Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation homepage > Notebooks of Paul Brunton > Category 22: Inspiration and the Overself > Chapter 8: Glimpses and Permanent Illumination

Glimpses and Permanent Illumination

Some (perhaps too many) believe that the glimpse has permanently changed them, made "the new man" out of the old Adam. But what is to outlast time itself takes time. A pathetic self-deception may delight the ego, but breaks down in the end.

That with one breakthrough in awareness, all would be known and comprehended, all questions answered, all personal shortcomings obliterated, is the usual conception of this experience. But there is some wishful thinking here.

The misinterpretation of his experience, the belief that his glimpse is the full transcendence of ordinary humanity, often follows it. In no way has he attained perfection, whether of knowledge, consciousness, character, or wisdom.

His human condition does not vanish because of this experience: it returns and remains with him as his usual one. Only swollen megalomaniacs assert otherwise.

It is true that illumination of itself exalts character and ennobles feeling, purifies thought and spiritualizes action. But if there has been insufficient effort along these lines, then the illumination will only be temporary.

Too soon he will find that the rebirth was not a durable spiritual event but a temporary one. It offered a picture of something for which, from then on, he must start working in earnest. It was a glimpse only but it provided testimony, evidence, confirmation.

Enlightenment may come suddenly to a man, but then it is usually a temporary glimpse. Only rarely does it stay and never leave him. The normal way is a gradual one. The experience of Ramana Maharshi, Atmananda, and Aurobindo illustrates this rare fated exception, and can only be looked for at the risk of frustration.

Glimpses will come to him now and then; they will cheer his heart and enlighten his mind; but a constant level of serene perception will be quite beyond the orbit of his experience.

There are two things lacking in these glimpses. They are not full and total nor are they stable and lasting.

The mystic or yogi who seeks entry into the divine presence may possibly succeed in doing so. For a while his state is completely changed, transcended, heightened. But after all he is not God; he is a human still and he falls back to the old awareness. The glimpse goes: he is once again what he was, yet with a difference. The experience can be, is, remembered, and may even possibly return. Moreover some kind of a residue is left behind, subtle, not easy to measure or describe, yet appearing in briefly felt and beautifully scented moments.

Is this glimpse the highest anyone may dare to hope for? Let it be said frankly that in his present condition and situation a greater attainment for the human being is uncommon--yet it happens.

Neither deep meditation nor the experience can give more than a temporary glimpse. The full and permanent enlightenment, which is to stay with a man and never leave him, can only come after he has clear insight into the nature of Overself.

It is not only possible to attain these brief glimpses of the Overself, but also to attain a durable lasting consciousness of it. No change of this state can then happen. The adept discovers that its future is no different from but quite the same as its past. This is the sacred Eternal Now. Only by this abiding light is it possible to see how mixed and imperfect are all earlier and transient experiences.

These flashes of light, peace, bliss, and understanding are brief but they have the intended effect. They encourage the aspirant to continue his quest and they implant in him a deep yearning to gain entry into the world to which they belong. They will be brief because the ordinary condition of thought and feeling is still far below the exalted condition revealed during these flashes. In other words, he has still to toil away at self-improvement so as to deserve the treasures which have been momentarily shown him.

Between the seeker and the Overself, between his mind and Truth, there is a thick layer of desires, egoisms, passions, opinions, and imaginings. Until he cuts through it--which means until he denies and resists himself in these matters--he may not expect more than Glimpses which fade away.

The belief that he can do nothing to hold this glimpse or keep this mood settles on him through repeated experience. But it is not quite correct. Philosophy points out that he can thin down or remove altogether the causes of such evanescence.

If it is to be a continuous light that stays with him and not a fitful flash, he will need first, to cast all negative tendencies, thoughts, and feelings entirely out of his character; second, to make good the insufficiencies in his development; third, to achieve a state of balance between his faculties.

The glimpse comes spontaneously and outside of his control, but to the master it comes at will and by command.

During the Glimpse he feels that he has travelled close to his journey's end, to the fulfilment of his highest purposes. The quest has suddenly become easy and pleasant. But alas! after the rainbow fades and vanishes, he is forced to recognize that he has far yet to go, that what he experienced was only a passing glimpse and not the final goal.

If he cannot keep this higher consciousness, it is because his lower and earthly nature is strong enough to rise again and block the way. When the purificatory lessons are learned it will then be possible for him, by self-effort and self-development, to regain this experience--at first temporarily and occasionally, but if he works correctly and Grace sanctions, permanently.

In each of these glimpses, his quest attains a minor climax, for each is a step towards full illumination.

It is a kind of pre-vision in which he sees, as Moses saw the Land of Canaan, the Promised Land toward which he journeys.

It is a mistake to regard it as final illumination when it is in fact only one of many stages toward final illumination.

It must be remembered that the glimpse is not the goal of life. It is a happening, something which begins and ends, but something which is of immense value in contributing to the philosophic life, its day-to-day consciousness, its ordinary stabilized nature. Philosophic life is established continuously and permanently in the divine presence; the glimpse comes and goes within that presence. The glimpse is exceptional and exciting; but sahaja, the established state, is ordinary, normal, every day. The glimpse tends to withdraw us from activity, even if only for a few moments, whereas sahaja does not have to stop its outward activity.

To the man who has come along the path of loving devotion to God and finally gained the reward of frequent, joyous, ardent, inward communion with God, equally as to the man who has practised the way of mystical self-recollection and attained frequent awareness of the Overself's presence, an unexpected and unpalatable change may happen little by little or suddenly. God will seem to withdraw from the devotee, the Overself from the mystic. The blisses will fade and end. Although this experience will have none of the terror or isolation and misery of the "dark night" it will be comparable to that unforgettable time. And although it will seem like a withdrawal of Grace, the hidden truth is that it is actually a farther and deeper bestowal of Grace. For the man is being led to the next stage--which is to round out, balance, and complete his development. This he will be taught to do by first, acquiring cosmological knowledge, and later, attaining ontological wisdom. That is, he will learn something about the World-Idea and then, this gained, pass upward to learning the nature of that Reality in whose light even the universe is illusion. Thus from study of the operations of the Power behind the World-Idea he passes on to pondering on the Power itself. This last involves the highest degree of concentration and is indeed the mysterious little practised Yoga of the Uncontradictable. When successfully followed it brings about the attainment of Insight, the final discovery that there is no other being than THAT, no second entity.

It would be unreasonable to expect anyone to give up his worldly attachments until he sees something more worthwhile. Consequently his soul gives him a foretaste, as it were, through these ecstatic moments and brief enlightenments, of its own higher values.

That glimpse is his initiation into the spiritual life and therefore into the sacrificial life. It is but the first step in a long process wherein he will have to part with his lower tendencies, give up his ignoble passions, surrender his baser inclinations, and renounce egoistic views.

Under the emotional thrill of a religious conversion, many people have thought themselves saved and have believed they live in Christ. Yet how many of them have later fallen away! They thought the conversion was enough to bring about a permanent result, whereas it was only the first step toward such a result in reality. The same situation holds with those who have undergone the emotional thrill of a mystical experience. The illumination they have achieved is not the end of the road for them but the beginning. It gives them a picture of the goal and a glimpse of the course to it. It gives them right direction and an inspirational impetus to move towards it. But still it is only the first step, not the last one. They should beware of the personal ego's vanity which would tell them otherwise, or of its deceitfulness, which would tell it to others.

Islamic mystics called Sufis differentiate between glimpses, which they call "states," and permanent advances on the path, which they call "stations." The former are described as being not only temporary but also fragmentary, while the latter are described as bearing results which cannot be lost. There are three main stations along the path. The first is annihilation of the ego; the second is rebirth in the Overself; and the third is fully grown union with the Overself. The Sufis assert that this final state can never be reached without the Grace of the Higher Power and that it is complete, lasting, and unchangeable.

If illumination does not become permanent, if it does not stay with its host, that is because it does not find a proper place within him for such abiding stay. His heart is still too impure, his character still too imperfect for the consciousness of the Overself to associate constantly with him.

He must finish what he has started. He must go on until the peace, the understanding, the strength, and the benevolence of these rare uplifted moods have become a continuous presence within him.

We cannot see the Truth and still be what we were before we saw it. That is why Truth comes in glimpses, for we cannot sustain staying away from ourselves too long, that is to say, from our egos.

When, through the medium of meditation exercise or the awakening by human skill or Nature's charm of aesthetic appreciation, beginners feel a new joy or an unusual peace, they are too often carried away into extravagant exaggeration of the happening. What seems like a tremendous event may be so in its effect on their inexperienced minds, but mostly it is only a skimming of the surface. To realize its further possibilities, it ought to be used as a starting point for exploration in depth.

When he is willing to let go of the self-centered ego and the grace can manifest, there may be this union with his higher nature, with the Overself. It is usually not a permanent experience but the possibility of its becoming one is always there. Then the new outlook seems perfectly natural.

Let him not be presumptuous. He has not attained the true goal yet despite these noteworthy experiences. For his present knowledge of the Overself comes to him partly through the imagination, partly through the emotions, partly through the intellect, and only partly through the Overself. It is authentic but inferior. He must learn to get it through the understanding which is also authentic, but superior.

A continuous insight, present all the time, is the goal, not a passing glimpse.

What he has gained is good but not enough, is mystical but not philosophically mystical. For it is now but a flash when it has yet to become constant; it is now partial when it has yet to become full. Its felt presence should be intimate and inseparable as well as clear and complete. When insight continues whatever his occupation of the hour may be, it can be called philosophic.

The notion that the glimpse is the goal is a wrong one, usually corrected by time.

A glimpse is only a beginning, and those who are willing to follow it up may be ready to study philosophy and learn why this world is only a husk. It must be penetrated, the husk removed and the kernel revealed, for a truer understanding, both of the world and oneself, to be gained.

Because they come to an unprepared and unpurified person, these transient glimpses are not adequate, full, and clear. Insight, however, possesses all these qualities.

Aspirants should understand that they have no right to expect a spiritual illumination to prolong its brief duration and stay forever with them, much less demand it, so long as they have not made themselves scrupulously fit for such a quest.

The glimpse is a precious thing but it is not enough. The man who has had it has also a new problem: how to find it again and how to turn it into an all-time state of mind, continuing through all kinds of circumstances and experiences. And how can he bring his everyday life into harmony with it?

The grand realization of his identity with the ONE should support him in all hours. He who gains this consciousness in times when karma smiles must keep it also in times of tribulation. He must liberate himself from the hazards of circumstance and from the bondage to emotional reactions, and at all times realize his best self.

How many mystics live on the memory of those rare long-gone moments; how much of their reputation depends on the glory of an illumination which did not last longer than a few minutes or hours, which produced their fame but did not preserve their capacity to be inspired again.

He may be lifted up by the light of a great experience or the presence of a great soul, but in the end he falls back to the consciousness he ordinarily has, to the self he ordinarily is. This is not to say that what has happened is without value--on the contrary, such a glimpse is very important--but that under the thrill of its emotional accompaniments he may easily miscomprehend a part of it to the point of self-deception.

The error is to believe that he has now been put in possession of all truth, or the highest truth, for all time. But it is only a transient glimpse!

If he were pure enough and prepared enough to receive the light in all its fullness and in all the parts of his being, the glimpse would not leave him. But he is not.

If the glimpse is intermittent, let him not mourn the fact but remember that he was fortunate enough to get it. If the glimpse becomes a continuous thing, he will accept it humbly because of its very mysteriousness to himself.

No glimpse is ever full and complete. If it were, the person experiencing it would be unable to fall into spiritual ignorance again. From this we may understand that however wonderful a glimpse of the Overself may be, it is still only a cloudy reflection of the real thing.

This illumination does not make him an adept at the end of his path. He is a seeker still, albeit a highly advanced seeker.

These experiences are only foretastes of the farthest one which lies at the end of this quest, and only limited partial tastes at that.

The mystical feeling of divine presence and the direct revelation of divine truth for which they long may come but, unless they are among the rare exceptions, will also wane and finally get lost. In most cases the Glimpse is but transitory.

Dorje, "the heavenly lightning," is a Himalayan and trans-Himalayan symbol both of the Glimpse and of the final illumination.

These glimpses may be looked upon as brief, minor illuminations leading to the final major illumination that will quash the ego's rule forever.

These are the ultimate phenomena--that is, appearances and experiences--before realization. They differ at different times, or with different persons, but that is because they come into being as human reactions, as the self's final point of view before its own dissolution.

In spite of itself the ego is drawn more and more to the spiritual grandeur revealed by these glimpses. Its ties to selfishness, animality, and materiality are loosened. Finally it comes to see that it is standing in its own way and light and then lets itself be effaced.

The failure to sustain this glimpse is not due to his personal demerit but to his system's limitation. For only by passing from yoga to philosophy, or rather by widening it, can permanence of result be had.

If it soon fades away, it is a glimpse. If he can stay in it every minute of his waking life, it is illumination.

An intermittent enlightenment which comes like this in moments is only a step on the way. He should not be satisfied with it. Nothing short of total enlightenment which is permanent, constant, and ever-present ought to be his goal.

The continued existence of this experience, the lengthening of this glimpse into perpetual vision, is something that cannot be brought about without patience, care, effort, guidance, and grace.

It is one thing to secure an enthralling glimpse, but it is another thing for this light, native to heaven and alien to earth, to endure through the prosaic routine and belittling affairs of everyday living.

The ability to maintain himself in the high state reached during these glimpses is ordinarily lacking in a man, for it requires the whole power of his being.

In these glimpses he only looks at the Infinite Beauty, but in the final realization he become unified with it.

Once he has experienced the glimpse he will understand why his next goal is to experience it again, and why his final goal is to attain it in permanence.

That initial realization has henceforth to be established and made his own under all kinds of diverse conditions and in all kinds of places. Hence his life may be broken up for years by a wide range of vicissitudes, pains, pleasures, tests, temptations, and tribulations.

If it be asked why these momentary revelations come and go all too quickly, the answer may be given in Sri Aurobindo's own words to the writer: "It is because the nature remains untransformed. Only when fully transformed can it be illuminated. Until the whole nature is transformed, it cannot hold the Light but must let it go eventually."

Few can continue in the glimpse, for the lesser nature soon rises to the surface again and overwhelms them.

Since there are no negative emotions in the Overself, how can it stay in the same breast as an ego filled with them? This is why the glimpse can be only a brief one, and why it can be stretched into permanency only by first cleansing the nature of all negatives.

Let us value these encounters with the divine and be glad and truly grateful when they happen. They are significant and important. But they are special events. The quest does not run through them alone. It runs just as much through ordinary daily life in which our experiences are shared in common with so many people.

The momentary feeling of peace he experienced may be an intimation of the still greater peace he may know if he takes the trouble to pursue the opportunity of developing it through the Quest.

The luminous understanding of cosmic truths given him by this experience has still to be connected to, and brought into relation with, his everyday human character.

What he feels in these beautiful minutes is really a far-off echo from a higher, diviner world. The echo wanes and vanishes but its origin does not. One day, soon or late, he may pick it up again and this time learn of the greatness secreted within him.

No glimpse is wasted, even if it does pass away. For not only does it leave a memory to stir comfort guide inspire or meditate upon, but it also leaves a positive advance forward. Each glimpse is to be regarded as a step taken in the direction of the goal, or as a stage in the process of work needed to be done on oneself, or as a further cleansing of the accretions impurities animalities and egoisms which hide the true Self. If his own work is fully and faithfully done, the time comes when the power to prolong a glimpse is at the disciple's command. He is then able not only to bring it on at will but also to extend its length at will.

The higher awareness falls like pollen for a few short hours, perhaps, only to be blown away for long years. Yet this intervening period need not be wasted. It should be used to cut down the obstructions in his character and to fill up the deficiencies in his equipment. This done, he will grow more and more into his spiritual selfhood with every return to temporary awareness of it.

The completeness of the mystic experience is proportionate to, and measurable by, intensity. So long as it remains a passing and temporary state, so long ought it be regarded by the man who has had it as affording an incomplete enlightenment.

The mystic experience is not necessarily complete in itself when it happens to a man for the first time--or for the fourth time. Nor are its effects necessarily permanent. They may disappear even after a whole year's existence.

Unless the personal man has matured in brain and heart and balance, the efforts to transcend ego will necessarily be premature and the glimpse if it happens, will be of a mixed character.

Those who look for a magical release from their shortcomings and automatic victory over their weaknesses with the coming of the Glimpse, become disheartened at learning that this desirable result may happen only in a part of their nature, if at all, and is unlikely to happen in the totality of their nature. Others, governed by wishful thinking, even reject the teaching as untrue. That their own co-operative effort will still be needed is a reasonable demand. But reason is what some of these people hope to transcend!

The glimpse will be lengthened when he himself develops: it will then no longer be abnormal, or supernormal, but a constant experience.

Neither the movements of the Spirit-Energy (Kundalini) nor the opening of the chakras gives the ultimate enlightenment: usually a glimpse: that is discovered only in the Stillness of the Void.

To go beyond the glimpse into the permanent condition of being established requires time to grow up, to develop, until the illusion of time is itself seen through.

Although no act of thinking can take hold of That which is utterly beyond thinking--for it is the holy of holies--he may, by pushing attention deeply enough, stand as Moses stood and view the Promised Land as from afar. Or, by being still, in body and in mind, he may do the same. This effect is called a Glimpse. But if the Grace is to wrap itself around him and end his quest then . . . alas! I may write no more. Why is the pen stopped? Because for each person the answer is different, personal, and to be given by God alone, for He is the real giver, not another man.

A certain type of mystic experience represents a descent of Grace by the Overself. The results are transient, however, because such an experience is given merely as a glimpse of the goal yet to be achieved by one's own personal effort. Through practice of the advanced meditations given in The Wisdom of the Overself such an experience may recur from time to time, although its emotional results may seem tamer after a while because they will lack the novelty which they first possessed.

The more he gives himself up to the Overself as a consequence of these glimpses of what it requires of him, the sooner will their transience be transformed into permanence.

"In carrying water and chopping wood--there is the wonderful Tao." This ancient Chinese sentence is a subtle, clever way of saying that not only in meditation is the glimpse to be sought, but also in the world's work and life it is to be found and kept. Such is the ultimate state, this emptiness of mind amid activity of body. It is possible only by knowledge, the unforgettable recognition and understanding that within this emptiness lies Tao.

The translation of the Sanskrit phrase antardrishti is literally "inward seeing" in the sense of seeing beneath appearances what is under them. It does not refer to clairvoyance in the psychic sense, but rather to the metaphysical or mystical sense. It can be particularized as meaning entering into the witness state of consciousness. The ordinary person sees only the object; penetrating deeper, he enters the witness state which is an intermediate condition; going still deeper, he reaches the ultimate state of Reality when there is no subject or object, whereas in the witness there is still subject and object, but the subject no longer identifies himself with the object as the ordinary man does.

Sometimes the experience got in deep meditation verges on trance and abolishes the normal awareness of time and space. The sense of time may cease altogether so that there is no succession from one moment to the next but an absolute stillness. The sense of space may be so enlarged that there is a feeling of being spread out to immense dimensions or a contrary feeling of being reduced to a single point. The whirling dervishes of the Near East by turning round and round and round for a long time also lose the sense of time and space. But we must remember that the experiences just described have a beginning and an ending, they are only mental conditions which change; they are not the authentic ultimate experience of enlightenment. This latter is called sahaja. It is the permanent awareness of the divine presence whether in the midst of activity or meditation.

It is not the faint glimpse of truth which reveals all but the full and steady insight. The innate felicity of the one may--and often does--deceive a man into believing that he is experiencing the absolute uniqueness of the other. But the philosophic student, trained to control his ego, is unlikely to mistake these passing phases of his inner life for what they are not.

There is a difference between the ordinary glimpse and the philosophical way. Both come to an end; but the philosophical seeker incessantly returns to its remembrance, uses it to work continuously at the transformation of his self and never lets go of the vision.

An elementary or obscure knowledge of reality is too often taken by the aspirant as the full knowledge. This is because it so dramatically transcends his ordinary condition. But it is still not to be compared with the firm certitude of clear Insight.

It is possible to be open to one's best inner self, aware of its presence, its beauty and peace. And this possibility can be not only realized but also naturalized. It can become one's normal condition.

More and more its light will enter his mind, its strength his heart, and its presence his meditative periods.

On that day when the glimpse comes, the impact may be strong enough and the man's ambition high enough to make him believe that this is ultimate salvation. Not so, alas!

He sees that his quest will not end with the illuminative experience of this first contact with the higher self and that the process so started must continue.

Since it is a glimpse only, and not a completed experience, he ought not to expect his own person and personal life to be completely transformed.

This is his further task, to infuse the beauty and tranquillity, the unworldliness and immaterialism of the glimpse into his ordinary everyday life.

This beautiful state of heart has yet to become natural and continuous. And that cannot happen until the personal ego is laid low and until the whole psyche of the man engages in the struggle for self-conquest.

To glimpse the land beyond is not to reach the goal itself.

He who experiences it only intermittently may guess from this how wonderful his existence would be if he were able to experience it constantly.

Seeing a man or an object is one thing, recognizing him or it is another. The glimpse is the beginning; recognizing it for what it is, is a further and extended operation.

These glimpses come quite fitfully. Rare is the person to whom the Light comes and stays, day after day, year after year. Most have to work on, with, and by themselves to convert this momentary experience into the ever-present feeling of living in the Overself.

It is man's highest happiness to stay in this heaven of Consciousness all the time, not merely catch a glimpse of it, wonderful though that be.

Enlightenment ripens into Exhilaration if its promptings are faithfully followed.

The joyous awareness evoked for a short period is a foretaste of what will one day be manifested continuously.

He can then say truthfully, knowing whereof he speaks: "A divine element lives in me!" Far though this has taken him from the ordinary good man or ordinary pious man, it is not enough. He needs to go further so that he can attain the place where, obedient, purified, conscious of the World-Idea, he can add: "This element now works in me." With that the ego's tyranny falls away.

His impulses, intuitions, and emotional reactions alike will harmonize in time with the true.

Flashes of Cosmic Consciousness or glimpses of the higher self could be of one aspect of it only, such as its beauty or its wisdom. You will have to broaden out later.

Glimpses of Light

"For some there be that without much and long exercise may not come thereto, and yet it shall be but full seldom, and in special calling of our Lord that they shall feel the perfection of this work; the which calling is called ravishing. And some there be that be so subtle in grace and in spirit, and so homely with God in this grace of contemplation, that they may have it when they will in the common state of man's soul; as it is in sitting, going, standing, or kneeling."--The Cloud of Unknowing

The way is a progressive one only in the largest sense. In actuality it consists often of stagnations and setbacks, falls and even withdrawals. Instead of smooth progression there are fits and starts, rises and falls. Nearly all seekers experience lapses and wanderings aside. Continuous advance without retrogression is likely to begin only after initiation into the ultimate path. The disciple should not worry about the ups and downs of his moods, but should wait patiently while continuing his regular meditation practices and philosophical studies, for if he has a teacher he will come within his sphere of protection, so that advice and guidance are always open to him, and inwardly he will be aware of this.

It is as much a part of the aspirant's experience of this quest to be deprived at times of all feeling that the divine exists and is real, as it is to be granted the sunny assurance of such existence and reality. The upward flights of his novitiate have to be bought at the cost of downward falls. A period of illumination is often followed by a period of darkness. At first the experience of reality will come only in flashes.

Many a student tells of disheartenment at the lack of results, and depression over the long period of barren waiting, despite the faithfulness with which meditation has been practised. They tend to overlook that the path is integral, is a fourfold and not a single one. Often there is something left undone by the student. For instance, no effort in character building may have been made by this student, or in religious prayer by that one.

Until the human psyche is equilibrated it cannot gain durable peace or solid wisdom, and the aspirant must turn his attention to those aspects of his psyche the development of which has not kept pace with those with which he has been most concerned. Balanced living does not overdevelop one phase and underdevelop another. If the student's advance is an unbalanced one, if its various points do not meet on the same even level, then there is no alternative but to go backward and bring up the laggards. If he has purified his emotions of grossness and selfishness but failed to purge his intellect of errors and illusions, then he will have to undertake this task. He has to build up the other sides of his nature, where they have been neglected in the building of the mystical side. And this will enable him in his mystical attainment to "bring it down to earth," as it were, and adjust it to the body, intellect, and environment.

It is very encouraging to him to have the "Witness Self" experience quite a number of times. It speaks more for itself than any descriptive words could do. The student's meditation may have been unfruitful on the surface for many years, yet if he remains loyally patient and persistent, he may have at last in this experience the definite and discernible fruits of seeds sown long before. The experience does help to make the burden--and it is such to old souls--of the body more bearable. It helps in the understanding of what Spirit means, and gives testimony of its existence. It demonstrates what the quest is trying to reach, and how real is its divine goal. It is very important that the disciple should have this experience, and it is a favourable augury for his future progress.

The vision of truth is one thing, its durable realization is another.

The felicitous experience of the Overself may come briefly during meditation. It comes abruptly. At one moment the student is his ordinary egoistic self, struggling with his restless thoughts and turbulent feelings; at the next the ego suddenly subsides, and every faculty becomes quiescent. All the disciple has to do is to be nonresistant to the divinity which is taking possession of him, to receive lovingly and not strive laboriously. The oncoming of this experience will be marked by various other signs: the intellect becomes suspended; will, judgement, memory, and reasoning slip gently into abeyance. A deep serenity unknown before takes possession of him, and an exquisite calm settles over him. In these moments of joyous beauty, the bitterest past is blotted out, and the ugliest history redeemed. With the mind deep-held by the Overself in an atmosphere of exaltation, the harassments and burdens of life beat but faintly at the portals of attention; the troubles of a lifetime recede to nothingness, the fears of the future decline into triviality. The disciple's outlook on the world becomes enlarged, ennobled, and illumined, and is no longer bounded wholly by commonplace interests. The veils hiding truth from him are lifted for a time. The idea that he has a higher self, the conviction that he has a soul, breaks in upon his "little existence" with great revelatory force, and he feels he is emerging into glorious light after a dreary journey through a long dark tunnel.

The Overself is enthroned. The disciple deeply realizes its presence in his inmost feelings. Nothing in his experience, intellectual or emotional, has ever possessed for him such satisfying ecstasy, such paradisiacal contentment. For the delight of the higher levels of mystical experience, unlike the delight of passionate earthly experience, never palls but remains ever fresh and vivid as though encountered for the first time. The world takes on the texture of a lovely half-dream. His feet tread air. Blissfully, wondrously, and overwhelmingly the disciple becomes that which he sought.

These glimpses are accompanied sometimes by a brief ecstatic state, wherein the world is half dropped out of consciousness and the mystic's body wholly held in a fixed attitude. An indescribable lightness will pass through his head. The flash will seem to transfix his thoughts and keep his body rigid for a while in the same position and place in which it found him. The bodily position in which the flash catches him should not be changed in any way. All kinds of excuses for such a change will be suggested by the ever restless lower mentality, but they should be resisted and refused. Even the pretext that it would be better to go to his usual place of meditation should be unacceptable. The contemplation should start and continue to its close in the very spot where the light first flashed.

Delight of these exalted moments and the fragrance of these heavenly visitations will linger in memory for years after they themselves have vanished, and the influence on subsequent life and thought is as long and beneficent as they themselves are short and beautiful. The experience will slip away, but the memory of its certitude will remain.

This all happens deep in the secret places of his own heart. One of the greatest events of his spiritual life-history passes by silently, unnoticed by those around him.

In his enthusiasm and ecstasy, the student may believe he has been granted the ineffable cosmic consciousness and will enjoy it for the rest of his lifetime. But such an event is an exceedingly rare one. He will find instead he has been granted only a brief foretaste of its memorable sweetness, a momentary touch of its awakening hand.

Afterwards, with the return to his ordinary state, the aspirant realizes that the whole lovely, miraculous event was but a single movement, one quick step.

Any man who will desert his present standpoint for the higher one may get the same result. It is the mystical crossing-over from the limited shallow personal consciousness to the wide deep impersonal one. When this happens during meditation there is a clearly felt sense of abrupt displacement, of sudden transformation.

The aspirant should be very grateful for such rich and rare spiritual experiences. They bring him truly into touch with his soul, and demonstrate that divinity is both with and within him. They establish in his consciousness the knowledge of its real existence and the understanding of its real character.

The higher self will not yield to him completely before he has entirely detached himself from his lower nature. And any such deficiency in his character or mentality puts a term to his ecstatic mood and compels him by natural reaction to return to his normal state and set to work to make it good. To encourage him to do this and to strengthen his willingness to turn away from the lower nature, the higher self alternately reveals and hides itself at intervals. Once the Overself has vouchsafed to him its Grace, he must make himself increasingly worthy of the gift.

The aspirant should regard the glimpse afforded him in the glow of his best moments as a working blueprint. He has to make himself over again according to the mental picture thus placed before him. The difference between the Idea and the actuality should shame him constantly into renewed endeavour. The purpose of this brief glimpse is to call him to more serious, more frequent, and sterner efforts, and to arouse in him increased ardours of moral self-improvement. It has shown him his finest potentialities of virtue; now he has to realize them. All elements of personality must be adjusted to the ideal shown by the glimpse, as the whole personality itself has to be surrendered to it. A work lasting several years may be rooted in a flash lasting only a few minutes.

The disciple should remember that the emotional uplifts will eventually subside leaving only the moral, intellectual, and intuitional elements remaining. Therefore this period should be used for cultivating these elements and for rethinking incessantly his whole attitude towards life. The glimpse afforded him is only a glimpse, and therefore transient, but it is enough to suggest new developments in several directions. It is highly important that the disciple should recognize watchfully every such manifestation of Grace and respond to it quickly. The chance to advance is thus given him, but the duty of co-operating with it must be fulfilled. No gross earthliness can be carried into that sublime atmosphere. Hence his glimpse of the supernal state must necessarily remain only a glimpse. If he wishes to make it something more, he must set to work purifying himself. It is true that occasional glimpses and momentary exaltations may occur, but they are quite sporadic and may disappear altogether for a long time. The moral re-education of the self is indispensable to the reception of a continuous and durable experience.

To that diviner self thus glimpsed, he must henceforth address all his prayers; through its remembrance he must seek succour; in its reliance he must perform all his endeavors; by its light he must plead for grace.

For the Overself to give itself wholly and perpetually to a man is a rare and wonderful event. Most often it gives itself only for a short time. This serves to intensify and enlarge his love and attraction for it, and to provide him with beautiful memories to support and sustain him in faithfulness to the quest in the fatiguing long-drawn years of struggle and darkness.

The glimpse is a fleeting one because he is still too unprepared to remain abidingly in such a lofty order of being. The glowing experience is glorious and memorable, but he falls back from it because he is dazzled by its brightness. He cannot retain it precisely because he is unequipped for so doing. But he who has once seen the goal, felt its sublimity, discerned its reality, enjoyed its beauty, and known its security, should draw from the experience the strength needed for the hard upward climb.

Although what the mystic feels is a genuine glimpse of the Overself, it is not necessarily a full or complete one. It reveals the ideal but he is not yet strong enough to realize it. New life has come to birth within himself but it is still in the embryonic stage. These glimpses make him aware of the existence of his spiritual self but do not make him united with that self. They fulfil their chief purpose if they awaken him from sleep in the senses or deceit by the intellect. With this awakening, he becomes aware that his great need of this higher order of being is so supreme that his lower life can no other than be dedicated to its rediscovery. And thus he enters upon the Quest. What he must do henceforth is to fortify and expand the union of his ordinary consciousness with his extraordinary Overself with unremitting effort.

Nobody is likely to be content permanently with but a mere glimpse of reality; he wants also to live it. He is not likely, and he should not be satisfied with these transient inspirations. Constant spiritual awareness should be his distant yet attainable goal. This is not to sway to and fro between periodic unions and separations but to dwell always with and in the Overself.

It is a common complaint that exalted experience of the Overself's presence are not continuous, are indeed utterly beyond the mystic's control. The Overself seems to leave him and the loss brings him back to his ordinary self. These phenomena are not subject to his will. It has no power of itself to repeat them. The heavenly visitations come he knows not how, and as mysteriously they depart. He will never be able to observe precisely the mechanics of this movement of grace. This indicates they are vouchsafed to him by the grace of the Overself. Because they are so exceptional, it is folly to demand their return but wisdom to work for it. The fact that he is unable to control these alternations between pleasurable and irksome meditations, between fruitful and barren ones, should show him that he is in the presence of an unknown and unpredictable factor. It should show him that by no act of his own will alone can he attain success in this labour. Patience is needed. He must wait for further revelations in the Overself's good time, and not his own. And no rhapsody can last. Life itself brings it to an end whether it is musical or mystical.

The momentary glimpse of the true self is not the ultimate experience. There is another yet more wonderful lying ahead. In this he will be bound by invisible hoops of wide selfless compassion to all living creatures. The detachment will be sublimated, taken up into a higher level, where the universal Unity will be truly felt.

The glimpse must leave him; only at the end of his road, only in the final Redemption, can all its glorious promises be realized.

Even though a glimpse has lengthened through time into permanence, it may not have lengthened through consciousness into completeness.

It is not only a question of how much of his mind does the experience illuminate but also what other parts of his personality does it inspire.

When the state of egolessness is first reached, it will be in deep meditation. The second stage of its development will be when it is temporarily reached in active life, the third and last when it is established there.

When the Grace has led him sufficiently far, he will be distinctly aware of an inner presence. It will think for him, feel for him, and even act for him. This is the beginning of, and what it means to have, an egoless life.

Just as the sun's rays are reflected on a burnished silver plate, so the Overself's attributes are faithfully reflected on a purified and egoless mind.

The Notebooks are copyright © 1984-1989, The Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation.