The Path – December 1891

THE IDEAL AND THE PRACTICAL — Pilgrim

(Concluded.)

Altruism truly will have to be realized and expressed in action during our journey to the great goal, but it cannot be called the great goal itself. It may be a means, a necessary means, but it is not the only means. The very word, too, has a ring of coldness in it, and there must be many who require to light the flame of their love and devotion at a more fervent centre than any thought of Humanity can kindle! Indeed, is the Humanity of today either in the individual or in the mass such as to elicit either our love or our worship? Scorn, loathing, and pity seem more like the emotions raised in contemplating alternately its meanness, its vice, and its suffering. True it is that none are so fitted as the Occultist to return the world's scorn with princely interest, for none are lifted so immeasurably above the world with its bounded vision and its trivial aims, but though scorn may only be the reflex action which would make it exactly commensurate with the intensity of worship in the soul, it is of the very essence of separateness, and it must be remembered that all sense of separateness has to be killed out. The scorn must be replaced by an infinite compassion. But how is this to be done? The divine alone provides a bridge for the scattered fragments. It is only through the Deity — the Perfect — the All-pervading — the Unutterable Essence of our own inmost Being — that man can truly become one in love and worship with his fellow-man. Yoga is the watchword, Yoga is the means, Yoga is the end. It is written. "Counsels of perfection are the aliment of all strenuous souls," and one who in this bitter and arid desert of illusion has once seen the vision of the holy grail can never cease to thirst for its draught of sacramental wine.

Union being, then, our watchword and our aim, we must not be too much cast down at the apparent disunion which seems to precede the attainment of each stage in the progress. It is sad beyond expression, the feeling of disunion when the ardent affections of childhood and youth are gradually dissipated through the failure of the old friends to respond to the newer ideals before us. The closest earthly union of all — that of the married souls — would indeed so fill the whole horizon of life with bliss that it would far more than compensate for the sad severance of the other ties, but when this also is denied, there often rises in the heart a feeling of loneliness and homelessness so accentuated as to be almost too bitter to bear. But is not this merely the prelude to the heart's greater expansion? to the soul's wider vision of its object and its end? It is long indeed before the "great orphan" Humanity can claim its own in us! before we are capable of giving birth even to the germ of that world-wide sympathy which so infinitely transcends all personal claims, and which, when grown to full stature, is the very blotting out of self, is the very gate of Heaven!

The practical person may here step in and say that this identification of self with Humanity can only be achieved by practical work for the race in every-day human life. Doubtless the race needs its champions and deliverers today as of old. Let Hercules again step forth, girded to cleanse the Augean stables! Let the troubled and careful Martha continue her work of service! There are many laborers wanted in God's vineyard. But let not the hands that work say to the brain that guides them "We have no need of thee." The practical person has work to do in the world: let him do it! but "counsels of perfection" were not written for him! It is the same old problem of (1) "Meditation and Action" which so few of the western people are yet fit to grasp, — within the quietistic term meditation being embraced all the battles of the hidden life, including the "great battle."

A pointed illustration of Europe's incapacity for right thought may be found in Draper's great work, The Intellectual Development of Europe. Words are of course mere counters which may bear different significations in different ages, or to different individuals in the same age, but no mere juggling with the counters will account for a fundamental difference of conception as to the thing, and when a writer (and the point is only accentuated when the writer is so distinguished for ability and wide-mindedness) uses the word quietism as synonymous with apathy, it is similar to mistaking the top rung of a ladder for the bottom one — an absolute perversion of vision. A little knowledge of the Vedic philosophy teaches that the active emotional nature of one lit with the fire of Passion ("Rajas") is greatly superior to the apathy of one sunk in the ignorance of Sloth ("Tamas"), but far above the passionate nature stands the one who has transferred his energy from the outer on to the inner plane, and has thereby attained some amount of equilibrium, some amount of self-control. When the inner struggle is continued with such intensity — aided and guided by the concentration on the Supreme — that all outer things lose their importance, a stage of "quietism" is reached which in external appearance may resemble the debased apathy of the ignorant boor, but does it not imply absolute perversion of vision to mistake the sublime heights of Serenity ("Satwan") for the depths of ignorant sloth? It must be apparent that the above misunderstanding is no mere verbal difference, and can only be accounted for by the fact that a material-minded race is incapable even of believing in the existence of states of spiritual exaltation.

Before the battles of the inner life all else truly sinks into unreality, and the great teacher whom the Western people honor has in the story of Martha and Mary left a record of his thought on the subject of "Meditation and Action" which may be summarized in the lesson that it is greater and nobler and better to be than to do, that the race is ultimately more benefited by the thinking of the thoughts and the living of the life than by all the actions of all the philanthropists. The real battle has to be fought within, and any finding of external spheres of energy or beneficence is a mere postponement of, though it may be a necessary preliminary to, that awful struggle.

It is only by slow degrees that the lesson contained in each pregnant paradox of Light on the Path is painfully learned through payment of heart's blood. First in the book but last in realization comes the rule (No. 5) "Kill out all sense of separateness." When the disciple has learned this in its entirety he is one with Humanity, for he is one with God. But the painful process is described in the antithesis, "Yet stand alone and isolated, because nothing that is embodied, nothing that is conscious of separation, nothing that is out of the Eternal can aid you." It is this standing alone that is the hard task, but it must surely be the prelude to the greater expansion of the whole nature, it must surely be a step nearer to the merging of the self in the All! Bitter beyond description is the learning of the lesson, when the whole passion of the passionate nature is concentrated in the cry — the unavailing cry — for the sympathy of the friend, for the love of the lover. It is poor consolation to say that to find content in these things would be to satisfy the immortal hunger upon husks. It is a very mortal and human hunger that cries out. Nevertheless it is but reasonable to admit that only by such means can the mortal hunger be replaced by the immortal, that only by such terrible strangling of our personal human desires can man attain to the wider sympathy, the greater wisdom, and the all-embracing love of the God.

Many, O weary pilgrim, may be thy journeys back to earth, many thy tortures on the ever-recurring wheel of life, many thy shrinkings of soul from the terrors of the "dire probations." But take courage, Lanoo, and keep the fire burning, the fire that burns within, for its light must grow and must increase, until when the last great battle shall be won, "its light will suddenly become the infinite light," and then to thee may be addressed the words — words that may even convey to our still earth-bound understanding some faint description of that indescribable achievement — the realization of the loftiest conceivable ideal as an absolute practical fact: "Behold! thou hast become the light, thou hast become the sound, thou art thy Master and thy God. Thou art Thyself the object of thy search: the Voice unbroken that resounds throughout eternities, exempt from change, from sin exempt, the seven sounds in one, the Voice of the Silence." (2)

FOOTNOTES:

1. See the article on Meditation and Action in Problems of the Hidden Life. (return to text)

2. From The Voice of the Silence, being extracts from the Book of the Golden Precepts translated and annotated by H. P. B. Light on the Path is a work deserving of the highest praise. The Voice of the Silence is beyond all praise. It is more light on the path to those capable of understanding it. — Pilgrim. (return to text)


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