Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation homepage > Notebooks of Paul Brunton > Perspectives > Chapter 16: The Sensitives
What they seldom see is that spiritual illumination and psychical error can and do exist in the same mind at the same time.
He will lose nothing and gain much if he tries to know scientifically why these experiences arise. And he will be a better mystic if he can relate them to the rest of life, if he can move forward to a fuller understanding of his place in the universal scheme, if he can reach an explicit and self-conscious comprehension of his own mysticism. If we grant that he can successfully attain his mystical goal without this definite knowledge, he cannot become an effective teacher and guide without it. So long as his interest is confined to himself this need not matter, but as soon as he seeks to serve mankind it does matter. For then only can he present the way and the goal in the detail and with the clarity that helps to convince others.
It is true that to analyse with scientific detachment these most intimate and precious experiences, visions, and messages could, if imprudently done, easily destroy their value or prevent their recurrence. Yet this is precisely what he has to do if he is to protect himself against illusions.
God will appear to us in Spirit alone, never in Space. To see him is to see the playing and posturing of our own mind.
The only elementals are vivified thought-forms. If they are evil and attack you, oppose them with thoughts of an opposite character. If your thoughts are strong enough and sustained enough, the elementals will eventually vanish.
If he can catch any of these psychic manifestations at the very moment when they begin, that is the best time to prevent their arisal altogether, for then they are at their weakest. That is the proper time to nip them in the bud.
If the voices which he hears are audible in the same way that one hears the voices of people through the ears, it is merely psychic and undesirable. If, however, it is a very strong mental impression and also very clear, then it is the mystic phenomenon known as the "Interior Word" which is on a truly spiritual plane and therefore is desirable.
H.P.B.'s Voice of the Silence tells of seven mystical sounds which are heard by the aspirant. The first is like the nightingale's voice, whereas the sixth is like a thunder-cloud. This passage has been much misunderstood both by novices and by unphilosophical mystics, whilst in India and Tibet whole systems of yoga have been built up on their supposed psychic existence. The sounds are not actually heard. The reference to them is merely metaphorical. It speaks rather of the silent intuitive feeling of the Overself's existence which becomes progressively stronger with time, until finally, in H.P.B.'s own eloquent words, "The seventh swallows all the other sounds. They die, and then are heard no more." This represents the stage where the voice of the ego is completely unified with the voice of the Overself, where occasional realization is converted into a constant one.
All occult experiences and spirit visions are mental, and not spiritual, in the sense that the mind has various latent powers which pertain to the ego, not the Overself. The question of which is real can be answered differently according to standpoint. He need not trouble about the occult side, which would be a degeneration for him. His chief aim must be to realize pure B-e-i-n-g, not to see or experience anything outside it. Only after this has been done is it safe or wise to concern himself with anything occult.
Tantrika Yoga: Its methods are physical, ceremonial, sensual, and dangerous; its aims are the arousal of sleeping occult strength. In its highest phase, where the motive is pure and egoless, it is an attempt to take the kingdom of heaven by violence. But few men have such an exalted motive, as few are pure enough to dabble in such dangerous practices. Consequently, it need hardly be said that in most cases this road easily leads straight down to the abyss of black magic. This indeed is what has happened in its own history in Bengal and Tibet.
A part of the illumination does not rise from within. It is implanted from without. It is not a contribution from divine wisdom, but a suggestion from human thought. It is really an activation, by the soul's newly found power, of ideas put into the mind previously by others. For example, many Indian yogis actually hear the word "aum" sounding through the mind in their deep and prolonged meditation. A few, belonging to a particular sect, hear the word "Radhasoami" in the same condition. Why is it that no Western mystic, uninitiated into Eastern Yoga, has ever recorded hearing either of these words? This phenomenon is really due in one group of cases to hypnotic suggestion by a guru, and in the other group to unconscious suggestion by a tradition. All that does not however negate its actuality and genuineness, nor detract from its value in first, strengthening the aspirant's religious faith, second, promoting his mystical endeavours, and third--which is the most important of all--providing him with a diving board whence to plunge into the vast silence of the Void, where no words can be formulated and no sounds can be heard, because it is too deep for them or anything else. These, being the most advanced form of psychic phenomena, occur in the last stage of meditation and just before contemplation proper begins.
One fact about most mystical phenomena is that they are transient. Strains of heavenly music may be heard by the inner ear and intoxicate the heart with their unearthly beauty--but they will pass away. Clairvoyant visions of Christ-like beings or of other worlds may present themselves to the inner sight--but they will not remain. A mysterious force may enter the body and travel transformingly and enthrallingly through it from the soles of the feet to the crown of the head--but it will soon vanish. Only through the ultramystic fourfold path can an enduring result be achieved.
He must test these experiences not only by their internal evidences but also by their external results. Do they make him humbler or prouder? Do they improve the balance of his faculties or disturb it?
Philosophy rejects such psychic, occult, mediumistic, or trance experiences when imagination runs unbraked into them, or emotion heaves hysterically in them. It is then time to stop the dangerous tendency by applying a firm will and cold reason. Philosophy welcomes only a single mystic experience--that of the Void (Nirvikalpa Samadhi), where every separate form and individual consciousness vanishes, whereas all other mystic experiences retain them. This is the difference.
Students must guard against faulty technique. They misuse meditation when they force it to serve their fantasies and errors, ascetic phobias and religious fanaticisms. Then they become bogged in their own conceptions or in idealized projections of their own selves. It is easy to mistake the voice of the ego for the voice of the Overself. And it is not hard for the meditators to see things in their imagination which have no reality corresponding to them or to cook up a deceptive mixture of fact and imagination.
The sceptic's doubts--whether in this condition one acquires spiritual affinity with the Divine or merely creates a hallucination--are not infrequently justified. Much that passes for mystical experience is mere hallucination. Even where there is genuine mystical experience it is often mixed with hallucinatory experience at the same time. The subconscious mind easily formulates prepossessions, preconceived notions, externally received suggestions, and so on, into visual or auditory experiences which emphatically confirm the ideas or beliefs with which the meditator originally started. Instead of liberating him from errors and delusions, mysticism thus practised may only cause him to sink deeper and more firmly into them. For he will convert what formerly he held on mere faith to what he now holds as assured mystical realization. In the course of an extensive experience, we have found that meditation, unchecked by reason and unbalanced by activity, has not infrequently produced monomaniacs. A "pure" experience is rare and belongs to a highly advanced stage. Only where there has been the proper preparation, self-purification, and mental discipline can a genuinely pure experience arise.
If these twisted truths and disguised emotions are such common fruit of mystical orchards, may it not be because they are inescapable corollaries of mystical attitudes? With a higher criterion, could they even come into existence?
It was our own widening experience and personal disillusionments that forced us to examine not only the profits of yoga and the successes of its followers, but also the deficiencies of yoga and the failures of its followers. Thus in this reconsideration there developed an attempt at a more scientific approach to the subject. And such were the practical observations which arose out of these experiences and out of the analysis of these failures, that they compelled us and must one day compel other seekers also to look for a corrective for the maladies which have affected the body of mysticism, as well as to discover a purgative for the primitive errors which have secured lodgement under its name.
How simple is the path itself, how complex is the pseudo-path offered by occultism and exaggerated asceticism. "All that God asks of them," writes Thomas Merton, "is to be quiet and keep themselves at peace, attentive to the secret work that He is beginning in their souls."
There are fourteen signs of the mediumistic condition. The medium suffers from: (1) loss of memory, (2) inability to keep mind on conversation, (3) frequent mental introversion, (4) decreasing power of prolonged concentration, study, thought, analysis, and intellectual work, (5) increasing emotionality, (6) weakened willpower, (7) greater sensitivity to trifles, with nervous irritability and silly vanity resulting therefrom, (8) more suspicions of others in his environment, (9) more self-centered and egotistic, (10) frequent glassy stare of the eyes, (11) increased sexual passion, (12) appearance of hysteria or uncontrollable temper where previously absent, (13) disappearance of moral courage, (14) the feeling at times that some unseen entity takes possession of him.
It is only after the mystic has felt human desires and known human joys, come up against intellectual limitations, suffered worldly disappointments, that he can evaluate. If he has not had sufficient experience of common life, he may not adequately assess the values indicated by mystical intuitions nor properly understand the meaning of his mystical experiences themselves. Thus, what he gets out of both depends to some extent on what he brings to them. If he brings too little or too lopsided a contribution, then his higher self will gradually lead him to seek development along the lines of deficiency. And to compel him to make the diversion when he fails to respond to the inner leading, it will throw the terrible gloom of the dark night over him for a time.
The intrusion of the thinking intellect or the egoistic emotion into the intuitive experience presents a danger for all mystics. And it is a danger that constantly remains for the more advanced as for the mere neophyte, although in a different way. It is the source of flattering illusions which offer themselves as authentic infallible intuitions. It crowns commonplace ideas which happen to enter the mind with a regality that does not belong to them. The prudent mystic must be on his guard against and watch out for this peril. He must resist its appeals to vanity, its destruction of truth.
Make it a definite rule in every single instance to check your intuitions by the light of reason.
Even where sensitivity of telepathic reception has been developed, the ego still cunningly interferes with accurate reception. It will take the current of inspiration from the master and, by adding what was never contained in it, give a highly personal, vanity-flattering colour to it. It will take the message of guidance from the higher self and, by twisting it to conform to the shape of personal desire, render it misleading. It will take a psychical or intuitive reading of a situation and, in its eager seeking of wish-fulfilment, confuse the reading and delude itself. It may even, by introducing very strong emotional complexes, create absolutely false suggestions and suppose them to be emanating from the master or the higher self.
No matter how he try, the mystic will not be able to express his inspiration on a higher intellectual level than the one on which he habitually finds himself. This has been plain enough in the past when over-ambitious attempts have brought ridicule to an otherwise inspired message. This is why the best prophet to reach the educated classes is an educated man who possesses the proper mental equipment to do it, and why uneducated masses are best reached by one of themselves. What is communicated--and even the very language in which this is done--always indicates on what levels of human intellect, character, and experience the mystic dwells, as it also indicates what level of mystical consciousness he has succeeded in touching.
Revelations come from the Overself; messages are transmitted to us and they are true enough in their beginning. But personal desires seize on them instantly, change and fashion them to suit the ego.
We should distinguish the theories and doctrines woven round the mystic's experience from the significant features of the experience itself. And those features are: the awareness of another and deeper life, a sacred presence within the heart, the certitude of having found the Real, the gladness and freshness which follow the sense of this discovery.
If the personality has been unevenly developed, if its forces have not been properly harmonized with each other and defects remain in thinking, feeling, and willing, then at the threshold of illumination these defects will become magnified and overstimulated by the upwelling soul power and lead to adverse psychical results.
All occult and psychic powers are extensions either of man's human capacity or of his animal senses. They are still semi-materialistic, because connected with his ego or his body. All truly spiritual powers are on a far higher and quite different plane. They belong to his divine self.
The mystic seeks to stifle all thinking activity by a deliberate effort of willpower and thus arrive at a sense of oneness with the inner being which lies behind it. When his practice of the exercise draws to a successful end, the object upon which he concentrates vanishes from his field of focus but attention remains firmly fixed and does not wander to anything else. The consequence is that his consciousness is centered and this is true whether he feels it to be withdrawn into a pin-point within his head, as results from the commoner methods, or bathed in a blissful spot within his heart, as results from other ones.
He cannot obtain from ordinary mystical experience alone, precise information upon such matters as the universe's evolution, God's nature, or the history of man. This is because it really does lack an intellectual content. The only reliable increment of knowledge he can obtain from it is an answer to the question "What am I?"--an affirmation of the existence of man as divine soul apart from his existence as body. Apart from that his inner experience only improves the quality and increases the intensity of his life, does not constitute a way to new knowledge about what extends beyond it.
There are likely to be many who will reject these criticisms and revaluations of yoga because they emanate from one who is a Westerner and who is therefore supposed not to know what he is talking about in such an exotic matter. Let us therefore learn what some competent Indian authorities themselves say. His late Highness, The Maharaja of Baroda, who was famous for his frequent association with and patronage of the most learned Indian pundits, scholars, philosophers, and yogis, said in his inaugural address to the Third Indian Philosophical Congress held in Bombay in 1927: "The Yoga system in its essence is a series of practical means to be adopted as a preliminary to the attainment of the highest knowledge. . . . what the yoga system may have to teach us as to the preparation for the attainment of true philosophic insight needs to be disassociated from the fantastic and the magical." And at the same Congress, the general president, Sir Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, did not hesitate to declare that "the Indian tradition gives the first place to the pursuit of philosophy."
We do not need to seek our vindication in the witness of contemporary conditions and inside ashrams; it exists in the writings of mystics themselves and as far back as the Middle Ages. Suso, Tauler, Guyon, Saint Teresa, Saint John of the Cross, Ramakrishna, and others have all had occasion to observe the same sad consequences which we also have observed, and they have passed caustic comments upon their fellow aspirants in their own writings. One of the most illustrious and advanced of medieval mystics, John Ruysbroeck, vigorously criticized his fellow mystics for defects he had observed among them. He denounced those who mistook mere laziness for meditative sanctity, as well as those who take every impulse to be a divine one. (See E. Underhill's Mysticism for a quote from Mme. Guyon criticizing visionary experiences of mysticism.) The Spanish Saint John of the Cross wrote: "It is very foolish, when spiritual sweetness and delight fail, to imagine that God has failed us also; and to imagine that because we have such sweetness we have God also."
Four centuries ago another Spanish mystic perceived the subtle selfishness which underlay this attitude. He was Saint Pedro de Alcantara, who wrote that such devotees of spiritual joy "are much rather loving themselves than God." Even many a genuine mystic of high achievement is not altogether exempt from this charge of spiritual selfishness. His ineffable ecstasies deceive him by their very sweetness into barring himself from concern with the woes of the outside world. This often arises quite innocently because the sense of joy which follows success in meditation is easily misinterpreted to mean the end of the quest. It may indeed be the end of most mystical quests, but it is only the beginning of the ultimate one! Only a few of the wisest and most advanced mystics have placed it where it rightly belongs. The danger was so clearly seen by Buddha that he specifically warned his disciples not to stop at any of the four degrees of rapt meditation, where, he said, they might easily be deceived into thinking that the goal had been attained. It was seen too by Sri Ramakrishna, the renowned Bengali yogi. He once disclosed to a disciple: "Mystic ecstasy is not final." He severely chided his famous pupil, the monk Swami Vivekananda, when the latter replied to a question about his ideal in life with the words: "To remain absorbed in meditative trance." His master exclaimed, "Can you be so small-minded as that? Go beyond trance; it is a trifling thing for you."
The mystic is on a loftier plane than the occultist and psychic. The various systems of occultism, theosophy, and psychism are all objective to the true Self of man, and hence distract him from the straight and narrow path. Yet they are useful and necessary for those egoistic and over-intellectualized natures who cannot aspire to the rarefied reaches of the real Truth. Everything--including the fascinating systems of knowledge and practice that comprise ancient and modern occult teachings--which distracts man from becoming the truly spiritual, distracts him from the real path. Only when all objective things and thoughts have disappeared into the subject, the self or the seer, can man achieve his highest purpose. All other activities simply cause him to stray from the highest truth. So I have abandoned the study and practice of occultism. I have given it up unwillingly, for the power it promises is not to be despised. Yet I recognize that my past is strewn with errors and mistakes. I imagined that a great personal experience of the psychic and mysterious side of Nature would bring me nearer Truth. As a fact, it has taken me farther from it. Once I enjoyed frequent glimpses of a great bliss and intense state of samadhi; then I was unfortunate enough to come into contact with theosophists and others of that ilk who subtly supplanted my real inward happiness with intellectual systems and theories upon which I was thenceforward to ponder. Alas! I was too young and too green to know what was happening. The bliss went before long; the samadhis stopped, and I was cast upon the shore of the Finite, an unhappy and problem-puzzled bit of human wreckage! No promise of wonderful initiations at some future time will lure me to trust my life into the care of a so-called guru who is either unable to or unwilling to give me a glimpse of the God-consciousness he claims to possess. I am not inclined to follow a trail which may land me somewhere out in the middle of the desert, bereft of reason, hope, and fortune.
If a man spends a total of six hours a day in meditation practices, as some I have known have done, but is unable to perceive the truth about the character of other men with whom he is brought into contact, then it is absurd to believe that he is able to perceive the truth about the immeasurably more remote, more intangible and ineffable Transcendental Reality.
He will be all the better and not worse if he brings to his mystical path a scientific method of approach, a large historical acquaintance with the comparative mysticisms of many countries, a scientific knowledge of psychology, and a practical experience of the world. He will be all the better and not worse if he learns in advance, and in theory, what every step of the way into the holy of holies will be like.
If there were nothing other than our ideas of things, and if it were impossible to cross their boundaries, all that we could discover would never be anything more than an exploration from our own imaginings and conceptions. Then, everything holy and divine would be robbed of its value and meaning. But mystical experience intrudes here to show us a world beyond thoughts, a reality beyond ideas.
The more I travel the world of living men and study the recorded experiences of dead ones, the more I am convinced that mystical powers, religious devotion, intellectual capacity, and ascetic hardihood do not possess anything like the value of noble character. I no longer admire a man because he has spent twenty years in the practice of yoga or the study of metaphysics; I admire him because he has brought compassion, tolerance, rectitude, and dependability into his conduct.
If those who have hitherto given their faith and thought to the ordinary presentations of yoga will now give further faith and more thought to the higher teaching here offered, they need lose nothing of their earlier understanding but will rather amplify it. Nor is anyone being called upon to renounce meditation; those who criticize me for this are as mistaken as they are unjust. What is really being asked for is the purging of meditation, the putting aside as of secondary and temporary interest those phases of yoga experience which are not fundamental and universal. But meditation itself should and must continue, for without it the Ultimate can never be realized. Only let it be directed rightly. Hence the inferior yogas are not for a moment to be despised, but it should be recognized that they are only relative methods useful at a particular stage only. Thus they will take their place as fit means leading towards the ultramystic practices and not be confounded with them.
The quietistic condition got by ordinary yoga is got by withdrawing from the five senses. But the hidden prenatal thought tendencies which are the secret origin of these senses still remain, and the yogi has not withdrawn from them because his attention has been directed to vacating the body. Thus the trance-condition he attains is only a temporary, external inactivity of the senses. Their internal roots still abide within him as mental energies which have evolved since time immemorial. Without adequate insight into the true nature of sense operations, which are fundamentally exteriorizations of interior mental ones, the yogi has only deceived himself when he thinks he has conquered them.
So long as the mystic is unable to function fully in his intellect, why should he expect to function clearly in what is beyond intellect?
However essential this seeking of the spiritual self must obviously be, however splendid the attainment of such a peace-filled, desire-free state must and will always seem, it cannot in itself constitute an adequate goal. Two important elements are lacking in it. The first is knowledge and the second is compassion. The first would show precisely what is the place of such an attainment in the full pattern of human existence; the second would bring it into active relation with the rest of social existence. Whilst these are lacking, this state can only partially understand itself and only negatively affect others. It keeps its own peace by ignoring the world's suffering.
The mystic who overbalances himself with ephemeral ecstasies pays for them by deep moods of depression. This is worth noting, but it is not all. If there is not a rationally thought-out metaphysical foundation to give constant and steady support to his intuitions of truth, he may find these intuitions telling him one thing this year and the opposite next year. But this foundation must be a scientific and not merely a speculative metaphysics, which means that it must itself be irrefragable, gathering its facts not with the critical intellect alone, but also with the spontaneous intuition and above all with the insight. Such a system exists only in the metaphysics of truth.
When the whole world lies stretched out before them, how dare they go on ignoring it, or else dismissing it as a device of Satan to entrap and ensnare them! We must enquire into the world which the senses contact no less than into the self which is viewing that world. How can the ascetic obtain the knowledge of the All when he gives up such a huge portion of it? Giving up the world does not lead to Reality, but it leads to peace of mind. Men who lack intelligence, who possess little brains, must take to mysticism and yoga, but only the mature and developed mind can enter the quest of enquiry into Truth. This means therefore that pupils are generally not initiated into this enquiry by gurus prematurely. They must first have developed their egos and their minds to a high degree, and only after that should they be taught to renounce what has been fostered with so much pain. This is evolution: although Truth is ideally attainable here and now, technically it is attainable only at the end of the pageant of evolution, when the whole being of man has been highly developed and is ripe to receive the greatest of all gifts.
There are three major and progressive goals open to the mystic. The first is to become conscious of the fringe or aura of his divine soul, the Overself. Most mystics, elated by the emotional thrill of its discovery, stop here. The second is to penetrate to its serene centre and pass during trance into the undifferentiated void of its non-sensed, non-thinged essence. The more intelligent and superior mystics, who are naturally much fewer in number than the first kind, are not satisfied until they reach this attainment. It is upon this world-vanishing experience that most Indian yogic metaphysicians base their theory that the universe is an illusion. To the ordinary yogi, this is the summit of achievement and represents for him the goal of human existence. But the trance itself is only temporary. How can a mental self-abstraction, however prolonged, a merely temporary condition, be a final goal for mankind? This is the problem which indeed was stated in The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga. All such theories merely show that such mystics have their limitations, however admirable may be their capacity to enter into and sustain the trance state. The third goal is to bring the true self, the essential emptiness and the universal manifestation, into a harmonious, unified experience during full normal wakefulness. This last is philosophical mysticism. Being a complex and complete attainment, it naturally calls for a complex and complete effort. Careful analytical and historical study of mystical practices and mystical biographies will show that it is these three different goals which have always been pursued or achieved, no matter to what external religion, country, or race individual mystics may themselves have belonged. Thus the ordinary mystic's account of the Overself is true but incomplete, his experience of it authentic but insufficient. He has yet to undergo the whole, the complete experience which mysticism can yield. But then, if he does so, if he refuses to remain satisfied with an incomplete and imperfect attainment, he will no longer remain a mystic. He will become a philosopher.
The successful mystic certainly comes into contact with his real "I." But if this contact is dependent upon meditational trance, it is necessarily an intermittent one. He cannot obtain a permanent contact unless he proceeds further and widens his aspiration to achieve contact with the universal "I." There is therefore a difference between the interior "I" and the universal "I," but it is a difference only of degree, not of kind, for the latter includes the former.
The mystical ideal of finding his relationship to the spiritual self must be broadened out to include the metaphysical ideal of finding his relationship to the universe.
At a time like the present when the world is passing though a critical phase of wholesale reconstruction, every opponent of reason and proponent of superstition is rendering a serious disservice to mankind.
It would be a grave mistake to believe that the following of ascetic regimes and the stilling of wandering thoughts causes the higher consciousness to supervene. What they really do is to permit it to supervene. Desires and distraction are hindrances to its attainment and they merely remove the hindrances. This makes possible the recognition of what we really are beneath them. If however we do nothing more than this, which is called yoga, we get only an inferior attainment, often only a temporary one. For unless we also engage in the rooting out of the ego, which is called philosophy, we do not get the final and superior transcendental state.
From the point of view of yoga practice, the yogi gradually succeeds in bringing his field of awareness to a single centre, which is at first located in the head and later in the heart. This achievement is so unusual that he experiences great peace and exaltation as a result--something utterly different from his normal condition. For him this is the soul, the kingdom of heaven, the Overself. But from the point of view of the philosophy of Truth, any physical localization of the Overself is impossible, because space itself is entirely within the mind, and the mind is therefore beyond any limits of here and there, and the Overself and Pure Mind (unindividualized) holds all bodies within it without being touched by them.
We personally believe that Gandhi is as self-realized a mystic as his contemporaries like Ramana Maharishi, Aurobindo, and Ramdas. His whole life and thought, his writing and speech, his deeds and service proclaim it. He himself has declared that he feels "the indefinable mysterious power that pervades everything" and that he is "surer of His existence than of the fact that you and I are sitting in this room." Then why is it that Gandhi's view of the world war was so widely different from Sri Aurobindo's, if both are divinely inspired men? The answer is that in Gandhi we find a perfect illustration of the defects of ordinary mysticism, of the insufficiency of its spiritual self-realization, and of the need for philosophical mysticism. There is no need to doubt, as so many doubt, that he is a genuine saint turned to the genuine service of humanity. But he has carried into that service the unbalance, the fanaticism, and the impracticality which mark so many saints throughout history. This conclusion may be unpalatable to some, but it is unavoidable. Perfect mystics are not the same as perfect beings. They are liable to error.
Edgar Cayce was not a mystic, he was a psychic. Although he brought much knowledge of a curious or interesting kind from his psychic experiences, it would be an error to regard them all as reliable, for most psychics can be misled.
Mystical experience does not yield a cosmogony, hence does not tell us something new about the universe or about God's relation to the universe, even though it does tell us something gloriously new about ourselves--that is, about man. In such experience, it is not the universe that reveals the inner mysteries of its own nature, but man.
An important query now arises, although hardly a mystic ever conceives the challenge of its existence and consequently ever seeks its answer. We have to enquire about what really happens during the highest effort of the meditator, when thought is so overcome that it appears as if about to lapse. Will he enter a higher dimension of existence as he believes? Will the self-revelation of the hidden reality really occur? Is this thrilling ecstasy or this stilled peace, which has begun to supervene, the peculiar sign of a revolutionary shifting of spiritual gravity from mortal concerns to eternal life, from mere appearance to basic reality? Many mystics think that the mere elimination of thoughts during self-absorption is a sufficient achievement. The world is then forgotten and with it all the personal cares. This state really arises from the extreme diminution of the working and tempo of thought, with the consequent diminution of attention to the man's own personality, to its varied cares and affairs, as well as to the external world with its insistent claims and constant demands. Thus it is simply one of exquisite relief from human burdens (whether of pain or pleasure, for here there is no distinction between both), from attention to the external world, and from the strain of supporting a continuous series of thoughts. The result is a delightful lightness and soothing peace. But the feeling of peace is alone no guarantee of the attainment of true realization. Peace is admittedly one of its signs. But there are different grades of peace, ranging from the negative stillness of the tomb to the positive mind-mastery of the sage. The arrestation of thoughts touches the fringe of the transcendental state, but not more than the fringe. When I wrote in The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga (page 309, British edition) that the mystic only penetrates to the illusion of reality, I referred to visions of forms and ecstasies of emotion. If however the mystic does achieve a visionless serene unexcited be-ness, then it is the Overself, for he touches the Void wherein is no form and no thoughts; then he does touch reality. I admit this. But his task is still incomplete, because this experience which occurs in trance is transient; hence the need of gaining metaphysical insight also for permanency.
Beware of cults and their exaggerated claims. The IS is not an ISM.
All religious occupations lend themselves to hypocrisy, and this is no exception. The twentieth-century mystics are often pious impostors, playing upon the credulity of their ignorant following. There exists among them a solid, saving remnant of noble men who are making arduous and genuine efforts to attain the superhuman wisdom which mysticism promises to devotees.
The great error of all these worldly-happiness Spiritual teachings like New Thought, Unity, Christian Science, and especially Dr. Peale's "Power of Positive Thinking" is that they have no place for pain, sorrow, adversity, and misfortune in their idea of God's world. They are utterly ignorant of the tremendous truth, voiced by every great prophet, that by divine decree the human lot mixes good and bad fortune, health, events, situations, and conditions; that suffering has been incorporated into the scheme of things to prevent man from becoming fully satisfied with a sensual existence. They demand only the pleasant side of experience. If this demand were granted, they would be deprived of the chance to learn all those valuable and necessary lessons which the unpleasant side affords and thus deprived of the chance ever to attain a full knowledge of spiritual truth. It is the ego which is the real source of such a limited teaching. Its desire to indulge itself rather than surrender itself is at the bottom of the appeal which these cults have for their unwary followers. These cults keep the aspirant tied captive within his personal ego, limit him to its desires. Of course, the ego in this case is disguised under a mask of spirituality.
Since all things have come out of the primal Source, all that I really need can directly come out of it to me if I put myself in perfect harmony with the Source and stay therein. This is the truth behind the fallacy of these cults. For to put myself into such harmony, it is not enough to pronounce the words, or to hold the thought, or to visualize the things themselves. More than this must be done--no less a thing than all that labour of overcoming the ego which is comprised in the Quest. How many of the followers of the cults have even understood that, and all its implications in connection with their desires? How many of them have tried to overcome the ego? If they have not succeeded in understanding and complying with the divine law governing this matter, why should the divine power be at their beck and call to bring what they want? If they have not sought and largely attained that mastery of the animal propensities and that deep concentration in the centre of consciousness which the Quest seeks, is it not impertinent to expect to reach that power with their voice?
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