From the Path, November, 1887.
Step aside, O toiling brother, into a convenient bye-way, and for a moment let the surging crowd pass by. Do not tremble like a child for fear that you may be hopelessly left behind, for you will be forced back all too soon, though, if you really pause, and truly ponder, you will never again be so completely identified with the pursuits of the crowd, though you will still be a part of it. Ask of your soul: "What are these personalities that make up the mighty human tide so widely rushing past — this rushing tide replenished at every instant by birth, depleted at every instant by death, yet flowing on for ever?" How read you this journey from the cradle to the grave?
Think of the countless myriads whose weary, toiling, bleeding feet have worn deep the channels of this river of time. Listen to the complaints of the weary, the cries of the wounded, the groans of the despairing. Watch with pity the ashen faces as they hear the sound of the cataract ahead, over which they know they must plunge alone into unknown depths. Many are resigned in the presence of fate, for there is true courage at the heart of humanity, but how few are joyous except through ignorance and forgetfulness, and these are the frightened ones in the presence of the inevitable.
Listen to the loud acclaims, when in the rushing stream one is for a moment borne aloft on the crest of a wave, and watch the envy and even malice of those who are inevitably drawn into the hollow of the wave as they also struggle to reach the crest. Alas! the waves of Wealth, and Fame, and Power; Alas! the bubbling foam of Love. The night cometh and the stream is still; yet even in the arms of the Brother of Death the echoes of these mighty waves chant their requiem.
Listen a little deeper, O brother of my soul, and hear the sound of many voices: "What shall I eat? What shall I drink? and wherewithal shall I be clothed?" and then, alas! "O, whither do I tend?"
And still the surging tide rolls on. A friend is passing yonder; hail him and beckon him to thy side. He answers: "I cannot wait; I have not time." Alas! what hath he else but time, and the foam of the maddening billows?
Turn now to thy companion, he who bade thee turn aside. Canst thou stop to consider, "Is he short, or tall, or fat, or lean, or black, or white, or man, or woman?" "Are his garments soiled or clean?" "Comes he from the East, or from the West?" "Hath he letters of introduction?" "On whose authority did he bid thee halt?" "Did he speak in conventional language, and with the proper accent?" "Has his raiment the odour of the sea, or the breath of the mountain, or the fragrance of the flowery vale?"
Be sure it is not thy awakened soul that thus inquires, "tis only the voice of the stream yonder, and when thou turnest to look for thy companion, lo! he is gone, and thou art alone, alone with thy soul, and with the echoes of the stream. Fear chills thy blood, and every separate hair stands on end, and as thou rushest back into the surging stream, even thy boon companions are terrified at thy staring eyes, and thy death-like face. . . .
How many are turned aside by personalities? How many look to the garb of the messenger, forgetting the message, and yet is not the message plain? At one time the message comes from a manger, at another it descends from a throne. Yet is the message ever the same. Nature and time regard not personalities, but swallow up all alike, yet do nature and time and destiny teach ever the same great lesson, and he who would learn of these must both forego and forget personalities, his own and those of others. Personalities are but the fleeting waves on the river of time, caused by the friction of the winds of fortune; they are thy weakness and not thy strength. Thy strength is in thy soul, and thy soul's strength is in the calm, and not in storm revealed.
Inquire not who or what the messenger, but study well the message that comes to thy soul, and bears thee ban or blessing, according as thou receivest it, and while thou waitest with lamps untrimmed the Bridegroom passes by.
What matters it to thee what infirmities the messenger may bear, except as thou mayest help him so to bear them that truth may run a freer race? Is it not enough for thee that truth hath given him her signet ring? Judge, then, of this, and if he falter in his speech or loiter by the way, take up the theme in clearer tones and speak of it from thy soul to all thy kind.
Wilt thou withhold thy blessing from the hand that bears the gift, and covet while rejecting the very gift it bears? If thou art so at cross purposes with thyself, how canst thou be at one with truth?
Truth is many-sided, speaks every language, is clothed in every garb, yet is she ever still the same, One, and unchangeable, now and for ever. And if she is no respecter of persons, canst thou be more select than she? Alas! thou canst not find her thus, but error rather, and self-deceived rush down the stream of time, and when thy personalities fall off then shalt thou realize that thou didst refuse the banquet of the gods by scorning thus their messenger. Search out, and know and love and serve the truth, for truth's own sake. Follow it through all disguises with scent more sure and keen than hound in search of game. Refuse it not, though it reach thee from a dunghill, welcome it as though straight from God's own throne, and thus shall it ne'er escape thee, and neither love, nor hate, nor fear shall mar thy harvests, and truth shall honour thee, as thou hast welcomed her.
Beware of false authority, for neither pope nor priest, nor book can of itself contain it all, and yet despise them not, for so thou'lt miss the truth. The sole authority for truth is truth's own self, and if thy soul is but akin to her, thy quickened soul will recognize her every garb, by ties more strong than blood, by kinship everlasting, and as the waters mingle with the sea, so flows thy soul into the bosom of the deeps whence springs afresh in thee the everlasting Life which is the vital breath of Truth.