The Path, January, 1887
The paper on “The Higher Life,”1 and the remarks which it has called forth, have led me to further reflections upon the subject. That subject is in fact, Individual Evolution, and the warning expressed by Murdhna Joti, in that article about “impetuously rushing into the circle of ascetics,” opens up an important phase of the topic most vital to humanity. For this sentence is not a mere advisory caution; it points out the only available procedure, the one course conducive to successful evolution, or final perfection. This course may be briefly summed up in one word: Rotation. Upon examination we shall find this fact proved by the laws governing Universal Brotherhood.
To begin with, when we take into consideration the personalities of the real Founders of the Theosophical Society, we find ourselves safely concluding that the institution of this principle of Brotherhood as the basis of that Society, did not occur from any arbitrary selection, nor yet from ethical or even humanitarian considerations merely. We may say that it was not chosen; it presented itself as a central fact, one which correlates with all things, and is itself one of the aspects of the Great, the Mysterious Law. It must be moreover that level of the Law most nearly related to the human being, and by which alone he can raise himself from this “Slough of Despond” called matter. Upon no lesser precedent than this would the Masters, those supreme exponents of the Law, proceed. The outcome and teaching of that Law is Unity; the power of Unity is its exoteric expression. ( Its hidden expression, Great Spirits alone can declare.) This power is conferred by the economic tendency of Nature, which uniformly moves along the line of least resistance and of larger currents of energy, which draw in turn all minor streams of being into their resistless tide. In order to bring home to all mankind the primary fact that only as a united body, only by living in and working with and for all, can unbroken advance to the Perfect Goal be achieved, this unitarian necessity had to be conveyed by a term which would appeal to the untrained, as well as to the cultured mind. No man or woman so grossly ignorant but can sense the advantages of “Universal Brotherhood,” while the more profound the thinker, the more he warms to the sublime comprehensiveness of this idea.
Many readers will doubtless recall an italicised sentence in the “Diary of a Hindu,” also published in THE PATH. It ran as follows: “No Yogi will do a thing unless he sees the desire in another Yogi’s mind.” These were the words of a teacher, and those who may require it have here an authoritative recognition of the need of humanitarian unity. For man’s strength lies in his perfect equilibrium, and by man I now mean the whole, triune man. That this fact is also true on the physical plane alone, is evidenced by medical testimony to the effect that while perfect health is perfect balance, the more complete this balance, the more readily is it disturbed. Thus trained athletes are compelled to take dietetic and other precautions, which men of minor strength disregard with apparent impunity. I say “apparent,” because the result is of course visible in their inferior physical powers. Only when the triune man has attained equilibrium is he a moral force; then alone is he in complete harmony. Harmony with what? With the Law that works for perfection or reunion, faith in which and accordance with which, is the sum of the highest consciousness of the human being. Now remember that there is at all times a body, (be it numerically large or small,) of individuals cognizing and waiting upon this Law. They perceive its tendency, they only act with and through it, and the cumulative energy of this compact body, plus certain impersonal forces, is in itself a tremendous power, so vast in fact, that plus the energizing spirit again, it may be said to form the exoteric expression of the Law itself. Imagine some one member of this body attempting to act from his separate impulse, and not from the general instinct. By disengaging his unit of force from the sum total, he at once neutralizes its effect and limits its expansive ratio; hence it is that action from self, however disinterested, is enfeebling in its tendency. This man may join himself to the powers of evil and act in opposition to the Law: he has then the accruing benefit of that energetic total, but this must fail in the long run, because it 1s minus the creative spirit, which works for eventual harmony. So true is it that a given cause produces similar results on all the planes alike, that in the spiritual as in the physical world, there must be united action to produce large results. The inutility of weak, single effort was acknowledged by St. Paul when he said: “Because thou art neither cold nor hot I will spew thee out of my mouth.” Unless the Yogi therefore, perceives an idea in other related minds, as the reflection of the Universal mind, he does not act. When the individual mind has freed itself from all desire for personal action and resting in the Universal Mind, acts passively with it alone, saying: “I rise with thy rising, with thee subside,” then the individual has attained Nirvana. So that our present unit of power depends upon our greater or lesser assimilation with the highest aggregate of mind, and its continuance, upon our adherence to that manifested body of the Universal Mind which works for Good, with faith into the Perfect Law. This body in turn depends upon the individual efforts of its members, for the continuous elevation and expansion of its highest Ideal. Being thus interdependent, I think we may easily recognize that Universal Brotherhood is the starting point towards final success, and that its complete realization is the goal itself. Each may attain Omniscience, but only as one of a body, not as a separate part. “You shall enter the light, but you shall never touch the flame.”2 So we may be part of the universal spirit, yet never that spirit itself.
This Brotherhood then, in its harmonious equilibrium, implies subservience to the Law of Evolution. The course marked out by this Law is one of gradual progression through a series of interlinked processes, not one of which can be intermitted or dropped, any more than we can omit a link from a chain without break of continuity, which would in this case imply a break of individuality, either as applied to a member or to the whole body. We find this course substantiated by Nature, who is our great initiator. Murdhna Joti’s phrase about not rushing “into the circle of ascetics,” refers to the rotation prevalent in Nature, and may be used in a large general sense, and not merely applied to any especial circle, such as the Hindu, Mahomedan, Christian or other group of ascetics. He refers to the disadvantages consequent upon any violation of this rotatory course; these apply quite as much to the farmer who fails to rotate his crops, as to any thing or person rushing into any plane, before being in all respects fitted to go there. Each plane in itself constitutes a “circle of ascetics,” and must be entered in the proper manner. In every department of Life we meet with an acceptance of this fact. No man is admitted to the privileges of naturalization until he has resided in a country, and has had time to accustom himself to its manners and laws. It is ever held necessary to serve a certain apprenticeship before entering any profession or trade. The social usages even make “circles of ascetics” in this sense. A boor, a ploughman, or even unsuitably attired persons, are not desired or admitted in a parlor full of people in splendid array, and a natural instinct makes them shrink from entering there. When exceptions occur, there is an under-current of discord perceptible; all are alike ill at ease. So in Nature, minerals, plants and animals are limited to their proper sphere. Birds cannot swim nor fishes fly. I would say, as birds or as fish per se they cannot do so, nor can the boor, as a boor, be at ease with elevated minds. But advancement is the common lot of all, provided it be made step by step in the natural series of succession.
What then is this process in practical Life? It is, firstly, the identification of yourself with the highest consciousness accessible on your present plane, the engrafting upon your entire life of the best ideal attainable, so that you may act upon it in every thought and word. If you can do no more, select in your own mind the most unselfish and pure-hearted person in your horizon, and study the workings of such gracious aspirations and deeds. Noble ideals will soon spring up within you, and by this lodestone similar minds will swiftly be attracted, until you shall collectively form a nucleus of persons identical in aim and influence. If one receives a ray of Truth, he will speedily reflect it to all, and thus our attainment is largely regulated by that of our compeers. Largely, but not entirely. There are exceptional souls who progress with amazing velocity, far outstripping the comrades of their starting-level. But even these hearts of power reach up to the more perfect spirits above them, and to feel this attraction they must have prepared themselves for it, in the uniform, if rapid, rotation of previous existences. Each must trace out the prescribed circuit, but he may travel fast or slow. Let him not rashly conceive himself to be endowed with unusual spiritual momentum: time is better spent in caution than in failure.
Murdhna Joti gives valid warning not to rush in until all is ready. The circle is prepared, but you may not be so. Again, your fitness may be assured and the circle for the moment closed. The course of physical nature will exemplify my meaning. The blood leaves the heart by the arteries and goes on to the capillary interchange with the venous system, even as man descends from Spirit in to matter, and at the point of choice, turns, and reascends towards Spirit. The veins take up the function of returning the blood to the heart: in these are valves; they receive, hold and transmit the impulse from the central heart. All the blood between any two valves has to stay there until the next impulse comes from the heart; when this arrives, it passes on. The valves close behind each quantum of blood thus ejected through: it is not possible for the blood to recede; retrogression is impeded by the closed valve. Nor can it remain; progress is imperative when the next impulse drives it forward, and so it goes on to the heart. In the same manner each person should stay in his appropriate place, not only until he is ready, but also until the great Heart of all is ready to give the next impulse. Then he will inevitably go on to the next place.
Masters have said that for “chelas and adepts alike there is an abyss behind each step; a door closed. To stop or to go back is impossible.” That which is true for the Adept is true for the humblest disciple, each in his own manner and degree. It behooves us then to concentrate our attention upon the natural and fitting method of progression, and to assist those about us in maintaining a high average of ideality, that the entire body may progress evenly, steadily, and that nowhere may ignorance or undue haste clot or clog the way. In the end, the reward of patience is holy. In every effort you make to lighten the mind of another and open it to Truth, you help yourself.
“Those pearls you find for another and give to him, you really retain for yourself in the act of benevolence. Never lose, then, that attitude of mind. Never, never desire to get knowledge or power for any other purpose than to give it on the altar, for thus alone can it be saved to you. When you open any door, beyond it you find others standing there who had passed you long ago, but now, unable to proceed, they are there waiting; others are there waiting for you! Then you come, and opening a door, those waiting disciples perhaps may pass on; thus on and on. What a privilege this, to reflect that we may perhaps be able to help those who seemed greater than ourselves.”3
The consent of the Spirit has hallowed those thoughts. Another Messenger of Truth once said: “The first shall be last and the last first; contain yourselves, therefore, in Peace.”
1. “The Higher Life”, Murdna Joti, The Path, July-August, 1886.
2. Light on the Path.