THE ETERNAL QUEST
Most of us have heard of one or more of the systems of Eastern Yoga. We all know something about Hatha Yoga- the techniques of controlling the body, and if we are early risers we may have practiced some of the exercises demonstrated on early-morning television by its modern apostles. So most of us think of Yoga only as an exotic form of physical exercise. Students of philosophy or religion know that this Yoga is but one aspect of a large and complex religious-philosophical system used in oriental nations (primarily India) to achieve Nirvana (Liberation)-also called Enlightenment or Cosmic Consciousness. That such a state exists for Man and that there exist methods for attaining it, is usually regarded with suspicion in our Western world. I am sure that this is due greatly to our Judaeo-Christian heritage or our misinterpretation of it, which does not believe in any other state of consciousness than the most gruesomely mundane one, and does not believe in any personal capacity to achieve another level of existence. Spiritual awakening and enlightened consciousness carry subtle implications of class differences between people (the enlightened vs. the unenlightened) and this idea is vaguely troubling to our Protestant-democratic ideals. Protestant Christianity and conventional Judaism view all persons as equal in the sight of God; the heritage of our democratic governments demands that all persons be treated as equals by law and by society.
Our culture believes that we are all equally sinners, and that in the End we shall all be angels or devils; that these are the only states of mankind and they are distinct and only God has the power to decree what we shall become. In this view, we are powerless to do anything other than to try to do nice things for our neighbors and hope that in the End God will give us gold stars because we gave to the United Fund. So we strive mightily to prove our worth by objectifying our ideals. We build hospitals and schools and all manner of charities for the poor, the homeless and the unfortunate.
The East turns its spiritual attention inward. It views heaven as a state of consciousness that is achieved by long and arduous personal effort. The ambitious yogin seeks to spiritualize himself by retreating from the outside world. As a result, the East has been spiritually wealthy while remaining socially "backward"-or so it seems to us in the West. In recent years there has been an exchange of ideals between East and West which blurs this superficial view of apparent differences. Yet the West remains outwardly affluent, covered with hospitals and libraries and other manifestations of our good intentions, while the East is littered with starving people in Yoga postures.
Is this what Life is all about? Well, as the corporation says, "Our business is business," so it is with Man: the Life of Man is Life, and ever more Life. If you are a businessman buying non-deductible Thanksgiving dinners for the poor, you may be hoping for a pat on the back from God; if you are a Hindu fakir you know that every breath you take through your left nostril is one more step closer to Nirvana. And if you are a corporal on leave in Tijuana getting drunk and getting laid, your object is the same: to be more than what you are today, to have an experience that transcends your "ordinary" self-awareness. To have it now or after death, by the grace of God, or by your own effort. All of us are dissatisfied, hungry, and unfulfilled; all seeking to become something more than what we are today.
For who among us is truly satisfied with himself? In Back to Methuselah, Bernard Shaw proposes that Mankind was created immortal but invented death and suicide because immortality offered no possibilities for change. Shawís character expressed it well: "I cannot bear the thought of being Adam for eternity!" If there is anything about Man that is Universal, it is that he has an uncontrollable desire to be something more than Man. All of Manís activities serve this greatest Urge, and sex and hunger are only means to serve Its end. So it is that all religions aim for this, and differ mainly in their means to achieve it.
All religions have a common base, although their outward forms differ greatly. The forms vary from age to age and from place to place and often reflect the environment in which Man finds himself. T. E. Lawrence has pointed out that the fierce desert of the Middle East was an ideal breeding grol3nd for Monotheistic religions, where the nomad under the great night sky had one thing and one thing only that he could relate to-the All (or Al or El or Bel or God).In nearby Egypt and Greece where there was agriculture, there were floods and droughts and fierce winds; all personified as gods and goddesses to be appeased in order that Life might proceed smoothly. Many of these religions therefore might not seem to be relevant to us today, at least in those forms which reflect the trials of another time and place. But for some whore to wash a holy manís feet with oil is no more meaningful than to hear about how Zeus sent Persephone to Hades to count the seeds in a pomegranate. Most of the religious stories, whether Greek or Christian or modern, are allegories which depict the states or conditions of manís inner life. To interpret them as events only devalues them. These myths are the forms in which the religious urge manifests. And unfortunately only the forms have been passed down to us. The essence is difficult to extract but well worth the effort if we are willing to put aside some of our prejudices about the quaint language and style. The labors of Hercules, for example, can have great relevance to any modern man whatever his & life circumstances. I have seen many men set off to work daily to slay the Nemean Lion or to clean the Augean stables.
Such tales are found in all ages. One way to approach our own contemporary situation is to try to extract the common thread of purpose which runs through the history of Man. This book is not intended to be a study of comparative religion, nor an exhaustive dissertation on "the meaning of life." But after many years of study, and many more of experience, I am daily amazed by the number of people who still believe that there is one and only one true way to heaven, that they have just found it (or invented it), and that everyone else must follow them right now! My. purpose, if there is one, is to add some historical perspective, and to help point out the underlying unity (as far as I see it) in just a few of the aspects of what Lao Tze called "The Way." Above all else I am frightened by my own ignorance; like an archaeologist I am constantly uncovering one more path to God, one more relic of the spirituality of another age. There is no end to it, this search for Self beyond self. I am also deeply reverent toward all the great saints and philosophers of all ages who never wrote a word, who have no disciples, who are unremembered and unworshipped. If I take an historical attitude it is out of reverence for all those great ones who came and went and never left a trace. As the mathematician says, if there is one exception to the rule, then it is not a rule, and then there are an infinity of exceptions. So if the past yields up one saint, one man who became more than man, like Guatama Buddha or Saint Francis or Meister Eckhart, then there are an infinity of saints. In the past. To come in the future. And in the present!
Sri Ramakrishna was such a man in our time. His teachings are now carried on by the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Society, the major vehicle in the West for the Vedanta sect of Hinduism. Vedanta is one branch of Hinduism, and Yoga is another branch of Hinduism. There are many sects within Hinduism just as there are many sects within Christianity. But before we proceed further perhaps we should consider what the term ĎYogaí implies.
Yoga means Union! That is all that the term Yoga implies. Webster defines this union variously, from the root Latin term unio: oneness, or the French unius: one, 1) the act or instance of uniting two or more things into one; state of being so united; junction; coalition; combination. 2) A spiritual uniting to bring about concord; also the unity so produced. 3) A uniting in marriage, etc. In the lexicons on Yoga we see that Yoga, as a term, implies a state of consciousness in which a manís life, in action and in thought, is entirely in harmony with the very source or root of his being. The methods to achieve this Yoga (union) have be-come confused with the term Yoga, so that in popular thought the method has become synonymous with the state implied by the term Yoga. But whether the method is Bhakti, Hatha, Rajas or whatever, these methods are merely means to an end that have now become competitive one with the other. Just as there is no one royal road to Rome, so there is no one way to achieve union. Or, the Missionary posture to the contrary, just as there is no one way to achieve orgasm, so there is no one way, or path, to achieve union. The ways and methods are called Paths and depend on the temperament of the adherent. In other words, all roads lead to Rome. But I would remind the reader that any given road to Rome is not Rome itself, so we must avoid falling into the methodology trap or we may find ourselves on the road to Rome forever, by never having arrived. Inasmuch as we are talking about union, this would be tantamount to sex foreplay that for whatever reason does not end in orgasm. Yoga means union! Union has nothing to do with breathing, meditation, concentration, physical posture, controlling the mind, eating habits. What we are dealing with, or hoping to deal with in Yoga itself is energy, the same energy that sometimes unites two people (for a second or two) in orgasm. So Yoga means union! The goal is not the method, anymore than the road leading to Rome is Rome itself. If we are on our way to Rome, Rome is where we want to be! To be in the state of union, if permanently affixed in consciousness, is to have achieved the goal of Yoga. Yoga means union. Method, or system, is like doctrine. By adhering to a given Christian doctrine I may achieve and maintain peace-of-mind, but peace-of-mind and the meeting of God face-to-face are two quite different conditions. When Saul was on the road to Damascus he met Christ (had a peak experience), and he had never been any kind of Christian at all. He didnít need a method. Union happened to him in spite of himself! So we see that method is not of prime importance. There are many "Paths"-methods, systems, ways, ways-of-life. We choose one according to our personal temperament.
Yoga methods are the techniques of Hinduism (although one does not have to be a Hindu to practice Yoga). Buddhism also has its spiritual practices, and many of these differ from sect to sect. The Tibetan Buddhist system has been unknown until recent years, even though earlier explorers such as Madam Blavatsky, Theos Bernard, and Madam David-Neel gave us some introduction to that secluded land. The recent emigration of the lamas from Tibet has been Tibetís loss, but our gain. Just as the methods of Yoga are intended to lead the practitioner to Yoga (union), many of the Tibetan Buddhist techniques are designed to lead to "bodhi," the state of complete awareness. The continuity of this "union" is Tantra, which in the West is called Alchemy. Strictly speaking, then, Tantra and Alchemy cannot be placed in the category of Yoga methods. If you have man-aged to arrive in Rome, by whatever road, then the sensible thing to do is to settle down and enjoy living there.
Vendanta is roughly equivalent to the Monist School of the Greek Gnostic System. My teacher taught Qualified Monism correlated with the septenary system of the Hindus all housed within the framework of General Semantics. I hold to the Monist view, but I only have a theoretical grasp thereof, because, in a world that appears to be dualistic the mind is overwhelmed by the evidence of the senses and must live (and even think) as though the world were made up of independent parts, in place of consisting of one organic whole. One system which comes out of the West which appears to include both the Monotheistic and Pantheistic approach is the Holy Qabalah. It is because the Qabalah is so successful in reconciling these two points of view that I will make frequent reference to it. It is also the Westís most ancient system of philosophy (with the possible exception of The Egyptian Book of the Dead, a guide book, so to speak, for making a safe journey through "the dark night of the soul"). The Qabalah and the psychology of C. G. Jung, our most recent system which is relatively complete, form a proper pair of systems which can aid us to some insight into "The Way." Reference will be made to one or more of the Yoga systems as they apply, and are relevant.
As mentioned before, there is an underlying unity in all systems. Once having grasped this unity, it is difficult to return to the state of mind of seeing them as distinct and separate. In talking to friends, I find it nearly impossible to speak of aspects of one system without referring to corresponding aspects of another. Also, I find that one system will express a concept very clearly in one word, while another may take pages to describe the same thing. For sheer economy of presentation it is helpful to use words and concepts from a variety of sources. Language too has its barriers to the mind. Just as "Weltanshauung" is untranslatable, so are many other words in Sanskrit or Hebrew, such as "Samaddhi" or "Rauch," and such terms are better left untranslated.
Here in the West we are not as well acquainted with our own Western Tradition and/or philosophy, as we are with Eastern Yoga. Our great mystical tradition went underground in the third century A.D. because of persecution by the Church. Dr. Alvin Boyd Kuhn, in his Shadow of the Third Century, has given a very scholarly account of this tragedy. In the East the knowledge has remained alive uninterrupted for millennia and therefore is more complete. That is, it is more integrated and the subsystems match up better than they do in the West. Our Western knowledge comes to us in bits and pieces and it is a part of our discipline to try to put this Humpty Dumpty back together again. The fact that much of our knowledge is hidden or scattered can work to our advantage, however. A child in India growing up and finding himself seeking wisdom may automatically reject the faith of his fathers and in so doing find himself without religious affiliation or philosophical roots. But in the West if we reject the accepted truths and values of the mass culture we have only to stop for a moment on some busy city street corner to find "wisdom" being hawked in every direction. So it is with many young people today, dissatisfied with Jesus and Mary and the New York Stock Exchange, rejecting it all, and finding to their delight astrology and Yoga and Zen and Theosophy, and at least a hundred others.
Our Western tradition comes to us from several sources. There is Norse Mythology with its Scandinavian Tree of Life, the Sacred Ash Tree. There is the Gnosticism of the Pagan Greeks and of the Early Christians; the Essenes were probably a Gnostic cult. Dr. Alvin Boyd Kuhn, James Pryse, and my teacher, have each made an inestimable contribution to the correlation of these ancient systems with the Eastern septenary system, and have given new meaning to the hidden or esoteric truths in the New Testament and the Book of Revelations. Our major root is in the wisdom of Egypt, which itself is a poor derivative from Atlantis. But Atlantis is only myth and legend to us, and Egypt is our only link to that mystery. Egypt was the source of other religions and philosophies also. We are told that the major Greek scholars, like Pythagoras, went to Egypt for training and initiation, and it is likely that the Qabalah is derived from Egyptian sources.
The two systems
which we will deal mainly with herein are the teachings of the Qabalah and Dr.
Carl Jungís system of Analytical Psychology. In addition to being the Westís
oldest system, the Qabalah is also the most timeless, having survived
uninterrupted since its birth so many ages ago. Each new age with its new
language turns again to the Qabalah for reference, for guidance, and for proof.
So it is that the Tarot, Astrology, Alchemy, and Psychology have all touched
briefly upon the Qabalah, and in so doing have not only preserved the system of
thought but have enriched it with fresh and daring ideas.
In theory the systems map together with good grace. In practice, however, I have found that students of the two ways seldom agree on fundamentals, even though they might agree on the equivalence of the appearance. That is, psychologists have a tendency to over-subjectify, to over-symbolize everything. To them, all is in the mind and therefore transitory and ephemeral and (because they are still based in Judaeo-Christianity), it isnít really real. Oh yes, they will grant that dreams and images affect menís lives, and therefore their effect is real, but they never quite believe that the dream or vision itself is real. To a psychologist, the Qabalah is a collection of images which because of its persistent usage over millennia, is more permanent (therefore archetypal) than other sets. But it is still a collection of images and is treated as little more than another mythology which lies as a relic in manís unconscious. To him, active imagination is still imagination, and is useful only if it produces results that are tangible in "this" world. In other words, did active imagination make your marriage happier? Did it dispel your mental and emotional confusion? Such a psychiatrist or psychologist is like the engineer who uses imaginary numbers to build engines. He knows these numbers are not "real," but he uses them, rather apologetically, to solve his problems and calculate the answers he needs, and thinks it is all a cute little shortcut to the real and essential nature of Life, which is engines. This is not to demean engines, or good solid marriages, or dedicated psychologists who toil daily to help us to endure ourselves. But is to point out the danger of being too doctrinaire in assuming that imagination is only imaginary, that the contents of the unconscious are only phantoms of the past that must be /whipped into submission by the everglorious concrete mind. Not all psychiatrists think this way, but much of the literature reflects this point of view. Unfortunately, many physicians of the mind have only seen the negative side of fantasy, so they are eager to lead their patients "out of fantasy and into reality." A doctor who only saw overweight patients might conclude that eating was a disease. But starvation is as serious as overeating, and a person can also be ill from too little fantasy and dreaming. In fact, recent sleep research has given evidence that if a subjectís dreams are disrupted so that he is not allowed to dream for several nights, he begins to show signs of mental and emotional strain and fatigue. It is from our dreams, visions, and imagination that arises the impulse to become "more than self," as well as all our objective inventions and other achievements. Occultism teaches that imagination is the greatest tool that the mind has.
On the other hand, the average student of occultism or metaphysics will tend to over-objectify his waking or dreaming visions. If a psychiatrist thinks that your dream was only a dream, the Western student will think that his dream was 100 percent real and eternal and a message direct to him from his Master. Every image he sees in vision will be an eternal god, or devil. The gods on The Tree form an incredible pantheon of absolutely palpable beings who must be daily appeased. There is no thing which is subjective or which might be symbolic. To see grandma in a dream is to really see the real grandma, while to the psychologist grandma would only be a symbol. The truth lies, as most truths do, somewhere between. Either one, or both, interpretations might be right, and the wise action is to use both interpretations just to be safe. Dr. Jung, for example, gives both an objective and a subjective interpretation to the same dream, because in practice he discovered that in most instances when the unconscious "hands us an idea" it is pointing in both directions. However, analysis is never intended to yield a "true" answer as in 5th grade arithmetic. It is the analysis itself that is worthwhile, the real object of the exercise.
All I hope to show, however, is that Jungís system and the system of the Qabalah are fundamentally compatible, and not just superficially accommodating. In other words, while most people still think in terms of the polarity of subjective and objective in terms of body and psyche and continue to deal with the world in those terms even while dealing with concept-structures such as the Qabalah or psychology, there is really no such well-defined polarity. Most all of our thinking tends to center on polarities of one kind or another and so it is no wonder that we usually tend to think in terms of subjective psyche (imagination) versus objective body and ignore the possibilities of the objective psyche and the subjective body. To try to think in terms of all four, and to treat these four as portions of a single organic whole, is to resolve a great many of the apparent contradictions within our normal thinking. The occultist postulates that man has an occult anatomy, with "inner" bodies that are as real on their own planes as the so-called physical body is in the material plane. To him subjective and objective are only separated by rates of frequency so to him subjective is as real as objective. Contemplation on the oneness of these four states of existence may help us to arrive at a deeper level of understanding. Common experience tells us much about the material body. It is my opinion that it tells us too much. Like the man who went to the library and got the book on penguins. He sat up all night reading it and in the morning when he closed the book he said, "Now I know more about penguins than I wanted to know." Common psychology tells us much about the subjective psyche and Dr. Jung told us a great deal about the objective psyche, which he called the Collective Unconscious. Systems such as Yoga and Alchemy yield much knowledge about the subjective bodies, and the Qabalah has a great deal to say about it all. To ignore any segment or the systems that describe it, is to risk not being whole. This is the advantage to a collective approach to such knowledge: all and everything to the apotheosis! Who shall say the spirit is satisfied?