The Way of Power

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The Way of Power

By Lily Adams Beck

Chapter VII

Hypnotism has been mentioned in connection with some of these phenomena which I have quoted. What is the object of connecting hypnotism with the occult since it is known to be allied with certain physical processes? It may be said: "Yes, hypnotism was once considered occult but is now transferred to the domain of science. Why consider it in such a book as this?"

My answer is that I think every manifestation of the true occult is on its way to recognition in the domain of science, and by science I mean the knowledge which understands causes and processes and can therefore use them to its own ends. But because it is obvious that this definition applies very partially to the science of the present day, which is ignorant as a child in presence of the matters that most seriously concern us, I believe the science of the future will be placed on a very different basis from that of today. It will be based on the consciousness of man rather than on his sense perceptions. But there is another reason why hypnotism should be discussed in a book on the occult. It is a fact that anything which lulls the reason--i.e., the objective guardian of the ordinary ego--to sleep, may be and often is a straight way to the Land behind the Looking Glass. Only a temporary way, be it understood. The path vanishes as the sleeper wakes. He may never find it again unless under the same condition or further along the path of evolution, but for the moment the mirror on which the senses project their show is cracked and he sees through it. And here also we touch one of the differences between the East and West--which is very material to the subject in hand, though of course in each case there are exceptions. In the West the hypnotizer imposes his own will on the subject. He causes him to act, to remember as he chooses; the subject becomes a mere vehicle for the impressions of the operator. And if those are concerned with obtaining certain results or the proof of a theory, nothing more than these can be expected from the subject. The results therefore in the West are not especially interesting and can be predicted.

In the East amongst those who are adepts in the subject, the process is quite different. There is no imposition of the practicer's will upon the subject. The intention is to send the objective self to sleep and so to set the higher consciousness of the subject free for his own experiences according to the power and vision he possesses in himself. The word of power is: "I loose you. Go." It is obvious that very much more interesting and unexpected results can be had upon these lines though of course they will be strictly conditioned by the stage of psychic evolution reached by the subject. The cases which I have given from Ibn Batuta and the Emperor Jehangir may have some relation to this, and I very much wish I had space for the results of self-hypnosis in this connection. I think there is no doubt that in some of the low forms of Yoga--or what may be better called its baser imitations, there is a great deal of self-hypnosis and the results are what might be expected. I am inclined also to think that some of the crimes of our own civilization are due to conscious or unconscious action of this type. It is a very interesting subject, which would repay investigation. I believe one of the root causes of the love of opiates in the East and alcohol in the West is the unconscious longing to be free of the bondage of the senses, to get beyond them into some region where troubles are left behind and life is a dream of pleasure. The drunkard's paradise is pretty much what one would expect it to be. Singularly enough opium and hashish appear to have a different and higher effect in spite of the eventual ruin they entail. The famous case of De Quincey must be recalled, and the visions, melancholy, terrible, true and beautiful, which he saw under the influence of opium and has recorded in words worthy of their beauty.

Here again chapters might be written of the visions of Asiatics induced in this way, and I believe that some of the foretellings and jugglings are certainly performed by men under this influence or that of the smoking of charas; but this is not difficult to distinguish when one has experience. I believe that tobacco-smoking offers in a very minor and puerile degree the same sort of dulling and soothing of the objective self, inducing dreaming states, and that this is why men and women have taken to it with avidity.

In this connection Professor James's wonderful book, "Varieties of Religious Experience," should be studied. His opinions on the power of narcosis to produce these brief flashes of the occult or mystic state are extremely interesting. He says:

"This is a realm that public opinion and ethical philosophy have long since branded as pathological though private practice and certain lyric strains of poetry seem still to bear witness of its ideality. Nitrous oxide and ether, especially nitrous oxide, when sufficiently diluted with air, stimulate the mystic consciousness to an extraordinary degree. Depth beyond depth of truth seems revealed to the inhaler. The truth fades out, however, or escapes, at the moment of coming to and if any words remain over in which it seemed to clothe itself these prove to be the veriest nonsense. Nevertheless the sense of a profound meaning persists and I know more than one person who is persuaded that in the nitrous oxide trance we have a genuine metaphysical revelation."

In view of what I have written already it is quite natural that the nitrous oxide trance should by a means of revelation for those and only those who have reached a certain stage of psychic evolution, and I fully agree with Professor James when he sums up the conclusions his investigations have left him (I condense):

"Looking back on my experiences they all converge toward a kind of insight to which I cannot help ascribing some metaphysical significance. The keynote of it is invariably a reconciliation. It is as if the opposites of the world whose contradictions and conflict make all our difficulties and trouble were melted into unity. Not only do they, as contrasted species, belong to one and the same genus, but one of the species, the nobler and better one, is itself the genus, and so soaks up and absorbs its opposite into itself. This is a dark saying, I know, when thus expressed in terms of common logic, but I cannot wholly escape from its authority. Those who have ears to hear, let them hear! I have friends who believe in the anesthetic revelation."

It seems to me to be a matter of certainty that the true and universal self in man may be occasionally liberated in this way, and, as to what is left behind sometimes sounding like nonsense, it must be remembered that in the Land behind the Looking Glass our logic is nonsense, and the truth as revealed there must appear to us to be dreams of madmen if we view them from the world of the senses. They have certainly often been so recorded.

I had once a most extraordinary dream shot through and through with beauty as a jewel with lights and perfections. I dreamed that I must write it down at once lest so much loveliness should escape me. But when I waked only one grotesque phrase survived--so grotesque though apparently meaningless that I never forgot it. Much later,--years after, events illuminated that phrase so that what it conveyed had become one of the most important events of my life. I believe the same might prove true of many of the remains of "veriest nonsense" of which Professor James writes, if they could be traced through the after life of the percipients. It will be interesting to give some specimens of experience under narcosis, and the first is of great value because it relates to a realization of time as the eternal "Now" of Indian Yoga. It was that of a man named Clark, who died young. (I condense.)

"In the first place the revelation is, if anything, non-emotional. It is the one sole and sufficient insight of how the present is pushed on by the past and becomes the future. The real secret would be the formulæ by which the 'now' keeps exfoliating out of itself yet never escapes. Ordinary philosophy is like a hound hunting his own tail. His nose never catches up with his heels. So the present is a foregone conclusion and I am ever too late to understand it. [It has become the past before one can grasp it.] But at the moment of recovery from anesthesis, then, before starting on life, I catch, so to speak, a glimpse of my heels, a glimpse of the eternal process just in the act of starting. That is why there is a smile upon the face of revelation as we view it. It tells us we are forever half a second too late.

"'You could kiss your own lips and have all the fun to yourself,' it says, 'if you only knew the trick. It would be perfectly easy if they would just stay there until you got around to them. Why don't you manage it somehow?'"

And the whole secret of the true occult is to know how to make one's own lips wait until one gets round to them, and in kissing them one kisses the universe. That is Yoga with all its powers, revealing, in the immortal words of Plotinus, the great Neo-Platonic philosopher, the truth:

"For that which sees is itself the thing which is seen." The transcendental logic of the Land behind the Looking Glass where "A can be both A and not A"! This is exactly what the percipient has realized in that experience.

Here is another experience--that of a woman who had taken ether for a surgical operation:

"I wondered if I was in a prison being tortured. My last dream immediately preceded my coming to. It only lasted a few seconds and was most vivid and real to me though it may not be clear in words.

"A great Power was traveling through the sky, his foot on a kind of lightning as a wheel is on a rail: it was his pathway. The lightning was made of innumerable spirits and I was one of them. Each part of the streak or flash came into its short conscious existence only that he might travel. I felt my flexibility and helplessness. He bended me, turning his corner by means of my hurt, and at the acutest point of [my agony] as he passed, I SAW.

"I understood for a moment things I have now forgotten, things that no one could remember while retaining sanity.

"He went and I came to. In that moment the whole of my life passed before me, including each little meaningless piece of distress, and I understood them. This was what it all meant. On waking I realized that in that half-hour under ether I had served God more distinctly and purely than I had ever done in my life before or than I am capable of desiring to do. I was the means of His achieving and revealing something to someone, I know not what or to whom. With that I came finally into what seemed a dream-world compared with the reality of what I was leaving."

I should like to draw attention to one sentence in this experience:

"In that moment the whole of my life passed before me."

This is a common experience of those who have been caught back at the last instant from death by drowning; it occurs also to those who are on the threshold of death in other ways and yet return. The explanation, I think, undoubtedly is the light of the higher consciousness breaking through as the body crumbles, revealing Time again as the Eternal Now. The dying man looks up and sees the past, present and future fused into a picture in which all parts are simultaneous. They are one and always were. Yoga again, and the explanation of clairvoyance, prophecy and many more of the strange signals the true occult flings out to assure us that Reality is there for the finding!

That a flash here and there of truth can be caught by the man whose objective self is strangled in the grip of narcosis is a most interesting fact, but I need hardly say it is no recommendation to making the great escape into Reality in that particular way. None of these things offer the true road. How should they? I think even those dullings and lullings of the objective self in East and West to which I have alluded in this chapter are a serious risk and damage to the body--the instrument by which the psyche of man manifests,--and in obscurer ways than that are also a peril.

How should people who live the ordinary lives of Western civilization hope to see into what is described in the East by those who know, as "the Formless, the Beautiful, the Utterly Desirable"? To injure the body, to force a glimpse of the higher consciousness by mechanical means is no true way to the enfranchisement of the psyche. Many voluptuaries in psychic sensation have discovered this to their cost. It is in the union of the best, the highest, the simplest, in the union of body, mind and psyche that the Way lies and in that only, and in studying the principles of Yoga this is forcibly brought before the student. In an article published before I had resolved to write fully on these hidden matters I said:

"But where shall wisdom be found and where is the place of understanding? In small beginnings, in a certain personal austerity and circumspectness (in the East they call it re-collectedness) which need not be ostentatious, which is not disquieted by passion or opinion. This the great faiths have taught. They recognized with true psychological instinct that here was a gate to the eternal Way, to looking upon the lower satisfactions of life as stranglers of the real joys. More than half our troubles come from trying to adapt man to his environment instead of his environment to man. The wise asceticism is a perpetual appeal to joy. It throws aside the useless burdens. I reflect on the teaching of the wise of all nations and I recall none who has not taught that self-discipline is what makes the man the master of his fate in the only way in which he need care to rule it. Meng-Tsu, one of the wise men of China, wise in her antiquity, said a rememberable thing in this connection:

"'That in which men differ from beasts is a thing very inconsiderable; the wise are wise because they preserve it carefully.'

"It is a stern saying. It recognizes, with Froude's definition of the Roman stoic, that 'men who are the slaves of their habits are miserable and impotent, and insists that personal inclinations shall be subordinated. It prescribes plainness of life that the number of our necessities shall be as few as possible, and in placing the happiness of life in intellectual and moral action it destroys the temptation to sensual gratification.'"

So runs the creed of the great Romans. And this is the only safe and eternal way to the true occult--to the Land concealed by the dazzling phantasmagoric show of the senses. That there are by-paths none can deny and they must be stated in any honest study of the occult, but there is only one safe way, and it is encouraging to remember that all the faiths have marked that truth on their charts however they may have differed in matters of less importance. The type of man thus produced is the only hope of a race worthy to inherit the universe in the sense of developing the higher consciousness which alone can save us from our blunderings in the darkened cave of the senses in which we live. Do we breed such men in our teeming cities? Have not even the revelations of science based on the material and physical helped to rivet our fetters more closely by making self-indulgence and "pleasure" more attainable to the many as well as to the few?

I am not preaching a sour austerity,--many of the pleasures of life are lovely and innocent and lead directly to the doors of the true occult. But they are the simple ones.

Often in Japan for instance I have watched the crowds who stream out to share in the delight of the seasonal blossomings--unconsciously drinking in the occult and mystic influences of nature. I recall a day in autumn in a beautiful place beyond Kyoto when the maples had broken into their utmost glorious conflagration of russet-red, rose-red, fiery red, burning far away over the hills and reflecting themselves in a lake and a little river as if the very earth could not contain their splendor and they flung it on into a purer element.

Many hundreds of Japanese families had come out to see the wonder, not in any noisy or drunken way of enjoyment but simply to sit and absorb it quietly. Whole families from children to grandparents. It was impossible to avoid a feeling of envy for one's own country in seeing that sight and the evident feelings it produced. I remembered those who knew and who had said to me, "Every Japanese child is a potential artist." That is a glittering generality which like others may not be wholly true, but I myself believe it to be very largely true, and such things as I have described confirmed me in the belief. And if it be true, let it be remembered that art, not misused, is a straight highway to one of the gates of the Land behind the Looking Glass.

Thus, as I have quoted above, what is seen is one with him who sees, and, in the words of a Chinese thinker, "the secret of art lies in the artist,"--and all art, all beauty, all the true roads to the Land behind the Looking Glass must begin with entire self-obedience and forgetfulness of the ego that it may recognize itself as a part of the whole. That condition is the Guardian of the Gate and those who search for realization of the true occult know this with passion.

Hear the cry of Blake--he who was among the greatest of occultists, who was free to come and go in the Land behind the Looking Glass after his fashion:

"I will go down to self-annihilation and eternal Death,
Lest the last Judgment come and find me unannihilate
And I be seized and given into the hands of my own selfhood."

There is indeed no darker hell for, while it persists, the very psyche of man is shriveled in its flames and the five senses hold him with the five red-hot fetters of ignorance. Very poor foreshadowings indeed are the unconscious flashes of revelation set beside the steadily ordered purpose of a lifetime, building by the tools of discipline step by step before a man the upward way upon which the feet may be planted in safe foreseeing certainty. Only such a man, after such a preparation, conscious in this life, forgotten but evolved in preceding lives, is fit to be trusted with the hidden powers. And that this is true the long history of aberrations and crimes in the occult witnesses, together with the longer history of ruin under the influences of drugs, especially of narcotics.



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