Prior to the late 1400’s the West had all of the same meditation systems we see today in Asia.
Then the Inquisition happened. Now a lot occurred during the Inquisition, but one of the these things was the authorities essentially declaring war on heterodox systems of belief and practice. According to the Catholic Church only about 2500 people were officially executed during the course of the Inquisition. However, for the purposes of meditative and yogic practice any openly operating mystery schools were shut down.
The result of this is that only two schools of yogic practice survived. The first of which is the Golden Dawn derived practices out of the British Isles and the Bardon system of Hermetics out of Central Europe.
I won’t debate the origin stories of these two schools here, frankly the argument is pointless as both schools exist and survived historical efforts to prevent their existence on the whole.
These schools survived for two important reasons: (1) they were designed to be learned from books or written sources and (2) both practices are predicated off being able to manifest and disperse meditative phenomena.
The first quality meant you didn’t need an operating monastery, or live in mystery school, to learn it. So if you went to visit your teacher every few months, or so, the authorities wouldn’t get wise to what was going on.
The second quality requires a bit more of an explanation. The majority of the Asian systems in existence today work on the “power up and hold it” methodology. This means you generate a large amount of subtle phenomena, mostly vital force, and you hold onto it. If you know what to look for, people doing this are very easy to find with very little training. As a result these systems didn’t survive. My gut reaction is that the authorities of the time probably didn’t kill many people practicing this stuff, so much as forbade them from teaching anyone else.
Next week’s article will discuss the similarities between these two surviving systems and practices currently in use in Asia.