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Listen to the Song of Life

Section 8 of the Light on the Path for Awakening Climbing the Mountain Path

5. Listen to the song of life.

6. Store in your memory the melody you hear.

7. Learn from it the lesson of harmony.

Though spiritual life is largely based on the cultivation of intuition, some things are required of the intellect: be objective; note and remember; reflect and learn. Then apply what has been learned in the manner that will achieve harmony. It cannot be denied that a great deal of people learn from life how to exploit it, distort it, or turn it to misery for others and often for themselves. All knowledge is a two-edged sword that cuts both ways. So it is imperative for us to use it skillfully, as Buddha pointed out.

Life itself teaches us how to live. When you have learned the lesson:

8. You can stand upright now, firm as a rock amid the turmoil, obeying the warrior who is thyself and thy king. Unconcerned in the battle save to do his bidding, having no longer any care as to the result of the battle, for one thing only is important, that the warrior shall win, and you know he is incapable of defeat–standing thus, cool and awakened, use the hearing you have acquired by pain and by the destruction of pain. Only fragments of the great song come to your ears while yet you are but man. But if you listen to it, remember it faithfully, so that none which has reached you is lost, and endeavor to learn from it the meaning of the mystery which surrounds you. In time you will need no teacher. For as the individual has voice, so has that in which the individual exists. Life itself has speech and is never silent. And its utterance is not, as you that are deaf may suppose, a cry: it is a song. Learn from it that you are part of the harmony; learn from it to obey the laws of the harmony.

We can see right away that this is a list of characteristics we will have–not what we will have to still attain–once we have met our true Self and known Him to be both us and God.

Unconcerned in the battle save to do his bidding, having no longer any care as to the result of the battle, for one thing only is important, that the warrior shall win, and you know he is incapable of defeat–….

A lot of silly philosophizing has gone on, especially in India, about being unconcerned or disinterested in relation to the results of our endeavors. Not caring what happens would render us actionless. The only reason we do something is the need for a result. Oh, yes, frequently we say: “Well, we have to do something,” but it never stops just there. Then we set our mind to it and figure out what course of action will get the desired result. Who would administer medicine without the hope that a cure would be effected; or do something constructive without the desire to help? Certainly, in some irreparable situations people act without any hope of a positive result, but even that act has a desire behind it: the desire to make a statement of principle, to “stand up and be counted” even if all is lost. Motiveless action is absurd for a human being. Even when a person does something for God, with no other motivation, he does so with the desire that he will be doing the right thing and expressing his devotion for God. It is this latter that is partly implied by this clause–there are times when obeying God is sufficient for us, whether “good” comes of it or not. But there is another aspect that I feel, considering all that has gone before, is uppermost in the Master’s mind: that we will be unconcerned in the battle because we know victory is assured. So we can take our eyes off the result and keep them on God alone.

…standing thus, cool and awakened,…. What a beautiful picture is presented to us: a warrior cool amidst the heat of battle because he is awakened–awakened to the truth that it is all a dream, a dream of God, but nonetheless a dream from which we can all awaken into fearlessness. In one sense we will not win the battle, we will awaken from it. What joy, what freedom, what release! Yet we will still be in the dream, though awake in a state that transcends it. Jesus had this in mind when at the end of His life He prayed for His disciples, saying: “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:15, 16). We are no more “of the dream” than is God, the Dreamer, yet, like Him, we are to remain involved in it until perfection in dreaming is achieved.

…use the hearing you have acquired by pain and by the destruction of pain. “Ears to hear” (Matthew 11:15, 13:9, 43; Mark 4:9, 23, 7:16; Luke 8:8, 14:35) are not easy to come by; they are trophies won only after long and arduous battle.

The Master shows that we have to undergo two forms of involvement with pain: we must incur pain by struggle and eliminate pain by struggle. The first comes before wisdom begins its rise in us, and the second follows that arising “as does night the day.” But pain is the gateway to hearing in the spirit. We are usually nettled by all the exoteric Christian talk about the cross and the way of the cross, but no matter how little the speakers may understand their words, they are the truth and must become both our experience and our wisdom.

Living up to our potential

Only fragments of the great song come to your ears while yet you are but man. But if you listen to it, remember it faithfully, so that none which has reached you is lost, and endeavor to learn from it the meaning of the mystery which surrounds you. How sublime this all is, how thoroughly true. And how brilliantly the Master illumines the way and guides us around all pitfalls.

It is true that those in the human condition cannot perceive the entire song of life; but that does not mean that we should wait until we hear the whole melody before learning from it and gaining understanding from it. Rather, if we retain and use that which comes to us, however fragmentary it may be, that itself will begin to transform us and move us onward to the complete message. The Master is also showing us that simply being in awe of creation or of the vastness of spirit is worthless; and so is just looking at everything in reverence as a mystery. No. It all has meaning and its script must be deciphered. And the more we comprehend the more we will learn. God did not spread forth the cosmos to impress us or to merely indicate that He exists. It has a purpose, and that purpose is learning. Wandering the cosmos from life to life like a tourist, just looking and admiring, is not our purpose, nor is attributing it all to God or praising Him for it mean anything. We have to study it and learn. Creation is a preparatory school for divinity.

In time you will need no teacher. For as the individual has voice, so has that in which the individual exists. The ego of human beings paints them into two corners: false independence and false dependence. When we still need to learn from outer sources, especially other human beings, the ego screams that we need no teacher, that we are sufficient of ourselves to learn and understand. The book The Impersonal Life especially fuels this fire and brings many to self-destruction–I have seen it myself more than once. The fact that such a mental and moral ruin as Elvis Presley loved the book and gave away many copies to friends and acquaintances demonstrates its invalidity. On the other hand, once we do start coming into our own in spiritual growth, and we need to start developing the capacity for analyzing and learning on our own and gaining the self-reliance ultimately needed in the spiritual battle, our ego either belittles us and badgers us into thinking that we are stupid and incompetent, or it gets very religious and starts babbling about “making God our all” and realizing that God is the only power in the universe, that we must realize we are His children and that He does all for us that is needful; that “surrender” and “trust” and “relying on God alone” are the marks of love and faith. “Let go and let God” becomes the motto. Having been raised on this sentimental treacle, it was a revelation and a relief when I read in the Gita the words of Krishna: “O Arjuna, stand up and fight!” (Bhagavad Gita 2:37).

So, “in the fullness of time” we must stand on our own. Not that we reject the past teachings we have received, but that having learned the theory it is now time to move on to demonstration in our own life. This, too, is one of the lessons God has intended for us. At the same time we realize that it is indeed His power alone that does all things, that it is His wisdom alone that can shine forth in us; but it is His will that we reach out and wield that power and wisdom He is making so freely accessible to us. When we do this we realize that God truly is acting and ascending through us. That it is our willingness that must be put forth on our part. God, in Whom we as individuals exist, begins to speak to us from within rather than from without, and becomes our teacher, but not until we develop the self-reliance that mirrors His own self-sufficiency.

Life itself has speech and is never silent. And its utterance is not, as you that are deaf may suppose, a cry: it is a song. This is somewhat of a recapitulation to drive the point home. Life is not chaotic or happenstance: it is pattern and purpose. An illiterate person sees writing as meaningless scratches, but the literate find a message. Learn from it that you are part of the harmony; learn from it to obey the laws of the harmony.

9. Regard earnestly all the life that surrounds you.

Life that surrounds us is as much an extension of us as it is an extension of God’s Being. Contrary to usual “spiritual” thinking, it is not antithetical to us nor really a distraction–that is brought about by our mishandling and misperceiving of it. The plain truth is that when we have gained sufficient interior opening, we will find that by comprehending our life we comprehend ourselves. Our outer life is a mirror of our inner state–and not just in the matter of karma. The entire character and tone of our life indicates the character and inner tone of our state of consciousness. As the Chinese say: “When mean-spirited people live behind the door, mean-spirited people come before the door.” When life opposes us, it is because we oppose ourselves. When outer situations make it hard or impossible to accomplish something it is because inwardly we do not want to do so. No one is a victim of life. Life really is what we make it. That is a bitter lesson for the ego, but one we must learn. It is, however, a joyful insight for the spirit, because it means we can transform life by changing ourselves. But it always works from the inside out. That is the first law of harmony. Once we learn that, the others will be rapidly recognized. Therefore, “regard earnestly all the life that surrounds you” for it is you. Furthermore, all life must be regarded earnestly, not just the part that appeals to us. Everything must be taken into account, for everything is a figure in the ledger book of our life. We will not get the right total if we turn from anything whatsoever. People who refuse to confront or admit the “negative” in their outward life are trying to deny the negativity of their inner life. As I have said before, Positive Thinkers are Positive Stinkers.

10. Learn to look intelligently into the hearts of men.

Since we live with people, we must come to comprehend them, to look beyond their outer shell and into their hearts, to see the profound depths that they themselves do not see. Of course both good and bad are there, but we need to see what forces are operating in the hearts of those around us, to realize what is happening to them at the moment, and to understand them. Otherwise we can never really love them as ourselves and thereby heal them. This does not mean that we will passively accept them or think that everything is just fine with them. If they were not in drastic need, God would not send saviors to them, or even come to them Himself. And He intends for us to save them while we are saving ourselves. That is why Jesus says we are “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13, 14). Until we face up to that we will get nowhere. Again, saying it is all up to God is nonsense. The Master is preparing us for good sense. So then he says:

11. Regard most earnestly your own heart.

12. For through your own heart comes the one light which can illuminate life and make it clear to your eyes. Study the hearts of men, that you may know what is that world in which you live and of which you will to be a part. Regard the constantly changing and moving life which surrounds you, for it is formed by the hearts of men; and as you learn to understand their constitution and meaning, you will by degrees be able to read the larger word of life.

Regard most earnestly your own heart. For through your own heart comes the one light which can illuminate life and make it clear to your eyes. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the foundation text of Yoga, self-study (swadhyaya) is stated to be a prime requisite. We must soberly and continually watch over our heart. “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23), Solomon tells us. Although a lot of junk proceeds from the heart (Matthew 15:19), at the bottom are the wellsprings of spirit. And at bottom “comes the one light which can illuminate life and make it clear to your eyes.” We are indeed supposed to see all the ego-rubbish–in the form of both vice and virtue–and acknowledge and deal with it, but we are also to keep on digging and clearing until the light of the One shines forth. “In thy light shall we see light” (Psalms 36:9), sang David. “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (I John1:5), the Beloved Disciple assures us.

Study the hearts of men, that you may know what is that world in which you live and of which you will to be a part. Regard the constantly changing and moving life which surrounds you, for it is formed by the hearts of men; and as you learn to understand their constitution and meaning, you will by degrees be able to read the larger word of life. This needs no comment, except it should be pointed out that the Master does not say we are caught in life or thrust into it by forces external to ourselves–not even God. He states flatly that we will to be a part of this world. If we do not like our involvement in the world–either the involvement itself or the form it is taking–we need only change our will.

13. Speech comes only with knowledge. Attain to knowledge and you will attain to speech.

Oh, don’t we wish that the “teachers” of this world would adopt this principle! And it clues us in as to how people can speak volumes and really say nothing. And some people can remain silent and teach volumes.

“It shall even be as when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite” (Isaiah 29:8). This is also true of most seekers who have come into the orbit of ignorant instructors–especially spiritual ones. No matter how much they cram in lectures, books, and seminars, they remain spiritually starved (or deluded, if they are really unfortunate). By far most “spiritual teachers” speak emptiness from an empty heart.

“Attain to knowledge and you will attain to speech.” This is not poetry; I once witnessed this myself. I used to attend a yoga center that had Sunday morning lectures given by two speakers–one remarkably good and the other remarkably poor. They alternated Sundays, and being loyal (I do not know why) I never missed a talk, so I sat through a lot of painfully bad ones. (I even passed up the chance to hear brilliant speakers like Manly Palmer Hall because I would faithfully go to the center no matter what.) Then one Sunday the poor speaker announced that for the next few weeks he would be on a meditation retreat. Happy news! For more than a month I would not suffer through his bumbling talks. But in time the Sunday came when he was going to speak. I fortified myself with determination and went, already squirming. But all was changed. His talk was magnificent. And from then on all his talks were quite good. Obviously he had experienced a spiritual breakthrough in his weeks of meditation, and it affected his speaking ability.

It is our ignorance that we need deliverance from–not from any factors in our environment. Many people like to make excuse about neglecting spiritual life, blaming their spouse, environment, parents, job, economic situation, “society,” and whatnot. But the truth is: we alone are our problem, and we need to be saved from our (false) selves.

14. Having obtained the use of the inner senses, having conquered the desires of the outer senses, having conquered the desires of the individual soul, and having obtained knowledge, prepare now, O disciple, to enter upon the way in reality. The path is found: make yourself ready to tread it.

The crucial expression here is in reality. Many (most) enter the path in imagination only. I have never heard a person speak of “being on the path” for many years who was not hopelessly caught in his own self-fantasy, far, far away from the possibility of even coming in sight of The Way. Spiritually incompetent people abound, mediocrities who believe they are leaving their bodies nightly for “work on the higher planes,” who believe that through past ages they have been returning to earth again and again to uplift humanity under the aegis of “the Masters;” who yet, if their spiritual brains were nitroglycerin, really could not blow a gnat’s nose. The duller and more backward they are, the more grandiose their delusions. The three reincarnated Jesus Christs I have encountered at least were crazy enough to have strong personalities, whereas these “sheep of the pasture” are just that. The “channelers” have at least found their niche–capable of being nothing more than telephones for discarnates as pointless as themselves.

The Master lists the qualities which are necessary before we can even start to get ready to enter the path. They are:

  1. development of the inner, psychic senses
  2. elimination of the desires arising from the outer material senses
  3. elimination of the desires arising from ego-identity and its resulting erroneous concept of individuality
  4. possession of true knowledge

These traits are not the marks of saints or liberated beings, they are required just to start getting ready to start on the path. Now, there are multitudes of “ways” we can travel that require none of these things–many demand their opposites. But “the way which leadeth unto life” (Matthew 7:14) cannot be approached without them.

Two principles are implied here that we should not miss. First, only those who have entered the inner world can control their life in the outer world. To badger people to “stop doing that” rather than showing them how to grow beyond “that” is stupid and sadistic. If we cannot show the way beyond–and I do not mean “getting saved” or “giving it all over to the Lord”–then we should leave others alone and find out the way and ourselves get beyond before we presume to advise others. Second, the dissolution of egoic motivations has to occur before knowledge–real knowledge–can be obtained. Information and misinformation we can get in floods–and shall until egotism is eliminated (not just suppressed or put out to pasture). One reason it is hard to find a worthy teacher is the fact that worthy teachers are quiet and humble, never putting themselves forward, and we who are blinded by egotism are incapable of seeing them for what they really are. We usually consider them dull, narrow, and tiresome.

How do we prepare to enter the path? The Master does not leave us guessing.

15. Inquire of the earth, the air, and the water, of the secrets they hold for you. The development of your inner senses will enable you to do this.

Whatever we see is but the outermost layer of a vast series of increasingly subtle levels of being. When the inner senses are developed we become able to penetrate into those levels. When the subtlest senses of the causal level are developed we are able to perceive the ideational level of things, to comprehend them as concepts and to read the basic script of the cosmos. The Master is referring to this. The perceptions that arise before then may be subtle and intriguing, but they yield no “secrets”–no wisdom, only knowledge of phenomena and their manipulation. This is a labyrinth in which we become easily lost and confused, so it is best to keep away from it. Occultism quickly opens this and entices us into exploration that ultimately leads nowhere. We must turn from the phenomena and seek only the meaning of things.

16. Inquire of the holy ones of the earth of the secrets they hold for you. The conquering of the desires of the outer senses will give you the right to do this.

Knowledge received without the seeker first being established in spiritual consciousness can be detrimental. For the ego eagerly grasps at whatever it can use to assert itself and extend its dominion. When all desire for the outer levels has been eliminated–not just suppressed or controlled–only then is higher knowledge safe for us. “The holy ones of the earth” are multiform. Some are enlightened human beings, some are guardian spirits of earth life, some are the patterns of earthly existence–blueprints of creative forces. Others are the states of awareness inherent in earthly phenomena. In this inquiry the nature of all things as pure consciousness is revealed and the seeker begins to realize and manifest that truth. It this attainment which enables a person to change water to wine, move mountains, and alter the patterns of life which we call birth, disease, and death. It is the expansion into omniscience and omnipotence. Still, this is all outer-oriented, however subtle or glorious. So the Master continues:

17. Inquire of the inmost, the one, of its final secret which it holds for you through the ages.

The great and difficult victory, the conquering of the desires of the individual soul, is a work of ages; therefore expect not to obtain its reward until ages of experience have been accumulated. When the time of learning this seventeenth rule is reached, man is on the threshold of becoming more than man.

The final secret is perfect Self-knowledge and Self-manifestation. It transcends all that has gone before. It is the revelation of the Eternal which negates the temporal forever. To say more would be to cloud the matter.

Now the Master would caution those who think that the mere willing will guarantee the attaining. Their enthusiasm, if indulged, will in time turn to disgust and disbelief, for it is based on a mistaken view both of themselves and the goal. The prime error is the conviction that enlightenment is at hand for the picking up. Just wish for it…and it is yours. So he tells us: “The great and difficult victory, the conquering of the desires of the individual soul, is a work of ages; therefore expect not to obtain its reward until ages of experience have been accumulated. When the time of learning this seventeenth rule is reached, man is on the threshold of becoming more than man.”

He is giving us a dual message. Only after many ages can the final victory be won. Therefore we must have the experience of ages before we can engage in that final battle. However, we would not learn this truth unless we already had accumulated most of it. And that fact tells us that we are even now “on the threshold of becoming more than man.”

We have come a long way together in this commentary. Consequently I am going to end by relaying to you the final words of the Master without comment, for they cannot be illumined by more words. Simply read and understand.

18. The knowledge which is now yours is only yours because your soul has become one with all pure souls and with the inmost. It is a trust vested in you by the Most High. Betray it, misuse your knowledge, or neglect it, and it is possible even now for you to fall from the high estate you have attained. Great ones fall back, even from the threshold, unable to sustain the weight of their responsibility, unable to pass on. Therefore look forward always with awe and trembling to this moment, and be prepared for the battle.

19. It is written that for him who is on the threshold of divinity no law can be framed, no guide can exist. Yet to enlighten the disciple, the final struggle may be thus expressed:

Hold fast to that which has neither substance nor existence.

20. Listen only to the voice which is soundless.

21. Look only on that which is invisible alike to the inner and outer sense.

PEACE BE WITH YOU.

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