|The Middle Way
| The Middle Way — The Way of the Soul
“The evolutionary purpose of the Aquarian Age, which we are now entering…is the fusion of spirit and matter through the evolution of human consciousness.”
When the Soul Awakens
Spirit and matter are the two basic aspects of creation. By definition, they represent essential duality. As human souls, incarnate in physical bodies, we mirror that same duality. We are part spirit and part matter. In each of us there exists a divine spark that descended from spirit into matter, eons ago, in order to evolve consciousness. It is through experience on the material plane that the germ of divine consciousness awakens and finds its way back to its spiritual Source.
At some point in this experiential learning process, the divine spark breaks through the density of matter and becomes self-aware. The soul encased in material substance perceives that it is more than its apparatus: the body, emotions, and mind. It realizes that it has access to a higher, more subtle dimension of consciousness. As the light of the soul grows in intensity, the individual discovers the Path of Return—the path by which the soul consciously returns to the realm of spirit. This path is also called the middle way.
The idea of the middle way derives from the fact that we inhabit a world of polar opposites. Life in the world of form is characterized by a struggle between positive and negative forces such as good and evil, light and dark, love and hate, freedom and oppression. Absolute goodness, light, love, and freedom do exist on a higher plane of reality and the ultimate goal of the path is to manifest these qualities. But to reach that goal, we have to liberate ourselves from the attraction and repulsion of opposites in our world of relativity. We do this by treading the middle way of the soul.
This middle way is sometimes called the way of liberation. Treading the path to spiritual liberation requires that we generate sufficient light from within ourselves, at each stage along the way, to move “out of darkness into light, out of bondage into liberation, out of agony into peace.”1 At each juncture, the task is to find a point of balance and stillness between the pull of opposites. The ultimate goal is to find that central place of calm where the soul is conscious on its own plane. The Tibetan master states:
It is possible to reach a point where naught that occurs can ruffle the inner calm; where the peace that passeth understanding is known and experienced, because the consciousness is centered in [the Soul]...2
In addition to the horizontal dimension of the middle way, there is a vertical dimension. The path to liberation is a path of ascent. While navigating the pairs of opposites (the pushes and pulls of the objective world) the seeker who treads the path is challenged, at the same time, to find a point of balance between higher and lower forces. At every step of the ladder, he or she encounters a negative or receptive force as well as a positive or directing force. In a sense, the receptive force might be seen as the way of least resistance, while its opposite is a positive conditioning influence that stimulates growth. Ultimately this higher force will become a controlling factor in the seeker’s life, once a breakthrough in consciousness has been made. What decides the outcome at each stage along the way is individual choice—the exercise of free will.
In the wisdom teachings, the individual who chooses to follow this path of ascent is called a disciple—one who has accepted responsibility for the self-discipline required to progress along the middle way. A disciple is described as a moving point of light. We might envision this moving point as the center of a cross of light. This lighted cross moves upward, gradually, in a progressive line of ascent as the disciple finds (at each stage) a point of balance on both the horizontal arm of the cross—between the attractions and repulsions of the material world—and the vertical arm—between the positive and negative influences of that which lies above and that which lies below.
On the journey back to spirit, consciousness evolves by finding a point of equilibrium within each aspect of our nature: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. On the emotional plane, for example, balance is found between the physical body (attracted to the sensory and instinctual world), and the conditioning force of the mind (which lies above), by raising desire in devotion to an ideal. On the mental plane, which is found midway between the emotional realm and the spiritual realm, balance is achieved by focusing the concrete mind through the power of concentration. On the plane of the soul, the mid-point between the denser aspects of mind and the realm of spirit, meditation is the discipline that brings balance and awakens the soul, which the Tibetan master calls “the sensitive responsive entity which links spirit and matter together.”
The soul itself is the middle principle of nature—the link between God and His world. It is the light of the soul that illumines the Path at each point along the middle way, which leads to self-realization. The light of the soul guides us as we climb the ladder of ascent from midpoint to midpoint, struggling with the pairs of opposites in time and space. While navigating our way through human experience, we move forward on the path as we unfold from within ourselves a harmonious relationship between the dueling forces of the material world, creating a “station of light” at each juncture on the way.
It is said that Earth is a schoolhouse for the soul. What we learn in this schoolhouse, over lifetimes, is to stand free from the pushes and pulls of conflicting polarities. Through life experience, we learn the essence of “who we are” by struggling against who we are not. We are “not this, not that…” but rather, we are the one who stands in the center—in the light of our own being—pushing aside everything that is not of our true spiritual selves. We discover our true self-identity through the faculty of discrimination, one of the key methods by which human consciousness evolves from duality to unity.
The soul, like everything in manifestation, is governed by the laws of polarity. Both the microcosmic world of the human being and macrocosmic life of the universe are governed by positive and negative forces (for as long as spirit is incarnate in form). This polarity demonstrates within the human being as soul and form (psyche and persona); it manifests within the greater life in which “we live move and have our being” as spirit and matter. By treading the middle way we learn to resolve duality into unity, thus fulfilling the destiny of the soul as mediator in the greater Plan of creation.
For many of us, treading the path is not a new experience. We have been prepared for this journey in prior lifetimes and are merely continuing our quest for greater light. Thus for some, the challenge is largely one of re-familiarization, of recalling the awareness of who we really are and bringing it back to the forefront of consciousness. As we retrieve soul memory, we find our way back to the path that leads the seeker from one plane of experience to another, and eventually into the kingdom of souls.
The way back is what the Buddha called “the noble middle way,” what the wisdom teachings call “the narrow razor-edged path.” It is also called the “Way of Becoming” (leading to pure spiritual Being). On the way to enlightenment, we wrestle with the opposites within our psyches (and in the world) to find the middle point of balance and light that illumines for us the next stage of the path. When the light produced through personal struggle becomes bright enough, it reorients the personality away from immersion in matter and towards the life of spirit.
At each juncture along the way, the particular opposites we encounter will differ but the fundamental process is the same. The process, premised upon free will, involves adjusting divergent influences into harmonious relationship. At every level, the soul chooses between the positive conditioning influence that beckons us forward on the path, and the negative or receptive force that represents the status quo. The challenge for the disciple is to decide which influence will be allowed to dominate at a given stage.
To achieve a point of balance in each phase of the evolutionary cycle is, in essence, to marry the positive and negative influences within the self. When this occurs, the new light generated by the fusion of force and energy brings us to a new plateau of self-awareness. Each realm of awareness that we encounter, each plane on the ladder of ascent, contains its own pair of opposites and its own point of equilibrium. What follows is a brief glimpse of the stages of the middle way and the mechanisms for achieving balance.
The stage where the seeker strives for emotional balance or polarization is described in the wisdom teachings as the stage of spiritual aspiration. It is a phase of growth in which the individual, aspiring to higher knowledge, begins to turn the desire nature upward towards the spiritual life. The challenge lies in taking charge of the emotional nature and clearing away the coarser aspects of the instinctual nature by learning dispassion, through the objective force of mind, and by developing the power of the mind to discriminate between the real and the unreal.
At this point in the journey, what brings balance to the aspirant’s life is devotion to a higher ideal—to that which contains a greater light. Technically, the positive force here is the concrete mind, described in esoteric teaching as the mental body, “the chitta,” or “the mind stuff.” The strength of this concrete (or lower) aspect of the mind is analysis, which helps the aspirant to discriminate between competing forces and energies. The receptive element here is the physical brain, the recording agent of the mind. Success for the spiritual aspirant is found in resisting the pull of the lower desire nature and, with the help of the concrete mind, finding balance through commitment to a higher ideal.
At the next stage of the path, sometimes called mental polarization, balance is sought upon the plane of the mind. Here the individual develops mental faculty to find the mid-point between the lower nature (the physical and emotional self), rooted in the material world, and the inner world of the soul. He or she learns to transmute the nature of the lower self by raising material force into spiritual energy. (See The Path of Transformation) As this occurs, through disciplines such as concentration and meditation, the mind becomes the point of balance between soul and form.
Form, at this stage, can be defined as everything below the vibration or frequency of mind (i.e., the emotional plus the physical3 levels of consciousness). Soul is the higher Self, whose essence is love and wisdom. While in incarnation, the soul operates from a higher subplane of the mind. It has descended from the formless realms of spirit to higher mental levels, where it inhabits a subtle sheath (called the causal body, the body of causality). From this dwelling place within the higher mind, the soul guides the evolutionary journey of the personality—an aspect of itself, which has incarnated in physical form to garner further experience.
In this phase, equilibrium is found on the plane of mind—the midpoint between the higher self (the soul) and the lower self (the persona). The positive conditioning influence is the soul; the negative (opposite) influence is the outer personality immersed in, and identified with, the form world. The struggle involves transition from blind human experience to conscious living. The awakening individual faces a choice between continual struggle and strife as a personality identified with form, and the purposeful life of a conscious soul attuned to the spiritual realm.
Soul (or Causal) Consciousness
As consciousness shifts upward again to a higher turn of the spiral, the soul, the true Self, assumes its destined work as mediator between the positive and negative aspects of creation—spirit and matter. The soul is “the middle principle” between pure spirit and the matrix of material living through which divinity is destined to manifest on earth. Esoterically, the point of balance at this stage of self-realization is found once again on the mental plane, but this time on a subtler, higher, more refined level of mind.
Consciousness becomes centered within the “causal body,” the subtle body of the soul, aware of the mechanisms of cause and effect. Like a lotus floating on the surface of a lake between “heaven and earth,” this subtle body of light hovers between spirit (reflected in higher mind) and matter (reflected in lower or concrete mind). When the focus of consciousness becomes stabilized within this “body,” cooperation with the divine Plan becomes possible and the true work of the human being in incarnation begins.
At this third stage of spiritual unfoldment called soul consciousness, the qualities of love and wisdom intrinsic to the soul begin to dominate the personality. As the soul gains conscious control of the outer persona (the mind, emotions, and physical body), the middle way reaches fulfillment and the path of initiation (into the spiritual kingdom) begins. The goal of this phase of evolution is reflected in the lines of the “Mantram of Unification,” used by students of esoteric meditation: “Let the soul control the outer form, and life and all events, And bring to light the love that underlies the happenings of the time.”
When the soul finally achieves control of the lower nature, a new plateau is reached. The duality of spirit and matter, stretching back to the original descent of the divine spark into the world of form, is resolved into unity. The soul, which in earlier stages was a distant, conditioning influence, is now the controlling force of a responsive lower self. As the radiance of the soul’s light transfigures the personality, soul and form—once polar opposites—fuse and blend to become one. The goal of the Middle Way to Enlightenment is thus achieved.
A Meditation from the Ageless Wisdom
In the Ageless Wisdom teachings of the Tibetan master, many meditation and visualization exercises are offered to esoteric students. The imagery of the meditation outlined below evokes the experience of treading the middle way on the Path of Return.
The two selves referred to by the Tibetan are the personality (the human soul in incarnation) and the spiritual soul (dwelling in the causal body on the higher planes of mind). The goal is for these two aspects of the soul to fuse and blend.
1. Achieve alignment,4 fusion, and stability.
2. Definitely and consciously shift your consciousness to the mental body (the plane of mind).
3. Consider the pairs of opposites with which your personality is now dealing.
4. Visualize these pairs of opposites as two high mountains, separated by a narrow pass between them, a symbol of "the narrow razor-edged path."
5. See the mountains on both sides, one side in the shade and the other in the light. See the narrow way between them as a golden pathway. Then picture yourself passing between them. As you do this remember that your soul is observing you, as the personality, progressing on this Middle Way.
6. Then reflect carefully on the following seed thoughts:5
· I stand in light, the One Who can observe.
· The distant, wandering one, who is my little self, I call to me.
· Between the Pillars of the Way, I pass. I leave this twain on either hand.
· The Middle Way leads to a bridge and on that bridge I stand.
· And on that bridge I meet my Self.
· And thus the two are one and harmony is now established.6
|Martin Vieweg and Nancy Seifer
 Bailey, Alice A. Discipleship in the New Age, Vol. I, 677.
 Bailey, Alice A. Initiation Human and Solar, 77.
 “Physical” here includes the dense physical body plus the etheric or vital body.
 Alignment here refers to the physical, emotional, and mental selves brought into a one-pointed personality focus. Attention is centered in the brow.
 Best practice: focus on one seed thought per month for six months.