The universe is bliss and light
Koestler, for instance, wants to explain away great discoveries in science. He says, “Oh well, they think of some very simple thing in a different field and it suddenly gives them a suggestion of something new in their own problem.” But this is quite untrue, in many of the most important cases. Pasteur, for instance was experimenting with this anthrax. He created the culture, and when the chickens were inoculated they would die very quickly. He was trying to find some means to prevent this. Well, he prepared a culture of this, and it was left, so the culture was practically dead and the assistant was going to throw it away. Now, Pasteur made a most extraordinary statement. He gave an order completely contrary to the logic of his own thought, which was that the bacteria were either active or dead. These were dying. He said, “Inoculate the chicken; we’ll see.”
That order’s never been explained. It was against the logic of the situation, and against the logic of his own theories as they were then. So with this dying culture, the assistant inoculated the chicken, which sickened, and then recovered. By that time the assistant had prepared another culture of fully virulent bacteria, as they called them, microbes, and Pasteur gave another extraordinary order. He said, “Now inoculate that same chicken with the full strength.” Which they did, and the chicken was not affected.
Now, these two orders which were given; it wasn’t chance. If it had been inoculated by accident, and then Pasteur had observed what had happened, that would have been chance; a chance discovery. But he gave two orders. Pasteur’s comment is often quoted: “Chance favours the prepared mind.” True. But this wasn’t chance and if you come to think of it, chance doesn’t favour anything. If it does, it’s not chance. Chance doesn’t favour the skilled card player. He uses the chance, but he makes decisions. Now, this was a revolutionary discovery, and we say medicine is before Pasteur and after Pasteur. Pasteur was a very religious man who practiced meditation on light, on realms of light, and got inspiration in those states of meditation, and then came back and confirmed them by very careful experiments. He also had a genius for the dramatic demonstration.
He was a man who lived yogically, who lived a very Yogic life. When he was a student in Paris, he lived like a Brahmachari; never went to the brothels with the other students. Even when he was very famous, he was a very modest man. He was invited to London, to a great medical conference. At that time, the Prince of Wales was very popular and Pasteur was asked to get in his seat in good time, because then the Prince of Wales would come – and at that time it was the custom to cheer the Prince of Wales when he arrived. Pasteur thought he was in time, but as he came in, the cheering started, and he realised [he was late]. So he was hobbling to his seat, as he’d had a stroke. The chairman, Sir James Paget, caught him by the arm; he said, “No so fast, Monsieur Pasteur.” Pasteur said, “I’m awfully sorry. The Prince of Wales, the cheering’s begun.” He said, “They’re not cheering the Prince of Wales. They’re cheering you.”
He had this humility and modesty, which are great factors in Yoga training. And he had this purity and he had these meditation experiences of light, so that his life is an example of a man who, by himself, discovered certain elements of the yoga training, although it was not complete. He still had this tremendous aggressiveness towards the traditional enemies of his country.
There is something deeper, which is called ‘ānanda’; bliss. You can say, “How can you say bliss is the basis of the universe? It would be truer to say that suffering, pain, tearing, destruction, is the basis.” All the arguments for the existence of a benevolent god can be reversed. You can say, “From inert matter, God creates life, and brings life forward into greater complexity. Information, complexity can’t arise spontaneously. It is a fundamental rule of information theory. There is a source of order, which has produced increasing complexity in life. This is an indication of the existence of God.” But that argument can be completely reversed. You can say “No” – and this was the view that used to overcome sceptics like Russel from time to time. He called it “Satanic mysticism”, in his own words. You can think of the universe, yes, with an intelligence, but destructive – it only allows life to come up in order to destroy it. Everything you see is destroyed; up it comes, then destroyed. All these intellectual arguments in the end are unsatisfactory.
There is something deeper. Well, how can we say that the universe could be bliss and light? Well, one example that is given nowadays, which couldn’t be given before, is the cinema. What you see on the cinema – or I suppose on the television – can affect you profoundly. You can see terrible things; you could see wonderful things. You can see ennobling things and degrading things. But all this is a play of light. In the deepest meditation experience, the universe is experienced as a play of light, like that and if you look at some of the descriptions that have been given, you can see. They describe it as best they can. They all say that the words don’t describe it, but they’re the best they can do, as light, as changes of light. We can say, “Well, what good is this going to do us?” It brings a change into our experience of the world. People don’t see, don’t feel, don’t experience the things of the world. It’s dull and it’s numb.
© Trevor Leggett
Titles in this series are:
Part 1 : Progressive Meditation The 5 Sheaths
Part 3 : Yogic meditation is to go deeper
Part 5 : The universe is bliss and light