I – CONTEMPLATION
[The Theosophist, Vol. V, No. 5, February, 1884, pp. 112-114, verbatim text]
A general misunderstanding of this term seems to prevail. The popular idea appears to be to confine oneself for half an hour—or at the utmost two hours—in a private room, and passively gaze at one’s nose, a spot on the wall, or, perhaps, a crystal. This is supposed to be the true form of contemplation enjoined by Raj Yoga. It fails to realize that true occultism requires “physical, mental, moral and spiritual” development to run on parallel lines. Were the narrow conception extended to all these lines, the necessity for the present article would not have been so urgently felt. This paper is specially meant for the benefit of those who seem to have failed to grasp the real meaning of Dhyan, and by their erroneous practices to have brought, and to be bringing, pain and misery upon themselves. A few instances may be mentioned here with advantage, as a warning to our too zealous students.
At Bareilly the writer met a certain Theosophist from Farrukhabad, who narrated his experiences and shed bitter tears of repentance for his past follies—as he termed them. It would appear from his account that the gentleman, having read Bhagavat-Gita about fifteen or twenty years ago and not comprehending the esoteric meaning of the contemplation therein enjoined, undertook nevertheless the practice and carried it on for several years. At first he experienced a sense of pleasure, but simultaneously he found he was gradually losing self-control; until after a few years he discovered, to his great bewilderment and sorrow, that he was no longer his own master. He felt his heart actually growing heavy, as though a load had been placed on it. He had no control over his sensations; in fact the communication between the brain and the heart had become as though interrupted. As matters grew worse, in disgust he discontinued his “contemplation.” This happened as long as seven years ago; and, although since then he has not felt worse, yet he could never regain his original normal and healthy state of mind and body.
Another case came under the writer’s observation at Jubbulpore. The gentleman concerned, after reading Patanjali and such other works, began to sit for “contemplation.” After a short time he commenced seeing abnormal sights and hearing musical bells, but neither over these phenomena nor over his own sensations could he exercise any control. He could not produce these results at will, nor could he stop them when they were occurring. Numerous such examples may be multiplied. While penning these lines, the writer has on his table two letters upon this subject, one from Moradabad and the other from Trichinopoly. In short, all this mischief is due to a misunderstanding of the significance of contemplation as enjoined upon students by all the schools of Occult Philosophy. With a view to afford a glimpse of the Reality through the dense veil that enshrouds the mysteries of this Science of Sciences, an article, the “Elixir of Life,” was written. Unfortunately, in too many instances, the seed seems to have fallen upon barren ground. Some of its readers only catch hold of the following clause in the said paper:
Reasoning from the known to the unknown, meditation, must be practised and encouraged.
But, alas! their preconceptions have prevented them from comprehending what is meant by meditation. They forget that it “is the inexpressible yearning of the inner Man to ‘go out towards the infinite,’ which in the olden time was the real meaning of adoration”—as the next sentence shows. A good deal of light will be thrown upon this subject if the reader were to turn to the preceding portion of the same paper, and peruse attentively the following paras. on page 141 of the Theosophist for March, 1883 (Vol. III, No. 6):—1
So, then, we have arrived at the point where we have determined—literally, not metaphorically—to crack the outer shell known as the mortal coil, or body, and hatch out of it, clothed in our next. This ‘next’ is not a spiritual, but only a more ethereal form. Having by a long training and preparation adapted it for a life in this atmosphere, during which time we have gradually made the outward shell to die off through a certain process…… we have to prepare for this physiological transformation.
How are we to do it? In the first place we have the actual, visible, material body—man, so called, though, in fact, but his outer shell—to deal with. Let us bear in mind that science teaches us that in about every seven years we change skin as effectually as any serpent; and this so gradually and imperceptibly that, had not science after years of unremitting study and observation assured us of it, no one would have had the slightest suspicion of the fact…… Hence, if a man partially flayed alive, may sometimes survive and be covered with a new skin,—so our astral, vital body…… may he made to harden its particles to the atmospheric changes. The whole secret is to succeed in evolving it out, and separating it from the visible; and while its generally invisible atoms proceed to concrete themselves into a compact mass, to gradually get rid of the old particles of our visible frame so as to make them die and disappear before the new set has had time to evolve and replace them.. … We can say no more.
A correct comprehension of the above scientific process will give a clue to the esoteric meaning of meditation or contemplation. Science teaches us that man changes his physical body continually, and this change is so gradual that it is almost imperceptible. Why then should the case be otherwise with the inner man? The latter too is constantly developing and changing atoms at every moment. And the attraction of these new sets of atoms depends upon the Law of Affinity—the desires of the man drawing to their bodily tenement only such particles as are en rapport with them or rather giving them their own tendency and coloring.
For Science shows that thought is dynamic, and the thought-force evolved by nervous action expanding itself outwardly, must affect the molecular relations of the physical man. The inner men, however sublimated their organism may be, are still composed of actual, not hypothetical particles, and are still subject to the law that an ‘action’ has a tendency to repeat itself; a tendency to set up analogous action in the grosser ‘shell’ they are in contact with and concealed within.” (The Elixir of Life.)
What is it the aspirant of Yog Vidya strives after if not to gain Mukti by transferring himself gradually from the grosser to the next more ethereal body, until all the veils of Maya being successively removed his Atma becomes one with Paramatma? Does he suppose that this grand result can be achieved by a two or four hours’ contemplation? For the remaining twenty or twenty-two hours that the devotee does not shut himself up in his room for meditation—is the process of the emission of atoms and their replacement by others stopped? If not, then how does he mean to attract all this time,—only those suited to his end? From the above remarks it is evident that just as the physical body requires incessant attention to prevent the entrance of a disease, so also the inner man requires an unremitting watch, so that no conscious or unconscious thought may attract atoms unsuited to its progress. This is the real meaning of contemplation. The prime factor in the guidance of the thought is WILL.
Without that, all else is useless. And, to be efficient for the purpose, it must be, not only a passing resolution of the moment, a single fierce desire of short duration, but a settled and continued strain, as nearly as can be continued and concentrated without one single moment’s remission.
The student would do well to take note of the italicized clause in the above quotation. He should also have it indelibly impressed upon his mind that
“It is no use to fast as long as one requires food… To get rid of the inward desire is the essential thing, and to mimic the real thing without it is barefaced hypocrisy and useless slavery.
Without realizing the significance of this most important fact, any one who for a moment finds cause of disagreement with any one of his family, or has his vanity wounded, or for a sentimental flash of the moment, or for a selfish desire to utilize the divine power for gross purposes—at once rushes in for contemplation and dashes himself to pieces on the rock dividing the known from the unknown. Wallowing in the mire of exotericism, he knows not what it is to live in the world and yet be not of the world; in other words to guard self against self is an incomprehensible axiom for nearly every profane. The Hindu ought at least to realize it by remembering the life of Janaka, who, although a reigning monarch, was yet styled Rajarshi and is said to have attained Nirvana. Hearing of his widespread fame, a few sectarian bigots went to his Court to test his Yoga-power. As soon as they entered the courtroom, the king having read their thought—a power which every chela attains at a certain stage—gave secret instructions to his officials to have a particular street in the city lined on both sides by dancing girls who were ordered to sing the most voluptuous songs. He then had some gharas (pots) filled with water up to the brim so that the least shake would be likely to spill their contents. The wiseacres, each with a full ghara (pot) on his head, were ordered to pass along the street, surrounded by soldiers with drawn swords to be used against them if even so much as a drop of water were allowed to run over. The poor fellows having returned to the palace after successfully passing the test, were asked by the King-Adept what they had met with in the street they were made to go through. With great indignation they replied that the threat of being cut to pieces had so much worked upon their minds that they thought of nothing but the water on their heads, and the intensity of their attention did not permit them to take cognizance of what was going on around them. Then Janaka told them that on the same principle they could easily understand that, although being outwardly engaged in managing the affairs of his state, he could at the same time be an Occultist. He, too, while in the world, was not of the world. In other words, his inward aspirations had been leading him on continually to the goal in which his whole inner self was concentrated.
Raj Yoga encourages no sham, requires no physical postures. It has to deal with the inner man whose sphere lies in the world of thought. To have the highest ideal placed before oneself and strive incessantly to rise up to it, is the only true concentration recognized by Esoteric Philosophy which deals with the inner world of noumena, not the outer shell of phenomena.
The first requisite for it is thorough purity of heart. Well might the student of Occultism say, with Zoroaster, that purity of thought, purity of word, and purity of deed,—these are the essentials of one who would rise above the ordinary level and join the “gods.” A cultivation of the feeling of unselfish philanthropy is the path which has to be traversed for that purpose. For it is that alone which will lead to Universal Love, the realization of which constitutes the progress towards deliverance from the chains forged by Maya around the Ego. No student will attain this at once, but as our VENERATED MAHATMA says in the Occult World:—
The greater the progress towards deliverance, the less this will be the case, until, to crown all, human and purely individual personal feelings, blood-ties and friendship, patriotism and race predilection, will all give way to become blended into one universal feeling, the only true and holy, the only unselfish and eternal one, Love, an Immense Love for Humanity as a whole.
In short, the individual is blended with the ALL.
Of course, contemplation, as usually understood, is not without its minor advantages. It develops one set of physical faculties as gymnastics does the muscles. For the purposes of physical mesmerism, it is good enough; but it can in no way help the development of the psychological faculties, as the thoughtful reader will perceive. At the same time, even for ordinary purposes, the practice can never be too well guarded. If, as some suppose, they have to be entirely passive and lose themselves in the object before them, they should remember that by thus encouraging passivity, they, in fact, allow the development of mediumistic faculties in themselves. As was repeatedly stated—the Adept and the Medium are the two Poles; while the former is intensely active and thus able to control the elemental forces, the latter is intensely passive, and thus incurs the risk of falling a prey to the caprice and malice of mischievous embryos of human beings, and—the Elementaries.
II – CORRESPONDENCE
[The Theosophist, Vol. V, No. 7, April, 1884, p. 171, verbatim text]
I regret the whole article is totally misunderstood. All I meant to say was that temporary estrangement, from family or friends, does not constitute an essential qualification for advancement in occultism. This ought to be plain to one who weighs carefully my illustration of Janaka. Although in the world, to be not of it. Failing to realize the meaning of this important teaching, many people rush in from a sentimental disgust of worldliness, arising probably out of some worldly disappointment—and begin practising what they consider to be a true form of contemplation. The very fact that the motive which leads them to go in for this practice, is as described . . . this fact is a sufficient indication that the candidate does not know the “contemplation” of a Raja Yogi. It is thus impossible in the nature of things that he can follow the right method; and the physical practice, which he necessarily undertakes, leads him to the disastrous results adverted to in the article.
Any reader, who has intuition enough to be a practical student of occultism, will at once see that to work up to perfection is the highest ideal that a man can have before him. That is not the work of a day nor of a few years. “The Adept becomes; he is NOT MADE”—is a teaching which the student must first realize. The aspirant works up to his goal through a series of lives. Col. Olcott says in his Buddhist Catechism: —
“… Countless generations are required to develop man into a Buddha, and the iron will to become one runs throughout all the successive births.”
That “iron will” to become perfect must be incessantly operating, without a single moment’s relaxation, as will be apparent to one who reads carefully the article as a whole. When it is distinctly said that during the time that this contemplation is not practiced, i.e., the iron will is not exerting, the process of the emission and attraction of atoms is not stopped, and that the desires, instinctive or otherwise, must be so regulated as to attract only such atoms as may be suited to his progress—I cannot understand my correspondent when he asks me what he should do at a particular hour in the morning. He should cultivate only such thoughts as would not be incompatible with the highest ideal he has to work up to. By perfection, which should be his highest ideal, (I must add) I mean that divine manhood which the Occult Philosophy contemplates the seventh race of the seventh Round will attain to. This, as every tyro knows, depends largely upon a cultivation of the feeling of Universal Love, and hence an earnest desire to do some practical philanthropic work is the first requisite. Even this state, I admit, is not absolute perfection: but that maximum limit of ultimate Spiritual perfection is beyond our comprehension at present. That condition can only be intellectually realized as a practical ideal by those divine men—Dhyan-Chohans. To be identified with THE ALL, we must live in and feel through it. How can this be done without the realization of the feeling of Universal Love? Of course Adeptship is not within the easy reach of all. On the other hand, occultism does not fix any unpleasant place or locality for those who do not accept its dogmas. It only recognizes higher and higher evolution according to the chain of causation working under the impulse of Nature’s immutable law. The article on “Occult Study” in the last number2 gives the necessary explanation on this point.
It is painful for me to find that the very thing I attempted to point out in that article to be mischievous in its results, is again put forward as a desirable attribute or adjunct of true contemplation. I would ask my correspondent to read again the same article, with these additional remarks, before thinking of the necessity of any peculiar or particular posture for the purpose of contemplation. I, at any rate, am unable to prescribe any specific posture for the kind of incessant contemplation that I recommend.
III – CORRESPONDENCE
[The Theosophist, Vol. V, No. 11, August, 1884, pp. 267-268, verbatim text w/o italics]
Notwithstanding the article on the above subject in the February Theosophist, many of its readers still seem to imagine that “contemplation” is a particular form of gazing or staring at something, which process, when undergone a set number of hours every day, will give psychological powers. This misunderstanding is apparently due to the fact that the main point discussed has been lost sight of. Instead of realizing that there is but one chief idea meant to be conveyed by that article by arguing it through many of its phases, it seems to be imagined that almost every sentence expresses quite a distinct idea. It may not therefore be uninteresting or unprofitable to revert to the subject and put forward the same idea from another stand-point and, if possible, in a clearer light. It must first be borne in mind that the writer of the article did not at all mean to imply the act of gazing by the word “contemplation.” The former word would have been made use of, were that the idea. The Imperial Dictionary of the English Language (1883)—defines the word contemplation thus:—
(1) The act of the mind in considering with attention; meditation; study; continued attention of the mind to a particular subject. Specifically—2 Holy meditation; attention to sacred things.
Webster’s dictionary thoroughly revised—also gives the same meaning.
Thus we find that contemplation is the “continued attention of the mind to a particular subject,” and, religiously, it is the “attention to sacred things.” It is therefore difficult to imagine how the idea of gazing or staring came to be associated with the word contemplation, unless it be due to the fact that generally it so happens that when any one is deeply absorbed in thought, he apparently seems to be gazing or staring at something in blank space. But this gazing is the effect of the act of contemplation. And, as usually happens, here too the effect seems to be confounded with the cause. Because the gazing attitude follows the act of contemplation, it is at once assumed the gazing is the cause which produces contemplation! Bearing this well in mind, let us now see what kind of contemplation (or meditation) the Elixir of Life recommends for the aspirants after occult knowledge. It says:—
“Reasoning from the known to the unknown, meditation must be practised and encouraged.”
That is to say, a chela’s meditation should constitute the “reasoning from the known to the unknown.” The “known” is the phenomenal world, cognizable by our five senses. And all that we see in this manifested world are the effects, the causes of which are to be sought after in the noumenal, the unmanifested, the “unknown world:” this is to be accomplished by meditation, i.e., continued attention to the subject. Occultism does not depend upon one method, but employs both the deductive and inductive. The student must first learn the general axioms. For the time being, he will of course have to take them as assumptions, if he prefers to call them so. Or as the Elixir of Life puts it:—
All we have to say is that if you are anxious to drink of the Elixir of Life and live a thousand years or so, you must take our word for the matter, at present, and proceed on the assumption. For esoteric science does not give the faintest possible hope that the desired end will ever be attained by any other way; while modern, or the so-called exact science laughs at it.
These axioms have sufficiently been laid out in the articles on the Elixir of Life and various others treating on occultism, in the different numbers of the Theosophist. What the student has first to do is to comprehend these axioms and, by employing the deductive method, to proceed from universals to particulars. He has then to reason from the “known to the unknown,” and see if the inductive method of proceeding from particulars to universals supports those axioms. This process forms the primary stage of true contemplation. The student must first grasp the subject intellectually before he can hope to realize his aspirations. When this is accomplished, then comes the next stage of meditation which is “the inexpressible yearning of the inner man to ‘go out towards the infinite’.” Before any such yearning can be properly directed, the goal, to which it is to be its aim to run, must be determined by the preliminary stages. The higher stage, in fact, consists in realizing practically what the first steps have placed within one’s comprehension. In short, contemplation, in its true sense, is to recognize the truth of Eliphas Levi’s saying:—
To believe without knowing is weakness; to believe because one knows, is power.
Or, in other words, to see that “KNOWLEDGE IS POWER.” The Elixir of Life not only gives the preliminary steps in the ladder of contemplation but also tells the reader how to realize the higher conceptions. It traces, by the process of contemplation as it were, the relation of man, “the known,” the manifested, the phenomenon, to “the unknown,” the unmanifested, the noumenon. It shows to the student what ideal he should contemplate and how to rise up to it. It places before him the nature of the inner capacities of man and how to develop them. To a superficial reader, this may, perhaps, appear as the acme of selfishness. Reflection or contemplation will, however, show the contrary to be the case. For it teaches the student that to comprehend the noumenal, he must identify himself with Nature. Instead of looking upon himself as an isolated being, he must learn to look upon himself as a part of the INTEGRAL WHOLE. For, in the unmanifested world, it can be clearly perceived that all is controlled by the “Law of Affinity,” the attraction of one to the other. There, all is Infinite Love, understood in its true sense.
It may now be not out of place to recapitulate what has already been said. The first thing to be done is to study the axioms of Occultism and work upon them by the deductive and the inductive methods, which is real contemplation. To turn this to a useful purpose, what is theoretically comprehended must be practically realized. It is to be hoped that this explanation may make the meaning of the former article on this subject clearer.
—Damodar K. Mavalankar
The Theosophist, February, April, and August, 1884.
A note on versions:
It has been reprinted in several places, “Five Years of Theosophy“ (1885, p 40) has an edited version (without Damodar’s first reply numbered II above); it is reproduced largely in full in “DÂMODAR” by Sven Eek (1965, p 388). There are also other versions by the ULT in “Mind Control” (1931, ULT pamphlet no. 12) and in “Theosophical Articles and Notes” (1985, p 39).
This page uses the complete texts from the original articles in The Theosophist.
- From “The Elixir of Life” by Godolphin Mitford; reprinted in “Five Years of Theosophy“ (1885, page 1).—Eds.
- The Theosophist, March, 1884, pp. 131-3.—Eds.