The physical body is fiery–its atoms are bits of fiery energy, so our body can develop in special ways along a fiery path. Desire is also fiery; we burn with it, and the mind is often represented as fiery energy. All these are personal fires, and in way all are, as mythology has it, “fires stolen from heaven.”
Ideally, our life would be directed by spiritual fire, by subtle fires transcendent to personality. Then the beautiful fire of heaven and the external fires of body, emotion, and mind might meet and blend in magical harmony. This would be meditation or mediation.
We might say that true meditation is the union of spiritual fires with more external ones. But what if we engage in a process in which we experiment, as a personality, with the fires of our external nature, and while doing so we call it “meditation” or some other methodological name? Then, mistaking personal fires for spiritual ones, we might become an inflamed personality.
How then to define a path leading to union with spiritual fire as distinct from an inflamed personality? I’m thinking that it comes down to the question of whether we emphasize form or spirit. Form has its place as a vehicle for the spiritual, but often the form dominates, eclipsing the spiritual. Let us count some ways this occurs:
- Emphasizing rituals and set forms of all kinds instead placing our life in order.
- Emphasizing physical postures instead of spiritual orientation.
- Focusing on a center within the physical or etheric body instead of the radiant spiritual energies behind and through our psychology (Love, spiritual will, harmony, beauty, etc.).
- Emphasis on breathing exercises instead of the spiritual “breathing in” and giving forth that is, or should be, a healthy daily life.
- Emphasizing finding a physical guru instead of attunement to our inner teacher.
- Desire for psychic powers instead of desire to use our existing powers for the benefit of others.
- Emphasis on physical methods using sound, color, technology, or body manipulation.
- Emphasizing symbol instead of meaning.
Let us consider the world of the “esoteric” or “spiritual science”—these suggests a wide diversity of things such as psychic phenomena, the supernatural, mysticism, meditation, tarot card reading, kabalistic obscurity, crystal balls, reincarnation, astral bodies, auras and chakaras, Eastern thought, metaphysics, and the occult. For some, the language may also call to mind witches and wizards, seances, a yogi in a mountain cave, magical charms, mysterious rites, and perhaps even some UFOs thrown in. And for some, the esoteric terms even associate with cults, satanic worship, or some TV show on the latest strange, weird, or bizarre phenomena. We might say that, the human scene, being what it is, people inevitably acquire a superficial picture; a caricature of whatever realities esoteric language is intended to point to. And among many people, a term like “esoteric” or “occult” conjures emotions most strange, while in this maze of language and concepts–usually but vaguely and poorly defined–wander the metaphysically oriented people of the world.
All this is not to belittle the truth underlying the language, but rather to help us realize more clearly the difficulties of discerning that truth. It helps to realize that excellent things are rare, and that for every true teacher, there are a thousand pretentious gurus. For every true psychic, there are a thousand pseudopsychics. For every prophetic visionary, thousands of false prophets walk the earth. And for every truly enlightened individual, there are thousands spiritual charlatans. And the matter is further complicated by the fact that we rarely have just obviously “false” communications but a cryptic blend of the true, and half-true, of false, and a partly false. There are a thousands of shades of partly true offered us from every direction.
And everywhere we find systems, gimmicks, offerings of pretty packages, of effortless cures and quick enlightenments, and even metaphysical versions of get-rich-quick schemes. And for every purely wrought axiom of wisdom, there are a thousand clichés and inferior versions.
It may also help us to realize that, at one extreme, everything becomes counterfeited and debased. Everything has false and glamorous versions. Everything has illusory and shadowy counterparts. So, on the surface, everywhere is scattered fool’s gold.
At the other extreme, in deeper spaces, is the clear gold light of wisdom. But between the extremes is a world of grays where things gradually shade toward the light. This is the world where our discrimination and insight are constantly tested. This is the world where we must learn to think and see ever more clearly. We live along a twilight path of human understanding, a world mixed of dark and light. Yet, along the way, we may more optimistically recall that shadows suggest the light that cast them.
Take heart then that the Powers that be thought so well of us as to lay upon our path such difficult circumstances. Our own powers are equal to the challenge, if not today, then surely tomorrow, and we have an infinity of tomorrows.
Let us bring out of the dense fabric of human thought some clear ideas, set them upon a pedestal, elevated, striking, luminous—suitable objects for reflection. The light of them is beautiful and, in one way, simple, yielding to us by interior radiance that vision of clarity we so deeply need for the difficult journey.