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.
God alone is perfect
The tendency to assume that the spiritual man was perfect in his youth and never made a mistake in his maturity, is common among his followers and passed on by them to the public--with the result that the latter stares at him with great awe as a rare phenomenon but does not dream that it is possible to follow in his footsteps to the same achievement. The truth is that he had his share of struggles and failures, that he was born with his own particular imperfections, and that he had to make the character and expand the consciousness which adorned his later years.
Nobody is perfectly fulfilled, completely virtuous, totally enlightened, on this physical plane. The best of sages and saints are so because of their inspiration's source, which is beyond other men's. But the channel is still human, still limited and still liable to colour what flows through, as Ramakrishna himself admitted.
The body of every sage is still human and shares the same limitations as other human bodies. This is why he may suffer from the illnesses and diseases to which all flesh is heir.
We may admire, respect, and pay homage to these men without falling into the extravagance of regarding them as gods.
It is a common error to believe that such a man is freed from all limitations whatsoever and that the deliberate performance of miracles is not beyond him. But the truth is that not only is he not allowed by the nature of circumstances to help but he is also surrounded by barriers in what he is able to do for those whom he does try to help.
The belief that the adept can explain everything is a false one.
It would be in better harmony with the facts, and mysticism would lose nothing not worth losing by it, if the representation of great mystics as demi-gods and infallible entities ceased. They are human beings and sometimes they make mistakes.
No teacher can be all-knowing or all-powerful. Such attributes belong to God, not to man. Most teachers commit errors and possess frailties.
There is too often a tendency to regard him as more than human. It is true that in one sense and in one part of his inner being, he is. But this is no reason to lose all balance and lavish adulation indiscriminately upon him. For in a number of ways he is still an ordinary man.
Even the greatest of prophets may have his lesser moments, his lighter moods.
Why not look at discoverable realities rather than unrealizable expectations? These men, however high in development and however worthy of reverence, are still only mortals. They die like us, they get ill and suffer. They do not know everything. They are even fallible. Some hold views which are arguable at least, which have been dictated or influenced by local tradition, custom, or belief rather than by God.
No one but Allah knows all. The sage is not a human encyclopedia. Those who expect an answer to every question do not show up the sage's ignorance but their own.
Some people picture to themselves an ideal human being whose body exemplifies his mind--a perfect human type--and associate the historical saints, sages, mystics, and masters with their picture. But the biographical fact itself is never the same, could we get the true fact.
The presence of insight does not exempt the sage from his human needs. He continues his daily functions as before.
The inspired man who is a genius in these matters need not be deprived of his humanity in order to hail him as a god. Even if he is used as a channel by the higher power, he is used because he is a man living with, and working among, other men.
Swami Virajananda, President, Ramakrishna Mission circa 1950:"The conduct and dealings even of a spiritual teacher, or of a fully qualified Guru may not be entirely without defects or imperfections, errors of judgement, or lack of proper understanding of some sort."
Though overshadowed continuously by this divine being that is really his own other self, he remains nevertheless quite human.
This rare wisdom does not prevent him from being a normal human otherwise.
To turn them into demigods, to believe that their intelligence is perfect, their character faultless, is to pervert the truth.
The adept has his limitations, like other human beings. He is subject to the same vicissitudes of fortune that they are. He is liable to the natural changes of life, to sickness and death. He is certainly not as powerful as so many credulous and superstitious believers imagine him to be.
To remind the worshippers that he is still a human being is not to criticize or denigrate him.
Cicero wrote nearly two thousand years ago that the ideally perfect men were "nowhere to be found at all." Who, except wishful thinkers and pious sentimentalists, can gainsay him?
Those who seek absolute perfection, whether in someone else or for themselves, seek what is unattainable in this world.
It is not possible to find human perfection, not even among the mahatmas. Travel, contact and experience with them reveals that not one was always infallible, not one failed to commit errors of judgement.
Do such men of realization live among us today? Once I thought so, but now I must honestly confess that I have no proof of the existence of even a single one. Perfect men must have existed in antique times, if the accounts which have descended to us are correct; they may even exist today, but in the course of my world wanderings I could not find them. I found remarkable men, who were perfect enough in their own line, but the broad mantle of realization did not seem to fit their shoulders. I have resigned myself, however, to the acceptance of the probability that the race of realized sages is extinct today.
Is there any man--no matter how spiritual or how well-meaning he may be--who could safely be trusted with absolute power over other men? It is this, along with other and more important observations, that has given me the courage to reject all spiritual authoritarianism. Some defect or some evil is mixed into each one of us. Imperfection is our natural lot here on earth. In a well-varied experience of my own species and in fairly wide wanderings through this world, I have never met a perfectly good, perfectly wise, and perfectly balanced man. That is to say, I must now lament with Confucius: "A sage I have no hope of ever seeing."
Sage not easily recognized
It is to live realization while behaving in the perfectly natural human way, and it is in this last sense that an old Oriental text describes the sage as bearing no distinguishing marks upon his person.
From the moment when the divine soul succeeds in taking full possession of a man's thought and feeling, will and flesh, his motives, words, acts, and desires become obscure and mysterious to other men.
It is quite customary to associate the term "sage" with some ancient gentleman whose long grey beard is supposed to make him as wise as his years. But an old man is not necessarily much wiser than a young one. Wisdom cannot be measured by the calendar. We should not respect the years but their fruit. If a man has found wisdom at the cost of his years, we should respect him. But we should not fall into the concealed if persuasive fallacy of respecting his beard. The term "sage" also gives rise in many minds to the picture of a creature belonging to an extinct species, a boring creature with pompous speech and portentous manner. Yet the lack of ability to laugh at themselves--and certainly the lack of any sense of humour at all--characterizes fools and not sages.
You may meet such a man daily over several weeks and yet know nothing of his mind, have no insight into his true character. This is because you do not have the high-grade quality of perceptiveness needed to sense him. There is no level of contact, no real communication between you and him.
Not every illuminated man has his status admitted and his knowledge recorded. Some have not been found out by the world until years after they have been dead.
If a man has found his divine soul and it has found him, he is thereby set free of the rules, restrictions, and disciplines which ascetically fence the life of a man who has not. The cigarette in his mouth cannot burn away the divine presence in his heart.
The illuminate does not have to engage in a lengthy conversation to find out whether another man is also illumined. As Chuang Tzu tells, two sages met without speaking a single word for "when their eyes met, the Tao was there."
One may achieve personal influence without gaining personal publicity. There are masters who prefer this kind of anonymity.
We project our own undeveloped minds into these sages, and then expect them to behave according to our own undeveloped ideal patterns. If we are disappointed, the blame rests with us.
All speculation upon the motives and the methods of the illuminate will avail little. The light by which he works is denied to ordinary men. We should not try to bind him down to qualities which fit only those who grope in the dark or move in twilight. We should trust where we cannot see and wait patiently for the day of revealment, when we will find all made clear and all riddles solved to our satisfaction. It is an old truism in the East that it takes an adept to understand an adept, but the West will have to learn this truth by bitter experience with pseudo-adepts.
There may be signs of his spiritual status in the dignity and composure of his bearing, the deliberateness and truthfulness of his speech, and the impressiveness of his tension-free face.
No adept presents himself to the public as such; it is for others to read the secret of his attainment. And since only those who have developed the same capacities as himself can read it, he usually remains obscure and unknown. He does not even seek to recruit disciples. He knows that the few who could absorb his help will come by destiny.
Spirituality in his aura is not always immediately recognizable although it is always indefinable. The effect he has upon those around him cannot be measured by its immediate result but only by its ultimate one.
The world can judge only by appearances and always judges the worst; the world can never hope to understand the independence of a man like him who will not hesitate to take on even the appearance of wrong whilst seeking to render service. Actually he has to subscribe to an infinitely higher ethic than conventional society can understand.
He will certainly be unpretentious and may even be unimpressive, but that will be only to the external eye. To those who can see with the mind, the heart, and the intuition, he will be a rare messenger of divinity.
We cannot dictate the external form in which he will express his attitude. The illuminate will do just that which is demanded of him by the particular circumstances of the case at that particular time and in that particular place. There is nothing arbitrary about his action.
Some behave as if they know nothing, these hidden illuminati.
Most of us are not in a position to judge either the inner being or outer behaviour of such a divinely illumined man.
People have these men of the spirit among them and do not know it, often do not care to know it.
His is indeed a life full of paradoxes. Outwardly he may be a millionaire. Inwardly he owns nothing, begs at the door of God.
It is written in some ancient Oriental text that among the signs whereby we may detect a person to be an Illumined One, the condition of the eyes is most important and that in such a person they will resemble a baby's.
The extent of any other man's enlightenment is not easily measurable, much less so in those cases where the other is no longer alive or has never been met.
It is easy to create an idealistic figure in imagination and declare that he would always act in such-and-such a way, but in actuality his actions are unpredictable and what they are can really be known only when they happen.
He knows truth, has penetrated to Reality, feels the Unseen Presence but, because he is in the world and not in meditation, plays a scene. He acts as if he were a worldling.
A true sage is more often than not unhurried in manner and slow in speech and eye-movement.
How superficial the mind, how futile the expectation which believes that when it meets an adept's body it meets the adept himself. The body may be insignificant in size, unattractive in appearance, frail in health, all that is visible being indeed in complete and deceptive contrast to the man ensouling it.
The sage lives a stranger life than we deem. His surroundings change miraculously. Poverty is no longer drab poverty, while where we can see only pain he also feels peace.
However large his accomplishment, it will still be mostly personal and private, unseen by the world.
Those who try to read his degree by the atmospheric gauge of accumulated knowledge will be disappointed.
Such a man can be put into no neat classifications, filed under no categories. The content of his mind is unknown, the course of his conduct unpredictable.
"Musk is known by its perfume and not by the apothecary's label."--Sheikh Saadi
"By their fruits ye shall know them." This test is still safe and sound. By it the true sage may be separated from false prophets.
Cryptic and enigmatic his conduct may be at times to the ordinary observer's eye, but good and wise it will always be to the spiritually discerning eye.
What is unpardonable in an ordinary person may be excusable in a sage.
Proximity to him will not necessarily give lucidity about him. His inner life will remain absolutely inscrutable to those who lack the power to penetrate it.
Such a man has little respect for traditions and less obedience to rules.
Too many naïvely expect him to be what he cannot be; too many look for a materialization of a highly imaginary fairy-tale figure of their own creation; too many wrongfully demand a miracle-working, supernaturally saint-like and sentimentally loving creature from another world. They unreasonably and unrealistically want him to look like a spectacular angel and behave like a god untroubled by human needs. Is it a surprise that they are disappointed when they find him to be just a human being, a real person, someone who, as Ramana Maharshi once said to us when this very point was being discussed, "does not wear two horns on his head!"
He really lives and moves on a plane where the eyes of the multitude cannot follow him.
Is it not in keeping with the elusive character of God that the Masters who have attained communion with God should themselves become elusive?
Isolation, privacy, reticence
It is my experience of world-wandering that those who most know truth are themselves the least known among men. This is partly because so few seek that kind of truth which is theirs--the highest--partly because it is their own wish to remain inaccessible to all except these few seekers, and partly because their completely ego-free character is utterly without any ambition to put themselves forward in public under any pretext whatsoever, whether to gain the benefits and advantages of such a position or to practise so-called service.
However eager a Master may be to reveal truth, he is forced, by the indifference and miscomprehension of the world, to conceal it.
It is not an isolation due to arrogance, to too high a notion of his own status. It is the others who are really apart, by their animalism or egotism.
He is not alien to humanity but only alien to what is low and bestial in humanity.
If the adepts live in such splendid isolation, it is because they have to balance their greatly increased sensitivity in this way. It is not through any conceited sense of personal superiority that they keep apart from others. They are entitled to an environment which least opposes them, least emits discords at every thought, and most harmonizes with their nature and habits. They must themselves create such an environment: the world can not offer it. Thus the paradox arises that because they have entered into secret unity with all men, the adepts must stand aloof from all men!
The custodians of this knowledge may have the appearance of living aloof from the human race, but it is appearance only.
When he is among those who do not understand, nothing will shake his reserve on these truths. What else can such a man do but give only the surface of himself, only a part of his knowledge to them? If they are too insensitive to feel the subtle presence that he feels, and too self-enclosed to be interested in it, he can at least keep it from being profaned by sceptical remarks or sneering criticisms. The humble, who are not developed enough to understand but are willing to give their faith, may share his treasure to a limited extent; but the arrogant, who are too educated or too earthy to understand, may not. He is not hiding behind a mask--for he can still be sincere in all his talk or traffic with them--rather, he is keeping back his deepest self from full free expression.
The men who can save society are those whom it knows least and disdains most. They are men who have found out its shallowness and meanness and turned their faces toward Truth. They live aside and are not to be found in the ranks of clergymen, as a rule, for the latter help to pillar and prop society's crumbling edifice in order to save their jobs. But the men who have uncovered life, who can provide society with insight and foresight, make no attempt to press upon the public attention. When the world wants them, it will search for them. They can afford to bide their time for they know food is only for the hungry.
Even in the outer life, he and his kind must be reserved and withdrawn; it cannot be helped. He cannot descend any more to the residence of the inwardly shabby, the intuitionally destitute.
Although he identifies himself with their true welfare, he manages to keep himself detached from their personal affairs.
We humans are a race of walking and working somnambulists. Only the illuminate is really awake.
He finds the mass of humanity goes on as complacently unaware of its spiritual need as ever. It does not want the truth he has, but only the truth that suits, comforts, and preserves its ego. It wants a label, and he is as unlabelled as the wind which "bloweth where it listeth." The more original his presentation of the truth, the deeper the source from which he draws it, the less do most people, with their mass-conditioned minds, want it.
It is not the prophet himself who is conscious of his place in history but those in the circle around him, those who follow long after he is dead, and those who write about him. For the sense of mission, the relationship with past and future generations, the work to be done in the present epoch--all these things belong to the ego's thoughts about itself, to the concern with self. He is satisfied to let himself be used by the Overself, to abandon all care about them into its hands, to go where he is bidden and to do what he is urged to do. The thirst for fame and the striving of ambition are totally absent from such a man.
How can he crimp and cramp his private sense of truth within the narrow limits of some man's opinion? The strange infinitude of mind overpowers him, the mystic reaches of the Unknown haunt him continually; how then is he to walk into some mental prison and keep company with the spiritual captives of his time?
He stands outside all this drama and watches it as a spectator, sometimes with a slight smile of pleasure, sometimes with a mild frown of distress, never with a hard cold attitude but always with a settled resignation to the decree of karma or the will of Allah. If, now and then, he suggests a movement, a change, or a view-expanding idea to one of the actors, it is not to be regarded as an act of interference but as itself part of the person's own karma, or the higher will's grace.
He is neither unduly uncommunicative nor the reverse. He understands the need of respecting evolutionary need, rejects the theory of universal equality, and practises the discipline of speech. But his compassion is always active, his willingness to share truth and give blessing never absent. If in the presence of the Overself he realizes the futility of human speech about it, in the presence of groping, seeking, suffering men he holds back no word which will comfort, guide, or inspire.
If the sage gives the inner help which men need, he does so with no desire and no expectation of reward, as a physician might reasonably expect. He gives out of the fullness of his heart, out of his extraordinary capacity for sympathy through self-identification with others. But this may not often be understood, first, because he will not desert his habitual calm to put on an emotional display at the bidding of convention, and second, because he consults with wisdom as to what he shall do, which is not always what people want him to do.
The sage who works for the good of humanity must respect his own definition of good and his own knowledge of the best way to work. Otherwise, he would be no better than the social reformer, the statesman, the clergyman, and the moralist--he would have only an intellectual or emotional understanding of life, and not a mystical and integral one.
Do not reproach him for his reserve. He is ready to share and share generously. But it must be done in his way, at his time, and according to his circumstances. For his perception is unclouded by the ego, and yours is not. For when you make your demand on him, remember that there are many others making a similar demand.
He tries so to live as to acquit himself honourably before God rather than before men. He has lived long enough to hear many who once praised him, now abuse him. Hence he has lived long enough to know that unless he remains uniformly serene and inwardly detached from the world's opinion, there can be no true happiness for him. He has been taught by the Overself to stand unmoved by the disloyalties of so-called friends and the defections of short-sighted followers. He is too wise and experienced to expect either real justice or correct understanding from them. It will not be possible for them to understand him or his point of view or his logic by a mere exchange of words, so he refrains from attempting what is so useless.
Suffice that he replies with silence. If people cannot read that silence, cannot understand who and what he is from inner being alone, then they must go to the gossips, the critics, the enemies, and misunderstanders of him for an interpretation of his character, motives, and record. They will then take appearances for reality, and delude themselves and others. Therefore it is that with most of humanity he has and can have nothing to do. Occasionally he meets one who reads him with the inner sight, who speaks his wordless language, and then they recognize each other. For the rest, each descent from his solitude into society nails him to the cross.
It is not only that they feel so much at odds with the world that they stand aside from it and refrain from mixing in its society. It is as much or more that they have found a way of life which seems to them the best, the truest and the most spiritually profitable. They feel it essential to follow this way wheresoever it leads them, and whether in or out of society.
The sage will not need to advertise himself as such. People who are sensitive or discerning will come in time to recognize his rare inspiring quality. Others who are in vital need of the peace that emanates from him or of the truth that fills his words will learn, sooner or later, by some way or another, of his existence and beat a path or send a letter to his door.
The same lofty realization which brings him down to serve his fellow men, isolates him from them at the same time.
There is a wall between the adept and his detractors. They built it. They themselves must remove it. Nobody can do this for them, not even he. They must undo their self-perpetrated wrongs.
He is among the great solitary spirits of mankind, yet he can never be called lonely for in himself he is always sufficient.
He is forced to live among people who are mostly several hundred earth-lives younger than he, and consequently quite "unsympathetic" (in the European-Continental meaning of the term).
Whether he keeps in touch with human affairs or keeps away from them is a matter which is entirely personal in his view and dependent on time, place, circumstance, and need. He is not dogmatic about it, whether for himself or others, and would certainly not quarrel with them over it.
He has no need to acquaint others with the exalted nature of his insight, much less publicize it to the world at large. Just quietly being what he is will be enough. This will screen him from those who sneer, criticize, or attack: but the sensitive will appreciate him.
A Chinese proverb of antiquity says, "A dragon in shallow waters becomes the butt of shrimps." Hence, the illuminate does not advertise his sagehood, make a noise about his wisdom, or shout his power in public, but lets most men believe he is just like them. "The Tathagata (teacher) is the same to all, and yet knowing the requirements of every single being, he does not reveal himself to all alike. He pays attention to the disposition of various beings," said Buddha.
If the adepts prefer not to live with or near people, there are good and sufficient reasons for it. If their homes are exclusive, their contacts restricted, if they avoid familiarity, it is because their attainment has been paid for by their sensitivity. Truly has it been said that the gulf between the bad man and the good man is not so wide as the gulf between the good man and the adept.
Is there a moral obligation on him to share his knowledge with others? In a sense there is. But he sees that their moral limitations and spiritual apathy restricts and cramps any activity in this direction. Also he learns that being himself is his best activity.
His power of keeping his knowledge a secret from those who are unready for or uninterested in it is perfect. Nothing in his words or manner may lead them to think that he knows immensely more than he tells them.
He knows how to protect his status well. In the presence of sceptics and scoffers, or the unevolved and unready, neither his outward manner nor his uttered talk will give any hint of it.
With all his reclusive habits, the sage is compassionate in temperament, benevolent in personality. Even when he avoids men, he does not hate them.
They feel tense, uneasy, and unsure in the presence of a superior class of beings. This he knows by experience and this is one reason why he keeps apart and alone; yet paradoxically it is also why he is kinder to them than a situation calls for, why he then behaves as if he were an equal and not on a different level.
In one sense his consciousness is insulated by its own superior quality from that of others, but in another sense it fleetingly registers or lengthily holds their states through his compassion, sympathy, or understanding.
He has no intention of meddling in other people's personal lives, no conceit that his duty is to change them, no willingness to take on responsibility for them. He commits them to the Overself and commends them to it. But this done, if intuitively or rationally he is led to suggest a purpose or remind them of a truth or point to a beneficial course or utter a warning, he will obey the leading--but always in response to their approach.
He is happier to move through this world incognito, if fate will let him, than celebrated.
Most people are always more impressed by outward show than by inner worth. But when the show is philanthropic service and benevolent activity dramatically performed, they are even more impressed. The recognition and appreciation are immediate. The man whose inner stillness admits spiritual forces into his surroundings remains unnoticed.
The readiness with which he once plunged into other people's affairs to help them, as he believed, will dissolve and disappear. He knows now that their real troubles remain unaffected by this surface aid, that meddling in their problems is not the right way.
He is surrounded by an aura which makes him seem more remote than he really is, which isolates him and overwhelms others.
It would be easy to surround himself with a crowd of fawning disciples and flattering admirers. But he could not accept such a role because he knows that they will refuse to let him be himself and will expect him to be different from what he really is.
He does not care to face an attitude which is hostile or indifferent; he does not even need to talk to men who begin by disbelieving him.
No sage looks proudly down on others from his pedestal, but that does not alter the distance that extends from their ignorance to his knowledge.
He does not require idolatrous homage from them, and indeed shrinks from it. His unaffected nature renders him desirous of being treated no better than others.
Without wearing the monk's robe, or the eccentric's long hair, he passes among men a hidden existence, a secret inner life.
The conventional world is so tied to, and therefore so deceived by, appearances, that it is only a tiny handful of people who meet such a man with the understanding and sympathy he deserves.
It is not personal desire which makes him refrain from communicating himself to others, but public circumstances. In this he obeys the Greek verse, "When to be wise is all in vain, be not wise at all." Why should he communicate the oracles of heaven to those whose minds run only to trivialities?
The illuminate prefers to pull strings from behind the curtain of obscurity.
He does not want to impose himself where he may not be wanted. He does not want to intrude on the mental privacy of others.
It is this quality of remoteness in him which baffles some people, provokes others, antagonizes many, but attracts a few. It makes him profoundly different from the average man, foreign to him and hard to understand.
The adept is built too high for ordinary men to appreciate him and too remote for them to understand him. It is inevitable that he should dwell isolated and aloof from all except those whose great aims justify the contact.
He will descend into the arena of this world only by the direct order of his Overself.
He dwells apart in solitude. Why? The world could not grant the existence of his tremendous modesty, his perfect poise, his freedom from chatter, his vast self-restraint, and so, failing to understand, it would misunderstand.
He prefers to remain anonymous, but if the mission requires it, he submits to publicity's glare.
Restrained in speech, withdrawn in self, he comes out of his inner world to meet his fellows only so far, and therefrom will not further descend. For it is a lofty world.
If, in their discretion, they suppress their true beliefs and hide their inmost mind from the masses as behind a veil, it must be granted that both history and psychology justify this caution.
They are reluctant to tell others about their inmost experiences; some even refuse absolutely to admit they have had such experiences if the questioner is unsympathetic or uncomprehending.
His rare experience, his precious wisdom, his special knowledge of life's higher laws are not put on parade to impress others. Rather does he behave among them as if he were, had, knew nothing exceptional.
Sage is usually misunderstood
The sage's enlightenment, like the man himself, eludes the unenlightened observer, who can not comprehend this kind of man, and so usually ends by misunderstanding him.
Such a man cannot help having his detractors, for people can see only what he permits them to see. And if that small part is misread by them, he has to remain silent. He will not force an affinity where it does not exist. They may have visited him and talked with him, not once but several times; they may think they know him well, yet in reality they have not met him and do not know him at all! Only the real pilgrims, who come with the correct mental attitude, have done so, and only they have been blessed by his grace and prized their good fortune at its correct value.
He must be prepared to find that others, because of their limitations--not necessarily or at all because they are evil--may seriously misunderstand him, misread his actions, and misinterpret his words.
Whoever has attained this blessed state would not be true to himself if he were not ardently happy to share it with others, if he were not ever ready to help them attain it too. And this desire extends universally to all without exception. He excludes none--how could he if the compassion which he feels be the real thing that comes with the realized unity of the Overself, that is, of the Christ-self, and not merely a temporary emotional masquerader! He himself could have written those noble words which Saint Paul wrote more than once in his epistles: "In Him there cannot be Jew or Greek, Barbarian, Scythian, but all are one man in Christ Jesus." Despite this, he soon finds that iron fetters have been placed on his feet. He finds, first, that only the few who are themselves seekers are at all interested; second, that even among this small number there are those who, because of personal dislikes, racial prejudice, social snobbery, or family antagonism, are unwilling to approach him; and third, that the mischievous agencies from occult spheres, through false reports and stimulated malice, delude a part of those who remain into creating an evil mental picture of him which is utterly unlike the actuality. For when such a man really begins to become an effective worker in this sacred cause, the evil forces begin their endeavours to pull him down and thus stop him. They may inspire human instruments with fierce jealousy or personal hatred of him, or they may try other ways. It is their task to destroy the little good that he has done or to prevent whatever good he may yet do. It is an unfortunate but historic fact that many an aspirant is carried away by the false suggestions emanating from such poisoned sources.
The true Prophet does not wear a single rag of the cloak of pretense. Therefore, he makes an easy mark for the poisoned arrows of his traducers. For the world does not willingly believe that a man can exist who tries to live his life literally on the principles of Christ's Sermon on the Mount. It prefers to believe that he has some hidden motive, that he lives a life of secret evil.
Those who do not know what the inward life means and consequently do not understand such a man--walking mantled in unique serenity as he does--often mistakenly regard him, if they themselves are of a markedly emotional temperament, as being cold, aloof, and reserved.
Another common mistake is to believe a sage to be less divine because he is more human than preconceived notions had imagined him to be.
The adepts are not creatures of sentimentalism. They do not love their neighbour in a gushy emotional way. How could they, when he expresses only his lower human nature or his beastly animal self? Not only do they not love humanity individually, they do not even love it in the mass.
Those who have malignantly attacked the person or injured the work of such a man through whom the divine forces are working for the enlightenment of mankind, create for themselves a terrible karma which accumulates and strikes them down in time. He himself will endeavour to protect his work by appropriate means, one being temporarily to withdraw his love from them for the rest of his incarnation until their dying moments. Then he will extend it again with full force and appear to them as in a vision, full of forgiveness, blessing, and comfort.
Can those born blind be made to understand the difference between colours? The difficulty is insuperable. Realizing this, Emerson said: "Every man's words, who speak from that life, must sound vain to those who do not dwell in the same thought on their own part."
There is a warmth, an intimacy in the Personal God, the Personal Master, which does not seem to exist in the impersonal ones. Nevertheless it would be highly erroneous to believe that they are cold and unresponsive, lifeless and stonelike. There is feeling but it is pure, refined, delicate, and flowerlike.
The illumined man gives himself, the ignorant one gives his possessions. If they are judged by appearances only, the truth of the situation will become reversed, and falsity will appear as truth. That is, the illumined man will seem the most uncharitable.
The master's motive may easily remain unknown to others, especially when he has a mission to fulfil for them, and by this ignorance they may just as easily misunderstand his actions. If this happens and they turn away from him, an opportunity for their higher growth will be missed. The distorted reading of his actions will also cause them to judge him unfairly and incorrectly. He will accept this injustice as part of the price of descending into an evil world where he does not really belong.
To expect from such a man at all times and in all places, as both sceptics and followers often expect, a pharisaical propriety of conduct simply shows how little they have comprehended the perfect selflessness and utter purity of his character. For they expect him to behave rigidly according to the patterns of conventional morality, although these are not always sincere or generous or wise. Because his guidance must come from within, from his diviner consciousness and not from outside, from a society led by its ego consciousness, there will be occasions when his actions will not conform to these patterns. And this is so in spite of the fact that he knows well, and obeys where possible, the requirement that he shall set an example to others. His nonconformity will then be denounced, or misunderstood, reviled or viewed with bewilderment.
There are those who lightly appraise such a man's spiritual worth by the superficial signs which accident throws their way or by the stories gossip brings to their ears. They are wasting their time.
To offer no contradiction to false or slanderous statements made by others in their presence about a Spiritual teacher, is silently to consent to such criticism.
It is such a man who most serves his fellows yet who least receives the recognition of his service. This is because humanity fails to understand where its true interests lie, what its true goal is, and why it is here at all.
He will be the victim on one side of friendly enthusiasts who credit him with powers and adorn him with virtues which he does not possess, and on the other side of prejudiced enemies who malign him with motives and besmirch him with weaknesses which are wholly foreign to his temperament.
His illusionless life may not seem attractive to the mass of people who cannot afford the high cost of truth.
Too long has the word "Master" been bandied on the lips of people; they talk of the "Master" as of a politician--setting up to judge him or making wild statements about him or letting their imaginations run loose about him. It is not right that the Illuminati should be discussed so lightly and it is far better to let them remain as Illuminati to be thought of in silent hours of meditation and not to be analysed at our tea-tables as we analyse the events of the day.
Fools make complaint that the Prophet brings to them this old message of the eternal Deity that waits to light all human hearts and brings nothing new or fit for this age and hour. We may make a preamble to our answer with the statement that he indubitably gives such scientific and practical turn to his teachings as the time demands, but we must admit that his first and last words remain ever the same as the first and last words of all the illustrious divine teachers. For what other message can he give? When the soul hungers for a happiness it has hitherto been unable to find in its mud-pits of sensuality or in its marketplaces of barter, is he to offer it a stone of some economic doctrine and not the bread of spiritual nourishment? Is he come to confirm our self-deceptions and our self-grovellings and to give the lie to the divine bliss he enjoys every moment?
His continual serenity, his unemotional manner may draw the admiration of the discerning few, but it will also provoke the exasperation of the undiscerning many.
By what measure can they judge in reality which is unseen and not in illusion, the moral rectitude of a man who has been sent among them with a mission, who has not only secretly dissolved his human "I" but has secretly taken and faithfully kept the monk's renunciatory vows?
The vast reticence of such a man will be respected by those who are sensitive but may infuriate those who are not.
Because of the many seeming contradictions in his nature he may be much misunderstood by others.
Humanity venerates the memory of these prophets, but in decreasing degree. For they incarnate values, attainments, and qualities which most people feel are far above any likelihood of their own coming even remotely near.
Contrary to common belief, the illuminate is not a joyless griefless man who has crushed all human affection, sterilized all human feelings, sunk himself in physical inertia, and habituated himself to insensitivity toward the sufferings of others.
Such a man cannot be really known by those who have not themselves touched his height; part of him--the most important and precious part--must always remain an inscrutable stranger to them.
To one observer such a man seems to live inside himself, to another outside himself. To the first, he is held fast to some internal power; to the second, he is constantly practising self-identification with others.
His followers expect too much from him, perhaps because they credit him with powers far beyond what he does possess. This leads to a measure of disappointment.
It is possible that his actions sometimes puzzle those who put their trust in him. Those who judge only by appearances may be surprised and aggrieved at his seeming indifference. But with the efflux of time they may get to know more or all of the facts, and then their puzzlement will vanish.
If others think him aloof, cold, even unsympathetic, they may go further and misunderstand him. He is not shut stonily in his ego, as they think, but on the contrary, is much freer from it than they are.
They come to inspect the great soul, the Mahatma, as if they could really see him. They bring out their measuring equipment and pronounce verdict on his littleness or greatness. Their opinion is based on an appearance that is a possible illusion.
Just as Pythagoras and Socrates were maligned and even put to death by those who either misunderstood or misrepresented their teachings, so Epicurus, another Greek, has been maligned ever since his own time, although he fortunately died a natural death. Incidentally, he died of the stone. It could be that there was an excess of calcium in his body and that it had got concentrated in the wrong place, producing the stone in the bladder or the kidney--for he tried to live a simple life and ate only barley, bread, and cheese and drank only water. There was probably an excess of cheese in his diet, producing the excess of calcium. However the point I wish to make is that he is supposed to have preached heathenism, the pursuit of pleasure and enjoyment as being the highest good, but the truth is, as demonstrated by his simple life, that he was an ascetic. He did not believe in cluttering himself up with a lot of possessions and he sought the freedom from anxiety which this gave him. The freedom from those desires for luxuries and comforts which fill most people left him with a serene mind. This serenity was enjoyable and pleasant; so what he meant by pleasure was a pleasure of living the good life, not the pleasure of living the animal life. But if he is to be judged by his diet, his philosophy was incomplete and imbalanced.
Because he ever practises calmness, other persons may think him to be indifferent to them, to what is happening, and to his own actions, as if he were performing them somewhat casually; but in this they would be mistaken. For the detachment within him lies deep down and consists in a general attitude towards worldly life based upon knowledge, understanding, philosophy. He is not heedless but attentive, not unresponsive but touched by situations calling for sympathy, not neutral where right or wrong are concerned, not neglectful of duties and responsibilities, not careless in work but carefree.
Suffering is real and painful when it comes. The sage is not heartless to its appearance in other people, but he understands it somewhat better than they do.
Such a man has enigma and paradox between him and the world's understanding.
It is easy for the populace to be deceived by his unassuming manners and unpretentious speech into thinking him to be anything but what he really is.
One and the same Master will appear to his followers as an incarnation of God, but to the worldly wise as a lunatic, if not a fraud. None of these views may be correct.
Although the sage can understand the points of view of the fool, the ignoramus, the worldling, and the bigot, they cannot understand his own.
It is the wise guidance of the Overself which persuades such a man to walk indifferently by when his name is vilified and to hold his tongue when his character is slandered.
Those who do not understand and appreciate this great control of feeling, and especially those who are highly emotional themselves, will see him merely from the outside and consequently misunderstand his character. They will consider him to be a cold, shut-in type.
The world will assess his motives at the lowest level, interpret his actions in the basest way. If he were to let it rot in its own ignorance, he would be well justified.
To evaluate the work and word of these men is to judge by appearances alone. For there is in both an incalculable element, a hidden worth.
The initiate does not waste his time in arguing with others, either to attack their beliefs or defend his Own.
If he seems outwardly distant and indifferent, we should understand that his distance and his indifference are not egoistic, and consequently are worthy of close examination and deep study. They contain a mystery as well as a paradox. For in his heart there flows, side by side, both a pure love for humanity and an utter detachment from humanity. It is in the very nature of his attainment of a true philosopher's status that he should be able to fulfil himself only by going beyond all selves--ours as well as his own.
Sages merit veneration
The world should be more grateful for the presence of such men. The good they do is mostly indirect, however, through intermediaries, or mostly hidden because psychological, so it escapes the world's notice.
Light the lamp and it will spread out its rays by itself. We are indeed blessed by the presence of these great souls on this earth and doubly so if we meet in person. They deserve not merely our respect but our veneration. But even if we are never fortunate enough to meet one of these masters, the mere knowledge that such men do exist and live demonstrates the possibility of spiritual achievement and proves that the quest is no chimera. It should comfort and encourage us to know this. Therefore we should regard such a man as one of humanity's precious treasures. We should cherish his name as a personal inspiration. We should venerate his sayings or writings as whispers out of the eternal silence.
Such rare peace stands out in poignant contrast against the burdens and fretfulness of our ordinary lives. Such rare goodness is needed by a generation accustomed to violence, atrocity, bestiality and horror, lunacy and hatred.
The World-Mind does not fully declare its intentions toward us humans but does give us enough inkling of them through the teachers and prophets of the race.
These great souls who have ascended to another plane of being altogether have sent us signals from that distant sphere. It is for us to heed those signals and to understand their meaning.
The knowledge of someone far better than oneself shows human possibilities. The longing to become like him provides one with an ideal for living.
The examples of good men help us when we compare ourselves with them, and especially our worst with their best.
History has honoured those individuals who have gone into the far places of this globe and explored them. It is now time to honour those who have gone deep, not far, within themselves and explored consciousness.
A real need of humanity eventually finds its expression in flesh and blood. Just as an oppressive tyranny ultimately produces the rebel who overthrows it, so a growing hunger for spiritual guidance ultimately brings forth those who are to provide it.
Those who have lavished their devotion on such an ideal, have lavished it wisely.
Just as Jesus was in reality greater than the rabbis whose unquestioned authority dominated the people of Israel, so any man today who reflects in all its purity the Overself's light, unshadowed by his personal opinions, is in reality greater than the impressively robed dignitaries of Church and State.
Philosophy views the various departments of world-activity from their standpoint as a whole. This rare synthetic outlook, this magnificent breadth of vision, this unique coordination of the entire panorama of life, enables the mystical philosopher to suggest the wisest courses of action to his fellow beings. Those who direct States put themselves and their people in moral peril if they ignore or despise his value.
We have paid, and are still paying, a heavy price for our comfortable conviction that the philosophic illuminate is a fool, to whom it is unnecessary to pay serious attention.
It is such men who ought to be made, not the leaders of mankind, but the counsellors to the leaders.
A single meeting with such a man brings forth our involuntary respect. A long association with him brings forth our loving devotion also.
If anyone brings him homage or reverence he takes it, not to himself but to the Unseen Higher Power, before whom he lays it.
Most men make their appeal to authority and are constantly at pains to quote letter and script for their words; others will gaze into their own glasses of vision and report upon the reflections of Truth that they descry within: but the illuminated ones live the life and so declare only that which they have experienced themselves; indeed what they say comes as from on high for us.
Those who inspire us to better ourselves, certainly deserve our gratitude and even deserve our love.
Every minute taken from the time of an illumined worker is selfishly taken from many other persons who may be in much greater need of it. It is a mistake to equate the time-measure of such a man with the average one by requesting "just a few minutes" for that is really equal to an entire day robbed from his time work, for which he was born and to which he ought to remain loyal and fully committed. Of course I do not refer here to those illuminati whose work is expressly done through personal contact with individuals or groups face-to-face, but to those who labour in studios, study-rooms, or benevolent meditation. If anyone really and truly admires them, or is grateful to them, and wishes to give form to his feeling, to the fact known, he will do better by writing a letter needing no physical plane answer and not by obstructing their work.
The great masters who taught men truth or gave them supreme works of art or lifted their feelings deserve a large gratitude for such benedictions.
It is those who create ways and means for others to follow in the search for spiritual fulfilment, the teachers and awakeners, who deserve our best honours.
He lives in the knowledge of the World-Idea--not in its fullness of detail but in its general outline--which is fulfilling itself in the whole universe and with which he tries to co-operate according to his knowledge. This it is which supports his inner being, counters his everyday experience of human weakness and evil, and transfigures him when leaving the hour of communion to resume that experience.
Such a man is a focal-point for all that is noble.
A nature sensitive to the serenity, benevolence, and wisdom radiating from such a man will gladly give its homage to him.
It is a grave mistake made by ignorant persons or by proud ones to fail in holding such a man in deep veneration.
The gods keep a vacant seat for him in the high places, while simple men and women throw unseen roses of appreciation when he enters their orbit.
We should listen to the plain statements of such a man as the old Greeks listened to the enigmatic utterances of their Oracles.
Socrates tried to awaken the Greeks, Jesus tried to awaken the Israelites. Their failure was followed by consequences to their people which can be traced in history. If the higher power takes the trouble to send a messenger, it is better to tremble, listen, and obey, than to sneer, reject, and suffer.
The comments made by sages upon the varied situations in human life are worth far far more than the commentaries written by pundits on the sacred or philosophic texts. The former are very much in a minority.
There is no such act as a one-sided self-giving. Karma brings us back our due. He who spends his life in the dedicated service of philosophic enlightenment may reject the merely material rewards that this service could bring him, but he cannot reject the beneficent thoughts, the loving remembrances, the sincere veneration which those who have benefited sometimes send him. Such invisible rewards help him to atone more peacefully and less painfully for the strategic errors he has made, the tactical shortcomings he has manifested. Life is an arduous struggle for most people, but much more so for such a one who is always a hated target for the unseen powers of darkness. Do not hesitate to send him your silent humble blessing, therefore, and remember that Nature will not waste it. The enemies you are now struggling against within yourself he has already conquered, but the enemies he is now struggling against are beyond your present experience. He has won the right to sit by a hearth of peace. If he has made the greatest renunciation and does not do so, it is for your sake and for the sake of those others like you.
What he is testifies to THAT WHICH IS. Where lesser men have to shout their opinions, his silence is eloquent and, to the receptive, an initiation in itself.