This is a long post, so sit back, relax and get ready for the journey!
Carpenter’s extraordinary grasp of South Indian Hinduism is evident in his book Adam’s Peak to Elephanta. In chapter VIII of the book, he writes about his meeting with a guru, Tilleinathan Swamy. In chapters IX and X, he summarises and probes the philosophy as expounded by the guru. He asks the question – What is the nature of the guru’s (Gñáni’s) experience and answers it in the ninth chapter entitled ‘Consciousness without Thought’. Having established this, he discusses ‘Methods of Attainment’ of this experience in the tenth chapter.
Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka
Elephanta near Bombay, India [Photo from Carpenter Collection, Sheffield Archives]
Elephanta near Bombay, India [Photo from Carpenter Collection, Sheffield Archives]
Elephanta near Bombay, India [Photo from Carpenter Collection, Sheffield Archives]
To me, these chapters are a penetrating look into Eastern Thought. Not so much into the detail of it, but the broad picture he paints is excellent. It is a great introduction to the core philosophy, the possible doubts that one can throw at it, and an attempt to seriously consider the core philosophy, which he finds convincing enough that he is able to use it in his later writings.
In fact, his receptiveness of Hindu thought does not come as a surprise if one has an introduction to his writings from before his trip to India. He is someone who is already pushing the boundaries of thought. In his book, Towards Democracy which was published in 1883, he writes of his musings
‘All I can say is that there seems to be a vision possible to man, as from some more universal stand- point, free from the obscurity and localism which especially connect themselves with the passing clouds of desire, fear, and all ordinary thought and emotion; in that sense another and separate faculty; and as vision always means a sense of light, so here is a sense of inward light, unconnected of course with the mortal eye, but bringing to the eye of the mind the impression that it sees, and by means of a medium which washes as it were the interior surfaces of all objects and things and persons – how can I express it ? – and yet this is most defective, for the sense is a sense that one is those objects and things and persons that one perceives, (and even that one is the whole universe,) – a sense in which sight and touch and hearing are all fused in identity.’
Below, I have arranged Carpenter’s writings from the above-mentioned chapters under various questions and themes.
What marks the difference between the East and the West?
The teachings of the Indian gurus, their ancient and world-old knowledge which has had so stupendous an influence in the East, and which indeed is still the main mark of its difference from the West.
The West seeks the individual consciousness, the enriched mind, ready perceptions and memories, individual hopes and fears, ambitions, loves, conquests— the self, the local self, in all its phases and forms—and sorely doubts whether such a thing as an universal consciousness exists. The East seeks the universal consciousness, and in those cases where its quest succeeds individual self and life thin away to a mere film, and are only the shadows cast by the glory revealed beyond. The individual consciousness takes the form of Thought, which is fluid and mobile like quicksilver, perpetually in a state of change and unrest, fraught with pain and effort; the other consciousness is not in the form of Thought. It touches, sees, hears, and is those things which it perceives—without motion, without change, without effort, without distinction of subject and object, but with a vast and incredible Joy.
Carpenter explores this theme all through these chapters, carefully trying to delineate the differences and similarities, partly as a means to be clear in his understanding of the subject, and partly to explain some of what happens in the society around him, while on his Indian travels.
What shows the relation between the West and East?
“At rest everywhere,” “Indifference,” “Equality.” This was one of the most remarkable parts of the Guru’s teaching. Though (for family reasons) maintaining many of the observances of Caste himself, and though holding and teaching that for the mass of the people caste rules were quite necessary, he never ceased to insist that when the time came for a man (or woman) to be ” emancipated ” all these rules must drop aside as of no importance—all distinction of castes, classes, all sense of superiority or self-goodness—of right and wrong even—and the most absolute sense of Equality must prevail towards every one, and determination in its expression. Certainly it was remarkable (though I knew that the sacred books contained it) to find this germinal principle of Western democracy so vividly active and at work deep down beneath the innumerable layers of Oriental social life and custom. But so it is; and nothing shows better the relation between the West and the East than this fact.
On relationship with nature
You are not to differentiate yourself from Nature. We have seen that the Guru Tilleinathan spoke of the operations of the external world as ” I,” having dismissed the sense of difference between himself and them. It is only under these, and such conditions as these, that the little mortal creature gradually becomes aware of What he is. This non-differentiation is the final deliverance. When it enters in the whole burden of absurd cares, anxieties, duties, motives, desires, fears, plans, purposes, preferences, etc., rolls off and lies like mere lumber on the ground. The winged spirit is free, and takes its flight. It passes through the veil of mortality and leaves that behind. Though I say this non-differentiation is the final deliverance (from the bonds of illusion) I do not say it is the final experience. Rather I should be inclined to think it is only the beginning of many experiences. As, in the history of man and the higher animals, the consciousness of self—the local self—has been the basis of an enormous mass of perceptions, intuitions, joys, sufferings, etc., incalculable and indescribable in multitudinousness and variety, so in the history of man and the angels will the consciousness of the cosmic and universal life—the true self underlying — become the basis of another and far vaster knowledge.
What is Nirvana?
Great have been the disputes among the learned as to the meaning of the word Nirwana—whether it indicates a state of no-consciousness or a state of vastly enhanced consciousness. Probably both views have their justification: the thing does not admit of definition in the terms of ordinary language. The important thing to see and admit is that under cover of this and other similar terms there does exist a real and recognisable fact (that is a state of consciousness in some sense), which has been experienced over and over again, and which to those who have experienced it in ever so slight a degree has appeared worthy of lifelong pursuit and devotion. It is easy of course to represent the thing as a mere word, a theory, a speculation of the dreamy Hindu; but people do not sacrifice their lives for empty words, nor do mere philosophical abstractions rule the destinies of continents. No, the word represents a reality, something very basic and inevitable in human nature. The question really is not to define the fact—for we cannot do that—but to get at and experience it.
The Fourth-dimensional order
The fourth-dimensional order is the lived experience of Nirvana.
The supposition that the actual world has four space-dimensions instead of three makes many things conceivable which otherwise would be incredible. It makes it conceivable that apparently separate objects, e.g. distinct people, are really physically united; that things apparently sundered by enormous distances of space are really quite close together; that a person or other object might pass in and out of a closed room without disturbance of walls, doors, or windows, etc. ; and if this fourth dimension were to become a factor of our consciousness it is obvious that we should have means of knowledge which to the ordinary sense would appear simply miraculous. There is much apparently to suggest that the consciousness attained to by the Indian Gñáni’s in their degree, and by hypnotic subjects in theirs is of this fourth-dimensional order. As a solid is related to its own surfaces, so it would appear, is the cosmic consciousness related to the ordinary consciousness. The phases of the personal consciousness are but different facets of the other consciousness; and experiences which seem remote from each other in the individual are perhaps all equally near in the universal. Space itself, as we know it, may be practically annihilated in the consciousness of a larger space of which it is but the superficies; and a person living in London may not unlikely find that he has a backdoor opening quite simply and unceremoniously out in Bombay.
What does the Gñáni seek and obtain?
The Gnani seeks and obtains a new order of consciousness—to which for want of a better we may give the name universal or cosmic consciousness, in contradistinction to the individual or special bodily consciousness with which we are all familiar.
Once a Gñáni, always a Gñáni?
It is very easy to assume, and very frequently assumed, in any case where a person is credited with the possession of an unusual faculty, that such person is at once lifted out of our sphere into a supernatural region, and possesses every faculty of that region. And of those who do attain to some portion of this region, we are not to suppose that they are at once demi-gods, or infallible. In many cases indeed the very novelty and strangeness of the experiences give rise to phantasmal trains of delusive speculation. The Indian gurus say, and I think this commends the reality of their experience—that there is nothing abnormal or miraculous about the matter ; that the faculties acquired are on the whole the result of long evolution and training, and that they have distinct laws and an order of their own.
There is no sudden leap out of the back parlour onto Olympus; and the routes, when found, from one to the other, are long and bewildering in their variety. The part of the world into which such a consciousness admits us (call it supramundane or whatever you will) is probably at least as vast and complex as the part we know, and progress in that region at least equally slow and tentative and various, laborious, discontinuous, and uncertain.
What are the methods for the attainment of another order of consciousness?
There are physical, mental and moral sides to the methods.
Beginning with the physical side, it is probable that the discounting or repression of the physical brain—or of that part of it which is the seat of the primary consciousness—is the most important : on the theory that the repression of the primary consciousness opens the way for the manifestation of any other consciousness that may be present. Of the mental no doubt the most important is the Suppression of Thought. The moral element in the attainment of his/her order of consciousness is of course recognised by all the great Indian teachers as of the first importance. The sacred books, the sermons of Buddha, the discourses of the present-day Gurus, all point in the same direction. Gentleness, forbearance towards all, abstention from giving pain, especially to the animals, the recognition of the divine spirit In every creature down to the lowest, the most absolute sense of equality and the most absolute candour, an undisturbed serene mind, free from anger, fear, or any excessive and tormenting desire—these are all insisted on.
Different sections and schools among the devotees place a very different respective value upon the three sets of conditions—some making more of the physical, others of the mental, and others again of the moral—and that as may be easily guessed the results attained by the various schools differ considerably in consequence. The higher esoteric teachers naturally lay the greatest stress on the moral, but any account of their methods would be defective which passed over or blinked the fact that they go beyond the moral— because this fact is in some sense of the essence of the Oriental inner teaching.
a. What is the physical side of the method?
Discounting or repression of the physical brain – or that part of it which is the seat of the primary consciousness is the physical side of the method. Hypnotism lulls or fatigues the ordinary brain into a complete torpor—so allowing the phenomena connected with the secondary consciousness to come out into the greater prominence. It need not be supposed that hypnotism induces the secondary consciousness, but only that it removes that other consciousness which ordinarily conceals or hinders its expression. Some of the methods adopted by the yogis are undoubtedly of this hypnotic character, such as the sitting or standing for long periods absolutely fixed in one position; staring at the sun or other object; repeating a word or phrase over and over again for thousands of times, etc. ; and the clairvoyant and other results produced seem in many respects very similar to the results of Western hypnotism. The yogi however by immense persistence in his practices, and by using his own will to effect the change of consciousness, instead of surrendering himself into the power of another person, seems to be able to transfer his “ I ” or ego into the new region, and to remember on his return to ordinary consciousness what he has seen there ; whereas the hypnotic subject seems to be divided into a double ego, and as a rule remembers nothing in the primary state of what occurred to him in the secondary. Others of the yogis adopt prolonged fasting,
abstinence from sleep, self-torture and emaciation, with the same object, namely the reduction of the body, and apparently with somewhat similar results —though in these cases not only insight is supposed to be gained, but added powers over nature, arising from the intense forces of control put forth and educed by these exercises. The fact that the Siddhi or miraculous powers can be gained in this way is so universally accepted and taken for granted in India that (even after making all allowances) it is difficult not to be carried away on the stream of belief. And indeed when one considers the known powers of the will—cultivated as it is to but a feeble degree amongst most of us—there seems to be an inherent probability in the case. The adepts however as a rule, though entirely agreeing that the attainment of the Siddhi powers is possible, strongly condemn the quest of them by these methods—saying with great justice that the mere fact of a quest of this kind is a breach of the law of Indifference and Trust, and that the quest being instigated by some desire—ambition, spiritual pride, love of gain, or what not—necessarily ends either by stultifying itself, or by feeding the desire, and, if some powers are gained, by the devotion of them to evil ends.
b. What is the mental side of the method?
Of the mental no doubt the most important is the Suppression of Thought—and it is not unlikely that this may have, when once understood, a far-reaching and important influence on our Western life—overridden and dominated as it is by a fever of Thought which it can by no means control. Nothing indeed strikes one more as marking the immense contrast between the East and the West than, after leaving Western lands where the ideal of life is to have an almost insanely active brain and to be perpetually on the war-path with fearful and wonderful projects and plans and purposes, to come to India and to find its leading men—men of culture and learning and accomplishment—deliberately passing beyond all these and addressing themselves to the task of effacing their own thoughts, effacing all their own projects and purposes, in order that the diviner consciousness may enter in and occupy the room so prepared. The effacement of projects and purposes—which comes to much the same thing as the control of desire—belongs more properly to the moral side of the question, and may be considered later on. The subjection of Thought— which obviously is very closely connected with the subjection of Desire— may however be considered here.
The Gnana-yogis (so called, to distinguish them from the Karma-yogis who rely more upon the external and physical methods) adopt two practices, (i) that of intense concentration of the thoughts on a fixed object, (2) that of the effacement of thought altogether.
(i) The thoughts may be fixed on a definite object, for instance, on one’s own breathing—the inflow and outflow of the atmosphere through the channels of the physical body. The body must be kept perfectly still and motionless for a long period —so that it may pass entirely out of consciousness — and the thoughts fixed on the regulated calm tide of respiration, to the complete exclusion of every other subject. Or the name of an object— a flower for instance—may be repeated incessantly—the image of the object being called up at the same time—till at last the name and the image of the object blend and become indistinguishable in the mind.
Such practices have their literal and their spiritual sides. If carried out merely as formula, they evidently partake of a mesmeric (self-mesmeric) character, and ultimately induce mesmeric states of consciousness. If carried out with a strong sense of their inner meaning—the presence of the vast cosmic life in the breathing, the endeavour to realise Brahma himself in the flower or other object contemplated — they naturally induce a deeper sense of the universal life and consciousness than that which belongs to the mesmeric state. Anyhow they teach a certain power and control over the thoughts; and it is a doctrine much insisted on by the Gurus that in life generally the habit of the undivided concentration of the mind on that which one is doing is of the utmost importance. The wandering of the mind, its division and distraction, its openness to attack by brigand cares and anxieties, its incapacity to heartily enjoy itself in its work, not only lame and cripple and torment it in every way, but are a mark of the want of that faith which believes in the Now as the divine moment, and takes no thought for the Morrow. To concentrate at all times wholly and unreservedly in what you are doing at the moment is, they say, a distinct step in Gñánam.
(2) The next step, the effacement of Thought, is a much more difficult one. Only when the power of concentration has been gained can this be attempted with any prospect of success. The body must be kept, as before, perfectly motionless, and in a quiet place free from disturbance; not in an attitude of ease or slumber, but sitting or standing erect with muscles tense. All will-power is required, and the greatest vigilance. Every thought must be destroyed on the instant of its appearance. But the enemy is subtle, and failure—over a long period — inevitable. Then when success seems to be coming and Thought is dwindling, Oblivion, the twin-foe, appears and must also be conquered. For if Thought merely gives place to Sleep, what is there gained? After months, but more probably years, of intermittent practice the power of control grows; curious but distinct physiological changes take place; one day the student finds that Thought has gone; he stands for a moment in Oblivion; then that veil lifts, and there streams through his being a vast and illumined consciousness, glorious, that fills and overflows him, “surrounding him so that he is like a pot in water, which has the liquid within it and without.” In this consciousness there is divine knowledge but no thought. It is Samddhi, the universal ‘I Am’. Whatever people may think of the reality of this ” Samadhi,” of the genuineness or the universality of the consciousness obtained in it, etc. (and these are questions which of course require examination), it is incontestable that for centuries and centuries it has been an object of the most strenuous endeavour to vast numbers even of the very acutest and most capable intellects of India. Earthly joys paled before this ecstasy; the sacred literatures are full of its praise. That there lurks here some definite and important fact of experience is I think obvious though it is quite probable that it is not yet really understood, either by the East that discovered it or the West that has criticised it.
Leaving however for the present the consideration of this ultimate and transcendent result of the effacement of Thought, and freely admitting that the Eastern devotees have in the ardour of their pursuit of it been often led into mere absurdities and excesses—that they have in some cases practically mutilated their thinking powers—that they have refrained from speech for such prolonged years that at last not only the tongue but the brain itself refused to act—that they have in instances reduced themselves to the condition of idiots and babbling children, and rendered themselves incapable of carrying on any kind of work ordinarily called useful—admitting all this, it still remains true I think that even in its lower aspects this doctrine is of vast import to-day in the West.
For we moderns, while we have dominated Nature and external results in the most extraordinary way through our mechanical and other sciences, have just neglected this other field of mastery over our own internal mechanism. We pride ourselves on our athletic feats, but some of the performances of the Indian fakirs in the way of mastery over the internal processes of the body—processes which in ordinary cases have long ago lapsed into the region of the involuntary and unconscious—such as holding the breath over enormous periods, or reversing the peristaltic action of the alimentary canal throughout its entire length—are so astonishing that for the most part the report of them only excites incredulity among us, and we can hardly believe—what I take it is a fact—that these physiological powers have been practised till they are almost reduced to a science.
And if we are unwilling to believe in this internal mastery over the body, we are perhaps almost equally unaccustomed to the idea of mastery over our own inner thoughts and feelings. That a man should be a prey to any thought that chances to take possession of his mind is commonly among us assumed as unavoidable. It may be a matter of regret that he should be kept awake all night from anxiety as to the issue of a lawsuit on the morrow, but that he should have the power of determining whether he be kept awake or not seems an extravagant demand. The image of an impending calamity is no doubt odious, but its very odiousness (we say) makes it haunt the mind all the more pertinaciously— and it is useless to try to expel it. Yet this is an absurd position—for man, the heir of all the ages, to be in: hag-ridden by the flimsy creatures of his own brain. If a pebble in our boot torments us we expel it. We take off the boot and shake it out. And once the matter is fairly understood it is just as easy to expel an intruding and obnoxious thought from the mind. About this there ought to be no mistake, no two opinions. The thing is obvious, clear, and unmistakable. It should be as easy to expel an obnoxious thought from your mind as to shake a stone out of your shoe; and till a man can do that, it is just nonsense to talk about his ascendancy over Nature, and all the rest of it. He is a mere slave, and a prey to the bat-winged phantoms that flit through the corridors of his own brain.
Yet the weary and careworn faces that we meet by thousands, even among the affluent classes of civilisation, testify only too clearly how seldom this mastery is obtained. How rare indeed to meet a man! How common rather to discover a creature hounded on by tyrant thoughts (or cares or desires), cowering wincing under the lash—or perchance priding himself to run merrily in obedience to a driver that rattles the reins and persuades him that he is free—whom we cannot converse with in careless tete-a-tete because that alien presence is always there, on the watch.
It is one of the most prominent doctrines of the Gñánis that the power of expelling thoughts, or if need be of killing them dead on the spot, must be attained. Naturally the art requires practice; but like other arts, when once acquired there is no more mystery or difficulty about it. And it is worth practice. It may indeed fairly be said that life only begins when this art has been acquired. For obviously when instead of being ruled by individual thoughts, the whole flock of them in their immense multitude and variety and capacity is ours to direct and despatch and employ where we list (“for He maketh the winds his messengers and the flaming fire his minister “), life becomes a thing so vast and grand compared with what it was before that its former condition may well appear almost antenatal.
If you can kill a thought dead, for the time being, you can do anything else with it that you please. And therefore it is that this power is so valuable. And it not only frees a man from mental torment (which is nine-tenths at least of the torment of life), but it gives him a concentred power of handling mental work absolutely unknown to him before.
The two things are correlative to each other. As already said this is one of the principles of Gñánam. While at work your thought is to be absolutely concentrated in it, undistracted by anything whatever irrelevant to the matter in hand—pounding away like a great engine, with giant power and perfect economy—no wear and tear of friction, or dislocation of parts owing to the working of different forces at the same time. Then when the work is finished, if there is no more occasion for the use of the machine, it must stop equally absolutely—stop entirely—no worrying (as if a parcel of boys were allowed to play their devilments with a locomotive as soon as it was in the shed)—and the man must retire into that region of his consciousness where his true self dwells.
I say the power of the thought-machine itself is enormously increased by this faculty of letting it alone on the one hand and of using it singly and with concentration on the other. It becomes a true tool, which a master-workman lays down when done with, but which only a bungler carries about with him all the time to show that he is the possessor of it.
Then on and beyond the work turned out by the tool itself is the knowledge that comes to us apart from its use : when the noise of the workshop is over, and mallet and plane laid aside—the faint sounds coming through the open window from the valley and the far seashore : the dim fringe of diviner knowledge, which begins to grow, poor thing, as soon as the eternal dick-clack of thought is over—the extraordinary intuitions, perceptions, which, though partaking in some degree of the character of thought, spring from entirely different conditions, and are the forerunners of a changed consciousness.
At first they appear miraculous, but it is not so. They are not miraculous, for they are always there. (The stars are always there.) It is we who are miraculous in our inattention to them. In the systemic or secondary or cosmic consciousness of man (I daresay all these ought to be distinguished, but I lump them together for the present) lurk the most minute and varied and far-reaching intuitions and perceptions—some of them in their swiftness and subtlety outreaching even those of the primary consciousness— but to them we do not attend because Thought like a pied piper is ever capering and fiddling in front of us. And when Thought is gone, lo ! we are asleep. To open your eyes in that region which is neither Night nor Day is to behold strange and wonderful things. As already said the subjection of Thought is closely related to the subjection of Desire, and has consequently its specially moral as well as its specially intellectual relation to the question in hand. Ninetenths of the scattered or sporadic thought with which the mind usually occupies itself when not concentrated on any definite work is what may be called self-thought—thought of a kind which dwells on and exaggerates the sense of self This is hardly realised in its full degree till the effort is made to suppress It ; and one of the most excellent results of such an effort is that with the stilling of all the phantoms which hover round the lower self, one’s relations to others, to one’s friends, to the world at large, and one’s perception of all that is concerned in these relations come out into a purity and distinctness unknown before. Obviously while the mind is full of the little desires and fears which concern the local self, and is clouded over by the thought-images which such desires and fears evoke, it is impossible that it should see and understand the greater facts beyond and its own relation to them. But with the subsiding of the former the great Vision begins to dawn; and a man never feels less alone than when he has ceased to think whether he is alone or not.
It is in this respect that the subjection of desire is really important. There is no necessity to suppose that desire, in itself, is an evil; indeed it is quite conceivable that it may fall into place as a useful and important element of human nature — though certainly one whose importance will be found to dwindle and gradually disappear as time goes on. The trouble for us is, in our present state, that desire is liable to grow to such dimensions as to overcloud the world for us, emprison, and shut us out from inestimable Freedom beneath its sway.
Under such circumstances it evidently is a nuisance and has to be dominated. No doubt certain sections of the Indian and other ascetic philosophies have taught the absolute extinction of desire, but we may fairly regard these as cases—so common in the history of all traditional teaching —of undue prominence given to a special detail, and of the exaltation of the letter of the doctrine above the spirit.
c. What is the moral side of the method?
The moral element in the attainment of his/her order of consciousness is of course recognised by all the great Indian teachers as of the first importance. The sacred books, the sermons of Buddha, the discourses of the present-day Gurus, all point in the same direction. Gentleness, forbearance towards all, abstention from giving pain, especially to the animals, the recognition of the divine spirit In every creature down to the lowest, the most absolute sense of equality and the most absolute candour, an undisturbed serene mind, free from anger, fear, or any excessive and tormenting desire—these are all insisted on. Thus, though physical and mental conditions are held—and rightly—to be important, the moral conditions are held to be at least equally important.
Nevertheless, in order to guard against misconception which is so complex a subject may easily arise, it is necessary to state here—what I have hinted before—that different sections and schools among the devotees place a very different respective value upon the three sets of conditions—some making more of the physical, others of the mental, and others again of the moral—and that as may be easily guessed the results attained by the various schools differ considerably in consequence. The higher esoteric teachers naturally lay the greatest stress on the moral, but any account of their methods would be defective which passed over or blinked the fact that they go beyond the moral— because this fact is in some sense of the essence of the Oriental inner teaching. Morality, it is well understood, involves the conception of one’s self as distinct from others, as distinct from the world, and presupposes a certain antagonism between one’s own interests and those of one’s fellows. One ” sacrifices ” one’s own interests to those of another, or ” goes out of one’s way ” to help him. All such ideas must be entirely left behind, if one is to reach the central illumination. They spring from ignorance and are the products of darkness. On no word did the ” Grammarian ” insist more strongly than on the word Non-differentiation. You are not even to differentiate yourself in thought from others ; you are not to begin to regard yourself as separate from them. Even to talk about helping others is a mistake ; it is vitiated by the delusion that you and they are twain. So closely does the subtle Hindu mind go to the mark ! What would our bald commercial philanthropy, our sleek aesthetic altruism, our scientific isophily, say to such teaching? All the little self-satisfactions which arise from the sense of duty performed, all the cheese-parings of equity between oneself and others, all the tiny wonderments whether you are better or worse than your neighbour, have to be abandoned ; and you have to learn to live in a world in which the chief fact is no^ that you are distinct from others, but that you are a part of and integral with them. This involves indeed a return to the communal order of society, and difficult as this teaching is for us in this day to realise, yet there is no doubt that it must lie at the heart of the Democracy of the future, as it has lain, germinal, all these centuries in the hidden womb of the East.
Nor from Nature. You are not to differentiate yourself from Nature. We have seen that the Guru Tilleinathan spoke of the operations of the external world as ” I,” having dismissed the sense of difference between himself and them. It is only under these, and such conditions as these, that the little mortal creature gradually becomes aware of What he is.
This non-differentiation is the final deliverance.
In the West we are in the habit of looking on devotion to other humans (widening out into the social passion) as the most natural way of losing one’s self-limitations and passing into a larger sphere of life and consciousness; while in the East this method is little thought of or largely neglected, in favour of the concentration of one’s self in the divine, and mergence in the universal in that way. I think this contrast—taking it quite roughly — may certainly be said to exist. Westerners—and on the whole I am inclined to think justly—defective; and that is in its little insistence on the idea of Love. While, as already said, a certain gentleness and forbearance and passive charity is a decided feature of Indian teaching and life, one cannot help noting the absence—or less prominence at any rate —of that positive spirit of love and human helpfulness which in some sections of Western society might almost be called a devouring passion. Though with plentiful exceptions no doubt, yet there is a certain quiescence and self-inclusion and absorbedness in the Hindu ideal, which amounts almost to coldness ; and this is the more curious because Hindu society—till within the last few years at any rate—has been based upon the most absolutely communal foundation. But perhaps this fact of the communal structure of society in India is just the reason why the social sentiment does not seek impetuously for expression there ; while in Europe, where existing institutions are a perpetual denial of it, its expression becomes all the more determined and necessary.
What is the role of Will-power?
The Indian teachers, the sacred books, the existing instruction, centre consciously or unconsciously round the development of Will-power. By will to surrender the will ; by determination and concentration to press inward and upward to that portion of one’s being which belongs to the universal, to conquer the body, to conquer the thoughts, to conquer the passions and emotions ; always will, and will-power. And here again we have a paradox, because in their quiescent, gentle, and rather passive external life—so different from the push and dominating energy of the Western nations—there is little to make one expect such force. But while modern Europe and America has spent its Will in the mastery of the external world, India has reserved hers for the conquest of inner and spiritual kingdoms. In their hypnotic phenomena too, the yogis exhibit the force of will, and this differentiates their hypnotism from that of the West—in which the patient is operated upon by another person. In the latter there is a danger of loss of will-power, but in the former (auto- hypnotism) will-power is no doubt gained, while at the same time hypnotic states are induced. Suggestion, which is such a powerful agent in hypnotism, acts here too, and helps to knit the body together, pervading it with a healing influence, and bringing the lower self under the direct domination of the higher ; and in this respect the Guru to some extent stands in the place of the operator, while the yogi is his subject. Thus in the East the Will constitutes the great path; but in the West the path has been more specially through Love—and probably will be. The great teachers of the West—Plato, Jesus, Paul — have indicated this method rather than that of the ascetic will ; though of course there have not been wanting exponents of both sides. The one method means the gradual dwindling of the local and external self through inner concentration and aspiration, the other means the enlargement of the said self through affectional growth and nourishment, till at last it can contain itself no longer. The bursting of the sac takes place; the life is poured out, and ceasing to be local becomes universal. Of this method Whitman forms a signal instance. He is egotistic enough in all conscience; yet at last through his immense human sympathy, and through the very enlargement of his ego thus taking place, the barriers break down and he passes out and away.
” O Christ ! This is mastering me !
In at the conquered doors they crowd. I am possessed.
I embody all presences outlawed or suffering ;
See myself in prison shaped like another man,
And feel the dull unintermitted pain.
Enough ! enough ! enough !
Somehow I have been stunned. Stand back !
Give me a little time beyond my cuffed head, slumbers, dreams,
I discover myself on the verge of a usual mistake.
That I could forget the mockers and insults !
That I could forget the trickling tears, and the blows of
bludgeons and hammers !
That I could look with a separate look on my own crucifixion
and bloody crowning.”
But such expressions as these—in which the passion of humanity wraps the speaker into another sphere of existence—are not characteristic of the East, and are not found in the Indian scriptures.
When its time comes the West will probably adopt this method of the liberation of the human soul — through love—rather than the specially Indian method—of the Will ; though doubtless both have to be, and will be in the future, to a large extent concurrently used. Different races and peoples incline according to their idiosyncrasies to different ways; each individual even—as is quite recognised by the present-day Gurus—has his special line of approach to the supreme facts. It is possible that when the Western races once realise what lies beneath this great instinct of humanity, which seems in some ways to be their special inspiration, they will outstrip even the Hindus in their entrance to and occupation of the new fields of consciousness.
Should one try to attain miraculous powers?
Yogis adopt prolonged fasting, abstinence from sleep, self-torture and emaciation, with the same object, namely the reduction of the body, and apparently with somewhat similar results —though in these cases not only insight is supposed to be gained, but added powers over nature, arising from the intense forces of control put forth and educed by these exercises. The fact that the Siddhi or miraculous powers can be gained in this way is so universally accepted and taken for granted in India that (even after making all allowances) it is difficult not to be carried away on the stream of belief.
And indeed when one considers the known powers of the will—cultivated as it is to but a feeble degree amongst most of us—there seems to be an inherent probability in the case. The adepts however as a rule, though entirely agreeing that the attainment of the Siddhi powers is possible, strongly condemn the quest of them by these methods—saying with great justice that the mere fact of a quest of this kind is a breach of the law of Indifference and Trust, and that the quest being instigated by some desire—ambition, spiritual pride, love of gain, or what not—necessarily ends either by stultifying itself, or by feeding the desire, and, if some powers are gained, by the devotion of them to evil ends.
Thus the methods that are mainly physical produce certain results—clairvoyances and controls — which are largely physical in their character, and are probably for the most part more or less morbid and dangerous. They are however very widely spread among the inferior classes of yogis all over India, and the performances which spring from them, by exciting the fear and wonder of the populace, often become—as in the case of mesmeric performances in the West—a source of considerable gain to the chief actor.
E.Carpenter, Adam’s Peak to Elephanta, Swann Sonnenschein & Co, 1892, 153-182