This personality of ours — this orphan, this lonely pilgrim of the desert, this transient tramp of the ocean of life, the hope and despair of sages, the nursling of the gods, this prodigal of high mind, this tragedy which by courtesy we call a man — let us look to it. O mystery of mysteries, that comes like a meteor from the spaces of Space, flickers with a turmoil of feckless lights and shades, stirring up strife with countless flashes and clashes of its own irresponsible will for one small moment of Eternity which it calls its life, hoping eternally but daring sporadically, dreaming of conquests and glories yet feeling its impotence to accomplish, then too often despairing of all things it passes out, breaks on the rocks and shatters into ten million sparks and is gone!
What of it? Is this all? Is there no other side? Some pessimists say, No! "Like a snowflake on the river, a moment here, then gone for ever!" And to all appearances so it would seem. If this were all, however, then the Cosmos and especially that part which concerns us is a horrible joke; but if it is a joke then there must be a joker, and he is one who lacks judgment, compassion, or meaning.
On to this arena, however, come visions. These countless personalities feel internal urges, pictures of mighty potentialities, urges to do, to accomplish, to evolve, to create, to help, to prosper, even to sacrifice for others; a response to beauty, even an appreciation of wisdom, an innate consciousness of some sort of immortality, as evidenced in recent discoveries by the respect of the earliest remnants of prehistoric man for the disposal of the dead.
Whence comes to the personality, which is per se of the earth earthy and mortal and which has no evidence of immortality, whence comes this mystic touch, this almost pathetic craving for knowledge, for some certainty of capacities, potentialities and powers? There is but one logical issue, namely, an illumination from some Source outside our personalities. This Source is flamingly conscious of immortality, indeed lives and has its being in immortality, and which, we affirm, is intimately related to our personalities.
Part of the tragedy of life — which has been described as a Vale of Tears — is, that we as personalities are largely mortal, yet have a modicum of immortal visions and aspirations: we are mostly conscious of our insatiable appetites for gratification of the senses of the body, and yet we have dreams of glory just outside our reach. Thus we live, being capable of all sorts of mean tricks on one another, of insinuations, of unjust accusations, of vaunted boasts of our own superiority, of competitions in good appearances and intellectual superiority, of converting our own superior aspirations into cunning traps which lead to graft; furthermore downing our competitors even to obliterating their existence if necessary should they stand in the way of our objectives.
Such then is one vision of the world of personalities in which we live, a sort of pandemonium which is periodically pulled up when one of the community "passes out" and we who are left are reminded that this too is our destiny in the fulness of time.
A collective expression of the evil side of personality is a nation of patriots run by megalomaniacs. Again we see the weary cycle of selfish ambitions, grandiose expressions of strength and superiority, intoxicated aspirations of imaginary gains, in fact an exhibition of running amuck, which in an individual would be met by incarceration, if possible, or put to death if necessary for general protection. These are all pictures of the general attitude or trend of personality when left to itself: vanity, self-glorification, egotism, greed, ambition, callousness, self-gratification, self-indulgence, self-pity, and plenty of other facets more or less disgraceful to a finer nature, and if indulged in inordinately leading either to insanity or destruction.
Yet these are the assets which form the raw material from which we have to weave the fine human attributes which constitute human beings at their best. They are in fact the evolved sub-human or animal desires and propensities, sharpened by the human intellect, without the refining and controlling psychology of spiritual egoic illumination, in fact the incipient stage of what Theosophists call the Kama-Manas, or the lower mind.
Redemption comes when, by the action of free will and the pressure of karmic discomfort, the shallow satisfaction of such antics leads to the revolt so graphically described in the biblical parable of the prodigal son. In that moment the conscience awakes; then arise visions of another life and the hope of escape. From then on comes the intermittent zig-zag progress — of efforts upwards and slumps backward: man becomes two-minded, he sees the vision but he fails to capture it, and so the struggle persists. He develops the two selves, the redeemer and the sinner, the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: between stands the human ego, Janus-faced. St. Paul described this stage when he cried:
For that which I do, I allow not: for what I would that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. — Rom., vii, 15
And he goes on to say that it is not he that wishes to do these evil things "but sin that dwelleth in me." "Who shall deliver me?"
I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord, so then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. — Rom., vii, 25
To put these ideas into Theosophical language: the personality left to itself is impotent to accomplish any beneficent purpose without the help of the Christ-influence. What is this Christ-influence, or Christos, but our own spiritual mind or Higher Self?
Thus we realize the two minds in man: one seeking only the personal gratification of appetites and things of the body, which is its vehicle; the other not so concerned, giving us inspirations of beauty, beneficence, and benevolence, urging us to right action and harmony with Nature's holy laws, to aspirations of peace and concord, to visions of high ideals. The one is the producer of diseases; the other is the great physician.
So our personalities are introduced to our spiritual father, who called us into existence, arranged for our incarnation, gave us birth by breathing into us the breath of his own life, in extreme sacrifice for us. We are his son: by our action we bless and enrich him or give him untold sorrow and distress; it is to us that he has to look for experiences and evolution, for we are the vehicle for contacting matter. This matter can itself be redeemed and raised, or condemned to pain and retrogression, bearing upon its surface the marks or impressions of our misdeeds, transgressions, or misjudgments.
This is part of the tragedy of life, for having endowed us with enough of itself to justify our right to choice — in the exhibition of our free will — the "father ego" has to stand by and watch our antics and our efforts to achieve, ever ready to help if we ask. But the choice is ours, and through our conscience it impels, but never compels.
So through our mind we waver and seek help alternately: periodically from time to time we indulge our corporal appetites till we feel the surfeit ad nauseam and then revolt against our ways. Again we experience that thrill of finer endeavor, and realize that the father is always there, waiting, waiting, for the call to help; but the call must come from us as personalities. The prodigal returns, with the joy and peace experienced, again to fall away into the old transgressions; until we gain the power and strength to resist the old temptations of the flesh, urged on by the "pricks" of karmic retributions and the discomfort of ignoring the urges and warnings that always come at critical moments of temptations, or thereabouts.
So if we rise we can shorten the deflections, make the resolutions stronger, till the blessed time comes when we no longer fall away, feeling only the urge to noble deeds, and no longer go back: then the rejoicing "over one sinner that repenteth"! This does not happen in a day, or perchance a lifetime, but necessitates many. Yet in the fulness of time the personality can say, "I and my father are one." In that glad time the personality has become an individuality, a new spiritual mind: an Arhan is born.
Such is man's destiny if all goes well, but oh the pitfalls that occur! Yet we may "rise on stepping-stones of our dead selves to higher things." As Tennyson says:
Our little systems have their day;
They have their day and cease to be:
They are but broken lights of thee,
And thou, 0 Lord, art more than they.
Some day the lights will be reabsorbed!