Virtue in Mysticism

From darkness I will rise to light

From ignorance I will rise to truth

From fear I will rise to love

Out of bondage I am liberated

Finding balance I am at peace

The idea of equanimity and balance has always been closely tied to the pursuit of spiritual liberation. Many traditions have various keys by which they express the process of creation. As my teacher Ramose Daskalodos would elucidate, “you cannot argue that the world is made up of the energies of the seventy-two names of YHVH as opposed to being made of the energies of the twelve zodiac, or the twenty-eight mansions of the moon, or the thirty-six decans,” this is because there is not one definitive means by which the mystic can perceive and work with the universal energies. Really it becomes a matter of practicality; you can divide the energies of the universe into the twelve zodiacal energies, or the Thirty-Two Stations of the Qabalistic Tree of Life, but this would be far more complicated than utilizing the much more familiar Elemental Key of Fire, Air, Water, and Earth.

When dealing with practicality, one can experience in their own life the physical representations of these elemental energies, and thereby make helpful analogies of their qualities from which to work. We have all come across a person who we clearly could describe as having a “fiery” personality. This is usually someone short tempered or very assertive, often passionate, determined, and resilient. Like the physical manifestation of this energy, fire burns ferociously and completely, burning until it’s fuel has been consumed.

These elemental energies are the foundation of all of our worldly experience and manifestation. In many traditions the human body is seen as being but one of the many bodies we simultaneously inhabit. In the yogic system the human body is perceived as being composed of five sheathes called the Koshas. These Koshas are:

Annamaya Kosha (Food Body): which receives its name because it is composed of food-stuff. What you eat becomes this body.

Pranamaya Kosha (Energy Body): is where the energetic system composed of the Chakra system and an intricate network of channels called Nadis used to transport the vital energy is housed.

Manomaya Kosha (Mental Body): is where our thinking faculties are experienced.

Vijnanamaya Kosha (Wisdom Body): can be seen to be a bridge between the physical existence and the non-physical.

Ananandamaya Kosha (Bliss Body): is a transcendental dimension which is the source of everything that is physical. It is called the bliss body because once it is touched, our being is filled with over-flowing bliss. This is because the nature of reality itself is blissful.

Each body works together with the others, enabling us expression in human form. If you are able to bring your Physical, Energetic, and Mental bodies into proper balance you will be free from physical and psychological disturbances and your nature will become blissful.

This is because each body from gross to subtle are composed of and work through the elemental energies. If one energy is overpowering another, for instance, if your earth element is weakened then you may be ungrounded, lethargic, or have a limited sense of self and security. If your Air element is unbalanced, you may have a very difficult time focusing and find that you have an abundance of creativity but not the ability to see things through to completion. An imbalance of Water could cause one to be very emotional or depressed.

When these energies are functioning in a state of disharmony we often find ourselves suffering from internal conflict. We waste our vital energies pursuing vices, or dealing with the repercussions of our actions. How often have you experienced procrastination in your life, or have been inspired to do something only to later struggle to get started? Many of us have experienced the displeasing sensation of anger and argument because we felt wronged or offended and thus justified to wave our battle flags. With some insight it’s not hard to see that the cultivation of virtue is superior to the feeding of vice, not only to our own life experience, but for the experience of all the beings who we come into contact with.

With this in mind, learn how to take a deep breath and a step back. The next time you feel frustrated, take it as an opportunity to cultivate patience. The next time you feel the urge to lash out at someone in anger, take the time to cultivate compassion. In this type of introspective practice, you will soon find that your nature begins to change, and in life you transition from being reactive, to responsive.

The esoteric anatomy can be greatly expounded upon, but it is important to understand that each body is inherently connected, and the balance of our elemental disposition affects all levels of our experience. If you practice cultivating virtue in daily life, this will positively affect your health, will power, peace, spiritual growth, meditation, and all of your relationships, both with yourself, other beings, and the universe.

In the beginning of this brief introduction, there is an affirmation that I wrote and use at the beginning and end of each class I teach, as well as in my own practice. This highlights the five noble virtues to which all mystics aspire. These virtues are love, light, liberty, truth, and peace. Take time to meditate on these virtues and see how you can cultivate them in your everyday experience, both with your relationship to yourself, your actions, and others.

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