- The practices which make for union with the Soul are: fervent aspiration, spiritual reading, and complete obedience to the Master.
The word which I have rendered "fervent aspiration" means primarily "fire"; and, in the Eastern teaching, it means the fire which gives life and light, and at the same time the fire which purifies. We have, therefore, as our first practice, as the first of the means of spiritual growth, that fiery quality of the will which enkindles and illumines, and, at the same time, the steady practice of purification, the burning away of all known impurities. Spiritual reading is so universally accepted and understood, that it needs no comment. The very study of Patanjali's Sutras is an exercise in spiritual reading, and a very effective one. And so with all other books of the Soul. Obedience to the Master means, that we shall make the will of the Master our will, and shall confirm in all wave to the will of the Divine, setting aside the wills of self, which are but psychic distortions of the one Divine Will. The constant effort to obey in all the ways we know and understand, will reveal new ways and new tasks, the evidence of new growth of the Soul. Nothing will do more for the spiritual man in us than this, for there is no such regenerating power as the awakening spiritual will.
- Their aim is, to bring soul-vision, and to wear away hindrances.
The aim of fervour, spiritual reading and obedience to the Master, is, to bring soulvision, and to wear away hindrances. Or, to use the phrase we have already adopted, the aim of these practices is, to help the spiritual man to open his eyes; to help him also to throw aside the veils and disguises, the enmeshing psychic nets which surround him, tying his hands, as it were, and bandaging his eyes. And this, as all teachers testify, is a long and arduous task, a steady up-hill fight, demanding fine courage and persistent toil. Fervour, the fire of the spiritual will, is, as we said, two-fold: it illumines, and so helps the spiritual man to see; and it also burns up the nets and meshes which ensnare the spiritual man. So with the other means, spiritual reading and obedience. Each, in its action, is two-fold, wearing away the psychical, and upbuilding the spiritual man.
- These are the hindrances: the darkness of unwisdom, self-assertion, lust hate, attachment.
Let us try to translate this into terms of the psychical and spiritual man. The darkness of unwisdom is, primarily, the self-absorption of the psychical man, his complete preoccupation with his own hopes and fears, plans and purposes, sensations and desires; so that he fails to see, or refuses to see, that there is a spiritual man; and so doggedly resists all efforts of the spiritual man to cast off his psychic tyrant and set himself free. This is the real darkness; and all those who deny the immortality of the soul, or deny the soul's existence, and so lay out their lives wholly for the psychical, mortal man and his ambitions, are under this power of darkness. Born of this darkness, this psychic self-absorption, is the dogged conviction that the psychic, personal man has separate, exclusive interests, which he can follow for himself alone; and this conviction, when put into practice in our life, leads to contest with other personalities, and so to hate. This hate, again, makes against the spiritual man, since it hinders the revelation of the high harmony between the spiritual man and his other selves, a harmony to be revealed only through the practice of love, that perfect love which casts out fear.
In like manner, lust is the psychic man's craving for the stimulus of sensation, the din of which smothers the voice of the spiritual man, as, in Shakespeare's phrase, the cackling geese would drown the song of the nightingale. And this craving for stimulus is the fruit of weakness, coming from the failure to find strength in the primal life of the spiritual man.
Attachment is but another name for psychic self-absorption; for we are absorbed, not in outward things, but rather in their images within our minds; our inner eyes are fixed on them; our inner desires brood over them; and em we blind ourselves to the presence of the prisoner' the enmeshed and fettered spiritual man.
- The darkness of unwisdom is the field of the others. These hindrances may be dormant, or worn thin, or suspended, or expanded.
Here we have really two Sutras in one. The first has been explained already: in the darkness of unwisdom grow the parasites, hate, lust, attachment. They are all outgrowths of the self-absorption of the psychical self.
Next, we are told that these barriers may be either dormant, or suspended, or expanded, or worn thin. Faults which are dormant will be brought out through the pressure of life, or through the pressure of strong aspiration. Thus expanded, they must be fought and conquered, or, as Patanjali quaintly says, they must be worn thin,-as a veil might, or the links of manacles.
- The darkness of ignorance is: holding that which is unenduring, impure, full of pain, not the Soul, to be eternal, pure, full of joy, the Soul.
This we have really considered already. The psychic man is unenduring, impure, full of pain, not the Soul, not the real Self. The spiritual man is enduring, pure, full of joy, the real Self. The darkness of unwisdom is, therefore, the self-absorption of the psychical, personal man, to the exclusion of the spiritual man. It is the belief, carried into action, that the personal man is the real man, the man for whom we should toil, for whom we should build, for whom we should live. This is that psychical man of whom it is said: he that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption.
- Self-assertion comes from thinking of the Seer and the instrument of vision as forming one self.
This is the fundamental idea of the Sankhya philosophy, of which the Yoga is avowedly the practical side. To translate this into our terms, we may say that the Seer is the spiritual man; the instrument of vision is the psychical man, through which the spiritual man gains experience of the outer world. But we turn the servant into the master. We attribute to the psychical man, the personal self, a reality which really belongs to the spiritual man alone; and so, thinking of the quality of the spiritual man as belonging to the psychical, we merge the spiritual man in the psychical; or, as the text says, we think of the two as forming one self.
- Lust is the resting in the sense of enjoyment.
This has been explained again and again. Sensation, as, for example, the sense of taste, is meant to be the guide to action; in this case, the choice of wholesome food, and the avoidance of poisonous and hurtful things. But if we rest in the sense of taste, as a pleasure in itself; rest, that is, in the psychical side of taste, we fall into gluttony, and live to eat, instead of eating to live. So with the other great organic power, the power of reproduction. This lust comes into being, through resting in the sensation, and looking for pleasure from that.
- Hate is the resting in the sense of pain.
Pain comes, for the most part, from the strife of personalities, the jarring discords between psychic selves, each of which deems itself supreme. A dwelling on this pain breeds hate, which tears the warring selves yet further asunder, and puts new enmity between them, thus hindering the harmony of the Real, the reconciliation through the Soul.
- Attachment is the desire toward life, even in the wise, carried forward by its own energy.
The life here desired is the psychic life, the intensely vibrating life of the psychical self. This prevails even in those who have attained much wisdom, so long as it falls short of the wisdom of complete renunciation, complete obedience to each least behest of the spiritual man, and of the Master who guards and aids the spiritual man.
The desire of sensation, the desire of psychic life, reproduces itself, carried on by its own energy and momentum; and hence comes the circle of death and rebirth, death and rebirth, instead of the liberation of the spiritual man.
- These hindrances, when they have become subtle, are to be removed by a countercurrent.
The darkness of unwisdom is to be removed by the light of wisdom, pursued through fervour, spiritual reading of holy teachings and of life itself, and by obedience to the Master.
Lust is to be removed by pure aspiration of spiritual life, which, bringing true strength and stability, takes away the void of weakness which we try to fill by the stimulus of sensations.
Hate is to be overcome by love. The fear that arises through the sense of separate, warring selves is to be stilled by the realization of the One Self, the one soul in all. This realization is the perfect love that casts out fear.
The hindrances are said to have become subtle when, by initial efforts, they have been located and recognized in the psychic nature.
- Their active turnings are to be removed by meditation.
Here is, in truth, the whole secret of Yoga, the science of the soul. The active turnings, the strident vibrations, of selfishness, lust and hate are to be stilled by meditation, by letting heart and mind dwell in spiritual life, by lifting up the heart to the strong, silent life above, which rests in the stillness of eternal love, and needs no harsh vibration to convince it of true being.
- The burden of bondage to sorrow has its root in these hindrances. It will be felt in this life, or in a life not yet manifested.
The burden of bondage to sorrow has its root in the darkness of unwisdom, in selfishness, in lust, in hate, in attachment to sensation. All these are, in the last analysis, absorption in the psychical self; and this means sorrow, because it means the sense of separateness, and this means jarring discord and inevitable death. But the psychical self will breed a new psychical self, in a new birth, and so new sorrows in a life not yet manifest.
- From this root there grow and ripen the fruits of birth, of the life-span, of all that is tasted in life.
Fully to comment on this, would be to write a treatise on Karma and its practical working in detail, whereby the place and time of the next birth, its content and duration, are determined; and to do this the present commentator is in no wise fitted. But this much is clearly understood: that, through a kind of spiritual gravitation, the incarnating self is drawn to a home and life-circle which will give it scope and discipline; and its need of discipline is clearly conditioned by its character, its standing, its accomplishment.
- These bear fruits of rejoicing, or of affliction, as they are sprung from holy or unholy works.
Since holiness is obedience to divine law, to the law of divine harmony, and obedience to harmony strengthens that harmony in the soul, which is the one true joy, therefore joy comes of holiness: comes, indeed, in no other way. And as unholiness is disobedience, and therefore discord, therefore unholiness makes for pain; and this two-fold law is true, whether the cause take effect in this, or in a yet unmanifested birth.
- To him who possesses discernment, all personal life is misery, because it ever waxes and wanes, is ever afflicted with restlessness, makes ever new dynamic impresses in the mind; and because all its activities war with each other.
The whole life of the psychic self is misery, because it ever waxes and wanes; because birth brings inevitable death; because there is no expectation without its shadow, fear. The life of the psychic self is misery, because it is afflicted with restlessness; so that he who has much, finds not satisfaction, but rather the whetted hunger for more. The fire is not quenched by pouring oil on it; so desire is not quenched by the satisfaction of desire. Again, the life of the psychic self is misery, because it makes ever new dynamic impresses in the mind; because a desire satisfied is but the seed from which springs the desire to find like satisfaction again. The appetite comes in eating, as the proverb says, and grows by what it feeds on. And the psychic self, torn with conflicting desires, is ever the house divided against itself, which must surely fall.
- This pain is to be warded off, before it has come.
In other words, we cannot cure the pains of life by laying on them any balm. We must cut the root, absorption in the psychical self. So it is said, there is no cure for the misery of longing, but to fix the heart upon the eternal.
- The cause of what is to be warded off, is the absorption of the Seer in things seen.
Here again we have the fundamental idea of the Sankhya, which is the intellectual counterpart of the Yoga system. The cause of what is to be warded off, the root of misery, is the absorption of consciousness in the psychical man and the things which beguile the psychical man. The cure is liberation.
- Things seen have as their property manifestation, action, inertia. They form the basis of the elements and the sense-powers. They make for experience and for liberation.
Here is a whole philosophy of life. Things seen, the total of the phenomena, possess as their property, manifestation, action, inertia: the qualities of force and matter in combination. These, in their grosser form, make the material world; in their finer, more subjective form, they make the psychical world, the world of sense-impressions and mind-images. And through this totality of the phenomenal, the soul gains experience, and is prepared for liberation. In other words, the whole outer world exists for the purposes of the soul, and finds in this its true reason for being.
- The grades or layers of the Three Potencies are the defined, the undefined, that with distinctive mark, that without distinctive mark.
Or, as we might say, there are two strata of the physical, and two strata of the psychical realms. In each, there is the side of form, and the side of force. The form side of the physical is here called the defined. The force side of the physical is the undefined, that which has no boundaries. So in the psychical; there is the form side; that with distinctive marks, such as the characteristic features of mind-images; and there is the force side, without distinctive marks, such as the forces of desire or fear, which may flow now to this mind-image, now to that.
- The Seer is pure vision. Though pure, he looks out through the vesture of the mind.
The Seer, as always, is the spiritual man whose deepest consciousness is pure vision, the pure life of the eternal. But the spiritual man, as yet unseeing in his proper person, looks out on the world through the eyes of the psychical man, by whom he is enfolded and enmeshed. The task is, to set this prisoner free, to clear the dust of ages from this buried temple.
- The very essence of things seen is, that they exist for the Seer.
The things of outer life, not only material things, but the psychic man also, exist in very deed for the purposes of the Seer, the Soul, the spiritual man Disaster comes, when the psychical man sets up, so to speak, on his own account, trying to live for himself alone, and taking material things to solace his loneliness.
- Though fallen away from him who has reached the goal, things seen have not alto fallen away, since they still exist for others.
When one of us conquers hate, hate does not thereby cease out of the world, since others still hate and suffer hatred. So with other delusions, which hold us in bondage to material things, and through which we look at all material things. When the coloured veil of illusion is gone, the world which we saw through it is also gone, for now we see life as it is, in the white radiance of eternity. But for others the coloured veil remains, and therefore the world thus coloured by it remains for them, and will remain till they, too, conquer delusion.
- The association of the Seer with things seen is the cause of the realizing of the nature of things seen, and also of the realizing of the nature of the Seer.
Life is educative. All life's infinite variety is for discipline, for the development of the soul. So passing through many lives, the Soul learns the secrets of the world, the august laws that are written in the form of the snow-crystal or the majestic order of the stars. Yet all these laws are but reflections, but projections outward, of the laws of the soul; therefore in learning these, the soul learns to know itself. All life is but the mirror wherein the Soul learns to know its own face.
- The cause of this association is the darkness of unwisdom.
The darkness of unwisdom is the absorption of consciousness in the personal life, and in the things seen by the personal life. This is the fall, through which comes experience, the learning of the lessons of life. When they are learned, the day of redemption is at hand.
- The bringing of this association to an end, by bringing the darkness of unwisdom to an end, is the great liberation; this is the Seer's attainment of his own pure being.
When the spiritual man has, through the psychical, learned all life's lessons, the time has come for him to put off the veil and disguise of the psychical and to stand revealed a King, in the house of the Father. So shall he enter into his kingdom, and go no more out.
- A discerning which is carried on without wavering is the means of liberation.
Here we come close to the pure Vedanta, with its discernment between the eternal and the temporal. St. Paul, following after Philo and Plato, lays down the same fundamental principle: the things seen are temporal, the things unseen are eternal.
Patanjali means something more than an intellectual assent, though this too is vital. He has in view a constant discriminating in act as well as thought; of the two ways which present themselves for every deed or choice, always to choose the higher way, that which makes for the things eternal: honesty rather than roguery, courage and not cowardice, the things of another rather than one's own, sacrifice and not indulgence. This true discernment, carried out constantly, makes for liberation.
- His illuminations is sevenfold, rising In successive stages.
Patanjali's text does not tell us what the seven stages of this illumination are. The commentator thus describes them:
First, the danger to be escaped is recognized; it need not be recognized a second time. Second, the causes of the danger to be escaped are worn away; they need not be worn away a second time. Third, the way of escape is clearly perceived, by the contemplation which checks psychic perturbation. Fourth, the means of escape, clear discernment, has been developed. This is the fourfold release belonging to insight. The final release from the psychic is three-fold: As fifth of the seven degrees, the dominance of its thinking is ended; as sixth, its potencies, like rocks from a precipice, fall of themselves; once dissolved, they do not grow again. Then, as seventh, freed from these potencies, the spiritual man stands forth in his own nature as purity and light. Happy is the spiritual man who beholds this seven-fold illumination in its ascending stages.
- From steadfastly following after the means of Yoga, until impurity is worn away, there comes the illumination of thought up to full discernment.
Here, we enter on the more detailed practical teaching of Patanjali, with its sound and luminous good sense. And when we come to detail the means of Yoga, we may well be astonished at their simplicity. There is little in them that is mysterious. They are very familiar. The essence of the matter lies in carrying them out.
- The eight means of Yoga are: the Commandments, the Rules, right Poise, right Control of the life-force, Withdrawal, Attention, Meditation, Contemplation.
These eight means are to be followed in their order, in the sense which will immediately be made clear. We can get a ready understanding of the first two by comparing them with the Commandments which must be obeyed by all good citizens, and the Rules which are laid on the members of religious orders. Until one has fulfilled the first, it is futile to concern oneself with the second. And so with all the means of Yoga. They must be taken in their order.
- The Commandments are these: nom injury, truthfulness, abstaining from stealing, from impurity, from covetousness.
These five precepts are almost exactly the same as the Buddhist Commandments: not to kill, not to steal, not to be guilty of incontinence, not to drink intoxicants, to speak the truth. Almost identical is St. Paul's list: Thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not covet. And in the same spirit is the answer made to the young map having great possessions, who asked, What shall I do to be saved? and received the reply: Keep the Commandments.
This broad, general training, which forms and develops human character, must be accomplished to a very considerable degree, before there can be much hope of success in the further stages of spiritual life. First the psychical, and then the spiritual. First the man, then the angel. On this broad, humane and wise foundation does the system of Patanjali rest.
- The Commandments, not limited to any race, place, time or occasion, universal, are the great obligation.
The Commandments form the broad general training of humanity. Each one of them rests on a universal, spiritual law. Each one of them expresses an attribute or aspect of the Self, the Eternal; when we violate one of the Commandments, we set ourselves against the law and being of the Eternal, thereby bringing ourselves to inevitable con fusion. So the first steps in spiritual life must be taken by bringing ourselves into voluntary obedience to these spiritual laws and thus making ourselves partakers of the spiritual powers, the being of the Eternal Like the law of gravity, the need of air to breathe, these great laws know no exceptions They are in force in all lands, throughout al times, for all mankind.
- The Rules are these: purity, serenity fervent aspiration, spiritual reading, and per feet obedience to the Master.
Here we have a finer law, one which humanity as a whole is less ready for, less fit to obey. Yet we can see that these Rules are the same in essence as the Commandments, but on a higher, more spiritual plane. The Commandments may be obeyed in outer acts and abstinences; the Rules demand obedience of the heart and spirit, a far more awakened and more positive consciousness. The Rules are the spiritual counterpart of the Commandments, and they have finer degrees, for more advanced spiritual growth.
- When transgressions hinder, the weight of the imagination should be thrown' on the opposite side.
Let us take a simple case, that of a thief, a habitual criminal, who has drifted into stealing in childhood, before the moral consciousness has awakened. We may imprison such a thief, and deprive him of all possibility of further theft, or of using the divine gift of will. Or we may recognize his disadvantages, and help him gradually to build up possessions which express his will, and draw forth his self-respect. If we imagine that, after he has built well, and his possessions have become dear to him, he himself is robbed, then we can see how he would come vividly to realize the essence of theft and of honesty, and would cleave to honest dealings with firm conviction. In some such way does the great Law teach us. Our sorrows and losses teach us the pain of the sorrow and loss we inflict on others, and so we cease to inflict them.
Now as to the more direct application. To conquer a sin, let heart and mind rest, not on the sin, but on the contrary virtue. Let the sin be forced out by positive growth in the true direction, not by direct opposition. Turn away from the sin and go forward courageously, constructively, creatively, in well-doing. In this way the whole nature will gradually be drawn up to the higher level, on which the sin does not even exist. The conquest of a sin is a matter of growth and evolution, rather than of opposition.
- Transgressions are injury, falsehood, theft, incontinence, envy; whether committed, or caused, or assented to, through greed, wrath, or infatuation; whether faint, or middling, or excessive; bearing endless, fruit of ignorance and pain. Therefore must the weight be cast on the other side.
Here are the causes of sin: greed, wrath, infatuation, with their effects, ignorance and pain. The causes are to be cured by better wisdom, by a truer understanding of the Self, of Life. For greed cannot endure before the realization that the whole world belongs to the Self, which Self we are; nor can we hold wrath against one who is one with the Self, and therefore with ourselves; nor can infatuation, which is the seeking for the happiness of the All in some limited part of it, survive the knowledge that we are heirs of the All. Therefore let thought and imagination, mind and heart, throw their weight on the other side; the side, not of the world, but of the Self.
- Where non-injury is perfected, all enmity ceases in the presence of him who possesses it.
We come now to the spiritual powers which result from keeping the Commandments; from the obedience to spiritual law which is the keeping of the Commandments. Where the heart is full of kindness which seeks no injury to another, either in act or thought or wish, this full love creates an atmosphere of harmony, whose benign power touches with healing all who come within its influence. Peace in the heart radiates peace to other hearts, even more surely than contention breeds contention.
- When he is perfected in truth, all acts and their fruits depend on him.
The commentator thus explains: If he who has attained should say to a man, Become righteous! the man becomes righteous. If he should say, Gain heaven! the man gains heaven. His word is not in vain.
Exactly the same doctrine was taught by the Master who said to his disciples: Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose soever sins ye remit they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.
- Where cessation from theft is perfected, all treasures present themselves to him who possesses it.
Here is a sentence which may warn us that, beside the outer and apparent meaning, there is in many of these sentences a second and finer significance. The obvious meaning is, that he who has wholly ceased from theft, in act, thought and wish, finds buried treasures in his path, treasures of jewels and gold and pearls. The deeper truth is, that he who in every least thing is wholly honest with the spirit of Life, finds Life supporting him in all things, and gains admittance to the treasure house of Life, the spiritual universe.
- For him who is perfect in continence, the reward is valour and virility.
The creative power, strong and full of vigour, is no longer dissipated, but turned to spiritual uses. It upholds and endows the spiritual man, conferring on him the creative will, the power to engender spiritual children instead of bodily progeny. An epoch of life, that of man the animal, has come to an end; a new epoch, that of the spiritual man, is opened. The old creative power is superseded and transcended; a new creative power, that of the spiritual man, takes its place, carrying with it the power to work creatively in others for righteousness and eternal life.
One of the commentaries says that he who has attained is able to transfer to the minds of his disciples what he knows concerning divine union, and the means of gaining it. This is one of the powers of purity.
- Where there is firm conquest of covetousness, he who has conquered it awakes to the how and why of life.
So it is said that, before we can understand the laws of Karma, we must free ourselves from Karma. The conquest of covetousness brings this rich fruit, because the root of covetousness is the desire of the individual soul, the will toward manifested life. And where the desire of the individual soul is overcome by the superb, still life of the universal Soul welling up in the heart within, the great secret is discerned, the secret that the individual soul is not an isolated reality, but the ray, the manifest instrument of the Life, which turns it this way and that until the great work is accomplished, the age-long lesson learned. Thus is the how and why of life disclosed by ceasing from covetousness. The Commentator says that this includes a knowledge of one's former births.
- Through purity a withdrawal from one's own bodily life, a ceasing from infatuation with the bodily life of others.
As the spiritual light grows in the heart within, as the taste for pure Life grows stronger, the consciousness opens toward the great, secret places within, where all life is one, where all lives are one. Thereafter, this outer, manifested, fugitive life, whether of ourselves or of others, loses something of its charm and glamour, and we seek rather the deep infinitudes. Instead of the outer form and surroundings of our lives, we long for their inner and everlasting essence. We desire not so much outer converse and closeness to our friends, but rather that quiet communion with them in the inner chamber of the soul, where spirit speaks to spirit, and spirit answers; where alienation and separation never enter; where sickness and sorrow and death cannot come.
- To the pure of heart come also a quiet spirit, one-pointed thought, the victory over sensuality, and fitness to behold the Soul.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God, who is the supreme Soul; the ultimate Self of all beings. In the deepest sense, purity means fitness for this vision, and also a heart cleansed from all disquiet, from all wandering and unbridled thought, from the torment of sensuous imaginings; and when the spirit is thus cleansed and pure, it becomes at one in essence with its source, the great Spirit, the primal Life. One consciousness now thrills through both, for the psychic partition wall is broken down. Then shall the pure in heart see God, because they become God.
- From acceptance, the disciple gains happiness supreme.
One of the wise has said: accept conditions, accept others, accept yourself. This is the true acceptance, for all these things are what they are through the will of the higher Self, except their deficiencies, which come through thwarting the will of the higher Self, and can be conquered only through compliance with that will. By the true acceptance, the disciple comes into oneness of spirit with the overruling Soul; and, since the own nature of the Soul is being, happiness, bliss, he comes thereby into happiness supreme.
- The perfection of the powers of the bodily vesture comes through the wearing away of impurities, and through fervent aspiration.
This is true of the physical powers, and of those which dwell in the higher vestures. There must be, first, purity; as the blood must be pure, before one can attain to physical health. But absence of impurity is not in itself enough, else would many nerveless ascetics of the cloisters rank as high saints. There is needed, further, a positive fire of the will; a keen vital vigour for the physical powers, and something finer, purer, stronger, but of kindred essence, for the higher powers. The fire of genius is something more than a phrase, for there can be no genius without the celestial fire of the awakened spiritual will.
- Through spiritual reading, the disciple gains communion with the divine Power on which his heart is set.
Spiritual reading meant, for ancient India, something more than it does with us. It meant, first, the recital of sacred texts, which, in their very sounds, had mystical potencies; and it meant a recital of texts which were divinely emanated, and held in themselves the living, potent essence of the divine.
For us, spiritual reading means a communing with the recorded teachings of the Masters of wisdom, whereby we read ourselves into the Master's mind, just as through his music one can enter into the mind and soul of the master musician. It has been well said that all true art is contagion of feeling; so that through the true reading of true books we do indeed read ourselves into the spirit of the Masters, share in the atmosphere of their wisdom and power, and come at last into their very presence.
- Soul-vision is perfected through perfect obedience to the Master.
The sorrow and darkness of life come of the erring personal will which sets itself against the will of the Soul, the one great Life. The error of the personal will is inevitable, since each will must be free to choose, to try and fail, and so to find the path. And sorrow and darkness are inevitable, until the path be found, and the personal will made once more one with the greater Will, wherein it finds rest and power, without losing freedom. In His will is our peace. And with that peace comes light. Soul-vision is perfected through obedience.
- Right poise must be firm and without strain. Here we approach a section of the teaching which has manifestly a two-fold meaning. The first is physical, and concerns the bodily position of the student, and the regulation of breathing. These things have their direct influence upon soul-life, the life of the spiritual man, since it is always and everywhere true that our study demands a sound mind in a sound body. The present sentence declares that, for work and for meditation, the position of the body must be steady and without strain, in order that the finer currents of life may run their course.
It applies further to the poise of the soul, that fine balance and stability which nothing can shake, where the consciousness rests on the firm foundation of spiritual being. This is indeed the house set upon a rock, which the winds and waves beat upon in vain.
- Right poise is to be gained by steady and temperate effort, and by setting the heart upon the everlasting.
Here again, there is the two-fold meaning, for physical poise is to be gained by steady effort of the muscles, by gradual and wise training, linked with a right understanding of, and relation with, the universal force of gravity. Uprightness of body demands that both these conditions shall be fulfilled.
In like manner the firm and upright poise of the spiritual man is to be gained by steady and continued effort, always guided by wisdom, and by setting the heart on the Eternal, filling the soul with the atmosphere of the spiritual world. Neither is effective without the other. Aspiration without effort brings weakness; effort without aspiration brings a false strength, not resting on enduring things. The two together make for the right poise which sets the spiritual man firmly and steadfastly on his feet.
- The fruit of right poise is the strength to resist the shocks of infatuation or sorrow.
In the simpler physical sense, which is also coveted by the wording of the original, this sentence means that wise effort establishes such bodily poise that the accidents of life cannot disturb it, as the captain remains steady, though disaster overtake his ship.
But the deeper sense is far more important. The spiritual man, too, must learn to withstand all shocks, to remain steadfast through the perturbations of external things and the storms and whirlwinds of the psychical world. This is the power which is gained by wise, continuous effort, and by filling the spirit with the atmosphere of the Eternal.
- When this is gained, there follows the right guidance of the life-currents, the control of the incoming and outgoing breath.
It is well understood to-day that most of our maladies come from impure conditions of the blood. It is coming to be understood that right breathing, right oxygenation, will do very much to keep the blood clean and pure. Therefore a right knowledge of breathing is a part of the science of life.
But the deeper meaning is, that the spiritual man, when he has gained poise through right effort and aspiration, can stand firm, and guide the currents of his life, both the incoming current of events, and the outgoing current of his acts.
Exactly the same symbolism is used in the saying: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.... Those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart ... out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, uncleanness, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. Therefore the first step in purification is to keep the Commandments.
- The life-current is either outward, or inward, or balanced; it is regulated according to place, time, number; it is prolonged and subtle. The technical, physical side of this has its value. In the breath, there should be right inbreathing, followed by the period of pause, when the air comes into contact with the blood, and this again followed by right outbreathing, even, steady, silent. Further, the lungs should be evenly filled; many maladies may arise from the neglect and consequent weakening of some region of the lungs. And the number of breaths is so important, so closely related to health, that every nurse's chart records it.
But the deeper meaning is concerned with the currents of life; with that which goeth into and cometh out of the heart.
- The fourth degree transcends external and internal objects.
The inner meaning seems to be that, in addition to the three degrees of control already described, control, that is, over the incoming current of life, over the outgoing current, and over the condition of pause or quiesence, there is a fourth degree of control, which holds in complete mastery both the outer passage of events and the inner currents of thoughts and emotions; a condition of perfect poise and stability in the midst of the flux of things outward and inward.
- Thereby is worn away the veil which covers up the light.
The veil is the psychic nature, the web of emotions, desires, argumentative trains of thought, which cover up and obscure the truth by absorbing the entire attention and keeping the consciousness in the psychic realm. When hopes and fears are reckoned at their true worth, in comparison with lasting possessions of the Soul; when the outer reflections of things have ceased to distract us from inner realities; when argumentative-thought no longer entangles us, but yields its place to flashing intuition, the certainty which springs from within; then is the veil worn away, the consciousness is drawn from the psychical to the spiritual, from the temporal to the Eternal. Then is the light unveiled.
- Thence comes the mind's power to hold itself in the light.
It has been well said, that what we most need is the faculty of spiritual attention; and in the same direction of thought it has been eloquently declared that prayer does not consist in our catching God's attention, but rather in our allowing God to hold our attention.
The vital matter is, that we need to disentangle our consciousness from the noisy and perturbed thraldom of the psychical, and to come to consciousness as the spiritual man. This we must do, first, by purification, through the Commandments and the Rules; and, second, through the faculty of spiritual attention, by steadily heeding endless fine intimations of the spiritual power within us, and by intending our consciousness thereto; thus by degrees transferring the centre of consciousness from the psychical to the spiritual. It is a question, first, of love, and then of attention.
- The right Withdrawal is the disengaging of the powers from entanglement in outer things, as the psychic nature has been withdrawn and stilled.
To understand this, let us reverse the process, and think of the one consciousness, centred in the Soul, gradually expanding and taking on the form of the different perceptive powers; the one will, at the same time, differentiating itself into the varied powers of action.
Now let us imagine this to be reversed, so that the spiritual force, which has gone into the differentiated powers, is once more gathered together into the inner power of intuition and spiritual will, taking on that unity which is the hall-mark of spiritual things, as diversity is the seal of material things.
It is all a matter of love for the quality of spiritual consciousness, as against psychical consciousness, of love and attention. For where the heart is, there will the treasure be also; where the consciousness is, there will the vesture with its powers be developed.
- Thereupon follows perfect mastery over the powers.
When the spiritual condition which we have described is reached, with its purity, poise, and illuminated vision, the spiritual man is coming into his inheritance, and gaining complete mastery of his powers.
Indeed, much of the struggle to keep the Commandments and the Rules has been paving the way for this mastery; through this very struggle and sacrifice the mastery has become possible; just as, to use St. Paul's simile, the athlete gains the mastery in the contest and the race through the sacrifice of his long and arduous training. Thus he gains the crown.