HUMAN LIFE AT HIGH ALTITUDES
[The Theosophist, Vol. II, No. 8, May, 1881, p. 180]
Doubt has been expressed of the correctness of the statement that Indian Yogis have lived and still reside at extreme altitudes in the Himalayas. It has been averred that the rarefication of the atmosphere is so great at the high plateaux of 15,000 and more feet above sea level that no human beings could exist there for any length of time. Still in the Sabhapati Swami’s little treatise on Raja-Yoga* he declares that he was permitted to visit some of these holy recluses in the snowy peaks, and at p. 92 of our Vol. I [The Theosophist], another Swami, known to us as a man of credibility, states (see article on “Badrinâth, the Mysterious”) that from that sacred temple may sometimes be seen far up the icy and inaccessible heights men of venerable presence who are permanently engaged there in “sacred pursuits . . . quite unknown to the world.” Science has now happily determined that life can be supported there without serious discomfort after a course of preparative training. In Nature for March 17, 1881, a recent lecture of Mr. Edward Whymper, the daring explorer of Chimborazo and Cotapaxi, is reported. He says that he spent twenty-one nights above 14,000 feet above the level of the sea; eight more above 15,000 feet; thirteen more above 16,000 feet; and one more at 19,450 feet. At first he experienced “mountain sickness,” an extreme physical lassitude, feverishness, intense thirst, difficulty of swallowing, an impediment in breathing. But
* [Entitled: Om. The Philosophy and Science of Vedânta and Râja-Yoga. 3rd ed. by Sirsh Chanda Vasu, Lahore, 1895.—Compiler.]
by the exercise of dogged pluck (will power) these symptoms were eventually overcome, and he and his party finished their memorable explorations in safety.* These facts are not cited because they were needed to fortify the belief of students of Indian Yoga science, but to show the Asiatic public in general that modern physical discovery is daily bringing to light fresh proofs that the assertions of Aryan philosophers respecting the reserved powers of man were not loosely and ignorantly made. Let us only wait patiently and we will all see these bold infidels of the West confessing that their grandest discoveries were anticipated many ages ago by these ancients whom they now dare to stigmatise as ignorant theorists.
* [This account may be found in Vol. XXIII of the English Journal Nature, under date given above, entitled “On the Practicability of Living at Great Elevations above the Level of the Sea,” being excerpts from E. Whymper’s lecture to the Society of Arts, in the Theatre at So. Kensington, March 9, 1881.—Compiler.]