Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation homepage > Notebooks of Paul Brunton > Category 22: Inspiration and the Overself > Chapter 5: Preparing for Glimpses
Preparing for Glimpses
How to attract a glimpse
To describe the wonders and benefits, the delights and beauties of these glimpses will whet the appetite of people without satisfying it. Hence they will then be led to ask how such a glimpse is to be obtained.
Many glimpses have come suddenly and spontaneously to those who never followed any particular technique intended to bring them on. Nevertheless, it is undoubtedly true that as many if not more glimpses have come to those who follow some technique chosen from the variety which have been transmitted from traditional sources or supplied by authentic contemporary ones.
The principle which makes union with the Overself possible is always the same, albeit on different levels. Whether it appears as humility in prayer, passivity to intuition, stillness in meditation, or serenity despite untoward circumstances, these attitudes temporarily weaken the ego and lessen its domination. They temporarily silence the ego and give the Overself the opportunity to touch us or work through us. So long as the ego dominates us, we are outside the reach of the Overself and separated from its help.
The notion that it is first necessary to become a monk or to live like a saint before one can hope to acquire this knowledge is erroneous. One must find the inner self, and this of itself will purify us, subdue passions, and tame selfishness. When the magic touch of the Overself falls upon us, our long-held foolishness withers away, and our tightly clutched vices die off and disappear.
That which is aware of the world is not the world. That which is aware of the ego is not the ego. When this awareness is isolated, the man "experiences" the Overself.
If he will try to perceive the mind by which he perceives the world, he will be practising the shortest, most direct technique of discovering the Overself. This is what Ramana Maharshi meant when he taught, "Trace the `I' to its source."
All that a man knows and experiences is a series of thoughts. There is only one exception and that, in most cases, remains usually as an unrealized possibility. It is when he discovers his being. Here thinking is not active, would in fact prevent the discovery if not reined in at the proper point. Here, in this private paradise, knowing and experiencing are one.
He should send out experimental feelers in his mental-emotional world until he recognizes an element that seems different from all the others--subtler, grander, nobler, and more divine than all the others. Then, catching firm hold of it, he should try to trace its course back to its source.
The point where the personal ego establishes contact with the Overself is reached and passed only through a momentary lapse of consciousness. But this lapse is so brief--a mere fraction of a second--that it may be unnoticed.
A presence enters his consciousness and comes over him, a benign feeling to which he is glad to surrender himself, a mysterious solvent of his egotism and desires.
The value of letting oneself pass this point can hardly be overestimated, even though it be done only during the limited sessions of meditation or the casual periods of unexpected visitations. For from them peace, wisdom, sanity can be emanated. At this point there is the mysterious division between human normal meditation and divine contemplation, between discursive thinking and its dissolution as the divine self takes over, between mental concentration and release into still, timeless being, between imagery and pure Consciousness.
Koestler got his glimpse by working out Euclid's geometrical proof of the infinitude of the number of primes. That he was able to learn of the reality of the Infinite by a purely mathematical and precise method, without becoming a vague emotional mystic, so satisfied his highly intellectual and scientific nature that, in his own words, an "aesthetic enchantment" fell upon him. This developed until he became one with Peace never before known. The experience passed away, as it usually does, but it remained to haunt his memory. It inspired his journey to India and Japan several years later, where he spent a year trying to meet holy men and yoga experts. These meetings did not bring him what he sought, but his faith in the authenticity of that earlier glimpse never left him. He knew what few mystics know, that he did not need to violate the integrity of Reason, nor become lost in generally hazy gushy feelings, to know Infinity, which is the truth of Reality.
Those who seek this mystic communion with the Overself, this sublime glimpse of its hidden face, must make the Quest their chosen path.
If you have enough confidence to trust in the teaching, and to move in the direction toward which it guides you, sooner or later the future will be lighted by these small fugitive glimpses.
What, it has been asked, if I get no glimpses? What can I do to break this barren, monotonous, dreary, and sterile spiritual desert of my existence? The answer is if you cannot meditate successfully go to nature, where she is quiet or beautiful; go to art where it is majestic, exalting; go to hear some great soul speak, whether in private talk or public address; go to literature, find a great inspired book written by someone who has had the glimpses.
The fact that we know our bodies is a guarantee that we can know our souls. For the knowing principle in us is derived from the soul itself. We have only to search our own minds deeply enough and ardently enough to discover it.
When you begin to seek the Knower, who is within you, and to sever yourself from the seen, which is both without and within you, you begin to pass from illusion to reality.
The mind's chief distinguishing power is to know--whether the object known is the world around or the ideas within. When this is turned in still deeper upon itself, subject and object are one, the thought-making activity comes to rest, and the "I" mystery is solved. Man discovers his real self, or being--his soul.
Without learning, studying, or practising yoga, Heisenberg, famed nuclear physicist, formulator of the Law of Indeterminacy, unwittingly entered what is a high goal to yogis, Nirvikalpa Samadhi. This happened at times at the end of the deepest abstract thinking about his subject. Thoughts themselves ceased to be active. He found himself in the Stillness of the Void. He knew then, and knows today, his spiritual being.
Hugh Shearman: "There is no self. But, when told this, we still remain ourselves; and the utterance of this truth is again only a thought-form in a world of other thought-forms. What, then, is to be done? There can be no ending of karma by karma, no ceasing of thought-forms by creating counteracting thought-forms. The only effective thing is to come self-consciously awake at the point within ourselves at which thought itself is set in motion, to discover in ourselves the thought-producer, to find the fundamental answer to `Who Am I?'"
It cannot come to those who live on the surface of things, for merely to discover and recognize its existence requires the deepest attentiveness and the strongest love. All the human forces must unite and look for this divine event.
The affirmations of the true self made by some creeds are contributions as useful as the denials of the false self made by other creeds. Both are on the same plane, the intellectual plane, and therefore both have only a limited usefulness as one-sided contributions only. They do not solve the problem of eliminating that false self or of uniting with the true self. Only the Quest in all its integral many-sided nature can do that. It uses every function of the psyche in the effort to change the pattern of the mind--not the imagination alone, nor the intellect alone, nor the intuition alone, nor the will alone, nor the emotions alone, but all of them combined.
If he has freed himself from the ego's domination, he is entitled to receive the Overself's benedictory influx.
His contemplation of the Divine has to become so absorbing as to end in self-forgetfulness.
A woman gazing at her child with continued joy may unwittingly lead herself to the glimpse.
While most glimpses come naturally and unexpectedly, it is possible to develop the experience systematically by the technique of meditation.
Later I intellectually pulled my own inner experiences to pieces to show them to others in the hope that it would help them either obtain or understand such experiences for themselves--and to do this in a scientific way by cultivating a habit of precise observation which rigorously sought to exclude personal prepossession and imaginative intrusion.
If the glimpse is not to remain an isolated event, he must try to put less of his mind on himself and more on the Overself, less into emotional reactions to it and more into pure contemplation of it.
It may come upon you without warning at any time and in any place. But it is more likely to come if you provide conditions which are proper and propitious for it.
Once a man has had this sacred experience he will naturally want to provoke it again. But how? He will find meditation to be part of the answer.
If he is tempted by these sudden glimpses to enquire whether there is a method or technique whereby they may be repeated at will, he will find that there is and that it is called meditation. If he wishes to go farther and enquire whether his whole life could continuously enjoy them all the time, the answer is that it could and that to bring it about he needs to follow a way of life called The Quest.
It is a useful exercise, to bring the experience back to mental sight and emotional presence, to evoke the glimpse as vividly as he can.
The Glimpse is to be recalled frequently and enjoyed reminiscently. Let it help him in this way to dedicate the day to greater obedience of intuitive urge. Let it bring forth afresh that love of and aspiration toward the Overself which are necessary prerequisites to a stable experience of it.
If few attain the wonder of Overself consciousness, it is because few can lift their minds to the level of impersonality and anonymity. But what all cannot do with their minds, they can do much more easily with their hearts. Let them approach enveloped in love, and the grace will come forward to meet them. By its power, the ego which they could not bring themselves to renounce will be forgotten.
These glimpses will last longer and come more easily, hence more often, if the mind and the feelings are properly balanced, and if, at the same time, the body is purified, its organs co-operated with, and its forces regenerated.
When the glimpse happens, a man comes out of himself. It may follow his admiration of a beautiful scene in Nature or his appreciation of a beautiful poem or his simple relaxed mood, but in each case he lets go of his taut self-consciousness. This allows the entry of grace.
He will be blessed with such glimpses if he works intensively on himself according to the prescriptions of philosophy.
I have given, in The Wisdom of the Overself, an exercise for recapturing the Glimpse by reproducing it imaginatively with all effects and details associated with its appearance. It may be added now that not only should the mental and emotional features be reproduced but also the physical. Whatever he can remember of the condition of the muscles, limbs, mouth, eyes, and spine should be faithfully copied.
Peering down into those mysterious depths of the "I" which are far deeper than its human and bestial layers, he will come to a region where personality becomes essence. The psychoanalyst cannot reach it by his intellectual and hypnotic methods, but the mystic, by his intuitive and contemplative ones, can.
The Soul has its chance to have its voice heard also when the conscious self is too fatigued by the troubles of life to offer resistance.
If he understands that the origin of these mystical moments is his own best self, he will understand too that the shortest and quickest way to recapture them is to go directly to that self, while the surest way to keep their happiness for life is to keep constantly aware of that self.
Only when the heart has been utterly emptied of all its ties can the divine presence come into it. If you can empty it only for a few moments, do not lament in despair when the visit of the presence comes to an end after a few moments.
Sometimes he is lifted up by the beauty of Nature's forms or man's arts, sometimes by the discipline of moral experience or religious worship, sometimes by the personal impact of a great soul.
Some people have even felt this calmness, which precedes and follows a glimpse, in a warm-water bath; while enjoying or luxuriating in its comfort, they have half-given themselves up to a half-drowsy half-emptiness of mind. Some Japanese are able to pass from this calmness to the deeper stage, or state, of the glimpse itself.
If he understands the process whereby he arrived at illumination, he will know how to recover it if and when it fades away. But if he arrived at it by an unconscious process, then when he loses it he will not know how to help himself.
Is it possible, if the Divine is formless, motionless, voiceless, and matterless, to recognize It when the quest brings us to a glimpse of It? The answer is Yes! but either intuition well-developed or intelligence well-instructed is needed: otherwise it happens by faith.
Whether it be a mountain scene or a peaceful meadow, a distinguished poem or an impressive opera, the particular source of an unaccustomed exaltation is not the most important thing. Such a visitation can also have its origin in no outside source but within oneself.
It should be remembered that whatever kind of meditation is adopted, the glimpse which comes from it comes because we have provided the right condition for its appearance, not because our own doing makes the glimpse appear. For it comes from the realm of timelessness with which we come into some sort of harmony through the intuitive nature. What we do is in the realm of time, and it can only produce effects of a like nature.
In contacting the Overself, he does not really sense a bigger "I." He senses SOMETHING which is. This is first achieved by forgetting the ego, the personality, the "I." But at a later stage, there is nothing to forget for then he finds that the ego, the personality, and the "I" are of the same stuff as this SOMETHING.
All thinking keeps one's awareness out of the Overself. That is why even thinking about the Overself merely produces another thought. Only in the case of the sage, who has established himself in the Overself, is thinking no barrier at all. In this case, thinking may coexist with the larger awareness. So it is not enough to be a good thinker; one also has to learn how to be a good non-thinker. Of course, the way to do this is through the practice of meditation.
Tantrik Kashmir--How a glimpse may come: (1) Between two breaths, as then the small self vanishes, the universal pause taking over. (2) Imagine the divine Self's light moving up spine. (3) Mind's attention between eyebrows, without thoughts. (4) Let external beauty melt within you or let any point in space or on a wall dissolve. (5) When everything external dissolves into you, then your wish for another comes true. (6) Meditate with face covered by hands, or with fingers touching eyeballs very lightly. (7) Concentrate continuously on the sound of waterfall, or similar sounds. (8) Intone A-U-M slowly and move with the sound into harmony of soundlessness. (9) Bring mindstuff below in your heart. (10) Consider your form as space. (11) Saturate body with cosmic being. (12) Bring senses into heart. (13) Never mind thoughts, keep in the centre. (14) In worldly activity, keep attentive between breaths. (15) Concentrate on withdrawing into heart when going to sleep and thus direct dreams. (16) See all things converging into your being. (17) When eating or drinking, become the taste of the food, or become the eating. (18) Abide in a place endlessly spacious, clear of habitations and hills, then undo mind's pressures. (19) Whatever kind of satisfaction is enjoyed, actualize this ever-living presence. (20) Just before falling into sleep, being is revealed. (21) See as if for first time a beautiful person or an object. (22) Let yourself swing in slowing invisible circles and thus experience. (23) Close eyes, find blackness. Open eyes, see blackness. So faults disappear. (24) Just as you have impulse to do something, stop. (25) When some desire comes, consider it, then suddenly quit it. (26) Realize; feel your form as made of consciousness. (27) When exhausted physically, drop to the ground, be whole. (28) Both enlightened and unenlightened persons perceive objects, but former remain in subjective mood, not lost in thing. (29) When hearing ultimate teaching imparted, keep eyes still, unblinking, thus become free. (30) Contract rectum, withdraw inwards. (31) Nothing else exists than this consciousness. (32) Enter space, supportless, eternal, still. (33) This consciousness is the guru, be this one.
It is not by any kind of privilege that anyone obtains the glimpse but by preparation and equilibration, with some amount of purification. To equilibrate is to calm feelings as and when necessary and render them deeper, exquisitely delicate.
To suppose that you are going to be wafted into this lofty awareness of the Overself without having to work very hard and very long for it, is to be a simpleton.
The glimpse comes and the glimpse goes, suddenly or slowly, and this coming and this going are independent of his will. This does not, however, mean that he is totally helpless in the matter. Instruction or experience or both can teach him what those conditions are which assist the onset of the glimpse and those which obstruct it.
In The Spiritual Crisis of Man, a chapter was devoted to the topic of glimpses. It was also touched on briefly in earlier books although not under that name, but when dealing with meditation. I tried to tell what could be done to get more out of a glimpse and mentioned recapturing the memory of it as part of an exercise. It ought to be added that the best time to do such an exercise is before falling asleep at night and on waking up in the morning. It is then easier to recapture such a memory.
If we want to hear the voice of the Overself, we have to create a quiet all around us and all within us and we have to listen and go on listening with patience.
To enjoy a glimpse it is better to be alone, undisturbed, and undistracted, better to be with nature than with people, better to be among the woods and lakes and mountains than in the offices, the drawing rooms, and the factories of society.
Some, like the poet Keats, find Truth through beauty while others, like the poet Dante, find it through suffering.
That is a valuable meditation which, whether at odd moments or for fixed periods, returns again and again to dwell on the nature of the Overself and disregards all lesser topics. Such frequent remembrances and such fixed meditations become indeed a kind of communion and are usually rewarded sooner or later by a glimpse.
The contemplation in memory of those glimpses will help him to weaken the power of negative thoughts and to weaken, however slightly, the very source of those thoughts, the ego.
The Lightning-flash may occur either after reason reaches the peak of its performance and has been exhausted, or by deliberately abandoning intellectual activity for the utmost faith and devotion. In both cases, one has to let go and sink back into the Nothing and stop further efforts on one's own. Sometimes, by destiny, the Lightning-flash can occur unexpectedly when no effort is made.
If he can come to this belief in the reality of his own higher self, he can come into all the knowledge he needs, all the help he needs, by heeding its guidance (felt intuitively) and by applying its injunctions to his daily life.
If the ego would be willing to abdicate its rule for a short period, the way to a glimpse would be opened.
The paradox is perfect: when he is most empty of petty ends, the shining glimpse reveals itself.
He must look ardently forward to, and eagerly await, each time when the Overself takes over more and more.
Ever drawing us toward Itself, Its power to attract blocked by the layers of thoughts, emotions, desires, and passions which compose the personal self, much time and many lives are needed to unblock a passage to It.
Follow the self's track within, not slipping down into its muddy bogs but ascending up to its diviner sources.
Know Consciousness without its objects--and you are free!
Is it possible to recapture these wonderful sensations? Long intervals of aridity may inspire a negative answer to this question, but adequate knowledge of the laws at work and the mental processes involved inspires a positive one.
If he is willing to take the training of his mind seriously in hand he can, either during or at the end of his course, live again in such experiences.
In that condition of passive emotions and paralysed thoughts, consciousness can receive That which otherwise it shuts out.
When he retreats to his centre, he has retreated to the point where the Glimpse of truth may be had.
An event, a book or a person, a piece of music or a piece of landscape may bring the mind to brief spiritual consciousness.
The evanescence of all these glimpses is saddening to most of us, but the causes once understood, the remedy is at hand.
It is harder to find amid the din of city streets, and when found, easier to lose in the press of thronging crowds.
Believe in the higher Self and look up to it.
Sometimes one word may flash a light into his mind which goes far and wide. At other times a short phrase may do the same work for him.
He realizes that he has had an important experience which will be followed at intervals by others, when he stands on the fringe of cosmic consciousness. Through proper metaphysical study, meditation practice, and philosophic action, it will not be difficult for him to come into the awareness of his own Overself to some extent, although it is difficult to acquire full consciousness in the present age, when the opposition of a materialistic society is so strong and intense. However, even to enjoy a fraction of this wider consciousness is to transform his life in every way.
Look back in imagination upon those wonderful glimpses and try to recapture the feeling they produced.
Just as the lotus flower opens its buds bit by bit, so should he open his mind to this great truth.
In becoming conscious of the not-thinking hinterground of my personality, I attain true being.
What peace fills the mind when its thinking faculty is put out of gear in the proper way! What ever-remembered moments of illumination this happening may produce!
Everywhere in the Orient as well as the Occident, men and women seek for this glimpse but most of their attempts to gain it are unavailing ones. The explanations usually offered them for this frustrating result fall into four categories. First, they need to look harder into themselves and persevere longer at the practices. Second, they need to get God's grace. Third, they need to get a Master's grace. Fourth, their destiny was unfavourable in this matter or, if favourable, was due to maturate at a later time. All these explanations seem to have some truth in them, but which aspirant knows with any certainty which one of them--or which two in combination--apply to his or her own particular case? It seemed to me that, as with every other major event in human life obeying some law of nature, some process operated by infinite intelligence, there must be an invisible pattern behind these mystical happenings too. And when the truths of the higher philosophy were unveiled to me, I found that this was indeed so.
These revealings of inner life, which put its truths before the mind so vividly, seem to come by chance to some, by working for them to others. Faith in a divinely-ordered universe tells us, and philosophy confirms, that we may be sure that they follow certain laws even when we know nothing about those laws.
The glimpse is as much subject to grace as the Enlightenment which endures forever. It happens outside the man's own will, although inside his consciousness.
Such a glimpse represents a bestowal of Grace. This is why it comes unsought and unworked for, and why some who inwardly work hard fail to experience the Glimpse.
One can no more make the Glimpse come by personal endeavours than he can make himself fall in love.
The gifted--rather than achieved--nature of the glimpse is much more frequent and may be seen from its unexpected manifestation at unforeseen times.
The glimpse does not necessarily have to come to you during meditation, even though the work in meditation helps to bring about its occurrence. It may come at any time.
Many Yogis are made but some are also born. Destiny transcends all training and often it needs but a mere touch of an illuminate's finger to release the pent-up stores of secret power within a soul.
These glimpses come on rare occasions, for the mind's tumult is hard to still--only the Overself's Grace can do so.
The glimpse is a blessing which is given to those who have earned it, or those who have sought it in the right spirit.
These illuminative glimpses do not come at will or at once. They do not come once for all or when it pleases us. They come and go like the wind and when it pleases them. For they come by Grace.
The belief that mystical illumination is solely luck or accident or destiny must be refuted.
That a man must work his way into this experience is one view. That a higher power must induce it in him is another.
Such a mystical experience is not an after-effect of illness but the latter is used by the Overself to open the way for its reception in the conscious mentality. It is an uncommon experience, a visitation of the Overself, and a manifestation of its grace. Why it occurs could only be explained in terms of the theory of reincarnation.
There will be a precise moment when he knows with a certitude totally and unequivocally unwavering, but until then it will more likely be unplanned, uncertain explorations. This may surprise some persons but it is still true that "the wind bloweth where it listeth. Of such is the kingdom of heaven." Or, going still farther East, in Hindu terms, "The Spirit enlightens whom it chooseth." Of course the human element of seeking and trying must be there, but in the end it is the divine element which wins out.
Out of visible light which rapidly increased in intensity and drew nearer, the face and form of Jesus appeared in this twentieth century of ours to two mystics, Sundar Singh in India and Martinus in Denmark. They saw him plainly, heard him speak clearly. In both cases they were already familiar with his name and story. Out of a not very dissimilar light, Jesus appeared to Saul on the Damascus Road. He too was familiar with them. A part of the source of these visions is to be traced back to the suggestive power of the thought-form already implanted in the mind; but the other part, the sudden and dramatic and total change of heart and shift of outlook, has still to be accounted for. What is the secret? It is contact with the Overself, Grace.
The divine moment happens. It is the gift of grace. Its arrival is unbidden. Yet the previous longing and working for it have not been futile.
The significant flash of insight may come at any moment, the sacred presence of the Overself may be felt when it is not being sought, and the noble peace of reality may even visit one who has never practised any technique at all. For as the New Testament has warned him, "The wind bloweth where it listeth," and as the Katha Upanishad has informed him, "Whomsoever the Divine chooses, by him alone is It reached."
The Glimpse is sometimes given to him and sometimes created by him. Sometimes the connection between his effort and its appearance may not be visible and yet it may be there.
"O Nachiketas, only by the Divine lovingly possessing thee can this transcendental knowledge be got" is an ancient Upanishadic statement of this same truth.
The glimpses are not directly caused by his own endeavours. They are experiences of the working of Grace, gifts from the Overself, echoes from former lives on earth, or belated responses to his knocking on the door.
It is essentially a grace-given experience.
One day there will be a response to the search of his mind for its creative inspirational source.
His "I," hemmed in by its ignorance and limitations, is a small affair compared with the "I" which is drawing him onward and upward through the quest and which he must one day become. His personal self, controlled and purified, kept in its place, humbly prostrating itself before the Overself, can gratefully receive even now glimpses of that day, momentary revelations that bless the mind and put intense peace in the heart. Whoever does not feel that these affirmations apply to him but who is yet able to believe in their truth, will be befriended by grace at the time of death.
The good karma or God allows him this glimpse of a loftier world in which he could live and thus put his personal turmoil to flight.
If with the purpose of seeking to identify himself with the ego a man practises the necessary self-denial, makes the requisite sacrifices, and trains his thoughts and feelings, after a certain time and at a certain point of his path the forces of heaven will come to him to complete the work which he has started.
One should be profoundly grateful for even a single glimpse. It is a grant of grace.
Accepting, cultivating the glimpse
When the sacred moment comes, let him not hesitate to let himself go, to adore the Overself ecstatically, and to let his heart be ravished.
The rapt return to mental indrawnness may come to the practising meditator quite unexpectedly and suddenly. It may find him engaged in some ordinary daily activity or caught speaking in the middle of a sentence, but whatever it be, he should instantly surrender himself and his time to it. In the result, the meditation will gradually deepen into a mild ecstasy.
The Overself throws out a clue to its existence and presence. This comes in various ways to different persons. One form is a delicate feeling drawing him inward either to deeper thought or to no thought at all. If he goes along with it even though hardly aware and half-involuntarily, he will be led by this clue to a glimpse.
He should learn to recognize that these moments, which come so suddenly and so delightfully, have a special value. As soon as they come he ought to suspend all activities, put aside whatever it is that he is doing, even stop what he is speaking, and concentrate all his attention in a passive submissive way upon the delicate feelings and deep understanding that come with them.
Once caught up in the glimpse, keep quite still; any physical movement may break its delicate gossamer thread.
He may feel his attention being suddenly but gently drawn inwards. The moment this occurs, he should at once pay the fullest heed to this subtle whisper from the Overself, which it really is. It will pay him handsomely to drop for a few minutes whatever else he may be doing at that time. For if he does turn inwards, as he is directed to do, the whisper will grow quickly into a loud call, which will overwhelm his whole being. And as he gives himself up utterly to such listening, he will--and here we are speaking metaphorically only--be led into the sacred precincts of the Overself. The visit may be very brief, but it will also be very beautiful, finely refreshing, and greatly enlightening.
There are moments when the Overself gets at a man's consciousness, and rarer moments when he gets at Its consciousness. It is his profit to extend them, if he can, or to dwell long and often on their memory, if he cannot. What he needs to cultivate is both the facility and the capacity to expand the slightest premonitory movement of the door of intuitive awareness to the widest opening of it. Whenever he notices the very slightest indrawing to the Overself, whenever the least feeling of Its onset appears, he should at once begin to wrap himself around with the felt influence to the exclusion of everything else.
Let go, let thoughts come to rest, let the ego go. This is the best preparation to receive the glimpse, to invite and feel its bliss, wiping out the memories of suffering.
Whenever a glimpse is given to him, he should stretch its duration to the utmost. This can be markedly helped by being very careful to keep his physical position unchanged, by not even slightly moving hand or foot or trunk. The perfectly still body offers the best condition for retaining the perfectly still mind. If attention is to be placed anywhere in the body, it should be placed in the region of the heart.
The sudden but gentle drawing away from outer activity to the inner one, "the melting away in the heart," as Oriental mystics call it, felt actually inside the middle-chest region, may make itself felt occasionally, or, in an advanced or regular meditator, every day. In the last case it will tend to appear at around the same hour each time. This is a call which ought to be treated properly with all the reverence it deserves. But before it can be honoured it must be recognized. Its marks of identification must be studied in books, learned from experience, gleaned from the statements of other persons, or obtained from a personal teacher. When it comes, the man should heed the signal, drop whatever he is doing, and obey the unuttered command to turn inwards, to practise remembrance, or to enter meditation.
The significant points in this matter are three: first, it is a call to be recognized and understood; second, it is a command from the highest authority to be obeyed instantly, as disregard brings its own punishment, which is that the call may not come again; third, it is an offer of grace. If the call is heeded and its meaning known or intuited, the aspirant should first of all arrest his movements and remain utterly frozen, as if posing for a portrait painter. Let the mind be blank, held as empty of thoughts as possible. After a while, when adjusted to this sudden suspension of activity, he may with extreme slowness and with utmost gentleness assume a bodily posture where he will be more relaxed and more comfortable, or perhaps even a formal meditation posture. He may then shut his eyes or let them stay in a steady gaze as if he were transfixed, or he may alternate with both according to the urge from within. If everything else is dropped and all these conditions are fulfilled, then a successful meditation bringing on a spiritual glimpse is sure to follow.
If we heed their earliest beginnings and do not ignore their smallness, glimpses can be cultivated. They can grow. Look for them in the feelings--these light delicate intuitions--for that is what they mostly are.
What is strange is that the experience which comes with the Overself visitation assumes any one of a wide range of feelings, from the most delicate to the most overwhelming. With time and growth it may become well settled, or--though rarely--its light may shine from the beginning. There are even other possibilities. It is safer to keep out the preconceptions and the expectations, safer too if the ties of books and bibles are left outside for a while. That is, accept the freedom of utter surrender to the Overself, of dissolving in it and letting the wind blow where it listeth.
The Overself's summons is immediate, so the response must be immediate too. A king ignored will not wait around.
The experience is capturable not by the self's grasping hand but by its loving surrender. This is the paradox.
It must be something which possesses him, not something which he possesses.
These glorious moments must be appraised for what they are, and not received with just casual enjoyment. They are gifts from heaven.
Anti-technique: If he regards it egoistically as a new "experience," then it will have to share the transient character of all experience and come to an inevitable end. If, however, he has been taught and trained by metaphysical reflection to regard it impersonally as a realization of something which was always there, which always was and shall be, and if he is morally ready for it--if, in short, he recognizes it as the experience of his own self to which he did not attend before--then it may not lapse.
As he receives an influx of light from the Overself, the Glimpse is experienced. But only to the degree that he has previously prepared, molded, and purified himself will he experience it correctly, completely, and safely.
The Glimpse is either the result of a certain sensitivity to intuitive feelings and ideas, or else brings him to it.
The ego's imagination soon gets to work recreating its past or extending its desires for the future, whenever a glimpse of spiritual calm suspends those memories and desires for a time. It is this restless picture-making faculty, among others, which is used so actively by the ego to keep us out of the kingdom by wrenching us out of the eternal into the temporal. We must beware its operations, or renounce its results, if we would keep this calm a little longer.
The less he lets anything disturb the full impact of this experience, the deeper will be the impression it makes. The glimpse requires a complete concentration.
Meet these first moments of the Glimpse's onset with instant acceptance and warm love. Then you cannot fail to enter the experience itself.
When this glorious feeling comes over him, whether at a gentle pace or with a lively rush, he should accept the gift straightaway.
He may sit or stand there, where it caught him, mesmerized by the glimpse, permeated by its tranquillity.
When the personal "me" stops the endless struggle for a while and remains quiet, inactive, and passive, the impersonal "I Who Am" arises and, little by little, gently suffuses it with new life and heals it with great love.
When the feel of this unusual and ethereal presence suffuses the heart, the first duty is to drop all attention elsewhere and respond to it. This response is not only to be immediate, unhesitating, and unquestioning; it must also be warm, loving, grateful, and joyous.
Once he catches that feeling of happy stillness, he should not let himself leave it on any excuse whatever--for thoughts will invade him and try to drag him away. He should refuse to disturb his tranquillity even for thoughts about the nature, working, and effects of the stillness itself! One objective alone should be with him, and that is to become absorbed more and more deeply in this happy state, until every idea, concept, decision, or impulse is dissolved in it. Any other objective will only invite loss of the Glimpse.
If it comes without preliminary meditation, then it will probably come unexpectedly and suddenly. Therefore a certain amount of either knowledge or experience is required to recognize the authentic signs of its onset and to detect the precious opportunity which offers itself.
He must first identify its real character when he feels its presence, and then be passive to facilitate its onset.
Even with the first feelings of this peace-bringing awareness, he should be careful, first, not to ignore them but on the contrary recognize that their importance exists in what they lead up to and, second, to let himself be carried away gently by them. The first he must do quickly but the second slowly.
In this experience, the more he can let himself be lost in the feeling of ecstatic peace and egoless understanding, opening his total personality to it, the more will it become a milestone on his road. As such he will look for its inspiration again and again in memory.
Sometimes it is necessary to rest a little while to take in more fully the sacred Presence one becomes aware of.
Sometimes sleep must be sacrificed to let the glimpse become more than a flash, to let it expand and settle a while in all its healing serenity. This is important, for it is a special opportunity although seldom understood at its true value.
Acknowledge the inner call when it comes by simply dropping whatever you are doing and relax, be it for a minute or a half-hour. Let consciousness turn away from the world to Consciousness, attend to Attention, but do it all passively, receptively.
The glimpse may open delicately, quietly, even faintly; but if we give it the full patient attention which it deserves, it can grow and grow into a great vision.
These glimpses do not come often enough to be treated casually. Their importance is easily missed in their subtle outset, but the intuitive mind will begin to learn to recognize the signs of these beginnings, to consider them sacred, and to let them do their work unhindered. This work is something like a magician's throwing of a spell over the mind.
The beginnings of a glimpse may be vague, dreamlike, faintly suggestive; but if we let it work and remain passive it will grow into a vivid consciousness, peaceful or joyful, wise and strengthening.
Surrender to it as to a piece of music. Let it take possession of you while it lasts, for it will not last. The music reaches its finale and so does the glimpse. The oscillation that is life in the body, the movement to-and-fro between the pairs of opposites, cannot be kept still, inoperative, for more than a fraction of time.
When the glimpse starts, it is best to remain still, and in the same bodily position whether sitting or standing, with eyes fixed at the same point.
The feeling may be so slight at first that it may easily remain unrecognized for what it is. But if he pauses in whatever he is doing at the time, and gives heed, it will become stronger and stronger.
Anyone who is just beginning to feel this presence, however briefly and intermittently, needs to learn how to guard his feeling against large dangers and small encroachments, or it will quickly be killed.
Socrates had entered a battlefield along with his friends when suddenly and unexpectedly he caught his breath because he found himself falling into a spiritual Glimpse. It was so wonderful an experience that he denied all other calls on his time and so sunk deeper and deeper into the glimpse. It was not until twenty-four hours later that the glimpse came to an end of itself. There is a lesson here. Such a chance may not repeat itself, it may not be possible to get it again. Advantage should be taken of it because of its all-importance. No one knows how deep the absorption of a glimpse will carry him nor how long a time there will be before it comes to an end.
The moment he feels this inner hush, the possibility of developing it is presented to him. But will he use it? Or will he ignore it and thus remain unmindful of his divine source?
The glimpse is too delicate and too elusive to be held by force.
Those first delicate feelings which betoken the Glimpse must be accepted at once or they may quickly retire and vanish altogether.
Be passive and let in the Glimpse. For a while he loses his self-identity but the event happens as if it were quite natural.
When this mood comes upon him, he ought to chain himself to it.
He should appreciate the worth of these moments and not let them slip by without giving himself up wholly to them.
When such moments of grace come to him he should appraise them at their real worth and not turn away to the next activity. Rather should he pause from all activities and wait with hushed thoughts, watchfully, patiently, reverently.
If the signals show the probability of an impending glimpse, it is an error to neglect them just because he is preoccupied with something. Better to lay aside the immediate activity and wait, relaxed and receptive, to welcome the likely visitation.
He should catch such moments just when they are there and not let them vanish into nothing through inattention or failure to recognize their importance.
He should pause at the first faint impression that something unusual and lofty is happening to him, should stay just where he is, stilled into inaction like Socrates standing motionless in the battlefield.
In other words, all he has to do at such a moment is to receive passively: no other action is needed. Thoughts of any other topic, however elevated in character, would get in the way of such reception: so he should ignore them.
The glimpse or Grace bestowed on him, whether by a teacher or by God, must be fully utilized and fully recognized for the opportunity, guidance, help, and inspiration that it is. Otherwise, it will remain only transient emotional experience, which has left behind a tantalizing saddening memory of a joy he is unable to catch again.
Factors hindering the glimpse
In the case of persons who are not consciously seeking for the reality or truth, the glimpse may also come but may be turned away, refused, and rejected. This may happen because of their earthy character, materialistic belief, or excessively outgoing orientation. The first faint beginning of the glimpse is suppressed and its importance simply unrecognized. Even if its hushed gentle beauty is momentarily felt, it will be pushed aside as mere daydreaming. Thus these people deny, unwittingly, the messenger and lose what could have been a precious chance to discover what is best in them.
Beware of keeping out these beautiful spontaneous intuitive moods through the over-intellectualizing of the path to them and of the truth behind them.
The Glimpse will be at its best when his ego is not present to interfere with it. Such interference can not only come from its misinterpretations and distortions, against which philosophy so constantly warns its disciples, but also from the self-consciousness which wants him to notice how the experience is happening, to analyse what effect it is having, and to observe the reactions of other people to it. All these may be done but not then, not at the same time as the glimpse itself. Instead, they may be studied afterwards, when his consciousness has resumed its ordinary state. During the glimpse, he must let himself be completely surrendered to it.
Why try to predetermine what, by its very nature, is beyond your reach? Why not let the Overself reveal its existence in its own way? For the moment you introduce your own conception of what it ought to be and insist that it shall be allied to, or governed by, this conception, in that moment you become diverted from the pure and true mystical experience of the Overself into an adulterated and imperfect one.
The way in which he got his first glimpse, especially if similar to subsequent ones, becomes a fixed form in his belief about it or in his search for a repetition of it. This may become a handcuff, an unnecessary restriction which the finite self puts upon infinite being. Those who have been instructed in philosophy and therefore in the way glimpses, with the reactions to them and the interpretations of them, happen are not likely to make this mistake; but those who know only religions, aesthetics, and other mysticisms may do so. Let them not dogmatize but leave the Infinite its freedom.
The concentration upon the glimpse must be full, complete, and sustained. If, for only a single moment, he allows his attention to be diverted toward some outer thing or person, or to be divided with some inner idea, the glimpse may instantly disappear.
It is not that they are wholly insensitive to the touch of the Overself, but that they keep on pushing it away from themselves. And this they do for various reasons, according to their individual nature and situation.
The moment you seek to keep the glimpse as your own, it is gone.
If he complains that the glimpse does not last, he should understand that it cannot last. Unless the mind and the heart are previously put into a properly prepared state to receive it, they will soon reject it. The process of rejection, however, is an unconscious one, for the active agents in it are the restlessness of his thoughts, the negativity of his emotions, the identification with the body, the strength of his desires and, in fact, all those things which constitute his ego. The forces which keep him apart from the higher state are within his personal self and not within that state. If he is unable to retain it, it is because he needs further purification and preparation, and its departure is really a signal indicating this need.
The glimpse is hard to get but easy to lose. It slips away if he interferes with it by becoming intellectually analytic or emotionally conceited during its brief reign.
It is the easiest of things to lose the glimpse. For when attention is transferred from it to any physical activity whatever, and however necessary, if it is NOT guarded with the utmost care, it will slip from you.
In the glow of the experience any attempt to analyse it destroys it. Let it explain itself. Do not bring it within the narrower walls of the intellect. For then you bring in the ego and unwittingly dismiss the Overself.
It is less likely that the glimpse will come if the prerequisite conditions do not exist, if hidden negative traits and mental-emotional imbalance tend to act as a short-circuit and prevent its manifestation.
In those first few moments of its beginning the glimpse is so fragile, so vulnerable, that even a small movement of interest elsewhere is likely to bring it to a premature end.
The quicker he begins to think about the experience, the quicker does the glimpse go. For by reflecting upon it he unwittingly moves out of it to observe, wonder, and then to analyse it.
It is a moment of blessed quietness when earth is deserted and paradise regained. He cannot, perhaps dare not, be himself but must fall into step with all the others. He is imprisoned within their banal patterns of routine, within a life without real awareness.
This inward feeling may easily be lost if he gives himself up wholly to the world, if he lets life's trivialities or difficulties absorb it.
These moments must be caught as they come, or they will turn their back on us and be gone.
The more eagerly he tries to hold the glimpse, the more anxiously his thoughts surround it, the more quickly it leaves him.
Many have experienced the early beginnings of a glimpse but, failing to recognize it, have aborted it unwittingly by inattention to this delicate feeling.
The Notebooks are copyright © 1984-1989, The Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation.