Theosophy – September 1896

NATURE'S VEILS — Jasper Niemand

It is inevitable that in Nature, which is the veil cast by Spirit over itself, there should be many illusions. Just as in outer Nature the sun is the mist dispeller, so when the spiritual Sun pours its radiance upon the Soul of man, out of that soul-substance, primeval and multiform, germ after germ of ancient thought, deeply hidden under the action of the centuries, is evoked, is evolved, is dispelled. Mist-like they arise one by one, unfolding themselves under the eye of the Soul, a processional of dreams. Now a hope, now a dread; now a memory serene and now a doubt infernal; now a resplendent promise has fulfillment, and now a tireless torment fastens its fangs in the heart. The Soul of man, observant of that nature which has been created only for its purposes, stands like a witness receiving testimony, or like the spectator of a drama framed for its edification. This Nature, which is its material vehicle, its instrument for use in material life, it must know to the very depth and breadth thereof; it must probe, comprehend and take control of it all before it can know itself.

This gradual conquest of matter, or Nature, by the Soul, might be a process as calm as science, as continuous as fate. The sun, its shining unimpeded, would dispel these miasmic forms and the still deeps of space would lie reflecting that Sun. Nature conquered, the Soul in that purified garment, robed whitely in the "blood" sacrifice of Life, rounds her cyclic period and hies her back to Spirit. This purifying "blood," of which the Scriptures tell us, is that red desire which fills full the heart of man, engorging its free and spiritual action, clogging its etherial arteries with germs of desire; desire, whose heat inflames, whose astringent self-hood contracts, whose accumulations fester and destroy. As the human blood has its marvellous play, its swift alterations of form under the microscopic lens, so to the eye of the seer this force of desire blossoms out upon the surface of the mind in form after form, ever changeable, ever varying and elusive, though their stable root is desire. Yet were the witness uninfluenced, the spectator not identified with the spectacle, the lesson were soon learned, the kingdom swift of conquest, the goal secure.

At this point, however, we meet that chief of illusions, that veil of Maya nearest Maya's self. For there exists in Nature that element of egotism, Ahankara, or self-identification, and Nature, casting up this element, identifies herself with the drama and gives a bias for or against the spectacle. The image thus put forward confuses the too attentive Soul. It is as if the moon, reflected upon the waters, were to see that reflection claim to be herself, and were to lend herself to the cheat. The Soul is bewildered by this action of the element of Ahankara in Nature, and accepts this reflected image as the true and only Self.

It may be asked, Why is the Soul thus bewildered? Why does not the Soul remain unconcerned? Perhaps the nearest approach to an answer that can be given is this: That by virtue of the attractive power of Nature, the Soul is drawn down along the lines of force to that form of her own projection and transfers her energies to that seductive image instead of lifting Nature to herself. It is the old tale of Narcissus the beautiful, who fell in love with his own face mirrored in the waters of the world, and lay pining with desire by all the streams, neglecting the missions of the gods. So the Soul plunges more and more of herself into Nature under its attraction and impulsion and suffers her own detention there. She sees the action and reaction of her energies on the material plane and amid their convolutions enjoys the fantastic illusion and dreams. The rightful part of the Soul is to raise matter to its own substance and likeness, and this is done when, feeling the spiritual influx, the Soul guided by that power only, descends into matter as uplifter and redeemer, and not as accomplice. The root of the Soul is Freedom. That Freedom confers a power of choice.

Now the Soul, by virtue of this Freedom, has an instrument which nothing but itself can bend or break. That instrument is the will. Each Soul can defy the attractive power of Nature and all her illusions; the mirage can be dispelled by the will's strong radiance and can defeat the self-identifying element by a constant and unremitting presentation to the mind of the mental image of the one, true Self. The mind resists this; it does not "feel" the truth of this ideal and it rebels. Then those who put their trust in feelings, fail to rise; their self-imposed shackles weigh them down. But those who hold fast to the higher conception regardless of the sense of dullness, the want of feeling, the blank and the silence, or the turmoil of the senses, those come in time to find that the mind has at last turned to a new basis of action whence is liberated a fountain of fresh energy.

A true mental image, endowed with spiritual energy, is a living thing and operates of itself upon submissive and reflective matter. No longer upon the troubled mental waves does the Soul behold a wavering image with a transient life of its own, but in the depths of Nature calmed and stilled she sees her own clear light with the life of the Spirit moving through it, and knowing herself below as above, knowing Nature now as her vehicle and not as her enticer, she evolves that Nature to her own high purposes and to its own highest destiny. And though that Nature falls from her as she re-enters the portals of the Eternal, yet she finds it awaiting her as she re-emerges, her servitor through the evolving ages.

These images before spoken of are veils of Maya. And there is one, more deadly than any other. I would fain speak of it in accents of the heart which might penetrate to the core of every comrade heart that feels the beat of mine. That veil is Doubt. It is the darkest thing that ever crawled forth from matter to spread its slime upon the image of the Soul. It paralyses the will. It destroys the spontaneity of the heart. It raises a wall between us and Masters.

What is this Doubt? At its root it is Vanity, Maya's self. The very presence of a doubt shows plainly that I am thinking of myself in a purely personal light. It is a perversion of normal Vanity, by which, after thinking of myself as something fine or great, I fall into self-lamentation and tremble before myself when I find that I am small.

Small, weak, a poor failure in his personal nature every man is when he relies on that alone, and he oscillates between vanity and self-doubt like a pendulum wound up by Time. Self-doubt is the subtlest form of vanity because it is the most deceptive. We say that we are free from vanity at least, because we are so humble, so modest, and we fail to see that self-doubt is but another mode of being occupied with one's self, and a mode in which the vainest man does not outdo us. Dwelling in thought upon the true Self is the only corrective and helper.

Doubt of another is the same thing. It also is doubt of the true Self being all. To think of another as being mere lower human nature and no more; to think that here in my fellow being is no saving soul power which might in an instant descend and snatch him away to a spiritual glory before our dazzled eyes; to refuse to recognize in any man or woman that soundless AUM which abides in every atom and is above and around all, this is to cast a poisoned net upon our fellow combatants struggling in the arena of Life, and drag them to the Earth.

Oh, Arjuna! Thou art immortal. Arise! Take the sword of the will in hand, call up thy fellows on the field of battle and fight on, through Nature to over-Nature; through matter, the hydra headed, to Spirit the one. Why doubtest thou the soul of thy fellow-man? Yet to doubt thine own is no less sin. Both mental acts deny the Self. Thou art That.

Every hour that strikes upon the face of Time is the outcome of thy Soul's own law. Why, then, doubt any of these hours? Why not accept them all? Call them good or call them evil, they are the Soul's messengers. They bring new gifts; they take back gifts outworn, gifts no longer pertinent to the purposes of thy Soul. Let them come! Let them go! Release, too, that strong desire-grip of thine on sentient life — and, having relaxed that grip, let thyself go also; move freely up and down the whole of Life, accepting it all as thine own will and law. Then seeing but thyself everywhere, thyself and mind shall merge into that higher Self and doubt shall be no more. "He who sees Ishwara everywhere equally dwelling, he seeth."

In every event of Life there is a moment, brief perhaps as an eye-wink, in which the voice of the Soul is heard. It should be listened for. We hear it speak oftener than we think. When heard we do not always hold fast to it. We suffer mind to arise like a specious pleader presenting its own bias and calling that "the facts of the case." These facts are argued before us, and when we do not accept the bias, as often as not we reach no conclusion and drift upon the current of circumstance, or else the evidence of our senses decides, and we act upon what we call the sound basis of fact and reason, and go sadly hand-in-hand with Nature on the rounds and tasks of slaves. Cast material facts away and bow thyself when the true Judge speaks.

Who art thou, oh Mind, that thou shouldst decide, when thine office is only to report what thou hast seen in matter under the guidance of thy Soul? Unguided thou hast seen, and given in a false, an incomplete report! the faithless servant, the perjured one, is handed to the executioner, cast into the prison of doubt, harried in a mental hell. Why not ask counsel from the deep inner heart in each event? Why not follow that counsel through every surge of doubt and beat of pain? Only by holding fast to this light can we increase its action. Only by going slow when we do not sense it can we assist the re-emergence of that calm monitor. Is it not heard? Then turn to Duty. Plain, simple Duty is an unerring guide. Is thy word pledged? Redeem it at every cost. Has Life placed thee where thou art? Pay the full debt; thou canst never stand upright until it is discharged.

Just so surely as we accustom ourselves to listen to the debate of the mind, that debate will increase. It is based upon false premises, for the vital question is, not what a man shall do, but how shall he do it: his mental attitude is all. Secure an attitude of trust in the Self, and every act alike is offered upon the altar. One of the finest mental acts I ever witnessed was that of a man of business training, a shrewd, keen observer, whose powerful place in life depended upon his ability to grasp and weigh facts. In a moment when spiritual trust was required, that man was found to cast aside his whole mental equipment and to act from a basis of purest faith.

Such strong Souls are to be saluted of all; they are the vitalizing centres of all great movements; they rally their fellows to them from the ends of the world, for when Soul thus calls to Soul the earth is shaken and gives up her living dead; the skies are riven and the gods come down to dwell with men and teach them.