I didn’t think up this trek to ‘True Nothing’ by myself last night. It’s been around for a very long time.
‘When he is brought to nothing, the highest degree of humility, the spiritual union between his soul and God will be effected‘.
So wrote St. John of the Cross, the Spanish Mystic.
St. John of the Cross who gave us the scary poem: ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ [La noche oscura del alma] and his close collaborator Teresa of Ávila, have influenced every famous modern Western Mystic [Merton, Dali, et al].
The roots of St. John’s Mysticism, as that of Teresa, go back to medieval Neo-Platonism, the ‘One’ of Plotinus [Enneads], itself linking to Greek and Sanskrit text.
But more directly for the observant Christian: ‘Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live‘ [Exodus: 33].
Sri Ramana Maharishi from the Vedanthic Tradition:
‘The Self is that where there is absolutely no “I” thought.. the place [idam] where even the slightest trace of ‘I’ does not exist is Swarupa [‘True Self’: One’s Real Nature]’.
That is called “Silence”. The Self itself is the world; the Self itself is “I”; the Self itself is God; all is Siva, the Self.’
Ramana Maharishi is by informed consent the most respected modern teacher of Vedantha. ‘Who am I?’ was his principal teaching, to be arrived at in the ‘Backward Step’.
‘By the inquiry ‘Who am I?’, the thought ‘Who am I?’ will destroy all other thoughts, and like the stick used for stirring the burning pyre, it will itself in the end get destroyed. Then, there will arise Self-realization.’
The principal formula is Yājñavalkya’s Rule. The ‘Stick..will itself in the end get destroyed’ is the rounding of the Rule. It boils down to whether the stick truly burns out or some splinter remains. Is the self-scuttle truly complete or not.
‘After negating [all]..as ‘Not-This!; Not-This!’, that Awareness which alone remains-that I am…Pure Consciousness, unrelated to the body and transcending the mind… Self is the sub-stratum of all experience..
‘My thoughts upon that Nature dwelt
till thoughts there were no more.
There is nothing else other than You.
Approaching and approaching,
I become worn down to an atom,
then worn away till I was one with Him.
Hail Shiva, dwelling in holy Perunturai!
There is nothing that You are,
Yet without You, nothing is!
Who indeed can know You?’
Tiruperunturai, Circa 8th Century
I cite this extract from Māṇikkavāchakar’s rightly celebrated poem in Classical Tamil, just to convince you that this track of being ‘Brought to Nothing’ is both universal and very old. The above preceded St. John by about 800 years. You can locate parallel verses in any serious Tradition.
[I can’t recall the very talented translator. If you recognize it, drop me a note.]
The pioneering and insightful Dr. Carl Jung: ‘The goal of Eastern religious practice is the same as that of Western mysticism: the shifting of the center of gravity from the ego to the Self, from man to God. This means that the ego disappears in the Self, and man in God.’
This ‘Shifting of the center of gravity’ is the ‘Spiritual Path’ [Marga, Tao, and so on]. And this ‘Orienting to Nothing’ is the original ‘Spiritual Path’. Although it gets newly discovered each time a tradition wants to claim for itself an exclusive revelation.
Mulay [Abu Abdullah Muhammed] al-‘Arabi al Darqawi founder, the Darqawi order of [Islamic] Sufis
‘As the Sufis affirm, there is no approach to God save through the door of the death of the soul.
Now we see-but God is wiser-that the Fakir will not kill his soul until he has been able to see its form and he will see its form only after separating himself from the world, from his companions, his friends and his habits.’