Self-Discovery Portal

Greatest Western Teachers of Modern Times
~ What Is a Total Answer? ~

? A "total answer" to what? What's the question or problem?

Some recognize it as the unsatisfied yearning that haunts our lives. Others see it as the endless dilemmas that life confronts us with, seemingly insoluble problems about what action to take, or whether nonaction would be better. And, of course, behind any life-question is the question of death.

The Indian sage Nisargadatta described the problem as the "scorpion sting" of I-amness, the sense of being a separate being – living in the twilight of not knowing who or what one is, of not defining one's self.

Throughout history there have been records of people having discovered a Truth that answered all their questions of life and death. They used terms such as Nirvana and the Kingdom of Heaven to try to point to something that couldn't be put into words. Their listeners generally couldn't hear what was being hinted at, especially as the testimony often referred to the necessity for the old man to die before the new one could be reborn. Thus the idea came about of a heavenly dimension located somewhere other than here that would be the reward for righteous living – rather than the message that the Truth that would set them free was available, and only available, here and now. Regardless of the path that's been taken, the Vision is "all-or-nothing, sudden, complete, perfect" as Harding phrased it.

Franklin Merrell-Wolff Franklin Merrell-Wolff | Douglas Harding | Richard Rose

Wolff's Self-realization, which he referred to as the Fundamental Recognition, came at age 48 or 49, after 24 years of intentional searching. In his Pathways Through to Space, he interspersed detailed journal entries describing the events leading up to the Recognition with poetry that came to him during and shortly after the period of revelation – the poetry being a new form of communication for him. One of the poems, "Nirvana," describes the feeling-quality of a Total Answer in amazing color and depth:

FELT DIMLY in the soul, by world-man unconceived;
Unknown Goal of all yearning;
The Fullness that fills the inner void,
Completing the half-forms of outer life;
The Eternal Beloved, veiled in the objects of human desire;
Undying, Timeless, Everlasting;
Old as Infinity, yet ever new as upspringing youth;
Pearl beyond price, Peace all-enveloping;
Divinity spreading through all.
"Blown-out" in the grand conflagration of Eternity,
Death destroyed as a dream no longer remembered.
Life below but a living death,
Nirvana the ever-living Reality.
Divine Elixir, the Breath of all creatures;
The Bliss of full Satisfaction;
Uncreated, though ceaseless Creativeness;
Ecstasy of ecstasies, thrilling through and through,
Freed from the price of ignoble pleasure;
The Rest of immeasurable refreshment,
Sustaining the labors embodied;
The one Meaning giving worth to all effort;
Balancing the emptiness of living death,
With values beyond conceiving.
The Goal of all searching, little understood,
By few yet attained, though free to all.
Sought afar, but never found,
For closer IT lies than all possession;
Closer than home, country or race,
Closer than friend, companion, or Guide,
Closer than the body, feeling, or thought,
For closest of all IT lies,
Thine own true SELF.

Wolff described a subsequent phase of his Recognition, occurring about 30 days later, which he felt surpassed even the above. He termed it the High Indifference, which he said meant the same as the Sankrit term parinirvana (beyond nirvana).

Douglas Harding Douglas Harding |
Richard Rose | Franklin Merrell-Wolff

Harding's true seeing or revelation of the perfectly obvious came to him at age 33, coming out of the blue although following several months of intense inquiry into the question "What am I?"

He later wrote about it as "a simple and universal medicine for this sickness-unto-death" of ordinary life.

He pointed out that, no matter how many successes along the way, "in the end they leave the wayfarer profoundly unsatisfied. There remains an ache, an undefined longing." Only the final Breakthrough leads us to the end of craving. This final breakthrough occurred for him many years later, following a period that he equated with the "dark night of the soul" described by John of the Cross.

Like all true teachers, Harding points out the paradox involved in trying to describe anything absolute:

If we may talk at all of peak experiences, this (as the Buddha assures us) is the highest of them, and it's inseparable from the lowest of valley experiences. Depth is heights, read the other way round; infinite abasement is infinite exaltation; total self-loss is total self-fulfilment. This is how to get your way, at last, by stopping all pretense and being yourself.

Richard Rose Richard Rose |
Franklin Merrell-Wolff | Douglas Harding

Rose's seeing into his true nature or becoming one with the Absolute occurred at age 30, following a lifetime of searching for God or Truth punctuated by many traumas. As an endpiece in Profound Writings, East & West, he published the following poem that summarizes what he found and the path he followed:

I come to you as a man selling air,
      And you will think twice at the offer and price,
And you will argue that nothing is there,
      Although we know that it is – everywhere.

I bring a formula largely untold –
      Of forces, mixed with between and betwixt,
And only seen when allowed to unfold,
      And better felt when the body is cold.

I have a map to the home of the soul,
      Beyond the mind is a golden find –
The paradox is a guide to the goal –
      Though doubt is sacred, each man is the Whole.

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