Crown Of Concentration
( Originally Published 1908 )
SO far all the explanations concerning exercises and discipline for concentration have necessarily given prominence to the physical plane, because we must know our mediums of activity in order to use them correctly and beneficially; and because the physical is the lowest and grossest medium in the scale of human development, but also the vehicle of expression for all activities, and therefore the one which we must first learn to control.
No method of purifying and energizing the nerves is known to Western science that in any respect approaches the efficacy of the exercises for Prânâyâma; and from their effect upon the vibrations, they prepare the physical conditions most favorable for success in higher concentration.
In the Sushumna man bridges the abyss between the physical and spiritual over the psychic realm. It is only through the complete mastery of our thoughts and their conscious direction to the highest and best that we are able to open this gate-way to the inner senses; for the process refines the vibrations of normal consciousness so that they are attuned to those of the supernormal state,— variously described as " subliminal," " The Unconscious Mind," and " The Subconscious." As it is a vastly higher condition, not lower, supernormal seems to identify it most clearly and aptly. Consciousness really embraces all space, which is to it non-existent; want of affinity in vibrations is the only bar. Therefore there are no limitations to the consciousness of the " knower." Ignorance or choice forge their own limitations of condition or state. Thus this normal self which we know best is commonly a person of many limitations be-cause failing to utilize its latent powers. As long as we permit our desires to dwell upon lower physical pleasures this gateway remains closed, the thought-power needed to open it being wasted and dissipated in the world of externality. Passing downward and outward it brings deterioration of character, and effectually blocks the development of higher Principles.
I would entreat you to keep this basic fact ever before you as both a warning and a guide: The law of growth and development is based upon activity, and the form of the activity upon the use to which we devote it. No growth is possible without use; and just as every unused muscle or tightly bound organ in the body deteriorates through the stagnation thus induced, so also do unused faculties of the human mind deteriorate; while some powers remain ever latent from utter failure to exercise them.
Activity in a center quickens the sensitiveness of that center to receive impressions and to develop its latent powers. The spiritual nature within all is striving for unfoldment, and thus it is with every latent quality or power. It waits only the unlocking of its secret chamber through command of desire and searching intelligence. The weak-willed are governed by their desires excited by external objects; the strong-willed govern their desires through internal choice,— the ethical exercise of a discriminating will.
In the heart-silence to which concentration leads, sources of power undreamed-of are opened to us. The clear realization by the conscious self of conditions — fields of activity — usually veiled by subconsciousness, is developed through the increased activity of the soul when thus freed, and of a will-power which becomes in its every exercise a manifestation of soul-force. Not till we thus unite our wills with our real selves can we have any conception of the might of the invisible into whose realms we are gradually and gently led through this concentration of psychic power and consequent development of psychic senses. The keenness of these on the subtle planes where alone they act is another incontestable proof of the building power of the imaging faculty. Never idle, always moulding something, through its wise direction we can consciously enter the higher planes.
One of the earliest signs of progress in overcoming — in refining and purifying the vibrations — and in the unfoldment of the higher Principles, is the development of the sense of touch to a marvelously delicate rapport with the mind. It thus imparts to all abstract concepts whatsoever, of things as of persons, so intense reality that you discriminate textures and substances as if in actual contact with them; and can feel the presence of an absent friend — the really vital, throbbing life; the cordial handclasp or loving touch upon the hair — as vividly as if you stood face to face. The sense of smell also, always mysteriously linked with memory and subtly uniting us with the in-visible, increases in sensitiveness to the stimulant of suggestion, promptly responding by presenting to consciousness the spiritual aroma of any favorite flower. The emotional effect of the sense of smell and the marvelous reactionary power of memory to stimulate it may be accounted for by its anatomical seat in close association with the pineal gland.
Not surprsing is it, therefore, that the first of the psychic senses to develop is the enjoyment of the spiritual aromas of Nature,— sweet flower-odors and aromatic pines and balsams which penetrate consciousness unpreparedly and in places where the physical vehicle of the odor is entirely absent. Its corresponding physical sense is stimulated, you will remember, by the last and densest Tattva, Prithivi, the earth vibration. It was the last sense to be evolved. Thus psychic evolution is exactly the reverse of physical evolution. It is the ascension of the spiral and reflects its opposite.
Corresponding with taste is the psychic power to absorb and enjoy the finer essences of Prâna; and to recall with the vividness of physical pleasure any delicious food flavors. These subtle essences are the nectar and ambrosia of the gods.
It is in the exercise of holding consciousness to the fixed contemplation of the force circulating in the Sushumnâ till it rises to the pineal gland and rouses it to activity, that the Yogi, in Swâmi Vivekânanda's words : "Becomes en rapport with the astral light and the universal mind and thus is able to see the whole Kosmos." All that is known of the invisible universe has been learned in this way. Physiological facts are these: When we succeed in rousing the Kundalini, and the vital-current rises in the Sushumnâ, we have released Prâna from its bondage to matter — that is, the nervous system, over which its currents normally flow and in doing this have refined the vibrations to a higher plane to which it carries Consciousness with it. Thus we release the mind from its physical chains, the nerve-wires, and from the restrictions of the physical senses. The same principal is employed in wireless telegraphy !
The pineal gland is the " Divine Eye," and it is now recognized by scientists as " a vestigial structure representing an unpaired eye " ; that is, the " third eye." Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes described this mysterious organ as a small mineral deposit of grape-like masses of crystalline matter in the core of the brain, in the part where Des Cartes placed the soul." Quantities of nerve fiber pass through the organ, and it is of interest to the student of the Tattvas to learn that of its two sorts of cells, those of sharp, irregular form contain granules of yellow or orange pigment. The macrocosmic correspondence of this gland is with Aries, and consciousness is there enthroned.
The structure of the pituitary body is almost identical with that of the pineal gland, yet no slightest connection can be traced between the two centers by anatomists. Mme. Blavatsky is my authority, however, for stating that the connection between them is physiological as well as spiritual. Her assertions concerning their importance were corroborated in 1903 by the discoveries of Dr. Sajous, of Philadelphia, who announced the startling theory that one of the least studied glands [the pituitary body] is the most important of the millions in the human body." After fourteen years of research devoted especially to the study of the office or function of the least under-stood glands in the body, Dr. Sajous believed he could demonstrate that the anterior lobe of the pituitary body [of course, the difference between the lobes is that one is positive and the other negative] is vitally concerned in the preservation of health, because the glands are agents for the absorption of oxygen and its transmission in another form to the lungs. When you study the sheaths of the body, this discovery will strike you with greater significance.
Concerning the connection between the pituitary body and the pineal gland, Mme. Blavatsky states that an Adept can see a golden aura pulsating in both centers when the subject is in a normal condition. It is as regular as the heart beat. Under abnormal conditions of concentration or exaltation, the arc of pulsation from the pituitary body mounts upward more and more until, just as when an electric current strikes some solid object, the vibrations strike the pineal gland, and awakening that dormant center set all glowing with pure Akashic energy.
This is the psycho-physiological illustration of two organs on the physical plane, which are respectively, the concrete symbols of the metaphysical concepts called Manas [mind] and Buddhi [Soul]. To become conscious on this plane, Buddhi needs the differentiated fire of Manas; but once the sixth sense has awakened the seventh the light which radiates from this seventh sense illuminates the fields of infinitude. For a brief space of time, man becomes omniscient, the Past and the Future, Space and Time, disappear and become for him the Present."
Thus experience, as tangible and definite as any scientific experiments, has established the fact that the pineal gland is the chief organ of spirituality, and the seat of genius. It is the " concrete symbol " because latent within this crystalline center are the potencies of Buddhi. To the faithful earnest student, it becomes the magical Sesame which under the stimulus of his purified will opens to him the secrets of the macrocosm. This supreme achievement, however, is not the reward of all, nor can it be gained by any without unfaltering purpose.
Any selfish aim defeats the realization of higher states of consciousness. But all faithful and regular practice brings its immediate return in serenity, mental power, and physical harmony; with a steady gain in these day by day, and increasing strength, insight, and confidence. Always, the purer the thoughts, the finer, the more rapid the vibrations of the mind-stuff whose reflection is mirrored upon the physical plane.
Know, too, that spiritual consciousness cannot be taken by assault. It can be won only by per-severing, patient devotion to the lofty purpose of union with the highest. It requires effort and continuous effort, and especially the self-discipline of restraining all irritation or depression. Boundless faith, cheerfulness and happiness create those harmonious vibrations that prepare the lower sheaths to reflect the higher, and release subtle forces to pass freely from one medium to another. No other investment of time or labor returns so soul-satisfying, enduring rewards.
To see the vision, and without striving and hoping for it none can succeed, one must " think inwardly; desire intensely; and imagine centrally; " resolved that nothing shall bar one's penetrating to the innermost radiant center of being — the Living Temple — and ascending to the highest, most subtle plane. By concentration, the diffused, la-tent soul-power is made manifest and definite,—comprehensible. Meditation is the crown of con-centration. It is only in meditation that we reach the heart of anything. We cannot meditate till through concentration we have brought the medium, the mind, to the steadfast state of submission to our will and purpose. Thus concentration is the moulding of the organ; meditation is its exercise to great ends.
The first successful stage is to be able to hold the mind to a single point; and next to sweep the surface clean of any object; literally to fix the attention upon nothing. This is the " waveless lake " of Swâmi Vivekânanda,- a clean tablet upon which, having brought the mind-stuff into a state of perfect quiescence, we can pursue a single train of thought; each link in the chain, by the law of causation which is also a law of rhythm, rising into consciousness and taking its place with the precision of well-trained soldiers.
Do not confound concentration with a state of passivity. In order to reach the plane of pure meditation which opens the channels for an influx of divine power,— where, as Annie Besant says : " Peace and strength and force flow into the soul,"-- it is necessary to quell all the distractions of irrelevant ideas with which the senses and untrained minds commonly make havoc of lives. These most certainly must be reduced to a state of passivity, hence the confusion; but if consciousness be permitted to dwell upon this plane, the result is not concentration but stupor! This is the mistake, the stumbling-block in many paths.
Consciousness must ascend; through aspiration it must be alert yet not anxious. It must concentrate all effort to a single point. Thus it is a state of highest activity. The master on duty cannot sleep! The only danger incurred in the exercise is from excessive zeal. The subtle vibrations called into activity work through the germs of the powers you seek to develop; and, like all life in its incipiency, these germs atomic spirillć — are extremely delicate. Practice should always stop short of brain-fatigue.
The earnest student needs no admonition; but the curious investigator who experiments with this system of unfoldment and evolution is cautioned that the mental attitude with which the study is pursued affects most profoundly the results. The poison of doubt, or any lack of confidence acts effectively to inhibit the realization of the benefits sought. Trust and hopefulness open the channels for their fulfillment. Be not too keen for results. That attitude easily passes into anxiety and disappointment. It is to the cheerfully expectant that all great boons come. Let your greatest interest be in the method; in the difficulties you en-counter, and the ingenuity, the expedients, you evolve in overcoming them. Remember that you are investigating your own kingdom of consciousness; a mysterious realm that will open out gradually, disclosing resources, possibilities, and talents wholly unsuspected.
Do not dwell upon things external. It is within you must endeavor to center all your consciousness. Give no recognition to insistent sense-perceptions; ignore everything external. Not by denial of what obtrudes persistently, for that implies recognition, but by steadfast affirmation of what you seek will you reach the goal of endeavor — complete abstraction from the material, visible plane. The forces that ingather during such concentration are commonly wasted in prodigal outward radiation; for there is more spend-thrift thinking than there is spendthrift waste of money. Not till the psychic force which is commonly squandered so thoughtlessly and lavishly is gathered in and concentrated in various centers does the normal consciousness realize the extent to which the power can be controlled, or the energy which can be thus generated.
Above all, during the exercise of concentration, the mind should not be permitted to dwell for an instant upon the anxieties, vicissitudes, or annoyances of the day. It should be lifted to the consciousness of eternal peace,— the law of the perfectly adjusted life. The first stage of the subjective, interior self which we reach in the Silence, is that most closely connected with normal consciousness where the effects of habitual thoughts and acts are garnered and reproach or comfort us according to their nature ; and in the degree that we are able to make this self-examination with absolute candor and freedom from bias or prejudice,' is it helpful to us. Do not tarry here; waste no time in regret; give only such recognition as arms you against repetition of that which harms. Harmonious thoughts alone can mould a harmonious body, and desire for things spiritual can alone give the real self opportunity to grow and to evolve its inherent power.
It is a deeply significant truth that the regular observance of periods for Concentration produces physical and mental conditions that favor such development beyond any other known discipline or training. Only during introspection, after complete withdrawal from the world of the senses, has the soul-life an opportunity to strengthen itself through association with things spiritual and subjective, instead of material and objective. Every such exercise of the soul-life refines and purifies the vibrations and reflects its increasing strength and purity upon the physical tabernacle.
For, mystery of mysteries ! it is into the realm of creation that meditation carries us, where we feel the dawning of a creative spirit in ourselves; and realize beyond question or faintest doubt that we, too, can share in that higher life,- that we are a part of it and can manifest our individual part here.