At this stage of our brief study of the mind and its mystical powers, personal observation and experience involving thousands of contemporary cases among Asiatics, Africans, Europeans, and Americans no less than wide reading in and deep reflection over the past annals of mysticism in the West as well as yoga in the East dictates the stern duty of a warning utterance. In this matter at least we have the privilege of practice as well as the theories of yoga at our fingertips and hence may be presumed to know what we are talking about. If our statements are strongly worded, that is because the importance of the matter justifies it. Many have deplored the innumerable aberrations and the countless delusions, the intellectual vagaries and the pathological states, the hysterical emotionalisms and the half-concealed eroticisms to which mysticism too easily leads its votaries. Why does this happen? Part of the answer is that meditation exercises are often practised incorrectly. This is still true even when they are done under a teacher's guidance, for scientifically imparted instruction is usually difficult to obtain, whereas superstitious or superficial instruction is more easily found. The consequences of wrong practice make themselves marked in time upon both character and capacity. They may appear in the following forms: fancy being mistaken for reality; the decay of reasoning power and the growth of credulity; the surrender to emotional impulse, miscalled intuition, in the belief that this is a higher guide to behaviour than right thinking; and the adoption of a holier-than-thou attitude towards others. Moreover, meditation of a merely self-hypnotic character unaccompanied by philosophical or practical discipline may lead to pathological neuroses, or to dissociations of personality, or to deep self-deceptive hallucinations of personal attainment. Just as the right kind of meditation will expand and develop spiritual life, so the wrong kind will cripple and dwarf it. Those who do not estimate the creative powers of meditation at their real worth may ridicule such a statement. But the fact remains--and is indeed a commonplace matter of mere observation to any competent investigator--that the whole character, mentality, temperament, motives, and reactions of the student who continues for a sufficient period with such practices will undergo a marked change for the better or for the worse. They will indeed either benefit or harm him.
Nevertheless, if erroneous meditation has led some to fantasies and illusions, this is not a warning to give up its practice but to meditate rightly and to gain metaphysical clear-sightedness to see through phantasms and mistakes. Indeed, it is quite possible to erect a shield against these errors by undergoing the philosophical training, which puts its students on their own guard and enables them to protect themselves. Meditation is supremely necessary but the pitfalls that surround it are so grievous as to make it most desirable to practise it as part of the fourfold balanced path, and not merely alone. Moreover, in this world crisis, the service enjoined by this path and usually neglected by unphilosophical meditators is at least as urgent as self-development.
-- Notebooks Category 16: The Sensitives > Chapter 2: Phases of Mystical Development > # 84