The amazing image-generating power of the term “indescribable”

The most accurate words that can be spoken about nonduality are awareness apart from conceptual objects, or variations along these lines. The idea of “being one with God” does not describe it. Nor does “being one with the universe,” or “being nothing at all.” The term “indescribable” is often employed, but with little or no regard for how that may generate a conceptual object in the perceptual theater of the reader. If you asked me, the term “indescribable” is used to convey the notion “too fucking big and great to be able to say anything about,” not that this has ever stopped anyone from trying. This idea is fully-supported by the folk theory of nondual enlightenment, and it serves as a basis for a widely-varying set of conceptual objects which are just as effective at producing a conceptual displacement as anything else you may care to believe about nonduality.

Awareness apart from conceptual objects is the ready condition of every human mind. It exists in every being, whether or not they’ve ever practiced meditation or any other form of spirituality or religious belief. It’s utterly cognitively normal rather than a special case of super-humanity, as the FTOE has characterized it. But normal is not pretty, nor does it sell, which is why you’ll encounter descriptions like this:

My body became immovably rooted. breath was drawn out of my lungs. Soul and mind instantly lost their physical bondage and streamed out like a fluid light from my every pore. The flesh was as though dead; yet in my intense awareness I knew that never before had I been fully alive. My sense of identity was no longer narrowly confined to a body but embraced the circumambient atoms. People on distant streets seemed to be moving gently over my own remote periphery. The roots of plants and trees appeared through a dim transparency of the soil; I discerned the inward flow of their sap.

The whole vicinity lay bare before me. My ordinary frontal vision was now changed to a vast spherical sight, simultaneously all-perceptive. Through the back of my head I saw men strolling far down Rai Ghat Lane, and noticed also a white cow that was leisurely approaching. When she reached the open ashram gate, I observed her as though with my two physical eyes. After she had passed through the brick wall of the courtyard, I saw her clearly still.

All objects within my panoramic gaze trembled and vibrated like quick motion pictures. My body, Master’s, the pillared courtyard, the furniture and floor, the trees and sunshine, occasionally became violently agitated, until all melted into a luminescent sea; even as sugar crystals, thrown into a glass of water, dissolve after being shaken. The unifying light alternated with materializations of forms, the metamorphoses revealing the law of cause and effect in creation. An oceanic joy broke upon calm endless shores of my soul. The Spirit of God, I realized is exhaustless bliss; His body is countless tissues of light. A swelling glory within me began to envelop towns, continents, the earth, solar and stellar systems, tenuous nebulae, and the floating universes. The entire cosmos, gently luminous, like a city seen afar at night, glimmered within the infinitude of my being.

The divine dispersion of rays poured from an Eternal Source, blazing into galaxies, transfigured with ineffable auras. Again and again I saw the creative beams condense into constellations, then resolve into sheets of transparent flame. By rhythmic reversion, sextillion worlds passed into diaphanous luster, then fire became firmament. Blissful amrita, nectar of immortality, pulsated through me with a quicksilver like fluidity. The creative voice of God I heard resounding as Aum, the vibration of the Cosmic Motor.

That sure sounds like a lot more than mere “awareness apart from conceptual objects,” and for a young Hindu guru in America, struggling to make a name for himself in the shadow of the much more popular Hindu guru (Swami Vivekananda) who preceded him, it makes sense that Paramhansa Yogananada would resort to imaginary nonduality travelogues like this in the effort to sell himself in the spiritual marketplace.

Today, the nondual spirituality marketplace is brimming over with characters who want to sell you on the idea of their special divinity and its power to bestow on you experiences just like that described above. All that’s required is your devotion to them as living Gods, along with a lot of your money and free labor to help them continually expand their cults of personality. The sinister beauty of their efforts is that upon your accepting their descriptions of nonduality as truth, they’ve just cemented your repeat business by providing a set of conceptual objects to keep you looking up and out for what’s always right under your nose. The nonduality business is in most cases a prophylactic against realization, rather than the solution it’s being presented (and sold) as.

So when you hear the term “indescribable,” don’t think big. Awareness apart from conceptual objects is right here with us as the very awareness that was employed to read these words. It can’t be described because it’s non-conceptual, rather than too big to be conceptual, so any description you may encounter can always immediately go right into the round file.

4 Thoughts on “The amazing image-generating power of the term “indescribable”

  1. bradley halfacre on December 13, 2013 at 4:51 pm said:

    I only read the first couple of lines of the Yogananda experience talk.
    There was a time when I thirsted for that kind of stuff and I probably read those very lines forty odd years ago and plunged into a fantasy of how great and mystical my own enlightenment experience would be.
    Maturity of mind can time some time to arrive and until it does I don’t think there is any real antidote for the lust for an experiential enlightenment.
    Sadly I think all of the energy you Jody and others ( including myself in a very small way) have put into exposing the falseness of the experiential enlightenment myth is pretty much wasted.
    The fruit will fall when it is ripe and the period of seeking enlightenment experientially is a major part of that ripening process it seems. It is pretty much inevitable that everyone will go through that phase, I don’t personally know anyone that avoided it, still we plug away at it ,trying mostly in vain, to spread some truth,
    ( smiles to self).
    Regards, Brad.

    • Jody Radzik on December 13, 2013 at 6:30 pm said:

      It’s not too much trouble for me to keep throwing my memes into the mix. I actually quite enjoy it. Eventually, there may come a time when the truth-carrying memes will outnumber the fantasy-based ones.

  2. daringdo on August 5, 2014 at 10:11 am said:

    “But normal is not pretty, nor does it sell, which is why you’ll encounter descriptions like this:”

    Those may be reasons why such descriptions may today be rampant, but it’s disingenuous to assert that they were what motivated Yoganada: the book was published in 1946, 26 years after he arrived in America, and 5 years before his death. If his intention was to gain wealth or popularity by it, he sure left it awful late.

    How about this: maybe it’s true? You don’t have to understand – much less accept – this testimony. But you’re on tenuous ground disparaging it simply because you lack a philosophical context in which it fits – which, incidentally, he provides within the awesome breadth of his other writings… if it makes any difference to you.

    • Jody Radzik on August 5, 2014 at 10:33 am said:

      I wouldn’t say I lack a philosophical context as much as I reject the folk theories of Vedic ideology which support the idea that realization will manifest as some kind of crazy cosmic experience. It’s seeing what’s always been there, rather than flying into space as an impressively expanding field of awareness. The philosophy I’d hold against this view is cognitive science, which, if nothing else, would hold that the entire episode was nothing more than the result of a flood of excitation in certain areas of his brain. In other words, he was imagining that what he was experiencing was real as an out-of-body experience. These are now fairly easy to reproduce if you have access to a transcranial magnetic stimulation device.

      I’d also add that it makes sense Yogananda would have to ramp up funding so late in his American sojourn. He created an organization that likely required increased revenue to match growth, making the book, with its fantastic (and unfortuantely, folk theory-laden) descriptions of enlightenment, necessary to produce.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post Navigation