Yoga for Yahoos


First Lecture — First Principles

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
It is my will to explain the subject of Yoga in clear language, without resort to jargon or the enunciation of fantastic hypotheses, in order that this great science may be thoroughly understood as of universal importance.
For, like all great things, it is simple; but, like all great things, it is masked by confused thinking; and, only too often, brought into contempt by the machinations of knavery.
There is more nonsense talked and written about Yoga than about anything else in the world. Most of this nonsense, which is fostered by charlatans, is based upon the idea that there is something mysterious and Oriental about it. There isn't. Do not look to me for obelisks and odalisques,[1] Rahat Loucoum,[2] bul-buls,[3] or any other tinsel imagery of the Yoga-mongers. I am neat but not gaudy. There is nothing mysterious or Oriental about anything, as everybody knows who has spent a little time intelligently in the continents of Asia and Africa. I propose to invoke the most remote and elusive of all Gods to throw clear light upon the subject — the light of common sense.
All phenomena of which we are aware take place in our own minds, and therefore the only thing we have to look at is the mind; which is a more constant quantity over all the species of humanity than is generally supposed. What appear to be radical differences, irreconcilable by argument, are usually found to be due to the obstinacy of habit produced by generations of systematic sectarian training.
We must then begin the study of Yoga by looking at the meaning of the word. It means Union, from the same Sanskrit root as the Greek word Zeugma, the Latin word Jugum, and the English word yoke. (Yeug — to join.[4])
When a dancing girl is dedicated to the service of a temple there is a Yoga of her relations to celebrate. Yoga, in short, may be translated 'tea fight,' which doubtless accounts for the fact that all the students of Yoga in England do nothing but gossip over endless libations of Lyons' 1s. 2d.
Yoga means Union.
In what sense are we to consider this? How is the word Yoga to imply a system of religious training or a description of religious experience?
You may note incidentally that the word Religion is really identifiable with Yoga. It means a binding together.[5]
Yoga means Union.
What are the elements which are united or to be united when this word is used in its common sense of a practice widely spread in Hindustan whose object is the emancipation of the individual who studies and practises it from the less pleasing features of his life on this planet?
I say Hindustan, but I really mean anywhere on the earth; for research has shown that similar methods producing similar results are to be found in every country. The details vary, but the general structure is the same. Because all bodies, and so all minds, have identical Forms.
Yoga means Union.
In the mind of a pious person, the inferiority complex which accounts for his piety compels him to interpret this emancipation as union with the gaseous vertebrate whom he has invented and called God. On the cloudy vapour of his fears his imagination has thrown a vast distorted shadow of himself, and he is duly terrified; and the more he cringes before it, the more the spectre seems to stoop to crush him. People with these ideas will never get to anywhere but Lunatic Asylums and Churches.
It is because of this overwhelming miasma of fear that the whole subject of Yoga has become obscure. A perfectly simple problem has been complicated by the most abject ethical and superstitious nonsense. Yet all the time the truth is patent in the word itself.
Yoga means Union.
We may now consider what Yoga really is. Let us go for a moment into the nature of consciousness with the tail of an eye on such sciences as mathematics, biology, and chemistry.
In mathematics the expression 'a' plus 'b' plus 'c' is a triviality. Write 'a' plus 'b' plus 'c' equals 0, and you obtain an equation from which the most glorious truths may be developed.
In biology the cell divides endlessly, but never becomes anything different; but if we unite cells of opposite qualities, male and female, we lay the foundations of a structure whose summit is unattainably fixed in the heavens of imagination.
Similar facts occur in chemistry. The atom by itself has few constant qualities, none of them particularly significant; but as soon as an element combines with the object of its hunger we get not only the ecstatic production of light, heat, and so forth, but a more complex structure having few or none of the qualities of its elements, but capable of further combination into complexities of astonishing sublimity. All these combinations, these unions, are Yoga.
Yoga means Union.
How are we to apply this word to the phenomena of mind?
What is the first characteristic of everything in thought? How did it come to be a thought at all? Only by making a distinction between it and the rest of the world.
The first proposition, the type of all propositions, is: S is P.
There must be two things — different things — whose relation forms knowledge.
Yoga is first of all the union of the subject and the object of consciousness: of the seer with the thing seen.
Now, there is nothing strange or wonderful about all this.
The study of the principles of Yoga is very useful to the average man, if only to make him think about the nature of the world as he supposes that he knows it.
Let us consider a piece of cheese. We say that this has certain qualities, shape, structure, colour, solidity, weight, taste, smell, consistency and the rest; but investigation has shown that this is all illusory. Where are these qualities? Not in the cheese, for different observers give quite different accounts of it. Not in ourselves, for we do not perceive them in the absence of the cheese. All 'material things,' all impressions, are phantoms.
In reality the cheese is nothing but a series of electric charges. Even the most fundamental quality of all, mass, has been found not to exist. The same is true of the matter in our brains which is partly responsible for these perceptions. What then are these qualities of which we are all so sure? They would not exist without our brains; they would not exist without the cheese. They are the results of the union, that is of the Yoga, of the seer and the seen, of subject and object in consciousness as the philosophical phrase goes. They have no material existence; they are only names given to the ecstatic results of this particular form of Yoga.
I think that nothing can be more helpful to the student of Yoga than to get the above proposition firmly established in his subconscious mind. About nine-tenths of the trouble in understanding the subject is all this ballyhoo about Yoga being mysterious and Oriental. The principles of Yoga, and the spiritual results of Yoga, are demonstrated in every conscious and unconscious happening. This is that which is written in 'The Book of the Law' — Love is the law, love under will — for Love is the instinct to unite, and the act of uniting. But this cannot be done indiscriminately, it must be done 'under will,' that is, in accordance with the nature of the particular units concerned. Hydrogen has no love for Hydrogen; it is not the nature, or the 'true Will' of Hydrogen to seek to unite with a molecule of its own kind. Add Hydrogen to Hydrogen: nothing happens to its quality: it is only its quantity that changes. It rather seeks to enlarge its experience of its possibilities by union with atoms of opposite character, such as Oxygen; with this it combines (with an explosion of light, heat, and sound) to form water. The result is entirely different from either of the component elements, and has another kind of 'true Will,' such as to unite (with similar disengagement of light and heat) with Potassium, while the resulting 'caustic Potash' has in its turn a totally new series of qualities, with still another 'true Will' of its own; that is, to unite explosively with acids. And so on.
It may seem to some of you that these explanations have rather knocked the bottom out of Yoga; that I have reduced it to the category of common things. That was my object. There is no sense in being frightened of Yoga, awed by Yoga, muddled and mystified by Yoga, or enthusiastic over Yoga. If we are to make any progress in its study, we need clear heads and the impersonal scientific attitude. It is especially important not to bedevil ourselves with Oriental jargon. We may have to use a few Sanskrit words; but that is only because they have no English equivalents; and any attempt to translate them burdens us with the connotations of the existing English words which we employ. However, these words are very few; and, if the definitions which I propose to give you are carefully studied, they should present no difficulty.
Having now understood that Yoga is the essence of all phenomena whatsoever, we may ask what is the special meaning of the word in respect of our proposed investigation, since the process and the results are familiar to every one of us; so familiar indeed that there is actually nothing else at all of which we have any knowledge. It is knowledge.
What is it we are going to study, and why should we study it?
The answer is very simple.
All this Yoga that we know and practice, this Yoga that produced these ecstatic results that we call phenomena, includes among its spiritual emanations a good deal of unpleasantness. The more we study this universe produced by our Yoga, the more we collect and synthesize our experience, the nearer we get to a perception of what the Buddha declared to be characteristic of all component things:
Sorrow, Change, and Absence of any permanent principle. We constantly approach his enunciation of the first two 'Noble Truths,' as he called them. 'Everything is Sorrow'; and 'The cause of Sorrow is Desire.' By the word 'Desire' he meant exactly what is meant by 'Love' in 'The Book of the Law' which I quoted a few moments ago. 'Desire' is the need of every unit to extend its experience by combining with its opposite.
It is easy enough to construct the whole series of arguments which lead up to the first 'Noble Truth.'
Every operation of Love is the satisfaction of a bitter hunger, but the appetite only grows fiercer by satisfaction; so that we can say with the Preacher: 'He that increaseth knowledge increaseth Sorrow.' The root of all this sorrow is in the sense of insufficiency; the need to unite, to lose oneself in the beloved object, is the manifest proof of this fact, and it is clear also that the satisfaction produces only a temporary relief, because the process expands indefinitely. The thirst increases with drinking. The only complete satisfaction conceivable would be the Yoga of the atom with the entire universe. This fact is easily perceived, and has been constantly expressed in the mystical philosophies of the West; the only goal is 'Union with God.' Of course, we only use the word 'God' because we have been brought up in superstition, and the higher philosophers both in the East and in the West have preferred to speak of union with the All or with the Absolute. More superstitions!
Very well, then, there is no difficulty at all; since every thought in our being, every cell in our bodies, every electron and proton of our atoms, is nothing but Yoga and the result of Yoga. All we have to do to obtain emancipation, satisfaction, everything we want is to perform this universal and inevitable operation upon the Absolute itself. Some of the more sophisticated members of my audience may possibly be thinking that there is a catch in it somewhere. They are perfectly right.
The snag is simply this. Every element of which we are composed is indeed constantly occupied in the satisfaction of its particular needs by its own particular Yoga; but for that very reason it is completely obsessed by its own function, which it must naturally consider as the Be-All and End-All of its existence. For instance, if you take a glass tube open at both ends and put it over a bee on the windowpane it will continue beating against the window to the point of exhaustion and death, instead of escaping through the tube. We must not confuse the necessary automatic functioning of any of our elements with the true Will which is the proper orbit of any star. A human being only acts as a unit at all because of countless generations of training. Evolutionary processes have set up a higher order of Yogic action by which we have managed to subordinate what we consider particular interests to what we consider the general welfare. We are communities; and our well-being depends upon the wisdom of our Councils, and the discipline with which their decisions are enforced. The more complicated we are, the higher we are in the scale of evolution, the more complex and difficult is the task of legislation and of maintaining order.
In highly civilised communities like our own (loud laughter), the individual is constantly being attacked by conflicting interests and necessities; his individuality is constantly being assailed by the impact of other people; and in a very large number of cases he is unable to stand up to the strain. 'Schizophrenia,' which is a lovely word, and may or may not be found in your dictionary, is an exceedingly common complaint. It means the splitting up of the mind. In extreme cases we get the phenomena of multiple personality, Jekyll and Hyde, only more so. At the best, when a man says 'I' he refers only to a transitory phenomenon. His 'I' changes as he utters the word. But — philosophy apart — it is rarer and rarer to find a man with a mind of his own and a will of his own, even in this modified sense.
I want you therefore to see the nature of the obstacles to union with the Absolute. For one thing, the Yoga which we constantly practice has not invariable results; there is a question of attention, of investigation, of reflexion. I propose to deal in a future instruction with the modifications of our perception thus caused, for they are of great importance to our science of Yoga. For example, the classical case of the two men lost in a thick wood at night. One says to the other: 'That dog barking is not a grasshopper; it is the creaking of a cart.' Or again, 'He thought he saw a banker's clerk descending from a bus. He looked again, and saw it was a hippopotamus.'[6]
Everyone who has done any scientific investigation knows painfully how every observation must be corrected again and again. The need of Yoga is so bitter that it blinds us. We are constantly tempted to see and hear what we want to see and hear.
It is therefore incumbent upon us, if we wish to make the universal and final Yoga with the Absolute, to master every element of our being, to protect it against all civil and external war, to intensify every faculty to the utmost, to train ourselves in knowledge and power to the utmost; so that at the proper moment we may be in perfect condition to fling ourselves up into the furnace of ecstasy which flames from the abyss of annihilation.
Love is the law, love under will.

Second Lecture — Yama

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Stars and placental amniotes![7] And ye inhabitants of the ten thousand worlds! The conclusion of our researches last week was that the ultimate Yoga which gives emancipation, which destroys the sense of separateness which is the root of Desire, is to be made by the concentration of every element of one's being, and annihilating it by intimate combustion with the universe itself.
I might here note, in parenthesis, that one of the difficulties of doing this is that all the elements of the Yogi increase in every way exactly as he progresses, and by reason of that progress. However, it is no use crossing our bridges until we come to them, and we shall find that by laying down serious scientific principles based on universal experience they will serve us faithfully through every stage of the journey.
When I first undertook the investigation of Yoga, I was fortunately equipped with a very sound training in the fundamental principles of modern science. I saw immediately that if we were to put any common sense into the business (science is nothing but instructed common sense), the first thing to do was to make a comparative study of the different systems of mysticism. It was immediately apparent that the results all over the world were identical. They were masked by sectarian theories. The methods all over the world were identical; this was masked by religious prejudice and local custom. But in their quiddity[8] — identical! This simple principle proved quite sufficient to disentangle the subject from the extraordinary complexities which have confused its expression.
When it came to the point of preparing a simple analysis of the matter, the question arose: what terms shall we use? The mysticisms of Europe are hopelessly muddled; the theories have entirely overlaid the methods. The Chinese system is perhaps the most sublime and the most simple; but, unless one is born a Chinese, the symbols are of really unclimbable difficulty. The Buddhist system is in some ways the most complete, but it is also the most recondite.[9] The words are excessive in length and difficult to commit to memory; and generally speaking, one cannot see the wood for the trees. But from the Indian system, overloaded though it is by accretions of every kind, it is comparatively easy to extract a method which is free from unnecessary and undesirable implications, and to make an interpretation of it intelligible to, and acceptable by, European minds. It is this system, and this interpretation of it, which I propose to put before you.
The great classic of Sanskrit literature is the Aphorisms of Patanjali.[10] He is at least mercifully brief, and not more than ninety or ninety-five percent of what he writes can be dismissed as the ravings of a disordered mind. What remains is twenty-four carat gold. I now proceed to bestow it.
It is said that Yoga has eight limbs. Why limbs I do not know. But I have found it convenient to accept this classification, and we can cover the ground very satisfactorily by classing our remarks under these eight headings.
These headings are: —
  1. Yama.
  2. Niyama.
  3. Asana.
  4. Pranayama.
  5. Pratyahara.
  6. Dharana.
  7. Dhyana.
  8. Samadhi.
Any attempt to translate these words will mire us in a hopeless quag[11] of misunderstanding. What we can do is to deal with each one in turn, giving at the outset some sort of definition or description which will enable us to get a fairly complete idea of what is meant. I shall accordingly begin with an account of Yama.
Attend! Perpend! Transcend!
Yama is the easiest of the eight limbs of Yoga to define, and corresponds pretty closely to our word 'control.' When I tell you that some have translated it 'morality', you will shrink appalled and aghast at this revelation of the brainless baseness of humanity.
The word 'control' is here not very different from the word 'inhibition' as used by biologists. A primary cell, such as the amoeba, is in one sense completely free, in another completely passive. All parts of it are alike. Any part of its surface can ingest its food. If you cut it in half, the only result is that you have two perfect amoebae instead of one. How far is this condition removed in the evolutionary scale from trunk murders![12]
Organisms developed by specialising their component structures have not achieved this so much by an acquisition of new powers, as by a restriction of part of the general powers. Thus, a Harley Street[13] specialist is simply an ordinary doctor who says: 'I won't go out and attend to a sick person; I won't, I won't, I won't.'
Now what is true of cells is true of all already potentially specialised organs. Muscular power is based upon the rigidity of bones, and upon the refusal of joints to allow any movement in any but the appointed directions. The more solid the fulcrum, the more efficient the lever. The same remark applies to moral issues. These issues are in themselves perfectly simple; but they have been completely overlaid by the sinister activities of priests and lawyers.
There is no question of right or wrong in any abstract sense about any of these problems. It is absurd to say that it is 'right' for chlorine to combine enthusiastically with hydrogen,[14] and only in a very surly way with oxygen.[15] It is not virtuous of a hydra to be hermaphrodite, or contumacious[16] on the part of an elbow not to move freely in all directions. Anybody who knows what his job is has only one duty, which is to get that job done. Anyone who possesses a function has only one duty to that function, to arrange for its free fulfilment.
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
We shall not be surprised therefore if we find that the perfectly simple term Yama (or Control) has been bedevilled out of all sense by the mistaken and malignant ingenuity of the pious Hindu. He has interpreted the word 'control' as meaning compliance with certain fixed proscriptions. There are quite a lot of prohibitions grouped under the heading of Yama, which are perhaps quite necessary for the kind of people contemplated by the Teacher, but they have been senselessly elevated into universal rules. Everyone is familiar with the prohibition of pork as an article of diet by Jews and Mohammedans. This has nothing to do with Yama, or abstract righteousness. It was due to the fact that pork in eastern countries was infected with the trichina; which killed people who ate pork improperly cooked.[17] It was no good telling the savages that fact. Any way, they would only have broken the hygienic command when greed overcame them. The advice had to be made a universal rule, and supported with the authority of a religious sanction. They had not the brains to believe in trichinosis; but they were afraid of Jehovah and Jehannum.[18] Just so, under the grouping of Yama we learn that the aspiring Yogi must become 'fixed in the non-receiving of gifts,' which means that if anyone offers you a cigarette or a drink of water, you must reject his insidious advances in the most Victorian manner. It is such nonsense as this which brings the science of Yoga into contempt. But it isn't nonsense if you consider the class of people for whom the injunction was promulgated; for, as we will be shown later, preliminary to the concentration of the mind is the control of the mind, which means the calm of the mind, and the Hindu mind is so constituted that if you offer a man the most trifling object, the incident is a landmark in his life. It upsets him completely for years.
In the East, an absolutely automatic and thoughtless act of kindness to a native is liable to attach him to you, body and soul, for the rest of his life. In other words, it is going to upset him; and as a budding Yogi he has got to refuse it. But even the refusal is going to upset him quite a lot; and therefore he has got to become 'fixed' in refusal; that is to say, he has got to erect by means of habitual refusal a psychological barrier so strong that he can really dismiss the temptation without a quiver, or a quaver, or even a demisemiquaver[19] of thought. I am sure you will see that an absolute rule is necessary to obtain this result. It is obviously impossible for him to try to draw the line between what he may receive and what he may not; he is merely involved in a Socratic dilemma; whereas if he goes to the other end of the line and accepts everything, his mind is equally upset by the burden of the responsibility of dealing with the things he has accepted. However, all these considerations do not apply to the average European mind. If someone gives me 200,000 pounds sterling, I automatically fail to notice it. It is a normal circumstance of life. Test me!
There are a great many other injunctions, all of which have to be examined independently in order to find whether they apply to Yoga in general, and to the particular advantage of any given student. We are to exclude especially all those considerations based on fantastic theories of the universe, or on the accidents of race or climate.
For instance, in the time of the late Maharajah of Kashmir, mahsir[20] fishing was forbidden throughout his territory; because, when a child, he had been leaning over the parapet of a bridge over the Jhilam at Srinagar, and inadvertently opened his mouth, so that a mahsir was able to swallow his soul. It would never have done for a Sahib — a Mlecha![21] — to catch that mahsir. This story is really typical of 90% of the precepts usually enumerated under the heading Yama. The rest are for the most part based on local and climatic conditions, and they may or may not be applicable to your own case. And, on the other hand, there are all sorts of good rules which have never occurred to a teacher of Yoga; because those teachers never conceived the condition in which many people live today. It never occurred to the Buddha or Patanjali or Mansur el-Hallaj to advise his pupils not to practise in a flat with a wireless set next door.
The result of all this is that all of you who are worth your salt will be absolutely delighted when I tell you to scrap all the rules and discover your own. Sir Richard Burton said: 'He noblest lives and noblest dies, who makes and keeps his self-made laws.'
This is, of course, what every man of science has to do in every experiment. This is what constitutes an experiment. The other kind of man has only bad habits. When you explore a new country, you don't know what the conditions are going to be; and you have to master those conditions by the method of trial and error. We start to penetrate the stratosphere; and we have to modify our machines in all sorts of ways which were not altogether foreseen. I wish to thunder forth once more that no questions of right or wrong enter into our problems. But in the stratosphere it is 'right' for a man to be shut up in a pressure-resisting suit electrically heated, with an oxygen supply, whereas it would be 'wrong' for him to wear it if he were running the three miles in the summer sports in the Tanezrouft.[22]
This is the pit into which all the great religious teachers have hitherto fallen, and I am sure you are all looking hungrily at me in the hope of seeing me do likewise. But no! There is one principle which carries us through all conflicts concerning conduct, because it is perfectly rigid and perfectly elastic: — 'Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.'
So: it is not the least use to come and pester me about it.
Perfect mastery of the violin in six easy lessons by correspondence!
Should I have the heart to deny you? But Yama is different.
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. That is Yama.
Your object is to perform Yoga. Your True Will is to attain the consummation of marriage with the universe, and your ethical code must constantly be adapted precisely to the conditions of your experiment. Even when you have discovered what your code is, you will have to modify it as you progress; 'remould it nearer to the heart's desire' — Omar Khayyam. Just so, in a Himalayan expedition your rule of daily life in the valleys of Sikkim or the Upper Indus will have to be changed when you get to the glacier. But it is possible to indicate (in general terms expressed with the greatest caution) the 'sort' of thing that is likely to be bad for you. Anything that weakens the body, that exhausts, disturbs or inflames the mind is deprecable.[23] You are pretty sure to find as you progress that there are some conditions that cannot be eliminated at all in your particular circumstances; and then you have to find a way of dealing with these so that they make a minimum of trouble. And you will find that you cannot conquer the obstacle of Yama, and dismiss it from your mind once and for all. Conditions favourable for the beginner may become an intolerable nuisance to the adept, while, on the other hand, things which matter very little in the beginning become most serious obstacles later on.
Another point is that quite unsuspected problems arise in the course of the training. The whole question of the sub-conscious mind can be dismissed almost as a joke by the average man as he goes about his daily business; it becomes a very real trouble when you discover that the tranquillity of the mind is being disturbed by a type of thought whose existence had previously been unsuspected, and whose source is unimaginable.
Then again there is no perfection of materials; there will always be errors and weaknesses, and the man who wins through is the man who manages to carry on with a defective engine. The actual strain of the work develops the defects; and it is a matter of great nicety of judgment to be able to deal with the changing conditions of life. It will be seen that the formula — 'Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law' has nothing to do with 'Do as you please.'
It is much more difficult to comply with the Law of Thelema than to follow out slavishly a set of dead regulations. Almost the only point of emancipation, in the sense of relief from a burden, is just the difference between Life and Death.
To obey a set of rules is to shift the whole responsibility of conduct on to some superannuated Bodhisattva,[24] who would resent you bitterly if he could see you, and tick you off in no uncertain terms for being such a fool as to think you could dodge the difficulties of research by the aid of a set of conventions which have little or nothing to do with actual conditions.
Formidable indeed are the obstacles we have created by the simple process of destroying our fetters. The analogy of the conquest of the air holds excellently well. The things that worry the pedestrian worry us not at all; but to control a new element your Yama must be that biological principle of adaptation to the new conditions, adjustment of the faculties to those conditions, and consequent success in those conditions, which were enunciated in respect of planetary evolution by Herbert Spencer[25] and now generalised to cover all modes of being by the Law of Thelema.
But now let me begin to unleash my indignation. My job — the establishment of the Law of Thelema — is a most discouraging job. It is the rarest thing to find anyone who has any ideas at all on the subject of liberty. Because the Law of Thelema is the law of liberty, everybody's particular hair stands on end like the quills of the fretful porpentine;[26] they scream like an uprooted mandrake,[27] and flee in terror from the accursed spot. Because: the exercise of liberty means that you have to think for yourself, and the natural inertia of mankind wants religion and ethics ready-made. However ridiculous or shameful a theory or practice is, they would rather comply than examine it. Sometimes it is hook-swinging[28] or Sati;[29] sometimes consubstantiation[30] or supra-lapsarianism;[31] they do not mind what they are brought up in, as long as they are well brought up. They do not want to be bothered about it. The Old School Tie[32] wins through. They never suspect the meaning of the pattern on the tie: the Broad Arrow.[33]
You remember Dr. Alexandre Manette in 'A Tale of Two Cities.'
He had been imprisoned for many years in the Bastille, and to save himself from going mad had obtained permission to make shoes. When he was released, he disliked it. He had to be approached with the utmost precaution; he fell into an agony of fear if his door was left unlocked; he cobbled away in a frenzy of anxiety lest the shoes should not be finished in time-the shoes that nobody wanted. Charles Dickens lived at a time and in a country such that this state of mind appeared abnormal and even deplorable, but today it is a characteristic of 95 per cent of the people of England. Subjects that were freely discussed under Queen Victoria are now absolutely taboo; because everyone knows subconsciously that to touch them, however gently, is to risk precipitating the catastrophe of their dry-rot.
There are not going to be many Yogis in England, because there will not be more than a very few indeed who will have the courage to tackle even this first of the eight limbs of Yoga: Yama.
I do not think that anything will save the country: unless through war and revolution, when those who wish to survive will have to think and act for themselves according to their desperate needs, and not by some rotten yard-stick of convention. Why, even the skill of the workman has almost decayed within a generation! Forty years ago there were very few jobs that a man could not do with a jack-knife and a woman with a hair-pin; today you have to have a separate gadget for every trivial task.
If you want to become Yogis, you will have to get a move on.
Lege! Judica! Tace![34]
Love is the law, love under will.

Third Lecture — Niyama

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
The subject of my third lecture is Niyama. Niyama? H'm!
The inadequacy of even the noblest attempts to translate these wretched Sanskrit words is now about to be delightfully demonstrated. The nearest I can get to the meaning of Niyama is 'virtue'! God help us all! This means virtue in the original etymological sense of the word — the quality of manhood; that is, to all intents and purposes, the quality of godhead.[35] But since we are translating Yama 'control,' we find that our two words have not at all the same relationship to each other that the words have in the original Sanskrit; for the prefix 'ni' in Sanskrit gives the meaning of turning everything upside down and backwards forwards, — as you would say, Hysteron Proteron[36] — at the same time producing the effect of transcendental sublimity. I find that I cannot even begin to think of a proper definition, although I know in my own mind perfectly well what the Hindus mean; if one soaks oneself in Oriental thought for a sufficient number of years, one gets a spiritual apprehension which it is quite impossible to express in terms applicable to the objects of intellectual apprehension; it is therefore much better to content ourselves with the words as they stand, and get down to brass tacks about the practical steps to be taken to master these preliminary exercises.
It will hardly have escaped the attentive listener that in my previous lectures I have combined the maximum of discourse with the minimum of information; that is all part of my training as a Cabinet Minister. But what does emerge tentatively from my mental fog is that Yama, taking it by long and by large, is mostly negative in its effects. We are imposing inhibitions on the existing current of energy, just as one compresses a waterfall in turbines in order to control and direct the natural gravitational energy of the stream.
It might be as well, before altogether leaving the subject of Yama, to enumerate a few of the practical conclusions which follow from our premise that nothing which might weaken or destroy the beauty and harmony of the mind must be permitted. Social existence of any kind renders any serious Yoga absolutely out of the question; domestic life is completely incompatible with even elementary practices. No doubt many of you will say, 'That's all very well for him; let him speak for himself; as for me, I manage my home and my business so that everything runs on ball bearings.' Echo answers …
Until you actually start the practice of Yoga, you cannot possibly imagine what constitutes a disturbance. You, most of you, think that you can sit perfectly still; you tell me what artists' models can do for over thirty-five minutes. They don't. You do not hear the ticking of the clock; perhaps you do not even know whether a typewriter is going in the room; for all I know, you could sleep peacefully through an air-raid. That has nothing to do with it. As soon as you start the practices you will find, if you are doing them properly, that you are hearing sounds which you never heard before in your life. You become hypersensitive. And as you have five external batteries bombarding you, you get little repose. You feel the air on your skin with about the same intensity as you would previously have felt a fist in your face.
To some extent, no doubt, this fact will be familiar to all of you. Probably most of you have been out at some time or other in what is grotesquely known as the silence of the night, and you will have become aware of infinitesimal movements of light in the darkness, of elusive sounds in the quiet. They will have soothed you and pleased you; it will never have occurred to you that these changes could each one be felt as a pang. But, even in the earliest months of Yoga, this is exactly what happens, and therefore it is best to be prepared by arranging, before you start at all, that your whole life will be permanently free from all the grosser causes of trouble. The practical problem of Yama is therefore, to a great extent, 'How shall I settle down to the work?' Then, having complied with the theoretically best conditions, you have to tackle each fresh problem as it arises in the best way you can.
We are now in a better position to consider the meaning of Niyama, or virtue. To most men the qualities which constitute Niyama are not apprehended at all by their self-consciousness. These are positive powers, but they are latent; their development is not merely measurable in terms of quantity and efficiency. As we rise from the coarse to the fine, from the gross to the subtle, we enter a new (and what appears on first sight to be an immeasurable) region. It is quite impossible to explain what I mean by this; if I could, you would know it already. How can one explain to a person who has never skated the nature of the pleasure of executing a difficult figure on the ice? He has in himself the whole apparatus ready for use; but experience, and experience only, can make him aware of the results of such use.
At the same time, in a general exposition of Yoga, it may be useful to give some idea of the functions on which those peaks that pierce the clouds of the limitations of our intellectual understanding are based.
I have found it very useful in all kinds of thinking to employ a sort of Abacus. The schematic representation of the universe given by astrology and the Tree of Life is extremely valuable, especially when reinforced and amplified by the Holy Qabalah. This Tree of Life is susceptible to infinite ramifications, and there is no need in this connection to explore its subtleties. We ought to be able to make a fairly satisfactory diagram for elementary purposes by taking as the basis of our illustration the solar system as conceived by the astrologers.
I do not know whether the average student is aware that in practice the significations of the planets are based generally upon the philosophical conceptions of the Greek and Roman gods. Let us hope for the best, and go on!
The planet Saturn, which represents anatomy, is the skeleton: it is a rigid structure upon which the rest of the body is built. To what moral qualities does this correspond? The first point of virtue in a bone is its rigidity, its resistance to pressure. And so in Niyama we find that we need the qualities of absolute simplicity in our regimen; we need insensibility; we need endurance; we need patience. It is simply impossible for anyone who has not practised Yoga to understand what boredom means. I have known Yogis, men even holier than I, (no! no!) who, to escape from the intolerable tedium, would fly for refuge to a bottle party! It is a 'physiological' tedium which becomes the acutest agony. The tension becomes cramp; nothing else matters but to escape from the self-imposed constraint.
But every evil brings its own remedy. Another quality of Saturn is melancholy; Saturn represents the sorrow of the universe; it is the Trance of sorrow that has determined one to undertake the task of emancipation. This is the energising force of Law; it is the rigidity of the fact that everything is sorrow which moves one to the task, and keeps one on the Path.
The next planet is Jupiter. This planet is in many ways the opposite of Saturn; it represents expansion as Saturn represents contraction; it is the universal love, the selfless love whose object can be no less than the universe itself. This comes to reinforce the powers of Saturn when they agonise; success is not for self but for all; one might acquiesce in one's own failure, but one cannot be unworthy of the universe. Jupiter, too, represents the vital, creative, genial element of the cosmos. He has Ganymede and Hebe to his cupbearers. There is an immense and inaccessible joy in the Great Work; and it is the attainment of the trance, of even the intellectual foreshadowing of that trance, of joy, which reassures the Yogi that his work is worth while.
Jupiter digests experiences; Jupiter is the Lord of the Forces of Life; Jupiter takes common matter and transmutes it into celestial nourishment.
The next planet is Mars. Mars represents the muscular system; it is the lowest form of energy, and in Niyama it is to be taken quite literally as the virtue which enables one to contend with, and to conquer, the physical difficulties of the Work. The practical point is this: 'The little more and how much it is, the little less and what worlds away!' No matter how long you keep water at 99 degrees Centigrade under normal barometric pressure, it will not boil. I shall probably be accused of advertising some kind of motor spirit in talking about the little extra something that the others haven't got, but I assure you that I am not being paid for it.
Let us take the example of Pranayama, a subject with which I hope to deal in a subsequent lucubration.[37] Let us suppose that you are managing your breath so that your cycle, breathing in, holding, and breathing out, lasts exactly a minute. That is pretty good work for most people, but it may be or may not be good enough to get you going. No one can tell you until you have tried long enough (and no one can tell you how long 'long enough' may be) whether that is going to ring the bell. It may be that if you increase your sixty seconds to sixty-four the phenomena would begin immediately. That sounds all right but as you have nearly burst your lungs doing the sixty, you want this added energy to make the grade. That is only one example of the difficulty which arises with every practice.
Mars, moreover, is the flaming energy of passion, it is the male quality in its lowest sense; it is the courage which goes berserk, and I do not mind telling you that, in my own case at least, one of the inhibitions with which I had most frequently to contend was the fear that I was going mad. This was especially the case when those phenomena began to occur, which, recorded in cold blood, did seem like madness. And the Niyama of Mars is the ruthless rage which jests at scars while dying of one's wounds.
'… the grim Lord of Colonsay
Hath turned him on the ground,
And laughed in death-pang that his blade
The mortal thrust so well repaid'[38]
The next of the heavenly bodies is the centre of all, the Sun. The Sun is the heart of the system; he harmonises all, energises all, orders all. His is the courage and energy which is the source of all the other lesser forms of motion, and it is because of this that in himself he is calm. They are planets; he is a star. For him all planets come; around him they all move, to him they all tend. It is this centralisation of faculties, their control, their motivation, which is the Niyama of the Sun. He is not only the heart but the brain of the system; but he is not the 'thinking' brain, for in him all thought has been resolved into the beauty and harmony of ordered motion.
The next of the planets is Venus. In her, for the first time, we come into contact with a part of our nature which is none the less quintessential because it has hitherto been masked by our preoccupation with more active qualities. Venus resembles Jupiter, but on a lower scale, standing to him very much as Mars does to Saturn. She is close akin in nature to the Sun, and she may be considered an externalisation of his influence towards beauty and harmony. Venus is Isis, the Great Mother; Venus is Nature herself;
Venus is the sum of all possibilities.
The Niyama corresponding to Venus is one of the most important, and one of the most difficult of attainment. I said the sum of all possibilities, and I will ask you to go back in your minds to what I said before about the definition of the Great Work itself, the aim of the Yogi to consummate the marriage of all that he is with all that he is not, and ultimately to realise, insofar as the marriage is consummated, that what he is and what he is not are identical. Therefore we cannot pick and choose in our Yoga. It is written in the 'Book of the Law', Chapter 1, verse 22, 'Let there be no difference made among you between any one thing and any other thing, for thereby there cometh hurt.'
Venus represents the ecstatic acceptance of all possible experience, and the transcendental assumption of all particular experience into the one experience.
Oh yes, by the way, don't forget this. In a lesser sense Venus represents tact. Many of the problems that confront the Yogi are impracticable to intellectual manipulation. They yield to graciousness.
Our next planet is Mercury, and the Niyama which correspond to him are as innumerable and various as his own qualities. Mercury is the Word, the Logos in the highest; he is the direct medium of connection between opposites; he is electricity, the very link of life, the Yogic process itself, its means, its end. Yet he is in himself indifferent to all things, as the electric current is indifferent to the meaning of the messages which may be transmitted by its means. The Niyama corresponding to Mercury in its highest forms may readily be divined from what I have already said, but in the technique of Yoga he represents the fineness of the method which is infinitely adaptable to all problems, and only so because he is supremely indifferent. He is the adroitness and ingenuity which helps us in our difficulties; he is the mechanical system, the symbolism which helps the human mind of the Yogi to take cognisance of what is coming.
It must here be remarked that because of his complete indifference to anything whatever (and that thought is — when you get far enough — only a primary point of wisdom) he is entirely unreliable. One of the most unfathomably dreadful dangers of the Path is that you must trust Mercury, and yet that if you trust him you are certain to be deceived. I can only explain this, if at all, by pointing out that, since all truth is relative, all truth is falsehood. In one sense Mercury is the great enemy; Mercury is mind, and it is the mind that we have set out to conquer.
The last of the seven sacred planets is the Moon. The Moon represents the totality of the female part of us, the passive principle which is yet very different to that of Venus, for the Moon corresponds to the Sun much as Venus does to Mars. She is more purely passive than Venus, and although Venus is so universal the Moon is also universal in another sense. The Moon is the highest and the lowest; the Moon is the aspiration, the link of man and God; she is the supreme purity: Isis the Virgin, Isis the Virgin Mother; but she comes right down at the other end of the scale, to be a symbol of the senses themselves, the mere instrument of the registration of phenomena, incapable of discrimination, incapable of choice. The Niyama corresponding to her influence, the first of all, is that quality of aspiration, the positive purity which refuses union with anything less than the All. In Greek mythology Artemis, the Goddess of the Moon, is virgin; she yielded only to Pan. Here is one particular lesson: as the Yogi advances, magic powers (Siddhi[39] the teachers call them) are offered to the aspirant; if he accepts the least of these — or the greatest — he is lost.
At the other end of the scale of the Niyama of the Moon are the fantastic developments of sensibility which harass the Yogi. These are all help and encouragement; these are all intolerable hindrances; these are the greatest of the obstacles which confront the human being, trained as he is by centuries of evolution to receive his whole consciousness through the senses alone. And they hit us hardest because they interfere directly with the technique of our work; we are constantly gaining new powers, despite ourselves, and every time this happens we have to invent a new method for bringing their malice to naught. But, as before, the remedy is of the same stuff as the disease; it is the unswerving purity of aspiration that enables us to surmount all these difficulties. The Moon is the sheet-anchor of our work. It is the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel that enables us to overcome, at all times and in all manners, as the need of the moment may be.
There are two other planets, not counted as among the sacred seven. I will not say that they were known to the ancients and deliberately concealed, though much in their writing suggests that this may be the case. I refer to the planet Herschel, or Uranus, and Neptune. Whatever may have been the knowledge of the ancients, it is at least certain that they left gaps in their system which were exactly filled by these two planets, and the newly discovered Pluto. They fill these gaps just as the newly discovered chemical elements discovered in the last fifty years fill the gaps in Mendelejeff's table of the Periodic Law.
Herschel represents the highest form of the True Will, and it seems natural and right that this should not rank with the seven sacred planets, because the True Will is the sphere which transcends them. 'Every man and every woman is a star.' Herschel defines the orbit of the star, your star. But Herschel is dynamic; Herschel is explosive; Herschel, astrologically speaking, does not move in an orbit; he has his own path. So the Niyama which corresponds to this planet is, first and last, the discovery of the True Will. This knowledge is secret and most sacred; each of you must incorporate for yourself the incidence and quality of Herschel. It is the most important of the tasks of the Yogi, because, until he has achieved it, he can have no idea who he is or where he is going.
Still more remote and tenuous is the influence of Neptune.
Here we have a Niyama of infinite delicacy, a spiritual intuition far, far removed from any human quality whatever. Here all is fantasy, and in this world are infinite pleasure, infinite perils. The True Niyama of Neptune is the imaginative faculty, the shadowing forth of the nature of the illimitable light.
He has another function. The Yogi who understands the influence of Neptune, and is attuned to Neptune, will have a sense of humour, which is the greatest safeguard for the Yogi. Neptune is, so to speak, in the front line; he has got to adapt himself to difficulties and tribulations; and when the recruit asks 'What made that 'ole?' he has got to say, unsmiling, 'Mice.'[40]
Pluto is the utmost sentinel of all; of him it is not wise to speak.
… Having now given vent to this sybilline,[41] obscure and sinister utterance, it may well be asked by the greatly daring: Why is it not wise to speak of Pluto? The answer is profound. It is because nothing at all is known about him.
Anyhow it hardly matters; we have surely had enough of Niyama for one evening!
It is now proper to sum up briefly what we have learnt about Yama and Niyama. They are in a sense the moral, logical preliminaries of the technique of Yoga proper. They are the strategical as opposed to the tactical dispositions which must be made by the aspirant before he attempts anything more serious than the five finger exercises, as we may call them — the recruit's drill of postures, breathing exercises and concentration which the shallow confidently suppose to constitute this great science and art.
We have seen that it is presumptuous and impractical to lay down definite rules as to what we are to do. What does concern us is so to arrange matters that we are free to do anything that may become necessary or expedient, allowing for that development of supernormal powers which enables us to carry out our plans as they form in the mutable bioscope[42] of events.
If anyone comes to me for a rough and ready practical plan I say: Well, if you must stay in England, you may be able to bring it off with a bit of luck in an isolated cottage, remote from roads, if you have the services of an attendant already well trained to deal with the emergencies that are likely to arise. A good disciplinarian might carry on fairly well, at a pinch, in a suite in Claridge's.
But against this it may be urged that one has to reckon with unseen forces. The most impossible things begin to happen when once you get going. It is not really satisfactory to start serious Yoga unless you are in a country where the climate is reliable, and where the air is not polluted by the stench of civilisation. It is extremely important, above all things important, unless one is an exceedingly rich man, to find a country where the inhabitants understand the Yogin mode of life, where they are sympathetic with its practices, treat the aspirant with respect, and unobtrusively assist and protect him. In such circumstances, the exigency of Yama and Niyama is not so serious a stress.
There is, too, something beyond all these practical details which it is hard to emphasise without making just those mysterious assumptions which we have from the first resolved to avoid. All I can say is that I am very sorry, but this particular fact is going to hit you in the face before you have started very long, and I do not see why we should bother about the mysterious assumptions underlying the acceptance of the fact any more than in the case of what is after all equally mysterious and unfathomable: any object of any of the senses. The fact is this; that one acquires a feeling — a quite irrational feeling — that a given place or a given method is right or wrong for its purposes. The intimation is as assured as that of the swordsman when he picks up an untried weapon; either it comes up sweet to the hand, or it does not. You cannot explain it, and you cannot argue it away.
I have treated Yama and Niyama at great length because their importance has been greatly underrated, and their nature completely misunderstood. They are definitely magical practices, with hardly a tinge of mystical flavour. The advantage to us here is that we can very usefully exercise and develop ourselves in this way in this country where the technique of Yoga is for all practical purposes impossible. Incidentally, one's real country — that is, the conditions in which one happens to be born — is the only one in which Yama and Niyama can be practised. You cannot dodge your Karma. You have got to earn the right to devote yourself to Yoga proper by arranging for that devotion to be a necessary stage in the fulfilment of your True Will. In Hindustan one is not allowed to become 'Sanyasi' — a recluse — until one has fulfilled one's duty to one's own environment — rendered to Caesar the things which are Caesar's before rendering to God the things which are God's.
Woe to that seven months' abortion who thinks to take advantage of the accidents of birth, and, mocking the call of duty, sneaks off to stare at a blank wall in China! Yama and Niyama are only the more critical stages of Yoga because they cannot be translated in terms of a schoolboy curriculum. Nor can schoolboy tricks adequately excuse the aspirant from the duties of manhood. Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Rejoice, true men, that this is thus!
For this at least may be said, that there are results to be obtained in this way which will not only fit the aspirant for the actual battle, but will introduce him to classes of hitherto unguessed phenomena whose impact will prepare his mind for that terrific shock of its own complete overthrow which marks the first critical result of the practices of Yoga.
Love is the law, love under will.

Asana and Pranayama

The Technical Practices of Yoga.

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Last week we were able to go away feeling that the back of the job had been broken. We had got rid of bad ways, bad wives, and bad weather. We are comfortably installed in the sunshine, with no one to bother us. We have nothing to do but our work.
Such being our fortunate state, we may usefully put in an hour considering our next step. Let us recall, in the first place, what we decided to be the quintessence of our task. It was to annihilate dividuality. 'Make room for me,' cries the Persian poet whose name I have forgotten,[43] the fellow Fitzgerald translated, not Omar Khayyam, 'Make room for me on that divan which has no room for twain' — a remarkable prophetic anticipation of the luxury flatlet.
We are to unite the subject and object of consciousness in the ecstasy which soon turns, as we shall find later on, into the more sublime state of indifference, and then annihilate both the party of the first part aforesaid and the party of the second part aforesaid. This evidently results in further parties — one might almost say cocktail parties — constantly increasing until we reach infinity, and annihilate that, thereby recovering our original Nothing. Yet is that identical with the original Nothing? Yes — and No! No! No! A thousand times no! For, having fulfilled all the possibilities of that original Nothing to manifest in positive terms, we have thereby killed for ever all its possibilities of mischief.
Our task being thus perfectly simple, we shall not require the assistance of a lot of lousy rishis[44] and sanyasis.[45] We shall not apply to a crowd of moth-eaten Arahats,[46] of betel-chewing[47] Bodhisattvas,[48] for instruction. As we said in the first volume of 'The Equinox', in the first number:

'We place no reliance
On Virgin or Pigeon;
Our method is science,
Our aim is religion.'

Our common sense, guided by experience based on observation, will be sufficient.
We have seen that the Yogic process is implicit in every phenomenon of existence. All that we have to do is to extend it consciously to the process of thought. We have seen that thought cannot exist without continual change; all that we have to do is to prevent change occurring. All change is conditioned by time and space and other categories; any existing object must be susceptible of description by means of a system of coordinate axes.
On the 'terrasse' of the Cafe des Deux Magots it was once necessary to proclaim the entire doctrine of Yoga in the fewest possible words 'with a shout, and with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God.' St. Paul's First Epistle to the Thessalonians, the Fourth Chapter and the Sixteenth Verse. I did so.
'Sit still. Stop thinking. Shut up. Get out!'
The first two of these instructions comprise the whole of the technique of Yoga. The last two are of a sublimity which it would be improper to expound in this present elementary stage.
The injunction 'Sit still' is intended to include the inhibition of all bodily stimuli capable of creating movement in consciousness. The injunction 'Stop thinking' is the extension of this to all mental stimuli. It is unnecessary to discuss here whether the latter can exist apart from the former. It is at least evident that many mental processes arise from physical processes; and so we shall at least be getting a certain distance along the road if we have checked the body.
Let me digress for a moment, and brush away one misunderstanding which is certain to occur to every Anglo-Saxon mind. About the worst inheritance of the emasculate school of mystics is the abominable confusion of thought which arises from the idea that bodily functions and appetites have some moral implications. This is a confusion of the planes. There is no true discrimination between good and evil. The only question that arises is that of convenience in respect of any proposed operation. The whole of the moral and religious lumber of the ages must be discarded for ever before attempting Yoga. You will find out only too soon what it means to do wrong; by our very thesis itself all action is wrong. Any action is only relatively right in so far as it may help us to put an end to the entire process of action.
These relatively useful actions are therefore those which make for control, or 'virtue.' They have been classified, entirely regardless of trouble and expense, in enormous volume, and with the utmost complexity; to such a point, in fact, that merely to permit oneself to study the nomenclature of the various systems can have but one result: to fuddle your brain for the rest of your incarnation.
I am going to try to simplify. The main headings are:
  1. Asana, usually translated 'posture,' and
  2. Pranayama, usually translated 'control of breath.'
These translations, as usual, are perfectly wrong and inadequate. The real object of Asana is control of the muscular system, conscious and unconscious, so that no messages from the body can reach the mind. Asana is concerned with the static aspect of the body. Pranayama is really the control of the dynamic aspect of the body.
There is something a little paradoxical in the situation. The object of the process of Yoga is to stop all processes, including itself. But it is not sufficient for the Yogi to shoot himself, because to do so would be to destroy the control, and so to release the pain-producing energies. We cannot enter into a metaphysical discussion as to what it is that controls, or before we know where we are we shall be moonstruck by hypotheses about the soul.
Let us forget all this rubbish, and decide what is to be done. We have seen that to stop existing processes by an act of violence is merely to release the undesirable elements. If we want peace on Dartmoor, we do not open the doors of the prison. What we do is to establish routine. What is routine? Routine is rhythm. If you want to go to sleep, you get rid of irregular, unexpected noises. What is wanted is a lullaby. You watch sheep going through a gate, or voters at a polling station. When you have got used to it, the regularity of the engines of a train or steamship is soothing. What we have to do with the existing functions of the body is to make them so regular, with gradually increasing slowness, that we become unconscious of their operation.
Let us deal first with the question of Asana. It might be thought that nothing would be more soothing than swinging or gentle massage. In a sense, and up to a certain point, this is so. But the activity cannot be continued because fatigue supervenes, and sooner or later the body protests by going to sleep. We must, therefore, make up our minds from the start to reduce bodily rhythm to its minimum.
I am not quite sure whether it is philosophically defensible, whether it is logically justifiable, to assert the principles of Asana as they occur in our practice. We must break away from our sorites,[49] turn to the empiricism of experiment, and trust that one day we may be able to work back from observed fact to a coherent metaphysic.
The point is that by sitting still, in the plain literal sense of the words, the body does ultimately respond to the adjuration of that great Mahatma, Harry Lauder,[50] 'Stop your ticklin', Jock!'
When we approach the details of Asana, we are immediately confronted with the refuse-heap of Hindu pedantry. We constantly approach the traditional spiritual attitude of the late Queen Victoria. The only types of Asana which offer even the most transient interest are those of which I am not going to speak at all, because they have nothing whatever to do with the high-minded type of Yoga which I am presenting to this distinguished audience. I should blush to do otherwise. Anyhow, who wants to know about these ridiculous postures? If there is any fun in the subject at all, it is the fun of finding them out. I must admit that if you start with a problem such as that of juxtaposing the back of your head and shoulders with the back of the head and shoulders of the other person concerned,[51] the achievement does produce a certain satisfaction. But this, I think, is mostly vanity, and it has nothing whatever to do, as I said before, with what we are trying to talk about.
The various postures recommended by the teachers of Yoga depend for the most part upon the Hindu anatomy for their value, and upon mystic theories concerning the therapeutic and thaumaturgic properties ascribed to various parts of the body. If, for instance, you can conquer the nerve Udana,[52] you can walk on water. But who the devil wants to walk on water? Swimming is much better fun. (I bar sharks, sting-rays, cuttle-fish, electric eels and piranhas. Also trippers, bathing belles and Mr. Lansbury.[53]) Alternatively, freeze the water and dance on it! A great deal of Hindu endeavour seems to consist in discovering the most difficult possible way to attain the most undesirable end.
When you start tying yourself into a knot, you will find that some positions are much more difficult and inconvenient than others; but that is only the beginning. If you retain 'any' posture long enough, you get cramp. I forget the exact statistics, but I gather that the muscular exertion made by a man sleeping peacefully in bed is sufficient to raise fourteen elephants per hour to the stratosphere. Anyway, I remember that it is something rather difficult to believe, if only because I did not believe it myself.
Why then should we bother to choose a specially sacred position? Firstly, we want to be steady and easy. We want, in particular, to be able to do Pranayama in that position, if ever we reach the stage of attempting that practice. We may, therefore, formulate (roughly speaking) the conditions to be desired in the posture as follows:
  1. We want to be properly balanced.
  2. We want our arms free. (They are used in some Pranayama.)
  3. We want our breathing apparatus as unrestrained as possible.
Now, if you will keep these points in mind, and do not get side-tracked by totally irrelevant ideas, such as to imagine that you are getting holier by adopting some attitude traditionally appropriate to a deity or holy man; and if you will refrain from the Puritan abomination that anything is good for you if it hurts you enough, you ought to be able to find out for yourself, after a few experiments, some posture which meets these conditions. I should very much rather have you do this than come to me for some mumbo-jumbo kind of authority. I am no pig-sticking pukka sahib[54] — not even from Poona[55] — to put my hyphenated haw-haw humbug over on the B. Public.[56] I would rather you did the thing 'wrong' by yourselves, and learned from your errors, than get it 'right' from the teacher, and atrophied your initiative and your faculty of learning anything at all.
It is, however, perfectly right that you should have some idea of what happens when you sit down to practise.
Let me digress for a moment and refer to what I said in my text-book on Magick with regard to the formula IAO. This formula covers all learning. You begin with a delightful feeling as of a child with a new toy; you get bored, and you attempt to smash it. But if you are a wise child, you have had a scientific attitude towards it, and you do not smash it. You pass through the stage of boredom, and arise from the inferno of torture towards the stage of resurrection, when the toy has become a god, declared to you its inmost secrets, and become a living part of your life. There are no longer these crude, savage reactions of pleasure and pain. The new knowledge is assimilated.
So it is with Asana. The chosen posture attracts you; you purr with self-satisfaction. How clever you have been! How nicely the posture suits all conditions! You absolutely melt with maudlin good feeling. I have known pupils who have actually been betrayed into sparing a kindly thought for the Teacher! It is quite clear that there is something wrong about this. Fortunately, Time, the great healer, is on the job as usual; Time takes no week-ends off; Time does not stop to admire himself; Time keeps right on.[57] Before very long, you forget all about the pleasantness of things, and it would not be at all polite to give you any idea of what you are going to think of the Teacher.
Perhaps the first thing you notice is that, although you have started in what is apparently the most comfortable position, there is a tendency to change that position without informing you. For example, if you are sitting in the 'god' position with your knees together, you will find in a few minutes that they have moved gently apart, without your noticing it. Freud would doubtless inform you that this is due to an instinctive exacerbation of infantile sexual theories. I hope that no one here is going to bother me with that sort of nauseating nonsense.
Now it is necessary, in order to hold a position, to pay attention to it. That is to say: you are going to become conscious of your body in ways of which you are not conscious if you are engaged in some absorbing mental pursuit, or even in some purely physical activity, such as running. It sounds paradoxical at first sight, but violent exercise, so far from concentrating attention on the body, takes it away. That is because exercise has its own rhythm; and, as I said, rhythm is half-way up the ridge to Silence.
Very good, then; in the comparative stillness of the body, the student becomes aware of minute sounds which did not disturb him in his ordinary life. At least, not when his mind was occupied with matters of interest. You will begin to fidget, to itch, to cough. Possibly your breathing will begin to play tricks upon you. All these symptoms must be repressed. The process of repressing them is extremely difficult; and, like all other forms of repression, it leads to a terrific exaggeration of the phenomena which it is intended to repress.
There are quite a lot of little tricks familiar to most scientific people from their student days. Some of them are very significant in this connection of Yoga. For instance, in the matter of endurance, such as holding out a weight at arm's length, you can usually beat a man stronger than yourself. If you attend to your arm, you will probably tire in a minute; if you fix your mind resolutely on something else, you can go on for five minutes or ten, or even longer. It is a question of active and passive; when Asana begins to annoy you the reply is to annoy it, to match the active thought of controlling the minute muscular movement against the passive thought of easing the irritation and disturbance.
Now I do not believe that there are any rules for doing this that will be any use to you. There are innumerable little tricks that you might try; only it is, as in the case of the posture itself, rather better if you invent your own tricks. I will only mention one: roll the tongue back towards the uvula, at the same time let the eyes converge towards an imaginary point in the centre of the forehead. There are all sorts of holinesses indicated in this attitude, and innumerable precedents on the part of the most respectable divinities. Do, please, forget all this nonsense! The advantage is simply that your attention is forced to maintain the awkward position. You become aware sooner than you otherwise would of any relaxation; and you thereby show the rest of the body that it is no use trying to disturb you by its irritability.
But there are no rules. I said there weren't, and there aren't.
Only the human mind is so lazy and worthless that it is a positive instinct to try to find some dodge to escape hard work.
These tricks may help or they may hinder; it is up to you to find out which are good and which are bad, the why and the what and all the other questions. It all comes to the same thing in the end. There is only one way to still the body in the long run, and that is to keep it still. It's dogged as does it.
The irritations develop into extreme agony. Any attempt to alleviate this simply destroys the value of the practice. I must particularly warn the aspirant against rationalising (I have known people who were so hopelessly bat-witted that they rationalised). They thought: 'Ah, well, this position is not suitable for me, as I thought it was. I have made a mess of the Ibis position; now I'll have a go at the Dragon position.' But the Ibis has kept his job, and attained his divinity, by standing on one leg throughout the centuries. If you go to the Dragon he will devour you.
It is through the perversity of human nature that the most acute agony seems to occur when you are within a finger's breadth of full success. Remember Gallipoli![58] I am inclined to think that it may be a sort of symptom that one is near the critical point when the anguish becomes intolerable.
You will probably ask what 'intolerable' means. I rudely answer: 'Find out!' But it may give you some idea of what is, after all, not too bad, when I say that in the last months of my own work it often used to take me ten minutes (at the conclusion of the practice) to straighten my left leg. I took the ankle in both hands, and eased it out a fraction of a millimetre at a time.
At this point the band begins to play. Quite suddenly the pain stops. An ineffable sense of relief sweeps over the Yogi — notice that I no longer call him 'student' or 'aspirant' — and he becomes aware of a very strange fact. Not only was that position giving him pain, but all other bodily sensations that he has ever experienced are in the nature of pain, and were only borne by him by the expedient of constant flitting from one to another.
He is at ease; because, for the first time in his life, he has become really unconscious of the body. Life has been one endless suffering; and now, so far as this particular Asana is concerned, the plague is abated.
I feel that I have failed to convey the full meaning of this.
The fact is that words are entirely unsuitable. The complete and joyous awakening from the lifelong and unbroken nightmare of physical discomfort is impossible to describe.
The results and mastery of Asana are of use not only in the course of attainment of Yoga, but in the most ordinary affairs of life. At any time when fatigued, you have only to assume your Asana, and you are completely rested. It is as if the attainment of the mastery has worn down all those possibilities of physical pain which are inherent in that particular position. The teachings of physiology are not contradictory to this hypothesis.
The conquest of Asana makes for endurance. If you keep in constant practice, you ought to find that about ten minutes in the posture will rest you as much as a good night's sleep.
So much for the obstacle of the body considered as static. Let us now turn our attention to the conquest of its dynamics.
It is always pleasing to turn to a subject like Pranayama.
Pranayama means control of force. It is a generalised term. In the Hindu system there are quite a lot of subtle sub-strata of the various energies of the body which have all got names and properties. I do not propose to deal with the bulk of them. There are only two which have much practical importance in life. One of these is not to be communicated to the public in a rotten country like this; the other is the well-known 'control of breath.'
This simply means that you get a stop watch, and choose a cycle of breathing out and breathing in. Both operations should be made as complete as possible. The muscular system must be taxed to its utmost to assist the expansion and contraction of the lungs.
When you have got this process slow and regular, for instance, 30 seconds breathing out and 15 in, you may add a few seconds in which the breath is held, either inside or outside the lungs.
(It is said, by the way, that the operation of breathing out should last about twice as long as that of breathing in, the theory being that breathing out quickly may bring a loss of energy. I think there may be something in this.)
There are other practices. For instance, one can make the breathing as quick and shallow as possible. Any good practice is likely to produce its own phenomena, but in accordance with the general thesis of these lectures I think it will be obvious that the proper practice will aim at holding the breath for as long a period as possible — because that condition will represent as close an approximation to complete stillness of the physiological apparatus as may be. Of course we are not stilling it; we are doing nothing of the sort. But at least we are deluding ourselves into thinking that we are doing it, and the point is that, according to tradition, if you can hold the mind still for as much as twelve seconds you will get one of the highest results of Yoga. It is certainly a fact that when you are doing a cycle of 20 seconds out, 10 in, and 30 holding, there is quite a long period during the holding period when the mind does tend to stop its malignant operations. By the time this cycle has become customary, you are able to recognise instinctively the arrival of the moment when you can throw yourself suddenly into the mental act of concentration. In other words, by Asana and Pranayama you have worked yourself into a position where you are free, if only for a few seconds, to attempt actual Yoga processes, which you have previously been prevented from attempting by the distracting activities of the respiratory and muscular systems.
And so? Yes. Pranayama may be described as nice clean fun. Before you have been doing it very long, things are pretty certain to begin to happen, though this, I regret to remark, is fun to you, but death to Yoga.
The classical physical results of Pranayama are usually divided into four stages:
  1. Perspiration. This is not the ordinary perspiration which comes from violent exercise; it has peculiar properties, and I am not going to tell you what these are, because it is much better for you to perform the practices, obtain the experience, and come to me yourself with the information. In this way you will know that you have got the right thing, whereas if I were to tell you now, you would very likely imagine it.
  2. Automatic rigidity: the body becomes still, as the result of a spasm. This is perfectly normal and predictable. It is customary to do it with a dog. You stick him in a bell-jar, pump in oxygen or carbonic acid or something, and the dog goes stiff. You can take him out and wave him around by a leg as if he were frozen. This is not quite the same thing, but near it.
Men of science are terribly handicapped in every investigation by having been trained to ignore the immeasurable. All phenomena have subtle qualities which are at present insusceptible to any properly scientific methods of investigation. We can imitate the processes of nature in the laboratory, but the imitation is not always exactly identical with the original. For instance, Professor J. B. S. Haldane attempted some of the experiments suggested in 'The Equinox' in this matter of Pranayama, and very nearly killed himself in the process. He did not see the difference between the experiment with the dog and the phenomena which supervene as the climax of a course of gentle operation. It is the difference between the exhilaration produced by sipping Clos Vougeot '26 and the madness of swilling corn whiskey. It is the same foolishness as to think that sniffing cocaine is a more wholesome process than chewing coca leaves. Why, they exclaim, cocaine is chemically pure! Cocaine is the active principle! We certainly do not want these nasty leaves, where our sacred drug is mixed up with a lot of vegetable stuff which rather defies analysis, and which cannot possibly have any use for that reason! This automatic rigidity, or Shukshma Khumbakham, is not merely to be defined as the occurrence of physiological rigidity. That is only the grosser symptom.
The third stage is marked by Buchari-siddhi: 'the power of jumping about like a frog' would be a rough translation of this fascinating word. This is a very extraordinary phenomenon. You are sitting tied up on the floor, and you begin to be wafted here and there, much as dead leaves are moved by a little breeze. This does happen; you are quite normal mentally, and you can watch yourself doing it.
The natural explanation of this is that your muscles are making very quick short spasmodic jerks without your being conscious of the fact. The dog helps us again by making similar contortions. As against this, it may be argued that your mind appears to be perfectly normal. There is, however, one particular point of consciousness, the sensation of almost total loss of weight. This, by the way, may sound a little alarming to the instructed alienist. There is a similar feeling which occurs in certain types of insanity.
The fourth state is Levitation. The Hindus claim that 'jumping about like a frog' implies a genuine loss of weight, and that the jumping is mainly lateral because you have not perfected the process. If you were absolutely balanced, they claim that you would rise quietly into the air.
I do not know about this at all. I never saw it happen. On the other hand, I have often felt as if it were happening; and on three occasions at least comparatively reliable people have said that they saw it happening to me. I do not think it proves anything.
These practices, Asana and Pranayama, are, to a certain extent, mechanical, and to that extent it is just possible for a man of extraordinary will power, with plenty of leisure and no encumbrances, to do a good deal of the spade-work of Yoga even in England. But I should advise him to stick very strictly to the purely physical preparation, and on no account to attempt the practices of concentration proper, until he is able to acquire suitable surroundings.
But do not let him imagine that in making this very exceptional indulgence I am going to advocate any slipshod ways. If he decides to do, let us say, a quarter of an hour's Asana twice daily, rising to an hour four times daily, and Pranayama in proportion, he has got to stick to this — no cocktail parties, football matches, or funerals of near relations must be allowed to interfere with the routine. The drill is the thing, the acquisition of the habit of control, much more important than any mere success in the practices themselves. I would rather you wobbled about for your appointed hour than sat still for fifty-nine minutes. The reason for this will only be apparent when we come to the consideration of advanced Yoga, a subject which may be adequately treated in a second series of four lectures. By special request only, and I sincerely hope that nothing of the sort will happen.
Before proposing a vote of thanks to the lecturer for his extraordinarily brilliant exposition of these most difficult subjects, I should like to add a few words on the subject of Mantra-Yoga, because this is really a branch of Pranayama, and one which it is possible to practise quite thoroughly in this country. In Book IV., Part I., I have described it, with examples, quite fully enough. I need here only say that its constant use, day and night, without a moment's cessation, is probably as useful a method as one could find of preparing the current of thought for the assumption of a rhythmical form, and rhythm is the great cure for irregularity. Once it is established, no interference will prevent it. Its own natural tendency is to slow down, like a pendulum, until time stops, and the sequence of impressions which constitutes our intellectual apprehensions of the universe is replaced by that form of consciousness (or unconsciousness, if you prefer it, not that either would give the slightest idea of what is meant) which is without condition of any kind, and therefore represents in perfection the consummation of Yoga.
Love is the law, love under will.

[1] A female slave or concubine in a harem

[2] "Turkish delight", a type of confection based on a gel of starch and sugar.

[3] A songbird, taken to be the nightingale, often mentioned in Persian poetry.

[4] Modern dictionaries give the Sanskrit as yuga.

[5] "Religion" comes from Middle English religioun (< Old French religion) < Latin religion- (stem of religio) conscientiousness, piety, equivalent to relig(are) to tie, fasten (re- + ligare to bind, tie; compare ligament) + -ion-; compare rely.

[6] The Mad Gardener's Song, from Sylvie and Bruno by Lewis Carroll

[7] An animal whose embryo develops in an amnion and chorion and has an allantois; a mammal, bird, or reptile. (Amnion: the innermost membrane that encloses the embryo of a mammal, bird, or reptile. Chorion: the outermost membrane that … etc. Allantois: the fetal membrane lying below the chorion in many vertebrates, formed as an outgrowth of the embryo's gut.)

[8] The inherent nature or essence of someone or something.

[9] Little known; abstruse. From a French word meaning "hidden".

[10] A PDF edition of this is available.

[11] A marsh or boggy place.

[12] Two unrelated murders linked to Brighton, England in 1934. In both, the dismembered body of a murdered woman was placed in a trunk.

[13] A street in the City of Westminster in London, England which has been noted since the 19th century for its large number of private specialists in medicine and surgery.

[14] That would be "hydrogen chloride", HCl, which when it gets wet forms hydrochloric acid.

[15] …And when it does, you get, among other things, chlorine monoxide. The chemical reaction of Cl + O3 (ozone) forms ClO + O2, and depletes the ozone layer.

[16] Stubbornly or willfully disobedient to authority.

[17] There are other theories accounting for this. See Marvin Harris, The Sacred Cow and the Abominable Pig.

[18] Or "Jahannam". This is the Arabic Language equivalent to Hell. The term comes from the Hebrew Gehinnom, originally the name of a valley outside Jerusalem.

[19] In music, a "thirty-second note", 1/32 the length of a "semibreve", or "whole note": what you or I would call "a really short note."

[20] Or "mahseer", a fish of the genera Tor, Neolissochilus, and Naziritor in the family Cyprinidae (carps), Tor being the most common.

[21] "Mleccha" means "non-Vedic", "barbarian" — the Hindu equivalent of a Jewish "shiksa".

[22] One of the most desolate parts of the Sahara desert. It is situated along the borders among Algeria, Niger and Mali, west of the Hoggar mountains.

[23] "Deprecate" means "to express earnest disapproval of."

[24] In this spelling, this means "enlightened" (bodhi) "existence" (sattva). Traditionally, a bodhisattva is someone who, motivated by great compassion, has generated bodhicitta, a spontaneous wish to attain Budhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings.

[25] An English philosopher (1820 — 1903) who developed an all-embracing conception of evolution as the progressive development of the physical world, biological organisms, the human mind, and human culture and societies.

[26] An antique synonym for "porcupine". See Hamlet, Act I, Scene V.

[27] A hallucinogenic plant of the mandrake family, whose root resembles a human figure. Long used in magic, it supposedly screams when uprooted. Sometimes it is also said that the scream kills whoever hears it.

[28] A propitiatory or sacrificial rite in which a person is suspended above ground by hooks through their back and swung about.

[29] Also called suttee, a religious funeral practice in which a recently widowed woman immolates herself on her husband's funeral pyre.

[30] A theological doctrine holding that during the Christian sacrament, the fundamental substance of the body and blood of Christ are present alongside the substance of the bread and wine.

[31] Lapsarianism is the set of Calvinist doctrines describing the theoretical order of God's decree (in his mind, before Creation), in particular concerning the order of his decree for the fall of man and reprobation. Supralapsarianism is the view that God's decrees of election and reprobation logically preceded the decree of the fall.

[32] Here, Crowley uses this metaphor in an aberrant sense. "Old School Tie" refers to what we would call the "old boys' network". It means specifically the practice of wearing the tie of one's school, as a means of being recognized (and thus helped) by others.

[33] This is a guess on my part, but here I think Crowley intends the Broad Arrow symbolism to refer to the fact that in the Australian colonies, it was used to mark government property — particularly prisoners' clothing. However, I've also seen one source report it as a synonym for the fleur-de-lis.

[34] Latin: Read! Judge! Be silent!

[35] Virtue: an alteration of Middle English vertu < Anglo-French, Old French < Latin virtut- (stem of virtus) maleness, worth, virtue, equivalent to vir, man (see virile) + -tut- abstract noun suffix.

[36] "Proteron" means "advance". Depending on its Greek spelling, "hysteron" might be "post" or "lagging behind".

[37] Lucubration: 1, Study; meditation. 2, A piece of writing, typically a pedantic or overelaborate one.

[38] Sir Walter Scott, "The Lord of the Isles", Canto VI, 32. (1815)

[39] Siddhi: 1, Complete understanding and enlightenment possessed by a siddha; 2. a paranormal power possessed by a siddha. A "siddha" is, of course, "one who has achieved spiritual realization and supernatural power."

[40] From a WW I cartoon by Bruce Bairnsfather. Two characters are contemplating a ragged hole in a ruined house. The younger one asks, 'What made that 'ole?' The older retorts, 'Mice.'

[41] Sibylline [misspelled above]: divinatory: resembling or characteristic of a prophet or prophecy.

[42] Bioscope: an early form of motion-picture projector, used about 1900.

[43] Jami, in his work Salaman and Absal. See Works of Edward Fitzgerald (1887), Vol 1, page 110.

[44] Rishi, an inspired sage or poet. Originally, there were seven Rishis to whom the Vedas were revealed.

[45] Sanyasi, also called renunciate: a Brahman who having attained the fourth and last stage of life as a beggar will not be reborn, but will instead be absorbed into the Universal Soul.

[46] Arhat, a Buddhist who has attained Nirvana through rigorous discipline and ascetic practices.

[47] Betel, an East Indian pepper plant, Piper betle, the leaves of which are chewed with other ingredients.

[48] Bodhisattva, a person who has attained prajna, or Enlightenment, but who postpones Nirvana in order to help others to attain Enlightenment.

[49] Sorites, a form of argument having several premises and one conclusion, capable of being resolved into a chain of syllogisms, the conclusion of each of which is a premise of the next.

[50] Sir Henry Lauder, known professionally as Harry Lauder, was an international Scottish entertainer, described by Sir Winston Churchill as "Scotland's greatest ever ambassador!"

[51] Crowley's footnote: "In coitu, of course. —ED."

[52] Udana as a 'nerve': the nearest I can find for this is that it's a "life sustaining energy of the diaphragm, the third of the five airs of Ayurvedic philosophy, the life force governing upward motion." There, it's a green aura operating from the throat to the head.

[53] This is probably George Lansbury (1859 - 1940), Member of Parliament for Poplar Bow and Bromley, socialist, Christian pacifist, and newspaper editor.

[54] Literally "absolute master", used by the English in India to mean "true gentleman" or "excellent fellow".

[55] Poona, now Pune, in the state of Maharashtra was during Crowley's time the political center of India.

[56] Crowley's footnote: "One Yeats-Brown. What are Yeats? Brown, of course, and Kennedy."

[57] Crowley's footnote: "Some Great Thinker once said: 'Time marches on.' What felicity of phrase!"

[58] The Gallipoli Campaign, or Battle of Gallipoli, took place in WW I in what is now Turkey between April 1915 and January 1916. Its commemoration is highly significant in Australia and New Zealand.

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