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From Intellect to Intuition - Chapter Nine - The Practice of Meditation
A Doctor of Divinity and pastor of a large church wrote me not long ago that he had been taking [222] breathing exercises, with the idea of improving his health, from a teacher who had come to his city. The result of his well-intentioned ignorance was that he opened up the inner hearing in the psychic sense. He said in his letter to me, "As I write to you upon my typewriter I can hear all sorts of voices and words and sounds which are not physical. I cannot stop them and I fear for my mind. Won't you please tell me what I ought to do to tune them out?" During the past ten years, many hundreds of people have come to me, asking for help, owing to the effects of indiscriminate following of the advice of teachers of breathing. They are quite desperate and frequently are in a serious psychic condition. Some we can help. Some few for whom we can do nothing end in asylums for the insane or in sanatoriums for the unbalanced. Much experience of these cases leads me to sound this warning, for in the majority of cases of uncontrolled psychic troubles, the cause is breathing exercises.

In the ancient teachings of the East, the control of the breath was only permitted after the first three "means to union," as they are called, had been somewhat wrought out in the life. These "means" are: First, the five commandments. These are, harmlessness, truth to all beings, abstention from theft, from incontinence, and from avarice. Second, the five rules, which are internal and external purification, contentment, fiery aspiration, spiritual reading, and devotion. Third, right poise. When a person is harmless in thought and word and deed, [223] when he is unselfish and knows the meaning of poise - emotional as well as physical posture - then indeed he may practice breathing exercises, under proper instruction, and practice them with security. Even then he will only succeed in unifying the vital energies of the body, and in becoming a conscious psychic, but this may have its place and purpose, if he classes himself as a research experimenter.

Failure to conform to the necessary preliminary steps has landed many a worthy investigator in trouble. It is dangerous for an emotional and weak person to take breathing exercises in order to hasten development, and any teacher who seeks to teach these exercises to large groups, as is frequently done, is laying up trouble for himself and his followers. It is only here and there that, in the ancient days, the teachers picked a man for this form of tuition, and it was added to a training which had produced a certain measure of soul contact, so that the soul could guide the energies evoked by the breath for the furtherance of its objectives and for world service.

Therefore, we will do no more than see that our breathing is quiet and regular, and will then withdraw our thoughts from the body altogether and begin the work of concentration.

The next step in the practice of meditation is the use of the imagination; we picture to ourselves the threefold lower man, aligned or in direct communication with the soul. There are many ways in which this can be done. We call it work in visualization. It [224] would seem that visualization, imagination and will are three very potent factors in all creative processes. They are the subjective causes for many of our objective effects. At the beginning, visualization is mostly a matter of experimental faith. We know that through the reasoning process, we have arrived at an understanding that, within and beyond all manifested objects, there lies an Ideal Object or Ideal Pattern, which is seeking to become manifest upon the physical plane. The practice of visualization, imagination and the use of the will are activities that are calculated to hasten the manifestation of this Ideal.

When we visualize, we use our highest conception of what that Ideal might be, clothed in some sort of material, usually mental, because we are not yet in a position to be able to conceive of higher forms or types of substance with which to envelop our Images. When we make a mental picture, the mental substance of our mind sets up a certain rate of vibration, which attracts to itself a corresponding grade of mental substance, in which the mind is immersed. It is the will which holds this image steady and which gives it life. This process goes on, whether we are, as yet, able to see it with the mental eye or not. It does not matter that we are not able to see it, as the creative work is going on just the same. Perhaps at some time we shall be able to follow and consciously perform that whole process.

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