Every authentic system of spiritual discipline indicates different stages upon the path of progressive mastery over the mind. The path of progressive awakening to supreme unconditional universal Truth is an arduous course of intensified practice leading to serene contemplation. Dhyana Marga – the Path of Meditation – is an inward fusion of mentality and morality that releases the mystical energies of enlightenment. Transcending ratiocinative analysis and ethical endeavour, though yielding to the full fruition of both, dhyana is the mysterious catalyst spoken of by Jesus which "leavens the whole". It is the living presence of the Dhyani energies vital to any lasting nucleus of universal brotherhood formed by sincere aspirants and neophytes on the Path. Like the fabulous wish-fulfilling gem or the pearl of great price, dhyana is one of the priceless treasures of the Path which must, at a certain stage of development, be earned by the disciple before there can be any further advance. If this is true of the cyclic process of individual growth, it is even more true of the evolutionary stream of humanity.
From the beginning of the New Cycle emphasis has been laid upon reaching beyond discursive reasoning and analytic study. Though skilful analysis can be helpful, it is no more efficacious than one wing of a bird in flight. The other wing is ethical practice, purification of motive and steadfastness in reference to one's deepest integrity and fidelity of commitment. The balance between these two aspects of development has been stressed from the start, but as in the life of a bird a definite stage comes at which further development of the wings is neither possible nor desirable, so too in the growth of a committed group of sincere individuals, many of whom have bound themselves by commitments to the spirit of the Pledge of Kwan-Yin. Touched by the potent vibration of the Cycle, a strong nucleus of seekers has persisted, despite ups and downs, in creating a distinct current of direction in their lives. In ways known and unknown to themselves, they have resonated to the current Seventh Cycle of the Theosophical Movement, the last of the series initiated by Tsong-Kha-Pa in the fifteenth century in Tibet. It is deeply fitting that all aspirants upon the path of The Voice of the Silence should now seek to become more firm and steadfast with regard to dhyana – meditation.
True meditation begins with intense concentration or dharana – bringing the mind to a clear focus, which then gives way to the uninterrupted contemplation that is the beginning of dhyana. In its full unfoldment it can lead to true wisdom – prajna – complete absorption in one's higher consciousness with universal self-consciousness, a state of being marked by the attunement of Atma-Buddhi-Manas to the Cosmic Triad. The actual level of attainment reached by anyone attempting this meditation and the pace of his or her development are relatively unimportant. Whatever doubts, anxieties or ambitions some may bring to such attempts are largely irrelevant. What is significant is that a definite and increasing number of human beings should make an attempt, at whatever pace, to learn the practice of true meditation. The simple fact that a number of human beings recognize this common undertaking and obligation, sensing the common joy in the quest for gaining greater proficiency in dhyana, is propitious and encouraging to the alchemical work of the Theosophical Movement. It is a positive contribution to the profound impact of the New Cycle, to the elevation of human consciousness in the world as a whole, and to the careful preparation of the ground for the Mystery Temples of the future.
The apprentice on the path of Dhyana Marga must learn that the senses are liars; it is precisely at that moment when one seems outwardly to be most alone and engaged in the difficult task of acquiring mental concentration that one is in fact most directly related to humanity. Once one sees this clearly, it becomes possible to insert one's honest and humble efforts in the practice of dhyana into a larger effort by a number of people. If they bind themselves together by invisible threads spun through firmness and contemplation and by a continuous current of meditation, they can leaven up the world, in the metaphor of Jesus. This has nothing to do with any individualistic accomplishment. Rather, through their meditation, they can create a magnetic field into which can be focussed the wisdom of Avalokiteshvara, the wisdom of the collective Hosts of Dhyani Buddhas, Mahatmas and Bodhisattvas. Metaphysically, it is the totality of actual and invisible wisdom behind the whole of this system of worlds, which is itself a partial emanation of the primal Adi-Buddha. The aggregate sum-total of actual and potential wisdom forming the radiant core of the system of worlds is nothing but a spark of that absolute and infinite ocean of purely transcendental Wisdom from which arises the possibility of all worlds and all periods of manifestation.
Wisdom is neither created nor destroyed, neither increased nor decreased, but is universal, inexhaustible and vast. It is already self-existent on a primordial plane and is in fact the very ground of the possibility of existence. It may be represented in thought and in collective manifestation as a Host of beings called the Army of the Voice. This is merely a metaphor to intimate something of the virtually inconceivable grandeur and precision of the array of divine elements and beings that constitute the living cosmos. It is possible to focus that light of universal wisdom, continual contemplation and eternal ideation within a matrix created by the love, unity and joint heroic efforts of a nucleus of human beings formed over a period of time. Thus, it is possible to bring down onto the plane of mundane human existence glimpses and rays, sparks and flashes, of that divine light of wisdom that is all-potent on its own plane but is otherwise latent and unavailable. Collectively, a group of human beings can become like a great lens for the drawing down of the light of unmanifest wisdom into our globe to meet the cries of pain, the hungers and the longings of myriads of minds and hearts.
To begin to become an apprentice of eternal wisdom in time, one must gain some minimal understanding of cycles. There can be no practice of concentration and meditation, dharana and dhyana, unless one can rise above the sequence of alternating states of consciousness involved in the breath, the pulse, sleeping and waking, the passage of seasons, septenates of years, life and death and rebirth. Whilst it would be a false and self-imposed burden to expect to comprehend complex evolutionary cycles, one may, nonetheless, bring a minimal sense of the marriage of continuity and detachment to one's understanding of the collective human pilgrimage. The New Cycle of the Theosophical Movement, its Seventh Impulsion, marks its anniversary on November 17, a date that is significant not only in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries of the Christian era, but in relation to human consciousness on this earth in general. According to Clement of Alexandria, it was the true birthday of Jesus. Historically, it was the birthday of Pico della Mirandola, the light of the Renaissance. It is also the anniversary of many extraordinary events in history, both recorded and unrecorded. It is one of a series of occult points in the year that may be thought of as birthdays of the Dhyanis, points of intersection in cyclic time of aspects of Avalokiteshvara with manifested humanity. Thus, whilst the Seventh Impulsion of the Theosophical Movement is directly linked to this particular aspect of the manifestation of Avalokiteshvara, it cannot be separated from the other manifestations of the Logos present at other cyclic intervals.
The present period is one of those watersheds in human evolution that represent the end of a complex series of events in recorded history. It involves the end of the old monastic orders, including the Hindu, Tibetan, Chaldean, Egyptian, Jewish and Christian. All of these will disappear in their older forms. If one is attached to these forms, this will seem to be a great loss, a sort of spiritual discontinuity in human affairs. If, on the other hand, one is detached and therefore able to penetrate to the core of the cycle, one will understand the continuity of the transition and sense that which will tap the quintessence of these old orders and yet transcend them. At the end of every long epoch of human evolution, at the dawning of a new epoch, there is inevitably a night of disintegration. Even if one is able to overcome one's doubts, fears and anxieties in the face of the necessary dissolution of forms, it is still difficult to envisage in advance which of the inexhaustible possibilities of Divine Wisdom will be realized in a subsequent period of development. The wisest of beings are truly agnostic about the future. All neophytes would be wise in their turn not to attempt to extrapolate on the basis of what they think they know about recorded history and the tragedies of the twentieth century. Most human beings are so self-absorbed in their petty personal concerns that they know almost nothing even of the little story called recorded history over three thousand years, much less the broader global developments that have taken place in the first five thousand years of the Kali Yuga.
So long as one is worried about what has happened, is happening and will happen – so long as one is caught up in the illusions of the past, present and future – one cannot hope to understand or assimilate the perspective of meta-history. It is possible, nonetheless, in golden moments to glimpse the presence of the powerful vibration that was predominant in the golden age of humanity a million years ago at the dawn of the Fifth Root Race, an epoch hearkening back to that which existed eighteen and three-quarters million years ago in the Third Root Race. Manifestation itself is a complex-seeming superimposition of derivative vibrations upon the primal Soundless Sound. Moments in history such as the present should not be understood in terms of the seemingly static, though exceedingly ephemeral, images that waver on the surface of space but rather in terms of the vibrant impulsions behind these transitory forms. Thus, at present, the vibration of the Third Root Race may be felt as superimposed upon the process in which there is an inevitable end of all that has become degraded in recorded history. Everything in historical time eventually becomes unusable to the spirit, becomes warped and distorted, attracts lower elementals – forces bound up with human failure, greed, exploitation, self-righteousness, moralism and also universal human ignorance. Buddha put this simply in saying that existence is suffering. Put in another way, most human beings would agree that whatever specific form of happiness they might envisage, they will find it a torment to be condemned to the eternal experience of this form of happiness. Bondage to form is inconsistent with the freedom and immortality of the spirit; it is not in the order of Nature.
The vibration of the Logos associated with Hermes-Mercury-Budha which rejoices in the void anticipates, encompasses and transcends all historical parameters. This vibration represents the reverberation of Brahma Vach, unaffected and unmodified by the great vicissitudes of the historical process and the cycles of manifestation. It is archetypally and magnificently summed up in the figure of Sage Bhusunda in Valmiki's Yoga Vasishtha. When asked by Sage Vasishtha how he had remained untouched by the dissolution of worlds, Bhusunda replied:
Surveying vast worlds, epochs, civilizations and historical eras, Bhusunda stood apart, rooted in dharana and dhyana. He represents the eternal spectator, unaffected and unmodified by the vicissitudes of the process of history. It is this supreme detachment rooted in meditation that may be called the Hermes current. When that Logoic current is self-consciously sounded at the level of SAT – Truth-Wisdom – it becomes the mirroring in time, on the lower planes of manifested existence, of the eternal vibration of Brahma Vach. To understand this is to see that everything emerging from that Hermes current is a preparation for dhyana – irreversible and boundless meditation. Thus there is already in the rich resources of the New Cycle nourishment available for earnest souls eager to learn how to engage in deep, strong and firm meditation, so as to become lenses for the light of Divine Wisdom.
If this is the nature of the great undertaking of dhyana, and if some individuals confront many difficulties in rising to meet the opportunities of the Cycle, it ultimately must be due to a lack of sufficient motivation. No explanation of deficiency in meditation owing to this or that circumstance can ever be adequate. It is illogical to attempt to explain an inability to maintain continuity of consciousness in the formless realm by pointing to any collection of circumstances in the derivative regions of form. Hence there is strong emphasis in every authentic spiritual tradition upon the purification and cleansing of the heart. Before one can really master the mind, one must cleanse the heart. It is necessary to see all the distorted, complex and awkward elements in one's feeling nature. And yet there is hardly a human being alive who does not know what it is to care for another, who does not know what it is to suffer, and who does not want to relieve the suffering of others. In fact, the very sense of the hideousness of the deformities of one's feeling nature is nothing but a reflection of the soul's awareness of its intrinsic beauty and purity. Like a craftsman with the highest standard of excellence, the soul surveys its self-evolved vestures with an objective and critical eye.
Rather than becoming fascinated with that in oneself, much less in others, which must be let go because it does not measure up to the best in oneself, one must learn to hold fast to those authentic elements that represent, in every human heart, the vibration of a minute point of universal life, light and love. This dharma-energy can be used to purify the heart so that one can bring not just part of oneself but the whole of one's being into line with a single strong motivation so as to be of help to all living beings. One may release the will to be of service in the relief of human ignorance and the alleviation of the deeper cause of all human pain that is the false notion of the self. One may begin to learn the positive joy of bringing down the light of wisdom and letting that light diffuse into as many beings as it possibly can. When such motivation begins to pervade one's being, becoming strong and firm, it gives a buoyancy and lightness, an incentive and resolve to keep going.
Once this current is established, one sees that one's past failures stemmed from either the inability to commit oneself completely and irrevocably to the quest, or a neglect of the detailed and difficult task of burning out every impure element in the heart. In any event, through the release of heart energy, one is prepared to begin burning out all the corrosive motivations that arise from fear, self-protection, body identification, identification with the astral form, with tanha – the clinging to forms in general. Clinging to the realm of sensations is at the root of the hardness and impermeability of the lower mind. Once one begins to understand how much pain obscurity of the mind produces within and without, one can bring a greater honesty and maturity, a greater intensity, to the task of self-purification. One will find it easier if one lets go of the notions of personal salvation, progress and enlightenment, discarding all elements of fascination with the ups and downs of the personal nature. All these represent only the outer rind of human life; they are of little consequence at the moment of death.
One must be willing to become fearless in the spirit of virya, the dauntless energy and unwavering courage to enter into the realm of unconditional Truth – SAT. The root teaching of voidness has to do with the emptiness of the notion of self-sufficiency and independence, the falsity of the notion that there is anything that is disconnected from the entire chain. All of this has got to be negated. It is a delusion that arises from linguistic tricks and convention, lax mental habits, refusal to confront the fact of death, unwillingness to confront the life process as it works in Nature. Ultimately, it is a refusal to recognize that conscious immortality means entering the light beyond all forms and conditions. It is, as The Secret Doctrine shows, a fundamental abrogation of one's destiny as an evolving human being:
... as long as we enjoy our five senses and no more, and do not know how to divorce our all-perceiving Ego (the Higher Self) from the thraldom of these senses – so long will it be impossible for the personal Ego to break through the barrier which separates it from a knowledge of things in themselves (or Substance). That Ego, progressing in an arc of ascending subjectivity, must exhaust the experience of every plane. But not till the Unit is merged in the ALL, whether on this or any other plane, and Subject and Object alike vanish in the absolute negation of the Nirvanic State (negation, again, only from our plane), is scaled that peak of Omniscience – the Knowledge of things-in-themselves; and the solution of the yet more awful riddle approached, before which even the highest Dhyan Chohan must bow in silence and ignorance – the unspeakable mystery of that which is called by the Vedantins, the PARABRAHMAM.
Only when one can prepare oneself through degrees of dhyana rooted in supreme detachment – vairagya – can one enter the light of unconditioned Truth or SAT and remain there in ceaseless contemplation. Wherever there is conditionality, there is the inevitability of discontinuity. Conditionality and discontinuity go together. Instead of becoming disturbed by them, however, one should rejoice in the lesson. The more one becomes unconditional, the more one can confront latent conditionality. Thus, one may begin to discern the persistent origins and causes of distortion, discontinuity and tension. The neophyte should understand at the outset that even when one attains to dhyana in its true sense, as a confirmed chela on the Path, there are still seven lives of the most vigorous self-training yet ahead. Once one understands this, one can let go of all the tension that comes from taking on false burdens. Instead of cluttering the mind with mere words and shadows, the undigested cuds of unchewed ideas, one should learn how to take a phrase, a sentence, an idea from the Teaching, and chew on it as thoroughly as possible. In every ancient tradition of dhyana, it is impossible to dispense with higher analysis. Skill lies in striking the right balance – neither too much nor too little. As one engages in the process of dhyana, various hard knots will emerge. It is necessary to stand back and subject them to analysis. One must see the components, the causes, the combinations that form the knot. Along Dhyana Marga there will be a periodic need for such analysis – a kind of self-administered open mind and open heart surgery. It can be done when the need arises if one has prepared adequately and honestly and if one is surcharged by a tremendous love of one's fellow beings and an ardent desire to become a meditator.
In time, one will begin to generate a continuous rhythm of meditation, broken occasionally by passing thoughts, but fundamentally flowing as ceaselessly as a current in the heart. When it is interrupted in a more serious way, one will immediately strive to repair one's foundations through some detailed analysis of the problem so that one may be purged and freed of a particular impediment. Once a momentum of meditation is established, these interruptions become a much rarer occurrence than expected. Depending upon one's earnestness in meditation, which can only be understood in relation to love of the whole human race, one's own so-called pain and difficulties will become trifling in relation to the world's pain. Unless one gets these balances right early on, one will have a distorted importance of the preparatory phase of one's own quest. That could stall the whole voyage. But once one is truly moved by that fire of universal feeling that exists in everyone, one will find the courage needed to maintain the quest. Taking advantage of the rhythms of the seasons, of Nature, of the Teachings and the Cycle, one will become more assured and so more able to stay, for longer periods, in an uninterrupted state of meditation.
One will probably not attain the higher stages of dhyana in waking meditation for quite a while, perhaps a lifetime. Nonetheless, one is invited to think about these stages, to visualize and resonate to them. This is extremely important and has to do with the release of the powers of the soul. One should completely forget about whether one can or cannot do some particular thing right now. One should not be afraid to contemplate any of the glorious possibilities of the very greatest human beings and Masters of meditation. One should take every opportunity to adore perfected human beings; in adoring them one will give life to the seeds and germs of dhyana in oneself. This does not amount to some mechanical and harsh doctrine of pseudo-equality. Rather, it depends upon recognizing that every human being has an exact karmic degree in relation to dhyana and prajna. Paradoxically, it is only by recognizing this that one can truly understand what it means to say that all human beings stand in the same sacred unmanifest ground of the unmodified, impartite Divine Spirit. Thus, as one grows in understanding of these soul powers, one may enjoy reflecting upon higher states of meditation, as represented by the portraits of perfected beings in the sacred texts and scriptures of all traditions. It is irrelevant and counter-productive to be bothered by the inevitable fact that one will not immediately experience these high states of consciousness.
One may, for example, reflect upon that state of dhyana likened to the calm depths of the ocean, recognizing in the metaphor the freedom of the universal Self. To abide in that is like remaining in the Egg of Brahma Though this high state of true self-government may seem very distant, one may nevertheless deeply reflect upon it. One may ask what it would be like to have a mind that is so oceanic and so cosmic, so profoundly expansive and inclusive of all things in all minds, that it is capable of reverberating to everything in the mind of Nature. Certainly one should include such lofty thoughts in one's horizon. In this way, one will come to recognize that what at first seemed a burdensome and laborious task is in fact a joyous working out, stage by stage, of clusters of karma. It is also a lightening and a loosening, in each context, so that there may be a flow from the subtler ethereal vestures into the grosser vestures. How this will actually affect the visible vesture in this life will vary from one individual to the next. Many meditators become wizened, but they have no regrets because they have no attachment to the external skin and shell. Instead, they rejoice in the inner purification that has taken place. Even one's perspective changes in regard to what is truly helpful to the immortal soul and what is harmful. Once one touches the current of this supreme detachment and begins to enter the light of the void through efforts at dhyana, one may begin to make one's own honest and yet heroic, courageous and cheerful way towards gaining greater continuity, control and proficiency in meditation. Blending the mind and heart, one may enter the way that leads to the dhyana haven:
The Dhyana gate is like an alabaster vase, white and transparent; within there burns a steady golden fire, the flame of Prajna that radiates from Atma.
What is it the aspirant of Yoga Vidya strives after if not to gain Mukti by transferring himself gradually from the grosser to the next more ethereal body, until all the veils of Maya being successively removed his Atma becomes one with Paramatma? Does he suppose that this grand result can be achieved by a two or four hours" contemplation? For the remaining twenty or twenty-two hours that the devotee does not shut himself up in his room for meditation – is the process of the emission of atoms and their replacement by others stopped? If not, then how does he mean to attract all this time – only those suited to his end? From the above remarks it is evident that just as the physical body requires incessant attention to prevent the entrance of a disease, so also the inner man requires an unremitting watch, so that no conscious or unconscious thought may attract atoms unsuited to its progress. This is the real meaning of contemplation. The prime factor in the guidance of the thought is WILL.
Hermes, April 1985