In 1858 there came to Dakshineswar a cousin of Sri Ramakrishna, Haladhari
by name, who was to remain there about eight years. On account of
Sri Ramakrishna's indifferent health, Mathur appointed this man to the
office of priest in the Kali temple. He was a complex character, versed in
the letter of the scriptures, but hardly aware of their spirit. He loved to
participate in hair-splitting theological discussions and, by the measure of
his own erudition, he proceeded to gauge Sri Ramakrishna. An orthodox
brahmin, he thoroughly disapproved of his cousin's unorthodox actions, but
he was not unimpressed by Sri Ramakrishna's purity of life, ecstatic love
of God, and yearning for realization.
One day Haladhari upset Sri Ramakrishna with the statement that God is incomprehensible to the human mind. Sri Ramakrishna has described the great moment of doubt when he wondered whether his visions had really misled him: "With sobs I prayed to the Mother, 'Canst Thou have the heart to deceive me like this because I am a fool?' A stream of tears flowed from my eyes. Shortly afterwards I saw a volume of mist rising from the floor and filling the space before me. In the midst of it there appeared a face with flowing beard, calm, highly expressive, and fair. Fixing its gaze steadily upon me, it said solemnly, 'Remain in bhavamukha, on the threshold of relative consciousness.' This it repeated three times and then it gently disappeared in the mist, which itself dissolved. This vision reassured me."
A garbled report of Sri Ramakrishna's failing health, indifference to worldly life, and various abnormal activities reached Kamarpukur and filled the heart of his poor mother with anguish. At her repeated request he returned to his village for a change of air. But his boyhood friends did not interest him any more. A divine fever was consuming him. He spent a great part of the day and night in one of the cremation grounds, in meditation. The place reminded him of the impermanence of the human body, of human hopes and achievements. It also reminded him of Kali, the Goddess of destruction.