I do not know if the concept of “annihilation” (or, nothingness) expressed in the Writings is related to the “absorption” mentioned in that definition. But in respect to the ideas of “union”, “God”, and the Manifestation of God, there are a few analogies that help me to frame these elements into a single picture.
First, when I look up at the sun in the sky, I say that I am seeing the sun, and everyone would agree that it is the sun I’m looking at. However, I can only ever commune with the rays of the sun. Direct association with the sun itself is impossible, owing both to distance, and the fragile nature of my being compared to the perfect immensity and grandeur of its sphere. And while for the rays there is almost no identity between their being and that of the sun – only an intimate association – for myself there is no distinction. I have never known the sun, but I can know its rays.
When I read about union with the Deity, I read it as a union with His Rays, much in the sense that a plant unites with the rays to produce its life and energy. Even though there is no identification of the plant with the rays, or any dissolution of the rays into the plant’s being, there is an effect of the ray’s qualities upon the plant, which later appear as growth and beauty.
Another expression of this idea is found in an art gallery. Though a painting may be wonderfully constructed, in a dark room its being is equal to no being. However, if it enter the presence of a full, white light, it can come alive with vibrant colors and shapes. These colors and shapes are an association of the painting with the light, but the light does not become infused into the painting. The painting “unites” with the light by its being shone upon, and thus manifests its latent qualities according to its potential, but at the same time the light is wholly sanctified from the baser material of the painting.
As for what we must do, a second analogy is that of a television set. Although a TV is at all times literally bathed in signals coming from the broadcasting station, it must attune itself to receive and display those signals clearly. I see this as similar to the Law of God, which a soul must align itself with. After this, the most important qualities for the TV are: receptivity, purity of being (so its screen is clear), and constancy. If these are present, God’s qualities may become manifest, to some degree, in that earthly agency.
Now when a person watches a well-functioning TV set, they may at first admire the TV itself, but quickly they become lost in the show. In fact, the best TV is one that fades into non-being while playing a programme, such that the viewers feel they are fully immersed. This implies that not only is obedience to the Law mandatory for the mystic’s attunement, but also self-effacement so that these divine qualities may be faithfully reflected.
In sum, I see the mystic like a mirror. He cleanses himself as much as possible, every day; he aligns himself with the Sun – or really, Its Rays; and he strives for purity such that one looking upon him would not be able to discover any individual being apart from the light he reflects. This is union, although not a physical or existential union; it is a sameness of manifest being, at the same time as a complete separation of inherent being. This same experience happens with real mirrors, which may be so completely clear, that one must touch the glass to convince themselves it is there at all. At first, one may think the mirror and its image are in fact one (unity), but in truth there may be an immeasurable distance between them, such as with the Sun.