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Symptoms of Being Out of the Mirror

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Part 4 of Dwelling in the Mirror: A Study of Illusions Produced by Delusive Meditation and How Be Free from Them

Now we need to look at authentic, positive meditation practices and their effects and aspects.

Imperceptible Growth

Since the purpose of meditation is growth–evolution culminating in realization–we should remember our experience regarding our physical growth in height: we did not have any! That is, our growing up and getting taller was so natural and gradual we did not perceive it until it became evident or others pointed it out to us. In the same way, correct systems of meditation do not necessarily produce stunning, dramatic results–though they sometimes do, especially in the beginning. This is all according to the individual’s karma and samskara. But even if they do, after any initial experiences they continue to produce a harmonious unfoldment so natural that the practicer sometimes wonders if anything is happening. But eventually he perceives the very real effect. Anandamayi Ma put it this way when contrasting the chills and thrills and buzz bombing systems of meditation with correct practices: “The lightning flash comes in a moment and vividly lights up all around. Then darkness returns. But the light of day comes gradually and does not diminish.”

Sobriety

We have described some methods of meditation that are illusory, but let us consider some of the effects of correct meditation.

One of the first and most important signs of correct meditation is the psychological effect that some spiritual writers have called “sobriety.” Sobriety is the English translation of the Greek word nepsis, and is used in the sense of the direct opposite of the state of drunkenness, which involves both distortion and deadening of consciousness. Therefore a sober person sees clearly, correctly, completely and calmly. In the case of a practicer of meditation, it means that he sees both internally and externally with undistorted clarity and that he also sees fully–without any blind spots. And he is always at peace inwardly. This is especially important in relation to his view of himself and his spiritual status.

What Should Happen

Does all this mean that those who practice correct meditation simply remain flat–in “the blahs”? Not at all. The practicer of right meditation indeed does experience peace, rest, and quiet joy, but:

  1. He is looking for much, much more, and never loses himself in savoring pleasurable sensations, however subtle. Never does he consider any state of mindless feelings as a spiritual experience. In fact, he ignores such experiences and keeps moving onward.
  2. He never loses sight of the progress he needs to make and never falls into the error of believing he has made some great attainment in a flash. At all times he is keenly though optimistically aware of his limitations and of the very long path he still has to traverse before attaining the ultimate perfection. This is described as “discontentedly content” and “satisfied though thirsting.” Both of these characteristics are produced by correct meditation itself.

The attitude of the sober practicer of right meditation toward all incidental experiences in meditation–yes, and even toward his very real attainments that are still short of the Goal–is perfectly expressed in the words of Saint Paul: “I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God”(Philippians 3:13-14).

The high calling of God! This alone fills the horizon of him who meditates correctly. He has no time for self-savoring or self-congratulation, but presses onward to the fulfillment of that upward call.

And that is the state of sobriety.

State of mind and life: purification and perceptions of progress

Moreover, the life as well as the state of mind of the progressing meditator reveals that sobriety. This is because a sober consciousness is not afraid to look squarely at its defects and apply a remedy rather than a cosmetic. And that remedy is purification of heart and life. Therefore we can know our meditation is correct if–without becoming depressed or discouraged–we become increasingly aware of our inner defects and the need to further purify ourself to correct them.

Without the purification of all levels of our being, even the practice of correct meditation will have little or no effect. Even more, purification and refinement are needed before we can perceive the subtle effects of right meditation and to grasp the higher states of consciousness with which it puts us in touch. For this reason the fundamental scripture of yoga, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, prescribe ten observances or disciplines known as yama and niyama. They are:

  1. Ahimsa: non-violence, non-injury, harmlessness
  2. Satya: truthfulness, honesty
  3. Asteya: non-stealing, honesty, non-misappropriativeness
  4. Brahmacharya: sexual continence in thought, word and deed as well as control of all the senses
  5. Aparigraha: non-possessiveness, non-greed, non-selfishness, non-acquisitiveness
  6. Shaucha: purity, cleanliness
  7. Santosha: contentment, peacefulness
  8. Tapas: austerity, practical (i.e., result-producing) spiritual discipline
  9. Swadhyaya: introspective self-study, spiritual study
  10. Ishwarapranidhana: offering of one’s life to God

Therefore one sign of correct meditation is the necessity for its practicers to cultivate purity of life and mind.

Spiritual Growth And Progress

We have already said that sobriety produces a balanced perspective regarding our present spiritual state. It also does the same in relation to spiritual progress.

Healthy physical growth is a steady though oftentimes imperceptible process. Evolution of consciousness is even subtler and longer in its duration. Any physician can bear witness to the fact that rapid growth or development in any part of the body is pathological. So, too, with meditation and spiritual advancement. Also, growth is often not perceived simply because it is natural and “makes no waves.”

So what will the correct meditator experience as far as spiritual growth is concerned? It is true that he will not likely be astounded by great and rapid growth. Rather he will perceive much of his development through retrospect. That is, he may not feel the change, but when he looks back and remembers his former condition he will see a very real difference.

The Symptom of Success

Perhaps the real heart of the matter is that the one who meditates correctly becomes more and more intent on God and less and less on his own mind and feelings. The correct meditator realizes that he is an image, a mirror, of the divine perfection. Therefore any goodness that he sees in himself he correctly perceives as the goodness and perfection of God, his true Self. As he sees the image of God growing and taking shape within and without he does not attribute it to himself or to his efforts but to the love and grace of God. As he perseveres in right meditation the yogi ascends the evolutionary ladder step by step, and at each step the light is brighter. And since it is the face of God which he seeks, there is no place in his consciousness for pride or self-glorification.

In short: the meditator does not seek to be only Self-realized, but to attain God-realization–although Self-realization is a requisite for God-realization. Correct meditation fixes our awareness on God, Who is our true Self. False meditation involves the meditator more and more in his little individual self. Correct meditation makes us increasingly aware of consciousness, whereas false meditation involves us in the awareness of energy only and its manifestation as objective phenomena. This is why the enthusiasts of such systems make a big to-do about “energy,” “vibrations” and “power.”

Talk Should Not Be Cheap

Since “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matthew 12:34), the conversation of the true and worthy meditator will reveal a great deal about the nature of his meditative practice. If his practice is delusive, he will talk on and on about abstractions and use a lot of New Age buzzwords. If his practice is correct his words will be of practical things, or actual practice and definite principles of practice–not philosophical abstractions that sound impressive but mean nothing and have no practical application. He will not speak about his realization, but he will speak from his realization, and it will be evident. He will not thrill and chill his hearers, but will point them to the way to God-realization. And if his words are based on truth, they will be inspired to follow that way.

Also, the right meditator can distinguish between himself and God while at the same time experiencing that he and God are one. Never does he say: “I am God,” any more than a wave would say: “I am the ocean.” Again: whereas false meditation is used as a cosmetic to cover over spiritual defects and moral corruption with an illusory sense of perfection, correct meditation is a process of genuine purification and correction.

A Vital Point

Since the purpose of spiritual practice is to set us free, correct meditation, like correct philosophy, places the responsibility and the capacity for spiritual growth and change directly in the hands of the meditator. Always, always the meditator has freedom of choice and at every moment makes the conscious decision for higher life.

Delusive meditations cut off or anesthetize certain areas of the mind from which negativity arises and thus appear to free the meditator from problems and illusions that are in reality simply being held in abeyance only to manifest later on in either this or a future life–and usually with devastating effects on the person who thought he was free at last and spiritually transformed.

Correct meditation dispels the darkness of negativity through true illumination. Also, correct meditation often causes the meditator to confront and cope with the inner poisons which he willfully took and therefore must willfully eliminate.

If we build a brick wall of separation, we must then tear it down to end that separation. So it is with the wall of ignorance we have erected between us and God. Just as the brick wall must be dismantled brick by brick, so we must eliminate our ignorance step by step.

The Gospel of Saint John says: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God” (John 1:12). It does not say that he made them sons of God, but that he gave them the power–authority and empowerment–to make themselves the children of God. That “becoming” had to be their free choice and be accomplished by their own free actions. The practicers of false meditation are always soaring and zooming, only to fall and crash. The correct meditators walk step by step, and always with full will and consciousness. They also keep quiet about it and move on ahead in private silence.

Sri Ramakrishna said: “Once, while going to the Fort, [the fort in Calcutta] I couldn’t see at all that I was driving down a sloping road; but when the carriage went inside the Fort, I realized how far down I had come.” And the opposite is true, as well. We do not realize how much we have progressed until we look back upon how things (especially our mind) used to be.

Right meditation is not glamorous, but it is real.

Another Ploy Of The Dweller

We must not forget as well that the Dweller at the Threshold also sometimes deludes us by getting us to incorrectly practice correct meditation. Being confident in the rightness of the system and its adherents we may not realize that our personal application is wrong or defective. Therefore a yogi should often check as to the correctness of his practice.

A friend once told me of a man who told a yoga teacher that a very simple meditation practice exhausted him. The teacher asked him to demonstrate his practice and found he was doing a ridiculous, scrambled process–not the actual technique at all. I must confess that the description of what he was doing was pretty funny, but it was not any joke for him.

It is crucial that those whose meditation practice involve a mantra make sure they are pronouncing it absolutely correctly. When I taught my friend Howard Hyde, the president of the World Bank in New Delhi, the very simple practice of Soham sadhana, I suggested that he write it down so he would not forget. He became mildly offended and assured me he would not need to write anything down, it was so simple. I understood: he was highly intelligent and used to remembering very important secular matters and plans. But in less than ten minutes he came back with pen and paper and asked me to tell him the whole thing again. So no one should be embarrassed about forgetting something in their practice. This is part of the inner shadow we all must cope with.

What is real meditation like?

Because we are exposed to the promotional hype of false meditation systems and teachers, we cannot help but be influenced, and this is especially true in the matter of what we think the practice of meditation should be like. Naturally, we hope it will be pleasant, even joyful, but the actuality is not always like that. Delusive meditation is touted as blissful, powerful, insightful, and a barrel of fun–even though it most always never really is. Real meditation is of an altogether different nature.

Before we can get to the center of the maze we have to run the whole maze. That is, before we get to the reality we have a lot of unreality to encounter–and pass by. Furthermore, the Dweller at the Threshold has no intention of giving up its domain just because we want to reclaim it for our true, divine Self.

The ego and the Dweller (they are really the same thing) have dominated us from life to life with both blandishments and threats. Although we speak of the ego as “ours,” for all practical purposes we have become the possession of the ego, who is the Satan, the anti-Christ within. When we decide to turn things back around to their true order, there is going to be resistance, and often an inner war. For when we reach the level of evolution where we become conscious of our miserable state, then either the ego dies so we can get on to God or our spiritual consciousness dies so the ego can keep its domination. The two can no longer co-exist. We must choose God or ego.

Since false meditation systems in no way dislodge the ego, but enmesh us even more in the realm of illusion, the ego eagerly co-operates in their practice, urging us on and giving us experiences and thrills–even going into abeyance for a while so we can think we have conquered our inner ignorance and evil and have become pure and enlightened. But when it comes back to claim its own, it literally comes back with a vengeance and, as Jesus said, “the last state of that man is worse than the first” (Matthew 12:45; Luke 11:26). And often the worse the fallen yogi becomes the more enthusiasm he displays and the greater the spiritual claims that he makes.

In the East they often say that what is bitter in the beginning will be sweet in the end, but what is sweet in the beginning becomes bitter in the end. This is often the case with meditation systems.

We have to realize that true meditation, like true religion of which it is an integral part, is therapy not diversion. It is medicine for the sick soul. And we usually find both medicine and therapy unappealing if not downright unpleasant. It is often easy for the ego to talk us out of it, too. But those who have reached a meaningful degree of spiritual maturity go ahead and take the medicine knowing that in time it will produce health. We can say of spiritual life, and of meditation in particular, what was said about the American westward expansion: “The cowards never started and the weak died along the way.”

Certainly the meditator experiences peace and quiet joy quite early in his practice, but until we get there–we are not there. So when we sit to meditate we will sometimes confront boredom, impatience, physical and mental discomfort, gripping and inane memories, fantasies, mind blather and just about anything other than peace, joy, or God. It will be more boring and annoying than painful, but for those who keep right on, caring nothing for the antics of the ego-mind, light, peace and joy come to them in the dawning of true spiritual consciousness.

What is Enlightenment Like?

What is enlightenment like? Nothing at all like what we now know. So it cannot be described. But there are experiences that indicate the dawning of real spiritual realization. They are myriad in nature, but I would like to give you an example of authentic spiritual experience that can give us quite a good idea of the basic nature of spiritual experiences that arise from correct meditation.

Saint Ambrose of Optina

The following is a written description by Saint Ambrose of Optina Monastery, in Russia, who in the nineteenth century was the spiritual guide to countless numbers of seekers in the Russian Orthodox Church. This is his own account of the experience that triggered his spiritual quest. First I will give it to you complete, and then we can analyze it together.

“It was a wonderful time in spring; and that paradise of spring, which I chose as a place of my daily visits, was the dark, thick forest. Giving myself over to this blessed state in the bosom of nature, I drank in its aromatic breath and went deeply into the spiritual apprehension of the Creator, Who is too Immense to behold.

“The surrounding world from which I came forth then retreated from me to somewhere far away and disappeared into the realm of concepts foreign to me. I was alone. Around me there was only the slumbering forest. Its ancient giants stretched far into the skies. They searched for God. I also was in search of Him.

“But suddenly, I am outside of the forest, somewhere far away, in another world, quite unknown to me, never seen by me, never imagined by me. Around me there is bright, white light! Its transcendence is so pure and enticing that I am submerged, along with my perception, into limitless depths and cannot satisfy myself with my admiration for this realm, cannot completely fill myself with its lofty spirituality. Everything is so full of beauty all around. So endearing this life–so endless the way. I am being swept across this limitless, clear space. My sight is directed upwards, does not descend anymore, does not see anything earthly. The whole of the heavenly firmament has transformed itself before me into one general bright light, pleasing to the sight.

“But I do not see the sun. I can see only its endless shining and bright light. The whole space in which I glide without hindrance, without end, without fatigue, is filled with white light, just as is its light and beautiful beings, transparent as a ray of the sun. And through them I am admiring this limitless world. The images of all these beings unknown to me are infinitely diverse and full of beauty

“I also am white and bright as they are. Over me, as over them, there reigns eternal rest. Not a single thought of mine is any longer enticed by anything earthly, not a single beat of my heart is any longer moving with human cares or earthly passion. I am all peace and rapture. But I am still moving in this infinite light, which surrounds me without change. There is nothing else in the world except for the white, bright light and these equally radiant numberless beings. But all these beings do not resemble me, nor are similar to each other; they are all endlessly varied and compellingly attractive. Amidst them, I feel myself incredibly peaceful. They evoke in me neither fear, nor amazement, nor trepidation. All that we see here does not agitate us, does not amaze us. All of us here are as if we have belonged to each other for a long time, are used to each other and are not strangers at all. We do not ask questions, we do not speak to each other about anything. We all feel and understand that there is nothing novel for us here. All our questions are solved with one glance, which sees everything and everyone. There is no trace of the wars of passions in anyone. All move in different directions, opposite to each other, not feeling any limitation, any inequality, or envy, or sorrow, or sadness. One peace reigns in all the images of entities. One light is endless for all. Oneness of life is comprehensible to all.

“My rapture at all this superseded everything. I sank into this eternal rest. No longer was my spirit disturbed by anything. And I knew nothing else earthly. None of the tribulations of my heart came to mind, even for a minute. It seemed that everything that I had experienced before on earth never existed. Such was my feeling in this new radiant world of mine. And I was at peace and joyful and desired nothing better for myself. All my earthly thoughts concerning fleeting happiness in the world died in this beautiful life, new to me, and did not come back to life again. So it seemed to me at least, there, in that better world.

“But how I came back here–I do not recall. What transitory state it was, I do not know. I only felt that I was alive, but I did not remember the world in which I lived before on earth. This did not seem at all to be a dream. Actually, about earthly things I no longer had the least notion. I only felt that the present life is mine, and that I was not a stranger in it. In this state of spirit I forgot myself and immersed myself in this light-bearing eternity. And this timelessness lasted without end, without measure, without expectation, without sleep, in this eternal rest. Thus it seemed to me that there would not be any kind of change.

“But then suddenly, the thread of my radiant life was cut off and I opened my eyes. Around me was the familiar forest, and a beam of spring sunlight was playing on its meadows. I was seized with terrible sadness. “Why am I here again?” I thought. And that radiant, light-emanating world, which I had just experienced with all its hosts of numberless visionary entities, vividly remained impressed before my mental eyes. But my physical vision did not see it any longer. This terrible and tearful sorrow I could not endure and I began to cry bitterly.

“Only after that experience I believed in the concept of the separation of soul from the body and understood what the special spiritual world was. But the question of what is the meaning of life still remained a mystery for me. And in order to penetrate into this mystery, I left this world into which I was born and embraced the monastic life.”

What This Tells Us

What a thrilling narrative–a straightforward, simple and humble account of rediscovering the lost homeland of the spirit. These are the words of a saint, one whose subsequent life, rather than book sales, seminars and admirers, proved the validity of his experience. So let us look at it carefully and see what we can learn about real spiritual vision.

We have already spoken about the concept of sobriety as both a requisite and a result of correct meditation. One aspect of sobriety is the constant presence of a frame of reference that is rooted in wisdom and plain good sense. An account of an authentic spiritual experience will be pervaded with this, as well. It will also be totally lacking in the “Hey everybody! Look what happened to me! Oh, wow, wasn’t it great?” kind of attitude. Such effusions are so lacking in either intelligence or meaning, they could be summed up by saying “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah!” or “Bibbity-Bobbity-Boo!” and letting it go at that.

This is not the case with the potential Saint Ambrose, beginner though he be. First of all, he knows his own limitations–as well as those of any experience he may have–for he immediately speaks of “the spiritual apprehension of the Creator, Who is too Immense to behold.” He knows that however profound and astounding his experience might be, still it could be no more than a glimmering, a drop of the infinite Being that is God. He never loses sight of his eternal finitude however much he perceives God’s eternal infinitude. In fact, it is that vision which convinces him of his finitude as an individual spirit within the boundless Spirit: God.

“The surrounding world from which I came forth then retreated from me to somewhere far away and disappeared into the realm of concepts foreign to me.” Many of us have “forgotten the world” to some extent when out in the wilderness or desert and we do so even more every time we enter the state of dreamless sleep. But this experience is of a different order altogether. For Saint Ambrose the very concept of the world vanished from his consciousness. And it was not simply in abeyance, but became a realm “foreign” to him. The world did not simply cease to exist for him, the very ideas of existence and non-existence could no longer arise for him. This is authentic non-dual consciousness.

Yet he speaks of the forest being around him, the trees lifting high into the sky. This seems contradictory only to our linear-bound minds. He ceased to perceive the world–to even be capable of such a perception–and yet was keenly aware of it. Nothing was lost to him in that state. How this could be is simply incomprehensible. He was experiencing that of which Jesus spoke, saying: “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (John 17:5). We had this glory, too, but have lost it–even the memory of it. Saint Ambrose, one of us, was regaining it.

Saint Ambrose gained another insight. He says of the surrounding trees: “They searched for God. I also was in search of Him.” He perceived that the individual consciousnesses presently inhabiting the forms of trees were dreaming that they were trees, just as he was dreaming that he was a human being. And like him they were seeking God. They (and he) were not just blindly growing toward God, subliminally evolving into to the capacity to perceive God, but from eternity in the core of their being were conscious seekers of God. In writing this there comes back to me with blessed vividness an evening in an ashram on the plains of Bengal, India. I was sitting on the veranda of the humble temple of the Lakshmanpur Yogoda Ashram with Swami Vidyananda Giri, an advanced disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda, and his friend the future Swami Bhumananda Puri. It was the time of sandhya, when day merges into evening. All things were silent–even the birds. When I commented on the stillness, Swami Bhumananda quietly said: “At these times I always think that the trees themselves are yogis, meditating on God.” We were dimly intuiting it, but Saint Ambrose was seeing it.

“Seek, and ye shall find” (Matthew 7:7; Luke 11:9), Jesus assured His disciples. The questing consciousness of Saint Ambrose did indeed find, for: “Suddenly, I am outside of the forest, somewhere far away, in another world, quite unknown to me, never seen by me, never imagined by me.” The dream has dissolved into a reality which had never been imagined by him, so there can be no question of autosuggestion here.

“Around me there is bright, white light!” Saint John the Beloved simply stated: “God is light” (I John 1:5), and Saint Ambrose is experiencing that. Within the infinite ocean of light that is God are contained the numberless “drops” of light that are the individual spirits, existing eternally within the Divine ocean as gods within God. Although in reality we are never separated, never changed from this status, we experience the illusions of separation and the consequent descent into material consciousness, from which we begin to evolve back toward our original state. (See Robe of Light.) Saint Ambrose, though caught in the web of relative existence, momentarily sees things as they are eternally in the Light of God.

Regarding this ocean of light he continues:“Its transcendence is so pure and enticing that I am submerged, along with my perception, into limitless depths and cannot satisfy myself with my admiration for this realm, cannot completely fill myself with its lofty spirituality.” Those who enter into the Being of God have been described as “insatiably satisfied.” This is no state of blankness or mere cessation, but an entering into Life beyond all measure or limitation whatsoever. Yet there remains the realistic awareness of the personal limitation of the individual spirit. Therefore he avers that he cannot encompass the totality of this infinite light, knowing himself as a divine part of the Divine Whole.

“Everything is so full of beauty all around. So endearing this life–so endless the way. I am being swept across this limitless, clear space. My sight is directed upwards, does not descend anymore, does not see anything earthly.” By “sight” Saint Ambrose means the orientation of his consciousness as he experiences the true Ascension of/into Christ. “The whole of the heavenly firmament has transformed itself before me into one general bright light, pleasing to the sight.” Saint Bernard, centuries before, had a mystic vision in which he saw all existence gathered up into a single beam of Primal Light.

“But I do not see the sun. I can see only its endless shining and bright light.” The sun of which he speaks is the metaphysical sun of Divinity. “The whole space in which I glide without hindrance, without end, without fatigue, is filled with white light, just as is its light and beautiful beings, transparent as a ray of the sun. And through them I am admiring this limitless world. The images of all these beings unknown to me are infinitely diverse and full of beauty.” Thus Saint Ambrose perceives all beings as part of that ocean as well.

“I also am white and bright as they are. Over me, as over them, there reigns eternal rest.” God, the Light of lights, the Spirit of spirits, is the factor which binds all these beings into one, for God is verily the ground, the source, the essence of their very existence itself.

“Not a single thought of mine is any longer enticed by anything earthly, not a single beat of my heart is any longer moving with human cares or earthly passion. I am all peace and rapture. But I am still moving in this infinite light, which surrounds me without change. There is nothing else in the world except for the white, bright light and these equally radiant numberless beings. But all these beings do not resemble me, nor are similar to each other; they are all endlessly varied and compellingly attractive.” In this way he experiences the eternal diversity and distinction of all beings, for whom God alone is the common denominator.

“Amidst them, I feel myself incredibly peaceful. They evoke in me neither fear, nor amazement, nor trepidation. All that we see here does not agitate us, does not amaze us. All of us here are as if we have belonged to each other for a long time, are used to each other and are not strangers at all.” This is because they have existed together eternally in the bosom of the Father, and he is rediscovering that.

“We do not ask questions, we do not speak to each other about anything. We all feel and understand that there is nothing novel for us here. All our questions are solved with one glance, which sees everything and everyone. There is no trace of the wars of passions in anyone. All move in different directions, opposite to each other, not feeling any limitation, any inequality, or envy, or sorrow, or sadness. One peace reigns in all the images of entities. One light is endless for all. Oneness of life is comprehensible to all.” As stated before, this is authentic non-dual consciousness, in which God is the Unity of all.

“My rapture at all this superseded everything. I sank into this eternal rest. No longer was my spirit disturbed by anything. And I knew nothing else earthly. None of the tribulations of my heart came to mind, even for a minute. It seemed that everything that I had experienced before on earth never existed.” That is true, for it was all a dream, but a dream with a purpose. “Such was my feeling in this new radiant world of mine. And I was at peace and joyful and desired nothing better for myself.” He has entered into that which the yogis call Satchitananda: Existence-Knowledge-Bliss absolute. “All my earthly thoughts concerning fleeting happiness in the world died in this beautiful life, new to me, and did not come back to life again. So it seemed to me at least, there, in that better world.

“But how I came back here–I do not recall. What transitory state it was, I do not know. I only felt that I was alive, but I did not remember the world in which I lived before on earth. This did not seem at all to be a dream. Actually, about earthly things I no longer had the least notion. I only felt that the present life is mine, and that I was not a stranger in it. In this state of spirit I forgot myself and immersed myself in this light-bearing eternity. And this timelessness lasted without end, without measure, without expectation, without sleep, in this eternal rest. Thus it seemed to me that there would not be any kind of change.” Exactly so.

“But then suddenly, the thread of my radiant life was cut off and I opened my eyes. Around me was the familiar forest, and a beam of spring sunlight was playing on its meadows. I was seized with terrible sadness. ‘Why am I here again?’ I thought. And that radiant, light-emanating world, which I had just experienced with all its hosts of numberless visionary entities, vividly remained impressed before my mental eyes. But my physical vision did not see it any longer. This terrible and tearful sorrow I could not endure and I began to cry bitterly.

“Only after that experience I believed in the concept of the separation of soul from the body and understood what the special spiritual world was. But the question of what is the meaning of life still remained a mystery for me. And in order to penetrate into this mystery, I left this world into which I was born and embraced the monastic life.”

What wisdom is here! What a profound and welcome contrast to the pathological accounts given before as examples of delusions of enlightenment. Especially significant is the fact that Saint Ambrose considered this wonderful experience to be a beginning rather than an end. Instead of roaming the world giving seminars or writing books about his “enlightenment” he knew well that he had much further to go. And further he did indeed go, becoming a virtual god upon the earth, a true Master of the spiritual life. But to attain that he knew he had to do much, therefore as he so simply says: “I left this world into which I was born and embraced the monastic life” in which he was reborn irrevocably into that consciousness he has just described. And he showed the way to others, having found it himself.

Read the next Chapter of Dwelling in the Mirror: A Right Way of Meditation

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Introduction to Dwelling in the Mirror

Dwelling in the Mirror: A Study of Illusions Produced by Delusive Meditation and How to Be Free from Them

Preface to Dwelling in the Mirror

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