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The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali - Book 2 - The Steps to Union
20. The seer is pure knowledge (gnosis). Though pure, he looks upon the presented idea through the medium of the mind.

Reference has already been made to the excellent translation of this sutra as given by Johnston which runs as follows:

"The seer is pure vision. Though pure, he looks out through the vesture of the mind."

Ganganatha Jha throws still further light upon it in the words:

"The spectator is absolute sentience, and though pure, still beholds intellected ideas."

The thought conveyed is that the true man, the spectator, perceiver or thinker is the sum total of all perception, be it through the avenues of the senses or of the lower mind; he is in himself knowledge, clear vision or true perception. All that exists in the three worlds exists because of and for him; he is the cause of its being and when he no longer seeks it or endeavors to vision it, for him it exists not. This sutra is one of the key verses in the book, and gives the clue to the entire science of yoga. Certain thoughts lie hid in its formulation which cover the whole ground of this science and students would do well to give much attention to this. It has a mantric effect and if stated as an affirmation and used constantly by the aspirant will eventually demonstrate to him the truth of the statement that "as a man thinketh, so is he."

"I am pure knowledge. Though pure, I look [161] upon presented ideas through the medium of the mind."

We have here:

1. The seer or the one who looks on and considers (from his divine standpoint) this world of effects, this great maya of illusion,

2. The presented idea. The thought conveyed here is that every form which passes before the spectator in the great panorama of life in the three worlds is a "presented-idea," and that these presented ideas are therefore embodied thoughts of some kind and must be regarded as such. The task of the occultist is to work with the force which lies back of every form and not so much with the form which is but the effect of some cause. This method of endeavor can only be developed gradually. The spectator passes gradually from the forms and their true significance in his own immediate environment and in his own tiny world, through the various forms of the world process until the world of causes stands revealed to him, and the world of effects assumes a secondary position.

He perceives first the forms in the three worlds. Gradually then he becomes aware of that which caused them and of the type of force which brought them into being. Later he discovers the idea which they embody and, tracing them progressively onward or back to their originating source, he comes into touch with the great lives which are the cause of manifestation. He thus passes out of the realm of objectivity, out of the mental, emotional and physical worlds into the [162] realm of the soul or of the subjective cause of this triple manifestation. This is the world of ideas and therefore of pure knowledge, pure reason and divine mind. Later, at a very advanced stage he touches the one Life which synthesizes the many lives, the one Purpose which blends the many ideas into one homogeneous plan.

3. The mind. This is the instrument which the seer employs in order to perceive presented ideas or thought forms. For purposes of clarification it might be noted that the presented ideas fall into five groups of thought forms:

  1. The tangible objective forms in the physical world of every day. With these the seer has for long identified himself in the earlier and more savage stages of human existence.
  2. The moods, feelings and desires, which all have form in the astral world, the world of the emotions.
  3. The thought forms in their myriad distinctions which crowd the mental world. Through these "presented ideas," the seer achieves knowledge of the not-self.
  4. The thought forms which he can create himself after he has learned to control his instrument the mind and can discriminate between the illusory world of present ideas and those realities which constitute the world of spirit. Through this process he arrives at a knowledge of himself. Throughout the great experience of knowing the not-self and knowing himself, he uses the mind as his medium of search, of explanation and of interpretation, for the senses and [163] all his channels of contact, telegraph constant information and reactions to the mind via the lower instrument of the brain. Having reached this stage the seer is then able to use the mind in a reverse manner. Instead of turning his attention to the not-self or the illusory world of effects and instead of studying his own lower nature, he can now, owing to the mental control achieved, arrive at the fifth stage:
  5. The ideas presented by the world of spiritual life, the realm of spiritual knowledge, and the kingdom of God in the truest sense.

Through this, the seer arrives at a knowledge of God as He is and comes to an understanding of the nature of spirit. The mind then serves a triple purpose:

  1. Through it, the seer looks out upon the realm of causes, the spiritual realm.
  2. By its means, the world of causes can be interpreted in terms of the intellect.
  3. By using it correctly, the seer can transmit to the physical brain of the lower personal self (the reflection in the world of effects of the true man) that which the soul sees and knows. This triangle is then formed and comes into working activity: The seer or spiritual man, the mind, his medium of investigation, or the window through which he looks out (whether upon the world of effects, upon himself, or upon the world of cause) and the brain, which is the receiving plate upon which the seer can impress his "pure knowledge" using the mind as an interpreter and transmitting agency. [164]
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