The Path – August 1887



As we turn our thoughts in upon ourselves, we find the good on top; the bad is below. We must set the blaze of self-examination to the task and drag out the lurker within. We think we have abandoned ambition and comfort, but we have only given up those of the lower plane, the mere reflection of the great ambitions and joys of a larger life. The rays of Truth burn up the covers we had placed upon those seeds, and then the real seeds begin to sprout and cause new troubles. Do not ignore this; it has cost others many years and tears of blood to self-learn it. Men have been deceived as to their motives up to high passages of the Way.

Indolence is a great deceiver. We trust to the sufficiency of "our Divine Spirit," and so hope to reach the goal easily with the natural evolution of the race. We forget that the kingdom must be taken by violence. It is by no means sure that we shall make the connection with spirit in this life journey. Thousands may and do fail to make it. Your divine spirit is only yours in so far as it is that of all others equally: not yours but ours, making us one. The Bhagavad-Gita destroys the idea that if there be in us this higher self, it will, even if we are indolent, triumph over the necessity for effort, and lead us to find beatitude in common with the whole stream of man. "The man of doubtful mind enjoys neither this world nor the other (the Deva world) nor finds beatitude." Sometime then during the period of choice for the race this self must be discovered, purified and set free. The period is long — but it ends. The unprogressed soul falls back: it may die, for only the spiritual monad is incorruptible. On the soul itself depends this spiritual polarity; each personality heightens or lessens it by the greater or smaller impetus given by him to the life of the lower self. Its luxurious growth throttles the true self as mistletoe devitalizes the live-oak. "Bitten by the world, like one bitten by a great serpent; darkened with passion, like the night; changing its dress in a moment like an actor: fair in appearance, like a painted wall:" thus the Upanishad warns us against the elemental self.

These warnings are not meant to discourage, but to strengthen. The Way is narrow, but it is there. So narrow it is, and so often lost amid the bustling highways of life, that many who have wandered far afield still think their feet are set upon it. There is ofttimes much to discourage us in the attitude of our nearest friends. They are on far shores, and when we arrive they speak of the small potato patch they tend and see nothing in our talk of what is over the sea, and of the grander interests beyond the little place they stand on. This is a blow dealt the inner man and hurts inside. Life is all up in arms against us. A letter sent me by one of my comrades goes clearly and nobly to the root of this matter:

"Dear Jasper: I gave your letter to a distressed soul: she returned thanks saying it was a cooling draught to one athirst. The thanks of course are yours.

"Now this lady says it was refreshment to the weary, that letter True, or she would not say it. But it was not so to me nor to you. It all seems so well understood to be so. We needed it not. But she illustrates a certain state of progress. She is not yet where we are, but which is happier? She is happier, but poorer in hope. We are not all too happy, but are rich in hope, knowing the prize at the end of time, and not deterred by the clouds, the storms, the miasms and dreadful beasts of prey that line the road. Let us then at the very outset wash out of our souls all desire for reward, all hope that we may attain. For so long as we thus hope and desire we shall be separated from the Self. If in the Self all things are, then we cannot wish to be something which we can only compass by excluding something else. Standing where we are, let us purify ourselves to be all things.

"So being beyond this lady so grateful, we find that everything we meet on this illusory plane of existence is a lure that in one way or another has power to draw us out of our path. That is the point we are at, and we may call it the point where lures of Maya have omnipresent power. Therefore we must beware of the illusions of matter.

"Before we got to this stage we knew the fateful lure, the dazzling mirror of the elemental self, here and there in well defined places and entrenched as it was, so to say, in strongly marked defences. Those we assaulted; and that was what it desired, for it did think that it then had no need to exercise the enchantment which is hard because so subtle, and so distributed here and there that we find no citadels to take, no battallions in array. But now our dearest friends are in league with this beautiful, deceitful Maya. (1) How strongly do I realize the dejection of Arjuna as he let his bow drop from his hand and sat down on his chariot in despair. But he had a sure spot to rest upon. He used his own. He had Krishna near, and he might fight on.

"So in passing along past those stages where the grateful lady and others are, we may perhaps have found one spot we may call our own and possess no other qualification for the task. That spot is enough. It is our belief in the Self, in Masters: it is the little flame of intuition we have allowed to burn, that we have fostered with care.

"Then come these dreadful lures. They are in fact but mere carcasses, shells of monsters from past existences, offering themselves that we may give them life to terrify us as soon as we have entered them either by fear or love. No matter which way we enter, whether by attachment to them or by repugnant horror, it is all one: they are in one case vivified by a lover: in the other by a slave who would be free but cannot.

"Here it is the lure of enjoyment of natural pleasures, growing out of life's physical basis; there it is self-praise, anger, vanity, what not? Even these beautiful hills and river they mock one, for they live on untrammeled. Perhaps they do not speak to us because they know the superiority of silence. They laugh with each other at us in the night, amused at the wild struggles of this petty man who would pull the sky down. Ach! God of Heaven! And all the sucklings of Theosophy wish that some great, well diplomaed adept would come and open the secret box; but they do not imagine that other students have stepped on the spikes that defend the entrance to the way that leads to the gate of the Path. But we will not blame them, nor yet wish for the things — the special lots — that some of them have abstracted, because now that we know the dreadful power that despair and doubt and violated conscience have, we prefer to prepare wisely and carefully and not rush in like fools where angels do not pass uninvited.

"But, Companion, I remind you of the power of the lure. This Path passes along under a sky and in a clime where every weed grows a yard in the night. It has no discrimination. Thus even after weeks or months of devotion, or years of work, we are surprised at small seeds of vanity or any other thing which would be easily conquered in other years of inattentive life, but which seem now to arise as if helped by some damnable intelligence. This great power of self-illusion is strong enough to create a roaring torrent or a mountain of ice between us and our Masters.                         Z. . . . . ."

The Path lies not in extremes but midway, like that Sun whose centre is everywhere, like that Eternal Liberty which Boehme says is the middlemost and within all things. We must pin ourselves down to a rigid appreciation of the mathematical workings of Law and trace their connection with our own constitution. It would seem well to take all the suggestions we can get, but I have known travellers on western prairies who preferred to go a day's journey out of their road, rather than make inquiry of a passer by. If the law of Continuity remains unbroken, as it must if it exists at all, and from its very nature cannot be suspended, then there must be personalities far more progressed than ourselves, somewhere along the vast chain stretching from man to the Deity. I have heard comrades repel the idea that any "Master" could aid them. The western mind detests that word; American boys will not even say "schoolmaster." And yet it is only an equivalent for Teacher, and how glorious are the teachings.

If a man's magnetic sphere be confused, however, he cannot feel the attraction of higher spheres; he does not believe in their existence. If they do not exist to his hope or his intuition, for him they are not, nor will he feel their benefit even indirectly until he shall have evolved enough spiritual energy to enable him to assimilate the currents which unceasingly flow from them to raise the powers of the race. Let every man have his mind within his own power and resolve firmly to believe. Our own is everywhere if we will only take it! We do not justly value the gifts of Truth given us without personal attestation. We clamor for persons and authorities; we have a sense of injury which cries to the echo; "if Truth be true she will sign her name. "Not always: for how then can the perceptions of men be tested in the absence of genuine relations? How can those students be discovered who do not depend upon a revenue stamp to recognize a genuine article? If a man receives a gem, does he growl because the jeweller's case came not with it? What lustre can a name add to Truth? We should need no guarantee beyond the spirit of the words; the words themselves are often traps. Nothing avails us at last but the touch-stone of our own souls; it is deeply concealed in the heart, far beyond the elemental nature. It is not mind, judgment, reason: it is the fire which tests and welds.


1. Maya, i.e., "illusion." (return to text)

The Path