Now comes an interesting and compelling stage. India believes in something that may be summed up as the Omnipresent and All-penetrating, recognizing it as the quiescent energy which can be and is transmuted into form and force, and she believes also in a power which transforms or manifests this quiescent energy in the forms of the universe we know. This force manifests itself as what we call thought-force in the nerve-currents of the body, and so down through all gradations to the lowest physical force.
Scientifically it is known that the different forms of energy in the universe are interchangeable and indestructible, and their sum total of force is, I repeat, called in India "Prana." The object of this discipline is to give control of this sum total of force.
Let us suppose--for there are of course great gradations in this knowledge--that a man partially understands the means of controlling this
universal force. It must be realized that controlling this means controlling everything in the universe according to the degree of attainment. Knowing and understanding it, we know all in so far as we can receive knowledge. To acquire this control it has seemed to great Indian minds that any sacrifice was worth while, and this is the goal to which the true Yoga discipline steadily aims. But I cannot too often insist that in certain conditions and vibrations a quite untrained mind may have a flash of it and its power, and that this is as dangerous as for an ignorant man or an animal to play about with uninsulated electric wires. But in this system we may drill and discipline our own bodies and minds and acquiring control of the little ripple of universal force which is ourselves launch outward into the great ocean. Consider at this point how in all countries people are attempting to control this force without understanding its A B C; healers, hypnotists and many more. Is it not wiser to learn the way? In India these studies are forbidden without a teacher.
The simple steps I have already given sound ridiculously inadequate to the aim, but what they give first is control of the muscles of the body and
that is very important in a world where everything is related with everything else. I used when a child to say that I could not imagine why health had not been made infectious instead of disease. I have learned that rightly understood it has. The vibrations of bodies can be transferred to one another for strengthening and healing. And as to personal control, as I have told of a modern Indian teacher skilled in this science, when in pain he was able to transfer his consciousness from the seat of pain and suffer no more. But in true healing it is not by rousing faith that the cure is accomplished; it is by raising the vibrations of the patient into concord with your own highest vibrations and there sustaining them. That vibration will be a stronger or weaker one according to your stage of attainment. In some, historically recorded, it is tremendous, though taking very different forms and developments of power. Consider the different gradations in which men become channels of this universal force. We have some very eloquent educated speaker on religion and he fills his church or hall and there it ends. You get a camel-driver in Arabia, Mohammed, and the consuming force in him became a sword that armed
millions and may yet drench the world in blood and tears. You get a highly skilled admiral or general who wins or half wins a war by sea or land and dies and with a salute of guns is forgotten, and yet take Nelson, with such a whirling force in the frail little body of him that when he looked a man in the face, "The spirit of Nelson was on him and each was Nelson that day," and his name is immortally one with victory. Or Napoleon, the little shabby Corsican with those gray-blue eyes whose fire none could face unmoved, seeing in them the flame that was to devastate Europe.
We call this genius and wonder at its mysteries but need not. It is Prana, the universal force, sometimes possessing, sometimes controlled by a man consciously, wisely, and helpfully, sometimes unconsciously and perilously, but always force irresistible. This is in truth a world of ideas, not of solidities, and must be interpreted by different and evolving stages of consciousness and not by any science of physics.
So, in learning to control the muscles and nerve-currents of the body, balance and poise are learned and the equal distribution of force. And all this must be gradually done because the results
involved are so stupendous, and though some achieve much in one life, others must evolve through many.
"Other heights in other lives," says Browning.
But through discipline and meditation lies the only way of direct attainment. Is it realized how little any of us use our minds and think at all? We watch a series of outside pictures imperfectly presented to our minds and there our mental life begins and ends.
Now comes a state which can only be believed through experiment. For all I know the description may only be symbolic or a parable, but the result is there.
It is taught in India that along the spinal column is a nerve current on either side and a canal running through the spinal cord. At the base of this canal is a storage of nerve power which can be roused into action by the above discipline and, when roused, like a mounting tide, attempts to ascend this canal which runs through the spinal cord. As the tide of nerve power rises, layer after layer of mental power is opened until it reaches the brain, and the inner, the true self becomes detached from the bonds of the mind and the body and acquires control.
It is taught in this system that only those who are skilled in the discipline have opened this canal in the spinal column, but that the nerve currents on either side act in all, though uncontrolled. The opening of this canal for the transmission of power is perhaps the most important stage in the discipline. The way to it is regulated breathing, steadily practiced and gradually increased. Perfect rhythm must be attained in the body. The importance of rhythm is being very gradually realized in the West. In Asia the very workman turns his blow or stroke or pull into pure rhythm, using generally some sacred word as the beat. So in the practice of Yoga it is usual to time and make rhythmic the breathing (as taught above) by using some sacred word as the beat. The one generally used is "Aum," the ancient word which represents the Trinity of Power, and this word flows in and out harmoniously with the breath, until both become automatic. This applies especially to the second lesson in breath, where measured breaths are taken, using the nostrils alternately, filling the lungs through each nostril in turn and exhaling the air through the other. It is claimed that the use of this exercise over a considerable time will result in such calming and
rhythmic influences throughout the body that harsh lines disappear from the face and the tones of the voice assume new beauty.
And after this comes another stage. As you fill the left nostril with air, stopping the right nostril with the thumb, concentrate the mind on the nerve current it produces. Then close both nostrils with thumb and forefinger and believe that you are sending the nerve current down the spinal column and striking on the store of force at its base. Hold it awhile. Believe then that you are slowly drawing out that nerve current with the breath into the other, and taking the thumb off the right nostril expel the breath. Reverse the process and repeat. Unused as we are to full breathing in the West this should be begun with only four seconds' inhalation (or less), retaining the air for sixteen seconds and expelling it in eight. Think always of the force at the base of the spinal column while you do this breathing. Four times in the morning and four in the evening are enough for the beginner, and the exercises must be very slowly increased as you find ease and pleasure in the practice. It is taught that along the lines of this discipline all the sexual forces can be eventually transmuted
into purest energy and that this is why in all the faiths chastity has been proposed as the most exalted virtue--a circumstance otherwise difficult of explanation in some respects. This accounts for the fact that every great faith (or psychological school) has instituted a monastic discipline, sometimes without clearly explaining, or even with misrepresentation of its reasons why under a recognized rule of men or women vowed to celibacy may very likely appear (as has often happened) the great psychological expert.
Then comes the next stage. The mind must be freed from being controlled by the representations of the senses.
The mind leaps about from thought to thought like a monkey in the boughs of a tree. It cannot fix or concentrate. It spills over on everything. You cannot hold it to one thought, for, slippery as an eel, it escapes you and is gone. You must unharness it from the hastily running pictures of the senses and by practice quiet it and reduce the waves to ripples and the ripples to a mirroring calm, and at this stage becomes possible the deep calm of concentrated meditation which in Asia is called "the one-pointed state of mind," when the mind, conscious of its grip that nothing
can relax, clenches itself on to some chosen object, turns it inside out, sees it through and through and absorbs it into perfect union.
And when this is attained the next step is to reharness the mind to far other things than the sense-impressions. Fix your mind (for practice) on some point in the body and imagine it as filled with light. It is good to focus on light because that supports the imagination in several obvious ways. At this stage sounds will be heard like music, seeds of light may be seen floating in the air. And so by this focusing and concentration every part of the body can be gradually brought under control. Men skilled in the discipline can bring the very heart-beat under perfect control. And when all these things are attained and the body is an obedient slave and no longer master comes the attainment of the higher consciousness which is called "samadhi."
India teaches that beyond reason, beyond all mental powers, is a state of consciousness in which the highest wisdom and power are attainable.
I have described the threshold of this state as the higher consciousness and I have said before a man may stumble into this state. He will then
believe what he has learned to be an inspiration from outside himself or a divine intervention, and will probably surround his knowledge with hallucinations, explaining it by such earthly knowledge as he has hitherto possessed. Take the case of Mohammed. He rose into this high consciousness, untrained, undisciplined. He reports that the angel Gabriel set him on the heavenly horse Harak and he visited the heavens. Yet that man beheld wonders of truth and in the Quran truth and superstition are distractingly blended. So with many other famous instances.
But in Yoga all the different stages, physical, mental, spiritual, meditative and so forth, lead scientifically and in gradual development to this state of higher consciousness in which the force and knowledge of the universe are open to a man as a treasury from which he may help himself according to his capacity. It is impossible that in a book like this I should do more than sketch the hasty outlines of a vast subject. I should say much more on meditation, its subjects and objects, on the patience necessary, the strict rule, and much else. For some the way is much easier and simpler than for others. I suppose that is conditioned by the stage of evolution already
reached. For all round us are souls in different degrees of evolution and the battle there, as always, is to strong. I will give a short Indian parable which expresses the instant union that may befall some, for it has a general application.
A great yogin passed through a forest and by a man who had been sitting there long absorbed in discipline and meditation, and this devotee asked, "When shall I attain full knowledge?" The yogin replied, "In four more births," and the man wept in despair. So long yet! So little done! He passed another who asked the same question. He answered: "As many leaves as you see on this tree, so many births await you before you receive full knowledge." A flood of joy transfigured the questioner's face. "So soon? And I who have done so little!" And even as those words passed his lips he received full knowledge and enlightenment, for he had perceived the truth that time is nothing in the attainment of wisdom.
I feel I have said little and there is so much which should be said. This austere Indian wisdom sounds very strangely in the clash and hurry of modern life. And when I give the following
beautiful description of the true disciple of psychological science, it is like a lost music, exquisite but out of reach.
"Abiding alone in a secret place, without craving or without possession, he shall tike his seat on a, firm seat, and with the working of the mind and senses held in check, so let him meditate, and thereby reach the Peace. He who knows the boundless joy that lies beyond the senses and is grasped by intention, he who swerves not from the truth, is as a lamp in a windless place that does not flicker."
Yet it is attainable and, to those who have attained even a little step, which of earth's prizes can seem worth a moment's consideration? Of them it may be said:
So are those who have attained even a little knowledge of the psychological prizes awaiting the seeker. Yes, these are truly the affairs of men. The world and its societies have been formed from chaos by men who have seen these things, have entered into Realization of them,
and so swayed the minds of the peoples into some faint responsive harmony with their vision. What right have those to speak on the subject of true psychology who have not studied along the line of those who have attained and have wielded the powers which have transmuted the world? It is a great and possible power to heal the sick, to walk on the water, to penetrate the thoughts of others, to transport oneself through space, but these are little things beside the power of transmuting the thoughts of other men into an energy that shall possess the world with the realization of the universal as it truly is and of their place in it. And it is only along the path so very poorly indicated in these pages that this has been done, for this path, consciously or unconsciously, has been trodden by all the great world seers. And what interest can compare with it? Here is a source of energy almost untapped which connects up with every form of force physical, mental and spiritual which exists. To meet an objection which may be raised I will quote the remarks of a German observer, Carl Kellner. After comparing this Yoga with those of the hypnotic or dream states artificially induced, he says:
"It [Yoga] makes of its true disciples good, healthy and happy men. Through the mastery which the yogin attains over his thoughts and body he grows into a character. By the subjection of his impulses to his will and fixing the latter upon the ideal of goodness he becomes a personality hard to influence by others and thus almost the. opposite of what we usually imagine a medium (so called) or psychic subject to be."
I have given only a very brief synopsis in these chapters of an enormous subject. Those interested must study it in the ancient writings and trustworthy modern interpretations. Many are not trustworthy.