The Path – June 1892

YOGA: THE SCIENCE OF THE SOUL: I — G. R. S. Mead

Samatvamyoga ucha ate. (Equal–mindedness is called Yoga.) — Bhagavad-Gita.
Tadviddhi pranipatena pariprashnena sivaya upadekshyanti te jnanam janinastattvad arshinah.
     (Seek to know it (yoga) by humility, by question, and by service. The truth-seeing wise will (then) communicate this knowledge to thee.) — Ibid. iv. 38.
So shalt thou be in full accord with all that lives and breathes; bear love to men as though they were thy brother pupils, disciples of one Teacher, and sons of one sweet Mother. — The Voice of the Silence.

I wish to tell you as simply as may be of the most important science in the world — the science of the soul — called Yoga in Sanskrit. Perhaps some of you may not know that the present restricted meaning of the word "science" has only been in fashion for a very brief season in the time-periods of the ages, and that "science" with the ancient forefathers of our Aryan race meant something more than only a careful and intelligent use of our five senses, aided by mechanical instruments.

In the West today the assertion that knowledge is obtainable otherwise than by the five senses is regarded as ignorant impertinence by the popular high priests of science and their trustful votaries; but ready as we all perforce must be to give due honor to the admirable patience and painstaking scrutiny which has rescued the West from the clutches of an ecclesiastical nightmare, we have yet to learn that the newly-established papacy of modern science is the guardian of our souls and dictator of our spiritual existence. In opposition to the ever-growing negation that is obscuring the ideals and paralyzing the intuitions of the men, women, and children of today, the present Theosophical movement, by its very title, asserts in no uncertain tones that real knowledge is to be obtained; that on the one hand man is something more than a five-sense animal, and on the other that he is under no necessity of waiting until death closes the doors for the assurance of spiritual things.

The immemorial science of the soul asserts that man is an immortal, divine, and spiritual being, whose fleshly tabernacle is but a temporary inn or prison-house; that his physical senses, so far from being his only means of knowledge, are almost invariably the self-imposed bonds that chain him in his narrow dungeon, where, indeed, he would most miserably perish did not sleep, death's younger brother, mercifully release him by night and bear him for a space back to his home of freedom. But he who has begun to long for release from this thraldom, at the same time begins to see the illusive nature of the prison and chains of the body; how they deprive us of our sanity and make us think the prison a palace and the bonds wreaths of sweet-scented flowers. Lunatics in the asylum of the senses that we are, few of us ever contemplate the fact that the magic wand of sleep turns a third of our lives into an impenetrable blank, and that death, the great conductor of souls, may at any instant touch our shoulder.

In most cases, if a man thinks at all, he regards sleep with wonder and death with awe. Sleep and death guard two portals. Through one, man daily passes and repasses in a swoon; through the other, he passes to return no more. So at any rate it seems to us. True, it seems to be so; but the soul-science does not deal with seemings, it leaves appearances to the dominion of the five senses and the brain mind, and consecrates its study to realities and direct knowledge. The Yoga denies that sleep is a blank and death the end of existence; it asserts the possibility of knowledge of the mysteries of sleep in waking and of the mysteries of death in life; and tells us that the doors of sleep and death may be passed and repassed in full consciousness. This Yoga, or the science of the soul, is as precise and exact in its procedure as the most rigid of our scientific methods; but whereas physical science deals with physical phenomena, psychic science deals with the soul of things. Masters of Yoga assert most definitely and unhesitatingly that the existence, nature, life, and history of the soul have been and can be as rigidly and exactly demonstrated and proved in its own dominion as the best known scientific fact, so-called, in the natural universe. The negation of those ignorant of the subject, and the howling of the thoughtless for objective physical proof of that which is in its very nature immaterial and subjective, can have no real weight with the student. Intellectual vulgarity and cheap wit can no more weaken the eternal fact of man's immortal spiritual nature than spitting at the sun affect the god of day.

And now, what is the meaning of Yoga? Many definitions have been given, and of course this same science has been called by other names, at various times, by various nations, in divers tongues. The subject is one replete with technicalities, for there is a very large literature treating of it distinctly and in a most technical manner, and, in a wider sense, all the Scriptures of the world are text-books of this science.

In the present paper, however, all technicalities will be avoided, and I therefore hazard the definition of Yoga as the science of the union of man with the source of his being, with his true Self. You will at once see that the claim of our science is one of direct knowledge. That does not mean to say that the student is at once to become omniscient, or that he will by a sudden leap obtain full knowledge of things in themselves. By no means. The way of pure knowledge is a long and thorny path of stern self-discipline and of ungrudging and unflagging effort. But the path leads up a mountain, and the view so extends that each successive point of vantage gained is of the nature of direct knowledge as compared with the lower stages. We are at present like men who persistently keep their eyes fixed on the ground at their feet, who as yet have not looked at even the visible universe as it really is. There are manifold stages of soul-knowledge, immeasurable degrees of union with the Self, for ultimately this Self is the One SELF of all that was, is, and will be.

It would be presumptuous in me to imagine that anyone else will entirely agree with my definitions, and naturally all are free to find better and more appropriate words to clothe the ideas according to their ability. There is, however, a longing that comes upon all men in their repeated wanderings on earth, "a longing of the soul to go out to the infinite", as it has been phrased, and the freezing cold of negation cannot quench the fire of that divine desire, nor can the perfunctory performance of any lip-religion satisfy its ardor.

In endeavouring to give some idea of what the practical science of Yoga is, I am at a loss to convey my meaning because of the poverty of our ordinary language in fitting terms. We all readily talk of the soul, and mind, and consciousness, but few of us have any conception of the infinity of ideas that each of these terms connotes. In this paper, the soul must be understood to stand for the whole of man's nature apart from his physical body, the mind for the thinking principle, and consciousness for man's whole containment, his whole being. The mind is the thinker, the self-conscious principle in man, the means of his knowledge. It is this principle, therefore, which is both the scientist and his instrument in Yoga.

This mind is usually distinguished into two aspects for clearer comprehension. Perhaps these may be most easily understood as the "I am" and the "I am I" in man, ideas which it is usual with Theosophical writers to distinguish as the individuality and personality. The personality is the sum of all those impressions, as they are called in the East, which make up our consciousness of being such-and-such a particular person, of being the actor and sufferer in all the affairs of life. Everything we do, or say, or think leaves an impression on our character, whether we are conscious of it or not; and an impression once induced into our plastic-nature tends to repeat itself mechanically and to form habits which, as we know, become second nature. If the impressions are bad, a vicious habit is formed. The sum of all these impressions is called the personality, or, to use another simile, the vibrations set up by our acts, words, and thoughts inhere in our plastic nature, in an ascending scale of subtlety and rapidity, according to their plane of action, up to that of the rarest substance we are at present capable of conceiving, and which perhaps may be spoken of as thought-stuff, for this lower aspect of the mind is substantial, though not material.

The higher aspect of the mind, on the contrary, the individuality, that which I have called the "I am", is of a divine and spiritual nature. It is not substantial, but a pure spiritual essence, divine, immortal, immemorial; it dies not, nor comes into being, but is throughout the ages.

Now the lower mind is ever fitful and changeable, going out to things of sense; it is a Mazeppa bound hand and foot on the horse of passion and desire. In the East, it is called the internal organ to distinguish it from the external organs, and we have first to learn to free it from its bonds before we can put our foot on the first rung of the ladder of true knowledge.

The ceaseless changes which take place in this lower mind are called the modifications of the internal organ; and these have to be held in the firm grip of the awakened spiritual will and rendered motionless, if any success is to be attained in the science of Yoga.

Imagine to yourself a sheet of paper with writing upon it, crumpled up into a ball, and whirling tumultuously down a mill-race. Such is the lower mind in each one of us. And if we want to read the writing which tells of the mystery of life, we must first rescue the ball of paper from the mill-race of the passions, and then carefully smooth out the paper so as to erase the impressions which prevent our reading the writing, that so at last we may learn the whence and whither of our pilgrimage.

A simile often used in the Eastern books, with regard to the upper and lower mind, is that of the moon reflected in the waves of a lake. So long as the surface is disturbed, the moonlight will be seen only as a broken and unsteady reflection, and not until every ripple is gone will a true image of the divine man be reflected into our souls.

Again, the lower mind is as a metal mirror covered with dust and rust; and until this is removed no image will be seen; or, again, the mind must be as steady as the flame of a lamp in a place sheltered from all wind.

(To be continued)


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