Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation homepage > Notebooks of Paul Brunton > Category 6: Emotions and Ethics > Chapter 4: Purify Passions
The same power which, when misgoverned, drags men down into materialism, also lifts them into spiritual awareness when directed upward.
Where all a man's acts are merely the reflex behaviour dictated by his sense-impressions, he has hardly any life higher than an animal one. It is the business of this quest to insert the influence of consciousness of the causes and results of his actions, reason, and will into such behaviour.
There are certain indestructible truths which reveal themselves through the ages to every man who, for a time at least, sufficiently masters his animal self and sufficiently quietens his human self. Those which we most need to learn today are simple and ancient, yet completely relevant to the modern scene and completely adequate to the modern need.
It is everywhere the state today that most people are automatons, merely reacting to the outward world of the five senses in a mechanical manner. They do not really control what is happening to them but merely drift with the forces playing through the sense-stimuli. The consequence is that they do not actually possess or use the power of free will. They are puppets on Nature's stage.
When any emotion takes full possession and reaches an extreme stage, it becomes a passion.
One does not easily discard the various passions. The decision to do so does not lead, or even contribute much, to their conquest. It merely announces the beginning of a long war. They return, in spite of one's wishes, again and again for they belong to the animal body which, itself, cannot be discarded. But in the end a man must claim his birthright to a higher kind of life, must fulfil his nobler possibilities, must set up reason and intuition as his most reliable guides.
If your thoughts are energized by a noble passion and your deeds inspired by a lofty enthusiasm, they are the better for it. But if your thoughts are distorted by a foolish passion and your deeds wasted by a misdirected enthusiasm, they are the worse for it.
The same ambition which stretched his mind and capacity for money-making or power-hunting can, when transformed into aspiration, stretch them for truth-seeking and character building.
It is not even that he has to give up all desires but that he has to purify them and put them all under the dominance of his one supreme desire for attainment--which may or may not mean their extinction.
Man's true intelligence is feeble while it remains imprisoned in egoism and narcotized by sensuality. He must liberate it by the philosophic discipline before it can become strong.
So many of our feelings and so many of our thoughts have until now been dictated by the body. Is it not time to think and feel also as the true self would have us do?
The animal heritage has given him instincts, appetites, impulses, and desires; the human holds out higher possibilities to be worked for and realized.
One message of the Sphinx is to balance the human mind with the brutish animal in us. This is not the same as the ascetics' message, which is to exterminate the animal altogether.
He who has not overcome his passions finds himself compelled to act against the clearest warnings of his reason.
What really moves a man to act is his feeling; this is why the passions, which are strong feelings, need more deliberate effort of the will to bring them under restraint.
An action which is spontaneous and not a calculated one--that can be safe only for the enlightened man. For others it may be mere impulse or mere passion.
The point is not that natural impulses of the body are wrong--how could that be?--but that men have made them wrong. Originally the satisfaction of the pleasure-instinct was in harmony with higher will as a lesser part of a greater function. But now human will has reversed its role and exaggerated it to first place. The result is disharmony and disease.
On one thing all men in all lands are agreed, that it is immeasurably more preferable to be released from anxieties than to suffer them. Yet, these same men throw themselves into situations or bring about events which will rivet the chains of anxiety upon them. How is it that such a contradiction exists everywhere? What causes them to do this? It is the strength of their desires, the power of their ambitions, the tendencies inherited from past births. This being the cause of the trouble, the remedy for it becomes plain. The more a man frees himself from desires, that is, the more he masters himself, the more is he freed from numerous anxieties. And even if he too is subject to the painful tests and unpleasant ordeals which inescapably affect human existences, he does not consider them to be misfortunes but as devices to draw out his latent qualities.
The way out from tyrannical desires may have to be staged. First become a witness--indifferent and dispassionate--every time there is a surrender. This way is taking a new direction, starting to disidentify from the desire.
On the one hand he must tear himself away from his earthly passions. On the other hand he must give himself up to his sacred aspirations.
The eagerness of desire betrays him into romantic self-deceptions and leads him into wounding frustrations. The ego lures his hopes constantly onward only to lacerate them in the end.
Whilst we are still limited by the body and its inescapable needs, it is an impossible task to extirpate desire and negative self-interest. Philosophy adds that it is also an undesirable one. Only, put desire and self-interest down in their proper place, it says, do not permit them to obstruct higher and spiritual needs.
It is not that they have to abandon joy but to purify it. If the joy which comes from debased pleasures is thereby lost, the joy which comes from ennobled thoughts and refined feelings is gained.
When earthly desires are extinguished, calm befalls a man.
He must needs declare open war on his own passions, for he now sees that he cannot have them and peace too. Like all war this one will witness both victories and defeats, hardships and sufferings. But out of these battles with himself he may progress, learning discrimination and gaining willpower.
He realizes that he has to break his passions or, if uncontrolled, they will break him.
In this work of purification the need of moral intellectual and emotional honesty will have to be stressed. It is satisfied by discriminating examination of thoughts, feelings, and motives, with constant self-distrust as a guide in the work.
The more he trains himself to recognize and reject the impulses that come from his lower nature, the more will clarity of comprehension become his.
The animal that he is must be kept at bay; his freedom as a man must be gained by degrees.
It is true that thought precedes action, that actions express thoughts, and that to rule mind is to rule the entire life. But it is also true that man's battles with himself proceed by progressive stages, that he exerts will more easily than he changes feeling. Therefore, the discipline of inward thinking should follow after--and not before--it. To counsel him to take care of his inner life and that then the outer life will take care of itself, as so many mystics do, is to be plausible but also to show a lack of practicality. Man's heart will feel no peace as his mind will know no poise until he abandons the lower instincts and gives himself up to this unearthly call. First, he must abandon them outwardly in deeds; later he must do it inwardly even in thoughts. This will inevitably bring him into inner struggle, into oscillation between victories and defeats, elations and despairs. The way up is long, hard, rugged, and slow to tread. It is always a stage for complaints and outcries, battles and falls. Only time--the master power--can bring him to its lofty end. Only when the lessons of birth after birth etch themselves deeply and unmistakably into his conscious mind through dreadful repetition can he accept them co-operatively, resignedly, and thus put a stop to the needless sufferings of desire, passion, and attachment.
When a man's desires and yearnings, thirsts and longings are so strong as to upset his reasoning power and block his intuitive capacity, he is stopped from finding truth. In this condition he shuts his eyes to those facts which are displeasing or which are contrary to his desires and opens them only to those which are pleasing or agreeable to his wishes. Thinking bends easily to desires, so that the satisfaction of personal interest rather than the quest of universal truth becomes its real object.
Reforms that begin with the lowest in man lead the way to the highest in him. The mastery of animal passion opens the door to the birth of spiritual intuition.
Whether the cage be made of gold or the net fabricated from silk, the reality of their inner captivity still remains.
A discipline which is not stern but gentle and easy is best suited to modern man.
The faculty of will is immeasurably more important to the progress of the inner life than that of intellect. For the passions and appetites of the body are controlled by will; the strength of the lower nature is at the service of the ego's will rather than of its intellect.
He is called on, in his higher life, to transmute the animal calls of his nature to what--however dimly he sees it--is really the god within him.
It is unpleasant to break away from long-lived habits, and this is true both in our mental and our physical life. Yet in times of crisis such as severe illness and breakdown, people do do that because they have to. How much better to do it not violently and abruptly--under outward compulsions--but to do it little by little, gently and easily, taking our time by doing it through application of wisdom.
When control is so perfect that he can never again raise his voice in anger, he need turn attention to only one other passion--the sexual.
Such a chaste aloofness from the lower desires may be reached only in part by their firm repression. If it is to be reached in full, there must be even more an ardent pursuit of the highest desire--for the Soul.
The Taoist masters did not make, as the Buddhist and Hindu masters made, complete freedom from desire an essential prerequisite. They were satisfied to ask for "fewness of desires" only.
The man who can win his way to freedom from anger and finally liberate the mind from passion may need much of his lifetime, if not all of it, for the work; but what he gains is of inestimable value. For this brings him closer to awareness of the Overself.
When desires die without regrets, he begins to taste real peace. When cravings slough off naturally, like a serpent's skin, he finds tranquil happiness.
As aspiration for the Overself grows stronger, other desires grow weaker.
You must possess an insatiable longing for light if you are ever to emerge from the darkness.
He arrives at purity by a cultivated discipline of the mind rather than by a forcible atrophy of the senses.
The thread-like intuition which will lead him out of animality into serenity, will be his best guide if he can find it and heed it.
It is not possible for these finer elements to become, little by little, paramount in his outlook, consciousness, and conduct without a corresponding decline in the coarser ones. He will gradually become the ruler of his physical appetites and then master of his bodily desires. Indeed, as all his longings for the Overself slowly gather themselves together into a great dedicated life, there is an equally great shift-over from the animal part of his being to the truly human, allied with an opening-up of the angelic or divine part.
The fruits of sexual extravagances, the harvest of sexual promiscuity, the gleanings of sexual irresponsibility, and the gratifications of sexual license must be subjected to the hard discipline of reason. Those who will not do so must sooner or later pay the price in fears, anxieties, irritations, regrets, disillusionments, shames, and despairs.
So long as a man identifies himself with the physical body, so long will he perforce have to identify himself with its desires and passions. Only when he transfers this self-identification to the infinite mental being can he completely detach himself from them.
Of what use is it for men to talk of freeing themselves from subjection to egoism when they are still in subjection to passion?
The student of philosophy will try to comprehend the sensations got from sensual pleasures impartially and impersonally. Man knows instinctively what will give him momentary emotional satisfaction; he must wrestle with reason to know what will give him deep enduring happiness. Reason must arbitrate when different pleasures compete for suffrage or when duty competes with desire. Desire carried to an undue extent becomes a passion disturbing to the equilibrium of life and character. When a man finds that despite all his efforts to improve himself and reform his character, he still remains the same, it is an indication that new methods must be tried.
The scourging of the flesh may be needed by, and may help, those who find their overheated passions and lusts get out of hand. But it will not end these troubles of man, even though it may tame them for a time. Something more must be added, or must replace them--first, knowledge; second, work on the process of attention.
The instinctual animal urge plus the ambitious drive for power and the personal desire for property keep men from spiritual aspiration.
If he is filled with selfish interests alone, seeking the fulfilment of personal ambitions irrespective of any higher considerations; if animal passions drive him and greed dominates him, he blocks his own way. Purification from such attachments must be the first endeavour.
Pleasures which corrupt character are undesirable; but those which uplift character (like the finest works of Beethoven and Handel) are desirable.
The reputed Oriental teachers advise--nay insist--that seekers must eliminate all desires. But is not the search itself not only an aspiration but also a desire? Can there be peace of mind while this one remains? So it is needful to put all the others in a worldly category. This is what the more semantic minded teachers do. But since the last act in this spiritual drama is played by the Higher Power, why not let it decide what to do concerning the matter?
The heart must become empty of all desires. This brings about the emotional void, which corresponds, in its own place, to the mental void experienced in the depth of mystical meditation. To this emptiness he must give himself, with it he must satisfy himself. In this way he obeys Jesus and becomes "poor in Spirit."
If the only enjoyment a man knows is that of physical sensations, he is only a dressed-up, walking, and thinking animal.
It is an essential part of the Quest's work to separate the man from his passions, to subjugate the animal in him so as better to cultivate the godlike in him.
Both desires and fears bind a man to his ego and thus bar the way to spiritual fulfilment. They could not exist except in relation to a second thing. But when he turns his mind away from all things and directs it toward its own still centre, it is the beginning of the end for all desires and all fears.
The end of all this long self-training to cast out personal grief and animal passion is blessedness.
There is the blindly instinctive and passioned animal will in man, which violently drives him to seek and be satisfied with bodily satisfactions. There is also a higher will which gently draws him to transcend the body altogether.
What is it worth to a man to be free from the passions, and free from the inner divisive conflicts which their activity must necessarily produce in him? Are they not the chief obstacles which prevent him from attaining that inner calm wherein alone the ego can be faced, caught, and conquered? And this done, what is there to keep the Overself from taking possession of him?
Few men are moved by a single motive. For most men the contrary is the fact. This is because first, the ego itself is a complex and second, the higher and lower natures are in conflict.
Discrimination is needed to penetrate the thin surface of so many pleasures, while the strength is needed to say "No" when this is wiser than accepting them.
It is not only needful to understand the characteristics of one's desires but also their source. This knowledge will help him to improve character and attain true self-reliance.
It is a strange paradox that on whatever desire a man wields the axe of non-attachment, he will thereafter become possessed of the power to attain it.
There is this great paradox on the Quest: that the more the disciple obtains the power to bring about the fruition of his desires, the more he loses those desires!
If we lack the willpower to overcome bad habits that have become popular and conventional, at least let us try not to justify our indulgence by specious reasons.
The blind impulses must be checked by willpower, the lower nature must be disciplined and the lower energies directed into higher channels. It is perfectly possible, where fate ordains, to live continently and chastely, however strongly sexed a man may be. But to achieve this he must utilize the analytic reason, the creative imagination, and the active will in understanding and disciplining his energies and then he must redirect them towards aspirational, intellectual, or moral ideas or transmute them into practical work.
He who begins by refusing to be a slave to the palate's perverted appetite will find it easier to go on to refusing to be a slave to lust. A triumph over the one prepares the way for, and helps in the achievement of, a triumph over the other.
It is true that we all share an animal body with the lower creatures. But that does not force us to stay on their level emotionally.
Every desire conquered feeds his strength and fortifies his will.
The man who has made his way to the top of his profession but failed to make the conquest of his passions, is still an unbalanced creature, an unsatisfied human being.
The extremes of abstention which follow repugnance, indifference, or self-struggle and the satiety which follows helpless yielding are both undesirable.
The necessities of Nature hold us in their thrall but there is first, a difference between them and the desires of the ego and second, a difference between the true necessities which are inescapable from physical existence and the false ones which have been imposed on us by age-old habits, traditions, environments, and outer suggestions.
That desire is a true one whose source lies in a genuine need, not in mere greed.
Tantra redeems man, lifts him above the lustful dog to the loving human being, distinguishes him from the mere animal.
The danger of tantrik yoga exists when it mistakes its own lust for spiritual direction or special privilege--which happens all too easily and all too often.
We are cast out of heaven by our own passions and kept out by our own attachments. If today we are miserable exiles, the way to remedy such a situation is clear. We must free ourselves from the one and disentangle ourselves from the other.
He should desire that which will itself cut off all desires.
Whoever puts a moral purpose into life automatically lifts himself above the physical level of mere animality. For him begins a struggle between the slavery of sense and the freedom of enlightenment, between blind emotion and deliberate will, between inward weakness and inward strength. Henceforth, he seeks happiness rather than pleasure, the calm of a satisfied mind rather than the excitement of satisfied senses. If this is a stoic ideal, it is a necessary one, for he must conquer himself. He hates himself, and no man can live in peace with what he hates.
Make sure what you really want before you go after it. The bitter experience in life is to find after years of effort that the thing you have gained is not the thing you want.
It is admittedly painful to tear one's will away from one's desires but it is still more painful to have it torn away by life's experiences. Hence, the philosophical method to conquer desire is a twofold one. We must let it wear itself out by submitting to it through experience and letting it come up against inevitable disappointment, disillusionment, or suffering whilst alongside this we must become reflectively and analytically aware of its causes, self-deceptions, and consequences. It is a matter of gradually letting the desires lose their intensity until we become free of them not through their forcible renunciation nor through the long-drawn process of waiting for old age to come but through the process of learning to live more and more within the satisfactory beatitude of the Overself. We give up our desires not by negating them but partly by comprehending their mechanistic cause and mentalistic nature and partly by superseding them with the exalted peace of the Overself.
The undeveloped mind lives only for the day. It can see the immediate events in a series but cannot conjure up the ultimate ones. The disciple dare not risk such a blind condition. He must deliberately set out to bring the two together, by the use of creative imagination or by analytic reflection or by both. If passion rises in him, at least its counterbalance, the mental picture of the evil consequences of passion, rises a second later with it.
If a man is not free from lust, fear, and anger, be sure he is not united with the Overself, whatever other qualities, powers, or virtues he shows.
Long continued reflection turned sharply and analytically upon desires and cravings helps to counter them, but does not basically weaken them. For that, contrary emotions must be aroused. This is most effectually done by happenings and experiences. But because these are mostly beyond our choice, the third way left to us is to seek Grace. One way to invite this Grace is by sitting in meditation upon the non-self.
He may complain of his weakness and immediately submit to a temptation. Or he may recognize that the Higher Self is also him; he may try to use will and grow in strength by this resistance.
He finds that he is perceptibly pulled away from fleshly lust to a deeper level where the calmness and the judgement enable him to realize that the lust belongs to his animal physical inheritance and not to his inmost character and that, therefore, it may be brought under control and discipline. If he acquires the power to achieve this, it will come imperceptibly for it will come mostly by grace.
The satisfaction of passion has a claim on the animal body, but it must always be subject to the higher claims of reason and intuition and the need for the sense of human responsibility.
The amoral is always the first step to the immoral.
The idea that he has to attain mastery over the desires of the flesh is a correct one. But that this mastery will lead to reunion with a "soul-mate" is not the teaching of the best mystics or philosophers. What really happens is a reunion with the true "Beloved," who is none other than the Soul of the individual, his higher Self. This is a real living entity, whose presence is felt, whose words are heard, and whose beauty arouses all one's love.
Where man is open only to worldly forces and not to inner ones; where he submits to the world's demands and ignores the soul's; and where he submits to his own animal forces without thought of regulating, controlling, and disciplining them, we may expect to find that he is quite insensitive to any teaching of this kind. He is like a person who has been caught in a mire and with every movement gets deeper into it.
He will learn the pleasures of self-control. It is not always easy but all effort for the rewards bears fruit. The man who can develop emotional placidity and rise above passions begins to know what peace of mind means. That is only a beginning for in its fullness it can come only with the knowledge and the enlightenment of Truth. Until then this placidity will free him from the constant alternation, the rise and fall of feeling, the elation and depression to which the average person is subject.
Whether it be to acquire fame or accumulate wealth or any of the other major desires, what he wants from life will in the end rest on his stage of spiritual evolution.
The animal in man is there, but it must be brought under control or it will claim too much and diminish his aspirations. Then they become fitful, coming less and less, departing more and more. At an interview he gave a man, the Buddha warned against the passions--their futility, danger, and defilements.
Self-conquest must be his secret wish; deliverance must become his impassioned yearning.
When wholetime meditations and his sparetime thoughts are unremittingly given to uprooting passions that hinder spiritual progress and cultivating ideas that promote it, the neophyte will not be left without reward.
Restricted by no monastery's vows and obeying no order's rules, he may yet be purer in thought and conduct than most of the monks.
A blind obedience to the urges of physical sense-satisfaction, indifferent to the restraints of ideals, reason, knowledge, or intuitive feeling, weakens concentration and meditation, but strengthens the lower nature.
Passion conquers the young man in the end and forces him into an affair, a relationship, or a marriage. But he who withstands its drive, and conquers passion itself, is a hero.
The animality of our inheritance will then be kept in its proper place, subjugated, its strength absorbed into his higher will.
The unruled passions are responsible for a substantial part of the difficulty in summoning up enough aspiration to make men do what they ought, and enough penetration to clear the mind of its illusions.
Those with some mental development wisely add tomorrow to today, consequences to causes, and thus finish the picture. Others are ruled by the moment's impulse or the day's trend or by passion rather than reason.
It is supposed to go so far that even such a lofty desire as one for desirelessness itself can no longer remain acceptable.
He may feel the temptation but he need not submit to it.
It is the emotion, still more the passion, which anyone pours into an attachment which may make it an obstacle on his quest.
Men who are driven by strong ambitions will have little energy left for strong aspirations.
In the Sphinx sits the symbol of that enterprise which offers the candidate for initiation his greatest reward but which paradoxically brings his greatest suffering. This is the conquest of passion by reason and will and the overcoming of personal emotion by impersonal intuition.
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.
If he cannot put the objects of his desires completely outside his heart, then he must do the next best thing and put them on its borders.
The Bhagavad Gita teaches that thought creates attachment, and this in turn leads to desire.
When a man, with his impulses and passions, meets life with its paradoxes and illusions, he soon falls victim to the deceit of appearances.
If the passions dry up, is there any real loss? Are anger, hate, and lust worthy expressions of a being whose spiritual possibilities are so wonderful as man's?
The man who has learnt in some way--whether by personal experience or by a wise old man's instruction or through an inspired book--that excessive ambition may be folly, excessive luxury has no end to the labour of collecting it, knows that the monks who are content to live barely and simply may not be fools after all. But it is also possible for another man who has cultivated an inner detachment to have the same feelings and nevertheless seek to enjoy life.
To feel free at last of nagging desires and frustrating attachments brings a large measure of contentment.
What is the use of studying philosophy unless we are to become wiser in the future and unless we use its lessons to discipline the impulses and dominate the senses?
The white lotus lives in the black mud. It is both an example and an inspiration to man.
There is danger in a view of life which makes men unable to be satisfied with a simpler life and which stimulates their desires endlessly.
Even if it is beyond his power to kill these passions without Grace, it is within his power to curb them.
We get muddled and worried by problems which have been manufactured for us by our own desires, instincts, and passions. The need of disciplining them is evident.
If the energy used in the pursuit of ambitions or pleasures could be diverted to the following of aspirations, if he had the strength to remove everything else from his life except the quest, how could he fail?
When the intellect is enslaved by desires, by greeds, by ignorance, it readily finds several defenses against the call of the Quest. When it has become a little freer and listened to the call, it just as readily finds defenses against making any practical application of what it has learnt.
He may discover that the battle is not really over, that atavisms of the old animalistic life, rooted either in the present or in former births may come pouring over the threshold of the conscious ego.
If your passion is transferred from a passing object or human body to the more durable and beautiful soul, you will be progressing from a lower to a higher plane.
Many complain about being troubled by sensual desires. They ask a prescription to cure this trouble. One was given by the Buddha in Dhammapada. Here it is: "As when a house roof is not properly secured, then the rain finds a way through it and drops within, so when the thoughts are not carefully controlled the desires [sex] will soon bore through all our good resolutions. But as when a roof is well stopped when the water cannot leak through, so by controlling one's thoughts and acting with reflection, no such desires can arise or disturb us."
How few of the images which fill his mind come from his higher self, how many from his animal self!
It is not enough to refrain from sensual acts. It is no less needful to refrain from sensual thoughts.
As this diviner self displaces the earthly one in his will, heart, and mind, it is natural that what he hitherto felt as temptation will be felt as such less and less. On the philosophic path he will attain to this without immuring himself in any cloister, but rather in the very midst of worldly activity.
These acts of self-denial, these austerities, are to be valued not for their own sakes but for the sake of the purification of the soul.
They can take to a simpler life. It does not demand a bare and spartan existence. It means only that they can eliminate useless luxuries and excessive pleasures, stop buying what they need not buy and keep money they cannot afford to spend. By living a simpler life, by becoming more frugal and less spendthrift, they can cut down their wants, diminish their desires, lessen discontent, and perhaps even become happier. It will be easier to call their soul their own.
We live on different layers of desire from the beastly to the angelic.
When lust is merely submerged and not supplanted, it will sooner or later reassert itself.
Lust is an extreme intoxication of the bodily senses, a fire of carnal passion which submerges reason, and an enslavement of desire which tyrannizes over countless victims.
A wiser course than total suppression is to limit desires and govern passions.
"We are conscious of an animal in us," exclaimed Thoreau, and then cried out, "If I knew so wise a man as could teach me purity, I would go to seek him forthwith."
When the pursuit of pleasure, and especially physical pleasure, becomes excessive, it becomes a vice.
Where is his mind's peace when he is racked by desires, irritated by frustrations, and denied even the compensation of knowing why he is suffering?
Instinct fights with intellect but purified, elevated, and instructed, it can harmonize with the other, both working together for the benefit of man.
The irony of this picture of men rejecting their freedom and preferring their chains would be unbelievable, did we not know how gilded those chains are.
The animal in man may be recognized by the ferocity, the gluttony, the hate, and the violence in man.
It is certain that the heart which is agitated again and again by the yearning for sensual joys will not know the calm happiness of spiritual joys.
To what better use can a man put his will than the eradication of hatreds and the subduing of passions? For out of these two sources alone come so many wrong deeds and so much consequent suffering.
A man may be so infatuated with his lower nature that he prefers to be agitated and disturbed by its passions rather than to attain the unruffled calmness of his higher nature.
Desire is satisfied by possession but not ended by possession.
Only when the gathering of earthly gains seems futile, and the gains themselves mere dross, will he stop bartering his precious years for them.
When a desire lurks hidden in the heart, it may sway actions or influence thoughts without resistance. But when it rises to the surface and is seen for what it is, then it can be fought and conquered.
As his desires quieten, he finds to his surprise that many things hitherto thought indispensable to existence, he can do well without.
He who submits his emotions and passions to reason, and his reason to intuition, will save himself many regrets.
So long as he is buffeted between his passionate desires and his self-hating guilt, so long will a distressing tension be sustained.
So far as they distract the mind and disturb its peace, the struggle against the passions must go on.
When passion, uncontrollable and blind, irrational and violent, is behind action, the consequences may be harmful to its owner but they may also be instructive--if he is willing to be instructed. For life is an educational process, which everyone has to undergo whether the pupils like it or not.
We are not always the same person. At one period of life a desire may almost enslave us which has no power over us at a later period.
The world can be overcome only to the extent that we overcome ourselves, our endless desires and snaring ambitions, our passions and habits.
He has not only to deal with his tendencies but also with his compulsions.
But passion is an insurgent, a rebel against reason whose counterbalance it fears and avoids.
Even such normal factors as curiosity and ambition become disturbing when they become excessive, unbalanced, and drive the enslaved mind.
As the heart opens to this call of the inner self, the demand comes to the will for a more austere habit of living.
It is the difference between gentle austerity and harsh asceticism.
The passions of men are so resistant to control that in no single method is there sure hope of overcoming them. Only in a combination of methods does this lie.
The high moments of heavenly inspiration are laid low in the dust of obscenity or lust.
The effect of passional indulgences spreads out on physical and mental levels.
If we learn by bitter experience to drop the burden of one particular desire, we do so only to pick up another soon after. We are not content to be at peace.
The desires of human beings are never satiated, nor can they ever be since human beings must go on searching for final satisfaction. It is in their nature to do so. But what cannot be satiated by outer things can turn in on itself and find rest at last within.
How morally helpless many persons allow themselves to become is shown by the compulsive nature of their deeds and the obsessive nature of their thoughts.
It is the strength or feebleness of his attachments and desires which largely govern his first and earlier paces in the relinquishment of ego.
When insight arises, the passions become subdued and the problems which beset man become solved of their own accord. We may quarrel and kill whilst we remain in ignorance, but we must needs feel for and with each other when we comprehend at long last that in the Overself we are one.
All too easily do luxurious habits become insatiable habits, ever demanding more and more and meanwhile creating tension or discontent.
Whereas the conventional good man seeks to leave behind only the gross and flagrant forms of sin, the philosophic disciple is much more scrupulous. Whereas the one is content to moderate the strength of his lower nature, the other tries to subjugate it altogether.
We are to discipline, and when necessary abstain from satisfying, the lower impulses of our nature because we are to cultivate its higher intuitions. The clamant voice of the one drowns the soft whisper of the other.
We must try to turn the flow of our passions into a sublimer channel than the senses alone.
Men and women who have reached or passed the age of the late forties are more ready for, and better suited to, disciplining the animal nature and human passions than younger folk.
It is more difficult to conquer lust than to walk on the edge of a sword. But it can be conquered. And the way is essentially wise: slowly supplant lust of the flesh by a lust (love) of the divine. "No matter how much you feed your desires," says the Vishnu Purana, "they will never be satisfied." Therefore direct them gradually towards the Infinite, in which they may ultimately merge, and from which there is no return.
A resolute effort to banish from his heart the desire that caused his failure, an effort prompted by the miseries of that failure, will thus be the next step, after its recognition, in converting a weakness into a power.
Where passion rules, truth trembles!
Continued feeling of freedom from obsessing desires, inordinate urges, and undue cravings is generally a suitable indication that the character is sufficiently purified to enter a further stage.
It is men who condemn themselves to this abject, undisciplined servitude of the passions and senses; so it is men themselves who must seek and win freedom from it. It is hard to do so, but it is also hard to suffer the consequences of not doing so.
If you recognize that the feeling, the desire or body-sensation is pulling you away from the ideals set up for the Quest, hoist yourself out of it at once.
The rising generations have legitimate complaints against their ancestors. But in the matter of winning full freedom to follow their desires and upset the old Christian moral codes, the Mosaic decalogues, Confucian precepts, and the Indian taboos, they need to pause. Puritanic ideals are denounced but are not entirely inhuman: they have to be sifted and the good in them taken out. Stoic, simple living and self-discipline can be softened, its harshness also taken out, and the residue will be what the moderns need if they are to travel up higher and not sink lower.
The senses will stupefy a man into foolish desires if he allows them, if he lets them go beyond his control. Wisdom and security alone dictate that he shall become self-mastered. For this it is necessary to call up the will and to practise using it until it is developed into something strong.
If before performing an impulsive, undisciplined, and irresponsible deed he would remember what the consequences are and that he will have to bear them, then he will have taken the first step towards self-mastery.
Let others look for the second-rate and third-rate: let him be more discriminating, more fastidious, and seek the best alone.
In what manner are men free who, in some way, to some extent, are enslaved by sex, society, ambition, swelling desires, possessions, neighbours, associates, and family?
Only by releasing ourselves from our desires can we hope to find lasting peace. If this seems like a heavy price to pay, we have only ourselves to blame.
When animal desires rage in a man, each satisfaction of them seems to be an asset, something gained; but when he is more awakened and freer from them he begins to see how much of a liability these desires are, how wise and prudent it is to check them and finally transmute them.
If he is no longer a victim of passions or at the mercy of emotions, it will not be because his blood temperature is too low, but because his control of himself is high.
The animal gives way to its desires and feelings more quickly than the human because it acts by instinct. The human, so far as he is an animal, also acts by instinct. But to the extent that he has developed reason and will he has developed a counter to that instinct which moderates or controls his desires and his feelings. Those humans who are nearer on the scale of evolution to the animal kingdom give way to passion and anger more readily because they have less self-control.
A silent but self-declaring presence comes into knowledge whenever he puts a brake on that downward and earthward movement of daily life which is the common lot--not to stop it altogether but to halt it for short periods or to slow it down so that he is not wholly carried away.
The control of the lower nature which society may demand and religion may encourage, which makes a good man by conventional standards, is not enough for philosophy. It is only a stage of the mountain's ascent: the summit has yet to be conquered. The transformation of this nature, making it utterly responsive to the Overself, is the philosophic goal. Self-effort can lead to its control but only Grace can lead to this transformation.
All this does not imply that he is to become perfect and faultless before he can see the Overself, but that he has to become much more developed before he can stay in the awareness of it.
The Notebooks are copyright © 1984-1989, The Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation.