The Zero Principle Part 2
The close connection between the familiar notion of a neutral centre or neutral axis and the recondite conception of Nirvana has many ramifications. It contains the seed of an explanation of why the attainment of Nirvana is relative to a particular manvantara, a fact crucial to the distinction between the paths of renunciation and liberation. It also parallels the proposition that manvantara and pralaya are equivalent to the three gunas existing in alternating states of equilibrium and disequilibrium. This, as Patanjali taught, is connected with the cognitive basis of the appearance or non-appearance of the illusion of a differentiated world and sequential time before the eye of the soul. Laya and Nirvana have to do with the noumenon of undifferentiated substance, which is also the noumenon of force, both inaccessible to finite perception. The zero principle points to that which is the root and basis of all states of objectivity and subjectivity. Thus, the zero is inseparable from the mysteries of nitya pralaya and nitya swarga, ceaseless dissolution and ceaseless instantaneous creation.
To apprehend the zero principle fully, to plumb its depths completely, is to realize the degree to which anything and everything is possible, and simultaneously to understand that nothing actual has any real bearing upon that sublime state. The system of spiritual self-discipline and ethical training leading towards such a realization requires rare virtues like uparati and titiksha. The aspirant must wholly renounce all external means and adventitious aids and must simultaneously perfect the power of contemplation and abjure all desires. No disciple can realize the zero principle unless he or she is ready to part with everything in the world. They must be prepared to cancel all the noise that arises out of the endless oscillations of the manifested pairs of opposites and so bring the mind to a supreme state of stillness. The realization of the zero means the transcendence of all opposites. This, in turn, means the attaining of a plane of consciousness which is prior to all pairs of opposites. Thus, the disciple may reach a plane of reality wherein all the subjective and objective existences created through the interplay of opposites are held in pure potential.
In this realm of metaphysical negation, the realm of the zero, there is, in the words of Nicholas of Cusa, a coincidentia oppositorum – a reconciliation of opposites. Life and death, the real and the unreal, all pairs of opposites, become one. This can be put in terms of the standpoint of the sage, for whom there is no difference between light and darkness, night and day, birth and death. He himself is like the sacred lingam, a pillar of light, endlessly and dynamically linking up the formless arupa worlds to the worlds of form, the hidden archetypal and noumenal realms of causation to the phenomenal regions of effects. Such an enlightened being can traverse the limits of consciousness from the most ethereal empyrean of pure potential to the most limiting sphere of reference within physical space and time. He can do this at will because he has already created the equivalent of the zero principle within his body, and this can only be done in the body because it had been done in the astral, and this in turn is possible only if it has been done in the subtler bodies ultimately reaching back to the karana sharira, even to the augoeides. The sage, in other words, has mastered the principle of untrammelled mobility and instantaneous transmission.
What is realized by the highest beings is inherent in the universe as a whole, and therefore has a vital reference to what all human beings may glimpse or touch at certain moments. It is possible to understand the zero principle in a simpler way as a neutral centre or a limiting point in relation to a given set of senses.
Thus, imagine two consecutive planes of matter as already formed; each of these corresponding to an appropriate set of perceptive organs. We are forced to admit that between these two planes of matter an incessant circulation takes place; and if we follow the atoms and molecules of (say) the lower in their transformation upwards, these will come to a point where they pass altogether beyond the range of the faculties we are using on the lower plane. In fact, to us the matter of the lower plane there vanishes from our perception into nothing – or rather it passes on to the higher plane, and the state of matter corresponding to such a point of transition must certainly possess special and not readily discoverable properties.
The Secret Doctrine, i 148
If one wants to see, one should see until one can no longer see. If one wants to hear, one should hear until one can no longer hear. And, similarly, with touch and taste and smell. A point comes, often recognized by people who are blind or handicapped in one or other of the senses, at which one actually goes beyond the known limit of the common sensory range. To learn to do this consciously is to learn to move from plane to plane. If neutral centres did not exist, there could be no possible connection or communication between two consecutive planes. They would remain separated by unfathomable abysses. Yet it is possible to move from plane to plane and to alter one’s responsiveness to the limits that pertain to sensory fields. So too, one can alter limits that pertain to cognitive and conceptual fields. It is no wonder, then, that the range of mentality is so vast; the plane of mentality must contain the set of all possibilities that are made manifest on the more gross sensory planes. This plane is so immense that few human beings could even begin to think of the virtually infinite range of possibilities for human ideation and imagination, cognition and thought, consciousness and self-consciousness.
Before one can begin to understand the possibilities of universal self-consciousness, one must grasp in principle and at a simpler level what is logically involved in the transcendence of any pair of opposites. Take, for example, any two points and draw intersecting lines through them that meet at an apex. Then draw a third line horizontally connecting the two original points. In relation to these two points on the base line – which is analogous to substance – the apex represents that which enables one to transcend a particular field, which is represented by the enclosed triangle formed by the three points. This is a simple enough idea but it must be applied to those five pairs of opposites, cited by the Maha Chohan, which are so perplexing to human beings. To take the simplest, consider pain and pleasure. Most human beings are stuck in the basement of human evolution, wrestling with the pain-pleasure principle. Yet it is possible to overcome the oscillation of the two opposites and to move to a point of balance, indifference or neutralization between them. If one is really willing to think it out, one will be amazed to discover the degree to which one can neutralize one’s propensity towards pleasurable sensations and thereby one’s corresponding aversion to painful sensations.
Moving to the moral plane, the neutralization and transcendence of egotism and altruism is the toughest challenge for those high souls truly struggling in spiritual mountain climbing. As soon as these souls take birth, they are burdened with the obligation and the temptation of taking on the karma of others, the problem of wise non-interference. They are also stuck with the principle of self-assertion for the sake of self-preservation. Though a difficult dichotomy, this is, in principle, no different from any other pair of opposites. Ethical dichotomy, having to do with right and wrong, must be understood in terms of metaphysical distinctions between good and evil. These, in turn, have their application in all relationships, social, political and otherwise, which give rise to the dichotomy of liberty and despotism. It is possible, with each of these dichotomies, to find a mode of neutralization. One may take as a starting point the simplest mode of neutralization, which is to find the mid-point between the extremes. In Buddhist terms one should seek out the Middle Way. If one can discover a moderating principle within oneself, one may begin to moderate one’s preoccupation with right or wrong, good or evil, pleasure or pain, one’s tendency to dominate or to be submissive. By continually engaging in self-correction, guided by the principle of the Middle Way, one may avoid both pitfalls and extremes.
Hermes Magazine February 1986