This article was inspired by the following question and answer from “I Am That,” a well-known spiritual book which chronicles talks between Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj and seekers who were eager to recognize true Self:
Q: “Is there no way of making out who is realized and who is not?”
M: “Your only proof is in yourself. If you find that you turn to gold, it will be a sign that you have touched the philosopher’s stone.”
The philosopher’s stone was believed to be a substance that was capable of transforming ordinary metals such as iron, tin, and nickel into gold; this is the metaphysical alchemy of which many of us may have read or heard. The related Truth, however, goes much deeper than a claim to transform base metals into gold. At its most profound level, it’s about transcending our false self through the recognition of our divine essential nature.
To touch the philosopher’s stone, we must (as Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj expressed) be earnestly eager to recognize the Gold which we actually–already–are. Such means that we are no longer willing to blindly believe our long held assumptions related to human identity. We desire to dive deep into the very nature of our Being, and we will not relent until we directly KNOW the answer! “Who Am I?”–really–will be the burning question in the foreground of our daily life.
The process involved in realization cannot be forced through efforts related to our egoic “self;” to do so, in fact, almost certainly dooms our efforts to failure. To touch the philosopher’s stone, we need not collect endless amounts of information about true Self; nor must we make unnecessary pilgrimages to ashrams or holy temples. Right where we are, we may become a knower; but to do so, we must leave behind what we have accepted as fact. For seekers who are ripe for realization, the following quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi contains a potent hint:
“What we are looking for, is what’s looking.”
In our spiritual quest, we must cast aside all of our apparent history, beliefs, and assumptions and dare to step–barer than naked–beyond our ignorance. We must discern clearly between what is real and unreal. In the stillness of now, free of interpretation, we will recognize the Source of our Being. No “person” ever becomes enlightened; to touch the stone, in fact, means that we awaken from the delusional belief that we ever were the person. This occurs in a similar way that we shrug off the fictional character we were playing in a nighttime dream.
When false beliefs and assumptions related to our egoic “i” fall away, we knowingly merge with the Gold to which Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj referred. There, beyond name and form, That which is the eternal and immutable Source of all that was, is, and will be, is found. We cannot, however, ever point to It (“lo, here It is,” or “lo, there It is“); for such would mean that we were still mired in the perspective of duality–a subject pointing to an object. The Oneness of Infinite Being is beyond all conceptions and perceptions. Eternally, It is both everywhere and nowhere–a no “thing” that can never be objectified, but out of which all apparent things–including our body-mind, arise.
The Truth of the philosopher’s stone is that you–as true Self–“are” It. We figuratively touch the stone through direct recognition and are, thereby, transmuted into the golden child of God that has always been our true “I Am-ness.” Only through our ignorance have we believed it possible to be separate and otherwise. Free of the chatter of the mind, we, thus, know the deepest meaning of Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.” To understand this deeply is to realize there is a difference between the definition you hold of yourself, and That which you truly are.
When we awaken to our essential nature, our paradigm of “reality” must also change; it is through this knowledge that we engage the true magic related to the philosopher’s stone. Plutarch summed up the principle involved through the following quote: “What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.” Centuries later, this was echoed by Paramahansa Yogananda, who stated that “the mind is the creator of everything.” To Know Thyself is to touch the philosopher’s stone.
Dare to dream (and care for one another).
With heartfelt regards,
Copyright © – 2022 – R. Arthur Russell
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