July 19, 2024
233 Bethnal Green Road, London, E2 6AB United Kingdom
Article Philosophy

FROM MI6 SPY TO YOGA TEACHER SIR PAUL DUKES

Words: Victor M. Parachin

In 1918, during the height of the Russian revolution which swept communists into power, the British government called into service Paul Dukes making him an MI6 spy and sending him to Russia. There, he first posed as an ordinary post office clerk, later an epileptic, and eventually ‘Comrade Alexander Bankau’, a soldier in the Automobile Section of the Russian Army. His work involved tracking activities of Bolshevik leaders, rebuilding the shattered spy network of MI6, sending regular dispatches about events in Russia back to the Home Office in London, reporting on living conditions in Russia, and monitoring movements of the Russian Baltic Fleet. To carry out his mission, Dukes became a master of disguises frequently changing his appearance and using more than a dozen names to conceal his identity.

Fascinatingly, it was during the time he was engaged in espionage activity in Russia, that Dukes discovered yoga. He later explained, “It was my good fortune, being interested in mystical subjects in general, to encounter certain ‘ Wise Men of the East,’ who were adepts in this mystical lore and from them I learned the first
principles of it.” He would return to Europe a highly respected teacher of yoga and the author of several books about the philosophy. Paul Dukes was born on February 10, 1889 in Somerset, England. After completing his education in England, he moved to St. Petersburg to study music. While he was living in that city,
Dukes was recruited to act as a British secret agent in Russia, largely because of his fluency in Russian. In 1920, Dukes returned to Britain as a distinguished hero and was knighted by King George V, who called Dukes the “greatest of all soldiers.” Dukes is one of the very few individuals knighted based entirely on British service in espionage. He was honoured with the title KBE- Knight Commander of The British Empire – and became known as Sir Paul Dukes. After returning to England, Dukes began teaching yoga as well as writing several books about the practice including ‘Yoga For The Western World’ and ‘The Yoga of Health, Youth and Joy: A Treatise on Hatha Yoga Adapted to the West’. A passionate teacher, he spoke enthusiastically about yoga saying:

“My personal observations over many years lead me to say with conviction, in speaking on the subject of the very ancient philosophy of Yoga, that many have found satisfaction in its common sense idealism after suffering disappointment in their search for enlightenment in other fields. It is a philosophy to which I myself owe much and I have seen it become of assistance to many who were left stranded and in despair from the confusion of voices in religious or philosophic societies.” He felt that Yoga was an extremely practical philosophy of life, which could be readily utilised for the good of all who practiced. “Yoga itself is not a religion in the Western sense and must not be confused with one. It has no dogma, no creed, no fixed form, no highest authority other than the original scripts, no church, no organisation, no imposed beliefs of any kind. Nor does it concern itself directly with the after-life. It concerns itself with this life, it believes in attaining heaven in this world. It is a practical philosophy for living healthily, happily, efficiently, longer, better, and in such a way as to radiate this happiness to others and thus make this world a better place to live in. I stress the term practical.”

"Yoga was an extremely practical philosophy of life, which could be readily utilised for the good of all who practiced".
  • In his book, ‘Yoga For The Western World’, Dukes stresses that yoga “increases” quality of life and cites these specifics:
  • Increased joy which “results from improved digestion, stimulation of the nervous system, and an all-around better state of health.
  • Increased energy with “less fatigue in performing them.”
  • Increased mental alertness which he describes as “a more lively response” to life and living.
  • Increased balance, poise, and self-control combined with “less tendency to fear or despondency arising from the troubles and difficulties of life.
  • Increased satisfaction knowing that “you spread hope and optimism to all with whom you come in contact, and thus help to make this world a happier place.”

Dukes concludes that ultimately “yoga seeks to train the physical instrument to a pitch of perfection that allows an infinitely greater development than can ever be possible by the most perfected methods of what is commonly known as physical culture.”

Additionally, Dukes carefully and methodically, explains that what is called “yoga” has a variety of branches, all designed to help a person achieve happiness and health as well as experience spiritual growth and evolution. Dukes identifies and explains seven of yoga’s various branches this way:

Raja yoga or meditation is “the study of consciousness with a view to discovering a permanent and unchanging consciousness which lies behind all these various forms of consciousness.”

Bhakti yoga is “the Yoga of love, of devotion, of worship.” Duke notes that because not every person is inclined to an intellectual approach to life, bhakti has a strong appeal for those who are “profoundly stirred by contemplation of the wonder and majesty of the universe and the mysteries of nature and life.”

Karma yoga involves “action or activity” and is especially appealing to “people whose natural temperament leads them to … action (and) find satisfaction in work, especially labours of an altruistic nature.”

Jnana yoga is the intellectual path where one explores spiritual texts and philosophies. “It is the approach of the scientific research worker, of people who are interested in accumulating knowledge of nature around them, who thus approach an understanding of God by accumulating data about His works. This is Jnana Yoga, the Yoga of knowledge and wisdom.”

Mantra yoga is “the Yoga of sound. Sound means vibration. Everything in the universe moves and exists through vibration.” Mantra yoga appeals to people whose meditative style is to repeat mantras to deepen the self and become close to the Divinity
within.

Laya yoga (sometimes referred to as Kundalini yoga) is “the study of energy as manifested in our physical organism. Where does our energy come from? Where is the powerhouse? What causes bodily heat? What constitutes the life force within us? What energy is it by which we live, move, and have our being?” This yoga empowers one to experiment and experience spiritual energy by engaging in pranayama, mantra, mudra and awakening kundalini via the chakra system.

Hatha yoga is the yoga of health: “It seeks to achieve perfect health of body, mind and spirit. In the West we tend to divorce from each other these three aspects of our being … but during the life on this plane they operate together, and in whatever we do. All three are involved. The Yoga of Health, seen from this viewpoint, becomes of paramount importance”

Repeatedly he stressed that yoga is far more than a series of poses offering this caution: “Some people imagine that Yoga consists exclusively of physical exercises, but no greater mistake could be made. Certain physical exercises are indeed advocated and are in fact important, but they are prescribed only with the ulterior purpose of clarifying and refining the mind and exalting the spirit.” Sir Paul Dukes died August 27, 1967 in Cape Town South Africa a result of injuries sustained in an automobile accident.

Victor M. Parachin, M. Div. (CYT) is an author, Vedic educator, yoga instructor, and Buddhist meditation teacher. He is the director of Tulsa Yoga Meditation Centre (USA). Victor researches and writes extensively about eastern spiritual philosophy and is the author of numerous books. His work is published regularly in YOGA Magazine. His latest book – ‘Think Like a Buddha: 108 Days of Mindfulness’ was published by Hohm Publishers. tulsayogameditationcenter.com

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