"It's not a spectator sport!"

There are many customs that have existed in different countries for ages which have some psychical significance, and yet scarcely anybody knows about it. Customs in the form of greeting one another, and asking after one another’s health, even such habits as that of talking about the weather, arise from a psychical basis. This shows that the ancient people, the in East or in the West, had more magic in their lives than the man of today. The world has lost the magical charm, so to speak, which was the inheritance of the human race, owing to the ever increasing material life and the ignorance of things that are beyond matter.

It is of late that science is discovering some psychological truths in human life. The process that science follows in discovering these truths is contrary to that of the mystic. The scientist wishes to climb the mountain from the level ground. The mystic, by the way of meditation, tries to reach the summit of the mountain, and from there he sees the whole beauty of the mountain. Therefore, naturally, the horizon before the eyes of the mystic is incomparably wider than the horizon before the scientist. Yes, the scientist may see things clearly, distinctly, and in detail, whereas the mystic has a general idea of things. Often the vision of the mystic is vague in comparison with the analytical examination of a scientist. And yet, while the mystic sees through objects the scientist can reach as far as their surface.

Owing to the greater activity in Western life all things change more quickly in the West, while in the East changes come very slowly. Therefore, one finds many customs of ancient origin in the East which shows the development of Eastern people in psychical things. Even ordinary customs, such as that of shaking hands, or rising from one’s seat to receive someone, bowing, bending, waving the hands, or clapping the hands, have a psychical significance. When two people shake hands with one another magnetism is exchanged between them and a balance of life-force is made between them. The one who lacks strength, energy, or magnetic power gains, and through the one from whom they overflow they are used for a better purpose. By rising to show respect to a person, and by walking a few steps to receive a person, a man makes himself ready to withstand the forces of the one who is coming. By standing up and walking a step or two he makes his pulsation regular and puts his circulation in order, thus making himself psychically and morally ready to defend himself if the one who is coming should happen to be a foe, and ready to meet him harmoniously and on the same level, physically, mentally, and morally, if he happens to be a friend. Bending the head in a bow quickens not only the circulation in the head but also the magnetic current in it, for the head is the chief moral and spiritual factor in man. You will always find that a person with a tendency to bow is thoughtful, and it often happens that the one who keeps his head erect and avoids bowing is foolish. Man’s life depends upon rhythm, and rhythm in his breath, in the pulsation, in the beats of the heart and head, and it is irregularity of the rhythm of his heart or of his pulse that shows disorder in this health. It is regularity of rhythm that keeps man in a fit stage to go on through life. And when people applaud a speaker, a singer, or a player, it is a suggestion for him to continue his rhythm, physical, mental, or moral. Even the waving of the hand in parting from a friend suggests the same meaning: continue to be in a fit state to live and enjoy life. There is a custom in the East that when a person is yawning a friend by his side claps his hands or snaps his fingers. Yawning naturally makes the rhythm slow, it is going down, so to speak, and the clapping of the hands or the snapping of the fingers on the part of the friend is suggestive of continuing the same rhythm as before. Different peoples have different customs, and customs that one is not in the habit of seeing seem not only strange and meaningless but often also ridiculous. It is the work of the seer to see into things and it is this way of viewing that is called insight.

4 Customs (2)

There are different customs in greeting, and in every custom there is some suggestion that explains some psychical meaning behind it. The Hindus greet by joining the palms of the hands which has the significance of perfection, since the right hand represents the positive power and the left hand the negative power, and when the positive and negative are joined together this sums up in perfection. The idol of Buddha, which is worshipped by million of people in the world, signifies perfection—sitting cross legged with the two palms joining, the eyes closed, all of which shows that the negative and positive powers are united and made into one. The greeting of the Chinese is the clasping of the hands, either touching the clasped hands of the other, which means that the perfection of power from both should meet, And for the same reason the Arabs shake hands with both hands, for giving one hand is like giving half of one’s magnetism, but by giving both hands you show that you keep nothing back. The Persians touch the heart, which suggests the friendly feeling expressed from the bottom of the heart, that the greeting is not merely superficial, that it comes from the very depth of feeling. Among a great many people belonging to different parts of the world there is a custom of greeting by embracing one another, and no doubt there is a great psychical meaning in this. The two arms are the two directions of magnetic power, positive and negative, and in the breast is the centre of these two powers. And the custom is that they embrace twice, distinctly on the right and left sides. This is also the exchange of Prana, the very life, the centre of which is in the breast. There is a custom in Persia and in India that when a younger person greets an older one he bows his head, bringing it closer to his breast, and the elder person, taking his arms, raises him up as if the younger person wanted from the elder person, love light and life, and the elder person gives it to him and raises him with it. It also suggests a sentiment of modesty and humility on the part of the one, and help and encouragement on the part of the other.

Customs have sometimes been much exaggerated, and yet, if the sentiment is a true one, no external expression can ever be exaggeration. Among people of religion and culture in all periods of civilization there has been a custom of kissing the hand. The custom has originated from a natural instinct in life. What smells good the animal wants to bite first, and everything that interests the infant it puts in its mouth first. That shows that the lips are the most sensitive part in man and they are capable of giving and taking life, which may be called magnetism. Therefore the greatest fondness that one can show to another in greeting can be shown by kissing the hands. This custom can be seen all over the world, in the East and in the West.

If a skeleton plan of man’s spirit be drawn one can draw it as a sun in the midst of five rays shooting out around, one straight upwards, two at the sides rising upwards, and two downwards, and it is this which makes the five-pointed star. Man’s head, two arms, and two legs are the outward expression of these rays. The idea of the Hindus in touching the holy feet of the saint is to reach first the rays that can first be reached, and when one reaches these first two rays, the three other rays naturally fall over his head, when the saint puts his arms over his head and bends his head while blessing, looking at the centre of the head of the one who is blessed.

5 Hanuman

There is a custom in the East of offering oil to Hanuman, the idol that is pictured in the image of a monkey, and this idol is worshipped by pouring oil upon it. This custom can be seen also at Indian weddings; maidens anoint with oil the head, shoulders, arms and hands, and knees and feet of the bride and bridegroom. One sees this custom in some churches, for instance in the Catholic Church. In Russia there was a custom of anointing the Tsar’s forehead with oil on the day of his coronation.

Oil has significance of softening. Leather, iron or steel is made softer or smoother by putting oil on it. Anointing, as is done in India, is a psychical suggestion to the bride and bridegroom that the hands and feet of each shall be ready to server the other, and that they shall not show themselves stiff, one to the other, that if there were any hardness in their nature it should be softened, since harmony is the blessing of a home; it teaches that forgiveness is required for becoming friends and keeping friendship; as one’s mate is not so flexible and docile as one’s one imagination conceives.

The idol of Hanuman is suggestive of primitive nature in man, and in the pouring of oil in the service of Hanuman there is a lesson for the worshipper to learn. However great your evolution may be, regard and consideration for the primitive nature is necessary, for all adjust itself in the wider scheme of nature. When man stands with his hands folded in humility before the image of a monkey, there is in this some lesson for him to learn; that life is such that with all your evolution you lack something if you have no regard to the primitive nature that is in man. Christ has taught, “Resist not evil’, and ‘If one sue thee for thy coat, give him thy cloak also.’ This teaches the same lesson, that life becomes difficult without regard and consideration for the primitive nature. By resentment one partakes of it, by rebelling against it one gives fuel to that fire. One should soften it in oneself and in another by wisdom, patience, and gentleness.

The anointing of the forehead of the king signifies that he should have an easy expression, not frowning brows and a puckered face, but a smiling forehead, as the Persian phrase is. Poor and rich, all must come to the king in their troubles and difficulties, and his glance must comfort them and bring them ease. The great lesson one can learn from this custom is that the great education in life is to soften one’s feelings, one’s thoughts, words and actions. That they may give ease to ourselves and that we may create an atmosphere of ease that may benefit all who come in contact with us.

COMMENTARY

By Connie Zareen

I think there is more magic available in the world than there has ever been. It just takes the right kind of eyes to see it. Today, when the mystic climbs the mountain of self-knowing, he has a far greater perspective with which to see the wonders of the world -- even of the universe and of time itself.

The magic of our modern perspective is that we know about molecules, quantum particles, galaxies, psychology, archeology, and sociology. The realization that all is one covers huge territory in the heart and mind of an educated person.

Because we know of history and psychology we can see how it is a shared experience to be a human being. We are individuals, yes, but our experience of life is one. We evolve as a race by the cultivation and growth of culture. When this is realized, magic can be consciously cultivated in groups of people as they meet.

Like the beautiful poem about Kabir:

To whom shall I go to learn about my beloved?
Kabir says:
As you may never find the forest if you ignore the tree
So he may never be found in abstractions

Magic is found between people. Humanity as a whole is composed of people. To love you have to love a person. We can’t just love humanity as a whole, because that becomes an abstraction, and then it is only in the head. An abstraction doesn’t inspire a true sincerity of heart. Love, harmony and goodness are things that happen between people. Relationship itself can be grown and nurtured like a garden. Conversation and peace grows between us when we cultivate it, like harmonizing a field between us.

The cultures of the world all have many beautiful customs that help us to cultivate the magnetic field that exits between us as human beings. These traditions all arose from the wisdom of the individuals who brought them to us. The beauty of these customs, after they are established in a culture, is that they can be practiced by people who have not taken the time or energy to reach higher states on their own. Without spending tremendous effort, the majority of people in a culture are able to benefit from the wisdom of the ages when they practice their customs.

Customs aren’t necessarily going to do the trick for us any more. Today’s world requires more effort and alertness because many of our customs are no longer serving their purpose, and new customs have not arisen to take their place. To some this is a scary and dangerous situation. But as modern and educated people we have all have the urgent inspiration of an authentic self that is interested in creating a future of beauty; a future that is full of life and profound possibilities.

We have the opportunity of seeing our conditionings as being not as useful as they used to be. From the point of view of enlightenment, this is a really good thing, because it means it is time to stop our endless waiting. It’s a great incentive to get on with our most important spiritual work.

 In fact, not moving forward from our conditionings is causing quite a crisis in the world. It even looks desperate to some! From the point of view of the ego, we are in quite a helpless situation. But we have more available to us than the small views of the ego. The authentic part of our being has the energy and interest to jump into this new adventure with a kind of hope that has never before been expressed. It is something we can cultivate together, and our ability to cultivate it consciously is unprecedented in history.

This movement from the ego to the authentic self can be a movement that seeks out the beauty of all past customs, learns to truly understand them from a heightened perspective, and preserves the beauty of the past in a great coming together in the future.

Alhumdulillah!