Part 1 of Dwelling in the Mirror: A Study of Illusions Produced by Delusive Meditation and How Be Free from Them
“The trouble with ignorance is that it picks up confidence as it goes along.”
–Arnold H. Glasgow
Glitter, not gold
“I am not afraid of you. I love now. I loved you always. I am yours and I am my own. You have forgotten what God is. But I have found Him. I love everybody. I live everywhere. I am the flesh. I am the feeling. You are dead because your aims are death. I am the spirit. I am love. I am Nijinsky of God. I love Him, and God loves me. I am a cloud of God.”
Are these the words of an enlightened soul? With a few adjustments they would bring tears to the eyes of New Age seminar junkies and would sell very well as a wall poster with a nature scene background. They could even be set to music–or at least to the sound of surf and seagulls–and sold at a profit.
But they actually are the ravings of a homicidal maniac, taken down as he sat on the floor of his padded cell in a strait jacket–a strait jacket that was needed because he would try to kill anyone who came into the cell, including his wife to whom these words were dictated and whom he regarded as a spiritual ignoramus incapable of understanding his great illumination. She had forgotten God and was dead; but he had found God and was life and love–so he was convinced. But he was wrong. He was homicidal. He was insane.
The old adage is still true: All that glitters is not gold. And all that “shines” is not light, for “if the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:23).
Some representative examples
1) The young yogi had spent several weeks in the Himalayan depths, enclosed in a cave of his own finding. He had left the plains of northern India and come to the abode of silence. There in his cave he had engaged in various yogic practices according to his whimsy. The result was his being overwhelmed by the surety that he had attained total enlightenment and was no longer even human, but divine. Therefore he had no reason for living. He arose and walked out of his cave in a straight path, intending that as soon as he came to a precipice he would calmly walk over it and plunge to his death, ending a now-pointless existence. But in his march to death he passed through a meadow filled with flowers. There he sat down. After some time he seemed to feel the call of all those in the world who needed him, and decided that he would not kill himself. Rather, he would return to the plains and there share his experience with others. This he did, and became a noted and prosperous guru in both India and America.
2) About the same time another yogi was sitting in the Himalayan foothills, meditating in the total darkness of a vast cave. He had an experience of the subtle energy field of the brain that is not at all an uncommon occurrence even for beginners in meditation. Yet, concluding that he was thereby enlightened, he, too, left to become a famous and wealthy guru of East and West.
3) Also around this time a young American was meandering through Ceylon. During one of his attempts to meditate he fell asleep and saw a vivid dream image of a peacock feather. Since the peacock is considered a spiritually significant symbol in Hindu mythology, he inferred upon waking up (“coming out of samadhi” in his later recountings) that he was enlightened. He returned to America as a “Master” who accepted credit cards.
4) A few years later another young American was studying in northern India with Tibetan refugee lamas. After many hours of meditation he fell asleep and dreamed most realistically that he was eating radishes. When he awoke he gave forth with a violent belch–and tasted radishes! Confident that he had now gotten all there was to get in Oriental mysticism, he immediately returned to the United States and became a spiritual figure in the early years of the New Age.
5) A successful executive secretary in Canada who was also a student of yoga led a small discussion and meditation group. At the onset of menopause she began to experience mild convulsions, fainting spells, and–on occasion–visual hallucinations whenever she would attempt to practice the breathing exercises that formed the basis of her yogic practice. Highly intelligent, she readily understood that her problem was a manifestation of hormonal imbalance and the “change of life” cycle. However, when she told her small coterie of admirers that she was planning to consult a gynecologist about the advisability of medical treatment for her disorder, she encountered a flood of protest. “Mataji! You are not fainting or having ‘hot flashes.’ You are entering samadhi!” “This is not menopause, it is ‘entering the cloud of unknowing.’” “You are experiencing ‘the Great Void!’” Nonsense prevailed over good sense, since it is more appealing to the egoic mind to be thought metaphysical than menopausal. And “Stoned Out Mama,” as she herself and her followers came to call her on occasion, became a spiritual leader of the New Age.
None of the foregoing accounts have been either exaggerated or written sarcastically. They are straightforward fact. They are only a drop in the vast ocean of human minds and lives devastated by meditation-produced delusion, yoga cults and guru cults, and are related here not for mockery or criticism but as a warning to the undiscriminating and unwary seeker. For one of the tests set before those who seek the gold of spiritual illumination is the offering of the “fool’s gold” of egoic illusion.
Dreams within dreams
“It shall even be as when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite” (Isaiah 29:8). Did you ever dream that you woke up? Remember how frustrated you were when you discovered that you were really still asleep and dreaming? Some people have had the experience of dreaming a whole series of awakenings, in each one thinking: “Now this time I am really awake,” only to find out that it was still a dream. Then after waking up they pondered long and uneasily on whether or not they were really awake at last or not.
If they are more philosophically minded, those who have such an experience may wonder if this entire mode of existence within the physical body may not also be a dream–though of longer duration than their other dreams. Might not there be another awakening–one in which this present “reality” vanishes in the dawning of another state of consciousness altogether which they will then recognize as the true state of being awake? Perhaps it might even be possible to accomplish a series of awakenings into higher and higher degrees of consciousness until at last they can enter into the Supreme Consciousness that is God Himself, so they, too, can say with the Psalmist: “I awake and am with Thee” (Psalms 139:18).
Spiritual masters of all ages have called those who would hear to the great awakening from which there will be no more turning back to the dreams of unreality. And the process of awakening is meditation–yoga specifically.
But what if our meditation does not result in a real awakening or escape from the maze, but results only in a delusive extension of the dream of the mind? What if we even have a series of awakening experiences only to ultimately find that they, too, are unreal–merely new illusions replacing old ones? That this is possible I know both from my own experience and that of others who have consulted with me and whom I have observed. How many times have you and I heard people say: “I thought I got rid of that problem a long time ago; and here it still is!”?
Therefore it is not enough to take up the practice of meditation in just any form. As Buddha insisted, there must be the practice of right meditation. What is right meditation and what is wrong meditation? The answer is not complex. Right meditation is that which removes all illusion and shows us the truth of things in a direct, unitive manner: yoga. Wrong meditation is that which either perpetuates or creates illusions, however grand and appealing they might be. And, as I have quoted at the beginning, the trouble with ignorance is that it picks up confidence as it goes along.
Necessity and a dilemma
Those who aspire to conscious self-evolution have no choice. Meditation must be taken up and made the core of their spiritual endeavors. There is no other way. But the aspirant is immediately faced with the dilemma of choosing the method of his meditation. Eventually he is going to have to take the plunge and try one out for himself. But to help you who are a fellow traveler and pilgrim of the spirit understand the range of choices, I would like to share with you the knowledge I have gathered from my own practice of various meditational systems as well as my personal observation of others and the experiences which they confided in me. I hope my exposition will not sound too dogmatic. If it does, then please consider my motivation and grant pardon.
“The Dweller at the Threshold” is a term of Western esotericism for both the ego and its accumulated powers backed by the Cosmic Delusion or Satan. This Dweller at the Threshold has inspired many delusive systems of meditation, and we should consider them as best we can.
Before beginning, however, let me assure you that after expatiating on mistaken ways of meditation I will outline a correct way which was known to the sages of India as well as to Jesus of Nazareth who lived with those sages and learned from them. (See The Christ of India.) That way is universal, based on the nature of the cosmos and those who are living and evolving within it. If applied correctly and persistently it brings all to the one Goal: God.
Some systems will not be discussed here because they are really not meditation (dhyana) at all but are intellectual exercises (manana) involving reflections on some mental concept or affirmation. Such practices can be very helpful for some, but in the final analysis they are not meditation.
There are those who think they are meditating when they are really just letting the mind run around at random or intentionally fixing it on mind-generated objects, whether thoughts, concepts, visualizations, or emotions. Many such exotic forms of reflection, though called meditation, are really nothing more than autosuggestion or the pondering of intellectual or visual concepts.
Many who engage in this mind-play boast of their marvelous insights, raptures, etc., mistaking simple intellectual understanding or emotional upsurge for psychic and spiritual enlightenment. This applies to the intellectual pondering of theological or philosophical principles as well. Saint Silouan of Athos, a recently canonized Eastern Orthodox saint, insisted that intellectual theologizing and the resulting delight in its revelations is the false ego’s substitute for authentic mystical experience.
The Kingdom of God is within, and therefore as long as the Dweller at the Threshold can keep us from getting within we have no chance whatsoever of finding it. To keep us away from the true kingdom within, there is the up-and-out school of meditation. In this school the individual is convinced that the path is to escape from the body and fly away into the astral regions, there to be entertained by endless varieties of sights and sounds, rising up higher and higher to the very gates of the Infinite. But the true masters of the spiritual life (not to mention our own inner intuition) have told us that God is not “up” or “out” there, but that God is within. Therefore, a method which will take us outward and upward is going to take us away from God. That is a fact. If we take up such a practice we will eventually find ourselves further away from God than we were before.
If we think about it we can easily see the fallacy of the up-and-out philosophy of meditation. We have gone out of our bodies and beyond this world through death or involuntary astral projection during sleep or illness many times in the course of our evolutionary peregrinations, yet it has in no way enlightened us. Every night when we go to sleep, our consciousness withdraws from the physical body into the astral body. We are experiencing the astral levels of our being when we dream. When we sleep and do not dream, our awareness has withdrawn even deeper and entered into the causal part of our makeup. Whether we sleep with or without dreaming, when we wake up in the morning we are certainly not enlightened.
We must penetrate to the reality that lies inward beyond all the nonsense of the mind, but the tendency of the mind to turn our awareness outward is itself an internal condition. Therefore we are going to encounter it when we attempt to withdraw our focus of consciousness into the core of our being. And when we do encounter it, we can fall into the very cruel illusion of thinking that we are entering deeper and deeper into ourselves, experiencing inner realities, when in fact we are being drawn outward into experience of our external bodies–though in a more subtle manner than we have known before. This is the second type of illusion based on the outgoing tendency of the mind. The Dweller is simply not going to give up!
In this form of meditation, since we are sitting with eyes closed and our minds somewhat stilled, as a consequence we do not realize that what we perceive during such meditation is only subtler aspects of our external “garments.” And so we continue to wander aimlessly in inner illusion just as heretofore we wandered in outer illusion.
The majority of the people who meditate are trapped by the mind in this illusion which we can call the inward-outward process of meditation. Like the up-and-out type it is merely another form of wandering in the mirror-maze. Those who wander in this way often say something like this: “Whenever I sit for meditation I go so deep that I don’t know anything at all.” (It is called deep and dreamless sleep!) “After a while I look at the clock, and often an hour has gone by without my realizing it.” The truth is that such people are caught in the negative, outgoing current of consciousness. When they sit for meditation their awareness does not go in at all, but moves outward away from their spirit, sometimes being immersed in the unconsciousness of the physical body. Unhappily, some methods taught by Indian yogis do this very thing.
A true example
To understand this trick of the mind, let me give an example from real life.
In the foothills of the Indian Himalayas, there is a group of cannibalistic sorcerers living deep in the forest. This is no mere rumor. They are very much feared in the area–so much so that they are not at all secretive about themselves. The police will not interfere with them in any way. On rare occasions they come out of the forest and take from the people living in the area anything they want, for no one will oppose them. I know of an ashram that is regularly looted by them while the guru and his disciples sit motionless and silent in terror.
These evil magicians have a terrible power. If one of them meets a person in the forest whom they decide to ritually sacrifice and eat, they fix their eyes on him, fascinate him, and completely dominate his mind. The intended victim is of course afraid and wants to get away, but is afraid to turn and run lest he be knifed in the back. So he thinks that he is backing away down the path, toward the edge of the forest and to safety, with the magician walking after him. But in reality the magician is walking backwards, drawing him further into the forest to where he will be killed. All the time the poor dupe feels he is escaping when he is actually going to his death.
Through the powers of the truly cannibalistic magician-mind, in meditation we can experience that we are turning inward when in fact our awareness is being drawn outward.
What happens in inward-outward meditation
To understand the experience of those practicing an inward-outward type of meditation, we should enumerate the basic levels of our being. They are: 1) the physical body, 2) the biomagnetic energies, 3) the sensory mind, 4) the intellect, 5) the will. Here, then, is what generally happens in meditation to the inward-outward practitioners.
First they feel restless and must consciously calm themselves and determine to persevere. Often they set in mind how long they are going to meditate and settle down to do so. At this point they are in the will level.
Next their awareness moves outward into the intellect and they find themselves thinking various kinds of thoughts. (Some schools of meditation even encourage this, and tell people to write their thoughts down.) They may be distracting thoughts or–even worse–they may be thoughts of wisdom and inspiration. Usually they stick at this level for quite a while–even for entire meditations.
After some time they begin to see lights and forms–angels, gods, masters, astral worlds, the past and the future–and perhaps experience auditory phenomena, for their awareness has moved further outward into the sensory mind and its impressions. Now the trouble really begins. Usually the person wanders for the rest of his life in realms of alternating illusions and genuine clairvoyance–the latter rendering a false credibility to the illusions.
But if the meditator has a more abstract philosophical orientation, he may wish to go beyond the mind–and so he shall, right into the region of biomagnetism where he will seem to experience “divine darkness.” In this level he experiences sensations of lightness, heaviness, expanding, shrinking, falling, rising, floating, turning, whirling, rolling, somersaulting, and changing into geometric shapes–the most popular sensations being an “expansion to infinity” or “the rising of the Kundalini.” Since the bio-magnetic level is the seat of feeling and emotion, the meditator may also be engulfed in blind sensations of peace, joy, bliss, love, energy, exuberance, and so forth. He will not be experiencing the real states themselves but only the sensations that accompany them and are often mistaken for them.
However, another step awaits the unwary meditator, and that is absorption into the inertia of the physical body. “My mind just stops,” he says. And he is right! This merging of awareness into the physical level manifests as an illusory state of “non-dual” consciousness, “transcendent, beyond all time or space or conceptualization,” and is also mistaken for “Entering the Divine Darkness,” “The Silence,” “passing into The No Thing,” the “Great Void,” and “entering The Cloud of Unknowing.” All of these expressions just cited are terms for true, positive states, but the inexperienced person can be fooled by the ego into accepting their counterfeits.
The next state beyond even this is that of the consciousness going one step further and becoming completely separated from the five levels, including the body. Then, having stepped out of his body, the up-and-out meditation circus begins for the meditator.
It should also be pointed out that it is not uncommon for two or more of the types of phenomena just described to be experienced simultaneously, just as in our normal state we experience the various senses at the same time. The fundamental problem in all this, as well as in many other types of meditative experience, is the mistaking of physiological-neurological phenomena for spiritual experiences.
Nothing Meditation is similar in some points to the inward-outward meditation, but it needs a separate consideration. For some reason this appeals to intellectuals, perhaps because it is usually packaged in terms of inflated generalities and magnificent but unproven metaphysical assumptions that boil down in essence to “you need do nothing nor be anything.” The ego loves this, and so do those in its glittering grip. A lot of talk about emptiness, mindlessness, mindfulness, no thing, and such like bedazzle both the teachers and the taught. But it still comes down to nothing. And I do mean nothing, not No Thing, which is a legitimate mystical expression, however much it is applied illegitimately in erroneous meditation systems.
Exponents of nothing meditation exhort their students to stop all thoughts, silence the mind, blank the mind, and “think of nothing”–an impossibility, and not at all the same thing as not thinking of anything. Basically the idea is to sit and be blank–something that frankly seems to be the continual state of a lot people in this world, and no enlightenment has been seen to result so far.
However they may put it, the nothing meditation people are utterly caught in the mind, otherwise they would not make such a fuss over stopping it. Though caught in it, they seem to have learned nothing of its nature, for it is the essential nature of the mind to be ever changing, restless, and running towards externality and material objects. There is no such thing as a still mind, for the mind is itself the manifestation and instrument of motion and change. Many who think their mind is stilled have simply lost sight of it and moved into a denser state of negative unconsciousness.
Ultimately the non-results of nothing meditation may reveal its error. For truly, from nothing only nothing comes. But many people who practice it never realize that.
Although we have mentioned it briefly when describing what happens as the meditator experiences the bio-magnetic level, the problem of false euphoria in meditation needs to be given more consideration. In esoteric writings from India a great deal can be found about the bliss of the Self, which is very real. But as a result the conclusion has often been drawn that if a meditation practice produces a sensation of pleasure or joyfulness it is evidence that the meditator is entering into the bliss of the self and experiencing his true being. This, however, is a grave mistake which Buddha addressed when, in outlining the Eightfold Path, he enumerated “right bliss.” This was because delusive, euphoria-producing methods were current in the days of Buddha even as they are now.
When we take an overview of the teachings of spiritual masters we will find that they point unanimously to the single root from which all the troubles of mankind arise: ignorance. The problem is not suffering–that is only a result produced by ignorance. It is knowledge in the sense of true knowing (gnosis or jnana)–i.e., spiritual realization–that is the antidote to our situation, not bliss, even Right Bliss being a side-effect of knowing.
In actuality, very few systems of euphoric meditation are able to keep their practitioners on a perpetual high. The heights of exaltation–not to mention exultation–produced by such methods are almost always followed by equally dramatic depths of depression or doldrums.
Any system which employs violent breathing exercises and long holding of the breath to over-oxygenate the blood and thus produce a “natural high” which really is totally artificial is especially unfortunate, for the practitioner believes he is contacting God or his Self, when in reality he is only experiencing an abnormal condition of the nervous system–a condition which, if continually repeated, will result in a form of the same type of neurological burnout that is produced by drug abuse, though usually less dramatic. (This is not written from prejudice but from personal experience and years of observation.)
Over-oxygenation may also result in the temporary stimulation of certain usually dormant centers, including pleasure centers, in the brain. This artificial stimulation then produces various psychic experiences–some real and some totally hallucinatory–which also gull the unsuspecting practitioner into believing that he is experiencing genuine unfoldment of higher consciousness.
The use of such euphoria-producing methods is not only deceptive but harmful in the long run. Neurological and psychological difficulties inevitably result from prolonged practice. Their practitioners, like their chemically-dependent counterparts, are convinced that all is well and that anyone who warns them is simply being negative or bigoted. Such is the destructive effect of both drugs and incorrect meditation practices.
What has been said in the foregoing paragraph about the euphoric practices can also be said about any system that produces “amazing experiences.” Such experiences have to come from somewhere and are usually the result of the energy reserves of the body being abnormally channeled into normally inactive brain centers. This both depletes and unbalances the nervous system–and consequently the mind, and usually the body.
Perhaps even more spiritually virulent than the euphoric practices are those which produce in the meditator a completely false sense of non-dual or infinite consciousness. These practices seem credible to those who have read in Indian philosophical treatises about resting in the Self, in a state of pure awareness beyond all objective consciousness, having discovered one’s self as the eternal subject. Those writings are based on genuine spiritual experience, but the ignorant, desirous of shortcutting the process of spiritual evolution, have devised methods which produce only an approximation of those very real and holy states of being. We can think of the meditational experiences produced by these systems as being like forgeries of great works of art. They may look right, beautiful and even ingenious, but they are not the real thing, however clever or convincing.
Just as there are methods which actually draw the awareness outward while giving the illusion of turning it inward, in the same way there are methods which actually collapse the consciousness, reducing and narrowing it down to a minimal scope, while through a kind of mirror-effect giving the illusion of expansion to infinity. The practicers of such methods become convinced that they are experiencing non-dual consciousness in which they discover themselves to be the One Existent, the Self of All. They misinterpret non-duality as a state in which nothing exists but themselves–all else being illusive projections of their consciousness. This is because they have intellectually formed a false conception of non-duality–since they have no actual experience of it–and their egoic mind follows up their mistaken conclusion with an even more mistaken false confirmation.
Nothing seems to me more awful than to plumb the depths of eternity only to find that there is nothing to be found but me. To think that I am the ultimate, that beyond me there is nothing else, is dreary to the maximum degree if not downright depressing. Those psychic sociopaths who are satisfied with believing that they are the total picture are certainly contented with that view. To travel to the farthest reaches of all existence only to find nothing there but myself would be an altogether insupportable disappointment. For those to whom such impoverishment appears as infinite wealth, there are many methods designed to produce just such a “realization,” illusory as it will prove to be.
Interestingly enough, this delusive state is described in the nineteenth century science-fiction classic Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott, a brilliant Shakespearean scholar and mathematician. The book is about a two-dimensional being who is suddenly pulled up into the world of three dimensions and the difficulties he encounters upon returning to the world of two dimensions and attempting to communicate his experience. At one point his inter-dimensional guide and mentor shows him two other worlds: Lineland, where there is only one dimension, and Pointland, where there are no dimensions at all–not in the sense of the transcendence of dimensionality, which is possible and even inevitable in genuine spiritual evolution, but in the sense of a regressive shrinking of consciousness to the point of incapacity for perceiving dimensions.
Here is the account. As you read it, note how the rhapsodies of the “king” of Pointland are like the modern expositions of non-dual enlightenment through meditation that are a continuing echo of the drug explosion of the nineteen-sixties.
“During my slumber I had a dream. We were moving together toward a bright but infinitesimally small Point, to which my Master directed my attention.
“‘Look yonder,’” said my Guide, “‘in Flatland thou hast lived; of Lineland thou hast received a vision; thou hast soared with me to the heights of Spaceland; now, in order to complete the range of thy experience, I conduct thee downward to the lowest depth of existence, even to the realm of Pointland, the Abyss of No Dimensions.
“‘Behold, yon miserable creature. That Point is a Being like ourselves, but confined to the non-dimensional Gulf. He is himself his own World, his own Universe; of any other than himself he can form no conception; he knows not Length, nor Breadth, nor Height, for he has had no experience of them; he has no cognizance even of the number Two; nor has he a thought of Plurality; for he is himself his One and All, being really Nothing. Yet mark his perfect self-contentment, and hence learn this lesson, that to be self-contented is to be vile and ignorant, and that to aspire is better than to be blindly and impotently happy. Now listen.’”
“He ceased; and there arose from the little buzzing creature a tiny, low, monotonous, but distinct tinkling, as from one of your Spaceland phonographs, from which I caught these words, ‘Infinite beatitude of Existence! It is; and there is none else beside It.’
“‘What,’” said I, “‘does the puny creature mean by “it”?’” ‘He means himself,’ said the Sphere: ‘have you not noticed before now, that babies and babyish people who cannot distinguish themselves from the world, speak of themselves in the Third Person? But hush!’
“‘It fills all Space,’” continued the little soliloquizing Creature, “‘and what It fills, It is. What It thinks, that It utters; and what It utters, that It hears; and It itself is Thinker, Utterer, Hearer, Thought, Word, Audition; it is the One, and yet the All in All. Ah, the happiness ah, the happiness of Being!’”
The spiritual deadliness of such delusion is revealed further when an attempt is made to help the King of Pointland out of his false sense of non-duality so he can truly progress in consciousness.
“‘Can you not startle the little thing out of its complacency?’ said I. ‘Tell it what it really is, as you told me; reveal to it the narrow limitations of Pointland, and lead it up to something higher.’ ‘That is no easy task,’ said my Master; ‘try you.’”
“Hereon, raising my voice to the uttermost, I addressed the Point as follows: ‘Silence, silence, contemptible Creature. You call yourself the All in All, but you are the Nothing: your so-called Universe is a mere speck in a Line, and a Line is a mere shadow as compared with–’ ‘Hush, hush, you have said enough,’ interrupted the Sphere, ‘now listen, and mark the effect of your harangue on the King of Pointland.’
“The lustre of the Monarch, who beamed more brightly then ever upon hearing my words, showed clearly that he retained his complacency; and I had hardly ceased when he took up his strain again. ‘Ah, the joy, ah, the joy of Thought! What can It not achieve by thinking! Its own Thought coming to Itself, suggestive of Its disparagement, thereby to enhance Its happiness! Sweet rebellion stirred up to result in triumph! Ah, the divine creative power of the All in One! Ah, the joy, the joy of Being!’
“‘You see,’ said my Teacher, ‘how little your words have done. So far as the Monarch understands them at all, he accepts them as his own–for he cannot conceive of any other except himself–and plumes himself upon the variety of “Its Thought” as an instance of creative Power. Let us leave this God of Pointland to the ignorant fruition of his omnipresence and omniscience: nothing that you or I can do can rescue him from his self-satisfaction.’”
Really, what more need be said? The dangers of such a counterfeit transcendence and the other illusions we have considered should be evident to those not already hopelessly deluded through such profound distortions of consciousness.
Dead end self-awareness
There are practices that are supposed to reveal our true self–and they do. But they also confine us to an awareness of our finite spiritual entity, even blinding us to the fact that there is a Reality that far overreaches the boundaries of our little spirit-spark. Such methods lay a great stress on “self-realization,” but fail utterly to reveal the Self of our self: God. Enabling us to transcend the limitations of relative existence, they yet do not lead us to transcendence of our limited spiritual status. They then become spiritual cages in which our consciousness ignorantly rests–like the infant in its crib, warm and snug with its thumb in its mouth, resting in perfect contentment with no thought of anything further to be gained. Indeed, the infant would consider any urging to wider horizons as an outright nuisance and a disturbing of its peace and happiness.
This unfortunate state of things is perfectly symbolized in the film Labyrinth. The goblin king has stolen an infant and hidden it in the center of a vast labyrinth. The child’s sister has only a few hours in which to find her little brother–otherwise he will be in the goblin domain permanently. Therefore she enters the labyrinth–which is filled with mirages–seeking its center. Seeing the perseverance and courage of the girl in her attempts to rescue the child, the goblin king gives up trying to frighten or discourage her and instead attempts to trick her into taking routes that will lead her right back to the beginning of the maze. Thus she will be out of the maze and consequently out of danger and conflict–but she will still not have the baby. The goblin king is the ego, the Dweller at the Threshold, the baby is the consciousness of the spirit, and the sister is the person seeking the lost spiritual awareness.
A wrong return
When the ego sees that the individual can neither be deceived by false spiritual experience nor deflected from his inner quest, as a final ploy it tries to trick the individual into abandoning the process of evolution and expansion of consciousness and simply returning to his original state in which he existed before coming into relative existence.
Now, the very reason the spirit comes into relativity is its innate urge for transcendence of its finite state, however perfect that state might have been. (For an exposition of this see Robe of Light.) The entire universe, visible and invisible, is an exercise field upon which the spirit strives to develop the capacity to experience wider and deeper levels of consciousness until it gains the capacity for sharing in the infinite consciousness of God. To simply return to square one–to our original state as a pure but limited consciousness beyond time and space–is a terrible error. Why? Because our innate urge for transcendence will eventually pull us out onto the playing field once more and we will have to spend aeons again climbing up to the point from which we so foolishly jumped off.
So dramatic–indeed wondrous–is the experiencing of our true self after ages of forgetfulness that it can seem perfectly sufficient to the weary spirit. But the contentment will not last forever, even if it does continue through the brief span of a single lifetime. Ultimately the divine impulse for transcendence of finite existence will arise and submerge that satisfaction in the greater and truer discontent of infinite destiny. Far from being admirable and wise, the entering back into our original status and not pressing onward to transcendence is a supreme mistake.
Therefore the methods that return us to the experience of our real being, and stop there, can also be said to be both true and false. They are true in that they give us a real experience of who and what we essentially are–which is a remarkable thing. But they are false in that they make us think there is no other destiny for us than this. They blind us to the fact that such a return to self-awareness is really not progress but a regression if it does not move on from there. The “attainment” produced by such methods is really a grievous loss of motivation and understanding.
There are systems of meditation that actually dissolve the connections between the individual’s consciousness and the bodies through which he has been evolving. When the separation is fully effected the spirit finds itself right back where it began. And will have to start all over. A waste of life indeed.
Through the effect of such practices aeons of evolution melt away and are lost to us forever, leaving us with nothing more than an awareness of our folly and the prospect of having to go through the whole endeavor again. In other words, the more successful our application of those methods, the greater our ultimate failure.
Chills and thrills
Although we have touched on it at several points, we have not specifically considered what can be called the chills and thrills school of meditation. This is composed of many systems whose intended effect is to provide continual diversions to their practicers in the form of exotic and impressive experiences. Sometimes psychic powers are also imparted to the meditator, for when the Dweller sees that the seeker is not going to be easily deflected from finding what is real, it begins to bargain with him, offering him exalted and ego-gratifying experiences, especially those that will convince him that he is enlightened or even God.
Desperate in its struggle to survive, the Dweller-ego itself promises him that he will be made a master and will inherit all powers and glories. But the price is the worst of idolatries: ego worship. Many are those who accept the hollow bargain.
To resist the terrible temptation it is necessary to understand that there is indeed but one God–and it is not “me.” Those who turn away from such egoic allurements will find that eventually it can be said of them as of Jesus: “Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.” (Matthew 4:11).
False raja yoga
Authentic raja yoga deals directly with the subtle energies of the yogi’s various bodies for the purposes of both purification and development. The spirit, the fundamental consciousness, of each one of us, never changes because it transcends the relative world of continual and unavoidable change. But the vehicles of our spirit, being part of relativity, do indeed change and therefore can evolve to such a degree that they become perfect reflections of spirit and can eventually be absorbed into spirit, since everything has come from spirit ultimately. Genuine raja yoga is invaluable for this.
Unfortunately, over the centuries there have arisen in India a great deal of supposed raja yoga methods that are really purely physical, some more properly a part of hatha yoga, not raja yoga. Some of these so-called pranayamas are breathing exercises that can be incredibly dangerous if practiced without strict supervision. Two factors cause this: violence and strain in practice and holding the breath forcibly for too long a time.
I have a copy of Swami Dayananda’s book Satyarth Prakash in English which has a color photograph of the translator whose eyes are very bloodshot. The caption on that page says that the man died “attempting to raise the pranas into the head.” He literally killed himself with strenuous breathing exercises. Whether they were intrinsically harmful or his practice was done incorrectly cannot be known. But this is known: the man is dead because of it. Paramhansa Yogananda, who was a raja yoga master, continually warned people about this.
Unhappily, there are people who for some reason like abusing themselves in various ways. They over-exercise, they over-fast, they over-medicate, they deprive themselves of sleep–anything in the name of discipline that will ultimately harm them. This is a common manifestation of self-loathing found in both East and West. Such people eagerly take up practices that they overdo to their harm. So they are often attracted to false raja yoga.
False raja yoga is one of the classical chills and thrills systems. Some of the practices produce in its practicers low voltage irrelevant psychic experiences and useless revelations. That would be bad enough if they realized their valuelessness, but unfortunately they are convinced by such cosmic trivia that they are truly on the path to God, to the realization of their own divinity. Completely misinterpreting the unfolding panorama of psychic experiences, they sink in delusion as they rise in their own estimation.
Because it deals only with the biomagnetism (prana) of the human body, false raja yoga has only a superficial effect on the body or the mind. But since it does convey just a touch, a spark, of what the yogi should attain, it makes him think he has attained the whole. Then, in time, it will all fade away and he shall find himself utterly empty, devoid of any authentic realization and development.
If the practicer is young and vigorous the results are correspondingly strong and evident. But when the physical organism begins to lose its vitality–and its glandular potency in particular (especially the sexual glands)–the radiance of the false raja yogi fades away along with any psychic powers that may have developed through its practice. What remains is an empty husk. I do not write this idly or glibly, for I have had some decades of both personal experience and observation in this matter. In India I met more than one guru who in youth had been dynamic, whose photographs looked like gods. But when I met them they were shuffling around their ashrams dead-eyed and blank, hardly speaking. One time in Benares Mata Anandamayi spoke to me at length about the negative effects of false raja yoga practices specifically and told me to warn people about them.
False raja yoga creates alternating highs and depressions in its practitioners. One interesting trait they nearly all have is food obsession to some degree. Swami (Papa) Ramdas of Anandashram wrote about this effect in his autobiography.
What I have written regarding false raja yoga also applies to other systems involved in the development and use of “power” and subtle energies, including many practices which claim to deal with kundalini. There are legitimate systems of meditation in which kundalini comes into manifestation as a natural consequence without any intentional endeavor, but automatically as a side-effect. But many systems which focus obsessively on kundalini to exclusion of all else, virtually substituting it for God, wreak great harm and can even produce mental unbalance. This, too, I have witnessed.
Satirical as the title of this section may sound, it is absolutely true that there are systems of meditation whose sole appeal rests in the experiencing of buzzes and zaps–not resulting from their “power” as their practicers assume, but from the fact that they produce conflict and confusion in their neurological and psychic systems. When a person applies such practices he becomes “zonked” and disoriented, much like a drug high. Such practices are literally like slapping oneself in the face or beating oneself over the head with a hammer. “Wow! this stuff really packs a punch,” exults the innocent victim. After a while the detrimental effects of such practices can no longer be ignored. But when the practicer consults with his instructors he is told that he is simply “going through a cleansing process” or “burning up karma.” If he continues, the reward of his good faith is a definite breakdown mentally and physically–an expensive price to pay to eventually discover the facts.
After a good deal of observance of those in the grip of thrills and chills and buzz bombing meditation, I realized that there was a very simple explanation of their wowie zowie cataclysmic experiences. If I have a water hose turned on full force and I direct it through an open window there will be no disturbance or splashback. But if I it direct it onto the wall then there will be noise and a tremendous lot of water flying back all around and soaking me. In the same way, when a practice is correct, the higher energies move through the proper channels without inhibition. The energies of mistaken practices, on the other hand, produce conflict in the subtle bodies–especially in the astral “nerves” (nadis)–and splay out in all directions, causing disruption and disturbance of the nervous system very like the effects of taking drugs. The experience may be quite dramatic–but so is the ultimate negative result.
Let me cite an example. One of Paramhansa Yogananda’s longtime disciples told me that whenever the Master touched her forehead in blessing she felt nothing. But when his disciple, Rajasi Janakananda, touched her she would feel an incredible blast of power and nearly fall over. “It would nearly blow off the top of my head,” is how she put it. This puzzled her, so she asked Sister Meera, a senior disciple, why this was. “Simple,” replied Sister Meera, “Master is in perfect control of the energies and directs them into the channels of your brain and astral body where they can help you the most, even dissolving your bad karmas. But Rajasi doesn’t know how to do that. He just throws the energy at you and you get dizzy.”
I have met Indian “yogis” without realization who “zap” people in the same way to impress them. Some do it for money.
Once a practicer of erroneous meditation methods told me that she had recently “ascended and crashed into the white light” and gotten a persistent headache and a stiff neck as a result! It seemed the politic thing to simply listen and not reply, but I was reminded of the time when a great American yogi-disciple of Yogananda, Warren Vickerman, was told by a woman that whenever she meditated she flew up out of her body and banged her head on the bedroom ceiling. “Lady,” he said to her with great solemnity, “in that state there is no ceiling!”
Some practices directly attack the nervous system, through detrimental physical practices such as over-oxygenation or under-oxygenation. Some are more subtle, such as the recitations of mantras that have a negative effect on the subtle and gross bodies, especially the brain. This often occurs when the teacher dispenses bija (single syllable) mantras in hopes that the student will not discover their Hindu character–especially as invocations of gods and goddesses. Bija mantras are extremely powerful in their effect, and are usually repeated only a few times before other esoteric practices to quickly “amp up” the practicer. In their correct context they are quite beneficial, but in misapplication (used in continual repetition, for example) their effects are truly damaging.
We all grew up hearing about initiation–initiation fees, initiation into college fraternities, and so forth. But in the more real world of spiritual endeavor, true initiation can be a potent, though not absolutely necessary, element of conscious self development, including the practice of meditation. Essentially, initiation is the conveying of power, usually consisting of the transmission of subtle energies from one person to another by look, word or physical touch. We can think of initiation as a kind of psychic blood transfusion. And like a blood transfusion, initiation can convey life, death, or crippling disease, depending on the quality of the energies infused into the initiate by the initiator. I have observed this in some initiated disciples, even knowing at first sight who the false guru was that had initiated them since they exhibited the same overt mental distortions of other disciples I had met.
This is a matter of inexpressible gravity, for incompetent or negative initiation can distort, destroy, or deaden both the inner and outer bodies, causing grave damage that is not corrected by simply stopping the destructive meditation practice given along with it. For years after the cessation of a practice recognized as negative, the twisting of the inner mind can persist, often unperceived by the victim.
Here is a reliable clairvoyant’s description of the psychic implantation within the aura of an initiate of one of the most popular delusive meditation systems here in the West: “A black psychic current like a thick snake comes out of the initiate’s right ear and wraps down under the chin, around the neck, and then down the back and up between the legs and into the navel. Also attached to the initiate are two astral entities that look like black tennis balls. One is attached on the right shoulder at the base of the neck, and the other is at the navel. The more the initiate meditates, the bigger the ‘snake’ and those two entities grow and dominate his mind and life.”
Fortunately, a lot of negative groups and gurus give no real initiation, but only some ineffectual rites that fool the recipient but do not flaw him. (I know of one group that claims their members become initiated “on the inner planes” when the prospective initiate receives the receipt for the initiation fee.)
Many, on the other hand, significantly alter the interior condition of their initiates, planting the seeds of distortion, anguish, illness, and even madness. When these effects first make their appearance the innocent practicer is elated. “At last something that works!” he says. And it does indeed, but it works to his ultimate harm.
A terrible aspect of false meditation practice is its blinding of the aspirant to what is really going on. Through the “mirror effect” the practicer rarely becomes aware of the distortion produced by the method–much like those who take the kind of drugs known as “speed” are not even aware of the changes they produce in their minds until the drug wears off.
There are mantras supposedly invoking higher beings or consciousness, as well as the Supreme Being, which really invoke and attract intelligences of the lowest and most demonic sort. This is truly horrible. Usually the groups or teachers who dispense these mantras declare that all other religions or spiritual groups than theirs are evil lies and worship evil beings. And of course the only true master on earth is their master. Anyone who observes their members with clear sight can behold the psychic ravages these frauds produce. Suicide and mental imbalance are common occurrences among them, but the cult leader and his henchmen have prepackaged explanations and rationalizations for them. I watched several of my friends begin to psychically deteriorate after becoming initiates of such groups. Fortunately, in time they all became aware of their damage and stopped the practice.
Earlier I mentioned problems with continual repetition of bija mantras. Another form of harmful mantras are intrinsically positive mantras that have bijas added into them. For example, Om Namah Shivaya, Om Sri Krishnaya Namah and Om Sri Durgayai Namah are some of the normal ishta mantras invoking one of the divinely revealed aspects of God. Only benefit comes from them. But Om Hum Namah Shivaya, Om Klim Sri Krishnaya Namah and Om Sri Dum Durgayai Namah wreak genuine havoc on the unsuspecting users through psychic overloading by the continual invocation of the added bijas. I have had much observation of this. What I am glad to tell you is that every single person who took my advice to stop repeating that kind of mantra experienced relief in a very short time–often in minutes.
Read the next chapter of Dwelling in the Mirror: Symptoms of Being in the Mirror
Dwelling in the Mirror: A Study of Illusions Produced by Delusive Meditation and How to Be Free from Them