THE YOGA SUTRAS OF PATANJALI “The Book of the Spiritual Man”
An Interpretation By Charles Johnston
INTRODUCTION TO BOOK III
The third book of the Sutras is the Book of Spiritual Powers. In considering these spiritual powers, two things must be understood and kept in memory. The first of these is this: These spiritual powers can only be gained when the development described in the first and second books has been measurably attained; when the Commandments have been kept, the Rules faithfully followed, and the experiences which are described have been passed through. For only after this is the spiritual man so far grown, so far disentangled from the psychical bandages and veils which have confined and blinded him, that he can use his proper powers and faculties. For this is the secret of all spiritual powers: they are in no sense an abnormal or supernatural overgrowth upon the material man, but are rather the powers and faculties inherent in the spiritual man, entirely natural to him, and coming naturally into activity, as the spiritual man is disentangled and liberated from psychical bondage, through keeping the Commandments and Rules already set forth.
As the personal man is the limitation and inversion of the spiritual man, all his faculties and powers are inversions of the powers of the spiritual man. In a single phrase, his self seeking is the inversion of the Self-seeking which is the very being of the spiritual man: the ceaseless search after the divine and august Self of all beings. This inversion is corrected by keeping the Commandments and Rules, and gradually, as the inversion is overcome, the spiritual man is extricated, and comes into possession and free exercise of his powers. The spiritual powers, therefore, are the powers of the grown and liberated spiritual man. They can only be developed and used as the spiritual man grows and attains liberation through obedience. This is the first thing to be kept in mind, in all that is said of spiritual powers in the third and fourth books of the Sutras. The second thing to be understood and kept in mind is this:
Just as our modern sages have discerned and taught that all matter is ultimately one and eternal, definitely related throughout the whole wide universe; just as they have discerned and taught that all force is one and eternal, so coordinated throughout the whole universe that whatever affects any atom measurably affects the whole boundless realm of matter and force, to the most distant star or nebula on the dim confines of space; so the ancient sages had discerned and taught that all consciousness is one, immortal, indivisible, infinite; so finely correlated and continuous that whatever is perceived by any consciousness is, whether actually or potentially, within the reach of all consciousness, and therefore within the reach of any consciousness. This has been well expressed by saying that all souls are fundamentally one with the Oversoul; that the Son of God, and all Sons of God, are fundamentally one with the Father. When the consciousness is cleared of psychic bonds and veils, when the spiritual man is able to stand, to see, then this superb law comes into effect: whatever is within the knowledge of any consciousness, and this includes the whole infinite universe, is within his reach, and may, if he wills, be made a part of his consciousness. This he may attain through his fundamental unity with the Oversoul, by raising himself toward the consciousness above him, and drawing on its resources. The Son, if he would work miracles, whether of perception or of action, must come often into the presence of the Father. This is the birthright of the spiritual man; through it he comes into possession of his splendid and immortal powers. Let it be clearly kept in mind that what is here to be related of the spiritual man, and his exalted powers, must in no wise be detached from what has gone before. The being, the very inception, of the spiritual man depends on the purification and moral attainment already detailed, and can in no wise dispense with these or curtail them.
Let no one imagine that the true life, the true powers of the spiritual man, can be attained by any way except the hard way of sacrifice, of trial, of renunciation, of selfless self-conquest and genuine devotion to the weal of all others. Only thus can the golden gates be reached and entered. Only thus can we attain to that pure world wherein the spiritual man lives, and moves, and has his being. Nothing impure, nothing unholy can ever cross that threshold, least of all impure motives or self seeking desires. These must be burnt away before an entrance to that world can be gained.
But where there is light, there is shadow; and the lofty light of the soul casts upon the clouds of the mid-world the shadow of the spiritual man and of his powers; the bastard vesture and the bastard powers of psychism are easily attained; yet, even when attained, they are a delusion, the very essence of unreality.
Therefore ponder well the earlier rules, and lay a firm foundation of courage, sacrifice, selflessness, holiness.
1. The binding of the perceiving consciousness to a certain region is attention (dharana).
Emerson quotes Sir Isaac Newton as saying that he made his great discoveries by intending his mind on them. That is what is meant here. I read the page of a book while inking of something else. At the end of he page, I have no idea of what it is about, and read it again, still thinking of something else, with the same result. Then I wake up, so to speak, make an effort of attention, fix my thought on what I am reading, and easily take in its meaning. The act of will, the effort of attention, the intending of the mind on each word and line of the page, just as the eyes are focussed on each word and line, is the power here contemplated. It is the power to focus the consciousness on a given spot, and hold it there Attention is the first and indispensable step in all knowledge. Attention to spiritual things is the first step to spiritual knowledge.
2. A prolonged holding of the perceiving consciousness in that region is meditation (dhyana).
This will apply equally to outer and inner things. I may for a moment fix my attention on some visible object, in a single penetrating glance, or I may hold the attention fixedly on it until it reveals far more of its nature than a single glance could perceive. The first is the focussing of the searchlight of consciousness upon the object. The other is the holding of the white beam of light steadily and persistently on the object, until it yields up the secret of its details. So for things within; one may fix the inner glance for a moment on spiritual things, or one may hold the consciousness steadily upon them, until what was in the dark slowly comes forth into the light, and yields up its immortal secret. But this is possible only for the spiritual man, after the Commandments and the Rules have been kept; for until this is done, the thronging storms of psychical thoughts dissipate and distract the attention, so that it will not remain fixed on spiritual things. The cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word of the spiritual message.
3. When the perceiving consciousness in this meditative is wholly given to illuminating the essential meaning of the object contemplated, and is freed from the sense of separateness and personality, this is contemplation (samadhi).
Let us review the steps so far taken. First, the beam of perceiving consciousness is focussed on a certain region or subject, through the effort of attention. Then this attending consciousness is held on its object. Third, there is the ardent will to know its meaning, to illumine it with comprehending thought. Fourth, all personal bias—all desire merely to indorse a previous opinion and so prove oneself right, and all desire for personal profit or gratification must be quite put away. There must be a purely disinterested love of truth for its own sake. Thus is the perceiving consciousness made void, as it were, of all personality or sense of separateness. The personal limitation stands aside and lets the All-consciousness come to bear upon the problem. The Oversoul bends its ray upon the object, and illumines it with pure light.
4. When these three, Attention, Meditation Contemplation, are exercised at once, this is perfectly concentrated Meditation (sanyama).
When the personal limitation of the perceiving consciousness stands aside, and allows the All-conscious to come to bear upon the problem, then arises that real knowledge which is called a flash of genius; that real knowledge which makes discoveries, and without which no discovery can be made, however painstaking the effort. For genius is the vision of the spiritual man, and that vision is a question of growth rather than present effort; though right effort, rightly continued, will in time infallibly lead to growth and vision. Through the power thus to set aside personal limitation, to push aside petty concerns and cares, and steady the whole nature and will in an ardent love of truth and desire to know it; through the power thus to make way for the All-consciousness, all great men make their discoveries. Newton, watching the apple fall to the earth, was able to look beyond, to see the subtle waves of force pulsating through apples and worlds and suns and galaxies, and thus to perceive universal gravitation. The Oversoul, looking through his eyes, recognized the universal force, one of its own children. Darwin, watching the forms and motions of plants and animals, let the same august consciousness come to bear on them, and saw infinite growth perfected through ceaseless struggle. He perceived the superb process of evolution, the Oversoul once more recognizing its own. Fraunhofer, noting the dark lines in the band of sunlight in his spectroscope, divined their identity with the bright lines in the spectra of incandescent iron, sodium and the rest, and so saw the oneness of substance in the worlds and suns, the unity of the materials of the universe. Once again the Oversoul, looking with his eyes, recognized its own. So it is with all true knowledge. But the mind must transcend its limitations, its idiosyncrasies; there must be purity, for to the pure in heart is the promise, that they shall see God.
5. By mastering this perfectly concentrated Meditation, there comes the illumination of perception. The meaning of this is illustrated by what has been said before. When the spiritual man is able to throw aside the trammels of emotional and mental limitation, and to open his eyes, he sees clearly, he attains to illuminated perception. A poet once said that Occultism is the conscious cultivation of genius; and it is certain that the awakened spiritual man attains to the perceptions of genius. Genius is the vision, the power, of the spiritual man, whether its possessor recognizes this or not. All true knowledge is of the spiritual man. The greatest in all ages have recognized this and put their testimony on record. The great in wisdom who have not consciously recognized it, have ever been full of the spirit of reverence, of selfless devotion to truth, of humility, as was Darwin; and reverence and humility are the unconscious recognition of the nearness of the Spirit, that Divinity which broods over us, a Master o’er a slave.
6. This power is distributed in ascending degrees.
It is to be attained step by step. It is a question, not of miracle, but of evolution, of growth. Newton had to master the multiplication table, then the four rules of arithmetic, then the rudiments of algebra, before he came to the binomial theorem. At each point, there was attention, concentration, insight; until these were attained, no progress to the next point was possible. So with Darwin. He had to learn the form and use of leaf and flower, of bone and muscle; the characteristics of genera and species; the distribution of plants and animals, before he had in mind that nexus of knowledge on which the light of his great idea was at last able to shine. So is it with all knowledge. So is it with spiritual knowledge. Take the matter this way: The first subject for the exercise of my spiritual insight is my day, with its circumstances, its hindrances, its opportunities, its duties. I do what I can to solve it, to fulfil its duties, to learn its lessons. I try to live my day with aspiration and faith. That is the first step. By doing this, I gather a harvest for the evening, I gain a deeper insight into life, in virtue of which I begin the next day with a certain advantage, a certain spiritual advance and attainment. So with all successive days. In faith and aspiration, we pass from day to day, in growing knowledge and power, with never more than one day to solve at a time, until all life becomes radiant and transparent.
7. This threefold power, of Attention, Meditation, Contemplation, is more interior than the means of growth previously described.
Very naturally so; because the means of growth previously described were concerned with the extrication of the spiritual man from psychic bondages and veils; while this threefold power is to be exercised by the spiritual man thus extricated and standing on his feet, viewing life with open eyes.
8. But this triad is still exterior to the soul vision which is unconditioned, free from the seed of mental analyses.
The reason is this: The threefold power we have been considering, the triad of Attention, Contemplation, Meditation is, so far as we have yet considered it, the focussing of the beam of perceiving consciousness upon some form of manifesting being, with a view of understanding it completely. There is a higher stage, where the beam of consciousness is turned back upon itself, and the individual consciousness enters into, and knows, the All consciousness. This is a being, a being in immortality, rather than a knowing; it is free from mental analysis or mental forms. It is not an activity of the higher mind, even the mind of the spiritual man. It is an activity of the soul. Had Newton risen to this higher stage, he would have known, not the laws of motion, but that high Being, from whose Life comes eternal motion. Had Darwin risen to this, he would have seen the Soul, whose graduated thought and being all evolution expresses. There are, therefore, these two perceptions: that of living things, and that of the Life; that of the Soul’s works, and that of the Soul itself.
9. One of the ascending degrees is the development of Control. First there is the overcoming of the mind-impress of excitation. Then comes the manifestation of the mind-impress of Control. Then the perceiving consciousness follows after the moment of Control.
This is the development of Control. The meaning seems to be this: Some object enters the field of observation, and at first violently excites the mind, stirring up curiosity, fear, wonder; then the consciousness returns upon itself, as it were, and takes the perception firmly in hand, steadying itself, and viewing the matter calmly from above. This steadying effort of the will upon the perceiving consciousness is Control, and immediately upon it follows perception, understanding, insight.
Take a trite example. Supposing one is walking in an Indian forest. A charging elephant suddenly appears. The man is excited by astonishment, and, perhaps, terror. But he exercises an effort of will, perceives the situation in its true bearings, and recognizes that a certain thing must be done; in this case, probably, that he must get out of the way as quickly as possible.
Or a comet, unheralded, appears in the sky like a flaming sword. The beholder is at first astonished, perhaps terror-stricken; but he takes himself in hand, controls his thoughts, views the apparition calmly, and finally calculates its orbit and its relation to meteor showers.
These are extreme illustrations; but with all knowledge the order of perception is the same: first, the excitation of the mind by the new object impressed on it; then the control of the mind from within; upon which follows the perception of the nature of the object. Where the eyes of the spiritual man are open, this will be a true and penetrating spiritual perception. In some such way do our living experiences come to us; first, with a shock of pain; then the Soul steadies itself and controls the pain; then the spirit perceives the lesson of the event, and its bearing upon the progressive revelation of life.
10. Through frequent repetition of this process, the mind becomes habituated to it, and there arises an equable flow of perceiving consciousness.
Control of the mind by the Soul, like control of the muscles by the mind, comes by practice, and constant voluntary repetition.
As an example of control of the muscles by the mind, take the ceaseless practice by which a musician gains mastery over his instrument, or a fencer gains skill with a rapier. Innumerable small efforts of attention will make a result which seems well-nigh miraculous; which, for the novice, is really miraculous. Then consider that far more wonderful instrument, the perceiving mind, played on by that fine musician, the Soul. Here again, innumerable small efforts of attention will accumulate into mastery, and a mastery worth winning. For a concrete example, take the gradual conquest of each day, the effort to live that day for the Soul. To him that is faithful unto death, the Master gives the crown of life.
11. The gradual conquest of the mind’s tendency to flit from one object to another, and the power of one-pointedness, make the development of Contemplation.
As an illustration of the mind’s tendency to flit from one object to another, take a small boy, learning arithmetic. He begins: two ones are two; three ones are three-and then he thinks of three coins in his pocket, which will purchase so much candy, in the store down the street, next to the toy-shop, where are base-balls, marbles and so on,—and then he comes back with a jerk, to four ones are four. So with us also. We are seeking the meaning of our task, but the mind takes advantage of a moment of slackened attention, and flits off from one frivolous detail to another, till we suddenly come back to consciousness after traversing leagues of space. We must learn to conquer this, and to go back within ourselves into the beam of perceiving consciousness itself, which is a beam of the Oversoul. This is the true onepointedness, the bringing of our consciousness to a focus in the Soul.
12. When, following this, the controlled manifold tendency and the aroused one-pointedness are equally balanced parts of the perceiving consciousness, his the development of one-pointedness.
This would seem to mean that the insight which is called one-pointedness has two sides, equally balanced. There is, first, the manifold aspect of any object, the sum of all its characteristics and properties. This is to be held firmly in the mind. Then there is the perception of the object as a unity, as a whole, the perception of its essence. First, the details must be clearly perceived; then the essence must be comprehended. When the two processes are equally balanced, the true onepointedness is attained. Everything has these two sides, the side of difference and the side of unity; there is the individual and there is the genus; the pole of matter and diversity, and the pole of oneness and spirit. To see the object truly, we must see both.
13. Through this, the inherent character, distinctive marks and conditions of being and powers, according to their development, are made clear.
By the power defined in the preceding sutra, the inherent character, distinctive marks and conditions of beings and powers are made clear. For through this power, as defined, we get a twofold view of each object, seeing at once all its individual characteristics and its essential character, species and genus; we see it in relation to itself, and in relation to the Eternal. Thus we see a rose as that particular flower, with its colour and scent, its peculiar fold of each petal; but we also see in it the species, the family to which it belongs, with its relation to all plants, to all life, to Life itself. So in any day, we see events and circumstances; we also see in it the lesson set for the soul by the Eternal.
14. Every object has its characteristics which are already quiescent, those which are active, and those which are not yet definable.
Every object has characteristics belonging to its past, its present and its future. In a fir tree, for example, there are the stumps or scars of dead branches, which once represented its foremost growth; there are the branches with their needles spread out to the air; there are the buds at the end of each branch and twig, which carry the still closely packed needles which are the promise of the future. In like manner, the chrysalis has, as its past, the caterpillar; as its future, the butterfly. The man has, in his past, the animal; in his future, the angel. Both are visible even now in his face. So with all things, for all things change and grow.
15. Difference in stage is the cause of difference in development.
This but amplifies what has just been said. The first stage is the sapling, the caterpillar, the animal. The second stage is the growing tree, the chrysalis, the man. The third is the splendid pine, the butterfly, the angel. Difference of stage is the cause of difference of development. So it is among men, and among the races of men.
16. Through perfectly concentrated Meditation on the three stages of development comes a knowledge of past and future.
We have taken our illustrations from natural science, because, since every true discovery in natural science is a divination of a law in nature, attained through a flash of genius, such discoveries really represent acts of spiritual perception, acts of perception by the spiritual man, even though they are generally not so recognized. So we may once more use the same illustration. Perfectly concentrated Meditation, perfect insight into the chrysalis, reveals the caterpillar that it has been, the butterfly that it is destined to be. He who knows the seed, knows the seed-pod or ear it has come from, and the plant that is to come from it. So in like manner he who really knows today, and the heart of to-day, knows its parent yesterday and its child tomorrow. Past, present and future are all in the Eternal. He who dwells in the Eternal knows all three.
17. The sound and the object and the thought called up by a word are confounded because they are all blurred together in the mind. By perfectly concentrated Meditation on the distinction between them, there comes an understanding of the sounds uttered by all beings.
It must be remembered that we are speaking of perception by the spiritual man.
Sound, like every force, is the expression of a power of the Eternal. Infinite shades of this power are expressed in the infinitely varied tones of sound. He who, having entry to the consciousness of the Eternal knows the essence of this power, can divine the meanings of all sounds, from the voice of the insect to the music of the spheres.
In like manner, he who has attained to spiritual vision can perceive the mind-images in the thoughts of others, with the shade of feeling which goes with them, thus reading their thoughts as easily as he hears their words. Every one has the germ of this power, since difference of tone will give widely differing meanings to the same words, meanings which are intuitively perceived by everyone.
18. When the mind-impressions become visible, there comes an understanding of previous births.
This is simple enough if we grasp the truth of rebirth. The fine harvest of past experiences is drawn into the spiritual nature, forming, indeed, the basis of its development. When the consciousness has been raised to a point above these fine subjective impressions, and can look down upon them from above, this will in itself be a remembering of past births.
19. By perfectly concentrated Meditation on mind-images is gained the understanding of the thoughts of others.
Here, for those who can profit by it, is the secret of thought-reading. Take the simplest case of intentional thought transference. It is the testimony of those who have done this, that the perceiving mind must be stilled, before the mind-image projected by the other mind can be seen. With it comes a sense of the feeling and temper of the other mind and so on, in higher degrees.
20. But since that on which the thought in the mind of another rests is not objective to the thought-reader’s consciousness, he perceives the thought only, and not also that on which the thought rests.
The meaning appears to be simple: One may be able to perceive the thoughts of some one at a distance; one cannot, by that means alone, also perceive the external surroundings of that person, which arouse these thoughts.
21. By perfectly concentrated Meditation on the form of the body, by arresting the body’s perceptibility, and by inhibiting the eye’s power of sight, there comes the power to make the body invisible.
There are many instances of the exercise of this power, by mesmerists, hypnotists and the like; and we may simply call it an instance of the power of suggestion. Shankara tells us that by this power the popular magicians of the East perform their wonders, working on the mind-images of others, while remaining invisible themselves. It is all a question of being able to see and control the mind-images.
22. The works which fill out the life-span may be either immediately or gradually operative. By perfectly concentrated Meditation on these comes a knowledge of the time of the end, as also through signs.
A garment which is wet, says the commentator, may be hung up to dry, and so dry rapidly, or it may be rolled in a ball and dry slowly; so a fire may blaze or smoulder. Thus it is with Karma, the works that fill out the life-span. By an insight into the mental forms and forces which make up Karma, there comes a knowledge of the rapidity or slowness of their development, and of the time when the debt will be paid.
23. By perfectly concentrated Meditation on sympathy, compassion and kindness, is gained the power of interior union with others.
Unity is the reality; separateness the illusion. The nearer we come to reality, the nearer we come to unity of heart. Sympathy, compassion, kindness are modes of this unity of heart, whereby we rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. These things are learned by desiring to learn them.
24. By perfectly concentrated Meditation on power, even such power as that of the elephant may be gained.
This is a pretty image. Elephants possess not only force, but poise and fineness of control. They can lift a straw, a child, a tree with perfectly judged control and effort. So the simile is a good one. By detachment, by withdrawing into the soul’s reservoir of power, we can gain all these, force and fineness and poise; the ability to handle with equal mastery things small and great, concrete and abstract alike.
25. By bending upon them the awakened inner light, there comes a knowledge of things subtle, or concealed, or obscure.
As was said at the outset, each consciousness is related to all consciousness; and, through it, has a potential consciousness of all things; whether subtle or concealed or obscure. An understanding of this great truth will come with practice. As one of the wise has said, we have no conception of the power of Meditation.
26. By perfectly concentrated Meditation on the sun comes a knowledge of the worlds.
This has several meanings: First, by a knowledge of the constitution of the sun, astronomers can understand the kindred nature of the stars. And it is said that there is a finer astronomy, where the spiritual man is the astronomer. But the sun also means the Soul, and through knowledge of the Soul comes a knowledge of the realms of life.
27. By perfectly concentrated Meditation on the moon comes a knowledge of the lunar mansions.
Here again are different meanings. The moon is, first, the companion planet, which, each day, passes backward through one mansion of the stars. By watching the moon, the boundaries of the mansion are learned, with their succession in the great time-dial of the sky. But the moon also symbolizes the analytic mind, with its divided realms; and these, too, may be understood through perfectly concentrated Meditation.
28. By perfectly concentrated Meditation on the fixed pole-star comes a knowledge of the motions of the stars.
Addressing Duty, stern daughter of the Voice of God, Wordsworth finely said:
Thou cost preserve the stars from wrong,
And the most ancient heavens through thee are fresh and strong—
thus suggesting a profound relation between the moral powers and the powers that rule the worlds. So in this Sutra the fixed polestar is the eternal spirit about which all things move, as well as the star toward which points the axis of the earth. Deep mysteries attend both, and the veil of mystery is only to be raised by Meditation, by open-eyed vision of the awakened spiritual man.
29. Perfectly concentrated Meditation on the centre of force in the lower trunk brings an understanding of the order of the bodily powers. We are coming to a vitally important part of the teaching of Yoga: namely, the spiritual man’s attainment of full self-consciousness, the awakening of the spiritual man as a self-conscious individual, behind and above the natural man. In this awakening, and in the process of gestation which precedes it, there is a close relation with the powers of the natural man, which are, in a certain sense, the projection, outward and downward, of the powers of the spiritual man. This is notably true of that creative power of the spiritual man which, when embodied in the natural man, becomes the power of generation. Not only is this power the cause of the continuance of the bodily race of mankind, but further, in the individual, it is the key to the dominance of the personal life. Rising, as it were, through the life-channels of the body, it flushes the personality with physical force, and maintains and colours the illusion that the physical life is the dominant and all-important expression of life. In due time, when the spiritual man has begun to take form, the creative force will be drawn off, and become operative in building the body of the spiritual man, just as it has been operative in the building of physical bodies, through generation in the natural world.
Perfectly concentrated Meditation on the nature of this force means, first, that rising of the consciousness into the spiritual world, already described, which gives the one sure foothold for Meditation; and then, from that spiritual point of vantage, not only an insight into the creative force, in its spiritual and physical aspects, but also a gradually attained control of this wonderful force, which will mean its direction to the body of the spiritual man, and its gradual withdrawal from the body of the natural man, until the over-pressure, so general and such a fruitful source of misery in our day, is abated, and purity takes the place of passion. This over pressure, which is the cause of so many evils and so much of human shame, is an abnormal, not a natural, condition. It is primarily due to spiritual blindness, to blindness regarding the spiritual man, and ignorance even of his existence; for by this blind ignorance are closed the channels through which, were they open, the creative force could flow into the body of the spiritual man, there building up an immortal vesture. There is no cure for blindness, with its consequent over-pressure and attendant misery and shame, but spiritual vision, spiritual aspiration, sacrifice, the new birth from above. There is no other way to lighten the burden, to lift the misery and shame from human life. Therefore, let us follow after sacrifice and aspiration, let us seek the light. In this way only shall we gain that insight into the order of the bodily powers, and that mastery of them, which this Sutra implies.
30. By perfectly concentrated Meditation on the centre of force in the well of the throat, there comes the cessation of hunger and thirst.
We are continuing the study of the bodily powers and centres of force in their relation to the powers and forces of the spiritual man. We have already considered the dominant power of physical life, the creative power which secures the continuance of physical life; and, further, the manner in which, through aspiration and sacrifice, it is gradually raised and set to the work of upbuilding the body of the spiritual man. We come now to the dominant psychic force, the power which manifests itself in speech, and in virtue of which the voice may carry so much of the personal magnetism, endowing the orator with a tongue of fire, magical in its power to arouse and rule the emotions of his hearers. This emotional power, this distinctively psychical force, is the cause of “hunger and thirst,” the psychical hunger and thirst for sensations, which is the source of our two-sided life of emotionalism, with its hopes and fears, its expectations and memories, its desires and hates. The source of this psychical power, or, perhaps we should say, its centre of activity in the physical body is said to be in the cavity of the throat. Thus, in the Taittiriya Upanishad it is written: “There is this shining ether in the inner being. Therein is the spiritual man, formed through thought, immortal, golden. Inward, in the palate, the organ that hangs down like a nipple,-this is the womb of Indra. And there, where the dividing of the hair turns, extending upward to the crown of the head.”
Indra is the name given to the creative power of which we have spoken, and which, we are told, resides in “the organ which hangs down like a nipple, inward, in the palate.”
31. By perfectly concentrated Meditation on the centre of force in the channel called the “tortoise-formed,” comes steadfastness.
We are concerned now with the centre of nervous or psychical force below the cavity of the throat, in the chest, in which is felt the sensation of fear; the centre, the disturbance of which sets the heart beating miserably with dread, or which produces that sense of terror through which the heart is said to stand still.
When the truth concerning fear is thoroughly mastered, through spiritual insight into the immortal, fearless life, then this force is perfectly controlled; there is no more fear, just as, through the control of the psychic power which works through the nerve-centre in the throat, there comes a cessation of “hunger and thirst.” Thereafter, these forces, or their spiritual prototypes, are turned to the building of the spiritual man.
Always, it must be remembered, the victory is first a spiritual one; only later does it bring control of the bodily powers.
32. Through perfectly concentrated Meditation on the light in the head comes the vision of the Masters who have attained.
The tradition is, that there is a certain centre of force in the head, perhaps the “pineal gland,” which some of our Western philosophers have supposed to be the dwelling of the soul, a centre which is, as it were, the door way between the natural and the spiritual man. It is the seat of that better and wiser consciousness behind the outward looking consciousness in the forward part of the head; that better and wiser consciousness of “the back of the mind,” which views spiritual things, and seeks to impress the spiritual view on the outward looking consciousness in the forward part of the head. It is the spiritual man seeking to guide the natural man, seeking to bring the natural man to concern himself with the things of his immortality. This is suggested in the words of the Upanishad already quoted: “There, where the dividing of the hair turns, extending upward to the crown of the head”; all of which may sound very fantastical, until one comes to understand it.
It is said that when this power is fully awakened, it brings a vision of the great Companions of the spiritual man, those who have already attained, crossing over to the further shore of the sea of death and rebirth. Perhaps it is to this divine sight that the Master alluded, who is reported to have said: “I counsel you to buy of me eye-salve, that you may see.” It is of this same vision of the great Companions, the children of light, that a seer wrote:
“Though inland far we be,
Our souls have sight of that immortal sea
Which brought us hither,
Can in a moment travel thither,
And see the Children sport upon the shore
And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.”
33. Or through the divining power of tuition he knows all things.
This is really the supplement, the spiritual side, of the Sutra just translated. Step by step, as the better consciousness, the spiritual view, gains force in the back of the mind, so, in the same measure, the spiritual man is gaining the power to see: learning to open the spiritual eyes. When the eyes are fully opened, the spiritual man beholds the great Companions standing about him; he has begun to “know all things.”
This divining power of intuition is the power which lies above and behind the so-called rational mind; the rational mind formulates a question and lays it before the intuition, which gives a real answer, often immediately distorted by the rational mind, yet always embodying a kernel of truth. It is by this process, through which the rational mind brings questions to the intuition for solution, that the truths of science are reached, the flashes of discovery and genius. But this higher power need not work in subordination to the so-called rational mind, it may act directly, as full illumination, “the vision and the faculty divine.”
34 By perfectly concentrated Meditation on the heart, the interior being, comes the knowledge of consciousness.
The heart here seems to mean, as it so often does in the Upanishads, the interior, spiritual nature, the consciousness of the spiritual man, which is related to the heart, and to the wisdom of the heart. By steadily seeking after, and finding, the consciousness of the spiritual man, by coming to consciousness as the spiritual man, a perfect knowledge of consciousness will be attained. For the consciousness of the spiritual man has this divine quality: while being and remaining a truly individual consciousness, it at the same time flows over, as it were, and blends with the Divine Consciousness above and about it, the consciousness of the great Companions; and by showing itself to be one with the Divine Consciousness, it reveals the nature of all consciousness, the secret that all consciousness is One and Divine.
35. The personal self seeks to feast on life, through a failure to perceive the distinction between the personal self and the spiritual man. All personal experience really exists for the sake of another: namely, the spiritual man. By perfectly concentrated Meditation on experience for the sake of the Self, comes a knowledge of the spiritual man.
The divine ray of the Higher Self, which is eternal, impersonal and abstract, descends into life, and forms a personality, which, through the stress and storm of life, is hammered into a definite and concrete self-conscious individuality. The problem is, to blend these two powers, taking the eternal and spiritual being of the first, and blending with it, transferring into it, the self-conscious individuality of the second; and thus bringing to life a third being, the spiritual man, who is heir to the immortality of his father, the Higher Self, and yet has the self-conscious, concrete individuality of his other parent, the personal self. This is the true immaculate conception, the new birth from above, “conceived of the Holy Spirit.” Of this new birth it is said: “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit: ye must be born again.”
Rightly understood, therefore, the whole life of the personal man is for another, not for himself. He exists only to render his very life and all his experience for the building up of the spiritual man. Only through failure to see this, does he seek enjoyment for himself, seek to secure the feasts of life for himself; not understanding that he must live for the other, live sacrificially, offering both feasts and his very being on the altar; giving himself as a contribution for the building of the spiritual man. When he does understand this, and lives for the Higher Self, setting his heart and thought on the Higher Self, then his sacrifice bears divine fruit, the spiritual man is built up, consciousness awakes in him, and he comes fully into being as a divine and immortal individuality.
36. Thereupon are born the divine power of intuition, and the hearing, the touch, the vision, the taste and the power of smell of the spiritual man.
When, in virtue of the perpetual sacrifice of the personal man, daily and hourly giving his life for his divine brother the spiritual man, and through the radiance ever pouring down from the Higher Self, eternal in the Heavens, the spiritual man comes to birth,-there awake in him those powers whose physical counterparts we know in the personal man. The spiritual man begins to see, to hear, to touch, to taste. And, besides the senses of the spiritual man, there awakes his mind, that divine counterpart of the mind of the physical man, the power of direct and immediate knowledge, the power of spiritual intuition, of divination. This power, as we have seen, owes its virtue to the unity, the continuity, of consciousness, whereby whatever is known to any consciousness, is knowable by any other consciousness. Thus the consciousness of the spiritual man, who lives above our narrow barriers of separateness, is in intimate touch with the consciousness of the great Companions, and can draw on that vast reservoir for all real needs. Thus arises within the spiritual man that certain knowledge which is called intuition, divination, illumination.
37. These powers stand in contradistinction to the highest spiritual vision. In manifestation they are called magical powers.
The divine man is destined to supersede the spiritual man, as the spiritual man supersedes the natural man. Then the disciple becomes a Master. The opened powers of tile spiritual man, spiritual vision, hearing, and touch, stand, therefore, in contradistinction to the higher divine power above them, and must in no wise be regarded as the end of the way, for the path has no end, but rises ever to higher and higher glories; the soul’s growth and splendour have no limit. So that, if the spiritual powers we have been considering are regarded as in any sense final, they are a hindrance, a barrier to the far higher powers of the divine man. But viewed from below, from the standpoint of normal physical experience, they are powers truly magical; as the powers natural to a four-dimensional being will appear magical to a three-dimensional being.
38. Through the weakening of the causes of bondage, and by learning the method of sassing, the consciousness is transferred to the other body.
In due time, after the spiritual man has been formed and grown stable through the forces and virtues already enumerated, and after the senses of the spiritual man have awaked, there comes the transfer of the dominant consciousness, the sense of individuality, from the physical to the spiritual man. Thereafter the physical man is felt to be a secondary, a subordinate, an instrument through whom the spiritual man works; and the spiritual man is felt to be the real individuality. This is, in a sense, the attainment to full salvation and immortal life; yet it is not the final goal or resting place, but only the beginning of the greater way.
The means for this transfer are described as the weakening of the causes of bondage, and an understanding of the method of passing from the one consciousness to the other. The first may also be described as detach meet, and comes from the conquest of the delusion that the personal self is the real man. When that delusion abates and is held in check, the finer consciousness of the spiritual man begins to shine in the background of the mind. The transfer of the sense of individuality to this finer consciousness, and thus to the spiritual man, then becomes a matter of recollection, of attention; primarily, a matter of taking a deeper interest in the life and doings of the spiritual man, than in the pleasures or occupations of the personality. Therefore it is said: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust cloth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust cloth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
39. Through mastery of the upward-life comes freedom from the dangers of water, morass, and thorny places, and the power of ascension is gained.
Here is one of the sentences, so characteristic of this author, and, indeed, of the Eastern spirit, in which there is an obvious exterior meaning, and, within this, a clear interior meaning, not quite so obvious, but far more vital.
The surface meaning is, that by mastery of a certain power, called here the upward-life, and akin to levitation, there comes the ability to walk on water, or to pass over thorny places without wounding the feet.
But there is a deeper meaning. When we speak of the disciple’s path as a path of thorns, we use a symbol; and the same symbol is used here. The upward-life means something more than the power, often manifested in abnormal psychical experiences, of levitating the physical body, or near-by physical objects. It means the strong power of aspiration, of upward will, which first builds, and then awakes the spiritual man, and finally transfers the conscious individuality to him; for it is he who passes safely over the waters of death and rebirth, and is not pierced by the thorns in the path. Therefore it is said that he who would tread the path of power must look for a home in the air, and afterwards in the ether.
Of the upward-life, this is written in the Katha Upanishad: “A hundred and one are the heart’s channels; of these one passes to the crown. Going up this, he comes to the immortal.” This is the power of ascension spoken of in the Sutra.
40. By mastery of the binding-life comes radiance.
In the Upanishads, it is said that this binding-life unites the upward-life to the downward-life, and these lives have their analogies in the “vital breaths” in the body. The thought in the text seems to be, that, when the personality is brought thoroughly under control of the spiritual man, through the life-currents which bind them together, the personality is endowed with a new force, a strong personal magnetism, one might call it, such as is often an appanage of genius.
But the text seems to mean more than this and to have in view the “vesture of the colour of the sun” attributed by the Upanishads to the spiritual man; that vesture which a disciple has thus described: “The Lord shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body”; perhaps “body of radiance” would better translate the Greek.
In both these passages, the teaching seems to be, that the body of the full-grown spiritual man is radiant or luminous,-for those at least, who have anointed their eyes wit! eye-salve, so that they see.
41. From perfectly concentrated Meditation on the correlation of hearing and the ether, comes the power of spiritual hearing.
Physical sound, we are told, is carried by the air, or by water, iron, or some medium on the same plane of substance. But then is a finer hearing, whose medium of transmission would seem to be the ether; perhaps no that ether which carries light, heat and magnetic waves, but, it may be, the far finer ether through which the power of gravity works. For, while light or heat or magnetic waves, travelling from the sun to the earth, take eight minutes for the journey, it is mathematically certain that the pull of gravitation does not take as much as eight seconds, or even the eighth of a second. The pull of gravitation travels, it would seem “as quick as thought”; so it may well be that, in thought transference or telepathy, the thoughts travel by the same way, carried by the same “thought-swift” medium.
The transfer of a word by telepathy is the simplest and earliest form of the “divine hearing” of the spiritual man; as that power grows, and as, through perfectly concentrated Meditation, the spiritual man comes into more complete mastery of it, he grows able to hear and clearly distinguish the speech of the great Companions, who counsel and comfort him on his way. They may speak to him either in wordless thoughts, or in perfectly definite words and sentences.
42. By perfectly concentrated Meditation em the correlation of the body with the ether, and by thinking of it as light as thistle-down, will come the power to traverse the ether.
It has been said that he who would tread the path of power must look for a home in the air, and afterwards in the ether. This would seem to mean, besides the constant injunction to detachment, that he must be prepared to inhabit first a psychic, and then an etheric body; the former being the body of dreams; the latter, the body of the spiritual man, when he wakes up on the other side of dreamland. The gradual accustoming of the consciousness to its new etheric vesture, its gradual acclimatization, so to speak, in the etheric body of the spiritual man, is what our text seems to contemplate.
43. When that condition of consciousness is reached, which is far-reaching and not confined to the body, which is outside the body and not conditioned by it, then the veil which conceals the light is worn away.
Perhaps the best comment on this is afforded by the words of Paul: “I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such a one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) how that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable [or, unspoken] words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.”
The condition is, briefly, that of the awakened spiritual man, who sees and hears beyond the veil.
44. Mastery of the elements comes from perfectly concentrated Meditation on their five forms: the gross, the elemental, the subtle, the inherent, the purposive. These five forms are analogous to those recognized by modern physics: solid, liquid, gaseous, radiant and ionic. When the piercing vision of the awakened spiritual man is directed to the forms of matter, from within, as it were, from behind the scenes, then perfect mastery over the “beggarly elements” is attained. This is, perhaps, equivalent to the injunction: “Inquire of the earth, the air, and the water, of the secrets they hold for you. The development of your inner senses will enable you to do this.”
45. Thereupon will come the manifestation of the atomic and other powers, which are the endowment of the body, together with its unassailable force.
The body in question is, of course, the etheric body of the spiritual man. He is said to possess eight powers: the atomic, the power of assimilating himself with the nature of the atom, which will, perhaps, involve the power to disintegrate material forms; the power of levitation; the power of limitless extension; the power of boundless reach, so that, as the commentator says, “he can touch the moon with the tip of his finger”; the power to accomplish his will; the power of gravitation, the correlative of levitation; the power of command; the power of creative will. These are the endowments of the spiritual man. Further, the spiritual body is unassailable. Fire burns it not, water wets it not, the sword cleaves it not, dry winds parch it not. And, it is said, the spiritual man can impart something of this quality and temper to his bodily vesture.
46. Shapeliness, beauty, force, the temper of the diamond: these are the endowments of that body.
The spiritual man is shapely, beautiful strong, firm as the diamond. Therefore it is written: “These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass: He that overcometh and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; and I will give him the morning star.”
47. Mastery over the powers of perception and action comes through perfectly concentrated Meditation on their fivefold forms; namely, their power to grasp their distinctive nature, the element of self-consciousness in them, their inherence, and their purposiveness.
Take, for example, sight. This possesses, first, the power to grasp, apprehend, perceive; second, it has its distinctive form of perception; that is, visual perception; third, it always carries with its operations self-consciousness, the thought: “I perceive”; fourth sight has the power of extension through the whole field of vision, even to the utmost star; fifth, it is used for the purposes of the Seer. So with the other senses. Perfectly concentrated Meditation on each sense, a viewing it from behind and within, as is possible for the spiritual man, brings a mastery of the scope and true character of each sense, and of the world on which they report collectively.
48. Thence comes the power swift as thought, independent of instruments, and the mastery over matter.
We are further enumerating the endowments of the spiritual man. Among these is the power to traverse space with the swiftness of thought, so that whatever place the spiritual man thinks of, to that he goes, in that place he already is. Thought has now become his means of locomotion. He is, therefore, independent of instruments, and can bring his force to bear directly, wherever he wills.
49. When the spiritual man is perfectly disentangled from the psychic body, he attains to mastery over all things and to a knowledge of all.
The spiritual man is enmeshed in the web of the emotions; desire, fear, ambition, passion; and impeded by the mental forms of separateness and materialism. When these meshes are sundered, these obstacles completely overcome, then the spiritual man stands forth in his own wide world, strong, mighty, wise. He uses divine powers, with a divine scope and energy, working together with divine Companions. To such a one it is said: “Thou art now a disciple, able to stand, able to hear, able to see, able to speak, thou hast conquered desire and attained to self-knowledge, thou hast seen thy soul in its bloom and recognized it, and heard the voice of the silence.”
50. By absence of all self-indulgence at this point, when the seeds of bondage to sorrow are destroyed, pure spiritual being is attained.
The seeking of indulgence for the personal self, whether through passion or ambition, sows the seed of future sorrow. For this self indulgence of the personality is a double sin against the real; a sin against the cleanness of life, and a sin against the universal being, which permits no exclusive particular good, since, in the real, all spiritual possessions are held in common. This twofold sin brings its reacting punishment, its confining bondage to sorrow. But ceasing from self-indulgence brings purity, liberation, spiritual life.
51. There should be complete overcoming of allurement or pride in the invitations of the different realms of life, lest attachment to things evil arise once more.
The commentator tells us that disciples, seekers for union, are of four degrees: first, those who are entering the path; second, those who are in the realm of allurements; third, those who have won the victory over matter and the senses; fourth, those who stand firm in pure spiritual life. To the second, especially, the caution in the text is addressed. More modern teachers would express the same truth by a warning against the delusions and fascinations of the psychic realm, which open around the disciple, as he breaks through into the unseen worlds. These are the dangers of the anteroom. Safety lies in passing on swiftly into the inner chamber. “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out.”
52. From perfectly concentrated Meditation on the divisions of time and their succession comes that wisdom which is born of discernment.
The Upanishads say of the liberated that “he has passed beyond the triad of time”; he no longer sees life as projected into past, present and future, since these are forms of the mind; but beholds all things spread out in the quiet light of the Eternal. This would seem to be the same thought, and to point to that clear-eyed spiritual perception which is above time; that wisdom born of the unveiling of Time’s delusion. Then shall the disciple live neither in the present nor the future, but in the Eternal.
53. Hence comes discernment between things which are of like nature, not distinguished by difference of kind, character or position. Here, as also in the preceding Sutra, we are close to the doctrine that distinctions of order, time and space are creations of the mind; the threefold prism through which the real object appears to us distorted and refracted. When the prism is withdrawn, the object returns to its primal unity, no longer distinguishable by the mind, yet clearly knowable by that high power of spiritual discernment, of illumination, which is above the mind.
54. The wisdom which is born of discernment is starlike; it discerns all things, and all conditions of things, it discerns without succession: simultaneously.
That wisdom, that intuitive, divining power is starlike, says the commentator, because it shines with its own light, because it rises on high, and illumines all things. Nought is hid from it, whether things past, things present, or things to come; for it is beyond the threefold form of time, so that all things are spread before it together, in the single light of the divine. This power has been beautifully described by Columba: “Some there are, though very few, to whom Divine grace has granted this: that they can clearly and most distinctly see, at one and the same moment, as though under one ray of the sun, even the entire circuit of the whole world with its surroundings of ocean and sky, the inmost part of their mind being marvellously enlarged.”
55. When the vesture and the spiritual man are alike pure, then perfect spiritual life is attained.
The vesture, says the commentator, must first be washed pure of all stains of passion and darkness, and the seeds of future sorrow must be burned up utterly. Then, both the vesture and the wearer of the vesture being alike pure, the spiritual man enters into perfect spiritual life.