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From Intellect to Intuition - Chapter Five - Stages in Meditation

Stages in Meditation

"What would you do within, O Soul, my Brother?
What would you do within?
Bar door and window that none may see:
That alone we may be
(Alone! face to face
In that flame-lit place!)
When first we begin
To speak one with another."

Evelyn Underhill

We have studied briefly the objectives which we set before ourselves as we seek to reorient the mind to the soul, and through the union thus effected, enter into communication with a higher world of Being. We are seeking to utilize the equipment with which a long series of life experiments and experience has endowed us, and whether we undertake the work from the standpoint of the mystical devotee or the intellectual aspirant, there are certain basic requirements which must precede any definite exercises. The words of the Rev. R.J. Campbell state succinctly our story and our task. He says:

"For the purpose of realizing the nature of the Self, we have had to come out from our eternal home in God that we might strive and suffer amid the illusions of time and sense. We have to overcome before we can enter into the eternal truth that lies beyond all seeming. In that overcoming we have to master the flesh and magnify the spirit, despise the world to save it, and lose the life to find it."

Now let us consider the situation and the processes to which we must subject ourselves if the goal is ever to be attained. The preliminary requirements need only just be noted, for they are universally recognized and are met in part by every beginner, or [92] he would not be entering upon this particular phase in the agelong pursuit of truth. We are conscious within ourselves of duality, and of a state of warfare between the two aspects of which we are constituted. We are conscious of a profound dissatisfaction with physical life as a whole, and with our inability to grasp and understand the divine Reality which we hope exists. But it remains for us a matter for faith, and we want certainty. The life of the senses does not seem to carry us far enough along the path towards our goal. It is a fluid existence which we lead, being sometimes carried by our high desires to a mountain top of wonder on which we stay just long enough to get a vision of beauty, and then are hurled into the abyss of our daily environment, our animal nature and the chaotic world in which our destiny places us. We sense a certainty which ever eludes us; we strive for a goal which seems outside ourselves and which evades our most frantic efforts; we struggle and fight and anguish to achieve a realization to which the saints have testified and to which the Knowers of the race bear continuous witness. If our will is strong enough and our determination rooted in steadfast and undeterred perseverance, and if the ancient rules and formulas are grasped, we can approach our problem from a new angle and utilize our mental equipment in place of emotional application and feverish desire.

The heart activity has its place, however, and Patanjali in his well known Aphorisms, which have [93] guided the enterprise of hundreds of Knowers, says that:

"The practices which make for union with the soul are first, fiery aspiration, then spiritual reading and, lastly, complete obedience to the Master."
- Bailey, Alice, The Light of the Soul, II, 1, 2.

The word "aspiration" comes from the Latin "ad" = "to", and "spirare" = "to breathe, to breathe towards," as Webster puts it. The word "spirit" comes from the same root. Aspiration must precede inspiration. There must be a breathing out from the lower self before there can be a breathing in by the higher aspect. From the standpoint of eastern mysticism, aspiration involves the idea of fire. It denotes a burning desire, and a fiery determination which eventually does three things for the aspirant. It throws a fierce light upon his problems, and constitutes the purificatory furnace into which the lower self has to go in order that all dross may be burned out, and it also destroys all hindrances which might keep him back. This same idea of fire runs through all books on Christian mysticism, and many passages in the Bible of a similar nature will come readily to mind. Willingness to "bear the cross, "to "enter the fire," to "die daily," (it matters not what the symbology employed may be), is the characteristic of the true aspirant, and, before we pass on to the way of meditation and place our footsteps in those of the myriads of soils of God who have preceded us, we must gauge the depth and the [94] height and brace ourselves for the arduous climb and the fierce endeavor. We must say with J. C. Earle:

"I pass the vale. I breast the steep.
I bear the cross: the cross bears me.
Light leads me on to light. I weep
For joy at what I hope to see
When, scaled at length the arduous height,
For every painful step I trod,
I traverse worlds on worlds of light
And pierce some deeper depth of God."

- Earle, John Charles, Onward and Upward, Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse, page 508.

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