Chapter 1b

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January 28, 2022

5 By mastering this perfectly concentrated Meditation, there comes the illumination of perception.

The meaning of this is illustrated by what has been said before. When the spiritual man is able to throw aside the trammels of emotional and mental limitation, and to open his eyes, he sees clearly, he attains to illuminated perception. A poet once said that Occultism is the conscious cultivation of genius; and it is certain that the awakened spiritual man attains to the perceptions of genius.

Genius is the vision, the power, of the spiritual man, whether its possessor recognizes this or not. All true knowledge is of the spiritual man. The greatest in all ages have recognized this and put their testimony on record. The great in wisdom who have not consciously recognized it, have ever been full of the spirit of reverence, of selfless devotion to truth, of humility, as was Darwin; and reverence and humility are the unconscious recognition of the nearness of the Spirit, that Divinity which broods over us, a Master o’er a slave.

6 This power is distributed in ascending degrees.

It is to be attained step by step. It is a question, not of miracle, but of evolution, of growth. Newton had to master the multiplication table, then the four rules of arithmetic, then the rudiments of algebra, before he came to the binomial theorem. At each point, there was attention, concentration, insight; until these were attained, no progress to the next point was possible.

So with Darwin. He had to learn the form and use of leaf and flower, of bone and muscle; the characteristics of genera and species; the distribution of plants and animals, before he had in mind that nexus of knowledge on which the light of his great idea was at last able to shine. So is it with all knowledge. So is it with spiritual knowledge. Take the matter this way: The first subject for the exercise of my spiritual insight is my day, with its circumstances, its hindrances, its opportunities, its duties.

I do what I can to solve it, to fulfil its duties, to learn its lessons. I try to live my day with aspiration and faith. That is the first step. By doing this, I gather a harvest for the evening, I gain a deeper insight into life, in virtue of which I begin the next day with a certain advantage, a certain spiritual advance and attainment. So with all successive days. In faith and aspiration, we pass from day to day, in growing knowledge and power, with never more than one day to solve at a time, until all life becomes radiant and transparent.

7 This threefold power, of Attention, Meditation, Contemplation, is more interior than the means of growth previously described.

Very naturally so; because the means of growth previously described were concerned with the extrication of the spiritual man from psychic bondages and veils; while this threefold power is to be exercised by the spiritual man thus extricated and standing on his feet, viewing life with open eyes.

8 But this triad is still exterior to the soul vision which is unconditioned, free from the seed of mental analyses.

This is because the threefold power is the focusing of the beam of perceiving consciousness on something, with a view of understanding it completely.

There is a higher stage, where:

  • the beam of consciousness is turned back on itself, and
  • the individual consciousness enters into, and knows, the All-consciousness.

This is an inmortal being, rather than a knowing being.

  • It is free from mental analysis or mental forms.
  • It is not an activity of the higher mind, even the mind of the spiritual man.
  • It is an activity of the Soul.

Had Newton risen to this higher stage, he would have known, not the laws of motion, but that high Being, from whose Life comes eternal motion.

Had Darwin risen to this, he would have seen the Soul, whose graduated thought and being all evolution expresses.

There are, therefore, these 2 perceptions:

  • that of living things, and that of the Life
  • that of the Soul’s works, and that of the Soul itself.

9 One of the ascending degrees is the development of Control.

First, there is the overcoming of the mind-impress of excitation. Then comes the manifestation of the mind-impress of Control. Then the perceiving consciousness follows after the moment of Control.

This is the development of Control. The meaning seems to be this: Some object enters the field of observation, and at first violently excites the mind, stirring up curiosity, fear, wonder; then the consciousness returns upon itself, as it were, and takes the perception firmly in hand, steadying itself, and viewing the matter calmly from above. This steadying effort of the will upon the perceiving consciousness is Control, and immediately upon it follows perception, understanding, insight.

Take a trite example. Supposing one is walking in an Indian forest. A charging elephant suddenly appears. The man is excited by astonishment, and, perhaps, terror. But he exercises an effort of will, perceives the situation in its true bearings, and recognizes that a certain thing must be done; in this case, probably, that he must get out of the way as quickly as possible.

Or a comet, unheralded, appears in the sky like a flaming sword. The beholder is at first astonished, perhaps terror-stricken; but he takes himself in hand, controls his thoughts, views the apparition calmly, and finally calculates its orbit and its relation to meteor showers.

These are extreme illustrations; but with all knowledge the order of perception is the same: first, the excitation of the mind by the new object impressed on it; then the control of the mind from within; upon which follows the perception of the nature of the object. Where the eyes of the spiritual man are open, this will be a true and penetrating spiritual perception. In some such way do our living experiences come to us; first, with a shock of pain; then the Soul steadies itself and controls the pain; then the spirit perceives the lesson of the event, and its bearing upon the progressive revelation of life.

10 Through frequent repetition of this process, the mind becomes habituated to it, and there arises an equable flow of perceiving consciousness.

Control of the mind by the Soul, like control of the muscles by the mind, comes by practice, and constant voluntary repetition.

As an example of control of the muscles by the mind, take the ceaseless practice by which a musician gains mastery over his instrument, or a fencer gains skill with a rapier. Innumerable small efforts of attention will make a result which seems well-nigh miraculous; which, for the novice, is really miraculous. Then consider that far more wonderful instrument, the perceiving mind, played on by that fine musician, the Soul.

Here again, innumerable small efforts of attention will accumulate into mastery, and a mastery worth winning. For a concrete example, take the gradual conquest of each day, the effort to live that day for the Soul. To him that is faithful unto death, the Master gives the crown of life.

11 The gradual conquest of the mind’s tendency to flit from one object to another, and the power of one-pointedness, make the development of Contemplation.

As an illustration of the mind’s tendency to flit from one object to another, take a small boy, learning arithmetic. He begins: two ones are two; three ones are three-and then he thinks of three coins in his pocket, which will purchase so much candy, in the store down the street, next to the toy-shop, where are base-balls, marbles and so on,—and then he comes back with a jerk, to four ones are four. So with us also. We are seeking the meaning of our task, but the mind takes advantage of a moment of slackened attention, and flits off from one frivolous detail to another, till we suddenly come back to consciousness after traversing leagues of space. We must learn to conquer this, and to go back within ourselves into the beam of perceiving consciousness itself, which is a beam of the Oversoul. This is the true onepointedness, the bringing of our consciousness to a focus in the Soul.

12 When, following this, the controlled manifold tendency and the aroused one-pointedness are equally balanced parts of the perceiving consciousness, his the development of one-pointedness.

This would seem to mean that the insight which is called one-pointedness has two sides, equally balanced. There is, first, the manifold aspect of any object, the sum of all its characteristics and properties. This is to be held firmly in the mind. Then there is the perception of the object as a unity, as a whole, the perception of its essence.

First, the details must be clearly perceived; then the essence must be comprehended. When the two processes are equally balanced, the true onepointedness is attained.

Everything has these two sides:

  • the side of difference
  • the side of unity

There is the individual and there is the genus, the pole of matter and diversity, and the pole of oneness and spirit.

To see the object truly, we must see both.

13 Through this, the inherent character, distinctive marks and conditions of being and powers, according to their development, are made clear.

By the power defined in the preceding sutra, the inherent character, distinctive marks and conditions of beings and powers are made clear. For through this power, as defined, we get a twofold view of each object, seeing at once all its individual characteristics and its essential character, species and genus; we see it in relation to itself, and in relation to the Eternal. Thus we see a rose as that particular flower, with its colour and scent, its peculiar fold of each petal; but we also see in it the species, the family to which it belongs, with its relation to all plants, to all life, to Life itself. So in any day, we see events and circumstances; we also see in it the lesson set for the soul by the Eternal.

14 Every object has its characteristics which are already quiescent, those which are active, and those which are not yet definable.

Every object has characteristics belonging to its past, its present and its future. In a fir tree, for example, there are the stumps or scars of dead branches, which once represented its foremost growth; there are the branches with their needles spread out to the air; there are the buds at the end of each branch and twig, which carry the still closely packed needles which are the promise of the future. In like manner, the chrysalis has, as its past, the caterpillar; as its future, the butterfly. The man has, in his past, the animal; in his future, the angel. Both are visible even now in his face. So with all things, for all things change and grow.