Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
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 deeper interpretation.
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 the moment.
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 way.
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 possibilities of the original single cell. Their union results in the manifestation 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 offspring.
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 constantly 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 stupidity — tell him that he has to give up this and give up that, sometimes 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 sidetracked by the sophistications 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 all.
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 mind.
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 and Samadhi.
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 imaginary 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 unworthy object.
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 memory.'
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 components.
These discussions are not of very great importance in themselves, 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 single stroke.
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 doing it.
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'.
'Dharana — Control of thought.'
- 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 swinging; 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 experiments. (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 and harmonious.
- 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 important.
- 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 progress.
Breaks are classed as follows:
- Firstly, physical sensations; these should have been overcome by Asana.
- 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 aberration 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 messages 'atmospherics.'
- There is a further kind of break, which is the desired result itself.
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 limitation. 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'6 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 school7 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 this evening.
Love is the law, love under will.
Mr. Chairman, Your Royal Highness, Your Grace, my lords, ladies and gentlemen.
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 experience. But that experience is not intellectual, as above demonstrated. 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 conviction.
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 relativity. 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 description.
We have also got to attribute to ourselves a sort of divine power over our nightmare creation, so that we can compare the different 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
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 create 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 differences 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 language, 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 overlooking 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 which follow.
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 sort.
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 subjects 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 geometry.
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
, 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 this scheme.'
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
'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 purely relative.'
Where do we go from here, boys?
'The present tendency of physics is towards describing the universe in terms of mathematical relations between unimaginable entities.'
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 brute.
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 encounters 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 comrades, cheer!
'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 chain 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 same.
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 reality.
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.
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
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 Reformation. 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 will.'
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 now.
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 apparently empty.
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 consciousness 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 faculties.
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 pleasure.
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 breathing 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.
Love is the law, love under will.
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 completely resolved.
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 Ganymede 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 advantage 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 organism, 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 initiations 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 Yoga.
From what I have said in previous lectures you will all recognise 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 Samyama.
On the other hand, the Yoga training was an admirable aid to that final concentration of the Will which operates the magical ecstasy.
This then is reality: direct experience. How does it differ from the commonplace every-day experience of sensory impressions which are so readily shaken by the first breath of the wind of intellectual analysis?
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 prearranged 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 actually 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 that 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 practical 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 principles; 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 surréalisme. 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 incarnation 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 prejudice, 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 ascertain 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 curriculum.
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 Zelator.
There are further grades in this system, but the general principles are always the same — the principles of scientific study and research.
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.