"Lower than hell,
Higher than heaven, outside the utmost stars,
Farther than Brahm doth dwell,
Before beginning, and without an end,
As space eternal and as surety sure,
Is fixed a Power divine which moves to good.
Only its laws endure."
Once in the years past I spent a vacation time in the foot-hills that surrounded a great wide lake. Forest trees grew down almost to the water's edge, and beyond the edge for many a yard floated a green fringe of yellow lotus and white water lilies. This lake was deep and very dangerous because of treacherous pitfalls in the bed where the safe shallows gave sudden place to unknown depths and ever shifting sands. It was well known about the country side that many a young life had been forfeited among those tempting lily pads, and yet the beauty, the sweet silence and the shady coolness of the lake made it a favorite resort.
One early evening I was rowing with a friend upon the lake. A young moon, horned and brilliant, shone in the west, and the lilies nodding above their glistening leaves filled all the air with subtle fragrance. The waters lapped in rhythmic cadence around the gently swaying boat. Silence and Peace enfolded and brooded over us. I lost myself in aspiration and in meditation on that Reality of which all the sweetness and beauty must be but an expression, a passing shadow or reflection.
Suddenly I saw that black clouds were crowding round the dying moon and a fierce wind springing up that broke the peaceful waters into surging waves. The whole face of Nature put on a changed and threatening aspect. The moon hastened to hide her shining face in clouds. The lily pads reached long and clinging arms to seize us. The water seemed but a wide black mouth opening to engulf us. Strange phantom shapes formed in the air about us, and seemed to mock and chase us toward the entangling fringe of reeds and lily pads that ran swiftly over the black waves to meet and seize upon us.
A strange unreasoning terror invaded and possessed my mind. My hands shook helpless on the oars. I could not row. I could not think even of coming death. I was already overwhelmed. Soon I was conscious of a voice speaking. It seemed outside of me, but even then I knew it for my own voice — the voice of that higher part of me that sits serene above the storms of life. The voice was saying to me, "This is fear. Why should you fear? Of what are you afraid? Be master of yourself, for if you do not rise above this fear and weakness there is no rescue for you. You will be lost, you and the friend depending on you."
Instantly like a dream the turmoil passed. My hands closed coolly and firmly on the oars. I rowed strongly and steadily out from the threatening shadows into the open lake. There I soon found my lost bearings and caught, outlined against the sky, the welcome figure of the lofty elm that marked the landing place. Thus guided I rowed serenely to the happy shore.
"He jests at scars who never felt a wound." And it is only through study of our own experiences that we can come to understand what our brothers, the "other people", feel and suffer. Through study of that one experience has come an understanding of many an effect, the cause of which lay hidden. It has a habit of presenting itself to my mind's eye at certain critical times and bringing with it some small degree of illumination upon whatever question engrosses me.
In this way I have come to feel with a new keenness the weakness and helpless misery of those in whom fear has overwhelmed the Soul in such degree that it cannot hear the voice within. That voice, whether we listen or not, which is crying ever, "Take refuge with me alone"; "Why fearest thou this phantom which thine own imagination forms and strengthens?" Looking at my mind-picture I grow into a new sympathy with all who suffer and a new perception of what that compassion is which surrounds us like a sea.
The Primitive Man, as far as we can learn, loved Nature, rejoiced continually in her beauty, reached back through Nature to the informing Deity. Men worshipped and made grateful offerings, lived simple lives in peaceful quiet ways, were linked together like one family, shared common fortunes, were free from fear and had no dread of death. They had an abiding faith and trust in "Those Above" who ruled all things wisely and well. But black clouds gathered before the sun, and Nature seemed to frown and cease to be a loving Mother. In the growing darkness Man lost his bearings and drifted helplessly into still deeper shadows. Many causes united to his undoing. A student of the "Secret Doctrine" can trace them out, but even without this clue we can see easily that in the latter centuries the leading cause was the false teaching which the people had. Through misconception or willful perversion of the Truth was taught such doctrines as Original Sin, Eternal Punishment, Vicarious Atonement, a God moved by revenge and wrath. These formed the clouds that shut Man from the ever shining light of Love Divine. These brought on ignorance and fear, which working hand in hand, have kept Man deaf and blind, so he can neither hear the voice within nor see the landmarks beckoning on the shore. All through this time of darkness there have been some who never lost trust in the Eternal Good; some who could always see the Sun shining behind the clouds and hear the inner Voice.
These have seen all the danger and the misery of other men; have suffered with and for them. Always there have been voices crying in the wilderness. Always have there been Prophets, Poets and Philosophers who, from some loftier outlook catching glimpses of the Light, call cheering messages to men below. Always have there been Saviors and great Teachers, Elder Brothers of the Race, giving themselves in one unending sacrifice to aid and guide mankind. It is true that the result of all this sacrifice and labor seems pitifully small, but we cannot see below the surface. "In the twinkling of an eye", said St. Paul, "all things shall be changed." The sudden change is the effect of long effort and self-sacrificing labor. It seems Man only climbs to freedom by the path of pain. Through suffering we come to sympathize with sorrow. Through having been blind we know what blindness means to others. And having won through to some degree of freedom we long unspeakably to share it with all others. The inward Monitor urges unceasingly, "Thyself delivered, — deliver. Consoled, — console." Now though our efforts seem so small and weak and of so little worth in "lightening the miseries of the world", still having perfect confidence in the Eternal Power of Good we must believe there is a force behind each little thought or word or act of ours that gives it weight and meaning beyond our hope. Reliance on the Self, Faith in the Law, unceasing Aspiration, Unity, Purity; these have a mighty power to dissipate the clouds that shut Man from the sweet Sunlight — these clouds of ignorance and fear that blind him to his own nature, to the guiding hands and to the nearness of the happy shore. Let us then with confidence begin this moment to lead the "Life Beautiful." Let us sing daily hymns to "Zeus, Father of Light", and invoke his aid. Let us make perpetual offering of the selfish self upon the altars of Brotherhood. Let us give continual voice to our profound conviction that no Ideal we can form, in our moments of highest exaltation, of Beauty, of Bliss, of Harmony, of Eternal Good, can approach the Beauty, Bliss, Harmony and Good which is the Eternal Reality; that as we advance toward our Ideal by our own labor, love and aspiration that Ideal itself only becomes a clearer reflection of the ever "flying Perfect" which is still beyond.
"Alas that all men should possess Alaya, be one with the Great Soul and that possessing it, Alaya should so little avail them."