A spiritual chain reaction begins

Critical size
The raw material of the first “atom-bomb” was a particular kind of Uranium. When a little heap of this is seen under a weak fluorescent light, it shines with a greenish radiance. The radiance is caused by the particles which are continually being emitted from uranium, which is what is called a radio-active element. The particles are shot away, and are lost in the atmosphere.

But if the element is subjected to a prolonged process which can be loosely called purification, and then a sufficient quantity is brought together, something quite different happens.. When the quantity reaches what is called the ” critical size “, the particles emitted from the atoms do not all lose themselves in the environment. Some of them strike a neighbouring atom, and that in turn releases a new particle. The new particle will probably strike another atomic nucleus, and so it goes on. What is called a ” chain reaction ” is set up. This will only happen when there is a sufficient amount of
the material to make it sure that most of the released particles remain in the mass of the material, so to speak, and set off new emissions.

The result is an explosion of tremendous force, and an illumination many times brighter than the sun visible to us. All this would have seemed fantastic to the classical chemists of the early nineteenth century. It was thought the known elements were fundamental substances, not reducible to anything else. The idea that the apparent inertness of matter consisted of tremendous forces in equilibrium would have been dismissed. Some mystics however had in their vision an idea of the real state of affairs.

The Sufi Rumi says

The earth’s face looks dull and sour,
but there is a laughter
and a radiance at the heart of every atom.

The radiance has now been discovered and can be demonstrated ; the laughter-namely consciousness and bliss-still remains to be demonstrated by science, though it is already known to the yogis and often mentioned by them.
Yogic training can be considered as the manifestation of the inner radiance and laughter in the universe.. The yogi first works on the material immediately available to him, namely his empirical self. The yogic thoughts and life make the mind faintly radiant, so to say, like the ” impure ” uranium. The momentary inspiration after pondering a traditional text, or during and after a traditional meditation practice, does give a small light. But that light is limited, and tends to vanish in the atmosphere of other thoughts. Still, long training refines the mind, and more and more of these particles of inspiration, so to say, are emitted.

The experience of the yogis tells us that there is a particular point (when the ” critical size ” has been reached, so to speak), at which an explosion of light occurs. Suddenly the trains of yogic thought are not interrupted, are not dispersed in the universe, but they begin to strike upon each other ; a sort of spiritual chain reaction begins, in which everything in the world reveals its hidden spiritual basis. The divine nucleus at the heart of each thing begins to appear. There is now no break in the yogic consciousness ; there are no rises and falls. The whole universe becomes brilliant. Instead of being a collection of limited things, mutually exclusive, the yogis see a unity, a light proceeding from one supreme God who is the Self of all.

In the Ramayana classic, translated fully by Dr. Shastri for the first time, there are a number of accounts of this experience. The devotee, after long practice of yoga, sees the Lord Rama before him. But then he finds even when he turns away, he is still seeing Rama. Rama is in the trees, in the birds, in the earth. It is the universal vision, described also in the eleventh chapter of the Bhagavad Gita.

Before Mohammad became a prophet, he spent years meditating in the solitude of Hira. He began to experience unity in his devotions ; instead of the different deities worshipped by the Arabs at that time, he began to know an underlying unity. Mohammad was a shy and retiring man, and he had no wish to proclaim the new truth. Then Allah sent him the form of an angel, Gabriel, who told him that he must speak. He turned to escape, but the angel was still before him. When he shut his eyes, the angel was within. The dazzling splendour of the angel was everywhere.

Jesus refers to the truth that God is in even inanimate things, when he says :

” Lift the rock and you shall find me ;
cleave the wood and I am there.”

The essentials of the process are purification and an intense inquiry,

a ‘looking-into ‘ the spiritual basis of the individual self and of the universe. Both these two must be inquired into. After pursuing the yogic practices for a long time (less in the case of one who has found a true teacher), the god is known, first as the real nature of the self, and then as the real nature of the whole universe. The following verses from the Svetasvatara Upanishad give a classical account

As a metal mirror, tarnished by dust, shines bright again after it has been cleaned, so is the incarnate one satisfied and free from grief after he has seen the real nature of the self.
And when by means of the real nature of his self he sees, as by a lamp, the real nature of Brahman, then having known the unborn, eternal god who is beyond all natures, he is freed from all fetters.
He indeed is the god who pervades all regions : he is the firstborn and he is in the womb. He has been born and he will be born. He stands behind all persons, looking everywhere.
The god who is in the fire, the god who is in the water, the god who has entered into the whole world, the god who is in plants, the god who is in trees, adoration be to that god, adoration!

From a lecture given at Friends’ House, Euston Road, on January 19th, 1960 by Trevor Leggett

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