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BEFORE we enter upon the theory and practice of Yoga, it is essential that the reader should possess some slight knowledge of the Vedânta philosophy; and though the following in no way pretends to be an exhaustive account of the same, yet it is hoped that it will prove a sufficient guide to lead the seeker from the Western realms of Magic and action to the Eastern lands of Yoga and renunciation.

To begin with, the root-thought of all philosophy and religion, both Eastern and Western, is that the universe is only an appearance, and not a reality, or, as Deussen has it:

The entire external universe, with its infinite ramifications in space and time, as also the involved and intricate sum of our inner perceptions, is all merely the form under which the essential reality presents itself to a consciousness such as ours, but is not the form in which it may subsist outside of our consciousness and independent of it; that, in other words, the sum total of external and internal experience always an only tells us how things are constituted for us, and for our intellectual capacities, not how they are in themselves and apart from intelligences such as ours.8

Here is the whole of the World’s philosophy in a hundred words; the undying question which has perplexed the mind of man from the dim twilight of the Vedas to the sweltering noon-tide of present-day Scepticism, what is the “Ding an sich”; what is the αὐτὸ καθ αὑτό; what is the Âtman?

That the thing which we perceive and experience is not {53} the “thing in itself” is very certain, for it is only what “WE see.” Yet nevertheless we renounce this as being absurd, or not renouncing it, at least do not live up to our assertion; for, we name that which is a reality to a child, and a deceit or illusion to a man, an apparition or a shadow. Thus, little by little, we beget a new reality upon the old reality, a new falsehood upon the old falsehood, namely, that the thing we see is “an illusion” and is not “a reality,” seldom considering that the true difference between the one and the other is but the difference of name. Then after a little do we begin to believe in “the illusion” as firmly and concretely as we once believed in “the reality,” seldom considering that all belief is illusionary, and that knowledge is only true as long as it remains unknown.9

Now Knowledge is identification, not with the inner or outer of a thing, but with that which cannot be explained by either, and which is the essence of the thing in itself,10 and which the Upanishads name the Âtman. Identification with this Âtman (Emerson’s “Oversoul”) is therefore the end of Religion and Philosophy alike.

“Verily he who has seen, heard, comprehended and known the Âtman, by him is this entire universe known.”11 Because there is but one Âtman and not many Âtmans. {54}

The first veil against which we must warn the aspirant is the entanglement of language, of words and of names. The merest tyro will answer, “of course you need not explain to me that, if I call a thing ‘A’ or ‘B,’ it makes no difference to that thing in itself.” And yet not only the tyro, but many of the astutest philosophers have fallen into this snare, and not only once but an hundred times; the reason being that they have not remained silent12 about that which can only be “known” and not “believed in,” and that which can never be names without begetting a duality (an untruth), and consequently a whole world of illusions. It is the crucifixion of every world-be Saviour, this teaching of a truth under the symbol of a lie, this would-be explanation to the multitude of the unexplainable, this passing off on the canaille the strumpet of language (the Consciously Known) in the place of the Virgin of the World (the Consciously Unknown).13

No philosophy has ever grasped this terrible limitation so firmly as the Vedânta. “All experimental knowledge, the four Vedas and the whole series of empirical science, as they are enumerated in Chândogya, 7. 1. 2-3, are ’nâma eva,’ ’mere name.’”14 As the Rig Veda says, “they call him Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni, and he is heavenly nobly-winged Garutmân. To what is one, sages give many a title: they call it Agni, Tama, Mâtirisvan.”15 {55}

Thus we find that “duality” in the East is synonymous with “a mere matter of words,”16 and further, that, when anything is (or can be) describe by a word or a name, the knowledge concerning it is Avidyâ, “ignorance.”

No sooner are the eyes of a man opened17 than he sees “good and evil,” and becomes a prey to the illusions he has set out to conquer. He gets something apart from himself, and whether it be Religion, Science, or Philosophy it matters not; for in the vacuum which he thereby creates, between him and it, burns the fever that he will never subdue until he has annihilated both.18 God, Immortality, Freedom, are appearances and not realities, they are Mâyâ and not Âtman; Space, Time and Causality19 are appearances and not realities, they also are Mâyâ and not Âtman. All that is not Âtman is Mâyâ, and Mâyâ is ignorance, and ignorance is sin.

Now the philosophical fall of the Âtman produces the Macrocosm and the Microcosm, God and not-God—the Universe, or the power which asserts a separateness, an individuality, {56} a self-consciousness—I am! This is explained in Brihadâranyaka, 1. 4. 1. as follows:

“In the beginning the Âtman alone in the form of a man20 was this universe. He gazed around; he saw nothing there but himself. Thereupon he cried out at the beginning: ’It is I.’ Thence originated the name I. Therefore to-day, when anyone is summoned, he answers first ’It is I’; and then only he names the other name which he bears.”21

This Consciousness of “I” is the second veil which man meets on his upward journey, and, unless he avoid it and escape from its hidden meshes, which are a thousandfold more dangerous than the entanglements of the veil of words, he will never arrive at that higher consciousness, that superconsciousness (Samâdhi), which will consume him back into the Âtman from which he came.

As the fall of the Âtman arises from the cry “It is I,” so does the fall of the Self-consciousness of the universe-man arise through that Self- consciousness crying “I am it,” thereby identifying the shadow with the substance; from this fall arises the first veil we had occasion to mention, the veil of duality, of words, of belief.

This duality we find even in the texts of the oldest Upanishads, such as in Brihadâranjaka, 3. 4. 1. “It is thy soul, {57} which is within all.” And also again in the same Upanishad (I. 4. 10.), “He who worships another divinity (than the Âtman), and says ’it is one and I am another’ is not wise, but he is like a house-dog of the gods.” And house-dogs shall we remain so long as we cling to a belief in a knowing subject and an known object, or in the worship of anything, even of the Âtman itself, as long as it remains apart from ourselves. Such a delemma as this does not take long to induce one of those periods of “spiritual dryness,” one of those “dark nights of the soul” so familiar to all mystics and even to mere students of mysticism. And such a night seems to have closed around Yâjñavalkhya when he exclaimed:

After death there is no consciousness. For where there is as it were a duality, there one sees the other, smells, hears, addresses, comprehends, and knows the other; but when everything has become to him his own self, how should he smell, see, hear, address, understand, or know anyone at all? How should he know him, through whom he knows all this, how should he know the knower?22

Thus does the Supreme Âtman become unknowable, on account of the individual Âtman23 remaining unknown; and further, will remain unknowable as long as consciousness of a separate Supremacy exists in the heart of the individual.

Directly the seeker realizes this, a new reality is born, and the clouds of night roll back and melt away before the light of a breaking dawn, brilliant beyond all that have preceded it. Destroy this consciousness, and the Unknowable may become the Known, or at least the Unknown, in the sense of the undiscovered. Thus we find the old Vedantist presupposing an Âtman and a σύμβολον of it, so that he might better transmute {58} the unknown individual soul into the known, and the unknowable Supreme Soul into the unknown, and the, from the knowable through the known to the knower, get back to the Âtman and Equilibrium—Zero.

All knowledge he asserts to be Mâyâ, and only by paradoxes is the Truth revealed.

                         Only he who knows it not knows it,
                         Who knows it, he knows it not;
                         Unknown is it by the wise,
                         But by the ignorant known.24

These dark nights of Scepticism descent upon all systems just as they descend upon all individuals, at no stated times, but as a reaction after much hard work; and usually they are forerunners of a new and higher realization of another unknown land to explore. Thus again and again do we find them rising and dissolving like some strange mist over the realms of the Vedânta. To disperse them we must consume them in that same fire which has consumed all we held dear; we must turn our engines of war about and destroy our sick and wounded, so that those who are strong and whole may press on the faster to victory.

As early as the days of the Rig Veda, before the beginning was, there was “neither not-being nor yet being.” This thought again and again rumbles through the realms of philosophy, souring the milk of man’s understanding with its bitter scepticism.

                         Not-being was this in the beginning,
                         From it being arose.
                         Self-fashioned indeed out of itself ...
                         The being and the beyond   {59}
                         Expressible and inexpressible,
                         Founded and foundationless,
                         Consciousness and unconsciousness,
                         Reality and unreality.25

All these are vain attempts to obscure the devotee’s mind into believing in that Origin he could in no way understand, by piling up symbols of extravagant vastness. all, as with the Qabalists, was based on Zero, all, same one thing, and this one thing saved the mind of man from the fearful palsy of doubt which had shaken to ruin his brave certainties, his audacious hopes and his invincible resolutions. Man, slowly through all his doubts, began to realize that if indeed all were Mâyâ, a matter of words, he at least existed. “I am,” he cried, no longer, “I am it.”26

And with the Îsâ Upanishad he whispered:

                         Into dense darkness he enters
                         Who has conceived becoming to be naught,
                         Into yet denser he
                         Who has conceived becoming to be aught.

Abandoning this limbo of Causality, just as the Buddhist did at a later date, he tackled the practical problem “What am I? To hell with God!”

The self is the basis for the validity of proof, and therefore is constituted also before the validity of proof. And because it is thus formed it is impossible to call it in question. For we many call a thing in question which comes up to us from without, but not our own essential being. For if a man calls it in question yet is it his own essential being.

An integral part is here revealed in each of us which is a reality, perhaps the only reality it is given us to know, and {60} one we possess irrespective our our not being able to understand it. We have a soul, a veritable living Âtman, irrespective of all codes, sciences, theories, sects and laws. What then is this Âtman, and how can we understand it, that is to say, see it solely, or identify all with it?

The necessity of doing this is pointed out in Chândogya, 8. 1. 6.

He who departs from this world without having known the soul or those true desires, his part in all worlds is a life of constraint; but he who departs from this world after having known the soul and those true desires, his part in all worlds is a life of freedom.

In the Brihadâranjaka,27 king Janaka asks Yâjñavalkhya, “what serves man for light?” That sage answers:

The sun serves him for light. When however the sun has set?—the moon. And when he also has set?—fire. And when this also is extinguished? — the voice. And when this also is silenced? Then is he himself his own light.28

This passage occurs again and again in the same form, and in paraphrase, as we read through the Upanishads. In Kâthaka 5. 15 we find:

                    There no sun shines, no moon, nor glimmering star,
                    Nor yonder lightning, the fire of earth is quenched; {61}
                    From him,29 who alone shines, all else borrows its brightness.
                    The whole world bursts into splendour at his shining.

And again in Maitrâyana, 6. 24.

When the darkness is pierced through, then is reached that which is not affected by darkness; and he who has thus pierced through that which is so affected, he has beheld like a glittering circle of sparks Brahman bright as the sun, endowed with all might, beyond the reach of darkness, that shines in yonder sun as in the moon, the fire and the lightning.

Thus the Âtman little by little came to be known and no longer believed in; yet at first it appears that those who realized it kept their methods to themselves, and simply explained to their followers its greatness and splendour by parable and fable, such as we find in Brihadâranyaka, 2. 1. 19.

That is his real form, in which he is exalted above desire, and is free from evil and fear. For just as one who dallies with a beloved wife has no consciousness of outer or inner, so the spirit also dallying with the self, whose essence is knowledge, has no consciousness of inner or outer. That is his real form, wherein desire is quenched, and he is himself his own desire, separate from desire and from distress. Then the father is no longer father, the mother no longer mother, the worlds no longer worlds, the gods no longer gods, the Vedas no longer Vedas. … This is his supreme goal.

As theory alone cannot for ever satisfy man’s mind in the solution of the life-riddle, so also when once the seeker has become the seer, when once actual living men have attained and become Adepts, their methods of attainment cannot for long remain entirely hidden.30 And either from their teachings directly, or from those of their disciples, we find in India {62} sprouting up from the roots of the older Upanishads two great systems of practical philosophy:

               1. The attainment by Sannyâsa.
               2. The attainment by Yoga.

The first seeks, by artificial means, to suppress desire. The second by scientific experiments to annihilate the consciousness of plurality.

In the natural course of events the Sannyâsa precedes the Yoga, for it consists in casting off from oneself home, possessions, family and all that engenders and stimulates desire; whilst the Yoga consists in withdrawing the organs of sense from the objects of sense, and by concentrating them on the Inner Self, Higher Self, Augoeides, Âtman, or Adonai, shake itself free from the illusions of Mâyâ—the world of plurality, and secure union with this Inner Self or Âtman. {63}

Previous | Index | Next

Index | The Hermit | The Agnostic Position | The Vedanta | Attainment By Yoga | The Yogas | The Constitution of the Human Organism | The Chakkras | The Doctrines of Buddhism | The Noble Eightfold Path | The Writings of Truth

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII | Part IX

8 Deussen, “The Philosophy of the Upanishads,” p. 40. See also Berkeley’s “Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous.”

9 Once the Unknown becomes known it becomes untrue, it loses its Virginity, that mysterious power of attraction the Unknown always possesses; it no longer represents our ideal, though it may form an excellent foundation for the next ideal; and so on until Knowledge and Nescience are out-stepped. General and popular Knowledge is like a common prostitute, the toy of any man. To maintain this purity, this virginity, are the mysteries kept secret from the multitude.

10 And yet again this is a sheer deceit, as every conceit must be.

11 Brihadâranjaka Upanishad, 2. 4. 5b.

12 The highest men are calm, silent and unknown. They are the men who really know the power of thought; they are sure that, even if they go into a cave and close the door and simply think five true thoughts and then pass away, these five thoughts of theirs will live through eternity. (Vivekânanda, “Karma Yoga,” Udbodhan edition, pp. 164, 165.)

13 Or the Unconsciously Known.

14 Deussen, op. cit., p. 76.

15 “Rigveda” (Griffiths), i. 164. 46. “You may call the Creator of all things by different names: Liber, Hercules, Mercury, are but different names of the same divine being” (Seneca, iv, 7. 8).

16 “Chândogya Upanishad,” 6. 1. 3. Also of “form.”

17 That is to say, when he gains knowledge.

18 This is the meaning of “Nequaquam Vacuum.”

19 Modern Materialism receives many a rude blow at the hands of Gustave le Bon. This great Frenchman writes: “These fundamental dogmas, the bases of modern science, the researches detailed in this work tend to destroy. If the principle of the conservation of energy—which, but the by, is simply a bold generalization of experiments made in very simple cases—likewise succumbs to the blows which are already attacking it, the conclusion must be arrived at that nothing in the world is eternal.” (“The Evolution of Matter,” p. 18.) In other words, all is full of birth, growth, and decay, that is Mâyâ. Form to the Materialist, Name to the Idealist, and Nothing to him who has risen above both.

20 “There are two persons of the Deity, one in heaven, and one which descended upon earth in the form of man (i.e., Adam Qadmon), and the Holly One, praised be It! unites them (in the union of Samâdhi, that is, of Sam (Greek σὺν, together with), and Adhi, Hebrew Adonai, the Lord). There are three Lights in the Upper Holy Divine united in One, and this is the foundation of the doctrine of Every-Thing, this is the beginning of the Faith, and Every-Thing is concentrated therein” (“Zohar III,” beginning of paragraph. “She’meneeh,” fol. 36a.

21 It is fully realized that outside the vastness of the symbol this “Fall of God” is as impertinent as it is unthinkable.

22 Brihadâranjaka Upanishad, 2. 4. 12.

23 The illusion of thinking ourselves similar to the Unity and yet separated from It.

24 Kena Upanishad, 11.

2526 I.e., “Existence is” אהיה אשר אהיה.

27 Brihadâranyaka Upanishad, 4. 3-4.

28 These refer to the mystic lights in man. Compare this with the Diagram 2 “The Paths and Grades” in “The Neophyte.” After the Âtman in the aspirant has been awakened by the trumpet of Israfel (The Angel) he proceeds by the path of ש . The next path the Aspirant must travel is that of ר —the Sun; the next that of ק —the Moon; the next that of צ —the Star. This path brings him to the Fire of Netzach. When this fire is extinguished comes the Voice or Lightning, after which the Light which guides the aspirant is Himself, his Holy Guardian Angel, the Âtman—Adonai.

29 The Âtman.

30 As the light of a lamp brought into a dark room is reflected by all surfaces around it, so is the illumination of the Adept reflected even by his unilluminated followers.


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