The Yogic View of Consciousness 4: The Absolute According to van der Leeuw


YVC4 ATOM-2If the world we directly perceive is, in some sense, a virtual image like a mirror reflection, what is it a reflection of? We now begin a set of posts to elaborate on the idea of the “Absolute” in yoga, Hinduism, and Western thought.


Contents for The Yogic View of Consciousness:

Intro Ch 1 Ch 2 Ch 3 Ch 4 Ch 5 Ch 6 Ch7 Ch 8
Ch 9 Ch 10 Ch 11 Ch 12 Ch 13 Ch 14 Ch 15 Ch 16 Ch 17
Ch 18 Ch 19 Ch 20 Ch 21 Ch 22 Ch 23 Ch 24 Ch 25 Ch 26
Ch 27 Ch 28 Ch 29 Ch 30 Ch 31 Ch 32 Ch 33


I had planned to stop this essay after 3 posts.  But there is so much more to say. Therefore, in the next several posts, I will take the movie projection metaphor of the yogic view of consciousness spelled out in Part 2 and elaborate each of its elements in more detail as separate posts. This exercise was started in Part 2, but will be continued via these additional posts.

We begin by considering the “projector”, the real world of objective truth, which projects through the bindu and into the cave of consciousness that we call our mind. Hindus call the real world “Brahman” (among other names) and people in the West call it “infinity”, or sometimes “God”. As we shall see, no words can capture IT. But words, like everything else, can reflect IT with more or less clarity.

Here we focus exclusively on J.J. van der Leeuw’s description from The Conquest of Illusion. van der Leeuw’s description of what is outside of the mind, what one finds upon passing through the bindu, is the best I have ever read. It is expressed in a way modern people can understand. Knowing his description, we are in a better position to understand other descriptions, which we will consider in the next post.

I want to say the following about how we should interpret van der Leeuw’s description. If one has the pretense of being intellectual, one ignores such descriptions at one’s own peril. The yogic view of consciousness makes clear the futility of studying the shadows on the cave wall, or as van der Leeuw calls it, the “world-image”. van der Leeuw’s description can, for all practical purposes, be taken as a scientific description of the ultimate experience in yoga, which is called there Kaivalya. If we seek to understand the nature of things without taken this experience into account, then we are fools.

Through the Looking Glass
First we start with methods because the teachings of yoga are not speculative nor are they merely theoretical. They are descriptions of experience. The Absolute, the objective truth, the Real World is the ultimate experience in yoga.  So, we start with the recipe, procedure, methods, to have this experience.  Again, van der Leeuw’s quote at the end of Part 1 outlined the methodology. We can restate this in terms of the vocabulary developed in this essay.

Yoga cultivates the voluntary control of pratyak cetana, or inwardly directed consciousness. When we transition from waking to sleep, from dreaming to non-dreaming sleep, we are spontaneously undergoing pratyak cetana.  Pratyak cetana is the inward directing of consciousness. It is the light of consciousness moving in the direction of the bindu, as opposed to being outwardly directed towards the screen of consciousness, the outward state being paranga cetana.

What van der Leeuw described is the descent through consciousness via samadhi. He skipped the details of descending through the four layers of gunas, and describes only the final stage: nirbija samadhi. In nirbija samadhi, the mind becomes maximally stilled: it is the maximum state of chitta vritti nirodhah.

He then describes “flipping inside out” such that the world that seemed external on the screen of consciousness was found to be fully and completely inside of consciousness (as elaborated below). The transition of “flipping inside out” is called dharma mega samadhi in the Yoga Sutras.

In my samadhi article, dharma mega samadhi is explained as “jumping between the moments of time”.  van der Leeuw referred to this as “moving in a direction we did not know was there”. The process of dharma mega samadhi is exactly and precisely the act of penetrating the bindu, thereby exiting the individual mind and entering the real world.

In the Yoga Sutras, the World of the Real is called “Kaivalya”. Kaivalya means “alone.”  There is nothing beyond, beside, or outside of the infinite. It is Alone.

That is of the recipe to get to Kaivalya in outline form.  The rest is up to you.

A Summary
It is always best to know where one is going. Here I give a summary of the subsequent sections. What I have done is make a “Cliffs Notes” version of Conquest. I have isolated his main points and in this section try to express them as concisely as I can. The subsequent sections are quotes from his book that express these points. The below paragraphs are matched to subsequent quotes by letters.

The interested Reader should, of course, just read the book.

A. The experience of the Absolute cannot be contained in words or ideas. Eternal truth will always appear misleading and contradictory to the intellect. However, if these limits are vigilantly keep in mind, we can use words and ideas to try to convey something of the experience.

B. When one passes through the bindu, one becomes all things in Eternity. There is no longer individuality of any kind, only an overwhelming unity of being.

C. It is called the “Absolute” because: (1) it contains all that is, was, or every will be, (2) it is neither temporal nor spatial, but contains the fullness of space and time in their entirety, (3) there is nothing outside of it, (4) it contains no relational properties at all, only a complete and full unity, yet containing the fullness of all possible relationships.

D. The Relative is appearance of relationship, change, individuality, quality, and quantity. The Absolute is the Relative in its entirety. They are one and the same. A world-image is a relative realization of the Absolute. The Relative exists only in and through a world-image.

E. There is no reason, no cause, and no purpose for the Absolute. Its being is its own justification. Since the Absolute and the Relative are identically the same, there is no cause, reason, or purpose for the Relative.

F. The Essence of the Absolute is the Rhythm of Creation: the eternal revealing and hiding of the Absolute as the Relative. The Absolute does not create, it is creation. The Absolute is pure Creation.

G. – K. All problems in classical philosophy are false questions grounded in the mistake of assigning absolute significance to the relative relationships experienced in a world-image. These include: the mind/body problem, the problem of good and evil, the problem of free-will, the problem of justice, and the problem of the immortality of the soul.

L. The world-image is neither real nor unreal. The world-image is each individual’s interpretation of things as they are. By itself, the world-image is but the meaningless passage of images and experiences. When understood in the light of the Absolute, it becomes our individual and unique realizations of Eternity.

Let’s now hear how van der Leeuw expresses all this.  I will not talk again until the end of all the quotes.

A. The World-Image, Words, and the Intellect

“It is in this mystical experience that the intellect is transcended and knowing becomes being. Far from being the vague emotionalism…, true mystical experience is a most definite reality.”

“Beware of the man who claims to have solved the problem of life, who would explain its complexities and, with deadly logic, build a system in which all the facts of our existence may be pigeon-holed and neatly stored away. He stands condemned by his own claim. The child which sees wonder in all the world around it…is nearer to divine truth than the intellectualist who would strip a world of its mystery and takes pride in showing us its anatomy in ruthless dissection.”

“It is impossible to describe the world of Reality in the terms of our world-image, which is the only language at our command…

“…but when we have experienced reality we find ourselves placed before this choice–either to say nothing at all, recognizing that no words can express the Real, or else to attempt to convey something of reality in a language based on our world-image illusions, well knowing that every one of our expressions must be insufficient and thereby misleading, and that whatever we say must appear to be self-contradictory.”

“The world of the Real, … is That beyond and beside which nothing exists. In a way it is not even right to speak of a world which we enter. First of all it is not a world, secondly we do not really enter it and finally it is not really we who enter that world. No phraseology derived from the experience of our world-image can fit the Absolute, ultimate Reality. Down here we speak of a ‘world’ and the word immediately conveys a conception of a universe arranged around us, outside us, with spatial separation between its creatures and objects, changing, growing and evolving in time. In that sense the Absolute is not a world; if, however, we call it ‘world’ it is the one and only World that exists, which ever did exist, or ever can exist.”

B. Who Experiences Kaivalya?

“When we emerge through our centre of consciousness, the Void in which there is no content of consciousness, and when we ’emerge on the other side,’ we do not enter something which we are not, but we are That which we realize on the other side of this centre of consciousness. We are It in its entirety, we are It fully and wholly, we are It in all its possible manifestations, in all that It is, has been or can be, for in It time is eternity. Thus it is not really correct to speak any longer of ‘I’ or ‘we’; we truly are That and lose for the time being all consciousness of being a separate creature, of being someone. That is why even the term ‘consciousness’ is no longer valid for the realization of the Absolute, the nearest expression we can use for it is ‘being’.”

C. The Absolute

“What right have we to give the name ‘Absolute’ to that which we realize when emerging through our centre of consciousness?”

…the outstanding reality of our experience in the world of the Real is the amazing fact that nothing is outside us. There is distinction between different beings, the things in themselves, there is multiplicity, there is all that which in our world-image produces the rich variety of outer forms and yet it all is within ourselves…”

“… what we experience is not something which differs in quantity or greatness or measure from the world image we know in our daily consciousness; it is not something greater, more glorious, more beautiful or more comprehensive, it is utterly and entirely different. Where our world image presents itself to us decked in all the rich variety of sense-qualities, with colour and sound, taste, smell and touch, with form and shape, with measures of space and time, with a multiplicity of separate creatures and objects, all distinct one from the other and dependent on one another, interrelated, this Reality which we experience shows nothing of all that. …here in the world of the Real there is no longer a universe surrounding us, there is no longer separateness, there are no longer the qualities which form the garment of our world-image; we have become That which is pure Unity, containing all multiplicity, though not showing any separateness.”

“Our world-image is thus the way in which we interpret reality. The many qualities of material objects, their distances and dimensions in space and their change in time, all that belongs to our interpretation, to our image. The tree in the world of the Real is not fifty feet high, its leaves are not green and smooth, its trunk is not rough to the touch and hard and it does weigh so many hundredweights. All these qualities are my interpretation of the tree in itself and are elements of my world-image. The tree in itself as it exists in the world of the Real may be pictured as a mathematical point, but there is that within it which, each time it reacts upon me, produces in my world-image a certain group of qualities of sound, touch, weight and certain measurements in space together with a certain change or growth in time.”

D. The Relative

“In this world of relativity each relative thing is related to all else; there is not an atom in this universe of mine to which I am not related, even though I may not be conscious of the relation. I have no existence at all as a separate creature, though I may at times imagine myself as such; rather am I part of an intricate web of relativity in which all things mutually determine one another.”

“There can never be freedom for the relative, since every relative thing is at least partially determined by all else that is relative. Only the Absolute is free since there is naught beside It. There is no interaction between the Absolute and the relative; the relative thing can only be related to other relative things. Relation denotes relativity, and the Absolute has no relation to anything because It is all things. Its only relation to the relative is that the relative as a whole is the Absolute…”

E. The Mystery of Creation

“It is inevitable that man, contemplating his world-image and assuming it to be an objective universe, should ask what the origin of that world is, who made it and out of what it was formed.”

“… in all the questions concerning the first Cause, the beginning of creation, the matter out of which the universe is made, its origin and the relation of our universe to its Creator, illusions enter, especially the illusions of…time and of the objective reality of matter, and the questions can never be solved, being wrong in themselves.”

There Is No Cause

“The absence of all relativity, of all relationships denotes that which we call the Absolute; it is not dependent upon anything else because it is the Alone. …If the unphilosophical mind were to ask: Why the Absolute? and Whence the Absolute? the unchanging Voice of that which is eternal and unchanging would give him the answer, could he but realize it. The Absolute is its own explanation, its own cause, its own fulfillment, and its own realization.”

“Here we have left behind us the world of relativity, we are the Absolute which is all relativity simultaneously and eternally. No longer do we now gaze upon a universe, the history of which enrolls itself in time; we experience as an ever-present reality That which, speaking our language of illusion, is all that is, was or shall be, all universes past and present, all beginnings and endings, all cycles of time and evolution. Yet the Absolute is not on one side and all the manifoldness of relativity on the other. Relativity is but the spelling of the Name of the Absolute, it is its very being, its constitution, its description, we might almost say its one characteristic.”

“It is therefore impossible to say that there is some reason for the presence of the relative in the Absolute, it is not present in the Absolute, it is but the Absolute, experienced in a different way. Thus there is no raison d’etre for the relative, no origin or cause of it, it has no purpose and serves no end and in no way does it increase the glory of the Absolute, since it is the Absolute. Words like origin and cause, purpose and end can only flower in the soil of illusion, they lose their meaning in the, world of the Real.”

“Of the relative as well as of the Absolute we can but say that its being is its justification, it is and it is all there is, it always was and never shall cease to be…”

F. Rhythm of Creation

“There is nothing, there never was anything, there never can be anything but the eternal Rhythm of creation, unchanging, containing all things. It is the Absolute, It is at the same time all relativity all that we think of as past, present, or future.”

“On the one hand, our normal consciousness, we can experience the fact of the limitation of the Absolute in the relative; on the other hand, in our experience of reality, we find the fact of the liberation of the relative into the Absolute. These two facts–the eternal limitation of the Absolute to the relative and the eternal liberation of the relative into the Absolute are not merely the fruits of intellectual reasoning or of logical proof, they are realities which we can experience in ourselves. Together these two basic facts interpret for us the mystery of Creation.”

“When we enter the world of the Real we not only experience the liberation from relative to Absolute, we become the eternal creative Rhythm which is the very Being of the Absolute, which is the Absolute itself.

“The experience of the Rhythm of creation is the ultimate experience in the quest of Truth. In that ultimate experience we know that the Absolute is eternal creation, that creation is not an act, thought, or emanation of the Absolute but that it is the Absolute, its very being, ultimate reality, causeless, without beginning, end or purpose. It is the one Reality beyond which nothing is, there is no cause to which the one eternal truth can be traced, no final result which it can ever produce or accomplish.”

“The Absolute does not create, it is eternal creation; creation is its Being, its Name, its Nature, not even co-eternal with It, since it is not distinct from It. That is the ultimate mystery which has neither cause nor purpose.”

“…When we know the Rhythm of creation as the very being of the Absolute, we can see the absurdity of those questions which ask out of what material the universe is made, who made it and how it was made. All these questions originate in illusion…”

“Truly this final mystery is awful and dark, yet its darkness is better than the light of our world-image and the awe with which it fills us is better than the self-complacent conceit of the intellect. It leaves us silent, for its simplicity is too great to be expressed.”

“It is a mystery, the Mystery of Creation, the ultimate Mystery, but it is no longer a problem since we ourselves are It.”

G. Spirit and Matter (mind-body dualism)

“Here we are no longer conscious of anything; we are all things. When, in the world of Reality, we experience things as they are, there is no trace anywhere of either spirit or matter…”

“There the entire distinction appears meaningless; it is but our relative being which, in our daily experience, makes us look upon certain things as being in themselves matter and upon others as in themselves spirit or Self. In the world of the Real we find no such differences, all things there are essentially the same, an atom of matter as well as a living being. They are all modes of the Absolute and their differences are not differences in being, but only in fullness of realization.”

“…why then do some of them appear to us as spirit, others as matter, some as self, others as not-self, some as life, others as form?”

“It is the action of things in themselves upon us in the world of the Real which is objectivated in our consciousness as our world-image. … we can characterize matter or form as the way in which a lesser reality appears to a higher. Spirit or life is the way in which a reality of higher order appears to one of lesser order. Spirit and matter are terms denoting a relation between different modes of the Absolute; as such they are exceedingly useful terms and have a very real meaning. When, however, we look upon them as objective, independently existing realities they become absurd and meaningless.”

H. Good and Evil

“The words ` good ‘ and ` evil ‘ have no meaning whatever in the experience of Reality; we experience things as they are and cannot say of them that they are either good or evil in themselves, they are what they are and their being is their justification.”

“…every point of the vast scheme of evolution certain things are right and fitting for the evolving creature, others are not… that which is right for the one is wrong for the other.. conditions which are right for the infant would be absurd for the youth and those which suit a grown-up man might well kill a growing child. Relativity reigns everywhere; what is right for one is wrong for the other, nothing is right or wrong in itself.”

“Without exception, therefore, good and evil are terms denoting the relation of certain things, events or beings, to us at our present level of evolution.”

I. Free-will

“When we escape from the tyranny of our time-illusion with its uncertain future and experience eternal Reality we realize how much the problem of the freedom of our will is bound up with our usual concept of time. In that illusion the thought can live that somehow we can choose one way or another, that we by our God-given free will can determine the future according to our choice. But when we enter the world of Reality we experience time as an eternal Present and the very thought of a past which is done with and a future which is not yet becomes absurd. As well might the wanderer along the road think of the road behind him as fixed and certain because he, the wanderer, has passed over it and of the road in front of him as indeterminate and uncertain because he himself has not yet reached it.”

“The gradual evolution, growth and change which we experience in our lives is but our realization of that which we eternally are in the world of Reality… In that world of reality I am, even now, all that in my world-image I shall be in the future, and I am all this not in a vague outline, in principle, but in every detail which shall be.”

“When we enter the world of the Real we do experience freedom, not the illusion of freedom which was ‘to do as we liked,’ to have our own way, to choose without compulsion, but a true Freedom in which we are free because there is nothing outside us to limit or compel. As long as in the illusion of our world-image we imagined ourselves to be separate individuals with a will of our own, surrounded by a world full of opposition and of other creatures with wills of their own, our demand for freedom was as impossible as would be the demand of a swimmer that the water should not wet him. In our very assertion of individuality, in our separateness we are unfree, since we are limited by all that which we are not, influenced, opposed, and compelled by the surroundings in which we live, by the character with which we identify ourselves.”

J. Justice

“Unity in the world of the Real is such a very different thing from even our highest conceptions of unity in daily life. Here we always think of unity as a combination of things which are separate; in the world of the Real we realize that unity is not union… Unity is a fundamentally real thing; multiplicity is but a way of contemplating and experiencing that unity.”

“In the world of Reality the demand of justice for the individual is almost repulsive, it is so utterly impossible and incompatible with things as they are. In the blindness and illusion of our world-image we may fancy ourselves to be separate and distinct, yet, all the time, the fact remains that we never are separate, but are fundamentally and essentially one in being and reality. In that reality we not only share, we are the life of all creatures in a fullness of utter unity which is incomprehensible to our consciousness in daily life. The demand for justice is therefore meaningless in that world; it does not matter whether a thing happens to that part of reality which I call myself or to the part which I call someone else, all are one in utter unity…”

“How absurd would be the suggestion of injustice in the difference in place allotted to the different notes, in the fact that one note may form part of a majestic opening chord whereas another note is almost lost in a minor passage. The symphony is one and we cannot attribute separateness to the single notes or chords; they all are the symphony and the symphony is one. Each note has its meaning only as part of the symphony; the symphony is not a collection of notes grouped together into a unity, but every note is part of the symphony. The composition as a whole is the fundamental reality….”

[Side bar: This view does not mean we turn a blind eye to injustice and accept the inequities of life.  His point is that, since all that exists is one unified “thing”, then another’s suffering IS my suffering.  Unless I myself love to suffer, then I should do what I can to alleviate the suffering of others. That is the implication of his viewpoint.  Sorry, just had to step in and avert possible misinterpretations. -Don]

K. Immortality

“We always seek in the wrong direction, we always want more time; we demand even endless time in our quest of immortality. Yet the infinitely greater Reality is ever ours to enter if we but will whereas the lesser claim is but an illusion, born of illusion. We do not want more time, we want eternity in which all time is; we need to strike out in a different dimension altogether. Instead of wanting ever more and more of our time-experience we should, at this very moment, pierce through the veil of time and enter eternity, which can be found in fullness at every moment of our time. Instead of yearning to go on to the next moment, the next experience in time, we should go into the moment, into the present, and here and now enter eternity.”

L. Living In the Light Of the Absolute

“We speak of world affirmation and of world-denial. But what is that world which we seek either to affirm or to deny? It is the world which we see around us, the world which appears as an objective reality, distinct from the life within. But that world is only an image in my consciousness; it is but my interpretation of Reality. It is true, I externalize that world image, believing it to be a reality outside my consciousness, but that does not make it the reality it appears to be. Neither can I say that it is all illusion, that it does not exist at all and that, therefore, it should be ignored and rejected in the practice of daily life. We cannot say of the externalized world-image either that it is real or that it is unreal; it is both real and unreal. It is real in so far as it is our interpretation of Reality, it is unreal in so far as it is not Reality itself, but only our interpretation. The illusory part of it is that we dissociate from our consciousness that which is only image in it and proclaim it to be independent reality.”

“Our universe then is no objectively real world which we can either affirm or deny. The whole problem of world-denial and world-affirmation is but born of the illusion in which we place outside of our consciousness as objective reality that which is but image in it, caused by eternal Reality.”

“When from the experience of Reality we return to the dream of our world-image we no longer identify ourselves with it, thinking it to be the only reality, neither do we shrink from it as from a world of evil, or ignore it as a mere glamour of illusion. We can now see it all the time as that which it is-the image produced in our consciousness by eternal Reality, our interpretation of things as they are. Such an attitude is neither world-denial nor world-affirmation, it is the contemplation of our world-image in the light of the Eternal.”

“He who would live according to the world of the Real in the illusion of his world-image can only end his days in a lunatic asylum; he would be attempting that which cannot and should not be attempted. The interpretation of reality which we see in our world-image, is not the same as reality itself; the features of reality appear in a strange and distorted way in our world-image and we must not commit the philosophical mistake of thinking that we can transfer bodily the conditions of the world of the Real into our world-image. Could we do that it would no longer be our world-image, but the world of the Real. The Absolute can never be contained in the relative, yet he who has realized the Absolute will, living in the world of the relative, find his experience to be as a shining light illumining his way and giving peace in the midst of chaos and turmoil.”

“In the light of that Reality the passing appearance gains a new meaning, a new dignity, which without the vision of the Real it could not have. Round us we see all the time forms that are changing, nothing abides, all is in a process of eternal becoming. These ever-changing phases are but meaningless if seen by themselves, they become full of a wonderful meaning when seen as our realization of eternal Reality.”


van der Leeuw was an optimist of human nature.  When he says that one who has experienced Kaivalya, the Absolute, has the choice to say nothing at all, or say something knowing it will sound like self-contradictory nonsense to the intellect, he chose to say something.  Clearly, he was optimistic that someone would get it.

As we see above, it does sound contradictory. The Absolute is but the the Relative taken as a whole.  They are one and the same. The Relative is how the Absolute appears from on the inside of a world-image.  If “you” exit the world-image, the Relative as a whole forms the Absolute.

Actually, it all hangs together quite nicely.  It is like a glove.  If you pull a right glove inside-out, you get a left glove.  If you pull the Relative inside out, you get the Absolute, and vice versa.  It reminds me of that trick in quantum mechanics that requires a 720 degree rotation to get back to the beginning.

It is also reminiscent of the strange kind of dualities that String theorists are kicking around. van der Leeuw identifies what might be considered the most basic of all dualities: the duality of the Absolute in the Relative, and the Relative in the Absolute.

Unfortunately, we will never be able to mathematize it because math describes relationships. Such thinking must forever remain metaphorical. The truth of the matter will always remain a mystery if the intellect chooses to stay confined to the world-image.  But this is not a fundamental problem because as he says:

“It is a mystery…the ultimate Mystery, but it is no longer a problem since we ourselves are It.”

Further, the Absolute, and hence the Relative, is characterized by one thing: the Rhythm of Creation.  This is an idea that is very hard to understand.  There is not something that creates.

There is only creation.

It is very abstract.  If you don’t want to spend years perfecting yoga, you can take a psychedelic drug a few times, and perhaps get a glimpse of this, the most basic and fundamental aspect of existence. I will just assert here that what he says is true.  I too have glimpsed this, what might be called the fundamental tone of reality.

We have all heard the cliche: “the more that things change, the more they stay the same“.  At a primitive level of understanding, this is what he is talking about. But it is more awesome and terrible than how this phrase may be interpreted from within the cage of our world-image.

Eventually, everything vanishes, only to be replaced with something unimaginable.

Worst of all for the intellect who clamors desperately for the security blanket of an idea to bring coherence and consistency to experience in the world-image: There is no reason, no cause, no purpose.  It just is.

This gives rise to a very sharp and concrete prediction about human affairs: if the experience of Kaivalya is not widely understood and accepted, humanity will forever muck about in the shadows and there will never be satisfaction or resolution.

Then, after taking classical Western philosophy to task for not incorporating the experience of the Real, van der Leeuw leaves us with the most sensible of advice.  He tackles the question of world-affirmation and world-denial. Or said in more pragmatic terms, he tackles the very question of how we should live our lives.

I want to repeat this  because it is very important when we are inside the world-image:

He who would live according to the world of the Real in the illusion of his world-image can only end his days in a lunatic asylum; he would be attempting that which cannot and should not be attempted.

Cantor should have heeded this advice.  We cannot transport wholesale the Absolute into the Relative.  As van der Leeuw says elsewhere in the book, sooner should a miser take his gold with him across the border of death.

What the experience of Kaivalya gives, ironically, is perspective. The experience of the Real provides exactly the security blanket sought by those who spin and spin in their relative world-images trying to find ultimate meaning in the shadows.

Our experience as relative beings is not meaningless.  It is our realization of Eternity.

I have thought an awful lot about what this means “our realization of Eternity“.  You should too.

From such a platform, we can settle down, organize our thoughts and actions, and perhaps do something right for a change, instead of running around like a bunch of idiots caught up in this or that delusion acquired from projecting relative shadows as if they were the Absolute.

Next time, we use van der Leeuw’s description as a springboard to discuss other ideas out there about the Absolute, or what is found on the other side of the bindu, outside of our individual mind, the world-image.

Please go on to Part 5, if you are so inclined…


4 thoughts on “The Yogic View of Consciousness 4: The Absolute According to van der Leeuw

  1. Comment on Blog on “Yoga and Consciousness” by Don deg.

    I am grateful to my friend Kashyap Vasavada for drawing my attention to the blogs of Dondeg.
    The four blogs on this subject are very impressive. The exposition on Yoga as described by I.K.Tamini and Van der Leeuw is very clearly presented with conviction and a sincere desire to understand. The idea that materialism and idealism are not different but two ends of one spectrum (of our world view, I presume) is very appealing. Both the outer world (phenomena) and the inner (noumena) are taken to be part of one’s individual consciousness. Passing through Bindu seems to be realisation.
    My attitude to these questions is one, which puts the individual (me) at the centre of all discussions. My attempt is not to try to understand everything but try to get guidance for simple actions that I must do. My question was : “ What should I do in a way, that it will be helpful to others ?” The insight that I got was : “ Do whatever You wanted to do as you and all others are part of the same consciousness or Brahman, it will be good for everyone.” For this YOU must be in a state in equilibrium with Brahman. To get into this state of equilibrium, one has to follow the advice of Van der Leeuw, quoted at the end of Part I. Similar ideas have been expressed by J. Krishnamurthy also.
    “Let us then do what so few ever do in our hurried civilization—be alone and be silent. We should relax all effort, and renounce all sensation coming to us from without, still our emotions and our thoughts and sink back into the depth of our own consciousness, like a diver sinking deep into the cool dark waters.”

    Unfortunately or maybe fortunately, the two ends of the spectrum of world view are quite different in terms of communicability. From the point of view of materialism the understanding is intellectual and can be easily communicated to other persons ,if they have had some training in the subjects, especially mathematics. But from the other end of idealism or spirituality it is not understanding but experiencing. This is almost impossible to communicate. Each person has to experience for herself or himself. The reference to Maslow and Terence Mckenna by Don was very apt in this context. One has to go beyond intellect and even emotions to a holistic experiencing.
    It seems ( there are no reliable figures available) that people with experience are very few. For the remaining the advice is: “Pursue what interests you and what you are good at with enthusiasm, detachment and compassion, without any egotistic preconceptions. Our minds and ego are full of pre conceptions about what should be. This is Maya. Realise that you can transcend this and be aware of WHAT IS. Experiencing will come in natural course. Hard striving for the experience is usually counter productive. “

    N.Panchapakesan (Panchu)

    • Dear Panchu
      My great appreciation for your comments and equal gratitude to Professor Vasavada for recommending you to the site. Thank you most sincerely for your kind comments and constructive additions and observations.

      If I may offer one small correction, providing I have understood you correctly. The term “noumena” as Kant used it is meant to refer not to our inner experiences of thinking but to that which is outside of our mind, or what we would call in common parlance “the real world”. He considered this “transcendental”, meaning that it cannot be accessed directly by our experience, but must always first be filtered (or constructed) by the mind. My contention is that yoga provides a set of methods to exit the mind and have first-hand experience of the noumena (or what van der Leeuw called the Absolute, and what Hindus generally call Brahman). Kant could not envision this possibility because he was unaware of yoga.

      You raise what is perhaps the most crucial question anyone can consider: “What should I do…?” I agree fully with your answer. Your thoughts are very cogent and well-stated and there is nothing I can add.

      What I can say is that I appreciate very much that you would take the time to offer your thoughts, which serve as wonderful reinforcement for what I am trying to convey in my writings.

      It is a great honor and privilege for me that you have kindly added your wonderful comments. I invite you to please do so whenever you wish.

      My very best wishes,


      • Dear Don

        Sorry if I misunderstood Kant. You have a link to your write up on Kant. Maybe I should read it. I thought phenomena referred to external world. My apologies.

        Thank you for the appreciative response.
        Though Kant may not have known about Yoga, it is quite possible that he had an actualising experience. Many persons of all religions and otherwise have had the experience.
        Eckhart Tolle, I think , has had one.


      • Dear Panchu
        Thank you for writing further. No need to apologize. That is the beauty of the internet is that we all learn so much from each other. If I may inject some intellectual humor to reply to you. Here are van der Leeuw’s very words from Conquest of Illusion which seem to address your point:

        “The profoundest minds have ever spoken the simplest language. The thought of Plato may be deep; his language is ever simple and may be understood by any cultured man. Here Oriental philosophy may well teach the West. Lao Tze, Patanjali, Gautama speak a language of utter simplicity, by the side of which Kant or Hegel appears ponderous and confused.”

        Sometimes one can only smile reading van der Leeuw.

        Now, I have read quite a bit of Leibniz’ writings, and I think he may have had something akin to a mystical experience.

        Again, Panchu, thank you so much for adding your voice and thoughts to the forum.

        My very kindest wishes,


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