FIVE YEARS OF THEOSOPHY
Mystical, Philosophical, Theosophical, Historical and Scientific Essays Selected from "The Theosophist"
Edited by George Robert Snow Mead
The "Elixir of Life" Is the Desire to "Live" Selfish? Contemplation Chelas and Lay Chelas Ancient Opinions upon Psychic Bodies The Nilgiri Sannyasis Witchcraft on the Nilgiris Shamanism and Witchcraft Amongst the Kolarian Tribes Mahatmas and Chelas The Brahmanical Thread Reading in a Sealed Envelope The Twelve Signs of the Zodiac The Sishal and Bhukailas Yogis
True and False Personality Chastity Zorastrianism on the Septenary Constitution of Man Brahmanism on the Sevenfold Principle in Man The Septenary Principle in Esotericism Personal and Impersonal God Prakriti and Parusha Morality and Pantheism Occult Study Some Inquiries Suggested by Mr. Sinnett's "Esoteric Buddhism" Sakya Muni's Place in History Inscriptions Discovered by General A. Cunningham Discrimination of Spirit and Not-Spirit Was Writing Known Before Panini?
What is Theosophy? How a "Chela" Found His "Guru" The Sages of the Himavat The Himalayan Brothers—Do They Exist? Interview With a Mahatma The Secret Doctrine
The Puranas on the Dynasty of the Moryas and on Koothoomi The Theory of Cycles
Odorigen and Jiva Introversion of Mental Vision "Precipitation" "How Shall We Sleep?" Transmigration of the Life Atoms "OM" and its Practical Significance
FIVE YEARS OF THEOSOPHY
The "Elixir of Life" From a Chela's* Diary. By G—-M—-, F.T.S.
"And Enoch walked with the Elohim, and the Elohim took him." —Genesis
[The curious information-for whatsoever else the world may think of it, it will doubtless be acknowledged to be that—contained in the article that follows, merits a few words of introduction. The details given in it on the subject of what has always been considered as one of the darkest and most strictly guarded of the mysteries of the initiation into occultism—from the days of the Rishis until those of the Theosophical Society—came to the knowledge of the author in a way that would seem to the ordinary run of Europeans strange and supernatural. He himself, however, we may assure the reader, is a most thorough disbeliever in the Supernatural, though he has learned too much to limit the capabilities of the natural as some do. Further, he has to make the following confession of his own belief. It will be apparent, from a careful perusal of the facts, that if the matter be really as stated therein, the author cannot himself be an adept of high grade, as the article in such a case would never have been written. Nor does he pretend to be one. He is, or rather was, for a few years an humble Chela. Hence, the converse must consequently be also true, that as regards the higher stages of the mystery he can have no personal experience, but speaks of it only as a close observer left to his own surmises—and no more. He may, therefore, boldly state that during, and notwithstanding, his unfortunately rather too short stay with some adepts, he has by actual experiment and observation verified some of the less transcendental or incipient parts of the "Course." And, though it will be impossible for him to give positive testimony as to what lies beyond, he may yet mention that all his own course of study, training and experience, long, severe and dangerous as it has often been, leads him to the conviction that everything is really as stated, save some details purposely veiled. For causes which cannot be explained to the public, he himself may he unable or unwilling to use the secret he has gained access to. Still he is permitted by one to whom all his reverential affection and gratitude are due—his last guru—to divulge for the benefit of Science and Man, and specially for the good of those who are courageous enough to personally make the experiment, the following astounding particulars of the occult methods for prolonging life to a period far beyond the common.—G.M.]
————- * A. Chela is the pupil and disciple of an initiated Guru or Master.—Ed. ————-
Probably one of the first considerations which move the worldly-minded at present to solicit initiation into Theosophy is the belief, or hope, that, immediately on joining, some extraordinary advantage over the rest of mankind will be conferred upon the candidate. Some even think that the ultimate result of their initiation will perhaps be exemption from that dissolution which is called the common lot of mankind. The traditions of the "Elixir of Life," said to be in the possession of Kabalists and Alchemists, are still cherished by students of Medieval Occultism—in Europe. The allegory of the Ab-e Hyat or Water of Life, is still credited as a fact by the degraded remnants of the Asiatic esoteric sects ignorant of the real GREAT SECRET. The "pungent and fiery Essence," by which Zanoni renewed his existence, still fires the imagination of modern visionaries as a possible scientific discovery of the future.
Theosophically, though the fact is distinctly declared to be true, the above-named conceptions of the mode of procedure leading to the realization of the fact, are known to be false. The reader may or may not believe it; but as a matter of fact, Theosophical Occultists claim to have communication with (living) Intelligences possessing an infinitely wider range of observation than is contemplated even by the loftiest aspirations of modern science, all the present "Adepts" of Europe and America—dabblers in the Kabala—notwithstanding. But far even as those superior Intelligences have investigated (or, if preferred, are alleged to have investigated), and remotely as they may have searched by the help of inference and analogy, even They have failed to discover in the Infinity anything permanent but—SPACE. ALL IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE. Reflection, therefore, will easily suggest to the reader the further logical inference that in a Universe which is essentially impermanent in its conditions, nothing can confer permanency. Therefore, no possible substance, even if drawn from the depths of Infinity; no imaginable combination of drugs, whether of our earth or any other, though compounded by even the Highest Intelligence; no system of life or discipline though directed by the sternest determination and skill, could possibly produce Immutability. For in the universe of solar systems, wherever and however investigated, Immutability necessitates "Non-Being" in the physical sense given it by the Theists-Non-Being which is nothing in the narrow conceptions of Western Religionists—a reductio ad absurdum. This is a gratuitous insult even when applied to the pseudo-Christian or ecclesiastical Jehovite idea of God.
Consequently, it will be seen that the common ideal conception of "Immortality" is not only essentially wrong, but a physical and metaphysical impossibility. The idea, whether cherished by Theosophists or non-Theosophists, by Christians or Spiritualists, by Materialists or Idealists, is a chimerical illusion. But the actual prolongation of human life is possible for a time so long as to appear miraculous and incredible to those who regard our span of existence as necessarily limited to at most a couple of hundred years. We may break, as it were, the shock of Death, and instead of dying, change a sudden plunge into darkness to a transition into a brighter light. And this may be made so gradual that the passage from one state of existence to another shall have its friction minimized, so as to be practically imperceptible. This is a very different matter, and quite within the reach of Occult Science. In this, as in all other cases, means properly directed will gain their ends, and causes produce effects. Of course, the only question is, what are these causes, and how, in their turn, are they to be produced. To lift, as far as may be allowed, the veil from this aspect of Occultism, is the object of the present paper.
We must premise by reminding the reader of two Theosophic doctrines, constantly inculcated in "Isis" and in other mystic works—namely, (a) that ultimately the Kosmos is One—one under infinite variations and manifestations, and (b) that the so-called man is a "compound being"— composite not only in the exoteric scientific sense of being a congeries of living so-called material Units, but also in the esoteric sense of being a succession of seven forms or parts of itself, interblended with each other. To put it more clearly we might say that the more ethereal forms are but duplicates of the same aspect,—each finer one lying within the inter-atomic spaces of the next grosser. We would have the reader understand that these are no subtleties, no "spiritualities" at all in the Christo-Spiritualistic sense. In the actual man reflected in your mirror are really several men, or several parts of one composite man; each the exact counterpart of the other, but the "atomic conditions" (for want of a better word) of each of which are so arranged that its atoms interpenetrate those of the next "grosser" form. It does not, for our present purpose, matter how the Theosophists, Spiritualists, Buddhists, Kabalists, or Vedantists, count, separate, classify, arrange or name these, as that war of terms may be postponed to another occasion. Neither does it matter what relation each of these men has to the various "elements" of the Kosmos of which he forms a part. This knowledge, though of vital importance in other respects, need not be explained or discussed now. Nor does it much more concern us that the Scientists deny the existence of such an arrangement, because their instruments are inadequate to make their senses perceive it. We will simply reply—"get better instruments and keener senses, and eventually you will."
All we have to say is that if you are anxious to drink of the "Elixir of Life," and live a thousand years or so, you must take our word for the matter at present, and proceed on the assumption. For esoteric science does not give the faintest possible hope that the desired end will ever be attained by any other way; while modern, or so-called exact science—laughs at it.
So, then, we have arrived at the point where we have determined— literally, not metaphorically—to crack the outer shell known as the mortal coil or body, and hatch out of it, clothed in our next. This "next" is not spiritual, but only a more ethereal form. Having by a long training and preparation adapted it for a life in this atmosphere, during which time we have gradually made the outward shell to die off through a certain process (hints of which will be found further on) we have to prepare for this physiological transformation.
How are we to do it? In the first place we have the actual, visible, material body—Man, so called; though, in fact, but his outer shell—to deal with. Let us bear in mind that science teaches us that in about every seven years we change skin as effectually as any serpent; and this so gradually and imperceptibly that, had not science after years of unremitting study and observation assured us of it, no one would have had the slightest suspicion of the fact.
We see, moreover, that in process of time any cut or lesion upon the body, however deep, has a tendency to repair the loss and reunite; a piece of lost skin is very soon replaced by another. Hence, if a man, partially flayed alive, may sometimes survive and be covered with a new skin, so our astral, vital body—the fourth of the seven (having attracted and assimilated to itself the second) and which is so much more ethereal than the physical one—may be made to harden its particles to the atmospheric changes. The whole secret is to succeed in evolving it out, and separating it from the visible; and while its generally invisible atoms proceed to concrete themselves into a compact mass, to gradually get rid of the old particles of our visible frame so as to make them die and disappear before the new set has had time to evolve and replace them. We can say no more. The Magdalene is not the only one who could be accused of having "seven spirits" in her, though men who have a lesser number of spirits (what a misnomer that word!) in them, are not few or exceptional; they are the frequent failures of nature—the incomplete men and women.*
—————- * This is not to be taken as meaning that such persons are thoroughly destitute of some one or several of the seven principles—a man born without an arm has still its ethereal counterpart; but that they are so latent that they cannot be developed, and consequently are to be considered as non-existing.—Ed. Theos. —————
Each of these has in turn to survive the preceding and more dense one, and then die. The exception is the sixth when absorbed into and blended with the seventh. The "Phatu" * of the old Hindu physiologist had a dual meaning, the esoteric side of which corresponds with the Tibetan "Zung" (seven principles of the body).
We Asiatics, have a proverb, probably handed down to us, and by the Hindus repeated ignorantly as to its esoteric meaning. It has been known ever since the old Rishis mingled familiarly with the simple and noble people they taught and led on. The Devas had whispered into every man's ear—Thou only—if thou wilt—art "immortal." Combine with this the saying of a Western author that if any man could just realize for an instant, that he had to die some day, he would die that instant. The Illuminated will perceive that between these two sayings, rightly understood, stands revealed the whole secret of Longevity. We only die when our will ceases to be strong enough to make us live. In the majority of cases, death comes when the torture and vital exhaustion accompanying a rapid change in our physical conditions becomes so intense as to weaken, for one single instant, our "clutch on life," or the tenacity of the will to exist. Till then, however severe may be the disease, however sharp the pang, we are only sick or wounded, as the case may be.
—————- * Dhatu—the seven principal substances of the human body—chyle, flesh, blood, fat, bones, marrow, semen. —————-
This explains the cases of sudden deaths from joy, fright, pain, grief or such other causes. The sense of a life-task consummated, of the worthlessness of one's existence, if strongly realized, produced death as surely as poison or a rifle-bullet. On the other hand, a stern determination to continue to live, has, in fact, carried many through the crises of the most severe diseases, in perfect safety.
First, then, must be the determination—the Will—the conviction of certainty, to survive and continue.* Without that, all else is useless. And to be efficient for the purpose, it must be, not only a passing resolution of the moment, a single fierce desire of short duration, but a settled and continued strain, as nearly as can be continued and concentrated without one single moment's relaxation. In a word, the would-be "Immortal" must be on his watch night and day, guarding self against-himself. To live—to live—to live—must be his unswerving resolve. He must as little as possible allow himself to be turned aside from it. It may be said that this is the most concentrated form of selfishness,—that it is utterly opposed to our Theosophic professions of benevolence, and disinterestedness, and regard for the good of humanity. Well, viewed in a short-sighted way, it is so. But to do good, as in everything else, a man must have time and materials to work with, and this is a necessary means to the acquirement of powers by which infinitely more good can be done than without them.
————— * Col. Olcott has epigrammatically explained the creative or rather the re-creative power of the Will, in his "Buddhist Catechism." He there shows—of course, speaking on behalf of the Southern Buddhists—that this Will to live, if not extinguished in the present life, leaps over the chasm of bodily death, and recombines the Skandhas, or groups of qualities that made up the individual into a new personality. Man is, therefore, reborn as the result of his own unsatisfied yearning for objective existence. Col. Olcott puts it in this way:
Q. 123. What is that, in man, which gives him the impression of having a permanent individuality?
A. Tanha, or the unsatisfied desire for existence. The being having done that for which he must be rewarded or punished in future, and having Tanha, will have a rebirth through the influence of Karma.
Q. 124. ....What is it that is reborn?
A. A new aggregation of Skandhas, or individuality, caused by the last yearning of the dying person.
Q. 128. To what cause must we attribute the differences in the combination of the Five Skandhas has which makes every individual different from every other individual?
A. To the Karma of the individual in the next preceding birth.
Q. 129. What is the force or energy that is at work, under the guidance of Karma, to produce the new being?
A. Tanha—the "Will to Live." —————
When these are once mastered, the opportunities to use them will arrive, for there comes a moment when further watch and exertion are no longer needed:—the moment when the turning-point is safely passed. For the present as we deal with aspirants and not with advanced chelas, in the first stage a determined, dogged resolution, and an enlightened concentration of self on self, are all that is absolutely necessary. It must not, however, be considered that the candidate is required to be unhuman or brutal in his negligence of others. Such a recklessly selfish course would be as injurious to him as the contrary one of expending his vital energy on the gratification of his physical desires. All that is required from him is a purely negative attitude. Until the turning-point is reached, he must not "lay out" his energy in lavish or fiery devotion to any cause, however noble, however "good," however elevated.* Such, we can solemnly assure the reader, would bring its reward in many ways—perhaps in another life, perhaps in this world, but it would tend to shorten the existence it is desired to preserve, as surely as self-indulgence and profligacy. That is why very few of the truly great men of the world (of course, the unprincipled adventurers who have applied great powers to bad uses are out of the question)—the martyrs, the heroes, the founders of religions, the liberators of nations, the leaders of reforms—ever became members of the long-lived "Brotherhood of Adepts" who were by some and for long years accused of selfishness. (And that is also why the Yogis, and the Fakirs of modern India—most of whom are acting now but on the dead-letter tradition, are required if they would be considered living up to the principles of their profession—to appear entirely dead to every inward feeling or emotion.) Notwithstanding the purity of their hearts, the greatness of their aspirations, the disinterestedness of their self-sacrifice, they could not live for they had missed the hour.
———— * On page 151 of Mr. Sinnett's "Occult World," the author's much abused, and still more doubted correspondent assures him that none yet of his "degree are like the stern hero of Bulwer's" Zanoni.... "the heartless morally dried up mummies some would fancy us to be" and adds that few of them "would care to play the part in life of a desiccated pansy between the leaves of a volume of solemn poetry." But our adept omits saying that one or two degrees higher, and he will have to submit for a period of years to such a mummifying process unless, indeed, he would voluntarily give up a life-long labour and—Die.—Ed. —————
They may at times have exercised powers which the world called miraculous; they may have electrified man and subdued Nature by fiery and self-devoted Will; they may have been possessed of a so-called superhuman intelligence; they may have even had knowledge of, and communion with, members of our own occult Brotherhood; but, having deliberately resolved to devote their vital energy to the welfare of others, rather than to themselves, they have surrendered life; and, when perishing on the cross or the scaffold, or falling, sword in hand, upon the battle-field, or sinking exhausted after a successful consummation of the life-object, on death-beds in their chambers, they have all alike had to cry out at last: "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani!"
So far so good. But, given the will to live, however powerful, we have seen that, in the ordinary course of mundane life, the throes of dissolution cannot be checked. The desperate, and again and again renewed struggle of the Kosmic elements to proceed with a career of change despite the will that is checking them, like a pair of runaway horses struggling against the determined driver holding them in, are so cumulatively powerful, that the utmost efforts of the untrained human will acting within an unprepared body become ultimately useless. The highest intrepidity of the bravest soldier; the interest desire of the yearning lover; the hungry greed of the unsatisfied miser; the most undoubting faith of the sternest fanatic; the practiced insensibility to pain of the hardiest red Indian brave or half-trained Hindu Yogi; the most deliberate philosophy of the calmest thinker—all alike fail at last. Indeed, sceptics will allege in opposition to the verities of this article that, as a matter of experience, it is often observed that the mildest and most irresolute of minds and the weakest of physical frames are often seen to resist "Death" longer than the powerful will of the high-spirited and obstinately-egotistic man, and the iron frame of the labourer, the warrior and the athlete. In reality, however, the key to the secret of these apparently contradictory phenomena is the true conception of the very thing we have already said. If the physical development of the gross "outer shell" proceeds on parallel lines and at an equal rate with that of the will, it stands to reason that no advantage for the purpose of overcoming it, is attained by the latter. The acquisition of improved breechloaders by one modern army confers no absolute superiority if the enemy also becomes possessed of them. Consequently it will be at once apparent, to those who think on the subject, that much of the training by which what is known as "a powerful and determined nature," perfects itself for its own purpose on the stage of the visible world, necessitating and being useless without a parallel development of the "gross" and so-called animal frame, is, in short, neutralized, for the purpose at present treated of, by the fact that its own action has armed the enemy with weapons equal to its own. The force of the impulse to dissolution is rendered equal to the will to oppose it; and being cumulative, subdues the will-power and triumphs at last. On the other hand, it may happen that an apparently weak and vacillating will-power residing in a weak and undeveloped physical frame, may be so reinforced by some unsatisfied desire—the Ichcha (wish)—as it is called by the Indian Occultists (for instance, a mother's heart-yearning to remain and support her fatherless children)—as to keep down and vanquish, for a short time, the physical throes of a body to which it has become temporarily superior.
The whole rationale then, of the first condition of continued existence in this world, is (a) the development of a Will so powerful as to overcome the hereditary (in a Darwinian sense) tendencies of the atoms composing the "gross" and palpable animal frame, to hurry on at a particular period in a certain course of Kosmic change; and (b) to so weaken the concrete action of that animal frame as to make it more amenable to the power of the Will. To defeat an army, you must demoralize and throw it into disorder.
To do this then, is the real object of all the rites, ceremonies, fasts, "prayers," meditations, initiations and procedures of self-discipline enjoined by various esoteric Eastern sects, from that course of pure and elevated aspiration which leads to the higher phases of Adeptism Real, down to the fearful and disgusting ordeals which the adherent of the "Left-hand-Road" has to pass through, all the time maintaining his equilibrium. The procedures have their merits and their demerits, their separate uses and abuses, their essential and non-essential parts, their various veils, mummeries, and labyrinths. But in all, the result aimed at is reached, if by different processes. The Will is strengthened, encouraged and directed, and the elements opposing its action are demoralized. Now, to any one who has thought out and connected the various evolution theories, as taken, not from any occult source, but from the ordinary scientific manual accessible to all—from the hypothesis of the latest variation in the habits of species—say, the acquisition of carnivorous habits by the New Zealand parrot, for instance—to the farthest glimpses backwards into Space and Eternity afforded by the "Fire Mist" doctrine, it will be apparent that they all rest on one basis. That basis is, that the impulse once given to a hypothetical Unit has a tendency to continue; and consequently, that anything "done" by something at a certain time and certain place tends to repeat itself at other times and places.
Such is the admitted rationale of heredity and atavism. That the same things apply to our ordinary conduct is apparent from the notorious ease with which "habits,"—bad or good, as the case may be—are acquired, and it will not be questioned that this applies, as a rule, as much to the moral and intellectual, as to the physical world.
Furthermore, History and Science teach us plainly that certain physical habits conduce to certain moral and intellectual results. There never yet was a conquering nation of vegetarians. Even in the old Aryan times, we do not learn that the very Rishis, from whose lore and practice we gain the knowledge of Occultism, ever interdicted the Kshetriya (military) caste from hunting or a carnivorous diet. Filling, as they did, a certain place in the body politic in the actual condition of the world, the Rishis as little thought of interfering with them, as of restraining the tigers of the jungle from their habits. That did not affect what the Rishis did themselves.
The aspirant to longevity then must be on his guard against two dangers. He must beware especially of impure and animal* thoughts. For Science shows that thought is dynamic, and the thought-force evolved by nervous action expanding outwardly, must affect the molecular relations of the physical man. The inner men,** however sublimated their organism may be, are still composed of actual, not hypothetical, particles, and are still subject to the law that an "action" has a tendency to repeat itself; a tendency to set up analogous action in the grosser "shell" they are in contact with, and concealed within.
————— * In other words, the thought tends to provoke the deed.—G.M.
** We use the word in the plural, reminding the reader that, according to our doctrine, man is septenary.—G.M. —————
And, on the other hand, certain actions have a tendency to produce actual physical conditions unfavourable to pure thoughts, hence to the state required for developing the supremacy of the inner man.
To return to the practical process. A normally healthy mind, in a normally healthy body, is a good starting-point. Though exceptionally powerful and self-devoted natures may sometimes recover the ground lost by mental degradation or physical misuse, by employing proper means, under the direction of unswerving resolution, yet often things may have gone so far that there is no longer stamina enough to sustain the conflict sufficiently long to perpetuate this life; though what in Eastern parlance is called the "merit" of the effort will help to ameliorate conditions and improve matters in another.
However this may be, the prescribed course of self-discipline commences here. It may be stated briefly that its essence is a course of moral, mental, and physical development, carried on in parallel lines—one being useless without the other. The physical man must be rendered more ethereal and sensitive; the mental man more penetrating and profound; the moral man more self-denying and philosophical. And it may be mentioned that all sense of restraint—even if self-imposed—is useless. Not only is all "goodness" that results from the compulsion of physical force, threats, or bribes (whether of a physical or so-called "spiritual" nature) absolutely useless to the person who exhibits it, its hypocrisy tending to poison the moral atmosphere of the world, but the desire to be "good" or "pure," to be efficacious must be spontaneous. It must be a self-impulse from within, a real preference for something higher, not an abstention from vice because of fear of the law: not a chastity enforced by the dread of Public Opinion; not a benevolence exercised through love of praise or dread of consequences in a hypothetical Future Life.*
————— * Col. Olcott clearly and succinctly explains the Buddhist doctrine of Merit or Karma, in his "Buddhist Catechism." (Question 83).—G.M. —————
It will be seen now in connection with the doctrine of the tendency to the renewal of action, before discussed, that the course of self-discipline recommended as the only road to Longevity by Occultism is not a "visionary" theory dealing with vague "ideas," but actually a scientifically devised system of drill. It is a system by which each particle of the several men composing the septenary individual receives an impulse, and a habit of doing what is necessary for certain purposes of its own free-will and with "pleasure." Every one must be practiced and perfect in a thing to do it with pleasure. This rule especially applies to the case of the development of Man. "Virtue" may be very good in its way—it may lead to the grandest results. But to become efficacious it has to be practiced cheerfully not with reluctance or pain. As a consequence of the above consideration the candidate for Longevity at the commencement of his career must begin to eschew his physical desires, not from any sentimental theory of right or wrong, but for the following good reason. As, according to a well-known and now established scientific theory, his visible material frame is always renewing its particles; he will, while abstaining from the gratification of his desires, reach the end of a certain period during which those particles which composed the man of vice, and which were given a bad predisposition, will have departed. At the same time, the disuse of such functions will tend to obstruct the entry, in place of the old particles, of new particles having a tendency to repeat the said acts. And while this is the particular result as regards certain "vices," the general result of an abstention from "gross" acts will be (by a modification of the well-known Darwinian law of atrophy by non-usage) to diminish what we may call the "relative" density and coherence of the outer shell (as a result of its less-used molecules); while the diminution in the quantity of its actual constituents will he "made up" (if tried by scales and weights) by the increased admission of more ethereal particles.
What physical desires are to be abandoned and in what order? First and foremost, he must give up alcohol in all forms; for while it supplies no nourishment, nor any direct pleasure (beyond such sweetness or fragrance as may be gained in the taste of wine, &c., to which alcohol, in itself, is non-essential) to even the grossest elements of the "physical" frame, it induces a violence of action, a rush so to speak, of life, the stress of which can only be sustained by very dull, gross, and dense elements, and which, by the operation of the well-known law of Re-action (in commercial phrase, "supply and demand") tends to summon them from the surrounding universe, and therefore directly counteracts the object we have in view.
Next comes meat-eating, and for the very same reason, in a minor degree. It increases the rapidity of life, the energy of action, the violence of passions. It may be good for a hero who has to fight and die, but not for a would-be sage who has to exist and....
Next in order come the sexual desires; for these, in addition to the great diversion of energy (vital force) into other channels, in many different ways, beyond the primary one (as, for instance, the waste of energy in expectation, jealousy, &c.), are direct attractions to a certain gross quality of the original matter of the Universe, simply because the most pleasurable physical sensations are only possible at that stage of density. Alongside with and extending beyond all these and other gratifications of the senses (which include not only those things usually known as "vicious," but all those which, though ordinarily regarded as "innocent," have yet the disqualification of ministering to the pleasures of the body—the most harmless to others and the least "gross" being the criterion for those to be last abandoned in each case)—must be carried on the moral purification.
Nor must it be imagined that "austerities" as commonly understood can, in the majority of cases, avail much to hasten the "etherealizing" process. That is the rock on which many of the Eastern esoteric sects have foundered, and the reason why they have degenerated into degrading superstitions. The Western monks and the Eastern Yogees, who think they will reach the apex of powers by concentrating their thought on their navel, or by standing on one leg, are practicing exercises which serve no other purpose than to strengthen the willpower, which is sometimes applied to the basest purposes. These are examples of this one-sided and dwarf development. It is no use to fast as long as you require food. The ceasing of desire for food without impairment of health is the sign which indicates that it should be taken in lesser and ever decreasing quantities until the extreme limit compatible with life is reached. A stage will be finally attained where only water will be required.
Nor is it of any use for this particular purpose of longevity to abstain from immorality so long as you are craving for it in your heart; and so on with all other unsatisfied inward cravings. To get rid of the inward desire is the essential thing, and to mimic the real thing without it is barefaced hypocrisy and useless slavery.
So it must be with the moral purification of the heart. The "basest" inclinations must go first—then the others. First avarice, then fear, then envy, worldly pride, uncharitableness, hatred; last of all ambition and curiosity must be abandoned successively. The strengthening of the more ethereal and so-called "spiritual" parts of the man must go on at the same time. Reasoning from the known to the unknown, meditation must be practiced and encouraged. Meditation is the inexpressible yearning of the inner Man to "go out towards the infinite," which in the olden time was the real meaning of adoration, but which has now no synonym in the European languages, because the thing no longer exists in the West, and its name has been vulgarized to the make-believe shams known as prayer, glorification, and repentance. Through all stages of training the equilibrium of the consciousness—the assurance that all must be right in the Kosmos, and therefore with you a portion of it—must be retained. The process of life must not be hurried but retarded, if possible; to do otherwise may do good to others— perhaps even to yourself in other spheres, but it will hasten your dissolution in this.
Nor must the externals be neglected in this first stage. Remember that an adept, though "existing" so as to convey to ordinary minds the idea of his being immortal, is not also invulnerable to agencies from without. The training to prolong life does not, in itself, secure one from accidents. As far as any physical preparation goes, the sword may still cut, the disease enter, the poison disarrange. This case is very clearly and beautifully put in "Zanoni," and it is correctly put and must be so, unless all "adeptism" is a baseless lie. The adept may be more secure from ordinary dangers than the common mortal, but he is so by virtue of the superior knowledge, calmness, coolness and penetration which his lengthened existence and its necessary concomitants have enabled him to acquire; not by virtue of any preservative power in the process itself. He is secure as a man armed with a rifle is more secure than a naked baboon; not secure in the sense in which the deva (god) was supposed to be securer than a man.
If this is so in the case of the high adept, how much more necessary is it that the neophyte should be not only protected but that he himself should use all possible means to ensure for himself the necessary duration of life to complete the process of mastering the phenomena we call death! It may be said, why do not the higher adepts protect him? Perhaps they do to some extent, but the child must learn to walk alone; to make him independent of his own efforts in respect to safety, would be destroying one element necessary to his development—the sense of responsibility. What courage or conduct would be called for in a man sent to fight when armed with irresistible weapons and clothed in impenetrable armour? Hence the neophyte should endeavour, as far as possible, to fulfill every true canon of sanitary law as laid down by modern scientists. Pure air, pure water, pure food, gentle exercise, regular hours, pleasant occupations and surroundings, are all, if not indispensable, at least serviceable to his progress. It is to secure these, at least as much as silence and solitude, that the Gods, Sages, Occultists of all ages have retired as much as possible to the quiet of the country, the cool cave, the depths of the forest, the expanse of the desert, or the heights of the mountains. Is it not suggestive that the Gods have always loved the "high places"; and that in the present day the highest section of the Occult Brotherhood on earth inhabits the highest mountain plateaux of the earth?*
————- * The stern prohibition to the Jews to serve "their gods upon the high mountains and upon the hills" is traced back to the unwillingness of their ancient elders to allow people in most cases unfit for adeptship to choose a life of celibacy and asceticism, or in other words, to pursue adeptship. This prohibition had an esoteric meaning before it became the prohibition, incomprehensible in its dead-letter sense: for it is not India alone whose sons accorded divine honours to the Wise Ones, but all nations regarded their adepts and initiates as divine.— G.M. ————-
Nor must the beginner disdain the assistance of medicine and good medical regimen. He is still an ordinary mortal, and he requires the aid of an ordinary mortal.
"Suppose, however, all the conditions required, or which will be understood as required (for the details and varieties of treatment requisite, are too numerous to be detailed here), are fulfilled, what is the next step?" the reader will ask. Well if there have been no backslidings or remissness in the procedure indicated, the following physical results will follow:—
First the neophyte will take more pleasure in things spiritual and pure. Gradually gross and material occupations will become not only uncraved for or forbidden, but simply and literally repulsive to him. He will take more pleasure in the simple sensations of Nature—the sort of feeling one can remember to have experienced as a child. He will feel more light-hearted, confident, happy. Let him take care the sensation of renewed youth does not mislead, or he will yet risk a fall into his old baser life and even lower depths. "Action and Re-action are equal."
Now the desire for food will begin to cease. Let it be left off gradually—no fasting is required. Take what you feel you require. The food craved for will be the most innocent and simple. Fruit and milk will usually be the best. Then as till now, you have been simplifying the quality of your food, gradually—very gradually—as you feel capable of it diminish the quantity. You will ask: "Can a man exist without food?" No, but before you mock, consider the character of the process alluded to. It is a notorious fact that many of the lowest and simplest organisms have no excretions. The common guinea-worm is a very good instance. It has rather a complicated organism, but it has no ejaculatory duct. All it consumes—the poorest essences of the human body—is applied to its growth and propagation. Living as it does in human tissue, it passes no digested food away. The human neophyte, at a certain stage of his development, is in a somewhat analogous condition, with this difference or differences, that he does excrete, but it is through the pores of his skin, and by those too enter other etherealized particles of matter to contribute towards his support.* Otherwise, all the food and drink is sufficient only to keep in equilibrium those "gross" parts of his physical body which still remain to repair their cuticle-waste through the medium of the blood. Later on, the process of cell-development in his frame will undergo a change; a change for the better, the opposite of that in disease for the worse—he will become all living and sensitive, and will derive nourishment from the Ether (Akas). But that epoch for our neophyte is yet far distant.
————- * He is in a state similar to the physical state of a fetus before birth into the world.—G.M. ————-
Probably, long before that period has arrived, other results, no less surprising than incredible to the uninitiated will have ensued to give our neophyte courage and consolation in his difficult task. It would be but a truism to repeat what has been again alleged (in ignorance of its real rationale) by hundreds and hundreds of writers as to the happiness and content conferred by a life of innocence and purity. But often at the very commencement of the process some real physical result, unexpected and unthought of by the neophyte, occurs. Some lingering disease, hitherto deemed hopeless, may take a favourable turn; or he may develop healing mesmeric powers himself; or some hitherto unknown sharpening of his senses may delight him. The rationale of these things is, as we have said, neither miraculous nor difficult of comprehension. In the first place, the sudden change in the direction of the vital energy (which, whatever view we take of it and its origin, is acknowledged by all schools of philosophy as most recondite, and as the motive power) must produce results of some kind. In the second, Theosophy shows, as we said before, that a man consists of several men pervading each other, and on this view (although it is very difficult to express the idea in language) it is but natural that the progressive etherealization of the densest and most gross of all should leave the others literally more at liberty. A troop of horses may be blocked by a mob and have much difficulty in fighting its way through; but if every one of the mob could be changed suddenly into a ghost, there would be little to retard it. And as each interior entity is more rare, active, and volatile than the outer and as each has relation with different elements, spaces, and properties of the Kosmos which are treated of in other articles on Occultism, the mind of the reader may conceive—though the pen of the writer could not express it in a dozen volumes—the magnificent possibilities gradually unfolded to the neophyte.
Many of the opportunities thus suggested may be taken advantage of by the neophyte for his own safety, amusement, and the good of those around him; but the way in which he does this is one adapted to his fitness—a part of the ordeal he has to pass through, and misuse of these powers will certainly entail the loss of them as a natural result. The Itchcha (or desire) evoked anew by the vistas they open up will retard or throw back his progress.
But there is another portion of the Great Secret to which we must allude, and which is now, for the first, in a long series of ages, allowed to be given out to the world, as the hour for it is come.
The educated reader need not be reminded again that one of the great discoveries which has immortalized the name of Darwin is the law that an organism has always a tendency to repeat, at an analogous period in its life, the action of its progenitors, the more surely and completely in proportion to their proximity in the scale of life. One result of this is, that, in general, organized beings usually die at a period (on an average) the same as that of their progenitors. It is true that there is a great difference between the actual ages at which individuals of any species die. Disease, accidents and famine are the main agents in causing this. But there is, in each species, a well-known limit within which the Race-life lies, and none are known to survive beyond it. This applies to the human species as well as any other. Now, supposing that every possible sanitary condition had been complied with, and every accident and disease avoided by a man of ordinary frame, in some particular case there would still, as is known to medical men, come a time when the particles of the body would feel the hereditary tendency to do that which leads inevitably to dissolution, and would obey it. It must be obvious to any reflecting man that, if by any procedure this critical climacteric could be once thoroughly passed over, the subsequent danger of "Death" would be proportionally less as the years progressed. Now this, which no ordinary and unprepared mind and body can do, is possible sometimes for the will and the frame of one who has been specially prepared. There are fewer of the grosser particles present to feel the hereditary bias—there is the assistance of the reinforced "interior men" (whose normal duration is always greater even in natural death) to the visible outer shell, and there is the drilled and indomitable Will to direct and wield the whole.*
—————- * In this connection we may as well show what modern science, and especially physiology has to say as to the power of the human will. "The force of will is a potent element in determining longevity. This single point must be granted without argument, that of two men every way alike and similarly circumstanced, the one who has the greater courage and grit will be longer-lived. One does not need to practice medicine long to learn that men die who might just as well live if they resolved to live, and that myriads who are invalids could become strong if they had the native or acquired will to vow they would do so. Those who have no other quality favourable to life, whose bodily organs are nearly all diseased, to whom each day is a day of pain, who are beset by life-shortening influences, yet do live by will alone." —Dr. George M. Beard. ——————-
From that time forward the course of the aspirant is clearer. He has conquered "the Dweller of the Threshold"—the hereditary enemy of his race, and, though still exposed to ever-new dangers in his progress towards Nirvana, he is flushed with victory, and with new confidence and new powers to second it, can press onwards to perfection.
For, it must be remembered, that nature everywhere acts by Law, and that the process of purification we have been describing in the visible material body, also takes place in those which are interior, and not visible to the scientist by modifications of the same process. All is on the change, and the metamorphoses of the more ethereal bodies imitate, though in successively multiplied duration, the career of the grosser, gaining an increasing wider range of relations with the surrounding kosmos, till in Nirvana the most rarefied Individuality is merged at last into the INFINITE TOTALITY.
From the above description of the process, it will be inferred why it is that "Adepts" are so seldom seen in ordinary life; for, pari passu, with the etherealization of their bodies and the development of their power, grows an increasing distaste, and a so-to-speak, "contempt" for the things of our ordinary mundane existence. Like the fugitive who successively casts away in his flight those articles which incommode his progress, beginning with the heaviest, so the aspirant eluding "Death" abandons all on which the latter can take hold. In the progress of Negation everything got rid of is a help. As we said before, the adept does not become "immortal" as the word is ordinarily understood. By or about the time when the Death-limit of his race is passed he is actually dead, in the ordinary sense, that is to say, he has relieved himself of all or nearly all such material particles as would have necessitated in disruption the agony of dying. He has been dying gradually during the whole period of his Initiation. The catastrophe cannot happen twice over. He has only spread over a number of years the mild process of dissolution which others endure from a brief moment to a few hours. The highest Adept is, in fact, dead to, and absolutely unconscious of, the world; he is oblivious of its pleasures, careless of its miseries, in so far as sentimentalism goes, for the stern sense of DUTY never leaves him blind to its very existence. For the new ethereal senses opening to wider spheres are to ours much in the relation of ours to the Infinitely Little. New desires and enjoyments, new dangers and new hindrances arise, with new sensations and new perceptions; and far away down in the mist—both literally and metaphorically—is our dirty little earth left below by those who have virtually "gone to join the gods."
And from this account too, it will be perceptible how foolish it is for people to ask the Theosophist to "procure for them communication with the highest Adepts." It is with the utmost difficulty that one or two can be induced, even by the throes of a world, to injure their own progress by meddling with mundane affairs. The ordinary reader will say: "This is not god-like. This is the acme of selfishness." .... But let him realize that a very high Adept, undertaking to reform the world, would necessarily have to once more submit to Incarnation. And is the result of all that have gone before in that line sufficiently encouraging to prompt a renewal of the attempt?
A deep consideration of all that we have written, will also give the Theosophists an idea of what they demand when they ask to be put in the way of gaining practically "higher powers." Well, there, as plainly as words can put it, is the PATH .... can they tread it?
Nor must it be disguised that what to the ordinary mortal are unexpected dangers, temptations and enemies also beset the way of the neophyte. And that for no fanciful cause, but the simple reason that he is, in fact, acquiring new senses, has yet no practice in their use, and has never before seen the things he sees. A man born blind suddenly endowed with vision would not at once master the meaning of perspective, but would, like a baby, imagine in one case, the moon to be within his reach, and, in the other, grasp a live coal with the most reckless confidence.
And what, it may be asked, is to recompense this abnegation of all the pleasures of life, this cold surrender of all mundane interests, this stretching forward to an unknown goal which seems ever more unattainable? For, unlike some of the anthropomorphic creeds, Occultism offers to its votaries no eternally permanent heaven of material pleasure, to be gained at once by one quick dash through the grave. As has, in fact, often been the case many would be prepared willingly to die now for the sake of the paradise hereafter. But Occultism gives no such prospect of cheaply and immediately gained infinitude of pleasure, wisdom and existence. It only promises extensions of these, stretching in successive arches obscured by successive veils, in an unbroken series up the long vista which leads to NIRVANA. And this too, qualified by the necessity that new powers entail new responsibilities, and that the capacity of increased pleasure entails the capacity of increased sensibility to pain. To this, the only answer that can be given is two-fold: (1st) the consciousness of Power is itself the most exquisite of pleasures, and is unceasingly gratified in the progress onwards with new means for its exercise and (2ndly) as has been already said—THIS is the only road by which there is the faintest scientific likelihood that "Death" can be avoided, perpetual memory secured, infinite wisdom attained, and hence an immense helping of mankind made possible, once that the adept has safely crossed the turning-point. Physical as well as metaphysical logic requires and endorses the fact that only by gradual absorption into infinity can the Part become acquainted with the Whole, and that that which is now something can only feel, know, and enjoy EVERYTHING when lost in Absolute Totality in the vortex of that Unalterable Circle wherein our Knowledge becomes Ignorance, and the Everything itself is identified with the NOTHING.
Is the Desire to "Live" Selfish?
The passage "to live, to live, to live must be the unswerving resolve," occurring in the article on the Elixir of Life, is often quoted by superficial and unsympathetic readers as an argument that the teachings of occultism are the most concentrated form of selfishness. In order to determine whether the critics are right or wrong, the meaning of the word "selfishness" must first be ascertained.
According to an established authority, selfishness is that "exclusive regard to one's own interest or happiness; that supreme self-love or self-preference which leads a person to direct his purposes to the advancement of his own interest, power, or happiness, without regarding those of others."
In short, an absolutely selfish individual is one who cares for himself and none else, or, in other words, one who is so strongly imbued with a sense of the importance of his own personality that to him it is the crown of all thoughts, desires, and aspirations, and beyond which lies the perfect blank. Now, can an occultist be then said to be "selfish" when he desires to live in the sense in which that word is used by the writer of the article on the Elixir of Life? It has been said over and over again that the ultimate end of every aspirant after occult knowledge is Nirvana or Mukti, when the individual, freed from all Mayavic Upadhi, becomes one with Paramatma, or the Son identifies himself with the Father in Christian phraseology. For that purpose, every veil of illusion which creates a sense of personal isolation, a feeling of separateness from THE ALL, must be torn asunder, or, in other words, the aspirant must gradually discard all sense of selfishness with which we are all more or less affected. A study of the Law of Kosmic Evolution teaches us that the higher the evolution, the more does it tend towards Unity. In fact, Unity is the ultimate possibility of Nature, and those who through vanity and selfishness go against her purposes, cannot but incur the punishment of annihilation. The occultist thus recognizes that unselfishness and a feeling of universal philanthropy are the inherent laws of our being, and all he does is to attempt to destroy the chains of selfishness forged upon us all by Maya. The struggle then between Good and Evil, God and Satan, Suras and Asuras, Devas and Daityas, which is mentioned in the sacred books of all the nations and races, symbolizes the battle between unselfish and selfish impulses, which takes place in a man, who tries to follow the higher purposes of Nature, until the lower animal tendencies, created by selfishness, are completely conquered, and the enemy thoroughly routed and annihilated. It has also been often put forth in various Theosophical and other occult writings that the only difference between an ordinary man who works along with Nature during the course of Kosmic evolution and an occultist, is that the latter, by his superior knowledge, adopts such methods of training and discipline as will hurry on that process of evolution, and he thus reaches in a comparatively short time the apex which the ordinary individual will take perhaps billions of years to reach. In short, in a few thousand years he approaches that type of evolution which ordinary humanity attains in the sixth or seventh Round of the Manvantara, i.e., cyclic progression. It is evident that an average man cannot become a MAHATMA in one life, or rather in one incarnation. Now those, who have studied the occult teachings concerning Devachan and our after-states, will remember that between two incarnations there is a considerable period of subjective existence. The greater the number of such Devachanic periods, the greater is the number of years over which this evolution is extended. The chief aim of the occultist is therefore to so control himself as to be able to regulate his future states, and thereby gradually shorten the duration of his Devachanic existence between two incarnations. In the course of his progress, there comes a time when, between one physical death and his next rebirth, there is no Devachan but a kind of spiritual sleep, the shock of death, having, so to say, stunned him into a state of unconsciousness from which he gradually recovers to find himself reborn, to continue his purpose. The period of this sleep may vary from twenty-five to two hundred years, depending upon the degree of his advancement. But even this period may be said to be a waste of time, and hence all his exertions are directed to shorten its duration so as to gradually come to a point when the passage from one state of existence into another is almost imperceptible. This is his last incarnation, as it were, for the shock of death no more stuns him. This is the idea the writer of the article on the Elixir of Life means to convey when he says:
By or about the time when the Death-limit of his race is passed he is actually dead, in the ordinary sense, that is to say, he has relieved himself of all or nearly all such material particles as would have necessitated in disruption the agony of dying. He has been dying gradually during the whole period of his Initiation. The catastrophe cannot happen twice over, he has only spread over a number of years the mild process of dissolution which others endure from a brief moment to a few hours. The highest Adept is, in fact, dead to, and absolutely unconscious of, the World; he is oblivious of its pleasures, careless of its miseries, in so far as sentimentalism goes, for the stern sense of Duty never leaves him blind to its very existence....
The process of the emission and attraction of atoms, which the occultist controls, has been discussed at length in that article and in other writings. It is by these means that he gets rid gradually of all the old gross particles of his body, substituting for them finer and more ethereal ones, till at last the former sthula sarira is completely dead and disintegrated, and he lives in a body entirely of his own creation, suited to his work. That body is essential to his purposes; as the Elixir of Life says:—
To do good, as in every thing else, a man most have time and materials to Work with, and this is a necessary means to the acquirement of powers by which infinitely more good can be done than without them. When these are once mastered, the opportunities to use them will arrive....
Giving the practical instructions for that purpose, the same paper continues:—
The physical man must be rendered more ethereal and sensitive; the mental man more penetrating and profound; the moral man more self-denying and philosophical.
Losing sight of the above important considerations, the following passage is entirely misunderstood:—
And from this account too, it will be perceptible how foolish it is for people to ask the Theosophist "to procure for them communication with the highest Adepts." It is with the utmost difficulty that one or two can be induced, even by the throes of a world, to injure their own progress by meddling with mundane affairs. The ordinary reader will say: "This is not god-like. This is the acme of selfishness." ....But let him realize that a very high Adept, undertaking to reform the world, would necessarily have to once more submit to Incarnation. And is the result of all that have gone before in that line sufficiently encouraging to prompt a renewal of the attempt?
Now, in condemning the above passage as inculcating selfishness, superficial critics neglect many profound truths. In the first place, they forget the other extracts already quoted which impose self-denial as a necessary condition of success, and which say that, with progress, new senses and new powers are acquired with which infinitely more good can be done than without them. The more spiritual the Adept becomes the less can he meddle with mundane gross affairs and the more he has to confine himself to spiritual work. It has been repeated, times out of number, that the work on the spiritual plane is as superior to the work on the intellectual plane as the latter is superior to that on the physical plane. The very high Adepts, therefore, do help humanity, but only spiritually: they are constitutionally incapable of meddling with worldly affairs. But this applies only to very high Adepts. There are various degrees of Adept-ship, and those of each degree work for humanity on the planes to which they may have risen. It is only the chelas that can live in the world, until they rise to a certain degree. And it is because the Adepts do care for the world that they make their chelas live in and work for it, as many of those who study the subject are aware. Each cycle produces its own occultists capable of working for the humanity of the time on all the different planes; but when the Adepts foresee that at a particular period humanity will he incapable of producing occultists for work on particular planes, for such occasions they do provide by either voluntarily giving up their further progress and waiting until humanity reaches that period, or by refusing to enter into Nirvana and submitting to re-incarnation so as to be ready for work when the time comes. And although the world may not be aware of the fact, yet there are even now certain Adepts who have preferred to remain in statu quo and refuse to take the higher degrees, for the benefit of the future generations of humanity. In short, as the Adepts work harmoniously, since unity is the fundamental law of their being, they have, as it were, made a division of labour, according to which each works on the plane appropriate to himself for the spiritual elevation of us all—and the process of longevity mentioned in the Elixir of Life is only the means to the end which, far from being selfish, is the most unselfish purpose for which a human being can labour.
A general misconception on this subject seems to prevail. One confines oneself for some time in a room, and passively gazes at one's nose, a spot on the wall, or, perhaps, a crystal, under the impression that such is the true form of contemplation enjoined by Raj Yoga. Many fail to realize that true occultism requires a physical, mental, moral and spiritual development to run on parallel lines, and injure themselves, physically and spiritually, by practice of what they falsely believe to be Dhyan. A few instances may be mentioned here with advantage, as a warning to over-zealous students.
At Bareilly the writer met a member of the Theosophical Society from Farrukhabad, who narrated his experiences and shed bitter tears of repentance for his past follies—as he termed them. It appears from his account that fifteen or twenty years ago having read about contemplation in the Bhagavad Gita, he undertook the practice of it, without a proper comprehension of its esoteric meaning and carried it on for several years. At first he experienced a sense of pleasure, but simultaneously he found he was gradually losing self-control; until after a few years he discovered, to his great bewilderment and sorrow, that he was no longer his own master. He felt his heart actually growing heavy, as though a load had been placed on it. He had no control over his sensations the communication between the brain and the heart had become as though interrupted. As matters grew worse, in disgust he discontinued his "contemplation." This happened as long as seven years ago; and, although since then he has not felt worse, yet he could never regain his original healthy state of mind and body.
Another case came under the writer's observation at Jubbulpore. The gentleman concerned, after reading Patanjali and such other works, began to sit for "contemplation." After a short time he commenced seeing abnormal sights and hearing musical bells, but neither over these phenomena nor over his own sensations could he exercise any control. He could not produce these results at will, nor could he stop them when they were occurring. Numerous such examples may be cited. While penning these lines, the writer has on his table two letters upon this subject, one from Moradabad and the other from Trichinopoly. In short, all this mischief is due to a misunderstanding of the significance of contemplation as enjoined upon students by all the schools of Occult Philosophy. With a view to afford a glimpse of the Reality through the dense veil that enshrouds the mysteries of this Science of Sciences, an article, the Elixir of Life, was written. Unfortunately, in too many instances, the seed seems to have fallen upon barren ground. Some of its readers pin their faith to the following clause in that paper:— Reasoning from the known to the unknown meditation must be practiced and encouraged.
But, alas! their preconceptions have prevented them from comprehending what is meant by meditation. They forget that the meditation spoken of "is the inexpressible yearning of the inner Man to 'go out towards the infinite,' which in the olden time was the real meaning of adoration"— as the next sentence shows. A good deal of light would be thrown upon this subject if the reader were to turn to an earlier part of the same paper, and peruse attentively the following paragraphs:—
So, then, we have arrived at the point where we have determined— literally, not metaphorically—to crack the outer shell known as the mortal coil or body, and hatch out of it, clothed in our next. This 'next' is not a spiritual, but only a more ethereal form. Having by a long training and preparation adapted it for a life in the atmosphere, during which time we have gradually made the outward shell to die off through a certain process .... we have to prepare for this physiological transformation.
How are we to do it? In the first place we have the actual, visible, material body—Man, so called, though, in fact, but his outer shell—to deal with. Let us bear in mind that Science teaches us that in about every seven years we change skin as effectually as any serpent; and this so gradually and imperceptibly that, had not science after years of unremitting study and observation assured us of it, no one would have had the slightest suspicion of the fact.... Hence, if a man, partially flayed alive, may sometimes survive and be covered with a new skin, so our astral, vital body .... may be made to harden its particles to the atmospheric changes. The whole secret is to succeed in evolving it out, and separating it from the visible; and while its generally invisible atoms proceed to concrete themselves into a compact mass, to gradually get rid of the old particles of our visible frame so as to make them die and disappear before the new set has had time to evolve and replace them.... We can say no more.
A correct comprehension of the above scientific process will give a clue to the esoteric meaning of meditation or contemplation. Science teaches us that man changes his physical body continually, and this change is so gradual that it is almost imperceptible. Why then should the case be otherwise with the inner man? The latter too is developing and changing atoms at every moment. And the attraction of these new sets of atoms depends upon the Law of Affinity—the desires of the man drawing to his bodily tenement only such particles as are necessary to give them expression.
For Science shows that thought is dynamic, and the thought-force evolved by nervous action expanding itself outwardly, must affect the molecular relations of the physical man. The inner men, however sublimated their organism may be, are still composed of actual, not hypothetical, particles, and are still subject to the law that an "action" has a tendency to repeat itself; a tendency to set up analogous action in the grosser "shell" they are in contact with, and concealed within.—"The Elixir of Life"
What is it the aspirant of Yog Vidya strives after if not to gain Mukti by transferring himself gradually from the grosser to the next less gross body, until all the veils of Maya being successively removed his Atma becomes one with Paramatma? Does he suppose that this grand result can be achieved by a two or four hours' contemplation? For the remaining twenty or twenty-two hours that the devotee does not shut himself up in his room for meditation is the process of the emission of atoms and their replacement by others stopped? If not, then how does he mean to attract all this time only those suited to his end? From the above remarks it is evident that just as the physical body requires incessant attention to prevent the entrance of a disease, so also the inner man requires an unremitting watch, so that no conscious or unconscious thought may attract atoms unsuited to its progress. This is the real meaning of contemplation. The prime factor in the guidance of the thought is Will.
Without that, all else is useless. And, to be efficient for the purpose, it must be, not only a passing resolution of the moment, a single fierce desire of short duration, but a settled and continued strain, as nearly as can be continued and concentrated without one single moment's remission.
The student would do well to take note of the italicized clause in the above quotation. He should also have it indelibly impressed upon his mind that:
It is no use to fast as long as one requires food.... To get rid of the inward desire is the essential thing, and to mimic the real thing without it is barefaced hypocrisy and useless slavery.
Without realizing the significance of this most important fact, any one who for a moment finds cause of disagreement with any one of his family, or has his vanity wounded, or for a sentimental flash of the moment, or for a selfish desire to utilize the Divine power for gross purposes—at once rushes into contemplation and dashes himself to pieces on the rock dividing the known from the unknown. Wallowing in the mire of exotericism, he knows not what it is to live in the world and yet be not of the world; in other words, to guard self against self is an almost incomprehensible axiom for the profane. The Hindu ought to know better from the life of Janaka, who, although a reigning monarch, was yet styled Rajarshi and is said to have attained Nirvana. Hearing of his widespread fame, a few sectarian bigots went to his court to test his Yoga-power. As soon as they entered the court-room, the king having read their thoughts—a power which every chela attains at a certain stage—gave secret instructions to his officials to have a particular street in the city lined on both sides by dancing girls singing the must voluptuous songs. He then had some gharas (pots) filled with water up to the brim so that the least shake would be likely to spill their contents. The wiseacres, each with a full ghara (pot) on his head, were ordered to pass along the street, surrounded by soldiers with drawn swords to be used against them if even so much as a drop of water were allowed to run over. The poor fellows having returned to the palace after successfully passing the test, were asked by the King-Adept what they had met with in the street they were made to go through. With great indignation they replied that the threat of being cut to pieces had so much worked upon their minds that they thought of nothing but the water on their heads, and the intensity of their attention did not permit them to take cognizance of what was going on around them. Then Janaka told them that on the same principle they could easily understand that, although being outwardly engaged in managing the affairs of his State, he could, at the same time, be an Occultist. He too, while in the world, was not of the world. In other words, his inward aspirations had been leading him on continually to the goal in which his whole inner self was concentrated.
Raj Yoga encourages no sham, requires no physical postures. It has to deal with the inner man whose sphere lies in the world of thought. To have the highest ideal placed before oneself and strive incessantly to rise up to it, is the only true concentration recognized by Esoteric Philosophy which deals with the inner world of noumena, not the outer shell of phenomena.
The first requisite for it is thorough purity of heart. Well might the student of Occultism say with Zoroaster, that purity of thought, purity of word, and purity of deed,—these are the essentials of one who would rise above the ordinary level and join the "gods." A cultivation of the feeling of unselfish philanthropy is the path which has to be traversed for that purpose. For it is that alone which will lead to Universal Love, the realization of which constitutes the progress towards deliverance from the chains forged by Maya (illusion) around the Ego. No student will attain this at once, but as our Venerated Mahatma says in the "Occult World":—
The greater the progress towards deliverance, the less this will be the case, until, to crown all, human and purely individual personal feelings, blood-ties and friendship, patriotism and race predilection, will all give way to become blended into one universal feeling, the only true and holy, the only unselfish and eternal one, Love, an Immense Love for Humanity as a whole.
In short, the individual is blended with the ALL.
Of course, contemplation, as usually understood, is not without its minor advantages. It develops one set of physical faculties as gymnastics does the muscles. For the purposes of physical mesmerism it is good enough; but it can in no way help the development of the psychological faculties, as the thoughtful reader will perceive. At the same time, even for ordinary purposes, the practice can never be too well guarded. If, as some suppose, they have to be entirely passive and lose themselves in the object before them, they should remember that, by thus encouraging passivity, they, in fact, allow the development of mediumistic faculties in themselves. As was repeatedly stated—the Adept and the Medium are the two Poles: while the former is intensely active and thus able to control the elemental forces, the latter is intensely passive and thus incurs the risk of falling a prey to the caprice and malice of mischievous embryos of human beings, and the elementaries.
It will be evident from the above that true meditation consists in the "reasoning from the known to the unknown." The "known" is the phenomenal world, cognizable by our five senses. And all that we see in this manifested world are the effects, the causes of which are to be sought after in the noumenal, the unmanifested, the "unknown world:" this is to be accomplished by meditation, i.e., continued attention to the subject. Occultism does not depend upon one method, but employs both the deductive and the inductive. The student must first learn the general axioms, which have sufficiently been laid down in the Elixir of Life and other occult writings. What the student has first to do is to comprehend these axioms and, by employing the deductive method, to proceed from universals to particulars. He has then to reason from the "known to the unknown," and see if the inductive method of proceeding from particulars to universals supports those axioms. This process forms the primary stage of true contemplation. The student must first grasp the subject intellectually before he can hope to realize his aspirations. When this is accomplished, then comes the next stage of meditation, which is "the inexpressible yearning of the inner man to 'go out towards the infinite.'" Before any such yearning can be properly directed, the goal must first be determined. The higher stage, in fact, consists in practically realizing what the first steps have placed within one's comprehension. In short, contemplation, in its true sense, is to recognize the truth of Eliphas Levi's saying:—
To believe without knowing is weakness; to believe, because one knows, is power.
The Elixir of Life not only gives the preliminary steps in the ladder of contemplation but also tells the reader how to realize the higher stages. It traces, by the process of contemplation as it were, the relation of man, "the known," the manifested, the phenomenon, to "the unknown," the unmanifested, the noumenon. It shows the student what ideal to contemplate and how to rise up to it. It places before him the nature of the inner capacities of man and how to develop them. To a superficial reader, this may, perhaps, appear as the acme of selfishness. Reflection will, however, show the contrary to be the case. For it teaches the student that to comprehend the noumenal, he must identify himself with Nature. Instead of looking upon himself as an isolated being, he must learn to look upon himself as a part of the Integral Whole. For, in the unmanifested world, it can be clearly perceived that all is controlled by the "Law of Affinity," the attraction of the one for the other. There, all is Infinite Love, understood in its true sense.
It may now not be out of place to recapitulate what has already been said. The first thing to be done is to study the axioms of Occultism and work upon them by the deductive and the inductive methods, which is real contemplation. To turn this to a useful purpose, what is theoretically comprehended must be practically realized.
—Damodar K. Mavalaukar
Chelas and Lay Chelas
A "chela" is a person who has offered himself to a master as a pupil to learn practically the "hidden mysteries of Nature and the psychical powers latent in man." The master who accepts him is called in India a Guru; and the real Guru is always an adept in the Occult Science. A man of profound knowledge, exoteric and esoteric, especially the latter; and one who has brought his carnal nature under the subjection of the WILL; who has developed in himself both the power (Siddhi) to control the forces of Nature, and the capacity to probe her secrets by the help of the formerly latent but now active powers of his being—this is the real Guru. To offer oneself as a candidate for Chelaship is easy enough, to develop into an adept the most difficult task any man could possibly undertake. There are scores of "natural-born" poets, mathematicians, mechanics, statesmen, &c. But a natural-born adept is something practically impossible. For, though we do hear at very rare intervals of one who has an extraordinary innate capacity for the acquisition of occult knowledge and power, yet even he has to pass the self-same tests and probations, and go through the self-same training as any less endowed fellow aspirant. In this matter it is most true that there is no royal road by which favourites may travel.
For centuries the selection of Chelas—outside the hereditary group within the gon-pa (temple)—has been made by the Himalayan Mahatmas themselves from among the class—in Tibet, a considerable one as to number—of natural mystics. The only exceptions have been in the cases of Western men like Fludd, Thomas Vaughan, Paracelsus, Pico di Mirandolo, Count St. Germain, &c., whose temperament affinity to this celestial science, more or less forced the distant Adepts to come into personal relations with them, and enabled them to get such small (or large) proportion of the whole truth as was possible under their social surroundings. From Book IV. of Kui-te, Chapter on "The Laws of Upasanas," we learn that the qualifications expected in a Chela were:—
1. Perfect physical health;
2. Absolute mental and physical purity;
3. Unselfishness of purpose; universal charity; pity for all animate beings;
4. Truthfulness and unswerving faith in the law of Karma, independent of the intervention of any power in Nature: a law whose course is not to be obstructed by any agency, not to be caused to deviate by prayer or propitiatory exoteric ceremonies;
5. A courage undaunted in every emergency, even by peril to life;
6. An intuitional perception of one's being the vehicle of the manifested Avalokiteswara or Divine Atma (Spirit);
7. Calm indifference for, but a just appreciation of, everything that constitutes the objective and transitory world, in its relation with, and to, the invisible regions.
Such, at the least, must have been the recommendations of one aspiring to perfect Chelaship. With the sole exception of the first, which in rare and exceptional cases might have been modified, each one of these points has been invariably insisted upon, and all must have been more or less developed in the inner nature by the Chela's unhelped exertions, before he could be actually "put to the test."
When the self-evolving ascetic—whether in, or outside the active world—has placed himself, according to his natural capacity, above, hence made himself master of his (1) Sarira—body; (2) Indriya—senses; (3) Dosha—faults; (4) Dukkha—pain; and is ready to become one with his Manas—mind; Buddhi—intellection, or spiritual intelligence; and Atma—highest soul, i.e., spirit; when he is ready for this, and, further, to recognize in Atma the highest ruler in the world of perceptions, and in the will, the highest executive energy (power), then may he, under the time-honoured rules, be taken in hand by one of the Initiates. He may then be shown the mysterious path at whose farther end is obtained the unerring discernment of Phala, or the fruits of causes produced, and given the means of reaching Apavarga—emancipation from the misery of repeated births, pretya-bhava, in whose determination the ignorant has no hand.
But since the advent of the Theosophical Society, one of whose arduous tasks it is to re-awaken in the Aryan mind the dormant memory of the existence of this science and of those transcendent human capabilities, the rules of Chela selection have become slightly relaxed in one respect. Many members of the Society who would not have been otherwise called to Chelaship became convinced by practical proof of the above points, and rightly enough thinking that if other men had hitherto reached the goal, they too, if inherently fitted, might reach it by following the same path, importunately pressed to be taken as candidates. And as it would be an interference with Karma to deny them the chance of at least beginning, they were given it. The results have been far from encouraging so far, and it is to show them the cause of their failure as much as to warn others against rushing heedlessly upon a similar fate, that the writing of the present article has been ordered. The candidates in question, though plainly warned against it in advance, began wrong by selfishly looking to the future and losing sight of the past. They forgot that they had done nothing to deserve the rare honour of selection, nothing which warranted their expecting such a privilege; that they could boast of none of the above enumerated merits. As men of the selfish, sensual world, whether married or single, merchants, civilian or military employees, or members of the learned professions, they had been to a school most calculated to assimilate them to the animal nature, least so to develop their spiritual potentialities. Yet each and all had vanity enough to suppose that their case would be made an exception to the law of countless centuries, as though, indeed, in their person had been born to the world a new Avatar! All expected to have hidden things taught, extraordinary powers given them, because—well, because they had joined the Theosophical Society. Some had sincerely resolved to amend their lives, and give up their evil courses: we must do them that justice, at all events.
All were refused at first, Col. Olcott the President himself, to begin with: and he was not formally accepted as a Chela until he had proved by more than a year's devoted labours and by a determination which brooked no denial, that he might safely be tested. Then from all sides came complaints—from Hindus, who ought to have known better, as well as from Europeans who, of course, were not in a condition to know anything at all about the rules. The cry was that unless at least a few Theosophists were given the chance to try, the Society could not endure. Every other noble and unselfish feature of our programme was ignored—a man's duty to his neighbour, to his country, his duty to help, enlighten, encourage and elevate those weaker and less favoured than he; all were trampled out of sight in the insane rush for adeptship. The call for phenomena, phenomena, phenomena, resounded in every quarter, and the Founders were impeded in their real work and teased importunately to intercede with the Mahatmas, against whom the real grievance lay, though their poor agents had to take all the buffets. At last, the word came from the higher authorities that a few of the most urgent candidates should be taken at their word. The result of the experiment would perhaps show better than any amount of preaching what Chelaship meant, and what are the consequences of selfishness and temerity. Each candidate was warned that be must wait for year in any event, before his fitness could be established, and that he must pass through a series of tests that would bring out all there was in him, whether bad or good. They were nearly all married men, and hence were designated "Lay Chelas"—a term new in English, but having long had its equivalent in Asiatic tongues. A Lay Chela is but a man of the world who affirms his desire to become wise in spiritual things. Virtually, every member of the Theosophical Society who subscribes to the second of our three "Declared Objects" is such; for though not of the number of true Chelas, he has yet the possibility of becoming one, for he has stepped across the boundary-line which separated him from the Mahatmas, and has brought himself, as it were, under their notice. In joining the Society and binding himself to help along its work, he has pledged himself to act in some degree in concert with those Mahatmas, at whose behest the Society was organized, and under whose conditional protection it remains. The joining is then, the introduction; all the rest depends entirely upon the member himself, and he need never expect the most distant approach to the "favour" of one of our Mahatmas or any other Mahatmas in the world—should the latter consent to become known—that has not been fully earned by personal merit. The Mahatmas are the servants, not the arbiters of the Law of Karma.
Lay-Chelaship confers no privilege upon any one except that of working for merit under the observation of a Master. And whether that Master be or be not seen by the Chela makes no difference whatever as to the result: his good thought, words and deeds will bear their fruits, his evil ones, theirs. To boast of Lay Chelaship or make a parade of it, is the surest way to reduce the relationship with the Guru to a mere empty name, for it would be prima facie evidence of vanity and unfitness for farther progress. And for years we have been teaching everywhere the maxim "First deserve, then desire" intimacy with the Mahatmas.
Now there is a terrible law operative in Nature, one which cannot be altered, and whose operation clears up the apparent mystery of the selection of certain "Chelas" who have turned out sorry specimens of morality, these few years past. Does the reader recall the old proverb, "Let sleeping dogs lie?" There is a world of occult meaning in it. No man or woman knows his or her moral strength until it is tried. Thousands go through life very respectably, because they were never put to the test. This is a truism doubtless, but it is most pertinent to the present case. One who undertakes to try for Chelaship by that very act rouses and lashes to desperation every sleeping passion of his animal nature. For this is the commencement of a struggle for mastery in which quarter is neither to be given nor taken. It is, once for all, "To be, or Not to be;" to conquer, means Adept-ship: to fail, an ignoble Martyrdom; for to fall victim to lust, pride, avarice, vanity, selfishness, cowardice, or any other of the lower propensities, is indeed ignoble, if measured by the standard of true manhood. The Chela is not only called to face all the latent evil propensities of his nature, but, in addition, the momentum of maleficent forces accumulated by the community and nation to which he belongs. For he is an integral part of those aggregates, and what affects either the individual man or the group (town or nation), reacts the one upon the other. And in this instance his struggle for goodness jars upon the whole body of badness in his environment, and draws its fury upon him. If he is content to go along with his neighbours and be almost as they are—perhaps a little better or somewhat worse than the average—no one may give him a thought. But let it be known that he has been able to detect the hollow mockery of social life, its hypocrisy, selfishness, sensuality, cupidity and other bad features, and has determined to lift himself up to a higher level, at once he is hated, and every bad, bigotted, or malicious nature sends at him a current of opposing will-power. If he is innately strong he shakes it off, as the powerful swimmer dashes through the current that would bear a weaker one away. But in this moral battle, if the Chela has one single hidden blemish—do what he may, it shall and will be brought to light. The varnish of conventionalities which "civilization" overlays us all with must come off to the last coat, and the inner self, naked and without the slightest veil to conceal its reality, is exposed. The habits of society which hold men to a certain degree under moral restraint, and compel them to pay tribute to virtue by seeming to be good whether they are so or not—these habits are apt to be all forgotten, these restraints to be all broken through under the strain of Chelaship. He is now in an atmosphere of illusions—Maya. Vice puts on its most alluring face, and the tempting passions attract the inexperienced aspirant to the depths of psychic debasement. This is not a case like that depicted by a great artist, where Satan is seen playing a game of chess with a man upon the stake of his soul, while the latter's good angel stands beside him to counsel and assist. For the strife is in this instance between the Chela's will and his carnal nature, and Karma forbids that any angel or Guru should interfere until the result is known. With the vividness of poetic fancy Bulwer Lytton has idealized it for us in his "Zanoni," a work which will ever be prized by the occultist while in his "Strange Story" he has with equal power shown the black side of occult research and its deadly perils. Chelaship was defined, the other day, by a Mahatma as a "psychic resolvent, which eats away all dross and leaves only the pure gold behind." If the candidate has the latent lust for money, or political chicanery, or materialistic scepticism, or vain display, or false speaking, or cruelty, or sensual gratification of any kind the germ is almost sure to sprout; and so, on the other hand, as regards the noble qualities of human nature. The real man comes out. Is it not the height of folly, then, for any one to leave the smooth path of commonplace life to scale the crags of Chelaship without some reasonable feeling of certainty that he has the right stuff in him? Well says the Bible: "Let him that standeth take heed lest he fall"—a text that would-be Chelas should consider well before they rush headlong into the fray! It would have been well for some of our Lay Chelas if they had thought twice before defying the tests. We call to mind several sad failures within a twelve-month. One went wrong in the head, recanted noble sentiments uttered but a few weeks previously, and became a member of a religion he had just scornfully and unanswerably proven false. A second became a defaulter and absconded with his employer's money—the latter also a Theosophist. A third gave himself up to gross debauchery, and confessed it, with ineffectual sobs and tears, to his chosen Guru. A fourth got entangled with a person of the other sex and fell out with his dearest and truest friends. A fifth showed signs of mental aberration and was brought into Court upon charges of discreditable conduct. A sixth shot himself to escape the consequences of criminality, on the verge of detection! And so we might go on and on. All these were apparently sincere searchers after truth, and passed in the world for respectable persons. Externally, they were fairly eligible as candidates for Chelaship, as appearances go; but "within all was rottenness and dead men's bones." The world's varnish was so thick as to hide the absence of the true gold underneath; and the "resolvent" doing its work, the candidate proved in each instance but a gilded figure of moral dross, from circumference to core.