(Part 1 of 8)
THE EQUINOX VOLUME III, NUMBER FOUR
EIGHT LECTURES ON YOGA
SRI PARAMAHANSA SHIVAJI
(written by the Master Therion)
YOGA FOR YAHOOS
First Lecture. First Principles. . . . . . . Part 1
Second Lecture. Yama . . . . . . . . . . . . Part 2
Third Lecture. Niyama. . . . . . . . . . . . Part 3
Fourth Lecture. Asana and Pranayama. . . . . Part 4
YOGA FOR YELLOWBELLIES
First Lecture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Part 5
Second Lecture. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Part 6
Third Lecture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Part 7
Fourth Lecture. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Part 8
YOGA FOR YAHOOS
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law
It is my will to explain the subject of Yoga in clear language,
without resort to jargon or the enunciation of fantastic hypotheses,
in order that this great science may be thoroughly understood as of
For, like all great things, it is simple; but, like all great
things, it is masked by confused thinking; and, only too often,
brought into contempt by the machinations of knavery.
Love is the law, love under will
- There is more nonsense talked and written about Yoga than
about anything else in the world. Most of this nonsense, which is
fostered by charlatans, is based upon the idea that there is something mysterious and Oriental
about it. There isn't. Do not look to
me for obelisks and odalisques, Rahat Loucoum, bul-buls, or any other
tinsel imagery of the Yoga-mongers. I am neat but not gaudy. There
is nothing mysterious or Oriental about anything, as everybody knows
who has spent a little time intelligently in the continents of Asia
and Africa. I propose to invoke the most remote and elusive of all
Gods to throw clear light upon the subject -- the light of common
- All phenomena of which we are aware take place in our own
minds, and therefore the only thing we have to look at is the mind;
which is a more constant quantity over all the species of humanity
than is generally supposed. What appear to be radical differences,
irreconcilable by argument, are usually found to be due to the
obstinacy of habit produced by generations of systematic sectarian
- We must then begin the study of Yoga by looking at the
meaning of the word. It means Union, from the same Sanskrit root as
the Greek word Zeugma, the Latin word Jugum, and the English word
yoke. (Yeug -- to join.)
When a dancing girl is dedicated to the service of a temple
there is a Yoga of her relations to celebrate. Yoga, in short, may
be translated 'tea fight,' which doubtless accounts for the fact that
all the students of Yoga in England do nothing but gossip over
endless libations of Lyons' 1s. 2d.
- Yoga means Union.
In what sense are we to consider this? How is the word Yoga to
imply a system of religious training or a description of religious
You may note incidentally that the word Religion is really
identifiable with Yoga. It means a binding together.
- Yoga means Union.
What are the elements which are united or to be united when this
word is used in its common sense of a practice widely spread in
Hindustan whose object is the emancipation of the individual who
studies and practises it from the less pleasing features of his life
on this planet?
I say Hindustan, but I really mean anywhere on the earth; for
research has shown that similar methods producing similar results are
to be found in every country. The details vary, but the general
structure is the same. Because all bodies, and so all minds, have
- Yoga means Union.
In the mind of a pious person, the inferiority complex which
accounts for his piety compels him to interpret this emancipation as
union with the gaseous vertebrate whom he has invented and called
God. On the cloudy vapour of his fears his imagination has thrown a
vast distorted shadow of himself, and he is duly terrified; and the
more he cringes before it, the more the spectre seems to stoop to
crush him. People with these ideas will never get to anywhere but
Lunatic Asylums and Churches.
It is because of this overwhelming miasma of fear that the whole
subject of Yoga has become obscure. A perfectly simple problem has
been complicated by the most abject ethical and superstitious nonsense. Yet all the time the truth is patent
in the word itself.
- Yoga means Union.
We may now consider what Yoga really is. Let us go for a moment
into the nature of consciousness with the tail of an eye on such
sciences as mathematics, biology, and chemistry.
In mathematics the expression 'a' plus 'b' plus 'c' is a triviality. Write 'a' plus 'b' plus 'c' equals 0, and
you obtain an
equation from which the most glorious truths may be developed.
In biology the cell divides endlessly, but never becomes anything different; but if we unite cells of
opposite qualities, male
and female, we lay the foundations of a structure whose summit is
unattainably fixed in the heavens of imagination.
Similar facts occur in chemistry. The atom by itself has few
constant qualities, none of them particulary significant; but as soon
as an element combines with the object of its hunger we get not only
the ecstatic production of light, heat, and so forth, but a more
complex structure having few or none of the qualities of its elements, but capable of further
combination into complexities of
astonishing sublimity. All these combinations, these unions, are
- Yoga means Union.
How are we to apply this word to the phenomena of mind?
What is the first characteristic of everything in thought? How
did it come to be a thought at all? Only by making a distinction
between it and the rest of the world.
The first proposition, the type of all propositions, is: S is P.
There must be two things -- different things -- whose relation forms
Yoga is first of all the union of the subject and the object of
consciousness: of the seer with the thing seen.
- Now, there is nothing strange of wonderful about all this.
The study of the principles of Yoga is very useful to the average
man, if only to make him think about the nature of the world as he
supposes that he knows it.
Let us consider a piece of cheese. We say that this has certain
qualities, shape, structure, colour, solidity, weight, taste, smell,
consistency and the rest; but investigation has shown that this is
all illusory. Where are these qualities? Not in the cheese, for
different observers give quite different accounts of it. Not in
ourselves, for we do not perceive them in the absence of the cheese.
All 'material things,' all impressions, are phantoms.
In reality the cheese is nothing but a series of electric
charges. Even the most fundamental quality of all, mass, has been
found not to exist. The same is true of the matter in our brains
which is partly responsible for these perceptions. What then are
these qualities of which we are all so sure? They would not exist
without our brains; they would not exist without the cheese. They
are the results of the union, that is of the Yoga, of the seer and
the seen, of subject and object in consciousness as the philosophical
phrase goes. They have no material existence; they are only names
given to the ecstatic results of this particular form of Yoga.
- I think that nothing can be more helpful to the student of
Yoga than to get the above proposition firmly established in his
subconscious mind. About nine-tenths of the trouble in understanding
the subject is all this ballyhoo about Yoga being mysterious and
Oriental. The principles of Yoga, and the spiritual results of Yoga,
are demonstrated in every conscious and unconscious happening. This
is that which is written in 'The Book of the Law' -- Love is the law,
love under will -- for Love is the instinct to unite, and the act of
uniting. But this cannot be done indiscriminately, it must be done
'under will,' that is, in accordance with the nature of the particular units concerned.
Hydrogen has no love for Hydrogen; it is not
the nature, or the 'true Will' of Hydrogen to seek to unite with a
molecule of its own kind. Add Hydrogen to Hydrogen: nothing happens
to its quality: it is only its quantity that changes. It rather
seeks to enlarge its experience of its possibilities by union with
atoms of opposite character, such as Oxygen; with this it combines
(with an explosion of light, heat, and sound) to form water. The
result is entirely different from either of the component elements,
and has another kind of 'true Will,' such as to unite (with similar
disengagement of light and heat) with Potassium, while the resulting
'caustic Potash' has in its turn a totally new series of qualities,
with still another 'true Will' of its own; that is, to unite
explosively with acids. And so on.
- It may seem to some of you that these explanations have
rather knocked the bottom out of Yoga; that I have reduced it to the
category of common things. That was my object. There is no sense in
being frightened of Yoga, awed by Yoga, muddled and mystified by
Yoga, or enthusiastic over Yoga. If we are to make any progress in
its study, we need clear heads and the impersonal scientific attitude. It is especially
important not to bedevil ourselves with
Oriental jargon. We may have to use a few Sanskrit words; but that
is only because they have no English equivalents; and any attempt to
translate them burdens us with the connotations of the existing
English words which we employ. However, these words are very few;
and, if the definitions which I propose to give you are carefully
studied, they should present no difficulty.
- Having now understood that Yoga is the essence of all
phenomena whatsoever, we may ask what is the special meaning of the
word in respect of our proposed investigation, since the process and
the results are familiar to every one of us; so familiar indeed that
there is actually nothing else at all of which we have any knowledge.
It is knowledge.
What is it we are going to study, and why should we study it?
- The answer is very simple.
All this Yoga that we know and practice, this Yoga that produced
these ecstatic results that we call phenomena, includes among its
spiritual emanations a good deal of unpleasantness. The more we
study this universe produced by our Yoga, the more we collect and
synthesize our experience, the nearer we get to a perception of what
the Buddha declared to be characteristic of all component things:
Sorrow, Change, and Absence of any permanent principle. We constantly approach his enunciation of the
first two 'Noble Truths,' as he
called them. 'Everything is Sorrow'; and 'The cause of Sorrow is
Desire.' By the word 'Desire' he meant exactly what is meant by
'Love' in 'The Book of the Law' which I quoted a few moments ago.
'Desire' is the need of every unit to extend its experience by
combining with its opposite.
- It is easy enough to construct the whole series of arguments which lead up to the first 'Noble Truth.'
Every operation of Love is the satisfaction of a bitter hunger,
but the appetite only grows fiercer by satisfaction; so that we can
say with the Preacher: 'He that increaseth knowledge increaseth
Sorrow.' The root of all this sorrow is in the sense of insufficien-
cy; the need to unite, to lose oneself in the beloved object, is the
manifest proof of this fact, and it is clear also that the satisfaction produces only a temporary
relief, because the process expands
indefinitely. The thirst increases with drinking. The only complete
satisfaction conceivable would be the Yoga of the atom with the
entire universe. This fact is easily perceived, and has been constantly expressed in the mystical
philosophies of the West; the only
goal is 'Union with God.' Of course, we only use the word 'God'
because we have been brought up in superstition, and the higher
philosophers both in the East and in the West have preferred to speak
of union with the All or with the Absolute. More superstitions!
- Very well, then, there is no difficulty at all; since
every thought in our being, every cell in our bodies, every electron
and proton of our atoms, is nothing but Yoga and the result of Yoga.
All we have to do to obtain emancipation, satisfaction, everything we
want is to perform this universal and inevitable operation upon the
Absolute itself. Some of the more sophisticated members of my
audience may possibly be thinking that there is a catch in it
somewhere. They are perfectly right.
- The snag is simply this. Every element of which we are
composed is indeed constantly occupied in the satisfaction of its
particular needs by its own particular Yoga; but for that very reason
it is completely obsessed by its own function, which it must naturally consider as the Be-All and End-All of its existence.
For instance, if you take a glass tube open at both ends and put it over a
bee on the windowpane it will continue beating against the window to
the point of exhaustion and death, instead of escaping through the
tube. We must not confuse the necessary automatic functioning of any
of our elements with the true Will which is the proper orbit of any
star. A human being only acts as a unit at all because of countless
generations of training. Evolutionary processes have set up a higher
order of Yogic action by which we have managed to subordinate what we
consider particular interests to what we consider the general welfare. We are communities; and our well-being depends
upon the wisdom
of our Councils, and the discipline with which their decisions are
enforced. The more complicated we are, the higher we are in the
scale of evolution, the more complex and difficult is the task of
legislation and of maintaining order.
- In highly civilised communities like our own (loud
laughter), the individual is constantly being attacked by conflicting interests and necessities; his
individuality is constantly being
assailed by the impact of other people; and in a very large number of
cases he is unable to stand up to the strain. 'Schizophrenia,' which
is a lovely word, and may or may not be found in your dictionary, is
an exceedingly common complaint. It means the splitting up of the
mind. In extreme cases we get the phenomena of multiple personality,
Jekyll and Hyde, only more so. At the best, when a man says 'I' he
refers only to a transitory phenomenon. His 'I' changes as he utters
the word. But -- philosophy apart -- it is rarer and rarer to find a
man with a mind of his own and a will of his own, even in this
- I want you therefore to see the nature of the obstacles to
union with the Absolute. For one thing, the Yoga which we constantly
practice has not invariable results; there is a question of attention, of investigation, of reflexion. I propose
to deal in a future
instruction with the modifications of our perception thus caused, for
they are of great importance to our science of Yoga. For example,
the classical case of the two men lost in a thick wood at night. One
says to the other: 'That dog barking is not a grasshopper; it is the
creaking of a cart.' Or again, 'He thought he saw a banker's clerk
descending from a bus. He looked again, and saw it was a
Everyone who has done any scientific investigation knows pain-
fully how every observation must be corrected again and again. The
need of Yoga is so bitter that it blinds us. We are constantly
tempted to see and hear what we want to see and hear.
- It is therefore incumbent upon us, if we wish to make the
universal and final Yoga with the Absolute, to master every element
of our being, to protect it against all civil and external war, to
intensify every faculty to the utmost, to train outselves in knowledge and power to the utmost; so that at the proper
moment we may be
in perfect condition to fling ourselves up into the furnace of
ecstasy which flames from the abyss of annihilation.
(Part 2 of 8)
YOGA FOR YAHOOS
SECOND LECTURE YAMA
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law
Stars and placental amniotes! And ye inhabitants of the ten thousand worlds!
- The conclusion of our researches last week was that the ultimate
Yoga which gives emancipation, which destroys the sense of separateness which is the root of Desire, is to be
made by the concentration
of every element of one's being, and annihilating it by intimate
combustion with the universe itself.
I might here note, in parenthesis, that one of the difficulties
of doing this is that all the elements of the Yogi increase in every
way exactly as he progresses, and by reason of that progress.
However, it is no use crossing our bridges until we come to them, and
we shall find that by laying down serious scientific principles based
on universal experience they will serve us faithfully through every
stage of the journey.
- When I first undertook the investigation of Yoga, I was
fortunately equipped with a very sound training in the fundamental
principles of modern science. I saw immediately that if we were to
put any common sense into the business (science is nothing but
instructed common sense), the first thing to do was to make a comparative study of the different systems
of mysticism. It was immediately apparent that the results all over the world were identical.
They were masked by sectarian theories. The methods all over the
world were identical; this was masked by religious prejudice and
local custom. But in their quiddity -- identical! This simple
principle proved quite sufficient to disentangle the subject from the
extraordinary complexities which have confused its expression.
- When it came to the point of preparing a simple analysis of
the matter, the question arose: what terms shall we use? The
mysticisms of Europe are hopelessly muddled; the theories have
entirely overlaid the methods. The Chinese system is perhaps the
most sublime and the most simple; but, unless one is born a Chinese,
the symbols are of really unclimbable difficulty. The Buddhist
system is in some ways the most complete, but it is also the most
recondite. The words are excessive in length and difficult to commit
to memory; and generally speaking, one cannot see the wood for the
trees. But from the Indian system, overloaded though it is by
accretions of every kind, it is comparatively easy to extract a
method which is free from unnecessary and undesirable implications,
and to make an interpretation of it intelligible to, and acceptable
by, European minds. It is this system, and this interpretation of
it, which I propose to put before you.
- The great classic of Sanskrit literature is the Aphorisms of
Patanjali. He is at least mercifully brief, and not more than ninety
or ninety-five percent of what he writes can be dismissed as the
ravings of a disordered mind. What remains is twenty-four carat
gold. I now proceed to bestow it.
- It is said that Yoga has eight limbs. Why limbs I do not
know. But I have found it convenient to accept this classification,
and we can cover the ground very satisfactorily by classing our
remarks under these eight headings.
- These headings are:
Any attempt to translate these words will mire us in a hopeless
quag of misunderstanding. What we can do is to deal with each one in
turn, giving at the outset some sort of definition or description
which will enable us to get a fairly complete idea of what is meant.
I shall accordingly begin with an account of Yama.
Attend! Perpend! Transcent!
- Yama is the easiest of the eight limbs of Yoga to define,
and corresponds pretty closely to our word 'control.' When I tell
you that some have translated it 'morality,' you will shrink appalled
and aghast at this revelation of the brainless baseness of humanity.
The word 'control' is here not very different from the word
'inhibition' as used by biologists. A primary cell, such as the
amoeba, is in one sense completely free, in another completely
passive. All parts of it are alike. Any part of its surface can
ingest its food. If you cut it in half, the only result is that you
have two perfect amoebae instead of one. How far is this condition
removed in the evolutionary scale from trunk murders!
Organisms developed by specialising their component structures
have not achieved this so much by an acquisition of new powers, as by
a restriction of part of the general powers. Thus, a Harley Street
specialist is simply an ordinary doctor who says: 'I won't go out
and attend to a sick person; I won't, I won't, I won't.'
Now what is true of cells is true of all already potentially
specialised organs. Muscular power is based upon the rigidity of
bones, and upon the refusal of joints to allow any movement in any
but the appointed directions. The more solid the fulcrum, the more
efficient the lever. The same remark applies to moral issues. These
issues are in themselves perfectly simple; but they have been completely overlaid by the sinister
activities of priests and lawyers.
There is no question of right or wrong in any abstract sense
about any of these problems. It is absurd to say that it is 'right'
for chlorine to combine enthusiastically with hydrogen, and only in a
very surly way with oxygen. It is not virtuous of a hydra to be
hermaphrodite, or contumacious on the part of an elbow not to move
freely in all directions. Anybody who knows what his job is has only
one duty, which is to get that job done. Anyone who possesses a
function has only one duty to that function, to arrange for its free
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
- We shall not be surprised therefore if we find that the
perfectly simple term Yama (or Control) has been bedevilled out of
all sense by the mistaken and malignant ingenuity of the pious Hindu.
He has interpreted the word 'control' as meaning compliance with
certain fixed proscriptions. There are quite a lot of prohibitions
grouped under the heading of Yama, which are perhaps quite necessary
for the kind of people contemplated by the Teacher, but they have
been senselessly elevated into universal rules. Everyone is familiar
with the prohibition of pork as an article of diet by Jews and
Mohammedans. This has nothing to do with Yama, or abstract righteousness. It was due to the fact that pork in
eastern countries was
infected with the trichina; which killed people who ate pork improperly cooked. It was no good
telling the savages that fact. Any
way, they would only have broken the hygienic command when greed
overcame them. The advice had to be made a universal rule, and
supported with the authority of a religious sanction. They had not
the brains to believe in trichinosis; but they were afraid of Jehovah
and Jehannum. Just so, under the grouping of Yama we learn that the
aspiring Yogi must become 'fixed in the non-receiving of gifts,'
which means that if anyone offers you a cigarette or a drink of
water, you must reject his insidious advances in the most Victorian
manner. It is such nonsense as this which brings the science of Yoga
into contempt. But it isn't nonsense if you consider the class of
people for whom the injunction was promulgated; for, as we will be
shown later, preliminary to the concentration of the mind is the
control of the mind, which means the calm of the mind, and the Hindu
mind is so constituted that if you offer a man the most trifling
object, the incident is a landmark in his life. It upsets him
completely for years.
In the East, an absolutely automatic and thoughtless act of
kindness to a native is liable to attach him to you, body and soul,
for the rest of his life. In other words, it is going to upset him;
and as a budding Yogi he has got to refuse it. But even the refusal
is going to upset him quite a lot; and therefore he has got to become
'fixed' in refusal; that is to say, he has got to erect by means of
habitual refusal a psychological barrier so strong that he can really
dismiss the temptation without a quiver, or a quaver, or even a
demisemiquaver of thought. I am sure you will see that an absolute
rule is necessary to obtain this result. It is obviously impossible
for him to try to draw the line between what he may receive and what
he may not; he is merely involved in a Socratic dilemma; whereas if
he goes to the other end of the line and accepts everything, his mind
is equally upset by the burden of the responsibility of dealing with
the things he has accepted. However, all these considerations do not
apply to the average European mind. If someone gives me 200,000
pounds sterling, I automatically fail to notice it. It is a normal
circumstance of life. Test me!
- There are a great many other injunctions, all of which have
to be examined independently in order to find whether they apply to
Yoga in general, and to the particular advantage of any given student. We are to exclude especially all
those considerations based on
fantastic theories of the universe, or on the accidents of race or
For instance, in the time of the late Maharajah of Kashmir,
mahsir fishing was forbidden throughout his territory; because, when
a child, he had been leaning over the parapet of a bridge over the
Jhilam at Srinagar, and inadvertently opened his mouth, so that a
mahsir was able to swallow his soul. It would never have done for a
Sahib -- a Mlecha! -- to catch that mahsir. This story is really
typical of 90% of the precepts usually enumerated under the heading
Yama. The rest are for the most part based on local and climatic
conditions, and they may or may not be applicable to your own case.
And, on the other hand, there are all sorts of good rules which have
never occurred to a teacher of Yoga; because those teachers never
conceived the condition in which many people live today. It never
occurred to the Buddha or Patanjali or Mansur el-Hallaj to advise his
pupils not to practise in a flat with a wireless set next door.
The result of all this is that all of you who are worth your
salt will be absolutely delighted when I tell you to scrap all the
rules and discover your own. Sir Richard Burton said: 'He noblest
lives and noblest dies, who makes and keeps his self-made laws.'
- This is, of course, what every man of science has to do in
every experiment. This is what constitutes an experiment. The other
kind of man has only bad habits. When you explore a new country, you
don't know what the conditions are going to be; and you have to
master those conditions by the method of trial and error. We start
to penetrate the stratosphere; and we have to modify our machines in
all sorts of ways which were not altogether foreseen. I wish to
thunder forth once more that no questions of right or wrong enter
into our problems. But in the stratosphere it is 'right' for a man
to be shut up in a pressure-resisting suit electrically heated, with
an oxygen supply, whereas it would be 'wrong' for him to wear it if
he were running the three miles in the summer sports in the
This is the pit into which all the great religious teachers have
hitherto fallen, and I am sure you are all looking hungrily at me in
the hope of seeing me do likewise. But no! There is one principle
which carries us through all conflicts concerning conduct, because it
is perfectly rigid and perfectly elastic: -- 'Do what thou wilt shall
be the whole of the Law.'
So: it is not the least use to come and pester me about it.
Perfect mastery of the violin in six easy lessons by correspondence!
Should I have the heart to deny you? But Yama is different.
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. That is Yama.
Your object is to perform Yoga. Your True Will is to attain the
consummation of marriage with the universe, and your ethical code
must constantly be adapted precisely to the conditions of your
experiment. Even when you have discovered what your code is, you
will have to modify it as you progress; 'remould it nearer to the
heart's desire' -- Omar Khayyam. Just so, in a Himalayan expedition
your rule of daily life in the valleys of Sikkim or the Upper Indus
will have to be changed when you get to the glacier. But it is
possible to indicate (in general terms expressed with the greatest
caution) the 'sort' of thing that is likely to be bad for you.
Anything that weakens the body, that exhausts, disturbs or inflames
the mind is deprecable. You are pretty sure to find as you progress
that there are some conditions that cannot be eliminated at all in
your particular circumstances; and then you have to find a way of
dealing with these so that they make a minimum of trouble. And you
will find that you cannot conquer the obstacle of Yama, and dismiss
it from your mind once and for all. Conditions favourable for the
beginner may become an intolerable nuisance to the adept, while, on
the other hand, things which matter very little in the beginning
become most serious obstacles later on.
Another point is that quite unsuspected problems arise in the
course of the training. The whole question of the sub-conscious mind
can be dismissed almost as a joke by the average man as he goes about
his daily business; it becomes a very real trouble when you discover
that the tranquillity of the mind is being disturbed by a type of
thought whose existence had previously been unsuspected, and whose
source is unimaginable.
Then again there is no perfection of materials; there will
always be errors and weaknesses, and the man who wins through is the
man who manages to carry on with a defective engine. The actual
strain of the work develops the defects; and it is a matter of great
nicety of judgment to be able to deal with the changing conditions of
life. It will be seen that the formula -- 'Do what thou wilt shall
be the whole of the Law' has nothing to do with 'Do as you please.'
It is much more difficult to comply with the Law of Θελημα than
to follow out slavishly a set of dead regulations. Almost the only
point of emancipation, in the sense of relief from a burden, is just
the difference between Life and Death.
To obey a set of rules is to shift the whole responsibility of
conduct on to some superannuated Bodhisattva, who would resent you
bitterly if he could see you, and tick you off in no uncertain terms
for being such a fool as to think you could dodge the difficulties of
research by the aid of a set of conventions which have little or
nothing to do with actual conditions.
Formidable indeed are the obstacles we have created by the
simple process of destroying our fetters. The analogy of the con-
quest of the air holds excellently well. The things that worry the
pedestrian worry us not at all; but to control a new element your
Yama must be that biological principle of adaptation to the new
conditions, adjustment of the faculties to those conditions, and
consequent success in those conditions, which were enunciated in
respect of planetary evolution by Herbert Spencer and now generalised
to cover all modes of being by the Law of Θελημα.
But now let me begin to unleash my indignation. My job -- the
establishment of the Law of Θελημα -- is a most discouraging job.
It is the rarest thing to find anyone who has any ideas at all on the
subject of liberty. Because the Law of Θελημα is the law of liberty, everybody's
particular hair stands on end like the quills of the
fretful porpentine; they scream like an uprooted mandrake, and flee
in terror from the accursed spot. Because: the exercise of liberty
means that you have to think for yourself, and the natural inertia of
mankind wants religion and ethics ready-made. However ridiculous or
shameful a theory or practice is, they would rather comply than
examine it. Sometimes it is hook-swinging or Sati; sometimes consubstantiation or supra-lapsarianism; they do
not mind what they are
brought up in, as long as they are well brought up. They do not want
to be bothered about it. The Old School Tie wins through. They
never suspect the meaning of the pattern on the tie: the Broad
You remember Dr. Alexandre Manette in 'A Tale of Two Cities.'
He had been imprisoned for many years in the Bastille, and to save
himself from going mad had obtained permission to make shoes. When
he was released, he disliked it. He had to be approached with the
utmost precaution; he fell into an agony of fear if his door was left
unlocked; he cobbled away in a frenzy of anxiety lest the shoes
should not be finished in time -- the shoes that nobody wanted.
Charles Dickens lived at a time and in a country such that this state
of mind appeared abnormal and even deplorable, but today it is a
characteristic of 95 per cent of the people of England. Subjects
that were freely discussed under Queen Victoria are now absolutely
taboo; because everyone knows subconsciously that to touch them,
however gently, is to risk precipitating the catastrophe of their
There are not going to be many Yogis in England, because there
will not be more than a very few indeed who will have the courage to
tackle even this first of the eight limbs of Yoga: Yama.
I do not think that anything will save the country: unless
through war and revolution, when those who wish to survive will have
to think and act for themselves according to their desperate needs,
and not by some rotten yard-stick of convention. Why, even the skill
of the workman has almost decayed within a generation! Forty years
ago there were very few jobs that a man could not do with a jack-
knife and a woman with a hair-pin; today you have to have a separate
gadget for every trivial task.
If you want to become Yogis, you will have to get a move on.
Lege! Judica! Tace!
Love is the law, love under will.
(Part 3 of 8)
YOGA FOR YAHOOS.
THIRD LECTURE. NIYAMA.
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law
- The subject of my third lecture is Niyama. Niyama? H'm!
The inadequacy of even th noblest attempts to translate these wretch-
ed Sanskrit words is now about to be delightfully demonstrated. The
nearest I can get to the meaning of Niyama is 'virtue'! God help us
all! This means virtue in the original etymological sense of the
word -- the quality of manhood; that is, to all intents and purposes,
the quality of godhead. But since we are translating Yama 'control,'
we find that our two words have not at all the same relationship to
each other that the words have in the original Sanskrit; for the
prefix 'ni' in Sanskrit gives the meaning of turning everything
upside down and backwards forwards, -- as you would say, Hysteron
Proteron -- at the same time producing the effect of transcendental
sublimity. I find that I cannot even begin to think of a proper
definition, although I know in my own mind perfectly well what the
Hindus mean; if one soaks oneself in Oriental thought for a sufficient number of years, one gets a
spiritual apprehension which it is
quite impossible to express in terms applicable to the objects of
intellectual apprehension; it is therefore much better to content
ourselves with the words as they stand, and get down to brass tacks
about the practical steps to be taken to master these preliminary
- It will hardly have escaped the attentive listener that in
my previous lectures I have combined the maximum of discourse with
the minimum of information; that is all part of my training as a
Cabinet Minister. But what does emerge tentatively from my mental
fog is that Yama, taking it by long and by large, is mostly negative
in its effects. We are imposing inhibitions on the existing current
of energy, just as one compresess a waterfall in turbines in order to
control and direct the natural gravitational energy of the stream.
- It might be as well, before altogether leaving the subject
of Yama, to enumerate a few of the practical conclusions which follow
from our premiss that nothing which might weaken or destroy the
beauty and harmony of the mind must be permitted. Social existence
of any kind renders any serious Yoga absolutely out of the question;
domestic life is completely incompatible with even elementary practices. No doubt many of you
will say, 'That's all very well for him;
let him speak for himself; as for me, I manage my home and my business so that everything runs on
ball bearings.' Echo answers . . .
- Until you actually start the practice of Yoga, you cannot
possibly imagine what constitutes a disturbance. You most of you
think that you can sit perfectly still; you tell me what artists'
models can do for over thirty-five minutes. They don't. You do not
hear the ticking of the clock; perhaps you do not even know whether a
typewriter is going in the room; for all I know, you could sleep
peacefully through an air-raid. That has nothing to do with it. As
soon as you start the practices you will find, if you are doing them
properly, that you are hearing sounds which you never heard before in
your life. You become hypersensitive. And as you have five external
batteries bombarding you, you get little repose. You feel the air on
your skin with about the same intensity as you would previously have
felt a fist in your face.
- To some extent, no doubt, this fact will be familiar to all
of you. Probably most of you have been out at some time or other in
what is grotesquely known as the silence of the night, and you will
have become aware of infinitesimal movements of light in the darkness, of elusive sounds
in the quiet. They will have soothed you and
pleased you; it will never have occurred to you that these changes
could each one be felt as a pang. But, even in the earliest months
of Yoga, this is exactly what happens, and therefore it is best to be
prepared by arranging, before you start at all, that your whole life
will be permanently free from all the grosser causes of trouble. The
practical problem of Yama is therefore, to a great extent, 'How shall
I settle down to the work?' Then, having complied with the theoretically best conditions, you have to
tackle each fresh problem as it
arises in the best way you can.
- We are now in a better position to consider the meaning of
Niyama, or virtue. To most men the qualities which constitute Niyama
are not apprehended at all by their self-consciousness. These are
positive powers, but they are latent; their development is not merely
measurable in terms of quantity and efficiency. As we rise from the
coarse to the fine, from the gross to the subtle, we enter a new (and
what appears on first sight to be an immeasurable) region. It is
quite impossible to explain what I mean by this; if I could, you
would know it already. How can one explain to a person who has never
skated the nature of the pleasure of executing a difficult figure on
the ice? He has in himself the whole apparatus ready for use; but
experience, and experience only, can make him aware of the results of
- At the same time, in a general exposition of Yoga, it may be
useful to give some idea of the functions on which those peaks that
pierce the clouds of the limitations of our intellectual understanding are based.
I have found it very useful in all kinds of thinking to employ a
sort of Abacus. The schematic representation of the universe given
by astrology and the Tree of Life is extremely valuable, especially
when reinforced and amplified by the Holy Qabalah. This Tree of LIfe
is susceptible to infinite ramifications, and there is no need in
this connectin to explore its subtleties. We ought to be able to
make a fairly satisfactory diagram for elementary purposes by taking
as the basis of our illustration the solar system as conceived by the
I do not know whether the average student is aware that in
practice the significations of the planets are based generally upon
the philosophical conceptions of the Greek and Roman gods. Let us
hope for the best, and go on!
- The planet Saturn, which represents anatomy, is the skele-
ton: it is a rigid structure upon which the rest of the body is
built. To what moral qualities does this correspond? The first
point of virtue in a bone is its rigidity, its resistance to pressure. And so in Niyama we find that we
need the qualities of absolute simplicity in our regimen; we need insensibility; we need
endurance; we need patience. It is simply impossible for anyone who
has not practised Yoga to understand what boredom means. I have
known Yogis, men even holier than I, (no! no!) who, to escape from
the intolerable tedium, would fly for refuge to a bottle party! It
is a 'physiological' tedium which becomes the acutest agony. The
tension becomes cramp; nothing else matters but to escape from the
But every evil brings its own remedy. Another quality of Saturn
is melancholy; Saturn represents the sorrow of the universe; it is
the Trance of sorrow that has determined one to undertake the task of
emancipation. This is the energising force of Law; it is the rigidity of the fact that everything
is sorrow which moves one to the task,
and keeps one on the Path.
- The next planet is Jupiter. This planet is in many ways the
opposite of Saturn; it represents expansion as Saturn represents
contraction; it is the universal love, the selfless love whose object
can be no less than the universe itself. This comes to reinforce the
powers of Saturn when they agonise; success is not for self but for
all; one might acquiesce in one's own failure, but one cannot be
unworthy of the universe. Jupiter, too, represents the vital,
creative, genial element of the cosmos. He has Ganymede and Hebe to
his cupbearers. There is an immense and inaccessible joy in the
Great Work; and it is the attainment of the trance, of even the
intellectual foreshadowing of that trance, of joy, which reassures
the Yogi that his work is worth while.
Jupiter digests experiences; Jupiter is the Lord of the Forces
of Life; Jupiter takes common matter and transmutes it into celestial
- The next planet is Mars. Mars represents the muscular
system; it is the lowest form of energy, and in Niyama it is to be
taken quite literally as the virtue which enables on to contend with,
and to conquer, the physical difficulties of the Work. The practical
point is this: 'The little more and how much it is, the little less
and what worlds away!' No matter how long you keep water at 99
degrees Centigrade under normal barometric pressure, it will not
boil. I shall probably be accused of advertising some kind of motor
spirit in talking about the little extra something that the others
haven't got, but I assure you that I am not being paid for it.
Let us take the example of Pranayama, a subject with which I
hope to deal in a subsequent lucubration. Let us suppose that you
are managing your breath so that your cycle, breathing in, holding,
and breathing out, lasts exactly a minute. That is pretty good work
for most people, but it may be or may not be good enough to get you
going. No one can tell you until you have tried long enough (and no
one can tell you how long 'long enough' may be) whether that is going
to ring the bell. It may be that if you increase your sixty seconds
to sixty-four the phenomena would begin immediately. That sounds all
right but as you have nearly burst your lungs doing the sixty, you
want this *added* energy to make the grade. That is only one example
of the difficulty which arises with every practice.
Mars, morever, is the flaming energy of passion, it is the male
quality in its lowest sense; it is the courage which goes berserk,
and I do not mind telling you that, in my own case at least, one of
the inhibitions with which I had most frequently to contend was the
fear that I was going mad. This was especially the case when those
phenomena began to occur, which, recorded in cold blood, did seem
like madness. And the Niyama of Mars is the ruthless rage which
jests at scars while dying of one's wounds.
' . . . the grim Lord of Colonsay
Hath turned him on the ground,
And laughed in death-pang that his blade
The mortal thrust so well repaid'
- The next of the heavenly bodies is the centre of all, the
Sun. The Sun is the heart of the system; he harmonises all, ener-
gises all, orders all. His is the courage and energy which is the
source of all the other lesser forms of motion, and it is because of
this that in himself he is calm. They are planets; he is a star.
For him all planets come; around him they all move, to him they all
tend. It is this centralisation of faculties, their control, their
motivation, which is the Niyama of the Sun. He is not only the heart
but the brain of the system; but he is not the 'thinking' brain, for
in him all thought has been resolved into the beauty and harmony of
- The next of the planets is Venus. In her, for the first
time, we come into contact with a part of our nature which is none
the less quintessential because it has hitherto been masked by our
pre-occupation with more active qualities. Venus resembles Jupiter,
but on a lower scale, standing to him very much as Mars does to
Saturn. She is close akin in nature to the Sun, and she may be
considered an externalisation of his influence towards beauty and
harmony. Venus is Isis, the Great Mother; Venus is Nature herself;
Venus is the sum of all possibilities.
- The Niyama corresponding to Venus is one of the most important,
and one of the most difficult of attainment. I said the sum of all
possibilities, and I will ask you to go back in your minds to what I
said before about the definition of the Great Work itself, the aim of
the Yogi to consummate the marriage of all that he is with all that
he is not, and ultimately to realise, insofar as the marriage is
consummated, that what he is and what he is not are identical.
Therefore we cannot pick and choose in our Yoga. It is written in
the 'Book of the Law', Chapter 1, verse 22, 'Let there be no difference made among you between any
one thing and any other thing, for
thereby there cometh hurt.'
Venus represents the ecstatic acceptance of all possible experience, and the transcendental
assumption of all particular experience
into the one experience.
Oh yes, by the way, don't forget this. In a lesser sense Venus
represents tact. Many of the problems that confront the Yogi are
impracticable to intellectual manipulation. They yield to
- Our next planet is Mercury, and the Niyama which correspond
to him are as innumerable and various as his own qualities. Mercury
is the Word, the Logos in the highest; he is the direct medium of
connection between opposites; he is electricity, the very link of
life, the Yogic process itself, its means, its end. Yet he is in
himself indifferent to all things, as the electric current is indifferent to the meaning of the
messages which may be transmitted by its
means. The Niyama corresponding to Mercury in its highest forms may
readily be divined from what I have already said, but in the technique of Yoga he represents
the fineness of the method which is
infinitely adaptable to all problems, and only so because he is
supremely indifferent. He is the adroitness and ingenuity which
helps us in our difficulties; he is the mechanical system, the
symbolism which helps the human mind of the Yogi to take cognisance
of what is coming.
It must here be remarked that because of his complete indif-
ference to anything whatever (and that thought is -- when you get
far enough -- only a primary point of wisdom) he is entirely unreliable. One of the most unfathomably
dreadful dangers of the Path is
that you must trust Mercury, and yet that if you trust him you are
certain to be deceived. I can only explain this, if at all, by
pointing out that, since all truth is relative, all truth is falsehood. In one sense Mercury is the great
enemy; Mercury is mind, and
it is the mind that we have set out to conquer.
- The last of the seven sacred planets is the Moon. The Moon
represents the totality of the female part of us, the passive principle which is yet very different
to that of Venus, for the Moon
corresponds to the Sun much as Venus does to Mars. She is more
purely passive than Venus, and although Venus is so universal the
Moon is also universal in another sense. The Moon is the highest and
the lowest; the Moon is the aspiration, the link of man and God; she
is the supreme purity: Isis the Virgin, Isis the Virgin Mother; but
she comes right down at the other end of the scale, to be a symbol of
the senses themselves, the mere instrument of the registration of
phenomena, incapable of discrimination, incapable of choice. The
Niyama corresponding to her influence, the first of all, is that
quality of aspiration, the positive purity which refuses union with
anything less than the All. In Greek mythology Artemis, the Goddess
of the Moon, is virgin; she yielded only to Pan. Here is one particular lesson: as the Yogi advances,
magic powers (Siddhi the teach-
ers call them) are offered to the aspirant; if he accepts the least
of these -- or the greatest -- he is lost.
- At the other end of the scale of the Niyama of the Moon are
the fantastic developments of sensibility which harass the Yogi.
These are all help and encouragement; these are all intolerable
hindrances; these are the greatest of the obstacles which confront
the human being, trained as he is by centuries of evolution to
receive his whole consciousness through the senses alone. And they
hit us hardest because they interfere directly with the technique of
our work; we are constantly gaining new powers, despite ourselves,
and every time this happens we have to invent a new method for
bringing their malice to naught. But, as before, the remedy is of
the same stuff as the disease; it is the unswerving purity of aspiration that enables us to surmount
all these difficulties. The Moon is
the sheet-anchor of our work. It is the Knowledge and Conversation
of the Holy Guardian Angel that enables us to overcome, at all times
and in all manners, as the need of the moment may be.
- There are two other planets, not counted as among the
sacred seven. I will not say that they were known to the ancients
and deliberately concealed, though much in their writing suggests
that this may be the case. I refer to the planet Herschel, or
Uranus, and Neptune. Whatever may have been the knowledge of the
ancients, it is at least certain that they left gaps in their system
which were exactly filled by these two planets, and the newly discovered Pluto. They fill these
gaps just as the newly discovered
chemical elements discovered in the last fifty years fill the gaps in
Mendelejeff's table of the Periodic Law.
- Herschel represents the highest form of the True Will, and
it seems natural and right that this should not rank with the seven
sacred planets, because the True Will is the sphere which transcends
them. 'Every man and every woman is a star.' Herschel defines the
orbit of the star, your star. But Herschel is dynamic; Herschel is
explosive; Herschel, astrologically speaking, does not move in an
orbit; he has his own path. So the Niyama which corresponds to this
planet is, first and last, the discovery of the True Will. This
knowledge is secret and most sacred; each of you must incorporate for
yourself the incidence and quality of Herschel. It is the most
important of the tasks of the Yogi, because, until he has achieved
it, he can have no idea who he is or where he is going.
- Still more remote and tenuous is the influence of Neptune.
Here we have a Niyama of infinite delicacy, a spiritual intuition
far, far removed from any human quality whatever. Here all is
fantasy, and in this world are infinite pleasure, infinite perils.
The True Niyama of Neptune is the imaginative faculty, the shadowing
forth of the nature of the illimitable light.
He has another function. The Yogi who understands the influence
of Neptune, and is attuned to Neptune, will have a sense of humour,
which is the greatest safeguard for the Yogi. Neptune is, so to
speak, in the front line; he has got to adapt himself to difficulties
and tribulations; and when the recruit asks 'What made that 'ole?' he
has got to say, unsmiling, 'Mice.'
Pluto is the utmost sentinel of all; of him it is not wise to
. . . Having now given vent to this sybilline, obscure and sinister
utterance, it may well be asked by the greatly daring: Why is it not
wise to speak of Pluto? The answer is profound. It is because
nothing at all is known about him.
Anyhow it hardly matters; we have surely had enough of Niyama
for one evening!
- It is now proper to sum up briefly what we have learnt
about Yama and Niyama. They are in a sense the moral, logical
preliminaries of the technique of Yoga proper. They are the strategical as opposed to the tactical
dispositions which must be made by
the aspirant before he attempts anything more serious than the five
finger exercises, as we may call them -- the recruit's drill of
postures, breathing exercises and concentration which the shallow
confidently suppose to constitute this great science and art.
We have seen that it is presumptuous and impractical to lay down
definite rules as to what we are to do. What does concern us is so
to arrange matters that we are free to do anything that may become
necessary or expedient, allowing for that development of super-normal
powers which enables us to carry out our plans as they form in the
mutable bioscope of events.
If anyone comes to me for a rough and ready practical plan I
say: Well, if you must stay in England, you may be able to bring it
off with a bit of luck in an isolated cottage, remote from roads, if
you have the services of an attendant already well trained to deal
with the emergencies that are likely to arise. A good disciplinarian
might carry on fairly well, at a pinch, in a suite in Claridge's.
But against this it may be urged that one has to reckon with
unseen forces. The most impossible things begin to happen when once
you get going. It is not really satisfactory to start serious Yoga
unless you are in a country where the climate is reliable, and where
the air is not polluted by the stench of civilisation. It is extremely important, above all
things important, unless one is an
exceedingly rich man, to find a country where the inhabitants understand the Yogin mode of life, where
they are sympathetic with its
practices, treat the aspirant with respect, and unobtrusively assist
and protect him. In such circumstances, the exigency of Yama and
Niyama is not so serious a stress.
There is, too, something beyond all these practical details
which it is hard to emphasise without making just those mysterious
assumptions which we have from the first resolved to avoid. All I
can say is that I am very sorry, but this particular fact is going to
hit you in the face before you have started very long, and I do not
see why we should bother about the mysterious assumptions underlying
the acceptance of the fact any more than in the case of what is after
all equally mysterious and unfathomable: any object of any of the
senses. The fact is this; that one acquires a feeling -- a quite
irrational feeling -- that a given place or a given method is right
or wrong for its purposes. The intimation is as assured as that of
the swordsman when he picks up an untried weapon; either it comes up
sweet to the hand, or it does not. You cannot explain it, and you
cannot argue it away.
- I have treated Yama and Niyama at great length because
their importance has been greatly under-rated, and their nature
completely misunderstood. They are definitely magical practices,
with hardly a tinge of mystical flavour. The advantage to us here is
that we can very usefully exercise and develop ourselves in this way
in this country where the technique of Yoga is for all practical
purposes impossible. Incidentally, one's real country -- that is,
the conditions -- in which one happens to be born is the only one in
which Yama and Niyama can be practised. You cannot dodge your Karma.
You have got to earn the right to devote yourself to Yoga proper by
arranging for that devotion to be a necessary stage in the fulfilment
of your True Will. In Hindustan one is now allowed to become
'Sanyasi' -- a recluse -- until one has fulfilled one's duty to one's
own environment -- rendered to Caesar the things which are Caesar's
before rendering to God the things which are God's.
Woe to that seven months' abortion who thinks to take advantage
of the accidents of birth, and, mocking the call of duty, sneaks off
to stare at a blank wall in China! Yama and Niyama are only the more
critical stages of Yoga because they cannot be translated in terms of
a schoolboy curriculum. Nor can schoolboy tricks adequately excuse
the aspirant from the duties of manhood. Do what thou wilt shall be
the whole of the Law.
Love is the law, love under will.
Rejoice, true men, that this is thus!
For this at least may be said, that there are results to be
obtained in this way which will not only fit the aspirant for the
actual battle, but will introduce him to classes of hitherto unguessed phenomena whose impact will
prepare his mind for that terific
shock of its own complete overthrow which marks the first critical
result of the practices of Yoga.
(Part 4 of 8)
YOGA FOR YAHOOS.
FOURTH LECTURE. ASANA AND PRANAYAMA.
The Technical Practices of Yoga.
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
- Last week we were able to go away feeling that the back of
the job had been broken. We had got rid of bad ways, bad wives, and
bad weather. We are comfortably installed in the sunshine, with no
one to bother us. We have nothing to do but our work.
Such being our fortunate state, we may usefully put in an hour
considering our next step. Let us recall, in the first place, what
we decided to be the quintessence of our task. It was to annihilate
dividuality. 'Make room for me,' cries the Persian poet whose name I
have forgotten, the fellow Fitzgerald translated, not Omar Khayyam,
'Make room for me on that divan which has no room for twain' -- a
remarkable prophetic anticipation of the luxury flatlet.
We are to unite the subject and object of consciousness in the
ecstasy which soon turns, as we shall find later on, into the more
sublime state of indifference, and then annihilate both the party of
the first part aforesaid and the party of the second part aforesaid.
This evidently results in further parties -- one might almost say
cocktail parties -- constantly increasing until we reach infinity,
and annihilate that, thereby recovering our original Nothing. Yet is
that identical with the original Nothing? Yes -- and No! No! No!
A thousand times no! For, having fulfilled all the possibilities of
that original Nothing to manifest in positive terms, we have thereby
killed for ever all its possibilities of mischief.
Our task being thus perfectly simple, we shall not require the
assistance of a lot of lousy rishis and sanyasis. We shall not apply
to a crowd of moth-eaten Arahats, of betel-chewing Bodhisattvas, for
instruction. As we said in the first volume of 'The Equinox', in the
'We place no reliance
On Virgin or Pigeon;
Our method is science,
Our aim is religion.'
Our common sense, guided by experience based on observation,
will be sufficient.
- We have seen that the Yogic process is implicit in every
phenomenon of existence. All that we have to do is to extend it
consciously to the process of thought. We have seen that thought
cannot exist without continual change; all that we have to do is to
prevent change occurring. All change is conditioned by time and
space and other categories; any existing object must be susceptible
of description by means of a system of co-ordinate axes.
On the 'terrasse' of the Cafe des Deux Magots it was once
necessary to proclaim the entire doctrine of Yoga in the fewest
possible words 'with a shout, and with the voice of the archangel,
and with the trump of God.' St. Paul's First Epistle to the Thessalonians, the Fourth Chapter
and the Sixteenth Verse. I did so.
'Sit still. Stop thinking. Shut up. Get out!'
The first two of these instructions comprise the whole of the
technique of Yoga. The last two are of a sublimity which it would be
improper to expound in this present elementary stage.
The injunction 'Sit still' is intended to include the inhibition
of all bodily stimuli capable of creating movement in consciousness.
The injunction 'Stop thinking' is the extension of this to all mental
stimuli. It is unnecessary to discuss here whether the latter can
exist apart from the former. It is at least evident that many mental
processes arise from physical processes; and so we shall at least be
getting a certain distance along the road if we have checked the
- Let me digress for a moment, and brush away one misunder-
standing which is certain to occur to every Anglo-Saxon mind. About
the worst inheritance of the emasculate school of mystics is the
abominable confusion of thought which arises from the idea that
bodily functions and appetites have some moral implications. This is
a confusion of the planes. There is no true discrimination between
good and evil. The only question that arises is that of convenience
in respect of any proposed operation. The whole of the moral and
religious lumber of the ages must be discarded for ever before
attempting Yoga. You will find out only too soon what it means to do
wrong; by our very thesis itself all action is wrong. Any action is
only relatively right in so far as it may help us to put an end to
the entire process of action.
These relatively useful actions are therefore those which make
for control, or 'virtue.' They have been classified, entirely
regardless of trouble and expense, in enormous volume, and with the
utmost complexity; to such a point, in fact, that merely to permit
oneself to study the nomenclature of the various systems can have but
one result: to fuddle your brain for the rest of your incarnation.
- I am going to try to simplify. The main headings are:
(a) Asana, usually translated 'posture,' and
(b) Pranayama, usually translated 'control of breath.'
These translations, as usual, are perfectly wrong and inadequate.
The real object of Asana is control of the muscular system, conscious
and unconscious, so that no messages from the body can reach the
mind. Asana is concerned with the static aspect of the body.
Pranayama is really the control of the dynamic aspect of the body.
There is something a little paradoxical in the situation. The
object of the process of Yoga is to stop all processes, including
itself. But it is not sufficient for the Yogi to shoot himself,
because to do so would be to destroy the control, and so to release
the pain-producing energies. We cannot enter into a metaphysical
discussion as to what it is that controls, or before we know where we
are we shall be moonstruck by hypotheses about the soul.
- Let us forget all this rubbish, and decide what is to be
done. We have seen that to stop existing processes by an act of
violence is merely to release the undesirable elements. If we want
peace on Dartmoor, we do not open the doors of the prison. What we
do is to establish routine. What is routine? Routine is rhythm. If
you want to go to sleep, you get rid of irregular, unexpected noises.
What is wanted is a lullaby. You watch sheep going through a gate,
or voters at a polling station. When you have got used to it, the
regularity of the engines of a train or steamship is soothing. What
we have to do with the existing functions of the body is to make them
so regular, with gradually increasing slowness, that we become
unconscious of their operation.
- Let us deal first with the question of Asana. It might be
thought that nothing would be more soothing than swinging or gentle
massage. In a sense, and up to a certain point, this is so. But the
activity cannot be continued because fatigue supervenes, and sooner
or later the body protests by going to sleep. We must, therefore,
make up our minds from the start to reduce bodily rhythm to its
- I am not quite sure whether it is philosophically defensible, whether it is logically
justifiable, to assert the principles of
Asana as they occur in our practice. We must break away from our
sorites, turn to the empiricism of experiment, and trust that one day
we may be able to work back from observed fact to a coherent
The point is that by sitting still, in the plain literal sense
of the words, the body does ultimately respond to the adjuration of
that great Mahatma, Harry Lauder, 'Stop your ticklin', Jock!'
- When we approach the details of Asana, we are immediately
confronted with the refuse-heap of Hindu pedantry. We constantly
approach the traditional spiritual attitude of the late Queen
Victoria. The only types of Asana which offer even the most transient interest are those of
which I am not going to speak at all,
because they have nothing whatever to do with the high-minded type of
Yoga which I am presenting to this distinguished audience. I should
blush to do otherwise. Anyhow, who wants to know about these ridiculous postures? If there is any
fun in the subject at all, it is the
fun of finding them out. I must admit that if you start with a
problem such as that of juxtaposing the back of your head and shoulders with the back of the head
and shoulders of the other person
concerned,(*1) the achievement does produce a certain satisfaction.
But this, I think, is mostly vanity, and it has nothing whatever to
do, as I said before, with what we are trying to talk about.
- The various postures recommended by the teachers of Yoga
depend for the most part upon the Hindu anatomy for their value, and
upon mystic theories concerning the therapeutic and thaumaturgic
properties ascribed to various parts of the body. If, for instance,
you can conquer the nerve Udana, you can wlk on water. But who the
devil wants to talk on water? Swimming is much better fun. (I bar
sharks, sting-rays, cuttle-fish, electric eels and picanhas. Also
trippers, bathing belles and Mr. Lansbury.) Alternatively, freeze
the water and dance on it! A great deal of Hindu endeavour seems to
consist in discovering the most difficult possible way to attain the
most undesirable end.
- When you start tying yourself into a knot, you will find
that some positions are much more difficult and inconvenient than
others; but that is only the beginning. If you retain 'any' posture
long enough, you get cramp. I forget the exact statistics, but I
gather that the muscular exertion made by a man sleeping peacefully
in bed is sufficient to raise fourteen elephants per hour to the
stratosphere. Anyway, I remember that it is something rather difficult to believe, if only
because I did not believe it myself.
- Why then should we bother to choose a specially sacred
position? Firstly, we want to be steady and easy. We want, in
particular, to be able to do Pranayama in that position, if ever we
reach the stage of attempting that practice. We may, therefore,
formulate (roughly speaking) the conditions to be desired in the
posture as follows: --
- We want to be properly balanced.
- We want our arms free. (They are used in some Pranyama.)
- We want our breathing apparatus as unrestrained as possible.
Now, if you will keep these points in mind, and do not get side-
tracked by totally irrelevant ideas, such as to imagine that you are
getting holier by adopting some attitude traditionally appropriate to
a deity or holy man; and if you will refrain from the Puritan abomination that anything is good
for you if it hurts you enough, you
ought to be able to find out for yourself, after a few experiments,
some posture which meets these conditions. I should very much rather
have you do this than come to me for some mumbo-jumbo kind of authority. I am no pig-sticking
pukka sahib -- not even from Poona -- to
put my hyphenated haw-haw humbug over on the B. Public.(*2) I would
rather you did the thing 'wrong' by yourselves, and learned from your
errors, than get it 'right' from the teacher, and atrophied your
initiative and your faculty of learning anything at all.
It is, however, perfectly right that you should have some idea
of what happens when you sit down to practise.
- Let me digress for a moment and refer to what I said in my
text-book on Magick with regard to the formula IAO. This formula
covers all learning. You begin with a delightful feeling as of a
child with a new toy; you get bored, and you attempt to smash it.
But if you are a wise child, you have had a scientific attitude
towards it, and you do *not* smash it. You pass through the stage of
boredom, and arise from the inferno of torture towards the stage of
resurrection, when the toy has become a god, declared to you its
inmost secrets, and become a living part of your life. There are no
longer these crude, savage reactions of pleasure and pain. The new
knowledge is assimilated.
- So it is with Asana. The chosen posture attracts you; you
purr with self-satisfaction. How clever you have been! How nicely
the posture suits all conditions! You absolutely melt with maudlin
good feeling. I have known pupils who have actually been betrayed
into sparing a kindly thought for the Teacher! It is quite clear
that there is something wrong about this. Fortunately, Time, the
great healer, is on the job as usual; Time takes no week-ends off;
Time does not stop to admire himself; Time keeps right on.(*3)
Before very long, you forget all about the pleasantness of things,
and it would not be at all polite to give you any idea of what you
are going to think of the Teacher.
- Perhaps the first thing you notice is that, although you
have started in what is apparently the most comfortable position,
there is a tendency to change that position without informing you.
For example, if you are sitting in the 'god' position with your knees
together, you will find in a few minutes that they have moved gently
apart, without your noticing it. Freud would doubtless inform you
that this is due to an instinctive exacerbation of infantile sexual
theories. I hope that no one here is going to bother me with that
sort of nauseating nonsense.
- Now it is necessary, in order to hold a position, to pay
attention to it. That is to say: you are going to become conscious
of your body in ways of which you are not conscious if you are
engaged in some absorbing mental pursuit, or even in some purely
physical activity, such as running. It sounds paradoxical at first
sight, but violent exercise, so far from concentrating attention on
the body, takes it away. That is because exercise has its own
rhythm; and, as I said, rhythm is half-way up the ridge to Silence.
Very good, then; in the comparative stillness of the body, the
student becomes aware of minute sounds which did not disturb him in
his ordinary life. At least, not when his mind was occupied with
matters of interest. You will begin to fidget, to itch, to cough.
Possibly your breathing will begin to play tricks upon you. All
these symptoms must be repressed. The process of repressing them is
extremely difficult; and, like all other forms of repression, it
leads to a terrific exaggeration of the phenomena which it is
intended to repress.
- There are quite a lot of little tricks familiar to most
scientific people from their student days. Some of them are very
significant in this connection of Yoga. For instance, in the matter
of endurance, such as holding out a weight at arm's length, you can
usually beat a man stronger than yourself. If you attend to your
arm, you will probably tire in a minute; if you fix your mind resolutely on something else, you can go on
for five minutes or ten, or
even longer. It is a question of active and passive; when Asana
begins to annoy you the reply is to annoy it, to match the active
thought of controlling the minute muscular movement against the
passive thought of easing the irritation and disturbance.
- Now I do not believe that there are any rules for doing
this that will be any use to you. There are innumerable little
tricks that you might try; only it is, as in the case of the posture
itself, rather better if you invent your own tricks. I will only
mention one: roll the tongue back towards the uvula, at the same
time let the eyes converge towards an imaginery point in the centre
of the forehead. There are all sorts of holinesses indicated in this
attitude, and innumerable precedents on the part of the most respectable divinities. Do, please, forget
all this nonsense! The advan-
tage is simply that your attention is forced to maintain the awkward
position. You become aware sooner than you otherwise would of any
relaxation; and you thereby show the rest of the body that it is no
use trying to disturb you by its irritability.
But there are no rules. I said there weren't, and there aren't.
Only the human mind is so lazy and worthless that it is a positive
instinct to try to find some dodge to escape hard work.
These tricks may help or they may hinder; it is up to you to
find out which are good and which are bad, the why and the what and
all the other questions. It all comes to the same thing in the end.
There is only one way to still the body in the long run, and that is
to keep it still. It's dogged as does it.
- The irritations develop into extreme agony. Any attempt to
alleviate this simply destroys the value of the practice. I must
particularly warn the aspirant against rationalising (I have known
people who were so hopelessly bat-witted that they rationalised).
They thought: 'Ah, well, this position is not suitable for me, as I
thought it was. I have made a mess of the Ibis position; now I'll
have a go at the Dragon position.' But the Ibis has kept his job,
and attained his divinity, by standing on one leg throughout the
centuries. If you go to the Dragon he will devour you.
- It is through the perversity of human nature that the most
acute agony seems to occur when you are within a finger's breadth of
full success. Remember Gallipoli! I am inclined to think that it
may be a sort of symptom that one is near the critical point when the
anguish becomes intolerable.
You will probably ask what 'intolerable' means. I rudely
answer: 'Find out!' But it may give you some idea of what is, after
all, not *too* bad, when I say that in the last months of my own work
it often used to take me ten minutes (at the conclusion of the
practice) to straighten my left leg. I took the ankle in both hands,
and eased it out a fraction of a millimetre at a time.
- At this point the band begins to play. Quite suddenly the
pain stops. An ineffable sense of relief sweeps over the Yogi --
notice that I no longer call him 'student' or 'aspirant' -- and he
becomes aware of a very strange fact. Not only was that position
giving him pain, but all other bodily sensations that he has ever
experienced are in the nature of pain, and were only borne by him by
the expedient of constant flitting from one to another.
He is at ease; because, for the first time in his life, he has
become really unconscious of the body. Life has been one endless
suffering; and now, so far as this particular Asana is concerned, the
plague is abated.
I feel that I have failed to convey the full meaning of this.
The fact is that words are entirely unsuitable. The complete and
joyous awakening from the lifelong and unbroken nightmare of physical
discomfort is impossible to describe.
- The results and mastery of Asana are of use not only in the
course of attainment of Yoga, but in the most ordinary affairs of
life. At any time when fatigued, you have only to assume your Asana,
and you are completely rested. It is as if the attainment of the
mastery has worn down all those possibilities of physical pain which
are inherent in that particular position. The teachings of physiology are not contradictory to this hypothesis.
The conquest of Asana makes for endurance. If you keep in
constant practice, you ought to find that about ten minutes in the
posture will rest you as much as a good night's sleep.
So much for the obstacle of the body considered as static. Let
us now turn our attention to the conquest of its dynamics.
- It is always pleasing to turn to a subject like Pranayama.
Pranayama means control of force. It is a generalised term. In the
Hindu system there are quite a lot of subtle sub-strata of the
various energies of the body which have all got names and properties.
I do not propose to deal with the bulk of them. There are only two
which have much practical importance in life. One of these is not to
be communicated to the public in a rotten country like this; the
other is the well-known 'control of breath.'
This simply means that you get a stop watch, and choose a cycle
of breathing out and breathing in. Both operations should be made as
complete as possible. The muscular system must be taxed to its
utmost to assist the expansion and contraction of the lungs.
When you have got this process slow and regular, for instance,
30 seconds breathing out and 15 in, you may add a few seconds in
which the breath is held, either inside or outside the lungs.
(It is said, by the way, that the operation of breathing out
should last about twice as long as that of breathing in, the theory
being that breathing out quickly may bring a loss of energy. I think
there may be something in this.)
- There are other practices. For instance, one can make the
breathing as quick and shallow as possible. Any good practice is
likely to produce its own phenomena, but in accordance with the
general thesis of these lectures I think it will be obvious that the
proper practice will aim at holding the breath for as long a period
as possible -- because that condition will represent as close an
approximation to complete stillness of the physiological apparatus as
may be. Of course we are not stilling it; we are doing nothing of
the sort. But at least we are deluding ourselves into thinking that
we are doing it, and the point is that, according to tradition, if
you can hold the mind still for as much as twelve seconds you will
get one of the highest results of Yoga. It is certainly a fact that
when you are doing a cycle of 20 seconds out, 10 in, and 30 holding,
there is quite a long period during the holding period when the mind
does tend to stop its malignant operations. By the time this cycle
has become customary, you are able to recognise instinctively the
arrival of the moment when you can throw yourself suddenly into the
mental act of concentration. In other words, by Asana and Pranayama
you have worked yourself into a position where you are free, if only
for a few seconds, to attempt actual Yoga processes, which you have
previously been prevented from attempting by the distracting activities of the respiratory and muscular systems.
- And so? Yes. Pranayama may be described as nice clean
fun. Before you have been doing it very long, things are pretty
certain to begin to happen, though this, I regret to remark, is fun
to you, but death to Yoga.
The classical physical results of Pranayama are usually divided
into four stages:
- Perspiration. This is not the ordinary perspiration which
comes from violent exercise; it has peculiar properties, and I am not
going to tell you what these are, because it is much better for you
to perform the practices, obtain the experience, and come to me
yourself with the information. In this way you will know that you
have got the right thing, whereas if I were to tell you now, you
would very likely imagine it.
- Automatic rigidity: the body becomes still, as the result of
a spasm. This is perfectly normal and predictable. It is customary
to do it with a dog. You stick him in a bell-jar, pump in oxygen or
carbonic acid or something, and the dog goes stiff. You can take him
out and wave him around by a leg as if he were frozen. This is not
quite the same thing, but near it.
- Men of science are terribly handicapped in every investiga-
tion by having been trained to ignore the immeasurable. All phenomena have subtle qualities which
are at present insusceptible to any
properly scientific methods of investigation. We can imitate the
processes of nature in the laboratory, but the imitation is not
always exactly identical with the original. For instance, Professor
J. B. S. Haldane attempted some of the experiments suggested in 'The
Equinox' in this matter of Pranayama, and very nearly killed himself
in the process. He did not see the difference between the experiment
with the dog and the phenomena which supervene as the climax of a
course of gentle operation. It is the difference between the exhilaration produced by
sipping Clos Vougeot '26 and the madness of
swilling corn whiskey. It is the same foolishness as to think that
sniffing cocaine is a more wholesome process than chewing coca
leaves. Why, they exclaim, cocaine is chemically pure! Cocaine is
the active principle! We certainly do not want these nasty leaves,
where our sacred drug is mixed up with a lot of vegetable stuff which
rather defies analysis, and which cannot possibly have any use for
that reason! This automatic rigidity, or Shukshma Khumbakham, is not
merely to be defined as the occurrence of physiological rigidity.
That is only the grosser symptom.
- The third stage is marked by Buchari-siddhi: 'the power of
jumping about like a frog' would be a rough translation of this
fascinating word. This is a very extraordinary phenomenon. You are
sitting tied up on the floor, and you begin to be wafted here and
there, much as dead leaves are moved by a little breeze. This does
happen; you are quite normal mentally, and you can watch yourself
The natural explanation of this is that your muscles are making
very quick short spasmodic jerks without your being conscious of the
fact. The dog helps us again by making similar contortions. As
against this, it may be argued that your mind appears to be perfectly
normal. There is, however, one particuliar point of consciousness,
the sensation of almost total loss of weight. This, by the way, may
sound a little alarming to the instructed alienist. There is a
similar feeling which occurs in certain types of insanity.
- The fourth state is Levitation. The Hindus claim that
'jumping about like a frog' implies a genuine loss of weight, and
that the jumping is mainly lateral because you have not perfected the
process. If you were absolutely balanced, they claim that you would
rise quietly into the air.
I do not know about this at all. I never saw it happen. On the
other hand, I have often felt as if it were happening; and on three
occasions at least comparatively reliable people have said that they
saw it happening to me. I do not think it proves anything.
These practices, Asana and Pranayama, are, to a certain extent,
mechanical, and to that extent it is just possible for a man of
extraordinary will power, with plenty of leisure and no encumbrances,
to do a good deal of the spade-work of Yoga even in England. But I
should advise him to stick very strictly to the purely physical
preparation, and on no account to attempt the practices of concentra-
tion proper, until he is able to acquire suitable surroundings.
But do not let him imagine that in making this very exceptional
indulgence I am going to advocate any slipshod ways. If he decides
to do, let us say, a quarter of an hour's Asana twice daily, rising
to an hour four times daily, and Pranayama in proportion, he has got
to stick to this -- no cocktail parties, football matches, or funerals of near relations, must be
allowed to interfere with the routine.
The drill is the thing, the acquisition of the habit of control, much
more important than any mere success in the practices themselves. I
would rather you wobbled about for your appointed hour than sat still
for fifty-nine minutes. The reason for this will only be apparent
when we come to the consideration of advanced Yoga, a subject which
may be adequately treated in a second series of four lectures. By
special request only, and I sincerely hope that nothing of the sort
- Before proposing a vote of thanks to the lecturer for his
extraordinarily brilliant exposition of these most difficult sub-
jects, I should like to add a few words on the subject of Mantra-
Yoga, because this is really a branch of Pranayama, and one which it
is possible to practise quite thoroughly in this country. In Book
IV., Part I., I have described it, with examples, quite fully enough.
I need here only say that its constant use, day and night, without a
moment's cessation, is probably as useful a method as one could find
of preparing the current of thought for the assumption of a rhythmical form, and rhythm is the
great cure for irregularity. Once it is
established, no interference will prevent it. Its own natural
tendency is to slow down, like a pendulum, until time stops, and the
sequence of impressions which constitutes our intellectual apprehensions of the universe is
replaced by that form of consciousness (or
unconsciousness, if you prefer it, not that either would give the
slightest idea of what is meant) which is without condition of any
kind, and therefore represents in perfection the consummation of
Love is the law, love under will.
(Part 5 of 8)
- In coitu, of course. -- ED.
- One Yeats-Brown. What are Yeats? Brown, of course, and
- Some Great Thinker once said: 'Time marches on.' What felicity of phrase!
YOGA FOR YELLOWBELLIES.
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law
'Dharana -- Control of thought.'
- Let us begin this evening by going briefly over the ground
covered by my first four lectures. I told you that Yoga meant union,
and that this union was the cause of all phenomena. Consciousness
results from the conjunction of a mysterious stimulus with a mysterious sensorium. The kind of
Yoga which is the subject of these
remarks is merely an expansion of this, the union of self-consciousness with the universe.
We spoke of the eight limbs of Yoga, and dealt with the four
which refer to physical training and experiences.
The remaining four deal with mental training and experiences,
and these form the subject of the ensuing remarks.
- Before we deal with these in detail, I think it would be
helpful to consider the formula of Yoga from what may be called the
mathematical, or magical standpoint. This formula has been described
in my text-book on Magick, Chapter III., the formula of Tetragrammaton. This formula covers the
entire universe of magical operations.
The word usually pronounced Jehovah is called the Ineffable Name; it
is alleged that when pronounced accurately its vibrations would
destroy the universe; and this is indeed quite true, when we take the
Tetragrammaton is so called from the four letters in the word:
Yod, He, Vau, and He'. This is compared with the relations of a
family -- Yod, the Father, He, the Mother; Vau, the Son; and the
final He', the Daughter. (In writing she is sometimes distinguished
from her mother by inserting a small point in the letter.) This is
also a reference to the elements, fire, water, air, earth. I may go
further, and say that all possible existing things are to be classed
as related to one or more of these elements for convenience in
certain operations. But these four letters, though in one sense they
represent the eternal framework, are not, so to speak, original. For
instance, when we place Tetragrammaton on the Tree of Life, the Ten
Sephiroth or numbers, we do not include the first Sephira. Yod is
referred to the second, He to the third, Vau to the group from 4 to
9, and He' final to the tenth. No. 1 is said to be symbolised by the
top point of the Yod.
It is only in No. 10 that we get the manifested universe, which
is thus shown as the result of the Yoga of the other forces, the
first three letters of the name, the active elements, fire, water and
air. (These are the three 'mother letters' in the Hebrew alphabet.)
The last element, earth, is usually considered a sort of consolidation of the three; but that is
rather an unsatisfactory way of
regarding it, because if we admit the reality of the universe at all
we are in philosophical chaos. However, this does not concern us for
- When we apply these symbols to Yoga, we find that fire
represents the Yogi, and water the object of his meditation. ((You
can, if you like, reverse these attributions. It makes no difference
except to the metaphysician. And precious little to him!)
The Yod and the He combine, the Father and Mother unite, to
produce a son, Vau. This son is the exalted state of mind produced
by the union of the subject and the object. This state of mind is
called Samadhi in the Hindu terminology. It has many varieties, of
constantly increasing sublimity; but it is the generic term which
implies this union which is the subject of Yoga. At this point we
ought to remember poor little He' final, who represents the ecstasy
-- shall I say the orgasm? -- and the absorption thereof: the
compensation which cancels it. I find it excessively difficult to
express myself. It is one of these ideas which is very deeply seated
in my mind as a result of constant meditation, and I feel that I am
being entirely feeble when I say that the best translation of the
letter He' final would be 'ecstasy rising into Silence.' Moral:
meditate yourselves, and work it out! Finally, there is no other
- I think it is very important, since we are studying Yoga
from a strictly scientific point of view, to emphasise the exactness
of the analogy that exists between the Yogic and the sexual process.
If you look at the Tree of Life, you see that the Number One at the
top divides itself into Numbers Two and Three, the equal and opposite
Father and Mother, and their union results in the complexity of the
Son, the Vau Group, while the whole figure recovers its simplicity in
the single Sephira of He' final, of the Daughter.
It is exactly the same in biology. The spermatozoon and the
ovum are biologically the separation of an unmanifested single cell,
which is in its function simple, though it contains in itself, in a
latent form, all the possibilitiies of the original single cell.
Their union results in the manifestatiion of these qualities in the
child. Their potentialities are expressed and developed in terms of
time and space, while also, accompanying the act of union, is the
ecstasy which is the natural result of the consciousness of their
annihilation, the necessary condition of the production of their
- It would be easy to develop this thesis by analogies drawn
from ordinary human experiences of the growth of passion, the hunger
accompanying it, the intense relief and joy afforded by satisfaction.
I like rather to think of the fact that all true religion has been
the artistic, the dramatic, representation of the sexual process, not
merely because of the usefulness of this cult in tribal life, but as
the veil of this truer meaning which I am explaining to you tonight.
I think that every experience in life should be regarded as a symbol
of the truer experience of the deeper life. In the Oath of a Master
of the Temple occurs the clause: 'I will interpret every phenomenon
as a particular dealing of God with my soul.'
It is not for us to criticise the Great Order for expressing its
idea in terms readily understandable by the ordinary intelligent
person. We are to wave aside the metaphysical implications of the
phrase, and grasp its obvious meaning. So every act should be an act
of Yoga. And this leads us directly to the question which we have
postponed until now -- Concentration.
- Concentration! The sexual analogy still serves us. Do you
remember the Abbe in Browning? Asked to preside at the Court of
Love, he gave the prize to the woman the object of whose passion was
utterly worthless, in this admirable judgment:
'The love which to one, and one only, has reference
Seems terribly like what perhaps gains God's preference.'
It is a commonplace, and in some circumstances (such as con-
stantly are found among foul-minded Anglo-Saxons) a sort of joke,
that lovers are lunatics. Everything at their command is pressed
into the service of their passion; every kind of sacrifice, every
kind of humiliation, every kind of discomfort -- these all count for
nothing. Every energy is strained and twisted, every energy is
directed to the single object of its end. The pain of a momentary
separation seems intolerable; the joy of consummation impossible to
describe: indeed, almost impossible to bear!
- Now this is exactly what the Yogi has to do. All the books
-- they disagree on every other point, but they agree on this stupid-
ity -- tell him that he has to give up this and give up that, some-
times on sensible grounds, more often on grounds of prejudice and
superstition. In the advanced stages one has to give up the very
virtues which have brought one to that state! Every idea, considered
as an idea, is lumber, dead weight, poison; but it is all wrong to
represent these acts as acts of sacrifice. There is no question of
depriving oneself of anything one wants. The process is rather that
of learning to discard what one thought one wanted in the darkness
before the dawn of the discovery of the real object of one's passion.
Hence, note well! concentration has reduced our moral obligations to
their simplest terms: there is a single standard to which everything
is to be referred. To hell with the Pope! If Lobster Newburg upsets
your digestion -- and good digestion is necessary to your practice --
then you do not eat Lobster Newburg. Unless this is clearly understood, the Yogi will constantly be
side-tracked by the sophistica-
tions of religious and moral fanatics. To hell with the Archbishops!
- You will readily appreciate that to undertake a course of
this kind requires careful planning. You have got to map out your
life in advance for a considerable period so far as it is humanly
possible to do so. If you have failed in this original strategical
disposition, you are simply not going to carry through the campaign.
Unforeseen contingencies are certain to arise, and therefore one of
our precautions is to have some sort of reserve of resource to fling
against unexpected attacks.
This is, of course, merely concentration in daily life, and it
is the habit of such concentration that prepares one for the much
severer task of the deeper concentration of the Yoga practices. For
those who are undertaking a preliminary course there is nothing
better, while they are still living more or less ordinary lives, than
the practices recommended in 'The Equinox'. There should be -- there
must be -- a definite routine of acts calculated to remind the
student of the Great Work.
- The classic of the subject is 'Liber Astarte vel Berylli',
the Book of Devotion to a Particular Deity. This book is admirable
beyond praise, reviewing the whole subject in every detail with
flawless brilliancy of phrase. Its practice is enough in itself to
bring the devotee to high attainment. This is only for the few. But
every student should make a point of saluting the Sun (in the manner
recommended in Liber Resh) four times daily, and he shall salute the
Moon on her appearance with the Mantra Gayatri. The best way is to
say the Mantra instantly one sees the Moon, to note whether the
attention wavers, and to repeat the Mantra until it does not waver at
He should also practise assiduously Liber III vel Jugorum. The
essence of this practice is that you select a familiar thought, word
or gesture, one which automatically recurs fairly often during the
day, and every time you are betrayed into using it, cut yourself
sharply upon the wrist or forearm with a convenient instrument.
There is also a practice which I find very useful when walking
in a christian city -- that of exorcising (with the prescribed
outward and downward sweep of the arm and the words 'Apo pantos
kakodaimonos') any person in religious garb.
All these practices assist concentration, and also serve to keep
one on the alert. They form an invaluable preliminary training for
the colossal Work of genuine concentration when it comes to be a
question of the fine, growing constantly finer, movements of the
- We may now turn to the consideration of Yoga practices
themselves. I assume that in the fortnight which has elapsed since
my last lecture you have all perfected yourselves in Asana and
Pranayama; that you daily balance a saucer brimming with sulphuric
acid on your heads for twelve hours without accident, that you all
jump about busily like frogs when not seriously levitated; and that
your Mantra is as regular as the beating of your heart.
The remaining four limbs of Yoga are Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana
I will give you the definition of all four at a single stroke,
as each one to some extent explains the one following. Pratyahara
may be roughly described as introspection, but it also means a
certain type of psychological experience. For instance, you may
suddenly acquire a conviction, as did Sir Humphry Davy, that the
universe is composed exclusively of ideas; or you may have the direct
experience that you do not possess a nose, as may happen to the best
of us, if we concentrate upon the tip of it.
- Dharana is meditation proper, not the kind of meditation
which consists of profound consideration of the subject with the idea
of clarifying it or gaining a more comprehensive grasp of it, but the
actual restraint of the consciousness to a single imaginery object
chosen for the purpose.
These two limbs of Yoga are therefore in a sense the two methods
employed mentally by the Yogi. For, long after success in Samadhi
has been attained, one has to conduct the most extensive explorations
into the recesses of the mind.
- The word Dhyana is difficult to define; it is used by many
writers in quite contrary senses. The question is discussed at some
length in Part I. of my Book IV. I will quote what I have written
about it in conclusion --
'Let us try a final definition. Dhyana resembles Samadhi in
many respects. There is a union of the ego and the non-ego, and a
loss of the sense of time and space and causality. Duality in any
form is abolished. The idea of time involves that of two consecutive
things, that of space two non-coincident things, that of causality
two connected things.'
- Samadhi, on the contrary, is in a way very easy to define.
Etymology, aided by the persistence of the religious tradition, helps
us here. "Sam is a prefix in Sanskrit which developed into the
prefix 'syn' in Greek without changing the meaning -- 'syn' in
'synopsis,' 'synthesis,' 'syndrome.' It means 'together with.'
'Adhi' has also come down through many centuries and many
tongues. It is one of the oldest words in human language; it dates
from the time when each sound had a definite meaning proper to it, a
meaning suggested by the muscular movement made in producing the
sound. Thus, the letter D originally means 'father'; so the original
father, dead and made into a 'God,' was called Ad. This name came
down unchanged to Egypt, as you see in the Book of the Law. The word
'Adhi' in Sanskrit was usually translated 'Lord.' In the Syrian form
we get it duplicated Hadad. You remember Ben Hadad, King of Syria.
The Hebrew word for 'Lord' is Adon or Adonai. Adonai, my Lord, is
constantly used in the Bible to replace the name Jehovah where that
was too sacred to be mentioned, or for other reasons improper to
write down. Adonai has also come to mean, through the Rosicrucian
tradition, the Holy Guardian Angel, and thus the object of worship or
concentration. It is the same thing; worship is worth-ship, means
worthiness; and anything but the chosen object is necessarily an
- As Dhyana also represents the condition of annihilation of
dividuality, it is a little difficult to distinguish between it and
Samadhi. I wrote in Part I., Book IV. --
'These Dhyanic conditions contradict those of normal thought,
but in Samadhi they are very much more marked than in Dhyana. And
while in the latter it seems like a simple union of two things, in
the former it appears as if all things rush together and unite. One
might say this, that in Dhyana there was still this quality latent,
that the one existing was opposed to the many non-existing; in
Samadhi the many and the one are united in a union of existence with
non-existence. This definition is not made from reflection, but from
- But that was written in 1911, and since then I have had an
immense harvest of experience. I am inclined to say at this moment
that Dhyana stands to Samadhi rather as the jumping about like a
frog, described in a previous lecture, does to Levitation. In other
words, Dhyana is an unbalanced or an impure approximation to Samadhi.
Subject and object unite and disappear with ecstasy mounting to
indifference, and so forth, but there is still a presentation of some
kind in the new genus of consciousness. In this view Dhyana would be
rather like an explosion of gunpowder carelessly mixed; most of it
goes off with a bang, but there is some debris of the original
These discussions are not of very great importance in them-
selves, because the entire series of the three states of meditation
proper is summed up in the word Samyama; you can translate it quite
well for yourselves, since you already know that 'sam' means 'together,' and that 'Yama' means 'control.' It
represents the merging of
minor individual acts of control into a single gesture, very much as
all the separate cells, bones, veins, arteries, nerves, muscles and
so forth, of the arm combine in unconscious unanimity to make a
- Now the practice of Pratyahara, properly speaking, is
introspection, and the practice of Dharana, properly speaking, is the
restraint of the thought to a single imaginary object. The former is
a movement of the mind, the latter a cessation of all movement. And
you are not likely to get much success in Pratyahara until you have
made considerable advance in Dhyana, because by introspection we mean
the exploration of the sub-strata of the consciousness which are only
revealed when we have progressed a certain distance, and become aware
of conditions which are utterly foreign to normal intellectual
conception. The first law of normal thought is A is A: the law of
identity, it is called. So we can divide the universe into A and
not-A; there is no third thing possible.
Now, quite early in the meditation practices, the Yogi is likely
to get as a direct experience the consciousness that these laws are
not true in any ultimate way. He has reached a world where intellectual conceptions are no longer
valid; they remain true for the
ordinary affairs of life, but the normal laws of thought are seen to
be no more than a mere mechanism. A code of conventions.
The students of higher mathematics and metaphysics have often a
certain glimmering of these facts. They are compelled to use irrational conceptions for
greater convenience in conducting their
rational investigations. for example, the square root of 2, or the
square root of minus 1, is not in itself capable of comprehension as
such; it pertains to an order of thinking beyond the primitive man's
invention of counting on his fingers.
- It will be just as well then for the student to begin with
the practices of Dharana. If he does so he will obtain as a by-
product some of the results of Pratyahara, and he will also acquire
considerable insight into the methods of practising Pratyahara. It
sounds perhaps, at first, as if Pratyahara were off the main line of
attainment in Yoga. This is not so, because it enables one to deal
with the new conditions which are established in the mind by realisation of Dhyana and Samadhi.
I can now describe the elementary practices.
You should begin with very short periods; it is most important
not to overstrain the apparatus which you are using; the mind must be
trained very slowly. In my early days I was often satisfied with a
minute or two at a time; three or four such periods twice or three
times a day. In the earliest stages of all it is not necessary to
have got very far with Asana, because all you can get out of the
early practices is really a foreshadowing of the difficulties of
- I began by taking a simple geometrical object in one
colour, such as a yellow square. I will quote the official instructions in 'The Equinox'.
Love is the law, love under will.
- Constrain the mind to concentrate itself upon a single simple
object imagined. The five tatwas are useful for this purpose; they
are: a black oval; a blue disk; a silver crescent; a yellow square;
a red triangle.
- Proceed to combinations of single objects; e.g., a black oval
within a yellow square, and so on.
- Proceed to simple moving objects, such as a pendulum swing-
ing; a wheel revolving, etc. Avoid living objects.
- Proceed to combinations of moving objects, e.g., a piston
rising and falling while a pendulum is swinging. The relation
between the two movements should be varied in different experiements.
'(Or even a system of flywheels, eccentrics and governor.)
- During these practices the mind must be absolutely confined
to the object determined on; no other thought must be allowed to
intrude upon the consciousness. The moving systems must be regular
- Note carefully the duration of the experiment, the number and
nature of the intruding thoughts; the tendency of the object itself
to depart from the course laid out for it, and any other phenomena
which may present themselves. Avoid overstrain; this is very
- Proceed to imagine living objects; as a man, preferably some
man known to, and respected by, you.
- In the intervals of these experiments you might try to
imagine the objects of the other senses, and to concentrate upon
them. For example, try to imagine the taste of chocolate, the smell
or roses, the feeling of velvet, the sound of a waterfall, or the
ticking of a watch.
- Endeavour finally to shut out all objects of any of the
senses, and prevent all thoughts arising in your mind. When you feel
you have attained some success in these practices, apply for examination, and should you pass, more
complex and difficult practices will
be prescribed for you.'
- Now one of the most interesting and irritating features of
your early experiments is: interfering thoughts. There is, first of
all, the misbehaviour of the object which you are contemplating; it
changes its colour and size; moves its position; gets out of shape.
And one of the essential difficulties in practice is that it takes a
great deal of skill and experience to become really alert to what is
happening. You can go on day-dreaming for quite long periods before
realising that your thoughts have wandered at all. This is why I
insist so strongly on the practices described above as producing
alertness and watchfulness, and you will obviously realise that it is
quite evident that one has to be in the pink of condition and in the
most favourable mental state in order to make any headway at all.
But when you have had a little practice in detecting and counting the
breaks in your concentration, you will find that they themselves are
useful, because their character is symptomatic of your state of
- Breaks are classed as follows: --
Firstly, physical sensations; these should have been overcome by
Secondly, breaks that seem to be indicated by events immediately
preceding the meditation: their activity becomes tremendous. Only
by this practice does one understand how much is really observed by
the senses without the mind becoming conscious of it.
Thirdly, there is a class of break partaking of the nature of
reverie or 'day-dreaming.' These are very insidious -- one may go on
for a long time without realising that one has wandered at all.
Fourthly, we get a very high class of break, which is a sort of
abberation of the control itself. You think, 'How well I am doing
it!' or perhaps that it would be rather a good idea if you were on a
desert island, or if you were in a sound-proof house, or if you were
sitting by a waterfall. But these are only trifling variations from
the vigilance itself.
- A fifth class of break seems to have no discoverable source in
the mind. such might even take the form of actual hallucination,
usually auditory. Of course, such hallucinations are infrequent, and
are recognised for what they are. Otherwise the student had better
see a doctor. The usual kind consists of odd sentences, or fragments
of sentences, which are quite distinctly heard in a recognisable
human voice, not the student's own voice, or that of anyone he knows.
A similar phenomenon is observed by wireless operators, who call such
There is a further kind of break, which is the desired result
- I have already indicated how tedious these practices
become; how great the bewilderment; how constant the disappointment.
Long before the occurrence of Dhyana, there are quite a number of
minor results which indicate the breaking up of intellectual limita-
tion. You must not be disturbed if these results make you feel that
the very foundations of your mind are being knocked from under you.
The real lesson is that, just as you learn in Asana, the normal body
is in itself nothing but a vehicle of pain, so is the normal itself
insane; by its own standards it *is* insane. You have only got to
read a quite simple and elementary work like Professor Joad's 'Guide
to Philosophy' to find that any argument carried far enough leads to
a contradiction in terms. There are dozens of ways of showing that
if you begin 'A is A,' you end 'A is not A.' The mind reacts against
this conclusion; it anaesthetises itself against the self-inflicted
wound, and it regulates philosophy to the category of paradoxial
tricks. But that is a cowardly and disgraceful attitude. The Yogi
has got to face the fact that we are all raving lunatics; that sanity
exists -- if it exists at all -- in a mental state free from dame's
school rules of intellect.
With an earnest personal appeal, therefore, to come up frankly
to the mourners' bench and gibber, I will take my leave of you for
(Part 6 of 8)
YOGA FOR YELLOWBELLIES.
Mr. Chairman, Your Royal Highness, Your Grace, my lords, ladies
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
- In my last lecture I led you into the quag of delusion; I
smothered you in the mire of delusion; I brought you to thirst in the
desert of delusion; I left you wandering in the jungle of delusion, a
prey to all the monsters which are thoughts. It came into my mind
that it was up to me to do something about it.
We have constantly been discussing mysterious entities as if we
knew something about them, and this (on examination) always turned
out not to be the case.
- Knowledge itself is impossible, because if we take the
simplest proposition of knowledge, S is P, we must attach some
meaning to S and P, if our statement is to be intelligible. (I say
nothing as to whether it is true!) And this involves definition.
Now the original proposition of identity, A = A, tells us nothing at
all, unless the second A gives us further information about the first
A. We shall therefore say that A is BC. Instead of one unknown we
have two unknowns; we have to define B as DE, C as FG. Now we have
four unknowns, and very soon we have used up the alphabet. When we
come to define Z, we have to go back and use one of the other letters, so that all our arguments are
arguments in a circle.
- Any statement which we make is demonstrably meaningless.
And yet we do mean something when we say that a cat has four legs.
And we all know what we mean when we say so. We give our assent to,
or withhold it from, the proposition on the grounds of our experi-
ence. But that experience is not intellectual, as above demonstra-
ted. It is a matter of immediate intuition. We cannot have any
warrant for that intuition, but at the same time any intellectual
argument which upsets it does not in the faintest degree shake our
- The conclusion to be drawn from this is that the instrument
of mind is not intellectual, not rational. Logic is merely destructive, a self-destructive toy. The toy, however, is in
some ways also
instructive, even though the results of its use will not bear examination. So we make a by-law that
the particular sorites which
annihilate logic are out of bounds, and we go on reasoning within
arbitrarily appointed limits. It is subject to these conditions that
we may proceed to examine the nature of our fundamental ideas; and
this is necessary, because since we began to consider the nature of
the results of meditation, our conceptions of the backgrounds of
thought are decided in quite a different manner; not by intellectual
analysis, which, as we have seen, carries no conviction, but by
illumination, which does carry conviction. Let us, therefore,
proceed to examine the elements of our normal thinking.
- I need hardly recapitulate the mathematical theorem which
you all doubtless laid to heart when you were criticising Einstein's
theory of relatively. I only want to recall to your minds the
simplest element of that theorem; the fact that in order to describe
anything at all, you must have four measurements. It must be so far
east or west, so far north or south, so far up or down, from a
standard point, and it must be after or before a standard moment.
There are three dimensions of space and one of time.
- Now what do we mean by space? Henri Poincare, one of the
greatest mathematicians of the last generation, thought that the idea
of space was invented by a lunatic, in a fantastic (and evidently
senseless and aimless) endeavour to explain to himself his experience
of his muscular movements. Long before that, Kant had told us that
space was subjective, a necessary condition of thinking; and while
every one must agree with this, it is obvious that it does not tell
us much about it.
- Now let us look into our minds and see what idea, if any, we
can form about space. Space is evidently a continuum. There cannot
be any difference between any parts of it because it is wholly
where. It is pure background, the area of possibilities, a condition of quality and so of all
consciousness. It is therefore in
itself completely void. Is that right, sir?
- Now suppose we want to fulfil one of these possibilities.
The simplest thing we can take is a point, and we are told that a
point has neither parts nor magnitude, but only position. But, as
long as there is only one point, position means nothing. No possibility has yet been created of any
positive statement. We will
therefore take two points, and from these we get the idea of a line.
Our Euclid tells us that a line has length but no breadth. But, as
long as there are only two points, length itself means nothing; or,
at the most, it means separateness. All we can say about two points
is that there are two of them.
- Now we take a third point, and at last we come to a more
positive idea. In the first place, we have a plane surface, though
that in itself still means nothing, in the same way as length means
nothing when there are only two points there. But the introduction
of the third point has given a meaning to our idea of length. We can
say that the line AB is longer than the line BC, and we can also
introduce the idea of an angle.
- A fourth point, provided that it is not in the original
plane, gives us the idea of a solid body. But, as before, it tells
us nothing about the solid body as such, because there is no other
solid body with which to compare it. We find also that it is not
really a solid body at all as it stands, because it is merely an
instantaneous kind of illusion. We cannot observe, or even imagine,
anything, unless we have time for the purpose.
- What, then is time? It is a phantasm, exactly as tenuous
as space, but the possibilities of differentiation between one thing
and another can only occur in one way instead of in three different
ways. We compare two phenomena in time by the idea of sequence.
- Now it will be perfectly clear to all of you that this is
all nonsense. In order to conceive the simplest possible object, we
have to keep on inventing ideas, which even in the proud moment of
invention are seen to be unreal. How are we to get away from the
world of phantasmagoria to the common universe of sense? We shall
require quite a lot more acts of imagination. We have got to endow
our mathematical conceptions with three ideas which Hindu philosophers call Sat, Chit and Ananda, which
are usually translated Being,
Knowledge and Bliss. This really means: Sat, the tendency to
conceive of an object as real; Chit, the tendency to pretend that it
is an object of knowledge; and Ananda, the tendency to imagine that
we are affected by it.
- It is only after we have endowed the object with these
dozen imaginary properties, each of which, besides being a complete
illusion, is an absurd, irrational, and self-contradictory notion,
that we arrive at even the simplest object of experience. And this
object must, of course, be constantly multiplied. Otherwise our
experience would be confined to a single object incapable of
- We have also got to attribute to ourselves a sort of divine
power over our nightmare creation, so that we can compare the differ-
ent objects of our experience in all sorts of different manners.
Incidentally, this last operation of multiplying the objects stands
evidently invalid, because (after all) what we began with was absolutely Nothingness. Out of this we have
somehow managed to obtain,
not merely one, but many; but, for all that, our process has followed
the necessary operation of our intellectual machine. Since that
machine is the only machine that we possess, our arguments must be
valid in some sense or other conformable with the nature of this
machine. What machine? That is a perfectly real object. It contains innumerable parts, powers
and faculties. And they are as much
a nightmare as the external universe which it has created. Gad, sir,
Patanjali is right!
- Now how do we get over this difficulty of something coming
from Nothing? Only by enquiring what we mean by Nothing. We shall
find that this idea is totally inconceivable to the normal mind. For
if Nothing is to be Nothing, it must be Nothing in every possible
way. (Of course, each of these ways is itself an imaginary something, and there
are Aleph-Zero -- a transfinite number -- of them.)
If, for example, we say that Nothing is a square triangle, we have
had to invent a square triangle in order to say it. But take a more
homely instance. We know what we mean by saying 'There are cats in
the room.' We know what we mean when we say 'No cats are in the
room.' But if we say 'No cats are *not* in the room,' we evidently
mean that some cats are in the room. This remark is not intended
to be a reflection upon this distinguished audience.
- So then, if Nothing is to be really the absolute Nothing,
we mean that Nothing does not enter into the category of existence.
To say that absolute Nothing exists is equivalent to saying that
everything exists which exists, and the great Hebrew sages of old
time noted this fact by giving it the title of the supreme idea of
reality (behind their tribal God, Jehovah, who, as we have previously
shown, is merely the Yoga of the 4 Elements, even at his highest, --
the Demiourgos) Eheieh-Asher-Eheieh, -- I am that I am.
- If there is any sense in any of this at all, we may expect
to find an almost identical system of thought all over the world.
There is nothing exclusively Hebrew about this theogony. We find,
for example, in the teachings of Zoroaster and the neo-Platonists
very similar ideas. We have a Pleroma, the void, a background of all
possibilities, and this is filled by a supreme Light-God, from whom
drive in turn the seven Archons, who correspond closely to the seven
planetary deities, Aratron, Bethor, Phaleg and the rest. These in
their turn constitute a Demiurge in order to crate matter; and this
Demiurge is Jehovah. Not far different are the ideas both of the
classical Greeks and the neo-Platonists. The differences in the
terminology, when examined, appear as not much more than the differ-
ences of local convenience in thinking. But all these go back to the
still older cosmogony of the ancient Egyptians, where we have Nuit,
Space, Hadit, the point of view; these experience congress, and so
produce Heru-Ra-Ha, who combines the ideas of Ra-Hoor-Khuit and Hoor-
paar-Kraat. These are the same twin Vau and He' final which we know.
Here is evidently the origin of the system of the Tree of Life.
- We have arrived at this system by purely intellectual
examination, and it is open to criticism; but the point I wish to
bring to your notice tonight is that it corresponds closely to one of
the great states of mind which reflect the experience of Samadhi.
There is a vision of peculiar character which has been of
cardinal importance in my interior life, and to which constant
reference is made in my Magical Diaries. So far as I know, there is
no extant description of this vision anywhere, and I was surprised on
looking through my records to find that I had given no clear account
of it myself. The reason apparently is that it is so necessary a
part of myself that I unconsciously assume it to be a matter of
common knowledge, just as one assumes that everyone knows that one
possesses a pair of lungs, and therefore abstains from mentioning the
fact directly, although perhaps alluding to the matter often enough.
It appears very essential to describe this vision as well as
possible, considering the difficulty of langauge, and the fact that
the phenomena involved logical contradictions, the conditions of
consciousness being other than those obtaining normally.
The vision developed gradually. It was repeated on so many
occasions that I am unable to say at what period it may be called
complete. The beginning, however, is clear enough in my memory.
- I was on a Great Magical Retirement in a cottage overlook-
ing Lake Pasquaney in New Hampshire. I lost consciousness of everything but an universal space in which
were innumerable bright points,
and I realised that this was a physical representation of the universe, in what I may call its
essential structure. I exclaimed:
'Nothingness, with twinkles!' I concentrated upon this vision, with
the result that the void space which had been the principal element
of it diminished in importance. Space appeared to be ablaze, yet the
radiant points were not confused, and I thereupon completed my
sentence with the exclamation: 'But what Twinkles!'
- The next stage of this vision led to an identification of
the blazing points with the stars of the firmament, with ideas,
souls, etc. I perceived also that each star was connected by a ray
of light with each other star. In the world of ideas, each thought
possessed a necessary relation with each other thought; each such
relation is of course a thought in itself; each such ray is itself a
star. It is here that logical difficulty first presents itself. The
seer has a direct perception of infinite series. Logically, therefore, it would appear as if the entire
space must be filled up with a
homogeneous blaze of light. This is not, however, the case. The
space is completely full, yet the monads which fill it are perfectly
distinct. The ordinary reader might well exclaim that such statements exhibit symptoms of
mental confusion. The subject demands more
than cursory examination. I can do no more than refer the critic to
Bertrand Russell's 'Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy', where
the above position is thoroughly justified, as also certain positions
I want you to note in particular the astonishing final identification of this cosmic
experience with the nervous system as described
by the anatomist.
- At this point we may well be led to consider once more what
we call the objective universe, and what we call our subjective
experience. What is Nature? Immanuel Kant, who founded an epoch-
making system of subjective idealism, is perhaps the first philosopher to demonstrate
clearly that space, time, causality (in short,
all conditions of existence) are really no more than conditions of
thought. I have tried to put it more simply by defining all possible
predicates as so many dimensions. To describe an object properly it
is not sufficient to determine its position in the space-time continuum of four dimensions, but we
must enquire how it stands in all
the categories and scales, its values in all 'kinds' of possibility.
What do we know about it in respect of its greenness, its hardness,
its mobility, and so on? And then we find out that what we imagine
to be the description of the object is in reality nothing of the
- All that we recorded is the behaviour of our instruments.
What did our telescopes, spectroscopes, and balances tell us? And
these again are dependent upon the behaviour of our senses; for the
reality of our instruments, of our organs of sense, is just as much
in need of description and demonstration as are the most remote
phenomena. And we find ourselves forced to the conclusion that
anything we perceive is only perceived by us as such 'because of our
tendency so to perceive it.' And we shall find that in the fourth
stage of the great Buddhist practice, Mahasatipatthana, we become
directly and immediately aware of this fact instead of digging it out
of the holts of these interminable sorites which badger us! Kant
himself put it, after his fashion: 'The laws of nature are the laws
of our own minds.' Why? It is not the contents of the mind itself
that we can cognise, but only its structure. But Kant has not gone
to this length. He would have been extremely shocked if it had ever
struck him that the final term in his sorites was 'Reason itself is
the only reality.' On further examination, even this ultimate truth
turns out to be meaningless. It is like the well known circular
definition of an obscene book, which is: one that arouses certain
ideas in the mind of the kind of person in whom such ideas are
excited by that kind of book.
- I notice that my excellent chairman is endeavouring to
stifle a yawn and to convert it into a smile, and he will forgive me
for saying that I find the effect somewhat sinister. But he has
every right to be supercilious about it. These are indeed 'old, fond
paradoxes to amuse wives in ale-houses.' Since philosophy began, it
has always been a favourite game to prove your axioms absurd.
You will all naturally be very annoyed with me for indulging in
these fatuous pastimes, especially as I started out with a pledge
that I would deal with these subjcts from the hard-headed scientific
point of view. Forgive me if I have toyed with these shining gossamers of the thought-web! I have only
been trying to break it to
you gently. I proceed to brush away with a sweep of my lily-white
hand all this tenuous, filmy stuff, 'such stuff as dreams are made
of.' We will get down to modern science.
- For general reading there is no better introduction than
'The Bases of Modern Science', by my old and valued friend the late
J. W. N. Sullivan. I do not want to detain you too long with quotations from this admirable book. I would
much rather you got it and
read it yourself; you could hardly make better use of your time. But
let us spend a few moments on his remarks about the question of
Our conceptions of space as a subjective entity has been completely upset by the discovery that the
equations of Newton based on
Euclidean Geometry are inadequate to explain the phenomena of gravitation. It is instinctive to us to
think of a straight line; it is
somehow axiomatic. But we learn that this does not exist in the
objective universe. We have to use another geometry, Riemann's
Geometry, which is one of the curved geometries. (There are, of
course, as many systems of geometry as there are absurd axioms to
build them on. Three lines make one ellipse: any nonsense you like:
you can proceed to construct a geometry which is correct so long as
it is coherent. And there is nothing right or wrong about the
result: the only question is: which is the most convenient system
for the purpose of describing phenomena? We found the idea of
Gravitation awkward: we went to Riemann.)
This means that the phenomena are not taking place against a
background of a flat surface; the surface itself is curved. What we
have thought of as a straight line does not exist at all. And this
is almost impossible to conceive; at least it is quite impossible for
myself to visualise. The nearest one gets to it is by trying to
imagine that you are a reflection on a polished door-knob.
- I feel almost ashamed of the world that I have to tell you
that in the year 1900, four years before the appearance of Einstein's
world-shaking paper, I described space as 'finite yet boundless,'
which is exactly the description in general terms that he gave in
more mathematical detail.(*) You will see at once that these three
words do describe a curved geometry; a sphere, for instance, is a
finite object, yet you can go over the surface in any direction
without ever coming to an end.
I said above that Riemann's Geometry was not quite sufficient to
explain the phenomena of nature. We have to postulate different
kinds of curvature in different parts of the continuum. And even
then we are not happy!
- Now for a spot of Sullivan! 'The geometry is so general
that it admits of different degrees of curvature in different parts
of space-time. It is to this curvature that gravitational effects
are due. The curvature of space-time is most prominent, therefore,
around large masses, for here the gravitational effects are most
marked. If we take matter as fundamental, we may say that it is the
presence of matter that causes the curvature of space-time. But
there is a different school of thought that regards matter as due to
the curvature of space-time. That is, we assume as fundamental a
space-time continuum manifest to our senses as what we call matter.
Both points of view have strong arguments to recommend them. But,
whether or not matter may be derived from the geometrical peculiarities of the space-time continuum, we may
take it as an established
scientific fact that gravitation has been so derived. This is
obviously a very great achievement, but it leaves quite untouched
another great class of phenomena, namely, electro-magnetic phenomena.
In this space-time continuum of Einstein's the electro-magnetic
forces appear as entirely alien. Gravitation has been absorbed, as
it were, into Riemannian geometry, and the notion of force, so far as
gravitational phenomena are concerned, has been abolished. But the
electro-magnetic forces still flourish undisturbed. There is no hint
that they are manifestations of the geometrical peculiarities of the
space-time continuum. And it can be shown to be impossible to relate
them to anything in Riemann's Geometry. Gravitation can be shown to
correspond to certain geometrical peculiarities of a Riemannian
space-time. But the electro-magnetic forces lie completely outside
- Here is the great quag into which mathematical physics has
led its addicts. Here we have two classes of phenomena, all part of
a unity of physics. Yet the equations which describe and explain the
one class are incompatible with those of the other class! This is
not a question of philosophy at all, but a question of fact. It does
not do to consider that the universe is composed of particles. Such
a hypothesis underlies one class of phenomena, but it is nonsense
when applied to the electro-magnetic equations, which insist upon our
abandoning the idea of particles for that of waves.
Here is another Welsh rabbit for supper!
'Einstein's finite universe is such that its radius is dependent
upon the amount of matter in it. Were more matter to be created, the
volume of the universe would increase. Were matter to be annihilated, the volume of space would
decrease. Without matter, space would
not exist. Thus the mere existence of space, besides its metrical
properties, depends upon the existence of matter. With this conception it becomes possible to
regard all motion, including rotation, as
Where do we go from here, boys?
- 'The present tendency of physics is towards describing the
universe in terms of mathematical relations between unimaginable
We have got a long way from Lord Kelvin's too-often and too-
unfairly quoted statement that he could not imagine anything of which
he could not construct a mechanical model. The Victorians were
really a little inclined to echo Dr. Johnson's gross imbecile stamp
on the ground when the ideas of Bishop Berkeley penetrated to the
superficial strata of the drink-sodden grey cells of that beef-witted
- Now, look you, I ask you to reflect upon the trouble we
have taken to calculate the distance of the fixed stars, and hear
Professor G. N. Lewis, who 'suggests that two atoms connected by a
light ray may be regarded as in actual physical contact. The
interval between two ends of a light-ray is, on the theory of
relativity, zero, and Professor Lewis suggests that this fact should
be taken seriously. On this theory, light is not propagated at all.
This idea is in conformity with the principle that none but observable factors should be used in
constructing a scientific theory, for
we can certainly never observe the passage of light in empty space.
We are only aware of light when it encouters matter. Light which
never encounters matter is purely hypothetical. If we do not make
that hypothesis, then there is no empty space. On Professor Lewis's
theory, when we observe a distant star, our eye as truly makes
physical contact with that star as our finger makes contact with a
table when we press it.'
- And did not all of you think that my arguments were arguments in a circle? I certainly
hope you did, for I was at the
greatest pains to tell you so. But it is not a question of argument
in Mr. Sullivan's book; it is a question of facts. He was talking
about human values. He was asking whether science could possibly be
cognizant of them. Here he comes, the great commander! Cheer, my
'But although consistent materialists were probably always rare,
the humanistically important fact remained that science did not find
it necessary to include values in its description of the universe.
For it appeared that science, in spite of this omission, formed a
closed system. If values form an integral part of reality, it seems
strange that science should be able to give a consistent description
of phenomena which ignores them.
'At the present time, this difficulty is being met in two ways.
On the one hand, it is pointed out that science remains within its
own domain by the device of cyclic definition, that is to say, the
abstractions with which it begins are all it ever talks about. It
makes no fresh contacts with reality, and therefore never encounters
any possibly disturbing factors. This point of view is derived from
the theory of relativity, particularly from the form of presentation
adopted by Eddington. This theory forms a closed circle. The
primary terms of the theory, point-events, potentials, matter
(etc. -- there are ten of them), lie at various points on the circumference of the circle. We may
start at any point and go round the
circle, that is, from any one of these terms we can deduce the
others. The primary entities of the theory are defined in terms of
one another. In the course of this exercise we derive the laws of
Nature studied in physics. At a certain point in the cahin of
deductions, at matter, for example, we judge that we are talking
about something which is an objective concrete embodiment of our
abstractions. But matter, as it occurs in physics, is no more than a
particular set of abstractions, and our subsequent reasoning is
concerned only with these abstractions. Such other characteristics
as the objective reality may possess never enter our scheme. But the
set of abstractions called matter in relativity theory do not seem to
be adequate to the whole of our scientific knowledge of matter.
There remain quantum phenomena.'
'So we leave her, so we leave her,
Far from where her swarthy kindred roam -- kindred roam
In the Scarlet Fever, Scarlet Fever,
Scarlet Fever Convalescent Home.'
- So now, no less than that chivalrous gentleman, His Grace,
the Most Reverend the Archbishop of Canterbury, who in a recent
broadcast confounded for ever all those infidels who had presumed to
doubt the possibility of devils entering into swine, we have met the
dragon science and conquered. We have seen that, however we attack
the problem of mind, whether from the customary spiritual standpoint,
or from the opposite corner of materialism, the result is just the
One last quotation from Mr. Sullivan. 'The universe may ultimately prove to be irrational. The
scientific adventure may have to
be given up.'
But that is all he knows about science, bless his little
heart! We do not give up. 'You lied, d'Ormea, I do not repent!'
The results of experiment are still valid for experience, and the
fact that the universe turns out on enquiry to be unintelligible only
serves to fortify our ingrained conviction that experience itself is
- We may then ask ourselves whether it is not possible to
obtain experience of a higher order, to discover and develop the
faculty of mind which can transcend analysis, stable against all
thought by virtue of its own self-evident assurance. In the language
of the Great White Brotherhood (whom I am here to represent) you
cross the abyss. 'Leave the poor old stranded wreck' -- Ruach --
'and pull for the shore' of Neschamah. For above the abyss, it is
said, as you will see if you study the Supplement of the fifth number
of the First Volume of 'The Equinox', an idea is only true in so far
as it contains its contradictory in itself.
- It is such states of mind as this which constitute the
really important results of Samyama, and these results are not to be
destroyed by philosophical speculation, because they are not susceptible of analysis, because they have
no component parts, because they
exist by virtue of their very Unreason -- 'certum est quia ineptum!'
They cannot be expressed, for they are above knowledge. To some
extent we can convey our experience to others familiar with that
experience to a less degree by the aesthetic method. And this
explains why all the good work on Yoga -- alchemy, magick and the
rest -- not doctrinal but symbolic -- the word of God to man, is
given in Poetry and Art.
In my next lecture I shall endeavour to go a little deeper into
the technique of obtaining these results, and also give a more
detailed account of the sort of thing that is likely to occur in the
course of the preliminary practices.
Love is the law, love under will.
TANNHAUSER, written in Mexico, O.F., August, 1900. See also my
BERASHITH, written in Delhi, April, 1901.
(Part 7 of 8)
YOGA FOR YELLOWBELLIES.
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Love is the law, love under will.
- You will remember that last week our study of Yoga had led
us to the Fathers of the Church. We saw that their philosophy and
science, in following an independent route, had brought us to the
famous exclamation of Tertullian: 'certum est quia ineptum!' How
right the Church has been to deny the authority of Reason!
- We are almost tempted to enquire for a moment what the
Church means by 'faith.' St. Paul tells us that faith is 'the
substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things unseen.' I do
not think, then, that we are to imagine this word faith to mean what
that lecherous gross-bellied boor, Martin Luther, maintained. The
faith of which he speaks is anything but a substance, and as for
evidence, it is nothing but the power, as the schoolboy said, of
believing that which we know to be untrue. To have any sensible
meaning at all, faith must mean experience, and that view is in exact
accord with the conclusion to which we were led in my last lecture.
Nothing is any use to us unless it be a certainty unshakeable by
criticism of any kind, and there is only one thing in the universe
which complies with these conditions: the direct experience of
spiritual truth. Here, and here only, do we find a position in which
the great religious minds of all times and all climes coincide. It
is necessarily above dogma, because dogma consists of a collection of
intellectual statements, each of which, and also its contradictory,
can easily be disputed and overthrown.
- You are probably aware that in the Society of Jesus the
postulants are trained to debate on all these highly controversial
subjects. They put up a young man to prove any startling blasphemy
that happens to occur to them. And the more shocked the young man
is, the better the training for his mind, and the better service will
he give to the Society in the end; but only if his mind has been
completely disabused of its confidence in its own rightness, or even
in the possibility of being right.
- The rationalist, in his shallow fashion, always contends
that this training is the abnegation of mental freedom. On the
contrary, it is the only way to obtain that freedom. In the same
Society the training in obedience is based on a similar principle.
The priest has to do what his Superior orders him -- 'perinde ac
cadaver.' Protestants always represent that this is the most outrageous and
indefensible tyranny. "The poor devil,' they say, 'is
bludgeoned into having no will of his own.' That is pure nonsense.
By abnegating his will through the practice of holy obedience his
will has become enormously strong, so strong that none of his natural
instincts, desires, or habits can intrude. He has freed his will of
all these inhibitions. He is a perfect function of the machinery of
the Order. In the General of the Society is concentrated the power
of all those separate wills, just as in the human body every cell
should be completely devoted in its particular quality to the
concentrated will of the organism.
- In other words, the Society of Jesus has created a perfect
imitation of the skeleton of the original creation, living man. It
has complied with the divinely instituted order of things, and that
is why we see that the body, which was never numerically important,
has yet been one of the greatest influences in the development of
Europe. It has not always worked perfectly, but that has not been
the fault of the system; and, even as it is, its record has been
extraordinary. And one of the most remarkable things about it is
that its greatest and most important achievements have been in the
domain of science and philosophy. It has done nothing in religion;
or, rather, where it has meddled with religion it has only done harm.
What a mistake! And why? For the simple reason that it was in a
position to take no notice of religion; all these matters were
decided for it by the Pope, or by the Councils of the Church, and the
Society was therefore able to free itself from the perplexities of
religion, in exactly the same way as the novice obtains complete
freedom from his moral responsibilities by sinking his personal
phantasies in the will of the Superior.
- I should like to mention here that the Spiritual Exercises
of St. Ignatius are in their essence really admirable Yoga practices.
They have, it is true, a tinge of magical technique, and they have
been devised to serve a dogmatic end. That was, however, necessary,
and it was good magic too, at that, because the original will of the
Founder was to produce a war engine as a counterblast to the Reforma-
tion. He was very wise to devise a plan, irrespective of its abstract merits as philosophy, which would most
efficiently serve that
single purpose. The only trouble has been that this purpose was not
sufficiently cosmic in scope to resist internal forces. Having
attained the higher planes by practice of these exercises, they found
that the original purpose of the Society was not really adequate to
their powers; they were, so to speak, over-engined. They stupidly
invaded the spiritual sphere of the other authorities whom they were
founded to support, and thus we see them actually quarrelling with
the Pope, while failing signally to obtain possession of the Papacy.
Being thus thwarted in their endeavours, and confused in their
purpose, they redoubled the ardour of their exercises; and it is one
of the characteristics of all spiritual exercises, if honestly and
efficiently performed, that they constantly lead you on to higher
planes, where all dogmatic considerations, all intellectual concepts,
are invalid. Hence, we found that it is not altogether surprising
that the General of the Order and his immediate circle have been
supposed to be atheists. If that were true, it would only show that
they have been corrupted by their preoccupation with the practical
politics of the world, which it is impossible to conduct on any but
an atheistic basis; it is brainless hypocrisy to pretend otherwise,
and should be restricted to the exclusive use of the Foreign Office.
It would, perhaps, be more sensible to suppose that the heads of
the Order have really attained the greatest heights of spiritual
knowledge and freedom, and it is quite possible that the best term to
describe their attitude would be either Pantheistic or Gnostic.
- These considerations should be of the greatest use to us now
that we come to discuss in more detail the results of the Yoga
practices. There is, it is true, a general similarity between the
ecstatic outbursts of the great mystics all over the world. Comparisons have often been drawn by
students of the subject. I will only
detain you with one example: 'Do what thou wilt shall be the whole
of the Law.' What is this injunction? It is a generalisation of St.
Augustine's 'Love, and do what thou wilt.' But in 'The Book of the
Law', lest the hearer should be deluded into a spasm of antinomianism, there is a further
explanation: 'Love is the law, love under
- However, the point is that it is no use discussing the
results of Yoga, whether that Yoga be the type recommended by Lao-
Tze, or Patanjali, or St. Ignatius Loyola, because for our first
postulate we have: that these subjects are incapable of discussion.
To argue about them only causes us to fall into the pit of Because,
and there to perish with the dogs of Reason. The only use, therefore, of describing our experiences
is to enable students to get some
sort of idea of the sort of thing that is going to happen to them
when they attain success in the practices of Yoga. We have David
saying in the Psalms: 'I hate thoughts, but Thy law do I love.' We
have St. Paul saying: 'The carnal mind is enmity against God.' One
might almost say that the essence of St. Paul's Epistles is a struggle against mind: 'We war not
against flesh and blood' -- you know
the rest -- I can't be bothered to quote it all -- Eph. vi. 12.
- It is St. Paul, I think, who describes Satan, which is his
name for the enemy, owing to his ignorance of the history of the
world, as the Prince of the Power of the Air; that is, of the Ruach,
of the intellect; and we must never forget that what operated the
conversion of St. Paul was the Vision on the road to Damascus. It is
particularly significant that he disappeared into the Desert of
Arabia for three years before coming forward as the Apostle to the
Gentiles. St. Paul was a learned Rabbi; he was the favourite pupil
of the best expositor of the Hebrew Law, and in the single moment of
his Vision all his arguments were shattered at a single stroke!
- We are not told that St. Paul said anything at the time,
but went quietly on his journey. That is the great lesson: not to
discuss the results. Those of you who possess a copy of 'The Equinox
of the Gods' may have been very much surprised at the extraordinary
injunction in the Comment: the prohibition of all discussion of the
Book. I myself did not fully understand that injunction; I do so
- Let us now deal with a few of the phenomena which occur
during the practices of Pratyahara.
Very early during my retirement in Kandy, I had been trying to
concentrate by slanting my eyes towards the tip of my nose. This, by
the way, is not a good practice; one is liable to strain the eyes.
But what happened was that I woke up in the night; my hand touched a
nose; I immediately concluded that some one was in the room. Not at
all; I only thought so because my nose had passed away from the
region of my observation by the practice of concentrating upon it.
- The same sort of thing occurs with adequate concentration
on any object. It is connected, curiously enough, with the phenomena
of invisibility. When your mind has gone so deeply into itself that
it is unconscious of itself and its surroundings, one of the most
ordinary results is that the body becomes invisible to other people.
I do not think that it would make any difference for a photograph,
though I have no evidence for saying this; but it has happened to me
on innumerable occasions. It was an almost daily occurrence when I
was in Sicily.
- A party of us used to go down to a very beautiful bay of
sand, whence jutted fantastically-shaped islets of rock; it is rimmed
by cliffs encrusted with jewels of marine life. The way was over a
bare hillside; except for a few hundred yards of vineyard there was
no cover -- nay, not for a rabbit. But it often happened that one of
the party would turn to speak to me, and fail to see me. I have
often known this to happen when I was dictating; my chair was
Incidentally, this faculty, which I think is exercised, as a
rule, unconsciously, may become an actual magical power.
- It happened to me on one occasion that a very large number
of excited people were looking for me with no friendly intentions;
but I had a feeling of lightness, of ghostliness, as if I were a
shadow moving soundlessly about the street; and in actual fact none
of the people who were looking for me gave the slightest indication
that they were aware of my presence.
There is a curious parallel to this incident in one of the
Gospels where we read that 'they picked up stones to stone him, but
he, passing through the midst of them, went his way.'
- There is another side to this business of Pratyahara, one
that may be described as completely contradictory against what we
have been talking about.
If you concentrate your attention upon one portion of the body
with the idea of investigating it, that is, I suppose, allowing the
mind to move within very small limits, the whole of your conscious-
ness becomes concentrated in that small part. I used to practise
this a good deal in my retirement by Lake Pasquaney. I would usually
take a finger or a toe, and identify my whole consciousness with the
small movements which I allowed it to make. It would be futile to go
into much detail about this experience. I can only say that until
you acquire the power you have no idea of the sheer wonder and
delight of that endlessly quivering orgasm.
- If I remember rightly, this practice and its result were
one of the principal factors which enabled me afterwards to attain
what is called the Trance of Wonder, which pertains to the Grade of a
Master of the Temple, and is a sort of complete understanding of the
organism of the universe, and an ecstatic adoration of its marvel.
This Trance is very much higher than the Beatific Vision, for
always in the latter it is the heart -- the Phren -- which is involved; in the former it is the Nous, the
divine intelligence of man,
whereas the heart is only the centre of the intellectual and moral
- But, so long as you are occupying yourself with the physical, your results will only be on
that plane; and the principal
effect of these concentrations on small parts of the body is the
understanding, or rather the appreciation, of sensuous pleasure.
This, however, is infinitely refined, exquisitely intense. It is
often possible to acquire a technique by which the skilled artist can
produce this pleasure in another person. Map out, say, three square
inches of skin anywhere, and it is possible by extreme gentle touches
to excite in the patient all the possible sensations of pleasure of
which that person is capable. I know that this is a very extraordinary claim, but it is a very
easy one to substantiate. The only
thing I am afraid of is that experts may be carried away by the
rewards, instead of getting the real value of the lesson, which is
that the gross pleasures of the senses are absolutely worthless.
This practice, so far as it is useful to all, should be regarded
as the first step towards emancipation from the thrall of the bodily
desires, of the sensations self-destructive, of the thirst for
- I think this is a good opportunity to make a little digression in favour of Mahasatipatthana. This
practice was recommended by
the Buddha in very special terms, and it is the only one of which he
speaks so highly. He told his disciples that if they only stuck to
it, sooner or later they would reach full attainment. The practice
consists of an analysis of the universe in terms of consciousness.
You begin by taking some very simple and regular bodily exercise,
such as the movement of the body in walking, or the movements of the
lungs in breathing. You keep on noting what happens: 'I am breath-
ing out; I am breathing in; I am holding my breath,' as the case may
be. Quite without warning, one is appalled by the shock of the
discovery that what you have been thinking is not true. You have no
right to say: 'I am breathing in.' All that you really know is that
there is a breathing in.
- You therefore change your note, and you say: 'There is a
breathing in; there is a breathing out,' and so on. And very soon,
if you practise assiduously, you get another shock. You have no
right to say that there is a breathing. All you know is that there
is a sensation of that kind. Again you change your conception of
your observation, and one day make the discovery that the sensation
has disappeared. All you know is that there is perception of a
sensation of breathing in or breathing out. Continue, and that is
once more discovered to be an illusion. What you find is that there
is a tendency to perceive a sensation of the natural phenomena.
- The former stages are easy to assimilate intellectually;
one assents to them immediately that one discovers them, but with
regard to the 'tendency,' this is not the case, at least it was not
so for my own part. It took me a long while before I understood what
was meant by 'tendency.' To help you to realise this I should like
to find a good illustration. For instance, a clock does nothing at
all but offer indications of the time. It is so constructed that
this is all we can know about it. We can argue about whether the
time is correct, and that means nothing at all, unless, for example,
we know whether the clock is controlled electrically from an astronomical station where the astronomer
happens to be sane, and in what
part of the world the clock is, and so on.
- I remember once when I was in Teng-Yueh, just inside the
Chinese frontier in Yunnan. The hour of noon was always telegraphed
to the Consulate from Pekin. This was a splendid idea, because
electricity is practically instantaneous. The unfortunate thing was,
if it was unfortunate, which I doubt, that the messages had to be
relayed at a place called Yung Chang. The operators there had the
good sense to smoke opium most of the time, so occasionally a batch
of telegrams would arrive, a dozen or so in a bunch, stating that it
was noon at Pekin on various dates! So all the gross phenomena, all
these sensations and perceptions, are illusion. All that one could
really say was that there was a tendency on the part of some lunatic
in Pekin to tell the people at Teng-Yueh what o'clock it was.
- But even this Fourth Skandha is not final. With practice,
it also appears as an illusion, and one remains with nothing but the
bare consciousness of the existence of such a tendency.
I cannot tell you very much about this, because I have not
worked it out very thoroughly myself, but I very much doubt whether
'consciousness' has any meaning at all, as a translation of the word
Vinnanam. I think that a better translation would be 'experience,'
used in the sense in which we have been using it hitherto, as the
direct reality behind and beyond all remark.
- I hope you will appreciate how difficult it is to give a
reasoned description, however tentative, of these phenomena, still
less to classify them properly. They have a curious trick of running
one into the other. This, I believe, is one of the reasons why it
has been impossible to find any really satisfactory literature about
Yoga at all. The more advanced one's progress, the less one knows,
and the more one understands. The effect is simply additional
evidence of what I have been saying all this time: that it is very
little use discussing things; what is needed is continuous devotion
to the practice.
(Part 8 of 8)
YOGA FOR YELLOWBELLIES.
Salutation to the Sons of the Morning!
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
- I should like to begin this evening by recapitulating very
briefly what has been said in the previous three lectures, and this
would be easier if I had not completely forgotten everything I said.
But there is a sort of faint glimmering to the effect that the
general subject of the series was the mental exercises of the Yogi;
and the really remarkable feature was that I found it impossible to
discuss them at all thoroughly without touching upon, first of all,
ontology; secondly, ordinary science; and thirdly, the high Magick of
the true initiates of the light.
- We found that both Ontology and Science, approaching the
question of reality from entirely different standpoints, and pursuing
their researches by entirely different methods, had yet arrived at an
identical 'impasse.' And the general conclusion was that there could
be no reality in any intellectual concept of any kind, that the only
reality must lie in direct experience of such a kind that it is
beyond the scope of the critical apparatus of our minds. It cannot
be subject to the laws of Reason; it cannot be found in the fetters
of elementary mathematics; only transfinite and irrational conceptions in that subject can possibly
shadow forth the truth in some
such paradox as the identity of contradictories. We found further
that those states of mind which result from the practice of Yoga are
properly called trances, because they actually transcend the
conditions of normal thought.
- At this point we begin to see an almost insensible drawing
together of the path of Yoga which is straight (and in a sense arid)
with that of Magick, which may be compared with the Bacchic dance or
the orgies of Pan. It suggests that Yoga is ultimately a sublimation
of philosophy, even as Magick is a sublimation of science. The way
is open for a reconciliation between these lower elements of thought
by virtue of their tendency to flower into these higher states beyond
thought, in which the two have become one. And that, of course, is
Magick; and that, of course, is Yoga.
- We may now consider whether, in view of the final identification of these two elements in
their highest, there may not be
something more practical than sympathy in their lower elements -- I
mean mutual assistance.
I am glad to think that the Path of the Wise has become much
smoother and shorter than it was when I first trod it; for this very
reason that the old antinomies of Magick and Yoga have been
You all know what Yoga is. Yoga means union. And you all know
how to do it by shutting off the din of the intellectual boiler
factory, and allowing the silence of starlight to reach the ear. It
is the emancipation of the exalted from the thrall of the commonplace
expression of Nature.
- Now what is Magick? Magick is the science and art of
causing change to occur in conformity with the Will. How do we
achieve this? By exalting the will to the point where it is master
of circumstance. And how do we do this? By so ordering every
thought, word and act, in such a way that the attention is constantly
recalled to the chosen object.
- Suppose I want to evoke the 'Intelligence' of Jupiter. I
base my work upon the correspondences of Jupiter. I base my mathematics on the number 4 and its
subservient numbers 16, 34, 136. I
employ the square or rhombus. For my sacred animal I choose the
eagle, or some other sacred to Jupiter. For my perfume, saffron --
for my libation some preparation of opium or a generous yet sweet and
powerful wine such as port. For my magical weapon I take the sceptre; in fact, I continue choosing
instruments for every act in such a
way that I am constantly reminded of my will to evoke Jupiter. I
even constrain every object. I extract the Jupiterian elements
from all the complex phenomena which surround me. If I look at my
carpet, the blues and purples are the colours which stand out as
Light against an obsolescent and indeterminate background. And thus
I carry on my daily life, using every moment of time in constant
self-admonition to attend to Jupiter. The mind quickly responds to
this training; it very soon automatically rejects as unreal anything
which is not Jupiter. Everything else escapes notice. And when the
time comes for the ceremony of invocation which I have been consistently preparing with all
devotion and assiduity, I am quickly
inflamed. I am attuned to Jupiter, I am pervaded by Jupiter, I am
absorbed by Jupiter, I am caught up into the heaven of Jupiter and
wield his thunderbolts. Hebe and Ganymedes bring me wine; the Queen
of the Gods is throned at my side, and for my playmates are the
fairest maidens of the earth.
- Now what is all this but to do in a partial (and if I may
say so, romantic) way what the Yogi does in his more scientifically
complete yet more austerely difficult methods? And here the advan-
tage of Magick is that the process of initiation is spontaneous and,
so to speak, automatic. You may begin in the most modest way with
the evocation of some simple elemental spirit; but in the course of
the operation you are compelled, in order to attain success, to deal
with higher entities. Your ambition grows, like every other organ-
ism, by what it feeds on. You are very soon led to the Great Work
itself; you are led to aspire to the Knowledge and Conversation of
the Holy Guardian Angel, and this ambition in turn arouses automatically further difficulties the conquest
of which confers new powers.
In the Book of the Thirty Aethyrs, commonly called 'The Vision and
the Voice', it becomes progressively difficult to penetrate each
Aethyr. In fact, the penetration was only attained by the initia-
tions which were conferred by the Angel of each Aethyr in its turn.
There was this further identification with Yoga practices recorded in
this book. At times the concentration necessary to dwell in the
Aethyr became so intense that definitely Samadhic results were
obtained. We see then that the exaltation of the mind by means of
magical practices leads (as one may say, in spite of itself) to the
same results as occur in straightforward Yoga.
- I think I ought to tell you a little more about these visions.
The method of obtaining them was to take a large topaz beautifully
engraved with the Rose and Cross of forty-nine petals, and this topaz
was set in a wooden cross of oak painted red. I called this the
shew-stone in memory of Dr. Dee's famous shew-stone. I took this in
my hand and proceeded to recite in the Enochian or Angelic language
the Call of the Thirty Aethyrs, using in each case the special name
appropriate to the Aethyr. Now all this went very well until about
the 17th, I think it was, and then the Angel, foreseeing difficulty
in the higher or remoter Aethyrs, gave me this instruction. I was to
recite a chapter from the Q'uran: what the Mohammedans call the
'Chapter of the Unity.' 'Qol: Hua Allahu achad; Allahu assamad:
lam yalid walam yulad; walam yakun lahu kufwan achad.' I was to say
this, bowing myself to the earth after each chapter, a thousand and
one times a day, as I walked behind my camel in the Great Eastern Erg
of the Sahara. I do not think that anyone will dispute that this was
pretty good exercise; but my point is that it was certainly very good
- From what I have said in previous lectures you will all recog-
nise that this practice fulfils all the conditions of the earlier
stages of Yoga, and it is therefore not surprising that it put my
mind in such a state that I was able to use the Call of the Thirty
Aethyrs with much greater efficacy than before.
- Am I then supposed to be saying that Yoga is merely the
hand-maiden of Magick, or that Magick has no higher function than to
supplement Yoga? By no means. it is the co-operation of lovers;
which is here a symbol of the fact. The practices of Yoga are almost
essential to success in Magick -- at least I may say from my own
experience that it made all the difference in the world to my magical
success, when I had been thoroughly grounded in the hard drill of
Yoga. But -- I feel absolutely certain that I should never have
obtained success in Yoga in so short a time as I did had I not spent
the previous three years in the daily practice of magical methods.
- I may go so far as to say that just before I began Yoga
seriously, I had almost invented a Yogic method of practising Magick
in the stress of circumstances. I had been accustomed to work with
full magical apparatus in an admirably devised temple of my own. Now
I found myself on shipboard, or in some obscure bedroom of Mexico
City, or camped beside my horse among the sugar canes in lonely
tropical valleys, or couched with my rucksack for all pillow on bare
volcanic heights. I had to replace my magical apparatus. I would
take the table by my bed, or stones roughly piled, for my altar. My
candle or my Alpine Lantern was my light. My ice-axe for the wand,
my drinking flask for the chalice, my machete for the sword, and a
chapati or a sachet of salt for the pantacle of art! Habit soon
familiarised these rough and ready succedanea. But I suspect that it
may have been the isolation and the physical hardship itself that
helped, that more and more my magical operation became implicit in my
own body and mind, when a few months later I found myself performing
in full operations involving the Formula of the Neophyte (for which
see my treatise 'Magick') without any external apparatus at all.
- A pox on all these formalistic Aryan sages! Unless one
wants to be very pedantic, it is rather absurd to contend that this
form of ritual forced upon me, first by external and next by internal
circumstances, was anything else but a new form of Asana, Pranayama,
Mantra-Yoga, and Pratyahara in something very near perfection; and it
is therefore not surprising that the Magical exaltation resulting
from such ceremonies was in all essential respects the equivalent of
On the other hand, the Yoga training was an admirable aid to
that final concentration of the Will which operates the magical
- This then is reality: direct experience. How does it
differ from the commonplace everyday experience of sensory impressions which are so readily shaken
by the first breath of the wind of
Well, to answer first of all in a common-sense way, the difference is simply that the impression
is deeper, is less to be shaken.
Men of sense and education are always ready to admit that they may
have been mistaken in the quality of their observation of any phenomenon, and men a little more
advanced are almost certain to attain to
a placid kind of speculation as to whether the objects of sense are
not mere shadows on a screen.
I take off my glasses. Now I cannot read my manuscript. I had
two sets of lenses, one natural, one artificial. If I had been
looking through a telescope of the old pattern I should have had
three sets of lenses, two artificial. If I go and put on somebody
else's glasses I shall get another kind of blur. As the lenses of my
eyes change in the course of my life, what my sight tells me is
different. The point is that we are quite unable to judge what is
the truth of the vision. Why then do I put on my glasses to read?
Only because the particular type of illusion produced by wearing them
is one which enables me to interpret a pre-arranged system of hieroglyphics in a particular sense
which I happen to imagine I want. It
tells me nothing whatever about the object of my vision -- what I
call the paper and the ink. Which is the dream? The clear legible
type or the indecipherable blur?
- But in any case any man who is sane at all does make a
distinction between the experience of daily life and the experience
of dream. It is true that sometimes dreams are so vivid, and their
character so persistently uniform that men are actully deceived into
believing that places they have seen in dreams repeatedly are places
that they have known in a waking life. But they are quite capable of
criticising this illusion by memory, and they admit the deception.
Well, in the same way the phenomena of high Magick and Samadhi have
an authenticity, and confer an interior certainty, which is to the
experience of waking life as that is to a dream.
But, apart from all this, experience is experience; and the real
guarantee that we have of the attainment of reality is its rank in
the hierarchy of the mind.
- Let us ask ourselves for a moment what is the characteristic of dream impressions as judged
by the waking mind. Some dreams
are so powerful tht they convince us, even when awake, of their
reality. Why then do we criticise and dismiss them? Because their
contents are incoherent, because the order of nature to which they
belong does not properly conform with the kind of experience which
does hang together -- after a fashion. Why do we criticise the
reality of waking experience? On precisely similar grounds. Because
in certain respects it fails to conform with our deep instinctive
consciousness of the structure of the mind. Tendency! We happen
to be that kind of animal.
- The result is that we accept waking experience for what it
is within certain limits. At least we do so to this extent, that we
base our action upon the belief that, even if it is not philosophically real, it is real enough to base a
course of action upon it.
What is the ultimate prctical test of conviction? Just this,
that it is our standard of conduct. I put on these glasses in order
to read. I am quite certain that the blurred surface will become
clear when I do so. Of course, I may be wrong. I may have picked up
some other body's glasses by mistake. I might go blind before I
could get them into position. Even such confidence has limits; but
it is a real confidence, and this is the explanation of why we go
ahead with the business of life. When we think it over, we know that
there are all sorts of snags, that it is impossible to formulate any
proposition which is philosophically unassailable, or even one which
is so from a practical standpoint. We admit to ourselves that there
are all sorts of snags; but we take our chance of that, and go ahead
in the general principles inculcated by our experience of nature. It
is, of course, quite easy to prove that experience is impossible. To
begin with, our consciousness of any phenomenon is never the thing
itself, but only a hieroglyphic symbol of it.
Our position is rather that of a man with a temperamental motor-
car; he has a vague theory that it ought to go, on general princi-
ples; but he is not quite sure how it will perform in any given
circumstances. Now the experience of Magick and Yoga is quite above
all this. The possibility of criticising the other types of experience is based upon the possibility
of expressing our impressions in
adequate terms; and this is not at all the case with the results of
Magick and Yoga. As we have already seen, every attempt at expression in ordinary language is futile. Where
the hero of the adventure
is tied up with a religious theory, we get the vapid and unctuous
bilgewater of people like St. John of the Cross. All Christian
Mystics are tarred with the same brush. Their abominable religion
compels them to every kind of sentimentality; and the theory of
original sin vitiates their whole position, because instead of the
noble and inspiring Trance of Sorrow they have nothing but the
miserable, cowardly, and selfish sense of guilt to urge them to
undertake the Work.
- I think we may dismiss altogether from our minds every
claim to experience made by any Christian of whatever breed of
spiritual virus as a mere morbid reflection, the apish imitation of
the true ecstasies and trances. All expressions of the real thing
must partake of the character of that thing, and therefore only that
language is permissible which is itself released from the canon of
ordinary speech, exactly as the trance is unfettered by the laws of
ordinary consciousness. In other words, the only proper translation
is in poetry, art and music.
- If you examine the highest poetry in the light of common
sense, you can only say that it is rubbish; and in actual fact you
cannot so examine it at all, because there is something in poetry
which is not in the words themselves, which is not in the images
suggested by the words 'O windy star blown sideways up the sky!'
True poetry is itself a magic spell which is a key to the ineffable.
With music this thesis is so obvious as hardly to need stating.
Music has no expressed intellectual content whatever, and the sole
test of music is its power to exalt the soul. It is then evident
that the composer is himself attempting to express in sensible form
some such sublimities as are attained by those who practise Magick
and Yoga as they should.
- The same is true of plastic art, but evidently in much less
degree; and all those who really know and love art are well aware
that classical painting and sculpture are rarely capable of producing
these transcendent orgasms of ecstasy, as in the case of the higher
arts. One is bound to the impressions of the eye; one is drawn back
to the contemplation of a static object. And this fact has been so
well understood in modern times by painters that they have endeavoured to create an art within
an art; and this is the true explanation of such movements as 'surrealisme.' I want to impress upon you
that the artist is in truth a very much superior being to the Yogi or
the Magician. He can reply as St. Paul replied to the centurion who
boasted of his Roman citizenship 'With a great sum obtained I this
freedom'; and Paul, fingering the Old School Tie, sneered: "But I
was free born.'
- It is not for us here to enquire as to how it should happen
that certain human beings possess from birth this right of intimacy
with the highest reality, but Blavatsky was of this same opinion that
the natural gift marks the acquisition of the rank in the spiritual
hierarchy to which the student of Magick and Yoga aspires. He is, so
to speak, an artist in the making; and it is perhaps not likely that
his gifts will have become sufficiently automatic in his present
incarntion to produce the fruits of his attainment. Yet, undoubtedly, there have been such cases, and that
within my own experience.
- I could quote you the case of a man -- a very inferior and
wishy-washy poet -- who undertook for a time very strenuously the
prescribed magical practices. He was very fortunate, and attained
admirable results. No sooner had he done so that his poetry itself
became flooded with supernal light and energy. He produced masterpieces. And then he gave up
his Magick because the task of further
progress appalled him. The result was that his poetry fell
completely away to the standard of wet blotting paper.
- Let me tell you also of one man almost illiterate, a
Lancashire man who had worked in a mill from the age of nine years.
He had studied for years with the Toshophists with no results. Then
he corresponded with me for some time; he had still no results. He
came to stay with me in Sicily. One day as we went down to bathe we
stood for a moment on the brink of the cliff which led down to the
little rocky cove with its beach of marvellous smooth sand.
I said something quite casually -- I have never been able to
remember what it was -- nor could he ever remember -- but he suddenly
dashed down the steep little path like a mountain goat, threw off his
cloak and plunged into the sea. When he came back, his very body had
become luminous. I saw that he needed to be alone for a week to
complete his experience, so I fixed him up in an Alpine tent in a
quiet dell under broad-spreading trees at the edge of a stream. From
time to time he sent me his magical record, vision after vision of
amazing depth and splendour. I was so gratified with his attainment
that I showed these records to a distinguished literary critic who
was staying with me at the time. A couple of hours later, when I
returned to the Abbey, he burst out upon me a flame of excitement.
'Do you know what this is?' he cried. I answered casually that it
was a lot of very good visions. 'Bother your visions,' he exclaimed,
'didn't you notice the style? It's pure John Bunyan!' It was.
- But all this is neither here nor there. There is only one
thing for anybody to do on a path, and that is to make sure of the
next step. And the fact which we all have to comfort us is this:
that all human beings have capacities for attainment, each according
to his or her present position.
For instance, with regard to the power of vision on the astral
plane, I have been privileged to train many hundreds of people in the
course of my life, and only about a dozen of them were incapable of
success. In one case this was because the man had already got beyond
all such preliminary exercise; his mind immediately took on the
formless condition which transcends all images, all thought. Other
failures were stupid people who were incapable of making an experiment of any sort. They were a mass
of intellectual pride and preju-
dice, and I sent them away with an injunction to go to Jane Austen.
But the ordinary man and woman get on very well, and by this I do not
mean only the educated. It is, in fact, notorious that, among many
of the primitive races of mankind, strange powers of all kinds
develop with amazing florescence.
- The question for each one of us is then: first of all, to
acertain our present positions; secondly, to determine our proper
directions; and, thirdly, to govern ourselves accordingly.
The question for me is also to describe a method of procedure
which will be sufficiently elastic to be useful to every human being.
I have tried to do this by combining the two paths of Magick and
Yoga. If we perform the preliminary practices, each according to his
capacity, the result will surely be the acquisition of a certain
technique. And this will become much easier as we advance, especially if we bear it well in mind not to
attempt to discriminate between
the two methods as if they were opposing schools, but to use the one
to help out the other in an emergency.
- Of course, nobody understands better than I do that,
although nobody can do your work for you, it is possible to make use
-- to a certain very limited extent -- of other people's experience,
and the Great Order which I have the honour to serve has appointed
what I think you will agree is a very satisfactory and practical
- You are expected to spend three months at least on the
study of some of the classics on the subject. The chief object of
this is not to instruct you, but to familiarise you with the ground
work, and in particular to prevent you getting the idea that there is
any right or wrong in matters of opinion. You pass an examination
intended to make sure that your mind is well grounded in this matter,
and you become a Probationer. Your reading will have given you some
indication as to the sort of thing you are likely to be good at, and
you select such practices as seem to you to promise well. You go
ahead with these, and keep a careful record of what you do, and what
results occur. After eleven months you submit a record to your
superior; it is his duty to put you right where you have gone wrong,
and particularly to encourage you where you think you have failed.
- I say this because one of the most frequent troubles is
that people who are doing excellent work throw it up because they
find that Nature is not what they thought it was going to be. But
this is the best test of the reality of any experience. All those
which conform with your idea, which flatter you, are likely to be
illusions. So you become a Neophyte; and attack the Task of a
There are further grades in this system, but the general prin-
ciples are always the same -- the principles of scientific study and
- We end where we began. 'The wheel has come full circle.'
We are to use the experience of the past to determine the experience
of the future, and as that experience increases in quantity it also
improves in quality. And the Path is sure. And the End is sure.
For the End is the Path.
Love is the law, love under will