before and after the experience in Tripolye – not every year, but sometimes several times in the course of one summer – the minutes of strange, inebriating joy came upon me while alone in Nature. They occurred, for the most part, when I had already covered hundreds of kilometers on foot and then chanced upon unfamiliar places distinguished by the lushness and wildness of vegetation growing unchecked. Transported by ecstasy and trembling from head to foot, I made my way, oblivious to everything, through dense thickets, sunbaked marshes, and prickly bushes, finally throwing myself down into the grass to feel it with my whole body. The most important thing was that during those minutes I was aware with all my senses that the invisible beings whose existence is mysteriously linked to the vegetation, water, and soil loved me and flowed through me.

In the years that followed, I spent the summers, for the most part, in the Bryansk Forest region. The memory of all that happened to me there is the joy of my life. But I am particularly fond of recalling my encounters with the elementals of Liurna which at the time I called “river spirits”.

Once, during a drought, I set off alone on a one-week camping trip in the Bryansk Forest. The smoke of forest fires stretched out in fingers of bluish black, and sometimes whitish puffs of smoke, slowly curling and twisting, would rise above the huge fir forests. It so happened that I walked for several hours along a hot dirt road without seeing a spring or brook. The heat, as stifling as in a greenhouse, gave me an agonizing thirst. I had brought a detailed map of the area, and I knew that I would soon come across a small stream – one so small that even on my local map it didn’t have a name. Sure enough, the woods began taking on a different look: fir trees gave way to maples and alders. Suddenly, the scorching road that was burning my feet began to slope down, the green of a meadow appeared up ahead, and skirting a clump of trees, I caught sight of a bend of the long-anticipated stream a dozen meters ahead. The road crossed it at a ford. What a pearl of creation, what a delightful child of God laughed at my coming! A few steps wide, shaded everywhere by the low-hanging branches of old willows and alders, it streamed as if through green caverns, softly gurgling and glittering with thousands of sparkles of sunlight.

Throwing my heavy knapsack down on the grass and tearing off my light clothing on the run, I entered the water up to my chest. When my overheated body plunged into the cool wetness, and dapples of shadow and sunlight flitted over my shoulders and face, I felt some invisible being, composed of what I don't know, embrace my soul with such innocent joy, with such laughing playfulness, as if it had long loved me and been waiting for me. It was like the rarefied soul of the river – all flowing, all trembling, all caressing, all coolness and light, carefree laughter and tenderness, joy and love. And when, after my body had long been in its body, and my soul in its soul, I lay down with eyes closed on the bank under the shady branches of the trees, my heart felt so refreshed, so cleansed, so purified, so blessed as it could only have been during the first days of Creation, at the dawn of time. And I realized that what had happened to me this time was no ordinary bathing in a river but a true ablution, in the very highest sense of the word.
Some might reply that they, too, have spent time in the forests and bathed in rivers, that they, too, have walked through woods and fields and, standing on the mating ground of grouse, have felt at one with Nature, but that they have never experienced anything resembling elementals. If it is a hunter speaking, it is no wonder: the elementals see only an enemy and desecrator in that destroyer of Nature, and there is no surer way of repelling them than taking a hunting rifle into the forest. If those who speak are not hunters, let them carefully reconstruct the weeks they spent in Nature and they will discover their own breaches of the conditions I set forth at the start.

It is impossible, of course, to predetermine the duration of the stages of that process of knowledge: the lengths of time vary depending on many circumstances, both objective and individual. But sooner or later the first day will arrive, and you will suddenly feel all of Nature as if it were the first day of Creation, and the Earth were celebrating its heavenly beauty. It could happen at night by the campfire or during the day in the middle of a rye field, in the evening on the warm steps of a porch or in the morning in a dewy meadow, but the nature of the moment will everywhere be one and the same: the dizzying joy of one's first cosmic awakening. It will not yet mean that your inner vision has come unblocked for good. You will still see nothing besides the customary landscape, but you will experience with your whole being its multiplaned reality and permeation by spirit. The elementals will become even more accessible to those who undergo that first awakening. Such people will become more and more aware of the constant proximity of those wonderful beings through organs of the soul that have no names in our language.

But the essence of a first awakening lies in something else, something higher. It concerns not only transphysical knowledge but also what I am unable to find a name for other than the old word “ecumenical”. Many authors have attempted to throw light on similar states. William James calls it a breakthrough of cosmic consciousness. It can clearly take on very different shades for different people, but the experience of cosmic harmony lies at its heart. The methods I have described in this chapter are, to a certain extent, capable of hastening that hour, but there is no reason to hope that such joys will become frequent guests in the home of our soul. On the other hand, a soul can be overcome by such a state without any conscious preparation. Such an instance is described, for example, by Rabindranath Tagore in his Memoirs.

It is easy for people who have more than once experienced a feeling of all-out harmony with Nature to think that this is what I am referring to. No, far from it. A breakthrough of cosmic consciousness is an event of colossal personal significance, such as can occur in a person's lifetime only an extremely limited number of times. It dawns on one suddenly. It is neither a mood nor pleasure nor happiness nor even a joy of astonishing dimensions – it is something bigger. More so than the breakthrough itself, recollections of it will have a powerful effect on one's being. The breakthrough itself is full of such bliss that it would be more accurate to speak of it not as astonishment but enlightenment.

Such states occur when the Universe – not the Earth alone, but the whole Universe – reveals itself in its higher aspect, reveals the divine spirituality that permeates and envelops it, erasing all the painful questions of suffering, conflict, and evil.

In my life such an experience took place on the moonlit night of July 29, 1931, on the banks of the Nerussa, a small river in the Bryansk Forest. I usually try to be alone when in Nature, but that time it so happened that I had taken part in a camping trip with a small group. It was composed of teenagers and young adults, including an aspiring artist. Each of us was carrying a knapsack with food, and the artist had also brought along a sketch pad. We wore nothing heavier than pants and shirts, and some had even taken off their shirts. We walked along quickly and silently, in single file, like tribespeople along the wild paths of Africa. We were not hunters or explorers or mineral prospectors – we were simply friends who wanted to camp by a fire on the famed banks of the Nerussa.

As always happens in the Bryansk Forest along the flats of a river, a fir forest as vast as the sea gave way to a deciduous wood. Century-old oaks, maples, and ashes rose up before us; aspens that resembled palm trees, with their crown of leaves at a dizzying height, enchanted us with their grace and stature; the roundish canopies of kindly willows shone silver as they hung over the water of creeks. In individual clumps, thickets, and glades, the forest approached the river as though with loving care. There were no villages, no signs of civilization. The wilderness spell was broken only by the barely distinguishable path left by mowers and by the rounded tops of haystacks, rising here and there in the fields in preparation for the winter when they would be transported by sled to the villages of Chukhrai or Neporen.

We reached the banks of the river at the close of a hot, cloudless day. We took a leisurely dip, then gathered brush, and, building a fire two meters from the quietly flowing river under the canopy of three old willows, prepared a simple meal. The sky darkened. A low July full moon glided out from behind the oaks. Little by little the conversations and stories died down; one by one my companions fell asleep around the crackling wood. I was left awake at the fire, lazily waving a branch to ward off the mosquitoes.

When the moon, noiselessly moving behind the finely patterned, leafy branches of the willow, entered the range of my vision, those hours that come close to being the most wonderful of my entire life began. Breathing softly, having laid back on a handful of hay, I heard the Nerussa flowing not behind me, a few paces back, but as if through my own soul. That was the first unusual thing I noticed. Everything on Earth and everything that must exist in the heavens poured exultantly and noiselessly through me in a single stream. In bliss barely supportable by the human heart, I felt as if slowly revolving, graceful spheres glided through me in a universal dance, and everything I could think of or imagine merged in a jubilant oneness. The ancient forests and clear rivers, the people sleeping by the fire, the peoples of countries near and far, cities waking up and busy streets, cathedrals with sacred icons, seas tossing tirelessly, and steppes with blowing grass – everything indeed was within me that night, and I was within everything. I lay with eyes closed, and beautiful white stars, large and blossoming, not at all like those we are used to seeing, also floated along the world-turned-river like white water lilies. Although the sun was not visible, it was as if it, too, were flowing somewhere just outside the range of my vision. Everything was suffused not by its glow but by a different light, one I had never seen before. Everything flowed through me and, at the same time, rocked me like a child in a cradle with all-soothing love.

In trying to express in words such experiences, one understands better than ever the poverty of language. How many times have I attempted through poetry and prose to convey to others what happened to me that night! And I know that no attempt, including this one, will ever succeed in communicating to anyone else the true significance, dimensions, and profound effect that occurrence had on my life.

Afterward I tried with all my might to summon the experience again. I recreated all the same outside circumstances under which it took place in 1931. Many times in the years that followed I camped in the exact same spot on the very same nights. It was all in vain. But twenty years later, just as unexpectedly, it came on me again. This time it was not during a moonlit night by a forest river but in a prison cell.

Oh, that is only the beginning. It is not yet the enlightenment after which a person seems to become someone new, a person enlightened in the higher sense of the word, the sense attached to the word by the great peoples of the East. This is the holiest and most mysterious of enlightenments it is the opening of one's spiritual eyes.

There is no greater joy on Earth than the complete opening of one's inner vision, hearing, and deep memory. The joy of people born deaf or blind who suddenly, in middle age, experience the opening of their physical eyes and ears is but a dim echo of it.

I can only repeat what I know of it by what others have said. There is a wonderful passage in Edwin Arnold's book “The Light of Asia” in which such a state is described, a state that turned one searcher of the truth into the one now known by all humanity as Gautama Buddha.

Here is the description. It deals with Buddha's entry into the state of abhidjna:

                    «insight vast
to spheres unnamed,
System on system, countless worlds and suns
Moving in splendid measures, band by band
Linked in division, one yet separate,
The silver islands of a sapphire sea
With waves which roll in restless tides of change.
He saw those Lords of Light who hold their worlds
By bonds invisible, how they themselves
Circle obedient around mightier orbs
star to star
Flashing the ceaseless radiance of life
From centers ever shifting unto cirques
Knowing no uttermost. These he beheld
With unsealed vision
Cycle on epicycle, all their tale
of Kalpas, Mahakalpas-terms of time
Which no man grasps
Sakwal by Sakwal, depths and heights he passed
Marking-behind all modes, above all spheres,
Beyond the burning impulse of each orb-
That fixed decree of silent work which wills
Evolve the dark to light, the dead to life,
To fullness void, to form the yet unformed,
Good unto better, better unto best
By wordless edict; having none to bid,
None to forbid; for this is past all gods
Immutable, unspeakable, supreme,
A Power which builds, unbuilds and builds again,
Ruling all things accordant to the rule
Of virtue, which is beauty, truth, and use.»

What is there left to say? It would be not pride but sheer naivete to hope even in the innermost corner of our heart that someday such an hour will strike for us as well. Yet, comfort can be taken from the fact that every human monad without exception, sooner or later, even if after an almost endless period of time, perhaps in another, nonhuman form, in another world, will attain that state, surpass it, and continue on.

In the meantime it is our duty to share with others the best that we possess. My best is what I experienced on the paths of transphysical and metahistorical knowledge. That is why I am writing this book. In these last two chapters I have described as best as I could the major signposts on my inner path. Everything that follows will be the presentation of what was understood on that path about God, about other worlds, and about humanity. I will try to avoid any further discussion of how it was understood; the time has come to speak of what was understood.

to the next part: 2.3. Points of Departure Multiplaned Reality
to the previous part: 2.1. Some Features of the Metahistorical Method
to the beginning: «The Rose of the World». Table of contents
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