Paramahansa Yogananda's "To the Aurora Borealis"

Paramahansa Yogananda



The speaker in "To the Aurora Borealis" compares the awe-inspiring northern lights to the inner vision experienced in divine perfect union of soul and Divinity.

From Paramahansa Yogananda's Songs of the Soul, the poem, "To the Aurora Borealis" celebrates the great yogi's experience, viewing that celestial phenomenon. The poem features six versagraphs of varying lengths.

First Versagraph: "From the heart of the northern horizon"

An epigraph locates the poem’s experience at "Forest Lake, Minneapolis, Minnesota." The speaker then begins immediately to describe the phenomenal light that is coming into his vision. On the northern horizon, he sees "a dim, palpitating fountain of flame," which is flickering as it spreads "through the dark stray clouds and the Milky Way."

The speaker continues to report the nature of the lights: they glow "softly," and they look "liquid" as well as "fleecy." The light seems to "flood[ ] the southern land." Illuminating the sky, the lights of the Aurora "played with shadows within the deeps of the limpid lake."

At this point, the speaker begins to draw a comparison between the physical lights of the Aurora to his own inner vision. As the lights played in the heaven among the stars, they seemed to shine "on the rippleless lake beneath." They "floated like dream waves of light / In my mental sea."

The "mental sea" metaphorically describes the speaker’s consciousness which has flown Godward. An advanced yogi’s samadhi may at times be triggered by an especially moving or beautiful experience.

Second Versagraph: "Stilled thoughts, like stars, would glimmer"

The speaker reports his inner experience wherein "stilled thoughts, like stars, would glimmer / Through dim mental clouds." As the lights of the Aurora had burst through the physical clouds, the light of samadhi now breaks through the mundane thoughts that were crowding the speaker’s mind.

Addressing the Aurora directly, the speaker likens quite plainly the light of the Aurora to the light on the screen of his inner vision: "O Aurora! / Spreader of light and joy o’er cloudy hearts, / Reminder, thou, of bursting, glowing light within my forehead!"

Third Versagraph: "From the left and right extreme, invisible lamps"

Again, dramatizing the heavenly display of Aurora, the speaker paints the event for the reader/listener: "Spouting ethereal mystic flames, / Which joyfully bounded and vanished in the eternal Ray. / Ever-burning radium, thou, Aurora!" The speaker heralds the luminescent element "radium" as "ever-burning."

Fourth Versagraph: "My inner fountain of strange colors"

Again returning to his inner vision, the speaker says, "My inner fountain of strange colors / Flooded my mental sky." These "strange colors" light the dark corner of the speaker’s brain and the "opaque darkness / Behind which the Light of all lights hides." The presence of God remains hidden within until the individual is capable of attuning his consciousness with that inner light.

The light of the outer reality consisting of "every-changing, rolling, molten light / "Coax[es]" the stars, trees, water, earth, and matter, all / To melt their grossness / And become the Cosmic Light."

Fifth Versagraph: "Aurora, there is hope"

In this expansive versagraph, the speaker shows the efficacy of attaining the skill of experiencing the mystical state known as samadhi to the Hindus, Nirvana to the Buddhists, and Salvation to the Christians.

The speaker conveys that the ability to reach samadhi is the one that gives "hope." In the dark atmosphere engulfing life on earth, "My little soul will breathe with the Eternal Breath." Thus the speaker can be assured of not only the hope of life everlasting but that eternal life itself which conquers every human being’s most significant fear—the fear of death.

He avers, "No more shall I clasp but a little clod." No longer bound only by physical body awareness, he becomes like the great northern spectacle that he is beholding, "For I am the life, / And my body is the universe." He can become as small as the atom and still remain as large as the entire cosmos. Thus he can assert, "I am the Life that shattered its confines of littleness / To become the infinite bigness of all things."

Sixth Versagraph: "I am the most subtle—the subtlest of forces"

United with the Divine, he can speak as Jesus did, "I am the most subtle — the subtlest of forces is gross enough to hide me — / Yet everything speaks of me." As God does, the speaker can "peep through the twinkling light of the darkness."

And he can "paint and wipe away / The pictures on the canvas of the sky." And finally he can "play hide and seek with the sky, stars, clouds, and waters, / As the mystic light of the aurora." For such an exalted personage, the experience of seeing the Aurora Borealis becomes an experience in cosmic awareness.

Songs of the Soul

Songs of the Soul
Songs of the Soul

This collection includes "To the Aurora Borealis."


© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

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