Songs of the Master
Theosophical Forum, January-April, 1900
Before all things remember that the Bhagavad Gita is a textbook of the Mysteries. It has seven keys, and holds seven meanings. But at the heart stands one ideal, crown and well-spring of all the rest; the immortal life of man. To give this central light its due pre-eminence, we shall pass over much of interest and of value, lest from the too great number of the trees we lose our vision of the forest.
Among things here to be left out, we may count first the side of history; all enlarging on the epoch of world-life which gave the Songs their birth. That period stands as a turning-point of the fate of mighty races; behind it lies the sunny youth of India, stretching back to the golden age. After it comes a long epoch of decline, till we reach the India of today in her servitude and degradation. The races which fought at Kurukshetra are representative of great human types who still wage their endless war; to tell their tale in full would be to write all human history.
But this much we may clearly hold in view; considered as part of the world-history, the Bhagavad Gita and the cycle of bardic songs which were its source come from the mighty war fought out five thousand years ago, when the princes of the Rajput race, with the shadow of fell eclipse coming on them after glorious ages, met in fratricidal strife, and strewed the Indian plains with their dead bodies.
The first fruit of this for India was the uprising of the priestly race of Brahmans, who till then had held the second place. The polity of ancient India, the form of social life and state, grew from the commingling of four races: red, white, yellow, and black. These have their well-marked affinities in many lands, their links in lost continents, their source in the annals of bygone worlds. We cannot here follow them through their wanderings. It must suffice that the red race of Rajputs held kinship with Egypt and Chaldea, as with certain peoples in the lands of the west. This red race drew its life-impulse from the third, and held the Great Mysteries as a splendid inheritance, with their twin teachings of rebirth and liberation. From the king-initiates of this race come the great Upanishads. From this race Krishna sprang. To this race belonged the Buddha. Of this race comes the great Rajput who stands as our ideal today.
With the civil war the Rajputs lost their power. It fell into the hands of their former pupils and servants, the Brahmans, sons of a white race from the north, beyond the Snowy Range. Until the Rajputs initiated them, the Brahmans had never heard of rebirth or liberation. They bowed down to the shades of the fathers, as the Coreans and Chinamen do today. They called on many gods, praying for solid blessings of this earth, and for substantial delights in the world to come. Because the Rajputs fell five thousand years ago, their motherland is subject to foreign rule, till the time be fulfilled. Because the Brahmans profited by that fall to take their place, India is full of priestcraft. Yet as these very Brahmans were once faithful disciples of the kingly teachers, they still hold the heart of the teaching as their most precious heritage, being the only body now living openly in the world in unbroken possession of the mystery records.
The Brahmans, a race of ritualists with minds full of order and system, gave India a strong impulsion towards formal philosophy and analytic thought, adding this to the old divine magic of their Rajput masters. From other races, the yellow and the black, came the impulse of emotion, the religion of passionate faith breaking forth along the way of works, in the acts of a religion of service. These three, the intuition of the soul, the message of reason, the service of bodily act, touch the three great worlds of life. India as a Mystery land, embodied all three; they were mingled in her temple teachings; all three have their place in the Master’s Songs. Thus this scripture is a reconciler of intuition, thought and act. Here is yet another of its seven keys. To use it fully, we should have to embody all that is known of the divine magic, the intellectual history, and the worship of India so full of mystical rites, and this through a period of thousands of years. This cannot be accomplished here. Therefore we must resign ourselves to see much omitted. Striking these varied notes and letting them sink again to silence, we pass on to the heart of the teaching, the message of immortal man.
The Final Goal.
After we reach a certain ripeness, there is only one theme in the world which has any serious value: the great transformation, whereby mortal man enters into his immortality, reborn out of weakness into power, out of serfdom into mastery, out of the psychic into the spiritual world. No longer drifting and cowering, victim of the universe, waif of cosmic forces, he takes his place at the heart of things, growing one with the essence of all being, in the omnipresent here, the everlasting now.
The fiery transformation which brings him forth a god, an undivided part of the highest divinity, touches and transmutes his every power, beginning with the bodily and sensual self, where he is set in the clay of the natural earth; touching then and illumining the whole middle nature of man, his world of cloud and storms, of hailstones and rain, of genial zephyrs and cherishing winds; finally kindling with the supreme radiance of inspiration his crown of life, that spirit in him which rises up to the eternal sunlight, which is kindred with the stars.
Of this threefold change, the first part makes him a king in nature, ready to rule through will instead of begging through desire; now for the first time gaining real power over the immemorial forces that build the hills, that keep the seas in station, that swing the worlds forth on their circling ways. There is a touch and mastery of all nature’s powers, flowing directly from the physical will and knit with it; as muscular effort is knit with the power of gravity, able to use it, able to withstand it, able to turn it to a hundred ends of man. So with every force. All are to be handled without intermediary, by the will acting unaided and alone. So far, mastery over the physical world and what dwells therein.
This is but the threshold of his inheritance. The court of the temple is his discovery of his kind, his new revelation of the soul of man. With immortality, comes his first initiation into true human life. For while still of those who perish, wrapped in the thick cloud-veils of personal fancy, man is debarred from beholding man, or sees him only as in a glass darkly, but now face to face. Looking into each other’s eyes with human eyes, we see our own images, and these inverted. To see each other’s souls, we must look with the eyes of the soul. Then shall we first behold the glowing life in every heart, and not only see it but possess it. For this is the soul’s everlasting miracle, that we can become each other, and yet remain ourselves.
A man may dominate other men by fear, driving them as a tiger drives a herd of gazelles, but this is still a part of our mere brute history, untouched with any human light. True man can be touched only by the soul. And if a conqueror can send his flaming will through a great army, till all weak wills in it scorn death and danger, and count lingering wounds and privation an honor, how much greater the enkindling of our immortality by the immortal and heroic soul, whereby we rise altogether above the barriers of sorrow and death.
If the entry into the souls of others be the court of the temple, there is yet the holy of holies where the immortal enters in alone, to learn his omnipotence, his enduring majesty and might. He comprehends the secret of his power over nature, beginning with the mere muscular effort which holds him erect upon the earth, and ending with the most potent magical arts. He is master in the midst of nature, because the soul in him is one with the soul that made the worlds, and can at any time claim full rights in its own dominions. He learns too the secret source of his unity with all mankind, his possession of the powers of all other souls. It is because the soul in him is one with the soul in them; because there is but one soul, for him, for them, for us all, the mighty immortal into whose being he has passed. He learns something of the radiance of his own divinity, the eternal secret of life, hid with the darkness before all worlds. Thus the king long exiled and forlorn, wandering in desert weariness, in sorrow often, in sickness often, once again reclaims his kingdom, setting the diadem of life upon his brow. The great transformation is consummated. Man the immortal has taken the place of mortal man.
This is the splendid termination of the struggle, the prize of conquest, viewed in the warm light of victory. Yet all was not triumph or gladness, all was not victory or power. Say rather that there was bitter darkness and dire strife, that there was the poignant weakness of wounds received in conflict, that there were utmost misery of defeat, heart-rending despair, black storms of suffering most pitiful, and hardest of all to bear, the dire doubt whether there was any path at all, any soul, any divinity, any immortal being.
From this cloud-mantled place of setting forth, progress was made only by fierce aspiration working in the dark, the blind longing of a faith that dared not wear the name of hope, a hope black as despair; a foothold beaten by clouds, with floods flowing round it, the firm earth altogether gone, yet no gleam of heaven breaking through the clouds, nor any warrant that with their breaking would come vision of heaven at all, rather than the appalling blackness of the formless void.
This is the path of aspiration, the grim tragedy of the soul, of which all human tragedies are but copies. For all our tragedies turn on this: whether the soul of some other is to be trusted; whether the soul in us can face its fate and reach its goal. But here is tried the greater question whether there be any soul at all, or mere darkness and the irremediable kingdom of death.
Out of the darkness by dire struggle, by slippery paths, after many discouragements, through many sorrows, mortal man at last comes forth into the light. His first path is ended. His first victory is won. He is met in the sunshine by his immortal self who takes him by the hand and leads him in to the presence of the Eternal; the unveiled majesty, dark with exceeding brightness, silent with fulness of song, still through infinite power.
There all boundaries are swept away. There is no longer any parting between thyself and others, myself and thee. The mortal is lost in the immortal; both are lost in the supreme. Thus does the soul bathe in living waters, in the infinite ocean of light. This is the second division of the way: the path of inspiration. Nor is the vision of fairness only, full of quiet peace. It is also grand and terrible. The Power treats in high-handed fashion the sentamentalities of worlds, of angels and men. By fierce and fiery paths does the Providence of things win to its ends. Death is as much its tool and plaything as is life. No weapon does it wield more potently than sorrow. In the blackness of darkness are its secret purposes fulfilled.
After fulness of inspiration, the soul comes back to its mortal dwelling, full of a mighty power, charged with tremendous secrets, knowing itself for no lost fragment of despair cast forth on the waves of fate, but very divinity, part and parcel of the highest in all beings, in all worlds. The full vision of illumination shrinks to a fiery gleam in the heart, a flame that burns unquenchable, to transform, to consume. to create, till all things be full of light. Sharing the power and essence of the divine, the soul has inherited the divine task, to conquer all beings and all souls for divinity, for oneness, for perfection.
Before the newborn immortal opens the third division of the way: the path of realization. He is to weave his knowledge into life, to break all barriers down, and let in the souls of men. He is to widen that glowing heart of his heart which links him to the divine.
The center and heart of the whole matter is the Great Initiation, the revelation of the divine. The way of aspiration is the preparation for this; the way of realization if the fruit of it, the practical application to life, to the immediate position of the individual soul, of the sublime vision, the grand sweeping view of all life, of the great Life itself, mysterious and supreme, which Initiation gives. This magical and wonderful event, beside which all else past or to come in human life is dwarfed to insignificance, is not the invention of institution of any man of body of men; it is a providential law, a necessity inherent in the very being of the Eternal, the expression in will and act of the oneness between the single soul and the Soul of all.
The Great Initiation.
Perhaps we may make clearer the reality of this great and mysterious event by a parable, a simile. Think of a wayfarer, outcast, forlorn, wandering in the gathering dusk through a pathless wilderness knowing not at all which way he should turn, nor whether there be any pathway leading upward and onward to the house of his home. Sleep, the deep, motionless sleep of utter heart-weariness, comes upon the pilgrim; and while his body lies there lifeless and rigid on the night-overshadowed earth, his immortal brother descends to him, drawing the soul forth from the body, and carrying it swiftly to the beginning of the way, the clearly seen outset of the path that shall lead him homewards.
Nor does the beneficence of the immortal cease at this, but he carries the wondering soul swiftly forward, over ground now lit as clear as day, and full of color, for there is no night nor darkness for the eyes of the soul; the immortal carries it forward, passing swiftly through the gloom of overhanging forests where dim forms of fear flit among the bought, along precipitous pathways, where are chasms so deep that no sun has ever lit their abysses, over ridges sharp as a razor’s edge, where dizzy declivities sweep down on either hand; yet where the path is ever clearly marked, definite, and seen to be safe though very hard to tread.
Then the deserts and rocks and fearsome forests are left behind; there comes glory on the grass, and radiance of flowers that catch the purest colors of the sunrise; the fountains murmur of peace and power, there is divinity even in the song of the birds; and there before the wondering eyes of the pilgrim soul rises the house of his home, the resting-place from all sorrow that so long has haunted him, full of shining, the present abode of the water of life.
So swift has been his journey that it seemed to consume no measure of time; and even the journeying itself shrinks away in thought before the one vision of the radiant goal; then, when the soul has drunk the heavenly fountain and drawn itself up to the full measure of its immortal power and stature, the great brother beckons to it again, and then comes swift-winged return along the traversed path. Once more so rapid is the flight of the twain who are yet one, that time seems to stand still to let them pass; yet once more every detail, every rock and stone and tree on the road stands out in clear sunlight, and prints its image on the memory of the soul.
The wanderer awakes again into the body, thrilling through and through with the awe and splendor of his revelation; there is still the blackness of night across the desert wilderness where he lies, and the howling of winds, and the moaning of wandering unseen beasts. But to him there runs through the blackness an inner shining, as when a tapestry of black is warped with threads of gold, and there are other voices than the wailing of the wind and the cry of the birds and beasts of prey; voices jubilant and exultant, that sing aloud in his heart of the glory that is for evermore. Then little by little the gleam goes out of the night-air; gloom steals up closer and closer to him, and at last slips through the doorway into his heart; the clear image of the mountain-soaring way he has beheld, grows gradually fainter, becoming at last dim as the memory of a dream. But one thing he still holds bright as day in his heart,—the image of the opening of the path, where the desert shapes itself into the first semblance of a road. This remains, it even grows clearer and clearer, as the rest fades, and at last the image begins to cry out to him with clear and imperious voice: Let there be no more lingering and delay; the moment for setting forth is Now.
The gray and inhospitable dawn steals over the desert, with chill lights that only bring out the desolation hid by kindly night; but the cold light also brings it revelation. For the traveler who deemed himself alone, and sorrowed for himself most of all because of his loneliness, now finds himself surrounded by a great company, haggard and worn and downcast; knowing nothing of whither they would go; seeing nothing of each other, but spell-bound and glamor-cast, so that each one talked aloud to himself, with hurrying and meaningless words, or burst forth in senseless laughter, or broke down in pitiful tears. Each one supposed himself alone as far as all others were concerned, yet saw around him a band of phantoms, dim shadows, all variously distorted images of himself, and with these he talked or lamented, with these he laughed or wept.
The Setting Out.
But there is one miraculous thing which now befalls the pilgrim. As though some of the radiance lingered luminous on him; as though from him resounded some of that piercing, soul-compelling melody that echoes for ever around the fountain of life,—by these or whatever causes distinguished, it is evident that each of the sorrowing company, though seeing none of these around, can at least see him. And with what startled joy and hunger of companionship they cry out to him for help and pity; with what stretching forth of hands, trembling of pale lips, lighting up of haggard face. And he, the pilgrim, burning to set forth upon his journey, yet finds himself compelled to stay. These too are seeking the path; these too are thirsting for the immortal fountain; these too seek the house of their home. Once and again, he breaks away from their importunity, and sets forth strong and confident across the desert, knowing that soon his feet shall be set firm upon the path he has been so many ages seeking.
Yet their faces haunt him. The pity of their outcry draws him back. Their lamentation is far keener than before, for the face of a friend had appeared to them out of the lonely desolation, and now that face is withdrawn. For he presently learns that they can see him only when his eyes are turned full upon them, and when he tries to go before them they lose him utterly, and cry out in the awful misery of their pain.
The pilgrim with a sinking heart, as he thinks of that divine pathway, yet with a strong exultation rising within him against all reason, turns back again to rejoin the spell-bound throng. And with what infinite gladness they welcome him, with what lighting up of eyes that had grown tear-dimmed at his going; with what glad tremulousness of lips that try to smile. Nor is this his only reward, though this were reward enough. For he sees with marveling and astonishment that he is already at the beginning of the path, which he had thought far away, and which he had believed himself to have turned bark from, surrendering all search of it to succor these.
The Moment of Choice.
Such is the mystery of the Great Initiation, as far as parable and symbol can make it clear. And the infinitely pitiful law of our divinity has decreed that not once only shall that sublime vision descend upon the pilgrim, but that at every obstacle overcome, at every stage of the journey conquered, and most of all, for every one of these his brothers set upon the path, the pilgrim shall he rapt forth, from the darkness of his body by the twin immortal, and once more borne along that soaring way, till they come together to where the meadows are luminous with enameled flowers, where there is choral melody in the singing of the birds, where the sunshine eternally glints and gleams from the spray of the fountain of life.
The immortal brother bends down to him again and again, gathering him up to join his winged flight, and swift as an eagle he is carried through the blue pathways of the ether, and borne forward to full vision of the shining goal.
And on waking there is ever that hour of glowing joy and full remembrance, knitting the end of the dream into his daily life, so that what lies closest to him remains clearly seen even when the great dream fades, and he has instant and unwavering conscience of what he should do next.
For every man, there comes somewhere in the endless series of his lives, one life which shall be the turning-point; and in that life there is one hour of firm resolve, which sets the crown on all the past, and opens the door on the luminous future. It is an hour of silence and of loneliness, with no counselor but his own innermost soul, and none to tell him which way he should turn, nor even that his time is come. Yet such is its intimate divinity, that the soul knows well the hour of its birth into his life; if there be those who seem to shrink and hesitate, be certain that they are not yet ripe, that there is some vital lesson still unlearned, that a weak link in their chain of faith has to be strengthened. For these, for whom it is written that they may not now pass forward, do not utter vain regrets; it is thus far best for them, for soundness and ripeness they must have who pass through that door, and these they have yet to gain. They are but sharing the common fate of all living, and for them too the splendid hour will dawn; what does it matter that they must first pass through the silence, since in the silence there is infinite peace?
Has it ever occurred to you to wonder what it all means,—why there should be such strain and stress in this our human life? To ask whence comes this eternal warfare, this deathly struggle forced upon Arjuna by Krishna, and to which we are all so incessantly urged? The full answer is the secret of the gods, and the only way to learn their well-kept secrets is to become one of them. But a mere mortal may guess at least this much.
It seems to be the inevitable result of the great crossing over, the tremendous transition from the anismal to the divine; and we shall get our first clue to the mystery by looking somewhat closely to the real conditions of animal life. The life of the animal, the life in instinct, has this great characteristic, that is takes cognizance only of single and concrete objects. But even that expresion is abstract, and therefore untrue to an animal life. Let us say, then, that such an animal as the squirrel sees and thinks of only the one acorn or nut that lies directly before him; his whole success in life depends on his direct intentnedd upon this, his going straight forward towards it, his single eye to securing it. The slightest wandering, and he is lost, fr in the unceasing struggle of the one against all, and of all against each, his quarry would instantly fall to another, while he meditated upon its abstract being.
The animal, therefore, must concentrate upon each fruit or root, each single item of his prey, or he loses touch with the actual, and that means for him the change called death. But change is pain, and pain is change; therefore he has the alternative of single-hearted hunting, or starvation and extinction. But why this necessity of death? Again the answer is, because it is the inevitable result of a change. For within the individual, there is not fluidity and room enough for the full changes of a race’s development. The type must become now great, now small; now tropical, now arctic; now terrestrial, now arboreal. There have been horses and as small as rabbits, elephants no bigger than swine, or again lizard-like creatures almost as large as whales. This range of variation is impossible within a single body; progression of type is likewise impossible; therefore we must have death, and death is change, and change is pain. Here is the root of all our tragedy.
If devotion to the single fruit, the single body, be the type and tragedy of animal life, the life of the divinity is the very opposite; a fusion of all individuals in a single Being, in one idea, as Plato called it, which embraces within itself the possibility of all individuals of each family or tribe; and behind all ideas lies the one great archetype, the Eternal. That great flaming single Life whence all has come forth, is likewise the goal whither all must again return. And here we have the second clue to our mystery: the tragedy of life lies in the necessity of crossing over the ocean between the single fact and the undivided Eternal; or, to speak once more in the concrete, in the passage from the sensual egotist to the divine Soul.
For this tremendous transition, there must be some bridge or neutral ground; the immediate passage from the one to the All seems and is impossible, inconceivable. This transition is that sea of psychic human life which is at once our glory and our shame, our opportunity and our peril, our sorrow and our joy. As there is change at every step, there is pain at every step; and where consciousness becomes larger and keener, the pain is exquisite misery. But every step of change brings the soul nearer to the changeless infinite One, therefore that growing nearness of each step makes each step a growing joy, till at last the heart expands in ecstasy into the Heart of all Being.
Therefore from the infinitely varied and infinitely numerous facts and lives of the outward world we are to pass over to the one great stable Life; and for this we must ford the river of birth and death, take on the likeness of humanity, and cross the psychic sea. Let us consider what the man is, that the animal is not; remembering always that the line beteen is a wavering one, for there is a kind of men that are close to the animals, a kind of animal that comes close to men, as an Arabian Occult School quaintly puts it. This is the great difference: man looks with forward and reverted eye; man remembers and expects.
But for memory and expectation there must be an addition to the animal’s powers; the pure animal consciousness cannot get away from the single fruit, the single fact. Each fruit gathered is for it all in all. Nothing else enters its consciousness. In like manner, with the animals sex is the incident of a season, a few weeks in the year, and then utterly forgotten and put out of min. The animals sleep when they sleep; when they wake they are awake. Man is both or neither, always complex, always unsteady, always wavering.
What makes the difference? It is this: man can see into the mirror-world; his mind is a mirror, holding the image of the fruit already eaten, and keeping it to compare with all other fruits. Hence in his mind from comparison arises dissatisfaction with the next found smaller fruit, exultation over one larger and finer, expectation of one better still, and fear of finding none at all. From that one glimpse in the magic mirror are born all the emotions of our human life.
Take this same sense as it has developed and grown, in its last and greatest degeneration. Man has become a glutton swollen unwieldly, needing to cover himself with clothes, lest the wholesome and moral animals should laugh at his misshapen limbs. That is where his imagination has led him, and his brooding over the image of his food. He is a degenerate, a monstrous departure from the law, a storehouse of ills that haunt and torture him, and from which the happy animals are nearly free; the deer of the forest have no spectacled physicians, when they fall into a brief sickness, either it is gone by the morrow, or kindly death sets them free. And man has one more curse: the haunting fear of starvation that lashes and scourges nearly all our race; and starvation is admitted by all economists to be the hinge of the wealth of nations. Happy man, whose destiny turns about so delightful a fact.
The animal lives today, and fears no evil; his eye is clear and free from all disturbance and misgiving. He is dead tomorrow, and there is an end, and at no time is there any great break in his primeval peace. But man shudders and cowers. He sees the dead, and broods over death. He has caught another glimpse of the mirror-world, and seen his dead self therein. And from that time on, the image will haunt him, until he arises from the pyre immortal, in a vesture colored like the sun.
Yet one more miserable privilege, and we have the whole account of man. Sex with him has ceased to be the incident of a season; it has grown to be a haunting presence through all his life. He is never quite free from it, not even in silence and solitude of his rest; for the most part, he is a driven slave, the whip-lash of insatiate longing over him always; ever goaded by the misery of desire.
From brooding on his hunger and his search for food; from holding ever in imagination the picture of his desires, man at last works out for himself a central image among all the images of his mirror, an image of his own body, which he calls his personal self. With the birth of that shadow-man, his human history begins. For thus, wars are fought, constitutions built, kingdoms conquered, battles won. This lean ghost who has never stood in the bright eye of day, is king of all the human world; all our history is his; all that lies between the animal and the god.
All growth means change of this image; all change means pain. Therefore human life is one long tragedy. Whatever bright days break the storms, either come in from clean and wholesome animal life below, or are the gifts of the gods, prematurely vouchsafed from above. This is the history of the personal self, and his daily bread is egotism and vanity; egotism, or that brooding over his ow being, which comes of his perpetual glimpses in the mirror, and vanity, which comes of perpetual chasing after mirrored images, when his image unites itself with one of the great primal instincts of the animal, with the desire of food or sex, and when fear overshadows both, then his misery is supreme; jealousy and the fear of destitution have marked him for their prey.
God created man, they say, and the devil made looking-glasses. Having gone thus far, both withdrew, and the result we see. It is true in a sense, for the astral light, or the psychic mirror-world, is the basis and field of all diabolism whatsoever. The evident results we see on all hands, in our whole emotional life, in desire and fear, in memory and expectation, in love and hate, in hunger and satiety, in desire of life and dread of death.
But what is the reason of it all? Why such lavish ingenuity for our torment? Can we find some natural and sufficient cause for it all? If we go back to our point of departure, we shall soon perceive one. For this very complex of images, this power to image and hold the many facts in the one imaginary pictures, is the missing link we sought, between the sensual fact in its infinite diversity and the divine idea in its inviolable oneness.
All human life means. therefore. the approach. and ultimately the coming- together of these two things: the psychic image of the sensual fact. and the spiritual image of the divine idea. the principle or power which stands single behind every tribe or family or genus of the natural world. And the tragedy of our human life consists in the continual striving of the lower or astral image towards the higher or spiritual principle. The crown of life is their coalescence. when the partition wall is broken down. and the twain are made one.
For this grand and tortured epic of man, there is a fitting moral and conclusion. Each sensual fact of animal life finds its transformation, its transfiguration, its apotheosis. Let us begin where we began before, with animal hunger. The animal, pressed forward by that instinct which is its one divine revelation, seeks berry after berry, fruit after fruit, victim after victim; each for the time is its all-in-all. But not so man. He is haunted and overshadowed by the idea. He carries with him the image of each fruit, forbidden or permitted, and compares it with all others, gradually enlarging his image and adding to its complexity until it becomes wholly impossible for any sensuous fact to satisfy him, and he has inherited divine discontent, ever seeking, finding never. But though mortal man seeks hopeless, man the immortal is destined to find. The image coalesces with the idea, and he inherits the bread of life, the food of the gods, the all-satisfying Being of the Eternal.
Take again the animal’s instinct for warmth and shelter. To very wonderful instinctive acts it leads, like the building of ants and bees, the dams of beavers, the nests of birds, the burrows of foxes and rabbits. But man broods on these things, heaping image on image, remembering the essence of all sunny shelters he has seen or dreamed of, goaded onward by the image of very cold and icy storm, and so seeking some hiding-place from the wind, some shadow of a great rock in a weary land. And that haunting perfection makes him miserably dissatisfied with every human home; the image is drawing near the ideal, and as his immortality descends upon him, the twain become one, and he enters his everlasting home, the house of the Most High, the perfect eternal.
One thing more. the most insistent of all. Sex, for the animal, was an unremembered break in the food-finding of the year. For man it becomes a haunting image, its animal part entirely subordinated and needed only to give new life to the image. First there is only the image of his sensation; then the image of the complementary being who shall fulfill it; and lastly a haunting sense of another self, another life, which through desire, or fear, through jealousy or longing, never leaves him but dwells with himever, and thus by the strangest possible way he has found the doorway to his other selves. Nothing less tyrannical than desire would have awakened him from his self-absorbed egotism; nothing less miserable than longing would have driven him beyond the sensual fact to the image; nothing less haunting than the image would have led him up to the ideal, the possibility of a shared consciousness, a common life. Thus once more, the boundary-wall is broken down, and the twain are become one.
The last great victory is over the shadow-man whom we call our personal selves. He is not a solitary shadow, but a shadow shadow-haunted. He longs for admiration, he fears ridicule, he seeks power, he looks for love. And every emotion helps to build up some shadow of his other selves, till at last his whole world is peopled with shadows, and then the divine, descending from above, touches all with the miraculous wand, and the shadows come alive. He is in the realised presence of his other selves; he has beheld divine humanity; he is on the threshold of oneness with the Self of All Beings, the Everlasting.
The secret of Life is whispered for ever in our ears, summoning us to enter the hall of everlasting youth, bidding us unbar the door of our present divinity, pointing the path of unconquerable power, revealing to mortal man the secret of man the immortal. We are challenged to make true for ourselves the dreams we have dreamed of God.
There is a newborn hope in the message of the unseen as it comes to us. We have passed out of the shadow into the sunshine. The clouds that hung so long about the door have lifted. The burden of the world’s anguish has melted away. Since the Cross first threw its black shadow along the earth, the promise of immortal life was held forth to those only who turned back in bitterness from the world, whose garb was sackcloth, their best hope despair. Their master was the Man of Sorrows. Their password was Renunciation. But we have left behind us the old evangel of pain. Our new watchword is Victory. Our Genius is the lord of Joy. We are to renounce no longer but to conquer: to overcome the world not by flight but by possession. No longer exiles but victors shall knock at the immortal doors.
The genius of our age has drawn very near to the secret. We have merged all ideals in one; to conquer, to be strong. Power and valor are our divinities. We no longer worship wealth but the will that wins it. Our one goal is the sense of success, and we see nothing but the goal. Even death we have almost forgotten, transforming the old king of terrors into a gentle and not unwelcome shadow. Nothing is remembered but the lust of strength. One step forward will change it to the lust of immortality.
For a little experience of life is enough to teach us that in sensual success we miss our ideal. The sense of power slips past us into our works, leaving us poor and empty-handed. When in the very glow of victory we see the tinsel glitter fade, we are at the threshold of the unseen world; we are ready to understand that we were better than our goal, that we were born to more lasting triumphs. The time has come for us to claim our divinity. In the midst of our success, the finger of the hidden immortal touches us, and we are called forth from the arena of the world, to hear the whispered secret of our inheritance. The glamor of sensual life has fallen from our eyes, and we are ready to lift the back veil of death.
When we draw back from life and sensual success, as something very good, yet not good enough to satisfy our heart’s desire, we come to a lull of quiet loneliness, a hush of silence in the dark. In that solitude and gloom we may catch the vision of the truer way and surprise the world-old secret of human life. Hitherto we have lived believing ourselves closed in by the visible world, buried in the heart of sensual life, and held there firmly by our bodily fate. But we begin to divine that we are really set firm in the immortal world, leaning forward into sensual life from the life above it, never losing our firm foundation there. In the midst of death we are in life.
Thus our destinies are passed between two worlds: the world of desire and death, and the world of will and immortality. When we learn to live from the will as we tried to live from sensual desires, we shall be already immortal, and enter living an immortal world. Therefore our worship of will brings us near to the portal of peace.
This is the secret that shadows itself forth in the stillness and darkness. Soon will follow clearer vision that we have drawn our life from the world of the immortal, day by day since the beginning. But this simplest of all secrets was hidden from us by the seething of our desires. We and all creatures enter every day into the immortal world, though we know it not. Nor shall we remember, until the hush of stillness comes upon us when we draw hack victorious yet disappointed from our battle with the material world. Not till we have renounced can our eyes open.
Every day we wage our warfare with the world. Every night, when the throb of desire and the whirl of the senses grow still, we sink, as we call it, to sleep. We might more truly say we arise to our awakening. The shadows of our desires hover awhile around us, haunting us as we linger in the borderland of dreams. As our desires were, so are our dreams; things fair or hideous, grim or radiant with lovely light. But dreams soon fade and desires cease, and we enter into our rest, we pass from the world of the senses to the realm of immortal will. We enter in through the golden portal, far better than the fabled gates of ivory or horn, and for awhile we are immortal in power, immortal in peace. For without power, there is no peace.
Beyond the land of dreams and the shadows of desire stands the gate of peace. All men enter there and all creatures. Were it not so, all men must go mad. And within that portal all are equal. All alike awake to their immortal selves. Sinner and saint have left their difference at the threshold. They enter in together as pure living souls, weak and strong are one there, high and lowly are one. The immortal sunshine, the living water, are for all. For great Life has wrapt us round with beneficence, so that even now we are in the midst of the everlasting.
Thus we all enter the power beyond the veil of dreams, we all draw our lives alike from the sea of life. In the radiance we are all one, wrapt in the terrible flame of Life. Yet we forget. We come back again shivering across the threshold, and hasten to wrap our pure divinity in a mist of dreams. The saint once more takes his white garment; the sinner, his reel vesture of desire. The weak is weak again, and the strong exults. Their dreams are once more real to them; and these dreams are the world of our mortality.
We return to the world of daylight to live for a few more hours in the strength brought back from the immortal world. Our earthen lamps are replenished for another watch. We strain and stagger under the burden of our dreams, driven by hope and fear, by desire and hate. Fear is the fiercest scourge of all; making us cowards, it makes us also cruel. Thus we fall away from our divinity, robbed of every shred of memory by the army of shadows that meet us on the threshold, with their captain, fear. Yet in all our phantom-world, there is no illusion so absolute a lie as fear. We are the gods, the immortals; yet we cower and cringe. We are children of the will, yet slaves of fear. Therefore our ideal of valor brings us near the threshold, for it bids us kill the captain of the shadows who bar our way. But for a long time yet, the shadow of fear will lurk in the haunted darkness of our human hearts.
Another day ends, and our tide ebbs. The storm of our desires has worn us out, and overcome with weariness, we sink to rest, we rise to power. And all our prayer and aspiration, all the fervor of our faith has no aim but this: to reach awake the sea of power we bathe in, while asleep. Therefore we close our eyes in aspiration, seeking once again the light behind the veil. So great is the beneficence of sleep, so mighty a benison is ever near to us. We enter perpetually, but we always forget. Our power slips from us as we return through the cloud-zone of dreamland. Round every pillow gather thick the terrors and pains of life, not less than its ambitions and its hopes, instantly invading us as we come back to waking.
Therefore we gain this clew to the secret. The door of our immortality is open to us day by day. But we are so ridden with dreams that our immortal inheritance brings us no profit. Therefore we must elude the army of dreams. We must bring back to the light of day the present sense of our divinity which illumined us in dreamlessness. A thing so simple as that is the open door of our salvation. Our Genius bids us gather power and conquer fear. And fear once mastered, we may begin to disband the army of dreams, the ghosts that haunt our borderland and make us forget. The diminished army on the frontier is no longer strong enough to keep us from smuggling through with us something of our dreamless vision, some memory of the immortal world. We glean these memories day by day, in the silence of the morning, in the first hush of waking, as we bring back into every morning something of the freshness of everlasting youth.
At first, what we carry back with us will seem more dream-like than dreams. Yet dreams have their power, as we should know, whose whole lives are guided by dreams. First a dream-memory only; a haunting shimmer of other worlds; a secret freshness and gladness, coming we know not whence. Yet a vision so full of unearthly fascination and allurement that we would follow it rather than the solidest reality of day. Thus far all the poets have reached. This is the secret of their inspiration. They are haunted by the dreamless dream; it lingers in beauty over all their works. Even the faint memory of this vision is brightness enough to illumine hearts throughout all the world.
Yet poets and the devout do not hold all the secret. They are still in the grayness of the morning. We are heirs to the full glory of the noonday sun. With fidelity and strong will we are to make real the fragments of our remembered dream, imposing them upon the shadows of the day, and in their light transforming all our world. The seers and poets fail, because they do not rest in will. The vision bursts from their hearts in a rapture of song and prayer, leaving their wills unenkindled. We are the richer, but they are poorer. Thev should have sealed their lips, guarding the vision in their hearts till they had wrought it into the fabric of their lives.
The highest valor is needed, to make our vision real. We must battle with the whole army of shadows, the princes and powers of the air. We must fight to the death, if we would inherit life. As the fight is waged with dauntless courage, we are ever more penetrated with the piercing intuition that our waking world is the real dream; the true waking is elsewhere, a better reality than this. Thus we begin to remember. Thus far the sages go. Their message is full of whispers that our life is a dream. But they do not go far enough. They should pass on dauntless to the other shore, to the real world of their immortality. It lies about us in sleep. It is not far from us in our waking.
Thus we gather the fruits that drift to us in the dawn from the other shore. There will come a time when that world begins to out-shine this. Then we shall be ready for undimmed illumination. We shall really launch our boat upon the waves. Rapt from our mortal bodies int paradise, we shall hear words not lawful for our mortal lips to utter, for the only lips that can tell of them are already immortal. No longer dimly overshadowed by the Soul, we enter through the silence into the very being of the Soul itself. We know with awe that we have inherited our immortality. We have found our treasure. With undimmed and boundless vision, we behold the shining ocean of life. The radiance and the realm are ours. We are filled full of infinite power, infinite peace.