The Boundless Infinite
The nameless was the source of heaven and earth.
It is mysterious and natural, and existed before
heaven and earth.
Motionless and fathomless, boundless infinite;
It stands alone and never changes;
It pervades everywhere and never becomes exhausted.
It is the Mother of the Universe, from where all things
I don’t know its name, so I call it Tao.
From Tao Te Ching, Chapters i and xxv
Different mystics have referred to the boundless infinite as the Tao, the Shabd, the Word. Scientists call it ‘creative energy’ or ‘vibrating energy’. Scientists, like mystics, tell us that this vibrating energy is everywhere and in every particle of the physical universe. It was this same energy that provided the force to create the universe, the force of the Big Bang that science puts at the beginning of the creation. Guru Amar Das, the third great spiritual Master in the line of Guru Nanak, says:
Through the Shabd all creation emanates,
By the Shabd it is dissolved
And through the Shabd it is created again.
Adi Granth, M.3, p. 117
Spiritual science and material science are in complete agreement that the creation and maintenance of our universe is brought about by a force or an all-pervading, vibrating energy. The Bible says:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
It is no coincidence that the Bible calls this vibrating energy the Word. As with any word, this Word is an energy that has a frequency of vibration and emits a sound. However, unlike an ordinary word, the Word has an inherent magnetic power. The Word of God to which the Bible refers is not a group of symbols that can be spoken in any language, for how could that sort of word have the power to create the universe? Nor is it the written word of any scripture – be it the Bible or any other holy book. This Word refers to the infinite power behind all powers, the very life and love of the Supreme Being, a power which flows forth continuously from him. It is the very life force of the creation and it is present in everything.
Joseph Leeming, in his book Yoga and the Bible, explains, “It is this Word that the teachings of the saints have referred to throughout all the centuries of recorded history. Many millennia ago, it was taught by the King-Adepts and Priest-Initiates who gave initiation into the Mysteries of ancient Egypt. Later, in ancient Greece, it was given out to qualified aspirants by the Hierophants, or revealers of sacred knowledge, who presided over the Orphic and Eleusinian Mysteries. It was mentioned in the Vedas, the sacred scriptures of India. In ancient Persia, the power and practice of the divine Inner Sound was taught by Zarathustra. The Word, called the Logos in Greek, was known to the greatest of the ancient Greek philosophers such as Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Socrates and Plato. Socrates referred to hearing a mysterious Inner Sound which transported him in ecstasy to higher worlds. In ancient China, it was known as the Tao and was taught by the philosopher Lao Tzu.”
Jesus taught his disciples the meaning of the Word and initiated them into its practice. For very good explanations of the teachings of Jesus on the Word, the interested reader may refer to Maharaj Charan Singh’s Light on Saint Matthew and Light on Saint John and to John Davidson’s The Gospel of Jesus: In Search of His Original Teachings. As these writings indicate, the power of the Word was known to the earliest fathers of the Christian Church, to the Essenes and Gnostics, and to the famous Egyptian philosopher Plotinus and the other Neoplatonist mystic philosophers of second- and third-century Alexandria. This power is also mentioned in the Holy Qur’an of the Muslims. Following the days of Muhammad, many renowned Muslim holy men, known as Sufis, initiated their disciples into the meaning and mysteries of the Word – the mystic Rumi being one of them.
Evidently, the teaching of the Word is not a new thing. The great mystics say that in fact it has existed since the beginning, and, under scores of different names, has been made known throughout the ages to those prepared to receive it. In his book, God’s Whisper, Creation’s Thunder: Echoes of Ultimate Reality in the New Physics, Brian Hines tells us: “Anyone who wishes to make the journey to final truth must ride upon the wave of Spirit which appears as audible vibration – the sound of Ultimate Reality. This Sound is heard not by the physical ears, but by a faculty of the soul. The mystic, Maharaj Sawan Singh, says that it ‘is heard with the ears of the soul. … The Sound is in reality God-in-Action. … He projects Himself into everything and revels in this play. … It is the unstruck music that resounds within. … What we hear within is its reverberation, by gaining which the mind becomes still.’ Through concentration, the energy of our consciousness is raised to a level where it can be attracted by the power of Spirit [the Word]. The soul then takes great pleasure in hearing what has been called Divine Music, or the music of the spheres.”*The inner sound
Hines continues with the following observations: “The audible vibrations of Spirit have been described by spiritual scientists from many different religions, countries and times. How could it be otherwise? The essence of the Ultimate Reality will be perceived by anyone who knows how to contact it. Mystics do, of course, differ in how they describe the music of Spirit for this is conditioned by their culture and circumstances. Richard Rolle described his experience of the Holy Spirit in this fashion:
This peace experienced by the Spirit is very sweet. A divine and dulcet melody comes down to fill it with joy. The mind is ravished with this sublime and effortless music and it sings the joy of everlasting love. … [I felt] an infusion and apprehension of heavenly spiritual sound which belonged to the song of eternal praise and to the sweetness of a melody inaccessible to normal hearing. These sounds cannot be known or heard by anybody but the one who receives them and he has to keep himself pure and separate from the world. … Nobody who is absorbed in worldly matters knows anything about it. …
“Here are the words of the twentieth-century Sufi mystic – Hazrat Inayat Khan – who lived almost 600 years later and half a world away from the English mystic, Rolle. Their essential message is, however, the same:
Abstract sound is called saut-e sarmad by the Sufis; all space is filled with it. … The knower of the mystery of sound knows the mystery of the whole universe … the sound of the abstract is always going on within, around, and about man. As a rule, one does not hear it because one’s consciousness is entirely centred in material existence. … Those who are able to hear the saut-e sarmad and meditate on it are relieved from all worries, anxieties, sorrows, fears and diseases; and the soul is freed from captivity in the senses and in the physical body. The soul of the listener becomes the all-pervading consciousness.
“The Chinese Taoists taught that Tao, or Spirit, could be perceived as sound. Livia Kohn says that ‘in the cosmology of Taoist mystical philosophy, one may imagine the Tao as a tone of a certain wavelength that pervades and encompasses all there is. Or as the Taoist themselves have it, a certain quality of qi (cosmic energy) that underlies and furnishes all existence.’
“Plotinus, a mystic who came from Egypt and taught philosophy in Rome during the third century, wrote that ‘energy runs through the Universe and there is no extremity at which it dwindles out.’ Peter Gorman notes that ‘Plotinus often speaks of the cosmos as a harmony, but the real abode of the music of the gods is the intelligible world beyond the three-dimensional cosmos. In describing the mystical journey to that world, Plotinus bids the initiate wait until he hears musical sounds proceeding from the intelligible’:
If, for instance, someone were waiting to hear a desired sound, he would withdraw from other sounds and rouse his ear for the time when that paragon among auditory sensations should approach; so too on earth he should forego listening to perceptible sounds, unless it is strictly necessary, and preserve the psychic faculty of apprehension pure and prepare to hear tones from on high.
“Many more examples could be given of how conscious communion with the Word of God, or Spirit, is the common denominator of every deep religion and mystical discipline. The experiment of contemplative meditation has been replicated many times, over many centuries, in many cultures, and the results reported by serious investigators of the truth are always the same. The all-pervading conscious energy of Spirit, Tao, Saut-e-Sarmad, Holy Ghost – the name is unimportant – is perceived as audible spiritual vibration.”
Christian mystics such as Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross describe how they – in their meditation – kept contact with this resonant Voice or Sound, which was as the streaming Sound of rivers, or like the song of birds, like thunder, strong torrents, the sound of many harps, silent music, the roaring of huge waters and in many other ways.
For example the Spanish mystic Saint Teresa of Avila describes her inner experiences like this:
While I am writing this, the sounds in my head are so powerful that I begin to ask myself: “What is it that is going on? My head resounds as if it were full of rivers that overflowed their borders, and as if the water from all these rivers suddenly were converging into a waterfall; and many small birds seemed to be singing. This sound is not in my ears, but in the upper part of the head, where it is said that you find the most elevated part of the soul.
The Inner Castle, 4.1
The Spanish mystic Saint John of the Cross writes:
The inner light
This Voice or the resonant Sound of these rivers ... fills up everything so abundantly that the soul is being filled to the brim with good things, and a force so strong grips hold of the soul, that it does not just seem to it as the sound of rivers, but as very strong thunder.
But this Voice is a spiritual Voice and is not accompanied by physical sounds and also not by pain or the problems that accompany this, but is accompanied by grandeur, strength, power, delight and glory. And it is as an immense inner Sound or Voice that dresses the soul with strength and power.
It was this very Voice and spiritual Sound the apostles heard inside themselves when the Holy Spirit descended upon them, sounding like a forceful torrent. ...
God is an infinite Voice, and when He speaks to the soul, He produces the effect of an immense Voice.
The Spiritual Canticle, Commentaries 9 – 10 to Stanzas 13 – 14
Hines continues: “And yes, as divine light, God’s light is not separate from His sound. Maharaj Sawan Singh says that ‘the Word gives out both, light and sound. At this end, in the physical plane, the light and sound are lost in gross matter. On the finer planes, sound is audible and light is visible. At the upper end the Sound is the finest music, unheard by human ears – and the Light is of millions of suns and moons in one ray.’ Even though the power of Spirit combines both light and sound, often perfect mystics emphasize the audible manifestation of God-in-Action. The Book of Genesis (1:3) tells us: ‘And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.’ This implies that the saying, the voice of God, preceded His light. Sound also tends to be the first attribute of Spirit perceived by the beginning student of contemplative meditation.
“Still, both sound and light accompany the spiritual scientist on his journey through higher domains of consciousness to the reality of God. The sound, according to perfect mystics, comes from the light, and the light comes from the sound. Electromagnetism behaves similarly: As [the scientists] Hazen and Trefil put it, ‘Electricity and magnetism are two inseparable aspects of one phenomenon: you cannot have one without the other.’ In the same fashion, Spirit appears in two guises to guide the soul Homeward. Maharaj Charan Singh writes, ‘The Word combines both light and sound. The sound is meant to determine the direction from which it comes, and the light to enable us to travel towards it.’
“ … Maharaj Seth Shiv Dayal Singh explains that there are five spiritual sounds corresponding to the five regions of creation: ‘Each region has its own distinctive Sound and its own characteristic secret. … It is via the Sound of each region that the soul can, by degrees, ascend from one region to another, up to the highest stage.’ ”
The question then is why can’t we hear or see the Word, the Spirit? Hines says in an earlier passage: “Physicist Nick Herbert notes that ‘there is a close parallel between the senses of vision and hearing because both involve sensing the frequencies of certain vibrations.’ He says that physical vision is ‘a subjective appreciation of electromagnetic vibrations possessing wavelengths between 400 and 700 nanometers [billionths of a meter], otherwise known as ‘light’ … the ear is sensitive to sound frequencies between 20 cycles and 20,000 cycles per second.’ The human body is incapable of sensing vibrations outside of these ranges.
“Spirit is a non-material vibration of God-in-Action, and so cannot be seen or heard by the physical eyes or ears – no matter how sensitive those organs might be. Indeed, perceptions of material phenomena pull our consciousness outward and downward, away from the point where Spirit can be contacted. We are not aware of this soul-power because our attention is diffused, rather than concentrated. Just as the energy within a tank of gasoline would be equivalent to the superforce if it could be focused upon a single proton, so it is possible for our consciousness to become one with Spirit if it could be withdrawn to a single point. As Jesus said, ‘If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light’ (Matt. 6:22). And sound.
“Maharaj Sawan Singh writes that ‘the Word is ringing in every atom. We do not hear it because we are not in touch with it within ourselves.’ What prevents us from contacting this immanent power? Lack of concentration. Perfect knowledge, bliss, and love are within us, not without. Yet virtually all our attention is scattered outside, in material sensations, thoughts, images, imagination and emotions. Inner realms remain unknown, terra incognita. Even if we manage to close our eyes and forget the outside world for a moment, awareness of our physical body remains. This too keeps us bound to limited reality.
“Maharaj Charan Singh writes, ‘Spirit is even now in our body. The soul is only a ray of that Spirit and the soul is spread in the whole body … we have to withdraw that consciousness back to the eye centre to be attracted to that Spirit, then it will pull the soul upwards. Spirit is everywhere, but you have to withdraw your consciousness to that stage where the Spirit can pull the soul like a magnet.’
“ … Contemplative meditation elevates the soul to a plane of consciousness where it unites with the all-pervading conscious energy of Spirit. This bears some resemblance to the launch of a space shuttle. Consider soul to be the command vehicle which is to be lifted into space. Mind is the powerful rocket on top of which that vehicle sits. Our body is the launching pad and gantries that support the various components of the space shuttle. The mission, the over-arching goal, is to place the command vehicle – soul – in a high ‘orbit.’
“The launching pad of our body plays an important role in preparing for this mission. Our physical senses, after all, are the means by which we learn about meditation and the other research methods of spiritual science. But just as the gantries which supply the space shuttle drop away in the final seconds before lift-off, so must we become detached from materiality – including our body – before mystical transport into higher domains of consciousness occurs. The power for this transport initially comes from mind, which serves as the engine for overcoming the pull of the physical senses and thoughts about this world.
“ … In contemplative meditation the spiritual scientist repeats words associated with non-material planes of existence. This gradually pulls the mind away from the lowest domain of creation, just as the engines of the shuttle’s booster rockets cause it to rise above the launch pad – barely moving at first, then more and more rapidly until it disappears into the clouds. The command vehicle of the soul is controlling the engine of the mind, but cannot rise up without its power. …
“However, after reaching a certain height those rockets drop away, and the command vehicle travels on under its own power. Similarly, [at a certain level] the soul leaves the mind … and the Spirit becomes the motive force for mystical transport. This force is audible as sound, and visible as light. It is the divine dynamo which energizes every part of creation. Maharaj Charan Singh says, ‘ … this Sound not only leads us but actually takes us back to the Father. First we follow it; then as we make internal progress, we merge into it and ride, or ascend, to our home by means of the Sound, the Word. It is constantly pulling us inside like a magnet and attracting us homeward.’”
* Brian Hines, God’s Whisper, Creation’s Thunder, p. 291. The citations from Hines that follow are taken from the chapter “Principle 7: Spirit appears as audible spiritual vibration.”