The Synoptic table
“A knowledge of our strengths and weaknesses is necessary but it is not enough. To know oneself is to know the different bodies of which one is constituted (physical, etheric, astral, mental, causal, buddhic and atmic) and the needs of each of these bodies – how to nourish and strengthen them… It is only when we begin to know ourselves as we are on a higher plane, the plane of the soul and spirit, that we become capable of living in true splendour.”
Know Thyself part 1, Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov
A Synthesis of all the Truths of Life
The table is called ‘synoptic’ because it gives an overall view of the structure of a human being and the activities that correspond to each element of that structure. In it Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov has attempted to include all the different notions of a human being’s physical and psychic life that can be found in various traditions and bring them together into a co-ordinated whole. The synoptic table, see Know Thyself part 1, is a summary and a synthesis of all the truths of life, and it is the basis of his teaching.
Everything in this table is connected and all the different bodies and methods influence each other and form a whole. The divisions are for pedagogic reasons. In reality, all the principles are inseparable. If we, for instance, do the gymnastics or breathing exercises, our physical body also benefits. What is in the table can be expanded and developed endlessly, and we can discover all kinds of connections between the different elements.
The key to Life
Once we have got this synopsis into our heads, we will possess the key to the physical and psychic life of human beings. Thanks to our efforts to practice identification, contemplation, meditation, singing, breathing exercises, gymnastics and even physical work, we begin to nourish and reinforce each of our inner principles and little by little we begin to know ourselves as spiritual beings.
If we do not nourish a ‘body’, it becomes weak and withers away.
The first column shows the principles that constitute a human being – our different bodies or vehicles.
The second column is headed ‘IDEAL’ for each principle aspires for an ideal. They each strive to attain a different goal.
Each principle needs food; it needs to be nourished, strengthened and fortified in order to attain its ideal or goal. We must give it what it needs so it can continue to manifest itself.
The fourth column concerns the ‘price’ we have to pay for this nourishment.
The last column is headed ‘ACTIVITY’ and shows the work we have to do in order to earn the currency with which to pay.
Purity is at the foundation of all spiritual practice. It has no special place because it must be everywhere. In order to properly nourish our different bodies the “food” needs to be pure: pure solid and liquid food, pure feelings and thoughts etc. Only in the presence of purity can we find wisdom, ecstasy or truth.
The same is true for both beauty and perfection.
Suffering, imbalance, disharmony, pain or disease is likewise implicit in the table. If we disrupt the order and harmony which reign amongst the different elements by giving impure “food” to the different principles or bodies, suffering will result. It may also cause disharmony and suffering if we give a nourishment to one body which belongs to another.
The different bodies
“The subtle world begins within us as the etheric body (the double of the physical body), the astral body (the body of feelings) and the mental body (the body of thoughts). But we also carry within us the seeds of the spiritual bodies, which are the causal body, buddhic body and atmic body.
You have certainly felt the presence of these spiritual bodies within you at least once. When an idea suddenly illuminates you and the order of the universe reveals itself to you and you understand its laws: this is the causal body that is making itself a place in your brain. Looking at a work of art, a landscape or someone’s face, you have shivered, you have felt dilated, carried away with joy: this is a manifestation of the buddhic body that is beginning to vibrate in you. A spiritual energy has passed through you and it gives you the strength to face all obstacles: this is the atmic body that is managing to work its way through. If these manifestations occur often, it means that the three bodies – causal, buddhic and atmic – are beginning to take possession of your entire being.”
Daily Meditation Wednesday, August 22, 2018, Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov
The ideal of the physical body is health, vitality and life. In order to enjoy this vitality, it has to have all kinds of solid, liquid and gaseous foods. If the physical body does not receive the nourishment it needs, it dies. Nourishing the physical body is not just a question of eating wholesome and pure food. It is also, and most importantly, a question of knowing how to eat as explained in hrani yoga, the yoga of nutrition.
In order to pay for the food, we need to earn money through work, activity and dynamism.
The physical body contains links to all the other bodies and they manifest themselves through it – through the brain, the solar plexus, the eyes etc. In reality, the other bodies are “bigger” than the physical body. However, since we often experience and learn through it, we can say that it contains the other subtler bodies.
So the physical body is, therefore, often no more than an instrument of subtle forces that may be either beneficial or malignant. It is a “mirror” of the condition of the subtler bodies, and our emotional and mental “health” will sooner or later manifest as “symptoms” in the physical body.
The goal or ideal of the will is power and movement. It cannot bear to be immobile and needs to be busy, to move about, to touch and displace things. Our will can be used for many things: creation of art, the pursuit of knowledge etc. but for itself it only desires power and motion.
Strength is the nourishment the will needs. It cannot achieve its ideal or goal without strength. When it is nourished by strength it becomes energetic. If not, it fades away.
The currency it needs to ‘buy’ strength is movement, gestures. It is by cultivating habits of activity and movement that the will ‘buys’ strength and becomes powerful.
In our life, the very first movement is breath! The first movement of a new-born is to breathe, and this breath triggers all the other functions.
Apart from breathing techniques, gymnastic exercises and paneurhythmy dances, which concerns the spiritual life, all our everyday activities also has an influence on the will.
The goal of the heart, the only thing it aspires for is happiness, joy and warmth. Warmth enlivens the heart whereas cold kills it.
Our heart nourishes itself through every kind of feeling and sentiment, both good and bad, each taking it in different directions, to different levels.
The price or money needed to pay for the nourishment is love. When we love, our heart is immediately nourished: only love can give us happiness! With love it can buy all it needs, all sorts of sensations, emotions and feelings.
We earn the money through music, singing, poetry and harmony. Each of these activities awakes feelings according to their nature, either positive or negative.
The goal of the intellect is knowledge and understanding. This is a very important goal because by knowing the true nature of things, we will see things clearly and avoid losing our way in dangerous regions. We will know how to “get out” and avoid harm.
Our intellect nourishes itself through thoughts in order to attain its goal. The intellect can nourish itself with both good and bad thoughts taking us in very different directions, to different states of being. If we don’t think, we will never know or understand things correctly. The intellect will lose its light and strength and die of starvation.
The price we have to pay for good thoughts is wisdom. Only wisdom can nourish the mind with the best thoughts and thereby enable it to obtain the light it seeks. It is an attitude that consists first of all in knowing how to set one’s course in the best direction.
Wisdom is gold, the gold that comes from the sun. If we have gold, we can buy whatever we want in the invisible world. This gold can be obtained through reading, studying, reflecting and meditating, but most of all through watching the sunrise.
Wisdom and knowledge are different in nature. We can be wise without having obtained a lot of knowledge, and we can be very knowledgeable without having obtained wisdom. Knowledge is obtained through a process of study that can go on forever since knowledge is infinite. Wisdom, however, can be obtained instantaneously.
There are many contradictory and confusing ideas about the soul, and a lot of ignorance regarding how to define it. Our soul is a fragment of the universal soul and it is the feminine principle in its most perfect, most divine expression. Its domain is space, and being “confined” to the physical body makes it yearn to expand in space.
Only a tiny portion of our soul dwells within us, all the rest leads an independent life in the cosmic ocean or the universal soul. The universal soul is constantly working on us in order to penetrate and permeate our whole being until we melt into it. The part of the universal soul which lives in us, can leave our body and travel to far-away regions and visit distant entities and beings.
Space, immensity, infinity, is the goal of the soul. All it needs is to be free, to expand and reach out to embrace the infinite.
To attain this ideal, the soul needs to be nourished and strong, and the nourishment is all the qualities of a higher consciousness: impersonality, selflessness – all that makes us transcend ourselves and takes us away from self-centeredness.
The money that can buy the infinite expansion the soul seeks is fusion, dilation and ecstasy. Through the activities of prayer, adoration and contemplation, it is able to earn the money it needs. Contemplation of the Lord, the angels and archangels and the divine hierarchy which leads to adoration of the beauty of heaven.
Prayer is a quest for divine splendour which brings an experience of dilation and ecstasy, as though we were thorn out of our body. Ecstasy does not happen out of the blue. It is a result of the activity of prayer, contemplation and adoration, of a striving towards heaven and the Creator.
The goal or ideal of the spirit is different from that of the soul because its nature is different. Spirit is the divine expression of the masculine principle, and its domain is time. It is an immortal essence and it does not yearn for anything but eternity.
The nourishment needed for the spirit to be able to attain its goal is freedom. It needs to cut the ties that bind it.
Truth is the currency with which the spirit buys freedom. ‘You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.’ Every truthful element we manage to acquire about life makes us freer.
The activity that earns us this currency is the work of identification with the Creator. Only identification will provide us with the gold necessary to buy truth. To identify with God is to draw closer to God, to fuse into one with God, to possess the truth and become free. The truth that will eventually set us free is that human beings are divine and come from God and shall return to God. When we know and feel this truth, we feel free – free from passions, desires, and ambitions, free from suffering and free to enter into eternity.
Eternity is beyond the concept of time. It is an intensity of life, and to possess eternal life, therefore, is not to live indefinitely but to live with intensity – an intense spiritual life.
Freedom is something we all treasure very much, so much we are willing to fight for it, even die. But what is freedom? What does it mean to be free? Freedom is an inner state. We can be inwardly free and outwardly a slave and vice versa.
We can never be completely free from everything, a void. In nature, voids cannot exist, something or someone will always come along and occupy the empty space. This means that we will always be at the service of someone or something, but we have the choice of who to serve It is here our freedom lies. We could say that we live on a dividing line between two worlds: the world of the individuality or our higher self and the world of the personality or our lower self. The worlds are each inhabited by different forces and entities that either serve life as a whole or only serve themselves at the detriment of others.
A daily consecration
So, every day we can consecrate ourselves to the forces of light, joy, wisdom, love and life saying:
“God, Heavenly Father, Divine Mother, archangels, angles, masters and initiates I consecrate all my being to your service, accept me, guide me and work through me for the fulfilment of all your plans.