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It is good for an ascetic or monk to sit idle and inactive whilst he contemplates the futility of a life devoted solely to earthly strivings, but it is bad for him to spend the whole of a valuable incarnation in such idleness and in such contemplation. For then he is fastening his attention on a single aspect of existence and losing sight of all others. It is good for a metaphysician to occupy himself with noting the logical contradictions involved in the world's existence and in the reason's own discoveries, but bad for him to waste a whole incarnation in fastening his attention on a single aspect. It is good for the worldling to accumulate money and enjoy the good things it can buy, marry a wife, and adorn his home with comforts, but it is bad for him to waste his valuable incarnation without a higher purpose and a loftier goal. Nor is this all. Mysticism, metaphysics, and worldliness are useless unless they succeed in affording a man a basis of altruistic ethics for everyday living. The average mystic does not see that his lapse into loss of interest in the world around him, his indifference to positive and practical service of mankind, in short his whole other-worldliness, is not a virtue, as he believes, but a defect. Hermits who withdraw from the troubled world to practise the simplicity, monks who retreat from the active world to muse over the evanescence of things, defeatists who flee from their failure in life, marriage, or business to the lethargy which they believe to be peace, thereby evidence that they have not understood the higher purpose of incarnation. It is to afford them the opportunity to realize in waking consciousness their innermost nature. This cannot be done by turning their face from the experiences of human existence, but by boldly confronting them and mastering them. Nor can it be done by retreating into the joys of meditation. The passionate ecstasies of lower mysticism, like the intellectual discoveries of lower metaphysics, yield only the illusion of penetrating into reality. For the world, as well as the "I," must be brought into the circles of meditation if the whole truth is to be gained. The one-sided, monkish doctrine which indicts the world's forms with transiency and illusiveness must be met and balanced by the philosophic doctrine which reveals the world's essence as eternal and real. There will then be no excuse for lethargy, defeatism, or escapism. A metaphysical outlook often lacks the spark of vitality; a mystical outlook often lacks the solidity of reasoned thought; and both often lack the urge to definite action. The practical failures of metaphysics are traceable to the fact that it does not involve the exercise of the will as much as it involves the exercise of the intellect. The intellectual failures of metaphysics are due to the fact that the men who taught it in the past knew nothing of science and those who teach it in the present know nothing of higher mystical meditation, whilst both have usually had little experience of the hard facts of life outside their sheltered circles. The failures of mysticism are due to the same causes, as well as others we have often pointed out. Finally, the failure of metaphysicians to produce practical fruit is partly due to the fact that they perceive ideas of truth and not truth itself, as the failure of mystics is partly due to the fact that they experience feelings of reality and not reality itself. The successes and services of the sage, on the contrary, are due to the fact that he perceives truth and experiences reality and not merely thoughts or feelings about them.


-- Notebooks Category 20: What Is Philosophy? > Chapter 4: Its Realization Beyond Ecstasy > # 223

-- Perspectives > Chapter 20: What Is Philosophy? > # 70






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