Franklin Merrell-Wolff Describes Enlightenment

By Wes Annac, Culture of Awareness

Wouldn’t it be great to have a description of one of the stages of enlightenment from someone who experienced it? I’m not referring to a guru, but to an active student on the path who discovered what he called the ‘Current’ and shared his experiences with the world.

Franklin Merrell-Wolff

This person is Franklin Merrell-Wolff. I might devote the next few articles in this series to dissecting and discussing his writings, because in them are embedded interesting experiences and mind-opening wisdom.

First, we’ll learn about a powerful experience that resulted in a deeper understanding of the fact that even though the mind creates reality, you experience enlightenment and oneness with the Source in a place beyond the stream of thought.

Despite this, Franklin was at peace with the mind during the experience we’ll learn about; he was aware of it but he didn’t engage it. This shows that despite the advice from many to get out of the mind and transcend the ego, they both accompany us into initial stages of enlightenment in a way that we are only loosely aware.

In the first passage, Franklin describes some of the circumstances preceding his experience.

“… During the latter half of July, I had some days of solitude combined with underground physical work, plus meditative readings in the ‘System of the Vedanta,’ as noted previously. Much clarification was achieved in my consciousness during this period, but two facts, one a correlating idea and the other an experience, stand out above the rest.

“The experience was a spontaneous development in the Current, but this time in a form that was more sensuously evident than on any prior occasion. Here, for the first time, I submitted It to analysis, in so far as It was reflected in the organism.

“…. During the first week of August we returned to San Fernando and, on or about the 7th of the month, the Glorious Transition came.” (1)

After reading and meditating on a section of The System of the Vedanta devoted to liberation, he realized that symbols and external validations of what we already know can inhibit the evolutionary process.

“I had been sitting in a porch swing, reading as previously stated. Ahead of the sequence in the book, I turned to section devoted to ‘Liberation’, as I seemed to feel an especial hunger for this. I covered the material quickly and it all seemed very clear and satisfactory.

“Then, as I sat afterward dwelling in thought upon the subject just read, suddenly it dawned upon me that a common mistake made in the higher meditation – i.e., meditation for Liberation – is the seeking for a subtle object of Recognition, in other words, something that could be experienced.

“Of course, I had long known the falseness of this position theoretically, yet had failed to recognize it. (Here is a subtle but very important distinction.)” (2)

I don’t discourage using symbols, music, spiritual text or anything that helps you, because it comes in handy in difficult times.

Franklin’s distinction is that he was intellectually aware of the futility of seeking spirit in symbols and experiences but he had not yet realized he was still doing it, and there’s nothing wrong with looking up to something that helps you as long as you remember that liberation comes from within.

When he realized that focusing on the symbol or the experience would inhibit him, he dropped all expectation for what would happen in this slowly emerging enlightened state of being.

“At once, I dropped expectation of having anything happen. Then, with eyes open and no sense stopped in functioning – hence no trance – I abstracted the subjective moment – the ‘I AM’ or ‘Atman’ element – from the totality of the objective consciousness manifold. Upon this I focused.

“Naturally, I found what, from the relative point of view, is Darkness and Emptiness. But I Realized It as Absolute Light and Fullness and that I was That. Of course, I cannot tell what IT was in Its own nature.” (3)

He also shares an important thought about relative and non-relative consciousness.

“The relative forms of consciousness inevitably distort non-relative Consciousness. Not only can I not tell this to others, I cannot even contain it within my own relative consciousness, whether of sensation, feeling, or thought. Every metaphysical thinker will see this impossibility at once.

“I was even prepared not to have the personal consciousness share in this Recognition in any way. But in this I was happily disappointed.” (4)

If you wonder what it was like to feel the ambrosia (spiritual bliss) and experience the Current, here is Franklin’s description:

“I felt the Ambrosia-like quality in the breath with the purifying benediction that it casts over the whole personality, even including the physical body.

“I found myself above the universe, not in the sense of being above space, time, and causality, My karma seemed to drop away from me as an individual responsibility. I felt intangibly, yet wonderfully, free.

“I sustained this universe and was not bound by it. Desires and ambitions grew perceptibly more and more shadowy. All worldly honors were without power to exalt me.” (5)

When compared to such an amazing experience, one can’t help but think there’s nothing to desire in this world. However, Franklin realized that one thing makes our time here worthwhile: sharing knowledge and good vibes with a world lost in darkness.

“Physical life seemed undesirable. … I looked, as it were, over the world, asking: ‘What is there of interest here? What is worth doing?’ I found but one interest: the desire that other souls should also realize this that I had realized, for in it lay the one effective key for the solving of their problems.

“The little tragedies of men left me indifferent. I saw one great Tragedy, the cause of all the rest, the failure of man to realize his own Divinity. I saw but one solution, the Realization of this Divinity.” (6)

We learn from this passage that the world’s problems are caused by a lack of enlightenment and can be solved by the understanding that we are one with Source and each other.

In my opinion, love is what the world needs more than anything. To be fair though, love probably overflows in a state of enlightenment. I’d imagine it’s as effortless as breathing, but it can change the world with or without enlightenment.

Next, Franklin describes a second experience in the Current.

“I had been following this course while completing a cross-cut in a gold-prospect near the small town of Michigan Bluff. Much of this time I was completely alone and was more than usually successful in penetrating the meaning and following the logic of what I was reading.

“One day, after the evening meal and while still sitting at the table, I found that, by gradual transition, I had passed into a very delightful state of contemplation.” (7)

His experience, which I’ve shared before, was less powerful than the first but still profound.

“My breath had changed, but not in the sense of stopping or becoming extremely slow or rapid. It was, perhaps, just a little slower than normal. The notable change was in a subtle quality associated with the air breathed.

Over and above the physical phases of the air there seemed to be an impalpable substance of indescribable sweetness which, in turn, was associated with a general sense of well-being, embracing even the physical man.

“It was like happiness or joy, but [these] words are inadequate. It was of a very gentle quality, yet far transcended the value of any of the more familiar forms of happiness.” (8)

For Franklin, the ‘elixir-like quality’ was the most powerful when he exhaled.

“Introspective analysis revealed the fact that the elixir-like quality was most marked during the exhalation, thus indicating that it was not derived from the surrounding air.

“Further, the exhaled breath was not simply air expelled into the outer atmosphere, but seemed to penetrate down through the whole organism like a gentle caress, leaving throughout a quiet sense of delight. It seemed to me like a nectar. Since that time I have learned that it is the true Ambrosia.” (9)

I might share Franklin’s third enlightenment experience in another report, because it’s just as fascinating as the first two. No two people will have the exact same experience, but sometimes, it helps to have a general guide to go by.

No matter who you prefer to listen to (or if you don’t prefer to follow anyone), remember to go within and rely more on your authentic inner connection than external things that help illuminate it.

It only takes a sunset or a pretty patch of flowers to show you that we have everything we need in the spiritual sense, and with openness and dedication to the path ahead, we may eventually have an experience similar to Franklin’s. Then, we can share the wealth like he did.


  1. Pathways through to Space. A Personal Record of Transformation in Consciousness. New York: Julian Press, 1973, 31.
  2. Ibid., 4-5.
  3. Loc. Cit.
  4. Loc. Cit.
  5. Loc. Cit.
  6. Loc. Cit.
  7. Ibid., 1-2.
  8. Ibid., 2.
  9. Loc. Cit.

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