The Ascension of Jesus and the Rising Fire of Arunachala
Greetings on the feast day of the Ascension of Christ.
The scriptures say that as the disciples were looking at Christ
“… he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” (The Bible Acts 1:19).
I would like to think there is more to this event than Jesus just defying the laws of gravity. Once more we encounter the problem of translating divine revelation into words and so we must ask what was the experience behind these words.
For the disciples of Jesus, the Ascension must have been a powerful moment of realisation - a moment when they realised that the mystery presented to them in Christ was beyond anything they could comprehend with their mortal minds. Christ the embodiment of divine truth had gone beyond the cloud of maya (the illusory false perception of self and the world). The mystery of God is hidden within a cloud that the mind cannot pierce and the five senses cannot reach. This message is echoed in the Arunachala story also.
It is said that when Shiva, the Supreme Reality, appeared as Arunachala, the pillar of fire, the five-headed Brahma tried to find the height of the divine mystery but soon realised that is was impossible to comprehend the height of the One who has no beginning or end. With a bruised-ego he returned saying that he had actually seen the top of the fire. Shiva the all-knowing One perceived the lie and cut off one of Brahma’s heads as a reminder of his arrogance. The removing of the head of Brahma is a sign that unless the ego located in the false perceptions of the mind is slain, we cannot realise Divine Reality.
The faculties of the mind: will, memory, and intellect have their place in our daily lives and should be used accordingly. However, when it comes to the experience of the Divine we must be prepared to go beyond the limitations of the human mind and jump with absolute faith, guided by grace, into the cloud of unknowing where the mystery of the God may be experienced. Most religious thoughts, doctrines and philosophies are reflections of divine experience put into human words. When we become dogmatic about these words we miss the greater reality that they signify and end up with a religion of words that misses the heart of God.
In the journey of faith towards the Ascended Transcendent Mystery we must acknowledge that all our thoughts about God are incomplete and inadequate in comparison to the experience of the Divine.
St Thomas Aquinas, that great theologian and philosopher after a mystical experience stated":
"All that I have written seems like straw compared to what has now been revealed to me”.
The Bhagavad Gita (iii:42) says:
"Mighty they say, are the senses; mightier than these, the mind; mightier than that, the intellect; but mightier still is He."
Gregory of Nyssa, the 4th Century Christian saint says:
"But as the soul makes progress... so much the more does it see that the divine nature is invisible. It thus leaves all surface appearances, not only those that can be grasped by the senses but also those that the mind itself seems to see, and it keeps on going deeper until by the operation of the spirit it penetrates the invisible and incomprehensible, and it is there that it sees God. The true vision and the true knowledge of what we seek consists precisely in not seeing, in an awareness that our goal transcends all knowledge and is everywhere cut off from us by the darkness of incomprehensibility."
So the mystery of the Ascension invites us to go beyond the cloud of the mind and seek that which is beyond. By the movement of divine grace a hunger and thirst for the experience of God must arise in the human soul, and then through the practice of a spiritual path with faithfulness and diligence we will go beyond the limits of the mind and ascend into that which is beyond anything the senses can experience, the mind can know, or words can express.
A blessed Ascension to all,