Universal Brotherhood – January 1898

FRAGMENTS — M. A. Oppermann


The real means for us something which we realize, and we realize that which we experience within ourselves. Thus the real has a variable appearance to each man according to his inward experience. As the human family as a whole, is very much alike, experiences of a similar nature are gone through in very much the same way at the same time by most of the members of humanity. Those whose inner experience differs from the general trend are either in advance or behind the average. Thus what is generally conceived as the real is due to the experience of the average humanity. When the latter occupies its mind with things and phenomena appertaining to matter, then matter is conceived of as real, and so it comes about, that things outside of earthly matter are considered by most people as unreal and only as the outcome of fancy, at best of speculation. One man may reason with another and try to prove by analogy the real existence of things outside and within matter, but the reasoning imparts no conviction and makes no man realize anything which he has not experienced as real himself. It seems so absurd that men should hunt after riches, when they well know that death will surely deprive them of all wealth, and that death may overtake them the very next day or hour; but this absurdity can only be explained by the error of man believing material things to be real, and as long as this belief exists in him, he will try to accumulate wealth. In this lies the reason why man does not become changed by outside influences however strong they may be; I mean influences established by man himself, man-made laws, social customs, contrition, etc. Man only changes from within, and each man has to do that work himself, and establish within himself the conception of that as real which is more real than that which he believed to be so before. This will help him up; the reverse will drag him down.

The question arises: How can he do this? It cannot be done by reasoning, emotion is a step when it is pure, art is a step when it is elevated, but that which helps best and surest is compassion. It seems strange that compassion should be the great teacher of the real, but it can easily be understood why it is so. When a set of forces in the character of man tends towards making him believe that this material world is real, then the forces which go in the opposite direction must have the contrary effect. Concentrating for self, carrying all back to one's own enjoyments, tend toward making a man believe these to be real. Selfishness and hardness of heart are thus forces which increase the conception of non-real as real. Altruism, pity and compassion must therefore have the contrary effect upon man, and not only soften his heart, but bring him nearer to the real. Thus, real knowledge is the direct outcome of the practice of brotherhood and no understanding can be obtained without it.

We are told that the Real in its ultimate aspect is only in the Absolute, but we all know that we cannot reach this Absolute for a very long time yet. So the only possibility for us to progress, is to take new aspects of phenomena and new perceptions, such as will bring us nearer to the Absolute. We are told that gross matter is the lowest of all, and indeed it seems impossible to imagine anything more gross, heavy, and cumbersome. Being a clothing of spirit after all, there is beauty in it, in every stone, in every blade of grass but that beauty, as far as we are concerned, resides more in a conception of it by ourselves. One man may admire a beautiful sunset, another passes and does not even look at it, and thus the sunset is beautiful for that man only who contains beauty within himself.

We are told that the Real is not subject to change, but where is that unchangeable something, seeing that all things change? Our modes of existence change, our very mode of thought and appreciation, all is modified in time, and even time is incomprehensible without admitting a change of something or of things, the succession of which changes serves for us as a conception and as a measure of time. It then follows that the real must be outside of time, or more correctly, that time cannot exist in the real. Thus he who reaches the real knows the beginning and end of things. The real cannot have undergone any change since the beginning until the end of manifestation, and thus it is not manifested itself but only surrounded by manifestation, or so to say clothed by it.

When we observe the component parts of a thing and see some parts disappear and others endure longer, we may say that the latter are more real and more lasting. Acts are due to causes, last for some time, and then become causes in their turn for new acts.

Thus we may say that while the acts are born and die, the law which makes them, that is the law of cause and effect, is enduring and real. Even the qualifications which we give to acts are more enduring than the acts themselves; while virtuous acts pass by, virtue still exists, but being a conception of the human mind, it cannot be all enduring like the law of Karma. The more ideal a conception and the further it is away from earthly matter, the more real it is. Mathematics is a real science, because it is the most ideal one; but as soon as it is carried out in matter, there is no more absolute correctness in applied mathematics due to our errors of observation and measurement. What can be less material than the idea of a point, a line, a surface or even of volume? But a draughtsman will never make an absolutely correct drawing, a chemist cannot weigh correctly, and no absolutely true surface can be given to a body, and observations have to be corrected by a calculation based upon the calculus of probabilities. As the real can have no qualifications expressible by words, man cannot be taught how to reach it, but can only be taught where the road is that leads up to it. Thus man cannot learn the real, but must evolve within him the already existing reality. He must be the real in order to understand it, and not be that which is unreal. All the unreal has to be discarded from man's perception, if he would attain to his real self. Since man is a thinker this has been told to him, but few have listened. He has been told that his five physical senses apply to the physical world only, and that by using them only, he cannot go beyond the physical kingdom. He has been told that man had spiritual sight, and the atrophied organ of that lost sense has been pointed out to him. The increasing predominance of the physical senses accompanied by a gradual descent into matter, brought about this loss, gradually of course, and gradually man has to regain it by restraining the physical senses and tendencies. It is the natural process of evolution, and will come about for the bulk of humanity in its gradual development, and for each man whenever he wills it. It is easy to go down and difficult to go up, easy to lose and difficult to regain. For such a long, long time we have gone through so many incarnations, in which our tendency towards matter went on increasingly, and we cannot possibly mend all this at once, or without a serious and hard struggle. This struggle has been depicted by the sages, and perhaps there is no better book on it than the Bhagavad Gita, where all the stages of the inward fight in man are clearly defined, and help indicated for obtaining victory.

The teaching begins with a description of the soul and its characteristics, then it goes on to the acting of the man that struggles forward. Next comes the knowledge necessary and the understanding that renouncement of acts is not inactivity but renunciation of all results to the supreme. The book next deals with self-restraint and with right understanding and discerning, which is followed by the study of the indestructible Brahma and the understanding of the hidden supreme knowledge. We then come to the supreme powers residing in the real man and their different forms of manifestation. Once man is carried so far in his understanding, and when he has grasped the real character of the supreme, then he is seized with utmost and most touching devotion, understands root matter and root-spirit, and sees nature as the outcome of the three qualities, and then begins to understand spirit in its highest sense. The book then goes on with the distinction between holiness and badness, between the three kinds of faith, and terminates with the entire renunciation to the Supreme. The whole path is thus laid out, and the beauty of the book can only be equalled by its profoundness. The book can only be fully understood by following its precepts and by realizing its teaching point by point within oneself. Even ordinary study with attention and good purpose helps wonderfully and opens the mind to the influence of intuitional understanding.

The struggle of a man towards the Divine is so sacred and holy, that interference, curiosity and purely intellectual discussion seems almost a sacrilege. When a man is on his death bed, the bystanders are silent and hardly dare to whisper, and so it should be towards a man that fights and struggles with his lower nature for the liberation of self, which is really a dying and a rebirth, not for his own good but for the good of all.

The way to the Real is terribly uphill; joyful and laughing man went down and sacrificed the Real for the Unreal and Fleeting; sorrowful and afflicted he has to trace his steps back and regain with tears and suffering that which he so hastily abandoned, his Real Self.

Universal Brotherhood