The mind all by itself is capable of many amazing operations, some which have been reintroduced to Western audiences in just the last fifty years or so by the influx of Eastern spirituality and their various meditative techniques. Of course, all of these practices have been part of our own Western esoteric tradition for hundreds of years, but for some reason it seems easier for most people to except exotic ideas when they’re being delivered from an equally exotic, far off place. Perhaps this is why it is said that no man can be a prophet in his own land.
Hermetic Adepts, however, have practiced the following meditative disciplines for ages, and have used these to obtain each of the many benefits promised by the more popular Eastern spiritualities, as well as a few other benefits with which you may not yet be familiar. These seven important forms of Hermetic meditation will each be explained in greater detail below.
Contemplative Meditation is the studious consideration of any object, idea, or action. This form of meditation is the closest to one’s usual mental operation, although it involves a greater amount of focus being directed inward and onto the subject matter being considered than one is probably accustomed to.
If it’s an image that’s being considered within the mind, then this form of meditation can be much like the astral meditation which will be described latter. One should visualize the object under consideration from a variety of perspectives, such as being very close to it, and from various angles, even from inside. The object should be dissected and subjected to as many outside influences as one can imagine, from elemental influences, such as heat, cold, moisture and dryness, to animal, mechanical, chemical and temporal influences as well. All possible transformations of the object into any other objects should also be considered. One should examine each of its five sensory qualities individually, as well as how each of these relates it to similar objects. Finally, one can even imagine being the object itself. These are only a few suggestions from which one may begin.
Ideas being considered may be complex philosophical issues, riddles or even single words. The mind can free associate or simply concentrate so much attention onto the idea that it becomes simply an object to merge one’s consciousness with completely. As with the object focused meditation above, one’s actual execution of this operation will depend on the goal of the meditation. Is the purpose of the meditation to understand something, or simply to focus and quite the mind itself? Merging with the object of contemplation in such a way would perhaps be better classified as a form of No-mind meditation, which we will examine next.
However, I would be remiss if I ended this introduction to contemplative practice without first pointing out the enormous benefits of applying such contemplative techniques to the study of specific physical actions. This is sometimes referred to as a praxis meditation, and a great number of modern sports psychologists have verified the surprising benefits of simply pre-visualizing physical actions, within the mind’s eye alone, in order to improve one’s performance of the same. Studies have shown that purely mental exercises such as these are actually effective at training one’s muscle memory and, even more surprisingly, can even be used to improve physical skills almost as effectively as conventional physical practice alone. Obviously individual results will vary, based upon what we’ll call one’s contemplative aptitude, but obviously there’s a tremendous value in being able to improve the actions of the body through the proper application of the mind alone.
No-Mind Meditation involves the quieting of all mental activity for as long as possible so as to become fully present and still. As stated above, some contemplative practices can be adapted to this end, focusing with intense concentration on a single object or a sound, which in eastern practices are referred to as yantras and mantras, respectively. Other popular techniques involve focusing on, or even counting, every breath. Yet another technique is to examine a cube of sugar as it dissolves within a glass of water, and then using this image to help mentally dissolve each of the objects in one’s immediate surroundings, including one’s own body, until there is nothing left.
This practice of forgetting one’s self can be difficult at first, but if one is patient, not allowing the mind to get too disturbed by its own initial reluctance to quiet down, with regular practice one will find it less and less difficult to maintain an undisturbed state of restful inner silence for increasingly long periods of time. As with any meditative practice, or anything for that matter, start small, be patient, and progress will eventually come.
Energetic Meditation involves the gradual development of one’s awareness of, as well as one’s ability to direct, subtle energetic currents within the body. This energy is called different things in various traditions, such as etheric energy, orgone energy, animal magnetism, energeia, élan vital, prana, mana, vril, chi, qi, ki, odic force, or, even more simply, the force. Modern scientific approaches to this energy have equated it to the bio-electrical currents that run throughout the body’s nervous system, although reducing it to such a merely mechanical force undermines a great deal of the psychic applications which are available to those who become adept at the energetic manipulation of this mysterious occult energy.
Energetic meditation can be done in variety of ways. Some people find it easier to visualize this energy; softening their vision and watching it dance across the surfaces of organic, and even sometimes inorganic, objects around them, Some people claim it’s easiest to see it flowing between their own hands as they concentrate on moving the energy between them. Others find it easier to simply feel it circulating inside them, and, as stated above, some can even project this energy from various parts of their bodies, such as from their hands and feet, or from the various chakras located across their bodies. The number of postures, visualizations, and breathing exercises which currently exist to help one awaken his or her awareness of this mysterious energy are far too numerous to list here, but, thankfully, none of these are terribly hard to find if one knows how to use the internet.
Astral Meditation involves the mental projection of one’s mind to another place outside the body. This is also known as bi-location, or an out of body experience, or even more commonly, astral projection. The development of one’s aptitude in astral travel is developed by first learning how to become more mindful of and lucid within various dream states. This typically is where one is most likely to encounter and become comfortable with one’s astral body.
Another place where people often encounter the phenomenon of astral projection is in near death experiences, although I hardly suggest that one use this as an intentional avenue for practice. Once again, as with energetic meditation, there are various esoteric groups active today, most of them with an online presence, who are willing to offer a wide variety of specific meditative techniques, all designed to aid one in the eventual acquisition of an out of body experience.
Mnemonic Meditation involves the construction and use of memory palaces, which are an ancient mnemonic technique that makes it possible to retain and recall a great deal of information with ease. A memory palace doesn’t have to be a real place, but the usual method is to utilize any large structure with which one is familiar, and use the memory of that location to provide a mental space for the storage of various things that one wishes to commit to memory.
The sort of things that can be memorized with this method need not be restricted to physical objects alone. Classically, this technique was most often used to memorize long speeches or to commit long tracts of poetry and verse to memory as well. To do this, these would first be broken up into shorter segments and then mentally stored at various locations within one’s memory palace. To recall these segments, one would just mentally move from place to place within the palace. Those who’ve learned how to properly operate this powerful mnemonic device have found that nearly any amount of information stored this way becomes surprisingly easy to recall.
Dramaturgic Meditation is the use of a meditative state to conjure and converse with spirits within the mind. This can be done in basically one of two ways, which are known as evocation and invocation. Evocative meditations place the spiritual intelligence being contacted outside of one’s own ego, meaning that one does not psychologically identify with the force in question, even if one technically acknowledges the primary role of one’s own mind in the facilitation of this experience. For this reason, evocations have classically employed the use of a magic circle, or some other geometric shape, into which these intelligences are projected and sometimes even constrained. This, of course, is objectively false, since the entire operation truly takes place within one’s own mind, but such precautions can be very beneficial to preserve the perceived boundary between the spirits mind and one’s own.
Such precautions become irrelevant, however, when one engages in the other form of Dramaturgic Meditation mentioned above, which is known as invocation. Typically one uses invocation to invite the presence of some supposedly higher intelligence, such as a god or an angel, to assume a degree of control over one’s mind, actively identifying with and becoming the divine spirit in question. Some people even do this with demons, although this seems to me to be a far less prudent practice. However, as previously mentioned, anything contacted within one’s mind, in theory, already lies within, so perhaps it’s not as dangerous as one might think. Perhaps.
Moving Meditation involve the merging of one’s mind and body together through physical movement to achieve ecstatic states of consciousness. Although similar in many ways to the no-mind state described above, this ecstatic meditation is not preformed in stillness but rather through dance, martial arts, and even sport. Indeed, moving meditation can be integrated into any physical discipline where one might be said to achieve a unique state of focus and dynamic flowing awareness which is completely beyond what one typically experiences within his or her normal human consciousness.
Suggestions for achieving such a state include, obviously, an intense amount of focus and concentration, but also a certain degree of relaxation is necessary as well. An extensive amount of practice of whatever kinds of movements are being used to carry one into this state may also be necessary, since one must be able to stop consciously thinking about what needs to be done and simply become one with the action. In the case of ecstatic dance, rhythmic bass has traditionally been thought to aid one’s transition into this higher state of consciousness as well.