Over the plains of Hindustan, as over the Himalayas and their differentiated provinces of Sikkim, Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet, dwells the brooding presence of an ineffable greatness. During the course of millenniums the purifying thoughts of unnumbered generations of Rishis and Yogins have been poured out there until today these regions of the world are really holy, their rivers sacred, their trees and plants, their soil and rocks, and the very atmosphere enveloping them emanate a hidden glory; and he who can harmonize himself with this glory becomes transfigured.
All holy places, in varying degrees, have been made holy by that same occult power of mind to change the psychic character of the atom of matter; they are the ripened fruit of spirituality, the proof of thought's all-conquering and all-transforming supremacy. Thus, in every center of holiness the seer beholds in manifestation the magic of the Divine Sakti, which, when it shall have invaded and possessed every locality, will literally have made of this material plane of existence a terrestrial paradise. If through Ignorance man has lost Paradise, through Wisdom man can regain Paradise.
Indescribably, invisibly, immanent and transcendent beauty and peace sanctify every place of pilgrimage. As pure water cleanses the body so do places of sanctity cleanse the heart.
Wherever his own pilgrimages have led him, over continents and oceans, the writer has experienced this of which he bears witness. On the wondrous mountain trails of Kashmir, through meadows of Alpine blossoms, along the awesome shores of the glacier-fed Lake of the World-Serpent, over snow-fields and glaciers, to the Cave of Amarnath, 13,000 feet above sea-level, wherein Nature makes symbolically manifest the Destroyer Siva as a lingam of immaculate ice, he has felt the ecstatic joy there attained by the pilgrim. At Puri, on the Bay of Bengal, where stands the Temple of Jagannath, Lord of the World," at Kedarnath, as at Badrinath, amid the ever- lasting snows whence issues Earth's holiest river, the Ganges, at the holy of holies of the Avatara Rama at Rameswaram, at the shrine of the Virgin Goddess on Cape Cormorin, at Benares, the Anahata Chakra, or Heart Center (1), at Sarnath, where the Buddha set in motion the Wheel of the Dharma, and at many a lesser goal of pilgrimage in Humanity's Holy Land, India, he has been vouchsafed the heart-cleansing.
Once the magical control of mind over matter has been successfully accomplished, the place so favored is, like radium, radio-active for ages afterward. Even now a spiritual essence enhaloes every crumbling fane of a long lost culture. It is present at Stonehenge and Avebury in England. It pulsates amid the Alignments of Carnac, in Brittany, as a direct inheritance from pre-historic days when Carnac was a far-famed place of pilgrimage for the Druid-led Gauls of Western Europe and perhaps of all of the Mediterranean basin. It lives in the ruined site of the Great Mysteries of Eleusis, in the deserted mountain-shadowed vale of the silent Delphic Oracle, and in Abydos and the other mighty temples on the Nile. Powerfully it radiates from the Black Stone in Mecca, whither there are sent daily and focussed the highest thoughts of the faithful millions of the whole of Islam. It is active in the Cathedral of Canterbury, in St. Peter's in Rome, as in St. Paul's, built upon the site of the ancient temple to the British god Lud, in London. It blesses the pilgrim in Jerusalem, in Bodh-Gaya, on Mt. Fujiyama in Japan, on St. Patrick's Holy Mountain in Ireland, or on Adam's Peak in Ceylon. It belongs to no race and to no religion.
One who is able to feel environment knows that there are places not only of positive holiness, but places of positive evil also. And each site of an ancient as of a modern city is enveloped in its own mind-woven aura of accumulated thought-forms. So, too, are the world's battlefields, where hatred and worldly ambition have had fruition, where the blood and flesh and bones of incalculable multitudes throughout the ages have mouldered into dust. The seeds of ancient sowings of good and evil ever await a chance to grow. In the same manner will the sowings of this generation seek their own reproduction.
Oxford is Oxford, Paris is Paris, or Harvard is Harvard; and no school or college or famous seat of learning is or can become quite like any other because of the distinctive thought-forms bequeathed to it by its own teachers and students, day by day, year by year, century by century. Likewise, every household, though it be of the simplest Mexican peasant or Congo native, accumulates its own psychic character from the thoughts of those who dwell within it. Nor is this power of shaping environment man's prerogative alone; every thinking thing, visible and invisible, god or man or sub-human creature, or inhabitant of what the Rev. Mr. Kirk, the fairy-seer, called the Secret Commonwealth, exercises it.
No true practitioner of yoga in India or Tibet will go into residence anywhere until the place has been exorcised. One who is about to undergo yogic penance or to enter upon a fixed period of solitary meditation is directed by the guru to prepare, or shape, by mental processes, the environment chosen, be it that of a remote mountain cave or that of a monastic cell. In the Orient, psychic prophylaxis is considered to be far more essential than sewers and bath-tubs; and the failure of the occidental to purify and fashion environment is advanced as evidence of the inefficiency of his own Peculiar form of education, which is, unfortunately, confined almost wholly to the realm of external appearances.
The Wise Ones who bequeathed to us the Maitri Upanishad knew well the power of mind over environment; they knew, too, that as the sowing is so shall the harvest be for the individual, for the nation, for the human race. Their words of warning, which long ago should have been written in letters of gold over the portals of all the fanes and schools and homes of men, were these:
"Nought else the whole world is than one's own thought.
With effort one should therefore cleanse the thought,
For what one thinketh that doth one become.
And this is the eternal mystery."
If, then, consciousness, or mind, be, as the Great Teachers tell us, the one ever-enduring reality, and the architect of environments, of worlds, of universes, immeasurable and marvelous knowledge awaits men of science of the future when they turn to the study of environment in relation to mental activity. Every thought of man and of all thinking things has left its record in the secret archives of time; and through the doors of the womb there will come occidental scientists who will interpret the mind-moulded symbols, and, thereby, make unparalleled advance towards the mystery of being itself.
We await the awakening of all the races, of all the nations from the aeon-long sleep of Slothfulness and of Ignorance. We await the era of right education, when humanity will re-think and remake their world, when all places on the planet Earth, all the hills and mountains, all the rivers and lakes and seas, all the temples, all the cities, all the abodes will be holy, and divine at-one-ment will have been realized by man. Then only will there be fulfilled the prophetic vision of the poet wherein he beheld
"the battle-flags were furl'd
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world."
1. In this article, emphasis is placed upon the intimate relationship between thought and environment rather than upon the existence of sacred spots on the Earth which may be said to be naturally sacred and more or less immune to man's shaping. Delphi was regarded by the ancient Greeks as such a naturally sacred spot, as Carnac, in Brittany, probably was by the builders of the Alignments, and as Benares, better known as Kashi, is today by Hindus. Brahmanical Scriptures enumerate seven places of pilgrimage in India whic confer Moksha, or liberation from rebirth, and these are correlated with the seven occult centers, or chakras, of the human organism. (return to text)