Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation homepage > Notebooks of Paul Brunton > Category 1: Overview of the Quest > Chapter 3: Independent Path
What am I? is such an ancient and perennial question only because it has to be answered by each individual for himself. If he finds the true answer, he will find also that he cannot really transfer it to another person but only its idea, its mental shadow. That too may be valuable to others, but it is not the same.
Surely the human race has by this time, by this late century in history found the truth? Why, then, does the man who wants it have to make his own personal search all over again? It is because he must know it for himself within himself.
It was Ramana Maharshi of Arunachala who said, "You yourself are your own guru. Be that."
He who seeks the truth about these matters will discover that it is contrary to current opinion, and therefore he will have to discover it by himself and for himself.
He should verify the truth not by reference to book or bible but by reference to his own private experience.
There is no room in this school for those who are ready to dispose of life's problems with secondhand judgement. The need of individual thinking is vital here.
Humanity will not be saved in groups or by organizations. It will be saved individual by individual.
The Quest begins with, and ends in, himself.
Being true to oneself brings happiness. Being indifferent to the criticisms of those who misunderstand brings freedom from anxiety on their account. Walking the streets in a spirit of independence, enables us to walk as a millionaire! Let others sacrifice themselves to snobbery, if they will; let us be free. Only when the feet rest can we bring the mind to rest--unless we are Attained Ones!
We can be devout and dignified but we need not therefore be dull. I do not deny that the drift of several movements which are in the world's eye today, is toward this idea of greater spirituality. But whereas they are confined in their search by attachment to a set creed, or a particular philosophy, or even some one person, we propose to pursue an absolutely independent quest--one limited in its width by no qualifications or conditions.
The individual need to escape from rigid formalism into intellectual freedom comes only to a minority. But it is from this minority that the real truth-seekers emerge.
Taking no theoretical position, not committed to any beliefs, not wearing any labels, not putting himself in any categories, the philosophical student starts his search for truth in intellectual freedom and ends it in personal inner freedom. He is then what he is.
The independent self-reliant attitude of Saint Paul set an example which, had it been followed by succeeding generations, might have changed the history of his religion. He refused money gifts and followed his craft of tent-making throughout his wide travels.
To become a follower of this quest there is no master or organization whose permission he must ask: he is free to do so just so far as his aspiration and capacity permit him to.
Without making any fuss and avoiding unnecessary friction, he may pursue his independent path and choose his own goals.
If a man cannot find in society or surroundings the standards which suit his character, then he must find his own. It is this that makes him a quester.
A man must stay in his own orbit and take his directives from within. If through fear of loneliness, intimidation, or suggestion, he joins the marching groups of his time, he will not reach his best.
Christianity, as it has become in its organized and institutionalized state, presents the good citizen as its model. Taoism, as it originally was, presented quite the opposite nonconforming citizen as its own model. So long as society is itself ignorant of where it is going wrong in its appraisal of the nature of man and mesmerized by institutional prestige while neglectful of inner light, so long ought its demand for conformity to be treated with cold reserve, asserted the Taoist sages.
So long as so many men live in error or compromise with wrong, merely because both have been established by tradition or custom, so long must a few among them do the greater and nobler thing by following a bold nonconformity.
Has he refused to submit to his own ego only to submit to society's? Shall he conform to the world and its ways out of fear of the world's opinion of him? Is he to have courage enough to reject his neighbour's religious ideas but not to resist his neighbour's foolish habits?
The average, the "normal," is not to be taken as the true standard.
He must walk at his own pace, not society's hasty trot. He must choose his own road, not the most trodden one. The way of life which his neighbours follow does not suit him, so he must alter it. He holds the desire to fashion himself creatively into something better than he is at present, something nobler, wiser, and more perceptive. But they hold no such desire, are content with static existence.
He must be willing and even determined to think and feel differently from those around him. How can it be otherwise when his goal is different from theirs, too?
So far as conformity connotes pretense and insincerity and timid blind imitation, he is not one to favour it; but so far as it connotes decency in behaviour, consideration for others, and experience-tested proven standards, he is for it.
So far as a convention is reasonable and helpful, he will respect it, but when it becomes a hollow formality or stuffy pomposity, he will not.
He must accept the fact that he is not, and does not want to be, like the majority of people.
The superior person always has a choice facing him: is he to live in the way others live in order to please them or is he to live in the way his own standards call for? If he lets them pull him down he loses what has taken him many, many years to develop. Somewhere at some point he must take his stand, must plant his feet and refuse to budge any farther.
The ideal world will be one in which the seeker can live without becoming worldly, where he can fulfil his social obligations without becoming a slave to social conventions.
The philosopher's brave defiance of stuffy herd thought has a positive spirit behind it and not a negative one.
When a man falls away from the false standards set by materialism, he falls into conflict with the crippling conventions of his time.
Whatever peculiarity he may have shown in the past he need not look like that today, need not wear bizarre dress or assume theatrical postures. His dress may be ordinary and inconspicuous, his behaviour normal, his demeanour simple. But one thing he may do and that is cultivate some individuality in his attitude toward life.
Most men live as prisoners of ideas which are not even their own but which have been suggested to them by other men. Independent thinking is rare.
Consciously or unwittingly, most of us are suggestible. We accept the thoughts which other persons want to put into our heads. And we do so to such an extent that we live vicariously: we do not really live our own lives. This is quite fitting and proper to the childhood and adolescent years, but how can it be worthy of the adult ones?
Where is the man who has his own self, and not one made for him by others? Heredity and environment, society and suggestion, convention and education heavily contribute to forming an "I" that is not his own "I," to making a pseudo-individual that is not himself but passes for it.
As he goes deeper and deeper into himself, his private acts become more and more independent of other people's suggestions and resistant to their influence.
The longer I live the more I am impressed, to the point even of awe, by the tremendous power of suggestion on the human mind. Where is the person who is able to cultivate his own intelligence without being conditioned by ideas and examples put into it by his environment or by his reading, by his religion or his family, by his social tradition, or by the personal fears and desires connected with others? It is others, whether of the long-dead past or of the living present who partly or wholly imprison him in their thoughts and imaginations, their conflicts.
An inner life not entirely directed by or dependent on another person is an adult one. No one is such who has to seek another's approval of his actions or shrinks from disapproval of them.
We do not have to accept all the burdens which others try to put upon our shoulders. We are free to choose and to be sure that we are not merely surrendering our own ego to the other person's.
Of what use is it to ask or accept the opinions of those who are inexpert in this subject because they have yet to study it thoroughly?
A truth which is born out of personal knowledge, or hammered out of personal experience, has more value for a man than other people's hearsay.
Whatever form his outer life may have to take under the pressure of destiny, he will keep his inner life inviolate.
He makes his own world-view rather than inherits it with his body, that is, he thinks for himself, without inherited bias and prejudice.
It is the individual who refuses to be cast in a mold who brings inspiration, inner contact with the divine, not the institution.
There are a few who rise above the crowd to this level by their own self-ennoblement and self-interiorization.
The philosopher is not discouraged because the number of those who adopt philosophical ideas is so small. He is not seeking the success of a movement, group, program, or sect. Even if he were the only man who held these ideas he would still not be discouraged. For he knows that he has not been put in the world to reform it but to reform himself.
It is not necessarily an unstable mind which pushes him from guru to guru, or from belief to belief, or from group to group. It may be that he is really seeking the one Truth and has not by his own standards found it in any of these yet.
It is sometimes beneficial to throw away the manuals of spirituality, the textbooks of holiness!
The seeker must be distinctive and not accept conventional views or orthodox religious notions. He must judge all problems from the philosophic standpoint for he should not believe any other will yield true conclusions. This standpoint has the eminent perspective which alone can afford a true estimate of what is involved in these problems.
We turn away from a teaching which does not satisfy our inmost spirit, which leaves our deepest thirst unslaked.
In this matter our wisest course is to follow the scientist's example and test the truth of these theories, either by ourselves carrying out experiments or by observing the experiences of other people.
One may complain about a sense of depression which comes to his mind after meeting with certain people. He should reduce such meetings to the least number possible, and where it is necessary to deal with them, to do so by correspondence as much as he can. It does not matter that such people may have spiritual interests and may also be on the Quest. The Quest is an individual matter; it is not a group Quest. One finds God by oneself, alone in the privacy of his heart and life, not with the help of a group nor in public associations.
Be yourself, your own divine self. Why play a part? Why be an echo? Why follow the world in its pursuit of the trivial, the stupid, the pain-bringing?>
He should not permit himself to be re-entangled by others in past contacts which have outserved their purpose and which now will only keep him down.
This freedom to search for and find truth as well as to select one's own path of approach toward it, is a precious prerogative.
He refuses to accept a label; he feels himself to be outside all the common categories.
The divergence of opinion among leading individuals on every subject is extraordinary and emphasizes once again the necessity of thinking for oneself.
Remember that custom and habit are the great tyrants who enslave the mass of mankind. Real freedom is possible only when one is true to one's own self. Do not permit yourself to be hypnotized by the common indifference to these high matters, but be loyal to the promptings of the spirit.
With this decree he runs up his personal declaration of independence. No school can hold him. His loyalty is henceforth given to global thought. Nor is this all.
The mystic life depends on no institution, no tradition, no sectarianism. It is an independent and individual existence.
Without falling into the vacuity of scepticism, the intelligent and independent seeker shuns dogmatic sectarian intellectual or emotional positions. But his openness of mind, his semi-detached stand, do not prevent his forming favourable appreciations or accommodating unflattering impressions.
It is only as he gets released from all the self-pictured, self-made, much-limited imaginations provided for him by ignorant but well-meaning men that he can begin to let in the grace-bestowed new understanding of the Overself.
As a man walks through life keeping a secret loyalty to his inner spiritual self, he is likely to make a few friends among those who are keen-sighted enough to perceive this loyalty, and a few enemies among others who misconstrue his actions and misunderstand his motives. And because he firmly believes in complete payment for all deeds by the Higher Powers set over mankind, he will remain indifferent without resentment and without hatred to the latter, while silently returning a benign love to his friends.
Mysticism is not concerned with those who depend on traditional forms of worship and current religious creeds for the satisfaction of all their inner needs. It is not for them and could do nothing for them. But those to whom such dependence is merely incidental or mostly provisional may find further nutriment in mystical teachings and practices.
Spiritual pride can take different forms. One of them is a studied intellectual independence, a refusal to be committed, the maintenance of a so-called open mind which never comes to a decision. Any good thing overdone becomes a bad thing and although independent judgement and thinking for oneself is necessary, if pushed to an extreme it merges into mere pride--egoistic pride.
Let others follow whatever path attracts them, but do not let them impose their path upon you if you do not feel any affinity with it.
The person, young or old, who has his mind set on higher things than pleasures of the moment and is willing to sacrifice a fragment of time, attention, and interest to such studies and such meditations, will find his refusal to conform to other people's ways is repaid in inner growth on the quest.
Attainment of sanctity must not be bought at the price of relinquishment of sanity.
No longer is he willing to accede to the world's demand for his loyalty, for his conformity, for his surrender. He is recovering his own individual identity and is determined to keep it.
The Real Self dwells above time and space, matter and form, inviolable in its perfect liberty. If that be the goal and ideal state, he must sooner or later make a beginning to come into closer relations to it and to grow by the radiance of its Light. Therefore he does no wrong in standing aloof from the confinements of discipleship to one particular man, and the restrictions of membership in one organized group.
If men would learn to accept the authority of the Voice of Inspiration whenever and wherever it spoke to them, they would not need to cramp and confine themselves within the narrowing walls of any sect or section, any cult or organization.
It is to the Overself that he must give his ultimate allegiance.
If his mind is filled with other people's teachings, it may give no attention to his own Overself's teachings, leadings, and intuitions.
There is a teaching principle in every man which can provide him with whatever spiritual knowledge he needs. But he must first take suitable measures to evoke it. These include cleansing of body and mind, aspiration of feeling and thought, silencing of intellect and ego.
As an expression of the divine life-power, he is unique. In the end, he will always have to take his guidance from within, that is to say, direct from that life-power which has made him what he is.
The independent seeker, uncommitted to any cult, may be a sheep without a fold but he is not necessarily without a shepherd. The inner voice can guide and care for him no less than a man in the flesh.
Those bewildered by the doctrinal differences between the established or traditional creeds, theologies, liturgies, and customs, yet still seeking some mental satisfaction, finding similar differences between the religious heresies, the non-established or modern cults, have a way out of their problem. This is to apply themselves to direct personal practices which can give them their own experience, their own teaching, from within. These standard practices include self-purification and meditation. For this inner work they do not have to join any group or organization, do not have to search for, follow, or cling to any guide. The god within them becomes, with faith, patience, persistence, and practice, the light on their path.
If he finds the same tenet in ten different religious creeds or metaphysical codes he is glad to get their repeated confirmation. But in the end he must get it for himself from within his own self--the Overself. It is the firmest base of life.
Although it is quite true that each quester must travel the path for himself, must move on his own two feet, this does not mean that he is travelling completely alone, or on his own. If he has no personal guide to accompany him, the Higher Self is still there, within him, pulling, drawing, leading, or pointing, if only he can learn how to recognize it.
He wants to be faithful to "the Glowing Light" within, as it has been called by Far Eastern mystics, not subjected to or obstructed by an outside authoritarianism.
If the Infinite Power is everywhere present, it can surely make itself known to its ardent seeker in any place, even though that place be bereft of masters.
He is original in the true sense of the word: he does not have to copy others, only to express his own individuality, mostly his higher individuality. He takes care to remain what he is or in Shakespeare's words to be true to himself, his higher self.
Insofar as he lets his happiness depend on another person and loses his independence, he becomes weakened. Even if the other gives him knowledge or love or support, he should still not cease to look within as deeply as he can for the idyllic Peace.
In the end a man must come to himself, his diviner self, his essential being. And where shall he look for it if not there where Jesus pointed, within? --not outside, not to some other man, however high his repute as guru, not to some book, however sacrosanct its scriptural authority. Both man and book must, if loyal to the highest, also direct him inward.
The Kingdom is within you, not somewhere else, not in an ashram, not even at the feet of a guru: Jesus' declaration is literally accurate.
The writer suggests that the individual seeker should take his own soul--his higher self--as his guide. By prayer and meditation, he may attain glimpses of it occasionally and receive the needed guidance. This is safer than tying himself to any institution or a so-called master. If he can put as much faith in the existence and power of his soul as most seekers put into their blind following of these masters, his efforts should prove sufficiently effective. (In this connection, the reader should read the last two pages of the first section of Chapter 15 in my book, The Wisdom of the Overself.)
Just as Emerson returned disappointed from his European search for a master, so George Fox returned from his British search. But just as Emerson came to understand that he would have therefore to find a higher self-reliance, so did Fox. "Then the Lord did let me see why there was none upon the earth that could speak to my condition, namely, that I might give Him all the glory," he wrote in his diary.
We regard Ralph Waldo Emerson as the perfect example of spiritual independence. He seems beholden to no man and draws all his light from within. How did he arrive at this condition? For in his early thirties, he wrote to his Aunt Mary, "A teacher . . . when will God send me one full of truth and of boundless benevolence?" This question was written soon after he came to Europe. There were four literary heroes across the Atlantic among whom he hoped to find his teacher. They were Carlyle, Landor, Coleridge, and Wordsworth. But when he met them in the flesh, Landor severely disappointed him. The Coleridge visit was "of no use beyond the satisfaction of my curiosity." Emerson's interview with Wordsworth was more successful but still so fruitless that he was glad to end it. The first glance at Carlyle made him believe that his search for a teacher was over, that here was his man. The actuality was that he found a lifelong friend, even a fellow-pilgrim and seeker. But he did not become a pupil. He had gone in search of a master. He failed to find one. Indeed he tells his aunt as much, that he seeks a man who is wise and true but that he never gets used to men. "They always awaken expectations in me which they always disappoint." He left Europe, writing in his journal on shipboard the melancholy after-reflection, "I shall judge more justly, less timidly, of wise men forevermore." And it was there, in his little cabin, that he received the illumination which he could not find in Europe. He need look outside himself no more. Out of his illumination, whilst still afloat on the ocean, he wrote down such sentences as these: "A man contains all that is needful within himself." "Nothing can be given to him or taken away from him but always there is a compensation." "The purpose of life seems to be to acquaint a man with himself."
His attraction toward this or that teacher may weaken and die but his attraction to the Inspirer of all teachers, the Overself, will keep on growing stronger in him.
He alone must answer this question, and he can best answer it by listening for and obeying that deep inner feeling which is called intuition.
The rarity of competent teachers in the world, and especially in the Western world, forces seekers to practise self-reliance and cultivate independence, unless they are willing to accept substitutes for competence or join organizations making unsubstantiated claims. The Overself will not neglect determined seekers and through circumstances, events, books, or otherwise gives them the particular guidance or instruction needed at a particular time.
The aspirant of today who is thoroughly discriminating will generally fail to find the support of a competent teacher. Usually he will have to depend on the inner Self alone.
He need not accept any human leadership if he will listen to the voice of the Silence and accept its invisible leadership.
What he learns from outside himself, from teacher or tradition, will never lead to his true fulfilment until he joins it with what he learns in the stillness from inside himself.
People tie themselves to some one man, living or dead, and worship him. Yet he is outside themselves, and the divine is within themselves. They contemplate his form, surrender to his personality, refuse to look within. As long as they do this, so long does the Consciousness elude them.
When a man recognizes that all he really needs comes to him from the higher self, and not from other men, and in the measure that he uses his own efforts to complete his development and so come closer in consciousness to that self, in that measure will he gain what he needs.
Books however sacred, ceremonies however impressive, lectures however learned, even Masters however wise are still only outer helps and as such must in the end be discarded.
Despite all the high idealistic talk of oneness, brotherhood and egolessness, each of us is still an individual, still has to dwell in a body of his own, to use a mind of his own and experience feelings of his own. To forget this is to practise self-deception. Each will come to God in the end but he will come as a purified transformed and utterly changed person, lived in and used by God as he himself will live in and be conscious of the presence of God.
His inner self has the capacity of making its own revelations to him. These got, he will find himself increasingly independent of those which come from outside, from the hearsay of other men or the writings of dogmatic traditions.
What a number of men and women can no longer get from church or temple, they must get from their own selves through mysticism.
He needs to realize that his greatest power will come to him through his own Overself and not through any other source, such as the overshadowing by spirits, and so on. Through this eventual realization, he will attain to greater progress and render much deeper service. Thus he will fulfil his own highest destiny.
Let him stand in his own place, and not seek to occupy that of another. Let him find a life that is real, and not copied. But such admonitions are good only so far as he has already come into communion with the Overself.
Ultimately, there is only one real Master for every spiritual seeker, and that is his own divine Overself. The human teacher may assist him to the extent of giving him a temporary emotional uplift or a temporary intellectual perception, but he cannot bestow permanent divine consciousness on another individual. All that the teacher can do is to point out the way through the labyrinth; the journey must be made by the seeker himself. For example, an individual living alone on a desert island could travel through all the stages of the Quest and attain the highest realization even though he had no visible teacher. The Overself will give him all the guidance and help he needs. However, he is likely to mistakenly believe that his own ego is making the progress.
All that he needs for the management of life can be had from within.
If a man is to remain forever the mere appendage of another man, if his mind is to echo back only that other man's idea, the question arises: When will he come to himself, his Atma? For is this not the final purpose of our life here? He who has reached this stage when he must cease being the shadow of others, will not fall into proud deceptive self-assertion if he humbly yields and follows the inner voice.
All efforts that take him outside of himself are only halting and temporary concessions to human weakness. The soul being inside of himself, he must in the end turn within.
Take truth where you find it
Welcome the truth on whatever horizon it appears, look for it in all four directions, and do not leave any of them unvisited. In short, do not become narrow-minded or fanatical.
Let him not be intimidated by history and believe that truth has appeared only in the past, or by geography and look for it only in an Oriental location.
In whatever place you find truth, with whatever name it may be labelled, take it.
In his endeavours after a better life, he should welcome the help that could come to him from every right source.
He should always be receptive to ideas and practices which might enrich those he already knows.
No single path will lead of itself to the full truth.
There is no one group which has captured the monopoly of truth, for its recognition is a universal experience. Let us refuse to listen to those who insist upon our travelling one way and one way alone.
Truth is not confined to any sect but fragments of it may be found scattered here and there.
We may learn from everything and everyone, from every event and happening something that is new or a confirmation of something that is old, something affirmative or something negative.
When a teacher of a teaching, a book, or a mystical exercise is itself being used as the indirect expression of the Overself's own movement to shed grace, then it is sheer blindness to denounce it as useless.
Why limit the help you are willing to receive to a single quarter? All men are your teachers. Truth, being infinite, has an infinite number of aspects. Each spiritual guide is inclined to emphasize some only and to neglect the others.
Inspiration has manifested itself in many lands and in different forms, through widely spaced centuries and various kinds of channels. Why limit culture to one contribution, one land, one form, one century, and one channel alone? This applies not only to intellectual and artistic culture, but also to its religious aspect. We may go even farther in this matter and apply the same idea to personal gurus. Must we always be moored to a single guru? Cannot we respect, appreciate, honour, venerate and receive light from other ones in addition?
During his Egyptian studies Pythagoras visited every man celebrated for wisdom, so eager was he to learn. He did not follow the Indian custom of sitting down only at one man's feet.
If he keeps his intellectual liberty, he is less likely to fall into narrow sectarianism. Today, as in ancient Alexandria, he can study the world's teachings, taking truth eclectically, but not making himself a disciple.
He must make a stubborn reservation of his ground and run the flag of independence in the quest of truth, of nonattachment in the relationship with the teachers of truth. He will humbly and gladly accept whatsoever good he can find in their teachings, but he will not do so under a contract of pledged discipleship. In this matter he must be eclectic, taking the best from every available source and not shutting out any source that has something worthwhile to offer. It may not be the way for most people, for they cannot walk alone, but it is the only way for him. Self-guidance also leads to the goal.
It is only through free, independent, truth-seeking research that there is any hope of success in this Quest for ultimate truth. Naturally each vested interest tries to limit the search to its own fold for obvious reasons, but he should refuse to limit his studies to any single school.
"Study everything but join nothing" is the best counsel. But alas! naïve enthusiasts seldom heed it.
Learn some of the basic truths each system contains without identifying with the system itself. Keep the mind open and free to acquire worthwhile ideas and practices from other cultures and avoid the closed-in sectarian attitude.
To become liberated from sectarian, conventional, and authoritarian narrowness is to regard every inspired book as a bible.
Such an isolated position, outside groups and without labels, offers this advantage, that he is able to take from all, to accept and reconcile fragments of widely different and apparently contradictory teachings.
Take whatever is of value to you personally, in your present mental condition, from all these teachings and discard the rest. This is the eclectic way, and better than the commoner one of entering a single doctrinal cage and staying there. Hesitate well before committing yourself to join this or that organization. Remember that there are more aspects to truth than one, and it may well be worth keeping yourself free to learn something of these others.
I have always recommended to those who feel strong enough to be able to do so, to refrain from joining any organization, to keep their freedom, while at the same time studying the doctrines of whatever organizations interest them, whatever religions engage some of their attention. This freedom enables them to look anywhere, to study everything, to question courageously, to keep breadth of view, depth of thought.
Only such independence can reach out to the new without losing what is worthwhile in the old; all others are committed, fettered, captive.
By remaining open to truths from different sources, and fitting them together like mosaics, we get eventually some sort of a pattern.
No man comes to the knowledge of his divinity through a crowd of other men. No human entity can discover its own relation to God through any group method. The way to spiritual awareness is entirely individual, essentially lonely, inescapably within oneself. That is to say, it is mystical. Insofar as religion succeeds in showing the way, it ceases to be religion and becomes, or rather, consummates itself in, mysticism.
Nothing is final and absolute. All is relative. Nobody need obey any mandate to bind himself forever to any single group of ideas, need follow any sectarian flag. If he is to surrender his allegiance at all, it can only be reasonably done to the perfect synthesis of all that is needed for human living in all its departments.
If the man of letters is to hear and pronounce the word of truth, he must be independent of groups, organizations, parties, and institutions. He must be at liberty to play with many different points of view without committing himself forever and finally to any of them.
They must try to work out interpretations of scripture and life for themselves, not remain tied to obligatory ones imposed from without. They must begin to stand on their own individual resources or they will never rise to the level of direct spiritual communion at all. The tendency to look to one man or one organization as the sole repository of spiritual wisdom may become dangerous to their further progress. In The Wisdom of the Overself it was mentioned that the currents of evolution and the circumstances of modernity have created new cultural values which in turn have lessened the need of such dependence. One proof of this assertion lies in the fact that the same line of change may be seen also in the social, political, and economic spheres.
To seek knowledge from unprejudiced sources is a rule hard to fulfil, because such sources are rare. The next best thing is to be an unprejudiced seeker, and this is the ideal I have tried to follow. Sectarianism is everywhere, because institutions and organizations are everywhere. There is a better chance for the truth seeker when flying the flag of independence.
There are those in India who have made a sect out of Vedanta, even of Advaita Vedanta. The intolerance, the fanaticism of the narrower groups and religions has been brought in here too. Let the Western student of philosophy who takes it seriously enough to think, breathe in remembrance, and live actively by it, be warned and stay free, unjoined, unlabelled, spacious in outlook, understandingly tolerant in practice.
"Study both sympathetically and critically the other contemporary mystical movements but do not join them." Such is my general answer to the seeker who questions me about them. He should certainly examine and study other teachings, not necessarily for his acceptance, but for his broadening. Be a good student, but a bad joiner! For he will find it difficult to recognize the lineaments of full perfection either in the teaching or the practice of any existing institution or movement. However, the danger here is that he may overconcentrate on their study or practice, elevate side-routes into the main one, and finally get so absorbed in them as temporarily to abandon the original quest altogether. So there are certain reservations in my advice, a certain watchfulness is needed during such studies. He should take care to be only an enquirer into these cults and not a follower of them. He should be first, a sympathetic enquirer and then only exercise the philosophical right of severely critical examination. In the end, every aspirant must find his "own." "The path of another is dangerous," says the Bhagavad Gita. Unless a spiritual teaching has enough inspiration behind it to help him successfully tackle his gravest personal problems, it is not the right one--however much it may be so to others. For he needs grace, and does not call in vain.
With so many cults, creeds, religions, sects, and societies claiming that their teaching is the only true one or that their path is the only path to salvation, the seeker will either get bewildered or be forced to do the right thing--which is to exercise his own independent judgement and not to accept any claim on its mere face value.
Whoever loves truth in its fullness cannot put on the chains of a partisanship and stay confined in a church, a temple, a mosque, a synagogue, a "school of thought," a theism, or an atheism. Therefore he cannot become an adherent to any one belief only, a convert to any one religion, a member of any one group, or a follower of any one man but must remain an independent, that is to say, a philosopher (philo=liker or lover, sophia=wisdom). He sees that all doctrines, all ways of belief and thought are steps on the way, satisfy some need of some persons, and hence are of service at some time. But he sees not only that truth's fullness is allied to his own freedom: it is also allied to namelessness.
The fellowship of philosophy requires no ritual, no immersion, no dogmatic confession, no creedal test. It is free and non-sectarian. It shuts no one in, no one out.
Philosophy is for the free mind, willing to live without organizational bondage, and understanding that what it seeks must be found and grasped for itself.
Since the real essence of philosophy has only an inner content, which must be felt intuitively and grasped intellectually, but no outer form, it cannot become material for a cult, an organized group. It must lead each person on his own individual way, letting him grow naturally from within. His quest will then take the independent course proper for him, not made to conform to one suitable only to others.
He who can commune with his soul by himself does not need a church, a labelled religion. Society has no right to impose it on him. In their naïve adolescent gropings, the young who discard their traditional form of religion, feel something of this truth.
How can he who loves the Spirit, who feels Its goodwill which excludes nothing, associate himself with an enclosed group or community which excludes everyone who is not an adherent of its particular faith?
The refusal to join any ecclesiastical church or religious society does not leave a man spiritually homeless. If he faithfully exercises himself in meditation and seeks to practise the presence of God, what better "home" could he have?
There is an independence which gives a man special strength for it allows him to possess complete purity of motive. It does not come easily, for he has to stay clear of all attempts to organize the truth, of all orthodoxies, groups, factions, parties, and sects which claim to be united with it. He may align himself with none of those. Therefore he can take up no defined position, no particular program. Is he then a neutral? No and yes. Is he an individualist? Yes and no.
Only this total independence of all cults, creeds, groups, and organizations can enable him to find the facts as they are, rather than imaginary pictures of the facts.
If the independence of the philosophic position stops him from speaking for any particular established religion or mystical cult, it allows him to view all religions and all cults with fairness and detachment.
It is to be found in the privacy of your own mind: no cult, group, or church will provide it.
Philosophy stresses the need of development's being individual. Students of other teachings may grow in groups, but not students of philosophy.
It is not an essential part of the outer conditions of his life that he should subscribe to any particular institution or organization, but if he is led to do so that will be acceptable also if it is an honourable one.
Mind in its ultimate condition is free and infinite. We, as humans, are at the very beginning of its discovery. Let us not set up false steps to our journey or ignorantly put up fences to block our view. Let us avoid the ill-informed littleness of sectarianism, the common eagerness to huddle under a label.
For several reasons he is not a joiner. Most sects have only partial and limited views, most mix some error with their truth, and most develop ugly dogmatic tyrannies. Furthermore, their adherents, believing that they alone possess the truth, generally exclude all others from the warmer temperatures of their goodwill--if they do not openly dislike them. But the largest reason for his refusal is that the Overself is unlimited, unconfined; he wants to express this freedom.
The orthodox way of looking at these questions will no longer serve. A new way is needed. The right answers will be found only if we reorient our thinking and free it from the dogmas of established institutions.
He is not a joiner because of several reasons: one of them is that joiners are too often too one-sided in approach, too limited in outlook, too exclusive to let truth in when it happens to appear in a sect different from his own. Another reason is that too frequently there is a tyranny from above, imitated by followers, which forbids any independent thought and does not tolerate any real search.
Man's search for truth cannot be properly carried on unless he has full freedom in it. Where is the religious or religio-mystical institution which is willing to grant that to him? Is there a single one which lets him start out without being hampered by authoritarian dogmas, taboos, limitations, and traditions which it would impose upon him?
Lectures, societies, and group-movements are of limited value: they can never replace nor achieve what is gained by one's own individual efforts made in the right way.
The seeker after truth will not find his way easy to travel. He may find that an institution, an authority, or an organization is suffocating him mentally or oppressing him emotionally. This may be the hour when he must claim his freedom.
It is illusory to believe that, by blindly handing or humbly submitting his character and credo, his standards and values, his spiritual purposes and practices, to any organized group or established church, to a teacher, guide, or guru, to form and formulate, a man can evade the responsibility of judging them for himself, accepting or rejecting by himself. It is required of every fully human being that he be individual, not a parasite, and that he be himself, not someone else.
The prestige of institutional mysticism, like that of official religion, mesmerizes nearly everyone interested in the subject. The independent mystic, who refuses all affiliation with any sect, school, ashram, monastery, group, or society, is suspect and finds himself left almost in isolation. But although this may seem unfortunate, it is so only in some ways. In other ways, it leaves him entirely free from the bonds of dogma, free to remain faithful to truth irrespective of all other considerations, free to speak in a voice whose authority comes not from worldly power but from spiritual status.
He should not change his chains by going from one master or one sect to another. Rather should he drop all chains.
He is entitled to be set free from his former dependence on the church so that he may live his own individual inner life.
How can he bring himself to join any group, cult, or sect when he believes all of them to be right, only some are more right than others, and all of them to be wrong, only some are more wrong than others? There is not one whose limitations he does not see. He prefers the truthfulness of being uncommitted to any "ism," and the freedom of being unjoined to any group.
He is not likely to be a member of any organized movement because his mind is too large to be exclusive. He is outside all organized groups because, in spirit, he is inside all of them.
Far from the din and disparagements of jarring sects, he lives unlabelled and free.
He belongs to no particular named, classified, and indoctrinated group, and this keeps his own freedom while excluding none from his general goodwill. At the same time he stays open to truth and avoids the closed mind, fixed only on its own dogmas opinions and beliefs.
The only group he is likely to be a member of is the human race!
He is unwilling to be tied to any sect or coterie, established orthodoxy or organizational unorthodoxy. He may even refuse to fit into any of the accepted patterns. He has to follow a light of his own. Such an anarchistic attitude is likely to provoke hostility and create detractors.
I have an Emersonian love of spiritual freedom and intellectual independence, a Krishnamurtian urge to keep away from all restrictive, limiting, and narrowing groups, organizations, and institutions. I have seen so many lost to the cause of Truth by such constrictions of the mind and heart, so much of its good undone by this harm, that I shrink from the idea of becoming tagged as some one man's disciple or as a member of some ashram, society, or church. If this man has found the Right, why not let his natural expression of it--whether in writing, art, or life--be enough? Why create a myth around him, to befog others and falsify the goal? Why not let well alone?
Having no official connection with any group, sect, organization, or church leaves me free to help anyone, anywhere.
A strongly individualistic temperament cannot be at ease in the collective membership of an organization where dogmas are set up like fences and where patriotism rejects salvation for those outside. Such a temperament needs the free air of unfettered thinking and uncircumscribed goodwill. It can sympathize intellectually with many different points of view without losing itself in any one of them, but it can do so only because it belongs to none.
The routine devotions of an institution do not appeal to this type of temperament--sensitive, moody, and independent as it is.
The man who has seen the light and experienced its warmth will prefer his own way of living if it is the consequence of his awakening.
His mind is bound by no religious dogmas, his conduct by no prohibitions or commandments. But this does not mean he is free to do what he pleases.
One man and one God are all the organization needed. More is a superfluity. The seeker who cherishes his independent path and individual thought cannot comfortably fit into a group where all alike must be pressed into the same shape.
It seems historically inevitable that every spiritual movement should sooner or later become organized and institutionalized. In that way it reflects the need and serves the tendency of average human nature. But where a person is not average and refuses to be taken up into it by that means, preferring to keep his independence and his allegiance, he is just as much entitled to do so.
Those who feel tempted to do so, may study the public cults and listen to the public teachers but it would be imprudent to join any of the first or follow any of the second. It would be wiser to remain free and independent or they may be led astray from the philosophical path.
By rejecting the easy way of joining a particular sect, a labelled group, he rejects at the same time the withdrawal of sympathy or understanding from all other groups which usually or often accompanies the joining. If the universal character of truth requires him to keep his mind uncorralled, the personal need of strength confirms the requirement.
Pros & cons of independence
The follower of a labelled cause, movement, or party tends to become unfair to competing causes, exaggerating their weak points but minimizing or even shutting his eyes to those of his own. He who refuses to attach himself but remains independent is more likely to judge without prejudice and after genuine investigation of both sides.
The advantages of being in a position of intellectual and social, religious and personal independence are several. The chance of finding truth and, if luckily found, of expressing it, is surely larger.
If he has to analyse problems for himself and has no one else to do it for him, the endeavour may help him to learn discrimination and good judgement.
If his understanding of this teaching delivers him from excessive dependence on another man or on external methods, it will clear his path and help his self-reliance. But if it outruns itself and makes him cocksure, proud, arrogant, and irreverent towards the masters, then it has degenerated into misunderstanding. This will block his path.
It is better to make one's own decisions independently. This is not the case, however, if one feels too incapable of thinking out an issue, or too ill-informed about it, or too vacillating to make up one's mind on its pros and cons.
A man can achieve his independence by grades without rebellion but he is seldom so wise as to do so. More often, he lacks patience, takes the more foolish violent way, and attains his freedom at a cost, to himself and to others, that could have been much less for the same result by evolutionary ways.
The passionate contempt for organized authority, or its complete rejection, may be only a cover for weakness: the inability to undergo a course of discipline, much less undertake it for oneself.
The danger of walking alone is also the danger of identifying his own private judgements, impulses, desires, and thoughts as intuitions from the higher self.
But independence of mind has its own perils, for it may lead to stubbornness in error, to arrogance in behaviour, and to fanaticism in attitude.
He who depends upon his own personal intellect and personal strength alone, deprives himself of the protection which a higher power could give him.
The endeavour after independence can achieve only a partial success, never a total one. We find that we are tied to other people.
As much as anything else, one needs personal freedom in this search after truth. Every form of interference and obstruction comes from sources which have acquired only a partial or false insight into truth. But such freedom is permitted only insofar as one is good enough, wise enough, balanced enough, judicious enough, and discriminating enough to use it properly. Otherwise it leads to non-truth and self-deception.
He must learn to think for himself and to practise discrimination for himself, if he wants to find his way to truth.
If a seeker finds no one in his surroundings, contacts, or society near enough to his level of spiritual interests, then he must accept his loneliness, because he has chosen to draw away from the common preoccupation. For in order to be a working philosopher, a man must go his own way. This demand for individuality requires courage and wisdom. If he lacks higher knowledge, intuitional feeling, and intellect--whose combination is wisdom--then he must seek to develop them and this demands work. Meanwhile, he can take help from personal guides and superior books. Without wisdom, or at least genuine efforts to work towards it, his course could be wrongly set and he could arrive at disaster.
To withdraw from sectarian community life and walk alone requires qualities that only few possess. There is security, comfort, moral and worldly support in it. To be able to abandon these things a man must have a strong inner urge as well as a continuous clear perception of philosophy's meaning.
The weakling cannot walk this path. A man needs strength to follow out what his deep intuition tells him to do, especially where it departs from the allegedly rational or the socially conventional. If his guided attitude or action meets with criticism or opposition, what is that to him? He is not answerable for what other people think about him. That is their responsibility. He is answerable only for what he himself thinks and does.
Only the man who has a passion to acquire the certainty of truth, who has the courage to hold unorthodox views and come to independent conclusions, who lives in an atmosphere of original thought, and to whom the charge of heresy is no charge at all, is at all likely to find his way to the truth.
Their duty is to act as pioneers; but if they are to be successful pioneers, they will need courage to forget outworn ideas and to free themselves from dying traditions so as to cope with the new conditions which are arising. In this connection, the suggestion that it is also a duty to co-operate with existing spiritual movements would be acceptable if it were practicable; but experience will show that most of these movements are unable to enter that deep union of hearts which alone can guarantee success to any external union. Such a plan would end in failure and it is better for them to pursue their own independent course than waste time and force in attempting what would not succeed and is not really needed.
The freedom to command one's life in one's own way can be got only by first getting the fearlessness to disregard the criticism and to ignore the expectations of other people.
He who would follow an independent path must, to some extent, be fearless. He must refuse to be intimidated by the power, prestige, claims, or size of established organizations, just as he must refuse to be deluded by the idealizations of themselves which they hold before the public.
Few people know what a free existence really is; most people live caged in by fear of, or enslavement to, the opinion of others. Even the rich do not know it for their cages are gilt and comfortable. Even the spiritual do not know it for they merely echo back what these others want them to think about God. Complete freedom is possible only to those who have a special character, one that is devoid of tyrannizing ambitions and despotic cravings, and even of unworldly strivings.
Such is the strange paradox of the quest that on the one hand he must foster determined self-reliance but on the other yield to a feeling of utter dependence on the higher powers.
Those who are self-sufficient and prefer to learn and develop by themselves, are those who especially need to practise this inward listening and waiting.
What we mean is that modern man has to become more self-reliant, has to throw off the remnants of tribal consciousness which still rule him, has to learn to think for himself.
But if he must stand aloof to live his own way, with his own free thoughts, it remains a benevolent, amiable independence. He wishes all beings well while knowing they receive, suffer, or enjoy the results of their own physical, emotional, or mental action.
His desire to express individual views, character, and personality must be respected so long as he does not try to impose them aggressively or tyrannically on others.
It is not necessary to be surly and irritable in order to be an individualist. One can still be affable, genial, civil, and courteous--even radiant with goodwill. It is all a matter of inner equilibrium.
He must refuse to violate his intellectual integrity or sacrifice his spiritual independence.
If he is unable to continue in this quest without the association, encouragement, or sympathies of others who are also following it, then he had better not enter it at all, for quite obviously he is not ready for it nor sufficiently appreciative of its values.
If "being different" is an honest result of the search for higher truth, it must be acceptable. But when it is merely a disguised egocentric exhibitionism, it becomes reprehensible.
He must try to keep his life in his own hands if he would keep it free from influences that would take away the ideals which he has specifically set up for it to follow. If he values freedom, he must refuse to put himself in a position where he will be compelled to echo the views of those who do not share his ideas. He may have to choose between the trials of sturdy independence and the temptations of enervating security.
It does not ask him to make harsh sacrifices but it does ask him to make reasonable ones. If they seem harsh to him that is only because he has been kept until then in a state of so-called normality by the powerful suggestions of organized society. This normality is merely the pooling of common ignorance and the sharing of common weakness.
If the mind is to engage with success in the quest for truth, it must first be unfettered and then unprejudiced.
He has to pick his way through mistaken teachings, among provisional standpoints, and between ambitious gurus.
To venture so far afield from the common way and yet keep quite sane and practical, and not become a human oddity, a social freak, is something indeed.
It requires moral strength or mental power to refuse the gregarious support of the crowd--be it sectarian church, a mystical group, or some other combination. It requires faith in oneself and the courage to resist the pull of others and be an individual.
The self-sufficiency of his ideal, its remoteness from popular ways, may be boldly and openly expressed in action or kept as an interior and hidden thing. For most the first may prove to be an imprudent course but for others it may be a necessity.
Mentally he cannot fit himself into any of the accepted categories which the society of his place and time provide, so an independent and solitary path attracts him. Physically, he may have to make an uneasy compromise with society, with the result that both benefit by their mutual services. Thus without doing violence to his chief principles he yet finds a way to live among those who have no use for them.
Before anyone can carry out an independent investigation of truth, he must first possess the capacity to do so. To develop this capacity where it is lacking, the philosophic discipline is prescribed.
He is not prepared to relinquish individual expression, however much he is only too understanding of the need to relinquish the ego's dominance--which is not the same thing.
It is what he expects from himself that will be more effective than what someone else expects from him. Rules and regulations thrust upon him from outside which he is unwilling or unable to enforce will be of much less use.
Is monastic discipline needed?
The way to full realization of the Overself may lie through a monastery or a nunnery for one person and through a family home or a career in the world for another. If any man asserts that it must lie solely through a particular one of these two, he is mistaken. If he insists on forcing this idea on all aspirants, he is sinning. If he claims illumination as authority, it could be only a partial, limited, and incomplete illumination.
Whether a man stays within the household and secular society or whether he enters the monastic and ascetic one, his enlightenment is neither guaranteed by the second choice nor blocked by the first one. The god within him is his secret watcher, be he layman or hermit. He can defile or purify himself in either state, grasp the truth or miss the point whether active in the world (as most of us have to be) or enclosed in a religious order, ashram, or temple.
The notion that a man who marries, has children, lives across the same road, and catches the commuter's train is unfit to receive the grace of God, whereas a man who wears a priest's dress or a monk's robe is alone fit, is one of those ideas sedulously fostered by priests and monks themselves. The fact is that grace is no respecter of clothes, status, or social activities; that it happens to alight on those whose hearts and minds seek it most, and in the right way; that today Christ is militant, is working inside man wherever he may be and whatever garments he wears and however he chooses to pay his debt to society; and that His true followers are not easily distinguishable by any outer labels, but are easily measurable by their own conscience, in their degree of consciousness. They are not professional exhibitionists eager to display their spirituality, to talk about it and impress others with it. They may be passive in a monastery or active in an office--that is not the point. What is going on inside them?
There is no special superiority in either of the two conditions of life--the monastic or the householding. Whoever praises the monk's state as being the highest open to human beings, errs. Whoever praises the householder's as being the best, also errs. What can rightly be said is that for certain persons at certain times and under certain circumstances, one or the other state is better. For the same persons at different times and in different circumstances either may be worse. So it is the setting up of universality, the claiming that one alone is the most spiritual or the most satisfactory ideal, which is wrong.
Each must find the way uniquely ordained for him, and not passively, imitatively, accept the way ordained for another man. Although it is true that some have realized the goal while living a normal life in the world, married and active, others have been able to do so only while freed from the world's ways. It is therefore essential for him to be himself, an individual, and let his own inner voice guide him to the particular path suited to his destiny.
To the householder taking on a family life is a joy; to the monk it is an encumbrance. Neither man is wrong. It is all in the point of view. Each has inherited his own attitude from his former selves.
He need not abandon the householder's life unless the divine command tells him to do so.
They are not necessarily strong and heroic who stay in the world and disdain flight from it. It may be that pleasures and possessions keep them there. Equally, those who have nothing worth renouncing--the poor, the unlucky, the disappointed, and the frail--make no sacrifice in passing to the cloister's shelter, the monastery's peace.
There are those who flee the world, its futile tumults and doings; they do well. But we who hold to philosophy may flee or stay, just as we choose. For we can make of it a pathway to the Ever-Peaceful.
The man of independent temperament cannot fit easily into monastic existence with its formal patterns and clock-timed bell-signalled regularity.
If the book Mahatma Letters says that a married man cannot become an adept then the author of it must be thinking of a special kind of adeptship belonging to his own particular school of thought and training which is, as a matter of fact, a school for monks only. But this school is not the only one which is able to find truth. There are others and they are intended not for monks but for people who have to live in the world and earn their livings and live the family life. The real celibacy is in the heart and mind and has nothing to do with external social customs like ascetic monasticism.
The solution of the world's problems does not lie in renouncing the worldly life itself. If every man became a monk and every woman a nun, they would merely exchange one set of problems--worldly ones--for another set--monastical ones. It is probably correct to say that the first kind are harsher and grimmer than the second kind. But whatever type of life is adopted, problems will inescapably be there.
Whether the ideal is a hermit's existence or a householder's the same qualities have to be developed.
"If this doctrine should be attainable only for Lord Gautama and the monks and nuns, but not for his male and female adherents living the household life, then this holy life would be incomplete, just because of this. But because this doctrine may be attained by the Lord Gautama and the monks and nuns, as well as by the male and female adherents living the household life, therefore this holy life is perfect, just because of this."--Buddha, in Majjhima Nikaya
When Subba consulted Buddha about the question of renouncing the world, Buddha frankly admitted that he had no basis for judging that every hermit was ethically or intellectually superior to every householder, or vice versa. Therefore, he concluded, each man, whether he be monastic, recluse, or worldly householder, could best be judged only on his individual merits. Buddha's general and most reiterated reason for asking his followers to become monks was, as he has here confessed, not because their way of life was spiritually superior but because, in his own words: "Painful is the life of a householder and free is the life of renunciation." This is not an ethical reason, therefore, but a purely practical one. He recommended external renunciation because it relieved a man of domestic troubles and family burdens; it was a rule of expediency rather than an absolute principle of spiritual method.
I was glad to find these ideas confirmed by a great yogi and sage of Bengal, Paramahamsa Narayana Tirtha Dev, so that it cannot be said they are Western notions grafted on Indian trees. The yogi, who was the head of a secret fraternity with more than a thousand members living near the Assam frontier, was dead before I came to know him, but to glean more details of his techniques and doctrines I made a special journey to the group of intimate disciples who survived him. He said, "In the coming nation, there will be no place for Sannyase. To realize the Self through the householder's life shall be the grand ideal of the future of the world. It is not by giving up all, but by realizing the Self in all, that one has to realize the object of the world-evolution and be free. The path is not through negation of the Universe to the affirmation of the Supreme Self, but through affirmation of the Supreme Self to the mergence of the Universe in the Supreme Self. The mission this time is educational and not religious. Spread education in the name of the Highest Truth enshrined in the Upanishads and religions will grow of themselves on the sure foundation of the Highest Truth."
The belief is that in the world a man's activities are usually, and mostly, devoted to the benefit of himself and the sustenance of his family, whereas in the monastery they are devoted to seeking God. But this is theory. I once heard Ramana Maharshi rebuke those who were sitting in the Ashram Hall. "Some of you are really householders wearing the sadhu's robe, while some of the householders living in the world are really sadhus!" he said.
Must a man take formal vows in order to discipline himself? Can he not be loyal to his ideal, which in the end is self-chosen or he would not have turned his back upon the world, without making promises and uttering pledges which it may not be possible to redeem? Are the tonsured head and the coarse robe essential to ensure the practice of self-control in act and thought? If he is to persevere in the purification of character, is it not enough that he himself wants it?
If he chooses to do so, he is free to live in the normal human relationships, to follow a career in the world, to marry and beget children. Of course this will necessarily entail certain disciplinary conditions. But he will not be obliged to flee from all possessions into jungles, monasteries, or the like.
Whether he be outside in the world or inside in the cloister is not so important to a man as whether his thoughts and feelings, his character and consciousness have right direction. Either of these environments may be a hindrance or a help to his spiritual aspirations, depending on its particular nature. Yes, even the world may be a means of advancement if he uses it for this specific purpose.
It is less important whether or not we live under monastic rules than whether we live faithfully in the purpose which prompted those rules to be formulated. The purification of the mind may be accomplished at home or it may be accomplished in an ashram-monastery. Do not be carried away from truth by the bigots who denounce the one or the other place!
The monks who have stepped out of the world may have stepped into a vocation which is proper and good for them, but it is not necessary and not right to suggest that everyone else should do so. First of all, everyone else could not do so.
It is not a matter so much of staying with the worldlings and doing their work nor of fleeing to the monks and following their disciplines, as of comprehending the mentalist secret and of keeping an inner detachment.
Detachment from the world is an absolute necessity for the man who seeks authentic inner peace, and not its imagined counterfeit. But renouncement of the world is not necessary to any except those who have an inborn natural vocation for the monkish life.
It is immeasurably more important to have inner detachment than to wear a monk's robe.
We ought not, in our appreciation of a spiritualized worldly life, minify the value of a monastic life. Let us not forget that the man who becomes a monk to the extent that he sincerely and understandingly embraces the new ideal, exhibits admirable qualities. In taking the vow of poverty he shows forth his tremendous faith, for he will rely upon the infinite life-power to sustain him henceforth. In taking the vow of obedience, he shows forth his great humility, for he confesses that he is unable to guide his own life and thought wisely, but will take his guidance henceforth from those who stand nearest to God. In taking the vow of celibacy he makes a magnificent gesture of defiance to his own lower nature, against which he will henceforth fight and to which he will not willingly succumb.
He need wear no distinctive robe nor display a tonsured head. He need pursue no special tradition, enter no monastic establishment, nor cut himself off from ordinary life. That he is a philosopher is not to be advertised by such outward signs. Yet if he feels a personal vocation to follow these customs, he is also free to do so. It is simply that there is no necessity in the general sense.
Asiatic mysticism has been well nigh suffocated under the weight of monkish traditions which have accumulated around it. The consequence is that the present-day student who lacks the spirit of critical research, will not know where the philosophy begins and where the monkishness ends. If we study the available texts today without the expository guidance of a competent personal teacher, we shall almost certainly fall into a number of errors. Some of these are merely contributory towards a superficial understanding of the texts and no harm is really done but one of them is crucial and much harm may then be done. For it must be remembered that in the days before the art of writing was widely used almost all the earliest texts were handed down from generation to generation by word of mouth alone. This entailed wonderful feats of memory which we must admire but it also entailed the possibility of conscious or unconscious alteration of the texts themselves, against which we must guard ourselves. It must also be remembered that the texts were customarily in the possession of a segregated class of men, either priests or monks or both types united in the same man. Quite humanly, too, new passages which praised their own class and idealized their mode of living were slowly if surreptitiously introduced into these same texts. It may be said that an honest man would not do this but it must be replied that an honest yet well-meaning man may do it. Anyone who really knows the East knows that this has demonstrably happened right through its history even until our own era. Whether it happened or not, however, one thing was psychologically unavoidable. This was the interpretation of passages, phrases, or single words according to the unconscious complexes governing the minds and controlling the characters of those who preserved and passed down the texts. It is perfectly natural, therefore, to expect to find that sacerdotal and monastic interests, characteristics, and practices are idealized whereas the interests, characteristics, and practices of all other classes are minimized and criticized. This indeed is what we do find to be the case. The inevitable consequence is that words which bore one meaning when they were uttered by the original author came bit by bit to receive a modified or altogether different meaning when they had passed through the mouths and pens of monks and priests. Our semantic study alone would indicate such a historic probability. The result for us who live today is somewhat unfortunate. For we learn from the text that if we would live a higher life, if we would pursue the quest of the Overself, we must put away our duties, cast aside our responsibilities, and deny our physical natures. We must discourage interest in the improvement of this world or the betterment of mankind's miserable lot. We must flee from society and hide in retreats with other escapists. We must regard the world as a trap cunningly invented by Satan for our downfall and the body as a tomb dug for our divine soul. Whoever refuses to accept the path outlined by monkish and sacerdotal editorial interference is shamed by having the very word-meanings or passage-quotations born of such interference hurled at him in proof of his error! The divine quest, which was originally intended for the study and practice of mankind generally--so far as their worldly status, class, or profession be--has now become something intended for the study and practice of monks and ascetics only. Men obsessed by a persistent complex which made them fuss anxiously over their bodily life to the detriment of their mental life; men who failed to perceive that the real battlefield of human life is internal and not external; men who could not comprehend the unity of Spirit and matter; men, in short, who had yet to realize that they were virtuous or sinful primarily as their thoughts were virtuous and sinful--these are set up today as the arbiters of how we twentieth-century persons shall live in a world whose circumstances and systems are beyond their own narrow imaginations. The quest indeed has been turned into something impossibly remote from us, something only to be talked about at tea-tables because we cannot implement it. Such a situation is unacceptable to the philosophic student. Better ostracism, abuse, slander, and misunderstanding than this.
No church, no monastery, no ashram can shut in the divine life behind its walls. THAT is for all.
Why put on the robe of the monk, and
live aloof from the world in lonely pride?
Behold! my heart dances in the delight of a
hundred arts; and the Creator is well pleased.
The point is that holiness is not necessarily limited to hermits and monks: it may also belong to householders. Whether it be the Long or the Short Path, both may be practised in the daily routine of life.
Independence and teachers
There is sometimes conflict between submission to authority and obedience to conscience.
Those who can only advance by hanging on to a teacher make only a pseudo-advance and one day their house of cards will come tumbling about their ears. But it is equally true that those who can only progress by dispensing with a teacher, progress farther into the morass of ignorance. He alone who can take a teacher's guidance in a free spirit; who comprehends that while the teacher points out a path, it is for him to strive, toil, and adventure forth; such a man will derive much from his discipleship.
When he finds that he can go no farther by himself, the time has come to look within for more grace or to look without for more guidance. He needs the one to get away from his own selfishness or the other to get away from his own darkness.
The problem is to take advantage of outside help and yet leave the student individually free. Its solution is simple. He can get this help through books written by seers, sages, and philosophers.
To rely wholly on oneself is not so wise as to rely both on oneself and on the teachings of illumined men. Such teachings exist in abundance in the whole world's great literature--sacred, philosophical, and ethical.
One of the most valuable philosophic character qualities is balance. Therefore the student should not be willing to submit himself to complete authoritarianism and thus sacrifice his capacity for independent thinking, nor on the other hand should he be willing to throw away all the fruits of other men's thought and experience and dispense with the services of a guide altogether. He should hold a wise balance between these two extremes.
I will humbly bow before the revelation of a superior truth and submissively study his teaching, but I will not regard that as sufficient reason to abandon the free, full, and autonomous growth which I am making. For only if such growth remains as natural as a flower's and is not artificially shaped by another man, can I fulfil the true law of my being.
But parallel with this practice of self-reliance and this assumption of self-responsibility we may receive the help of a more advanced person if it is available to us. It should of course be received only if it leaves our freedom untouched and only if it is competent. Thus we do not take advantage of such help to sink into lazy forgetfulness of the work that must be done upon and by ourselves.
Authority and individuality need not contend with one another in a man's mind.
It makes man responsible for his own life while duly honouring the helps and influences outside him. He must rely on the force of his aspiration and devotion, work and discipline instead of leaning on guru or avatar or turning primarily to dry academic scholarship and depending on book learning for final judgements. The master is not rejected but then he is not given the place of God.
I deeply admire the genius and humbly respect the attainment of each guru, but do not feel that it is proper to let him, or any other man I so far know, have a controlling influence over me.
When it is hard to form a correct judgement by oneself, the wisdom of consulting another person becomes obvious. But if one consults the wrong person, one gets wrong advice. His conviction that he knows what is right does not make it necessarily so. One is unable to escape from the need of judging the other's advice. So in the end one has to practise some degree of self-reliance.
The duty of the aspirant to cultivate his moral character and to accept personal responsibility for his inner life cannot be evaded by giving allegiance to any spiritual authority.
Be a disciple if you must but do not be a sectarian disciple. Keep away from such narrow alleys.
Both an inspired church and a qualified master have their place but it is only a limited one. Beyond those limits, nothing outside his divine soul can really help the spiritual seeker. For its grace alone saves and enlightens him. The religious man who depends on a church for his salvation thereby delays it. The mystical aspirant who depends on a master for his self-realization also delays it. He will have to learn to rely less and less upon other people for his spiritual and worldly advancement, more and more upon his inner self.
It is well to seek and accept guidance. The error and exaggeration creep in when you become too concentrated on a single source of guidance.
He is perfectly entitled to clear his own pathway to the Spirit for himself, and without the help of any contemporary, any neighbour, or any leader who lived in the past centuries. But will this independence and this isolation be a gain or a loss? The answer must always be an individual one: it cannot always be one or the other alone. It depends on what sort of a man he is, what sort of teaching and what sort of teacher he has access to.
The young want and ought to have gurus and doctrines. The adult should learn to discriminate for themselves, collect their own doctrines from a wide field, and become their own teachers. But in this matter of understanding life, one does not become adult and acquire a sense of responsibility precisely at twenty-one.
There is room in life for the element of revelation equally as for that of realization. Guidance or instruction from another person is not to be rejected merely because it is external, but only if it emanated from a dubious source. If an aspirant is going to ignore all the signposts, he will wander around for a very long time before he gets started on the right road.
Not knowing where to find the right path, he may easily enter by mistake on the wrong path. Indeed, he may take several false steps before he reaches surety or, more often, some right ones mixed up with some wrong steps. And not having the strength for the true ideals, he may slip many a time. Thus his quest may need harder efforts and take a longer course than the quest of a competently guided disciple.
Without qualified guidance, the labour of the aspirant becomes a process of trial and error, of experiment and adventure. It is inevitable, consequently, that he should sometimes make mistakes, and that these mistakes should sometimes be dramatic ones and at other times trivial ones. He should take their lessons to heart and wrest their significance from them. In that way they will contribute towards his growth spiritually.
If he refuses to seek and cling to the human personality of any Master, but resolves to keep all the strength of his devotion for the divine impersonal Self back of his own, that will not bar his further progress. It, too, is a way whereby the goal can be successfully reached. But it is a harder way.
Contrary to the common Hindu teaching, the Buddha taught that although this would necessarily be the slower path, still it was possible for anyone to attain Nirvana (as a Pacceka Buddha) by relying on himself alone and remaining independent of any master's help. And his statement to his personal disciples is significant: "Treat my doctrine as your Teacher when I am dead."
That an aspirant must join a particular group or attach himself to one teacher is questionable. This helps many beginners, the vast majority of whom usually do it anyway. But they are of the ordinary sort. When anyone begins to make real advance, he emerges into real need of an individual path unhampered by others, undeflected by their suggestions. The inner work must then proceed by the guidance of his own intuitive feeling together with the pointers given by outer circumstances as they appear.
The necessity of a teacher is much exaggerated. His own soul is there, ready to lead him to itself. For this prayer, meditation, study, and right living will be enough to find its Grace. If he has sufficient faith in its reality and tries to be sensitive to its intuitive guidance he needs no external teacher.
It is not really necessary to have the guidance of an adept if one has sufficient inner resources from which to draw. For those who have such inner guidance, spiritual progress may be made quite satisfactorily.
But each aspirant has in the end to find his own expressive way to his own individual illumination. Outside help is useful only to the extent that it does not attempt to impose an alien route upon him.
Listening to someone else's teaching, or reading it, will only be a temporary makeshift until the day when he can establish communication with his own intuitive self and receive from it the teaching which he, as a unique individual, needs. From no other source can he get such specially suitable instruction.
All Nature shows the self-evolution which is going on. Each of us is part of it. Each of us can carry himself further into the next phase and beyond. The Force and Intelligence are present, but the faith in them must be drawn on. Otherwise, we shall have to look outside for help, probably for someone to guide, lean on, and be carried by. But held too long and too far, the hope proves illusory.
When the excess of guru-worship and priestliness became too prevalent in India, Buddha tried to reproclaim the truth and to counterbalance the superstition. He taught in many places, said on many occasions, "No one saves us but ourselves; no one can and no one may. Each alone must tread the path." In our own time we hear echoes of these beliefs that Buddha tried to reform.
The risk is too great. The pitfalls are too deep. The snares are too dangerous. If I cannot find a genuine indication of the presence of God-consciousness in a man by some fleeting or permanent reflection in the mirror of my own internal experience, then I must perforce abandon my would-be discipleship to the care of the divinity that lies hidden somewhere at the back of my mind.
In the absence of a master let him follow a lone path, welcoming whatever he can learn from competent authorities but attaching himself to none.
Nothing that I have anywhere written should be regarded as meaning that instruction can be dispensed with. But in view of two factors--the rarity of competent instructors and the over-emphasis of Indian-originated suggestions upon the need of a teacher--I have tried to show aspirants that the way to success is still open to them.
Nobody should overrate the help which a spiritual guide is able to give and underrate his own resources. The quest is a work whose continuity goes on for a whole lifetime, whereas the personal contact which is needed to make a guide's help effective can only be gotten occasionally at most and then only for limited periods of time. I give the warning because I know from several of my correspondents that this is a common tendency among beginners and even among those who ought to know better.
The importance of a teacher is somewhat overrated. If one continues his program of study, prayer, and meditation, and if he appeals to his own higher self for guidance, he will certainly continue to progress. Earthly responsibilities will not interfere, for the time spent away from prayer and meditation is also part of the spiritual life.
Beware of professionalism in this field, of the professional expounder of truth and the professional seekers of it. Both Way and Goal are far simpler than most of them seem to think it is, and markedly unlike the impression left by many writings and lectures, books and teachings, whether ancient or modern.
First at the beginning of the Long Path, and again at the beginning of the Short Path a master, a spiritual guide, is really required. But outside these two occasions an aspirant had better walk alone.
The teacher himself has to go to this inner source for his own enlightenment, why not go to it directly yourself?
It may be slower but it will be much safer, present-day conditions being what they are, to teach oneself and liberate oneself.
To find out the truth little by little by oneself is to make it really one's own. To be pushed into it with a plunge by a master always entails the likelihood of a return to one's native and proper level later on.
We must find the Overself through our own perceptions, that is, through our own eyes--or never. It will not suffice to believe that we can go on seeing it through the eyes of another man--be he a holy guru, or not.
The seeker must elicit these things for himself, and from within himself: reading about them is not enough, hearing about them from gurus, or at lectures, is not enough.
Something more is needed than what books or even gurus can give him. This can only be found within himself. The courage needed for such a standpoint must also be found, and can be, within himself.
He may well be a bit suspicious of all these offers, much less of guarantees, of salvation by a guru. How this can be done without thwarting Nature's intent to develop us fully on all sides is difficult to see. We shall be robbed of the important values implicit in self-effort if we are granted absolution from such effort.
The searcher who is undeceived by fine phrases and knows when to look for the self-interest behind them, will know also when emphasis on the need of a master is cunningly or emotionally turned into exaggeration of the need.
I will be the most deferential of men before the teaching and in the presence of a truly illumined man. But I will stubbornly resist, and stand firm on my ground, when I am asked to surrender my intellectual freedom and become his bonded disciple, open no longer to the teaching or influence of any other man.
He has to detach himself--or let himself become detached by book or teacher--from false ideas, conventional fallacies, or blind leadership.
There is no contradiction between advising aspirants at one time to seek a master and follow the path of discipleship, and advising them to seek within and follow the path of self-reliance at another time. The two counsels can be easily reconciled. For if the aspirant accepts the first one, the master will gradually lead him to become increasingly self-reliant. If he accepts the second one, his higher self will lead him to a master.
When this craving for a guru becomes excessive, inordinate, it is a sign of weakness, an attempt to escape one's own personal responsibility and to place it squarely on somebody else's shoulders, a manifestation of inferiority complex such as we are accustomed to see in races that have been long enslaved by others.
Although it is true that he must find his own way to the goal, he need not do so as if he exists alone on this planet! He may be helped by drawing creatively on the experience gained by others even while he critically judges it.
Gautama tried teacher after teacher and left them after a time because he found their doctrines deficient or their practices defective. If he had not had the courage to do so, the world would never have had its Buddha. Even Sri Krishna did not ask Arjuna to follow him blindly but tried to dispel his doubts by reasoned discussion, so that only at the end of the Gita do we find Arjuna saying, "My doubts are gone."
They run hither and thither, from teacher or teaching to a different teacher or teaching, from Euramerica to India, to Japan, to Indonesia, looking away from their own being for that which is the essence of that being. They are like the man who looked everywhere for his spectacles. At last he gave up the search--only to find the spectacles resting on his own nose. But his attention had first to be drawn to his nose by someone--or by the book of someone--who could see them there. These seekers are not ordinarily aware of what is continually present within them, the stillness of the centre of their being, and instead of looking there for it, they look elsewhere, or to other men. The real service which is rendered them by these others is to tell them where to look; the rest is for them to do. But the lazy, or those who want something for nothing, expect or want the gurus to do it for them--a false idea. The other great error of these confused minds is to seek from Asia what Asia is now rejecting. The best Asiatics are not rejecting its spirituality but its ignorance, superstition, unbalance, futility, narrowness, and excess of conservatism. The Westerner who adores Asia's past wants to copy it, picturing it as a golden age (which it never was). He tries to restore it for himself and in himself, becoming an ape and a parrot.
If some have found their way to this illumination by following slavishly the details of a special teaching, others have found it by following no teaching at all.
It is not uncommon for inexperienced beginners on the Quest, who are ignorant of the serious and often harmful results of such associations, to turn to untrustworthy so-called occult teachers. In most cases, it would be far safer, and more satisfactory in the end, for them to depend solely upon their own unaided efforts than to follow such a dangerous method.
Enactment of the master-pupil relationship, with the subordinate and submissive role allotted to him, is far better if it happens within his own person than if it is objectified without. Then the lower ego will have to play this role.
Only when he is beginning to find his own way to the inner reality and feel its support, only when he is lessening his dependence on some other human being (call him guru or what you like), can it be truly said that he is a disciple of the Holy Spirit itself--not some particular man's disciple.
To lose his own ego in some other person's is not to conquer it. And although this is clear enough in ordinary cases, it is not so clear in reference to losing it in a guru's person, in total surrender to him. Yet the direction is still external, still taking him away from the god within himself. He exchanges one kind of dependence for another--but both share this limitation of being outside himself. Then why has this way been prescribed so often and so much in the Indian spiritual systems? Because it is useful for beginners: it is a step forward towards separation from their own will into at least a better one. But for the man of more development, there is no other way than to turn round and look within, to depend on the Light and Power which is there and which, with enough patience, will be found there.
We all ought to be happy at the mention of certain names of contemporary spiritual guides--whether those who have now passed out of the body like Mary Baker Eddy and Sri Ramana Maharshi or those who are still with us. Human culture is ennobled and enriched by what these people have given it. Human existence is better because they existed. Not only their immediate followers but we also have gained by their presence or their work. Each has given his or her own special gift to us and in his or her individual way. This said, it is needful to add that we all ought to follow what is true in these spiritual leaders' teaching as we ought to imitate what is good in their conduct, but we ought not do so quite uncritically. They are still human and therefore still fallible. We ought not to follow them in their mistakes nor imitate them in their misjudgements.
Only arrogance will reject the experience of other men, but only weakness will support itself solely on such experience. A wiser attitude will use it discriminatingly.
How does the average seeker come to his particular teaching? He rarely makes, or has the time to make, a complete investigation of all the teachings offered. And even if he does, his judgement may be too poor or too inexperienced to be relied on. So the basis on which he selects the favoured teaching is the emotional reaction aroused, that is, the degree to which he personally likes or dislikes it. Or he joins a teacher who is either well-publicized in books and journals, easily accessible, and much talked about, or else one who does his own advertising, often exaggerated. This again is an insufficient basis for proper selection and immensely inferior to a careful analysis of sufficient data made by a cool impartial judgement. If the seeker makes any advance at all, it is really due to his own merits, which would have enabled him to make it anyway and with whatever method he adopted. Yet the credit goes to the teacher or the method, although they do not deserve it!
This looking to, and leaning upon, one man, may come to dominate the mind to such an extent that the creative powers and discriminative judgement of that mind may be wholly suppressed.
If you rely on an external teacher you rely on something which you may have to drop tomorrow or on somebody you may have to change the day after.
All this is not to be misunderstood to mean that we suggest that everyone ought to acquire every item of his spiritual knowledge afresh through his own personal experience, ignoring all the experience of the whole race. On the contrary, we would strongly suggest that he avail himself of this experience through the form it has taken in great literature throughout the world.
To sum up: a competent spiritual director of his way is certainly worth having, but unfortunately the problem of where to find such a man seems insuperable. If an aspirant is lucky enough to solve it without becoming the victim of his own imagination he will be lucky indeed. If not, let him exploit his own inner resources. Let him appeal to the divine soul within himself for what he needs.
The two schools of thought, one of which says that spiritual attainment depends on self-effort and the other that it depends wholly upon the Grace of God, do not really clash, if their claims are correctly and impartially understood. When a man begins his spiritual quest, it is solely by his own strivings that he makes his initial progress. The time comes, however, when this progress seems to stop and when he seems to stagnate. He has come to the end of a stage which was really a preparatory one. The stagnation indicates that the path of self-effort is no longer sufficient and that he must now enter upon the path of reliance upon Grace. This is because in the earlier stage, the Ego was the agent for all his spiritual activities, whilst it provided the motives which impelled him into these activities. But the Ego can never be really sincere in desiring its own destruction, nor can it ever draw from its own resources the power to rise above itself. So it must reach this point where it ceases self-effort and surrenders itself to the higher power which may be variously named God or the Higher Self, and relies on that power for further progress. But because the aspirant is living in a human form, the higher power can reach him best through finding a living outlet which is also in a human form. So it bestows its grace upon him partly as a reward and partly as a consequence of his own preparatory efforts by leading him to such an outlet, which is none other than a Master or Guide in the flesh. No man is wholly saved by his own effort alone nor can any Master save him if he fails to make effort. Thus the claims of both schools are correct if introduced at the proper stage.
There is little place today as ever for the spiritual individualist, the man who cannot betray himself and deny truth for the sake of peaceably settling down in one of society's organized groups or established institutions. The climate is hostile to him. He must remain a lone thinker, self-exiled, paying a price but getting his money's worth.
The independent mind which does not wish to commit itself to any creed or group or cult must accept its loneliness as the price of its independence.
The fact may be noted without reproach and without antagonism, without surprise and without arrogance, that men are the victims of the very institutions they have themselves created and maintained. The individual who refuses to be lost in their mesmerized surrender to the false prestige of these institutions must go forth alone into an arid and empty wilderness, must set himself apart from the world around him.
He has entered a world of being where few men will be able to follow him. Their lack of understanding will be the bar.
He will find that few of his kind are settled in this world, a discovery which he may meet either with disappointment or with resignation.
The man who is travelling this inner way soon finds and feels its loneliness. He may try to get rid of the feeling by joining a group, but this can give only a partial liberation and, in the end, only a temporary one. But this loneliness need not be a cause of suffering. Rather he may come to enjoy it.
The feeling of being isolated, the sense of walking a lonely path, is true outwardly but untrue inwardly. For there he is companioned by the Overself's gentle ever-drawing love. He has only to grope within sufficiently to know this for himself, and to know it with absolute certitude.
The higher the peak one climbs, the lonelier the trail becomes. There is a paradox here for the loneliness exists outside the body, not inside the heart, and the more it grows outside the less it is felt inside.
The quest is to be walked alone. Yet although this means that one must have a solitary and creedless path if the Word is to be said, the Touch is to come, the Glimpse is to be seen, or the Feeling of the presence is to enter awareness, the gracious revelation is the sacred compensation.
Because of the soul's own infinitude, its expressions in art and culture, its manifestations in society and industry, will always be infinitely varied. If we find the contrary to exist among us today, it is because we have lost the soul's inspiration and forfeited our spiritual birthright. The monotonous uniformity of our cities, the uncreative sameness of our society, the mass-produced opinions of our culture, and the standardized products of our immobilized mentalities reveal one thing glaringly--our cramping inner poverty. The man who possesses a spark of individuality must today disregard the rule of conformity and go his own way in appalling starving loneliness amid this lack of creativeness, this dearth of aspiration.
In the end he must inwardly walk alone--as must everyone else however beloved--since God allows no one to escape this price.
As he climbs towards the ideal he finds himself drawing farther and farther away from his fellows who herd on the plains below. That which draws him to itself, also isolates him from others.
He may wander through the low haunts of life, seeking the smiling figures of Fortune and Love. He may go, too, into the higher abodes of better people. In both places he finds illusion and frustration. So it comes about that he ceases his wandering and sits silently by a lone hearth. He knows then what he had always dimly suspected.
Emerson (in a letter to a young seeker): "A true soul will disdain to be moved except by what natively commands it, though it should go sad and solitary in search of its master a thousand years. . . . I wish you the best deliverance in that contest to which every soul must go alone."
If he is really to attain Truth, he will have to learn how to stand solidly by himself, how to live within himself, and how to be satisfied with his inner purpose as his only companion.
From the moment that he has embarked on this quest he has, in a subtle and internal sense, separated himself from his family, his nation, and his race.
He must be prepared to accept an appalling loneliness if he wishes to walk this path. But the loneliness will be limited to his novitiate. For a new presence will slowly and quietly enter his inner life during its advanced stage.
There is a point at which no aspirant can surrender his ideals under the compulsion of a materialistic society, can no longer come to terms with it. Such a point will be vividly indicated to him by his own conscience. It is then that, of his own free will, he must accept the cup of suffering.
The disciple must not shirk the isolation of his inner position, must not resent the loneliness of his spiritual path. He must accept what is in the very nature of the thing he is attempting to do.
The aloneness that he feels must be accepted. Only then, only when he understands and dwells calmly in it, will the great power of the Saint come forth and dwell with him in turn.
It is most pleasant for a man to feel himself at one with the crowd, most uncomfortable to feel himself at variance with it. Yet the seeker who has heard truth's call, has no other choice than to accept this intellectual loneliness and emotional discomfort if he is not to find what, for him, is the worse fate of violating his spiritual integrity.
The cure for loneliness is company; but if there is no affinity in the company, then it is only a quack cure. This prescription is true for everyone, even for the sage, for he finds his company in the Overself's self-presence.
The attempt to follow a lone path may well make him wonder at times whether or not he is making a mistake. It needs more than ordinary stubbornness to remain in a minority of one or two. He will certainly need at times, and gladly welcome, some reassurance from others.
He must be willing to stand alone, although that may not prove to be necessary.
"Is there not an unnatural air about the quest?" This is a question which is sometimes asked. The answer depends, of course, upon a definition of terms. The multitude of non-questers are certainly not living close to Nature. What the questioner really wants to say is that the quest seems to lift a man out of the herd, to make him no longer average, to mark him different from the other men around him. Its goals do not accord with the ordinary human desires and the common instincts.
There is only one real loneliness and that is to feel cut off from the higher power.
The Notebooks are copyright © 1984-1989, The Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation.