Part 1 of 2 here.
The educational process has perhaps done its main work in preparing the mind to undertake the work of meditation. It has taught us that we possess such an apparatus and has presented to us some of its ways of use. The psychologists have told us much about our mental reactions, and our instinctual habits. Now man must possess himself consciously of his instrument and pass out of the initial stages of the educational process into that classroom and interior laboratory where it is possible to ascertain God for himself as the objective of all education. Who was it said that the world is not a prison house but a spiritual kindergarten, where millions of bewildered children are trying to spell God? The mind sends us hither and thither in the work of spelling out truth until the day dawns when, exhausted, we retire within ourselves and meditate and then find God. As Dr. Overstreet says:
“All our enduring quest then gets its explanation and its significance. It is the God operative within ourselves. As, then, we discover the more enduring values, or as we create them, we enact God in our own lives.”
– Overstreet, H.A., The Enduring Quest, page 265.
Again, we might define meditation as the method whereby a man reaches the glory of the unveiled self by the process of rejecting form after form. Education is not only purveyed in our schools and universities. The greatest school of all is life experience itself, and the lessons we learn are those we bring upon ourselves by identifying ourselves with a succession of forms – forms of pleasure, forms of those we love, forms of desire, forms of knowledge – the list is endless! For what are forms but those substitutes which we create and then set in front of ourselves as objects of worship, or those ideas about happiness and truth which others have created and after which we endlessly run, only to find them fade away into mist before our tired eyes. We seek satisfaction in phenomena of all kinds, only to find them turn to dust and ashes, until we reach that something – intangible yet infinitely real – which gave being to them all. He who sees all forms as symbols of reality is well on the way to touching the unveiled Self. But it takes a mental apprehension and a guided intuition to do this. Did Sir James Jeans have a glimpse of this when he said:
“Phenomena come to us disguised in their frameworks of time and space; they are messages in cipher of which we shall not understand the ultimate significance until we have discovered how to decode them out of their space-time wrappings.”
– Jeans, Sir James, The Universe Around Us, page 339.
Man is a point of divine light, hidden within a number of enveloping sheaths, as a light is hidden within a lantern. This lantern may be either closed and dark, or open and radiant. It may be either a light shining before men’s eyes, or a hidden thing and, therefore, of no use to others. We are assured in that basic text book on meditation, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, of which an English paraphrase and commentary is furnished in my book The Light of the Soul, that through right discipline and meditation
“that which obscures the light is gradually removed,” and that “when the spiritual intelligence… reflects itself in the mind-stuff then comes awareness of the Self.”
– Bailey, Alice, The Light of the Soul, II, 52.
At one point in the history of every human being there comes a momentous crisis when the light must be sensed, through a rightly used intelligence, and the Divine inevitably contacted. This Patanjali emphasizes when he says:
“The transfer of the consciousness from a lower vehicle into a higher is part of the creative and evolutionary process.”
– Bailey Alice, The Light of the Soul, IV, 2.
Slowly and gradually the work of direct knowledge becomes possible, and the glory which is hidden behind every form can stand revealed. The secret is to know when that time has come and to seize the moment of opportunity. Meister Eckhart says:
“If the soul were stripped of all her sheaths, God would be discovered all naked to her view and would give himself to her, withholding nothing. As long as the soul has not thrown off all her veils, however thin, she is unable to see God.”
– Pfeiffer, Franz, Meister Eckhart, page 114.
Thus, East and West teach the same idea and in the same symbology.
Meditation is, therefore, an ordered process whereby a man finds God. It is a system, well-tried out and much used, which unfailingly reveals the divine. The important words here are “ordered process.” There are certain rules to be followed, certain definite steps to be taken, and certain stages of unfoldment to be experienced before a man can garner the fruits of meditation. It is a part of the evolutionary process, as we have seen, and like all else in nature it is slow but sure, and unfailing in its results. There is no disappointment to the man who is willing to obey the rules and work with the system. Meditation calls for self-control in all things, and unless the work of meditating is itself accompanied by the other requirements under the “ordered process” (such as self-control and active service) it will fail in its objective. Fanaticism is not required. This is made clear in the Bhagavad Gita:
“There is no meditation for the man who eats too little or for the man who eats too much, or for him whose habit it is to sleep too much or too little. But for him who is regulated in food, in work; regulated also in sleep and in waking, meditation becomes the destroyer of all suffering.”
– Bhagavad Gita, VI, 16-17.
Meditation can be regarded rightly as part of the natural process which thus far has carried man forward along the path of evolution from a stage but little removed from the animal to his present position of mental attainment, scientific achievement and divine unrest. Steadily his center of consciousness has shifted, and steadily his attention has been focused on an ever widening range of contacts. Man has already passed from the purely animal and physical state of being into that of an intensely emotional and sensory awareness and in this state millions remain at this time. But other millions are progressing beyond this into another and higher field of awareness which we call that of the mind. Still another group, much fewer in number, are passing into a sphere where a universal range of contacts becomes possible. These we call the Knowers of the race. Through all methods employed runs the golden thread of divine purpose, and the way by which the transfer of the human consciousness into that of soul realization and soul awareness is effected is that of meditation.
This process of unveiling the Self through the negation of the form-side of life and the eventual inability of the various sheaths to hide it, can be described in terms of transmutation as well as in those of transference of consciousness.
Transmutation is the changing, and redirecting of the energies of the mind, of the emotions and of the physical nature so that they serve to reveal the Self, and not simply to reveal the psychical and body natures.
We are told, for instance, that we have five main instincts, which we share in common with all animals. These, when used with selfish and personal objectives, enhance the body life, strengthen the form or material nature and so serve increasingly to hide the Self, the spiritual man. These must be transmuted into their higher counterparts, for every animal has its spiritual prototype. The instinct of self-preservation must eventually be superseded by realization of immortality, and “dwelling ever in the Eternal,” man will walk the earth and fulfil his destiny. The instinct which causes the lower self to thrust itself forward, and force its way upward, will eventually be transformed into the domination of the higher or spiritual Self. The assertion of the little or lower self will give way to that of the higher Self. Sex, which is an animal instinct powerfully governing all animal forms, will give place to a higher attraction, and will, in its noblest aspects, bring about conscious attraction and union between the soul and its vehicle; whilst the herd instinct will be transmuted into group consciousness. A fifth instinct, namely the urge to inquire and to investigate, which characterizes all minds at a high or a low level, will give place to intuitive perception and understanding, and so the great work will be accomplished and the spiritual man will dominate his creation, the human being, and lift all his attributes and aspects into heaven.
Through meditation, spiritual knowledge grows up within the mind, and from the basis of ordinary knowledge, we steadily expand our understanding of the term, until knowledge merges into wisdom. This is direct knowledge of God by means of the mental faculty, so that we become what we are, and are enabled to manifest our divine nature. Tagore, in one place, defines meditation as “the entering into some great truth until we are possessed by it,” and truth and God are synonymous terms. The mind knows two objects, we are told – the outer world through the medium of the five senses and the brain, and the soul and its world through what we might call an introverted use of the mind and its intense focusing upon a new and unusual field of contact. Then
“the mind-stuff reflecting both the knower (the Self) and the knowable, becomes omniscient… it becomes the instrument of the Self and acts as a unifying agent.”
– Bailey, Alice, The Light of the Soul, IV, 22-24.
All things will stand revealed to the man who truly meditates. He will comprehend the hidden things of nature, and the secrets of the life of the spirit. He will also know how he knows.
Thus, meditation brings about union, or at-one-ment.
The Occidental mystic may speak of the At-one-ment, whilst his brother in the Orient may speak of Raja Yoga, or of Union and of liberation, but they mean the same thing. They mean that the mind and the soul (the Christ within us or the Higher Self) function as a unit, as a coordinated whole, thus expressing perfectly the will of the indwelling God. René Guénon, in his book Man and His Becoming, makes the following interesting comments on the word “union,” which have a place here.
“The realization of this identity is effected by Yoga, that is, the intimate and essential union of being with the Divine Principle, or, if preferred, with the Universal. The proper meaning of this word Yoga is in fact ‘union’ and nothing else… It should be noted that this realization ought not strictly to be regarded as an ‘achievement,’ or as ‘the production of a non-pre-existent result,’ according to Shankaracharya’s expression, for the union in question, although not actually realized in the sense in which we here intend it, exists none the less potentially, or rather virtually; what is involved is merely the effectual attainment by the individual being… of the consciousness of that which truly is from all eternity.”
– René Guénon, Man and His Becoming, page 37.
Through the ordered stages of the meditation process, a relationship is gradually and steadily established between the soul and its instruments until the time comes when they are literally one. Then the sheaths serve simply to reveal the light of the indwelling Son of God; the physical body is under direct control of the soul, for the illuminated mind transmits (as we shall see later) soul knowledge to the physical brain; the emotional nature is purified and simply reflects the love nature of the soul, as the mind reflects the purposes of God. Thus, the hitherto disorganized and separative aspects of the human being are synthesized and unified and brought into harmonious relation with each other and with the soul, their creator, their source of energy, and their motivating power.
This science of union involves the disciplining of the life, and an experimental system of coordination. Its method is that of focused attention, of mind control, or of meditation, and is a mode of development whereby we effect union with the soul, and become aware of inner states of consciousness. This is summed up for us in the familiar words of Browning:
“Truth is within ourselves; it takes no rise
From outward things, whate’er you may believe.
There is an inmost center in us all,
Where truth abides in fullness; and around
Wall upon wall, the gross flesh hems it in,
…and to know
Rather consists in opening out a way
Whence the imprisoned splendor may escape,
Than in effecting entry for a light
Supposed to be without.”
– Browning, Robert, Paracelsus.
The whole object of the science of meditation is, therefore, to enable man to become in outer manifestation what he is in inner reality, and to make him identify himself with his soul aspect and not simply his lower characteristics. It is a quick process for the unfolding of the reasoning consciousness, but in this instance must be self-applied and self-initiated. Through meditation, the mind is used as an instrument for observing the eternal states, and becomes in time an instrument for illumination, and through it the soul or Self transmits knowledge to the physical brain.
Finally, meditation brings about illumination. Meister Eckhart in his book of Sermons, written in the fourteenth century, says:
“Three kinds of men see God. The first see him in faith; they know no more of Him than they can make out through a partition. The second behold God in the light of grace but only as the answer to their longings, as giving them sweetness, devotion, inwardness and other such-like things… The third kind see him in the divine light.”
– Pfeiffer, Franz, Meister Eckhart, page 191.
It is this light that the process of meditation reveals and with which we learn to work.
The heart of the world is light and in that light shall we see God. In that light we find ourselves. In that light all things are revealed. Patanjali tells us that
“when the means to union have been steadily practiced and when impurity has been overcome, enlightenment takes place, leading up to full illumination.” “The mind then tends towards increasing illumination as to the true nature of the Self.”
– Bailey, Alice, The Light of the Soul, II, 27-28, IV, 26.
As a result of meditation comes the shining forth of the light. This
“illumination is gradual and is developed stage by stage.”
– Bailey, Alice, The Light of the Soul, III, 5-6.
This we shall take up in greater detail later on.
Through meditation, as a consequence of all the preceding factors, the powers of the soul are unfolded. Each vehicle through which the soul expresses itself carries latent within itself certain inherent potencies, but the soul, which is the source of them all, has them in their purest and most sublimated form. The physical eye, for instance, is the organ of physical vision. Clairvoyance is the same potency demonstrating in what is regarded as the psychical world – the world of illusion, of feeling and of emotion. But in the soul, this same power shows forth as pure perception, and infallible spiritual vision. The higher correspondences of the lower physical and psychical powers are brought into functioning activity through meditation, and so supersede their lower expressions.
These powers unfold normally and naturally. This they do, not because they are desired and consciously developed, but because as the inner God assumes control and dominates His bodies, His powers become apparent upon the physical plane and potentialities will then demonstrate forth as known realities.
The true mystic does not concern himself with the powers and faculties, but only with the Possessor of those powers. He concentrates upon the Self, and not upon the potencies of that Self. As he merges himself more and more in the Reality who is himself, the powers of the soul will begin to demonstrate normally, safely and usefully. The process is summed up for us by Meister Eckhart in these words:
“The soul’s lower powers should be ordered to her higher and her higher ones to God; her outward senses to her inward, and her inward ones to reason; thought to intuition and intuition to the will and all to unity…”
– Pfeiffer, Franz, Meister Eckhart, page 40.
The words of Dr. Charles Whitby, the translator of René Guénon’s book, Man and His Becoming, are pertinent to this chapter on the objectives of the meditation process. He refers to the
“…overwhelming testimony to the mutually-confirmatory agreement, on all essential points, of the Western, Hindu, Moslem and Far-Eastern esoteric traditions. The Truth we so rashly term unattainable awaits’ us there in unchanged and changeless majesty, veiled indeed from hasty and scornful eyes, but ever increasingly apparent to earnest unbiased seekers. According to Plotinus, the act of contemplation which essentially constitutes the life of every individual and that of mankind as a whole, ascends gradually and by a natural and inevitable progression from Nature to Soul, from Soul to pure Intellect, from Intellect to the supreme ‘One’. If this be so, the present preoccupation with psychic or quasi-psychic matters of the more advanced representative of Western thought and science, may or rather must sooner or later be succeeded by an equally serious attention to matters of higher and even of highest import.”
– René Guénon, Man and His Becoming, page X.
Thus it will be seen that the claims made for meditation are very high, and the weight of the testimony of the mystics and initiates of all the ages can be brought in corroboration of them. The fact that others have achieved may encourage and interest us but does no more unless we ourselves take some definite action. That there is a technique and a science of union, based on the right handling of the mental body and its correct use may be profoundly true, but this knowledge serves no purpose unless each educated thinker faces the issue. He must decide upon the values involved and set himself to demonstrate the fact of the mind, its relation in the two directions (to the soul on the one hand and to the outer environment on the other) and finally his ability to use that mind at will as he may choose. This involves the development of the mind as a synthesized, or common sense, and governs its use in relation to the world of the earthly life, of the emotions and of thought. It involves also its orientation at will to the world of the soul, and its capacity to act as an intermediary between the soul and the physical brain. The first relation is developed and fostered through sound methods of exoteric education and of training; the second is made possible through meditation, a higher form of the educational process.