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From Intellect to Intuition - Chapter Five - Stages in Meditation
The third requirement is obedience to the Master. This is no servile attention to the commands of some supposed hidden Teacher, or Master, functioning mysteriously behind the scenes, as so many [97] schools of esotericism claim. It is much simpler than that. The real Master, claiming our attention and subsequent obedience, is the Master in the Heart, the Soul, the indwelling Christ. This Master first makes His presence felt through the "still small voice" of conscience, prompting us to higher and more unselfish living, and sounding a quick note of warning when there is deviation from the strict path of rectitude. Later this comes to be known as the Voice of the Silence, that word that comes from the "Word incarnate," which is ourselves. Each of us is a Word made flesh. Later still, we call it the awakened intuition. The student of meditation learns to distinguish accurately between these three. This requirement, therefore, calls for that implicit obedience which the aspirant renders promptly to the highest impulse which he can register at all times and at any cost. When this obedience is forthcoming it calls forth from the soul a downpouring of light and knowledge, and Christ points this out in the words: "If any man shall do his will, he shall know..." (John 7, 17.)

These three factors - obedience, a search for truth in every form, and a fiery longing for liberation - are the three parts of the stage of aspiration and must precede that of meditation. They need not be expressed in their fulness and completeness, but must be incorporated in the life as working rules of conduct. They lead to detachment, a quality which is emphasized both in the East and in the West. This is the freeing of the soul from the thralldom of the [98] form life, and the subordination of the personality to the higher impulses. Dr. Maréchal expresses the Christian intention along these lines as follows:

"This 'detachment from self ', what does it mean?"
"First of all, clearly, it is detachment from the lower and sensible Ego - that is, the habitual subordination of the fleshly to the spiritual point of view, the coordination of the lower multiplicity under a higher unity."
"Again, it is detachment from the 'vainglorious Ego', the dispersed and capricious Ego, the plaything of external circumstances, the slave of fluctuating opinion. The continuity of the inner life could not accommodate itself to so fluctuating a unity."
"Above all, it is detachment from the 'proud Ego.' We must have a right understanding of this, for humility is rightly considered as one of the most characteristic notes of Christian asceticism and mysticism."
- Maréchal, Joseph, S. J., Studies in the Psychology of the Mystics, page 166.

Here we have the subordination of the physical, emotional, and mental life to the divine project of achieving unity, emphasized, for capriciousness is a quality of the sensory apparatus, and pride that of the mind.

The meditation process is divided into five parts, one part leading sequentially to another. We will take these various stages and study each of them separately, for in their mastery we can trace the steady ascent of the conscious spiritual man out of the realm of feeling into that of knowledge and then of intuitive illumination. These stages might be briefly enumerated as follows: [99]

  1. Concentration. This is the act of concentrating the mind, learning to focus it and so use it.
  2. Meditation. The prolonged focusing of the attention in any direction and the steady holding of the mind on any desired idea.
  3. Contemplation. An activity of the soul, detached from the mind, which is held in a state of quiescence.
  4. Illumination. This is the result of the three preceding processes, and involves the carrying down into the brain consciousness of the knowledge achieved.
  5. Inspiration. The result of illumination, as it demonstrates in the life of service.

These five stages, when followed, lead to union with the soul and direct knowledge of divinity. For the majority of those who take up the study of meditation, the stage which should engross their attention for a long time - practically to the exclusion of the others - is that of concentration, the gaining control of the mental processes. Aspiration is presumably present to some degree or there would be no desire to meditate. It should be pointed out, however, that aspiration avails nothing unless it is endorsed by a strong will, a capacity to endure, and patient persistence.

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