Skip to main content

February 2021, #84 Visualizations; Symbols

In Volume 4 of the Notebooks, PB states that discursive meditation based on reflective or logical thinking does not suit every student. Meditation practices can include imagination as much as it uses reason. “Visualizations” in Chapter 5 offers ways (practices) that lead the meditator to spiritual intuitions and in turn can lead to philosophic experiences. He writes, “There are two faculties worth developing. They are the faculty of observation and the faculty of imagination or visualization. We look, but see little, for we do not notice much of the detail. We are unable to imagine clearly, sharply, and vividly. We lack the ability to recreate a physical scene purely in the mind.” (4.5.4) But the capacity to do this can develop itself as a result of repeated practice, and by degrees the persistent effort to hold it will be rewarded with the ability to do so continually and clearly.

PB also reminds us that the use of color as seen in nature and the reflection on harmonious light will lead the student by deepening concentration into a mystical state. “One way is to stop whatever exercise we are doing and project the mental image of ourselves doing it successfully.” An unusual exercise in self-perception is given in paragraph 22 of Chapter 5: “…imagine ourselves sitting down to the work of meditation, and going through with it to successful fulfillment of our purpose, all obstacles seen, fought and eventually pushed aside. All this is to be done in our mind, our own person, and its doing becomes the object of concentration. In short, we paint a mental portrait of a meditating person who is ourself.”

The remainder of this section is focused on Symbols. There are historic references as to how symbols were used in antiquity to communicate truths and laws of the universe. Para 51 explains the symbol of the cross. “The Cross symbolizes personally the utter surrender of the ego in desiring and willing impersonality. The vertical line means consciousness transcending the world; the horizontal one means consciousness in the world: the complete figure shows the perfect balance needed for a perfect human being.”

“The Pyramid is a perfect symbol of both spiritual balance and spiritual completeness.” (para 58) “At the apex of a pyramid there is only a single point. At its base there are innumerable points. The tenet of the One appearing as the Many is well symbolized by this ancient figure.” (para 65)

“The higher self should be invoked at the beginning of the deliberate work done on these affirmations and symbols. The latter may then become its channels, if other conditions have been fulfilled.” (para 67) The portrayal of Gautama as a seated, meditating figure symbolizes his basic message. This was really and quite simply, “Be still—empty yourself—let out the thoughts, the desires, and the ego which prevent this inner stillness.” (para 77) “A symbol is a message from his higher self to his personal self. It is intended to give him hope and faith for the future as well as to encourage him to fresh efforts in developing a new life out of the ashes of the old one.” (para 88)

“Disciples should try to feel the master inside themselves, sensing his or her presence and seeing his or her image at various times. For the master is really there, but must be sought for and felt after. This self-identification with the master is one of the best short cuts for those who find it difficult to meditate. Even when working or walking, they should suddenly pull themselves up in thought and imagine the master present in them and working or walking through them. Once such a habit is created and properly established, it will not be long before remarkable results are obtained.” (para 113)

Submitted by Barbara, PBPF Board Member