When the Spirit Doesn't Move You
“Incidentally,” said old J.W. von Goethe, “I despise everything which merely instructs me without increasing or immediately enlivening my activity.”
And now, of course, the only thing which is likely to enliven Theosophy, its organizations and individuals, may be a radical shift toward Theosophical psychology. Like old Goethe, many modern people may have little time and/or patience for teachings which seem to offer only general inspiration or philosophical value—or the variety of “knowledge” which may be so distant in time, space, and/or abstraction that it has trouble relating to a single thing in daily life.
Fortunately, there is a Theosophical psychology.
It can give you more energy.
It can help you live longer.
It can make you more productive, especially in the later years.
It can improve your physical and mental abilities.
It can increase your self-confidence, creativity, emotional stability, general “buoyancy,” and more.
It can possibly even assist you in becoming an “Adept” or “Master.”
Unfortunately, this Theosophical psychology is likely to remain hidden from many of those who are reluctant to first undertake the meditative experiment which can bring it into better focus. This is not a matter of academic coursework; neither is it the product of endless, normal-life-desiccating arcane scholarship. The ass (sitting on it) is far more important than the brain when it comes to Theosophy in its epistemological sense.
Simply speaking, repeatedly watching one’s own changing states of “tainted Consciousness” may eventually result in a unique, intuitively derived psychological perspective. This will be a personal possession rather than merely a personal parroting of someone prestigious. Some individuals, perhaps at an advanced Degree of Self-awareness (the psychological analog of the “Root Race”), may have done this consciousness-watching “automatically” throughout their lives; others, however, may benefit from meditatively sitting down and watching—or actually just laying down and noticing as they are falling asleep—the unvarying six-fold sequence of “differentiated consciousnesses” (the seventh in the sequence would be the unwatchable “Undifferentiated Consciousness”).
What happens is this: First, one’s attention may start to stray away from a fixed focus (e.g., the forehead area) and meander to the breath (this can be associated with prana and the Animating Level of differentiated consciousness). Second, after one has purposefully returned to the fixed focus, the attention may begin to wander to little body “tingles,” aches, itches, or other sensory phenomena (Physical). Third, then to dreamlike visual imagery, either replays or projections, which have at least a tinge of emotional significance (Desire-Feeling). Fourth, then to the “talking-to-oneself” which becomes added to the feeling-tainted visual imagery (Desire-Mental). Then, after the visual imagery has fallen away completely, to the dispassionate verbal inner monologue which goes on and on (Mental). Sixth, then—that is, so long as one’s Degree of Self-awareness is high enough to return to the focus rather than just continuing to be “merged” with the previous distracter—to a more blissful Level where silent verbalization begins to “dissolve” and only a sort of “Ineffable Correlative” or “Place-Holding Understanding” begins to hold sway (Spirit-Mental).
“The Breath becomes a stone; the stone, a plant; the plant, an animal; the animal, a man; the man, a spirit; and the spirit, a god [sic God] [H.P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine; Commentary on Stanza V].” This might be the only version of the famous Kabalistic axiom one is likely to find which starts off with “The Breath.” In some other places throughout both Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine, old H.P.B. begins the axiom with the conventional “The stone becomes a plant . . .”; however, something or Someone (one of her Masters, perhaps?) at least in this instance prompted her to use a variation which corresponds nicely with the sequence above. Ditto, analogically speaking, with her presentation of Rounds, Root Races etc.
But where is the “enlivening” value such an experiment?
For starters, there is possibly what might be called the first psychological “Enlightenment.” If a person repeatedly watches the unfolding sequence, it may sooner or later become apparent that there must be Something Else over and above this inner content which is doing the watching. (Actually, this should be termed “catching,” since one only realizes what differentiated consciousness one has been merging with after one has caught oneself doing so.) Call this the “I,” Uncontaminated “I,” Higher Self, Self, Once-Removed Vantage, Undifferentiated Consciousness, Mind, Oversoul, Soul, Atma, Purusa, or anything you want—for even someone as widely venerated as old Ramana Maharshi maintained that, at least psychologically speaking, they all point to the same thing.
(Theosophical terms, perhaps even some metaphysical, cosmological, and anthropological mainstays which may or may not have been derived analogically from the psychological experience of mystics and Mahatmas, are sometimes best used just for their personal utility and convenience rather than some assumed universal communicability. Indeed, if no one among your family, friends, and acquaintances has ever noticed in himself or herself something which can be labeled Once-Removed-Vantage, you will be just talking to yourself, anyway, no matter how much talking you do about such a psychological reality.)
Utilizing the foregoing first step in Self-awareness, a person might then want to experiment with a couple other very simple “psychotechnologies” to help the “spirit” get things moving—physically, emotionally, mentally. (Theosophically speaking, Spirit doesn’t move anything; here spirit will just mean “animation” or “vital force.”)
Simple Psychotech #1:
Mindfulness. For most individuals past age forty-two, the big problem is embranglement. This is a fine and useful word; its meaning is a combination of “enmesh” and “tangle.” Embranglement is what happens when there has been too much “contaminated” ego-formation (“semi-Self indulgence”) from interaction with the psychological analog of primordial, all-inclusive “Substance” (Prakriti) and not enough opportunity to “unwind” back toward Undifferentiated Consciousness (Purusa, Self, Uncontaminated “I,” etc.) during periods of rest and sleep.
For a younger person, simple rest and sleep are usually sufficient to rebalance and revive. One reason may be that he or she has not “Psychomatured” far enough so that all the varieties of Substance can snare him or her egoicly. For example, a five-year-old may have a strong emotional reaction about something; however, he or she cannot be that emotion in the same Self-defining/deluding way as a fifteen-year-old who has Psychomatured into the Desire-Feeling Cycle. The “age-ready” latter type of experience is far more energy-draining and requires much more time for both physiological (stress-related) and psychological “repair”—notably “vegetating,” dreaming, “thought-streaming,” and most importantly, non-rapid-eye-movement sleeping or, Theosophically putting it, “re-Selfing.”
It is essential for a Theosophical psychologist to understand that the capacity for Self-delusion does not appear as a completed package at birth. It unfolds in a familiar but expanded time-scale sequence according to an “esoteric” doctrine called the Seven-Year Cycles. Psychologically, the five-year-old may momentarily be either “I am my energy,” or “I am my body” (a neat, crisp seven-year explanation is complicated by the fact that the potential for the next septenary cycle begins to appear fleetingly, and sometimes exaggeratedly, at the midpoint of the previous cycle; thus, in addition to Animating ego-formations, Physical ego-formations could also be possible at approximately age three and one-half). While there may be psychologically damaging “pre-mature exceptions” resulting from traumatic situations etc., a five-year-old will not typically be “I am my jealous feeling that my brother has a new toy.” He or she can have that exact Desire-Feeling emotion with the same exact intensity, but he or she is not likely to be it.
By age forty-two, however, a person can egoicly be “contaminated” by all the varieties of Substance. Psychologically speaking, he or she can be, partially or fully, momentarily or longer-term, everything described by these categories or “Levels”: Animating, Physical, Desire-Feeling, Desire-Mental, Mental, and Spirit-Mental. It may be difficult to consider something like a headache, flash of anger, or political opinion (Desire-Mental ego-formation) as any sort of “ego”; however, that which results in even a momentary and partial loss of an individual’s sense of Self (Once-Removed-Vantage etc.) can be, at least for utility’s purpose, defined as an “ego.” Old G.I. Gurdjieff said, “Where my attention is, there am I.” Old William James said, “For the moment, what we attend to is [egoic] reality.”
Again, Simple Psychotech #1 is merely Mindfulness. A Theosophical psychologist has already been repeatedly discriminating between the ever-changing-but-one-at-a-time-please semi-Selves and the Higher Self in the meditative experiment; now all that is necessary is to try to cultivate a habit of doing the same in daily life. This, of course, is not always easy. For example, if you have learned something very well—either something intellectual like the philosophy of old Immanuel Kant or something practical like how to paint a room—you may find yourself thinking about it or trying to explain it to another person. During such a time, it would be very easy to lose most or all of your Self-awareness and just become the emotionally neutral mental content you are pontificating. From the standpoint of Theosophical psychology, it might be said that, at least temporarily, you lost Mindfulness and were “transformed” at the Mental Level into differentiated consciousness (in this case, were convinced “I really am my desire-free thought, knowledge, or idea”).
(Incidentally, in the above example, even to remain intermittently Mindful at Fifth-Level, desire-free, Mental consciousness, a person would need to have advanced to at least the beginning of Sixth-Degree Self-awareness (cf. “Sixth Root Race”). This Degree would be required in order to continue to have a Once-Removed Vantage upon—i.e., be able to “en-Soul” (“en-Self”)—any subtle attention-grabber forming at the Mental Level of tainted Consciousness. Fortunately, a very valuable thing about Simple Psychotech #1 is that even a little improvement in ongoing Mindfulness may result in a great advance in a person’s Psycho-Spiritual rank. Thus, perhaps not just a matter of time spent in incarnations . . . it might really be . . . actually about a more comprehensive “aging” of our Souls [sic “Soul-Substance conglomerates”] or “Monads,” after all. . . .)
Such Mindful practice is very useful, but it may sometimes seem a tad off-the-rack and unexciting. That is not good, but even worse, it may well be that Mindfulness is the least understood concept in all of the New Age. What is a person supposed to remain Mindful of, anyway? Often, there is an idle assumption that one is supposed to perpetually keep tabs on the Self or one of Its Equivalents. Well no, because at least from what can be directly experienced by a person psychologically, Self equals Mind. It is an erroneous supposition to think that the Mind should keep trying to Mind the Mind in some way. That is impossible. What is possible in Theosophical psychology is that one can be Mindful of all the conditions of consciousness which are not the Self or Mind in its pristine, “unalloyed” form. Did someone just grab your parking space? With a little practice, it is certainly possible for you to remain Mindful that You are not really that momentary Desire-Feeling semi-Self with that aforementioned very itchy middle finger. . . .
Unfortunately, though, even constant practice is unlikely to make one perfect in Mindfulness. Indeed, it may be argued that to accomplish certain things requiring extreme one-pointed attention or “reckless abandon,” it may not even be desirable. However, most of our lives do not regularly require such a kamikaze approach, and even modest increments in Mindfulness can have major payoffs in energy, motivation, resilience, etc. While some individuals might prefer their Psycho-Spiritual techniques to work in some “black-box,” mystical way, it might be that Mindfulness works merely because it keeps the breath moving in a more regular pattern. Return to Self-awareness in a noisy traffic jam sometime, and you might even be surprised to realize that your temporary transmogrifications into Physical semi-Selves (egoic mergings with sights, sounds, body discomforts, etc.) have been more or less stopping your breathing entirely.
Simple Psychotech #2:
Simple Psychotech #2, however, has all the black-box mysticism anyone could ever want. It just involves asking oneself life-improving questions and not worrying about what, where, when, why, or how the answers will appear.
“How can I have more energy?” “How can I feel younger?” “How can I accomplish more worthwhile things, easier and more creatively than ever?” —Or just comprehensively: “How can I be better in every way?” Why not try asking yourself such questions and then go about your normal business, letting old Preternatural Assistance, if It exists, prove Itself by answering everything in Its own time and fashion? Undoubtedly, many aspirants already ask themselves life-improving questions on a regular basis, even if they do not consciously verbalize them. Why not make such queries fully conscious, volitional, and Transcendentally experimental with Simple Psychotech #2?
Sola fide, “faith alone,” as old Martin Luther said. “I can tell you that between faith on authority and faith on one’s spiritual intuition there is a very great difference,” as old H.P.B. said. Indeed, all that is needed is a little faith in the epistemological (“allowable knowledge”) definition for Theosophy: “Intuitive knowledge or wisdom resulting from direct experience of one’s Transcendent Nature.” The resultant intuitive knowledge does not have to be abstract and philosophical; it can be concrete and practical. Perhaps it is possible that aspirational questions help guide the intuition toward the areas of knowledge and wisdom which are needed.
But few materialists are likely to take this possibility seriously enough to undertake the experiment. They might be willing to try something like self-hypnosis for losing weight; however, most would probably be on their scales the next morning, needing prompt verification that it is working. They forget that the old aforementioned Orpheus lost old Eurydice just because he could not stop himself from looking back to make sure she was following him upward from Hades. A materialist needs proof in order to proceed; a Theosophist only needs suspicion.
And there is ample reason to suspect that there is Truth in many of the great ideas which have more-or-less become a second definition for Theosophy: “the writings of H.P. Blavatsky.” For example, reflecting on your own life, can you honestly say that you are able to identify the exact cause or reason for who and where you are today? Or might you have an ever-growing suspicion or intimation that there are some unseen and mysterious things like dharma, karma, and scandhas (translifetime “duties,” “consequences,” and “tendencies”) working “behind the scenes” in a far more powerful way than anything that you, even wearing your lab coat, can find proof-positive for? Old Ramana Maharshi had great success just by encouraging his followers to repeatedly ask themselves the question “Who am I?” Is it really so difficult to suspect that asking a few more questions of oneself might also bring some additional, happy, Preternatural results?
Sola scriptura, “scripture alone,” as old Martin Luther also said . . . but alas, even Lutherans cannot be right all the time. . . . Old J. Krishnamurti perhaps countered this best by saying, “Truth is a pathless land.” He might have stirred even more controversy had he said, “Theosophy is a belief-less land.” Intuition is one thing; belief is something else. No matter how much one reveres old H.P.B., it is probably still a little absurd to say something like, “I believe in the Lemurians.” Of course, one can have an intuition or growing intimation about the possible existence of “Third Root Race” individuals living 150,000,000 years ago; however, to out-and-out believe in them probably just means that one has been impulsively snacking from the all-too-available lazy-Susan of Old/New Age notions.
Indeed, ego-formations appear far more frequently and durably in the “garb” of fixed beliefs than they do as fleeting Theosophical intuitions. Thus, when life doesn’t seem to be providing enough spirit to move you, what you almost certainly do not need are more dart-selected embrangling beliefs. Alternatively, there is every chance that your activities might not only be enlivened but also enlightened by using the ineffable perspectives and guidance of Theosophical psychology.
“There is nothing so terrible,” also said old J.W. von Goethe, “as activity without insight.”