The Path – February 1887



Whitman, in his short and remarkable poem, "To him that was Crucified," perceives very clearly the verity of Mahatmahood; the existence of men who live upon a higher plane than that of ordinary mortals, and who are united in an order of spiritual brotherhood. The poem runs: (1)

My spirit to yours, dear brother,
Do not mind because many sounding your name do not understand you,
I do not sound your name, but I understand you,
I specify you with joy, O my comrade, to salute you, and to salute those who are with you, before and since, and those to come also,
That we all labor together transmitting the same charge and succession,
We few equals indifferent of lands, indifferent of times,
We, enclosers of all continents, all castes, allowers of all theologies,
Compassionaters, perceivers, rapport of men,
We walk silent among disputes and assertions, but reject not the disputers nor anything that is asserted,
We hear the bawling and din, we are reached at by divisions, jealousies, recriminations on every side,
They close peremptorily upon us to surround us, my comrade,
Yet we walk unheld, free, the whole earth over, journeying up and down till we make our ineffaceable mark upon time and the diverse eras,
Till we saturate time and eras, that the men and woman of races, ages to come, may prove brethren and lovers as we are.

These lines, sublime as they are, will probably be regarded as little short of blasphemous by many of our good friends who, sounding his name, do not understand him; who, worshipping him as the only Man-God, have lost sight of the God in man, the Christ, the potential development of which in all men was the great lesson which the Nazarene sought to convey. They little think that he whose name they sound may perhaps be walking the earth today, striving to bring men to the light, but despised and rejected by themselves because in an unrecognized and strange guise, while the same old truths are again trampled upon, since they lack the endorsement of established authority.

The poet, however, shows that he, too broad to be limited by one name, truly understands the mission of Jesus; he, with his own grand teachings of universal brotherhood despised and misunderstood because of their unfamiliar form, is elevated by the sublimity of the truths that inspire himself to the level which gives him the right to address the founder of Christianity as a comrade. He sees, too, with a directness that probably has come to no other modern poet, that there is a band of "Equals" working for the same end, "transmitting the same charge and succession," through all races, through all ages, and giving vitality to all religions. The free, uninfluenced attitude which he who would grow towards the light must maintain is expressed here with most effective simplicity, as is the end for which THEY are striving — so to saturate the world and all eras with their precepts as finally to lift all mankind into the unity of perfect Brotherhood.

The true mental abnegation is here referred to, just as Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita tries to teach Arjuna. In speaking of the necessity for retiring to the forest so as to attain perfection untroubled by man, he says to Arjuna that the true philosopher will look with equal mind upon all classes of men, upon all systems of thought and all objects of sense, esteeming all alike, inasmuch as they are all one in the Supreme Spirit, and that spirit found in each, so that to retire to the forest is not a necessity. Thus Whitman says that he and all others of the same mind, are indifferent of lands, times, disputes or disputers, allowers of all theologies, because they well know — as occultism teaches — that each theology and each assertion is one facet of the great Truth.

The result of this state of mind is beautifully set forth in the lines which say that amid the bawling and din, reached at by divisions and jealousies on every side that close peremptorily upon us to surround and fetter us, we walk free, unheld by all, because we are fixed upon the immutable rock of the True. This is the imperturbability sought by the ancient Chinese philosophers, who, themselves students of occultism, esteemed that equanimity above all else.

There are various passages throughout Whitman's poems that intimate a perception, perhaps intuitive, of the existences of the Masters. For instance, he says, "I see the serene company of philosophers," and in "A Song of the Rolling Earth" are the lines:

"The workmanship of souls is by those inaudible words of the earth,
The masters know the earth's words and use them more than audible words."

And again, towards the end of the same poem:

"When the materials are all prepared and ready, the architects shall appear."

The thought here is identical with that in "Light on the Path" (note to Rule 21, First Section):

"Therefore in the Hall of Learning, when he is capable of entering there, the disciple will always find his master."

And in the following note:

"When the disciple is ready to learn, then he is accepted, acknowledged, recognized. It must be so; for he has lit his lamp, and it cannot be hidden."

The poem in question concludes with the following exalted lines which contain a significant statement of one of the great truths of Occultism:

"I swear to you the architects shall appear without fail,
I swear to you they will understand you and justify you,
The greatest among them shall be he who best knows you, and encloses all and is faithful to all,
He and the rest shall not forget you, they shall perceive that you are not an iota less than they,
You shall be fully glorified in them."

It is hardly possible to say whether or not the poet means that these architects are in one sense the various, changeful mortal costumes the human monad had here and there, in many races and places, assumed while passing through the wheel of re-births. When he says that the architects "will understand you and justify you," we may easily picture the time when the regenerated man, now able to see all his illusionary entrances upon the stage of life under the costume of varied personalities, can understand that all these different incarnations were fully justified by the need for the particular experience found in each new life, and thus he himself is glorified and justified by these architects, who were really himself.

Complete proof of Whitman's belief in re-incarnation is to be found in the following lines from "facing West from California's Shores:"

Facing west from California's shores,
Inquiring, tireless, seeking what is yet unfound,
I a child, very old, over waves, towards the house of maternity, the land of migrations, look afar,
Look off the shores of my Western sea, the circle almost circled;
For starting westward from Hindustan, from the vales of Kashmere,
From Asia, from the north, from the God, the sage, and the hero,
From the south, from the flowery peninsulas and the spice islands,
Long having wander'd since, round the earth having wander'd.
Now I face home again, very pleas'd and joyous.
(But where is what I started for so long ago?
And why is it yet unfound?)

This last query is answered in Light on the Path (rule 12, § I.): "You will enter the light, but you will never touch the flame." The Self is what we seek. It resides in the heart of every mortal creature "smaller than a grain of mustard seed;" the heart is in the Sun — and now we speak of the real heart and the real spiritual sun which is "now hidden by a vase of golden light" — (as the Upanishads say) — the Sun in the mouth of Brahman and Brahman is the All.


1. From Leaves of Grass. (return to text)

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