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object:1.04 - Pratyahara
author class:Aleister Crowley
book class:Liber ABA


1:PRATYAHARA is the first process in the mental part of our task. The previous practices, Asana, Pranayama, Yama, and Niyama, are all acts of the body, while mantra is connected with speech: Pratyahara is purely mental.

2:And what is Pratyahara? This word is used by different authors in different senses. The same word is employed to designate both the practice and the result. It means for our present purpose a process rather strategical than practical; it is introspection, a sort of general examination of the contents of the mind which we wish to control: Asana having been mastered, all immediate exciting causes have been removed, and we are free to think what we are thinking about.

3:A very similar experience to that of Asana is in store for us. At first we shall very likely flatter ourselves that our minds are pretty calm; this is a defect of observation. Just as the European standing for the first time on the edge of the desert will see nothing there, while his Arab can tell him the family history of each of the fifty persons in view, because he has learnt how to look, so with practice the thoughts will become more numerous and more insistent.

4:As soon as the body was accurately observed it was found to be terribly restless and painful; now that we observe the mind it is seen to be more restless and painful still. (See diagram opposite.)

5:A similar curve might be plotted for the real and apparent painfulness of Asana.

6:Conscious of this fact, we begin to try to control it: "Not quite so many thoughts, please!" "Don't think quite so fast, please!" "No more of that kind of thought, please!" It is only then that we discover that what we thought was a school of playful porpoises is really the convolutions of the sea-serpent. The attempt to repress has the effect of exciting.

7:When the unsuspecting pupil first approaches his holy but wily Guru, and demands magical powers, that Wise One replies that he will confer them, points out with much caution and secrecy some particular spot on the pupil's body which has never previously attracted his attention, and says: "In order to obtain this magical power which you seek, all that is necessary is to wash seven times in the Ganges during seven days, being particularly careful to avoid thinking of that one spot." Of course the unhappy youth spends a disgusted week in thinking of little else.

8:It is positively amazing with what persistence a thought, even a whole train of thoughts, returns again and again to the charge. It becomes a positive nightmare. It is intensely annoying, too, to find that one does not become conscious that one has got on to the forbidden subject until one has gone right through with it. However, one continues day after day investigating thoughts and trying to check them; and sooner or later one proceeds to the next stage, Dharana, the attempt to restrain the mind to a single object.

9:Before we go on to this, however, we must consider what is meant by success in Pratyahara. This is a very extensive subject, and different authors take widely divergent views. One writer means an analysis so acute that every thought is resolved into a number of elements (see "The Psychology of Hashish," Section V, in Equinox II).

10:Others take the view that success in the practice is something like the experience which Sir Humphrey Davy had as a result of taking nitrous oxide, in which he exclaimed: "The universe is composed exclusively of ideas."

11:Others say that it gives Hamlet's feeling: "There's nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so," interpreted as literally as was done by Mrs. Eddy.

12:However, the main point is to acquire some sort of inhibitory power over the thoughts. Fortunately there is an unfailing method of acquiring this power. It is given in Liber III. If Sections 1 and 2 are practised (if necessary with the assistance of another person to aid your vigilance) you will soon be able to master the final section.

13:In some people this inhibitory power may flower suddenly in very much the same way as occurred with Asana. Quite without any relaxation of vigilance, the mind will suddenly be stilled. There will be a marvellous feeling of peace and rest, quite different from the lethargic feeling which is produced by over-eating. It is difficult to say whether so definite a result would come to all, or even to most people. The matter is one of no very great importance. If you have acquired the power of checking the rise of thought you may proceed to the next stage.

previous chapter: 1.03 - Yama and Niyama
next chapter: 1.05 - Dharana

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