The Way of Power

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The Way of Power

By Lily Adams Beck

Chapter X

IT is my own opinion that the West, now searching even passionately for a clue to the mysteries of psychology, will do very well to listen to the voice of India on the subject.

It will not be perfection for it has filtered through the human medium and human language, as is the case with every pronouncement of every faith, but there is much to be learned from it, especially in some of its strange foreseeings of the conclusions of modern science and its equally strange departures from them in cases where it is impossible for all but the deeply initiated and those who have attained the higher consciousness to pronounce which view is ultimately right. Having said this and thus indicated some of the difficulties, I proceed, and I say in truth that I never meet a Western psychologist (and I have met many) without feeling against how blank an opposition they must contend, how poor, how material are the theories they offer in place of practical guidance in the way of comprehension. To repeat the analogy I have used throughout these chapters the Western psychologist is brought up all standing against the hard glittering surface of the Mirror in which our senses reflect the world about us. The Eastern psychologist passes through this, as if it were mist, to the reality which lies behind. I hope I shall be able to make a part of this ancient system of psychology clear and comprehensible, though I realize that I can say only enough to set others on a track which leads far and higher and in which the motive of research matters profoundly.

I must say in beginning that it is bound up with the most ancient form of religious thought in India, and I cannot wholly ignore that, though I shall dwell on it as little as possible. But just as when in the West we speak of visions, dreams and telepathic occurrences, we must cite such notable religious examples as Joan of Arc, St. Theresa, Francis of Assisi, William Blake, Walt Whitman and others who have possessed what is technically called "the higher consciousness," so in giving this great Indian system one cannot wholly ignore the relation to religion--for I repeat that always there is something in deeply felt religion which plays like a skilled musician on what I may call "the psychic nerve," exciting it to its highest harmonies and powers.

In the West, it has been truly said, we never troubled ourselves with examining scientifically the question of why these supernormal experiences happened to these people and their like. We did not at all understand them, did not like them, and were inclined to think them a form of mild or intense religious mania, which no one would wish for himself or for his relations, though it might be well enough if it had happened long enough ago to be placed on the respectable footing of Biblical miracles, which could be comfortably taken as occasions of direct Divine intervention and the suspension of all law and order. If anyone had said to us, "The miracles of the Christ, St. Paul, Joan of Arc, the visions of William Blake, of Boehme the cobbler, and so forth, were perfectly natural things, manifestations of a law as natural as that which governs the radio set in every house, and they were born to these powers because of experiences in past lives," we should have thought this statement either irreverent or entirely incredible unless the person so speaking was prepared to show us the way in which the whole thing works. This, India has been always prepared to do. She comes into the open with her system of psychology, and takes her stand under this statement: "Some men are born with these powers because they have earned realization of them in former lives. Others must earn them by discipline and training. As to credibility: direct perception, inference, and competent evidence are proofs." If you will concede that these are sufficient she will state the psychologic law as she has tested it and as you may test it for yourself.

But there is not and never can be an easy system of acquiring psychological knowledge. Many, as in the study of modern science, have fallen victims by the way. I had a friend who was a pioneer in the medical use of the X-ray. First, one finger, then a hand, then an arm was attacked by cancer and finally he died, his life generously spent in blazing the trail for others. So with this Indian science of psychology where the body is compelled to a discipline not to be exceeded in rigor by the strictest monasticism ever laid down in the West for unconsciously following the same winged hope. The hope is there but the way is often dangerous.

The great authority--or rather the authority which collected knowledge and opinions on this psychology in the second century B. C. (for it is said to be four thousand years old) is an Indian known by the name of Patanjali, whose "Yoga Aphorisms" survive to this day as the foundation stone of the science of psychology which in India is named "Raja Yoga"--or the Royal Yoga--the word Yoga signifying union or concentration since it is only by union and concentration with or through the forces of nature that results can be achieved. It must not be thought that Patanjali was the originator of this system. He only collected the experience, already very ancient, of many experimenters. I shall draw on his words for what I am about to say, and on those of deeply learned disciples of his philosophy who themselves constantly experienced what is known in India as "samadhi"--i.e., the state of higher consciousness in which perception beyond all reason is possible.

To begin with, India wholly denies that so-called "miracles," "answers to prayer" and the strange powers of faith, are due to any super-natural intervention. She says: "Yes, they happen. They are imitated, faked, but they happen and abundantly, only they are never supernatural for nothing exists in the Universe which is not obedient to the law of Nature." India states that belief in the possibility of supernatural interferences with law inculcates fear, superstition, and therefore cruelty. It belongs to the dark places of the earth and must be cast out by the clear daylight of knowledge.

But there are in nature gross manifestations of force and subtle ones. The subtle ones are the causes, the gross the effects. The gross can be perceived by the senses, the subtle by a consciousness in ourselves which requires cultivation and discipline, conscious or unconscious, before it can open its eyes and see. And because the higher branches of this Way are at least as difficult and new to the unskilled as (for instance) climbing the Alps, India holds that a teacher is a necessity, and that only certain lower branches of the discipline can be studied in safety alone. With this reservation she offers what she calls a science of the mind, and says the mind itself is the instrument by which the mind must be observed. The powers of the mind are like rays of light cast abroad, illuminating a vast space; but when concentrated and condensed they form a beam so powerful that flung on any subject they will illuminate it to translucence. Thus, to understand the mind and its powers the search-light of the mind itself must be turned inward and steadily focused; and, if you come to think of it, that is the one thing which in the West we are never trained to do. Our whole system of education turns our minds to external things, the common branches of learning, observation of the world about us and so forth. But to concentrate mental observation on the mind itself, to force it to self-analysis, is a thing rarely or never done in the West, where there is not one man in millions who can focus his mind on its own powers and, understanding, use them.

So the goal of this ancient science is concentration on the mind and its powers, and it demands no faith or belief. It only demands trial and the hard discipline and training which would be needed for passing so high and difficult examination where body mind, and spirit participated in the competition.

It is natural that a great part of the discipline must be physical. Everyone knows roughly that if he wants to be clear-headed it is not wise to eat a heavy meal and wash it down with abundant alcohol. He may deduce a good deal from that broad statement if he thinks it over carefully. The Germans have an excellent punning proverb, "Was man isst, das ist er" ("What a man eats, that he is"), and in this connection, it is very true. Therefore a discipline which insists that the mind is intimately connected with the body and is actually a finer part of it will insist also that as the mind undoubtedly acts on the body, so the body also acts on the mind. It states that we have very little control of our mind, because of the powerful pull of the body, and that not until the body is sufficiently controlled can we compel the mind to focus on what we will. Now remember that according to this teaching the external world as we see it is only the gross form of the real and subtle world. Therefore the man who has learned to pierce through the external forms to the real, and to manipulate them, is about to learn how to do things which will appear supernatural to the man who sees only the gross forms discoverable by the senses; he must face all the sacrifices of the explorer and pioneer. Western science is always trying to get back to the unit out of which all the outward forms of the universe appear. Raja Yoga on the contrary starts from the unit to study internal nature and acquire mastery over it.

The path of attainment in Raja Yoga as in Buddhism is divided into eight steps.

Life must be extremely simple, sane and wholesome. As a first step the student is trained and tested by the commands that there must be no slaughter for food and that truthfulness, honesty, continence and the avoidance of luxury must be made the basis of life.

The next step is the practice of extreme cleanliness of mind and body, contentment, renunciation of such practices as stand in the way of concentration, study, and self-surrender to discipline. To a student it must be impossible to injure any human being or animal by word, thought, or deed.

It will be noted that these two foundations of the science of psychology are moral, and India declares that without them no man can really attain control. She does not deny that a man may in certain conditions have sporadic sights and flashes of power, but he will not have control and sooner or later such knowledge as he has acquired without control will turn and rend him and possibly others. Therefore it is a very dangerous thing to adventure in this path without the moral foundation of perfect self-control. And it can be seen, I think, how universally this truth has been recognized by the various religions (which are more or less schools of psychology) in the disciplines they have laid down for their pupils.

When the moral foundations are well and truly laid the next step is posture. Much discipline has to be worked through and a position easy and natural for the body must be found, and a man must choose that in which he can most easily forget his body, for it will be subjected to great changes during this discipline. Nerve currents will find new channels. New vibrations will be felt. And as the main part of these will be along the spinal column, that must be held free by sitting erect and holding the chest and throat and head in a straight line supported by the ribs. A man sitting slouched, with the chest caved in, cannot concentrate; it requires a certain alertness.

After posture comes breathing-control. Stopping the right nostril with the thumb, inhale air through the left according to capacity, then without pause expel the air through the right, closing the left. Reverse the process, beginning with stopping the left nostril with the thumb and so forth. Practice this with three or five inhalations and exhalations at four points of the day: before dawn, during mid-day, in the evening and at mid-night. This is called the purifying of the nerves. The body must be kept in sound good health, for when it is not it obtrudes itself and whines for attention. The thoughts must be as far as possible calmed and concentrated on the aim in view.

When this stage is mastered comes concentration on the control of the great world force. The universe is composed of two forces, one of which is called Akasha. Everything that has form is evolved from akasha--the heavenly bodies, human, animal and plant bodies, all we see and sense. But this force in itself is subtle beyond ordinary perception and can be perceived only when it has taken form. In the beginning was nothing but akasha, at the end of the cycle all will melt into akasha again. And in the next "creation" all form will proceed from it.

How is akasha thus made manifest in form? By the power of "Prana," the infinite power manifesting itself as the sum total of all the forces in the universe, mental or physical. The different forms of energy are interchangeable and indestructible and their sum total remains the same throughout. At the end of a cycle these energies sleep and are potential. At the beginning of the next they wake, and the force behind prompts the different manifestations.

Therefore the understanding and control of this latent force opens the door of power. The question was asked in ancient India: "What is that which knowing we know all?" The answer is--this force which is generator of the universe.

To this end all the discipline of Raja Yoga is shaped, for the vital energy of all is this.

The reason for the training in breathing is that this is the fly-wheel setting the other energies of the body in motion. It is our most obvious connection with the Universe.

It is declared that after the first few months of steady effort one begins to find that the thoughts of people near one appear to one, at first dim and afterwards in clear picture forms. Or, concentrating all the energies upon something at a distance, a clear thought-form of it will appear in the mind. Or, concentrating the thoughts (say) on the sense of smell, one may perceive a beautiful perfume. Flashes of such perception will tend to strengthen courage, but it must be remembered they are only marks of progress, and the end is the "freeing of the soul" as it is technically called. We are to remember that body and mind belong to us, but are not ourselves. Thus, in an Eastern poem, after death it is declared of the body, "This was mine. It is not I." The body is but the name for a series of changes, like a river forever and never the same. Yet, such as it is, we have no other instrument until we are set free from the senses and their bonds.

It may be said here that the early morning and evening are the two best times for concentration. They are the hours of calm in nature--a calm reflected in the mind of man unless artificially obstructed. And one should not eat shortly before practicing the lessons. In India it is a part of the training to feel no hunger in the morning until students have bathed and gone through the practices.

Also the place in which they are carried out is important. This can be understood by referring again to the way in which the various faiths (or schools of psychology) have set aside certain places for special concentration on certain thoughts. And it must be a place which suits our own vibrations or it will no help them. To me all such set-apart places are helpful, and I have felt the cold and cleansing breath which precedes "union" alike in the noble silences of Westminster Abbey, the dimness patterned with splendid color of Notre Dame de Paris, the uplifted golden platform and dizzying glittering shrines where the Buddhist Shwe Dagon of Rangoon flames to the sun, the deserted rock temples of Mamallipuram in India or those colored sanctuaries buried in glooms of great pines where the spirits of the mighty Shoguns of Japan are remembered night and day. Because, for me, where the soul of man has concentrated upon these deep psychologies the air is visibly and veritably charged with a force which communicates itself to and possesses man in the exact degree in which he is capable of absorbing it. So, for these concentrations which are to be freeing to oneself and to others, a place of quiet should be chosen and one where if possible one can be alone. Solitude is necessary until heights are reached where a man can isolate himself in the midst of multitudes--as witness instances in the histories of the Christ, the Buddha and others. In India they set flowers in some little room kept for the purpose, or sometimes, as often in old Indian stories and even in modern times, some place in the open air is chosen, a garden, a field, or perhaps best of all a forest. Some people will find the occult perfume of incense helpful; a secret the churches also have discovered. I do not care for it myself. In such a place gradually those vibrations will accumulate which the faiths have desired and have often gained in their sacred places, but in your own chosen place it will be individual, not congregational, and the vibrations will be your own vibrations at their steadily rising best, which means attunement with the vibration of the universe.

Of what sort should meditation be? Sometimes it partakes of recapturing the, as it were, dead memory of former lives.

You enter your place of quiet and relax. "Then you begin to think backward, passing over the events of the day in inverse order as though you were swimming up the stream of memory. At first you can only remember the incidents of the past few minutes, but the memory is astonishingly amenable to cultivation. You will find as you perform your meditation for a few minutes to an hour a day that whereas at first you had to jump from stepping stone to stepping stone of the more important events you will soon find yourself able to swim up the stream of thought smoothly, omitting no smallest detail in your memorizing backward." These you will increase to a week, a month, a year and as you diligently practice you will find your memory blossoming, until you can control the memory of the whole of your life and until even more opens before your mind.

And for another and most important form of meditation there is this, the practice of thoughts severally of love to all beings: of compassion for their suffering, of sympathy with the joy of all who are rightfully happy, and of aloofness from the deceits of the senses. "And in doing this you will know more than any intellectual appreciation can tell you how utterly true is the teaching of the illusion of the senses, for you will then see all they present to you as a little cloud upon the surface of that vast consciousness upon which you then function."

It is most important that all practice should invariably begin with these thoughts of peace and good will sent out to all the world--but most especially to those against whom one may feel one has any grudge. There is a strong psychic as well as spiritual reason for this, because when the body is disturbed with any ripple of fear or anger it is poisoned. It cannot function in peace. We know that fear can kill, that the angry nursing mother can poison her infant, that no function is normal under such influences, and control is never complete.

It was not for mere piety's sake that the Christ exhorted his disciples to pray for those "who despitefully use you," but because he knew unless this is done the spiritual attitude is hopelessly out of joint for attainment. It really matters very little about prayer or deliberate thoughts akin to it for those we love, because every current of our being, every vibration, is unconsciously and incessantly sweeping all good towards them. But the other is really important; in fact no control is possible without it, and with it comes peace like the first cool breath of dawn on untrodden dews. For oneself, one's thoughts and desires should be always for nothing but knowledge and light. When that frame of mind is attained the goal is in sight, and with the above reservation (and not always even with that) a man may choose what he will from the treasures of the universe. He will probably choose wisely certainly in another incarnation if not in this. But each man has his own possibility of achievement in every life which he can develop by developing his consciousness along one of the four ways of Yoga.



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