This is part 2 in a series about Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Author, MR Neer addresses some questions that are related to the Yogi’s theory about the connection between literature and the evolution of consciousness. Please read the previous post where MR Neer offers some insight about literature, how we experience it, and how it develops human consciousness.
How does literature affect the writer, reader, and society?
Now from this foundation, I have identified 10 of Maharishi’s key ideas about literature.
For the Writer:
1) Silence. The creative process depends on the inner silence of the writer. The aspects of a piece of writing “all come together in a very beautiful, connected manner if there is silence deep within.” By silence, he means thought arising from the state near or at the level of pure consciousness – the quietest level of the mind where all activity has settled down. He insists that the power of literature lies in “the purity of the writer, in the purity of the consciousness of the writer who is able to bring in an ocean in a drop, … [who] naturally comprehends the totality on any surface value of a thing.” He explains that when a writer maintains that simple, silent awareness, it has all possibilities in it.
2) Flow. Good writing is not so much about content but about the flow. A good poet can take any perception into his or her heart and unleash the flow of life into words. Likewise, fiction writers can take any subject and turn it into a process for unfolding the full potential of life. This is because, Maharishi says, “consciousness contains the entirety of the universe. All the laws that are responsible for every activity in the cosmos, all these are in that flow of consciousness, … all this is available in the field of literature.”
3) Expansion. The act of writing expands the writer’s consciousness. If a writer has cultured his own silence, then he or she spontaneously sees closer to the quantum mechanical level of the object, and sees how everything is naturally evolving to higher levels. As the words flow out, one’s consciousness flows with it into new perceptions about life seen through the story. The natural ability to evolve gets enlivened, and Maharishi says, “This is the blessing of literature.”
4) Joy. The act of writing produces joy. As the writer evolves through silence and through his/her writing, every perception and phrasing becomes more refined, more comprehensive. That process in itself is joyful, and this gets communicated to the reader. “The joy that one experiences,” Maharishi says, “in going through a piece of literature is the impulse of bliss arrested in the expressions of successful writers.”
For the Reader:
5) Examples. Literary language gives the reader ideal expressions to model. Maharishi says it’s a measure of “how beautiful our speech can be, how beautiful and purposeful our expressions can be.” It actually provides a standard for the reader to evaluate the quality of his speech, whether it’s refined, has value, and its effect on others. He suggests that the purpose of the study of literature is to inspire us “to rise to the level of awareness in which our speech will spontaneously be so beautiful as to refine emotions, refine intellect, refine perceptions, and beautify the whole environment.”
6) Flexibility. To fully enjoy the literature, a reader must cultivate flexibility. As mentioned above, a reader with a stressed level of consciousness can’t flow with the text. Their awareness is frozen. “As consciousness becomes more flexible, more fluid, it will be able to comprehend wider horizons of all the mechanics that structure a literary piece,” Maharishi explains.
7) Unfoldment. Studying literature unfolds deeper layers of life. The purpose of study, for any subject, but especially for literature, is to go deeper into more refined layers of the subject. Scientists know that all of nature is structured in layers, and Maharishi says “the whole purpose of gaining knowledge lies in unfolding those layers of emotions, deeper and finer, those more delicate, and still more delicate.” This is what a reader is looking for in a novel, whether they can articulate it or not. They want to go deeper, to gain insight, to feel what the characters are feeling, to vicariously experience new and deeper emotions. Maharishi would say “to unfold the Self.”
8) Refreshment. Good literature is refreshing to the reader. As a teacher, Maharishi explained that when students comprehend and experience the evolutionary influence of a written work, then they will get refreshed. If, instead of innocently reading it and getting into the flow, they try to analyze it based on principles, then they will get tired. He emphasized that readers need to cultivate a high level of consciousness to appreciate the best writing. In fact, he says a reader should aim to have a higher consciousness than the writer “because then he will derive greater inspiration, he will derive greater charm, and greater meaning.”
This is the gap that all writers face –that the reader often isn’t able to appreciate what they have put into their writing. The corollary to this is that as consciousness rises in the world, then more people will appreciate literature at its deepest level. Maharishi believed that we are gradually entering a better time in the world – what he called an Age of Enlightenment. My conjecture is that we could then be on the verge of a golden age of literature, and Visionary Fiction can lead the way.
9) Enlightenment. Literature is a comprehensive training for the awareness. Maharishi says, “The study of literature is to make one wise. Wise means spontaneously capable of right thought, right action, right behavior. This can only come about by stabilizing pure consciousness.” Thus, Maharishi feels that a writer or reader who is culturing the level of silence in their own awareness will quickly evolve as they read good literature. He says, “The study of literature would even go so far as to develop Unity Consciousness.” This is what he calls the transcendental or complete value of literature. He concludes that this will bring “fulfillment to literature at the very basis of all literature, and [make] literature a means to rise to enlightenment.”
10) Greatness. The lasting value of a work of literature depends on the writer’s consciousness. “The greatness of [a work] depends upon how deep and lively a level of life it springs [from],” he says. With a spontaneous flow of words from a good writer, who is expressing the evolutionary contrasts of life, the “literature displays its magnanimity, its grandeur, its usefulness, and the longer it lives to inspire life in every generation.” A successful piece of literature, Maharishi says, “is capable of giving a new direction to time, in any country, in any part of the world, in the whole world. It is in the timeless expressions which contain the entirety of the evolutionary process that the ability lies to give a direction to time.
If you would like further details, all of Maharishi’s talks on literature and language have been collected in The Flow of Consciousness (available used on Amazon or new at www.mumpress.com), edited by Rhoda Orme-Johnson and Susan K. Andersen, 2010
M.R. Neer (aka Michael Roy Neer) has enjoyed a long career of organizing words in creative ways as an English teacher, curriculum specialist, magazine publisher, book editor, and long-time teacher of the Transcendental Meditation technique. He has won awards for journalism, newsletter writing, and teaching, and makes his home in Fresno, California.
He likes to think of organizing words as similar to connect-the-dot puzzles he enjoyed as a kid. When you connect the dots, something that is hidden suddenly appears; it’s magical! The light goes on! This quest for connections, for light, has directly led to his first novel, The Elixir of Freedom, Book One in The Light Finder Legends series. Visit MR’s website for more information.