Translated from Russian by Mikhail Nikolenko
Meditation is the highest method of religious practice in various directions of religion.
It is meditation as a method that allows one to cognize Living God and — at the very end — to come to Mergence with Him.
Meditation is work of the consciousness. The mind occupied with earthly concerns has to be silent in meditation, and there are special techniques which help one to learn to stop the work of the mind for the time needed for meditation. This is called mastering the mental pause. 
A consciousness (in the fundamental psychology) is energy aware of itself. This is human being itself, in the embodied or unembodied state. A synonym of the word consciousness is the word soul.
To any reasonable person it must be clear that such expressions as “my (his, her) soul”, say nothing of “to lose soul” or “save our souls” are wrong and caused by misunderstanding. I repeat: soul is human being itself.
As for the mind, it is a function of the consciousness; thus a person who parted with the body due to its death still possesses the mind and the memory.
But the mind of an incarnate person works in connection with the brain.
A consciousness can be developed from tiny sizes up to the cosmic sizes. The process of such development of the consciousness is called crystallization. It is meditation and crystallization that Jesus talked about when He said “God is Spirit, and they who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). That is, one must perceive oneself not as the body but as a spiritual substance — consciousness — and one, as a developed consciousness, has to aspire to the Consciousness of the Creator, Who is Spirit, the Most Perfect Consciousness.
Man can go through the initial stages of the development in raja yoga.
The further advancement is realized on the stage called by Krishna buddhi yoga — the yoga of actively developing consciousness.
In the classic scheme of advancement through the stages of spiritual self-perfection developed by Patanjali , meditation (dhyana) is on the seventh place. It is preceded by learning ethical principles, rules of hygiene, bringing the body into a healthy state with the help of special complexes of physical exercises (hatha yoga), cleansing and developing the chakras and bioenergy channels, learning to control the mind, and many other things. In the Patanjali’s scheme, meditation leads to Samadhi, where large work with the help of the methods of buddhi yoga takes place.
Sathya Sai Baba says the following about the highest stage of mastering meditation: “The correct meditation is mergence of all thoughts and senses with God,… when all actions originate from the God’s Consciousness and not from the mind of man” [20,60].
There are three aspects of Perfection: Love, Wisdom, and Power.
The three corresponding directions of spiritual work, which help one to master these aspects, are ethical, intellectual, and psycho-energetical directions. The priority should be given to the two first directions. Meditation is the main method of the third direction. It is in this way that all true spiritual schools work.
Chapter from the book by Vladimir Antonov How God Can Be Cognized.Autobiography of a Scientist Who Studied God.
On the Alternative Consciousness States and the Meditation
Chapter from the book by Tatyana M. “On the Other Side of the Material World” (An Essay of the Experience Which I Really Had).
Vladimir continued our conversation:
“By the way — about opium and other drugs. Many are beginning to use them not because of ‘idleness’, ‘for the company’, or to forget the nightmare of life on Earth without understanding its meaning — but in order to experience the new — mystery! — states of consciousness.
“And drug addicts ruin their health — both physical and mental, closing for themselves the true path of spiritual development.
“But right now I want to speak not about the dangers of drugs, but on the subject of the search trends to find the opportunity to experience new states of consciousness.
“And on a background of ‘normal’ circumstances, we usually are under the influence of, in particular, music, watching movies, in temples, in close contact with different people, from the saints — to devils in the flesh. Humans modulate their states of consciousnesses also with coffee, tea, or soothing medicines, sleeping draughts. We change our states by eating, taking a warm shower or bath, bathing in the sea or other reservoirs…
“But there is one really significant opportunity to learn changing our psychical states — this is the meditative trainings.
“Mastering the art of meditation is the multi-stage efforts directed to perfecting the consciousnesses and obtaining the ability to govern its states. This work begins from the first steps of ridding our bodies of bad energies — and up until the grand scale known for you in your past and this incarnations — and much more.
“But why I am talking this now about? To warn you of a very common mistake of many: to believe that the experiencing the right states of the consciousness one or more times — is enough for a successful spiritual advancement. But no! We must strive as much as possible to repeat all the new fundamentally important techniques — as long as those states would be completely natural, familiar.
“And another very important note, which, I hope, for you is not new, because you have read it many times in our books and heard in our conversations. I say now that the meditative trainings should not ‘get ahead’ — ahead of the understanding the place of each step of the Spiritual Path — on their common ‘ladder’.
“Also, the ethical self-control must never weaken. Indeed, during the psycho-energetic improvement of every disciple of God — the ethic training tests, created by God, become more and more complicated. And if one forgets about it, one may experience a failure at every next test…”