“ In many mortal forms I rashly sought
The shadow of that idol of my thought.”
“Après l’amour éteint si je vécus encore
C’est pour la vérité, soif aussi qui dévore ! ”
It is useless to denTHE loss of youth and love is the perpetual wail of the poets. A never-changing spring-time of life, where the sweet dreams of youth would be realised in the fruition of reciprocal love, such would be a heaven to them, and such is a heaven while it lasts. If we add to this the refined aesthetic taste that can delicately balance and appreciate to a nicety every joy of the senses, and the highly-developed intellect which can roam at will over the accumulated store of past ages of culture, what would there be left for poets to dream of? With heart, senses and mind worthily employed, and with the well-balanced nature that knows moderation alone can give continued bliss, could not man rest satisfied at last ? What more could he desire ?y that life has very sweet gifts to give, though the number is limited of those who are capable of receiving them in their fulness. But even while these gifts are being enjoyed, it is felt that the horizon is bounded. With what questioning uncertainty — albeit with fascination — does youth open its eyes upon the glamour of the dazzling world! The love of the Springtide, even in fruition, is continually building fairy bowers in the future — it never for long rests content in the present, while to the intellect the bounded scope of utmost learning is a still more definite goad towards a knowledge that shall transcend all past experience.
And even were man content to continue to drink of the one cup of bliss, he is never allowed to do so. The lessons of life, the great teacher, are continually being altered, and the tempest of the heart takes the place of the calm that was never expected to end.
If, then, we must look in vain to find permanent bliss in any of these things — if, beyond the highest intellectual culture of an intellectual age there gleams the vision of a higher knowledge — if behind the artistic refinement of this, as of all past flowers of civilization, the fount of all sweetness lies hid — if even the heart-binding communion of earthly love is but a faint reflex of the deep peace realized by him who has torn aside the veil that hides the Eternal, surely all man’s energies should be devoted to the quest which will yield him such results.
The whole philosophy of life may be summed up in the Four great Truths that Buddha taught, and no more convincing description of them [Page 289] can be read than that given in the lovely lines of the eighth book of the Light of Asia.”
He who has once been deeply imbued with these great truths — who has realised the transitory nature of all earthly bliss, and the pains and sorrows that more than counterbalance the joys of life — will never in his truest moments desire to be again blessed, either in the present or in any future incarnation, with an uniformly happy life, for there is no such soporific for the soul as the feeling of satisfaction, as there is no such powerful goad as the feeling of dissatisfaction. He is bound to pass through periods of joy, but they will be looked forward to with fear and doubting, for then it is that the sense-world again fastens its fangs on the soul, to be followed by the pain of another struggle for freedom.
When first setting out on the great quest, it seems as if many lifetimes would fail to appease the dominant passion of the soul, but nature works quickly in the hottest climates, and from the very intensity of the desire may spring the strength and will to conquer it. Though it is probably the same key-note that is struck throughout, the dominant desire will appear to take a different tone through the ascending scale of life. It is a speculation, but one which would seem to receive endorsement from the analogies of nature; for as the human embryo in its antenatal development, exhibits in rapid succession, but with longer pauses as it approaches the period of birth, the characteristics of the lower races of animal life from which man has evolved, so does the human soul realise in its passage through life the dominant desires and attractions which have affected it through countless past incarnations. The lower desires which in past lives may have been more or less completely conquered, will be experienced in rapid succession and left behind without much difficulty, till the great struggle of the life is reached, from which man must come out more or less victorious if he is to continue the progress at all.
If right intention were the only thing needed, if it were a guarantee against being led astray, or if straying did not necessitate retardation on the road, there would be no such supreme necessity that belief should be in accordance with facts; but even in worldly affairs we see every day that purity of intention is no guard against the failures that come from lack of knowledge. In the great spiritual science therefore, which deals with the problem of life as a whole — not the mere fragment which this earthly existence represents — it will be seen how vitally necessary it is that facts should be conceived correctly.
To us whose eyes are blinded to the heights above, by the mists of our own desires, the only rays of light which can illumine the darkness of our journey on the great quest, are the words (whether or not in the form of recognised revelation) left by the masters who have preceded us on the road, and the counsel of our comrades who are bound for the [Page 290] same goal. But words are capable of many interpretations, and the opinions of our comrades are coloured by their own personality — the ultimate touch-stone of truth must therefore be looked for in the disciple’s own breast.
Having stated the necessity for correct belief, let us now consider the question of the great achievement — the annihilation of Karma — the attainment of Nirvana. It must be acknowledged as a logical proposition that Karma can never annihilate Karma, i.e., that no thoughts, words, or acts of the man in his present state of consciousness, can, ever free him from the circle of re-births. This view would seem to necessitate some power external to the man to free him — a power which has touch of him, and which would have to be allied to him.
Now the teachings which have been put before the world in “Light on the Path” state the other side of the question. “Each man is to himself absolutely the way, the truth, and the life”. And again, “For within you is the light of the world, the only light that can be shed on the Path. If you are unable to perceive it within you, it is useless to look for it elsewhere”. It would seem that the solution of this great paradox must be sought for in the constitution of man, as described in theosophic writings. Indeed, it is the scientific statement of deep spiritual truths which gives to the Theosophic teachings their remarkable value, and which seems likely to carry conviction of their truth to the Western peoples, who have for too long been accustomed to the mere emotional sentimentality of the orthodox religions, and to the pessimistic negation of science.
The higher principles, as they have been called, in the constitution of man, particularly the divine Atma, through which he is allied to the all-pervading Deity, must ever remain deep mysteries. But at least they are cognisable by the intellect, as providing logical stepping-stones for spanning the great gulf between Humanity and Divinity, — the Power — the correct cognition of which provides the very link between both systems of thought — which is at the same time external to man, and has touch of him by its own divine light which enlightens him, and which is also the very man himself — his highest and truest Self.
For most of us it is the “God hidden in the Sanctuary”, of whose very existence we are unaware, is known under the name of Iswara or the Logos — the primal ray from the Great Unknown. It is the Chrestos of the Christians, but, save, perhaps, to a few mystics in the Roman or Greek churches, it has been degraded past recognition by their materialistic anthropomorphism. A help to its better understanding may be obtained by a reference to Sanscrit philosophy, which describes man’s nature as consisting of the three gunas or qualities — Satwa, goodness, Rajas, passion and Tamas, darkness, or delusion — and the nature of most men is made up almost entirely of the two last named — while the Logos is pure Satwa. [Page 291]
The vexed question, therefore, as to whether man is freed by his own dominant will, or by the power of the Logos, will be seen to be very much a distinction without a difference. For the attainment of final liberation the God within and the God without must co-operate.
Desire being, as Buddha taught, the great obstacle in the way, its conquest by the dominant will is the thing that has to be done, but the Divine will cannot arise in its power, till the conviction of the Supreme desirability of attaining the eternal condition is rendered permanent; and it is this that necessitates the goad which the Logos is continually applying by its light on the soul.
We are now face to face with a very difficult problem — it is, in fact the gulf which separates the Occultist from the Religionist, and it is here that it is so necessary to get hold of the correct idea.
“Strong limbs may dare the rugged road which storms,
Soaring and perilous, the mountain’s breast;
The weak must wind from slower ledge to ledge,
With many a place of rest.”
The short cut to perfection referred to in the first two lines has been called in Theosophic writings “the perilous ladder which leads to the path of life”. To have faced the fearful abyss of darkness of the first trial, without starting back in terror at the apparent annihilation which the casting aside of the sense-life implies, and out of the still more awful silence of the second trial; to have had the strength to evoke the greater Self — the God that has hitherto been hidden in the sanctuary — such is the language used with reference to the very first — nay, the preliminary — steps on this path, while the further steps are represented by the ascending scale of the occult Hierarchy, where the neophyte or chela, through a series of trials and initiations, may attain the highest Adeptship, and the man may gradually leave behind him his human desires and limitations, and realise instead the attributes of Deity.
(To be continued.) [Page 292]