The Path – June 1887



In man's attempt to pierce the dark mists of ignorance that surround him, in his search after the perfect life, two ideas alternately dominate his horizon — two pathways seem alternately to invite his footsteps. These may roughly be designated as the Scientific and the Religious.

When full consideration is given to the stupendousness of the undertaking, to the almost inconceivable heights at which we aim; when it is realized that we aspire to reach the ranks of the Dhyan Chohans, the rulers of our Planetary System; to become, in fact, part of that diffused Divine consciousness in which is upheld the life of the World, does it not seem reasonable to conclude that all knowledge and all power must have been realized and beneficently practised by such an one in his upward course — that the conquering of the desires of the outer senses must have been accompanied by the development of the inner senses, through whose agency the whole elemental kingdom must have been cognised and conquered, and the hearts and minds of men read as in an open book?

But when the disciple realizes that all earthly power, honor, dominion, has long been put aside by him as valueless — that the one word which has dominated his being is love, and that the failure to realize any perfect union on earth has created and intensified the desire to plunge and to be lost in the Nirvanic ocean of Divinity, will not the attainment of powers and the development of inner senses appear to him as mere circumlocution and surplusage? Why not make for his goal at once? The bondage of material life being but the impulse to act, liberation consists in destroying this impulse, not by suppression, but by the knowledge that the ego is independent of it. This knowledge is attained through faith, but the faith that leads up to it is liable to die if not fed by obedience to the will of God — "If thou wouldst enter the life, keep the commandments" — the commandments set in the various Scriptures of Humanity — then in long-suffering patience work out the term of imprisonment in flesh.

         "Ruling the flesh
"By mind, governing mind with ordered Will;
"Subduing Will by knowledge, making this
"Serve the firm Spirit, and the Spirit cling
"As Soul to the eternal changeless Soul,"

till the "dark" and "passionate" qualities of Nature have melted away, and the serenity of "Satwa" alone remains. And the soul, which has centred itself more and more on the Supreme Soul, will find its earthly ties gradually dissolve, until the last one disappears, and it naturally gravitates to its eternal home.

This is a lovely picture, and there are many to whom such a pathway — the pathway of Religion — must have inconceivable attractions; but let us pause and consider well whether it is one which we in this Kali Yuga are yet fitted to follow to the exclusion of all others,

If we were such complete masters of the physical nature as to be absolutely fearless under any conceivable circumstances, and if our hearts were filled with such an all-embracing love for Humanity that at no moment would we hesitate to lay down our lives for it, we might, perhaps, consider ourselves worthy of passing through the final gateway of contemplative devotion. Doubtless there are few men, worthy of the name, who have not risen, in moments of exaltation, to the thought that even the physical well-being — let alone the eternal salvation! — of suffering Humanity would be cheaply purchased by his death. It needs not to turn for an example to the Cross of Calvary, though that is regarded by Christians who fail to realize the inner meaning of their own faith as something uniquely transcendental in its self-sacrifice. Heroism is not so far to seek, and History can point to many a martyr who has braved as painful and ignominious a death without the stupendous motive for the sacrifice, such as might well goad any high-souled man to make it. But it is another thing to live constantly in the devoted frame of mind referred to, from merely rising to it in moments of exaltation.

Doubtless, also, there are men who, by the judicious use of right emotion, can, at times, so nerve themselves that fear shall seem an unknown word; but who is able to live in constant disregard of consequences, even on the physical plane with which we are tolerably well acquainted? So long as the horrors of the unknown psychic plane transcend anything we can conceive of on the physical, or while the realms of darkness contain one thought of terror for our imaginations, how can we consider ourselves worthy of the final crown of being? For is it not Perfection that we aim at? And where a trace of fear is present, or where love in its plenitude is absent, how can we expect to be within measurable distance of our goal? Four lines from one of Matthew Arnold's poems, many of which seem to breathe a subtle, though possibly unintentional aroma of occult thought, may here partially help to express the idea intended:

   "And he who flagged not in the earthly strife
"From strength to strength advancing — only he,
"His soul well knit, and all his battles won,
   "Mounts, and that hardly, to eternal life."

Though it must be remembered that fear is an attribute of the physical only, there is an interblending of the elements of our nature, and it stands to reason that the unknown sights and sounds of the plane just beyond that of which the physical is cognisant are capable of striking a far deeper terror, as well as of fascinating with a more subtle power.

And is it not logical to suppose that, as the disciple has gradually realized the unsatisfying nature of all earthly things — has learned to put aside its temptations, and to rise occasionally to a standpoint where its fears cannot assail him, so he must start on his journey of discovery in the unknown psychic world — armed always with the firm will and the lofty aspirations towards the Spirit — till he has learned also that its attractions cannot detain him, and that he has the power within him to dominate its terrors?

Until, therefore, we can stand as master in our house of life, and until the "Enthusiasm of Humanity" has possessed our Being, we must not imagine that we can discard the Scientific pathway before we have really begun to tread it. Indeed, the desire to tread the Religious path alone may, in some cases, have a partially selfish origin not altogether unallied to the slothful quality of "Tamas."

When it is realized, too, that work for Humanity "all up the line" is the prevailing rule, that the Divine and Semi-divine beings whom we know under the name of Mahatmas and Adepts are unremitting in their arduous work for the race, it will become apparent that the breaking down of the walls of our personality, and the merging of our individual being in the universal Divine Being, is a very far-off goal, which not all of them even have yet reached.

The attitude of mind of all students of Occultism towards the great mass of Humanity, must, as stated in Zanoni, be one either of pity or of scorn — as a fact, it seems to fluctuate between these two. The feeling of scorn, indeed, easily rises in the breast when contemplating the petty aims and prejudiced views of even the noblest and worthiest specimens of the race we have known; and when to a naturally proud disposition is added the conviction that the objects of desire striven for by the mass of men are below contempt, the feeling of scorn often seems to carry all before it; and when it is felt that through pain and suffering heights of thought have been scaled, and that contemporaries, and even those who were once looked up to as teachers, have been left below, it often seems as if the only refuge from the lonesome isolation were to be found in a scornful pride. But surely, pity is the truer feeling, and it must be with relief that the disciple turns to the softer memories of past years, when the mere glance of a passer in the street carried home a tale of untold endurance and uncomplaining suffering, or when a modulation of voice opened the flood-gates of emotion, and the deep pathos of the fate of this suffering Humanity seemed to bind all together in community of being. It is in such moments as these, when it is realized that the supremest bliss would be obtained by the utter abandonment of "self" for the Great Cause, that the two pathways really merge in one, and it is felt that the "great renunciation" must be the final outcome alike of the love of God and of the service of Man.

It would seem, then, that our efforts to identify ourselves with the great whole must not be confined to yearnings after the ineffable Perfection, but must also take the form of work, on whatever plane it may be, for a more or less recognisedly concrete Humanity. It is very difficult to know what special form this work should take. While fully accepting the ideas expressed in Number II of this series, as to the futility of attempting to exert paramount influence on the thoughts of others, Ignorance must yet be recognised as the prime curse of mankind; the attempts at diffusion of the true philosophic thought must, therefore, ever stand in the first place; and doubtless, along with the increased effort to enlighten Humanity, there will arise in the heart of the worker a greater love for and identification with Humanity which must lead to a more or less partial breaking down of the partition walls of his individuality.

If we turn from the evolution of the individual to the evolution of the race, as a whole, the analogous thoughts which occur are, that while the veil of obscurity must ever hide the future, and while it must remain impossible for us to know whether our special efforts in this or in that direction are destined to be successful, it may broadly be stated that — at least in this Western civilization of ours — individualism seems to have reached its zenith, and that the problems for the race to work out in the future will probably lie in the altruistic effort to supplant individualism by schemes which will more or less recognise the underlying Brotherhood of Humanity. The societies of to-day that call themselves Socialistic put forward plans that may be utterly inchoate and unworkable — and some of their members certainly appear to hold opinions as to the rights of revolution and violence which are alike hateful and fearsome to all true lovers of order — but those who think their work lies in this direction will doubtless feel impelled to try and discover the truth that underlies all these manifestations, with the view of guiding, if possible, the forces towards a peaceful issue.

The development of the inner senses is also one of the many pathways that must be pursued for the attainment of the real knowledge and power whereby we may potently help this suffering humanity, and give our aid to the few strong hands who hold back the powers of darkness "from obtaining complete victory." When by the unfoldment of the inner perceptions, we have reached the platform whence earthly life is seen as from a height, the physical nature will have become a mighty tool in our hands to be used in the service of man. What vistas of work for the race will then unfold to our view! Of those who can grasp this idea by strong imaginative power, some will, no doubt, feel urged to force the development, though such forcing must doubtless be attended with danger. That it can be forced is a fact known to many students of occultism, and he who is in earnest will doubtless find a more or less competent instructor. To step consciously into situations where previous experience will be unavailing and where dangers are known to exist certainly requires courage, but how is greater strength to be gained or courage to be acquired save by undertaking the task and facing the danger? Nothing should be done rashly, and every step should be taken with due caution, but the path will have to be trod some day, and if only a little courage and a little strength are already possessed, this would seem to be a means of increasing our store of them. A sudden stoppage of the heart by an access of sheer terror, or a death in life dragged on to the grave through the delirium of madness, are awful possibilities to contemplate, but even were the investigator by some rash attempt to make utter wreck of himself in conflict with one of the elemental forces of nature, it should always be remembered that it would only be of his present earth-life that the wreck would be made, and that when his time came to appear again on the earthly scene, he would doubtless come back endowed with greater powers than if he had not made the attempt at all.

The separation throughout this paper of the two pathways, the Scientific and the Religious, has been made, it must be remembered, for purposes of contrast. Such division is purely arbitrary. Man's nature is indeed complex, but it is a unity in complexity; similarly, the path, though multiform, is one. But it is more especially in carrying out such investigations or developments as those just dwelt on that the supreme necessity of the qualities known as the devotional or religious is apparent. Indeed, it may safely be asserted that the searcher who starts with a mere scientific interest, and in his own strength only, runs the greatest possible danger, while he is certain of success whose animating motive is the all-embracing love of Humanity, or the still intenser worship of the Supreme Perfection. If the old self regains its dominance, the disciple may well tremble, for in such moments the "Dweller of the Threshold" has a secret ally in the man's inner stronghold; but while the love and the faith continue to be his guiding impulses failure is impossible, for when "Self" is cast aside, what is there to fear for? and when God dwells in the heart, then is strength made perfect.

The Path