The psychic experience and mystical phenomena are certainly very interesting and reveal the unsuspected powers which lie latent within the human soul. He should not, however, preoccupy himself too much with them, as they are only the by-products of the spiritual path. Much more important is the experience of a mental stillness and emotional purification and superphysical consciousness. The ennoblement of character and the discipline of thought are really more valuable in the end than psychic phenomena.
The so-called supernatural or miraculous incidents which may happen are exceptions and should not receive undue attention. He ought to be reticent about relating them to others, and even when he does so he ought to be restrained in his description of them. This does not mean that they need be undervalued or ignored but that they should not be regarded as foundational. They do have a value and they do require attention, provided they are authentic and not hallucinatory, for they come in fulfilment of a need. But there is danger in speaking of them, the danger of encouraging superstition in others and conceit in himself.
Beware of attaching too much importance to the appearances and disappearances of visions and spirit "callers." These are but by-products and should be noted and dismissed. We have to BE and not to see. Even visions are as objective from the higher standpoint as material things. What you really ARE can be discovered only by going deeper still and becoming it.
When he comprehends that such psychic manifestations are either preliminaries or by-products of genuine spiritual operations, he will be able to avoid pitfalls into which so many aspirants often fall.
The visions may help him and are to that extent acceptable. But they should be accepted with a clear knowledge of the limits upon their usefulness and of the risks inherent in their guidance. They are not to be made the supreme goal, but to be regarded as what they are--transient phenomena, obliquely mediated from the soul, perhaps, but still not the soul in its pure super-sensuousness.
He may perceive authentic visions concerning former incarnations, but he ought to keep them to himself. They are beyond the understanding of others, and discussion of them would often arouse antagonistic mental reactions.
He could keep on collecting inner, mystical, or psychical experiences for years, for undoubtedly they are fascinating. But to whom? To the ego: but that is not the point of this quest. Ramana Maharshi told me that he had had thousands of such experiences. The essential point is to treat them as incidental and to rise into Overself awareness and stay there.
Visions are compounded of the workings of dream-mind and what may or may not be authentic fact. Ordinarily, they are fleeting phenomena whose importance lies mostly in their indication of growing sensitivity, although occasionally they are significant.
Saint Paul speaks of the gift of tongues. This phrase has puzzled many of his readers. The Church, not knowing its meaning, usually considers it to mean speaking in languages unknown on earth. The Spiritualists, possessed by their own theories of spirit-possession, usually consider it to mean speaking in languages unknown to the speaker but used in other countries. Mystics who develop this gift find that it means either the ability to speak in symbolic metaphoric enigmatic or allegoric language or the ability to interpret such language when heard or to translate it when read. On this definition, Saint John's Book of Revelation is a striking example of the working of the gift of tongues.
However different a transcendental experience may seem from a worldly one, both are usually bound together by an egocentric tie.
He should not reject these visions but neither should he dwell overlong in them. He must receive them but also learn to pass into the pure presence beyond them.
Psychic sensitivity, personal sensitivity
As a student progresses on the path he arrives at a highly sensitized condition when dealing with the world, and this becomes painful at times. The problems which thus arise cannot be eliminated, for increasing sensitivity is a natural result of finer mental and emotional development. However, the reaction to difficulties caused by this can be controlled. This is done by immediately switching attention to something else, preferably to the thought of the Overself, or to some purely physical activity. When in the presence of anyone who unduly affects or disturbs him, he may also strengthen himself to magnetic self-protection by not letting himself glance in the direction of this person and by clenching the palms of both hands with the thumbs inside the fingers.
This mass of emotional-mental-auric influences deposited all around him may not--often does not--accord well with his sensitivity. It is not necessarily evil but it is discordant, uncomfortable, a polar opposite, and he may need to shield himself against it. The methods vary; they include both psychic and physical kinds, from imagining a mental wall to constructing a brick one; from performing religious rites of purification or exorcism to moving beds, burning incense, taking herbal baths, and avoiding crowds.
The space that lies between two persons is filled with their two auras, with the vibrations from the electromagnetic, if invisible, extensions of their physical bodies, and with the mental-emotional atmospheres surrounding them. In that narrow space lies paradoxically all their inner being, their mutual attractions and personal repulsions, the inscribed status of what they really are.
Through the solar plexus and the cerebrospinal and sympathetic nerve systems we pick up from others the influences surrounding them and radiate to others the influences surrounding us. The thought-atmosphere of other persons affects us and the result of this impingement should tell us something about them. If we feel out of harmony with them, if we are uneasy in their presence, if we get depressed, distressed, or disturbed through being with them, then we had better protect ourselves by avoiding such persons and not exposing ourselves to their contact. But if we are to protect ourselves against the destructive and dark mental atmospheres of the persons we are forced to meet through the exigencies of our circumstances, it is needful to build up a strong and superior mental fort within ourselves by daily and repeatedly concentrating on self-improvement through right thinking.
The only elementals are vivified thought-forms. If they are evil and attack you, oppose them with thoughts of an opposite character. If your thoughts are strong enough and sustained enough, the elementals will eventually vanish.
It is unpleasant to be forced to sit in other people's auras so closely as in the library. But where there is any choice, it is a lesser of two evils to sit in a female aura than a male one: the magnetic blending is more harmonious and less disturbing, the ego less aggressive and more passive.
Psychic sensitivity and excessive passivity which render the close presence of certain persons almost intolerable must be resisted. Helps in this matter are (a) draw deep breath, hold it, centre mind on inner strength and positivity; (b) hold spine erect, breath withheld, hands clenched, feet firmly planted.
For the troublesome spirit, if it is possible and not against his beliefs, he should try to find a good priest and ask to have the rite of exorcism performed. Since the spirit comes at night he should sleep with a small light burning. Also, when the annoyance begins he may make the sign of the cross over himself, take a deep breath at the same time, and with great conviction pronounce these words: "In the name, presence, and power of Jesus Christ, I drive you out of this body."
C.D. Paxton, in practising meditation, fell into semi-mediumship and got possessed frequently, always at night during sleep. Finally he was in a suicidal despair and decided to make a final effort to rid himself of it. He stayed awake all night for two nights. During that time he tried to keep all thoughts out, leaving his mind blank, so that any suggestion by the spirit was also kept out. During the third night a marvellous peace came over him suddenly and he was permanently freed from possession by the evil spirit thereafter.
Why does he see the guide's photograph emanating light and charging him with spiritual power? A photo, after all, is a light-phenomenon charged with the electromagnetic ray connection of the person photographed. When the guide tries to help him, his auric mental energy immediately expresses itself through the picture and affects the seeker's mind as its percipient. However, at a certain stage of development, when that energy of the Overself which the Indians call Kundalini is being awakened so as to enable him to do what is then put into his hands to do, the photo carries something more than mere thought; its mental radiations are actually transmuted into light-radiations and so it may at times appear to be suffused with light. And needless to say the most sensitive points in such a picture are the eyes; the help given will therefore affect these points most.
The more developed a man is, in intelligence character and spiritual consciousness, the larger is the auric field around him.
There are times when one may share the Life-Force's ecstasy in feeling and even see it at work in light. It is an inner experience but linked to the outer world.
The unpleasant feeling he sometimes gets either momentarily or suddenly on meeting certain persons may be merely the echo of his own dislike or prejudice, or it may be a psychic reaction and authentic warning, or it may even be a souvenir from an earlier incarnation.
During the early stages of his Quest, the neophyte will have to take some protective measures against the mental auras, the emotional influences, and the psychic magnetisms of other people whose character or conduct may have an obstructive effect upon his Quest or a disturbing effect upon his mind. The total avoidance of such people, or at least a reduction in the number of contacts with them, is one such measure; a special vigilance, when he is with them, over his thoughts and feelings, so as to discriminate those which come from them and those which are really his own, is another measure.
The thoughts one gets in the vicinity of certain persons may well be the psychic reaction to their auras, the intuitive indication of their characters. But it may also be this mixed with one's own opinion, or even mere opinion only.
To sit in a public vehicle or popular café and be stared at by others is discomforting to the sensitive person. He knows by his own experience that the glance carries with it mental characteristics, projects the other's thought and feeling of the moment.
He must be careful not to accept other people's moods, not to assimilate their thoughts, but to detect such intruders and reject them.
It is interesting to note that the Bavarian mystic Theresa Neumann told investigators that she lived not only on the eucharist wafer, which she took once a day, but mainly on light. It is interesting because light is the original substance of matter.
The folkloric belief that a string of garlic stretched across the threshold of a door keeps off evil influences is not entirely without a ground. Garlic is found in Europe and in Asia in the same position and for the same purpose. Outside the house, flowers of sulphur (powder) dusted inside the shoes is also used in occult circles here.
I mentioned the flowers of sulphur used in occult circles as a protective influence against undesirable influences; there is another preventive used there and that is a couple of tablespoonfuls of vinegar mixed into the bathwater. Incidentally, such a mixture in about the same proportions may be used to clean wooden floors or their linoleum coverings. On the subject of floor coverings, note that woolen carpets are best cleaned by hand with a hard brush and not by vacuum cleaners, which are harmful to them, or by the non-electric roller type of carpet cleaning apparatus.
He who is sensitive to the auras of other persons becomes quickly affected by contacts with them. He must take care that, whether through empathy or sympathy, he does not desert himself in order to be with others.
The psychically sensitive man will note in many cases that as another person comes closer to him he feels increasing awareness of the alien aura until finally it fully interpenetrates his own.
The auric vibrations which accompany a letter often indicate the state of mind of the writer. Holding it in one's hand or touching the forehead with it makes the reception of these vibrations more acute. But, of course, meditation definitely directed towards the letter will widen and deepen the result.
It is better not to shake hands with everybody, for then one picks up their conditions, briefly of course. There is an auric deposit on one's own hand from the other person's aura. Ordinarily, this is an unpleasant sensation, for few people have reached a sufficient measure of fineness or purity to provide an uplifting rather than a depressing effect.
He may suffer from his own bodily infirmities and other people's malice or enjoy his bodily delights or other people's.
The aspirant whose sensitivity creates a psychic reaction of discomfort in the presence of certain persons may overcome this negative situation by learning the art of building a mental wall around himself the moment he becomes aware of what is happening--that is, as soon as he experiences the impact of this undesirable atmosphere. It must be done swiftly and with an attitude of calm deliberation and emotional detachment.
As he progresses on the path he must be careful of his personal contacts. He becomes increasingly sensitive to other persons' auras and thoughts. He should, for instance, refrain from associating with anyone who is a failure, as not only will this affect his own attitude, but he will tend to pick up something of the other's bad karma and defective mental tendencies.
An intuitive sensitivity to both negative and positive phases manifests itself naturally to him at one stage on the path. Certain drawbacks cannot be helped because the same sensitivity which makes him aware of the finer things also makes him aware of their opposites. To correct this condition a twofold process is needed. First he must strengthen the idea of the spiritual centre within himself as providing a kind of gravitational spot upon which his consciousness should revolve. Second, the moment the negative awareness arises he must be able to switch his attention instantaneously to an altogether different subject. The second part does not mean that he is totally to ignore the negative awareness but that he is to recognize it for what it is. He must understand whence it emanates, comprehend its character and place, and be guarded as to what action, if any, is to be taken; but when he has done this, as in a flash, he must switch attention elsewhere.
There is a light which, produced by higher beings and seen by ordinary ones, can make them turn dizzy, or lose consciousness, or even go mad.
A sensitive person will prefer not to be touched. He feels the touch of others conveys their aura. There are more hygienic ways of greeting a person than shaking hands with him, a close proximity of flesh which is as psychically undesirable as it is physically disagreeable.
In all encounters or confrontations with others, he must take care not to get involved, either needlessly or more than is necessary, in that telepathic swirl which sets up from the impact of two consciousnesses meeting.
How often have I seen this radiation of bluish white light appear round the head of some person, flicker for a few seconds, and vanish. Whenever this happened that person was marked out for this quest, for I knew also, as by an instinct, that a glimpse had been, or would be, received.
These centres, as well as the aura itself, are affected by health conditions, low or high vitality, mental and emotional conditions, and self-control or the lack of it. By special exercises, physical postures, breath regulation, willpower, and stimulation, the centres can be affected.
Madame Helena Rubinstein: "I hate being touched."
Nicole, Duchess of Bedford: "I dislike being touched intensely."
Such sensitivity is a very real thing. For the mingling of invisible auras is expressed by the visible physical bodies' unwanted contact.
Some persons are irritated by the mere presence or atmosphere of certain other persons even though no word has been spoken. This may happen especially when he feels that he understands that the other person's mental attitude is hostile to him.
The occult basis of the power of eyes to emit rays that carry something invisible yet real of the personality is the existence of an aura. In India this is why a taboo is applied to pariah outcastes and in Japan why the roof of the tallest building in Tokyo, the Marcinouchi Building, is closed to visitors, for they would be able to look down on the Emperor's Palace.
If he is entitled to avoid obnoxious people socially, he is still more entitled to avoid dangerous people spiritually.
If he is feeling and thinking what the other person is, then he is failing to pay attention to what he himself is, to his Overself. He cannot afford to remain on a merely psychic level.
When in a difficult position with other persons, especially hostile ones, practise Hara.
Hara is a Japanese term which equals the soul and centre of energy, which is situated below the navel and in the centre of the human body.
One man's eyes may evade other people's glances through shiftiness but another man's through shyness. Thus the value of appearances as a guide to what lies beneath them is limited.
When he first encounters this unlooked-for phenomenon, he will be shocked and withdraw into aloofness like a tortoise into its shell and perhaps take refuge in a hard-held cynicism. But although it forges an armour around a sensitive man and provides him with a protection, it offers no adequate solution.
The enforced association of living in apartment buildings with many families huddled together, this close community of persons who may be, and behave, far below one in spiritual caste, thought, and manner, is unwelcome to a sensitive temperament.
He does not consciously put himself in someone's place. He cannot help finding himself in it--such is his developed sensitivity.
Before each world war the sensitive suffered from foreboding of coming sinister calamity, like that which hovered in the atmosphere when a Greek theatre audience watched the unfoldment of a tragic play.
Telepathy, mental influences
It is a strange fact to which science as well as philosophy, experience as well as intuition, can testify, that thought from one mind can be brought into another mind, that the feeling of one man may affect the feeling of another without the use of written message or spoken word. If there were no common mind among all men, this could never happen, could never have been possible. If they were not all rooted in a universal consciousness, however secret and hidden it be, such silent transmission between their individual consciousnesses could never have been possible.
The sensitive person cannot help receiving impressions about the mood or character or feeling of another person with whom he is in contact. But this is quite apart from, and not necessarily accompanied by, knowledge of the particular object or person being thought of in connection with such a mood. Usually the sensitive will not know towards what or whom it is directed; that is, such knowledge will not form part of his impression.
He finds that he is receiving influences from others all the time. It is necessary to protect himself against them or, in a few cases where uplift comes, open himself to them.
He will be astonished to find out how many feelings and thoughts which appear to be genuinely his own really emanate from other persons with whom he may be in contact at the time.
Unspoken thoughts may cross space and enter another mind, which may become aware of them and, at times, of even their source.
There is something mysterious about the way a thought intended to benefit the consciousness of someone else living far off reappears in that person's mind, although he does not know that it is not of his own origination.
It is a fact that a practised passive receptive mind can be sensitive over long distances.
If one kind of mentality is sensitive to waves of feeling or thought, another is concentrated enough to emit them.
At times you may know what is in someone else's mind, but your knowledge is neither certain nor complete. For in the end your ego is alone and isolated.
There are differences of course, one being that the creator feels the experience more strongly, sees the point more clearly, and presents it more articulately than the receiver.
He becomes aware of receiving communications, though not on the usual verbal level.
It is like hearing an echo from a long way off.
Telepathy is science's established fact, not somebody's fanciful theory.
The sensitive person may or may not know when thoughts pass through him from someone else. Among other things, it depends upon what he has to do with his time.
The faculty of clairvoyance is really an extension of the imagination. If the ordinary man's use of the latter is nonclairvoyant, fanciful, or even misleading, that is because he has not divested it from the ego's wishes, habits, and rule.
If time is as mysterious, as flexible, and as variable as analysis shows, a hint of justification appears for the belief that predictions may sometimes be made in advance of the actual events, that under certain conditions the inevitable may be foreseen and the trend of things calculated--in short, that the future may on occasions be anticipated.
The clairvoyant instinct which guides the carrier pigeon to its distant loft is possessed by no man.
Clairvoyance is true imagination--a rare thing.
The untrained aspirant may easily mistake the products of exuberant fancy for those of authentic clairvoyance.
If it is regrettable that few men can foresee events, it is nevertheless useful in that it forces the others to develop their reasoning abilities and judicial capacities.
To make accurate forecasts of future events, to learn in advance what is going to happen tomorrow, is to be ready for all possibilities.
Everyone may be wise after the event but few are sensitive enough to receive ahead of time intimation of the event.
If the clairvoyant vision is not produced by other causes, then it is usually produced by the subconscious mind automatically taking a familiar form, thus creating an intelligible means of communication with the conscious mind.
Clues to what is coming, indications of probable happenings, and pictures from karmic programming may at times show themselves in various ways.
A continental friend visited a celebrated clairvoyant who described to him a scene from the times of Jesus and a setting within ancient Rome. The description was extraordinarily detailed and vivid. The seer concluded it with the statement that "this was one of your previous incarnations." My friend was amused because the description could have been taken from a book which he had read a week earlier, or from a film based on the book which he had seen some years earlier but which the reading had brought back to his memory again. The title of book and film was Ben Hur. The clairvoyant was a firm believer in reincarnation. It is easy to see that he correctly picked up these thought-forms from his sitter's mind, but incorrectly if unconsciously added his own opinion to the picture.
Strange things may happen to the consciousness in that half-world when one is unsure whether it be the state of sleep or waking. Images may be seen that have a clairvoyant quality about them or truths may be perceived that have an intuitive one.
It is interesting to note that most of the very very early scriptures were passed down through generation after generation by word of mouth and not in writing--not only scriptures, but also mythological histories and chants. This shows that those earlier races, or rather peoples, had a prodigious capacity to keep hold of statements and not to forget them. Why is it that has mostly disappeared among us today? The reason is the same one that explains why the primitive peoples were closer to nature, were much more psychic, more aware of the psychical planes. And that reason is that the logical intellect has since then been developed and has replaced, to a certain extent, the instincts, clairvoyance, and so on.
There is clairvoyance. To see things this way is not the best or most accurate. The better way is to know intuitively by that something, that voice within you, which can tell you the truth about things and people.
Clairvoyance and Telepathy
Clairvoyance is that abnormal awareness which enables one to know a fact or perceive a scene which ordinarily could not be known or perceived at all. Such a state may or may not be accompanied by reverie. It may operate in time, as when past or future are read. It may operate in space, as when scenes or persons in some remote city or land are seen. Its mildest form is the sensing of someone's presence; its fullest form is vivid vision.
The scientific rationale of both clairvoyance and telepathy will now be exposed and from this it will be seen how superstitious are many occult theories on the one hand and how materialistic are many sceptical theories on the other hand. What happens in the case of clairvoyance is that the act of concentration, whether voluntary or involuntary, induces an activity in the subliminal mind which in turn presents the result of this activity as an impression of the scene or person concentrated on. This subconscious impression is then made to appear to the waking consciousness as a mental image. In the practical technique, attentive concentration is usually followed by the shutting down of waking consciousness, thus inducing a dreamlike state. It is in such a state, resembling half-trance, that most occult powers, visions, and so on usually become active.
If it be asked how it is possible to become aware of distant scenes and far-off persons, unuttered thoughts and the projection of personal atmospheres, the answer is that quite obviously there must exist some connecting medium between both seer and seen, sender and receiver. And mentalism asserts that this medium is and can be none other than the same mind whose universal existence makes us all percipients of the world-show and recipients of the divine World-Idea.
These strange phenomena are possible because one man's mind is connected with another and all form part of a unitary whole. None exists in isolation. There is an inclusive mind which subsists beneath them all, a thread-Mind which runs through all minds. When we work out the implications of these cases we find that they suggest a larger mind whose limits we cannot trace. Each individual mind is like a bubble on the surface of a lake. The water in the lake brings all the separate minds into connection with one another. There is not only an individual subconsciousness but also a collective and comprehensive subliminal mind, a cosmic consciousness.
The deeper layers of the mind in which one man abides are indissolubly the same as the deeper layers of the mind in which his neighbour abides. Thus the link among all the finite egos of mankind cannot from its very nature be cut. This ultimate unity of the unconscious renders possible a reasonable explanation of those mysterious happenings called telepathy, occultism, prevision, and clairvoyance. Whoever can succeed in withdrawing his attention from the surface consciousness--however involuntarily or momentarily--to that substratum which underlies it, will naturally find in himself the possibility of closer touch with other finite minds irrespective of the distance between their bodies.
All genuine occult happenings find their basis in the fact that Mind is the single and supreme principle of the world and that all things are primarily mental things. All those strange happenings like clairvoyance, second-sight, premonitions, and telepathy testify also that the existence of this mind is free from space-time limitations. When we understand that Mind is itself a reality apart from the fleshly brain, we can also understand why telepathy between two persons is perfectly possible. When we perceive that time and space are not absolutes but forms of mental experience, we can also perceive why reading the past, foretelling the future, and seeing something far distant from the body are likewise possible.
Evaluating intuitions and ``messages''
It is only after the mystic has felt human desires and known human joys, come up against intellectual limitations, suffered worldly disappointments, that he can evaluate. If he has not had sufficient experience of common life, he may not adequately assess the values indicated by mystical intuitions nor properly understand the meaning of his mystical experiences themselves. Thus, what he gets out of both depends to some extent on what he brings to them. If he brings too little or too lopsided a contribution, then his higher self will gradually lead him to seek development along the lines of deficiency. And to compel him to make the diversion when he fails to respond to the inner leading, it will throw the terrible gloom of the dark night over him for a time.
He must learn to recognize the infrequent voice of real inspiration when he hears it, no less than the many inferior voices that make pretension to its quality.
Be passive only to the Overself but positive to people.
The student trained along philosophical lines approaches the interpretations of his inner experiences with restraint laid heavily upon his ego by the feeling of his own limitations, his own weaknesses. If therefore he errs at all in such interpretation, it will be in the direction of an unflattering one.
It is hard for a foreigner entering a strange country for the first time to get true and correct impressions of it. They will necessarily be surface ones and may therefore be misleading ones. In the same way, without this previous instruction and training, it is hard for a mystic to get true and correct reception of the revelatory experience. This is because his mind will unconsciously reflect its personal limitations into the reception, so that what he gets is not the experience itself, but the experience in conjunction with those limitations, and therefore under them. He does not get direct reception at all.
The philosophic student must watch himself vigilantly and examine his experiences critically, determined to stretch mental honesty to the farthest point. He must, in fact, safeguard himself against his auto-suggestions. He must test every claim and challenge every internal voice and vision.
He must eliminate all those intellectual ideas which stand between him and the Real, all those emotional states which cloud it. Otherwise his mystical deliverances will merely reproduce those ideas and states interwoven inextricably with real inspirations.
If he were philosophically trained, he might know when to stop reception of the message and thus refrain from adding his own dubious opinions to its certain truths.
In discussing the nature of a revelation we need to remember that, however little or however much, it must be coloured by the man's own past history, traditions, and surroundings, his present conceptions, beliefs, and imaginations. Only when every possible effort has been made by a man to free himself from all these influences can they be reduced to a minimum, and that is the task of philosophy. But that requires that he should really be free outwardly as well as inwardly and therefore not a member of any group, coterie, institution, religion, or organization dealing with the subject upon which he has had a revelation. The more he fails to combat these influences, the more likely is it that some portion, whether it be small or very large, of his revelation is merely an arbitrary creation of his own.
Not to all mystics are the special revelations about the World-Mind's operations and processes made. The recipients are only a fraction in number, but it would be an error to believe that they are more saintly or more ego-free than other mystics. It is simply that, having occult tendencies, these have been made use of, since such revelations are not made on the highest possible level where such tendencies could not find fulfilment. Generally, but not always, the persons who are chosen and are used to communicate the revelations have still to complete their spiritual development. The exceptions are those who have undergone the philosophic training.
It is safer to take any of these approaches in a cautious and conservative way. The mind will then remain steady, better able to perceive truth.
It requires only a little philosophical training to be able to distinguish what part of these revelations is merely parochial and what part is really universal, what is the tinsel of human opinion and what is pure gold of divine truth, what is the work of irresponsible imagination and what is the activity of Overself. One can see where the contribution of established religion or mystical sects ends and where that of original seership begins.
The best practical advice to beginners, and even to many who think they are proficients, is a warning. However solemn the message seems to be, however inspired the accompanying state of mind apparently is, do not automatically and unquestioningly believe that the Lord is speaking to them. If they object that surely at such a time as sacred prayer or uplifting meditation the Lord would not let them be deceived by evil forces, the answer is that the question is wrongly put. It is they, and not necessarily the evil forces, who deceive themselves.
Because the guidance comes to him from such a medley of sources, he is in danger of being seriously wrong and of making grave mistakes. For the glamour and strength of the higher source may unconsciously be bestowed upon the lower ones.
They form a mind-picture of the experience or enlightenment that they expect to get as a consequence of their practice, or of their discipleship, but in the end the expectation either proves illusory or imagination fabricates the fulfilment for them.
The message or revelation, the clairvoyant picture or clairaudient voice, presents itself as if it were newly originated from outside the personality when in fact it was all along present in the subconscious.
The Baroness von Krudener was a mystic who at one time greatly influenced Czar Alexander I. She gave him the idea of the Holy Alliance of Russia, Prussia, and Austria. She undertook fantastic missions. Not long before her death, however, she confessed: "Very often I have taken for the voice of God what was nothing but the fruit of my own pride and imagination."
The messages are certainly not produced by the conscious mind but they may still be produced by the subconscious mind. To call in, for the purpose of explanation, some outside and unearthly force, some unseen spirit, can only be justified after the subconscious' power and operation have been first called in and adequately heard.
Do not mistake imaginations or speculations for knowledge of truth: too often they show up personal attachments and wishes, expectations and inclinations.
Why attribute to a high source what is of merely natural origin? Why offer everything that comes into the mind as a divine revelation?
Too many clergymen, laymen, and leaders have spoken for God, as if they knew God's mind and did God's will. In most cases it is safe to say that they either understand very imperfectly the divine nature or interpreted very fallibly the divine communication.
Doctor Frank Buchman, founder of the Oxford Group, illustrates one defect of mysticism. Before the war he endorsed and even praised Hitler. Yet, for at least twenty years before this endorsement, he was practising meditation every morning without fail. He was getting, he claimed, guidance from God. Was it God's guidance that induced him to praise Hitler?
A millionaire Englishman who made his fortune selling rails, locomotives, and metals lost it later because he decided his financial investments by the method of sticking a pin at random into his copy of the Bible and accepting the text therein indicated as a reliable guide for the purpose.
Joanna Southcott was honest, enough to tell the doctor who attended her during the few weeks before her death that she considered her inspiration and prophecies as delusion. Indeed she was scrupulously honest for then she called her leading disciples to her bedside and confessed her doubts and despairs to them. "Feeling as I do now, that my dissolution is drawing nigh, it all appears delusion," she told them, "but when the communications were made to me I did not in the least doubt."
When dealing with the origin of inner experiences, visions, and so forth, do not ascribe it to expectancy alone--link it with imagination also.
Too often in the history of mysticism impulses from the ego have been mistaken for spontaneous intuitions from the higher individuality.
The same God who showed Spanish Saint Teresa the necessary holiness of poverty showed several American cult-leaders the necessary holiness of riches! Is it not more sensible to assume that one or the other was not in communication with God at all?
It is insufficient understanding of the mental processes behind an intuition, a message, or a revelation which causes would-be mystics and even quite a number of practising mystics to accept without question these inward impressions as being of divine origin when they are nothing of the sort. When this ignorance is allied to insufficient emotional control and insufficient knowledge of the history of mysticism, both past and current, both Occidental and Oriental, then a fanatic is bred and truth is lost or missed; then danger besets him and all those who put themselves under his influence.
Let us not mistake the folly of man for the wisdom of God, nor the impulse of man for the will of God. Let us not accept the perversion of truth for the purity of truth.
But alas, too often the grisly truth is that it is not the genuine intuition at all but rather the intellect trying to be intuition. In his eagerness to get a result he, unconsciously of course, tells a lie to himself.
The experiences which may be read about in books and which are so confusing are not all on the same level. The chief cause of this confusion lies in the failure to separate the intellectual from the truly spiritual in the descriptions. Under the former heading come most of the occurrences. They are mostly projections of the seer's ego and reveal what he is most familiar with, what he believes in, what he expects, and so on. Few seers have a scientific outlook and most mix together the essential with the incidental quite indiscriminately.
If he receives flattering messages from his mysterious source, whether it claims to be a master or a god, a good spirit or his soul, he may be sure that he is being led astray by his own ego and that the source is not what it claims to be.
We need not wonder that the experience fattens his ego and swells his head, that he comes to regard the revelation as entirely exclusive to himself, and that finally he announces himself as a new Messiah born among men as their sole saviour.
"I believe that I am acting on the order of the Almighty Creator," announced Hitler one day to the Germans. The ignorance of his credulous people of the correct method of testing the infallibility of mystical announcements made them his blood-bathed victims.
The most pompous declarations of mystical knowledge are often nothing more than empty asseverations of personal opinion.
Often the first impression should be accepted because it is the correct one. But sensual attraction or aversion may provide a false one.
Snap decisions, actions done impulsively, and judgements rendered on first impressions may seem at the time to have intuition as their source but it is not necessarily so. They may be based on outward appearances alone and thus lack its depth, or may be emotional alone and suffer from the ego's bias or defects.
He cannot afford to put himself at the mercy of every subconscious impulse, even if it takes the name of God.
It is easy for the impatient student to mistake the ego's voice for the Overself's.
The capacity for intuition is born from a long experience in bygone lives but the psychological reality of it was always present--because the Overself was.
All communications of a psychical or intuitive, visioned or heard character must be tested warily and judged critically by their results in experience. Otherwise the false, the fraudulent, the unfactual, the misleading may be accepted as the true and real. This of course is a rule mainly for beginners.
The standard classics of mystical experience should be referred to occasionally so as to check the vagaries through which his own inner experience is likely to pass.
He must test these experiences not only by their internal evidences but also by their external results. Do they make him humbler or prouder? Do they improve the balance of his faculties or disturb it?
Make it a definite rule in every single instance to check your intuitions by the light of reason.
He should take scrupulous care to discriminate between the ego-prompted emotions and the intuitive, impersonal feelings. Since this will be a none-too-easy task he will have to walk carefully here. Where he knows that he cannot trust himself he should refuse to be carried away by his promptings, no matter how vehement they may be. But where the depth, the calmness, and the certitude of his inner experience combine to give him conviction of higher guidance, he may make the experiment and surrender to it. In this way and with such care, he will not give himself too easily or too quickly to inner messages. On the other hand, he will not overplay the sceptic thereby and lose the benefit of an authentic whisper from on high.
Irony is a good servant of inspiration if it cuts away the debris of false belief which chokes the passage of profound thoughts.
Clearer thinking about his experience and more careful description of it is needed if he is to keep out of confusion or error.
We cultivate intuition not so much by strengthening it little by little as by removing the obstacles to it.
The highly personal man is too full of himself to leave any room for the soul, with its utter impersonality, to enter his field of awareness.
He must be on his guard against mixing doctrine brought up from the lower state with the experience of the higher state. It is not only the sceptic and outsider who must test the mystic's claim to divine revelation, but also the mystic himself.
To admit the human origin, whether in whole or in part, of a so-called divine revelation is an act which only those who have mortgaged their reason to mere sentimentality need fear.
As a result of such impersonal self-examination, the content of some mystical experience or psychical vision may have to be disavowed: but the result will be that his future experiences or visions are likely to be truer ones.
The subjective feeling of certainty is no certificate of its truth.
A further way in which we can test the value of their theory is by its effect upon the character and behaviour, its results in the ethical attitudes and personal actions.
His humility will be a natural protection against the ego's self-flattering exaggerations or the intellect's arrogant assumptions.
It is less easy for an aspirant himself than for an experienced observer to detect the influences which impregnate his inner experiences.
Cause and effect is plain enough a relationship in this physical world but becomes disturbed and unreliable when research penetrates a different level of being. If it moves on, it finds itself in a new order of knowledge where a new faculty--intuition--must become active through concentration and contemplation and--dare it be said?--worship.
The intuition which fails when checked, tested, and verified by every other possible source must be treated with caution.
I have indeed said that intuition should be cultivated as a help to successful accomplishment of meditation exercises, but I have never said that it should be cultivated at the expense of reasoned thinking, common sense, and practicality. When the healthy balance has been upset, pseudo-intuitions have an easy triumph.
If his mind is too passive it becomes open to all sorts of suggestions, but if it is too positive it misses clues, hints, intuitions. It misses inspirations and messages from within, or guidance from without. Therefore a fine, even, and delicate balance between these two extremes is needful.
The first awareness of this feeling is so impalpable, so delicate, that it is easy to miss: attention turns away into some thought or activity without even knowing its loss.
Intuitions move in on us in one of two ways: either so soft and gentle at first as almost to be missed or with such aggressive forcefulness as to allow no other way.
This intuitive feeling is a clue. It must be yielded to; the delicate emotion must be allowed to move him to a higher view.
A profound assurance will slowly come to settle itself within the innermost depths of his being. It will endorse or negate read or heard statements.
It is not easy for the beginner to know how valid is the intuition he feels or the guidance he gets. Where any doubt exists it is better to wait before accepting the one or obeying the other.
Recall the feeling with which the earlier experiences of alleged intuition were born.
Intuition is always to be trusted but we must first be sure that it is intuition and not its imitation, or its admixture.
It is easy to take one's opinion as something more than it is. But no one who really gets an intuition, a revelation, or an awareness from the Overself can mistake it as something less than it is. For it is unique in presentation and experience.
He may test the authenticity of his inner experiences in various ways but one of them is to remember that if they begin with doubt and end with certainty, or begin with fear and end with joy, they represent a movement from the ego to the Overself. But if this order is reversed, they represent nothing more than a movement within the ego and are therefore to be distrusted.
In The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga the student was cautioned to check his intuitions by reason, lest they are really pseudo-intuitions. This is a necessary counsel to all except the very few whose intuition is thoroughly tested by results and whose experience is abundant enough to detect the false at once and reject it without further ado. Once so established, the intuition needs no checking, only unreserved acceptance.
The untrained blindly accept their message; the informed and disciplined mystics scrupulously examine it.
How much of the glimpse, experience, or message is truly inspired by a higher source, and how much is merely added, imagined, or misconceived by his own little ego-mind, is a question that the beginning quester should have the humility to ask himself. What is authentic will easily survive such careful discriminating judgement.
He must not be content to accept the communication entirely as presented but should sift it and seek the origins of its various parts. But he must sift it critically and seek these origins open-mindedly.
His inner experiences should be checked by those of the great sages and philosophic seers.
When it first comes, and for many occasions afterward, the intuition is subtle to the point of being barely felt, delicate to the point of being scarcely experienced.
As such possibilities of error and deception exist along the aspirant's path, it is needful for him to lay down a safe rule for his self-protection. And that is to regard all his revelations as being projections of his subconscious ego, with all the ego's limitations and defects, until they prove themselves in time to be otherwise.