Soul-finding as Life's Higher Purpose
But curb the beast would cast thee in the mire,
And leave the hot swamp of voluptuousness,
A cloud between the Nameless and thyself,
And lay thine uphill shoulder to the wheel,
And climb the Mount of Blessing, whence, if thou
Look higher, then--perchance--thou mayest--beyond
A hundred ever-rising lines,
And past the range of Night and Shadow--see
The high-heaven dawn of more than mortal day
Strike on the Mount of Vision!
--Tennyson, "The Ancient Sage"
One thing that struck my mind forcibly on my return to the Western hemisphere after an absence of several years in the Orient, was the way we busied and over-busied ourselves, whether in work, pleasure, or movement. Few take life easily; most take it uneasily. Few go through its daily business serenely; most go through it nervously, hurriedly, and agitatedly. Our activities are so numerous they suffocate us. It is a life without emotional poise, bereft of intellectual perspective. We are intoxicated by action. We moderns give ourselves too much to activity and movement, too little to passivity and stillness. If we are to find a way out of the troubles which beset us, we must find a middle way between these two attitudes.
The need of silence after noise, peace after feverishness, thought after activity, is wide and deep today. Amid all the nostrums and panaceas offered to humanity there is little evidence of the realization of this need.
Anyone who can overcome the extroverting and materializing tendencies of our period has to be an exceptional person. Indeed a general turning towards spiritual life is not a hope for the immediate present but for the distant future. This may sound pessimistic. But it will discourage those only who are oppressed by the reality of time and do not perceive its true nature.
The conditions of modern civilized society are not helpful to mystical self-culture, although they will serve intellectual self-culture. What is first needed is a recognition of the value of retreat, of times and places where every man and woman may periodically and temporarily isolate himself or herself whilst withdrawing attention from worldly affairs and giving it wholly to spiritual ones.
These words will make no appeal to the materialist mentality which still regards all spiritual experiences as the outcome of pathological conditions. Such an attitude, fortunately, has become less sure of itself than it was when first I embarked on these studies and experiments, now more than thirty years ago.
The mystic who sits in an hour-long meditation is not wasting his time, even though he is indulging in something which to the sceptic seems meaningless. On the contrary, his meditation is of vital significance.
It is quite customary to relegate us, the votaries of mysticism, to the asylum of eccentricity, crankiness, gullibility, fraud, and even lunacy. In some individual cases our critics are perfectly justified in doing so. When the mystic loses his straight course, he easily deviates into these aberrations. But to make a wholesale condemnation of all mysticism because of the rotten condition of a part of it is unfair and itself an unbalanced procedure.
Wherever and whenever it can, science puts all matters to the test. Mysticism welcomes this part of the scientific attitude. It has nothing to fear from such a practical examination. But there is a drawback here. No scientist can test it in a laboratory. He must test it in his own person and over a long period.
Owing to the widespread ignorance of the subject, there are some people who are disturbed by various fears of meditation. They believe it to be harmful to mental sanity or even a kind of traffic with Satan. Such fears are groundless. Meditation has been given by God to man for his spiritual profit, not for his spiritual destruction.
I would be failing in a duty to those less fortunate if through fear of being thought a boaster I failed to state that my researches have led me to the certain discovery of the soul.
Any man may become an atheist or an agnostic and doubt the existence of his own soul, but no man need remain one. All that is required of him is that he search for it patiently, untiringly, and unremittingly. Reality eludes us. Yet because common experience and mystical experience are both strongly interwoven out of it, they who persevere in their search may hold the hope that one day they may find it. Men will rush agitatedly hither and thither in quest of a single possession, but hardly one can be induced to go in quest of his own soul. Strange as it may seem to those who have immersed themselves heavily in the body's senses, hard to believe as it may be to those who have lost themselves deeply in the world's business, there is nevertheless a way up to the soul's divinity. That the divine power is active here, in London or New York, and now, in the twentieth century, may startle those who look for it only in Biblical times and in the Holy Land. But human perceptions in their present stage cannot bring this subtler self within their range without a special training. Its activity eludes the brain.
Every man who does not feel this close intimate fellowship with his Overself is necessarily a pilgrim, most probably an unconscious one, but still in everything and everywhere he is in search of his soul.
The soul is perfectly knowable and experienceable. It is here in men's very hearts and minds, and such knowledge once gained, such experience once known, lifts them into a higher estimate of themselves. Men then become not merely thinking animals but glorious beings. Is it not astonishing that man has ever been attracted and captivated by something which the intellect can hardly conceive nor the imagination picture, something which cannot even be truly named? Here is something to ponder over: why men should have forfeited all that seems dear, to the point of forfeiting life itself, for something which can never be touched or smelled, seen or heard.
What is it that has turned man's heart towards religion, mysticism, philosophy since time immemorial? His aspiration towards the diviner life is unconscious testimony to its existence. It is the presence within him of a divine soul which has inspired this turning, the divine life itself in his heart which has prompted his aspiration. Man has no escape from the urge to seek the Sacred, the Profound, the Timeless. The roots of his whole being are in it.
We are neither the originator of this doctrine nor even its prophet. The first man who ventured into the unknown within-ness of the Universe and of himself was its originator whilst every man who has since voiced this discovery has been its prophet. The day will come when science, waking more fully than it is now from its materialistic sleep, will confess humbly that the soul of man does really exist.
Men are free to imprison their hearts and minds in soulless materialism or to claim their liberty in the wider life of spiritual truth. Let them pull aside their mental curtains and admit the life-giving sunlight of truth.
What could be closer to a man than his own mind? What therefore should be more easy to examine and understand? Yet the contrary is actually true. He knows only the surfaces of the mind; its deeps remain unknown.
If the mind is to become conscious of itself, it can do so only by freeing itself from the ceaseless activity of its thoughts. The systematic exercise of meditation is the deliberate attempt to achieve this. Just as muddied water clears if the earth in it is left alone to settle, so the agitated mind clarifies its perceptions if left alone through meditation to settle quietly. There exists a part of man's nature of which ordinarily he is completely ignorant, and of whose importance he is usually sceptical.
What is the truest highest purpose of man's life? It is to be taken possession of by his higher self. His dissatisfactions are incurable by any other remedy. Spinoza saw and wrote that man's true happiness lay in drawing nearer to the Infinite Being. Sanatkumara, the Indian Sage, saw and taught, "That which is Infinity is indeed bliss; there can be no happiness in limited things."
Such is the insecurity of the present-day world that the few who have found security are only the few who have found their own soul, and inner peace.
Three happenings must show themselves: to be given direction, to feel an impulsion towards it, and to practise purification as a necessary requisite for the journey. Two warnings are needed here: fall not into the extreme of unbalance, and depend not on what is outside. One reminder: seek and submit to grace. It may be imageless or found anywhere anytime and in any form--a work of art, a piece of music, a living tree, or a human being--for in the end it must come from your own higher individuality and in your own loneliness.
Before embarking on this teaching, he should ask himself: "What attracts me most in this teaching? What do I hope to get out of it? Am I seeking religious satisfaction or metaphysical truth or moral power or inner peace or psychic faculties? Will I be satisfied with a theoretical understanding or would I go so far as to put it into practice? Am I willing to set aside a half hour daily for the exercise in meditation? How far do I wish to travel in the Quest of the Overself?"
The beginnings of this higher life are always mysterious, always unpredictable, sometimes intellectually quiet and sometimes emotionally excited.
When first he sets the logs of his raft afloat upon these strange waters whose ending can be only "somewhere in infinity" as the geometricians say, there are no lights to show his frail vessel the way of travel, no suns or stars to point a path for it. But he knows then that his head is bowed in homage to a higher power. Later he will know also how utterly right was the intuition which earlier drove him forth.
We walk the Quest uncertainly, human nature being what it is, human weakness following us so obtrusively as it does.
The decision to embark on this quest--so new, uncommon, and untried to the average Westerner--becomes especially hard to the man seeking alone, with no companion or relative to fortify his resolution.
This urge to discover an intangible reality seems an irrational one to the materialistic mentality. But, on the contrary, it is the most completely logical, the most sensible of all the urges that have ever driven a man.
The instinct which draws man to the truths of philosophy, the experiences of mysticism, and the feeling of religion is a sound one.
The fact of his own self-existence is the innate primary experience of every man. It is clear, certain, and incontrovertible. But the nature of that existence is obscure, confused, and arguable.
In each man there is a part of him which is unknown and untouched.
So much happens in the subconscious before they are quite aware of it that only when a new decision, a new orientation of feeling or thought is firmly arrived at, and openly appears, do they discover and define what they have been led to by outer and inner developments.
It is in the region of consciousness below the normal state that the most powerful forces move the human being--and can be applied to move him. Here only can the "radical transformation" which Krishnamurti so often calls for be made.
If he believes that these ideas ring true, then his course of duty is plain. To keep aloof in such a circumstance is to write his name in the Book of Failure.
Man has largely conquered his planetary environment. Now he must begin the sterner task of conquering himself.
"Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth" is a sentence from that ancient record, the Hebrew Bible. But any man may find that the Lord is still existent and still willing to speak to him even today. But to actualize such an encounter he must take to the secret path and practise inner listening.
In man, Heaven and Earth unite. He is free to enjoy the one or the other. The first leads to peace of mind, the second ties him to the ego's wheel. Whoever sincerely wants access to divinity may find it, but he must make the first move.
If humanity has not been gifted with divine consciousness by the sages, it is not only because such a free gift cannot be made. It is also because humanity prefers other things instead. When a questioner suggested to Buddha that he give Nirvana to everyone, Buddha sent him to ask at many houses what the people there wanted most. All desired some material thing or some worldly quality. Nobody desired Nirvana.
The fulfilment of the heart's nostalgic yearning for its true homeland may be delayed, but it cannot be defeated.
If he is to moan over the length of the road opening out before him, he should also jubilate over the fact that he has begun to travel it. How few care to take even that step!
If the quest seems too far from one's environment or circumstances, it is still a good time to start, for the reward will be better savoured.
This search after the soul need not wait until death until it successfully ends. To do so would be illogical and in most cases futile. Here on earth and in this very lifetime the grand discovery may be made.
The quest upon which he has entered will be a long one and the task he has undertaken a hard one. But the Ideal will also be his support because his conscience will endorse his choice to the end.
"O ye aspirant, leave aside wrangling, and take up the quest leading to the true goal, the Supreme Overself, which is unique. Sayeth Kabir, listen O aspirant, push thy enquiry further."--Kabir
Is there some particular purpose in my birth here? Is it all mere coincidence? Must we doubt, deny, even reject God? These are some of the questions a thoughtful man might ask himself.
If experience, reason, or intuition cannot bring him to the conviction that a higher power rules the world, a master's help, grace, or writing may do so. If that fails, he has no other recourse than to keep pondering the question until light dawns.
If some are immediately and irrevocably captured by the teachings, others are only gradually and cautiously convinced.
Those who feel an emptiness in their hearts despite worldly attainments and possessions may be unconsciously yearning for the Overself.
So many of us place so much value in possessions, yet we overlook the startling fact that we have not begun to possess ourselves! What man can call his thoughts his own?
The conventional measure of a man is his family and fortune, his church affiliation and political membership. What has all this to do with his essential self?
Can we build a bridge between this sorrowful earthly life and the peaceful eternal life? Are the two forever sundered? Every seer, sage, and saint answers the first question affirmatively and the second negatively.
The echoes of our spiritual being come to us all the time. They come in thoughts and things, in music and pictures, in emotions and words. If only we would take up the search for their source and trace them to it, we would recognize in the end the Reality, Beauty, Truth, and Goodness behind all the familiar manifestations.
Those who can no longer confine their thinking within the conventional boundaries of common experience may cross over into religion's reverent faith, into mysticism's deep-felt intuition, or into philosophy's final certitude.
Whoever perceives the inferiority of his environment to what it could be, as well as the imperfection of his nature in the light of its undeveloped possibilities, and who sets out to improve the one and amend the other, has taken a first step to the quest.
It is better to come late to the higher life with its nobler values and uplifting practices, than not at all. It is still better to come to it when one is comparatively young and foundations are being laid.
They will be fortunate indeed if their spiritual longings are satisfied without the passage of many years and the travail of much exploration. They will be fortunate indeed if pitying friends do not repeatedly tell them with each change and each disappointed pulling-up of tents that they are pursuing a mirage.
Those who have found their way to this Path leave forever behind them their aimless wanderings of the past.
One fateful day, he will ruefully realize that he is octopus-held by external activities. Then will he take up the knife of a keen relentless determination and cut the imprisoning tentacles once and for all.
The guiding laws of life are not easy to find. The sacred wisdom of God is also the secret wisdom.
The seeker quests until his thought rests.
The quest will continue to attract its votaries so long as the Real continues to exist and men continue to remain unaware of it.
Title: The Temple and the Tomb. (Man, who should be the temple of holiness, is now its tomb.)
The mystery of the soul is as formidable and as baffling as any. Yet it is also a fascinating one. If few people have penetrated it today, many tried to do so in the past.
Only when they are brought by the discipline of experience to a sense of responsibility, are they likely to seek this knowledge.
This does not mean that a spiritual outlook requires an unquestioning acceptance of what man has made of himself and of the world.
We do not approach God through our knees, or through the whole body prostrate on the ground, but deep in our hearts. We do not feel God with our emotions any more than we know him with our thoughts. No! --we feel the divine presence in that profound unearthly stillness where neither the sounds of emotional clamour nor those of intellectual grinding can enter.
Each man who lights this candle within his own mind will soon begin to attract other men like moths--not all men nor many men but only those who are groping for a way out of their darkness.
Can a scrupulously impartial search through world-thought and experience lead to discovery of truth?
"Wilt thou be made whole?" asked Jesus.
Only when this search for a higher life has become an absolute necessity to a man, has he found even the first qualification needed for the Quest.
Modern civilization, with its tensions and comforts, its speed and extroversion, its pleasure and treasure hunts, its complicated activities and economic necessities, has trapped its victims so securely that he who would follow an independent path would have to make excessive efforts. It may seem foolish to suggest a scheme of living which involves the sacrifice of time separated out from a pressing day and given up to purposes seldom bothered with by civilized society, whose ways in fact would impede it. It may seem unlikely that people will follow such a scheme when, even if they theoretically accept those purposes, they deem themselves too busy or know themselves too lazy to operate it. It may seem impractical to offer it, especially to those who are dependent upon their work for a livelihood and who lose so much time getting to and from it. And even if they or others could be persuaded into adopting it, there is little likelihood that its exercises would be kept up--for only a comparative few are likely to have the needed strength and perseverance to keep it up. Where then is the spare time out of the modern man's daily program and the continuously driving will to come from? Where are the exceptional persons who would make the requisite sacrifices? No man will take up such a course of self-improvement and self-development unless he is thoroughly convinced of its necessity. And even then he may lack the willpower to declare war against his bad habits, his sloth and complacency, his pessimism and surface-comfort. He may be unable to change his pattern of thought and life, even if he wants to.
But the impulse towards a higher life must in the end come from something other than mere escapism or exotic curiosity. It must come from the thirst for truth for its own sake.
Without this ever-burning thirst for spiritual awareness, no seeker is likely to travel far.
Those whom life has wounded may turn to spiritual teachings for comfort, but too often this is only a passing reaction to sufferings. It has its temporary value and place, but it is not the same as consciously and clearly engaging in the Quest because the thirst for truth is predominant.
A passionate eagerness to find the Overself is a necessary basis for all the other qualifications in its pursuit.
If the quest is only an emotional whim or an intellectual fad for a man, he will make little headway with it. If on the contrary it is something on which his deepest happiness depends and he is ready to give what it demands from every candidate, if he is resolved to go ahead and never desert it, he will possess a fair chance of going far.
He needs to have the willingness and preparedness to withdraw every day from his worldly and intellectual life utterly, and then to have the humility to open his heart in fervent supplication and loving adoration of the higher power.
It is an age-old requirement of the higher self that those who seek its favours shall be ready and willing to empty their hearts of all other affections if called upon to do so. Prophets like Jesus and seers like Buddha told us this long ago, and there is nothing that modern inventive genius can do to alter the requirement.
To search for truth in its full integrity, putting aside all the pitiful substitutes which content little, less honest minds, requires not only an independence that creates intellectual if not personal loneliness, but also a willingness to abandon egoism and surrender its worldly advantages.
The qualifications required from him are love of the highest, desire for truth, conformity of living to the divine laws, and balance in his own person.
The seeker who has a strong yearning for Truth and who has a sense of correct values already possesses some of the indispensable qualifications for this path, and should go far upon it. However, the will to continue despite all obstacles, together with a special kind of patience, is also essential--particularly in the earlier stages.
He must begin his quest with an attitude of deep veneration for something, some power, higher than himself.
A mighty longing for liberation from one's present condition is a prerequisite for the philosophic quest.
The ardent desire to establish his true identity needs to be present also.
To obtain something they greatly desire, men will arouse their will and apply it strongly. Only when sufficient experience of life matures them sufficiently are they likely to arouse and apply this same will to the Quest itself.
This is not a teaching for a little circle of mystical cranks but for more evolved people, that is, for those who are finer in character, more sensitive and intelligent in mind than the masses. It is for people to whom the mind's experiences are not less but even more important than the body's.
The Quest will be taken up and taken seriously only by those who have come to see that they must henceforth live as human beings and not merely as animals, if life is to be honourable and their own self-respect retained.
Most students of this teaching are not highly intellectual. If they had been, the pride and arrogance of intellect would, in most cases, have stopped them from entering such a mystical field. But neither are they unintelligent. They are sensible, mature, and discriminating enough to appreciate the value of its balanced ideal.
We must bring to the Quest not only all these delicate intuitions and subtle metaphysical concepts, but also a practical common sense and a sturdy, robust reason.
A would-be follower of this path need not be concerned if he lacks intellect and has had an imperfect education. He should accept what he can understand of the books he studies and leave the rest for some future time. What is needed much more than intellect is humility, intuition, and intelligence, which many intellectuals do not possess.
People are needed with intellectual acumen, with emotional control, with balanced reason, with loyalty to ideals and with sincerity and faithfulness in working for them. They are to be undeterred by criticism and unmoved by praise. And lastly, amid the arduous struggles of this quest, its soaring thoughts and serious comprehension of world-sorrows, a sense of humour is needed also.
Those who care enough for advanced ideas to seek them out in spite of social rebuffs, as well as those who have the courage to explore what lies beyond already accepted ones, have become a marked proportion of questers.
Everyone expects to witness scientific advance made in these modern times but only a few have the mental courage to expect spiritual advance, let alone seek it.
It is for those who are ready for the phase of intellectual independence and spiritual individualism, who are courageous enough to face the inner solitariness of the human spirit when it turns from doing to being.
That man is excellently qualified for philosophy who has a strong spirit for service, who is well-balanced emotionally, and who is well-equipped intellectually.
The Quest calls for men of the world who are not worldly, aspirants with clear minds, endowed with common sense, students who will strive to lift themselves from inner mediocrity to inner superiority, followers who will strive to make worthwhile contributions to their environment.
If the faculties of mind and the qualities of character which the successful man of affairs already possesses were to be transferred to the field of understanding and mastering life itself, he could quickly progress in it.
It is not for futile dreamers nor neurotics seeking some guru's shoulders to lean on for the remainder of their years. There exist plenty of cults willing or eager to serve them. It is for those who understand there is real work to be done by, on, for, and within themselves.
Is he sincerely desirous of receiving truth (rather than comfort for his illusions and confirmation for his beliefs) from the Overself? Is he earnestly willing to obey its leading?
It is a mark of the quester that he is utterly sincere in seeking truth, and that he has some depth, enough not to be content with shallow presentations of it.
Authenticity of being is a necessary requirement in a would-be disciple. The insincere had better stay away from the quest.
If he is as determined as he is sincere, as unselfish as self-disciplined, as sensitive as intuitive, he may expect to go far on the quest.
In humility the quest is to be begun: in even greater humility it is to be fulfilled.
Until he has become conscious of his shortcomings, his ignorance, and his sinfulness, a man will rest in smug complacency and receive no spur to self-improvement, no impetus to enter the quest. Humility is another name for such consciousness. Hence, its importance is such as to be rated the first of a disciple's qualifications.
It is not for the average man but only for the exceptional man--for the one who is determined to pursue the meaning of life to the uttermost.
When these words awaken profound echoes in a man's soul, he shows thereby that the intuitive element is sufficiently alive to enable him to profit by further teaching.
In every kind of situation he will remember that he is dedicated to this quest, will remember its ideals and disciplines, yet not forget that he is still a human being.
They are welcome who are willing to equip themselves with proper and profounder knowledge, who wish to fit themselves by study of fundamental principles, by regular meditation, personal self-discipline, and public service for a higher life for themselves and a valuable one for society.
The mass of people are apathetic toward the quest: the poor for one set of reasons, the rich for another. Only the few capable of individual judgement, the defiant and independent thinkers, will be capable of rising up out of the mass.
Moral strength is needed by the quester.
This path requires something more than a search for righteousness or peace. It requires the aspirant to make himself more sensitive to the sorrows and struggles of mankind, ignorance-born and karmically earned though they may be, to imbue himself with a wise, prudent, and balanced compassion. He must advance from an outwardly-compulsive goodness to an inwardly-natural goodness. Such a way of life, with its chained desires, holy communion, and sensitive compassion, gives any man a higher stature.
It is easy to fall into a gloomy pessimism and say that the spiritual life is not for him, that he is unfit to practise its arduous exercises and that he had better abandon what is manifestly only for those blessed with luck or genius. Yet he would be wrong to assume that because the path is not easy he is mistaken in aspiring to it. Because it is not just a matter of daydreaming, nor passing from one thrilling inner experience to another, because hard work and unflagging perseverance are demanded from him, there is still no need to despair.
He will need much courage for the Quest because he will be confronted by two powerful enemies. One is himself, the other is society. Within himself he will have to do battle against the great desires. Within society he will have to contend against the great traditions.
He can successfully overcome the magnitude of his task if only he possess faith in himself, courage in his vision, and the resolve to shape his life for its higher welfare.
If the impulse to embark on this quest is to be something more than an unstable fancy, a calm perception of its stubborn difficulties and a most especially frank recognition of its self-refusing demands, is needed. That man is mistaken who comes to the quest expecting its rewards without its pains, its peace without its emotional crucifixions, its strength without its bodily mortifications.
If the quest seems to demand too much from us, that depends on what we ourself demand from life. The statement is true only if we ask for little, but false if we ask for much.
The quest is unattractive to sinners and unnecessary to saints. It is for those who are not wholly indifferent to worldly desires nor yet too strongly attached to them.
The quest is to be neither an emotional fancy nor an intellectual whim; it has to become something steady, deep-rooted, and strong-sapped in a man's life.
He will possess an irrefragable faith in the power of truth, holding that even if it were crushed and obliterated today time will cause it to rise again tomorrow and give it a fresh voice.
Whoever comes to this quest is unlikely to stay long with its pursuit unless he comes with considerable devotion and correct evaluation of its spiritual importance.
When a man starts on this quest, what work he has called himself to! What discipline of the feelings, what meditation of the intuiting faculty, what study of the thinking faculty, and what sacrifice of the ego must now be undergone at the bidding of no other voice than his own!
Those who are willing to take themselves in hand, ready to trample on their lower natures, are alone fit for this quest. They are few. The others, who come to it for its sensational, dramatic, psychical, and occult possibilities, hover around the entrance, but never get on the path itself.
The quest is neither for outright saints nor for outright sinners. It is for those who are conscious of having animal passions and human weaknesses, but who are struggling against them and striving for self-mastery.
Just as sickness creates appreciation of the value of good health, so life's anxieties create appreciation of inner peace. But this peace cannot be had without a measure of self-control and self-reform, which calls for use of the will.
Those who are satisfied with centering themselves within the ego will not be drawn to such teachings, which educate the pupils to cultivate constantly a withdrawal from the ego.
You have launched upon a quest from which there is no turning back. You have embarked upon a journey which will demand from you the utmost patience and deepest faith, the strongest determination and cultivation of the keenest intelligence lying latent within you.
This Quest is not an undertaking of a few weeks or months. It is, as I have often said, a lifetime's work: patience is required from us and must be given by us.
Yes, you may discover the elusive secret of life--but you must first work for it. "The gods sell anything to everybody," announces Emerson, "at a fair price." Take a few minutes off each day to find yourself, to question yourself, to awaken yourself--that is part of the price demanded.
Time and growth are needed before a man can sign that absolute commitment of mind and life for which it asks.
Spoiled plans or disappointed hopes may turn a man toward this quest but only appreciation of peace or love of truth can keep him on it.
Only such a strong yearning for, and loyalty to, peace or strength or wisdom or truth can carry him through the difficulties and past the obstructions on his path.
It has been the best minds, the noblest hearts of the human race which, historically, have enthusiastically given themselves to this quest. For they, with their superior sense of values, could best appreciate its high significance.
Only those men who know the value of the Truth are likely to furnish the candidates to search for it, and only those who search for it are likely to produce the few who find it.
The mere movement of his body from place to place in the name of adventure will no longer suffice to satisfy him. The only adventure he now seeks is that which will bring him to the wisdom of higher men and to the blessing of inspired ones.
Out of his own free choice and his own initiative, the human being has to respond to this divine presence hidden in his mind and even body, has to grow and ripen inwardly as he has already done physically. Here, in this point, he departs from animal existence.
He is already on the way to being something more than an animal which has lost some talents or senses and gained some talents or faculties who stops to ponder a single question: what is the source of his consciousness?
He may ask himself whether he has any competence for such a great task. But this is to forget that he has been led to this point, to the quest, that the same higher self or power which out of its grace did this can lead him still farther.
He who wants to co-operate with the World-Idea, which is inherent in all things, all beings, all the universe, to live in harmony with it and with his fellow-creatures, will be attracted to this quest sooner or later.
Useless would it be to thrust these truths on unprepared people and to get them to take up a way of spiritual growth unsuited to their taste and temperament. Persuasion should arise of its own accord through inner attraction.
Only when his quest becomes a whole-heartedly single-minded enterprise, working for a solitary end, disregarding all else yet retaining the sense of balance is it likely to succeed.
No vow of secrecy will be required of him, no pledge of loyalty demanded from him; he must enter the scattered formless order by a silent act of his whole heart, not by a vocal utterance of his fleshly lips.
Is it too presumptuous for an ordinary man to attempt to follow the philosophic path? We answer that no man who feels the need of truth to support or guide his life should be regarded as presumptuous in this matter. He need not be discouraged. He may dabble or penetrate deeply. The path is for him also. But it is so only to the extent that he is willing to pay the cost--no more. He is free to pay as little, and get as little, as he wishes. No one has the right to force him to give more.
Men find truth only to the degree that they are entitled to do so. Their aspiration is not enough by itself to determine this degree; their mental, moral, and intuitional equipment also determines it.
Whether he is able to follow regular periods of meditation or not, he may still have the basic essential for spiritual advancement. This is the fundamental mood of aspiration, a strong yearning to gain the consciousness of his innermost being.
The traveller on this quest is a man who uses his consciousness and his will to better his character and purify his heart.
The aspirant who comes to the Quest out of pure disinterested love for it rather than out of a hunger for occult powers or a thirst for occult experiences, who is seeking to know and do the right thing, will go ahead much more quickly and encounter much fewer dangers than the others who are not.
He cannot even set foot on this path if he has not become convinced of his weakness and wickedness. For only then will he be really rather than vocally willing to desert the ego.
There are not many who are ready for such independence of attitude and life. A certain inner strength is necessary for it first of all, and of course a natural or acquired willingness to desert the herds if necessary.
When a man is ready to confess his ignorance, he is ready to begin his study of philosophy. When a man is ready to drop the distorting influence of the emotions and passions which actuate him, he is ready to begin the study of philosophy.
He who knows that he has been ignorant of truth, and still is, has begun to enter the knowledge of truth.
This is not for those who are so satisfied with themselves that they want to preserve their egos just as they are. It is for those who feel the need of self-improvement, and feel it so keenly that they are willing to work hard for this objective and to take time for it. The Quest is for those who have looked at their own faults and turned their head away from the unattractive and disconcerting sight with downcast eyes. But although their weaknesses have clung in the past to them like limpets, philosophy bids them take hope and take to the Quest which can liberate and strengthen them in the future.
Those who have had their fill of society, who have found its gaiety and its friendship to be all on the surface, who have evaluated it as bogus, sham, and unreal, may be prepared to listen more heedfully to the description of a life that is offered as being much more worthwhile.
In man's higher yearnings, in his wishes for a better holier calmer self, he shows evidences of intuition.
To believe that this quest is only for religious people, or for impractical dreamers, and not for reasonable people or for men active in the world is to believe something that is untrue.
The laity, the masses, are entitled to be told that a higher truth exists, that they can come to it when they can cope with it, that it is up to them to equip themselves with the needed qualifications.
Just because most people appear to have superficial interests and are not yet ready for the deeper thoughts of philosophy does not necessarily mean that they are not making spiritual progress. On the contrary, they may be doing very well on their own particular levels of development. It will simply be necessary for them to incarnate many more times before they are capable of understanding the more advanced truths.
Aspirants come from the low, the middle, and the high strata of life--with most probably from the middle.
No age is unsuited to the study and practice of philosophy. No one is too young to begin it, nor too late.
Although the middle-aged and elderly, being more experienced, are more receptive to the ideas of emotional control and personal detachment, philosophy is not necessarily a subject fit only for those in their sunset years.
Men who are seized by ambition, who want money, prestige, honours, power, will not welcome the idea of detachment, and they are right. For they are not yet ready for it: they need to gain the fruits of their desires, to experience the strivings and accomplishments from which the truth about them can be deduced. Only after the lessons have been learned can they be in a position to reflect properly and impartially upon this idea and appreciate its worth.
He who is afraid to touch this study because he is afraid of spoiling his worldly career is unfit for it. Nevertheless, it is an error to believe that those who shed such a fear are called upon to forget their tasks or shirk their responsibilities and duties in this world. They are not. If they become indoctrinated with the ideas here taught, they can succeed in their tasks and duties; they need not fail.
Those who live in a private realm of far-fetched phantasies which are caricatures of the real facts, as well as those who betray all the signs of neuroticism, hysteria, or psychopathy, often talk overmuch about the quest but do not seem able to apply its most elementary injunctions. To encourage them to follow it is only still further to build up their ridiculous egoism and bolster their fool's paradise. For them the quest is unachievable until they become different persons.
The unequal balance of the whole psyche is a characteristic of those seekers who impatiently shun the philosophic discipline. Hence we find that emotional neuroticism, intellectual disorder, volitional weakness, and egotistical excess are strongly marked in a number of people who take a fussy, shrieking interest in mysticism. They seek ardently for teachers but not for truth, for personalities rather than principles. They surrender themselves eagerly to visible organizations but not to the invisible Overself. It does not occur to them that the absence of proper qualifications unfits them for personal discipleship under a competent master. For anyone to express even a hint of this unfitness is to arouse their anger, provoke their hostility, and stiffen their conceit. And if he goes on to suggest, in however kindly and constructive a manner, that their energies would be more profitably directed towards self-improvement than towards running after incompetent teachers and absurd sects, he is rewarded by abuse and vilification.
Neither a dry pedantic intellectualism nor a sloppy excitable emotionalism is desirable in the seeker after truth.
It is not for irresponsible persons, those of feeble will or hysterical nerves.
It is wrong to look upon this quest as one for semi-lunatics, emotionally disturbed persons, or gullible, brainless miracle-hunters. It is not a place for the deposit of sicknesses, troubles, and deficiencies. Such things must be taken elsewhere for repair.
All too many people take to this quest who are not really ready for it, who need to become human beings before seeking the more massive achievement of becoming superhuman ones, who ought to attain personal decency, balance, discipline, practicality, and calmness before losing themselves in the theoretical flights of metaphysical doctrines like Vedanta.
Truth is discoverable but not by everyone. It is not discoverable by the criminals who break every ethical law, by the lazy who won't pause and look within each day, by the cynics who sneer at the quality of reverence, by those who do not value it enough to cultivate their true intelligence.
Does everyone have the right to know this truth? Yes and no. Yes--because all men must do so in the end as a part of the fulfilment of life's purpose. No--when they are as yet uninterested in it and unable or unwilling to receive it.
If our thought is to be straight and fearless we ought to fling all prejudices overboard at the very start of our voyage.
The prejudiced man wants his prejudices confirmed not contradicted. He is not really looking for truth. Before the quest can even begin, prejudices must be removed. This is a psychological operation which the man cannot perform upon himself, except in part, without a great effort.
The fool cannot follow this Quest. He may try to but he will be sent back to learn some wisdom through earthly lessons and through earthly difficulties brought on by his foolishness.
Flighty temperaments, which seek the latest novelty rather than the first truth, are unfit for philosophy.
The very name "Quest" implies movement, travelling, journey; those who remain stationary cannot be said to be on the "Quest." By this I do not mean those who find themselves stagnating against their will, but those who make no effort inwardly to advance.
The truth is sometimes so spiky and so uncomfortable that people hide from it. Entry on the quest is a sign that enough courage has been gathered to face it. Those who assert that they are questers but who are too much in love with their own fancies are incapable of facing the realities behind those fancies. To this extent their quest is a bogus one, although not usually a consciously bogus one.
Emerson: "People wish to be settled: only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them!"
No factory can manufacture divine peace for us, nor can any workshop turn out the inspirations which bestow heroism on a man. We may wander the whole length of Oxford Street and find no shop which can sell us a packet of starry truths that might comfort and console. The morning post will bring a hundred letters in the office mail, but it will not bring one word or hint that shall conduct us nearer the higher aims.
Why people come
It is because we have the Overself ever present within us that we are ever engaged in searching for it. The feeling of its absence (from consciousness) is what drives us to this search. Through ignorance we interpret the feeling wrongly and search outside, among objects, places, persons, or even ideas.
Each man discovers afresh for himself this homey old truth, that he has a sacred soul. He need not wait for death to discover it or depend solely on the words of dead prophets until then.
He knows that in striving to fulfil the higher purpose of his being, he is not only obeying the voice of conscience but also approaching the place of blessedness.
There are reserves of Power and Intelligence within yourself, of which you live undreaming.
In its early manifestation it may show as a feeling of being too limited by ignorance of life's meaning and purpose and the need to get some light in this darkness. But the feeling may be too vague, too generalized and ill-defined to be detected and known for what it is.
At intervals, on certain grave, joyous, or relaxed occasions, he may feel a deep nostalgia for what he may only dimly and vaguely comprehend. He may name it, in ignorance, otherwise but it will really be for his true spiritual source.
What a bitter irony it is that the soul, which is so near, in our very hearts in fact, is yet felt by so few!
Those who have come for the first time to an awakening of thought upon these matters, may grow more enthusiastic as they explore them more.
The heart leaps at the thought that life has some higher meaning, some better worth.
"I have told you all this," said Jesus, "so that you may have the happiness I have had."--John 15:11
In starting this task, he knows that he is not carrying out his own personal desire but following a way chalked out for him by the higher self.
They cannot really escape from this inner loneliness by outer means. In the end, and however long put off, they will have to face it. Most often, such an hour comes in with sorrow or bereavement, hurt or disappointment.
There are certain rare moments when intense sorrow or profound bereavement makes a man sick at heart. It is then that desires temporarily lose their force, possessions their worth, and even existence itself its reality. He seems to stand outside the busy world whose figures flit to and fro like the shadowy characters on a cinema screen. Worst of all, perhaps, significance vanishes from human activity, which becomes a useless tragi-comedy, a going everywhere and arriving nowhere, an insane playing of instruments from which no music issues forth, a vanity of all the vanities. It is then, too, that a terrible suicidal urge may enter his blood and he will need all his mental ballast not to make away with himself. Yet these black moments are intensely precious, for they may set his feet firmly on the higher path. Few realize this whilst all complain. The self-destruction to which he is being urged by such dread experiences of life is not the crude physical act, but something subtle--a suicide of thought, emotion, and will. He is being called indeed, to die to his ego, to take the desires and passions, the greeds and hates out of his life, to learn the art of living in utter independence of externals and in utter dependence on the Overself. And this is that same call which Jesus uttered when he said: "He that loseth his life shall find it." Thus the sorrows of life on earth are but a transient means to an eternal end, a process through which we have to learn how to expand awareness from the person to the Overself.
If a man will not come to this quest willingly, because it leads to Truth and he loves Truth, then he must be forced onto it, unwillingly, because there is no other way to alleviate his burdens and reduce his miseries.
Most persons have no inclination to wake up when dreams are pleasant, whereas when they are frightening they soon awaken. So too the dream of worldly life does not impress them with the need of true religion until it becomes tragic or severely disappointing. Only when sorrow drives them to question the value of living do they take a real interest in non-worldly urges.
Certain events will so arrange themselves as to put a man upon the quest, or if he is already on it, to prepare him for a further advance. They will not be pleasant events, for they will crush his ego, or render it lame and weak for a time. But it is only through this apparent defeat by circumstances that he is compelled to accept a course which will, spiritually, benefit him greatly in the end.
Do men's hearts have to be broken before they yield to the higher power? Often, yes, but not if they heed the teachers, prophets, seers, and sages.
Where a man is ready for this Quest but stubbornly clings to his old familiar way of thought and life, the Overself may or may not release karma that will tear him away from it. His ego's desires will then be macerated by suffering until its will to live gets weaker and weaker.
A few come to this quest after the shock produced by the unreasonableness and unfairness and stupidity of the treatment they received from the organization, the group, the sect, the church, the party, to which they belonged. Some crisis in their lives, such as the need to get married or to get divorced, blocked by a solemn bleak dogma or decision, became the occasion of the shock. Or, as in Gandhi's case when he was thrown out of a railway compartment by an arrogant member of the ruling race, heartless discourtesy provoked swift disillusionment. A single jarring incident, a single deliberate injustice or hurt or insult was enough to bring on such resentment and indignation--penetrating as sharply as a hypodermic needle--that character change and a new outlook were inaugurated. Some have even come to the quest not because they had any real vocation for it but because they had nowhere else to go, because the world had lost all meaning, all hope for them through some ghastly tragedy or some heartbreaking loss, and this was a better way than committing suicide. But the best way to come to the quest is of course to fulfil the higher possibilities as a human being.
Most persons need a drastic shock, an enforced awakening, a sharp arousal from that long sleep which is the egoic existence, if they are ever to come alive spiritually. This is effective only if it breaks old habits, trends, and inclinations, thus making a new man. It may come about through hearing or reading a teacher like Krishnamurti or Gurdjieff, or through harsh events like malignant illness or unexpected bereavement.
When a man comes to the point when all his outer life dissolves in tragedy or calamity, he comes also to the point when this quest is all that is left to him. But he may not perceive this truth. He may miss his chance.
Either consciously or not, he says to himself, in a sense, "By my I alone I cannot endure this adverse destiny. I must seek help and support from outside myself." So he goes to another man or to an institution, but in the end he must go to God.
When one's personal life is miraculously saved during some period of great danger, perhaps in the face of death, it is for a purpose.
Before a man comes to this path he may have to grope and stumble and struggle for years.
If the man lets others draw him down below his own level, the emotion of remorse and disgust or the logic of suffering and self-preservation may force his return.
They need first to discover that they are on the wrong road. Out of the distress or frustration following it may arise the search for a right one.
No person makes him take on this task or enterprise, this labour or quest--whatever he wishes to call it. A summons come to him from within, from a part of himself hidden in mystery, and he obeys. Why?
It is for those who feel that their lives ought to hold something more than the mere gaining of material necessities or even the mere satisfying of intellectual urges.
If he will follow up this intuition, he will be able to move his feet eventually out of darkness into light.
When a man becomes tired of hearing someone else tell him that he has a soul, and sets out to gain firsthand experience of it for himself, he becomes a mystic. But, unfortunately, few men ever come to this point.
Men will seek to feel the real life only after they have felt the uncertainties of human affection, the transiencies of human passion, and the insufficiencies of human activities.
To those who wish to escape from the pressures and tyrannies of contemporary materialism, philosophical mysticism offers the most effective way and the safest road. It seeks to understand the true relationship between the divine and the human. It will enable them to realize their spiritual potentialities. For materialism is and can be only a temporary phase of man's endeavour to comprehend the facts of life.
The presence of the Overself within us sooner or later, when the mind is sufficiently developed, creates of itself the craving for truth and the abstract questions about life, God, and man.
This knowledge that life in this world can never be fully satisfying makes him commit himself one day to the quest.
Only when they are tired of the frustrations and obstructions, the spites and cruelties which so often mar worldly life, will they feel ready to turn in real earnest to the Quest. Only then will its perfect tranquillity seem more desirable than the hectic excitement of following desires.
The essential point is that the more an executive is involved in the world's affairs, the more he needs this quest which leads him out of the world. The more his life is devoted to acquiring money and goods and position, the more he needs a firm base within himself from which properly to use these things as they ought to be used.
A time may come when a man may tire of the whole social round, the business or professional rat-race, and desire to turn away from it--when he begins to see through its futilities, vanities, and stupidities.
What other recourse can they have, after trying the usual ways--drink, sex, drug, or religion--than to this quest?
The first appearance of this sense of futility (in the heart's deeper life), may pass disregarded and unheeded. But it will return again and again, and grow apace, until the unsatisfactoriness of a wholly materialistic life, the transitoriness of a merely earthly happiness, achieve recognition and obtain acceptance. With this negative phase, modern man's inner life begins.
They feel vaguely that there are higher laws governing life, that they do not know them. They would like to learn, but in the medley of sects and cults--with their claims and contradictions--they do not feel safe enough to entrust their lives to any particular one, although attracted to some more than to others.
To escape from worldly troubles, to assuage the disappointment of frustrated hopes, mysticism offers a way.
The smugly complacent, the thoughtless surface-types, or those always immersed in pettinesses and trivialities will have no awareness of a higher need. But the others, relatively a few, will find it gnawing at their hearts and tensing their minds. The very condition which is so satisfactory to the larger group brings misery to the smaller one.
No longer is he content to be a straw swept along by the river of circumstance.
Those who are tired of the falsities and inanities accepted by so many, who want to come to a true life, must come to the quest.
Those who seek a larger meaning to life cannot live like the peasant for bodily needs alone, or like the professional for bodily and cultural needs alone. Their feeling is still the profounder: a peace and harmony, an understanding and strength.
They come to this quest seeking something beyond the misery, wretchedness, and cruelty of this chaotic world, something of light, warmth, kindness, and peace.
The need to insulate ourselves privately from the shocks of contemporary living, is partly met by mysticism.
There are those who come to this quest simply because they are disillusioned with the world. Wearied with the self-seeking disputations of political schemers, repelled by the heartless treatment of non-followers by political extremists, they turn away and look elsewhere for truth, honesty, goodness.
Metaphysical subtleties cannot change a man's life. Dull sermons will do it less. We do not find a fresh basis of life in these methods. What then is the way?
We seek truth for various reasons. One is because it possesses a certitude that gives us anchorage and rest.
Some of those who come to these teachings seeking them only for the sake of getting relief from their trouble end by seeking truth for its own sake.
The full-grown person finds in his experience of the world and in the knowledge of himself sufficient subject matter for thought about human affairs. He then asks questions, the great questions, which men have asked since earliest antiquity: What am I? Whither do I go?
Every school of thought, variety of cult, sect of religion, and system of metaphysics that has any pretension to spirituality accepts the existence of the soul. Disagreements do not start until after this acceptance. Why not take your stand on this undisputed fact and verify it for yourself.?
There are billions of forms and of creatures in the universes spread through space. They appear and vanish, they come and go, create and pass away, grow and decay, act and interact. This has been going on for immense periods of time; but in the thoughtful man's mind there must arise the question, "To what end was is and shall be all this?"
If mental restlessness, a discontent with ignorance, with the recurring trivialities of a life which does not offer any higher meaning, put him on the Quest, he may find himself suffering from mental loneliness.
He may arrive at a true appraisal of life after he has experienced all that is worth experiencing. This is the longest and most painful way. Or he may arrive at it by listening to, and believing in, the teachings of spiritual seers. This is the shortest and easiest way. The attraction of the first way is so great, however, that it is generally the only way followed by humanity. Even when individuals take to the second way, they have mostly tried the other one in former births and have left it only because the pain proved too much for them.
Some people come to the quest quickly, under the impulse of a great decision; but most come slowly, by degrees and stages.
The world will come to philosophy when it has evolved the necessary prerequisites to do so. Until then it will possess only imperfect expressions of the truth, or caricatures distortions and falsifications of it. Only those individuals who are not satisfied with these substitutes or with the slow pace of the world's evolution, will step out of the mass and enter upon the Quest just now.
When a man is thoroughly awakened to the reality of the philosophic goal, he will soon or late hear its summons to him. When that happens he embarks upon the Quest. For example, he starts an activity of conscious self-discipline and deliberate restraint, a process of re-educating the mind, the feelings, and the will.
When the interest in philosophic teaching no longer springs out of light curiosity but out of deep need, the desire to embark actively on the philosophic life will inevitably follow.
The hour comes when, prompted by disappointment, bereavement, or revelation, he is driven to find out the reasons for all his activities. He is beginning to feel their insufficiency, their shallowness. Such inquiry, if persisted in, will in the end put him upon the quest.
Awakening to the need of the Divine may come through some mental crisis or emotional shock which shakes the whole of man's being to its deepest foundations. It is out of the suffering and grief produced by such a situation that he plants the first trembling steps on the secret path. It is such outer torments of life that shatter inner resistance so that the need for spiritual help is acknowledged. And the more unsatisfactory outward life becomes, the more satisfactory does the blessed inward life seem both by contrast and in itself.
Many will be irritated by these thoughts, but some will be disturbed by them. It is only from the last group that a reconsideration of what they seek in life and how they propose to attain it is at all likely.
Before a man will undertake the moral purifications with which the quest must begin, and the mental trainings which must complement them, he must have some incentive to do so. Where will he find it? The answer is different with different men, since it depends on his stage of evolution, character, and destiny. If some find it in the sadness produced by world-weariness, others find it in the joy produced by a Glimpse. Still others are prompted by the hunger for Truth or by the thirst for self-improvement, or even blindly by the tendencies brought over from previous births.
It is the character which he has inherited from former earth lives which makes him susceptible to spiritual urges and attracts him to mystical teachings of this kind. If changing events or changed environments, new contacts with living men or with printed books appear to be responsible, this is only because "delayed-action" tendencies were already in existence but still needed such external changes to be able to manifest themselves.
Amongst the multitude of those who are attracted toward such teaching, it is inevitable that there should be those who are only casually interested, those who are tremendously in earnest about it, and those who are to be found somewhere between these two groups.
If the teaching favourably commends itself to any individual from the first contact as being requisite to his needs, this is often a sign that he has followed it in earlier existences.
One disciple who picked up the Quest again in this life described it as a feeling of reunion, of coming home.
If we are curious and interested enough to follow up correctly the clues and hints which life gives us sometimes; if we observe, study, analyse, meditate, and even pray; and if we become sensitive enough, then we shall be driven to become pilgrims with no choice except engagement in a mystical quest. Our supreme need and deep request is then inner work.
When he wakes up to the suspicion that the ordinary purposes of human life on earth hide other much more important ones, and that he will have to find them by himself, he may begin to seek out and study the teachings of those who have gone farther along this way.
Whether we are guided by human experience or superhuman revelation, by intuitive feeling or intellectual thinking, we must come in the end to the recognition of the great mystery which surrounds us.
The mysterious enigmas of the spiritual life must sooner or later challenge the sleeping mind of man into wakeful thoughts.
Our so-called intelligentsia, who played with political red fire until they painfully felt its destructiveness on their own persons, played at the same time with intellectual disdain for those who "escaped" from the world into ivory-towers of spiritual seeking. The second world war, however, began the process of making them feel the barrenness of their own fields and the stark coldness of their own outlooks. So quite a number of them have begun to peep into the ivory-towers and to find out what goes on there. The resultant discoveries are opening their eyes.
The spirit's beauty has lured men on like a dream of unfound gold. For the heart of man has always seemed to me like a grey galleon moving on the green sea of thought and seeking this world of treasure.
Ineffable bliss and serene joy are at the heart of all things and that is one of the reasons why people seek the Overself's infinite happiness even though they are not all aware of this.
Those who turn to the spiritual life for material benefits, such as better relations with other people and better physical health are entitled to do so. But they should remember Jesus' counsel: "Seek ye first the Kingdom of Heaven," for then not only will "all these things [material benefits] be added unto you" but they have a chance of gaining the kingdom whereas the other approach postpones such a glorious result. The Overself must be sought for its own sake; otherwise it will not be found or else will be found only in fleeting glimpses. "That is the goal, that is the final end," says an old Indian writing.
Those who pursue this quest do so because they too want to be happy. Do not imagine that only the worldly pleasure-seekers, the hard money-hunters, the romantic love-dreamers, or the ambitious fame-followers are, in this respect, in a different category. It is only their method and result that are different. All without exception want the feeling of undisturbed happiness, but only the questers know that it can be found only in the experience of spiritual self-fulfilment. Fame, fortune, love, or pleasure may contribute towards the outer setting of a happy person's life but what of that person himself? Who has not heard or known of men sitting in misery amid all their riches or power, of death forcing a well-mated couple to bid each other farewell?
Emerson's declaration, "We needs must love the highest when we see it," is quite true of some persons but quite false of many more persons.
What lures a man to this quest? It may be that the ideas by which, and with which, he has lived for a long time have proved insufficient, false, or feeble. It may be that bereavement, calamity, or suffering have brought him to cherish peace. It may be nothing else than the simple need for a higher quality of living. It may even be that he comes to this quest, as some undoubtedly do, because he seeks a special benefit--healing, relief, amendment of fortune, perhaps. But in that case he must remain on it because he seeks the Overself, alone. Lastly let it be noted that if for some the first step on this quest is the final step down a long road of increasing desperation, for most it ought to be the first step up a garden path of increasing joy.
Some come to this through the joy enkindled by great music, inspired writing, or majestic landscape, or through response to beauty; but others--and they are more--come through being wrecked or crushed, threatened with destruction, left hopeless, forlorn, and helpless. They reach the end of their strength, or discover the falseness and futility of their wisdom.
He may come to the need of, as well as the illumination by, the Overself through two very different paths: through joy and sweetness or through suffering and sadness.
In the Orient it is the general belief that a man turns toward this quest for either of two reasons. If he is young, it is because he has an inborn genius for it. If he is somewhat older, it is because he is dissatisfied with life, disappointed in it, or bereaved by its calamities. But the philosophical view, while including these reasons, goes farther and wider. For it sees that some, notably those who are aesthetically sensitive and those who are maritally fulfilled, are indeed satisfied with their existing form of life. Only, they sense the greater possibilities open to a human being and wish to expand it to realize them more completely.
It would be too wide-sweeping a generalization to assert that all entrants on the quest come out of disgust with the worldly life. This may be true of Indians, for several reasons, but it is not so true of Westerners. For among the latter there are those whose approach to life is through art--through sensitivity to beauty and joy--or through science--through the pursuit of truth about the universe. Such persons are not unhappy, not alienated from earthly affairs, but they know that a deeper basis to their present satisfaction is needed.
It is not only those who have exhausted all their limited means of attaining happiness who turn away and come to this quest: there are others whose capacity for enjoyment still remains, but having had the experience of a single "glimpse" or understood the pointers given by inspired art, they are attracted towards living on a higher plane.
But where some turn away from the world for negative reasons because of their misery and disappointment, others come to the quest for positive reasons; they have sensed or suspected, felt, or been told of, a higher plane of existence: they respond to a divine call.
He is not sacrificing so much that is dear to the world for the sake of an empty abstraction, nor trampling on inborn egotism for the sake of a cold intellectual conception. He is doing this for something that has become a warm living presence in his life--for the Overself.
Deeper than all other desires is this need to gain consciousness of the Overself. Only it is unable to express itself directly at first, so it expresses itself in the only ways we permit it to--first the physical, then the emotional and intellectual quest of happiness.
The impulse which puts a man's feet on this path, is not always an explicable one. It is sometimes hard to say why he obeys it, when it will hinder his ego's natural cravings at the very start and lead to an unnatural self-effacement at the very end. All he knows is that something in him bids him begin the journey and keeps him on it despite its hurts to his pride, his passion, and his ego.
Disenchanted with celebrities and disillusioned with the world, they will be more inclined to turn in the end towards the divinity within themselves, to trust its first faint leadings on Jesus' assurance that "the Kingdom of Heaven is within you!" Such independence is outwardly a lonely path, but with patience it will prove not less satisfying.
Why should anyone be willing to put himself aside, his inclinations and desires, unless he is bidden to do so by a power stronger than his own will?
Others are attracted to these teachings through an impulse of feeling unsupported by the understanding of reason. It is safe to say that such persons are being led by their souls into this attraction.
Those who conceive of this quest as escapism are neither right nor wrong. They are right when it is embarked upon because of a neurotic refusal to do for and to oneself with effort what it is hoped God or guru will be able to do without it. They are wrong when it is embarked upon because of an evaluation of life that is made above its distorting battle or out of a compulsive, involuntary, and inner attraction toward the Ideal.
Only when thought and experience have run deep enough and wide enough are the ego's emotional and fleshly hungers likely to yield to spiritual hunger.
One must have suffered to the point of being weary of living, or one must be old and infirm, or one must have reflected very honestly and deeply to believe that it is better to be without the predominance of the personal consciousness. And to be willing to work for this end must seem mad to young eager vital men and women enjoying their lives.
It is natural and inevitable that, when ripened by experience, men should yearn to be united with their divine Source.
Through widely different kinds of external experience, the ego seeks but never finds enduring happiness. Discovering in the end that it is on a wrong road, it turns to internal experience.
His own higher self will direct the properly equipped seeker's steps towards philosophy. He may go reluctantly, fighting against its ideas secretly or openly for months and years. But in the end he will have to yield to what will become quite plainly a divine leading. His intellect will have to obey this irresistible intuition.
If a man is born with innate tendencies for this quest, nothing will keep him from it and he will surely come to it in the course of time. He may come because he is so satisfied with life that he believes in God's goodness. He may come because he is so disappointed in life that he disbelieves in God's goodness. But, by whatever the road, he will come to it because the urge will be irresistible.
He can no more help being on the quest than he can help being on this earth. The hunger to know the inner mysteries of life, and the aspiration to experience the Soul's peace and love will not leave him alone. They are part of him, as hands or feet are parts of him.
The time will come when, under the pressure of the mysterious inner self, this quest will become the most important enterprise of his life.
Why are they seeking truth? Because they have at last become sensitive enough to respond to the existence of the diviner self within them, the Overself in which only truth exists. The fact of its existence has pressed them subconsciously from within and finally provoked them into feeling a need to become aware of, and co-operative with, the Overself.
The urge to follow the Quest, the impulse to find the higher consciousness, comes from the Overself.
The decision to embark on this Quest may ripen for a long time in his unconscious mind before it is openly and slowly made, or it may explode impulsively in a wholly unpremeditated way.
He has entered upon the quest for no other reason than that he has been inwardly and strongly commanded to enter it.
The long hard search for the soul asks too much endurance of self-discipline from its pursuers ever to be more than it has been in the past--an undertaking for the few driven by an inner urge. Hence it is not so much a voluntary undertaking as an involuntary one. The questers cannot help themselves. It is not that they necessarily have the strength to endure as that they have no choice except to endure.
There is an inner prompting which comes into the hearts of some men, not of all men, which bids them believe in the existence of a higher power. Although they do not know clearly what they are doing when they accept it, they feel that it is then, and will lead later to, something tremendously important. The work is going on inside them.
Whatever be the pull of their interests in their lives, a time comes in the reincarnations when the divine self asserts itself in their consciousness.
There is something within us which will not let us rest in what we are, which urges us to think of still higher possibilities.
This is the paradox that when you take the first step on this Quest, it is grace which impels you to do so. Yet you think and act as if you have never been granted the divine gift.
There comes a time when the unfulfilled possibilities of a man begin to haunt him, when his innermost conscience protests against the wastage of this reincarnation.
He must come for a while to the position that T.E. Lawrence of Arabia came to when he wrote: "The truth was I did not like the `myself' I could see and hear."
With the coming of middle age a man begins to appraise his life's course, work, fortunes, and in the end--himself. Quite often the results are not very satisfactory, perhaps even disappointing.
All this work on the Quest is directed towards discovering himself, his best self, and to bringing its influence into whatever it is that he does or thinks. He ought not to enter into it for the sake of ego enhancement--that is for the worldlings--but for the sake of something that transcends the ego.
Too intelligent to accept the narrow short-sighted view of life, too idealistic to accept a merely animal satisfaction of desires, he needs guidance. This is what the quest is for.
He feels that he must enter irrevocably on the quest for moral self-perfection, however unattainable it may seem. For he does so in obedience to the inner voice of a conscience the ordinary man does not hear. And his feeling is a right one. The destination may be only a glorious dream but the direction is a serious actuality.
He may come to see the grave contradiction between his ideals and his actions, his mental world and his actual world, and the sight may disgust him. Out of this chagrin, the desire to renounce a senseless existence and withdraw altogether from it may take hold of him.
So long as men feel the need of inner support and mental direction, of moral uplift and emotional consolation, so long will they continue to study, to follow, and to practise philosophy--that is, to enter upon the quest.
The consciousness of his own imperfection sooner or later awakens in him an urge to seek perfection, that is, to enter on the Quest.
When they awaken to truer values, they will desire a truer kind of life. They will want one that brings God into it, and they will view with remorse the past which left God out of it.
Only after he has received what he has desired, and come up against its limitations or defects or disadvantages, will spiritual desire begin to take meaning or offer higher value to him.
When he is no longer content to be wise and happy and good only for moments but foolish and miserable and weak for periods, he will firmly resolve to begin the process of self-changing and self-deepening that is the Quest.
The man's distress over his personal shortcomings and the loathing for his personal weaknesses goad him in the end to do something to improve the one and conquer the other.
He sees now at long last that he has acted against his own best interests long enough: the time has come to redress the balance.
He feels the call to dedicate himself to higher ideals.
Men pass their whole lives in error when they might pass them in truth. They do wrong when they might do good. The result is suffering when it might be peace. When all the chief decisions of a man's life are made in a condition of spiritual ignorance, what other results may be expected than unfortunate ones? It is a bitter moment--and the consciousness of his error falls painfully upon him--when he discovers that the aims he pursued have led him up a blind alley and that the ambitions he nurtured have yielded only ashes for his hands. The parable of the Prodigal Son now assumes an intimate meaning for him. He may derive an astringent wisdom from all these unpleasant consequences of the lower ego's activities. It has indeed been like a blind man tremblingly feeling his way and moving from one mishap to another, making one false step after another.
When he sees how the little personal self has brought him so much pain sorrow disappointment and waste of years, that even when it brought him success the latter turned out to be false and deceptive, he will become disgusted with it. He will not want to live with the ego any longer and will yearn to get away from it altogether.
Because something deep down in the subconscious knows that the ego is destructible, sooner or later, in one incarnation or another, a longing arises for that which is indestructible. From this moment he begins, however feebly, to cease indulging the desires, the wishes, of his ego, and to replace them by something new and higher. This is the beginning of the Quest, and it may take a religious, a mystical, or a philosophic form, according to man's maturity.
Men of rank, fortune, influence, or power may become complacent, satisfied with what they are or have or where they are. But this is a condition which cannot last. Why? Because the higher purpose of life, embodied in the World-Idea, is also present and will make appropriate change or exert appropriate pressure at the destined time.
He should guard against being unconsciously insincere, against protesting his love of the divine when it is really a mask for love of himself. "Beware lest you call desire of the world search for God," warned Al Hallaj, a Sufi adept. But more often his quest is inspired by mixed motives. On one hand, he is interested in the personal benefits he hopes to get from it. On the other hand, he is also interested in learning the impersonal truth about life.
To the young neophyte the quest, with its mysterious traditions and magical promises, is an enchanting and glamorous enterprise.
They seem to believe their entry into the mystic quest would set their life in order and solve their problems forever. This is, of course, mere wishful thinking. It is not their entry but their completion of the quest that could ever do these things for them.
There is always a number of enquirers who interest themselves in the teaching to a certain extent and then drop it altogether. Why? Because they are not primarily seeking the Overself for its own sake but only the Overself along with hidden powers or personal success or something else, or sometimes, these things only and the Overself merely as a means of obtaining them.
Many come to this quest in the beginning because of some personal desire. This personal satisfaction is their primary goal. It may be that later, with growth, harmony with the Overself becomes not less important. A few in the end will come to see that nothing short of pure devotion to the Overself for its own sake is their proper goal.
The Quest has different attractions for different people. Some find that it replaces the very ordinariness of their lives by exotic, unusual, even dramatic ideas or experiences. Some draw near because of its promise of help sorely needed to cover up their weaknesses. Others need its intellectual concepts to support their withdrawal from orthodoxy. Still others are delighted to get its help in the reinterpretation of orthodoxy, and in its reasonable replies to reasonable questions.
If many come to this Quest because they are discontented with living or even despairing of it, some come because they feel the joy of living or even exalt in it. There are a few, however, who come because they seek truth or reality.
It should not be thought that all those who read some literature, or attend such lectures, or even join such movements, are seeking more than a simple glimpse. Perhaps most are ordinary people who are satisfied with having a credo to support their lives which enlarges their traditional religion or belief.
All sorts of people come to this quest--the truthseekers, the hallucinated, the ambitious and the meek, the highly intuitive and the utter imbecile, the joyous and the embittered failures, the really intelligent and the merely curious--but few stay on it. Most are caught soon or late on the detours, the sidetracks, and the return-tracks.
If the philosophical code attracts some by its moral nobility, it attracts others through their personal necessity.
There are those today as never before whose deep but unconscious spiritual loneliness remains unsatisfied by religions.
If some come to this quest because of disgust with the world and its ways, or of disappointment with life and its experiences, others come to it because of disgust, disappointment, or dissatisfaction with themselves. Only a few come because of the hunger for truth for its own sake, or because of the sense of incompleteness of a merely materialistic existence.
The reasons which men give for coming to this quest are widely different. If suffering brings many, joy brings others. If a kind of ambition brings not a few, satiety with ambition brings a few.
Men come to this quest simply because they seek truth, because they want to learn what their life means and what the universe means and the relation of both, which is the best of all reasons. But others come because of shaken self-respect or after a bereavement which leaves them without a dearly loved one. Still others come in reaction to disillusionment, frustration, or calamity. And lastly there are those who come out of utter fatigue with the senseless world and disgust with its evil ways, which is the second best of all reasons.
Human lacks, human sufferings, and human failures drive most of the people who come to it, to the quest as compensation. But there are a few whose human circumstances are satisfactory, yet who come to the quest also. They are the seekers after truth, the explorers trying to find a higher consciousness. Both classes are welcome, of course. But the second class exemplify the quest at its best.
We may come to this change of view by strict philosophical reflection alone, which is the easiest and pleasantest path, but which demands certain intellectual and moral capacities, or we may come to it by the path of bitter pain and external compulsion.
Some people seem hungry for Truth. This is because society has starved them and given them no satisfaction other than a surface one.
Some people are slowly brought to the quest by the inescapable conclusions of reason, others are brought into it more quickly by the natural guidance of instinct.
For some people the Quest begins with a feeling that something is missing from their life, a need that none of their possessions or relations can satisfy.
Sometimes--do you lie awake at night? Thinking about "what you might have been"? Watching the procession of your past life move like a cinema film before your eyes? Reading anew the whole tale of time born and dead, a few joys, many tears perhaps, and long barren years of drought? Waiting for something bigger, better, brighter to turn up? But it has not come yet. The road is hard and the field you are tilling is sterile.
Among those who come to the quest for reasons other than the search for truth, which usually means for emotional reasons, there are those who come to it at the end of a period of mental depression and those who come at the beginning of a period of mental elation. The first kind may be unhappy because of past personal experiences and seek comfort, consolation. The second kind is prone to exaggerated hopes because of a somewhat neurotic enthusiastic temperament. The one may find its peace and the other its joy but both may overlook the need for determined work and self-discipline as the cost.
Few people come to this quest by choice; most come by necessity. Its invitation, addressed to a reluctant world, is heard and considered only when under great pressure and suffering, or after great moral or mental or aesthetic growth.
Some propulsive force from within or some compulsive condition from without must come into existence to make him undergo the self-discipline needed to open him to the divine influx.
With this event a new era opens in his personal life. He feels that, for the first time in his life, he has touched real being when hitherto he has known only its shadow. It is the first link in a whole chain of good consequences. Consequently it is in reality the most important one. Whoever once gives his allegiance to the Overself as affirmed and symbolized by his entry on the quest, undertakes a commitment of whose ultimate and tremendous consequences he has but a vague and partial notion.
When the Overself sounds the mystic note, its echo is heard within the man and he awakens from spiritual stupor.
A time comes when we see at last that all the mind has gathered from its schooling is information, when what it needs and hungers for even more deeply is revelation. The faintest clue or hint from a higher source would be enough; how much more the fullness of a glimpse.
A correspondent in America wrote: "I awoke in the middle of the night to discover the room filled with bright light. I could see all the furniture. A marvellous peace pervaded me. I said to myself, `God is that You?' and instinctively, I knew that it was. After a while I got up when the experience was fading to check its extraordinary nature and confirmed that none of the electric lamps were switched on. Since then thirteen years have passed. I have a loving husband and loving children, enough money for the basic things of life. But for some time life was not meaningful and I felt empty. I looked at my friends, so willing to accept this hollow life, but I could not. It became intolerable. Five years ago I was shown the spiritual quest of truth and this has since become my mainstay." Was there a connection between the vision of Light and the subsequent restlessness until she turned to the quest? That there is such a line, is confirmed by many other instances scattered around the world.
Every man who catches such a glimpse of his diviner possibilities will be haunted forever after by them until he tries to catch up in actual thought and life with them. The endeavour to do so brings him sooner or later on the Quest.
In that moment of first meeting with his Higher Self the quest is laid open to him in reality. He has to see the opportunity and to take the first step by an act of intuition and a venture of faith. There will be many more succeeding steps if he is to continue the quest and most probably a number of missteps, but it all begins with this initial recognition and reaction.
He who meets for the first time the challenge in an adept's eyes, meets his fate, did he but know it. For he is at once presented subconsciously with a choice between two courses: the one leading to a higher kind of life and aim, the other continuing on normal lines.
When the truth explodes suddenly like a blast of dynamite beneath the traditions or beliefs or habits which held him captive in untruth, the light may dazzle and bewilder him or it may set him free from them in a way and with a speed which could not have existed ordinarily.
It is this faith that there is a World-Idea and that we must adjust our lives to it or suffer unnecessarily which marks him out from the herd.
It is the desire to do for himself what Life wishes him to do, to realize his higher potentials, that puts him on this Quest.
It is this feeling that he is not in his true place that pushes a man into this search for a teaching or a teacher.
Men whose lives have been so endangered and whose minds so troubled will either turn for relief to gross sensuality or search for wholeness in new spirituality.
The sickness of the world wants something much more than a mere philosophy of the lecture-room to cure it; no bottles of verbal drugs can prove potent in the present desperation.
A mind which is no longer satisfied with shallow consolations will naturally turn to mystical experience or metaphysical study for deeper ones.
There are others, however, who are not satisfied with such ignorance and such indifference, who want certain and assured knowledge of the spirit, by penetrating the secrets of their own being. And it is the promise of the satisfaction of this want which attracts them to mysticism.
It is a tradition in mystical circles that anyone who has ever felt the truth power or beauty of mystical teaching, however briefly, will not be able to escape being drawn to its practical consequence, the Quest, one day, however long deferred it may be.
Not all men understand just at what time, what date, their quest of the Overself was started. This may be because it did not happen all at once.
All that has happened before his entry upon the quest has really been converging towards it.
It is as inevitable that some men should come to the Quest because of their sorrows and difficulties as that other men should abandon it temporarily for the same reasons.
Mysticism offers the surest path to the mind's peace and the heart's satisfaction.
Why many people don't come
Reading about these truths has a revelatory effect upon certain minds but only a boring or irritating effect upon others. Why? It is because the first have been brought by experience or reflection to a sufficiently sensitive and intuitive condition to appreciate the worth of what they are reading, whereas the second, comprising for the most part an extroverted public, will naturally be impatient with such mystical ideas and contemptuous of their heretical expounder. Indeed, some of these writings must seem as incomprehensible to a Western ear as the babblings of a man just awakening from the chloroformed state.
The masses would show no interest for they possess insufficient mental equipment to understand it.
How can large principles find a resting place in such little persons?
The incomprehension of the undeveloped minds and unrefined hearts puts up a barrier between them and philosophy. To ignore it is first to bewilder and then to frustrate them.
It is not fair to ask them to accept and believe in teachings which seem to be contradicted by all their experience and by all the experience of the society around them. How can we demand that they violate their own thinking and their own feeling by doing so?
They are not necessarily more materialistic. It is simply that they have not begun to think about life, to question its meaning and ask for its purpose.
The call to a higher kind of life may sound absurd to the lower kind of mind.
It is often said in criticism that its doctrines are unreasonable and its techniques impracticable.
It is a subject which the arrogant intellectuals of our time, being unable to cope with it, find irritating or bewildering.
The seeming failure to get these truths accepted more widely, still more to get them practised, is no failure at all. Men are what they are as a result of what they were in the past.
It is easier for most persons to lay down their distressing burdens at the door of faith in formal religion than turn to the quest which explains the very presence of these burdens and prescribes the technique to remove them.
Too many people who are ordinarily supposed to be good people with some religious side to their character, hide behind their duties and responsibilities to avoid the Quest. They find in these two things sufficient excuse to disregard the larger questions of life. They keep themselves busy supporting themselves and their family or keeping up a position in the world of activity, following an occupation, or maintaining a business. In this way they are able to ignore any self-questioning about why they are here on earth at all or what will happen to them after death or whether these practical duties and responsibilities are all that is required from them by the god they profess to believe in.
"All the world complains nowadays of a press of trivial duties and engagements which prevents their employing themselves on some higher ground they know of; but undoubtedly, if they were made of the right stuff to work on that higher ground, they would now at once fulfil the superior engagement and neglect all the rest, as naturally as they breathe. They would never be caught saying that they had no time for this when the dullest man knows that this is all that he has time for."--Thoreau, in a letter.
There are now so many activities calling for his interest and energies that modern man thinks he has no time to devote to finding his soul. So he does not seek it: and so he remains unhappy.
The discomfort of being confronted by the fundamental questions which we must at some time, early or late, ask of life can be evaded--as all-too-many persons do evade it--by deliberately turning to more activity, or by reinforced egoism.
Some reject the whole system for such reasons as "I do not want to become a saint," or "I have to earn my livelihood." This is an unwise attitude.
Their minds are mostly occupied by personal matters, both petty and large, leaving little or no space in them for thoughts about life in general. How then can there be interest in the quest?
They dismiss the teaching in a few seconds under the erroneous belief that its expounder is just another cultist. It is easy to fall into such a gross misconception since they know nothing about it, or about the ancient tradition behind it.
For too many Western minds the terms "mystic" and "yoga" have either unpleasant or derisive connotations attached to them. Too many quacks, incompetents, fanatics, charlatans, fools, or lunatics have brought reproach and opprobrium on them. Only a small handful of persons employ them deliberately to express the lofty, the admirable, and the honourable meanings.
The yogic quest of samadhi (cessation of thinking leading to object-free awareness) like the Zen quest of satori (enlightenment) has suffered miscomprehension in its own land by its own people, much more therefore in the West by those unfamiliar with or unable to cope with Oriental intuitive perceptions.
The assumption that these truths are fit to be studied and the Quest to be followed only by a few elderly, gullible, or eccentric persons is wrong.
The fact is that, in the ordinary consciousness, many people are not interested in the question of truth, nor in the discovery of what seems without personal benefits of a worldly kind; they are certainly not willing to practise various controls of thought, emotion, speech, and passion.
Few are willing to undergo the philosophical discipline because few are willing to disturb their personal comfort or disrupt their personal ease for the sake of a visionary ideal. The eagerness to improve oneself, the willingness to cultivate noble qualities are uncommon.
If some joyfully recognize the truth as soon as they meet with it, others shudderingly turn away from it.
The materialistically minded persons are too sceptical to take up this training and re-education of the mind; the self-indulgent ones are too lazily unwilling to disturb their comfort with it and come out of the groove in which they have sunk; while the egoistic are too uninterested in merely long-range, far-off, and intangible benefits to see any value in it.
Many people, especially in the working and the petty bourgeois classes, find their felicity at the beer table or the television, in idle chatter or in the particular successes of ambition. The notion that anyone could find it by means of nothing that can be measured in materialistic terms would seem foolish to them, while the Quest of the Overself would seem the highest point of all foolishness.
They accept the futility of materialism because they have never known the vitality of transcendentalism.
This is not the atmosphere in which those minds which are satisfied with the shackles of dogma or the pretensions of mere opinion can thrive: hence a few glances at philosophy are often enough to keep them away.
Most men devalue themselves, although they do not know it. A part of them is divine, but it is ignored and neglected.
The first trouble with us today is that we have not enough faith in the higher power; the second is that we have become too soft and will not submit our lives to the higher purpose.
Amusements, sports, gossip, theatres, even sex protect the thoughtless masses from having to confront the higher challenges of life, from having to let into their minds basic questions. It allows them to escape all through the length of their incarnation from the one thing they were put here on earth to face. In short, they hide from the Quest.
It would be too much to expect the mass of people to take to this quest in its fullness. They are unable to make more than an elementary effort to confine the lower nature within the required limits.
"Philosophy is of no use to me!" exclaimed a businessman. If knowing more about himself as a human being and living better than would be likely otherwise are of no use to him, then he is right.
Most people are like sleep-walkers, caught up in their own illusions. Their belief that they are awake is the biggest of these illusions.
The poor are overpowered by their grinding poverty, the rich by their fortune; both find neither the time nor taste for spiritual enquiry.
Easily stupefied by sensuality, thoroughly bewitched by constant repetition of the same pleasure, they shrug aside the disturbing thoughts and visible reminders of life's transitoriness and the body's infirmity.
After the work done to gain livelihood or fulfil ambition, there is usually a surplus of time and strength, a part of which could and should be devoted to satisfying higher needs. There is hardly a man whose life is so intense that it does not leave him a little time for spiritual recall from this worldly existence. Yet the common attitude everywhere is to look no farther than, and be content with, work and pleasure, family, friends, and possessions. It feels no urge to seek the spiritual and, as it erroneously thinks, the intangible side of life. It makes no effort to organize its day so as to find the time and energy for serious thought, study, prayer, and meditation. It feels no need of searching for truth or getting an instructor.
People who find their own company boring, their own resources empty, their own higher aims non-existent, must needs flee from it to some form of escape, such as the cinema, the radio, the theatre, or television. Here they are not confronted by the uncomfortable problem of themselves, by an aimless meaningless drifting "I."
Humanity ordinarily shirks this enquiry into truth partly because of its difficulty, partly because of its apparent personal unprofitability, and partly because of its loneliness.
There are those--and they are many--who do not want such a quest: its disciplines frighten them away or its studies bore them or its isolation makes too daring a demand on their gregariousness.
It is easy to understand why so many persons have little faith in such teachings, but it is hard to understand why so few persons take the trouble to investigate them.
Most people are too shallow--for which they are not to be blamed, since living itself is a fatiguing job--to be able to mine successfully for Reality, or for Truth, which is the knowledge of Reality.
It is hard for the moderns to appreciate the Buddha's declarative sentences about the illusory goals of desire, hard to see that their years, when measured against Jesus' teaching, are often spent in futile activities, hard to understand with the mystics that they merely exist and do not really live.
They bow too quickly before the mystery of life and being, resign further search and enquiry, make no more effort to develop and use their mental and intuitive faculties. Faith and patience are deserted too soon.
Quite a number seek understanding of life's meaning, but few seek a true understanding. Most want a partisan or prejudiced one, an endorsement of inherited ideas or personal satisfactions.
Too many are married for life to their personal views: they are not seekers after Truth and are not really willing to learn the New and the True.
It is a wrong and yet common notion to believe that one is not in a position to start out on the Quest. The businessman pleads his business cares, the sinner his sins, the old man his age, and the young man his youth as excuse for failing to make any beginning at all.
Only seldom during a lifetime, and that very briefly, will men give a thought to these larger features of their existence--to its unreality, to its changeability, and to its mortality.
Few women succeed in making the self-disciplinary grade which the quest of philosophy calls for. This is because they are more easily distracted from the quest by their personal feelings than men are.
Men who live unaware of why they are here consequently live unconcerned with what seem like mere abstractions lacking any utility at all.
They could not face truth for they would be embarrassed by the Goddess's unshrinking gaze.
Too many persons will have nothing to do with the Quest when they learn about it for the first time. This is not because they find it impossible to believe some of the ideas on which it is based, such as the idea of reincarnation ("I find it incredible" was Somerset Maugham's comment about it). Nor is it because the metaphysical side is too abstruse for them to go through the needed labour of troubling their minds with it. No--it is because the ideal set up for the questers is, they claim, completely outside their horizon and quite unreachable by most, if not nearly all of them.
Its peak seems so austere, the climb up it so demanding of all the bravery that a man could ever possess, that few even venture to approach it.
They hear of saints and yogis who seem to achieve the impossible--a happiness which eludes their fellow denizens of this planet and a self-control which puts human desire and passion easily underfoot. What these spiritual supermen can do, in temptation-free Himalayan heights or European monastic retreats, they see no prospect of ever doing in their noisy busy cities.
It is not possible, they think, to live on such a high godlike plane in a world where meanness and violence are everyday patterns. This is a plausible view but it is not the only one.
It is impossible only if they think so. No victory can ever be won when it is already lost in the mind.
There are those who feel that the Quest is an enterprise which is more than they can undertake. Very well. The simple acknowledgement of this apparent fact is itself a beginning. But it is not an end.
His values depend upon the five bodily senses which is acceptable, and upon them alone, which is not.
For most people it is an ideal which seems so distant that to talk of attaining it is to mock them.
Those persons who are satisfied with substitutes for Truth could not appreciate or recognize it even if it were offered them. In short, they are not ready for the real thing.
Those who seek neither moral elevation nor spiritual teaching do not thereby show their indifference to thought about life. They show only that they are smugly satisfied with the little thought they have managed to do.
Those who are content with a life of nothing more than sitting down to meals, going out to make money, and coming back to make love--that is, with a solely materialistic life--find nothing in such inspired messages and get nothing from such mystical teachings.
There is no large idea in their petty lives.
It will not engage the interest of the spiritually indolent.
So long as we keep ourselves focused wholly in the physical world, thoughts such as these may be read but will not reach our minds.
The man who sees no need for a higher concept of his nature than the merely physical one will see no need for a higher goal than feeding, clothing, sheltering, and amusing his body. In letting the senses, the passions, the intellect, and the ego take sole charge of his life, he quite naturally sees only mere emptiness beyond them. He doubts and refutes the intuitive-spiritual and denies and rejects the mystical. The Infinite is nothing to him so long as he prefers to remain shut in within the sense-bound outlook. This is why he dismisses mystic experience, religious feeling, and philosophic insight as mere hallucinations. But all this opposition takes place only in his conscious mind for there is unavoidable recognition in his subconscious mind. He wants to escape from himself, however, and fears the ordeal of facing himself. These words will make no appeal to the materialistic mentality which still regards all spiritual experience as the outcome of pathological conditions. Such an attitude, fortunately, has become less sure of itself than it was when first I embarked on these studies and experiments, now more than thirty-five years ago.
People neglect the Real because they believe they already have it (in sense-experience of the world outside) and for the same reason they do not seek truth.
The unfortunate who have been unable to manage their affairs or to recover from the blows of destiny may turn to religion for comfort: they seldom turn to philosophy. For this fails to comfort their emotions: its appeal is only to those who are learning that emotions need to be checked or balanced or controlled by reason.
The mass of people do not want, and may even fear, the spiritual and intellectual freedom to search for truth. They are more comfortable inside the gregarious protection of a ready-made group tradition.
It is not only that so many people are not capable of comprehending the truth but also that a large number of them do not want to comprehend it. The truth hurts their ego, contradicts their desires, and denies their expectations.
Most people are contented with their chains or even strongly attached to them--such is the awesome power of desires, passions, infatuations, and especially egoisms.
They fear the quest because they fear that, if they get involved in it too seriously, they might have to repress some inclination in their nature or renounce some habit in their way of living. So they take from it only what appeals to them, and discard the rest.
The freezing temperature of those snowy peaks of thought frightens away some who might otherwise venture on the Quest. It is the ego which is so frightened, knowing that its own end would come with the end of the journey into this elevated region.
A man may stay at his present level or try to rise in character to a better one than he was born with. If ideals and values do not stir him, if he is ruled by undisciplined animal appetites, these truths will not appeal to him.
Even if a man is qualified to receive truth he may not be in the mood to do so, that is, he is not ready and willing to meet the cost. His interests or his desires or his emotions at that particular time lie elsewhere.
When they learn the price--disciplining and reducing the fattened ego--that will have to be paid for this higher consciousness, they are more hesitant to embark on the Quest.
Men who are uninterested in affairs other than their own personal ones, in matters other than their own work and pleasure, position and fortune, men who are preoccupied with the trivial round of external, selfish activities only, will naturally regard the study of philosophy as a waste of time, the practice of meditation as a form of indolence, and the endeavour after self-improvement as a needless trouble. No higher yearnings enter their hearts, no reverent feelings touch them.
Because of their unwillingness either to look within or to think more deeply for any higher purpose or obligation that they might have, people live largely in delusion and deception, especially self-deception. "Why am I here on earth?" is a question for which they can only find one answer: to satisfy their own material desires.
Not everyone is prepared by temperament, or past history, to seek the higher truth, much less has the time and will for it. Not everyone among the seekers is ready to make the sacrifices that a conscientious re-adjustment of character and behaviour wants from him.
I believe in a higher power behind the universe. Call it God, if you like. I believe in a higher power behind man. Call it the soul, if you like to. Such beliefs do not appeal to the cocktail-soaked cynics and sophisticates of our era.
Such teachings are ignored or rejected as being of interest only to dreamers, idlers, or misfits. There is some truth in this criticism, some basis for this attitude. Plain normal people who have to make a living, who are busy with the world's work, politics, and economics, who have personal and family problems most of the time, find all this to be unrealistic, out of touch with things as they are, humanity as it is and has been.
So long as the objects of their existence remain small and circumscribed, selfish and materialistic, so long will the meaning of their existence be denied them.
It is not that they are contemptuous of truth but that they are indifferent to it.
The opinions of most people about mysticism are either totally or partially worthless. This is because they are not informed either by accurate or by sufficient knowledge of the subject. They know next to nothing of its true history, nature, and results.
Lack of concern for higher values reveals men's frailty or malice.
To the diseased mentality, mysticism is an attempt to cripple progress by weakening intellect and inhibiting needed action.
The word "mystic" is not the perfect one to convey my meaning, but it is at least the handiest one. It has been so ill-used that spouters of errant nonsense have taken shelter under its roof whilst oracles of the loftiest wisdom have not hesitated to call themselves by this name. The partisan approach to this name has caused it to become either an abusive or else an adulatory word rather than a precise description. Whereas some use it in contempt, others use it in praise! Again, how many are scared by its very sound! There are even persons who feel a shiver run down their back when they hear the word "mysticism" uttered!
Postponing the choice
It has been stated at the end of the appendix to The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga that they who do not feel in possession of enough strength or desire to tread the ultimate path need not do so, and that if they remember and sometimes read about it even this will yield good fruit in time. We have been asked to be more explicit on this point. We deeply sympathize with all those who do not feel inclined to tackle the mental austerities involved in the ultimate path. If, however, they will just dip into its intellectual study from time to time, a little here this week and a little there the next, without even making their reading continuous and connected, there will slowly take shape in their minds an outline of some of the main tenets of this teaching. And however vague this outline may be it will be immeasurably better than the blank ignorance which covers the rest of mankind like a shroud. These new ideas will assume the characteristics of seeds, which under the water of the student's own aspiration and the sunshine of visible and invisible forces, will grow gradually into fruitful understanding and deeds. For the karmic consequence of such interest will be one day birth into a family where every opportunity for advancement will be found.
The yearning for spiritual light wells up in the heart spontaneously. It is a natural one. But desires, egoism, and materialism cover it for so long a time that it seems unnatural.
At least it has aroused them to awareness that there is such a thing: they have later the chance to think about it, still later to try it, and perhaps in the end to appreciate it.
The ideal may appeal, coming as it does from the Overself, but the ego will put up obstacles, resistances, to its realization.
The images of the Ideal formed in the early years of adulthood may get broken or smudged or even lost.
The clamour from outside--by which I do not mean heard noises alone--is so insistent that the summons from inside is seldom heard or, if heard at all, is taken to be a summons to culture, art, poetry, and music perhaps or to intellect and its development.
This dream of eventual illumination will haunt the background of his mind as a hope to be fulfilled in some far-off future life. He is too aware of his own weakness to bring it into the foreground.
How many men think and say that when their material fortunes improve, or their family problems are solved, or their living place is changed they will be able to give time and effort to the spiritual quest, but until then they must wait! But in actual fact this seldom happens. For when the improvement, solution, or change does take place, new matters call for their attention or new attachments are formed for the ego, and so the spiritual effort gets postponed again.
Those who believe that it is better to wait for more propitious circumstances before they begin the Quest, deceive themselves into an unavailing and lugubrious pessimism. Neither tomorrow nor the next year will be any better.
Procrastination may be perilous. Later may be too late. Beware of being drawn into that vast cemetery wherein men bury their half-born aspirations and paralysed hopes.
It often happens that aspirants put off the sacrifice of time which prayer and meditation call for because, they complain, they are too busy with this or that. Thus they never make any start at all and the years slip uselessly by. In most cases this involves no penalty other than the spiritual stagnation to which it leads, but in some cases where a higher destiny has been reserved for the individual or where a mission has to be accomplished, the result is far different. Everything and everyone that such a person uses as an excuse for keeping away from the practice of meditation, the exercise of devotion, and the communion of prayer may be removed from his external life by the higher self. Thus, through loss and suffering, he will be forced to obey the inward call.
How long can a man withstand this silent call of the god within him? --as long as his hopes and desires can find some measure of satisfaction, as long as frustration does not crush them, or until destiny itself overrides his indifference and compels him to heed it.
Time-backed and earth-bound as he is, it is not surprising that he often tries to evade the Quest, to ignore it in various ways such as always keeping busy trying to fulfil increasing ambition, cultivating scepticism disguised as "practicality," or demanding instant and demonstrable proofs. But most often he deflects the thoughts of it or changes the conversation abruptly. The very idea makes him nervous if pursued by himself or others. He is uneasy at the thought of higher laws to be obeyed. He is fearful of what he will be asked to do and of the discipline to be practised.
It is sadly human to want to digress from the straight path of the Quest at times. This happens to many and a proportion of them yields to the desire. Invariably, however, the passing years bring them back to either the leaving point or even the starting point. Experience always points up the lesson that the initial urge faith conviction or reasoning which put them on the path was a wise and necessary one. The picture of life grows a little clearer to them when they learn at first hand with sorrow, loss, or frustration what the teachers offered free without such unpleasant consequences.
If a man is born with spiritual capacity but refuses to use it, and even deliberately shuts it away, a day will come when it will thrust itself up into his conscious self for acceptance and use. If he continues to deny it, the capacity will then operate against him, until his sanity becomes questionable or his fortunes become adverse.
No man can afford to fail to heed the summons to the Quest. If he does, it is at his own peril and he will then fail in everything else, for this is an imperative call coming from the highest part of his being.
Those who have been personally confronted by an illuminated man with the Quest of the Overself and reject it to continue their quest of the ego instead, are destined to suffer.
The warning which Light on the Path gives to disciples, "But if thou look not for him, if thou pass him by, then there is no safeguard for thee. Thy brain will reel, thy heart grow uncertain, and in the dust of the battlefield thy sight and senses will fail, and thou wilt not know thy friends from thy enemies"--this warning is apposite here and should be taken deeply to heart.
Necessity will with time force this comprehension on them. Prophets and teachers will disclose this truth to them but if they do not listen then hard experience must disclose it.
Human beings are given more than one chance to redeem themselves. Such is the mercy of the higher power.
The "Call of the Quest" once heard may be lost for a while, even a long while, but it will return.
The need of truth is an irrepressible one but it may take a long time to come through in all its force and clarity.
He is left free to save or destroy himself, to accept the truth or turn his face away from it.
In what sense is there a choice?
The longer I live and the more I observe in the lives of others, the more numerous become the illustrations of higher laws--the factuality of karma and the universality of the Quest. This is only as it should be for both are parts of the World-Idea. Thought and action are reflected back by karma. All people in all lands are seeking nostalgically for their homeland--the multitude unconsciously, the few consciously--this is their Quest.
Let no one make the mistake of separating out the quest from everyday life. It is Life itself! Questers are not a special group, a labelled species, which one does or does not join, but are all humanity.
This is not merely a matter for a small elite interested in spiritual self-help. It is a serious truth important to every man everywhere.
The inability to measure up to these ideals does not carry a stigma. All men at this level come to earth with their imperfections.
All men seek for truth either consciously and deliberately or unconsciously and blindly, but they can seek only according to their capacity and ability, circumstances and preparedness.
It is not a question whether questers are happier than non-questers--for that is an individual personal matter: the division itself is an artificial one. The ascent to Consciousness is for all men, not for a few only.
Mankind is so near to God and yet so far away from God! Every fresh day is a fresh call from the Overself to man.
Hidden away in every man there exists a being immeasurably superior to the ordinary person that he is.
It is there in all, whether it be latent or patent, this impulse in each man to improve and better himself into a person of worth. Ultimately it develops, in this body or a later one, into the aspiration to transcend himself.
The divine soul dwells in every man. Therefore, every man may find it, if only he will apply the faculties he possesses.
Each man must someday take to this quest. This is as certain as the sun's rising, for is it not said on high authority that we can not live by bread alone?
The work of opening up to his inner being, and to its best, not worst, side is both the duty and the destiny of every man. He may evade the first and retain the second for a time but cannot do so for all time.
What the quester does of his own free choice today, the generality of men will be obliged to do tomorrow.
The hour of awakening must come to every man, even if it has to come at the hour of death; and when it does it will be with utter amazement and stupefaction at best, or else with all the force of an explosive shock. For he is a member of the human species, not of the animal one, and shares its destiny.
The Quest cannot be evaded: in the end all must come to it; otherwise they will be pulled or pushed along it however unwilling or reluctant they may be.
More and more people are moving, albeit at a slow pace and with suspicious minds, into mystical teaching--but they are moving.
Nature is trying to teach them to equilibrate themselves. The sooner they learn this lesson, the better for their happiness and success.
The multitudes who people our planet will eventually travel the same course that the philosophic aspirant now travels. But they will do it slowly through the lapse of numerous centuries; they will move lightly, imperceptibly, and without the intense pressure he puts upon himself.
Man is made in God's image in the sense that he latently possesses certain godlike qualities. But these have to be developed by evolution, which can be slow, through the path of normal experience, or swift, through the Quest.
All people are trying to find their Overself, to feel its love and sense its peace. Those who are in flight from worldly things do so consciously; those who are in pursuit of them do so unconsciously.
Life compels no one to enter upon this conscious Quest, although it is leading everyone upon the unconscious Quest. Even among the students of this teaching, not all are following the Quest, many are merely seeking for an intellectual understanding; their interest has been attracted and their curiosity aroused, but they have not felt called upon to go any farther. This may be due to inner weakness or to outer difficulties or both. Such men and women do not have to pledge themselves to any moral tasks or mystical exercises. Nevertheless, their studies and reflections upon the teaching will not be without a certain value and will place them on an altogether different level from the unawakened herd which is bereft of such an interest.
Shall we say that all humans are travelling on this quest of the Overself but most humans do so unconsciously and unwillingly? For then the person technically called a "quester" simply differs from other persons by his awareness of the journey, the demands it makes upon him, and his willingness to co-operate in satisfying those demands.
Man unconsciously seeks his freedom and enlightenment, as he consciously seeks his welfare and happiness.
It is because God is hidden in all creatures that all creatures are searching all the time for God. This remains just as true even though in their ignorance they usually mistake the object of their search and believe that it is something else. Only on the quest does this search attain self-consciousness.
The uninformed man is blind to the work of spiritual evolution which goes on within him and consequently thwarts and obstructs it unwittingly. The informed man sees the work and co-operates with it consciously.
How sad, how foolish that so many people turn their heads away in indifference, in apathy, and in inertia when they hear of these truths concerning the inward life and the universal laws! They believe that, even if there were any truth in them, these ideas are only for a handful of dreamers, for an esoteric cult with nothing better to do with its time and thought than to entertain them. There does not seem to be any point of contact between these ideas and their own lives, no applicability to their personal selves, and hence, no importance in them at all. How gross this error, how great this blindness! The mystic's knowledge is full of significance for every other man. The mystic's discoveries are full of value for him.
Man's hope of a happier existence and need of a faith in universal meaning has led him to try so many wrong turnings which brought him only farther from them, that it is understandable why cynicism or indifferentism should claim so many votaries. But this is not yet the end result. The few who today have found both hope and need adequately satisfied are presages of what must happen to the others.
Even those men who do not believe in the Overself are unknowingly seeking to find it or waiting for it.
Every man has within him this divine possibility. But if he refuses to believe it, or puts his faith in a hard materialism, or fails to seek for it, it will remain only latent.
It is the thought of attaining happiness in some way which induces men to commit most crimes, just as it is the thought of attaining truth which induces them to hold the most materialistic beliefs. Although they see both happiness and truth from a wrong angle and so are given this deceptive result, still the essential motivation of their lives is the same as that of the questers. The segregation in thought of a spiritual elite as being the only seekers is valid only for a practical view, not for an ultimate one.
Like blind men they seek the unseen. Like mystics they want the unknown centre of their being, but the conscious mind does not yet share in this desire. Everything else they try must in the end fail them, since life itself fails them at death.
Those who do not choose to tread the path of mysticism need not therefore tread the path of misunderstanding it.
This wisdom is latent in the bad as well as the good man. Any moral condition will suffice as a starting point. Jesus spoke to sinners as freely as to those of better character. His words were not wasted as the sequence showed. Krishna promised salvation even to those who had committed great crimes.
Was it for the sake of a small withdrawn spiritual elite that Jesus walked in Galilee, that Buddha wandered afoot across India, that Socrates frequented the Agora in Athens?
There is hope for all, benediction for the poor and the rich, the good and the bad, for every man may come into this great light. But--some men may come more easily, more quickly, while others may drag their way.
Those who feel no call to develop themselves spiritually, no obligation to follow the quest, are nevertheless unwittingly doing both. Only, they are doing so at so slow and imperceptible a pace that they do not recognize the activity and the movement.
All the experiences of life are in the end intended to induce us to seek wholeheartedly for the Overself. That is, to lead us to the very portal of the Quest.
In a fairly wide experience, we have found that most people who are interested in this subject are still very far from having achieved the mystical goal, and that not one in a hundred has been successful in travelling the mystical path to its end. Of the many who have started on this quest in modern times, few have reached the goal, most have gone astray. Of those who have stood on the temple's threshold, only a very small fraction were able to make their way inside. This is a significant fact that requires explanation.
Few people have either the interest or the wisdom to carry these thoughts through persistently to the true conclusions.
Men who live enclosed within their own little egos naturally feel no call either to pursue truth or to practise service. And such are the majority. Therefore, it is said that philosophy's quest is only for the few.
Not all men are disposed to look for truth, rather only a minority.
Prophets and teachers, sages and saints have come among us in all times to speak of that inner life and inner reality which they have found. But only those who cared to listen have profited by these revelations, communications, and counsels, and still fewer have profited by being willing to follow the path of discipleship.
Because the Higher Power is present in the whole world, it is present in everyone too. Because few seek the awareness of It, fewer still find it.
Those who are seeking personal help are immeasurably more numerous than those who are seeking the impersonal Truth.
Those who seek philosophic achievement are today, as always, necessarily few since it belittles the ego and incites aspirants to overcome or crush it.
Those who are willing, or who are able, to put themselves under the quest's discipline are few. The unwilling find it irksome, the unable impossible. Those only who come to it with a passionate devotion and an eagerness to advance, can muster up enough power to submit to the discipline and practise it. But they are a small group: the others are a large one.
Most men are happy enough with the flesh, satisfied enough to live in the body alone or the body and intellect together. Few want the Overself; most are not even ready for it and would be blinded by its light.
Not many are willing to submit themselves to the performance of exercises, for most modern people and almost all city people feel they have enough to do already.
Although salvation is open to all, it is not free to all. The price must be paid. Few are willing to pay it. Therefore few actually claim salvation, let alone receive it.
The Biblical saying, "Many are called . . ." does not refer to the general scheme of evolution, but only to the few who seek to quicken it by taking to the Quest. And few of these succeed in achieving quick realization although many attempt to do so. This is because the path is subtler, harder, and more hidden than other paths; because the adverse elements bestir themselves to mislead aspirants and take them off on sidetracks where they eventually get lost; and because it is next to impossible to find correct guidance, since many are directed to the wrong teachers by emotion, desire, egoism, and wrong preconceptions. The way for humanity is long and dark, but the few who want to shorten it may do so.
Only one man here and there among thousands takes to philosophy. Yet in some ways the world is better prepared to understand it now than in earlier times.
Few people breathe the clear, keen air of truth; most prefer the impure air of prejudice and illusion.
The high goals with which, at an impressionable and idealistic age, youth started adult life, have not remained. Many have settled for less. But not all did so. A minority has refound its way, the better way.
Only a few sufficiently appreciate its teachings and fewer still put them into practice.
Implications of the choice
The Quest will make demands upon him if he is to reach to its farther bounds. It will call for strength to steel himself against unwanted passions; it will call for reason to judge persons, situations, and circumstances; and it will call for aspiration to go one better than his best.
The position of personal responsibility in which he finds himself may pass unnoticed or be evaded, but it is present in each important decision, each serious action. Whether knowingly or unwittingly, he pronounces judgement on each occasion: the faculty of discrimination is always exercised, even by taking shelter under the rigid dogmas of ancient institutions. They may rob him of this feeling of responsibility but its actuality remains.
Once committed to the Quest, he will find that it is no light relationship. It exacts obedience, imposes responsibility, and demands consideration in the most trivial and the most important departments of this business of living.
Only time and experience will bring him to consider the fuller implications of the Quest and its graver consequences. He may then feel alarm or even repulsion; or he may find gratification and even joy.
He has not chosen an easy way of life. A future of strenuous self-discipline stretches before him.
The complete acceptance of philosophy involves a complete reordering of a man's life. His conduct will be motivated by new purposes which will themselves be the result of his new values. He will stop acting impulsively and start acting rationally. But in actual practice we find that the acceptance of philosophy is never so complete as this. The individuals will bring it into a part of life but not into the whole of their lives. It is only gradually absorbed and the ideals which are sought to be realized are only gradually set up.
Those who embark on the quest must pay for their journey with personal self-denial and unceasing self-struggle.
Knowledge of the higher laws, consciousness of the higher self, bring special obligations. To apply them carries new responsibilities to live according to them.
Once he has engaged himself in this quest there is no rest or happiness for him unless he obeys the laws that govern it and carries out the duties that pertain to it.
There will be murmurings, complaints, and disheartenments; there may even be short or long lapses; but he will understand sooner or later that he will have to go through with this quest till the very end. Something that is certainly not his ordinary self drives him to do so. Indeed, his power of choice or freedom of will have become irrelevant to this particular matter.
He must remember that he has set his feet upon a path, and he has begun to move on that path. He must continue to do so. He must not desert the Quest under any circumstances. He must go on until the goal is reached. It is impossible in life to avoid at some period or other difficulties, trials, handicaps, obstacles, temptations, and so on. They must come, but that is no reason why anyone should give up the Quest. One should stick to the Quest in spite of all that is happening to one. If he gets a sense of failure--and he may get it--or a sense of intense depression, he may think that the Quest is too difficult and its rewards remote, and he may be tempted to give it up. He must understand what is happening. He should understand that he is expressing a mood, a mood of depression and a sense of failure. But he should remember that it is just a mood; it will pass away. And so he can say to himself: "Very well, I will not occupy myself with thoughts of the Quest for the present. I can feel no enthusiasm for it." Very well, but he must not give up the Quest. He should realize that he is doing it just for the present, that tomorrow or next week or next month or even next year he will take it up and continue, that he is not giving it up, that he is just "lying low," so to speak, for a while, but keeping in the back of his mind that he is sticking to the Quest, even though for a while he has to give up conscious effort. If he feels that he has failed, if he feels that he has sinned, even these are no reasons why he should give up the Quest. He may fall a thousand times. That does not justify his giving up the Quest. He must pick himself up and try for the thousand-and-first time. There is no steady, smooth progression to the goal. It is not an easy path. He walks, and there is no possibility of moving towards the goal without meeting with hindrances and rebuffs. And he has to learn to be patient and to be tolerant with himself, not to withdraw because he meets with those rebuffs or because he becomes dissatisfied with himself. He must not give up. He can wait, and then he can continue, and even if he falls, still he can say he will try again. Although he may really fail a thousand times, it may be that he is destined to succeed the thousand-and-first time. So he must try, because he never knows which of his efforts is going to be a successful one; and if he persists, there will come a time when this effort will and must succeed. It is as though the gods like to play with him for a while to try his patience and endurance, just to see how keenly he wants this attainment. If he gives up at the first few hindrances or rebuffs, it means that he is not so very keen after all; but if he can endure and keep on, and keep on, and still keep on, no matter what happens, well then, the gods say, here is someone who really wants truth, so we must give it to him. That is the attitude which he must develop. It doesn't matter how troubled he is personally or how dark circumstances are: they will change because they must change. The wheel of destiny is turning all the time. So he must not let circumstances or his own inner moods deter him from continuing on the path. As a matter of fact, once he has begun on the right-hand path, there is no turning back. He has accepted the responsibility, and he will have to go on with it--and if he tries to turn back, what happens is that he meets with nothing but suffering and disappointment in order to force him to return to the path. So, it is really a serious undertaking to enter upon this path, because he has to continue, and the gods will give him no rest if he runs away from it once he has really set his foot on it.
If he allows other people to influence him to abandon a worthy endeavour, he must blame only himself, only his own weakness, not them. If, too, he allows obstructive circumstance to influence him in the same way, he is again to blame. This fault is harder to see and to admit than the first one. But the Quest cannot be played with, nor undertaken only for his easier and more comfortable hours. It is a master to whom he has been indentured for lifelong obedience. It is a duty from which he must let nothing swerve him.
If the quest becomes too arduous he can always take a holiday. It would be foolish, in the end futile, to give it up altogether.
Hope is the instinctive turning of the flower to the sun. It bestows inspiring strength on the weak and gallant endurance on the sorrowful. It is a way up from flinty tracts to the level plateau where the worst troubles vanish. And those of us who have planted our feet on the grander path that shall lead one day to ultimate wisdom, have to go on--whether it be through sorrow or joy, weakness or strength, world-turmoil or world-peace. For us there is no turning back.
Once he has solemnly made this momentous decision and has reverently dedicated himself to the quest, he has to remain loyal to it under all the experiences of pleasure and pain, temptation and tribulation which will henceforth be brought to bear upon him. To desert the quest at any point will only delay his movement and increase his suffering, for he will find in the end that no other way is open to him except the way of repentance and return.
He is indeed free who, unpossessed by his own possessions, unswayed by his own family, undeflected by his own desires, remains ever loyal to the quest.
Once he has started on this quest in earnest, he will never be able to leave it again. He may try to do so for a time and to escape its claims but in the end he will fail. For some power which he cannot control will eventually and often abruptly emerge in the midst of his mental or emotional life and control him.
This quest is an irreversible journey. Once you have really started on it there is no turning back. You may believe that you have given it up in despair or turned away from it for a worldlier existence, but you are only fooling yourself. For one day either a deep repressed hunger will suddenly reassert itself or else a cataclysmic turn of events will drive you back to seek this last and enduring refuge of man.
Where is the truth to be found in all this bewildering array of doctrines, creeds, claims, systems, and beliefs? That is the reaction of many young aspirants toward a life higher than the materialistic one offered them by society today. Theirs is the choice: the responsibility cannot be evaded. There may be long mental struggle or easy swift emotional acceptance but the consequences belong to them. Through all these things they learn, develop, discover, and find their way in the end.