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The subject of meditation is of primary importance to every genuine student of occultism. It is inculcated as a religious practice in all systems of religious teaching, and is found playing a principal part in the life of every saint. In lay fields, as well, it seems an invaluable concomitant of creative genius. It is spoken of as more than the door to the inner life, – even as the inner life itself. Therefore, it is quite indispensable to all who seek to know this life directly rather than by hearsay. 

Despite the incessant allusions to meditation in religious treatises it is difficult to refer to any one clear and adequate explanation of its rationale. In Theosophical literature Light on the Path, Voice of the Silence, the Bhagavad-Gita, Patanjali’s Yoga Aphorisms, and Letters That Have Helped Me, all touch upon this topic and treat some of its different aspects. In explicitly Christian literature a host of references might be given, of which Fénelon’s Letters, and Thomas à Kempi’s Imitation of Christ may serve as examples. But in each alone the treatment is fragmentary, and when the different aspects are compared they at first appear paradoxical if not contradictory, and the whole subject is left in a mist of obscurity of vague confusion. Perhaps the most clear and concise exposition readily available may be found in The Theosophical Forum for June, 1898. But even here the treatment is incidental to a larger theme, and, illuminating as it is (giving an insight the present writer cannot hope to impart), it is hardly as detailed and explanatory as both the difficulty and importance of the subject make desirable. 

Part of this difficulty is due to the indiscriminate manner in which the terms concentration, contemplation and meditation are used by different writers. But a larger part has its origin in the nature of the subject itself. Meditation is only partly a mental process, and that in its preliminary stages. In its later stages it quite transcends the mental plane, and so refuses to be completely describable in mental terms, save as a series of apparently contradictory statements. 

An illustration may make this clearer. Consider the terms unselfishness, love and honor. We know quite well what they mean, for we are acquainted with the things themselves, yet they defy adequate verbal definition, for words are of the mind and these things transcend the mind. If there is any doubt of this, try to settle in words whether a mother’s sacrifice for her child is selfish or unselfish. Verbally, these two words stand for contradictory properties, yet here, because we know the thing itself, we are quite content to say it is both selfish and unselfish. So it is with all those states of consciousness which lie beyond our ordinary mentality. They are describable in words only as paradoxes. To understand their meaning we must continually go behind the words to the things themselves. With this by way of introduction let us turn to our proper subject. 

Meditation has been defined as that state which ensues from the centering of our consciousness in the soul rather than in the mind or the emotions. The first step toward meditation is concentration, and until considerable power of concentration is acquired true meditation is impossible. 

It is, doubtless, true that each of us can concentrate his mind in some one or other direction fairly easily and completely. Indeed, if we could not, we realize how ineffective our daily work would be. But few of us have much general power of concentration available at the dictates of the will in any direction. To convince yourself of this it is only necessary to lay this paper down and endeavor to concentrate your thoughts for, say, three minutes upon any topic not associated with your ordinary hopes and fears and duties. Try it, for example, on the “idea of duty” and note how many other thoughts crowd into your mind in that brief period. Under the influence of hope or fear or desire,or even of daily custom the mind is held fairly steady and one pointed. But under the influence of our will it is not. We have not yet become the masters of our own minds, nor can we hold them attentive, focussed and fixed for any lengthy period. Our attention is continually distracted and our mental states modified both by the discursive tendency of the mind itself and by the influence of our emotions. Therefore, we see, first, why it is said that the mind is dominated by desire, and second, why Patanjali defines concentration as “the hindering of the modifications of the thinking principle”. 

The effort to increase the power of concentration by consistent and systematic training is the first step in prac­tical occultism. This training may be acquired by anyone who so desires and will give to it the requisite attention through the incidents and duties of daily life. It consists, on the one hand, in concentrating every faculty upon each task and duty as it presents itself, and that whether the duty of the moments is hoeing corn or listening to a concert; and on the other, of never permitting the mind to act undirected in idle dreams or anxieties. Always set it a topic. Three things will result which are really one. First, we shall gain enormously in the control of our minds by the will and in the power of concentration; second, we shall do far better work and be far more effective; third, there will drop away from us a great burden of useless fear and anxiety. This training is not easy at first but it has very rich rewards. 

There is another stage of concentration which may be called contemplation, though this name is used by many writers for something far higher. Having learned to concentrate our minds on a single line or sequence of thought we now attempt to hold them upon a single aspect or idea. Let us say, as before, upon the idea of duty. We are not to think “Our duties teach us much”, “I wonder what duties I have left undone”, etc., but simply contemplate the bare abstract notion of duty. Patanjali tells us that one of the aids to this form of concentration is “mutterings". In a certain way this contemplation is not unlike the continued even repetition of the name of the idea, which “muttering” Patanjali puts forth as an adventitious aid. Every notion or idea has innumerable aspects, and its correlations and correspondences run into all manner of directions. It is something to be able to follow one of these lines – without jumping to other things altogether – but is more difficult to hold the mind immovably fixed in contemplation of the central concept. We begin by attempting this practice at stated times, and gradually we are able to perform it with greater ease and for longer periods without indue strain. As we master it, we find that in this state all the ordinary mental processes are quieted and held in abeyance, as is the activity of the senses. That which remains active is the bare faculty of awareness, if one may use a rather technical term. We are aware of the idea or thing we are contemplating, and we are aware of it very keenly, – of its unity and essence. We are contemplating, as it were, all its properties at their root, so that we find a little of this contemplation of the essence of a thing extraordinarily clarifying to our understanding of its diverse characteristics and ramifications. 

This state has also been described as “the merging of all the senses into one sense.” Such a statement sounds rather formidable than it is, for a like result follows every very strong concentration of attention. For example, when deep in a book we probably all have been suddenly aware that someone had entered the room. Our whole attention had been concentrated in our reading; the senses, save for the almost automatic action of the eye, had sunk into abeyance (retired into the central power of awareness of which they are differentiations). We cannot tell whether we heard someone enter, or saw them, or felt a current of air, or how our attention was called to this presence, but suddenly we are aware of it. This illustrates the negative aspect of the merging of the senses into the one sense of awareness. It is, however, only the negative aspect, or, perhaps, more properly, the negative correspondence. 

The positive aspect of awareness is the sense of unity or of being. We actually become the thing we are contemplating, and thus know it as it knows itself. This may be explained and illustrated in many ways. When we concentrate and focus all our mind and senses upon a certain object, our mind as a plastic material, takes the form characteristic of the object of contemplation, or, in terms of vibration, vibrates in unison with its object. This unity of form or identity of vibration attracts similar force. We see something like this in the force felt around the statue or photograph of a forceful man. The similarity of form has attracted similarity of force. On this principle also the ancient Egyptians placed statues of the dead in their tombs that their force might thereby be conserved. But all this will become clearer as we make its application to meditation, and indeed it is chiefly in this last connection that contemplation becomes a useful practice. 

Having learned from our daily lives some power of concentration together with control and one-pointedness of mind we can now turn to meditation itself. The effort to meditate is the effort to center the consiousness in the soul. It is made by concentrating upon the soul. In the daily thought of the ordinary man the soul is a good deal of an abstraction. This he expresses when he says “I have a soul”. He does not say “I am the soul”. Indeed, he would hardly be justified in this latter statement, for to him the “I” is the center of his consciousness, and this he has not yet placed in the soul. He might be, as are most of us, quite willing to grant that all life, his own as well as that of all nature, only existed as an expression of soul. But that, he will tell you, is more theoritical than practical. Yet it is precisely to experience this fact as a practical conscious reality that is his task in the preliminaries of meditation. 

In the effort to concentrate upon the soul we thus meet our first vagueness of direction. What are we to concentrate upon? Surely not upon some glorified ima­ge of our everyday selves separate and apart from other souls. But rather upon the highest abstract ideal that each of us possesses. The form in which this presents itself differs with the individual. To one it may be the law of love, to another the law of justice, to another an inexpressible being or vision of majesty and power. The form matters little. What does matter is that it is his highest conception, his ideal, the nearest approach to the oversoul or to God of which he can conceive. It is upon this he is to concentrate his mind and attention with that one-pointedness which we have described as contemplation. 

As he holds this ideal in his mind – and, since it is his ideal, also in his heart – the process we have already outlined takes place. The numerous voices of the mind and senses die down and become still. He is no longer conscious of anything other than this object of his contemplation. The senses are drawn in, automatically and unconsciously, and become merged into the single perceptive power of awareness or intuition. The consciousness of the mind, as we have known it, active and concerned with change undergoes a subtle transformation. In its place the consciousness of the heart awakes.  

We may be able to make this transformation clearer by considering a very noticeable characteristic of our ordinary mental processes. This characteristic is that of duality and multiplicity. The mind always relates one thing to another, compares and correlates. It is thus by nature many-pointed, and even the correction of its discursive tendency does not alter this fundamental charac­teristic. On the other hand, the effect of love, or desire, or any act which we associate with the heart is to concentrate the attention and consciousness quite singly and one-pointedly upon the object loved. Stop a minute and call to memory some friend. We have before us some mental picture which we are regarding as we would any physical object. Now think about your friend. You will find yourself instantly making comparison of some sort, either between him and others or between some of his characteristics or occupations. This process of relation will quickly lead to consideration of quite other topics if the mind be untrained in concentration. But even where trained we see it continually as a rational act. Now, return again to the mental image of your friend. Keeping your attention fixed upon him, yield yourself to the feeling of friendship or love you have for him. You will find that in this no element of comparison is present, your whole atten­tion is held fixed, not upon his personal characteristics, but upon the man himself. 

Indeed, if your love be strong you will quite lose thought even of yourself, feeling only a sense of his presence, which grows keener and more absorbing with your love. After you have withdrawn your attention you will feel that you have been curiously at one with him, but at the time even this sense of unity is lost in the sense of his presence, for you have lost the thought of yourself. 

Thus it is that when the mind is stilled in contemplation the heart can become dynamic and bring us into unison with the object we are contemplating, provided that we actually desire it, and have for it a real, not a sentimental, love. It is this dynamic action of the heart which is next operative in medita-tion. The mind, though fixed in direction, has become entirely quiescent. In this condition it has been likened to a placid lake – no longer itself flowing or dynamic but capable of reflecting the still glory of the stars and their mighty movements. 

The consciousness is now held by the desire of the heart. This desire is a real and living force. It draws toward us, and us toward the ideal to which it is directed. Gradually we begin to feel the reality of its presence. At first this presence is reflected in the mind, held fixed in contemplation, in that form in which we at the outset phrased or pictured it. But just so far as it is a real and genuine ideal it pertains to the formless soul, and this is the reason that to us it is an ideal, and this is why we have loved it. Therefore, our desire penetrates beyond the form or phrase. Little by little this mental picture grows more attenuated and sinks from sight. There fall upon us a great stillness and silence, formless and wordless, but full of power. When we have entered this stillness we have begun to meditate, for in it is wrapped the soul of each as is the soul of all the world. 

Of the consciousness that then ensues I cannot write. It has been described by the prophets and seers, the saints and poets and great artists of the race, in every age. The words and imagery of these are infinitely various, as are the aspects of the soul of man. But in each is the same feel, the same subtle rhythm, the same light. So that anyone who has known the illumination will recognize its description, as well in the Upanishads as in Wordsworth’s verse, in the Hebrew prophets and in the lives of the Christian Saints. There may be obtained from the Secretary T.S. in A. a little volume called the Song of Life. It contains a translation of a part of the Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad. Read it with this point in mind: that it is a treatise on the consciousness of the soul, to which we may attain in meditation. For soon we find the silence is not silence but full of a mighty song. like the deep note of an organ which we feel before we can hear, so we feel this song before we hear it. It is the song of life, the rhythm of the law, the breath of God. And through our contemplation and our love we become at one with this – one with all that is – part of the great law, part of the moral order. 

We sink back from this consciousness into that of our daily lives. But we are never afterward quite the same. The cares and anxieties, the hopes and fears and ambitions of the outer world return to us, but they return with a curious coloring of unreality. We have experienced, even if only for a moment, a life in which they played no part, and they can never again have quite the same dominion over us, nor can they any longer wholly satisfy us. This is symbolized in the first of the Temptations of the Wilderness, where Jesus replies: “It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”



In what we have already written we have tried to outline the successive stages of meditation and to indicate the corresponding powers of mind or heart which lead us to them. These powers are obviously possessed by us all, for they are quite commonly active in other directions. But they are seldom adequately developed or controlled. Particularly is this lack of training noticeable, and its effects detrimental, in the powers of the heart. Our western system of education compels at least a partial mastery of the logical and comparative faculties of the mind, but the schooling and direction of the heart have been quite ignored. This neglect accounts for the failure of the vast majority of western people to more than sense, in rare moments of inspiration the existence of the inner world. The dynamic power of love, which, trained to act as aspiration, can carry the consciousness from the outer world to the inner, from form to essence, will, if uncontrolled, turn outward as desire for concrete objects of sense gratification. This tendency to the concrete, once become habitual, is stubborn and persistent. In the Upanishads it is called “the knot of the heart” and we can know the peace of the inner world only “when the knot of the heart is untied”. 

We can see from many points of view that this turning of the heart is of fundamental importance. I have been told that it is the literal meaning of the Greek word translated “repentance” in such phrases as “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” It must precede any serious effort at self-training or discipline, and must be the foundation of all that comes later. If we cannot turn with love to the life of the soul there is small use in our trying to reach it. 

Yet it is by no means easy actually to love anything so vague and abstract as is at first the concept of the soul or the ideal of goodness and justice; for the driving and drawing power of the will which constitutes true desire, and which alone is effective, does not turn readily to abstractions. Nor can we remove this difficulty by making our ideals more concrete or crystallizing them into some mental form. To do so would be to defeat our own ends. For we seek ultimately to pass behind all forms and imagery, and to do this by the very power of love we are here calling into play. We must then turn our hearts from the outer world to the inner; we must deepen our love and intensify our desire; but we must not harden nor materialize their object. 

There is a name by which the soul is called in eastern literature which is very suggestive in this connection. This name is “the great exile”. Consider one in exile, let us say one who by long confinement to the tropics has fallen into the lassitude and laxer life of those around him, forgetting the more robust ideals of his own land. Some message or reminder comes to him – perhaps only in a strain of music or some equally trivial occurrence, but sufficient to bring to mind a picture of his former life. It is easy to overlay this memory or even to disregard it altogether. But if he dwells upon it he will find it become dynamic. He will realize how far he has fallen, and what firm and persistent effort is needed to regain his heritage. 

We can readily see what such a man should do, indeed, we could all give him most excellent advice. It is more difficult, however, to carry out that advice ourselves – yet we must recognize that our own position is closely akin to his. There has come to us, as to him, a reminder of a life more truly our own than that which we live from day to day. And with us also there is need of per­sistent and continuous effort if we are not to overlay our inspiration with the activities of the outer world and sink back into the lethargic condition from which we have been temporarily aroused. In the light of this analogy the direction which our endeavors should take becomes much clearer. 

We see now that the whole question of success or failure lies in the permanence of the impressions and desires experienced in moments of inspiration. It is these which give the initial upward impulse to the will and it is these which sustain it. Therefore, our first task is to make them as enduring as possible. To accomplish this we must dwell upon them. This also has the effect of invoking fresh inspirations; just as the musing on one memory will bring others to the surface. 

It is a curious fact regarding all occult training such as is here indicated that each step in its development involves all the others, so that to succeed in any one direction requires, and implies, a modicum of success in many others. In other words, these steps are not so much sequential as parallel. This is observable in what we have just written, for the dwelling upon our moments of inspiration is in exact correspondence with meditation itself. If this dwelling upon our inspirations were wholly easy for us meditation would not be difficult, so we must seek other aids as well. 

These we can find in many little observances which we can make a part of our daily lives. Such are set times for recollection and self-communion, from which we exclude by act of will all thoughts of our habitual cares and occupations. In these periods of stillness our ideals seem to come closer to us, and very quickly we learn to look forward to them as times of rest and refreshment. Another practice, from which great help can be derived, is the reading of spiritual books – the records of spiritual experiences and laws of the inner world, recorded in the lives and teachings of the saints and mystics of the past. No one can make any serious study of these writings without being impressed by the unanimity of testimony of which we have already spoken. So that we learn from them that the path upon which we are now entering has been trod by many feet before us, and gradually we grow into a sense of companionship, though it would be difficult for us to tell with whom or with what. This helps to hold the heart, as do all touchstones of the inner life. 

Parallel with these observances and practices which tend to strengthen the love of the soul there are others tending to weaken the domination of the senses and to withdraw from them the force of desire. One of the most useful of these is the deliberate effort to dissociate yourself first from your acts, and second from your thoughts and feelings. This is the cultivation of detachment, a practice equally advocated by Christian teachers and eastern philosophers. A very little of this practice will prove its value, restoring a poise and impersonality of view and judgment difficult to maintain in the pressure of modern life. But it will do more than this. As we persevere in it we shall see that many desires and emotions we have regarded as peculiarly our own are in reality not ours at all, but sweep over us from without as the waves of the ocean might do. We learn to view them as impersonal forces of nature, and when we can so regard them they no longer are our masters. We are bound more by custom than by force, and to be free it is only necessary to perceive our freedom. 

This recognition is also fostered by acts of self-discipline and self-denial. There is a greater joy in exercising the moral muscles than those of the body, and from it comes a greater sense of power and of freedom. Try it with anything you are fond of; if, for example, you are a smoker, try giving up tobacco. You will learn in the first week how dominating is desire, how it drives us from without; and in the second, you will feel a sense of strength and freedom and absence of fear, a joy in the use and power of your own will. 

By these and kindred means the driving power of desire may, little by little, be withdrawn from the outer world of sensation and turned toward the soul, quickening and augmenting our love and drawing us more and more toward it. The heart and will are both purified and strengthened and our ideals, while unhardened, are far clearer and more intimate. It is no longer so difficult to turn toward them with love, and we find in them a continually renewed source of inspiration. 

Side by side with the training of the heart, and greatly aided by it, we have seen there is need for training the mind in concentration and contemplation. The character of this training has already been indicated. Yet, though easy to see how these powers are gained, it is a longer process to gain them. Therefore, most of us must attempt to meditate long before we have any complete power over our minds. This reversal is the cause of a number of very common difficulties in meditation, which, even at the risk of repetition, it will be well to review in sequence. 

The first difficulty experienced is the inability to keep the mind even on these general topics for any length of time. This is a failure in the most elementary form of concentration. The discursive tendency we have already analyzed, asserts itself, and soon we find our minds on other topics altogether. But practice and daily custom go far to overcoming this, and if it be our regular effort, we find it become less and less difficult, as day after day the mind is brought back to the same theme. 

The second difficulty is that involved in contemplation, of silencing the mind and quieting it down until it becomes fixed. Most of us if we were told to be silent would think we had complied with this direction if we refrained from speech. We know what it is to stop talking and be orally silent. But having done this we can, if we care to listen, hear the mind continue actually talking to itself and phrasing its thoughts in words no less real because inaudible to the physical ear. These we can silence by an act of will. Indeed, we must learn to silence not only these voices of the mind but those of the senses and emotions as well. We can see the need of this not only for this stage of meditation but to keep us sane. Anyone who seriously enters upon the path of mental discipline outlined for the acquirement of concentration will find how necessary it is to learn to rest. It is an art that few know, and its secret is in silence. 

Mental silence is, however, often sought quite wrongly by attempting to empty the mind of content by repressing each thought as it arises. This leaves the mind unfixed and undirected, and so receptive to and reflecting every passing thought form or current of the psychic world. This is the danger of psychism, the astral cul de sac of which we have been warned so often. It has its origin in the negative condition of the mind and the mistaken method in which silence was sought. The mind should be quieted by the intense attention given to one single ideal or object. To this ideal it is receptive and passive, to all else it is exclusive and positive. 

The third barrier is that as the mind is silenced some lose consciousness and fall asleep. This is in part due to a negative condition akin to that just described, but more of the heart than of the head. We have seen that at this stage the consciousness passes to the heart, and there are those whose consciousness is not easily centered in the heart or carried by love. Such natures are generally unemotional, which, though here a difficulty, is elsewhere a great safeguard. Indeed, this consciousness is by no means emotional. It is the still, deep current of love which the emotions more often obscure than express. It is aspiration; but it is of the heart not of the head. 

The next difficulty is just the opposite of this. It is that as the consciousness of the heart awakes and rises upward, the mind, quieted for a time, reasserts itself and acts upward with it, seizing upon the consciousness of the heart and weaving around it dreams and visions of the most varied beauty. These visions may seem very good and true and at first be very helpful, but there is great danger in them. For not only is our attention arrested and our conscious­ness carried no further, but these visions turn upon us later. The inner light which gave them their beauty is of the soul, and being of the soul is loved and reverenced. But the threads and colors of which they are woven are drawn from the thoughts of daily life, from its dreams and hopes and fears. As we dwell upon the form and imagery of these visions the outer mental element grows more pronounced, the light of the heart within them grows more dim. Then comes a day when we recognize the source of all this imagery. Our minds turn upon us and deride us for deluded dreamers caught in the snare of our own fancies. 

This has proved a shock and barrier beyond which many have been unable to pass. Yet the light of the soul was within their visions, and it was this light which they really loved – not the forms and pictures. In occult phraseology it is said of the mental imagery that the meditation is impure. We may remedy it in two ways. If we are sufficiently strong by increased power of concentration and if we are sufficiently pure by the increased practice of detachment in our daily lives. This is the difficulty of the emotional man of strong imagination. 

The fifth barrier is that of form. There are many minds whose tendency is to make concrete all they touch upon. They crystallize and harden into set forms and dogmas. These are often those of greatest intellectual power. For this reason they progress to this point rapidly and easily, but here they become blocked. They are unable to pass behind form, or to cast aside words and imagery and lay hold upon reality. Such natures can sometimes be helped by forcing themselves to study and to think in other systems, even in other languages, than those to which they have been accustomed. If they are Christians let them study Buddhism, if Buddhists let them turn Christians; let them seek by any or all means to break up their hard set forms and habits and learn to look at life – not words. 

The last barriers lie in the silence itself. The symbol of silence is darkness, and darkness is to many an immediate and instant source of fear. This is true of the great stillness which from the beginning of contemplation has grown more and more intense. It has become a silence of the senses, of the emotions, of the mind, and now even of the heart itself. Only after it has become complete does the moment of illumination dawn. Therefore, to many it has appeared as a great terror and they have fled it full of fear. To them it has seemed an abyss of nothingness in which even their own existence was slipping away from them into the void. Both courage and faith are needed here, and a certain effort that is never again exactly duplicated. It is the sort of effort required to leap in the dark in obedience to a voice that is no longer heard. After it is taken, and we have experienced this silence, just this same trial can never occur. For the darkness has passed.


Any one of the difficulties touched upon above may delay us for many months or even years. But if we persevere and make our effort at meditation a daily practice we shall accomplish it more easily and more completely. Fortunately, the curious way in which one difficulty involves all the rest applies also to our successes, and we find that as we succeed in any one direction we gain power in all. We shall have periods when we seem to make very rapid progress, but these again will be followed by times of apparent failure, of “dryness” in the common Christian phrase. But on the whole we shall find we draw ever-increasing rewards of rest and inspiration. 

As the meditation itself deepens, its effects grow stronger and more permanent. Many of these effects are very subtle, showing most clearly in a gradual reversal of our attitude toward our daily tasks and pleasures. At first, as we have already said, these take on a curious coloring of unreality. In fact, this is but the shadow of the far more vivid life of which we have become aware. A similar effect is noticeable after having gazed at any intense light; on looking away everything else appears dark. Simple as this explanation is, the phenomenon it­self has been the cause of very real dangers. It is not improbable that it corresponds with the second of the Temptations in the Wilderness. This is the temptation to destroy the physical life as something unnecessary to be considered, or to abandon all thought of physical law in our new sense of reliance upon spiritual law. More concretely and in our own case we are tempted to regard our outer duties as unimportant and perhaps to neglect them altogether. 

Here our habits of obedience to duty as such stand us in good stead, and we pass through this period, brief or long as it may be, with them as the sole driving power in our outer lives. 

But after a while we learn to see deeper than this. We see that our duties are part of the great moral order in which we are beginning to take our place – the reflection in our outer lives of the will of the soul. To neglect them would be to neglect the very end we seek. When we  have realized this, our outer lives even in their most trivial details take on a new and far more vital meaning than they ever had before. This is the second result of meditation. 

With this there comes what at first sight appears a very strange and terrible effect. It is the throwing to the surface of the evil in us. We find old desires we thought long dead reawakening and clamoring to be heard. Our whole nature seems suddenly aroused and arrayed against itself. The line is not drawn so much between good and bad as between that which is of the soul and that which is not. It is quite obvious that such a result was to be expected, but it comes always as a surprise. We have reached the parting of the ways. 

This period of struggle and of choice has been described in many ways at many times. We see before us two roads – two paths or ways of life. The end of one we know. It leads to fame and power and material success; to all those achievements which the world admires and for which it gives its great rewards. We feel the power in us to take these things for our own, if we will desire and work for them. The end of the other way we do not know. It is “the small old path that leads to the eternal”. It is the path of duty and of sacrifice. It may bring us to fame and success or it may lead us through failure, privation and unending toil. But it is the path of service to the soul. To the first path we are urged by personal ambition, by fear, and by sensuality; to the second by the high austere call of the spirit; which yet is vibrant and rich with love, with the new glory and majesty we are learning to know. This is the third of the Temptations in the Wilderness. 

There is really nothing new in this parting of the ways, and the choice it here forces upon us, save that we are more conscious of it, and that, sooner or later, it must become determinative. A like choice is presented to us by every duty. Shall we fulfill it at the cost of pain and trouble or shall we neglect it that we may have rest or pleasure? The sum total of these our small choices must decide our great choice and in time this great choice must be made by us all. 

When it is finally made, more than ever does duty appear our friend. We no longer resent our lives, but become simply obedient to them. Then life itself takes us by the hand and teaches us. Each new task is a new gift, from each duty we reap a harvest of new insight and new power. 

As our own lives become richer in meaning and purpose, the lives of those around us reveal a new dignity and beauty. We see beyond and through the mask of the personality to the soul behind which uses it. We see that all souls are one in the oversoul, and in the light of this greater revelation the old clash and conflict of personalities gives way to the love and sympathy of the soul. We begin to learn the unity of life and the brotherhood of man. 

The last effect of which I would speak may seem to those who have not experienced it the strangest of all. We find ourselves no longer alone. The sense of companionship we spoke of in connection with spiritual reading deepens and becomes more personal. We become aware of a mighty company around us, and we realize that we are in the presence of all the great of all the past. We enter upon the heritage of the soul. 

These, then, are the steps in meditation which lead us from the outer world to the inner: 

1. Concentration: a power to be acquired in the tasks of daily life. 

2. Contemplation: the keeping of the mind fixed in direction but without activity. 

3. The awakening of the consciousness of the heart; the surrender to the love of the ideal. 

4. The feeling of the presence and power of this ideal caused by the love we have for it.

5. The passage of the consciousness behind the forms of the ideal to its inner essence. With this real meditation may be said to begin. 

6. The resulting consciousness of a great stillness. 

7. Dwelling in this stillness till we find its peace and power and illumination.

To take these steps there is need of a thorough training of heart and mind. While this training is incomplete the following barriers or difficulties may be looked for: 

1. The difficulty of loving the ideal of withdrawing the force of desire from the outer world and turning it toward the inner. 

2. The inability to keep the mind upon these topics. 

3. The danger of producing a negative condition which leads to psychism. 

4. The tendency to fall asleep; the danger of sluggishness. 

5. The deception caused by the mind awakening with the heart and weaving round it mental images; the danger of emotionalism. 

6. The barrier of forms; the obstruction caused by a hard or dogmatic mind. 

7. The fear of silence.

Having experienced, even if only imperfectly, the illumination of meditation, we enter upon a cycle of outer activity in which though the light is itself obscured its effects become manifest and permanently our own. This cycle is marked by these stages: 

1. A feeling of the unreality or unimportance of the outer life. 

2. This corrected by the sense of duty. 

3. The recognition of the sequence of our individual duties as the reflection of the law of the soul. 

4. The performance of our outer duties from this point of view, as an expression of the inner life, looking always back to it for inspiration and rest. 

5. The coming to the surface of all the desires of the personality. 

6. The definite choice between these and the call of the soul. 

7. The recognition of companionship with those who have preceded us, and the centering of the consciousness in the soul.

Any earnest student may follow these various steps for himself and verify the statements made of them. It is written that a very little of this practice saves one from many evils and brings a great reward.


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