A Study from Cicero and the Upanishads

by G.R.S. Mead

Deum te igitur scito esse.
Know then that thou art a God.

Cicero, Somnium Scipionis.

Om! Shãntih, Shãntih, Shãntih!

Upanishads, passim

Om! Peace, Peace, Peace!

What am I? Whence came I? Whither do I journey?

Verily, the voice of one crying in the wilderness, mourning, and not to be comforted, either by the lifeless dogmas of an effete theology or the cold denials of a materialistic science.

It is from the sages of old, from the wise of the past, that the answer comes:

That art thou. From That didst thou come. Into That shalt thou return.

Ay, That art thou! That is thy Self, none other.

Such were the final words whispered into the ear of the disciple in the golden days of ancient Ãriãvarta. True then, true countless ages before, true for the rest of the eternity. Nowhere else is to be found true Self-Reliance, nowhere else that Peace which none can take away.

A cold creed! — do I hear someone say? Nay, not cold. It is a truth that transcends enthusiasm, that surpasses all hope, that merges the highest ideal of love into an endless, boundless compassion for all that lives and breathes. For thus runs the Upanishad:

“Now unto thee, again, the secret old of Brahman I will tell .....

“The Man that wakes when others sleep, dispensing all desires, — That truly is pure, That Brahman, That deathless is verily called; in That all worlds are contained; past That truly naught goes at all. This verily is That.

“As fire, though one, entering the world, like to the various forms in form became; so does the Inner Self of all creation, though one, like to the various forms in form become, yet is without them all.

“As air, though one, entering the world, like to the various forms in form became; so does the Inner Self of all creation, though one, like to the various forms in form become, yet is without them all.

“Just as the sun, the eye of all the world, is not besmirched with outer stains seen by the eyes; so that one Inner Self of all creation is never smeared with any pain the world can give, for it standeth apart.

“ Sole Sovereign, Inner Self of all creation, Who makes the One Form manifold — the wise who gaze on Him within their self, theirs and not others' is Bliss that aye endures.

“Lasting for aye amid unlasting things, the very consciousness of those who conscious are, Who, One, of many the desire dispenses — the wise who gaze on Him within their self, theirs and not others' is Peace that aye endures.

“They think of Him as That — the Bliss Supreme that all description beggars”

Kathopanishad, v. 6 - 14; Mead and Chattopãdhyãya, i. 71-73; Deussen, pp. 282-284 ]

The Inner Self is here the Self of Peace, the Shãnt'ãtman; as such it is apart from our little miseries. It is men who would have it miserable for their sakes. We might just as well think that the sun is sorry for shadows and cries about them; whereas it is the cause of them. When men are wise they learn how to enjoy shadows; then and then only can they get to the true state of Nirvãna.

The Upanishad then proceeds to explain that this Highest Self is self-luminous, and the cause not only of the light on earth, but also of that in the heaven. The Self shines by its own light; it is self-motive.

The light of the true Ãtman shines forth onto matter and illuminates it. The pure power of Ãtman can shine onto anything and become that thing immediately, at once. In this state, it is said, there is no need to create vehicle after vehicle, to collect material and make up a body, and call it oneself. The true Man is self-luminous, and everything He shines upon reflects His light, and the things He shines upon He calls Himself or His body. They are the manifestation of Himself.

And so when such a one, a Master, talks to a person, He shines upon them, and they reflecting Him, become for the time His body, His own self-expression. He can thus be anybody, and also a great many people all at once. They only need to have their attention truly turned to Him and to be capable of reflecting His light. All may reflect light, but some do so more than others; it depends upon their “colour”, and colour is in this connection spiritual intelligence.

The Inner Self is thus the secret of true Self-reliance; nowhere else is a lasting Basis to be found, nowhere else unchanging Certitude. In His Self-motivity resides the Essence of Immortality and nowhere else; it is the Essence of Divinity in man. A man must grow from within without, for such is the law. All other growth is artificial and unnatural, deceptive and illusory.

No one from without can give us Peace and Blessedness; these must perforce come from within, from the Inner Self of all creatures — our true Highest Self.

Even should a Master — a Jîvanmukta, one who has attained union, while still in the body, with that Highest Self — cast the Mantle of His Power round the disciple, should he wrap him in His Presence, even then it were to no profit if the disciple is not ready to burst the veils of his Soul with self-effort.

If the nature of the disciple does not respond of its own will, and grow of its own energy,the artificial exaltation would be not only unprofitable but even injurious. For the instant the protecting wall were removed, the reaction would sweep the unprepared neophyte off this feet. The passions and desires that had been curbed and held back by the external power of the Master would fiercely spring forth, and the lassitude of the pupil's will, following the artificial stimulus, would be unable to check their wild career.

And this is why it is so difficult even for a Master to interfere with the natural growth of the disciple. This is what is meant by saying that even sages “dare” not interfere with the fruiting of karma. Nature must work on in her own way, and growth must proceed from within without, and not from without within.

This applies to all of us, especially in the mental attitude we take up in theosophy. The perfect fruit of nature is the birth of the true Man. It is no artificial creation, but a natural steady growth; a birth with pain and sorrow, with mighty throes suffered and joyfully endured. But to be perfect it must be self-born, it must be Divine, and that which is born from another than the Self is other than Divine, subject to death and decay.

We must work out our own salvation, wisely, humbly, nobly. There are no swaddling clothes for the Self, no apron-strings to tie the Soul to; from the very beginning it must walk of itself, of its own energy and force. There is no spoon-meat, no nursing, no whimperings to be hushed. It is a Man, no animal embryo. It strides forth as a Giant from the Egg that envelops. it.

They who have conquered are Shepherds of Compassion, not sheep; are Lions of Mercy, not deer. They are the Christs and the Buddhas, and it is Their will that all shall be like unto Them, all be one with Them.

Let us not, then, weakly repeat the words of others, and reflect the thoughts of others; but if the words are good and the thoughts wise, strive to develop in ourselves the spirit that dictated such words or induced such thoughts. Masters do not desire the mere monkeydom of external imitation, or the parrot-like repetition of words. They require Companions on whom reliance can be placed, because such Companions rely on that Self which is the Self of Masterhood.

The Secret of the Self is that it is Self-motive. As Cicero writes, repeating the noble doctrine of the Stoics and of the Mysteries, putting the words in the mouth of the dead father of the younger Scipio:

“Strive, on with the Assurance that it is not thou who art subject to death, but thy body. For that which is really thyself is not the being which thy bodily shape declares. But the real man is the thinking principle of each, and not the form which be pointed to with the finger.

“Of this, then, be sure, that thou art a God; inasmuch as Deity is that which has will, sense, memory, foresight; and rules, regulates and moves the body it has in charge, just as the Supreme Deity does the universe. And like as Eternal Deity guides the universe, which is in a certain degree subject to decay, so the Sempiternal Soul moves the destructible body.

“Now that which is ever in motion is eternal. Whereas that which communicates motion to something else, and which is set in motion by an external cause, must necessarily cease to exist when its motion is exhausted.”

And then (as Macrobius says), repeating the Phaedrus of Plato, word by word Tully continues:

“That, therefore, which has the principle of motion-in-itself, seeing that it can never fail itself, is the only eternal existence, and, moreover, is the source and causative principle of motion to all other bodies endowed with movement.

“The causative principle,however, can have no antecedent cause. For all things spring from this principle, which cannot, in the nature of things, be generated from anything else; for if it were so, it would cease to be the principal cause.

“And if this is without beginning, it can evidently have no end; for if the principle of causation were destroyed, it could not be re-born from anything else, nor give birth to anything out of itself, for all things must necessarily be generated from the causative principle.

“The principle of motion, therefore, comes from that which is endowed with self-movement; and this can suffer neither birth nor death; otherwise every heaven would collapse, and every nature necessarily come to a standstill, seeing that it could not longer obtain that force by which it was originally impelled.

“Since, therefore, it is evident that that only is eternal which is self-motive, who is there to deny that this is a rational attribute of souls?

“For everything that is set in motion by external impulse is destitute of the soul-principle, whereas everything ensouled is energized by an interior and self-created motion; for this is the soul's proper nature and power.

“And if it alone of all things has the attribute of self-movement, it surely is not subject to birth but is eternal". [ From “The Dream of Scipio”, in Cicero's De Republica, vi

In commenting on this passage, Macrobius gives a number of syllogisms which may be useful to set down here.

“1. The soul is self-motive: Whatever is self-motive is ever in motion: Therefore the soul is ever in motion.

“2. The soul is ever in motion: Whatever is ever in motion is immortal: Therefore the soul is immortal.

“3. The soul is self-motive: Whatever is self-motive is the principle of motion: Therefore the soul is the principle of motion.

“4. The soul is the principle of motion: Whatever is the principle of motion is not subject to birth: Therefore the soul is not subject to birth.

“5. The soul is not subject to birth: Whatever is not subject to birth is immortal: Therefore the soul is immortal.

“6. The soul is self-motive: Whatever is self-motive is the principle of motion: Whatever is the principle of motion is not subject to birth: Whatever is not subject to birth is immortal: Therefore the soul is immortal.” [ Commentarius in Somnium Scipionis, II. xiii ]

But there are those who rely on their intellect, on their strength, on their wealth or position, their beauty, their relatives or their friends. This is not true Self-reliance, for all these pass away.

Intellect will fade in its turn, just as the body fades in its small cycle, for, as the Upanishad has it:

“Thou art the Vesture of the Highest [ which in its turn is ] enveloped in the Intellect.”

Intellect in this sense is an envelope, a veil to be removed, a garment to be purified, before the true Self shines forth.

Strength and wealth and position and beauty are even more impermanent; strength and beauty fade even before the body wears out, and wealth and position must be abandoned when Yama, the Lord of Death, the Great Constrainer, speaks the word.

Friends and relatives, parents, husband, wife and children, are but weaklings like ourselves — to mourn and rejoice with — all subject to the sway of Death. There is but one Place of Peace, ut one Source of True Reliance.

“The Goal of which the sacred sciences all sing the praises, for which the sacred practices all speak, desiring which men enter Brahman's service, that Goal to thee I now succinctly tell. It is the Om! [ That is, the Word, the Logos, of Hellenistic theosophy, the Amen of Egyptian mystogogy. ]

“In very truth this Word is Brahman; this Word in every truth is the Supreme; in very truth this Word who understandeth, whate'er he longeth for, the same is this.

“This means is the best, this means is the highest; one knowing this means grows great in God's Home.

“The Singer [ Sc., of the Word ] is not born, nor dies He ever; He came not anywhence, nor anything is He. Unborn, eternal, everlasting He, ancient; unslain He remains, though body be slain.

“If slayer thinks he slays, if slain thinks he is slain, both these know naught; He slays not, nor is slain.

“Smaller than small,yet greater than great, in the heart of the creature the Self doth repose; That, free from desire, he sees, with his grief gone — the Greatness of Self, by Favour of God. [ The Greatness is the Aeon of the Gnostics, and the Favour of God, the Grace or Goodwill of the Trismegistic and of the Christianized Gnõsis ]

“Sitting He travels far; [ As Krishna explains to Arjuna in the Jñãneshvarï ( Adhyãya vi.), that Old Mãhrãti mystical commentary on the Gïtã: “Whether one would set out to the Bloom of the East, or come to the Chambers of the West, without moving, O Holder of the Bow, is the travelling on that road. In this path, to whatever place one would go, the same one's own self becomes. How shall I easily describe this? Thou thyself shalt experience it” ] lying He speeds everywhere; who but one's Self can know that Self who joys, yet doth not joy?

“When once he knows the Self, 'mid bodies bodiless, amid the infirm firm, great and widespread, the wise hath no more grief.

“This Self is not attainable by explanation, nor yet by mental grasp, nor hearing many times; by him whomso He chooses, by him is He obtained. For him the Self His proper form reveals.

“No one who hath not ceased from evil doing, nor one with senses uncontrolled, nor one whose mind is uncollected, nor one whose mind is not at peace, can gain that Self by knowledge merely. [ Kathopanishad, ii. 15-24; Mead and Chattopãdyãya, i. 57-59; Deussen, pp. 274, 275 ]

It is in the Self that we find the source of all moral sanction. It is the “still small voice” — the “Voice of the Silence” — the Voice that grows into a roar of thunder if the Law is transgressed. Then it becomes the “Great Terror” — the one thing that the disciple fears, for it is by the Law of his higher nature that he condemns himself to continued bondage in the meshes of the kãrmic net of which he has supplied threads for the weaving by neglect of duty.

As in the Great World, so in the little world; as in the Universal Self, so in the individual self; as in the Cosmos, so in man, “That art thou!”

As It emanated Itself, so dost thou emanate thyself, O little man! Thou canst give birth to Chaos or to the Son of Righteousness, an thou wilt. Therefore, choose!

Transgression of the Law creates difference, and so a departure from the Self; union with the Law provides the conditions for the Self to show forth its Glory. Let us, then, learn from what takes place in the Great World “ unconsciously”, what must be done in the little world by the conscious will of him who would be free

“' In the Beyond-being state was this [ The universe, or man ] in the beginning; from That indeed it did take birth as being. That did Itself Itself create; thence That is Self-created called'.

“What verily that Self-created is, that surely Nectar is. That Nectar, in good sooth, this Soul possessing, a thing of Bliss becomes. For who indeed could live, who breathe, should not this Bliss in the Quintessence be? This verily it is which Bliss bestows.

“When, then, in truth, in That — transcending sight and self, beyond defining, void of base — this Soul as its Stand-by [ Reliance ] the Fearless surely finds, into the Fearless then doth he depart.

“For should he make the smallest difference in That, then is there fear for him. This is, in very deed, the fear of him who unreflecting knows.

“' From fear through Him wind blows; from fear the sun doth rise'.” [ Taittirîyakopanished, ii, 7; Mead and Chattopãdhyãya, ii, 26, 27; Deussen, pp. 231, 232 ]

This seems to suggest the difference between agitated motion and peace; that is, motion between two points and not unity. Death is thus called King of Terrors, because he is king of the agitated realms.

And again:

“All this, whatever moves, come forth from That, in life vibrates — a mighty terror That, a weapon raised aloft. They who know That, immortal they become. ” [ Kathopanishad, Valli vi.2; Mead and Chattopãdhyãya, i.75; Deussen, p. 284 ]

For no man can flee from the Self, no man can escape from his conscience. The Law enfolds him in his own doings, from which there is no escape until he takes refuge with that Law. As the King-Psalmist says:

“Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from Thy Presence?

“If I ascend up into Heaven, Thou art there: if I make my bed in Hell, behold, Thou art there also.” [ Ps. cxxxix. 7, 8 ]


“Both He who here is in man, and He who there is in the Sun — One verily is He.

“He who thus knows, departing from this world, passing into this self formed by [ the juice of ] food, passing into this self formed by vitality, passing into this self mind-formed, passing into this self by reason formed, passing into this self by bliss informed; proceeding through these worlds,having what food he wills, what form he wills, this Song he singing sits:

“O wonder, wonder, wonder!
Food I; food I; food I !
Food-eater I; food-eater I; food-eater I!
Song-maker I; song-maker I; song-maker I !
First-born of Righteousness am I!
Prior to the Gods, the Heart of the Immortal!
Who giveth me, thus surely doth he keep me!
I, food, food-eater eat!
The world entire have I pervaded —
Light sun-like I!”

[ Taittirîyakopanîshad, iii. 10; Mead and Chattopãdhyãya, ii.41, 42; Deussen, pp. 239, 240 ]

He who has thus conquered, who has become the First-born of Righteousness, who verily is a Twice-born of Righteousness, who verily is a Twice-born (Dvija), true Knower of the Highest (Brahma-vid), he verily is the True Sun in the Highest, for:

“The Sun is Brahman: so runs the instruction. Thereon is this explanation:

“This world in the beginning was non-existent. The non-existent was existent. It arose. An Egg evolved itself. It lay there, for so long as a year. It broke in twain. The Shells were one of Silver, the other of Gold .....

“What came to birth is the Sun there. When He was born shouts of joy arose.” [ Chhãndogyopanishad, III.xix. 1-3; Deussen, p. 116 ]

Here we have the whole story of the spiritual evolution in man: the darkness of the soul before it begins to long for final Release, for true Wisdom; the alchemical separation of the Subtle from the Fixed, of the Higher from the Lower, of Spirit from Matter, and the birth of the unclouded Mind, the Son of Righteousness. Only when the Master is born do all the Powers rejoice and mighty shouts of gladness rend the universe.

“ In Whom Heaven, Earth and Interspace are woven, Mind and all Lives, Him and Him only know to be the Self. Away with other words; He is the Bridge [ He is the Mediator, the true Pontifex Maximus. The Christ is He on whom we rely, the Bridge, the Something Fixed, traversing something in motion. ] to the immortal.

“As spokes in nave just where the channels meet, within, that 'He' does move, in divers form appearing. With Om thus meditate on Self. Peace unto you for crossing o'er the Darkness!

“Who knoweth all and is all wise,whose is this Glory in the world, this Self indeed is set in Brahm's bright Shrine, the Aether; Him on all sides the wise behold with knowledge, face to face — Him flashing forth, All-bliss, transcending death.

“The Heart's knot is dissolved; all doubts are cut apart; deeds [ Karmãni ] perish, when both the higher and the lower That [ That is, Brahman, both unmanifest and manifest ] have once been seen.

“Within man's radiant highest vesture is stainless, partless Brahm. That is the pure Light of all lights, That which Self-knowers know.

“There [ Sc, . in that Light, in Ãtman ] shines no sun, nor moon and stars, nor do these lightnings shine, much less this fire. When He Shines forth, all things shine after Him; by Brahman's shining shine all here below.

“Ay, this immortal Brahman is before, Brahm is behind, on right and left, stretched out above below. This Brahman surely is this All. He is the Best. ” [ That is, the Summum Bonum or Highest Good, the Goal. Mundakopanishad, II. ii. 5-11; Mead and Chattopãdhyãya, i. 122-124; Deussen, pp. 553, 554 ]

The “Heart's knot” of the fourth shloka may, I think, be taken for the personality, the that which conditions us as an ãtmic or spiritual “spark”, and not Ãtman proper; the ”knot” is that which makes a man himself and prevents his being everybody. The “Heart” of every one is Ãtman, one and the same Spirit; it is only this “knot” which keeps one definitely somebody.

The last shloka but one is truly admirable. If everything were self-luminous, nothing would shine. The sun cannot shine without darkness. Its rays would not go forth, if there were equal lightness outside itself. So therefore in Ãtman, in the Light of all lights,the sun does not shine; there is no moon, no flashings. It is above and beyond all directions.

The doctrine is mystic and mysterious, the antipodes of the apparent clearness of modern scientific theories, “ for the Gods love mystery and hate familiarity”, as Rishi Yãjñavalkya says in the Brihadãranyaka. And yet again more mysteriously than ever:

“That which is that bright space [ Aether, Quintessence, Ãkãsha] within the heart; in that this Man resides, innate with mind, transcending death, with brilliancy [ or Golden] innate.

“Between the throat's two pillars, there, what like a nipple hangs, that's Indra's [ That is, the Soul as a God going forth unto God] birth-track; there, where the hair-ends start, forcing the skull's two surfaces apart.

“Bhüh! — thus; in Fire one rests.
Bhühvah! —so; in Air.
Suvah!— thus; in Sun.
Maha! — so; in Brahm.

“Self-kingship he attains, lordship of mind he wins, lord over speech, lord over sight is he, of hearing lord, lord he of understanding.

“Then he becometh Brahm, Whose Body is Bright Space, [ Ãkãsha ] whose Self is Truth, the Pleasure-ground [ Cf. the Hermes-Invocations in the Greek Magic Papyri: “Thy everlasting Revelling-place is set above”, and “Joyous Good Daimon (Spirit), for whom the Heaven is thy Revelling-place”. See my Hermes, i. 84 and 97. ] of Life, in Whom Mind finds its Bliss, replete with Peace, transcending Death.

“Thus worship then, O thou who for the Ancient Art hast fit become.” [ Taittirïyakopanishad, i. 6; Mead and Chattopãdhyãya, ii.12, 13; Deussen, p. 219 ]

The Ancient Art is Yoga. Physiologically, or psychophysiologically, the “heart”, [ The “cave” or “pit” rather, in the region of the solar plexus ] the throat, and the parietal suture of the skull, localize these chakras or centres of what is called sushumnã nãdï; [ Lit., the channel, rich in pleasure or happiness, highly blessed ] they are, as it were, nodes where three currents, or the paths of three “fires”, [ Idã, Pingalã, and Sushumnã, three forms of the Kundalinï Shakti or Serpentine Power ] cross.

The “word of power”, or mantrãh, used in this Ancient Art, correspond with the states of Earth, Interspace, Heaven, and Beyond, or, again, the so-called Waking, Dreaming, Deep-sleeping, and Fourth states.

And yet once again, to remind us finally of the nature of true Self-reliance, Reliance on the Self - that Self which:

“Does not age with the age of the body, nor is it killed with the wounding of the body. This is the true City of the Highest. In it all desires are contained. It is the Self, sinless, ageless, deathless, grief less, hunger less and thirst less. Its Will is True Will; its Counsel True Counsel” [ Chhãndogyopanishad, i.5; Deussen, p. 189 ]

And so I bring to an end those brief comparative studies in general theosophy; and I would recommend them to the attention of all true lovers of religion, not for what I have written, but because of the flowers of thought and intuition, of gnosis and devotion, which have been culled from the fair garden of many a soul on whom the Spiritual Sun has in the past poured His rays of blessing.

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