Contributed by Swami Kriyamurti Saraswati, nee Julia Bailey, UK

This year marks an important turning point in the history of Ireland and the whole of Europe. On the 21st of this month Swami Satyananda Saraswati will inaugurate the mammoth International Yoga Convention in Dublin, attended by spiritual leaders, teachers and seekers from all over the world. This convention marks the culmination of Swamiji's European Tour. He has been conducting programs in all the major cities from Athens to London with the purpose of reminding the European people of their ancient heritage which was also tantric in origin, and to reconnect them with their true spiritual source.

Long before the history books were written, beneath the factories, hotels, banks and hospitals of today, there existed another Europe, another culture, another past. You may catch a glimpse of it if you visit the old burial mounds and magic circles at Dartmoor, or if you stand in the stone circle of Stonehenge on a midsummer's night.

Another culture was alive in Europe during pre-Christian times, when the spiritual law givers were the Druids, a sect of priests who developed their consciousness in accordance with the higher laws. Their interests were not political. They possessed a deep understanding of nature and a knowledge of astrology, natural theology, physical science and medicine, using prana as a healing power. Their science stemmed from a strictly ascetic way of life. Many of the priests retired from monastic life into caves to pray and meditate, emerging only occasionally to conduct initiations and ceremonies.

Druid rituals were held at auspicious power points or sites determined by divination, dreams, intuition, and the position of the sun, moon and stars.

These points were connected by the leys, a system of or pranic pathways, it is interesting that Glastonbury site of the first Christian Church, was built on one of these lines of energy. The abbey's main axis points directly towards Stonehenge. Stonehenge was constructed by the Druids on an astrological basis, the stones lining up in accordance with the equinox and the solstices. It was a megalithic storehouse for pranic energy used as a solar observatory and also a receiving station for direct influences from the spiritual world.

This much we know, but there was much more of which no written record remains. Ancient monuments and relics unearthed from archaeological excavations reveal an ancient world culture which was closely linked with the science of tantra. They point to a time when man was not separate from nature, but knew himself to be an evolving part of the earth's mystery. He identified with the cosmos, and in the stillness and simplicity of his mind, looked deep within and saw the godhead mirrored in his own soul. Of this ancient civilisation there remains only an echo, in the Indians of North and South America the aborigines of Australia, the pre-Christian mythology of Europe, and the yogis and rishis of India.

In this ancient culture each aspect of the mind, every emotion, every human aspiration was embodied as a god or a goddess. There was a goddess of wisdom, of music, and art; a god of creation and of destruction. Countless characters formed part of the human consciousness. Any desire, strife or experience of daily life had some precedent in the ancient myths, and no crime was so terrible that it was not described. Through all the old symbolism, human behaviour in all its facets was explained and the workings of the mind were thus recognised and understood.

Unfortunately, when the Christians swept through Europe most of this ancient symbology was stamped out. The pagan festivals and rituals were converted into Christian celebrations, and the power spots into Christian monasteries and churches. The myths handed down from father to son for ages gone by were replaced by new stories about the modern world. Literature which is the expression of the soul of the people became more and more artificial, doomed to die with the passing of the fashion and divorced from the issues of emancipation and evolution of soul.

European people have been inhibited and prevented from spiritual, enquiry for hundreds of years. For them, spiritual life meant the Church which was always closely associated with politics and the personal struggles of the reigning king. For example, King Henry VIII of England declared himself Supreme Head of the Church of England, independent of the rest of Europe, because he wanted to divorce his wife. In the sixteenth century the religion changed from Catholic to Protestant time and time again, according to who was on the throne at the time. Church and state were inseparable. Religious standards were set by the king and breaches in moral or religious conduct were punished by him. To dispute the religion meant to dispute the king. There was no room for spiritual inspiration or freedom of worship and so the people lost sight of the broader meaning of existence.

Christ's original message was sublime and liberating. He told the people, "Follow me and the kingdom of heaven will be yours." He said, "The kingdom is within, waiting like a seed to grow and burst out of the earth." He taught them that the external world is transient, but through the awakening of wisdom and love man can unite with his higher self. He showed his followers how to live in accordance with the spiritual laws but unfortunately his message was always closely guarded or else shrouded in parables. The techniques which he himself practised and the knowledge which was revealed to him by the masters who trained him in his earlier life were never disclosed. The people were not given a clear path to follow, nor one which was suitable to their stage of spiritual development. We must bear in mind that Christ himself was a sannyasin, a renunciate, not a householder, and his way of life was very difficult for the more worldly minded aspirants to follow.

Thus the message of Christ gradually became distorted. The people intellectually understood the dharmic laws that he preached, but being unable to attain his expanded state of awareness, they could not follow them correctly. A person who has expanded awareness will automatically live in accordance with the higher laws. But one who hasn't yet reached that expanded state of awareness must first practise something to expand his awareness. Guilt complexes and suppression can only result from trying to live a life in accordance with the laws of a higher state of consciousness which has not yet been realised for oneself.

If you look into European history you will see that all the great wars have been fought Christian against Christian - even though Christ himself said, "If someone slaps your right cheek, turn your face and offer him your left cheek also." These wars occurred because the people knew the spiritual laws but they did not have the realisation, the light to put them into practice correctly. It is not enough to know what is right and what is wrong. A scientific system of consciousness expansion is required whereby the people can be uplifted and illumined, can actually experience the higher life for themselves.

Now it is not an archaeological excavation that is needed but a spiritual excavation, a turning of the mind inwards. Let us awaken the psychic powers that are lying within. Let us untie the knot which binds church and state and proclaim that the inner life is something no politician can control. It is something strictly personal and individual, and we must be free to express our own soul, which can never be the same as an other's. It is not through psychoanalysis that we can understand the mind; nor is it through morals and ethics as dictated by any religious system. We can no longer confine ourselves to any dogma - we have outgrown all that. The do's and don'ts of religion are an anachronism. We must rediscover the whole man, with all his desires, passions and emotions. Once we explode all the good and bad inclinations that are dwelling latent in our subconscious, then we will come to know what is Man. This is the way of tantra, and its vast and well preserved system of practices is known as yoga.

Tantra is the discovery of the universal man who dwells somewhere beneath all these layers of civilisation It is a move away from social manners, etiquette and accepted forms of education which stifle the freedom of the individual to sing the song of his own soul.

Swamiji once met a Catholic priest in India who was practising yoga. He asked him what he had gained from his association with yoga. The priest replied, "Yoga and Christianity are not opposed to one another. In a sense they are not even different. I find that what Christianity lacks, yoga supplements. Yoga adds beauty and depth to my spiritual life."