Yoga, or Transformation

Lately, it seems like the whole world is going stir-crazy on the commercialization of yoga, or debating what it is and what it’s not, and if it’s lost its soul. I have taken refuge in going back in time, as far as possible, and for some reason found some solace in reading what people who have come before us–people who probably didn’t even practice yoga (as we know it), or consider themselves yogis–have to say about this nebulous thing called yoga.

These are the first and last sentences of Yoga, or, Transformation – a comparative statement of the various religious dogmas concerning the soul and its destiny, and of Akkadian, Hindu, Taoist, Egyptian, Hebrew, Greek, Christian, Mohammedan, Japanese and other magic, by William J. Flagg. Published in 1898 in New York.

An enquiry such as this book attempts, into the nature and destiny of the soul of man, must needs begin with at least a brief review of the theories respecting it which have been offered by the various great religions of the world, of which the oldest of all, so old that it may truly be called the mother of the others, is yet so new also that we now most commonly know it by the name of “modern spiritualism.”

Thus the possibility of improving method by simply intensifying sensation to a degree from which the practicer’s attention will not be able to escape, and where perfect and absolute concentration will be assured, is great enough to permit the conjecture that by this way of the senses alone yoga methods may at some age in the future attain such perfection that all will be allured to practice them, and that too in the thorough way that has heretofore distinguished only two or three in a century of even the thorough-going Hindu sages, and the whole race of man become yogis.

Can you imagine Mr. Flagg telling his friends the title of the book he’s working on, and the reaction he gets? And how beautiful is this writing by Lord Tennyson, that Mr. Flagg put it in on his cover page:

This has often come upon me through repeating my own name to myself silently till, all at once, as it were, out of the intensity of the consiousness of individuality, the individuality itself seemed to dissolve and fade away into boundless being, and this not a confused state, but the clearest of the clearest, the surest of the surest, utterly beyond words, where death was almost a laughable impossibility, the loss of personality (if so it were) seeming no extinction, but the only true life.

Apparently you can still buy a copy of this book from Amazon, or, you can read it for free on Google Books.