Reflection 5

Mysteries of the soul, week 5

Controlling the five states of mind


5 denker

If you wish to follow the gnostic path of return to the lost heavenly father’s house, you will have to start listening to the subtle impulses emanating from the symbolic pearl, the core of the microcosm, the spirit-spark. It is definitely not an easy task to perceive the silent voice of the rose heart, and even more effort is needed to follow the glimmers of spiritual light as a beacon. The roaring sea of sensory stimuli, compelling emotional activity and chaotic flashes of thought, together with the mesmerising, hissing snake of illusion, ensure that you forget the pearl.

If you immerse yourself entirely in everyday life, you may tend to function like a machine, reacting almost automatically to impulses from outside. Then you go through life symbolically as if sleeping just like the fallen prince sleeps in Egypt because he eats the food of the Egyptians. How can you escape from the treadmill on which you are plodding forward like a slave of the kings of the Egyptians? Hermes Trismegistus advises:

‘Meditate on this, O Soul, and be assured that you are destined to return to your Creator, who is
the trunk out of which you have grown. For that reason, rid yourself of the defilements and burdens of the physical world, by which you are hindered from returning to your own world above, and to the trunk from which you have grown, your origin.’

That is well stated, but of course you must earn a living, the bills need to be paid, the children must be fed, the household and the administration have to be done, the pets and the garden must be tended, e-mails must be answered, social contacts need to be maintained, there must be time for personal care and physical activity, for study and recreation, the news must be followed, the house must be refurbished, the holiday planned and prepared, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera…

False focus
There will always be something to do. Unless you consciously make space for the life of the soul, this space will not come. Your life will be filled automatically with all kinds of things, except for the one thing needful. And when your inner life is ripe for it, life will send you something on your path that forces you to let go the fragmentation of your attention, or your false focus. It may be an invitation, a book, an encounter, a divorce, a death, a dismissal, a burnout, an illness, an accident … or something completely different. Hermes says:

‘Migrate as far as possible, o soul, from fragmentation. If life itself leads you to unity, to the universal, accept it in freedom and resignation. Hence torments, concern and effort will leave you. Like a man at sunrise puts away the lamp that he obtained with so much difficulty to see at night.’

Actual spirituality is not limited to a few moments of reflection, but radiates when ones entire life is good. A pupil’s daily life is a continuous practice, a possibility to be subservient to one’s own inner being and those of other people as well, thus offering opportunities for inner growth and renewal. If you wish to undertake the journey to heaven with the pearl in your daily life, you will have to enchant the hissing snake of illusion and lull it to sleep. How can you do that? By pronouncing the name of your heavenly father and mother, by binding yourself to them, to whom you can return the soul and the spirit-soul.

Your personality-soul, the soul and the spirit-soul will then become a living trinity with the result that eternity will pour itself out in time to a spiritual awakening and a renewal of yourself and of humanity. Are you looking for concrete directions how to apply this science of unification? You might consult the ancient but still very current yoga sutras of Patanjali. This collection of statements about unification can be seen as a helping hand to make and maintain contact with the soul so that your personality-soul can unite with it. Patanjali writes:

‘This union (or yoga) is achieved through the subjugation of the psychic nature, and the restraint of the chitta (or mind). When this has been accomplished, the yogi knows himself as he is in reality. Up till now the inner man has identified himself with his forms and with their active modifications.’

Here we recognize the above-mentioned importance of self-knowledge and the detachment of identification with forms. What does Patanjali mean by the subjugation of the psychic nature? At that point he means exactly the same as what Hermes calls putting an end to the pursuit of unsatisfied desires, consciously and without force. The candidate on the spiritual path of unification must free himself from the prison of instinctively following all kinds of cravings. That is possible through controlling the mind on the basis of insight, longing to be healed and boundless awareness. For if you change your thoughts in this way, this will also change your feelings, your actions and the consequences.

Transforming the mind
Transforming the mind is very important. If it does not raise itself to a higher level, then the saying from the book ‘The Voice of Silence’ is applicable:

‘The mind is the destroyer of what is real.’ (1:4)

Thought processes, hence mental activities, can take place by virtue of the use of a specific energy that is called citta, or thinking matter, also known as reflecting ether. The pupil of the soul must learn how to control the use of it. The emotional life and mental life of humans are generally rather chaotic. The mind is associative by nature, skipping from subject to subject, determined for the most part by what arrives by means of the senses. It is difficult to focus on something for a long time. It costs energy. Patanjali encourages the pupil of the soul to constantly practice the restraint of the mind in daily life. He distinguishes five states of thinking of the mind which are either painful or not painful: correct knowledge, incorrect knowledge, imagination, passivity (sleep) and memory. The importance of correct knowledge will be obvious. A problem arises when a person thinks that his knowledge is correct whereas, when seen from the world of the soul, it is incorrect. Knowledge based on forms is sometimes important for daily life but always bypasses the essence which forms are expressing. Therefore external knowledge is not gnosis, for the essence can never entirely express itself in a form. It is for this reason that Ashtavakra says:

‘If you place externalities above yourself, you will create a prison of illusion.’

The pupil of the soul must learn to experience the essence of the forms.

Our ‘Fancies’
Humankind has a tendency to make ‘graven images’, to evoke internal images that have no real existence but are, for example, associated with cravings and anxieties. The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali refers to these images as ‘fancy’. For example, someone could become very scared by seeing a rope that looks like a snake. The saying ‘He suffers the most from the suffering he fears’ indicates that we had better free ourselves from our fantasies. Another form of delusion occurs when people make themselves believe that they make conscious choices whereas in reality they just follow their natural inclinations because they cannot do otherwise. Every person has to struggle not only with his own delusions, but also with delusions that have been projected into the astral sphere during thousands of years of human history. These projections
have started to lead a life of their own, trying to maintain this sham life at any cost. In Ephesians 6:12 the apostle Paul noted:

‘For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.’

These powers intend to be fed by means of peoples’ thoughts and so do everything to keep them away from the spiritual path, both in daily life and also during the night. Sleep is the state in which the body is resting, when there are no sensory perceptions and no watchful consciousness. In yoga traditions sleep can also mean that the person concerned has no remembrance of self.
When you sleep during the night, your astral body temporarily detaches itself from your physical body and your etheric body and gains experience in the astral sphere. A good night’s sleep is important for everyone in order to recover from the waking life, to process experiences and to gain fresh vitality. For the pupil of the soul, sleep has yet another dimension because of the fact that the soul can be awake during the sleep of the body and so can both grow and also imprint suggestions for the daytime life in the sleeper’s unconscious, and perhaps also in his or her consciousness. In the book Pymander Hermes Trismegistus noted:

‘And I was exceedingly glad, for the sleep of the body was the sober watchfulness of the mind; and the shutting of my eyes the true sight, and my silence great with child and full of good; and the pronouncing of my words the blossoms and fruits of good things.’

In order to create the opportunity for consciousness to rise to the domain of the soul during sleep, it is vital that the person concerned goes to sleep directed to the soul. Much would be gained if there were no busy activities, watching television or computer work just prior to sleep. It is also very valuable to do the socalled evening practice – a retrospective or review of the day – in which you let the day’s events appear before your mind’s eye, in reverse order, to learn from it. The Greek initiate Pythagoras already taught this in his mystery school in the fifth century before Christ. Focusing your attention on a spiritual text before going to sleep is also helpful. Do not expect to receive all kinds of exceptional dreams, nor try to remember them, because most dreams belong to a lower region than that of the soul, often concerning coping processes, anxieties and desires of the personality-soul and the polluted astral sphere. Hence the saying that the best sleep is a deep, dreamless sleep, from which you awake refreshed and happy.

Patanjali distinguishes – in addition to correct knowledge, incorrect knowledge, fancy and passivity (sleep) – yet another state of mind: memory. A good memory is useful for the personality, It is possible to train the memory so that one will forget less. Most of the time that is not necessary since the soul is concerned with inner understanding and not with storage of information on forms.

And this understanding arises from awareness, attentive living and reflection. Moreover, awareness also contributes to a better memory. The most important memory – one you had better not forget – is that you are a king’s son who has been sent to Egypt to fetch the pearl and return it to the divine domain from which you came. Other memories may be very valuable but at the same time contain a potential danger because they are based on the past, which is no longer here. Everything changes continuously and it is your assignment to live in the eternal now, the point where time and eternity touch.
You can view the soul as a fortress into which you can safely retire, and also from where you can run the country, or design your life. That fortress must be organised for if there is chaos in the fortress, there will also be chaos in the country. And this organisation originates from the mind.

The five states of mind can be controlled through awareness and detachment. Detachment signifies that there is no longer a desire for forms because desire is directed at the essence, and that can never be fully expressed in forms. If you are detached in this way, you are certainly not cold and indifferent, as the light of the soul will radiate within you and through you. To become free of inner attachments costs a considerable struggle. If your heart has been touched by the spiritual light – if the sleeping spirit-spark has begun to awaken – this freedom will be accompanied by enormous joy. You will then know why you are alive and what it is that you have to do, because there is inner recognition. The feeling is a bit like being in love: someone else has come into your life, for whom you have strong feelings and with whom you very much like to be. In this case it does not concern a person outside you, but a person-to-be within you, the inner being.

You can be assured that that lovely feeling will pass after a while, and may even be reversed. Joy, security and hope can turn into sadness, doubt and maybe even despair. That is understandable, for when the spiritual light is shining more strongly in you, you will be painfully aware of the less beautiful aspects of yourself with which you had not previously been confronted so harshly.

The dark side of yourself
Now questions and problems that you must resolve crop up in your life and cause you to take a decision either to let go or to hold onto that which stands in your way . This stage is a definite given that you can recognize in all sorts of stories and myths. In the biblical book of Exodus it is stated that first ten plagues will have to come over Egypt before the pharaoh will let the people of Israel go. In the Christmas story in the book of Matthew we read that King Herod does all he can to kill the young Jesus, the symbol for the newborn soul. In the ‘Hymn of the Pearl’, the Egyptians and the hissing snake try to prevent the pearl from being returned to the domain where it belongs.

On the spiritual path you will irrevocably be confronted with the dark sides of yourself, characteristics perhaps you did not even know you had, such as pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth – vices that are also known as the seven deadly sins. They have been there a long time, of course, but you did not want to recognise them consciously because you thought that the people around you would not like you anymore. In this way you built yourself an unreal self whom you kept alive at great cost and who kept you away from your own inner source of energy.

In this respect the psychology of the psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung speaks of the shadow. This is formed by that side of yourself that, until now, you have disregarded, denied or neglected, but absolutely belongs there and needs to be integrated. Hence it is not by definition a ‘bad’ side but it is definitely a side that was not supposed to be there according to your education, your social environment and your self-image.


In the fairy tales Snow White, Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood we may recognise the false ego in the stepmother, the witch and the wolf (see image 5). At the end of the stories they will be killed, burnt or drowned, in full compliance with the Hermetic statement:

‘By dying, he regains the true life and captivity, humiliation and depreciation are kept far away from him.’

It can be very sensible to recognise and admit your shadow side for this makes it possible for you to become free of restrictive, addictive and destructive behaviour and to make contact with your inner source. On the spiritual path this is not only sensible, but even urgently needed, as it is an essential part of the path. Thus an end will come to ‘incorrect knowledge and fancy’, spoken of by Patanjali, and the person will be liberated from delusion. Do not fight features of yourself that you consider negative (though they may not be) and do not condemn them, for in that case you would suppress theme. You should recognize and acknowledge your less attractive aspects so that you will become conscious of them. Accept the fact that you have everything in you: the beautiful and the ugly, the good and the bad, the light and the darkness.

The giraffe and the jackal
Within the method of non-violent communication is the message that every person has two animals symbolically within himself: a giraffe and a jackal. The giraffe is both gentle and strong. The giraffe is the land animal with the largest heart (symbol for love and compassion) and the longest neck (symbol for overview, insight and intuition). The giraffe regards what presents itself with mildness, communicates from the heart and seeks connection and clarity. The jackal, on the other hand, is result-oriented, coercive, judging, accusing and authoritarian, both to others as well as to itself. The jackal has more or less closed the door to feeling (heart and gut). Fear and pain are denied or buried to a certain extent and quite often other methods, such as force, aggression and manipulation, are used in order to maintain oneself or to survive.

The jackal in you has an important role as it points to your deeper needs, ones that are not fulfilled or in which you experience a deprivation. You can accept the jackal in you and give it space, and be the giraffe at the same time. The giraffe helps the jackal to express itself, thus giving its ruthlessness the chance to turn into compassion. Both elements may be there, because they are both part of your being.

The Rosicrucians when writing about these aspects did not write about the jackal and the giraffe but rather the snake and the swan (Serpentarius and Cygnus). In the past there have been many who have tried to reach spiritual enlightenment by applying jackal methods, such as extreme fasting, refusing all comfort and physical penance. These practices will result in something, of course, but not in the living, dynamic connection between heaven and earth that humanity is to become.

Siddharta Gautama had practiced such ascetic exercises for years before he became the Buddha, and he found this approach to be misguided, and a wrong track.

Detach and enjoy
And what about the detachment that Patanjali finds so important? Many people are afraid that they may no longer enjoy life if they become a pupil of the soul. That fear is not justified. Enjoyment and the happiness that comes with it are part of the human experience and if you would deprive yourself of these, you would dehumanise yourself and you could not be an open passage for energy streams between heaven and earth. On the spiritual path enjoyment is not an aim, but a pleasant side effect. Fortunately enjoyment is not limited to what advertisements, commercials and films offer us; rather it is present in very small things or maybe in even nothing at all. As Ashtavakra says:

‘Do not identify anything with form, and establish your rest of consciousness. You will experience inner joy, lasting peace, freedom from delusion.’

When you live from the spirit-spark – the symbolic pearl close to your heart – and unattached to anything else, then you will act conscientiously, without worrying about the results. That is the essence of karma yoga. You then show great dedication and love for the Source that brought everything about, to which everything returns and which is active in your rose heart. That is the essence of bhakti yoga. You control your thoughts – and with it your feelings and your will – through boundless awareness. That is the essence of Patanjali’s raja yoga. And if you think all this through, then you will reach true self-knowledge, knowledge of the self, the Self and the self. That is the essence of jnana yoga, of gnosis. Thus unattached actions, loving dedication, awareness and thorough, contemplation on the basis of the spirit-spark will lead to the unification of the personality-soul, the soul and the spirit-soul. Then there will be a living connection between heaven and earth to the benefit of everything and everyone.