|Beast of the Earth (Falnama: Book of Omens, circa 1580)|
Three more chapters from the complete text of Richard Ince's 1944 polemic Talking Beast. It was subtitled 'A Candid look into the Nature of Homo Vulgaris.' The title comes from Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia 'This Man, this Talking Beast, this Walking Tree.' There is some element in it of Oprah's favourite guru Eckhart Tolle and it is also a sort of prequel to British philosopher John Gray's 2002 classic Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals.
Ince's mentor, also hailing from Marley Common near Haslemere, was the Stoic writer on philosophy and religion Archibald Weir - an early 20th Century follower of Marcus Aurelius. Weir's eldest grandson Nigel Weir, author of Verses of a Fighter Pilot had recently perished in the Battle of Britain and the book is dedicated to the Weir family, especially Archibald.
FROM TALKING BEAST TO COMPLETE MAN
When we consider the matter it becomes obvious that creation is not an act in time but a process in consciousness. The creator is still creating. Past, present and future have no relevance except as a measure used by space-time consciousness. This thin, tenuous, animal consciousness, evolved out of the unconscious background, enables the living organism to function in conditions known as incarnation. Having no experience or memory of any other conditions, it has to be content to remain a logically-arranged receiving apparatus for sense-perceptions and messages from the unconscious.
If we would understand better the relationship between this animal consciousness and the unconscious through which the creator creates, we should study evolution. From amoeba to man we see an extraordinary change. This single cell has become a highly complicated organism. The dark background of consciousness has fashioned for itself the instrument which we call consciousness, an instrument capable of directive force and of awareness, through sense-perception, of certain things in its immediate vicinity. This instrument, child of the unconscious, is a remarkable but rather unfortunate child. Finding itself bailed out, without being consulted, onto the surface of an interesting but confusing world which appears to float around somewhere between sun, moon and stars, it at once sets to work to make itself feel at home by giving names to everything it sees, and by finding reasons and explanations for everything that happens. The reasons and explanations appear sound enough to itself but not to the split-offs from itself which it calls children. These in their turn set to work to find better reasons, which continue to appear better until their own split-offs vote them stupid or incorrect and start nosing around on their own account. This child of the unconscious:, this consciousness has to devote a great deal of time to the routine work of keeping its body alive; cutting trees, building boxes to live in, squeezing milk out of cows, &c., to all those tasks in short for which consciousness is excellently adapted. It very soon finds out which end of the cow to milk and which part of the branch to saw in order that it may not cutoff its own perch. But at length there come times when none of these jobs needs to be done. At such times, this instrument of consciousness, which resents being unemployed, goes roaming about like an inquisitive monkey, trying to find out how this and that are made and why the mountain torrent always flows the same way. It is at this point that trouble begins. For this space-time consciousness is only constructed to deal with simple, immediate, practical matters which used to be called the three-dimensional world, and the harder it thinks, reasons and argues, the more confused and ' dubious does it become. It is rather like a man in a car in a one-way street arguing with the policeman in the hope of softening his heart and being allowed to proceed in the direction contrary to the law. Undeterred by its secret doubts and fears, it goes on heaping up great masses of facts which it calls "observed phenomena," and fashioning them into an authoritative form which it calls "science." It discovers that things tend, when round in form, to roll about and from this observed fact it devises wheels. When it has fitted these together with a certain purpose in view, it calls its toy a machine. As a result of these activities of its more idle moments, it lands itself in what comes to be known as civilization. . But the beast, who now calls himself an engineer or a priest or a farmer, according to his occupation, is still no more than a beast. His slowly developed logical faculty does not raise him above the needs, the feelings and the primitive instincts of the animal. Consequently the conditions prevailing in this civilization (whether it be the civilization of ancient Babylon or the civilization of modern Europe) are bad enough. Yet they would be incredibly worse were it not that the creator is still creating and bringing forth light out of darkness. His power is manifested hardly at all in the conscious rational activities of talking beast but steadily and powerfully in the deeper unconscious and in Self, the agent through which the unconscious works.
In the world of consciousness, the space-time consciousness of the individual, all his activities are directed, as far as is possible for him, by his fitful reasoning process. In this process he places his simple faith. Someone-was it Aristotle?–devised a simple, axiomatic system called a syllogism, and upon this structure all logical argument has to be built. But that is not the way of the creator nor the way of the unconscious. The simple cell has not developed into talking beast by any system based on a syllogism. The amoeba did not sit down as a man might, and think out what he would like to become and then take a correspondence course in anthropology. He was just kicked and prodded and pushed and lured. Sometimes he liked the process and sometimes he did not. He liked some of the sensations and called them pleasure; he disliked others and called them pain. But the things that happened seemed to happen for the most part whether he liked it or not. The great process of unfoldment or evolution or whatever you choose to call it, was certainly not a rational process; during most of its course the bit of jelly had no reasoning faculty as we understand it. Man cannot, by taking thought, add a cubit unto his stature. As a result of unconscious process, some of these single cells became fish. Some members of the fish family developed a sort of hook by which they clung to the shore, wriggled to land and by an infinitely slow, laborious process, changed into a sort of reptile. Certain of these reptiles suffered a further change and developed into something new and strange, the Mammal. Certain of these mammals developed forefeet which could cling and clutch. They learned to stand erect on their hind legs so as to cling and clutch more firmly; they learnt to emit loud sounds by way of the mouth. Those who are interested in the details of this proces's can study them in the standard books on the subject. The point to be noted here is that these extraordinary changes have nothing whatever to do with the reasoning faculty by which humans try to manage their affairs. They are movements resulting from those deeps beneath consciousnes's whose highest activity known in space-time is the guiding power of Self.
Since creation is not an act in time but a process in consciousness, a process which is still in operation, what, it may be asked, lies ahead? Will homo vulgaris, as a result of some long time-process, find his organism still further modified? Though it is dangerous to dogmatize or express categorical certainty in a world of duality and ephemeral change, it seems safe to answer this question with A decided "no." There are clear and convincing indications that further development will take the line of bringing a certain proportion of the genus homo vulgaris to moral and spiritual completeness; a process which must involve a deepening, an extension and a clarification of consciousness.
At his present level the, human animal, as compared with the simpler animal forms through which he has evolved, remains unfinished. The untalking species has a decidedly higher degree of finish, regarded from its own stand- point, than has the human, gregarious or civilized beast. The untalking beasts have a perfected physical adaptation, infallible instinct and obedience to the association of ideas. They manifest a slight degree of reasoning power. But reason seems to impair the finish that humans must regard with envy. With its unerring instinct and its lack of complete self-consciousness, untalking beast is not a prey to unhappiness or regret. Man, in the adult and mature stages, is disturbed by restlessness, unhappiness and thes sense of frustration.
Religion, from its earliest manifestations, has promised peace in a future life to make up for the lack of it in space-time conditions. It has taught man to regard himself as a sinful creature and to bewail his wickedness in the sight of his Creator, whose desire it is, by magical process, to free him from the pain and discomfort of sin. Such ideas were well suited to an age when humans had not attained a wide enough horizon to enable them to take true bearings of their position. To-day they can see a little further into the darkness which surrounds their consciousness and into the external world. They are beginning therefore to understand that their sense of sin, of frustration and continual unhappiness springs, not from the anger of an offended or incompetent deity, but simply from the inevitable pains and limitations of growth.
Man is an unfinished animal, for neither loquacity nor the syllogistic power to reason confers finish. Such a condition is necessarily a trying one. With confused, poetical foolishness he envies the unthinking but finished creatures, sighs because he is no longer a tree. or a dove, and longs for a less uncomfortable world where ignorance, inertia and greed were not visited by the scourges of war, poverty and disease. And as a rule he stops thinking at a point where further enlightenment might result. He grows tired in the ceaseless struggle for existence -and repeats the dull formula that he is a miserable sinner so often that he at last takes a sort of resigned comfort in it. A god might be perfect, but humans are not gods. Such is the flat, fundamental avowed belief of the myriad average among men, and because in stark nakedness, it would look rather unseemly, it is decked out with a gay investiture of make-believe, religious, historical, social and political. Thus garbed, and persuaded that somehow everything will be all right and that though a miserable sinner, he is somehow a very decent fellow, talking beast can get on with his job of making more money or organizing a class war on those who appear to be thwarting his efforts to do so.
The problem which has to be solved, if we are to understand and further the process by which the adult becomes complete man, has little to do with intellect. It cannot be solved for everybody by a Brains Trust or even by the most drastic legislation of the socialist or any other group. It is fundamentally a problem of effort and consequently, is never likely to be a matter to attract the slightest 'interest from the herd. The average man, if he is clever and resourceful, delights in using his intellect, but when it comes to an effort that involves his whole being, his mind, his soul, his physical energy, and requires him to drop habits which are concerned solely with his animal comfort and acquire others which must at first appear irksome and humiliating, the temptation to find a convincing excuse becomes acute. There are so' many convincing excuses ready to hand. He is much too busy attending to his own work, or to that splendid effort to reclaim the slums of Smokeover; his profession leaves him no time for independent thought, far less for An effort of discipline which may, after all, lead nowhere. While one listens to these cogent and most intelligent explanations, there come's to mind the classic phrase offered to a great Leader of the West: I have married a wife and therefor I cannot come."
Under these circumstances what is the Creator, who would still be creating, to do? He is not a dictator and has debarred himself from the use of compulsion. He has laid upon himself the burden of respecting the free will of this rational, talkative but unfinished animal. If he were to .Speak to homo vulgaris in the poor beast Is own, wholly inadequate, language, he would say: "My dear talkative one, I am sorry, but -there is no other way by which these matters can be accomplished. You have walked with me, though you knew it not, from the earliest days. I have assisted you to pass through many states of consciousness. You have lived as fish, as bird, as reptile, as beast. Always I have asked you to co-operate with me and as many as have done so, have fulfilled their purpose, which was also mine. From time to time you and I have wrestled together but in these contests (which were provoked by your own' egotism) I hate always respected your free decision. Once again we are in conflict. Either you must continue to go in your own egotistic, individualistic way, focussing your whole attention upon those things which your ego and personality regard as alone -desirable, the way which leads to ever further confusion and negation, or you must take such opportunities as offer and make the very considerable effort needed to bring you to a higher and more adequate state of consciousness. It is the direction of that animal consciousness which you now possess, fed always by the vast, surrounding unconscious, that you will have to take in hand. I am asking for your trust and for your co-operation. If you will go my way, you can count with absolute certainty on my assistance. But it is no use your trying to dictate to me or to expect me to assist in the glorification of your personality. This personality is your own affair and concerns only the pilgrimage of your earth life. Use your intelligence by all means, but do not imagine that logical reasoning alone will ever solve the fundamental problems of being. Above all do not mistake the whisperings of your own ego and personality for my will. This is what homo vulgaris, as king, as priest and as humble citizen, is continually doing, until even the psychologists have noticed it and labelled the process 'rationalization.' This process makes it difficult for me to help you to become less incomplete, which is my everlasting purpose."
At this point, homo vulgaris, feeling tired, will probably ask a question which, being a poser will, he thinks, enable him to gain time. What is consciousness? A profound question certainly, if made in sincere good faith. Socrates did not answer it nor did Nicodemus put it to Jesus. No doubt Socrates and Jesus knew very well that no definition of consciousness, whether it be offered in the best. dictionary or most modem encyclopaedia, can help you to understand what it is. And yet, despite the profound researches of our professors, the comprehension of what consciousness is, . is quite a simple matter. To grasp it, you need not receive any education or graduate at any university. All the questing spirit has to do, is to seek a couple of parents and get itself born into this world of duality and conflict. It will then, for a period of years, experience what consciousness is.
When we look closer at this strange experience known as consciousness we become aware that there are, generally speaking, four states or conditions of this manifestation. And when referring to stages or states, it must be remembered that in the many mansions of consciousness there are no hard and fast boundaries, no stone walls. We are continua11y drifting from the pleasant bedchamber of dreams to the bare workshop of waking life, from the unknown deeps of unconsciousness to the surface activities of space and time.
First then there is the purely animal consciousness which has come into being as a primal necessity of space-time life. Without this tool, the main-features of which we share with the other beasts who, though they emit many sounds and signals, cannot converse, without his tool we could not go about our daily, business. It is this consciousness which brings a fictitious order out of confusion and by rendering us familiar with things persuades us that. the world we know is quite other than it is. We thus give to airy nothing a local habitation and a name, vainly imagining that these names have fundamental significance. This animal consciousness has fashioned language after language, and built up civilization after civilization, all different, yet all fundamentally the same. So long as this consciousness is directed to the affairs of a changing world of transient phenomena, it is adequate and effective. It enables the scientist to pursue his researches into the nature of the ephemeral, the lawyer to prepare his brief, the author to write his book. Its reach is wide but not deep. Confronted with fundamental problems, it is out of its depth and usually loses its nerve, grows excited and blusters or runs away, pretending that its pace is no more than a dignified walk. Unfortunately we nevertheless frequently persist in using this consciousness in spheres for which it was never designed. Thus Blake, true mystic though he was, produced much gibberish under the impression that it was poetry. Thus your extreme rationalist or agnostic will assert dogmatically: "Nothing can ever be known about God. There is no hereafter. The soul is a myth." Mankind, sadly under the weather, or rather under the ego, is here making the mistake of using an instrument for a purpose for which it was never intended. You cannot prove the existence of God by logical argument that will convince another.
The handling of ultimate, unchanging problems such as these requires the use of a tool of finer calibre than any fashioned in this world of crude strife and ready-made make-believe. Thus we come to consider another order of consciousness: the spiritual.
As long as he remains wholly in the adult condition the human animal has only the most fleeting glimpses of spiritual consciousness, and these glimpses or intimations by no means minister to his content. Simple animal consciousness is his useful instrument and he has profound respect for that highest expression of it known as intellectualism. Schools, colleges, learned societies, priestly hierarchies, all have their solid foundations laid in animal consciousness by which they 'maintain their rights and privileges. Animal consciousness is happily unaware of the true nature of personality. Thus it happens that the artist, in paint or words or sound, is inordinately proud of his own creations and delights in the applause they bring him. But to-morrow -.maybe he will be acutely sorry for himself and plunged into the depths of gloom because his inspiration (which is greatly at the mercy of his intestines), instead of flowing like a crystal stream, is sticky as treacle. When this happens he is a pathetic sight to his friends and a nuisance to his wife or mistress. True it is that, in certain rare cases, out of the pains and disappointments of life is born a truer sense of values. The artist who can travel far enough in search of spiritual truth learns that there is something deeper in him which has no concern with his artistic activities. He then begins dimly to understand that a more satisfying and fuller existence than that provided by the process of daily living and gregarious talking, is possible. He begins to suspect that the unsatisfactory nature of daily life is due somehow to himself. Since it is obvious that too many whiskies and sodas have produced this headache, is it not possible that other less obvious and harmful habits have made him the rather poor creature he is? If he could be otherwise the world might change even as the landscape clears when one wipes moisture from one's spectacles. Perhaps he even reaches the point where it becomes apparent that if he is ever to understand anything of those haunting fundamental problems which the agnostic dismisses with crude, egoistic finality, he must submit to a certain discipline and brace himself for a serious effort. The fruits of the spirit do not fall into the open mouth of the indolent dreamer extended at the foot of the fig tree. They have to be planted, watered, tended, gathered, and this solicitude may be the work Of many years, of many lives. Yet the effort is more than worth while, for whatever is reaped in the spirit, is reaped forever, passing in new forms from time to the timeless and back again, from the timeless to time.
To pass from animal to spiritual consciousness is to enter a new world, the world of true, fundamental, values; the world of gentleness, simplicity, patience, sincerity and wisdom; the world in which "miracles" are not desired, not sought, but in which miracles sometimes happen.
By the development of spiritual consciousness, the pilgrim may pass from the adult state to the mature. But every light has its -shade. Around him are many pitfalls. He is still vexed by doubts and uneasiness, and by that distrust of himself which are the inevitable accompaniments of his unfinished condition. He is still an incomplete animal though an aspiring one. In his zeal he is apt to make many and grievous mistakes. Thinking he understands others and their needs, he delights to legislate for them and to plan out their lives. He feels deeply, the compulsion of truth but his vision is narrowly limited. For long he remains in the region of hard-and-fast dogma. He easily tends to fanaticism in the political and religious fields. .Reform is a word to intoxicate him. He dreams of the golden age or bleats about a Second Coming. He distributes tracts and attends mass meetings in the Albert Hall. In short, he loses sight of that fundamental humility of outlook which is as cautious as it is bold. Terrible can be the ego when it imagines itself to be the inspired mouthpiece of a spiritual force. Then with warnings and dire imprecations it seeks to enslave and to dominate. The narrow views of an egoistic priesthood have brought discredit or a lukewarm adherence to religion after religion. Where the leaders had humble and inspired insight, the followers had crude and egocentric fanaticism.
We have been considering homo vulgaris as an unfinished animal; unfinished because he is continually daunted by frustration; by a sense of sin or guilt or failure to attain his ends; by insufficiency to carry out, not only great and laudable projects to his satisfaction, but even to meet the stresses and strains of daily living with inward peace and, sincere serenity. Even though he may live very largely in the world of spiritual consciousness, this sense of lack of sufficiency still haunts him; What then can he look forward to in this existence of space-time? A happier civilization, better houses, faster and less crowded trains, a higher standard of living? Yes, these things certainly. But in his heart he knows that such matters are only toys. They can, in themselves, do little to relieve his unrest, to render him incapable of boredom or to free his spirit from the entanglement of pain and pleasure. Only a further change in I consciousness can avail him anything.
The orthodox religious may deny that there can be any development in consciousness beyond the spiritual. In such denial they will have to come to terms with the religious leaders whom they. follow. Further progress in the development of consciousness takes the form of a condition which is best described as revealing. This revealing consciousness brings homo vulgaris into such an advantageous position that he can no longer be regarded as a talking beast. Animal nature has definitely been transcended. New powers and new perceptions have come to him and with them new responsibilities. He can read the hearts of men with unerring intuition. Under certain conditions their unspoken thoughts lie open to him. He has become, in the truest and most fundamental sense, a Leader. He may hold no office, speak in no assembly, hold no accredited position in society. But the fruits of the spirit will be manifest in him and such as are seeking enlightenment will find him. The curse of incompleteness is no longer his. He may make mistakes, he may fail in many of his inspired enterprises, but he has attained complete assurance, unwavering confidence in the power of self universal in which he lives and moves and has his being, yet without narrowness of view or any taint of fanaticism. He has passed beyond the world of individualism, guilt and sin, beyond the region where men are labelled as belonging to this movement or to that: nor does it matter to him where he finds- the glowing scriptures in which he clothes the teaching of the spirit. He will not be concerned to be a Christian or a Buddhist or a Parsee or a Stoic. From Self universal he gathers the fruits of his teaching and distributes them ripe and fresh. He is without fear and without regret. No longer has he a sense of sin or guilt, for Self universal, the inspiring power behind all his actions, is incapable of sin. It is ego that sins, it is personality that sins; never Self. He walks often in the region of the untellable and therefore is restrained and careful. in his words to others. He is not of those who give smooth and comfortable counsels and if, as is sometimes the case, he writes poetry, he guards carefully against the unwisdom of facility and his words go home because they are simple, carefully selected, austere and few. His presence does not invariably bring peace to those 'Who. sojourn under his roof. J To those rooted in custom and convention, I intellectual, moral, or physical, his presence is irksome, a pain and a reproof. For the activities of Self universal constitute an everlasting challenge to ego and to personality.
Self universal is not separate, it is not strange or repellent but it is inexhaustible. It is the light which pierces darkness; the love which challenges hate; the courage which upbraids inertia and indifference. It is the everliving warrior who makes war on cruelty and fear and ignorance. It is the perfect, very gentle knight who seeks everywhere to slay the dragon of individualism.
Reading such words, some may feel dismay. They may even accuse me of babbling about experiences that must always remain untellable. I admit the soft impeachment. But though one cannot tell, it may be helpful at times to hint. How can the ordinary man, immersed in his affairs, in his business, his office, his workshop; how can he, with several babies squealing at home, and that troublesome gentleman waiting on the doorstep for the rent; with that official document in the letterbox demanding in the name of income tax nearly all he has; how can he be expected to pay any heed to such matters as the soul, or the ephemeral nature of these harassing surroundings? But there is no occasion to be discouraged; I am not writing for men in heaven, I am writing for men on earth; men who are profoundly disgruntled with things as they are; who have discovered the hollowness of civilization and the bankruptcy of spiritual values in the world as we know it to-day. But let it never be forgotten that the demands of Self universal are not many and are by no means complicated. The veriest child can understand them. All Self universal demands of anyone is patience and humility. Self universal did not send you into the world to make a fortune out of motor cars or to attain the Woolsack or to become a member of parliament. Self universal cakes not a fig for such matters. Is it of intrinsic importance whether the child be given a wooden horse or a box of tin soldiers? All that matters is that you shall regard these changing scenes, these alternating fortunes with the cheerful nonchalence of detachment. Perhaps you are one of the many children who wanted soldiers and not a horse? Well. don't make a song about it. Soldiers and horse will have given place to some other toy a few weeks hence. One thing and one thing only Self demands of us : that we shall not get our values mixed. The things of the spirit (conduct, behaviour and morals) must come first; the things of the mind and the body must come second. If we think a standard of living is of greater importance than a standard of spiritual values and behaviour we are trying to swim against the tide of everlasting truth. If we fail to learn and practise this lesson, suffering prolonged and inexorable will be ours. We shall reap in tears what we have sown in ignorance and the pride which it begets.
And these leaders, if they are not to be found among our public men and social workers, our accredited teachers and preachers, where are they to be found? The greatest of them are revealed in the pages of history and their utterances are revered by their followers as Scriptures. The world of suffering men is richer for the Christian Scriptures, the Hindu Scriptures, the Buddhist Scriptures, the Chinese Scriptures (the Analects of Confucious will always take its place beside the Christian sacred writings), the Scriptures of Islam and the Scriptures ascribed to Marcus Aurelius. Many other scriptures of kindred value there are, for only fanaticism insists on the unique truth of any one body of scriptures, but these are the best known. The truths revealed to these leaders were revealed because, they had sought diligently through many obscure years, through many obscure lives. They had to seek just as you and I have to seek. They also were once talking beasts evolved from even lower forms. No miracles were wrought to save them toil any more than miracles are wrought to save us toil. Seek and ye shall find, is the unchanging law. Not until you have knocked long and persistently will the door be opened. Even to-day, among unknown men you may find such leaders. Not perhaps so fully enlightened or so potent as certain leaders of old, for modern civilization has sought wealth, ease and comfort, it has not sought enlightenment and the peace it brings. Leaders are the flower of the civilization on which they are born. If our leaders are rather scrubby wild flowers of the hedgerow as compared with some of the greatest leaders of old, we should not complain. They have far more of wisdom than we are ever likely to assimilate and bring into the texture of our living and thinking. To-morrow we may grow wiser and there will be opportunity for greater leaders to come among us. The persistent heresy of modern civilization is to believe that a great leader must necessarily be manifest in his life and work to all. Talking beast vainly imagines that if a Christ or a Buddha were born and lived among us, his name would be on all the hoardings, women would cluster about him and swoon at his feet and he would address great audiences in the Albert Hall. An intelligent consideration of the conditions does not support such crude conceptions. They are born of ego and the childish desire to point to "My Leader" and "My Master" in order that I also may shine in his reflecting glory. Supreme leaders have undoubtedly wielded great power but the power has been latent, slow in coming, unsought, unsuspected, unperceived. Jesus bore witness to the blindness of humans in regard to spiritual qualities when he quoted the proverb that a prophet is without honour in his own country and among his own people; and Marcus Aurelius pointed out that when a god moves among men he is seldom recognized: "It is indeed possible for a man to be as a god though nobody could recognize it. Keep in mind that this may be so and that happiness consists in extremely few things." (Meditations, viii, 67.)
Only the fruits of a life of patient and persistent spiritual search will enable us to understand what is meant by a true leader. He is one who is no longer an unfinished human for he has become a complete Man. The fears and doubts and prejudices and uncertainties; the sense of inadequacy so frequently concealed under a blustering exterior, which render talking beast's efforts so feeble and so futile, have forever passed from him. He is justly assured and confident and can reveal to humans in their own language those fundamental assurances by which alone they can grow to higher stature. In him they see these truths illustrated for he is no longer of those who speak one thing and do another. The feeble-mindedness which asks wearily: "For what purpose was I born?" is no longer his. He knows enough of the Creator's purpose to be able to guide himself and others unerringly and has so disciplined himself that the creative power of Self universal flows freely through all his thought and all his action.
But here again I shall be challenged. Self universal: what is that? In using such a phrase one runs the risk of being completely misunderstood or of conveying exactly nothing. For our language, which is a tool fashioned by struggling humans' to express their wants and build up their civilization, was not designed to throw light on fundamental conditions or to investigate those deeper mysteries which are not concerned specifically with space-time consciousness. Terms like "universal" and "timeless" cannot convey anything to beings whose consciousness functions in terms of time and space. All they can do is to lead us to the brink of a mystery and leave us there. Beyond is the untellable, the unconscious, the dark surround of all our daily and nightly dreaming; the source of all growth, all development and of our deepest and most vitalizing inspirations.
Perhaps the nearest we can get to any satisfying explanation is to say that Self universal is the guiding force behind the highest, deepest aspirations of homo vulgaris. It is Self universal which forbids him to commit murder; which vaguely troubles his consciousness when he goes to war; which forbids him to enslave his fellows or to seek domination over them for any purpose whatsoever; to practise or co-operate with or condone cruelty in any form; to commit crimes against the basic laws of sex. It was the complete experience of Self universal to which many of the sages and the saints attained. St. Catherine of Genoa was certainly, for a brief period, absorbed in the being of universal Self. Yet, in our everyday language she could say almost nothing. She could only signal the cold but significant message: "My Me is God nor do I know my Selfhood save in Him."
HUMANIZING PERSONALITY AND EGO
Talking beast in this present age is so completely entangled in his personality and his ego that it is almost impossible for him to see these servants of Self in their true perspective. He is keenly conscious of tendencies in others, and less keenly conscious of tendencies in himself, that give colour to much that is written here about personality and ego. The others about him, in home, in office or workshop, give unmistakable evidence of acting almost entirely from egocentric motives and of taking pride and pleasure in the attainments of personality.
That personality and ego exist he cannot deny any more than he can deny the existence of sun or moon. But having, however unwillingly, admitted the existence of these forces in human make-up, he will lose no time in hastening to offer many specious pleas in their defence. Personality and ego, he will insist, are not really so bad as' the ardent moralist would paint them. There is much to be said in their favour, for without the drive of personality' and the incentives of egoism, civilization could never have been built up. Was it not the motive of self-preservation and a desire for a greater degree of comfort that led men to herd together, to build cities, to create empires? Even our progress towards manhood owes something to the hardening process involved in the struggle to survive. The argument is perfectly logical and, so far as it goes, perfectly true. But in urging it, we are ploughing the sand for I have nowhere stated that either ego or personality is a bad thing in itself. That unbridled ego is entirely within his rights in insisting on the necessity for murder and rape does not prove it to be an evil force. Extremes are usually undesirable and sometimes dangerous. But the difficulties arising to-day from the unbridled activities of ego and personality tend -too much to neutralize those other forces which are not concerned at all with survival, and, regard incarnation as a momentous incident in a timeless process. The 'tendency of organized religion has been in the main to take a fanatical view of the position. If you believe that man is a special creation, with no common ancestry among the beasts of the field, sent into an uncomfortable world in order that he may be prepared in a single lifetime for his heritage of a heaven of bliss; if you believe this or some modernized version of it, then it will certainly seem right to you to preach and urge and persuade and bring the utmost pressure to bear upon others in order that they may be enticed or compelled to go that way which seems to you the only right way. Religious crusades will then become necessary, mass meetings, missions. Churches will have to be given more power and ecclesiastics will have to be held in greater veneration. But if you believe that man's final achievement or completion has nothing to do with an eschatological heaven that can only be attained after death by one lifetime of obedience and faith, but depends rather on his patient efforts in recurrent time and timelessness, then a less crude conception of his position becomes possible. Personality and ego will then be recognized as the inevitable products of the many changes in time-space through which the beast that has developed the faculty of speech has passed. They are not evil forces to be despaired of or to be magically or ecclesiastically exorcised. They are instruments to be humanized and fashioned into more useful tools for furthering Self's purpose in space-time.
The novelists are the best exponents of personality. The service they have done to the human race in bringing humanizing influences to bear on the crude struggle of life, is very great. In an age when preaching has declined from inspiration to a fatigue, they have brought us some good and nourishing fruit-from the land of dreams. They have always had one theme only: the play of personality. If personality be as ephemeral as the ephemeral world of space-time consciousness, it may be asked, why write so many books about it? Looked at from this angle, the work of the novelist may appear superfluous. These tales of personalities reacting to other personalities, getting entangled with them; loving, hating; dominating or being dominated by a little brief authority, behaving wisely, behaving foolishly, behaving ill, behaving well, never withdrawing far enough away from their own personality to realize what it is, or to get control of it, and finally passing into the dark unknown from which they came; what are they but a series of variations on one unchanging theme? That is true. But we learn a great deal, usually subconsciously, from the novelist's so long as their values are sane and true. If the writer's life is vicious, his temperament hedonistic and anti-social or superficial and frivolous, his, fundamental values will not be true. Modern writers may deny this, but the findings of all sound psychology and philosophy are against them. Many novelists of the pre-Axis War period failed in this respect. Some were simply vendors of anodynes demanded by some zone of society. They provided crime stuff or detective stuff or pornography disguised as history for minds essentially still those of schoolboys. But even among these groups, writers could not escape from the ever-recurring theme. The personalities of murderers, morons and thieves differ from one another and it is this diversity that makes the story. But the story can never be a good one artistically so long as the writer admires the villain and despises the just man. The novel is a mirror in which we follow the fortunes of personalities without running the risk we continually encounter in life' of getting entangled with them to their detriment and our own.
The greatest writers, by which I mean the accepted world-geniuses, reach higher levels of consciousness and can show us Self universal manifesting through personality and triumphing over ego. A few names shine in the darkness like stars and illumine the centuries: Homer, Dante, Milton, Shakespeare, Dickens, Balzac, Tolstoi. But it is only the few who are able to contact the philosophic heights where Self dwells in timeless serenity. Their work has a persuasive and educative force never present in the products of those who are entangled in personality. Those, eager to refute me, will of course instance Shakespeare. But since human testimony is per se valueless and all knowledge of Shakespeare's life at present rests on the idle gossip of hack writers who lived after his time, it seems better to be guided by the internal evidence of his work.
Here then are two barbarians in our camp, useful fellows enough but not such as can be safely left without continual supervision. We find them in others and we find them, if we are sufficiently alert to look, in ourselves. If we are not conscious of the influence of these two in all our motives and actions, it simply means that we are spiritually asleep and intellectually unaware. We cannot expel them; we cannot live without them. What is to be done then to humanize them and to train them to be efficient servants of Self? The worst way is to become so engrossed in our work, no matter whether it be the curing of hams or the curing of souls, that we have no time to be bored. This usually means that we are putting off the evil day when we shall be forced to face ourselves; and the fires of hell or purgatory, psychologically interpreted, do not tend to grow less fierce as a result of the time process. There is a phrase often on the lips of the fussily over-active: "Better to wear out than to rust out." But it may be just as bad to wear out as to rust out. To work till one drops may appear a fine ideal to the unreflecting. Unhappily the worker who drops from over-work necessarily drops on someone else and there lingers. Unfortunate relatives have to tend him while he lingers on, helpless and querulous as a baby. It may not be easy to apportion blame in such unhappy cases but the hard worker who has persistently made work his anodyne is certainly not blameless. Better for him if he had cultivated subsidiary interests or learned to relax his body in accordance with the best psychological instruction. What is the use of legislating for an eight hours day or a six hours day if multitudes have not learned the elementary rules of wise living? In this sphere education is more likely to be of service than hasty legislation.
The humanizing of personality must begin with the individual. And it is -essential that all effort shall be firmly rooted in humility. The trusteeship of Self towards others can hardly hope to reach beyond an attitude of strict integrity and constant kindness of thought, word, and deed. But such kindness must not be sentimental, weak or flabby. Very few ever attain even to the first foothills of humility in the struggle upward towards a better co-ordinated life. The reason is because they are so entangled in their own personality that they are not aware of their own egocentricity. The humble person has little attachment to an object, no matter whether it be a house or an opinion, merely because it is his own. Personality can only be humanized by the infiltration of Self which is universal and seeks no private end.
A formidable obstacle in the way of personality when it seeks to become less crude and more humane is the temptation to get entangled and enmeshed in the personalities of others. Considered superficially it seems so simple and so imperative to help others who stand on lower levels than our own. We see their difficulties; we see their faults and weaknesses and then, like St. George going forth to encounter the Dragon, we plunge into the morass in an effort to drag them out. The result too often is that both sink into the slough together. It is useless for the blind to seek to guide the blind. And clear vision does not come simply by clear thinking or what is known as "a powerful mind." It is based fundamentally on right living. Should we then desist from all effort to be helpful to others? By no means. But we should set about such efforts intelligently and not foolishly. Not until we are well aware of what personality is, whence it comes and how it functions, can we begin to get an understanding of what the 'trusteeship of Self means. Until that time we have to be humble enough to confess, however clearly we may see another's faults and weaknesses: "I can do nothing directly. Advice, warning, caution would be entirely ineffective from me, as I now am. I must by self-discipline, by personal effort, by patient practice, by withdrawing myself at times from the tumult of business and pleasure, attain sufficient detachment to enable Self universal to express itself." Only in this way can perception grow; only in this way can help to others become effective. Words of wisdom will come from the lips of one man with no more force than a puff of wind, but from the lips of another with the devastating thrust of a lightning flash. Ego prattles foolishly no matter how wise it pretends to be, but Self, though it may appear a fool, has the force and the wisdom of the universe behind it.
The single life should, at set times, withdraw itself into itself,. otherwise harmful entanglements with others are certain to result. You may be the child of a difficult parent; or you may be the parent of an unregenerate child. It sometimes happens that such parents or such children vainly imagine that help can be given or the situation improved by daily or weekly interference. In this way a centre of friction is set up which can lead to nothing except further conflict and mutual irritation. Such conflict may even take on the nature of a secret satisfaction. When life is darkened by a cloud of petty worries and troubles, sorrows and failures, it can be a rather pleasant antidote to feel that one has a father who is a drunkard or a mother compared with whom Jezebel would have ranked as a, saint. There is a secret comfort in being able to tell one's friends of the latest atrocities committed by "my son," "my Mother," or "my dad." After a while the relationship takes the form of an anodyne, or a counter-irritant to distract the mind from lesser troubles. Even in the injured party, while such a conflict is going on, Self can find little room for expression. The motive may be altruistic, the purpose to help or conciliate the erring one, but this makes no difference to the disastrous result. The need for those placed in such a position of bitter-sweet antagonism is to make vigorous and determined effort to dismiss the subject altogether from their minds; not to thrust it into the unconscious but to look it squarely in the face and then pass on to the immediate and constructive affairs of daily life. If the more guilty party to the unhappy embroilment refuses to be left severely alone, it may be necessary to resort to the law for preservation of the peace. In our land protection is given against persecution and assault. No protection is provided against the scandal resulting from such action. But it is only ego who is afraid of scandal. Self continues to be happy and serene even when it is (as usually happens) the object of malice and slander.
Personality is highly elusive. It is woven of so many strands. It has grown to be as it is at any moment of time as a result of parentage, environment and the infiltration of Self. The influences of nationality and climate also play their parts. We should be rash indeed if we ever admitted to ourselves that we knew what another personality is like. We cannot be sure that Self is expressed through him or her, or if so, in what degree. The passage of time, the experiences of life, the meeting with another who is more spiritually advanced, all these or any of these, may change personality almost beyond recognition. Age does not of itself, any more than does youth, of necessity bring wisdom. The old man of seventy may be a greater fool than he was at twenty, more avaricious, more headstrong and less perceptive. If the ship is not steered in the right direction it may arrive at an ill port or just toss around till it sinks. If personality is not persistently humanized it must inevitably degenerate.
A popular modern heresy tends to the view that men and women are fundamentally alike. It is true that Self knows no distinction of sex, but it is expressed in space-time through male and female personalities, and these differ considerably. Female personality tends to be more assertive, more demonstrative and more dominating than the male. Essentially neither sex is, per se, a whit wiser than the other and the opinion so frequently heard on the lips of the unreflecting, that human affairs would be in better condition if women had ruled, is simply an opinion born of ignorance. To make such a statement is not, of course, to deny that women should take an equal share in the government and the direction of affairs. The German system of keeping women in the bed and the kitchen has assisted the forces of degeneracy. Male personality tends to be more reticent and more tenacious though less in evidence on the surface. The popular belief that -women have a monopoly of intuition and are more open to the influence of the higher unconscious than are men, is not borne out by wide or deep observation. 'If woman is to be regarded as the irrational sex it is probably a useful piece of make-believe created by men in their own interest and found by women not to be without its uses.
The difference between male and female personality is brought into sharp relief when women are organized and disciplined on a military pattern. Female officers tend to take themselves with enormous seriousness, delight in the exercise of authority and in turning the screw of discipline on those under their command. There are undeniably exceptions, but the rule is as I have stated it. On the whole, it is probably harder for women to realise the ephemeral nature of personality in an ephemeral world, this garment woven for one earth-life. They take such delight in the garment that they would fain persuade themselves that it is a timeless creation destined either for reincarnation on earth or an eternity in heaven.
These striking but not fundamental differences between the sexes will certainly tend to become less marked as a better understanding of what personality is finds its way into consciousness. In the great leaders of mankind personality, whether male or female, finds its perfect balance. Self universal when it is expressed as complete Man, can make use equally well of a male or a female organism. Demeter, the earth-mother, is no less complete than Zeus.
For talking beast, no matter whether male or female, the way is clear enough. He must be so educated and then so educate himself that he attains a clearer understanding of the fundamental nature of the human species and of consciousness.
If ego is recognized for what it is and the habit of noticing one's reactions encouraged, it will rapidly become far less troublesome and less dominant. If personality is regarded with somewhat of the amused interest cultivated by the novelist in his work, alike in oneself and in others, life even in the home circle will become less fraught with friction and frustration. The human animal is not unintelligent, but to-day his affairs, private, political and international, are in a sad muddle because his own nature is in a sad muddle. He has forgotten most of what he knew about his own nature in more enlightened ages and he is learning in pain and sorrow that machines are a poor substitute for wisdom. Not until he focusses his whole attention on himself and considers all problems from the viewpoint of improving his own inner life, can he hopefully look for any true progress in the outer world of which he so bitterly complains.
As regards the sexual relations of male and female, what are they but the interaction of personality with personality? Because you have become attracted by a personality of the opposite sex that is no sound reason why you should lose the sense of proportion in encountering the problems that lie ahead. We should try to remember that though the woman of our desire appears in our eyes as beautiful as Cleopatra and as gentle as Perdita, we are choosing as our companion, not a goddess but a beast of our own species. We must not expect too much of her. We should remember that she will see us at first through the spectacles of desire, and later through the spectacles of her own personality. Our own bodies are the closest part of the external world that we contact. Our own body is far nearer to us than the body of another, no matter how beloved. The best marriages are those which are based on the truth of aloneness. We are born alone and we die alone, and the long lifetime of talk which separates those two stages / forms a screen hiding the deeper reality.
Where each partner realizes this there will be less interference and less make-believe., There must be mutual respect and no shadow of domination on either side. The fewer illusions there are, the better. For the voyage of life is bound to be a rough one. If it is based upon honesty and sincerity, and if the stresses. and strains become such that it is necessary to part company, then the alteration should be made with the utmost goodwill and gentleness between the partners. There must be no sting left in the flesh of either, only a humble acceptance of the facts of life. Sex can be a great humanizing influence to personality if it is frankly accepted and wisely turned from the curse it so often is into the blessing it may become.
The unmarried who enter into sex relations must see to it that no third party is hurt by such relationship and this necessity will involve the strictest honesty and sincerity. Lust and jealousy are adepts at disguising themselves and rationalizing their motives. The most difficult lesson man has to learn is so to school himself that his words square with his true nature. The great leaders of mankind have always paid small attention to the spoken word. Their consciousness is such that they can look into the nature of the speaker before he utters the betraying word. The great Leader' of the West once spoke to a woman drawing water from a well. He revealed to her certain matters connected with her private life and made it perfectly clear that if she would drink of the water of eternal life, that is to say, rise from the life of personality which perishes to the life of Self which endures, she must put her sex-life in order, for any dishonesty there will vitiate the whole life. Little help can be expected either from the law or from organized religion in the adjustment of others to others in their sex relationship; the intimacy is too close and too subtle.
The problem must be faced and tackled by each for himself. According as it is intelligently and wisely tackled or foolishly and clumsily mishandled, the 'happiness and" well-being of future generations largely depend. We think, and plan a great deal to-day in order that the young may be educated and receive religious instruction. But what counts is the moral and spiritual atmosphere of the home. If there be genuine sincerity and true harmony in the home the growing child will, need little or no religious instruction. If there be bickering and acrimony or the emptiness bred of mere triviality, no religious instruction the child may receive either at school or at home will be of the slightest avail. Three quarters of our religious education to-day is just waste of time and of money because this, elementary truth is lost sight of. Laws change and customs alter, but truth, sincerity and gentleness are fundamental constants which never change.
Ego and personality, with their long roots in the distant past, cannot be tamed so long as the stress of competitive life continues at its present tension. Life on earth for the majority is a fitful fever, a tossing from pain to pleasure and from pleasure to pain, and not, as it should be, an intelligently organized pilgrimage. The hard framework of life with its laws and penalties and compulsions aimed, in freedom-loving countries, at saving talking beast from himself, is far more rigid than it would be if the beast were less stubborn and hard of heart. Motives from the vast sea of the unconscious are continually breaking in, but they are, for the most part, motives from the lower unconscious which have their roots in the grumbling or assertive ego. Mankind in the mass has no idea that there can be any salvation for him in a sincere study of himself. He does not know and does not wish to know the laws of his own being. Nescience, he thinks, quite wrongly, will save him effort and trouble. Let religion be left to those who are ordained to it and if no benefits accrue from such easy altruistic methods, let us blame the bishops and the parsons.
Such an attitude does not bring peace into his life. For something in him whispers that there can be no profit so long as Self is neglected and the influence of Self is always towards intelligence and courage and loyalty and gentleness. Personality would betray its master in the interests of some quizling reward. But Self is utterly and eternally opposed to such poltroonery. Self will not tolerate insensitiveness, hatred or cruelty any more than it" will condone weakness or flabby good nature. As the influence of Self becomes more direct and insistent, the beast becomes more aware of the dark shadow which he brings with him out of the far past. From this shadow he seeks relief in violent action and feverish activity. He plunges into war, into revolution, into gospels of equality, gospels of blood-and-iron, gospels of some Utopian condition where money will be unnecessary and there will be no lust and murder in the heart of mankind, gospels of racial superiority and swaggering patriotism. And the harder he works and the more fiercely he fights for his false ideal the deeper and more impenetrable becomes the shadow. He cannot leave the past to bury the past., We bury our dead in the ground and there their bodies must remain. It is far otherwise with the corpses of old thoughts, old actions, old disgusts and old desires. These are not buried deep in heavy clay. They float about in the ocean of the unconscious which breaks on the shore of our waking consciousness and are liable at any time to be washed up on the beaches. The chilly presence of this lower unconscious, which can be likened to a shadow or to an ocean, can only grow less harmful as the light of Self shines more clearly. Only as personality and ego become more humanized by Self can life be turned from destructive activities into constructive channels.
The way becomes clear enough as soon as we begin to, see through the dark shadow cast by personality and ego. For Self to make its influence felt more vitally in human, affairs there must be less talking, less striving, less surface activity; a strange doctrine certainly to put before the most restless and extraverted civilization the world has seen. Things have to be done. We have got to be fed, clothed, warmed, carried about in trains and buses and cars. Quite true. But these should only be the means to an end. Until homo vulgaris has it driven well home to him by personal experience that to be human is more important than to be alive, he will never get his values right. At present he has not even attained sufficient intelligence to put a higher value on the inner life than on the outer. If you speak to the average human of an "inner life" he will look puzzled or pained, as if you had made a faux pas or mentioned something that is never referred to in polite circles. Well, so long as that is his attitude, so much the worse for him. The myriad activities of the outer life must be attended to. But there is no immediate danger of their being neglected. Our old friend ego will see to that. Even the people of Eire make an occasional effort to dig up their potatoes.
The inner life is the life nearest to consciousness; the life of rest, sleep , relaxation; the life, in its highest expression, of prayer and contemplation. And it is this inner life which can alone give us whatever dignity and poise and serenity we possess. A two minutes silence on one day in the year in the busiest metropolis in the world is a brave gesture. But it is nothing more than a gesture; a dignified signal announcing that there are among all our millions a few enlightened spirits who are alive to the fact that there is such a thing as an inner life; a reality that cannot be escaped even by the most externalized and most talkative. In itself such a two minutes probably accomplishes little beyond the inevitable self-conscious embarrassment. A two minutes silence annually in modem life is like putting up a thin barrier of matchwood to stay the forces of Niagara. We westerners would need a two months silence at least to effect anything at all.
Happily such compulsive methods are neither necessary nor desirable. Man cannot be dragooned into peace though he can easily enough be dragooned into war. Each must handle his own tool, such as it is; each must take up his own spade and go and work in, his own garden. There he will, if he be an honest man, find a plentiful crop of weeds. Here is his work. No other will ever bring him such rich rewards in the alternating processes of time and timelessness. The weeds he uproots must be his own weeds (not his neighbours–however luscious these may appear to him) and the times of withdrawal must become as necessary to him as his dinner. No other can do this work for him though others, if sufficiently developed spiritually, tan open his eyes, to his true needs and so help him to work more profitably.
Quietism is a word that has been much spoken against, usually because it is misunderstood. It does not mean inertia; it does not mean sloth; it does not mean the dogma. ridden seclusion of the cloister. Quietism means cessation of feverish and futile effort to attain ends that are essentially valueless. And if the modern world destroyed everything whose vital results are nil from the spiritual, or even the purely humanitarian, point of view, how much of human effort would remain?
It may be urged that such a view could lead only to the unprogressive fatalism of the East. The leisured few might, if they would, benefit, but the toiling millions need a simpler and more practical doctrine. It may even be Objected that I am falling into the common error against which I warned the reader on an earlier page; the mistake' of regarding all others as identical with ourselves. No heresy against truth could be more damaging than that. It is on the sandy foundation of that mistaken idea that most reforms are built. Despite superficial appearances to the contrary there are no social classes, or rather, each individual is a class by himself. There is no possibility of ever reforming this wise arrangement of the universe except in the minds of doctrinaire reformers and politicians. The hidden heritages from the past will always upset any adjustments which specious reformers may suggest. It is inevitable that the citizens of a state shall be most variously endowed, materially, mentally and spiritually.
In every state, in every town, in every village, in every household there are individuals belonging to different zones of development. 'It is this condition which makes our world so bewildering, so unpredictable and so various. In order to get the everyday work of the world done, we have in large measure to disregard this fundamental diversity. But like a fire underground, it persists and comes to the surface now here and now there. It is for this reason that states founded on ideologies and doctrinaire systems cannot survive long. The secret fires of individuality and past experience, the unquenchable flames of personality and ego are continually at work beneath the surface, suffocating, corroding, destroying. The family, for working purposes, has to be regarded as a unit, but directly we begin to analyse it and apply to it the catalysis of Self, we find that the family has almost entirely evaporated. Boys and girls who enter the world by the same gateway gradually become aware that each speaks a different language and looks on different worlds. Even the most painstaking and scientifically-trained parents cannot produce in their offspring what is not there already. It is to be feared that a superficial acquaintance with psychology or with dietetics is likely to breed much mischief between parents and children'. The hidebound vegetarian mother is rather in the position of a cow who has been given a tiger cub to suckle. Self is neither a vegetarian nor a meat-eater and cares nothing for these things. But personality will sometimes fight with tooth and claw on behalf of cabbages against mutton or mutton against cabbages. Neither does Self know or care anything about class and class-distinctions; and yet there are many seemingly sane people who are struck with the greatest astonishment when they meet with a good and intelligent man or woman who belongs to a class above or below their own. They have so fallen into the habit of class thinking that they have come, consciously or unconsciously, to believe that all conservative dukes are wicked and, all socialists good–or vice versa. Should they encounter a good, and intelligent duke, it bothers them. They suspect that the natural order of things has in some way tricked them. And there arc many middle-class housewives who are moved to a kind of ecstasy when they meet with a charwoman who is not only honest but have an understanding of spiritual values.
We all have our prejudices which we shed with pain and difficulty. It is because we know that we ought to she'd them that we do our best not to become too much aware of them. Perhaps the most deplorable sphere of prejudice is the religious. Here at least should be a serener sky, a fresher atmosphere.
But here again we are continually meeting with the cardinal error which insists on regarding others as identical with ourselves. There are in fact as many religions as there are personalities. Though two men are professing Catholics it by no means follows that they hold the same religion or belong to the same religious zone. I have met Catholics whose true zone was the Theosophical Society, and I have met Theosophists who ought to have been in a Catholic nunnery. And by these remarks no disparagement is intended of either of the excellent churches referred to. There are many Catholics who can get the best that religion can offer them only by belonging to the Roman Catholic Church, and there are Plymouth Brethren who have gained a high degree of spiritual enlightenment which they could have gained nowhere else except from their sect. The cups are many, but the wine is one. Self universal cares nothing for the form or workmanship of the cup so long as it is capable of holding the wine. The cups may be Christian, Buddhist or of no recognized pattern. It does not matter so long as the wine is such that it inspires unselfish courage, steadfast patience and sincere humility. Dogmas are the corpses of truth. They belong to the dead world that has passed away.
The gradual humanization of personality and the restraints put upon ego show us clearly in what direction we may look for the further manifestation of Self. The orthodox religious man is less rigid than he used to be. He is far less interested in theology which he leaves to a few divines to read and write. Modern man is impatient of dogmas, even of the dogmas of science, and is more inclined to find sustenance in the pronouncements of ethical teachers. Even the confessed materialist is less insensitive than he was, twenty years ago to the suffering his ignorance, stupidity and arrogance bring to others. He is less hardened in his prejudices and more easily driven from the trenches of habit and custom. But he is still very much a beast; and he still talks a great deal more than is good either for himself or others.
The true religion, no matter whether it be Christian, Buddhist, Mohammedan or Sufi, is that which brings most effectively the light of Self universal to the seeker. The dark shadow of the unconscious surrounds us all. Religion, if it be merely a conventional cloak will not lessen but rather intensify that shadow. Religion, if truly held and faithfully practised, has always and everywhere the effect of causing light to penetrate further and further into the shadow; of revealing ourselves to ourselves; of rendering us more aware, more alert, more interested in all that goes on inside and around us; more eager to help the other fellow, without any shadow of self-satisfaction or condescension. Mystery there must always be for everyone save the fool. The dark shadow is a universe and our consciousness but a pin point of light. But there will be a growing assurance and a growing trust in the beneficent power which sustains all things.
In that wide zone which embraces all humans, Self sees only one predominant evil: cruelty. Talking beast, so far as the English-speaking world is concerned, is becoming more and more aware of this subtle and soul-destroying enemy to Self. No natural prejudice is involved in an English writer making such a statement. The fact is patent to all who have studied the ethics of the last two hundred ,years. , The English-speaking peoples have their many and grievous faults, but callousness to cruelty is not among them to the extent it is found among other nations and races. We should therefore be more sensitive to those higher influences which are able to infiltrate through Self to the more humanized personality.
Since then an enfant terrible of the sciences, known as psychology, has been born. This unfortunate child has an awkward habit of asking questions, some of which seem to have sly implications directed against good honest folk who want to be left alone to get on with the work of making money. What is ego?–it asks. Why aren't all rich people happy? Why aren't all poor people unhappy? Why aren't old men always wiser than young ones? Why not abolish money altogether and let each man live on his home-grown potatoes?
Finance has taken no notice of such impertinent questions, but nevertheless they have lurked in the financial consciousness and tended to spoil the old happy assurance that so long as nothing was altered in the economic framework all would continue to be, if not well, at least tolerable.
Psychology has not been content simply to ask questions. Like the other sciences it has made experiments and verified many of the assertions of ancient philosophers. Many psychologists, Freud among them, have made fundamental mistakes, but despite crudities and blunders, their work has modified the thought-atmosphere in which we live. It has awakened us to the fact that every problem which can concern us is essentially a problem of consciousness; a consciousness fed always by the unconscious. The hard framework of daily life, insistent though it be, can only present itself through the gateways of consciousness. Therefore, it is wiser to complain of consciousness than to find fault with the outer framework. This becomes clear if you take the case of a man who worries about his worsening financial position until he worries himself sick. If you suggest that his trouble is basically psychological, he will deny it. "No," he will assure you, "my troubles are not psychological, they are financial." That is to say, he can only be happy if he is in receipt of what he regards as an adequate income or, maybe, he can only be satisfied if he has A grouse that he can make his hobby. Considered from the psychological, which is also the commonsense, angle, he is no more than a weakling, no matter how loudly he fuss and fume. For him the mess of pottage has become the only thing that matters. But supposing a man, it may be objected, is starving for lack of food and shelter? Will even the wisest psychology warm him and feed him? Such would be an extreme case and, like all extreme cases, would have to be considered on its own merits. It cannot alter the fact that human well-being, throughout its varying degrees, is intimately connected with the state of human consciousness, that pin point of light which is every moment fed by the surrounding darkness of the unconscious.
Our race has been doomed to live for the last two hundred years in the darkest age recorded in history. Though other ages have worshipped cruel and foolish gods, no age has worshipped such a dull, drab, futile and foolish god as we worship to-day. And when I use the term "god" I refer to no conventional symbol or scholastic term played with by theologians and scholars but the real and definite objective of all our most strenuous efforts; the place, in short, where our treasure is.
In every civilization there is always present in national or racial consciousness one dominant idea or impulse. Not all individuals express this idea all the time but none is free from the mental bias which it exerts. In the best period of Ancient Egypt this idea was the proximity of the unseen world which found expression in the Mysteries and in the psychisin developed in a trained and enlightened priesthood. In Greece, in the age of Plato, the dominant idea was the pursuit of truth in art, in science and in living. In Europe during the 17th century, the inspiring force sprang from an ignorant and fanatical religion which split up into sections and found its chief satisfaction in fighting, persecuting and dominating others. All such ideas have faded away and left little trace in civilization as we know it to-day. The inspiration of religion and of religious persecution has gone; the incentive of scientific investigation for its own sake has gone also. The mortar which holds together the brickwork of civilization to-day is Trade and Business. Business is our god. Save under the stress of war we respond to no other motive force of anything like equal power. We may be made members of some organized religious body but we know in our hearts that such membership is but a sop to convention. It is business which compels that - devotion which is worship, business for which we live and generally business which kills us. The whole of life is dominated and controlled by commercial values. A house is built, not that. it may be a suitable and convenient dwelling-place but in order that someone may make money out of the transaction. There .is no article manufactured to-day that is not made with the main purpose of enabling as many people as possible to make as much money as possible out of the transactions involved. No wonder that we are all far more concerned about the amount of our earnings than. about the meaning and purpose of living. And the strange thing is that though we live in this, the stuffiest and fuggiest thought-atmosphere talking beast has yet created, we are not aware of the fact, fondly imagining that all other civilizations have always existed in the same sort of moral and mental fug.
English people plume themselves, and justly, on the high standard of their business morality. Your average trader of London, Manchester and Birmingham will take pride in selling you articles of, good value. He will not attempt to fob you off with poor stuff. But he -knows very well that such honesty among merchants pays. The motive power behind all such transactions is primarily desire of gain. In his eyes the greatest folly is to neglect any opportunity of putting money into one's pocket.
When the business world comes in close contact with the Civil. Service a curious clash ensues. Business does not approve of the Civil Service because the keen incentive of barter is absent. In any department of the Civil Service the business man finds himself in a crowd of good fellows who are not primarily concerned as to whether things get done or not. In place of competition is the comfortable system of automatic promotion. Nobody is ever given the sack, and if anyone makes a blunder he can usually hide behind a committee until the storm has blown over. So the business man would have the whole Civil Service commercialized and run like a merchant's office with a city magnate at its head. Under such a system bureaucracy would probably work with less friction. It is doubtful whether it would result in more than an exchange of evils. For the average of the most elementary enlightenment in business is even lower than in the Civil Service.
We are tempted to pride ourselves on the scientific inventions of our age. But here again the commercial spirit is in full control. Scientific inventions are regarded, not as a means of adding to the material comfort of mankind, but as a means of making money. Medical and surgical developments come in large degree under the same distressful blight of Money. No philanthropist ever yet put a pill on the -market but many business concerns have done so with great benefit to their pockets. If you wish to introduce an improved anaesthetic to the world the first question that arises is not will this benefit suffering men and women, but will it pay?
In times of stress we inscribe in large letters over our shops and offices "business as usual." We never dream of writing life as usual or kindness as usual, for we have long since forgotten, if we ever knew, what living is. We are concerned only with the means of living, that is to say, with the making of money.
Notwithstanding the pressure of the matter-of-fact, three-dimensional world in which most of us live, we are not entirely dead to the inexplicable and mysterious. The man of to-day lives so entirely in the narrow region of his logical thinking that he has almost come to believe that there is nothing which he cannot explain. But this process of "explaining" is itself meaningless, for it is simply the spinning of a web of more or less rational ideas about a central theme. When he has spun this web, no matter how cunningly it be spun, he has no deeper experience of the matter -under consideration, although he may be better furnished with matter for talk and argument. In material science useful discoveries may be made by this method but no intrinsic benefits can accrue. Self is timeless and beyond matter; it is the guiding power which must be obeyed if we would move forward towards complete manhood.
Everything seems simple and explicable enough so long as we keep on the surface where the reasoning mind spins its web. But directly we probe beneath, sooner or later we find ourselves in a region of darkness where, though we undoubtedly have experiences in consciousness, we are powerless to translate them into our crude language.
Money, despite its seeming simplicity, is as much a mystery as life in the stars. The Governor of the Bank of England, the stockbroker, the small tradesman, are all alike dealing with a certain airy nothing which passes beyond comprehension. When economists assure us that money is a medium of exchange without which we should have to resort to barter, they have referred to one aspect of space-time life but they have not enabled us to experience anything more than we already knew about money. Oil is a medium which is necessary to prevent excess of friction in running a car. For all practical purposes this is a sufficient explanation, but it does not enlighten us on the intrinsic nature of friction or on its purpose in our world.
Self's concern is not with the things that primarily concern ego. The struggle for survival, though of dominant interest of ego, does not at all enter into those matters over which Self presides. It naturally results therefore that the exclusive preoccupation of the modern world with business renders the offices of Self extremely difficult. The still, small voice of Self is drowned in the hubbub created by the office, the Workshop and the exchange. It is drowned no less by the loud talking, conventional living and the feverish though altruistic activities of the ministers of religion. Self insists on absolute purity of motive, a withdrawal from entanglement with others and the dropping of all egoistic individualisrn. Where then is Self to get a hearing in a world which has become so accustomed to a life based on egoism that it has come to regard such a life as natural and inevitable? The pessimist will assure us that it was always so. In a sense it was. There has never been an age in which ego did not fight to wrest as much as it could from others. But in former ages there were other currents in life springing from more wholesome sources such as agriculture, clean warfare in defence of right and freedom, and the honest pursuit of wisdom. Our age is poisoned by the sole interest of buying and selling. The primitive savagery of beasthood finds expression in business and trade and the result is that he is infected in his soul and body, and yet is to a great extent unaware of his condition. He moves restlessly hither and thither like one in an uncomfortable dream but does not know that he is dreaming; nor does he know how to rouse himself and wake up.
To understand the position more fully, it is necessary to slip away in imagination from the foul miasma of modern life into an age when conditions were different. There were many foul crimes committed in the age of Plato and there were many merchants and tradesmen in the Athens of that day who were worse than the worst of ours. It was golden age. But there was a truer 'sense of values ' and less smug contentment with prevailing stupidity. The modern world can produce a small number of philanthropic millionaires, and a handful of philosophers who can think clearly but are unable to live wisely. But the modern world is utterly incapable of producing a Plato. His thought still shines in the thought-firmament of mankind with the brilliancy and the remoteness of the stars. The reason why his influence has been so profound and so enduring among the very few who seek enlightenment is, not merely because he had a brilliant mind, but because -he was capable of experiencing the real behind the phenomenal, whereas the scholar-worldlings of our universities are not. For it is as impossible -to serve philosophy and a career as it is to serve God and Mammon. Plato was one of the racial leaders and the full power of Self universal shone through his life no less than through his writing.
As regards the relationship of Self to pelf, Plato has a direct and wholly unequivocal message. It is expressed in the prayer put into the mouth of Socrates which concludes the Phaedrus. This prayer, which reaches higher levels of aspiration than perhaps any other prayer in existence, is as follows:
"May I become beautiful within, and may my outer state happily match the inner. May I rate the sage as rich; and may my own wealth be no more than the disciplined man can use without harm to his inner life."
It is a strange prayer with which to confront even the most thoughtful minds of to-day; so completely are we out Of harmony with the attitude of inspiration the prayer expresses that it brings us a feeling of bewilderment. It is almost as though we were suddenly to find ourselves standing on our heads when we thought we were standing on our feet, The idea that anyone, should ever desire to become beautiful within has probably never occurred to us. It seems as queer as Chinese music to a western ear. The human of to-day regards beauty as something remote, external: the concern of the artist perhaps but not of the practical man whose energies must be directed to earning daily bread for himself and his family. He has not sufficient experience of the matters with which Plato is dealing to understand that to become less ugly within must have a direct and practical bearing on his own happiness and the happiness of those in his immediate circle. All peevishness, all moods of gloom, all impatience, all vexation of spirit tend to spoil this inner beauty and to prevent it from coming to full fruition. If he only knew it, it is far more important that he shall become less ugly inside than that his business shall be remunerative or his career successful. This is one of those luminous truisms which have to be continually repeated because they are being continually and universally neglected in practice. How many sermons on this theme has he listened to from ministers of religion whose lives at home and in the parish. were far from beautiful within? Beauty within expresses itself in courage, honesty and sincerity and in the calm and quiet mind which these beget; in readiness to be helpful to others and to hold as lightly as possible to personal opinions which lead so easily to egoistic argument.
"And may my outer state happily match the inner." What will talking beast of to-day make of that? How, he will ask, can the outer state, the daily environment of family and business, match the inner-no matter whether it be beautiful or ugly? Here we tread on ground unfamiliar to the average. Modern humans incline, secretly or avowedly, to the belief that the circumstances of the individual life happen haphazard; that is to say that a good man is as likely to experience an externally difficult, hostile or unpleasant environment as a man who is quite obviously ugly inside. Superficially this is true, but in a deeper sense it is false. The man who is beautiful within will so react to his environment, no matter what it be, that even if harmony does not immediately result, he will in no true sense be at the mercy of circumstance. On the contrary, the harmony within himself will exert an influence on outward circumstances. People, misled by superficial appearances, often fall into the error of believing that life is unfairly arranged. One has wealth, another poverty; one has sickness, another health. Plato and all the leaders of the race know that such seeming unfairness is wholly misleading. They know that blind chance is not the ruler in such matters. Rebellion against the circumstances of the individual life brings unhappiness; co-operation with the higher forces brings harmony. The outer life is a reflection of the inner though we are not aware of this until a considerable advance towards manhood has been made. This is the law as interpreted by all the great leaders of mankind. "Who yields to necessity without murmuring," writes Epictetus, "is skilled in divine things." And in the Christian tradition we find: "As ye sow so shall ye also reap." But the latter saying must not be interpreted as referring only to some future state after death. It refers to life in time no less than to life in timelessness.
"May I rate the sage as rich." We are here confronted with an unfamiliar conception. Modern life has no room for the sage. It takes no account of wisdom. All its efforts, educational, religious and artistic are held by commercialism in a hard framework which it fights desperately to maintain. The sage would be found a nuisance in the University, in the school, in the church, and worse than the plague in all business and bureaucratic circles. He would question established usage and seek to live by the guidance of the higher unconscious instead of by the usage of the multitude which is ego-born and ego-maintained. Instead of going to church and conforming to group doctrines or going to the Trades Union Congress and voting obediently with the herd, he would inevitably stand aside and bear independent witness that such uniformity has in it the seeds of death, not of life and true development.
The sage is unlikely to have more than a bare sufficiency of worldly goods. He may experience hardship and poverty. But if he be a true sage and not a charlatan there will be manifest in his life a self-discipline and sincerity that will render him more than a match for the slings and arrows of the most outrageous fortune. The sage would smile as he read the notice "business as usual" on our shops and warehouses in times of stress. But there would be no scorn in his smile; only pity for talking beast who would rather toil for pelf which can bring neither content nor happiness than transfer his interests to Self whose home is not only in time but also in timelessness and above the level of aimless dreaming with which the animal man is preoccupied. And if any reader complains that such a life is far beyond his reach, let him rest assured that it is only inertia and laziness which prompt such false humility. It is the direction rather than the distance 'traversed which is all-important. "The journey of a thousand miles," said an Eastern sage, "begins with one step."
"And may my own wealth be no more than the disciplined man can use without harm to his inner life." Here again is a hard saying. Civilized man of to-day has no "inner life." All his days are externalized. All his waking moments are given to business, to talk, to amusement, to sport. Even quietist religious communities like the Friends have modified their practice to conform with modern conditions until the care of the inner life has passed almost out of sight. , Altruistic effort takes the place of meditation and the spirit is neglected in favour of more 16 practical" matters. Our forefathers used to go to church and thumb their Bibles. Such habits have fallen from us, and nothing has taken their place; when not occupied in external activity, our attention floats hither and thither on the surface of the ocean of the lower unconscious. We daydream. Our means may be small or moderate or great; it makes no difference. A millionaire is as much at the mercy of his meaningless daydreams as is the man earning three pounds a week. The inner life which, in Plato's words must be guarded against harm, has no existence for him. He is like one of those poor frenzied madmen who, while really possessing ample means, live hermit-like in a hovel and die of starvation. All the riches of Self universal are there ready to be put into use, but he denies their existence, shuts himself up in his little ego-tenement and slaves away at the collecting of rubbish when the true wealth is within his own heart for the seeking.
Organized religion, among its many mistakes, has made the blunder of weakening the inner life of our civilization by keeping alive an easy optimism as regards the life after death. It has encouraged the rank and file to believe that when they die and pass into another state, full enlightenment will come to them automatically. There is nothing in the experience of the mystics, in genuine religious experience or in the findings of philosophy to bear out such a view. It runs counter to the fundamental teaching of our great Leader of the West ("Seek and ye shall find, ask and ye shall receive; knock and it shall be opened unto you"). Even our experience on lower levels shows that the universe does not give her rewards and prizes indiscriminately. They come only as the harvest of effort and toil and can be put to good uses only by intelligent activity. A degree of enlightenment capable of transforming life can be obtained even in space-time conditions, as we see in the lives and teachings of the mystics and more abundantly in the world leaders. But the mere dropping of the physical organism cannot be expected to work any such miracle. Springtime is very beautiful, when she puts an end to the darkness of winter, but we must not mistake springtime, for the Golden Age of full enlightenment. When James Smith or John Brown slips from time to timelessness we cannot envisage precisely what they become, but we may be sure that death does not transform them from worthy stockbrokers into a Marcus Aurelius.
Our modern age wilts owing to the fact that it shirks self-dicipline. Its resources are far greater than those enjoyed in Plato's age, but it is far less aware of the intrinsic value of wisdom and the self-discipline upon which it is based. In proportion as we make life harder by applying intelligent discipline, Destiny makes it lighter. But in so far as we take the other course, Destiny must needs use whip and spur. If we are to avoid the complete shipwreck which is always threatening civilization, man must discipline himself and assume a more intelligent attitude towards money, taxation and finance.
Things in themselves have no value apart from the significance which consciousness gives them. There is nothing wrong, undesirable or base in money itself. Money as seen by Self has an entirely different significance and purpose from money as it is regarded by ego and by personality. Self when called upon to consider money adopts the attitude expressed in Plato's prayer. It sees in money a means to an end. The end is a more useful life, balanced, disciplined and firmly established in goodwill to' all. A life based on kindness to others; an avoidance of arrogance, a constant awareness of the fact that there is a dangerous infection and contamination in, ego's relationship to money. To personality and ego as they are manifest to-day, money is by far the most important thing in life. Art, science, religion, domestic life, all alike pay constant homage to it. There is no career in the modern world, not even those of the army and the church, where money is not a dominant factor, for the churches have their vested interests and the army must have its many needs supplied from taxation. Ego, speaking in the person of the successful merchant, delights in the boast that it entered on its Career "without a sixpence" and is now "worth a quarter of a million." To personality and ego Socrates' prayer is just tomfoolery. The intelligent man follows usage and precedent and does not go about questioning the value -of' this and that. His words are brave but his life gives them the lie, for in his life we see little that is clean, honest, kindly or heroic. When civilization collapses as a direct result of his greed he blames God for being cruel or questions the existence of a God at all in such a world of mud and blood and tears.
Taxation is a terrifying bogey to many to-day. The rich see their capital melting away under its inroads and are full of fear and dismay and irritation. Here again the respective attitudes of Self and of ego are widely at variance.
Self knows that its sole purpose in space-time is to exercise a trusteeship towards others. It must endeavour always to provide them with the same opportunities for growth and development which it enjoys itself. It knows that the incidence of material wealth differs widely. It knows that no social reform can ensure that each individual member of the state shall receive an exact share of the material resources available. It entirely agrees with Plato in his prayer that too much pelf is a grave danger and something from which the wise man flees as from the plague. Self looks round at others and sees certain rich people who take their position entirely for granted and use it to indulge their own desires and to exert power over others. Wealth serves them as a barrier, shutting them in the narrow circle of their own set. Their values are wrong because they put the things of the body -before the things of the heart and of the mind. Even the graces of culture are neglected because they are too much occupied in keeping what they have or getting more, to have energy or inclination for anything else. If such people are expressions of Self, its freedom is narrowed to a minimum.
Self welcomes taxation so long as public funds are used for the good of all. Self could not enjoy a private income unless a reasonable share of it were used in the interests of others. For Self knows that talking beast would give as little of his own as he dared for the upkeep of the State unless a proportion was taken from him by taxation. If he were less crude and less objectionable than he is taxation would be far less onerous, for the needs of the State would be fewer and simpler. But so long as he remains under the overwhelming domination of ego, it is unreasonable to expect an easy budget. Yet, grievous as the financial burdens of the modern citizen are, Self remains serene and cheerful, knowing well that his sole purpose in space-time could not be fufilled if the needs of others were not considered.
Doctrinaire reformers have always been tempted to devise schemes which would enable all to enjoy an equal and unshrinkable income. Such schemes have never worked, and never will work. The reason is obvious to anyone who looks beneath appearances. Although we can never be sure that any member of the human species is an expression of Self, we know that, he has an animal organism, a personality and an ego. Ego and personality will always urge him to give as little as he may and to get as much as he can. Reformers, oblivious of the true nature of man, are surprised when ignorance and greed upset all their plans. Schemes to keep us all endowed with equal financial means would work well enough in a world where there were only Selves but in such a world no controlling schemes would be required.
In our world of to-day the old law of the jungle:
"The ancient law, the simple plan
That he shall take who has the power
And he shall keep who can–"
still finds its exemplification in the approved methods of collective bargaining. Labour and capital are determined each to give as little as they can and to get as much as they can. Each acts quite in the traditional manner of the beast while making specious pretences to be something better. Bottom, the weaver, dreamed that he wore an ass's head; the human is no better than a beast with the faculty of talking, but in his case the ass's head is no dream–or rather, it is a dream from which he is unable to awaken. The result in industry is continual bickering arid friction leading to deadlock.
If the true nature of talking beast were better understood and the foolish illusions concerning him cherished by the majority were dropped, the situation would at once improve. There- is no more reason why Socialism should always be based entirely on greed, as it is at present, than there is why Capitalism should be based on the same principle. When ego and personality are recognized for what they are, the resultant products of age-old struggle for survival in space-time, then an entirely new orientation becomes possible, an orientation of which Self universal is the centre.
When workers and capitalists have come to realize, as all are destined to realize at last, and have experienced as a fact, and not as a theory, that man does not live by bread alone and that incarnation, "the long littleness of this our life," is not more than an interlude in timelessness, they will awake from their dreams and nightmares. Then man will be able to enter in all sincerity into 'the spirit of Socrates' prayer and to bring a true balance into his life by expressing in himself the golden maxim of Marcus Aurelius: "Receive wealth or prosperity without arrogance; and be ready to let it go.