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The fourth part of this fourfold quest, which concerns moral and social tasks, ought not to be disregarded. It is only an unintelligent mysticism that promotes smug self-centered idleness whereas a philosophical mysticism inspires both useful and altruistic activity.

The condition of stolid indifference to humanity is not compatible with the condition of loving harmony with the divine soul of humanity. In Burke's eloquent phrase, it is "the offspring of cold hearts and muddy understandings." It indicates the attainment of an inferior stage of spirituality. How much nobler is the attainment of a true sage! He does not look haughtily down upon others from the cold pinnacle of his unworldly interests or disdainfully at their moral weaknesses. He does not stop with the self-engrossed type of mystic to wallow in smug peace. Jesus, for instance, did not disdain to descend from the Mount of Transfiguration to help the epileptic boy; that is, he did not disdain to interrupt contemplation for action. The philosophical type of mystic does not content himself with the non-cooperative ideal of personal salvation pursued by those interested in themselves alone and indifferent to mankind's darkness and misery. On the contrary, he takes on the supreme sacrifice of a continual reincarnation which shall be dedicated to human enlightenment. Only when he has done all he could for the service of suffering mankind, only when he has reached this stage, can he know true abiding peace. Then he truly can say, with Chuang Tzu: "Within my breast no sorrows can abide, I feel the Great World-Mind through me breathe." There is every reason why a man who accepts the gospel of inspired action should become a beneficent force in the world. Whatever role falls to him in the game of life, he will play it in a vital and significant way. More than ever before in its history, the world's need is for such active philosophers. It has little use for volitionally impotent visionaries. Their muddled ethos must share part of the responsibility for mysticism's failure to make more effective contributions towards helping mankind during their greatest crisis and most tragical times. When the world is in such a tremendous need of guidance hope comfort strength and truth during its hour of grave danger and terrible crisis, surely it is the course of a generous wisdom for the contemporary mystic not to seek his personal peace alone but to realize the importance of helping others to find theirs too? He should not seek to be detached monastically from the troubles of his country. On the contrary, he should seek to mitigate them, so far as it is within his power, by rendering wise helpful service.

What Winston Churchill once told the American nation, "The price of greatness is responsibility," is what may be said to the mystic. The Americans tried but could not escape getting embroiled again in European affairs, and the mystic may try but cannot escape his own duties to the rest of mankind. The esoteric explanation of this is the factuality of a deep inter-relation and primal oneness of the human race.


-- Notebooks Category 20: What Is Philosophy? > Chapter 4: Its Realization Beyond Ecstasy > # 229






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