The Path – January 1888


When Rome ruled the world, in her Caesar was focussed all her power. A claimant for Justice, challenging judgment with the cry: — "I appeal unto Caesar!" was answered: "Then Caesar will hear you." He had taken refuge at the foot of the throne, and men spoke of an appeal unto Caesar, as a supreme and final step. It evoked an irrevocable decision. Despite the lapse of time this appeal impresses the mind with unimpaired majesty because it is the type of a living truth. The appeal unto Caesar has eternally place in the spiritual world.

When a man first feels within himself the strange throb of that power which tells of a higher life than that in which he is immersed; when it spurs him away from the material and beckons to him as from glimpses of the spiritual, he looks about him for information, for traces of a course to be pursued. He questions his fellows; he reads many books; he hearkens to teachers and authorities, both real and nominal. A huge mass of external information is sifted by him, and in the end he finds — confusion! His intellect may be fed for a while, but at last the support of the heart fails it; it is saturated, plethoric, atrophied. He turns then to Life itself. He questions the boasts and the despair, the revelry and the agony; he asks of Love, of Hope, of Fear, and Faith. He contemplates the ideals of all art and the untrammelled freedom of Nature, aiming perhaps nearer to the secret as he marks the inalterable round of seasons, and how winter draws itself together with bitter contraction to burst into the ferment, the vernal revel of spring. He snatches at the wings of dreams; he confronts the phalanx of great problems and the most shadowy suggestions alike; but he has not the clue to the labyrinth; he knows not that this eternal alternation is Life itself, and that he must look deeper still. The heart, unsupported by the intellect, now fails him also. He hears, perhaps of the teachers of the East, or of the "Leaders of the world" from whom. "when the wind is blowing," comes the mystical fragrance which is the ambrosia of the soul. (1) But the wind is not then blowing (that is — his time has not come in the Law), and it is borne in upon him that he is but one of millions along the centuries who have given a momentary cry out of the press of existence, and have then returned contentedly to the "flesh pots of Egypt," He has yet to prove that he possesses, in some degree at least, the power of flight. So he receives no valid or enduring comfort from any of these directions; and meanwhile, all about him, the enticements of Life are plucking at his garments, the currents of the world are urging him to and fro. Here, many desist: he who perseveres listens next within. He hears vaguely, now this prompting and now that, in the multiform vacillations of the soul, itself bewildered by the long sojourn in matter; even the inner sanctuary, in which he most trusts, seems to betray his hope. Then if his soul be as yet weak, his thought fails, the spiritual vision fades into the mists, and he resumes the accustomed march of life, keeping "lock step," with his imprisoned companions like one awakening, heavy and unrefreshed, from the phantasmagoria of dreams. We lose sight of him in the struggling multitude; he has leapt from the wave only to fall back into the depths. But he who is strong, rendered stronger still as he gathers to himself the forces he has overcome, now discards all other powers, and takes his resolute stand upon his own nature. He declares that since he can conceive a higher Life, it must exist within his reach, and he wills with an indomitable will to attain it. How, he knows not, but he relies upon that inner prompting alone.

Then he makes the appeal unto Caesar. By Caesar he is never unheard.

In those shining spheres where dwell the glorious ones forever, all is peace and silence. A far sound travels up the star strewn cope. The stir of its approach touches the Gods with a tremor; they thrill to it, bending closer, for it has that charm which alone conjures them, the essential charm of humanity. (2) It is the voice of man, which selfless, is stronger than all the angels, and selfish, is weaker than the dumb plaint of the brute. Perhaps this is the first intelligence of the wanderer received in his Father's house. Perhaps they have heard it coming before, and Life has beaten it back. Nearer it comes and nearer, gaining force as it advances, from the sympathies of heaven's messengers and powers all leaping forth to increase and sustain it; it falls like a star into the sea of eternity which swells to meet it, and ripples spread and overflow, magical, musical and full of healing. Oh! with what exultant flight, with what a rush of glory the strong voice of humanity cleaves the interstellar space and opens up the way from Gods to men. Along that way, long retarded souls come flocking after, jubilant among the jewelled auroras. Celestial spheres flash responsively; the silver echoes waken, and God proclaims to God, with solemn triumph, that man once more has claimed his own! "There is joy in the presence of the angels of God, over one sinner that repenteth." (3) For this hour the God has waited longer than souls can remember. The power of the divine self rests upon the rights of the man who has appealed to it. They are the two poles of a sphere, and the might of the higher can only be universally manifest, below as above, through complete union with the lower. This union ensures immortality to the human soul, and the splendor of distinct fruition to the divine spirit. So when the Higher Self hears the appeal, it responds to the holiest of pledges. This appeal may have been made before in other ages, and the present cry may be the renewal of forgotten vows; or it may now be made for the first time in the first expansion of psychic evolution. For this no special rule can be given. In each life all previous lives repeat themselves, just as the law of reproductive thought or association operates at any cataclysm, so that all similar events may thus be seen. Each sleep brings up all former sleep, and an accident today would enable one sufficiently developed to see and feel all the accidents that had before come to the sufferer. (4) So it seems that there comes finally one incarnation which repeats with emphasis the sum total of all other lives, so that the man is hurried through the round of experience with furious rapidity. Such an incarnation ripens the period known as "the moment of choice." The actual advent of this period is denoted by the strength of the soul which encounters it: it must know, before it can decide. It is not a "moment" in the usual sense of the word, but a period of greater or lesser duration, and I believe it may even extend over several lives. It cannot be entered upon, until the appeal to Caesar has been made.

This appeal is not really the initiative. The spark within, which we carry from the Father's house as a traveller takes with him the love tokens of his home; that exiled spark awakens. It does so because it has at last heard a messenger from the heavenly mansion, and it asserts its remembrance in answer, just as ties of blood assert themselves when estranged brothers meet suddenly in foreign lands, or as the bonds of humanity draw close, in automatic and inherent action, before a common danger. The divine spark knows, what the mind of man ignores, and what the soul forgets, that there is peril for its associates, even peril of eternal death. As from time to time the God remembers the wanderer, so its responsive longings break forth in muffled warning within the troubled breast of man. The Great one, waiting patiently through the ages, sends airy heralds, an impulse of power, a formless, soundless, vibratory message like a flaming light, down the mysterious thread which connects man and God as the moonbeam connects earth and sky. Up that wondrous way every aspiration of man must travel, and down it scintillate the responses of that enduring Love by which alone we live.

He who is strong now passes into a blank darkness, which no power can penetrate for him: from the vortex of pain he suddenly snatches his soul and places it upon the outer verge of peace. Then he must find his way into the heart of the silence.

He is answered, I said; but he does not always hear the answer. The spiritual language is not understood by him. At first, the echoes of his own need are all that come back to him, fraught with a majesty and a pathos from the spheres they have touched, which often intoxicate him into a passion of self pity. He does not recognize that this added grandeur is the olive branch brought him from beyond the waste of waters; that it is a guarantee of the divine hearing. He does not know that its significance enters his heart, his eyes, his speech, and that in the added dignity of his mien, weary seekers feel blindly an assurance that the higher life exists. They feel, though too often unable to translate clearly, that another has called upon Caesar and that the Supreme Power lives. He has touched IT for a moment, though he knows it not, and all are heartened though none may discover it of himself or of the others.

A certain melancholy then floods the heart of the seeker. It is a sadness sweeter than the ringing clamor of worldly joys; its aftertaste is gracious and not fevered. It is "that which in the beginning is as poison, and in the end is as the water of life." (5) He continues to meditate and to search his soul; to look for truth apart from his conceptions of it; to distinguish the necessities of his lower nature from the intuitions of his higher nature (though both seemingly speak through the one voice,) and to send up aspirations to the God, who responds with a vivifying shower of new hopes. He feels them faintly. For as the ray of light speeds to his succor, it encounters the material darkness in which he lives. A small portion of it may pass through and invigorate his heart, but part is refracted by the things about him, reflected in the surface thoughts and customs of the world and reaches him distorted and falsified. Then too, the more powerful the ray, the more the darkness, receding before it, impacts itself about him, denser than ever, and the faults, the errors nearest his heart are driven home and hold riot there. So it often happens that when rescue is nearest it seems to the beleaguered one immeasurably remote, and that the response of Caesar seems to condemn him in the mocking voices of despair and sin. Men fancy that the answer of the Divine Self must bring peace; it is not so at first. Jesus said: "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." (6) There is much warfare yet; only through it do we enter into the peace. We have to wrestle with the power, as Jacob did with the angel, before it will wholly bless us. When it does so, it is for the sake of humanity and man must make his appeal for the same reason. This is the rite of sacrifice which the Gita speaks of as having been instituted from the beginning — this interchange with the Divine. Having consciously appealed, we have challenged the Supreme: we have placed ourselves within the grasp of the law and the compact must be kept. Nor can we advance until then. A master once wrote to one who asked to become his disciple: "May the powers to which you have appealed be permitted by still greater and much higher powers to help you." He meant the Great One and the law.

I knew a seeker after Truth who was beaten back at every point. He lay prostrate in despair under the most awful weight that ever crushes the human soul. All his nature cried out for God. He felt a touch that rolled the stone away and looking upward, he beheld in the air above him a shape of light all calm and resplendent, whose aspect was a transfiguration of his own. More I know not, but this my brother who was lost has been found again.

There are many of you, my comrades, who stand in just this stead: you have called and you have been answered; but you have not heard. You will say to me: "How shall we hear, and how interpret the voice?" I cannot tell you this; there are as many ways as there are men. Each of you, and he only, is judge of himself; he and Caesar. But I can assure you that every aspiration you feel, and the renewal of them, are messages from the God. His replies may take the shape of added sorrows and gathering storms, for all these are the means of your trial and your growth, and you have elected them yourself, sowing their seeds in other lives. Try then to look upon each as just the help which you now need. So long as you have an unselfish thought, you are not deserted; so long as you have faith, you have heard. This succor stands fast in the True: it can never be uprooted, severed or lessened. It is your inheritance, your right which no one can deny you but yourself. Even your ignorance can only obscure it. The true voice will speak to you of the sorrows of the world, of the grand futurity of mankind, of your diviner Self.

The hour of appeal is the pregnant moment. If you lose it now, how long may you not have to wait, powerless dreamers in the heavenly lands, tasting rich rewards which fail at last? Then you must return again from that world of effects to this one. Seek the world of cause instead. Causes are sovereign; they alone are eternal.

Amid the roar of the world, the stupendous rush of its fierce tides, the swoop of its hurricanes, the fell power of its lightnings which reveal only darkness to the seared soul; amid its miasmatic pettiness, amid its joys and its better hopes, cling still to that one thought which, like the sea gull, can well outride a thousand storms, the thought of that Humanity which shall merge into Divinity; the thought of the Self, the All. Strengthen it with all the love of your heart, all the sweetness of your nature, and send up a mighty cry to heaven. For when through the spirit, the man wills, when his soul soars to claim its right, then distant spheres are shaken and Being is apprehended. Appeal! Appeal unto Caesar!


1. Saddharma Pundarika. (return to text)

2. In the Hindu and Buddhist books we find this referred to as, the growing warm of Indra, or other Deity, who thus knows that his interposition below is needed; as, when Buddha's father wished to build a lotus pond: then Indra, in one night had it done. — J. N. (return to text)

3. St. Luke XV:10 and 7. (return to text)

4. A friend, sitting recently with an injured man, saw in the astral light an accident that had happened to him 25 years before. — J. N. (return to text)

5. Bhagavad-Gita, Ch. 18. (return to text)

6. St. Matt 10, v. 34. (return to text)

The Path