The Path — May 1887


As said Solomon the wise, "there is no new thing under the sun." Our thoughts are but the thoughts of preceding ages. That this must be so will be apparent when one considers the Eternity behind. All possibilities of nature must have been realized and all thoughts thought in the — to us — dim past. And while the wheel of evolution still turns this must be so. At the apex of the orbit in each revolution, a few of the greatest souled ones have attained emancipation, a few have been able to lift the latch of the Golden Gate. But the remainder of the candidates in nature's school who have failed at the final test have again to begin the weary round, along with those evolving from lower conditions, with only so much light to guide them through the labyrinth of life as may have been enshrined in the traditions or religions evolved during the previous efflorescence of Humanity. How are they to regain the thoughts of the past and obtain some true interpretation of the mystery of life? All thoughts indeed are writ in the Akasa from which the Prophets and Poets of all ages have drawn their inspiration and in proportion to a man's striving to get below the mere surface of things, will be the degree in which he succeeds in making part of that inheritance of the ages his own possession.

The scholar too would seem to have a part to play. What worthier object can be his than that of rendering intelligible in the speech of his epoch, the thoughts and ideas enshrined in the dead languages of the great thinking races of the past? The scholars of to-day, those who have drunk deep at the wells of Sanskrit and Greek learning, have indeed a heavy responsibility upon their shoulders. Were it not a worthier aim of life to make common property the thoughts and ideas of the sublime ancients than to wrap themselves as so many do — though there are one or two notable and glorious exceptions — in the self-gratulation of exclusive culture and stagnate in the memory of past achievement?

Those too who are animated by the Theosophic spirit, and who feel the supreme desirability of the path they are striving to tread, are bound to find words more or less appropriate to carry to the world a conviction of this supreme desirability, words which may convey some idea of the animating life within which is quite as much an embodiment of the scientific spirit of the seeker after truth, and the single-eyed determination of the man of the world to achieve his object, as of any devotional or religious feeling. Religion — in Christian countries at least — has been made far too much a thing of sentiment, it has its use no doubt in prompting to the initial effort, but when the path is chosen it would seem that singleheartedness of aim and firm determination were the dominant qualities required.

The thought that prompted the present paper was expressed in a footnote written by a friend in that mystical work of the middle ages "Theologia Germanica." The text expresses the thought that all that is, is well pleasing and good in God's eyes, while the foot note by citing one out of the many instances of earthly action so diametrically opposed to what the most optimistic could consider as pleasing to God, commands as the necessary corollary to the text its converse proposition.

Search as deeply as we may into Nature's life, and obtain though we may some intuition of the love which may be regarded as "creation's final law," that law in its working throughout all objective existence must still appear to us as unutterably hideous. The cosmos exists indeed for those who have extended enough vision, in other words the faith to see it, its picture may be seen in the depths of the soul, that very throne of God, but to us who tread the pathways of the world, who are daily brought in contact with the social evils of this generation, the crime, the ignorance? the poverty, the suffering, how can such existence appear to us other than a chaos? Is it not a veritable Hell on Earth? But is there no "best Philosophy" such as Shelley speaks of

     "Whose taste
"Makes this cold common Hell — our life — a doom
"As glorious as a fiery martyrdom?"

The reproach of being unpractical is often made against those who are deeply imbued with the philosophic spirit — they may not have the ready panacea for the cure of existing evils demanded by the philanthropist, whose partial remedy he is so apt to consider as such, and to apply with ill-considered action — but they who look deep down see the real remedy, though their words may fall as vain sounds on the ears of the world.

The forces too that have long been set in motion are not lightly to be diverted from the goal towards which they have been hastening, and that goal is for us beginning to loom but too clearly in view. That child born of man's deep seated sense of justice (perverted though it may be) out of the dam, dire poverty, the shrieking red-clad socialist stalks among us, and following the inevitable law of retribution, over the people who have fallen deepest in the slough of materialism, and have been most dominated by the lusts of the flesh, is beginning to tremble the moan of the coming storm, while in their most populous cities the cries rise loudest. It may be too late now entirely to ward off the storm, but surely its fury might be mitigated were we even now to read the lesson aright.

To a people whose upper classes are pandered to by nameless lusts, and whose lower classes breed like beasts of the field, without recognizing, as the beasts do, a non-breeding season, to this adulterous and lascivious generation were it not a worthy aim to show by word and deed that it is possible to dissociate love from lust, and that the loftiest emotion of which Humanity is capable has no necessary connection with the sexual bond? But what advance can be made till society recognizes that instead of offering a premium on marriage, they rather are worthy of admiration who can guard inviolate the sacred seed, under the influence of an aim the worldling knows not of — the aim of transferring the life-force from the material into the spiritual plane, with whatever results may accrue from this transformation of energy, of transcendental powers, or sweeter far the realization of the Platonic dream of union with our other half, the finding that within ourselves lay the twin soul which has been the object of our life-long search, in other words that in the microcosm, man, as in the macrocosm, God, are contained both the male and the female elements of existence.

What a contrast to this age of materiality to read of that old time when to prevent the depopulation of the country, it was necessary to enjoin each true-hearted Brahman to marry and beget one child before devoting himself to the main object of existence which should be to-day as it was then, the practise of Yoga.

But besides helping to counteract the dominant evil of our time another reason can be given for the practise of celibacy, though this lies more on the interior plane, and is therefore more a subject of speculation. For it is a satisfaction to think that by refusing further to swell the already overteeming populations, the ranks of the unborn are lessened to a smaller degree, that a few more souls continue to enjoy the rosy dreams of Heaven.

But though the general acceptance of a less gross form of life would greatly tend towards the amelioration of human existence, to expect it from this generation would seem like putting the effect before the cause, for what is there to impel towards any curbing of the passions while Ignorance holds almost undivided sway? All evils under which Humanity groans may indeed be ascribed to that baleful influence, and it is useless to lop off one of the hydra heads of the monster, while she is capable of replacing it by a still more hideous growth. Andromeda truly pictures Humanity to-day, but where is the redeemer Perseus to be looked for save under the shining garb of the occult wisdom? The worldly knowledge with its glittering train of physical sciences and mechanical inventions can never set Humanity free, it but weaves round its votaries still more deluding webs of darkness. But we may hope that Reason will once more "shed her beams of dawn" over the dim world, and that true faith will once more shine in the hearts of men, for when the knowledge has filtered in that this life is but one of an endless chain of similar existences, will not the futility of gratifying every whim of the senses, which must so often before have been gratified give place to the desire for freedom from such dominance, and to the yearning for some more lasting bliss? and when it is realized that our present thoughts and acts are the factors that determine our future lives and that the pain (or joy) of the present is the retribution of the past, will not a goad be fixed in the hearts of many to drive them on the right way? and finally, when it is dimly perceived that the soul in past existences has experienced all heights and depths of earthly things — has realized all the sweets of wealth, of honor, of power, of love — that the bitter has been very bitter indeed and that the sweetest of the sweet has failed to give permanent satisfaction, will there not spring up in the soul a deep distaste for this loathsome life, a firm intent to pierce the veil of Maya that hides from us the celestial region?

This piercing of the veil, or to adopt a simile which will carry us a little further, this scaling of the mountain is conceived of in very different ways. To some it seems as the culmination of one gigantic effort, to others as the result of infinitely slow progress. It is now pictured as "the killing of the deadly serpent of self for which Supreme moment is needed a strength such as no hero of the battle field needs." Elsewhere it is described as the steadfast toil of the will "till efforts end in ease and thought has passed from thinking," as the gradual centering of all thought in the eternal thought till all earth-born desires and fears die out through sheer lack of the nourishment whereby they may be kept alive. The truth may lie in the union of these two apparently contradictory modes of thought, or it may be that as the different natures of men impel them to different lines of action, the pathways are really different though conducting to the same goal, or it may be suggested that the desperate effort referred to above, the supreme moment when the strength of the hero is needed, may be symbolised in the action of one of the mountain climbers, who has strayed from the true mountain side, into some rocky cul-de-sac, up some misleading pinnacle. A desperate leap will doubtless be required of him to reach the true breast of the mountain again. But he who has started on the ascent with a true guide will not mistake the rocky pinnacle for the snow-clad summit. His progress will be fast or slow as the strength and will within him shall decide. Therefore to the aspirant should it ever seem like the steady ascent of the mountain for which are demanded all his combined energies of courage, prudence and steadfastness. And as the summit is approached, all dread anticipation of what the future may bring as well as the fever of personal desire and earthly passion will be left behind like the mist of the valley. Hope and Fear alike will disappear in the purity of that serene air.

And the love which could no longer identify itself with any one object of desire, or find any resting place on earth will have been gradually purged from all taint of animal passion, and will daily become more Godlike in its diffusion, until personal likes and dislikes melt away before its intensity of worship of the one supreme Perfection. All appearances of difference will then be blotted out — friends and enemies, kinsmen and aliens, yea, good and evil men — all will appear alike — for God only will be seen in all, and the bliss of Yoga will be attained.

The Path