Yoga in General part 2
RESULTS OF PRACTICE AND INDICATIONS OF PROGRESS.
The conditions being given and the methods practiced, the first effects perceived, so far as the very few American experiences have made known the order of their coming, are vibrations, resembling those of an electric or magnetic current, which, unless mentally directed elsewhere, begin in the feet and thence mount by gradations upward and spread over the whole body, tarrying on the way at each of the great nerve centres and reaching at last a point at the top of the head, called by the Hindus the Brahmandra, occupying in their course a measure of time varying from a few days to many years, according to the receptivity and diligence of the practicer. At first amounting to merely a gentle prickling of the sur- face, these vibrations attain to different degrees of fineness and emphasis, steadily increasing in force and pleasantness from the time when they start to ascend from the feet upward, with sensations a Hindu book describes as of “Brahman creeping up the legs,” until they invade the profundity of the nerves and thrill the whole organism with what John of the Cross calls ” touches of God,” and describes as being so sweet that only one of them would compensate for a lifetime of woe. This to the be- ginner is a far-off result, but once the earliest prickling is felt, he may be sure the “current of the life-breath” has been turned on, and that from thence onward, conditions being maintained and practice kept up, will continually labor to carry him forward toward yoga. Out of the vibrations come certain tonic pressures and tensions, and out of them, in seemingly well ordered sequence, the whole train of phenomena between here and there, extending even unto ultimate Samadhi.
The first and usually the very prompt results after the vibrations begin, especially if these are aided by the breathings, are improved health and strength, showing forth in a more symmetrical shape, a more graceful carriage, a smoother and livelier skin, often puffed out, as it were, and tinged with a rosy hue, more expressive and brighter eyes, and sometime a partial restoration of gray hair to its original color, or effacement of wrinkles. Withal, the appetite for food is diminished and the senses sharpened. Following in the train of these, the real yoga literature, especially that of primitive times, promises, and with emphasis, shall come other signs of rejuvenescence, a promise which some American experiences are thought to justify, as also those may which have already been told concerning Postel, who, if he is to be believed, saw a woman of fifty and upwards, look fifteen, and if his contemporaries are to be believed, after he had got to be old, gray and wrinkled, was well started on his way backward toward his youth when the Church laid her hand on him. It cannot be without some foundation that beliefs have always prevailed in the possibility of an indefinitely long extension of earthly life, and even theories, dreams and hopes of earthly immortality. For instance, Lao-Tsee claimed to have lived a thousand years, and his disciple, Chuang- Tzu called himself two hundred older. The Cumsean Sibyl was supposed to have been a thousand years old when she died, or disappeared. Roger Bacon claimed that alchemy “could prolong life to several centuries.” The Bible gives the ages of the antediluvian patriarchs in numbers less round than these, but more plausible. And the many great Hindu Siddhas, of whom Swatmaram names thirty-six, who, as he says, “still live and move about the world,” if his words be true of them at the present time, must be set down as immortal enough for all present purposes.
As he goes on, each of the practicer’s senses will be visited by objectified subjective experiences, nowise less vivid than if supported by objective realities. He will see lights, colors and forms, hear speech and music, smell odors, taste food and touch and feel touches. Nature has taken control of the channels of his senses, and he is subject to revelations, which, according to his precon- ceptions, will come from gods or there is an saints, demons or devils in receiving which, however, as John of the Cross seems to have found out, he is only talking to himself. Here is where religions are made and repaired. In America we are not without proof in confirmation of what the his- tory of mysticism in other countries contains respecting these illusions. On the contrary, embarrassing richness of demonstration that as illusions they are realities. One person whom I know is haunted with an odor of violets, another is entertained with exquisite music, etc, and vocal messages seem getting to be as common and cheap as chips.
Much less common, but still common enough to prove themselves, and here and now, too, are such purely physical and objective effects as the levitation of the practicer’s body, the exhalation from it of agreeable odors and the radiation from it of lights. The comparatively recent floating in and out of the window of Home, better authenticated than the ascent to the sky of Elijah, or the lifting up to the ceiling of John of the Cross and Theresa, helps us to believe in the possibility of overcoming gravitation, as, indeed, should every case where a ponderable object is raised so much as an inch from its position. But for one dollar admittance persons and things can now be seen hanging as high in the air as the monk and nun did. In like manner the stories of the “odor of sanctity,” said to have been so pungent about the disinterred body of the same monk as to have identified it nine months after burial, and to have emanated from the living bodies of many other saints, are rendered credible by the accounts we have of the same kind of manifestations occurring now, and illuminated features and rings of light like those which crown the idols of the Virgin Mary and the Japanese “Queen of Heaven,” and other divinities of earlier date than either, have of late become so familiar as to justify belief that they were founded on fact, as also the account we have of the transfiguration on Mount Tabor, where the face of Jesus “shone like the sun and his garments be- came white as light.” All these phenomena must be expected to occur as effects of yoga practice if long enough continued.
What has been said in the account heretofore given of the American experiences concerning the movements, namely, that at each recurrence of them the same serial order was observed as that by which one by one they originally arose, may also be affirmed of the vibrations and other sensations, such as those of pressure and tension. At least a habit of Nature to go back to the beginning each time she resumes her left-off work, as if to get her hand in, and at the same time hold on to progress already gained, is indicated by some experiences that have come under my observation, and which recall what Haeckel says in his “Evolution of Man” concerning Nature’s mode of working the series of transformations undergone by the foetus in the womb, in which we have “a complete picture of the remarkable series of forms through which the animal ancestors of the human race have passed from the beginning of organic creation to the first appearance of man.” Thus, for instance, a pressure first felt on the nerve-centre at the ankle, and that after being felt there and only there for months, ascended to the nerve-centre at the knee, whence, after tarrying, perhaps, as long, it went up to the groins, and so on till the top of the head was reached, will, in most every instance, begin its course at the ankle each time any part above there is to be touched.
The activities set up in the practicer’s organism, in due time become more or less habitual, or automatic, and probably also unconscious; the recognition of which by Christian mystical writers is found in their use of such terms as “secret meditation,” “unconscious medita- tion,” “virtual and acquired contemplation,” “habit of union,” “habit of internal recollection,” “virtual prayer,” as if the organism after a while become receptive enough to the new force to admit and re-act to it as of its own motion—for a time at least—as if meditation originated movements, which afterwards go on of themselves, taking advantage of every moment of mental quietude to do so. For instance, the practicer will, when in a calm state of mind he listens to a con- versation, or to music, or reads a book with close atten- tion, feel the vibrations, etc., at their accustomed work, giving him the comfort of knowing he is not losing time. (One of the recognized methods of Hindu Yoga practice is Dharana^ which means the steadying of the mind by study.) It was a similar manifestation of the uninvoked yoga principle that interrupted the conversation of John of the Cross and Theresa in the convent parlor, and raised them both to the ceiling, and that at another time compelled the monk to grasp the bars of the grating to hold himself down to earth, and made him to fear to let his mind “dwell on anything” lest there should be a scene, and that caused in other pious men sensations and movements so improper as to compel them to pray less often, or not at all. But with the disciples of Molinos, who did not push things so far, such habitual working of the principle in question was all-important, since it enabled them to attend to the ordinary duties of life, and yet make their way towards sanctity. And the beautiful results the Quietists thus obtained should be most encouraging to those who in the agitating conditions that prevail in Christian countries may undertake yoga practice. Thus might be obtained, without seclusion in any cloistered prison or enclosure within any church pale, the development of all the wealth of magical power.
But if it be true, as is commonly thought, that the multitude really desire to be enclosed within some kind of religious pale, then this principle of automatic yoga movement is of great importance, since it renders practicable the embodying of Quietistic magic into the new Christianity which religious experts are now trying to construct out of what is left of the old, a thing that should by all means be done, even if only for weaning purposes.
The exhibition of miracles possible only to a yogi of some degree, and the inner sensations of a comforting kind that yoga practice causes, have been the indispen- sable supports of every religion that has been able to stand in times past; and religion builders who do not know that it must always be so have not learned their trade. All revelations, true or false, testifying in favor of this or that faith, have been spoken by the mouths, or written by the pens of the prophets, that is, of magicians, and been accepted as true, because the revealers were also wonder workers. Faith, which enables men, if not to move mountains, at least to swallow mountainous in- credibilities, is a state of true magical ecstasy just as is the “sweetness of the flesh ” which Thomas a Kempis calls it, but others call the love of God, and in fine so are all those pleasant experiences which concentration in prayer can bring to the afflicted, known as religious consolation. It is claimed that even Calvinists can feel this. Bliss. Into a state of enjoyment worthy of this name the vibrations ultimately run. Rama Pashadsays: “And drawn by the taste of bliss (ananda) the mind sets itself to working out with greater and greater zeal the process bliss, which is there characterized as “an undefinable joy; ” as ” the indescribable state of Laya which can be experienced by the yogi alone.” Of two certain Mudras it says: “Though apparently differing in the position of the eyes and places to which the attention or mind is directed, they are one in their result. Both of them bring about a state of bliss.” Again it declares that when the mind becomes one with the object concentrated on: “Let there be Mukti or not, here is uninterrupted bliss,”and again,” The great yogis who practice Samadhi through the concentration on the Nada (sounds heard in the body) experience a joy arising in their hearts that surpasses all description.” The same joy was referred to by the twelve thousand and more wives of Krishna, when they lauded him for his complaisance to them not- withstanding that, being a god, “he had all joy within himself.” John of the Cross, in detailing the experiences of spiritual men, says: “Their sense of taste is also deliciously affected; and that of the touch so sweetly caressed at times the bones and marrow exult and rejoice, bathed as it were in joy.” The Neoplatonists claimed that by contemplation they arrived at a realization not only of absolute truth, but of absolute blessedness also. Of the witches of much later times it is recorded “They were plunged in vague, unspeakable pleasure” “They enjoy there a paradise of delight.” Nicholas Flamel, the alchemist, says in his book: “The process of the work is very pleasing to nature.” That is, to the body. (And another alchemistic work says the students of magic were encouraged to persevere by the bodily pleasure that they derived from it. It should be remembered that the later alchemists declared that their art was a personal development the individual was “modified by alchemy,” as Roger Bacon, who was one of them, expressed it.) And later still, the sect of ecstatics of whom Jane Lead was the historian, enjoyed their meditations so much they were of its evolution.” In Swatmaram’s book the practicer is repeatedly encouraged to persevere by the promise of loath to suspend them even at the call of hunger. As further showing that the bliss, blessedness, beatitude in question is a sensuous enjoyment, and comes as ready payment for daily practice, and not, as some may want to have it, as a mental delight excited by the hope and belief that the deserving soul will some day go to heaven and enjoy bliss there, we have the words of St. Thomas \ Kempis, where he advises that the “sweetness of the flesh ” be endured rather than enjoyed because it is sweet, in this agreeing with John of the Cross, who says the ascetic must not take any pleasure “in these apprehensions “; that we may prize the love that is in them but not the joy. To the same point I quote from Von Kraft Ebing’s ” Sexual Psychopathy,” the following concerning the experiences of two “heroines of flagellation”: “Maria Magdalena, daughter of parents of high position, was a nun of the order of Carmelites, at Florence, in 1580. The flagellations she received, and still more the consequences of that kind of penance, have given her great celebrity and a name in history. Her greatest happiness was when the prioress made her hold her hands behind her back and had her whipped on the naked reins in presence of all the sisters of the convent.” Consumed by internal heat and raving always of love, she would cry out when under the lash: “Enough! do not stir any more the fire that devours me. That is not the kind of death I want; there would be too much pleasure in it, too many charms.” It is said of the dear lady that “she was often on the point of losing her chastity.” Of the other, Elizabeth de Genton, very much the same is related: “The flagellation put her into the delirium of a bacchante She was seized with a sort of rage when, excited by an extraordinary scourging, she believed herself married to her ideal.” This state procured her a happiness so intense that she often cried out: “O love! O infinite love! O love! O creatures, shout then with me: Love! Love!” In both these cases it seems plain that the bliss was as fleshly as the stimulation that produced it. Nevertheless, in the interest of decency and truth, a protest should here be entered against the innuendoes of Boileau and Meibominus, the historians cited as his authorities by Von Kraft Ebing. What the nature of the sensations was that made both ladies rave in terms of human love is not easily to be found out, but they could not have been like those confessed to by the Saints Armelle and Eliz- abeth, which implied a passion for the infant Jesus and temptations like those of St. Anthony of Padua. The ecstatic states of the fair flagellants lasted for hours, and were experienced in presence of witnesses, as in the case of the nun Magdalena. As for the consuming heat that made St. Catherine of Geneva cry out that she was burning up, it was, doubtless, of the same kind as that felt by King Saul when suddenly developed as a prophet, and that made him fling off his clothes and lie on the ground all night. It was the veritable saintly ardor which ascetics love to feel as a symptom of progress. It is also a troublesome symptom in insane asylums, and was formerly treated by tying on the clothes and binding the hands of the sufferer behind his back, but now by seclusion in a well warmed room till it passes off of itself. Physicians say it indicates a peculiar electric state of the skin, and leave us as wise as before, but do not connect it with any blissful state. Another quotation made by Von Kraft Ebing as showing that immodest states may result from devotional ones is a prayer from a very old missal, running thus: “O! that I may have found thee, most charming Emanuel, that I may have thee in my bed! How my soul and my body would rejoice if I had! Come, come to my dwelling, my heart shall be thy chamber!” About as strong language as this we have seen to have been used by Saint John of the Cross in his verses detailing his secret rendezvous with his beloved. But does either instance prove anything more than that when the vague joy of an occult love craves expression, it has to clothe itself in language of natural love for want of a vocabulary of its own, that language having been in the times in question simpler and honester than now? The obscene formulas of Egyptian worship, the phallic symbols that used to adorn the temples of all old religions, and the dancing women attached to them, must, upon any estimate that can fairly be made of the morality taught there, be so incongruous with it as to force a construction that robs them of any vulgar, literal meaning. But though the strange joy of hidden source that ascetics of all times have gloried in, and which now, perhaps, as much as ever, compensates the inmates of cloisters for all the pleasures of the outer world and all the hardships of internal discipline does not belong to human love, it still belongs to a love, and there is a close enough resemblance between the two evinced by the fact just noticed, that the one takes on the same modes of ex- pressing its ardor as the other, to say nothing of the many other points of resemblance that will presently be men- tioned to prove that both have a common root, or, rather, that the one springs from the other, and also prove that both are of the body.
And what is this other love that comes without a lover, that begins with vibrations, conducts to ecstasy and ends in trance ? The Chinese sages named it Tao. The Buddhist, who, contrary to the other Hindus, insist that knowledge does all, contend that love does all, call it simply love. Christians say it is the love of God. The Sufis name it secret or mysterious love.
Teachers of the different schools of yoga agree well enough concerning observable results, but when they go beyond them and undertake to know what happens to the yogi after he attains, into what state of being he passes, they get beyond their depth and float in the sea called speculative philosophy, wherein each swims his ownway. All tell of an union, but concerning what is united to what, and in what manner, they differ widely. The Hindus make the union to consist in an eternal identity with Brahman, and attainment to consist in thoroughly knowing it. The Egyptians made of it nothing more than a temporary assimilation with some personal god, for magical purposes. The Christians talk of an union with God, which is yet no union at all, but merely a presence. He being of a nature too high to unite with man’s. Ancient Akkadian magic united the practicer of it to a being variously apprehended as a part of his own soul, his type or essence, or his guardian spirit or divinity. Taoism, whose god was a principle, had an at-one-ment with it attainable by the man, “whose physical frame is perfect and whose vitality is in its original purity ” something quite different from the final return of him to the source whence he came. Taoism seems to have looked in the very opposite direction from absorption.
Neoplatonism, too, had its own peculiar union, which was brief, occasional and made no final disposition of the soul. The soul, always in a certain sense in God, got no nearer to him in life or death than when from time to time it attained to what John of the Cross calls ” touches of union, ” described by him as being so delight- ful and by Plotinus so delightfully described. Always homesick for its native sky, and having received from pitying Jupiter the gift of mortality, it habitually returned there to dwell between its reincarnations.
All beliefs that have arisen out of yoga experience, whether justly or erroneously, were the best, the wisest, men of the times could formulate, and have value as in- dications of what those experiences really were. Thus the diverse beliefs concerning the kind of union that rewards the attaining yogi’s pains, while by their diversity they make it impossible for more than one of them to be true, and cast great doubt on that, yet by their agree- ment, so far as they do agree, tend to prove that among those experiences are physical sensations or mental im- pressions as of something coming into closer relations than it had before with another something. Such might be the rapprochement of the normal centre of consciousness and the nerve centres, or of the normal volition and the so-called involuntary muscles, or of whatever stands for soul with the body it pertains to, whether that be a resultant of material forces, as the materialists claim, or a sky-born entity that descends into generation more or less deep according as it sees the body to need its presence, as a Neoplatonist would have said.
In what has just been stated of six theories relating to union, it is seen that only one of them, Vedantin Hindu- ism, attempts to unfold the final destiny of the soul, which it does by leading it back to whence it came and leaving it there for a Hindu eternity, while another, old Taoism, as if it held earth-life to be all, or at least as ignoring every other, points towards an infinite enlarge- ment of that as man’s destiny, to attain to which how- ever, it is forward, not backward, he is to go, and the material earth that he is to tread. Thus these two great systems teach doctrines as opposite to each other as they very well can, and which tend mutually to discredit each other, since both rest on like authority, namely, mystical experience, intuition, revelation. But so far as primitive yoga literature discloses, old Hinduism was as care- less of the soul’s destiny apart from that of the body as old Taoism was, and looked as exclusively towards the earth as the home of the united two. The modern commentator on Swatmaram’s book says of Hatha Yoga : ” It even bestows the gift of putting off death indefinitely;” in which he is in agreement with vulgar belief in India at the present time. Besides the statement before quoted concerning the thirty-five gods and yogis, Swatmaram’s book contains the following promises of longevity at least as the reward of yoga practice: “And the yogi lives long; ” ” becomes a lad of sixteen, ever free from old age;” “even poison itself proves to him but nec- tar;” “the yogi becomes young, though old; ” “a yogi in Samadhi is invulnerable to all weapons.”
But the following certainly mean more than longevity: “The Yogi cheats death;” “These are the ten Mudras that destroy old age and death;” “This Maha Mudra destroys death ; ” ” This frees one from the great noose of King Yama ” (death); “These three Bandhas that ward off death and old age;” “To him who knows the Khechari Mudra there is no disease or death, and Time has no power over him;” “(This act) enables him to ward off weapons of every sort, confers on him immor- tality; ” ” He who practices this for three hours daily conquers death’,” “even though he is in the mouth of death, he need not fear it; ” ” He conquers Time (death) playfully; ” ” Salutations to you, Amaras (immortals) by whom Time, into whose mouth the universe falls, has been conquered;” “Death is not experienced by the practicer of this Mudra,” “The man perfect in Rajah Yoga deceives death;” ” A Yogi in Samadhi is not de- stroyed by death;” “is invulnerable to all weapons;” “Brahman and Gods devoting themselves to the practice of Pranyama were freed from the fear of death.” One verse undertakes to explain how it is that man is subject to death and another to explain why his body becomes old, by the fact that ” every particle of nectar (the Satravi) that flows from the Ambrosial Moon is swallowed up by the Sun,” an explanation which the commentator says is purposely absurd ; but the offering of which indicates that the sages claimed to have knowledge of the causes of old age and death and also of proc-esses by which their action could be annulled.
These many allusions to immortality found in a hundred page volume are not contradicted by anything else it contains save one or two phrases in which may imply deliverance from re-incarnation, of which I have before said that they are so inconsistent with the whole tenor of the book that they probably are interpolations. The immortality intended in the passages quoted is to be acquired by the yogi’s own efforts, something not pred- icable of incorporeal immortality, since all conceptions of that include a soul capable, to be sure, of being punished or rewarded after its body’s death, but itself incapable of dying; a soul whose persistence does not depend on its possessor’s efforts, but is his in spite of anything he can do or omit. So that the immortality in question can be no other than corporeal. Nor can it be construed to signify an indefinitely prolonged life, for the words used will bear no such limitation.
This term occurs so often in the literature of magic that there must be something in the experiences of magi- cians to suggest it. Yet no writer reveals just what that something is, nor just how the term applies to it. The same may be said of the often-occurring word regenera- tion, which may be intended as synonymous with re-birth, though it comes nearer to re-begetting. Both are often repeated in Christian writings. Methodistical Protest- ants attach the same meaning to them that they do to “finding Jesus,” ” getting religion ” or ” having a change of heart,” terms as badly in want of definition as them- selves. As commonly used, they signify to Christians an improvement in the moral disposition such as Protest- ants of that sort are said to undergo between conversion and backsliding; but perhaps love experiences of some kind maybe at the bottom. Inanycaseitbehoovesthe student of magic to follow the clew the words new birth and regeneration tender.
To John of the Cross this word signified union with God, and such must be taken to be the Church’s construc- tion of the perfection to which Jesus attained through suffering and which he promised his disciples they should also reach. The gnostics and Kabbalists held that per- fection was arrived at by means of successive re-incar- nations. The Greeks named their mysteries “Tellai,” which means perfection. The alchemists of Christian times taught ” that man was perfectible and in the scheme of nature destined to and bound for perfection,” and that so was everything else in nature, whose imperfect work their art occupied itself with amending. Old Taoism
makes perfection, the perfection of the man of the earth and for purposes of earth-life, the object and aim of magical practice—quite a different one, as said before, from that of Vedantism, which is the getting away from that life by getting to God. The one contemplates the completion of an unfinished piece of creative work; the other the abandoning it. The one points forward along an unending way to infinite excellence; the other points backward towards the starting point of a sad, unprofitable journey.
To the Taoist the words saint, sage and perfect man meant one and the same thing, and it was Taoism’s greatest saint and sage and most perfect man who said : ” Tao conducts to perfection.” That this perfection was of the earthly body and being is declared plainly enough by his greatest disciple Chuang-Tzu in the following passages: “See nothing, hear nothing, let your soul be wrapped in quiet; and your body will begin to take the proper form. Let there be absolute repose and absolute purity, do not weary your body nor disturb your vitality—and you will live forever. For if the eye sees nothing and the ear hears nothing and the mind thinks nothing, the soul will preserve the body and the body will live forever.”
“Cherish and preserve your own self.”
“I preserve the original one while resting in harmony with eternals. It is because I have thus cared for my- self during twelve hundred years that my body has not decayed.”
” By renouncing the world one gets rid of the cares of theworld. The result is a natural level, which is equivalent to a rebirth. And he who is reborn is near.”
“But why renounce the affairs of men and become indifferent to life ? In the first case his physical body suffers no wear and tear; in the second the vitality is left unimpaired. And he whose physical frame is perfect and whose vitality is in its original purity, he is at one with Heaven.”
” But if body and vitality are both perfect, this state is called fit for translation.”
“And if I can refrain from injuring my animal economy and from taxing my powers of sight and hearing, sitting like a corpse while my dragon-power is manifested around in profound silence while my thunder voice resounds, the powers of heaven responding to every phase of my will, as under the gentle influence of inaction all things are brought to maturity and thrivein profound silence while my thunder voice resounds, what leisure have I then to set about governing the world?”
Concerning other magical powers of the perfected man Chuang-Tzu says:
” His knowledge extends to the supernatural.”
” If men are without Tao, by a mere look he calls them to a sense of error.” And finally and inclusively we have this sweeping clause: “Once attain to Tao, and there is nothing which you cannot accomplish.”
That the Taoists believed in a past Golden Age, when men were morally perfect, appears from the following: ” In the Golden Age rulers were mere beacons. The people were free as wild deer. They were upright with- out being conscious of duty to their neighbor. They loved one another without being conscious of charity. They were true without being conscious of loyalty. They werehonestwithoutbeingconsciousofgoodfaith. They acted freely in all things without recognizing obligation to any one. Thus their deeds left no trace and their affairs were not handed down to posterity.”
From their belief in a past Golden Age the Taoists may well enough have derived the expectation of one in the future, and also the idea of man’s perfectibility. That they, like the old Hindu sages, had notions of the evolu- tion of man from the lower orders of creation, much like those now so largely occupying the minds of our scientific men, and from thence inferred an indefinite continuance of his progress in the direction of perfection, and that consciously, is shown by the following saying of Chuang Tzu: “To have attained to the human form must be always a source of joy. And then to undergo countless transitions with only the infinite to look forward to what incomparable bliss is that ! ” Words like these could hardly apply to a series of evolutionary changes, each one cut off from the others by death and oblivion, as has been the case in the past.