There is a little confusion in some minds as to the precise differences between philosophic meditations and ordinary meditation. The following note is intended to help clear up this matter. There are five stages in the philosophic method. The first four of these stages cover the same ground as those in traditional mysticism. It is in the last stage that a vital difference appears. In stage one, the student learns to concentrate his faculties, thoughts, and power of attention. He must fix beforehand any object for his gaze, or any subject for his thoughts, or any theme for his feelings. This provides a post, as it were, to which the horse of his mind can be tethered and to which it can be made to return again and again each time it strays away. In stage two, he must definitely drop the use of his bodily senses and external objects, withdraw his attention entirely within himself and devote it exclusively to considered thinking about and devotional aspiration to his spiritual quest, making use only of an elevating idea or ideal as a tethering post. In stage three, he is to reverse this method, for he is not to fix beforehand any theme for thought, not even to predetermine the way in which his contemplation shall develop itself. His conscious mind is to be thoroughly free from any and every suggestion from the thinking self, even if it be of the purest kind. For everything must here be left entirely to the higher power. In stage four, the student unites completely with his higher self and its infinite universality, drops all personal thinking, even all personal being. In stage five, it might be said that he returns to the first two and recapitulates them, for he reintroduces thinking and therefore ego. But there is a notable difference. The thinking will be, first, illumined by the higher self's light, and second, directed towards the understanding of Reality.
-- Notebooks Category 20: What Is Philosophy? > Chapter 4: Its Realization Beyond Ecstasy > # 63