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Modern Science and the Higher Self

(A Lecture delivered in 1904 in India)


  The putting together of the two phrases--" Modern Science" on the one side, and " Higher Self " on the other, may strike some of you as strange and even as incongruous; for the ideas of Modern Science and of the Higher Self are so far removed from each other in the general mind that to bring them together as though they were closely related must seem to be unusual and grotesque. Ann yet I think I shall be able to show you as we go on, that these two things, the most modern and the most ancient, the thought of the West working by way of continuous experiment, and the thought of the East working by seeking the Higher Consciousness and recording its testimony, that these two are in our own days brought closely into touch with each other, so that they may aid and strengthen each other, may be found as servants in a common cause, and not as opposing and incongruous ideas. I want to show you, in the course of this evening's lecture, that there is in Modern Science a distinct recognition of the Higher Self, that there is an agreement between eastern and western science, conflicting with each other in their methods, that there is a mass of evidence compiled by western scientific men, which can be cited as showing the recognition by Science of the Higher Self, of the existence of a Jivatma, a living Spirit, a living intelligence in man, and that the Spirit finds an ever imperfect instrument for expressing itself in the body of man. I want to show you how the face of Modern Science to-day is turned in a different direction from that in which it was turned some 20 or 30 years ago, I want to show you that there is a growing idea in the West, that man in the waking consciousness is but a small fragment of the real man, that man transcends his body, that man is greater than his waking mind and consciousness, that there is evidence in plenty, daily forthcoming from most unexpected quarters, to show that human consciousness is far larger and fuller than the consciousness expressed through the physical brain. This idea of a larger consciousness, larger than the normal waking consciousness in man, the consciousness hitherto recognised in modern psychology, is one that has not only been suggested but is now beginning to be recognised by Modern Science in the West. Such is then the reason for putting these two phrases together "Modern Science" and the "Higher Self." 




  Now, I ought to define what I mean by the "Higher Self." I am not using the phrase in the strictly technical sense which you find in the Theosophical literature, that is to say, the Jivatma in man. I am using it for the whole expression of that Jivatma above the physical. I am using it for everything which transcends the brain consciousness, which finds the brain too coarse and dense an instrument for its expression. I am using it, in short, to imply what generally goes under the term "larger consciousness." If we can show definitely that experimental science has recognised human consciousness to be stronger, more energetic, more lively than the consciousness working in the physical brain, if we can prove the existence of yet higher realms, we shall enter on a path which leads to the highest invisible worlds. We climb step by step and see the larger consciousness unfolding itself more and more, stretching over an immense expanse, till at last we reach that, to which men in every clime have always aspired, till the spiritual aspirations of man are vindicated. Such is the promise of infinite expansion which lies in the domain of an enquiry into the consciousness of man. The particular branch of Modern Science which thus comes into touch with the Ancient Science is that of psychology. Psychology in its modern form climbing from below by way of experiment comes into touch with the ancient psychology of the East; and this is a science of immemorial antiquity, whereas modern psychology is an infant science in the West. Not that the West had no psychology; inthe Middle Ages and in the centuries that went before them there was a psychology, but that psychology was repudiated in modern days. So that if you go back some thirty or some five and thirty years, you will find it distinctly stated by the representative European thinkers that no psychology could be regarded as sane which was not based on the science of physiology. 




  The Higher Self is the consciousness beyond the physical, the larger, wider, greater consciousness which is our real Self, the Self of which the consciousness in the brain is only the faintest of reflections. This body of ours is only a house in which we dwell for our physical work; we hold the key of the body; we should put it in the lock by Yoga, and try and release the imprisoned consciousness. We are greater than we appear to be; we are formed in the divine image; we live not in this world only but also in other worlds; our consciousness outstretches the physical. In this planet of mud our foot is planted, but our heads touch the heavens; they are bathed in the light of the spiritual world far above, in the world unseen, bathed in the light of our God.