The Sabian Orientation
The Work in Consciousness
Work in consciousness is generally known in the arcane tradition as meditation or concentration. In essence it is a conscious direction and maintenance of attention until some selected and creative phase of interest becomes an underlay in all other awareness of (1) the self and (2) the world of immediate pertinence. When the achievement of this for the meditative period is repeated at relatively regular intervals over a considerable period of time the result can be an establishing or strengthening of a laya center that will have the power not only (1) to sustain real and persisting effort of a desired sort but (2) to precipitate the needed convergence and co-operation of all vital concomitants. In even the least use of this discipline of consciousness an individual may build morale and refine his inherent integrity beyond all expectations. The operation of man's basic predilections along these lines is dramatized by the inner censor of the mind when the subject under the superficial control of another intelligence in hypnotism will refuse to accept or act on any idea that runs counter to his underlying scruples. Because of the strength of this inner set of temperament the development of a moral inviolability, usually in special alignment with some definite ideal, has long been the major goal of all genuine occult initiation.
In the nonoccult world it is of course a commonplace for individuals to steel themselves to their purposes through a continual and conscious entertainment of their devotion to their own ambitions. On the destructive side there is no difference in effectiveness when the loyalty to ends is a lust for supremacy among others, or is an isolation of the self from them in a debasement of values and an acceptance of the false exaltations leading to megalomania and hopeless delusions. In the happier case of the great mystics the desired achievement is an ever-closer communion with divine intelligence, and implicit in their effort is a sharing of God's potential with the whole of God's creation. This is the practice of the presence as the continual rehearsal of every inner heightening of spirit, and at its best it has its frame in an uncompromising love and respect for mankind. The inescapable contribution of beauty and understanding that results has provided some of the richest episodes in man's spiritual history.
The bringing of God into partnership with the self in the purely religious meditation is of course the best of all correctives against destructive ideas of self-importance. And on the other side of the coin it is the mystical way that endows religion with its genuine depth. Hence it makes no difference whether the self's outreaching under a transcendental orientation takes the form of (1) prayer and supplication in the most conventional sense, (2) a more reflective contemplation of the enhanced presence of the divine in human affairs as a consequence of ordered devotions of a more occult sort or (3) sheer self-release in the momentary but repetitive ecstasy of approach to higher reality known to the mystic at hallowed times and in sacred places and always characteristic of high initiation. Communion with eternal intelligence through some form of meditation, in the largest or over-all sense, is the entire substance and actuality of worship. Ritual becomes important as the formalized rehearsal of the meditative experience.
Meditation under the Solar Mysteries may embrace every sort of inner wrestling of the soul with itself, in an effort to achieve an eternal reconciliation with an absoluteness centered in the godhead, but it has its most worthy concern with the aspirant's service to others and his self-service in preparation for the role he would play as the server. Thus the directing of interest must be practical or quickened by human need in some respect, and the attempt to achieve a purely negative receptiveness or a supposed opening of the inner being to higher inspiration without personal self-expenditure will prove an inevitable delusion. To enter the silence properly cannot mean accepting an emptiness as some sort of a greater reality, within which to wait on the caprice of a power actually external to the self as far as any familiarity with it is concerned, but instead is an effort to bring self to center sufficiently to avoid all distractions and disconnections and thus to facilitate its true mystical or more ultimate experience of itself. What is never to be desired is the artificial concentration of consciousness such as seeks to exclude all extraneous elements through its rigidity, or through the strength of the will sustaining it. There must be instead the fluidity of an awareness that is able to wander here, there and everywhere without ever the underlying self-direction changing or wavering in the least degree. Useful in this connection is the retrospection exercise just before going to sleep, and its review of the events of the day beginning with the last and working backwards to morning while giving each an evaluation in the light of the ideals held and goals sought in the course of all the trivialities.
The meditation period may well be ritualized. In the Sabian Assembly, and formally, this means participating in the healing ceremony with others or conducting the ceremony privately. Informally it is the quiet time of not too protracted duration repeated at scheduled hours on certain days or everyday. Devotional reading, music and the like may be employed with advantage to set the mood of the meditative self-orientation. The postures, breathing exercises and contemplation of the body's chakric centers in Eastern occultism may be adopted profitably by seekers in the West for whom they have special appeal. For the use of aspirants who find it helpful an identification of the invisible sponsor with whom a cycle of special affinity may possibly be indicated is issued to every member of the Assembly monthly. The meditation letter so provided may suggest, through its correspondence with the imprimaturs of the various materials and rituals, the special possibilities of inspiration through a turn to these at the times of private devotions. Where there are special needs or problems the use of healing slips may be helpful, and the nature of these is explained in connection with the healing regimen.
When meditation is employed in furthering the healing for others the aspirant undertaking this, whether as (1) an individual acting on a request made to him privately or (2) a professional healer or (3) a member of the Assembly assigned to this service, makes his touch with the consciousness of the person in distress by employing some one of the numberless techniques long established in the esoteric tradition. The first group of these therapeutic measures comprises the more objective methods usually designated as occult. In Spiritualistic practice the medium with or without supplementary procedures such as the laying on of hands will take on the condition, as Spiritualists explain the matter, and use the recuperative or regenerative powers of his own organism as heightened in trance or otherwise to eliminate the destructive factors. Somewhat similar is the procedure coming down through medieval alchemy when discarnate entities or occultists volunteering for the self-projection of their energies during sleep are enlisted for ameliorative manipulations by a species of materialization at a point of need, or when subhuman nature spirits are put to work in this fashion, and such efforts are directed to those requesting help by an act of will during the meditative period. Many occult groups depend on their invisible workers, or highly evolved souls and perhaps even the Masters in special cases, to perform this sort of service. It is a widespread practice to facilitate the direction of the healing help by laying out the healing slips or letters of request in a special place set aside for the purpose, and in particular to do so during the night hours.
Quite distinct from the therapeutic methods generally classified as occult is the more strictly mental type of healing identified in the Sabian materials as New Thought. This technique involves taking the sick or troubled individual in mind and seeking, through a rapport in consciousness and by a contemplative reflection, to bring him back to balance in his own psychological and corresponding physiological integration. The assistance of divine agency is nearly always invoked for the success of this essentially spiritual reordering, and in all such cases an acceptance of a particular metaphysical or theological point of view is required from the person to be helped. Indeed, such acceptance usually is necessary for the rapport of minds from which any results must follow. In this area the holding of a proper form of belief is often presented as able of itself to cure virtually all ills of body, mind or personal affairs.
There is a logical difficulty in the part God is seen to play in any and all healing. Sooner or later there is the question why He permits an illness in the first place if He is willing to remove it when asked to do so. Certainly unacceptable is the notion of a deity who withholds His love except when those on the inside track, through knowing what to do, are able to bring it into manifestation. God cannot be God if the control of His operations is not to be vested wholly in Himself. Actually of course the problem has been created by the superficialities of human rationalization. Everything in which man is involved is a proposition of experience or consciousness at root, and illness no less than health is something experienced and real only in that fact. It is in every individual's power to alter his experiencing pattern more or less at will, and as he has a change of heart or desire his situation follows along in train. The idea is not that God is anything apart from the unprofitable activities of the particular person but that anyone in trouble is apt to ask a participation of divinity in his affairs, even when not at all inclined to do so during the times they go well. Man generally is willing to function in a larger dimension when the smaller one refuses to support the destructive aplomb in which he has been resting content.
The Sabian healing ministry is centered in the healing meeting, and in the therapy carried on by special meditation quadrangles for those who ask to be placed on the healing list. The need for help is seen as a lack of balance or of proper poise in experience, that is, as a deficiency of the personal laya center. Each individual is helped as he is brought through the meditative rapport into the great pool of consciousness constituting the laya center for the project as a whole. The functions of nature always tend to restore themselves when their sustaining or underlying integrity has an adequate reserve of its own potentials, together with a properly creative capacity for self-mobilization in an emergency. Divinity is touched as the being is kept in fluid equilibrium at center, and the touch is lost in the sense of separation or of missing the mark that was the actual conception of sin at the beginning of the great Hebraic-Christian line of prophecy. Thus healing is a return to God in quite practical fact, and it is the way of the heart that reveals this to mankind.
The broad orientation of the Sabian project is in the tradition known as occult, arcane or esoteric. This is an area of human understanding that embraces the supernatural and all speculative approach to the unknown, and of special importance are the ways of self-dedication and discipline known as initiation. The goal is to develop the unsuspected powers of man, and to help him direct them to the improvement of himself and his world.
Modern occultism had its American beginnings with the new birth of Spiritualism in 1848, the founding of the Theosophical Society in 1875 and the rise of New Thought at the turn of the century. The events of parallel importance in Europe were the emergence of speculative Freemasonry in the seventeenth century, the redevelopment of hypnotism by Mesmer in the eighteenth and the creation of psychoanalysis by Freud late in the nineteenth.
The esoteric arts and practices given a primary significance are astrology, the cabala and the Tarot. Healing is even more important, but only certain of the therapeutic techniques can be identified as essentially esoteric. Eastern ideas and methods are significant and effective but not always practical in a Western milieu.
Out of an occult literature that is voluminous beyond belief, and as supplementary to the Sabian books and materials, the Secret Doctrine of Blavatsky, the Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception by Heindel, the Outline of Occult Science by Steiner and the Enneads of Plotinus present the mathematical ordering of reality that is a fundamental characteristic of esoteric thinking. The novel Zanoni by Bulwer-Lytton, the Comte de Gabalis by de Villars and the Hidden Way Across the Threshold by Street offer valuable dramatization of initiation, and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Eddy and In Tune with the Infinite by Trine give the original flavor of mental healing in the New World.
The invisible fellowship is the designation for a group type of knowing or realization of experience where ordinary language does not transmit meanings adequately, and it is represented by a supernatural lore that usually has been communicated in secret from teacher to pupil and that otherwise is conveyed psychically and in consequence distorted easily and at times rendered quite unreliable. Out of this occult lore comes the account of a number of young priests who became interested in the problems of human immortality some six millenniums ago, and who perhaps first laid a foundation for the Great White Lodge.
There are four types of immortality. Impersonal immortality is represented by the conception of emanations, with reality in each or any of its phases emerging from a transcendent perfection and then returning to its source after the sojourn in time and space. This is a primary concept in Eastern philosophy and is important in the Sabian project because it affirms the essential integrity of everything-that-is and so dramatizes the necessity of myob or a minding of one's own business by every component of the universal whole.
Biological immortality is represented by the ancient Hebrew stress on the importance of male heirs, or of a continuity of man preserved in a succession of offspring. Primitive religion gained much of its power through the veneration of ancestors. Nature worship developed an appreciation for a divine principle of endless bounty, and this insight has been the basis of modern New Thought. This type of immortal continuance is to be seen in the successorship of initiates.
Social immortality is the enduring of human achievements as men take the torch from each other and continue in the race forward to a better opportunity in a better world. It is with this emphasis on a significant being-in-doing that the invisible fellowship becomes an actuality, and that the occult conceptions of dharma and karma have their proper instrumentation.
With personal immortality comes real appreciation of the doctrine of reincarnation, and of the necessity to preserve man's consciousness from life to life in order to avoid an almost complete waste of his self-perfecting during each incarnate span. The realization of a possible substitute embodiment makes it possible to conceive of a vicarious atonement as a basis for a higher religious development in the present race, and of a vicarious attainment as a mode of a practical and more personal accomplishment without any surrender to the limitations of time and space.
The Eternal Wisdom is not so much a knowing as a continual participation in the immortal potentials of all things, and Sabian procedures are shaped to make this clear in all possible ramification of detail. Everything is ordered on a cabalistic pattern to facilitate the realization, and what this means most fundamentally is a bringing of poetry into balance with reason. As an aid to higher understanding the great religious scriptures and secular classics of the world are given special interpretation, introducing the seeker to the progressive levels of meaning to be found, and fresh materials of greater deviation from the conventional are made available or actually created to help him in his recognition of the arcane patterning.
The laya center as the zero point of potentiality to be found lying at the foundation of any and all experience, and located deeply enough and ramifying broadly enough to vivify illimitable possibilities in any conceivable case, is seen to be the fact of source for that consciousness of which all things are taken to be the ultimate manifestation. The aspirant is shown how he may instrument his dedication in terms of laya center. The Master is revealed as an individual who has developed to the point where his continuity of lives has identified itself with a laya center of importance to the persons and objectives he must serve as a condition of his initiation, and the Sabian project gains its organic structure through particularities of its potentials that can be associated in each specific instance with the Masters who constitute its council. Thus these Great Ones can be identified most effectively for each seeker by the twelve plans in and through some one or more of which he will be able to understand his part in the Sabian vision.
The work in consciousness is the heart of the Sabian project, and the healing ministry its strength. Meditation in essence is the conscious direction and maintenance of attention until some selected and creative phase of interest becomes an underlay in all other concern, and there are innumerable and perhaps equally acceptable ways for achieving the desired morale or strengthened integrity of self and others. Healing is the use of widely varying techniques for strengthening the regenerative powers of the individual organism, or revivifying the point of creative poise in some area of experience. At root the process is a conscious return to God.