The Path – February 1895


When the truths of Theosophy first dawn upon the student, shedding new light on the meaning of life and of death, on the mystic word "Brotherhood" and all that it may convey, on the origin of evil, on the meaning and use of suffering and pain, a new impetus is given to effort, and for a while, perchance, it seems very easy to live the life of an ascetic. Personal griefs and losses! O how little do they count, we say to ourselves. How can people, on perceiving the first gleam of the light of truth, allow themselves to remain longer prisoners in the dungeons of selfishness, of ambition, of jealousy, and of wrath? How easy it is to snap the chains of conventionality and to march forth into the sunlight of peace and knowledge, never more to be drawn backward into the darkness of this illusionary world! These and kindred thoughts pass through the mind of the enthusiastic student, who would fain enter the realm of practical occultism, to whom the path now looks so easy, so comfortable, so delightful. Away with unkind sentiments towards our brothers and sisters; away with desires for material advancement; away with selfish griefs and care for the world's opinions! How easy it now seems to work for the great orphan Humanity, towards whom our hearts leap forth in sympathy!

And so for a time we are at peace with ourselves and the world. We feel our lives pledged to devoted work for others; we think it possible that, unknown though it be to ourselves as yet, we may already be accepted chelas to some high teacher. We breathe the air of spiritual purity, while we feel we have brushed from us forever the dust of material and personal interests. We think much about the Masters, those lofty souls pledged to self-sacrifice, and we feel very near them, — as, indeed, we may be for the time being.

Days pass by in this condition with nothing to disturb the harmony, and we, though still weak, believe we are strong. Alas! a time comes when some new temptation assails us, an unlooked-for foe appears, and lo! whither has all our seeming strength departed? Where are all our stern resolves? Whence, indeed, has fled that boasted peace of mind, which we fondly thought that naught could ruffle? We had been resting in such strong faith in our Elder Brothers, and our intuition had assured us of their Radiant Presence; and in the recognition of such a Presence it had seemed impossible to be disturbed and troubled by earthly concerns. Why, then, this weakness? How could it be possible to succumb anew and so strongly to the "sense of separateness"?

Such, indeed, was the experience of one who was very young as yet in knowledge and understanding of herself. At first, wildly enthusiastic to embrace the new life of the spirit which opened before her in its possibilities, she thought to make a sudden leap from olden habits and desires, loves and hopes and jealousies, straight forward into a life of self-forgetfulness. And falling, she was very sad, very sore and bruised She was discouraged, alas, as well, and wondered that she ever could have hoped and believed that conquest of her lower nature could be easily compassed.

Fainting and weary, she had a vision. Before her stretched a rugged mountain, reaching far, far up into the mountain, and a path led up the mountain, aye, to the very top; but so steep it was, so sharp the ascent, that she, a pilgrim on the way, was overcome by dizziness when but a few steps had been taken upward. Exhausted, she sank upon the ground. But looking up, she beheld two Brothers of the race, tall and grand-looking men, loving and tender of mien. They were standing in the pathway above her, reaching downward a helping hand to herself, just started on that difficult journey which leads to knowledge and to freedom. They saw her fall, those Elder Brothers, and they realized that as yet her strength was not equal to climbing that rugged, steep assent. She must rise, but a longer, slower way must be followed by her because of her great weakness. Should they leave her to take that journey alone, her whose store of energy must not be drawn upon too exhaustively, whose weakness would not allow her to mount rapidly? No, indeed, no! They turned their way downward towards her, and with a tender, pitying smile led her aside into another path hidden among the bushes and the trees, and rising more gradually and slowly upward. The way was dark, it is true, save for their Radiant Presence, the light of freedom was hidden from view in many places, and yet flashes of it illumined the path at intervals. It was restful to the poor, weak soul who had once hoped and trusted in her strength to rise more rapidly. It was comforting to know that her Guardians, the Guardians of the Race, were not impatient, but were still watching and helping, never wearying in their care and tenderness, even though the journey must be slow because of her great weakness. And she kept her eyes turned toward them and she had faith.

The Path