How To Gain The Master Key
( Originally Published 1908 )
VERY natural force is ready to work with and for us if we use it intelligently, according to its law. All readers of the previous essays must comprehend now, I think, that the Tattvic forces are the active agents of all Kosmic intelligence and energy. Our task now is to learn what is our measure of responsibility for their harmonious movement, and how we can gain the mastery instead of being mastered by them.
In the physical body, the nerves are the lines through which the Tattvas speed to their assigned field of influence, and one nerve may carry several vibrations simultaneously just as a single electric wire transmits many messages. The moment they enter the human body, however, the Tattvic vibrations encounter the disturbing influences which are ceaselessly arising in the average mind. The reasons for this, though they have so completely baffled the scientist that there are still many who deny that thought can possibly influence matter, are extremely simple, logical, and absolutely scientific. In the Tattvic law we find the solution.
It has been demonstrated beyond question that emotions of hate, passion, fear, or a guilty con-science generate poisons in the human system which, when not active enough to kill (the poisoned milk of an angry mother has been known to kill her nursing infant) are the primary cause of many disorders; and they give their distinct colors to the secretions of the perspiratory glands. These effects are caused by the abnormal vibrations into which the Tattvas are thrown by the above mental states. Thus with every thought we are moulding these bodies of ours to ease or disease.
Every atom, every molecule of your body is as sensitive to the thoughts within (yea, and only less sensitive to those without!) as is a feather to a riffle of air. It is only strong, positive personalities who think their own thoughts) more than half of humanity simply reflect the thoughts of other people, for the Tattvas carry them to responsive minds. They are the wings of thought.
The usurped over-lordship of the sense-directed mind is the source of most of the ills and sufferings of the body; and its crowning sin and most disastrous menace are that it stifles the soul and prevents its growth through the experiences which should be its daily and hourly portion. (The sooner you recognize that you are a Soul and have body (a world-wide difference from the ordinary conception) the sooner you will become conscious of an increased vitality and strength; for the rousing of the soul to conscious activity through this recognition raises the Tattvic vibrations to a higher, more subtle plane. The resulting sense of well-being is the proof that you are actually remaking your body of purer materials through the harmonic co-operation of all the elements needed for its upbuilding.
When once you have experienced the thrill that this consciousness gives you, you will never again deny the dynamic power of thought, nor the deeply, significant truth that spirit works through matter.
These physical bodies of ours are always in a state of flux and reflux — like molten metal or plastic gypsum — every component atom taking the form — that is, the vibration, which the thought of the moment gives rise to. Every thought, even the most idle and fleeting which the mind admits to its sanctum, speeds away on one of the wires centering there, to affect for good or ill the molecules influenced by that nerve.
When you banish the army of discordant warring thoughts which sense-perceptions are ever giving rise to, and declare your real self, your soul, the ruler, you are exercising a will-power which connects your soul with the great central Dynamo, the Divine Spirit; and, with channels freed for their flow, streams of vital force will speed over your nerves in full rhythmic currents, which will stimulate all the atoms to harmonious vibration.
Now, the problem before us is, how are we to quiet the frivolous, discord-breeding activities of our minds, so that our souls shall come into recognized rulership of their mundane kingdoms, the physical bodies, and be able to restore the rebellious subjects of these kingdoms to the co-ordinate action which their unity of interests demands? Here is where knowledge of the Tattvas is of overwhelming importance to every human being.
We cannot accomplish this by study and reading alone;(knowing and doing are two distinct acts; and it is only by using any knowledge that we make it our own. The only road to the conquest and control of these so restless minds is through diligent practice of methods of breathing and con-centration; which, beginning by regulating the normal flow of the Tattvas, which purifies and strengthens the nerves, then gives us the power to silence the clamor of the senses and, with the soul freed from the shackles of these energy-wasters, to send the vital current wherever we wish.
It is difficult for some to understand how the positive and negative currents of Prâna can flow down the right and left sides of the spine and speed over the nerves, since breath, thy say, can enter the lungs only.
The gross bulk of the air, that which inflates the lungs, does not penetrate through muscles, nerves, and bones. But the subtle force within it, that which is life-giving, .renewing, and rebuilding speeds everywhere, an electric, vital fluid; and the more rhythmical the breathing the greater the tendency of all the molecules in the body to yield to this current and move in the same direction, which vastly increases the electrical power.
The distinction between breath and Prâna is a very subtle one, and most attempts to describe the latter consist of affirmations followed by denials. Even the Swâmi Vivekânanda, who could think so clearly in English that he seemed to have a psycho-logical grasp of Western modes of thought, could not escape the Hindu propensity to strive for the finest conceivable distinction. After saying that the most obvious manifestation of Prâna is the breath, and that " This Prâna is the vital force in every being, and the finest and highest action of Prâna is thought," he concludes by this statement: " And yet we cannot call it force, because it is only the manifestation of it.
Other writers are equally baffling, yet this need not give us concern. Every one who practices will learn to know Prâna for what it is. To say that breath is " something very different from Prana" is not only misleading but unnecessarily confusing; and in great part the ultimate analyses reached by all these quibblings are distinctions without a difference, a splitting of hairs as it were; for a breath without Prâna is unthinkable, since it pervades all space, and has within it the force that moves the Universe and holds the planets in their spheres. Wanting Prâna we should not breath at all, and its withdrawal brings physical life to its close.
Prâna is the terrestrial manifestation of solar energy, and its perpetual cycling motion from within outward and back again, supplies the lever that controls the automatic contraction and expansion of the lungs- It is, moreover, the vehicle and stimulator of that thinking principle within us which superintends all the automatic functions of internal organs. The importance of never for-getting the imperative need that the positive and negative currents of Prâna be equally balanced should now be clear to all students.
The control of this all-pervading energy, the vital or creative force in every atom is called Prânâyâma; and it is in the Held-breath exercise that we generate the will-power to gain this mastery. The philosophy of this is that the force of the vibrations thus concentrated upon given centers, or nerve-plexuses, strikes with such an impact upon the myriad of molecules and atoms as to impart a sympathetic, rhythmical, direction and motion; and, holding steadily to a single focus the customary scattering mental impulses, thus generates higher and more subtle rates of vibration. The higher they are, the purer and finer, and the greater the power of the Tattvas which make up the current of Prâna.
The next exercise, therefore, for which the pre-ceding ones, besides having their special effect in regulating the vital currents and calming the nerves, have been a preparation, gives precedence to holding the breath, hence its name. The Held-breath is also alternate, and begins like the other exercise with a negative — left — inhalation, closing the right nostril,. The usual count for beginners is four for inhalation, hold sixteen, and exhale, through right nostril, during eight; then inhale throught right nostril and continue by same count. A complete exercise is one negative breath followed by a positive, and therefore includes two held-breaths and corresponding exhalations. This is one " round," and four repetitions are sufficient for one practice.
Rid yourself of any impression that you must use force to hold the breath. That will cause con-striction and tension somewhere, usually in the throat. You simply arrest the outward motion, and the whole passage over which the vital current flows, from nostril to base of spine is perfectly free. If you cannot so realize it, image to yourself an open conduit filled with purest ozone running down through the center of your being. Nothing but vigor can or should radiate from it.
This exercise for Prânâyâma should never be taken within two hours after eating, and is best practiced before meals. Four practice-periods daily are sufficient, and the most favorable hours are early in the morning,— the nearer sunrise the better,— at noon, in the gloaming, and just before retiring. It is very important that regularity should be observed in practice. More rapid progress will be made in two regular periods (same time daily) than in many irregular ones. Length of count can be increased from four to six as you gain power; preserving, however, the same ratio, as six, twenty-four, twelve. Upon this point, Hindu teaching lays emphasis.
If you turn the thought inward, following the current down, there will be no sensation of discomfort, oppression, or constriction anywhere during the holding of the breath. Under this mental direction the vital force will surge upon the designated center with stimulating power. The following directions for concentration are to be considered merely as suggestions for practice, and should be varied according to personal needs. During the first round, concentrate the thought upon the sacral plexus; second round, upon the solar plexus; third, between the shoulders, rather low down; and fourth round, at the back of the throat upon the " noeud vital" in the great vagus nerve. It is important to concentrate upon the same center or centers in one round.
The solar plexus (back of the stomach and in front of the aorta — the spot often described as " the pit of the stomach ") sends out important ganglia through the viscera, and it is to the whole nervous system what the heart is to the circulation of the blood. Concentration in this center not only affects profoundly the whole digestive system — intestinal as well as gastric — stimulating normal functioning of every part, but it reacts beneficially upon even remote centers through the higher power of the electric current thus generated, and strengthens the whole body. Hold the thought while centering it here upon a luminous deep blue disc encircled by rings of yellow, orange, and red. Close your eyes and fix your mental gaze upon the disc. It is a great help to mental control, and you will soon see the glowing colors so plainly that you will not need to imagine them. The whole rainbow of colors can be seen by psychic vision.
Sometimes it is an aid in getting control of the mind to transfer the thought after the first eight of holding to another plexus for the last half of the count. Thus, hold first on sacral plexus, then raise the thought to between the shoulders for the last half of the sixteen; and hold on solar plexus during eight, then transfer to the throat for remainder of count.
The downward flowing currents are physical in their influence and the upward flowing are psychical, so it is always best to terminate practice with concentration upon upper centers. Other important centers for concentration are the heart; the tip of the nose; the toes, big and little; soles of the feet when they are cold; between the eyes; the tip and the root of the tongue; the little fingers; and the brain-center, or top of the head. Concentration upon these vital centers is force-creating as faithful, regular practice will soon convince you.
To the invalid who seeks in these exercises restoration of the health and vigor longed for, I give this special message: First image clearly what you wish to attain, and then hold the image steadfastly in mind,— an image, or picture, of health, strength, activity, and helpfulness instead of their enslaving opposites. As far as possible, consciousness of infirmities must be banished. Waste no strength in denial of suffering. It is fearfully real for the time being, but every moment when you can put all the complications in the back-ground, rising to a plane of serenity and harmonious vibrations above them, assists in reflecting better conditions.
This is why we should become as little children." The child's mind is as free from prejudices and beliefs as a fresh-washed slate from marks. It reflects sympathetically every vibration cast upon its innocent undefiled substance; and it is most helpful when we grown-ups can cultivate a child's power of " make-believe."
We are coming to realize that we choose for ourselves of what stuff these physical bodies shall be moulded, and in the ceaseless activities of our minds determine whether they shall be harmonious or discordant.