The Objectives in Meditation [1 of 2]

The Objectives in Meditation

“Union is achieved through the subjugation of the psychic nature, and the restraint of the mind-stuff. When this has been accomplished, the Yogi knows himself as he is in reality.”
– Patanjali

Assuming the correctness of the theories outlined in the preceding chapters, it might be of value if we were to state clearly toward what definite goal the educated man aims as he enters on the way of meditation, and in what way meditation differs from what the Christian calls prayer. Clear thinking on both these points is essential if we want to make practical progress, for the task ahead of the investigator is an arduous one; he will need more than a passing enthusiasm and a temporary endeavor if he is to master this science and become proficient in its technique. Let us consider the last point first, and contrast the two methods of prayer and of meditation. Prayer can perhaps be best expressed by certain lines, by J. Montgomery, well known to all of us.

Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire
Uttered or unexpressed,
The motion of a hidden fire,
That trembles in the breast.

The thought held is that of desire, and of request; and the source of the desire is the heart. But it must be borne in mind that the heart’s desire may be either for the acquisition of those possessions which the personality desires, or for those heavenly and transcendental possessions which the soul craves. Whichever it may be, the basic idea is demanding what is wanted, and the anticipation factor enters in; also something is eventually acquired, should the faith of the petitioner be sufficiently strong.

Meditation differs from prayer in that it is primarily an orientation of the mind, which orientation brings about realizations and recognitions which become formulated knowledge. Much confusion exists in the minds of many on this distinction and Bianco of Siena was really speaking of meditation when he said: “What is prayer but upward turning of the mind to God direct.”

The masses of the people, polarized in their desire nature, and being predominantly of a mystical tendency, ask for what they need; they wrestle in prayer for the acquiring of longed-for virtues; they beg a listening Deity to assuage their troubles; they intercede for those near and dear to them; they importune high Heaven for those possessions – material or spiritual – which they feel essential to their happiness. They aspire and long for qualities, for circumstances and for those conditioning factors which will make their lives easier, or release them for what they believe will be freedom to be of greater usefulness; they agonize in prayer for relief from illness and disease, and seek to make God answer their request for revelation. But it is asking, demanding and expecting which are the main characteristics of prayer, with desire dominant, and the heart involved. It is the emotional nature and the feeling part of man which seeks after that which is needed, and the range of needs is wide and real. It is the heart approach.

Four degrees of prayer might be recognized:

  1. Prayer for material benefits, and for help.
  2. Prayer for virtues and for graces of character.
  3. Prayer for others, intercessory prayer.
  4. Prayer for illumination and for divine realization.

It will be seen from a study of these four types of prayer that all have their roots in the desire nature, and that the fourth brings the aspirant to the point where prayer can end and meditation begin. Seneca must have realized this when he said: “No prayer is needed, except to ask for a good state of mind, for health (wholeness) of soul.”

Meditation carries the work forward into the mental realm; desire gives place to the practical work of preparation for divine knowledge and the man who started his long career and life experience with desire as the basic quality and who reached the stage of adoration of the dimly seen divine Reality, passes now out of the mystical world into that of the intellect, of reason, and eventual realization. Prayer, plus disciplined unselfishness, produces the Mystic. Meditation, plus organized disciplined service, produces the Knower. The mystic, as we have earlier seen, senses divine realities, contacts (from the heights of his aspiration) the mystical vision, and longs ceaselessly for the constant repetition of the ecstatic state to which his prayer, adoration and worship have raised him. He is usually quite unable to repeat this initiation at will. Père Poulain in Des Grâces d’Oraison holds that no state is mystical unless the seer is unable to produce it himself. In meditation, the reverse is the case, and through knowledge and understanding, the illuminated man is able to enter at will into the kingdom of the soul, and to participate intelligently in its life and states of consciousness. One method involves the emotional nature and is based on belief in a God who can give. The other involves the mental nature and is based on belief in the divinity of man himself, though it does not negate the mystical premises of the other group.

It will be found, however, that the words mystic and mystical are very loosely used and cover not only the pure mystic, with his visions and sensory reactions, but also those who are transiting into the realm of pure knowledge and of certainty. They cover those states which are unexpected and intangible, being based on pure aspiration and devotion, and also those which are the outcome of an ordered intelligent approach to Reality, and which are susceptible of repetition under the laws which the knower has learnt. Bertrand Russell deals with these two groups in a most interesting way, though he uses the one term Mystic in both relations. His words form a most fascinating prelude to our theme.

“Mystical philosophy, in all ages and in all parts of the world, is characterized by certain beliefs which are illustrated by the doctrines we have been considering.”

“There is, first, the belief in insight as against discursive analytic knowledge; the belief in a way of wisdom, sudden, penetrating, coercive, which is contrasted with the slow and fallible study of outward appearance by a science relying wholly upon the senses…”

“The mystic insight begins with the sense of a mystery unveiled, of a hidden wisdom now suddenly become certain beyond the possibility of a doubt. The sense of certainty and revelation comes earlier than any definite belief. The definite beliefs at which mystics arrive are the result of reflection upon the inarticulate experience gained in the moment of insight…”

“The first and most direct outcome of the moment of illumination is belief in the possibility of a way of knowledge which may be called revelation or insight or intuition, as contrasted with sense, reason and analysis, which are regarded as blind guides leading to the morass of illusion. Closely connected with this belief is the conception of a Reality behind the world of appearance and utterly different from it. This Reality is regarded with an admiration often amounting to worship; it is felt to be always and everywhere close at hand, thinly veiled by the shows of sense, ready, for the receptive mind, to shine in its glory even through the apparent folly and wickedness of Man. The poet, the artist, and the lover are seekers after that glory: the haunting beauty that they pursue is the faint reflection of its sun. But the mystic lives in the full light of the vision: what others dimly seek he knows, with a knowledge beside which all other knowledge is ignorance.”

“The second characteristic of mysticism is its belief in unity, and its refusal to admit opposition or division anywhere…”

“A third mark of almost all mystical metaphysics is the denial of the reality of Time. This is an outcome of the denial of division; if all is one, the distinction of past and future must be illusory…”

“The last of the doctrines of mysticism which we have to consider is its belief that all evil is mere appearance, an illusion produced by the divisions and oppositions of the analytic intellect. Mysticism does not maintain that such things as cruelty, for example, are good, but it denies that they are real: they belong to that lower world of phantoms from which we are to be liberated by the insight of the vision…”
– Russell, Bertrand, Mysticism and Logic, pages 8, 9, 10, 11.

But the mystical way is a preparation for the way of knowledge and where the mystic stops in adoration of the vision and in yearning after the Beloved, the seeker after true knowledge takes up the task and carries the work forward. Dr. Bennett of Yale says, at the close of his book on Mysticism,

“The mystic at the end of his preparation is simply waiting for an apparition and an event which he is careful not to define too particularly; he is waiting, too, with the full consciousness that his own effort has now carried him as far as it can go and that it needs to be completed by some touch from without.”
– Bennett, Charles A., A Philosophical Study of Mysticism, page 192.

This thought confines the whole idea within the realm of sensuous perception, but there is something more. There is direct knowledge. There is an understanding of the laws governing this new realm of being. There is submission to a new procedure and to those steps and passwords which lead to the door and procure its opening. It is here that meditation plays its part and the mind steps in to fulfill its new function of revelation. Through meditation, the union for which the mystic yearns, and which he senses, and of which he has brief and fleeting experience, becomes definite and is known past all controversy, being recoverable at will. Father Joseph Marechal in his notable book points out that:

“…the symbol vanishes, imagery fades, space disappears, multiplicity is reduced, reasoning is silent, the feeling of extension gathers itself together and then breaks down; intellectual activity is entirely concentrated in its intensity; it seizes without intermediary, with the sovereign certitude of intuition, Being, God…”

“The human mind, then, is a faculty in quest of its intuition – that is to say of assimilation of Being, Being pure and simple, sovereignly one, without restriction, without distinction of essence and existence, of possible and real.” (Italics by A.A.B.)
– Marechal, Joseph, S. J., Studies in the Psychology of the Mystics, pages 32, 101.

To take the mind and bend it to its new task as a revealer of the divine is now the objective of the convinced mystic. To do this with success and with happiness, he will need a clear vision of his goal and a lucid understanding of the results eventually to be demonstrated. He will need a keen formulation of the assets with which he approaches his endeavor, and an equally keen appreciation of his lacks and defects. A view, as balanced as may be, of himself and of his circumstances, should be gained. Paralleling this, however, there should be also an equally balanced view of the goal and an understanding of the wonder of the realizations and gifts which will be his, when his interest has been transferred from the things that now engross his attention, and his emotions, to the more esoteric values and standards.

We have touched upon the point that meditation is a process whereby the mind is reoriented to Reality, and, rightly used, can lead a man into another kingdom in nature, into another state of consciousness and Being and into another dimension. The goal of achievement has shifted into higher realms of thought and realization. What are the definite results of this reorientation?

It might be stated first of all that meditation is the science which enables us to arrive at direct experience of God. That in which we live and move and have our being is no longer the object of aspiration, or a symbol to us of a divine possibility. We know God as the Eternal Cause and the source of all that is, including ourselves. We recognize the Whole. We become one with God by becoming one with our own immortal soul, and when that tremendous event takes place we find that the consciousness of the individual soul is the consciousness of the whole, and that separativeness and division, distinctions and the concepts of me and thee, of God and a child of God, have faded away in the knowledge and realization of unity. Dualism has given place to unity. This is the Way of Union. The integrated Personality has been transcended through an ordered process of soul unfoldment, and a conscious at-one-ment has been brought about between the lower or personal self and the higher or divine self. This duality has to be first realized and then transcended before the Real Self becomes, in the consciousness of the man, the Supreme Self. It has been said that the two parts of man have had for long ages nothing in common; these two parts are the spiritual soul and the form nature, but they are joined eternally (and here lies the solution of man’s problem) by the mind principle. In an ancient book of the Hindus, The Bhagavad Gita, these significant words are found:

“Self is the friend of self for him in whom the self is conquered by the Self; but to him who is far from the Self his own self is hostile like an enemy”.
– Bhagavad Gita, VI. 6.

and St. Paul says practically the same thing in his desperate cry:

“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not… For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me (the real Self) from the body of this death?”
– Romans VII, 18, 22, 23, 24.

This real Self is God – God the triumphant, God the Creator, God the Savior of man. It is, in the words of St. Paul, “Christ in us, the hope of glory.” This becomes a fact in our consciousness and not simply a much hoped for theory.

Meditation causes our beliefs to change into ascertained facts, and our theories into proven experience. The statement of St. Paul’s remains only a concept and a possibility until, through meditation, the Christ life is evoked and becomes the dominating factor in daily life. We speak of ourselves as divine and as sons of God. We know of those who have demonstrated their divinity to the world, and who stand in the forefront of human achievement, testifying to faculties beyond our scope of accomplishment. We are conscious, within ourselves, of strivings which drive us on towards knowledge, and of interior promptings, which have forced humanity up the ladder of evolution to its present status of what we call educated human beings. A divine urge has driven us forward from the stage of the cave-dweller to our modern civilized condition. Above all, we are aware of those who possess, or claim to possess, a vision of heavenly things which we long to share, and who testify to a direct way into the center of divine Reality which they ask us also to follow. We are told that it is possible to have direct experience, and the keynote of our modern times can be summed up in the words “From authority to experience.” How can we know? How have this direct experience, free from the intrusion of any intermediary? The answer comes that there is a method which has been followed by countless thousands and a scientific process which has been formulated and followed by thinkers of all periods, and by means of which they become knowers.

Part 2 of 2 here.

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