Yoga. A Scientific Evaluation. By Kovoor T. Behanan, Ph.D. (Seeker and Warburg. ros. 6d.)
KEYSERLING calls Yoga the practical foundation-stone of all Indian wisdom. Whereas the West, he says, bases all its hopes on genius, the East expects most things from training. Yoga is a system of physical and mental control closely allied to a particular religious philosophy, and though it might be possible to separate these two Aspects of it, iret it is significant that none of the writers of these four books—an Indian, a Frenchman, and two Englishmen—have done so. Dr. Behanan, sent by Yale with the Stirling Fellowship to study Yoga at first hand for two years in his native country, comes nearest to doing so ; for whereas he states the case for the physical and mental culture clearly and convincingly and as a personal testimony, he studiously avoids taking sides where religion or metaphysics are concerned. His approach is strictly scientific. The earlier part of his book. is difficult reading, partly because he has kept the original terminology, though trying to interpret it in terms of Western thought. If he demonstrates much that is reasonable, he demonstrates still more that is fantastic in Hindu philosophy. But his chapter on Rebirth is excellent, and from this onwards the going is easier and the book should be within the scope of the general reader. Monsieur Demaitre takes quite a different line. He is witty, readable and considerably prejudiced, and I detect a certain crudity of sensibility in more than one incident described. He concedes that the practice of Yoga can produce great physical fitness, but he attacks it on almost every other front, or rather he attacks the abuses of Hinduism for which the Yogi philosophy is possibly to blame. But much of what he says is mere beating the air. The advocates of Yoga are equally alive to its abuses and perversions.
l'''Oga Explained is the advocacy of a, convert. It is written in a popular style which is at times a little incongruous. To my Mind its weakness is a too-marked pre-occupation with Hatha Yoga3. the approach , to wisclom_by _the. pitth_of .bodily perfection. Mr. Brunton begins with the mind and goes on to the body, but Major Yeats-Brown begins with the body and, though .4c, says that his exercises are only a prelude to -enlightennient, never seems to get very.far from that beginning. He does not claim nor dOes his book give the impression
of any deep underlying spirituality. He hopes to live to be eighty, and to do this he is willing if necessary to stand on his head in the mornings and to adopt other positions highly uncom- fortable in their initial practice. But, ,like the character in Galsworthy's novel who was always talking about " kesping fit," we want to ask him : "Yes, but fit for what ? " My own observation of Hatha Yoga is that with most people it needs a strong dose of Bhakti Yoga to counterbalance it, which is another name for common or garden Christian altruism. Otherwise it becomes egomania. In his closing pages Major Yeats-Brown, in a sudden burst of 'frankness, which I admire, says, "Not for a moment do L suggest that any kind of Yoga is as good as slow exercise in the open air. However, can't spend eight hours of every day on the South Downs. I like my work ; hence my exercises."
I come to the fourth book which, to my mind, is much the most valuable of the four. It is an exposition of Eastern mysticism, as satisfactory in its way as anything Miss Evelyn Underhill has done for the mysticism of the West. Mr. Brunton's previous books have shown that his mind is critical and not at the mercy of its own will to believe. He sees no necessary cleavage between science and metaphysic, and he would cordially endorse that phrase in the recent Times obituary of Sir Jagadis Bose which said "his achievements provide a unique example of the virtual union between the immemorial mysticism of Indian philosophy and the experi- mental methods of Western science." Mr. Brunton's book gains enormously by the fact that he is a mystic himself. He writes deliberately for the Western mind and what he says is not the justification of a particular philosophy so much as a plea for mysticism as the revealer of certain underlying realities.
If we are capable of understanding mysticism at all we should be capable of understanding The Quest of the Oversell. I am far from saying that Mr. Brunton has proved all his contentions. There is an extremely significant phrase in Dr. Behanan's
book which metaphysicians would do well to inscribe "upon the posts of their houses and on their gates." It is this. "The ▪ limbo of the unknown is admirably passive to all questions
▪ concerning ultimates ; we niay ask any " questiott and receive the answer that pleases us most." That chastening thought confronts all our systems. Ideas only bectime our possession when we submit- our minds to them and we can submit our minds to practically any idea we choose. Truth exists but there is unlimited possibility of error. We must just follow our instinct for verity, testing wherever we can. Mr. Brunton carries conviction to me because my own experience bears out much that he says. But I have one quarrel with him. Like a number of modern writers he attacks the validity of time and uses these attacks as a lumping-off ground for vindicating eternity. Time according to him is only "subjective," an hallucination of our_ own brain. We ourselves can extend or contract it to any length we choose. It is only "a form of self-consciousness." The spokes in a bicycle wheel ridden swiftly past have been seen as barely moving by an observer who had been electrically shocked. -But surely all these argu- ments affect consciousness rather than time. Surely beside subjective or self-conscious time, there is objective or " clock " time, valid for a million individuals if invalid for the one who has been drugged or is undergoing a mystical experience. Time is not merely_ a mental condition, it is also. a succession outside our consciousness. - Do- the planets only imagine the sequence of their movements ? Is it only a spatial and temporal illusion which keeps them in place, and if they stopped thinking for a moment would they collide ? Even the argument— advanced once more by Mr. Brunton—that a sufficiently distant star with appropriate range Of vision could observe an event now, which happened on this planet centuries ago, is to my mind a quibble, for what the star would observe would be not the event but the light rays once set in motion by that event. Mysticism gains nothing by a too complete surrender to subjec- tivity. But, with this one reservation, I recommend The Quest