The Realm, the Radiance, and the Power
Theosophical Forum, March, 1899
“Learn now of me, how he who has won the first great victory, shall go forward to the everlasting Power. Here is the perfect rule of wisdom, briefly told:
“Let him hold himself firmly in the ray of the illumined Soul, freeing himself from the tyranny of sensations, and rising above lusts and hate;
“Let him dwell in solitude; let him be sparing of bodily lusts; let him subordinate thought, word, and deed to the Light; let him steadily bring himself under the inspired will; let him overcome self-reference;
“Let him rid himself of these things: conceit, violence, arrogance, sensuality, jealousy, graspingness; then, free from the sense of appropriation, and full of the great peace, he builds with the everlasting Power.”—Songs of the Master.
The perfect rule of wisdom here set forth, holds the answer to the difficulty and perplexity we are facing at this very time: the question what to do next. We have won the first great victory. And now we are waiting, in a kind of quietness and uncertainty, knowing that something has been gained, but not seeing clearly what it is, not able to give any lucid account of it to ourselves; not seeing whither our victory is to lead us. To use an idiom: we cannot see where to take hold; where to catch on.
This is far from being a new difficulty, or a perplexity peculiar to ourselves, or to the present hour. On the contrary, this uncertain and waiting attitude is a quite inevitable, and constantly recurring stage on the great path of life: all who have passed along the path, have faced it, just as we are doing; an it is so familiar a friend that its position is marked in all the books of the Mysteries.
We shall make the matter clearer, if we go back a little, and see what our victory consists in. We may put it on record that every stage on the path consists of three parts, and that we have passed two of the three, in the stage we are traveling on. Every stage has three divisions: the time of aspiration; the time of illumination; the time of realization. And the moment of perplexity comes after illumination, and before realization—the point where we now stand.
We have all passed through the time of aspiration. We all know how it was with us. First, the time of miserable unrest; of crying for the light, but without in the least knowing what we wanted, or what our malady was. Nothing but a great dissatisfaction; a sense of the meanness of our lives. That was the first stirring of the soul. Then came a stronger longing for the realm, the radiance, and the power: for all the dim glory hidden in our souls. At first the thought of it was cherished as an almost hopeless regret, a sadness for something far beyond our reach. But here, as elsewhere, the appetite grows with eating. And aspiration gradually nursed itself into hope. We knew that the realm and the radiance were real; and we watched for the gleaming of the light that led us on, till hope became fulfilment; till aspiration ripened into illumination.
The full illumination may or may not remain within our conscious memory: but the sense of it is there. We know that the Oversoul has gleamed into our hearts, that we are inwardly open to the immortal sea. We may not know how we know this, nor remember our hour of revelation. But the radiance haunts us; the brooding divinity is there.
That is the second stage. Now comes the third. We have to work that radiant hour into our lives, to realize it in character and in work; to embody our revelation. When we have done this fully, we shall be ready to rise to a new illumination and a new realization; and so the great work goes on. But how to realize our sense of the Soul? That is the problem that brings us the perplexity of waiting. The memory and sense of the Soul haunt us like a shining sea we have seen in dreams, but we cannot find our way back to it; or we are on ice so smooth. that every movement sets us slipping. We can get no grasp on it, no hold, no leverage to move ourselves by. We cannot make our start in life.
The perplexity is a real one. But we overdo it. We never lose a chance of telling ourselves that we are at the end of our powers. That is one of the privileges of sovereign man. But there are ways out of our difficulty.
The first clue is this: it is not really we ourselves who have to find the way; it is not we who have to form the plan, and win the battle. That is already provided for, by the lord of life and death in each of us. The great Life, the everlasting Power, which, like a strong torrent, flows through the channel of our lives, has seen to that. We are not personally responsible for the moving power, for the vital force that is to carry us onwards. A sense of this brings stillness; and, in the stillness, the lord of life and death, the Genius, who really is responsible, will be able to catch our attention, and get his idea into our heads. But we try the patience of the Genius.
There are two elements: first, the almighty Power; then, our individual selves. Our work is, to express the Power through our individual selves. That is what the sage of old meant, by bidding us keep firmly in the ray of the illumined Soul.
Our perplexity is due to this: a new power is to enter our lives, and it is so unlike anything we are familiar with, that it takes us a long time to recognize it; it takes us a long time to become conscious that we have recognized it. Then at last we shall be ready to move forwards.
It is another of man’s privileges, to get into mischief of precisely the same kind, a hundred times in succession. This is what happens at this point of progress. We get entangled in the very things that we have just conquered, on our upward path of aspiration. There is a new air about them now, and we get taken in again. The traps that catch us are two, one for each of the inferior worlds, into which we have dropped back after our hour of illumination in the third world, the world at the back of the heavens. The two dear foes are, the lust of sensations, and the conceit of our personal selves. To get rid of the lust of sensation, is like a bath in the ocean, or a long breath of mountain air. To get rid of conceit is like a harassed debtor’s sudden release from all financial liabilities. These are the things that stand in the way, and keep us from hearing the voice of the Genius.
It is not sensation that we are to conquer, but the lust of sensation; the preoccupation of our fancies, by memory and desire. Sensation is the earth, quite clean in its due place. The lust of sensation is that same earth afloat in the sea of emotion; the muddy wave of a shallow sea.
The position is this: our souls have a layer of sensation below us; a layer of inspiration above us. We cannot do justice to both at once; we cannot have the sense of both at once. If we are preoccupied with the one, we shall be deaf to the other. But we are here to catch the voice of inspiration. Before we catch it, we must close our ears to the voices of the earth. People fancy they cannot get on without sensation, and that if it ceased for a moment, they would die. They have to learn the contrary. To put this in another way: the perpetual thinking of certain sensations, as dwelling in certain parts of our natural bodies, forms a web which holds the psychic body within the physical body, and prevents its going forth to commune with the Soul. We must forget about our natural bodies for awhile, or we shall remain prisoners, till death tumbles us out into the blue ether.
It is not a question of deadening sensation, and growing rigid. It is rather that we must wash our memories and fancies clean, at least for a while. We are to receive a quite new kind of impression, from a new direction. We cannot be in two places at once. This is the very simple truth which underlies all ascetic ideals. Abstinence, in itself, has not the slightest value, but the stillness that goes with it is needed, if we are to hear the other voice.
Then that dear enemy, who comes back to us as often as recurring springtime; the conceit of our personal selves. It is something like this: we are made of three things.—the animal. the personal, the divine. Our life really streams down from the divine, through the personal life, to he expressed by the animal, in the visible world. For the animal can really express very noble and subtle things, in his looks and works. But the personal part of us, the middle man, labours under the delusion that he is doing it all; and he thinks, moreover, that whatever he wants, must be good for all three. So he exasperates the creative man above him, and makes the animal man do many unwholesome and exciting things, which bring him to an early grave. It is the illusion of very young people, that all half-heard conversation is about themselves; and that all the world is watching them. That part of youth often lasts long; and it is this fatuity which defeats the Genius. The personal man thinks that everything which goes on is for his benefit; he wants to get a profit from everything, and is continually trying to wrest things in his direction, instead of letting them go clear through, to express themselves in the outer world. What is there in it for me? asks the personal man; and that instinct vitiates all good work. That is what the old sage meant by the sense of appropriation. It is the sin of the middle world. Vanity keeps many a man from hearing the voice of the soul. The vanity of what he fancies his personal self to be, of what he fancies others think of him, and expect of him, keeps many a man from daring to obey the voice of the soul, when he has heard it. And the personal man is an adept at pleading in his own favor. He is a most plausible knave, and very sorry for himself.
We cannot listen to the soul, because we are thinking of our troubles; and vanity is father to most of them. The sage of old has mentioned other things which stand in our light. There is arrogance, the cheerful assurance of superiority, which seems to lighten every man who comes into the world. At least, we all use moral looking-glasses. Then violence, in which nature rebukes us. She makes a noise only when she is destroying. All her building goes on in silence; all the splendid vitality of spring comes forth without the audible stirring of a leaf. She can move a continent, and no one hears a grain of sand fall. Then jealousy, and the rest, that we know as much of as any sage. These things make the noise of our personal selves, which fills our ears, and drowns the voice of the silence.
These are the things that thwart us, when we should be standing in the ray of the illumined Soul. They keep back the stillness, in which the new voice should speak. Every inspiration comes from within and above us; from the Life in the radiance and the realm. The Life speaks to the individual soul, and seeks to be expressed through the work of the individual soul. Now all souls are different. So all expressions of the Life will be different, though inspired by the same Power; just as the same sun brings forth a hundred different flowers, from as many different seeds. Each of us has his seed of genius and power, his individual talent and gift. And the problem is, to let it be quickened by the eternal sunlight.
Here is at once a difficulty, and a delight. The work will be different for each of us; so that no one can really show the way to another. But its fruit will be different for each, so that each of us will have the delight of original creation. We are in the presence of the Power, the Radiance, the Life. The Oversoul is brooding palpably over us, and we feel the haunting presence. But it is all so new, so unprecedented, so strange, that we do not know how to begin, or how to put our hands to the work.
Well, there is plenty of time. Work that is to last forever, need not be hurried. We shall not be taken to task, for making the gods wait. But that splendid presence will haunt us, brooding over our days and nights, until we are carried away by its mighty breath of creative fire, and then we shall know what the lord of life and death was whispering to us through the silence.