I consider this book the supreme contribution, spiritually speaking, of my life. What I see, studying this great work carefully once more at this late stage of my own life, is that my Guru took every conceivable situation in which the sincere God‐seeker might find himself, and showed him the best possible attitude with which to cope spiritually. Whispers is a handbook par excellence for the spiritual seeker. I feel a deep blessing in having been able to work on and present this great scripture in a new form to the public.
For I have had to clothe afresh here some of the Master’s inspiration, his soaringly lofty concepts, and his veritable tidal wave (as it must seem to most people) of almost overwhelming bliss. What I have done is, without changing a single concept, to give the expression of it a more concise poetic flow. The Master himself told me to work on his writings editorially, and I have done so with several others of his major works: his commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita (called The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita); his explanations of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam; his first book, The Science of Religion, (renamed, God Is for Everyone); and, in my own words but based on his spoken and written commentaries, Revelations of Christ Proclaimed by Paramhansa Yogananda.
In its author’s opinion, this book, Whispers from Eternity, belonged among his chief literary contributions. As he wrote once in a poem:
When I am only a dream,
Read my Whispers from Eternity;
Eternally through it I will talk to you.
I was with him at his retreat in Twenty‐Nine Palms, California, in the spring of 1950. It was an important time in my spiritual growth, and in my life of discipleship. The Master had finished dictating his commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita, and had asked me to help him with the editing. We were discussing why there would even be a need for anyone to touch his writings with an editorial pen. It had seemed to me that he, writing superconsciously as he certainly did, and effortlessly (as, again, he certainly seemed to do), would also write with correct grammar and in flawless style. It turned out that, in this last expectation, I had been too sanguine.
Superconscious perception, I came to understand, does not obviate the need for logical thinking any more than a flow of energy obviates the need for material mechanisms. Energy can empower those mechanisms, but it cannot bypass them.
My Guru saw it was important for me to grasp this distinction, for he stated that he wanted me to edit his writings. He made this wish particularly clear because I, out of timidity, had shown my‐ self hesitant to accept what I saw as a responsibility totally beyond me. (My age at that time was a callow twenty‐three.)
During several discussions concerning these matters, my Guru said to me, “I myself edited one of my books: Whispers from Eternity.” This book — at least as much so as Autobiography of a Yogi, on which he worked closely with his editor — rings with his deep spiritual vibrations. As I went through the manuscript, however, I realized that his editing had not been final. I think, now, that he must have been referring to the few changes that appeared in the 1949 edition over the 1929 one. In weighing all the evidence, I can only conclude that the ponderous labor of conscientious editing demanded a level of precision that was almost inimical to his naturally intuitive flow. The inspiration he expressed, especially in this book, might almost be described as a lava overflow — so much so that I found I had to concentrate very carefully on each word so as not to miss a single subtle nuance of his thought. For the concepts rushed by like little shells cast onto the beach by a great ocean wave.
Laurie Pratt, with whom he worked on editing his autobiography, was eminently qualified to do so, deeply in tune with his consciousness, and profoundly devoted to him. I must confess, however, that I felt and still feel that she lacked a poetic sense. Her attempts at poetic language came across, to me, as brusque and almost peremptory. Nothing in it of Shakespeare, Keats, or Tennyson. Sometimes she managed to come across almost as if she imagined that some our Guru’s thoughts themselves required correction.
I offer here an example of what I mean, taken from Autobiography of a Yogi. It is one our Guru let stand, and indeed it works well enough in its context. It was a stanza from Omar Khayyam, fol‐ lowed by her editing of the Master’s paraphrase:
Ah, Moon of my Delight who know’st no wane,
The Moon of Heav’n is rising once again;
How oft hereafter rising shall she look
Through this same Garden after me — in vain!
The commentary edited by her reads, “The ‘Moon of Delight’ is God, eternal Polaris, anachronous never. The ‘Moon of Heav’n’ is the outward cosmos, fettered to the law of periodic recurrence. Its chains had been dissolved* forever by the Persian seer through his self‐realization. ‘How oft hereafter rising shall she look . . . after me — in vain!’ What frustration of search by a frantic universe for an absolute omission!”
Laurie Pratt (Tara) wrote as she spoke and thought.
I myself, in my book of Yogananda’s commentaries, edited this paraphrase to read as follows:
“Ah, Moon of Divine Joy, changeless forever in the inner heavens, the moon of night is rising once again.
* “Broken” might have been preferable, here.
“How oft hereafter in this same earthly garden — constricting to the vastness of my spirit — will she seek me, but find me gone. For, lo! the name of my native state, now, is Omnipresence.”
Our Guru must have shared some of my feeling about Laurie’s lack of poetic sense, for I was present when, discussing his poem “God! God! God!” with a small group of us, he lamented, “She keeps on changing that line, ‘I will drown their noises’ to, ‘I will drown their clamor.’ Every time I change it back, she makes it ‘clamor’ again.” (As the poem appears in these pages, the word is “noises.”)
Laurie herself told me, several years after his passing, “I once asked Master if I might edit Whispers, and he replied, ‘Oh, would you?’” That, at the time, was all she had to share concerning any commission he might have given her. The fact that he could have said even that much, however, indicates to my mind that he under‐ stood the book’s need for polishing.
When her edited version appeared in book form in 1958, she dared to insert therein a letter, purportedly by Yogananda, thanking her for the editing she’d done on this book. What can I say? He left his body in 1952. Laurie didn’t even begin her editing job until several years later. It is true that she was receiving a lot of flak at the time for the changes she’d made, since his passing, in Autobiography of a Yogi; she was quite sensitive on the point. Did Yogananda write that letter? No.
I must be truthful. I’ve never liked what she did with Whispers, one reason being that it no longer sounds like him.
This volume, then, is based on the original version of Whispers from Eternity, and is as nearly like the original as I could conscientiously make it. (The reader can compare it with the 1949 edition; it is available in bookstores.) Though I, too, have edited it, I didn’t find it difficult to go with his flow of blissful exuberance, for this was an aspect of his nature that I absolutely loved. As I remarked earlier, I have done my very best in these pages not to change a single concept or idea.
I did encounter not a few places where he, out of sheer exuberance, mixed metaphors or stumbled through awkward word sequences that cried out for careful editing. These things I consider minor, however. The book itself is, in my opinion and in that of many others, a simply amazing outpouring of love and devotion that can hardly fail to revolutionize the life of anyone who reads it, and inspire him to exclaim, “So that’s what life is really all about!”