Every generation of humanity has its mystics. They are not to be described as a type, for each one is an original, individual, if not actually unique. But one factor they have in common, broadly speaking: they have glimpses behind the veil into the world of causes. They dwell nearer the heart of things where Truth abides. Jakob Boehme and William Blake come to mind, universally loved and revered.
One of the most interesting and appealing of these rare souls was a young woman whose early death leaves her among the ever-young. A girl who grew up in her father's parsonage on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors: Emily Bronte, who wrote the still popular Wuthering Heights. The wide, wild, windswept moors, brooding in mystery, no better place to nurture such a soul.
Emily has left us a precious volume of verse, stamped with her own peculiar quality, and the most famous of the poems is the one beginning
No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the world's storm-troubled sphere
This poem has been pronounced one of "the greatest in the language," and it is apparent that something came straight through to her in a moment of inspired insight. It was the last she ever wrote, and it could well be that already she was beginning to experience that clear vision into Realities that is said by old philosophers to come to those just passing through into "the world of light."
Those familiar with certain ancient but always recognizable teachings that have come to us over the many ages will be electrified to find Emily's glorious lines echoing thoughts they have loved for so long. They are the perfect tribute to the Divine, which she invokes with
O God within my breast,
Almighty, ever-present Deity!
Life — that in me has rest,
As I — undying Life — have power in Thee!
The sacred presence of the Divine is within every sentient being, is coexistent with life itself, and is the wing-lifting energy through which we share in the universal pageant of experience. It is to her infinity, immortality, for later lines are
With wide-embracing love
Thy Spirit animates eternal years,
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, Creates, and rears.
Here she has touched upon the compassion that is the life-giving force guiding all evolution. It is interwoven with our destiny.
Many will recognize this as a most important truth, for a coldly mechanistic universe would have no incentive to evolve, and would be, I feel, unthinkable. But compassion animates indeed, and raises the great concourse of beings ever closer to the Divine. That last line sets forth in few words the way that Nature works to bring about the universal transformation: "Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates and rears," a perfect description of cyclic evolution, with the coming into being of worlds, their continuance for a period, then their dissolution, only to be re-created and built up once more.
But through all change there is yet the Changeless:
Though earth and man were gone, And suns and universes ceased to be,
And Thou were left alone,
Every existence would exist in Thee.
We are left with the deep consciousness of everlastingness, the reassurance that the Divine is always with us — is in fact our inmost.
In this connection, to go back to 1846, the year in which the poem was written: who talked then of suns and universes in this sense? The universe, perhaps, but universes! Immediately the concept becomes stupendous; and here was a frail young woman with little knowledge of the world daring to conceive of Space itself and of the august hierarchies that people it. As she says,
There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
A highly scientific, and at the same time metaphysical pronouncement. Then to close:
Thou — Thou art Being and Breath,
And what Thou art may never be destroyed.
She has brought us to the very heart of all Being and left us with mighty confidence and a mighty trust.
So this is one of the great poems because genius has caught a great truth and set it down in words of fire. It has the sure touch, no hint of the common search for the right word. There are books of philosophy in which all this is set forth, but a flash of the poetic insight can be the lightning that brings not only illumination but realization.
(From Sunrise magazine, February 1976. Copyright © 1976 by Theosophical University Press)