2. Striking Gold
During the time of his Atman realization and the years following, Franklin Merrell-Wolff was living with his wife Sherifa on the orange plantation which provided their livelihood; it was just north of Los Angeles. When the Great Depression came, Merrell-Wolff began prospecting for gold, and was successful enough at it to avoid foreclosure on his property. This gritwork was very amenable to his spiritual efforts, because it left his mind free while providing a down-to-earth focus.
He was meditating on the concept of Nirvana, when in a flash of Recognition he attained it. Naturally, for him, it occurred as the result of an intellectual insight, which had the effect of clearing away the intellectual obstructions to the attainment. In his description of the event, he castigates himself for not having realized it sooner, because now the faults in his previous understanding seemed obvious: “I had been thinking of Nirvana as a kind of other world, standing in disparate relation to this world of relative consciousness”, that it was a separate field or space that he would have to enter. But now he suddenly grasped that this was not so, that the truth was much simpler and more immediate: he Recognized that he himself was identical with Nirvana ~ that “I am Nirvana“. The ‘I’, of course, was the pure subject-consciousness which he had previously isolated from the “relative manifold” of objects.
Merrell-Wolff used the term “Recognition” for these events because he insisted that they were not “experiences”, that they were in fact beyond experience as such. This is because the word implies an experiencer to whom the experience is happening as if from outside ~ there is still a distinction between subject and object. By contrast, Merrell-Wolff’s Recognition was attained through identity with what had been conceived as an object; he literally did not experience Nirvana, he became Nirvana. This is why he settled on “Consciousness-without-an-object” as his favored term for the realities at the highest end of spiritual enlightenment. He retained the term for rhetorical purposes when he expounded his philosophy, even though he discovered that the ultimate Consciousness is also without a subject.