The spiritual metaphor of the drop merging into the Ocean
is well-known throughout mystical literature. For Jung, it was the
symbol, par excellence, of the Collective Unconscious. The unconscius
realm contains may treasures hard to attain, sunk deeply in that watery
realm, gems and pearls of great price. In transpersonal psychology
we find oceanic states which mirror those formerly known as cosmic consciousness.
But there are oceans and oceans. The pre-personal, overwhelming flooding
and submersion in the pre-rational world of the Great Goddess is not the
same experience as the merging of the mature soul, freed of the fetters
of the mind. The drop of liberated soul dissolves without a trace
in the trans-rational ocean of eternal spiritual reality, the Sea of Limitless
Light. One is regressive, while the other signifies (not progression)
but the elimination of the experience of time altogether. There is
dissolution, and then there is dissolution. But both hold the promise
of diving deep, plumbing our depths and the depths of nature and spirit.
That which emerges unconscious from the primal terrestrial sea through
evolution, is ultimately returned to the transcendent sea of liberated
"The natural elements that are essentially connected with vessel
symbolism include both earth and water. This containing water is
the primordial womb of life, from which in innumerable myths life is born.
It is the water "below," the water of the depths, ground water and ocean,
lake, and pond. But the maternal water not only contains; it also
nourishes and transforms, since all living things build up and preserve
their existence with the water or milk of the earth. ...The primordial
ocean is a uroboic snake encompassing the earth that is born of it, and
at the end of the world taking everything born of it back into its primordial
Erich Neumann, The Great Mother
* * *
"Setting aside its grandeur, The two most essential aspects of the
ocean are its ceaseless movement and the formlessness of its waters.
It is a symbol, therefore, of dynamic forces and of transitional states
between the stable and the formless. The ocean as a whole, as opposed
to the concept of a drop of water, is a symbol of universal life as opposed
to the particular. It is regarded traditonally as the source of the
generation of all life, and science has conformed that it did in fact begin
in the sea. Zimmer observes that the ocean is 'immense illogic'--a
vast expanse dreaming its own dreams and asleep in its own reality, yet
containing within itself the seeds of its antithesis. The island
is the opponent of the ocean and symbolic of the metaphysical point of
In keeping with the general symbolism of water, both fresh and salt,
the ocean stands for the sum of all the possibilities of one plane of existence.
Having regard to its characteristics, one may deduce whether these potentialities
are positive (or germinant) or negative (destructive). The ocean,
then, denotes an ambivalent situation. As the begetter of monsters,
it is abysmal abode par excellence, the chaotic source, which still brings
forth base entities ill-fitted to life in its aerial and superior forms.
Consequently, aquatic monsters represent a cosmic or psychological situation
at a lower level than land-monsters; this is why sirens and tritons denote
a sub-animal order. The power of salt water to destroy the higher
forms of land-life means that it is also a symbol of sterility, so confirming
the ambivalent nature of the ocean--its contradictory dynamism.
...The ocean is equated also with the collective unconscious, out
of which arises the sun of the spirit. The stormy sea, as a poetic
image or a dream, is a sign of an analogous state in the lower depths of
the affective unconscious. A translucent calm, on the other hand,
denotes a state of contemplative serenity.
Cirlot, Dictionary of Symbols
My heart, when love's Sea of a sudden burst into its viewing,
Leaped headlong in, with 'Find me now who may!'
Divani Shamsi Tabriz
* * *
I've filled the vessel of my body
With water luminous and pure;
With my body, mind
And the vigor of youth
I drink it; I drink it,
Yet thirst for more.
My mind turned inwards,
It plunged into the sea
Of love and bliss
And it bathes with joy;
It tries to fathom Thee:
But does not succeed
For Thou art perfect,
My merciful Lord,
While mind is not.
Searching for Him, O friend,
Kabir lost himself;
When the drop has merged
Into the Ocean,
How can the drop be found?
For Him, O friend,
Kabir lost himself;
The Ocean has merged
Into the drop,
Now how can the Ocean
Kabir, "The Drop and the Ocean"
'Say goodbye forever to all earthly creatures and take to the open
sea, thanks to the unceasing act of love (invocation). Full sails
away for the eternal shores!'
Taking the name of Kali, dive deep down, O mind,
Into the heart's fathomless depths,
Where many a precious gem lies hid.
But never believe the bed of the ocean bare of gems
If in the first few dives you fail;
With firm resolve and self-control
Dive deep and make your way to Mother Kali's realm.
Down in the ocean depths of heavenly Wisdom lie
The wondrous pearls of Peace, O mind;
And you yourself can gather them,
If you but have pure love and follow the scriptures' rule.
Within those ocean depths, as well,
Six alligators lurk--lust, anger, and the rest--
Swimming about in search of prey.
Smear yourself with the turmeric of discrimination;
The very smell of it will shield you from their jaws.
Upon the ocean bed lie strewn
Unnumbered pearls and precious gems;
Plunge in, Ramprasad, and gather up handfuls there!
The rippling tide of love, which all her life had flowed secretely from
God into her soul, drew it mightily back to its Source.
Mechthild of Magdeburg
Ah, noble soul, prove thy nobility! But while it is the case
with thee that thou lettest not go thine own self altogether to drown in
the bottomless sea of the Godhead, verily thou canst not know this divine
The drop became a fountain, and the fountain grew into a river,
Which river became reunited to the ocean of eternity.
Sheikh Abulfaiz Faiyazi
O God, drown me in the essence of the Ocean of Divine Solitude, so
that I neither see nor hear nor find nor feel except through it.
Abd as-Salam ibn Mashish
O thou! who art free of notion, imagination, and duality,
We are all billows in the ocean of thy being.
We are pearls in that Sea, therein we all abide
...Enter that Ocean, then your drop may become a sea which is a hundred
seas of Oman.
Divani Shamsi Tabriz
If we possess God in the immersion of love--that is, if we are lost
to ourselves--God is our own and we are His own: and we sink ourselves
eternally and irretrievably in our own possession, which is God...And this
down-sinking is like a river, which without pause or turning back ever
pours into the sea; since this is its proper resting-place.
All the great rivers, ...on reaching the great ocean lose their former
names and identities and are reckoned simply as the great ocean.
God is the Lake of Nectar, the Ocean of Immortality. He is
called the 'Immortal' in the Vedas. Sinking in it, one does not die,
but verily transcends death.
Shoreless, unfathomable, vast
Is the dreadful ocean of this world;
Take measures to be ferried
To the banks of bliss.
The labyrinthine currrents
Of cravings and passions
Captivate and confuse the mind;
Through their swirling tides
One finds no way
To steer homewards.
The ocean of existence
Is dark and abysmal;
Man's only succor
Is the boat of God's Name.
Says Kabir: When I took
The shelter of my Lord,
The ocean became
A hoofprint in the mud,
Filled with rain.
Kabir, The Weaver of God's Name
Saints often use this image to convey that through devotion and the
Lord's grace, the vast ocean of phenomena becomes insignificant and the
devotee crosses it as simply as one steps across the print of a cow's hoof.
(The self) is like a drop of water afraid
of wind and earth; for by means of these twain it is made to pass away
and perish. When it has leaped into the sea, which was its source,
it is delivered from the heat of the sun and from wind and earth.
Its outward form has disappeared in the sea, but its essence is inviolate
and permanent and goodly. Hark, O drop, give thyself up without repenting,
that in recompense for the drop thou mayst gain the ocean.
Here, I still flow in God as the stream of time;
There, I myself shall be the sea of eternal felicity.
Drink this wine and, dying to self,
You will be freed from the spell of self.
Then will your being, as a drop,
Fall into the ocean of the Eternal.
It is like an infinite ocean--water everywhere, to the right, lft,
above, and below. Water enveloped in water. It is the Water
of the Great Cause, motionless. Waves spring up when it becomes active.
Its activities are creation, preservation, and destruction...
A salt doll entered the ocean to measure its depth; but it did not return
to tell others how deep the ocean was. It melted in the ocean itself. Sri Ramakrishna
Go and plunge yourself into the calm sea of spiritual solitude,
and wash your soul in the nectar of ambrosial meditation.
Dive and dive deep in the depth of Unity, and fly from the salt waves of
duality and the brackish water of diversity.
Though one equal to a hundred like me would not have the strength
to bear the Sea, yet I cannot refrain from the drowning waters of the Sea.
May my soul and mind be a sacrifice to the Sea: this Sea has paid the blood-price
of mind and soul.