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A Series of Essays on Practical Mysticism
The contents of this book are among the last writings of Max Heindel, the mystic. They contain some of his deepest thoughts, and are the result of years of research and esoteric investigation. He, too, could say as did Parsifal: "Through error and through suffering I came, through many failures and through countless woes." At last he was given the living water with which he was able to quench the spiritual thirst of many souls. He also developed to their depths pity and love, and could feel the heart throbs of suffering humanity.
Strong souls are usually endowed with great energy and impulse, and through these very forces, they forge to the front ranks though they often suffer much. As a result they are filled with compassion for others. The writer of these lessons sacrificed his physical body on the altar of service.
In writing the books and monthly lessons, in his lectures and class work, and in the arduous pioneer work of establishing a Headquarters within the short span of ten years, Max Heindel accomplished more than many who are blessed with perfect health could have accomplished in a lifetime. His first book, his masterpiece, The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception, was written under the direct guidance of the Elder Brothers of the Rose Cross. It carries a vital message to the world. It satisfies not alone the intellect, but also the heart. His Freemasonry and Catholicism, has found its way into many Masonic libraries. The esotericist has received much from the book entitled, The Web of Destiny , which is a mine of mystical knowledge and helpful esoteric truths. It is also a guide to the investigator, establishing danger signals for the venturesome ones who wish to take heaven by storm. To the science of astrology he has given more in a few years than has previously been discovered for centuries. His two valuable works, Simplified Scientific Astrology and The Message of the Stars, deal largely with the spiritual and medical aspects of astrology. The latter gives methods of diagnosis and healing which form a valuable addition to the works of other authors, both ancient and modern. These books may be found in the libraries of many doctors of the old school.
In Gleanings of a Mystic are found twenty-four lessons which were formerly sent out to students. It is the wish of the writer of this introduction that these lessons may carry a message of love and cheer to the soul-hungry reader and hope to the disconsolate one.
Table of Contents
I. Initiation: What It Is and Is Not—Part I
It is no rare occurrence to receive questions relating to Initiation, and we are also frequently asked to state whether this order or that society is genuine, and whether the initiations they offer to all comers who have the price are bona fide. For that reason it seems necessary to write a treatise on the subject so that students of the Rosicrucian Teachings may have an official statement for reference and guidance in the future.
In the first place let it be clearly understood that we consider it reprehensible to express condemnation of any society or order, no matter what its practices. It may be perfectly sincere and honest according to its light. We do not believe that we rise in the opinion of discriminating men and women by speaking in disparaging terms of others; neither are we laboring under the delusion that we have all the truth and the other societies are plunged in Egyptian darkness. We reiterate what we have often said before, that all religions have been given to mankind by the Recording Angels, who know the spiritual requirements of each class, nation, and race, and have the intelligence to give each a form of worship perfectly suited to its particular need.
The Mystery Schools of each religion furnish to the more advanced members of the race or nation embracing it a higher teaching, which if lived, advances them into a higher sphere of spirituality than their brethren. The Mystery Teaching of the East is inappropriate for the spiritual aspirant of the West. Please ponder this well so that you may not fall a victim to misguided people who try to persuade others that the Christian religion is crude compared with oriental cults. Ever westward in the wake of the shining sun, the light of the world, has gone the star of empire, and is it not reasonable to suppose that the spiritual light has kept pace with civilization, or even preceded it as thought precedes action? We hold that such is the case, that the Christian religion is the loftiest yet given to man, and that to repudiate the Christian religion, esoteric or exoteric, for any of the older systems is analogous to preferring the older textbooks of science to the newer ones which embrace discoveries to date.
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Neither are the practices of Eastern aspirants to the higher life to be imitated by Westerners; we refer particularly to the breathing exercises. They are both beneficial and necessary to the unfoldment of the Hindu, but it is otherwise with the Western aspirant. To him it is dangerous to practice breathing exercises for soul unfoldment; they will even prove subversive of soul growth, and they are, moreover, absolutely unnecessary. The reason is this:
During involution the threefold spirit has become gradually encrusted in a threefold body. In the Atlantean Epoch man was at the nadir of materiality. We are just now rounding the lowest point on the arc of involution, and starting upward on the arc of evolution. At this point, then, all mankind is immured in this earthly prison house to such a degree that spiritual vibrations are almost killed. The atoms in the bodies of a significant portion of humanity are vibrating at an exceedingly low rate, and when in the course of time one of these people develops to a point where it is possible to further him upon the path of attainment, it is necessary to raise this vibratory pitch of the atom so that the vital body, which is the medium of esoteric growth, may to a certain extent be liberated from the deadening forces of the physical atom. This result is attained by them by means of breathing exercises, which in time accelerate the vibration of the atom, and allow the spiritual growth necessary to the individual to take place.
These exercises may also be used by a great number of people in the Western world, particularly those who are not at all concerned about their spiritual advancement. But even among those who desire soul growth there are many who are not yet at the point where the atoms of their bodies have evolved to such a pitch of vibration that acceleration beyond the usual measure would injure them. Here the breathing exercises would do no harm; but if given to a person who is really at the point where he can enter the path of advancement ordinarily mapped out for those precocious brothers and sisters in the West, in other words, when he or she is nearly ready for Initiation and when he or she would be benefited by spiritual exercises, then the case is far otherwise.
During the aeons which we have spent in evolution, our atoms have accelerated their vibratory pitch enormously, and as said in the case of one who is really nearly ready for Initiation, the pitch of vibration is higher than that of the average man or woman. Therefore he does not need breathing exercises to accelerate this pitch, but certain spiritual exercises suited to him individually which will advance him on the proper path. If such a person at this critical period meets some one who ignorantly or unscrupulously gives him breathing exercises, and if he follows the instructions accurately in the hope of getting quick results, he will get them quickly but in a manner he has not looked for, since the vibratory rate of the atoms in his body will in a very short time become accelerated to such a pitch that it will seem to him as if he were walking on air; then also an improper cleavage of the vital [etheric] body may take place, and either consumption [tuberculosis] or insanity follows. Now please put this down where it will burn itself into your consciousness in letters of fire: Initiation is a spiritual process, and spiritual progress cannot be accomplished by physical means, but only by spiritual exercises.
There are many orders in the West which profess to initiate anyone who has the price. Some of these orders have names closely resembling our own, and we are constantly asked by students whether they are affiliated with us. In order to settle this once and for all, please note that the Rosicrucian Teachings have constantly taught that no spiritual gift may ever be traded for money. If you bear this in mind, you may know we have no connection with any order which demands money for the transference of spiritual power. He who has something to give of a truly spiritual nature will not barter it for money. I received a particular injunction to this effect from the Elder Brothers in the Rosicrucian Temple, when they told me to go to the English speaking world as their messenger, a claim I do not expect you to believe save as you see it justified by fruits.
Now, however, about Initiation: What is it? Is it ceremony as claimed by these other orders? If so, any order can certainly invent ceremonies of a more or less elaborate kind. They may by flowing robes and clashing swords appeal to the emotions; they may appeal to the sense of wonder and awe by rattling chains and by deep sounding gongs, and thus produce in their members an "esoteric feeling." Many revel in the adventures and experiences of the hero in "The Brother of the Third Degree," thinking that this is surely Initiation, but I tell you that it is very far from being the case. No ceremony can ever give to any one that inward experience which constitutes Initiation, no matter how much is charged or how fearful the oaths, how awful or beautiful the ceremony, or how gorgeous the robes, any more than passing through a ceremony can convert a sinner and make him a saint, for conversion is to the exoteric religionist exactly what Initiation is in the higher mysticism. Please consider this point thoroughly, and you will have the key to the problem.
Do you think that any one could go to a person of depraved character and agree to convert him for a certain sum and carry out his part of the agreement? Surely you know that no amount of money could bring about that change in a man's character. Ask a true convert where he got his religion and how he got it. One may tell you that he received it upon the road as he was walking along; another says that the light and the change came to him in the solitude of his room; another that the light struck him as it struck Paul upon the road to Damascus, and forced him to change. Every one has a different experience, and the outward manifestation of that inward experience is that it changes the man's whole life from the very least to the very greatest aspect.
So it is with Initiation; it is an inward experience, entirely separate and apart from any ceremonial whatever, and therefore it is an absolute impossibility that any one could sell it to any one else. Initiation changes a man's whole life. It gives him a confidence that he never possessed before. It clothes him with a mantle of authority that never can be taken from him. No matter what the circumstances in life, it sheds a light upon his whole being that is simply wonderful. Nor can any ceremony effect such a change. We therefore hold that anyone who offers initiation into an esoteric order by ceremonials to everyone who has the price, brands himself as an impostor. For the true teacher, if he were approached by an aspirant with an offer of money for spiritual attainment, would answer indignantly in the words used by Peter to Simon the sorcerer, who offered him money for spiritual powers: "Thy silver perish with thee."
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II. Initiation: What It Is and Is Not—Part II
To obtain a better understanding of what constitutes Initiation and what the prerequisites are, let the student fix firmly in his mind the fact that humanity as a whole is slowly progressing upon the path of evolution, thus very slowly, almost imperceptibly, attaining higher and higher states of consciousness. The path of evolution is a spiral when we regard it from the physical side only, but a lemniscate when viewed in both its physical and spiritual phases. (See the diagram of chemical caduceus from The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception. In the lemniscate, or figure 8, there are two circles which converge to a central point, which circles may be taken to symbolize the immortal spirit, the evolving ego. One of the circles signifies its life in the physical world from birth to death. During this span of time it sows a seed by every act and should reap in return a certain amount of experience. But as we may sow seed in the field and lose return on that which falls on stony ground, among thorns, et cetera, so also may the seed of opportunity be wasted because of neglect to till the soil and the life will then be barren of fruit. Conversely, as diligence and care in cultivation increase the productive power of garden seed enormously, so earnest application to the business of life—improvement of opportunities to learn life's lessons and extract from our environment the experience it holds—brings added opportunities; and at the end of the life-day the ego finds itself at the door of death laden with the richest fruits of life.
The objective work of physical existence over, the race run, and the day of action spent, the ego enters upon the subjective work of assimilation accomplished during its sojourn in the invisible worlds, which it traverses during the period from death to birth, symbolized by the other ring of the lemniscate. As the method of accomplishing this assimilation has been most minutely described in various parts of our literature, it is needless to repeat it here. Suffice it to say that at the time when an ego arrives at the central point in the lemniscate, which divides the physical from the psychic worlds and which we call the gate of birth or death according to whether the ego is entering or leaving the realm where we, ourselves, happen to be at the time, it has with it an aggregate of faculties or talents acquired in all its previous lives, which it may then put to usury or bury during the coming life-day as it sees fit; but upon the use it makes of what it has, depends the amount of soul growth it makes.
If for many lives it caters mainly to the lower nature, which lives to eat, drink and be merry, or if it dreams its life away in metaphysical speculations upon nature and God, sedulously abstaining from all unnecessary action, it is gradually passed and left behind by the more active and progressive. .... the active, alert, and wide-awake who improve a larger percentage of their opportunities, are the pioneers. Contrary to the commonly accepted idea, this applies also to those engaged in industrial work. Their money-getting is only an incident, an incentive, and entirely apart from this phase their work is as spiritual as or even more so than that of those who spend their time in prayer to the prejudice of useful work.
From what has been said, it will be clear that the method of soul growth as accomplished by the process of evolution requires action in the physical life, followed in the post-mortem state by a ruminating process, during which the lessons of life are extracted and thoroughly incorporated into the consciousness of the ego, though the experiences themselves are forgotten—as we forget our labor in learning the multiplication table, though the faculty of using it remains.
This exceedingly slow and tedious process is perfectly suited to the needs of the masses; but there are some who habitually exhaust the experiences commonly given, thus requiring and meriting a larger scope for their energies. Difference of temperament is responsible for their division into two classes.
One class, led by their devotion to Christ, simply follow the dictates of the heart in their work of love for their fellows—beautiful characters, beacon lights of love in a suffering world, never actuated by selfish motives, always ready to forgo personal comfort to aid others. Such were the saints; they worked as they prayed; they never shirked in either direction. Nor are they dead today. The earth would be a barren wilderness in spite of all its civilization did not their beautiful feet circle it on errands of mercy, were not the lives of sufferers made brighter by the light of hope which radiates from their beautiful faces. Had they but the knowledge possessed by the other class they would indeed outdistance all in the race for the Kingdom.
Mind is the predominating feature of the other class. In order to aid it in its efforts toward attainment, mystery schools were early established wherein the world drama was played to give the aspiring soul while he was entranced, answers to the questions of the origin and destiny of humanity. When awakened, he was instructed in the sacred science of how to climb higher by following the method of nature—which is meditating upon the experience, and incorporating the essential moral to make thereby commensurate soul growth; also with this important feature, that whereas in the ordinary course of things a whole life is devoted to sowing and a whole post-mortem existence to ruminating and incorporating the soul substance, this cycle of a thousand years, more or less, may be reduced to a day, as held by the mystic maxim, "A day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." To be explicit, whatever work has been done during a single day, if ruminated over at night before crossing the neutral point between waking and sleeping, may thus be incorporated into the consciousness of the spirit as usable soul power. When that exercise is faithfully performed, the sins of each day thus reviewed are actually blotted out, and the man commences each day as if it were a new life, with the added soul power gained in all the preceding days of his probationary life.
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But!—yes, there is a great big but; nature is not to be cheated; God is not to be mocked. "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." Let no one think that the mere perfunctory review of the happenings of a day with perhaps the light-hearted admission of, "I wish I had not done that," when reviewing a scene where he did something palpably wrong, will save him from the wrath to come. When we pass out of the body into purgatory at death and the panorama of our past life unfolds in reverse order to show us first the effects and then the causes which produced them, we feel in intensified measure the pain we gave others; and unless we perform our exercises in a similar manner so that we live each evening our hell as merited that day, acutely sensible of every pang we have inflicted, it will avail nothing. We must also endeavor to feel in the same intense manner, gratitude for kindness received from others, and approbation on account of the good we ourselves have done.
Only thus are we really living the post-mortem existence and advancing scientifically towards the goal of Initiation. The greatest danger of the aspirant upon this path is that he may become enmeshed in the snare of egotism, and his only safeguard is to cultivate the faculties of faith, devotion, and an all-embracing sympathy. It is difficult, but it can be done, and when it has been accomplished the man or woman becomes a wonderful power for good in the world.
Now, if the student has pondered the preceding argument well, he has probably grasped the analogy between the long cycle of evolution and the short cycles or steps used upon the path of preparation. It should be quite clear that no one can do this post-mortem work for him and transmit to him the resulting soul growth. You think it preposterous when a priesthood offers to shorten the sojourn of a soul in purgatory. How, then, can you believe that anyone else can—no matter what the consideration—obviate the necessity of a number of purgatorial existences for your benefit and transmit to you at once the usable soul power you would have acquired had you pursued the ordinary course of life to the day you are ready for Initiation? Yet this is what the offer to initiate a person not yet upon the threshold means. You must have the soul power requisite for Initiation or no one can initiate you. If you have it, you are upon the threshold by your own efforts, beholden to no one, and may demand Initiation as a right which none would dare dispute or withhold. If you have it not and could buy it, it would be cheap at twenty-five million dollars, and the man who offers it for twenty-five dollars is as ridiculous as his dupe. Please remember that if anyone offers to initiate you into an esoteric order, no matter if he calls it "Rosicrucian" or by any other name, his demand of an initiation fee at once stamps him as an impostor; explanations of the effect that the fee is used to purchase regalia, et cetera, are only added evidence of the fraudulent nature of the order for it is said, "Initiation is most emphatically not an outward ceremony, but an inward experience." I may further add that the Elder Brothers of the Rose Cross in the Mystic Temple where I received the Light made it a condition that their sacred science must never be put in the balance against a coin. Freely had I received, and freely was I required to give. This injunction I have obeyed, both in spirit and to the letter, as all know who have had dealings with the Rosicrucian Fellowship.
III. The Sacrament of Communion—Part I
To obtain a thorough understanding of the deep and far-reaching significance of the manner in which the Sacrament of Communion was instituted, it is necessary to consider the evolution of our planet and of composite man, also the chemistry of foods and their influence on humanity. For the sake of lucidity we will briefly recapitulate the Rosicrucian teachings on the various points involved. They have been given at length in the Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception and our other works.
The Virgin Spirits, which are now mankind, commenced their pilgrimage through matter in the dawn of time, that by the friction of concrete existence their latent powers might be transmuted to kinetic energy as usable soul power. Three successive veils of increasingly dense matter were acquired by the involving spirits during the Saturn, Sun and Moon Periods. Thus each spirit was separated from all other spirits, and the consciousness which could not penetrate the prison wall of matter and communicate with others was forced to turn inwards, and in so doing it discovered—itself. Thus self-consciousness was attained.
A further crystallization of the before mentioned veils took place in the Earth Period during the Polarian, Hyperborean, and Lemurian Epochs. In the Atlantean Epoch, the mind was added as a focusing point between the spirit and body, completing the constitution of composite man, who was then equipped to conquer the world and generate soul power by endeavor and experience, each having free will and choice except as limited by the laws of nature and his own previous acts.
During the time man-in-the-making was thus evolving, great creative Hierarchies guided his every step. Absolutely nothing was left to chance. Even the food he ate was chosen for him so that he might obtain the appropriate material wherewith to build the various vehicles of consciousness necessary to accomplish the process of soul growth. The Bible mentions the various stages, though it misplaces Nimrod, making him to symbolize the Atlantean kings who lived before the Flood.
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In the Polarian Epoch pure mineral matter became a constituent part of man; thus Adam was made of earth, that is, so far as his dense body was concerned.
In the Hyperborean Epoch the vital body was added, and thus his constitution became plantlike, and Cain, the man of that time, lived on the fruits of the soil.
The Lemurian Epoch saw the evolution of a desire body, which made man like the present animals. Then milk, the product of living animals, was added to human diet. Abel was a shepherd, but it is nowhere stated that he killed an animal.
At that time mankind lived innocently and peacefully in the misty atmosphere which enveloped the earth during the latter part of the Lemurian Epoch, as described in the section on "Baptism" Men were then like children under the care of a common father, until the mind was given to all in the beginning of Atlantis. Thought activity breaks down tissue which must be replaced; the lower and more material the thought, the greater the havoc and the more pressing the need for albumen wherewith to make quick repairs. Hence necessity, the mother of invention, inaugurated the loathsome practice of flesh eating, and so long as we continue to think along purely business or material lines we shall have to go on using our stomachs as receptacles for the decaying corpses of our murdered animal victims. Yet we shall see later that flesh food has enabled us to make the wonderful material progress achieved in the Western World.
The more spiritual we grow, the more our thoughts will harmonize with the rhythm of our body, and the less albumen will be needed to build tissue. Consequently, a vegetable diet will suffice our needs. Pythagoras advised abstinence from legumes to advanced scholars because they are rich in albumen and apt to revive lower appetites. Let not every student who reads this rashly conclude to eliminate legumes from his diet. Most of us are not yet ready for such extremes; we would not even advise all students to abstain entirely from meat. The change should come from within. It may be safely stated, however, that most people eat entirely too much meat for their good; but this is in a certain sense a digression, so we will revert to the further evolution of humanity in so far as it has a bearing upon the Sacrament of Communion.
In due time the dense mist which enveloped the earth cooled, condensed, and flooded the various basins. The atmosphere cleared, and concurrently with this atmospheric change a physiological adaptation in man took place. The gill clefts which had enabled him to breathe in the dense water-laden air (and which are seen in the human fetus to this day) gradually atrophied, and their function was taken over by the lungs, the pure air passing to and from them through the larynx. This allowed the spirit, hitherto penned up within the veil of flesh, to express itself in word and act.
There in the middle of Atlantis the sun first shone upon man as we know him; there he was first born into the world. Until then he had been under the absolute control of great spiritual Hierarchies, mute, without voice or choice in matters pertaining to his education, as a child is now under the control of its parents.
But one day when he finally emerged from the dense atmosphere of Atlantis; when he first beheld the mountains silhouetted in clear, sharp contours against the azure vault of heaven; when he first saw the beauties of moor and meadow, the moving creatures, birds in the air, and his fellow man; when his vision was undimmed by the partial obscuration of the mist which had previously hampered perception; above all, when he perceived himself as separate and apart from all others, there burst from his lips the glorious triumphant cry, "I am."
At that point he had acquired faculties which equipped him to enter the school of experience, the phenomenal world, as a free agent to learn the lessons of life, untrammeled save by the laws of nature, which are his safeguards, and the reaction of his own previous acts, which become destiny.
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The diet containing an excess of albumen from the flesh wherewith he gorged himself, taxed his liver beyond the capacity and clogged the system, making him morose, sullen, and brutish. He was fast losing the spiritual sight which revealed to him the guardian angels whom he trusted, and he saw only the forms of animals and men. The spirits with whom he had lived in love and brotherhood during early Atlantis were obscured by the veil of flesh. It was all so strange, and he feared them.
Therefore it became necessary to give him a new food that could aid his spirit to overpower the highly individualized molecules of flesh (as explained in the Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception section on Assimilation), brace it for battle with the world, and spur it on to self-assertion.
As our visible bodies composed of chemical compounds can thrive only upon chemical aliment, so it requires spirit to act upon spirit to aid in breaking up the heavy proteid and in stimulating the drooping human spirit.
The emergence from flooded Atlantis, the liberation of humanity from the absolute rulership of visible superhuman guardians, their placement under the law of consequence and the laws of nature, and the gift of wine are described in the stories of Noah and Moses, which are different accounts of the same event.
Both Noah and Moses led their followers through the water. Moses calls heaven and earth to witness that he has placed before them the blessing and the curse, exhorts them to choose the good or take the consequences of their actions; then he leaves them.
The phenomenon of the rainbow requires that the sun be near the horizon, the nearer the better; also a clear atmosphere, and a dark rain cloud in the opposite quarter of the heavens. When under such conditions an observer stands with his back to the sun, he may see the sun's rays refracted through the rain drops as a rainbow. In early Atlantean times when there had been no rain as yet and the atmosphere was a warm, moist fog through which the sun appeared as one of our arc lamps on a foggy day, the phenomenon of the rainbow was an impossibility. It could not have made its appearance until the mist had condensed to rain, flooded the basins of the earth, and left the atmosphere clear as described in the story of Noah, which thus points to the law of alternating cycles that brings day and night, summer and winter, in unvarying sequence, and to which man is subject in the present age.
Noah cultivated the vine and provided a spirit to stimulate man. Thus, equipped with a composite constitution, a composite diet appropriate thereto, and divine laws to guide them, mankind were left to their own devices in the battle of life.
Contemporary Mystic Christianity
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