Psychology of Yoga and Meditation

19 MAY 1939 Lecture 4 Psychology and Yoga Meditation

Last Time we spoke about the symbol of the coniunctio, of the union of masculine and feminine.

As I already explained, we must understand this union on the one hand as the union of conscious

and unconscious, for, in this case, consciousness is masculine and consequently the unconscious is feminine since it plays a compensatory role.

Of course, if yoga or medieval hermetic philosophy had been conceived by a woman, then consciousness would be feminine and the unconscious masculine.

In this case, the symbolism would of course be reversed.

But since the whole of ancient mythology and religious symbolism were created by men, then Eastern or Western medieval philosophies are masculine, created by men, who took for granted their own psychic disposition.

Projection takes place quite naively.

But if women were to create such a philosophy they would project their own psychic situation into it, and we would have a completely different symbolism, and even if it were not entirely distinct, it would still be interpreted differently.

I am warning my female audience members so that they don’t simply identify with this without further ado, for emphasizing the head is not to be recommended for ladies.

However, the union is also a critical exploration of the differences between the sexes.

Consciousness is a given for the yogi, but the unconscious is simply unconscious to him.

Even though it undeniably exists, he cannot experience it directly within himself. One can only ever experience it through projection.

Whatever is unconscious to me yet is still present, I always see in others.

If I have a beam in my own eye, then I see at the very least the mote in the other’s eye and call it a beam.

Or I have a certain opinion of how a woman should be, or how feminine psychology should be interpreted. Where do I get this knowledge from?

Only from myself. It doesn’t need to be based on any particular experience. It’s already present.

I quite simply project this, in the very moment I begin to interpret.

That’s how the (to me) unconscious feminine shows up in the female counterpart.

Consequently this exploration breaks into two parts: first there is the engagement with the projected content unerringly found in a female being.

And second it is extended into other female beings. This is the materia, from mater, the mother, mother earth.

The mother is the first carrier of this symbol of the feminine, which I describe as anima.

Thus, the first projection naturally appears in the mother and later is extended onto matter, hence the name materia.

This is the same as what the East calls mâyâ.

Generally it is translated as illusion or delusion but comes from the root “ma,” i.e., to build, hence mâyâ is the building material.

Whatever I can touch and perceive is mâyâ.

It is a real illusion, an illusion that has become actual.

So Tantric yoga calls this stuff of the world the distinctiveness of God’s thoughts.

The East thinks from inside out, not from outside in as we do.

We go from apparent reality and think about what is a given, but in so doing we fail to consider even once that even the boldest physicists have not yet discovered what sort of dark things this matter is made from.

The expression materia points to the fact that the unknown, the unconscious, was projected

onto this material, and hence the medieval natural philosophers tried to fathom the secret of the unconscious from the way matter behaved.

Hence chemistry has many expressions such as sublimation or affinity.

These are in fact psychic measures. Affinity is elective and is projected into matter.

The process of sublimation is a process of evaporation where a solid or fluid component is converted into a volatile substance.

Freud unwittingly borrowed this description from chemistry.

As you see, these expressions can also be applied psychologically because they were originally carried over from the psyche unconsciously.

Thus, looked at rationally, this alchemical idea of seeking the secret of the unconscious in matter is utter nonsense, but from a psychological standpoint is quite meaningful.

The alchemists were seeking the secret of the unconscious in the materia, in mother.

They took the next step into the realm where one could now discuss psychology. Then the materia turned back into mother.

She is simply the first carrier of the symbol of the unconscious, of the feminine unconscious.

That is why we also find symbols of incest in alchemy, that brothers or sisters or sons commit incest with their mothers, because this process represents the coniunctio between conscious and unconscious.

You also find the same idea again in Freudian psychology, where Freud made a myth out of it, a mythological idea: the idea of primal incest.

The bringing together of conscious and unconscious is of course an absolutely understandable matter from a rational perspective, but practically it is a completely outrageous problem, and in this section of the series of symbols we have the whole of the dark portion, which is difficult to understand and impossible to explain in a few words.

Here we encounter the whole muddle and confusion of human life.

If I might give you a good example showing you both forms of the coniunctio in experiential form, then it is Goethe’s Faust:

The confrontation with the projected unconscious in Faust 1: Faust and Gretchen. This is the object level.

Here he lives his projection, and the tragic end gives him that shock which causes him to reintegrate back into himself the image he had projected into Gretchen, which was filled with the entire secret of his creative being.

It appears to him again in the form of Helena. Helena is not a feminine figure to be encountered in life, but rather the classical anima figure of


She represents what he had first projected into Gretchen in a pure form.

In the second part of Faust where he contends with Helena, he also confronts the nature of the unconscious.

This problem manifests in various levels right up to the highest degree, the Mater Gloriosa.

He unites with the unconscious, as if interfused with it.

Here we find that absolutely extraordinary story in which he reappears after death among an angelic boys’ choir.

He has, as it were, become a child again, carried toward maturity by the apparition of Pater Seraphicus.

A symbolic motif pertains to this confrontation, the union with unconscious totality, that we haven’t yet encountered in the series.

Namely, this union has a remarkable consequence: in the Gretchen tragedy the biological union leads to a pregnancy and in time a child is born.

This ordinary event becomes essential symbolism in alchemy, which is not present in the Eastern series.

Such is the secret pregnancy, the soul pregnancy. The poets speak of such things.

Now I have no wish to compete with the poets, but I would like to observe that this soul pregnancy is a singular soul state of creative latency.

One also obverses this in people who do not exactly give birth to a Faust, yet it is it a peculiar soul relationship.

This state is always quite perilous for the individual.

(11) That is why here in the Tantric symbols series, we have the vihâra, which in the hermetic philosophy is the domus thesauria or vas hermetis.

There is a particular soul relationship, the symbol of enclosure, of protection, the cloister on the summit of the mountain, walled-in many times, the so-called treasure chest (thesauria) in which is contained the priceless thing, the sealed container that must not be opened, so that what is contained within it does not escape.

This is the protected, hidden state resonating with the state of the child in its mother’s womb.

(12) The child thus born, as we noted in relation to alchemy, results from the union of consciousness with the unconscious.

It represents a new being. In alchemy it is the homunculus, the tiny man, in Greek anthrōpárion.

This tiny man is often depicted as consisting of metal, of gold. Or it is a transparent being, ethereal, a being of light.

It is clearly the illumined human in embryonic form.

We find this motif in the second part of Faust where Wagner succeeded in creating a homunculus in a retort.

He flies around and finally shatters on the throne of Galatea because he has dissolved into flames:

Nereus: Here in the middle of all this host, what new revelations are we to see?

A flame by the conch, at my daughter’s feet, Now mounts high and strong, now burns sweet and low, as though it were stirring with pulsations of love.

Thales: That is Homunculus, whom Proteus has taken …

Those are the symptoms of passion’s imperative—I almost can hear the loud groans of its travails He’ll shatter his vial on her glittering throne—there’s the flame, there the flash, and already it empties!

The same thing happens to the boy Wagenlenker and the Euphorion, the son of Faust and Helena. These too go up in flames because they chase after the girls.

I see in these figures the danger of covetousness, of being too much influenced by the environment and by projection.

The quasi-monastic protection is designed to keep these dangers at bay from within and without so that the child can mature.

This remarkable symbolism is also Christian. Christ is also worshipped as a child, an infant.

In one hymn, Mary is compared with a sea flower.

A water flower, growing up out of the water,

holding Christ in its lap.

Or as a sea flower in which Christ settles as a sea bird.

We find the same symbol in Mahâyâna Buddhism where the Buddha is enclosed in the lotus blossom.

Whoever has achieved enough merit will have their soul enclosed in a lotus blossom for countless aeons.

Then it blossoms one day in the miraculous kingdom of the Amitâbha.

This is the child being raised from the coniunctio.  In Chinese, it is a diamond being.

In medieval philosophy it is the incorruptible body, the subtle body, which is seen as the result of this coniunctio.

These remarkable ideas all point to the basic idea of the man of light, which we all know from gnosticism.

For this man who is born is an illuminating being, comparable to the diamond or gemstone.

The grail is also a gemstone in Wolfram von Eschenbach.

Its personification is Christ, Buddha, or, in India, purusha, i.e., the primal man who is to some extent within everyone.

Later we will encounter this purusha when we discuss Patañjali’s Yoga Sûtra.

This new being reveals that this is an autonomous existence, which is not the same as the I, this latter being in this case only masculine.

The feminine counterpart is the unconscious.

The psychic result of this union is not another masculine I, but rather a different being, firstly a child.

This child goes through a certain education and development, as of course does the I.

For to the extent that this second personality develops, the I dissolves.

According to the description in Indian texts, it is as if consciousness dissolves its ties to objectivity, as if abstracting itself from it, from its attachment to objects, so that it almost appears content-free.

This becoming conscious of something, of no longer being attached to it, is described in English quite aptly as awareness.

In Indian it is described as samâdhi, i.e., rapture or ecstasy. The Greek word ékstasis in fact means rapture.

In fact this state is not unconscious, although certain texts compel us to assume that it is a question of unconsciousness, because consciousness is so disconnected from objectivity that it is virtually empty.

But one must be conscious of something, otherwise one cannot be conscious at all.

In Buddhism this emptying is taken so far that an unconscious state arises called the void, shûnyatâ: the absolute void.

Of course, that is a contradictio in adjecto. I cannot be conscious of the absolute void.

But Eastern philosophy doesn’t fret over these nuances.

The next thing we can fathom about these peak states with our Western knowledge is a far-reaching disengagement of consciousness from its contents.

There is a very fine Chinese text about this in the Secret of the Golden Flower, which says in poetic language what is also described in Indian yoga.

The Hui Ming King says of this letting-go:

A halo of light surrounds the world of the law.

We forget one another, quiet and pure, all-powerful and empty.

The emptiness is irradiated by the light of the heart of heaven.

The water of the sea is smooth and mirrors the moon in its surface.

The clouds disappear in blue space; the mountains shine clear.

Consciousness reverts to contemplation; the moon-disk rests alone.

A better image of this letting-go of consciousness can hardly be found.

I have simply selected this text in order to describe this singular state of consciousness.

I do not want to conclude these two series of symbols without explicitly drawing your attention again to the fact that these final levels in the creation of the Self’s reality, achieved by this union or coniunctio, that these levels are very mysterious, and that a great deal of psychological experience is required to make any sense of these things.

I would not dare to mention these things in a public lecture, or even to spell out these things in published literature.

If a commentary upon them were ever undertaken, then it would only be very incomplete.

And for good reason. Western man is a good philologist, but he has no clue about yoga experiences.

One must have already spoken to the people themselves, the practitioners, in order to pursue these practices.

What we get to see in this country are acrobats, not philosophers.

From what practitioners recount and what the texts say, a rough picture emerges, which is in fact the psychic event of yoga.

And there one discovers things that apparently we have never dealt with.

If we go back in our Western history we do find parallels, but these have died out since the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century, becoming unpopular.

Nonetheless, if one pursues practical psychology, one is simply compelled to engage with these matters.

And in that spirit we will conclude this particular series of symbols.

I’d like to return once again to the Yoga Sûtra, which I covered superficially last semester.

I’m selecting certain key ideas from this exceptionally comprehensive text that are relevant here.

These are four texts by an ancient classical Indian philosopher, the chief philosopher of ancient Indian yoga. It is assumed that he is one and the same as the grammarian Patañjali.

You know that India does not have a written history.

The only historical dates we have about India come from the Buddhist chronicles, aside from which there are no historical records.

We learn from certain evidence in the writings of Patañjali that he lived in the second century BCE.

This comes from a battle report dating from 150 BCE. The texts are very difficult.

For Sanskrit specialists they are a particular puzzle.

But the most difficult thing is the interpretation of how these texts should be understood, so I will confine myself to only a few statements.

The aim of yoga as Patañjali formulates it is the promotion of the samâdhi, contemplation, rapture.

There is another word: dhyâna, i.e., the state of extasis, rapture in an active sense. Samâdhi is contemplation in the passive sense.

Therefore the goal of yoga is so-called rapture.

Hauer translates samâdhi as enfolding, i.e., introversion. This is the main goal.

The other is a correlate, namely the diminution of the so-called compulsions, the kleshas, i.e., of the instincts, the drives.

The kleshas are: ignorance (ávidyâ), egoism (asmitâ), attachment (râga), aversion (dvesha), and the fear of death (abhinivesha)

Ignorance is the field where the other forces of corruption develop, … [YS 2.4, p. 45] I.e., all these compulsive drives are based upon ignorance.

For Ignorance is misperceiving permanence in transience, purity in impurity, pleasure in suffering, an essential self where there is no self [YS 2.5, p. 45].

Ignorance comes down to esteeming or believing in the non-eternal, the impure, and suffering, all mistaken for being eternal, sensual, and the Self.

That is why all those things are desired.

These kleshas must be overcome through dhyâna, through meditation, because they are the roots of karma, that is, the way in which one lives leaves a remnant, a life’s outcome or karma, that fills one’s existence and causes one’s rebirth accordingly.

So if one has achieved no merit in this life and has accumulated suffering, then that bad karma will entail a corresponding fate in the next existence.

Remarkably, in Buddhism the dominant belief is that karma is not personal in nature.

I can accumulate merit in my life, but because I do not have a soul, when my life ends my karma survives and requires a new existence.

This already fascinated the ancient monks, and so they asked the Buddha about it.

Buddha left the answer absolutely open as to whether this survival of karma means a continued personal existence after death or not.

He leaves the question open as to whether karma is not potentiality created by my life, causing another life that is absolutely not

connected to me.

On the other hand, one must recall that in his discourses the Buddha always spoke of his pre-existences as if he had always been the same.

Yet in the end one can also understand that what remains was always karma and not one’s own soul.

I would like to inform you of certain fundamental teachings of the Yoga Sûtram. Sûtra means text or tract.

The translations you will find on the one hand in Deussen’s History of Philosophy, in Volume 1, part 3.

A newer translation which is more psychological in many aspects, i.e., more differentiated but actually less clear, is by Hauer in his text: Der Yoga als Heilsweg [Yoga as a path of healing].

The style is very difficult, as the texts are themselves exceptionally difficult.

I will now translate once again so you can see what it’s all about:

The non-differentiation of the representations of Sattvam and the Purusha, both these being absolutely different, is enjoyment.

Hauer translates “the ‘consumption of the world’ by the ‘man-in-himself.’ ”

He means that if the two are not differentiated, the world is consumed by the purusha.

Through application of total discipline upon one’s own interest, which is different from the other’s interest, knowledge of the Purusha is achieved.

This concerns the differentiation of the purusha and the sattvam.

I will go into the meaning of these words:

3.35: According to Deussen:

The non-differentiation between the representations of sattvam (as proponent of the prakriti) …of the prakriti which encompasses the external nature and the psychic apparatus (cittam) and which consists of the three gunas: sattvam, rajas, and tamas—… and of the purusha, which are both absolutely distinct, is pleasure [and suffering]:—knowledge of the purusha is achieved by the application of total discipline upon one’s own interest [i.e., the purusha] which is distinct from the other’s interest [i.e., the prakriti]. [YSD 3.35, pp. 532–533].486

According to Hauer:

“Man-in-himself” and the “luminous world substance” which forms the organ of the mind are eternally unalloyed.

The “consumption of the world” by the “man-in-himself” is made possible by the fact that “luminous world substance” and “man-in-himself” are not differentiated in the conscious mind.

One acquires knowledge of the “man-in-himself” through application of total restraint for the purpose of this consumption for the “other” and one’s own distinct purpose. [YSH 3.35, p.108]

According to Vivekananda:

Enjoyment comes by the non-discrimination of the very distant soul and Sattva.

Its actions are for another: Samyama on this gives knowledge of the Purusha.

According to M. A. Oppermann:

Experience is the unclarity of the mitigated perception of “sattva” and “purusha” which are absolutely separate; this joy is for another; knowledge of “purusha” arises through “samyama” upon itself.

An accompanying note:

“Purusha” in pure sattva reflects and animates the same; sattva, thus called into life, believes that all experiences which it has are to be attributed to him.

Through this muddled identification of the two, all experiences are made possible at all.

All experiences through which sattva believes itself to be enriched are useless to it and serve only the “purusha.”

Every action of prakriti, being the basis of sattva, and which cannot be without “purusha,” are for the “purusha.”

Hence sattva functions not for itself, but, as the text says, for another.

Hence, it is correct to say that “samyama” applied to itself, to its own nature and destiny, leads to knowledge of the “purusha.”