THE PRACTICE OF MEDITATION
"It is to be noticed that the Doctrine of this Book instructs not all sorts of Persons, but those only who keep the Senses and Passions well mortified, who have already advanced and made progress in Prayer, and are called by God to the Inward Way, wherein He encourages and guides them, freeing them from the obstacles which hinder their course to perfect Contemplation."MICHAEL DE MOLINOS
UP TO this point our discussion has been academic and comparative, discursive and indicatory. The Way that many have trodden has been pointed out, and the Path to Illumination has been considered. Now it behoves us to apply ourselves to an understanding of the practical work that we ourselves can do. Otherwise the entire objective of our study of meditation will be lost, and we shall only have increased our responsibility, without having made any real advance upon the Way.
Two pertinent questions immediately arise and should receive attention.
First: Can anyone, who has the desire, profit by and master the technique of Meditation?
Second: The Knowers of the East gained Illumination by retiring from the world into seclusion and silence. Owing to conditions of life in our Occidental civilization, this is not possible. Can there be hope of success without this disappearance into the solitudes of the world, into the forests and jungles, and into monastic seclusion?
Let us take each question and deal with it. These two questions must be disposed of and answered before we can go on to outline meditation work and indicate the method which it is advisable to follow.
In replying to the first question, as to the general suitability of all aspirants for this arduous work, it should be remembered, at the outset, that the very urge itself to do so can be taken as indicating the call of the soul to the Path of Knowledge. No one should be deterred if he discovers that he lacks in certain essentials the needed qualifications. Most of us are bigger and wiser, and better equipped than we realize. We can all begin to concentrate at once if we choose. We possess a great deal of knowledge, mental power, and capacities, which have never been drawn forth from the realm of the subconscious into objective usefulness; anyone who has watched the effect of Meditation upon the beginner will substantiate this statement — often to the mental bewilderment of the beginner, who does not know what to do with his discoveries.
The results of the first step in the Meditation discipline, i.e., of Concentration, are often amazing. People "find" themselves; they discover hidden capacities and an understanding never used before; they develop an awareness, even of the phenomenal world, which is, to them, miraculous; they suddenly register the fact of the mind, and that they can use it, and the distinction between the knower and the instrument of knowledge becomes steadily and revealingly apparent.
At the same time there is also registered a sense of loss. The old dreamy states of bliss and peace, with which the mystic prayer and meditation had dowered them, disappear; and, temporarily, they experience a sense of aridity, of lack and of an emptiness which is frequently most distressing. This is due to the fact that the focus of attention is away from the things of the senses, no matter how beautiful. The things that the mind knows and can record are not yet registered, nor is the feeling apparatus making its familiar impacts upon the consciousness. It is a period of transition, and must be supported until such time as the new world begins to make its impress upon the aspirant. This is one reason why persistence and perseverance must play their part, particularly in the early stages of the meditation process.
One of the first effects of the meditation work is usually an increased efficiency in the daily life, whether lived in the home, the office, or in any field of human endeavor. Mental application to the business of living is in itself a concentration exercise and brings notable results. Whether a man achieves final illumination or not through the practice of concentration and meditation, he will nevertheless have gained much, and greatly enriched his life; his usefulness and power will be enormously increased and his sphere of influence widened.
Therefore, from a purely mundane point of view, it is useful to learn to meditate. Who shall say whether an increased efficiency in living and in service is not just as much a step on the path of spiritual progress as any of the visions of the mystic? The spiritual results of the mental application which our Western business world demonstrates may, in the last analysis, be as vital a contribution to the sum-total of spiritual endeavor as any effects which may be noted in the world of organized religious effort.
Confucius taught us, centuries ago, that implements of civilization were highly spiritual in nature, for they were the results of ideas, and Hu Shih tells us in that interesting symposium, Whither Mankind, "...that civilization which makes the fullest possible use of human ingenuity and intelligence in search of truth in order to control nature and transform matter for the service of mankind, to liberate the human spirit from ignorance, superstition, and slavery to the forces of nature, and to reform social and political institutions for the benefit of the greatest number — such a civilization is highly idealistic and spiritual."1
Our idea as to what constitutes spirituality has steadily grown. Through the use of desire, feeling and the reactions of the emotional nature, we have seen many thousands of human beings arrive at the point where they have been driven to transmute desire into aspiration, feeling into sensitivity to the things of the spirit, and love of self into love of God. Thus the mystic emerges.
Through the use of the mind in the business world, in professional work, in science and in art, we have seen two amazing things occur: Organized big business, with its selfish interests and material ideas, has, notwithstanding, been brought to a condition where it is group-conscious; group interplay and the interests of the greatest number are being for the first time seriously considered. These are purely spiritual results; they indicate a growing soul awareness, and are the faint indications of the coming brotherhood of souls. Applied science in all fields has now been so developed that it has entered the realm of energy and of pure metaphysics. The study of matter has landed us in the realm of mysticism and of transcendentalism. Science and Religion are joining hands in the world of the unseen and intangible.
These are steps in the right direction. When the mental faculties have been developed racially through our Occidental technique in the business world (a vast school of concentration), a transmutation analogous to that which occurs in the realm of the desire nature, must inevitably take place, and has frequently done so. The mind can then be reoriented to the truer and higher values, and focussed in a direction other than that of material living. Thus the knower will emerge.
Therefore, any one who is not purely emotional, who has a fair education, and who is willing to work with perseverance, can approach the study of meditation with good courage. He can begin to organize his life so that the first steps can be taken on the path towards illumination, and this organization is one of the most difficult of steps. It is well to remember that all initial steps are hard, for the habits and rhythms of many years have to be offset. But once these have been taken and mastered, the work becomes easier. It is far harder to learn to read, than it is to master a difficult book.
The ancient science of Meditation, the "royal road to Union," as it has been called, might equally well be entitled the science of co-ordination. We have already, through the medium of the evolutionary process, learnt to co-ordinate the emotional-feeling-desire nature and the physical body, so much so that the states are automatic and often irresistible; the physical body is now simply an automaton, the creature of desire — high or low — good or bad — as the case may be. Many are now co-ordinating the mind with these two, and, through our present widespread educational systems, we are welding into a coherent unity that sum-total which constitutes a human being: the mental, emotional and physical natures.
Through concentration and the earlier aspects of the meditation work, this co-ordination is rapidly hastened, and is followed later by the unifying with the trinity of man of another factor, — the factor of the soul. This has always been present, just as mind is always present in human beings (who are not idiots), but it is quiescent until the right time comes and the needed work has been done. It is all a question of consciousness. Professor Max Müller in his book Theosophy or Psychological Religion says that:
"We must remember that the fundamental principle of the Vedanta-philosophy was not 'Thou art He,' but 'Thou art That!' and it was not Thou wilt be, but Thou art. This 'Thou art' expresses something that is, that has been, and always will be, not something that has still to be achieved, or is to follow, for instance, after death....By true knowledge the individual soul does not become Brahman, but is Brahman, as soon as it knows what it really is, and always has been."2
St. Paul emphasizes the same truth when he speaks of "Christ in me, the hope of glory." Through the trained and focussed mind this indwelling Reality is known, and the Three in One and the One in Three are proven facts in the natural evolution of the life of God in man.
It becomes apparent, therefore, that the answer to our first question is as follows:
First: We accept the hypothesis that there is a soul, and that soul can be cognized by the man who can train and control his mind.
Second: Upon the basis of this hypothesis, we begin to co-ordinate the three aspects of the lower nature, and to unify mind, emotion and physical body into an organized and comprehended Whole. This we do through the practice of concentration.
Third: As concentration merges into meditation (which is the act of prolonged concentration) the imposition of the will of the soul, upon the mind, begins to be felt. Little by little the soul, the mind and the brain are swept into a close rapport.
First, the mind controls the brain and the emotional nature. Then the soul controls the mind. The first is brought about through concentration. The second through meditation.
Out of this sequence of activities, the interested investigator will awaken to the realization that there is a real work to be done and that the primary qualification that he needs is perseverance. Here it might be remarked that two things aid in the work of co-ordination:
First, the endeavor to gain control of the mind, through the endeavor to live a concentrated life. The life of consecration and dedication, which is so distinctive of the mystic, gives place to the life of concentration and meditation — distinctive of the knower. The organization of the thought life at all times everywhere, and, secondly, the practice of concentration, regularly, every day, at some set time, if possible, make for the one-pointed attitude, and these two together spell success.
The former takes some time, but it can be entered upon at once. The latter requirement of stated concentration periods, can also be entered upon, but its success depends upon two things: regularity and persistence. The success of the former depends upon persistence largely, but also upon the use of the imagination.
Through the imagination, we assume the attitude of the Onlooker, the Perceiver. We imagine ourselves to be the One who is thinking (not feeling), and we steadily guide our thoughts at all times along certain chosen lines, making ourselves think what we choose to think and refusing entrance to those thoughts we choose to exclude, not by the method of inhibition, but by the method of a dynamic interest in something else. We refuse to permit our minds to range the world at will, or to be swung into activity by our feelings and emotions, or by the thought currents in the world around us. We force ourselves to pay attention to all that we do, whether it is reading a book, going about our business in home or office, social life or profession, talking to a friend, or whatever may be the activity of the moment. Should the occupation be such that it can be carried forward instinctively and call for no active use of thought, we can choose a line of mental activity or chain of reasoning and follow it out understandingly, whilst our hands or eyes are busy with the work to be done.
True concentration grows out of a concentrated, thought-governed life, and the first step for the aspirant is to begin to organize his daily life, regulate his activities, and become focussed and one-pointed in his manner of living. This is possible to all who care enough to make the needed effort and who can carry it forward with perseverance.
This is the first and basic essential. When we can organize and rearrange our lives, we prove our mettle and the strength of our desire. It will be seen, therefore, that no neglect of duty is possible to the one-pointed man. His duties to family and friends and to his business or profession will be more perfectly and efficiently performed, and he will find time for the added duties that his spiritual aspiration confer, because he is beginning to eliminate the non-essentials out of his life. No obligation will be evaded, for the focussed mind will enable a man to do more in a shorter time than heretofore and to get better results from his efforts.
People who are governed by their emotions waste much time and energy, and accomplish less than the mentally focussed person; it is far easier for an individual who has been trained in business methods and who has risen to the rank of an executive, to practise meditation, than it is for the unthinking mechanical worker, or for the woman who is living a purely social or family life. These last have to learn to organize their days and leave out the non-essential activities. They are the ones who are always too busy to do anything, and to whom the finding of twenty minutes each day for meditation or an hour for study presents insuperable difficulties. They are so busy with the social amenities, with the mechanics of housekeeping, with a multitude of petty activities and pointless conversations that they fail to realize that the practice of concentration will enable them to do all they have hitherto done and more, and do it better.
The trained executive, with a busy and full life, seems to find it much easier to obtain the extra time required for the soul. He has always time for the one thing more. He has learned to concentrate, and, frequently, to meditate; all that he needs to do is to change the focus of attention.
The answer to the second question as to the necessity to withdraw into the solitudes in order to evoke the soul opens up one or two interesting considerations. It would appear from the study of conditions that the modern western aspirant has either to forego the culture of the soul nature until such time as he can conform to the ancient rule of withdrawal, or he has to formulate a new method and take a new position. Few of us are so situated that we can renounce our families and responsibilities and disappear from the world of men to meditate and seek illumination under our particular Bo tree.
We live in the midst of a thronging multitude and a chaotic situation which makes all vision of environing peace and quiet utterly out of the question. Is the problem then insuperable? Is there no way of overcoming the difficulty? Have we to renounce all hope of illumination because we cannot (from circumstances and climate, and from economic causes) disappear from the world of men and seek the kingdom of the soul?
Undoubtedly the solution does not lie in renunciation of the possibilities to which men in earlier races and centuries bear witness. It lies in a right understanding of our problem and of the privilege which is ours in demonstrating a newer aspect of the old truth. We belong, in the West, to a younger race. In the old, old East, the few adventurous pioneers sought seclusion and ascertained for us the opportunities, and safeguarded for us the rules. They held in safety for us the technique until such time as the masses of men were ready for a move forward in their numbers, and not in their ones and twos. That time has now come.
In the stress and stir of modern living, in the jungles of our great cities, in the roar and bustle of daily life and intercourse, men and women everywhere can and do find the centre of peace within themselves, and they can and do enter into that state of silent positive concentration which enables them to reach the same goal, and attain the same knowledge, and enter into the same Light to which the great Individuals of the race have borne witness. The secluded point to which a man withdraws, he finds to lie within himself; the silent place in which the life of the soul is contacted is that point within the head where soul and body meet, that region we earlier referred to where the light of the soul and the life of the body merge and blend.
The man who can train himself to be sufficiently one-pointed can withdraw his thought at any time and in any place to a centre within himself, and in this centre within the head the great work of at-one-ment is carried forward. It involves a more dynamic attention and a more powerful meditation, but the race has progressed and grown in mental power and strength within the past three thousand years and can do what was not possible to the seers of old.
A third question arises at this point: What really happens to the aspirant, psychologically and physiologically, in meditation? The answer is: A great deal.
Psychologically speaking, the mind becomes controlled, and passes under the domination of the soul; at the same time there is no negation of the ordinary mental faculties. They can be used more easily and the mind is keener than ever before. There is a capacity to think with clarity. The aspirant discovers that besides being able to record impressions from the phenomenal world, he is able to register also impressions from that of spirit. He is mental in two directions, and the mind becomes a cohering, unifying agency. The emotional nature, in its turn is controlled by the mind, and is rendered still and untroubled, and, therefore, presents no barrier to the inflow of spiritual knowledge to the brain. When these two effects have been produced certain changes take place in the mechanism of thought and awareness in the human head — so the eastern knowers tell us, and so the evidence seems to indicate.
Advanced thinkers in the West place the higher mental faculties and the seat of the intuition in the higher brain, and the lower mental faculties and the higher emotional reactions in the lower brain. This is in line with the eastern teaching that the soul (with the higher knowledge and the faculty of intuitional perception) has its seat in a centre of force in the region of the pineal gland, whereas the personality has its seat in a centre of force in the region of the pituitary body.
The hypothesis upon which the newer school in the educational field will eventually proceed (if the theories propounded in this book have any basis in fact) might be expressed in the following propositions:
One: The centre of energy through which the soul works is in the upper brain. During meditation, if effective, energy from the soul pours into the brain, and has a definite effect upon the nervous system. If, however, the mind is not controlled and the emotional nature dominates (as in the case of the pure mystic) the effect makes itself felt primarily in the feeling apparatus, the emotional states of being. When the mind is the dominant factor, then the thought apparatus, in the higher brain, is swung into an organized activity. The man acquires a new capacity to think clearly, synthetically and potently as he discovers new realms of knowledge.
Two: In the region of the pituitary body, we have the seat of the lower faculties, when co-ordinated in the higher type of human being. Here they are co ordinated and synthesized, and — as we have been told by certain reputable schools of psychologists and endocrinologists — here are to be found the emotions and the more concrete aspects of the mind (growing out of racial habits and inherited instincts, and, hence, calling for no exercise of the creative or higher mind). This was the theme of my earlier book, The Soul and Its Mechanism, and cannot be enlarged upon here.
Three: When the personality — the sum-total of physical, emotional and mental states — is of a high order, then the pituitary body functions with increased efficiency, and the vibration of the centre of energy in its neighborhood becomes very powerful. It should be noted that according to this theory, when the personality is of a low order, when the reactions are mainly instinctual and the mind is practically non-functioning, then the centre of energy is in the neighborhood of the solar plexus, and the man is more animal in nature.
Four: The centre in the region of the pineal gland, and the higher brain, are brought into activity through learning to focus the attentive consciousness in the head. In the Oriental books this is called by the interesting term "right withdrawal" or "right abstraction." This means the development of the capacity to subjugate the outward-going tendencies of the five senses.So the aspirant is taught the right withdrawal or abstraction of the consciousness which is outgoing towards the world of phenomena, and must learn to centre his consciousness in the great central station in the head from whence energy can be consciously distributed as he participates in the great work, from whence he can make a contact with the realm of the soul, and in which he can receive the messages and impressions which emanate from that realm. This is a definite stage of achievement and is not simply a symbolic way of expressing one-pointed interest.The various avenues of sense perception are brought into a quiescent condition. The consciousness of the real man no longer surges outwards along its five avenues of contact. The five senses are dominated by the sixth sense, the mind, and all the consciousness and the perceptive faculty of the aspirant is synthesized in the head, and turns inward and upward. The psychic nature is thereby subjugated and the mental plane becomes the field of man's activity. This withdrawal or abstracting process proceeds in stages:
1. The withdrawal of the physical consciousness, or perception through hearing, touch, sight, taste and smell. These modes of perception become temporarily dormant, and man's perception becomes simply mental and the brain consciousness is all that is active on the physical plane.
2. The withdrawal of the consciousness into the region of the pineal gland, so that man's point of realization is centralized in the region between the middle of the forehead and the pineal gland.3
Five: When this has been done, and the aspirant is acquiring the ability so to focus in the head, the result of this process of abstraction is as follows:The five senses are being steadily synthesized by the sixth sense, the mind. This is the co-ordinating factor. Later it is realized that the soul has an analogous function. The threefold personality is thus brought into a direct line of communication with the soul, and the man, therefore, in time becomes unconscious of the limitations of the body nature, and the brain can be directly impressed by the soul, via the mind. The brain consciousness is held in a positive waiting condition with all its reactions to the phenomenal world utterly, though temporarily, inhibited.
Sixth: The high grade intellectual personality, with its focus of attention in the region of the pituitary body, begins to vibrate in unison with the higher centre in the region of the pineal gland. Then a magnetic field is set up between the positive soul aspect and the waiting personality which is rendered receptive by the process of focussed attention. Then the light, we are told, breaks forth, and we have the illumined man, and the appearance of the phenomenal light in the head. All this is the result of a disciplined life, and the focussing of the consciousness in the head. This is, in its turn, brought about through the attempt to be concentrated in the daily life, and also through definite concentration exercises. These are followed by the effort to meditate, and later — much later — the power to contemplate makes itself felt.
This is a brief summation of the mechanics of the process, and is necessarily terse and incomplete. These ideas have to be accepted tentatively, however, before there can be an intelligent approach to the meditation work. It is as justifiable to accept such an hypothesis as the above as to accept any hypothesis, as a working basis for investigation and conduct. It is perhaps more justifiable, for so many thousands have proceeded upon these assumptions, have fulfilled the needed requirements, and — as a result — have changed assumption into certainty and reaped the reward of open-mindedness, persistence, and investigation.
Having formulated our hypothesis and accepted it temporarily we proceed with the work, until it proves false, or until our attention is no longer engaged. An hypothesis is not necessarily false because it fails to prove itself in the time we deem proper. People frequently give up their pursuit in this field of knowledge because they lack the needed perseverance, or their interest becomes engaged elsewhere. However, we are determined to go forward with our investigation and give the ancient techniques and formulas time to prove themselves.
We proceed, therefore, to comply with the first requirements and endeavor to bring to bear upon life a more concentrated attitude of mind, and to practice daily meditation and concentration. If we are beginners, or are possessed of an unorganized mind, fluidic, versatile and unstable, we start in to practice concentration. If we are trained intellectuals, or have the focussed attentiveness that business training confers, we need only to reorient the mind to a new field of awareness and begin truly to meditate. It is easy to teach meditation to the interested business executive.
Next, the regular meditation work is attempted, and a certain time is set apart each day for this particular work. At the beginning fifteen minutes is ample time, and no more should be attempted for a year at least. May it not be truly said, if any one claims not to be able to find fifteen minutes out of the one thousand four hundred and forty minutes which constitute a day, that they are not interested? Fifteen minutes can always be found, if the will is on the side of the effort; it is always possible to rise fifteen minutes earlier every morning, or to forego that early morning gossip with the family, or to take the needed time from a book, or the movies, or from another gossip later on in the day. Let us be truthful with ourselves, and recognize things for what they are. The plea, "I have no time," is an utterly futile one, and indicates simply lack of interest.
Let us consider now the rules upon which we will proceed.
First of all, we shall endeavor to find time early in the morning for our meditation work. The reason for this is, that after we have participated in the happenings of the day and in the general give and take of life, the mind is in a state of violent vibration; this is not the case if the meditation is performed first thing in the morning. Then it is relatively quiet, and the mind can be more rapidly attuned to the higher states of consciousness. Again, if we start the day with the focussing of our attention on spiritual things and on the affairs of the soul, we shall live the day in a different manner. If this becomes a habit, we shall soon find our reactions to the affairs of life changing and that we are beginning to think the thoughts that the soul thinks. It then becomes the process of the working of a law, for "as a man thinketh so is he."
Next, we shall endeavor to find a place that is really quiet and free from intrusion. I do not mean quiet in the sense of freedom from noise, for the world is full of sounds and as we grow in sensitiveness we are apt to find it fuller than we thought, but free from personal approach and the calls of other people. I should like here to point out an attitude which the beginner should assume. It is the attitude of silence. Aspirants to meditation talk much about the opposition they meet from their family and friends; the husband objects to his wife meditating, or vice versa; sons and daughters are inconsiderate and thoughtless in interrupting the devotions of the parent; friends are unsympathetic at the attempts. In the majority of cases this is the fault of the aspirant himself, and women are the worst offenders in this respect. People talk too much. It is nobody's business what we do with fifteen minutes of our time every morning, and there is no need to talk about it to our households, or to enjoin upon them that they must be quiet because we want to meditate. This will inevitably evoke a wrong reaction.
Let us say nothing about the way we are seeking to unfold the spiritual consciousness; that is entirely our own affair. Let us keep silent about what we are doing; let us keep our books and papers shut away from people, and not litter up the family sitting room with a lot of literature in which they are not the least interested. If it is impossible to get a moment for meditation before the family disperses for the day's work, or before we ourselves betake ourselves to our business, let us find some time for it later on in the day. There is always a way to be found out of a difficulty, if we want a thing badly enough, and a way that involves no omission of duty or of obligation. It simply involves organization and silence.
Then, having found the time and the place, we shall sit down in a comfortable chair and begin to meditate. The questions then arise: How shall we sit? Is the cross-legged attitude the best, or shall we kneel, or sit, or stand? The easiest and most normal position is the best always. The cross-legged attitude has been, and still is, much used in the Orient, and many books have been written upon the postures, of which there are approximately eighty. But because it has been done in the past, and in the East, is no indication that it is the best for us in the present and in the West. These postures are the remains of a day when the race was being trained psychologically and emotionally, and much resemble the discipline that we impose upon a child when we set it in a corner and tell it to keep quiet. Some of the postures have relation also to the nervous body and that inner structure of fine nerves, called by the Hindus, the nadis, which underlie the nervous system as recognized in the West.
The trouble with such postures is that they lead to two rather undesirable reactions; they lead a man to concentrate the mind upon the mechanics of the process and not upon the goal, and, secondly, they frequently lead to a delightful sense of superiority, that has its basis in our attempt to do something that the majority is not doing, and which sets us apart as potential knowers. We become engrossed with the form side of meditation and not with the Originator of the form; we are occupied with the Not-self instead of with the Self.
Let us choose that posture that enables us, the most easily, to forget that we have a physical body. This is probably for the Westerner the sitting attitude; the main requirements are that we should sit erect, with the spine in a straight line; that we should sit relaxed (without slumping) so that there is no tenseness anywhere in the body, and that we should drop the chin somewhat, so as to release any tension in the back of the neck. Many people sit, when meditating, gazing at the ceiling with tightly closed eyes, as if the soul was up above somewhere. The whole body is poised and tense and tightly locked. They are then surprised when nothing occurs, except fatigue and headaches. The withdrawal of the consciousness from the channels of the senses does not involve the withdrawal of the blood in the body to the head, or the uncontrolled speeding up of the nervous reactions. Meditation is an interior act, and can only be performed successfully when the body is relaxed, rightly poised and then forgotten.
The hands should be folded in the lap, and the feet crossed. If the western scientist is right when he tells us that the human body is really an electric battery, then perhaps his Oriental brother is also right when he says that in meditation there is a bringing together of negative and positive energy, and that by this means we produce the light in the head. Therefore, it is wise to close the circuit.
Having attained to physical comfort, relaxation, and having withdrawn ourselves from the body consciousness, we next note our breathing and ascertain whether it is quiet, even and rhythmic. I would like here to sound a note of warning as to the practice of breathing exercises, except by those who have first given years to right meditation and to purification of the body nature. Where experience and purity are not present, the practice of breathing exercises entails very real dangers. It is impossible to put this too strongly. There are many schools giving breathing instruction at this time, and many exponents of breathing as a means to spiritual development. It has nothing whatever to do with spiritual development. It has much to do with psychical development, and its practice leads to much difficulty and danger. It is possible for instance, to become clairaudient or clairvoyant through the practice of certain breathing exercises, but where there is no true understanding of the process or right control by the mind of the "versatile psychic nature", the practicer has only succeeded in forcing entrance into new fields of phenomena. He has developed faculties he is totally unable to control, and he finds very often that he is unable to shut out sounds and sights which he has learned to register and being helpless to escape from the contacts of both the physical and the psychical, he is torn in two directions, and gets no peace. Physical sounds and sights are his normal heritage, and naturally make their impacts upon his senses, but when the psychic world — with its own sights and sounds — also makes an impact he is helpless; he cannot shut his eyes and remove himself from undesirable psychic surroundings.
A Doctor of Divinity and pastor of a large church wrote me not long ago that he had been taking breathing exercises, with the idea of improving his health, from a teacher who had come to his city. The result of his well-intentioned ignorance was that he opened up the inner hearing in the psychic sense. He said in his letter to me, "As I write to you upon my typewriter I can hear all sorts of voices and words and sounds which are not physical. I cannot stop them and I fear for my mind. Won't you please tell me what I ought to do to tune them out?" During the past ten years, many hundreds of people have come to me, asking for help, owing to the effects of indiscriminate following of the advice of teachers of breathing. They are quite desperate and frequently are in a serious psychic condition. Some we can help. Some few for whom we can do nothing end in asylums for the insane or in sanatoriums for the unbalanced. Much experience of these cases leads me to sound this warning, for in the majority of cases of uncontrolled psychic troubles, the cause is breathing exercises.
In the ancient teachings of the East, the control of the breath was only permitted after the first three "means to union," as they are called, had been somewhat wrought out in the life. These "means" are: First, the five commandments. These are, harmlessness, truth to all beings, abstention from theft, from incontinence, and from avarice. Second, the five rules, which are internal and external purification, contentment, fiery aspiration, spiritual reading, and devotion. Third, right poise. When a person is harmless in thought and word and deed, when he is unselfish and knows the meaning of poise — emotional as well as physical posture — then indeed he may practice breathing exercises, under proper instruction, and practice them with security. Even then he will only succeed in unifying the vital energies of the body, and in becoming a conscious psychic, but this may have its place and purpose, if he classes himself as a research experimenter.
Failure to conform to the necessary preliminary steps has landed many a worthy investigator in trouble. It is dangerous for an emotional and weak person to take breathing exercises in order to hasten development, and any teacher who seeks to teach these exercises to large groups, as is frequently done, is laying up trouble for himself and his followers. It is only here and there that, in the ancient days, the teachers picked a man for this form of tuition, and it was added to a training which had produced a certain measure of soul contact, so that the soul could guide the energies evoked by the breath for the furtherance of its objectives and for world service.
Therefore, we will do no more than see that our breathing is quiet and regular, and will then withdraw our thoughts from the body altogether and begin the work of concentration.
The next step in the practice of meditation is the use of the imagination; we picture to ourselves the threefold lower man, aligned or in direct communication with the soul. There are many ways in which this can be done. We call it work in visualization. It would seem that visualization, imagination and will are three very potent factors in all creative processes. They are the subjective causes for many of our objective effects.
At the beginning, visualization is mostly a matter of experimental faith. We know that through the reasoning process, we have arrived at an understanding that, within and beyond all manifested objects, there lies an Ideal Object or Ideal Pattern, which is seeking to become manifest upon the physical plane. The practice of visualization, imagination and the use of the will are activities that are calculated to hasten the manifestation of this Ideal.
When we visualize, we use our highest conception of what that Ideal might be, clothed in some sort of material, usually mental, because we are not yet in a position to be able to conceive of higher forms or types of substance with which to envelop our Images. When we make a mental picture, the mental substance of our mind sets up a certain rate of vibration, which attracts to itself a corresponding grade of mental substance, in which the mind is immersed. It is the will which holds this image steady and which gives it life. This process goes on, whether we are, as yet, able to see it with the mental eye or not. It does not matter that we are not able to see it, as the creative work is going on just the same. Perhaps at some time we shall be able to follow and consciously perform that whole process.
In connection with this work, at the stage of the beginner, some people picture the three bodies (the three aspects of the form nature) as being linked with a radiant body of light, or they visualize three centres of vibrating energy receiving stimulation from a higher and more powerful centre; others imagine the soul as a triangle of force to which is linked the triangle of the lower nature — linked by the "silver cord" mentioned in the Christian Bible, the sutratma or thread soul of the Eastern Scriptures, the "life-line" of other schools of thought. Still others prefer to preserve the thought of a unified personality, linked to and hiding within itself the indwelling Divinity, Christ in us, the hope of glory.
It is relatively immaterial what imagery we choose, provided that we start with the basic idea of the Self seeking to contact and use the Not-self, its instrument in the worlds of human expression, and vice versa, with the thought of that Not-self being impelled to turn itself towards its source of being. Thus, through the use of the imagination and visualization, the desire body, the emotional nature, is brought into line with the soul. When this has been done we can continue with our meditation work. The physical body and the desire nature, in their turn, sink below the level of consciousness, we become centred in the mind and seek to bend it to our will.
It is just here that we find our problem confronting us. The mind refuses to mould itself into the thoughts which we choose to think, and rushes all over the world in its usual quest for material. We think of what we are going to do that day, instead of thinking upon our "seed-thought," we remember some one we must manage to see, or some line of action which calls for attention; we begin to think of some one we love, and immediately we drop back into the world of the emotions and have all our work to do over again. So we re-collect our thoughts and start afresh with much success for half a minute, and then we remember some appointment we have made, or some piece of business which some one is doing for us, and again we are back in the world of mental reactions, and our chosen line of thought is forgotten. Again we re-collect our scattered ideas and recommence our labor of reducing the wayward mind to submission.
Will Levington Comfort, in his 113th Letter, sums this up for us as follows:"Our shattered attention — we do not dream how shattered until we begin to concentrate, until from the practice of concentration, a new fairness and fixity dawns, in the midst of the seething ineffectiveness of personal life. In our earlier attempts at meditation, we jumped over such commonplace instructions as choosing the subject, and holding the mind closely and faithfully to it; we rushed past all that, passion for ecstasy, for initiation, for means by which we could shine and lord it over others. We were permitted to pasture up in the boggy meadows of emotion, calling them the bright fields of spirit; we were permitted to think we think...until in the pinch of lack, or the droop of importance, the breath-taking uncertainties and instabilities of our ground-work were shown up. Convinced at last, we became very eager to begin all over again at the bottom, and the word Stability looms."4
He goes on in the same letter to tell us that:"Our concentrations are breathless at first from the very effort we put into them. This rigidity fends off the results we seek for a time, but with practice we become skilful at length in holding a mental one-pointedness with a kind of effortless content which may safely be empowered."5
How is this condition of empowering reached? By following a form or outline in our meditation work which automatically sets a ring-pass-not around the mind, and which says to the mind, "thus far shalt thou go, and no farther." We deliberately and with intelligent intent set the limits of our mental activity in such a form that we are forced to recognize when we stray beyond those limits. We know then that we must retire again within the sheltering wall we have defined for ourselves. This following of a form in meditation is necessary usually for several years, unless one has had previous practice, and usually even those who have arrived at the stage of contemptation test themselves out quite often by the use of a form in order to make sure that they are not dropping back into a negative emotional quiescent state.
I have used such forms as the following in working with approximately three thousand students of the meditation technique during the last seven years, and it has proved itself in so many cases that I am including it here.
MEDITATION FORMTo Develop Concentration
- The attainment of physical comfort and control.
- The breathing is noted as rhythmic and regular.
- Visualization of the threefold lower self (physical, emotional and mental) as
- In contact with the soul.
- As a channel for soul energy, through the medium of the mind, direct to the brain. From thence the physical mechanism can be controlled.
- Then a definite act of concentration, calling in the will. This involves an endeavor to keep the mind unmoving upon a certain form of words, so that their meaning is clear in our consciousness, and not the words themselves, or the fact that we are attempting to meditate.
- Then say, with focussed attention —"More radiant than the sun, purer than the snow, subtler than the ether is the Self, The spirit within me. I am that Self. That Self am I."
- Concentrate now upon the words: "Thou God seest me." The mind is not permitted to falter in its concentration on their significance, meaning, and implications.
- Then, with deliberation bring the concentration work to a close, and say — again with the mind re-focussed on the underlying ideas — the following concluding statement:"There is a peace that passeth understanding; it abides in the hearts of those who live in the Eternal. There is a power that maketh all things new; it lives and moves in those who know the Self as one."
This is definitely a beginner's meditation. It has several focal points in it where a re-collection process and a re-focussing method is employed. There are many other meditation outlines which can bring about the same results, and many more that are for advanced workers. There are meditation outlines which are drawn up to produce certain specific results in particular people, but it is obvious that they cannot be included in such a book as this. A safe and general meditation form is all that is possible. In all of them, however, the primary thing to bear in mind is that the mind must be kept actively occupied with ideas and not with the effort to be concentrated. Behind every word spoken, and every stage followed there must be the will to understand and a mental activity of a one-pointed nature.
In the sixth stage where the effort is made to meditate definitely upon a form of words, veiling a truth, there should be nothing automatic in the process. It is quite easy to induce in oneself an hypnotic condition by the rhythmic repetition of certain words. We are told that Tennyson induced in himself a heightened state of consciousness by the repetition of his own name. This is not our object. The trance or automatic condition is dangerous. The safe way is that of an intense mental activity, confined within the field of ideas opened up by any particular "seed-thought" or object in meditation. This activity excludes all extraneous thoughts, except those which the words under consideration arouse. The words taken in this particular form can illustrate this, and the process depicts a sequence of thought as follows :Thou God seest me.This God is the divine in me, the indwelling Christ, the Soul.For long ages this soul has perceived and observed me.Now for the first time I am in a position to see God.Up till now, I have been negative to this divine Reality.The positive relation is becoming possible.But — this seems to involve the idea of duality.But I and God are one.I am God, and have been all the time.Therefore I have been seen by my Self.I am that Self, That Self am I.
This is easily written down, but if the mind is kept actively intent upon the sense and meaning, much hard and focussed thinking will have to be done, and much difficulty will be found to eliminate all thoughts other than those having a bearing upon the subject. Sometimes I have found it helpful to say to the puzzled beginner, who is discouraged by his inability to think when and as he chooses: "Imagine you have to give a lecture upon these words to an audience. Picture yourself as formulating the notes upon which you will later speak. Carry your mind on from stage to stage and you will find that five minutes [Page 231] will have gone by without your attention wavering, so great will have been your interest."
Verses should be chosen which are positive in their effect. Those that induce a waiting and negative state of mind should be avoided. A certain amount of realization and experience is necessary before such words (so frequently chosen by well-meaning beginners) as "be still, and know that I am God," can be safely carried into the meditation work. The call for too great a quiescence of the untrained personality, and the energy they evoke goes to the stimulation of the psychic nature. Mr. Comfort points this out most beautifully in the same letter.
"I believe that such meditations as 'be still and know I am God,' if strenuously indulged in may prove disastrous. More than one unripe personality has opened within itself receptivity to power which played upon its unfulfillments, arousing secret passions and ambitions beyond his power to cope with. The meditation 'I am God' might therefore, be said to be almost too direct and efficacious until such time as the workman knows exactly what he is about. One cannot play up to the Ego and continue long to act the part before men. The end of that is disease and desperate fatigue and loss of the way while shouting it to others. This is not a matter of getting something to show men. It is a matter of understanding what we are made of as personalities; of sensing the Key to a new potency altogether and of rendering with ardent entirety the whole human nature to the game of reaching and turning that Key. I realize that this paragraph touching the 'I am God' meditation contains a lure as well as a warning. It is quite true that the time must come for all of us when we shall operate from the office of the Ego, instead of from the personality, [Page 232] but a fine integrity of the personality must be established before we can carry the power."6
The sequential method suggested above is a safe way for the neophyte. There are others that will occur to the mind of the intelligent student. Whole worlds of thought are open over which the mind can range at will (note those words) provided they have a bearing upon the seed-thought and have a definite relation to the chosen idea upon which we seek to concentrate. It is obvious that each person will follow the bent of his own mind — artistic, scientific or philosophical — and for them that will be the line of least resistance. We shall all formulate our own concepts in our own way. But the "Be still" attitude is not for us. We inhibit other mental activities by an intense interest, not by a mental stunning of ourselves into silence, or by the adoption of a method which induces trance or utter thoughtlessness. We are definitely thinking.
Any person who is teaching meditation knows how difficult it is to induce the mystic to renounce his quiescent condition (which is the result of an endeavor to make the emotional nature one-pointed) and force him to begin to use his mind. How often one hears the complaint: "I do not like this technique; it is too intellectual and mental and not a bit spiritual." What they really mean is something like this: "I am too lazy to use my mind; I suffer from mental inertia; I much prefer emotional rhapsodies, and the imposition of a peaceful state upon my emotional nature. I feel better. This way involves too much hard work." Why should spirituality be confounded with emotions? Why should not knowledge be just as divine as feeling? Of course, this way does involve hard work, particularly at first. But it can be done, if the initial laziness can be overcome, and those who have achieved know of its supreme value.
In concluding this attempt to indicate the initial work that the aspirant to this way has to undertake, it should be noted that the key to success lies in constant and unremitting practice. Often, in our work with students all over the world, we find the brilliant mind coming out second, because it lacks persevering effort, and the more ordinary mind suddenly breaking through into the realm of ascertained knowledge and leaving its more brilliant brother behind, because it possesses the capacity to keep on going on. Sporadic efforts get the aspirant nowhere; in fact they are definitely harmful, inasmuch as they breed a constant sense of failure. A little consistent and faithful work done every day, over a long period of time, will bring results infinitely greater than enthusiastic but spasmodic efforts. A few minutes of concentration or meditation work done with regularity, will carry the aspirant much farther than hours of effort given three or four times a month. It has been truly said that "meditation to be effective in producing results must not be merely a sporadic effort in which we engage when we feel inclined, but it is a steady unremitting pressure of the will."
Another point to be remembered is that the last person to appreciate the results of his work is the student himself. The goal he has set himself is so wonderful, that he is more apt to be discouraged than satisfied. The only wise thing to do is to put all thought of eventual results and their phenomenal effects entirely out of the mind definitely, once and for all, and simply follow the ancient rules. This must be done without a constant plucking of oneself up by the roots to see how one is growing. Those around us will know surely and truly what progress we are making by our increased efficiency, self-control, stability and helpfulness. We have found it wise to gauge the growth of a student in the meditation work by the extension of his field of service and by the things his friends say of him, rather than by his own reports about himself. Our work is to go steadily forward, doing the demanded task "without attachment" as the Hindu aspirant calls it.
If success is to be achieved, there must be a genuine and persistent desire, a clear picture of the value of the results, a realization that the goal can be achieved and definite knowledge of the technique of the method. This, with the unremitting pressure of the will is all that is needed, and this is possible for every reader of this book.
CHAPTER TEN - THE NEED FOR CARE IN MEDITATION
THE NEED FOR CARE IN MEDITATION"A clean life, an open mind, a pure heart, an eager intellect, an unveiled spiritual perception, a brotherliness for one's co-disciple, a readiness to give and receive advice and instruction,...a willing obedience to the behests of Truth,...a courageous endurance of personal injustice, a brave declaration of principles, a valiant defence of those who are unjustly attacked, and a constant eye to the ideal of human progression and perfection which the secret science depicts; these are the golden stairs up the steps of which the learner may climb to the Temple of Divine Wisdom."H. P. BLAVATSKY
THE meditation work outline in the previous chapter constitutes a good concentration exercise for the beginner and will eventually lead him — if he possesses persistence — to the genuine practice of meditation. A concentration that lasts one minute is difficult to achieve but is a real step upon the way to meditation, which is the act of prolonged concentration. The outline will help to produce the condition of active attention. Many such outlines are available, and can be drawn up, by those who know the rules and who are good psychologists, to suit the needs of differing types of people. A few such outlines will be found at the close of the book, but it is obvious that in a book of this description the more advanced practices and the more intensive work have no place. They can be wisely carried forward only when the earlier stages have been mastered.
It should be noted that any thought process, followed with undeviating attention, which leads "inward" from the outer form to the energy or life aspect of that form and which enables the thinker to be identified with it, will serve a purpose similar to a technical outline. Any noun, for instance, when properly understood as the name of a thing and, therefore, of a form, will serve as a seed thought in meditation. The form will be studied as to its quality and purpose, and all can in time be traced back to an idea, and all true ideas emanate from the realm of the soul. If the right attitude, therefore is assumed and the processes outlined in Chapter Five are followed, the thinker will find himself led out of the phenomenal world into the world of Divine Realities. As practice in concentration is gained, the consideration of the outer form, and of its quality and aspect can be omitted, and the act of concentration, having become (through persistence and practice) automatic and instantaneous, the student can start with the purpose aspect, or with the underlying idea which brought the outer form into being. This entire concept has been expressed for us by Plutarch in these words:"An idea is a Being incorporeal, which has no subsistence of itself, but gives figure and form unto shapeless matter and becomes the cause of the manifestation." (De Placit. Philos.)
These are significant words and hold much information for the student of this ancient technique of meditation.
The goal of meditation, from the angle of the mind, might therefore, be stated to be the attainment of the world of ideas; from the angle of the soul, it is the identification of the individual soul with the world originator of all ideas. Through mind control, we become aware of the ideas which lie back of our world evolution, and the manifestation (through matter) of the form that they take. Through meditation, we contact a part of the Plan; we see the blue prints of the Great Architect of the Universe, and are given opportunity to participate in their emergence into objective being through our contact with, and right interpretation of, the ideas we succeed in contacting in meditation.
It will, therefore, be apparent how necessary it is that the aspirant should be possessed of a well trained and well-stocked mind, if he is to interpret with accuracy that which he sees; it is evident that he should be able to formulate with clarity the thoughts with which he seeks to clothe the nebulous ideas, and in turn, through this clear thinking, impress the waiting brain. It may be true that "God" works out, in many cases, His plans through the agency of human beings, but He needs intelligent agents; He needs men and women who are not more stupid than those chosen by the leaders of the race to participate in their endeavors. Just to love God is not entirely sufficient. It is a step in the right direction, but devotion, unbalanced by good sense and brains, leads to much stupid action and much unconsidered effort. God looks for those who have trained and highly developed minds, and fine brains (to act as sensitive recorders of the higher impressions), so that the work may be carried forward rightly. Perhaps it might be said that the saints and mystics have revealed to us the nature of the Divine Life, and the quality of the ideas which govern His [Page 240] activities in the world of phenomena, and that the knowers of the world and the intellectuals of the race must, in their turn, reveal to the world the synthetic Plan and the Divine Purpose. Thus shall we find the thread of gold which will guide us out of the maze of our present chaotic world condition into the light of truth and of understanding.It should be remembered that we live in a world of energies and of forces. The power of public opinion (emotional as it usually is, and frequently set in motion by some basic ideas, formulated by thinkers, good, bad and indifferent) is well known, and is a form of energy, producing big results. The devastating effect of uncontrolled emotion, for instance, is equally well known, and is again a demonstration of force. The expression, so constantly used, "the forces of nature," shows us that since man began to think at all he has known that all is energy. The scientists tell us that everything is a manifestation of energy. There is nothing but energy, pouring through us, and working in us, and in it we are immersed. All forms are built of atoms, we are told, and atoms are units of energy. Man, therefore, is himself energy, formed of energy units, living in a world similarly constituted and working with energy all the time.
The fundamental law governing all meditation work is the ancient one formulated by the seers in India centuries ago, that "energy follows thought." From the realm of ideas (or of soul knowledge) energy pours through. The "public opinion" of the soul realm seeps little by little into the dense minds of men, and to it can be traced all the forward movements of the present time, all organization of general welfare and of group betterment; all religious concepts and all outer knowledge of the Causes which produce objectivity. These ideas assume a mental form, first of all, and some mind grasps them and ponders upon them, or passes them on to some group of thinkers, and the work of "thinking through" goes forward. Then the quality of desire begins to enter in, and there is an emotional reaction to the thoughts which the ideas have evoked, and the form is gradually built.
Thus the work goes on and the energy of the soul and of the mind and of the desire nature correlate with the energy of matter, and a definite form comes into being. Every form, whether it be the form of a sewing machine, of a social order or of a solar system, can be posited as the materialization of the thought of some thinker, or of some group of thinkers. It is a form of creative work, and the same laws of emergence into being have governed the entire process, and all the work has been concentrated with energy of some type or another. The student of meditation must, therefore, remember that he is always working with energies, and that these varying energies will have a definite effect upon the energies of which he himself is composed (if such an expression is permissible).
It will be apparent, therefore, that the man who is learning to meditate must endeavor to do two things:
First: He must learn to "bring through" into his [Page 242] mind and then interpret correctly what he has seen and contacted, and later transmit it correctly and accurately to the attentive and impressionable brain. Thus the man, in physical waking consciousness becomes aware of the things of the Kingdom of God.
Second: He must learn the nature of the energies he is contacting, and train himself to utilize them correctly. A practical illustration of this can be given here, and one universally recognized. We are swept by anger or irritation. Instinctively we begin to shout. Why? Emotional energy has us in its grip. By learning to control the energy of the spoken word we begin to master that particular type of emotional energy.
In these two ideas of right interpretation and right transmission, and of right use of energy, the whole story of the meditation work is summed up. It becomes apparent also what is the problem confronting the student, and why all wise teachers of the technique of meditation urge upon their pupils the need of care and slow procedure.
It is essential that we realize that meditation can be very dangerous work and may land a man in serious difficulty. It can be destructive and disrupting; it can do more harm than good and lead a man towards catastrophe if he enters upon the Way of the Knower without a proper understanding of what he is doing and where it will lead him. At the same time, it can be, indeed, the "work of salvation" and lead a man out of all his difficulties; it can be constructive and liberating, and guide the man by right [Page 243] and sane methods along the way that leads from darkness to light, from death to immortality, and from the unreal to the Real.
It might be of value here if we considered these two points a little more closely.
We have seen that the deep need of the aspirant is to see that he succeeds in bringing through into his physical brain-consciousness, with accuracy, the phenomena of the spiritual world which he may succeed in contacting. The probability is, however, that it will be a long time before he can penetrate into that world at all. Therefore, he has to learn to discriminate between the fields of awareness which may open up before him as he becomes more sensitive, and know the nature of what he is seeing and hearing. Let us look for a moment at some of the phenomena of the lower mind which students are so constantly misinterpreting.
They record, for instance, a rapturous encounter with the Christ or with some Great Soul, who appeared to them when meditating, smiled at them, and told them to "be of good cheer. You are making good progress. You are a chosen worker and to you truth shall be revealed," or something equally fatuous. They thrill to the event; they record it in their diary and they write joyously to me that the occurrence is a most momentous happening in their lives. It may be, if they handle it right, and learn its lesson. What has really happened? Has the student really seen the Christ? Here we remember the truism that "thoughts are things" and that all thoughts take form. Two things have produced the occurrence, if it has really happened and is not the result of a vivid and overstimulated imagination. The power of the creative imagination is only just beginning to be sensed, and it is quite possible to see just what we desire to see, even if it is not there at all. The desire of the aspirant to make progress, and his strenuous effort, has forced him to become awake or aware upon the psychic plane, the plane of vain imaginings, of desire and its illusory fulfillments. In that realm, he contacts a thought-form of the Christ or of some great and revered Teacher.
The world of illusion is full of these thought-forms, constructed by the loving thoughts of men down the ages, and the man, working through his own psychic nature (the line of least resistance for the majority) comes in touch with such a thought-form, mistakes it for the real, and imagines it saying to him all the things he wants said. He wants encouragement; he seeks, like so many, the justification of phenomena for his endeavour; he quiets the brain and gently slips into a psychic and negative condition. Whilst in that condition, his imagination begins to function, and he sees what he wants to see, and he hears the magnificent words of recognition for which he hankers. It does not occur to him that the Guides of the race are too busy with group activities and with the training of the advanced thinkers and leaders of humanity, through whom They can work, to spend any time with the children of the race. The latter may be left, with complete success, to the tuition of less highly evolved beings. Nor does it occur to them that, should they be so advanced and so highly evolved as to have won the privilege of making such a contact, the Master would not waste His time and theirs by patting them on the back and pronouncing high sounding but inane platitudes. He would improve the brief moment by pointing out some weakness to be eliminated, or some constructive work to be undertaken.
Again, some "force" — a word frequently used — or some entity comes to the student, as he meditates, and outlines to him some great work that he has been chosen to do; some world message that he has to give and to which the entire world is to listen, or some great invention he is to present some day to a waiting world if he continues to be good. Gladly he grasps the mantle of the prophet, and with unshaken belief in his capacity, his ability to influence thousands, even if he is relatively impotent to influence those around him at present, he prepares to carry out his divine mission.
In one year, three "World Teachers," who have been studying meditation in some school or other, made application to the group with whom I am associated. This they did, not because they wanted to carry their meditation forward, but because they felt we would be happy to have them "feed" into the group some of the many hundreds they were to be instrumental in saving. I had to decline the honor, and they disappeared, and nothing has since been heard of them. The world still awaits them. Of their sincerity there is absolutely [Page 246] no doubt. They believed what they said. Neither is there any doubt of their being hallucinated. All of us are in danger of being deluded in just this way, when we start to meditate, if the discriminating mind is not on the watch, or if we have a secret longing for spiritual prominence, or suffer from an inferiority complex which must be offset.
Another cause for delusion lies in the fact that these people have perhaps made a real contact with the soul. They have had a flash of its omniscience and are swept off their feet by the very wonder of the contacted vision and knowledge. But they overestimate their capacity; the instrument of the soul is totally unable to measure up to requirements; there are aspects of their life upon which the light may not shine; there are secret faults which they know but cannot break; there is the desire for fame and power; there is ambition. They are not yet the soul in functioning activity. They have simply had a vision of a possibility. Hence they crash through their failure to see the personality as it is.
Yet, in spite of the truth of the above, let us always remember that it is the privilege of the true knower to work in the closest co-operation with the Guides of the race, but that the method of co-operation is not the one which deceived the aspirant. Only when we have begun consciously to function as souls, and only when we are busy with self-forgetting service — a service that is self-initiated, and carried forward because the soul is group conscious, and it is in the nature of the soul to serve — will we make such a contact.
The Christ is the Son of God in full functioning activity, the "Eldest in a great family of brothers." He has a consciousness which is universal in its scope, and through Him the love of God pours, and the purposes of God are working to fruition. He is the Master of all the Masters, and the Teacher alike of Angels and of men. When He and those associated with Him find an aspirant who is engrossed with the work to be done in self-discipline, who is faithful and conscientious in his endeavor, they look to see if the light within him has reached the point of "the shining forth." If they find one who is so anxious to serve his fellowmen that he is looking for no phenomenal contacts for himself and is not interested in being patted on the back and having his pride and self-satisfaction fed in this manner, then they may reveal to him the work that he can do in his own sphere of influence to further the Divine Plan. But he will have to begin where he is; he will have to make his demonstration first of all in his home or office; he will have to prove himself in the small things before he can be safely trusted with the big. The ludicrous arrogance of some of the writings which record the psychic contacts of the writers is almost beyond belief. They certainly lack a sense of humor at least.
The point that every student of meditation should always bear in mind is that all knowledge and instructions are conveyed to the mind and brain by a man's own soul; it is the soul that illumines his way. The Teachers and Masters of the race work through [Page 248] souls. This cannot be too often reiterated. Therefore, the prime duty of every aspirant should be the perfect performance of meditation and service and discipline, and not the making of contact with some great Soul. It is less interesting, but preserves him from illusion. If he does this, the higher results will take care of themselves. Should an apparition appear to him, therefore, and should such an entity make platitudinous comments, he will use the same judgment as he would in business or ordinary life with a man who came and said to him, "A great work lies in your hands, you are doing well. We see and know, etc., etc." He would probably laugh and continue with the activity or duty of the moment.
Another effect of meditation, and a very prevalent one at this time, is the flood of so-called inspirational writings which are coming out, with high claims made for them, everywhere. Men and women are busily writing automatically, inspirationally, and prophetically, and giving to the public the result of their labors. These writings are distinguished by certain uniform features and can be explained in several ways. They emanate from many different interior sources. They are curiously alike; they indicate a lovely aspirational spirit; they say no new thing, but repeat what has often been said before; they are full of statements and phrases which link them up with the writings of the mystics or with the Christian teaching; they may contain prophecies as to future events (usually dire and dreadful, and seldom, if ever, of a happy nature) they carry much comfort to the writer and make him feel he is a great and wonderful soul; and, fortunately, they are generally innocuous. Their name is legion, and they become exceedingly tiresome after one has toiled through a few of the manuscripts. Some few are definitely destructive. They foretell great and immediate cataclysms, and breed fear in the world. Even suppose these predictions are true, one is tempted to ask whether anything is gained by frightening the public and whether it is not more constructive to build the realization of their immortal destiny into people than to tell them they are going down in a tidal wave, or will be submerged in the catastrophe which is going to wipe their particular city off the map.
What are these writings — good and innocuous, or harmful and destructive and subversive of public order? They fall roughly into two classes. First, there are the writings of those sensitive souls who can tune in — again on psychic levels — with the mass of aspirations, longings and ideas of the mystics of all times, or, equally, them can tune in on the fears of the ages, the racial and hereditary fears, or the fears engendered by world conditions prevailing at this time. These they record and write down and hand around to their friends. Under this category come the writings of those who are sensitive in a more mental manner, and can tune in telepathically with the mental world; they are responsive to the mind of some powerful thinker, or to the massed concepts of the religious world; they register, on mental levels, the fear and hatred and separativeness [Page 250] of the masses. Whether the material they record is good or bad, whether it is happy, which it seldom is, or unhappy in nature, and whether it carries a vibration of fear and foreboding, it is all psychic stuff, and it in no way indicates the revealing quality of the soul.
The prophecies in the Books of Daniel and Revelations have been responsible for the building up of a thought-form of fear and of terror which has led to much writing of a psychic nature, and the exclusiveness of organized religion has led many to separate themselves off from the rest of humanity and to regard themselves as the elect of the Lord, with the mark of the Christ on their foreheads and, therefore, to take the position that they are safe and the rest of the world must perish, unless they can be brought to interpret truth and the future in the exclusive terms of the anointed and select.
Secondly, these writings can indicate a process of self unfoldment, and a method whereby the introverted mystic can become the extrovert. The writer may be tapping the wealth of the subconscious knowledge which is his, and which he has accumulated through his reading, thinking and contacts. This mind has recorded and stored up much of which he remains for years totally unaware. Then he begins to meditate and suddenly taps the depths of his own nature and penetrates to the resources of his own subconsciousness and to information which has dropped below the threshold of his ordinary consciousness. He begins to write assiduously. Why he should regard these thoughts as emanating from the Christ, or from some great Teacher is a puzzle. It probably feeds his pride — again quite unconsciously — to feel he is a channel through which the Christ can communicate.
I am not referring here to the mass of automatic writings which are so popular now. I am supposing that the student of meditation refuses to have anything to do with this kind of dangerous work. No true aspirant, in his efforts to be master of himself, will hand over the reins of government and submit to the control of any entity, incarnate or discarnate; neither will he render up his hand blindly for any force to use. The dangers of this kind of work are becoming too well known and have landed so many people in the psychopathic wards, or necessitated their being freed from obsessions or from "idées fixes", that there is no need for me to enlarge upon it.
How, it might be pertinently asked, can one can distinguish between the truly inspired writings of the true knower, and this mass of literature which is flooding the minds of the public at this time? First, I should say that the true inspirational writing will be entirely without self-reference; it will sound a note of love and will be free from hatreds and racial barriers; it will convey definite knowledge and carry a note of authority by its appeal to the intuition; it will respond to the law of correspondences, and fit into the world picture; above all, it will carry the impress of Divine Wisdom and lead the race on a little further. As to its mechanics; the writers of such a type of teaching will have a real understanding [Page 252] of the methods they employ. They will have mastered the technique of the process; they will be able to guard themselves from illusion, and from the intrusion of personalities, and will have a working knowledge of the apparatus with which they are working. If they are receiving teachings from discarnate entities, and from great Masters, they will know how to receive it, and will then know all about the agent transmitting the teaching.
True servers of the race and those who have contacted the world of the soul, through meditation, have no time for platitudes; these can safely be left to the parrots of the world; they are too busy serving constructively to care to pick up mantles which are only a veil to pride; they are not interested in the good opinion of any person, incarnate or discarnate, and care only for the approval of their own soul, and are vitally interested in the pioneering work of the world. They will do nothing to feed hatred and separativeness or to foster fear. There are numbers of people in the world only too ready to do that. They will fan the flame of love wherever they go; they will teach brotherhood in its true inclusiveness, and not a system which will teach brotherhood to a few and leave the rest outside. They will recognize all men as sons of God and will not set themselves upon a pedestal of righteousness and knowledge from whence they proclaim the truth as they see it and consign those to destruction who do not see as they do, or do not act as they feel they should, placing them outside the pale; they will not regard one race as better than another, though they may recognize the evolutionary plan and the work that each race has to do. They will, in short, occupy themselves by building up the characters of men, and not waste their time in tearing down personalities, and dealing with effects and with results. They work in the world of causes, and enunciate principles. The world is full of those who tear down, and who feed the present hatreds, and who widen the divisions between races and groups, between rich and poor. Let the true student of meditation remember that when he makes a contact with his soul, and becomes at-one with Reality, he is entering into a state of group awareness, which breaks down all barriers, and leaves none of the sons of God outside its field of knowledge.
It is possible to mention other forms of illusion, for the first world the aspirant contacts seems usually to be the psychic world, and that is the world of illusion. This world of illusion has its uses, and entering it is a most valuable experience, provided that the rule of love and of non-self-reference is carried there, and that all contacts made are subjected to the discriminating mind and ordinary commonsense. So many aspirants lack a sense of humor, and take themselves far too seriously. They seem to leave behind them their good sense, when they enter a new field of phenomena. It is useful to record what is seen and heard and then to forget about it until such time as we have begun to function in the kingdom of the soul; then we will be no longer interested [Page 254] in its recollection. We must also avoid personalities and pride, for they have no place in the life of the soul, which is governed by principles and love to all beings. If these things are developed, there is no danger of any student of meditation being side-tracked, or delayed; he will inevitably enter some day into that world of which it is said "eye hath not seen or ear heard, the things which God hath revealed to them that love him", the time being dependent upon his persistence and patience.
The second type of difficulty which we should consider is the one that can be interpreted in terms of energy.
Students frequently complain of over-stimulation and of such an increased energy that they find themselves unable to cope with it. They tell us that, when attempting to meditate, they have an inclination to weep, or to be unduly restless; they have periods of intense activity wherein they find themselves running hither and thither serving, talking, writing and working so that they end by undergoing a violent reaction, sometimes to the point of nervous collapse. Others complain of pains in the head, of headaches immediately after meditating, or of an uncomfortable vibration in the forehead, or the throat. They also find themselves unable to sleep as well as heretofore. They are, in fact, over-stimulated.
The nervous system is being affected through the medium of fine and subtle "nadis" which underly the nerves and to which we earlier referred. These troubles are the troubles of the neophyte in the science of meditation and must be dealt with carefully. Rightly handled, they will soon disappear, but if they are ignored they may lead to serious trouble. The earnest and interested aspirant, at this stage, is himself a difficulty, for he is so anxious to master the technique of meditation, that he ignores the rules given him and drives himself, in spite of all the teacher may say or the warnings he may receive. Instead of adhering to the fifteen minute formula which is given him, he endeavors to force the pace and do thirty minutes; instead of following his outline, which is so arranged that it takes about fifteen minutes to complete, he tries to hold the concentration as long as possible, and at the height of his effort, forgetting that he is learning to concentrate, and not to meditate, at this stage of his training. So he suffers, and has a nervous breakdown, or a spell of insomnia, and his teacher gets the blame and the science is regarded as dangerous. Yet all the time, he himself is the one in fault.
When some of these primary troubles occur, the meditation work should be temporarily stopped, or slowed down. If the condition is not sufficiently serious to warrant the complete cessation of the work, a close observation should be made of where (in the human body) the inflowing energy seems to go. Energy is tapped in meditation, and it will find its way to some part or other of the mechanism.
In mental types, or in the case of those who have already some facility in "centering the consciousness" in the head, it is the brain cells which become [Page 256] over-stimulated, leading to headaches, to sleeplessness, to a sense of fulness, or to a disturbing vibration between the eyes or at the very top of the head. Sometimes there is a sense of blinding light, like a sudden flash of lightning or of electricity, registered when the eyes are closed, and in the dark equally as in the light.
When this is the case, the meditation period should be reduced from fifteen minutes to five, or meditation should be practiced on alternate days, until such time as the brain cells have adjusted themselves to the new rhythm and the increased stimulation. There is no need for anxiety, if wise judgment is used, and obedience to the advice of the teacher is present, but should the student at this time begin to push his meditation, or to increase the time period, he may lay up for himself a good deal of trouble. Again common-sense comes into play, and with the reduction of the time, and with the practice of a little meditation every day, it should soon be possible to bring the work back again to normal. We have had students who have suffered this way, but who, by obedience to suggested rules, and the use of common-sense, are now doing their thirty minutes' or an hour's meditation daily.
In emotional types, the trouble is first sensed in the region of the solar plexus. The student finds himself prone to irritation and to anxiety and worry; also, particularly in the case of women, there may be found a disposition to cry easily. Sometimes there is a tendency to nausea, for there is a close [Page 257] relation between the emotional nature and the stomach, as is evidenced by frequency of vomiting in moments of shock, or fright, or intense emotion. The same rules apply as in the first set of cases: common-sense and a careful and slower use of the meditation process.
Another result of over-stimulation might be mentioned. People find themselves becoming over-sensitive. The senses work overtime and all their reactions are more acute. They "take on" the conditions, physical or psychic, of those with whom they live; they find themselves "wide open" to the thoughts and moods of other people. The cure for this is not to lessen the meditation periods — these should be continued as per schedule, — but to become more mentally interested in life, in the thought world, in some subject which will tend to develop the mental capacity and so bring about the ability to live in the head and not in the emotional region. Focussed attention to life and its problems, and some potent mental occupation will effect a cure. It is for this reason that wise teachers of meditation parallel the meditation work with some course of reading and study, so as to preserve the balance of their students. A rounded out development is needed always, and a trained mind should accompany growth in the spiritual life.
There is a third category of undesirable results which should not be omitted. Many students of meditation complain that their sex life has been tremendously stimulated and is giving them much trouble. [Page 258] We have come across such cases. On investigation, it will usually be found that these students are people whose animal nature is very strong, who have led an active and ill-regulated sex life, or whose thoughts are much engrossed with sex, even if the physical life is controlled. A strong mental complex as to sex is often discovered, and people who would regard it as wrong to lead an abnormal sex life, or to practice perversions, are mentally occupying themselves with sex or are discussing it all the time and letting it play an undue part in their thought life.
Some most worthy people have also a settled conviction that celibacy must always accompany the life of the spirit. May it not be possible that the true celibacy to which the ancient rules are intended to refer concerns the attitude of the soul, or spiritual man, to the world, the flesh and the devil, as our Christian Scriptures put it? May not the true celibacy have reference to our abstaining from all appearance of evil? This may in one man involve his abstaining from all sex relations in order to demonstrate to himself his control over the animal nature; in other cases, it may, for instance, involve refraining from all gossip and idle speech. There is nothing sinful in marriage and it is probably the way out for many who would otherwise lead an unduly active mental life where sex is concerned. It is needless, surely, to add here that the true student of meditation should not tolerate in his life promiscuous or illegitimate sexual relations.
The aspirant to the life of the spirit conforms not only to the laws of the spiritual kingdom but to the legalized customs of his age and time. He, therefore, regularizes his physical every day life so that the man in the street recognizes the morality, the uprightness and the correctness of his presentation to the world. A home that is based upon a true and happy relation between a man and a woman, upon mutual trust, co-operation and understanding, and in which the principles of spiritual living are emphasized, is one of the finest aids that can be given to the world at this time. A relation that is based on physical attraction and the gratification of the sex nature, and which has, as its primary objective, the prostitution of the physical nature to animal desire, is evil and wrong. If the goal of our effort is to demonstrate God immanent in form, then no level of consciousness is more intrinsically divine than another, and divinity can be expressed in all human relations. If a married man or woman cannot attain illumination and achieve the goal, then there is something wrong and divinity cannot express itself on one plane, at least, of expression; to put in terms that may sound blasphemous but which will enable us to grasp the futility of these reasonings: God is defeated in one part of His Kingdom.This point has been enlarged upon because so many people, and particularly men, find that the animal nature requires attention when they begin to meditate. They discover within themselves uncontrolled desires, plus physiological effects which [Page 260] cause them acute trouble and discouragement. A person may have a high aspiration and a strong urge towards spiritual living and yet have aspects of his nature still uncontrolled. The energy that pours in during meditation pours down through the mechanism and stimulates the entire sex apparatus. The weak point is always discovered and stimulated.
The cure for this situation can be summed up in the words: — control of the thought life and transmutation. An intense mental preoccupation and interest should be cultivated in other directions than the line of least resistance — sex. There should be an endeavor at all times to keep the energy contacted in the head and to permit it to work out through creative activity of some kind. The eastern teaching tells us that energy, usually directed to the functioning of the sex life, has to be raised and carried to the head and throat, particularly the latter, as it is, we are told, the centre of creative work. To put it in western terms, this means that we learn to transmute the energy utilized in the procreative process or in sex thoughts and use it in the work of creative writing, in artistic endeavor, or in some expression of group activity. The tendency in modern times to find the one-pointed thinker and purely mental type evading marriage and as he frequently does leading a purely celibate life, may be a demonstration of the truth of the eastern position. It is causing a good deal of concern among those who study our falling birth rate.
Transmutation is not surely the death of an activity or a cessation of functioning on any level of consciousness for the sake of a higher. It is the right utilization of the various aspects of energy wherever the Self feels they should be used for the furthering of the ends of evolution, and the helping of the Plan. The mind, illumined by the soul, should be the controlling factor, and when we think straight, live straight, and raise all thoughts and energies into the "Heavenly places" we shall solve our problems through the development of a spiritual normality which is greatly needed at this time, particularly among aspirants and esoteric students.
It might be well also, before this chapter comes to a close, to refer to the dangers to which many are liable if they respond to the appeal of teachers for pupils to "sit for development." They are then taught to meditate upon some centre of energy, usually the solar plexus, sometimes the heart, curiously enough never the head.
Meditating upon a centre is based upon the law that energy follows thought, and leads to the direct stimulation of that centre and the resultant demonstration of the particular characteristics for which these focal points — scattered throughout the human body — are responsible. As the majority of people function primarily through the collected energies that lie below the diaphragm (the sex energies and the emotional energies) their stimulation is most dangerous. In view of this, why take risks? Why not be warned by the experience of others?
Why not learn to function as the spiritual man from that point, so quaintly described by the Oriental writers, as "the throne between the eyebrows," and from that high place control all aspects of the lower nature, and guide the daily life in the ways of God.