Theosophist, may 2003, p. 300-309
HPB's Diagram of Meditation and the Process of Spiritual Transformation
[ For easy reference the link to the Meditation Diagram is such that the present article will remain on the screen when the diagram is opened. The same is true for the link to the letter of the Chohan]
One of the gems left to us by H.P.Blavatsky (HPB) is her Diagram of Meditation (Diagram), a copy of which was recorded by E.T. Sturdy, one of the members of her Inner Group. If you are not familiar with it there is a copy at the end of this article. This article will look at some of the esoteric principles on which it is based and hence its value in the process of spiritual transformation. When considering what the process of spiritual transformation is about perhaps a good overview can be gained from one of the passages in the "Maha Chohan's Letter"; The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, in chronological sequence, Appendix II, p. 478., viz:
" All of us have to get rid of our own Ego, the illusory, apparent self, to recognise our true Self, in a transcendental divine life. But if we would not be selfish we must strive to make other people see that truth, and recognise the reality of the transcendental Self, the Buddha, the Christ, or God of every preacher."
The above quotation points out that our real Self is not the personality which, from a spiritual perspective, is only our apparent self and that our real Self is in a transcendental divine life. True spiritual transformation takes place as we are able "to get rid of" perceptions and feelings that we are the personal ego and "recognise our real or true Self (and that of every other being) in a transcendental divine life". It is an unfolding process of discriminating between what is real and permanent and what is illusory and transitory and requires a de-identification with what is illusory and a re-identification with what is real. This process requires and is facilitated when perceptions and feelings change to reflect the Unity of All life. Hence, the quotation also stresses the importance of overcoming selfishness (arising out of a sense of separateness) through helping others perceive this universal truth which is to be found in every religion. It implies that true spiritual transformation requires not only truly universal perspectives and values arising out of a sense of the Unity of All life but also a commitment to live or work for the benefit of all. Practice of the Diagram turns consciousness towards what is real and provides insights into what is illusory thus helping the process of spiritual transformation.
Any approach to spiritual transformation must be of practical use and be capable of facilitating change not only in perspectives and values but ultimately in consciousness. This requires that it brings about changes that are in line with universal truth, that is reality and frees consciousness from conditioning and illusion. Bearing this in mind two concerns might arise about the Diagram. Firstly it might be thought that the Diagram is too abstract or metaphysical and thus of no practical use. What has the process of trying to "Conceive of Unity by expansion in Space and Infinite in Time" got to do with living a spiritual life or spiritual transformation? In answer it can be said that Theosophy expounds a philosophy of spiritual evolution and to truly lead a spiritual life we must also follow the transformations outlined in the blue print of the evolutionary path for Mankind.. In The Secret Doctrine, Vol II, Anthropogenesis Stanza IV, Sloka 17, p.105, we find that one of the evolutionary purposes for Mankind is to evolve "a mind to embrace the universe". To be truly universal this "embracing" must include not only All Space (and all that it contains) but must also be infinite in Time, at least within the context of the evolutionary cycle concerned. This inherent potential capacity of our mind to be able to embrace the universe, will of course be reached through the process of evolution. However, it is said that our real Spiritual Ego, Higher Manas, is already to a great extend universal and is not limited in space and time as we are at the level of our personality. The Diagram can help us make greater contact with our Higher Manas because it turns or opens our lower manus towards the Higher. Secondly, because the Diagram consists of a series of steps it might be thought that it is just another method which could result not in a real transformation but in a kind of subtle conditioning. This is a potential danger with all approaches to come to an understanding of life and make or facilitate change within oneself. However, when an approach is based on Truth or Reality through a genuine rendering of the Ancient Wisdom and hence based on the nature of our true or real being then it would seem that it has the possibility for real transformation, provided that we are able to go beyond intellectualisation of the process towards that to which it points. The Diagram also asks that we "conceive" and "mould our normal consciousness by" "Perpetual Presence in imagination in all Space and Time". At first sight this may appear as mere conceptualisation, however, Sri Krishna Prem and Sri Madhava Ashish explain in Man, The Measure Of All Things p. 86:
"Fundamentally, the power of imaging is the same as knowing…The act of imaging is just as much an act of knowing as is any perception of sense data, but it is one which takes place on a subtler level than the physical. …and the fact that ordinary men are able to make no effective use of this means of knowing is because, as with any other faculty that is insufficiently used and trained, their imaging power remains in a childish and practically useless state."
This article will endeavour to show, further on, that the Diagram is based on perspectives from our real or true Self not from the personality and points towards the nature of our higher consciousness. In the Deprivations it also points out in a unique manner that our conditioned perceptions from a personal perspective are not real from the perspective of our real Self. Importantly, it also points out how these can be overcome.
The Esoteric Basis of HPB's Diagram of Meditation
The esoteric depth of the Diagram can be seen from its basis on fundamental esoteric principles. This article will focus mainly on the key notes of the four fundamental steps in the process of the Diagram and covers briefly some of the esoteric principles on which they are based.
Diagram: "First conceive of UNITY by Expansion in Space and Infinite in Time."
The importance of Unity as the one fundamental law is found in The Secret Doctrine Vol I p. 120:
"The radical unity of the ultimate essence of each constituent part of compounds in Nature from Star to mineral atom, from the highest Dhyan Chohan to the smallest infusoria, in the fullest acceptance of the term, and whether applied to the spiritual, intellectual or physical worlds - this is the one fundamental law in Occult Science."
This is re-enforced in The Secret Doctrine and it's Study recorded by Commander Robert Bowen in 1891. HPB says the most important esoteric principle to bear in mind is:
"The FUNDAMENTAL UNITY OF ALL EXISTENCE. This unity is a thing altogether different from the common notion of unity - as when we say that a nation or an army is united….The teaching is not that. It is that existence is ONE THING, not any collection of things linked together. Fundamentally there is ONE BEING. …..It is ALL-BEING. ..it is clear that this fundamental ONE EXISTENCE, or Absolute Being, must be the REALITY in every form there is….The Atom, the Man, the God are each separately, as well as all collectively, Absolute Being in their last analysis, that is their REAL INDIVIDUALITY."
If we are to open our consciousness towards the divine then our consciousness must open towards the perceptions and feelings of the Unity of All which are inherent in its pure nature.
The importance of Space, the Eternal Parent and Time is emphasised by the fact that in the Cosmogenesis of The Secret Doctrine, they are the first two subjects covered in Slokas 1 and 2 respectively of Stanza 1, viz Secret Doctrine Vol I Stanza 1, sloka 1, p.35:
"The Eternal Parent (Space), wrapped in her ever invisible robes, had slumbered once again for seven eternities (a)." "The "Parent Space" is the eternal, ever present cause of all - the incomprehensible DEITY,"
The Proem of The Secret Doctrine, Vol I, p.11 quotes the Occult Catechism:
"What is it that ever is?" "Space, the eternal Anupadaka." "What is it that ever was?" "The Germ in the Root." "What is it that is ever coming and going?" "The Great Breath." "Then, there are Three Eternals?" " No, the three are one. That which ever is is one, that which ever was is one, that which is ever being and becoming is also one: and this is Space."
From the above quotations it is clear that Space is of the profoundest significance. However, it is not only the objective Space we see when we look around us or up into the heavens that is meant, but subjective Space which can be experienced or travelled within consciousness itself. Considering Time, in The Secret Doctrine, Vol I, Stanza 1, sloka 2, p. 37 we find:
"Time was not, for it lay asleep in the infinite bosom of duration (a). (a) Time is only an illusion produced by the succession of our states of consciousness as we travel through eternal duration, and it does not exist where no consciousness exists in which the illusion can be produced;"
Again in The Secret Doctrine, Vol I, Stanza 1, sloka 6, p. 44:
"What is Time, for instance, but the panoramic succession of our states of consciousness? In the words of a Master, "I feel irritated at having to use these three clumsy words-Past, Present, and Future-miserable concepts of the objective phases of the subjective whole, they are about as ill-adapted for the purpose as an axe for fine carving."
The practice of conceiving "UNITY by expansion in Space and Infinite in Time" turns and expands our consciousness towards the very heart of our real nature and can help us "recognise our true Self, in a transcendental divine life" because it is based on what is already inherent in our real nature.
Diagram: "Then meditate logically and consistently on this in reference to the states of consciousness."
This part of the meditation deals with the states or planes of consciousness which form or make up the Universe. We find reference to these states of consciousness in a number of yoga, spiritual and Theosophical works. For example in the Glossary to Part I of The Voice of The Silence, notes 14 and 15, p. 75:
"The states of consciousness, which are Jugrat, the waking; Swapna, the dreaming; and Sushupti, the deep sleeping state. These three Yogi conditions, lead to the fourth, or - The Turya, that dreamless state, the one above all, a state of high spiritual consciousness."
In The Inner Group Teachings of H.P. Blavatsky 2nd, revised and enlarged edition, p.13
"it was only in the Turya state, the highest of the seven steps of Raja-Yoga, that the Yogi can represent to himself that which is abstract." And on p. 15. "The Turya state is entered on the "Fourth Path".
These states represent the stages or phases of movement between objective and subjective states of consciousness. They are not exactly the waking, dreaming or deep sleep states as we know them from the level of our personality but appear to represent keys to the inner mystic path of union with our Higher Self.
The Acquisitions and Deprivations - "transformations through Manas by the accumulations of experience".
A clearer understanding of the role of the Acquisitions and Deprivations can be gained from considering one of the fundamental evolutionary processes: "transformations through Manas by the accumulations of experience". In The Secret Doctrine, Vol I, p.181, we find:
"This body serves as the vehicle for the "growth" (to use a misleading word) and the transformations through Manas and-owing to the accumulation of experiences-of the finite into the INFINITE, of the transient into the Eternal and Absolute".
Our Higher Manas, the real Spiritual Ego acquires (hence acquisitions) through the experience gained from its incarnations and is transformed according to evolutionary law. What it is, that our real Spiritual Ego acquires is pointed to in the above quotation. Within the evolutionary process there is a transformation "of the finite into the INFINITE, of the transient into the Eternal and Absolute". This takes place by the "accumulations of experience" which result in a growth of discernment between the Real and the unreal and between the permanent or Eternal and the transitory. It would appear that inclusive in this process is the evolution of "a mind to embrace the Universe". However, mankind has self-consciousness and hence must choose. It would appear that one of the fundamental choices to be made is whether we act for the benefit of the All or out of selfish motives. When we act out of a motive for the benefit of the All (that is out of feelings or perceptions of Unity) then this process of transformation takes place. The Diagram appears to be designed to help quicken the process by which understanding and discernment and perhaps eventually direct perception between the Real and unreal takes place. This occurs because the meditative process in the Diagram is based upon perceptions from the standpoint of our real Spiritual Ego, that is from the Real. It aims to re-focus our sense of identity from the personality to the real Spiritual Ego. In broad terms the Acquisitions turn the mind towards the Real and unfold perceptions with resultant actions based on truth and the Deprivations to discernment about what is unreal or illusory and hence weaken their hold. Looking into this further, in The Secret Doctrine, Vol I, Stanza VII, sloka 6, p. 264:
"From the First-Born ( primitive, or the first man) the Thread between the Silent Watcher and his Shadow becomes more strong and radiant with every change (re-incarnation) (a)". …. the "Watcher" and his "Shadows"-the latter numbering as many as there are re-incarnations for the monad-are one. The Watcher, or the divine prototype, is at the upper rung of the ladder of being; the shadow, at the lower. Withal, the Monad of every living being, unless his moral turpitude breaks the connection and runs loose and "astray into the lunar path"-to use the Occult expression-is an individual Dhyan Chohan, distinct from others, a kind of spiritual individuality of its own, during one special Manvantara".
Normally the term "Thread" is used for the "Thread Soul", the Sutratman. In the quotation used it can also be taken to mean the Antahkarana which HPB describes in H.P.Blavatsky Collected Writings Vol XII p. 633/4 as the "path which lies between the divine and human Egos," and which can never be ruptured so long there remains one spiritual deed to serve as a "thread of union". In The Inner Group Teachings of H.P. Blavatsky, p.70, "After death the higher light (Antahkarana) which bears the memory and impressions of all good and noble aspirations assimilates itself with the Higher Ego". It would appear that these good and noble aspirations form the pearls which are strung along the Sutratman.
This "Thread" is the Antahkarana, the pure ray of Higher Manas, shot down into this world of objectivity to connect with the personality. That portion of the ray which remains pure, that is un-influenced by kama forms the Antahkarana. It is the means by which the real Spiritual Ego garners the experiences of its incarnations but also the means by which it seeks to influence the lower self, the personality. It is through the Antahkarana that we have the ability to discern between right and wrong; The Inner Group Teachings of H.P. Blavatsky, p.70, "The whole fate of an incarnation depends upon whether Antahkarana will be able to restrain the Kama-Manas or not." The importance of this guiding and restraining role is also emphasised in The Voice of the Silence, in the Two Paths, p. 38:
"Restrain by thy Divine thy lower Self".
"Restrain by the Eternal the Divine."
"Aye, great is he, who is the slayer of desire."
It is very difficult and perhaps not advisable to make too clear lines of demarcation between the different levels of our higher nature. However, some appreciation of the ascending ladder of our being from the spiritual to the Divine to the Eternal can be of help. It appears that, the Divine is the real Spiritual Ego, Higher Manas in close union with Buddhi, the vehicle of Atma and the Eternal is the Higher Self, the Atma, the inseparable ray of the Universal and ONE SELF.
In the Diagram, the Acquisitions and Deprivations are preceded by "Then the normal state of our consciousness must be moulded by:-". This indicates that the role of the Acquisitions and Deprivations is to strengthen the influence of the real Spiritual Ego via the Antahkarana over the lower self. This takes place not only in the sitting meditation but must also be done in daily life.
Diagram: Acquisitions -"I am all Space and Time. Beyond that…(It cannot be said)."
The nature of our real Spiritual Ego is of all Space and Time. Meditation on this acquisition turns or opens our consciousness towards our real Spiritual Ego. It is a positive approach to identifying only with the Real, the Infinite and Eternal which the mind can only conceive of in terms of "I am all Space and Time. Beyond that… (It cannot be said).".
The first sub Acquisition states that the normal state of our consciousness should be moulded by "Perpetual Presence in Imagination in all Space and Time". This and "I am all Space and Time. Beyond that… (It cannot be said)." point towards a state of knowing or awareness which appears to correlate with the Maha Chohan's "recognise our true Self, in a transcendental divine life" and some of Krishnamurti's observations, although he expressed it in different ways. In Krishnamurti's Notebook, p.143: "Meditation yielded to the otherness; it was of shattering purity. Its purity left no residue; it was there, that is all and nothing existed. As there was nothing, it was. It was the purity of all essence. This peace is a vast, boundless space of immeasurable emptiness." On p.160: "This new, this depth was expanding, exploding, going away, developing in its own explosions but out of time and beyond time and space". Light on the Path, Rule 4, p. 20 tells us "Live neither in the present nor the future, but in the Eternal".
The other sub Acquisitions also aim to bring about perceptions and feelings with resultant behaviour which is in line with a view of life from a perspective of the transcendental Unity of All Life. In brief they focus on the essential Unity and hence ultimate inner equality of all mankind and the perception that incarnation or "embodiment" brings limitation to all beings and hence any criticism (discernment?) should be without praise or blame. These perceptions give rise to benevolence, sympathy, justice etc and the resultant behaviour forms part of the practice of the transcendental virtues or Paramitas.
Diagram: Deprivations - "I am without attributes"
Our sense of self at the personal level is a complex aggregate of "attributes" formed by our lower nature and our experiences in the world resulting in our conditioning. From the Diagram of the Scale of Emanations in The Inner Group Teachings of H.P. Blavatsky, p. 90, we can see that the attributes are emanations of the personality, the illusory self and not of the real Spiritual Ego which is represented there by the Kumaras. The Maha Chohan's letter tells us to "get rid of our own Ego, the illusory, apparent self" and the Deprivations point out that our real Self is actually without these attributes and is held in "bondage, ignorance and strife" because of our identification with them. From the perspective of the real Spiritual Ego whose real life reaches up to and is part of a transcendental divine life in All Space and Time the attributes are not real and do not exist on the plane of the real Spiritual Ego.
In the Diagram, the Deprivations are preceded by: "Constant refusal to think of the reality of:" the list of attributes. This appears to correlate with the Maha Chohan's "get rid of our own Ego, the illusory, apparent self" and also with Krishnamurti's "dying to the known". The attributes represent what is known and thought to be real at the personal level but these according to the Diagram are not real for our true Spiritual Ego. For our real Spiritual Ego to be set free we must die to what is normally "the known", that is the attributes. Meditating on the Deprivations results not just in a de-identification of our sense of self from these "attributes" but the positive perception that "I am without attributes". It produces a constant awareness that the attributes are not part of the true Self. The practice of the Deprivations can play a key role in restraining the lower self by the Antahkarana, that still pure aspect of manas which is unpolluted by kama and which listens and responds to the real Spiritual Ego.
Although the Acquisitions and Deprivations are practiced in "sitting" meditation they must also be practiced in daily life. Life itself is the great teacher and the problems that life brings, although they can be the causes of suffering, they can also become the means for insight and hence spiritual transformation. The Diagram provides a means in the midst of the challenges of daily life to unfold and maintain spiritual perceptions and detachment.
HPB's Diagram of Meditation is based on some of the most fundamental esoteric principles about the nature of Deity and Being. It points to what in our nature is real, permanent and transcendental and what is illusory and transitory. Its unique approach is a way or process of spiritual transformation by providing pointers to perceptions from the perspective of the transcendental Unity of all life. Such is its scope and profoundness that it comprises not only the mystic yogic path of inner union with our Higher Self through the first two steps but also in the Acquisitions and Deprivations the foundation for the practice of the paramitas in the midst of daily life.