A newspaper writer giving a light sketch of the theosophic concept of man's nature says: — "According to this philosophy, a man may sit in his bare soul and lay his body, his mind and his other parts around him in a semi-circle and hold converse with them making up a very respectable 5 o'clock tea party all by himself."
That a person may analyze and hold converse with his principles and glean wisdom from the process is to be seen by reading E. D. Hitchcock's "Remarks on Shakespeare's Sonnets." And Barnstorff in his "Key" says: "Shakespeare in his Sonnets gives us simply intuitions of the soul; he depicts his own ultimate, spiritual personality under the form of appeals of his mortal to his immortal man; of his external being, which belongs to time and circumstance to his higher self, which belongs to humanity and eternity; invocations, so to speak, of the civil and social man to his genius and his art."
These sonnets are supposed to be addressed to persons, but it appears to be more reasonable to regard them as "soul studies," as the poet's conversations with his complex self, regarded as a soul struggling with a double nature by which he is linked to earth and heaven.
Under the disguise of the language of love, the witnesses to the Truth who carried the torch through the dark ages, have permitted that torch to cast some gleams of light into the darkness of that time. And beneath the surface meanings of the "fables and fairy toys" the real meaning is to be looked for by those who have "lover's eyes," quick to penetrate disguise.
Love represents devotion to the Divine; to Knowledge; to Humanity; to Beauty as the representation of Divinity; to Religion. Love is the esoteric devotion to God, for the guidance of which Chaucer gave mystical rules in his "Court of Love."
Plutarch, Spenser, Sir Philip Sydney, wrote sonnets addressed to ladies — personifications of ideals. This is the meaning of the love literature of the Middle Ages, of the time when men "were tongue-tied by authority."
The Sonnets of Shakespeare show the spirit of man to be one with God and Nature. A sense of this unity was the secret joy of the poet, taking the name of love. The joy of a part for a whole which it was just beginning to recognize as itself.
This Unity as "Beauty's Rose," — the spirit of humanity — is realized as double in its manifestation in man, where it is called the "Master-Mistress." The master, the reason, the mistress, the affections, for one interpretation.
Hence comes the double nature of man, with which his consciousness has to battle and from whence proceed the tribulations of life.
"Two loves I have of comfort and despair,
Which like two spirits do suggest me still;
The better angel is a man right fair,
The worser spirit a woman colored ill."
— Sonnet 144.
Thus are personified the reason and the affections. The affections may pass into the passions when they are not balanced by reason and harmoniously adjusted.
In the 146th Sonnet he advises himself to sacrifice the passional side of his nature to feed his soul.
Addressing his spiritual nature or conscience in the 61st Sonnet, he says:
"Is it thy will thy image should keep open
My heavy eyelids to the weary night?
Dost thou desire my slumbers should be broken,
While shadows, like to thee, do mock my sight?
Is it thy spirit that thou sendest from thee
So far from home, into my deeds to pry;
To find out shames and idle hours in me,
The scope and tenor of thy jealousy?
O, no! thy love, though much, is not so great;
It is my love that keeps mine eye awake;
Mine own true love that doth my rest defeat,
To play the watchman ever for thy sake;
For thee watch I, whilst thou dost wake elsewhere,
From me far off, with others all too near."
The idea that the soul of man is free during sleep to commune with the Over-soul is beautifully expressed in the 27th Sonnet.
"Weary with toil I haste me to my bed,
The dear repose for limbs with travail tired;
But then begins a journey in my head,
To work my mind, when body's work's expir'd;
For then my thoughts, from far where I abide,
Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee;
And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,
Looking on darkness which the blind do see;
Save that my soul's imaginary sight
Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,
Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night,
Makes black night beauteous, and her old face new.
Lo, thus by day my limbs, by night my mind,
For thee and for myself no quiet find."
The lower self in its pride and faults, and the change to the contemplation of the Higher Self as that to which praise alone is due are expressed thus:
"Sin of self-love possesseth all mine eye,
And all my soul, and all my every part;
And for this sin there is no remedy,
It is so grounded inward in my heart,
Methinks no face so gracious is as mine,
No shape so true, no truth of such account;
And for myself mine own worth do define,
As I all other in all worths surmount.
But when my glass shows me myself indeed,
Beated and chopp'd with tann'd antiquity,
Mine own self-love quite contrary I read;
Self so self-loving were iniquity,
'Tis thee, myself, that for myself I praise,
Painting my age with beauty of thy days."
Thus by skimming the mere surface of these sonnets we see it is not at all impossible to converse with the various aspects of our natures and learn to balance and harmonize the different parts, until, like the Great Unity which they reflect, all is order and symmetry in the little world as in the great, to which it belongs.
Universal BrotherhoodTHEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE