Now genuine wisdom, being in its highest phase the fruit of a transcendental insight, is sublimely dateless and unchangeable. Yet its mode of expression is necessarily dated and may therefore change. Perhaps this pioneering attempt to fill the term "philosophy" with a content which combines ancient tradition with modern innovation will help the few who are sick of intellectual intolerances that masquerade as spiritual insight. Perhaps it may free such broader souls from the need of adopting a separative standpoint with all the frictions, prejudices, egotisms, and hatreds which go with it, and afford them an intellectual basis for practising a profound compassion for all alike. It is as natural for those reared on limited conceptions of life to limit their faith and loyalty to a particular group or a particular area of this planet as it is natural for those reared on philosophic truth to widen their vision and service into world-comprehension and world-fellowship. The philosopher's larger and nobler vision refuses to establish a separate group consciousness for himself and for those who think as he does. Hence he refuses to establish a new cult, a new association, or a new label. To him the oneness of mankind is a fact and not a fable. He is always conscious of the fact that he is a citizen of the world-community. While acknowledging the place and need of lesser loyalties for unphilosophical persons, he cannot outrage truth by confining his own self solely to such loyalties.
Why this eagerness to separate ourselves from the rest of mankind and collect into a sect, to wear a new label that proclaims difference and division? The more we believe in the oneness of life, the less we ought to herd ourselves behind barriers. To add a new cult to the existing list is to multiply the causes of human division and thence of human strife. Let those of us who can do so be done with this seeking of ever-new disunity, this fostering of ever-fresh prejudices, and let those who cannot do so keep it at least as an ideal--however remote and however far-off its attainment may seem--for after all it is ultimate direction and not immediate position that matters most. The democratic abolishment of class status and exclusive groups, which will be a distinctive feature of the coming age, should also show itself in the circles of mystical and philosophic students. If they have any superiority over others, let them display it by a superiority of conduct grounded in a diviner consciousness. Nevertheless, with all the best will in the world to refrain from starting a new group, the distinctive character of their conduct and the unique character of their outlook will, of themselves, mark out the followers of such teaching. Therefore whatever metaphysical unity with others may be perceived and whatever inward willingness to identify interests with them may be felt, some kind of practical indication of its goal and outward particularization of its path will necessarily and inescapably arise of their own accord. And I do not know of any better or broader name with which to mark those who pursue this quest than to say that they are students of philosophy.
(a) Spinoza taught that God was the whole of things in the universe. This brought him into the category of Pantheist. Philosophy says this is true, but only part of the truth. For God is not only immanent in the universe but also transcends it. God still would be God even if there were no universe.
(b) He declared that the unknown reality was Substance. Philosophy says this is only an attribute of Reality and as such still not the ultimate itself, no more than the quality of fragrance is the flower itself.
(c) He believed in Causality as science did in the nineteenth century, and as all must do who do not comprehend the final truth that Reality is nondual, and hence leaves no room for the duality of a cause and an effect.
(d) Spinoza's pantheism made him declare that everything is God. This is the theological outlook. The philosophical one declares that everything is a manifestation of One Infinite Reality. For if the ego also is God, then who is God?
(e) Spinoza's teaching that God has two attributes, Mind and Matter, that reality has two aspects, mind and body, made him a dualist. Philosophy knows only one reality--Mind. It admits causality only for the immediate and practical purposes of the illusory world.
(f) His teaching on how to live so as to fulfil the proper purpose of life is identical with philosophy's teaching. He saw that man so far must become wholly free inwardly and as free as possible outwardly. This is to be achieved by self-mastery, by overcoming desires, subjugating passions, and simplifying existence. This brings true happiness.
Bradley defined philosophy as the finding of bad reasons for what one believes by instinct but Aldous Huxley has endeavoured to improve on this. He says, "finding bad reasons for what one believes for other bad reasons--that's philosophy."
In India, popular ignorance gradually identified philosophy with those monks and anchorites who had fled from the world and its woes to monasteries or mountains.
It was once the fashion of many people to sneer at philosophy and to regard philosophers as a ridiculous compound of foolishness and fatuity, but time has begun to change all that.
The notion that there is something futile about philosophy is quite correct when applied to what passes under that name very often, but quite incorrect when applied to genuine philosophy; and it is genuine philosophy which is here presented.
The value of knowing truth lies in its potency for making clear the art of fine living. A philosophy which is not strong enough to vivify personal life is no more than a dry dusty intellectualism, and when philosophy becomes a mode of intellectual wrestling, contributing little or nothing to action, it falls rightly into neglect. Its proper business is to rescue man from mechanical and unintelligent activity and put him on the path to a deliberately wise existence. It should be an insurance against making ethical errors or undertaking stupid enterprises, and its study is the premium to be paid for this valuable insurance.
Here then is a teaching, very old and very wise, which summarizes all human knowledge, actual and possible, and which shows man how best to shape his personal and practical life. I am not its originator. I can but try to re-present it to a troubled, broken, and blinded world which waits for this knowledge in modern form, as a benighted traveller waits for the dawn.
This philosophy rightly understood and rightly used will make men who make history. It calls for people who are ready and able to raise it above the status of a tea table topic, and to devote to its study and practice not merely an occasional free evening, but their whole lives; who will not only understand these great truths intellectually, but feel their transforming power in their hearts, and courageously live them in everyday life. For whoever masters this philosophy will soon feel its invigorating influence in every sphere of his activity, and in its light he will walk life's ways with calm assurance. The Need
Once I stood on the wide pavement of Broadway. All around flashed and reflashed the electric advertising signs of "The Great White Way." A ragged young man bearing a bundle of newspapers came up to me, thrust a paper close to my face, and shouted raucously, "Man and woman shot." The never ending roar of motor traffic dinned in my ears. Crowds of people pressed by me: expectant faces intent on snatching an evening's pleasure, tired faces eager to get home after a day's toil, painted faces striving to retain a semblance of beauty, hard ominous faces emerging from New York's underworld with sinister intent. There was the stir of exultant activity. I looked around at the crowd which jostled me, and peered questioningly into the faces which moved like a cinema film before my eyes. Which one seemed to express the attainment of inward happiness? Which one revealed a serene detachment from its destructive environment? I turned away, sadly disappointed in my quest. Nearly all had been suborned by the temptations that form such an alluring accompaniment to modern existence. They did not understand that the transitory is true but trivial, the eternal is true and great. They did not understand that baronets cannot escape broken hearts, nor millionaires the miseries of disappointment. They did not know that once a man has taken measure of the suffering which is inherent in life, the wrinkled demon of reflection will pursue him into the very haunts of revelry. He may view with pleasure a hundred happy figures dancing in gay abandon, when lo! its sneer sounds abruptly in his ear, "and even these are but dream figures dancing towards their silent graves." And so they wander through the years alternating between the red flames of passion and the grey coolness of calculation, until the little candles of their lives have guttered out.
They who think that the purpose of human incarnation is to increase pleasures and accumulate property have learned nothing from the instability of life and insecurity of possessions which have marked the period now passing.
The greatest evils of our age are not in its outward materialism but in its inward ignorance, and not in its practical inventiveness but in its mental unbalance.
When we mistake transient sense gratifications for true happiness we suffer later for our error. When we fail to discriminate between what is perishable in our lives and what is truly enduring we rely upon illusory values. The future tempts or torments us; the past keeps us half-buried in its memories; while the truth which could lift us into a region that liberates us from all temporal tyrannies is disdained. Yet peace, sublime and ego-free, can exist for us only when we learn to live, as it were, upon the pinpoint of a moment where all hopes for the future are not allowed to imprison us, and where equally all memories of the past are merely held and do not hold us.
We attain peace, as Buddha pointed out, when we are free from all desires. Inspired Action
Inspired action is the means of reconciliation between seclusion and society, the service of the noisy crowd with the silence of lofty thought. Spirituality ceases to be a monopoly of the cloister, comes out of the confinement of church, temple, monastery, or mosque, and walks in the marketplace among busy men.
For philosophy teaches us that there is no sharp division between the world of surrounding things and the world of internal aspirations, that both are of the same ultimate essence of mind. Therefore the philosopher will despise nothing because it is supposed to be material, just as he will discard nothing because it is supposed to be anti-spiritual. He has glimpsed the great mystery of all existence, and knows that all things are within and participate in the Overself. Philosophy is identical with action and not with inertia. To make it anything less is to abuse words, for as the "love of wisdom" it must include the application of wisdom.
"Love cannot be idle," says Ruysbroeck.
"I preach you the truth, O monks, for deliverance and not for keeping idle," says Buddha.
The hidden teaching affirms that the universal manifested existence is a Becoming, a change from one condition to another. It is absurd to suggest that a truly spiritual life must be a static one. A static human existence is impossible, and whoever seeks it seeks in vain.
Life in the active world is simply expression, and the divine life can be lived everywhere.
No defense need be made to the fanatics who decry and denounce our desire to get some comfort and convenience from the earth's resources. Western civilization, so condemned by Oriental critics, possesses much that is admirable, despite its obvious faults.
Man is not called upon to renounce his great discoveries and works, but to renounce selfish usage of them.
There can be no salvation in the attitude of mind which denounces the West as wicked and material Occidentalism and upholds an ascetic disdain of material things.
The God Who is to be found within ourselves must also exist equally outside ourselves in the phenomenal universe, else how would He be Infinite?
No, we must rebut the accusation of materialism as stupid, and point out that a better name would be realism. Life in activity is as real as life in repose; expression is no less divine than meditation; and they who have discovered the divinity within themselves will forthwith recognize it throughout the universe. The Balanced Life
We need to achieve a balanced life with a wise alternation between action and repose, work and meditation, being positive and being passive.
Only the philosopher has the orientation of outlook which enables a man to take his political, social, and economic bearings correctly.
It may not be often that the floors of city offices are trodden by the feet of those who also wander in the caves of mystic contemplation; nor the hubbub of the stock exchange heard by those who also hear the sweet silence of the inner self. The combination in one personality of the two opposite characteristics of meditation and action may be infrequent, but there are those who have achieved it, and who realize that work is not only to make a living, but a life.
When there are more such men and women in towns and cities, when they walk in the hard metropolitan streets and the busy bartering places revealing a serene state of mind which is held and maintained no less among crowds than in solitary places, the soulless character of so much of modern life will be redeemed. The philosophy of inspired action of such persons brings blessings on mankind. Such persons have accepted their lot in worldly life and seek to do their duty; they turn occasion into opportunity and bring the sense of sublimity into their prosaic hours. Their own diviner peace and spiritual poise is blessing to their neighbours like fresh dew on a parched land.
Another name for inspired action is unselfish work. The spiritual man will work no less hard than the average man; his work will be done well, with understanding, calmly, with detachment. His aspiration is towards Perfection, the Supreme Divinity, and this attitude will be seen in all his work, even in the meanest task. He works without the fever of ambition or greed, and he does not allow any pains or pleasures, difficulties or problems to move him from the ideal he has set before him. With calm and equable spirit he does his best. More he cannot do.
A man who is attuned to cosmic harmonies cannot fail to express harmony in all his worldly activities.
This is a quest to be undertaken by those who have suffered and smiled and are still ardently alive, not for those heavy humourless persons who are ascetically dead. Therefore let those of us who are condemned to toil for our daily bread not forget to toil for the spiritual Bread of Life. The notion that a spiritual man may not work vigorously in the world of business and industry is as nonsensical as the notion that a man who can compose perfect music may not eat a hearty dinner.
There is nothing to prevent the sage from being a successful businessman, and nothing wrong in practical activities, for the simple reason that he will not cease being a sage nor lose himself in his activities, and he will remain rooted in Reality amid the world of thoughts and things.
Voltaire wrote of Marlborough that he had a calmness in the midst of tumult and danger "which is the greatest gift of nature for command." Thus even a soldier can derive great benefit from yoga.
Daily meditation will overcome the materializing effect of constant contact with worldly influences, by bringing together the inner and outer selves in communion with each other: one giving strength and light to the other, and the latter expressing this inspiration in active life.
We are able to live a complete and creative existence only after we have arrived at a true attitude towards life through spiritual unfoldment. Only then can we walk the world's ways in safety.
In the end we may learn whether our feelings were wise or deceptive, our thinking sound or unsound, by the experience which comes from our consequent acts. Dreamers, escapists, and ascetics who shy away from activity deprive themselves of this valuable test.
We shall find we must have the strength to say "No" to a thing before we have the inner right to take it. We must learn how to renounce a thing before we can possess it.
We must learn to remain ultramystically aware always, even while we are externally occupied with any matter in hand. Our work will not suffer, but be all the better for the poised emotion and peaceful mind which this brings.
Philosophy combines a lofty idealism with an intense practicality.
This teaching can be understood only by those who try to live it: all others merely think they understand it. Only those who have incorporated it in their lives for a number of years can know how intensely practical philosophy is.
The practicality of the philosophical quest is something few men discover until they are far advanced on the quest. If the dreamers, the fanatics, the visionaries, the lethargic, the feckless, and the failures seem to be the ones most vocal about the quest, that is merely because they are hardly on the quest at all but only stand around its entrance.
Practical philosophy is the art of living so as to fulfil life's higher purpose.
It is a grave mistake to regard these matters as having no more than a theoretical interest, to be played with or not according to one's taste. Whoever finds the answers to the questions, whoever knows what man really is, what his prenatal and post-mortem destinies are, what his highest good is, will necessarily find that his practical everyday living is much affected by them.
The notion that illumination must turn a man into a mere dreamer, unfit for practical life and incapable of coping with practical situations, is true only when it is of an imperfect kind, or when the man is not properly prepared to receive it, or when it is too short to be full yet deep enough to unsettle him. Illumination in the philosophic sense, however, need not deprive a man of the capacity for energetic action, although it will deprive him of the feeling of hurried action. He will do his necessary work in the world, not with slovenly weakness but with quiet calm.
Wisdom begins only when you apply in practice what you absorb in theory.
He must use the teaching in his daily life to know its practical value and to prove its practical truth. As he progresses he will discover that the more he uses it, the more he gains in power and strength.
It is uncommon to find an individual who, in a single personality, combines a highly spiritual outlook with a truly practical character. He who succeeds in effecting this combination is rare, but he is the type that the coming age needs and demands. For he can prove and demonstrate convincingly to all the world that loftiness of philosophic ethics will not be a weakness in practical life. On the contrary, because it is informed by knowledge and based upon wisdom, it will be a source of strength.
The effect of his studies and meditations will slowly but surely reveal itself in his life. His world outlook will sparkle with vitality, his speech will form itself with precision, his deeds will be wise and more virtuous. For philosophy, unlike metaphysics, is not only a theory to be learned from books but even more an integral way of life to be practised in society.
The common misconception that philosophy bears no practical relation to ordinary life is due to ignorance. The proper understanding of philosophy would greatly reduce human sin and suffering, would discipline brutal men and selfish women, would dissolve fanatical strife and creedal conflict, would inspire us to put into concrete shape the loftiest ideals of our imagination, would bring a beautiful solace to offset the disappointments bred in homes, offices, fields, and factories. These are tangible things and refute the allegation that the philosopher shuts his eyes to the harassments and activities of common life. The misconception has arisen, however, because so many misguided theologians and so many fantastic dreamers have passed themselves off as philosophers.
Philosophy will show a man how to find his better self, will lead him to cultivate intuition, will guide him to acquire sounder values and stronger will, will train him in right thinking and wise reflection, and, lastly, will give him correct standards of ethical rightness or wrongness. If its theoretical pursuit is so satisfying that it can be an end and a reward in itself, its practical application to current living is immeasurably useful, valuable, and helpful.
It is not that truth has to be made practical, for it is the most practical thing which exists. It is that men have to become better instructed in it, as well as in the higher laws which reflect it, and then live out what they have learned.
It is quite proper to seek personal advantage even when embracing a religious cult or a spiritual teaching. If men thought they would get nothing at all from it, few would ever embrace one. But this is not the spirit in which to embrace philosophy. That is to be sought in utter purity of motive, because truth is to be sought for its own sake, whether its face is ugly or pleasant. Nevertheless, personal advantages accrue. Philosophy teaches how to be well and live well, how to avoid misery and attract happiness, how to bear suffering and achieve peace of mind. Its values and results are as related to practical living as anything could be, but eyes are needed to see them.
Not to escape life, but to articulate it, is philosophy's practical goal. Not to take the aspirant out of circulation, but to give him something worth doing is philosophy's sensible ideal.
If leadership and guidance, inspiration and light are ever to come to humanity from mystical circles during this colossal upheaval, be sure that they will come only from those who have wedded head to heart and contemplation to practical service.
It is a false ethic which would tell us that material things are valueless, that worldly prosperity is worthless. Philosophy is full of common sense along with its rare uncommon sense. Therefore it teaches giving the proper value to material things, appraising worldly prosperity properly by pointing out that inward quality and inner life must support it for genuine happiness.
The philosopher may walk unfalteringly and surefootedly because he sees reality and understands the truth of life.
To bring the divine presence into the midst of one's work and one's work continually into the divine presence--this is an inspired and worthwhile active life.
There is a direct relation between the abstract concepts of metaphysics and the concrete problems of individuals, between the ultimate principles of the one and the immediate needs of the other. But most people are too short-sighted to observe this relation, too blurred mentally to comprehend. They regard metaphysical truth as a dispensable luxury, or a leisure hour hobby, without which they can get along quite well if called upon to do so. On the contrary, it is basic for character, foundational for behaviour, solutional for problems, and prophylactic for troubles. If at first it seems intangible, in the end it becomes invaluable. Yes, Philosophy is tremendously practical but only those who know it from the inside, who have felt its power in trying circumstances and followed its guidance in perplexing ones, know this. In good and bad periods, through long spells of ordinary routine and sudden turning points at critical times, it shows its practical benefits, its everyday applicability. Its ability to steady the emotions during times of perplexing crisis and to quieten the nerves in places of distracting noises proved itself during the war.
The time has gone when the philosophic and the practical, the religious and the realistic, the spiritual and the material are to be regarded as being mutually antagonistic; today we must regard them as working to a common end and purpose, as reconcilable in ultimate unity. Thus our actions should come to be visible emblems of the invisible inner life in which we must take our roots.
Philosophy says he has to bring his scheming mind, his rational mind, his concrete mind to bear upon solutions to his practical problems; but he must work them out under the inspiration of the soul, else they are solutions that solve little.
Those same capacities, applied to worldly careers, professions, or businesses, are more likely to bring a man success than failure. We often hear that philosophy is useless to hungry men or poor men. This is false. For the quality of intelligence and character developed by it is higher than the average and therefore its possessor will know better how to rid himself of hunger or poverty than will the possessor of an inferior quality of intelligence and character.
How shall I act rightly and wisely? This is the problem which faces every man. Hence philosophy not only teaches a way of thought but also a way of action. This is inevitably so because, unlike mysticism, it is concerned not merely with a segment of life but with the whole of it. There is something defective about a teaching if it forgets the ultimate purpose for which it itself exists, if it leaves its followers in the air, and therefore cannot be successfully applied in practical action. We may understand the value of our intellectual formulations only when they are put to the test in actual practice. In putting an idea, a theory, or a doctrine to the practical test or in bringing a way of living into practical operation, we enable it to reveal its truth or falsity, its scope or limitations, its merits or demerits. A doctrine must be tested not only by its intellectual soundness but also by its practical results. The first test can be instantly applied but the second only after a certain time has elapsed. Thus the good is separated from the bad, the right is distinguished from the wrong, the true is divided from the false, either by intelligence in the sphere of abstract ideas or by time in the sphere of spatial things. The first shoots of wheat and weeds cannot be distinguished by ordinary sight or knowledge, but give them time to grow up to maturity and everybody can distinguish them. The barrenness or fruitfulness of any teaching is in the end inexorably ascertained by applying the test of historical results, that is, the test of time.
Nothing could be more practical than applied philosophy. The student will find his will strengthened by its definite affirmations, so that he will bring a bolder heart to the troubles and duties of everyday living. He will find his feelings less disturbed by the evil in other men's characters and deeds. He will find his thoughts inspired by its declaration of the benevolent purpose and supreme intelligence behind his life.
The philosophic way is neither to live a crippled ascetic life out of touch with the times nor to give itself up totally to the foolishness of the times.
When knowledge is worked out in action, reflected in attitude, and formed in the entire life, then only does it become real.
Even as the narrow ascetic seeks to deny life, so the more tolerant philosopher seeks to affirm it. It is true that the materialist does the same, but he does it in ignorance of what life really is, and he does it for the benefit of the little fragment of his own personality alone. The philosopher, on the contrary, works in the light of higher knowledge and works for the benefit of the All.
When these thoughts pass down from his head to his heart and from his heart to his will, only then will he really be a student of philosophy. The heart must be opened to them, the will must be directed by them. With that his life will change, at first little by little, into a blessed one.
It is not enough to convert thoughts into deeds. The latter must also be done in the right place and at the right time, if they are to achieve their object.
The effects of the discipline show themselves in his handling of worldly affairs, in his swift resourcefulness during urgent situations, his calm balance during critical ones, and his practical wisdom during puzzling ones.
Philosophy demands that we actualize our ideals. Wisdom must flower in deeds that accord with it or it is not wisdom. Action is the decisive factor, the acid test of all mystical, metaphysical, and religious pretensions to a superior ethic. Therefore the ethical values, such as compassion and integrity, which arise from the interior experience of metaphysical and mystical meditation must also be upheld in the exterior space-time world.
The practical contact of life will supply a test of the worth of his dominant ideas, a means of verifying the truth of his holiest beliefs, and an indicator of the grade or strength of his moral character.
He does not and cannot separate life from philosophy. Those who assert that it is a study for mere dreamers are wrong.
The artist, working through the medium of imagination--whether he imagines scenes or sounds--creates a beautiful piece. The philosopher, working through the same medium but seeking self-improvement, creates a beautiful life.
Being a philosopher is being alive, not denying life. Philosophy is bought at a price, nothing less than a man's whole life, which is to be directed thereafter by a blend of intuition, intellect, and revelation. If therefore anything is thrown away, it can only be because it is not worth keeping.
Although it is far better to read philosophy than to ignore it altogether, it is immeasurably better to feel the emotional urge and inner drive which are needed to bring about its application to day-by-day living. If they are lacking but the wish for them is present, two things can be done that will help to attract them. First, begin to pray to the higher power for such a grace. Second, establish contact, fellowship, or discipleship with those who are themselves impregnated with such resolve, fervour, and deep yearning.
Although philosophy is eminently practical, it does not, like materialism, lose itself wholly in such practicality. It does not throw away its fine intuitions, noble dreams, and wise thoughts while planting its feet firmly on earth. Rather does it seek to hold a reconciling balance between its dreams and its deeds, between the inner life and the outer world.
The philosopher is a practical man. He understands quite well--as much as any materialist--that he has to live out this physical life to which he was born in the physical world of which he is a part. Therefore, although it is metaphysically graded as being like a dream, it must be dealt with properly, adequately, efficiently, and attentively.
Philosophy must have an interest for men of flesh and blood, must be of service to those who live in a practical ordinary world, must have bridges to religion and art and science, must not be isolated from lesser forms of inquiry even though it seeks the higher ones.
If it were not in closest contact with the facts of human life, it could not be philosophy. But the real reason why it is charged by critics with promoting dreaminess and with being unpractical is that they are interested only in some of the facts whereas philosophy is interested in all of them.
His basic values may become firmer and more positive as his understanding of philosophy becomes fuller. They support him during the difficult periods of adjustment to the world in which he has to live and work. They guide him ethically and protect his character.
The ascetic who wants to keep his life "simple" does not want the "burden" of possessions. The hedonist sees no burden in them, but rather beauty and comfort. He welcomes them. The philosopher, able to absorb both views, reconciles and accepts them, for he recognizes the play of Yin and Yang through all life, including his own.
By pointing out the way of development immediately ahead of the aspirant, as well as the goal remotely distant, philosophy shows its practicality.
The materialist says he can enjoy peace of mind only if all his material needs and satisfactions are obtained. The idealist says he is indifferent to such material things because peace of mind can only follow spiritual satisfaction. The one is stating a quarter of the truth, the other three-quarters, because both are looking at different aspects of life. Neither one is looking at the whole of life. This requires man to secure a varying minimum of money, clothes, shelter, food, fuel, and so on, whoever he is and whatever his outlook. His inner needs will still have to be met, but these depend on his evolutionary stage as to their nature and quality.
Philosophy does not approve of deterioration in the quality of human welfare and its justification in the name of so-called spirituality.
The philosophic mode of life coheres with the metaphysical system behind it. The one is a practical expression of the thorough thinking of the other. The confidence which fills the first harmonizes with the certitude which stamps the second.
The philosophical life is a simple life, partly because it seeks to escape unnecessary anxieties, partly because it wants to save time and energy for what seems more desirable.
Those who regard it as a disincarnate entity hovering in the air have not understood philosophy. It does not separate action from thought, conduct from consciousness, nor society from self. But neither does it commit the materialist error of making action, conduct, and society end in themselves, any more than it commits the mystical error of making ecstasy, feeling, and visions end in themselves.
It is an ironic fact that the philosophic way of living, far from being suitable for dreamers, misfits, and escapists only, is in the long view the most practical way of all ways of living.
Philosophy is intensely practical; yet, because it is also well balanced, it judges neither by results alone nor by intention alone, but by both.
This teaching recognizes that Mind is the primary element in life, but it recognizes also the contributions of the physical and the intellectual. Its aim is to enable the student to maintain all effort in correct proportionate balance.
The last test of what intellect, intuition, or feeling offers as the truth must be provided by the will. In the realm of doing, we discover its rightness or wrongness.
It is not enough to grasp spiritual realization intellectually. We have to embody it physically.
Pragmatism is of the adolescent stage of mental development. It is crude realism directed towards utility and satisfaction only. Its weakness lies in its acceptance of satisfaction and utility as the test of truth. Each man may have a different definition of what satisfies and is most useful, hence contradictions arise. Pragmatism can see truth only in the fruits of effort, which is only partially correct. Philosophy also sees truth in its fruits of practice, but it tests theories also. Pragmatism only tests practice. It deals only with one aspect of philosophy, what man can do; it forgets to take the world as it is. The world is forever changing, partly due to Nature and partly due to man. The two aspects taken together form the basis of philosophical thought and study. In favouring the one aspect only, pragmatism is one-sided and imperfect philosophically.
It does not agree with either the fools who are infatuated with worldly life or the fanatics who condemn it, but finds a reasonable equilibrium of attitude between them.
We may hopefully expect to find, and we shall not be disappointed, that the noble principles of philosophy are visible in the noble results of philosophy.
Is it a merely theoretic, vaguely academic matter? No! For those who rule states or pass laws are guided in their actions and decisions by their outlook on life generally as by their ability to rule themselves. This is most often half-conscious or instinctual. Philosophy brings both the lower and the higher sources into clear consciousness.
Power will tread on the heels of knowledge only if we apply it.
If its disciples fail to put philosophy into practice, their failure does not invalidate its truth nor derogate its worth but does show that they are only half-disciples.
The only education worth the name is that which prepares a pupil for life, that which teaches him how to live.
It is here, in a simple, common situation that one finds oneself, that philosophy has its place, just as much as in the profoundest movement of thought.
Only those who know some of the secret laws of the universe know that this is not a teaching for mere dreamers and irresponsible escapists. They know that the ultimate peace, safety, and health of a people depend on the extent to which the principles of living under these laws are understood.
The man who faithfully obeys the injunctions and practices the regimes of philosophy can never be a failure, whatever the world says. Nor can he be unemployed, for he understands that his real employer is the Overself and that the work he is doing will not end while life does not end.
Even a limited amount of the practice of philosophy produces disproportionately larger gains.
He believes, intuits, perhaps even knows that the Real, the True, the Good, and the Beautiful are the best things in life and the most worth seeking, that their quest will lead him through mystical regions and ethereal experience. But that is no excuse for deserting critical judgement and practical sense.
Philosophy affects the whole of life: not only thought but also action, not only consciousness but also diet.
The philosopher knows just as well as anyone else the importance of money. He does not, like the ascetic, take a vow of poverty nor, like the fanatic, decry its power to bring happiness. But neither does he give it the value which the materialist gives it. He is balanced.
The need is for a combination of practical self-interest with idealistic soul-interest.
With wisdom in temptation and fortitude in tribulation, guided by noble principles rather than by momentary impulses, he will expound the nature of philosophic ethics by the nature of his everyday living.
Practical life will benefit in every way if the inner life is inspired by philosophy. There is no danger of the man becoming a vain futile dreamer or of his brain becoming deranged. Look for such dangers in the cults, psychic and occult, not here. The philosopher may sit on his mountaintop if he elects to, but he will not consider that this is the best way to live, the ideal. It may serve a special and temporary purpose, or satisfy his temperament, but he will be just as ready to descend into the valleys and cities if the Overself bids him.
What did it mean to the American destiny and to the human channel through which that destiny was being formulated in the last century that the most illumined mind in the country, Ralph Waldo Emerson, twice talked to Abraham Lincoln in the White House at Washington during a dark year of the Civil War? What did it mean to Lincoln that the one man in America who could do so brought him a spiritual gift of hope, light, and fortitude? It is significant that a few months after Emerson's visit, Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary proclamation of the Emancipation of the Slaves, an act which made the fighting of the war to the bitter end inevitable. To Emerson the war was an inescapable crusade. It was something holy in its resolve to remove the foulness of slavery from the land. Therefore he firmly opposed any end to the war which would not achieve this goal, or, in his own words, "Any peace restoring the old rottenness."
Philosophy aims at producing a group of men and women trained in mind control, accustomed to subordinate immediate interests to ultimate ends, sincerely desirous of serving humanity in fundamental ways, and possessed of philosophic knowledge which will make them valuable citizens. They will have balanced characters, based on refined feeling and exercised reason. It will be their constant endeavour to maintain a clear and definite outlook on the personal and public issues of the moment. Philosophy does not sit in helpless passivity when confronted with the spectacle of hustling cities and busy factories. Its supreme value to mankind lies in the solid ground it affords for a life devoted to the unremitting service of humanity.
In the magazine Lucifer, H.P. Blavatsky says, "If the voice of the mysteries has become silent for many ages in the West, if Eleusis, Memphis, Antium, Delphi have long ago been made the tombs of a science once as colossal in the West as it is yet in the East, there are successors now being prepared for them. We are in 1887 and the nineteenth century is close to its death. The twentieth century has strange developments in store for humanity."
The time has come to develop the knowledge and extend the understanding of a teaching which few know and fewer still understand. Occupied principally, as it is, with matters of eternal rather than ephemeral life, it finds today a larger opportunity for service than it could have found at any earlier period in consequence of the evolutionary forces which have been working on man's history, ideas, attitudes, communications, and productions. It is the most important knowledge which any human being could study.
There is no such thing as a merely theoretical philosopher. If anyone is not a practising philosopher, he has not understood correctly nor theorized properly.
Neither mysticism nor metaphysics is sufficient by itself. We need not only the union of what is best in both, but also the disinterested driving force of moral activity. Only when our metaphysical understanding and meditational exercises begin to interpret themselves in active life do we begin to justify both. The Word must become flesh. It is not enough to accumulate knowledge. We must also apply it. We must act as well as meditate. We cannot afford like the ascetical hermit to exclude the world. Philosophy, which quite definitely has an activist outlook, demands that intuition and intelligence be harmoniously conjoined, and that this united couple be compassionately inserted into social life. Like the heat and light in a flame, so thought and action are united in philosophy. It does not lead to a dreamy quietism, but to a virile activity. Philosophic thought fulfils itself in philosophic action. This is so and this must be so because mentalism affirms that the two are really one. Thus the quest begins by a mystical turning inwards, but it ends by a philosophic returning outwards.
This is the final test. Philosophy works. Whatever you do, wherever you go, it can be put to practical use. It cannot be isolated from life, for it is always intimate with life.
It is quite true that the full preparation for, and practice of, mysticism takes us away from life in the world. But its work need not stop there. The very same forces which activate it can later become the inspiration of a new life in the world, the foundation of an effective practicality.
Philosophy leaves the physical plane only to return to it, lets go of activities only to take them up again. For the physical world is as much its proper concern as any other. Everything is reverenced, every act turned into a religious rite.
Worldly life, which is either a trap or a hindrance to the unphilosophical, is a school of instruction and an avenue of service to the philosophical.
The self and the world are linked closely together: to understand the resulting combination both must be studied, and side by side. Otherwise the end of the road is half-truth, not the full truth.
Faced with the mystery of his own existence, man finally finds an answer in religion or mysticism. If he adds the mystery of the world's existence, he must look for his complete answer in philosophy.
The immature spirituality and incomplete enlightenment which sneers at life in the world and idolizes life in the monastery, which furthermore confuses defeat in the external struggle for existence with triumph in the internal struggle for God, is unphilosophical. We may strive for a place in society and the gains that go with it as strenuously and as determinedly as any ambitious man, so long as we remember to keep our earthly ambitions subordinate to our celestial ones, so long as we do not forget to strive also for a more abiding inner status and rustless wealth. We may aim at effective accomplishment and successful outcome of the work we are doing, whether it be banking or bricklaying. There is no harm in that and God will not hold it against us in the higher reckoning. The harm begins when we lose our sense of proportion and let the success itself become a supreme value of life, when we become blind to anything higher and insensitive to anything nobler, when we disregard ethical laws and social responsibilities in our thirst to attain it, when we are broken in spirit by failure and weakened in fibre by disappointment.
The philosophic aspirant is not asked, like the yogic aspirant, to quit the world. But he is asked to quit the world view which has kept him spiritually ignorant. Hence, outwardly he may live as full a life as he pleases if only inwardly he will live according to the higher laws of philosophic knowledge and ethics.
We are sent to this world to learn its useful lessons, and were we to succeed in blotting out consciousness of what is going on around us in it, we would merely be blotting out an opportunity to learn them. This is what happens if trance is prematurely achieved.
Let the metaphysical dreamers assert that the body is nothing, the world unimportant or even non-existent. To the philosopher both are significant, meaningful, and life in them purposive. Are they not, in the end, devices to extract the divinity within us?
The situations which develop from day to day afford a field for enquiry, analysis, reflection, intuition, and ultimate understanding in themselves, quite apart from the application of principles already learned.
However far from philosophy these matters and events seem to be, in reality they illustrate or exemplify some part of the teaching.
The philosopher seeks to live in his century. He is not so immersed in the ideas of antique centuries that he is unable to interest himself in the ideas of his own.
It would be a mistake to believe that the philosophic attitude does exclusively seek to enter into the world's life any more than it seeks to escape from that life. It uses and includes each of these movements but it does so only at the right time.
The practice of philosophy does not preclude one from living normally in the world, from marrying and begetting children, from acquiring possessions and dwelling in comfort, or from building a successful business or professional career. It does not regard the normal human life as inferior and illusory, nor the abnormal ascetic life as high and holy. It takes both in its stride and looks on both as correct in their own places because both are needed there, but it seeks to achieve at the earliest moment a sane balance which shall free the individual from the tyranny of both.
Philosophy does not ask the mystically minded to give up their mysticism but to expand it, to take a realistic view of the world situation and to adjust themselves to the century in which they live.
If he can combine and balance a practical attitude towards the world with a transcendental detachment from the world, he will fulfil man's higher purpose.
The rules which are laid down for monks should not be confused with the codes for non-monks. The latter need a realistic respect for financial values counterbalanced by an idealistic indifference to them. This makes necessary the finding of equilibrium between the two poles, a kind of inner bicycle riding.
Philosophy does not want to escape life but to fulfil it.
The ascetic aspirant seeks salvation from the world. The philosophic one seeks salvation in the world.
The world will not be overcome by running away from it nor by shutting our eyes to it, but by comprehending its significance and bringing it into co-operative, side-by-side association with our spiritual quest.
The worldly side of things must be included with the spiritual side, related to it, balanced by it, purified through it. This is the sane view of philosophy.
Mystical practice, religious devotion, and metaphysical reflection are not, with him, an escape from unpleasant and inconvenient facts or awkward and difficult situations, but contributions toward the proper and effectual way of dealing with them.
Not by moving further and further away from reality, blindly and obstinately, can the seeker discover truth. He must face the facts of common life before he can unveil those of the uncommon life.
The refusal to be realistic, the persistent looking aside from facts as they are, the being naïve under the delusion of having faith--this is not spirituality; it is simply mental adolescence.
The message for our times is: "The day of professional spirituality is past. It has bred religious hypocrisy and mystical futility. The day of a spiritualized mundane existence is here. We are to live in the world but not be of it. We are to set aside an hour a day for meditation and reflection but to attend to all other duties the rest of the day. Thus we shall have the chance which ascetics and monks lack, of translating spiritual ideas into spiritual deeds. The attraction toward the divine need not mean repulsion from the world. There is room in human life for both the heavenly and the earthly. To deepen knowledge and increase beauty, to spread compassion and to uplift man--this is our work today."
True spirituality for this age is to be found outside the cloister. Character is to find its needed testing ground in the world. Contemplation is to be practised as a preface or an epilogue to the day's work.
The orientation of modern spirituality, under the changed conditions of today, is not towards retreat from the world but towards a spiritualizing effort in the world.
The philosophic student cultivates correct attitudes towards life, fortune, men, and events until they are built into his character. In this way he is practising philosophy all the time, not merely during his reading hours.
The varied character of daily experience and the confirmation of summed-up total experience ought to enrich his understanding of philosophy as well as provide opportunities to apply it constantly.
To say that the inner activity of mystical life is quite compatible with the outer activity of worldly life is to deceive oneself. The mystic may--and in these times usually must--come to terms with the world, but it is not his inner guidance that bids him arrive at this compromise. It is outer compulsion that bids him do so.
We moderns have to learn how to pursue truth and practise meditation, how to worship God and overcome ego while in the very midst of active affairs, for no other way is open to us.
One man may find his way to the Overself by guardedly living in the world whereas another may find it through turning his back on the world. But before the first can complete his search he will have to retire temporarily and occasionally from the world, and before the second man can do the same he will have to test his inner life by temporary and occasional returns to the world.
It is one of the contributions of philosophy that it elevates useful work to the status of a component of spiritual activity, instead of degrading it, as mysticism does, as being detrimental to such activity. Hence, insofar as the philosophic student is striving to carry out his daily task honestly, efficiently, perfectly, and in the spirit of service, he is improving his own character for philosophic purposes too.
The philosophic student will not make the mistake of using the quest as an excuse for inefficiency when attending to duties. There is nothing spiritual in being a muddler. The performance of worldly duties in a dreamy, casual, uninterested, and slovenly manner is often self-excused by the mystically minded because they feel superior to such duties. This arises out of the false opposition which they set up between Matter and Spirit. Such an attitude is not the philosophical one. The mystic is supposed to be apathetic in worldly matters, if he is to be a good mystic. The philosophical student, on the contrary, keeps what is most worthwhile in mysticism and yet manages to keep alert in worldly matters too. If he has understood the teaching and trained himself aright, his practical work will be better done and not worse because he has taken to this quest. He knows it is perfectly possible to balance mystical tendencies with a robust efficiency. He will put as much thought and heart into his work as it demands.
Religion's prayer and mystical meditation can be, and are, used to forget grinding troubles and escape hard duties. The peace of mind thus felt is pleasant, but not of lasting benefit. For the meaning of the trouble or duty is missed, and its place in the man's development, lost. Philosophy, while not disdaining the use of prayer and meditation, does not allow them to become escapist and obscure the need of practical attitudes also.
During the moments of meditation he will find the wonderful possibility of what he can become, but during the hours of action he will find the wonderful opportunity of realizing it.
But life must not end in meditation or else it will become extremely, if not entirely, self-centered. Meditation itself must bear fruit in active expressions.
Henry Suso acquired a reputation for mystical wisdom and ascetic piety when he remained secluded inside a monastery for twenty years. He lost it in less than half that time when he emerged to live and act in the outside world. For there was the testing-ground which measured his real achievement, as well as the evil forces which would destroy such a man's good work.
The effectiveness of action is raised immensely when it is inspired by mystical means. The fruitlessness of meditation is widened immensely when it is kept aloof from action.
It is not only in meditation's deep well that the divine has to be found, but also in the daily routine. It has to be naturalized.
In the end, the art of life can only be learned by living. Reverie and meditations, thinking and study, mystical raptures and inner visions are only means to this end, not the end in itself.
To think out an ideal, a way of conduct, is only a part of the battle a man will have to fight with himself over himself. The other part is to do it. Only when the ideal is applied in action does it become wholly realized. This is why the monk's existence is not enough, any more than the worldling's is enough. We need the world of action and experience to draw out our latent resources, to give us the chance to develop in the whole of our being and not merely in thought alone.
Relation to religion & mysticism
Philosophy does not seek to displace religion but to deepen it.
Religion is not the final utterance of the Holy Ghost. That privilege belongs to philosophy.
Philosophy includes religion but not "a" religion. It is universal, not sectarian.
If religion is man's first gesture toward the Infinite Being, philosophy is his full commitment toward it.
Philosophy seeks to bring him into full consciousness of what religion only partly prepares him for.
In religion man gropes in the dark night for his higher self. In mysticism he moves less haltingly toward it in the breaking dawn. In philosophy he walks straight to its realization under the high noon.
Let him keep everything that religion has given him, provided it be real religion and not the pretense of it, but let him also seek everything that mysticism and philosophy can offer him. He cannot come to the second except through the first, nor to the third except through the second. If he combines them, greater reward will come to him.
Our personal concern is not with exoteric religions, which are all without exception in their period of decay and dissolution; it is with esoteric knowledge, the knowledge which was possessed by Jesus, Buddha, and Krishna alike and secretly taught to their closest disciples.
Philosophy is religion, is mysticism, but only when they have come to maturity. It has been reached by the best minds of the other two and by the best minds among the sceptics and atheists, but again only on their attaining maturity.
Any account of the philosophic life which left the impression that it had no place for religious veneration and personal prayer would be misleading. Practical philosophy calls for the regular pursuit of devotional exercises just as much as it calls for the regular pursuit of mystical ones. The four genuflections and associated prayers are the means to this. To neglect the duty of daily worship on the plea that one has risen above it is an excuse which is manufactured by the lower self to perpetuate its own sovereignty. The higher philosophic experiences are not open to the man who is too proud to go down on bent knees in humble reverence or spiritual pleading. The student's religious fervours and exercises will not be rendered obsolete and consequently rejected, but they will be assimilated to and made use of in the larger philosophic life. Philosophy would indeed be foolish if it were to kick away the ladders of religion and mysticism by which people may ascend to it. Just as food can never displace drink for the sustenance of a healthy body, so meditation can never displace prayer for the sustenance of a healthy spiritual life, any more than study can displace meditation. Worship and prayer are essential philosophic duties.
We must retain as philosophers whatever worthwhile things we possessed as religious believers. We must retain the principles even if we will have to vary the forms of religious worship, prayer, devotion, aspiration, and communion.
The faith in and the practice of reverential worship into which he was initiated by religion must not be dropped. It is required by philosophy also. Only, he is to correct, purify, and refine it. He is to worship the divine presence in his heart, not some distant remote being, and he is to do so more by an act of concentrated thought and unwavering feeling than by resort to external indirect and physical methods. With the philosopher, as with the devotee, the habit of prayer is a daily one. But whereas he prays with light and heat, the other prays with heat alone. The heart finds in such worship a means of pouring out its deepest feelings of devotion, reverence, humility, and communion before its divine source. Thus we see that philosophy does not annul religious worship, but purifies and preserves what is best in it. It does annul the superstitions, exploitations, and futilities connected with conventional religious worship. In the end philosophy brings the seeker back to religion but not to a religion: to the reverence for a supreme power which he had discarded when he discarded the superstitions which had entwined themselves around it. Philosophy is naturally religious and inevitably mystical. Hence it keeps intact and does not break to pieces that which it receives from religion and yoga. It will, of course, receive only their sound fruits, not their bad ones. Philosophic endeavour does not, for instance, disdain religious worship and humble prayer merely because its higher elements transcend them. They are indeed part of such endeavour. But they are not, as with religionists, the whole of it. The mystic must not give up being religious merely because he has become a mystic. In the same way, the philosopher must not give up being both mystical and religious merely because he has become a philosopher. It is vitally important to know this. Philosophy does not supersede religion but keeps it and enlarges it.
Just as science and religion meet and must meet in metaphysical philosophy, so religion and theology meet in mystical philosophy.
If it be true that the hidden teaching effectually reconciles religion science mysticism and philosophy, it does so in the only way in which they can be reconciled, by dropping them into their proper places and not by placing them all on an equal level. For it treats religion as an infant; mysticism, science, and metaphysics as youths; and philosophy alone as an adult.
Religion is man's quest of reality on its elementary level. Metaphysics is the same quest on its lower-intermediate level, and mysticism is the higher-intermediate one. In philosophy, the quest is completed on the highest plane.
There is something beyond mysticism. Peace is not the final goal of man. It is good but it is not enough. Just as religion must finally find its culmination in mysticism, so mysticism must find it in philosophy, and so metaphysics must find it in philosophic mysticism.
This is a special worth and admirable feature of true philosophy, that it does not leave behind and supersede earlier spheres of development but rather lets the later ones include and penetrate them. They are all necessary.
Man's fundamental need of the quest is first somewhat superficially assuaged by religion; growing stronger, it is next more deeply satisfied by mysticism. But only when the precious waters of philosophy are fully drunk is it finally and perfectly met.
Philosophy repudiates nothing in yoga, nothing in religion, nothing in mysticism that is correct or necessary. How could it when it draws its own lifeblood from the mystical intuition and the devotional attitude? But it does complete them by introducing what is further necessary and it does equilibrate them by shifts of emphasis and keeping them in place.
To pass from religion to philosophy is not to reject religion but rather to absorb its best elements and then integrate them into higher ones.
Philosophy carries us upward from lower to higher conceptions of the Deity.
We may understand how this movement from one standpoint to another becomes possible when we remember that we begin to learn astronomy on the assumption that the geocentric system--which is based on the belief that the earth is the centre of our universe--is valid, for this renders much easier the explanation of such unfamiliar themes as the poles, the equator, and the ecliptic. Later however we are told that this standpoint is only preliminary and that it was adopted for the sake of convenience in dealing with beginners so as to render their studies easier. The heliocentric system--which is based on the belief that the sun is the centre of our universe--is then put forward as being valid and the other is dropped. The instructional method used in the hidden teaching is similar. Here religion represents a preliminary standpoint for beginners in the study of life. After its values have been thoroughly absorbed, the latter gradually advance to the next standpoint, the mystical. When the students have won the fruits of meditation and reflection, they travel still further until they reach the third and final standpoint of philosophy, which develops ultramystical insight and practises disinterested activity. Thus each standpoint is a characteristic feature of a certain stage of inner evolution.
Philosophy can understand, and sympathize with, atheism as an expression of man's effort to free himself from superstition--albeit a clumsy, groping, and dangerous effort. But its own practice leads it to discover the godlike soul as man's real self, so it cannot help rejecting the materialism which would deny that along with the denial of God.
The voice of philosophy is necessarily more restrained, less shrill, than the voice of religion or cultism. But if this makes it quieter and less heard by the crowd, it also makes it better heard by the sensitive and more enduring in the result.
Where religion converts a man, philosophy transforms him. Where religion affects a part of a man, philosophy affects the whole.
Living synthesis, not anemic eclecticism
Philosophy is not one teaching among many others, to be chosen in rivalry amongst all. It is fundamentally different from them in kind and nature.
Just as Religion is larger than the religions, so is Philosophy larger than the philosophies.
Although philosophy is unique it is also all-inclusive.
The philosophic outlook rises above all sectarian controversy. It finds its own position not only by appreciating and synthesizing what is solidly based in the rival sects but also by capping them all with the keystone of nonduality.
The mystic who sees no utility and no purpose in breaking his own tranquillity to descend into the suffering world and serve or save its inhabitants, justifies his attitude by declaring that the sufferings are illusory and the inhabitants non-existent! Where is the incentive to altruistic action in this doctrine of nonduality, where the inspiration for art, where the impetus to science? The answer may not be obvious but nevertheless it lies enshrined in the very nature of these tenets.
It is not quite correct to state, as has been done, that this teaching represents the essence of the Indian Vedanta philosophy. Its sources have included it but they have also been many and varied. And, in the doctrine of higher individuality, for instance, there is an actual divergence between the two teachings.
Vedanta is superb, the most logical of all metaphysics; but because it is a metaphysic and a mystique, it is for me inconclusive. We need more a guide to how to live in the body and keep it well. We need to gather up a synthesis of knowledge--a key to the World-Idea, a practical guide to healthy living, a devotional and mystical system of prayer and meditation. The philosopher is unable to follow the Vedantin in ignoring the outer conditions of life to the extent that he does. Their proper handling is ignored only by paying a proportionate price in trouble of some kind. Let the Vedantin talk much and often of the non-existence of the body; you will find that in one way or another, in illness or in lack, he cannot help being aware of the body.
The thoughtful man is too much of a Buddhist to limit himself to Advaita. But counter to that, the intuitive man is too much of an Advaitin to limit himself to Buddhism. The wise man balances and blends the two in philosophy.
The absolutist metaphysics of Subramanya Iyer in the East and Lilian de Waters in the West declares only the One Reality; it would reject the whole universe as non-existent and the whole human race along with it. The dualist metaphysics declares that this Reality reveals and manifests itself in the time-space finite world. The integral metaphysics of philosophy says, however, that it is unwise and unbalanced to separate these two solutions of the mystery of life and then to oppose one against the other. They are to be fitted together, for only in such completeness can the full solution be found. Dualism answers the intellect's questions and satisfies the heart's yearnings but monism responds to the intuition's highest revelations. Both standpoints are necessary, for man is both a thinking and a feeling being; it is not enough to regard him only as an intuiting one. But this does not mean they are all on the same level. What is silently revealed to us by inner stillness must always be loftier than what is noisily told us by intellectual activity.
Philosophy does not dwell on the subject of nonduality. There are metaphysicians aplenty who will discuss or teach it for those who want to learn or listen. Philosophers neither support nor deny the doctrine. Here they are closer to Buddhism than to Hinduism.
The Advaitin who declares that as such he has no point of view, has already adopted one by calling himself an Advaitin and by rejecting every other point of view as being dualistic. A human philosophy is neither dualistic alone nor nondualistic alone. It perceives the connection between the dream and the dreamer, the Real and the unreal, the consciousness and the thought. It accepts Advaita, but refuses to stop with it; it accepts duality, but refuses to remain limited to it; therefore it alone is free from a dogmatic point of view. But in attempting to bring into harmony that which forever is and that which is bound by time and space, it becomes a truly human philosophy of Truth.
The comparative study of religion, mysticism, and metaphysics, as they have appeared in different centuries and in different parts of the world, will have a liberating effect on those who approach it in a thoroughly scientific independent and prejudice-free spirit. A comparative view of all the different spiritual cultures leads to a broader understanding of each particular one.
Where others present one with a statement of an issue or a description of a situation that is limited to a pair of opposites, the philosopher will either reconcile them or look for the third factor.
It is the joyous duty of philosophy to bring into systematic harmony the various views which mankind has held and will ever hold, however conflicting they seem on the surface, by assigning the different types to their proper levels and by providing a total view of the possible heights and depths of human thought. Thus and thus alone the most opposite tendencies of belief and the most striking contrasts of outlook are brought within a single scheme. All become aspects, more or less limited, only. None ever achieves metaphysical finality and need ever again be mistaken for the whole truth. All become clear as organic phases of mankind's mental development. Philosophy alone can bring logically opposite doctrines into harmonious relation with each other by assigning them to their proper places under a single sheltering canopy. Thus out of the medley of voices within us philosophy creates a melody.
Philosophy can be true to itself, to its highest purpose and clearest perception, only by discarding all bias and prejudice, narrowness and polemics, and accepting the visitations of grace through whatever mode it chooses to manifest. Philosophy must and does welcome the old and traditional but refuses to confine itself to that alone. It must and does greet the new and original if the holy spirit is therein too. It cannot be tied by time or place, group or race, celebrity or anonymity.
To attempt to construct a synthesis of truths drawn from different quarters is laudable, although in the end it depends on the judgement of the person making it. To attempt to mix the unmixable, to force oil and water into unity, is a different matter.
Philosophy does not indulge in a superficial, anaemic eclecticism but in a large and living synthesis. Thus, it wholeheartedly advocates the study of Indian spiritual culture if made from an independent standpoint and included in a comparative view, but it unhesitatingly refuses to swallow wholesale the same study from a convert's standpoint and as the follower of some guru.
There are fragments of this teaching to be found in ancient Rome amongst the Stoics, in ancient Greece amongst the Platonists, and in ancient India amongst the Buddhists. But they are fragments only. If you want the complete system, you must go to philosophy.
The intimate association of Eastern thought with Western culture, of ancient wisdom with modern knowledge, will give to each element a new and broader meaning while blending and harmonizing all of them. Philosophy combines in a truly catholic manner those elements of truth which are present in all these teachings but without any of their errors, absurdities, and archaic limitations.
The hidden philosophy is not something with which mankind at large is acquainted today. Many fragments of it have certainly found their way into the world, but the complete pattern of this philosophy has not.
Philosophy promotes the fullest intellectual independence, but not the freest intellectual anarchy. Therefore it adjures the student at the same time to gather up the harvest of the whole world's best thought from the earliest times to the latest.
The time has come to take in all the best of these currents and rise above narrowing loyalties. Only by such a synthesis can we arrive at Truth.
When this loftier standpoint is reached, these different schools and techniques are seen not as contrary but as complementary to one another.
The history of truth is an international one. It is from and for all the peoples of the world.
Each science can only deal in a limited range of facts. Philosophy takes up the results of all the separate sciences and puts them together. Then it takes up the results of all the arts, all the religions, all the yogas, and all the other branches of human activity. Finally it combines the lot. None of these branches can authoritatively pronounce on the meaning of universal existence, for this is beyond its sphere of reference. It may indeed talk foolishly when it ventures to do so. This is why philosophy is unique.
Philosophy is unique in this respect: no other teaching views life so broadly and yet so penetratingly.
Whereas most other forms of culture are mere branches of it and consequently emphasize one particular aspect of life, philosophy embraces its whole field.
Anything that concerns human life is grist for the mill of philosophic reflection and action. For philosophy does not merely concern itself with interpreting life but also with remolding it.
It is here that the beautiful balance of philosophy rejects at one and the same time two opposing ways which appear in the history of mysticism. The one would, through oversystematization and burdensome detail, turn its methods into rigid frozen complicated mechanisms, as if the inner being were a piece of engineering rather than a living thing to be nourished and warmed. The other would, through vague foundations, the pretext of freedom, and excessive individualism, turn its teachings into an anarchy of conflicting ideas and personal phantasies or an arena for contending personal ambitions.
Philosophy rises above sects and is therefore free from sectarian dispute, friction, and hostility. It is naturally tolerant, knowing that as men rise in cultural and moral development, their beliefs will rise in truthfulness and nobility.
As broad an investigation as the records of knowledge allow, and as deep a reflection upon the facts elucidated--this is the aim of the serious philosopher. He will be careful to take all the facts and all the evidence--so far as he can get them--into account, and not disregard such portion of it as is distasteful to him, not neglect those findings which are unknown to or unwanted by the kind of society in which he is brought up and lives.
Philosophy is free. It is both for those who seek an ideal or guidance from the leaders inside institutions and for those who will have nothing to do with institutions.
There is no room for a fixed and finished sectarianism here. The unfoldment of inner life must not be cramped into an arrested form.
The philosopher cannot take a one-sided view. He must stand on a higher level above such narrowness, and thus get a larger picture. It may not be possible for humans to be totally unbiased but it is possible to try to be fair and just. This requires an awareness of the other aspects. It does not require the fusion of differences, the mixing of the unmixable. They can be left where they are, each in its own place, contributing what it alone can contribute. Each can be reconciled into acceptance of the other's right to exist separately without invasion. A forced synthesis is pseudo-unity.
If philosophy accepts all viewpoints as being valid, it does not fall into the error of accepting them as being equally valid. It says that they are progressively valid and rest on lower or higher levels.
It readily grants the utility of these progressive stages at their time and in their place, but it rejects them as ends in themselves. Philosophy recognizes only one end to be attained--the Real.
Philosophy recognizes the all-importance of points of view. It knows that no results are tenable unless they are ultimate ones--that is to say, unless they are got by adopting the ultimate point of view.
Let the various insights and revelations out of which the well-established faiths and teachings have grown flourish as they find themselves, reformed and purified today if their needs so dictate, but why attempt to mix them all together? What would the result be but a kind of stew? If a synthesis is sought, say of the Buddhist and the Christian, let those who like one have it. But for others does not diversity, as in a garden, give more picturesque, interesting, and richer results?
Those who have not taken the precaution to study other teachings, other ideas, other experiences, and other revelations, but only the views of their own favoured teacher, may have learned the worst and not the best. And those who know only their own religion, their own nation's history and form of government may pay in some way or other for their ignorance. Comparative study will be part of the education of a better world. It will not only bring less prejudice and more tolerance, but also--what is more important--help to establish truth.
Each seer gets hold of some facet of truth and contributes that to the world-stock. Let us be tolerant.
None of these teachers tells, or seems able to tell, the whole story. Each gives out all he can--a fragment of it. The hour is at hand when they should be joined together, when a synthesis of truth should be made from all of them.
Whoever advocates a particular view usually produces plenty of evidence on its behalf but withholds some or all of the evidence on behalf of opposing views. It is only the philosopher who tries to get a complete picture of the situation from different sides. It needs more than a little imaginative effort to understand the other and unfamiliar ways of looking at a question. But the results are usually worthwhile.
We may fully sympathize with a standpoint and yet we need not hesitate to utter certain criticisms of it. How else can a just view be got?
It teaches men not to limit both the field and the freedom of their search by limiting themselves to a single teaching or a single teacher in the restricted and dependent tie of discipleship.
Physics, metaphysics, religion, and mysticism must unite before each can speak truth, which is a unique whole and not a particular fragment as they individually are.
But we shall not arrive at such a higher standpoint unless we arrive at clear thought about the matter. One of the trickiest obstacles in the way of correct thinking about these problems is the partisan habit of propounding a dilemma which presents one with the choice between two alternatives. Thus either one must accept materialism and reject religion or vice versa. The proper course to be travelled will not only lie between these two extremes but also take us into lands beyond them.
The Greek love of balance and sense of proportion are incorporated in philosophy as much as the Roman-Stoic love of self-mastery and sense of mental values.
Philosophical study welcomes lofty, wise, and inspired ideas "from every side," from every religion, from every century. Such width of outlook breeds tolerance, enlarges knowledge, promotes goodwill.
The dogmatism which vehemently asserts that only in its particular sect or creed lies final salvation has nothing to do with philosophy and is alien to the discovery of truth. This must be so, for the philosopher seeks balance and uses counterbalance whenever necessary.
Details are significant, but only in their relation to the whole, to the greater purpose of all life.
Philosophy criticizes any approach to truth which arrogates to itself the privilege of being the only path to enlightenment. For in practice philosophy makes use of any and every one needful. It is too spontaneous to limit its efforts to purely ancient or merely Oriental forms.
By refusing to join philosophy to any built-up structure, social or cultural organization, or particular group of people, this approach keeps its own freedom and bestows that same freedom on those who study it.
It is too time-wasting, muddling, negative, and one-sided to look for error in every other doctrine and then magnify it enormously. The atmosphere of criticism becomes habitual and leads to no constructive result. It is better to gather the flowers of wisdom and the fruits of peace.
The profit of a full and explicit picture of the universe is immense. It provides the seeker with a safe course and a correct destination. Otherwise his undirected efforts may spend themselves in a lifetime of groping wandering and haphazard movements. The greatest advantage can come only from a world-picture of the greatest completeness. Only with one that presents all principal aspects of the human entity, and of its place in this picture, can that entity understand how best to live out its incarnation.
We may try to take not a bird's-eye view of the world but a God's-eye view of it.
The wisdom embedded in philosophy belongs to all the ages, and not to any particular time.
As one reflects upon the majestic grandeur of this teaching, its amplitude and height, one feels like a traveller who stands for the first time at a vantage point of the Himalayas, where loftier and ever loftier snowy summits fill the whole horizon to his left and right, as far as his eyes can see.
Philosophy stretches itself out on all sides. It is limited only by the limits of man's capacity to comprehend it.