Some excerpts from The Conquest of Illusion

The absolute and the relative: Nirvana

by J.J. Van Der Leeuw (1929)

There can never be freedom for the relative, since every relative thing is at least partially determined by all else that is relative. Only the Absolute is free since there is naught beside It. There is no interaction between the Absolute and the relative; the relative thing can only be related to other relative things. Relation denotes relativity, and the Absolute has no relation to anything because It is all things. Its only relation to the relative is that the relative as a whole is the Absolute, but there is never the possibility of a relation between *a* relative thing or being and the Absolute.

Since there is no relation between the relative and the Absolute, except in so far as the Absolute is the relative in its entirety, we are no longer the relative when we realize the Absolute, that is to say we are no longer 'we' or 'I' when we are That. That is why in Buddhism the realization of the Absolute is called Nirvana, literally the 'going out' or 'becoming extinct,' since from the standpoint of the separate self it means the end of all things, though from the standpoint of reality it means the beginning of all things. Nirvana is the extinction of the craving to be the relative thing and thereby the extinction of the relative as such in the realization of the Absolute. We are as justified to say that *we become the Absolute*, that the dewdrop becomes the shining sea, as we are in saying that the dewdrop is lost when slipping into the sea, that *we are annihilated when realizing the Absolute.* It will ever be impossible to express reality in the language of our world-image.

The philosophical mystic does not speak much of a hierarchy of ever greater and greater beings, for him there is but one goal, one achievement - The Absolute. That is the God of the philosophical mystic, a God who is not Creator of the universe but who is eternally all universes, a God to whom no man can pray, but whom we *are* when we reach Reality. To Him no adoration can ascend, from Him no benediction descends to man. He is unchanging eternal Peace, the Alone beyond which naught is. This eternal Peace of the Absolute is the Buddhist Nirvana; Nirvana, as taught by the Buddha, is not the evolution into greater power and knowledge, but the passing out of evolution into an Eternal in which is no suffering, no unsatisfied craving because there is no separateness, no 'I,' no possibility of incompleteness. Nirvana thus is not a crowning glory in an ascending scale of ever increasing divine experiences, it is the radical and fundamental departure from all that is relative into the Absolute.


With thanks for selecting this and typing it out to Leo Bartoli.