The Private Life
Theosophy Magazine, Vol. 36 p. 15
One mark of a philosopher is his power to live a private life. He may not live alone, he does not avoid his fellowmen, but his existence is self-contained. The philosopher’s life is not private for the sake of a special pleasure or peace; he does not aim for an impossible personal condition wherein enjoyments are uninterrupted, unshared, and need not be deserved. His life is one of full responsibility; it is private because he holds himself fully responsible. The ordinary man desires a private life until sorrow overtakes him, troubles collect in his vicinity, or his handicaps and imperfections bring him to dismay and discouragement. The philosopher, on the other hand, has the strength of mind to endure himself under all circumstances, and to move toward others only on the tide of that strength, never on an ebb of weakness.
Ancient law required that a candidate for self-knowledge undergo a seven-year silence. Whatever the reasons assigned for this practice, and whatever illumination accompanied its fulfillment, the participant clearly confined himself to a private life, in the strictest sense. Whether or not he lived in an actual forest, he took up the role of diligent observer, and volunteered to face all experiences as one who findeth no fault—except with his own ignorance.
No man can gain peace so long as he imagines that someone or something else can disturb his peace; nor can justice be “found” until it is recognized in every relationship and in all the circumstances of life. For those who realize that they must one day bring order and harmony to their inner environment, the principle has been offered: acceptation of others. This injunction does not issue from the premise that others are perfect and their actions invariably flawless. It is designed rather to release him who follows it from the disquieting thought that other people can make or unmake his karma. We act in company with others always, but karma is the inner reaction, and is determined by the man himself, regardless of the outer circumstances and other beings that may be the carriers or agents of his destiny. Acceptation of others also means that we should often be prepared to recognize in their influence and behavior a reflection of our past behavior and influence. Karma is the law which continually affords us the opportunity (and presents us with the necessity) of seeing ourselves in others.
The vow of silence, it may be imagined, would have been a mere fetish unless the practice were carried beyond physical control of speech. The psychological unease made manifest in any purely negative attitude—in gossip, condemnation and denunciation of others, in self-pity, or resentment over “the body and circumstances”—is the real corrupter of speech, and, even if unexpressed in words, is invariably transmitted to the person on whom it is focussed. The aura of such “messages”—like the magnetic field around an electric current—also has indirect effects on those who stand in psychic relation to either the sender or the recipient.
The power to control thought and feeling is not developed in the first moment of aspiration, nor will a pledge of inner “silence” immediately overcome the habit of charging others with the onus of one’s personal misfortunes. But inner discipline achieved and maintained in one trial after another, demonstrates the power of Will. The difficulties experienced can then be regarded simply as “karmic pebbles,” not placed in one’s path by any outside force or being, but representing instead the self-established heredity of “suffering”—the form of suffering through which alone his moral education can proceed. One progresses to the understanding that no concatenation of physical, psychic or mental hardships need overwhelm him: they are his creation, they await his destruction, and the force of his will which they embody may be regenerated by him in fairer form.
Preserving silence in speech and calmness in feeling, the student gradually turns the mind—the focussing power—to new uses. His concentration no longer follows the worn patterns of instinctive response: to every event he brings moral imagination. Meditating with a questing spirit instead of with resentment throughout the vicissitudes of his karma, he learns to trace in a wayward fate the needs and purposes of soul. An often-quoted sentence declares that “The pure-minded and the brave can deal with the future and the present far better than any clairvoyant.” A pure mind, because it has freed itself—momentarily or completely—from the turbulence of the “moving passions,” and has steady vision. Courage—to pursue a rigorous self-examination and self-discipline, so that the present and the future will not duplicate and reduplicate the errors of the past. Ethical clairvoyance discloses the perfect correspondence between character and karma: the pure-minded and the brave deal with the present and future intelligently because they can interpret karma as spiritual instruction.
Good karma, from the standpoint of soul, never comes to us; it is created only as each experience is endowed with meaning and contributes to knowledge of the Law. In every manifestation of karma are hidden the powers of mind and feeling which set the law in motion on the occult side of nature. The student of these mysteries seeks what in ancient times was symbolized by the Philosopher’s Stone, the power to transmute man’s nature into divine nature. The evolution that concerns him is mental or manasic, for the mind is the transformer in the human Workshop. The avenue of endeavor is clearly marked by the fact that prejudice is transmitted more swiftly than philosophy, and that despair, anger or hate are almost automatically promulgated, while the more sublime emotions are often incommunicable. Not until human beings can share high aspirations as naturally as they breathe the common air—will universal brotherhood become mankind’s living reality. The philosopher’s “private life” has this end in view, and when he fulfills his vow to dare, to know, to will and to be “silent” within—his is the higher life.
“THE TRUE ENJOYER”
The Language of the Soul can be acquired only when the being realizes that his duty is not to himself, but to the highest interests of his fellowmen; not to “save his own soul” but to lead as many of his neighbors as he possibly can in the direction of the Truth, desiring nothing for himself. This very attitude opens the floodgates of spiritual knowledge within himself. Then he becomes the true enjoyer, using every power he has, all the knowledge he has, to benefit others. The man who has come to that knowledge and is on the road to its realization finds “spiritual knowledge springing up spontaneously in himself in the progress of time.” —R.C.