Table of content
By Roberto Assagioli, The Beacon, Oct 1933, Vol 12,
In the last few years the need of a new Yoga has been expressed in many quarters, that is, of a Yoga which would lead to the same eternal goal as the Yoga’s of the past, namely, the conscious union with the One-Self, with the Supreme; but a Yoga, the formulation and the practical methods of which would be suited to the mentality and the needs of modern man and to the conditions existing in our western civilization; a Yoga which would express the spirit of the New Age that is rapidly permeating the minds and souls of the more progressive men and women of today.
I will venture to give a general outline of this Yoga as I see it, and to describe some of the exercises that have proved appropriate and helpful in a series of experiments which I have carried on with some groups of students.
For clarity’s sake the stages of this Yoga may be tabulated as follows, although in actual practice they closely intermingle and partly overlap each other.
These stages are:
C. Development and Training.
In the rapidly proceeding disintegration of the old forms of religion, philosophy and morals; in the chaos of dis-connected and conflicting ideas and opinions, in the clash between the old and the new, between feeling and reason, between East and West, which characterizes the most painful and critical condition of the majority of mankind to-day, the first and most urgent need is that of orientation.
The outstanding problem of the West is that of the relationship between science, which is the result of man’s observations and experiments; philosophy, which is the product of his thought, and religion, which is the outcome of his devotion.
The vital problem of the young generation of the East is that of the conflict between the old traditions of their civilization and the modern thought and way of living, which are rapidly pervading the East.
The following extract is a pathetic testimony to this problem, recently uttered by Mr. Fu-Nu-An, the General Secretary of the Association of Chinese artists in France.
“The young Chinese are often in conflict with their parents. The older generation will not tolerate the revolt of the young against traditions, and the young do not want to give up their personal ideas and thus . . . the contrast is so strong that many young men leave their homes forever . . . In such painful circumstances the young intellectuals, weary of the fight against tradition and disappointed by the revolution, become morbidly excited.
The premature development of the mind, the excess of passion, the experience of many miseries, overcome those young sensitive hearts; they feel the general unrest and they lack courage. The young Chinese are very ambitious and, therefore, the hard reality disappoints them deeply; they have an insatiable thirst for love and knowledge; they like the West and tend to be modern.
But as their soul remains Chinese, it is very difficult for them to find the moral equilibrium between the purely spiritual and impersonal Chinese civilization and the personal and realistic Western civilization.
The happiness of the Chinese intellectuals can only be kept up by a moral faith, but this is much shaken by Western influences. Confucianism is criticized and yet Christianity is not well accepted.
The old is no more, but where is the New? . . . Chinese wisdom requires that the individual should conform himself to definite rules, but the young men, whose souls are completely shaken by modern romanticism, cannot attach themselves any more to the social morality and tradition . . .
After this great turmoil, will a new and unborn era come also for China?
Yes! surely if we have to believe in the lessons of history, but who can know when and how?” (`China at the Parting of the Ways’, published in the Italian Magazine, “Gerarchia,” May, 1931.)
A similar crisis, I am told, is going on in the minds of many thousands of young people all through India.
What is needful therefore, is a satisfying and inclusive spiritual philosophy of life. A philosophy which would explain life’s central meaning and purpose with such a breadth of vision as to reveal the true place and value of all the disjointed and conflicting elements already mentioned.
A sure background for such a philosophy of life is given by Esoteric Wisdom. There we find the explanation of the cosmic laws of manifestation, of the great and small cycles, of the macrocosmic and micro-cosmic analogies which show the place and purport of the present world crisis in the greater whole. It gives a deeper insight into the constitution of man, both in its extraordinary complexity and in its fundamental unity. And above all, it indicates the path by the treading of which man can solve his problems, set himself free from the bonds and limitations which mar his life, express his higher possibilities and arrive at the realization of his true nature, or his Divine Essence.
It thus enables us to conquer the three chief enemies which assail modern man: Doubt, Fear, and Despair.
Therefore, the greatest aid which can be given to mankind today is that of spreading in every possible way the basic principles and tenets of esoteric philosophy in a form adapted to the mentality of modern men and’ women.
Purification of the personality
When man sets himself earnestly about the task of his spiritual development, he soon discovers that the first necessity is a thorough purification of all the elements of his personality, the physical, emotional, and mental parts of his being.
1) Physical purification is achieved chiefly through the harmonious contact of the body with the natural elements; sun, light, air, and water; the right kinds of foods, and other hygienic practices as advocated by the new health movements of today.
These are generally known, so I need not dwell on them here; but to which Orientals, and chiefly Indians, have given much attention, sometimes to the point of exaggeration, about which we in the West have much to learn.
2) Purification of the Emotions, Instincts and Impulses. This is most important, owing to the great vitality which the emotional nature has, not only among ordinary humanity, but often in advanced individuals. This purification consists, first of all, in the re-orientation and elevation of conscious desires, in the transferring of the longings of the heart from earthly and human things to things spiritual and divine. This can be summed up in the beautiful Indian saying:
“If you still desire to see, long to see Him in every form; if still desire to hear, long to hear Him in every sound.”
But this does not complete the work of purification. There is another, a more subtle and difficult part to be accomplished, concerning the sub-conscious passions and longings. We must get rid of the various attachments, fear, attractions, and repulsions to individuals, things and places which bind us in so many ways and hamper our inner development and outer adjustments, and which retard our spiritual growth. All this field has been dealt with extensively in psychoanalysis and similar lines of psychological research, and if we eliminate the exaggerations, the undue generalizations and the materialistic trends which make the Freudian psychoanalysis an unsafe and dangerous method, we shall find much that is useful and illuminating. The higher aspects can be found in Dr. Jung’s books and in the good presentation of these matters made by Dr. B. Hinkle in her book “The Recreating of the Individual.”
It would be well worth while to select from these studies and methods those which are the most applicable to the Yoga and the New Age.
3) Mental Purification. Besides the emotional glamour, we have to get rid of the various illusions of the lower mind which are subtle, but very real limitations and barriers, that hamper us in our spiritual progress. These comprise our prejudices, our preconceived ideas, our attachments to limited theories, and dogmas and mental forms of all kinds. Some of these attachments are produced or nourished by emotional complexes and can be destroyed by the work of analysis just mentioned. But there are others which have their origin on the mental plane and have to be dealt with by mental means. They are due generally to too strong a tendency towards the hardening and crystallization, so to speak, of mental forms. (This corresponds astrologically to the predominance of fixed signs affecting the mentality).
The remedy for this condition is the cultivation of breadth of vision and inclusiveness. This can be developed by the study of the various presentations of Truth, both Eastern and Western, during which no stress should be laid on minor differences, nor on points of arguments; thus it will be discovered how they substantiate and complete each other.
Another way is to consider the same fact, principle or law, from as many different angles as we are able to, aiming at having an all around complete view of it.
Then there are people who have the opposite difficulty; their mental body is too active, plastic and changing. (Astrologically this corresponds to a prevalence of mutable signs). The condition here is that of a mental fog, of a multitude of inchoate or disintegrating thought forms which cloud the vision and drain the vitality. Purification in these cases is achieved by the use of the will and of “fire”: an act of will repeated as often as necessary until these mental abortions and fragments are expelled from the aura; a fire of aspiration and spiritual love which will burn the dross.
4) Purification of the Will. The purification of the personality has its climax in the purification of the will, which is its highest element.
This consists, first of all, in the conscious and systematic purification of the motives, and requires a habit of constant watchfulness and a regular daily review. Its essential and highest achievement is the complete transmutation of the personal will itself. First there is submission, then cooperation, and finally the absorption and unification of the personal with the spiritual Will.
These four stages of purification, which can and should be carried out simultaneously, emphasizing that which is most needed, cover the whole field of active conscious purification. Its value, goal and means are clear enough and are dealt with at length in many books on Yoga philosophy (beginning with the invaluable Yoga Sutras of Patanjali), on religious devotion and on spiritual development. The point is to follow the advice and to practice the methods given.
But there is another kind of purification less well known and more difficult to understand. It is that called by the Christian Mystics passive purification, and it is generally accompanied by a state of emotional aridity, mental darkness and spiritual impotence. The mystics call its extreme phases ‘the dark night of the soul.’ One of its first and more frequent aspects is what is called in the life of occult aspirants “the pledge fever.” It consists essentially in a violent upheaval of all the lower elements of the personality hitherto more or less dormant, which is the reaction to an intense and sincere aspiration and to a determined spiritual purpose. It is literally the waking up of “sleeping dogs,” which, contrary to the proverb, has to be done, sooner or later, in our spiritual development. This passive purification is the most painful and difficult phase of spiritual evolution. I cannot dwell upon it now, as it is outside my immediate purpose, but it is necessary to know about it in order not to be caught unawares. It explains many otherwise baffling and disquieting inner events and also gives us a needed encouragement and hope. I will only add that it is a purification by fire accomplished by an occult burning up. It is interesting to note how the candid reports of the mystics coincide on this point with the esoteric teachings.
According to the Treatise on Cosmic Fire, this purification is accomplished through the devas of transmutative force. “They are a peculiar group of devas who embody the ‘fires of transmutation’ and are called by various names, such as, “the furnaces of purification,’ the melting elements,’ the gods of incense.’ ” (page 679).
Development and training of the psychological functions
C. DEVELOPMENT AND TRAINING.
A very important section of the Yoga of the New Age, and one which up till now, has not received due attention nor has been fully worked out, is that which I would call: a gradual and systematic training of the various psychological faculties, coordinated and directed by a spiritual purpose aiming at, and leading up to, spiritual realization.
One of the most frequent causes of difficulty, discouragement, and even failure, in those who are attempting meditation and contemplation, is, in my opinion, the lack of such a preliminary training of the faculties which have to be used, and the consequent lack of skill and of control in these higher and complex inner activities.
An analogy with the study of singing, or of any musical instrument, clearly illustrates the point.
The aim is a perfect artistic performance, an expression of the most exquisite qualities of the personality, and even of the soul. But in all cases the necessary humble beginnings are elementary exercises in voice production or technical skill of the fingers. These practices to the be-ginner are tedious and purely mechanical, yet they form the basis for later expression.
If this preliminary training is lacking, or is carried out in a faulty or careless fashion, this is reflected during the whole of the artistic career. But there is even more. After having acquired the technical skill, the musician has still to keep in constant practice. It is a well known fact that great pianists give daily some time to scales and studies.
The same, more or less, can be said of the technical skill of the prospective artist in handling colors and brushes; or in the knowledge of words and the structure of a language on the part of the would-be writer.
Each art has two aspects: inspiration and technique. And while the former is undoubtedly the higher, the second is also needed for its perfect expression and embodiment. A faulty technique can mar the most beautiful vision of the artist.
Why should it be different with the art of living, the art of moulding the entire personality and making it a perfect instrument of expression of the Spirit? Should not every human faculty be separately trained and mastered, and then combined with other higher faculties in a series of gradually more difficult and complex activities?
Yet, strange to say, there are, as far as I know, no organized schools where such training is carried out, nor even a text-book giving the rules and methods for such a work. For this reason I will deal more fully with this section of the New Yoga than with the others.
In order to encourage students to practice willingly and patiently the exercises which will be enumerated, I will remind you that, owing to the subtle but close relationship existing between the outer and the inner aspects of our nature, between the higher and the lower planes and sub-planes, even the most elementary exercises have an esoteric significance and value. This will be pointed out by and by, so that the exercises may be done more intelligently and eagerly.
Moreover, the laying of this solid foundation will well compensate for the time and attention it requires as it will make the higher development of the inner faculties much safer and more rapid, as well as easier and more accurate.
Training of objective perception
1) Training of objective perception: The first group of exercises is generally called the training of the senses, but it can be more accurately described as the training of objective perception.
Generally our senses are right enough, but our ability to make good use of them is very imperfect ; thus this work can be also called a training in sense utilisation. If we study what happens in life, and especially if we read the reports of witnesses in court trials, we realize that the saying of the Master Jesus, “Those who have eyes, sec not, and those who have ears, hear not,” is true not only symbolically and spiritually, but also in its literal physical sense.
The accounts of the same event, given by several individuals before a jury, not only differ in detail, but sometimes in the most essential points. One witness omits a decisive feature, while another asserts that he has seen or heard something that in reality never happened. And this occurs among the cultured and highly educated as well as among the uncultured.
Psychological experiments on the reliability of testimony, made in the tranquil atmosphere of the class-room, where no passions or personal interests are involved, have given striking confirmation of this fact. I will quote only one experiment, made by Prof. Claparede of Geneva, the result of which was that the majority in a class of university students denied the existence of a window by which they had to pass twice daily on their way to and from the class rooms.
Really it is absurd to try to develop vision on such a kaleidoscopic and elusive plane as the astral, with its ever moving and shifting forms, changing colors and alluring or terrifying entities, while one is not yet able to observe with scientific accuracy, prolonged concentration and emotional detachment, simple objects on the physical plane.
It is preposterous to endeavor to explore the higher planes while one is still unable to perceive the beauty of the outer divine manifestation, the radiant glory of the garment of God. And it is positively dangerous to come into contact and to tamper with more powerful and subtler forces, until we demonstrate an intelligent use and steady control of the forces already active in our personality.
‘In the training of the faculty of perception, visual perception comes first, as it has the more general and useful applications, also to daily life. It is learning to see, to really see, objects on the physical plane.
This training has two objectives, namely, that of attaining rapidity and accuracy of perception, and that of gaining thoroughness and completeness of observation.
The first ability is acquired through certain exercises which were and are still practiced in India.
A teacher shows for a few seconds (decreasing the time-limit, as the skill of the pupil increases) a table or tray on which are scattered, say from ten to twenty different objects; and the pupil has to observe them as quickly and accurately as possible and then describe them. This looks like a game, and sometimes is performed as such by children, who enjoy it; but for our purpose it has to be accomplished systematically and through a series of more and more difficult trials, so that it becomes a real drill.
This lack of reliability of our perceptions has sometimes very serious and even tragic results, as was shown in several cases of judiciary errors where innocent people were wrongly sentenced owing to involuntarily false testimony; and it is in the life of each of us a constant source of mistakes, misunderstandings, and loss of opportunity.
If the training of the faculty of perception in everyday life is useful to the average man and woman, it is essential for the aspirant to higher knowledge and powers.
Many pitfalls and painful happenings in occult development would be avoided if neophytes would recognize and adhere to the principle that “one must demonstrate development and control of a faculty in the physical body and in objective consciousness before one can safely and rightly develop its subtler counterparts on other planes!’
An amusing description of this exercise is given in Rudyard Kipling’s delightful novel “Kim,” as follows:
“The child dashed to the back of the shop, whence he returned with a copper tray.
“Give me!” he said to Lurgan Sahib. “Let them come from thy hand, for, he may say that I knew them before.”
“Gently—gently,” the man replied, and from a drawer under the table dealt a half handful of clattering trifles into the tray.
“Now,” said the child, waving an old newspaper. “Look on them as long as thou wilt, stranger. Count, and if need be, handle. One look is enough for me.
He turned his back proudly.
“But what is the game?”
“When thou hast counted and handled and art sure that thou canst remember them all, I cover them with this paper, and thou must tell over the tally to Lurgan Sahib. I will write mine.”
“Oah!” the instinct of competition waked in his breast. He bent over the tray. There were but fifteen stones on it. “That is easy,” he said after a minute. The child slipped the paper over the winking jewels and scribbled in a native account-book.
“There are under that paper five blue stones—one big, one smaller, and three. small,” said Kim, all in haste. “There are four green stones, and one with a hole in it; there is one yellow stone that I can see through, and one like a pipe-stem. There are two red stones, and–and—I made the count fifteen, but two I have forgotten. No! Give me time. One was of ivory, little and brownish; and¬and—give me time . . ”
“One—two—,” Lurgan Sahib counted him out up to ten. Kim shook his head.
“Hear my count !” the child burst in, thrilling with laughter.
“First, are two flawed sapphires—one of two ruttees, and one of four, as I should judge. The four ruttee sapphire is chipped at the edge. There is one Turkestan turquoise, plain with black veins, and there are two inscribed—one with Name of God in gilt, and the other being cracked across, for it came out of an old ring, I cannot read. We have now all five blue stones. Four flawed emeralds there are, but one is drilled in two places, and one is a little careen …”
“Their weights?” said Lurgan Sahib impassively.
“Three—five–five and four ruttees as I judge it. There is one piece of old greenish pipe amber, and a cut topaz from Europe, There is one ruby of Burma, of two ruttees, without a flaw, and there is a balas-ruby, flawed, of two ruttees. There is a carved ivory from China representing a rat sucking an egg; and there is last—ah ha! a ball of crystal as big as a bean set in a gold leaf.”
“He clapped his hands at the close.”
You see the difference in the reports between a trained and an un-trained eye.
Other exercises suggested:
1) Enter a room unfamiliar to you, stopping at the door and looking round for a few seconds; then write down a report, as detailed as possible, of the contents of the room.
2) Stop for a few seconds before a shop window, look at the contents, and then write a report as before. This is the method by Houdini in training his son.
3) Observe a picture or drawing and then describe it in detail.
4) Ask somebody to show you for a few seconds a series of cards on which are written numbers of a progressive length but irregular in sequence, and see how many figures you can observe and report accurately.
The second objective to be attained in the training of the perceptive faculty is, as we have said, that of gaining thoroughness and completeness of observation.
I will illustrate this kind of training by relating an anecdote about the method used by the famous naturalist Agassiz in training his pupils. It is reported by Rama Charaka in his “Raja Yoga.”
“The tale runs that a new student presented himself to Agassiz one day, asking to be set to work. The naturalist took a fish from a jar in which it had been preserved, and laying it before the young student, bade him observe it carefully, and be ready to report on what he had noticed about the fish. The student was then left alone with the fish. There was nothing especially interesting about that fish. It was like many other fishes he had seen before. He had noticed that it had fins and scales and a mouth and eyes, yes, and a tail. In half an hour he felt certain that he had observed all about that fish that there was to be perceived. But the naturalist remained away.
Time rolled on and the youth having nothing to do, began to grow restless and weary. He started out to hunt up the teacher, but he failed to find him, and so he had to return and gaze again at that wearisome fish. Several hours passed, and he knew little more about the fish than he did in the first place.
He went out to lunch and when he returned it was still a case of watching the fish. He felt disgusted and discouraged, and wished he had never come to Agassiz, who, it seemed to him, was a stupid old man after all,—one away behind the times. Then, in order to kill time, he began to count the scales. This completed, he counted the spines of the fins. Then he began to draw a picture of the fish. In drawing the picture he noticed that the fish had no eyelids. He thus made the discovery that as his teacher had expressed it often in lectures, “a pencil is the best of eyes.” Shortly after the teacher entered, and after ascertaining what the youth had observed, he left rather disappointed, telling the boy to keep on looking and maybe he would see something.
This put the boy on his mettle, and he began to work with his pencil, putting down little details that had escaped him before, but which now seemed very plain to him. He began to catch the secret of observation.
Little by little he brought to light new objects of interest about the fish: But this did not suffice his teacher, who kept him at work on the same. fish for three whole days. At the end of that time the student really knew something about the fish, and better than all, he had acquired the `knack’ and habit of careful observation and perception of detail.
Years after, the student, who had by then attained to eminence, is reported as saying, “That was the best zoological lesson I ever had—a lesson whose influence has extended to the details of every subsequent study; a legacy that the professor left to me, as he left to many others of inestimable value, which we could not buy, and with which we cannot part.”
An exercise for the perceptive faculties which can be carried out in daily life, especially by those who have the opportunity of meeting many people in their social life and in their work, is that of observing keenly each new acquaintance he or she makes, in order to have a dear.; mental picture of their appearance.
This can be combined with an exercise of visualization and sound evocation (which will be dealt with later) i.e., seeing mentally the per-son’s name written and repeating inwardly the sound of the name. This creates a permanent association between them which is very useful for practical purposes.
The popularity of Napoleon and of certain other great Generals and public men, has been due in no small measure to their ability to recognize a plain soldier, or inferior officer or clerk, among the many thousands with whom they had to deal.
PRACTICAL CONTRIBUTIONS TO A MODERN YOGA, part II
By Dr. Robert Assagioli, March 1934, The Beacon
In our first article we have begun to outline the training of the various psychological faculties and have dealt with the power of visual perception. The same training can be applied to the perception of sounds.
The ability to perceive and recognize sounds varies very much in individuals. It ranges from the acuteness of that of a Mozart who, as a child, could notice difference of a quarter of a tone in the notes of a violin, to the obtuseness of that of those who, to use the current expression, “have no ear”, and who, if they were sincere, would endorse Theophile Gautier’s confession that for him music was a most disagreeable and expensive noise.
We cannot all of us be or become musicians, but I think that all, and particularly those of us who need it, should give some time and attention to the development of a certain degree of sound perception.
First, we can train ourselves to recognize and name with assurance each of the seven notes of the scale and their semi-tones; then simple melodies and the fundamental chords; and then to follow and recognize one theme in all its variations and modulations throughout a sonata or symphony, and, finally, the themes interwoven throughout a Wagner opera. This training will be utilized when as disciples we will have to recognize the various notes and sounds of our Soul, of our Master and of our Group.
A similar training can be given for the sense of Touch, Taste and Smell.
We often eat without paying attention to our food—we swallow it in a hurry without noticing how it -tastes—or we notice only its first and grosser taste. But all substances and foods have a subtler and more refined taste which follow the first and which is perceived after a little time if we chew our food well. This has been remarked among others, by Horace Fletcher in his well-known books.
Concerning taste, a friend of mine who has been living on raw food for a considerable time (about five years) has observed that the diet, apart from its physiological benefits for health, etc., has had a distinct effect on the taste, refining it to a very high degree.
Ramacharaka remarks that wine tasters and tea tasters demonstrate a marvellous keenness of taste; while the sense of smell is much developed in tobacconists and wine dealers. Also blind people sometimes develop this sense very strongly, so that they can distinguish a person by his scent.
“In the cases of persons engaged in occupations requiring a fine degree of touch, the development is marvelous. The engraver passes his hand over the plate and is able to distinguish the slightest imperfection. The handler of cloth and fabrics is able to distinguish the finest differences, simply by the sense of touch. Wool sorters also exercise a wonderfully high degree of fineness of touch. The blind are able to make up for the loss of sight by their greatly increased sense of touch, cases being recorded where the blind have been able to distinguish color by the different ‘feel of the material'” (Raja Yoga by Ramarcharaka, p. 135).
This training of the senses has not only the utility of developing the faculties of perception and observation on the physical plane, but it has a much deeper meaning due to the esoteric significance of the sense and their correlations on higher planes.
I cannot deal with this here, because the subject would require an article by itself. I will only remind you that it is admirably dealt with in the section on The Centres and the Senses—Normal and Super-Normal in A Treatise on Cosmic Fire (pp. 185-208). I strongly recommend a careful study of this section, as it contains much illuminating information, which has also a practical value towards a knowledge of ourselves and the lines of our development.
II. Training of the organs of action.
The Orientals distinguish the organs of sensation, jnanendriyas, of which we have just spoken, and the organs of action, Karmendriyas. They are:
Mouth — speaking
We will leave out of consideration the last two, although they correspond to the very important functions of purification and of the creation of living forms on the physical plane; and we will take up the other three. There is much more in them than appears at first.
- Legs and feet, which primarily have the useful but humble and mechanical function of locomotion, can be trained to be a means of creative expression of the whole personality.
But before reaching that stage they become a means of expression of physical force and agility; an outlet for vital energies, as demonstrated in the widespread interest in the game of football, which often becomes a real passion.
Another and somewhat more advanced use of the lower limbs is that of mountain climbing, where the moral qualities of endurance, courage, etc., are exercised. A still higher use consists in the dance, which, from being a mere outlet for physical vitality and lower emotions, can be elevated and refined until it becomes the expression of high religious sentiments, becoming thus a true rite, requiring a most accurate and severe training. A profound esoteric and mysterious use of the lower limbs, is hinted at in Alice A. Bailey’s book Initiation, Human and Solar. The 12th Rule for Applicants says:
“The ‘mark of the messenger’ in the feet, is a reference to that well-known symbol of the wings on the heels of Mercury. Much upon this subject will be revealed to students in occult schools who will gather together all that can be found concerning the Messenger of the Gods, and who also will study with care information which astrological students have gleaned anent the plant Mercury, and which occult students have gathered concerning the inner round.”
- Hands. The training of these organs of expression leads from the more or less skillful forms of manual labor and the ability to perform acts of dexterity and sleight-of-hand, to handwriting and the higher artistic expressions of painting, sculpture and the playing of musical instruments.
There is a very interesting exercise which can be used in connection with handwriting. Graphology has shown that there exists a real relationship between certain characteristics in our handwriting and our mental and moral qualities.
Not only has each person a different handwriting, but I have noticed that many people have several styles of handwriting, each corresponding to a certain mood, frame of mind, or inner attitude, which sometimes amounts to a real sub-personality.
The handwriting is so expressive of psychological influences that I have noticed, when having before my eyes a letter and putting myself into psychic rapport with my correspondent, my own handwriting acquires some of the characteristics of his or her way of writing.
Owing to the action and reaction between the inner states and their outer physical expression, it has been rightly surmised that a conscious and appropriate modification of the handwriting can have a beneficial effect on the character.
A friend of mine, a professor of calligraphy, has succeeded in curing a child of some bad faults by this method; and similar experiments which I have started with some patients are giving promising results.
We can easily observe if we deliberately write in a slow, careful manner, shaping every letter regularly, what a calming and harmonizing effect it has, besides increasing our self-control. It is a simple exercise which I recommend to every one.
The esoteric use of hands in service, laid down in Rule 12 for Applicants just quoted, is thus explained:
“Occultly understood, the ‘use of the hands’ is the utilization of the chakras (or centres) in the palms of the hands in
- Healing bodily ills.
- Blessing, and thus curing emotional ills.
- Raised in prayer, or the use of the centres of the hands during meditation in the manipulation of mental matter and currents.
These three points will bear careful consideration, and much may be learnt by Occidental students from the study of the life of Christ, and a consideration of His methods in using His hands.”
- Mouth. The mouth, with its allied organs, the lungs, and vocal chords, represents the highest means of physical expression, through speech and singing.
The tremendous power of the spoken word and the occult influence and use of sound, have been mentioned by various writers and I will refer to such works as Letters on Occult Meditation by Alice A. Bailey and the curious novel The Human Chord by Algernon Blackwood, later on.
I would urge everybody to practice some exercises, and if possible take lessons, in voice production and right intonation, because these increase the effect of our speaking and enable us to use the voice with less strain and fatigue. It is also a preparation for the correct intonation of mantrams and of the Sacred Word.
One of the secrets of effective speaking and singing is correct breathing and this leads us to the important subject of breathing exercises. I cannot do more at the moment than convey a note of warning about the dangers of premature and unwise breathing exercises and to recommend the utmost caution. They really should not be practised except under the guidance and watch of a truly competent teacher.
Before ending this section, I must mention again the eye. The eye, although primarily an organ of sense perception, has also an active function and should, therefore, be regarded also as an organ of action.
This is demonstrated by the hypnotic power that some persons have, and by the higher power of spiritual radiation which is emitted by the eyes of advanced individuals. This, too, can be developed by conscious and systematic training. It should never, of course, be used for personal influence, but only for unselfish and spiritual purposes.
III. Training of the reproductive imagination,
1. We will consider here imagination in its more limited sense; i.e., as “the faculty by which we can bring absent objects and perceptions forcibly before the mind.”
The best known and most widespread use of this faculty is that of visualization. The practical and occult value of visualization has often been emphasized, and I will quote only that which has been said by Alice A. Bailey in Initiation, Human and Solar.
“The aim of cultivating the power to visualize again that which has once been seen, is twofold:
a. To teach the student to visualize his thought-forms accurately, so that when he begins to create consciously, he may lose no time in inaccurate transformation.
b. To enable him to picture again accurately the imparted secret (during initiation), so that it may instantly be of use to him whenever needed.” (Chapter 16, The Imparting of the Secrets.)
In A Treatise on Cosmic Fire it is stated also that “Through the practice of visualization the third eye is developed.” (p. 1012)
Another occult use of visualization is that of evoking certain colors for specific purposes. The visualization of pictures and symbols should be carried out (according to the teachings of A Treatise on Cosmic Fire, (p. 1012), a few inches in front of the root of the noise. And it is through visualization that we can effectively accomplish the work of creating a protective shell.
I have made a series of experiments, in visualization with my class at the Institute of Psychosynthesis and I will quote some of the more interesting results.
One was the unexpected and rather surprising fact that a certain number of students could visualize better with their eyes open, projecting, so to say, the mental picture on the wall or on the ceiling. They said that if they closed their eyes they had more difficulty in concentrating and holding the picture.
An investigation of this fact showed that the closing of the eyes increased in them the spontaneous activity of the subconscious, so that the field of consciousness was flooded by heterogenous mental pictures and ideas.
This shows that in those students the inner psychological activity was more intense than the vital relationship with the outer world; in other words, that they are introverts.
Extroverts, on the other hand, who are more bent towards externals and, therefore, more easily distracted by outside stimuli, are helped by shutting the eyes.
Thus a simple experiment, as for instance, that of visualizing a blue disc alternately with the eyes closed and open, proves a good test or indication of the bent towards extroversion or introversion in the individual.
Another result of the experiments was that students found it easier to evoke a mental picture of some object actually seen, even though large and complicated like the church of St. Peter’s in Rome, than a very simple form which they had to create such a blue disc or green triangle.
The extent of the faculty of visualization was measured and trained by creating mental pictures of members composed of one, two, three-figure numerals, and so on.
These experiments also showed the existence of two other psychological types: one group of students could easily and promptly visualize the suggested pictures, but were unable to hold them, while another group took a certain time and effort to create the mental forms, but afterwards had little or no difficulty in holding them. This reveals different degrees of plasticity and tenacity of the mental stuff and points out the advisability of various methods of training. It would be interesting to compare these differences with the prevalence of fixed or mutable signs in the students’ horoscopes.
Besides the visualizing of simple and static images, experiments were made in evoking a series of pictures; for instance, all that had been seen during a walk; or the events connected with one’s daily activities. This last practice is helpful also for the accurate accomplishment of one’s evening review; and it is rightly prescribed for aspirants and disciples.
The power of visualizing can be trained to a marvellous and almost unbelievable extent. It has been demonstrated by certain chess players who are able to play without looking at the board, but the most remarkable case is that of the famous Russian who can play nine games simultaneously, visualizing the nine boards and each successive move on both sides of each of them. Of course such prodigies possess the innate disposition for this capacity, which, I believe, is the result of a steady training on the same lines in previous lives.
- Auditory Images. The interest in visualization has produced an undue neglect of other kinds of evocation, while the experiments and training in sound evocation are perhaps equally important and useful.
The ability of evoking at will the sound of a certain musical note or a certain chord has an occult value, since it helps us to recognize and discriminate inner sounds, and to sound accurately one’s own note or any other which is desired.
Also the ability of easily and accurately evoking certain musical motifs is a great help for awakening or developing a certain feeling or spiritual quality which we may desire to cultivate. For example the initial motif of the Parsifal Prelude well expresses and suggests compassionate love; the Parsifal and Siegfried motifs evoke a sense of power and are trumpet calls which should rouse one from despondency and inertia to heroic action, while the Grail motifs in both Lohengrin and Parsifal give a strong sense of spiritual elevation.
As elementary and preparatory exercises, I have asked my students to imagine as vividly as possible:
a) The noise of a rushing train.
b) The sound of a waterfall.
c) The splashing of the waves as they break on the rocks.
d) The merry chiming of bells.
e) The music of a band slowly approaching and receding into the distance.
Many of the students while evoking these various sounds, saw before them, involuntarily, the corresponding visual images. Some even saw the picture and barely heard the sound, while others failed to evoke the sound at all. This shows whether the student belongs to the visual or to the auditory type.
Some students had also other impressions; they could smell the odor of the smoke associated with the train, or felt the agreeableness of the cool waterfall.
Also in this connection there are instances of marvellous accomplishments. Toscanini, for example, who can conduct a whole opera or symphony without reading the music and yet notice the slightest mistake of any of the hundred players. (Perhaps in this case the auditory images are supplemented by visual or even motor images.)
3. Tactile, Gustative and Olfactive Images. Exercises for these kinds of images are almost entirely neglected, but it should not be so, because this training helps us, according to esoteric teachings, to definitely develop a corresponding and more subtle sense.
Also, in the writings of the mystics, which are often direct and genuine reports of their spontaneous inner experiences, we find reference to these subtler correspondences. They speak of “inner touches”; of “tasting” divine things; and the “odor of sanctity” is a current religious expression which is not merely a nice metaphor but is derived from actual experience.
Only a few years ago several serious and well-educated people, some of whom I knew personally, assured me that they smelled a wonderful perfume in the presence of an humble and very spiritual Franciscan friar, Father Pius of Petralcina; and they became aware from time to time of whiffs of that perfume when away from his presence.
A very impressive experiment, made with a spiritual motive, that of imagining the crushing of vipers with fingers, is described by Dhan Gopal Mukerji, in his beautiful book My Brother’s Face.
IV, Training in Concentration.
This is largely included in the exercises of which we have spoken up to now. They all require a degree of concentrated attention. The same can be said of the more complicated and higher practices which will be described in our next article. Moreover, daily life offers many opportunities and often obliges us to use, and thus develop, the power of concentration.
For instance, the directing of a business concern or the orderly and rapid execution of the many activities in an office require steady concentration. The same is true of the preparation and writing of a book. Even games, such as whist and bridge, require a good deal of concentrated attention and are useful in developing these faculties.
Society men and women who, devoid of higher interests, pass their time in such worldly and apparently worthless occupations have not the remotest idea that they are really developing a faculty which will be of great use to them in a future life when they enter the serious training of discipleship. This remark is certainly not intended as an encouragement to play bridge, but on the contrary to show the wisdom and ingenuity of the evolutionary plan which, regardless of the motive of the individual, utilizes every human activity for higher purposes.
Even the most simple and ordinary daily activities, such as one’s own toilet, housework and so on, can be used by willing students as occasions for the development of one-pointedness. In fact, the whole life of a would-be Yogi should be a continuous state of watchful concentration, interrupted by spells of relaxation well-regulated in length and manner, eliminating aimless drifting and scattering of the mental activities.
Therefore, while many text-books on mental culture give various drills for mind concentration by itself, I think, that in the modern Yoga we are proposing, concentration becomes developed sufficiently through the performance of all the other specific exercises and by watchfulness and one-pointedness in daily life.
So I will suggest only a brief exercise in this connection, intended more as a test and a convenient way of measuring one’s progress.
It consists in visualizing successively and slowly a series of numbers beginning with 1 and noticing how far one can go without allowing the thoughts to wander.
I hope that it will be apparent that the training I have outlined, as well as that which will be described in our next article, are a very useful preparation for the aspirant and the disciple, and should be included in the Yoga of the New Age. They should also form the basis for further experiments and investigation in the esoteric schools which we heartily hope and trust will soon be created, as promised by the Teacher who dictated the Letters on Occult Meditation.
But I wish to emphasize strongly, that, in my opinion, many of these exercises could be carried out with much profit by everybody and should become part of a regular curriculum of progressive exoteric education.
Children can be easily interested in these experiments, when presented to them as a game; sometimes they even beat adults in the results, especially in experiments of imagination.
I have carried out experiments with my own child (age seven) who became so interested that he peeped through, unasked, the door of the class room in the Institute of Psychosynthesis, and made the experiments with the others. I carried out also a systematic series of exercises, including such an advanced one as that of visualizing one’s own ideal personality, with a group of boys aged from nine to fourteen, at the Y.M.C.A. in Rome, and these too were very successful. I am also using them with good results with my patients. I think, therefore, that all of us who are convinced of the benefits which can be derived from such a training should do our utmost to help this work along three main lines:
- As a part of the preparatory training of spiritual aspirants and disciples, both individually and in special schools, as already mentioned.
- As a training for teachers, who should explain and direct such experiments for others.
- As a part of the regular programme of all public schools, from the lowest grades up to, and including the universities.
PRACTICAL CONTRIBUTIONS TO A MODERN YOGA, part III
By Robert Assagioli, April 1934, The Beacon
In this article we will deal with the higher and more important sections of the Yoga of the New Age, namely, those referring directly to the training of the aspirant and to the development of spiritual consciousness.
V. Training of the power of the inner observation and the Consciousness of the Spectator.
Another faculty which the modern student of Yoga has to acquire; and should develop in a high degree, is that of the accurate and penetrating observation of his own emotional and mental states, of the continuous flow of what William James has aptly called, the “mind stream”.
This practice leads up to three important spiritual achievements: self-knowledge, development of the consciousness of the Spectator and spiritual discrimination.
In order to achieve these results successfully and sanely, the inner observation should be carried on in a calm, serene and absolutely impersonal manner. We should carefully refrain from any emotional reaction of like or dislike, of attraction and repulsion and of self-criticism. We should observe ourselves with the cold, detached, yet keenly interested attitude of the scientist, who observes the movements of a microbe or the cosmic dance of the stars.
It must be accomplished in such a way as to avoid all morbid introspection and all destructive and paralyzing self-criticism.
For the carrying out of this training, definite periods of recollection and quiet should be arranged, and they should be of gradually increasing duration; then one can learn to apply it during the performance of one’s daily life activities. So one develops gradually a constant self-watchfulness which becomes in time the ability to carry through simultaneously two lines of activity, a faculty which the disciple is enjoined’ to acquire.
This training, however, needs special caution, because if it is not accomplished quite in the right way, it may have harmful results, especially in the inhibition of one’s free action, of one’s spontaneous feelings and higher inspirations. This danger should be especially guarded against by introverts, who must sublimate their excessive and critical introspection into a serene and wide discrimination.
Extraverts, instead, have to build up this faculty from the beginning and re-direct their interest from the external to the inner world.
VI. Acquirement of Self-Knowledge
In order to have a true and profound self-knowledge, the direct observation just mentioned is very useful, but not sufficient. It has to be supplemented by the use of certain analytic methods which allow the search of the subconscious, and by the comparative study of the different psychological types.
These psychoanalytic means are:
- Experiments in free association (the fundamental Freudian methods).
- Word associations
- a. A single reaction to a series of word stimuli (Jung’s method).
- b. A series of reactions, as for example, 20 words to each verbal stimulus (Brown-Landon’s method).
- Analysis of one’s dreams.
- The analysis of the products of one’s creative imagination, either spontaneous writings, musical or poetical compositions, artistic activities, or those induced by special experiments. (See section VIII.)
The results of these methods have to be rightly interpreted, and coordinated with those of direct observation.
The higher subconscious, better called the superconscious, should be given as much attention as the lower subconscious, emphasized by orthodox psychoanalysis. The effects of soul forces upon the conscious personality should be recognized and understood, as well as the assaults of the lower instincts and emotional complexes. Also the action on the subconscious of external influences from the emotional and mental planes should be duly watched for and recognized, though this is sometimes a difficult thing to do.
Through these practices an inclusive and spiritual psychoanalysis may be developed, as a section of the psychology and of the Yoga of the New Age.
VII. Cultivation of feelings and inner qualities.
In connection with the emotions and feelings, the chief and more urgent task is generally that of purification and control, but parallel to these, there is also the need of developing adequately the higher types of feelings, those which are the animating energy of the virtues and inner qualities, such as peace, calm, tenderness, compassion, sympathy, spiritual love, etc.
These feelings and qualities can be directly awakened by the concentrated repetition of their name, and this simple method should be used until it gives results, because it has the great advantage that it needs no special conditions and can be practised almost anywhere and at any time.
Another method is that of evoking the feeling by the use of music expressing it adequately. For this a section of a sonata or a symphony may be used, though a simple motive may also be sufficient.
A more complex and effective exercise embraces several other factors which mutually enhance each other, according to well-known psychological laws. Here is an example which aims at evoking a sense of
serenity. It may be considered as a general outline for inducing any other feeling or inner quality.
Exercises for evoking serenity
- Assume a physical attitude of serenity; relax all muscular and nervous tension; express serenity in your countenance with a gentle smile; breathe slowly and rhythmically. Assist yourself in this either by looking at yourself in a mirror or by visualizing yourself with that serene expression in your face.
- Think about serenity, realize its value, its utility especially in our agitated modern life. Praise serenity in your minds; desire it.
- Evoke directly serenity; try to feel it, by the help, either of the repetition of its name, or by reading some appropriate sentence or by repeating many times a phrase or motto suggesting it, such as for example, “Both action and inaction may find room in thee, thy body agitated, thy mind tranquil, thy soul as limpid as a mountain lake.’ (Voice of the Silence.)
- Imagine yourself in circumstances which might be apt to agitate or irritate you (for instance, in the midst of an excited crowd; or in the presence of a hostile person; confronted by a difficult problem; or in danger; or obliged to act quickly), and see and feel yourself calm and serene.
- Pledge yourself to remain serene throughout the day, whatever happens; to be a living example of serenity, to radiate serenity.
VIII. Creative Imagination
Imagination, in its wider, higher and creative sense, has been defined as “the power or faculty which enables a person to produce a new, impressive and artistic whole, by selecting and working up ideas derived from association and memory, and which thus include a certain share of invention.” (Annandale’s Concise English Dictionary.)
I would add, that ideas may come to us also from higher planes through intuition and inspiration.
This faculty is spontaneously applied by artists, poets and writers of fiction, in whom it is innate. But a creative imagination can and should be developed by every student of Yoga, because it forms a necessary part of his equipment and leads up to the development of intuition, a process aptly described as its higher counterpart in Letters on Occult Meditation (P. 192).
A simple and practical method for the training of the creative imagination is one which produced interesting and satisfactory results when I applied it several years ago, with a class of young teachers at the Institute of Experimental Psychology of the University of Florence.
I exhibited to them, one after the other, for about two minutes: each, a series of pictures representing certain scenes, such as the ruin of a temple of Isis at Pompeii, some reproductions of historical and religious paintings, “home” scenes, and so on.
After each presentation the students were allowed half an hour to write down all that the pictures suggested to them, leaving free rein to their imagination.
This exercise also yielded valuable material for the study of the psychological types and the analysis of the subconscious.
Similar exercises can be made by reading a series of poems or playing certain musical compositions, writing down each time whatever thoughts, fancies and feelings the poem or the music aroused in us. Particularly interesting are the effects of music, which often has a profoundly stirring effect upon the subconscious, and gives a strong and free impetus to the imagination.
After such preliminary exercises, we can pass on to the use of symbols which have a manifold and true occult value. Symbols had an important part in the esoteric training of ancient times, because of their utility in achieving concentration and one-pointedness: in developing the power of visualization and creative imagination. But as their highest and more occult use is that of developing the intuition, I think it best to deal briefly with them in the section which will follow shortly.
XI. The Training of the Reasoning Faculty
This training too is a necessary part of a well-rounded development, and is needed particularly by those who have hitherto mainly followed-devotional and mystical lines; that is, reaching directly up from the emotional to the Buddhic level, thus neglecting and leaving a gap in their mental faculties.
This training can be achieved by the study of philosophy and especially of logic, of natural science and particularly of mathematics. A more specific development of the higher mind is gained through the systematic study of esoteric philosophy and through the organized meditation on its fundamental principles, expounded in works such as The Secret Doctrine.
X. The Development of the Intuition
The faculty of the intuition has been generally neglected in the West up till recent times, when its value began to be recognized, chiefly through the emphasis given to it by the great French philosopher Henri Bergson. But we must clearly differentiate between two kinds of intuition; the psychological intuition, of which Bergson speaks, and which is the product of a kind of mergence with the object or entity we want to know; a momentary mingling with, or projecting of ourselves into the thing and the spiritual intuition which is a different and higher faculty.
This higher intuition is the use of the mind stilled and purified from its ordinary activities becoming an inner sense-organ which looks into, and mirrors the realm of the soul.
An excellent method for the direct development of the intuition is the use of abstract symbols. The student should take one of the simple and universal symbols, such as the triangle, the cube, the five-pointed star or pentagram, the six-pointed star or hexagram, the sphere, the cross. He should visualize them clearly and concentrate on them trying to arrive at their inner meaning, both macrocosmic and microcosmic.
Through this effort, the student succeeds in time in arousing into activity the higher mind and in reaching the level of synthetic and abstract thought, i.e., developing the higher mental intuition.
This is in itself an important step forward, and is also a definite preparation for the methods of instruction largely employed by the Masters with their disciples. Other sets of symbols can be used with profit with such training.
The beautiful symbolic drawings by Mme. Fröbe-Kapteyn are well adapted for this purpose, and some of them have been used in the Arcane school with remarkable results.
Before proceeding, I may as well anticipate a question which will probably rise in the readers’ minds. Some might be surprised not to find in this delineation any section devoted to meditation. This is certainly not due to a lack of recognition of its great value, but only to the fact that meditation is really a complex practice which includes several of the exercises I have mentioned; while my purpose is merely to examine each of these elements separately, in order to give a clearer view of their nature and use.
Forms of meditation vary according to the stage of evolution, the inner constitution and the various needs of the aspirant or disciple. All are numerous factors which have to be taken into consideration by a wise teacher in assigning meditation to the pupil are fully detailed in the first of the Letters on Occult Meditation. This same book also contains an ample exposition of the various forms of meditation and the occult phases of it, such as the use of the Sacred Word and of special mantrams and so on, which I could not include in this cursory view of the subject.
XI. Direct Training of the Will
The student who submits himself to, and steadily follows the discipline of a course of training such as we have been drafting, is exercising his will all the time. Therefore, it might seem at first that no specific development of the will should be necessary. Yet I think that a direct attention to the will should be given in Yoga for different reasons.
The will is the highest principle in spiritual man, the apex of the spiritual triad, atma, the directing purpose throughout all human and spiritual evolution, a direct expression of the Monad.
The will is the synthetic power which coordinates, organizes and directs all the other faculties and, therefore, should have a greater development in order to truly master them, while nearly always the opposite is the case.
The will is the least realized and understood of all the human faculties. Some schools of thought deny its freedom and potency, and therefore its real existence; and it is commonly confused with desire, impulse, obstinacy, personal self-assertion, or with a dominant passion. Therefore, I think that the student should take pains to discriminate accurately between these masks and substitutes and the true Will.
Sometimes the revelation of the Will as an independent faculty comes spontaneously into life; chiefly in moments of danger, or of great stress and emergency, but it can also be purposely sought and developed. This can be attained through a special kind of exercises which have been paradoxically called “useless exercises,” in as much as they have no personal utility in themselves, but which are, in reality, most useful, as they reveal to us our most precious faculty.
They were first advocated in modern times by William James, and they form the substance of Boyd Barret’s method in Will Training. According to this writer, the characteristics of Will exercises are
- Systematic variation,
- Tenacity of tasks,
- Simplicity and Trivality,
- Graduated effort,
- Persevering effort.
He strongly insists on characteristic three:
“The tasks should be trivial. This may seem strange, but it is an important condition as the one and only object of the task is-to-train the Will. There should be no ulterior objective interest connected with the task, lest the primary object of Will-training be lost sight of.”
The technique of these exercises is very simple. The essentials are: a quiet room where they may be carried on without interruption, a watch and a note book.
“To begin the experiments, the date and hour are written into the note book, together with the resolution, which is at the same time formally made. Then the task is duly carried out, and the exercitant writes into the note book his introspection.” For example: Resolution, August ii, 1913. “Each day, for the next seven days, I will stand on a chair, here in my room, for ten consecutive minutes, and I will try to do it contentedly.”
Some of the exercises he recommends are:
- To walk to and fro in a room, touching in turn say a clock on the mantel-piece and a particular pane of glass, for five minutes.
- To listen to the ticking of a clock or watch, making some definite movement at every fifth tick.
- To replace in a box very slowly and deliberately, one hundred matches or bits of paper.
- To write very slowly and carefully, fifty times the words, “I will train my Will”.
Boyd Barrett’s book, Strength of Will and How to Develop It, published in New York, contains much good and practical advice on the object of will training and I heartily recommend it.
It may be surprising at first, but it is a truth advocated both by esoteric philosophy and by psycho-physiology, that control, inhibition, negation, abstraction, are in a certain sense the most specific characteristics and ultimate qualities of the Will. This leads us to the consideration of another important section of Yoga, i.e., control.
D. The Power of Control. Control also is used by the student all the time when he undertakes a course of practical Yoga, but here we want to speak of a more specific control, that of the very faculties which the student has taken so much pains to develop.
Whenever we develop a faculty, a power, there lurks the danger of giving too much attention and importance to it, of becoming proud of it, and attached to it, so that it finally overpowers and dominates us.
Any mechanism, which is only a means to an end, has the mischievous tendency to become an end in itself, an idol which usurps the place of the true God. Our modern civilization offers to us two terrible examples of this fatal tendency: First, money, which is not only a most useful and legitimate means of exchange, but might even be considered,in a sense, a physical symbol of divine life and substance, has become a monstrous idol to which are sacrificed innumerable human lives and souls.
Then, the machine, which is the glory of modern science and technical skill and which has greatly increased the efficiency and the freedom of man but threatens, through its uncontrolled multiplication and the exaggeration of its use, to dominate its creator and to make life an inferno of jarring noises and senseless speed.
Such danger is more subtle, but no less real, in the case of the inner faculties. Its prevention consists in exerting a firm control over them from the beginning, and throughout their development, so that none of them may take undue importance and expand beyond their rightful place. This control is achieved by the use of a strong will; by any attitude of detachment and spiritual indifference (Vairagya); by keeping steadily in view the final aim and true purpose of the whole training, i.e., the cultivation of soul consciousness, the union with the inner God.
Love and Devotion. I will not enlarge on this point, although it is very essential in a complete scheme of Yoga training, for the following reasons: First, many of the present day aspirants to discipleship have already developed in other lives, and possibly also in this, the mystical and devotional side of their nature and they are just at the critical stage of transition from the mystic to the occultist, in order to become well rounded and well balanced disciples.
The second reason is that this subject is extensively dealt with, in devotional treatises and mystical writings of all religions, both Eastern and Western, and in the many publications on mysticism in recent times, the best of which is the classical exposition by Evelyn Underhill in her book Mysticism.
Yet I cannot omit a serious word of warning to those would be yogin who have not had a previous mystical training, to those who are pre-eminently mental, scientific, practical and attracted by the occult (Third Ray, Fifth Ray and Seventh Ray types). If they do not develop their love aspect expressing it either through love of God or love of humanity and demonstrating it in unselfish service, any Yoga training holds for them the temptation to use the faculties and powers they acquire for selfish purposes and may lead them into the pitfalls of black or at least dark-grey magic, and thus to their own destruction.
E. Spiritual Realization. We have arrived now at the highest and most vital section of the work, at the real Yoga or union, for which all the preceding stages are meant to be a preparation.
1. Contemplation of an exalted Being. This is a practice current among devotional mystics and which, freed from its excesses of personal emotion and attachment, is of great help to the aspirant to Yoga.
The contemplation of a Great Being, such as the Christ, the Buddha or a Master of Wisdom and Compassion, and the pondering on Their various virtues and unlimited power for good, has a potent and vivifying effect upon our spiritual nature, in helping it to unfold and shine forth. As the Orientals say: “The Ganges (the sacred river) purifies when seen and touched, but the Holy Ones purify when merely remembered.”
The practice of this form of contemplation can have also a more occult effect. The inner picture, the thought-form thus created by an aspirant, can be made use of, either by his own Higher Self, or by a true Master, and be vitalized by Him transmitting to the aspirant a wonderful flood of light and spiritual power.
2. Realization of the Self. This is really the central practice for the aspirant to Yoga; it is the alignment and contact with, and a growing realization of one’s own Soul, one’s own Higher Self ; the essential achievement which makes man an aspirant, a disciple, and which opens him the way to the glorious possibilities of initiation.
This central realization has been so much and so well described and aught in all the best works for disciples, from the Gita, the Upanishads, The Crest Jewel of Wisdom to The Voice of the Silence, Light on the Path and the Secret Doctrine, as well as in the more recent books of Alice A. Bailey, that I need not add anything to this subject.
I will only point out that one of the greatest aids to this realization is meditation and contemplation on The Jewel in the Lotus.
8. Realization of one’s own perfect being. After having attained some realization of Self, of the Ego on His own plane, the aspirant should endeavor to realize the effect of the growing contact and union between the Higher Self and the personality, that is the regeneration and perfection of the latter; what I would call the spiritual psychosynthesis.
This practice has been very well indicated in the following words:
“He (the disciple) begins to grasp the vision of the spiritual man, as he is in essence. He realizes the virtues and reactions which that spiritual man would evidence on the physical plane of life. He builds a thought-form of himself as the ideal man, the true server, the perfect Master. He gradually coordinates his forces so that the power to be these things in external reality begins to take shape, so that all men can see. He creates a pattern in his mind which he hews out as true as he can make it to the prototype, and which serves to model the lower man and to force conformity to the ideal.
“As he perfects his technique he finds a transmuting transforming power at work upon the energies which constitute his lower nature, until all is subordinated and he becomes in practical manifestation what he is esoterically and essentially.”
There are still higher stages of realization and expansion of consciousness, but I will only mention them as they are beyond the scope of the present delineation. They are the realization of one’s own egoic Group, i.e., of those souls with which we have a special inner affinity and with whom we are linked by the closest bonds of understanding and spiritual love; the realization of one’s own Ray, feeling and living the spiritual quality which it expresses; the realization of the great Planetary Being of which we are a cell; and so on, reaching up to ever higher expansion of consciousness and approaching nearer and nearer to the One Universal Self.
May we keep steadily in view these glorious possibilities, and may this radiant vision give us all the inspiration, the persistence and the guidance we need, throughout all the trials and ventures of our spiritual quest.
 1This point has been dearly and forcefully presented by Mr. Foster Bailey in his article “The Crisis,” published in “The Beacon” (March, 1931).
 A clear resume of the essentials of purification containing much sound and practical advice is to be found in “Letters on Occult Meditation,’ by Mrs. Alice A. Bailey.
 For instance, the account by St. Catherine of Genoa, to which the Baron von Hugel has devoted a thorough study in his excellent book, “The Mystical Element in Religion.”
 Instructions by The Tibetan contained in “A Treatise on White Magic.”