is not the pursuit of happiness, as men understand the
word; for the first step is sacrifice, the second, renunciation."
Occultism is the "narrow way”, that leads out of all human experience.
and evolution of the religious sentiment in mankind as
differing from the ephemeral theologies of each form of
religion, is an idea which is apparently attracting the
attention of thinking men, [ See the Future Development
of Religious Life, by Layon Ramsey in the "Westminster
Review” of May, 1889] – but vague speculations
as to what constitutes that "something" which
is admitted to be the underlying basis of all creeds, and
the still vaguer hopes that the wider faith to come may be
a more potent impetus to high thinking and right living than
those of the past have been, can only he matters of interest
to the cultured minority who have drifted from the old anchor
ground of dogmatic theology, and have not yet found the wider
harbour of rest where the longings of heart and intellect
would again find fruition in a system of thought which would
satisfy both alike.
That such a system of thought now exists in the world, and has existed through the countless ages of past time, is a fact which must surely strike those capable of receiving it with the deep enthusiasm of worship, and the capability of wisdom which the reception of it implies must always be regarded by them as their greatest glory, for "what greatness is greater than wisdom? ". And in proportion as each one realizes the inestimable value of this "pearl of great price" will be his endeavours to make others a sharer of it with him.
The field which this system of thought — this wisdom-religion covers, is of so stupendous an extent, and can he approached from so many points of view that it is bewildering to know where to start in any attempt at definition, for the roads to men's hearts and minds differ ad infinitum, and the fervency and many-sidedness of a St. Paul are wanted to carry home the truth by " being all things to all men".
The conviction, too, that truth and knowledge are relative terms, and [Page 2] that the absolute cannot be comprehended, still less expressed, by ordinary men — convictions which the wider-minded even in the religious world are now beginning to grasp — must always tend to veil dogmatic utterance in more or less mystic terms, but though the philosophically-minded may realize vividly this relativity of knowledge, it should make him none the less anxious to enable others to see the truth as he sees it; for this relativity of truth and knowledge in our present state is no implication that one view of it is as true as another, or indeed that the absolute truth may not ultimately be attained by man. But there are many steps in the ladder. The dim mind of an African savage is incapable of appreciating the thoughts of an educated European, just as the same average European can by no possibility grasp the sublime ideas of an Eastern sage. Every height of knowledge and spirituality has been won at the sword's point in past incarnations, but the first duty of those who have attained fresh light is to attempt to give some of their knowledge to those who are not yet fit to stand where they stand.
This may at first appear to be at variance with the facts so repeatedly advanced in the works (particularly "Esoteric Buddhism ") which purported to translate for the first time into ordinary language the Divine mysteries which had been hidden in past ages from all save those who had had the wisdom and the courage to force their way into the sacred precincts, and, ultimately, to attain initiation. But a little consideration of the subject will show that this is not so, or rather, that every age of the world has duties of its own, and that the duties of today are no more at variance with the duties of past ages than the duties of manhood are at variance with the duties of childhood.
Educated as one has been in the liberal atmosphere of Western culture, where free discussion of any new formula is not only permissible but obligatory, and where the veil of secrecy has the savour of imposture, it is hard at first to understand the reasons for the secrecy that has obtained in past ages, and the severe penalties attached by Occult Lodges to any infringement of that secrecy. A little consideration of the subject must demonstrate two satisfactory reasons. The first is that the Divine Wisdom itself — the light destined to illuminate cycle after cycle in the progressive evolution of this planet and this race of men — must not run the faintest risk of being extinguished; that the minute number of men who have proved themselves capable of outstripping the race, and of prematurely evolving the Godlike attributes fitting them to become custodians of this Divine Wisdom, must be so guarded, that the torch of Truth may never fail to be passed on from generation to generation.
Religionists may contend that their special form of faith provides all the light that humanity needs, but apart from the fact that many forms [Page 3] co-exist in the world at the same time — which of itself is proof that no one form is suited for all mankind — it must be apparent that every religion is continually undergoing change, and as a fact, however pure it may have been at the outset, it is inevitably destined to perish through inherent corruption. How necessary, therefore, is it that the Divine Wisdom (Theosophia) should remain an ever ready source for the periodical regeneration of Humanity!
Now we who live in this age of free discussion can form but dim conceptions of what bigotry and intolerance really mean. The culmination of this little cycle of civilization is going on so fast that the comparatively mild prejudices and intolerances of, say the beginning of the present century, are rapidly being lost to view — (Shelley might have been a happy man had he lived today) — while the records of the dark ages left by historians are so steeped in cruelty that even the few who read them find difficulty in giving credence to a record that pictures men in the character of devils. But this cruelty and intolerance are just what had to be guarded against by the secret Lodges, whose duty was to educate disciples in spiritual knowledge and in the mysteries of the hidden forces of Nature.
The second reason is that until the cumulative culture of past eras began to produce a generation capable of grasping the deeper truths, the wider diffusions of the true philosophy among the herd of men could only have been productive of harm to them; indeed, the cynical indifference or flippant sarcasm with which works dealing with this wider philosophy of life have, as a rule, so far been treated in this country in the public press, and the failure to accord so much as an attentive hearing, raises the doubt — a doubt which, we understand, was even felt by some of the more advanced in the hierarchy of wisdom — whether the present promulgation to the world of the Secret Doctrine of the ages has not been premature, and has truly resulted in little more than "a casting of pearls before swine!"
The veil, it is true, is only being partially lifted even now. The real "mysteries" are guarded as jealously to day as they ever were in past ages, and until each man has proved by facing and conquering the personal human nature in him, that he is incapable of using with any personal end the powers with which he may be entrusted, he will never be willingly endowed by the guardians of the secrets with the knowledge that brings such power in its train.
This is the fundamental reason for the care with which the "mysteries" are guarded. It will probably not appear conclusive to the frivolous pleasure loving generation of today, who can only appreciate the dissipation of energy they practise, and are incapable of [Page 4] understanding what concentration means. Nevertheless, it is a fact that intellectual culture, if backed by unwavering Will, may step over the line, and may, without having undergone the necessary moral discipline, acquire powers which are the appanage of the gods. This achievement was known in past ages by the name of magic — the seizure of Divine powers by hands which were by no means divine! The awful calamity to mankind of the possession of such powers by men ready to use them for their own personal ends may at least be dimly imagined. The student of occult literature will find in the strife which culminated in the submergence of Atlantis a case in point.
In marked contrast to the aspirants after magical powers stands the small minority whose sole aim is spiritual knowledge apart from the attainment of any powers whatever."Union" is their watchword — partial union or knowledge of their own higher self, and, far off in the heights beyond, complete union of that higher self with the Supreme — but the very first step in the training teaches that though the powers themselves may not be desired they cannot be avoided. The mystery of man's higher nature of what is commonly called the soul, is so intimately connected with the mystery of Nature's hidden forces that the real knowledge of the former necessarily entails control over the latter. This is what the blind religionist has no conception of! The mediæval saint, indeed, by the intensity of his concentration unconsciously acquired some of the powers referred to, which the populace of the day rightly enough ascribed to holiness of life. But the life of the devout modern religionist, sunk in the same ignorance, but without the mediaeval saint's concentration, sums itself up in mere vague aspiration! A little knowledge of the spiritual science is apparently, therefore, the very first necessity to give point to devotion.
But to return to ordinary humanity, it must be apparent that any premature unsettling of the faith of the multitude could only be productive of harm. For the Secret Doctrine deals with a vastly wider range than the subjective sphere of reward or punishment following each earth-Iife, and how could men barely capable of grasping or of acting up to the simplest rules of morality or religion be fit recipients of its exalted philosophy — its counsels of Perfection ? ! It is like expecting the ordinary humanity to be actuated by the same motives as those which guide the Redeemers of the Race! True, every man has within him the germ and potentiality of Deity (and not man only, the animals also and the lower realms of being too, for everything has life, and all creation is linked together and is animated in varying degree by innate Deity), but how few are the men who will ever attain these heights! The great majority of humanity will never desire complete emancipation, [Page 5] but will rest satisfied with earthly life, to which they will unceasingly return, sorrowing and rejoicing alternately in its sorrows and its joys. [ It was attempted in "Problems of the Hidden Life", pages 117-118, to show from another point of view how this must inevitably be so]
And we who have undertaken the Great Quest, shall we ever attain ? For it is written: “Great ones fall back even from the threshold, unable to sustain the weight of their responsibility, unable to pass on". It is something, at all events, to have had the eyes opened, to know that —
“We suffer from ourselves, none else compels,
None other holds us that we live and die
And whirl upon the wheel, and hug and kiss
Its spokes of Agony,
Its tire of tears, its nave of nothingness."
Can it be possible that the ardent dedication of the life,
and the fervency with which the occult doctrine was first
seized and worshipped, constituted in reality an initiation
which made it an impossibility that the neophyte could ever
return to the ordinary worldly life he lived before ? And
is it possible that the constantly recurring anguish which,
apparently without the slightest cause, spontaneously invades
the soul is in reality the inevitable result of this initiation,
and is directly administered by the hand of a master ?
It is only on the hypothesis of some conscious external agent who can strike at will each time some different chord of pain, and can at the same time make the sufferer aware of the object with which the pain is inflicted, that this awful wringing of the soul can be at all accounted for. It matters not very much whether the master be an individual man — our future teacher may be, with whom we may be destined even in this life to come into closer relationship — or whether it he our own Higher Self of whom the lower has as yet no consciousness, but which sits apart in the hidden sanctuary of our being, looking down from its serene height on the strife of the battle, and guiding the life towards its greatness. One of these two it must be. On any other hypothesis life is too hideously empty for words to paint !
It is easy to talk in a glib way of the killing out of all earthly desire, but to be forced for days together to realize the blankness of desolation which these words imply is an awful experience to go through. But through it all deep down is the conviction that greater strength and courage are being gained, the thought gradually rises up that the lesson is being rightly learned, and the ultimate end and object of it all takes form before inner vision as the Great Renunciation — Renunciation not of [Page 6] earthly possessions merely, but of life, of character, of very being, of all that constitutes the known " self." [ Here is the same idea under another aspect. With the true insight of the great poet, Shelley expresses it from the devotional point of view.
" The spirit of the worm beneath the sod,
In love and worship blends itself with God."] —
But this is the
very first step on the path, and the initial trial has
to be endured many times before its lesson can be rightly
learned. If such experience constitutes but the first glimmering
of vision on the Astral plane, what awful experiences must
remain in store when the eyes are completely opened! Gladly
would the disciple return to the old life, could he but
find any peace or rest in it, but though the "Great
Quest" more than ever takes the shape of a "forlorn
hope", it is the only possible path open. The ability
to consciously step over into the "fixed place of peace" doubtless
depends on the strength of the seeker, but having "put
his hand to the plough", there can be no turning back.
When the cup of earthly experience — the experience
of the senses and the emotions—has been drunk to the
dregs, it is Destiny itself — no mere individual choice — that
goads to the experience of the greater life beyond.
It is only in consequence of proving from past observation that the attempt to describe in words these indescribable sensations of the soul was a means of obtaining relief that any such attempt [ ”The Dark light of the Soul", published in "Problems of the Hidden Life", as we as the "Dedication with which the book begins, were similar attempts years ago ] — has now been made. To record them seems useless, for what meaning can they convey to any but the handful of those who have had similar experience ? But there was also the sub-conscious feeling that the power that administered the suffering intended them to be recorded, and what is wrung from the heart in such wise may have some power.
The first comments on "Light on the Path" published in "Lucifer", in September, 1887, anticipated with greater vividness what the writer had already partially experienced. Their truth and value therefore are increasingly brought home to the mind. The very first aphorism, too, "Before the eyes can see they must be incapable of tears," was such an enigma that it required explanation. If, then, these experiences of the writer may possibly be of any value to others, they will be rendered much more so by extracts from the above comments.
While the exquisite devotional feeling displayed in the Bhagavad Gita is felt to be wanting in the comments as well as in "Light on the Path" itself, which may be described as a scientific treatise on the Attainment of Perfection, and only to be surpassed in this characteristic by the still greater detail of the Yoga Aphorisms of [Page 7] Patanjali — difference of character in the writers must account for the different phraseology used — certainly no difference in the object or goal aimed at by both. And though in the soul's deep trouble it will fly for refuge to the heavenly speech of Krishna in the Song Celestial, no words can better describe than those of "Light on the Path", or those of the following extracts from one of the comments, how inconceivably exalted is the goal aimed at, or how the morality and devotionalism of the religious as well as the most superb ambitions of earthly life are but as the dust below the feet of the Occultist who has dared to face the realities of existence.
The stoical performance of duty, too, may be, perhaps, to an even greater degree than religious aspiration, a means of leading to the Path, but until the Divine touch fires the soul with faith, and with the recognition of the mighty destiny that awaits it, the most devoted performance of duty will be but a dull treadmill, wanting alike in the adventure of the mountain ascent, and in the breath of the keener air that tells the climber he is mounting upwards.
"No man desires to see that light which illumines the spaceless soul until pain and sorrow and despair have driven him away from the life of ordinary humanity. First he wears out pleasure; then he wears out pain — till, at last, his eyes become incapable of tears".
"To be incapable of tears is to have faced and conquered the simple human nature, and to have attained an equilibrium which cannot be shaken by personal emotions. It does not imply any hardness of heart or any indifference. It does not imply the exhaustion of sorrow, when the suffering soul seems powerless to suffer acutely any longer; it does not mean the deadness of old age, when emotion is becoming dull because the strings which vibrate to it are wearing out. None of these conditions are fit for a disciple, and if any of them exist in him, it must be overcome before the path can be entered upon. Hardness of heart belongs to the selfish man, the egotist, to whom the gate is for ever closed. Indifference belongs to the fool and the false philosopher, those whose lukewarmness makes them mere puppets, not strong enough to face the realities of existence. When pain or sorrow has worn out the keenness of suffering, the result is a lethargy not unlike that which accompanies old age, as it is usually experienced by men and women. Such a condition makes the entrance to the path impossible, because the first step is one of difficulty and needs a strong man, full of psychic and physical vigour, to attempt it.
"It is a truth that, as Edgar Allan Poe said, the eyes are the windows for the. soul, the windows of that haunted palace in which it dwells”. This is the very nearest interpretation into ordinary language of the [Page 8] meaning of the text. In grief, dismay, disappointment or pleasure can shake the soul so that it loses its fixed hold on the calm spirit which inspires it, and the moisture of life breaks forth, drowning knowledge in sensation, then all is blurred, the windows are darkened, the light is useless. This is as literal a fact as that if a man, at the edge of a precipice, loses his nerve through some sudden emotion, he will certainly fall. The poise of the body, the balance, must be preserved, not only in dangerous places, but even on the level ground, and with all the assistance Nature gives us by the law of gravitation. So it is with the soul, it is the link between the outer body and the starry spirit beyond; the Divine spark dwells in the still place where no convulsion of Nature can shake the air; this is so always. But. the soul may lose its hold on that, its knowledge of it, even though these two are part of one whole; and it is by emotion, by sensation that this hold is loosed. To suffer either pleasure or pain causes a vivid vibration, which is, to the consciousness of man, life. Now this sensibility does not lessen when the disciple enters upon his training — it increases. It is the first test of his strength. He must suffer, must enjoy or endure, more keenly than other men, while yet he has taken on him a duty which does not exist for other men — that of not allowing his suffering to shake him from his fixed purpose.
" In one of the great mystic Brotherhoods, there are four ceremonies that take place early in the year, which practically illustrate and elucidate these aphorisms. They are in which only novices take part, for they are simply services of the threshold. But it will show how serious a thing it is to become a disciple when it is understood that these are all ceremonies of sacrifice. The first one is this of which I have been speaking. The keenest enjoyment, the bitterest pain, the anguish of loss and despair are brought to bear on the trembling soul, which has not yet found light in the darkness, which is helpless as a blind man is, and until these shocks can be endured without loss of equilibrium, the astral senses must remain sealed. This is the merciful law.
" In sensation no permanent home can be found because change is the law of this vibratory existence. That fact is the first one which must be learned by the disciple. It is useless to pause and weep for a scene in a kaleidoscope which has passed.
"It is a very well-known fact, one with which Bulwer Lytton dealt with great power, that an intolerable sadness is the very first experience of the neophyte in Occultism. A sense of blankness falls upon him which makes the world a waste, and life a vain exertion. This follows [Page 9] his first serious contemplation of the abstract. In gazing, or even in attempting to gaze, on the ineffable mystery of his own higher nature, he himself causes the initial trial to fall on him. The oscillation between pleasure and pain ceases for, perhaps, an instant of time; but that is enough to have cut him loose from his fast moorings in this world of sensation. He has experienced, however briefly, the greater life; and he goes on with ordinary existence weighted by a sense of unreality, of blank, of horrid negation. This was the nightmare which visited Bulwer Lytton's neophyte in “Zanoni"; and even Zanoni himself, who had learned great truths, and been entrusted with great powers, had not actually passed the threshold where fear and hope, despair and joy seem at one moment absolute realities, at the next mere forms of fancy.
“This initial trial is often brought on us by life itself. For life is, after all, the great teacher. There are persons so near the door of knowledge that life itself prepares them for it, and no individual hand has to invoke the hideous guardian of the entrance. These must naturally be keen and powerful organizations, capable of the most vivid pleasure; their pain comes and fills its great duty. The most intense forms of suffering fall on such a nature, till at last it arouses from its stupor of consciousness, and by the force of its internal vitality steps over the threshold into a place of peace. Then the vibration of life loses its power of tyranny. The sensitive nature must suffer still; but the soul has freed itself and stands aloof, guiding the life towards its greatness. Those who are the subjects of Time, and go slowly through all his spaces, live on through a long-drawn series of sensations, and suffer a constant mingling of pleasure and of pain. They do not dare to take the snake of self in a steady grasp and conquer it, so becoming Divine; but prefer to go on fretting through divers experiences, suffering blows from the opposing forces.
“When one of these subjects of Time decides to enter on the path of Occultism, it is this which is his first task. If life has not taught it to him, if he is not strong enough to teach himself, and if he has power enough to demand the help of a master, then this fearful trial, depicted in “Zanoni", is put upon him. The oscillation in which he lives is for an instant stilled; and he has to survive the shock of facing what seems to him at first sight as the abyss of nothingness. Not till he has learned to dwell in this abyss, and has found its peace, is it possible for his eyes to have become incapable of tears."
"The eyes of wisdom are like the ocean depths; there is neither joy nor sorrow in them; therefore the Occultist must become stronger than joy, and greater than sorrow."
While the above is doubtless a more detailed analysis of the process [Page 10] than the masters of past ages thought it advisable to put before the world, to many minds the more devotional expression of the Ancients must appeal with greater power. Take, for example, the description given below by Farîdu-d-dîn-Attâr in his "Colloquy of the Birds" of the seven stages in the road leading to union with the Divine Essence. While the foregoing description seems to be analogous with the pain and toil of the first valley, there is throughout a marked correspondence between the devotional rhapsodies of the Mohammedan writer and the more scientifically formulated rules of "Light on the Path". From the beginning to the end of ends the correspondence is preserved, and each writer but uses his own expression for that which is beyond all expression — the sublime path that leads from manhood to Deity, and which everyone must tread alone".
"First there is the valley of the Quest; painful and toilsome is that valley; and there for years mayst thou dwell, stripping thy soul bare of all earthly attachment, indifferent to forms of faith or unfaith, until the light of the Divine Essence casts a ray upon thy desolation.
"Then, when thy heart has been set on fire, shalt thou enter the second valley — the valley of Love — a valley that has no limits.
"Next is the valley of Knowledge, which has no beginning, neither ending. There each who enters is enlightened, so far as he is able to bear it, and finds in the contemplation of truth the place which belongs to him. The mystery of the essence of being is revealed to him. He sees the almond within its shell, he sees God under all the things of sense: or rather, he sees nothing but him whom he loves. But for one who has attained to these mysteries, how many millions have turned aside out of the way upon the road !
" The fourth valley is the valley of Sufficiency, where God is all in all; where the contemplation of the Divinity is the one reality, and all things else, sensible or intellectual, are absorbed in nothingness.
"The fifth is the valley of the Unity, where the Divine Essence, independent of its attributes, is the object of contemplation.
"Thence the elect soul passes to the sixth valley, the valley of Amazement; a dolorous region where, " dark with excessive bright“ from the revelation of the Unity, it gropes its way in pain and confusion. He who has the Unity graven on his heart forgets all else and himself also. Should any man say to such an one:—Art thou annihilated or existent, or both, or neither ? Art thou thyself or not thyself ? he would reply: I know nothing at all, not even that I know nothing. I love; but I know not whom I love — I am neither Muslim nor infidel. What am I then ? What say I ? I have no knowledge of my love. My heart is at the same time full and empty.
"Last stage of all is the valley of Annihilation of Self; of complete [Page 11] Renunciation [ “Poverty” is the word used in the original. It is the Sufi term corresponding with the more intelligible expression, enunciation] — the seventh and supreme degree which no human words can describe. There is the great ocean of Divine Love. The world present and the world to come are but as figures reflected in it. And, as it rises and falls, how can they remain ? He who plunges in that sea, and is lost in it, finds perfect peace."
One pregnant warning is here required. Let none imagine that sickly sentimentalism or blind religious emotionalism constitute the "setting on fire” of the second valley, before the awful process of stripping the soul bare of all earthly attachment has ever been begun. Religious emotionalism may be a means of leading to the path of wisdom, and may be a faint foretaste of the Love referred to, but the self-satisfied complacency of the most emotionally religious is but a sign that the very existence of the " Great Quest " has not yet been realized.
The enlightenment of the valley of Knowledge — the "seeing of the almond within its shell" — doubtless refers to the conquest of Nature's hidden secrets, and the consequent attainment of powers over her subtle forces, which the adept acquires at certain stages of his progress. The parallel passage in "Light on the Path" is very apparent. " Inquire of the earth, the air, and the water of the secrets they hold for you. The development of your inner senses will enable you to do this."
The comparison between the process in the fourth and fifth valleys is the subject exclusively dealt with in the twelfth chapter of the Bhagavad-Gita, and great stress is there laid on the terrible difficulty of fixing the heart on the Unmanifest — the attributeless Deity — in other words, of realizing the Unity. The Muslim mystic wisely leads the neophyte through the fourth valley before attempting to enter the fifth, and if without the preliminary experience of the preceding one —
“...........that viewless faith.
Shall scarce be trod by man bearing the flesh! "
what vast strides of advance must separate the different
stages of progress typified in the seven valleys!
The attainment symbolized in the seventh valley will be recognised as that unutterable condition, which no religion can find, fitting words to describe, but which all religions, which are not atrophied by materialism, must attempt, in more or less vague terms, to formulate.
The few mystics who have penetrated to the inner meaning of the Christian faith will also find in the above allegory an exact counterpart of the lessons intended to be taught by the Gospels. The baptism, the [Page 12] fasting, the temptation — what are they but the initiatory stages of the first valleys ? The miracles represent the attainment of powers over the hidden forces of Nature, and the beneficent use which all adepts of the Good Law are bound to make of these powers. The agony in the garden seems to find its correspondence in the valley of Amazement — the preparatory initiation for the passing of the final gateway, while the culminating sacrifice of the crucifixion and death symbolizes the ultimate annihilation of "Self " — the death of the last remnant of earthly attraction, destined to be followed on the third day by the resurrection of the perfected Man — the Christ — who finally under the symbol of the "Ascension" attains Nirvana.
Thus only is the "Son of Man" destined to become "perfect through suffering".
It is recognised as a truism that worldly success is ultimately referable to personal merit, and, going deeper, that the noblest achievement of all — that of character — is similarly due to sustained individual efforts; but when dealing with the same life of man, Theology, not content to leave natural causes to eventuate in natural results, must needs import another factor in the shape of an imaginary external Redeemer, without whose aid the noblest works of man are, to use a cant phrase, "but filthy rags". One of the saddest stories of the lapse of mankind into the degrading materialism of the present day is to be found in the misinterpretation put by the early Church on the Gospels, which the writers intended as allegories of the soul's initiations — the attainment of the χρηστοϛ or Christ-spirit in man, but which the Church very early in its career degraded into the personal history of a single individual, with the inevitable result that during the early centuries more or less wilful mutilations and interpolations have so changed the face of the Gospels that the original writers would scarcely recognise them. True, there has been, and there will be, a continued succession of teachers and revivers of spirituality in mankind, and these may rightly be called Redeemers of the race. Looked at from the widest point of view, every great reformer of abuses in every department of life — everyone who inspires men with better thoughts and nobler ideals — may be called a redeemer, but the term in its common acceptation is rightly reserved for the limited number of great historical examples — men who are recognised as being something more than ordinary Humanity, and who were, in fact, Avatars — direct incarnations of Deity. These Avatars may be either men who have raised themselves to the God-level, and who have therefore become one with the Logos, or, in the rarer cases, men into whose souls the Logos had descended in absolute plenitude, and with whose souls it has associated itself during the life-time of the individual for some urgent [Page 13] need of the race.[ For a more complete and philosophical explanation of this deeply mystical subject of Avatars, the reader is referred to the second and third of a series of four lectures on the Bhagavad-Gita, by T. Subba Row, published in the " Theosophist, of March and April, 1887 ] . But the sense in which such may be regarded as Redeemers of the race is very different from the degraded personal sense understood by modern Christianity. It now seems as if the wider philosophy of the Theosophic teaching with its recognition of the Deity as well as of the animal in man were at last destined to be the Saviour of Christendom from this hideous nightmare which has so long oppressed her heart.
As every new mode of expression may help towards further illumination, here are a few pregnant extracts from another book on the subject. And let the religious, who wrap themselves round in self-woven robes of Divine consolation, as well as the worldly, who wear out their souls in a meaningless round of material pleasures, learn if they can, from them, how infinitely beyond the ken of either is the breath of that greater life to which we aspire. Consolation it certainly is not; the very first breath of it "turns a man giddy and sick; it seems no path — it seems to end perpetually; its way lies along hideous precipices, it loses itself in deep waters". At each one of the terrible initiations of the soul, not only in the "Valley of Amazement", does the well-known cry rise spontaneously to the lips, " If it be possible, let this cup pass from me." But each one is a gateway in the path that leads out of all human experience, and though the renunciation of our humanity may to us be awful, who that has once tasted of that greater breath of the Godhead would be dastard enough to refuse so glorious a destiny ? And so the final thought completes the well-known verse, " Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt".
"Many have hoped to pass through by the way of religion, and, instead, they have formed a place of thought and feeling so marked and fixed that it seems as though long ages would be insufficient to enable them to get out of the rut.
"Some have believed that by the aid of pure intellect a way was to be found, and to such men we owe the philosophy and metaphysics, which have prevented the race from sinking into utter sensuousness. But the end of the man who endeavours to live by thought alone is that he dwells in phantasies and insists on giving them to other men as substantial food. Great is our debt to the metaphysicians and transcendentalists; but he who follows them to the bitter end, forgetting that the brain is only one organ of use, will find himself dwelling in a place where a dull wheel of argument seems to turn for ever on its axis, yet goes no whither and carries no burden. [Page 14]
"Virtue (or what seems to each man to be virtue — his own special standard of morality and purity) is held by those who practise it to be a way to heaven. Perhaps it is, to the heaven of the modern Sybarite — the ethical voluptuary. It is as easy to become a gourmand in pure living and high thinking, as in the pleasures of taste, or sight, or sound.
"Gratification is the aim of the virtuous man as well as of the drunkard; even if his life be a miracle of abstinence and self-sacrifice, a moment's thought shows that in pursuing this apparently heroic path he does but pursue pleasure. With him pleasure takes on a lovely form, because his gratifications are those of a sweet savour, and it pleases him to give gladness to others rather than enjoy himself at their expense. But the pure life and high thoughts are no more finalities in themselves than any other mode of enjoyment; and the man who endeavours to find contentment in them must intensify his effort and continually repeat it, all in vain. He is a green plant, indeed, and the leaves are beautiful; but more is wanted than leaves. If he persists in his endeavour blindly, believing that he has reached his goal when he has not even perceived it, then he finds himself in that dreary place where good is done perforce, and the deed of virtue is without the love that should shine through it. It is well for a man to lead a pure life, as it is well for him to have clean hands, else he becomes repugnant. But virtue, as we understand it, now can have no more special relation to the state beyond that to which we are limited than any other part of our constitution.
"In man taken individually, or as a whole, there clearly exists a double constitution. Two great tides of emotion sweep through his nature, two great forces guide his life; the one makes him an animal, and the other makes him a god. No brute of the earth is so brutal as the man who subjects his godly power to his animal power. The man who becomes a beast has a million times the grasp of life over the natural beast, and that which in the pure animal is sufficiently innocent enjoyment, uninterrupted by any arbitrary moral standard, becomes in him vice because it is gratified on principle. Moreover, he turns all the Divine powers of his being into this channel, and degrades his soul by making it the slave of his senses. The god, deformed and disguised, waits on the animal and feeds it.
"Consider, then, whether it is not possible to change the situation. The man himself is king of the country in which this strange spectacle is seen. He allows the beast to usurp the place of the god because for the moment the beast pleases his capricious royal fancy the most. This cannot last always: Why let it last any longer ? Let the king resolve to change the face of his Court and forcibly evict the animal from the chair of State, restoring the god to the place of Divinity. [Page 15]
"Ah! the profound peace that falls upon the palace. All is indeed changed. No longer is there the fever of personal longings or desires, no longer is there any rebellion or distress, no longer any hunger for pleasure or dread of pain. It is like a great calm descending on a stormy ocean; it is like the soft rain of summer falling on parched ground; it is like the deep pool found amidst the weary thirsty labyrinths of the unfriendly forest.
"But there is much more than this. Not only is man more than an animal, because there is the god in him, but he is more than a god because there is the animal in him”.
"Once force the animal into his rightful place, that of the inferior and you find yourself in possession of a great force hitherto unsuspected and unknown. The god, as servant, adds a thousand-fold to the pleasures of the animal; the animal, as servant, adds a thousand-fold to the powers of the god. When these forces are unfitly related, then the being is but a crowned voluptuary without power, and whose dignity does but mock him. For the animals undivine at least know peace, and arc not torn by vice and despair .
"That is the whole secret. That is what makes man strong, powerful, able to grasp Heaven and Earth in his hands. Do not fancy it is easily done. Do not be deluded into the idea, that the religious or the virtuous man does it. Not so. They do no more than fix a standard, a routine, a law, by which they hold the animal in check; the god is compelled to serve him in a certain way, and does so, pleasing him with his beliefs and cherished phantasies of the religious, with the lofty sense of personal pride which makes the joy of the virtuous. These special and canonized vices are things too low and base to be possible to the pure animal, whose only inspirer is Nature herself, always fresh as the dawn. The god in man degraded is a thing unspeakable in its infamous power of production.
"The animal in man, elevated, is a thing unimaginable in its great powers of service and of strength."
Earthly experience being the great teacher, no man while he remains but man can say that he has gone through all that is necessary, but when the passionate desire for any given experience has passed away — driven out by a more potent desire — it is but logical to assume that, that particular lesson has been learned. In the "upward striving of the creature man, many are the desires that animate his soul. Satisfaction of his appetites, physical well-being, cover a vast field in the lower region. Domination over his fellows, distinction among men, are higher motives of action, but higher than all is the ideal love — so high, indeed, as to be destined soon to be effaced by the unparalleled refulgent [Page 16] glory of the Highest. The soul may be destined to undergo much suffering before complete Detachment is attained, but "gradually as it dwells more habitually in the thought of the Supreme and Ineffable Deity, the idea of a visible or tangible communion with any Being — less august becomes repugnant to the mind".
The friendships or loves of past years may become hallowed by memory, but the power of any man or woman to thrill the being will have passed away. The mighty Goddess of Truth is sole Queen of the heart now, and she alone is now capable of controlling its tides of emotion.
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