Notebooks of Paul Brunton > Category 4: Elementary Meditation > Chapter 4: Meditative Thinking
The path of inspired intellect
The next type of meditation is the analytic. It may deal with personal experience, general events, universal laws, the nature of man, and the reality of soul, but always it seeks by analysis and reflection to understand.
In this type of reflective meditation, critical thinking is not banished but is illuminated by the Overself's light. It is the path of inspired intellect. It is extremely valuable because it can reveal the right path to take in practical affairs and the right course to take in moral ones. It is equally valuable for extracting the lessons out of past experience.
The topic selected for practice may be quite personal to begin with, provided that it is suitable to help bring about self-improvement of a positive kind such as removing faults and cultivating virtues. But this is only preparatory, since it is still concerned with the ego and designed to improve concentration. When experience and regular practice have reached a sufficient development, then the topic should be one which makes him feel highly reverential and should be directed to the OVERSELF not to the ego, not even for the ego's improvement spiritually.
A clear distinction has to be made between thinking about God and the experience of God. Each has its place. Thinking and evaluating take place on the intellectual level; one should not limit oneself to that but should try to arrive at the inner stillness, the experience of the Overself during meditation. There should be a clear sense of the difference between these two. The piling up of thoughts, however reasonable they are, acts only as a signal; they point out which way to go, but at the end drop them.
It is not merely an intellectual exercise. All the piety and reverence and worship gained from religion are needed here too. We must pray constantly to the Soul to reveal itself.
When thinking has done its best work, reached its loftiest point, it should relax and cease its activity. If all else has prepared the way, the mind will be ready to enter the silence, to accept a take-over by the Overself.
In this type of meditation, the intellect must think, first about itself and second about what is beyond itself. This change of thought becomes a stepping-stone to a change of consciousness.
The old Quaker family morning custom of reading aloud a passage from the Bible, and following it by a period of meditative silence, is a useful pointer. Any book that inspires may be read vocally then shut and pondered quietly; any sentence that holds and exalts attention may be made the subject of slow, grave utterance followed by silent concentrated rumination. Any word, attribute, name, or phrase that enshrines spiritual truth may be affirmed in speech and afterward contemplated in hush.
Vichara means discursive thinking, so atmavichara means thinking one's way into the real self.
To shorten the period of reincarnations, thought is needed: first, analytic reflection about the past; second, imaginative reflection about the future.
All possess the power of reflection but few use it. When this power is turned outwardly, we look upon the physical body, its organs and senses, as our self and so plunge into the bustling activity of this world without hesitation. But if this same power of reflection be turned inwardly, we begin to forget our activities and to lose knowledge of the physical body and its environment. For we become so deeply indrawn into the world of thought that for the time being this inner world becomes for us the real world. Thus we are led gradually by repeating this practice to identify ourselves with the mind alone, to look upon ourselves as thought-beings.
In this type of meditation the activity of thinking is not rejected. On the contrary, it is deliberately accepted, for its character undergoes a marked change. At a certain stage, when concentration thoroughly establishes itself, some force that is deeper than the familiar personal self rises up from within itself and imposes a continuous stream of sequential, illumined thoughts upon the consciousness.
What a relief for a man, harassed by anxieties and frustrated by burdens, to turn towards these great impersonal verities and consider them in the serene mood of the twilight meditation or the sunrise worship.
Deep reflective thinking is present behind deep impersonal thinking.
Our richest moments are those spent in deep reverie upon the diviner things.
At different periods in his career there will be the need of--and consequently the attraction to--different subjects for meditation. Thus: the beauty of a flower, the ugliness of a corpse, the attributes of a sage, the infinitude of space, the changes of adolescence, middle, and old age.
This habit of persistent daily reflection on the great verities, of thinking about the nature or attributes of the Overself, is a very rewarding one. From being mere intellectual ideas, they begin to take on warmth, life, and power.(P)
The Overself takes his thoughts about it, limited and remote though they are, and guides them closer and closer to its own high level. Such illumined thinking is not the same as ordinary thinking. Its qualitative height and mystical depth are immensely superior. But when his thoughts can go no farther, the Overself's Grace touches and silences them. In that moment he knows.(P)
The books which live are those written out of this deep union with the true self by men who had overcome the false self. One such book is worth a thousand written out of the intellect alone or the false ego alone. It will do more good to more people for more years. The student may use such a work, therefore, as a basis for a meditation exercise. Its statements, its ideas, should be taken one by one, put into focus for his mind to work on.
An inspired writing is more than something to be read for information or instruction; it gives a man faith, it becomes a symbol to which he can hold and from which he can draw a renewal of trust in the universe. It is this trust which makes him deny himself and inspires him to reach beyond himself. For his mind to fasten itself to such a writing, therefore, and to use it as a focus for meditation, is unconsciously to invoke and receive the grace of the illumined man who brought the writing to birth.
In these inspired writings, we may look for two distinctive qualities: the power to stimulate thought and the power to uplift character. In the first case we shall find them a seed-bed of ideas which can bear ample fruit in our minds; in the second case there is imparted to reading some flavour of the unshakeable moral strength which the inspired writers themselves possess.
Let him dwell upon some piece from an inspired writing or think out the meaning of some eternal verity. Let him do this with the utmost attentiveness. Such meditation will not only enable him to advance in concentrativeness but will also profit him mentally and morally.
If he can respond to these great inspired utterances, if he can let his thought work over them in the right way and let his emotion be susceptible to their inner dynamism, his intense concentration will enable him to share at least the reflected light behind their creator, the light itself.
There is a sensitivity and a depth in such works which are truly remarkable, a power, a light, and a heat to inspire their readers which is born from genius.
When thought is thus trained to its uttermost point and when it is etherealized by dwelling on the most abstract topic, it leaps out of itself, as it were, transcends and transforms itself and becomes intuition.
Paragraphs that are born and written in this higher consciousness are lasting ones, like many of the vigorous scriptural sayings.
The meditations on the "I," on transiency, on good and evil, and on suffering are but for beginners. They do not require the subtlety needed for ultra-mystic meditation.
The thought of the Overself may easily open the gate which enters into its awareness.
The difference between the first stage, concentration, and the second stage, meditation, is like the difference between a still photograph and a cinema film. In the first stage, you centre your attention upon an object, just to note what it is, in its details, parts, and qualities, whereas in the second stage, you go on to think all around and about the object in its functional state. In concentration, you merely observe the object; in meditation, you reflect upon it. The difference between meditation and ordinary thinking is that ordinary thinking does not go beyond its own level nor intend to stop itself, whereas meditation seeks to issue forth on an intuitional and ecstatic level whereon the thinking process will itself cease to function.
The better kind of thinking is that which is directed to the idea of the Overself. It reaches a culmination when the thinker is absorbed so fully into the idea that he and the thought slip away into, and remain undistracted from, the actual consciousness of the Overself.
Thoughts may be a hindrance to meditation merely by their presence or, if of the proper kind, a help to it. And the only proper kind is that which leads them to look toward the consciousness which transcends them.
The search for first causes, when done only intellectually and metaphysically, may become a shadow, or a looking-glass image of the real search. For this must, and can only be done, on a deeper level--the intuitive. The process to be used is meditation.
In meditation one should follow the path pointed out by his temperament. He should strive to think his own thoughts and not always echo those of others.
It is not enough to learn these teachings by study and analysis of them. They should also be allowed to work unhindered upon passive, receptive, still moods of the silenced intellect.
Upon those who are sensitive to truth at a high level, these statements have a strong and peculiar effect. There is deep awe, as if standing before a mystic shrine, reverential joy, as if beholding new mosaic tablets. There is, indeed, a feeling of being about to receive staggering revelations.
That a theme for meditation should be formulated in the interrogative is at once an indication that the kind of meditation involved is intellectual. What am I? is a simple question with a complex answer.
In this exercise you will repeatedly think of what you really are as distinct from what you seem to be. You will separate yourself intellectually, emotionally, and volitionally--so far as you can--from your flesh, your desires, and your thoughts as being objects of your consciousness and not pure consciousness itself. You will begin by asking yourself "Who am I?" and, when you comprehend that the lower nature cannot be the real you, go on to asking the further question: "What am I?" By such frequent self-studies and self-discriminations, you will come closer and closer to the truth.
Is the experiment too difficult? How can a man stop thinking? I remember now that it is not suggested that one should deliberately stop thinking. No, it is taught, "pursue the enquiry, `What am I' relentlessly." Well, I have pursued it up to this point. I cannot definitely pin down my ego either to the body or the intellect. Then who am I? Beyond body and intellect there is left only--nothing! The thought came to me, "Now pay attention to this nothingness."
Nothing? . . . Nothing? . . . Nothing? . . . I gradually and insensibly slipped into a passive attitude. After that came a sense of deepening calm. Subtly, intangibly, quietness of soul invaded me. It was pleasant, very pleasant, and soothed nerves, mind, and heart. The sense of peace which enveloped me while I sat so quiet gently swelled up into bliss ineffable, into a marvellous serenity. The bliss became so poignantly keen that I forgot to continue thinking. I simply surrendered myself to it as ardently as a woman surrenders herself to the man she loves. What blessedness was not mine! Was it not some condition like this to which Saint Paul referred when he mentioned "the peace which passeth understanding"? The minutes trickled by slowly. A half hour later found my body still motionless, the face still fixed, the eyes still indifferent to, or oblivious of their surroundings. Had I fathomed the mystic depths of my own mind? Impatience might have reared its restless head and completely spoilt the result. I saw how futile it was to attempt always to impose our habitual restlessness in such unfamiliar circumstances.(P)
In one sense all attempts to meditate on spiritual themes are attempts to awaken intuition. For they achieve success only when the activity of the thinking intellect is stilled and the consciousness enters into that deep silence wherefrom the voice of intuition itself issues forth.
To use these sublime ideas in and for our hours of contemplation, is to use definite potencies.
During these meditations, he is to dwell aspiringly and lovingly upon the ideal at times and to reflect calmly and rationally about it at other times. Thus he will learn to achieve imaginatively an effective self-government.
My use of the term "reverie" may mislead some to think I mean idle, drifting, purposeless, languid thinking. I mean nothing of the sort.
Only after a long, long search can he trace these thoughts to their final source in the pure stream of Mind.
Work on such themes inspires a writer, a thinker, or a teacher, as work on the higher levels of art must inspire the creative artist.
The practice of self-inquiry begins with the self's environment and ends with its centre. It asks, "What is the world?" Then, "What is the Body?" Next, "What is the Mind?" Then, "What is the source of happiness?" And finally, "What am I?" at the threshold of its innermost being.
He should sit down by the seashore or on a hillside or on the roof of a tall building or in any other place where he can get a long, uninterrupted view of ocean and sky or sky alone. If no other place is available, let him lie on the ground and gaze at the sky. Then let him think of the Spirit as being like this vast expanse in its freedom and uniqueness, but infinite and boundless where the other is not.
Ordinarily our minds have too limited and too ego-centered a range. It is needful to broaden them by reflections and meditations which are highly abstract and totally impersonal. "The universe is infinite and unmeasurable. How tiny and insignificant is this planet Earth in relation to it! How trivial and unimportant are earthly things, if the planet itself is such! How ridiculous to let oneself be captured and imprisoned by momentary sensual pleasures which have not even the duration of most of these things!" Such is one sample of how this exercise could begin.
Those who have tried it know how much harder real meditation is than mere thinking. The two are not the same.
If he finds only ignorance, bewilderment, or ordinariness, then he needs to go farther into himself. The revelation is there but at a deep level.
In these earlier stages, what matters is how deeply absorbed his attention becomes in the subject, how strongly held is his control over the thoughts which come into the area of awareness, how far away he withdraws from activity of the body's senses.
Every time a thought rears its head, evaluate it for what it is and then push it aside. Every time an emotion rushes up, recognize it, too, for what it is and detach yourself from it. This is the path of Self-Enquiry, for as you do these things hold the will directed towards finding the centre of your being. Do them with dogged persistence. Do them in your consciousness and in your feeling.
Some imaginative minds can make profitable use of the vastness of the ocean or the immensity of space as topics on which to meditate in the advanced stages.
If the utmost benefit is to be extracted from this kind of exercise, he should, at the end and before he rises to resume the ordinary daily life, briefly repeat to himself its leading points and then sum up in concentrated emphasis its final lesson.
Although he may collect together only those thoughts which refer to the chosen subject, he may take different sides of it by turns.
Whatever thinking is done during the exercise, one ought to strive for the utmost clearness and the fullest alertness in it.
He may deliberately choose a fresh subject each day or let the spontaneous urge of the moment choose it for him. Or he may take again one that has served him well before.
The kind of meditation in which the meditator ponders persistently what his source is, what the "I" really is, has the eventual effect of de-hypnotizing him from these false and limiting identifications with the body, the desires, and the intellect.
It must be a topic very distant from, and quite unconnected with, his ordinary occupations of the day. He must release himself altogether from their problems and pleasures.
The more he practises at such times a thinking that is sense-free and beyond the physical--that is, metaphysical in the truest sense--the better will he be prepared to receive the intuitive influx from the Overself.
The pursuit of the self comes at last to an irreducible element. The analyser cuts his way through all intermediate regions of the mind.
When intellect lies exhausted and prostrated, at the end of its self-directed efforts, and gives up, it may then be ready to receive what, earlier, it could not.
Concentration keeps the mind implanted on a particular thought, or line of thought, by keeping off the other ones. Meditation removes the single thought and keeps the mind quiet. This is an excellent state, but not enough for those who seek the Real. It must be complemented by knowledge of what is and is not the Real.
The ordinary kind of meditation seeks to escape from intellectualism at the very beginning, whereas the metaphysical kind uses it from the beginning. Even though it is analytic, it does not limit itself to cerebral activity; it conjoins feeling also, since it seeks an experience as well as understanding. Therefore, in the "Who Am I?" work it moves with the whole being and with all its intensity.
The whole collected force of his being is brought to this idea.
In these exercises he thinks of God's nature, qualities, and attributes; he meditates on God's infinity, eternity, and unity.
After he has entered on the Short Path, fit themes for his meditation will be those which turn him away from the personal ego. He can meditate on the glorious attributes of God, or on the essential perfection of the cosmos, or on the utter serenity of his Overself, for instance.
Most students can profitably meditate on such fragments of the World-Idea as they can glean from different and varied sources: from the texts of mystical seers, philosophic sages, religious prophets, and even their own personal intuitions.
The more we use our thoughts to get the deep understanding of ourselves, of God, and the world, and the more we still the thoughts to get them out of the way when the divine is ready to speak to us, the more successful will our search become, and the more will we awaken from the dream of an unreal materiality.
But unless the point is surrendered and silenced, it will not be possible to go beyond the intellectual stage of understanding. And it is only a minority who can achieve this silence and yield capacity for deepening their experience to what amounts to a realization of the truth. The silence has another name: either meditation or contemplation.
If he has had a spiritual experience in which first-hand direct knowledge of his own spiritual nature and its non-materiality and immortality became evident to him, let him take that memory and cherish it as a basis for his present meditations.
The names of God traditionally used in the Orient, such as the Compassionate, the Guide, the Answerer of Prayer, the Pardoner, the Patient, are helpful as objects of prayer or subjects of meditation.
When one carries intellect to its highest exercise, which is right reasoning, he comes near to the finest function of nature--intuition. Yet the gulf between them remains impassable unless he is willing to perform the vital and supreme act of stilling it altogether. In the intellect's complete silence the voice of divine intuition may be heard.
The goal of enlightenment can be reached by thought alone--despite the contrary assertion of the English medieval hermit who wrote The Cloud of Unknowing--but only when thought is so finely sharpened that, seeing precisely where its limits lie, it is willing to cease its own activity and surrender to the higher power. But it must be wise enough to believe in the existence of such a power, to know that It is unthinkable and unsearchable and therefore must be allowed to take over where thinking stops. Yet the medieval author is quite right to this extent--that where thought is wrapped in love and warmed by it, the enlightenment is that much more attainable.
Pythagoras had seen that the universe was built on number, Spinoza that the number of possibilities was infinite: both men worked with a mathematically trained mind whose borderland merged into intuition, in the same way as it does with a metaphysically trained mind; but it must be purified and strengthened, too, if the required concentration is to be sustained and if its course is to be straightened and not distorted. Then the intuitive experience of infinity comes with the intuitive notion of it. This must be so because the Mind which conceived the universe is itself infinite.
Select a sentence from psalm, prayer, gospel, or book which epitomizes for you the entire quest, or uplifts you nearer to the goal of the quest. Murmur it to yourself slowly and repeatedly. Ponder over its meaning.
When we take up a book that throws light before our feet, that day becomes a starred event in the calendar of our life. It is not to be easily forgotten, because the planets of Truth and Beauty are hard to find amid the panoply of rival lights in the sky.
It is only when the ideas of a book live in your memory and thinking long after you have put away the book itself that the author's purpose has really been achieved.
Another excellent and always useful theme for meditation is to read a few sentences from an inspired book and then let your thought dwell upon what you have read.
Such books set the mind groping for the mysterious source whence it has arisen.
The theme may be one of those great truths of philosophy which lift the mind to an impersonal and eternal region, or it may be one of those apt sentences from an inspired book or bible which lift the feelings to adoration of the Overself.
Take any of these great ideas by turns, or as they suit you at different periods, and subject them to intensive meditation.
At each of these daily sessions, he will be ever watchful for any inner leading toward a special topic to engage his musing.
When you get a great thought--chain it. Hold it.
The more he can lose himself in the abstract thought, the mental image, the chosen ideal, the quicker he will find himself in the Soul's presence.
The practice of self-quest eliminates the opposition of the intellect in a marvellous manner and brings the mind up to the very borders of the transcendental, where it is taken up and put to the service of the Divine.
When he is so sunk in abstraction that he does not notice even the presence of another person, his meditation has gone as deep as it ought to.
As he meditates on these sacred sentences, every word will become more alive and more significant.
When concentration comes without difficulty and can be practised with ease, he should go on to meditation.
Bringing the same line of thought into the focus of attention again and again, holding it there sustainedly, is a path to realizing it.
He must study these inspired sayings as a lapidary might study a gem--with loving care and joyous feeling.
Whatever topic will interest him soonest, engage his attention more firmly, and absorb it more fully is the best topic to meditate upon.
A useful exercise is to meditate on the wisdom written in the book of the universe.
The kind of meditation called discursive tries to think actively about an idea or a truth until it is fully penetrated.
The end of all this thinking is to be not-thinking, mental quiet. This state comes hard to everyone; it leads many to utter boredom, but a few to utter peace.
The materials for these analytic meditations will come directly out of his present circumstances and past experiences, out of the lives of other people he has known, out of the pages of books he has read.
He is to take such a mighty spiritual truth or philosophic maxim into deepest consideration and deepest feeling.
If the meditation attempts prove completely arid, they may be prefaced by slow, thought-out reading punctuated by reflective pauses when the book is to be put aside. It is during such pauses that the impetus to the inner movement may be felt. The book's work is then done.
"Meditate on the mind as Brahman" (the Supreme Being), counsels an ancient Indian text.
Too often does he lose his way and leave the high subject of his meditation for thoughts about personal affairs and worldly topics.
We need to meditate more often on these reminding statements of the sages, to become more concerned with our higher interests.
Take a concept of God into your meditation and try to stay with it as long as you can. This itself is a form of worship, as true a form as any that you will find in a church.
It is a valuable, important, and fruitful topic of meditation to think of the Divine Principle as it is in its real nature and essential being, not as theologians have thought it to be or visionaries have imagined it to be.
Meditation is not achieved if the concentrated mind is directed toward a subject of personal and worldly nature. Reflecting on the subject will give a deeper knowledge of it and a fuller perception of its meaning, but it will not give anything more. However concentrated the mind may become, it will not escape from the ego, nor does it seek to do so. Meditation is achieved if the concentrated mind is used to reflect on the Overself or the way to it.
Let thinking examine itself, always with a view to penetration of its hinterland.
Meditation must be accompanied by constant effort in the direction of honest self-examination. All thoughts and feelings which act as a barrier between the individual and his Ultimate Goal must be overcome. This requires acute self-observation and inner purification. Hate, jealousy, anger, greed, spite, and so on, form many an inner Mount Everest which each seeker must scale and conquer for himself before he can hope to see What Is Beyond.
The student must avoid falling into the snares of self-flattery. An excellent means of doing this is to review the facts of his past life to pick out his sins and blunders, his slips and falls.
The form into which his life-theory is molded is itself a product, or rather a projection, of the unconscious side of his mind, where a host of complexes maintain their existence remote from his criticism, examination, or even discussion.
It is important for him to know correctly whence his leading ideas, impulses, intuitions, and even dreams come from. He must accurately measure the heights and depths of the various levels from which they descend or ascend to his ordinary consciousness.
It is not easy for the student to assess correctly the motives which actuate his inner and outer life, for an important group of them does not ordinarily reveal itself to his conscious mentality.
He should from time to time pass in analytic review the important events, the experiences, and the attitudes of his past. It is not the good but the evil emotions and deeds, their origins and consequences, that he should particularly attend to, mentally picture, and examine from the perspective of his higher self. But unless this is done with perfect honesty in an impersonal unconcerned detached and self-critical spirit, unless it is approached with a self-imposed austerity of emotion, it will not yield the desired results. It is not enough to mourn over his errors. He should carefully learn whatever lessons they teach.
In reviewing his past, he may discover how the ego has cunningly sought to preserve itself, how it has led him into logical deceits and made him believe it was absent when in reality it was very much present, how it has played subtle tricks of every kind upon him.
He ought to study his past errors intently, not to reproach himself emotionally but to reform himself constructively.
He must watch his thoughts daily and examine his actions nightly. He must apply the lancet to his motives periodically. He must analyse and re-analyse himself impersonally.
This does not mean that he should be forever solemnly examining his moods, analysing his feelings, and making himself the object of his own attention. It means that he should do this only for a while, at certain times, or on regular occasions.
Self-examination requires him to find out and identify the positive qualities as well as the negative ones, if he is to give himself a fair picture.
A delicate balance is needed here. If he becomes overly critical of his own self, of his character, decisions, choices, and attitudes, he may find himself becoming morbid and his will to action paralysed.
His past is a matter for analytic consideration, not for melancholy brooding. He must gather its fruit in the lessons it yields, convert its sufferings into virtue and wisdom.
He must be on his guard against the falsifications, the rationalizations, and the deceptions unconsciously practised by his ego when the self-analysis exercises become uncomfortable, humiliating, or painful. Nor should he allow himself to fall into the pit of self-pity.
During this half hour he must suspend the personal way of looking at life. He must stand aside from the ego for the time being and regard impersonally and impartially its acts and emotions as well as the events and fortunes with which it meets. He must examine all these experiences as if they had happened to somebody else. He collects the materials for his meditation from all the chief incidents and episodes, doings and feelings of the whole day. His reflection upon them must take a twofold course: in the first, he simply gives up errors, illusions, and complexes; in the second, he learns truths, principles, and virtues.
In looking back over the past, he humbly perceives his mistakes and sadly apportions the blame for his failure to himself. He no longer wastes his time in hunting alibis or in criticizing other people for his troubles. Nor does he complain of fate. He now sees that in aspiring for spiritual growth and praying for spiritual help, those very experiences which exposed his weaknesses and brought out his faults were the answers to his prayer, the grace shed upon his aspirations.
His memories of the unhappy past or the mistaken present must be converted into lessons in wisdom. Otherwise his meditations over them will only turn them into breeding-grounds of resentment and other negative thoughts.
He should develop the sense of self-criticism to a high and even painful degree. He cannot any longer afford to protect his ego, as he did in the past, or to seek excuses for its sorry frailties and foolishnesses.
What he will think feel or do in any given circumstances will be most largely determined by these past tendencies. How important then the need of such critical self-examination exercises.
He will need to develop the ability to stand back periodically from the personal self and survey its life, fortunes, character, and doings quite impartially. During this exercise, he should adopt the attitude of a disinterested spectator seeking to know the truth about it. Hence, he should study it calmly and not take sides with it emotionally.
This is to say, nearly the whole of your life can be steered managed and controlled by the simple process of taking stock once a day.
We must not seek to escape the consequences of our deeds merely by handing them over to the Overself. We must not hand them over before we have tried earnestly to master their lessons. If we hand them over prematurely, be assured they will never reach the Overself at all.
Another purpose which he must keep in view when recalling the past and seeking the lessons which stand out from it, is the discernment of karma's working in some of these experiences.
Where passions, appetites, and desires of an unworthy kind are the repeated themes of these critical analyses, they tend to become weaker and weaker as the process, with its corrosive effect, extends into a long time.
What is to be sought for during this short period and in this exercise is detachment from his own experiences and separation from his own habitual egoism.
His meditations on this subject of self-improvement must be constantly repeated and unremittingly pursued. He must look relentlessly at the ugly truth about himself face to face and then zealously foster thoughts that counteract it until they become habitual.
When we develop the habit of critically reflecting upon our experiences, we find it needful to revise our ideas and alter our outlook from time to time.
It may be easy to get the worldly, the practical message of particular experiences, but it is not so easy to get the higher, the spiritual message they contain. This is because we habitually look at them from the ego's standpoint, especially when personal feelings are strongly involved. Truth calls for a transfer of the inner centre of gravity.(P)
If, however, an effort is not made to purify themselves by undergoing the philosophic discipline, then even this analysis of the past will yield little or no value to them. Experiences will be viewed not as they really are but as the viewer wishes to see them. The troublesome or painful consequences of their own blunders, weaknesses, or sins will not be interpreted as evidence of such, but as evidences of other people's faults. Their personal emotions will dominate and hence misread every situation. The sources of their own difficulties not being seen, the necessary changes in thought and behaviour will not be made.
It is the business of the disciple who is in earnest to pry beneath the surface of his actions and discover their real motivating forces, to examine his feelings and impulses and ascertain their hidden character, and not to interpret them falsely at his ego's bidding. He has to probe into his attitudes and discover what they spring from; he has to learn to analyse his feelings impartially and coolly--a task which few men like to do or can do; he has to achieve a clear understanding of the cause of his failures and errors.
For some it is a useful practice to write out a self-arraignment, listing the most glaring faults first and the most hidden ones later. This helps them to keep constantly aware of what they have to avoid. It calls to them quietly but insistently.
To observe himself correctly, a man must do so impartially, coolly, dispassionately, and not leniently, conceitedly, excitedly. He must also do it justly, with the whole of his being and not psychopathically, with only a single part of it.
It is easy for troubled persons to fall into a neurotic self-pity, to brood tensely over the picture of their personal miseries. They are doing what is right in a way which is wrong. It is right to analyse troubles so as to understand how and why they have arisen. But this should be done casually, impersonally, and with special reference to the faults or weaknesses which have caused or contributed to the arising. The lesson should be learnt, the resolve to do better in future taken. Then the absorption in such a gloomy topic should be brought to an end. The light of hope and faith and surrender should be let in.
A warning is needed: When it lacks humility, moral self-examination often goes astray and yields a misleading result.
Those who are not completely honest with themselves, who prefer attractive delusion to repulsive truth, merely defer the moment of humiliating confession.
He has to search out and rid himself of phobias and prejudices, inhibitions and neuroses, obsessions and other mental ills. He has to see himself not as his admirers do, but as his enemies see him.
He must constantly examine his actions and observe his feelings. But he is to do so impartially, critically, and by the standards of the ideal for which he is striving.
He who has not the courage to face himself as he is, to look at his weak points along with his better ones, is not fit for philosophy.
He should keep on probing into his weaknesses and thinking about them constructively, their causes and consequences. The improvement of character and the elevation of moral condition are the foundation of all spiritual work.
To unwrap his inner self of thoughts, emotions, desires, motives, and passions; to decide what is worth keeping and what needs cutting out in it, this is his first task.
This unending probe into the meaning of his own life and humanity's life, this constant self-examination of character and motive, leads to a swifter development of his mind and growth of his ego, a faster realization of himself and unfolding of his inner potentialities.
There must arise an awareness of his hidden defects, of those distorted emotional and intellectual factors, those subtly warped purposes, which have grown up with his past and now dominate his subconscious being. He must open up the covered places of his heart and he must do it ruthlessly and fearlessly.
He notes his characteristics as if they were outside him, belonging to another man and not inside him. He studies his weaknesses to understand them thoroughly. They do not dismay him for he also recognizes his strengths.
If the results of such an examination disturb his self-confidence and shake his vanity, so much the better for his quest.
He is to try to be aware--first at specified times and later at all times--of his inner state, of his thoughts and feelings, his motives and desires. That is, he is to watch himself. There are two forms of this exercise. In the passive one he watches without passing judgement or making comment. In the other and active one, he measures his state against the ideal state--not, however, by intellectually formed standards but by a mind-quietening waiting for intuitive feeling.
At this stage of his inner life, the disciple will find himself being led more and more in the direction of his own past. He will find himself considering its various phases but especially those which were marred by ignorance, error and sin, wrong decisions, and foolish actions. These broodings will inevitably take on a melancholy saddening character. That, however, is no reason for avoiding them. Those super-optimists who would have men gaze only at the present and future, who deprecate all remembrance of the blundering past, seek a transient pseudo-happiness rather than a truly durable one. For, in the disciple's case certainly and in other men's cases perhaps, it is by frank confession of these mistakes and misdeeds and by gloomy recognition of their chastening consequences that their valuable lessons are distilled and their useless recurrence avoided. The disciple should search thoroughly for his weaknesses of character and faults of intellect, and having thus detected them as well as humbled himself, be constantly on his guard against them until he has succeeded in eliminating them altogether.
The hour for retirement at night should also be the hour for recalling the day's happenings, deeds, and talks in memory, at the same time making an appraisal of their character from the higher point of view. But when the exercise has come to an end, the aspirant should deliberately turn his mind utterly away from all worldly experience, all personal matters, and let the hushed silence of pure devotional worship fall upon him.
This exercise is particularly suited to those periods when he is able to retire from social life and worldly business, when he can go into retreat for a while. There he can reflect with profit upon the faults on his past conduct.
He must begin to practise introspection. This may be given a morbid turn, as is so often done by those not engaged with the quest, or it may be given a healthy one. If he uses the practice to examine the causes of his mistakes and to discover the weaknesses in his character, and then takes the needful steps to eliminate the one and overcome the other, it can only benefit and elevate him.
Such retrospective analyses, critical evaluations, and impersonal interpretations of his past must be attempted only in calm periods if the results are not to be emotionally distorted. Against this rule there is nevertheless an exception. When he feels bitter self-reproach about his bygone mistakes or misdeeds, it is well to take advantage of such an anti-ego attitude while it lasts.
During this passive and receptive phase of meditation, various events, happenings, and objects return to consciousness again and in this way the meditator has an opportunity to deal with them from a higher standpoint or from a fresh and different one. He may also receive information or knowledge in this way about the thing psychically or intuitively which he did not have before.
The tough, harsh analysis of one's own errors should not end there, should not terminate in agonized self-torment. It must be counter-balanced by positive attitudes.
It is possible to watch, by introspection, the happenings in the mind. But to do this accurately and adequately, the detachment fostered by the witness-attitude must be present. Part of his consciousness must stand aside, cool, untouched by emotions, and independent of ego.
To search around inside oneself may be a morbid or a dangerous affair, if it has no high objective.
He should try to put himself into the future and look back on this present period.
The unconscious motives may be only half-hidden from the conscious mind and deliberately ignored or may be completely sunk.
In order to unmask his sensitivities and recognize them for the hidden motives that they usually are, the seeker must deliberately subject himself to the most intensive and gruelling self-analysis. Every disguise must be stripped bare. Every stumbling block must be penetrated. Every form of self-deception must be uprooted. His highest aspirations must undergo the same examination and treatment as his lower characteristics. The results--if he perseveres and is strictly honest--are more than likely to shock him, or, at least, to lead to some startling discoveries. Such self-analysis will naturally lead to the seeking of a humbler, more selfless, and more worthwhile way of life.
Recognition of mistakes is essential but should not be dwelt on in a purely negative fashion. The Teacher may indicate that recognition alone is not enough; more effort should be put forth to overcome them. But if he were to set down all the faults and defects still observable, his student might become so dejected that he would throw away his opportunities. On the other hand, if the student is earnest, certain virtues and favourable tendencies would also be evident, and these, set down fully, might cause him to become so elated that he would overestimate his possibilities.
You will face a moment in your mental self-analysis when fear will descend upon you, when the dread of disintegration will shadow you--for you will reach for the bottom.
The habit of dissolving his customary egoistic regard for himself is well worth cultivating repeatedly for a period. For several reasons it is good to learn this art of detachment, to practise becoming a second and separate person, to watch himself and note the different reactions to the day's events. During this exercise, he should place his attention upon some decisive event from his past which meant much to him at the time. He is to consider it as impartially and coolly as if it had happened to another man. He must keep out personal emotion from this special survey as he analyses the whole happening from beginning to end, from causes to results. He is to judge it critically and where he finds his former attitude or acts faulty, reshape it or them mentally to the correct form.
An analytical remorse may be helpful in uncovering faults or deficiencies, but a morbid remorse will hinder betterment and paralyse aspiration.
If his past mistakes were made out of ignorance but in utter sincerity, he need not spend the rest of his life tormenting himself with vain reproaches.
He must search himself for the real motives behind his conduct, which are not always the same as those he announces to other persons or even to himself.
He alone knows what the real man is like behind the image which others have of him. But he knows it only under the colouring of extenuations, justifications, and repressions, with which he tints it.
It would be easy for him to comb through the surface of his character during this self-examination and yet miss the real motivations lying beneath it.
A true appraisal should list both the good and bad qualities of a seeker. It should invent nothing, hide nothing.
This scrutiny must penetrate his character deeply. It must look first for the psychological causes of his dismal failures--the faults, the indisciplines, and the inadequacies.
To recognize our guilt in tracing the source of certain troubles is always hard--so blinded by egoism are we. The philosophic discipline aims at creating the requisite personal disinterestedness in us.
Remember that in examining yourself it is unlikely that you will be impartial.
Introspective self-examination of this kind, done in this way, is not morbid and unhealthy. On the contrary, it is helpful and healthy.
If he studies past experience in this impersonal and analytic way, what he learns will help him begin a self-training of character and intellect that will stop the commission of further mistakes or sins and eliminate the fallacies of belief or habit.
Such self-examination will be fruitful if it suppresses nothing and reveals everything, more especially if it seeks out failings rather than virtues.
Philosophy does not encourage a morbid dwelling over past sins, lost opportunities, or errors committed. That merely wastes time and saps power. The analysis finished, the lesson learned, the amendment made, what is left over must be left behind. Why burden memory and darken conscience with the irreparable if no good can be done by it?
The result of this unflattering examination will be that he will pass for a while from self-love to self-despising.
He must scrutinize motives and find out to what extent they are pure or impure, sincere or hypocritical, factual or deceptive.
He must regard his faults with sincerity and without flinching. He should be too much in earnest to hide them from himself or to seek plausible excuses for them.
He must practise severe self-judgement and ruthless self-criticism by looking at his imperfections with courage and honesty, subordinating smug vanity until the revelation of himself to himself comes out clearly and truthfully in the end.
He will find that undoing his past mistakes will be hampered or helped by his capacity to recognize them for what they really are.
By searching himself and studying his past, he may be able to determine at what point he deviated from the correct path of living or right thinking.
When the impact of the truth about his own underlying motives is first felt, he is likely to sink into grave discouragement.
It may be disheartening to review from time to time the present state of his own failings but it is better than pretending they are not there and getting tripped by them in consequence.
He should not refuse to recognize his own deficiencies, but he need not either exaggerate or minimize them while doing so.
He must explore his own past and glean the lessons from it. He must analyse the personal and environmental factors which composed each situation or influenced them, and he must do all this as adequately and thoroughly as possible.
He should study his brilliant successes and sorry failures for the different lessons which both can teach him.
When, at long last, he is able to burrow beneath the very foundation of his ego, the meditation approaches its best value.
He has to stand aside from himself and observe the chief events of his life with philosophic detachment. Some of them may fill him with emotions of regret or shame, others with pride and satisfaction, but all should be considered with the least possible egoism and the greatest possible impartiality. In this way experience is converted into wisdom and faults are extracted from character.
It is out of such reflections that we now learn what fools we made of ourselves just when we believed we were doing something clever, what fallacious ideas we held just when we believed the truth within our grasp.
Each separate recollection of these past errors is in itself a repeated punishment.
Let him throw all his experiences into this scrupulous analysis. It does not matter whether, on the surface, they are important or not. So long as there is some instructive significance to be distilled from them, some moral lesson, philosophic principle, practical guidance, or metaphysical truth, they are grist for his mill. Most events and episodes that he can remember, the trivial as well as the tragic, are to be reconsidered from this strictly impersonal point of view and made to serve his spiritual development.
To make the mind acquainted with itself by watching its thought while in a state of detachment, is a main purpose of such spiritual exercises.
It is in such relaxed periods, when the panorama of his own personal history filters through his mind, letting the events pass but keeping back their lessons, that he can practise an impersonality which profits his future lives.
A technique of remembrance is necessary to discover what lessons are still needed by constantly analysing one's whole past life, judging all major decisions and actions in the light of the results to which they led, and of the effects which they had both upon himself and upon others. Such reflection should be done not only in the form of meditation, but also at odd times when the mood comes upon him, no matter what he is doing.
It is an experience when not only known mistakes, moral or worldly, stand out sharply before his mind's eye but others, hitherto unrecognized as such, are seen for the first time.
Every aspirant knows that when this self-examination reveals the presence of wrong attitudes he must fight them.
Moral self-betterment exercises
In early periods of development, it is necessary to include in the meditation period exercises for the constructive building of character. They will then be preparatory to the exercises for mind-stilling.
The imagination which sports with personal fancies and plays with egotistic fictions may be harmful to philosophic pursuit of truth, but the imagination which creatively sets out to picture the further steps in development is helpful to it.
The philosophical use of meditation not only differs from its mystical use in some ways but also extends beyond it. A most important part of the student's meditations must be devoted to moral self-improvement. When he has made some progress in the art of meditation, he has acquired a powerful weapon to use in the war against his own baser attributes and personal weaknesses. He must reflect upon his own mistaken conduct of the past and the present, repent its occurrence, and resolve to rid himself of the weaknesses which led him into it. He must contemplate the possibility of similar situations developing in the future and picture himself acting in them as his better self would have him act. If, instead of using meditation periods only for lolling negatively in the emotional peace which they yield, he will reserve a part of those periods for positive endeavour to wield dominion over those attributes and weaknesses, he will find that the fortified will and intensified imagination of such moments become truly creative. For they will tend to reproduce themselves successfully in his subsequent external conduct. That which he has pictured to himself and about himself during meditation will suddenly come back to his consciousness during the post-meditative periods, or it will even express itself directly in external deeds when their meditative stimuli have been quite forgotten.
Creative Thought: This exercise makes use of one of man's most valuable powers--spiritualized imagination. Everyone possesses the image-making faculty to some degree and artists to an extraordinary degree. The student must strive to get something of the artist's imaginative capacity and then ally it with the illuminating and dynamizing power of his higher self. But this can only be successfully and perfectly achieved if, first, the images are harmonious with the divine will for him and if, second, he has developed to the second degree of meditation. But not many can fulfil these conditions. Nevertheless, all may attempt and benefit by the exercise, even though their attempt will be halting, their benefit partial, and the results imperfect. For even then it will be greatly worthwhile. This is the right way to make imagination serve him, instead of letting it evaporate in useless fantasies or harmful daydreams.
This exercise accepts and utilizes the power of imagery, the faculty of visualization, which is one of the features distinguishing the man from the animal. It places desirable patterns in the mind and places them there regularly and persistently, until they begin to influence both the way we approach fortune and the fortune which approaches us. These patterns concern the self's character and the self's future, portray the ideal and predict the morrow.
Meditation directed towards the reform and improvement of character should have a twofold approach. On the one hand, it should be analytic and logical self-criticism, exposing the faults and weaknesses, the unpleasant results to which they lead both for oneself and for others. On the other hand, it should be creative and imaginative picturing of the virtues and qualities which are the contrary opposites of the faults and shortcomings exposed by the other approach. The meditator should picture himself expressing these traits in action.
In the meditational work upon eradicating the fault, he may begin by trying to remember as many occasions as he can where he showed it, and express repentance for them.
The act reproduces the picture he had painted of it in his imagination. His ideal character, his perfect pattern of conduct need no longer remain unrealizable or frustrating.
The labour on himself does not mean a moral labour only: although that will be included, it is only preparatory. It means also, and much more, giving attention to his attention, noting where his thoughts are going, training them to come back into himself and thus, at the end, to come to rest at their source--undisturbed Consciousness.
He is able to rise above his own limited experience by imaginatively absorbing other people's experience.
The evil consequences of yielding to certain desires forms a fit theme for this kind of meditation exercise.
We must bring our questions and problems to the silent hour with the desire to know what is really for our own good, rather than for our personal gratification.
He who develops along these lines through the creative power of meditation, will eventually find that his instinct will spontaneously reject the promptings of his lower self and immediately accept the intuitions of his higher self.
There are two factors which retard or accelerate, prevent or consummate the result he seeks to achieve by the creative use of thought. The first is his individual destiny, preordained from birth. The second is the harmony or disharmony between his personal wish and the Overself's impersonal will for his own evolution. The more he can take a detached view of his life, separating his needs from his desires, the more is his wish likely to be fulfilled by the use of this method.
From these sessions he can draw attractive qualities--strong in willpower, relaxed in nerves, and ever-smiling in face. From them, too, he is likely to renew more courageously than before his personal commitment to the Quest.
He should analytically study, warmly admire, and imaginatively possess the characteristic qualities of Sagehood. They form an excellent topic for dwelling on during the meditation period.
These rare natures who dispense goodwill and radiate tolerance, who rise calmly and without apparent effort above anger-provoking situations and highly irritating persons, represent an ideal. It is not an impossible one and may be realized little by little if he faithfully practises constructive meditation upon the benefits of calmness as well as upon the disadvantages of anger.
The exercise deals with persons, things, situations, and problems which exist only in imaginary circumstances inside his own mind. But otherwise he is to give it all the reality he can, to see, hear, touch, and smell internally as vividly as if he were using these same senses externally. Except for any special modification which the philosophic discipline may call for, every act is to be done mentally just as he would do it in real life.
He is to picture to himself the exact quality he seeks to gain, just as it feels within himself and expresses through his actions.
A useful meditation exercise is to create in advance through imagination, any meeting with others likely to happen in the near future or with those he lives with, works with, or is associated with, which may result in provocation, irritability, or anger. The student should see the incident in his mind's eye before it actually happens on the physical plane, and constructively picture himself going through it calmly, serenely, and self-controlled--just as he would like himself to be, or ought to be, at the time.
Meditation is more fruitful if part of it is devoted to reflection on ideals, qualities, and truths needed by the student at the time.
Meditation should be begun with a short, silent prayer to the Overself, humbly beseeching guidance and Grace. This may be done either by kneeling in the Western fashion or by sitting in the Oriental fashion. After offering his prayer, the aspirant should sit down in the position he customarily uses in meditation, close his eyes, and try to forget everything else. He may then form a mental picture of his own face and shoulders, as though he were looking at himself from an impersonal point of view. He should think of the person in the picture as a stranger. Let him first consider the other's faults and weaknesses, but, later, as a changed person, endowed with ideal qualities, such as calmness, aspiration, self-mastery, spirituality, and wisdom. In this way, he will open a door for the Higher Self to make its messages known to him in the form of intuitions. He should be prepared to devote years to intense efforts in self-examination and self-improvement. This is the foundation for the later work. Once the character has been ennobled, the way to receiving guidance and Grace will be unobstructed.
The student must earnestly try to learn the lessons of his own experience by considering situations as impersonally and unemotionally as he can. By meditating on them in a cool, analytical way--ferreting out past blunders and not sparing himself--he may uncover some of the weaknesses impeding his progress. He should then make every effort to correct them.
The problem of trying to control temper is one that is frequently presented. It can only be solved slowly under ordinary circumstances. During meditation, he should picture himself in a temper and then deliberately construct an imaginative scene wherein he exercises more and more discipline over himself. These mental pictures when sufficiently repeated and with sufficient intensity will tend to reappear before his mind's eye at the moment when he does actually fall into a temper.
The method of visualizing what you wish to materialize may only serve to fatten the ego and block spiritual advancement, which is what happens with most of its practisers. But if it is resorted to only when the mind has been harmonized, even for a few moments, with the Overself, it will not only be harmless but also successful. For at such a time and in such a condition, nothing will be wished for that will not be conformable to the higher welfare of the individual.
Although an uninformed, unchecked, and unguided imagination can carry him into dangerous places or on useless journeys, can bog him down in utter self-deception or influence him to delude others, nevertheless when it has the right qualities the imaginative faculty can carry him far along the spiritual path. It can help him to create from within himself good qualities and bettered attitudes which, ordinarily, the discipline of painful events would have created from without. It is needed for visualizing the Ideal, for acquiring virtues, and for holding the Symbol in meditation. Hence the old Rosicrucian adept, Mejnour, who is one of the leading characters in that interesting occult novel, Zanoni, says: "Young man, if thy imagination is vivid . . . I will accept thee as my pupil." And Bulwer Lytton, the author, himself an experienced occultist, remarks: "It was to this state that Mejnour evidently sought to bring the Neophyte. . . . For he who seeks to discover, must first reduce himself into a kind of abstract idealism, and be rendered up, in solemn and sweet bondage, to the faculties which contemplate and imagine."
Analyse, understand, and confess the sin; express remorse, resolve to act rightly in the future and finally throw yourself on God's mercy.
There is no psychic danger for the worthy in the pre-visioning exercises, but there would be for people dominated by low motives and expressing unpurified emotions.
It is possible by the power of such meditations, creatively to shape the character and deepen the consciousness of oneself.
It is not enough to visualize oneself living the ideal; one must also learn to retain the picture.
Creative Thought Exercise: He visualizes possible events, pre-examines his behavior on meeting them, and re-shapes these anticipated thoughts and deeds on higher principles.
Creative Meditation Exercise: He may think of probable meetings during the next day, if he is practising at night, or of the coming day if at morn, of events that are likely to happen then, and of places where he may have to go. Alongside of that he may imagine how he ought to conduct himself, how to think and talk under those circumstances. And always, if the exercise is to prove its worth, he should take the standpoint of his better, nobler, wiser self, of the Overself.
He must train himself during solitary hours in the qualities he seeks to express during active ones. Creative imagination and concentrated thinking are the means for this self-training.
All dominant tendencies and ruling ideas which are of an undesirable character constitute fruitful sources of future action. If, by such creative meditation, we eradicate them we also eradicate the possibility of undesirable action in the future.
Out of these quiet moments there will emerge into active day-to-day life those controls of character, those disciplines of emotion, which elevate the human entity.
When you have climbed the peak of this meditation, you have entered into your most powerful creative moments. It is well therefore at such a time to make your first step in descent to ordinary consciousness a step in self-improvement. Take some defect in character that needs to be overcome and imaginatively treat yourself for it like a doctor treating a patient.
Every helpful self-suggestion given at this point of contemplation will germinate like a seed and produce its visible fruit in due time.
The meditation practices of the Jesuits were based on the same principle. Their exercises transformed men's character. The student had to experience imaginatively what he hoped to realize one day physically. The duality which is affirmed and pictured intensely in meditation becomes materialized in time.
Such constructive meditation on positive qualities will help to eliminate wrong fears from a man's life and increase his strength to endure the vicissitudes of modern existence.
By constantly meditating upon the Ideal, the creative power of imagination gradually implants the likeness of its qualities, attributes, and virtues in him. It becomes, indeed, a second self with which he increasingly identifies himself.
The work of meditation may eventually become a transforming one. If the meditator, while resting in this creative quietude, earnestly strives to re-educate his character, impersonalize his attitude, and strengthen his spirituality, he can develop an inner life that must inevitably bring marked and deep changes in his outer life.
And it is through such persistent reflections upon experience that his character slowly alters, thus confirming Socrates' saying: "Virtue can be learned." The ideal pictures for him the sort of man he wants to be.
Right reflection about past experiences, together with determination to take himself in hand, will lead the student to a more worthwhile future and smooth the path ahead.
It is a useful exercise to spend time recollecting the previous day's actions, situations, and happenings in the same order in which they manifested. Those persons who appear in them should be recalled as vividly as they were then seen, and their voices heard as clearly.
This exercise requires him to review the day just past from the hour of waking out of sleep to the hour of going back to bed at night.
The value of taking this kind of a backward look at the day just finished is far more than it seems. For everything in him will benefit--his character, his destiny, and even his after-death experience.
The exercise is practised when he retires for the night and is lying in the dark. He goes backward in time and recalls all that has happened during the day--the persons he has met, the places he has visited, and what he has done. The picture should be made as fully detailed as possible and cover the entire field from the moment he awoke in the morning until the moment he lay down to begin the exercise. If he has talked with others, he notes the particular tone and accent of their voices, as well as hearing the sentences themselves. He tries to insert as many little items into his visualization as will render it sharp, realistic, and convincing. Out of this background he selects those of his actions and words, as well as those of his feelings and thoughts, which call for amendment or correction or discipline. He is to cull out of the day's episodes and happenings not only what his conscience or judgement tell him call for corrective work in meditation but also what is most significant for his spiritual purpose and what is likely to prove most fruitful for his creative work in meditation.
All will come under review periodically--the management of his relationships with others, his personal, social, and professional activities, the management of his life. But all this scrutiny is to be done from a standpoint higher than the ordinary one, less ego-governed and more impersonal. Therefore it should be done only and preferably at such times as this mood is upon him, if it is to be effectively done.
He should, for the purposes of this exercise look back a number of years to the points in his personal history where opportunity was missed or decision was wrong or action could have been better. Then, using his imaginative faculty, he should reconstruct the situations and mentally, correcting his past errors, do what he ought then to have done. From there, he should proceed to trace the probable consequences down through the years.
The Notebooks are copyright © 1984-1989, The Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation.