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The World As Power

The World As Power
Item Code: NAE329
Author: Sir John Woodroffe
Publisher: New Age Books
Language: English
Edition: 2013
ISBN: 9788178224213
Pages: 192
Cover: Paperback
Other Details: 8.5 inch x 5.5 inch
weight of the book: 613 gms

There 15 a Supreme Reality which is Eternal and Indefinable. It is an Absolute, inconceivable and ineffable—the Brahman. Unknowable in its utterness, this Reality presents itself to us in three supreme terms of its Truth an absolute Existence, Sat; an absolute Consciousness, Cit; and an absolute Bliss, Ananda. This is the poise of Brahman turned towards self-revelation.

It perceives itself as an infinite Existence; not a mere existence but a Being with a full awareness of all that It is, an infinite Consciousness. This Consciousness inherent in the supreme Being is no static awareness it is instinct with a Power, a Force dynamic with all the content of the Consciousness. And the nature of this self-conscient Existence is an inalienable Delight. All is a manifestation out of this triune status of the Eternal, Sat-Cit-Ananda.

All is contained in the infinite Being of Brahman; it is brought out and released into a plenitude of manifestation by the Consciousness-Power innate in Himself for the sheer Delight of His Becoming. It is His own Consciousness as Power, the Cit-Sakti, that pours out the potentialities held in the infinitude of Brahman, throws up Forms from out of the Formless depths of the Eternal. The Seers of the Veda speak of it as Maya, the power that measures (miyate arena iti mayã) out of the Immeasurable, the Force by which all is shaped out. This is the same “self-force of the Divine Being” which the 134is of the Upanisads beheld “deep hidden by its own conscious modes of working”. All is a Play, Lila, of this Power of the Divine in manifestation; all the forms and names that people the universe are self-deploying of this Adya sakti. Each is a diverse self- formulation of the Supreme Sakti, brought into being, maintained and withdrawn in the process of Her Cosmic Play with the Eternal Being, Her Lord, Saktiman.

This is the theme of the present book by Sir John Woodroffe. Sir John has written numerous volumes on Indian Religion and Culture; but of all of them this series on the Doctrine of Consciousness-Power has a special importance providing as it does a closely reasoned basis for the subsequent development of his unsurpassed exposition of the philosophy and practice of the sakta Agama. At a time when the curve of Indian Civilization had reached the very nadir of the loss of its spirit and degeneracy of forms after an eventful life-period unparalled for its duration and expance; when the time visage of the Soul of India was so completely obscured that even the leaders of her renaissance movement were fumbling in their steps, apologetic of their past and ignorant of their true heritage’ it was given to a few men of vision to see through the debris of the receding past and recover the priceless gems of her ancient bequest. Among the foremost of these selfless savants was Sir John Woodroffe who devoted the labour of a life-time for the reclamation of the profound truths of the most misunderstood and much maligned tradition in Hindu Religion, the Tantra sãstra. A well-known member of the Judiciary, he specialized in Sanskrit studies, approached the sacred texts of the Agamas with a becoming reverence with the aid of indigenous scholarship and guidance of Gurus, even delved into the arcana of the Sadhana sãstra deep enough to emerge as an nspired champion of this hoary religion, astounding everybody by the amazing industry, the brilliance of mind and sympathy of understanding he brought to bear on his single-handed endeavour towards the resuscitation of the glory of the Tantra sastra, particularly the Sãkta Vedanta. He wrote, translated, edited, annotated, lectured and did everything he could to present the teaching and practice of the Agamas in their true original intention and laid India under a deep debt of gratitude for awakening her sons to a living sense of this great inheritance of theirs.

Coming to the present series of his writings (now happily brought together by the Publishers, uniform with their other famous publications on Tantra): We have here a detailed examination of the contribution of the six major Systems of Indian Philosophic Thought, the sad Darianas towards the understanding of the nature of the Reality, the Universe and the Individual. It is shown how each of the systems, Nyaya, Vaisesika, Sankhya, Yoga, and the schools of the Vedanta, lead one step by step towards a spiritual Monism as the ultimate Truth of Creation. It is noteworthy that Sir John does not deal with these thought-systems as things of the past but treats them as living stages in the progress of the human mind towards fuller and fuller Knowledge and relates them at every step to the march of modern Science. He is convincing when he discusses how most of the truths perceived by the Seers of old are now being confirmed by the progress of Science. This is not to say that all that is being discovered by Science today i5 there already known in the ancient thought of India and in the same form. The fact is that the fundamental truth of the Universe which were seized upon directly by the fresh and intuitive mind of the Seers of the Veda and Upanisad are now being confirmed by physical and psycho-physical sciences from the other end. Their method—the experimental method—is necessarily different but the conclusions at which they arrive are substantially and strikingly the same as posited by the Vedanta.

The author describes how the entire universe and its constituents is a spread-out, prasara, of the Supreme Power, the Adya Sakti, the Divine Consciousness as Force. Spiritual and transcendent in its pristine station above, it bursts forth as and in the Universe, constituting or becoming the several orders of creation by a graded self-formulation and modification of itself in denser and denser forms of existence. Matter, Life, Mind, are each of them different terms of the self-manifestation of the One Divine Consciousness and are found to be as such in their depths when scrutinised with appropriate means. This basic unity, this oneness of origin that underlies all forms in creation is a fact of spiritual experience which is being increasingly corroborated by the results of the advance of Science. The Cartesian dualism of mind and matter no longer holds good. It is recognised that the ‘missing links’ pertain only to the superficies of the process of Evolution, and probed deeper, the Universe reveals an unbroken Continuum over all the several tiers of existence. Even Time and Space as categories of the Self-extension of this Consciousness- Power, terms which refer back to its original truths of Eternity and Infinity. All creation ultimately resolves itself into a vibrant manifestation of a Supreme Consciousness-Force, the Divine Sakti, in the ebullience of Her native Ananda. It is One Lila. The Play is Real, The Player is the Real of the reals. And man too has a part to play. Whether he will live in ignorance and be a puppet or, growing in Knowledge and Consciousness, he will liberate himself into an identity with the Dynamic sakti and thus freely participate as a conscious player, is the choice before each individual.

Foreword 1st edition

The present book is the first of a series which I hope to be able to complete, explaining succinctly some general philosophical principles of the Doctrine of sakti or Power from the sakta Vedanta standpoint. A correspondent once asked me—what was that? The answer is, that it is that Doctrine which is to be found, expressly or implicitly, in the Tantras of the Agamasastra of the Advaita sakta and Saiva communities of worshippers. The two have points in common in (amongst others) their Doctrine of sakti and its evolution as the 36 Tattvas and so forth. Thus the latter are explained in both the Gandharva-Tantra, the Kashmirian Tattva-Sandoha, and other works. In the Pratah-Ktya as set out in the MahanirvaiiaTantra (V. 39) salutation is made to Atma-tattva, Vidyã-tattva, and siva-tattva, these being the three-fold divisions of the 36 Tattvas.

In what way another enquirer ash—is it to be distinguished from Visistadvaita ? The answer is that according to the latter the Universe is the Body of the Lord, both now and in dissolution, that is always, whereas according to Sãkta views though we may speak of the existing Universe as the Body of the Mother-Power (in Herself or Svarupa, infinite and pure Consciousness or Cidrupini) yet in dissolution the Universe, the Power whence it proceeds and of which it is a transformation, and the Changeless Real or siva are one.

The books will be short but with much condensed substance. My object is to state general principles with reference to the thought of the day. The present counts. It is because Indian Philosophy and Religion are too often treated in an archaeological way, as things which have been and are gone, and as wholly unrelated to, and without value for, current thought, that they do not often receive the attention and respect which is their due. My own conviction is, that an examination of Indian Vedantic Doctrine shows, that it is, in important respects, in conformity with the most advanced scientific and philosophic thought of the West, and that where this is not so, it is Science which will go to Vedanta and not the reverse, This is not necessarily proof that it is true, for the teaching of Western Science may or may not be well founded, and has certainly undergone revolutionary changes from time to time. What is laughed at to-day is accepted tomorrow and vice versa. But if Western Science i5 deemed of value, so must be the Vedantic teaching which is in conformity with it.

This series will illustrate more fully what is here stated, but in a general way some examples may be given in support of it. The primary doctrine of Advaita-Vedanta is Unity. The world is not a heap of entirely disparate things thrown together by chance. All are connected, the one with the other and suffer and enjoy through one another. Some gain this truth through their reason, others through their heart and others again by the stick. Thus the late war’ has discovered the truth to those ignorant of it—that each people and each man is dependent the one on the other. So that if we harm others we harm ourselves immediately or in the long run. Practical Science is charged with the same mission. Railways, steamers, aeroplanes, the telegraph, the telephone, all help to establish the idea of the unity of mankind, to diminish particularism and to foster a wide view of the Universe and its meaning.

India has ever held views which are both wide and of the deepest. Her infinities may bore or appal some. But who will deny that Her ideas have been the most colossal the world has known ? Her fearless logic has stayed at nothing, until reaching the last harriers of thought, man transformed by Sadhana and logo, has attained That which is alogical. By thinking and direct experience, unity is known. Western Science is working towards the same or similar conclusions by its own objective experimental method. In this process it is destroying the difficulties and contradictions, which itself had created. It has set up partitions which it now pulls down. Some of them may be pragmatically useful, for thinking would be fluid unless we controlled the continuous flow of phenomena by divisions, labels and so forth. Some are indeed imposed on us from without, for this power to impose itself on the mind is a test of our Reality. But others are the product of imperfect observation and ‘gratuitously erroneous thinking. None according to Vedanta is essentially justified.

Unity and Continuity are metaphysical concepts. The forms which we observe are, as forms, breaches of both. Nevertheless from their gradations and relations the unity of Power of which they are manifestations is inferred. Union by Sãdhana with such essential Power gives direct experience (Veda) of the unitary essence which is displayed as Mind and Matter. Though the notion of Cit as the basis of all psychical modes is still peculiar to India, Western Science and Philosophy are now commencing to distinguish between Mind and Consciousness, holding that below and above the surface Consciousness there is yet another. There is in us much more than that of which we are aware. The unity of Mind and its action as a whole is now recognised, as also that Mind is a Force. This is well established in Indian Doctrine which teaches its activity in perception, actually going forth to its object and its creative power as shown in the so-called occult faculties or Siddhis.

Speaking of this Mind-ray reminds me of a recent announcement that an instrument in the nature of an electroscope is to be shown at a forthcoming medical congress in proof of the statement that it vision a ray proceeds from the eye,—an old Indian notion. The hitherto supposed gap between Mind and Matter is closing, thus rendering a transition from physical to psychical concepts easier. It is an ancient Indian Doctrine that both Mind and Matter are modes of one and the same Substance, and as such related to and akin to one another thus rendering all knowledge possible. Cognition is recognition.

Of the greatest importance is the change of ideas regarding the nature and constitution of Matter. India in the person of her great thinkers has never held to what Sir William Jones called the “vulgar notions of matter”. Western Science now dematerialises Matter. The notion of real and lasting partitions between various forms of elementary matter is passing. The present tendency of science is towards the revival of the ancient Doctrine of one Substance-Energy, the Mahasakti of the Vedantic Sakta and the Prakrti of the Samkhyas. All material forms are passing modes (Vikrti) of this one Power. Mãyã becomes a possibility and not the absurdity which some have supposed it to be. Saipkhya is not a “chaotic impertinence” as the English Samskritist Dr. Fitz Edward Hall, with the usual depreciation of things Indian, called it. On the contrary, here as elsewhere the rational character of Indian doctrine is justified. The hitherto supposed gap between “living” and “non-living” substance is now by many denied. Both are forms of the One Power which in this aspect is Pranah Pranasya, the Life of all lives. In so-called “inorganic” substance that Form displays itself in certain restricted ways and in organic substance in other ways of increasing freedom. As regards the evolution of “living” substance, the Indian notion has always been that the various forms of it differ only in degree and not in kind. Iin future numbers of this series I hope to deal with Cit, the unchanging principle of all changing experience. Its Power (Cit-sakti and Maya-sakti), Unity, Causality, Continuity and the various manifestations of Power (Sakti) or modes of its Substance-Energy as Mind, Life and Matter.

But it is to be remembered that the Indian Quest has been and is a practical one—the quest of Happiness which all men seek. If it be true, as Toga holds, that Man can by the appropriate method think and otherwise work himself out of the dualistic system of which he is a part, yet whilst he is in and of it, on the path of Enjoyment (Bhoga) his thinking has its end in some form of action. In Sakta teaching, Toga and Bhoga are unified (yogo Bhogayate). Man gains every end in and through the finite yet real world—even those which are unworldly, in the striving for unity with the Ens Realissinum of which the world is an act of will. That action in the world will be powerful to effect his aims (and who does not want that ?) if he worships the infinite Mother Power, the Supreme and complete “I” (Puniaham) of which he is according to this teaching a contraction (Samkoca) or form. By Sãdhana he makes contact and then unifies himself with the fundamental Grand Will. This Will reinforcing his own individual and contracted will, the “Little Doer” achieves all success.

Another and most important matter to be remembered is this—It has recently been said (Hoernle “Studies in Contemporary Metaphysics,” 75) that “the Eastern doctrines of the veil of illusion over reality and of the elaborate ascetic regimen for Mind and Body by which the student must discipline himself for penetrating to the Reality behind the veil, have never profoundly affected the main current of Western thought. Most of the great Philosophers of the West, certainly since the time of the Renaissance, have been men of the world as well as students and thinkers. They have never tried to he ‘holy’ men set apart from their fellows and the problems of contemporary life. They have not, even when they were professors, spent their days in meditation and mortification of the flesh in order to achieve individually the blessedness of Union with the One-”

These statements do not apply to the Middle Ages in the West. With the supposed “Veil of Illusion” this book deals. Sakta doctrine does not favour an “ascetic regimen”, except by “ascetic”, we understand a self- controlled and ordered life. Says the Kulãrnava-Tantra (Ch. J-V, 75, et seq) “Fools deceived by Thy Maya hope to attain liberation by eating one meal a day, by fasting and other acts which emaciate the body. What liberation can such ignorant ones get by the torture of the body? Donkeys go about naked, are they therefore Yogis ? If liberation is to he had by smearing oneself with mud and ashes then village dogs who roll therein are yogins. Deer and other animals live on grass leaves and water, are they therefore Yogins Hogs are exposed to cold wind and heat. To them all food fit and unfit are alike. Are these then Yogins Oh Kulesvari, all such practices deceive. The only direct cause of liberation is knowledge of the Truth (Tattva-jnãna). It again affirms that, in Kaula Dharma, Bhoga (Enjoyment and Suffering) is converted into Yoga (yoga bhogayate) and the world i5 made the seat of liberation (Moksayate samsarah).

The end which is beyond the life of earth is achieved in it. It is not the fugitive but the l’ira (hero) who meets life face to face, who conquers all vain fears and ignorance and achieves. He is Vira who struggles with Avi4yã. By what man falls, by that he rises. But in common with other Indian systems, it holds that by reason and speculation alone Reality, in its sense as the Supreme Experience, is not attained. For this, Sadhana as physical, intellectual and moral purification, self-control, discipline, and worship are necessary. Without these the doctrine is not, even in an intellectual sense rightly apprehended, still less is the Truth realised. Man must transform his nature to attain it. This involves right activity (Kriya) with awareness of; and self-identification in all functions with, the indwelling Mother-Power: “She I am Sa’ham” he says.

It has been said in the West (and this is Indian doctrine) that there is no end to what the trained and tutored will can do; and that because if a man puts himself in line with the Forces of Life he can tap reservoirs of Power, the contents of which are bottomless, because they are coextensive with the Universal Life. This is the meaning of two terms common in the Tantra, namely, login yoginipriya (Beloved of the Yoginis) yogini pasu (slave of the yoginis). The yoginis are Devata aspect of the Forces of Nature or Avarana-Devatas of the Maha-yogini, the supreme Mahamaya-Tripurasundari. Work with them and success is attained. Work against them and ill-fortune follows. Identify the self with the partial aspects which are the login is and then various Powers (Siddhis) are attained. Identify the self with the Maya-yogini Herself and Man is liberated, for He is no longer man but She. This is the Sakta teaching, come down from days when India was a Siddha-Bhumi. With what a man should identify himself; depends upon what he wants. But whatever, it is, he gets the Power, if he but wills and works for it.

Foreword 2nd edition

I take the opportunity given by the publication of the second volume of this series to deal with a criticism on the first which affects all, I am therein described as an “adherent” of “Saktaism” and as “commending” the acceptance of such doctrine to others. It is true that I think that this doctrine has been misunderstood and has been the subject (on the whole) of unjust judgments. I think also that it is, in its highest presentment, a grand and inspiring system (by which I do not mean that it is the only one, or that it is without defect); otherwise probably I should not have concerned myself with it. I desire however to say here that I do not write as an “adherent” of this, or any other philosophical system or religious sect whatever, but as a free thinker and free-companion; “Neither Burgundian nor Armagnac.” Nullius addictus jurare in verba magistri. But, as I have said elsewhere in describing Sakta teaching and Vedanta I write from that standpoint. Nor do I, pace my critic, make light o1 and still less deny, the utility of Reason or its efficacy to give us the truth within the system of which it is a part. But the Truth as it lies beyond that system is directly realised as it is in Itself that is beyond Mind not by Reason but by a Full Experience (Samãdhi) which is not a sleep” except to the gross world and is an awakening in the super sensible world. Those who talk in this fashion show want of knowledge of their own Scripture. There the highest praise is bestowed on reason. See for instance the Chapter on Vicara in the Yoga-Vasistha. Moreover Vedanta does not accept the intuitionalism which discards intellect. On the contrary the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad says that the Self must be thought upon and deeply pondered (Mantavyo, ,Nidi-dhyd-sitavyah). What else is the meaning of Jnana-yoga?

Nor, notwithstanding my personal views of the Scripture, do I ‘commend” it to anyone. What others choose to believe is their affair n which I have no desire to interfere unasked. One of the many notions, for which we are indebted to the profound thought of India is the fundamental doctrine of Competency or Adhikara which I hope to make the subject of one of this series of volumes. That Doctrine involves this— that there is a mental as well as physical food—a mental as well as physical stomach and digestion.

Talking of fond it is curious to note here (see Professeur Picard “La Science Moderne” 245) that all the characteristics of living Matter such as its equilibrium, chemical and anatomic organisation are now regarded by the great majority of Biologists as secondary qualities is comparison with nutrition which is considered by them to be the essential attribute of Life. It is noteworthy that in this ancient Indian doctrine also, emphasis is laid on the physiology of Nutrition, all the main Vayns except Udana being concerned with this function of “living” substance.

Indirectly and on the whole, man tends to the Truth, but directly and immediately what he holds to or seeks is not the truth, but the truth which he wants. It is the cravings of his psychical being which he satisfies. This is the meaning of the phrase “wilt to believe”. If there be a really detached search for truth it is excessively rare. He is a foolish and inconsiderate man who would deprive others of the meal of food, material or intellectual, which satisfies them, though it may not please him. A celebrated German Theosophist was I believe commonly wont to commence his addresses with the observation “I am now going to tell you a story”. Well I also am telling a story. It interests me but I am the last person to persuade others to accept it if they be themselves indifferent or unwilling. J am not seeking “converts” nor trying to “prove” that any one is “wrong”. If, in answering an internal urge to write, 1 can please others besides myself so much the better. My account of the main Indian Concepts may be of use either to those who are disposed to think the same way, or to those who simply want to know the facts. If the books are of use to any one iii either way that is enough for me. Should anyone think that they are of no use, that also is enough; for I will not dispute the point with him. If his own theories held in good faith really satisfy him, I will certainly not “commend” to him any other. Each will answer the speculative questions which all ask, particularly to-day, according to their general theoretic views, the product of their intellectual make-up and temperament. As regards this, all that is required is sincerity, good faith and that openness of mind which is necessary for a progressive self-development.

But all can with confidence become adherents of the Religion of Health, procuring it for themselves and others and relieving their sufferings. Health=Hale=Whole or Purna. To be whole physically, psychically. and spiritually is to be well. The contrary of wholeness (Apurna) is Disease. And so it is said Apurnam-manytla Vyddhi—”the sense of imperfection, that is want of wholeness, is Disease”. In, with, or as the Whole, man has life here and hereafter. S0 one of the Cakras in the great sryantra is called Sarva-rogahora or the Destroyer of all Disease which is Adharma. Siva is called Mrtyumjaya or “Conqueror of Death.” As such above his head is shown the Moon shedding streams of Nectar (Amrta = Deathlessness) over His upright body. After all it is what a man is and does which counts. The notion that mere cleverness is enough is not a Hindu one. What is the use of talking of the Atma and so on if one has helped no one. And so in the Sakta Scriptures, as in others, emphasis is laid on Kriya (action) which however may be given a more extended sense than that in which it is there ordinarily used.

To pass to the subject matter of this book I personally (like indeed, I suppose, most people) do not believe that Life is merely as Claude Bernard said a “fermentation”, or that a true theory of it can be based on the now (with some) fashionable “colloidal solution”. It has been said that, for the majority of Biologists, vital phenomena are merely physicochemical phenomena. Nevertheless the Vitalist School is on a true track. If I remember rightly it was an English Chemist who lately observed that the more Matter is studied the clearer it is seen, that it is away from Matter (as such) and in the opposite direction that the solution, if any, of Life will be found. As regards the subject of this volume I believe in the “simplist” solution that Life, as we know it, is a power (as the Life of all lives) of the Supreme Power (Parasakti). J.H. Fabre, the celebrated Naturalist and incomparable observer (as Darwin called him)—said: I can’t say I believe in God. I see Him. Without Him I understand nothing: without Him all is darkness.” The question is not so much the existence of God but what sort of God. Philosophers and scientists would less gruadgingly give to this Power the name of “God” were it not for the crude, ridiculous and even hateful notions which the beliefs of some have associated with this word. Merely physical explanations have availed nothing and will avail nothing. The Vedanta has dealt with the question very profoundly in distinguishing the Vital Body (Pranamaya-Kosa) from Physical Body (Annamaya-Kosa) and in making the lower Mind-Body (Pranamaya-Kosa) which is the vehicle of all the animal instincts, essence the former. Life and instinct are wondrous things the sight of which rules the sentiment of worship. Neither results from Matter. The explanation must be sought not below but above it in the Supreme Intelligence which they emphatically proclaim. J.H. Fabre conceived the relation between instinct and organ as analogous to that between Soul and Body. Instinct is an incorporeal element characterised by a native, infallible and irresistible impulse, superior to the organism as well as to sensibility, though it is not separate from, or completely independent of these.

As regards evolution also, he would I think say that the separate creation of species is a truer notion than the theory that a higher species evolves from a lower one. For each species is a form of Divine Power (Daivi-sakti). If, for example, A,13,C, be three distinct species in an ascending scale from A to C, it is not A which produces B, nor B which produces C, but it is the one Power (Maha-sakti) which produces A,B and C. That Power which has appeared as A, appears also as B, and will next appear as C. B as an ascending type does not owe its ascent to A the lower type, but is a fresh pulsing-forth (Prasara) of Power with a view to liberate Consciousness which appeared as A, now appears as B, and will appear as C. Some Christian writers claim to be “liberal” in repudiating what they call the “crude” view according to which the Creator is perpetually “interfering” with His work. But in my opinion it is more true to say that every act of creation, maintenance, and dissolution in past, present or future is directly His. In the same way it is futile to search for the “missing link” as a lost form intermediate between A and B and 13 and C. The real link is the Supreme Power which produces each. So in a tree, one main branch does not derive from another but from a trunk common to both. This view is not based on any disrespect for Matter, which is as much a form of the Supreme Power in this doctrine as is Life or Mind. As Professor P.N. Mukhyopadhyaya so well says in his Note appended to this volume—”to those who see the All (Puma) there is no difference. except formal, when Life is materialised or when Matter is vitalised or when Spirit is materialised or again when everything is spiritualised” If there has been any People who, taking them all in all, have seen things as they are and seen them “whole” it is the Hindus.


Power as Reality1
Power as Life51
Power as Mind101
Power as Matter161
Power as causality and continuity249
Power as consciousness297

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