Everything in nature is in movement, in flux. Every phenomenon in the entire universe possesses its own rhythm, temporality, and flow.
As we explained in the previous lecture, breath is in a state of transience. This parallels cosmic periods of manifestation, of activity, and of repose. Just as our breath constitutes the flux, the pervasiveness of life, the expression of the soul, so too does the consciousness manifest in different states, with different qualities of being, of expression. If you have studied Gnosticism for some time, we always remember that consciousness has infinite levels, from the most basic, the most primordial, that which is germinal―to the most refined, the most beautified, the most sacred, as demonstrated by the quality of life and mind of the greatest initiates, the greatest meditators: Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Krishna, Prophet Muhammad, Samael Aun Weor.
Consciousness as we currently possess it is not developed, because our daily state is mostly constituted of negative qualities: distraction, affliction, suffering. All traditions teach that the human being is a germ for sacred individuality and consciousness. We possess the body of a human, a humanoid organism, but our mind, as has been demonstrated, is animal. Our mind always chases after cravings. We run away from unpleasant situations, aversive things. All the while we are ignorant of how our own internal psychology produces pain, produces suffering.
This is why we study and practice meditation. We want to learn how to develop our complete potential, so that we cease suffering. We suffer because we don't readily perceive how our own nafs, nafas, animal defects, egos, keep us hypnotized and asleep. We go through life feeling that we are unitary, when in truth we are humanoids in a constant state of contradiction. We are a multiplicity, and this is something very important to remember, because in Sufism and Islam, those initiates speak abundantly about the unity of God.
This is declared in the Shahadah, the Muslim declaration of faith, that “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is His Prophet.” To state this with conviction is something extremely sacred, very profound. It means to have a concentrated will without any defect whatsoever―no idol, no negative crystallization in the mind, no naf, no ego, no blemish, no fault. This is how we really obey divinity, to reach those heights, and that is the definition of a true Gnostic, a true Muslim, a true Sufi.
We can only really say that divinity is one when we ourselves are singular. We have to unify the consciousness. We have to purify the consciousness. The Essence must not be conditioned anymore, because each ego, desire, vice, error, conditions and traps who we really are. And because of our different defects, which pull us in multiple directions, we are fractured.
We are distracted, moving in many directions at once, and also spiritually going nowhere. This has to change. This is why we study concentration of mind, concentration of will, meditation. God wants to express His perfection in us, but for that, the soul, the consciousness, the Essence, must be pure.
So meditation is the science that leads us to that unity, to the unification of the consciousness To develop consciousness, we study ethics. We practice purity. We work with energy. We work with our breath to empower our consciousness, so that it opens the inner doorway to understanding. As we are working with these preliminaries, we have to really study how the consciousness works, and for this the Sufis speak abundantly about two very important types of consciousness: contraction and expansion. For the sake of clarity, it will be good to define these terms within conventional english.
“Contraction is the process of becoming smaller. Some synonyms include shrinking, reduction in size, shrinkage, decline, decrease, dwindling, down tick; it is the process in which a muscle becomes, or is made, shorter and tighter.” This is similar to “tightening, tensing, flexing, constricting.” ―Online Dictionary
All of these definitions point towards a restriction or limiting, a heightened focus, a type of diminution, to really concentrate and restrict our vision to one thing.
The opposite of contraction is expansion. This definition includes:
“The action of becoming larger or more extensive. This is similar to growth, increase in size, and enlargement, extension, augmentation, development, evolution, build up, build-out, scaling up, spread, proliferation, multiplication, mushrooming, evolvement. It is the extension of a state’s territory by encroaching on that of other nations pursued as a political strategy,” (as an example of what expansion involves or as typically understood). ―Online Dictionary
These definitions relate how something within a small space moves outward to fill something greater in volume, much like smoke rising and filling the sky during a campfire.
We find contraction and expansion in our breathing process. When we inhale air, our lungs expand, and when we exhale, our lungs contract, so that we can expel toxins and waste from the body. Likewise, the heart, when it fills with blood, the heart expands, and when pumping blood through the body, it contracts. This flux or rhythm in our body is essential to daily life.
While this is very true, we also possess, in our consciousness, states of contraction and expansion. These are fundamental and necessary for our spirituality, for psychological balance, for our meditation. All this of course is guided by divinity, for as the great Sufi poet Rumi taught:
“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds' wings.” ―Rumi
Let us explain what contraction and expansion mean in regards to states of consciousness.
Definitions of Contraction and Expansion
So in meditation we study two very profound principles, which can aid us in awakening our consciousness. These are attention and awareness.
Attention is highly focused. It is directed. It is concentrated. If I were to tell you to direct your attention to your right thumb, you would experience a shift in your consciousness. You can try this at this moment.
You may suddenly have awareness or cognizance of your right thumb because you have directed your attention to it. Yet, how many of us were actually aware of our thumb, our hand, our fingers, our body? Probably before I even mentioned it, you might not have been paying attention, because you were following the thread, the continuity of my voice, and the ideas we are expressing.
Let's try another experiment. Become aware of your surroundings. What is your home like where you are at? Are you driving and listening to this lecture? Become aware of the street. Become aware of your surroundings. Become aware of your environment. No matter the time, the weather, the place, the people around you, or if there are no people, become aware of your external situation.
Not only should we be aware of our environment, but we have to be aware of whatever task we are involved in. How attentive are we right now to my words? Are we maintaining a continuity of directed attention towards these ideas that I am presenting to you? Or are we thinking of other things? Are we making a mechanical associations in our mind, such as “I heard something similar to this before,” or “this reminds me of another lecture I heard.” It could be any type of commentary in the mind, in the intellect.
Or as you have been listening to this conversation, this lecture, have you lost the thread of what was being said because you got distracted? Do you remember or did you forget what I said a minute ago?
So this little experiment reveals something very interesting. If we are talking in our heads instead of being attentive to this lecture, it means we are not conscious. Likewise, if we are not aware of our environment, we are also asleep. The Essence is not awake.
This is why we practice meditation, because the consciousness needs training. We typically get distracted very easily, and so in the beginning, we need more focus. We need will. We need concentration on whatever activity of life we engage in. However, many times we also tend to go through our home, the bedroom, our neighborhood, without any cognizance of our surroundings. We do so blindly, because we don't see what is new. We have a representation of our environment in our mind to which we relate, or we are so deep and lost in reverie and thought that we don't notice what is going around us.
What is happening? We could be driving our car in an alley and suddenly come across a person, perhaps someone who was injured lying on the ground, something very unusual. And if I am relating this example, it is because this happened to me today. I was driving my car back to my home after being away from work, and I suddenly realized as I was driving that a group of people were standing near the side of the alley where I usually park. There was a person who was injured or not moving. I was shocked. Obviously, you know, I spoke with the people there, that they had called the police and they were going to get an ambulance. You know, this is such a shocking and alarming thing, disturbing.
In that moment, I felt very alert, because I realized I wasn't paying attention. I was expecting that I was going to go home according to my routine, according to mechanicity, and it took awareness of my surroundings and a person driving the other direction to roll down their window and tell me that something was ahead. So we are very sleepy, and we have to train ourselves to be aware of what is happening at all times.
We have to remember that the consciousness is like a light. It is perception itself. When we lack attention and awareness, it means that the light of our consciousness is diffused. It means that our light is obscured, because our mind, our egos, our defects, keep us preoccupied. We invest our energy, our light, into them. The ego, like a moon, has eclipsed our sun.
So when we talk about these principles, we have to remember that attention is like a flashlight. When you use a flashlight, you direct it. You concentrate it. You focus it.
Now, awareness is a little different. It is expansive. It has volume. It is luminous. It is amplified. It spreads outward in its radiance and radius towards our surroundings, when we do so willingly.
Perhaps with these examples you can see where we are headed when talking about the Sufi teachings on contraction and expansion. So the Sufis explain that contraction and expansion, focus and broad spatiality, are attention and awareness. So contraction is when our attention is focused on one thing. So, as I was driving my car today and a person in the other lane pulled up and rolled down their window, I was contracted in my attention. I was directing my attention to that person, but I wasn't aware of what was ahead of me. I had a shift in my consciousness when I suddenly realized what was going on. So this is an example of how with contraction, we are focused on one thing, but with awareness, it is a broad spatial perception. We become aware of our surroundings.
Contraction in Self-Observation
So contraction also happens in our work of self-observation. This is really important to understand. When we study our different defects, our egos, moment by moment, we are focused on our interior. So while it's true that we have to be aware of what is happening outside of us, we have to divide our attention inside. You know, often times when we make a mistake, we can also feel a contraction in our heart, a state of remorse, and we can feel and exclaim or feel that we have really done something stupid.
As I am explaining these concepts, there is a lot of dynamic range with these principles. Here I am introducing just a few, but basically contraction and expansion occurs in self-observation, especially―the work of the ego. We can experience a state of contraction, of heightened focus, when we catch a defect within our three brains, because we are observing, we are conscious and attentive of our thoughts, feelings, and impulses. Usually we can feel the pangs of conscience, the remorse of the soul whenever we come upon very disturbing egos, very big errors that we created, that we are responsible for.
Self-observation amongst the Sufis is muhasabah, inner-accounting. In this work, we have to take an account of our psychological states, those defects we have in abundance and those virtues we must develop further. This principle is very important. This is the foundation of gathering data about ourselves, so that we can achieve annihilation of the ego, fana, in Arabic. There is only reunion with the Being when the ego is fully dead. So we have to study ourselves. We have to observe ourselves.
Expansion in Awareness
So expansion is awareness, and through it we experience an amplified state, a magnification and a deepening of our perception of everything around us. Have you ever noticed on a rainy day, walking down the street of your home city or town or wherever you may be, and have really contemplated a sunset? The vibrancy and color, the depth, the beauty, the profundity of the moment? The way that leaves shift in the wind, or how puddles form upon the streets, the stones, the architecture around you, the buildings? With a state of awareness or expansion, we are deeply enmeshed, aware of everything surrounding ourselves in the moment. We have to learn to develop that clarity, because it helps us to go deep into our own consciousness. The consciousness is very dynamic, as we are saying.
It can expand outward, but also it can focus on a point inside, which in our works of self-observation, is the work of the ego―understanding the relationship between the ego, personal states, and external events. Both qualities: attention and awareness, contraction and expansion, are often depicted as two poles within Sufism, two opposites. However, they are both essential as Rumi was teaching us, because both principles or qualities of consciousness help us to be well-rounded.
There is an exercise in our tradition, or in many schools of meditation. To learn to cease thinking so much, we can pay attention to our surroundings, whether it be a deep walk in the woods, a hike in nature, in which we focus on the external world and the beauty of our surroundings. But also we need to learn to develop internal insight, focus, attention upon our different egotistical states, and also how our ego relates to the external world. This provides a comprehensive basis by which to gather data for our meditations.
Levels of Contraction and Expansion
So attention and awareness are developed in levels, in accordance with the level of being of the practical meditator. A true Gnostic, a true Sufi, a true Muslim, experiences these states with will, because they trained themselves for many years. Meditation masters also experience these states in an open, receptive way, because the Being determines for them through intuition, through influence, through inquietudes, a hunch, what to focus on and what to become aware of. Our Being can guide us in our daily life when we learn to connect with that inner conscience, the continuity of awareness and self-observation or remembrance of the divine. So bearing this in mind, we can begin to approach this very high level of understanding by examining what the Sufis taught. The following is from Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism:
“Contraction is to the gnostic what fear is to the beginner, and expansion is to the gnostic what hope is to the beginner.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Beginners fear many things, including the exploration of the ego. Many people are afraid to look inside of themselves because of the ugliness that they have, and this is a normal reaction, but we have to learn to overcome our own nausea and disgust, to quote Nietzsche from Thus Spoke Zarathustra. So contraction can be focused on very unpleasant things, egotistical, negative states, but we have to learn to look inside, to feel that constriction and contraction of our attention, especially in moments of pain. We have to look at ourselves without running away. We have to not repress what we see, and we have to not justify it either. This is essential to develop maturity in this work.
Also, beginners hope to have awakened states, awareness of the superior worlds, through this discipline, and the Gnostics, those great masters of meditation, also enjoy an expansion of consciousness in the superior worlds through their meditation, their meditative practices.
"The distinction between contraction and fear and expansion and hope, is that fear only relates to something in the future, whether it be the loss of something dear or the onset of something dreaded. Hope likewise only relates to future events―the anticipation of something one likes or the awaited disappearance of something one dreads, the expected end of something one hates.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So beginners, we fear the uncertainties of the future, whether it be material or spiritual loss, difficult situations, challenges in life, ordeals. Likewise, we also hope for spiritual advancement and internal experiences in this path.
Yet, while these are normal sentiments for beginning meditators, we must learn to focus entirely on the moment, to be aware of all of its rich, enlightened, golden mysteries―alert novelties, the truth, the unknown.
"Contraction, however, is a subtle impact produced in the moment itself and the same is the case with expansion. The heart of the one who experiences fear and hope is attached by its two states to the future, while the “now” of the one who experiences contraction and expansion is captured by a feeling that overpowers him in the present.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This is fundamental. We have to stop daydreaming. We have to stop thinking of some utopian future where experiences will come easily, by grace, that we must reach some plateau of wisdom and that the work is somehow magically done, easy, like blowing glass. Likewise, it's important to stop fearing the future and to mull over the past. It is important to have remorse and sincere work upon our errors, but not to be hypnotized by our histories, by our tragedies. We have to develop attention and awareness in the present. This occurs through self-observation.
Dynamics of Contraction
Al-Qushayri relates a very beautiful teaching that I would like to share with you:
"As the Sufis’ states differ, the quality of their contraction and expansion also differs. Under one sort of influence, which is not total, contraction is produced but the possibility of outside concerns remains. Other people in a state of contraction may find that the influence affecting them permits no access to outside concerns. Thus one of these said, “I am a barrier”―that is, “There is no means of entry in me." ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This is very beautiful and profound. There is a lot of meaning here that I'd like to unpack for you. One of the defining characteristics of self-observation, that we are really focusing our attention well, is that we do not become identified with what we perceive. Samael Aun Weor explains that to gather data about our defects, we need a division of attention. We need to separate our Essence, our consciousness, from the ego. This is basic. Without this, we cannot meditate. Without this, we cannot perceive anything clearly.
So the consciousness, the Essence is the one that observes. It is perception itself. It is alert, focused, clear attention. The Essence, the liberated consciousness must observe the ego, our defects, our vices, within our three brains. The ego is what is observed. We have to observe our internal reactions to external life, much in the same way that a director of a film, films an actor in a drama, a comedy, a tragedy. These dramas, comedies and tragedies of life are the external events, the situations, the circumstances of our existence.
We must not invest our energy externally towards anything outside of us. But we must become hermetically sealed. This means that when we respond to situations, we do not waste energy. We don't give energy to negative thoughts. We don't empower negative emotions and we don't hurt ourselves through negative actions. This is an intuitive, qualitative state in which we have to make many mistakes, because we are learning. This is why we meditate. We clear our mind. We review the events of our day in which our ego acted, in which the self, the conditioned mind, emerged within the screen of our attention.
So hermetical sealing, to be closed within, means to not waste our precious, conscious potential, because “Wherever we direct our attention, we expend creative energy,” says Samael Aun Weor. We have to be very clear, and to really be patient with ourselves, because it is not something we are going to master in one day. Instead, we learn to differentiate between egotistical states and conscious states.
You will know it through experience. What states of being produce happiness, liberation, contentment? And what states produce our suffering? We have explained this in depth previously.
So in relation to this quote, for some disciples:
“Under one sort of influence, which is not total, contraction is produced but the possibility of outside concerns remains.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So we can be gathering data about the ego, such as a state of anger when we are criticized. We may still be a little bit identified with the event even though we are observing. We are consciously working not to invest ourselves into that element. So there are degrees of identification and degrees of remembrance, levels of being, “Light upon light,” says the Qur’an [24:35].
However, if we are really working seriously and very well, psychologically, if we are meditating on our mistakes and really working to retrospect at the end of our day, to catch those defects that emerged in certain events, we learn the distinct qualities of conditioning and we learn not to make those mistakes again, because we are comprehending more and more, how those errors manifest, how they feed, how they sustain, and how they pass. So if we are really working well, we do not lose any of our energy through the ego.
As Al-Qushayri states:
“Other people in a state of contraction may find that the influence affecting them permits no access to outside concerns. Thus one of these said, “I am a barrier”―that is, “There is no means of entry in me.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
We become a barrier. No matter how bad things are externally, we do not internalize negativity at all. Samael Aun Weor stated, “Shut your doors to negativity.” This doesn't mean that we abandon certain friends or family members who may be toxic. There is some credence to this. If we need some space, it could be good to associate or disassociate with certain crowds. This is basic. But in reality, this principle relates to how we shut our psychological doors, because we can't avoid negativity at all times. We have to face the reality of life and the social conflicts of our humanity. We have to learn not to identify with any problem, to shut out any possibility of investing ourselves in the world's problems.
It doesn't mean we ignore those problems or don't do anything about them. It means that psychologically we have a space, a clarity, a serenity that is not shaken, so that we can learn to focus on those issues with greater understanding and comprehension. When we are serene and insightful, we can respond to life with efficacy, but this is learned through experience.
Dynamics of Expansion
So these principles also relate to expansion, to awareness. Al-Qushayri states:
“This is also how it is for people in the state of expansion. There may be an expansion in someone that widens his nature but does not cut him off from the majority of ordinary things. And there may be someone in bast who will not be affected by anything at all.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So when you expand conscious awareness, a broad spatial perception, a vividness of your surroundings, you learn to stop thinking. This is not forced. It is not repression. It is the natural quietude and silence of the mind. Our problem is that we invest too much in our internal chatter. By taking in the data of our surroundings, when we learn to have a receptive mind. As I said, such as through walks or hikes in nature, we can enter a very deep state of consciousness in which we are cut off from mundane things.
So the reality is that nothing around us is mundane, but it is rather our projection of our mind. We have to learn to see each moment as a golden child of Gnosis. You can study this in the “The Struggle of the Opposites,” a chapter in The Revolution of the Dialectic by Samael Aun Weor, in which he describes how we overcome the illusions of the mind. And of course, there are degrees. There are levels to this. Sometimes we enter deep states of expansion, of awareness, but part of our mind is still stuck, is identified. Yet, with the most lucid perception according to Al-Qushayri, “there may be someone in expansion (bast) who will not be affected by anything at all.” We can become so aware of the details of life with such awareness, such clarity, like in a lucid dream, an astral experience, a samadhi, an ecstasy of the soul, that nothing can break that continuity easily.
Of course in the beginning, we struggle. We want to experience and maintain these lucid states at will. This is why we have different practices of concentration and awareness to help us focus our attention, but also develop more vividness, an amplification of our perception, our awareness.
The Signs of Contraction and Expansion
So as I mentioned, contraction-expansion are very broad principles. They have multiple levels of application and meaning according to the three levels or degrees of Sufism: Shariah, Tariqah, Haqiqah / Ma’rifah, or the introductory, the intermediate, and the advanced teaching.
So contraction, as a heightened focus, can occur during an ordeal, especially. In the beginning of our ethical discipline, we have to learn to become aware of everything that is happening outside and inside. When we feel remorse for a defect that we have observed in the moment, which is causing us a lot of pain, we have to really see it for what it is. This is impossible if we don't divide attention inward, but also have awareness of our external events.
We also experience expansions of a positive nature when we discover how to use our virtues, when we receive spiritual insight to a problem, that relieves us of a certain suffering and pain. So on one level, contraction feels like a restriction, and it can even sound painful when someone is restricted, is limited. But that inward contraction is necessary in this work, because if we don't confront our defects and feel that pain of remorse in our conscience, we will never change. It is through that introspective work, when we liberate consciousness and really pinpoint the defects we want to work on, that we can really work towards their elimination and expand our knowledge, our Being.
“One of the lowest causes of contraction is the arrival in the heart of a feeling brought on by a sign of divine reproof or a hint that one deserves punishment. This inevitably produces a contraction in the heart. Other feelings may be prompted by an indication, through a sort of kindness and welcome, of approach to God or response from Him. This produces an expansion in the heart.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Degrees of Contraction
There are degrees of contraction and expansion, which again, as we stated, process in accordance with the level of being of the meditator. There are levels to our conscience, a restriction of the heart, whereby we feel a certain intuition, a sudden sentiment that a specific behavior is wrong. The more we listen to our conscience, the deeper we go in our understanding. It is a fundamental principle.
The intellect cannot resolve problems. The heart, our conscience, is what knows how to perceive reality and to understand. The less we follow our states of introspection of contraction, of inner focus, of remorse and analysis, the more we depart from religion, from the teaching, because we disconnect ourselves. We don't listen to what our heart is telling us, what is right and what is wrong. We feel that contraction in our heart, that pain, that deep suffering, perhaps about an action we took in the past that we want to rectify, or feel that we can't. That is contraction, a very deep and profound one. And so these two principles really complement each other. They are both essential, as stated in this scripture, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism:
“In general, the degree of contraction of which someone is capable is the same as his potential expansion and his expansion is to the degree of his contraction.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So think of a heart that is perfectly balanced by its pumping of blood, its restrictive and expanding movements, just in the same way as Rumi said that the two wings of a bird extend and contract in order to create flight.
“There may be a contraction whose cause is unclear to the one who experiences it. He finds in his heart a state of contraction for which he perceives no reason or motive.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So here we may feel remorse, but we don't understand why, and this is why we have to gain clarity. We have to review a particular moment in the day in which we were confused, or we are suffering with a problem, to visualize it and to see it in our imagination, our perception, and to look for the cause, to introspect, to look, and to wait. Therefore, the Sufis state:
"The proper course of action for such a one is submission until that moment passes from him. If he were to try to refuse it by his efforts or to bring on the moment [of the conclusion of this state] before it comes upon him of itself, his contraction would increase, and [his efforts] might be counted against him as an infringement of the principles of spiritual conduct.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So this has to do with moments of observation. We must be mindful of the moment. We must be attentive, alert, aware. We have to be receptive to internal states of Being. This is a quality of the heart, the remembrance of the presence of God. We have to remember that distinct quality of communion with our own inner Spirit as we carefully scrutinize the ego.
So again, it is a division of attention. We are observing our defects, where we are remembering that we are the Essence, which belongs to the Being. We have to learn to act appropriately towards each external event with the appropriate internal state. So sometimes in an ordeal, perhaps we are really criticized very hard and we feel a lot of resentment, pride, hatred, and a conglomeration of different egos and defects emerging in that scene. Sometimes the best thing is to wait. Be patient. Learn to see the impression of that person, the aggressor, with serenity, with compassion, with gladness.
We have to really transform our perceptions of life, and this is not easy, because we want to retaliate, to react egotistically. If we react in the moment, we constrict ourselves even more, in a manner of speaking. We make our situation worse, because if we argue back, we create conflict. So it is better to comprehend the situation, to look at it, to not let the ego react, and let anger subside. As Prophet Muhammad taught, "The strongest among you is he who controls his anger." If we don't do this, we do not submit to God, to the rules of the moment.
So Al-Qushayri continues:
“If he were to try to refuse it by his efforts or to bring on the moment [of the conclusion of this state] before it comes upon him of itself, his contraction would increase…” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So as I said, we tend to react to life. Here we need to learn to wait, to be patient, and sometimes in a situation, we have to respond quickly, and this is the great temptation of the mind. The ego reacts and wants to intervene. It is a mechanical reaction to life, but with patience and observation, we can wait for the appropriate internal state to follow our heart, so that we know how to respond with consciousness. To not do so is to contract oneself, to be delimited, to be egotistical, to be vain. Remember that the mind makes a swing between the battle of the opposites, “Should I or should I not retaliate to this critic?” Our mind also goes between how to get revenge, or perhaps we want to run away. Neither are viable, depending on the situation―in most cases. If we are just having an argument or a conflict at work or with a family member, instead, intuitive action, beyond the duality of oppositional thinking, leads the awakening of the consciousness.
"But if he surrenders to the rule of the moment, before long the state of contraction will vanish. As by God, may He be exalted, said, “And God brings about contraction and expansion” (2:245). ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So I know a lot of us may think that divinity is far away, but the reality is that our Being is in our heart and is always telling us what we need to do. The problem is that we have too many veils, too many conditions of mind that obscure that thread that we have to hold on to. This is why in meditation we learn to introspect, to remove the veils of our perception.
Degrees of Expansion
Like breath, states of awareness or expansion suddenly arrived in accordance with divine will in a properly cultivated psychology. So when we train our attention to focus on one thing, to not be distracted, whether it be a candle, observing the flame and not thinking of other things, or practicing awareness of the present moment, this serenity of mind allows for light to reflect within our consciousness, to augment and expand it.
Again, Al-Qushayri states:
“And there may be an expansion that comes on suddenly―the one who experiences this encounters it unexpectedly, without knowing any reason for it. It shakes him and makes him giddy.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Sometimes in our practice, we can awaken in the astral plane. We suddenly have illumination and a vision which makes us very happy. The problem is that we tend to get overexcited, whereby we agitate the mind and lose the ecstasy, the experiences.
“The proper course of action for someone in this circumstance is silence and the observance of correct behavior, for there is at that moment a great danger for him. Such a person must beware of a hidden scheme, a test in the form of a gift.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
How we handle visions is important, because even spiritual experiences can be a test to see whether or not we will act responsibly with light, or whether or not that light should be taken away because we abuse it―we indulge in negative states. It comes to my mind an experience I had in the astral plane, in which my awareness was expanded and I was flying over a beautiful landscape, enjoying the beauty of nature. I knew my God was with me, was guiding me. I landed in a forest upon a hill in the middle of the woods, and suddenly, I saw the numbers 600,000 on the ground, and certain women were approaching me―lustful women.
I intuitively knew that this was related to Arcanum 6 of the sacred tarot [The Eternal Tarot of Alchemy and Kabbalah] in which I had to fight against my own lust. So it was a test and a blessing at the same time. I was given a vision, but this was a hidden scheme, a test, an ordeal, because the masters of the White Lodge awaken us in the astral plane to give us experiences and to test us, to see whether or not we will act ethically, because in this vision that I had, this experience, these women were trying to make me fall sexually and I had to throw them off of me in a great battle. Very difficult. I was very exhausted by the end, but that experience relates how we can be given light, amplification, and experiences, and yet, we can make very grave mistakes if we are not careful.
“Thus one of the Sufis said, “A door of expansion was opened upon me. I slipped so I was veiled from my station.” And on account of this they say. “Stay on the prayer-rug (bisat), and beware of delight (inbisat)!” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Or as the Buddhist state, “Don't get drunk on Nirvana.”
We can become very attached to internal experiences. We have to have that type of awareness but not be attached, to be unmoved, to be serene.
This ties into the joy of awakened experiences and the discipline we need to contract or restrain our mind. All meditators must learn to experience the bliss of the consciousness by restricting and disciplining the animal ego.
Fear and Hope in God
Al-Junayd said the following, as quoted by Al-Qushayri in the Principles of Sufism:
“Junayd said, “Fear of God contracts me while hope of Him expands me. The real nature of things (haqiqah) unifies me [in His Presence], while the Truth of His Being (haqq) separates me [from Him in essence]. When He contracts me through fear, He makes me pass away from myself, and when He expands me through hope, He returns me to myself.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This fear is not egotistical. It is the reverence of the consciousness towards the divine law, especially chastity. We fear to make mistakes and to deviate from the path when we really revere God. So mystical experiences return us to ourselves, to remembrance of our reality, and this is how we learn to have genuine hope in the Being.
"When He unifies me through the real nature of things, He raises me to His Presence and when He separates me [from Him] through His Unique Truth, He makes me witness what is other than myself, and so veils me from Him." ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So notice how mystical experience, states and stations in the path are governed by divinity. The Being contracts and expands our perceptions of consciousness depending on the need and His decisions, because the Being always manages our experiences, our light.
"He, may He be exalted, in all of that moves me [from state to state], not holding me back. He estranges me [from all else] but does not make me familiar with Him. It is in His Presence that I taste the food of my being. Would that He would annihilate me from myself and so gratify me, or take me away from myself and so revive me!” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This is very beautiful. God determines our path, if we learn to follow His will in our three brains, our human machine. He gives us experiences, but doesn't make us familiar with Him, because many times when we long for the Being, we work harder. There is a very famous saying in Islam how God often withholds divine blessings or experiences as he hears the prayers of the disciple, because the sound of it is sweet to Him.
How do we taste the food of our Being? Meditation. Samael Aun Weor states that meditation is the daily bread of the wise, the bread of being. We gain insight when we are establishing ourselves in attention and awareness. Self-observation of our states and awareness of their relation to external events provide us with holistic data about our internal, humanoid machine, our ego. Through developing serenity of mind, calmness and equanimity of consciousness, we expand our awareness of the internal worlds.
This comes about after we learn to concentrate on one thing. We could focus on a sacred sound, or as we stated in the previous lecture: Breath, Ham-Sah, mantras, etc. We constrict our attention to the object of concentration so that the mind stops chattering. In the silence of meditation, when we learn to focus internally without distraction, we can receive internal knowledge and awareness of the internal worlds.
Three Types of Expansion
We spoke extensively about contraction. Abdullah Ansari of Herat speaks beautifully about expansion. His definition of expansion pertains also to enlightenment, spiritual insight, astral samadhis, conscious experiences within the internal worlds. As he states, citing the Qur’an:
“God, the Most High and Holy [speaks of one],’whose heart God has opened to Islam so that he has received enlightenment from God’ (39:22).” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
We receive enlightenment through submission. How do we submit to God? It is by achieving equanimity of mind. So serenity is developed in degrees. We have to learn to overcome distractions to the object of our concentration, whether we are focusing on the breath, with a mantra, with pranayama, or a statue, an object, a candle flame. Or if you are familiar with Tibetan Buddhism, a mandala. You can also concentrate upon the Arabic and Hebrew letters, especially, to focus on a principle represented in that calligraphy, so that the mind stops thinking of other things.
In some of these practices, we imagine and concentrate upon that image. We can see it before our physical eyes, and then we visualize it in our imagination. But in order for imagination to be very crisp, to be stable, we have to not forget what we are doing. So equanimity comes first, when we no longer get distracted, when our attention is crisp and clear. When it no longer takes effort to focus on our object, when we are accustomed and familiar with the perfect state of equanimity, we can learn to submit to God. This is how we receive enlightenment.
Notice how Muslims and Sufis, they bow their head towards the stone of Kaaba, as we see in this image―a symbol of working with the stone of Yesod. We have to bow our head by working with our energies, to calm the mind. We offer our calm, serene mind to the Being, but it is a process.
Of course, enlightenment occurs in levels. It begins with awakening physically, but also achieves or appears internally in our work.
“Expansion is the opening that God bestows upon the heart, the spiritual time, and the aspiration of a servant. And that is of three kinds: the expansion of prayers and invocations, the expansion in service, and the expansion during seeking.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
Let us examine what these entail.
Prayers, Service, and Seeking
“The expansion of prayers has three signs: invocations with reverence, awestruck humble supplications, and beseeching God through Qur’anic divination.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So invocations and conjurations, as we have stated previously, help us to protect our reverence.
Humble supplications are our prayers. We concentrate and pray for the help we need, enter silence, and then when the mind is serene and receptive, we can receive the answers we need.
Qur'anic divination, for the purposes of our studies, is to read and study the doctrine. We pray for help that God gives us understanding through whatever scripture we read, such as in the Qur’an or the writings of Samael Aun Weor. We can sit, close our eyes, and pray, asking divinity to lead us to a chapter, by flipping through the pages, to show us that which we must read and understand, what we must read about to help us in our particular situation.
“And the expansion of service has three signs: lightly carrying the load of plentiful works, abundant prayers concealed from people, and a heart punctual in prayer.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So, sacrifice for humanity without seeking benefits in return. This means to be consistent in our meditations and prayer, that whatever our schedule is, we have a set time in which we enter meditation, silence of mind.
People want experiences. They want expansion without recognizing that experiences are the payment the Logos grants us for good works, for sacrifices for humanity.
Consistent discipline and meditations makes expansions more frequent, since meditation transforms the astral body, according to Samael Aun Weor.
“And expansion during seeking as three signs: minimum audition yet great benefit, minimum service yet great joy, and minimum contemplative reflection yet great contemplative vision.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So we can listen to classical works of music, spiritual auditions, while being focused on the rhythm and the music as it enters our psyche, such as the works of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Liszt, and many others, which we have outlined in The Secret Teachings of Opera on our website. We can sit and concentrate upon the music, let our focus be entirely on our heart and the influence of those sounds upon our consciousness, which have the power to awaken our concentration and also our awareness, internally, of divine things. Classical compositions and music are Kabbalistic, and teaches many profound principles in nature.
Even when we perform small works of selfless service, sacrifice, the quality that it grants us when it is sincere is tremendous. It gives us motivation and happiness.
Lastly will conclude on one point: “An hour of meditation is better than a year of prayer” according to Prophet Muhammad. So minimum contemplative reflection, if it is very deep and profound, can really open a lot of doors for us. Quality, not quantity, is important. Although it is important that we build up our practices gradually, in accordance with our needs, so that we can train ourselves and deepen our discipline.
At this point in time I invite you to ask questions.
Questions and Answers
Question: How can you find your vocation or do good work, but not identify with your external situation?
Instructor: Obviously, every disciple of this teaching faces hardships, ordeals, and there is a saying within the Qur’an that "All good and bad comes from Allah," the Being. As for finding our vocation, that is something that we have to really meditate upon and reflect.
We can basically sit in a quiet space, close our eyes, shut off our senses from the world, and visualize in our imagination, and reflect upon our positive qualities, our skills. Those skills and those virtues of the soul belong to the Being, and the Being can show you through visions in your meditations, through experiences, what you can do with your life.
I think it's important to remember that when we do find our vocation, our genuine mission in life for the spiritual work, you will realize and will find from experience that it is never just something easy. If you look at Beethoven, his mission was to provide the doctrine of Gnosis in his symphonies, in his works, and yet he suffered tremendously. So, I know sometimes we may think that by finding our vocation, we are going to have everything easy, and that's something that obviously we hope for, but the reality is that there are always going to be difficulties. But the reason that we are able to overcome them, our external situations, to not identify with them, is because we love what we do. That is the key of finding your vocation.
When you are providing some kind of service or work that you really love from your heart and soul, even when you are challenged, when you have doubt, when you are filled with fear, uncertainty and difficulties, you do what is best for others, because it is the right thing. It is an expression of our internal integrity. You find your vacation based off your psychological work. Change your behaviors that are harmful. Adopt virtuous behaviors. Expand your awareness outward. Expand your virtues outward to humanity. Let your consciousness be the one that dictates how you relate to others, because if we are just going along with the flow of life, if we are just reacting to our situation, blaming others for our problems and suffering, we are creating a lot of pain for ourselves and for our neighbor.
But the beginning is, learn to constrict your attention inside. Learn to evaluate in yourself what egos are causing you trouble, because when you eliminate the ego, you develop virtue. You develop comprehension, and then you know as a soul, as an Essence, how to resolve problems. So, internal self-observation is the key.
As you begin to learn about yourself and your abilities, your Being will naturally lead you to situations and environments in which you will expand your knowledge and your experience, so that you learn how to really fulfill your role in society and within the Gnostic teachings.
Question: Why do discursive thoughts seem to always have some importance and relevance?
Instructor: Samael Aun Weor states that the thoughts and the egos of our intellect, our internal psychology, bear resemblance of half-truths. The reason why they seem compelling and important is because the ego is a mis-transformation of impressions.
So we have explained previously how the ego is created, the self is created, through a mis-transformation of consciousness. We use our consciousness in the wrong way, and so these defects always appear to be honest and truthful and sincere and important and relevant. But if you are observing yourself through self-observation, you begin to see the mistake of this, that the ego is a conglomeration of half-truths, mistakes, which take on the resemblance of truthful things.
The intellect is really a machine which we have made into something demonic, something negative, because the ego with its intellect uses thought to convince us to do the wrong things. This is why Samael Aun Weor stated in Tarot and Kabbalah that the greatest weapon that the Black Lodge has to pull students from the path is the intellect. So you learn to see the truth of things by looking inside, so that we can distinguish truth from falsehood, not looking for any justifications or repressing anything we see, but simply observing them―letting our heart be the judge.
Question: It's so easy to rush past sitting quietly with the painful expressions of our actions and go pass to the end, all fixed, and my mind shuts off to any work. So how to make the mind shut down and for me to work on myself?
Instructor: Your comment seems to point towards a tendency in many students, which is to repress what we see. We want to shut down the mind because it is too painful. We see faults in ourselves and aggregates and nafs or defects that are so painful to look at, that we want to become numb. We want to repress what we see. But in truth, this work is a work of suffering. It is conscious works and voluntary suffering. We have to learn to be equanimitous even when looking at the worst defects, and facing the worst ordeals that really bring out our most hidden defects that we thought we never had. We have to learn to develop that equanimity in our daily life. It's not enough just to sit for fifteen minutes a day to clear the mind or to focus on an object of concentration. Those complement our daily work. We reach silence and serenity of mind by working all day―observing the mind, looking at it, and acting as a consciousness, following our conscience, our heart.
If we feed our desires, we suffer. This is a basic law and every religion, especially Sufism and Gnosticism. If we do not create a space in our interior, moment by moment, instant by instant, we don't have the means by which we can really work effectively.
And of course, there is a lot of components that can go into this process. Obviously, our home environment is important―having a clean, stable, perfumed home, such as one of our lecturers explained in a lecture called Basics of Spiritual Defense. It's important that we make our home a space for meditation, a place that we can really pray and contemplate and work and aspire to these principles, to fulfill them at whatever level we can, because the more we feed our heart through these disciplines and practices, such as in a lecture I referenced, we can protect our spirituality, but also give ourselves strength and motivation.
Audience: Thank you.
Instructor: You're welcome.
Question: I had a couple of questions on my mind. I was kind of wondering about the sacrifice aspect as you were kind of discussing it, and I mean I have ideas about what that could be, but sometimes I feel like just like you were saying, it might be a while until you kind of even gain the clarity and openness of mind to receive information about your vocation. For instance, the way that you should be serving.
So I was wondering if it kind of counts towards the sacrifice that we are doing, that we work on ourselves, that we are always observing ourselves and checking ourselves and foregoing our anger in favor of being attentive to our feelings and trying to examine them and understand them. Is that considered sacrifice or is there some other meaning?
That is one question, and another question I have is a little bit unrelated. But I have been listening to a lot of the Rune Course and on one of them it was talking about the seals, kind of like the way people do the sign of the cross, and how it's not really correct. I was wondering if there's anywhere that it shows how you do that, like a video, because I found it hard to follow the movements that were described in words.
Instructor: Thank you. So as to the first question, it is a tremendous sacrifice to learn to be a decent person when our mind is filled with rage, with anger, with negative qualities, with defects, and we are put in situations in which we feel that we are not benefiting, that we are suffering―and yet, we learn to transform our own pain, to be compassionate to our neighbor. This is a form of sacrifice, a very noble one.
Now, obviously there are levels and degrees to sacrifice for humanity. But I think all that is predicated upon an understanding of how we live ethically in relation to humanity.
I know a lot of us may feel confused or lost in relation to finding a vocation in life. Some of us may be more advanced in our years trying to find new careers, and we often think that sacrifice for humanity means to have some kind of job, and of course, this is important, but the reality is that our vocation is something within the Being. Really, we have many vocations that we can fulfill. I mean, for example, you look at Samael Aun Weor: he was a writer, he was a lecturer, and he was a healer. He did many things that his Being called him to do, and so while we like to look towards some kind of job or vocation to fulfill us, to give us not only income but some kind of psychological and economic meaning, the important thing to remember is that if we were working on our ego, we will be guided to what we must do in our life in our daily existence.
As for the sign of the cross, we do not have a video that shows that, but perhaps that's something that we will develop, especially since we have had a video on the pentagram specifically.
Audience: Thank you.
Instructor: You're welcome.
Question: I wanted to ask about some news I heard recently because of COVID-19, the stone of Mecca, that the visiting of that has been canceled. And in that it's an unprecedented event, and I was just wondering if the stone is related to contraction or expansion and if that is causing a lot of grief for people that want to see it. Is that a thing that can be done internally for people?
Instructor: So with the terms contraction-expansion, these apply to our consciousness, and as I provided an overall reference, there are many levels to that. Contraction can mean focus on an object of concentration, a restriction. It also is self-observation, when we feel constricted or our focus is on our internal psychology and what is occurring there. Of course, awareness is the opposite, where it is an expansion of consciousness outward.
Now the important thing to remember is that the stone of Mecca, physically, is a symbol, just in the same way that a cross on a church spire is a symbol. The stone of Mecca is a beautiful representation of the work with the sexual energy―the Kaaba, or the stone of La Vaca, the Cow, which is how you say it in Spanish. But you take the syllables and rearrange them, it is Kabbalah.
So it's a very profound symbol that has a lot of beauty and meaning, but while many Muslims cannot go to perform Hajj or go to the stone of Mecca to perform their pilgrimage, obviously for them that is a cause of great suffering. But the initiates of the mystical Sufi tradition have always known that according to the words of one initiate:
“When you are separate from the Kaaba, it is all right to turn toward it, but those who are in it can turn toward any direction they wish.” ―Bayazid Bastami
Basically, it's a symbol of how there is a great difference between exoteric Islam and esoteric Islam, which is the Gnostic teachings within Sufism, especially. If you are working with your sexual creative energies, your stone, your Kaaba, you are purifying that black stone into a purified white cubic stone as the foundation of your temple―then it doesn't matter if you pray towards the East or the West. It doesn't matter if you travel physically to those places, because really, real pilgrimage for the initiates is in the internal planes. And personally I have been to the Middle East in the astral plane many times. Really our consciousness, when awakened internally, we can see things what the symbols of any tradition represent. You know, those journeys to the Middle East and all the symbols of that tradition are very beautiful, but they are not necessarily meant to be a literal dogma. You know, they are a great reminder of what we must do esoterically, but of course there are levels to religion. If that makes sense.
Audience: Yes, it seems like there's a pointer in that being canceled that we should turn internally toward that stone and instead of relying on the external. Yeah, thank you.
Instructor: You're welcome.
Question: I have experienced my infra-conscious dimensions several times in my dreams, things I would never do or engage in physically. What message is my Being giving me and could this be a part of my past life?
Instructor: Yes, it can. It could be your Being showing you your ego, the things that you need to work on. Remember that there are two moons in the esoteric doctrine. There is the white moon and the black moon, Nahemah and Lilith in Hebrew. These are our representations of the ego that is visible and the ego that is hidden. Now as we awaken more consciousness, as we expand more consciousness and learn to perceive our infra-conscious realms, we begin to understand and perceive things in us, that even if we would not act upon them physically in this life because of our ethics, we still have an element inside that we need to eliminate. So your Being can be definitely showing you your errors that you need to work out.
So here is an example of where your consciousness is expanded. It is a profound awareness of what happened, but also you need to introspect or contract your attention inward in order to reflect on that remorse in your heart, as well as the source of this defect, so you can be free of it.
Question: When we see ourselves psychologically, it's like holding in our breath and indulging in desires gives us air. How should we deal with ourselves and our remorse when we know what we could do or what could and should be done, but do not have the ability to do it? Does knowing what should be done mean we have the ability to do it?
Instructor: This is an important thing to consider. Remorse is a quality of the heart. It is a conscious sentiment. It is very different from shame, from a sense of pessimism, of morbidity, and repression. The ego feels shame and says, “I am a bad person. I did this. I am so horrible! Look at what is in my mind,” and we can become very sour people if we invest our energy into that type of feeling.
Remorse is very different. It is the expansion of the consciousness when we learn to constrict ourselves. We feel that constriction or contraction in our heart, that we have something negative inside, but this is not something that is egotistical. You know, this is not something that is of the mind, because if we just dwell on the mind and not on our heart, on the Essence, we could become very dark people. So this is something to consider.
We have to remember the virtues of the Being. If you feel a lot of suffering for your faults, it is important to be realistic and to meditate on your virtues. So if you feel like you know what you should do and could do, but don't do it or don't have the ability, it's important to really meditate on our virtuous qualities, because oftentimes we adopt a negative skew of things, of reality, because we invest too much energy in our conditions. The reality is that we have a lot of hope, a lot of potential. Don't expect that you're going to be able to do everything all at once, but take the steps that you need, that you know you can do, and to do them.
Fundamentally, the important thing is chastity: save your sexual energy, transmute it. And if you struggle with maintaining this energy, keep trying. As Rumi taught us, "Come, oh wanderers and leavers. Even if you have broken your vows a thousand times, come, join us, for ours is not a caravan of despair." We learn to change gradually, but the important thing is that we repent sincerely. That is going to be an entire lecture in this course that we will give in the future, of what repentance looks like, what renunciation looks like as well.
Comment: We talked about being in the moment, but also we don't want to be lost in that moment through fantasy like watching TV. We are in the moment for hours, but at the same time, we are living someone else's dream, whether the writer, the producer, etc. So this is a form of attention, concentration, awareness, etc. But this is being lost in the moment for the consciousness, taking impressions that are stored in the memory.
Instructor: This is a really good distinction to make. So while we are talking about states of awareness and attention in the moment, we have to be very specific about what is the quality of that awareness and attention. You know, we can sit in front of a television, as was stated, and be entirely focused on the theme of the story, the characters in the drama, and yet, it is entirely egotistical, because the ego knows how to direct attention, but it is through desire―the desire to watch and to receive the impressions and sensations of that moment, that perception from the television.
So real awareness, real concentration, is when we concentrate with complete voluntary will. You know, obviously, sitting in front of a television is very passive. It doesn't take any effort. But when you concentrate on a candle or a mantra or really work to exercise the Essence in you, you will find that it is very difficult in the beginning. It is very challenging, because our free consciousness is very weak and needs to be trained. We find that it is very difficult to voluntarily focus our attention on one thing or to be aware of our surroundings in a clear sense. So we have to learn to take impressions of life, but not passively where our mind and personality and ego is active. We have to put those in a state of suspension, of calm, and equanimity, and instead learn to make the consciousness be the one that is active, that is working.
Question: Do Gnostics have fun?
Instructor: Yes, especially the ones that I know, associate and work with. Yes, while we talk about very serious topics, we do have quite a profound sense of humor. If you come to our retreats, you definitely will pick up on that. So hopefully you can and will be able to meet you in person. That would be nice.
Question: Can you speak a little on the ego of self-love and self-compassion?
Instructor: It's important that we have compassion towards ourselves, especially because we are very weak. We make mistakes and we suffer a lot. But it doesn't mean that we are filled with self-love. A lot of times, in current spiritual movements, people often say that you should love yourself, that you should find yourself beautiful. And really, what these philosophies and polemics often do is reinforce self-esteem, which is a defect, an ego.
It is true that we need to be compassionate towards ourselves and to have a conscious love for our soul, but we have to be very merciless towards our ego. You know, the compassionate thing to do for ourselves is to have no mercy towards our defects. If we have a fit of anger, if we have a defect or a vice that emerges and we don't want to identify with it, we have to be very cruel to ourselves, in the sense that we don't identify or give it what it wants, because this is the compassionate thing, the loving thing. The soul knows how to give love towards others without expecting anything in return. Self-love says, “Other people should serve me because I deserve it.”
So our focus in this teaching is to learn how to introspect and to identify those egos of self-esteem that are particularly problematic, which create a lot of drama in different circumstances of life. So remember, compassion is that we serve others out of love for humanity, conscious love, not egotistical love, not complacency with error. Because compassion can be very strong for some people. Sometimes the compassionate thing is to be very severe with a person, but it doesn't mean that we don't love them. It means that we are enacting divine justice if necessary. Or as Shakespeare taught us, "I must be cruel only to be kind. Thus bad begins, and worse remains behind” (Hamlet 3.4.181-182).
The role of breath within every religion is profoundly significant. All traditions point towards the power of breathing, which is currently being studied, repackaged, and sold as novelties to new age consumers. The reality is that all meditative traditions from both East and West have emphasized the necessity of spiritual breathing, exercises for the awakening and development of the consciousness.
In many eastern philosophies and traditions, the yogis speak of pranayama: to yoke the life force, the vital winds within our lungs, within the air we breathe, with the specific and express purpose of developing concentration, willpower, and mystical states.
The Sufis are no exception. They not only emphasize how breath is essential to life, moment by moment, they also explain in a very beautiful system how divine powers and union with God is achieved through it. The reality is that they knew how our behaviors, our mind-stream, our moment to moment decisions, affect our speech. Our level of being is expressed in the quality of our words, our breath, our expression.
Speech is an expression. It is an amplification, a modification of energy. There are hurtful and infamous words, as well as words of comfort, reconciliation, motivational power. How we speak determines how we manifest our internal psychology. As the Buddha Shakyamuni taught, “Mind precedes phenomena. We become what we think.” But likewise, we become what we say. This is why within Sufism, these masters state how it is important to guard our breaths, our speech, through ethical conduct.
We have explained previously that this is Shariah, the law, which has nothing to do with punitive laws in Muslim countries. Instead, it relates to conscious ethics within the schools of Sufism, within any religion. Without ethical speech, without using our verb for the benefit of humanity, without being conscious of what we say, it is impossible to enter any spiritual path, known in Sufism as Tariqah, the way to the truth.
As James the Apostle stated, “The tongue is an unruly member,” which like the rudder of a ship, if it is not controlled, creates problems in humanity (James 3). And yet if we learn to guard our speech, our verb, our ways of speaking, we can uplift humanity. Our compassionate intention, magnified by our verb, harmonizes and reunites communities, produces happiness, produces contentment.
This is a fundamental reality within every single meditative tradition, especially Sufism and especially Gnosis. Our breath is essential to spiritual life, and how we use our expression determines our trajectory―where we manifest, where we go within nature. This is why within Sufism, they place such emphasis upon music, upon song, spiritual concert, such as sama in Arabic, the whirling dervishes of the great Mevlevi Sufis.
Vocal prayers―these are integral within that tradition―and they emphasize that our verb harmonizes every aspect of our psychology, if we use our speech for the benefit of others, if we use our breath with ethics, with concentration, with remembrance of the Being.
This is how we submit to God. This is how we communicate with God, because we have to be watchful of our breaths, the inhalation, the exhalation, our communication. All of this adds up. All of this accumulates forces and powers that determine our movement upon the lines of life and being, the present moment.
Mantras and sacred sounds are essential in every mystical tradition, especially in Sufism and Gnosis. If you want to learn more about how mantra, sacred verb, sacred sounds are a crux within our practice, a foundation, you can study The Spiritual Power of Sound, which we have as a lecture on our website under the course, Beginning Self-Transformation.
We can submit to divinity through our words when we recite prayers or mantras. Our speech can elevate our soul, and yet if we use it to curse, to speak vulgarities, to use degenerated language, we disconnect ourselves from the Being. We lose the thread, the continuity of remembrance in the present moment, and therefore we enter condemnation, suffering, and pain. However, by controlling our speech and using the breath for the Spirit, we learn to develop every aspect of our soul, the consciousness.
But how do we know this? When we are born, we take in vital air and life. We cry. The breath is intimately related with our life. We could not exist if we could not breathe. And just as when we are born, how breath enters the lungs for the first time, we cry out in our new existence. This breath initiates both physical and spiritual life.
Breath initiates life in every level. However, while all creatures within the lower elemental kingdoms―amongst animals and plants, utilize and process the breath at their level―there is a type of breath or substance within human and divine beings, within initiates: meditators who have refined themselves through spiritual breathing disciplines.
The Sufis proclaim how the breath is the ultimate medium of divine expression, and when we command it with fidelity to the Being, to the presence of God, Hudur in Arabic, this becomes a perfected instrument through which we master the esoteric work. This is very well known within the alchemical traditions, how we use mantras and breath within alchemy, within a marriage, within tantra in Buddhism.
Farid Ad-Din 'Attar stated, "Nothing is more difficult for the friends of God than guarding their breaths in moments of rapture."
There exists divine states of rapture: joy, plenitude, and illumination, resulting from the conscious use of breath. While it might seem difficult for us as beginners to control our tongue and cease speaking vulgarities, among the friends of God, the saints or prophets, the initiates and masters of meditation, there is nothing more difficult for them than to control their speech when experiencing mystical union.
But why is this? Speech is an act of creation. Our vocal cords and throat are a womb by which the sacred verb is gestated. The more refined our mystical states, the greater our responsibility and power. Vulgar words or incorrect speech, the expression of animal desire, during moments of remembrance and clarity in the heart, is dishonorable, disgraceful, because we are blaspheming in the presence of the Being. As the Quran teaches, truly, “We are closer to you than your jugular vein” (50:16). When we act inappropriately and speak negative words, we go against the will of the Being.
This is a reality that is only comprehensible to meditators, because when the Being is present in us, we feel and perceive a pristine luminosity, superlative awakened consciousness. And it only takes one moment to speak absurdities, to manifest the ego, to lose the bliss of that moment. This is why the Sufis always teach, "You must guard your breaths against God Most High." We have to be careful with our words, since they carry power to transform or condition our states.
The Definition of Breath
But what is the definition of breath according to the Arabic mystical tradition, the Sufis?
“Inspiration, nafas―literally “breath,” also “breathing space” or ample room―is the refreshment of hearts by subtleties from the Unseen.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Notice that we spend a lot of time talking about the ego, animal desire, which the Sufis call nafs, the lower soul. Each ego is a breath. It is a modification of the energy of the consciousness. Each ego, each defect, vice or error, traps the Essence, our true soul or the consciousness. Each ego traps part of, really, what we are: the Essence that must be liberated, which we seek to free through our meditation practices, retrospection meditation, especially. We do so through comprehending and eliminating each ego because the ego is a shell. In Hebrew קְלִפָּה klipah, or the plural קְלִיפּוֹת Klipoth, the world of “shells,” is precisely our inner hell. The ego is hell. It is suffering. It is attachment, craving, aversion, ignorance.
So to free the soul, we have to achieve inspiration. We need to be inspired. This is the state of comprehension, of illumination. In our meditative discipline, we seek to self-observe ourselves from moment to moment, to see the ego in action within our three brains. We have to separate as the free liberated Essence, which is small and in a state of potentiality, in order to observe and activate it, to develop it. We do so by observing how the ego and our different egos, our nafs, manifest in our three brains. When we see the ego for what it is, within self-observation or inner accounting, muhasabah in Arabic, we gather data about ourselves. We begin to be inspired and understand that we are not anger. We are not pride. We are not lust, fear, vanity, gluttony, blasphemy. We are not these things, because we are freeing our Essence and we are perceiving and observing in ourselves that we are not these desires. We are not nafas, the lower soul, the ego.
Samael Aun Weor mentioned that the greatest joy of the Gnostic is the discovery of one of his or her defects. This is inspiration. We are inspired and feel joy that we are not desire. We are not this condition of mind, and therefore, we feel a great change in our level of being. This is the fundamentals of meditation. We have to gather data about our animal mind so that we can work upon its elimination.
But the beginning is, we have to take account of what we are, and for that, in order to give energy to the free consciousness, the Essence, we need energy. The soul or Essence is refreshed through working with the creative energy, the sexual energy.
Our breathing is profoundly and intimately related with sexuality. Our breathing is altered and impassioned during arousal. This is well-known. Now, within people who are filled with lust, couples who join sexually, their breathing becomes inflamed, erratic, quick, impassioned, uncontrolled, and because of their breath, their impassioned breathing, their creative energies begin to flow out of the body. They begin to become inflamed or excited to the point in which that energy is lost, is expelled.
In our studies of meditation and Gnosis, and within the most esoteric hearts of Sufism, they always teach that we have to conserve the sexual energy. You have to control the vital forces, because the semen is the matter that contains the fire and energy that is going to awaken you. Therefore, if your breathing is erratic, uncontrolled, the energies flow from inward to out. This is the opposite of our purposes in meditation. We have to learn to control our breath and the sexual energy, whether we are practicing as a single person or if we are married, especially if we are married, because there is more energy available to a couple, between husband and wife, man and woman.
If you control your breath through profound spiritual aspiration, the creative energy is harnessed. It is redirected. We use our conscious will, our concentration, through our breathing to make the energy flow from out to in, and therefore, not a single drop of that energy or matter is lost. It is this energy, precisely through breath, and these exercises of pranayama or alchemy, that help us to experience the subtle perceptions from the unknown. It is the “refreshment of hearts.”
What are these “subtleties of the unseen,” which Samael Aun Weor explains very beautifully throughout his works? These are visions and awakening from dreams, astral experiences, lucid cognizant experiences within the internal worlds, jinn science, samadhis, ecstasies, direct visions in which we speak to God. Sometimes these subtleties from the unseen are a form of lights, visions in meditation, the perception of energy flowing in us.
Comprehension, inspiration, unfolds through working with will power, by using our will to control our breath, so that we redirect energy. We make it flow inwards so that vital force regenerates our mind. It gives us power in the consciousness. Our soul, the Essence, becomes inspired. What does it mean to inspire, literally? It means to breathe, to take in the air, the spiritual potencies and life and vitality of God into our lungs, and this assimilates through our breathing and lungs within our blood, within our sexual system. When we inhale vital air, the life force is divinity, and when we combine them with spiritual longing, with conscious love, we aspire towards the heights of realization.
But there are levels of work with breath.
“A person who receives inspirations is finer and clearer than a person who is open to mystical states. The person of the momentary inner experience is at the beginning, the inspired person is at the conclusion, and the person of states is between the two.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Beginning students often have internal experiences that can initiate or inspire them, to enter the path: Shariah, ethics. However, the reality is that such experiences are very fleeting. They are temporary. Through our meditative discipline, mystical states, conscious experiences, astral travels, become more developed, consistent, frequent and penetrative. This is Tariqah, the path, which sometimes can refer to a Sufi school, but also in general refers to the path that the master or the initiate travels within the desert, from oasis to oasis, from ordeal to ordeal within the wilderness of life, the hardships of existence.
Inspired initiates are those who have constant remembrance of divine realities: telepathy, intuition, out-of-body experiences, jinn science, astral projections, polyvoyance, omniscience, abilities common in elevated masters like Padmasambhava, Tsong Khapa, Prophet Muhammad, Samael Aun Weor. These are the adepts of حقيقة Haqiqah, the truth of معرفة Ma’rifah, knowledge, Gnosis.
The Highest Form of Worship
The Sufis emphasize how controlled breath is the ultimate form of worship. There are levels of practice within Sufism regarding breath work. So we mentioned a little bit about introductory, intermediate, and advanced levels of practice within any meditative tradition. In Sufism, this is Shariah, Tariqah, Haqiqah / Ma’rifah: truth and knowledge.
“The states are means and inspirations are the end of progressive development. Moments belong to those who have hearts, states belong to those who possess a spirit (ruh), and inspirations belong to the people of inner being (sirr). The Sufis have said, “The best act of worship is to count the breaths along with God Glorified and Exalted.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This quote explains how the three degrees of any meditative tradition relate to the breath, relate to breathing exercises. In the introductory levels, Shariah, we work with counting our breath. This is a very common exercise within Buddhism known as anapana, within Sufism and within yoga. Now we have to remember that each degree of spiritual discipline works with breath in different ways, with greater expediency and impact within the higher levels. But in the beginning we have to learn to use our breath, to start with the basics, and this often comes with exercises of counting your breath, developing concentration, focusing on the inhalation, the retention, and the exhalation of air, and not forgetting what we are doing. Because the problem is that in the beginning, we could be focusing on such an exercise, trying to count to a hundred without forgetting our work, and yet we do forget. It means that our concentration is weak. We don't have enough will established to be consistent. But with practice and consistency, with dedication, we develop stamina.
Counting the breath, mental and verbal mantra recitation, pranayama, helps us to awaken here and now. Because if you are concentrated in the moment, focused on your breath and not forgetting what you are doing, that concentration and willpower will extend to your daily life in your interactions with humanity. This is what we want. We want to have firmness of will, to be able to direct our attention at one thing and not be distracted by anything, whether impressions from the external world or from our own mind―to not forget the Presence (Hudur) and our concentration upon God.
Mystical states belong to intermediary practitioners when they are consistent, when those states are prolonged, deepened, amplified, penetrative, frequent, when there is a continuity there, because in the beginning of our studies, we forget where we are and what we are doing, especially in the physical world, but also in the internal worlds. We may wake up in the astral plane for a moment, with a vision, and then immediately lose consciousness. This has to change. We have to be present moment by moment wherever we are, whether physically or in the astral world. We do this by working with breath and sexual energy.
People who have really established themselves are persistent in meditation and pranayama, yoking the breath. We get experiences and visions, but we have to be dedicated to chastity. We have to be dedicated to sexual purity, because this is the foundation: transforming the sexual energy. This is known as transmutation, to mutate or transform the brute matter of our semen through its conservation and sublimation into energy. This is the alchemical teachings of lead into gold. This is Allah-Khemia within the Middle East: to fuse and cast a metal, to purify the metals of the psyche and make it divine.
We have to transmute the sexual force. This is the meaning of the quote “how people who possess a Spirit,” “states belong to those who possess a Spirit (روح ruh)” or the Hebrew רוּחַ Ruach. The Spirit is “Hu,” as in the Sufi mantras, الله هو Allah Hu, الله هو الله Allah Hu Allah, signifying, “God is,” or “God, Just He!” There are many mantras sung by the Sufi initiates, which you can access online on YouTube. Very beautiful. It is a form of remembrance of God.
But what does it mean “to possess a Spirit?” We emphasize that the Spirit is not the soul, and this is where the study of Kabbalah becomes essential, whether in the Arabic traditions or in the Hebrew traditions, because Arabic and Hebrew shared the same roots. The Spirit is a form of breath, nafs, which is not tainted by ego. It is very pure, supra-divine, but also the Essence is a form of nafs. It is a soul. It is the Essence that is in potentiality that can learn to express the higher truths within. Then there is the egotistical nafs, the lower soul, because the ego is a form of breath. When we speak words of hatred, we feed that hatred, that lower animal egotistical defect, nafs. So there is a lot of diversity in these terms, a lot of dynamic range and we have to use our intuition and the study of Kabbalah, which we will emphasize towards the end, in order to reach clarification.
The Spirit, the soul, and the ego are very distinct. You have to meditate to understand the difference. The Spirit, especially, is not the soul. The Spirit is God, the Innermost, חסד Chesed in Kabbalah. The Spirit is. The soul, the Essence, is developed. It is acquired.
But what does it mean to possess a Spirit? Many people like to think they are spiritual, but they never had any astral experiences in which they actually spoke with their Spirit. We possess a Spirit when we have frequent contact with the Being through inner vision. Spirit is a type of breath. The Being, God, the Spirit, is a very refined, subtle, and spiritual breath, an energy, a force.
I remember many years ago, I woke up in the astral plane. I was seeking to receive teachings from my inner Spirit. So I intuitively felt a call telepathically to descend into the Earth, and after entering a cave within those underground regions, I was in the dark, and I felt the presence of my Being. I felt that terror and that love and longing, which are all very profound and subtle. But I heard my Being breathing. I heard an inhalation and exhalation, very deep, and I felt that terror of love and law that Samael Aun Weor explains many times in his books. My Being was teaching me, “I am breath. I am the Presence (Hudur),” which is a form of vital force, which in Arabic is an ا Alif and in Hebrew is א Aleph, the vital winds, which we can access and experience when we control our own physical and vital breath.
This is a form of inspiration, a divine ecstasy in which my ego was not there. These inspirations belong to the heights. The advanced practices of Haqiqah and Ma’rifah, truth or ecstasy, these are known amongst the alchemists through معرفة Ma’rifah, γνῶσις Gnosis, דַעַת Da’ath, alchemy.
The Sufis emphasize how we must enter our own internal worlds in order to extract wisdom and this is why we practice meditation.
“And they have said, “God created the hearts and made them mines of the understanding of Him. After that He created the secret inner awarenesses and made them a place for declaring the Unity.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
What is a mind filled with gold? It is the heart. It is within the heart that we can grasp and understand the nature of our spiritual reality, the Being. So I mentioned that example of an experience where I descended into the Earth and then, in that, metaphorical sense, I entered the mine where I received the teaching of gold from my Being.
It is our heart that can understand the significance of divine things, not the intellect. The intellect is a wild animal, which we control with our breath, with concentration, with willpower.
The doctrine of unity is essential to Sufism and Islam. Unity of divinity is experiential, and we can only declare this with conviction and knowledge through inner experiences.
What is the place of secret inner awarenesses? Samael Aun Weor stated that "God searches them nothingness in order to fill it." This is from The Aquarian Message. So serenity of mind is the basis of illumination. The absence of the ego is the plenitude of the consciousness, the soul. To reach this state, we must remember our Being, here and now. This is the thread or secret continuity of conscious experience―the voice of conscience, the voice of ethics. If we don't follow our inner judgment, following our intuition about how we must behave in life, following our heart, if we don't follow our subtle voice in our conscience, we become lost.
Our heart is the mine of gold. It is the thread that connects us with the Being, which is why the Sufis state:
“Every breath that occurs without the guide of knowledge of God and the sign of Unity emerges from blind compulsion, and it is a dead thing. The one to whom it belongs is accountable for it.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Blind compulsion is of the ego. It is in our three brains. Without self-remembrance, without recalling the presence of our divinity, hudur, without being aware, muhadarah, here and now, without knowledge of that unitary state, that quality of our Being, our words become empty. They truly are vain. This is why in Ecclesiastes, you have the Hebrew term הֲבֵ֤ל הֲבָלִים֙ Habel Habelim:
“Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” ―Ecclesiastes 1:2
הֲבֵ֤ל Habel means “breath.” It is the word for Abel. In the Bible, Abel is a symbol of the soul, the Essence, that is killed by the lower soul, קַיִן Cain, nafs, nafas. And since we kill our soul by acting wrongly moment by moment, we suffer. So these are symbols. These are not literal, historical stories to simply document the past. They are a moral compass for our current, present moment.
We are killing our soul every instant when we speak gibberish, when we are filled with hate, when we lie. That is true vanity. We love ourselves too much at the cost of our soul. That is really the absurdity of the ego.
We are always accountable to the law. Inner judgment, גבורה Geburah in Kabbalah or in Arabic, الْدِّين Al-Din. Din means “religion” or “judgment.” It is the teaching of the Qur’an, the Judgment, the evaluation of humanity. That inner judgment, that inner religion, is inside. It is our conscience. It is our remorse. If we have lost that thread, it means we are very far from initiation. If we don't feel sorry for making mistakes, this doesn't mean we would become morbid, pessimistic, degenerate―people who are basically addicted to suffering, sadistic. It means that we have conscious sorrow and the regret that we made errors, so that we want to change them, so that we make the effort to revise our understanding, whether we made someone else suffer or whether or not we are suffering ourselves.
As beginners, we face this reality. We make a lot of mistakes. We say a lot of stupid things, perhaps in our daily life. We make errors. We struggle to remember God. But for Gnostics like Prophet Muhammad or Samael Aun Weor, they never forget the Being. Such masters have a profound intimacy with divinity, and the Being never leaves them, because they have perfected their work. It is a tremendous responsibility to have God within―to perfectly express and manifest the Innermost, which is why the Sufis state:
“I heard Abu Ali al-Daqqaq say, “No ‘breathing space’ is granted to the gnostic because no indulgence can take place with him. But the lover in the early stages (muhibb) must necessarily have some ‘breathing space,’” since were there not a breath for him he would be ruined, because of his lack of capacity.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Again, this is a very deep teaching. This is not something that we are going to reach easily. It is something to understand and know and to work towards. A breathing space simply means a state in which the Being is not completely there. There are degrees and levels upon light. As the Surah of the Light in the Qur’an teaches "Light upon light” (24:35), levels upon levels of being.
The reality is that if God were to enter us without us being fully prepared, we would be annihilated, because that light is so profound. It is the power of a star, of a galaxy, of an infinite. The Being is a force that is tremendous, and therefore God enters and retracts when necessary.
In the beginner, they need time to learn to annihilate the ego, to adapt, because the ego and the Being are incompatible. If they had no room for himself or herself, they would be ruined, because they couldn't handle that energy. They are not capable. But if the ego is fully dead in you, the breath of God is fully manifest and therefore one can speak the words of truth like Mansur Al-Hallaj, which stated "Ana al-Haqq,” (أنا الحَقيقة) which means “I am the Truth!” Really, there was no Mansur there, because the personality in him was dead. There was only the Being. You can read about that in the book called The Narrow Way. It is at the end of that book in a chapter dedicated to this Muslim master (The Passion of Al-Hallaj).
God enters and retracts from the soul. There are states of presence and absence within the initiate. Much in the same way that when you inhale the air or when that air is present in you, it fills your lungs. But when you exhale, the breath is gone. The same with mystical states. This is why mystical states are so synonymous with breathing. They emerge and they pass. Only in those beings who are fully perfected in meditation, have that breath in them eternally. They are immortal.
Chastity: The Basis of Spiritual Breathing
Sublimation of the sexual energy is essential when we work with breath, known as pranayama or transmutation. This conserved energy is the basis by which breathing exercises function and work with efficacy. Spiritual insight is born through chastity. There is simply no way to avoid sexual purity, whether in Sufism or Gnosticism. Without conserving creative energy, the sexual force, and intentionally directing it through breathing exercises, there is no foundation by which to awaken conscious perception, spiritual insight, inner vision.
There are many people and students of religion who practice breathing exercises, but without chastity: conservation and transformation of the sexual energy. But why is this? Why is this damaging to the mind, to be expelling the energies and working with breath? Because it's like trying to pump fuel within an engine when there is no fuel, or like a pump that cannot work because there is no water there.
Your body and your psyche is a beautiful laboratory. It is a marvelous machine that has a specific function, purpose, and intention. It is a cosmos in itself. It is a miniature universe. It is a microcosm of the macrocosm. Our breath works much in the same way that the pistons of an engine function in a car. There is movement and there is direction. There is energy in ourselves when we work with breath. But our breath is only a medium in which we can direct energy, and without the storehouse of sexual creative power, we cannot draw upon anything to illuminate the psyche. Breathing exercises without sexual energy do not produce awakening. It is simple. Breath combined with creative energy is synonymous with light. It is the conduit, the means to energize the Essence. When the Essence has fuel, when that sexual energy is conserved, we can create something really divine. Our vision like in this image becomes cosmic. We perceive things. We develop insight, perceptions, because that energy has to create something. You can create a child physically with it, or you can use it for a very different purpose, a spiritual purpose. And this is what we teach in this tradition. When the Essence has fuel, when it is purified with clean energy, when the vital centers or channels of our internal physiology are flowing with sexual force, we have light.
The Spiritual Light of Breath
This is why the Sufis state very clearly:
“If someone’s share of this light is more perfect, his vision is wiser and his judgment based on his insight is more truer. Do you not see how the breathing of the Spirit into Adam made it necessary for the angels to prostrate before him? For the Most High said, ‘I formed him and I breathed into him of My Spirit, so fall down before him in prostration’ (15:29).” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This is how we create a true hum-man, spiritual human being. हुं Hum is Spirit in Sanskrit, or the Arabic هُوَ Hu. It even relates with the Chinese mantra Wu, which we use in our practices in Gnosticism in order to silence the mind.
Let us examine the following quote:
“Abu-l-Hasan al-Nuri was asked, “What is the origin of spiritual insight in the one who has it?” He answered, “It comes from the saying of the Most High, ‘And I breathed into him (Adam) of My Spirit’ (15:29).” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This image of the creation of Adam is central not only within Judeo-Christianity, but within Islam and Sufism. The Qur’an often emphasizes the following:
“And certainly did We create man from an extract of clay. Then We placed him as a sperm-drop in a firm lodging. Then We made the sperm-drop into a clinging clot, and We made the clot into a lump [of flesh], and We made [from] the lump, bones, and We covered the bones with flesh; then We developed him into another creation. So blessed is Allah, the best of creators.” ― Al-Muminun, “The Believers,” Qur’an 23:12-14
A lot of people read that quote within the Muslim tradition and think it only has to do with physical creation, when in reality it is about the creation of the soul. الخليق Al-Khaliq: the Creator in Arabic, best manifests as الودود Al-Wadud: the Loving.
Where else is the ability of God to create a true human being than through the sexual force, through sexual love?
That energy can create spiritual realities in us. We call this solar bodies within esotericism. These are the wedding garments of the soul mentioned in the Bible (Matthew 22). This is libās al-taqwā in Arabic, “the garments of reverence” of the Qur’an:
“O Children of Adam! We have indeed sent down upon you raiment to cover your nakedness, and rich adornment. But the raiment of reverence, that is better. This is among the signs of God, that haply they may remember.” ―Al-A’rāf 26
But the reality is that we like to think we are human beings, true masters of the world, and yet we are animal in reality. This is evidenced by our behaviors. We do not engage in the sexuality of humans, spiritual beings, because in animal behavior is involved anger, pride, lust: the expulsion of the sexual energy to procreate in an animal way, behaviors like vanity, selfishness, greed, etc. To become human, we must renounce animality, which is orgasm, desire.
Chastity is the sexuality of angels. This does not mean abstention from sex. It means purity in sex, whether we are single or married. This is why when Adam was created, mentioned in the Qur’an, the angels prostrated. However, the reality is that nobody likes chastity, which is why also in the Qur’an, Iblis, the Devil, refuse to bow. So this is why religions and Sufism have degenerated, because people ignore the role of chastity. You cannot create life spiritually, you cannot reach inspiration without that force. It is simple.
The creative energy has the potential to develop the Essence. When a married couple who practices meditation, male-female, man and woman, use their sexual polarity in combination with the opposite, they have the power to create as a god. So whether you are married or single, you can work with your breath. Obviously, alchemy is much more intensive and requires study and practice and a lot of wisdom, which is why you can read books like The Perfect Matrimony and The Mystery of the Golden Flower by Samael Aun Weor. But individual practitioners can learn to transform sexual energy through breathing. If you are trained in chastity, you become prepared for the perfect matrimony: to consciously utilize the breath during the sexual act so that the sexual act is transformed. It is sanctified. It is purified.
Obviously, married couples have more energy to work with, but single people can make great progress through breathing exercises and chastity. This is how, as represented by the name Hasan Al-Nuri, we develop the beauty of the soul. We have to remember that names are kabbalistic in Arabic. حَسَن Hasan reminds of إحسان ʾiḥsān: beautiful action, תִּפְאֶרֶת Tiphereth in Hebrew, the human Essence. نوري Nuri is the light, the Being. What is the most beautiful action to develop light? It is sexual purity. This is how light enters into us as the Being breathes the Spirit into us.
Inner Vision and Knowledge of God
Let's examine a few more quotes:
“This statement by Abu-l-Hasan al-Nuri is somewhat difficult, so be careful with it. In this mention of the breathing of the Spirit he was aiming to correct those who say that souls are uncreated. The situation is not as it might occur to the hearts of the weak." ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This is also an essential point in Gnosis. The soul is created. It is not uncreated. The soul is created but the Spirit is. Visions develop as we learn to acquire Essence, or as Jesus taught "with patience possess ye your Souls” (Luke 21:19).
“That to which this breathing (and union and separation) are properly attributed is liable to influence and alteration, which are signs of the transitoriness of created things.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Breath is inhaled, is retained, and is exhaled. The soul can develop in us through that breath, and therefore it is transitory. It is transient. It is impermanent. Only through the complete work of initiation is the soul perfected, where the soul becomes a choir so that the Spirit reflects within it.
"Yet God Glorious and Exalted has chosen the believers for perceptions and lights through which they come to possess insight. In essence, these are forms of the knowledge of God. This is the import of the Prophet’s saying, “The believer sees by the light of God”―that is, by a knowledge and inner vision for which God Most High has specially chosen him and by means of which He has distinguished him from others like him. To call these kinds of knowledge and perceptions “lights” is not an innovation, and to describe that process as “breathing” is not reaching far afield. What is intended is one’s created nature.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So as a result of pranayama, transmutation, we could perceive astral visions, experiences, samadhis, lights, sounds, etc. We produce the foundation, the matrix, the womb, the conduit for light to emerge.
The Three Types of Breath
In Sufism, there are three types of breath as we have already mentioned, but we are going to elaborate on what each entails. There is a Sufi initiate by the name of Abdullah Ansari of Herat, who wrote a book called Stations of the Sufi Path, in which he explains some of these principles very beautifully. We previously mentioned the present moment or the metaphysical moment, and in this instant, we are working with breath or learning about breath.
When we study these three types of breath within Sufism, in the Qur’an, within Hebraic Kabbalah as well, we are examining three schools in meditation: introductory, intermediate, and advanced, that structure of Shariah, Tariqah, and Haqiqah and Ma’rifah relate to these principles very beautifully. There is a correlation there which we will touch upon.
Abdullah Ansari of Herat states:
“From the field of the Metaphysical Moment the field of Breath is born. God, the Most High, says, ‘When he recovered his senses he said: Glory be to You!’ (7:143).
“The breath of the master of metaphysical time and moment is that which is untarnished by any matter pertaining to his self or ego. Adepts in spiritual reality have three different kinds of breath: a penitent plaint, an infatuated cry, and a shout of ecstasy.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So in this excerpt these three types of breath relate to adepts, not beginners. Although there is a correlation between the meditative schools of Shariah, Tariqah, and Haqiqah / Ma’rifah. In synthesis, this is ethics, meditation or ecstasy, and the highest, spiritual reality.
The breath of a master of the present moment is not tarnished by ego. We have to aspire to this height. We do so by learning to understand the stages of this path and also the different qualities of the soul.
The Three Souls in the Qur’an
There are three types of soul within the Qur’an. If you have studied Kabbalah in depth, you'll be familiar with Nephesh, Ruach, Neshamah.
So we have been talking a lot about the carnal soul, Nephesh, animality, the ego. Our egotistical breath or soul is passionate, filled with hate, with lust, with desire. We have to transform the lower soul by judging ourselves. We have to blame ourselves. We have to evaluate our psyche through the soul known as Ruach or Ruh in Arabic, Spirit.
The blaming soul, the thinking-emotional soul is that part of our Essence, our consciousness, that evaluates the ego, which critiques, dissects, understands and takes into account the different aggregates of the mind, the different vices and errors of the pluralized "I." This type of blaming has nothing to do with becoming a morbid or pessimistic person. Instead, it has to do with how we judge our lower animal nature so that we could become like the soul at peace, the spiritual soul: a purified, perfected Essence united with Geburah, which is our inner judgment, our divine soul.
The Qur’an speaks about these three souls in different verses:
From Surah 12 verse 53, we learn about the carnal soul.
"Yet I do not absolve my own carnal soul." In Arabic, nafs al-Ammara. "For the carnal soul, indeed, prompts men to evil except in as much as my Lord has mercy. Indeed, my Lord is All-Forgiving, All-Merciful." ―Qur’an 12:53
The blaming soul is known in Surah 75 verse 2:
“And I swear by the self-blaming soul, the self-reproaching soul." ―Qur’an 75:2
And I believe this is in relation to the certainties of resurrection, the heights of the path.
Lastly the Soul at peace piece from Surah 89 verses 27 to 28:
"Oh, soul at peace, return to your Lord, content and contenting.” ―Qur’an 89:27-28
It's important to know these three souls especially as we practice meditation, because we are working to blame ourselves or blame the animal in us, so that we can reach peace.
The Penitent Plaint, Infatuated Cry, and Shout of Ecstasy
So let us return to Abdullah Ansari of Herat's statement:
“The penitent plaint dispels demons, absolves sin and opens the heart.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
This relates to a meditators work against the carnal animal soul, our ego. Prayers in sincerity, mantras and invocations, sacred sounds and recitations, when they are performed consciously, purify the mind and reject tenebrous forces. This is why we do prayers like the Conjuration of the Four, the Conjuration of the Seven, and the Invocation of Solomon. These mantras are prayers which you can perform before you meditate, helping to dispel demons, helping us to absolve ourselves from sin. It means to reach a state of mind that is opened and prepared for meditation. We open the heart when we use our breath in this way. You can study a lecture given on our website called Basics of Spiritual Defense, in which these prayers are explained and referenced.
So it is good to pray and conjure, to defend our home, to prepare environment for meditation, so that we can transmute, but also you can perform these prayers before we practice alchemy. This establishes a good energetic environment in which we can practice effectively, with safety.
This master continues:
“The infatuated cry of the attracted person purges the love for the world, sweeps material causality away, and causes one to become oblivious of creation.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
This relates to the work with the blaming soul, in which we are judging ourselves―Ruach, the thinking-emotional soul. This blaming soul teaches us to renounce worldliness, to renounce egotism, to renounce attachment to negative things. It sweeps away material causality in the sense that our negative behaviors, our egos, which perpetuate addiction, suffering, and confusion, are removed. We blame ourselves through inner accounting, retrospection, meditation, as we explained in our last lecture and our course on Gnostic Meditation.
How do we become oblivious of creation? We sit on our home. We relax our body. We work with breathing exercises to transmute our sexual energy. We suspend our senses. We concentrate within. We go into our internal worlds to gather information. Without breath and transmutation, we cannot fully relax the body or achieve stillness and quietude of mind. So in this type of meditation, we abandon the world. We become oblivious to the world. We ignore material causality. We become attracted to spiritual things, attracted to the breath of God, so that we reach that luminosity and concentration, that joyfulness of Essence and Being that inspires us, so that we can go deep and begin to work on our mind.
Lastly, this is very profound:
“The shout of ecstasy of the raptured pierces the soul, sets the heart athirst and burns away the veils.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So the soul shouts with joy when experiencing states without ego. We feel that luminosity and amplification of the Essence. This occurs in the internal worlds, when we tear away the veils of the conditioned mind which prevent us from communicating with the Being. These are astral visions, astral samadhis, and even beyond. These experiences with God set us on fire, spiritually. Our longings are fulfilled and they are increased at the same time. We can aspire towards more light.
Conclusion: Ham-Sah Transmutation
Lastly we will conclude with a statement by Samael Aun Weor and a practice you can use to help you experience these internal states, some of which we have mentioned. He states in a lecture called The Transmutation of Sexual Energy: Part IV:
“…there is a profound relation between one’s sexual forces and one’s breathing, so that when both are duly combined and harmonized, they bring about fundamental changes in one’s physical and psychological anatomy.” –Samael Aun Weor, “The Transmutation of Sexual Energy: Part IV”
On the right we have the Caduceus of Mercury, a famous symbol within medicine. It is a structure in our back. The middle of this diagram is the spine, in which two energetic serpents or currents, vital energies, positive and negative, flow from the sexual organs up to the brain. These wings are the wings of our spirituality that blossom within our spinal column, and that allow us to have internal visions.
We have to work with that energy of sex that rises from our left and right gonads, whether the testicles or the ovaries. Both masculine and feminine forces, positive and negative, solar and lunar energy, rise from the organs of sex up to our mind. And we even have currents that run from our brain to our heart.
A very simple practice you can do is Ham-Sah, as explained in the lecture by Samael Aun Weor that we have referenced here. You sit in a quiet place. You relax. You let your body settle. You suspend your senses. As you are praying to your inner, divine Being, your Innermost, your Divine Mother, Al-Buraq within Islam and Sufism, you pray and ask that this energy can rise within you to illuminate your mind. When you inhale your breath to your nostrils, you imagine, in your mind's eye, the creative energies as light rising from your sexual organs, up the spine, in the form of this image of the caduceus. Imagine these energy circulating in the form of two entwined serpents like the holy eight within Kabbalah, and that this energy and light illuminates the mind. You want to mantralize internally, silently, HAM, prolonged like this:
You do this silently in your mind, when you are inhaling and bringing the energy to your intellect, your brain. And then, imagine that energy descending into your heart with the mantra: Sah!
This mantra Sah, you pronounce externally, vocally. Ham is internal and silent, prolonged. Sah is short, vocal, and exhaled. It is gentle. It is short. You want to pronounce Ham prolonged and internally, in relation to your inhalation, so that you bring the energy from sex to your brain and that you retain it, profoundly. Let that energy soak within your mind, illuminating you, giving you vitality and force. And then, exhale to the heart: SAH!
You do this because our energy is normally―because of our bad behaviors―flowing from inward to outward. You want to reverse this flow by making your emphasis on Ham, to bring the energies inward and up, but you also want to bring them to your heart through Sah.
The mantra Ham is solar, is elevated. It is prolonged. But the mantra Sah is short, lunar, and directed to the heart.
I have even seen YouTube videos of Sufis performing Ham-Sah when doing dances. So this practice is not only within the Gnostic tradition, but has been practiced by initiates for centuries, millennia. It is a very ancient work.
Now there are some variations within the Sufi tradition where they pronounce mantras such as الله هو Allah Hu. The mantra ال Al is masculine, solar, relating to the serpent Pingala. Pingala is the solar positive serpent on this Caduceus of Mercury. لا La is feminine, the lunar energies of Ida, the left serpent on this diagram of the spine. Solar and lunar, positive and negative, form الله Allah: the God. And then هو Hu, the Spirit rises within our spinal column when we awaken sparks of the divine fire Kundalini.
As a single practitioner, you can perform this practice to wake sparks of Kundalini, the Spirit. This can grant you experiences and insights, but obviously married couples will have much more light when performing Ham-Sah if they are sexually connected. In the Sufi tradition also, they turn their head from right to left when they pronounce لا إله إلا الله La Ilaha ila Allah (“There is no god but God,” or الله هو Allah Hu, الله هو Allah Hu, because ال Al is masculine relating to the right, and then they turn their heads to the left relating to لا La. Together, this forms الله Allah. And to the breath, they are working with Spirit, هو Hu. So the Caduceus of Mercury is referenced in that practice, but also many initiates are practicing Ham-Sah. Very beautiful and profound.
So at this point I invite you to ask questions. You are welcome to type them into the chat box and towards the end, we could even take some questions via unmuting people.
Questions and Answers
Question: You mentioned there is a difference between the Spirit and the soul. How does the consciousness play into this? Can you elaborate?
Instructor: So the Spirit is the Innermost, the Being, our inner God, and the soul is our Essence, the consciousness. We have to learn to develop the consciousness and to create it. So that quote we mentioned from one of the Sufi masters explains how the soul is a created or a transitory thing. It has to be developed and perfected, initiated and expanded. The Spirit already exists. He is immutable and divine. And the reality is that in order to know the Spirit we have to first develop soul.
The soul is like a mirror. When you polish the mirror through dhikr,remembrance of God, you can reflect the perfect image of the Spirit in you. So consciousness has to be developed and purified. I believe Rumi even said that we are like a mirror, and yet, how could we develop purity if we resist every rub? Because our mirror, our consciousness is egotistical, filled with impurities, with mud, with obscurations. Those rubs or polishings of the heart have to do with our practices, but also difficulties in life in which we are confronted with our own egos, that we must observe and comprehend and work upon. In this way, we begin to polish our heart so that we can reflect divinity more and more.
Question: What would you recommend to improve consistency and daily practice against the ego?
Instructor: Personally when I have struggled against my own mind, I take time to study scripture. I like to balance my meditations with study of the doctrine. We have to be inspired in our work, and sometimes we become clouded and even negligent. We don't do what we need to do. Sometimes we don't work effectively, daily, upon the ego, because we are too morbid or sad or negative. This is why Samael Aun Weor mentioned that “when you feel a lack of inspiration, when you suffer in your work, when you struggle against your mind, when you have doubt and confusion, study my books, study my writings.”
I also like to read the Qur’an to be reminded of what I must do. You know, you can read any scripture, really, that inspires you and hits you within your Essence, because that is the language of God.
Some people have a predisposition towards certain religions and traditions. Obviously, the best thing is to read writings from Samael Aun Weor, because he is the most clear. But you know, we have to really drink the wisdom of many traditions. For me, I like to read the Qur’an when I struggle or if I feel like I am vacillating or vegetating, becoming stagnant. It is a scripture that has a lot of power, speaks with a lot of force, to remind us of what we must do, what we must change.
You can also listen to good music, especially music that really reflects divine principles, and you know, we have given a course on chicagognosis.org called The Secret Teachings of Opera. One of my favorite operas is Turandot, in which you see the whole drama of initiation portrayed with a lot of force and beauty. Watching those operas and listening to divine concert, say the Sufis, is essential to the life of any initiate. You know, that music can really inspire you when you understand the message.
Question: Breathing seems to calm the mind, but when caught up in an argument, I forget to breathe. In the midst of an attack, what practices do you recommend?
Instructor: It's an excellent question. Samael Aun Weor answered this question in one of his books, Introduction to Gnosis. In one of his chapters [see Lesson One] he explains how if you are overwhelmed in a fit of anger, if you are filled with rage, if you become tense, breathe. Inhale and relax. Inhale through your nostrils count to six. Hold your breath for six seconds, and then exhale for six seconds. Obviously, if you are in an argument, you can take a moment to say, “Look, I need to take a break for a little bit” and to be polite and say, “I need to step away for a few minutes. Please give me some time." So that we don't seem offensive to the person we are speaking to, because arguments and heated debates are the result of ego.
Samael Aun Weor said that debates are satanic, because people are fortifying the carnal soul, Nephesh, the animal mind. Just take a minute to just breathe. You know, obviously that is the first step. If you forget to breathe, remember to breathe. That is the first half of the battle, remembering to do what you need to do, and inhale―count the six, hold for six seconds, exhale for six seconds. If you are breathing really profoundly and you are relaxing, closing your eyes if you can, sitting down is best, your anger will subside. I have used this many times. It's a very effective work. Then you can go back to your colleague or friend or family member who you are arguing with and you can approach that situation with clarity, not with rage.
Question: Is it expected that students will ebb and flow continuously from experiences or cognizance of God?
Instructor: Yes, this path is a process. We develop experiences gradually. Sometimes there are periods of light and there are periods of darkness. This is paralleled in Hindu cosmology and an even Gnostic cosmology when we talk about Mahamanvantaras and Mahapralayas, cosmic days or great cosmic days and great cosmic nights. Because the breath of creation flows, is always in fluctuation, is never static. The same way, our experiences come with greater lucidity and penetration, but also consistency during periods of activity. But sometimes we have to face what is known as the dark night of the soul in which we don't see anything.
This is a necessary test for the disciple, a very painful one, which Beethoven composed and reflected upon in his Moonlight Sonata―very beautiful piece of music that reflects the sorrow of the initiate when under the moonlight, the darkness of the night. But of course, the sun emerges victoriously if we conquer those dark periods. Light returns. So there is always a flow of forces in us. So the necessary thing is to be patient, to wait and to pray, to be consistent, to continue practicing.
Question: I have learned a breathing exercise where you breathe in with the nostrils, hold the breath, then exhale through the mouth. Is this a form of pranayama other than Ham-Sah?
Instructor: Yes. Samael Aun Weor mentioned that practice in one of his books―a very simple exercise. You can imagine the energy is rising into your mind, and then when you exhale, sending it to your heart. But you want to breathe in through your nostrils. Hold the breath and retain the energy, and then exhale through your mouth. There are a lot of different forms of pranayama, and that is a very simple one.
But I recommend that if you are practicing a particular form of pranayama that you do so with fidelity to the instructions. This is just a general guideline for anyone practicing these exercises, because I know sometimes practitioners will like to mix pranayamas―for example―the Egyptian Christic Pranayama in The Yellow Book with other exercises. The important thing to remember is that each pranayama has its function. So the one that you mentioned is very simple, it doesn't involve a lot, but it is very effective. The same with any pranayama exercise in the books of Samael Aun Weor. So be true to the instructions, and you'll get the results you want.
Question: Is the blaming soul Sophia, trapped like Master Samael says in his book The Gnostic Bible: The Pistis Sophia Unveiled?
Instructor: There is a relationship there. Sophia means “wisdom.” Pistis Sophia is the power or wisdom power of the liberated soul. In this path in which Sophia rises to the Pleroma, to the heavenly states that she had lost, she has to repent. So remember in that scripture and even the commentary that Master Samael gives, it is explained how Sophia needs to repent, I believe thirteen times. This is the blaming soul in action, in which we have to confront ourselves and take responsibility for the carnal soul, for the animal, because once you have killed the animal in you, the ego or lion-faced powers that try to steal the light of Sophia, you can begin to extract light and to drive the forces of the left and the right, positive-negative, male-female, Adam-Eve, Pingala and Ida, solar and lunar. A lot of beautiful relationships there.
Question: Where can we read about the dark night of the soul? Is that an entire lifetime?
Instructor: In relation to the dark night of the soul, there are periods in which we have to face a lot of darkness, a lot of uncertainty, a lot of pain. For some beings it can be many years, others, months and sometimes even longer. You know, it comes to mind some particular people such as Tchaikovsky or Beethoven. These masters depicted in their music very profound states of suffering that they encountered because they were great initiates, especially in the past and that they had fallen.
Sometimes these periods extend over many years, and the only way to emerge victoriously from them is with patience. It is with serenity. It comes to mind actually The Three Mountains by Samael Aun Weor where he talks about a few points in his own path and his experience in which he suffered a lot because he made mistakes, even times where he was cut off from astral experiences because he needed to pay karma. So that is one text that comes to mind that you can think about. You can also look at our glossary on Glorian.org regarding the spiritual night.
Question: Have you any tips for overcoming an overactive mind? It seems when I am mindful in a day, I can almost guarantee that the next day some things may happen that would stimulate my mind and I would constantly be replaying things in my mind or just overthinking.
Instructor: Overcoming an overactive mind requires not repressing it, neither feeding it. We have to learn the path of balance. Breathing exercises like pranayama are great for having energy to calm the mind. Runes are exceptional, deep prayer in which we concentrate fully on our inner God to ask for illumination.
Personally, I like to do mantras if my mind becomes agitated. You can mentally pronounce those mantras or prayers many in our tradition are very beautiful such as O AO Kakof Na Khonsa:
This is an Egyptian mantra relating to the Divine Mother―the serpent Kundalini, Isis. Or Om Masi Padme Hum:
Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi Swaha, which you have to pronounce prolong, each syllable, very long such as this:
That mantra is exceptional for silencing the mind. Chant it mentally if you are active in the day, but if you are at home, you can pronounce it out loud. It is a very powerful mantra for silencing the mind in a genuine, conscious way.
Question: Is the Jesus prayer made use of in the Gnostic tradition? There seems to be some alignments between Eastern Orthodoxy, Sufism, and Gnosticism. It seems of all the mainstream Christian religions, that Eastern Orthodoxy would be the closest especially and their understandings of the Theosis and the Jesus prayer as the path towards that communion with God.
Instructor: We have many prayers that we use, you know, the Jesus prayer and many other prayers from different traditions. They are all valid. We use a lot of prayers from many faiths in our own daily discipline in accordance with our needs and disposition. So if that's something that resonates with you, you can use it.
Obviously we have certain prayers and mantras that we use more than others, such as the Conjurations of the Four, the Seven, the Invocation of Solomon, and many others that are really effective for specific purposes. But in terms of prayers, ways of communicating with God, those are as infinite as the different cultures that have existed in the world. They are as diverse as all the different religions our humanity has received. They are all very beautiful and necessary. Work with those prayers that resonate with you and that inspire your heart.
You can also look at gnosticteachings.org as well as a book called A Gnostic Prayer Book, which we have available on gnosticteachings.org, the store, where you can access and see many prayers from different faiths, whether from Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Sufism, etc.
Question: When married, what is the best way to prepare to enter alchemy? Are there specific mantras or processes which must be or are preferred for the practice?
Instructor: The best way to prepare for alchemy is to be chaste when you are single, to spend a lot of time practicing the three factors. If you are not trained in your own body to transmute, when you are married and without that training of knowing how to circulate those forces, it is going to be very difficult. It's difficult enough when you practice for many years as a single person and then you finally meet your spouse.
Prepare your body, your mind, and your heart through pranayama, Ham-Sah, and transmutation, primarily because the body is acculturated to fornication. We have to retrain it to work properly, to transmute the energies and make them flow from outward to inward.
You are best prepared for alchemy when you annihilate lust. Obviously, there is going to be degrees in this, and nobody is perfect in the beginning, especially when you are beginning with alchemy. However, the more chastity you have established in yourself through the death of desire, by learning to circulate energy in you, and learning to act compassionately for humanity, the better prepared you will be for the rites of marriage. If you really want to protect and defend your love for your spouse and to really make it strong and prepared for when you do meet your partner, develop conscious love here and now, altruism or Bodhichitta in Buddhism.
You can use any mantras to help you with that process. We have many mantras for transmutation. I suggest you work with those that best help you and your needs, whether they are certain runes like Olin, the seven vowels, the mantra S, Ham-Sah, Egyptian Christic Pranayama, and retrospection meditation, especially. Meditate on the death of your ego. Annihilate your ego, because the more selfless you are and developed you are in your level of being, the more love that you can give to your partner when you do meet that person, the more you can receive.
Question: Would you speak on the relationship between breath and mantra when the mantra is internal versus out loud?
Instructor: Some initiates like Swami Sivananda explained that there is more power in silent mantras, primarily because when you are mantralizing internally, silently in your mind, you are making your mental body, your astral body, to vibrate. It's like working from the inside out. But there is also a necessity in our path and process to work from the outside in, and relating to our body and our internal physiology as well.
When we work with pranayama and breath, we are training our physical body to obey, to obey our Being, to obey our Spirit. Because unfortunately most of us, really everybody, has a long history with fornication. That is the common trend, and we need to learn to train our body to transmute. The best way to do it is through pranayama. Now as you are working to circulate energies in your body, make them flow from outward to inward through your breath, you begin to establish a conduit that makes it easier to access deeper internal states. In this way, internal mantras become very effective.
Now both are necessary. It's good to pronounce mantras out loud, to vocalize, to pray, to charge our physical body with energy such as with the runes. This is very essential. But also we have to learn to train our mind internally. So I suggest that you combine both internal and external breathwork, mantra recitation. Work from the inside out and the outside in, so to speak. This is a very comprehensive way to practice. Now, some instructors have mentioned that we have to be practicing mantras or pronouncing mantras moment by moment, each day. Now, obviously if you are in a crowded area or at work, you are not going to be able to pronounce mantras out loud without drawing attention to yourself. So you can just pronounce those prayers and mantras mentally, and they will have strong effect―if not even more than if you are vocalizing, because it requires a lot of concentration and willpower to be present in that state.
Question: Does breathing just out of the left or right nostril symbolize lunar or solar breath?
Instructor: That is a good question. Now in relation to breathing exercises, especially pranayama or interchangeable nostril breathing, the yogis of India have associated certain energetic currents relating to your left or right nostril. Now, for men and women this is reversed.
The left side of the body is relating to the lunar energies and the right side to the solar energies in relation to men. But in women, this is reversed. And so breathing through your left or right nostrils activates those different gonads, whether male or female, testicle or ovary. You can read a little bit more about that breathing science, especially in the book Kundalini Yoga by Samael Aun Weor, where he explains a lot of these principles in a lot of detail.
Question: I saw a flaming three in my mind's eye once. What can that mean?
Instructor: Numbers are kabbalistic. They are symbolic. They relate to principles and forces in nature. We gave a course called The Eternal Tarot of Alchemy and Kabbalah, which explain the principles of the sacred tarot, and the number three relates with creation, spiritual and physical. And obviously fire can relate to illumination, the sexual energy that is inflaming the third eye and creating that force. I advise you to study that course if you really wish to understand the meaning of numbers, how they apply to our physical life.
Question: Can you explain Al-Qushayri's quote: “A person who receives inspiration is finer and clearer than a person who is open to mystical states”? Are there dangers trying to interrupt inspiration?
Instructor: So in relation to the three schools of meditation within Sufism, or three stages of meditation within esoteric Islam, you find that the intermediate path is relating to people with mystical states, who have experiences, and inspiration is finer and clearer because it is the culmination of the path. It is the highest stages: Ma’rifah / Haqiqah, knowledge and truth. Now, those inspired states and samadhis are very refined and clear, because there is no ego there, and therefore, we become deeply inspired by what we perceive. In that state there is more understanding, because you realize and comprehend the meaning of the messages you receive in the internal planes.
Now, a person who is open to mystical states has some different meanings to that. Obviously, there could be positive and negative states, and oftentimes, what many people call mystical states in this day and age, oftentimes, is a result of degeneration. Some people like to mix meditation with drugs. Or people who are very imbalanced mentally may have experiences, but not from the consciousness, but rather in the hell realms. We can have mystical states as we are developing our meditative practices and working with the three factors of the revolution of the consciousness, with chastity and transmutation. Of course, those will be positive and gradual, because there are deeper insights that we receive more consistently and frequently the more we work with these practices, and don't mix these exercises with impure things such as drugs or alcohol or psychedelics, which we are strictly against.
But obviously, a person who is developing more and more, is consistent with their practices, will fluctuate between objective and subjective states. This is primarily because awakening is gradual. Nothing in nature takes leaps. Our practices develop the soul much in the same way that a tree grows from a sprout. It doesn't occur overnight. It doesn't appear instantaneously. It happens gradually over time. But obviously towards the end, we have greater clarity because we have less ego. So there are degrees and degrees of light there, even mentioned the Qur’an: "Light upon light” (24:35).
Question: I had a question on the Solfeggio frequency. So when we are doing, intoning mantras, and intonations, is there a linkage with the Solfeggio frequencies? I have been reading up on certain frequencies, that they have certain impacts on you know, the physical body and also spiritual bodies. And then the second part of that question is that there are several apps out there that actually, we can actually use those frequencies. Would you recommend using any of those things or is that or is that something that shouldn't be used?
Instructor: There is also a lot of talk in spiritual movements about certain vibrations and sounds. Even Samael Aun Weor mentions in some of his books how certain mantras have to be performed at a certain tone. But whether or not they have the specificity of certain hertz or specific wavelengths of frequency or vibration, that might be a little bit too specific than what is necessary, because I think some people might try to go into too much depth with something that is actually very simple.
Mantras can be intoned in certain ways, and the important thing is that you will learn those intonations and ways of expressing those mantras, such as from recordings from instructors or people who have experience with those practices themselves. You can learn more about that in the lecture called The Spiritual Power of Sound in our course called Beginning Self-Transformation. We talked about in detail what the six components of mantra recitations are. You know, we don't the time to explain all those in depth here, but part of it is intonation, which it's important, because some mantras have a certain song to them―ways that they were expressed by the guru who taught them. When you sing a note a certain way and intonation, you invoke energy. So, in that sense, it is important, but not necessary to get into hertz and specific mathematical frequencies. It is much simpler than that.
Audience: Okay. Thank you.
Instructor: You're welcome.
Question: When fire burns or a plant grows, they interact with the air. Are they breathing on their level? One could say that the breath is in the skin in all organs. It seems like it would be good to both practice controlling that which is within us and breathing from the context that all things are breathing and we are merely a part of that.
Instructor: Yes, and this gets into many of the metaphysical aspects of Hinduism and even Sufism, especially, how the breath of God creates all existence and creates all things. All creatures in nature within the different elemental Kingdoms breathe. Even minerals breathe and the earth itself breathes energy. Obviously with plants and animals and humanoids, this is much more complex, where we have lungs and organs and cells that allow us to take in oxygen. But with the minerals, they too are a form of breath. They circulate the electromagnetism of the earth, different parts of the globe. So all that is very important, especially.
It is important that we learn to develop our breath, our practices with pranayama in a spiritual sense, because notice that in accordance with evolution of souls, transmigration of souls, we gain greater complexity and abilities to assimilate, transmit, and retain that force in different ways. So obviously a plant is more complex than a mineral. But animals also are more complex than plants, and humanoids are even more complex machines than animals.
But we have to remember that through this evolution of breath, breathing and energy, that the humanoid is not the end. There instead is a spiritual illuminated way of being, and that the true human uses breath like a God. And this is where we digress from many movements in the world today, which basically deify animal desire. People are teaching that you can use your breath and your voice to communicate anger and hatred and violence. So instead, we learn to use the breath for spiritual purposes through prayer, through mantra.
And yes, our skin does assimilate air and many organisms can assimilate energies through the skin. This is why alchemy is so interesting, because the sense of touch is the most sensitive organ or sensitive faculty of the human being. In alchemy, we have to learn to control our touch, our sight, our hearing, our smell, our taste. We have to be a master of our human machine. So yes, while all things are breathing life, they do so on their level, whether mineral, plant, animal, humanoid. But in accordance with the human kingdom of the masters, the angels, we have to learn to breathe as a God, to transmute the sexual energy as an Elohim. So there are degrees. There are levels.
Question: Have you ever known anyone who is practicing chastity and meditation, etc., but seems to be degenerating rather than progressing? It seems I am getting less and less conscious as time goes on even though I am trying. There are external things interrupting me though.
Instructor: Some people, really all people, struggle in their own way. We all try to apply the teachings at our degree, with chastity, especially in meditation, and if we feel that we are regressing and not progressing, we have to re-evaluate what we are doing.
For some people, it can be as fundamental as not conserving the sexual energy, even if only in the mind. Because some people can be practicing sexual abstention, not letting out the sexual force at all, and yet can be experiencing lustful dreams or lustful states of mind in which that energy is being misdirected. So if we feel that we are not progressing, we have to be sincere―and everybody goes through this―where we feel that we are not really going forward. The solution is to take time to reflect on our practice, to evaluate what is it that we are doing well and what is it that we are weak in.
Obviously, if there are external things that are interrupting your practice, that is something you need to take into consideration, because if you feel that there are certain influences in your life that are bringing you down, it is important to renounce them, to not give them space in your life, whether it be certain people that could be draining you, perhaps, bad environments, negative relationships, certain behaviors. Even if not just fornication, there are ways that we waste energy, and if you have no energy, it is impossible to change.
So be sincere. We all have to be sincere in this path, to take the time to always reflect on what we are doing with efficacy and what we are failing in, so that we can, with a state of remorse and comprehension, change those things that we can and to celebrate those victories that we do have. It is unrealistic just to focus on the negative. I know a lot of people sometimes get very overwhelmed by the ego and like to concentrate on the negative at the exclusion of reality. So reflect on your virtues, but also take the time to figure out what things in your life must change.
So I thank you all for coming.
The Gnostic Academy of Chicago
Free online courses, lectures, podcasts, and transcriptions.