The Way of Power

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The Way of Power

By Lily Adams Beck

Chapter XIII

(I am indebted in this chapter to Ouspensky's remarkable work, "Tertium Organum")

I hope in this chapter to demonstrate that the views of the occult which I have put forward are meeting with strange confirmation in Western Science though there approached from a different angle. To put a very difficult subject briefly and clearly it is now thought that the universe of three dimensions (breadth, length, and height) in which our senses inform us we live and move and have our being is a universe wrongly seen and understood by those five very fallible observers and that in many respects the universe corresponds in truth with "The World behind the Looking Glass" as I have called it. In other words, that the so-called "occult" affords us glimpses of the world as it is beyond the perception of the senses of touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing.

And science now adumbrates the possibility of a verifiable perception of its own transcending the senses on the mathematical side and this is the reason why we hear talk of what is called "The Fourth Dimension"; for it is found that the three dimensions of length, breadth and height by which we measure the world and on which all our logical and geometrical conclusions are based are not equal to the demands made upon them by late scientific discoveries and many advanced thinkers are crying out for a wider and very different definition to supplement and elucidate the real relation of man to the universe. This is profoundly interesting from the occult point of view for reasons which I shall indicate.

It is the fact that though the body of man could be made to conform to the three dimensions of length, breadth, and height, the intellect and the psyche in him, which have made all religions and all thought possible, could not. The psyche of man has always gone off on its own adventures and has declined entirely to be conditioned by the limits of breadth, depth, and height. Not only so, but the life and the psyche in animals and the lower forms of life, even down to plants, have been equally unaccommodating. They too have refused to be enclosed (if I may so put it) within the limits of length, breadth and height. A gallant fight to capture them was made by the Positivists, who, mistaking the machine for the man behind it, clung as long as they could to the belief that brain-movements accounted for Christ and Shakespeare. Like those of other dupes of the senses their theory lies dead on the dusty road of the past. The possibility that life may soon be produced by certain combinations of elements does not in the least support their assertion, for the cause of life resulting from the combination and its inherency in each one of the combining elements has still to be explained.

It is interesting to consider a few remarks of Plato's made rather more than two millenniums ago. And let no one be startled by the great name of a great philosopher, for much that he said is really more interesting than the very best-selling novel of the present day, and of vastly more consequence. This quotation will show how very ill he thought we were served by those trust-worthy five reporters of ours upon which we absolutely depend for knowledge until we find the way into the World behind the Looking Glass. And few persons since have been able to question seriously the issue he raises.

He records a dialogue of Socrates with an extremely interested friend in the course of which he gave him a very neat and striking allegory of man's position until he has learned the way of realization (I condense and therefore to a certain extent paraphrase, but have kept rigidly to the essential):

"'Behold a set of human beings living in a sort of underground den. They are chained in a manner which prevents their turning their heads. Behind them is a light and between them and the light a raised way along which pass figures of men and animals and so forth. And some of these passengers are talking and some are silent. These men who are chained and cannot move their heads can therefore see only the shadows cast before them. Is not this so?

"'But they would suppose that what they saw was actually before them? And what they supposed to be truth would only be the shadows of the images?'

"'Very true,' answers the friend.

"'Now suppose one of these chained men is suddenly freed and taken into the sunlight: Will he not be in a difficulty and at first believe that the shadows which he formerly saw are truer than the objects now shown him?

"'And suppose the light dazzles his eyes: May he not even be unable at first to see any of the realities now affirmed to be the truth?

"'But when at last he can see the sun as the cause of all he beholds will he not rejoice in the change and pity those who are chained? Will he not endure anything rather than live and think after their manner? But the chained men will say of him that there is no use in even thinking of ascending to the light and if anyone tried to loose another and lead him up to the light if they caught the offender in the act they would kill him.'

"In this allegory the prison is the world of sight [i.e., the senses] and you will understand that those who attain to the blessed vision of truth are unwilling to descend to human affairs, but their souls are ever hastening to the upper world in which they desire to dwell."

The thing cannot be better put and the experience of the world has proved. only too well how ready it has been to slaughter the man who attempts to knock the chains off the prisoners and lead them into the light of reality. What Plato has said may be summed up in one phrase. We live in the real world, but we perceive it wrongly. The entry into what I have called the World behind the Looking Glass means that we then perceive it rightly--each in his different degree. For that there are many degrees of perception none can doubt.

What we have to do is to understand the Real and decline to be misled by the shadows. Thus we shall apprehend what is called the occult--or the Hidden--which really lies all about us for observation the moment we are capable of observing. We walk about like savages in a library with the wisdom of the ages there for the taking and--we cannot take it for our own. That there are difficulties in the way I do not deny, though they have in instances which I shall give been triumphantly conquered. One great and pressing difficulty is language, for our languages (be it remembered) have all been evolved by Plato's chained prisoners, sitting in the dark and taking the shadows cast before them for real. Therefore we must unfortunately use words quite inadequate to the truth some of us know. I am perfectly certain that when Plato's emancipated man returned from the sunlight into the underground den he was extremely at a loss to convey his meanings to the cave-dwellers. Probably the real end of the story is that he sat down and gave it up as a bad job and they beat him to death--their legs and arms being the only free part of them. Analogous stories have very often ended thus in real life. The witnesses, however, have increased in number since Plato's day and the vocabulary has enlarged, though by no means to the necessary point. We are still striving to express the inexpressible and a good deal of it still sounds almost impossible for that reason, but we are quite certainly beginning to realize "that this earth is the scene of a drama of which we only perceive scattered portions and in which the greater number of the actors are invisible to us." And, it has been said that when we understand that drama we shall see that the so-called "solid" world of length, breadth and height does not really exist as we conceive it because we perceive it so wrongly that our perception is as illusory as the movement of the country past our eyes when we are rushing through it in a train.

I remember, as a child, being immensely impressed with what was put to me as a kind of catch or riddle, namely that there is really no such thing as motion because you are always stationary at some one given point. Think that out and you will find it very difficult to counter. To my surprise I met this poser the other day in the thoughts of an ancient Indian philosopher. Science, at the moment, is confronted with a difficulty of the same nature with regard to time, which according to our common conception is a form of motion because it is always flowing past us.

I paraphrase. Usually we think the past already does not exist. It has passed, disappeared. The future also does not exist. It has not arrived nor formed. By the present we mean the moment when the future changes into the past. In other words the moment when one non-existence changes into another non-existence. And this moment being only a fiction, we have a full right to say the present does not exist. For the present is not to be seized--it is always changing into the past, and strictly speaking neither past, present nor future exists for us, which is so absurd that it becomes clear that there is something very mistaken in our conception of time. When a man leaves New York for London only the memory of New York is left. And London does not really exist for him until he arrives there. But an observer at a sufficient height with sufficient vision could see both New York and London as steady points. In the same way we say: "Spring is gone. Winter is not yet here." But we know it will come just as the man leaving New York knows that (bar accident) he will reach London. The new conception of time tends to be that at a sufficient height--i.e., in the more developed consciousness, spring is always there and winter also--and that the notion of the flux of time is pure guess-work at a thing we do not understand, and pure illusion, and that the truth is that there is no flux of time but the "Eternal Now" of the ancient Indian thinkers into which if we could look with clear understanding we should perceive everything as coexistent and co-eternal.

I pause for a moment to say if this is so how .clearly it explains the gift of prophecy or clear-seeing. In the flashes of higher consciousness which I shall describe the seer declares that a certain thing will happen. That is inexplicable on the theory of a future as yet non-existent. But if he sees the event he describes as part of the Eternally existent and unchanging it becomes by no means impossible to understand why under certain conditions such a sight can be obtained.

So the ordinary man goes forward blind, tapping his way with a stick, substantially believing only in what he touches at the moment, which alone exists for him. The man who can see beholds all round him the points by which he guides his course. The relation of the higher consciousness to the lower is as sight to blindness. The considerations which witness to the development of a part of our race into the possession of the higher consciousness are of amazing interest. Yet for those who have developed it in the cases we know, it has its terrors. Such a man is in the position of an aviator who from the sky watches two trains on earth rushing to the inevitable collision and cannot warn them. His consciousness rises above the plane in which the consciousness of the man in the street sees events divided by periods of time. The man of the higher consciousness will see all cause and effect as one, crime and punishment, sunrise and sunset, the birth and death of a man. Here again we touch on the wonders of Indian thought in the Upanishads and later, which indicated clearly many centuries ago the riddle with which science is to-day confronted. They saw that as long as science concerns itself with physical happenings only it stumbles in a blind alley, and that the only way out is in the development of the consciousness of man. On that all true science must ultimately be based.

In this view they received strong support from the great German philosopher Kant (born in 1724). According to his famous book everything known through the senses can be known only in terms of time and space, and nothing can be received by the five senses except in these terms. And what we perceive are not the properties actually belonging to things but what our senses ascribe to them and that in reality things exist quite independently of time and space and the conditions we impose by our limitations in this respect. Thus time and space have no real existence in themselves but represent our conceptions in the same manner as when looking through green glasses we perceive the world green.

It follows that we do not know the true relations of things among themselves, and that we possess only phantoms or visions of things, and for beings differently organized from ourselves the world would present a wholly different aspect. Briefly we have created a world (in which we believe) conditioned entirely by our limitations, just as we know that creatures of a more limited consciousness than ourselves perceive the world within still narrower limits and find it impossible to aspire to the comparatively boundless splendor of our point of view. It is a case of relative truth. No doubt our conceptions are higher than those of the mollusc or the snail, but it would be a bold materialist indeed who could be found to declare that the true universe is revealed to our conceptions in all its dimensions and possibilities. It must be made clear, however, that Kant does not attribute to us a confused perception of the real world. No. It is a very acute perception of an entirely unreal world--so acute that as a rule we never question it, and are difficult to persuade that it is mistaken.

Here we have to ask, What is space? As we perceive it, it is for us the form of the universe. We can measure it only in three directions independent of one another--i.e., length, breadth and height--and we therefore call our conception of space three-dimensional. Yet there are things in the world which cannot be defined in these terms and yet most undoubtedly do exist, and with power. Ouspensky uses the illustration here of a house and an idea. You may destroy the house; the idea you cannot destroy--it will even thrive on your efforts at destruction. And so there are many different forms of existence. A book exists, but also, and in a different category, its contents. A coin, and its purchasing value. In fact every physical fact has its metaphysical side. Therefore it has been said: "Matter does not give us any trouble. We know all about it for the very good reason that we invented it. Strictly speaking matter exists only as a concept."

Our senses prove its solid existence to us, but our senses unfortunately are untrustworthy witnesses who cannot be heard in the Court of Law to which man's psyche appeals.

A great part of what most deeply concerns us in relation to the so-called "occult" is our sense-relation to time. It is necessary to ask why we are convinced that we perceive time as a form of motion running past the narrow five-paned window of the senses through which alone we can observe the world, and why we cannot, as it were, lean out of that slit and get a broader view to right and left of us which might revolutionize our conclusions. It is because our consciousness is usually chained to the plane of the three dimensions of length, breadth, and height by our senses.

Our sight extends for a certain number of yards, if unblocked by solid bodies; our hearing is in the same case and though, as Ouspensky puts it, the range of sight can be extended by ascending to greater heights or by the use of telescopes and magnifiers, this is only extending the range of the senses, not escaping them--a very different proposition.

All motion that we can perceive is conditioned by time. Can we transcend the idea of time as motion--can we imagine it as stationary? Kant declares that the motion or flux of time is created by ourselves as a part of our receptive apparatus for convenience in perceiving the outside world. If this is true and if the slumbering psyche in man is not bound by what may be called physical forms of consciousness, then it is conceivable that in different forms of consciousness man might perceive so much more of the world as it really is as to gain knowledge which he can never receive through the medium of the senses.

One great key to unlock the Gate is undoubtedly the true realization of time as a fourth dimension. This explains many a problem of clairvoyance, clairaudience, distance-apparitions and so forth, which has been inexplicable on the usual theories. It must revolutionize almost all our ideas of what is possible.

Thus we see that the knowledge which is opening on us with the enlarging consciousness of man is what will gain for science that hitherto dubious and hidden world known as the occult--which is really the sphere of realization of things as they are in themselves and in truth.

There must come a point where all science based on the senses guided by reason will find itself met by a "Thus far and no farther." That point is not distant. But to the consciousness of man, which is a part of the Infinite, there can be no bounds. All it needs is training and discipline and the necessary stages of evolution to bring it to the realization of its transcendent powers as exemplified here and there in those who have partially attained.

For the question now opening before us is stated in the great mathematician Minkowski's brilliant generalization of Einstein's new principle. This was quoted by Professor Oumov at a convention of Russian scientists in 1911.

"In Nature all is given; for her the past and future do not exist. She is the eternal present: she has no limits either of space or time. Changes are proceeding in individuals and correspond to their displacements upon world-ways in a four-dimensional eternal and limitless manifold. [Italics mine.] These concepts in the region of philosophic thought will produce a revolution considerably greater than that caused by the displacement from the center of the universe by Copernicus."

"We are present," added Professor Oumov, "at the funeral of the old physics."

And again I must quote Ouspensky.

"The world as we know it does not represent anything stable. Phenomena which appear to us unrelated can be seen by some more inclusive consciousness as parts of a single whole. Phenomena which appear to us complete and indivisible may be in reality exceedingly complex, may include within themselves different elements having nothing in common. Therefore beyond our view of things another view is possible--a view, as it were, from another world from 'over there.' Now 'over there' does not mean some other place but a new method of knowledge, a new understanding." I may add, a new understanding of the world we live in. We shall certainly agree with this if we have arrived at realization of the fact that man "is a toy in the hands of elemental forces, he is merely a transforming station of forces. All that it seems to him he is doing is in reality done by external forces which enter him through air, food, sun-light. Man does not perform a single action by himself. He is merely a prism in which a line of action is refracted in a certain manner. Just as the beam of light does not proceed from the prism, so action does not proceed from the reason of man."

From all these conclusions follows another and a most important one. It is that, the psyche of man manifesting (except in supernormal conditions) through the action of the brain, we can (except in supernormal conditions) observe only those reflections which are similar to ourselves. We can know only about the existence of psychic lives similar to our own, and can know no others at all unless we can enter into their plane. Transcending this stage of consciousness we see and hear quite differently. This is the true realm of the occult--the real World behind the Looking Glass, and when attained it is no longer strange and occult but the natural home of our psyche. And from it proceed the strange manifestations and powers which startle and bewilder us coming in the alarming and sporadic way which is all that the average man can formulate as yet of their proceedings. It is little wonder that they have been met as they have, with alternate incredulity and fear.




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