17. Seek out the way.
Seek out the way–for there is a way. One of the basic misconceptions that many Westerners have about reincarnation is the idea that we need do nothing specific to accomplish our personal evolution–that we need only be born over and over again, learning from each life and thereby becoming increasingly intelligent and creative. And in the meantime we can have everything we want–either in one life or in another. In other words, rebirth is seen as a gigantic cycle of evolutionary self-indulgence.
The truth is, through our ignorance and misapplication of our divine powers, we have turned this world into a prison and each birth into a sentence of imprisonment. Of course, just as in civil prisons very wealthy people often furnish their cells with every luxury and live there in complete comfort and self-indulgence, so many of us manage to have lives in which we have wealth and advantages. But that cannot change the fundamental truth that we are in bondage or the fact that in the next birth our life may be as miserable and deprived as this one was satisfying and fulfilled.
Therefore we must get away from the compulsion of birth and death, and for that we need a way of escape. There must be an actual path–a practical system of extrication from ignorance. The Master is speaking of such a way, not just theory. Various disciplines and practices comprise this way. But it is not readily at hand–at least not to our perceptions–so we must seek it out.
The sign of spiritual awakening
Seeking out the way is a characteristic of spiritual awakening. Those who are awake seek, and those who still sleep do not. It is just that simple. There are many seekers, but only those are finders who seek the way out through spiritual rebirth and self-evolution that result in transcendence of birth and death. They are the seekers of whom the Master is speaking. He is not even giving a thought to those who seek lesser things.
When we look at the world around us, we see people floundering in ignorance, destroying themselves, literally, because they are not seeking God. Seeing this, we often conceive the delusive idea that we must awaken them and point them toward God. But it cannot be done. Spiritual consciousness cannot be awakened by an external force. We can awaken someone from physical unconsciousness, and even from intellectual ignorance through education. But spiritual awakening comes only from the Divine Spirit working from within the individual spirit.
Buddha usually stayed in forests and isolated areas, having nothing to do with so-called civilization. Once a disciple reproached him for not going to where people were to help alleviate their ignorance. In response, Buddha sent him to a large city to ask each person there what he would wish for if he could have anything he desired. It took him a long time, but at last he accomplished his mission and returned to Buddha. When Buddha asked him how his time had gone, the disciple replied with disgust that every person had only wanted foolish or petty things. “How many wanted enlightenment?” asked Buddha. “None,” came the answer. “Then why do you want me to force on them what they do not even want?” demanded Buddha. And the disciple got the idea.
The soul must awaken itself. In the Song of Solomon (2:7; 3:5; 8:4) we find several times the appeal not to awaken the beloved until he pleases. Another reading is not to awaken love until it pleases. One of the meanings is that we must not try to stir up spiritual consciousness–which is also love of God–in another person, for it must arise of itself. It is certainly right to work on stirring up our own spiritual consciousness, though, for if we were not already awake to some degree we would not desire to do so or even know that it is possible. Just as we cannot force the fruit to form and ripen on the tree, so we must not attempt such a folly with the souls of others. We do not burden children with the concerns of adulthood, and in the same way we need to leave spiritual infants undisturbed. Just as we let children prattle on in nonsense, so we should not challenge any foolishness the spiritual infants express, but just patiently listen. All we will accomplish by attempting to awaken them and get them to adopt our way of seeing things will be to arouse them to resentment, hypocrisy, or a little bit of spiritual sleepwalking until they fall back into inertia. Each of us must seek out the way himself.
18. Seek the way by retreating within.
The Master previously said we are to seek out the way. Lest we misunderstand and think that our seeking should be external, he continues: “Seek the way by retreating within.” Carl Jung said: “Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.” We must withdraw our consciousness from the outer illusions of “things” and focus it on interior realities. The Master is not speaking of meditation now, but of simply gathering up our scattered forces and becoming self-contained.
So the first step is to gather ourselves up into ourselves. We must pull ourselves together and learn to be still. We must make ourselves coherent again. Having been spread out like a puddle on the floor, we must now come back to a semblance of shape. To do this we must gather in our forces, not expending our energies on anything external–not only through the senses, but through the mind, as well.
The systematic retreat
The retreat within is likened by the yogis of India to the drawing in of its head and legs by a tortoise. The wise learn to pull all the extensions of themselves back into their source and become whole again. When this is done, and we are restored to our original integrity, then a real beginning of conscious evolution can be made. Meditation is the process to accomplish this.
This divine retreat is treated very systematically by the Indian sage, Patanjali, in his Yoga Sutras. There he outlines the eight steps to unitive consciousness. They are: Yama-Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi.
- Yama-Niyama consists of that which ought to be done (yama), and that should not be done (niyama). In other words, the avoidance of vice and the cultivation of virtue. This is the fundamental step because this changes the vibration of our entire energy complex, from the gross to the most subtle bodies–which include the mind, intellect, and will. It also cuts off the production of negative karmas and begins the production of positive karmas which will expedite our eventual transcendence of all karmas.
- Asana is the posture for meditation, which need not be the difficult Lotus Posture, but any upright position that is easy and steady. This also means the positioning of the mind in a state of relaxation and ease.
- Pranayama is control of the life forces–not breathing exercises, as is commonly supposed, although breathing methods may be involved to some extent since it is possible to gain control of some of the subtle life forces known as prana through control of the breath, which is itself a manifestation of the prana. As the Master has said, we must “seek the way by retreating within.” That is, we need to draw our energies back within ourselves. Presently we are a field of dispersed energies. We need to draw them back in toward their centers and become a more compact field of energy. This is accomplished by–and is–pranayama.
- Pratyahara is the interiorization of the mind, the becoming aware of interior consciousness and getting the mind acclimatized to interior states and processes.
- Dharana is the fixing of the mind (attention) on a particular point, object, or thought.
- Dhyana is meditation, which Patanjali defines as the continuous flow of the mind toward God, like an uninterrupted stream of oil.
- The final step is samadhi, which is the experience of union with God. (Not its attainment, since we are always one with God.)
The threefold process
Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi are the process of going within. We boldly go inside and start looking around. At the same time we are to be detached–that is, indifferent to anything that happens or that we perceive. We have to remain in a state of balance, extremely aware without being caught by any interior experiences. We are to be intensely aware without getting involved and losing ourselves in that involvement. It is a paradox, but we are to both ignore and perceive them. That is why we neither accept nor reject what arises in the sphere of our awareness. We are boldly indifferent! And through that detached attitude we affect our interior status in ways that would be impossible if we were reacting to what arises.
Here again is another example of how in esoteric practice and life we must learn to go in two directions at once. This takes courage on occasion, and that is why the Master tells us to be bold, as was Jesus when He remained silent, refusing to reply to Pilate’s interrogations (John 19:9). Jumping into the water and letting ourselves sink takes a lot of nerve, and so does leaping into the mind and letting whatever comes, come. Courageous objectivity is needed.
We must never fall into the pitfall of classifying our meditations into “good mediations” and “bad meditations.” All meditations are good when done correctly. Definitely, the experiences in meditation can be pleasant, unpleasant, or tedious, but that has no bearing on the quality of the meditation itself. Here, too, we must be dispassionate, accepting whatever comes. Perhaps the boring and seemingly futile and empty times of meditation take the most nerve to endure. But they are usually the most productive when viewed in retrospect.
Going boldly within is not like the stereotypic “great white hunter,” plunging into the mental jungle with gun pointed and knife between the teeth. It is just the opposite.
19. Seek the way by advancing boldly without.
Since “retreating” sounds passive and carries connotations of having been routed in battle, the Master gives us the second phase of the process so we will understand that our retreat is part of a dynamic, not a passive, process: “Seek the way by advancing boldly without.” That is, having gone within and having our intuitive sense awakened, we can now move in the outer world with an illumined vision, understanding the nature of what we encounter, and be able to use it for our progress. Outside of meditation we objectify what has taken place during our retreat within.
20. Seek it not by any one road. To each temperament there is one road which seems the most desirable. But the way is not found by devotion alone, by religious contemplation alone, by ardent progress, by self-sacrificing labor, by studious observation of life. None alone can take the disciple more than one step onward. All steps are necessary to make up the ladder. The vices of men become steps in the ladder, one by one, as they are surmounted. The virtues of man are steps indeed, necessary–not by any means to be dispensed with. Yet, though they create a fair atmosphere and a happy future, they are useless if they stand alone. The whole nature of man must be used wisely by the one who desires to enter the way. Each man is to himself absolutely the way, the truth, and the life. But he is only so when he grasps his whole individuality firmly, and, by the force of his awakened spiritual will, recognizes this individuality as not himself, but that thing which he has with pain created for his own use, and by means of which he purposes, as his growth slowly develops his intelligence, to reach to the life beyond individuality. When he knows that for this his wonderful complex separated life exists, then, indeed, and then only, he is upon the way. Seek it by plunging into the mysterious and glorious depths of your own inmost being. Seek it by testing all experience, by utilizing the senses in order to understand the growth and meaning of individuality, and the beauty and obscurity of those other divine fragments which are struggling side by side with you, and form the race to which you belong. Seek it by study of the laws of being, the laws of nature,the laws of the supernatural: and seek it by making the profound obeisance of the soul to the dim star that burns within. Steadily, as you watch and worship, its light will grow stronger. Then you may know you have found the beginning of the way. And when you have found the end its light will suddenly become the infinite light.
The multifold path
Seek it not by any one road. That is, we must take care of all angles and aspects of our being and consciousness, neglecting nothing. Some people think that meditation can be used as a gimmick for enlightenment without there being any need to provide the right conditions for its effectiveness. We can think of it like agriculture. Plowing is not everything in itself, nor is watering, or sowing, or fertilizing, or planting. They must all go together if we are to reap a harvest for our efforts. If one thing is left out then failure is inevitable. Both our interior and exterior lives must be ordered and maintained according to the laws of spiritual evolution.
Beware of the ego
To each temperament there is one road which seems the most desirable. The adjective “desirable” shows that the Master is speaking of the egoic reaction that if it feels, tastes, or appears good, then it is good–which of course has nothing at all to do with whether a thing really is or is not good. The ego always mistakes the pleasant and the pleasing for the good–which never is either pleasant nor pleasing to the ego, though the spirit rejoices in it.
What are the “roads” the Master has in mind? He will now enumerate them.
But the way is not found by devotion alone, by religious contemplation alone, by ardent progress, by self-sacrificing labor, by studious observation of life. None alone can take the disciple more than one step onward. All steps are necessary to make up the ladder. This being so, we need to make this statement a mental checklist–especially when we feel we are not progressing as we should–to help us determine if we are really doing all we need to do. It would be good to take each one in turn and look at it well.
By devotion the Master does not mean the romantic or sentimental type of devotion, but rather dedication-devotion to the search for enlightenment. It also implies devoting the entire life to the search, and not just a bit of life that can be conveniently eked out of an otherwise full agenda. The search for God must be the heart of the seeker’s entire life. In fact, it must embrace the whole of the seeker’s life so that whatever the activity engaged in, it is seen as part of the search.
Steadiness is also indicated here, for spiritual life must be continuous, not a series of startings and stoppings. Momentum is a key factor in spiritual success. Continual practice is the means to accomplish this. Sacrifice is also implied here, but that will be spoken of shortly.
Meditation is essential. But the egos of mankind have invented many processes and methods that are devoid of spiritual content to suit those to whom communion with God is distasteful and therefore undesirable. It is not to those that the Master is speaking, and to ensure this is understood, he has specified religious contemplation as one of the ways, not just contemplation.
This also has a twofold implication. The first is that the practice of meditation is a religious practice and therefore exclusively God-centered. Its purpose is not just Self-realization, but God-realization, for they are not the same, although God-realization includes Self-realization. The second is the truth that true meditation is a spiritual–not a mental or emotional–activity. That is, it is an action of the ever-free spirit, not of mind, intellect, or emotion (feeling).
For this reason meditation cannot involve these lesser aspects of our makeup. So all linkages to them–such as discursive prayers, visualizations, imaginations, concepts or intellectual ponderings, or self-induced (imagined) feelings of peace, love, etc.–must have no place in our meditation. God being beyond form or conceptualization–even beyond the idea that He is–our meditations must be beyond all such as well. As the Fathers of both East and West have said, we must enter into the Divine Darkness, into the Cloud of Unknowing, where we shall both see and know as we are seen and known.
By employing the term “ardent progress” the Master implies intensity, urgency, and singleness of purpose–to be afire for God. This is no shallow spiritual weekending, but a race unto the Ultimate End. God is a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24; 9:3; Hebrews 12:29), and all that is not divine is dissolved by entering into His Being. As Sri Ramakrishna often said: “A salt doll once went to measure the depth of the ocean. But when it entered the ocean it was melted. Who, then, was to return to report the ocean’s depth?”
Before leaving this subject we should distinguish between the ardent progress the Master holds forth and mere rapid change which usually has no depth or lasting effect. The latter is like that of the hare in the story of the tortoise and the hare. Jesus spoke of it in the parable of the seed: “And some [seed] fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.…And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended” (Mark 4:5,6,16,18).
What is the “root” without which there can be no perseverance in spiritual life? It is the developing of interior consciousness–which is also spiritual evolution–that can only be produced through meditation. Those who rush around to lectures and seminars, devouring books and articles by the pound, babbling on and on in rhapsody about finding the truth at last and how their spiritual horizons are widening (but not deepening–that is the rub), are like firework rockets, quickly burning themselves out in a spectacular ascent only to fall back to earth to sink deeper into ignorance than they were before.
Those who quietly apply themselves in patience and perseverance like the tortoise are the ones who win through to the heavenly vision.
“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works” (Matthew 16:24-27).
Spiritual genius, like any other genius, is also one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. Therefore much work comes before any hope of glory. Yet, labor is not enough. It must be self-sacrificing, according to the Master. Why is this? Obviously because labor in the spirit is a means of cutting off–sacrificing–our identity with the lesser, material and psychic sides of our being. Also, sacrifice is a statement of value. Nothing ventured, nothing gained; nothing spent, nothing bought. “You get what you pay for” and “There is no such thing as a free lunch” may sound mundane and even a touch vulgar, but they are nonetheless as true in the spirit as they are in the world. Therefore, correct spiritual labor both frees us from lower identity and wins for us a niche in the higher realms.
Sacrifice is a statement of value, as has been said, and the effort of sacrifice keeps reminding us of our ideals. During the persecutions of Catholics in England, one priest was kept in the attic of a jail, chained by his legs. The shackles caused terrible sores to develop on his legs, so his friends paid the jailer to take them off. When next they came to visit the priest they found the chains back on as before. “I paid him even more money to put them on me again,” he explained, “for every time I move my legs the clinking of the chains reminds me to Whom I belong.” Love does such things.
Studious observation of life
Not idle observation of life, but studious observation with the intent of discovering the principles of manifestation so the way to transcend them can be eventually discovered is needed. Also, studious observation is necessary to form a correct evaluation of life and its elements. Even more, studious observation can reveal the very nature of life itself. In this case, since it is relative existence that is meant by “life,” studious observation will reveal it to be no life at all but a state of death which must be passed beyond if we would live. But first we have to see it, in the sense of full comprehension. “Have you not seen what life is?” was a question continually being put to the disciples by a contemporary spiritual teacher in India.
I once read of a woman whose husband was continually beating her. Always she made excuse for him, refusing to see his real nature. After some years, one day he lifted a club to strike–and perhaps kill–her. Suddenly, all fear vanished and she cried out: “Now I see you for what you are!” Dropping the club, her husband ran away, never to be seen again. In the same way, all that we are ignorantly wedded to will vanish in a moment once we see it truly. Only God remains when finally seen as He is.
“Studious” also implies objectivity. That is, when we do finally see through life, it will cause no pain, but rather bring peace. We shall not complain about the emptiness of worldly life, but shall abide in the real life which shall have then dawned in our consciousness.
Many things are needed to ensure that spiritual life and practice can have their full effect on us. To get wheat, you need the seed. But possessing the seed is not sufficient. The right earth must be available. Moreover that earth must be prepared to receive the grain. Water and sunlight must also be provided. So although it is true that the corn harvest will only come out of the seeds that are sown (another necessary step), many other things are required to make the seed fruitful.
In The Vision of God, his spiritual autobiography, Swami Ramdas states that he was “taken” up by the Name of the Lord, that his life became completely malleable to the action of the Name. Indeed, the Name of God became the sole force in his life. No longer Ramdas, but the Name of God lived in and through him. He put all his energies upon continually repeating the Holy Name. He cared for nothing else. But was repetition of the Holy Name really all he did? Indeed not. He observed rigorous ascetic disciplines. He would go to places that were so freezing cold and physically miserable that he could not sleep and so would stay awake throughout the night constantly repeating the Name. He never ate meat or drank alcohol. He had nothing whatsoever to do with comfort and the life of the senses–especially sex. Much of his time was spent in solitude. So he did a great many more things than simply repeat the Name. By themselves those disciplines would have meant nothing. It was the Name alone that brought him to enlightenment. But without the ascetic labors the Name would not have had such an effect on him. Therefore it was the Name alone that transformed him, but it was his disciplines that rendered him capable of being transformed. We must never lose that perspective. Many people met Ramdas and were inspired by him to repeat the Name of God, but only those few who also observed the other disciplines that had made his illumination possible attained what he did.
The divine ladder
The vices of men become steps in the ladder, one by one, as they are surmounted. This is important to keep in mind so that whenever we encounter a problem within our mind we need not despair or condemn ourselves, but simply apply ourselves to changing it from a pitfall into a rung on the ladder of our progress. Every behavioral and mental pattern is a kind of vortex spinning in the energy field of the mind. They are what we might call “energy mechanisms” in our aura, configurations of energy that produce mental and physical states. When spinning (polarized) one way, they draw us downward; but when repolarized (reversed) they lift us up just as surely and efficiently. Therefore every bad habit, every vice, can be transmuted into a force for our perfection. This is why great sinners can become great saints.
Vice And virtue
Everything being dual, every vice is the underside of a virtue. For example, cowardice is prudence gone wrong, and hostility is courage gone wrong. So we transmute the vice into virtue. The virtue is already there, the vice only being its distortion. This is the sense in which evil does not exist, but is an aberration of good. We do not accept and indulge the negative pattern, but get busy and reform it, turning it back to its original, correct status. And that is true “repentance” in the Biblical sense.
Since the presence of vice is the presence of virtue, we need not be discouraged but take hope, for goodness is at hand. There are some motor-driven wheels that will spin according to the direction they are moved at the onset. To get them to move in the opposite way they need only be stopped and then set going again in the other direction. Electrical motors themselves will go in the opposite direction if we simply switch the wiring of the poles. Changing our mental operations is just as simple and as precise. It may not always be easy, but it is always possible and inevitable. Patience, optimism, and right effort are all that is needed. Also, when we see a person seemingly full of vice, we are seeing a person potentially full of virtue. Great sinners can indeed make great saints.
So the Master is telling us that we need not worry about the vice as such, but instead to use the tools he has just enumerated to transform it into virtue and lift ourselves by its transmutation. For the practices he has named do change us. As we surmount the vices one by one, we rise into higher and higher reaches of consciousness.
The purpose of virtue
The virtues of man are steps indeed, necessary–not by any means to be dispensed with. The Master is aware that some people misunderstand when they hear that they need not bewail their vices, and so they begin to accommodate and indulge them. But such things must not be allowed to continue as vices but be turned into virtues, virtues which the Master assures us cannot be laid aside for a moment, for they are absolutely necessary. Without them there is no spiritual progress, for the virtues are the tools by which we cultivate spiritual consciousness.
Yet, though they create a fair atmosphere and a happy future, they are useless if they stand alone. These virtues produce a positive vibration in our life and create good karma, but they are useless if they stand alone. Instead they must be applied to something–that is, they must be used. They are not just to be cultivated like flowers for the viewing, so people will say how nice and good we are. If they are not used as tools in the search for God, they are then as nothing. There are virtuous people who are not seeking God, and in them the virtues are spiritually meaningless.
The whole nature of man must be used wisely by the one who desires to enter the way. The first step in spiritual life, then, is to gain mastery of every aspect of our nature. By “nature” the Master means that which in Sanskrit is called prakriti–the entire range of energies which go to make up what we call a human being. We must use these energies to get beyond them into the realms of higher evolution and ultimately into pure spirit. Just as we must go through the vices, making them into steps of virtue, so must we use all of the aspects of our nature, even though they are just vibrating energies and not our true Self. To seek the Self, we must use them.
Isaiah says: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it” (Isaiah 2:2). This is not a political prophecy, but a reference to the esoteric anatomy of the human being. The “top of the mountains” is the awakened pineal gland at the top of the head, the whole body being “the mountain of the Lord’s house.” The “nations” that shall flow unto it are the diverse energies of the gross and subtle bodies. This is accomplished by the various esoteric practices given by Jesus to His disciples and passed on by them to succeeding generations who have been initiates of the Christian Mysteries. By means of these practices, gradually the initiate gains perfect control of all the bodies and the energies of which they are composed and orients them toward higher consciousness, establishing in them the control of the highest centers of awareness and power.
Mastery of energies
We gain control of our whole nature so that we can use it in the transmutation of consciousness that alone is the search for God. Strictly speaking, the term “search for God” can be misleading. Since God is not only everywhere, but is the root essence of our very being, where would we “go” to find Him? He is not only “here,” it is He alone who makes up all that is the “here” and “there” of our experience. As one great Sufi saint wrote: “I laugh to hear of fish athirst in the water.” We do not need to “find” God, we need to know God.
How well I remember my childhood frustration when I could not read music. All I needed was to understand those markings on the page and–wonder of wonders!–I could make music. Even more, I remember the first time I could comprehend those markings and was able to make music. The tune was simple and eminently forgettable, but it was music, and I was on my way. This is why we speak of Gnosis as the essential in authentic Christianity. Jung was asked in an interview: “Do you believe there is a God?” “No!” was his immediate and emphatic response, “I do not believe there is a God, I know there is a God.”
Presently the energies in which we (our consciousnesses) are encased blind us to reality. But the same energies repolarized illumine the way to Gnosis–to Knowing. Though they cannot reveal the reality, they are necessary to reveal the path inward to divine vision, in which seeing and knowing are one and the same.
As long as we are in the realm of relativity we must act. Even the quest for enlightenment is an action. Thus we need all the energies possible for utilization in our going to God. Without esoteric practice–i.e., methodology–this is impossible. There are energy reservoirs in the body which influence (and usually control) our behavior. By means of yogic practices these energies must be put to their intended use in our evolutionary unfoldment. Even negative energies can be used by turning them back to their original positive condition. When we both can and do master them, we shall be on our way to ourselves becoming masters.
Each man is to himself absolutely the way, the truth, and the life. We have nothing to work with but ourselves, no other reality to be involved with but ourselves. There is the Supreme Reality, God, Who is also our reality, but we have lost touch with our consciousness of that truth and are immersed in the unreality of independent existence which also cuts us off from true knowledge of our individual self-reality. This being so, the first step to God is knowledge and mastery of ourselves. Then we can proceed deeper to the root-being of ourselves: God. In other words, Self-realization comes before God-realization.
There is no power for us to work with except that which we already have. We must release that power from within–not get it from God “outside.” We have already been given everything we need. We are “catholics.” That is, we are kata holos–we contain everything. God has given us everything we need, both within and without, so that when we do turn to God and seek for Him it will be from free choice and not because we think we have to.
One of the indications that egoic “love” is not worthy love at all is the cliche “I need you,” which is so freely used by “lovers.” It really means: “I can use you for my own satisfaction.” This may be flattering to human egos, but God wants nothing of it. Therefore He has ensured that we can stay out in the realm of relativity, playing with the infinite variety of illusions forever, if we are so inclined. (That is the real “everlasting damnation.”) Only when real love awakens can we retrace our steps to the Divine Source.
God has made us of “independent means” so we will seek Him for Himself alone. In that search we are the way in the sense that we do not look to an external path to find God, but turn within and return within to our source in God. So we are ourselves the path we must tread back home. We are the truth, in the sense that it is our own reality we must come to know, for when we come to the root of our reality or being, we will find God, the Reality of our reality. We are the life in the same sense, for God is the Life of our life.
An oriental parable
There is a story in the Far East of a man who was imprisoned in the top room of a tower. To rescue him, his wife tied a piece of silk to the back leg of a large beetle. Then she put a drop of honey on the horns of the beetle and put the beetle on the wall of the tower, aimed straight up. Wanting the honey, the beetle kept crawling forward, right up the tower. When it reached the top, the man caught hold of the silk thread. His wife then tied a cotton string onto its end. He pulled up the silk thread and got the string. She then tied a heavy cord to the string. After that she tied a small rope onto the cord, and he pulled that up. Last, she tied a heavy rope on the end of the small rope. When he had pulled that up to the top, he tied it around a stone post, climbed down it, and escaped. So it is in spiritual life. From mastery of the lesser we can proceed to mastery of the greater. First we master our physical makeup, then our mental, and then our spiritual. From conquest of our spirit we can rise to possess the Kingdom of God–the Consciousness of Infinite Spirit.
But he is only so when he grasps his whole individuality firmly, and, by the force of his awakened spiritual will, recognizes this individuality as not himself, but that thing which he has with pain created for his own use, and by means of which he purposes, as his growth slowly develops his intelligence, to reach to the life beyond individuality.
“But he is only so when he grasps his whole individuality firmly.” Partial control is not sufficient–we must master the entirety of our being. This is both so there will be no imbalance in the process of transmutation and also because we are seeking to defragment ourselves and return to our original state of homogeneity. Therefore all the “passengers” must be “on board” before the journey can be begun, much less completed.
There is another aspect of this. Spiritual egotism is always a threat to the seeker, and one of its favorite tricks is to make us unduly elated over a single step in our progress, hoping to blind us to the necessity of taking many more steps before we can be “home safe.” It would like us to stop along the way and become so engrossed in self-congratulation that we think we have attained all there is to attain.
An aunt of mine was determined that her little son be a prodigy at the keyboard. She would take him from one piano instructor to another. Each in turn would suggest that he wait until he was more mature. And each would salve her ego by saying: “But your son has a beautiful ‘touch.’” She would relay this ebulliently to everyone. So it became a joke in our family that when one of us, or someone we knew, had miserably failed at trying something, to say: “But he has a beautiful ‘touch’!” Small comfort.
The Master wants us to know that to fail in one point is to fail in all. “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link” is another way of saying it. Saint James wrote: “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). That may sound unduly severe, but it is not a judgment–it is a fact of spiritual life.
Why does he speak of individuality? Are we not to transcend that? Yes, but only when we bring it to perfect fruition. We must distinguish between the individuality of the ego and the individuality of the spirit. The egoic individuality consists of personality traits, conditionings, and karmas. The individuality of the spirit is its innate divinity.
The lesser parts of our being are the mirrors in which the divine individuality is to be reflected and radiated out to the healing of our environment as well as to us. The ego has wrested them away from the control of our spirit and turned them to reflect its false face. Erroneous philosophies therefore counsel us to smash the mirrors to become free and perfect. The correct thing is to repossess those mirrors and turn them back to their original orientation, and in them to behold our true face of spirit–which in turn will mirror back the face of God, for the individual spirit is intended to be His reflection just as our various bodies are meant to mirror us. When this is done, the process of divine transmutation–deification (theosis)–is complete.
Just as we sometimes only master a part of our individual makeup and want to believe we have mastered all, so we sometimes are satisfied with only a tenuous grasp. This is why the Master says “grasps firmly” in his exposition. Another way is to say that we must be established in that control. Often the ego steps out of the way, removes all obstacles, and lets us get just a glimpse of our destined glory with complete ease. We then mistakenly assume that we have attained that glory and vanquished the enemy. Then the ego reasserts itself and casts us down from our imagined height, hoping to thus demoralize us and cause us to give up our efforts in disgust and disillusionment. If the ego cannot destroy us through pride, then it will try to paralyze us through shame and guilt. For this reason the Master warns us to be strong in our grip.
Where does illumination come from? Some schools say it comes from God like the strike of lightning. Some say it comes automatically from evolution, without need of thought or aspiration. But the Master speaks of this requisite insight as coming “by the force of his awakened spiritual will.” None of us doubt that some force is needed, or that it is the force of will that is the needed power, but the two words “awakened” and “spiritual” complete the picture for us. Nowadays there is a lot of talk about Kundalini, and most of its modern exponents treat the awakening of Kundalini as a kind of psychedelic fireworks display and volcanic eruption. This appeals to those who want the path to the Divine to be a circus–something it definitely is not.
Trances, shakings, visions, and “powers”–this whole array of phenomena sounds tempting to those sickened with the banality and unreality of most “Christian” churches. To have something really work is a breakthrough we all desire, and understandably so. This is why so much negative occultism is gaining vogue. It may be destructive in the long run, but at the moment it produces tangible results.
The truth is, the awakening of Kundalini is the awakening of the spiritual will. If the bodies of the aspirant have been balanced, purified, and refined as they should, then no cataclysmic displays occur. The individual will definitely be aware of the awakening and the resulting change, but it will be perfectly internalized with no external manifestations at all. Also, it will be far more dramatic than the phenomena incorrectly considered its corollaries.
The will that must be awakened is that of the spirit. There are other, lesser wills that have gripped and bound us throughout the ages. As the ego is the false self, so they are false wills. But that in no way diminishes their destructive effect on us. When Jesus said: “Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39), He was portraying the moment in which the lesser delusive wills are “surrendered” and dissolved at the awakening of the divine will of the divine self. We must realize that we, too, are trinities. Our higher self is “the Father.” Therefore when we read about the Father in the Gospels, it often refers to the higher self of Jesus, Who is our example. Our Father in Heaven is our higher self as well as the transcendent Father.
We all believe that we have free will–but do we? Desires and aspirations we have in abundance, as well as many compulsions, but none of them are exercises of will–rather, they are manifestations of lack of will, of our being shaped and impelled by forces other than ourselves. Conditionings galore and behavioral programmings innumerable are ours–but all from outside us, imposed upon us. Nothing of will–free or otherwise–is among them. Like railway trains, we run on the tracks others have laid down for us. We show little imagination in our life. No one ever thinks of doing anything unusual. Everybody is just going to get the job, the wife or husband, the kids, the car, and the house–all usually mediocre. Who ever thinks of finding God, much less dedicating their entire life to the search for God?
The awakener of will
The will has to be awakened, and then the real labor begins for us as we begin learning to exercise the spiritual will. It must be under our complete control. This is why the aspirant must prepare himself by disciplines which strengthen the will. We can be to ourselves “the way, the truth, and the life” only when we have grasped our whole individuality “by the force of awakened spiritual will.” But that awakened will is to go further than mere control. By the power of that spiritual will the struggler then “recognizes this individuality as not himself.”
Those who think that their bodies, emotions, minds, intellects, etc., are truly themselves, through that very identification become enslaved to those things. They think they are using them when in reality they are being dragged along by them. Immoral people, for example, who spend their whole days and nights thinking of just how to exploit their senses–especially the sense of sex–think they are masters, when in reality they are slaves. Because they are living in the mirror everything is seen backwards.
Now we come to a statement of great import. When a man has grasped his whole individuality firmly, then he, “by the force of his awakened spiritual will, recognizes this individuality as not himself.” A little reflection reveals how this will be so. The eye cannot see itself, the hand cannot grasp itself, the foot cannot kick itself: all those actions can only be done in relation to external objects. This being so, when we grasp hold of and master the various levels of our being we will perceive them as external to ourselves and not ourselves at all. This is why the spiritual will is required to accomplish this. For the lesser wills cannot be turned to the mastery of themselves.
Actually, to even begin the mastery of these lower entities through our spiritual will we must first be posited in our spiritual nature, which is itself spiritual consciousness. The only way to be a master is to not be in any way identified with what is mastered. If we listen to the whines and complaints of the not-self and sympathize with it and indulge it, we will never be its master. We must be completely objective to it.
The nature of individuality
What is the individuality of the aspirant? It is “that thing which he has with pain created for his own use.” Indeed, have we not suffered to get to this point? A brief look at nature reveals the constant struggle, suffering, danger, and death in which all live. Even the bugs that bite us have bugs that bite them! How painful and exhaustive is the climb up to animal form–and infinitely more so the ascent from animal to human. And all of that has been our own doing, our own creation.
The great waste
Only with great pain have we come to this level of evolution, so is it not tragic that we would waste it in doing something else besides attaining spiritual liberation? Or after all the agony of billions of lives, to then use our status only to simply run a successful business, for example? Think of taking creation cycles to get to this human body, and then to expend–and perhaps destroy–it in the pursuit of temporary material pleasure or gain. What ridiculous things we do with this fantastic instrument that we have created. It is like using FM radio for trashy music, or taking a great work of art and using it for a doorstop. More than once in recorded history barbarians have used works of art and books of fine literature for fuel.
It is spiritually insane for a human being not to utilize his life in the search for God, and his self-degradation produces great sufferings as a consequence. The subverting of our divinity can only result in infinite misery.
Once I heard an Indian saint tell of having seen an angelic being who sang over and over: “Having acquired a human body, call on God. And having filled your mind with God, then go to the world of God.” In other words, we have become humans so we can become gods. It is absurd that anyone would use the excuse: “I am not ready yet; I am not evolved enough. I have this to do and I have that to do first. Then maybe I will be ready.” The moment we enter the human form we are ready for Self–and God–realization.
The means of attainment
“He…recognizes this individuality as not himself, but that thing which he has with pain created for his own use.” It is not a trap, a prison, as we have let it become, but it is an instrument for our own use. Nothing could be more fallacious than to attempt to drop or dissolve it in the hope of that way attaining enlightenment. Modern distortions of Eastern philosophies may say so, but the true masters teach just the opposite. For it is that “by means of which he purposes, as his growth slowly develops his intelligence, to reach to the life beyond individuality.”
We have only one purpose: to go beyond this relative existence. Why did we even come here, then? For that very transcendence. Does it seem absurd? It should not, for do we not enroll in school for the very purpose of one day graduating from it and leaving it behind forever? By this “creation” of our individuality which is in relativity–and which is the means of integrating us with relativity–we can go beyond relativity. It has no other purpose. To engage it in any other pursuit is to be something less than human.
Evolution and intelligence
What is evolution? There are many definitions, but the master describes its nature by describing its effect when he says that the individual’s “growth slowly develops his intelligence.” Please note that he says “intelligence,” not “intellect.” Intellect, like the mind, is only an instrument of intelligence. Intelligence is the scope of our consciousness. The greater our field of consciousness, the greater is our intelligence–something academicians miss completely through their mistaken involvement with intellect. To be intelligent is to be conscious. There are no pen and pencil tests to measure true intelligence–it is lived out in the individual’s passage to the Infinite.
The Master says: “His growth slowly develops his intelligence.” He knows, then, that the expansion of consciousness is a slow though steady growth. Spiritual life is neither an instant turn-on nor a jump to the Infinite. It is a gradual process in the true etymological sense of the term–that is, it goes in precise steps and stages. Moreover, it has but one purpose–to go beyond its confines into the Infinite Consciousness.
On the way!
When he knows that for this his wonderful complex separated life exists, then, indeed, and then only, he is upon the way. The separated life is meant for the united life. We have come out from God so we could go back to God in “a more perfect union,” as it says in the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States.
“When he knows…he is on the way,” affirms the Master. This cannot be a matter of mere belief because others have told us or because it appears reasonable and acceptable to the intellect. We must know that our destiny lies in God. We must have looked at ourselves and understood our nature. And we must have looked at the unself and understood its nature, too.
Many are those who say: “I have been on the Path for years,” just because they belong to some metaphysical organization(s), have read metaphysical books, and can reel off the requisite cliches. This is not really being “on the way.” Being on the way is the active bending of all our power to tread the way constantly, not just a little bit. Nor is it the complacent attitude: “I will just be born over and over again, and evolve from life to life.” The person who is on the way is one who is actively working on his self-evolution.
Into the depths
Seek it by plunging into the mysterious and glorious depths of your own inmost being. This is the way–the way within. Before we get to those glorious depths of the inmost consciousness, however, we have to descend through a lot that is not glorious. For this reason meditation can be exceedingly tedious–even unpleasant, uncomfortable, and upsetting–as we pass from level to level of our upper and middle layers. But this kind of psychic inventory-taking is quite necessary. The meditation process is showing us all the aspects of our being. This is because It is bringing us into mastery of them, and for that, full awareness of them is needed.
A great deal of meditation that we mistakenly think of as wasted because we are not seeing lights or visions or levitating, is this taking of inventory. We are usually out of touch with all these aspects, but if we do not pass all the soldiers in review, how will we become commander of the army? “My mind wanders so much in meditation,” we say, and sometimes it is true. But we must be sure we are not mistaking this inventory-taking for mental wandering–and that we do not mistake mental wandering for inventory-taking. We must not get caught up or distracted by those perceptions, but at the same time we must never turn away from what is being shown us, for that will prevent our correction of what we are viewing.
We are not ready for the pure awareness of God. First we must become aware of ourselves. So we seek the way by “plunging into the mysterious and glorious depths of” our “own inmost being.”
Seek it by testing all experience, by utilizing the senses in order to understand the growth and meaning of individuality,…. The senses referred to here are predominately the interior senses, astral and causal. Even when we look at something with the external eyes we can bring the inner sight into play, as well. Sometimes what we hear with the outer ear is not what we will pick up with the inner ear. And it is the interior experience that will illumine and elucidate the experience of the outer senses.
The beauty of others
…and the beauty and obscurity of those other divine fragments which are struggling side by side with you, and form the race to which you belong. We must come to understand the evolutionary process of ourselves as well as “the beauty and obscurity of those other divine fragments which are struggling side by side with you, and form the race to which you belong.” Here the Master presents the higher side of the words: “Thy neighbor as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 19:19, 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8).
We are all of us divine fragments, little pieces of the puzzle that have fallen away from the Divine unity. However ignorantly we may behave, however tiresome we can be, we are yet divine fragments. We are never anything else. The realization that we are parts of the Whole, and the resulting respect for the other parts we call “fellow-men,” is a part of the swa adyaya–self-study–recommended by Patanjali. Self-study entails the utilization of all these interior faculties to understand the growth and the meaning of our individuality.
By understanding ourselves we shall accordingly come to understand indeed “the beauty and obscurity of those other divine fragments.” Notice that the Master puts “beauty” before “obscurity” because the real quality of all beings is beauty, the obscuration being only a temporary condition, a mere appearance. Yet we must be aware of both, though in perspective. This is not a matter of superficial verbal affirmation; this must be an actual seeing of the beauty and the obscurity–both of ourselves and of those around us.
Knowing the laws
Seek it by study of the laws of being, the laws of nature, the laws of the supernatural. This is because we are going to use a definite methodology, and to be effective that methodology has to conform to the laws of nature–specifically those regarding evolution. For example, in meditation we sit upright, rather than lie down, because we know the subtle currents flow upward to the higher centers of awareness in the brain when we sit upright, and disperse throughout the body when we lie down. This is also why we pay attention to diet and certain modes of behavior. We know that they affect the subtle energies involved in the evolution of consciousness.
Basically, we must slip through the net by studying the net. We must understand the way the world conditions us, so that we can become deconditioned. We must understand the weights that are put on us so we can divest ourselves of them.
Religion and nature
Real religion is very sophisticated in its understanding of nature, the components of nature, and the subtle forces of nature. It is far more sophisticated than any material science can ever be–because such science is concerned exclusively with external phenomena, which are the most superficial of phenomena. We also have to know the deep things of our selves to know the inner laws of our makeup and how they work. This is why in religion that “works,” there is more emphasis placed on the invisible than on the visible, more exploration of the unseen forces than of the seen. That is because the unseen forces are much nearer to the consciousness that is “us.”
“Seek it by the study of the laws of being.” In other words, we must seek to comprehend how we come into manifestation, for once we know that we can begin our return to the Unmanifest.
…and seek it by making the profound obeisance of the soul to the dim star that burns within. “Seek it by the study of the laws of…the supernatural,” counsels the Master, because the roots of all lesser laws are there in the spirit. Consequently we must come to know the laws of the spirit and scrupulously follow them. The ways of spirit are the true Law of God, and must be adhered to absolutely in all conditions and at all times. There is nothing free-form here. It is precise and it is certainly absolute. There are neither exceptions nor modifications. This is why discipline and perfect observance of spiritual laws are the only real way to freedom.
The path of the masters
Steadily, as you watch and worship, its light will grow stronger. Then you may know you have found the beginning of the way. “Seek it by making the profound obeisance of the soul to the dim star that burns within.” The whole of the soul must be offered there, must bow before that dim light within. It is very dim in the beginning–sometimes we cannot even see it at first. But “steadily, as you watch and worship, its light will grow stronger.” This is real worship. Worship is not making offerings of “things” but of consciousness–our selves. When we sit and ignore all else but that, and we let that light alone lead or draw us to itself–that is the ultimate worship.
As the Master says, that light, that inner star, may at first be very dim, but perseverance reveals its blazing glory, but as we watch and worship interiorly we shall come to realize that it is the Living Presence of God. Therefore meditation should be approached with reverence, for by means of it we are placing ourselves in the presence of God.
A beloved cliche
And when you have found the end its light will suddenly become the infinite light. Spiritual leaders in India are constantly being plied with a “spiritual” cliche that after a while comes to be most annoying. It goes like this: “We have been doing so many things for so many years trying to obtain peace of mind. We have visited so many great souls (mahatmas) and listened to them. Yet we do not obtain peace of mind. Why is that?” Those who ask this actually have not really been doing very much, and they have not been steady in their “doing” at all. But because they are so unaware of their own minds they ask this over and over. Of course the asking is really excuse-making for their lack of spiritual progress. It also implies that “the mahatmas” are at fault for their non-attainment.
The first time this was tossed out at me I batted the ball back by answering: “You are only looking at one part of it: what you should be doing to obtain peace of mind. Now let’s look at what you ought to quit doing in your life, so that you can get peace of mind.” Hey, presto! The questioning ceased instantly.
Arise and go!
There is no use sitting in the hog wallow complaining: “I have been spraying perfume all day long, so why does it still smell bad?” We have to get up and move out of the filth. We must learn what to cut out of our life as well as what to add to our life.
There is a story in India about some people who needed to attend a wedding quite a distance from their home. In those days there were few roads, so rivers were used for travel. Since the journey would be long and the weather was hot, they decided to start out after dark and row all night so they would reach their destination before noon the next day. Getting into the boat they rowed all night, taking turns at the oars. When the sun rose they found to their chagrin that they had not moved one foot. Why? Because they had forgotten to pull in the boat’s anchor. In the same way no spiritual efforts will avail if we are still tied to material consciousness by our acts and will.
21. Look for the flower to bloom in the silence that follows the storm: not till then.
It shall grow, it will shoot up, it will make branches and leaves and form buds, while the storm continues, while the battle lasts. But not till the whole personality of the man is dissolved and melted–not until it is held by the divine fragment which has created it, as a mere subject for grave experiment and experience–not until the whole nature has yielded and become subject unto its higher self, can the bloom open. Then will come a calm such as comes in a tropical country after the heavy rain,when Nature works so swiftly that one may see her action. Such a calm will come to the harassed spirit. And in the deep silence the mysterious event will occur which will prove that the way has been found. Call it by what name you will, it is a voice that speaks where there is none to speak–it is a messenger that comes, a messenger without form or substance; or it is the flower of the soul that has opened. It cannot be described by any metaphor. But it can be felt after, looked for, and desired, even amid the raging of the storm. The silence may last a moment of time or it may last a thousand years. But it will end. Yet you will carry its strength with you. Again and again the battle must be fought and won. It is only for an interval that Nature can be still.
Only the Complete is complete
Look for the flower to bloom in the silence that follows the storm: not till then. The result does not come while we are still working at something, but only when the work is completed. In India the yogis frequently say: “Making, making, made!” Buddhists recite a sutra that can colloquially be rendered as: “Going, going, gone!” expressing the same idea. Even a statue is not completed until the last stroke is done and the chisel and mallet are laid aside. Only when the storm is over, duality has vanished, all coming and going has ceased, and all change has been transcended, will the flower bloom in the silence.
We are the only doer
If we pick up a cat by the tail, it is going to start scratching and biting us. Praying to God, asking that the cat stop, will do no good, nor will all the affirmative philosophy in the world help us. We have to let go of the cat’s tail. So as long as we have the cat by the tail–as long as we are still holding on to our ego, to the material side of our existence–it is going to continue clawing us. That is its very nature, so why would we expect anything else?
My paternal grandfather was a typical Victorian father, and was used to his second eldest daughter, Elizabeth, pouring his tea for him. Once when she was not there, he took the teapot himself and began to pour from it. When the cup was nearly full, he snapped: “There, Liz!” The tea went right on flowing up to the top of the cup. Again he said: “There, Liz!” And, of course, it kept going on. “There, Liz!” he repeated. Then, as the cup overflowed, he shouted: “There, Liz, drat you!” Everyone else at the table began laughing, and he realized that he himself was doing the pouring. In the same way, it is no use to ask God or anyone else to “stop it.” We are doing it all ourselves. The stopping is completely up to us.
Will nothing worthwhile happen until the storm is over? Much indeed will happen during–and because of–the storm. The Master says:
It shall grow, it will shoot up, it will make branches and leaves and form buds, while the storm continues, while the battle lasts. We are in no way wasting our time as we are engaging in the interior warfare. The lotus of enlightenment will grow, shoot up, and produce branches, leaves, and buds. And when the war is over the lotus will bloom.
But not till the whole personality of the man is dissolved and melted–not until it is held by the divine fragment which has created it, as a mere subject for grave experiment and experience–not until the whole nature has yielded and become subject unto its higher self, can the bloom open.
The “divine fragment” is us–our immortal spirit. We are a spark of light in the great ocean of light. But we put on the costume of the various bodies and that which we call “personality” in order to enter into relative existence and thereby develop the capacity to share in God’s infinite consciousness. But we have let our personality and its powers run amok like a chariot dragged along by runaway horses. That which was meant to be an instrument which we could use through the force of an illumined will has instead taken over and created utter chaos in us who should be the masters rather than the mastered.
As the Master says, we have created all the facets of our personality–no one else. In time, though, all this that we have gathered around us must be melted and dissolved, returned to the primal light from whence it came. Until that is done, we cannot possibly attain any significant degree of spiritual enlightenment: enlightenment and freedom being the same thing. As long as the shackles are on us, it is silly for us to say that we are free.
Why did we create this personality and its vehicles? “For grave experiment and experience.” This matter of evolution is no superficial game, it is grave–i.e., serious–indeed. For it is a matter of life and death in the highest and most profound sense. Our purpose was to go out from God finite, and to return to God infinite, but we have become locked into this relative identity instead of using it as a costume with the intention: “I am manifesting through this form to realize its full potential so that I can transcend it and go on to a higher form, eventually transcending the highest form to unite my consciousness with that of God.” Not only have we become confined to our personality-costume, through identity with it we have created karma which keeps drawing us back into incarnation again and again.
We should have manifested each particular form (evolutionary level) only once and then passed upward to the next higher form, having realized the full potential of the discarded form. We consider children stupid if they have to repeat the same grade over and over again, but we think that it is perfectly all right for us to have hundreds of human births. Often we hear someone tell another: “You are an old soul.” That is no flattery when we understand what it implies. A real compliment would be to say to a person practicing spiritual discipline: “You are a very new soul.”
By our own efforts we have to dissolve and melt the personality-vehicle so that we can go on higher. “Not until the whole nature has yielded and become subject unto its higher Self, can the bloom open.” In other words, the spirit must dominate, must rule from the first to the last. If the higher Self does not do that, then there is no use to look for the bloom. We should not wonder at our lack of attainment. We need to look carefully within and see who we have occupying the throne of our inmost heart, for only one can sit there at a time. We have to decide who will sit there–the ego or the true Self. They cannot share the dominion, for they are mutually exclusive. Jesus said that we cannot serve two masters–duality (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13). Our single master must be our higher Self. Then the sacred lotus of spirit will bloom.
All in good time
The Master is telling us to keep at it, to keep on working, looking neither to the right nor to the left, but to press onward, ever onward. And above all, he is telling us not to go looking for something that it is not even the time to attain.
“And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he [Jesus] was hungry: And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it. And when even was come, he went out of the city. And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away” (Mark 11:12-14, 19-21).
Here we are told that Jesus “cursed” the barren fig tree, and then that it was not the season for figs! Why did He do such a thing? We must know the ways of fig trees to understand. Unlike other fruit-bearing trees, figs bear fruit first and leaves next. Therefore when a fig tree has leaves it is a sign that it also has figs. Since it was not the season for figs, there should have been no leaves on the tree. This incident is symbolic, portraying the eventual fate of a person that has not borne the fruit of spiritual development, yet has taken upon himself all the external trappings of spirituality–in other words, a pharisaical type of life. So the Master is saying to not go looking out of season for the bloom of the spirit.
After the storm
Then will come a calm such as comes in a tropical country after the heavy rain,when Nature works so swiftly that one may see her action. The Master is referring to the Asian monsoons after which vegetation grows so rapidly that it seems to be growing before the eyes of the observer.
There is another reason why the monsoon is used as a symbol. Unlike our rainy seasons in the West, in which the sky is continually overcast, in the Orient during monsoon season the sky is usually completely clear. This is because the monsoons blow in rapidly. (I learned this at the cost of a few instant soakings when I was in Calcutta.) You can go out of the house and find the sky as blue and clear as on any dry summer day. As you proceed along the street, everything is just fine, and then in a moment torrential rains pour down on you, soaking you in a matter of seconds. If you can, you take refuge under some type of shelter and wait. Just as suddenly the rains stop, the sun shines, and the sky is as empty of clouds as before. The clouds have been either totally emptied of rain or have been blown onward. The clouds represent the forces of karma which must be either utterly exhausted or somehow transcended. Also, when the rain is over it is absolutely over, and the resulting calm is also absolute. This is because the relative–therefore delusive–personality is dissolved like the clouds, never to return.
Such a calm will come to the harassed spirit. And in the deep silence the mysterious event will occur which will prove that the way has been found. The spirit is indeed harassed, having been trapped in the whirling energies of ever-changing bodies and minds through aeons, each body-mind a wolf that seized and attempted to devour the spirit, to arrogate its immortal nature and life unto itself whose essential nature was mortality and death.
“And in the deep silence the mysterious event will occur which will prove that the way has been found.” The mysterious event is as ineffable as That Which it reveals, so I will make no attempt to describe or define it. But when it happens it will be known for what it is.
The voiceless voice
Call it by what name you will, it is a voice that speaks where there is none to speak–…. The Master is not going to describe it, because if it was describable it would be something in the realm of relativity and therefore within the reach of language. This also indicates to us that we are going toward a condition in which there is no one to speak–not just a state of momentary quiet. A crowd can be quieted, but it can erupt into violence a moment later. What we must do is empty ourselves so that there is no one there to “speak.” This is the only condition that will produce real calm and peace.
It has already been mentioned that Sri Ramakrishna often spoke of the salt doll that went to measure the ocean, but when the salt doll got in the ocean it melted and there was no one to come back to tell how deep the ocean was. In other words, the egoistic idea “I will go measure, and then come back and tell others” is dissolved.
The Buddhist Master Ho Tai taught the same thing in a more objective way. When asked what enlightenment was, he put down the large sack he was carrying. When asked what the objectification of enlightenment was, he picked it back up and walked on. There was nothing to be said. In silence was the message.
“And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice”(I Kings 19:11,12). An alternate reading for “a still small voice” is “a sound of gentle stillness.”
The voice does not just speak in the Silence, it is the Silence. And it only speaks when there is none other to speak.
…it is a messenger that comes, a messenger without form or substance; or it is the flower of the soul that has opened. It cannot be described by any metaphor. But it can be felt after, looked for, and desired, even amid the raging of the storm. By “feeling” the Master means intuiting, not emoting. That is, we can intuit it and feel that it is real, feel that its attainment is possible. We can know that it is there. We may not know what is there, but we can know that it is there, as a blind person can sense the presence of another. So we can have this dim feeling of “something,” if nothing more.
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (I John 3:2).
We can look for and desire it–literally yearn for it–even while the storm is raging. For it is one of the things that will help us get over the storm.
The silence may last a moment of time or it may last a thousand years. But it will end. Remember we said that Ho Tai then picked up his sack and went away. That is, the “moment” will not be the end, rather it will be the beginning of an entirely new mode of consciousness–and therefore of life.
The eternal moment comes to us according to the distinctive character of the tides of our inner life. If we are waiting and ready for that moment, then we will cycle up to a higher mode of being. But if we are too busy looking at the scenery or lazing around, taking it easy for the moment, we will miss it. Worse, we will not even know that it came.
One of the worst delusions we can have about spiritual life is that we have unlimited time to “get on board.” It is indeed true that we have eternity to dawdle in, but it is not true that the door is always open. For some the door opens for quite a long time, and for others it opens for a short time and then closes. But close it eventually does if we do not pass through it. And for most people the door remains closed until a future birth.
How many times I have seen people wasting their time, assuring themselves that in a few months or years they will straighten up and seriously begin their search. In each case they have lost their opportunity for this lifetime. And since we reap what we sow, in a future life when they do begin to seek, the door will be denied them for some time–perhaps even for that life, as well.
Although it does not quite fit in here, I want to explain a principle of spiritual life that everyone should know: Whatever it might be that causes us to turn away from spiritual life in order to possess or retain it, that very thing will be taken from us; and we will then be without it and without spiritual life as well. We shall drift in the sky of life like a broken cloud for the rest of our incarnation, and perhaps for a few future ones. Over and over I have seen people give up their spiritual life for the sake of getting or keeping some thing, person, or relationship that demanded their full commitment. In every case they lost what they were grasping for, and never turned back to the Way of Life.
Let the wise be warned: we must never sacrifice our spiritual life for anything. Not only will it be a foolish choice, we will either never gain it or we will lose it altogether. The moment of decision does not last forever. It comes and goes from life to life.
The divine spiral
Yet you will carry its strength with you. For those who do grasp the moment, the Master gives the assurance that although it may pass, “yet you will carry its strength with you.” All along the way, as we spiral upward, we reach plateaus from which we usually do not slip back.
Many times we fight the same battle
Again and again the battle must be fought and won. Many times we hear people complain that they keep struggling with the same problems over and over again. What they do not realize is that each time they are struggling with them on a different level, for the roots of ignorance strike deep, passing through many layers of our being.
It is only for an interval that Nature can be still. By Nature is meant the whole range of existence, up to the supreme worlds. And it is in those moments of true silence that the most progress can be made, progress that will be of permanent effect. Eventually we will be able to pass into the perfect silence forever, but until then we must be content with–and ready for–those rare moments when the tides of duality are in abeyance. To reach those moments we must enter into the core of our being, for there alone the Silence is found.
Only the beginning
Have we now finished? Not at all! The Master now assures us that:
These written above are the first of the rules which are written on the walls of the Hall of Learning. Those that ask shall have. Those that desire to read shall read. Those who desire to learn shall learn. Peace be with you.
Next in Light on the Path for Awakening: Part Two: Out of the Silence That Is Peace