Universal Brotherhood Path – September 1902


Those who follow events and conditions in the life of the world daily observe a strange paradox. At one pole they see an immense, struggling crowd, grasping sense-pleasure with one hand and ambition with the other, and, and at the first calamity, asking in despair this old, old question, "Is life worth living?" At the opposite pole they see the few strong ones of the race, its warriors, its helpers, bearing heavier burdens than the others, surmounting greater obstacles, meeting greater disappointments as the personality goes, yet serene, happy, living in the sunshine and the song of life, their watchword "Life is joy?" How can this be explained and such opposites reconciled?

Katherine Tingley teaches what all the great world-teachers have taught, that man is dual by nature. Within each are the higher and the lower, the angel and the demon, "each seeking to absorb or destroy the other and one or the other strengthened by every act and every thought." She has also said:

We all know the inner man to be strong, true, eternal, compassionate, just. The outer man is too often weak, wavering, selfish. Its energy arises out of desire and ambition. . . . Yet it is this which the higher seeks to perfect in compassion.

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What is Life? He alone knows who centers his consciousness upon the Higher Self. Then only does he contact the real, and see Life as it is, an expression of power, the garment and message of God, the fulfilling of the One Law, joyful, just, pure, proportioned, whole; a means by which the soul becomes acquainted with itself.

It is a sad commentary upon humanity that the "cycle of necessity" is usually considered to be synonymous with "pain" rather than with "joy." It indicates that in general, the ordinary waking consciousness is centered on things of the lower life, and in the light of a true philosophy, the lower life, unlighted by aspiration or compassion, is certainly not worth living; a wild scramble after things which the soul does not want, a frantic effort to avoid the very experiences the soul wishes the personality to have.

But the higher life is certainly worth living. That is apparent even to one who thinks superficially. For the higher life is the life of the soul, the physical body its sacred temple, every function of the body, eating, bathing, sleeping, working, a holy function, the intellect an alert and perfectly disciplined servant. Surely such a life would place us with those souls who wait upon the gods, nay — we would be gods ourselves, "Children of the Most High." And there is one spot on God's green earth today where men and women may do more than simply try to live the life of the soul, but may and do actually live it, it is the city of Esotero, at Loma-land.

But how about this jumble, this chaos, that we call life today? Is it worth living, this life of ours, to those of us who yearn to live the Higher Life, and yet are continually dragged away from our ideal by pressure of all kinds, by circumstances, or by the antics of our own undisciplined "senses and organs"?

There is a species of human beings who seem to live in a higher than the ordinary consciousness most of the time. The sign by which we know them is that they are able to discern beauty and order in things and combinations of things which to us appear ugly and chaotic. We call them "artists."

An artist will take a yard or two of some discolored, torn old rag (perchance a precious remnant of Bayeux tapestry), throw it in a corner with a few dusty junk-shop articles, paint a picture therefrom which may be hung on the line at the Salon, and mayhap be purchased for the Luxembourg. And when we see it we are tempted to go to that artist and say, "Now, my dear fellow, I never supposed a heap of old trumpery could be so beautiful. Is there nothing, then, so ugly that it does not contain possibilities of beauty and of harmony? And how comes it that I failed to see the beauty in this heap of things until your painting revealed it to me?"

And this friend will reply, "Yes, all things are beautiful, if we look a bit below the surface. There are certain laws, as old as the world, by which even the ugliest heap of things may be made to express something diviner, greater than itself. We artists say it depends upon right 'composition.' But the proportion, the balance, which the true artist seeks is not that of externals merely, but a balancing of the inner with the outer, so that the soul of things may shine through. Has it ever occurred to you that when we want the real thing we turn instinctively to the sculptures of ancient Greece? The Greeks knew their art to be but one expression of the Great Law — the law of cause and effect. The divine inner soul of things is the cause, the sculpture or temple fresco the effect, and the true artist was he who secured the right balance or proportion between these."

The artist, unconsciously, has found the key to the great problem: given chaos — reduce therefrom harmony. The key is balance, an exact balance between cause and effect, between the inner and the outer.

For life is the great problem and life is the Great Art. To understand it, to see the beauty and joy in it, one must become an artist — and the soul is always an artist. Of this Great Art, sculpture, painting, architecture, music, are but fragments and reflections. Life is always worth living to one who looks upon it with the perception of the soul. To the artist-soul, life is joy, no matter what outer conditions may be, and the key, by which he may bestow upon the outer the inspiration of the Inner, is

SHILA, the key of harmony in word and act, the key that counterbalances the cause and the effect, and leaves no further room for karmic action. — Voice of the Silence

Life is the Great Art, and the "rule of composition" by which a life worthy of the Soul, the real artist, may be fashioned is doubtless the "Lost Canon of Proportion," no longer lost but again, after the lapse of centuries, revealed. It is SHILA, Harmony, absolute balance between cause and effect, between the Inner and the outer, between soul and body.

And that which will give us the will and the insight to grasp this key and use it is non-attachment to results. Says the Bhagavad-Gita:

Whoever in acting dedicates his actions to the Supreme Spirit and puts aside all selfish interest in their result, is untouched by sin, even as the leaf of the lotus is unaffected by the waters.

Therefore perform thou that which thou hast to do, at all times unmindful of the event; for the man who doeth that which he hath to do, without attachment to the result, obtaineth the Supreme.

From that high stand-point, Karma is no longer a bugbear or even an inconvenience, but a benign process by which the disturbed harmony, the lost proportion in our lives is restored.

Every disappointment, every disagreeable duty of our lives is but the effect of some prior and corresponding cause. If we evade the duty, if we take an anodyne of the sense-pleasure variety, to save ourselves pain or inconvenience, we are adding chaos to chaos. We are refusing to pay our just debts, traitors to our own conscience and to our own soul. Most of us have done this at some time. But did we feel noble and conscience-clear, or did we feel like burglars? And was life worth living then?

It is because we are attached to the results of our actions that Karma, the Law, appears to cruelly drive us through a cycle of necessity. Yet the law is benign, not cruel, and it acts simply that we may learn to balance and proportion every duty, every deed, so exquisitely that the soul may shine through.

The first object of the International Brotherhood League is very significant:

To help men and women to realize the nobility of their calling and their true position in life.

Nobility is proportion, symmetry, balance.

Why are the Pyramids noble? Because they were builded by artists, by men who knew the soul wisdom and lived the soul life, who knew the "Lost Canon of Proportion" and used it as their guide.

Why is the Nike, the wonderful Flying Victory of Samothrace, beautiful and noble, in spite of the fact that time has ruined its surfaces and left but a trace of its former symmetry as far as externals are concerned? Because it expresses the inner. The Nike, headless, without arms, ruined, marred, yet is an inspiration in every line of its marvelous pinions and wind-swept robes. It will be preserved and cherished when the larger part of our modern sculpture — the work of mere technicians — has been consigned to some dust-heap. It is noble because the balance between the soul and the body is exquisite and true, because the soul of the artist and the soul of the race shines through it.

Is it not symbolic of our lives, this ruined Nike? Once having breathed the purer air and glimpsed the higher ideal we endeavor to make our lives express it. Then come shocks and disappointments. They threaten to ruin, mar, deform this life of ours which we yearn to make so beautiful. Shall we be discouraged? Shall we weep and whine about our life being "ruined?" Not at all. It may still express the soul, nay, it may express it better, now that some of the frills and ornaments have fallen away.

Let us be grateful for shocks. They try our mettle and wake us up. Let us be grateful for disappointments. They are old debts presented for payment, just the wise Law balancing its accounts. If we meet the account squarely, honestly, thankfully, by just so much are we nearer to that exquisite proportion and symmetry which alone can make possible the artist life, the only life that is worthy of the soul.

If our duties are disagreeable let us analyze a bit. The very same duty would be wholly agreeable to some. Therefore the difficulty cannot lie in the duty but must lie in ourselves. Let us take ourselves in hand, then, and welcome the duty that is ours, performing it with all our might but unconcerned as to the result. There is no more logic in shifting our own duties upon the shoulders of another because they appear to be disagreeable, than there would be in giving away our own children because they happen to be ill-tempered. Let us learn to like our duties. A single strong effort of will may accomplish miracles. Then, and only then, will life be worth living, joyful, proportioned, worthy of the artist-soul. Even the apparently useless and hindering things of mental and moral life may serve to awaken our sympathies and to give us a glimpse which, perhaps, otherwise we would not have, into that rich inner world, where the purple and gold abide, and whose Light is Compassion Absolute.

Let us be artists then as our Teachers would have us be. Let us find the center of things, "non-attachment to results." Only then is perfect balancing of cause and effect possible; only then is it possible for us to put the artist touch into all life and render it beautiful. Let us take refuge in the Soul. Life is worth living then, no matter what may happen to the personality. Of those who do this one of the World's Helpers has written:

They carry the inspiration into outer life and energize with it their common duties, high and low; gain from it strength for self-sacrifice and thus, bringing the inner into the outer, pouring forth in Deeds that Wine of Divine Life of which they have learned to partake, they achieve, little by little, the harmony of perfect life.

Universal Brotherhood Path

Theosophical University Press Online Edition