30 May 1906, Paris
The first thing to realise is that Yoga is not a sudden, convulsive event, but a process of gradual training, inner transformation. It does not consist, as is often supposed, in a series of external adjustments and ascetic practices. Everything must run its course in the depths of the soul.
It is often said that the first steps of Initiation are fraught with perils and grave dangers. There is a measure of truth in this. Initiation, or Yoga, is a coming-to-birth of the higher soul which lies latent in every human being. The astral body is faced with dangers analogous to those attending physical birth; there is travail before the divine soul comes forth from the desire-nature of man. The difference is that the birth of Spirit is a much longer process than that of physical birth.
Let us take another comparison. The higher soul is closely linked with the animal soul. By their fusion the passions are tempered, spiritualised and dominated according to the strength of man's intelligence and will. This fusion is of benefit to man but he pays for it by the loss of clairvoyance. Imagine to yourself a green liquid, produced by a combination of blue and yellow elements. If you succeed in separating them, the yellow will descend and the blue will rise to the surface. Something analogous happens when, through Yoga, the animal-soul is separated from the higher soul. The latter acquires clairvoyant vision; the former is left to its own devices if it has not been purified by the self and it is then given over to its passions and desires. This often happens in the case of mediums. The ‘Guardian of the Threshold’ protects man from this danger.
The first condition requisite for the Initiate is that his character shall be strong and that he shall be master of his passions. Yoga must be preceded by a rigorous discipline and the attainment of certain qualities, the first of which is inner calm. Ordinary ‘morality’ is not enough, for this relates merely to man's conduct in the outer world. Yoga is related to the inner man.
If it is said that compassion suffices, our answer will be: compassion is good and necessary but has nothing directly to do with occult training. Compassion without wisdom is weak and powerless.
The task of the occultist, of the true Initiate, is to change the direction of his life's current. The actions of man today are impelled and determined by his feelings — that is to say, by impulses from the outer world. Actions determined by space and time have no significance. Space and time must be transcended. How can we achieve this?
(1) Control of thought. We must be able to concentrate our thought upon a single object and hold it there.
(2) Control of actions. Our attitude to all actions, be they trivial or significant, must be to dominate, regulate and hold them under the control of the will. They must be the outcome of inner initiative.
(3) Equilibrium of soul. There must be moderation in sorrow and in joy. Goethe has said that the soul who loves is, till death, equally happy, equally sad. The occultist must bear the deepest joy and the deepest sorrow with the same equanimity of soul.
(4) Optimism — the attitude which looks for the good in everything. Even in crime and in seeming absurdity there is some element of good. A Persian legend says that Christ once passed by the corpse of a dog and that His disciples turned from it in disgust. But the Christ said: ‘Lo! the teeth are beautiful.’
(5) Confidence. The mind must be open to every new phenomenon. We must never allow our judgments to be determined by the past.
(6) Inner balance, which is the result of these preparatory measures. Man is then ripe for the inner training of the soul. He is ready to set his feet upon the path.
(7) Meditation. We must be able to make ourselves blind and deaf to the outer world and our memories of it, to the point where even the shot of a gun does not disturb. This is the prelude to meditation. When this inner void has been created, man is able to receive the prompting of his inner being. The soul must then be awakened in its very depths by certain ideas able to impel it towards its source.
In the book Light on the Path, there are four sentences which may be employed in meditation and inner concentration. They are very ancient and have been used for centuries by Initiates. Their meaning is profound and many-sided.
“Before the eyes can see, they must be incapable of tears.”
“Before the ear can hear, it must have lost it's sensitiveness.”
“Before the voice can speak in the presence of the masters, it must have lost the power to wound.”
“Before the soul can stand in the presence of the masters, its feet must be washed in the blood of the heart.”
These four sentences have magical power. But we must bring them to life within us, we must love them as a mother loves her child.
This, the first stage of training, has power to develop the etheric body and particularly its upper part which corresponds to the head. Having trained the upper part of the etheric body, the disciple must begin to control the systems of breathing and blood, the lungs and the heart. In remote ages of earthly evolution, man lived in the waters and breathed through gills like fish. Sacred literature indicates the time when he began to breathe the airs of heaven. Genesis says “God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.”
The disciple must purify and bring about changes in his breathing system. All development proceeds from chaos to harmony, from lack of rhythm to rhythm (eurhythmy). Rhythm must be brought into the instincts.
In ancient times, the various degrees of Initiation were called by particular names:
First degree: The Raven (he who remains at the threshold). The raven appears in all mythologies. In the Edda, he whispers into the ear of Wotan what he sees afar off.
Second degree: the hidden Scholar, or the Occultist.
Third degree: the Warrior (struggle and strife).
Fourth degree: the Initiate bears the name of his people — he is a “Persian” or a “Greek” because his soul has grown to a point where it includes the soul of his people.
Sixth degree: the Initiate is a Sun-Hero, or Sun-Messenger, because his progress is as harmonious and, rhythmic as that of the Sun.
Seventh degree: the Initiate is a ‘Father,’ because he has power to make disciples of men and to be the protector of all; he is the Father of the new being, the ‘twice-born’ in the risen soul.
The Sun represents the vivifying movement and rhythm of the planetary system. The legend of Icarus is a legend of Initiation. Icarus has attempted to reach the Sun-sphere prematurely, without adequate preparation, and is cast down.
The new rhythm of breathing produces a change in the blood. Man is purified to the point of himself being able to generate blood without the aid of plant-nourishment. Prolonged meditation changes the nature of the blood. Man begins to exhale less carbon; he retains a certain amount and uses it for building up his body. The air he exhales is pure. He gradually becomes able to live on the forces contained in his own breath. He accomplishes an alchemical transmutation.
What are the higher stages of Yoga?
(1) The Initiate finds calm within his soul. Astral vision — where everything is a symbolic image of reality is acquired. This astral vision which arises during the sleeping state, is still incomplete.
(2) Dreams cease to be chaotic. Man understands the relation between dream-symbolism and reality; he gains control of the astral world. And then the inner astral light awakens in the soul who perceives other souls in their real being.
(3) Continuity of consciousness is set up between the waking state and the sleeping state. Astral life is reflected in dreams but in deep sleep, pure sounds arise. The soul experiences the inner words issuing from all beings as a mighty harmony. This harmony is a manifestation of reality; it was called by Plato and Pythagoras, the harmony of the spheres. This is not a poetic metaphor but a reality experienced by the soul as a vibration emanating from the soul of the world.
Goethe, who was initiated between the periods of his life at Leipzig and Strasburg, knew of the harmony of the spheres. He expressed it at the beginning of Faust in words spoken by the Archangel Raphael:
“The Sun makes music as of old
Amid the sister-spheres of heaven.
On its predestined circle rolls
With roar of thunder.”
In deep sleep, the Initiate hears these sounds as if they were the notes of trumpets and the rolling of thunder.