"The path of progressive awakening to supreme unconditional universal Truth is an arduous course of intensified practice leading to serene contemplation."

— The Aquarian Almanac

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September 19, 2015 Theme for the Week: Dhyana: Contemplation

“The potent thought, which is the absence

of thoughts, is Bodhi.

The thousand-petalled lotus opens,

transfigured through breath-energy.

Owing to the crystallization of the spirit,

a hundredfold splendour shines forth.”

—Hui Ming Ching

One wonders..... what would it be like to lose oneself in an idea?  To bask in an idea, be saturated by it.  We so infrequently have a chance to escape our personal space, our little box, that awful tropism of assuming everything is happening for and about oneself.  Could true contemplation be an act of self-transcendence? Could it be and exercise in reaching up for the universal and towards the everywhere present?

It seems that we lose ourselves whenever we are focused on a project, be it at work or a hobby or even with mundane activities.  We find ourselves, sometimes, immersed in a project for hours and wonder where did the time go. 

It seems the difference between concentration and meditation is the length of time the mind can  focus on a subject.   A prolonged concentration, with few interruption by other thoughts, is called dharana or meditation.  The subtle distinction between meditation and focusing on a project as mentioned above is that in meditation, one moves out of the realm of the intellect into the inner planes.  The one facet that needs to be dissolved before diving into dhyana or contemplation is self-awareness,  this sense of separateness that holds one back from union.  One experiences different levels of contemplation till the three (cognizer/ cognition/ cognized) resolves back to the One.


Those are really interesting questions, Gerry.  I wonder how much of our time and day to day life is spent  'lost in thought' to the extent that we might say that 'thoughts have us' rather than 'we have thoughts'?  I wonder what members feel is the difference between being lost in, say, material ideas and sublime ideas?

" I wonder what members feel is the difference between being lost in, say, material ideas and sublime ideas?"

As each thought is coalesced with elementals, the different level of thoughts invariably attract different grades of subtle forces.  We can feel the difference after, say, reading the Secret Doctrine, compared to reading a cookbook. 

Interesting, Barbara - thanks.  Yes, I think we do feel a difference between reading the SD and reading a cookbook, although I'm not sure everyone would agree as to which is best!

Are we saying that it is the kind of thoughts we engage with that makes Contemplation a spiritual practice rather than a mundane exercise?   What about the nature and quality of the mind that is engaged in the practice of Contemplation - does that make a difference?

Is Contemplation a passive or an active process? Should we be "lost in thought", whatever the nature of such thought and ideation?

Is it about attaining sublime experiences, which may be profound while they last... or, is it about understanding, the realisation of the true nature of things?

These are just some thoughts for anyone to respond to.

"What about the nature and quality of the mind that is engaged in the practice of Contemplation - does that make a difference?"

The quality of the instrument is a vital component in meditation;  it is like viewing the stars through the Hale telescope rather than one we obtain at a store.    With a powerful telescope, the clarity and the experience differ dramatically.

"Is Contemplation a passive or an active process?"

Shining a laser beam in dark is very active, although it may not appear so on the surface.  It is like as though we are sitting waiting for a phone call;  the act of waiting is passively active. 

"Should we be "lost in thought", whatever the nature of such thought and ideation?"

I think it depends on the purpose of the individual wanting to be lost in thoughts.  It may be a good mental exercise, a way to develop the will or flex the mental muscles.   

"Is it about attaining sublime experiences, which may be profound while they last... or, is it about understanding, the realisation of the true nature of things"

It may be both for some but understanding the true nature of things (or jnana yoga) is what eventually frees us from illusion, allowing us to become a beneficent force in Nature.  Sublime experiences, like all the threads in Maya, come and go. 

"Are we saying that it is the kind of thoughts we engage with that makes Contemplation a spiritual practice rather than a mundane exercise?"

The types of thoughts is only one facet that makes contemplation a spiritual practice.   All three, the observer-observing- observed are engaged. The outcome depends on the development of the observer, the object of the observed, and the act of observing.    Deep contemplation is more than just sitting for a few hours and focusing on a subject;  it requires lifetimes of purification, of attunement, and of living the paramitas.   It is a way of life.


Thanks, Barbara - great responses.  They suggest to me that we really need to give some thought as to what Contemplation really is and our motives in wanting to pursue it as a spiritual practice.

Here is a footnote from the Voice of the Silence:

"Dhyana is the last stage before the final on this Earth, unless one becomes a full MAHATMA. As said already, in this state the Raj Yogi is yet spiritually conscious of Self, and the working of his higher principles. One step more, and he will be on the plane beyond the Seventh, the fourth, according to some Schools. These, after the practice of Pratyehara - a preliminary training, in order to control one's mind and thoughts -count Dhasena, Dhyana and Samadhi and embrace the three under the generic name of SANNYAMA."

To control one's mind and thought is no simple matter, Krishna compares it with a man controlling the wind.  We must start somewhere if we are to gain self-mastery.

The Voice of the Silence gives us the practical guide to overcome the personal ego and step into the universal presence. We are told that if we are to “hear the voice of Nada, the Soundless Sound and comprehend it, we have first to learn the nature of Dharana”, which is that state in Yoga practice when the mind has to be fixed unflinchingly on some object of meditation. (Theo.glos.). Having obtained control of the mind, a state in which we see the workings of the mind objectively, then we can “intend” the mind to contemplate the nature of Dhyana. It's defined in the glossary: Dhyâna (Sk.). In Buddhism one of the six Paramitas of perfection, a state of abstraction which carries the ascetic practising it far above this plane of sensuous perception and out of the world of matter. Lit., “contemplation”.

In practical terms, learning to “control” the mind is difficult, and I wonder if it's even a matter of “control” but rather a changed viewpoint. So yes, Gerry, I would say it is a matter of “self transendance”. As we know, the mind is in continual motion. It's my experience that observation of the mind is a huge step towards awakening to higher levels. In the beginning, it's really examining ones intent, ie. Do I want to step out of a state of constant reactivity to my environment; do I want to have those moments of a direct experience of the divine? We may answer yes of course but upon introspection that may not be the case ie. I love drinking coffee and reading a book in the morning more than contemplation! I find that setting aside a time and place each day for study, meditation and contemplation is greatly helpful. One thing that we know is, it is the nature of mind to develop habits, and so it becomes easier as we repeat day after day. The mind is the horse but we are the rider!

Thank you Sharon, I appreciate your thoughtful comments.  If we are honest with ourselves, I believe, we will discover that far too much of our lives is merely reacting and not deliberate.  For me to be more awake means being a more active chooser, selecting what to put my mind on, selecting how to respond to life's challenges, and being less on autopilot.  I do believe we can put an idea, or ideal, or a principle in the back of our mind, so to speak, and lean on it, refer to it as we go about the daily round.  These practices are in some way related to a much higher practice that evolves to dhyana one day.

Yes, I agree with you Grace. Being an active "chooser" and feeding our minds with the right thoughts is key. One thing I experimented with was reading a section of the Voice of the Silence each night before sleep. There are three sections so of course I completed the book once every three days. What stayed in my subconscious is amazing, I hear relevant lines from the writing pop into my head as I meet my day. What a gift.

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Permalink Reply by Sharon Ormerod on September 21, 2015 at 10:36am

This in an amazing article written by Damodar K. Mavalankar on contemplation.


Permalink Reply by Peter on September 23, 2015 at 9:55am

Thanks, Sharon - it is a very good article and it shows the importance, among other things, of defining what we mean by the term 'Contemplation' since it appears to mean different things to different people and traditions.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on September 21, 2015 at 10:23am

September 21, 2015 Theme of the Week: Dhyana: Contemplation

” With sense-objects gone, Bodhi is perfect and pellucid.

In pristine purity, its illumination suffuses all,

And its shining stillness enfolds the great void.”

— Surangama Sutra

Permalink Reply by barbaram on September 22, 2015 at 12:58pm

I take it the great void is a description of a transcendental state where consciousness is so subtle that it appears to be a void to us.   Similarly, when the vibrations of light is very fine, it appears as darkness to us, and when the vibration of sound is rapid, it appears as silence to us.

The above passage is similar to Sutra 41, section I, in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

In the case of one the transformations of whose mind have been annihilated, the complete identity with one another of the cognizer, the cognition, and the cognized, as well as their entire absorption in one another is brought about, as in the case of a transparent jewel



Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on September 22, 2015 at 12:16pm

September 22, 2015 Theme for the Week: Dhyana: Contemplation

” Nowhere can a man find a retreat more full of peace or more free from care than his own soul.”

— Plotinus

“So sweet is zealous contemplation.”

— William Shakespeare

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on September 26, 2015 at 12:09am

September 23, 2015 Theme for the week: Dhyana: Contemplation

“When the disciplined mind abides in the Self alone, devoid of longing for all objects of desire, then one is said to be steadfast.”

— Shri Krishna

“It is upon the serene and placid surface of the unruffled mind that the visions gathered from the invisible find a representation in the visible world.”

— Mahatma K.H.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on September 26, 2015 at 12:11am

September 24, 2015 Theme of the Week: Dhyana: Contemplation

“A man comes into possession of creative power by uniting his own mind with the Universal Mind.”

— Paracelsus

“The gracious stillness, the awareness

All transcendent, is the state

Supreme experienced by the great .”

— Muruganar

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on September 26, 2015 at 12:12am

September 25, 2015 Theme for the Week: Dhyana: Contemplation

“The Dhyana gate is like an alabaster vase, white and transparent; within there burns a steady golden fire, the flame of Prajna that radiates from Atma, Thou art that vase.”

— The Voice of the Silence

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 26, 2015 at 5:29am

Sharon recently referred us to a link with Damodar Mavalaukar’s article on Contemplation, originally published in The Theosophist and reprinted in Five Years of Theosophy during HPB’s time.  Meditation and Contemplation may mean different things in different traditions, thus not everyone will agree with Damodar’s understanding of it, but it highlights it is not a casual task or practice and needs to be approached and understood in the larger context of a spiritual path.  Below is an extract from that article:

‘Of course, contemplation, as usually understood, is not without its minor advantages. It develops one set of physical faculties as gymnastics does the muscles. For the purposes of physical mesmerism it is good enough; but it can in no way help the development of the psychological faculties, as the thoughtful reader will perceive. At the same time, even for ordinary purposes, the practice can never be too well guarded. If, as some suppose, they have to be entirely passive and lose themselves in the object before them, they should remember that, by thus encouraging passivity, they, in fact, allow the development of mediumistic faculties in themselves. As was repeatedly stated—the Adept and the Medium are the two Poles:  while  the  former  is  intensely  active and  thus  able  to  control  the  elemental  forces,  the  latter  is intensely passive  and  thus  incurs  the  risk  of  falling  a  prey  to  the  caprice  and malice  of mischievous embryos of human beings, and the elementaries.

‘It will be evident from the above that true meditation consists in the “reasoning from the known to the unknown.” The “known” is the phenomenal world, cognizable by our five senses. And all that we see in this manifested world are the effects, the causes of which are to be sought after in the noumenal,  the unmanifested,  the  “unknown world:”  this  is  to  be  accomplished  by meditation,  i.e., continued attention to the subject. Occultism does not depend upon one method, but employs both the deductive and!the inductive. The  student must  first  learn  the general axioms, which have  sufficiently been  laid  down  in  the  Elixir* of* Life* and  other  occult  writings.  What  the  student  has  first  to  do  is  to comprehend* these  axioms  and,  by  employing  the  deductive  method,  to  proceed  from  universals  to particulars. He has then to reason from the “known to the unknown,” and see if the inductive method of proceeding from particulars to universals supports those axioms. This process forms the primary stage of  true  contemplation.  The  student must  first  grasp  the  subject  intellectually  before  he  can  hope  to realize  his  aspirations. When this  is  accomplished,  then  comes  the  next  stage  of meditation,  which  is “the inexpressible yearning of the inner man to ‘go out towards the infinite.’” Before any such yearning can  be  properly  directed,  the  goal  must  first  be  determined.  The  higher  stage,  in  fact,  consists  in practically  realizing  what  the  first  steps  have  placed  within  one’s  comprehension.  In  short, contemplation, in its true sense, is to recognize the truth of Eliphas Levi’s saying :—

    “To believe without knowing is weakness; to believe, because one knows, is power.”

Damodar K. Mavalaukar

Permalink Reply by barbaram on September 26, 2015 at 10:46am

This is a very good article underscoring some pertinent points in the practice of contemplation.  Did HPB ever teach meditation in her groups?  I have only seen the meditation diagram by her. 

I understand that meditation can be fraught with pitfalls if not approached correctly.  However, it would seem trying to slow down the monkey mind, even for a few minutes every day, can help us to see things clearer and become more observant, one of the many preliminary steps to contemplation.   We find that often times, kama is the driving force behind all our rambling thoughts and the mind becomes more tranquil when kama recedes.   The force of Will slowly replaces the force of kama in the process of developing discernment.   

Learning to distinguish the difference between an active and passive state of mind is important;  the process may be better described as not active in thoughts but active in intent.  This requires discrimination.  By studying and digesting the occult teachings, as the above article stated,  it helps us to put any experiences in perspective and not get lured by any forms of psychicism in the process of reaching out into the "unknown."

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 28, 2015 at 7:58am

Barbara, I agree with the value of all that you've said.  I guess what we loosely call 'meditation' covers a wide range of activity and approaches - from the mundane to the highly spiritual.   If we were to view Contemplation as a Path we could say there are many steps and stages between bringing mindfulness into our everyday lives and uniting our consciousness with the One Self or Universal Soul.  There are lots of beautiful quotes and poetic lines referring to the latter, but perhaps the issue for each of one of us is how to start from where we are.

Permalink Reply by barbaram on September 28, 2015 at 7:50pm


I am still very curious why HPB did not write about meditation techniques in her books since this is an integral part of spirituality.    It seems to be a big gap and I have heard complaints from non-theosophists about the lack of a formal practice which stops them from pursuing theosophy. 

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Permalink Reply by Peter on September 29, 2015 at 4:07am

"I am still very curious why HPB did not write about meditation techniques in her books since this is an integral part of spirituality. "


Barbara - yes, she only wrote about general principles in her public works. Probably the best answer to your query is in the passages Nicholas recently quoted from The Mahatma Letters:

“All we can do is to direct the use of such means as have been empirically found by the experience of ages to conduce to the required object. And this was and has been no secret for thousands of years”.

I don’t think HPB and the Founders ever intended that the study of Theosophy meant that people should stop being Buddhists, Vedantins, practitioners of Patanjali’s Yoga or whatever spiritual tradition one feels drawn to. The aim, in part, of the Theosophical Movement begun by HPB and the Mahatmas was to show that there is an underlying source from which all the great spiritual traditions have arisen and to lift the veil on some of the ‘inner’ teachings behind these traditions.

As mentioned recently in another post, the Founders actively encouraged a serious study of the worlds spiritual traditions in the Second Object of the T.S.:

“To promote the study of Aryan and other Scriptures, of the World;s religion and sciences, and to vindicate the importance of old Asiatic literature, namely, of the Brahmanical, Buddhist, and Zoroastrian philosophies.”

The student is free to bring her theosophical understanding to whatever spiritual path she feels drawn to and likewise each spiritual tradition may contribute to our understanding of the propositions made by Theosophy.

HPB made it clear that Theosophy is not identical or limited to any one particular religion, but that doesn’t mean that each religion is not an expression in some form of the Wisdom Tradition, which we now call Theosophy.

It’s a puzzle to me why so many students of theosophy study books on theosophy written over the last 100+ years, but shun some of the greatest works from some of the greatest sages made over the previous two thousand years. Our knowledge of what other traditions actually teach is often quite woeful, in my view, in spite of the fact that we theosophists like to quote from them so often.

Each of these traditions has its own particular approach to the nature of ‘Reality’, its own practices, methods, stages of the path and guides to help on the way to the goal. There’s no doubt enough variety to suit whatever temperament we might have as Nicholas’s quote from the Mahatma KH indicates:

“ [Such practices] have been published as the means since the days of Plato and lamblichus in the West, and since the far earlier times of our Indian Rishis. How these must be complied with to suit each individual temperament is of course a matter for his own experiment and the watchful care of his tutor or Guru.
                              (The Mahatma Letters to A.P.SInnett, no. 49, Barker edition)

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on September 29, 2015 at 11:05am

Here is some additional observations on your question, which is a good one and obvious one.

First I would like to heartily endorse the many good comments on this question coming from our fellow students like Nicholas and Peter.  Their points make very good sense to me and are greatly beneficial to the group.

In our times many sacred traditions and spiritual practices of ancient cultures, which HPB revered,  have been trivialized and turned into commodities. (See martial arts and yoga as examples in popular cultlure) People without a sufficient philosophical perspective will opt for what is easy and for short cuts. In the realm of the spiritual where preparation and motive are all important this is extremely dangerous.

"But, O Lanoo, be of clean heart before thou startest on thy journey." -VOS

So one comment is HPB might have been reticent on the topic so central to the spiritual life for our own protection.

Secondly most theosophical students have been pointed in the direction of Patajali's Yoga Aphorisms which are sufficiently philosophical and deep so as to avoid trivialization.

Thirdly we are really not ignored by HPB when it comes to meditation at all. Many practical suggestions on this topic were left to Mr. Judge to communicate.  
This is why it is so important to study the two of them concurrently to get the full message of either one.  (See Mr. Judge's Culture of Concentrationon the landing page of UT in the new Mindfulness, Meditation and Self-Study Section)

Lastly if we broaden the concept of meditation beyond silent breathing techniques, postures and mere mental focus and see it rather as the authentical yearning of the student to reunite with the Higher Man then the Secret Doctrine is itself an entire road map of meditation to guide the student. She is inviting us to read between the lines.

Permalink Reply by Peter on September 30, 2015 at 12:17pm

It’s certainly the case that Judge wrote many gems on Patanjali’s Sutras and recommended them to members of the TS, particularly after penning his own interpretation of Patanjali’s Sutras in 1889. We most likely forget just how very little material from the eastern traditions, particularly from Buddhism, had been translated into english in those early days of the TS. Nowadays we seem to be swimming in it!

HPB didn’t write commentaries on Patanjali’s work in the same way that Judge did. Of course, in a general sense she repeatedly advocated the study of works by Patanjali, Sankara, the Buddha, Plato, Plotinus etc etc for seekers after truth. Interestingly, when asked, ‘What is known of the training of Yogis?’, HPB replied, ‘Nothing but what they give out themselves - which is very little. Read Patanjali’s Yoga Philosophy; but with caution, for it is very apt to mislead, being written in symbolic language.’ (CW IX 166)

I’m not sure it’s accurate to say that HPB left the writing about meditation techniques to Judge as if to imply this was a plan between them. HPB had already written and published her two major works - Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine - by 1881 and had already written around half the articles we now find in her Collected Writings by the time Judge first started his own magazine, “The Path”, in 1886. The latter featured many highly valuable contributions from himself and fellow theosophists. As far as I am aware there’s nothing to suggest that HPB’s ‘The Key to Theosophy’ or ‘The Voice of the Silence’ (published 1888 and 1889, respective) were written with a plan in mind that Judge would write about any meditation practices HPB left out in those works.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on September 30, 2015 at 1:11pm

I'd have to agree that looking to Judge's works really helps a great deal with the practical side of theosophy. He seemed to have a knack for making the abstract ideas more relatable and for helping us to understand what the "path" is really all about. In terms of meditation, his "meditation, concentration, will" is in my opinion one of the best on the subject in theosophical literature. The approach to our "life's meditation" there is invaluable.

Dhyana (or Pali Jhana) is a subject treated at length in Buddhist literature, but I also feel that Fragment III of the Voice of the Silence gives us a good deal to consider in regards to the path and the role of (and nature of) meditation. When we speak of the "path of the pilgrim" we're really speaking, I think, of a process of conscious evolution. HPB called this "self-induced and self-devised efforts", and in those simple terms is all we really need to know about meditation to get ourselves started: i.e. it is up to each of us individually to both discover and practice meditation. Following another's technique may be akin to the warning given in the Gita to do our own duty instead of another's. I believe we need to attempt to devise our own techniques, and each step of our individual paths will require us to revise those techniques. This doesn't mean we don't look to outside sources for instruction/inspiration for devising our techniques (like Patanjali, etc.), but that we must take those instructions and put them into action only in accordance with our own understanding of what they mean (and not another's understanding).

So this is where Judge's writings can be invaluable: he urges us to get ourselves started with the most practical aspects of life: our daily thoughts and actions. Work with our "life's meditation" in every moment. Become more aware and self-conscious and deliberate in our thoughts, etc. It requires no set time or physical posture (though perhaps that is helpful for some). I think it's more a "posture" of our being, a coordinating of the higher and lower and bringing ourselves into alignment. I think if we can begin to do that, the next step on the path reveals itself, and further "techniques" will come to us as well.

Permalink Reply by Peter on October 1, 2015 at 8:38am

Jon - good point: our daily thoughts and actions are really where our meditative life begins.  That said, perhaps those regular times of study and reflective silence (whatever we may call our own meditation practice) on a daily basis may help us reorient ourselves towards our highest ideal.  This latter may in turn bring a little more of what we aspire towards into our daily life of thought, speech and action.

As you rightly say, should we feel moved to take up some form of meditative practice it is important not to simply follow another person’s practice but to use our own understanding and make it our own.   Sometimes that may mean trusting the advice and direction of another person (a teacher or guru), trying things out, experimenting, evaluating, and questioning for ourselves.

I think, most importantly, students of theosophy shouldn’t believe they are required to take up any one particular form of meditation as part of their studies.  At the end of the 1800s when HPB, Subba Row and then Judge and others were writing, there was very little translated literature from the eastern spiritual traditions on meditation available for westerners, who had to rely mainly on what they read in theosophical magazines and the few theosophical books available. So we shouldn’t assume that any recommendations made, based on the paucity of english translations available at the time, are what students were meant to follow without question for the next 140 years.  Who knows what works our founders might have recommended in the current time, given the amount of material available and the availability of access to teachers across so many traditions?

Permalink Reply by Pierre Wouters on September 29, 2015 at 5:07pm

A very good point Barbaram,

HPB points out that Theosophy is in essence jnana yoga, an extension of raja yoga.

She advices students to first and foremost improve our capacity for concentration (also the first "rule" in Patanjali's Yoga Aphorisms) - without concentration our efforts for meditation become futile. This is done she says by scrutinizing our "lower" self in order to eradicate over time our lower skandhaic tendencies ("Man, know thyself", i.e., that is every "self" that is part of our constitution). If we could do that every evening before going to bed for say half an hour, over time this would become a virtuous habit and an aid in slaying the "Slayer of the Real" or the lower mind steeped in the kamic principle.

Secondly, the jnana yoga aspect that constitutes essentially a thorough knowledge of theosophical principles, these principles aid us in reaching "higher" and eradicating the forgoing skandhaic tendencies. Obviously concentration is a primary requisite for our study to bear fruit.

The above suggestions prepare us for the antaskaranic path (indicated in The Voice of the Silence and the Bhagavad Gita) or the path of true meditation. This is also the real meaning of the "Jihad" we have to engage in, the conquering of our lower self.

The problem with a particular "technique" is that often the technique becomes the primary focus of the student, very often leading him/herself deeper into a cul de sac.

However, if one prefers to call the above suggestions a "technique", by all means do so. As Krishna points out in the 18th chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, "act as seemeth best unto thee".

From another perspective we could say that if Theosophy is indeed jnana yoga, then the study of theosophy is meditation itself.

Here are two very good articles on meditation by students of theosophy that play upon the above named elements. One by Henry Bedinger Mitchell and one by Alan Perry.



Permalink Reply by Peter on September 30, 2015 at 12:45pm

HPB did say that “Theosophy is synonymous with the Jñana-Vidyâ, and the Brahma-Vidyâ of the Hindus, and again with the Dzyan of the trans-Himâlayan adepts, the science of the true Râja-Yogis…”  (CW XI 271). 

This makes sense as Theosophy is also referred to as the Wisdom Religion and hence is synonymous with the secret-wisdom of the (s)ages.  Whether this entitles us to say we are practising jnana-yoga whenever we study HPB’s works is another matter. :-)

It's worth keeping in mind that HPB uses the term “Raja Yoga” often in an all encompassing way to refer to Contemplative Yoga Systems in general and not to any one system or spiritual tradition in particular.  In her Collected Writings  she links what she calls ‘Raja Yoga and the spiritual powers which arise from it’ with Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, with Sankara’s Advaita philosophy, the contemplative systems of Ammonius Saccas, Plotinus, Porphyry, Proclus (the neo-Platonistist tradition) as well as with Plato himself.  The divine theurgy of Iamblichus is also included under this category of contemplative systems or Raja Yoga.  

In the Voice of the Silence as well as in the Collected Writings she also uses the term Raja Yoga to apply to the comtemplative systems of the Buddhist Mahayana Schools, such as Aryasanga’s Yogacarya school.  She maintains the esoteric teaching of these is almost identical to the Taraka Raja Yoga spoken of by T. Subba Row, an Advaitin.   

There are too many references showing the above throughout HPB works to put here, but easily verified by the interested reader.  Here are a couple of passages from the the Collected Writings:

‘Every person who has read Neo-Platonic philosophy knows how its chief Adepts, such as Plotinus, and especially Porphyry, fought against phenomenal Theurgy. But, beyond all of them, Iamblichus, the author of the De Mysteriis, lifts high the veil from the real term Theurgy, and shows us therein the true Science of Rāja-Yoga.’   (CW XII 559)

‘This system [Raja Yoga], evolved by long ages of practice until it was brought to bear the above-described results, was not practiced in India alone in the days of antiquity. The greatest philosophers of all countries sought to acquire these powers; and certainly, behind the external ridiculous postures of the Yogis of today, lies concealed the profound wisdom of the archaic ages; one that included among other things a perfect knowledge of what are now termed physiology and psychology. Ammonius Saccas, Porphyry, Proclus and others practiced it in Egypt; and Greece and Rome did not shrink at all even in their time of philosophical glory to follow suit. Pythagoras speaks of the celestial music of the spheres that one hears in hours of ecstasy; Zeno finds a wise man who having conquered all passions, feels happiness and emotion, but in the midst of torture; Plato advocates the man of meditation and likens his powers to those of the divinity; and we see the Christian ascetics themselves through a mere life of contemplation and self-torture acquire powers of levitation or aethrobacy, which, though attributed to the miraculous intervention of a personal God, are nevertheless real and the result of physiological changes in the human body. “The Yogi,” says Patañjali, “will hear celestial sounds, the songs and conversations of celestial choirs. He will have the perception of their touch in their passage through the air,”—which translated into a more sober language means that the ascetic is enabled to see with the spiritual eye in the Astral Light, hear with the spiritual ear subjective sounds inaudible to others, and live and feel, so to say, in the Unseen Universe.’  (CW II 466)

The above is very much in line with the passage Nicholas quoted recently from the Mahatma Letters.

Permalink Reply by james E Orchard on September 29, 2015 at 12:26am
A little on contemplation from a Raja Yoga prospective and as Peter’s extract put it“reasoning from the known to the unknown”
Raja Yoga meditation has three steps as we know, concentration/meditation/contemplation together called samyama.
Dhyana is meditation, which leads to contemplation or Samadhi
These closely follow the meaning of a symbol which has three interpretations; it is itself; an expression of an idea; and that idea has behind it, a purpose inconceivable to most of us. 


There is a really good simple little Raja Yoga book written by Wallace Slater,(1968) an English Theosophist that is worth getting for anyone really interested in Raja Yoga, but one must also follow the simple purifications described, not just the meditation which can and does have a negative result on tis own.

 Some Quotes from his book which explain the above  “reasoning from the know to the unknown”

 In meditation we think around the subject.

 Meditation is a mental process and may be described as ‘having a discussion with oneself’ The subject is considered from all angles until gradually all opinions merge into one comprehensive experience of understanding. The yogin in deep meditation becomes one with the object of his thinking, but retains his mental consciousness.He thus at an appreciation of reality or truth of that on which he meditates

 He gives a detailed beginners explanation of meditating on an apple, until every aspect of the apple has become part of your consciousness you will have identified yourself with the abstract idea or archetype of which the apple is but the outward manifestation.

 There are varying degrees of contemplation which range from early intuitive insights through to the later stage of being absorbed into the mind of God

Permalink Reply by james E Orchard on September 29, 2015 at 2:53am

Below is an extract from CW 12 p.712 in which HPB describes contemplation although she does not name it as that.

Trance as used here is not the passive state used in medium ship, but a state where the lower mind is alive and alert while also being kept still and receptive. This is only achieved with considerable practice.The Green of lower manas refers to HPB’s Coloured Diagram where Indigo Blue is higher manas. Both colours have an Occult meaning far beyond just their colours

 There comes a moment, in the highest meditation, when the Lower Manas is withdrawn into the Triad, which thus becomes the Quaternary, the Tetraktys of Pythagoras, the highest, the most sacred, of all symbols. This upward withdrawal of the Lower Manas leaves what was the Quaternary as a Lower Triad, which is then reversed. The Upper Triad is reflected in the Lower Manas. The Higher Manas cannot reflect itself, but when the Green passes upward it becomes a mirror for the Higher; it is then no more Green, having passed from its associations. The Psychç, thus separated from Kâma, unites itself with the Higher Triad and becomes spiritual; the Triad is reflected in the Fourth, and the Tetraktys is formed. So long as you are not dead, there must be something in which the Higher Triad is to be reflected; for there must be something to bring back to the waking Consciousness the experiences passed through on the higher plane. The Lower Manas is a tablet, which retains the impressions made upon it during trance; thus serving as a carrier between the Higher Manas and the everyday Consciousness. This withdrawal of the Lower Manas from the Lower Quaternary, and the formation of the Tetraktys, is the Turîya state; it is entered on the Fourth Path, and is described in a note to The Voice of the Silence as a state of high spiritual consciousness, beyond the dreamless state.