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AC, Raja and Hatha Yoga

To: Thelema93-L                             
From: nigris (
Subject: AC, Raja and Hatha Yoga (was Yogi Crowley? Bubu Crowley?)
Date: Sat, 12 Jul 1997 13:16:01 -0700 (PDT)
49970712 aa2 Hail Satan! (some clarification appears in order; posted to Usenet)


Mark Nuttall :
#># ..."Keeping every muscle tense for hours" is not yoga, it's stupidity.
#># Such muscular tension is ruinous to the flow of qi/prana.

this appears to be divergent from the intent of the asana of Patanjali
which Crowley was relaying. I had forgotten or misunderstood this.

nigris (333):
#> I've always wondered if the people who adored Crowley ever had much trek
#> with hatha yoga and traditional asanas. what I've seen (a few classes,
#> not by Indian masters (yogis) but apparent Western adepts/licensees and
#> some personal practice over perhaps 1-2 years of serious discipline and
#> then attempted integration of some of what I could gleen of its essence
#> into daily living) gave me the idea that Crowley was mostly familiar with
#> some texts and rather unused to yoga of a hatha variety.

my characterization may not have been too far off, actually, though his
familiarity may have extended to those familiar with the instruction of
the system elaborated by Patanjali (aphorisms/sutras) rather than just

to books (if his Confessions are in any way reliable). (John):
# Actually, what passes for Yoga in the West is a kind of
# watered-down-for-casteless-barbarians Hathayoga amounting to little
# more than limbering exercises.

while there are a number of vanilla or watered-down 'yoga' instructors
who may be found in the West, I think there may be more to be found here
than the simplistic picture you are painting. at first your expression
struck me as quite likely, but upon review of library materials here
and recall of instructors (at least one of whom actually was well-studied
with an Indian master, I had to revisit the small text he wrote on hatha
before remembering this), I would speculate something midway between
the extremes we have offered, which I elaborate below.

# ...they are preparatory practices for the more mental/spiritual
# disciplines that are the heart of Yoga. Crowley covers these in
# detail in _Book Four, Part I_ and in _Eight Lectures on Yoga._

I have reviewed the text of _Book Four_, inclusive of Liber E, and
also mentions of yoga in his 'Confessions' (Symonds/Grant, both).
I don't think I have _Eight Lectures on Yoga_ here in the library
and I think I can now see why (I'm not a fan of strict asceticism).

it appears to be important to those who favor the _The Yoga Sutras
(or Aphorisms) of Patanjali_ to promote them as pre-eminent and the
last word on the subject. even very many Indian writers take this
line, and given his monumental achievement it is understandable,
though I do not think entirely necessary or accurate.

the hatha yoga complex appears to include a great many different
practices, often considered purgative and restorative of health.
some of these are quite extreme in form, inserting a variety of
objects into the bodily orafices, for example (Eliade has alot to
say about gastronomic and urethral insertions). and yet even
these extremes are by no means definitive.

'the heart of yoga' is a contested subject, though there are some
commonalities in description of end-point result, such as the
quieting of the interior bodily 'noise' (what I would call deep
relaxation and awareness) in preparation for states of exalted
consciousness or absorption. the raja yoga of Patanjali appears
to focus rather directly on restrictive, ascetic measures for this
purpose. yoga disciplines propounded by some hatha yogis or others
do not always include such extremity, nor in my estimation are they
always included in the aim toward similar results (e.g. bhakti).

Patanjali (or whoever constructed the book associated with this
fairly legendary individual -- said to be an incarnation of the
serpent Sessha, I think, upon whom Visnu rests in cosmic slumber)
drew from previous Upanishadic authors who did not make specific
their systems for achieving the various exalted states of
contemplation and unification. it could be said, therefore, that
his was a *specific* recipe within a much greater discipline, one
that has become popular in the way that 'kleenex' has been adopted
for the more general facial tissue.

my impression is that Patanjali is central to a great and diverse
social tradition of ascetic rigor within India but that he does not
comprise its entirety. many of the dismissive reviews of hatha
strike me as competitive in their tone, and the attitude and
relationship to the body is often in contrast, relegating hatha to
a place of 'beginning studies' when the masters of hatha yoga do not
seem to accept this presumption and the philosophy upon which yoga
is said to be based (e.g. _The Bhagavad Gita_ for one example) does
not always support such an extremity (of course some philosophic
particulars such as the Samhkya which underlies Patanjali appear to
be important apologists for the ascetic).

that is, hatha yoga is a developed yoga complex of its own and in
some measure a competitor to the ascetic sutras of Patanjali which
have become popularly presumed as preparatory by those who favor
him (associating asceticism with spirituality).

# Crowley also quotes Patanjali (who is probably the single greatest
# authority on Yoga ever,) that "Asana is whatever posture that is
# steady and easy." I feel you are seriously over-estimating the "tye
# yourself in knots and hurt" aspects here; to be fair, so does Crowley,
# at least in _Liber E._

your comment indicates your limited exposure to hatha yoga. it is
popularly characterized as 'tie-yourself-in-knots-and-hurt', yet this
is really a misunderstanding of the discipline. pain is not a part of
hatha yoga as it is in the yoga of Patanjali. hatha is BODY-POSITIVE,
which is what drew me to it before and why I spend such time in taking
issue with Crowley's apparent and your obvious presumption that yoga
equals asceticism and an attempt to escape bodily experience.

yes, discomfort plays a part, but pain is an indicator of WRONG
practice in hatha yoga. the stretch and the breath are the focus, in
some measure all of it being a precursor to the corpse asana in which
contemplative, restive, exploratory and absorptive states of
consciousness may be engaged (similar to that of Patanjali).

my original assessment of Crowley (due to a poor recall of the breadth
of yoga practices) was in error. he appears to know quite well the very
system which you are defending in what I would call an overly expansive
manner. Mark's reaction seems to have been informed of the hatha approach
and thus keyed into my own experiences in contrast to the text he was

#># If one is to hold a given asana for long periods of time, the body is not
#># held in a state of muscular tension, but rather held in an anatomically
#># correct position.

# Which is the case once one has mastered an Asana. At that point all
# pain and discomfort vanish and, far from being uncomfortable, Asana
# becomes infinitely easy and refreshing.

it is striking how similar the results of hatha yoga are to what you
describe here. yours is resident to the popular descriptions of the
ascetic yoga as referenced by Crowley, Vivekananda and many others.
the methods differ within different systems, however, though as I
understand it the masters (yogis) would probably admit that a variety
of paths are included within the complexity that is yoga.

#># Crowley clearly learned a very different style of (hatha) yoga than is
#># commonly taught today, especially if this "tension" was to be induced,
#># rather than endured. Very strange.

#> from whom did he learn? I tend to think he made everything up until and
#> unless I hear some sourcing on his mysterious authorities. I suppose I'm
#> rather dubious of the entire Hermetic tradition in this regard, from
#> Christian Rosenkreuntz, Hoot Koomi and Frauline Sprengel to Aiwass and Lam.

# Crowley studied Raja Yoga under Allan Bennett and P. Ramanthan in
# Ceylon. The latter was Solicitor-General of Ceylon and after his
# retirement became the Shaivite guru Shri Parananda.

yes, this is mentioned slightly in 'Confessions', and it may indicate to
some degree influences on Crowley's fascination with Buddhism (Bennett) and
phallicism (Parananda). and yet I know *nothing* about Sri Parananda.  is
there some history of the man somewhere, of what style of Saivism he was
instructed, and what lineage of yoga he may have been teaching? it obviously
conformed to the sutras of Patanjali, but beyond this it appears to have been
somewhat self-enscribed (oblivious to the variety of yoga) and exalted in its
description of results (though Crowley doesn't really say much in the texts
I was reviewing this morning, even about the *siddhis* or magical powers
traditionally associated with it -- perhaps because these are often even in
the traditions categorized as obstacles to attainment).

it is weird that crowley would reconstruct the Patanjali system so as to
place ceremonial magick upon its crown. 'magic' is generally condemned
by many Indian gurus, some of them merely dismissing it as 'entrapping
siddhis', byproducts of spiritual development and potential obsessions
to those without sufficient guidance or diligence of will to resist their
excitement. in some cases I think they are used as bait to ensnare students
to the spiritual path.

to place ceremonial magick (as described by Crowley) as the crown to
Patanjali's raja yoga (largely retained so as to sound a convincing)
strikes me as blasphemous or that it would be considered an extreme error
by yogis. did Crowley do this first, or was he just following in the
great Hermetic mysticism-stealing tradition?

# John
# (Who is not a Yogi but was a Hinduism specialist in his student days)

thus you never studied with instructors having connections to either raja
or hatha variety, I presume. there is quite an antagonism within the works
of even some Indian authors against hatha yoga. I suspect that familiarity
with the yogis or their students may be the only reliable method of
assessing their relative value.

along this line,

nigris (333):
#> perhaps Crowley was attempting to innovate here by virtue of a
#> demonstration of ascetic vigor....

obviously, as is usual, Crowley was passing on the work of others,
and in _Book Four_ it appears he was doing so with proper creditation.

#> ...maybe Crowley learned his hatha from a jnana yogi? or perhaps
#> from his English schoolmaster? :>

as I have explained above, this comment includes my following on Mark's
error in presuming that this yoga was of a hatha variety. however, I
*do* think that there is some substance to the remark on the parallel
between British and Indian favor for ascetics. glimpses of this can
even be seen in Gardner's integration of flagellation into Wicca.

Fabio :
# I think that there's a bad interpretation of Crowley words, in fact in
# MiTaP Part I we could find this about Asana:

# There is a sort of happy medium between rigidity and limpness; the
# muscles are not to be strained; and yet they are not allowed to be
# altogether slack. It is difficult to find a good descriptive word.
# "Braced" is perhaps the best. A sense of physical alertness is
# desirable. Think of the tiger about to spring, or of the oarsman
# waiting for the gun.

this is almost verbatim from Vivekananda (possibly also Patanjali).  were
there ever any yogis who verified Crowley's achievements in the discipline?
it seems to me a relatively meager achievement to come to an *understanding*
of the discipline. one may then claim all manner of exalted states and go
on to profess them to others. typically the extravagant and wayward are
reined in, however, through assessment of their gurus during the entirety
of the process itself, and I have not noticed that Crowley kept a continual
contact with Parananda or Bennett (whatever the latter's credentials where
yoga is concerned) as described in his texts. commentary invited.

# So, interpreting "tense" in Liber E in this manner in what case
# contradict Hatha Yoga?

it does not contradict *raja yoga*, especially those systems which have
become popular as derived from Patanjali. it *does* seem at variance
with hatha yoga, however, especially when we begin to talk about a
cessation of movement and the ignoring of pain and discomfort. hatha
yoga is a subtle supple-making and relaxatory preparation for quieting
the body and mind in coordination with the breath. it achieves this
as much through sequences of asana (e.g. Sun Salutation) as it does
through postures held for a duration (e.g. Tree or Cobra).

sometimes my instructors would play soothing music during our yoga
session when they were not verbally providing instruction. this was
in some measure a pleasant distraction from the slight discomfort we
may feel at the stretch, yet I carried this into my own personal yoga
as a means of integrating mind, body and breathing. I would compare
this very strongly with zazen, or 'sitting meditation' professed by
the Zen Buddhists, though a motive rather than inactive method.

in fact, I enjoyed varying my daily meditations when I did them
between hatha yoga (which I loved greatly), zazen (watching breath),
and focussed attention upon an object -- often a candle flame. there
were benefits and limitations to each of these disciplines and I can
not say that any were 'better' than the rest.

however, to get back to your question, I think that the methods *do*
contradict one another in that they aim at different immediate goals,
and this appears to be the case between Patanjali's raja yoga and the
hatha yoga to which it is sometimes compared (apparently to the dismay
of the lovers of Patanjali! ;>).

nigris (333) -- --
To: Thelema93-L
Subject: AC, Yoga and Magick (was AC, Raja and Hatha Yoga...)
From: nigris (
Date: Sun, 13 Jul 1997 04:06:23 -0700 (PDT)

49970714 aa2 Hail Satan!


#>to place ceremonial magick (as described by Crowley) as the crown to

#>Patanjali's raja yoga (largely retained so as to sound ...convincing)
#>strikes me as blasphemous or that it would be considered an extreme error
#>by yogis. did Crowley do this first, or was he just following in the
#>great Hermetic mysticism-stealing tradition?

Josh Norton :
#Did he actually do this at all? My summary impression over years of reading
#A.C.'s stuff is that (with certain exceptions) he regarded magick and
#mysticism/yoga as different paths, with somewhat different results.  The
#student was expected to master both, but not necessarily to combine them,
#or to view one as leading to the other.

I don't think I made myself sufficiently clear. I do think he considered
mysticism and magick to be different things, but that magick may be
applied toward mystical ends (thus qualifying as 'white magick'). thus
their results need not be different. his AA's instruction of magick does
indeed appear (within Appendix VII of _Book Four_ to at least recommend
the yogic disciplines as precursors to ceremonial magick practice, thus
as a progression combining them, applying the disciplines of body and mind
for the purpose of achieving the described yogic results of Dhyana and,
if diligent, Samadhi.

therefore Crowley was providing a place for 'magic' which a traditional
yogi may well have found objectionable (unless he were to assimilate
Crowley's goals and, comprehending their application, realize the identity
in application of the general principles of mysticism to which Crowley
lays claim as exemplified by the raja yoga he outlines.

#Got any quotes about this "placing magick as the crown to yoga"?

here's something I was reading that gave me this impression (besides that
he includes it in sequence in _Book Four_'s Parts and AA's Appendix VII):

[I set out the specific terms with #hashmarks not contained in the text#]

	...religion must always be repugnant to reason and its
	upholders must be prepared to be called charlatans.

	There is, however, one issue from this dilemma. It is
	possible to base a religion, not on theory and results,
	but on practice and methods. It is honest and hopeful
	to progress on admitted principles towards the
	development of each individual mind, and thus to advance
	towards the absolute by meaNs of the consciously willed
	evolution of the faculty of apprehension. Such is in
	fact the idea underlying initiation. It consitutes the
	absolute justification of the Path of the Wise as
	indicated by the adepts, whether of the magical or the
	mystical schools. #For Yoga offers humanity an organ of
	intelligence superior to intellect, yet co-ordinate with
	it, and Magick serves to arouse spiritual energies which,
	while confirming those of the mind, bring them to their
	_The Confessions of Aleister Crowley_, ed. Symonds/Grant,
	 Arkana Books, 1979; pp. 295-6.

but this is the one was what started me on it:

	The history of mankind teems with religious teachers.
	These may be divided into three classes.

	1. Such men as Moses and Mohammed state simply that they
	   have received a direct communication from God. They
	   buttress their authority by divers methods, chiefly
	   threats and promises guaranteed by thaumaturgy; they
	   resent the criticism of reason.

	2. Such men as Blake and Boehme claimed to have entered
	   into direct communication with discarnate intelligence
	   which may be considered as personal, creative, omnipotent,
	   unique, identical with themselves or otherwise. Its
	   authority depends on 'the interior quality' of the seer.

	3. Such teachers as Lao-Tzu, the Buddha and the highest
	   Gnana-yogis announce that they have attained to superior
	   wisdom, understanding, knowledge and power, but make no
	   pretence of imposing their views on mankind. They remain
	   essentially sceptics. They base their precepts on their
	   own personal experience, saying, in effect, that they have
	   found that the performance of certain acts and the
	   abstention from others create conditions favourable to the
	   attainment of the state which has emancipated them. The
	   wiser they are, the less dogmatic. Such men indeed
	   formulate their transcendental conception of the cosmos
	   more or less clearly; they may explain evil as illusion,
	   etc., but the heart of their theory is that the problem
	   of sorrow has been wrongly stated, owing to the superficial
	   or incomplete data presented by normal human experience
	   through the senses, and that #it is possible for men, by
	   virtue of some special training (from Asana to Ceremonial
	   Magick), to develop in themselves a faculty superior to
	   reason and immune from intellectual criticism, by the
	   exercise of which the original problem of suffering is
	   satisfactory solved.#

	*The Book of the Law* claims to comply with the conditions
	necessary to satisfy all three types of inquirer.
	Ibid., pp. 395-6.

it thus forms the crown as SPECIFIC METHOD. and there is always
the Note of Soror Virakam on Part I, 'Mysticism':

	#Part II, 'Magick,' is more advanced in style than Part I#;
	the student is expected to know a little of the literature
	of the subject, and to be able to take an intelligent
	view of it....
	_Magick_, by Aleister Crowley, eds. Symonds/Grant, Arkana
	 Books, 1973; p. xxi.

or Crowley's own words in the same source:

	*To sum up*, _we assert a secret source of energy which
	explains the phenomenon of Genius. We do not believe in
	any supernatural explanations, but insist that this source
	may be reached by the following out of definite rules, the
	degree of success depending upon the capacity of the seeker,
	and not upon the favour of any Divine Being. We assert that
	the critical phenomenon which determines success is an
	occurrence in the brain characterized essentially by the
	uniting of subject and object_....

	Q. What is genius and how is it produced?
	A. Let us take several specimens of the species, and try to
	   find some one thing common to all which is not found in
	   other species.
	Q. Is there any such thing?
	A. Yes: all geniuses have the habit of concentration of
	   thought, and usually need long periods of solitude to
	   acquire this habit. In particular, the greatest
	   religious geniuses have all retired from the world at
	   one time or another in their lives, and begun to preach
	   immediately upon their return....
	Q. But their instructions differ widely!
	A. Only in so far as each was bound by conditions of time,
	   race, climate and language. There is an essential
	   identity in the method.
	Q. Indeed!
	A. It was the great work of the life of Frater Perdurabo
	   to prove this. Studying each religious practice of each
	   great religion on the spot, he was able to show the
	   Identity-in-diversity of all, and to formulate a method
	   free from all dogmatic bias, and based only on the
	   ascertained facts of anatomy, physiology, and psychology.
	Q. Can you give me a brief abstract of this method?
	A. The main idea is that the Infinite, the Absolute, God,
	   the Oversoul, or whatever you may prefer to call it, is
	   always present; but veiled or masked by the thoughts of
	   the mind, just as one cannot hear a heartbeat in a noisy city.
	Q. Yes?
	A. Then to obtain knowledge of That, it is only necessary to
	   still all thoughts....
	Q. Then you wish to obtain a perfect vigilance and attention of
	   the mind, uninterrupted by the rise of thoughts?
	A. Yes.
	Q. And how do you proceed?
	A. Firstly, we still the body by the practice called Asana,
	   and secure its ease and the regularity of its functions
	   by Pranayama. Thus no messags from the body will disturb
	   the mind.
	   Secondly, by Yama and Niyama, we still the emotions and
	   passions, and thus prevent them arising to disturb the mind.
	   Thirdly, by Pratyahara we analyse the mind yet more deeply,
	   and begin to control and suppress thought in general of
	   whatever nature.
	   Fourthly, we suppress all other thoughts by a direct
	   concentration upon a single thought. This process, which
	   leads to the highest results, consits of three parts,
	   Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi grouped under the single term
	Q. How can I obtain further knowledge and experience of this?
	A. The A.'.A.'. is an organization whose heads have obtained
	   by personal experience to the summit of this science. They
	   have founded a system by which every one can equally attain,
	   and that with an ease and speed which was previously
	Ibid., pp. 41-2

given this and the title of the next section ("Ceremonial Magick: The
Training for Meditation"), which falls as a preliminary to Dhyana and
Samadhi, it seems *ceremonial* magick within AC's system crowns the
progression of method, Asana, Pranayama/Mantrayoga, Yama and Niyama,
and Pratyahara acting as apparent precursors), and especially as
magick is described in relation to mysticism in the following:

	*The Principles of Ritual*
	_There is a single main definition of the object of all
	magical Ritual. It is the uniting of the Microcosm with
	the Macrocosm. The Supreme and Complete Ritual is therefore
	the Invocation of the Holy Guardian Angel; or, in the
	language of Mysticism, Union with God._

	{AC's NOTE: The difference between these operations is more
	 of theoretical than of practical importance.}
	All other magical Rituals are particular cases of this
	general principle, and the only excuse for doing them is
	that it sometimes occurs that one particular portion of
	the microcosm is so weak that its imperfection of impurity
	would vitiate the Macrocosm of which it is the image,
	Eidolon, or Reflection. For example, God is above sex; and
	therefore neither man nor woman as such can be said to
	fully understand, much less to represent, God. It is
	therefore incumbent on the male magician to cultivate
	those female virtues in which he is deficient, and this task
	he must of course accomplish without in any way impairing
	his virility. It will then be lawful for a magician to
	invoke Isis, and identify himself with her; if he fail to do
	this, his apprehension of the Universe when he attains
	Samadhi will lack the conception of maternity. The result
	will be a metaphysical and -- by corollary -- ethical
	limitation in the Religion which he founds. Judaism and
	Islam are striking examples of this failure.
	Ibid., p. 151.

this thus demonstrates ceremonial magick's place in the yogic schema
which Crowley is laying out: it is the preparatory conditioner to
the Supreme Ritual, rounding out the Mage at the attainment of the
highest yogic state.  above, Crowley mentions that yoga is particularly
instructed by the AA, and in his discussion of Dhyana in Part I, he
mentions "Their second book of practical instruction, *Liber O*".

that appears as the third piece of Appendix VII in _Book Four_,
*A few of the principle instructions authorized by the A.'.A.'.*,
the first being Liber HHH, a poetic overview of the method, from
what I can tell, the second being an overview of yogic practice,
Liber E, proceeding through Dharana as we've mentioned. Liber O
consists of the preliminary course in the learning of ceremonial
magick, inclusive of initial knowledge to be assimilated
(Liber 777), the precautionary practices (god-forms, vibration of
divine names, banishing/invoking), the method of astral travel or
visualized encounter, and of experimental astral departure from
the known world.

given all of the above, I would say that Crowley's description of
yoga maintains both the general and specific significance, that
the general encompasses magick as preparatory for meditation or
Dhyana on par with that given otherwise, and that the specific
forms the precursor in that ceremonial magick is the crowning
method by which the most exalted states described may be obtained.

I welcome correction/commentary and am still interested in knowing,
if I haven't made a wrong turn at Albequerque, whether he was the
first to associate yoga with ceremonial magick or others such as
those of the Golden Dawn did so before him.

nigris (333) -- --

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