Kill Out the Worm of Sense

Yogi in Meditation

“The Self of Matter and the SELF of Spirit can never meet. One of the twain must disappear; there is no place for both.

“Ere thy Soul’s mind can understand, the bud of personality must be crushed out; the worm of sense destroyed past resurrection.”

“The Voice of the Silence” p. 13, translated by H.P. Blavatsky from The Book of the Golden Precepts

“He is possessed of spiritual knowledge whose senses are withheld from objects of sense.”

Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, p. 20, Theosophy Company edition

“Kill out desire for sensation.”

“Having obtained the use of the inner senses, having conquered the desires of the outer senses, having conquered the desires of the individual soul, and having obtained knowledge, prepare now, O disciple, to enter upon the way in reality. The path is found: make yourself ready to tread it.”

“Light on the Path” p. 2, 12-13, also derived from The Book of the Golden Precepts

In the Yogacharya Buddhist scripture known as the Uttara Tantra or Ratnagotravibhaga, one of the works of Aryasangha, the senses are spoken of as “the entrances.” It takes only a moment’s thought to realise that this is an undeniable fact; our senses are the entrances through which all sorts of influences, impressions, and images, enter into our mind and even, in some cases, into our very soul.

The above quotes are just a few of the veritable multitude of such statements and words of advice that can be found throughout the religious/philosophical literature of the East, ancient India, and the modern Theosophical Movement. The Bhagavad Gita is pervaded with such references to the absolute necessity and vital importance of completely mastering, conquering, and controlling one’s senses, keeping them always in abeyance, ever restrained and restricted.

“The Voice of the Silence” – a small but powerful book, treasured highly by students of Theosophy – uses the unforgettable term “the worm of sense.” This “worm” is to be “destroyed past resurrection.” Very strong words indeed and injunctions which are unappealing and offputting to many of its readers, hence HPB’s having dedicated it “TO THE FEW.” It says more besides, such as:

“Having become indifferent to objects of perception, the pupil must seek out the Rajah of the senses, the Thought-Producer, he who awakes illusion.

“The Mind is the great Slayer of the Real.

“Let the Disciple slay the Slayer.” (p. 1-2)

“Kill thy desires, Lanoo, make thy vices impotent, ere the first step is taken on the solemn journey.

“Strangle thy sins, and make them dumb for ever, before thou dost lift one foot to mount the ladder.

“Silence thy thoughts and fix thy whole attention on thy Master, whom yet thou dost not see, but whom thou feelest.

“Merge into one sense thy senses, if thou would’st be secure against the foe. ‘Tis by that sense alone which lies concealed within the hollow of thy brain, that the steep path which leadeth to thy Master may be disclosed before thy Soul’s dim eyes.” (p. 17-18)

“Thou shalt not let thy senses make a playground of thy mind.” (p. 54)

“Before the Soul can see, the Harmony within must be attained, and fleshly eyes be rendered blind to all illusion.” (p. 2)

“Shun ignorance, and likewise shun illusion. Avert thy face from world deceptions: mistrust thy senses; they are false. But within thy body – the shrine of thy sensations – seek in the Impersonal for the “Eternal Man”; and having sought him out, look inward: thou art Buddha.” (p. 28-29)

“The Dhyana gate is like an alabaster vase, white and transparent; within there burns a steady golden fire, the flame of Prajna that radiates from Atma.

“Thou art that vase.

“Thou hast estranged thyself from objects of the senses, travelled on the “Path of seeing”, on the “Path of hearing”, and standest in the light of Knowledge.” (p. 70)

Our senses – the sense of sight, sense of hearing, sense of smell, sense of taste, sense of touch and feeling – do of course serve a purpose and we are to use them for their right and proper purpose, which is to enable us to interact properly with things and people here on this physical plane. If we are in physical incarnation, we need to be able to successfully manage our physical affairs.

We all know, however, if we are honest with ourselves, that the senses are indeed like a worm, a worm that is frequently crawling and wriggling in various different directions, seeking satisfaction and gratification, no matter how brief or fleeting.

Unless the senses are deliberately conquered, controlled, restrained, restricted, and consciously put at the service of the Higher Manas principle, the “soul” part of our being, they will almost always be used by and working for the Kama principle, the Kamic or passional part of our being, the desire nature known figuratively as the “animal soul.” This is by no means who and what we truly and really are but we foolishly allow it to dominate us and empower it to obscure and suppress our true, higher, spiritual nature by letting our senses get what they want for the pleasure of our Kamic aspect.

“The Self of Matter and the SELF of Spirit can never meet.” We must know by now that the sensual and the spiritual do not mix, have never mixed, and can never mix. Manas, the Mind, cannot go in two opposite directions at once. It can only ever go either up or down…raised in consciousness towards the spiritual and divine or lowered and dragged down in consciousness towards the things of matter and the senses.

All the sages and wise men of the West as well as the East have been repeating these things for millennia. They say it because they know it. These are timeless and easily demonstrable truths, not misguided opinions or outdated ideas.

The senses of sight and hearing are perhaps the most difficult to master.

In each of us, the worm of sense has different tastes and thirsts for different kinds of sustenance. For one, it may be a seemingly ineradicable and continually repeated desire to hear certain sorts of music or specific songs, even when we know them to be far from spiritual and to have the opposite of an inwardly uplifting effect on us.

For another, it may be the apparent inability to tear the eyes away from the photo of a beautiful woman or handsome man which one might happen to see somewhere, perhaps on the internet or in a magazine or on an advert in a shop window. To grant the worm of sense just a moment’s brief glance can be enough to keep it happy but to deny it what it wants and what it is used to feeding upon is liable to provoke or enrage it. It may draw one’s gaze and attention back to a picture or an image on the television with a seemingly magnetic and irresistible force.

These are only a few examples. Many more will readily suggest themselves to our minds and from our own personal experiences and weaknesses.

“So long as the desire, however small, of a man for woman is not destroyed, so long his mind clings like a suckling calf to its mother,” said the Buddha (The Dhammapada, Chapter 20, p. 66, Theosophy Company edition). The fully Enlightened One also taught that “Restraint in the eye is good; good is restraint in the ear; restraint in the nose is good; good is restraint in the tongue; in the body restraint is good; good is restraint in speech; in the mind restraint is good; good is restraint in all things. A Bhikkhu who is restrained in all things is free from all pain.” (The Dhammapada, Chapter 25, p. 84)

As we have seen, we must become estranged from objects of the senses. Look at everything you need to look at but not everything you want to look at. Besides, it is not really YOU who wants to look at these sense-satisfying things but rather your lower self, which is not your real and Higher Self. You are the Atman. You are pure eternal Spirit. In the highermost part of your being, you have no desires and no sensual impulses. So why identify yourself with something so false and so foreign to your true essential nature?

Kill out the worm of sense now, rather than letting it hinder you any longer. Crush it and kill it by starving it. Guard carefully those entrances which we call the senses, lest anything should enter in which has no place within the pure white temple of the soul. “He is possessed of spiritual knowledge whose senses are withheld from objects of sense.”

In “Notes on the Bhagavad Gita” p. 78-79, William Q. Judge quotes approvingly from the second chapter of the Hindu scripture the Sanat Sujatiya, which says, “He who, pondering on the Self, destroys the fugitive objects of sense, not even thinking of them through contempt for them, and who, being possessed of knowledge, destroys desires in this way, becomes, as it were, the death of Death itself, and swallows it up.”

No-one has ever claimed that it is easy to do these things, nor that it is quick of accomplishment. “The Voice of the Silence,” that textbook, handbook, or guidebook on the Path of Initiation and Enlightenment, says that the worm of sense is to be “destroyed past resurrection.”

We may think that we have at last destroyed it, only for it to resurrect itself when we least expect it, and this may happen many times. We should not grow discouraged or disheartened, for such a state of affairs is natural and only to be expected: “We have in the past generated, or created by thought, and re-inforced by action, numerous elemental beings of the nature of Prakriti. As long as our thought is in keeping with their natures, no great friction is observed; but when our thoughts fail to provide them with sustenance, the struggle for life begins, and must continue until these creatures of ours die, or are so changed as to cause no hindrance.” (Robert Crosbie, “The Friendly Philosopher” p. 78)

In the end, it must be so thoroughly and completely destroyed that it can never and will never raise its foul head again. The Mahatmas, the Masters of the Wisdom, have reached to this stage of attainment, and we may believe that Their Messengers – H.P. Blavatsky and William Quan Judge – have also.

This is not a popular message or teaching. True occultism or esotericism is very rarely popular or fashionable and has nothing glamorous about it. This appeals in no way to the world at large or to the vast majority of men and women, even many who describe themselves as “spiritual” but whose idea of spirituality is something comforting and self-affirming rather than challenging and self-denying. It does appeal to those whose overriding wish is to be a spiritual light in the world but who find themselves frustrated at how easily and frequently they are hindered in this by their lower nature.

“Thou canst not travel on the Path before thou hast become that Path itself,” says “The Voice of the Silence” (p. 14). And again:

“There is but one road to the Path; at its very end alone the Voice of the Silence can be heard. The ladder by which the candidate ascends is formed of rungs of suffering and pain; these can be silenced only by the voice of virtue. Woe, then, to thee, Disciple, if there is one single vice thou hast not left behind; for then the ladder will give way and overthrow thee; its foot rests in the deep mire of thy sins and failings, and ere thou canst attempt to cross this wide abyss of matter thou hast to lave thy feet in Waters of Renunciation. Beware lest thou should’st set a foot still soiled upon the ladder’s lowest rung. Woe unto him who dares pollute one rung with miry feet. The foul and viscous mud will dry, become tenacious, then glue his feet unto the spot; and like a bird caught in the wily fowler’s lime, he will be stayed from further progress. His vices will take shape and drag him down. His sins will raise their voices like as the jackal’s laugh and sob after the sun goes down; his thoughts become an army, and bear him off a captive slave.” (p. 16-17)

The more seriously and earnestly one attempts to tread the Path, the more painful one’s difficulties, struggles, and temptations will be. The fact that others have overcome is the proof that you can overcome. An intellectual interest in Theosophy is one thing; the practice and diligent application of Theosophy is quite another. It is not for the fainthearted.

It leads to the perpetual endeavour of purging, purifying, refining, elevating, and spiritualising our entire being, from within without.

And for what end? In order that we might become, to the fullest extent possible, true helpers of humanity, selfless and effective servers of the human race. In other words, that we may stand where the Masters stand.

Such a task cannot be accomplished in one lifetime. Those who are naturally drawn to it probably did not begin it in this lifetime either. They are simply picking up where they have previously left off and continuing the journey, the most selfless, noble, and compassionate of all.

If it be complained that this article seems to be promoting and endorsing asceticism, we will not deny the charge but will merely point out that there are such things as exoteric asceticism and esoteric asceticism, as HPB has stated in her article “Misconceptions.”

Exoteric asceticism – “the deification of suffering” as she calls it – is physical, whereas esoteric asceticism is mental and moral and its practitioner seeks “to allow his spiritual nature to control his material nature” by working on himself primarily on the plane of thought rather than the plane of body, since Theosophy often repeats that “thought is the real plane of action.” Everything is a matter of consciousness. It is not good to torture either body or mind but it is perhaps worse to allow body, senses, or mind, to torture us. We must take control and let us remember these words of H.P. Blavatsky in her article “Occultism versus the Occult Arts”:

“It is only when the power of the passions is dead altogether, and when they have been crushed and annihilated in the retort of an unflinching will; when not only all the lusts and longings of the flesh are dead, but also the recognition of the personal Self is killed out and the “astral” has been reduced in consequence to a cipher, that the Union with the “Higher Self” can take place. Then when the “astral” reflects only the conquered man, the still living, but no more the longing, selfish personality, then the brilliant Augoeides, the divine SELF, can vibrate in conscious harmony with both the poles of the human Entity – the man of matter purified, and the ever pure Spiritual Soul – and stand in the presence of the MASTER SELF, the Christos of the mystic Gnostics, blended, merged into, and one with IT for ever.”

~ Blavatsky Theosophy Group UK ~

SOME RELATED ARTICLES: The Personal Self in the Light of Theosophy, The Two Paths, The Whitewashing of Black Magic, Theosophy on the Sex Problem, Theosophy on Sexual Relations, Procreation, and Purity, The Daily Initiation, Helpful Hints for Spiritual Progress, Elementals and the Astral Light, The Sevenfold Nature of Man, The Devotional Books, The Theosophy of the Bhagavad Gita, Practical Theosophy, Meditation Advice, The Psychic is not the Spiritual, The Third Eye and the Pineal Gland, The Masters and Madame Blavatsky, Who are you, Madame Blavatsky?, Who was William Quan Judge?, The Man Who Rescued Theosophy, 12 Things Theosophy Teaches, Christos – The Christ Principle, and Theosophy – An Explanation and Overview.

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