To deny anything is to state: "I am not that." This affirmation expresses a duality in the thinker's consciousness between himself and that, whatever that may be, yet this assumption is the gravest error known to Eastern thought, the Heresy of Separateness.
The wise man learns to deny nothing and to affirm, by unconditional acceptance, all. To say, in terms or inferentially, "This is not that," though relatively reasonable, is basically untrue. At the heart of things is a Reality beyond description, for it is beyond the reach of the intellect. "We know that it is Unity, an all-embracing Wholeness from which nothing is left outside." It follows that "all duality is falsely imagined," yet so long as the mind confines itself to intellectual reasoning, it is bound by the limitations of dualistic thought. All that we know of anything is that it is not this and it is not that. We gain experience in terms of opposites, and because we know of the qualities of largeness, hardness, heaviness and heat we can describe a thing by saying that it is small and soft and light and cold. Of the countless pairs of opposites used by the mind to acquire experience one is the self and the not-self, and modern psychology concerns itself, beyond all else, with this duality. This mental process is a convenient, and for the first stage on the Path the only, way in which Man can acquire experience, but the time comes when the growing mind must realize that it is but a convention of consciousness, and therefore without ultimate validity. Sabbe sankhara anatta; there is no Self in man or in any compounded thing which is not part of a greater Unity. The sense of separateness is the Great Illusion, and the father of all self-ishness. To deny anything is to attempt to expel it from the circle of consciousness, but that which is not admitted does not thereby die. The aspects of that Unity which self denies live on, and later prowl, like hungry wolves, on the firelight's edge of consciousness. Nothing denied can be understood, and these unformulated facts breed fear. A patient of Professor Jung has ably voiced a great discovery: "I always thought that when we accept things they overpower us in one way or another. Now this is not true at all, and it is only by accepting things that one can define an attitude towards them." It is the refusal to accept things, and the delusion that because they are unaccepted they are no longer there, that wraps the thinker closer in the lesser self of his own building and leads, when carried to excess, to schizophrenia, a splitting of the mind which is rightly called in-sanity. The causes may be various, but their basis is a thrusting or keeping out of consciousness of parts of the self ashamed of, or for other reasons undesired. Unwilling, to the point of frenzy, to admit that things are what they are, whether of thought or circumstance, the deluded patient builds a barrier between the self admitted and the self denied, and retires into a world of phantasy. The motive for this partitioning is the will to escape from the unacceptable aspects of the mind, and there is an amazing range of this escape technique. In the same way, when circumstances, the "larger self" are more than the mind has strength to face, the individual either creates for himself a world of daydreams where he need but accept the creatures and conditions of his own imagining, or else finds in material phantasies the alternatives to hard "reality." Some for this purpose use the stories of the screen or those in novels, and for countless minds these mass-produced alternatives to life's "realities" become as necessary as the drink or drugs with which a different temperament tries to create oblivion.
In the same way many a man, who accepted life as he found it until middle-age, retires as soon as funds permit to indulge the phantasies which seemed to him, while still at work, so infinitely preferable. Yet when he does retire he often finds his leisure strangely sterile, and cannot believe, as his health and vigor leave him, that whereas his work, however material, was at least carried out "with all the whole soul's will," the life of retirement is a life of illusion in which, unless other interests demanding his whole vigor are adopted speedily, the strain between fact and phantasy will tear the self in two. Of the same type, but more violent because unexpected, are the mental splittings created by those who run from a threatened danger to their lives. The European crisis of September 1938 produced a remarkable crop of temporary schizophrenia. Some people shut themselves up in their daily occupations and refused to face the proximity of war, even refusing to read the news of its approach; others, who could not face the horrors of a war they thought was imminent, fled to the depths of the country, not as they claimed, to protect their bodies but to save intact their minds. Many of both these types, when the crisis was safely over, were physically ill; such was the visible working out of the mental strain created by the mind's denial.
Some men escape from the world of men for life. Of those who retire to monasteries, therein to exclude themselves from the world, many are no doubt genuinely seeking the self-realization which they do not think can be found in the distractions of daily life, but others desire to escape from worldly problems which they found insoluble. Yet no man can run away from life and find it. Only in possession of all his principles, and with the experience gained in each, can a man achieve self-realization in its perfect form. Just as the mind must face each aspect of its existence and know them as its own, so must the body face its own temptations and problems among those of its fellow men. True, from time to time we all need rest and re-creation, and for the mind to retire within itself in silent self-communion is as necessary as sleep to the physical vehicle, but not in the mountain fastness of this spiritual calm will the battle be won. As soon as the warrior is rested he must return to the battlefield, renewed in his sense of wholeness with his highest principles, to fight anew. More than this is refusal to accept reality, and the cause of the flight is fear. We run from that which we fear, and not from that we despise. If we have no fear of life, why should we strive to leave it? We deny then, that which we fear to accept as true, in ignorance of the ultimate affirmation, "I am That." From this deluded habit of the mind has sprung the wealth of poetry wherein the fearful, trembling soul flees from the call of the Beloved. It was denial, born of fear and ignorance, which caused the timorous soul in Thompson's Hound of Heaven to fly from its own immensity.
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him down the arches of the years;
I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind. . . .
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
And the voice of the Whole spoke to the trembling part:
All which I took from thee I did but take,
Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might'st seek it in My arms.
He who denies the littlest part of Life denies the all, and thereby denies his spiritual parentage. It is a popular belief that ostriches, on seeing an enemy, hide their heads in the sand, and imagine that, being themselves unable to see, they therefore cannot be seen. We do the same with our sins and blunders, and the problems we have set ourselves but cannot solve. And yet when Karma, the dispassionate principle of cause-effect, presents the reckoning for our deeds of ignorance, some part of our foolish mind perceives the enemy, and knows it for what it is, and when the rest of consciousness deliberately thrusts this knowledge in the sand and pretends to itself that, having seen no enemy, there is no enemy to be faced, the conflict arising in the mind from this self-deceit leaves little energy for fighting the common foe. The refusal to admit that the enemy exists is caused by fear, and fear is the child of selfishness or ignorance. As selfishness itself is caused by ignorance of the fact that life is indivisible, it may be said that ignorance is the basis of all fear. We deny, therefore, because we fear to admit, and we fear to admit because we know not the nature of that which seeks admittance — that it is but part of ourselves.
To accept is the first step on the way to affirm. Acceptance may be reluctant, and is apt to be negative, whereas to affirm is a cheerful admission that the accepted fact is an integral part of the self affirming. Yet to affirm is not the same as to approve. We may affirm an action and yet be ashamed of it, but so long as we readily admit responsibility for the act affirmed, however despicable, the self retains its integrity, and can still move forward as a whole to better things. A sense of discrimination is a vital factor in applying the moral sense to experience, for the value of a fact, as distinct from its nature, is something added by the mind. Thus, to admit the nature of one's past life is to face a fact; to decide that it has been "good" or "ill" is valuation added to experience. One may either approve or deplore the facts admitted, and the function of valuation, which approves or deplores, pertains to the life side of the mind. As such, it is beyond the reach of ancient or modern psychology, for facts are forms, but value, or meaning is life. Matter and spirit are ultimately one, but in manifestation they are antitheses, and life, like the winds of heaven, dies in a lecture room. It follows that optimism and pessimism are alike unhealthy forms of phantasy, for the one undervalues and the other overrates experience. The wise man therefore values honestly, and accepts experience at the value found.
Those who have studied Evans-Wentz" Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines will find in the "Precepts of the Gurus" much of the material now being re-discovered by the Western science of psychology. Among these Precepts there is a section on the Ten Things not to be Avoided. These include "Ideas, being the radiance of the mind," "Obscuring Passions, being the means of reminding one of Divine Wisdom," and "Affluence, being the manure and water for spiritual growth," this no doubt being added to curb the desire for asceticism as a way to enlightenment. Then come "Illness and Tribulations, being teachers of piety," "Enemies and Misfortunes, being the means of inclining one to a religious career," and finally, "the Thought of helping others," however limited one's abilities to help may be. A strange companionship, yet representative of the vast variety of human experience, all of which must finally be accepted and affirmed. Debts, of every kind, for example, must be at once admitted and faithfully discharged. Cause and effect are equal and opposite, not merely in the laboratory but in the mind, and every effect returns to the point of its causation for the adjustment of the balance which the act or thought disturbed. Cause and effect are as the two sides of a coin, save that, owing to the illusion of time, our consciousness is only able to cognise them separately. The wise man knows that by the deliberate use of this law of Karma he may inevitably "acquire merit" for him self in lives to come by performing deeds of which the effect is happiness. Yet it is far more important in the great quest for enlightenment to pay off at once and willingly the debts of error, for nature demands exorbitant interest on all bills overdue. As Dr. Jung points out: "the veil of Maya cannot be lifted by a mere decision of reason, but demands the most thorough-going and wearisome preparation consisting in the right payment of all debts to life." Even the payment of money debts is important in the growth of character, for money is the blood of the body corporate, and to deprive the bloodstream of its due is to injure the larger self in which, and by the grace of which, the body lives. Still more important are the debts of mind, all undertakings, vows and promises, however rashly made. Even if the making of the debt be later regretted, yet it was made, and must be honored utterly, accompanied, maybe, with a resolve to be more careful about debt-creation in the days to come. All possessions are apt to create fetters in the mind. Wherefore the wise man pays his debts, and more, unstintingly. There was a Man of Nazareth who said: "If any man will sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also, and whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh of thee, and from him that would borrow turn not away." When all is said and done, life is a process of the soul's deliverance, and "What is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" Debts are fetters; wherefore break them. For love give love, and love for hate, for in the words of the All-Compassionate, "Hatred ceaseth not by hatred, hatred ceaseth but by love." Refuse no application lightly, and never refuse a claim. That which claims is a part of yourself in greater need, and the need that waits your filling is your own.
An appointment is a debt of honor. He who incurred the debt should pay it punctually; else should it not have been made. He who in life keeps faith with life will not fear to keep faith with death. "I have a rendezvous with death," wrote Alan Seeger, in the trenches a few weeks before he died.
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.
To affirm is to liberate; to refuse is to be bound. Wherefore refuse all fetters and be free. Above all, learn to accept responsibility when offered. What right have you to refuse? An offer is made. Affirm it promptly, and the powers of the mind will grow to the newborn need. To refuse to accept responsibility is to ignore the hand outstretched from the rock above you. Grasp the hand and climb. The grounds for refusal are fear, or else false modesty, a compound, usually, of laziness and self-deceit. An offer of responsibility is an opportunity earned by past endeavor. The opportunity is nature's payment of a debt incurred. Refuse it, and the payment has none the less been made by the debtor, while the creditor has let the opportunity go by.
Duties are the debts we owe, and rights the payments due to us. Yet the wise man is so occupied with the due performance of all duty that he has no time to claim his rights. A man inherits at the threshold of each life the debts of all his past, but this, his Karma, is more than can be handled in one life. Such portion of the debt as can be liquidated in the life to come is the Dharma of that life, his duty, which, if faithfully performed, will leave him stronger to perform the duty of such further lives as must be lived ere the last of his fetters falls at the threshold of Enlightenment. Much follows from an understanding of this doctrine, and a great content. No man is given a burden heavier than his strength will bear; conversely, all experience offered and all debts presented on whatever plane are due for payment when presented, and every debtor has, if he only knows it, the wherewithal to pay. It may be that his mental and physical make-up and his field of circumstance seem to offer a painfully limited scope for such repayment, but the digestion of all Karma is effected by the right attitude of mind, and the will to affirm will itself dissolve the problems of the daily round.
Deny nothing; affirm all. Life is, and we are part of it. Wherefore run to meet it with open hands and heart. The Christian mystic calls this attitude a surrender of the will to God. Geraldine Coster calls it "sitting loose to life," and Jung translates the Tao-ist doctrine of wu-wei as learning "to let things happen," which he describes as "a real art of which few people know anything.
Consciousness is forever interfering, helping, correcting, and negating, and never leaving the simple growth of the psychic processes in peace. "Nor is the average mind content to leave other people's growth in peace, yet tolerance in its noblest sense is far more than conceding an opinion or a course of conduct with which one does not agree." In the infinite complexity of inner growth almost anything is right for someone at some time and in some circumstances. Where is the man who claims to judge what is right and wrong for another according to his needs?
Whatever is, is right, for someone. True tolerance is a form of charity, not in the Christian sense, which, as Keyserling points out, "means wishing to do good; in the Buddhist sense it means wanting to let everyone come into his own at his own level," which implies in turn a "sympathetic understanding for the positive qualities of every condition," affirming them as right for that individual. He is a brave man who can realize that all that is is right, yet so it is in the eyes of THAT, the eternal Namelessness.
The doctrine of acceptance is beyond the reach of justice as conceived by man. The wise man learns to accept all blame, though he be blameless, and suffering he knows he has not earned. Yet it is harder still for some to accept an offer of assistance, for pride is the last of the fetters to fall at the threshold of deliverance. It may be more blessed to give than to receive; it is certainly much easier. There is a difficult technique to learn in charity, both in finding a way of giving without condescension and in learning to ask and to receive in such a way that love is thereby strengthened, and not made forfeit to the gift.
Life is the greatest of all givers; meet life with open hands. All that it has is yours of right for the taking, and none shall take it from you unless you strive to keep it for yourself alone. Life denies nothing, and offers all. There's beauty in the world, and silence, and love that laughs at hate. There's wisdom, too, that calls to folly and makes folly wise. These wait the mind's acceptance, and the open heart that, taking all life in its keeping, makes its owner say, as Thoreau said: "I know that the enterprise is worthy. I know that things work well. I have heard no bad news."
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