Marvels: Letters from an Elder, Part 16
Letter # 11, January 9th, 1949
We are looking at spiritual advancement in terms of the metaphor of learning how to swim.
By accepting that what you might have previously called your ‘dream world’ is actually a more significant part of the whole You, you have made major gains.
If you were learning how to swim, no doubt you would practice exhaling underwater. While you were still in a shallow depth, you would take a deep breath and put your face under the surface, then slowly exhale through your nose, then come back up. This is in effect what you should now be doing each time you meditate or go to sleep. Do not resist the drifting process; permit your ego to be immersed in the ‘water’ of what the modern world calls ‘unconscious’. Already it should seem to you that the term ‘unconscious’ is a misnomer, misguiding the modern mortal into believing that sleep states are states of ‘unawareness’ or ‘nothingness’ or the opposites of consciousness. This is because the modern world, more and more fixedly since about five hundred years from before your birth, has come to see the daylight voice of the ego as central to its experience, while progressively pushing anything that does not seem to belong to that voice more and more into the hinterland. In the culture in which you live, aliveness and meaning and the core of experience are all ego-centred. Everything else — the whispers of dreams, the drifting states of sleep and meditation, the visions arising from the imagination or other parts of the mind and soul — are assigned lesser significance and only interpreted in the ‘light’ of the ego. Thus you have become used to perceiving these other states only in terms of what they can tell you about the daytime state of your existence, when just as much significance could be assigned to them the other way. In other words, your ego’s operating state and its experiences are packed with meaning and significance for the non-egoic states — the interpretation works both ways, if you need to interpret anything either way. Part of this is unlearning the need to ‘interpret’ at all: it is only your ego which demands interpretations, largely because it has forgotten or neglected or suppressed its connections to the wider world of meaning in the first place.
You see what has happened: with its concentration on the mortal world of matter and objects and the waking world, the ego has gradually disconnected itself from the wider reality of spirit and thoughts and the ‘sleeping’ world. Then, feeling the lack but being incapable of understanding what that feeling is in its own terms, it has developed a craving for meaning parallel to a fear of all those things from which it has been busy disconnecting: dreams, the dark, other states of consciousness. These things are pushed aside, denied, suppressed, demonised, while at the same time being yearned for, exaggerated and granted deeper levels of meaning.
A being needs, just like a learning swimmer, to breathe in and out; they need to live in daylight and at night; they need to be awake and to dream. Exaggerating the importance of one to the detriment of the other results in imbalance and eventually the psychosis which we see taking shape in the modern world, a world disconnected from itself, a world trying to ‘breathe in’ all the time and afraid to ‘exhale’ for fear, one supposes, that there might be nothing to breathe in again once it lets go of its air. Meditation helps one to restore the balance. The over-concentration upon the material world which has produced the sense of disconnection from the wider reality of spirit begins to return to sanity; instead of an incapability of understanding resulting in a craving for meaning, one learns to breathe in and out. Over a period of time, the assuredness that there is in fact plenty of ‘air’ available produces a profound relaxation, much deeper than a mere physical relaxation of muscles — one learns that the imbalance and cravings of the egoic mind are a kind of pathological condition. Releasing oneself from the grips of this, one can experience states of consciousness far in excess of the imagined vistas which an imbalanced ego frantically projects.