True silence may not be something passive, something that only exists when noise stops momentarily. Silence is a state of peace, calm, and original purity of perception that is behind every moment of life, however turbulent or serene it may be. There is a silent center to one, peaceful, still, deep, that can be appreciated at every moment, except when we turn our backs on it.
-- Eldon B. Tucker
By Eldon B. Tucker
Life is not a dull routine of chores, a never-ending to do list of tasks, filling all your free time until one day your lay your weary frame down one last time, passing into the deep rest of death.
Imagine what it was like to be a newborn, full of the joy of being alive, the blind thirst for existence, the immense craving to exist in the world. Life was a grand adventure. Since then, nothing has changed. Where has that wonderment gone?
As a backdrop to the outer world, there are higher experiences of life. When we leave our mortal frames behind, we may exist in some form on those higher planes. But even here, in this world, we are fully capable of enjoying what those worlds are like. We don't do so outwardly, as we are limited to the laws of nature, the rules of existence we find in this physical world. Even so, in our consciousness, in our awareness of life, we can awaken to a higher form of sentience. We can see life through deeper eyes.
A baby, emerging into the world, is steeped in higher awareness. In its joy of life, it is reaching out to bond with things, seeking to find love and meaning in life.
Where along the way did we forget who we really are? When did we last recall our essential nature, our depth of being?
Life may seem colorless now, in black and white, when once it was vibrant and flowing. How do we find that missing love and meaning? The answer is simple. As Joseph Campbell said, we follow our bliss. Perhaps it is romantic love, the love of a child or parent, our church and religious devotions, or a favored movement or cause.
You don't seek it out. It stands out like a flash of lightning in a dark, cloudy sky. Something may appear in your life for which you genuinely care. Out there before you in the otherwise gray world may be someone who appears in brilliant colors, sparkling, saturated in the numinosity of higher worlds. He or she may appear to be a god or goddess, steeped in the holiness of life, worthy of worship, even if flawed, an ordinary person in real life.
But what is real life? The divine in thou is far more real than thy external flaws. A young woman, an aged Zen Master, a empathetic psychologist, or a dear friend may be your true window into the blazing light behind external things. Knowing them as ordinary people, you see their flaws, their human imperfections. Even so, there is a palpable light of the divine that shines through them, something that uproots your life and draws you into new growth.
The role of the guru is to awaken that vision to the higher. And it is the same role that the psychologist plays in the transference or the beloved in deepest romantic love. They teach you to tap into the higher levels of life, an experience you may otherwise be asleep to. They draw you back to the sacred, the precious beyond words.
You embrace it in rapture. It is sacred and precious beyond words. Nothing you can do in life can adequately honor it. But even so, failing to try to express it is the ultimate in selfishness. Although you may feel unworthy of the guru, the beloved, it only seems so if you try to hold onto the feeling, to keep it to yourself.
This bottomless joy, agape, unconditioned love has to be shared and passed on. Then even though it may be crudely shared with unskilled hands, you become worthy of the beauty and make it part of your life.
The Path is not something you tread. It is a light that shines within you. You give it away or go blind. You must open up the barriers between yourself and others and become a beacon in the dark world.
Find the magic. Let your life blaze with it. Don't care what other people think. Don't hold it within. Create things in the world. Make things of beauty and enrapture others as you share your sense of wonder. Let the majesty of higher realms spread through outer life like a wild fire. Do all you can to ignite and set ablaze the lives of others.
Powered by an awakened inner life, you will work hard for the world. But it won't feel like work. It will be an act of joy.
You don't need to say "I love you" to the people in life that shine like gods and goddesses before you. You say so by shining as brightly yourself. They'll see the same light in you and love you as dearly without words exchanged.
Love is not something said. It is lived -- by reaching deeply within and pouring out the divine into life around you.
In deep personal love, a sharing with the beloved is an expression of the love one feels. It can be two way, with each sharing with the other, the feelings running deep and true. Beautiful, simple, and pure as that is, there is more. The same love could reach out to others or the world in general. Becoming expressive in wider measure, its majesty is indescribable.
When one reaches out to the whole world and is changed -- that is one way to look at initiation. One has undergone a process in which one has metamorphosed into someone far greater.
This numinosity is the sweetest thing in life, aside which everything else pales into ghostly shadows.
Seek it out, but don't become drunk on it. Take it in measured doses, package it with something uniquely you, and give it away freely. Take the rapture, combine it with the karma yoga of good deeds, and in small steps, change the world.
Then you've set one foot in the heavens and kept the other on earth, and share the fire of the gods with the hungry mortals in the cold, dark world.
By Reginald W. Machell
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, February 1924, pages 145-49.]
There has been much speculation as to the purpose of the pyramids which are to be found in so many countries that formerly were the homes of highly civilized races. The most popular explanation, if I may use the word in this connection, is really no better than a guess based on modern usages. That pyramids have been used as tombs is possible, but there are good reasons to believe that some of these great buildings were tombs only in the sense of being places of initiation. The candidate entranced would be dead to the world of ordinary mortals, and his temporary entombment would be a kind of paraphrase of ordinary burial.
When he great initiations ceased, for lack of worthy candidates, it is easy to understand how that which was originally designed as a temple for the living should be taken as a model for tombs of those whose worldly ambition demanded an imposing monument for the body of one who might be supposed to be initiated by death into the mysteries of spiritual life. There are pyramids and pyramids.
But why is a pyramid? What it is we all know; but not why it is so vast, so solid, so unshakable. In the heart of the pyramid, there is silence, and silence is the key to the mystery.
The most characteristic feature of human life is noise. To the majority, perhaps, silence is very closely akin to death, and for that reason it is dreaded by the ignorant. But those who have learned to look on death as a doorway in the house of life will know that silence is the entrance to the Hall of Wisdom.
There are many kinds of noise, and there are many kinds of silence. The dreaded silence of the tomb is a mental image of that involuntary silence imposed by death upon the chatterer to whom life is but one great opportunity for talk.
Those who have entered on the path of life fear neither death nor silence knowing that life is not broken off by death, nor is consciousness destroyed by silence. On the contrary, silence is a necessary condition for growth of that subtle body which we loosely call the soul.
In ordinary life, silence means simply suspension of talk, and in society, it is generally dreaded as a draft of cold air would be in a heated room. But all who have ever studied deeply know that the most desirable condition for that purpose is silence.
As I have said, there are many kinds of silence, and one of the most curious is that which seems to open up in the midst of the confusion of sounds that blend into a great city's voice, which is no voice, for it is inarticulate. It is purposeless by reason of the conflict of innumerable purposes. It is no voice. It is an atmosphere, in which a million voices and a million voiceless noises lose their identity in a tumultuous ocean of vibration that is most like a mystic sea of silence. Listen to it! You can scarcely catch a vibration of articulate sound. The ocean is too vast.
Listen then to the silence of a summer night far from the haunts of men and motorcars! In vain. The frogs down there in the marsh and the crickets all about fill up the air so full of sound that it becomes painful to the listener, who vainly seeks some voice among the millions more articulate or purposeful than the rest, some note distinguishable among the multitude. There is no silence there.
And when the night seems silent, listen to the silence, and you will hear more noises than the frogs can make; and you may wonder if the ringing in your ears is due to a disturbance in your own organism, or to the song of nature audible to some finer sense than hearing, translated into sound by your imagination.
You may feel as if you were opening your ears to hear until the effort becomes painful; and then you may try to get away from the enveloping and overwhelming infinity of sound, seeking a refuge in the silence that you cannot reach. For true silence is unattainable to man in his waking consciousness.
But there are many substitutes for silence bearing the same name. The substitutes are all negative and relative. The genuine article is the unspeakable reality that precedes the evolution of the universe and sustains it in its turbulent career and changes not nor ceases for all the prayers of men and all their wars and all their hymns of praise.
Silence is the great Mother whose outspread wings protect the trembling worlds from premature destruction by the power of the Word that called them into life. She was the mother of the gods, the most mysterious deity, invoked by those who seek to rise above the bounds of mortal mind into the realm of truth.
And in the pyramid is silence of many kinds, which must be mastered by the aspirant to wisdom, stage by stage, as his perception opens. The mass of masonry was so constructed as to secure the silence that consists in the exclusion of all ordinary noises, as it was also a protection from the heat of day and chills of night, and from the alternation of light and darkness. But there was more than this.
The pyramid indeed contained a tomb in which was laid to rest during the long ordeal of initiation the mortal body of the candidate. For in order that the soul may stand unshaken in the presence of the 'Lord of life' (the higher Self), it must be freed from the disturbing influence of the lower nature, which continually seeks to hold it captive in the web of sensuous existence by playing upon the senses of the mortal man.
These senses must be silenced. The bridge between the higher and the lower world must be barred against influences from below, yet it must not be broken, as in death, for the soul must return enriched with knowledge of the spiritual life acquired in the period of this artificial liberation.
The bridge must be preserved. For this, silence is necessary. There must be silence of the ordinary kind, freedom from sound. There must be mental silence, the control of mind and the suppression of all thought. This is the negative silence merely and concerns only the lower mind and physical senses.
The next stage is purely mental and is attainable only to those who have mastered true meditation. Beyond this the candidate must find the path which can never be described in words, for in the nature of things, the secret of silence must for ever be unutterable.
The elementary and preliminary steps are all that the teachers have declared in words, and even these instructions are misunderstood. And yet silence appropriate to our various stages of evolution is within reach of everyone. There is no school of philosophy that does not teach the value of silence, though what is understood by that impressive word may differ widely from the silence of the 'mysteries.'
One of the first lessons in self-control is to refrain from improper or untimely speech, from cruel or unkindly criticism, from slander and from gossip. When that is mastered, the restriction will be found to include all talking during certain hours of the day and then all conversation that is not practically necessary.
Even such simple mental exercise as this is sometimes found to be irksome to students professing a sincere desire for self-mastery. Yet common sense would be enough to show the benefit of such a practice. Nearly all the troubles that make social harmony impossible are due to unwise talking.
It was well said of old: "Speech is as silver but silence is as gold." Yet there are times when to keep silence would be to indorse some slander. Each one must judge for himself, and in the process some will be fooled by their own ingenious lower mind, which will declare that true silence is a mental attitude and not a mere refraining from conversation.
I have heard this argument put forward by one who suffered from a verbal flux. It reminded me of an old sea-song with a refrain that ran like this: "It's no matter what you do if your heart be true." A pretty sentiment indeed; but the application of the principle was further illustrated in the song, which told of a sailor who loved his wife, by name 'Poll,' and who sailed to many ports, and in every port he took to himself, in the greatness of his heart, a new wife, and justified his conduct by the reflection that "it's no matter what you do if your heart be true: and his heart was true to Poll."
Perhaps the first lesson to be learned is that silence means just that--silence. The fact that speech is necessary and often beneficial does not excuse unnecessary chatter.
The power of silence is amazing. I remember two instances of the power of silence on the stage. One was in a long scene in Wagner's Gotterdammerung, if I remember rightly. During the greater part of the scene, one man stood with his back to the audience gazing into the abyss in silence. At first one hardly noticed him, and then his silence seemed to assume a dignity that compelled attention. At last, he dominated the whole scene by his silence and his immobility.
Another instance was not on the actual stage but is to be found in William Morris's version of the battle of the Nibelungs in the hall of Atli when the brothers come at the bidding of the Queen to meet their doom for the slaying of Sigurd the Volsung.
When they enter the hall with their followers, no man is there but only the white-robed woman on the throne, and she neither is silent nor stirs while the battle rages when the foemen rush in upon their victims and are slain.
Three times the battle is renewed, the blood splashes up on the robe of the white woman upon the high seat, and she moves not nor utters a word till the vengeance is accomplished.
It seems that the brothers recognize in her the power of fate. In the picture presented of the awful carnage and heroic valor of these demigods and men, the whole tragedy is focused in that embodied silence, which finally asserts its spiritual mastery and dominates the scene of carnage.
'A silence more eloquent than words' has become a cant phrase, and yet how few who have the power of speech have also become masters of silence?
It was said of Mr. Gladstone that he could speak longer and while holding his audience spellbound by his eloquence could say less in the time than any living parliamentarian. This sarcasm contained an involuntary tribute to a master of oratory who could swing vast audiences at his will without compromising himself by dangerous statements.
The secret of the power of such oratory lies in the mental silence achieved by the speaker rather than in his command of language. There are plenty of speakers who can keep on talking without holding their audience. There are great phrase-makers who can influence masses of people momentarily, but who cannot escape the reaction upon themselves of those telling phrases, which are so often verbal boomerangs.
The art of silence is greater than the art of speech, yet they are not ultimately separable, and there are very wise people who are great talkers. There is a greater art than either, which is the speech that maintains silence. It is perhaps more rare than the silence which speaks suggestively and which is sometimes but a shallow device for self-protection, much used by slander-mongers and gossips.
To keep silence when an opportunity occurs for launching a cutting sarcasm or a cruel retort demands rare self-control in those who have not yet freed themselves from the desire to wound or the craving for applause. There are times when only perfect courtesy or rare diplomacy can save a man from falling into the swamp of mere vulgarity and yielding to the temptation of 'I told you so.'
The student of Theosophy more than others should learn when to speak and when to keep silence. History tells us of the insistence on this rule of great philosophic teachers who imposed absolute silence for long periods on their disciples. It was only so that the student could learn self-control and grow spiritually to his full stature.
In one such school, the rule ran somewhat in this fashion: "There shall be silence during meals, and on the way to and from the dining-rooms. There must be no talking in the offices and workshops, no stopping for gossip on the roads, and no unnecessary conversation at any time." And it was recorded that so long as these rules were honored in their observance, the school was free from quarrels that defeat all efforts to establish such schools.
But the silence sought by the builders of the pyramids was apparently of another kind, though in reality identical. The pyramid like all real temples or halls of initiation was fashioned on the model of man's body. The true form of man's inner or unseen body being is conceived and symbolized as one or other of the Platonic solids.
The evolution of the soul was allegorized in the dramatic pilgrimage enacted in the celebration of the rite, the pilgrim seeking in his ideal body for the path of illumination and the discovery of the secret places in which are to be learned the mysteries of life. Before the pilgrimage is actually begun, silence must be established. For this, when all outer sounds are rendered impotent, the body is entranced and mental silence is established. This is plainly indicated in the rituals of initiation sometimes called the Book of the Dead, as well as in the more exoteric mystery-dramas.
But also there are some who think that the true initiator is life itself, the temple is the world we live in, and the ritual of the mysteries is the right accomplishment of duty, the right living of our daily life. It may be so. And it may be that the lost word of the forgotten mysteries of antiquity is that which is uttered by the Voice of the Silence.
By A Student
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, February 1924, pages 150-52.]
The unvoiced conviction that the man who had spent a lifetime in the world of music has in some fashion approached closer to absolute harmony through the mystery of death. If there is any kinship at all between this life and the domains of eternity, surely it is music that most nearly expresses that obscure bond. Of all the arts, music most baffles description in words or phrased thoughts. Music reaches most profoundly into the depths of the human heart, and rises most securely above the boundaries encompassed by the human mind. It is the most mystical of all man's efforts to express the hidden things. It is difficult to believe that the end of life can also mark an end to any man's attainments in an art so little defined by physical things and so ineffably linked with eternity.
Those who love music, whatever their philosophy of life and death, can hardly escape the conviction of man's immortality ... when they think upon the call of death to a man who has given his life to music ... Surely the imperfect harmonies of life will vibrate into perfection in that wide mystery that lies beyond life.
-- THE SAN DIEGO UNION, Nov. 23, 1923
We remember reading of some great piano-teacher who made a point of asking his pupils to describe what was suggested to them by particular pieces which they executed, and who was wrathful when they failed to do so. As the writer quoted above would do, we sympathize with the pupil and not with the teacher.
If the effect produced by music can be described in terms of rippling brooks and dancing peasants, then it is surely not a high class of music, and the art has descended to mere imitation.
The whole essence of the art is surely that it can produce experiences not only ineffable but beyond ordinary thought and feeling, introducing us into a new world. We feel emotions unrelated to anything we have known in life. We strive in vain to give them a form or meaning in terms of anything familiar to our recollections of the past or our hopes of the future. A door is opened, but soon to close. The thrilling chords of our nature cease to thrill. Like the unplayed instrument, we sink into a mass of inert mahogany.
Yet we have had our initiation. Music is truly a messenger of the Gods, sent to remind mortals of that immortality which dwells ever with them even in the tomb of material life.
Music is related to a state of consciousness beyond the normal states of waking and sleeping. We are since long untaught to dwell in this region or to link it with our ordinary consciousness. Hence, when evoked, we fail to interpret it, save as vague feelings to which no definite ideas attach. Nor can our frame endure the vibrations excited. It would seem that, unable to bring down the influence to where we stand, we should also endeavor to rise towards it.
And here it is advisable to distinguish music itself from the audible harmonies commonly understood by that word. To the former we may give a higher and wider meaning, while regarding the latter as the chief means of evoking music itself. Considering music as harmony, we see that harmony in sounds is but a single form. It is harmony in our whole life that we must seek. We must have music in our soul. Music as a mere sensual appeal or a display or an accomplishment is not music in the true sense.
There must be many people who are truly musical in the better sense, but have not the power of expression, just as there are poets that cannot write poetry and artists who cannot depict. And are there not skilled technicians in music, who have not music in their lives?
Music may solve the mystery of death in that it can teach us to dwell in the eternal. If it is related to the immortal essence in us, it can intensify our knowledge of that essence and withdraw us from what is mortal.
In the wider sense, styles of audible music seem to have the same relation to music itself (in the wider sense), as religions have to religion. They differ among different people and in different ages. Oriental music is not very like ours. The music of the ancient Greeks differs widely from modern music.
Our music is associated with the indoor life and with the other appurtenances of our particular sort of civilization. A piano in the open air is out of place. Choral music in harmony and counterpoint are far better suited to the well-lighted interior than to the open-air and sun.
There are fashions in music, and various forms are suited to different external circumstances. What, then, is Music itself, which underlies all? Is it not a harmony in the soul, which is evoked in many ways, according to conditions?
It would seem that performed music is a means rather than an end. One feels unable to make positive statements on the subject at all, it being out of the reach of formal reasoning. But it is safe to say that music must be made a part of life, and that its cultivation must go on in equal steps with the harmonious cultivation of all our faculties and sentiments.
In the Raja Yoga system of education, this idea is certainly carried out. Music, as there taught, must be regarded as one (and a very important one) out of many means for creating harmony in the character.
We should not rest content with enjoying the sensation of music when heard, and forgetting it afterwards; but should try earnestly to absorb its meaning and introduce it into our life, It may often happen, for instance, that we allow ourselves to be obsessed by unpleasant thoughts and moods, arising, not (as we suppose) from any particular circumstances, but really from the fact that we are out of tune physically or otherwise. It is then that MUSIC, conveyed perhaps through the warm sun and the dew on the trees, or the birds pouring out their souls in an ecstasy of song, may help us to throw off the discord and create an atmosphere of harmony within.
Great music can help us to understand how joy and sorrow are in some magical way swallowed up in a sublime harmony. Thus we get a key to one of the mysteries of life -- a key that cannot be supplied by the ordinary mind.
That supernal being, which we speak of as the Higher Self, may be defined to our inner senses as a sublime music that is sounding silently behind the troubled scenes of our external life, enabling us to see the good in other people and to welcome experiences usually considered as troubles.
A person enjoying music and seeking to rise to a high level of interior experience, may find himself suddenly seized with anger at interruption by the conversation or unwelcomed presence of others. This may serve to show him that harmony pertains to the relation of man to man, rather than to the personal states of an individual.
We cannot hide away from the world and leave it distracted by discord while we seek personal bliss, which thus becomes only another name for self-indulgence. Without adaptability of temperament, a man would be a creator of discord rather than harmony.
It is well known that a grouchy mood will influence those minor incidents that go to produce trouble or success in any undertaking. A person so afflicted encounters accidents and disabilities, while the man disposed to smile at everything finds matters mysteriously smoothing themselves out in his path.
A great part of our doings is automatic, executed by elements in our nature that are sunk below the level of attention. It is these unconscious actions that are influenced by our moods. The man who cuts himself with a razor has his muscles partly under the control of some adverse mood which he is harboring. If we fall foul of inanimate objects, how much more so of our fellow-creatures, whom we may likewise bless without word or act through the silent influence of our own interior harmony.
By Talbot Mundy
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, April 1924, pages 332-40.]
Most of us pride ourselves on being sincere and reasonable. Modern systems of government are based on a theory that reasonable men and women shall elect their representatives, who, after reasoning out the issues of the day, shall reach decisions reasonably applicable for the common good.
Nothing more annoys an individual than to be told he is unreasonable and insincere. International irritation is the invariable consequence whenever one nation's press and politicians charge the government of another nation with adopting an unreasonable attitude.
Criticism that a creed or dogma is unreasonable induces frenzy and such raw irreligious bickering as recently has broken out between the self-styled Fundamentalists and so-called Modernists. And we pride ourselves that our irritation is due to our sincerity.
Just how sincere and reasonable really are we? Man, catalogue by the scientists as Homo sapiens, concedes himself to be the crowning glory of creation because his reason is developed, whereas, it is asserted, animals have only instinct and -- it is again asserted -- flowers, sun, moon, stars, and the imponderable universe have no intelligence whatever. But can this egoistic claim by Homo sapiens be supported by evidence, in the light of the very reasonableness that he asserts is his own exclusive attribute?
Will this vaunted reasonableness bear sincere scrutiny? How much of our thinking and our conduct of ourselves and our affairs is due to what in animals we arrogantly term blind instinct? How much is due to what in nature we term blind forces? Just how open-eyed and open-minded are we ourselves, as compared to the nations, sections of society, animals, vegetables, minerals, and unknown stars, which we regard as inferior because devoid of that ability to reason of which we boast?
COME NOW AND LET US REASON TOGETHER
Webster's dictionary defines reason as "the power or faculty of comprehending and inferring." What is it that we comprehend? What is it we infer? Where are we, as a consequence? And whither is the process leading us? The question requires to be faced.
Do we reason from cause to effect? Do we comprehend causes at all? Or do we infer imaginary causes, and try to justify the inference by seeking, from a thousand different motives, to manipulate the effects of our wrong thinking? In the event that the latter should appear to be true; are we brave enough, and sufficiently reasonable, to reverse our mental processes and to face the issue? And if we refuse to face the issue, in what way are we superior to "the beasts that perish" or to the vegetables, which we and the animals eat?
It is true that we can kill the animals. But they can also kill us. It is true, we have invented methods for butchering hecatombs of beasts, which place the beasts at a considerable disadvantage and appear to make it improbable at the moment that the beasts will ever gain the ascendancy. But it is also true that organized hosts of creatures, so small individually as to be almost, if not quite invisible under the most powerful microscope, can kill us with much more deadly certainty than we can massacre, say, elephants or rabbits. Consider the microbe.
We can, and we do kill one another; and we do it with more ingenuity, more cruelty, and more hypocrisy than can by any stretch of the imagination be charged against the animals to which we claim to be superior.
We try to exterminate some animals on account of their alleged ferocity; but if their ferocity is bad, is not ours worse? Therefore, if they should be destroyed, should we not also be destroyed?
It would appear, judging from the news in the sensational newspapers, that all humanity is surging forward to destruction; and although we do not like to believe that, but prefer to solace ourselves with the delusion that our particular nation, our particular political system, ourselves and our circle of friends are immune from what we see, more or less clearly, to be impending on the inferior peoples of the earth, it would likely do us no harm to consider wherein our alleged safety lies, and whether the causes that we are agreed endanger others are not also at the root of our own thinking.
It is fashionable nowadays to denounce as a knocker everyone who discerns and dares to mention faults in the conduct of private, local, or national affairs, and the imputation is that all such individuals belong to the undesirable class of selfishly carping critics who loathe seeing prosperity in other people.
Alternatively, whoever cheers noisily for conditions as they are is called a booster, and is supposed to belong to that respectable class of honest citizens who always loyally fulfill their obligations and on whom prosperity depends.
But that fashion is not new. The system of labeling oneself and one's opponents, with the absurd notion of monopolizing all the credit and assuming none of the responsibility, and with the criminal intention of masking one's own selfishness, while attributing ill-faith to one's opponents, is as old as savagery.
The fact that these labels, religious as well as political, are as often as not chosen for the purpose of self-deception, makes no important difference. It is just as criminal to deceive oneself as to deceive others, because self-deception is the underlying cause of all crime.
No one would commit any crime whatever, unless he were first self-deceived; the inevitable outcome would be too obvious. Unless first self-deceived, we could never be deceived by others, nor could we ever be induced to practice deception. We all know this. The very children know it. The first principle of banking, and of every other successful business, is to be on guard ceaselessly against self-deception, and the great majority of failures are attributed to lack of judgment, which is only another name for the same thing.
THE SIN OF INSINCERITY
There are two outstanding peculiarities of human nature, which anyone can recognize who dares to examine his own thought processes; but although we like to pride ourselves on daring, we are seldom prone to it when we ourselves are to be the objects of experiment.
The two peculiarities are these: that we always seek to transfer the blame for any sort of evil consequences from ourselves to others, and that we will accept any makeshift, any harbor of refuge, rather than be radical, admit that our philosophy is wrong, and face the issue bravely reasonable.
We pretend to, and to some extent we do hate insincerity (as for instance when we think we recognize it in the arguments and acts of others); but it remains the king-pin, so to speak, of our own and of all the world's calamities.
Until we learn to be sincere, there is no hope whatever of relief from distress, whether individual or national. And the process must begin at home. We can never be sincere with others until we are first wholly sincere with ourselves.
It is an indisputable axiom, discernible in every circumstance of nature, that like begets like. In Bible-phraseology, we cannot gather figs from thistles or obtain both sweet and bitter water from the same spring. Nevertheless, we pretend to try to abolish crime by hanging criminals. We seek to abolish pain by permitting vivisection. We pretend to aspire to peace, while openly boasting of our preparations for the next war. We prohibit alcoholic drink and censor plays, books, motion pictures, but insist that our newspapers shall print sensational reports of every abominable crime.
In law we hold each individual responsible for his own acts, unless it can be proved he is out of his mind, in which case we lock him up and make ourselves responsible for him; yet we seek salvation through vicarious atonement, and try to substitute a profession of faith for downright honesty, as a solution of the mystery of life after death.
These are only a few of our more obvious absurdities; anyone who cares to look about him frankly can discover countless others for himself. They are all due to our besetting sin of insincerity, which is the armor of ignorance.
The process of insincerity is easily illustrated, and the arguments by which it propagates itself will occur to everyone the moment the illustration is given.
Consider the question of international rivalry and what has happened recently in that connection. Weary of a sort of warfare that exhausted all the combatants and left none with a perceptible advantage, the rival governments sent representatives to a conference, at which it was agreed to limit the more costly and out-of-date engines of destruction.
There has been a great deal of mutual suspicion since then as to whether the governments who agreed to the contract have loyally obeyed its terms, but there is absolutely no question that every government concerned is working day and night to supply itself with cheaper and much more deadly means of making war!
That is no secret. It is openly discussed in the newspapers. There are very few newspapers that do not urge their own government to assume the lead in deadly preparation. The excuse is that unless THIS government is fully prepared to do wholesale murder on a scale never before dreamed of, THAT government will take the initiative and will seize the upper hand by means of ruthless butchery.
A nice new label has been made for this comparatively ancient form of international mistrust. But Xenophobia is nothing but another mask for insincerity, another way of deceiving ourselves and imputing the blame either to others or to a psychology over which we are supposed to have no control. It would be amusing if it were not so disastrous, stupid, and yet simple of solution.
The apparent helplessness of individuals takes all the humor from the situation. The individual who feels inclined to sneer would do better to remember that the acts and methods of governments are no more than a large-scale illustration of the workings of the human mind, his own included.
From the pulpits of a million churches the command is thundered: "Love ye one another!" There lies the solution certainly. But without sincerity, it is impossible to love.
We are all afraid. Our lower nature, which persists in every one of us (or we should be invisible to mortal eyes and functioning on vastly higher planes of being) dreads its own destruction and deceives us -- even the best of us -- with arguments of ever-increasing subtlety, of which a favorite one is that we should be at the mercy of the lower nature of others unless ready at all times to use dishonest methods for our own defense.
The truth is that the only absolute protection against treachery is honesty. The slightest compromise with dishonesty provides an opening through which the darkest forces surge and gain control of us. It is not the other man's dishonesty, but our own that endangers us as individuals. In other words, if we admit one trace of insincerity into our reasoning, the effect is similar to that of poison introduced into a well. It does not poison one part of the water, but all of it. The more colorless and unnoticeable it is the more deadly the results.
It is not possible to exaggerate the inevitable consequences of continuing in insincerity, because the lower nature of every human being is capable of limitless evil, and if left to its own resources, is totally incapable of anything but evil.
The lower nature of nations is a multiplication of the lower nature of individuals in the mass. It is what the churches call the devil. It possesses a sort of intelligence, which amounts to a keenly alert instinct of self-preservation combined with mercurial subtlety. It knows no more of the higher nature than a stagnant pond knows of the sun that sterilizes it.
It is no more useful as a foundation on which to raise a spiritual edifice than a desert-mirage would be as a source of drinking water. Every concession to the lower nature is of the nature of a bargain with a heartless, conscienceless, blind force, and is of the very essence of insincerity.
WHAT THEN IS INSINCERITY?
The common mistake is to regard sincerity as an emotion. Glimpsed through the mist of that mistake, it would appear to be the consequence of action, a variable product subject to the judgment of opinion, possessing qualities that differ in degree with individuals. Accepting that fallacy, we find ourselves at a loss for a word with which to define that stark, uncompromising habit of watchful self-analysis, which alone insures right activity.
It is customary (perhaps because we like to be respectful) to speak of the sincerity of politicians, churchmen, and (undoubtedly because of a desire for self-respect) particularly of ourselves. And yet, in whichever direction we look, we see in our own actions, and in the acts of others, the unquestionable effects of insincerity.
A worldwide plebiscite for or against the Golden Rule would certainly produce an overwhelming, and possibly unanimous, vote in favor of it, but the vote would be perfectly insincere, and its only possible result would be a temporary smug self-righteousness and a delusion that the world was better than it is. Ignorance knows nothing of sincerity; and sincerity cannot be attained by protesting allegiance to a creed, whose tenets are obscure and incomprehensible.
Sincerity is impossible without knowledge. We must understand what we profess before there can be the remotest chance of putting the profession into practice. And it is surely obvious that we must understand ourselves before we can hope to understand others or be qualified to criticize them.
The occult, that is to say the concealed, inmost, meaning of sincerity, is Self-knowledge. It is the only guide to right action. To wait for sincerity in others before striving to attain it in oneself would be as useless as to wait for the harvest without troubling to plant the seed. The Millennium will come when we have learned sincerity. We shall find it within ourselves -- or nowhere.
THE WORLD'S PROBLEMS SIMPLIFIED
The world's problems appear intricate and overwhelming. The more they are studied, the more impossible it seems that any of the plans for their solution can provide relief.
It is beginning to dawn on business men, and even on the legislatures, that no nation and no individual can live unto himself alone but that a disaster to one section of humanity is sure to be felt eventually in the remotest corners of the earth. But the converse of that is equally true, and is immensely more important to consider, because on it depends the redemption of the human race.
Improvement in any one individual must eventually benefit the whole world. Therein is found the solution of the whole difficulty, extremely simple, yet, in common with all simple things, prodigiously more difficult to do than may appear at first sight.
Sincerity must be the watchword, or the effort is waste. Sincerity, which knows no thought of compromise, insists that the sole motive for self-improvement shall be that others may be the beneficiaries. That is the exact opposite of all of the methods of self-improvement that the world indorses.
The Ancient Wisdom, which is the Mother of all religions, teaches that man is the microcosm of the macrocosm, and we can prove this for ourselves, if we only examine ourselves fearlessly. Within our own consciousness, we may discern every one of the motives that govern and misgovern all mankind.
As individuals, we have no resources and no virtues that are denied to other men. We are immune from none of the temptations that waylay others. We have the same destiny, whether or not we recognize it, the same broad duty to our fellowmen, the same Law for our guidance. And the only way in which we can obey the Law is by applying it in every instance to ourselves.
Our lower nature is incapable of comprehending, and consequently utterly incapable of obeying, the Higher Law. Our Higher Nature knows the Law. Which of the two is to govern us, which is to direct our thinking and the acts that are the outcome of our thinking, is the only real problem we are called on to decide.
WHAT ARE WE?
We are. Each one of us knows that, if nothing else. In phraseology that is epochs older than the Bible that is commonly supposed to be its origin, "it doth not yet appear what we shall be." Very few are in agreement, even for five minutes at a time, as to the extremely recent past. Human memory is silent as to what preceded our birth into this particular existence.
We are, and we are now. Now, and our own consciousness, are the limits within which we function. Now is the immeasurable point where past and future meet. Our consciousness is the immeasurable point at which the Higher and the lower nature meet.
The only important difference between us and the animals is that while the whole universe, ourselves and the animals included, is subject to the law of evolution, we, as human beings, have reached the stage of self-direction. We are no longer at the mercy of what the scientists prefer to call blind forces, but have the privilege of controlling our own individual destiny by the exercise of will. We may choose between the Higher and the lower.
We may control and discipline our lower selves, or we may let our lower selves continue to deceive us. In either event, we shall receive the full, logical, exactly just, inevitable consequences of our choice.
In other words, our consciousness -- that of which we are conscious -- will continue to be better or to grow worse in exact proportion to our effort to be governed by the Higher Law, by recognizing it, or our submission to the dictates of the lower nature. The problem is individual in every instance.
THE SUBTLETY OF INSINCERITY
Our lower nature is dependable in one, and in only one respect: it is invariably a deceiver. Never, in any circumstances, does it tell the truth, because it does not, and cannot, know the truth.
It presents expediency in the disguise of principle, and when that fails, it flatters us with the suggestion that we are making sacrifices when we forego personal advantage for the universal good.
It is obvious at once to anyone who communes with his Higher nature even for a moment, that the universal good inevitably must include each individual, not excepting him who makes the sacrifice. It becomes at once obvious that the only sacrifice that could entail the slightest, even momentary disadvantage would be to let go the Higher for the sake of the lower, foregoing the universal for the sake of the personal. But the ridiculous delusion of self-sacrifice persists and propagates the subtlest forms of vanity.
Another favorite method of the lower nature is to frighten or to flatter us with the belief that we must struggle terribly in an incessant warfare before the Higher Nature can prevail. But the Higher Nature knows absolutely nothing of any struggle.
The illustration is at hand, in nature. The moment the light appears, the darkness disappears. There is no struggle between them. In the bright light of the Higher Nature, the darkness of the lower vanishes. As long as one prefers the lower, there will be a struggle to cling to it, and the dawning of the Light into the consciousness will hurt.
SINCERITY AND SELF-ANALYSIS
The delusion of struggle is due to insincerity in the attempt at self-analysis. It means that one of the subtlest forms of personality is masquerading as a virtue.
A sense of humor is the readiest solvent of that obscure condition, since whoever can laugh at himself is in a fair way to become impersonal.
He is likely to discern that he has been struggling to benefit his personality by posing as a student of the Higher Law; whereas the first axiom of the Higher Law is that no degree of selfishness can possibly be beneficial, and that the only way in which we can really benefit ourselves is by first benefiting others.
Sincerity insists that the sole purpose of self-directed evolution, its only motive, and its constant care shall be, so to discipline, govern, and improve ourselves as individuals that we may be, not only not a handicap to the rest of humanity, but an assistance to it by becoming fit to bear at least our full share of the load. That is the law of Universal Brotherhood. Recognition of the Law -- confession to oneself that the law exists -- is the first step. Sincerity soon follows.
The first stage of sincerity appears when we find ourselves, even while continuing a certain course, admitting to ourselves that the course is wrong, instead of deceiving ourselves that it is right.
In the second stage, we discontinue doing what we know is wrong, for the simple reason that by injuring our own character, we are committing a sin against our fellow-man.
In the third stage, we see clearly what the right course is, and from that moment we become a positive force for good.
We are our brother's keeper; but, like the sentinel on duty at the gate, we keep him by guarding ourselves against the enemy, our lower nature.
DUALITY AND REINCARNATION
All the great teachers of whom there is any record have laid down the law that we must purify ourselves before we may hope to help others. Jesus of Nazareth is quoted as saying: "Cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye."
With characteristic human insincerity that has come to be accepted as authentic doctrine by a civilization whose foremost characteristic is delight in condemnation of its neighbor while continuing its own self-indulgence in immorality.
But the reason is not far to seek. The two essential facts -- Duality and Reincarnation -- have been overlooked. The three-score years and ten that statisticians and a prophet have assured us is about the limit of a human life, have so circumscribed our view that the task of raising the general standard of morality appears hopeless, if not useless.
The old Latin proverb "Cui Bono" -- in colloquial modern English, "What's the use?" -- must occur in some form or another to every man who assumes that he was born in sin, lives for something less than a hundred years, dies, and that's the end of it.
Reincarnation instantly changes the aspect of things and events. The moment we realize that no effort can possibly be lost, that no thought and no deed can remain uncompensated, that full and perfect justice is unavoidable, and that we return into the world again, and again, and again, to meet exactly the conditions that our former efforts have deserved, we begin to discern the purpose and the joy of evolution and to take our part in it with a sincerity that has no use for self-pity and laughs at adversity as an experience whose sublime and encouraging purpose that we may learn from it self-mastery -- the Key of Life eternal.
By Ralph Lanesdale
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, May 1924, pages 430-34.]
Love is a mystery which each one must interpret in his or her own particular fashion, for its manifestations are innumerable, and its modes as various as are the hearts in which it has its origin, the minds unbalanced by its delusive spell, the emotions inflamed by its seductive grace, or the ideals that it calls to birth.
At times love seems like a consuming fire; then it will be a passion for possession; then a beatitude, a selfish craving, or a yearning for the bliss of mere self-sacrifice: self-sacrifice may be as selfish as any form of self-indulgence, while aping altruism.
The lower nature with its apelike qualities is a most wonderful mimic that delights in parodying the highest virtues, cloaking its ugliness and masking its deformity with a disguise of pure unselfishness.
It is this kind of elemental mimicry that has evoked the scorn and bitter railing of some short-sighted satirists, who have denounced the love of human beings as a fantastic form of selfishness. For it was well said of old: "The truth is hid by that which is not true." So the false love has made men doubt the existence of the true. This kind of pessimism is often reinforced by the subtle hypocrisy of the lower nature, which knowing itself incapable of pure love, declares that there is no such thing.
In this, as in all other human problems, we must use the key of the duality of mind. Then we shall see that every kind of love is possible to human beings.
That is one step on the path of understanding. The next will be to look within. In us lies latent all the evil and good that we find elsewhere. There we shall find the love of self in all its pride and cruelty, the elemental passion of the animal, and "the love of god that passeth understanding." If we dig deep enough beneath the accumulated selfishness of ages, we may perceive the flame of love enshrined in a mystic vase that sheds around the golden glow of BROTHERHOOD.
From such contemplation, we may learn to know and to distinguish the qualities that characterize the higher and the lower love.
The first and most noticeable characteristic of the higher love is generosity, or a desire to give: while in the lower we encounter first and last and all the time unmitigated selfishness and the desire to get. Yet both of these are personal.
Beyond, there shines the mystic flame, which like the sun distributing to every corner of his universe the light by which it lives, "gives life to all but takes from none." From the supreme Self of all flows out the Love Divine, the radiance of Universal Brotherhood.
And as the sunlight differs from the cold glimmer of the moon, so does the love of the supreme Self differ from the selfish personal passion of the slave of appetite. Yet as in man there is a model of the entire universe, so too in man we may discover all the divers kinds of love, from the divine down to its lowest parody, which seems the very opposite. How often with a misused word we blind ourselves to the reality, and hide an ugly vice from our own sight by giving it an honored title!
Love is an honorable name, and should be used respectfully. And yet we talk about the love of money, instead of frankly calling it the greed of gold, or simply avarice. But if we were to call things by their proper names, we might be often guilty of indelicacy, because in actual practice, we have degraded our ideals while still honoring their memory.
It is probable that all human motives are so mixed, by reason of the duality in human nature, that love is seldom pure, nor utterly corrupt. Thus it may happen that a gross and selfish passion will show in its brighter moments some faint reflection of the sunlight of pure love. If so, it may be asked: Why is it not redeemed thereby? Why is the lower able to drag down the higher?
It is simply because we live so much upon the lower plane, where all the lower forces are at home, and because so many people are not aware of the duality in their own mind, and have not the habit of examining their motives, or of studying their moods and their emotions. Self-study rightly conducted brings revelations, but it must be self-study, not merely self-justification.
If we would have the higher nature dominant, we must identify our will with it, we must accustom the lower nature to submit to its control. It is not enough to call upon our god. We must evoke the divinity, and not merely invoke it. This may be done in many ways. Religious ceremonies have this end in view, but the religions of the world seem to have lost their magic power. The church-rituals are mostly meaningless today even to their own devotees.
To the majority of church-goers the Love of God is but the stirring of a vague sentimentality, which finds expression in hymns of adoration or ceremonial worship with sacrifice of words.
The bare idea that man can by any means evoke the deity would probably be looked upon as blasphemy in church-circles, though paradoxically enough such devotees insist upon the need of prayer.
But prayer is supplication, or the begging for benefits of some kind. Such devotion is obviously selfish and arises in the lower nature. The adoration of a personal god inevitably implies belief that man and god are separate. And such a god is ipso facto limited, not the Supreme or Universal Deity from who love flows like sunlight from the orb of day, awakening in human beings divine compassion, which is the soul of BROTHERHOOD.
Those who still cling to a personal god do so they say because they cannot love a mere abstraction. There is no need to try, for God is in everything that lives; and it is more than probable that what the lover loves is not the face and form of the beloved, but in reality is an abstract ideal in the mind of the lover, who is in most cases spellbound by the delusive magic of the sex-impulse.
This was the lesson Shakespeare tried to teach in "A Midsummer Night's Dream." And this is the lesson that experience teaches, and that man so constantly declines to learn.
What Shakespeare could not teach was the duality in the mind of man, the presence in the human heart of both the angel and the demon. He could picture its results and satirize its victims, but in his day, it would have been in vain to try to liberate the people from the obsession of a personal devil living in a hell of his own and making war upon a personal god, who reigned alone in Heaven for the right to torture and torment mankind.
But the times change, so that some teachings that could at most be hinted at in allegory when Shakespeare was alive can now be promulgated openly. Much that seems mysterious today will, in a little while, be looked upon as popular science.
The teachings of Theosophy -- during the dark ages known but to a few who guarded them as sacred mysteries -- have not changed nor are they new: but having been so long forgotten or neglected they may seem strange although so eminently reasonable.
Reasonable as these teachings are they do not kill the sense of wonder nor of reverence before the mysteries of life. The veil of matter may be lifted for a moment, but it has well been said: "Veil after veil will lift but there must be veil upon veil behind."
Indeed, a wise man has more reverence for Nature's mysteries than has the fool. A Theosophist worthy of the name tolerates honest ignorance, knowing a little of the possibilities behind the veil.
A careful study of Theosophy lets in a flood of light upon the mysteries that meet us here at every turn. Of these mysteries, perhaps the greatest is the most familiar. Love is so universal, that we are apt to think that we know all about it, whereas it is not only the most subtle and elusive, but also the most complex of our emotions.
Even sex-love, which seems so simple, defies analysis, escaping from the scientific formula as easily as from the many philosophic aphorisms invented to define its operation. Theosophy alone can throw some light upon the mystery of sex, because it has the key to the complexity of human nature, the meaning and the origin of sex. It can explain the great variety of human characters and consequently of their emotions, the most complex of which is love.
It is a common thing to speak of mother-love as if all mothers loved their children in the same way. Assuredly all mother-love has in it some taint of selfishness; but even so, how vastly different the feeling of a woman for her child, who looks upon it as a sacred charge entrusted to her care to rear and educate, from that of a woman who regards motherhood as a misfortune, and her child as an infliction forced upon her by a cruel destiny, or as a punishment for sin.
Again how different the love of the light-hearted mother whose children are her toys given to her for her amusement, and the affection of the one who sees a great soul look out at her from her child's wondering eyes. How can we talk of mother-love as if it were all standardized and of one quality?
And so it is with all sex-love: the different varieties are as wide apart as the two poles, ranging from the most degraded selfishness and sensuality to selfless adoration and saint-like purity, and yet ...
"Poor children of earth," cried the wandering spirit, Dearly ye pay for your primal fall: Some flowerets of Eden ye still inherit; But the trail of the serpent is over them all.
If love is a floweret of Eden then the trail of the serpent is the delusion of sex which blinds its victims and leads them to destruction. And why so? Why this delusion? What is it that suffers such destruction? The cause of the delusion is ignorance of the duality of mind. As has been said, "the mind is like a mirror," but the surface of that mirror is unstable as the surface of a lake that is disturbed by every passing breeze.
The breath of passion is a wind that ruffles and disturbs the mind, distorting every image it reflects. If love were pure, no breath of passion would disturb the mirror of the mind; there would be no delusion, no phantom-fires of lust would hover above the deadly swamp of sensuality, in which deluded souls are drowned. The tranquil mind would truthfully reflect the light of day, in which true images are seen and the true path reveals itself to the soul's gaze. To know the truth, tranquility of mind must first be won. No storms of anger or of lust must stir the mirror. Pure love is peace, and power, and light. It is compassion absolute.
And what if the lower nature protests according to its natural impulse? What if it endeavors to persuade the soul that there is no such thing as pure love undefiled by lust? For the lower nature, that is true; but for the higher it is false: when a man understands this dual nature he is not disturbed by the unwelcome promptings of his lower nature, nor distressed to find unworthy thoughts occasionally come sweeping over the surface of his mind; for he will know that the breeze cannot disturb the depths; nor can the sun of truth he long obscured even by the darkest clouds.
He will soon learn that though his mind is like a mirror, his soul can look below the surface of the lake and find the sunlight gathered there. Such is the mystery of mind. He who would understand the meaning of true love must master first the fluctuations of the mind, and learn to recognize the magical illusion which the lower nature practices upon the untrained mind in its attempts to snare the soul with false appearances.
Philosophers have posted danger-signals all along the path of life. Beware of men. Beware of woman. Beware of love. Beware of beauty. But all that is in vain. The danger is not on the path, but in the mind. The signs should read: "Beware of vanity and egoism," "Keep the Light burning in your heart," "The light of life is Love," and "Live in the sunlight as its ray in thee, so shalt thou reach the goal!"
By Dara Eklund
[From THEOSOPHIA, Spring 1973, pages 16-17.]
On the tree of Silence hangs the fruit of peace. The secret thou wouldst not tell thine enemy, tell it not to thy friend.
-- AN OLD ARAB PROVERB
Like a cave of echoes our conversation ripples at the edge of a mighty ocean. So unworthy of our deepest dignity, it defies the imagination to remember a world once again filled with the gold of silence. The old teachings, advise men to be sparing of speech and things will come right of themselves. Sensitivity to hidden laws of nature, patience to wait and watch, divide the sage from the fool. Only from the sage is speech priceless.
Care is no longer taken for words. We use fine words like "keen" and "beautiful" but slander them by application to unworthy objects and conditions. Everyone feels he must have an opinion or an "enthusiasm" about something or someone. This we have called intelligence, while the ability to analyze is one of its aspects rarely found in the glibly stated opinions. We say, "He is one of the beautiful people," without attaching any standard or value to beauty. It is an emotional admiration, a lusted attraction. People do not have to reach up any more for acclaim. Everyone is "grooving" for something.
In the matter of real consent, in trust between two hearts or promises and confidences, how many of us, even Theosophists, uphold them when there are "fall-outs" and breaches of friendship. We dare not spread our word-treasures too widely. One has many acquaintances, perhaps, but few friends. Even with our friends we have to be alert to the shades of feeling, so that our words give our true meaning. Emerson urged us to Be, not seem. (in SPIRITUAL LAWS: Essays: 1st series)
Let us take our bloated nothingness out of the path of the divine circuits ... real action is in silent moments. The epochs of our life are not in the visible facts of our choice of a calling, our marriage, our acquisition of an office, and the like, but in a silent thought by the wayside as we walk; in a thought which revises our entire manner of life and says -- "Thus hast thou done, but it were better thus ...
I desire not to disgrace the soul. The fact that I am here certainly shows me that the soul had need of an organ here. Shall I not assume the post?
A fisherman knows on which bank of a river to cast his line. When you really want a trout you don't let him see your shadow. In an age when the personality is rife, while the ego "mute and torpid sits," we are rightly worried about being misunderstood. The prisoner within has first to be understood by ourselves, because that being UNDERSTANDS. If freed, its gentle ways would soften the hardest hearts, casting and fearing no judgments. Personalities are so numerous, so various, that we fragment ourselves by tuning in to public opinions and not holding to guiding principles in our speech.
Wasted words are often spun out in our attempt to maintain the hum of mutual consent in which society rests its security.
Besides the waste of words, the restraint of words in self-defense is an even more difficult discipline. At times those we felt we could trust have cast aspersions on our very motives. In these often heart-rending predicaments we catch ourselves upholding rigorous measures of thought which we might not have followed through into daily practice. Certainly we cannot enforce them on others when we see how we must work to bring them into fruition ourselves. If we sense the desperation of a one life goal we may develop genuine forbearance with our neighbor's competitiveness, which drives him to now and then thwart us in our pursuits. Sincerely believing he has only one life to accomplish things in, what else can he do but pursue his desires hastily toward their accomplishment.
The chaparral on hillsides in late winter withholds its budding branches to the colder winds, even though tempted by warming currents of coming spring. Nature waits, instead of bounding with irregular spurts of energy, until everything unfolds harmoniously. In terms of human spring times it may take centuries for the heart-light to penetrate the crusty human brain. Only by tending our own thought-cultivation can we reap HPB's promise that one day "this garden of the Gods, called humanity, will blossom as a rose."
By G. de Purucker
[From STUDIES IN OCCULT PHILOSOPHY, pages 200-202.]
Here is a question I would like to ask: You have spoken of the different Buddhas. You have referred to -- at least you have inferred -- the existence in man of different egos. We have heard on other occasions of the Divine Monad, the Spiritual Monad, the Human Monad, the Astral Monad, and the Physical Monad. Now here is my question. Just what, then, is man? How many mans -- if I may so coin a plural, I won't say men, but how many mans -- are there in a man?
Is each one of these monads an entity by itself, united with the other entities, all together forming man's constitution; and if so, are there several mans in man, or is it just one single unitary being to which different names -- I mean divided into portions to which different names -- are given as we pass down the scale? Now that is a question well worth studying.
I would now like to suggest an answer.
It is not a mere figure of speech when we speak of man as having in his constitution different monads. A monad means an indivisible center of life-consciousness-substance, a spiritual ego. Therefore man, in addition to being a stream of consciousness as he is as a constitution, has within him a Divinity, a Buddha or Christ, a Manasaputra, a human being, an astral entity; and he is housed in the human beast -- the astral-vital-physical body. All these collectively constitute man's constitution.
Hence I have so often said to you: Remember in all your studies, never forget it, that man is a composite entity, which means an entity formed of other entities, other beings.
Therefore did I choose the words in asking my question: How many mans -- not men but mans -- are there in what we call man?
All through any one such constitution there is the sutratman or thread-self from the inmost of the inmost, the core of the core, the heart of the Universe -- through all these different monads, from the highest till it touches the physical brain of man. Thus man is both legion and unit. The Silent Watcher in him is the Dhyani-Buddha, an actual, entitative, living ego of divine type.
Man is but a copy, a microcosm, of what the solar system is, the Macrocosm. He is no different, he is the same: powers, substances, faculties, and essences -- everything -- only in the minute scale. What you see in the solar system, you should find in mankind. If you want to know what the solar system consists of, study yourself. You simply copy the Great.
Now, then, the human ego which is I, which is any one of you, is one of those particular monads as yet relatively unevolved. Above it there is the Spiritual Monad, and above the latter there is the Divine Monad.
For karmic reasons very intricate, difficult to understand but existent, any one of us happens to be a certain stream of consciousness, a sutratman; yet you or I as human individuals are the human monad.
I am a human monad, each one of you is; so that, as a human being you are only in the intermediate part of that stream of consciousness which is your constitution, and the upper part of it makes your link with infinity, and the lower part of it enables you to learn on this plane.
Thus you are both one and legion. Thus the divinity in the solar system is both one and an army. We are component parts of that army. The god of the solar system has a life-consciousness-substance, energy, being, which flows through all of us, and is the substantial, conscious background in which we live and move and have our being; and all that particular range of monads or egos which forms any one of us, and forms his stream of consciousness, is spiritually housed in this solar Divinity in whom we live and move and have our being.
It is really very simple, and it is so beautiful, because in understanding this seemingly intricate but really very simple thought, you have the key to so many of our deepest doctrines.
Now then, a last thought: Any one of these monads or spiritual egos which form the constitution of a man is evolving -- you are, I am, the god within me also, the god within you also, each one on its own plane, each one following its own pathway, and each one in time going a plane higher, and then a plane higher still.
When our monad shall have brought out from within itself its latent powers, its unevolved, undeveloped powers, it will become a Spiritual monad, and we shall all be Buddhas, and we shall then work through what is now the animal nature in us, which then will be human. Each monad will have stepped up a degree, and be more highly evolved.
Keep this thought in your mind of your utter oneness with the Divinity; and one of the best ways of recognizing the utter unity of everyone of us with Infinity, is remembering that we are composite, not by fastening our minds on the fact that we are just an ego different from other egos.
Therein is the heresy of separateness. The differences are illusory, yet they exist. Illusory does not mean that they do not exist; it means that it is not the real Real, the realest Real, the fundamental Reality.
Take Father-Sun. We see only his body, and yet his vitality enfills the solar system in which the planets are bathed, and all the beings on the planets, and the invisible planets. Then the innumerable armies and multitudes and hosts of life-atoms building my body, your body, the bodies of the earth, the bodies of the sun, the bodies of the gods -- each one of these life-atoms is a growing, learning entity, ensouled by a monad, which is likewise a stream of consciousness.
Man is a unit when you take a particular portion of the constitution which is the human ego, which is evolving. It will become a spiritual ego, and afterwards a divine ego; and yet at the same time shot through and through with forces streaming down into him from egos superior to himself, of which he is the child.
This is the esoteric basis for the old saying, that at the flame of a candle you can light all the fires of the world, and the flame of the candle is undiminished. Consciousness is just like that. You cannot exhaust it.
By Ralph Lanesdale
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL PATH, March 1924, pages 252-56.]
The use of paradox is not always a sign of high intelligence. It is perhaps a sign of weakness or a result of shallow thinking, if it be not an attempt to state a problem that must be thought out to a rational conclusion capable of a straightforward expression. Indeed, as a mode of stating the first appearance of any mental problem, it is perhaps impossible to avoid the facile paradox.
If it is a literary vice, it is a very tempting one. As an excuse for falling into it, I dare to quote the familiar assurance that we may climb to higher things on "steppingstones of our dead selves." From another source, the declaration is that our vices may become steppingstones as we surmount them. That is the point: as we surmount them. A steppingstone must not become a building-site.
Comforted by such reflections, I will venture the paradox that the hardest things to believe are the things we all know.
We all know that the world was going on as usual before we were born; but no one believes it. The world began with ME! Then too we all know that we shall die, and the world will go on as usual. But we do not believe that. The things that 'we all know' would fill a big book, but few that we believe.
When a man begins to think for himself, he ceases to share that general knowledge which consists of the things that we all know. Of course, he comes to his first real paradox when he realizes that he knows nothing beyond the fact of his own existence.
A friend was trying to comfort me in my melancholy by an assurance that the sun was shining beyond the clouds, but he failed to show me where the comfort of that assurance came in. I could have done it better myself, but I was tired of that sun which always is shining somewhere else.
Sometimes I find it hard to believe that beyond the clouds, the sun is shining as usual, and yet that is as sure as any of the things we know. Of course, what the sun is doing is really a matter for conjecture, so far as we are concerned.
As there is no one likely to question such a statement, I feel safe in saying that I know the sun is shining. As a matter of fact, the sun that looks so bright up there may have ceased shining, may be dissolved in space, may have changed his course, or may be otherwise engaged.
So it is with nearly all the things we know. There is no certainty about our so-called knowledge. Thus we know (or have been assured) that the sun is a long way off and that light travels at a definite rate, and so the light of the sun, that we now see, left its starting-point some time ago and since then many things may have happened. The solar system may have gone out of business for all we know while the light we see has been on its way here.
This is easier to realize if we think of one of the great solar systems that we call fixed stars, because they are (supposedly) so very far away and the time-distance is so great. Then it would not matter much to any of us if a few such far away solar systems did disappear or have already gone into obscuration.
It is interesting occasionally to think about the things we really know. They are so few. Indeed, it may be questioned if there be truly more than one really knowable fact, one thing that we can be absolutely sure of. That one fact is presumably the same for all of us. When I search deep into my mind beyond the shores of knowledge and of information, of supposition and conjecture, of reasoned conclusions and logical deductions, I come at last to the bedrock of human consciousness, or at least to the foundation of my own consciousness, and know that I am I.
From that I infer that the same is true for all other thinking beings. This is not knowledge -- only inference.
Meditating upon this one fact of consciousness, I become aware of a deeper perception, as elementary as to seem quite inseparable from consciousness, and yet so abstract as to transcend the grasp of reason or of objective thinking. It would almost seem to be the link connecting mind with spiritual consciousness, the human with the divine, the first word and the last of human consciousness -- I AM. Beyond this formula, I find no foothold for my mind.
To separate myself from consciousness of self seems to me beyond the power of my mind, yet I am conscious all the time. There is never a time in which I am unconscious. I may say I have been unconscious, but even so at the time I was not aware of my unconsciousness.
How then do I know it? The answer is that I do not know it. I cannot know a negative. All that I can know is consciousness. I know I am, but all the rest is thinking.
Thoughts are things, creatures of mind. Real knowledge is perception and deals with realities. And here we step off from the plane of matter into the region of ideas, which may be called the spiritual essences that ensoul our highest thoughts. Thoughts are things, but ideas are alive. They are like the causes of which thoughts are the effects.
It seems to me that there must be states of existence in which pure ideas are actual realities, and are like sparks of consciousness, centers of radiance, stars fallen from union with the universal Soul, caught by the lure of individual existence, seeking experience on the shores of time, like children building castles in the sand.
We have drunk the waters of forgetfulness, and the delusions of the mind are now realities for us. Our changing personalities are our own creations, and the facts of life are thoughts. Our knowledge, all illusive, deals with appearances, and our dreams are merely phantasmagoria.
Yet our intuition now and again awakes and wonders, "Where am I?" What is this world? Who are these about me? The shadowy images with which this world of ours is furnished waver as we look at them. Faces familiar to our eyes change as we try to recall their radiant prototypes and appear as masks, which merely veil the truth we fear to look upon.
Yet with wonderful assurance we speak of 'things that everybody knows,' meaning perhaps things that we all may constantly experience, such as the changes of state from waking to sleeping, of growth and decay, of memory and forgetfulness, and all the marvels of nature: how the plants know what to look like, not losing their own particular character in the process of growth; all the countless mysteries of life that have no secrets for the multitude but that excite the wonder and the admiration of the wise.
Oh what a wonderful thing is scientific education! How beautiful it is to feel we know it all, and that there are no mysteries in life beyond the reach of the learned authors of modern text-books, who know the laws of nature and the whole history of creation! We have much to be thankful for.
Yet man is not altogether satisfied. The things that everybody knows are sometimes strangely difficult to explain to an inquiring mind that really wants to know. The young have grown skeptical and demand proof and evidence, and failing that, they imitate their elders, make a bluff and call it knowledge, feeling that there is no possibility of really knowing anything beyond the self-evident fact of their own existence.
We are all sure, I suppose, that we exist. Is it not possible to know other things with the same certainty, to use the same means of knowing?
What is that means of knowledge by which I know that I am I? It is not the result of a process of reasoning. It is direct knowledge with no intermediary process. It does not come from faith or belief, but it is self-existent. It is consciousness in its simplest manifestation that is self-consciousness, which is not knowledge at all as generally understood.
The knowledge that is acquired by study or by experience is produced by a process of thinking and reasoning; and it is all liable to error. However convincing it may be, it is not certain, for the mind may be deceived.
When we come to that kind of knowledge which is acquired by reading or by listening, we are forced to admit that it is no more than accepted information, which may or may not be accurate. It is not entitled to rank as real knowledge until it has been assimilated by an individual mental digestive process, that is hard to define, but which seems to bear some analogy to the assimilation of the elements of food by the body, a long and complicated process, which is very liable to derangement.
For ordinary purposes, we accept on faith almost the whole mass of information, conveyed by school teachers and by writers, and call it knowledge. Where this knowledge is widely accepted, we call it absolute, and then base all our reasoning upon it as if it were fact. As our reasoning is a personal process, the results are frequently impossible of coordination. The things that everybody knows are almost entirely articles of faith accepted without examination upon authority, which itself depends for its status upon faith.
When a man tries to verify some article of faith, he is forced to inquire into the basis of knowledge, and it is not surprising that he should come to the conclusion that he knows nothing beyond the fact of his own existence. All else is matter of faith, and may be classified by the mind as probable or improbable. But if such a student then assumes that nothing else is knowable, he is venturing into the unknown, and any denial of the possibility of direct knowledge is manifestly a mere bluff.
For every serious student of life, the possibility of direct knowledge is a matter of deepest interest. While it may well be that the solution of the problem may lie beyond the reach of the brain-mind, yet it would be a bold man who would decide that the limits of human reason have yet been reached.
It would be even more presumptuous to maintain that man's intuition is not capable of direct perception of truth upon a plane of consciousness superior to that upon which the intellect habitually functions. This possibility is an accepted fact for many people, but not for the ordinary person in this age of rationalism and animalism. Some of the poets have realized it in their own lives, and have tried to express it, and generally failed. To others it has remained for them an accepted article of faith, the demonstration of which might never be achieved.
There have been religious enthusiasts to whom it was an object to be striven for and prayed for. But the revelation comes not for searching, nor for prayer, nor mortification of the flesh; yet do all true devotees yearn for the marvel. The secret of the search and the reason of failure are fully explained in Theosophical teachings as to the dual nature of the mind.
The object of evolution is the attainment of true Self-knowledge, which can only be reached by one who has freed himself from the blinding and imprisoning delusion of personality.
The man who yearns for spiritual advancement may be shut out from spiritual light by the very force of his personal desire for achievement. The teaching of Theosophy is that the desires of the personal self must be transmuted into impersonality by the fire of spiritual wisdom. The key lies in the mystery of Universal Brotherhood. Follow the Path!
By Erica L. Georgiades
and written September 9, 2009.]
I sat down to write and all of a sudden my mind was bombed with thousands of ideas and is really hard to choose which one write about. It is like you have unrolled in front of you a thousand paths to follow and you know that you have to choose only one. Every path is special in its own way and to make choice is a great challenge.
So I closed my eyes in the middle of a thousand paths, and headed towards one. This was the path marked with the sign "death." As I began my journey on the PATH OF DEATH, my first steps were within a dark area. No wind was blowing, no birds were singing; there was a deep penetrating silence and darkness everywhere. Such condition makes me to wonder if I have done the right choice.
For a moment I wondered if Cerberus would lie ahead or on my way back, and would not allow me either to enter or to leave the KINGDOM OF HADES. Shadows of fear began growing within me. What am I doing here? Why haven't I chosen another path, an easier one? I asked myself while standing still, trying to listen or to see something. Then I remembered the time I was attending a seminar to become a voluntary in the Cancer Hospital of Sao Paulo.
Oh gods, I remember that during the first day of this seminar I was taken to visit the children's area of the hospital. I saw all those children, with their curious and bright eyes, and the beauty of childhood, secluded on a hospital bed. Some of them were one year old, others ten years old; there were children of every age. But most of them were just condemned to die. I gazed on them and silently asked myself:
Oh immortals, is there something I can do to release them from such suffering?
After that, for many days I was feeling very sad. At that time I was young (17 years old), and I could not accept what I have accepted today. We may fight against everything in life we may fear many things in life, but we cannot fight against death (when time arrives) and most important we should not fear death.
I also remember this friend of mine, who was so young with a life full of dreams ahead of him, and suddenly passed away. I remember his smile, his playfulness and his dreams which he shared with friends, and all of a sudden everything was transformed into ashes. He was no longer alive, and what remained from him were the memories that his family and friends are carrying. Probably the greatest feeling of impotence we may have during a lifetime is when someone we know is dying and we realize that there is absolutely nothing we can do to prevent it.
Again I gazed on the chosen path, there was only stillness and darkness, and as a lightening the words of Goethe stroke my mind:
There is no way out for those who enter here.
I thought that hell maybe is to die expecting to enter a world similar with the one we live. It's that condition of being attached to a self which no longer exists. While nothingness might be the bliss or paradise. So heaven is denied by those who are attached to the self. This denial might be the nature of hell, the insistence to keep a self which is no more.
Everything is transitory so why the self would not be also transitory? Ask someone dying what does he/she have to say about life, and the answer will be: passed so fast, like the blinking of an eye. Everything was like a dream.
So I am thinking maybe this stillness and darkness will also pass with the blink of an eye, and will be like a dream. So this is also not real. And I asked myself is there any reality on life or after-life?
Life flies, and during its flight we are so much egocentric, immersed in a world full of doubts, fears, intrigues, competition, suffering, love, quarrels etc. And moment after moment we praise the transitory. Once I heard that we should praise the eternal and not the transitory. And now I ask: is there anything eternal, if there is can we grasp it?
Again I look ahead; trying to leave that darkness unfolded on the path, but still could not see anything. I thought that something should change eventually. It is not possible for me to stand still on the same spot anymore. Being stubborn, I decide not to choose another path to thread, but to wait patiently because while nothing in life is static, why on death would be?
Someone cannot offer a remedy for an unknown illness. Only when someone has a deep empirical knowledge will be able to find the cure for it. The attachment and illusion of a self, is a kind of illness that can be healed only from within. A Doctor may prescribe us a medicine and we will be healed. The "Doctors of the Soul" as Buddha for example, taught us how to overtake such fears and to reach a state of bliss within all this chaos, through the realization of the illusion of the self.
Of course this is not an easy job, because it implies the fact that we cannot get an external help over such matters, but the only help we can have is the one which is derived from the depths of something which is not our self, but can be reached only through our self.
That sounds as a contradiction to me. If the self is illusionary, and has a transitory existence, how can we possibly reach through the transitory the eternal or that which may lead us out of ignorance?
It's a kind of paradox for that would imply something that is not illusionary consequently not transitory but eternal. Is there such thing which is eternal? Maybe motion. But motion implies a force or forces that give it an impulse. So the force or forces beyond motion may be the eternal, consequently not illusionary. Maybe this is what we have to realize, not intellectually but empirically.
Anyway the path is esoteric (internal) and it seems at the same time nonexistent but possible to be created. Maybe Antahkarana which in esoteric philosophy, is described as the bridge that we can build from the lower to the highest states of consciousness, is the key. But still on a theoretical level. Antahkarana is called the link between the higher mind and the Buddhic consciousness.
But as I don't want to get lost in technicalities, the paradox is still there. How something that is transitory can reach something that is not transitory as the eternal? It seems highly improbable, except the Eternal is also transitory.