Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation homepage > Notebooks of Paul Brunton > Category 25: World-Mind in Individual Mind > Chapter 3: The Sage Part 1

The Sage Part 1

There is a wide confusion in religio-mystic circles, both of the Orient and the Occident, as to what a sage is really like, what a spiritually enlightened master really experiences, what both say and do when living in the world of ordinary people, how they behave and appear. On these points truth is inextricably bound up with superstition, fact with exaggeration, and wisdom with sentimentality. There is also a wide confusion of the Real with its attributes and aspects, that is to say, with human reactions, interpretations, and experiences of IT.

The conventional picture of what a man attuned to God is like needs to be revised.

It is not the invisible imprimatur of any pontifical canonization that really makes a man one of God's saints but the invisible imprimature of his Overself.

There is no higher point in human existence.

Without direct experience of the inner nature of things, without personal revelation from the Overself, the only kind of knowledge men can possess is obtained by the use of logical thinking aided by memory. The cosmogony of a sage is truly scientific, for it is exactly descriptive of what really exists whereas the other kind of knowledge is merely argumentative.

Philosophy uses the attained man not as a god for grovelling worship and blind obedience, but as an ideal for effectual admiration and reverent analysis.

To worship him as a god, to put him beyond all possible criticism, will only confuse our thought about him and obstruct our understanding of him.

He has not only developed all his forces to their highest degree of maturity but also has attained a perfect equilibrium of them.

The masses who turn such a figure into an idol to be worshipped and the few who turn it into an inspiration to be received, are not functioning on the same level.

He is one whose psyche is ruled by reality.

Because some holy men have been uncouth, unkempt, uncivilized, uneducated, and unmannerly, it is foolish to connect this with holiness. They were simply barbarians.

He is an ambassador from the infinite, an envoy to all men from the higher plane of their own being.

Such an individual is a link between the commonplace world of ordinary living and the sublime world of mystical being.

The illuminate is the conscious embodiment of the Overself, whereas the ordinary man is ignorant of that which his heart enshrines. Hence, the Chinese say that the illuminate is the "Complete Man." He is the rare flower of an age.

The sage is only a man, not a God. He is limited in power, being, knowledge. But behind him, even in him--yet not of him--there is unlimited power, being, knowledge. Therefore we revere and worship not the man himself, but what he represents.

For practical purposes he is an emissary of the Deity, even though in theoretical truth no one is sent out because everyone has his or her roots in the Deity already.

His utterances should be closely studied, his behaviour minutely analysed.

The disillusionments brought by protracted experience have compelled me to distinguish between adepts by name, who are amusing, and adepts by nature, who are amazing.

The outside observer will not be able to see what is happening to him, and to that extent will not be able to share in it. But he will be able secretly to affect the subconscious mind of the observer, if the latter is associated with him in some way and is at all sensitive.

The name "Rishee" was bestowed in ancient, as well as modern, India on the man who had reached the peak of spiritual knowledge; literally it means "seer." What is it that he sees? He is a see-er of reality, and through illusion.

People form quaint and queer notions of what constitutes an illuminate. They would divest him of all human attributes, make him a man who never even sneezes or yawns!

In him the higher power manifests itself and through him it flows for the inspiring of others.

The race of sages

We imagine that the thought of the Sage is too far behind us; we left all that when we left the primitive and medieval ages. The philosophic quest is apparently something quite obnoxious to the modern matter-of-fact spirit. The reality is that the thought of the Sage is too far ahead of us, and leaves the plain man panting.

The Masters exist, not as a special community in far-off Tibet, but as scattered individuals in different parts of the world. They have their strange powers and enigmatic secrets, but these are not the theatrical and sensational things that imaginative occultists would have us believe.

The spiritually stronger a man becomes, the less he needs to lean on other men. Consequently advanced mystics have little or no need of joining any society, fraternity, or community. All talk of the adepts and masters themselves being members of such associations, living together in Tibet or elsewhere, is nonsensical fantasy.

It is an invisible spiritual order to which they belong, one which needs no visible organization because that could never express it but only limit its universality and falsify its insights.

There is an aristocracy of time in a truer sense than that which we in the West usually give the word. It is formed from the aristocrats of the mind; a superior caste of men which was founded hundreds of thousands of years before our first European noble was given his accolade. Their breeding is not based on fleeting codes, but on the eternal laws of life. What is ethical to meaner mortals is aesthetical to them.

I sought to track down the truth about Mahatmas, to determine whether they were pure myth or whether they were human beings. Here was a subject engulfed in superstition, misinformation, and wishful thinking--not only in the distant West but also in its own Oriental homelands. After I discovered it, I then discovered that people did not know the most elementary facts about Mahatmas but preferred, in their mental picture, either to deprive them of all humanity or to turn them into overly sentimental all-too-human creatures.

The rarity of such men among us shows what anyone can quickly see--that their attainment is hard to realize. But it also shows that most of them do not return to this earth again. They pass on. But the tradition is that they do not pass without initiating one other person at least.

Such men and women are indeed the spiritual vanguard of the human race.

In one sense, he is the loneliest of men, for he rarely meets with others of his kind inhabiting the planet. But in another sense he is not, for the extent and depth of the affection which he receives are out of the ordinary.

Such men are so few, their worth to society so great, the darkness around us gathering so thickly, that their presence among us is the greatest blessing.

According to our traditions the history of the world does not contain any period where there were not men who had realized their higher nature. But they were very very few.

Is there anyone among those you know today, as well as all those you have known in the past to whom you can point as a fully enlightened man, as one conscious of his Overself? Your answer will reveal how rare this attainment is.

The succession of saviours has existed as long as the human race itself has existed. The infinite power which shepherds its evolution can always be trusted to send these illumined men as and when its own laws and human needs call for them.

Men who have entered into the full glory of spiritual illumination, who have realized to the utmost their diviner possibilities, are rare in any age, rarer still in our own materialistic one.

This deep union with the Overself occurs in the greatest secrecy. Nobody else knows what has happened to the man, much less understands. Nor will he let anyone know. Except in the case of a prophet sent on a public mission to mankind, people will have to discover it for themselves. The greater the man, the more he shrinks from being made a show. The race of sages is nearly dead. There may be some hiding in the monasteries of Tibet or in the penthouses of New York City.

It remains what it always was--a very small inconspicuous minority although some individuals among it, gifted with talent or singled out by destiny, have become personally conspicuous at times.

Why are they so few, these sages, these serene and urbane self-realized ones? Nature works very hard and only attains her aim once in a multitude of throws. In mankind she may well be contented if she creates one sage in a hundred million people.

It is indeed difficult to find men whose lives are thus touched with Truth. They stand supreme but solitary in the mystic battlefield of life, but when they enter the public arena the world becomes aware that a star of unwonted brilliance is blazing in its firmament.

There was either a longer past or a loftier planet than our own behind these great masters.

It is true that most people believe that they cannot think like the sages or live like the saints and that it is useless to entertain any further thought about them. They look at the world around them and see the events which are taking place or read about them and they believe that this is not the kind of world with which sages and saints could cope and that therefore they have little value for us today. But here they are not altogether right. A study of history from the earliest times will show that whenever sages and saints have appeared there were great evils in the world of their time and they were always exceptional figures among their peoples. The memories of them have remained carefully kept and guarded by those who know the importance of right values. That importance remains today and what these figures of eminent wisdom and holiness have to tell us about the higher laws of life and the higher nature of man is still as true as ever it was.

There is no democratic equality here. If such a man speaks, others are entitled only to whisper!

There never yet has been a time, however thinned out their ranks may be, when those who know have faded out from this world--and there never will be such a time. For it is an inexorable duty laid upon them to hand down the light to posterity. And thus a chain of teacher and taught has been flung down to us from the dimmest epochs of antiquity right into this noisy, muddled twentieth century of ours.

Through such illumined men there has been constant expression of truth, and through this individual expression it has been able to survive socially.

Those who are "out of centre," eccentric and different from others because they are unbalanced mentally and uncontrolled emotionally, will not heed what conventional society demands from them. But there exists a second group of persons who are likewise "different" and heedless of conventions, although often in other ways. This group is what it is by reason of its being a pioneer one which has advanced farther along the road of evolution than the herd behind. From it are drawn the great reformers and their followers, those who stand firmly by moral principle and factual truth. It is they who try to lift up society and put right its abuses and cruelties, its wrongs and superstitions. They are daring champions who do not stop to count the cost of their service but, enduring ridicule, persecution, or even crucifixion, go ahead unfalteringly where others draw back.

Whoever will take the trouble to search for them, as I once did, may find that several records have been left behind for posterity by men who successfully penetrated to the inside of Truth and made themselves at home there. The lands in which they lived were wide apart and included England, France, Germany, Denmark, Greece, Palestine, Iraq, Persia, India, China, Japan, Vietnam, and even Australia. For such men Truth was not a theory but a living experience.

There has not yet manifested itself one outstanding personality who merges the simple mystic in the wise sage, who speaks the mind of truth for our time, and who is willing to enlighten or lead us without reference to local or traditional beliefs. Such a man will certainly be heard; he may even be heeded.

There is a tradition in Siam, Burma, and Ceylon that Nirvana is no longer attainable in our decadent times. The Buddha himself predicted this decline, they say. But statistics about the number of sages are not available. One can give only the unpromising results of a fairly wide and fairly constant search. Nor is it likely that they will ever be available, for those who attain Nirvana do not broadcast the news of their attainment and do not parade their knowledge. There are numbers of so-called sages, adepts, Mahatmas, Gurus, masters, and saints in India and Tibet who do not fail to find fairly extensive followings. But then, the criterion set up by these masses is not the loftiest.

Include the name of Akhnaton as an illumined mahatma when quoting Jesus, Buddha, etc., as examples.

It may be that such men are vanishing from the world scene, that their successors today are second and third rate, possessors of a shallower enlightenment and a narrower perception.

These men are not just abnormal variations of the human species but glorious harbingers of its future development when its own time arrives.

It is quite comical to read so often that "modern" historians, solemnly applying their scientific methods, doubt whether certain celebrated figures of the b.c. period were real persons, or not, just as many "modern" religious critics even doubt whether Jesus himself was more than a fancy. What does it matter if Lycurgus, Krishna, and Jesus never existed? Would not someone else have existed who had enough wisdom to write down the precepts, counsel, and teachings which, for reasons of his own, he attributed to the other person?

It is a blessed historic fact that divine life and light came to the world through these men. But now what is more important is that it shall come to us today too.

These great historic prophets, sages, and teachers were not the first discoverers of this secret consciousness, nor will they be its last.

Such a circle, with its esoteric doctrines and exclusive membership, cannot be understood properly by those who stand outside it and who therefore do not know its informing spirit.

Some German mystic, whose name and period I do not remember, spoke of the seven mysterious sages hidden under the earth and directing the world's evolution.

One may quote Jesus, Krishna, and the Upanishads for the rarity of the self-realized man, but most people will be astonished that I should quote such a shrewd, practical, worldly man as Cicero who wrote: "I think it oftener happens that a meal brings forth a cold than that Nature produces a sage." But Cicero himself writes somewhere that he believes profoundly in God.

The existence of the sage as a type is hard to prove simply because the existence of the sage as an individual is hard to confirm. He is almost unique on this planet. He is, for practical purposes, an Ideal rather than an ACTUALITY.

Remarks on specific illuminates

Pythagoras divided his students into two classes, the "probationers" and the "mathematicians." But the latter term signified more to him than it means to us. For him it meant those devoted to advanced thinking and it embraced those who studied philosophy and science as well as mathematics. For Pythagoras regarded the rational disciple as essential to the higher quest.

We are told that Jesus was a man of sorrows. But was he not also a man of joys? The joy of bearing a divine message, the joy of bringing light into a darkened world, and the joy of helping men find their own soul.

If Jesus wept over the folly of cities, he was also glad over the Presence and Providence of God. If he was a man of sorrow at some times, he was also a man of joy at all times. For the sorrow was merely transient, outward, superficial, and for others whereas the joy was everlasting, inward, deep, and his own. No man can come into the Father's kingdom, as he came, without feeling its happiness and enjoying its ecstasy.

Socrates used to listen to an inner voice, his daimon, warning him against false decisions. While so doing, he would sink into deep meditations where he would commune with the divine in order to receive the power to instruct men in Truth.

Socrates possessed an absolutely original intellect; he took nothing for granted but probed and penetrated into every subject which came under discussion. He struck out a new path in the philosophy of his time and so well was it made that it can still be trodden today with profit.

It is a profound error to include Buddha among the founders of religion. He was a sage and taught philosophy only, never a theological teaching, a religious doctrine. The word "God" had no meaning in his system. The Buddhist religion arose later and was founded by men who lived long after Buddha died. It represented a degradation of his philosophy, a dereliction of his teaching, and an adoption of rites and practices which he would not have permitted in his own lifetime.

It is a fact that Jesus wrote nothing and that he never asked his apostles to write anything. Why? What he had to give directly or through them was no message to or argument with the intellect. It was an evocation of the intuition. It had to be transferred to each man psychically.

The benign figure and still meditative face of Gautama, sitting in his thrice-folded yellow garment and penetrating into the deep secret chambers of mind, offers an inspiring spectacle. The solid strength and paradisaic calm stabilized in his person have helped millions of people in the Asiatic lands. Yet there were fateful moments when Gautama refused to appear in public to tell others what he knew, when the peaceful life of utter anonymity was his reasoned preference.

Sri Ramakrishna came to his illumination without practising any systematic discipline in yoga and after only six months of passionate prayer, whereas it took Buddha six years of arduous disciplined effort to attain his illumination. The difference of the two accounts and the difference of efforts explains why Ramakrishna attained the high stage of mysticism whereas Buddha attained the high stage of philosophy. The longer the road, the loftier is the attainment, and only those who take the time and trouble to traverse the whole length of the way may expect to gain all the fruits. He who stops part of the way may only expect to gain part of the result.

Jesus and Buddha inspired their immediate disciples with something of their own spiritual vitality.

Porphyry's statement that Plotinus achieved union with God four times may be misleading. For he qualified it with the words "during the period I passed with him." Now Plotinus was fifty-nine years old when Porphyry first met him, and died at sixty-six. So seven years is the length of the period referred to. Against this must be set the forty earlier years of spiritual seeking and teaching during which Plotinus must have had other illuminations.

John Burroughs: "With Emerson dead, it seems folly to be alive. No man of just his type and quality has ever before appeared upon the earth. He looked like a god. That wise, serene, pure, inscrutable look was without parallel in any human face I ever saw. Such an unimpeachable look! The subtle, half-defined smile of his soul. It was not a propitiatory smile, or a smirk of acquiescence, but the reassuring smile of the doctor when he takes out his lance; it was the sheath of that trenchant blade of his. Behind it lurked some test question, or pregnant saying. It was the foil of his frank, unwounding wit, like Carlyle's laugh. It was an arch, winning, half-playful look, the expression of a soul that did not want to wound you, and yet that must speak the truth. And Emerson's frank speech never did wound. It was so evident that it was not meant to wound, and that it was so true to himself, that you treasured it as rare wisdom."

It is a mistake to imagine the sage as a weakling. The Buddha delivered his lectures in such a strong voice that it was likened to the roar of a lion; hence he was called "Simha" (The Lion). Swami Vivekananda was equally powerful in his public addresses as well as in private capacity. When hostile critics of his own race slandered him behind his back, he likened himself to an elephant treading down worms in its path.

As part of his program of secrecy, Pythagoras got into the habit of casting much of his teaching into symbolic and figurative form--into parables, metaphors, and enigmas. What happened to his teachings is what happened to the teachings of many mystics and religious prophets in other lands. The literal form tended to be taken as the whole of the truth and the inner reality was missed.

The sayings of Jesus cannot be authenticated by anyone as being historically true. But every illumined man can authenticate them as being mystically true.

Those who can understand the mystery of what is called by theologians (not by philosophers) the Incarnation, will understand also that the crucifixion of Jesus did not last a mere six hours. It lasted for a whole thirty-three years. His sufferings were primarily mental, not physical. They were caused, not by the nails driven into his flesh at the end of his life, but by the evil thoughts and materialistic emotions impinging on his mind from his environment during the whole course of his life.

Ramana Maharshi had no Long Path experience at all; he practised no techniques; yet he was permanently enlightened at an early age. There are two lessons in this event. First, without either a Long or Short Path previous history a man may still find himself in the higher consciousness. This shows that Grace alone is a sufficient cause. Second, aside from the feeling of disgust with the world through failure to pass his school examinations, the only preparation which Maharshi underwent was falling involuntarily and profoundly into the trance state for three days. Here he was "pulled in" away from the senses and outer awareness by a strong force. This shows that depth of inner penetration of the mind's layers and length of period that contact is held with the Overself are the two important governors of the result attained. Go as deep as you can; stay there as long as you can; this seems to be the silent message of the Maharshi's own experience.

When I first met the Indian woman saint, Ananda Mayee, in 1936, she spent much time in withdrawn states of samadhi. When I last saw her, nearly twenty years later, she did not any longer pass into such states except for days of special public celebrations--at the most, a few times a year. She had become famous, and visited centres scattered around India and bearing her name. This means that she had by then developed to the grade where temporary samadhis were no longer either necessary or to be regarded as the goal as they are with developing yogis.

Socrates was an awakener of men. He tried to stir their minds by questions, and their conscience by revealing fresh points of view.

This man who came among them to tell of a deeper kind of life that would give them unearthly peace, who sought to bless them by removing an ancient curse from their history, was rejected, yet Jesus had to do what he did, to say what he said.

Whenever he could, Lao Tzu went to the mountains and there--sitting alone and looking down from a height--he put human beings and their worldly existences into the proper proportion. As he was also a human being, he was able to reduce his own egoism and tranquillize his own desires and recast his sense of values until the great peace came over him and he was enlightened.

After a certain day when she underwent an experience wherein God seemed to take out her heart and carry it away, Saint Catherine of Siena remained peaceful and contented for the rest of her life. She could not describe that inner experience but said that in it she had tasted a sweetness which made earthly pleasures seem like mud and even spiritual pleasures seem far inferior.

The miracles of Christ were an expression of special power manifested by Him in virtue of His special mission to humanity.

Meister Eckhart, the German mystic, has written or said some quite incomprehensible things. But he has also written or said many clear things. There is, however, one statement he makes which belongs to neither category, but which is exceedingly interesting. He says, "A man should be so disinterested that he does not know what God is doing in him." This appears in his sermon entitled, "Blessed Are the Poor." A similar obscure but interesting statement is, "Man's highest and last parting occurs when for God's sake he takes leave of God." I shall at some later time add a commentary to these mysterious statements of Eckhart.

Where Socrates was moralist and ascetic, Plato was metaphysician and artistic. Socrates kept his independence and freedom by a monk-like bareness of living but Plato, worshipping beauty, required aristocratic luxury in living.

Socrates put his questions to professional teachers and public men in such a manner that he forced them to reveal their ignorance.

Jesus opened up the Mysteries to the masses of the Western continent and gave to the many what had hitherto been given only to the chosen few. Buddha did precisely the same for the masses of the Asiatic continent.

This does not mean that Jesus himself ever taught philosophy to his immediate circle; nobody has yet found evidence that he ever did so. Where, for instance, will the reader find in his sayings any explanation of the nature of truth or discussion of the nature of ultimate reality? The period of three years from the beginning of his mission till his death was too short to raise such simple folk as had gathered around him into mastery of both the second and third degrees.

The sage is indistinguishable from the multitude. He bears no external signs. He is modest to the point of self-effacement. Buddha interdicted the use of his portrait during his own lifetime, and so great was the force of his interdiction that two hundred years passed before the Buddhists dared to carve his face in sculptured decorations. He did this to direct attention to truth, and away from his own personality.

Brother Nikolaus, also called Bruder Klausens, Klaus von Alve, rose to the highest place in his community, both in position and prestige; for the first fifty years he remained in the world, had ten children, but got increasingly disgusted and sickened by it, especially by political life. From youth he was attracted to unworldly things. A spiritual friend, Pastor von Stans, Heimoam Grund, initiated him into the secrets of mysticism. At fifty he took leave of wife and children, became a pilgrim, and never returned. On the Alps, in Melchtal, a hunting area, he settled for the next nineteen years in strongest asceticism. From far and near, pilgrims streamed to him, "the living saint," to get advice and consolation. However he was not set free from political life; it returned to him within a few years after his resignation of all official posts, in the form of Counsellor and Peacemaker between cantons and cities, and between Switzerland and other countries. Embassies came to him from Germany, Austria, Venice, etc., so that he became very influential in diplomatic life. His 500th jubilee anniversary was celebrated throughout Switzerland with bell-ringing, for his "great patriotic beneficial influence over the land." He is the actual National Saint of Switzerland.

Differences in attainment, expression

Although philosophy rejects the theory of Divine Incarnations in favour of the truth of divinely inspired human beings, it does not say that all the latter are of the same kind or importance or that their inspiration manifests in the same way and to the same degree. It admits differences here.

The five principal types of illumined individuals are: (a) the Teacher, (b) the Messenger, (c) the Saint, (d) the Reformer, (e) the Prophet.

The originality and individuality which are proofs of the prophet's creativity will define themselves by his differences from other seers, even though some have drawn from one and the same MIND. These differences are inevitable and must appear. No two humans are completely alike.

These men do not find a higher truth: they reaffirm the ancient and eternal truth. It could not be that if it were subject to change. But each reaffirms it in his own way, according to his own perception and as his environment requires. This accounts for part of the differences in its presentation, where it has been really attained. The other part is accounted for by there being varying degrees of attainment.

It is a mistake to believe that the mystical adepts all possess the same unvarying supernormal powers. On the contrary, they manifest such power or powers as are in consonance with their previous line of development and aspiration. One who has come along an intellectual line of development, for instance, would most naturally manifest exceptional intellectual powers. The situation has been well put by Saint Paul in the First Epistle to the Corinthians: "Now there are diversities of graces, but the same Spirit. And there are diversities of ministries but the same Lord. And there are diversities of workings but the same God who worketh all in all." When the Overself activates the newly made adept's psyche, the effect shows itself in some part or faculty; in another adept it produces a different effect. Thus the source is always the same but the manifestation is different.

The undiscerning often believe that because some great saints have been fools in worldly affairs, a saint who is always clever cannot be great. Yet the spiritual aspirations which diminish a man's desire for worldly activities do not therefore diminish his competence for them. He who is born a fool usually remains so; he who is born clever usually stays so; and both cases are unaffected by the attachment of the heart to God.

We must not think that every mystic who has been blessed with the light of the Overself stands on the same spiritual peak of vision and consciousness, of being and knowledge. Some are still only on the way to the summit of this peak. There are definite differences between them. If they all share alike the consciousness of a higher Self, they do not share it in the same way or to the same degree.

The saints and mystics serve a high purpose in reminding humanity of that diviner life which must one day flower in human evolution, but they do not serve as perfect exemplars of its final growth. The sages alone can do that.

Why did Ramana Maharshi and Ramakrishna refuse to heal themselves? One possible explanation is that healing powers are like intellectual powers. One may be a realized person and yet not possess much intellect. Similarly, one may not possess healing power. Realization does not endow one with encyclopaedic knowledge or with all the talents.

We must make a difference between the Messenger, who is sent to communicate a teaching through writing or speech, and the Master, who comes to embody the teaching and who alone possesses the power to bless others with his Grace. This difference is not so clearly understood among the yogis as it is among the lamas and Sufis, a lack which leads to confused ideas and unjustified customs.

Having reached this stage he is free to continue his personal life as before, to accept the load of new responsibilities on his shoulders, or to retire wholly from the world. To work for humanity in public is one thing, to work for it in secrecy is another, while to enjoy the freedom and privacy of complete retirement is a third and very different thing. Naturally and inevitably any public appearance will soon turn him into a lightning rod, attracting the aspirations and yearnings of many spiritual seekers.

If he has really found his inner freedom, he must necessarily be free to stay in the world and do the world's work. He does not have to retire into isolation, although he is free to do that. But whatever he decides to do, he will henceforth be an impersonal channel for higher forces, which he will obey, and whose directions he will follow, whether he remains in the world or not.

It is necessary to give certain terms often but wrongly used interchangeably, and hence confusedly, a sharper definition. The Saint has successfully carried out ascetic disciplines and purificatory regimes for devotional purposes. The Prophet has listened for God's voice, heard and communicated God's message of prediction, warning, or counsel. The Mystic has intimately experienced God's presence while inwardly rapt in contemplation or has seen a vision of God's cosmogony while concentrated in meditation. The Sage has attained the same results as all these three, has added a knowledge of infinite and eternal reality thereto, and has brought the whole into balanced union. The Philosopher is a sage who has also engaged in the spiritual education of others.

There is a third type of illumined man, besides the Teacher and Saint. He is the Messenger. He renders service not by dealing with persons and their problems but by stating truths and principles in general.

From Tripura Rahasya, an ancient Sanskrit work: "Some [realized] jnanis are active; some teach scriptures; some worship deities; some abstract themselves into Samadhi; some lead an austere life and emaciate themselves; some give clear instructions to their disciples; some rule kingdoms quite justly and rightly; some openly hold disputations with other schools of thought; some write down their teachings and experiences; others simulate ignorance; a few do even reprehensible actions; but all these are famous as wise men in the world."

Some of the enlightened ones sit as recluses in meditation, others travel and preach, still others create centres where they teach, a fourth class heal the sick, and a fifth write. Each does what his tendency or mission dictates.

The sage may sit under a village tree, head an ashram, or live as a sequestered hermit. He may also live in a luxurious palace, head a business organization, or farm land. These things are not the point, which is his consciousness of divine presence. The world, its pleasures and treasures, does not deceive him: he sees through its values even if he is active in the midst of it.

He may move obscurely through the world an unrecognized solitary, or he may declaim publicly to the crowd. He may teach only the few what he will not tell the many, or he may shed his light freely on all. In either case, his own disposition and destiny will shape the result.

The man who had attained some measure of knowledge was not bound to serve his epoch in any particular rigid way. He would carry out his task according to no rules and regulations but according to his personal circumstances and opportunities, and relate it as he could to the needs of his environment. He was free to choose his manner of his service, just as he was at liberty to select those whom he would personally help. Therefore, he was fully justified in devising his own method of working and not blindly following that which critics foisted upon him.

The sage is as much the creature of his epoch, the inheritor of its historical heritage as others, for he must express himself in a tongue they can understand.

The wise do not make invidious comparisons between the great Prophets of God. Only the ignorant attempt to show that one ranks higher than another in ethical reach. Such do not know that the teachers who give out a religion to a people or race always consider the circumstances and mentality of the people before preaching their new doctrine. What is not revealed or taught is kept back because it is not needed at the time, never because it is unknown.

If some enlightened souls are given a mission to stir the world to higher ideals, others feel no such duty and remain quiescent or even saturninely secluded.

There is no obligation on a sage to sit stationary in one place or to travel, perpetually, from city to city. His inner guidance alone decides the matter, as his personal karma also makes its contribution toward that decision.

If some acknowledge and accept the responsibility which accompanies their spiritual eminence, others prefer to leave mankind in God's keeping and keep to themselves!

Some illuminates are willing, even eager, to get involved with individuals but others are not. If they prefer to live quietly, unnoticed, this does not make them more selfish and less holy.

The illumined men wrote either out of their intellect or their intuition, sometimes for scrupulous academic scholars and sometimes for simple persons. A sage like Lao Tzu wrote for neither the one class or the other, for he put forward the deep paradoxes of life; but another man not less illumined may have provided footnotes on nearly every page.

It is not possible to predict with precision what a man would do if he attains enlightenment. With some persons, force of habit, or innate tendencies may lead to the continuance of the same outer life which he led before enlightenment. So a monk or hermit leading a solitary withdrawn life may still do so whereas another may start a preaching crusade to the mass of people. For, with the personal self subdued by the Overself, the latter is then the operative factor. And the spirit is like "the wind which bloweth as it listeth."

Confucius showed men the way to behave outwardly, Lao Tzu the way to be merged in the stillness inwardly. Despite the seeming difference both were remarkable sages.

Communicators of the Doctrine, Prophets of the Deity, Transmitters of healing--all these have their place.

He who has realized truth according to the Secret Doctrine may continue to follow the same vocation which he was practising before. That is, a king may remain a king and a carpenter may continue his carpentering. There is no law or rule which may be laid down as to the kind of work an illuminate may perform or abstain from performing. Similarly, the illuminate is not to be judged by his practice of or his omission to practise asceticism. If people say, as they say in India, that he will give up his wife on attaining realization, they thereby merely reveal their ignorance of truth. The continuance of his state of realization has nothing whatever to do with the possession or nonpossession of a wife, any more than it has to do with his possession or nonpossession of one or two legs.

These are the true Olympians, not the mythic beings of human creation. They may dwell apart on their mountain--like Sengai, the Japanese--or in the city with its crowds--like A.E., the Irishman.

The Sufi masters fall into two groups, the Mudzubs who are outwardly childish, fanatics, fools, extremists, or even insane, and the Saliks who are outwardly normal, balanced, and adult.

In the harmless studies of a scholar, the peaceful activities of a writer, the quiet life of a mystic, and the deep reflections of a philosopher, he may pass his days.

To be constantly subject in every action and movement to the watchful gaze of others--critical on the part of the world, adulatory on the part of followers--is a life-experience to which prophets and saints submit but to which others refuse to submit. They accept no personal disciples and remain obscurely in the world. Some are sages, all are enlightened.

The sage includes the saint, but is not limited by him. The sage possesses qualities and attributes which may be missing in the saint.

Not until the light he has received becomes stabilized as a permanent thing can he be regarded as a master, and not until it is also full and complete can he be regarded as a sage.

Wisdom beyond bliss

By the term "sage" it has been traditional to mean someone who is not only wise and dispassionate but who is also ready to proffer counsel out of his superior wisdom. He may dwell apart from humanity, if he chooses, but his Olympian aloofness will not be such that you cannot get a word of guidance out of his shy shut lips. Somehow we feel, and rightly, that the anchorite who has lost compassion or grown wholly self-centered may be pure and peaceful--but he cannot be a sage.

No man who is sensitive to the sufferings of humanity can really enjoy "divine bliss" or unmitigated ecstasy. Therefore the sage is quite different from the mystic. The latter revels in emotional joyfulness, whereas the former maintains a quiet exalted peace. His power lies in keeping this self busy with constant service of humanity. The bliss of the mystic belongs to the realm of his personal feeling and signifies his indifference towards suffering humanity; the wisdom of the sage belongs to the realm of his realization of oneness, which is incompatible with indifference to others.

It is not a state of dreamy futility but one of intense usefulness.

There is some confusion, at least in India, but also in the West, about the kind of life an enlightened man will live. It is popularly believed, especially in the Orient, that he sits in his cave or his hut or his ashram sunk continually in meditation. The idea that he can be active in the world is not often accepted, especially by the masses who have not been properly instructed in these matters and who do not know differences between religion and mysticism and between mysticism and philosophy. The truth is that the enlightened man may or may not practise meditation; but he has no dependence upon it, because his enlightenment being fully established will not be increased by further meditation. Whenever he does meditate, it is either for the purpose of withdrawing from the world totally for short periods, at intervals, either for his own satisfaction or to recuperate his energies, or to benefit others by telepathy. When it is said "for his own satisfaction," what is meant is that meditation in seclusion may have become a way of life in his previous incarnation. This generates a karmic tendency which reappears in this life and the satisfaction of this tendency pleases him, but it is not absolutely essential for him. He can dispense with it when needful to do so, whereas the unenlightened man is too often at the mercy of his tendencies and propensities.

There is no classification into matter and spirit for the Sage. There is only one life for him. If a man can find reality only in trance, if he says that the objective world is unreal, he is not a Sage, he is a Yogi.

The mystic who becomes immobilized by his inheritance of asceticism and escapism will also become indifferent to the sorrows of a mankind whom he regards as materialistic. The sage, self-disciplined to live in the world with his heart and thought molded after his own fashion, will not turn in contempt or helplessness from the so-called materialistic but, on the contrary, will find in their ignorance the motive for his incessant service of enlightenment to them. The stultified stony apathy of the first is shamed by the courageous acceptance of life as a whole of the second.

The saint is satisfied to attain freedom from his lower self but the Master does not stop there. He seeks also to carry enlightenment to others, remove their misery, and save them from the illusion in which they are involved.

His attainments in the mental, ethical, and philosophic spheres must take concrete shape in the disinterested service of humanity, or he is no illuminate.

The mystic would certainly wish that all others might attain to his own inner peace. But because he has not himself realized this higher unity (which is all-embracing) he does not feel that he bears any personal responsibility for their uplift. On the contrary while the ascetic, under the illusion that worldly life is a snare set by Satan, sits smugly in his retreat, the illuminate knows that all life is divinely born, never relaxes his efforts for the enlightenment of mankind.

Judge the sage if you must by the profound impress he makes on the soul of his age or by the service which he incessantly renders to the utmost limit of his strength.

The inutility of many monks is in striking contrast to the worth and activity of the sages. Thus, the Buddha worked unceasingly for fifty years to remove spiritual ignorance from the minds of men and death caught him trudging unweariedly on foot, an old man over eighty, trying to reach the next place where he was due to teach others and thus serve them in the best way of which he was capable. He was no idler. Jesus, too, moved unweariedly and incessantly trying to awaken the hearts of men to their true goal and giving to those who approached him with faith the benediction of his grace. Death caught him in the midst of so much of this activity that it aroused the hostility of professional religionists whose vested interests were in danger and who to save their own purses put Jesus on the cross.

He alone may rightly be called a sage who has not only attained the highest mystical stage but has also found a new meaning in the finite world and the finite human life. He does not need to run away from the familiar world, for he sees it by a diviner light. He experiences not only its obvious transiency and multiplicity but also its hidden eternality and unity.

If the so-called practical persons and the self-confessed materialistic ones only knew how much nearer to realities the sage is than they think, how much more "practical" he is, they would be very much surprised.

The sage's personality is a fully integrated one. He does not seek to be unnatural or abnormal, whereas the mystic may. Aurobindo Ghose's silence and retreat, Ramana Maharshi's ashram couch and non-handling of money, are abnormalities.

The sage is not a frustrated visionary who hides himself in disappointment and looks down with superior disdain upon the world.

The man who has attained Truth is not faced with the problem which faces the man who attains success in yoga; the latter's first impulse is to desert the world, the former's to convert the world.

Two Christian mystics who felt they were in close intimacy with God--Saint Catherine of Siena and Ignatius Loyola--felt also the urge to spend most of their years in great activity and outgoing work.

Even Emerson did not live always in transcendental ideas and dreams. He took his share in the anti-slavery agitation, bought railway and bank shares, married twice, and often travelled the rough pioneering West on lecture tours. Was he any less spiritual than the saintly or the sequestered ascetics of Asia Minor, or of Hindustan?

The earthly troubles of mankind are the concern of the true sage, and indifference to them is a mark of the mere mystic, that is, one who has mistaken his partial attainment for a complete realization.

Qualities, characteristics of the sage

Where is the man who is free of the ego? To him we must bow in deep reverence, in wondering admiration, in enforced humility. Here is one who has found his true self, his personal independence, his own being. Here at last is a free man, someone who has found his real worth in a world of false values. Here at last is a truly great man and truly sincere man.

Whosoever enters into this realization becomes a human sun who sheds enlightenment, radiates strength, and emanates love to all beings.

His serenity is alive and buoyant, not lethargic and dull.

To comprehend the mysterious side of an adept's personality correctly, we must comprehend its twofold nature.

He is worthy to be called a sage who unites in his person mature judgement and experience, prudent speech and conduct, correct reasoning and adequate knowledge, humanized sanctity and spiritual enlightenment.

In the loneliness of the divine presence he is always unutterably humble. In the presence of his fellow men he is incomparably self-possessed, quietly dignified, and subtly armed with authority.

The wearing of a halo would not make him any happier; he is not interested in being marked out as a "spiritual" person; spirituality is not a separate special feature for him but something that ought to be the natural state of a human being. Consequently he finds the thought of being singled out for this quality, or becoming conspicuous for it, uninteresting to him.

This paradox is the extraordinary situation of such a man. He accepts the ego but he also repudiates it at the same time.

Although he has reached a Godlike level, he is never arrogant, never pretentious, yet always keeps a simple natural dignity.

Just as there is no special virtue in going to sleep, nothing to be proud of, so the sage regards his being in Being as no less natural, nothing to vaunt before other men. This seems undue humility to the world but it seems ordinary to him.

It is a matter of complete assurance and scientific observation for the sage that God exists, that man has a soul, that he is here on earth to become united with this soul, and that he can attain true happiness only by following good and avoiding evil.

The sage is not a quester after saintly prestige: he will not outwardly try to present himself as a holy man.

He could never make a commercial business out of spiritual uplift, nor even turn it into a paid professional career. How different from those ambitious leaders whose pretended motive of serving humanity is really a cover for service of their own ego.

People think a sage exercises infinite tolerance and patience. This is because they have no standard by which to measure the qualities of his rhythm of consciousness. Tolerance and patience imply their opposites. The sage's reactions conform to neither. He literally lives where they do not apply. The set of conditions which for the ordinary man gives rise to the possibility of tolerance and patience or their opposites is for the sage an opportunity for reflection.

Such a man has no enemies, although he may have those who regard him as their enemy. For hate cannot enter his heart; goodwill towards all is its fragrant atmosphere.

In all relations, whether as friend or lover or husband, he is unpossessing, but he requires in return to be unpossessed.

The adept has no indispensable need to know. He is being, which is his foundational consciousness--pure, unmixed with mental images or thoughts, and not dispersed in the existence of the five senses.

He does not seek and will not accept those who are already members of any society or group which provides them with instruction, for he will not interfere between the teacher and the taught. Truth must be sought in its fullness, not as a supplement to the teaching of others. For the sage will not adulterate truth. The truth he has to give is not the same as that taught by them and he does not want to distort it to fit such misconceptions.

He who has found his genuine self does not need to pose for the benefit of gushing disciples. He obtains the deepest satisfaction merely from being himself. What others may say about him in praise cannot bring him anything like the pleasure which his own higher consciousness brings him.

His ever-present calmness is not a mask for secretive emotions, inner conflicts, mental tensions, or explosive passions.

He has paid a high price for this serenity. He has accepted the necessity of walking alone, the shattering of all illusions, the denudation of human desire, and the funeral of animal passion.

The illuminated man's conduct in this world is a guided one. His senses tell him what is happening in the world about him, but his soul guides him to a proper evaluation of those sense reports. In this way he lives in the world, but is not of it. Of him alone is it true to say that his is a spiritual life.

He possesses a largeness of heart at all times, an immense tolerance towards the frailty of faulty men and women.

When he has fully accomplished this passing-over, all the elements of his lower nature will then have been fully eliminated. The ego will be destroyed. Instead of being enslaved by its own senses and passions, blinded by its own thoughts and ignorance, his mind will be inspired, enlightened, and liberated by the Overself. Yet life in the human self will not be destroyed because he has entered life in the divine Overself. But neither will it continue in the old and lower way. That self will henceforth function as a perfectly obedient instrument of the soul and no longer of the animal body or intellectual nature. No evil thought and no animal passion can ever again take hold of his mind. What remains of his character is therefore the incorruptible part and the immortal part. Death may rob him of lesser things, but not of the thing which he cherishes most. Having already parted in his heart with what is perishable, he can await it without perturbation and with sublime resignation.

When we comprehend what it is that must go into the making of a sage, how many and how diverse the experiences through which he has passed in former incarnations, we realize that such a man's wisdom is part of his bloodstream.

There are noteworthy differences between the genuine illuminate and the false one. But I shall indicate only a few of the points one may observe in the man who is truly self-realized. First of all, he does not desire to become the leader of a new cult; therefore, he does not indulge in any of the attempts to draw publicity or notice which mark our modern saviours. He never seeks to arouse attention by oddity of teaching, talk, dress, or manner. In fact, he does not even desire to appear as a teacher, seeks no adherents, and asks no pupils to join him. Though he possesses immense spiritual power which may irresistibly influence your life, he will seem quite unconscious of it. He makes no claim to the possession of peculiar powers. He is completely without pose or pretense. The things which arouse passion or love or hatred in men do not seem to touch him; he is indifferent to them as Nature is to our comments when we praise her sunshine or revile her storms. For in him, we have to recognize a man freed, loosed from every limit which desire and emotion can place upon us. He walks detached from the anxious thoughts or seductive passions which eat out the hearts of men. Though he behaves and lives simply and naturally, we are aware that there is a mystery within that man. We are unable to avoid the impression that because his understanding has plumbed life deeper than other men's, we are compelled to call a halt when we would attempt to comprehend him.

Despite all his psychical knowledge and personal attainment, the sage never loses his deep sense of the mystery which is at the heart of existence, which is God.

Passion of any kind, whether angry or sexual, cannot touch this man. Those writers and preachers who portray a wrathful and indignant Jesus attacking the temple moneychangers are mere sentimentalists, projecting their own limited characteristics, their own narrow conception of virtue, on a man whose state of consciousness they are unable even to approach. They might as well attribute repressed sexual urges to the Buddha as expressed angry ones to Jesus. It is all their theory and speculation based on ignorance.

He is not grieved when past or present history brings to his notice the fact that human nature is less than perfect, nor is he disillusioned when he himself is made to suffer personally from this imperfection. He knows men as they are, as well as what they will one day become, and has a tolerant attitude toward their frailties. Nothing that any of them may do can embitter him, or weaken his confidence in the higher laws, or deter him from abiding by the higher principles, or blur his insight into the ultimate greatness of every human being.

Without pretension or affectation, neither seeking to draw attention nor to impress others, he is truly humble in his greatness.

Anyone who has this awakened consciousness at all times will be radiant at all times. He will make the best of things and things will be for the best with him.

Peace is perpetually within him.

It is not the humility of an inferiority-complexed person but of a man who communes with the higher power. It is not the equanimity of stupid empty-mindedness but of one who feels deep spiritual peace. It is not the dignity of self-conceit but of profound respect for the God within him.

A man finds his greatest fulfilment of life, his greatest joy and happiness, in spirit, so that in reducing lower things he misses nothing at all, for he has outgrown them. This was the belief, feeling, and practice of one man who became a veritable sage--Plotinus!

So much intuition, like dream, gets lost in the passage to verbal expression or even mental formulation. In earlier years, questions peppered his mind. Now they have ceased to do so. Not only because he does not want to disturb the peace he now enjoys; nor because his intellect has decayed; but because he knows that behind it all is Mystery: that one man cannot play the role of omniscient God, that he may well leave to God the endless questions that arise.

A peace pervades him, gathered from deep thought and, much more, from the stillness which transcends all thought.

The peace fills him with amiability, like warm sunshine, and makes ill will impossible. The sensitive benefit, momentarily or permanently, by the contact, although they may not feel the peace till afterwards; the insensitive, well!--they may shrug their shoulders in wonder at what others see and find in him.

His varied experience of human beings makes him familiar with the heights and depths of human nature, its saintly possibilities and its sinful actualities. This knowledge does not make him more cynical, only more patient. His patience is the outcome of his understanding, his tolerance the outcome of his knowledge. The cosmic plan of evolution through birth after birth illuminates many situations for him.

He neither hopes for the best nor fears the worst, for he lives in perfect serenity.

He stands out in moral grandeur.

His voice seems to speak not merely with utter conviction but with absolute authority. His knowledge seems to come from a very deep level.

There is the supreme relaxation of one who keeps certain resources--the most hidden, the most powerful--always in reserve.

He is not good because of imposed rules or prescribed regulations. He is good because it is impossible for him to be anything else.

He will find his proper place in the cosmic order, neither too low nor too high, and know his proper relationship to the divine intelligence behind that order, the World-Mind.

The enlightened man can "establish" truth gleaned by insight, not put together by intellect through any organized institution or printed publication.

A man who is in this state automatically repels negative thoughts and effortlessly wards off destructive ones. They cannot live in his atmosphere.

The serenity is not something which has been added to him. It has been integrated as a part of his being.

Although he is forced, like all humans, to take cognizance of the world around him, of its horrors and squalors, its evils and vilenesses, the gate leading out of it all can be opened at will, and quickly. The way back into the ethereal world, with its beauty and peace, is always existent for him.

That certitude which comes to him is not merely the kind which opposes the meaning of hesitance, but also the kind which is the opposite of mere belief, which is born of complete understanding, perfect knowledge, and direct experience.

Ashtavakra Samhita: "The sage of vacant mind knows not the conflict of contemplation and non-contemplation, good and evil. He abides, as it were, in the state of Absoluteness. Devoid of the feeling of `mine-ness' and `I-ness', knowing for certain that nothing is, and with all his desires set at rest within, the man of knowledge does not act though he may be acting."

The adept is marked off from his fellows by the aura of controlled emotion and calm sureness which he carries with him. He does not fear his fellow men however evil they be, for he does not depend upon his own personal strength alone but also upon the Higher Self and its boundless power.

One feels that such an adept is in mind the oldest man one knows and yet in heart the youngest.

The sage is not less practical for all his transcendental consciousness and mystical experience. He understands as well as any cynic the low depths on which so many human relations function. He sees quite clearly the greeds, the pettinesses, and the rancours that fill the air of human society. But he also sees beyond and above them.

Whether he is alone in the privacy of his room or in public being watched by others, whether performing routine actions or entirely new ones, he will attain unified conduct because he has attained conscious unity of being.

Do not be deceived by his modesty, his freedom from any of the varied forms of personal vanity, for beneath the surface there is ironclad assurance.

A man of his status is able to scatter light in so many different types of mind because he is free from inflexible standpoints.

So completely has he freed himself from the tyrannic sway of egoism that he can enter, through emotive thought, into another man's personality, however offensive or antipathetic that man might ordinarily be to him.

He can project his empathic imagination into another person's mind to such a degree that he can identify himself with that person.

The Sphinx is a perfect image of the adept in whom the man controls the animal. The attainment is a rare one--too many are satisfied to remain hardly more than animal, with a few human traits.

There is no patronizing condescension in his attitude toward those who are less evolved, no spiritual snobbery towards the masses.

He cannot possibly suffer from the gloomy disappointment which those suffer who, believing that they have a clear mission in life, sadly find that they cannot establish their ideas nor gather a following. Either they have not freed themselves sufficiently from clinging emotional desires--whether to be applauded by others or to reform them--or from identification with the personal ego.

It is not only a matter of having more goodness than ordinary people that distinguishes him. It is primarily his contact with a higher dimension of being altogether.

The sage has achieved perfect obedience to this fundamental Law of Balance in himself, in his life, and in the universe.

The sage will not be an adherent of martyristic ideology. He will make no pretense and set up no pose of exaggerated altruism. He will do what needs to be done for his own self. But at the same time he will also do what needs to be done for others. It is not altruistic folly but altruistic wisdom that he seeks to practise. Hence he prefers to be a live servant of the good in mankind than a dead martyr to the evil in mankind. He will not swing from the extreme of utter selfishness to the extreme of unbalanced selflessness. He will not ignore his own needs or fail to work for his own betterment even while he is attending to the needs of others and working for their betterment. He can well serve individual ends alongside his service of social ones.

He does not dwell in his own heart on his spiritual usefulness to other people. If ever he were to do so that would only be the ego wallowing in its vanity. And it is precisely because his ego has been cast down that he has such usefulness at all.

If men do not care for his own road but set their feet on other roads to the soul's finding, he will feel no disappointment and express no criticism. Rather will he rejoice that they have entered on the quest, even though it be in a different way from his. He is too large in mind and heart to wish that it were otherwise.

He does not need to ask others for help of any kind for they usually offer it spontaneously and unasked. There is some quality in him which arouses in them the strong desire to serve him.

He will not seek any public acknowledgment of his services. If it does come, he will not be unduly elated; if it does not come, he will not be particularly discontented.

When such a man hears from time to time of the far-reaching results of his work, he feels afresh the need of a great humility. For if it has achieved anything at all, it has not been achieved by any other power than that of Grace--which moves so mysteriously and so silently and so effectively.

His is a disciplined freedom, without the hardness of the rigid moralist or the license of the flabby hedonist.

Whatever sin is committed against him, or wrong done to him, his forgiveness is available to the sinner immediately and completely. This is not an attitude he has to bring himself to create but one which is natural and easy.

The master is free, totally free, from the greeds and lusts of ordinary men. In this he is a forerunner of the men who are to appear later.

He need assume no oracular air, no conceited manner. The simple expression of what he is suffices to impress others of its own accord.

In him, perception and volition are fused and not, as in ordinary men, separated and discordant. That which he sees ought to be done, is accepted and executed by the will.

Such a man will spontaneously love the Ideal, practise virtue, and promote the spread of Truth.

The glowing warmth of his goodwill is natural, sincere.

The practice of goodness is as natural with such a man as the act of breathing.

A heart filled with peace and love will be felt through a radiant countenance and poised bearing.

He will always show forth a courtesy that comes from the heart rather than from the dictates of formality.

If the adepts appear to stand aloof, it is not because they feel proudly superior but because they feel humbly incapable of bettering the work being done on humanity by Nature (God) in her long-range evolutionary plan. They could never have become what they are if they had held illusions of personal grandeur.

He makes no pretense of omniscience.

The simple and modest outward bearing of an illuminate frequently belies the infinite subtlety of his intelligence.

The illuminate is a man at peace with himself, able to stand emotionally aside from his affairs but unable to surrender to transient defeats. He knows when he is defeated; he never knows such a thing as failure. His life is a consecrated one. It has an impressive value. There is a timeless flavour about it. That is why he can work quietly not only for the immediate moment but even for results which he knows he will not live to witness.

"The adept appears without exposing his head" is the Chinese esoteric description. It means that he makes no outward demonstration of his adeptship, behaves unostentatiously and modestly, and is acted through rather than acting with his egoistic will.

While worldly men strain their heads and knit their brows, the sage sits quietly or works unhurriedly, self-absent, unutterably wise in the Infinite. In a world half-given over to despair, he dwells with an intrinsic power that all feel who contact him, or he moves radiating a calm strength to every environment.

He is detached, watching the passing show go by, but not so detached as if he were far away. For his interest in the world's affairs is vivid; his intelligence is active, seeing the interplay of cyclic impetus and karmic results.

His wonderful calmness does not make him utterly impervious to all the happenings of his era, nor callous to all the turns of national fortune or disaster.

There is such a perfect harmony of his faculties that although each still continues to exist autonomously, all work together like a single faculty.

There is profound power, there is ample security in this presence. The sage alone may dare to be himself, may live unrelated to the fads and fashions around him.

The sage tries to make all his acts tend toward harmony but he does not mistake uniformity for unity. Differences there will be.

He possesses the ability to produce peace within himself and to radiate it outside himself.

He is sufficient, himself and not anyone else, an original and not a copy, music and not its echo--in short, a true individual.

It is a fact that in such a man these three passions--anger, lust, and hatred--are stilled forever. There is no temptation which can now have any power over him, no fear which can overcome him, no frustration which can depress him.

There will be an air of settled conviction, of inward assurance about his speech and writing.

The aura of peace and wisdom and power that emanates from his person is the best testimonial to the value of his ideas.

This superb poise is not an act, put on for the benefit of onlookers; it is real.

He may be poor outwardly but he will be rich inwardly. He may have to endure troubles but he will endure them without worry.

He will show this high degree of advancement by the assured direction of his efforts, the unflinching strength of his purpose, and the effective results of his work.

When the sage undertakes a public task or mission he will neither over nor under do his work. He will do exactly what is required.

The sage expresses self without selfishness, individuality without individualism.

He possesses a sense of infinite leisure, a manner devoid of all haste, a willingness to achieve his ends little by little.

Although fully deserving it, he is too humble to demand and always too embarrassed when offered any special reverence.

His personality is one with his teaching: his life incarnates, practises, and actualizes it.

He is content to let them attribute to others the help they are getting from him. His ego needs no gratitude and no recognition and would not know what to do with them if they came. He rejoices in their progress as the chief thing.

What he gives he gives freely and asks for no requital.

Since his life itself is not fixed but moves incessantly, he cannot congeal his thought into fixed dogmas or his character into fixed attitudes. He will put forth whatever wisdom indicates in any situation and to any question, not solely what the past indicates--which is what accumulated knowledge or a lined-up character really does. His mind is free, his policies always fresh. He is neither orthodox nor unorthodox. Naturally such a fluid standpoint will not find approval from the many who have to wear a partisan or fanatic label.

The self-renounced illuminate sits beside the gleaming river of life and dips his pitcher like others into those troubled waters of passion or pain. Yet he wears an inscrutable smile which perhaps says: "I see all and know all. If I drink with you, it is to be you. If I remain with you, it is to help you. For paradoxically, I sit also at this river's source."

The illuminate stands on the very apex of the pyramid of knowledge. That is why he can understand the position of all others and sympathize with them, too. But alas, that is also why they cannot understand him. Hence the plaint of Buddha: "I do not quarrel, O Bhikkus, with the people, but it is the people who quarrel with me. One, O Bhikkus, who speaks the Truth, does not quarrel with anyone."

There were four things from which the Master was entirely free. He had no foregone conclusions, no arbitrary pre-determinations, no obstinacy, and no egoism."--Confucian Analects

A real maharishee has no preconceived ideas as to what he is going to do.

No cult can claim him and no organization can label him, for he will be too aware of the limitations of all cults and organizations.

He is not working for this generation, nor for this country, nor for any millenium, but for an infinite duration of time. Therefore he is, he must be, infinitely patient.

The plane of negative thoughts, emotions, and behavior does not exist for him. His only awareness of it is as it exists in others. Otherwise there is no contact with it within himself.

He alone can afford to be as boundlessly patient as Nature is. He alone can rightly be lavish with time.

The true sage seeks to lead men into a life that is noble, beautiful, and intelligent, and to save them from their sins of self-exhaustion through febrile and foolish conflicts. The sage has lifted his thinking above the level of both free will and fate, matters which concern the ego. He lives in the Witness Self. The practical result is that he does not feel the caress of pleasure or the sting of pain so keenly as others. He exemplifies the truth of Nature's dictate, "To him who asks nothing everything is given."

Whatever greatness the world looks up to him for possessing, vanishes utterly from his mind in the presence of this infinite greatness.

Modest and unassuming, as Lao Tzu makes the sage appear, his realization of the truth does not weigh down on him. He finds it natural and does not feel it to be exceptional, although others do.

He is no propagandist, never aggressively intrudes his views in conversation nor forces his conclusions on others in an argumentative manner. He accepts people as they mentally are.

He enters the inner stillness as a learner, as one who is sensitive to the Interior Word and capable of responding to it. Such response is as far beyond the guidance of the good religious man by moral conscience as that in turn is beyond the primitive man's instincts, appetites, and desires.

If in some ways he is as human as everyone else, in other ways he is unlike other men. This is inevitable because he has gone ahead and surpassed his fellows.

Insofar as he is aware of other men and of the objects which surround him, he expresses the Mind which is the Real. And insofar as he may be either lifted at times out of his little ego, or endowed with insight which sees beyond that ego, does he express it further still.

The intellectual argues where the sage announces.

It is the difference between arguing from theory and announcing from experience.

To live in lonely contemplation of the secrets deep down in the heart, to place all ambitions and restless desires on a funeral pyre and burn them up in a heap--these things demand the highest courage possible to man. Those who would denominate one who has achieved them as a coward, because he does not run with the crowd who fight for pelf and self, make a ghastly mistake.

He will bear witness in thought and speech to the joy of this awakened consciousness.

If a man deserts blood relations, it is only to take on spiritual ones. If he leaves his earthly house, it is only to enter the monastery, a spiritual one. If he forsakes the society of wife and children, it is only to enjoy that of teacher and students. Thus absolute escape is a mirage and cannot be found. The kind and quality of his bonds can be changed and transformed but not really severed. The only attainable freedom lies deep within. It is invisible and mental. This is what the sage enjoys. He may be weighted with business responsibilities and surrounded by a family, but in his heart nothing holds him.

The sage affirms nothing, denies nothing.

He does not wish to be regarded as other than he is; not for him the canonization of a saint or the adoration of a god. Insight, and its application to human living, is the final fulfilment for all of us, shall be our natural condition.

Does he feel revulsions and attractions like other persons? He may, but the feeling is always within the larger circle of feeling the presence of Overself, with himself and with others. This compensating principle acts as a control and a balance. He is not ruled by the reaction, as others are, nor blinded by it to an egoistic judgement.

Something of Nature's vast impersonality, her indifference to the individual human, is in him.

The Sage looks out dispassionately upon the course of human life--which includes his own life--as if he were not personally involved in it, yet he does whatever ought to be done as if he were.

The man of high spiritual status is aware of this difference, but the awareness does not create any vanity within him, any self-conceit.

If there is an air of remoteness about him, perhaps because of his inner detachment showing through, perhaps because he is habitually centered in the Presence, it does not stop a quietly voiced greeting and amiable half-smile suddenly revealing the intention of keeping linked with this grosser world.

He is wide enough in his outlook to look at contradictory ideas and things with equal calm. For they all melt in the Pure Mind.

He will not have to think out the needed reaction, for it will flow naturally and spontaneously out of his inner being.

The sage's consciousness remains permanently serene and equable, at the same level whatever conditions prevail.

Compassion--a quality so real and vibrant in the Italians but sensibly practical in the English and Americans, so infrequent in the French but present in the Indians--is natural, quiet, and devoid of sentimentality in the sage.

He may still have his hygienic reactions, his aesthetic preferences, his individual tastes. He may still retain human aversions to dirty bodies, attractions to refined habits. Enlightenment has not turned him into an indifferent robot or a frozen creature or a zombie deprived of feeling. But his personal discrimination is calmly practised: behind it there is an impersonal detachment.

There is something which is always kept in reserve, a part of himself which is enclosed and which keeps other men at a distance, however cordial his outer self be. This enables him to keep always calm, whatever the outer provocations may be, to hold to an intense inner stillness.

He does not hope for anything nor wish for any special piece of good fortune--not because he is too pessimistic about life, but because he is so serene that he has stopped looking for something to come to him from outside that would bring happiness, stopped holding on to others, and stopped dreaming. THIS is reality; what the world can give is a dream.

When the hour comes to desert the body, he will be ready for the fated event, without that desperate struggle to hold on to a form which has served its purpose seen too often in the ignorant.

Such is his freedom from common ego-obsession and such the stretch of his compassion, that he makes whomever he talks with feel that he is genuinely and deeply interested in his or her particular affairs.

There is a friendliness in his look, goodwill in his face, that make acquaintance easy.

The sage can condemn nobody, can regard none as outside his range of compassion, and can find a place in his heart for the worst sinner. He knows that duality is but a dream and discovers himself anew in all sentient creatures. He knows that the world's woe arises out of its false and fictitious sense of separateness.

He receives too many confidences ever to be surprised by any of them, too many confessions ever to be shocked. But even if he had never heard or read a single one, he would receive them just as calmly. For his compassion and insight, his tolerance and realism embrace the whole range of human feeling or human behaviour.

He is always himself, without pose, without pretense, and without self-consciousness.

It is not the studied poise of good breeding but a natural poise upwelling from within.

His uniqueness extends through body, feelings, thoughts, character, outlook--it is total.

The ordinary man sees only his personal objective, but the illumined man sees simultaneously both the objective and the person pursuing it.

His silence bravely takes its stand on the fact that truth is a reality, is a power, is invincible.

He knows the proper value to stamp on fame, position, and wealth, and the proper place to assign them. He neither rejects them with harsh ascetic scorn nor seeks them with hard self-centered ambition.

The strength with which he has conquered both himself and life will be evident to those who are sensitive to more than merely commonplace things.

In every affair he knows where he stands, but more in the sense that he listens and obeys the higher guidance than in any other.

He learns from within, intuitively, much more than from without, the full teaching to which other men or their books have led him.

He is ever at peace within himself but does not necessarily care to advertise this fact to the world by wearing a perpetual smile.

For such a man all actions become ritual ones, all places sacred.

Even if a negative reaction to some untoward event were to enter his mind he would efface it instantly.

The adept is capable of immense power on the occasions when he unleashes it.

The illuminate is more likely to shun fame than to seek it. His humbleness is shown by the way he seeks anonymity.

The exquisite peace and serene passionlessness of his days have been fully earned, the power to withdraw his senses from objects whose pursuit wastes the lives of most men has been gained in long meditations, the insight which reveals the presence of God in all things has been born out of his many self-denials and self-surrenders.

Where other men see nothing, sense nothing, revere nothing, he does all these things. For him the Empty is the Full.

The life of such a man compares with the dead movement of a fixed spindle. While he sits calm within himself, his hands and feet and brain work actively amidst the world.

The sage is not tainted by calculations of gain or loss for he is egoless in his reckonings.

The quality of this man is utterly different from that of most men. Such is the impression a sensitive observer must feel.

If he talks out of his personal experience of the Spirit, it will not be an arrogant boast but a quiet statement of simple fact.

Peace trails in the wake of such a man as foam behind a ship.

He is no more capable of reviling other men, let alone hating them. Such evil thinking cannot even begin to enter his mind but must die stillborn.

No ugly qualities are left in him, no vicious remnants of the beast that became man.

What he feels within himself irradiates what he sees outside himself. The inner strength that he has received enables him to endure adverse circumstances in a manner that truly makes the best of them in the best sense.

The genuine illuminate will discourage all attempts at deification of himself whereas the pseudo-illuminate glorifies in it.

His eyes seem passionless to our own agitated ones. His mind seems impenetrable to our own easily read ones.

Even if the ego still lives in him, it lives thoroughly purified and utterly checked. His principle trends of thought and conduct proceed from a level beyond it.

His manner always imperturbable to the point of emotional aloofness, his views always impartial to the point of stepping aside from his own self-interests, his love of truth never deserts him.

The simple knowledge of his own status has no personal pride in it; therefore, no need exists to hide it behind a false modesty.

He may carry no outward credentials of his status yet there will be an inward presence of silent authority all about him, which not even his humility, his utter self-abasement can hide.

He is not outwardly too different from the rest of mankind. He is not a cold, unfeeling marble statue nor entirely remote from human interests.

It is easy to mistake his habitual reserve for cold disdain. But it springs from a wish to refrain from interfering with others.

He will not complain if other men irritate him, nor will he worry if problems beset him. This peace which he has found is unfaltering.

In this mystical detachment from people, the sage asks nothing from them and cringes before nothing in them. He is free and independent.

From this complete independence arises part of that authority with which his speech is filled.

He practises tolerance without condescension, conformity without hypocrisy, and freedom without license.

He knows and tolerates the weaknesses of humanity, and the vacillations of his disciples, without condoning them.

He neither approves nor disapproves of anyone.

He conforms to the higher laws, his life is based on the cosmic life, his thought and attitude are in harmony with the cosmic order.

Under the genuine friendly cordiality there is, although subtly felt, a measured distance of manner, a holding back in reserve and detachment.

It is true that there have been historic figures among the sages who conducted themselves with the tradition-bound aloofness of a Mandarin. But there were others, and they were probably the majority, who were approachable in a more human way.

These great elemental forces in him are purifying ones.

Be he a dictator holding the fortunes of a nation in the hollow of his hand, or a despised outcast, degraded, destitute, and sin-steeped, none is too high to find a place in the illuminate's orbit of contact, just as none is too low. For the first virtue of self-knowledge is the inner understanding of others, the intellectual sympathy with them.

Through this sympathy he is able to place himself at the point of view of each man with whom he has to deal, or of each school of thought which he has to lead to one beyond its own.

If it can be said that he has any negative attitude at all, it may be noted that whether Oriental or Occidental he has a strong disinclination to talk about the Quest to those who are uninterested in it, or antagonistic to it.

He holds his convictions calmly where others preach them violently.

He is as indifferent to laudatory articles about himself in the public prints as to condemnatory gossip in the private circles.

He can understand why they hold these views even though he does not share them.

The current of peace carries him along. He does not have to struggle for it.

Lao Tzu: The characteristic inner state of his ideal sage is, in his own word, "emptiness."

He will carry his attainment quite unassumingly and naturally: he will not ordinarily speak of it, but if he does it will be without any pretentiousness.

He is, in Homer's phrase, "within irradiate with prophetic light."

Gently he will disown any status which would elevate him too high in the world's eyes.

If he is given the work of writing down this teaching or the mission of proclaiming it quietly in speech, the way in which it is received by others will not personally and emotionally affect him much. Whether it be long neglected or immediately accepted is more their affair than his. He will be happy if people can take the offer and benefit by it, but if they do not, he is not rendered unhappy.

He will be neither over-emotionally sentimental nor utterly selfish in his relations with others. He will mind his own business which is a celestial one. He will tend to seem absorbed and will not be understood, but rather misunderstood.

He is, he must be, the least sectarian of men, the broadest minded, the most tolerant of observers.

He holds no self-image of a flattering kind to buttress his ego when dealing with the world, in which he prefers to remain inconspicuously--unless a particular work of service withdraws him outwardly from this humility.

Those who are deceived too quickly by appearances to take the trouble to try and penetrate them may find him a cold man. But the truth is that he has feeling, not passion. There is dynamic power within him, but it is always impersonal and always calm. It is never used to gratify personal vanity or egoistic aggression.

The sage knows more secrets than he ever tells, and knows, too, how to keep them well.

The sage hears the answers of Life to the questions of man where the latter hears nothing.

It is impossible to forget the unfaltering dignity of such a man, in whom all those littlenesses which betray mediocrity have been submerged and dissolved forever.

Here at last is a man who stands out from the herd because of his essential goodness and complete integrity, his fine insight and lonely dignity.

The Notebooks are copyright © 1984-1989, The Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation.