Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation homepage > Notebooks of Paul Brunton > Category 25: World-Mind in Individual Mind > Chapter 4: The Sage Part 2
The Sage Part 2
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.
The Notebooks are copyright © 1984-1989, The Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation.