It is tragic to contemplate the utter blindness of those who hunt in the dark corners of the soul for spiritual light. They open for themselves a door to worlds of danger and of horrors that they cannot imagine in the sane light of day and which, once open, is all but impossible to close. We run across instances frequently of those who believe that they can achieve salvation, or freedom, or whatever the term they choose to use, by practising a species of mumbo-jumbo that has nothing beautiful about it. Many feel that they are making true progress if they experience certain physical or psychical results, such as dizziness or palpitations, sensations of heat or cold, or similar manifestations which show that the system is in an abnormal state. At best they may succeed in bringing about such useless phenomena as rappings, moving of objects through the air or hearing sounds inaudible to others; at worst they become haunted or controlled by the astral shapes about them.
How foolish to suppose that a spiritual goal can be achieved by unspiritual means! True occultism is a spiritual science, and spirit being one throughout, it means the attainment of union with the universal principle pervading all beings. This can only be brought about by complete self-abnegation, since spirit, being all-pervading, can never be limited by the narrow confines of any personality. The approach to the spiritual must of necessity be the widening of the sympathies and comprehension, until selfishness in every form has been eradicated from the nature so completely that the being becomes to all intents and purposes universal. This is totally incompatible with the idea of personal ambition of any kind whatsoever. All the world teachers stress that the desire for spiritual advancement must be wiped out as much as the desire for material successes. Only complete impersonal altruism brings any being to a truly spiritual state.
This present age is rife with the mania for psychic experience, an unhappy by-product of a holy and altruistic force surging through the human consciousness, awakening men and women to an awareness of greater worlds within the outer. It is an age of transition from rank materialism to a sound philosophical understanding, which in turn will lead to a true religious awakening of human hearts.
History shows us that the cyclic movement of minds goes through these three phases, the main avenues of thought: Philosophy, Religion, Science. After the time when the Master Jesus taught the ageless wisdom in which he was an adept, the church founded by his followers split into many fragments — each dogmatic, many bigoted, and thus failing more with each generation to hold the spiritual message of the Master — until at the end of the dark ages there came a violent reversal into materialistic science. This was not the science of today, but a science devoid of soul, which recognized no power not its own, and which stated positively that all things were then known, that further research was useless since there existed nothing more to be discovered.
Today much progress has been made and the scientists are becoming aware that there is an unfathomable depth of knowledge still to be explored, one which permits of no physical means but requires an excursion into ranges of nature as yet scarcely dreamed of. Our science is progressing towards philosophy, and our scientists are permitting themselves to write their thoughts, not merely their deductions.
The impulse towards philosophy made itself strongly felt throughout the world at the end of the last century, and now the philosophical cycle is slowly moving on towards religion. This is the age of independent reasoning, when every schoolboy demands to know the answers to life and death, when every man and woman is a philosopher, thinking and pondering the long unanswered questions that recur with each generation. In times past these questions were wont to meet with but little consideration, as each generation of parents tended to smother the questing minds of the young with scientific and church doctrines. Today there is a new stimulus abroad, and the adults as well as the young are dissatisfied with the bromides so long tried and found wanting. Consequently there is a branching out of minds in many new directions, some helpful, some foolish, others downright harmful. There are very few who are content to believe in a stagnant continuity of being for the human race, surrounded as we are by change and improvement on every side. No longer are there so many who hold to the belief that a man is taken bodily into his niche in heaven, remaining forever the imperfect personality of earth.
As an illustration there is the story of the pessimist who shuffled off this mortal coil and departed for celestial realms: After a long time he was joined by some erstwhile friends, who searched him out where he sat dejectedly huddled on a cloud looking as morose as when on earth.
"Why, Joe!" exclaimed one. "Aren't you happy even in Heaven?"
Sadly Joe shook his head.
"Me 'arp's out of tune, me 'alo don't fit, and I've got rheumatism in me wings."
Humanity is such a mixture of good and bad that thinking people the world over are aware of the need for a continued line of evolution, man ceasing to be in his present shape the be-all and end-all of perfection. In an endeavor to seek out an adequate formula, many hunt in by-ways and blind alleys for the human greatness that they sense must exist. Some lose themselves in the labyrinths of psychic search, not realizing that the psyche is a far cry from the spirit. Paul made a distinction between spirit and soul, but few have stopped to analyze the difference. Man has impulses and feelings of a non-physical nature, that are far from spiritual. In fact these lower astral parts of man, because linked with the human quality of mind, have a far greater potential for evil than the body of matter. Spirit, on the other hand, is the universal, the divine essence that permeates all beings, and, though less accessible to the average man, is nevertheless always with him, always prompting and guiding.
As the sacred scriptures tell us, we may turn to this strength within ourselves, to the warrior within, who is always ready to fight our battles provided we are willing to place ourselves under his guidance, and say "Not my will, but Thine" to the god in our hearts.
If we do this honestly and without thought of personal reward or even success, we receive most fully of the fount of eternal goodness that radiates perceptibly throughout our world. A man who does this becomes great because his vision increases, his sympathies expand and he learns to discriminate between the flashing will-o'-the-wisps of psychic experiences and the radiant steady glow of the all-pervading spirit in which he shares.
(From Sunrise magazine, October 1953; copyright © 1953 Theosophical University Press)