With many, Spiritual Mind unfolds gradually and slowly, and, while one may feel a steady increase of spiritual knowledge and consciousness, he may not have experienced any marked and startling change. Others have had moments of what is known as “Illumination,” when they seemed lifted almost out of their normal state, and where they seemed to pass into a higher plane of consciousness or being, which left them more advanced than ever before, although they could not carry back into consciousness a clear recollection of what they had experienced while in the exalted state of mind.
These experiences have come to many persons, in different forms and degrees, of all forms of religious beliefs, and have been generally associated with some feature of the particular religious belief entertained by the person experiencing the illumination.
But advanced occultists recognize all of these experiences as differing forms of one and the same thing the dawning of the Spiritual Consciousness -the unfoldment of the Spiritual Mind. Some writers have styled this experience “Cosmic Consciousness,” which is a very appropriate name, as the illumination, at least in its higher forms, brings one in touch with the whole of Life, making him feel a sense of kinship with all Life, high or low, great or small, “good” or “bad:” These experiences, of course, vary materially according to the degree of unfoldment of the individual, his previous training, his temperament, etc., but certain characteristics are common to all. The most common feeling is that of possessing almost complete knowledge of all things – almost Omniscience.
This feeling exists only for a moment, and leaves one at first in an agony of regret over what he has seen and lost. Another feeling commonly experienced is that of a certainty of immortality – a sense of actual being, and the certainty of having always been, and of being destined to always be. Another feeling is the total slipping away of all fear and the acquirement of a feeling of certainty, trust, and confidence, which is beyond the comprehension of those who have never experienced it. Then a feeling of love sweeps over one – a love which takes in all Life, from those near to one in the flesh to those at the farthest parts of the universe – from those whom we hold as pure and holy to those whom the world regards as vile, wicked, and utterly unworthy. All feelings of self-righteousness and condemnation seem to slip away, and one’s love, like the light of the sun, falls upon all alike, irrespective of their degree of development or “goodness.”
To some these experiences have come as a deep, reverent mood or feeling, which took complete possession of them for a few moments or longer, while others have seemed in a dream and have become conscious of a spiritual uplifting accompanied by a sensation of being surrounded by a brilliant and all-pervading light or glow. To some certain truths have become manifest in the shape of symbols, the true meaning of which did not become apparent until, perhaps, long afterward.
These experiences, when they have come to one, have left him in a new state of mind, and he has never been the same man afterward. Although. the keenness of the recollection has worn off, there remains a certain memory which long afterward proves a source of comfort and strength to him, especially when he feels faint of faith and is shaken like a reed by the winds of conflicting opinions and speculations of the Intellect. The memory of such an experience is a source of renewed strength – a haven of refuge to which the weary soul flies for shelter from the outside world, which understands it not.
These experiences are usually also accompanied with a sense of intense joy; in fact, the word and thought “Joy” seems to be uppermost in the mind at the time. But it is a joy not of ordinary experience – it is something which cannot be dreamed of until after one has experienced it – it is a joy the recollection of which will cause the blood to tingle and the heart to throb whenever the mind reverts to the experience. As we have already said, there also comes a sense of a “knowing” of all things – an intellectual illumination impossible to describe.
From the writings of the ancient philosophers of all races, from the songs of the great poets of all peoples, from the preachings of the prophets of all religions and times we can gather traces of this illumination which has come to them – this unfoldment of the Spiritual Consciousness. We have not the space to enumerate these numerous instances. One has told of it in one way, the other in another; but all tell practically the same story.
All who have experienced this illumination, even in a faint degree, recognize the like experience in the tale, song, or preaching of another, though centuries may roll between them. It is the song of the Soul, which when once heard is never forgotten. Though it be sounded by the crude instrument of the semibarbarous races or the finished instrument of the talented musician of today, its strains are plainly recognized. From Old Egypt comes the song – from India in all ages – from Ancient Greece and Rome from the early Christian saint – from the Quaker Friend – from the Catholic monasteries – from the Mohammedan mosque – from the Chinese philosopher – from the legends of the American Indian hero prophet – it is always the same strain, and it is swelling louder and louder, as many more are taking it up and adding their voices or the sounds of their instruments to the grand chorus.
That much misunderstood Western poet, Walt Whitman, knew what he meant (and so do we) when he blurted out in uncouth verse his strange experiences. Read what he says – has it ever been better expressed?
As in a swoon, one instant,
Another sun, ineffable, full dazzles me,
And all the orbs I knew, and brighter, unknown orbs,
One instant of the future land, Heaven’s land.”
And when he rouses himself from his ecstasy, he cries:
“I cannot be awake,
For nothing looks to me as it did before,
Or else I am awake for the first time,
And all before has been a mean sleep.
And we must join with him when he expresses man’s inability to describe intelligently this thing in these words:
When I try to tell the best I find, I cannot;
My tongue is ineffectual on its pivots,
My breath will not be obedient to its organs,
I become a dumb man.
May this great joy of Illumination be yours, dear students. And it will be yours when the proper time comes. When it comes do not be dismayed, and when it leaves you do not mourn its loss – it will come again. Live on, reaching ever upward toward your Real Self and opening up yourself to its influence. Be always willing to listen to the Voice of The Silence – willing always to respond to the touch of The Unseen Hand. In the little manual, “Light on the Path,” you will find many things which will now perhaps seem plainer to you.
Do not fear again, for you have with you always the Real Self, which is a spark from the Divine Flame, and which will be as a lamp to your feet to show you the way.
Peace be unto you.