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Re: Breathing Exercises (Chuck/2)

Jul 05, 1996 06:45 AM
by Jim Meier

Hi Chuck --

Wow, you pack a lot into an e-mail posting...  I'd like to address some of
those points, because this is leading up to something I consider important
regarding discrimination:

>First, I don't do yoga, I do Magick, which is a different kettle of fish in
>many ways.  

Apparently.  Since this is a (more or less) theosophical list, I'm tacking
on a few comments at the end re: Magic.  

>My feelings on the subject are very simple.  I reject out of hand
>any notion that one has to work on various social qualities before
>undertaking the development of any ablility.  I think that that is foolish.
> But, if one is specifically referring to kundalini stuff, I may be inclined
>to agree.  When working with that, a level of prudence may be necessary.

Aren't you trying to have it both ways, here?  There are reasons, after all,
for "the development of social qualities", as you say.

>By the same token, the approach that one should avoid all practice because
>unnamed and undocumented individuals may have had some difficulty is utter
>silliness.  That is akin to saying one should not learn how to drive because
>you might get in an accident.  One still learns to drive, but one learns to
>do it without getting killed.

For "unnamed and undocumented individuals" -- I agree.  For "named and
documented individuals" whose words carry the weight of demonstrated
self-realization well, that's a different kettle of fish.  To stretch your
analogy: learning to drive involves rules.  One can just hop behind the
wheel and go, but it is possible to learn from the experience of others,
shortening the process considerably.  Who wants to learn the hard way?

>The problem I have is with the concept of argument by authority, which states
>that X is true because Y said it is true and Y is to be believed because
>three thousand years ago he knew how to write.  How do we know that Patanjali
>had any idea what he was talking about?  For all we know, he could have just
>stood on his head out in the sun too long.  

Ah, now we come to the crux of it.  It appears that you reject out of hand
the possiblity of authoritative knowledge.  Right?  Taking the spin out of
your paragraph above, it says "X is true because Y said it is true and Y may
be believed for any of a number of possible reasons, but he might be wrong."
Agreed?  So, you reject the entire concept of argument by authority... OK by
me, I'll take a skeptic over a devotee any day.  Ram Dass in his book BE
HERE NOW writes that 
   there are three ways to come to knowledge of things spiritual: the first 
   is direct experience.  The second is through a process of intellectual
   inference; the use of the rational mind to reconcile the many dualities of 
   existence until what's left is "something else", outside of rationality  
   (that's a tough position, he adds).  And the third way is to trust the fact 
   that there are realized Beings; They said it, and so one just knows it to
   be true.  It's not inference, it's not an intellectual process, you just
   accept what They have said.  That's faith.
Since you started your post by saying that you do not practice yoga, method
one is out for you and you reject the third, so it's not likely anyone's
going to change your mind.  Which is also OK with me, since I think everyone
finds their own way, anyhow.  What I don't understand is how you can argue
for the negative: you don't believe it, therefore it isn't so. For your
specific question of how we know Patanjali didn't just stay out in the sun
too long: thousands of people for thousands of years have followed the Rules
for self-development in the Sutras.  There are some well-regarded folks who
say nice things about Raja Yoga, and not all that many who have written that
a lifetime of yoga study was a wasted lifetime.  Maybe you should try it
sometime.  :)  

>Now the problem I have with our
>Victorian forebears is that they came out of a very circumscribed world and
>while dear HPB did her rotund best to break most of the rules, she still had
>the Victorian desire to make new ones.  So what I argue for is to look at the
>available evidence, the real evidence, not the imaginings of the Bogus
>Bishop, or the pitiful ravings of fools who thought that jazz was black

We are all products of our environment to some extent, true enough.  The
difficulty posed by a healthy skepticism is separating the gold from the

>There are literally millions of people who practice hatha yoga with no ill
>effects at all.  There may be many who experience kundalini with no
>difficulty or ill effect, none of whom have bothered with Patanjali or his
>silly sutras.  What I see, from the experience of those people I know who
>have worked in these areas, is something that has real benefit to the
>individual with little or no danger.  

"Silly Sutras"?  C'mon, Chuck, it's not necessary even for heretics to
denegrate the beliefs of others, and the Sutras are held by many (even
Theosophists) to be the basic knowledge of Yoga (Union with Self).  
Hatha yoga means different things to different people; if you are referring
(as I suspect you are) to folks who sit crosslegged or otherwise twisted up
in purely physical methods, then I agree with you.  And it is undoubtedly a
good thing, not just producing of "no ill effects".  But you switch over to
the subjective tense for your comments on Kundalini; why is that?  

>And as a pentecostal preacher friend once said to me many years ago, "When
doctrine conflicts with experience, you go with the experience."
>To those who decry the possible dangers I say first to show me real evidence
>that the dangers exist in any form and then give me a working idea of the
>percentage of population that is actually experiencing them (population being
>the people actually working with the activities in question). If, out of 1
>million people, five get into trouble, the risk is not worth worrying about.
> If 100,000 have problems, then it is time to look at what is going on.
> There is simply no real data to back up the worry at the moment.  That may
>change, and if it does I will change my view accordingly.

I'm not aware of any statistical data on Enlightenment, but it's an
interesting idea.  Maybe somebody else will be able to post something on
this?  :)

>What genuinely worries me is that if something comes along that carries real
>risks, those who have been exposed to the sort of nonsense that floats around
>about Hatha Yoga *will*, without doubt, reject all thought of that risk out
>of hand.  The TS has cried wolf (sorry Denali, it's only an expression) for
>so long about all matters psychic that virtually no one gives a thought to
>anything the TS literature has to say on the subject, and not without reason.
> And in the process it has made us look like a pack of paranoid fools which
>has done no good for any aspect of theosophy, core, process or otherwise.
>There is a difference between fear and rational prudence and it would be well
>if our brethren would realize that, because all we are getting is fear and
>that serves no purpose whatsoever.
>At the moment, given a reasonably healthy individual, I have seen absolutely
>no reliable evidence of any deliterious effects from any hatha yoga practice.
> There have been individuals who have had difficulties who practice hatha
>yoga, but there is no reason to believe that the yoga was the cause of them,
>on the contrary, it's therapeutic value is undeniable except in the ravings
>of Xian fundamentalists and old-fashioned Theosophists.

I think your post drifted away here from pranayama to strictly physical
hatha yoga practices and the much-debated questions regarding psychism in
Theosophy, so I'm not quite sure what you're referring to.  "All we are
getting is fear" -- say what?  What I saw posted was merely the repetition
of some time-honored considerations regarding the possible potential
consequences of advanced Pranayama exercises, and that seems to me more of
"rational prudence" than fear. (Why DOES that word keep coming up whenever
anyone questions anything on theos-l?  Just an open question.)


PS: notes on Magic:
This is becoming a lengthy post; the SD reference follows in a separate listing.

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