by Marinus Jan Marijs
A large number of spiritual practices mystics have developed, training methods that aim to accelerate spiritual growth and transformation.We shall go into various aspects of these exercises.
The effectiveness of training
One of the major problems with spiritual exercises is their limited effectiveness. This has a number of reasons:
1 . One uses methods that do not work as Hatha yoga, grounding, and other physical exercises.
2 . One uses methods which have a very limited effect such as mantras.
3 . One uses level-specific methods level from level 1 to 7 for level 8 to 12 as Big Mind and psychoanalysis.
4. One uses level-specific methods of level ( 9) 10 to 12 at level 5 to 7, such as non-dual methods, Ramana’s approach, Krishnamurti choiceless awareness.
5 . One uses the right methods but in the wrong way.
Within many religious communities, one finds the use of rituals, repeating the same actions in a specific pattern.
Many mystics have commented on the futility of this activity, which has several reasons:
— The theoretical foundation has no philosophical depth, it is magical / mythical thinking.
— It puts the focus point on the physical level, level 1 instead of on a spiritual level, level 8 or higher.
— It is based on the idea that if one wants to change that one must act, but spiritual transformation to a higher level requires a quiet mind, a passive state.
— The fact that although many millions of people perform rituals, any fundamental transformation is lacking, makes it abundantly clear that these methods do not work.
Hatha yoga, Chi gong, Grounding.
Within different spiritual traditions, one can find a range of physical exercises. Many of these training methods is claimed that they accelerate spiritual growth. However, the writer of the Hathayoga texts, Patanjali, made it clear that Hathayoga, the system of physical exercises, does not lead to enlightenment, and that for this purpose, one should practice other forms of yoga.
Chi gong refers to vitality exercises and focuses primarily on physical health.
None of these schools have produced great mystics, created a large philosophical system or generated major psychological insights. This is in contrast to the Vedanta, Buddhism, Greek philosophy, Judaism and Christianity.
The five main groups and their methods
– Aesthetics – feeling, devotion
– Cognitive – logic, concentration
– Social communicative – compassion, music
– Moral – justice
Development of subtle fields
– Spiritual – meaning, understanding
Within depth psychology , one has come to understand that on the different levels of human functioning, there were several types of disorders that vary by level:
Disorders at level 1 : Psychosis
Disorders at level 2 : Narcissistic /Borderline
Disorders at level 3 : Psychoneurosis
Disorders at level 4 : Roll crisis
Disorders at level 5 : Identity crisis
Disorders at level 6 : Existential crisis
Each of these disorders requiring a different treatment:
for disorders at level 1 : Medication / Pacification
for disorders at level 2 : Ego structure building
for disorders at level 3 : Uncovering ( discovery )
for disorders at level 4 : Psychoanalysis / scenario
for disorders at level 5 : Introspection
for disorders at level 6 : Existential therapy
This list can be supplemented:
for disorders at level 7 : Concentration Techniques
for disorders at level 8 : Contemplation
for disorders at level 9 : Meditation
for disorders at level 10 : Non-dual approaches
That there are level-specific methods also counts also for spiritual development. Voice Dialogue a level 4 method has been developed called under the name Big Mind, and one even claims that this method works on causal level. But Voice Dialogue is a level-specific method and above level 5 it has no effect. This method that is connected to Zen Buddhism is therefore by the Japanese Zen Buddhists totally unappreciated. Neither philosophy nor the phenomenological descriptions nor the energetic development of subtle energies indicate that this technique works at a high level, and certainly doesn’t (as claimed) takes people to a causal level.
The reverse is the case by non-dual methods. Krishnamurti’s choiceless awareness and Ramana’s approach. They function only from level (9) 10 or higher. This was already recognized in the fifth century by Buddhaghosa.
Buddhaghosa had this already indicated in the “The Visuddhimagga: A Map for Inner Space” that this is the case:
“Nirodha [the non-dual state] is accessible only to a nonreturner (anagamin) or an arhat, and only if he has also mastered all eight jhanas. Neither a stream enterer (srotapatti) nor a once returner (sakridagamin) has given up enough ego-bound attachments to muster the superconcentration required for nirodha. In gaining access to this state of total nonoccurence, even the slightest sense desire is an obstacle”.
(We ought to eliminate all desires rather than trying to satisfy them).
The stream enterer (srotapatti) is a level 8 mystic
The once returner (sakridagamin) is a level 9 mystic
The non-returner (anagamin) is a level 10 mystic
The arhat is a level 11B mystic (a Bodhisattva is a level 11C mystic)
(a Buddha is a level 12 mystic)
The reason is that the possibility is to function in a non-dual state, is only available from a meditative state. That is to say that one first has to be at level 10 A (Click here for more details) before one is able to go to 10 B, where non-dual stability is possible.
In some respects, this corresponds to the intuition of the scientist who first must have the mental silence of 8 A, before he can have the intuitive insights of 8 B.
Or as one should have the meditative silence of 9 A before one can experience the inspiration of 9 B.
Some level-specific methods that can give a good result at the right level, but when they are applied on a different level become counterproductive or even harmful.
One of the most applied spiritual methods is praying. Of the 2.1 billion Christians, 1.3 billion Muslims, 900 million Hindus, etc. a large part of them are engaged with various forms of prayer. This is a very paradoxical situation. The aim of this activity is communication with the divine, and it is clear that of the billions of people who through prayer strive to realize this, very few manage to actually achieve this. This would imply causal consciousness at level 11 or 12.
In that respect it isn’t a method which is very effective, yet it is recommended by some very high mystics. Such as Christ, Mohammed, the Hindu Rishis, Aurobindo, Gopi Krishna etc.
The point is that it is a method that works only if you have access to the highest levels of consciousness, and one can place one’s focus point of awareness at these levels. if one cannot realize that, than it is impossible to communicate with the divine.
Apparently this method has totally transformed a very small number of mystics and it is for this reason they recommended to others to follow it.
The problem is that one takes over the verbal instruction, the form, but the fundamental shift to a higher level is not realized.
Where the mystic moves his or her focus point to level 11 or 12, Orthodox believers put their focus point at level 4, at the level of concrete literal thinking.
Where the mystic makes contact with the central cosmic power, the divine, the orthodox believer focuses on a series of ideas in his memory, without any transcendence of the personal.
There are several levels of prayer:
In many religious systems, faith is central. This because many mystics have laid the emphasis on faith.
However, faith or trust of the mystic is of a completely different nature than the faith of the orthodox believer.
In the mystic this is based on a contact experience with the transcendent.
This belief is to some extent similar to the faith, the trust that a scientist has in his intuition.
For the orthodox believer, it is faith in a belief system, a series of emotionally charged ideas within memory, and there is no contact with the transcendent.
It is for this reason that mystics transformed completely, and others do hardly change, despite all the good intentions.
One of the reasons that the spiritual growth of those who strive for spiritual transformation is moving so slowly, is because of the blockages in one’s mental functioning:
Too strong attachment to conformist behavior and thinking patterns which block the change (level 4)
A far-reaching one-sidedness of functioning, reductionism (level 5)
Talk post-modernistic (level 6), but operates on a lower level
Intellectualism and little or no spirituality (level 7).
Breaking through fixed patterns
Human performance is largely determined by fixed patterns: instincts, reflexes, emotional responses, thinking patterns, etc. Many of these functions are necessary in order to function properly.
The problem is not that this mode of operation is part of the human psyche, all these ways of responding to the environment have their uses.
The problem, for example, is that when one has to make logical inferences, one reacts emotionally, and instead to strive for a logical conclusion, one strives for emotional gratification.
At a translogical level there is the problem that for spiritual growth a meditative state is necessary, and when all kinds of thinking patterns are activated, this disturbs the silence of the mind.
So the instincts, reflexes, emotional reactions and thought patterns are forms of information processing and forms of response that developed during human evolution and which are of great value.
(Biologists have come to the conclusion that humans have a much greater range of instincts than for example reptiles, this is the case because the human body is much more complex).
All these types of reaction have a great value at the specific level for which they are appropriate. However, if one must operate at a given level and one does so on one or two levels lower, this will be problematic.
Involuntary responses can impede social functioning, and emotional responses can be disruptive in the field of philosophy and logic.
It is particularly within spiritually where continuous ongoing activity of thinking, blocks the transition to a higher level. The question is how to break through it.
One needs to be aware that this relentless activity of thinking, this “interior monologue” takes place. Many people are hardly aware of that or pay no attention to it.
The conscious attention is of a fundamentally different nature than the conditionings, habitual thinking, automatic etc.
So it is not that one should be aware of this process before one makes the first move, being aware of this process is the first step, that already causes a change, a breakthrough, through the fixed patterns.
Although the non-dual is not level of development, a certain development necessary to achieve a stable non-dual state. It is not necessary to be at a high causal level (level 12) to achieve non-dual stability:
Non-dual peaks are possible from level 8B
Non-dual stability is possible from level 9B
Non-dual Turiya is possible from level 10B
Non-dual Turiyatita is possible from level 11B
Non-dual enlightenment is possible from level 12B
This explains why a non-dual approach, which is clear, simple and essentially correct, so often fails.
A non-dual approach is by many seen as the most direct or best approach.
That may be true but it is only when one has reached a certain stabilization at a high level of development that it is possible to achieve.
A non-dual state Turiya is a synonym for Nirodha.
Active concentration and passive meditation
There is a story about someone who visited a mystic, and after he had spoken about his psychological conflicts asked, “what must I do?” To which the mystic replied: “Nothing.” This paradoxical response is related to the fact that the psychological conflicts are rooted in mental activity, and when one does nothing, when the mind is silent, than the Cosmos itself acts upon such a person, in the same way that intuition and inspiration only manifest in a silent empty mind.
This is not some form of active concentration, but passive meditation.
This seems in many respects in complete contrast to what one does in everyday reality, that if one wants a change, that one must take action.
This paradoxical position can be found in many mystical writings, by Lao Tse as Wu Wei – not doing, and also be found within Christianity: (Matthew 6:26-29):
26 Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value then they?
27 And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto the measure of his life?
28 And why are ye anxious concerning raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29 yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
And we find this also in by Krishnamurti’s choiceless awareness.
The intuition of the scientist, the inspiration of the artist and the meditative state of the mystic
A barely recognized given is the relationship between the intuition of the scientist, the inspiration of the artist and the meditative state of the mystic.
The silence of mind in which all thinking activity is absent, is a requirement for the scientific insights and intuitions to manifest.
But this is also necessary for the inspiration of the artist.
These correspond to the meditative silence of the mystic.
The difference lies in the fact that the quieting of the thought processes as it takes place with the scientist and the artist, is temporary, and that this has a permanent character in the Mystic.
This implies that the processes that take place during mystical development, go much further, and lead to a total transformation.
The focus point of consciousness
The focal point of consciousness which is called “Atman” by the Hindus can be placed at different levels of consciousness:
Physical activity lies at level 1
Emotional activity at Level 2
Magical thinking at level 3
Mythical thinking at level 4.
Abstract, rational thinking at level 5.
Pluralistic thinking at level 6.
Integral thinking at level 7.
In mysticism the focal point of consciousness is even at a higher level.
The key question here is how you can move this focus point of consciousness to a higher level.
To begin with, it is clear that one should let loose the activity at level 2 to 7, if one wants to operate on a mystical level.
It is somewhat reminiscent of a composer who has mastered all the techniques, but has to go let this, otherwise his work will lack originally and is without inspiration.
Awareness without thought processes
Although people are not always aware of it, the mental space that they have, is almost constantly preoccupied with thought processes.
The information coming through the senses is compared with the data stored within memory, and this generates thought processes.
Additionally, a variety of information groups within the memory are compared with each other, which also generates thought processes.
This state of affairs is the normal functioning of the human mind.
Of this activity is probably less than ten percent needed and more than ninety percent redundant.
The fact that the mind is so preoccupied means that much of its mental energy is wasted, and this puts huge constraints on the possibility for psychological and spiritual development.
While it is of course necessary that thought processes takes place for “technical matters”, the constant psychological pressure that these processes exerts have a great influence on human functioning.
The question is how a tranquility of mind can be obtained, in which all the activity of thought, that isn’t necessary is stopped. Partially, this is possible through active concentration, but this has only a limited result.
It then closes as it were, the subconscious off, by which the consciousness is temporarily free of mental activity, but the pressure that the subconscious exercises remains. The question is if there is a method to achieve a passive meditative tranquility of mind without closing off the subconscious.
First of all one would have to be aware that a large part of the thought processes continuously goes on.
Breaking fixed mental patterns is possible if one is aware of them.
This is the first step. When ones attention is now focusing on this mental activity, then it will be noted that there are times in which there aren’t any thought processes (there is awareness, but the response from memory; thinking is absent).
Basically everyone experiences these moments, it is essential that one is aware of these quiet moments.
If, when the opportunity arises that one can focus ones attention on these moments of tranquility, they will over time, when one practice this, increase in frequency, duration and depth, and over time they will lay the basis of a silent mind.
This meditative state makes further mental and spiritual growth possible.
Spiritual orientation and intentionality
Of fundamental importance in the quest for a spiritual transformation is a particular focus. An orientation at higher levels of consciousness is important to make oneself free from the conditioned patterns which restrict the operation of the human mind. In some sense it is similar to the orientation that a composer must have to gain inspiration.
Balance between pragmatism and spirituality
In many spiritual traditions, especially in original Buddhism and Christianity it was asked of those who wanted to lead a spiritual life to make very profound changes in their lifestyle. Although Buddha rejected asceticism (he spoke of the middle road) he asked if people wanted to depart from their relationships and possessions. Christ expressed similar ideas.
Although one must have great respect for these mystics, the question is how to achieve a spiritual transformation and still be part of society . One could think of Maslow’s needs hierarchy. Can one spiritually transform on the one hand, and on the other hand meet to the physical needs, have safety, have relationships, social stability and have intellectual development? This could be possible when one spends one’s life in balance and brings a certain space in one’s mental functioning. But the accuracy and effectiveness of the spiritual methods that people practice should be optimal.
Cognitive models, philosophy and spirituality
What is the use of cognitive models and what is its relationship with spirituality. To achieve rapid spiritual growth understanding the human mind and its functioning is desirable. Many traditional approaches do not work because one has absolutely no understanding of what is necessary to grow and what is useless. Cognitive models could be compared with the making of the map. But being only concerned with making maps, will not lead to individual or collective transformation. Spirituality means entering the landscape.
Spirituality means the shift:
From information to transformation
From believe to knowledge
From knowing to understanding
From obedience to mutual respect
From becoming to being
From separateness to union
From purposeless to meaningfulness
From reductionism to holism
From conformism to creativity
From imitation to originality
From static to dynamic
From matter to mind
From mind to soul
From soul to spirit
From mechanic to organic
From algorithmic to consciousness
From outer to inner
From temporarily to timelessness
From observer to participant
From fixed to flow
From separation to integration
From me to us
From cosmos to kosmos
From individual to universal
From feeling to seeing
From emptiness to fullness From to know what to know why
From knowledge to wisdom
From excluding to including
From development to realization
From inactive to active
From reactive to interactive
From apathy to compassion
From indifference to sympathy.
From taking to giving
From unrest to tranquility
From fear to safety
From inner turmoil to peace
From alone to all one
From shadow to enlightenment
 : “The Visuddhimagga: A Map for Inner Space”. In: Daniel Goleman, “The Varieties of the Meditative Experience”. E.P. Dutton, New York. 1977.