Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation homepage > Notebooks of Paul Brunton > Category 25: World-Mind in Individual Mind > Chapter 4: The Sage's Service
The Sage's Service
A full identity of interest
The Bodhisattva is one who pledges himself to the spiritual service of ignorant unawakened mankind. For this ideal he sacrifices himself to the point of stopping his own liberation just when it is about to be realized.
The man who is delivered from sin and freed from illusion, who is emancipated from suffering for all time because the flesh can catch him no more, has earned the right to infinite rest in the eternal Void. But he has also the power to choose otherwise. He may stop at its very threshold and renounce the reward it offers. Since the phenomenal world has nothing to offer him, the only reason for such a choice can be compassionate thought for the benighted creatures he is about to leave behind.
If he refrains from the final mergence into Nirvana, it is not only because he wants to be available for the enlightenment of his more hapless fellows, but also because he knows that he has really been in Nirvana from the beginning and has never left it.
Among those who have attained this higher life, who feel its power and sense its peace, there are some who wish that others shall attain it too. We say some for the very powerful reason that not all are able to find it in their hearts to return to this bleak earth of ours, with its sickness and darkness, its sins and sufferings, its evil and ignorance, when there stretches invitingly before them the portals of a diviner world, with its sublime harmony and beauty, its burden-free peace and goodness. This is why Krishna is reported in the Bhagavad Gita as declaring that the greatest sacrifice man can offer is that of wisdom, which means simply that the enlightened man should give himself and use his wisdom for the benefit of others. This is also why Buddha asserted that the greatest charity is to give the truth to mankind. Therefore, the noblest sages give themselves secretly and concentratively to a few or openly and widely to the many to enlighten, guide, and inspire them. They know that this twofold way is the one in which to help mankind, that public work is not enough, that those who wish to do not only the most widespread good in the time open to them but also the most enduring good, must work deeply and secretly amongst a few who have dedicated themselves to immediate or eventual service in their own turn. Thus, compassion is rendered more effective through being guided by intelligence. To the few in the inner circle, the sage transmits his best thought, his hidden knowledge, his special grace, his most mystical power. How grand is the service such a sage can render all those who accept the light of his knowledge! Then indeed is he, in Shakespeare's phrase, "The star to every wandering barque."
Do not fall into the error of believing that, if he speaks openly these doctrines to others, or writes of them publicly, he is seeking to make proselytes. The religious missionary eagerly seeks to do so, but the philosophic expounder cannot. This is because he is not governed by the emotional desire to witness a large number of conversions but by the clear understanding of evolutionary operations--an understanding which enables him to see what is and is not possible, what is and is not suitable, at each stage of those operations. He is not, like the missionary, seeking any personal satisfaction by making an emotional or intellectual conquest.
The illuminate has a cosmic outlook. He thinks and feels for all creatures no less than for himself.
Do you think that these ancient illuminati, full of high intimations and carrying great lights in their hands, appeared before the world out of their silence and solitude to suffer its ridicule and contempt because they wished to brag about themselves or to amaze them? They came because they dared not disobey compassion's call save at the pain of being false to all that they knew to be true.
The sage makes the highest conceivable sacrifice in willing to return to earthly life for times without end solely for the benefit of all creatures.
People sometimes ask why anyone should give up even a part of his time to unpaid service. But the truth is that the sage is always paid by the friendship and gratitude, the trust and affection, which those he has helped return him. And if it be further said that these are mere intangibles which do not pay for the time and energy he gives, the answer is that they often are convertible into the most tangible of things. For if he is in real need of a home, a machine, a piece of domestic furniture, or a form of personal service, he has only to express that need and those whom he has helped will provide it. Nay, there are times when he need not even express it, when the silent magic of thought will prompt someone to offer the provision quite spontaneously and voluntarily. Anyway, the sage does not give his service with any thought about the getting or non-getting of rewards. He gives it because he thinks it right to do so and because he enjoys the satisfaction of giving a helping hand to the spiritually needy. In short, he is doing what he likes.
When a man has attained this stage of perfection he may truly rest, for Nature has achieved her task in him. Yet, if he chooses the path of sagehood he must henceforth work harder than ever before! For he must now work incessantly through repeated rebirths for the enlightenment of others.
Whether or not a man will serve humanity after he attains self-realization is not an attitude he can completely decide upon or predetermine before he attains it. For the matter is then surely taken out of his hands altogether.
The question whether he shall share his knowledge with others or withhold it from them, will not be a real one to him. Its answer was settled long before, by destiny, by his character, by his past, by the World-Idea.
Helping others to attain what he has attained, guiding seekers to reach safely the glorious summit where he now stands, is not decided for him by personal temperament or choice but by the overpowering sense of a primary and paramount duty.
We are asked: What is the interpretation of a sentence in that excellent little book Light on the Path by Mabel Collins, which runs "For within you is the light of the world--the only light that can be shed upon the Path. If you are unable to perceive it within you, it is useless to look for it elsewhere. It is beyond you; because when you reach it you have lost yourself. It is unattainable because it forever recedes. You will enter the light but you will never touch the flame."
The meaning of this mysterious sentence is that the sage refuses to claim the ultimate mergence which is his right because he refuses to desert "the great orphan Humanity." He stops short at the very threshold of Nirvana simply to remain here and help others reach that threshold. Thus by his altruistic activity, meditative power, and intellectual penetration he continuously earns a title to that utter absorption of his ego in the unutterable Absolute which is Nirvana, but by his continuous self-giving for suffering mankind he never actually attains this goal. This extraordinary situation may be represented mathematically by the asymptote--a line which is drawn on a graph to approach nearer and nearer to a given curve but which never actually touches it within a finite distance. Only a man who feels with and for his fellow creatures will dare to make such a tremendous sacrifice of the supreme peace which he has won. How much more generous, how nobly grander is this example of ever-active altruistic service than that of ever-idle meditative reclusiveness!
The sage will not be primarily concerned with his own personal welfare, but then he will also not be primarily concerned with mankind's welfare. Both these duties find a place in his outlook, but they do not find a primary place. This is always filled by a single motive: to do the will, to express the inspiration of that greater self of which he is sublimely aware and to which he has utterly surrendered himself. This is a point whereon many students get confused or go astray. The sage does not stress altruism as the supreme value of life, nor does he reject egoism as the lowest value of life. He will act as the Overself bids him in each case, egotistically if it so wishes or altruistically if it so declares, but he will always act for its sake as the principal aim and by its light as the principal means.
It is not enough for the illuminate when the veil falls and the inner meaning of universal life is read. His efforts do not come to such an abrupt end. For he does not consider his own salvation complete while others remain unsaved. Consequently, he dedicates himself to the task of trying to save them. But in order to do this he has to reincarnate on earth innumerable times. For men can attain the goal here alone and nowhere else. This changes the whole concept of salvation. It is no longer a merely personal matter but a collective one. It also alters the concept of survival. This is no longer a prolonged enjoyment of post-death heavenly spheres but a prolonged labour through countless earthly lives for the service of one's fellow-creatures. And yet, even this sombre path bears its own peculiar rewards. For he shall receive the fraternal love of those who have been healed, the encouraging thoughts of those who are beginning to find a foothold in life, the pledged loyalty of those who want to share, with their lesser strength, the heavy burden through untold incarnations.
Bergson was right. His acute French intelligence penetrated like an eagle's sight beneath the world-illusion and saw it for what it is--a cosmic process of continual change which never comes to an end, a universal movement whose first impetus and final exhaustion will never be known, a flux of absolute duration and therefore unimaginable. And for the sage who attains to the knowledge of THAT which forever seems to be changing but forever paradoxically retains its own pure reality, for him as for the ignorant, the flux must go on. But it will go on here on this earth, not in the same mythical heaven or mirage-like hell. He will repeatedly have to take flesh, as all others will have to, so long as duration lasts, that is, forever. For he cannot sit apart like the yogi while his compassion is too profound to waste itself in mere sentiment. It demands the profound expression of sacrificial service in motion. His attitude is that so clearly described by a nineteenth-century agnostic whom religionists once held in horror, Thomas Huxley: "We live in a world which is full of misery and ignorance, and the plain duty of each and all of us is to try to make the little corner he can influence somewhat less miserable and somewhat less ignorant than it was before he entered it." The escape into Nirvana for him is only the escape into the inner realization of the truth whilst alive: it is not to escape from the external cycle of rebirths and deaths. It is a change of attitude. But that bait had to be held out to him at an earlier stage until his will and nerve were strong enough to endure this revelation. There is no escape except inwards. For the sage is too compassionate to withdraw into proud indifferentism and too understanding to rest completely satisfied with his own wonderful attainment. The sounds of sufferings of men, the ignorance that is the root of these sufferings, beat ceaselessly on the tympanum of his ears. What can he do but answer, and answer with his very life--which he gives in perpetual reincarnation upon the cross of flesh as a vicarious sacrifice for others. It is thus alone that he achieves immortality, not by fleeing forever--as he could if he willed--into the Great Unconsciousness, but by suffering forever the pains and pangs of perpetual rebirth that he may help or guide his own.
The mystic arrives at treating all people alike through the emotion of love; the illuminate arrives at it through the knowledge of reason. The first is likely to be changeable, the last permanent because emotion is variable, reason firm.
The mystic who talks of giving love to all mankind has still not realized Truth. What he really means is that he, the ego, is giving the love. The Gnani, on the contrary, knows all men as himself and therefore the idea of giving them love does not arise; he accepts his identity of interest with them completely.
His goodwill to, and sympathy for all men, rather empathy, enables him to experience their very being in his own being. Yet his loyalty toward his higher self enables him to keep his individuality as the inerasable background for this happening.
He seeks neither applause nor profit from others. On the contrary, he is ever willing to give them out of the spiritual store he possesses. But his giving is free from sentimentality and futility, because he restricts it by wise discrimination.
In one sense, it belongs to him alone. Did he not struggle with his ego so long, climb the ascending path of purification so arduously, wait in meditation so patiently? Yet in another sense it does not belong to him--his own work prepared the conditions, but the work of Grace, the influx from the Overself gave him the strength, truth, love, and peace. He must share what he has received, or at least proclaim its existence.
It is a compassionate obligation to share the fruits of such a rare attainment with less fortunate seekers. But only individuals of large generous natures can recognize this obligation.
The sage does not ask for service from others, but only to be allowed to serve them. He does not seek to attach them to himself, but only to God.
The illuminate never achieves perfect happiness because he is well aware that others are unhappy and that they are not alien to him.
When this wonderful compassion wells up within man, he can no longer remain enthralled by the satisfactions of his own personal peace. The cries which come to his ears out of the great black night which envelops mankind tell him that all is not well with such a self-centered life. He may not turn away from them by uttering the alibi that God is in his heaven and all is well with the world. No! He realizes that he must go down into the very midst of that darkness and somehow give out something of what he has gained, offer true hope to a hopeless epoch.
"Is it not because he himself is disinterested that the sage's own self-interest is established?" asks Lao Tzu. It is impossible for the materialist to perceive that we live and move and have our being in a universal Mind. But the sage, knowing this, knows also that this universal life will take care of his individual life to the degree that he opens himself out to it, to the extent that he takes a large and generous view of his relation to all other individual lives.
Amidst peaceful landscape in calm forest retreats or beside lonely seashores, where the attractions of Nature are all-powerful to him and where he could gladly spend the remainder of his life in solitude, a striking phenomenon will mark itself repeatedly on memory. Again and again, faces of different people will float up and confront him. Some will be the faces of friends or people known to him but others will be the faces of strangers. All call to him to leave his solitude and give up his silence. It is not difficult to understand this occurrence. The mountain eyrie, the jungle retreat, or the forest cottage may continue to attract him powerfully, but the awakening of his fellow men into truth must eventually seem a worthier objective than his own external peace.
So long as there are others acutely conscious of their spiritual need, so long must he go out among them. He does not do this by an external command but only by an internal one--the command of compassion. He no longer feels for himself alone but also for others. Indeed he cannot help doing so, for the same reason that Jesus could not help proclaiming the gospel to the Israelites, even though he foreknew the end would be impalement upon the Cross.
His service is done out of the pure joy of giving it.
The sage does not have to be told to help mankind in its struggles towards the light. He is a helper by nature. His compassion overflows and it is out of this, not out of condescension, that he works for them. But his help will not necessarily take the particular forms that humanity in its ignorance expects from him.
Fo Sho hing tsan: "I do not seek for any reward, not even being reborn in a paradise. I seek the welfare of man. I seek to enlighten those who harbour wrong thoughts."
He cannot help teaching confidence in the laws of life or expressing joy in the inspiration of life. He cannot help making strong affirmations of the Soul's dominion and power. He is exultant because he is in harmony with the universe.
The idea took possession of the Buddha that his doctrine was too deep for man's intellect and so he thought he would not teach it. However Brahma, the Lord of the World, came and begged him to have mercy on the erring world, for "the advent of Buddha is as uncommon as the flower on a fig tree." Then Buddha reflected as to who would be a proper person for him to teach.
The answer to the Buddha's soliloquy came, belatedly it is true but at the right ripened hour. It is: "Is the opinion of the ignorant many more important to you than the helping of the earnest few? If the first will disdain your words, the second will heed them. Who else can help them?" The final five words affected him deeply and forced him into action at last.
Such a man's actions, however much they outwardly appear to be like those of other men, are done under the impulsion of a higher will than the personal.
He has no wish to put his ego forward, makes no pretensions to spiritual superiority, yet he wishes to awaken others to the idea that enlightenment is possible, is worth seeking, and is accompanied by unparalleled felicity.
It is possible for man to realize his high aspiration. But will he then find that all is bliss as the Hindus say? How could that be when first he would become much more sensitive to the world's miseries and sorrows and, second, much more aware that everything that is, including himself, is merely a passing show--just like a dream of the night which vanishes in the morning? Will there not be a touch of melancholy in these two aspects of his awareness? The acceptance will be there, for he will be just as much aware of the Real which does not pass, but this acceptance will itself be touched with a kind of resignation. Is this what the religio-mystics mean when they so often admonish others to resign themselves to God's will?
The sage has no desire to gain followers, only to give service. His happiness comes from within. He looks to nothing and nobody for it. Nevertheless, if faith and friendship are given to him he is always grateful. And for such people he has the ardent wish that they too shall fully attain this great inward happiness and in their turn keep the presence of God alive in a materialistic world.
When he has found the truth, he has nothing to decide. He will realize that the ALL, this whole teeming universe, is himself, that all creatures and all men are one. Therefore their interests and their welfare become his automatically. Therefore he will come back to earth again and again to help all beings attain truth and happiness. The notion of choosing selfish bliss or unselfish service does not occur to those who have realized truth; it comes only to yogis and mystics who have experienced bliss in trance. But this is not the highest goal or plane; it is the highest illusion.
The thought of the burden that the sage has taken on himself may seem dreadful, but he has his consolations even though they are intangible. He has found unbroken peace and ultimate truth. He does not ask for more, not even the ecstatic bliss which delights the mystic, but which is necessarily intermittent. He knows that the whole creation is moving onwards to self-discovery which means it is moving onwards to find the same things he has found. The process is slow and painful, but it will surely be successful.
The sage has conquered separativeness in his mind and realized the ALL as himself. The logical consequence is tremendous. It follows that there is no liberation from the round of births and rebirths for the sage; he has to go through it like the others. Of course, he does this with full understanding whereas they are plunged in darkness. But if he identifies himself with the All, then he can't desert but must go on to the end, working for the liberation of others in turn. This is his crucifixion, that being able to save others he is unable to save himself. "And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, `And he was numbered with the transgressors.'^^ Why? Because compassion rules him, not the ego. Nobody is likely to want such a goal (until, indeed he is almost ready for it) so it is usually kept secret or symbolized. Again: "For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins."
What is the sage's reaction to the cosmos? It is very different from that of the ignorant who have never asked the question "What am I?" and who may regard the calm visage of a Yogi as a "frozen face." The sage has no sense of conflict, no inner division. He has expanded his notion of self until it has embraced the universe and therefore rightly he may say "the universe is my idea." He may make this strange utterance because he has so expanded his understanding of mind. Lesser men may only say "the universe is an idea."
All these sufferers come to him in their need and expect so much from him, but he must expect and ask nothing from them; he is to be content with this one-way transaction. If he wishes anything in return--even an acknowledgment of service rendered much less a payment in any mental, emotional, or physical form--the ego has reared its head and the service is impure. If he helps them, it is out of natural goodwill to all men.
The sage approaches them with compassion balanced by comprehension.
No mother asks why she should help her child or concern herself with the well-being of her husband. She identifies herself with them and takes it for granted that their interests are her own. Similarly, the illuminate takes it for granted that the interests of all mankind are his own and others are his family.
If the sage has to reincarnate perpetually because of his sympathy for the suffering world, if he cannot get freedom from this suffering cycle of rebirth, what is the use of the Quest and its labours? Reply: True, he can't get outer freedom, but he does get inner freedom, of mind and heart.
No worldly advantage can tempt the sage into desertion of his sacred task of serving humanity, nor can any egoism lead him into betrayal of those who trust him.
The goodwill which he shows to all men is devoid of any self-seeking motive, is a natural expression of the love which he finds in the innermost chambers of his soul.
The world play is but an illusion of the mind, but the integral vision of the sage enables him to act his part perfectly in the very heart of the world's tumult. The knowledge that all action is ultimately illusory does not prevent him being dynamically active. Supreme calm and silence reigns in his centre, but his harmony with Nature is such that he joins the world-movement spontaneously.
He does not fall into the error of a certain kind of ascetic who assumes a callous indifference to the sufferings of others as part of his plan to render himself invulnerable.
Such a man is truly a Christ-like one, inasmuch as he seeks to open the door of the kingdom of heaven for others as well as himself.
He may or may not know in advance that his efforts will avail little, but if the Power bids him say what must be said, he will accept the result calmly.
When there is no feeling of separateness from others, there can be no resultant feeling of doing good when helping them.
Help the sage gives
If he only holds before the aspirant a prophetic picture of man's higher possibilities, an ideal that transcends the commonplace trivialities of everyday, his service is sufficient. But in actuality he does very much more than that.
There are two ways in which an enlightened person may help humanity. The first is individual, therefore he becomes a teacher and accepts disciples. The second is general and may be entirely inward as in meditation, or quite outward, affecting the welfare of groups--whether small in number or as large as an entire nation. In rare cases this generalized help may even extend internationally.
He seeks no power over others, no claim to rulership over their lives, no disciples of his own, no train of followers clinging to his coat-tails. Yet he will not refrain from helping where such help is imperative, nor from giving counsel where the young, the inexperienced, the bewildered seekers have desperate need of it. But the moment after he will appear to have forgotten what he has done, so gracious is his delicacy, so strong his desire to leave others quite free and unobligated.
His inner state will not be easily discernible to others, unless they happen to be the few who are themselves sufficiently advanced and sufficiently sensitive to appreciate it. Yet it is his duty to announce the glorious news of its discovery, to publish the titanic fact of its existence. But he will do so in his own way, according to his own characteristics and circumstances. He will not need to announce it in a speech, or print it in a book; he will not publish the fact in daily newspapers or shout it from the housetops. His whole life will be the best announcement, the grandest publication.
Without himself being a priest, he performs the true priestly office.
That strange and sweet spell flung forever over sensitive, ripe, and ready minds by a sage, when he uses his wisdom and goodness, is like a caduceus to enchant them into becoming seekers after truth.
He is a prophet without a church, a teacher without a school, a reformer without an institution.
The adept can do much more through the prestige of true ideas set down in writing than through the mechanical efforts of any formal organization, more by helping individuals than by creating a collective body which would one day exploit them.
He is the abstract, far-off ideal, but embodied visibly for our benefit and put near us for our inspiration.
Can one man transfer spiritual grace to another? If by grace is meant here can he give a glimpse of the Overself to another, the answer is Yes!--if the other is worthy, sensitive, and above all karmically ready. He can if the other man is capable of absorbing the stimulus radiated to him.
In the case of those who are ready for it or who have affinity with him, a master may be able to bring about a temporary illuminating glimpse through his inner contact with the other person by the power of his spiritual force. This force can be expressed through the Master's spoken words or in silent meditation.
Those who are always hoping to receive full enlightenment from a master, exaggerate the service he can render.
The most that a master can give is a glimpse, and that not to everyone. If the Zen assertion were true, if anything more than that, if full and final and durable illumination could be passed on to another, what Zen master could be so lacking in compassion as not to confer it upon everyone, everywhere? But it is not done simply because it cannot be done.
If a master could permanently add his spiritual vitality to that of all those who come as seekers to him, surely he would do so? History in the past times and observation in our own times shows no such desirable consequence of approaching him. But if a master cannot give illumination to a would-be disciple, he can show in his own person what illumination is. This is not less true of such men as Christ as of the minor prophets of the minor sects of contemporary history.
Those who penetrate into the holy of holies bless the world when they bring forth the treasures they find therein. What they achieve and accomplish mentally in the period of meditation, they will later express automatically in action during the days that follow. Theirs is the balanced life which is true sanity, so lacking in modern existence.
Unless he is bidden from the higher power (and he is sure of the source) to become an apostle, he will not take on the task of making available to others in such a public fashion, truths which most are not ready enough to recognize, which would create bewilderment or scorn in their minds. Nor, again, will he communicate privately without the inner command and thus become a guru to others.
The awareness that he existed on this planet made its grievous and troubled life more bearable, gave a little meaning to what seemed otherwise quite chaotic. For his own higher development reminded, nay assured, us that there was some sort of an evolution going on, that there was a goal and a purpose behind it all. Thus, merely to know that this man was alive, even though we might never again meet him and could never hope to become intimate with him, sustained our faith in Life itself and helped us to live.
The prayers of such a man are not lightly uttered nor egotistically born. Therefore they are always heard and generally answered.
He can communicate to others something of his mystical enlightenment through words and something of his mystical serenity through silence.
He carries with him a perpetual blessing, although it is seldom possible for those who identify themselves with their fleshly bodies to receive this unheralded gift with their conscious minds.
The sage may tell of truth, as he knows it, by refraining from speech and entering the Stillness. But if his interlocutors have not been previously prepared to understand what lies behind his silence, they may not benefit by it.
Serving humanity in his secret way, drawing benediction for all from this divine source, it would seem to be an unrequited activity; but he himself is included as recipient and beneficiary.
Like Jesus, Buddha preached to the masses. But other illumined men, like Atmananda and Mahavira, did not have this special mission and confined themselves to the educated and ruling classes.
Some come to illuminate, not to instruct.
Some who have attained true wisdom make no special attempt to communicate it through speech or writing, or to express it in action. Does this mean the world never benefits from them, as it benefits by the existence and work of even the humblest primary school teacher? It does not. For their contribution, though quite noiseless, is not at all valueless. It is to let the silent influence of their presence among us touch those who can receive it, even though they do so unwittingly.
This kind of illuminate is like a spectacle to be gazed at; he is not a teacher to be studied with. That does not mean he is useless to humanity. On the contrary, the mere fact of his attainment is more valuable than any physical or intellectual service that could be performed. But its value is mysterious and magical, for the moment perhaps better left undescribed.
He may leave his record in the silence, without producing a single piece of writing, without delivering a single lecture.
The greater his power, the less will he seek publicity. It is only if he knows that a mission has to be performed calling for public notice that he is likely to abrogate this rule. But of course there will then be no egoism and no vanity behind the abrogation.
Such a prophet is like a bell, calling its hearers to attend the true church within themselves.
His work is being done within the inner life of hundreds of human beings. His altruism is active more often behind the scenes of the world-stage than before its footlights.
The masters rarely emerge from their obscurity to positions of influence and prominence but their disciples may and occasionally do.
He will be content to plant seed-thoughts, and wait and work patiently, knowing and believing in the inherent power of true ideas to grow in their proper time into mature, fruitful existence.
The perfect concentration that reigns within his being can have the same effect when deliberately directed upon sensitive and sympathetic minds as the concentration of the burning lens upon dry paper. The devotee can be inspired, exalted, and illumined.
Once he has uttered the sacred Word, once he has revealed to men what they have not been able to know for themselves, he has done his work. If it fails to be accepted, if he gains no converts to belief in man's higher purpose, the blame is not his.
He cannot give spiritual peace to the spiritually peaceless as a lasting gift, but he can show them that it does exist as a reality and is no mere figment of the imagination. And he makes this demonstration by being just what he is and acting just as he does.
The sage starts no cult himself and founds no church. This is usually done by the disciples who gather together because he would not gather them around him.
Merely to remember with devotion that such a man is living on earth is to know, in some mysterious telepathic way, that there is inward sustenance.
The last thing he wants to do is to leave a sect behind him. Like the Buddha, he wants men to depend on the truth rather than on a person.
The words of a man so inspired, so wise, directly act on our minds and evoke our intuition.
The sage will help people on his own terms, not theirs, and guide them in his own way, again not necessarily the expected way.
Could we but trace some of these higher movements of history, we would have to trace their course back to the secret inspiration of some illuminates who live quietly and serve mankind without advertising the fact.
That which the illuminate will give out as doctrine will depend upon the conditions and needs of his epoch and place. He will be neither too active nor ultramodernistic.
He announces his revelation to his contemporaries in the mode that is his and theirs. In a scientific age he will present facts and reason logically.
Great Adepts are content to make history rather than figure in it, although their figures have glowed brightly in history like shooting stars and then disappeared.
His success in communicating truth will depend, on his audience's side, both on the degree of understanding it possesses and the feelings it evinces toward him.
It is not for him to work for humanity by helping particular persons and by alleviating isolated distresses. His form of service must stretch over wider areas, must affect a multitude of persons. But this is possible only if he works in deeper ground and through secret unobtrusive ways.
The world being what it is, human nature what it has long been, and human affairs all-too-repetitious, he will not waste time and energy attempting to re-arrange them by surface efforts.
He may do nothing more than put his mite of cheering truth and softening goodness into the grim world around him, but this will be enough. He cannot contribute more than he has. The ultimate result of this contribution may be little, but he has tried to do God's will on earth.
Just the fact that he is here, on this planet and at this time, makes its own contribution to humanity's welfare. This is still true even though he may not try to manage other peoples' lives on the plea of serving them. His service may not be immediately, or locally, apparent; it may need time to come up from the subconscious levels that are the deeper layers of mind and spirit, but it will be nevertheless real.
Although it is not his direct purpose, his existence will lessen humanity's suffering, increase its hope and goodwill.
He puts the teaching forward as far as it is proper for him to do so, but then leaves the matter. Those who receive it must take it up from there, or ignore it. He is not a missionary seeking to make converts.
Those who cross his path only once in a lifetime, as well as those who are often near him, receive instruction even though he is not outwardly teaching them. Such is the subtle impact his mind makes upon theirs, such the half-recognized influence of his greatness.
They tried to influence kings and rulers and leaders of men and culture. They even emerged into public view on rare occasions in order to quicken the pace of evolution by active external work; but when this happened, they did not usually reveal their true spiritual identity. Their efforts were not always successful because they had to deal with frail stubborn human nature and, moreover, they had to work within the karma of their own land.
Knowing such men convinces us better than printed arguments of the eternal Spiritual truths.
The truth flows from such a man all the time and not only when he speaks or writes. It flows silently. But whereas anyone can hear his spoken words or read his printed ones, not many can receive this voiceless and inkless message.
If he must lead men, he prefers to do so indirectly; if he is to serve them, he prefers to serve them unobtrusively; and if he needs to work among them, he seeks to do it self-effacingly.
It is only in the deepest possible sense that it may be said he is all things to all people, a spiritual opportunist who meets each man on his own level. But this is not to be taken to imply any desertion of principle.
Tradition tells us, and history confirms, that before passing away the illuminated man may preach the truth or write a record or communicate his knowledge to at least one other man.
In this state of direct relation with the soul's power, he feels and knows that his thoughts and prayers directed towards the good of others can help them.
The sage gladly opens to all qualified and eager seekers the mysteries and treasures of his own inner experience, that they may profit by his past struggles and present success.
He brings revelations to meet our gropings, inspirations to meet our doubts.
He becomes, for those docile enough to receive them, a bearer of grace and a vessel of truth, a bestower of comfort and a dispenser of confidence.
Chuang Tzu, the ancient Chinese mentalist sage, wrote: "All that was worth handing on died with them (the sages). The rest they put into their books."
Prophets and sages, teachers and saints receive the urge to share their knowledge and experience with others. Whence does this urge derive? Both lower and higher, personal and nonpersonal sources are possible. But if from the highest, then we may say that God sends his messages to mankind through these channels.
The sage who starts a movement or puts his thoughts out, acts as a lighthouse which guides many a fumbling but aspiring soul.
If he does not accept disciples individually it is because he serves men otherwise. Those who try to get such acceptance and find themselves rebuffed may consider him selfish, cold, remote. But they will be greatly mistaken. He can serve mankind--not each person separately but in groups or masses--and he may do this by lecturing, by writing, or simply by directing his meditation in the appropriate way. For a writer's books spread not only his ideas but also something of himself.
He can put thought on a high level but the way in which he does this depends upon him and his circumstances. He can do it personally as a private teacher, impersonally as a public lecturer or writer, or anonymously as a proficient contemplative.
All these men who have attained Reality inevitably leave a record for others or for posterity, but not necessarily with their name attached.
Has any one of the sages ever vanished without leaving behind a trace of Power, knowledge, goodness, and inspiration? Even if not in words or deeds, something is left in the unseen atmosphere.
They are not usually members of any sect, but circumstances or necessity may sometimes render it desirable that they be such.
The sage may or may not descend into the arena of action but if not he will still find ways and means to inspire, guide, or ennoble the actions of other men. He does this by teaching them and travelling among them, or by sitting still and meditating alone, or by disseminating writings among them. Even when he is unheard publicly he can help by the concentrated mind's great power.
He does what he can to introduce here and there into the consciousness of others, through whatever means he possesses, the seeds of higher ideas. These seeds may not grow and certainly may not fructify for many years, but that is not his affair. He knows that the vitality in these seeds and depth of mental ground in which they have been sown will inevitably lead to some result.
It is enough. He has sown the seed. He does not have to wait for roots to form, stems to grow, fruits to appear. His work is done.
In this momentous period the true sage has special work to do in trying to protect the human race from its own folly. One way is intercessory meditation which may help to mitigate the effects of the world crisis. This requires solitude. It is an impersonal contemplation and must not be disturbed by those who break into it, either to unload their personal problems or to offer personal service which in the end has the same result.
Yes, some of us are genuinely aware of the soul's existence and intimately know its freedom and blessedness. Modesty has hitherto imposed silence upon us about the fact, although compassion induced us to break it on occasions. But we mystics must now stand on our own dignity. It is time that the world, brought to its inevitable and by us expected materialistic dead-end, should realize at last that we are not talking out of our hats but out of a real and impeccable experience. It would be an unpardonable treachery to our duty in the final and terrible world-crisis of this materialistic age if, out of false modesty or fear of intimidation by a cynical society, we who daily feel and commune with the divine presence, who realize its tremendous importance for humanity's present condition and future life, fail to testify to its existence and reality. If today we venture to speak more freely and frequently, our ideas may drop into a few hospitable minds and sublimely penetrate their consciousness.
It is not the sage's function to tackle the worldly problems which governments usually deal with: the social, political, economic, and technical ones. His particular work is concerned with first, his ordinary duty of professional service through whatever skill he possesses to earn his livelihood, and second, to make truth available.
The mere existence of one who succeeds in identifying himself with the Overself benefits every sensitive person who meets him, even for a minute or two. Further, it inspires spiritual seekers who never get the chance to meet him but who hear favourably about him and respectfully receive what they hear. Finally, posterity benefits from the records left about him.
Each teacher--if he is divinely commissioned--leaves a deposit of truth after he dies.
The Master who leaves a record of his own climb, or a testimony to the goal's existence, or a path pioneered for those who would follow, or an instructed disciple here and there, leaves something of himself.
Even where help may not directly and outwardly be given when difficult circumstances press on a man, it may yet be indirectly and inwardly given to his mind, which has to deal with, or endure, them.
He can awaken some persons to this divine presence within themselves, but not all. He may do this mysteriously by some unknown process, or he may do it deliberately and with the display of his technique.
The abstract does not appeal to the masses, because it gives them nothing. But an embodied man can be seen, heard, and touched, to that extent can be understood, to that extent he gives them something; he can be followed, admired, feared, reverenced, or worshipped.
Secure in his own peace of mind, it is inevitable that the more sensitive among those who meet him feel it too. But those who come with hostility, personal or intellectual, will be avoided if possible or find their time cut to the shortest if not.
Such a man has a catalytic action on the minds and even on the lives of those who come into sympathetic contact with him.
Just by being himself he makes the philosophic virtues real to others.
He does not need to be conscious of a clearly defined mission before he sets about doing something for the enlightenment of others. There is always some means open to him, some little thing he can do to make this knowledge available or to set an example of right living.
It is his duty to communicate what he feels there, what he finds there, to those who are excluded from it. If at times, and with sympathetic auditors, his duty becomes his joy, at other times and with insensitive auditors it becomes his cross. Jesus exemplified this in his own history.
The illuminate practises a wiser philanthropy than those who are presented as models of this virtue.
He has no wish to take charge of anyone's life or undertake the management of anyone's affairs.
He is not allowed by the code of ethics corresponding to his knowledge to make other people's decisions for them. Hence he can say neither yes nor no to such highly personal questions. But he can point out the consequences which are likely to follow in each case.
When we shall apprehend the meaning of life, we may discover that it provides its presage in such prodigies.
When the band of sixty young men met Buddha while they were looking for a woman of their pleasure, he said to them: "Abide with me a little while and I will teach you truth." Such is the power of the spoken word of the illuminate, when falling on a sensitive or sympathetic ear, that again and again, we find in the history of the Buddha that he quickly converted and quickly brought to spiritual enlightenment those to whom he chose to address his speech.
The highest service they render is in silent contemplation, which inspires so many aspiring souls to a higher life. This is the truth.
The mere fact that these prophets, these light-bringers and way-showers have existed at all is enough to change a man's life if he is sensitive, reflective, and penetrative.
Even if he does no more than open the human mind to its higher possibilities, he does enough.
The fact that there have been higher men who have gone beyond the mass in goodness and insight, in serenity and radiant self-mastery, can be taken as a hint of re-embodiment's purpose.
He speaks or writes as one who is perfectly at home in these higher levels of consciousness.
If an illuminated teacher or an illuminating book cannot lead anyone into the Kingdom of Heaven and keep him there, they can at least give everyone a clue which, if followed up, may lead there.
Whatever help he can give through teaching is limited on the other person's side by both ability to understand and willingness to receive it.
He can give a man no other Grace than this, to point out the way to the Innermost Self. But there is none better.
He seeks to bring man back to the memory of his true native land.
There is no room for such a man in rigid official worlds. He could not even influence, let alone save, such a society. At best he can make some people more fully conscious of what they already dimly feel: that civilization is in danger and its leaders half-bankrupt; that society is sick into death; that the individual needs spiritual help to endure and grapple with the depressing situation in which he finds himself.
What chance has the individual spiritual educator to continue his work when public and government alike accept the false suggestion that only through large organized groups and recognized traditional institutions can people be correctly led? The end of such a trend can only be as it has been in the past--monopoly, dictatorial religion, centralized tyrannical power, heresy-hunting persecution, and the death of individualism, which means the death of truth. Jesus, Buddha, Spinoza were all individualists.
He prefers to remain unrecognized for what he genuinely is so that others will not even suspect his true status--unless he deliberately wishes them to be made aware in order to help them in a special way.
Unless he has been invested with a special mission to speak or write to the world, the authentically illumined man will not publicly announce the fact of his illumination. Anyone who does is an impostor.
We may turn over the multitudes of tomes in which the opinions of man lie locked up, but one sage will tell us more Truth in a day than we are likely to learn from all that huge mass of speculation.
If world history shows little if any ethical progress on the part of humanity, are the sages to be blamed as futile? No. That merely shows the intractability of the human material they are working on, for their lives are given to doing whatever they can. They are not miracle men.
The best help he can give is to put a man upright on his own feet by helping him get his own experience of the glimpse. The man will then know that God really exists, that his own inner being is connected with God, and that he can draw upon this connection for moral strength and personal guidance, mental peace and spiritual knowledge.
Effects of the sage's presence
The response of others to the adept's presence is curiously opposite in kind: with a few, the finer evolved, it is beautifully comforting, exalting, pacifying, and draws their interest to him. But with many others it acts in reverse. His quiet ease puts them at ill-ease; his self-possession disturbs them. Either an unpleasant sense of guilt insidiously enters their feelings or one of resentment arises against someone who seems quite unlike other men, and whom they cannot therefore meet on even ground, who arouses their suspicions as being probably a fanatical religious heretic.
Those who are sufficiently sensitive feel, when they spend a short time with one who has learned to live in the Overself, a large relief from all their ancient burden of anxieties and difficulties and darknesses for a while. This effect is so extraordinary, its exalted peace so glowing, that although it passes away its memory will never pass away.
He who arrives at this stage becomes so wise and understanding, so strong and dependable, so kind and calm, that those who seek to foster these qualities within their own selves will receive from his word--sometimes from his mere presence--a powerful impetus to their progress. They will catch fire from his torch, as it were, and find a little easier of accomplishment the fulfilment of these aspirations. And those who are able to share in his effort to serve, to collaborate with his selfless work for the world, will receive daily demonstration of and silent tuition in those still loftier and more mysterious qualities which pertain to the quest of the Overself: in the paradox of dynamic stillness, inspired action, and sublime meditation. Yet he accepts worship from nobody as he himself worships none. For he will not degrade himself into such materiality nor permit others so to degrade themselves through their own superstition or someone else's exploitation.
His thoughts are permeated with unusual energy, and strange intensity, so that sensitive persons feel its atmosphere when in his presence or react quickly to its spoken and written expression when not.
Time-harried men and women, if they have not given themselves up to utter materialism and lost all their sensitivity, will draw serenity and touch repose when they enter his timeless atmosphere.
We do not have to become the privileged, personal disciple of such a man to benefit by him. If we have met him only once, for however short a time, merely to think of him helps us and merely to know of his presence in this world cheers us.
Those who are sensitive enough to be able to do so, become by faith and sympathy sharers in his own divine perception of the world. But whereas theirs is a glimpse, his is abiding.
The man who dwells in this light may transmit it to others if he is intuitively directed to do so or is charged with a mission involving others. But if others are hostile to it, there will be no felt result or perhaps even an uneasiness in its presence. This is a service of transmission or Grace, although not to be regarded as arbitrarily or capriciously given.
When he penetrates to the still centre of his being, the thoughts of this and that subside, either to a low ebb or into a temporary non-existence. Since thoughts express themselves in language, when they are inactive speech becomes inactive too. What he feels is quite literally too deep for thoughts. He falls into perfect silence. Yet it is not an empty silence. Something is present in it, some power which he can direct toward another man and which that man can feel and absorb temporarily--to whatever extent he is capable--if or when he is in a relaxed and receptive mood. The communication will best take place, if both are physically present, in total silence and bodily stillness, that is, in meditation.
People react differently to his presence but only a few react rightly. Those are the ones with whom he has a spiritual affinity, and a prenatal link.
Association with or proximity to such a man not only brings out what is best in them but also, when it ends, invokes the reaction of what is worst.
Constant association with him can only benefit the sensitive after all. It exalts and tutors them. But it leaves the insensitive exactly as they were before. Long ago Jesus pointed out the futility of casting seed on stony ground. Not that this lack of sensitivity is to be deprecated. Nature has set us all on different rungs of her evolutionary ladder. No one is to blame for being what he or she is.
If, through his complete calmness of manner, his presence was restful and agreeable to some people, it was disturbing to others. It seemed inhuman and mysterious. If some felt uplifted by his tranquillity and strength, others were frightened at its possible connotation of secret evil.
If the contact stimulates him before he is ready for it, then it will help his spiritual growth in some ways but hinder it in other ways. It may give him greater enthusiasm conviction and determination, but it may also inflate rather than abnegate the ego. This is another reason why adepts are hard to approach.
It is only for the sensitive that his bland serenity and benevolent smile will hold a distinct attraction, for it is only they who will feel the subtle unusual emanation from his person.
In the presence of an illuminate one feels, as Hawthorne felt and said of Emerson, so "happy, as if there were no questions to be put."
Mencius: "He who has wandered to the gate of the sage finds it difficult to think anything about the words of others."
The blessing of his compassion streams into one's soul.
In his presence, the disciple with true affinity feels an infinite rest.
Others avoid him after the first meeting because they cannot endure the uneasy feeling of guilt which arises in his presence. For their most secret sins and most hidden weaknesses are suddenly displayed to their mind's eye by the mere fact of his propinquity. It is an involuntary and mysterious experience.
Sometimes the interrogation in the eyes of an illuminate will prove fatal to the worldly foolishness we bring into his presence.
There is a silence which soothes and a silence which disturbs. With a genuine adept the first is felt, but with the other kind, the second.
Like a looking-glass, he shines back the image of what their conscious self turns away from but what their diviner self is silently pointing toward.
Those who feel this deep peace in the atmosphere around and between them, do not feel any need of words. The soothing stillness is their best communication and indeed gives the latter a quality of sacred communion.
Sitting in the aura of greatness that exudes from this man, a sensitive person absorbs some vitalizing element which gives him the impetus to nurture the quality of greatness in himself. The pretensions of the ego must collapse.
In this man's presence others often feel inadequate, often become acutely aware of their own deficiencies. Why is this? It is because they abruptly find themselves measured against his breadth of soul and height of wisdom. They become ashamed of their own littleness when it is shown up by his greatness.
They come to him with a head full of questions, but they find themselves struck with vocal dumbness in his presence. They come to him expectant of wonderful revelations, but they find that he takes care to seem and speak like other men and to keep his feet solidly planted on the ground of common sense.
They may draw near to him and cross his orbit for only a few minutes in a whole lifetime but it proves enough to inspire and irradiate the rest of their days. They now have not only the feeling that this man knows whereof he speaks but also the assurance that the Overself is utterly real and that the quest of it is the most worthwhile of all enterprises.
In his presence all that is best in a man receives stimulation and he comes closer to his true self. The significance of the meeting will emerge still more in after years.
He will be so quiet in his daily bearing, so calm in his dealings with others, that they will begin to sense despite his unfailing modesty that here, in his presence, there is a living echo from a higher world of being.
In his presence the shadows of depression or fear vanish. For then the disciple can look out on life with clearer eyes, seeing the Perfect which already exists beyond its imperfections.
Certain kinds of sensations, feelings, and thoughts are automatically repelled from the field of blessed consciousness in which the illumined man lives. All negative and destructive, egoistic and unruly ideas--certainly all those that the best conscience of the human race has stamped as "wicked" and generative of "evil-doing"--are not compatible with his purified state of mind and accordingly cannot enter it.
If he lets them, many will come to him in search of guidance help comfort or healing. Some will place their problem before him humbly and candidly, but others will be too afraid, or too proud, to do so openly.
Whether there is an actual transference of his power and light, or whether his actual presence and desire to help set up vibrations in the subconscious mind of the seeker, or whether he is merely a medium for higher forces, it is not easy to determine. The truth may well be a combination of all these three factors.
Constant contact with such an exalted personage is likely to influence others, but it is not possible to say when this influence will rise up into the conscious mind. The time will always be different with different individuals.
His silences may be exasperating to those who are insensitive and uncomprehending, but they will be exhilarating to those who have begun to learn how the Spirit operates.
In the presence of such a man, one instinctively feels that there are tremendous reserves of knowledge, virtue, and power within him, that he has so much more to give than is apparent.
His presence calls out the good, the true, and the beautiful in others.
The sensitive will quickly become aware of the hidden strength that is in him, the strength which kindles assurance in his own heart and confidence in others' hearts.
A benign influence diffuses itself from him and is felt by the sensitive, as if borne on telepathic waves.
This peace which he seems to diffuse is really there, is a central characteristic that never leaves him even when surrounded by dangers or beset by troubles.
A meeting with such a man, by those who are sensitive enough to register more finely than the gross senses can register, is always a benediction; the remembrance of him is always an exaltation.
By a principle of symbiosis, what he is, being now at the source of human power, spreads out and ripples its influence on the human group, which at the least keeps it from becoming worse than it is, and at the most lights up inspiration in certain individual minds and makes them benefactors of the race.
His goodness acts as a silent reproach to those who are unwilling to give up their badness: hence their discomfort.
His very presence is a silent rebuke to them; he stands there in all his integrity and spirituality--an embarrassment, for it makes such a contrast with their own worldliness.
In the serene presence of an illuminate, all criticism is charmed to ant-like littleness. What can our broken thoughts do to injure or belittle one who is safely above all thought? And how dull seem these dogmas which we have brought into the neighbourhood of one who has liberated himself from all dogmas!
If "dead" illuminati can help the world as readily as those who are among us in the flesh, I would like to ask those who believe this why Ramakrishna uttered the following pathetic plaint as he lay dying in Cossipore: "Had this body been allowed to last a little longer, many more people would have become spiritually awakened." No, it is more rational to believe that a living illuminate is needed, that one who has flung off the physical body has no further concerns with the physical world, and that he whose consciousness is in the Real, uses the world (in the form of a body) to save those whose consciousness is in the world.
In the personal aura of such an adept, the sensitive person gets a feeling first, of peace, second, of security and safety.
Why do sensitive people feel protected and secure in his presence? It is because he knows and obeys the universal laws, invokes and attracts superhuman power.
The impact of such a person on others may be the most memorable event of their lives or it may be the most trivial. That will depend on their own readiness to appreciate and estimate, their own capacity to absorb and receive. Take only the quality of his serenity, for instance, and imagine what it could mean to anyone thrown into contact with him during a frightening crisis.
In the presence of such greatness, a feeling of humility comes into a sensitive heart.
The uneasiness which many feel in his presence is partly caused by the fact that there are negative qualities in themselves which are not present in him. But partly it is also caused by their miscomprehension of his character. He does not attempt to criticize, judge, or condemn them, nor to approve or disapprove of them. He accepts that this is not his business for he accepts that evolution has made them what they are, both the good and bad in them. To this extent their uneasiness is unnecessary.
Some sages do not wish to enter into any precise relationship with others. They do not give personal initiation or accept disciples formally. But the sensitive will feel that some sort of inner benefit was got by the contact, non-visible and impersonal though it was.
The meeting with a higher personage, whether on the physical plane or on an inner one, is to be considered fortunate, and a blessing upon one's own higher endeavours.
Why is it that in India the crowds come from far distance merely to have the sight--perhaps for a few minutes--of a great soul? And why is this regarded as beneficial and worth the toil and trouble of the journey? Even if the opportunity to have a few words of conversation with him is quite impossible, it is still thought worthwhile merely to see him or be seen by him. There is, of course, the personal satisfaction of having seen him. Is that merely a sentimental and emotional satisfaction, or is there a scientific basis of fact making the visit worthwhile? The answer to this question can be found in the knowledge that the body is a battery and that there are electrical radiations from certain parts of the body, certain centres--the most important centre being the eye--and that through those radiations, a part of the aura is actually projected outwards. This would also explain why the Indians of the higher caste do not like to have their food looked at by those of the very lowest caste, which they would consider a polluting act.
The meeting with a great soul, a mahatma, is called darsan in India and is considered to convey some kind of a blessing. We now see the scientific grounds for this belief, even though the masses themselves are quite unaware of this fact but feel or have the faith that the blessing is there.
Once a man has found his way to truth he can speak of it simply, directly, and naturally, without personal pretentiousness or ostentation. Yet those who underestimate the worth of what he has to say would be in error. The insensitive and coarse may not feel it but the others will not need much dealing with him to find an air of distinction, not easily explicable.
There is power and strangeness in his presence, for it brings those who are sensitive enough to feel its quality to confess what they can hardly confess to their intimate friends.
He has no desires to satisfy through them, no claims to make upon them. Because they instinctively feel that nothing of the personal self enters into his dealings with them, they just as instinctively trust him. He becomes their confessional priest. They bring their secrets, their sins and their confidences to his ears.
He who has conquered his own sorrows and abolished his own ignorance will find in time that others will come of their own accord to him. He will sit there imperturbable yet sympathetic, inscrutably poised yet gently understanding, while the sorrowful and the aspiring, the world-worn and the seeking, pour out their sorrows and aspirations, their sins and ideals as at a priestly confessional--yet without any assumption of priestly superiority, without any pretense of moral height, and without any quackery of pontifical infallibility. When he speaks, his detached, impersonal standpoint will help to reorient their own, will show the truth of a situation and the lesson of an experience as their desire-tossed ego could never show it. And all the while, the impact of his aura will gradually strengthen, calm, and uplift them if they are at all sensitive.
Sometimes the mere act of confession to an adept brings release to a troubled mind almost instantaneously and seemingly miraculously. Thus a highly placed government official who was troubled for many years with nightmares in which odious reptiles played a prominent role, was entirely and permanently freed from them by nothing more than mentioning his case to such an adept in whose attainment he believed. Again, an exceedingly busy businessman, who could find no time for meditation or spiritual study and saw no prospect of doing so for many years, became distressed and worried about this situation. He did not want to be submerged by material activities. He asked an adept for advice. He was told to begin each morning with a three-minute prayer and not worry. Since then his anxiety has vanished and he has enjoyed spiritual peace in the very midst of his work. At other times a question or two by the same adept will ferret out secreted episodes that are stifling progress or will bring up subconscious memories that are poisoning character. The third group of effects are perhaps the most wonderful of all because they deal with causes that are the most deep-rooted of all. The innate tendencies born of former incarnations may themselves be influenced beneficially by the healing association of an adept.
He may sit quietly and listen very sympathetically to the troubled outpouring of a sufferer. At the end of a single session, the healing vibrations of the adept's interest may spontaneously effect an apparent miracle. The burden of long-felt grievance may fall away, the pressure of agony be taken away. The sufferer's inner being will give up its secret sins, expose its hidden uglinesses, and surrender its private fears only to have them thrown instantly out of his mind and life.
Only the sensitive are likely to leave his presence uplifted, quieted, and reassured in mind. The others--and they are the majority--come with nothing and leave with nothing.
He who sits in meditation with a master may find an inner impetus developing out of the contact.
He may never utter aloud any prayer on behalf of others or pronounce any benedictory formula over them. Yet the silent descent of his grace may be acutely felt and gratefully received.
We may borrow inner peace and inner strength by the proximity of such a man. But with its cessation, the peace and strength depart.
Without opening his lips he communicates a message to every sensitive seeker who enters his orbit.
The effect of this meeting, provided the proper conditions exist, is to give the seeker a powerful psychic and spiritual stimulus.
The presence of one man demeans us and makes us seem less than we are, whereas that of another like this adept will dignify us and seem to bring the goal for awhile within easy reach.
Those who are sensitive to true spirituality will always leave his presence with a feeling of having been greatly benefited.
From his own unshakeable calm, the sensitive draw respite from their troubles. From his own unusual experiences, the humble draw priceless counsel.
There is danger in the frown of one guided and over-shadowed by the Overself as there is blessing in his favour.
To come near to such a man is to come more closely to the possibility--which all possess--of finding God.
He remains calm amid adversity to a degree so extraordinary that others sharing the same trouble feel less borne down by it and more able to tackle it.
In his presence we are willing to sit without words merely to enjoy the peace which emanates from him.
To have sat within the aura of a great soul is a memorable thing, but to have communed silently with him while doing so is to have received a lifelong blessing.
In one adept's presence, some men felt as if they underwent a religious conversion--yet there was no particular brand of religion to which it could be referred.
Sage as catalyst for higher powers
His beneficent spiritual influence may profoundly affect others to the point of revolutionizing their attitude to life, yet he may be unaware of both the influence and its effect! The part of his mind which knows what is happening is not the true source of the grace; this flows through him and is not created by him.
Let us not ascribe to the ordinary self of man what belongs to the Overself. The mystical phenomena, the "inner" experiences engendered by an adept, are done through him, not by him.
Help comes, inspiration is derived, peace is felt, and the support of moral fortitude is obtained without personal intervention by the sage or without even his personal knowledge of the matter. It is automatic, a response from grace to faith.
The catalyst which by its presence enables chemical elements to change their forms does not itself change. In the same way the illuminate may be used by higher forces to affect, influence, or even change others without any active personal move on his part to bring about this result. He may not even feel, see, or know what is happening, yet he has started it!
He is an agent for the work of Providence, a carrier of its messages and forces. At times he is used with his conscious knowledge and acceptance but at other times without them.
Much occult phenomena of the adept is performed without his conscious participation and "above" his personal knowledge, as when various people claim to be aware of receiving help from him which he has no recollection of having given. It is the Overself which is really giving the help, their contact with him being merely like the switch which turns on a light. But a switch is not the same as the electric current which, in this simile, represents the Overself. Yet a switch is not less necessary in its own place. If he does not use it, a man may grope in vain around a dark room and not find what he is seeking there. The contact with an adept turns some of the power that the adept is himself in touch with into the disciple's direction. The flick of a switch is done in a moment, whereas the current of light may flow into the light bulb for many hours. The contact with an adept takes a moment, but the spiritual current may emanate from him for many years, even for a lifetime. Just as in the ordinary man's deep sleep no ego is working, so this is the perfect and highest state because no ego is working here either. It reproduces deep sleep by eliminating egotism but transcends deep sleep by retaining consciousness. Thus it brings the benefit without the spiritual blankness of deep sleep into the waking state. If it be said, in criticism of his unawareness of so much occult phenomena manifesting in his name, that this lessens his mental stature, he must answer that it also preserves his mental sanity. How, with a thousand devotees, could he be attending to all of them at one and the same time? By what magic could this be done and his peace remain, his sanity be kept? God alone knows all things in a mysterious everywhereness and everywhenness. How could he be as God and yet remain as man, much more deal with other men? For all occult phenomena belong to the world of finite form, time and space, not to the world of infinite spirit, to illusion and not to reality. And, if, in further criticism, it be said that his unawareness makes him seem weaker than an adept should be, he can only answer humbly that because he has surrendered his personal rights he is weaker and more helpless than the most ordinary man, that his situation was tersely described in Jesus' confession, "I have no power in myself, but only from the Father."
The strain of these hundreds of questioning, eager, demanding, struggling, and perhaps suffering minds constantly directed towards his own would be so tremendous if he had to bear it in the ordinary way that his own mind would break under it. He is given no rest from his task. But his extraordinary attainment provides his protection. They reach him mostly through the subconscious self, which automatically takes care of them and leaves him free of the burden.
The message or the manifestation may, on the surface, appear to come directly from the master. This may be quite true in some cases but it could not possibly be true in all cases. If it were, then he would have to look in a dozen different directions every minute of every day. But the fact is that he helps most people without being consciously and directly aware of them.
There is magical power in the thoughts of such a man. The mind, the animal, and the ego in him being mastered, many other things become mastered as a consequence. Rabbi Gamaliel, who once taught Saul and prepared him to become Paul, has put this secret into these words: "Do His will as if it were thy will, that He may do thy will as if it were His will. Annul thy will before His will, that he may annul the will of others before thy will." Jesus put it somewhat differently: "Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and all these things shall be added to you . . . . Ask whatsoever ye will and it shall be done unto you." Those religionists who take the latter words as applicable to any and all prayers are woefully ignorant. They cannot properly be said of persons who have not attained some or sufficient mastery of self, who give nothing from within themselves except wishes and the words which clothe them.
He may well be unaware how subtly the force is working within him until he begins to notice its effects on others, as they themselves draw attention to it.
Such is the wonderful infinitude of the soul that the man who succeeds in identifying his everyday consciousness with it, succeeds also in making his influence and inspiration felt in any part of the world where there is someone who puts faith in him and gives devotion to him. His bodily presence or visitation is not essential. The soul is his real self and operates on subconscious levels. Whoever recognizes this truth and humbly, harmoniously, places himself in a passive receptive attitude towards the spiritual adept, finds a source of blessed help outside his own limited powers.
He takes no credit to himself for these things. He feels he is only an instrument. All that he can do is to invoke the higher power, and it is this which makes these things possible. It is not really any power of his own that does it. But quite often he does not even have to invoke the power--and yet these things will happen all the same. Nevertheless, his followers are not attributing powers to him which he does not possess. For these happenings, after all, occur only as the result of the contact with him. He knows that in some mysterious way he is the link between the power and the event.
Although the master may not directly transmit the message or prompt the manifestation, he does exercise an influence which indirectly causes this to happen and indicates the direction in which it is to happen.
The power to inspire or comfort others can operate without his personal awareness and even without his own consent. Sometimes it will manifest itself merely as if he were present and close, to be felt but not seen mentally. Sometimes, a like form of his body or face will appear to the mind's eye along with this same feeling.
Those whom he never even meets but who direct their thought and faith towards him, receive inspiration automatically. The impact of his personality helps those whom he does meet, if they are sympathetic, but often without his even being aware of it.
It is not necessary for him to preach and sermonize others. Sometimes in a purely secret and unnoticed way, sometimes in a half-conscious way, those who cross his path temporarily and those who associate with him permanently will feel that the good is being strengthened in them. This is his silent service.
Just by being himself, without preaching, without trying, the sage may awaken in others whose lives touch his a longing for the higher life.
He has a peculiar power which acts upon the subconscious minds of those who have any contact or association with him.
The illuminate exerts his influence upon others spontaneously and effortlessly rather than deliberately and purposely. He need make no effort but the benign power and light will radiate naturally from him just the same and reach those who come within his immediate orbit. It is sufficient for them to know with faith and devotion that he is and they receive help and healing. The Overself works directly through him and works unhindered upon all who surrender themselves to it.
Because he has no feeling of egoism, he has no feeling of a mission to accomplish. Yet a work will be done all the same.
"The Sage works when apparently doing nothing; instructs without uttering a word."--Lao Tzu
The sage does not need to pray for anyone nor does the other person even need to know that the sage has thought about or remembered him. For we are all held within the World-Mind. But if the sage does not think of the person, the latter must believe, or remember, or ask, or think of the sage if help is sought.
Only such a man has the right to echo back the statement of Lao Tzu: "To do nothing is to do everything." For others to do so is to claim what is not theirs, and to breed laziness and parasitism.
By being what he is, there is nothing to impede the flow of pure consciousness from him to those he contacts. The ego does not intervene, the lower nature does not interrupt, and without his making any deliberate effort something passes through and from him to benefit them.
Without trying to influence others to reform their characters or to improve their thoughts, his influence will still appear whether they know its true source or not, and whether it is after the lapse of many years or not. Nor does he ask any credit for this result for he gives that to the World-Mind whose World-Idea is being realized in this and many other ways.
Quite often he does not need to do anything; it is enough if he beneficently remembers the person before emerging from his own periods of contemplation. Sometimes, even merely being present may act as a catalyst for remedial forces. If however he goes farther than this, and performs a specific act, the result must come.
Such a power is like a catalyst in chemistry. Itself invisible, it inspires others to visible deeds.
As the light of truth passes into him, he in turn refracts it to others, although only some will let it touch them.
Grace flows from such a man as light flows from the sun; he does not have to give it.
It will suffice for him to be what he is and thirsty seekers will draw from him in a mysterious, silent way, what they need of his power and wisdom, his love and serenity. The beautiful statement of Bishop Phillips Brooks is worth quoting here: "It is the lives like the stars, which simply pour down on us the calm light of their bright and faithful being, up to which we look, and out of which we gather the deepest calm and courage."
He can take no credit of his own for the service rendered, and calls no attention to himself. How could he honestly do so when he is fully aware that it is only by ceasing from his own activities, by being inwardly still, and by abandoning his own ego that the power which really renders the service manifests itself?
Where do these phenomena originate? Not always from himself, but more often from outside himself, from the mysterious and unknown mind which is the soul of the universe and the ground in which all individual minds are rooted.
Sage works with few directly
The sun does not ask any plant, animal, or human if it is worthy before shedding benign life-giving rays upon it. The light is given without stint to all. Why should the man who has united with the spiritual sun of pure love within himself hold its warmth back from any living creature? Why should he make distinctions and bestow it only on a chosen few? The fact is that he does not. But the mass of men fail to recognize what he is, seeing only his body, and miss the opportunity that his presence among them affords.
It is certainly not all mankind, not even all those who cross his orbit, whom the sage is called upon to help but only those with whom there is either an inner affinity or a karmic link. "I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given me," said Jesus in his last prayer with his disciples before the great betrayal. He could not undertake to save all men and women, for that were an infinite labour without end, but only some among them. At any given time there are several spiritual shepherds in the world, each with his own distinct and separate flock. It is inevitable and right that he should sieve humanity for those alone who need him or who were born to follow him or who seek the kind of guidance which he especially can give.
His compassion is broad-based; it is for all. But his personal work is extremely narrow for it is only for the few who will receive it most readily. This implies that he works among the sympathetic and mature, not among the hostile and immature. The reason for this is the need to practise economy of time and energy that he may not waste his arrows of effort on the vacant air. For a similar reason he prefers to enlighten the leaders, and let the flocks alone.
He will seek to give depth of instruction rather than width of influence. Hence his own activity will be directed towards a severely limited number. Whatever movement he inaugurates and personally leads will be small, indeed, for he will understand that were it to become popular and widespread its quality of thought would immediately degenerate, its purity of motive would instantly be degraded. He will count the years gloriously spent if, when the moment comes to drop the body-idea and pass through the portcullis of death, he can look back and reflect that a hundred men have firmly grounded their minds in truth and planted their feet on the road to eternal liberation through the work done by this transitory body. For those who welcome the Truth-bringer must needs be few, those who want the truth must be fewer still, and of these again those who can endure it when brought face to face with it are rare.
The sages of old deliberately restricted the public from their full knowledge so that their immediate following was always numerically insignificant. Yet the paradox was that they exercised an indirect influence disproportionate to their small numbers. This was achieved by (a) concentrating their tuition on men in positions of high authority or leadership, and (b) establishing popular religions and cults suited to the capacity of the multitude.
Few are fit and worthy to be taught by such a sage for few would accept him if he were clothed in an unattractive body, if his skin were the wrong colour or his stature dwarfed or his face ugly or his shoulders hunch-backed.
He is better occupied in quietly revealing his knowledge to the elect than in publicly defending it against those who are incapable of receiving it mentally, and therefore incapable of appreciating it morally.
Should a master composer spend his time teaching musical scales to children? Should an adept come out of his seclusion and spend his time teaching the mass of people? The answer to the first question is obviously, no! The answer to the second question is less obviously but not less equally, no!
Many will admire such a teacher but few will emulate him.
The illuminate bestows his grace in vain on the man who will not yield up for a moment his intellectual pride and his incessant egotism.
For him to try and convince others of the truth would require that they are seeking truth. But how many are consciously and deliberately doing so?
The persuasive influence of his mind and the pellucid truth of his sentences do not register with many men. Fitness, readiness and ripeness must be present first if receptivity is to be achieved.
No sage who has entered the great enlightenment is going to tell everyone he meets what has happened to him. Nor is he going to reveal everything he knows at the first few meetings even with those who want to find truth.
The sage does not try to collect a personal following, nor does he try to stop anyone who wishes to wander elsewhere. He does not wish to form a cult or even a school of thought. He seeks to attach only those who seek for the truth alone, both in his thinking and in his life. Sometimes he trains a few in meditation and instructs them in philosophy.
Unlike insane self-titled "Messiahs," he has no program of saving the whole world from its sinfulness, for the chances of such an enterprise are microscopic; but he has a program of finding his own kindred--those whose aspiration thought and prenatal relationship with him make them his natural followers.
Such a man may have many acquaintances, may make a modest number of friends, but he is unlikely to find more than a few intimates.
He sees that there is nothing he can do for people whose point of view is so undeveloped, so materialistic, so concerned with surfaces and appearances. He does not engage in the futile task of meddling with their lives. He does not attempt the impossible task of changing them suddenly. He leaves them to the natural processes of growth and to the cosmical forces responsible for their past and future course.
He is the silent background counsellor for a few men who have the opportunity and capacity to serve mankind.
These adepts help the few who are in a position and attitude to help a multitude.
He seeks no personal devotees but is glad over each person who becomes a follower of impersonal Truth.
The illumined man becomes a channel of the Holy Ghost, a chalice of the Prophet's Wine. Yet even he cannot turn the absolute mystical Silence into finite comprehensible speech for more than a sensitive few. With most people he finds himself utterly dumb because they themselves are utterly deaf. This is the tragic pity of it, that just because his words have a value far beyond that of other men's, there is no audience for them, so few ears to receive them.
The Notebooks are copyright © 1984-1989, The Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation.