A play of opposites
Is this a world of exile from our spiritual home or is it a world of education for our spiritual home? If it is the first then all experience gained in it is worthless and useless. But if it is the second then every experience has meaning and is related to this universal purpose.
The truth does not lie wholly with the Hindus, who liken life to the illusions of dream, nor with the Buddhists, who despise it as a burden and a misery, nor with the hedonists, who value it only for the pleasure it yields. Surely the truth must contain and reconcile all these points of view?
Where is the incentive to improve oneself or society, to make something of one's career, one's life, to be ambitious or enjoy art--what is there to live for if everything is illusion?
The value which so many put on life is paltry compared with its real value.
No man has any choice as to whether or not he should seek the kingdom of heaven, his higher Spiritual Self. Every man is seeking it, knowingly or unwittingly, and is preordained to do so. There is no escape. There is no satisfaction for him outside it.
It is not necessary to divide mankind into two categories--the believers and the infidels--for all alike are on this quest, only many do not know it.
The difference is that the seeker consciously enters on this quest whereas the ordinary man, although also pursuing it, does so blindly and unknowingly.
Many persons mistakenly suppose that they have escaped from difficult problems by avoiding the environments or the individuals associated with those problems. This is mere escapism, useful as a relief but useless as a final and sole solution.
What matters is not only the quality of a man's consciousness but also the quality of his day-to-day living, not only the rare special mystical ecstasies that may grace his experience but also his relationship with the contemporary world and his attitude toward it. It is not enough to be a mystic: he cannot avoid the common road which all men must travel. In brief, can he be in the world but not of it? Can he sanctify the ordinary, the customary; those actions, this business, that very work for a livelihood; the contacts with family, friends, critics, and enemies? After all he is a human being with personal concerns; he cannot live for twenty-four hours a day in abstract ideas alone, or in religious withdrawnness: he has a body of flesh, a relevant duty or responsibility to perform in the world outside.
To refuse to explore experience for its meaning by denying its very existence, merely because it is painful experience, is simply to evade the very purpose of incarnation here on earth. It is only by striving to understand the significance of what happens to us, only by drawing out the lessons of life from it, that the higher truth about one's self and about the universe can ever reveal itself.
Common sense is still needed here. We are in the body; we are surrounded by the world. It would be hypocritical to dismiss the first as non-existent and reject identification with it. And to talk as if one could even thrust the second away would be madness and self-contradiction.
It is utterly absurd to ignore the potent effect of one's surroundings, to try to put them aside as unimportant, to write them off in forgetfulness, to deny their existence as mere illusion, or even to consider such efforts as an indispensable part of spiritual training.
Our very existence as persons makes it necessary to give proper attention to the body and its needs, and to the worldly surroundings in which it lives. They cannot be dismissed, much less despised, without falling into an insane mysticism or an off-balance metaphysics.
Those who reject the external order of things are as foolish as those who reject the eternal order.
The unsolved problems which life in the world has brought him represent either debts requiring payment or weaknesses requiring amendment. If they are too much for him, flight to some peaceful retreat in Nature's green solitudes may offer relief--for a time. Such desertion of the world is not wrong, provided he uses it to help prepare himself for an eventual solution of the problems.
A reincarnated monk may tend to seek the haven of a cloister through inability or unwillingness to cope with a world which is admittedly difficult to cope with. Yet the world offers him an experience which may be just what he needs to draw out latent forces.
Life forces him to pay attention to the world: its denial in metaphysics or dismissal in yoga does not invalidate this necessity.
We must respect the facts of experience even though we try to transcend them.
It is not enough to look into himself. Even if he does find the kingdom of heaven there, Nature compels him to look out of himself too.
The worldly realities have to be recognized for what they are, treated with respect, and behaviour must be brought into accordance with them. What is the use of denying the world as "unreal," of dismissing the body as "nothing," as I have heard Indian mystics do, when all the time both are obstinately present to the senses and dominant in the mind? The world has to be dealt with, the body has to be tended, whatever views, opinions, or beliefs one holds.
Meeting the needs of physical existence is a justifiable and necessary duty if one is to survive. This involves realistic acknowledgment of the body's functions and practical connection with the world around.
It is not the goal to be unaware of the hard realities around him.
To throw away external experience is to throw away man's third-best tutor. Life also has its voice and speaks in this way to correct wrong theory and to discipline wrong action. The transcendental intelligence behind our personality has put us in this world neither to deny it nor to hide from it, but to accept it and learn its valuable lesson.
An intellectual recognition of the transiency of life is not the same as a temperamental despondency about life. The first may be allied with enthusiasm, serenity, and humour but the other may not.
If anyone feels the truth of Shakespeare's lament that "time will come and take my love away," if he complains that worldly transiency mars his pleasure in favourable circumstances, he ought also to rejoice that the same transiency mellows his pain in untoward circumstances, for time is just as likely to take them away too!
By abandoning so-called security, he finds a real freedom.
The very treasures for which they lose their ideals, their morality, eventually slip away from them, as if to teach a lesson.
During times of great suffering, he may best countenance his bereavement by taking it as a reminder of the transiency of earthly life, and of the necessity to cultivate the interior life of spiritual growth. By so doing, he helps himself and also others.
Man's life is not a static square: it is a turning circle. Change is either coming or leaving him at some point, in his mind, body, or circumstance.
It is in the nature of all things that they must perish, of all possessions that they must pass into other hands, of all desires that their satisfaction shall bring with it an accompaniment or a consequence that is not desirable. But to dwell only on this aspect is to become wrapped in negativity and obsessed by it.
All worldly happiness suffers from being incomplete and imperfect. Most worldly happiness is transient and unstable.
All mortal unions which begin in one year must be ended in another, must be divided after short or long time. One must learn how to stand alone if need be.
He must needs attend to the things of earth and self. But if he over-attends to them, if he dwells over-long in their midst, then loss, pain, or death will come to teach him the lesson of their transience.
The uncertainty of fortune and the brevity of satisfaction are two lessons of our time.
Status of the herd
We who are spiritually minded move against a background which is materialistic and uninspired.
The tragic antithesis between the divine and the material afflicts us at every turn.
Those who are seeking material fulfilment are at cross-purposes with those who are not; the one group is obeying the law of its being just as much as the other, yet they are moving in opposite directions.
It is not that they do not understand each other's tongues so much as that they do not understand each other's emotions. Such is the wide difference between men for whom the quest is nothing and those for whom it is everything.
The difficulties of being completely honest, truthful, and sincere, of keeping to idealism in a materialistic or mad world, afflict only the living. The dead are luckier. Not for them the compromises, the white lies, the half-measures, and the glib hypocrisies.
To recognize any situation as factual is one thing, but to reconcile it with spiritual life is another.
The quest's ideals draw him one way, the world's temptations pull him otherwise.
His problem is how to stay in the world and do the world's work without losing his spiritual integrity.
Down through the centuries there have always been men who made hearsay their truth, appearances their reality, and conformity their virtue. They are the gregarious many, the countless victims of those twin illusions: the ego and the world.
Most men are enslaved by things and nearly all men by thoughts. They know nothing of the tremendous sensation of freedom which comes from the philosophic insight into both.
There are millions of men and women living today whose whole conception of life is so entirely materialistic that they not only do not comprehend a spiritual conception, but do not even want to comprehend it.
They find a completely worldly life sufficient for their needs. They do not want, do not miss, and are quite indifferent towards spiritual things.
Most people react mechanically, not creatively, to surroundings and situation, events and persons. In this they are like children and animals, not like truly and fully human beings acting from knowledge and power.
The present state of the masses is hardly to be envied. Lives of humdrum toil, varied by a little sensual excitement, existences estranged from true happiness--the divine calm of the spirit is remote from them.
They readily fill all the day and even part of the night with activities intended to satisfy their worldly desires but grudge the few minutes required to satisfy their spiritual aspirations through prayer and meditation. Time, which is flowing like a tidal river through and away from their lives, thus carries them farther away from--and not nearer to--the higher purpose for whose realization they were sent into bodies on this earth.
They are too concerned with earning their livelihoods, with the members of their families, and with attending to personal wants to bestow thought upon such abstract topics as life's higher meaning. They are not to be blamed but they are also not to be imitated.
In the ordinary man there is no desire constantly to improve the moral nature, no hunger imperatively to enter the mystical consciousness. Spiritually, he is in a state of inertia, unwilling and unready to use any initiative in enlarging the horizons of the ego. Most, but not all, of this inner laziness can be traced to the fact that he is the victim of his own past, the prisoner of his own particular innate tendencies and habitual thinking. Nevertheless, the same evolutionary process which has placed him where he now is will also advance him to a higher point.
The truth is that few wish to trouble themselves with following such a way of regeneration, and most prefer the comfortable sloth of accepting their deficiencies as normal qualities of the human being. Therefore they allow one thing after another, one event after another, to detain them from making the mystical ascent and so waste a whole incarnation before they are even aware that it is wasted. Is their spiritual life to wait like a whining beggar on those intervals of leisure which a materialistic existence throws them like sops to Cerberus? Some aspirants have even turned away from the quest because other things claimed a stronger interest. Others have given up its goal simply because they believe it to be unattainable. And then there are those who are literally afraid of devoting themselves to the quest. It seems in their eyes to demand too much or give too little.
The first interest of the common people today is better economic conditions. The interest in religion, if it comes at all into their lives, is naturally somewhat distant from this one. The interest in mysticism, if it manifests in groups here and there, is still more distant from it. The interest in philosophy, if it awakens in a few individuals, is so far off from the interest in improving their lot as to be almost shadowy.
Those who are uninterested in any higher purpose, meaning, or activity which transcends their routine lives, who are spiritually unconscious, are to be neither condemned nor defended. They are simply immature.
In what way have the basic desires of people today changed from those of four, three, two, one thousand years ago? Shelter, food, sex, and clothes are still sought now as then. But the forms they have taken and the opinions or beliefs held about them have changed.
Man as a sense-bound beast is in conflict with man as a spiritual being.
Those who are satisfied to remain with their animal instincts form the larger group. Those who are struggling to advance beyond them form the smaller one.
Some say change systems if you want to improve men. Their opponents say change men if you want to change systems. Both state partial truths, both suffer from their limitation of refusing to acknowledge that the argument of the other side is essential to a complete judgement. The animal hungers and aggressive urges in human nature account for many or most of our more serious troubles: they cannot be altered as easily as we alter policies.
If men will not use their intelligence to examine and sift their traditional inheritances, social and individual, they must expect to suffer the sins of the fathers being visited upon the children.
Most are conventional; they do not like to appear unusual. They feel uneasy if they are with someone different from others. This makes them good citizens and communally helpful.
All these people have lost flesh-and-blood reality; they seem like marionettes, directed here and there by egoistic motives or animal reflexes in some cosmic play.
As they get more "civilized," their way of living gets more artificial, unnatural, and insensitive. How else explain the foods they eat, the noises they endure, the doctrines they espouse, and the tasks they toil at?
Theirs is the happiness of slaves and prisoners, slaves to the senses and prisoners of the body. It is the happiness of ignorance because it does not know what joy and freedom, what calm and beauty, lie beyond both.
Unfeeling toward these delicate vibrations, unaware of the nature of soul, they pass by the gate of the kingdom of heaven in ignorance of its existence and worth.
Caught up in all the trivialities of daily living, never having time for That which life is really all about, they should not wonder that their end is either a secret sorrow or a complacent self-deception.
The fact is that the truth has forever been open to mankind but man has rarely opened himself to the truth.
Of what use to offer the subtlest ideas and most refined sentiments of philosophy to crude, untutored minds which could see only madness in mentalism, only horror in ego-merger, and which responds so predominantly to animal instincts?
Our age is too ready with its cynicism, too sure of its materialism.
The man who has no awareness of his true self enjoys a certain sense of real living but it is largely a self-deceptive enjoyment.
Just because they move about and engage themselves actively they believe they are getting on, but that could be an illusion. Many get nowhere but find this out only when it is too late.
Modern man does not usually know that he is unwhole, divided in himself and ignorant of himself, and that the healing of this division is essential to health and happiness.
Those who respond to the dictations and commands of authority form the largest group--the masses. Those who respond to the directives of their intellect form the next one. Those who respond to their own intuitive determinations form the smallest group.
It is natural for a generation which thinks that being sophisticated means being intelligent to think also that being spiritual means being idiotic.
The average life is commonplace and repetitive; the average mind is inert and asleep.
They have no higher conception of themselves and hence no ideal to strive for.
This inner emptiness of their lives results in boredom, depression, irritation, and confusion.
Modern man lives in his body for material ends, almost independently of the rest of him. He has run his head into the noose of one-sided life.
To exploit the physical resources of Nature is not materialism, but to make such exploitation the chief purpose of human existence is materialism.
There is no peace in our restless daily existence, no poise in our restless minds and hearts.
We are wealthy in techniques and skills, poor in wisdom and insight. We have too much selfishness, too little goodness. Most of us are caught in a tangled web of activity, but few of us seek release from it.
If we examine the enormous volume of writing appearing in novel and play, film and radio, we shall find that two themes dominate. Scripts on crime or violence, sexual adultery or promiscuity, occupy more time than any other subjects. Sadism and salaciousness are human distortions, the development of animal attributes channelled through the human intellect--the very attributes which, as remnants of our prehuman stage of existence, are now in line to be overcome and eradicated if we are to conform to evolutionary purpose.
The fact is that most people are unacquainted with the mystical point of view, uninformed about mystical teachings, and unattracted by mystical practices. This is partly because there are few mystics in the world and not much reliable information about mysticism, and partly because the dominating trends of most people are materialistic ones. The values which they consider the most important are sensuous ones.
The contempt of mysticism prevails among so many who do not know what mysticism even means.
So long as human beings do not know and feel their real being within the greater being of God, so long will friction and hostility prevail among them.
Beauty is too noticeably absent from their minds, manners, and homes; truth is not an idea whose discovery would be exciting; goodness is taken for granted but only on the most ordinary bourgeois level.
All their ideas of truth are limited by the illusions, falsities, uglinesses, and weaknesses which limit and hold their own minds.
When Radhakrishnan was sent as the first ambassador to Russia of the newly created Indian Republic and presented his credentials to Stalin, the latter, on learning that his visitor was a professor of philosophy, answered, "We have to fill the people's bellies first, not teach them philosophy." This reminded me of Napoleon's visit to one of the Italian universities after his army had victoriously crossed the border for the first time by crossing the Alps. He went through some of the rooms in the university and came into one where a class was being taught. On learning that the students were being taught metaphysics he exclaimed, "Bah!" and went out. What is behind the attitude of those two men, Stalin and Napoleon, an attitude we often come across in less exalted circles? Is it not that people realize that a man who is hungry because of his poverty and inability to buy enough food is unlikely to be able to put his mind into the creation of art for its own sake or to think of lofty abstract ideas for their own sake with sufficient concentration?
Most people live upon the mere surface of their consciousness, knowing nothing of the great Power and intelligence which support it.
Those who are so immersed in outer activities that they have no inner life at all die before they are dead.
At one extreme are those who are held captive by convention; at the other, those who delight in flouting public opinion.
The common attitude regards that which is beyond a man's comprehension as being therefore beyond his concern.
The peasant mentality is a stable, solid, and reliable thing but it is unashamedly interested only in the smaller concerns of life. It would be openly materialistic too were it not for the inheritance of a conservative tradition of conformity to religion, strong but narrow, outward, and superstitious. That it has little time or use for culture is obvious.
All these people are trying to evade personal responsibility by finding someone else to make their decisions and be responsible for the results, someone behind whom they can hide from the world's stresses and under whose aegis they can shirk the necessities of thinking, willing, and experiencing.
Their need is for definite, invigorating ideas which will deliver them from wearisome perplexity and for an illuminating faith by which to live in a darkened world.
There is no inner aim, no spiritual significance, no worthwhile objective in their lives. They move through the years towards--nothing. They move from action to action without any consistency of principle. They grope through life like players in a game of blindman's bluff. They either do not know how to conduct their existence or else they fail to conduct it in the right way. In both cases they need help, guidance, direction. But unasked-for advice is unwelcome.
The conventional attitude which left Mozart to die in a pauper's grave but set up elaborate marble monuments to numerous mediocrities is not one to be admired.
It will not be by surrounding men with social benefits that they will take to the spiritual path. America is evidence of that. On the other hand, excessive deprivation of such benefits is equally an obstacle, for it continuously concentrates the immature mind on physical needs. What is needed, therefore, is a safe balance between these two extremes.
The masses should also be given what they inwardly need, not always and only what they demand.
It is often the minorities who hold the better views, for wisdom is not usually in the majority.
Today the mass-man resents the idea that anyone is better than he is, or entitled to more than he has. He demands equality in every way, from sharing responsibility to sharing rewards. Education, which was to have made him a gentleman, has missed the mark and made him a grumbling complainant, full of demands.
In ordinary times the less evolved masses were not pressed to accept a faith far beyond their mental reach or to submit to an ascetic discipline which they could not bear. But these are extraordinary times. The young postwar generation has an intelligence quotient nearly one-third higher than the earlier ones. The desire for knowledge is world-wide.
Their interests revolve only around themselves, or around those lengthenings of themselves called families.
The lack of time given in everyday living to religious devotion, let alone mystical practice, is partly responsible for the materialistic tone of society and, indirectly, for the moral degradation of society.
How few nourish their character on high principles, how many on cynical opportunism!
The masses float conventionally with the stream of religious authority; the individualized swim against it. The many merely echo what they have heard, like parrots; the few investigate it.
"There is nothing more absurd than to be of the same mind with the generality of men, for they have entertained many gross errors which time and experience have confuted. It is indeed our sluggishness and incredulity that hinder all discoveries, for men contribute nothing towards them than their contempt or, what is worse, their malice."--from The Fraternity of the Rosy Cross, 1652
They who reject the Quest live to no purpose beyond living itself, to no higher end than satisfying natural necessities.
They are unlikely to recognize a true teacher, much less respond to him.
Millions of people accept and hold certain beliefs because they get comfort from them, not because they have verified them and found them true. They are treating emotional pleasure as a better guide than rational judgement.
When life has cheated their hopes and illness has darkened their years, their shallowness and frivolity may appear insufficient and inadequate.
The soul-suffocating conditions of repetitive factory work creates not only an unhealthy boredom, but also an insensitivity to the finer things of life.
The lower self seems uppermost in humanity and directs its activities. The higher self is something unreal, remote, and impossible.
This blind unwillingness to see that man is more than his body has multiplied crime and dissolved virtue.
Those existentialists who find life meaningless must themselves necessarily become aimless.
They live for no worthy purpose, certainly for no high one, and so they live largely in vain.
Men of unlit minds will either humbly respect such a teaching or impulsively scoff at it.
The world is not ready for a fresh mystical revelation, not ready to follow a new religious seer, because it is not ready for a self-denying and flesh-denying life. It would not know what to do with such a revelation and it could not accept the discipline preached by such a seer.
What is it that motivates these people? First it is selfishness, second it is materialism, third it is inertia. But the selfishness is often masked under the guise of tradition, the materialism is often hidden under the form of religion, and the inertia is often covered by convention.
Where vulgarians throng to dance and barbarians eat corpses, there philosophy must isolate itself, withdrawn, while the karmic hurricane collects itself.
They are not sinners but mummies. Even sinners may be vital, may repent; but these are the dead-in-life, stiff with bourgeois hypocrisy and conventionality.
If they are without virtue, faith, moral principle, and God, the cause can be summed up as simple lack of interest in such matters.
In the end the psycho-physical progress of the mass depends upon that of the individual.
In the end society consists of its individual members. They are the materials out of which it is built. How then can it be better in quality than the general average of their individual quality?
In the past only a small number of persons had the interest, the equipment, or the time for such a quest. In the future there will be many more. But in the present, though the interest grows and the information swells, the limits remain.
The hunger for reality does not take a philosophical form in the less evolved herd. It may there take a political form, a social form, an emotional form, and so on. Only with the herd's own evolution will its awareness of the true objective evolve.
We are half-formed creatures, with only parts of us developed. The whole Man is yet to come.
Only when society reaches a higher level, when civilization evolves to a finer state than exists at present, can we expect that the proper respect and appreciation will be given to those higher truths literally shining with light to which only a comparative few give themselves.
If men do not have sufficient vision to see the importance of philosophy, that is not their fault any more than it is the fault of a tender plant not to be a mature tree.
Business can render honest useful service to society without falling into the absurd self-flattery and the blatant charlatanry of its publicity. Its easy ethical attitudes and easy surrender to economic pressures are responsible for the wholesale perversion of a profession such as writing. The advertisement which fails to go into hypocritical rhapsodies about some very ordinary product is uncommon. The advertisement writer who fails to hypnotize himself into seeing or imagining all kinds of exaggerated virtues about a product is uncommon. The advertised description which honestly tells you both what is right and what is wrong with the product is nonexistent. Such publication of the half-lie as if it were the whole truth, of the cheap and sensational or the exaggerated and misrepresentative, is another form of that crude immature culture whose world-spread is so rapid in our time.
Every important source of ideas, whether it be the press, literature, radio and film, the arts, or the schools and colleges needs to be brought into line with this ultimate purpose of moral and spiritual re-education.
The masses listen to scraps of news with eagerness as it pours out of the radio, as it is illustrated by the television, or as it is printed in the journals published every day. In this way their curiosity is momentarily satisfied, but only momentarily. It arises afresh day after day until it becomes a thirst.
There are two points of interest here which may not be generally noticed. The first is that curiosity is not all bad--it is a kind of caricature of the desire to know and to understand. It is related, if rather remotely, to that wonder which Plato said is a beginning of philosophy. The second point is that the satisfaction of continuing this curiosity scatters attention until the scattered condition becomes a permanent part of the mental character. Philosophy departs from this state through sustained interest in its study, concentrated practised attention in its meditation, and independent thought for its application in living. All these run counter to the scattered mental condition of the mass of mankind.
Most advertising depends on the power of suggestion, not on service. Therefore it is selfish, to some extent hypocritical.
The sort of journalism, and today even literature, which is mere backbiting gossip in print expresses the affinity of writer with reader; both fit this low plane.
The great technical advances which have been made in the past two centuries have not been made without cost. Before that period the psychiatrist was unknown because his service was not needed. Although man has done so much to improve his environment, he has also done much harm to himself. His nerve system and his muscular system are markedly weaker, his emotional nature more frayed and unstable, his faith in and sensitivity to the higher power markedly less.
Many of the forms of so-called progress which we have seen in the past century and a half were really corrections of the evils which the beginning of the Industrial Age had brought into being. They were not really new forms, real progress, but rather rectification of the wrongs we had done. Cities have grown immense in many countries, bringing many evils, difficulties, and problems which never existed before. The machine which can do so much to help us if used with wisdom and caution has become a Frankenstein. Chemicals have followed the same path in medicine and food, making it more difficult to get pure food, or to get well-healed without introducing new and hostile complications.
Of course, a world-wide spiritual awakening--by which I do not mean a merely religious awakening--could also remove the threat of self-destruction. But this century has been a period of challenge, and it is for the human beings to accept this challenge and rise to it positively if they want a positive result. So far we have seen mostly that the high degree of knowledge and skill which science has developed has been developed on a lavish scale financially for the weapons and instruments of destruction, and much less for pacific purposes.
If this short survey of the situation seems depressing, it will not alter the general structure of the World-Idea. The cycles through which we pass, the grim and the grand, must one day also bring us to a union of this high intellectual development exemplified by science with the less materialistic and gentler ideals which originally spread out from the East.
Progress must be meticulously and carefully defined as a theory, and the facts offered in proof of it must be as full and complete as possible, so that their adverse side may be included as well as their beneficial side--a point which becomes very obvious in the case of science. Therefore, it is not enough to point out the magnificent progress of technical, engineering, and scientific activities; there must also be a scrupulous examination of the pollutions and sicknesses, the dangers and hazards which they have brought into existence. The same critical examination is needed for the moral, the ethical, the religious, and the metaphysical progress of scholarly activities.
Without unreasonably rejecting the contributions of modern ways of living or the useful arts of twentieth-century civilization, or the practical techniques of science and industry, we may still refuse to let them dominate us to such an extent that the intuitive elements in human nature are overwhelmed and lost. We must complement and balance them.
The whirring machine is not a sin against life but rather a part of its larger fulfilment. For man cannot improve his intelligence without inventing machines. Ascetics, mystics, and sentimentalists who complain that the machine has maimed and killed should also remember that it has served and saved. And when the same people mourn over the lost Arcadian happiness of primitive mankind they might remember that men who lived in frequent fear of wild beasts and hostile tribes could not have been ideally happy.
We have done much to improve the architecture of a house but little to expand the consciousness of the person who lives in it.
If industrial civilization has enriched our outer life it has also impoverished the inner life. It need not have done so if we had brought about a proper equilibrium between the two and if we had done so under the light of the guiding principle of what we are here on earth for.
We fuss about with so many things that we miss the fundamental and profoundest thing of all. Peace, inward beauty, and sanity are singularly absent from the mad, mechanized life of our large cities.
The victims of modern civilization are supposed to have more leisure. But do they really have it?
Mass-production of goods may cheapen their cost and thus spread their use, but this benefit is offset by the loss of the craftsman's skill, the artist's individuality. Everything has to be paid for, as always. We get nothing for nothing.
We live in a condition of spiritual languor, of lost spiritual vision, and decayed intuition.
Our mistakes have been to make the body's possessions and comforts, its machines and devices, so sufficient unto themselves that the mind's higher needs have been overlooked or brushed aside.
The discontent, rebelliousness, bitterness, and violence on the part of workers in industry which we have seen rising like a tide through the past century, in several cases ending in open revolution is not altogether or rather only a matter of more wages and fewer working hours. It is also a matter of the kind of work which they have to do. When men work with machines they get worked upon by the machines themselves, they begin to lose their humanness and become more mechanical. And if the work is a mere repetition of a previous operation done at speed--as we saw theatrically presented in Charles Chaplin's film Modern Times--the worker's situation psychologically gets worse. The dehumanization of large masses of people creates negative emotions and materialistic thoughts within them. This is not to say that the machine is an evil thing. It has its place, especially where it saves unpleasant, dirty, or fatiguing labour. This is only to say that it should be kept in its place and not allowed to overwhelm the worker inwardly.
It is less urgent to invent new mechanical devices than it is to correct old moral defects.
A wife and mother of three children who went out daily to work told me feelingly how much the automatic washing machine had meant to her in saved toil and time, how greatly it had relieved her from the dismaying burden of the family laundry. Here was a vivid and incontestable instance of machinery's positive value and necessary place in human life.
We have had proof enough that without a prior or accompanying spiritual growth, technical improvements lead to mixed evil and good results--with the evil ones always in excess.
We moderns have tried to make Nature serve our purposes. We have built a civilization on science and technology. But in the process of making material things our slaves, we have ourselves become slaves to them.
The present spectacle affords ironic evidence of the paradoxical nature of our vaunted "progress."
The products of applied science, the inventions of modern industry, and the energies which drive engines need not have evil consequences if they are used in inner freedom, not in enslavement.
The man of an earlier generation who looked through the slot of Edison's kinetoscope and was thrilled by what he saw would be pitied by cinema-audiences of the present generation for getting so much emotion out of so little an experience--such is the complacency bred by familiarity.
We live in an age of division of labour. It may make for industrial efficiency for a man to spend his whole life putting the heads on pins, but I fancy that he will be something less than a man at the end of fifty years. The artisans of old time, both in Europe and Asia, were equipped to practise all of a craft or even several arts at once. Moreover they created their own designs and then executed them by their own hands.
The machine may be used against men and women, as in war, or for them, as in peace. The ascetic notion, popularized by such men as Tolstoy and Gandhi, that it is necessarily harmful and always evil is unphilosophical.
Reconciling the mystical and mundane
Is it really necessary to choose between the way of the world, which leads to the possession of things, and the way of the Spirit, which leads to the possession of oneself?
Again paradox is truth. The brevity of life, possessions, beauty, and such is true and good reason to abandon all: world, love, and so on. But the opposite is also true. We can enjoy beauty, life, and all the rest if detached. So both sides together equal the whole truth. So I join no sect or teaching--alone.
In the true concept of spiritual life, there is plenty of space for the rational, normal, and practical life also.
To work effectively in this world of everyday without repudiating or forgetting the world of the Spirit--this is his duty.
This mystical preachment on the gospel of inspired action is written for those who find themselves tangled up in the affairs of this world and must make the best of it. I counsel them to make the best of it by making the better of their inner life. I suggest that it is better to aspire aright and rise spiritually than to remain like a stagnant pool. And I would remind them that their worldly work can be carried out on a basis of service plus self-interest, where now it may be carried out on a basis of self-interest alone; for to serve is to put the spirit in action.
It is not necessary to renounce life in the bustling world. It is necessary, however, to change its basis, to transform its character, to make it echo the voice of the Ideal, which is to lead us upwards towards better things.
The ugly way so many human beings behave is simply a revelation of the ugliness in human nature. The mystically inclined person may not like this sombre reality and may prefer a fantasy of how he would like them to be. Yet so far as his fantasy includes the picture of a divinity within their hearts, this is also true and is the bright reality which must be put into balance with the darker one.
He has to keep his feet on solid earth, but without letting himself get earthbound.
Instead of falling into the common attitude of classifying the natural everyday side of human nature as hostile to the mystical inner side, as an incompatible opposite, why not bring both sides together in harmony? This can be done intellectually by understanding mentalism, and emotionally by appreciating or creating inspired art.
We have to work with the actual but we can do so by the light of the ideal.
Wang Yang-ming maintained that wisdom and virtue could not be gained by meditation alone. He asserted that the daily experience of dealing with ordinary matters was also needed, providing that experience was sincerely reflected upon by conscience, reason, and intuition.
He need not seek flight to isolation or to monasticism. He can participate in the world's life without being soiled by the world's evil. He can continue to grow in knowledge of truth and devotion to the Good even in the midst of such profane activities. But to succeed in this a correct attitude toward them and toward their results must be acquired.
Living in the world as we are, having to submit to demands which the world makes upon us, we must learn how to deal with them in a correct way. By correct I mean in harmony with our inner goal.
The harder the situation is to bear, the more it should arouse a wise ambition in him to get out of it. Ambition requires, however, an all-around awakening and remaking of his personality. He can fight and be ambitious and yet hold on to ideals; there is no need to lose them. Balance is to be the ideal.
If he is to be in the world and of the world, he will still remain undeceived by the world.
Both attitudes are required for a proper result: the idealistic which looks to a new and better future, the practical which recognizes the limitations of its heritage from the past.
It is out of this new conflict in the personal situations through which he passes, the conflict between idealism's abstract call and actuality's practical demands, that he has the chance to discover his balance.
Only to the extent that a man can find harmony within himself can he adjust harmoniously with his world.
What is wrong if we claim some happiness from this world, provided we keep our balance, the heart anchored to an allegiance higher than the world, the mind always remembering for what it is really here?
Contrast remains the essence of all human experience.
A civilized life ought to possess better quality things--art, music, and literature, some touch of refinement somewhere, and a little basic knowledge of food values and perils, of personal hygiene and health preservation.
Precisely because it comes with the truth, because it is associated with the discovery of reality, the final phase of philosophy--sahaja--cannot be segregated from the business of living.
Each man finds what he is looking for, and the world is a mirror of his own self. The frog is lured to grovel in the mud surrounding a lotus whereas the butterfly is lured by the fragrance of the flower itself. The philosophic student perceives quite clearly that the lotus-flower of reality which looks so lovely in the bright gay sunshine cannot be separated from the roots which look so ugly in the black muddy slime. He makes a perfectly balanced adjustment to the world as he finds it, not merely as a concession to a compulsive environment, but because Philosophy does not stand aside from human needs nor remain unrelated to human affairs.
If his fidelity to worthy ideals remains through situations which test character and he reacts honourably to events which expose it, he finds that in the end his real welfare in the world also remains. Whether he is encircled by business affairs or pressed by everyday work or worthily consumes time in other ways, his lasting good will not suffer. Only the less important surface life may do so. Even there he may be saved from entering wrong courses.
It is a paradox of the strongest irony that the place where we can best find the Overself is not in another world but in this one, that the chance to grow enduringly out of darkness into light is better here.
This is the extraordinary paradox of the Quest, that it is a road leading out of daily life and yet far inseparable from daily living itself.
If he puts everything in its place--the lower and lesser things where they belong, the higher and greater ones above them--what has he to fear from the world? He can still remain active in it; flight will be unnecessary. If he does not forget the final purpose of all this worldly activity, that through the body's life and the mind's existence he may seek and find his true self, the Overself, the inner failure and superficiality of so many lives will be avoided.
It is needful to relate this earthly life to the divine one, not only in isolated sessions of meditation but also in the whole of the daily existence. When this is fully done the consequences are unpredictable, the effects on oneself and others incalculable.
The high moods created in meditation must be brought into contact with the personal daily life, must bear fruit there; and although this happens anyway quite automatically to some extent, it could happen to a much larger extent if turned into a conscious deliberate process.
This earthly life is the "narrow gate" which opens onto the kingdom.
Whoever lives in such a society, his heart in the Real, his mind in the True, is as much absent from it as he is present.
For sincere questers there is, or should be, an interest in life which grows with time.
It is here, in the ordinary and uneventful tasks of the day, that he may find just as much opportunity to practise nonattachment, to suppress egoism, and to express wisdom.
The flow of current events and the incidents of day-to-day living ought not be allowed to shake him from his stand in the truth. They give him the chance to view them metaphysically from the Eternal Now, and psychologically from the ideal Self.
"What is the path?" the Zen Master Nan-sen was asked. "Everyday life is the path," he answered.
We are told that economic necessities must be satisfied before spiritual ones. But why not both together, side by side, since there is no separation between them? The way in which we gain the mundane ends is always governed by our spiritual background.
Why do men embark on this quest? Is it not because it gives them hope? Here we should not confuse hope with optimism.
How to treat opportunity
Wisdom takes advantage of opportunity, spiritual not less than material, but foolishness neglects it.
It is of immense importance, whether in the internal spiritual life or the external worldly career, to cultivate the art of detecting, recognizing, and accepting opportunity. Two factors need especially to be remembered here. First, sometimes she presents her face plainly and unmistakably, but more often she presents two faces each equally attractive and each claiming to bear her name: or else she disguises herself under the garb of commonplace events and unprepossessing personalities. Second, she never repeats the same situation with the same chances in precisely the same way. With altered conditions, the same causes cannot produce the same phenomena. To miss those chances through ignorance or the blindness of unpreparedness, through logic's limitation or the dismissing of intuition, is to miss portions of success or happiness that could easily have been ours.
Understand that destiny often moves forward like a game of chess. If you cannot see immediately your way to success in a career or the solution of a problem, you should look for the first step in that direction. For only after that has been taken will the second show itself, and later the third, and so on. Learn to detect the beginnings of the way to opportunity, even though opportunity itself is still not visible.
The opportunity is unrepeatable and unreceivable in exactly the same way, for the passage of time--be it a moment or a century--has forced change on both the situation and the person.
In making a decision as to the kind of life he will lead, he has pronounced a judgement on the other kinds also. What happens thereafter will itself judge his judgement.
A single mistake in the rejection of an opportunity or in the choice of direction at a crossroad may lead to a quarter-lifetime's suffering. The student may quite easily discover by analysis the smaller lessons embodied in that suffering and yet may quite overlook the larger lessons, for he may fail to ascribe major blame to the early rejection or choice. He may still not realize how it all stems out of that primary root, how each error in conduct that naturally happens after it becomes a channel for a further one, and that in its turn for still another, so that the descent is eventually inevitable and its attendant sorrows become cumulative. Thus all traces back to the initial foundational error, which is the most important one because it is the choice of wrong direction, because such a wrong choice means that the more he travels through life, the more mistaken all his later conduct becomes.
If he accepts the hand of opportunity when it is offered him, the effects will be favourable in every direction. If he feels the premonition that he is on the verge of a new cycle, and makes decisions or acts accordingly, the way into it will open out for him.
That man is immensely fortunate who is able to detect opportunities when they come and who, having detected, proceeds to take advantage of them.
What most people count as great misfortunes sometimes open the door to new opportunities, ideas, or courses of action leading to advantages that would not otherwise have come. It is wiser to defer an appraisal of such events until they have shown their results as a whole to a final view.
How little do we know that some small act, some minor move, may lead to consequences that open up an entirely new phase of experience.
If he acts too quickly on decisions made impulsively, he may suffer loss or hurt. But if he is overly slow to take action on decisions made long before, the consequence may be the loss of a good opportunity.
This situation has happened in the lives of many people. Where they have recognized its significance as a spiritual chance, everything thereafter went well for them, but where they failed to recognize it, everything went wrong, materially and spiritually.
If we do not make good use of our chances, they come to us in vain. If our opportunities are ill-used, they will not recur for a long time. Thus a life will teach us a better sense of values.
Situations develop where to take a certain course would lead to immediate advantage, and he may feel tempted to take it. But if, from the point of view of his spiritual growth, it is undesirable, what does he gain in the end?
Opportunities are not always recognized as such by the aspirant. He who expects them to come fully labelled for what they are falls into error. The difficulty which seems to retard his steps on the spiritual path hides within itself the chance to develop qualities and strengthen weak places.
What could be more poignant than the after-regrets at valuable opportunities thrown away through one's faults or missed through one's blindness?
Error begets further error, creates its own heirs. This is why the first step on a new course is the most important.
It is true that some opportunities by their very nature can come only once in a lifetime.
When a decision has to be made, and different sides of one's nature are pulling in different directions, creating inner conflict, bewilderment, and rendering a firm decision impossible, what is the aspirant to do? Find the true guidance? Let him first surrender the problems to the Higher Power. This surrender is best formulated through the medium of a heartfelt prayer in which there is earnest desire first to learn and then to accept the guidance. This must be done with the utmost concentration and sincerity, seeking to learn the Higher Will and being ready to abide by it even if it disagrees with personal desires.
After this is done, wait calmly for days or even weeks with faith that the solution to the problem will eventually come. If it does not come directly from within as an intuitive certitude, then it may come through some event or contact or as a distant trend forming itself in outward circumstances and pointing to a specific direction.
The need to guide his personal life more intuitively comes home to him after every major mistake has been committed and its effects felt. He sees then that it is not enough to calculate by intellect, nor feel by impulse, nor act on emotion, for these have led him to sufferings that could have been prevented, or caused other people sufferings that bring him regrets. He learns that it is necessary to listen inwardly, to wait in mental quiet for intuitive feeling to arise and guide him.
Success in the perplexing game of living is only possible when decisions based on balanced truthful thinking become easy and natural. But in turn, truthful thinking is only possible when every egoistic motive, every emotional weighting, and every personal wish and fear is removed from the thought process.
If a situation is fraught with anxiety and is also either unavoidable or unalterable, the first procedure is to organize all your forces to meet it calmly. The second is to call on the higher power for help by turning to it in relaxation and meditation.
However difficult the circumstances of his surface life may become, the student must cling to his faith that the Overself really is, and that if he seeks Its guidance It will lead him to the wisest solution of his problem. This does not necessarily or always mean that he should stop his own personal efforts. On the contrary, he should use his reason and judgement to the best degree of which he is capable, and also consult others who are more experienced or more expert than he is. But after he has done all that he can do, he should hand over his problem to the Overself. He must prove that he has really surrendered it by releasing himself from further anxiety concerning the outcome. He must be confident that the higher power, which is always with him, can meet his needs. He must be patient enough to wait and courageous enough to accept a solution which offends his egoism. Then, outer help or inner guidance or an answer to his problem will be forthcoming.
He must learn to depend on the infinite source of his being for everything, but only after he has done all that his limited mind and ability can do.
It is correct practice for a man to abandon his anxieties or fears and turn them over to the Overself, but it is incorrect for him to do so without or before analysing their nature, origin, and lesson.
The practice of trying, by "going into the silence," to rise above mundane difficulties before they are properly understood and before one's own responsibility for them is honestly assessed, is a premature one.
However harassing a problem may seem to us, if we can give up our egoistic attitude towards it, if we can keep the lower emotions away from it, the best possible solution under the circumstances will develop of its own accord. There is veritable magic in such a change of thinking and feeling. It opens the gate to higher forces and enables them to come to our help.
Each problem is to be solved by the simple method of turning it over to the Overself and then dismissing it from mind. The ego is faulty and blind; what it cannot solve or manage, the Overself can. But this method requires time and patience.
Sometimes the guidance will evolve naturally out of the situation, the circumstances, the events. He will then only have to be a spectator, but he must still supply the intuitive interpretation and recognition of this recognition.
Take your peril to the Overself, identify your real being with the Overself and not with the vanishing ego. Then you will be at the standpoint which perceives that you are as secure and safe as the Overself is. Hold your position as the final and highest one. Reject the very thought of being in danger. There is none in the Overself.
The problem which the ego has created for you but which the ego cannot solve for you will dissolve under the impact of the Overself's light.
He should make it an unfailing practice to turn inwards in moments of need for help and in moments of perplexity for direction.
No other act is so urgent or so important as this, to turn now in thought and remembrance, in love and aspiration, toward the Overself. For if you do not but turn toward that other and worldly act which is so clamant and demanding, you fall into a tension which may lead to error and consequent suffering. But if you do turn toward the Overself first and then act, you rise up to inner calm and consequent wiser judgement.
After he has meditated sufficiently on his problem, he should drop it from mental view altogether and wait, passively and patiently, surrendering it to the intuitive element within himself. If he can get deep enough, absorbed enough, he will touch this element and may instantly receive a solution from it. If he cannot, it will be necessary to try again another time, and perhaps even several times. Then, either in that passive contemplation or unexpectedly during the day, or abruptly on awaking from sleep, the elusive answer to his question may be presented to him as a clear self-evident fact.
Work quietly for a few minutes daily in handing your problem over to the Higher Power, confessing you have done what you could, and praying from the depths of your heart for the right solution. However, on no account dictate what that solution should be. Examine the lesson behind your sufferings in dealing with problems of the past, acknowledge the mistakes and repent them. Then wait and watch what happens during the coming weeks or months. The advantage of this method is that it "works"; the disadvantage is that it gives us what is best for our next spiritual step forward, which is not always to personal liking but is always for our best in the long run. The important thing is to adopt and maintain an attitude of surrender--not to another person but to the Overself--in the face of adverse emotions.
Without recourse to an experienced teacher it is going to be a longer and harder road than with it. For he will be compelled to find his way by a trial-and-error method.
It is not easy to know always what to do in certain situations, and this creates anxious states of mind and may lead to vacillating decisions. In that case it is better to make the experiment of waiting a little and praying to the Higher Self for guidance before falling asleep. Then, immediately after awakening, or rather in that brief state between sleep and waking, one should remain passive to whatever thought, message, or picture presents itself. This may require repetition day after day until the result is successful.
He must wait indefinitely until intuition supplies the needed answer or, if the matter is more urgent, wait only for a definite period and then review the situation again, ask humbly for guidance, and force a decision even though it is at risk.
Why fatigue yourself trying to make a difficult decision? Why not hand the problem over to the higher power, which knows better than you? Where logic fails to guide, surrender and intuition may take its place and prove their worth. Having turned the problem over to the higher power, just leave it to time. This does not necessarily mean you have nothing further to do. There may be action required, but in that case quietly await the signal or guidance: let it appear of its own accord in its own hour, meanwhile trusting yourself to the Power, giving your problem to its wisdom, and letting your destiny take its course under this new association.
One must be on guard against the ego. He should test his actions by their motives; let him ask himself whether his teacher would act in the same way. Seeking guidance should be combined with the active use of his own reason about any matter, because the highest reason coincides with the highest guidance. In financial matters, especially, he should make reason the touchstone.
He has to ask himself: What is it that the Overself is impelling me to do? The answer will hardly ever be a spontaneous one. He will have to wait patiently for days or weeks or perhaps months before it will be heard sufficiently clearly and definitely.
He may bring his problem into the presence of the Light, and seek guidance upon it. But he ought not to do so before first seeking the Light itself for its own sake. If he does, and makes the contact, it will throw his problem aside, and he must allow it to do so. He must be patient and let the matter of guidance come up later, or at another time.
Act neither too soon nor too late. Await the proper occasion with patience. Its coming will announce itself if you are sensitive to intuitional prompting. But if calculating doubt or emotional desire or other people's suggestions get in the way, you may misread the fitting time and spoil the opportunity.
If he will take the Overself's timing rather than his own, if he will cease struggling against this destiny and resign himself to it, he will begin to note and understand that many of the greatest events of his life have happened without his having any part in bringing them about.
To shirk all responsibility and get someone else to make his decision in a perplexing situation contributes little or nothing to his own growth, but to seek help from more experienced persons in making his decision is quite proper.
Often the guidance does not come till the time when it is needed, the answer to our questioning does not make itself heard until the eleventh hour. Until then we must learn to wait in hopeful patience and in trustful expectation.
It is a mistake to assume that the sought-for guidance must necessarily reveal itself in all its entirety and all at once. It may, but quite often it does not show more than the next step to be taken or the next truth to be assimilated. The later ones are then withheld until this is done. Why should they be given in advance before we have demonstrated our faith in the first lead already given and our willingness to put it into practice? Moreover, the proficient disciple must learn to live in the eternal Now and its resultant peace, not be anxious about the imagined future and its possible events.
At the moment of his greatest need--which usually means at the moment when a decision can no longer be deferred--the event will happen or the guidance will come which will show him the way out of his problem.
Only by the application of philosophic technique, referring every difficulty as it manifests to, and dissolving it in, the Infinite Mind, will it be possible successfully to handle such problems.
When confronted with an external situation which they are unable to cope with, some seek escape from the necessity of dealing with it. The philosophic method is to face and analyse the facts.
It is of practical importance in the affairs of his life not to enter any undertaking nor make a decision nor begin a day without first entering into a meditation. This will tend to introduce proper deliberateness and dismiss hasty carelessness from his decisions, to insert intuitive guidance into his activities, and to warn him against wrong enterprises.
The intuition may be slow in revealing itself but when it does the inner certitude it provides, the strong consciousness of being right, will enable him to act decisively and swiftly.
It is said proverbially that practice makes perfect and that habit makes easy. Certainly he who diligently cultivates the habit of relying on his intuitive forces for guidance and on his higher ones for courage, will do what he is bidden unswayed by his ego's criticism or other people's opposition. The worth of following such a course will prove itself by its results, for they will, in the end, promote the true happiness and real welfare of all concerned.
The history of his future will test his choices of the present and tell him whether they are wise or not. His mistakes will punish him, his right decisions reward him.
He will avail himself of the guidance of circumstances if he can detect the hand of the higher power in them.
If he turns away from his problem and to the Overself, the moment its peace is felt or its message of truth is heard, he may take this as a sign that help in some way will assuredly come to him.
He should not assume that the guidance must manifest itself in one particular way alone. On the contrary, it may come to him in a variety of ways, and may even be transmitted through someone else.
God may help us, or God's healing may come to us, indirectly. Instead of a miracle happening abruptly we may be led intuitively to the knowledge which, or to the person who, will reveal what we can do to serve or save ourselves. The end result may thus be the same as the miracle, but we shall have guided our lives toward it by our own informed effort.
As soon as he turns it over to the Higher Power to deal with, what is he doing? First, he is withdrawing the ego from trying to manage the matter. Second, he is placing the other person in the Overself's care or inserting the situation in the universal harmony. In the first case, management will no longer be limited by the short sight of his desires and the shallow penetration of his intellect. In the second case, the person will be exposed to the recuperative, renewing, and pacifying powers of the Overself or the situation will be benefited, through the mentalistic nature of the universe, in the best possible way for the ultimate good of all concerned in it.
This procedure is not the treatment suggested by rainbow-dreaming teachers, for it begins by noting the actual condition, however unpleasant or unhealthy that may be. It analyses by all the means within its reach the nature, the causes, and the effects of the condition: only then, only after this is done, does it turn away from miserable actuality and try to see the glorious ultimate ideality. From the moment that he consciously gives recognition to the Overself and its perfection, he opens the door to its forces.
If, while managing a situation, you are filled with anxiety or taut with tension, take it as a warning sign that you are managing with the unaided ego alone. That is, you have forgotten, or failed, to turn it over to the higher power, to put it in the hands of the Overself.
To become as a child, in Jesus' sense, means to become permeated with the happiness, with the joy, which a child's freedom from responsibilities and anxieties brings it. All problems being turned over to the higher power, the philosopher enjoys the same inner release.
The practice of turning to the Overself for relief, help, guidance, or healing in a grievous crisis is most effective only when, first, the will acts resolutely to put away thoughts of anguish, second, the turn is made swiftly, and, third, the will continues to keep the mind dwelling steadily on the benefic qualities of its sacred object, idea, or declaration.
He will not rigidly hold to any course of worldly action which he has charted, but will hold himself open to a change indicated by higher leading at any time. He knows that such an indication may come from within intuitively or from without circumstantially.
If it is a truly intuitive decision or choice, one of the signs validating it will be the feelings of satisfaction and serenity which immediately follow it.
If he has sought guidance through intuition or meditation but found only a barren result, he should watch whether circumstances themselves decide his course for him. If they do, it could well be that this is the outer response to his inner request.
While you are thinking about a problem and in search of an answer to it, you cannot get the intuition which is its true and final solution. But when you are no longer doing so, the answer appears. This happens with the genius during the interval between two thoughts but with the ordinary man during sleep.
The guidance, the message, the answer, the solution he seeks may come in different ways at different times. It may appear as a pictured symbol or be received as a mentally-thought sentence or flash through his consciousness as a self-evident intuition.
If he is seeking to solve a problem and receives as the fruit of his meditation a vague peaceful happy feeling, this is not necessarily the end; it often means that at a subsequent time he will receive a very definite solution, either from within or from without.
It is good for him to try the method of simple prayer for obtaining the illumination he needs upon the specific problems which trouble him. He may address prayer to whatever higher power he most believes in or to his own higher self.
If in doubt regarding any great difficulty, close your eyes, think of a master, silently call on his name, then patiently wait. The force using him may come to your help.
If the technique of turning a problem or situation over to the higher power fails to yield favourable results, the fault lies in the person attempting to use it, not in the technique itself. If he is using it as an attempt to escape from coping with the problem or as a refusal to face up to the situation, and thus as an evasion of the lessons involved, it will be better for his own growth to meet with failure. And even among those who claim to have perceived the lessons, they may not have really done so but may have accepted only what suited their egos and rejected the rest. The full meaning of the experience must be taken deeply to heart and applied sincerely to living before the claim to have learned it can be substantiated.
Counsel given in individual cases and isolated instances should not be taken always as meant for every case and for universal application.
Human beings are too varied for all to follow a single line. In personal temperament and moral character, in intellect and feeling, in aptitude and skill, differences are great enough to make necessary different prescriptions for the way of life.
The hardship, the difficulty, or the problem which he cannot meet by his own strength he may meet with the help of the divine strength.
Seeking help from the higher power need not mean turning away altogether from ordinary dependence on human power and skill.
Whatever outward changes he may find it desirable to make, or whatever decisions he may have to come to, he should do so in a way that will help him fulfil his high purpose, even while at the same time they take care of his earthly life. By attending to the deepest inner promptings that may come to him in moments of relaxed calm, he may get valuable pointers toward the best direction in which to make these changes and adjustments.
He will find that at the exact point in time and the essential point in place where his real need is, a way out or over or through his problem will appear. This is not always the point which this clamouring ego may determine it to be. Silencing the ego by going into the stillness within is the best way to draw this help.
Why should we bear all the grievous burdens of the ego? By turning them over to the higher self, not prematurely but after analysing their lessons and doing what we ought to, we gain relief.
With the onset of crisis or stress, trouble or calamity, he turns his mind instantly toward the Higher Power. This can be done easily, effortlessly--but only after long self-training and much practice in thought control.
He will not let others push him into activities that are not his duty or inclination; he is responsible for and must make his own decisions.
It is ironically paradoxical, this discovery that the very higher power to which we must turn in our helplessness is within ourselves.
Whatever the difficulty, you will certainly face it better and may solve it sooner if the ordinary approach through reason and practicality is controlled and illumined by the final approach through the higher self. This is done by dwelling on its never-leaving presence and healing power.
To lose one's faith in the higher laws and powers when the dice of destiny come up with an unfavourable number is not only a sign of weakness but also a sign that one's faith was incomplete. It has touched the emotions only or the intellect only but it has not touched both of them, while it has still to touch the will.
Although proper judgement may call for a particular decision, inexorable necessity may call for quite a different one.
There are certain periods in a man's life when he can find no help outside himself, just as there are occasions when help from others comes easily enough.
You are more likely to get light on your problem if you avoid getting tense or feeling frustrated about it.
The need to make a rapid decision may create panic in an uncertain mind. Here again the best counsel is to go into the calm Silence, push aside the insistent thoughts of pressure, and wait in patience for mental quiet to manifest itself. Then only can intuitive guidance emerge.
Bring your need, your problem, even your desire into the silence and let it rest there. If you do this often enough, it will be corrected for you should it be partly wrong, or totally eradicated should it be wholly wrong, or miraculously satisfied or solved should it be right for you!
He who, like others, looks to material things, but, unlike others, only as secondary to his dependence on the higher power, finds in experience his final confirmation. As Lao Tzu said: "The Tao knows how to render help."
Even where men are ignorant of the law of karma, the higher self provides warnings to them when they deviate from the right path; but, alas, they do not heed these delicate feelings which speak from within and are often called the voice of conscience.
When confronted with a troublesome situation, he must feel, "I, in my ego, can do little." The problem must be turned over to a higher power for solution.
He does not accept the situation in the merely fatalistic resignation which puts up with anything, but learns to live with it in living trust that the higher power will bring it to the best possible ultimate issue.
If he has done everything that is in his power, the results are not in his hands and must consequently indicate destiny's will for him. They do not belong to his own will and must be accepted by him. Time will show their wisdom.
On all occasions when the intuition's prompting is absent and the intellect's judgement is doubtful, prudence suggests a pause.
It is better not to act than to act prematurely, not to decide than to decide without sufficient reason or intuition to support one.
By giving himself more time to wait upon his problem, he may give himself an intuitive, and hence deeper, understanding of it than a merely calculated and shallower one.
Action taken prematurely under the pressure of need may turn a right course into a wrong one.
Timeliness is a necessary ingredient of successful action.
If he feels clearly guided to a mission which seems impossible, he may safely leave to the Overself the means of carrying it out.
So long as he fails to see that the answer to his problems is within himself, but prefers the glib and easy explanation that it is in his environment, so long will the problem remain unsolved.
In all critical situations, try to become very very quiet, seeking the help or guidance to come up from the deeper levels of being.
To say turn a situation over to the Overself is tantamount to saying turn it over to the Universal Power to deal with.
All questions can find some kind of an answer in this mental silence; no question can be brought there often enough without a response coming forth in time. It is needful to be patient and to have faith during the waiting period. The inner monitor is certainly there but we have to reach it.
Sometimes when every other road seems implacably blocked, the right road to travel is indicated.
He may be obliged by circumstances to follow a course of action that he might not otherwise have even considered.
At the very moment that any problem produces thoughts of despondency, turn that problem over to the higher power again, and try to remain inwardly calm.
They should heed the warnings of experience, the guidance of elders, the injunctions of religion; but they need not do so without having critically scrutinized and carefully weighed what is thus proffered to them.
Whatever is proper to a particular situation should be done; rules should not be followed blindly.
The arrogant do not seek help and consequently do not get it.
Can he put his personal problems, interests, or difficulties into the hands of the higher Power? This is both the first and the last procedure, but in between he may be led to call for the services of reason, observation, experience, authority, and specialized knowledge.
I have known questers who have reached a cul-de-sac when an intensifying problem finally entered the critical stage. Then, following this teaching, they decided to hand it over to the Overself entirely and be done with further cogitation and agitation about it. The tension came to a swift end, proving that they had really handed it over and were not deceiving themselves. They waited patiently for direction to be given them. Sometimes this came quickly, overwhelmingly, and clearly--sometimes it came slowly, gently, and weakly.
Despite Saint Francis, it must be stated that a wide observation and experience shows poverty to be not necessarily holy, nor prosperity evil.
The practicality of the ordinary common man is praiseworthy: it is not to be regarded as materialistic.
Efficiency in work and tidiness in homekeeping are not so materialistic as they sound. Even the mystic will benefit by them no less than the worldling, for they will save time which he can give to what he deems the more important activities of his life.
The problem of earning a livelihood under modern conditions and in harmony with the Quest's ethics is more complicated and less easy to solve for some people than for others. There are professions, occupations, pursuits, and trades which at times demand transgression of these ethics. If any general principles can be laid down, they are that earnings, profits, or dividends should be honestly made and that no suffering should be inflicted on any living creature.
It is true that more wealth means more opportunity and that this in turn, if rightly used, may lead to more wisdom. But it is not necessarily true that more wealth leads to more wisdom.
This foolish attempt to climb higher and higher in the Tower of Babel which they have built arises out of false notions of success and failure. They measure success by the conditions surrounding a man and assess failure in the same way. There is a harsh lesson that life will ultimately teach them--that there is no equivalent compensation for the loss of spiritual values.
The need of money is second to the need of good health, and both are second to the need of spiritual strength. All three are important, for most other desired things depend heavily on them.
If money occupies a large part of their thoughts, are they to blame for that? Life being what it is, necessity demands such attention, realism compels it. Only when higher purposes are displaced, neglected, or ignored because of this stress on the money-thought are imbalance and materialism produced.
The possession of money, as of power, is not an evil and may, by its wise use, be a positive good. But, by providing new temptations, it may also bring into activity weaknesses lying below the surface of a man's character.
Success can easily lead a man to failure if it becomes an intoxicant instead of a lubricant.
The man who is unwilling to put a deliberate restraint on his desire nature cannot possibly find peace of mind. Yet a noteworthy feature of life in certain Western countries is the encouragement of new wants, the stimulation by advertising and salesmanship of new hungers for possession.
The suffering of the rich cannot be put on the same level as the suffering of the poor, for the rich have compensations which are unavailable to the poor.
The search after happiness takes people to different activities and places, but rarely to the right ones. This is because they confound pleasure with happiness.
The ultimate value of all this activity in business, profession, politics, family, and so on is not in carrying them on successfully, but in using them to carry one's own mind nearer to enlightenment.
In a man's enthusiasm, which is so natural and so pardonable, for a great invention he has made or a great piece of work he may have done, he can become somewhat one-sided and indeed almost obsessed. Then it is good if he understands that it is necessary for him to restore the balance of his personality because it is unhealthy and unwise to stake so much of his happiness and thought upon what is, after all, a worldly activity. The frustrations and disappointments which may have been experienced in connection with his work will have carried this lesson behind them.
It is better for a man, as for a nation, to have less riches and more truth, than less truth and more riches.
Poverty is a stiff test of moral fibre.
Being poor makes some men turn to materialism as the harsh real truth, but it turns other men to religion, as giving the consolation and support they need. Suffering of any kind and derived from any cause turns the sufferers either to or from a spiritual faith. It depends on several factors which it shall be in individual cases. We see this especially during and after a war involving the whole nation.
We still live in a world of slaves--slaves to money, to position that yields money, to things that cost money, to people who possess it. Money buys nearly all these things and persons. The sage is free in one way because of his inward indifference to money, and the millionaire is free in another way because he has all the money he needs.
Simone de Beauvoir: "Material independence is one of the necessary conditions for inner liberty." Is this true? Sometimes yes, other times not.
If it is for rich men to always learn the lesson that comfort does not mean happiness, it is for poor men to learn that simple living may go with a serene mind.
The businessman who is an adept at knowing how to make a living may be an idiot at knowing how to live.
What does all this extroverted activity or intellectual agitation mean, after all? It means that the human mind is unable to bear facing itself, looking into itself, being by itself.
The man whose name has become celebrated in certain circles, however limited, so that he is to that extent a public figure, must beware of the perils that beset his exposed position. He should especially be careful of those who try to draw him into confidential conversation in order to betray his confidence at a later date.
Every ambition achieved likewise means an addition to our troubles.
With conditions in the business world fostering the ego's over-growth as they do, I have often advised young men of exceptional talent engaged in or entering this world to make money quickly with the special purpose of escaping from it. Then they can give adequate time to the study and meditation and retreat they need for their philosophic interests. Thus they use their business career as an expedient, not to satisfy ambition.
Ambition is a good for the young man but becomes a bad when he overreaches himself. For then it is at the expense of others who have to suffer for it.
Does he really want the outer things for which he is striving more than he wants the inner qualities they are blocking?
He who gains a fortune is born again. He who lives in penurious squalor is as one dead. Those who despise wealth have never known it.
When men must struggle for their livelihood to such a degree that they have no energies and no time left for higher pursuits, it is futile to expect them to be fit for metaphysical study or mystical exercises.
Those Europeans who sneer at American dollar worship are really sneering at the effort to raise personal standards of living, to improve life on earth, and to provide the body with a worthwhile environment.
Despite Somerset Maugham's assertion that "there is nothing better than to be like everybody else," the commonly accepted and familiar view, the normal and ordinary way of living--these may have to be reversed when the truth hits one's consciousness.
Most people submit to the conventions and obey the unwritten laws which in the society or the community prevail at the time. The man who refuses to submit or to obey is manifesting either a disordered mind or an unbalanced temperament, or is showing personal courage in being loyal to a high idea or ideal at whatever cost.
We have no plaint to make against convention as such. Every arrangement for human living inevitably becomes conventional as soon as it becomes stabilized. Our plaint is rather against conventions which have become insincere, hypocritical, hollow, out-of-date, blind, or unjust.
He has to devise a way of living that will respect these principles without alienating him from the social world in which he has to live. The task may be an impossible one but he must try.
To live with men as one of them, yet not to live within their narrow limitations, is his duty and necessity.
Let others not mistakenly believe that he has adopted a non-cooperative attitude, has fled from reality, renounced a human existence in exchange for an illusory one in an imaginary world, or deserted the paths of sanity and reason. If he wants to live in comparative outer peace with them, he must make certain outer concessions. It is better to behave as unprovokingly as possible, to hide his deeper thoughts behind a screen, and to avoid being labelled as a religious fanatic or intellectual faddist. It is especially unwise to uncover one's philosophical thoughts before everybody. He must try to adjust himself smoothly to his environment. This is a hard task, but he must not shirk it and must do all that can be done in the given circumstances. He must fulfil his reasonable obligations towards society, must co-operate in turning the great wheel of human activity, must contribute his share in achieving the general welfare; but he should reserve the right to do so in his own way and not according to society's dictation. And because he has outstripped those around him in important ways, because he is already thinking centuries ahead of them, it is unlikely that he will succeed wholly in fending off their criticisms or even in avoiding their hostility. For with all his endeavours to placate them and with all his sacrifices for the sake of harmony, human nature being what it is--a mixture of good and evil, of the materialistic and the holy--crises may sometimes arise when society will attack him. If the inner voice of conscience bids him do so, then he will perforce have to make a firm stand for principles. It is then that he must summon enough courage to do what is unorthodox or to say what is unpopular and display enough independence to disregard tradition or ignore opinion. Up to a certain point he may walk with the crowd, but beyond it his feet must not move a step. Here he must claim the privilege of self-determination, concerning which there can be no compromise; for here, at the sacred bidding of the Overself, he must begin to live his own life. Consequently, although he will always be a good citizen he may not always be a popular one.
Let us not betray the good that is in us by a cowardly submission to the bad that is in society.
It is only the beginner who enthusiastically and indiscriminately discusses with friends, relatives, or strangers the new teachings or exciting truths which have only recently been accepted by him. The proficient student is also the prudent one. He restrains his feelings against the temptation of telling everyone everything. Thus his ego is checked instead of being displayed.
To make a public exhibition of asceticism, to display the peculiarities of one's soul always and everywhere, to cut oneself off showily from the common life, is to be not a spiritual aspirant but a spiritual egoist.
It is not in any arrogance that he must be true to himself against the pressures of society.
Every man whose activity brings him before the public--be he a politician, an artist, or a writer--becomes a target for gossip, and if because of his spiritual and cultural interests he lives a quiet, almost hermitlike existence, the gossip will turn to misunderstanding and criticism.
They see or sense that he never gives himself up entirely to the society in which he happens to be, that he keeps always a certain inward reserve and outward constraint. This puzzles, irritates, or annoys some, or arouses suspicion in others. Thus the seed of future hostility towards him is sown by their own imperfection.
The Silence which befriends him gives others a queer undesirable feeling.
He who is not content to follow the mob, who seeks to be an individual person and not merely appear to be one, needs strength and bravery to resist the mob's pressure.
If he insists on a way of life that is unconventional, he must accept the criticism which follows it. And if it is worthwhile he will pay this price quite cheerfully.
Among the traditions of Jesus current with Muhammedan mystics, there is one which mentions that the more people reviled him the more he spoke good of them. When one of his disciples complained about this as being an encouragement to them, Jesus answered, "Every man giveth of that which he hath." He who seeks to enjoy the smiles of truth must be willing to endure the criticisms of uncomprehending observers, the sneers of unbelieving ones, the frowns of convention, for he who is not prepared to conform must be prepared to suffer.
Mentally he may have to resist the ideas of the community in which he lives when they are thrust upon him through customs, conventions, conversations, and religion.
He has to contend not only with the foolishness of his fellow humans but also with the destructiveness of Nature itself, not only with the tendency of institutions and organizations to decline from their best to their worst, ending with the "letter" and losing the "spirit," but also with his own personal weaknesses and shortcomings.
Whoever rebels against the majority's view, whoever dares to think and speak independently, must be prepared to endure mental, or even physical loneliness.
Tolerance is needed if we are to live with even a minimum of harmony in society. To the philosopher it comes easily as a natural result of his development. But it need not be practised at the expense of the equally necessary attributes of prudence and caution. There is a point where it must stop, a point where it leads to greater evil than good.
But be warned that the same power which, on your side, brings you into a goodwill relationship with all people also isolates you from them. For it withdraws you from the herd's narrow outlook and petty interests to seek higher aspirations.
Independent judgement is an asset if it is sufficiently well-informed--if not, then it may be a liability.
He endeavours to live his own life in his own way, as much as circumstances allow and prudence dictates.
Where he knows that other persons will not be sympathetic to these teachings, he will be prudent to remain silent about them. Where his friends know of his own interests and disparage them, he will be wise to avoid futile arguments.
When he is in the crowded city he will keep himself inconspicuous, lest he draw other men's attention to himself, and with that their thoughts, impinging on his sensitive mind and disturbing its calm.
If it be snobbish to prefer the best in spirituality, in culture, and in art, then we must accept the abusive term of snob.
With those whose minds are shuttered, it is foolish to enter into any discussion, even if they try to force it (in order to show how foolish you are to hold such views). One might as well speak out of the window to the empty air, so it is better to save breath.
To live in the world by the higher laws a man must keep it at a certain distance. This may not be flattering to the world but it will give him more serenity.
He learns not to waste time arguing about his beliefs or views, not even to explain them to those who merely wish to air their hostility and criticisms.
He will have to put up with unthinking and ill-formed opposition from his environment, from friends and family alike. They may become openly alarmed at his deviation from the so-called normal but really abnormal standards which rule them, take fright at symptoms of purification which may develop, and cry out about his impending illness or dissolution and other imaginary disasters. Others, more indulgent, will tolerantly smile at his eccentricity, his fanaticism, as their prejudice will name it. But in the sequence, if he demonstrates the obvious benefits of his reform by abounding health, vigour, and cheerfulness, this opposition may die down and vanish.
He must not be afraid to be in a minority of one. Millions may be arrayed against the Idea in which he believes. It is easy then to conclude that they are right, he wrong.
The world is apt to regard these self-improvers as smug and complacent, selfish and conceited, and the world is sometimes right. But it is also sometimes wrong.
Just or humble people admire and respect moral superiority, but the others are provoked by it into hostility, for, whether consciously or unconsciously, they recognize that it shows up their own shortcomings. Jesus whipped the moneychangers out of the temple, but the rabbis put them back again and put Jesus on the cross.
Pythagoras, gentle compassionate apostle of the bloodless diet, killed by the Crotona mob, had to die for venturing to show a higher ideal--just as Socrates died for shaming his jurors with their inferior ethical standard. Plato was driven into exile for more than twenty years because he dared to teach truth. Above all it was Jesus, put to death for endeavouring to show men a kingdom not of this world, the kingdom of heaven. Thus the roll of light-bringers could be extended: those deprived of life and those persecuted but left to live, and those who escaped despite opposition. How low the level from which the half-animal men have yet to rise!
People like to be regimented, so the odd man who abhors mediocrity is himself abhorred. No one may appear different from the mass except at his own peril.
It is inevitable that the thoughtful will move ahead of the mass of public opinion. But they must beware and restrain themselves--not too much but also not too little.
Effects of environment, change
The belief that a change of city or land may lead to a change of mental condition is not altogether without basis, even though we still take the ego and its thoughts with us wherever we go.
Travel is worthwhile if one can visit the man who can make a contribution to his inner life.
There are situations in life and associations with persons which try patience. There are environments which appear to imprison him. The natural impulse is to run away from them or to resist them in bitterness. It may be well to avoid continuing the experience if he can. But let him enquire first if he has gained from it the hidden lesson and profited by the hidden opportunity to grow.
When a set of physical circumstances or a personal association becomes a source of strain rather than of pleasure, he may consider withdrawing from it. But this consideration should be governed by wisdom, detachment, and impersonality.
If changing an environment, residence, association, group, or situation is an attempt to escape the problems of oneself, no betterment can result from it. But if there has been a sincere and sufficient attempt to change oneself while in that environment, then the move may prove helpful. It is a fact that the man who is willing to try will find that even where he cannot master himself just where he is, if he continues his efforts unabatedly, destiny will unfold a new and different set of circumstances or environment where the fruits of his efforts will more easily and more quickly show themselves.
He cannot prevent himself taking an interest in his worldly welfare, for he has a physical body and is planted in physical surroundings. To pretend otherwise is either to repeat, parrot-like, what he has heard or read, or it is to be a hypocrite, or it is to exhibit the phase of temporarily insane unbalance which some seekers pass through at one time or another. His spiritual aspirations are blocked, hindered, helped, or promoted by his external circumstances. To see the truth of this, it is enough to take a single aspect of them--the social one. Is it of no concern to him, and will it be all the same in effect, if he has to spend the whole of his life with materialistic men and women who could not even understand what the quest means, or with those who are very far advanced along the quest? Will he not profit more by the latter contact?
The consciousness of race acts as a handicap to and throttles their ambitions and suffocates much that is good in them, but, on the other hand, to others it acts as a spur and develops ambition. Why does he continue, for the years of life left him, to put up with the annoyances of being despised by one neighbour and rejected by the other? If people place so much value, on a man's colour and so little on his character, if the mere accident of birth--and he has to be born somewhere, unfortunately!--is to be the sole criterion of one's value without regard to personality or soul, then the quicker he shakes off the dust of this place the better. Why does he tolerate such stupidity? Why not go to some country where there is less or no colour prejudice?
Mental attitudes are generated by circumstances, events, and historic changes. They are often what they are precisely because of where they are and what has happened to them.
Whatever stays in existence too long begins to assume attributes to which it is not entitled. For it seems completely necessary, quite unchangeable. Its power becomes absolute. Thus the past, so rich a storehouse of guidance, warning, interest, and wisdom when studied with fairness and in full freedom, becomes a tyrannical despot. If we are to find its best values and its greatest usefulness, we should take time off occasionally to forget it, to be detached from its rule, and to regard our way of life differently--thus changing our standpoint and its landscape. These periods may be short ones, but their fresh experiences will bring in some corrective balance, their new habits will improve us or widen outlook. Thoughts and things, principles and institutions will be measured, tested, weighed, and revalued.
A new occasion offers a fresh start, an attitude which need not be conditioned by his previous ideas.
When they are exposed to quite new environments where the opportunities and temptations are also new, it is quite possible that traits of character hitherto undisplayed and even possibly unknown to the persons themselves will respond and appear.
Although it is ultimately true that the inner work is the one thing that is necessary, it is sometimes immediately true that a geographical change, or an environmental removal, or an occupational transfer is necessary if stagnation is to be avoided.
Those who make their home in one place follow the norm; those who live itinerantly do not. If those in the first and by much the larger group have the advantage of stability and the reputation of respectability, those in the second and smaller group gain a kind of autonomy. Among the first are the bourgeois and the professional; among the second, the gypsy and, until lately, the Mongolian and the medieval friar and the Indian sadhu.
The nomad without a fixed home has to accept the uncertainty and unfamiliarity which accompany each new environment.
When the pressures of competition and the kind of people in the environment make a man's moral values wobble, it is time for him to reconsider his situation, perhaps time to leave for other environments or to change the nature of his activity.
It is true that there are conventional, narrow, and stiff people who travel like suitcases and learn nothing from their travels. But it is more true that most people absorb something from others and are liberalized by contact with foreign lands.
Cultivate an active attitude
Philosophy does not reject human experiences, but it does not yield recklessly to them either.
The student should live each day by itself, doing his duty as it arises from the demands of routine existence and accepting its responsibilities; he should leave the future to itself. If the day is lived by the spiritual principles he has learned, tomorrow will automatically take care of itself.
He is not asked to admire an attitude towards life which involves weak acceptance of misfortune or helpless submission to unpleasant surroundings. There is nothing spiritual in such an attitude.
Hope is the scaffolding of life. But unless the hands go out in action we may stand upon it forever yet the building will never be erected. That is why we who seek for Truth must work interiorly and work intensely amid the common mortar and bricks of mundane existence. Our dreams of a diviner life are prophetic, but we turn them to realities only when we turn our hands to the tasks and disciplines presented by the world.
We are in rebellion against all these miserable advocates of the cause of misery who lean weakly on the worn-out excuse of God's will being behind everything and who therefore advise man to do nothing. We have raised the banner of rebellion against all those escapist mystics who defend "do-nothingism" as a rule of life when confronted by world-misery, merely because they themselves feel the bliss of inner peace; against all those Oriental religionists who defend it because they have made a dogma of the unalterability of karma; against all those unscientific metaphysicians who defend it because they regard every painful event as the expression of divine will and wisdom when it is so often the result of human will and stupidity; and against all those monastic hermits who find specious explanations for allowing others, who toil in the world, to wallow in ignorance or to agonize in suffering. The peace felt by the mystic is admirable but it is still a self-centered one; the karma propitiated by the religionist's prayers is ultimately self-earned and therefore must be self-alterable; the divinely ordered events of the metaphysician could not have happened without man's own co-operation. Those who remain inert in the presence of widespread misery often do so because they have not experienced it deeply enough themselves. The innate foolishness and disguised indolence which bid us always bear karma unresistingly and unquestioningly as being God's will, although advocated by so many Indian mystical advocates of lethargy, are denied even by a great Indian seer like the author of the Bhagavad Gita and by a great Indian moralist like the author of Hitopadesha. The first proclaims to a bewildered seer, "Action is better than inaction." The second, in a discussion of fate and dharma, affirms, "Fortune, of her own accord, takes her abode with the man who is endowed with energy, who is prompt and ready, who knows how to act."
Both Indian books quoted here were written by mystics. Yet they reflected this same superior standpoint. Why? Because their authors were philosophical mystics. There is thus a vast and vital difference between the attitudes of unreflective ordinary mysticism and philosophic ultramysticism. Anyone whose mind is not too bemused by personality worship and authoritarian prestige to see this difference may now appreciate why philosophy has a contribution of the highest value to make in this sphere.
The circumstances of his outer life must affect the condition of his inner one. But this is true only to the extent that he admits or counters them by his mute acceptance or dynamic resistance.
He can let the experience act as an alibi to give way to some weakness or he can use it as a spur to arouse some latent strength. He alone can cross the abyss between these alternatives.
When confronted by a formidable situation involving human weakness or expressing human evil, he will choose to affirm silently some great eternal truth covering the situation rather than letting himself be discouraged by it.
There are times when boldness is better than caution, when loneliness is preferable to society, and when emotional numbness is more proper than emotional sensitivity. The occasion, the circumstance, the timing are what then matter most.
To perform any action in the best way is to aim at the least strain and the most effectiveness and the greatest economy of movement.
The occasion, the event, the place, and the person contribute their influence and affect one man more, another less. But if aspiration is to come nearer to achievement, if he is not to be satisfied with a merely ordinary inner existence, then there is a point beyond which he cannot afford to let conditions impose the decisive factor, the determining fiat.
Neither the over-cautious nor the under-cautious attitude will suit this quest: a delicate balance moving between the two extremes, adjusted by timeliness and circumstances, will help more and risk less. This means that he will not be afraid of using his own initiative yet will be careful enough not to meddle in activities unsuited to him. Decisions have to be made, actions have to be done, and these depend in part on his own characteristics, in part on the outer scene. But personal reactions to life out in the world are intertwined with the quest, even coloured by it. So the Middle Way will show its presence and results in both areas.
His objective is to let a situation command him when it is wisdom to do so, but to take command of it when it is not.
There are times when adverse destiny becomes too much for him. It is then that a humbling acceptance of things as they just have to be is useful.
When we learn to accept the terms of our own limitation, and go along with them, we not only gain greater peace but also get more effective action. For to live in impossible unrealizable dreams is to end in futility.
When confronted by hard inevitability, it is more prudent to bow your head than to bang it.
You may accept the inevitable with bitterness and resentment or with patience and grace. Mere acceptance alone is not sufficient.
The indifference toward unalterable or the resignation to unavoidable suffering preached by so many prophets was not preached merely as an idealistic fancy, but, in most cases, as a realizable fact out of their personal experiences. Admittedly, its accomplishment is quite hard. For it depends in part on a complete concentration upon that which suffering cannot touch--the hidden soul. But this is not to be confused with a defeatist fatalism, a false resignation to God's will, or a harsh asceticism.
Holding the attitude that God is Supply makes us at one with the Psalmist who sang: "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want," but it does not exempt us from doing our share of the necessary work.
Relations with others
The situation of the human being, neither animal nor angel but stretched out somewhere between both, is unique.
A forest ranger who had spent his life in intimate contact with wild nature, animals, and trees then retired to city life, whereupon he made a caustic remark which contained a great indictment. He said, "Hell is people." This thought is curiously like that expressed by one of the characters in a novel by Henry James. A man who was dying said to a visitor, "I think I am glad to leave people." Now what is implied by these two statements? It is not that human beings become a source of torment or of suffering to other human beings. Put in the way these two persons have put it, it is of course not wholly accurate and needs qualification. It would be more correct to say that too many people cause too much trouble for others. If we ask why this is so, we must admit that humans are a mixture of bad and good and that it is only a minority which is striving to strain out the good and to discard the bad.
Whoever has dealings with others cannot afford to ignore the double nature of human nature. Failure to recognize it leads to confusing consequences. Looking neither for the good alone nor for the bad alone, but remaining emotionally detached during such an act of recognition, is a philosophical attribute. He who possesses it may hold no illusion about the mixed motives in others and yet still practise goodwill toward them. This must be so, for the primal source of all Goodness inspires him daily and constantly to hold to this practice.
Few people are all good or all bad. Few have motives which are not double. This is not to doubt their sincerity, but to explain human nature.
This is the final vindication of the practical truth that you must deal with human nature as it is, not as you would like it to be or as you imagine it to be. The man of today lives, moves, and has his being in his personal ego and will continue to do so until he has learned, grasped, thoroughly understood, and completely realized the truth of the illusiveness of the individual self. Until that happy day arrives, it is far wiser to take a human being as he is and simply to place checks and restrictions upon his egoism.
We take people too much at their surface value, their present position and possessions, not reckoning the truth that unless we get first into the sphere of thought wherein their minds move, we do not really know them and their real worth. The superiority of the man must in the end triumph over the inferiority of his position.
We mean so well but act so ill.
Nature has made no two human beings alike. However much he may share his views and life with another person, each man will have his own individual differences in thought and conduct. Hence attractions and repulsions, frictions, and misunderstandings will sooner or later arise between men. Perfect harmony with everybody and in everything on this earth is an unrealizable dream.
But this said, we must also accept the higher fact that beneath the egoic differences there subsists the Overself's unity and it is our sacred duty to realize it inwardly while tolerating difference outwardly.
It is not necessary for the aspirant to seek frantically any new outward relationships to things or people; these should and will evolve naturally, so to speak, from his own growing spirituality. "Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven, and all these things shall be added unto you." By denying the ego and by frequent meditation all things are influenced for him in ways he cannot now realize. As he directs his mind and heart to the Overself, his character, his disposition, even the outer contacts and relationships will become attuned and re-adjusted.
It is better to leave past personal history where it belongs; the attempt to revive old relationships is a misguided one; it becomes either a nuisance or a failure.
He will learn to measure the worth of another man or of an experience by the resulting hindrance to, or stimulation of, his own growth into a diviner consciousness.
He may find himself planted by destiny among people with whom he is ill at ease, leading to tensions in himself and perhaps in them. Since he has not chosen this mental and emotional arrangement, there is probably an opportunity in it to work in an unaccustomed way on himself for his ultimate self-improvement.
It is easy and common to blame others who cross our path or belong to our surroundings as being the provocative cause of our irritability or resentment. But if we forgive them instead and hold them in the thought of goodwill, not only will our relationship with them improve but we ourselves will profit exceedingly.
Where a wrong is done us by someone generally we may be sure that the experience represents the expiation of a wrong which we have done to someone in a past incarnation. It is useless to cry out against the injustice of the injury when the cause lies deep within our own history. It is best to put aside the natural feeling of resentment and, understanding as well as we may what it is we are expiating, take its lessons to heart.
However virtuous our intentions, we not infrequently work harm to others. This shows that it is not enough to be good. Wisdom must direct our goodness, must bestow on us the capacity to foresee what is likely to ensue from our actions.
Every person who is important to him, every relationship that arouses emotion or thought is there for a meaning.
Our relations with other persons can produce deep joy or utter misery. If the second result is brought about, we need to amend our thinking, for however wrongly another person may behave there is some reason why he was chosen by destiny to let us feel the painful effects of his behaviour.
It is not hard to understand that the varied events of life which destiny fashions for us are devised to develop us by affording the range of experience which educes the response of our thoughts and feelings. But it may be much harder to understand that even the living creatures who enter our range of experience have entered for the same evolutionary purpose. The men women and pet animals who extract affection or aversion from our hearts, calculation or argumentation from our brains, unwittingly serve that purpose.
Society exists for the individual. Its high and hidden purpose is to make perfect the men who compose it. This is not to say that it exists for the exploiters and the parasites.
If each person could look at his own life not only in an impersonal way but also with philosophic insight, he would perceive the meaningfulness of the happenings in his life, of the relations with other persons, and even the larger backgrounds themselves. All served a higher purpose or fulfilled a higher service, leading him from half-animal to truly human being, or obeyed a moral law such as karma.
The more he behaves with kindly qualities towards others, the more will their behaviour towards him reflect back at least some of these qualities. The more he improves his own mental and moral conditions, the more will his human relations bring back some echo of this improvement.
Those who claim service of humanity as their only motive lay themselves open to suspicion. Outside the few who have transcended ego--the very few--it is ordinarily the case that every service has to be paid for, and that none is really free.
We need not be afraid to help others because we are afraid to interfere with their karma. Reason must guide our sympathy, it is true, and if our beneficent act is likely to involve the beneficiary in continued wrong-doing or error it may be wiser to refrain from it. It is not generosity to condone his sin and to confirm him more strongly in his foolish course. But the law of karma can be safely left to provide for its own operations. Indeed it is even possible that it seeks to use us as a channel to modify or end this particular piece of suffering in the other person. To refuse to relieve suffering, human or animal, because it may be an interference with their karma is to misapply one's knowledge of the law of karma.
We do not love our neighbour as ourself for the simple reason that we cannot. He loves himself quite enough anyway and does not need our addition. But, this said, we are ready to serve him amicably.
When a man's conduct is incorrect, it is sometimes wiser to stop further efforts to help him on the outer plane--however much we feel sorry for him--and let him learn the bitter lessons which he needs.
If people would only take care of their own business and let other people mind theirs, there would be less friction in the world and more peace between the nations. The late Bernard Baruch, American financier and presidential adviser, said on his ninety-fourth birthday that the greatest lesson he had learned during his very long life was to mind his own business. For the Quester, with his special aims higher than the ordinary, it is even more advisable not to mix himself up unnecessarily in other people's affairs or destinies where he is not really responsible for them.
The best way to help the other person who is in trouble is not to get swept away by his feelings and emotions of suffering. It is enough to register them at the moment of meeting, but thereafter one must stand detached if real help is to be given from a superior source. Real help is not sentimentality.
Weighted down with the burdens of his own unsolved problems as he is, he will add those of other people at his peril. Only when he has shown himself competent to master his own will it be time to tackle theirs and will he be in a position to do so effectively.
He will rarely interfere with those who are happy in their opinions.
It is not that he seeks non-involvement in, or becomes indifferent to, other people's problems, but that theirs, and his own, are now seen from a higher vantage-point and a wider perspective.
Although he may often see the straight line between cause and effect, between shortcoming in character and trouble in circumstance, he may find it better to practise a prudent reticence. Few like to be preached at.
When he travels away from his home, he should go humbly, as a seeker, to learn and not to teach, to meet inspired souls and gain their help rather than to meet students and offer help to them.
Over-anxious solicitude for family relatives may not always be helpful to them.
Whoever gets caught in the misery and unhappiness and self-pity of a person in distress and lets himself remain in that depressed condition, cannot render as much help--if any at all--as the one who is detached, imperturbable, but compassionate.
Because the philosophic outlook is all-comprehensive, because it excludes nothing, it must include both the celibate and the marital condition. It recognizes that each has its hour and place in an individual's life.
If one man thinks he can get along better alone, he is quite entitled to his view and it may be that his quest requires it. But if another man thinks otherwise and seeks the companionship of marriage, he too must be granted the right to follow his particular expression of the quest. Neither one is an absolute. The married man is not in any way relieved of his responsibility to seek and find physical control, just as the celibate man is not relieved of responsibility for mental control. Nor does this apply only to aspirants. The same liberty must also be granted even more--and not less, as so many misinstructed beginners believe--to men of attainment, masters, and all who have finished their quest.
Marriage is not inconsistent with the philosophic path, but it often is with the mystical path.
There is no reason to feel that love for a marriage partner is at variance with efforts toward self-evolvement. In its best sense, mutual love is an aid for both to progress and develop as individuals.
There is certainly no bar to the highest spiritual attainment through marriage. If the greatest sages of the past have been single (or have lived as single men) this was not because marriage would have interfered with sagehood--for it cannot do so--but because they wanted to keep the external life as free as they could in order to carry out their work as fully and as freely as possible.
The necessity of achieving mental harmony and union of ideals in marriage counsels great caution in selecting one suited to be a life-companion. A wrong decision in this matter may be disastrous in every way, whereas a right one will be helpful in many ways.
Marriage is a most important matter, and is not to be entered into without a sufficient period of waiting: both persons are better able to check the wisdom of the step in this matter. If it turns out to be the right step, the time-test will see its survival and greater chances for happiness. If it is the wrong step, a feeling of uneasiness will soon develop--proving that the marriage would be based on physical infatuation, and thus could not ordinarily be other than short-lived and unsuccessful.
Those on the quest need to know each other quite well before marrying. This means they need to know the other person's negative as well as positive characteristics. Then they have to decide whether they are able and willing to spend the rest of their life living with those negatives, that is, whether the positive qualities which attract them are strong enough to overbalance the opposite ones.
It is the duty of married questers to teach one another. This not only includes the teaching of what each has learned of truth from guides, books, and life but also the pointing out of characteristics which need correction, nurture, development, or eradication. Who else can know these details so well as the person who is the life partner, the constant observer of the other's actions, the intimate sharer of thoughts and moods? But such pointing out must be done calmly, impartially, lovingly, or it will fail in its purpose.
There are many who will deem the philosophic attitude a callous one. This is partly because they misunderstand it and partly because they identify themselves too strongly with their emotional nature. It is inevitable that, with the growth in philosophic understanding and practice, the affections grow larger and deeper too, while their visible demonstration becomes calmer and more equable. Since philosophy is more concerned with realities than with appearances, more concerned with being than with seeming, merely conventional responses in emotional speech and expected action mean less to its practitioner than the silent inward existence of love. He does not feel any need to give continual evidence of what he feels in order to reassure the other person, who unconsciously fears that love may pass away at any time. Nor does he want to take such possession of the other as never to allow her to leave his side, always holding her in a narrow, confining domesticity.
It is certainly possible for a married man to attain enlightenment, for historic records supply the proof. My own contacts with both Oriental and Occidental illuminati confirm it. But it is possible only if his marriage is more than a mere animal mating. How far this discipline should go will depend on how far he wants his enlightenment to go and how much he is willing to subject himself to the necessary conditions. Marriage, like other normal human relationships, need not be denied if a man is ready to take the chances and risks it involves and if he chooses a partner who is likely to promote his quest rather than obstruct it.
The married relation offers an outlet for human affection and human tenderness. In this sense it becomes one of several opportunities which life offers for the disciplining of the ego. This applies both to the daily throwing together of two human personalities as well as to the consummation of the marriage in sex.
The serious obligations and powerful distractions which come with marriage constitute two of the reasons why celibacy has so often been recommended or enjoined for those who would scale spiritual heights. It is held that if they are to gain the leisure and strength needed for such climbing, worldly ties must be loosened and animal feelings must be controlled.
A sage's marriage cannot dim to the slightest degree or in actual fact whatever goodness or purity he may have, except in the eyes of those ignorant of what sagehood essentially is.
If marriage is taken to be a license to be sunk in sensuality then it is certainly a bar to this quest. But if it is recognized as a call to self-discipline, just as freedom is in a different way, it need not be so.
Young people, whose heads have been turned and whose emotions have been titillated by the romantic drivel of so many foolish novels and so many fantastic films, are likely to have exaggerated ideas about the happiness which can be derived from sex, courtship, and marriage. That is, they see only the bright side and do not know that a dark one also exists.
It is not enough for two persons to get married because they love one another. They must also suit one another.
It is wrong for fanatics to condemn marriage, for it may provide a person with the means of working out the psychic and moral problems with which he or she is faced.
That is a worthy love worth finding which enables both the man and the woman to grow and fulfil themselves. But that is mere passion, a poor substitute for love--and sometimes not even that, but mere social or economic convenience--which maims and cripples the inner being of one or the other person. A marriage in which wife or husband is spiritually suffocated is an undesirable relationship, a waste of precious, unregainable years. Yet fear of all the risks and troubles which a break would involve embalms the situation, when faith in the power of Life (God) to support and provide for a right decision would bring growth and fulfilment.
Immature persons can only make a marriage that is itself immature.
Where there is an element of doubt concerning a marriage problem, it is better to wait before plunging into action, to ruminate over past blunders and profit by them. The issues may slowly become clearer. If it is right to marry a particular person, the sense of rightness will remain and increase. But if it is wrong, then either the feeling of such wrongness will slowly manifest itself or the person will be taken away or some other hindrance will block this action. This refers, of course, only to one who is under direct guidance of a master or directly intuitive to his higher self.
Marriage is a risky experiment for those who have any degree of advancement along the path. The conditions under which it may succeed are hard to satisfy, but occasionally such successes occur. The higher degrees of the Quest call for a total renunciation of everything earthly, animal, and human. This must be inwardly attained, it must be real in thought and feeling, after which it does not matter whether or not there is outward renunciation in any direction. A mere external asceticism solves no problems but it is helpful to beginners. That other self of the aspirant which is his divine soul will, as and when its presence becomes vivid and intimate, become also the Most Beloved. No man or woman could give him its equivalent in satisfaction, however much he loves and however much that love is returned. He may marry if he wants to, but it must be with the clear knowledge that marriage is unable to yield him more than second-best happiness.
It is excellent to look for a mate among those with the same spiritual ideals and educational status as yourself, but it is not enough. What about physical fitness, hygiene, and compatibility? What about emotional harmony, blending, and suitability?
A man who marries a girl less than half his age inevitably becomes a father figure to her. It is not fair to her nor prudent of him to enter into such a marriage, even if she ardently desires it.
When a husband informs his wife that he has decided to find his happiness elsewhere, she can fight to hold him against his will--which is pardonable--or she can accept it because she thinks of his happiness first and her own second--which is divine. Time is the only healer of her wounds but they will surely be healed. When the storm of hurt feelings goes completely, a great peace will arise in her. Then she will see that she did the right thing to gain her own happiness too, quite apart from doing the right thing as a seeker.
Whether one sort of breaking marriage can be mended depends on three factors: the actualities of the wife's character, the possibilities of her husband's character, and the predestined fortunes of both. Such a situation needs generous forbearance, foresighted patience, deeper understanding of human nature, and, above all, emotional self-control. The suffering wife should secretly pray for her husband's spiritual welfare, not hysterically and sentimentally for his return to her. Let her be assured that if she can bring herself to adopt an unselfish attitude in this matter, if she will repay evil deed by good thought, and hurt feeling by forgiveness, she will not lose in the end.
She must not waste her strength in emotional self-pity, but rather try to build up a reasonable attitude. And if she is a quester, she must not forget the lesson behind her marital experience of not staking all her happiness on somebody else. She must first look within for it, and then only can others give some of it to her. She herself must make the most important contribution to her own happiness.
When a separation, divorce, or break-up of relationship comes between two persons--be they friends, spouses, or associates of some kind--it may appear sudden in happening but it already exists on the subconscious plane. The event merely brings it to the surface.
If a man is single or a widower, it is understandable that feelings of loneliness will often enter into his consciousness. But the aspirant must remember that it would be unfair both to a prospective partner and to himself to enter into an unsuitable marriage. It would only hurt him and bring unhappiness to his partner. His emotion needs to be disciplined, and he must wait for a partner suitable to his development and aspiration. If he has already had the marriage experience, he should consider seriously whether he really needs to remarry at all. He should weigh in the balance, from the standpoint of his own personal character and circumstances, whether its advantages and limitations outweigh the advantages and limitations of devoting the remainder of his life entirely to the quest of truth. The married life is compatible with these spiritual objects but not easily so.
Socrates once declared, "I am a man and like other men a creature of flesh and blood." He was married and had three sons. Yet this did not prevent him from attaining a lofty wisdom and the highest intellectual clarity and magnificent moral rectitude.
If marriage is regarded as a sphere of self-discipline--and especially of that discipline which seeks to transmute and absorb the sex urge--why should philosophy object to it? For parenthood will then become a means of honourable service, not a gutter of grovelling sensuality.
A simple equation will clear the sentimental nonsense which hazes the whole subject. How can two imperfect creatures give one another a perfect happiness?
One proof that marriage is no bar to enlightenment was reported to me at the time of writing this paragraph. A young married woman in the condition of early pregnancy with her second child had been practising meditation for short sessions at irregular intervals, as her circumstances did not offer opportunity for more. There was a feeling of frustration and nothing came out of the practice. One night she had retired to bed but not yet fallen asleep. Suddenly, without any preparation or warning, a mystical experience rapidly developed and lasted for about one and a half hours. "It was the most beautiful condition I have ever known--utter fulfilment, peace, contentment, and love for all," she described it.
For young people under twenty years of age to undertake the risks of emotional romantic marriage without consultation with, and respect for, older and more experienced persons, is somewhat improvident. To do so with little acquaintance and knowledge of one another is still more improvident. And without accurate horoscopes plus knowledge of each other's spiritual status, the risks keep increasing. Too often the young fall victim to lust, which is taken to be sufficient basis for marrying.
No human relationship, not even the most romantic of marriages, is always and continuously free from its jarring moments, its boring ones, or its annoying ones. The two members have their limitations; they are still finite and, in some ways perhaps, frail human beings. They still make mistakes sometimes and are sorry for them afterwards.
It is only romantic fancy or wishful thinking which creates the common belief that there is only one person who is suited, made, or fated to marry some other particular person.
The solemn man and the frivolous flighty woman are fit mates for marriage provided they are not extreme opposites. Temperaments may oppose, but must not be too extremely opposed. The finest successes of Hymen come from the coupling of circumferential opposites who possess a central unity. This cryptic phrase calls for interpretation.
The need of a mate is only an idea after all. Treat it as such and you will be better able to control it.
If he is on the quest, he will at least take care that she only shall be invited to share his life permanently who is not only in harmony with his temperament and aspiration, but also aware of his defects and limitations.
The finer side of marriage--companionship, partnership, affection, and considerateness--is not less important than the sexual side.
The woman who is to mate the evolved man should arouse a love for which body and mind, heart and intuition are all in perfect accord. This is an ideal, of course, and he may not be able to find its realization. But at least he will know in what direction to seek.
Marriage would then be allowable but restricted to the twin purposes of providing companionship, with its mutual service, and furnishing physical bodies for a few incoming egos of spiritual seekers. This form of modified marriage would reject lust.
Children born from such a consecrated marriage will necessarily be superior children--not in every way, but in some special way, and certainly in fine moral character.
The craving for a mate of the opposite sex is the unconscious feeling of the need for someone to balance him. It may, and does, get mixed up with other needs, but this fundamental one remains.
So many couples are yoked but not united, married but not mated.
That there is a connection between romantic delusions and subsequent neuroses (usually after marriage) can often be seen. This was also seen by ancient classical philosophical writers. Marriage can become a monotony, perhaps a boredom. Where has the romantic love gone? How much better would all have been if both had looked at, the realities from the beginning? If the facts of life are looked at, the romances change their appearance: they are mostly not eternal, often changeable; the beauties fade away, the ecstasies turn to pain or worry, the attractions to repulsion. In short, the end is disappointment. The deification of the allegedly loved one may be changed to its opposite--vilification--so self-deceptive is the whole experience in many cases, so misunderstood are the physical symptoms and so adolescent are the emotional ones.
Marriage is as much a partnership as any business one is.
The marriage which is either unsatisfactory to one of the partners or unhappy for both of them may always take a different turn if regarded from a different viewpoint--a higher one.
Women have too often allowed financial necessity to cause them to enter an ill-suited marriage, as men have allowed sexual difficulty to cause them either to do the same or to evade any marriage at all.
Tibet's most famous guru, Marpa, was happily married. Not all the most esteemed gurus and not all the best disciples are necessarily bachelors.
It is said and sedulously propagated by married couples that the bachelor is a selfish man. The truth is that a married man is not less selfish. His wife and children are merely extensions of his own ego.
Socrates suffered from a scolding, nagging, and bad-tempered wife. One day she gave him a farewell parting by pouring dirty water on him from an upper storey while he was in the street. This caused his friends to complain to him and ask why he endured it. Instead of complaining, he pointed out to his friends that this gave him the impetus, and provided some of the means, to become a philosopher.
In its highest meaning, love is simply mental and emotional empathy.
Marriage brings about an interfusion of destinies and auras which may have important consequences. If the partner is actively opposed to the ideals and ideas of the quest, the aspirant will find it much more difficult to follow its star, if not be indeed completely halted for a time.
To flee into marriage in order to escape from loneliness is not the highest motive for marrying, although often a common one.
When the student who is truly seeking to make progress on the Quest is confronted by an obvious failure in daily life--in marriage for example--he or she must realize there is a karmic lesson involved here, one which has not yet been properly learned. It would be extremely unwise for such a person to contemplate marrying again, before the important meaning of the message has been thoroughly taken to heart. So long as there remains any uncertainty in the matter, so long is it best to wait. Time alone is lost by such waiting, whereas the mistake of venturing blindly into another marriage might cause far greater grief. Guidance will come to the troubled seeker if he or she prays for it--and is patient.
When one has suffered through an unhappy marriage, a second venture into matrimony should be approached with utmost caution. If one has any doubts whatsoever, it is best to wait. It is the duty of each to be certain that it is the right step. A little patience is all that is needed. Even in the case where both individuals are students on the Quest, and are anxious to follow it together, waiting will only confirm their hopes and strengthen their chances for happiness.
The difficulties of rearing children, the irritations of family life, and the monotony of much married existence are problems which most people have had to face at some time or other. They must be mastered, however, for one cannot desert duty without suffering pangs of conscience. This mastery calls for much endurance and more gritting of teeth, but the road can be smoothed greatly if he will try to cultivate something of that spirit of inner detachment which the Overself is seeking to impart. To be able to stand aside from the self occasionally, to treat his problems as though they were someone else's, and to refer them at critical moments to a higher power for solution, is of enormous benefit in every way. In this connection one should read chapter 11 of The Secret Path.
The wife of one who seeks to follow this Quest has the opportunity of bringing a happy future to herself in helping to bring it to him. She also may walk beside him on that greater path of spiritual attainment to which all are dedicated. She will then get from marriage not only what she hoped for but much more besides.
It has been said in The Quest of the Overself that a married couple should grow together in companionly worship of the Light. If they do this they have found the basis of true marriage, successful marriage. In India a newly wedded couple are pointed out in the sky at night, by a Brahmin priest, a star called "Vashistharundhati." It is a pleasant little ceremony and supposed to be auspicious. For Vashistha was a great sage who lived thousands of years ago, Arundhati was his wife, and their marriage was a model of its kind in perfect conjugal happiness, wifely devotion, and mutual spiritual assistance. The ancient records link this star with this couple in their legend. Now the invention of the telescope has enabled us to discover that this star, which is the middle one in the tail of Ursa Major, or the Great Bear, is really a double star; that is, it consists of two separate stars situated so close to each other as to appear a unit to our naked eyes. Moreover, it is also a binary star; that is, the pair revolve around a common centre of gravity. Can we not see a wonderful inner significance in the old Indian custom? For the marital happiness of Vashistha and his wife was due to their having found a common centre of spiritual gravity!
The wider our experience of this world, the more must be our realization of the truth that it is the spiritual outlook and moral attitude which really determine a society's socio-political form and active course.
Every problem that harasses mankind today was first born as a spiritual problem and only later grew into a political or economic one.
Unless there be a change of moral ground, a shift of ethical standpoint, a new spiritual approach, the hopes aroused by political changes, shifts, and innovations will be false ones.
Like Lao Tzu, Socrates held a low view of politics. He did not believe it had any room for complete honesty, justice, and truth. It was a clash of egos and a struggle for power. His opinion of the multitude, their ethical standards and quality of correct judgement, was equally low. But he believed it possible, given enough time, to lift them up and persuade them to follow better ways. This was, however, a matter for working upon a few individuals at a time, not publicly and politically but privately.
The thing that really matters in the life of a nation is the quality of its leaders, the character of those who guide its destinies. Young men may not realize that enthusiasm alone is not enough, that character always does and always will count, that he who fits himself for greatness will see whole kingdoms delivered into his hands. Inspiration brings fortune in its train and inspired teachers will always rise.
When those who occupy high position, who rule, lead, advise, instruct, and inform, are unfit for their position and lack the needed qualities, attributes, and consciousness, then society falls into disorder; its levels get mixed up so that words, names, designations, and terms become empty, distorted, or misleading. And as a result of the disorders which break out, violence, hatred, and even wars--civil or international--afflict the world.
No system is likely to be better than those who administer it, while it is likely to be worse.
It is no adequate reason for the continuation of a bad system to say that there are good people working under it. They would work all the better under a good system.
Rudolf Steiner rightly taught that the true spiritual things could flourish only in freedom and that they need to be self-administered, independently of the state or political interference.
Where groups, sections, classes are unable to co-operate for the common welfare, which includes their own, then only ought a government step in to control them--not before.
If the world fails to stop another world war from eventuating, it will be because highly centralized government is as much a colossal failure as highly organized religion. Some organization in both spheres is inescapable, but it is also destructive of their true purposes when carried to an autocratic point.
The Western world needs a third economic form, one that will make a place for the spiritual purpose of living. Communism will never do it; capitalism has the chance to do it, although it has yet to make use of its chance. With all its faults, capitalism does possess a moral code of sorts whereas communism possesses none. From this lack comes the worst that could befall a people unfortunate enough to be the victim of communism's promises.
The third economic form will arise not only through the two older forms first modifying and then synthesizing one another, but also through the imperative needs of our own time forcing our inventiveness and creativeness to add their special contribution.
Why not accept different forms of ownership within the same national organization? Why not let public socialism and private capitalism compete with each other? Why force all people within a single ill-fitting form?
No two people are alike in mental reach, moral stature, technical gifts, and practical capacity. Many differences of thought, character, capacity, and physique exist and will always exist because the variety in an infinite universe will always be infinite. There are no two things or two creatures alike in Nature and consequently there is no equality in Nature!
All men are not born equal in ability, and any state built upon the thesis that they are is built upon a false foundation. However, all men should receive equal good treatment and equal opportunity; but that is a different matter.
Democracy is not the ideal form of society, but when a hierarchy becomes rigid and selfish, it is just as imperfect, just as much a failure.
There is far too much friction, abuse, recrimination, and even hatred among the members of the different political parties in many countries. All these are negative qualities and therefore represent a negative aspect of democracy. They are of no help in any way to the people, yet so long as democracy lasts there is no likelihood of their being eliminated.
A culture like democratic culture which brings knowledge and information to the masses but fails to bring them refinement of manner or taste or speech and also fails to lift up their moral standards is a very incomplete one.
People nowadays speak of democracy in the same reverent way as formerly they used to speak of aristocracy and of monarchy. In each of these three cases we will find that such forms of government and civilization had both a good side and a bad side and when the bad side became too heavy then the old form began to decay and eventually to be destroyed. We all know the merits and advantages which the waves of democracy have spread around the world, but what about the demerits--such things as coarseness and shallowness, ill breeding and vulgarity, obscenity and tawdriness in art?
Politicians--more interested in their own careers than in sincere public service, ambitious to gain their personal ends, unwilling to rebuke foolish voters with harsh truth until it is too late to save them, forced to lead double lives of misleading public statements and contradictory knowledge of the facts, yielding, for the sake of popularity, to the selfish emotions, passions, and greeds of sectional groups--contribute much to mankind's history but little to mankind's welfare.
The pooling of common ignorance in democratic debate does not remove that ignorance.
The multitude has the least capacity for truth, the lowest moral and intellectual development, the shortest sight into consequences. Mass rule leads downhill.
It is proper and kind that the proletariat should have their claims and demands heeded, that what they call "social justice" should be adequately available. But it is wrong to heed only theirs and ignore other classes, especially the middle ones.
If you want the best--that is, a meritocracy based on quality--then you must abandon democracy based on quantity.
If we need a higher class, an elite, let us have it. But let it be based on merit, on outstanding contributions or services, not on the accidents of birth, position, money--and let its members be themselves, not labelled with gaudy titles which make spineless people fawn like sycophants in their presence. In this Aquarian age, archaic hereditary dressed-up aristocracies posturing theatrically have no place.
The business of minding our own business comes first, that of attending to our neighbour's comes next. The need of understanding the truth about ourselves is much more important than that about others. Our own endless political worry is one consequence of being too concerned with somebody else's political duty.
Since all men are obviously not equal, it would be unwise to give all men equal rights. But every help and facility ought to be given to enable those who want to improve themselves to do so.
If authority has judged wrongly, misused power, or served selfish interests, these things should be scrutinized, plainly seen for what they are, and correction or reform demanded. But these are insufficient causes to reject all authority altogether. For when it is the voice of the accumulated experience, mental and physical, of many centuries, it has something to offer that is worth at least unbiased examination. But when it is unscrupulous, barbarous, or tyrannical, then it justly earns the nemesis of rebellion.
When Plato came to comprehend that politicians could not improve the character of the people by their activities, when he saw that politics did not conduce towards pursuit of the good, he gave up meddling in it altogether and turned in another direction.
He must allow others the same liberty of thought which he asks for himself, the same freedom of expression and the same right to a private opinion, but these liberties are valid only so far as he seeks the common welfare along with his own. If the others do not do so or do so under the form of dangerous illusions which are harmful to society, then he has a right to ask for restraints to be put upon them.
The lack of personal integrity, the satisfaction with paltry triumphs over other politicians, and the misuse of words to their almost utter falsification help to explain why modern democracy, with all its benefits and achievements, has led in the end to a chaos and a menace which darken the whole world.
If suitable conditions and helpful environments do not exist in a society for enabling the higher purpose of life to be fulfilled, for encouraging the studies and practices of philosophy, for preparing a way of life suitable for religious devotion or seeking truth, that society is materialistic. A wiser government and people will try to establish the proper conditions to lift the whole nation and to make arrangements that will meet the outward needs while not obstructing the inward ones as they do so, to create more opportunities for those who wish to answer life's spiritual call and improve themselves.
The failures of democracy are evident enough, and not at all surprising when it allows the same political power to a simpleton as to a sage.
An incursion into active politics by a man who is neither ambitious nor naïve, who is sincere, honest, and really seeking to serve the common welfare, must in certain countries end in dismay or withdrawal, disillusionment or cynicism at its corruption or hypocrisy.
It was not merely because a people needed a leader that the institution of monarchy came into being. It was also because they needed to develop the quality of veneration, to acknowledge that there was someone or something higher than themselves. It was only another step from looking up to a king to reverencing the highest power--God.
If the World-Mind governs all things and all beings, if this is the monarchy of God, then the monarchy of earth would be the best form of government through being in conformity with it. The king's title would not only be a worldly honour, but also a spiritual one. Monarchic authority would be a sacred copy of the divine pattern. The democratic distribution of power to each person equally would be the very contrary, hence an impious and atheistic act. "The divine right of kings" would then be a phrase full of meaning, truth, justice. All this has validity only if the monarch is himself in harmony with God, if his character reflects God's goodness, if his intelligence expresses God's wisdom: otherwise it falls to the ground. All this implies that the king is truly inspired from above, is fully aware of his Overself. If he is not born so, his duty is to strive to acquire this condition as quickly as possible. If he is unable or unwilling to acquire it, then there is no justification for a monarchical constitution's claim to superiority over a democratic one!
It is safer to entrust the welfare of a nation to the co-operation of its best men than to a single man, however wise well-meaning and honest he may be reputed to be. History and experience offer the best practical test of this statement's truth, but the doctrine of the relativity of ideas also underlines it.
It is not generally known that Ben-Gurion, the former president of Israel, was for many years closely interested in the study of Indian philosophy and in the practice of hatha yoga. Perhaps the broadening effect of his study tempered his attitude towards his country's enemies and uplifted his aims for the nation? In an interview he once said, "The chief danger facing Israel is not Arab hostility, it is Levantinism--we must not go in for pure commercialism. We must make this country a centre of culture and education."
The mistake which so many monarchs fell into, and which led in the end to the virtual downfall of monarchy, was that they regarded their subjects as persons to be exploited rather than as persons to be served.
The principle of adoption seems less faulty than both the principles of monarchy and republicanism. It allows the existing ruler to choose his successor, provided the Senate confirms his choice. None of the three systems is perfect, but this seems to offer more than the other two.
Society begins with the individual, goes on through him, and its higher purpose is fulfilled in him alone. Political thinkers, guides, and leaders who reject this truth will never escape from the immensely difficult problem into which their half-true, half-false concepts must incessantly lead them.
We do not find in authentic history any reliable record of sage-kings, although myths of prehistoric China speak of them. Perhaps the nearest to this ideal combination of knowledge, wisdom, goodness, and power appeared in persons like Ashaka of India. Certainly with such government many problems and evils associated with familiar forms--such as democracy, aristocracy, monarchy, and dictatorship--would vanish.
We have to restore the supremacy and demonstrate the practicality of the moral ideal in both political and economic affairs.
Those who shout constantly for freedom need to be reminded of its corollary--responsibility. If they use their freedom to behave antisocially or destructively then they are no longer entitled to it.
Those who demand freedom most, the violent revolutionaries, may be the least free even when successful, for they are slaves to their own violence, to the passion which propels them.
Plato's striking assertion that "until philosophers are kings or kings philosophers cities will never rest from their evils--no, nor the human race" is often quoted and indeed is provocative enough to be worth quoting. But its exact truth is open to question. For if the great prophets like Jesus and Buddha, invested with higher power in virtue of their special missions as they were, could not make a single city rest from its evils, not even all their followers, how is it possible that men not so invested could do so? What they could unquestionably do would be to limit the area and strength of those evils as well as to provide conditions which would tend to discourage their future growth. Just as the world was saved by the work of Jesus and Buddha from becoming measurably worse than it did become, so would it be possible for the king-philosophers to bring about a similar result in their own ways and lands.
The rancours of politics do not breed the calm judicial atmosphere in which problems are best solved.
It was insane to allow freedom to those who seek to destroy freedom.
To make the destiny of all the men women and children in any land depend on the whim of a single individual who has shown no sign of special fitness for such responsibility, no moral or mental superiority, no administrative skill or personal courage, is to combine folly with injustice. A would-be ruler--be he king or commoner--must prove his worth or go.
Independence is for those who are worthy of it. Freedom is for those who can be trusted with it. Without such fitness both drift into anarchy.
The hypocrisy which stains the United Nations is visible and notorious, at least to those who know a little of what goes on behind the scenes. Peace does not come out of moral insincerity. Nor does fear provide a permanent foundation for it, however large atomic bombs may become. Peace has vanished too many times in the past simply because it cannot stay too long out there in the world when it is not present in here, in men's hearts. History has tried all the varied forms of government and still has not solved its own problem. The way is known but the will is feeble.
It is not enough to agitate for public socio-politico-economic reform without, at the same time, seeking for private and personal reforms.
Statesmen who possess competence but lack character may be able to serve their people in some ways but will dis-serve them in other ways.
Beware of politicians. The more they protest their devotion to ideals, the less should they be believed, even though by constant repetition of glibly spoken words the belief is now theirs too.
We have seen many politicians appearing on the world stage in our lifetime and appealing to narrow human selfishness, but few wise statesmen.
Each political party represents some sectional and therefore selfish interest. No party seems to reconcile these conflicting interests by seeking the welfare of its nation as a whole.
Although I do not hold with a hereditary aristocracy and a hereditary royalty and would prefer to favour a meritocracy, one must live among the masses in the midst of their commonness and vulgarity and semi-animality to understand why the higher classes insist on separating themselves from the lower ones.
The notions of democracy lead people to delude themselves about facts which stare them in the face. The masses form a lesser breed of human beings and no amount of political propaganda can alter the fact that there are individuals who belong to a superior breed.
Lycurgus, the wise statesman, in the constitution he drew up for Sparta, counterbalanced power: the Senate against the people, the king against both.
Most people are the victims of suggestion and are easily impressed by (and deceived by) appearances. They confound bigness of size with greatness of soul; they call that nation "great" which has a big empire, often won by ethically dubious methods. A big pack of wolves is not something to admire or respect.
That government will do better which combines the vigour of youth with the knowledge of age.
Fitness for high social rank or public office is not necessarily transmitted by heredity, but if the parents already possess it, their offspring is more likely to receive the kind of upbringing which will favour his acquisition of such fitness. This is one argument for caste. But the numerous failures show that no guarantee is possible.
"Who should lead the leaders?" asked Emerson.
It is natural for a politician to operate for the benefit of his own nation, even to the detriment of other nations, to blind himself to their rights in the effort to secure such benefit.
Those who believed that human goodness would automatically follow economic improvement and political reform have had their complete refutation in recent history.
Those who believe that the United Nations should still be kept despite its imperfections ought to read Shirley Hazzard's full documentation of its uselessness in her book Defeat of an Ideal. The harm done by this dangerous and hypocritical piece of self-deception outweighs the good.
Reactionaries have been responsible for much human misery but then revolutionists have been responsible for just as much.
One danger of these fanatical movements is their gradual erosion of conscience and their rationalized eradication of pity. This they justify, and cover up, by pleading "political necessity." In the beginning they take a man of high ideals, through which they attract him. In the end they have degraded him into a monster of cold-blooded heartlessness.
If the United Nations is to be renovated inwardly, the precondition is to regenerate it outwardly by bringing it back to its proper home--small, pacific, neutral Switzerland.
The subterfuge and intrigue, the selfishness and double-talk, the manipulation and friction which come with democratic leadership in the political party system, inhere in the system itself. For politics is a struggle for power.
The firm idealist who scorns compromise and the bold reformer who scorns discretion have their place in society, to which indeed their very stubbornness acts as spur or goad.
No one who accepts philosophical principles could also accept the political doctrine which denies spiritual values, cancels human rights, advocates the conferring of arbitrary totalitarian power upon the small group, and uses violent, unscrupulous, and ruthless methods of achieving its aims.
To achieve prominence is one thing but to achieve power is another.
The clash between totalitarian ideologies and democratic ones, between humanistic and religious ones, between intellectualist and intuitive ones, has created a void in modern cultural life which can be adequately filled only by philosophy.
Bolivar, the great South American liberator, died disappointed and said that to serve the people was to plough the ocean.
Oscar Wilde was not led only by his customary habit of exaggeration to observe that "those who try to lead the people can do so only by following the mob." Follow the career of most politicians and the truth in his statement will become clear.
Spiritual aristocrats are disdained by the democrats and communists of today. They feel no need for deriving support from spiritual sources. Men may talk of unity and write of brotherhood, but they still work to exterminate each other.
They have all been tried, these different forms of government--monarchy, oligarchy, democracy, and despotism--in some century or some country, and in time they have all been found wanting. The notion that one or the other is an advance is falsified by history.
How right was the Russian writer Maxim Gorki: "It is necessary to lift oneself above politics. Politics has always a repugnant character because it is inevitably founded on the lie, the calumny, and violence." One could add "cynicism" and "hypocrisy."
Rasputin was not the only evil genius around the ill-fated Russian czar. There were others, chief of whom was Badmaev, a Tibetan black magician and witch-doctor. There were also several mystical idiots.
With his pure love of truth, the genuine philosopher is politically nonpartisan. He does not tie a political name-tag to himself for the reason that he wishes to be scrupulously honest in his attitude, which means that he wishes to see all around a problem whereas a party view is one which wishes to see only a single side of a problem--the side which best serves its own selfish interest or best pleases its own irrational prejudices.
The problem of what path social advance shall take is complicated and a successful solution is hard to come by. The desirable is not always the practicable. And because the rightness of the solution of a particular social, political, or economic problem must rest ultimately on its philosophic sanction, let economics not be too proud to take counsel from philosophy, which seemingly lies outside its province but actually lies deep within it. Inspired forethought is our need. Philosophy is alive and can contribute something here in its own way. It is perfectly relevant to the grave issues of today and indeed of any day. Philosophy can offer a statesman the right general attitude to take when confronted by situations, events, and problems. It does not offer him the particular policy he should follow in each case but rather a serene light which can illuminate every human and social problem. Nobody overnight becomes an encyclopaedia of all human knowledge or an expert economist or an expert agriculturist simply because he becomes a student of philosophy. It is unable to provide a blueprint of a new world order with the ease with which an engineer's draftsman might provide a blueprint of a new machine. For you cannot deal so easily with uncertain human factors and intractable human selfishness as you can deal with wood and steel. But it can indicate the direction in which the new world order must travel if it is to travel rightly. And that is all we propose to do here. We decline to predict what world order is going to arise during the next decade. But we can indicate the principles of wise or foolish actions and safely venture to say that such-and-such results will occur if you follow or obey these principles. Philosophy can advance only general proposals, a broad ideology upon which practical endeavours should be based. How these principles are to be applied and the technical details to which their elaboration will lead are matters which must be left to the experts themselves. It is not philosophy's task to supply detailed plans but only to supply a few fundamental principles upon which those plans may be worked out by specialists.
Men of fine sensitivity and high ideals do not usually feel at home in the atmosphere of active politics. They would need pressure or persuasion before acceptance of such involvement.
Do not look for political success in a man who is cultivating the sagacity which discriminates between appearance and reality, who is practising goodwill unto all, who would serve all sections of the community rather than the narrow selfish interests of a single one, who is swayed neither by the plaudits of the crowd nor by the censure of parties, who rejects from his speech the double-talk and hypocrisy which are such virtues in the political profession.
The unethical degradations which admittedly exist in the business, political, and social worlds cannot be made to disappear by running away from them but rather by the uplifting influence of individuals with superior personal character entering into them.
The world needs less politics and more spirituality. Politicians deal with effects and do not go to the ultimate root of most matters, that root which lies in human ignorance and sinfulness. However, politics plays a necessary part in modern life. It would be impossible in this era to do away with it anyway. The remedy is to purify, uplift, and inspire political activities. This can be done by those who have attained some spirituality, through their descent into the arena, if they feel suited to it.
It is not for us who are called to the philosophic work to meddle directly in the turmoils of politics, for usually such effort leads to nothing and brings the philosopher criticism or persecution. If, however, he has some useful ideas to contribute, it is better to do so indirectly, through other persons, than to directly get into the action himself.
We cannot legislate the human race into a change of heart. But we can legislate conditions which will be less obstructive to such a change than existing conditions.
In its readiness to heed the new evolutionary impulse affecting the human ego, the twenty-first century will reorient the spirit behind the educational system.
The next century will not support an educational system which encourages cruel competitive egoism in place of co-operation among pupils, which freely punishes them because it rarely understands them, which sets up examinations as a criterion of culture when they are merely criteria of cramming, which tyrannically attempts to mold all minds alike to the same degree within the same time instead of making allowances for ability, individuality, sensitivity, tendency, and difference of innate capacity to progress, which overdoes its tougher disciplines and underdoes its gentler ethics, which worships the dead past and remains superciliously irrelevant to the contemporary scene, which vainly loads memory instead of stimulating and satisfying curiosity, and which has no place for a few minutes of mental quiet in its daily progress.
It is the first and fundamental business of education not to stuff the mind with memory-taxing catalogues but to train it to think rightly; not to ignore inherent defects of character but to correct them; not to set students adrift on the sea of adolescent or adult life without an accurate chart but to supply it. If any system of instruction does not do this, then whatever high-sounding names it may bear it is certainly not education. How many have found that their education did not begin until the day after they left school or college?
The next century will affirm that a true education must include spiritual education, that without its presence in the curriculum, pupils will step out of school into life only half-educated and only half-prepared to meet its struggles. It is not only a well-informed mind that education should develop but, just as much, a sensitive and balanced one. An education which leaves a man completely ignorant of his higher nature is surely not a finished one. He should leave the classroom with a mature approach towards the major experiences which he is likely to get. And how can it be called mature if he has not developed a mature understanding of himself, with a resultant mature handling of himself?
Education ought to be a threefold affair: the acquisition of information and knowledge, the acquisition of skills and training for a livelihood, the improvement and refinement of the quality of the human being. Under this last head I put spirituality.
Education should not be just for training the workings of the mind, giving it sufficient information: it should also be for making a finer person and a higher character.
There are certain influences upon children's early years which are too important to be left to chance. So much of their characters and happiness, destiny and health depends upon their experiences during those early years. It is the duty of those who control homes, organize schools, and lead churches--all three--to give children some help in shaping a proper outlook in life, some knowledge of the higher laws, some guidance in simple meditation practice.
To give full freedom to the young--whether infants, teenagers, or those near adulthood, whether in home upbringing or educational arrangements--is to abandon wisdom, prudence, and practicality. Their possibilities of losing their way, making mistakes, and harming themselves and others are merely increased.
The young must be taught to govern themselves, and how this is best done. They must be instructed in the higher laws and especially the law of consequences, so that they may avoid punishing themselves. They must learn the power of thought, the harm of anger, the benefit of surrendering the ego. They must regain the old-fashioned virtues of good manners, tolerance, and respect for the older generation.
If education were touched with spirituality, in its real and not sectarian meaning, the teenager would grow into maturity under influences and in surroundings which would improve character, discourage bad tendencies, instruct in basic higher truths, and train in controlling one's own mind.
Who can measure the great tide of unnecessary misery which the examination system has brought into being amongst children? The child who has made a poor show feels that he has brought down upon himself the displeasure of his parents, the ridicule of his schoolmates, and the dissatisfaction of his teachers. Nor is this all. Failure to pass this torturous ordeal creates inferiority complexes, anxiety neuroses, emotional warpings, and torturing fears which may mar the child's entire adjustment to his life afterwards. Moreover, the competitive character of his experience tends to arouse jealousy and even hatred for the more successful children.
We have made a veritable fetish of competitive examinations. Students are not really taught; they are not allowed to study in the true sense but are forced to cram books and notes. The examination system inevitably forces them to become mental automatons, whereas a less mechanical system would encourage them really to learn. Pupils who cram their heads with "stuff" and merely repeat it in examinations do not necessarily develop their minds. The ultimate goal of education ought to be not learned pedantry, not the gaining of a diploma or degree, but the understanding and mastery of life. The mere stuffing of information should be quite subordinate to this goal.
The coming education will be based on new and higher principles, its efficacy tested less by the miserable system of competitive academic examinations which grade powers of parrot-like remembrance than by powers of enlightened intelligence. The general outlook of whole nations will be healthfully altered.
It may be that in the hard world outside school walls and college precincts, public examinations play too useful a part to be discarded; but in the gentler world within these walls and precincts it should surely be enough if scholastic merits were evaluated on the basis of past records of work done, enthusiasm shown, and interests manifested, records kept for this special purpose. The elimination of the competitive system need not mean the elimination of measurement of progress. Marks, percentages, and form-gradings have their practical worth so long as they are not used to play off one pupil against the others.
Anyone may launch himself on the sea of life without having learned navigation, without having been equipped with the needed training, knowledge, and qualifications which fit him to assume life's responsibilities--be they choosing a wife, rearing a family, following a profession, or keeping his body healthy. A true education would prepare the young adequately from kindergarten to university in the art of how to live. The prevalence of so much avoidable distress, misery, ignorance, and evil shows up this lack. But the teachers, the masters, and the professors themselves need to be taught first.
An education which does not end in some spiritual understanding and some moral elevation is incomplete and imperfect. But this cannot be accomplished within the customary school and college periods. The higher education of the human being can begin only after his mind has matured and only after he has had some social experience--that is, in adult life. This is why it is equally important that grown men and women should go on learning, should never cease to be students, and should turn the experiences of life into lessons.
An education which teaches people to think, but only to think materialistically; to live, but only to live for the old ideas which have brought civilization to the verge of destruction; and which entirely fails to teach them to intuit, is an imperfect and incomplete thing, or rather a subtle illusion.
The school which omits any mention of the Quest, the college which gives no hint of the higher consciousness in man, the university which lets philosophy remain an unknown, disregarded, or merely speculative subject--these do not adequately fulfil their function of preparing students for life in the world outside their walls.
That education is incomplete which does not instruct men in the art of spiritual communion, which does not teach them the need to and the way to control thoughts, which carries them through a course in physics but fails to continue into metaphysics, which informs mind but does not reform character.
Going to school is one thing, getting educated is another, although they coincide at times. Learning from a teacher is preparation. Learning from life in the world is observation. Learning from oneself is intuition.
We live in an age when false statements are passed off as true ones and when deceptive values are passed off as real ones, when the dissemination of knowledge is getting more and more into the hands of those who are themselves too young to wisely instruct the young, too unbalanced to help the characters of the young, and too theoretical to be able to pass on really practical information which will help their students.
It is not enough for parents to protect a child--they should also encourage and stimulate it to awaken spiritually.
Good manners should be taught in school from the most elementary to the highest university level, as was done in China when Confucius' influence was predominant.
Promptings to righteous living need not depend on the commandments of supernatural revelation alone. Religion ought not to be the only guardian of moral values. Education should also fill this position.
It is not enough to provide a young person with a technical education which will enable him to earn his living. There is also the question of what he is living for. Is his life to have any higher quality and value? Is his mind to have any higher awareness than a merely animal one?
The young are not usually taught that negative thoughts and feelings may bring suffering and trouble to themselves and those in their environments. Still less are they shown how to avoid, discipline, or sublimate such thoughts and feelings.
Children imitate their elders as far as they can and to a limited extent. If, therefore, parents want better children--better in behaviour, in character, in themselves, and in their relationships with others--then they must set constructive and desirable examples.
The conditions which surround a child, an adolescent, and a young adult during the period of preparation for responsible existence are very important. The impressions and suggestions, the training and forming he or she receives from them contribute heavily toward the final personality. Parent and teacher are giving forth more than they know.
Our universities turn out educated people in ever-increasing numbers, but they do not necessarily turn out wise people.
Why should the universities teach only the humanities and the sciences, but fail to teach a single student how to become a full human being? Why do they not impart the only science which deals with THAT WHICH IS? How many have told me that during the few minutes of a short Glimpse they feel that more worthwhile knowledge came to them than they gained in all their years of formal education in school and college!
"The academic people think they know everything already," Jung once said sarcastically. To which I would add: that is because they have never recovered from the effects of education. The higher the education the harder it is to recover.
It is clearly the parents' duty to transmit to their children, enough moral values to protect them in later life. But if the children, through the inheritance of unruly tendencies brought over from former lives, reject those values, the parents are blocked in their well-meant effort.
The individual character grown upon the tree of rebirth must appear by maturity--indeed it begins even to show in the infant--and no mother or father, however loving, can stop the process. But both parents can do much to bring out the better characteristics and to weaken the worse, just as a conscientious gardener can assist his plants.
What does it mean to be a human being? The full answer to this question is not taught to the young (as it ought to be) because few parents, teachers, and religious ministers really know it by experience.
To educate is to elevate; if a school or college fails to do this, its balance has been overthrown, its work has become one-sided. And if a church, temple, or synagogue fails in its worship to generate reverence towards the unknown God, rather than to things, it also is unbalanced.
The young are either uncertain, if they are modest, or too certain, if they are arrogant. In both cases they have yet to learn how to separate fact from opinion--a faculty which may come only after long development, or even not come at all.
No system of education can be a complete or an adequate one if it omits to teach young persons how to meditate. This is the one art which can assist them not only to develop self-control and to improve character but also to master all the other arts through mastery of concentration. When their minds have been trained to concentrate attention well, all their intellectual capacities and working powers attain the most individual expression with the least effort.
The loss of influence by the priests has been balanced by the increase of power by the educationists. It is the teacher who should give us what we cannot get from religion. But does he?
So long as the young are falsely taught to identify the historic greatness of a nation with the successful aggressions of that nation, so long will violence, crime, and selfishness spoil their characters.
Where is the practicality of an education which lets the young enter life only half-ready at best? For they know only one side of the universe--the physical; barely two-thirds of man--the physical and the intellectual parts; and little or nothing of the divine in man and universe. How little they know, for instance, of the troubles which passion, when unbridled and ungoverned, brings them. This does not refer to the physical troubles nor even to those of human relationship, for these are visible enough, but to the unseen psychic troubles inside themselves.
The education which fills mends and exercises bodies may suit its purpose, but the education which, in addition, inspires is infinitely superior.
An upbringing which supplies children with no truth, light, virtue, or faith in the higher power behind the universe, which passes on to them no spiritual help or strength, is reproachable.
An education worthy of the name would fearlessly include comparative religion. If it taught nothing more than the folly of intolerance, it would do much; but it does more--it helps the search for Truth.
Although this argument applies only to a part of the question where education in philosophy is concerned, to this partial extent it does pertain: "If we think them (the people) not enlightened enough to exercise (power) the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform them by education."--Thomas Jefferson, 1821
Education will place less emphasis on selfishness-breeding competition between individual scholars and more on tolerance-breeding progress of all the scholars. It will cease basing itself on the old error that all of them start alike and equal, and begin to base itself on the older truth that all of them start at different points and unequal grades. It will be more effective because it will recognize the operation of this universal law of repeated embodiment through successive earth-lives and hence recognize that unrestricted competition in the schoolroom is a cruel and unjustifiable thing.
Equality of opportunity is something which the modern demand for social justice is achieving rapidly, but this ought not to mean that children with more developed minds or higher evolutionary status should sit alongside those with less developed and more primitive minds in the school.
True education will nurture noble character rather than egoistic calculation, foster sharp intelligence rather than routine memory, train the student to the kind of technical work he or she likes to do and can do, and teach things of lasting value rather than force useless ones into the mind.
The futility of our lives is partially exemplified in our preparation for them, for our education attacks every problem but the most important: How to live? In the feverish overdoing of contemporary body-worship, too much time and honour have been given to sport and athletics. A transfer of some of this energy to the development of higher things has now become overdue. We must first decide what the primary object of education is to be. Does society thrive best on the information it has crammed or the virtues it has displayed? Should it not rather possess both while placing its emphasis on the second?
The young masses need to be taught the significance of courtesy, the importance of good manners, the value of refinement, long before they are taught the name of Chile's capital city.
Insofar as young men and women in their twenties behave like immature adolescents in their teens, with lamentably low standards of conduct, their upbringing is faulty and their education incomplete.
That is no bringing up of children which fails to bring them up to seek betterment of self in the inner sense, to admire virtue, strengthen character, and improve manners.
To be properly educated it is not enough to be well-informed and well able to think; one's potential talents and faculties should be brought out and developed. Such an education, although it begins with a school, can only continue all through a lifetime.
Any education that does not teach us the truth about ourselves, about the world, and about life is mis-education.
What is the use of educating so many young people's heads when we leave their intuitive natures absolutely untouched, uncultivated, and unused?
There is no true growth in our institutions because there is no true growth at the centre of our being.
Let religion learn to adjust itself to science and let science learn to adjust itself to philosophy, and let art learn to adjust itself to all three. Then we may look hopefully for a true education in our schools and colleges, a true life in our homes and workplaces.
If the young are not brought up to behave in a civilized manner, they are not properly brought up at all.
Higher education is necessary if we want to cultivate the higher mental faculties. The ordinary and elementary kind of education does not do this.
We are not sufficiently informed about the meaning of life and not sufficiently concerned with the purpose of life. In our ignorance we deify the machine and destroy ourselves. In our indifference we lose all chance of gaining peace of mind.
It is a striking comment on modern university campus activity that the students of ancient India were forbidden to take part in worldly affairs. Such activity properly belonged to the next (householder) stage of their careers when, instructed spiritually and morally in duties and obligations, they could take a constructive role in society.
The process of education never ceases, for beyond kindergarten and college there is the school of life, and everyone must attend it whether he likes it or not.
It is a widespread error which says that young birds who have reached a sufficient age are pushed out of the nest by the mother so that they may learn to fly of their own accord and live their own independent lives. This happens only in the case of the eagle and the swallow. Almost all other birds, when they are fully fledged, get out of the nest by their own power, persuaded partly by hunger because the food is no longer brought to them and partly by the persuasive inducements of the mother's call from a nearby point.
Each of us has been endowed with intelligence, determination, and ability, so that we may use these in order to grow spiritually--and to learn how to properly care for ourselves and others.
If in their public contacts with others they behave like half-savages; if they eat corpses as if they were half-cannibals; if they sneer at real art and support a meaningless coarse and ugly pseudo-culture of half-barbarian tastes: then after leaving university, college, or school they ought to go elsewhere to correct or complete their education.
We see young men sent out from the seminaries, ready to become ministers of religion. It is presumed by them and certified by their teachers that they see the truths of religion and will impart them. It does not occur to them, much less to their teachers, that they have been blinded, that they see only other men's opinions and beliefs, put into hard dogmatic form.
Education possesses a magic which we cannot afford to despise. What Hitler did to the hearts and minds of millions of young Germans through his grip on the system of public education was a miracle only to those who do not understand how amenable the young are to the influence of instruction and to the ideas sown in their minds. The war will not have been utterly valueless if it teaches the world to divert some of the money which has hitherto been spent on armaments into the channels of education.
Education cannot transform a child into what its former earth-lives have never made it, but a spiritual education can certainly modify its baser attributes and enhance its better ones.
Education will recognize that the study of philosophy should occupy the last and highest place in a complete course. But it is precisely this study which our present education sees no use for. The young need philosophy no less than the old, for on the threshold of starting life, with its varied possibilities and hard problems, they feel how useful some guidance can be. The time to save a man is not in his old age, after he has lived, but in his young age, before he has lived. It is then that he is most susceptible to moral guidance, most suggestible by nonmaterialistic teaching, and most imitative of good conduct. Later is often too late. The idea and practice of spiritual development ought to be introduced into the schools and colleges. How to do this and not be blocked by obstacles offered by sectarian religion is the biggest problem.
The world will change, and change for the better, when we put our schools in order, when we educate our children less in geography and more in unselfishness, less in history and more in high character, less in a dozen other subjects and more in the art of right living.