Humanity is in an unprecedented era of change. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, citizens from every walk of life are forced to confront the terrible reality of their existence and the constitution of their moral caliber. Through the reduction and constraints of their regular commitments, individuals are compelled, under threat of possible infection, to examine the quality, foundations, and substance of their life. One's unconscious assumptions of "how things should be" in times of crisis belie a deeper, consummate reality and concern: whether or not a life of ignorance and fascination with the desiderata of life's banality is better than questioning the genuine causes and origins of affliction. Contrary to the biased logic of mass hysteria, people from every religious or secular tradition, under quarantine, are given a wonderful opportunity to evaluate and elevate their particular level of being.
Throughout many spiritual traditions, retreat has been practiced to establish, deepen, and maintain the greatest meditative disciplines and the actualization of divine experience. Disciples of every religion would take time in seclusion, ignoring the influence of mundane obligations, anxieties, stress, and worries, to focus on the more important matter of awakening and developing the soul. Free from worldly conditions, engagements, and pursuits, meditators introspect within the depths of their own consciousness in order to contemplate the source of sorrow and discover its remedy: profound comprehension and elimination of psychological defects, including the driver of all social hierarchies, institutions, and economies: fear.
Negative emotions have infected the entire globe as COVID-19 rapidly spreads. Fear, despair, and pessimism, rather than infect the body, are true diseases that infect the heart and mind. Anger, terror, and morbidity are far more contagious and dangerous than any virus, since negative emotions incapacitate the ability to reason, analyze, and solve problems, obscuring the discovery of relevant, practical solutions. Fear pushes countries to war, since they mistakenly believe that security and comfort comes through invasions, colonialism, and violence. This is why Samael Aun Weor, the founder of the modern Gnostic Tradition, stated:
"Everyone is being dragged down by negative emotions, and this is very grave. There is nothing more harmful for profound internal development than negative emotions... Everyone is being shaken up by negative emotions and nothing could be more contagious than these emotions...
"A negative person can infect other negative people, and if this person dictates a lecture, then he infects thousands of people. They are more dangerous, thousand of times more dangerous, than viruses and bacteria...
"If a person goes everywhere from instant to instant with negative emotions, this person infects the whole world." ―Samael Aun Weor, Alcyone and Negative Emotions
This is why the most venerated spiritual traditions have always emphasized and practiced meditation retreats: to confront in oneself the possibilities and motives of conflict, egotism, and misery. By separating from the world, meditators learn to perceive the psychological causes that engender painful circumstances and therefore remove them with intelligence and understanding.
While every religion has a contemplative tradition, Sufism offers valuable wisdom and particular insights regarding the parameters of meditation retreat.
Traditionally, Sufi masters would diagnose the needs of their disciples and determine whether they would benefit from entering retreat, due to the level of rigor, skill, and quality of internal work expected from them. This strict and conservative stipulation is a marked characteristic of the Piscean influence, since a codified adherence to a physical master was needed at the time, not only to determine the inner remedies for a student's deficiencies in temperament and character, but to qualify the spiritual worth of the candidate for the most elevated mystical knowledge.
Since the 1960's, our world has operated under the Aquarian influence, an Era defined by the dissemination and free exchange of mystical knowledge that was once forbidden and inaccessible to the public, but reserved for an elite through a secretive oral tradition between master and disciple. The secret teachings of all ages are now available, for the first time, to the public, because humanity no longer has time to abandon the world and study under the tutelage of a master for many decades. This is due to the impending cataclysms and calamities that mark the end and beginning of new cosmic ages.
In the Piscean Era, the master was found in a physical institution. In the Aquarian Era, the master is found within the internal worlds: the mysterious Tree of Life accessible only to practical meditators and internal experience.
Piscean knowledge demands obedience. Aquarian wisdom embodies independence.
What is old clings to life, and what is new cries for the death of the antiquated.
Due to quarantine, individuals are free to enter into spiritual retreat for the sake of their spirituality and the edification of their hearts without outward restrictions, impositions, or Piscean dogma.
The Principles of Retreat
Meditation retreat is a means of internal purification of conditioned states of mind and has been recommended, practiced, and upheld by the prophets of all great religious traditions:
"Khalwah, retreat, belongs to the purified, while uzlah, withdrawal from the world, marks the people of union. The seeker needs to withdraw from his own kind in the beginning stages. Then, in the last stages, he needs to retreat in order to confirm himself in intimacy with God." ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Khalwah, meditation retreat, can be practiced in the solitude of one's own home. At the end of this article you will find recommendations for how to initiate and maintain a tentative meditation retreat schedule alongside different activities you can select from in accordance with your needs.
Withdrawal from the world is not only a form of self-reflection for masters of meditation, but a psychological state of detachment from mundane afflictions. Meditation becomes a means by which to achieve intimacy with divinity through mystical experiences and awakened consciousness during meditation and the normal hours of sleep.
Intentions for Retreat
Contrary to popular belief, meditators do not enter retreat to avoid the negativities of the world, but to protect humanity from their own negative, egotistical psychological states.
"If the servant chooses to withdraw, his intention must be to separate himself from people so that they will be safe from his evil—he must not be looking to protect himself from their evil. For the first of these attitudes come from thinking little of one’s own ego, while the second comes from making oneself out to be better than other people. A person who thinks little of himself is humble, while a person who sees himself as better than anybody else is arrogant." ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
These are essential principles to consider. Given the realities of quarantine, students have the wonderful opportunity to work on their own defects so that, once external circumstances change, the disciple is psychologically prepared to face whatever hardships, extremities, or novelties emerge in relation to the global pandemic.
Rules of Retreat
"One of the rules of withdrawal is that whoever goes into seclusion must acquire the knowledge that makes his commitment to unity (tawhid) firm, so that satan (the "me, myself, and I," the animal ego) cannot seduce him through the (conditioned or negative) imagination (fantasy or delusional perceptions). Then he should acquire enough knowledge of the divine law (ethical conduct) that he is able to fulfill his religious duties so that his undertaking maybe built on definite and sure foundations." ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Retreats are based upon one's commitment to unity, which, as a prominent theological point within Islam, has nuanced implications within the esoteric interpretations of Sufism.
Divinity is a perfect unity, a defined quality of Being, yet due to our own multiplicity of defects, vices, and errors―the pluralistic ego which traps the full potentiality of our consciousness―we are fractured beings lacking integration. To know the unity of divinity, the perfected states of the Being, requires that we integrate the consciousness through fulfilling divine law: the ethical discipline of internal meditation.
The consciousness, heart, or soul can serve as a mirror to reflect divine realities, yet it must be polished daily through the ethical conduct of self-observation, self-remembrance, meditation, runes, sacred rites of rejuvenation, mantras, prayers, alchemy, and through many other esoteric exercises within the Gnostic Tradition of Samael Aun Weor.
Through fulfilling the laws of requisites of religion, the consciousness that was trapped within the ego can be liberated and integrated, producing illumination or enlightenment.
"There is an organ in the body that, if it is righteous, ensures that the whole system will be righteous; and if it is corrupt, the whole body will become corrupt. This organ is the heart. There is a polish for everything that takes away rust; and the polish for the heart is dhikr, the remembrance of Allah." ―Prophet Muhammad, Hadith
Learn more about the principles of retreat:
A Recommended Schedule for Spiritual Retreat
The following is a meditation retreat schedule you can follow and adapt in accordance with your needs:
Recommended Sources for Meditation and Spiritual Practices
Alchemy Techniques for Married Couples
Dream Yoga Exercises
Mantras and Prayers for Protection
Meditation Courses and Resources
Pranayama for Single Practitioners
Sacred Rites of Rejuvenation
The Gnostic Academy of Chicago
Gnostic articles on practical spirituality: the science, mysticism, art, and philosophy of conscious living.