The Path – July 1892

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

(Continued from June.)

You must not, however, suppose that the science of Yoga has always retained its purity; like everything else it has become corrupt. Methods of a mechanical and physical nature have grown up around it, and as the mind of man is more prone to error and materialism than to truth and spirituality, these bastard methods are more eagerly studied than the more difficult processes of the true science. Especially is this the case in our own times, when a growing number of enquirers are once more beginning to turn their attention to the subject.

According to the Esoteric Philosophy, the lower part of man's nature, which he shares in common with the animal, has four aspects, viz.: (1) A physical body; (2) a subtile body, invisible to our physical senses; (3) a body, vehicle, or center, or system of centers, of sensation and desire; and (4) the life-principle.

The physical body need not here be further referred to, for although our modern science knows comparatively little of the functions of a number of the most important organs, yet its minute and exact classification of the physical structure of man's 'coat of skin' — as it is allegorically called in the Bible and elsewhere — is beyond all praise. The constitution of the subtile or astral body and of the passional and sensational system, however, is of a nature and extent immeasurably transcending that of the physical frame.

The Hindu books on Yoga, known as the Yoga-Shastras, contain elaborate treatises on the anatomy and physiology of these "principles". We may get some hazy notion of their nature by a study of the nervous system and functions of the physical body, but we must remember that in reality they are a complete system of force-centers and force-tracts, so to speak, and that they bear the same relation to the physical body as the electrical current does to its physical conductors. The latest so-called discoveries of electrical science assert that an electrical current can be transmitted from one point of space to another without the conduction of wires, and the Yoga has from time immemorial asserted that man can act independently of his physical body.

We all of us know the tremendous power of electricity, and many of us know the astounding forces which can be brought into play by the agency of mesmerism. Yoga teaches us that every power in the universe has its corresponding power in man, and that not only the life-principle or vital electricity, and the mesmeric and magnetic forces, correspond to identical forces in the universe, but that man can so increase these powers in himself that he can raise them to the same rate of motion as that of the forces of nature. Moreover, as he brings these forces into play, his consciousness gradually and proportionally transcends that of normal mankind and progressively opens up new vistas of life and existence previously undreamed of.

All this may seem very wonderful and incredible to many of us, but the real science of Yoga is so transcendent that I have only entered into these explanations in order to tell you that these powers and practices, wonderful and extraordinary though they may be, are no part of true Yoga, and are deprecated as material, inferior, and most dangerous by spiritually-minded teachers of the true Divine Science.

Even when this lower Yoga is recommended by those who have practical knowledge of such things, the learner is told that in no case should any experiment be made except under the direct superintendence of an experienced teacher. In the East this advice is understood and acted on by all but the most foolhardy and ignorant, for the Orientals know the terrible results that come from ignorantly meddling with forces they cannot control.

In the West, however, the spirit of independent research, which is so admirable in many respects, has produced among the unreflecting a false bravado and a fretful and childish impatience that lead to recklessness rather than sober enquiry, especially in matters of an occult nature.

I know that the vast majority of people in the West will look on the position I am laying down as a silly crying of "wolf" where there is no wolf, or as an impudent series of falsehoods resting on nothing but assertions; and that among this majority there are men and women of intelligence and reputation that I can never hope to emulate. But the most ignorant bearer of Stanley's expedition knows more of the center of the Dark Continent than the wisest who have never read the account of that expedition, or even than the average number of intelligent readers.

When the majority have studied the theory of Yoga, their opinion will be entitled to respect; when they have essayed its practice, their views will claim the right of consideration, but not one instant before.

Let me try to explain to you why the dangers I have spoken of are real and terrible dangers. Morality is not a sentiment; ethics are not mere poetical rhapsodies. Ethical axioms are definite scientific formulae which describe certain facts and laws in nature. Vicious desires, vicious thoughts, vicious tendencies disease and atrophy the subtile body and organs of man by the alchemy of nature; they turn his vital fluids, so to speak, and his inner forces into poisonous and corrosive solvents, although the reaction in the physical body may not be detected by our scientists who persistently shut their eyes to the major part of man's nature.

A corroded and cracked boiler may be patched up to hold cold water, but once turn the water into steam and the result is an explosion that not only destroys the vessel itself but also brings destruction both to things of its own nature and also to higher organisms. I have told you that the lower form of Yoga consists in increasing the rapidity of certain vital currents which attract to themselves corresponding currents of a like rapidity in nature. Woe to the man or woman who tries to confine such forces in a damaged vessel! Disease, madness, death will quickly follow such foolhardy experiments! I have just told you that we may be diseased within and yet our physical body may be apparently in perfect physical health; it is equally true that we may be physically diseased and yet be pure and healthy within.

Please remember that I am writing about a consciously used science, a definite and determined method of experiment which, even in its lower aspects, is a matter of great effort and difficulty. I am not talking of unconscious and irresponsible mediumship which pertains to a different method, or, rather, want of method, although some of the lower phenomena produced or experienced by either process are identical. And this is the reason why the lower form of Yoga is so largely sought after; the results, though difficult to obtain compared with mediumship, are still immeasurably more easy of acquirement than the results of pure Spiritual Yoga.

Physical phenomena and astral visions, both of a very remarkable nature, can be obtained, especially when a teacher gives the practical links which are invariably omitted in written or printed books. But, unless the lower nature has been purified, no real and permanent good or attainment can ever be achieved. On the other hand, when the lower nature is purified the lower forms of Yoga will not even be attempted, for then the spiritual nature of man seeks union with its transcendent and divine Self, and has no desire for material attainments, even though they may utterly surpass our wildest imaginations, and have to do with matter by innumerable degrees more subtile and extended than the matter we are acquainted with through our five senses.

Further, it is impossible for us to understand the true science of Yoga unless we admit the truth of reincarnation as one of the fundamental facts in nature. This doctrine teaches that what I have referred to as the individuality, the "I am", persists throughout the whole cycle of rebirths, whereas the personality, the "I am I", the John Smith or Mary Jones of one short life, is immortal only in such thoughts and aspirations as are of the nature of the divine individuality. Now this lower mind, together with the animal part of man's nature, is the only factor at work in the lower Yoga I have been describing. Therefore, whatever attainment may be reached by such practices — astral clairvoyance or clairaudience, the projection of the double as it is called, and a thousand and one other psychic powers that, as yet, the profane world has not even heard of — all such acquirements pertain to the personality. They are no permanent property of the reincarnating entity, and can never be so as long as that divine Ego is debarred from sharing in them by the selfish ambitions and desires of the personal man. On the other hand, pure spiritual Yoga seeks to quell the stormy waves of the lower mind; to purify the dull red, smoky flames of passion; to make the lower mind the submissive and purified vehicle of the higher spiritual mind and Self. The results thus achieved by this moral training and. stern mental exercise remain permanently with the individuality, and are an assured possession in succeeding rebirths which nothing but a lapse into materiality and a willing servitude to the passions can take away.

The above is the reason why the mere possession of physical or astral clairvoyance and the rest is sternly refused the title of "spiritual" by students of Theosophy. Clairvoyance is not a "spiritual gift" in itself; although it is true that there is a spiritual clairvoyance which sees and yet sees not, and which renders its possessor a power in the world for good beyond all cavil. But they who have this divine vision are, by the very fact, unable to assert its possession, for any such claim would mean its instant loss, unless, indeed, the claim were an impersonal one.

( To be concluded.)


The Path

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