The awakening of the soul does not appear complete and pure. In many cases the soul awakens gradually and incompletely …
By Roberto Assagioli, Translated by Gordon Symons. Original title: Coscienza Spirituale E Coscienza Astrale, derived from The Assagioli Archive Florence.
The awakening of the soul does not appear complete and pure. In many cases the soul awakens gradually and incompletely: one aspect or another of the awakening appears vaguely at first, then disappears, and reappears later more clearly, or combined with other aspects.
For some, the first glimpse is an intuition of the unity of the whole, a presentiment of great universal harmony; for others it is instead a first movement of the heart, a spontaneous love impulse for the Supreme; others finally begin with an acceptance and attachment of the personal Will to the Divine Will, an interior offering to serve, to be conscious and fervent cooperators in the implementation of the great cosmic scheme.
In many other cases the awakening of the soul takes place in a simple and straightforward way, but is complicated by the intertwining of psychic experiences of another nature. Then there are internal phenomena and events that look very much in certain respects like the awakening of the soul, but in reality they differ profoundly in origin, value and consequence.
The awakening of the soul in its purity must be considered as a first flash of spiritual consciousness, and the characteristics of awakening are precisely the fundamental characteristics of spiritual consciousness, unitary or intuitive, or Buddhist. Now there are also other states of consciousness that usually get confused, both among themselves and with spiritual consciousness, and that are designated with the expression cosmic consciousness, astral consciousness, higher consciousness, etc.
In order to understand the nature of these states of consciousness well, it is necessary to recall some facts and laws concerning the nature and evolution of the universe.
First of all we must abandon the usual external and materialistic conception of nature, we must recognize that nothing exists in the universe that is not vibrant with life and consciousness, that every form and every force of nature are the manifestation of real entities, and that these entities are in contact with each other, coordinated and subordinated in large hierarchies.
Thus, the Earth as a whole – according to the brilliant intuition of the great scientist and philosopher Th.Pechner – is the body of a real being, of a Great Planetary Spirit, with a soul, with a consciousness of its own.
The great natural forces acting on the face of the Earth and within it are at the same time parts of that great being, and relatively independent entities with their own consciousness. And so are all living beings: plants, animals and men, on the one hand, are small cells of that large organism, and on the other hand, distinct entities and consciousnesses, and are in the process of gradual differentiation and identification. This reminds us of the great universal law, which must be understood well because it is the key to everything we will say. It is the great fundamental law of involution and evolution, of the descending arc and of the ascending arch, traveled by the spiritual entities on their long pilgrimage during the great cosmic cycles.
In the descending arc, the spirit immerses itself in matter, and the universal monadic consciousness is subsequently limited, descending through the great cosmic planes in ever denser veils of matter until it touches the lowest point of its descent in the physical plane and in the mineral kingdom. Then life goes up again: the dormant latent potentials gradually awaken through the play of mutual influence, expertly preordained by the various forces and hierarchies.
First the plant life arises, then the animal life, and finally we arrive at the human stage, in which the differentiation of the monadic essence has reached such a point, that we have a separate monad for each organism. In other words, a fact of fundamental importance occurred, namely the transition from the group soul to the individual soul. This development of individuality constitutes one of the most important purposes, perhaps even the supreme goal of the great cosmic drama. Because the principle of individuality, of self-awareness, forms the basis of further marvelous developments that we can only vaguely divine in a great light of glory, imagining great spiritual centers capable of indefinitely extending their consciousness without losing the sense and powers of their own individuality, and therefore capable of being conscious, intelligent and willing cooperators and executors on an ever larger scale of the divine will in the cosmic plane.
At the present stage of his evolution, man has a very narrow and limited consciousness. He is no longer in communion with the great natural entities, and has not yet awakened – with rare exceptions – his broader spiritual consciousness. Many certainly accept the current limitations, indeed even ignore them, and they also deny the possibility of transcending them.
But many others are not so easily satisfied. Shaken by pain, attracted by some vague glow, driven by a discontented interior and an uneasiness that nothing in ordinary life can satisfy, they struggle in the narrow cage of their personality and try in every way to escape from it.
In reality there are two great ways to get out of it, two fundamentally opposite ways, however similar they may appear to the superficial observer, and are therefore generally confused.
The first – the real one – is a healthy spiritual development that begins with the awakening of the soul, of which we have spoken.
The other consists of an escape from the personality that is obtained by returning to immerse oneself in the ocean of natural forces from which the evolutionary rise has made us emerge, thus identifying ourselves with other entities and dispersing our consciousness in theirs.
This second method is very easy: it does not require inner labor, discipline and sacrifices which we will see to be indispensable conditions for spiritual development. But this method is fundamentally incorrect, as it constitutes a regression of the human entity in its evolutionary path and is revealed in practice to be destructive and disastrous.
The different planes of consciousness are states of consciousness that can and must be reached here, on this plane, on this Earth, and within the limitations of the body.
The great cosmic physical plane is preceded by another great cosmic plane of matter and life, which has been called astral. In this subdivision there are also the other even higher cosmic planes, which however need not be dealt with.
During the descending arc, the monadic projections gradually descended through the various levels of the astral and physical planes, subsequently entering into a relationship with the various forces and entities that each have their home.
As it went down, consciousness became more and more limited. So, for example, our consciousness is now limited to the lower levels of the physical plane, and our astral senses are closed, so that generally we have no direct impression or perception of what is happening on that plane.
Now we are on the ascending arc, and our consciousness tends to develop new and higher powers, but its natural and harmonious development consists in the subsequent awakening of the consciousness of each level in their natural succession.
SOME TYPES OF ASTRAL CONSCIOUSNESS
The most general and best-known type is mediumship. On this occasion I will not deal with mediumship that gives rise to physical effects, but limit myself to that type of mediumship that gives manifestations of an intelligent and evolved character, with a religious content. In such cases, the medium has often not lost ordinary consciousness, indeed sometimes he is in the grip of pleasant emotions, an exaltation of his whole being which has significant affinities with the subjective impressions of spiritual enlightenment.
Further on, however, we will see what profound differences there are between these two states. A second type of astral consciousness is arrived at by the use of various toxic substances: alcohol, ether, chloroform, opium, morphine, cocaine, hashish, etc. Often the impressions produced by these poisons that paralyze ordinary consciousness and awaken astral sensitivity are of a painful and terrifying nature, or just extravagant and absurd; but sometimes even those visions are pleasant and fascinating, mostly having a sensual content, but there are cases in which they are pseudo-mystical in character, and take on the appearance of revelation of transcendent truths.
Some curious cases of this kind, which occurred under the action of chloroform, are reported in James’ work, The Varieties of Religious Experience. Another method of transcending the limits of personality is the use of various magical rites and procedures. These are very numerous and disparate and would require a long examination which is not possible on this occasion. The word magic itself has very different and even opposite meanings. There is superior magic, true white magic, which can be said to be identified with true spiritual development, as we will have occasion to mention in due course. I will not dwell for a moment on the lower forms of magic, regressive mass of perversion, degeneration and superstitions. I will only mention the fact that even in the apparently better forms of magic, one aims, explicitly or not, to obtain one of the following results:
b) Or the aim is to enslave some astral entity or force by means of evocations and the use of various other procedures.
Finally, there is a last type of astral consciousness on which I wish to dwell a little more, because it is the least generally understood and around which there is the maximum of confusion and some of the most insidious dangers. It is generally called cosmic consciousness, and consists of intimate and living communion with nature, or rather with some aspect of it. And that’s a surprise. Why, is communion with nature not good? After all, St. Francis and even Buddhism preached brotherhood with all living things.
In fact, there is a good and a bad communion with nature. Analogous with physical relationships, between the body and natural physical forces. The body is composed of natural elements, which are chosen, produced and brought together in a particular and superior harmony. With the benefit of a fitting communion and exchange of natural forces. On the other hand, with damage and danger of excessive and violent contact: the sun can, for example, heal, but also kill. And so also water, fire, etc. Thus, the human psyche can also dissolve in the great psychic currents of nature, losing its humanity. As in the universal tradition of the dangerous and deadly charm of elemental entities: sirens, mermaids, Lorelei, the King of Alni.
In the Indian esoteric doctrines (Bhagavad Gita) and also in mythology, the difference between the Devas and the great cosmic entities on the one hand, and the human Saints and Masters on the other, is constantly underlined. The latter are always considered superior to the former.
“Those who worship the devas go to the devas, but those who worship Me instead come to Me,” admonishes the Supreme Spirit, personified by Krishna. Buddhism does the same.
Which does not mean that they are bad, but only that they belong to another evolutionary line, and that therefore the man who gives himself to them goes astray and is lost. An interesting mention of the anti-spiritual effect of certain natural phenomena is as follows: “I never lost consciousness of the presence of God until I was at the foot of the Niagara waterfall. Then I got lost in the immensity of what I saw. I also lost myself, feeling that I was too small an atom to be noticed by Almighty God. ” (anonymous, quoted by James in The Varieties of Religious Experience, p. 394).
It is clear that all these methods of raising astral consciousness are reprehensible, because they are absolutely contrary to the demands of true spiritual development.
In fact, all of them refer to two procedures:
1st – Regression in the course of evolution – passivity, abandonment, loss of self-awareness. This constitutes the very serious danger of mediumship. A serious, unnatural warning – disastrous effects – a serious responsibility in those who cultivate it in themselves or in others.
A very rare example of conquering one’s mediumship was represented by H.P. Blavatsky, but it must be said that she was gifted with an exceptional will, and had also received superior help because she was assigned to a particular mission, but nevertheless had serious illnesses and went to the point of death.
2 nd – The forced development of the astral senses which produces an accentuation of the personality, of the separative self, and therefore the opposite effect of what spiritual development requires. Given this profound diversity, or rather this radical opposition between the two methods, in practice it would seem easy to recognize them and keep them distinct. Instead it is not so. By studying the question more closely, we will find the reasons that make it possible, indeed easy to confuse them. First of all, it must be said that the states of consciousness that are obtained have many similarities. For example, both give a sense of freedom, expansion and grandeur. The person feels to be out of himself, to go beyond the limits of his small daily personality, with his petty worries, and to participate in a wider, more intense and more real life. Other characteristics common to these states of consciousness are a sense of joyful exaltation, a sense of enormous and overwhelming power, of superhuman beauty.
But beneath these similarities substantial differences can be seen.
On the intellectual side, the sense of universal illumination, of contemplation and understanding of the great cosmic laws is missing in the astral consciousness; the cognitive side is absent, or limited to a given manifestation and quality; likewise, the sense of the eternal is missing, and the devaluation of every personal and transitory element. On the emotional side – in which we have seen the greatest similarities – the sense of sublime peace and harmony that gives the soul a sense of calm security, stability and rest is missing from the states of astral consciousness; there is no sense of love, humble, devoted and adoring for the Supreme, the feeling of brotherhood for all men or compassion for those who suffer.
On the side of the will, the moral crisis that usually precedes the spiritual awakening is lacking, and so also is the active and complete dedication, the spirit of renunciation of any personal ambition and the spirit of sacrifice, which are all summed up in the expression, simply but sublimely, when its profound integral meaning is understood: “THY WILL BE DONE”.
These discriminatory criteria should be kept in mind, because there will be clear opportunities to use them.
Already in the early stages of spiritual development various astral consciousness elements are often already associated. The soul is leaving the limits of ordinary consciousness, and is therefore more sensitive and more receptive to psychic influences of all kinds, from which it was previously protected: a vision of beauty, shivers of delicious emotion, persistent and enticing voices, and a thousand other new impressions touch her and penetrate her.
Let us remember the severe admonition of the Voice of Silence, in which the region of astral experiences is designated as the Classroom of Knowledge. Here are some sentences:
“The name of the second is Classroom of Knowledge. Your soul will find there the flowers of life, but with a snake coiled under each flower “.
The footnote then says:
“The preliminary education classroom. The astral region, the psychic world of supersensitive perception and illusory visions. The world of mediums. No flower picked in those regions has ever been brought to earth without a snake around the stem. It is the world of great illusion. “