The Path – January 1889


Those whose attention has been but recently attracted to Theosophical studies often have considerable difficulty in taking their bearings. These are attracted by the mystery that attaches to Theosophy, and have equal difficulty in estimating their own motives and in understanding the new doctrines. There are, indeed, a few who do not come under this head, those who realise that they have at last found that for which they waited and sought; but these need little assistance, for the momentum gained by long and weary waiting will carry them a long way on the path. The great majority of students belong to the former class, and these are now for the first time brought face to face with themselves. If they mean only to have an amusing and interesting flirtation with occultism, get the reputation of being "a little fast" in the new fad, yet preserve through it all their reputation for virtuous intelligence, they ought to be made aware that they are trifling with very serious matters. It would not be difficult to imagine a man who had been out with boon companions engaged in drunken orgies, and who at midnight had come reeling home, leering and besotted, to find that home in flames, and all he had held most dear and that he had imagined safe being devoured by the cruel flames. Such a one would be sobered in a moment, and in that awful awakening self-reproach and horror would take possession of his soul. He would in that awful moment stand face to face with himself. His own conscience would be his Nemesis, though he might have had nothing directly to do with bringing on the calamity that had overtaken him. Suppose he had returned from a mission of mercy to find the same calamity awaiting him, the difference in the two cases can easily be imagined. He would now be face to face with his calamity, and in either case he would doubtless do his best to rescue his treasures. What makes the difference in these cases? Is it not all in the man's own soul? Every student of Theosophy will find the subject full of mystery, but that mystery will be but the reflection of his own nature.

If one were to inquire, What is Theosophy anyhow? and what shall I find in it of interest or value?, it might be answered, What are you? and what do you seek in Theosophy? Are you satisfied with your present life and your past achievement? Does it give you zest and satisfaction? If it does, and if you are quite satisfied with things as they are, you had better let Theosophy alone, for it will break your repose and make you the most wretched of mortals; it will place you face to face with yourself, and you will not be pleased with the reflection in the mirror; nor will you ever again find that self-complacent satisfaction you have heretofore enjoyed when thinking of yourself. If you are involved in a round of pleasure, and are rushing from one sensual delight to another, discontented when left to yourself, yet still imagining you are happy if only you can keep up the dizzy dance of life, you will find nothing in Theosophy to compensate you for the lost pleasure; it will break the charm and destroy the illusion. Let it alone. The baby has first to learn that fire will burn its little fingers, before it will learn to avoid the fire. So also with the votary of pleasure; until he has learned the Cheat, and how utterly inadequate are all sensuous enjoyments to satisfy a living soul, he will seek these enjoyments as a child cries for the light or vainly reaches out its frail arms for the moon. You will find in Theosophy just what you desire and just what you find in yourself. It will not satisfy you if you still long for selfish enjoyment; it will repel you, and send you back from its cold embrace to the dizzy whirl of the maddening dance of life, glad that there is warmth somewhere.

If, on the other hand, your soul is already filled with a great unrest; if you have already discovered the cheat and lost the old zest of childhood, and yet been unable to find anything to take its place; and if you are almost ready to despair, and count life as a failure and hardly worth the living, then, my friend, my brother, Theosophy has a message for you. It will again show you yourself, and more, it will show you the meaning of life, and place you face to face with your priceless opportunities, and just in proportion to your present hopelessness and discouragement will it inspire you with zeal and with courage. It will show you the cause of failure, the cause of disease, and the cause of unhappiness, and it will give you the panacea for all these ills of life. It will banish that bane of life, ennui, forever. It will enable you to find within yourself the disease and its remedy, and it will put you in possession of a never-failing source of inspiration and of joy. If you desire all this, be it done unto you according to your desire. But do you really desire it? Remember the issues are with your own soul. You are both priest and penitent, and absolution can come only to a clean conscience. There can be no deception practiced. You will be alone with your own soul, and will realize how utterly hopeless, how absurd; it would be to attempt any deception. There can be none. Are you afraid to stand face to face thus with yourself? and do you prefer to wait for the midnight hour and the great awakening! Then wait! no human being can say you Nay. Follow the cheat called pleasure! Raise high the orgies of self! Silence the voice within, and wait till all is ready or till death come and the account is closed.

The true Theosophists are not a legion, the ranks are by no means crowded. These are not measured by their occult lore, or by their mysterious power, nor yet by any worldly standard, but solely by their convictions. They are one and all dead in earnest, dead to all things else. They may not outwardly yet renounce, but they have inwardly relinquished, and will rejoice at the coming of the time when incidentals shall vanish and only essentials remain. These have lived in all ages, giving meaning and dignity to life, invincible and immortal.

Think of Epictetus, when tortured for a trifle, saying to his tormentor, his "master!", "If you twist my limb much farther, you will break it, and so deprive yourself of a servant," and, when the bone broke, replying only, "There, I told you you would break it." A poor crippled slave, yet all the masters among besotted kings could not touch his soul, more than a drop of water could reach the heart of volcanic fires. But this was so long ago, and the world is so much wiser and better now! and Epictetus was not only a slave but a heathen! Well, courts of law, masquerading in the name of Justice, at the command of Mammon can still imprison the greatest discoverer of the age, and when they have persecuted Mr. Keely to death they will doubtless ascertain the commercial value of his "secret." Whether power wears a crown, a mitre, a golden helmet, or a cap and bells, 'tis all the same. Power in the throne, in the holy Inquisition, in the seat of Justice, or in the service of mammon, will never comprehend and never master the silent power and invincible courage of one noble soul that knows and loves the simple truth.

Though we persecute truth daily,
Though we plant with thorns her brow,
Scourge her, spit upon, revile her,
And crown error here and now:
Through the cycles of the ages
Truth comes uppermost at last,
And the heroes of the present
Were the martyrs of the past.

The Path