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Theosophical Siftings

Eastern Psychology

Vol 4, No 8

Eastern Psychology
The Missing Link Between Religion and Science by G.R.S. Mead, F.T.S.
Reprinted from "Theosophical Siftings" Volume 4 The Theosophical Publishing Society, England

T E sub!ect of the present paper is one of the deepest interest, and also of the greatest possible importance and gra"ity# $or not only is its study absolutely essential to those %ho are seriously interested in the third ob!ect of our Society, but also its methods are the only means %hereby it is possible to forge the missing lin& bet%een a materialistic and agnostic science on the one hand, and, on the other a religion that is based entirely on blind faith and the authority of boo&s that are no longer understood# 'f late years, in the (est, it has been some%hat the fashion %ith those %ho consider themsel"es of strong intellect, to belittle religion and to endea"our to trace its genesis to the fears of primiti"e man, the said primiti"e man being not only an un"erifiable hypothesis but a pure fiction of materialistic and )ar%inistic anthropology, for the stone age is in"ariably found to e*ist side by side %ith the most ad"anced ci"ili+ation# 'thers again summarily dispose of the most sacred scriptures of the %orld %ith the contemptuous epithet of ,theological t%addle," especially if these happen to be the bibles of some foreign race# -nd yet if %e loo& bac& on the history of the %orld, %e find that the most important factor in the life of the past has been the religious factor# The la%s, customs, polity, nay the "ery life of the ancients sought their inspiration in religion# .ut this is no longer the case, for li&e the braggarts of old, ,%e boast oursel"es to be greater than our fathers"# The moti"e po%er of today is distinctly not religion# 'n the contrary, the po%er of religion is e"ery%here, %aning among the thin&ing classes and the tendency is to remo"e it from all the most important duties of the citi+en# (hat is &no%n as science and scientific methods is gradually usurping the prerogati"e of religion in the (est, and if the conflict is to be fought out %ith the same %eapons as are no% used, %e shall e"entually find the religious influence completely eliminated from daily life, and the dense pall of materialism %ill co"er the funeral car of its no% almost inanimate corpse, %hich can only sho% such spasmodic signs of life as the Sal"ation -rmy and re"i"alist meetings# / hope, ho%e"er, to sho% that ne% %eapons are ready to the hands of e"ery sincere and honest belie"er in the spirit of true religion0 %eapons %hich if only they can be persuaded to use, %ill ,utterly destroy the forces of materialism to its last 1spoo&2 "# The first 3uestion %e ha"e to ans%er is, %hether or not the conception [Page ! that the moderns ha"e of religion is the same as the spirit of religion that inspired anti3uity4 To this 3uestion the ans%er must be most emphatically, no# That %hich is considered religion today Page 5

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resembles the religion of the past in some e*ternals merely# .ut the spirit of true religion is entirely absent, its soul is utterly different, and its body alone bears some mar&s of resemblance# The spirit of religion is entirely absent today, because it is di"orced from science# .y science / mean real &no%ledge concerning man, nature and deity, and not the cataloguing of e*ternals and the in"ention of hypotheses, "that mechanical manipulation falsely termed science", as 6arlyle puts it, %hich together %ith its t%in brother 7ammon is the 8anus deity of this huc&stering age# -nd the spirit of religion being absent0 naturally enough, its soul and body differ from those of its noble ancestry in a "ery mar&ed degree, so much so that they seem to be the misshapen and unintelligent progeny of parents that ha"e already in their turn begun to degenerate through internal corruption# 'n the other hand, %e are told by authorities that anti3uity had no science, and that it %as ignorant of the most elementary facts of physical nature0 that the masters of the philosophies and religions of the past %ere at best but crude speculators in such matters, %ith ears more ready to listen to old %i"es9 tales, than eyes open to in"estigate the la%s of physical nature# -nd yet, e"en if %e ta&e the %ord science in this one:sided sense, %e find, if %e choose to master the differences of terminology, that the latest hypotheses of today are mere repetitions of the theories of the past0 %hereas in philosophy and ethics, %e find the modern not only not transcending but al%ays falling short of the sublime systems of anti3uity# So that the "de:hypnotised" student loo&s %ith astonishment at the modern delusion of endea"ouring to in"ent something ne% in philosophy and religion %hen the past already occupies the %hole ground# No% %hat is it that pre!udices the "ast ma!ority of scholars against the systems of anti3uity, so that though they may be enthusiastic as students of the curious, still they refuse to gi"e anything but at best a half:hearted confidence to the methods of the %orld sages, and al%ays brea& up the %hite light of ancient thought %ith the prism of assumed superiority %ith %hich they busily gla+e their o%n and the public9s mental %indo%s4 (hat is the cause of this strong pre!udice 4 Simply the fact that the ancients did not run %ild o"er materialistic science# The (estern student finds to his disgust that in anti3uity ethics and philosophy %ent hand in hand %ith such disreputable baggage as mythology, allegory and symbolism# The ethics he admits are nearly al%ays sublime, the philosophy, if [Page "! you %ere to strip it of its mystic absurdities, and unscientific garb, and pious imaginings, is "ery often of the highest order0 but the mythology, fairy tales and the rest, sho% a most deplorable state of %ea&ness of intellect, of a prolific imagination that should be confined to the nursery, and of an indescribable ine*actitude and a ma+e of contradictions and absurdities that could only ha"e arisen o%ing to the complete ignorance in the ancient mind of the glorious truths of modern science, and %hich naturally in"alidates the %hole of the conclusions of the ancients, at any rate in the eyes of a man trained in the e*act methods of our o%n enlightened age# -nd yet these philosophers and ethical teachers, many of %hom ha"e ne"er been e3ualled by the moderns, and some of %hom ha"e re"olutioni+ed the thought of nations and continents, and maintained an ascendency o"er the minds and hearts of thousands of millions of their fello% creatures for thousands of years ; men %ho, if any, can be called great ; these teachers, / say, regarded such religious fairy tales as real factors in the li"es of men, nay they "ery often loo&ed upon them %ith more re"erence than Page <

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their undisguised ethical and philosophical teachings# No% %hat %as the reason for this strange proceeding 4######## /t %as simply because such myths and allegories %ere the symbols of their science# /t ne"er occurred to the ancient mind to separate religion from science0 such a glorious achie"ement %as left for our o%n progressi"e age# -nd yet its science %as not our science= for it en3uired into such unimportant problems as the nature of the soul and its immortality, of life after death, of other %orlds, of the gods and demons, of "isions and prophecies, and of "arious other unscientific sub!ects and %as so unenlightened as to ta&e no interest in electric lighting and the in"ention of smo&eless po%der> 6an men, admittedly the greatest of ethical teachers and allo%ed to be in the forefront of the %orld: philosophers, be regarded as superstitious children in respect to their &no%ledge of natural phenomena4 > $or so they are regarded by those %ho claim to be the most enlightened intellects of this age4> / thin& not# $or anti3uity, certain things %ere uni"ersally regarded as sacred or secret# Today secrecy is regarded as a cloa& of ignorance, or as pure selfishness and an in!ustice to the public# There is nothing sacred, nothing that the intellectual "ulgarian %ill refrain from prying into if he can# $or !ust as a great Teacher has said, the s%ine are e"er busily engaged in trampling the holy things under their feet# The indus say that all the Scriptures %hich are %ritten and made common property are li&e the harlots in the mar&et place that all men can see, but the Sacred Science is li&e a pure "irgin that none can &no% but him to %hom she is legitimately married# [Page #! Turn to %hate"er nation %e may in anti3uity, %e find that the most sacred institutions of its religious life %ere &ept in profound mystery and sanctity# The profane %ere strictly &ept from participation in the rites %hich bound man to the gods# The /nitiated alone %ere the mediators bet%een this %orld and the ne*t# (hile the 7ysteries %ere in their purity, only the %isest and best %ere permitted to share in them# The trials %hich, %e are told, had first to be passed through, %ere almost incredible, and the crime of re"ealing a syllable of the ?no%ledge to the uninitiated, %as punished %ith instant death# Thus the /nitiated %ere the %isest of anti3uity and the greatest teachers of their times, as they are also the greatest teachers of today# 'ne and all of them %ho %rote, %rote in allegorical language, or in parables and dar& sayings, and many are reported to ha"e been great %onder %or&ers, performing deeds no% called miraculous, or in other %ords repeating the fairy tales of mythology in real life# -ll of these teachers further contended that %hat they spo&e %as known to the /nitiated, but that the people could not understand, chiefly because they had no desire to understand and also because they %ere unfit to do so# -nd that as long as the many preferred to en!oy themsel"es rather than to %orship the gods and li"e pure and holy li"es, so long %ould they concei"e of the gods as they regarded life, namely according to appearances# The fe% alone %ould &no%, simply because the many refused the only condition on %hich the &no%ledge %as attainable# No% %hen a Theosophist reads of such things, it appears to him that there %as much %isdom in this Page @

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method of anti3uity, !udging, at least, by the present state of affairs# /t is, ho%e"er, usually some time before the student of Theosophy definitely arri"es at this conclusion# The young student is generally imbued %ith protestant and scientific self:righteousness, and imagines that if there is anything to be &no%n, he at any rate is a most %orthy recipient of such &no%ledge# The gro%n man, ho%e"er, learns to ha"e less confidence in his o%n %orthiness in proportion as he learns to analy+e his o%n faults and failings# No% in follo%ing out these theosophical studies a great fact %ill be gradually but ine"itably forced home upon the serious in"estigator= viz#, that anti3uity had a science and a most sacred and holy science, and that this %as the science of the soul, a real psychology# ?no%ledge in this direction, viz#, a &no%ledge of sub!ecti"e things, so transcended a &no%ledge of e*ternals, that the ancients naturally refrained from %asting their time on inferior studies %hen superior pursuits %ere open to them# /t is e*traordinary also %hat an enormous body of literature there is on the sub!ect, especially in the East# /n fact %ithout the &ey of this science the ,Sacred .oo&s of the EastA %ill for e"er remain unintelligible in their dead letter absurdities# [Page $! Psychology, then, %as the science of anti3uity, and !ust as modern scientists use formulae and symbols for e*pressing their operations, so did the ancient psychologists and teachers# Their system, ho%e"er, %as some%hat more rational than those of today# The symbolical, hieroglyphical and pictorial alphabets of the %orld are still to a large e*tent a secret cypher %hose &ey has so far been unre"ealed, and %ith these %e ha"e nothing to do in the present paper# .ut the general formulae of ancient science had a far greater human interest# The method employed sho%s a depth of %isdom, that has not only ne"er been surpassed but not e"en e3ualled# To the ancient mind the multifarious e"ents of life and the phenomena of e*istence could be classed into groups and separated into species, according to types# Thus they sa% the same la% %or&ing in the "arious groups of phenomena in nature and man, and conse3uently adopted their formulae and symbols from the incidents in human life %hich e*emplified such la%s# -ccordingly they taught their children about the gods and heroes and other personifications of the po%ers of nature and also of past humanities, and in particular instructed them in the nature of the soul by means of beautiful allegories that appealed fully to their human interest# So that %hen they gre% to man9s estate and %ere deemed %orthy to ha"e the mysteries of their o%n nature re"ealed to them, they %ere already instructed in the formulae of the Science and only re3uired to ha"e the methods of interpretation e*plained, to be at once in possession of an almost ine*haustible fund of &no%ledge# Such a system of instruction culti"ated the psychic nature of anti3uity to a "ery considerable e*tent# /t had its abuses it is true %hen the great ci"ili+ations degenerated, for then the general un%orthiness both of teachers and taught left nothing in their hands but a spiritless superstition# 'n the other hand, the present system of education today, %ith its unlo"ely scientific and commercial methods, d%arfs the Page 4

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psychic nature of the young and centres all their attention on e*ternals# /n the (est comparati"ely fe% relics ha"e come do%n to us of %hat this so carefully guarded psychological &no%ledge %as in reality, and %hat little %e ha"e has been religiously boycotted by ignorant and sense : lo"ing authorities %ho ha"e preferred po%er to instruction and material progress to spiritual ad"ancement# (hat has come do%n to us, ho%e"er, sho%s clearly that the &no%ledge %as more than theoretical, that in fact it had a practical side, and that the practices it ad"ocated demanded the e*ercise of the highest 3ualities and endo%ments of human nature# "To dare, %ill, &no% and &eep silentA %ere the conditions of adeptship in this art# Purity of body and mind, fearlessness in e"ery direction, unflagging perse"erance and incredible self:denial %ere the absolute essentials of progress# [Page %! Perhaps this thin lin& of tradition %ith the past %ould ha"e snapped entirely and the (est ha"e been plunged in the 6immerian dar&ness of a mere belly philosophy and sense %orship, %ere it not that the commercial enterprise of the (est too& European ships to /ndia# Thus for many decades of years, the energy of the (est, and pre:eminently of Breat .ritain, has been almost entirely employed in 3uite a 8e%:/i&e manner in spoiling the Egyptians of the East of their national possessions# (e may regard this apparently unintelligent intrusion of the (est into the East as the first step on the path of sal"ation for the former# $or little by little, and in the face of the greatest pre!udice, contempt and difficulty, some of us (esterns are learning that the spoiled Egyptian has far more precious treasures hidden a%ay and guarded more !ealously than his material possessions or e"en life itself# The East possesses the most "aluable literature in the %orld for the student of mysticism and occultism# 7atters but dimly hinted at in the mystic literature of the (est, are fully discussed in the Sacred .oo&s of the East# -nd the reason for this prodigality is, / ta&e it, that among the ancient population of /ndia there %as a larger number of men fit to recei"e such instruction, so that much that in the (est %as &ept bac&, %as gi"en out %ith freedom in the East# $or the most stri&ing feature of the Sacred .oo&s of /ndia and especially of the Upanishads, is that e"ery%here open mention is made of a science of the Soul and many of the fundamentals of this science are ta&en as a*ioms or facts that re3uire no further "erification# /n fact it has all the appearance, not of being a speculati"e study in process of construction, but a perfected science and art handed do%n from teacher to pupil and "ouched for by immemorial e*perience# The practical part of this Science is called Yoga, a %ord meaning "union" /t is the method %hereby a man becomes at one %ith his inner nature and thus gains e*perience of sub!ecti"e states of being# The command "&no% thyself " is the corner stone of the %hole underta&ing# The Coga philosophy and Science deal especially %ith the mind and the magnetic forces of man# 7ind is for it t%ofold# The mind of man is partly free and partly bound to the material senses# 7oreo"er, !ust as man recei"es sense impressions from %ithout, so can he recei"e spiritual inspirations from %ithin from the higher mind# .ut li&e as the ruffled surface of a pond cannot reflect truly the moon2s rays, but sho%s them bro&en and obscured, so does the lo%er mind reflect the light of the higher, the immortal Ego Page D

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or Self, in a most confused and perple*ing fashion# The practice of Coga teaches ho% to still this ruffled %ater:surface# $or the lo%er mind is said to go out to the things of sense and to be [Page &! moulded by them# These "modifications of the internal organ" ha"e to be chec&ed and dominated before the mirror of the mind can reflect the light of the inner di"ine %orld into the consciousness of man# .y means of such mental concentration, certain magnetic forces can be freed in man and used by him# These forces are described at length, and there are elaborate treatises e*plaining the intricacies of the occult anatomy and physiology of the human organism# 7an is stated to be something more than a mere body# /n fact he has se"eral other "ehicles of consciousness besides the outer physical body and brain, all of %hich are described and treated of, some plainly enough, others more obscurely# Some of the occult po%ers that are to be de"eloped by this practice are thus described by the Sage Patan!ali in his Yoga Sutra= ; ?no%ledge of past, present and future things# ?no%ledge of former states of e*istence# ?no%ledge of the thoughts of others# /n"isibility of form# ?no%ledge of the conse3uences of one9s acts# .eneficence to all beings# Perfect strength# ?no%ledge of all in"isible ob!ects# ?no%ledge and sight of spirit unassociated %ith matter# The po%er of entering any other body and causing it to act as if it %ere one9s o%n# The po%er of hearing sound, ho%e"er distant# The po%er of passing and penetrating e"ery%here# The po%er of becoming e*tremely minute and e*panding to an immense si+e# $or the Scientist of today such an enumeration is the classification of one of unsound mind and nothing better, and he can gi"e you o"er%helming "proof" that nothing of the &ind can be possible in the nature of things# Euite so, for the physical body> .ut then the student of Coga learns to part mind from body, and to use other "ehicles of consciousness besides the gross physical body# -s the results to be attained are incredible to the ordinary mind, so are the difficulties to be surmounted of e*ceedingly great magnitude# /n fact, in spite of the elaborate e*planation of the theory of this science and the abundance of directions for its practice, %hich are to be found in many boo&s in Sans&rit and the "ernacular languages of /ndia, still those learned in such things maintain that the right pursuit of such study and practice is impossible %ithout a teacher# $or the %hole matter is hedged round %ith insurmountable dangers and difficulties %hich beset e"ery footstep0 [Page '(! and none but the most Page F

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determined, e"en %hen they are fortunate enough to meet %ith a teacher, can ma&e much progress in it# $or though the Eastern boo&s tell us a thousand times more than the records of the (est, they are still full of obscurities %hich ha"e been purposely inserted so as to guard the &no%ledge from the un%orthy# 7oreo"er, the learned .rahmins say that %e ha"e as yet only scraps of the sacred %or&s and that the bul& of them ha"e been concealed# There is therefore an e*oteric and esoteric interpretation of the teachings, and conse3uently the follo%ers of the Coga are di"ided into t%o distinct classes# The many follo% the instructions literally and imagine that the "ital magnetic breaths or currents, spo&en of, ha"e reference to the actual physical breath of the body, and that the physiological directions ha"e reference to "arious ner"ous ganglia, etc#, of the physical body0 %hereas those truly learned in the Science tell us that such directions ha"e to do %ith the astral or subtle "ehicle of man# $e% are those %ho understand the real signification of the teaching and the true method of the practice, and these instead of suppressing the breath, suppress the creation of useless thought and gain control o"er the mind# The effort of the orthodo* ascetic is to obtain 7o&sha or the selfish bliss of absorption into the Soul of the Gni"erse# The ob!ect of the true Eastern 'ccultist, on the contrary, is to e*pand his consciousness into that of the Gni"erse, so that he may gain more &no%ledge and opportunity for helping on humanity# Such an one, it is true, %or&s unseen of men, because he %or&s %ith forces and in %ays undreamed of by the %orld at large# Self:sacrifice is the la% of his being and he renounces the di"ine bliss of Nir"Hna, %hen he has gained it, in order to help on those %ho are struggling along the thorny path%ay of life# No one but a student of occultism can understand %hat this means0 for no (estern is prepared to admit the almost infinite e*pansion of consciousness that the attainment of Nir"Hna denotes# Such a sacrifice for lo"e of humanity, continuing until the end of this %orld and its humanities naturally appeals but to a fe%# -nd %hen it becomes more generally &no%n in this country, instead of e*citing the admiration, %ill probably arouse the hatred of hundreds of thousands %ho %ill see their ideals d%arfed by this grandiose conception %hich is no% for the first time told to the (est through the T #S# Such, ho%e"er, is the consummation of the true Science and Psychology of the East0 a science that has degenerated into a superstition in modern /ndia, and %hich re3uires as much reform in that country as materialistic science does in this land# This Eastern Psychology is a science that flies in the face of modern thought and %hich gi"es the lie to the authorities of the (est# -long this [Page ''! Path of (isdom lies the sal"ation of the miseries of today# Self:&no%ledge and self:renunciation can sa"e the %orld# This does not mean that %e should retire from the %orld and spend a life of contemplation# $ar from it= %e should "li"e in the %orld but not of the %orldA# True enough the ob!ects of our desire %ill be changed, and many things %e ha"e held dear, %e shall no longer pri+e, but that %ill be simply o%ing to the ac3uirement of larger interests# - study of all the factors %hich go to ma&e up man %ill cause us to change our opinion about many Page I

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things that %e ha"e pre"iously regarded as the only %ays to progress# 7aterial %ell:being %ill not be placed first, abo"e all other things, and that not from any desire of the "?ingdom of ea"en" or ")e"achan", but simply because %e shall rationally see that it is in the nature of things inferior to much else# To conclude, to me Eastern Psychology seems the one %ay out of the !ungle of modern confusion# There can be no conflict bet%een true Religion and true Science# Ethics and Physics, Spirit and 7atter, may be apparently opposed to each other, but the missing:lin& is to be found in the "Soul" and "7ind", and the &no%ledge of this must be on the lines of the psychological science of the East# - scientific basis of ethics is the crying need of the times, and it %ill not be the least ser"ice done to humanity if the Theosophical Society can not only sho% students %here materials for this important construction are to be found, but also s&etch the outlines of %hat the future building may be#

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