The Way of Power

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The Way of Power

By Lily Adams Beck

Chapter III

In the first chapter of this book I have spoken of the science of the occult as standing on the tripod of the psychic, intellectual and physical and I might have said much more on all three, as India has done in her great teachings. But in such matters it is wise to be extremely practical and to begin at the beginning and with something entirely in one's own control; and this can scarcely be said either of the psychic or of the intellectual, for both are more or less conditioned by the stage of evolution reached in their development, whereas with common sense and intelligent suggestion one can begin at any moment to improve the powers of the third person of that strange trinity which is man--namely, the body--and thereby begin to clear the channel through which force flows to the other two. I do not deny that people of frail or crippled physique have had strong psychic and intellectual perception, but it is in spite of the physical disability, not because of it; and had their bodies been in the same efficient working order as (say) the reflectors of an astronomical instrument they would have had clearer and more coherent results, less disturbed with the storms and vibrations which interrupt connection. It is a fact proved by age-long experience that the body embruted and degraded by intemperate living and misuse of the sensual pleasures completely blocks the way to the evolution of intellectual and psychic growth:

The Lord let the house of a brute to the soul of a man,
And the man said, "Am I your debtor?"
And the Lord--"Not yet; but make it as clean as you can,
And then I will let you a better."

In other words, to work without the co-operation of the body is to be perpetually standing on tip-toe in an unnatural attitude which deflects attention to itself. Also, happy people are much more likely to do the best work in psychic science. Misery has a driving force which sometimes wrings fine intellectual and artistic work out of men as an escape-valve from its pressure, and because ill-health is misery a man like Lombroso can point to certain brain and body cripples who have had what he calls genius. But for the highest forms of art, serene and sunny consciousness of peace and power is the atmosphere for the most enduring work, and this applies a thousandfold to psychic wisdom, where, historically, are seen immortal results attained by those who have made the body a clear window through which the inward light can shine.

Therefore health of the body, which includes that transmitter the brain, is of immense importance for people who wish to attain high results in the study of the psychic, commonly called the occult, and it is plain wisdom to neglect no means of attainment, especially the fundamental one of a body trained to co-operation instead of hindrance.

To those who have experienced this advantage it is really like watching a dance of lunatics to see how people apparently otherwise competent to pursue the business of life treat their bodies. Women who consider the possession of physical beauty the chief business of life as means to the only end they are capable of understanding destroy it as it were wilfully, withering its brief blossom by every means in their power. They eat foods fatal to the circulation and mechanism of the body, coarsening their skins till all the raddling and rouging in the world only accentuates the mischief, dulling the luster of their eyes and hair, driving their bodies into the rebellion of excessive fat or leanness at ages when they should still be beautiful as figures on a Greek frieze. Men to whom pellucid clearness of brain is wealth or power, vital to all their hopes and interests, cloud it with nicotine and alcohol, darken it with gross and mistaken feeding. Since the brain is part of the body and the nervous system is the first to cry out against such usage one may safely say that men and women suffering from the results of such folly are very ill qualified to run the world's business. When Carlyle wrote that every sick man was a scoundrel he was with characteristic violence overstating a case which does not need strengthening, and there is something to be said for the point of view in Butler's brilliant "Erewhon" where people suffering from physical disability are brought before a jury to be judged and condemned accordingly. The Roman who spoke of "a healthy mind in a healthy body" knew what he was talking of. And with Carlyle I marvel at what men suffer, not at what they lose.

In the study of the Occult a healthy body and clear brain are even more necessary than in the affairs of daily life, because in that strange world we are explorers. It is ours, yet unknown to us, forgotten, uncharted, in some ways dangerous. Though the world is really our own we are as little at home in it at first as the long-lost heir when he returns to his kingdom and finds the scepter strange and alarming in hands used to the spade. And it is largely because they have often lacked this physical calm and poise that we are apt to call those men mad who have penetrated behind the deceptive Looking Glass of our senses and with half-dazed eyes brought back word of the strange conditions beyond. They are very strange because in the world of reality the values are not ours, our great things are small, our small things great and all our logic baffled. But the pioneer need not necessarily be unbalanced. Take an historical example of what is probably the greatest pioneering fact in the history of psychics; the one which has shaped the lives and destinies of more uncounted millions than any other. No one has called the Buddha either nerve-broken or insane, though after that tremendous psychic experience which gained him the name of the Enlightened One he returned from the world of true perception with teachings perfectly staggering to the opinions concerning life and death held by the world at large. And the foremost reason of his triumph in enabling men to discern what really matters from what does not matter a cent was his perfect sanity and cool clarity of brain backing the highest psychic perception and all based upon a disciplined body. That was a thing all men could understand and honor. He had tried luxury and had renounced its poisons. He had tried a cruel asceticism and had cast aside its follies, and so experienced he taught a wise temperance that the body attaining perfect poise may not thrust its revolt in the face of the spirit. According to his doctrine the psychic powers are sooner or later within the reach of every man who follows a certain plainly defined path. They come as inevitably and normally as breathing, but like all other powers are to be used with caution and wisdom and by no means as a show-off or an end in themselves. This wisdom he had learned from the ancient Indian teaching and his own great experience. It is the art of seeing life steadily and whole both within and outside the perception of our physical senses and it cannot be completely mastered until the subjugation and co-operation of the body are made part of the coherent scheme of things. Real life cannot be treated as a thing of little colored patches. It must be seen in its entirety.

I know that to acquire a perfectly working circulation of the blood and mastered appetites may seem a lowly beginning for a great quest but there is an Indian parable which illustrates the value of the infinitely little. A prisoner in a great tower directs his wife to bring to its foot a beetle, a silk thread and a little honey. She is to attach the silk to the beetle, to smear his horns with honey and set him free to climb the tower, following the scent of the honey. He does it. A twine is attached to the silk thread, a rope to the twine and the prisoner is freed. The infinitely little has conquered.

So the ancient wisdom of India perceived long ago, what we are dimly beginning to guess, that if a man desires to storm the strange world of psychic attainment safely he must lay his foundations on the earth as he sees it and make the body his co-operator and not his trampled or pampered slave. For, as says one of the greatest of the ancient books: "He who fasts and he who eats too much, he who does not sleep and he who sleeps too much, he who works too much and he who does not work,--none of these can be adepts." In other words one cannot acquire discrimination, insight and instinct without making a scientific study of the means to that end.

I gained the beginning of this knowledge by experience years before I knew anything of the way charted out in Asia. Fortunately for myself I suffered in youth from violent headaches which obliged me to consider whether there was no means of escape from facing life with such a miserable handicap. Doctors failed in finding their cause or cure and at last I resolved I would give up one food after another in hope of tracking down the offender. I did this and have never had a trace of headache from that day to this, though with as many opportunities for it as most people can boast of.

I was groping blindly for escape from bodily suffering and had not the faintest notion that this change would influence my life psychically and intellectually. It would be handsomer if I could say I had done it from the most exalted motives, but it is perhaps more impressive as showing the colorless and impassive action of law in these matters that such a very ordinary impulse should lead one into such unforeseen paths. For when I came in touch later with the wisdom of the Orient I knew that by a very little hole I had crept in through the thorny hedge that guards the ancient wisdom. It was a tiny beginning, but a beginning.

I do not say for a moment that the world of true wonders lies open before one who has so entered. Life is not like that in any of its spheres. . . . Physically, intellectually and psychically it is always a case of evolution, and in evolution you cannot jump any of the links. I will try to tell as simply and truly as I can exactly what the process seemed to me to be as it worked itself out.

First there was the relief from a crippling disability. That is always joy. Indeed it has been said there is no joy in the world so great as the relief from suffering, which though it may be an exaggerated statement represents a common experience. I knew at once that a problem was solved and had left me free to grapple with others, and realizing that the body is like a boat obedient to the rudder I had a passionate desire to see how much could be done with it by wise steering. It was more difficult then than now because within the last few years the doctors have begun to pay some attention to the preventive aspects of disease and one can have advice. For me it was a case of pioneering, but I did not turn back for a moment.

Here I may be asked what I did. I gave up in one gesture, so to speak, meat of every kind, including poultry and fish. I also surrendered tea, coffee, and cocoa. Alcoholic drinks I had never used. I was ignorant that this sudden change of habit was a risk and it did not hurt me, but I should always advise against any but a very gradual change. For a time I lived on cooked vegetables, much cereal, and an abundance of milk, a mistaken diet though infinitely better than the one I had left. But gradually the mysterious wisdom of the body asserted itself and I evolved a diet of raw fruit, salads, nuts, a little cheese, eggs not abundantly used, and for drinks water and sometimes milk. Everyone cannot take milk so I may mention that with lemon juice dropped into it and stirred while dropping (in the proportion of about half a lemon to a tumbler of milk) it is a very refreshing and digestible drink. I took very little cereal, and gave up cakes, puddings, pastries and all sugared foods, and I have lived ever since in this way, eating only two or three times a day and never between meals. I tried twice in view of going to a country where it is dangerous to eat salads to substitute a little fish but it was such a failure from every point of view that I gave it up. I may say I have no use for the so-called "simple feeding" which demands all sorts of meatless dishes, elaborately cooked, and continues the drugs of tea and coffee. It is better to get down to bed-rock if you really want to make a success, and one gets to like these simple foods so much as to think it strange that everyone is not content with them.

And now I will say what these did for me. I had rather an inclination to overweight. That disappeared and I touched the normal weight for my height and have kept to it. With this carne activity and energy of mind and body which have never left me. I had been a little inclined to drowsy and lethargic reverie. Doing now became more interesting, but it was doing with a clear purpose ahead for I realized that I was gaining weapons and sharpening them for the adventure of life. My circulation was clear. I no longer suffered from cold hands and feet, and instead of pallor, developed a healthy col noticed that even my hair gathered luster, as one may see a sick dog's roughened staring coat smooth itself and shine, with wise treatment. I could walk distances almost incredible when I remembered how the least fatigue had ended formerly in sick headache. The next result was that I began to realize in natural sequence that though cutting out certain food-poisons is the foundation stone of the palace of health the building asks for such tools as right exercise, right breathing, right use of hot and cold water for drinking and baths, pure air and sunshine, and all these things I studied and practiced patiently and for a while believed this bodily health was all that mattered for life. That was natural, for I saw clearly the instant advantage it gave over people who had not sufficiently grasped its value to make sacrifices for it--sacrifices which one can afford to laugh at in view of the gain.

Then came one of the penalties of ignorance. I lost strength and discovered I had been living on capital instead of income. In other words I had not been eating the necessary ration of the tissue-forming foods. This may sometimes be an excellent beginning for it runs off the poisons accumulated by wrong feeding, but it is always risky and should be closely watched. So it became necessary to take the thing as a serious study that I might understand food values and their relation to sedentary and active occupations. All this can be done for one now, but I have never regretted that I had to work through it myself. The knowledge was driven in and has been most useful. I recovered strength in a few weeks and then had the luck of meeting a famous doctor, now dead, who blazed a trail for many through the jungle of ignorance in such matters. With his help I cleared up the only remaining difficulty, that of suiting generalities to my own especial needs--a question always important in every diet. I achieved that and had no further difficulties. I fear all this sounds very egotistical, but I have been asked to give details in case they should be useful to others.

Having now a fixed center to work from I had leisure to notice what a surprising change was taking place in my intellectual equipment. I could measure that growth almost daily also. First, in my memory. That had always been good, but now it became unusual, and I noticed it was growing by a process which I called inward sight. That is to say, I saw things rather than remembered them in the ordinary way, and just as when one knows a place the picture is hung once and for all for reference in one's brain,. so with anything that interested me. I had not to call anything to mind. It was as it were flashed upon me the instant I needed it--like a vision. I memorized nothing but it was always there when I wanted it; and to this day this is so true that I write a whole historical story without doing much more than verify my references and seldom find them mistaken. Perhaps this may be a more common case than I think, but it is a very useful thing and from another aspect provides me with what I call a traveling library of prose and poetry, which I have not memorized but which is always there for use or pleasure. I see a book as a picture--see the printed page and the very paragraphs and can then repeat almost anything I have liked whether for use or for pleasure, things practical as well as things beautiful, if there is a distinction. And this includes the spoken word.

This was the first thing that made the question of clairvoyance clear to me. Memory. I said to myself: If what we call the past can be instantly present to one by inward sight whether intellectually or in the perfect vision of memory calling up and transporting one to a place trodden no more by one's earthly feet, why may not this strange faculty of presentment stretch forward also into what we call the future and present it as clearly to those who have developed along that line? To memory time and distance offer no barriers. Why may it not work forward as well as backward? The contra argument will be: "Because you have not yet seen the things which are to happen. The impression is not yet made on the brain." But what of foretelling dreams and prophecies, with which I might fill this article? I did not then know anything of the Oriental teaching of the static quality of time which science now appears to be endorsing--what is called in India the Eternal Now in which past, present and future are One,--but great possibilities loomed dimly upon me like mountains seen for an instant through mist and resumed into it.

I found also a very much increased clearness in following argument, in perception all round, I fear at this time I was ready to make myself a nuisance, for I was young enough to believe that things clearly advantageous should be thrust down everybody's throat and that virtue demands a persistent bumping of all one's friends into the paths of peace. I know few things which develop a more maddening fanaticism than this kind of brilliant success. However, I soon outgrew that pugnacious stage and realized that people can only accept things in their own vibration or stage of development and are better left without argument which is meaningless to them. Their time will come as one's own does when the soil is there to provide for the root of the flower.

But I saw from day to day what a wonderful thing I had hit on. It had cured my physical disability, had doubled every intellectual power I possessed, and had given me the confident expectation that this was only the beginning of what it could accomplish. I was right there. Gradually another aspect of the question dawned upon me. This way of living was the most excellent moral (I hate the word) gymnastic that could be devised. It is no easy thing to live on a plan of one's own in contradiction to that of the world about one, to be laughed at, chaffed, however kindly, to be told one is a faddist and so forth. That would not be the case now. It was the case then. And there was also the question of giving up foods one had enjoyed for those which at first seemed insipid, and of reducing them to the simplest, most unobtrusive form, that it might not inconvenience others.

But after a while it became strangely delightful to find that I did not mind a bit what people said or thought. I got to know a lot about the subject and began to make it interesting to them when it happened to come up, and there was a pride in being what they called "a mighty good advertisement" for my opinions.

But there is much more to it than that. Chaff rightly directed is the best tonic in the world for the anemic disease of taking oneself seriously, a complaint to which the young and clever are dreadfully prone and from which even the adult and stupid are not wholly exempt. As a remarkable Bishop of London once said: "After having slain the ape and the tiger in oneself there still remains the donkey, who is the most intractable animal of the three." Chaff and good-humored scorn are an excellent diet for starving out the donkey, and so I found it. But there was more. I do not think anyone knows or realizes the full flavor of life until he has learned to say no to himself with rather more than the same ease with which he can say no to other people's enjoyments. I had learned the great lesson--it still seems stupendous to me though it may be a truism to some--that with a real end in view any sacrifice becomes a pleasure and in that spirit the very best good is attainable on whatever plane you may choose to seek it. I may add that in Asia this way of living opens many a close-shut door to those who practice it. It is regarded as a virtue there.

And after that and with the early experiences I have described in my first chapter it was not a long step to the question of why all the great faiths have taught abstinence, temperance, fasting, as a very sword and shield in the fight against the dominance of the body. They did not do it to be tiresome and contradictions as had once seemed possible, but because they were all students of psychology; their business was with the Occult, and world-wide, age-long experience had taught them in differing degrees that the real world behind the Looking Glass is not to be entered by those whom the body binds to its caprices. It is the religions that insist on this fact which still keep their hold on their peoples, and the religions that walk in purple and fine linen and fare sumptuously every day which have lost it; because the reduction of the Occult to a law which every man can perceive and follow daily is the business of all faiths, and in his own heart every man knows this cannot be achieved nor the circle squared unless the body also has sworn allegiance to the quest. It is impossible to know one's real self and its powers until this is gained, and when it is achieved the rest is not difficult.

And now things rapidly cleared up in my mind. As my force increased I was able to speak easily in public, an effort of which I had always thought with terror hitherto. Not only so, but I can truly say I did not even need preparation nor do I think I could speak if I prepared. I can only note any quotation that occurs to me on the subject (and the subjects are many) and leave the rest to the moment, knowing that the impulse and fulfilment are independent of the brain.

Thus I gradually realized that what is called the Occult is only an extension and wider perception of the powers we know, and that everything is attainable if we leave off talking and get down to business. Do not let your mind spread and splash over. Concentrate on one resolve and exclude others. Take time to be solitary daily. Avoid people who disturb you. Have the body in such training that it no more dares to interpose than a highly trained dog. Cultivate will and perseverance as you can never do with an undisciplined body. The world has had examples of what concentration can do but has not realized the source. It is by such thoughts and practices that man is put in touch with the force of the universe; and he becomes a channel of the sort of power on which he has chosen to concentrate--bad or good.

So I learned that the trained mind becomes a form of reason, and reason blends into the psychic, and delimitations are destroyed so that it becomes difficult to say where each dominion in the trinity of body, mind, and spirit which is man begins and ends.



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