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Yogi Philosophy - The Mental Principles

( Originally Published 1903 )



IN our First Lesson we called your attention briefly to the three lower principles of man—i.e., (I) the physical body; (2) the astral body; (3) Prana, or vital force. We also led up to the subject of the mental principles, which form the fourth, fifth, and sixth, respectively, of the seven principles of man.

For convenience sake, we will again enumerate the four higher principles :

(7) Spirit.
(6) Spiritual mind.
(5) Intellect.
(4) Instinctive mind.

This terminology is more or less unsatisfactory, but we adopt it in preference to the Sanscrit terms which prove so puzzling and elusive to the average Western student.

The three lower principles are the most material, and the atoms of which they are composed are, of course, indestructible, and go on forever in countless forms and aspects ; but these principles, so far as the ego is concerned, are things merely to be used in connection with a particular earth-life, just as man uses clothing, heat, electricity, etc., and they form no part of his higher nature.

The four higher principles, on the contrary, go to make up the thinking part of man—the intelligent part, so to speak. Even the lowest of the four—the instinctive mind, goes to form the higher part of the man.

Those who have not considered the subject at all are apt to regard as absurd the suggestion that the mind of man functions on more than one plane. Students of psychology, however, have long recognized the varying phases of mentation, and many theories have been advanced to account for the same. Such students will find that the Yogi philosophy alone gives the key to the mystery. Those who have studied the dual-mind theories of certain Western writers will also find it easier to conceive of more than one plane of mentality.

At first sight it would seem that the conscious, reasoning part of man's mind did the most work—if, indeed, not all of it. But a little reflection will show us that the conscious, reasoning work of the mind is but a small fraction of its task. Man's mind functions on three planes of effort, each plane shading imperceptibly into the planes on either side of it—the one next higher or the one next lower. The student may think of the matter either as one mind functioning along three lines, or as three minds shading into each other; both views have more or less of the truth in them; the real truth is too complex to be considered in detail in an elementary lesson. The principal thing is to get the idea fixed in the mind—to form mental pegs upon which to hang future in-formation. We. will touch briefly upon the several "minds," or planes of mental effort, beginning with the lowest, the instinctive mind.

(4) The Instinctive Mind

This plane of mentation we share in connection with the lower animals, in, at least, its lower forms. It is the first plane of mentation reached in the scale of evolution. Its lowest phases are along lines in which consciousness is scarcely evident, and it extends from this lowly place in the scale until it manifests a very high degree of consciousness in comparison with its lowest phases in fact, when it begins to shade into the fifth principle, it is difficult to distinguish it from the lowest forms of the latter.

The first dawn of the instinctive mind may be seen even in the mineral kingdom, more particularly in crystals, etc. Then in the plant kingdom it grows more distinct and higher in the scale, some of the higher families of plants showing even a rudimentary form of consciousness. Then in the world of the lower animals are seen increasing manifestations of the instinctive mind, from the almost plant-like intelligence of the lower forms until we reach a degree almost equal to that of the lowest form of human life. Then, among men, we see it shading gradually into the fifth principle, the intellect, until in the highest form of man to-day we see the fifth principle, intellect, in control to a certain extent, and subordinating the fourth principle to it, either wisely or unwisely. But, remember this, that even the highest form of man carries about with him the fourth principle, the instinctive mind, and in varying degrees uses it, or is used by it. The instinctive mind is most useful to man in this stage of his development—he could not exist as a physical being without it, in fact—and he may make a most valuable servant of it if he understands it; but woe to him if he allows it to remain in control or to usurp prerogatives belonging to its higher brother. Now, right here we must call your attention to the fact that man is still a growing creature—he is not a finished product by any means. He has reached his present stage of growth after a toilsome journey; but it is merely sunrise yet, and the full day is afar off. The fifth principle, the intellect, has unfolded to a certain degree, particularly in the more advanced men of to-day, but the unfoldment is merely beginning with many. Many men are but little more than animals, and their minds function almost entirely upon the instinctive plane. And all men of to-day, with the exceptions of a few very highly developed individuals, have need to be on guard lest the instinctive mind does not occasionally unduly assert its power over them, when they are off their guard.

The lowest phase of the work of the instinctive mind is akin to the same work manifesting in the plant kingdom. The work of our bodies is performed by this part of the mind. The constant work of repair, replacement, change, digestion, assimilation, elimination, etc., is being performed by this part of the mind, all below the plane of consciousness. The wondrous work of the body, in health and sickness, is faithfully carried on by this part of our minds, all without our conscious knowledge. The intelligent work of every organ, part, and cell of the body is under the superintendence of this part of the mind. Read in " Science of Breath" of the marvelous process of the circulation of the blood, its purification, etc., and realize, faintly, what a wonderful work is even this lowest phase of the instinctive mind. We will show more of its workings in our forthcoming work " Hatha Yoga," but any school physiology will give you a clear idea of what it does, although its writer does not tell the cause behind it. This part of the work of the instinctive mind is well performed in the lower animals, plants, and in man, until the latter begins to unfold a little intellect, when he often begins to meddle with the work properly belonging to this plane of the mind, and sends to it adverse suggestions, fear thoughts, etc. However, this trouble is but temporary, as, when the intellect unfolds a little farther, it sees the error into which it has fallen and proceeds to rectify the trouble and to prevent its recurrence.

But this is only a part of the province of the instinctive mind. As the animal progressed along the scale of evolution, certain things became necessary for its protection and well-being. It could not reason on these things, so that wonderful intelligence dwelling, subconsciously, in the instinctive mind unfolded until it was able to grasp the situation and meet it. It aroused the " fighting instinct" in the brute for its preservation, and this action of the instinctive mind, very good for its purpose and essential to the preservation of the life of the animal, is still with us and occasionally-projects itself into our mentality with a surprising degree of strength. There is a great deal of the old animal fighting spirit in us yet, although we have managed to control it and to hold it in restraint, thanks to the light obtained from our unfolding higher faculties. The instinctive mind also taught the animal how to build its nests, how to migrate before approaching winter, how to hibernate, and thousands of other things well known to students of natural history. And it teaches us how to do the many things which we perform instinctively, as it also assumes tasks which we learn how to perform, by means of our intellect, and which we pass on to the instinctive mind, which afterward performs them automatically or nearly so. It is astonishing how many of our daily tasks are performed under the direction of our instinctive mind, subject merely to a casual supervision of the Intellect. When we learn to do things "by heart," we have really mastered them on the intellectual plane, and then passed them on to the instinctive plane of mentation. The woman with her sewing-machine, the man who runs his engine, the painter with his brush, all find the instinctive mind a good friend, in fact the intellect would soon tire if it had these every-day tasks to perform. Note the difference between learning to do a thing, and then doing it after it has been learned. These manifestations of the instinctive mind are of course among its higher phases, and are due largely to its contact with and blending with the unfolding intellect.

The instinctive mind is also the "habit" mind. The intellect (either that of the owner of the instinctive mind, or of some other man) passes on ideas to it, which it afterward faithfully carries out to the letter, unless corrected or given better instructions, or worse ones, by the intellect of some one.

The instinctive mind is a queer storehouse. It is full of things received from a variety of sources. It contains many things which it has received through heredity ; other things which have unfolded within it, the seeds of which were sown at the time of the primal impulse which started life along the path; other things which it has received from the intellect, including suggestions from others, as well as thought-waves sent out from the minds of others, which have taken lodgment within its corridors. All sorts of foolishness as well as wisdom is there. We will deal with this phase of the subject in future lessons, under the head of Suggestion and Auto-Suggestion, Thought Power, etc.

Instinctive mind manifests varying degrees of consciousness, varying from almost absolute subconsciousness to the simple consciousness of the highest of the lower animals and the lower forms of man. Self-consciousness comes to man with the unfoldment of the intellect, and will be spoken of in its proper place. Cosmic or universal consciousness comes with the unfoldment of the spiritual mind and will be touched upon later on. This gradual growth of consciousness is a most interesting and important branch of the subject before us, and will be referred to, and spoken of, at different points in this course.

Before we pass on to the next principle, we must call your attention to the fact that the instinctive mind is the seat of the appetites, passions, desires, instincts, sensations, feelings, and emotions of the lower order, manifested in man as well as in the lower animals. There are of course higher ideas, emotions, aspirations, and desires, reaching the advanced man from the unfolding spiritual mind, but the animal desires, and the ordinary feelings, emotions, etc., be-long to the instinctive mind. All the "feelings" belonging to our passional and emotional nature be-long to this plane. All animal desires, such as hunger and thirst, sexual desires (on the physical plane) ; all passions, such as physical love, hatred, envy, malice, jealousy, revenge, are a part of it. The desire for the physical (unless as a means of reaching higher things), the longing for the material, all belong to this plane. The " lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life," are on this plane. This principle is the most material of the three mental principles, and is the one which is apt to bind us the closest to the earth and earthly things. Remember, that we are not condemning material or " earthly " things —they are all right in their place; but man in his unfoldment grows to see these things as only a means to an end—only a step in the spiritual evolution. And with clearer vision he ceases to be bound too tightly to the material side of life, and, instead of regarding it as the end and aim of all things, sees that it is, at the best, only a means to a higher end.

Many of the " brute " instincts are still with us, and are much in evidence in undeveloped people. Occultists learn to curb and control these lower instincts, and to subordinate them to the higher mental ideals which open up to them. Be not discouraged, ,dear student, if you find much of the animal still within you. It is no sign of " badness," or evil; it fact the recognition of it by one is a sign that his unfoldment has begun, for, before, the same thing was there and not recognized for what it is, whereas now it is both seen and recognized. Knowledge is power : learn to know the remnants of the brute nature within you and become a tamer of wild beasts. The higher principles will always obtain the mastery, but patience, perseverance, and faith are required for the task. These "brute " things were all right in their time—the animal had need of them—they were "good" for the purpose intended, but now that man is reaching higher points on the path, he sees clearer and learns to subordinate the lower parts of himself to the higher. The lower instincts were not implanted in your nature by " the devil " ; you came by them honestly. They came in the process of evolution as a proper and right thing, but have been largely outgrown and can now be left behind. So do not fear these inheritances from the past ; you can put them aside or subordinate them to higher things as you journey along the path. Do not despise them, though you tread them under foot—they are the steps upon which you have reached your present high estate, and upon which you will attain still greater heights.

(5) The Intellect.

We now reach the mental principle which distinguishes man from the brute. The first four principles man shares in common with the lower forms of life, but when the fifth principle begins to unfold he has reached an important stage of the journey along the path of attainment. He feels his manhood manifesting within him.

Now, remember, that there is no violent change or marked transition from the consciousness of the fourth principle into that of the fifth. As we have before explained, these principles shade into each other, and blend as do the colors of the spectrum. As intellect unfolds, it illuminates faintly the fourth principle, and endows instinctive life with reason. Simple consciousness shades into self-consciousness. Before the fifth principle dawns fairly, the creature having the four principles well developed has passions but no reason; emotions but no intellect; de-sires but no rationalized will. It is the subject awaiting the monarch, the sleeper awaiting the magic touch of the one who has been sent to awaken him from the enchanter's deep sleep. It is the brute awaiting the coming of that which will transform it into a man.

In some of the lower animals, the fourth principle has attracted to itself the lowest shading of the fifth principle, and the animal manifests signs of a faint reasoning. On the other hand, in some of the lower forms of man—the Bushman, for example—the fourth principle has scarcely been perceptibly colored by the incoming fifth principle, and the "man " is scarcely more than a brute, in fact is more of a brute, mentally, than some of the higher domesticated animals, who, having been for many generations in close companionship with man, have been colored by his mental emanations.

The first sign of the real unfoldment of the fifth principle, intellect, is the dawning of self-consciousness. In order more fully to understand this, let us consider what consciousness really is.

Among the lower animals there is very little of that which we call consciousness. The consciousness of the lower animal forms is but little more than mere sensation. Life in the early stages is almost automatic. The mentation is almost entirely along subconscious lines, and the mentation itself is only that which is concerned with the physical life of the animal—the satisfaction of its primitive wants. After a bit, this primitive consciousness developed into what psychologists term simple consciousness. Simple consciousness is an "awareness " of outside things—a perception and recognition of things other than the inner self. The conscious attention is turned outward. The animal, or low order of man, cannot think of his hopes and fears, his aspirations, his plans, his thoughts, and then compare them with the like thoughts of others of his kind. He cannot turn his gaze inward and speculate upon abstract things. He simply takes things for granted and asks no questions. He does not attempt to find solutions for questions within himself, for he is not aware that such questions exist.

With the advent of self-consciousness man begins to form a conception of the " I." He begins to compare himself with others and to reason about it. He takes mental stock, and draws conclusions from what he finds in his mind. He begins to think for him-self, to analyze, classify, separate, deduce, etc. As he progresses he begins to think out things for him-self, and passes along new and fresh suggestions to his instinctive mind. He begins to rely upon his own mind, rather than blindly accepting that which emanates from the mind of others. He begins to create for himself, and is no longer a mere mental automaton.

And from a mere glimmering of conscious intelligence, there has grown the highest intelligence of to-day. A modern writer forcibly expresses the growth in the following words : "For some hundreds of years, upon the general plane of self-consciousness, an ascent, to the human eye gradually, but from the point of view of cosmic evolution rapid, has been made. In a race, large-brained, walking erect, gregarious, brutal, but king of all other brutes, man in appearance but not in fact, was from the highest simple-consciousness born the basic human faculty self-consciousness, and its twin language. From these and what went with these, through suffer-tag, toil, and war; through bestiality, savagery, barbarism; through slavery, greed, effort; through con-quests infinite, through defeats overwhelming, through struggle unending; through ages of aimless semi-brutal existence; through subsistence on berries and roots; through the use of the casually found stone or stick; through life in deep forests, with nuts and seeds, and on the shores of waters with mollusks, crustaceans, and fish for food; through that greatest, perhaps, of human victories, the domestication and subjugation of fire; through the invention and art of bow and arrow; through the taming of animals and the breaking of them to labor; through the long learning which led to the cultivation of the soil; through the adobe brick and the building of houses therefrom; through the smelting of metals and the slow birth of the arts which rest upon these; through the slow making of alphabets and the evolution of the written word ; in short, through thousands of centuries of human life, of human aspiration, of human growth, sprang the world of men and women as it stands before us and within us to-day with all its achievements and possessions."

Self-consciousness is a thing easy to comprehend, but difficult to define. One writer has expressed it well when he says that without self-consciousness a creature may know; but only by the aid of self-consciousness is it possible for him to know that he knows.

And with this unfoldment of the intellect came the beginnings of all the wonderful* achievements of the human mind of to-day. But great Is are these achievements, these are as nothing to what is yet be-fore the race. From history on to victory will the intellect progress. In its unfoldment, as it begins to receive more and more light from the next highest principle, the spiritual mind, it will achieve things as yet undreamed of. And yet, poor mortal, remember, intellect is third from the highest in the scale on the principles of man. There are two principles as much higher than intellect, as intellect is higher than the principle below—instinctive mind. Do not make a God of intellect ; do not allow the pride of intellect to blind you.

The importance of the awakening of self-consciousness may be more clearly recognized when we tell you that the occult doctrine is that once the self-consciousness is awakened into being, once the " I " has been felt and recognized, the real awakened life of the soul begins. We do not refer to the life that comes after the spiritual awakening—that is a still higher stage—but to the mental awakening of the soul to the " I " consciousness. This is the stage where the baby ego first begins its waking existence. Previous to that time it has slumbered on, alive but not conscious of itself, and now the time of labor. pains and birth is at hand. The soul has to meet new conditions, and has many an obstacle to overcome before it reaches spiritual manhood. Many experiences will it undergo, many trials will it be forced to meet; but still the progress is, on and on and on.

At times there may be setbacks, and it may even seem to retrograde, but such obstacles are soon surmounted and the soul takes up its journey again. There is no real going backward on the path, and slow as the progress may seem, each of us is moving steadily forward.

We had hoped to be able to reach the subject of the sixth principle, spiritual mind, in this lesson, but we see that we have not sufficient space at our disposal, so we must defer that most interesting subject, as well as that of the seventh principle, spirit, until the next lesson. We are aware that our students are eager to press forward, and we are wasting as little time as possible on the way; but there are certain fundamental truths which must be clearly understood before we dare take another step.

There are a number of lessons to be drawn from the subjects of the instinctive mind and the intellect, and this is as good a place as any in which to consider them.

One of these lessons is that the awakening of intellect does not necessarily make the creature a better being, in the sense of being "good." While it is true that an unfolding principle or faculty will give an upward tendency to man, it is equally true that some men are so closely wrapped in the folds of the animal sheath—so steeped in the material side of things—that the awakened intellect only tends to give them increased powers to gratify their low desires and inclinations. Man, if he chooses, may excel the beasts in bestiality—he may descend to depths of which the beast would never have thought. The beast is governed solely by instinct, and his actions, so prompted, are perfectly natural and proper, and the animal is not blamed for following the impulses of its nature. But man, in whom intellect has unfolded, knows that it is contrary to his highest nature to descend to the level of the beasts—yea, lower by far. He adds to the brute desires the cunning and intelligence which have come to him, and deliberately prostitutes his higher principle to the task of carrying out the magnified animal propensities. Very few animals abuse their desires—it is left for some men to do so. The higher the degree of intellect unfolded in a man, the greater the depths of low passions, appetites, and desires possible to him. He actually creates new brute desires, or rather, builds edifices of his own upon the brute foundations. It is unnecessary for us to state that all occultists know that such a course will bring certain con-sequences in its train, which will result in the soul having to spend many weary years in retracing its steps over the backward road it has trodden. Its progress has been retarded, and it will be compelled to retravel the road to freedom, in common with the beast-like natures of undeveloped creatures whose proper state of the journey it is, having an additional burden in the shape of the horror of consciousness of its surroundings, whereas its companions have no such consciousness and consequently suffer not. If you can imagine a civilized, refined man having to live among Australian Bushmen for many years, with a full recollection of what he has lost, you may form a faint idea of the fate in store for one who deliberately sinks his high powers to the accomplishment of low ends and desires. But even for such a soul there is escape—in time.

Let your higher nature be on guard and refuse to be drawn back into the brute life which has been passed through. Keep your gaze upward, and let your motto be " Forward." The brute nature may exert a pull downward, but the spiritual mind will give you a helping hand, and will sustain you if you but trust to it. The intellect is between the two, and may be influenced by either or both. Take your choice, oh, struggling soul. Your help is with-in you.; look to it, and refuse to be dragged back into the mire of the animal mind. Manifest the " I " within you and be strong. You are an immortal soul, and are moving on and on and on to still greater things. Peace be yours.



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