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Psychology of Yoga and Meditation
9 JUNE 1939 Lecture 7 Psychology Meditation and Yoga
In the last lecture we considered the idea of seclusion according to Meister Eckhart’s understanding.
As you will have seen in the texts, for him it concerns a differentiation, a distinction between oneself and what the East describes as prakriti, namely, the being of the world or material phenomena.
For Eckhart, the abandonment of things and the abandonment of oneself are, in fact, synonymous.
For he understands that the I is connected to things in an indivisible and most intimate way, and if one separates from things, one also separates from oneself.
This is one of the forms which the problem of the purusha and sattvam has assumed in
With this, we can conclude the lines we took from the Yoga Sûtra and discussed.
I would like to remind you once again what purusha means for the Indian.
We already have some utterances from the Upanishads, dating back to a very ancient time, which illuminate the nature of the purusha particularly in its form as Brahman. You know that the purusha is identical to him.
This is what an Upanishad text says: He who is this (Brahman) in man, and he who is that (Brahman) in the sun, both are one.
This text refers to the man whom one sees in the sun.
This, and the figure of the small man one sees in the pupil of the eye, are one and the same.
I borrow the prayer of a dying man from the Brihadâranyaka Upanishad:
The face of the True [the Brahman] is covered with a golden disk. Open that, O Pûshan [Sâvitrî, sun], that we may see the nature of the True. O Pûshan, only seer, Yama [judge],
Sûrya [sun], son of Pragâpati, spread thy rays and gather them.
The light which is thy fairest form, I see it. I am what he is [viz. the person in the sun.]
From another, the Khândogya Upanishad:
Now the light which shines above this heaven, higher than all, higher than everything, in
the highest world, beyond which there are no other worlds, that is the same light which is within man.
And of this we have this visible proof: Namely when we thus perceive by touch the warmth here in the body.
At another point it says:
–even as a grain of rice, or a grain of barley, or a grain of millet, or the smallest granule of millet, so is this golden Purusha in the heart; even as a smokeless light, it is greater than the sky, greater than the ether, greater than the earth, greater than all existing things;—that self of the spirit [breath] is my self: on passing away from hence I shall obtain that self.
From these points in the text you can see how this purusha was understood in the classical Indian period.
As you will understand, we have Western parallels with these concepts, which show an
identification of the human with the universal being, and once again we find them in Meister Eckhart.
I’d like to quote a point from one of his sermons:
… by this kingdom of God we understand the soul, for the soul is of like nature with the Godhead. Hence all that has been said here of the kingdom of God, how God is himself the kingdom, may be said with equal truth of the soul. St. John says: “All things were made by him.”
This refers to the soul, for the soul is all things.
The soul is all things in that she is an image of God and as such she is also the kingdom of God; as God is essentially in himself without beginning so in the kingdom of the soul he is, as essence, without end. “God,” says one philosopher, “is in the soul in such a fashion that his whole Godhead hangs upon her.”
It is far better for God to be in the soul than for the soul to be in God.
The soul is not happy because she is in God, she is happy because God is in her.
This is certainly one of the points that was objectionable to the inquisitors, and also the reason why the texts were condemned in his day.
This condemnation of his writings took place after his death.
He died on the way to Avignon, where he had been summoned to defend himself.
So his writings disappeared for nearly six hundred years.
Here and there his texts would be found, but only fragments, on the rear side of documents or hidden among other papers.
Not until the middle of the nineteenth century was it possible to collect his writings and to publish them.
Until now there has only been the Pfeifferian manuscript in Middle High German and Latin.
A new edition is coming out.
We have the good fortune and honor to possess a manuscript of Eckhart’s in Switzerland, namely in Basle.
When anyone asks me, why do we pray or why do we fast or do our work withal, I say, so that God may be born in our souls.
What were the scriptures written for and why did God create the world and the angelic nature?
Simply that God might be born in the soul.
All cereal nature means wheat, all treasure nature means gold, all generation means man.
This is probably one of the most important points in Meister Eckhart’s writing. In a certain sense, he experienced a renaissance in the nineteenth century after sleeping for six hundred years.
We are beginning to understand him a little, not least because in the meantime we have
incorporated within us the spiritual treasures of the East.
There is an extraordinary relationship between Eastern ideas and the ideas of Meister Eckhart, which is yet to be fathomed.
These ideas about the soul as the kingdom of God, these surely already existed in the early Christian period; they were certainly heretical and gnostic in nature, for in them primal man, Adam Kadmon, is sometimes depicted in the soul.
In the Codex Brucianus, a Coptic gnostic text, he is the inhabitant of a monad, and in the most recently discovered texts he is depicted as the kingdom of God.
Apart from Meister Eckhart, I’d like to draw your attention to another very remarkable
medieval man, although from a later period: Angelus Silesius.
He had a peculiar destiny.
He was a Protestant and as such wrote the Cherubinic Wanderer.
There he presented his philosophy and theology in the form of short poems.
The thoughts expressed there are movingly simple and naïve, much as what you have already encountered in Meister Eckhart.
Silesius was essentially an original who created himself from himself and is not based upon historical sources.
I will quote some of his verses.
They correspond absolutely with what we have heard Meister Eckhart saying.
Without me, this I know, God cannot live one minute; I perish, and God must as soon give up God’s spirit.
God would not make one worm without me; yet if I Don’t help God to preserve it, it rots immediately.
I am as big as God, God is so small, like me.
God cannot be above me, I cannot below God be.
God is the fire in me and I in Him the shine; Are we not with each other, most inwardly entwined?
God loves me above all; if I love Him the same, I give Him just as much as I receive from him.
For me God’s God and man, I’m man and God, indeed, For God. I quench God’s thirst, God helps me in my need.
God pleasures us. God is, for us, whate’er we would.
Woe if we don’t become, for God, that which we should.
God is what God is, I am what I am, you see?
Yet if you knew one well, you’d know both God and me.
I am not outside God, God is not outside me.
God is my jewel, I God’s light and radiancy.
I am vine in the Son, the Father plants, manures,
The Holy Ghost’s the fruit which out of me matures.
I am God’s child and son, and yet my child is He.
How can it ever happen that both these things should be?
Myself I must be sun, whose rays must paint the sea, The vast and unhued ocean of all divinity.
From these verses, being just a few examples, you can see the entire sensibility of this mystic.
He is expressing in Western medieval language what is, in fact, the essential idea of Eastern yoga.
Just how these ideas were able to emerge in the West under completely different conditions is a difficult question.
We will satisfy ourselves for now simply with the fact that this did in fact happen.
We turn now once again to the Yoga Sûtram.
I have chosen some lines that we can quickly deal with now. In the third Sûtram it says:
From perfect discipline of the receptive, intrinsic, egoistic, relational, and purposive
functions of the sense organs, one attains mastery over them. [YS 3.47, p. 71]
The specific sense organs are the mechanisms through which we are persuaded of the reality of the world.
The sense of this sentence is clear, namely that this mastery, this holding back, which is
applied to all possible psychological actions in yoga, effects a quiescence of our own psychic
process and also a detachment of the psychic process of the external world.
Then there is no longer any intermingling with the affairs of the world.
Everything that occurs is entitled to its due share of attention and no more.
Our senses are continually running away from us, we stream out into people and things through the concupiscentia.
But practising general discipline, as recommended in this sentence, would free us from slavery to the object.
What is interesting about this sentence is the mention of the so-called sequence in time.
There is yet another sentence in which this sequence in time is emphasized:
From perfect discipline of moments and their sequence in time, one has the knowledge
born of discrimination. [YS 3.52, p. 72]
The yoga of Patañjali insists probably correctly on this mastery of the consciousness of time, for consciousness of time is an extraordinary expression of our dependency upon things and our being coalesced with them.
The more things we are concerned with, the greater the intensity of our awareness of time.
If you have a lot to do with very many things in a very short time, you get into a state of hurriedness.
You become conscious of yourself in the hectic series of events.
People in haste have to live with their watch in their hands.
The more one has to do, the more time-conscious one becomes.
One calculates when one becomes conscious of what one has to do.
They have this feeling to a much smaller degree in the East than we do in the West, the
primitives even less so, who as a rule have no clue about how old they are and are unaware of what time it is.
When one asks them how long it takes to get from one place to another, they say
one or two or several hours.
Which can be anything between twenty and two.
Of course they know exactly how far it is, but without any notion of time.
What we call the value of time is unknown to them.
Only the diversity and the richness of civilization have made us conscious of time.
Insofar as India has a distinct culture and a rich animation of cultural life, which can develop only in a population of great density, India has also has acquired a concept of time, such that the Yoga Sûtram insists upon the concept of setting time aside, and on the necessity of mastering time.
One must be able to set time aside.
For as soon as you are conscious of time, you are conscious of the various demands on time.
This and this and this come along.
As a result, whoever must separate himself from the prakriti, must also separate himself from time, he must live as if he had centuries to squander, completely untroubled by the fact that the human lifespan is so brief.
That is like the primitive who sits whittling away at his canoe.
He has had been at it for so long that when he happily arrives at the bow, the stern has rotted away.
Yet the figures he carved were beautiful; he didn’t need the benefit of what a canoe does.
The next sentence reads: From this one acquires quickness of mind, perception without the aid of the senses, and mastery over primordial matter. [YS 3.48, p. 71]
In common parlance: he speaks of a particularly speedy, fluent train of thought and mastery of the prakriti, of an independence from the sense organs that bind us to the things of the world.
Of course, that familiar idea that the yogi is capable of levitating in the air, can leave the body and somehow transport himself into another body, originates in such claims.
If you consider this matter psychologically, you see that this concerns a state of consciousness which, without external interference, smoothly runs on its own, independent of relationships with the environment and which therefore is not bound, which gives the yogi the feeling of mastery over things or, in fact, ensures increased influence upon things and people.
For the man who can liberate himself from these bonds to which we are all subject makes a particular impression on people, who are always subject to anyone who is not subject to what the rest of us are.
He is not bound, does not go around making fearful war-mongering speeches, looks within himself for clarity and order.
Patañjali continues with the application of universal discipline upon the
sequence in time and its consequences:
From perfect discipline of moments and their sequence in time, one has the knowledge
born of discrimination. [YS 3.52, p. 72]
That is, if it is possible to stop the flow of time and to exist in such a way that one has centuries or millennia at one’s disposal, then a higher awareness would arise, elevated above any infatuation with things.
This awareness, or constellations of these types of awareness, can of course be found abundantly in Indian philosophy:
Through discrimination one comprehends differences of origin, characteristic, or position that distinguish two seemingly similar things. [YS 3.53, p. 73]
Which are any pair of similars that, although one cannot distinguish them, nonetheless can be distinguished.
These are purusha and sattvam.
We saw then that the purusha could be described as the man within and that sattvam, though arising from prakriti, is a result of her connection with the purusha and the lightest thing, which she produces.
Or the difference between the purusha as the simple primal being and the sattvam, which is a derivative combination or a functional result of the collision of purusha with prakriti.
In other words, a differentiation of the Self and the I.
These differentiations are practiced in yoga with great intricacy in the form of meditations, and these exercises naturally have a goal.
This goal is described as kaivalyam, namely, solitude.
One who sees the distinction between the lucid quality of nature and the observer ceases to cultivate a personal reality. [YS 4.25, p. 80]
Here is a new term: cittam. Usually translated as consciousness.
It is one of the qualities or functions of the sattvam, and we already said of this that it could be translated as consciousness (luminous world substance).
That is why we can also translate cittam as consciousness. It is a parallel.
The one who recognizes the distinction between the purusha and the cittam no longer falls for the delusion of being the Self, or âtman.
There you can see that the purpose of the exercise is simply to effect this differentiation, in order to avoid the I-hypertrophy that is completely
unavoidable when someone differentiates oneself from the world and action.
Such a technique puts off many people; they think it makes one egocentric, thinking only of oneself, as if everyone else can get lost.
But that view is merely superficial.
If someone devotes their attention to the purusha in the sense of the Yoga Sûtram, they do not fall for the I.
The I is only the phenomenon fronting for an unknowable something standing behind it.
The I is, as it were, only the face, the skin, the expression, the symptom of an unknowable being.
Such is the Indian way of thinking.
But of course if, as in Western consciousness, one has lost the belief in a Self, or one has
never possessed it, then of course one falls for the I and attributes everything to the I.
Then all the evil consequences associated with this non-differentiation show up.
A boundless bloating arises because the I is no longer recognized as a phenomenon.
That is why one forms a definite idea opposed to these efforts, because the danger seems to be that if one concentrates upon oneself, it really comes down to magnifying the I.
We Westerners cannot grasp this matter of the Self.
For the last two hundred years we have been developing a forceful resistance to faith, but faith does not help us much here because we have invested the purusha entirely in Christ.
In our country, if someone professes the Self, he would have to come to Christ.
And so this Protestant idea, which has externalized the purusha, for us entails a misconception; the I by its very nature gets identified with the Self, and thus has been elevated too highly.
If this is recognized (à la Meister Eckhart) man drops down.
Until quite recently the church has viewed Meister Eckhart very negatively.
The text continues:
Then, deep in discrimination, thought gravitates toward freedom. [YS 4.26, p. 80]
If sattvam and purusha are explained as being alike, kaivalyam results, that is, if the cittam is differentiated from the Self, then the state of redemption, of kaivalyam, namely, detachment, can arise.
The image of the mountainside of redemption is very plastic and corresponds to a certain feeling.
When the I is identified with the Self, it is sort of elevated to a great height where it does not belong; if one sees the difference, then it sinks down.
Meister Eckhart would say: yes, you are terribly important, but abandon yourself nonetheless.
And then it flows down the mountain, and then the purusha is liberated.
This infinite knowledge means an end to the sequence of transformations in material
things, their purpose now fulfilled. [YS 4.32, p. 82]
The purpose of the gunas is the carrying out of world events.
This purpose is achieved when cittam sinks back into the prakriti and purusha has returned to its original state.
Sequence corresponds to a series of moments perceivable at the end of a process of transformation. [YS 4.33, p. 83]
The rapid flow of moments has ceased, one has maybe learned to feel as if one had millennia to live.
But when kaivalyam is achieved, the entire sequence of time has become a whole.
There are no longer any moments, a complete separation from events is achieved, i.e., a state of eternity.
Patañjali continues, and this is the final sentence I want to read to you from the Yoga Sûtra:
Freedom is a reversal of the evolutionary course of material things, which are empty of
meaning for the spirit; it is also the power of consciousness in a state of true identity. [YS 4.34, p. 83]
This sentence seeks to explain what happens to sattvam, which has flowed down the mountainside of redemption.
Namely these free gunas, qualities, principles, which contain the process of the world, now return to the original state.
A static, self-contained strength arises, and in place of the prakriti there is now the spirit, a pure intuition that is completely distinct from material being.
In brief outline, this is the main content of this Yoga Sûtram.
Naturally, when you study this text yourself you will see that there are infinitely more things within it that are difficult but also exceptionally weighty.
I’d like to conclude the series with one point from the Brihadâranyaka Upanishad.
On this there are these verses: The small, old path stretching far away has been found by me.
On it sages who know Brahman move on to the Svarga-loka [heaven], and thence
higher on, as entirely free.
This is the path of yoga.
On that path they say that there is white, or blue, or yellow, or green, or red; …
These are the colors that we already encountered in the Buddhist texts. This means: wherever this path is, these colors are there also: blue, yellow, green, red.
These are the four elements that compose the newly incarnate Self, the purusha, and white is the unity.
In the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Bardo Thödol, you also find these colors and there, too, the central light is the white light of the dharmakâya.
It is the white light of the body, of the perfect law.
… that path was found by Brahman, …You see, he identifies himself with Brahman. He does not say, I have found this path, but that Brahman has. He is identical with Brahman. … and on it goes whoever knows Brahman, and who has done good, and obtained splendor.
Whoever has found and understood the self that has entered into this patched-together hiding place, he indeed is the creator, for he is the maker of everything, his is the world, and he is the world itself.
While we are here, we may know this; if not, I am ignorant, and there is great destruction.
Those who know it, become immortal, but others suffer pain indeed.
If a man clearly beholds this self as God, and as the Lord of all that is and will be, then
he is no more afraid.
He behind whom the year revolves with the days, him the gods worship as the light of
lights, as immortal time.
This means that he has become eternity insofar as he no longer participates in the dance of the prakriti.
Whoever liberates himself from the dance of the prakriti has become the light.
Actually this text shows in a few words the whole meaning and purpose of yoga.
With this I want to conclude my discussion of Eastern yoga ideas.
Just one addendum regarding Chinese yoga, however.
It is not generally known that China also has a type of yoga.
This consists of two different parts: one has directly coalesced with alchemical philosophy, while the other later became Japanese Zen Buddhism.
This particular yoga I will not cover.
It is exceptionally difficult but uncommonly interesting.
Soon a translation of one of the texts from the Japanese Professor Suzuki from Tokyo will be published.
He has written specifically about Zen Buddhism.
Prof. Zimmer is undertaking the translation, and I will do the commentary.
But it is not yet published.
I’d like to say something else about this other yoga.
We have a really excellent example of a text, which Richard Wilhelm has published and translated.
It is a manuscript from the year 1000: The Secret of the Golden Flower.
For a long time this text was only passed down in an oral tradition, then later as a manuscript.
It was not printed until the eighteenth century. In 1920 a thousand copies were printed in Peking by a rich Chinese man, and that is how Wilhelm laid his hands on a copy.
He translated the text, and I commented on it.
This is an excellent example of a whole series of texts and sacred practices that are still valid in China, although to a decreasing degree.
For at the moment China must practice modern methods of war and has no time to meditate.
I will read to you something from the Golden Flower.
It is eminently Chinese and forms an important parallel to the Indian texts we have read.
You will see how different it feels and how laconic the style is.
Emptiness comes as the first of the three contemplations.
All things are looked upon as empty. Then follows delusion.
Although it is known that they are empty, things are not destroyed, but one attends to one’s affairs in the midst of the emptiness.
But though one does not destroy things, neither does one pay attention to them; this is contemplation of the center.
While practicing contemplation of the empty, one also knows that one cannot destroy the ten thousand things, and still one does not notice them. In this way the three contemplations fall together.
But, after all, strength is in envisioning the empty.
Therefore, when one practices contemplation of emptiness, emptiness is certainly empty, but delusion is empty also, and the center is empty.
It needs a great strength to practice contemplation of delusion; then delusion is really delusion, but emptiness is also delusion, and the center is delusion too.
Being on the way of the center, one also creates images of the emptiness; they are not called empty but are called central.
One practices also contemplation of delusion, but one does not call it delusion, one calls it central.
As to what has to do with the center, more need not be said. ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Yoga Meditation, Page 241=252