It is a commonplace in the lives of those who are seeking the life of service, who are training themselves to tread the Chela path, that there come days and weeks when the light dies away, when a sense of isolation and loneliness wells up, even to the point of despair. Life seems emptied out of all inspiration; duties that were once gladly performed become tasks that demand every ounce of endeavor, every bit of driving force that can be mustered; when a sense of incompleteness pervades every unfinished undertaking. The disciple is overwhelmed with frustration:
Amid the ruins of this thing undone
I sit and say CUI BONO till the sun
Sets, and a bat flits past the sun.
In such a period there is only one thing to do, one possible course to follow — to hold on, recognising that the experience is temporal, that for the time being the disciple has ceased to live consciously in the Eternal. Being temporal it will pass, as it must, and the inner light will return, the old joy in service will once more gladden the heart.
This "Dark Night of the Soul" has been recognised by mystics and occultists throughout the ages. It is referred to in many scriptures. Some teachers have suggested a subtle correspondence between it and the rise and fall of the sap in plant life, or the ebb and flow of the ceaselessly moving sea. Others have hinted that it is a prophecy of the much greater experience that pertains to Initiation, when everything that is individual and which has been built up over ages of physical time must be abandoned — when even the Karana-Sarira is renounced and only the Divinity that is the innermost core of being remains. Emerging from it the disciple can say with truth:
Alone upon the threshold of my door
Of individual life shall I command
The uses of my soul. . . .
Actually, in the lives we live, it is an indication that the disciple is still under the sway of the "Pairs of Opposites." When the taking of joy in service obtrudes upon the Mind the person concerned should take himself to task and enquire if he be not extracting a personal pleasure in giving himself to such service. Is the joy in the work? or in the doing of it — by himself? Equally when the dark night seems to be impending or has descended it should be remembered that it is a natural reaction, and comfort extracted from the thought, or better still — the knowledge that it is a period in which real inner growth can be attained, if the disciple will continue with his outer work quite unconcerned, while at the same time utilising every spare moment for the contemplation of things already accomplished both by himself and his predecessors on the same narrow way, of triumphs that have been snatched from defeats, of routs that have been turned into victories — and impersonally endeavor to assimilate these things into himself, so that both he and they may be dedicated to further service in the future, dwelling on the thought: "Wonder of Saints that are; splendour of Saints to be!"
Let any such who may be afflicted try to emulate that spirit which is so magnificently shadowed forth in the final clauses of the Dedication which William Q. Judge wrote when he had completed his recension of the Yoga-Sutras of Patanjali. The writer of these lines, a very slow traveller on the Narrow Way, who is often weary of well doing, whose work brings him into touch with many seamy sides of life, even to the very verge of despair, gladly admits drawing from it new courage and a fresh inspiration, not once but many times.
One other thought suggests itself: there are many other travellers on this same Path, could we but recognise them, who would gladly share with us what they have garnered in the fields of the Spirit. It is tragic that we are not able to display some banner whereby we might be recognised by them. Equally they may be in the throes and at a time when our experience might be just what they require to nerve them in the fresh endeavor. Let us keep our spiritual eyes open for all such fellow travellers, because in their company we forget the temporal, personal dimension and in sharing what we have with them the world becomes an Emmaus and the bread which is broken is a symbol of those who are renatus in Eternum, reborn into Eternity.
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