Lecture V 26th May, 1939

I am engaged in reading you some passages from the Yoga Sutra of Pantajali, in which we find the line of thought which we have been considering in our symbol sequences.

We see this, however, in quite a different aspect, from the point of view of Samkhya Philosophy.

The passages which I am reading come towards the end of the text, they are mainly concerned with the idea of the Self in relation to consciousness.

The final condition, where consciousness is freed from its fetters, is particularly emphasised.

The last passage which I read you deals with a technique for freeing the Self from the psychic system, particularly from consciousness.

It is an exceedingly difficult passage so I will repeat it.

III. “Not discriminating between the concepts of Sattvam (representative of Prakriti) and the Purusha, which are entirely different from each other, is enjoyment (and suffering). Knowledge of the Purusha arises from practising general discipline on all interests, one’s own interests [belonging to the Purusha) being different from strange interests [belonging to Prakriti).”

When the concepts sattvam and Purusha remain undiscriminated, the psychological condition is described by Deussen as enjoyment of, and by Hauer as eating, the world.

We must, therefore, try to understand these two concepts.

I spoke to you last time of the three Gunas, sattvam, rajas and tamas.

Garbhe translates Gunas as constituents and Deussen as factors, but it is really preferable to leave the word untranslated.

Sattvam is light and rises and tamas is dark and descends.

Rajas, in between these two opposites, is discontent, passion, and is dynamic and stimulating.

All energy arises from opposites, where there is hot and cold, high and low, etc., there is energy.

One needs considerable psychological knowledge to be able to understand what the Gunas are.

We also find them in the Bhagavad gita, deliverance from them is part of the teaching of Krishna.

Our text emphasises the importance of discriminating between the light sattvam and the Self.

Hauer translates sattvam as “lichte Weltstoff ” [luminous substance of the world).

This is a more substantial conception, similar to ether, an ethereal body, but this is also figurative.

The idea in our text is that it is masculine, so it is difficult to discriminate between it and the Purusha.

The latter term is a very old definition which Deussen designates as “das von allem Objektiven freie Subject des Erkennens” (the subject of knowledge freed from everything objective).

I doubt this definition, it is too logical, and the East is not logical, it is observant and intuitive.

So it is better to describe the Purusha as primeval man or as the luminous man.

We find many similar concepts in the West, the mystical Christ is a Purusha and the old Christian speculation of the second Adam is also a Purusha.

Adam in every man is the first original form, and he appears in his second form as the luminous man, the Redeemer.

Patanjali is trying to formulate the fact that we do not discriminate between sattvam and the Purusha, and that it is necessary for us to learn to make this distinction.

So the important question for us is: What is sattvam? How can we understand it psychologically?

We must first understand what it represents in Indian philosophy and in order to do this we must consider a further concept, Prakriti, nature or materia.

Prakriti is the feminine principle which we also find described as Shakti. In Tantric and Tibetan mythology Shakti is found in an intimate embrace with Shiva, the world creator.

Shiva is very similar to the Purusha.

The Purusha is said to be always with Prakrti, like a drop of water on the leaf of a lotus.

He remains round and is separate from the Prakriti, though intimately mixed with her.

He is always in connection with Prakriti and uses the sattvam as a lamp in the darkness, for when he enters Prakriti he is in darkness, captured in devilish matter.

We find just the same idea in Gnosticism where Nous, the luminous, is darkened in matter.

There is a beautiful Gnostic legend:

Nous came down to the earth and as he was gazing at his own reflection, he came within the reach of the loving arms of physical matter and was drawn down into the darkness.

It is quite possible that Gnosticism was influenced by the East, for trade routes already existed through the Red Sea, and spiritual ideas may have traveled with the material goods which were traded.

The Pythagorean philosopher, Apollonius of Tyana, the renowned miracle worker, is said to have made a great journey to India in order to investigate its secrets.

Such stories of connections between the near and far East are probably historical.

When the Purusha, the unknown Self in man, is in the darkness of Prakriti, the world, he uses sattvam as a lamp with which to find his bearings.

Sattvam, the light substance, is primarily human consciousness.

In the latter part of the Yoga Sutra, we find virtually the same thing called “cittam”, which is just about what we should describe as consciousness.

Consciousness is not just passive awareness, but an active condition that requires energy and which must be interrupted from time to time by sleep.

People often prefer to remain unconscious in order to save energy.

Primitives are past masters in this art!

When the Purusha (the luminous man) finds himself in Prakriti he is not single but manifold.

He is split up into many figures, one text calls him the twenty-five.

This is a very curious idea and means that bound in matter he is twenty-five figures but when freed he returns to his original unity.

This unity was latent during the manifold condition.

We see it as a multitude or a unity, according to the way we look at it, both exist in every individual.

We find the same idea in Taoism.

There is a picture reproduced in the “Secret of the Golden Flower” of a Yogin in meditation, the smoke which emanates from him splits into five figures, and each of these figures has five more figures coming out of its head.

This is the knowledge that the unity of the Purusha is divided into many figures.

We could really say that the idea of the unity of the Purusha is an intuition about the essence of man which is reached through eastern meditation : namely the recognition of the fact that the Self of man Is one, in spite of the diversity of its aspects.

I will remind you of the description in the Upanishads which I have quoted before:

“The person (purusha) not larger than a thumb, dwelling within, always dwelling in the heart of man . . . having compassed the earth on every side, extends beyond it by ten fingers breadth.”

The Purusha is the thumbling in man’s heart and at the same time the universal being, like the concept of the Atman.

According to Samkhya Philosophy the Purusha is always found bound to matter in the condition of samyoga, joined together, fettered, bound.

Prakriti is entirely passive and is helpless and useless without her connection with luminous man.

This connection gives rise to the Samsara, the cycle of existence, and, through the fullness of the manifestation in Prakriti, the Purusha attains Self-knowledge.

So Prakriti is often represented as a dancer, dancing the fullness of the world image so that the Purusha can be come conscious of himself.

The Prakriti does not interpenetrate with the Purusha but they are always most intimately together.

This being mixed and not mixed is an enormous paradox, too difficult to understand.

So there are always bridges as a concession to the limitations of the mind, such as the image of the drop of water on the lotus leaf.

Humanity is always trying to find mediating concepts between the Purusha and the Prakriti.

Sattvam comes entirely from Prakriti and is the lightest thing which she produces, so it forms one of these bridges.

Another is the idea of the subtle body, which is also called the Lingam.

This phallic symbol is often represented in Shiva temples.

The Lingam is an appendage, a characteristic, a sign.

The Lingadeha is the classical designation for the subtle body.

Prakriti is purely material and the bridge to the Purusha must be half spirit and half body.

We have the same idea in the West in spirit, soul and body, that is the Purusha, the subtle body and Prakriti.

We find the Purusha, as one of the central ideas in Vedic Philosophy, often identical with the idea of Brahman.

The Purusha is mentioned in an Upanishad as the golden man who is seen in the sun and rules over the gods.

The gods, as manifestations of the Absolute, belong to Prakriti.

And the man, who is seen in the pupil of the eye, also rules over all the gods.

The Purusha is first described as in the sun and second as in the eye.

You can see yourself reflected in the pupil of your neighbours eye as a Piippchen (little doll) and this was naively described as the soul.

We find a further passage in the Upanishads:

“On the one side the wheel of the world in Heaven, containing the days and nights as 720 sons; on the other, in the lower sphere, as a far reflecting sacrificial fire.”

This is the Vedic idea of the harmony between the heavenly world order and the earthly rituals of sacrifice, one depends on the other.

We find this idea in the West as well, there is a time quality in the observance of our rituals, and we find this still more clearly with more primitive peoples.

I have told you before of the Pueblo Indians and their conviction that the actual rising of the sun depends on their ritual being carried out.

This sounds like the story of Chant éclair who bet that the sun would not rise if he did not crow; but at the last moment he could not resist crowing so the point was never decided!

It would, however, be very foolish to ridicule this philosophic idea, for it is a remnant of a time when our consciousness was bound up with nature, in participation mystique as Levy Bruhl expresses it.

The conscious and the unconscious were identical, and men knew they must do such and such a thing at such and such a moment, because it belonged to the meaning of the time.

Astrology is based on this idea, and we find it in the medieval conception of the correspondentia; the cosmos was above and below, and the macrocosm and the microcosm identical.

So the whole course of a human life was experienced as the course of nature, and rites and ceremonies were evolved to express this experience.

This condition is a cosmic condition and if man should stop following nature, nature itself would be disjointed.

Directly human consciousness detaches itself from nature, the harmony has been broken and disorder is already present.

We think that we have organised the world as it has never been organised before, but it is man’s order and is far from the original harmony of nature.

So it is natural to find the Purusha also in the form of Prajapati, who is specially connected with time and the year.

“Prajapati pondered: verily I have created the year as the image of myself. And in that he gave his own Self to the gods, he created the sacrifice as the image of himself.”

The gods belong to Maya and, in that Prajapati gave himself to the gods, he created the sacrificial fire, and the gleaming sacrificial fire is Prajapati and the Purusha.

This is the ritual repeated in many forms by primitive man.

Some Paleolithic primitives in Central Australia believe that their ancestors are still dwelling in primeval time, when all the trees were planted and all the animals were created, and that they still repeat their work as rites and ceremonies in order that the world order may continue.

Levy Bruhl has called such ancestors the archetypes.

These primitives are wholly convinced of the necessity of their totem ceremonies, they must be repeated or the world order would break up; for man would no longer be linked with primeval, eternal time which exists side by side with our ordinary time.

This “time when there was no time” they call the Alchera or Aljira.

The Alchera is eternal time, the dream, the unconscious and the Beyond.

So Prajapati is time, with the meaning of world creativeness, similar to Bergson’s “Dure e creatrice” which, as we saw before, was derived from Proclus, the Nee-Platonist.

Chronos was also a God of time.

We find the same idea in the Gnosis, the world creator is called Abraxas or Abrasax.

This word is formed of Greek letters, which as numerals are equivalent to, the supreme being and the year.

The same idea plays a large role in the Mithraic mysteries.

There is an Aion (a god with a lion’s head encoiled by a snake) to be seen at the Mithraic sanctuary on the Saalburg.

And the Persian Zervan Akarana, the lion-headed dragon, also represents time, and literally translated means infinitely long duration.

So we see that the conception of the Purusha reaches back into the beginning of human thought when man was identical with nature, but it has long since become strange to us. ~Carl Jung, ETH,Pages 121-124.

Liked it? Take a second to support lewislafontaine on Patreon!