In the Christian mystical tradition there were three stages: Purification, Illumination and Union. The threefold division, or three major steps, exist in every religion. Every religion, every path and every method begins with Purification. There is no way you can escape it. The reason for this is that for many generations the natural human being has been off the mark.
You have to discover the centre again. There are the Commandments, laws and regulations but most people get bogged down with them. They do not understand what all the do’s and don’ts are for, in any religion. They are to purify yourself, to realign back to what you really are, to recover the original source of your being, to become whole and complete, to remodel yourself according to the original pattern in which you should be functioning. This is the Way of Purification.
After this comes the second stage of the process—the Way of Illumination. This is when you begin to have inner mystical experiences, inner revelations, inner teachings and inner knowledge. You see, hear and experience. The Christians use the word Illumination while the Hindus and the Buddhists use the word Enlightenment, both meaning the reception of the Light.
The final stage is the Way of Unification: you can call it Deification, Union with God, Self-realization, attaining the Buddha Nature or attaining Tao. You start functioning on the upper regions of your Inner Consciousness.
In the ancient Jewish Religion the three stages were symbolically represented when the priest ascended three sets of steps before the altar. Even in the old Christian cathedrals there were three steps in front of the altar that the priests ascended. The ancient builders who built the cathedrals had an extraordinarily spiritual understanding. The very early ones were initiated and the building of cathedrals, churches, mosques and temples in the olden days was a sacred art. They understood that every little part of it had a spiritual significance.
You have to go through the three stages because you cannot start on the second or third stage. Because of the nature of our imperfection and our hereditary factors, we cannot plunge right into the uttermost regions of consciousness. We must purify ourselves by various exercises and means, to prepare us for the next stages when we start receiving revelation and inner tuition. Intuition means inner tuition, when the truth begins to reveal itself inside to you.
Many people try to rush it and plunge into the Absolute by taking drugs or doing forced breathing exercises and they end up in a bad way or in a mental institution.
The first stage will lead you to the second stage and the second to the third. You don’t have to worry whether it is going to happen or whether you will make it. Everybody is going to make it provided they do the steps. The priests took one step, two steps, three steps and then were before the altar, which symbolizes the Godhead itself.
Everything you do: your thoughts, emotions and feelings are part of your Purification process. It’s not about what colour you wear. You have to change your whole life attitude to existence. From the tiniest thoughts, emotions and actions, everything is involved in the Way of Purification.
When you go on a healthy diet, practice free breathing, exercise, pray, chant and contemplate, these help you. But it must be your whole life, not just a selected thing. If you practice some techniques, feel uplifted, but then do all the wrong things, it neutralizes the effects. This is what many people don’t understand.
Understand the word Purification in a multi-sense. It means the change of the structural vibrations of your physical, etheric, astral, mental and causal bodies. In other words, all the vehicles of your personality-being have to be structurally changed. This structural change is the Way of Purification.
You approach this structural change by three possibilities. One is working through Colour and Light, using visualization processes and imagination processes. The second way uses sound, such as mantra, chanting, singing, music, dancing and so on. The third way uses breathing techniques such as Prāṇāyāma in Hatha Yoga or other breathing techniques.
Why do you need to do the work of Purification? Why can’t you just go straight into the alpha state and stay there?
You can go into the alpha state very quickly through drugs or emptying your mind but it is not so easy to get into the Cosmic-Conscious states. If the Cosmic-Conscious state descends upon you, you cannot maintain or hold onto it unless you are prepared, that is to say, your physical, etheric, astral, mental and causal bodies are structurally changed. This is the reason and logic behind all these practices and why all the great Teachers gave practices to their pupils. It is not because they wanted to torture them. Unless your physical body and the rest of your bodies are structurally changed, internally, through these exercises, it will be difficult for you to hold on to Cosmic-Consciousness should it come.
The Christians used visualization of holy pictures: pictures of Our Lady, pictures of Jesus the Christ, pictures of the Holy Family. The Tibetans, Hindus and Chinese used mandalas. Wherever you go the process of visualization and the process of using sound such as mantras and chants is a universal phenomenon. Also there are the breathing processes.
You must understand the word Purification in this very broad sense. Purification ultimately means that you vibrate at a different speed and structurally you are changed internally in order that you may easily have access to the alpha state, easily calm yourself down, easily come into a state of steadiness, which is Āsana or posture. From there the other meditational states develop until Cosmic-Consciousness happens. Then of course when it happens you have to be ready to be able to receive it. If you are not ready it will not happen or if it happens it will be destructive to you.
In India some people came into these states by forced breathing techniques and awakening the Kuṇḍalinī, and when Cosmic-Consciousness came they had not been properly purified. They are in a state of very High Consciousness, some of them in the alpha state or beyond into Cosmic-Consciousness, but because they hadn’t prepared themselves they are not useful to Creation. These people have high experiences but they are not able to do anything with them in a constructive way.
To avoid this situation all the great Masters taught techniques to prepare for the big happening when it comes. If you have done your preparation correctly then you can integrate Cosmic-Consciousness into your system and use it rationally and logically for the benefit of all Creation.
Learn technique and preparation in the Way of Purification so that when the Enlightenment processes come, you will be able to remain a rational human being to benefit the whole of Creation.